Cruising to Alaska

Hello, friends! I have crossed off yet another bucket list item – and this is a big one! From May 30 –  June 6, my friend Sarah and I cruised from Seattle to Alaska and back.

Aren't we cute?

Aren’t we cute?

It was a 7-night cruise on the Royal Caribbean cruise line. The name of our ship was the Rhapsody of the Seas, so it had musically-themed rooms and decorations. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise before, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but we thought it was great! We forked out a little extra money to get an ocean view cabin (room), which gave us a window to the outside of the ship. It was actually a fairly decent-sized window, too, which was nice.

Our ocean view cabin

Our ocean view cabin

We spent Days 1-2 on the ship, cruising along the west coast of the continent. It was pretty rough water, so we were both using motion sickness medicines to get us through the day. We could really feel the motion of the ship. After that, we entered Alaska’s “Inside Passage,” where we were shielded from the rough ocean waves and had a nice, smooth ride. On those first two days, we enjoyed the entertainment on the ship, which included trivia games, a comedian show, sitting in a hot tub (and watching the water in the pool go crazy as the ship rocked back and forth), and making new friends at each of our meals. Our waiters, Joseph and Ian, were excellent. They were so fun and teased us, and we became pretty good friends with them by the end of the cruise. We also made friends with other travelers from all over the world! It was fun to run into them on the ship and on the shore excursions throughout our trip.

I found a Book of Mormon in the library on the ship!

I found a Book of Mormon in the library on the ship!

On the second day, we went into our cabin at about 7 p.m. and both fell asleep. We woke up three hours later, at 10 p.m., and it was still light outside! The sun set at 10:22 p.m. and rose at 4:15 a.m. the next morning. I imagine that within a couple of weeks, Alaska had full days with no sunset. On Day 3, we landed in Juneau, Alaska. We had been advised by my parents (who had done the trip before) to not book shore excursions through the cruise line because they charge a premium. So instead, we planned to book excursions through local groups that sell at little booths in Juneau. We paid $4 to ride a shuttle into Juneau. The driver, a young guy in his early twenties, announced that because it was Sunday, he was going to be playing some classical music on the bus. Lo and behold, the song that played was “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” a hymn specific to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my church!). We were pretty surprised and excited 🙂 In Juneau, we ended up bargaining with a guy at a booth (sort of accidentally – we didn’t realize the prices were negotiable). We got two excursions in one for $90 each. The cruise ship was offering the same excursion combination for $172! Score! The first excursion, whale watching, was probably the #1 highlight of my whole trip. North Pacific Humpback Whales feed in circles, and we ended up right in the middle of a circle of about four whales. One of them breached (came out of the water) within about 40 feet of our whale watching boat.

Our whale watching boat is the one to the far right. The one on the left has a bald eagle sitting on top of the mast.

Our whale watching boat is the one to the far right. The one on the left has a bald eagle sitting on top of the mast.

I'm fairly certain that bald eagles think they're better than the rest of us...

I’m fairly certain that bald eagles think they’re better than the rest of us…

On the dock before boarding the whale watching boat (the guy behind Sarah is taking a picture of the eagle above them)

On the dock before boarding the whale watching boat (the guy behind Sarah is taking a picture of the eagle above them)

We spotted whales by looking for the spray of water that comes from their blowholes, and then they surface. Every once in a while, more than just their fins come out of the water (“breaching”), but I didn’t catch any good pictures of it. DSCN6179mod

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Sarah and I were alone on the back of the boat at one point, and we spotted a sea lion playing in the water. He was jumping out of the water and doing flips, and he actually followed the boat for a little while. So so cute. After whale watching, we boarded another bus to visit Mendenhall Glacier. It was GORGEOUS. The blue color is really indescribable – and even pictures don’t do it justice. But here are a couple anyway 🙂

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That night after dinner, we watched a performance on the cruise ship that was 70’s dancing. It was pretty fun, though not the  best performance of the trip.

