We went four years ago to Alaska and before the great moments vanish from my memory, I am going to share that remarkable trip with you.
Why it took me so long to write? Ah… many things… including the fact that we are always “busy”: we are traveling or planning the next trip. 🙂
At the time we went on our Alaskan cruise we flew from Rio de Janeiro to Vancouver (connecting flights were in New York City and San Francisco).
Vancouver airport is one of the prettiest I have been, and although tired we stop to admire its many sculptures and architectural details.
We stayed at The Sutton Place Hotel, located at 845 Burrard Street, downtown Vancouver.
Sutton Place is an excellent hotel, with a superb location and friendly service.
Vancouver is a perfect post-card city, with beautiful and clean streets, many natural parks and great shopping besides superb restaurants. In Vancouver you will find culinary delights from every country in the world. Just Google it.
The best street for street shopping is Robson street. There you will find all brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Nike, Forever 21, Zara, Emporio Armani, Mac, Ferragamo, Bebe, etc
Things to do when visiting Vancouver for the first time:
- Walk around Stanley Park on the Sea Wall. Your experience will be much better if you rent a bike. On Denman Street there are several rental shops. Rent by hour, half day, day or week. Major credit card imprint required as deposit.
- Visit Granville Island. The easiest way to get there is taking the small boat located at False Creek. While in Granville Island you will be able to visit a live market selling fresh fruits, vegetables, sea food and sweeties. There are many inexpensive restaurants and also an excellent brewery.
- Ride the Gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain
- Cross the Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Visit Van Dusen Botanical Garden, 37th St at Oak St. Van Dusen is rated as the prettiest garden of British Columbia, even when compared to the most famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria.
- Visit Queen Elizabeth Park (big, beautiful and free)
- If you need to buy outdoor gear you will find most stores near MEC on West Broadway
- Go shopping at most high end boutiques on Robson Street
- For a megamall experience, hop on the Sky Train and get off at the Metrotown Station. Here you’ll find three adjoining malls: Station Square, Metrotown Centre, and Eaton Square. Together they comprise over 500 shops, cinemas, etc
During the cruise: What to dress on a cruise to Alaska:
On a cruise to Alaska you will not need to “dress-up”. Alaska is famous for its beauty and natural wonders, so… be natural!
Even if you are sailing on a fancy cruise company, leave your Louboutin shoes at home. I recommend you pack one pair of black slacks, one black blazer and one black dress. Carry different blouses and jewelry to mix with neutral pants and skirts for dinner time. Jeans are a must for day excursions. You will need light sweaters and one coat (better it it is rainproof and has a protection to your head and years).
Don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, flip flop (to be used at the ship’s pool) and comfortable waterproof shoes for your excursions. Prepare to walk a lot while visiting Alaska’s natural wonders, and you will love each second of it!
Dinner: Celebrity Mercury is not operational anymore but at that time we traveled it was a very comfortable ship with great food and service. During dinner we had a table for six with a couple from the USA and another from Victoria, Canada. We had a lot of fan sharing our daily experiences during dinner.
The weather in Alaska during summer:
Unpredictable. Plan to dress in layers. Start with a short sleeve shirt, add a sweater and a light waterproof jacket. Comfortable, weather resistant walking shoes are a must.
Ports we visited during our Alaska cruise:
Before getting to the first port, we sailed along Inside Passage. It’s one day cruising between the main land and Vancouver Island. It’s very scenic and the sunset was to die for.
Sitka‘s cultural attractions are all within walking distance of downtown. The whole length of Lincoln Street is approximately one-mile, starting at Sitka’s southeast corner (featuring the lookout at Castle Hill)and ending at the National Historic Park to the north. The most important attraction of Lincoln Street is St. Michael’s Cathedral featuring a onion-shape architectural style. Russian Bishop’s House is another attraction of Lincoln Street that should not be missed. Another main street is Katlian Street, a road that follows the waterfront of the Sitka Channel. There you will see colorful fishing boats.
Due to the Russian influence, Sitka is different from the rest of Alaska.
Sitka Convention and Visitors Center located at Harrigan Centennial Building provides free information and maps to the visitors.
This is for sure, one of the best days along the cruise. You will see Hubbard Glacier from a big distance and when the ship gets closer…wow… it’s simply astonishing! There are icebergs floating on the water with sea creatures swimming and staying on them. Amazing experience! The ship stays docked during a couple of hours there, so everyone can take beautiful pictures of the huge glacier.
The best attraction in Juneau, if not the best attraction of the whole trip: Orca Enterprises Professional Whale Watching and additional adventure tours. Go with Captain Larry for an amazing and unforgettable experience: Whale watching
I highly recommend you book your whale excursion over the internet, before going in the cruise. Captain Larry is really famous and you might stay without a place in one of their famous boats! Several people that were on our ship went on the excursion organized by the ship and they saw few whales in a very long distance. Captain Larry is a local guy and he and his team have been doing this for years. They know exactly where are the best spots to see the whales and their boats are smaller than the boats used by the ship’s companies, resulting in a much better and personal experience.
You will be conducted to one of Captain Larry’s boat in a small bus. After the Whale watching tour, ask the driver to leave you at Mendenhall Glacier. This is an experience of a lifetime. Don’t miss, don’t miss, don’t miss it!
Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island and its known as the “Salmon Capital of the World“.
You don’t need to buy an excursion from the ship. Ketchikan is small and all attractions are located in a short distance. As soon as you disembark from the ship, go to Dock Visitor Center and get your copy of the “Walking Tour Map”.
A “must do” attraction of this charming town is the Heritage Museum. You will see wonderful Totens. Very close to the Heritage Museum you will find the Salmon Hatchery where you will learn a lot about salmons and how the people from the hatchery manage to protect and increase the number of animals. Go to the hatchery first for a cheaper combination ticket. Come back to the ship walking along the Creek while, depending on the season, you will watch the salmons jumping on their way upriver.
Again, after you visit the pretty Alaskan towns, you will cross the Inside Passage again on your way to beautiful Vancouver.
When we got to Vancouver we rented a car and went on a scenic and unforgettable trip to the Canadian Rockies. This will be the theme of a next post. Please stay tuned!