Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan, Alaska

6:15 AM wake up for our 7 AM arrival at the Ketchikan port. The city is absolutely charming with the different colored houses making their way up the mountains. Ketchikan is 3 miles long and only 3 blocks wide since the mountains make it difficult to build upon. Some of the “roads” with street signs are actually wooden stairs that lead up the the higher houses that cannot be accessed by traditional paved roads!

View of Ketchikan, Alaska from the Crown Princess cruise ship

We got off the ship right at 7 AM and had about an hour to make our way to the Liquid Sun Gauge where we were to meet our kayaking guides. It was about a 10-minute walk down the dock to the gauge and we perused some stores along the way. One of the stores had a “Short cut to downtown” sign that pointed through its doors as you could walk through the store and out the other side. Talk about cute but effective ways to get people in your store!

We arrived at the Liquid Sun Gauge which had Ketchikan factoids on it and showed how much rainfall the town has seen to date vs. its record of 202.55 inches in 1949. The above shows approximately 180 inches through May of 2016 alone! Next to the gauge is a huge bronze statue called “The Rock” portraying a native Ketchikan woman welcoming all of the traveler types that shaped the town (i.e. gold seekers, fisherman, tradesmen, loggers, and more). We waited by the statue until our guide arrived with a big yellow paddle. She escorted us, along with 6 others, further down the dock to Southeast Sea Kayak’s boat HQ. We got a brief safety instruction, dry bags for our valuables, and life vests. We then transferred to a smaller boat to drive about 20 minutes to Orca Cove. Our transport ship’s Captain was from Australia and was quirky and informative about much of Ketchikan. He told us of the natives and various islands where people live around the city. He also informed us that there was no whistling allowed on the ship. We still have no idea why he was so opposed to our tunes, but both Ryan and I got in trouble a few times for that one!

Sea kayaks in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The view on the ride to Orca Cove was amazing. There was a larger boat waiting for us in the cove which had all of our kayaks attached. We hopped from our boat to the larger and got put into our two-person sea kayaks. Ryan was too big for our kayak so they had to remove our rudder controlling pegs so he could fit! We also had to wear these water skirt things that we wore like overalls and that covered the sitting hole so if any water came up onto our kayak, it wouldn’t go inside. The water was very calm, but the skirts were nice since they kept our stuff dry from water running off our paddles and kept the heat in so we were warm!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alasak

The tide was at its low point for the day and we paddled first to the rocky inlet of a salmon run stream. The tide was so low that all of the water from the stream was gone and we could not paddle up, but we were able to look down and see tons of sea life in the rocks since the water was crystal clear. We saw what must have been thousands of red or purple starfish all over the sea floor and exposed rocks that were waiting for the tide to come back in. There were also loads of anemone and sea cucumbers! The amount of life teaming below our little kayaks was amazing.

Star fish on the rocks during low tied in Ketchikan, Alaska

We continued to paddle along the shore line. There were only 6 of us, our guide, and the sounds of nature. We came across a rushing waterfall sourced from an inland freshwater lake and multiple eagles who were perched close to their nests where they mate for life and raise their young every year. At one point, two bald eagles took off from their tree and flew right over us to the neighboring island. It was incredible!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

We kayaked for just about 2 hours. It was so relaxing and by far my favorite experience of the trip so far. Unfortunately, we did not see any whales or otters, but the scenery alone was enough to satisfy. We headed back to the kayak docking boat and chatted with the guys who captained the boat for a while about their travel stories and how they arrived in Alaska. Most of the workers we met were seasonal and just traveled the world for each regions various tourist seasons. What a life huh?

The owner of theSoutheast Sea Kayak makes his own smoked salmon which we got to snack on after our kayaking ride. With a little cream cheese and crackers, it was so yummy! Our boat back arrived just as we finished our snack and we hopped on to go back to shore. I was so sad our last Alaskan excursion was over, but there were still a few cruise days left!

It took about 20 minutes to get back to shore. We grabbed our stuff and browsed quite a few of the gift shops on the way back to the boat. I bought some smoked salmon for my folks as they love to have salmon on the bagels in the morning and where better to buy smoked salmon than the salmon capital of the world!?

