Our 2013 Alaskan Cruise
Alaska was on my Bucket List since I had visited Canada in 2007 and realised that a holiday featuring snow and ice was not a bad option at all (click here to see Canada Blog). Once wrapped up it could be quite cosy. As the saying goes “there’s no such thing as bad weather; just unsuitable clothing”. Alaska is quite tricky to get to overland so a cruise seemed the way to go. I had been on a number of cruises before with my Mam, Peggy, so knew what to expect ….but this would be Charlie’s first one. I knew he was a bit apprehensive about being out at sea on a “boat” and wondered if it would feel claustrophobic or if there would be enough to see and do. As you will see in this post, he needn’t have worried.
Overview of our Alaskan Cruise 2013
So, we booked a 7 Night “Alaska Hubbard Glacier” Celebrity Cruise on board the Celebrity Century trip with Abbey Travel from 6 Jul-14 Jul 2013. This is the route we took:
And the virtual trip from Clean Cruising:
Because we expected amazing scenery en-route we opted for the cabin type which Celebrity call the Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda ….and we didn’t regret it. We also opted for Select Dining which gave us the flexibility to dine exactly when we wanted between 6:00pm and 9:30 pm every night of the cruise vacation. We bought the drinks package.
Alaskan Cruise Packing List
As I alluded to earlier, a bit of thought needs to go into packing for a cruise in Alaska as the weather can be challenging both on deck and ashore. Waterproof warm layers for the day would be important. We would also be doing some trekking so hiking boots would be useful. Because a cruise gives you an excuse to dress up, a couple of smart evening outfits would also be handy. A few cruise-specific items would also be useful (e.g. a 4-gang power strip because the older ships never have enough sockets, magnetic hooks/ clips because ship walls are metal allowing you to hang up bags & coats freeing up valuable floor space). Click HERE to see what I packed.
How Our 2013 Alaskan Cruise Went
Saturday, July 6, 2013
06Jul2013 – Dublin-Toronto AC895: 1045-1305 (7 hrs 20 minutes – 5 hr time difference)
06Jul2013 – Toronto-Vancouver AC147: 1500-1704 (5hrs 4 minutes – 3 hr time difference)
We flew both legs with Air Canada and at Vancouver we grabbed a taxi to our pre-cruise hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront where we stayed for one night. The hotel was incredibly handy as it’s just across the road from the Canada Place Cruise Terminal. The hotel arranged for our luggage to be transferred across and we just had to walk across the road. (We had checked in online and had printed off our cruise luggage labels). I’d definitely recommend this hotel if you are cruising out of Vancouver.
Day 2 (Day 1 of Cruise)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sunday, July 7, 2013 (Evening Attire: Smart Casual)
Vancouver: is among the world's most liveable cities - diverse, cultural and beautiful - this culinary capital treats you to fresh local seafood, farm-to-table produce, and authentic Asian flavours. But while downtown shines with steel and glass, its epicentre is green Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre oasis of spectacular beaches, trails, and views. We had explored it in our 2007 visit but unfortunately this time we were only passing through.
Check in for the cruise was painless and shortly after 11 am we were on board the Celebrity Century. Our stateroom would not be available until 1pm as is the norm, but we headed up to explore the ship. We then popped up to the Islands Café at the back of Deck 11 where we had brunch and drinks ....... we then stepped outside and I sipped my first cocktail, the Bon Voyage (vodka, banana liqueur, pineapple juice and orange juice), whilst admiring the views of Vancouver Harbour.
Our room, 8124, was ready soon and our luggage had arrived so we busied ourselves unpacking (super easy with packing cubes.) We also read our first “Celebrity Today” welcoming us on-board…these are the daily newsletters telling you all you need to know on your cruise and are left on your bed each day (See copies here).
At 3:45 pm we all assembled for the mandatory Emergency Lifeboat Drill and shortly after 4:30 pm we sailed away out of Vancouver with the band playing, the sun shining, us quaffing champagne and enjoying the view of the float planes and the Lions Gate Bridge. Ahead of us lay almost 800 nautical miles of stunning scenery to Icy Strait Point.
We headed to dinner after 6pm to the Grand Restaurant on Deck 5 which was delicious with plenty of choice. Afterwards, we caught a bit of the comedian, Louis Johnson, in the Theatre and had a few drinks in the bar. Went to bed looking forward to the week ahead.
Day 3 (Day 2 Cruise)
Inside Passage (Cruising)
Monday, July 8, 2013 (Evening Attire: Formal)
Inside Passage, Alaska: Today, we sailed into the more protected Alaska Inside Passage in south-eastern Alaska. This complex labyrinth of fjords, bays, and lush green islands is home to an abundance of wildlife, including orca, mountain goats, bald eagles, bears, puffins, sea otters and much more. During the summer months, the long hours of daylight allow for ample opportunities for nature photos on this Inside Passage Cruise. The weather during the day was glorious and we sat out on deck taking in the views.
