We booked our Alaska cruise so many months ago, that as it approached, it still didn’t seem real. Work and life kept grinding away and next thing you know, it was time to head down to the Seattle cruise terminal and get on board.
I’m serious when I say we didn’t really absorb what was about to happen. Oh, sure, we had paid for it…but when people would ask, “So, which cities are you visiting?” I didn’t know the answer. I was just glad we were going, after hearing so many incredible things about the sights and experiences of Alaska.
We were not disappointed.
First off, if you’ve never been, go. I’d done a couple of fishing trips up in Sitka, but it was a fly-in, fly-out experience. Don’t get me wrong–landing 40-pound King Salmon and watching bald eagles swarm like mosquitoes was quite impressive. But that was a dozen years ago and it was more of a fishing trip than an Alaskan adventure.
This time, we left Seattle bound for Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, with a brief, 6-hour, satisfy the cruise lines foreign port rule stop in Victoria. We didn’t even get off there. Been there, done that, fairly recently. Instead of going to Victoria for the sake of going to Victoria, we stayed on board and watched the latest Sherlock Holmes movie in the cruise ship theater.
It was my wife’s first 7-day cruise and both our first times on Celebrity Cruise lines. Nice. You felt first-class by the surroundings and the passion of the employees. I don’t know what they had on those people, but they were extremely nice, attentive….almost as if they had heard a rumor I had a winning lottery ticket and just hadn’t claimed the prize yet. The oddest thing on the cruise–seeing at least two commercials for “Titanic” on Blu-Ray.
I won’t go into too much detail on the stops, but both Ketchikan and Skagway are tour-dependant. When the ships stop coming, the stores close down. I talked with lots of the store keepers and they were counting down the days until they returned home to Wisconsin, Arkansas or South Dakota–they had only come north because there was work here. These two towns had lots of Gold Rush history to them and to hear the tales of what went on made me think that some day, they’ve gotta make a movie on what it would have been like.
Juneau, the state capitol, wasn’t much larger. I think they said 30,000 or something like that. The big event a couple of years ago was when people lined up for over a mile, literally, to enjoy the area’s first McDonald. The legislature spends the winter there, that keeps the town going. But most of these folks just buckle down and somehow survive the winter. Our tour guide in Ketchikan lived in a tent during the summer with her cat…..but during the winter, could get a two-bedroom house for the same rent, because very few folks stayed in town. Houses were hard to come by in the summer, but pretty easy during the winter.
Some of the things we saw—a Sarah Palin clearance store, with calendars, campaign posters, etc. all at discount prices. I couldn’t resist picking up a few things. Several “houses of ill repute” were famous local history spots. We were treated to several glaciers, one on the ship and another we saw from land. Both amazingly impressive.
I took over a thousand pictures and some of those are bound for Facebook. But the memories of this vacation are going to last for a long time. I have an incredible travelogue imprinted in my brain that I’d love to share, but I’m still sorting things out. Like I said, I’ll post some pictures and also, eventually, put together some of the video I shot of the Tracy Arm Fjord and other amazing Alaskan sights.
We were very lucky. Even thought the rain chance was 50% or more most of the week, we managed to avoid the drops on all three of our tours. There was one rough day at sea, which sent most of us to the bedroom to lay low and take a nap. If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to me, I’ll be a lucky guy.
Alaska is an amazing place. I know there’s a lot more to see and down the line, I’d like to get back up there and see some of the other natural wonders that abound. Put it in your bucket list, then reach in and sneak it up near the top. It was such an amazing collection of experiences, I’m glad I shot over 1,000 pictures to help me remember our week in the last, great frontier.