A June 2006 trip
to Alaska by ramcgraw
Quote: To see the most of Alaska, a cruise with land tour is your best ticket. Each port gives a unique glimpse of different aspects of Alaska and its history. The land tour portion allows you to access true wilderness areas.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on July 14, 2006
Denali Natural History Tour
The Sheldon Jackson Museum is a small building on the campus of Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, Alaska. The campus sits slightly outside the main shopping district of Sitka but is well worth the extra walking to get there. You can also get a day pass on the city bus which drops at this location as well. Sheldon Jackson was a missionary who is credited with introducing Christianity to the natives of Alaska. He is also credited by some of obtaining priceless artifacts representing the different tribal groups of Alaska underhandedly. These artifacts are what the museum that bears his name show. It is a wonderful collection of all sorts of ancient pieces. The price of $4/person is well worth it to see these priceless pieces.
To study the different pieces and all the information would take 3-4 hours. Unfortunately, we had about 45 minutes to spend here. The museum is circular in shape and naturally leads you around the perimeter eventually leading to the center where two authentic totem poles are set up. The outer perimeter contains all types of artifacts including several weapons, clothing items and household items used by the different groups in tall glass cases. One of the prize pieces of the museum is the helmet worn by Tlingit warrior Katlian during the battle fought with Russia over the lost lands surrounding Sitka. The room winds around to displays that are at waist level. These displays sit atop drawers which all contain different artifacts if opened. With few exceptions, you can photograph all of the pieces. Of course, they are behind glass so be sure to turn off the flash. It is a wonderful collection of native work. The gift shop is small but contains some unique pieces all claiming to be authentic native work. You can visit the gift shop without touring the museum, but you will be missing out on one of the best museums I have ever seen.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 14, 2006
Sheldon Jackson Museum
104 College Drive
Sitka, Alaska 99835
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 14, 2006
New Archangel Dancers
Harrigan Centennial Hall
Sitka, Alaska 99835
Attraction | "Meadow View Trail"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 14, 2006
Denali National Park & Preserve
Alaska Route 3/George Parks Highway
Attraction | "Sitka National Historic Park"
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2006
Sitka National Historical Park
106 Metlakatla Street
Sitka, Alaska 99835
Sitka Rose Gallery
419 Lincoln St.
Sitka, Alaska 99835
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 29, 2006
Wildlife North Art Gallery
Talkeetna, Alaska 99676
Attraction | "Corrington's Ivory Museum"
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 30, 2006
Corrington Museum of Alaska History
5th and Broadway
The traction on our own shows was better than the boots but we didn't realize that we would be walking on freshly fallen snow sinking up to six inches with each step. So, I suggest the boots if you want to keep the snow out of your shoes. Although it wasn't that big a deal. On the plane there are only window seats. We sat in the third row of seats. Most of our picture have the wings of the plane in them but I don't know if a different seat would have offered better pictures or not. The ride itself was very loud and bumpy. We had headphones on with commentary from the pilot on the local geography. We flew through the clouds and finally saw McKinley.
I had a hard time actually telling which one it was because we seemed to be so close. We did 360's in the air so everyone could the the Great One. It was at this point that most of us started getting motion sickness. There were plenty of precautionary sickness bags on the plane but fortunately none of us had to use them. Although it was a close call. If you are extremely prone to motion sickness I would not suggest doing this. Also, my fear of heights kicked in on this small plane.
While I loved what I was getting to see, I had a terrified feeling most of the time. After circling near Mt. McKinley several times we finally flew back through the clouds and landed on Ruth Glacier. This is the longest glacier in Alaska at 40 miles long. We landed at the beginning of the glacier into the highest part of the valley. The glacier at this point looks just like snow. There were 8 feet of snow on top of the glacier that was not yet compacted. So, we did not get to see the colors you associate with glaciers at this point. We had about 15 minutes to tramp around the glacier and take pictures and then we boarded up for the ride back.
An interesting thing about this particular glacier is that someone bought some land before the park was established and we could see the roof of their house and their outhouse from where we were. The place of course can only be reached by plane. It was interesting. The flight back was much less bumpy and offered better views of glacier colors. The turquoise could be seen from the plane. You could also see the crevasses of the glacier as we were flying back. Enjoy the photos that I post as they show better than words can describe this experience. If you can handle motion sickness, heights and small planes I recommend this. For me, one time was enough.