There were ample food choices during the day and we grazed at the Island’s Café, the Poolside Grill and the Cova Café. The cocktail of the day was Pacific Sunset (mango vodka, pure cane syrup, sprite, OJ and grenadine).
That evening was formal night …so we put the “glad rags” on and headed down to the Grand Restaurant for another delicious meal. We noticed a bit of a hub bub en-route with a lot of passengers looking over the side. Turns out that one of the crew had taken ill and had to be evacuated ashore by the Life Guards. (We heard the following day that all was well with him and his illness wasn’t life threatening.)
Later, our Captain, George Iatrou, hosted a “welcome aboard” toast in the Theatre and we stayed on for the Musical which we enjoyed. And then we headed out to watch the sunset – a glorious shade of orange.
Day 4 (Day 3 Cruise)
Icy Strait Point, Alaska
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 (Evening Attire: Smart Casual)
Docked: 3:00PM to 10:00PM
For thousands of years, the Tlingit Native Americans have called Icy Strait Point home. Located near the city of Hoonah, and home to a historic cannery, Icy Strait Point also offers travellers the chance to view wildlife like humpback whales, orcas, seals, eagles, and brown bears, or to explore monuments to the region's fishing heritage.
Whale Watching and Seafood Feast
At around 3:30 we left the ship to do this excursion; a 2.5-hour boat cruise around Point Adolphus, with the guarantee of spotting whales, plus a tasty spread of Alaskan seafood (salmon, crab and shrimp) for lunch. We boarded a high-speed powerboat helmed by a captain who ensured that we would see a whale during our trip — otherwise we’d receive a refund for the whale watching portion of the tour.
So we headed away from the coastline and motored around the placid waters surrounding Point Adolphus, a popular feeding area for migrating Alaska humpback whales. We kept our eyes peeled for the "King of the Ocean," as humpback and orca whales are often seen breaching the water's surface.
For some mad reason, I was always on the other side of the boat whenever a whale breached …but Charlie was lucky enough to see several. I had to be happy to see the tail fins!! But even that was still amazing. During the cruise we also saw sea lions, harbour seals, sea otters, and bald eagles soaring overhead.
Back on dry land in Icy Strait Point we were treated to lunch; a seafood feast of Alaskan boiled shrimp, Alaskan salmon and crab cooked with corn on the cob, potatoes, sausage and vegetables. We purchased a glass of Alaskan Beer to sip on while taking in the fresh air of Alaska's evergreens.
What to Bring:
• SeaPass card and photo identification
• Cash/credit cards
• Sun protection
What to Wear:
• Hat and sunglasses
• Walking shoes
• Layered clothing
• Wind/water resistant jacket
Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends Show
At 7pm, we immersed ourselves in Native culture. We gathered at the Heritage Center Native Theatre for the Tribal Dance and Cultural Legends performance showcasing the rich heritage of a people shaped by the wild lands and inland seas of southeast Alaska. Wearing their colourful, traditional regalia, a group of proud Huna Tlingit performers shared their history and culture through song, dance and storytelling. The show culminated in a lively traditional celebration... and we were all invited to join in! It was great fun!
After all that excitement we headed back to the ship ….and dinner. After dinner, we headed to the photo gallery to see how our photos had turned out…you are snapped regularly during the day both on board and going ashore and if you wish can purchase the photos on board when they are put up on display in the Photo Gallery.
A few drinks in the bar capped off a lovely day. Today’s cocktail special was a “Strawberry Cilantro Margarita” (tequila, triple sec, fresh lime, pure cane syrup and strawberry puree). Mmmm….sure the strawberry probably counts as one of your 5-a-day…and we all know that strawberries are rich in Vitamin C and that keeps scurvy away when you’re out at sea. That night, in our Celebrity Today, we were reminded to turn our watches 1 Hour Back as we went to bed as tomorrow would be Hubbard Glacier, almost 220 nautical miles away.
Day 5 (Day 4 Cruise)
Hubbard Glacier, Alaska - Cruising
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 (Evening Attire: Smart Casual)
Cruising: 10:30AM to 2:00PM
Hubbard Glacier, Alaska: The Hubbard Glacier is located about 30 miles north off the coast of Yakutat and is by far one of Alaska’s most exciting natural treasures. On our cruise to Hubbard Glacier, we enjoyed incredible picture-perfect views of this glorious mount of ice from about every angle on our ship. Named after Gardiner Hubbard, the founder and president of the National Geographic Society, Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier in the world. It is situated in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dramatically massive at about 7-miles wide, 76-miles long and as tall as a 30-story building above the waterline, it’s the largest river of ice in North America. How this magnificent block came to form begins about 400 years ago from the snowfalls on the slopes of Mount Logan. While most of the world’s glaciers are retreating, the Hubbard Glacier has continued to thicken over the years and on rare occasions will partially block Russell Fjord, temporarily damming its passage.
