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ALASKA CRUISE - MAY 2003

On Sunday 29th April 2003, we found that we could get a "sitter" to look after our dog for a week or so in May (good old Jackee!)!. We looked on the Internet for a suitable holiday and booked a cruise to Alaska, with Norwegian Cruise Lines, on their cruise ship Norwegian Sun, leaving Seattle on Sunday 11th May. We got a good deal and so upgraded our cabin to a Suite, at the stern of the ship. We flew British Airways on the Friday, direct to Seattle from Heathrow Airport.

The route took us from Seattle, through the Inside Passage between Vancouver and Vancouver Island and up to Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, calling at Ketchikan and Victoria on the way back.

Alaska Cruise Route

 

Saturday 10th Seattle TowerSeattle

 Having arrived in Seattle the previous evening, we had a whole day to see the city and the area. We stayed at the Paramount Hotel on Pine Street, which was well situated for the shopping centres and fairly close to the harbour front. We had booked the hotel through British Airways and were very satisfied with the standard of accommodation. We started our day by getting the monorail from the nearby shopping mall and arrived at the Space Needle, which towers 605 feet above the city. A lift took us to the top, where we had a spectacular view of the City of Seattle. We returned to the city centre and then walked to the harbour, where we caught a ferry to Bainbridge Island, about a 3/4 of an hour trip. There were many tug boats as we left the harbour, about to start their annual race. We were accompanied on the journey over by a US Customs launch, which sported a couple of machine guns to deal with any would be pirates! Bainbridge Island seemed very picturesque. We only stayed a couple of hours and explored the town of Winslow, and the inner reaches of the harbour. Very smart and expensive real estate!

Sunday 11th May Norwegian SunBoarding Ship

After breakfast we walked down to the market area and saw that our cruise ship had berthed overnight. We could see our cabin verandah at the stern of the ship and it looked inviting. We did a bit of shopping in the town and around midday got a taxi to the pier to embark. Getting aboard was no problem, and we were taken to our cabin, which met all of our expectations, and contained a complimentary bottle of champagne! We had a look around the ship and ate lunch at the Great Outdoor Cafe at the stern, overlooking Seattle. We were then all called to a practice emergency, as the ship sailed, and we again noticed that the US Customs had provided two armed launches to escort us from harbour. We sailed into the evening sunset and the Inside Passage.

Monday 12th May CruisingCruising

Today we awoke to find ourselves in the Inside Passage, with the coast of Vancouver Island alongside. By 10 am we left the island behind and sailed out to sea, with Juneau our destination for the following day. There were plenty of activities we could do on ship and a pleasant day soon passed. I was very pleased with the "Freestyle" choices available, whereby we had a complete choice of how we spent the day, with relaxed and informal dining arrangements, with plenty of options. The entertainment was splendid, again with many choices throughout the day and evening.

Tuesday 13th May Mendenhall GlacierJuneau

We woke to a grey but spectacular dawn, and by late morning we were ready to berth at the port of Juneau, Alaska. We had an exciting and busy day ahead of us, starting with a helicopter ride to glaciers on the Juneau Icefield. We disembarked ship and a coach took us to the airfield, where we watched a safety film, only to then be told that due to adverse weather conditions (rain and cloud) our trip was cancelled. We returned to Juneau with heavy hearts, but then jumped on a bus and travelled to the Mendenhall Glacier. You view the glacier across a lake, and notice the blueness of the ice. We then returned to Juneau, to join an evening whale watching boat trip. The trip was great, with a splendid meal thrown in. We had around half a dozen sightings of whales, first the blow of water pluming in the air, then the splash as their bodies broke the surface. The scenery was splendid and we enjoyed every moment.

Wednesday 14th May Davidson GlacierSkagway

An early start saw us disembark ship at Skagway, and by coach travel along the coast, to board a catamaran, taking us across the water, past Haines and onto Glacier Point, for a Wilderness Expedition. We jumped onto the beach and were taken by 4 WD coach, along a narrow and unmade track inland. We then changed into waterproofs and trecked for about half a mile to a lake, where we got on board canoes and paddled our way for a further 1/2 mile to the edge of the glacier. Again, the blueness was apparent and there were a number of mini icebergs in the lake. After an hour on the lake we returned the way we had come. On the catamaran trip back we stopped by the shore to see around 100 sea lions basking on the rocks.

On our return to Skagway, we then got aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, for a spectacular train journey into the mountains. A three hour, 40 mile round trip took us some 2,865 feet high, through tunnels, over amazing bridges, and past spectacular scenery. An excellent live commentary by the tour guide enhanced the journey, and although you could see everything from the coaches, you could get outside, between each coach for a more direct experience. On the return journey, the seats folded the opposite way and everyone changed sides of the carriage, so that all had a view from each side.

Thursday 15th May Norwegian Sky at Sawyer GlacierSawyer Glacier

John awoke in the early hours with symptoms of food poisoning, and was unable to enjoy today. However, Penny was fine and experienced one of the best days of the cruise. We journeyed along a deep fjord, with spectacular scenery either side, then cruised right up to the Sawyer Glacier, before turning and making our way on towards Ketchikan. The day ended with a spectacular sunset.

Friday 16th May KetchikanKetchikan

Penny left mid morning and enjoyed a trip entitled "Orca Beach Nature Trail." Following a 30 minute boat ride, she arrived on a secluded beach where she made a 30 minute walk through forest to a boardwalk. A motorised inflatable boat then provided a short cruise along the coast, back to the boat taking her home. Various items of interest were pointed out, including fauna and flora.

John ventured out to do some souvenir shopping for the family, and had a further disaster when he came back onboard, falling through the gangway ladder as it joined the ship. He was not very impressed with this lack of safety, and badly grazed his leg, which has taken some six weeks to get better.

Saturday 17th May VictoriaVictoria

We cruised most of the day, out at sea, arriving at Victoria, Vancouver Island, in the evening. We joined a coach tour of the city. Victoria is a very smart city, and has many Colonial connections. We travelled into the expensive areas where prices are given in millions of dollars. At the highest point of the tour we saw a rainbow over the coast. Victoria Island is somewhere where you could spend at least a week exploring, maybe two.

Sunday 18th May Back at SeattleSeattle and Home

We berthed at Seattle early morning, but did not leave the boat until around 10.45 am. We had a last look at our cabin and said our goodbyes to the ship. Good memories of the excellent ship's crew, first class entertainment, facilities and the standard of our cabin. We took a taxi to the Airport and by booking in early, managed to get the best seats on the plane (standard class) on the way home.

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