I remember some years ago telling a friend that I would like to visit Alaska and her reply was that she had been on a cruise there and saw nothing but icebergs. Well she and I must have taken totally different routes as whereas I saw a couple of these, they were insignificant to everything else.
We took a Disney cruise from Vancouver, Canada in July 2019, arriving in Vancouver early, not only to ensure that we didn’t miss the proverbial boat, but also to see a bit of the province since we were in the area.
The unforgettable incident was when we were boarding the “Skytrain” to go downtown and being ahead of the others, I entered as the door opened. They waited for a couple to exit but before they could enter, the train’s door closed separating me from the rest. Naturally, I simply decided to stay on the train until it reached the waterfront exit, but I hear my granddaughter was inconsolable, thinking I had been lost. They all even exited at the next stop and looked around for me but naturally, I was nowhere to be found. When they arrived at the waterfront, my granddaughter was so relieved to see me that she grabbed my hand and that she vowed to hold on to me for the rest of the vacation. That resolve lasted for about ten minutes!
Vancouver is as beautiful as I remembered but the constant and regular rainfall which it is notorious for, did not mess up this trip. In fact, it didn’t rain once while we were there.
We spent a lot of time at the waterfront downtown near the convention center and there was so much to see there that we didn’t even have time to hop on the ferry to visit the popular Victoria Island. It’s a good thing we had visited it some years before.
What I found fascinating on this trip were the numerous sea planes taking off in quick succession as we walked around the waterfront. I had never seen sea planes outside of the Eastern Caribbean but they are not half as many there. In both Vancouver and Alaska, they are the popular mode of transport. It is understandable about Alaska as there are so many islands there with no access by road but most of what we saw in Vancouver seemed to be just for sightseeing or to go to Victoria island.
To get to Alaska we did not go much by the ocean but rather sailed along in the huge fjords paved out by glaciers hundreds of years ago.
As cruises go, all was well on the boat and the entertainment good. We even got ourselves some Jamaican food, as lots of Jamaicans work on board, having been recruited by Disney through their office in Ocho Rios. That’s how we wheedled a meal of escoveitched fish, some well kneaded flour dumplings and pear. A most delicious treat!!
The breathtaking scenery all the way to Alaska was almost worth the cost of the trip. Going up the fjords too made the passage not only calmer but extremely scenic. The stops were Juneau the state capital, Ketchikan, Skagway and the glacier at Icy Strait Point.
Our first stop was at the glacier and believe it or not, that shore expedition was sold out. Being allergic to the cold, I certainly had no intention of getting closer to any glacier but my adventurous daughter had wanted to, although her sensible eight year old daughter outrightly rejected the idea! But the ship went close enough for us to see it and it was really awesome. Glaciers are the huge things that melt over centuries and create beautiful gorges and fjords.
One would have expected that the capital of this huge state would be big and blah as bureaucratic centers usually are. But it was nothing close to that, and interestingly it is located on an island with no road joining it to the mainland.
While we were there, it was overcast and a bit cold and unfortunately for the residents, the ferry operators were on strike. People therefore could only go to and from the capital by small boats and sea -planes. The strike was called because the Governor was trying to cut back the transportation budget for the state. According to an informant, he is a Trumpist who doesn’t care about poor people, hence his trying to reduce the ferry and other forms of transportation for the ordinary people.
My greatest desire once on shore, was to see some bears but although we visited three temperate rain forests in which they are supposed to be prolific, escorted by guides armed with bear spray, I never saw one live bear.
I was upset when I heard that another passenger saw a momma bear with her three cubs just ten feet from where they were! The only consolation prize was the wild berries I fed on while hiking in those forests. And I must admit the information about the circle of life and the flora in the forests area, were interesting and informative.
What calmed me a bit after not seeing any bears, was when we went by a small boat up to the North Pass, to go whale watching. And we were not disappointed, as it was absolutely wonderful to see six huge whales swimming in line as if they were sent to entertain us.
On the way back to Haines we also saw a group of sea lions sunning themselves on a buoy without a care in the world.
Skagway, which was sunny and warm had even better weather, I was told, up to the week before when they had 20 hours of daylight there. The population of 2000, was originally invaded and the native people displaced, when prospectors flooded the area searching for gold, before the stories that cause the gold rush turned out to be a hoax.
We went searching for bears and bald eagles there too and whereas we did see numerous eagles and their nests, no bears were in sight.
We however got a good story about a former president, Warren Harding. According to local lore, he visited the town, accompanied by both his wife and mistress. Six days after he returned home, he developed severe stomach aches and died. It is said his wife insisted that there should be no autopsy!
I guess the moral of that story is that you should never take both your wife and mistress on the same vacation!
The only bear I saw was in a store!
Ketchikan, an attractive little town, is big into shopping…. tourist type goods. It was there we met a few young ladies from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who told us they travelled there each year from May to November, to work in the tourist shops. They are provided with accommodation and transportation which they say allows them to save a lot of money and really enjoy the months they spend in Alaska.
While in Ketchikan we also visited an interesting totem site and learnt a great deal about the construction and meaning of these huge monuments as well as the tribes that use them.
I saw and revelled in so many wonderful things in a few days in Alaska, that I am prepared to say that cruise was among the best I have ever taken in my long life.