Day 4, we arrived in Skagway, Alaska – the furthest north that we went on this cruise. We got off the ship, walked about 1/4 mile, realized I didn’t have my passport and went back to the ship, and then tried a second time to walk into town 🙂 Skagway is an old gold rush town. The population is about 800 now, though it was closer to 20,000 during the gold rush. It’s a really beautiful little place, nestled in the mountains.

There were other cruise lines following basically the same schedule as us. This is the harbor in Skagway.

There were other cruise lines following basically the same schedule as us. This is the harbor in Skagway.

The cliffs are painted with a bunch of flags from ships that have visited Skagway. Notice anything strange?

The cliffs are painted with a bunch of flags from ships that have visited Skagway. Notice anything strange?

Here's a closer look. How cool is that?

Here’s a closer look. How cool is that?

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“Broadway” street in Skagway, Alaska

Scenic Skagway, Alaska

Scenic Skagway, Alaska

We visited a small museum in Skagway as well. It had some artifacts from the gold rush and talked about how hard life was for the prospectors. After facing the cold and the trek up the mountain, most of them never received any gold at all. They also had literally hundreds of horses die on the way up the mountain because most of them overestimated how much a horse can carry and underestimated how much it needs to eat. It was really fascinating stuff – a piece of history that I’ve never really learned. However, one thing made me laugh. This is part of the packing list that was required for one man (or woman) to travel up White Pass:

More bacon, anyone?

More bacon, anyone?

We took a 3-hour tour by mini bus up White Pass to the summit and back. Most people do this tour via train, but I think the mini bus was the way to go. Not only did we get to know our tour guide pretty well, but we also stopped at all the scenic overlooks and had the opportunity to get out and walk around. The mountains are very beautiful – and very different from the Rocky Mountains near my home. Our first stop was the old Skagway cemetery, where we learned about the crook who had 300 thieves working for him and essentially ran the town, though he was feared, not loved. When he died, only three people attended his funeral – the pastor, the gravedigger, and a woman who was wearing a black veil over her face. They still don’t know who she was. The stories were so fascinating. It sounded like it came straight out of an old western movie. Not only that, but the cemetery looks like it’s a painting in a picture book as well. Check it out!

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Old Skagway Cemetery

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Waterfall in White Pass

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Selfie on the mini bus!

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Scenic overlook in White Pass

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At White Pass Summit. I think this means we were momentarily in Canada here?

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The mini bus

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Scenic overlook just outside of Skagway

We also found a fun sign in Skagway:

Sign on a store door in Skagway

Sign on a store door in Skagway

We really lucked out with weather in Skagway as well. It looked rainy in the morning, but it only lightly sprinkled on us and then cleared up. It was cold at the top of the summit, but there was also a lot of snow up there still. When we got back to our cabin on the cruise ship, we found our first towel animal! DSCN6223

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After boarding the ship, we had some time to kill before dinner. So I introduced Sarah to virgin strawberry daiquiris. They were so good! And much cheaper than the alcoholic equivalent, of course 🙂 We also enjoyed the musical styling of the Rosario Duo, a guitarist and violinist who performed on the cruise ship every day. They were very talented, and the guitar/violin sound was a neat combination.

The daiquiris (virgin, of course) came with fancy straw wrappers too :)

The daiquiris (virgin, of course) came with fancy straw wrappers too 🙂

The amazing Rosario Duo performing in the "Centrum" - the main open area on the ship

The amazing Rosario Duo performing in the “Centrum” – the main open area on the ship

At dinner that night, we forgot to make a reservation ahead of time, so we ended up sitting at a table that was right next to our regular spot – just outside the area that Joseph and Ian, our usual servers, wait on. As soon as they noticed us, they made a huge deal out of it, as if we were traitors. It was all playful, of course – and so funny. I think we actually felt a little guilty, because we made sure to sit at one of their tables for the rest of the trip.

Day 5, we were at sea. In the morning, the captain announced that we were next to Dawes Glacier in Endicott Fjord, part of Tracy Arm Fjord, and that he would spin the ship all the way around at least one more time before leaving so that we could all get a good look at it. Sarah and I threw on some clothes and headed upstairs to the outside deck. It was really an incredible view.

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Dawes Glacier

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There were icebergs in the water

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A view of Endicott Fjord (basically what you would see if if you were standing on Dawes Glacier looking out)

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Dawes Glacier

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The incredible scenery of Endicott Fjord

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Me! Looking slightly tired and cold, but excited nonetheless 🙂

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Sarah in front of Dawes Glacier

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Another scenic view of Endicott Fjord. These mountains were SO beautiful

We never saw the glacier “calving” (chunks of ice falling off), but we did get to hear it from our spot in the fjord, and it sounded just like thunder.

Well, this day at sea, we had quite a bit of time to kill, so Sarah decided (almost on a whim) to have her naturally blonde hair dyed in the on-board spa! I accompanied her (for moral support, of course). The best part was that her hairdresser was from Scotland! Such a cool accent.

Saying goodbye to the blonde!

Saying goodbye to the blonde!

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Gotta love the flattering foil look 😉

That night, I tried lobster for the very first time! I’ll be honest – I didn’t love it. The taste wasn’t bad (in fact, the food on the ship was so good that I’m sure the lobster was cooked perfectly), but I couldn’t get past the texture. Nonetheless, I tried it! Sarah did, too. After dinner, we attended a show by pianist Craig Dahn. He was so, so good! By the end of the performance, I was ready to quit piano because I would never be that good, and Sarah was ready to start taking piano lessons. haha. I actually forked out the money to buy his CD after the show, and I haven’t regretted it. He is phenomenal. The only funny part was that he played “My Heart Will Go On”…which is the love theme from the movie The Titanic. Seems like a strange choice to play on a cruise ship, doesn’t it…?

Day 6, we were at sea again. I woke up in the morning and headed to the gym (and if you know me well, you’re thinking, She did what?!). I tried the elliptical machine for the first time – I felt like I needed to take advantage of the opportunity to try one without paying for a gym pass. It was a good workout! But next time, I’ll try it when I’m not on a rocking ship 🙂 At breakfast that morning, one of the crew members, a guy from India (?) named Shetty offered to make us a special omelette, and then he personally delivered it to our table. We’re pretty sure he had a crush on Sarah, because he gave her special attention the whole week. The omelette was just the icing on the cake 🙂

We watched The Proposal on a huge outdoor screen next to the pool during the day. We surprisingly had perfect weather for it. I also competed in a Sudoku challenge, which ended up being pretty hard. I did well, but there was a lady who finished like 20 minutes before the rest of us did, so I lost horribly. I tried venison for the first time (at least, I think I haven’t had it before) that day as well. But the real treat of this day happened when Sarah and I were just sitting in our cabin talking. She was looking out the window, and all of a sudden she exclaimed, “That whale just breached!” I didn’t believe her at first, but sure enough, there was a whale close to the ship who was full body breaching – coming all the way out of the water, spinning, and then going back under. It breached probably six times before it was out of view. So spectacular! We didn’t get any photos or video of it because we were afraid of missing the show while looking for cameras. I guess there are benefits to being on Deck 2 – we were close to the water 🙂

That night, they played some hilarious Battle of the Sexes games on-board the ship. One required popping balloons using various body parts. Another required squeezing a key chain between your cheeks (yes, the inappropriate ones) and walking to a cup that was sitting on the ground, and then trying to drop the key chain into the cup. I was laughing so hard I was almost in tears.

We also had our second towel animal visit our cabin!

