The Honeymoon: An Alaskan Cruisetour

We've finally returned from our honeymoon in Alaska. We had an amazing time and have many, many pictures to share. Here is a log of all that went on - pictures will follow soon!

Thursday, July 22nd: Minneapolis
Scott and I drove down to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area the day before our flight was scheduled to depart. We left Fargo around 11am and arrived in the cities around 3pm where we met up with my friend, Kelly, and her two daughters, Lauren (9) and Masen (3). We met at a Starbucks and proceeded to a local park where the girls could play and Kelly, Scott and I could talk. We left the park at 5pm and headed for Nancy & Craig’s house in Apple Valley. That evening, we played Bingo with my cousin Laura and some of her friends. We didn’t win anything but had a great time!

Friday, July 23rd: Vancouver, British Columbia (Click Here for Photos)
Nancy took us to the airport at 7:30 in the morning. Our flight was delayed by about an hour due to technical problems but we finally arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia around noon. It was the most beautiful airport that Scott and I had ever seen. From the airport, we were taken by charter bus to the cruise ship. Boarding the cruise ship was pretty interesting but they were able to get us through all the security and registration very quickly. The ship left port at 6pm. We were scheduled to leave at 5pm but some of the guests were on a bus from Seattle and late to arrive. That evening, we had dinner in the dining room where we met our dinner guests. Dinner was casual. Before dinner, we attended the Los Diablos Gauchos show in the Masquerade Theatre. The show was a husband/wife couple who did the tango and other complicated dances. On the ship, there were guests from 38 different countries and staff from 58 different countries.
• Jim & Michelle – couple from Minneapolis. They have an 18 year old daughter and a 21 year old son that they left at home.
• Roland – a gentleman from Portugal. He’s a lawyer with a son, daughter and a 3 year old grandson. Roland bought lots and lots of gifts for his grandson throughout the trip.
• Margaret – a woman from Ireland. She’s a grandma with 3 grandkids (ages 3, 5 and 7) and one due in September.

Saturday, July 24th: Cruising the Inner Passage (Click Here for Photos)
We started our day by attending a presentation on the shopping in the port cities. After finding it was mostly shopping for jewelry and gems, Scott and I left to pursue other interests. We found Bingo on the ship and paid $35 per person to play. It wasn’t as much fun as playing with Laura in the cities and we didn’t have very good luck. Scott came close once or twice to having a bingo but that was about it. After Bingo, we took a video tour of the cruise ship and had some lunch at the Windjammer Café. The Windjammer offers an all-you-can-eat buffet and was one of our favorite places for breakfast and lunch.

That evening, we attended the Captain’s Reception where we were introduced to Captain Michael Roy and the heads of the crew of the ship. Free champagne was served and there was some dancing with live music from Moses & the Highbrows, the ship's band. The dinner was a formal night and we had our picture taken with Captain Michael before heading down to dinner. Scott had the salmon and said that it was excellent. We attended the show that evening as well but found it was better suited for an older crowd and left early for bed.

Sunday, July 25th: Ketchikan (Click Here for Photos)
Today was our first port stop: Ketchikan. Ketchikan has a population of ~8,000 and gets 13 feet of rain a year! We docked at 7am and did a little exploring of the town before we loaded a bus for our first shore excursion, a Wilderness Cruise and Rainforest Exploration. We boarded a motorized inflatatble yellow boat that took us to Butten Island where we explored the Alaskan rainforest with trees 2500 years old. The soil is so poor in Alaska that the roots grow horizontally, rather than vertically and the growth of new trees in the rainforest were dependant upon “nurse trees”. Nurse trees are trees that have been blown over by the wind and are a good source of nitrogen and other nutrients for new trees to grow. Due to the temperatures in Alaska, it can take 80-100 years for a tree to completely decompose. The hike through the rainforest was approximately a mile and afterwards salmon, cheese and juice were served.

We were taken back to the ship where Scott and I had lunch and watched as the ship left the port. We tried our luck in the casino on the ship. Scott did pretty well at first but I lost it all. Whales were spotted off the side of the ship that evening. There were very far away and occasionally, we could see a tiny bit of tail or a water spout. Dinner that night was casual and the theme was Italy.

Monday, July 26th: Skagway (Click Here for Photos)
We docked in Skagway at 10am. Skagway has a population of ~800. It’s a beautiful city and the water in the harbor was a beautiful blue-green from the glaciers. We did some shopping for souvenirs for all our family. After lunch, we boarded a van for the Chinook Horse Stables for a horseback riding adventure. I rode a horse named Lucky and Scott rode Liberty. We rode through a trail in the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. The scenery was beautiful and we spent an hour and 45 minutes on the horses. After our shore excursion, we headed back to the ship and rushed to shower and change before our 8:30 dinner. Our dinner guest, Michelle, was allergic to horses and we didn’t want to cause her any discomfort.