We experienced the wilds of Alaska as our ship made its way through icy waters turning from Yakutat Bay into the narrow Disenchantment Bay to come face-to-face with the towering Hubbard Glacier. The strong currents and riptides that flow between Gilbert Point and the face of the glacier cause calving to occur on a daily basis, sending massive chunks of ice crashing into Disenchantment Bay.
The weather made for perfect viewing and we were able to get up really close. We witnessed this awe-inspiring calving phenomenon on-board as we were allowed on the Bow of the ship with a naturalist narrating from the Bridge over the PA. Both Charlie and I were awestruck; it was an adventure of a lifetime. Photos are Charlie’s:
After several hours at Hubbard, we left Yakutat Bay heading for Juneau, approximately 290 nautical miles away. After dinner tonight we went to see the “Liverpool Knights” show in the Theatre; featuring music by the Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Bee Gees and more. It was very enjoyable. The cocktail today was an “Ice Pick” (sweet tea vodka and lemonade)…but I decided to pass. We then watched another stunning sunset.
Day 6 (Day 5 Cruise)
Thursday, July 11, 2013 (Evening Attire: Formal)
Docked: 7:30AM to 8:00PM
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, was founded during a gold rush in 1880. Nowadays, the former gold-mining town counts among its riches some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery. We were unlucky with the weather though as we got murky rain. Juneau is nestled at the foot of Mount Juneau and has several magnificent fjords located along the channel coast. It is 900 air miles north of Seattle and has a population of around 30,000. The economy is based on government, tourism, mining and fishing.
This was our chance to take a Mendenhall glacial dogsled adventure from a helicopter….we had tickets booked for 8:45am but sadly the weather meant that the helicopters were grounded. So dog-sledding is still on my to-do list. After the initial disappointment, we decided to do some shopping and bought some great souvenirs.
Trek to Mendenhall Glacier
After a tasty lunch we joined our second shore excursion at 1:45pm, a hike to the Mendenhall Glacier. Mendenhall, one of the most beautiful and accessible glaciers in North America, is just 13 miles from downtown Juneau and we were there in no time on a shuttle bus. In my opinion, it’s a must-see destination for any Alaska vacation. You won’t believe your ice! A half-mile wide, with ice up to 1,800 feet deep, it’s little wonder this is Juneau’s most popular destination.
As we were on a tight schedule, a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center provided fascinating information as well as excellent views of this ever-changing wonder. While there, we watched a brief film about how the Mendenhall is part of the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Icefield.
If you can spend at least a half-day, there are many ways to get up close to this majestic glacier. Enjoy hiking trails that run along surrounding terrain, including the one we did, a moderately easy and well-marked trail to Nugget Falls. Winding along Mendenhall Lake, the closest trail to the glacier itself, you’ll find a stunning 377-foot waterfall cascading into an iceberg lake with a magnificent glacier in the background — another amazing photo opportunity.
While we were there, we saw several people kayaking on Mendenhall Lakes. Kayaks and gear can be rented from the Alaska Boat & Kayak Center. But due to the ice-cold temperature of the water, it’s only recommended for people who are physically fit and have experience kayaking so we gave it a miss.
Back at the ship we again donned the “glad rags” for formal night. This time we had booked one of the speciality restaurants on-board, Murano. It didn’t disappoint….especially the desserts…and was worth paying extra for. The cocktail tonight was Asian Apple Limeade (Absolut orient apple vodka, fresh lime juice, pure can syrup and soda water). I stuck to a G&T.
Day 7 (Day 6 Cruise)
Friday, July 12, 2013 (Evening Attire: Smart Casual)
Docked: 2:00PM to 8:30PM
Ketchikan is known as the rainiest town in southeast Alaska, and mist arrives from the nearby fjords and settles over the sleepy, wood creek town, making early mornings quiet and dewy – perfect for a peaceful kayak ride through the Misty Fjords or an adventurous hike up Deer Mountain. Afternoons are best spent taste-testing the many local restaurants before perusing the adorable galleries and shops in town.
Next to the water, you’ll find the neat row of wooden buildings, known as Creek Street, which is in walking distance from the Ketchikan cruise port terminal. Nowadays they are brightly painted boutiques, but their history tells a different story. Once Ketchikan’s red-light district, these used to house women who were available to gentlemen callers at all hours. A trip to the museum at Dolly’s House will give you a glimpse into the bawdy ways of frontier life that continued until the town’s red-light district was finally shut down in 1953.
