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A teen's first cruise: Highlights & lowlights

This summer I took a relaxing cruise from Seattle to Alaska on board the ship Oosterdam from Holland America. Over the course of a week the ship sailed from Seattle, stopped at Juneau, went around to Sitka and Ketchikan, and passed through Victoria in Canada before returning.

Experiences like this are refreshing creatively and spiritually, putting things in a new perspective. Traveling, seeing people living differently than you and staring at the open ocean and tall mountains all change your sense of scale and self.

On the Internet, looking at nature and beautiful scenery honestly doesn’t compare to seeing it in person. During an expedition in Juneau I got to reel in a crab pot and touch sea urchins and strange-looking fish. Ziplining through the cedar and pine trees of Ketchikan and seeing eagles soar above was exhilarating, though perhaps virtual reality will soon come close to replicating the experience.

Going up and feeding a reindeer was memorable (and something VR probably won't replace). I also got to explore the British Columbia Parliament Building at dusk followed by an hourlong solo walk through the back streets of Victoria. Walking into a random building and finding a novelty pin shop is an experience you really have to do in person. 

In short, that was probably the highlight of my first cruise: all the opportunities for first-time experiences.

Cemeteries, live music and lots of downtime

What I love about travel is seeing things few people have ever seen. Walking back from a hiking trail in Sitka one day I turned down a side road on a whim and found a sign describing an area of respect. I investigated and found a tiny old graveyard with stone plaques covered in moss. Although the small cemetery was invisible from the road and had no clear entrance or pathways, someone still managed to place fresh flowers on one of the graves. Secrets like that really justify travel to me, and port to port travel helps maximise new discoveries.

The downside of cruising is mostly the isolation you get on ship without Internet (super-slow Internet really amounts to no Internet). Talking to strangers is fine, but having a day without social media or talking to friends can get boring.

When in port I text my friends asking for things I should do, but on ship I am alone with content I downloaded in advance. There are a ton of great activities and experiences on the ship to fill the void, but alone they don’t always feel worth it. That being said the live music performances on board were always a great time.