Thinking Cool Thoughts Of Alaska
Is there, by any chance, anyone reading this who is NOT going to Alaska this year? Judging by the number and size of the ships that I see lining up at the piers of Seattle every weekend, it seems like everyone is heading north. Alaska and the Inside Passage have become the, excuse the expression, hottest summer cruise destinations (heat being something that should just never be associated with Alaska).
I've done the journey three times on three different ships, and I have to admit that Alaska delivers some remarkable experiences if you can get away from the hordes shopping for t-shirts and souvenirs in Ketchikan and Sitka. One year, my wife and I arranged a private tour in a floatplane that picked us up from the ship in Skagway and took off on a fantastic inland flight that we'll never forget. We saw bears ambling through the forest, glaciers calving huge blocks of ice, and we landed on a pristine lake, taxied to the shore, and had a picnic in the wilderness.
On another trip, I booked a kayak excursion on Haines Lake, a glorious, glacial-blue gumdrop of water surrounded by tall, snow-capped mountains, and when we reached a remote part of the shore, we saw bright-red salmon spawning. And then, as if on cue from Central Casting, a black bear emerged from the woods and sniffed around water's edge for a salmon dinner as we sat twenty yards offshore in our boats, slack-jawed like idiots and wondering how fast bears can swim.
Finding your own special something is key to enjoying a cruise. One guy I met on a ship brought along his bicycle, and at every port he would pedal off in search of the town dump. Why the town dump? Because there were always bound to be bears sniffing around. I'm not sure I'd want to spend my vacation visiting dumps (imagine the pictures you'd bring home), but the bear sightings were pretty neat. On another cruise with my family, my teenaged son Mike and I went looking for a community center in Ketchikan, where we played basketball with local kids for two hours. That isn't on the beaten tourist path, but it was a great way for us to experience some local culture and connect Mike's interests to our trip.
So the question for today is, What are your favorite things to do on an Alaska cruise? And to all of our readers who are heading north this summer, happy travels, and I hope you can paddle faster than a bear can swim.