Merriweather McCarty had never been to Alaska. But only two days into her cruise on the Wilderness Explorer, the 20-year-old had decided she would like to live in Alaska and work aboard the ship.
“It’s really cool,” she said. “I didn’t know there would be this much to see and do. “
As the youngest passenger on the cruise, Merriweather said she found plenty to keep herself entertained. The average age on our cruise was about 50. “I would recommend it to other young people,” Merriweather said. “You would never get bored on here.”
Besides being in Alaska for the first time, Merriweather also tried another first – paddleboarding. “It was a little scary at first,” she admitted. “I started out on my knees and got up on my feet but I was very shaky. I kept thinking that I was going to fall over into the ocean.”
Before the trip is over, however, Merriweather is determined to comfortably paddle around the sea on the board. “I’m definitely going to do it again,” she said. “And it should be easier the next time because I know what to expect.”
Studying animation at Montserrat College of Art outside Boston, Merriweather said her favorites so far on the cruise have been seeing the sea otters up close and watching a whale breach more than 100 times.
“The whale just kept doing it over and over and someone was keeping count,” she said. “Crew members on the ship said it was really amazing to see something like this.”
Merriweather is on the cruise with her mother, BJ Ferguson, her brother Scott McCarty and her brother’s wife, Allison McCarty. BJ had originally planned to take the family to China but decided to switch to Alaska and googled the internet to find Alaskan cruises.
“This cruise was recommended so I sort of did all the arrangements on the fly,” said BJ, an ear, nose and throat doctor in Pittsburgh. “I usually do due diligence when I am planning a trip but this one was sort of last minute and it has turned out really well.”
Along with the outdoor activities, spectacular scenery and friendly crew, BJ said she was pleased that ship chef Bob Ward had made tasty alternatives for her wheat-free diet.
“Here, taste these,” BJ said sharing a moist peanut butter cookie. “You wouldn’t know that these were wheat free. Sometimes wheat-free bread and cookies are tasteless like cardboard but these are really good. Last night, he made me a wheat-free strawberry shortcake that was delicious.”
Visiting Alaska was a long-time goal, BJ said. “I had been in every state except Alaska and Kansas,” she said. “Now I have been in every state except Kansas.”
One thing that concerned her, BJ said, was the possibility of rainy dreary days on the Alaskan coast. “I’m a sunshine person but the weather has been really good,” she said. A talented photographer, BJ also discovered a big advantage when days would be overcast with a stark beauty. “It is really good for photography.”
As for her unusual name, Merriweather said she wasn’t named after famed explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark, as many people might assume. Although she is adventurous, Merriweather’s name comes from a more literary source.
“My Dad said he named me after one of the fairies in the story ‘Sleeping Beauty,’” she said. “There were three fairies – Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.”
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch