Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Ultimate Alaska Cruise

My husband (Josh) and I absolutely love cruising, it's our favorite way to vacation! This was my sixth cruise and Josh's fifth. We have been fortunate to take a lot of warm cruises (Bahamas, Western and Eastern Caribbean, etc) so for this trip- we decided to switch things up. We have always wanted to go to Alaska and what better way to experience it than with a cruise! 

Day 1: Seattle, WA

We live in Columbus, OH so the morning of our cruise, we had a 4am flight to make it to Seattle by noon. Our boat left the dock at 4pm and I have always wanted to visit the troll that lives under the bridge in Seattle- luckily our Uber driver was super cool and took us to see it before taking us to port

Once we made it through customs, check in, baggage scan, etc- we were on board! The first night on board is also super chill- we booked our spas and treatments for the week*, got unpacked and got our room organized, set up our wifi, met our cabin steward, and enjoyed a beautiful dinner with the most gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean

*We like cruising Carnival because it is a more affordable cruise line which just allows us more flexibility with on board activities like spa treatments, room upgrades, more expensive excursions, etc. Carnival is a great line to cruise, the staff will learn your name on the first day, remember your orders for dinner, etc- it's a great way to cruise and I would highly recommend them for any cruiser! 

Day 2: Full Day at Sea

Typically on a warm cruise, a full day at sea is pretty boring. There's nothing to look at except the ocean and finding 2 lounge chairs next to each other is a Hunger Games scenario (unless you volunteer someone from your group to go save chairs at 5am, it's highly unlikely you will get to lay out next to one another). On this cruise- it was the complete opposite. There are less people on board but our ship had a ton of lounge huts on board in the adult only section of the deck. We also had something to look at on this cruise instead of just water. You are only about 100 miles off shore the entire cruise so you get to see snow capped mountains in the distance the entire time you are on the boat! We spent our second day in the huts and also getting some spa treatments done (we had a couples seaweed and hot stone massage and Josh had a men's facial with a shave while I had my first teeth whitening procedure ever)! 

The day at sea was also the first elegant night- which always means lobster at dinner! We prefer to do the "any time" dining and that allows us to not be confined by a reservation each night. We also sat in the same seat though right by the window with the same servers each night. 

Day 3: Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

Our third day on the ship was breathtaking. We went to the gym, each had a facial, enjoyed breakfast, and then got situated in our hut on the deck as we entered the Tracy Arm Fjord at around noon. We cruised about 1/4 mile off the coast and everyone had viewing on either side (this was a concern of mine going into this cruise that only 1/2 the boat would see coast and the other would see water but there was things to view the entire time of either side of the boat). We saw so many frozen waterfalls, snow capped mountains, glaciers with seals sun bathing, and the bluest water I have ever seen in my life. We cruised through the Fjord until about 8pm! 

Day 4: Skagway, Alaska

We arrived in Skagway at 7am and had until 8pm to enjoy the city. Our first excursion of the day was a helicopter ride to a dog sled mushing camp. I can't even put into words how magnificent the scenery was from a helicopter! The weather was also the best they have had all year and it was so clear we could see a mountain that was over 90 miles away! We landed in musher camp, got to ride on a sled with 8 dogs over 2 miles, we were able to pet the dogs and also play with the six week old puppies that were in camp.

I asked a ton of questions when we were there and learned so much about the sport while we were there. There were 240 dogs at camp. The camp was on top of a glacier so they sometimes have to move if the snow starts to melt (there's usually 4 feet of snow on top of the glacier). The mushers use the summer camp as training for the dogs. When they run the Iditarod, they usually pull the sled, musher, and 100lbs of supplies. In camp- they pull the sled, musher, and 2-4 others (people like us). This is great strength training for the dogs and allows the mushers to generate income for the coming months of the race. 

The front dogs are usually females as they are smarter and less distracted and the males are typically in the back for strength purposes. The puppies were also the cutest things in the entire world!!! 