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On Day 7, we stopped in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – on Vancouver Island. The weather was so perfect – although according to the locals, it usually is. We went on a city bus tour and stopped at Craigdarroch Castle, where we spent about an hour touring it. It was built by an oil baron as a mansion, though it wasn’t completed when he died. His wife and some of his children and grandchildren lived there, though.

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Excuse the camera strap covering the right side of the picture…

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This castle was full of gorgeous old pianos. I’m a little obsessed 🙂

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Check out the fireplace!

Check out the fireplace!

 

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The view from the castle tower

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View of the castle from the other side

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This, folks, is an 1879 Steinway piano in a castle…

After the castle tour, we spent some time wandering through Victoria. We ate in a pizza place that was one of those earth-loving, organic, hippie types of places. With really good, fresh pizza. Victoria is a beautiful place. Plus, the exchange rate is currently slightly in our favor, so the shopping was a little extra fun, too.

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Victoria’s “5 Star Hotel” that will never actually be rated 5 stars because they can’t install air conditioning without damaging the historical structure. However, the weather is always mild, so they don’t actually need A/C.

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A quaint alleyway in Victoria where locals sell their goods at booths

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Victoria has a carillon! There are very few of these around anymore – and one of them happens to be at my alma mater, BYU.

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Check out the planes taking off!

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Love this statue 🙂

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My new Canadian war veteran friend 🙂

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On a bag in a gift shop

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They happened to be watering this as I was taking the picture…

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This seriously fits people in it. Children, I’m assuming…

That night, on-board the ship, we saw a comedian named Jeff Nease. He was SO funny. I’m always a little cautious of comedians because their jokes can be so dirty, but he was hilarious and (mostly) clean. It was a great end to a great cruise 🙂

After the show, we played a “Majority Rules” game show. Not very many people showed up to play, but it was still fun. The memorable part, though, was that I was offered my first bottle of wine. haha. A couple that we had met several days earlier, Brian and LuAnn from Florida, told us that they had two bottles of wine in their cabin and asked if we would like to have one. It was so nice of them to offer! Of course, we said no because we don’t drink, but it was very flattering nonetheless. I seriously loved making friends with all these different people – even if we will probably never see them again.

Sarah and I actually spent another day and a half in Seattle before flying back home. We were able to tour the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum and see the Space Needle. We didn’t go into the Space Needle because it was a very expensive ticket for an elevator ride, but fun to see anyway. We also visited Pike’s Place Market.

EMP Museum from outside

EMP Museum from outside

The Space Needle!

The Space Needle!

My first monorail ride :)

My first monorail ride 🙂

Pike's Place Market

Pike’s Place Market

Then I arrived home to a nice surprise from my sweet man:

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Lilies are my favorite 🙂

I’m rocking and rolling with the bucket list items this year. Stay tuned for more posts on the way!

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Categories: Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Cruising to Alaska

  1. Pingback: The Bucket List | Composing My Adventure

  2. Long post = long comment! Apologies in advance 🙂

    I loved this post and all of your pictures! The ones that really stuck out were of Skagway Cemetary (almost looked theatrical, it was so old and the tombstones were so tiny) and all of those near Dawes Glacier. I cannot believe that view; it must have been 10x more incredible in person. I’ve always wanted to take this trip, and now you’ve got me motivated! Some day:)

    Random thoughts as I read (apparently they’re only about food):
    1. Strawberry daiquiris, always delicious, no matter the “variety”
    2. Lobster, I don’t love it either. What’s the hype??
    3. What was your verdict on the venison? It’s one of my favorite foods!

    It just looked like you had a blast, let’s talk soon so I can hear more!

    • Chelsea! I miss your face! So glad you liked the post! I tried a peach daiquiri and a frozen strawberry lemonade too, but the strawberry daiquiri was the best 🙂 To be honest, I don’t remember the venison very well. I think Sarah ordered it and I just tasted it? Or vice versa. I had so many foods on that cruise that I had never even heard of. Lol. You should definitely go! But come visit me first 🙂

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