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Continuing from Alaska with Princess Cruises

During the 7-day roundtrip Alaska voyage on Crown Princess, we would disembark at different ports of call to explore the place on our own or join the pre-booked shore excursions.

Crown Princess departed from Seattle in the afternoon and sailed for two days before arriving into Juneau, Alaska. The ship continued northbound to Skagway, the “sunshine” capital of southeast Alaska where it was a bustling town for gold miners in the 19th century.

The fifth day of sailing brought us back to the Ice Age – we were navigated into Glacier Bay National Park for a day of scenic cruising. Overnight, the ship cruised through the passage and approached Ketchikan, the charming waterfront town also known as the salmon capital of the world.

On the last leg of the voyage, Crown Princess sailed along the Canadian Coastline and docked at the port of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada in the evening so we had a couple of hours to explore the picturesque port city. The ship returned to Seattle the very next day in the morning hours.

 

Ports: Seattle – Juneau – Skagway – Glacier Bay – Ketchikan – Victoria – Seattle

 

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Juneau

Juneau is the only U.S capital accessible by boat or plane! Some of the main attractions of Juneau are the Mendenhall Glacier, whale watching and spawning salmon.

We were on a shore excursion for whale watching and to visit Mendenhall Glacier. The coach took us to Auke Bay where we boarded a catamaran and sailed through the passage while soaking in the spectacular views of snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The onboard naturalist would give commentary on the areas and spot the whales. Humpbacks and orcas are very common sightings in the waters of the Inside Passage, and we actually spotted a few whales on the cruise.

We left the seats and got out to the deck, balancing ourselves on the bumpy ride while keeping our eyes peeled and holding on to the camera waiting for the whale to breach the surface. We were told that these gorgeous creatures spend the summer months in the Alaskan waters and later head back to Hawaii and Maui during the mating season.

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Though we didn’t manage to see any whale leaping high up into the air for that Nat Geo moment, we spotted a couple of whales surfacing and spouting, showing off their massive tails before disappearing into the depth. It was a memorable whale watching experience in Alaska.

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After whale watching, the coach took us to the famous Mendenhall Glacier that dates back to the Little Ice Age. From across the lake with floating icebergs, we could see the massive face of the Mendenhall Glacier, which is believed to be retreating and shrinking due to climate change.

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Skagway

Crown Princess docked within walking distance of downtown Skagway so it was easy for everyone onboard to get off the ship to visit the historic town for local food and souvenirs. There is even a brothel where you can see ladies dressed in traditional costumes waving at people on the street.

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Skagway Old Town, which is within walking distance from the pier.

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The picturesque backdrop of the old town with snow-capped mountains.

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We joined the shore excursion for a roundtrip to White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The coach stopped over at Carcross, Canada, home to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. We walked around the community area where there are stores and galleries, and relics of the past during the gold rush era for photo opportunities. You can even get a Carcross stamp on your passport here.

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In less than an hour’s time, we boarded the vintage train and rode into the remote wilderness to Lake Bennett. There was a short layover at Bennett where passengers could visit the White Pass museum and explore the historic gold rush town. We had to re-board the train to continue the journey on Yukon Route Railroad.

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It was a scenic journey by coach and vintage train into the enchanting wilderness of the Canadian border. We were given a yummy lunch pack during the train ride so it was pretty enjoyable to tuck in as the crew provided commentary of the passing scenery.

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Don’t miss the ship! At the end of the shore excursion, we made our way back to Crown Princess in the evening.

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Glacier Bay 

The ship glided through Glacier Bay National Park and brought us back to the Ice Age! A small team of park rangers came onboard to offer narration and shared knowledge about the spectacular tidewater glaciers and wildlife, such as the humpback whales. It was so pristine and untouched; of course, there are no roads to Glacier Bay. To protect the park, only two cruise ships may enter each day.

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According to scientists, most of the glaciers in Alaska are retreating, stagnant or thinning due to climate change. Glacier Bay is a rarity to have a few healthy and advancing glaciers, thanks to the heavy snowfall in the mountains.

Everyone was very excited on the open decks, all trigger-ready to take the best shots of massive glaciers with icebergs floating around, and hoping to see ice calving and hear them ‘pop’ as chunks of ice broke off from the face of the glacier and splashed into the water.

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Margerie Glacier is perhaps the most photographed tidewater glacier of the bay. We were lucky to be treated with ice calving of the glacier. It was amazing to witness the natural phenomenon right before the eyes and hear the loud cracking sound of the calving.

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We were given a Glacier Bay map that includes information on tidewater glaciers, whales, flora and fauna in the bay. There was a presentation by a park ranger at the theater and audience can ask questions about the national park.

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Ketchikan

This charming port city is the “Salmon Capital of the World” as it’s renowned for its thriving salmon fishery. A short walk from the ship will take you to lovely waterfront town for sightseeing and shopping for canned or vacuum-packed salmon to bring home. If lucky, you can even see salmon spawning in the river.

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We went for the shore excursion to visit Totem Bight State Park, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ketchikan. It is a leisure walk along the rainforest trails to an old native campsite with colourful poles, before entering the totem park where the Saxman’s Beaver Clan tribal house, believed to be the world’s largest, is located.

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The main features of the park are the intricately carved and painted totem poles erected by the native Tlingit and Haida Indian cultures. In fact, Ketchikan has the largest collection of totem poles in the world. The totem poles are a representation of Alaskan native art.

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We entered into this souvenir store that has so many wildlife decors around, such as moose head, polar bear, walrus, deer and more; it’s quite an eye-opener for city people like us.

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Besides being the salmon capital of the world, gold and copper were discovered in the surrounding mountains, and thereafter, Ketchikan flourished as the supply center. The timber industry took off and now there are such attractions like the 1-hour long Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show presenting Ketchikan’s pioneer beginnings, with the Alaskan lumberjacks versus Canadian lumberjacks in fun-filled competitions like chopping, sawing, axe throwing, log rolling and so on, plus lot of interactions and cheering from the crowd.

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Victoria, B.C

Before returning to Seattle, Crown Princess sailed along the Canadian coastline en route to Victoria in the evening. Victoria is said to be the oldest, most “British” city in western Canada, with British colonial style architectural landmarks and Victorian mansions.

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From the pier, take a shuttle bus for a 7-minute ride or a 30-minute walk to downtown Victoria. We only had a couple of hours to roam around in the area so we headed to the inner harbour where thousands of lightbulbs adorned the legislative buildings and walkways, casting a magical glow in the coming of night.

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The downtown was thronged with tourists browsing through souvenir shops where you can find everything Canadian such as pure maple syrup, maple cookies and fashion retailers. For the sweet tooth, there are confectionaries selling chocolate candies and delights.

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Tourists on the horse carriage to tour around the town.

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Sunset in Victoria

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In just 7 days, from the vintage train ride along the picturesque White Pass summit & Yukon route, to whale-watching and scenic cruising at Glacier Bay, the mouth-watering food and fun-filled entertainments onboard, all summed up – a memorable cruise of a lifetime. Till next time. I look forward to our next cruise vacation.

Read all posts on Alaska Princess Cruises.

For more information on the Alaska cruise, find out from Princess Cruises.