Ketchikan is also home to the world’s largest collection of Northwest totem poles, each with its own recorded version of history through the use of visual art and carvings. Seeing totem poles is one of the top things to do in Ketchikan from a cruise ship, and there are many places in town to witness these fascinating story-telling works of art.
Visitors who cruise to Ketchikan on an Alaska cruise can find both the Visitor’s Bureau and the Visitor’s Center across from the terminal upon disembarkation. Both offer walking maps of the town if you prefer to explore on your own. Otherwise, there are many opportunities for discovering the town and surrounding fjords with local operators of kayaking, floatplane, and bicycle companies. It rains an average of 300 days every year in Ketchikan, so it’s recommended to bring rain-resistant clothing if you plan to go exploring.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, Ketchikan
We decided to go to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show at 3pm. This show reflects upon southeast Alaska’s rich logging history and comes to life with thrilling displays of strength and agility. These world champion athletes wearing spiked boots & hard hats compete in 12 athletic events that utilize seven-pound axes, six-foot razor sharp saws, tree climbing gaffs, and souped-up chainsaws.
We were encouraged to cheer “Yo Ho” and roared with excitement as axes flew through the air, men free fell from tall trees, and then ran atop spinning logs floating in the water. The show is held in a covered, heated, and cushioned grandstand that includes a rustic lodge gift shop and full concession. This was one hour of action, excitement, and laughs that is unique to all of Alaska. Great fun!
Misty Fjords Flightseeing
At 5:30pm we headed off the ship to pick up an Alaskan Bush Plane for a seaplane tour over nearby Misty Fjords. I must say when our pilot was introduced I did a double take…he looked about ten years old. However, I need not have worried he was an amazing pilot….teenagers in Alaska learn to fly a plane like other American teens learn to drive a car.
Soon we were soaring over our ship and then above the glacier-carved granite cliffs and waterfall-studded forests. With guaranteed window seating for all passengers in the fixed-wing De Havilland Beaver plane, we had our eyes peeled as we coasted over lush mountaintops and hillsides where wild goats and black bears roam. We learnt about the ancient geologic history and wildlife of this spectacular landscape through via live narration from the pilot during the 1.5-hour flight. Part of the way through, we landed in a lake ….it was so beautifully peaceful and calm as we stood out on the floaters. All too soon we were on our way back and spotted a bald eagle nest!! After disembarking we got an Alaskan Bush Plane Certificate. This makes a great cruise ship shore excursion.
We had dinner back at the ship. Today’s cocktail was a Spiced Cooler (Bacardi, sweet and sour, pure cane syrup and ginger ale).
Day 8 (Day 7 Cruise)
Inside Passage (Cruising)
Saturday, July 13, 2013 (Evening Attire: Smart Casual)
Inside Passage, Alaska: Today we headed back along the Inside Passage. The weather was glorious as we enjoyed our last full day on the ship. We kept our eyes open for any wildlife, including orca, mountain goats, bald eagles, bears, puffins, sea otters and much more. There was a lot to do on-board. But mostly we lazed about on the pool deck.
Celebrity Century is no longer owned by Celebrity Cruises…but here’s a video by Popular Cruising of what it was like on-board in 2013 when we were on it.
That night, we started packing before dinner ….then afterwards put our luggage outside our room door. We picked up the photos we were buying from the Gallery and headed to the casino and bar for our last drinks on-board. Today’s cocktail was Coco-Lime Fizz (Malibu, fresh lime juice, pure cane syrup and ginger ale).
Day 9 (Day 8 Cruise)
Vancouver, British Columbia
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Shortly after 7 am we docked back at Canada Place, Vancouver…hard to believe it was only 7 days since we left. And in that time we had travelled 2,123 nautical miles. After breakfast on-board, we made our way to the gangplank and disembarked the ship.
We grabbed a taxi to Vancouver airport and caught the following flights with no hassle:
We arrived back in Dublin completely wrecked…but delighted that everything had gone so well and with very happy memories of Alaska. We really did have “a whale of a time”.
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog post
Number 2 - Adventure - Land In A Sea Plane - Misty Fjords, Alaska
Number 16 - Nature & Wildlife - Visit 8 Stunning Waterfalls - Nugget Falls, Alaska
Number 34 - Food & Drink - Eat/ Drink Regional Foods/ Drinks
Number 58 - Travel - 80 Countries - USA & Canada
Number 59 - Travel - 80 Hotels
Number 62 - Travel - General - Visit 8 States in the USA - Alaska, USA
Number 76 - Experiences - 80 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 27 - Scotland
Blog 28 - Barbados
Blog 29 - Canada
Have you been on holidays to Alaska? Or on a cruise? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!