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Alaska, July 2015

Updated on March 8, 2017

There is much traffic on I5 even on a Sunday!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

We spent Thursday – Saturday in Friday Harbor, WA. We attended the wedding of the daughter of some very good friends there Saturday afternoon. Arriving at the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor, WA bright and early at 7:00 am Sunday morning, we parked our car in line then headed up the stairs to the Far North Café for breakfast. They had good coffee and fresh made oatmeal. After an uneventful ferry ride, we headed off to Sea-Tac airport to turn in the rental car and catch the shuttle to the cruise ship. Being Sunday, we anticipated a smooth ride in. Alas, that was not the case. Why there was so much traffic on I-5 we don’t know but it actually took longer to get back to the airport than it took to go to Anacortes from Sea-Tac on Thursday! But we made it and got on the 1:00 shuttle to the cruise ship. We boarded the ship around 2:00.

The Port of Seattle

This was our first time on Princess.

We sailed on the Ruby Princess. This was the first time we had cruised with the Princess Cruise Line.

Our cabin was on Deck 14 (Riviera Deck) at the back of the ship. There was only one other cabin next to us and ours was the outer cabin. We were just a few steps away from the Terrace Pool and then just a few more steps up got us to the Café Caribe. Our balcony was awesome! We could see all the way across the full back and then some on each side of the ship.

Our first look at the Ruby Princess

Our room was top right, near the pool with a great view.

Another view of our balcony, top right.

We had a wonderful balcony.

Our balcony was quite large. There were two comfortable chairs and a nice table and still room to walk around. The cabin itself was a very decent size. Yes, the bathroom shower was small by American standards, but the bedroom area was actually spacious and we had a king-size bed.

Dinner was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Princess Cruise Line. It was excellent. And a highlight was that whales were spotted and we had quite a show from them leaping around in the water. This was the first of many whale sightings on the trip.

We wandered around after dinner to get our bearings. In one of the bars, we found the Rhapsody Trio playing. They are from Budapest, Hungary and were excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed their set! In fact, we made it a point to hear them several times during the trip.

The Rhapsody Trio was great.

Spa day at sea!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sea day – Spa day! We lazed around and Jay had a relaxing massage and sauna while Cheryl had an acupuncture treatment on her left foot. This proved to be a very wise investment on Tuesday! Monday afternoon, Cheryl attended a digital photography session Monday afternoon; she is trying to improve her photography skills. Monday evening was formal night. We had the Princess 50th anniversary menu for dinner.

Our ships' path leaving the Sound

The theatre show was good, but the Rhapsody Trio was great.

After dinner we attended the theatre show. The show was good but only lasted about 45 minutes. Afterwards we browsed the shops and then stopped by the atrium area where the Rhapsody Trio was playing a set. Knowing we had a day of walking tomorrow, we retired to our room and sat on the balcony for a bit before heading to bed.

The Ruby Princess sailing toward Ketchikan


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We woke to a drizzly cool day. We quickly learned to layer our clothes! Most days started off this way. We were very glad we had jackets that were rain gear with us!

We spent the first several hours in port walking around and getting an overview of the shops. Not so surprising, we saw many of the same jewelers we saw in the Caribbean. At 10:05 a.m. we took a walking tour lead by Joe Williams. This gentleman is 72 years old and his “real name” was some unpronounceable Indian name, hence the use of Joe Williams! He was a fascinating man. We learned a lot about the culture of the SE Alaskan Indians. There are 3 tribes, the Tlingit, the Haida and the Tsimshian. Tsimshians are sub-divided into 2 groups, Eagles and Ravens. Joe is a Tsimshian, from the Eagle branch. Eagles must marry Ravens so his wife is a Raven.

The culture is matriarchal; the children are considered to be of the tribe of their mother. Joe is the first generation that was raised by his parents. Up until that time, at the age of 2, boys were sent to be raised by their uncles and girls were sent to be raised by their aunts. This fostered a sense of tribal family and is why you had to marry someone from the other tribal branch. Joe also was a former borough governor.

