A first-class voyage to witness the awesome power of nature, with stunning ports of call along the way
Having been on the chilly deck for more than two hours a hot drink and sinus clearing snifter were uppermost in my thoughts. Before escaping to the bar I took a final glance at the mini Icebergs drifting past. Suddenly a humpback whale broke the surface launching itself upwards before crashing back into the icy depths, its mighty fluke disappearing in the churning waters. Onlookers appeared spellbound having witnessed this memorable leviathan experience.
Our Alaskan cruise aboard Grand Princess began in Seattle a splendid city of impressive waterfront and vibrant atmosphere. Home from home for the week our Grand Princess lived up to her enviable reputation. At almost 1,000 feet long and carrying 2,600 passengers she is a large cruise vessel however there are plenty of quiet corners. On-board facilities are first class, four pool areas, a nine hole putting course, outdoor cinema and spa complete with fitness centre. You can hit the casino or lose more pounds on the jogging track although we preferred a powerwalk along the wraparound deck.
Following a day at sea where various quizzes, lectures and scavenger hunt proved popular the ship arrived at the first port Ketchikan the salmon capital of the world. Make for Creek Street formerly the Red Light district where colourful restored buildings precariously perch on their wooden pilings above the river teeming with salmon. On the Rainforest Walk a bear was spotted tucking into his salmon dinner, an easy to trap morsel in the shallow stream below the viewing platform. Further along a Reindeer herd nonchalantly munched away as a pair of Eagles wheeled overhead. Returning to the starting point the group admired a marvellous display of Totem Poles.
Back on-board a mean G&T in the ‘Crooners’ bar sets you up nicely for dinner.
The cuisine was excellent and imaginative whilst the service was all smiles. We plumped for ‘Anytime Dining’ which gives you the flexibility to dine when and with whom you want.
Sailing to the next landfall Juneau Grand Princess cruised the majestic Tracy Arm Fjord, being only one and half miles wide the pine trees sweeping down to the water’s edge seemed close enough to touch. Juneau the state capital although inaccessible by road welcomes over 700,000 visitors between May and September most arriving by ship. To appreciate the spectacular location take the tramway up to Mt Roberts for panoramic views before heading to the Red Dog Saloon a relic from the gold rush days. Behind swinging doors this honky-tonk bar is buzzing, the legendary Wyatt Earp checked his gun in but never reclaimed it, which is now proudly displayed behind the bar. In its rumbustious heyday you can imagine Wyatt playing a hand of faro whilst a line of high kicking show gals strutted their stuff. Returning to the ship laden with goodies we were entranced by a family of Sea Otters frolicking virtually by the harbour wall.
Our final Alaskan port was Skagway, surrounded by towering mountains this former mining town is full of quaint buildings and wooden walkways. The White Pass narrow gauge railway should not be missed a three hours journey climbing through the mountains over old wooden bridges passing waterfalls and rivers before crossing into Canada. I would advise you to book your trips early as the popular ones sell out pronto.
In the evening we caught the early show ‘The British Invasion’ in the Princess theatre afterwards sampling the superb Sabatini’s Italian restaurant. For late night revellers or for a night-cap finish off in the ‘One 5’ night club where English DJ Matt plays the right music to fit the mood.
Following a late night a leisurely day at sea was enjoyed prior to our evenings call at Victoria. After the homespun charm of Alaska Victoria was a cultural change. Beautifully illuminated at night it is an elegant city.
Disembarking at Seattle we extended our stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
A hit list of tourist attractions took in the Space Needle, world famous aquarium and harbour tour. Buy a ‘Seattle City Pass’ which will give you reductions on the main tourist sights. The heartbeat of the city is Pike’s Place Market where staff of the Pike’s Place Fish company renowned for their crazy antics send flying fish whizzing from one to the other.
The cruise to Alaska had been a travel experience where the awesome power of mother-nature rules, no wonder so many visitors say they were privileged to have been there.
Princess Cruises offer various Alaskan cruises which include return flights from the UK. For further info: Tel: 0843 374 2401
website: www.princess.com/goFor Seattle City Pass info: www.citypass.com/seattle
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Seattle www.crowneplaza.com/seattle