Alaska Panhandle Cruise

College Fjord

May 17 – 23, 2004

Photo set on Flickr

I am not a fan of traveling on cruise.  But cruise ship has become such a popular way to travel that sometimes it becomes unavoidable, especially when traveling with family.  Setting aside the obvious problems like pollution or a lack of time at each port, I guess cruise ship does offer positives like reasonable prices and convenience when traveling to places like the Alaskan Panhandle or the Caribbean Islands.

This would be my second time to Alaska.  Our cruise would take us from Whittier (1.5 hour train ride from Anchorage) to Vancouver over seven days.  I was taking the place of another family member, who couldn’t make the trip at the last minute.  My first cruise to Alaska was quite a boring experience as the weather was miserable throughout the entire week.

The trip turned out to be better than expected, which was obviously helped by the fact that I had minimal expectation prior to the trip.  The weather was fantastic – a retiree actually quipped on the second morning of the cruise that Alaska felt hotter than his home in South Beach, Florida.

The scenery was much better than I remembered from the previous time.  The glacier, the fjord, the lakes… every clueless shot I took resembled the postcards available on the cruise ship, which says as much about the beauty of Alaska’s scenery as the low quality of the postcards.

My only complaint is the ratio of old people (retiree) to everyone else on board.  The ratio was at least 3:1.  I know a cruise that sailed in May was bound to attract mostly retirees, but I didn’t quite expect to be trapped on a nursery home on sea for a week.

Some Photos:

Our cruise passed along the College Fjord in the morning of the second day. It was cloudy, but the lack of light and the small amount of fog enhanced the fjord’s atmosphere.
Our ship sailed to Glacier Bay National Park on the third morning.  The highlight of the national park was Margerie Glacier.  Although huge chunks of ice were breaking away from this 34-km long tide water glacier and into the ocean constantly, Margerie Glacier was not receding or thinning in size and volume.
On the fourth day we finally reached the cruise’s first landing port in Skagway. We hired a car and driver for the day and headed to Emerald Lake in Yukon, Canada. The lake itself was quite ordinary, but the border area between Alaska and British Columbia had some great scenery.  We also saw two bears, one brown and one black, along the way.
I was fortunate to have the chance to ride a helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier while the rest of my family spent their time in Juneau on the fifth day. The glacier was melting rapidly. Like many other glaciers around the world, its very existence is in jeopardy.
Ketchikan, the last and least interesting stop of the cruise. We visited a totem museum and an eagle sanctuary –  both were a total bore.

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