Ketchikan is an interesting city located on an island. The original roads were wooden and built over the water. As time went on, the supporting structures were changed from wood to concrete. However, concrete turned out to require more maintenance than the wooden supports. The current standard is to use galvanized steel. The streets are regularly inspected and maintained.

Ketchikan is built on a series of wharves!

A good look at the pilings holding up the town.

There are no traffic lights in Ketchikan.

Another interesting fact is there are no traffic lights. Instead, there are people manning stop signs! We learned that throughout southwest Alaskan towns, motorists will stop for pedestrians who are in cross walks. If you cross elsewhere, good luck as cars tend to not stop unless one of these “portable manned” stop signs is there!

Ketchikan hires people to direct traffic and hold stop signs.

Tourism and salmon are the main industries.

The major industries in Ketchikan used to be mining, salmon and timber. Now it is tourism and salmon. Joe pointed out the location of the original canneries (there were 3) that dominated the economy for years. As the demand for canned salmon has declined in favor of flash frozen salmon, there is now only one cannery remaining and tourism has surpassed canning in economic impact. There are several operations in town which flash freeze salmon. They deliver salmon daily to the lower 48 states within 72 hours of being caught. As small as this town is (population 8,000), they have an international airport. There is one daily flight to Canada (hence, international airport) and 4 daily flights provided by Air Alaska to Seattle and Anchorage. This is how the frozen salmon begins its’ journey to our table!

Totem Poles

Ketchikan is home to Totem Bright State Park. But you didn’t have to go to the park to see totem pole; they are EVERYWHERE you go in town! Each Indian tribe has their own technique for carving the poles and each pole tells a story. Joe led us to several poles and interpreted them and told us their stories.

The higher the Totem Pole, the more wealthy the client.

Clients pay by the foot.
Clients pay by the foot.

Each person is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides.

Tongass is a temperate rain forest

Ketchikan is a gateway to the Tongass National Forest. Much to our surprise, we learned that this forest is the largest national forest in the US as well as being part of the largest coastal temperate rainforest in the world!

Tongass is one of many rainforests stretching from Alaska to Oregon.

Brothels supplied needed cash for the town.

Ketchikan was also known as a town of brothels. These were in active operation up to 1954 and provided a necessary economic benefit to the area. Fishermen operate on credit and cash was in short supply. The brothels were cash only businesses and therefore were an important part of the economy. Weird, isn’t it, to think of brothels in that manner? These were centered on Creek Street, a street which is actually a creek. You can see the salmon swimming their way to spawn in the street today.

Another view of the "wharf town."

Beyond this bridge you may fish for salmon, but not this side.

There were many salmon swimming under the bridge.

Here is a salmon river flowing through town.

More of Ketchikan

More shops with many jewelry stores.

Is there one large chain of jewelry stores?
Is there one large chain of jewelry stores?

Seaplanes take off and land right on the inlet.

He had caught a salmon near the dock.

The Tongass National Forest

The Tongass National Forest surrounds this part of Alaska. President Teddy Roosevelt designated it in 1907 and it contains 16.9 million acres. Tongass has 14,000 miles of shoreline. We learned that this type of rainforest has more than 55 inches of annual precipitation with 10% occurring in the summer and average summer days are overcast with temperatures less than 61 degrees Fahrenheit. These forests have a dormant season, infrequent fires and lie close to oceans. Mendenhall Glacier is part of the Tongass National forest. See brochure from the Park Service.

Temperate rainforests range from Alaska to Oregon.

A salmon stream

A bald eagle!

Back to the Ruby

Back to the Ruby, we had a late lunch. Cheryl then headed off to the arts and crafts session where she struck up a conversation with a woman from Lubbock who is heavy into digital scrapbooks. She and Cheryl exchanged facebook introductions and she offered to help Cheryl learn the digital scrapbook program she had been struggling with. A productive session for Cheryl!

