Departure – Canada Place, Vancouver
We took a break from our Canadian Adventure to go on a 7 day (There and Back again) cruise to Alaska via the “Inside Passage” departing from Canada Place Vancouver. Our ship was the Holland America line “Nieuw Amsterdam” (New Amsterdam). We had arrived earlier and as a result we had to wait, but the good news we were one of the first to board, the bad news it was a long wait for our luggage. I shall say right off I will never sail with Holland America again. The cabin was fine, the food was excellent and the crew very polite. However, what you pay is not the final price, they add on hotel service charge, and a service charge for a drink. We are used to all inclusive with complementary drinks with meals, no hidden surcharges and gratuities left for us to decide on. It did not help that they confiscated my dress sgian-dubh (ske-an do) an imitation knife which is part of my highland dress outfit and the KILT pin. As this was my formal dress my partner and I felt reluctant to attend the two formal evenings. As a result of that we ate our meals in the Lido Restaurant and had a great selection of meals around the world. Really loved those salads.
Our fist night cruising allowed us to explore the ship, the shops and go to a show (the only one we did go to). The show team were very talented, but the volume was deafening. I do stage photography and am used to shows, but this really was loud and yes it was colourful.
The first port of call was Juneau – the State Capitol City. (Following from Wikipedia) Juneau, Alaska’s remote capital, sits in the state’s panhandle, at the base of 3,819-ft. Mount Roberts. It’s a popular cruise-ship stop, reachable only by boat or seaplane. A tram carries visitors 1,800 feet up Mount Roberts to an alpine area with hiking trails, wildflowers and views of Gastineau Channel. This is also the site of the Juneau Raptor Centre, dedicated to local birds. A port that has four cruise liners in is going to be busy. While nearly all passengers headed for the Mount Roberts Tramway or other tourist attractions we opted to explore the city and visit the museum, which was very interesting on local history. We wandered around the town making our way back to the dock plaza and the Mt. Roberts tramway station. It takes about 5 minutes to get to the station at the 1,800 foot point. Feeling hungry we partook of lunch – very nice it was too. Making our way to the Ranger Station we asked if there was a circular trail that would take about an hour to walk. There was indeed, and we were advised to take the right hand as that would be easier for us going down the large flight of stairs rather then climbing them. (We were glad we took that advice). The views at that level we good, they got even better as we climbed up the trail. The Ranger had given us a map and there was a point marked “Father Brown’s Cross” which was a 1/2 mile up from the Alpine loop trail we were on. In for a penny in for a pound, we plodded up that extra 1/2 mile. Those kind souls coming down gave encouragement to stick to it as the view was worth it. I’ll let you decide if it was.
We thought it was, and very pleased we were to have taken the time and energy to get there.
Our next stop was Skagway: Skagway is a compact city in southeast Alaska, set along the popular cruise route the Inside Passage. It’s home to gold-rush-era buildings, now preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad runs vintage locomotives past the famously steep Chilkoot trail and offers sweeping mountain views during its climb toward Canada.
If it was not for the modern traffic I would have thought we had stepped back in time. As the blurb above states “gold rush era buildings each one with its own story. Even new builds have to comply with “the look”. Gateway to the Chilkoot trail Skagway had an unsavoury reputation thanks to one Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith II. We strolled up and down “Main Street” like many tourists and the spirit of “Soapy Smith” lives on with retailers enticing customers into shops with free charms. Two routes to the Klondike Goldfields originated from Skagway – The main being the Chilkoot Trail, the other the White Pass Trail (aka The Dead Horse Trail). Each have their own bloody history and tales of woe. It was at Skagway the second highlight of our adventure occurred, again it involved a train journey up the White Pass on the White Pass & Yukon Railway.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
The second highlight on the cruise – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a vast area of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage, a coastal route plied by cruise ships and other vessels. Stretching north of the town of Gustavus, the bay is flanked by high peaks, including Mount Fairweather, and glaciers like the huge Grand Pacific Glacier. Bartlett Cove is the starting point for forest and riverside trails. Wildlife includes humpback whales and puffins.
On our Canadian Adventure we walked over a minute part of the Athabasca Glacier here we stood on a ship looking at nature in the raw. In fact we saw 3 active glaciers out of the seven: Margerie Glacier, Grand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins Glacier.
We stood on the deck listening to the sound of silence being disturbed by the groans and creaks of the living glaciers as the slowly moved their way to the sea. On 4 occasions we heard a deep rumble vibrate through the air. We later found out from a passenger on another ship that was the Margerie Glacier Calving. Alas we never saw a calving.
Ketchikan is an Alaskan city facing the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along the state’s southeastern coast. It’s known for its many Native American totem poles, on display throughout town. Nearby Misty Fiords National Monument is a glacier-carved wilderness featuring snowcapped mountains, waterfalls and salmon spawning streams. It’s also home to rich wildlife including black bears, wolves and bald eagles.
According to Wikipedia: Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: SaxmanTotem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Most of the totems at Saxman Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park are recarvings of older poles, a practice that began during the Roosevelt Administration through the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Totem Heritage Center displays preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. We never saw any of them due to the fact that it lived up to its title as “Rain Capital of Alaska”. We did enjoy a light snack as we wandered around the city before returning to the ship for our journey back to Vancouver.