Thursday, November 12, 2009

Alaskan Cruise 2004

In August of 2004, my grandparents, both my aunts and uncles (on my mom's side), my parents, brother and I departed Seattle on Holland America's, Ms Amsterdam, for the inside passage.

Never having been on a cruise ship before, I was amazed at the size and organization of the ship. Cruise ships are like floating cities. Restaurants, theaters, a library, pools, bars, all sorts of recreation and entertainment; the number of things you could do on board seemed endless. But despite having so much to do on board ship, most of our days were spent on land in the ports of call. We began in Seattle then visited Sitka, Skagway, Juneau, and Victoria. The ship would travel mostly at night from one city to the next and be ready for us to disembark in the morning.

View Alaskan Cruise in a larger map

In Sitka (originally a Russian settlement), my brother, dad and I went on a bike hike before touring the small town on foot. We were taken on our bicycle tour through the nearby wilderness and beautiful island coastline. The most intriguing part of the trip was our stop at a whale park. The small, wooded park by the coast had underwater microphones letting you listen to the high pitched calls whales made to each other as you watched them pass.

After arriving in Skagway, my dad and I went on a kayaking trip where we were given a new perspective of the beautiful coastline. We paddled around islands and down narrow inlets where tall pines grow right along the edge of the rocky coast. The wilderness there was better preserved than I'd seen anywhere else.

Juneau was the most exciting port of call during the cruise. Here I took an aerial tram to the top of the mountains neighboring the town and hiked back into the city. I also went on a dog sledding adventure with my aunts and uncles. Our sledding adventure began with a helicopter flight over glaciers and mountains to a dog camp where the sled dogs wanted nothing more than to pull you as fast as they could across the glaciers. It was a wonderfully unique and exciting experience.

Our stop in Victoria signaled the end of our cruise was nearing. We toured the city on foot, enjoying the city's gardens and watching street performers, and later in the evening took a carriage ride pulled by two Clydesdales.

My best memories were made doing things on shore, but three activities I thoroughly enjoyed on board were, an art auction, dancing with my aunts and uncles, and watching the scenery pass from the forward viewing deck. It was amazing to watch as glaciers broke off and crashed into the ocean and pods of orcas swam around the ship.

I've been astounded by places like Yosemite Valley, the Great Smokey Mountains, and Kilauea, but the Alaskan wilderness is unique in that it is so much more expansive and still remains in pristine condition. Cruising the inside passage gave me a chance to experience some of this abounding natural beauty in person.


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