After dinner, The Rhapsody Trio was playing in one of the bars and they were, as before, awesome! They did classical music and the title of their set was “Fiddler on the Roof Classical Concert”. They are great!! After they finished we headed to the theatre. That evening’s show was “Once Upon A Dream”. The story line is of a young girl’s bedtime dream of love. There were lots of Beatle’s music throughout the various scenes from her dreams as well as some of the Nutcracker music. Featured in her dreams was an angel (one of the male singers) who popped in and out of the various scenes she found herself in). All in all, they did a pretty good job!

A view of Ruby from behind.

Endicott Arm Fjord and Juneau

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We were supposed to be doing the scenic passage through Tracy Arm this morning. The schedule was to enter the fjord at 5:45am. Cheryl woke up, noticing there was a lot of maneuvering of the Ruby Princess. We learned from the commentary by the naturalist, Jules Talarico, that due to ice formations, it was determined the Ruby Princess could not safely navigate through the ice so we were diverted to Endicott Arm Fjord. This happens to be the exact route that John Muir took when he made his first trip to Alaska way back when. So this detour actually gave the trip some historical significance.

Our ships' position

Passage though the Endicott Arm

View of ice flows

It was a cold and drizzly day but we had some great views from our balcony. There were a lot of ice formations and large boulders in the water. It is hard to imagine how difficult it was for the captain to maneuver through all this safely. By 9:30 a.m. we had exited the fjord safely. The scenery was amazing in the fjord, loads of waterfalls, spots of forest then bare land. The sky would go from gray to blue and back to gray all morning. And yes, whales were spotted although we could not get any pictures of them.

Blue ice?

Mist upon the waters

Glacier in the Fjord


More blue ice. How is that?

More on this later
More on this later

Another rivulet waterfall

Glacier in the mist.


At 12:35 p.m. we docked in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. The only way to get to Juneau is by airplane, boat or to be born there!

Juneau from our "private" pool area

Here is the other side of the ship.

Mendenhall Glacier

Our excursion for the day was to the Mendenhall Glacier, nicknamed the “drive-up” glacier.Mendenhall flows 12 miles from its source and has a half-mile-wide face. Amazing!

Unfortunately, due to heavy rains, the glacier “leaked” (actual term the ranger used when Cheryl spoke with her) due to the volume of rain and caused the lake at the base of the glacier to overflow and they had to close the Nugget Trail. Cheryl had been hoping that Jay could hike that trail which leads right to the waterfall. But it was not too be. A funny thing was that you can see flags sticking out of the lake that are actually trail markers for the Nugget Trail!

Nugget Creek flowed into the lake.

It is a short hike to Mendenhall Lake

We took the Photo Trail (easy, paved .5 mile round trip), then Jay ventured down the Trail of Time (moderate, combo of paved and gravel, 1 mile loop) to the southeast into the forest while Cheryl ventured down the Steep Creek Trail (easy, paved and raised boardwalk, .25 mile loop) towards Mendenhall Lake.

Mendenhall Glacier

It's blue!
It's blue!


Blue ice in the lake

Tourist information center

Waterfall into the lake

The lake

Compressed snow makes the blue ice.

Did you know that glaciers are bluish in color? That is due to the compression of the water molecules as they freeze and how the ice reflects light.

We did see some bears here. One of our fellow cruisers got a great phot shot that he shared with us. In fact, as we were leaving, the bus had to stop because a baby bear was ambling across the road. The bear was headed towards the river area to catch a salmon for lunch, we bet.

A fellow traveler saw this bear and gave us his shot.

It was a lot cooler than Texas!

Back to town we went, setting off to do some exploring on our own. It was raining and cold! There was a shop selling some very nice alpaca clothing. They were soft and pretty and terribly expensive! But it was fun to touch them. And of course there were tons of jewelry stores and curio shops. We ambled along, browsing as we made our way back to the ship.

