Sunday, 27 July 2014

Alaska - Cruise

On the completion of land portion of Denali Discovery Cruisetour we boarded the ship Norwegian Sun at Whittier around 6.00 pm with our hand-luggage, after completing all custom formalities.  Our main luggage was delivered directly from the coach to our stateroom by the tour company.  Our stateroom was one with balcony in 9th deck. It was comfortable and roomy and the balcony plus long hours of sunlight helped us to enjoy the scenic passage even beyond 9 pm.  The first job we did was to explore the complimentary dining options.  We decided on Garden cafe and Great outdoor in deck 11 and we were not disappointed.  Not only we had good vegetarian options but there was rice and one Indian side dish every day, for lunch as well as dinner. And we could also get plain curd morning and evening from an obliging chef, who incidentally was from Australia.  Further in Deck 11, there was a pizza/pasta station in operation in the afternoon, which we used occasionally.

Among the passengers, we met a group of young couples of south Indian origin, alumni of the same engineering college in Coimbatore, now settled in various states of U.S. There was one other couple, Radha and Ramji, who had been former residents of Western Sydney, now settled in Texas. They had come as two families, the other that of Radha’s sister, Meera, settled in Miami.  We also met two couples from Castle Hill, Sydney; Mr.& Mrs. Sukumar and Mr. & Mrs. Raymond Pillay who had come together and also one Mr. Nagarajan, Koramangala, Bangalore who had come with his daughter and her family settled in California.  Running into one or the other of them one time or other in one place or other, it was quite a fun. Though in the ship there was a variety of entertainments and shows, we had our eyes only for the excellent scenery of glaciers, mountains, forests, waterfalls etc, which could be enjoyed from the comfort of our balcony, and the long hours of sunlight and the pleasant climate most of the days facilitated this lotus-eating laziness. Shows in Stardust and trips to Deck 11 were the only distractions from the glacier-gazing.

Day 2 was all-cruise day.  We cruised along Hubbard Glacier, one of the big glaciers which are calving icebergs. Unlike cruise in open seas, here one never gets tired of grand scenery of virgin nature. On day 3, the ship docked in Icy Strait Point, at a distance away from the shore.  The shore was reached through a tender from the ship. We went on a whale and marine mammals cruise. We could see some seals, otters and whales at a distance and were lucky enough to watch one whale taking a dive close to the ship.  Binoculars were provided to us free to facilitate whale watching and when a mammal was sighted, the ship halted and an announcement made and there was running all over to get to a vantage point.  As we took the afternoon cruise only, in the morning we went on a shore walk and spent time exploring the pier.

The next day ship docked in Juneau, capital of Alaska. Here we took an excursion to Mendenhall glacier.  The glacier is 12 miles long and nearby is a waterfall, Nugget falls or Mendenhall Glacier falls.  There is a trail leading to it and you can watch it at close quarters.  We decided to do it first before taking the trail to the vicinity of Glacier.  As we got there and were enjoying the majestic falls, floating icebergs in the Mendenhall lake and distant view of the glacier flowing into the lake, luck of good climate deserted us.  The climate that has been wonderful so long suddenly changed.  It didn’t turn cold or dark but it started drizzling lightly but continuously, and at times heavily.  So we beat a hasty retreat to the visitor’s centre where we waited for the coach, enjoying only the distant view of the Glacier from the cosy shelter of the centre. In the evening the ship cruised through Tracy Arm Fjord and South Sawyer Glacier. Oh! what a magnificent view of elevated glaciers, sheer rock falls and majestic mountains just dropping into the sea flat, floating icebergs of all sizes and shapes, single and in groups. 

The drizzle continued to dog us the next day as well in Skagway. Braving the continuous drizzle, we went on the shore excursion, the White Pass scenic railway. While we were taking in the breathtaking panorama of mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and gorges, as the train made the steep climb uphill, came the bad news that due to continuous rains some boulders got dislodged and had landed squarely on the track with the result the train before us was turning back and that ours will also terminate midway, even before reaching the tunnel.  Disappointed that we couldn’t do the journey in full, we returned to receive back half the cost of excursion as a small consolation for the interrupted excursion. 

But the next day in Ketchikan we could complete the Duck tour as the drizzle was light and sporadic in the morning and turned a bit heavy only after we returned to the ship for lunch finishing the morning tour. You can see Ketchikan by land and sea in this amphibious vehicle that glides into the water smoothly and floats around the harbour as effortlessly as it travels around the streets of Ketchikan. Ketchikan is a small island town which is called the “Salmon Capital of the World”. This is the last halt before the ship docks for disembarkation at Vancouver. The next day morning for a time the cruising was not smooth and Rajam started developing motion sickness. Luckily it did not last long as the cruising became smooth soon and the rest of the cruise along the  Inside Passage was fine and enjoyable as before. The next morning we disembarked in Vancouver and moved over with our luggage to the pre-booked hotel, “Century Plaza Hotel &Spa”.  The photos of the cruise, I have uploaded in the Flickr album “Alaska Cruise”:

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