In June 2015 we took our first cruise on the Norwegian Pearl to Alaska. On our Alaska cruise we sailed 1,760 nautical miles over seven days from Seattle, Washington to Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan in Alaska, through Glacier Bay National Park, to Victoria, British Columbia, and back to Seattle. Check out our route:
On Day 6 we arrived in Ketchikan bright and early. Ketchikan, like both Juneau and Skagway, is surrounded by water and mountains, and is stunningly beautiful. The city is located on Revillagigedo Island and is bordered by the Tongass National Forest. Ketchikan has a population of about 8,000 and is nicknamed the “Salmon Capital of the World.” Industries here are similar to those in Juneau and Skagway – government, fishing, lumber, and tourism.
We got off the cruise ship at 9AM for our Ketchikan port excursion called Lighthouse, Totems, and Eagles. It was a 3 hour boat ride through the Clarence Straight and Tongass Narrows to see – you guessed it – a lighthouse, totems, and bald eagles!
Our captain, Captain Rob, was an older gentleman with a salty sense of humor but clearly knew this area like the back of his hand and had a genuine love of Ketchikan. He was knowledgeable, funny, and educational.
Within minutes of setting sail we began to see eagles. They were everywhere! All told on this excursion we probably saw 30 eagles. Here are the best photographs I snapped with my telephoto lens:
As you likely know, the bald eagle is both the national bird and national animal of the US. Bald eagles were once on the brink of extinction in the US however, they have recovered significantly over the last 20 years. They were removed from the US’s list of endangered species in 1995 and transferred to the list of threatened species, later to be removed from that list in 2007. Alaska plays a large part in that story as it holds the largest bald eagle resident population at somewhere between 40,000-50,000.
Mom eagle in her nest, guarding her babies:
Bald eagles build the largest nest of any North American bird and the largest tree nests ever recorded for any animal species.
Another feature (totally unadvertised but pretty amazing) of our excursion were the waterfront homes we saw all along the coastline. Each of them were completely unique and distinct from each other with varying architectural styles and landscaping. John and I decided that we may want to rethink our retirement goals and look into buying one of the beauties in another 30 years.
Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, located throughout the city at four major locations: Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. Our boat tour offered amazing waterfront views of Totem Bight State Park.
In addition to the magnificent totems at the park, you can also see the Clan House, a representation of what a typical Native American community village house would look like. Totems are inspired by nature and are used to tell stories (not worship the carvings, which is a common misunderstanding). These specific totems reflect the great reverence native peoples had for the abundance of this area (salmon, eagles, whales).
The final feature of the tour was the Guard Island Lighthouse. We circumnavigated the island it is on and began our return trip back to the dock.
As we sailed back to shore we enjoyed some snacks provided by the crew (super yummy salmon dip that John got the recipe for, crackers, and fruit) and enjoyed the scenery. We passed about 12 different islands on this trip, most inhabited only by wildlife.
One final surprise was some wildlife we saw (in additions to eagles, of course). We saw three orca…
…and also a bunch of sea lions (crazy camouflaging!). So cool!
John and I totally fell in love with Ketchikan. Just standing on the deck of the boat in the late morning sun, warm wind whipping through my hair and jacket, was such a treat.
The beauty of this place cannot be understated.
Again, if you have never been to Alaska I cannot recommend it enough. Even though we traveled via cruise ship, we spent enough time in each port on our excursions to really get a sense of Alaska and all of her splendor.
When we returned to downtown Ketchikan we had about 15 minutes to walk around before getting back on the cruise ship.
Downtown Ketchikan is full of wildflowers, so pretty!
It wouldn’t have been right to leave the “Salmon Capital of the World” without stocking up on salmon at Sockeye Sam’s. I didn’t take a picture of John’s bounty because it was of embarrassing proportions (only half kidding!). He’s already replicated Captain Rob’s recipe at home!
Later in the afternoon we went to a comedy workshop in Spinnaker Lounge with resident comedian, Tim Kaminski. Tim is old school, mentored by Jonathan Winters and Del Close. John’s obviously a seasoned performer from his years at Improv Boston, and has taught me a lot about comedy, but Tim’s a lifer in the industry and his perspective was super interesting.
That night we, once again, headed out into the vast Pacific for the penultimate leg of our journey. Onward to Canada!
Stay tuned for Cruise Day 7 in Victoria, British Columbia!