Alaska, .. Wait, What?

Alaska, Wait, what?

When I close my eyes and think of a vacation, my mind goes to a soft warm spongy beach somewhere in the Caribbean.  Doesn’t yours?  I mean, who wouldn’t want to get away from long hours, over time, cold weather,  (wood stacking, mud season if you  live in New England like I do).. Don’t you just assume that your spouse has the same exact enthusiasm as you do about leaving and heading to the beach?

As a travel professional, I get to schedule our own vacations for my husband and myself.  A couple of years ago I went to my husband and said, “Honey, it’s time to think about our own vacation”.  He quickly had a smile on his face. He heard me correctly, I said ‘vacation’.  And as usual I started talking nonstop with so much excitement about this new all-inclusive destination that is really hot and trending with open airy rooms & our own butler  who would deliver fresh Mojitos to our room.  “Honey, doesn’t this just sound like heaven?”  My eyes were all squishy, my hands clenched with joy because the homework was done! I had our next spot, I was waiting for that immediate excited reaction from my man.  I got nothing.   It was a weird awkward moment of silence.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I want to go to Alaska”.  My head cocked sideways, one eyebrow raised. I said “wait, what?”

I took for granted that since I am in the business that my own husband had the same vacation dream ideas in his head as I had in mine.   I truly never once even thought of Alaska.  My immediate vision of the cabana bartender delivering a fresh minty mojito to me under a big grass umbrella just disappeared ‘Poof’ gone in an instant.  The next image that appeared in my head was of me in winter gear, trekking some glacier someplace where there are brown bear and other wild animals that could chase me down and eat me.  And hike or fish? What! That sounds like hard work and effort and totally not a relaxing way to spend my week away.

It was his dream vacation, in the top 5 of his bucket list.  Handing the reigns back to me for a do-over, he said “I don’t care how we do it, train, plane, RV, automobile, cruise… I just really want to go” I went into pro mode and started to ask him the interview questions I often ask my clients.  This man really wanted to see Alaska for so many amazing reasons.  With a new sense of excitement and anticipation, I went back to work.

I still wanted the pampering, the great food & service and I didn’t want to have any type of vacation that made me feel ‘alone in the great last frontier’.  We only had a week so we both settled on a 7 night cruise.  We chose Celebrity Solstice Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise.

Our departure port was Seattle Washington.  A city that has long been on my own bucket list.  Vibrant, artsy, bustling city of really happy people not to mention home of Starbucks! Kind of cool to order a coffee from the flagship store.  The pier is so close to the heart of Pike’s Place.  Walking distance really to everything. And if you don’t like to walk, the City of Seattle has a great lite rail system.

 

This is the view from the Celebrity Pier in Seattle Washington, this is right outside the entrance

Pikes Public Market! It was just amazing

It’s all about the view.  If we were going to Alaska I didn’t have to sacrifice watching an amazing sunset on a Caribbean beach.  What I discovered was how magnificent a sunset over the horizon in Alaska was. It felt so much grander, so much closer and so clear.   So I wasn’t able to see my beloved dolphins jumping in the ocean, but what I did see was even more exciting, whales swimming and spouting right there, 50 yards from our cabin!

 

Alaskan Sunset Over The Horizon

Whales Jumping

Our first port of call was Ketchikan. Like most cruise ports, full of tourist attractions to pull you right in. We opted to explore beyond the little town.  My husband has always wanted to see a brown bear.  Now, again, to me, the wife I was a little hesitant.  I wasn’t too excited about walking through a nature park with wild bear around me but I didn’t verbalize that to him. After all, I was trying something new.  We were loaded into a little tour bus with other cruise passengers and traveled along the water way and villages. This was a small group excursion, I liked that.

I observed my husband performing an ‘ops check’ on the camera. Confirming it was in working order, battery charged and memory card inserted. Checking to make sure that he had the binoculars he brought with him on this cruise in his bag.   I could see the excitement on his face, the anticipation.  His enthusiasm was contagious and I too started to get into this Brown Bear Adventure we were about to embark on!

It was pretty exciting.  We arrived at Herring Cove where our guide reviewed the safety tips for our hike through the natural habitat.  He stopped to show us the flora specific to Alaska, caves where the bears hibernate and pointed out the claw scratches on the trees.   Still a little nervous, I knew everything was in control.

After the short hike, we arrived at the tree top canopy of suspension bridges, walk overs and camera stops.  We were literally high above the ground with a terrific view of the brown bears and salmon in the creeks. We saw baby cubs in the trees and momma bears fishing.  At the end of our hike, we entered the Raptor Center to view the Bald Eagles and other beautiful animals.   We got to walk through an old lumber mill and see a local master totem pole carver in action!

 

And we have seen the Brown Bears people!  Lots and lots of them!

