I have travelled by ferry many times but never on a cruise ship. I have always loved the water. Paddling a canoe or sailing are my preferred methods of water travel but I am impressed by this hotel on the seas. Jennifer and I are sent down to level one, The bottom, the “Dolphin Deck”.
After unpacking, we gather for a lifeboat drill. The deck is crammed with my fellow travellers. It is difficult to see what is going on and impossible to hear, I pray that, should we need to put on a life vest and climb into a lifeboat, I can figure it all out then. In the meantime I will enjoy the ride.
We take a walk around the promenade deck and I feel a shiver of excitement as they drawn in the huge ropes and we move away from the dock. Where are the balloons? the confetti? There is no fanfare? We are simply slipping away very quietly. I can feel no movement. I watch the skyline recede as the Volendam sails under the Lions Gate Bridge to head up the Inside Passage to Alaska. On board are my sisters, Jennifer and Louise and two of my nieces, Sarah and Danae. We are together to celebrate Louise’s 80th year.
Cruising north between the islands is exciting. we travel so close to the land. I CANNOT get enough of the scenery. I am dragged off deck to the dining room. Our first meal is delicious. We enjoyed the buffet on the 8th deck and a great chance to catch up with each other.
The journey took us into Tracy Arm. My first view of icebergs. Very small ones but I am so impressed by the intensity of the colours. Apparently, on a cloudy day, the colours are intensified. Perhaps they tell us that to make us feel better about the weather. I don’t care, because I am, once again, in awe.
As we travelled up the arm toward the glacier, the temperature dropped. I ran down to the cabin to grab some mitts and a coat.. The view from the cabin window made me glad we were on the lowest deck.
We could not travel all the way to the glacier because at this time of year, the seal pups are still young and use the ice. I am sure that the number of cruise ships travelling to the Alaskan coast has a negative effect on the environment. It pleases me that, at the least, they respect the seals and do not disturb them just to give us a view of the glacier.
The shopping in the part of Juneau that is accessible on foot is totally tourist driven. Totem poles, inukshuks, t-shirts, mugs and jewelry. Lots of jewelry. A glut of jewelry stores. Most of the stores were pushing Tanzanite, a gem mined in Tansania at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. WHAT? I just shook my head and went back to the ship empty-handed.
Next stop… Skagway. Sarah and I signed up for a rock climbing excursion. It was her idea. We travelled by bus with five others from the Island Princess. Just seven braves souls on this sunny Alaskan Saturday. We drove very close to the Canadian border and then hiked a fair distance to the “base camp”. Each of us were fitted for special climbing shoes, a helmet and a harness. Looking like professionals, we hiked further up to the cliff-face. My eyes went up,…. way up. I gulped and looked at Sarah. “What have you gotten me into?” I asked. With a last check of our equipment, I volunteered to go first. I did not want anyone else to give me a reason to chicken out.
I discovered that I enjoy climbing. The ability to cling to a quarter inch ledge and reach for the tiny crevice as I went higher and higher is a gift from GOD. I was able to look down at the trees below and wave to Sarah. It was not very many years ago that I was terrified of heights. TERRIFIED.!! It amazes me is that I climbed to the top… TWICE!! I was so proud of myself. Walking back to the ship on the streets of Skagway, a big smile on my face, I tripped, scraped my leg, hurt my hand and embarrased myself as I lay sprawled on the street with a gathering group of tourists gawking. I am sure I heard a chuckle or two as I picked myself up and limped off. I wanted to scream, I just climbed a huge cliff!
There is a lot of activities happening on a cruise ship. The difficulty is choosing. Should I go to the gym? maybe a swim? maybe wine tasting?… Yes. that’s it. I went to a few demonstrations and classes, such as scrapbooking (I thought it was a travel writing seminar) and even a trivia contest.
Glacier Bay was one of the destinations. It is a US National Park and a couple of park rangers boarded the ship as we entered the bay. They gave an interesting talk as we travelled, looking for whales and seals. The changes in the landscape amazes me.. As recently as 1750 a single glacier thousands of feet thick filled what is now a 65-mile long fjord. As we travel, the forests change. The fir trees give way to smaller alder and eventually as we approach the glacier, there are no trees. Small shrubs, mosses and bare rock is all we see.
After the glacier show, we travelled south to Ketchikan.
Jennifer, Sarah and I went Kayaking. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day. We spent a great day paddling the shores of the Tatoosh Islands. We saw seals, otters, whales and Bald Eagles. I partnered with Megan from Florida, a teenager who was thrilled to take the stern and steer, while I relaxed and allowed her to take charge.
I have no kayaking pics to share, I was reluctant to chance losing my camera overboard. I will sign off with a few pictures from the deck of the Volendam as we headed to Vancouver.