October 24th 2017

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My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination My Favourite Cruise Destination

 

Continent: North America. Country: Alaska. City: Skagway.

My Favourite Cruise Destination

By Haydn Jones

 

A client of mine asked me the other day which was my favourite cruise destination , and it has to be the very first cruise I did, just over 10 years ago. Although I had been selling them for several years , my manager thought it was about time I tried one for myself, and what a cruise to start…… an Alaskan cruise! I had an educational with Princess Cruise’s on board Sea Princess. I flew out to Vancouver had 2 days there, then a 7 nights cruise.

I’ll be honest I had doubts about doing the cruise but none about going to Canada and Alaska. I had the common worries of first time cruisers….age, restrictions of being on a ship, is there enough to do, how much will I spend etc etc.

Vancouver is still today one of my favourite cities. It was fantastic. We stayed at the Sutton Place Hotel in the heart of the city and only short walking distance from Robson Street , one of Canada’s most popular shopping areas. We didn’t have much time so we were up early and out of the hotel. There were certain things I didn’t want to miss! Granville Island and it’s famous market, then Stanley Park to see the famous Totem Poles! I found out the day we were leaving Vancouver to cruise , Bryan Adams was playing live in Stanley Park! I was slightly gutted to be missing that but little did I know the week the ahead was going to be an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world! I really wanted to visit Gastown too but time was against us. Gastown is named after Gassy Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeeper who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. Gastown was going to have to wait a week , I had a cruise to embark! So my first ship – The Sea Princess ….WOW! I didn’t expect to be so amazed by a ship , she was enormous (for my first ship), but I couldn’t wait to get aboard. It was June and I had packed everything from shorts to thick winter jumpers, hiking boots ,sunglasses ,dinner suit and waterproofs! It was Alaska , I had no idea what weather to expect! The first part of the cruise from that evening and the next morning was of course the Inside Passage.

We got up the next morning around 5am , our body clocks were way out! I will always remember going up on deck , that first morning, towards the back of the ship at the crack of dawn and realising how quiet it was. All you could hear was ice cracking and creaking around you ,there was also a school of dolphin’s following in the wake of the ship. The clouds were very low and misty and one of the waiters bought me a coffee! This was just the start of my experience of a life time….

This map gives you an idea of the itinerary I did. We were going to Ketchikan today. Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” because it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north. . this Inside Passage port is Alaska’s fourth-largest city. A Pretty town , with a row of wooden buildings perched over the water on pilings., shops, bars and saloons, we had a wonder around the famous ‘Creek Street’ . Not a street at all, this boardwalk winds along Ketchikan Creek . This historic boardwalk was a Red Light District during the Gold Rush. Now, it’s a quaint place to tour Dolly’s House museum, view totem poles, and shop locally. Ketchikan, the rainiest town in southeast Alaska, is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” – by the way it did rain! The next day was a visit to Sitka. Sitka is known for its fishing, its annual summer classical-music festival and, of course, its many historic visitor attractions. We decided to do an excursion here, and chose the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest excursion. “Enjoy guaranteed wildlife viewing on this exciting three-hour, award-winning guided cruise via luxury catamaran through gorgeous Sitka Sound. Observe a stunning array of wildlife and enjoy complimentary snacks. Receive $100 refund if you don’t see an otter, whale or bear during your cruise!” – so the leaflet said, at approx $130 each , we thought it was worth the gamble! This turned out to be a 3 hour trip that will stay with me forever. We saw Otters , plenty of Otters , in fact hundreds of otters , not disappointing but I wanted more. About half way through the boat trip the captain made an announcement for everyone to go towards the front on one side , I couldn’t believe my eyes, a mother and baby Humpback Whale were about 25 meters away from the boat, I have never been so excited in my life (slightly scared too, they made our boat look tiny), but probably because I knew it was unlikely I would ever see this again, other than on TV.

