Alaskan Tour

Kenai fjord

Kenai fjord


Pat here: We’ve just recently returned from a cruise along the southern Alaska coast line, admiring glaciers and national parks, watching for wildlife, and resisting miles of jewelry. Mostly, I was looking for an easy trip involving little more than eating, drinking, and sleeping. We accomplished all that, although air travel is still a real pain, even from Southern California. If you ever have a choice, choose the Vancouver airport over Seattle!

SewardI never realized how small the population of Alaska is in comparison to land mass. We landed in Anchorage, which is probably the largest city, with a population of nearly 300,000. All we saw was the tiny airport and incredible mountains. They must have hidden the houses in the trees. Since we immediately took a three-hour, curvy, two-lane road to the coast, that’s all we saw—mountains and trees, all the way to their port. Although seafood processing is one of Alaska’s major industries, actually accessing the coast from anywhere requires cutting through difficult terrain. So if this was their major city, you can imagine the rest of the towns we visited from a ship!

Glaciers are a little tricky from a cruise ship. Ours was a relatively small one, a little over 900 passengers, so we could enter the fjords just fine. But at this time of year, the ice is shedding. We came close to the Exit glacier, but when we tried to reach the Columbia Glacier, we

Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier

encountered a lake of ice chunks and icebergs. There are a bunch of official terms for the various sizes of ice but icebergs are the largest. I was just as fascinated by those as actual glaciers—which were often wrapped in fog. Many of the glaciers were accessible from land or helicopter, but we just aren’t that adventurous. See above: eating, drinking, sleeping were our goals, not climbing icy crevasses. If you really want the scientific information on glaciers, click this link.

We did, however, participate in lots of small boat rides into narrower passages where the animals hang out. Only “narrow” in this case simply means a cruise ship won’t fit into them because they’re shallow, not because they aren’t miles wide. So Eagleseeing bears or goats on the mountains wasn’t happening. We did get close enough to shore to spot an eagle. Eagles are about as numerous as hawks are in the lower states, but they’re so high up, it’s difficult to spot them until they grow old and white-headed! (can you see the eagle?)

Whales hung around in pods, sleeping and playing. Sea otters were plentiful, but Ottersthey had plenty of room to scamper if a boat came too close, so we had to watch long distance. And there were puffins! Not quite as spectacular as our visit to the Orkneys where they fearlessly flew up and down cliffs. These just calmly bobbed Puffinsabout the water. I assume they nested in those elusive cliffs we couldn’t really see.

And as I said earlier, the towns along the coast were incredibly small because it was nigh impossible—and in some cases, totally impossible—to reach by road. That didn’t mean they aren’t rich in history, because they are. It’s just that much of the native history was nearly destroyed by Russian fur traders (who also arranged an almost total extinction of sea otters) and American gold miners. KetchikanThe really wild West took place here. Because we saw glimpses of original indigenous art in Ketchikan, that was one of my favorite visits. The Potlatch Totem Park is a private park with fabulous displays along with tons of information of how totems are created and why and the symbolism behind them. That’s an entire lecture in itself.

So along with eating and sleeping, yadda yadda, I also learned a whole lot of things! Have you been to Alaska? Did you enjoy it? I know there is so much more I could say about it but life is short. If you haven’t been, do you plan to go?

36 thoughts on “Alaskan Tour”

  1. Pat, we’ve also cruised Alaska and it was great! We saw masses of eagles, sometimes scavenging along waterfronts like sea gulls. One of my favorite stories was how they solved the problem of small towns along the coast that were inaccessible by roads. Someone came up with the idea of calling a ferry system the Alaskan Marine Highway which meant they could use federal highway funds. *G* It’s a place like no other.

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  2. Pat, we’ve also cruised Alaska and it was great! We saw masses of eagles, sometimes scavenging along waterfronts like sea gulls. One of my favorite stories was how they solved the problem of small towns along the coast that were inaccessible by roads. Someone came up with the idea of calling a ferry system the Alaskan Marine Highway which meant they could use federal highway funds. *G* It’s a place like no other.

    Reply
  3. Hi Pat, I’m about to take an Alaskan cruise in a couple of weeks ending up in Vancouver and Victoria.
    Your information is so informative, I feel more prepared for the journey.
    Alaska looks so beautiful, and I love wildlife and sea mammals.

    Reply
  4. Hi Pat, I’m about to take an Alaskan cruise in a couple of weeks ending up in Vancouver and Victoria.
    Your information is so informative, I feel more prepared for the journey.
    Alaska looks so beautiful, and I love wildlife and sea mammals.

    Reply
  5. I’ve never been to Alaska, but we took a cruise to Greenland once, which was absolutely fascinating.
    What struck me most about your description is the “relatively small” cruise ship with 900 passengers.
    Ours had 140 passengers, so it could go into a lot of ports and fjords where the big ones can’t go. And it was in one of the lower icebreaker classes, so we could get really close to icebergs as well. A once in a lifetime experience I then thought, but now you made me curious about Alaska and I still have Spitzbergen in the back of my mind as well. I shall have to safe holiday time and money 😉
    I would love to get close to whales again and seeing the seals on their ice floats basically at eye level through our cabin window (we had a cabin just above the water line) was something I still dream about. No sea otters so, and far less greenery. The name Greenland is really one of the boldest marketing lies ever invented 😉