Hanging with my bear friends in Ketchikan, Alaska

Our ship departed from Ketchikan at 1:15 PM. We had “A Taste of India” for lunch and I was surprised at how good the ships take on Indian food was. It wasn’t the best ever, but it was not disappointing either! After that, we hopped into our bathing suits and into a hot tub on deck 15. We were having a nice time and I was stretching my IT bands in the hot tub since they were a bit sore. With one foot out of the water, I looked up and saw this 40ish year old guy in a bright red jacket with fanny pack take my picture, smile, and wave at me! Then he turned around and walked off. It was so weird and creepy – I guess he really liked my feet?!

We didn’t stay in the tub too much longer after foot guy before we had to run back to the room and get ready for formal night! I wore a blue cocktail dress and Ryan matched me with a navy bow tie. We did a little pre-gaming at the buy one get one for $1 drink event at the Wheelhouse bar – a great way to have some strong and cheap cocktails if you do not have a cruise drink package. We then continued our party in the Botticelli dining room and had quite the feast or lamb and veal pate, beef Wellington and smashed potatoes, and baked apple cake with vanilla ice-cream.
After dinner, Ryan and I grabbed the bottle of wine from our room and headed to Disney trivia in another bar. While Ryan’s sister and her husband knew almost all of the answers, Ryan and I were pretty poor Dinsey fans. The girl hosting the trivia used to work at Disney and her questions were very detailed! We opted for trying our luck in the couples “how well do you know each other” game after trivia, but we got turned away since Ryan and I are not yet married – boo! After being rejected, we decided to head back to the room to watch movies and sleep off our wine!

Sea kayaking in Orca Cove, Ketchikan Alaska

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Victoria (Sort Of)

While the clock said we got to sleep in to 9:30 AM, the time change actually reduced our sleep time for the morning. We woke up in a haze, that happy hour on board will get to you, and went to breakfast for coffee and pancakes. We even saw a bunch of dolphins out of our breakfast table windows! It was so cool!

We were not supposed to arrive into Victoria until 7PM so Ryan and I took a spin at the gym. You really can’t beat an ocean view while you are on the treadmill while watching a good movie with no commercials. I run about 50% longer when I am into a good show! Post run, I checked out the awesome sauna and steam room in the spa. The sauna was huge and so hot. It felt amazing post workout! I then joined Ryan in the spa’s outdoor hot tub which was much more secluded, peaceful, and out of the wind compared to those on the main decks. Both the sauna and hot tub could be used without buying spa packages which was a total plus!

We also decided to have our last lunch in the Da Vinci dining room instead of the Horizon buffet. I didn’t even realize we could do so and the lunch food in the dining room was so much better than that of the buffet. We had some Asian glazed chicken wings with crispy chives and then wheel pasta in a mushroom sauce to start, bbq pork ribs for the main course, and pecan chocolate cake to end. The food on this cruise was much better than I expected!

After lunch, we stopped by to watch the rapid fire art auction on board the ship. We saw some pieces go for over $12K! It was unbelievable. The auctioneer spoke at an amazingly speedy clip and it was quite an interesting process to watch. I couldn’t imagine buying art at those prices without researching the quality and value first. I do not recommend buying art on cruise ships for those very reasons, unless you absolutely love the piece, because you can probably get a better deal elsewhere. We did not buy anything but, I did get a free bottle of Champaign for making the most noise and jumping up and down at the conclusion of the auction. While my image may have been a little tainted to those who saw me jump up and down for a bottle of Champaign, it was so worth it!

The end of the auction also marked the start to another happy hour. I had two delicious margaritas and relaxed while watching the ocean pass by. Not a bad way to spend the hour before the next activity – the Princess Cruise’s first ever The Voice competition. The theater was packed and 8 contestants from the ship sang their hearts out while three on ship “celebrities” turned their chairs for them. After getting on the judge’s teams, the judges picked their favorite contestant and then the crowd voted for the winner. There were some surprisingly good and laugh-out-loud bad singers competing and it was quite entertaining!

The Voice on the Crown Princess Alaskan Cruise

Post-Voice, we were back into the dining hall for and early dinner before Victoria! It was open seating and I was so close to getting our normal table with our favorite waiters but this lady and her husband sat at our table after I got there and refused to move. I was not super happy but we got another table and all was well with the world. For our final dinner, I had a yummy Caesar salad with anchovies, fettuccine alfredo, N.Y. strip steak, and apple pie. Everything was great but I haven’t really loved any of the deserts onboard outside of the soft serve ice-cream and the oatmeal cookies.

