CRUISING THE INSIDE PASSAGE

inside-passage

by Donna McBride

Rain, snow and ice – it sounds like the winter storm everyone back East has been experiencing. It actually describes one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Alaska cruises once had the reputation of being an “old people” cruise, but I can tell you, it isn’t! We had the good fortune to enjoy a cruise when my husband Mike was nationally recognized by his company.

We selected a seven-day cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line going from Whittier down to Vancouver. Every port had an adventure while the evenings on the ship were filled with performances, great meals and even a little relaxing.


We decided to fly into Anchorage a few days early to explore before boarding. First on the list was white water rafting. Being avid kayakers for years, this Level 4 (5 being the highest) was a bit risky for us. The water was cold, even with rain gear, but we still worked up a sweat through the four-hour ride.

We set sail out of Whittier and the first day sailing gave us the opportunity to explore the ship and enjoy the endless restaurants and shops. The first stop was Icy Strait Point outside the small village of Hoonah, with the main attraction being the world’s largest zip line. With my feet firmly on the ground, I cheered on Mike from atop the 1,300 foot mountain as he slid through the misty fog going over 65 mph in roughly 90 seconds!

The next day we ended up in Juneau where we took in Mendenhall Glacier and some whale watching. Against the picture-perfect backdrop of snow-covered peaks and glaciers, we were able to see bears, sea lions and whales as we made our way through Stephens Passage.

Skagway was really the high point of our trip. It was here where we scheduled a safari. You may be thinking, “There’s a safari in Alaska?” You bet! Glacier Point Wilderness Safari was a wilderness expedition to the incredible Davidson Glacier that explored fjords, a rain forest and towering mountains.

We began with a journey on a high-speed expedition boat. A few seals and sea lions greeted us along the way before we were dropped off on a remote beach at Glacier Point. From there, we boarded an old bus through the forested moraines where we landed in the middle of no place. A crew, who lives on the island for about six months of the year, helped us suit up in gear that certainly was not made for a person of my 5-foot stature.

We hiked through the rain forest before jumping into 31-foot voyager canoes to paddle down the river to the glacier. The water teamed up with the misty rain to create mystic fog as we made our way down the river and around the bend. There before us was Davidson Glacier – looking incredibly intimidating as our guides led us up to the edges of the ice.

The group was silent as we took in the view and started hiking up the glacier. Small streams of clear water slid downward, inviting us to fill up our empty water bottles. Hiking the glacier was like nothing I ever imagined I’d be able to do. It was nature in all its glory. And while we could have stayed there for hours longer, we had to make our way back down to the canoes to start the long journey back.

The long and exhausting trip back to the cruise ship was a daze. It felt good to enjoy a hot shower and climb into bed as we sailed on to Ketchikan.

In Ketchikan I had co-piloted a floatplane through the Tongass Narrows, seeing occasional waterfalls and walls of granite. From Ketchikan we cruised the inside passage, ending up in Vancouver Canada.

We enjoyed a half-day train ride from Vancouver back to Seattle, before flying back into Phoenix. Looking back at this trip, we enjoyed just about every adventure of transportation by way of air, land and sea.

Whether you take the back roads, the unseen waters by canoe, hike through a rainforest or just sit on the cruise ship and enjoy the views of the glaciers – do it. It is nature’s way of boasting its power. And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.