Marie Whitehead enjoyed her Alaska cruise experience.
BY MARIE WHITEHEAD
The ship departed from Seattle, Washington. My husband, John, and I decided to spend an extra two days experiencing the city before boarding. People are friendly and the city is very multicultural with an artistic flair. It is easy to get around on foot. Some people rate Seattle as their favourite American city.
We enjoyed walking around the huge Pike Place Market. Artists display their crafts in the market. We bought breakfast from different vendors: fresh juice from one, coffee from another, and Gorgonzola and ham-filled croissants from yet another.
The world famous Pike Place Fish Market is located here. It sure is a neat experience watching the workers throw large fresh fish back and forth, while yelling happy phrases. It’s quite the ritual! A television crew filmed the spectacle. My husband recalls a business case from his days in university about how these folks yelled and screamed while throwing large fish back and forth to each other creating a fun environment for all. That was in 1984. They’re still doing it.
Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks. The original store is located in Pike Place Market. It has become a tourist attraction and the lineup of customers runs down the sidewalk.
We also enjoyed the fantastic view from the Ferris wheel, ate great sushi and had a lovely dinner at a seafood restaurant.
Jewel of the Seas holds 2,100 guests and 842 crew and it is considered one of the smaller ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. We enjoyed the friendly staff who come from more than 40 countries. Many have spouses and children in their home countries and only get to see them every seven months. Their “shifts” are seven months on and two months off.
We splurged on a balcony state room and I loved lying on the bed watching the ocean go by while the sheer curtains were flowing in the wind. I loved being on the ocean. Cruising is an amazing way to travel. It is a “mini city” in the middle of the ocean. You have all the amenities and you can wake up in a different place every day without having to unpack.
After spending our first day on the ocean, we stopped in Juneau on day two, where I had booked “Harv and Marv’s” Whale Watching Tour. We saw eight whales. One young energetic humpback whale gave us a 10-minute “show” as he frolicked playfully. At one point, he looked like a synchronized swimmer trying to do a headstand. He was slapping his tail back and forth in the water. He would also roll onto his side and bring his dorsal fin out of the water. The humpback whales swim to Hawaii in the winter to give birth and spend summers in Alaska where the food is plentiful.We saw many bald eagles, a few sea otters and sea lions, but unfortunately no orca whales. The tour ended with a visit to the beautiful Mendel Glacier.
Our third day was spent in Skagway, which is a town with a population of less than a thousand people. It is the northern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System. It sprang up during the Yukon gold rush in the late 1800s, and now subsists almost entirely on tourism. No gold was ever found in Skagway. The historical interest and natural beauty of the area make it a worthwhile place to visit. It looks like a town from an old Western movie with wooden boardwalks.
We boarded a Frontier Excursion bus and drove through beautiful landscapes. We drove into British Columbia and across into the Yukon. The day-excursion took us from sea level to over 3,000 feet at the highest peak in B.C.
In the Yukon, we stopped for lunch at a tourist ranch. These folks breed and raced sled dogs. we enjoyed watching the dog-sled team take off twice while pulling summer sleds with wheels. The next day we got up early to enjoy the absolutely stunning views of the Tracy Arm fjord from the top deck. In every direction, there are endless breathtakingly stunning views. A fjord is a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between steep slopes, especially one shaped by glacial action. The ship’s captain took us to the end of the fjord where we enjoyed viewing a large glacier and icebergs. There really is no way to describe it. I don’t even think photos do it justice.
John and I rented bikes and pedaled around the city. The whole city and surrounding area smelled like ocean and flowers. I felt I could live there as it reminded me of my home country, Sweden.
If you like beautiful views, nature and the ocean, I highly recommend an Alaskan cruise.
As for the weather: the skies were clear and deep blue, and the temperatures were hovering between 15-23 C. That is unusual for this part of the northern Pacific Coast. Skagway, almost two days drive from Vancouver, gets more than 260 days of rain per year. The week prior to our arrival, it rained six days out of seven.