Anyways, we finished up dinner right in time to debark for Victoria. We we in the port, so close to the shore I could have touched it, and then our boat started to back up. We then watched the boat get further and further from the sun shine filled shore, and someone came on the loud-speaker saying that, due to dangerous weather conditions, we could not port in Victoria. Looking around, it was sunny and the waves were subtle. We were so mad and confused! Apparently, the wind was too strong to turn the boat and we couldn’t get in the harbor. Not only could we not go, but there is no make-good from the ship for missing a part of the trip. Talk about an “ugh!” moment.

The view of Victoria, Canada from the Crown Princess cruise ship

Instead of spending our last night on the cruise bummed, we looked on the positive side, remembering all of the fun things we were able to do. We grabbed my bottle of Champaign, our last bottle of wine, and a big blanket, and met Ryan’s family up on deck to play Black Jack. We didn’t want to play with money, but instead, assigned values to the different types of sugar packets and used those as our winnings! The crew brought us some popcorn, I had one last ice-cream, and we played cards until it got dark and cold! It was a really nice way to end the day before going to the room to pack for our 6 AM wake up the next morning.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

While the whales were up and breaching at 4:45 AM, I woke up at 7 AM to get ready for Bay day! The view through the fjord was breathtaking with snow-capped mountains with waterfalls of melted snow running down to their bases. Seals heads were bobbing up frequently and you could hear the bird’s songs echoing off of the mountain tops. What a place!

Waterfalls coming from the snow topped mountains in Glacier Bay, Alaska

We were hard pressed to find a table to eat breakfast and, with the announcement of whales on the starboard side, I abandoned my food and Ryan to run upstairs to the balcony to look out on the water. I saw a few whale tails and we passed some smaller glaciers before coming upon the Margerie Glacier. I can’t begin to describe the beauty and the size of the mammoth chunk of ice before us. We had the best view on the top of the front of the boat, but the crew closed our area since the slight rain was making it too slick to be safe. Thankfully, Ryan’s sister’s balcony room had a fabulous view as well, so we soaked it all in from there.

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska

The boat was stopped at the glacier for about an hour, so Ryan and I hit the gym. I have never had such a fantastic view from a treadmill as a glacier! The window in front of my treadmill looked over the glacier and it was the most scenic run of my life!

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska

The boat then veered up another channel to Lamplugh Glacier. Again, absolutely gorgeous and huge!

We went to lunch in the back buffet for the “Taste of Alaska” buffet. I really hope that was a poor representation of Alaskan food as it was full of oil / grease and the fish was way over cooked. It was really hard to find a table but I thankfully secured one by the window in the Horizon buffet and I ended up getting a salad there to eat instead. We saw even more whales while we were eating lunch! Such a scenic ride.

Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska

Post-lunch, Ryan went to the room for a nap and I went to the bar for a margarita and to type up my day’s adventures for this here blog! I ended up talking to a very nice landscape architect / planner from LA for a while and enjoyed the view until I was called up to the top deck for more whale watching.

Eventually, 5:30 rolled around and we met Ryan’s family in the Botticelli dining room for dinner! It was Italian night, even though the menu did not include lasagna, and I had some yummy veal and spaghetti and meatballs. I was surprised at how decent the veal was! I skipped desert in the dining room so I could run to the 7 PM magic show and grabbed some soft serve ice-cream on route instead. Upon arrival however, I realized that I was not the only one interested in the show and the lounge where the show was taking place was completely packed!

We headed to the Princess Theater instead for the tail end of the lumberjack talk. The guy who was talking had such an increasable story of wooing a Nordstrom makeup artist and convincing her to live with him and raise their kids in a cabin in no-where Alaska. They mainly lived off the land, catching fish, digging for clams, and hunting for one big animal a year whose meat would last them until the next year’s hunt! The speaker was a world renowned lumberjack and, at 54, got back into lumberjacking as his son won the world champion title for lumberjacking! He had such an amazing story and, after he finished his talk, 8 cruisers competed in an axe throwing competition and the winner got to partake in the axe throwing contest during the lumberjack competition in Ketchikan! Again, so cool!

Glaciers in Glacier Bay, Alaska

After the show, we decided to go back to the room and watch movies instead so we could get an early night for our very early arrival in Ketchikan the next day.

