Whoops! Only six weeks late. I forgot to mention that Alaska’s capital, Juneau is the…
After a week at sea we arrived in Seward, Alaska – my first time in this state. It was a little cloudy but the scenery was magnificent. We were surrounded on three sides by snowcapped mountains. I’d been up since 5 am for the sunrise and sail in – didn’t see much of a sunrise. Georgia and her friend Charlotte were doing the same thing.
This was the first stop in the US and immigration officials had boarded the ship – just five of them for 1200 guests. The queue was over an hour long and I reflected how efficient the Japanese had been compared to their American counterparts.
Once on land I walked around the town which was suitably Alaskan. I stopped and spoke with a fireman who is playing with his hose on the sidewalk. I asked him what it’s like to live in Alaska. He had worked for the coast guard in Seattle and came to Alaska a decade ago and never went back. The scenery, freedom, and being able to play with his hose in public was too much of a lure. He said the nearest traffic light was 150 miles away in Anchorage.
On Sunday we woke up to beautiful blue skies which had been a rarity. On the port side we could see the snowcapped mountains of Alaska with the Canadian border not far beyond. Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain, and the second highest in North America could be seen in the distance. 19,551 ft for those interested. Denali which is the highest, is 20,310 ft.
At midday we entered the Hubbard glacier. A Norwegian cruise ship was leaving and the Oceania Regatta was behind us. This was obviously a popular spot. Everyone was out on deck with cameras, binoculars and warm clothing. Georgia joined me for a while before the crowds got the better of her.
The scenery was breathtaking but I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife. I decided to pop into the hot tub at the back of the ship. It was empty at the back and I figured the ship would turn round at some point and head back out to sea. We were informed, by a lady that informs people, that there are only about three sunny days a year in this part of the world. We were very fortunate.
The next stop was Sitka on Baranof Island, named by the Russians in 1805. Sitka was the Russian capital of the Alaskan region. The Americans purchased Alaska in 1867 for 2 cents an acre ($7.2m). Russia was experiencing economic hardship (no change there), following the loss of the Crimean War. They figured the Canadians might attack and simply take Alaska, so they decided to pre-empt this outcome and sell it instead.
Sitka is the fifth most populated city in Alaska with a whopping 8,500 residents. Two other ships were in port that day meaning the population doubled.
Georgia and I headed for the Sitka National Historic Park which was a forested wonderland; a tree lovers paradise. We strolled back to town looking for a bowling alley that my friend Jim had mentioned. But that was Almost 40 years ago and it was now a theatre. Sitka was a quaint town and geared towards the cruise ship tourists that turn up in their thousands during the summer season.
Once back on board, the captain announced a change to the itinerary. We were no longer stopping at Ketchikan the following day. Instead it was a sea day followed by Victoria in British Columbia. Something to do with the Canadian authorities. The sea day was beautiful with blue skies. Ketchikan by contrast is said to be one of the wettest cities in the USA.
We reached Victoria on Vancouver Island at 10 am but had to dawdle off shore in the Juan de Fuca Strait for several hours while the Canadian inspectors inspected things. One side of the Strait is Vancouver Island and the other side is Washington State. It was a glorious day so I camped out by the pool and had my first swim of the trip. I was the only one in the pool. I regained my fading suntan within a few hours of exposure.
We docked late afternoon and I had an early evening trot around Victoria. What a wonderful place it was. Great architecture and oodles of greenery. On early impressions, I think I could live there. It was very walkable so I took advantage for a good few hours.
The final stop of this segment was Vancouver. The sail in was mightily picturesque as we drew ever nearer to the skyscrapers of the city. Trees and mountains in the distance added to the beauty of this city, which in recent years has been called Hongcouver due to the number of wealthy Chinese immigrants.
Vancouver is named after a British naval captain from Norfolk called George Vancouver. He was one of the most famous explorers of the Pacific Coast and died at the relatively young age of 40.
Georgia and I headed off in a taxi to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park twenty minutes away. Another forested wonderland and with the wobbliest suspension bridge I’ve ever wobbled on. It was quite disconcerting. There were also some treetop walkways on the other side and then a cliff walk. A great experience to share with Georgia.
Seeking yet more greenery we caught an Uber to Stanley Park which lies on a promontory adjacent to Vancouver. One of the finest parks I’ve visited in ages. If I lived in Vancouver, this would be a regular place to spend time.
After an hour Georgia’s energy levels were plummeting so we called her another Uber and she headed back to the ship. I continued touring around Stanley Park which was incredible. There is a one-way road through this huge park and I saw many cyclists out pedalling furiously. It’s a park with everything you’d expect to see including more, such as a miniature railway and totem poles.
I walked back to the city and went up The Lookout which is a 360 degree viewing platform. The views were not as splendid as I had envisaged but good nonetheless.
Today was changeover day with hundreds leaving and newbies joining. We go from 1300 to a maximum capacity of 2000 passengers with Americans taking over as the largest contingent. This will of course mean more competition for the Cumberland sausages at the buffet. I’ve decided to go early each day. Bear Grylls has joined the ship and will be doing some lectures. I’m looking forward to that.
My friend Jim left today and heads back to Philadelphia. He’s been through something similar to me. We’re the same age. I enjoyed his company greatly.
The two stops in Canada have been fantastic. Both Victoria and Vancouver are wonderful cities. Heading back up to Alaska tonight.