My husband Doug and I departed Montevideo, Uruguay on 29 May 2015 to make a travel dream come true. Although we lived in the Pacific Northwest for years and had visited Alaska many times, we had never cruised the Inside Passage of Alaska. So now that we live a few thousand miles away, near the tip of South America, we decided to make it happen.
Our roundtrip cruise ship left Seattle, Washington at 3:54 PM on Sunday, May 31st 2015 to begin a 7-Day Inside Passage cruise to Alaska. It was all it was promised to be. A luxurious stateroom with a large picture window view of the sea, remarkable service, numerous gourmet dining opportunities, a spacious mid-size ship, and many ‘good life’ days. I even lost 2 kilos by walking daily rounds of the ship’s deck during the journey.
On 02 June we entered Tracy Arm, a fjord near Juneau Alaska. At Stephens Passage, we took a sharp right turn into the Boundary Ranges wilderness area. After a narrow, twisting fjord, with waterfalls at every turn, we saw close-up views of the majestic Sawyer Glaciers and calving icebergs in the jade-colored inland sea. A chorus of “Ooh, Ah, and WOW!” from others on deck filled the air. The breathtaking awesome scenery–reminded me of wooly mammoths and the Ice Age. What a treat to know Alaska protects its unique ecosystem of animals and plants living in the glaciated valley.
We docked in Juneau, the capital of Alaska at 6:42 AM on 03 June. Our ship tethered itself to the dock and lowered a bridge so passengers could walk directly off and into the port of call. I had flown into Juneau many time to teach computer classes. No roads lead to Juneau so it can only be reached by plane or boat. Squeezed between the Gastineau Channel and Coast Mountains, it’s a charming town with its bounty of forests, mountains, and the massive Mendenhall Glacier and the Juneau Ice fields at its back door. The Tongass National Forest stretches away to the northeast. Daylight is bountiful as are wilderness adventures around the area.
We arrived in Sitka at 7:21 AM, 04 June and the ship anchored off shore. Passengers were “tendered” to shore on small tender boats–a five minute ride to the dock. Facing the Pacific Ocean, on Baranof Island, Sitka was once the capital of Russian America. Nestled at the foot of magnificent glacial carved mountains, Sitka is located on the outer coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Its colorful past is a blend of native Tlingit culture and Russian history. In 1867, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $7,200,000.
On 05 June we docked in ‘Misty’ Ketchikan, the rainiest town in southeast Alaska. True to its name, it rained all day. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan clutches the shores of the Tongass Narrows. Stairways are weathered and many shops and houses are built out over the water. Like good tourists, we visited Creek Street, walked up and down wooden stairs and walkways, saw colorful and unique totems, and purchased fudge galore and a handmade native Indian dream catcher.
It was calm seas most of our journey. Only one night of turbulence as we returned and entered the open Pacific Ocean heading to Victoria, British Columbia. The ship’s dining room was almost empty that evening because diners couldn’t weave their way along corridors because of rolling, high seas. By the time we finished sipping our last glass of wine, the waves had subsided and the sea grew calmer. The ocean rocked us to sleep that night
We docked in Victoria on 06 June at 6:15 PM and walked through beautiful downtown neighborhoods, exploring the capital city of British Columbia. Exhilarating scenery surprised me around every corner with cool shops, double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal flower gardens, historical buildings, the ocean, mountain views, and bike trails all along the sidewalks. Wonderful city!
We returned to the ship at midnight and departed for an overnight to Seattle, Washington. Doug and I are still ambivalent about this cruising-for-the-sake-of-cruising thing. As Doug said the last night, “it’s hard to imagine we only got on this boat a month ago.” I comforted him by saying, “Be glad this is not the Indian Ocean in monsoon season.”
Back to writing “Sandalwood Sanity and Diego Garcia” –my journey of discovery while crossing the wild Indian Ocean in monsoon season in 1975.