Alaska cruise

I could write posts and posts about our Alaska cruise, but I’m trying not to! In the interests of not boring everyone senseless, I’ve condensed the entire week into this single account, itself a lightly-edited version of the brief notes I took each day. We sailed with Princess cruises from Anchorage (Whittier) south through the inside passage to Vancouver, past the glaciers of Yakutat bay and Glacier Bay national park, stopping at Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan, and then caught the decidedly unglamorous but perfectly convenient Greyhound bus down to Seattle for a cheaper flight home to Newark.

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Along the way we saw harbour seals and Steller sea lions, Pacific white-sided dolphins, humpback whales and a lone orca, and, magically, the Northern Lights. We shared a dinner table with some extremely nice people, and met all kinds of fellow travellers around the ship. We ate lots of food, drank plenty of cocktails, and generally had a lovely time – looking through my notes and photos is making me wish I was back there right now!

Sat 2nd
Drove back to Anchorage, walked in Kincaid Park, just missed seeing a moose. Returned car, caught bus to Whittier. Amazing views (glaciers!) along Turnagain arm. Stopped to see salmon spawning. Tunnel to Whittier is actually a paved WW2 railway tunnel! Boarded Star Princess, explored, had dinner & a cocktail, went to the evening show.

Sun 3rd
Morning naturalist presentation about Alaskan wildlife. Sailed into Yakutat bay to see the Hubbard Glacier – largest tidewater glacier in N.America. Got v. cold on deck. Started formal night with cocktails & watched champagne fountain. Alarm at shared dinner table mitigated by nice people to share it with.

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Mon 4th
Glacier Bay National Park. Saw sea otters (probably) also plenty of sea lions on Marble Island, and mountain goats on the wonderfully-named hillside Gloomy Knob. Heard a ranger presentation about the park. Sailed up to various glaciers, watched lots of harbour seals on the ice by the Johns Hopkins glacier. Light afternoon tea, drinks in Wheelhouse bar. Chamber music concert (Amythest Trio – 2 violins & piano) before dinner.

Tue 5th
Woke up in Haines, not Skagway as planned – a mudslide had damaged the pier we were meant to dock at so we couldn’t. (Thankfully no issues cancelling the Skagway tour we’d booked.) Visited tourist info booth at end of pier, came back on board to plan and read until things opened at 10am. Visited the bald eagle foundation, then stopped at the Rusty Compass coffee house cafe for coffee and internet (our first since Anchorage!). On to the quirky but surprisingly informative hammer museum (yes, a museum dedicated entirely to hammers), the Haines Sheldon museum (local history & culture) and local public library, plus various shops. Amazingly beautiful scenery, and (relatively) warm sunny weather after a cool & misty start. Back to ship for late buffet lunch, and ice cream for Tom on loungers by the outdoor pool. I went for a swim in one of the open air pools, and a dip in the hot tub, then compensated for my lack of ice cream with a frozen margarita.

Wed 6th
Juneau – whale watching tour. Saw a male orca (“Captain Hook”) almost straight away, then 3 humpback whales & sea lions snoozing on a buoy. Short bus ride up to the Mendenhall Glacier. Back on board for quick lunch before a talk by Libby Riddles, 1985 Iditarod winner. Dinner then comedy show.

Thurs 7th
Ketchikan. Spotted a humpback whale in the harbour after breakfast. Walked around, Creek street, saw the salmon ladder, various shops & galleries. Caught bus to Saxman native village, admired totem poles, got coffee in a cute little cafe around the corner. Bus back around town to walk the Rainbird trail, up a steep hill into temperate rainforest. Back to ship via some gift shopping. Nap, pre-dinner cocktail, post-dinner cocktail in sky lounge (right up at the back of highest deck, surprisingly bouncy).

Fri 8th
5:30 am Captain announces Northern Lights, so we throw on as many clothes as we can find & race up to the top deck. Bright moon and almost dawn but still amazing! Back to bed, slept through alarm, breakfast then comedy cooking demo & galley tour. Packed before lunch. Various distant dolphin (Dall’s porpoise, apparently) & whale sightings, also possible sea otters. Nap. Afternoon tea. Drinks & sushi at wine bar, pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins surfing in the wake right by our windows, Amythest trio again before dinner. “Voice of the ocean” final & nightcap in Explorers lounge before bed.

Sat 9th
Disembarked around 8am, coffee and internet catch-up in a cafe by cruise terminal, then over for doughnuts at Cartems once they opened (just as good as remembered from our last time in Vancouver!) Drama when Tom realised he’d left his wedding ring in our cabin, fortunately managed to retrieve it before we had to catch our bus, after which it was an uneventful trip home.

There are lots more photos of the entire trip (including the full-sized versions of all of the above) over in my Flickr album – the cruise ones begin at the bottom of the first page – and we’d both love to tell you more about any part of the trip, so please ask if you’re interested!

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