We flew into Vancouver a couple of days prior to our cruise because we really like this city and wanted to explore some new areas. Sharon’s brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Gina Moll, joined us on this cruisetour and had never been to Vancouver. After we arrived in our hotel, we spent several hours walking the downtown area, focusing much attention on Canada Place where our cruise was set to depart in 2 days. This area seems to have been built up a little since we were last there and they have added many signs discussing various stories which led to the creation of Vancouver and allowed it to thrive as the city it is now. From here you can spend hours watching the float planes land and take off right in the same harbor the cruise ships leave from. These planes are a needed form of transportation for many of the remote areas north of Vancouver and are also used by tourists to get a good view of the surrounding Vancouver area. We had dinner at a nice restaurant called Steamworks, one of the many nice restaurants in the Gas Town area. The following day we had a 5-hour bike tour scheduled and this allowed us to explore parts of the city and Stanley Park that we had not seen before. We learned that Stanley Park is much bigger than Central Park in New York City and was once the home of one of the last Indian tribes that were forced to leave Vancouver. They have a very interesting totem pole display in the park. The park still has a significant amount of wilderness and even has coyotes living there and beavers who are actively building dams in the area. We saw Vancouver’s (very cold) beach which had a few brave souls out there and we passed by some of the structures left from their last Olympics which was highly successful for the city. We even had to venture quickly through one of the low lights of the city where people with meth and hydrocodone problems live and openly use their drugs out on the streets. Canada legalized hard drugs recently to try and help the people that are addicted to them. During the bike ride we visited Granville Island which is a very interesting island right next to downtown Vancouver and has a great food court and many interesting shops that you can visit. After our bike tour we went back to Granville Island to spend some more time. The next morning before we boarded the cruise, we had our last breakfast at Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Dunkin Donuts.
We boarded our cruise early and was pleasantly pleased to look around our new ship, the Majestic Princess. We had not cruised on Princess in several years, but we were very impressed with this ship that we are actively looking at new opportunities to cruise with them again. This ship is a Royal Class ship which is Princess’ largest category of ship, but it was specifically built for the Asian market and therefore is a little different, and nicer in our opinion. During our second day of cruising, we spent the day scenically cruising up the Inside Passage and tried out one of their nicer specialty restaurants that night, the Crown Steakhouse. This is their best specialty restaurant in our opinion, and it did not disappoint us.
On the 3rd day of the cruise, we arrived in Ketchikan. This is considered to be the Salmon Capitol of the World. Since we have fished for salmon there many times previously, we elected to do a kayak trip to see what wildlife we could spot. We used Viator to book the excursion and we always try to avoid using the cruise line excursions because they are typically very costly and crowded. The kayaking was enjoyable, and we saw many eagles and one harbor seal. The only other wildlife we saw were underwater – star fish and jelly fish. On our return from the kayak trip, we asked to be dropped off at Creek Street which is a recently refurbished historical part of town that was once the red-light district and is now made up of nice little craft shops. We departed shortly after we returned to the ship and enjoyed a nice scenic trip up the inlands of Alaska.
We arrived in Juneau on the 4th day and had an early morning kayak trip in Mendenhall Lake. Unfortunately, it was a little cold, and the rain was a fairly constant drizzle. The trip was a deceivingly longer 5 miles than it originally appeared, but we got some good views of Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls. We were a little disappointed we didn’t get a little closer to each of these sights. We were able to get close to some of the chunks of ice that had calved off the glacier and were floating in the water. After this tour and going back to the ship for some dry clothes and a little lunch, we headed out to walk around Juneau. We had considered going back to Mendenhall Glacier, but the visibility wasn’t great, and it was too cloudy to get any good pictures. After a quick visit to the famous Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, we went out in search of Perseverance Trail that someone had mentioned. Along the way we came across Mayor Overstreet Park which had a nice walkway along the channel. This park had many signs to provide insight on the local wildlife and plant life. It also had a huge statue of a whale which was also a fountain. We took pictures of this whale and sent it to people showing them of the great whale breech we saw when we were whale watching! Most people believed us because it really was very realistic. We continued to Perseverance Trail which took us through some beautiful old homes on our way up the mountain that overlooks Juneau. At the top is a trail head of many different trails that branch out in different directions. We walked down the Flume Trail which was a wood boarded trail built over an old railroad track. Along this trail was a fast-moving stream that was once a place where gold prospectors panned for gold. Later we came across an area where a water wheel was erected to harness electrical power just a few years after Thomas Edison’s experiments with electricity. This power plant became the beginning of Alaska Electric and Power who now is the power company in the area, 100 years later! On our way back to the ship we passed many more seafood restaurants that were packed with tourists from the ship. Although the seafood may be fresh, it certainly is not cheap with some of these restaurants selling crab at $75 a pound! We decided to have our dinner back on the ship!
