Saturday, September 13, 2014

The novel that is {ALASKA}

If you don't have time to sit for a while, you might want to skip this post...

Though I realize my trip to Alaska was only three months ago, (and even saying it was ONLY three months ago, I know it hasn't been very long) when I look through these pictures I feel as if they were taken in another lifetime.
I have missed it from the day we left.
Alaska is so incredibly breathtaking, so untamed and green and icy and wet. Its mountains and glaciers and numerous islands and fjords, forests and lakes and...EVERYTHING! I loved everything about Alaska! I, obviously, have an affinity for nature, and Alaska is the epitome of all things wild.

I'm going back. Someday. Who's in?

Our journey to Vancouver, the port where our Norwegian Sun cruiseliner was waiting for us, was...crazy. It started with a flight to Seattle, where we took a lightrail from the airport to somewhere downtown to get on a Greyhound bus. We expected to wait for a few hours for our bus, but once everyone was on board and as we were about to leave, the bus wouldn't start. So in addition to the few hours we'd already waited, we had to wait for an additional hour or two for someone to come out and fix it. Once it was finally running, it was another few hours stop to stop, and across the Canadian border (which was, surprisingly, much faster than regular traffic, even with EVERYONE exiting the bus WITH our luggage, being checked one by one, and then boarding again...). Once we arrived in Vancouver we took the skytrain (very much like the lightrail, though if you ask for directions no one knows what a lightrail is...we made that mistake more than once). And once we finally exited the skytrain, hoping to get off right in front of our hotel...it wasn't there. We were lost. No phone signal and no interent to put a location on us. Thankfully we had some terrible maps and eventually we found the direction we needed to head in. So, with our luggage dragging behind us (not carry-on mind you, we each had a full suitcase, plus some) we started walking. And then we stopped walking because we realized it was going to be over 2 miles to our hotel...ha!! Being resourceful, we found a public transportation bus and asked the bus driver about our destination, to which he said was on his route and that he would take us there. To say we were relieved would be an understatement. We FINALLY checked in to our hotel around 9pm and decided to head back out to find something to eat. Our front-desk-man was NOT helpful when we asked him for a recommendation and he pointed across the street to a "North American" cuisine restaurant, even though we were located in some sort of Chinatown. So we walked around, deciding to stop at the busiest place we saw, which ended up being Happy Family Chinese...it was literally PACKED wall to wall with Asian people. When we walked in the room fell silent to look at the white tourists. The advertising, the TV channel, and the waitresses only spoke Chinese. Thankfully the menus had english subtitles for us touristy folks. Turns out, this was the best Chinese food we'd ever had...




The next morning was embarkation day!! The whole experience was a mix of a little anxiety, a lot crazy, but MOSTLY EXCITEMENT!! I was so afraid I was going to get lost on that huge ship, but much to my surprise I once again became the navigator and was able to find my way around! Admittedly, I did get turned around a few times on the inside, but who wouldn't with no windows or point of direction to lead me! It was really fun though, to explore the whole ship and find all the nooks and crannies...
Here's a link to the deck plans of our ship, if you care...(you can change the different decks by selecting from the drop down on the left...) 

Deck 12, highest deck, on the bow...



Inside on deck 12...


Deck 7, Seven Seas Dining Room (my favorite place, other than our own room, haha)





Deck 6 had a track that wrapped around the whole ship...

We had one dressy night for dinner...but no one wanted to take a group picture with me. BOO!



The first two days, Monday and Tuesday, we were at sea on our way to our first port, Ketchikan. I have always been easily susceptible to motion-sickness so I was really worried about seasickness. Thankfully I didn't have to worry about it at all until we actually got out on the open ocean at the very end of our trip. I was able to deduce that because we were cruising on the inside passages, we weren't really on open water with raging waves. But don't worry, I got to experience it all...(ugh.)

I did wake up Wednesday morning, the day of our first port, feeling unwell, but unrelated to seasickness. I almost didn't go out on the excursion we had planned, but Jeff (and my family) convinced me to go anyway. I was immensely grateful that I did go, since we had an amazing experience...


OFF-ROAD JEEPING!

And WE got to drive!

(Well, not me. I wasn't feeling up to it. But my dad and Jeff did!! Tim and Amy and my mom decided on a different excursion...)

(Jeff picked me a pretty flower to put in my hair, awwww!)





The second part of the excursion was canoeing across this lake to some local refreshments and a nature walk. The lake was super deep, but also super dark. When you looked down into the water it was almost black. I can't remember exactly why, but it has something to do with vegetation of some sort...


Jeff broke his paddle, and he was proud.
SO STRONG, said the hulk.

Here Jeff is pretending to be a bear on our nature walk...
(the nature walk, by the way, was extremely informational and interesting...)

Then, when we came back, we met up with everyone and did a little shopping of course!


The next day, Thursday, if you're keeping track, was our second port, JUNEAU!