That evening, the ship did not depart until 9:30pm. Since it was so rainy and cold, we hung around the ship rather than going back into town. We heard the Rhapsody group again; this time the title of their set was “Evening Melodies”. There was no theatre show that night. We had a relaxing evening walking around, checking out the stores, strolling occasionally on the promenade deck.

Jay's BD balloons

Our progress towards Skagway

Our ship's position

Great weather in Skagway (in summer).

Arriving in Skagway, the weather was wonderful! The sun came out and it was quite a bit warmer than it was in Juneau. There is an average of only 27 inches of rain annually here so Skagway is known as the “sunshine” capital of SE Alaska! Check out the size of this raven!

Big bird, nice bird, don't come any closer

Skagway and Soapy

We headed out for a scenic street car tour. Our tour took us around town and up to the historical cemetery. One of the interesting characters that lived in Skagway during the Gold Rush was Jefferson Smith, also known as “Soapy” Smith. He was the ultimate con man. His nickname came from the fact that he was a soap salesman. One of his first scams involved selling bars of soap for $5 which was outrageously expensive. How did he do that? He told the miners that inside the bars they might find $20 or $50 bills. He’d “sell” one or two which the “buyers” would cut in halve to find such bills, this convincing the miners that he said was true. Naturally, those “buyers” were in on the scam with soapy and they ran out of town before they could be caught! After some time had passed, soapy returned and opened a telegraph office. What the folks didn’t know was that the telegraph wires went out of the building into the water so no telegraphs actually went through. Soapy was the consummate con man and he was eventually killed in Skagway at the age of 38.

Our tour guide was a hoot.

Soapy got shot

Frank Reid shot and killed Soapy and was revered for that yet he was also a con man!

Skagway was the starting point for the Klondike Gold Rush. It sits atop the northernmost point of the Inside Passage in SE Alaska. Gold was first discovered in the Yukon in 1896. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park covers a 6 block area where the stores and original wooden sidewalks have been carefully restored. The Park Service owns most of the buildings and leases them to the stores. There is an average of only 27 inches of rain annually here so Skagway is known as the “sunshine” capital of SE Alaska!

There are remnants of the railroad that took folks to the gold rush.

There is still a train for tours.

This mining camp is reconstructed

Far view of Skagway

Skagway main drag with many jewelry stores.

You will see many of the same jewelry shops here as in the Caribbean.  They are everywhere!
You will see many of the same jewelry shops here as in the Caribbean. They are everywhere!

Victorian building

Nice view of town, mountain and glaicer!

Looking the other way, more jewelry stores.

Jay finally bought some blue topaz for Cheryl.  Most of the jewelers live in RVs near town and migrate with the season.
Jay finally bought some blue topaz for Cheryl. Most of the jewelers live in RVs near town and migrate with the season.

Otters were swimming along in the river.

We had reservations at the specialty Italian restaurant, Sabatini’s, to celebrate the big day for Jay.

Great pasta and seafood.

The food was superb. Jay had spaghetti al la mare and we have never seen so many mussels, scallops and shrimp in that dish before. Plus it had lobster! The waiter joked that it was a teenage lobster (it was a little one) and he cracked it for us and got the meat out. Cheryl had sea bass baked in a zucchini basket which was quite tasty. The ship presented Jay with a chocolate cake in a dark chocolate box as his birthday treat! We had ordered a chocolate tiramisu before we knew about the cake!

We strolled the promenade and watched the world from our balcony.

Feeling like we were in a chocolate coma, we strolled outside on the promenade deck so the sea air along with the walk could revive us from that coma. Back inside, Cheryl caught art of the Rhapsody Trio in their “Music and Cocktails” set while Jay ambled into the casino to smoke a cigar. He struck up a conversation with a guy from north of Seattle while there and had a nice discussion on weather, living conditions, etc. in that area of the country.

Having safely seen Jay through his 62nd birthday, we retired to our cabin for the night. Here are scenes form our balcony that evening.