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

There was an hour time change through the night and so I got an extra hour to sleep in! Despite having and interior room with no windows to gauge time, Ryan woke at the crack of dawn and went down to breakfast. I told him I would get up at 9 AM and meet him. Right at 9, he barges into the room and tells me that he and his family saw Orcas and whales off the side of the ship, so I hurried through my wake-up process and ran upstairs to see. Alas, all of the whales had disappeared, however, the view itself was enough to take my breath away. We were in a channel surrounded by huge, snow-crested mountains that had skirts of lush greenery whose colors were the definition of evergreen. Cascading from the pockets of snow were waterfalls that ran the length of the mountain all the way down to the water we sailed upon. I have to say, it was the best breakfast view I’ve ever had.

We had about 2 hours before our boat went ashore, so Ryan and I decided to jump into the hot tub. The contrast of the hot water and cool touch of the air mixed with the mountain views was just great. Not to mention the added bonus of the jets massaging our caves which ached from running up and down the ships stairs between floors!

Eventually, it was time to run back to the room and get ready for our whale watching excursion in Juneau! We had a quick-lunch onboard the ship and I tried to get the “world renowned” crab cakes that were on display in the lunch que, but they hadn’t made them yet so I had to go with a burger. I was disappointed but I quickly shrugged that off as we debarked. We had about 1.5 hours until we needed to meet our tour guides, so we walked down the wharf to the shops. We tried on some hats and looked through the chachkies. Ryan and I took off a bit further into the town of Juneau which is packed with fun shops and yummy looking seafood places. After some window shopping (even though I wanted to buy everything) at this adorable shop called Trove, Ryan and I rendezvous with his family and then met the Harv & Marv’s tour guides by the boat. The pointed us to our 20-person shuttle that was our transport to the marina.

It was about a 20-minute scenic drive to the marina where our ship and Captain, Captain Steve of the Merlin, was waiting for us. Steve was very nice and was quick to help us on our private boat to head out before any of the other boats beat us.

Whale watching with Harv and Marvs in Juneau, Alaska

After taking off from the dock, the hunt was on to spot a spout of a whale. It took about 15 minutes before we came across a breaching blue whale calf! The mother was close by as well and both of them kept popping up to the surface. We even got to see the mother’s tail a few times! We watched them for about 30 minutes and then they disappeared.

We took off down the waterway, passing bald eagles and sea lions along the way! The sea lions kept popping their heads up out of the water – super cute! We finally found another set of baby and mother whales right by a glacier. The baby whale was playing and kept bobbing its head up out of the water. It was such a cool site, especially with the backdrop of the white mountain tops. Absolutely breathtaking. I loved everything about the experience. Especially seeing the other boats crammed packed with people who did not get a private boat. For $20 more, it was totally worth doing!

A blad eagle in Juneau, Alasak

We sadly had to head back to the marina and then back to the cruise ship harbor. We had until 10 PM to board the ship, so Ryan and I walked around downtown Juneau. We bought some trinkets in town, and Ryan was hungry so we stopped by Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos food truck so he could get some delicious Rock Fish tacos. They were not only reasonably priced, but the bite I had was so yummy.

I, personally, was saving my stomach for some Alaskan King Crab since I didn’t get my fill from lunch earlier. Luckily, Tracy’s King Crab Shack was on the walk back to the ship so we stopped by. While I just wanted a crab cake initially, we ended up with a combo so we could try a crab leg, the crab bisque, and crab cakes all at once. Oh My Gosh! It was so fresh and delicious! Not only that, but the location right on the docks with the buckets of crab legs whizzing by for other tables made the experience just so much more.


With very full bellies, we walked back to the ship, watched some live music in the Piazzo, and went to bed!

Alaska, Day 1

Alaska, Day 1

We made it to the Crown Princess:

We took a big black Uber, that just barely fit all of us and our bags, to the Crown Princess cruise ship. Once we got to the loading dock, we got in line ready for the long, tedious process of boarding. To our surprise, none of that actually happened and we were on the ship in less than 30 minutes! It could not have been more painless or organized! We were led to our rooms and, to our surprise, the room was big-ish. We got a middle-boat room with no windows, but the mirrors in the room made it appear much bigger and there was a HUGE closet! Score!

While waiting on our luggage, we met up with the Maitre D’ to make a reservation at the steak restaurant, grabbed a celebratory margarita at the bar, went to lunch at the buffet, and then soaked in the view with some Champaign on the upper deck. Not too shabby, huh?

