Where in the World: Alaskan cruising

by Sarah Welch

I’ve recently returned from an Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s “Ovation of the Seas”, a huge ship offering lots of attractions. It was a Family and Friends cruise with two of my siblings, two cousins from Georgia, and friends from Rusk and Plano. Total 18 cruisers! It was sort of like herding cats to get us together, but it all worked out.

We spent one night in Seattle prior to the cruise at the Mediterranean Inn. This hotel is located within easy walking distance to restaurants and attractions and it has a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the view of Puget Sound and the skyline of Seattle including the Space Needle. It is just a short drive by taxi to the Cruise Terminal.

Before departing for the Cruise Terminal, we took an Uber (my first experience with Uber) to the Chihuly Glass Museum and Garden located next to the Space Needle. This was a visual treat! The glass blown by Dale Chihuly is really hard to explain. So colorful, so many different designs of chandeliers, bowls and decorative items. Many of the pieces look like snakes, only beautiful! Dale Chihuly studied in Washington, Rhode Island and then Venice, which is known for glass making. His works have been displayed in 200 museums worldwide, winning multiple awards. His show in Jerusalem in the Tower of David Museum drew a million visitors. He is truly one-of-a-kind artist. www.chihulygardenandglass.com

Boarding the ship was quick and easy. Perhaps the fastest embarkation we’ve ever experienced. With approximately 4500 passengers checking in, we were really surprised that the lines moved so fast. One thing that expedited the check in was our Sign & Sail cards were not given to us at check-in, but they were waiting for us in the mailbox outside the door to our stateroom.

After a good night’s sleep, our first day was spent cruising through the Inside Passage with beautiful water and landscapes viewed from our balcony. We also spent time gathering with the group. My male cousin from Georgia sings karaoke and it is quite good. We enjoyed cheering him on in the evening and several evenings after.

I mentioned the attractions and activities on board. Regrettably, most of them are geared toward young people. You will not find me Rock Climbing or Wake Surfing on the Flow Rider or Sky Diving in a tube called Rip Cord by I Fly. Neither will you find me in a “North Star bubble” on the end of a snorkel which carries you 300 feet above the ship and at times, over the water! They even have bumper cars! There is a complete gym and spa and various less-active events scattered throughout the cruise.

Our first port of call was Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Juneau is on an island and the only way to get there is by air or sea. The weather was unbelievably beautiful with temperatures in the mid-60s, sun shining and not a cloud in the sky. We took a shore excursion titled “Mendenhall Glacier, Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest”. It was a bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier, then a sight-seeing boat to see whales and sea lions and one bald eagle! We saw a number of whales showing just their backs and then flipping their tales. So graceful.

The next day, we docked at Skagway, the departure town for the Gold Rusk in the 1890s. Our excursion was the “White Pass Railroad”. The train ascended to 2888 feet elevation to a loop, then returned to Skagway. It was a pleasant ride with great scenery along a river, passing through two tunnels and over very high trestles. On the other side of the river in places, you could actually see the Klondike Trail of 1898 marking the route of many horses, mules and men seeking gold. It must have been very rough and many lost their lives. www.wpyr.com

We had two days at sea heading back south toward Victoria, B.C. Unfortunately, our good weather did not last as it was raining in Victoria. However, some of the group made an excursion in the morning to beautiful Butchart Gardens. These gardens have been designated a National Historical Site in Canada. It is 55 acres of an explosion of color with 900 bedding plant varieties tended by 50 full time gardeners. Don’t you wish you could have just one of their gardeners? www.butchartgardens.com

The next morning, we were docked back in Seattle and it was time to say “good-bye” to friends and family after a fun-filled week.

Getting through security at Seattle airport was an experience. My husband and I both got a “pat-down”. I always take a jar of cappuccino mix with me when I travel. They had to get an explosives detective to check it for explosives. Guess I’ll leave that item at home next time I travel by air, which is not nearly as much fun as it used to be! I don’t why my husband got the “pat-down” unless they wanted to make sure his pacemaker wasn’t an explosive.

Alaska is beautiful and I highly recommend an Alaska cruise for anyone, young or old.

As always, we were happy to get back to our own comfort zone, Rusk, TX!