Alaska by Cruise Ship
*I'm sorry for the late post on this one. I like to get the blog updated every Monday, but the lack of internet kept that from happening last week*
It's official! I've now been to all 50 states of the U.S.A. As of the last blog post, we were en route to Alaska, via the inside passage from Vancouver. We boarded the Diamond Princess ship for a 14-day cruise that would take us to some of the most scenic and interesting places in southeast Alaska. This post will cover the northbound leg of our journey.
Our first port was Ketchikan, and we had an excursion (fancy name for a glorified cruise ship tour) to the Tatoosh Islands, via kayak. Yes, we kayaked in Alaska. And No, it was actually not freezing. In fact, the weather was strangely warm and sunny, which was unexpected considering we were in a rainforest. We kayaked for about two hours and spotted some bald eagles along the way. The scenery was just beautiful and the water was like glass, so the paddling was really easy. We had some time after the tour to explore the town of Ketchikan, so we walked to the popular Creek Street. It was scenic, but we were a little disappointed by the number of tourist traps. Ketchikan is home to a lot of nice totem poles and we got to shoot a few here, but when we return to this port next week we may try to hit up a park that is supposedly full of them.
After Ketchikan, our next stop was Juneau, Alaska's capitol. Karen booked a tour for us that she went on the last time she was here because she knew it would give us some good variety and was catered more toward photographers. The Juneau tour started with a hike through the lush rainforest near Mendenhall glacier. But when the tour guide started explaining what f-stops were, we pretty much just wandered off and did our own thing, which was fine. The next stop was a view of the glacier from across the lake (above pic) and we got to shoot from the beach there. We plan to re-visit this locale next week also.
We then came to the more exciting part of the tour. There were about a dozen people and we all boarded a small boat to go whale watching. If I said that we really lucked out, that would be an understatement. We saw at least seven adult humpback whales along with one baby that was just breaching over and over again. We even got to see a triple breach! (The guides even said that they've never seen that before.) Along with the breaching, we got to see some bubble feeding where the whales form a net of bubbles to trap small fish.
When we got back to the cruise ship area in Juneau, we ate at Tracy's Crab Shack. If you're ever in the area, we highly recommend it. It is literally just a shack with some canopies outside, but the food was excellent.
The following day, we were in Skagway. We didn't have a tour booked here (we will do one next week though) so we mainly just walked around the town. As far as style goes, this was my favorite town. All the building had a lot of character, as this was an old gold rush "city." There's a funny story here though. As you know, since I live on the road and have friends everywhere, I'm always running into people I know. Karen and I were joking when we boarded our 14-day cruise that we would actually go two whole weeks without running into a friend. Well, it turns out we made it about 3.5 days. In Skagway we stopped in the local brewery to have lunch and at the table right in front of us was my friend and fellow photographer Syl Arena. Not kidding. He was on another ship whose route happened to coincide with ours. What are the chances? We're in a town with a population of 500 and I STILL run into a friend! Syl and I spent some time catching up over a few beers and then he was off to return to his ship.
Glacier Bay was our next destination. It's a day of scenic cruising so you don't get off the ship here. Glacier Bay is actually a national park, so before entering, a pilot boat comes and a few park rangers board the ship for the day. The highlight of the day for me was Margerie Glacier, which was gigantic. It's actually hard to portray in a photograph unless you have a boat or something in there for scale. It was also here that we got to see (and hear) a lot of calving. This is where massive chunks of ice crack and fall off the glacier into the water. And when I say massive, I mean chunks of ice the size of buildings.
College Fjord was also a day of scenic cruising, and in my opinion, this trumped Glacier Bay. When you get all the way into the fjord, you can see as many as nine glaciers at once. Throw in a few waterfalls and sunny warm weather and you have a perfect day!
Whittier was our last port before we were to start heading south again, and we spent our day there on a tour boat cruising through Prince William Sound. It was another lucky day for us, because we got to see more bald eagles, breaching whales, sea otters, harbor seals and glaciers. Since we were on a smaller boat, we were able to get much closer to the glacier, and when it calved, the wave it created was enough to seriously rock our 150-person boat!
So far the trip has been excellent. There's also something to be said for the weather we experienced all week. In Alaska, the weather is generally very cool, overcast and rainy. However, this entire week was full of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s and maybe even higher. Unbelievable! One of our tour guides actually called this "cloud failure." Hopefully the second half of our trip will be as nice as the first (but that's asking a lot!).
More to come from Alaska…