This was the one and only port where we were able to find excursions for a deal on shore, without having to go through the cruise. Unfortunately we were once again separated into two groups because we were each caught up with our own hagglers! We didn't mind so much though, because Jeff and I were our own group, so we were able to spend time together. It also didn't really matter because we all did the same thing, whale watching and glacier sight-seeing.

Our dock...
  
...and boat!

And WHALES!







All our guides were SO friendly, which always makes traveling more fun.
We also saw a bear just off the highway on our way to Medenhall Glacier...our bus driver mentioned it so nonchalant, it was weird. But cool.

Iceberges in the lake...

We took a little "hike" to see Nugget Falls...


...and to see a better view of Mendenhall Glacier...






And, once we got back into Juneau, there was more shopping to be done...of course.
Jeff made me try on a $25,000 ring, and then didn't buy it for me. The nerve.

Also, he pretended to be a bear again.

The third and final destination port, Skagway! We'd had absolutely beautiful weather the entire time up to this point (meaning, sunshine and warmth--a balmy 70 degrees--though I'd say we always had good weather) but at this last port it was overcast and misty. Jeff and I really wanted to zipline at this port, but the cost was ridiculous, and we'd already spent our budget on other excursions. We were bummed, but had fun exploring the town instead. My parents, and Tim and Amy rented a car and explored through Canada and Alaska. They had a really great time, and I wish we could have gone with them, but our lack of communication was our fault. We still had fun anyway :)

That's our cruiseliner...at the end of the road...



The last two days were spent heading to our final port, Whittier, where we only stopped momentarily while we waited to take a bus to Anchorage. Those two days were spent on the open ocean, and where I experienced my first real taste of seasickness. The mornings were not so bad because both days the ship explored glacier bays and the waters were extremely calm and beautiful. 

Where you see the brown water and the blue water is where the silt water (or melted glacier water) is combining with the ocean...




We couldn't go any farther into this bay because it's a protected area where mother seals raise their young...








Bye bye calm, smooth water!

  When the ocean got rough (and I know it did because I overheard a "cruising pro," who had been on more than 20 cruises, say that it was the roughest water he'd ever been on...) I was mostly found on my bed, or in the hot tub/pool. If I lied horizontal, the rocking motions of the ship felt more like a hammock or swing, so it was relaxing, and you couldn't feel the ship rocking in the water of the hot tub or pool. I did try dramamine, but it was useless. The seaband worked better, but not if the ship was really moving. Sometimes I couldn't understand how the ship stayed upright at all.

We didn't get very many pictures of our room, sadly, but I felt it was lovely. It a had a closet, a vanity, a closed off bathroom, a couch, and the bed. We also had a TV, and our favorite channel was the live feed from the bow of the ship, so we could see what was happening at any point. Also, our room was on the inside, so no windows, and we LOVED it. Sunrise and sunset were way weird, the sun rising around 4am and setting around 11pm, so it was light most of the day. Having a completely dark room was magnificent. 

And while we weren't docked and off exploring the different towns, we had fun exploring the ship. There was a variety of things to do on board, but my most favorite was EATING. By the end I was tired of it, but it was a good experience. (Who wouldn't like having food prepared for you for every meal for a week?!) We also liked dessert-hopping (raiding all the different buffets for dessert) and then playing card games late into the night (even though it was still light outside). I would definitely recommend this cruise. It was the perfect amount of time (7 days) and to the perfect location. Once we disembarked for the last time in Whittier, we took a bus to Anchorage where our flight took us back to Seattle. (Fun fact about Whittier though, we traveled through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which is the longest combined highway and railroad tunnel in North America. You should google it.)

(And just to remember how chaotic our traveling was, in Anchorage we had more than a few hours before our flight left, so we took a bus to find something to eat in town. After we got off the bus, we had to walk around with our luggage to find somewhere to eat, during which, my mom realized she left one of her bags on the bus. Thankfully she was able to recover it, but not before running after the wrong bus, haha! THEN, once we landed in Seattle, our luggage was delayed. Some of it been released, but all of ours had not. We had to wait for an hour before someone figured out that the conveyor belt with luggage was stuck. During that time, my parents decided to leave to get our rental car since we were staying in Seattle for a day, and so Jeff and I had to drag around 5 large pieces of luggage by ourselves while we waited for them...they were delayed because the rental car people were giving them some sort of hassle and because traffic around the airport was crazy. PLUS, Jeff and I didn't know what kind of car to look for...AND THEN, once we were all snug in our SEDAN, we had to figure out where our hotel was and got a little lost on the way, but it wasn't so bad since we had GPS this time...after that, it was pretty smooth sailing.)

While we were in Seattle we decided to visit Pike Place Market. We ended up spending the whole day there, and we didn't mind AT ALL! It's such a beautiful place. I wish I could have taken more pictures, but if you've seen my Instagram or Facebook, you've seen my post on Pike Place.



We came home after 10 days of traveling. TEN WHOLE DAYS. It was exhausting, but thrilling at the same time. We loved every moment. Thanks Mom and Dad for letting us tag along.
Best anniversary trip yet.