After dinner, we went to the theatre to see the “Love & Marriage Game”. It was set up in a similar fashion to “The Newlywed Game”. Scott and I decided to enter the random drawing. Our number was the first one called! We did pretty well, 6 of our answers matched out of 8. We were tied for 1st place and got a free bottle of champagne. The crazy part was that from that point on, we were recognized everywhere we went. People would come up to us and say they had seen the show or count the number of days we had been married (18 on the night of the show). It was truly our 15 minutes of fame. We found out later that the show aired on Channel 28 of the cruise ship television for 2 days straights – 48 times a day! It was no wonder people recognized us everywhere we went!

Tuesday, July 27th: Juneau (Click Here for Photos)
Juneau is a city that is only accessible by air or by sea. It is completely surrounded by an ice field so there are no roads to access Juneau. Our shore excursion that day was the Mendenhall Glacier & Wildlife Quest. The Mendenhall Glacier was amazing! It was so massive and beautiful. The sky was overcast which made the blue of the glacier even more noticeable. I could feel the chill in the air coming from the glacier. We spent about 45 minutes at the glacier before leaving for Auke Bay. At Auke Bay, we boarded a waterjet-powered catamaran and cruised the open water looking for wildlife. We saw Bald Eagles, harbor seals, Stellar sea lions, porpoises, and many, many humpback whales. At first we spotted a mother and her calf but later we were able to see a pod of whales create a bubble net to catch fish. A bubble net is where several whales work together to create a “net” of bubbles which engulfs the fish. The fish are not smart enough to know they cannot swim through the bubble net and the whales swim up from the bottom with their mouths open and swallow all the fish. It was a pretty spectacular sight. After the tour, we explored Juneau in the rain a bit before heading back to the ship. After dinner, we participated in the Adult Scavenger Hunt.

Wednesday, July 28th: Icy Strait Point (Click Here for Photos)
We went ashore in small boats called tenders. There are the same ships we would use if we needed to evacuate the ship. Each boat has room for 150 people. We were taken to Icy Strait to see the cannery museum and then walked 2 miles to the town of Hoonah. It was a small fishing village. It was a refreshing change because Hoonah didn’t have 41 jewelry stores right along the port. We explored the town a little and stopped in a local café where Scott sampled the halibut pizza. He said it was pretty good. We headed back to Icy Strait to board the tenders back to the ship. Dinner that night was our second formal night. Scott and I both had shrimp and lobster for dinner. It was delicious!

Thursday, July 29th: Hubbard Glacier (Click Here for Photos)
We visited the Hubbard Glacier in the morning from 7am to 9am. It was amazing. The glacier was enormous, over 3 miles wide, and the waters around it had many, many icebergs that had broken off from the glacier. It was a little eerie in the fog and the theme from “Titanic” went through my mind. Sitting on many of the icebergs were harbor seals. They looked like little brown bananas. If you watched the glacier long enough, you could see the ice begin to crack and fall off from the glacier and into the water. The crack sounded like thunder! When the ice fell into the water, it created some enormous waves too. I had my jacket and mittens on because it was so chilly.

After lunch, we attended a towel folding demonstration. During the week when our rooms were made up, the stateroom attendant would make little animals out of the towels. We found a rabbit, an elephant and a monkey in our room! At 2pm, we attended the Nautical Notes presented by Captain Michael. We learned quite a bit about the ship and the process to run it. It was very interesting. We returned to our room to attempt to pack our bags. We had way too much stuff and not enough space in our bags! Before dinner, we attended our final show. It was a comedian named Kelly McDonald. He was very, very funny and very clean. It was a great show. (Cat with contacts story). After the show was our final dinner with Jim, Michelle, Roland and Margaret. We all exchanged information so we could keep in touch and then went to bed.

Friday, July 30th: Seward (Click Here for Photos)
Our ship docked in Seward at 3:00am. We awoke at 6am to have a quick breakfast and then sat in a public lounge waiting for the colored tags on our luggage to be called. At 9:30, our tags were finally called and we left the ship to board a coach bus. The bus took us to Big Game National Refuge. The refuge rehabilitates injured animals in the hopes of returning them to the wild. Basically, it was an over-glorified petting zoo. We saw a 3 year old grizzly bear (Hugo), black bears, caribou, moose, black-tailed Sitka deer, bison, porcupine, bald eagles and a Siberian wild boar.

