Alaska (conclusion)

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This was our last port of call before disembarkation. This was also the first time we saw significant rain during our trip. It was raining pretty hard when we got off the ship but this was to be expected considering the annual rainfall in Ketchikan is measured in feet - not inches. The rain stopped after an hour but the sky remained overcast the rest of the day.

As we were heading to the souvenir shops along the dock, Traci spotted a shuttle bus that had a Walmart sign taped to the window. Traci and I hopped on the bus and headed to Walmart. Traci was still trying to find a nice Alaskan - themed photo album. Every souvenir shop we had been in from Fairbanks to Ketchikan all seemed to have the same albums, which were either too small for 5x7s or you could not add pages to them. Unfortunately, Walmart was also selling the same photo albums. However, we noticed the souvenirs in Walmart were a little cheaper so we bought a few things. We caught the shuttle back to the dock and boarded another shuttle for the Totem Pole Tour.

At this point in our trip, we were pretty much toured out. It also didn't help the situation to have a very monotone tour guide who seemed to have very little knowledge of Alaska, the Totem Poles, or the people who built them. During the ride to the Totem Pole Village, our tour guide managed to put most of the passengers to sleep with his unenthusiastic narration.

The Totem Pole Village was interesting, though. There were several totem poles displayed along with a typical clan house of the period. The house was like the ones we had already seen at the Native Alaskan Heritage Center in Achorage. Part of the totem pole tour required us to walk along a path through the woods. This was where I saw one of the coolest things I had seen on the trip - a bear den. Our guide told us no bears had occupied it in years. However, to me, seeing this den was an unexpected treat.

totem tour

Totem Tour

bear den

bear den

After the tour, we had about and hour and half before we had to be back on the ship. Traci and I checked out some more souvenir shops around the dock area in hopes of finding the perfect photo album. At one point, we wandered into a 5 and dime store. This is where we struck gold - twice. There was a display advertising some construction paper cut outs of Alaskan themes such as eagles, spruce trees, bears, etc... They were very nicely done and only cost a few cents. Traci's eyes lit up. She decided to buy the cut outs and use them to decorate the cover of an ordinary photo album when we got back to Pennsylvania. The photo album turned out really nice.

I mentioned we struck gold twice in that 5 and dime store. Up until now, I never mentioned what type of souvenirs I was looking for. I normally like to buy souvenirs that are unique (or relatively unique) to the places we visit. In most cases, this turns out to be some type of food or music. On this trip, the souvenirs I was seeking were the syrups, jellies, and jams that were made from Alaskan plants. I saw these items in just about every store we entered from Denali to Ketchikan; however, I had no opportunity to taste them - not even on the ship. Fortunately, there was a nice lady in the 5 and dime store that told us about a souvenir shop a few blocks away on Creek Street that lets you taste these syrups and jellies. So, we headed to Creek Street to have a look around and to do some tasting.

Creek Street is a small boardwalk that has souvenir shops, eateries, and a small museum. It used to be a red-light district during the Gold Rush days. We found the souvenir shop we were looking for and began our taste tests. We tried rosehip jam, spruce tip jelly, salmonberry jelly, fireweed jelly, fireweed honey, and birch syrup. My favorites were the spruce tip jelly and salmonberry jelly. My least favorite was the fireweed honey. I bought small jars of the jellies I liked for myself and a few friends. I also bought the birch syrup, which tasted pretty good at the time. However, I tried it on my pancakes when I got back to Pennsylvania and I had to disagree with my earlier assessment in Alaska. It tasted like I had poured Robitussin cough syrup on my pancakes. Yuck!!!

tasting jams and jellies

Traci tasting Alaskan jams

Ketchikan was our last port of call. We were beginning to realize the trip we had been planning for and looking forward to was quickly coming to an end. We had one full day at sea before we reached Vancouver. We used this time to take advantage of the ship activities and to pack. Princess provided disembarkation instructions and colored luggage tags that correspond to you disembarkation time slot. We packed and left our bags outside our cabins as we were instructed to do.

Disembarkation - Vancouver, Canada:

 
 

It was an overcast morning when we arrived in Vancouver. We had our final breakfast in the dining room and then waited for our tag color to be called. Princess asked passengers not to crowd the main atrium waiting to be called; however, there was still a mob there.

Our tag color was called about two hours after the first group disembarked. A short time later we were on a Princess bus headed for the Vancouver airport. The bus driver gave us a short tour of the city. At one point, he slowed the bus down so that we could see a coyote strolling through a residential neighborhood. I didn't have my video camera out, so I wasn't able to get any shots. Vancouver looked like an interesting place to explore. Unfortunately, we had a plane to catch that afternoon. For anyone planning an Alaska cruise, I recommend arriving a day early and leaving a day later than the cruise itinerary begin and end dates if you have the time and finances to do so.

In no time, we were on a plane headed for Philadelphia via Detroit. Traci and I ended up getting upgraded to first class from Vancouver to Detroit because the airline had somehow managed to assign us to the same seats as another couple. This turned out to be an unexpected treat. The rest of the flight was uneventful until our approach to Philadelphia International Airport. There was a severe thunderstorm in progress that tossed our plane around like an amusement park ride. The pilot had to abort his first landing attempt and circle the airport until the conditions improved. He was able to put the plane on the ground safely about twenty minutes later. Everyone on the plane began to applaud.

Our Alaska trip had come to an end. It was time to go home and put together photo albums, edit video, and to tell all our friends and family about our wonderful Alaskan vacation.

Overall Impression:

I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone who has an interest in nature and/or history. This trip is not really geared towards the party crowd. There were parties on the ship but they were pretty tame. However, there is always something fun to do on the ship no matter what age you are. Most of the passengers appeared to be 55 and older. I saw very few children and almost no one who appeared to be in the 20s and 30s age ranges.

I recommend doing a southbound itinerary if you plan to spend any time in Alaska's interior. The land portion can become grueling with the bus rides and overnights. The southbound itinerary allows you to unpack and relax for seven days onboard the ship after you have done the fast-paced land portion of the trip. Also, if possible, plan to arrive a day early and to stay a day later than your cruise itinerary's begin and end dates.

If you are going to Alaska in hopes of seeing wildlife, I suggest you bring a good pair of binoculars and a good luck charm. Alaska is so big that the chance you will see animals up close, like they appear on television nature programs, is slim.

I would cruise with Princess again. They are very organized, outstanding with luggage handling, and offer many diverse shore excursions. Their online pre-registration is great; although, the site was slow at times. For Alaskan cruises, I believe Princess is the way to go. Main Page...

Magnets Purchased on this Trip: (click to enlarge)

Alaska Alaska Fairbanks Entire fridge magnet collection...

 


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