Alaska: Land of the Midnight Sun
This past week, I did a lot of firsts. First time going on a cruise, first time to Alaska, first 4th of July spent in a different country. With firsts, comes first impressions. All I can say is I fell in love with the world just a wee bit more. My first cruise experience was interesting. Everything is all inclusive, so at first it was awesome being able to eat anything I wanted, wherever, whenever. But I found that by the 4th day, I was ordering 2 appetizers, a couple entrees, and unlimited desserts. It wasn't lookin' so good when I got hungry 6 times a day and had every opportunity to stuff myself full. It's pretty hard to contain your inner gluttony when everything is "seemingly" free. Besides turning into a feeding machine, the cruise was great. We had a little over 2 days where we were stuck on the boat all day long, but they keep you busy with comedy shows, magicians, FOOD, and surprisingly sunny days by the pool. The one catch - no wifi. Well, wifi costed about $1 per minute.. so no wifi. Some people complained, but to me it was actually really nice being able to detach from the world and be able to appreciate all that was around us.
There were things we experienced that could only be seen from a boat's perspective. The first day we took off from Seattle, there wasn't much to see due to cloudy skies. But as we got closer and closer to Alaskan waters, our surroundings became clear, glassy, and green. Our first stop was Ketchikan. This oceanfront little town was adorable, and we got to shop around a bit before heading inland for a rainforest hike. There were eagles everywhere! I probably saw over 100 in just one day. We also got to experience some rare sunsets, seeing as days up north are about 20 hours long!
Next, we sailed onto Juneau. On our way, we cruised through Tracy Arm Fjords, which was probably my favorite part of the trip. You can only see these amazing, tree-covered cliffs by boat, so we woke up at 4:30am to enjoy the scenic views from our back deck. The pictures say it all:
At Juneau, we went whale watching and visited Mendenhall Glacier. I thought we would be lucky enough to see a few whales, but we saw much much more! Some of the most exciting parts were seeing a baby whale breach and experience bubble net fishing (where the whales push all the krill to the surface and then dive from the bottom up to eat them). The glacier was amazing too - a complete mountain made of ice! This was just the tip of the iceberg, cause apparently this sheet of ice expands for over 70,000 miles between Juneau and Skagway, blocking any entry or exit by car!
After a long day, we journeyed on to Skagway. Skagway and Juneau are big competitors because Juneau steals away all the cruise ships but Skagway needs the tourism more to boost their economy of 936 people. The cruise ships bring in over 12,000 a day! Because their town is so small and they can't get over to Juneau without flying, grocery shipments only come in once a week and they're often out of essentials like eggs and milk by the first day. Our tour guide was telling us how this lifestyle really makes them appreciate a simple life where little things like bananas are a pleasure. (Sometimes, he would even drive over 8 hours roundtrip to Canada just for bananas!). I could see myself easily enjoying life here. In Skagway, we took a bus ride to the Klondike Summit and into Canada, and you could really tell the change of scenery in a different country, even though they are side by side!
Heading back home, it took a few days before our last stop in Victoria, British Columbia - Canada. It just so happened that it was 4th of July! Too bad we weren't even in the U.S. haha so it was kind of a let down but we were still able to grab a beer and celebrate. The town was booming with life whether it was down at Fisherman's Wharf, the streetside entertainment, or the reggae festival we stumbled upon. Everything seemed much simpler and less stressful than the U.S. is. People seemed genuinely happy. Overall, my travels had to come to an end but I had so much fun along the way. I was able to share this amazing experience with 23 of my family members in celebration of my grandma's 85th, and it couldn't have been a more hilarious, fun, and incredible journey without these crazies by my side (I'll have to dedicate a whole post to my family because I wouldn't be able to describe them in less than 20 minutes of your time). Till next time, Jourt
To Stay: Princess Cruises
To Eat: Crab Shack in Juneau, Smoked Salmon in Ketchikan
To Do: Whale Watching, Hiking, Mendenhall Glacier, Tracy Arm Fjords