Alaska – September 2002

Some of trips I made are bit of a blur. Not because I did not enjoy them, but because my memory doesn’t register all the details of the trip and I didn’t have the foresight to keep notes. The cruise Marité and I took to Alaska, in September 2002, is one of them. But, here is what I remember, and what I could gather from some brochures that I saved:

We flew from NYC to Vancouver, BC in Canada and stayed there a couple of days. We visited the Vancouver Lookout at the top of the tallest commercial building in the city. Went up to top of Grouse Mountain, riding the Skyride tram and walked the streets of Gastown, the historic district of Vancouver. 

Enjoying the verandah in our cabin, at the ss Volendam

On the early afternoon of Monday, September 2, we embarked in the ms Volendam, a cruise ship of the Holland America Line. We had taken to a verandah suite in one of the upper decks. The stateroom was very comfortable and had a small balcony. We settled down, unpacked our bags and got acquainted with our surroundings. At mid-afternoon we had lifeboat drill, where all the passengers, wearing life-jackets, received instructions of what to do in case of an accident. Of course, they insured us that we were very safe in the ship and that there was little chance that we would need to use the lifeboats. I was sure that the passengers of the Titanic, heard a similar speech…

Shortly after that the ship left port and we went to explore the ship. There were, I believe 8 or 9 decks, and at top one, by the pool, we had a welcoming party.  In the evening we had dinner in the main dining area. Again, there were a few more smaller restaurants and a large, self-serve restaurant where one would have breakfast and lunch, or a bite to eat at any time of the day. We had dinner one the nights in one the smaller and more intimate restaurants, that specialized in Italian food.

The ss Volendam docked in Juneau, AZ

Night arrived and we went to sleep. In the middle of the night we were awaken by the rolling of the ship, which had, I assume, hit some turbulent waters. Luckily, we had some Dramamine and we didn’t get sick. The next day the waters were calmer, and we continued traveling the Inside Passage with some spectacular views of the coast.

Mendenhall Glacier

The following morning, we arrived at Juneau, the capital of Alaska. We had booked a side trip to the Mendenhall Glacier, the first time we saw one of those gigantic and slow-moving rivers of ice that flow into the oceans in some of the cold regions of the earth. After that stop we continued visiting a salmon hatchery and had a delicious salmon bake “all fresco”, next to a rushing creek. We went back to Juneau, wandered about in the downtown area, and took an aerial tramway to the top of Mount Roberts, with spectacular views of the town and the bay.

You can find a Gross anywhere, even in Juneau, Alaska

Again, we spend the night in the ship, which took us to our next stop, the city of Skagway, which at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, was the primary gateway to the legendary gold fields. The town still had an air of Wild West and was full of gold rush lore. Here we boarded the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, which runs parallel to the path that prospectors used back in the late 1800s to travel to and from the Yukon in their quest of richness. Once more, the views were breathtaking. The next day we spend aboard the ship, while it traveled the length of Glacier Bay. During the voyage there were some talks by Forest Rangers about the eco-system of the bay and of the native cultures that thrived in its shores in the past.

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

We reached our last port of call, Ketchikan, on the west shore of the Inside Passage. the next morning. I don’t recall doing any excursions that day, but I believe we wandered through the streets of a picturesque town.

A “sleeping” tree in Ketchikan

Our last cruise day was a leisure one, traveling south through the Inside Passage, winding through glacier cut fiords and stunning landscapes.

Our last dinner on the cruise.

We arrived early next morning in Vancouver, where we spend another two days. We visited Stanley Park and crossed the Capilano suspension bridge. This last experience isn’t one of the happiest ones I had during my travels. The swinging bridge crosses over the Capilano river floating 70 meters below (about 230 feet) and it is 140 meters long (about 460 ft), which one has to walk twice. The wobbling structure was not very kind to my stomach, and I did feel sick at the end of the crossing. The other 1,199,999 visitors (supposedly 2,000,000 visit the site every year) that crossed the bridge that year, can have it.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Back in Vancouver, we walked again the streets of Gastown, enjoyed strolls at Stanley Park, where we saw for first time totem poles, and spend a leisurely time at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a haven of serenity, build in the style of the Ming Dynasty gardens.

When we arrived at the airport for our trip back home, we found that our flight had been canceled. However, the airline (can’t remember which one) put us in a later flight by Cathay Airlines, which was very comfortable and who served the best meal I ever eaten in economy class.

Those are the memories I have of this trip and here I share them with you.