Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alaska Cruise

Alaska wouldn't have been my first choice for a summer vacation getaway. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I've never really thought about going to Alaska. I don't enjoy cold weather and when I think of cruising two things immediately come to mind . . . sunshine and beaches. Not glaciers and icebergs. But I'm willing to go anywhere when it's free. This was definitely a trip of a lifetime! I couldn't imagine seeing Alaska any other way than on a cruise. It was perfect. Plenty of time at each stop to get a taste of each city and all of the beauty. Allstate chartered a Royal Caribbean cruise ship for the Chairman's Conference this year. Everyone told us we were going to be shocked by the number of senior citizens on our ship (not that there's anything wrong with that!) but since it was chartered we didn't get to experience that part of the Alaskan Cruise. Maybe next time.

We flew to Anchorage and took a 3 hr bus ride into Seward. This is when I realized we were in for an amazing trip. It was so beautiful. Green mountains. Lakes. Wildflowers. Rocky beaches. Snow capped mountains. Wildlife.

Arriving at the Anchorage airport and starting the long bus ride to Seward

Day 1: Arrive in Seward and board ship

Day 2--Hubbard Glacier. The longest tidewater glacier in Alaska.
Amazing. We were playing pool on the ship as we drove to the glacier. It was crazy to look out the window and see huge chunks of ice in the water, eventually the water turned to almost slushy consistency. They started playing the Titanic theme song (Celine Dion) as we got closer to the glacier and started seeing more and more icebergs.

The glacier was beautiful. The colors were amazing. Fluorescent shades of blue. Seals swimming around in the ice. We could hear the cracking noises of the glacier as it "calved" off huge icebergs that would crash (sounded like thunder) and sink deep into the water and then make huge waves as they surfaced. It was really amazing. Unfortunately I never caught any of the calving on video. I had no idea while we were looking at the glacier how enormous it was. It stretches 76 miles into the sea.

Day 3: Juneau
We went whale watching. This was my first time to ever go on an official whale watching tour. I've seen them from a distance on other cruises but this was so different. Being able to see them right next to our boat. They even seemed like they were performing for us. We saw about 4 Humpback whales and 20 Orcas (killer whales) and lots of seals. It was the perfect way to start our adventure. This was the coldest day of the trip. High 50's. This was the only stop where I needed to wear my jacket and mittens.
Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, is a beautiful town. Downtown Juneau is sea level with steep mountains right off of the street. You can take a tram to the top of the mountains. We were able to see the Mendenhall Glacier from our whale watching tour. We had fun looking through all of the souvenir shops. Lots of Russian stuff including those wooden, painted nesting dolls (Matryoshka dolls). It was fun to see one for the Utah Jazz and BYU. I really looked but apparently the UofU just isn't as popular in Russia as BYU. Even if they are part of the PAC 10.

Gala Dinner
Our surprise entertainment was . . . The Eagles! We enjoyed listening to them jam and then had a yummy dinner of steak and lobster.

Day4: Skagway
We spent this day on a steam engine train ride to White Pass summit. We started in Skagway and climbed 3000 ft in 26 miles up to White Pass summit and Fraser Meadows. Gavin read some travel books and was our tour guide, teaching us all about "Dead Horse Pass" and "Soapy Smith". This railroad has no direct connection with any other railroad but was part of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Construction was started in 1898 and completed in 1900 after the gold rush was basically over. It was fun to go on this excursion with our friends (Adam & Cami, Howard & Mike, Heidi & Dave) and the scenery was amazing!

After the train ride everyone went their own way. Gavin and I thought it would be funny to buy some corny souvenir t-shirts to wear to dinner that night. Our group was all dressed up when we showed up in our "Hungry Like The Wolves" shirts. We decided to get our professional portrait taken in them. It was hard to pretend like we were serious while the photographer was helping us achieve the perfect pose. This was only the beginning of the great souvenir shop t-shirts.

Day 5: Sitka
We walked around the town of Sitka (made famous by "The Proposal" only it was all filmed in Canada). Went to a small aquarium at the Sitka Sound Science Center which was really cool. We got to touch lots of crazy sea life. Then we walked through Sitka National Historic Park and looked at all of the totem poles. Gavin and his buddies attempted to make their own totem pole. Got lunch at "Two Chicks and a Stick". And checked out the views of Sitka from Baronaf Castle Hill.