Icy Strait Point, Alaska is a unique port of call on a cruise ship itinerary. It is a place to explore a more natural and unpopulated Alaska. The docking point is just that, a dock. There are a few restaurants, small shops, and an old cannery you can tour. The town is actually called Hoonah and is a couple of miles from the dock. Free shuttles run to and from the town regularly. We went on the Forest and Nature Tram which is a 2 hour tour of the temperate rain forest with narration on the culture, geology, flora and fauna. The tour costs $43 per person and meets directly behind the port stores. The tram has a top cover but open sides with seats 4 people across. The trail was built especially for the tram and is only about that wide.
The flora is beautiful throughout the tour but I especially like plants and identifying them. I'm a botany nut! The highlight of the tour is at the turn around spot where we were allowed to disembark on the rocky beach. We were given about 20 minutes to explore the coastline and pick up shells and rocks. At this point, a telescope was also set up to view an eagle's nest in a nearby tree. We returned to the port area on the same trail we used going out. Once deposited, we had plenty of time to explore the area. There are some short nature trails that lead through the forest and around to the coastline with nice views of the harbor and cruise ship. We were encouraged to take part in a local tradition by burning cedar chips in a large fire which is found along the beach trail. The tradition is a Tlingit tradition and is traced to this saying: "The sea brings life. Fire brings communion. Smoke spreads our spirit. The ash gives birth to new life." Icy Strait was a nice port for feeling close to nature. See my journal on Salmon Fishing in Icy Strait Point for more closeups with nature.
The fjord is beautiful with icebergs floating peacefully by and waterfalls gushing with tremendous force down the mountains. The coniferous forest dominates the landscape until it just gets too steep for trees. Harbor seals were abundant in Tracy Arm Fjord floating on the uniquely shaped icebergs. At the end of the fjord is Sawyer Glacier with pristine colors of turquoise. The glacial ice changes color when it breaks off from the deep blue to white, clear or brown depending on the sediment it contains. The newest icebergs are blue and white. Watching the icebergs reminded me of watching clouds: you could see so many shapes and imagine different pictures as you were watching them float by. The trip was approximately 6 hours in and out. Sitting on our balcony we got to see both sides of the fjord as the ship turned around at the head of the fjord. The scenery was what I had imagined to see in Alaska and so much more.
There are as low as penny slot machines but I thought the limits on the tables were high at $1 minimums on roulette and $5 minimums on blackjack. The Centrum of the ship is a favorite gathering place of many people with a bar serving up cocktails and live, musical entertainment each night. We particularly liked a group called Rosario Strings which is a two man group - one on guitar and one on violin. A movie theater is on the ship showing different movies (many centered on Alaska). The main entertainment is offered in the Aurora Theatre on floors 5 and 6. The Royal Caribbean Dancers and Orchestra were not very entertaining. However, the outside entertainment on the ship was very good. One night the Platters performed and another was a magician. One difference I noted from my last cruise was the time of the nightly entertainment: some was before dinner and some was after. Several classes and demonstrations are offered daily. It is impossible to do them all. One we particularly liked was a wine tasting seminar. We were taught how to taste and choose wines properly while tasting 6 different varieties.
The ship has many fitness and recreational facilities aboard. We did not utilize all of the ones listed but I will include what information I know. The fitness room offered many classes (mostly in the morning) from yoga to seated exercise. Some classes charged an extra fee while others were free. The fitness area had plenty of cardio machines all facing windows so you don't miss any views while cruising. Among the outside facilities are a: pool, 2 hot tubs, water slide, wading pool, rock climbing wall, and basketball court. The weather was too cold most days for most people to use the outside water facilities. The rock wall has many different paths for beginners to expert climbers. The rock wall was open only at specific times and only for the first 25 people who signed up. There is no charge and all equipment is provided. I climbed the easy route and my husband climbed a harder one.
I was pretty scared as I was climbing - I really don't like heights. It wasn't super hard but it definitely got my heart pounding. At the top, I rang a bell and at that point I was 200 feet above the ocean. Only one person was climbing at a time during our session. There were other sessions where multiple people climbed. You have to be at least 18 or have a parent sign a waiver if you are not to climb. The indoor facilities included a pool, hot tub, and miniature golf. The indoor pool is designated specifically for adult use but is open 4 hours each day for children because of the cool weather climate. The day spa on the ship offered many classes as well as facials, massages, manicures, pedicures and hairstyling. One class offered was a couple’s massage therapy. Most classes and all other offerings are at an extra cost.
Emerald Isle, North Carolina