Our last land stop on this cruise was at Skagway on Day 5. We were doing a later hike and float excursion in the afternoon and spent the morning walking through town. It is a small town made up of many souvenir stores and jewelry stores. Don’t ask us why each of these Alaskan ports have 30 jewelry stores just like you would find in the Caribbean. I guess cruise passengers will buy jewelry anywhere! We did stop at one store and have some fried dough sprinkled in brown sugar that was really good. We had stopped there on previous trips and didn’t want to miss that stop! In the afternoon we headed out on our tour which started with a two mile hike up some pretty strenuous paths. From there we took a 45-minute float down the river in a raft. The weather was great, and it was nice to just get out in the wilderness and enjoy some of the great scenery. We didn’t see too much wildlife on this tour except for a few eagles on our drive out there. That was our last land stop before reaching the mainland of Alaska although two more scenic sea days are left.
Out next day was spent in Glacier Bay, arriving nice and early at 6AM. What a beautiful day! No clouds, not much wind, and sun everywhere. As we glided into the bay, we had constant whale sightings. We passed one rocky hill on shore where you could see many mountain goats. As we got deeper into the bay, we had numerous sightings of sea otters including one group of 12 otters just having fun in the water. We even saw a couple of bears on the shoreline although they were too far away to get any good pictures. As we got deeper into the bay, we started seeing some of the glaciers. At one of the glaciers, we saw a few small boats. One of the boats was large enough to send out tours on kayaks and we saw at least 15 kayaks out on the water. Our primary stop during this scenic cruising was Margerie Glacier at the very end of Glacier Bay. This was a large glacier that was glistening in the sunlight. Although we did not see any calving (ice chunks falling into the water), there were large chunks of ice floating all around the area. We have never been to Glacier Bay when the weather was so nice. During the entire day we had several park rangers on board who made presentations, answered individual questions, and made announcements throughout the day letting us know what was going on. You pick up these rangers at the station at the mouth of the bay where 35 rangers stay throughout the summer, and then you drop them off again as you exit the bay. We have cruised this area 3 times previously and this was by far the best day we have ever had. The weather was perfect and allowed for some great pictures. The wildlife was plentiful, and you got to see a little of everything. We even saw 20 or 30 harbor seals as we departed Glacier Bay and cruised down Icey Straits to go back into the Pacific Ocean and one to College Fjord to see Hubbard Glacier.
Our last day at sea was a visit to College Fjord and Hubbard Glacier. In the morning it was totally overcast with very little visibility. We feared the worst with regards to getting good pictures. Boy, were we wrong! By the late afternoon blue skies were shining and the sun was beating down on us. We had another perfect day to view the glaciers. College Fjord was named after an expedition taken by a team of scientists, artists, and writers back in the 1800’s. Many of them were Ivy League educated and named all the glaciers on the right side after women’s colleges and all the glaciers on the left side after men’s schools and therefore the fjord was named College Fjord. One of the glacier most visited by cruise ships in Alaska is Hubbard Glacier which is at the end of this fjord. It is very popular because it is very wide at the entrance point into the water and the glacier is constantly calving spewing out thousands of chunks of ice which float all around this glacier. Although we have seen this glacier calve once, during this visit the glacier almost seemed to be performing for us, by displaying one huge chunk of ice after another crashing into the water with a thunderous roar. Huge sections of the glacier’s cliff face fell into the water with mighty crash. Before you saw the ice giving way, you heard a loud rumbling like thunder. This eventually led to huge chunks of ice crashing into the water with a tremendous splash. We have seen this glacier a few times in the past but never like this. It was amazing to see the glacier lit up by the bright sun while watching it constantly calve in front of your eyes. This was just another amazing part of this trip.
This concluded our cruise portion of this Alaska CruiseTour. It is interesting to note that Alaska had its busy season in 2019, the year before Covid. This year they expect to have 50% more Alaskan cruise visitors than 2019! People are ready to get back and cruise! We hope everyone that gets out and cruises again has the same wonderful experience that we had on this Alaskan cruise! Can’t wait for the land portion: Kenai to McKinley to Denali (2 nights) to Fairbanks.