We turned the boats engines off and stayed for about 8-10 minutes just watching. A real moment to treasure, I couldn’t wait to get back on board the Sea Princess and tell everyone! That night was also our first formal night on the cruise. You will have 2 for a standard 7 night cruise. I was really looking forward to the formal night , although I wasn’t so sure about the dressing up , but actually once the Tuxedo was on , I fitted right in. There is a real sense of occasion on these evenings. The food was out of this world , the Salmon obviously couldn’t be any fresher in Alaska! I loved the way everyone gathered around for ‘The Champagne Tower’ at the end of the evening , streamers flying around , music – it really was eye opening my eyes to the world of cruising, this was the second night of my first cruise , and yes I think I was already hooked!

Next part of my trip we visited the famous Mendenhall glacier , in Juneau. The excursion I took with Princess Cruises…..a nature hike , high up into the mountains running alongside the glacier.

I had my hiking boots on, and a bright yellow poncho on…decided not to upload that picture. Before the hike started we had to do a safety talk , I thought the usual , stay together, keep a steady pace etc….NO a talk on what to do if we saw a grizzly bear on the hike!! I actually laughed and thought the guide was joking, nope she was serious. I was more than slightly concerned about the advice too. So just incase you need the advice , here is what to do….play dead and hope for the best. Yes..if you see a bear on your trip, lie on the ground and play dead. Problem solved.

As it turns out we never saw a bear just a porcupine! It wasn’t disappointing though , Mendenhall Glacier is fascinating , its stunning scenery around there too. Mendenhall Glacier is a glacier about 12 miles long located in Mendenhall valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. On our way back to ship that afternoon we decided to do the Mt. Roberts Tramway for a heritage tour. You’ll take a six-minute ride from the cruise ship pier to the 1,800-foot level of Mt. Roberts. At the top, a restaurant, espresso bar, and gift shop, a Nature Center, wildlife viewing platforms, a self-guided trail marked by Native totemic carvings and access to upper alpine hiking trails. Im a bit of a coward when it comes to cable cars , but it was worth the 6 minute climb. The views were breathtaking , it also put into perspective the size of the Sea Princess in port.

Tomorrows port is Skagway , my plan was to go in search of gold! Skagway was the gateway to the gold fields for the thousands who flocked to Alaska and the Yukon with the hope of striking it rich. The gold yield dwindled in 1900, so did the population, today, Skagway has less than 1,000 residents. It still retains the flavor of the gold rush era. I decided to book the Princess excursion called Gold Rush History, where you could relive the color and history of the Yukon Gold Rush. Tour the camps, pan for gold and meet a few costumed characters who’ll show you what life was like during the boom-town days in the 1800s. It was actually good fun, but no….I didn’t find enough gold to retire!

After that we decided to head into town and visit the famous Red Onion Saloon. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the Red Onion Saloon was Skagway’s most exclusive bordello. Now this colorful establishment is a bar/restaurant and a National Historic Building.

The grand finale of the cruise I suppose was our day at Glacier Bay National Park. Princess is one of a select few cruise lines permitted to cruise the waters of Glacier Bay,it was definately one of the highlights of my cruise. Just west of Juneau, this breathtaking national park and preserve boasts some of the world’s most spectacular tidewater glaciers, such as Margerie Glacier, which often drops colossal chunks of ice into the sea, I was even lucky enough to witness this.

During the cruise, Park Rangers will join the ship to share their knowledge of this amazing place. If you’re lucky you can spot Glacier Bay’s abundant wildlife, including humpback whales, sea otters, porpoises, harbor seals, black bears, mountain goats, bald eagles and large colonies of seabirds.

A huge surprise to me during this cruise was the weather in Alaska. I travelled there in mid June and the weather was fantastic. I even burnt during our day at Glacier bay. It was quite surreal to be in a hot tub, on a ship surrounded by ice!

As my first cruise it filled every expectation and more , Sea Princess will always be one of my favourite ships, and one day would love to go back to Alaska and take my children. I loved Vancouver too. We did get to do Gas Town and China town on our return to Vancouver too. It didn’t take the full 9 days to decide I was hooked on cruising. I loved it from the start , the food , the entertainment and the experience more than anything. The thing I enjoyed most , was probably just being able to wake up every morning somewhere different!

If you have any questions or would like to check an Alaska Cruise , please don’t hesitate to call me free on the below number.

Hadyn Jones

Cruise.co.uk

0800 408 6107  

HaydnJ@cruise.co.uk

 

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