Monday, August 14, 2017

Alaska: The Last Frontier

If you have never been to Alaska, do yourself a favour and GO! But do it on a ship, it's absolutely the best way to see it.  The benefit of being on the ship is that on sea days the ship will take you right up to the glaciers and the views are just stunning. Another benefit is that quite often you will be able to see sea lions or whales from the ship itself. We also have a naturalist that is on the Bridge (and Ocean Rangers at times) who will spot wildlife out and make announcements ship wide to let everyone know what to look out for.

After we reached Sydney I decided to cruise as a passenger myself.  It's not often that one gets scheduled in Alaska and I really wanted to fully enjoy the ports as a guest. My friend was cruising as well so I had a partner in crime.

The first 'stop' was supposed to be Tracy Arm but since it was the first week of the season there was too much ice and we couldn't go in.  Instead we went to Endigott Arm. Now the beginning of the season is quite chilly.  Its ranges between 8C - 12C but it feels a lot worse when you are on a moving ship.  I didn't really pack for this weather so I had to borrow a jacket, buy some gloves and dust off my souvenir toque (that's Canadian for a beanie hat) from New Zealand.

Just look at all of this beauty!

In Juneau we opted to do a Best of Juneau tour.  It included whale watching, a salmon bake at a lodge and the Mandenhall Glacier.   We were absolutely chilled to the bone on the boat whilst whale watching but we did not let this stop us from standing on the open deck and taking photos.  We did see whales and sea lions, the first time I attempted to take photos. Afterwards I just opted to enjoy the wildlife rather than trying to capture it on photo.  The sight of these marvelous creatures made me stand in awe, take deep breaths and really be thankful and grateful that I have such incredible opportunities to go on such adventures.

Salmon Vodka

Look closely and you'll see Sea Lions

We had a late call in Juneau so in the evening we decided to go for a nighttime stroll and to find some dinner. We ended up in the Red Dog Saloon which was a very unique and rustic bar.   The floor, the walls and even the ceiling were adorned in a very country side, rural way.  Actually you didn't know where to look!  It took us quite some time to order as we first busied ourselves with taking photos of everything that amused us.  We had a nice hearty dinner complete with salmon chowder and salmon dip. I absolutely love salmon so I fully take advantage of it while I'm in Alaska.

Juneau at night

Red Dog Saloon interior

Skagway offers a lot of great attractions.  The town itself looks like it  is frozen in your Grandad's favorite western cowboy movie, it even has a brothel! It has this wonderful railway system and the trains pick you up right in front of the ship and take you to places where you won't find cars, roads or even other human beings.  I did this train ride in August (end of the season) and this time it was different doing it at the beginning of the season (May).  There was a lot more snow and this changed the landscape dramatically.  Skagway is also the take off point for a lot of helicopter glacier tours. Unfortunately this early in the season the dog mushing camps are not ready but I am hoping that I'll be able to do this when I return in August.


Frozen in time

Now it's one thing to walk around 10C with the sun shining but let me tell you it does not feel like 10C when you are at the bow of the ship and she's moving and it's windy.  We tried to keep warm with hot coffee and tea and bundled ourselves up as much as we could.  One hand was always out of the glove and ready to snap photos.

Glacier Bay is a glacier park that a ship or boat can sail into. It is probably one of the most stunning displays of nature I have seen.  The colours of the majestic glacier and the water were such deep hues of turquoise and blues that it left all of us in awe.  These glaciers looked massive but were in fact five miles away.  Only when a small sail boat was spotted in front of the glacier it became apparent just how enormous these blue giants actually are.  I borrowed some binoculars from friends and the pilot taught me how to take photos through them.  I thought to myself what a sight it would be to see some of the ice break off. Ten minutes later a large chunk of ice broke off on the port side, I felt like I was watching a National Geographic video, I just couldn't believe my eyes.

Can you see how small the sailboat is?

In Ketchikan we opted for a tour to see the Misty Fjords on a boat. We borrowed some binoculars, donned all the winter clothes we had and braved the winds in an effort to capture some wildlife and nature photos. We were not disappointed. 

In the afternoon we had some tasty chowder and fish at a local eatery and explored the shops of the town.  One of my favorite stores there is the Christmas Store, it has everything you could possibly dream of for Christmas. Another fun thing to do there is the lumberjack show which I have yet to do. It's on my to do list when  I return in August.

Plugging the top of a volcano

Did you see the photos?

Are you convinced yet?

Simply put, go see Alaska and do it on a ship! The experience will make you so appreciative of this planet and mother nature.  

The wildlife, the fresh air, the stunning colours truly make Alaska a spectacular place to visit.  Regardless of what type of vacation you enjoy, you need to put Alaska on your bucket list today!