It’s official: I’m no longer a cruise virgin. Seven nights on the Bering Sea of Alaska has introduced me to the life of a cruiser. As such, I can’t wait to share a few opinions about this sort of travel. For example, “off the beaten path” in cruise-speak translates to, “best time to hit the breakfast buffet.” Seriously.
However, I’m going to save those thoughts for a future post.
Today’s post is about our Alaskan ports of call from the ship Noordam. Alaska is the 49th state of our nation, added in 1959. At .02¢ an acre (in 1867), it wasn’t such a bad deal. Thanks to the efforts of passionate naturalists and conservationists, Alaska feels as wild and untamed as Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. A robust and natural frontier. And for these last two weeks, my undiscovered frontier.
We started our journey from the Port of Vancouver in Canada. By day two, the Noordam entered the Inside Passage, and we were feverishly greeted by a gigantic humpback whale. Almost like the Disney Jungle Cruise, this whale was on cue, and with the robotic endurance to keep it going until the whole boat could see it.
Working class, lumber yards, quaint, and has all the sounds & smells of a fishing village. A village under siege whenever the ships come in. And, like every other cruise port I’ve ever seen: jewelry shops. What is it with the jewelry shops any way?
In Ketchikan we see hundreds of salmon gulping their very last breath, we feel a slight chill in the air: crisp, clean and moist. Clouds hover overhead. Boardwalks lift sidewalks off the bay and totem poles rest alongside our route.
Moody and misty, Juneau was our first opportunity to find a glacier, the well-known Mendenhall Glacier. We could have signed up for an excursion to see it, or we could hop on a local bus -$2.00. By choosing public transportation we would have to walk about a mile further than those on an excursion. Not only worth the 96% savings, but a great off-set to the quantity of food I’ve been eating onboard!
Tucked in a harbor and surrounded by jagged mountains, this little town easily triples in population when the ships come in. Skagway is the newest contender for my “Super Cute U.S. Towns”. With a national park guide we learn about the Alaskan Gold Rush. She escorts us through the town pointing out what life would’ve looked like in the 1880’s for the hopefuls, for the women, and for savvy business owners. Bottom line: it was tough. It is amazing what HOPE can do to keep a spirit going.
Glacier Bay (and on a cloudless day!)
Not a stop on our voyage, but a tour with our ships’ captain navigating through this immense National Park. To see Glacier Bay, the Noordam arranges National Park Rangers to motor boat to us. A process they called a calculated collision, where the two boats travel side by side and the Rangers climb aboard on a rope ladder, Mission Impossible style. We spent one full day on Glacier Bay. I wish it was longer. This is a place you can visit often and never see it the same, it constantly evolves.
This was our final port. And, the starting point of exploring on our own. Please stay tuned next week when I share our road expedition into the “gut” of Alaska. (The “heart” is still hundreds miles north!)