Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ketchikan Alaska, paradise

We technically had one more port call after this- Victoria, but it didn't count (more on that later) With Ketchikan they saved the best for last. The most disappointing thing about this port is how SHORT the port call is. We needed at least a few more hours. Caveat here, Ketchikan is a special place for me- my son is in the US Coast Guard and is stationed there! 

We arrived to rain, which for Ketchikan is pretty normal. It wasn't hard rain, just that grey chilly drizzly stuff that seems to permeate the Alaskan coast for much of the year. We headed up to the Cape Fox lodge to enjoy a REALLY good breakfast with our son. The views from the Cape Fox are wonderful- you tower above the town and have a clear view of the cruise ship through large glass windows that make up the restaurant. There is an elevator tram down on Creek Street by the way, that goes directly to the lodge for any of you who are on foot. 

Our visit was spent catching up with our son, touring the Coast Guard station, visiting a little beach area, shopping and seal watching on Creek Street, and finishing it off at Fish Pirates with a famed "Bloody Salmon" (a bloody mary with smoked salmon flavored vodka)  The sun did end up coming out and IU was able to grab some great shots of the spectacular scenery. This is really all about the pictures...

The town from the water-

Creek Street

Scenery around the island

Fish Pirates, Bloody Salmon! yumm!


Usually when you think of a capital city you think of congestion, traffic, and suits walking around. This is so not true for Alaska's capital, Juneau. It's more like a frontier town than a major city. I have been to Juneau several times before and have explored it a little more in depth- there are some great sights like Mendenhall Glacier which are must sees for first timers, but we kept it really low key. I have a friend who lives in Juneau who stopped down to greet us, it was a great start to the day. We then headed down the street (everything in town is walking distance from the dock)  and enjoyed coffee, shopping, and people gazing. Lunch with Alaskan summer ale, and a hysterically funny character at the Red Dog Saloon finished our day pretty much. The Red Dog is funny by the way, it has a good inch or two of sawdust on the floor!

Every other shop in Juneau is a gold or jewelry shop.

 At the Red Dog Saloon

A tram runs from downtown by the cruise port to the top of a mountain some 2 miles away, a lot of people will ride it up and then hike it back down. We just drank Alaskan Amber and watched. 


(Note, I had this written the day after we left Skagway but the satellite internet on the ship that far north was very slow and spotty and I gave up on attempting photo uploads. Catching up now... slowly again, but better than on the ship!)

I’ve never been to Skagway before, but I knew to expect a typical southeast Alaskan sea town with a colorful history. The town itself was cute, but to be honest the real draw here was the drive. We opted to rent jeeps through a private supplier my agency uses, and take the gorgeous ride from Skagway to Emerald Lake, in Yukon territory. This drive follows the historic Klondike highway, and brings you almost 4000 feet high near the summit of White Pass Summit, then through the cute little town of Carcross (previously “Caribou Crossing”), and on to the majestic green glacial waters of Emerald Lake. It’s about a 75 mile drive one way, but this was a long port call so we had no problems timing that in and then adding on time to sightsee around town and catch a late lunch at the Skagway Brewery. During our journey we encountered thick as molasses fog for several miles along a high mountain pass, that got a little scary. Otherwise it was all fun, we even had several bear sightings! We took a small detour and visited the gold rush cemetery where infamous villain Soapy Smith is buried (we never found his grave and gave up looking) We also stopped for a nice little trail hike to a beautiful waterfall. It was a VERY full day and really, considering the cost of Skagway excursions we didn’t spend much at all. I’d recommend renting and driving your own vehicle to anyone!

Our rides, they came with coolers filled with bottled water, snacks, and CD radios. They were nothing special and had seen better days- but they did the job and got us to and from the Yukon safely.

First stop was at the Gold Rush ceremony, where Soapy Smith is buried, we couldn't find him. Here is some other cool looking grave. We also took a small hike here to a nearby water fall.

Our drive into the mountains was honestly pretty scary, the fog was THICK.

Once we get through the fog, it's beautiful! A short stop in Carcross for the yummiest pastry and coffee, then onward we went to the Yukon and Emerald Lake.

 The ride back was MUCH nicer, as the fog lifted. 

I just thought this was cool, we saw a few of these liscence plates from way the heck up there.

Then back to town and the harbor area where we moored. Something I thought was cool, was this rock wall at the port- any company that moors there has their mark made.

  The train pulls right up to where the ship docks so if you want  train tour its super convenient.

Skagway to Yukon? A hit!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tracy Arm Fjord

Tracey Arm Fjords was a day I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from. I couldn’t understand why it got so much advertising in our cruise brochures. Well now I get it!  The outside temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s, warm enough to get by with a hoodie or sweater. Chunks of ancient ice broken off of massive glaciers floated by. We spotted humpback whales and sea otters in our group, other groups reported seeing mountain goats on the surrounding cliffs. Something that surprised us was how narrow the channel was and how close were to the actual rock faces. It was amazing to see the waterfalls up close and personal! The Miracle offered a special excursion for people to ride small craft to a point up close and personal to Sawyer Glacier. We opted out (we’re budgeting our money for different expenses) but those who went seemed to have a great time. Otherwise this is a sea day- a sea day filled with amazing views, spectacular food, fun drinks, and plenty of casino bells ringing.

Our day on board was a mixture of busy and relaxing. Sightseeing on the decks took up a chunk but there was plenty of time for on board activities. We spent a few hours in the casino, mostly losing the winnings we’d made the night before- but we set a budget and we always go in expecting to lose it all and anything we make is a bonus. I stick almost exclusively to what I call “Mommy’s video games’ aka the slots. I’ll venture over to roulette a few times during a cruise but it’s few and far between because I like to make my fun money last a long time. My husband enjoys a particular type of black jack Carnival offers called “Fun 21”,  my non-player perspective is it works like traditional black jack but each seat has a special spot for a fun chip, it c an be as low as $1. If you hit blackjack on your initial deal then the house doubles your fun chip. This is on top of your normal bet. Typically my husband does much better at his game than I do at “Mommy’s video games”.

We also took some time out in the evening for some invigorating fun- we put the large, warm, plush bathrobes Carnivals supplies each guest in their stateroom, on over our bathing suits and headed for the adults only serenity deck. The Alaskan air was chilly and the Serenity deck was mostly empty, we hit the hot tub under the shadow of huge, imposing snow capped mountains… it was amazing!!

Late at night we opted to hit the Punchliners Comedy club for the 10:15 rated R show. Its strictly 18 and over, and the comedians at this set are usually pretty raunchy. Last night’s didn’t disappoint- it was belly laughter time!

If you’re wondering what our tween and teen daughters did during this adult time, the younger one was super busy with activities from her Camp Carnival teen Circle C club. They did everything from tween dance time to shipwide scavenger hunt, to smoothie party. My older daughter went to the older teen club for a bit then decided to snuggle down in her cabin with a good book and movie. This is why I like cruises- everyone does what they want!