After viewing the refuge, we boardeded the bus and were taken to downtown Anchorage where we stopped for lunch. Scott and I dined at Rumrummers Bar & Grill where we learned just how expensive meals in Alaska can be. After lunch, we headed to the Anchorage Native Heritage Center where we spent a few hours exploring the native Alaskan people and their ancient cultures and homes.

After viewing the heritage center, we were taken back to Anchorage and dropped of at our hotel, the Marriot. The hotel was amazing! The room was enormous with a king-size bed with a feather comforter and pillows. It was heavenly! The bathroom in the hotel was almost the same size as our room on the cruise ship. We went to find a place for dinner at Orca’s. Their lunch menu was relatively reasonable so we thought the dinner would be as well. We were wrong. Dinner cost us $65 and then we went out and found a street vendor selling hot dogs.

Saturday, July 31st: Anchorage/Denali National Park (Click Here for Photos)
We loaded the bus from the Anchorage at 9am and drove to the Alaska Veterans Memorial for a box lunch. The memorial is an outdoor recreational area to honor all of Alaska’s veterans. On a clear day, it has a great view of Mt. McKinley. Our guide said the best time to see the mountain was between 4 and 6am. We got into the town of Denali around 3pm. We stayed at the Grand Denali Hotel located on a hill, about a mile up and overlooking the town. It was a beautiful and rustic place to stay. That night, we had dinner at the Black Diamond Restaurant. Black Diamond also had a golf course and due to the thawing of the permafrost, the land changes almost daily. One man told us we’d never play the same course twice!

We dined with a family from Panama. We had run into them here and there on the cruise ship and they sat near us on the bus so we got to know them pretty well. Joe is an independent architect from North Carolina. He is married to Maria, a native Panamanian and they have two children, Jose (5) and Michelle (8). Joe is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Panama for the last 20 years.

After dinner, we took a horse drawn wagon ride around the north side of Denali National Park. The wagon ride was a lot of fun and we were able to see some moose and wolf tracks in the ground. We visited the world’s largest natural gravel pit, Dry Creek and ended up in a little remote cabin for hot chocolate and apple cobbler. We got back at 11:30 at night and it was still bright out!

Sunday, August 1st: Denali (Click Here for Photos)
We spent the night at the Grand Denali Lodge. It was a rainy day so Scott and I slept in until 9:30 and then took a shuttle from the hotel to the town of Denali. There were lots of tourist shops and we bought a few little souvenirs. We had an old-time picture taken at the Old Sourdough Studio in the McKinley Chalet. The picture was of us dressed all in furs like the old gold rushers in front of a cabin. It was pretty cool! Look for it on our Christmas cards!

We had lunch at the #1 recommended restaurant in Denali by the natives. We ate at Bub’s Subs. The food was fantastic and they were enormous! Scott ordered a 12 inch philly cheese steak and couldn’t finish it! After lunch, we stopped by the Denali National Park Visitor’s Center. There wasn’t too much there, watched a short video and left on the shuttle back to the hotel. That evening, we had our final excursion. It was a flightseeing tour over the Alaska Range and around Mt. McKinley. We were on a little 8 seated airplane and the ride was a little rough for me. I got kind of nauseous but the view was spectacular! We got within 100 yards of the great mountain.

Monday, August 2nd: Denali (Click Here for Photos)
We boarded a school bus for the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park. The tour lasted 8 hours and we saw Dall sheep, caribou, grizzly bears, wolf pups, Ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), Pikas (rabbit-type animal), Arctic ground squirrel and a Golden Eagle. The bus took us 60 miles into the park on the only road in the 6 ½ million acre park. It was one of the highlights of the trip. The wildlife was fantastic as was seeing so much of the park.

After the tour, we loaded the buses which took us to the train station. We boarded the glass-domed train cars and set out for Fairbanks. The train was really comfortable and Jose and I bonded on the ride. We arrived in Fairbanks around 8pm and were taken to our hotel. We stayed at Sophie State in a suite. Our hotel room could have been a one-bedroom apartment.

Tuesday, August 3rd: Fairbanks
We were taken to the airport at 8:30am for a 10:30 flight. We flew from Fairbanks to Anchorage. We had a two hour layover in Anchorage and we almost missed our flight because it took so long to get through security. The flight from Anchorage to Minneapolis was 5 hours. It was a long flight but Nancy and Craig picked us up at the airport and we spent the night at their house.

Wednesday, August 4th: Minneapolis
We left Nancy and Craig’s at about 10am and got home to Fargo at 2pm. It was good to be home. Now, about that laundry…