Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Vacation That Was, Part 2: Cruisin' Through Alaska

Got a webcam today! Lots of interesting things to do with that, I think.

Anyway, today I continue my 3-part review of my vacation with the big part: The cruise on the Celebrity Mercury through Alaska. It'll be ultra-condensed, but still good.

Sunday we boarded the ship around midday. Let me tell you, the boat was huge... 14 floors of amazingness, complete with two-story restaurant, pool, game room, several nightclubs, bars, buffets, workout room, spa, basketball court... it goes on and on. Needless to say, it was somewhat overwhelming for the first couple of hours/days.

I'll use this post to talk about the places that I visited, however, so... Our first port of call was Ketchikan, Alaska. Lots of jewelry shops around, which tells you that the town was built off of the original gold rushes in the area. We decided to take a nature hike with the five hours that we had off the ship. We first visited a bald eagle reservation, which was amazing. Seeing bald eagles up close is pretty cool stuff, for an American, anyway. Still, we then took a nice hike on the Deer Mountain Trail. Uphill the whole way, but very scenic, at any rate. Overall, the town was nothing special, but it was just cool seeing Alaska in general.

The next day was the Hubbard Glacier. We didn't disembark for this one - instead, the ship got within half a mile of an enormous block of ice, really. It was freezing cold outside, but the views were spectacular. Seeing the glaciers up close was pretty humbling, really - witnessing a giant force of nature that carved the Earth into what it is today is pretty cool. There was also some calving going on, basically huge chunks of ice falling into the ocean. Good stuffs.
Next up was Juneau, and we spent our day doing one thing only - sea kayaking. Let me tell you, kayaking in crystal-clear water surrounded by mountains and glaciers is something that you should jump at the chance to do. I don't think I've ever tasted air that clean. Plus, we saw a ton of wild bald eagles just lounging around on sandbars. We got within like 10 feet of one before it spooked. Also, there were a bunch of seals that decided to chase us around. It was really fun watching the little guys pop up from the water and back down again. Great, great experience.

Our final port of call was Sitka. Warning: There is virtually nothing in Sitka but jewelry stores and totem poles. If those don't interest you, don't go. It was a pretty dreary day, too. Still, we made the best of it - we found this pretty cool aquarium that had some pretty exotic wildlife, and there was a quaint little nature walk that went for a mile or two. Not the most exciting day, but still worth getting off the boat, at any rate.

I'd rather not overload y'all with details, so my last post will be about the ship and the people I met. Until then, enjoy some of the pictures I've scattered throughout.

Pictures (top to bottom): The beautiful Celebrity Mercury, a bald eagle in Ketichikan, view from the middle of Deer Mountain, part of the Hubbard Glacier, some mountain in Juneau, some crazy sea star in Sitka, and kayaking in Juneau.

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