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Alaska from a Cruise Ship

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Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Postby balzaccom » Sun Jul 31, 2011 11:35 am

If you haven't heard from us for a while, there is a reason. We spent the last week cruising through Southeastern Alaska on a Holland American ship out of Seattle.

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And while the weather did NOT cooperate (we had rain and clouds every day in Alaska, and only saw the sun in Seattle and Victoria) the cruise was stil full of some great scenery and adventures. The first great view we got was of Mt. Rainier from the deck of our ship in the harbor of Seattle!

We started with a full day at sea, and our first port was Juneau: a depressing little town full of tourist oriented diamond and tanzanite shops. What a waste of a beautiful location!

We wandered around to see the old Orthodox Church, then took a local bus out to Mendenhall Glacier. There was plenty of hiking to do around there, although it was raining pretty hard at times, so we limited ourselves to shorter walks. But we enjoy the views, the visitors center, and the paths through the valley of the glacier. Next time, with better weather, we'll spend even LESS time in town, and more time hiking this beautiful area.

And we got a little surprise when we went outside the museum to eat our lunch. A ranger quickly asked us to please not eat our lunch there. Instead, she asked us to bring our food inside and eat in the museum--because they didn't want bears to smell food outside! We were happy to oblige her.

From there we headed out to Hubbard Glacier--a huge (seven miles wide) glacier that empties directly into the sea. While we snapped photos and oohed and ahhed, the captain managed to work our ship closer and closer to the face of the glacier, eventually getting to withing a few hundred yards of it. Spectacular views, and impressive seamanship!

The glacier cracked, creaked and groaned as we floated offshore, and gave us many examples of ice cascades that plummetted down the 350-foot face of the glacier and into the bay. ( If you like the photos, there are more on our Picasa site. Just click on this one and it should take you there. Or here is a link: ( https://picasaweb.google.com/balzaccom/Alaska2011#)

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We spent a couple of hours enjoying the view, and then headed back out to sea to set sail for Sitka.

Sitka was our favorite port by far, primarily because it wasn't full of cheezy tourist jewelry shops. We stopped to see St. Michael's Cathedral, them walked a few miles around the south side of town to visit the museums, the totem pole exhibits, and the raptor center. Once out of town, the trails wandered through an amazingly lush rainforest, and we really enjoyed this day.

Of course it was raining. It's a rainforest! At left is a photo taken from the trail through the rainforest. I think you can see why you wouldn't want to do a lot of cross country hiking throught this stuff!

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The raptor center introduced us to a bald eagle, and then had a number of large birds in various stages of rehabilitation. One owl sat only two feet from the trail, behind a plexiglass screen that protected it from curious fingers...and kept those fingers intact. And we finished up the visit with some fish and chips and halibut fish tacos froma street vendor--which were delicious.

From Sitka we sailed south to Ketchikan, which bills itself as the salmon capital of the world. (It is not the diamond and tanzanite capital of the world only because it doesn't quite have as many of these shops as Juneau.) But we liked the rustic atmosphere of Ketchikan, and we hiked about a mile out to the historic totem pole museum, where a collection of older totem poles are housed and displayed. Creek Street, which began as the red light district and is now, predictably full of tourist shops, is built on piers hanging out over the creek, and we saw both salmon and seals in the creek.

And from Ketchikan we sailed down to Victoria, with its elegant houses, perfet gardens, and SUNSHINE. We strolled around town all evening, and then sailed back that night to Seattle and the flight home.

Despite the weather, this trip had some great scenery, and we'd like to back and see more---particularly Sitka. And maybe Juneau as well. After all, you can never own too much tanzanite!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/



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Re: Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Jul 31, 2011 3:17 pm

Thanks for the report. My wife and I did an Alaska cruise out of Victoria on NCL a few years ago. We really enjoyed it. I want to go back and was thinking of Holland America. How was the ship (food, entertainment, etc) ?
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Re: Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Postby balzaccom » Sun Jul 31, 2011 8:25 pm

I thought the ship was great. I liked the staff--very involved and interactive. And the food, particulary the buffet stuff, was pretty good. Most of the crew were from the Philippines or Indonesia, so the Asian food was great.

Every ship and cruise is different, but there were enough things going on, and enough different choices, that we were pretty happy with things. Not the most formal or elegant cruise line, but very professional and organized.
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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Re: Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:50 am

What was the longest "off-ship" time available? Was there enough time for a day-hike? Or did you have to stick to their organized outings?
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Re: Alaska from a Cruise Ship

Postby balzaccom » Mon Aug 01, 2011 1:37 pm

Every port offered organized outings, but we chose to simply walk/bus/hike around.

Juneau gave us most of a day (noon-8 p,m or so?) Sitka as well, and Ketchikan gave us all morning, 7-noon or so.

Victoria was a bit different....as we only had the evening there.

The problem wasn't timing---it was the fact that it was raining and the cloud ceiling was about 2500 feet. That kept us off most of the higher trails!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
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