We arrived back at the helicopter base camp a little before 11pm and our zip-lining adventure didn't start until 2pm so we had some time to explore the town of Skagway: we enjoyed locally brewed root beer, ate the freshest seafood lunch I've ever had, and explored the shops and sites that the tiny town has to offer. 

We arrived to our zip-lining excursion and had the best time! We were in the world's second largest rainforest and went down 11 lines (it took about 2 hours with a 35 minute drive to and from port). We also were able to enjoy fresh glacier water at the end of the excursion before heading back to town

Day 5: Juneau, Alaska

We woke up in Juneau to quite a bit of rain and fog. We had a 4 hour whale watching tour and salmon bake that was going to take up the entire day (which ended up working out due to the weather). The bus tour took us through the town and we were able to stay dry while also experiencing the country's largest capital (by area). We arrived on the boat tour (which was covered and heated, thank goodness) and had the best time! The boat had complimentary coffee, tea, donut holes, and salmon with crackers for sampling! The naturalist was incredible and so passionate about whales and educating everyone on board. There was a second and third open deck where we all went to once a whale was spotted and we were able to watch a pod of orcas for about an hour and then spotted a humpback and a few sea lions as well. We docked at the Orca Point Lodge on Colt Island where we enjoyed a salmon bake and the best brownies I've ever had! 

Day 6: Ketchikan, Alaska

Our last stop in Alaska was an island off the main land called Ketchikan. There's about 12,000 people that live on the island year round. We went halibut fishing for about five hours! The fishing started off slow and we had to move to a few spots before we started to have any luck. I caught a very small cod that we used as fresh bait and as soon as we switched our bait from salmon to the cod, everything changed. I hooked into a huge halibut and had about a 15 minute struggle to reel him into the boat (they live at 200+ feet so that's a lot of line to reel in). I got him in the boat and measured him (you can only keep them if they are under 44inches or above 80 inches) and mine ended up being 43.5 inches! You can only keep 1 per person so I started fishing for cod and flounder while Josh kept fishing for halibut (he ended up catching 3 and releasing 2). Lucky for us- the filets were sent home to our house for us to enjoy halibut for weeks to come!

The evening of the sixth day was extremely special for us as well. Carnival really took care of us on this trip (I would like to mention that we paid for the entire cruise, excursions, travel, and spa treatments on the boat but they did hook us up with priority check in, free wifi, an upgraded dinner, and a few surprises in our room each night that were above and beyond from past cruises). We enjoyed crab cakes, lobster bisque, surf and turf, and some incredible cheesecake for dessert. It was an amazing 2 hour meal for us and we had so much fun on top of th boat, by ourselves, enjoying each others company. 

Day 7: Victoria, Canada

Our last full day on the boat was so relaxing. We went to the sea day brunch that is always held on the last full day, spent about 5 hours on the deck reading, writing this blog, and enjoying the magnificent views. We then went to he gym (we have been going to the gym and doing 20-30 minutes of cardio and sitting in the sauna each day) and then packed up, got ready to explore Victoria, BC, and headed off the boat. 

We didn't get to Victoria until 730pm which is why we wanted to have our entire room packed up since we planned on staying in port until 1130pm. We enjoyed dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish, walked around downtown, and enjoyed dessert at the Emperor Hotel! 

Day 8: Seattle, WA

We are back in the lower 48! Before we left to head back to Columbus, we enjoyed a local breakfast and then met our friends at the airport for some coffee and laughs before heading through security. Cheyann is a 24 year old who is battling (and winning) ovarian cancer and is one of the most motivational women I know. I am so grateful for this beautiful soul

Companies/excursions we used (we paid for everything, this is not a promotion or ad for any company):
Dog sledding and helicopter ride: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g60877-d1171862-Reviews-TEMSCO_Helicopters_Skagway-Skagway_Alaska.html
Zip-lining: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Attraction_Review-g60877-d2244355-Reviews-Grizzly_Falls_Ziplining_Expedition-Skagway_Alaska.html
Whale watching: 
Halibut fishing: 


Helpful what to pack website: https://help.carnival.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3583/~/what-to-pack