    Reply
  6. I’ve never been to Alaska, but we took a cruise to Greenland once, which was absolutely fascinating.
    What struck me most about your description is the “relatively small” cruise ship with 900 passengers.
    Ours had 140 passengers, so it could go into a lot of ports and fjords where the big ones can’t go. And it was in one of the lower icebreaker classes, so we could get really close to icebergs as well. A once in a lifetime experience I then thought, but now you made me curious about Alaska and I still have Spitzbergen in the back of my mind as well. I shall have to safe holiday time and money 😉
    I would love to get close to whales again and seeing the seals on their ice floats basically at eye level through our cabin window (we had a cabin just above the water line) was something I still dream about. No sea otters so, and far less greenery. The name Greenland is really one of the boldest marketing lies ever invented 😉

    Reply
  7. An Alaskan cruise was my first trip outside “the Lower 48,” in the year 2000. Lots of good memories! One was of a whale breaching multiple times, some distance from our ship but close enough to observe for awhile. Someone started counting, and we all chimed in “3…4…5…” up to 49, I think, before we got too far away to continue. Was the whale putting on a show for us? Maybe. Or maybe it just had an excess of energy to work off. Anyway, it was fun. I also remember the bald eagles that walked up to us near a cannery. The birds knew what time of day the scraps were tossed, and they were used to tourists, so I was within 10 feet of a couple of them with no territorial challenges. Magnificent!

    Reply
  8. An Alaskan cruise was my first trip outside “the Lower 48,” in the year 2000. Lots of good memories! One was of a whale breaching multiple times, some distance from our ship but close enough to observe for awhile. Someone started counting, and we all chimed in “3…4…5…” up to 49, I think, before we got too far away to continue. Was the whale putting on a show for us? Maybe. Or maybe it just had an excess of energy to work off. Anyway, it was fun. I also remember the bald eagles that walked up to us near a cannery. The birds knew what time of day the scraps were tossed, and they were used to tourists, so I was within 10 feet of a couple of them with no territorial challenges. Magnificent!

    Reply
  9. We considered very small boats but our travel agent recommended one larger so we could sit on the balcony and watch. Since it was so cold, that didn’t happen. Most of the cruise ships up there carry thousands of passengers. We saw them in ports. No getting close to anything except the larger towns with them.

    Reply
  10. We considered very small boats but our travel agent recommended one larger so we could sit on the balcony and watch. Since it was so cold, that didn’t happen. Most of the cruise ships up there carry thousands of passengers. We saw them in ports. No getting close to anything except the larger towns with them.

    Reply
  11. oh, that sounds perfect! We didn’t see any eagles close up, except flying overhead. Could there have been a pod of whales? Some of them travel in groups. We saw them playing together, so it looked like a lot of breaching.

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  12. oh, that sounds perfect! We didn’t see any eagles close up, except flying overhead. Could there have been a pod of whales? Some of them travel in groups. We saw them playing together, so it looked like a lot of breaching.

    Reply
  13. Alaska was far from my first choice for a sea cruise, but our trip was quite wonderful and I am so glad I went. When we got to one of the large glaciers it was a beautiful, sunny day and we saw several icebergs “calf” (break off from the glacier). What an experience! So glad you enjoyed your trip, Pat.

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  14. Alaska was far from my first choice for a sea cruise, but our trip was quite wonderful and I am so glad I went. When we got to one of the large glaciers it was a beautiful, sunny day and we saw several icebergs “calf” (break off from the glacier). What an experience! So glad you enjoyed your trip, Pat.

    Reply
  15. I went on a “big ship” cruise to Alaska. So although we couldn’t get into the smaller ports and fjords, we visited Ketchikan and the totem park was really interesting.

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  16. I went on a “big ship” cruise to Alaska. So although we couldn’t get into the smaller ports and fjords, we visited Ketchikan and the totem park was really interesting.

    Reply
  17. Thank you so much for this post and the pictures. I have never been to Alaska, but as hot as it is right now in Texas, I think that may be a wonderful place to be.
    I think that being close enough to see so many amazing animals would make any trip memorable.
    Thanks again for the post, I can almost feel cool looking at all the ice. Almost.

    Reply
  18. Thank you so much for this post and the pictures. I have never been to Alaska, but as hot as it is right now in Texas, I think that may be a wonderful place to be.
    I think that being close enough to see so many amazing animals would make any trip memorable.
    Thanks again for the post, I can almost feel cool looking at all the ice. Almost.

    Reply
  19. Pat, thanks so much for sharing details of your cruise with us. It certainly sounds like you had a fun and relaxing trip!

    Reply
  20. Pat, thanks so much for sharing details of your cruise with us. It certainly sounds like you had a fun and relaxing trip!

    Reply
  21. oh you were fortunate to have sun! That must have been spectacular. Calf! That’s the word I was hunting for. We didn’t see any calfing, it was too foggy, but we certainly saw the results.

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  22. oh you were fortunate to have sun! That must have been spectacular. Calf! That’s the word I was hunting for. We didn’t see any calfing, it was too foggy, but we certainly saw the results.

    Reply
  23. It looks like an amazing trip Pat! I’ve been to Anchorage airport but only to change flights so I didn’t get to see anything of the countryside. Would love to go after reading this!

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  24. It looks like an amazing trip Pat! I’ve been to Anchorage airport but only to change flights so I didn’t get to see anything of the countryside. Would love to go after reading this!

    Reply

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