"When you see things,
You never anticipated you'd ever see;
When you experience things,
You never thought could be felt, touched, seen or heard;
When the mighty glaciers,
Melt and fall in the matter of minutes,
After forming for years;
When you seek warmth,
In the slightest ray of sunshine;
When the whales tease you,
And swim right by your vessel;
When the curious harbor seal,
Chases your boat as you sail away;
Your perspective on life changes.
Travel the world.
Don't be static.
Explore and have an adventure.
Your travel diaries aren't about the destination. They are about the journey.
Don't stop exploring.”
These were my thoughts that I penned, sitting in my room at the Springhill Suites in Seattle, whilst I waited for my best friend to arrive. I can assure you, that prior to this moment I’ve never written a poem (or whatever you’d call this piece). I’ve been on a lot of holidays and vacations, never have I ever been so inspired to express my emotions that I’ve felt about a trip. I know I may have bombarded my Facebook page with hundreds and thousands of photos and videos about this trip, but that’s only because I struggle to truly express what an eye-opening experience this trip was. Here is my attempt to do so on my blog. The focus will just be on the second half of my trip i.e. the cruise. This is probably my fourth attempt in writing this blog and maybe this time I will finish it.
To begin with, this was the first time I’d ever been on a cruise. I’d watched numerous videos on YouTube so I could be prepared for what was to come. The videos fell short, not because the videos weren’t good, they were, but more so because it’s a unqiue experience that no video or blog could ever do justice to it. Ironic, isn’t it? I say one thing yet here I am trying to express my emotions towards an amazing trip that I know the blog won’t do justice to. But here goes nothing. The choice of cities that we docked in, in Alaska were incredible. Alaska is a state where you can literally live ‘history’. Skagway, might be a rather small city, with only 1000pax population, but till date the buildings you see there are the original buildings during the gold rush. Some have even kept the same name, for example the Red Onion Saloon. This was an active brothel during the gold rush era, though now it’s something else. It is a town you live and breathe history.
Once in Skagway depending on which shore excursion you choose you get to go on the White Pass Train adventure. We chose to do the dog sled and the White Pass Train was part of it. You’re taken to Fraser, which is in Canada. Enroute to Fraser you come across a lot more beauty and of course glimpses of history (but we’ll leave that for later). Firstly just as you’re entering Fraser, you will come across the ‘International Waterfalls’ which are just a series of waterfalls that are the physical boundary between the United States and Canada – US on the left and Canada on the right. Following on, once you board the White Pass train, which is a steam engine train, exactly like the ones from back in the days. You go on a 2-hour journey along the Klondike route. What is the importance of this route? It was the route that hundreds took, when they got wind of there being gold available. The narrator gives you a visual experience (though sometimes a bit too graphic) and you can ‘see’ how one would have travelled in search of gold and at times you can’t help but feel the pain of the people and animals that ultimately met their demise on this route.
Let’s take a moment, to appreciate the natural beauty that is Juneau. When you go on a cruise, you must take in all that only a cruise can offer. The early morning wake up call the day the Solstice entered the Tracy Arm Fjord at 5am, to see the sunrise over the ocean was simply marvellous. You don’t get a lot of opportunities in life to see things like that. You should also be prepared as going on a cruise does mean late nights and early mornings. If you want a glimpse of something or to spot in their natural habitat you have to wake up early.
Participating in the shore excursion that takes you further in to the Tracy Arm Fjord and Endicott Arm was another experience to cherish. To see mighty glaciers melt in the matter of seconds. To be on a catamaran that delicately makes it’s way across icebergs and bluebergs. That was a term I heard for the first time, blueberg. For those who don’t know what it is, let me explain. A blueberg is an iceberg that has turned over. In other words, the part of the iceberg that was underwater is now above water.
What I enjoyed about this excursion was to be greeted by an unexpected host, a humpback whale as she comes up to pout and graciously goes back in. These aren’t things that happen everyday. It made me ecstatic as I wanted to tick off a whale sighting from my travel bucket list, which I guess changes every now and then.
Ah, Ketchikan, another town/city where you can live ‘history’. Though I didn’t get to learn much about Ketchikan’s history, it is a town that has maintained its heritage. The speciality of Ketchikan is the salmon, well salmon is the speciality of Alaska overall. The shore excursion that I did at Ketchikan was a hike through the Tongass National Rainforest. Did you know that 3/4s of Alaskan land is a rainforest? A lot of the excursions throughout the cruise take you into the rainforest. It is very essential that you stick with your tour group and guide and follow their instructions.
These were just glimpses of the cities, now to talk about all the things on board. There are a lot of things to do on board, in my humble opinion too much. You need to plan out your days as best as you can to make the most of all that’s available to you on board. You can choose to purchase dinner packages and I think that is a must so that you can experience one of the other eateries that’s not included in the cost of your ticket. You have to remember that a cruising holiday is a very unique experience. There are very limited things available to you on your ticket. Most of the things that you can indulge in need to be purchased. It’s good to go prepared so you don’t get a scare when it comes to paying the final bill. I explain this further in the video below.
Before I go, I will leave you with one more video. This is my review of the cruise overall. Perhaps, it will help you better prepare for an upcoming cruise or at least give you a better idea of what cruising is like if you’ve never been on one.
Until next time,