Did you miss me?
After an incredible week-long cruise in the unimaginably beautiful state of Alaska, I have returned to the real world and being permanently tethered to technology, which of course includes my position here as managing editor of Canal Street Chronicles. I was hoping that in my absence, the NFL Lockout would have been settled and football's return would be perfectly timed with my own. Alas, this not the case. So since there's still nothing really to talk about, I figured why not tell you a little bit about my epic adventure to The Last Frontier to help me get back in the flow of writing?
While aboard the Oasis of the Seas last summer, my wife's parents wanted to take advantage of an on board booking discount and decided to sit down to plan their next family cruise with a Royal Caribbean travel agent on the ship. I admit that when my wife suggested Alaska as a possibility for our next destination, I was a bit skeptical. Isn't cruising supposed to be for tropical destinations? And isn't Alaska anything but tropical?
I was wrong, however, and last week I was treated (Thanks, Joe and Rae!) to an amazing getaway aboard Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, the likes of which I never expected and will never forget. I've been to quite a few wonderful places in my young life but Alaska is truly the most unique. Unless you've seen for yourself the untouched beauty that is The Land of the Midnight Sun, you cannot fathom it's true awesomeness.
But hopefully the short travel diary that follows will at least give you an idea. So come along with me on a retrospective journey of my recent vacation to Alaska. Prepare to be jealous.
We flew from New Orleans to Vancouver, BC on June 24th and caught a bus straight from the airport to our ship. Since my in-laws are experienced cruisers and have already traveled Alaska twice before, they knew to book staterooms with a balcony for all of us.
Display in the Windjammer cafeteria on the first day.
Looking up from the middle of the Centrum.
The view from our table in the opulent Cascade's dining room.
Our junior suite.
Vancouver skyline shortly after departing.
To celebrate our anniversary, my wife and I ate at Chef's Table, one of the specialty restaurants on board the Radiance. After a glass of champagne at the Champagne Bar, dinner is held in a private dining room at a single table with only ten other guests. Each course is explained before it is served and paired with a particular wine that is also explained in detail. Think Top Chef. Dinner took four hours to complete.
Our first port of call was the small town of Ketchikan. After waking up bright and early, my wife and I joined her brother and his fiance for a guided fishing trip aboard a small skiff. Our guides name was Tryg, a native of Ketchikan who lived a self-sustaining lifestyle. He drove us around, showing us wildlife and helping us fish.
After a modest haul, we beached our boat along one of many remote islands to meet up with tour-goers from other boats at a camp site just within the tree line, complete with crackling camp fire and hot chocolate. Tryg filleted our catch and the camp cook made a delicious stew-like dish for all of us with potatoes and a sort of tomato sauce piquant. Delicious! When fish is that fresh, it doesn't actually taste like fish.
Following our excursion and return to land, Erin and I walked around the town with her father for some shopping and sightseeing.
Bald Eagles are abundant.
We spotted a whale, which was on my Alaskan bucket list.
Stores along Creek Street.
Icy Straight Point
Next up was Icy Strait Point in the even smaller town of Hoonah. The ship couldn't dock so passengers were tendered to reach land. All of us were signed up for a guided ATV tour with scenic stops along the route. The views made available during each stop were breathtaking.
That was followed by a short walk and ride down a mile-long zipline. Be sure to watch the video I took of the entire ride down. We're traveling at about 60 mph and the entire ride takes about 90 seconds.
That night we enjoyed a murder mystery dinner party put on by the ships stage performers.
The trail was great.
The view from the top of the trail.
Walking down to the zipline.
The group before us going down the zipline.
Murder mystery dinner theater.
The state capital was our next stop along the way. On the schedule for all of us was a helicopter ride to the top of a mountain for some dog sledding. When we arrived at the heliport, however, we were informed that the cloud coverage was too thick and while they could take us to the top of the mountain where we needed to be, they couldn't guarantee they could get us down.
Fortunately, we were able to take a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier, which may have been more interesting than dog sledding anyway. The temps were cold and a light rain was falling when the helicopters dropped us off but the isolated feeling on top of the glacier was incredible. After a 30 minute tour around the glacier, the helicopters returned to pick us up.
After our excursion, we made a quick stop on the ship to grab some dry clothes before heading back out into town for lunch along the water. Then I met up with my father-in-law as we grabbed a few Alaskan Ambers and played a few pull tabs (Alaska's version of lottery scratch-offs) at the Viking Lounge.
Erin looking out the helicopter window.
The glacier from above.
A crevasse big enough to swallow you whole.
There was a stream of water on top of the glacier that had started flowing about a month prior. This is pure, natural water. It doesn't get any better. That's me taking a sip from "the fountain of youth" as they call it.
The view from the restaurant where we ate lunch.
Erin and I had planned to spend the day alone and signed up for our own excursion away from the rest of her family. We booked a tour of a classic gold rush camp where we were treated to a show and the chance to pan for gold. That was followed by a scenic, guided bus ride up the mountain into nearby Canada and then a ride back on the White Pass and Yukon Scenic Railway. This is a must-do for any train lover.
After we got back to the ship, we ate quickly and headed back out into Skagway to walk the town's main street and pick up gifts to take home to family. You can't help but feel like you're on the set of a Western movie while strolling through town.
Taking a curve on the train.
A sweet waterfall.
Stream cutting through the mountains.
White water rapids.
Before ending our journey, the cruise ship made a stop in front of Hubbard Glacier early Thursday morning. Erin and I had arranged for a room service breakfast to be delivered at 7:30am. We ate on our balcony while enjoying the view as the ship glided through icy waters and pulled up to the edge of the glacier.
Hearing the glacier move and watching ice fall into the water (calving) was a unique opportunity.
Chunks of ice in the water.
The edge of the glacier.
Our cruise ended in Seward. We were in the first group scheduled to de-board the ship which meant waking up at 5:30am. Our flight home was booked out of Anchorage so we planned a scenic train ride from Seward directly to the airport. Though I wasn't crazy about such an early wake-up, the incredible scenery along the ride was a fitting end to an equally incredible trip.
The port in Seward, AK.
Our train car.
The reflective water was amazing.
I swear I took these pictures myself.