When we woke up in the morning we were getting ready to dock in Vancouver. Since our plane didn’t leave until almost midnight, that gave us a full day in Vancouver to hang out. We grabbed a hop-on/hop-off bus pass that gave us unlimited rides on the bus system. Vancouver is a cool place and there are plants and trees and flowers everywhere in the city.
The people of Vancouver take their parks very seriously. We went for a tour around Stanley Park, which was a nice place to see and probably a nice place to visit if you are a local.
After Stanley Park we went to Granville Island which was a bunch of fun. There were restaurants and shops and places to hang out.
The Granville Island Public Market is really a must see in Vancouver. I would love to have a place this awesome market next to where I lived. The assortment of fresh foods in here is incredible.
There is a bunch of great ingredients and product like these fish.
And these dried meats and cheeses.
And these bakery items.
And these chocolates.
The fresh pasta looked amazing too.
After Granville Island we ventured off to Gastown to grab a drink and a bite to eat. We found ourselves at Chill Winston which had some great appetizers and beers.
And some apps to keep us fueled up before the long journey back home.
After hanging in Gastown we hopped on the train and made our way to the airport to catch our overnight connecting flight to Ottawa before ending back in New Jersey. By the time we got home we were exhausted, but that hardly mattered. Alaska was an awesome place and the memories of the trip will hang around for a long time.
Ketchikan was a cool place. It has these gritty undertones that at times I’m not sure are there or if I am just imagining them. The bootleggers and prostitutes have moved out long ago but remnants of the old way of life can still be seen. The brothels of Creek Street have been converted to gift stores.
The seals in the harbor are playful and put on a show. They are incredible swimmers. There are a lot of salmon in the harbor and the seals effortlessly catch them. You can see the seals playing with and toying with the salmon before they enjoy their tasty lunch.
Ketchikan is a good place to stroll around and not see much. Get lost and try to see the gritty undertones. We went for a quick ride on the Cape Fox Hill-Creek Street Funicular, which is a mix between a cable car and a railroad cart. At the top was a hotel and nothing too much more. We walked back down the hill and strolled through town some more. There is a tiny little park by this eagle reserve and salmon hatchery that is nice. Supposedly the reserve and hatchery is closed, it was when we were there.
But there is salmon all over the place in Alaska so that was not really a big bummer. Strolling back through Creek Street we got to see these salmon.
We stopped at Annabelle’s Keg & Chowderhouse and grabbed some king crab legs one last time before we hopped back on the ship. We hung out on the ship before grabbing some sleep while the ship headed off for the Inside Passage and the ultimate destination of Vancouver.
The day cruising the Inside Passage was a nice relaxing day after spending the previous three days hanging out in three awesome Alaskan towns. There were still sites to see as always.
We grabbed dinner at the Italian restaurant on the ship which was pretty good. They had an Italian restaurant and a fancy seafood and steakhouse style grill on the ship that both provided a nice alternative to the buffet which became a little tiresome after the week.
The service on the ship was awesome. The staff knew my name before I ever saw them and we always had fun towel animals. Here we are with our rabbit.
The capital of Juneau was the biggest stop on the cruise. But even though it’s a large city for Alaska standards, the nature never stops being everywhere. We decided to do some whale watching and it was well worth it. We got a good deal by buying on the shore instead of through the cruise line. We saw a bunch of eagles up pretty up close.
And we saw a bunch of whales. It’s pretty magical heading out on a small little boat in search of creatures that are many times larger than your vessel. Getting to see and hear these creatures this close is amazing.
Our tour guides were awesome. They were very knowledgeable and respectful of the whales and the water. They found a pod and got us close.
It’s pretty typical of Alaska to be in the midst of a pod of whales set amongst a stunning backdrop while an eagle swoops down and catches a salmon.
I’m not exactly sure which of the wildlife pictures that I took eventually won me the bet of who could take a better wildlife picture but there were a lot of great shots that came from this trip.
After whale watching we got a chance to see Mendenhall Glacier, which was included in the tour. It was pretty cool, but its beauty may be diminished due the number of glaciers you see everywhere in Alaska. That is currently changing though. Although Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles long, it is retreating due to global warming.
A wild bear decided to show up. We followed him for some time and got some good shots. The park ranger who was escorting us said that the older bears have predictable routes that they follow every day and aren’t really a threat. It’s the younger bears who haven’t established their daily routine that are more dangerous. It’s interesting to see this behavior that is so common in humans repeat itself in bears. We both search out the repetitive daily grind and then grind it away until the end of our days. We probably would do best to be like the young bear, exploring the world and experiencing new things than to do the exact same thing every day of our lives like the old bear.
I trusted the park ranger and so we walked along and got pretty close. At one point the bear was only a couple feet away.
But I wasn’t worried because, like the joke goes, you don’t have to outrun a bear to survive. You just have to outrun the people you are with. I was sure my girlfriend and I could outrun the seniors who were also following the bear, trying to get a better look.
After a long day of taking in some great nature and wildlife, we had to stop in at Tracy’s King Crab Shack (as seen on Top Chef!). This is the place to go for king crab in Alaska. There was a line but it moved pretty quickly.
The king crab legs here are huge and delicious. They also sell Dungeness crab which is honestly a waste of money in comparison. You just can’t beat king crab in Alaska. Fresh and delicious.
Our stop in Juneau was another great stop. We hopped back onto the ship and checked out some music and did some dancing.