Friday, July 31, 2015 At Sea

Lazy day at sea…we slept in and then spent the day just wandering around. Cheryl saw a fellow who had also been in the photo class and they compared notes about excursions, photos, etc. He took the photo excursion where participants had an opportunity to get some one-on-one assistance with taking photos. He said he learned a lot and he shared some tips with Cheryl. The Ruby Prince Singers had a great 15 minute Motown Review singing show mid-afternoon that Cheryl went to see. It was fun and she spent some time talking with the singers and the sound and light guys afterwards. Jay spent time in the laundry room. He met some interesting folks in there. It was quite the popular place to be this afternoon!

Oddly enough, at dinner time, neither of us felt hungry for a multi-course meal. We smelled a hamburger as someone walked by with one and immediately we both thought “that’s what we want for dinner! So that’s what we did! Afterwards we went to the show “Colours of the World”. It was a good show. We finished the evening with watching “The Age of Adaline” on the outdoor movie screen by one of the pools. Good movie; we enjoyed it. The pool attendant had blankets to wrap up in, popcorn, pizza and milk and fresh warm baked chocolate cookies. What a fun way to end the evening!

Saturday, August 1, 2015 at sea till B.C.

Another lazy morning; the most strenuous thing we did was attend a culinary arts demo from the head chef and the maître de hotel.

The cruise director (on the left with the hand held mic) introducing the maitre’ de hotel, Generoso Mazzone, and the head chef, Paolo Merlo.

They were funny! The set was just like cooking shows on TV. They prepared a 4 course Alaskan/Italian themed meal in about 45 minutes. The salad was a salmon mouse, pasta was salmon in cream sauce with pasta noodles, the main course was shrimp diablo and dessert was tiramisu. It smelled yummy! Afterwards we were allowed to walk through the galley for the main dining hall. There are 11 galleys on this ship; basically one for each dining venue.

Vegetable Art

These creations were placed about the shiny clean kitchen.

We made it to BC, Canada.

There are seaplanes landing and taking off in Vancouver.

BC from our balcony

Car show on the dock, here a Stanley Steamer.

There were many other vintage cars nearby.
There were many other vintage cars nearby.

Peacocks in the park

Our tour took us through the park, town and to a castle.

A million dollar house with a million dollar view.

Upscale neighborhood

We were headed to Criagdarroch Castle. This is a Canadian Historical Site built between 1887-1890. There was steep hill we had to walk up and then inside the castle there were 87 steps up to the top.

Criagdarroch Castle

Stained glass windows in the foyer

more stained glass

A view from the balcony at sunset

sunset lavender

The castle at night

We headed back to the bus and continued our drive through Victoria. It is so pretty at night! We drove through Chinatown and then past the governmental buildings.

Chinatown gate

We arrived back on the Ruby around midnight. After watching us depart Victoria, we packed up the last of our things. Cheryl had arranged for the big bag to be picked up while we were out and checked through to Houston so all we had to do was gather our carry-on items.

Sunday, August 2, 2015 Last Day

Being instructed to vacate our room by 7 am, we headed to the theatre to await our transportation to Sea-Tac. We traveled together to the airport. Jay then headed off to pick up his rental car as he was continuing the trip by driving to the Olympic Peninsula. Cheryl had to head back to Houston and work.


There are one or two large jewelry companies who have operations all the way from Alaska to the Caribbean. They wear you down. If one place does not get you, another will.


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    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      20 months ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed the trip through your article and photographs. Thank you for sharing this wonderful cruise.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I always wanted to do an Alaskan cruise. It sounds like you visited some charming places.

    • freecampingaussie profile image


      3 years ago from Southern Spain

      Really enjoyed this as we did the trip a couple of years ago from Seattle to Vancouver covering the same ports ! I was so excited to visit the Yukon & would love to go back if my range of Children s books take off !! Voting you up ..

    • lucka profile image

      Tom Gorec 

      3 years ago from Slovenia

      Wow, loved your article and all the amazingly beautiful sights you saw in Alaska - it is definitely on my travel bucket list even more now!


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