A Cruise to Alaska, by Ted Cookson

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 A CRUISE TO ALASKA 
by Ted Cookson
Published in July 2009
Black bear below Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center near Juneau, Alaska, 49-second video clip
Juneau, Alaska float plane, 14-second video clip

Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska, 44-second video clip
Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #1, 39-second video clip
Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #2, 41-second video clip
Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #3, 37-second video clip
Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #4, 37-second video clip
Ice calving on Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #5, 39-second video clip
Hubbard Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska #6, 34-second video clip

Boats in harbor at Sitka, Alaska, 31-second video clip
Sitka, Alaska panorama from Prinsendam, 47-second video clip
New Archangel Dancers folkloric troupe in Sitka, Alaska #1, 17-second video clip
New Archangel Dancers folkloric troupe in Sitka, Alaska #2, 63-second video clip
Rainforest in Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka, Alaska, 32-second video clip
Spawning salmon in stream in rainforest in Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka, Alaska #1, 37-second video clip
Spawning salmon in stream in rainforest in Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka, Alaska #2, 38-second video clip

Injured bald eagle demonstration #1 at Alaska Raptor Center, Sitka, Alaska, 46-second video clip
Injured bald eagle demonstration #2 at Alaska Raptor Center, Sitka, Alaska, 50-second video clip
Injured bald eagle demonstration #3 at Alaska Raptor Center, Sitka, Alaska, 53-second video clip
Injured bald eagle in topless cage at Alaska Raptor Center, Sitka, Alaska, 42-second video clip

Ketchikan, Alaska panorama, 46-second video clip
Ketchikan, Alaska float plane, 14-second video clip
Ketchikan, Alaska sailaway with armed U. S. Coast Guard escort, 58-second video clip
 

During the last week of September 2008 my mother and I enjoyed a one-week cruise from Seattle, Washington round trip to the Alaska panhandle on Holland America Line's 1,848-passenger Oosterdam.  Our cruise ship departed Seattle on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday was a relaxing day at sea as the Oosterdam negotiated portions of the Inside Passage on its northbound journey. 

On Monday we called at Juneau, Alaska's picturesque state capital.  There we took a three-hour city coach tour which included a visit to a salmon hatchery and to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier which lies just 20 km (13 miles) north west of Juneau.  Mendenhall Glacier, 19 km (12 miles) long, and 2.5 km (1.5 miles) wide, is retreating at a rate of 21 meters (67 feet) annually.  We were fortunate to be able to view and photograph a brown bear from the visitor center and observatory while at Mendenhall. 

Tuesday's highlight was our cruise up to the face of breathtaking Hubbard Glacier, which lies within the confines of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  Established in 1981 and with an area of 39,270 square km (12,730 square miles), Wrangell-St. Elias is the largest of the 58 U. S. national Parks.  In fact, Wrangell-St. Elias and Canada's adjoining Kluane National Park together contain the world's largest non-polar conglomeration of glaciers.  Hubbard Glacier, one of the world's fastest-moving glaciers, is the longest tidewater glacier in the U. S., extending 122 km (76 miles) from its source on Mt. Logan.

On Wednesday morning the Oosterdam called at scenic Sitka where we took a 3 1/2-hour coach tour that included St. Michael's Cathedral, which is a replica of Sitka's first Russian Orthodox church.  Unfortunately the original church structure, built in 1844, was destroyed by fire in 1966.  Our tour continued to Sitka National Historical Park which boasts a terrific collection of totem poles.  It was here that the Russians skirmished with the local Tlingit tribe in 1804.  This battle is said to have been the last stand by Native Americans against white domination in Alaska.  A short but energetic display of folk dancing in downtown Sitka was followed by a fascinating visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation center for bald eagles and other raptors on the outskirts of town.  Sitka was the only one of the ports on this cruise where our cruise ship was unable to dock.  Instead passengers were ferried ashore using the ship's tenders, or lifeboats.

Thursday morning we visited Ketchikan, Alaska's southernmost city and the self-proclaimed salmon capital of the world.  Ketchikan has the dubious honor of being the rainiest city in the U. S., receiving over four meters (160 inches) of rainfall annually!  What makes Ketchikan especially interesting for visitors is its many totem poles.  There are well over five dozen totem poles visible at various locations around the city.  In addition, Ketchikan boasts a partially-reconstructed historical district.

On Thursday afternoon and Friday we sailed south again, arriving in Victoria, British Columbia on Friday evening, just in time to take a coach tour of that lovely city by night.  Finally the Oosterdam arrived back in Seattle early on Saturday morning.  My mother and I discovered that an Alaska cruise is a convenient and cost-effective way to sample several of the most popular destinations in the panhandle of Alaska easily within the course of one week.

The best time to visit southeastern Alaska is from June through August when the afternoons are often warm (from 10 C. to 16 C./from 50 F. to 60 F.).  However, there can also be some rainfall then, especially in the late summer.  Typically the driest days are in May and June.  Beginning in September the days become chilly and the nights are cold.  Cruising along the Inside Passage is busiest from mid-June until late August.  Consequently, the ports in the panhandle are most crowded then.  Contrarian travelers can both save money and avoid the biggest crowds by traveling early (May) or late (September) in the season.   

 

 

ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 319 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com
 

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