I liked Vancouver. A lot. In fact, its on my places to go back and spend some time. But after all, this was an Alaska cruise. So, when on the second morning, we docked at Ketchikan, it really felt like we had arrived in Alaska. I am not sure that a cruise is the best way to see the “real” Alaska. With nearly 600,000 square miles, our largest state is more than twice the size of our next largest, Texas, where they supposedly make everything big :-). But it may be one of the best ways to get a taste of Alaska. Ketchikan is a quintessential Alaska port/fishing village. Originally known for its salmon canneries, Ketchikan has done a good job of integrating the cruise ship, tourist trade.
Cruising was new to me, so I naturally did some homework before we booked our cruise. I learned that the Alaska cruise experience is a bit different from the “caribbean” cruises I had always heard so much about. While the cruise ship amenities were certainly all there, the Alaska experience is much more about the ports of call than the on ship experience. As such, every port has learned how to capitalize by offering “excursions.” Most of them can be arranged through the cruise ship line, but most of them also will deal with you directly, often at a substantial discount. So planning the cruise involved determining which of the ports had the most interest. Unfortunately there were more ports of interest than could be covered on a single cruise. I would have liked to see Sitka and Haines. But some choices had to be made. Skagway (mainly because of the White Pass Railway — more in a later post) was a “must,” as was Glacier Bay NP. I also wanted to see “Creek Street” in Ketchikan. I couldn’t find a trip that included both Sitka and Ketchikan.
Our “excursion” was a trip on the Aleutian Ballad, a Bering Sea Crab fishing boat, ala “The Deadliest Catch,” that was refitted as a theatre-style demonstration boat.
While the program was interesting, the real highlight of the trip was a detour into waters owned by a native Alaskan tribe to see eagles nesting on an island. Onboard the boat, I had an opportunity to photograph in-flight eagles in a way I am not likely to ever have again. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and certainly, one of the photographic highlights of the trip!