Relatos de Viagem

Trip Information

Estados Unidos
Mt McKinley...Denali
Mt McKinley...Denali (98)
Trip Date:2007-05-14 - 2007-05-27
# Photos:21 [View]
Countries visited:Estados Unidos
Visto: 2703
Trip of a lifetime, small ship cruising on the Alaskan inside passage? For me, yes. Months of planning, money spent, bags packed, next stop Alaska.

We left Seattle late Sunday the 13 may. We cruised through the San Juan Islands to our first stop at Friday Harbour on San Juan Island itself. A quick bus ride around the island with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic driver/guide and back to the boat to continue on our way.
This was our last shore visit until we hit Alaska.
The next two days we cruised up inside Vancouver Island discovering the beauty of the British Columbia coastline. A few notable memories of this section are the barges and batches. First the barges, there were quite a few and all looked impossibly large for the tugs that towed them with, loads of wood, coal, shingle, containers and whatever fitted or was needed somewhere up the passage. Then there are the batches, what us NZ’ers call summer houses. There seemed to be one in every other bay or on every other point and usually the size of a mansion. Seems there is no shortage of people with the money and desire to live in a remote and beautiful part of the world for at least some part of the year.
Next stop, Ketchikan. A town of character and tourists. The main port close to the cruise boat wharfs was alive with souvenir shops and tourists, the rest of the town was relatively original. We discovered some of the “streets” where in fact just stairways and boardwalks on the side of the hill. Anything needed in a home on these streets, groceries etc had to come in via the stairs and moving house required lots of strong friends.
Then followed a short cruise to Petersburg taking in the Wrangell Narrows on the way. As luck would have it we in town for the annual Little Norway festival. We were treated to a dance exhibition from the local young people and festive atmosphere though the town with bands and stalls of Nordic food.
From there we spent two days cruising with a side trip to Tracy Arm and Frederick Sound. Tracy arm was a spectacle of icebergs and mountains, absolutely magnificent and the Alaska we had travelled far to see. This is a landscape carved by ice out of solid rock, mountains sheer for thousands of feet straight out of the sea with sparse forests and still with a covering of winter’s snow. The sea littered with icebergs made travel by ship, if not dangerous, noisy and exciting.
Sitka followed for a short stop. We did a hike and bike excursion which took us into the forest for a closer look at the natural world. And of course when you have done the excursion you catch the bus after going through the obligatory gift shop!! (keyring anyone ;-).
What followed then was an excursion in out cruise boat to Glacier Bay Nation Park. You would think we would be getting sick of glaciers and mountains by now but I think they just get better as you go. On the way in we passed South Marble Island, a good spot for wildlife spotting with Sea lions, Otter, Eagles, Puffin and more. We were fortunate to see Margerie Glacier calving, very impressive. There followed another two glaciers on the way out of this magnificent bay, Johns Hopkins Glacier and Lamplugh Glacier.
Skagway was the next port of call. A town of 800 residents inundated by 10,000 tourists! Most memorable aspect; jewellery stores by the score!! Would have been nicer with more room to move I suppose.
After Skagway was Haines. A nice contrast, a more “local’ feel with the biggest tourist attractions being the old fort and the Hammer Museum. Nice pub also ;-).
From there an overnight cruise to Juneau and the end of our sea cruise, what followed next was the land excursion portion of our adventure.
After the flight to Anchorage and a night in a hotel we caught the train to Denali National park. Because Cruise West is a relatively small operation they don’t have their own rail carriages like the larger operators and we had to share a Princess carriage with Princess cruisers, no big deal. The scenery out of Anchorage was up to the standard we were becoming accustomed to. Miles and miles (I’m starting to talk in imperial terms now ;-) of forests and tundra and huge mountain ranges. We even saw Mt McKinley on several occasions. Apparently we were very fortunate to see Mt McKinley as it makes its own weather and hides behind clouds most of the time.
After a night in the Princess Lodge it was off into Denali Nation Park for the day in one of the park excursion busses, relatively small and cramped, but made up for by the jaw dropping scenery and wildlife spotting. We managed to spot Moose, Wolf, Bear, Dall sheep, Caribou, Squirrel and few other minor critters. A great day out.
What followed the next day was a coach ride to Fairbanks and a riverboat ride on the Chena River. We had Moose run across the road in front of us on the coach ride and Beaver and Fox sightings on the riverboat ride. The riverboat excursion was a very slick operation with Floatplane landing and taking off demos, dogsled talk, salmon filleting demos, Caribou farming talk and a few other things that escape me now.
A final meal with the cruisers we had spent the last couple of weeks with, sad farewells and it was all over.

Now at the start I said we were on a small ship. Our ship, The Spirit of Yorktown, carries one hundred and thirty something passengers and is “only” one hundred and thirty something feet long. Being relatively small it is able to cruise the narrowest of channels were the large cruise liners are unable to go and get right in close to the natural attractions that abound in Alaska. The nightlife onboard is perhaps a little quieter than the larger cruise ships and there is no 24Hr dining and no casinos but I guess this is either a good or bad thing depending on personal preference. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff and crew are easily approachable and have the time to look after everyone. I’m not sure about the larger cruise ships but on our ship we had “Exploration Leaders”, these knowledgeable and enthusiastic souls had the job of looking after us onboard and sorting out our shore excursions before we got into port. Another advantage that was pointed out to me by several fellow passengers who have experienced large ship cruising is the lack of queues on a small ship.

Would I do it again? You bet. Would I recommend this style of cruise? For sure.

Take care,