Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
Trip End Apr 01, 2010

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Where I stayed
Golden Princess

Flag of United States  , Alaska
Sunday, September 7, 2008

Well here we are the dreaded Alaskan cruise! I have been having nightmares about spending time on this cruise, for someone who gets sea sick on a pedalo I think I probably had good reason to be apprehensive. I need not have feared the ship was so huge you could hardly tell you were at sea. These ships are built with stabilisers which seem to do a really good job. My brother and cousins had all tried their best to alive me of my doubts and I am happy to say they were all right! 
I wasn't too keen on sharing meal tables with strangers but have to say we met some lovely people who were all charming. Just one tip, I don't mean to be cruel, but if you see one person on a table that seats six you're probably best to avoid sitting down! We had two bad experiences, firstly there was the woman who was on another planet and kept going on about how the government had ceased her yacht and how much she had drank and cried over the experience! She continued to look at what we were eating and say oooh I can't eat that! The next time it was a guy who had fallen out with his wife. He had been downtown drinking with a couple of young ladies and couldn't understand what his wife's problem was! He was drunk as a skunk and proceeded to ask Julie for advice, whilst talking rather loudly with colourful language! Well I guess it was entertaining! 
In all, the cruise was excellent value for money. Our room was lovely bigger than we had imagined and immaculately maintained. There were numerous swimming pools, restaurants, theatres and lounges which kept us occupied in-between discovering our ports of call. The food and service was first class and the shows were excellent. Are we hooked? Probably not for a holiday on its own but would certainly be happy to include a cruise in future itineraries as part of a trip. It made good sense on this trip as it is the only way to see this part of Alaska with there being no roads from the interior. 
A bit about Alaska, it was interesting to learn that up until 1867 this part of the world belonged to Russia. After this date the US secretary of state, William H. Seward purchased Alaska from the Russians for the sum of $7.2 million, which equates to 2c an acre. At the time it seemed futile but a few years' later minerals were found in the territory, which were worth an absolute fortune. The territory became an official state of America in 1959.
Our first port of call took us two days to sail to. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, with a population of just 30,000; it's not a big place but has all the necessary amenities. They get a lot of rain in this part of the world and the heavens opened as we arrived and didn't let up for the duration of our stay. Once again the waterproof coats and fleeces came in handy, at only 8C with a cold wind biting, you do need warm clothing, this is not the Caribbean! Juneau was built off the back of the 1880's gold rush. Many buildings have been restored and echo this bygone era, including the Red Dog Saloon which still has sawdust a few inches thick all over the floor. We enjoyed a couple of pints of the local Alaskan Ale, whilst listing the local piano player. The walls were thickly coated in memorabilia and stuffed animals, which would had once roamed the local countryside. The town is otherwise full of tourist shops and countless jewellers selling every gem imaginable. Just up the valley the Mendenhall glacier can be found, attracting many visitors who climb, land on or just view the glacier from a distance.
The next day we docked at Skagway. In its hay day Skagway was one of the largest towns in Alaska. Like Juneau this place was also built on the back of the gold rush. Once the gold rush days were over the numbers fell rapidly and today there are just 800 locals. Although smaller than Juneau, the town probably has more historic buildings and the pavements are actually original timber decking, which line all the streets and give the place a real frontier town atmosphere. We enjoyed strolling the streets for a few hours, and although a bitterly wind was blowing up the valley it was at least dry. All around town are tree covered mountains topped by last winter's snows; the summer season is short up here so I don't think it will be long before they are coated in fresh snow again.      
Tracy Arm - Probably the highlight of our trip. Our ship spent several hours coasting along the narrow fjord. As we approached the end of this narrow stretch of water icebergs became larger and more abundant. At the end we got a spectacular view of several glaciers, two flowing down to the water edge, others hanging high up in the mountains, the view was simply breath taking. Our sister ship the Star Princess was leading the way into Tracy Arm and as we caught sight of her she looked like a matchbox toy against the sheer size of the surrounding cliffs.  
Ketchikan - The gate way to Alaska. This is indeed the first port of call for most travellers heading north along the inside passage, for us it was our last stop on our way south. It's a pretty harbour town with colourful houses which line the shore and creek. For us this was a chance of a lifetime to see the Pacific Salmon run. This amazing phenomenon was just unbelievable. We were lucky enough to have timed our trip for the month of September when the salmon return to their original place of birth to spawn. The waterfalls they have to travel up are not only high, but the water gushes down the creek at a powerful rate. You just wouldn't believe a fish could propel itself out of the water, sometime jumping 6ft in the air. Looking into the creek we could see thousands of these fish regaining their energy in the shallow waters edge before trying to force their way up stream, time and time again. Having watched this spectacle, mesmerised for quite a while, we followed the creek up stream to witness the salmon laying their eggs. Sadly once the deed is done, they die from the exhaustion, all that work and then they die. It seems the Atlantic salmon get the better deal as they don't die after the deed is done. 
After a week at sea we sailed via Victoria, back to Seattle and rolled off the ship!
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