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Alaska 0801
Alaska 0801

Cruising on the Sea Princess

Vancouver - at sea - Ketchikan - Juneau - Skagway - Glacier Bay - College Fjord - Seward (Anchorage)

 
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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

In early 2001, I received a call at work saying that I had won an Alaskan cruise for 2. Until then, cruising was the farthest thing from our minds and we had never seriously considered taking one. Our minds changed very quickly, and we enthusiastically booked a week aboard the Sea Princess. Here's how it turned out.

Day 1 (Aug 11) - Boarding in Vancouver

We booked our air travel through Princess. Instead of flying us direct from Calgary to Vancouver (1 hour flight), they flew us to Seattle (1.5 hours) and then bused us to Vancouver (another 4 hours). We were the last people to board the ship, just before the 5 PM sailing. I don't know how they figured that this was the most economical way to get us there!

We immediately went to our cabin to check it out. We had booked an outside cabin (porthole window), but were mysteriously upgraded to a balcony. What a treat!. We headed up to the upper deck for the sail-away party. Just after 5 PM, we sailed out through English Bay. The evening sun was shining on the harbour. What a start to our cruise.

Day 2 (Aug 12) - Cruising the Inside Passage

When we arose the next morning, it was very foggy. The fog stayed with us for most of the day, clearing up only in the evening. This was a day at sea. While wandering around on the top deck in the fog, we were introduced to the fog horn. Wow, is it ever loud!. It was a good day to explore the ship. I was like a little kid checking out the ship - running up and down the decks exploring every nook and cranny. The ship was really amazing with so many lounges and public spaces. Crusing was looking pretty good!

Princess is the only line we've been on that has a 24 hour buffet. It was great as we were up on deck by 6AM each morning, and could get a full breakfast right away. Another anomaly is this is the only ship we've sailed that has the buffet area at the front of the ship and the fitness center at the back.

Day 3 (Aug 13) - Ketchikan, Alaska

On Day 3, we awoke to blue skies and sunshine. This was to last for several days. By 6 AM we were headed into the port of Ketchikan. We had booked a ship's tour of the city for the morning, which included a trip out of town to a reconstructed Indian village. The trip was very interesting. In the afternoon, we just wandered around the town.

Ketchikan is built up the slopes of the mountain. Some of the roads are actually on platforms built out from the hill. A few of the "roads" heading up the slope were marked on the map as "2nd Ave", etc., but turned out to be staircases.

Day 4 (Aug 14) - Juneau, Alaska

Another sunny day! Juneau is the capital of Alaska, athough at 30,000 residents it is much smaller than Anchorage (250,000 people). Our morning excursion included an overview of the town, a fish hatchery, a stop at a church by a beautiful lake, and a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is termed a "freshwater" glacier in that it terminates well short of the ocean and melts into a small lake.

In the afternoon we walked around the part of the town closer to the cruise dock. There were a lot of souvenir and t-shirt shops there. The temperature reached the low 70's so was quite pleasant.

Day 5 (Aug 15) - Skagway, Alaska

And another sunny day! Skagway is a tiny town of about 800 permanent residents which swells to several thousand people in the summer. It is basically a reconstructed frontier town, reminiscent of when it was the gateway to the Klondike goldrush. Our morning excursion included a trip around the town, a drive up to a lookout over the city, and a musical theatre production about the life of Soapy Smith.

In the afternoon, we wandered around the town and looked at the frontier buildings. There were 4 cruise ships in port that day, and the number of passengers kind of overwhelmed the town. It was very busy!

Day 6 (Aug 16) - Cruising Glacier Bay

Once again we were treated to a day of glorious sunshine. Glacier Bay is a national park that includes a number of huge saltwater glaciers. A hundred years ago or so, the bay was hidden by the glaciers, but the glaciers have since receded opening up the bay to ships and cruisers. As we floated in front of the Margerie Glacier, huge chunks were "calving" into the ocean. There were no large icebergs in the water, though, as the chunks exploded into small fragments as they hit the water.

During the day we explored several channels within Glacier Bay and saw a number of large glacier flows. The wind off the glaciers was freezing. Despite being a sunny day, everyone was bundled up in coats and blankets.

Day 7 (Aug 17) - Cruising College Fjord

After 5 days of sunny weather, it turned to cloud again. We had been told that the real blue colour of the glaciers was most noticeable on a cloudy day. They were right. The glaciers of College Fjord were as amazing as those in Glacier Bay. Some of the glaciers were composites of two or more flows, and the flows were divided by black gravel (see picture).

We were a little too late in the season to see sea otter and seal pups. Apparently the numerous ice chunks floating in the water confuse the killer whales' sonar, and so the seals and otters are quite safe in the bays.

Day 8 (Aug 18) - Seward and Anchorage

Our final day started off cool and rainy. We docked at Seward, and disembarked. From there, we were bused to Anchorage, about a 3 hour drive. The sun came out during the trip and the scenery was quite spectacular. We drove up a peninsula, so were sometimes near the water and other times in the mountains.

Anchorage airport was very busy, as all of the freight planes doing the arctic great circle route stop there to refuel. From Anchorage, we flew to Seattle and then connected back to Calgary. What a wonderful trip!