More Alaskan t-shirts came out at dinner. Bwares and Kerseys.

Day6: Ketchikan
We weren't sure what excursion we wanted to do in this town but had heard it was a great stop to see bears. We were sucked into a crappy 'wildlife tour' by the cheap price ($50/person). They sold us by saying there was an 80% chance we would see bears. Then as we bought our tickets the percentage kept dropping but for sure we would see salmon, seals and bald eagles. We got on our 'coach' (aka shuttle bus) and stopped at Saxman Park for some more totem pole admiring. Then we drove out to see the bears. It still makes me laugh. As we approached the supposed location of the bears, our tour guide informed us that we might not be able to see them because they hide in the grass (all 8 inches of it). At this point we realized we signed up for a really bad tour. We saw lots of salmon spawning and bald eagles in tree tops and flying through the sky but that was all. As we were leaving, the tour guide acted all excited, "Look! Do you see the seal out in the water? Too bad we have to keep going." Yah. It was a rock! But we did score free tickets to Dolly's House -- the most popular prostitute's brothel house in Ketchikan--in Creek Street (the red light district). We saw lots of salmon and even a seal right there at Creek Street. Didn't even need to leave downtown Ketchikan!

And what's a trip to Alaska without Sarah and Sasquatch t-shirts?

Day 7: Inside Passage
We spent our last day on the ship. Looking for whales (finally saw one right before dinner). Listening to a random trumpeter in a boat. Relaxing in the Starlight lounge. Playing cards. Some people even layed out by the pool. Reading books. Admiring the largest totem pole in the world (looked like a really skinny leafless tree). And hanging out with our friends. It's always so fun to be able to travel with people you love. Great memories with these guys! They even convinced me to finally play a game of "Peasant" on our last night.

Day 8: Coming Home
We didn't even make it in the front door. We got attacked as we got out of the car and were unloading the suitcases. This might be the best part of going on a vacation!

P.S. Still trying to upload the video from our cruise but YouTube keeps rejecting the audio. Copyright laws. I'm sure I own the copyright to all of the Eagles music. Anyway. Hopefully one day the video will make it on here too.

Finally it worked. Had to remove all The Eagles music. Hope Coldplay works just as well.


Kristin said...

Wow - that looks amazing. Killer whales are my fave! Love the t-shirts!!!!

Vennesa said...

It was fun to see all your pictures. Brett is in Alaska this week. (Not cruising though.)
Glad you had a good time!

Grandma Bethany said...

So much fun. Makes me want to cruise to Alaska...probably wouldn't be as much fun though without you and Gavin. Had to laugh at the 'ripped off tour'. Didn't we do the same thing in California at the Wild Animal Park? Remember the guide saying "You might not be able to see the Lion's because they are sleeping"...Yah right!

Ryan said...

Great pictures! Thanks for sharing your story. How did you do the collage layout?

My wife and I cruised from Vancouver to Anchorage in 2008. It was in September (near our 5 year anniversary) and as such it wasn't nearly as sunny as your pics, but plenty of liquid sunshine.

Summer said...

What an amazing trip! It is beautiful! I love the funny souvenir shirts. By the way, if you really want to see bears up close, head to Bear World in Rigby, Idaho. You get to drive through a whole bunch of bears and even feed them. Your kids will love it!!!

Grandma Bethany said...

Just watched the video...such great pictures and memories all wrapped up with music. I especially love and laughed at the human totem pole!

VerĂ³nica Fuentes said...

Loved the family picture!

DKAZ said...

Your pictures really are awesome...the wolf t's are really speaking to me.

Makes me want to hop on a train, and then a plane and then a bus and then a ship to cruise Alaska too, but Bethany is right-not as much fun without you guys.

Robert said...

hi heather, I'm an agent in Bellevue and I think we were on the same boat for whale watching. Someone got a picutre of one Orca fully breach. We missed the shot.

Any chance you're willing to share photos. Thanks in advance. -Robert

heather said...

I can email you the pictures I got on the whale watching tour. Just don't have any contact info for you.