Wednesday: I am standing on the banks of Tutshi Lake, in British Columbia, near the border of the Yukon Territory, taking in the most breath-taking view I have ever seen. Other than the Klondike Highway, there is no sign of civilization in any direction. Not a house, telephone pole, or a billboard. The indescribably green water reflects the jagged granite mountain peaks, thinly covered with spruce and lichen. The air is cold and fresh and smells like evergreen. THIS is what I came for.
When we booked our cruise to Alaska, I imagined we would be onboard ship, happily clicking photos of passing wildlife and glaciers. Perhaps an onshore excursion to see the local scenery, then umbrella drinks at the jacuzzi. Thankfully, it has been so much more than that!
The bus tour today has reached 75 miles from Skagway, Alaska, through parts of British Columbia, into the Yukon Territory in Canada. As we climbed in elevation, the rainy weather fell below us and ever-changing terrain broke into the sunshine. Our tour guide shared history, geography, local flora and fauna, and tips on where to get the best coffee. To my daughter’s disappointment, we did not see a live moose, but got close photos of both a wild black bear and a grizzly. We visited a dog sled camp, a miniature desert, and travelled above the tree line. The tour was simply amazing.
Travel Advice: Get off the ship. Take guided tours to see as much as you can. The umbrella drinks will be there when you get back.
Thursday: We just sailed by a glacier, in a fjord lined with solid walls of granite. I have never seen water the color it appears here – the guide told us it is due to the runoff water from the granite depositing silt into the fjords. It is a creamy malachite green, more vivid than the trees. My husband has been taking photos since dawn. He actually brought his terabyte hard drive to download the pictures off his camera. I believe he has taken more than 8,000 photos this week.
Travel Advice: Bring more film or camera memory than you think you need! Too much is never enough.
Today was spent at sea, cruising to our next destination – Victoria, British Columbia. During previous cruises, our kids loved the children’s programs, and we had to drag them out to eat meals with us. This trip, they are both young teenagers, and after a try or two, declared the onboard teen program “lame” and refused to go. So we have been accompanied by a 13 year old girl and a 15 year old boy everywhere we have gone. I have enjoyed spending time with them, but they are growing bored. Their expectations from the last cruise have overshadowed this one.
Travel Advice: For days at sea, plan even more activities for teens than for younger kids. They get bored faster!
Taking advantage of free classes and workshops on the ship, we have learned how to fold napkins into crowns and towels into monkey shapes, made jewelry, and even scrapbooked. Our family shares a love of trivia, so we attended at least one trivia challenge each day. Why weren’t we lounging by the pool? Well, the indoor pool was restricted to adults, and the outdoor pool sported both a 30 knot headwind, and a top temperature of 56 degrees. Even boredom is better than frostbite.
Friday: Our final day of vacation was spent in Victoria, British Columbia. We had intended to go on a whale watch through the cruiseline, but the price was exorbitant, so we decided to take a taxi into town. Luckily, the cab driver offered to take us on a tour of the city for a very reasonable fee. We toured beautiful residential areas, scenic hills and historic sites.
Travel Advice: Booking shore excursions through the cruiseline is usually the most expensive route. Consider independent tour lines or local services.
Our family loved travelling the Inside Passage and touring parts of Alaska and Canada. While it lacked the warm pool-side attractions of the Caribbean, it certainly packed in more adventure, wildlife, and new thrills. I am sure we will be talking about this trip for years to come.
Photos by Rob Thiemann