Our first time back on land was when we finally got to Haines. Haines is a cool little town.
After we got off of the ship we went around the little shops before heading into the woods for some hiking along Mount Ripinsky Trail. It was nice to get into the woods after being on the water. The green provides a nice contrast to the vivid blues that you see.
There are bald eagles all over Alaska. They are massive and beautiful to see flying around. They are gracious, elegant, and powerful creatures. Trying to get shots like this is why I think I would pick up a nice zoom lens. I thought I had a decent setup with my DSLR but sometimes the nature in Alaska is just too demanding to score a great shot with a basic setup.
We hiked several miles before turning around, a little short from the peak. But we were breaking a good sweat and in need of some hydration and food. This was provided by Big Al’s Salmon Shack back in town.
The seafood in Alaska is tough to beat. Getting that fresh high quality product on the land really overshadows the cruise ship food back on the boat.
After we changed out of our hiking gear and through on some nicer threads we strolled the town a little more. There’s a nice cemetery hidden amongst the pine trees on the outskirts of a park in Haines. For dinner we went to the Fireweed Restaurant which was a little disappointing with its lack of seafood choices (I can get a pizza back in Jersey). The view was nice and we had a chance to look out on Mount Ripinsky and were pretty impressed at how far we had hiked up the mountain. After dinner we headed back to the ship where I was greeted with “Oh hello again Justin Bieber” by one of the workers which always gave me a laugh considering I looked like this on the trip.
After spending some time on the boat, walking around, and seeing the beautiful town of Seward we were ready for our 8 PM departure. The first night consisted of the usual getting to know the ship. But since it is Alaska and it only gets dark for a couple hours, you can also head outside to see if there is any cool nature going on. And there always is. There’s almost always sunlight in the summer and there is always something to see. We just happened to pass this random glacier. Huge mountains are everywhere. There’s no announcements made over the loudspeaker to look because the announcements would never stop.
Having the day at sea in the beginning of the trip was great as it provided some nice rest from all the flying and lack of sleep. It was relaxing to cruise around and not have a care in the world.
The next day cruising Glacier Bay is probably the most beautiful day I’ve witnessed in my life. Otters, seals, breaching whales, salmon jumping out of water, eagles sitting on icebergs, bears, massive mountains and glaciers everywhere.
It’s pretty breathtaking seeing whole pods of whales swimming. Sometimes they’re off in the distance making the faintest puffs of water vapor and other times they are right along the boat, startling you with the noise the make.
All of this happens amongst the most beautiful backdrop.
The beauty of Alaska really can’t be overstated. You immediately see it and it keeps getting better and better as you see more of the state.
The mountains are tremendous. You move from one side of the ship to the other trying to take it all in. Hours and hours of amazing scenery.
There is so much wildlife in Glacier Bay.
It never ends.
We caught the most beautiful sunset leaving Glacier Bay. It’s one of the many moments that hopefully you are fortunate enough to catch in Alaska.
The most annoying part about Alaska is that you have to sleep. You are always missing something awesome. There is always sunlight and always something to see. If you’re not missing the breaching whales at 6 in the morning, you are missing part of a glacier cracking off at 3 in the afternoon or a bear along the shore at 11 at night.
Decided to go on an Alaskan cruise with my girlfriend. After finally picking up a DSLR we were ready to go.
Itinerary July 13: Fly NJ to Anchorage
July 14: Take The Alaska Railroad to the cruise ship in Seward. Set sail.
July 15: At Sea
July 16: Glacier Bay
July 17: Haines
July 18: Juneau
July 19: Ketchikan
July 20: Cruise the Inside Passage
July 21: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
July 22: Fly back home
Flew from Newark, NJ to Anchorage, AK. Flying into Anchorage is intense. You get pretty close to Denali National Park and Preserve. You catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley. I was bummed that I wouldn’t have enough time to check out Denali but was happy to get at least a glimpse of it. After you touch down on the runway, you notice the immediate immensity of the nature. The mountains around the airport are massive and foreshadow what is in store for your trip in Alaska.
When we got in to town we stopped at Glacier Brewhouse. Grabbed our first king crab, salmon, halibut and Alaskan brewed beers of the trip.
We had to be up in a few hours to catch our ride on The Alaska Railroad so it wasn’t too long of a night. I must say it was a little bizarre heading to the hotel room after midnight with the sun still shining.
One way to get to your cruise ship is the 4-hour train ride from Anchorage to Seward. We heard it was a beautiful ride so I was hoping to get some sweet shots with the new camera. It didn’t disappoint.
Alaska is amazing everywhere you look. I had a bet going with family vacationing in Yellowstone, Montana and Colorado about who could get the most epic wildlife picture from the trip, so I was pretty pumped to see two moose this early in the trip.
The nature is bigger here than most places. It’s in your face and it doesn’t stop.
After hanging off the side of an open air car taking pictures for four hours I didn’t want the train ride to stop. There was beauty everywhere and I’m glad that we chose that option to get to our cruise ship.
We had a couple hours to hang out in Seward. It’s a small but beautiful town. We grabbed some oysters, smoked salmon and brews at Ray’s Waterfront and strolled around the town.
We decided to check in to the cruise ship early so we wouldn’t have to rush. Amongst the many seniors, we were easily the youngest people on the trip. But that was to be expected. This was a cruise around Alaska and not the Caribbean. Even without departing the land, there is nature everywhere you look. It never ends in Alaska.