Our next part of the cruise took us through the amazing Tracy Arm Fjord.  We floated quietly and softly through the canyon.  Chunks of glacier dotted the seascape, tall cliffs with majestic waterfalls filled the air with a delicate roar.  It was peace. The ship glided in the Arm 2 hours, performed a strategic 3 point turn and head back to the entry point.  We had spectacular views from our balcony, top side and even enjoyed a snack from the dining room.  The Solstice has incredible floor to ceiling windows so we never missed a beat.

Our next stop was Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. Universities, bustling lifestyle and one of the most recognizable glaciers, Mendenhall.  At this port we opted to purchase a shore excursion.  We decided on an 8 mile bike ride to Mendenhall.  We biked through a beautiful moss filled rain forest and eventually ended at the lake where the guide taught us about the history of this glacier, the size, the effect that global warming has on this glacier.  It was a beautiful site to see.  You can actually opt to trek to the base of Mendenhall as well.  I didn’t think that I would ever see anything more beautiful until Skagway

Awesome 8 Mile Bike Ride

Mendenhall Glacier

Skagway is by far one of my most favorite places on earth.  This old mining town, turned into a touristy port city, was charming.  Walking in the town was like a scene out of an old John Wayne western movie.

What made this port life changing for me personally was not the town but what we selected to do while where were in Skagway.  We chose to take the Skagway Alpine Hike Adventure and White Pass Railway.  This was a full day strenuous activity but it was one of my life changing moments.  Mostly because I was able to complete it and it will always be a personal victory for me.

This full day began with a breathtaking ride in a vintage rail car through the original route to the White Pass Summit.  We passed Bridal Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch.  The view of the mountains, gorges and one of the last remaining wood trestles left me speechless.  Then the hike… oh dear. These very experienced guides loaded us each with a small back pack of food to sustain use during the climb. The Train literally dropped us of in the middle of know where and off we went into the woods and began our climb through trails, meadows, rivers and caves.

Yummy energy sustaining food being prepared while on our way to the summit

Breath Taking Views from the train on the way up

The crew we hiked with

The guides provided us with continuous history & helpful safety instructions the entire way. (like please dont get to close to the glacier holes or you will fall in) The funniest part of this story is that Mike and I were the oldest in this crew.  We are not really old, we are in our 50s but so many people assume that cruising to Alaska is for an older generation. This is such a myth!  Cruising to Alaska is for all ages.   This hike will be forever in my memory.

Thank goodness the next day was a relaxing day on ship slowly weaving through the network of islands on the Pacific Coast.  I took advantage of the Jacuzzi this day to make sure my muscles got the special treatment they deserved after our trip to Skagway.

We enjoyed these two sea days actually.  I learned how to play 21 at the Casino, took advantage of the Gaming Classes they offered (at no cost, I guess they figured that if they could teach you how to game, they would eventually get your money when you played) I actually had fun and won $112. Small fish I know but I left the casino with more than I came in with.  Mike, on the other hand, not so lucky!

Our last port of call for our Alaskan adventure was Victoria, British Columbia.  On this day, we actually pulled up into an unimpressive port.  It was rather gray and colorless.  I thought to myself, “oh dear, this is not what I pictured in my head”.   What I did discover, however, is that only a 1 mile walk from the pier opens up into this beautiful place reminiscent of Old England.  The Parliament Building, Chinatown, and more antique stores in one area that I have ever seen before.  This is a perfect relaxing strolling city.

We ended our 7 night cruise back in Seattle.  Disembarkation was simple and easy and Celebrity really has their exit program very well organized.  I was actually very sad to leave this vacation.  My skin wasn’t tanned, I didn’t have sand in my suitcase, and I wasn’t carrying a bag of souvenirs and an excessive amount of sun hats.

What I was carrying is this new enlightened feeling of clarity, energy and a new respect for nature.  Nature as I have never seen it before. Nature that I had no ideal was so powerful.  Life changing. Alaska feels different, smells & tastes different.  It is simply a different experience that I can never write about fully for you to understand because it’s a feeling.

For your next vacation, write down a list of things that are important to you and have your travel companion do the same.  Most often you will find that you have the same wants.  Good food, comfort, relaxation, entertainment. Destinations could be total polar opposites.

Then do the unexpected, say “yes”.   Try something new, it could change your life.

We’re Going Back! Join Us July 1, 2016

We loved our Alaskan cruise vacation so much we want to share this amazing destination with others who have always dreamed of visiting Alaska.

If you have wanted to hike, bike, fish, see the brown bear, take amazing pictures and experience amazing one of a kind scenery, this is vacation is for you! All part of this journey on the premium cruise line, Celebrity.

Contact Lisa for more details.

This week’s newsletter is dedicated to my husband Michael for whom I will always be thankful to for saying Yes, on so many levels.

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