Our journey continued as we set sail on the beautiful Coral Princess for the Voyage of the Glaciers. Our journey took us through some amazing natural beauty and gave us the chance to experience the culture, both past and present, along Alaska's Inside Passage.
Day 5: Yakutat Bay
Our first full day underway, we spent enjoying the many amenities aboard the Coral Princess. We took advantage of the North to Alaska program with a presentation from renown naturalist Jules Talarico. The North to Alaska program is unique to Princess Cruises in that, the cruise line includes many , presenters on the various points of interest of Alaska to speak and/or perform, offering passengers a broader experience of the history and culture of the Frontier State. After the presentation, we tried our luck at some bingo, though lady luck would not shine upon us that day.
We enjoyed lunch out on deck by taking in “the best pizza at sea” form the pizzeria on deck 14. Later in the afternoon, we arrived in Yakutat Bay, which is home to the US park rangers in charge of Glacier Bay National Park. We took some time to enjoy some wildlife spotting from our balcony while cruising close to shore. Unfortunately, we experienced a lot of fog that obscured our view for much of the day. We met up with all the family for dinner that night and enjoyed a fabulous meal. After we ate, my mother, went to audition for The Voice of the Ocean, a contest inspired by the hit TV show, with judges/coach’s chairs as seen on TV. My mom did get in and would attend rehearsals throughout the week to get ready for her big performance.
Day 6: Glacier Bay
Truly one of the highlights of the entire trip was our day long trek into Glacier Bay. The day began with a presentation by a park ranger on the history, wildlife population, and geologic wonders of Glacier Bay National Park. This place is truly one of pristine natural beauty. The snow melt forms waterfalls all throughout our trip as we pass by the several glaciers that meet the Pacific Ocean in the bay. The ship pulls to within a few hundred feet of the Lamplugh and Margerie Glaciers offering some amazing views and fantastic photo opportunities. This is why you get a balcony cabin for your Alaska cruise. Instead of having to clamor and claw for a clear view of the glaciers, I sat back on my balcony with a frosty beer in hand and took in the splendor of nature. We were fortunate enough to see and hear the glacier calve (when a large section of ice falls into the ocean). The sound is what I remember most, similar to a shotgun or very loud thunder crash. The only way to view this one-of-a-kind place is by sea and the access to the park is extremely limited.
Day 7: Skagway
Skagway was our first port of call on our voyage of the glaciers. It is this small town that was once an entry point for gold seekers hoping to find their fortunes in the gold rush. The town still has much of the original charm of the gold rush days and there are numerous tours and excursion available for passengers to learn about the life of Alaskan gold miner back then. My wife and mother-in-law took a trip to nearby Haynes, AK for a float trip while trying to glimpse bald eagles in the wild and learning about the Tlingit culture. I went on a hike through the first few miles of the Chilkoot Trail, which was one of the main passages from the Pacific to the interior (where all the gold was).
Interesting side note: a famous American family made their fortune operating an Inn along the Chilkoot Trail, their descendant later became the 44th president of the United States, Donald Trump. After all of us rejoined from our adventures, we reconvened for a Salmon Bake and Gold Panning excursion where we learned about the process of finding gold in the streams. The salmon was simply amazing. Later after our bellies were full and we had found gold in our pans, we decided to walk through town on our way back to the ship. We stopped and enjoyed a Spruce Tip Blonde Ale at Skagway Brewing Co. where they use Sitka Spruce buds in addition to the hops for a refreshing taste.
Day 8: Juneau
We arrived into the capital city of Alaska’s harbor by one of the only two possible means, by sea. There are no roads that connect Juneau with the mainland. However, if you were to skip Juneau, you would be missing a gem of a city. We started our day, with a whale watching tour to view the humpback whales in their rich feeding grounds during the Arctic summer. We were able to glimpse a mother and calf as they were breaching and tail slapping their way into our hearts. On our way back into the marina we were treated to a gathering of seals as they sunned themselves on a navigational buoy.
In the afternoon, we ventured to a local kennel to learn about the dogs and humans who run the Iditarod race in the winter. This grueling race is a celebration of an urgent medicine run made from Anchorage in the south to Nome in the north through frigid temperatures over 1000 miles of dangerous ground. The dogs who pull the sled for the race are trained year round at kennels throughout the state and welcome groups for visits to their summer homes.
We got treated to a training run in a modified VW beetle being pulled by a full sled team. I didn’t think they’d be able to pull a car load of six passengers and the musher but they took off like they weren’t dragging a thing. It is truly amazing to see these animals at work and to see the love they are given by their caretakers.
Day 9: Ketchikan
Our next stop was in the quaint fishing town of Ketchikan. The weather is actually pretty mild year round, though they do receive a large amount of rainfall each year (141.25 inches per year). We struck out on a bald eagle and totem tour by boat in the morning. The tour was very enjoyable as we got to see a number of the waterfront homes in Ketchikan in addition to many, many bald eagles. We also got to see Totem Heritage Center where the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples heritage lives on through ornate totem poles and tribal buildings used in ceremonial rituals to this day. Our tour was narrated by the boat captain who was dressed as Capt. Obvious, from the Hotels.com commercials and his jokes were super corny, but it definitely was entertaining. We had lunch in town after our excursion at Annabelle’s Keg & Chowderhouse, where we enjoyed the smoked salmon chowder. It was a great meal and a great atmosphere.
Day 10: At Sea
Our final full day aboard the Coral Princess was a fun filled day with lots of different activities. We played a little trivia, and met some wonderful couples from Australia who were just as stumped as we were on many of the answers. Though some cocktails and friendly conversation certainly did remove any embarrassment we felt for not knowing some of the most random and trivial facts. Later we decided to try our luck again at bingo and this time, my wife did win, a grand total of $200. Not too shabby. After we basked the greatness of her win, we met up with the family for our farewell dinner together. The food for the whole week was amazing and this night was no exception. After dinner we all gathered into the Princess Theatre or in the Universal Bar to catch The Voice of the Ocean and see who would win. My mother performed well, though not well enough to win as there were some very talented people travelling on the Coral Princess that week. We finished the evening packing our bags for the journey home from our final port of call, Vancouver, BC.
Day 11: Disembarkation/Vancouver, BC
We awoke early as it was time to bid farewell to the wonderful crew of the Coral Princess. We had signed up for a hop-on, hop-off tour of Vancouver and were treated to a beautiful city. The botanical gardens were vibrant with color and life as it seemed all of the flowers were in full bloom. We enjoyed a walk through the park taking in the natural beauty in Stanley Park. For lunch, we ventured into Granville Island Public Market, and tried some of the street vendors available there. The selection of foods available was mind blowing. It was a foodie’s heaven. After touring through the market, we continued our journey through Vancouver, stopping to visit the famous steam clock and to do some shopping in some local art galleries before catching the train to the airport for our flights home.
There were so many wonderful things we all experienced and learned on this trip to the Frontier State. I would highly recommend making the trek and taking the family with you, as it is an adventure they will never forget. If you’d like to reserve your Alaska vacation, contact us here.