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess

We relaxed in the room until our 5:30 dinner time at the Botticelli dining room. We had a 6-person table by the window and a really nice wait staff! I had some vegetarian egg rolls with peanut sauce to start, tortellini soup, and salmon with a sweet almond crust as a main. It was all pretty good. For dessert, I ordered the chocolate soufflé, but the waiter decided to give us one of each dessert to try! I was so full!

After dinner, we walked to the Princess Theater for the singing and dancing show. It was old school and cheesy but the singing and dancing was good. The announcer who hosted the show told us that the Princess was having a The Voice competition and told us about all of the other cool things coming up. So excited for the adventures to come! After the show, we checked out the view, the sun stays up until like 10 PM, and then we watched movies until bed time.

Sunday – Traveling to Juneau

When you have an interior room on a cruise, you have absolutely no way to tell what time it is, with the exception of your trusty cell phone or watch. When you turn the lights out, it is completely and utterly dark. With that said, waking up is hard when you are toasty under the covers in a dark and cold room. After some coaxing from Ryan, I finally got up thinking I had slept in way too much, but as it turns out, it was only 8:30 AM! We had put out our order from breakfast in bed the night before, so around 9, there was a knock on the door and breakfast was served. We watched some TV while browsing the day’s activities and eating some cereal, grapefruit, croissants, and sipping coffee.

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess

We decided to start our day with a spin at the gym. Unlike Caribbean cruises where everyone opts for sunbathing over weight lifting, the gym on our Alaskan cruise ship was packed! I did some weights and watched Miss. DoubtFire on the treadmill. There is nothing that helps me run more than a good movie with no commercials!

After the gym, we hit the buffet for a quick breakfast themed snack and then met up with Ryan’s family at the bar. I had a Bloody Mary and we watched the Aerobatrix two-person show perform in the Piazza. They had a very cute show that was quite similar to acts we had seen a few weeks prior at the Texas Scarborough Fair. After the show, we went to the Mexican Food buffet for lunch and the Acrobatrix members sat at the table next to us. We started chatting about some of the acts from the Scarborough Fair and, wouldn’t you know it, they knew exactly who we were talking about and were friends with those other acts through the circus scene! Small world, huh?

Ryan was not feeling so hot, so he went back to the room. I eventually rejoined him after a quick peek at the “outdoor track”. It was the smallest “track” I have ever seen and was too windy to walk on, let alone run! I came back to the room with every intention of going back to the gym while Ryan napped, but there was an interesting show about tree houses on and I accidentally feel asleep as well.

We had dinner reservations at the Crown Grill steak resultant at 5:30. Unfortunately, the rockiness of the day got to one member of our party, so only 5 of us made it to dinner. We were sat at a table right next to a wedding party who all looked quite lovely. Eventually, another bride and groom showed up and sat next to the other wedding party, and the staff brought out cakes for both parties and we clapped for all. It was quite a celebration!

Our dinner started with a delicious Alaskan crab cake, followed by an aged goat cheese and beet salad, a deliciously cooked NY Strip steak with sautéed mushrooms and mashed red potatoes, and ending with a desert medley that included a small sampling of every desert on the menu! Oh so delicious. The steak came with three different salts on the side; Himalayan, smoked Applewood, and Black Lava sea salt. I would pinch a different salt and sprinkle it on each morsel of steak to create the most flavorful experience! I am not a huge steak person but I will be buying salts and making steak as soon as I return to Texas!

Desert at the Crown Grill on the Crown Princess Alaskan Cruise ship

Dinner ended right around 7:15 – just in time to watch The Martian on the top deck! Ryan and I had been wanting to watch The Martian for months now so it was a perfect way to enjoy the movie. Though our lounges were slightly wet and it was 50 degrees out, we bundled up with extra towels and some blankets the crew gave us and watched the movie with the most spectacular view! I want to say it was relaxing but the movie definitely had me on edge! I highly recommend it and its book counterpart.

Keeping warm while watching a movie on the deck of the Crown Princess Alaskan cruise ship

It was quite a ride walking on through the hallways with the drastic rocking of the boat. We went to the store and bought some Dramamine for some of our sea-sick travel buddies, and then we went to our cabin for some needed rest.

Alaska cruise aboard the Crown Princess