Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

SEA-JNU

That's right, Alaska. Via CRUISE.


























It all started when a wonderful couple whom we just love booked their first ever cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage, and were kind enough to ask if we’d like to join them. While we'd had every intention of planning a vacation this year, summer had rolled around, and well, we hadn’t. So we evaluated the pros and cons...

Pros:
  • A week with two of our favorites and each other, (mostly) disconnected from the rest of the world, surrounded by water.
  • All we had to do was book (which basically included forking over monies and choosing a cabin with the least likelihood to make us vom), and show up. Super appealing.
  • Alaska is beautiful.
Cons:
  • We’d never cruised (for reasons).
  • Shan tends to get motion sickness.
  • We’d be floating (or trapped) for a week with thousands of other people whom we don't know and adore (yet. Shoutout Nelson). 
And then we jumped at the chance, reassured that it was their first time too, and booked our first ever cruise  Here’s how it went.



























Seattle

Our ship came and went from Seattle, and it was Shannon’s first time visiting so we made the most of it and came in the day before so we could walk, like, the entire city (you’re WELCOME). Along the way, we hit the market (mostly for Ellenos greek yogurt), and Chihuly Garden and Glass. It was lovely.

We got to our ship a wee bit early on Saturday, and the boarding process was smooth and efficient. But boy, were we overwhelmed by the size of that ship! We boarded (with 5,000 of our closest friends), and our luggage was delivered super quickly, and we settled in and met our friends for disembarkment (if that’s a word). And we were off! We then spent a day at sea, and arrived at our first port of call on day 3.

Juneau

Our first stop, and we were ready to get off the ship for sure. I thought it was subzero, and then checked my phone to find if was FIFTY. Degrees. Farenheit.  But, to my credit (read: after putting on two pairs of pants and all the jackets) it was super windy and rainy. We had originally thought about hiking to the ice caves at Mendenhall Glacier, but conditions weren’t great and we didn’t do a lot of pre-planning, so we scrapped that and went to the park at Mendenhall Glacier, where we hiked to Nugget Falls for a closer view of the glacier and a glacial waterfall. Mendenhall was our first glacier of the trip (yip!), and we were in awe. The deep crystal blue color and complex ice formations on the face, and the beautiful icebergs floating out in the water nearby were jaw-droppingly awesome.


Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls





























While at the park, we also hiked through a beautiful portion of Tongass National Forest, which was super cool and had a lot of great relics from the early days of Mendenhall, when the glacier took up many more miles than it does now. We also learned about Tongass National Forest, which is the largest national forest in the United States at 17 million acres. Most of the forest's area is part of an even larger temperate rain forest, and is home to many species of endangered and rare flora and fauna. It was like a magical fairyland, with beautiful glacier-fed waterfalls and rivers full of salmon, and so much green everywhere.

A rain forest in Alaska?! 




























We ended the day by meeting up with our friends in downtown Juneau for some yummy seafood before reboarding our floating home for the week.

Skagway

In Skagway, we had booked an 'official' excursion through the cruise line, which worked out great. They were super efficient and we got to see so much in such a short amount of time. Plus, we had the greatest tour guide (shout out Patti!).

Our adventure began with a scenic train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad on a beautiful, antique (heated) train car. The scenery was beautiful, and the staff did a great job educating us about the history and our surroundings along the way.


























The narrow gauge railroad was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush to access the gold mines of the Yukon. The track climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades, cliff-hanging turns, tunnels, bridges and trestles. The 110 mile railroad was completed in 1900 in Carcross, Yukon. Today, the railroad is only used for seasonal tourism, averaging 400,000 passengers a year, and using just the first 70 miles of the original line.

We got off near Bennett, British Columbia and took a lovely scenic bus ride through the Yukon Territory. We had lunch in a covered wagon, snuggled husky puppies, and saw gorgeous mountains, lakes and waterfalls along the way.

Emerald Lake (I mean, come ON...)


























We got back to Skagway with plenty of time to explore downtown and have dinner before getting back on board. 

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay was the reason we booked this trip, and was definitely the highlight for us. It was truly breathtaking, and from our ship we had a great view of gorgeous glacial blue water, snow-capped mountains, icebergs, and glaciers. Not to mention the forests and wildlife (from sea otters to mountain goats to seals).   


























Park rangers came aboard to narrate our journey, sharing the history of the area and pointing out landmarks along the way. We got to see Margerie, Grand Pacific, and Lamplugh glaciers. We spent the most time 'parked' in front of Margerie, who was calving off in sections and putting on quite the show.


























We got to see even more mountains, glaciers and icebergs on our way out of the bay. We can't wait to get back and explore more of the park (maybe even by kayak!).

See https://www.nps.gov/glba/index.htm  for more on the park. We are still in awe.

Ketchikan

We only had a few short hours in Ketchikan, so we hiked Rainbird trail (another part of Tongass National Forest). It was much warmer this day, and we enjoyed the cliffside trail with its gorgeous greenery and great views of the bay along the way. Ketchikan has a super cute downtown with gorgeous totem poles and an amazing forest butting up against a beautiful  bay full of humpback whales migrating south for the winter.

















Victoria

We only had a few hours in Victoria, so we just walked through the scenic waterfront downtown to a great restaurant (thanks, Eater!), Olo, for an amazing meal (complete with Canadian wine).




























So, having completed our first ever cruise. Here are our thoughts:

  • Pros: There's no better way to see Glacier Bay, and that alone was worth if the rest of the week hadn't been great (but it was). The enrichment talks on the Alaskan wilds were wonderful (highlights included resident naturalist Michael 'Mojo' Modzelewski, Captain Jack Molan from the deadliest catch, and Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod). And the ship staff were all wonderful - friendly, energetic and very service-oriented. They have this thing down to a science. The whole experience was organized, efficient and pleasant.
  • Cons: The food was okay, but not great (though points for options and availability). And the wine list was pretty much nonexistent, so we brought our own and paid corkage fees (#worthit). The cruise entertainment edged a little more toward the cheesy end of the entertainment spectrum than our personal taste, but that's just us. And they definitely pushed shopping events and 'opportunities.' HARD.

We're #cruisepeople now. 






























To recap, we had a great time and really enjoyed our Alaskan cruise experience. From the company to the scenery, it was a win. While we're not planning another cruise at the moment, I would totally recommend this particular route if you've always wanted to see Alaska and/or Glacier Bay. It was a great introduction to an enormous state / region, and we are definitely going back to explore it further.

All our videos are here, and photos are here.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Friday, July 28, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

Monday, March 6, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sunday, February 12, 2017