September 10 to September 21, 1998
Ports of Call
On Thursday, September 17, we arrived at Skagway, our first port of call. We spent the day touring Skagway in an antique sightseeing limousine that dates back to 1936-1937. Our chauffeur was dressed in colorful attire reminiscent of the gold rush area.
We explored the waterfront and the historic district and enjoyed the scenic overlook and a visit to the Gold Rush Cemetery. We saw the residential district with its famous flower gardens and heard spell-binding tales of Skagway's heroes and villains of yesteryear.
The grand finale was a visit to the Club House of the Arctic Brotherhood to see "Skagway Story" - an acclaimed production that combines live theater with multimedia. It was here we became an honorary member of the Arctic Brotherhood, an honor bestowed upon President Warren G. Harding when he visited Skagway in 1923.
After the tour we were on our own, and after doing some shopping in the quaint stores lining the wooden boardwalks, we had to take a bus back to the ship.
After dinner on board we had an evening of live entertainment and at 8:18 p.m. we set sail for Juneau, our next port of call.
On Friday, September 18, we arrived in Juneau and docked at 6:30 in the morning. It was here in Juneau where we had the opportunity to take a tour by helicopter and fly to the Norris Glacier.
After getting decked out in special protective gear, like glacier boots and yellow life jackets, we boarded the helicopter and flew high over Juneau's glacial landscape to experience this magical world firsthand on a glacier walk. Our pilot flew over ice spires and pointed out the cascading Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier and the advancing Taku Glacier and the one-of-a-kind Dead Branch Glacier.
When our helicopter touched down on the Norris Glacier, we got out and walked around to explore the ancient landscape. We peered down into what seemed a bottomless crevasse and stood in awe at the surrounding glacier.
We boarded the helicopter before too long, and as we flew over the hills surrounding Juneau we were fortunate to see a bear walking along the mountainside before arriving back at the heliport.
Arriving back in Juneau with time to spare, we then rode the Tramway to the top of Mount Roberts where we had a spectacular view of the city of Juneau and also of our cruise ship docked in the waters below. Soon after we rode the Tramway back down and then boarded our ship as she prepared to set sail at 6:00 p.m. for Ketchikan.
On Saturday, September 19, we docked in Ketchikan at 10:45 a.m. and shortly thereafter we left the ship to see all the sights of Ketchikan, including enchanting Totem Bight State Park.
We boarded a bus that took us on a 25-mile drive in and around Ketchikan. We saw Alaska's busiest waterfront, bustling with floatplanes and boats. We toured the old city and drove by infamous Creek Street, Ketchikan's former red-light district.
We traveled along scenic North Tongass Highway, passing salmon canneries and a pulp mill that was once the largest of its kind in the world.
Soon thereafter we arrived at Totem Bight State Park where an awesome sight awaited us. After walking along a short trail through a forest of mighty hemlock trees, we came to an old Indian campsite filled with colorful totem poles, each representing a fascinating tale. We learned more about ancient Alaskan Indian culture while walking through the mysterious Ceremonial House on the park's premises.
The time went all too fast and before long we had to board our bus and head back to our ship which was scheduled to leave Ketchikan at 6:30 that evening.
Sunday, September 20 was spent cruising the Inside Passage. Enroute from Ketchikan, Sky Princess traveled south into Hecate Strait, and entered Principe Channel passing Banks Island. From here she proceeded into Estevan Sound and then into Laredo Channel and Seaforth Channel before arriving at Bella Bella shortly before noon. Seymour Narrows was reached at around midnight and on Monday, September 21, Sky Princess traveled from Seymour Narrows during the night. She traveled across the Strait of Georgia before heading southeast towards her berth in Vancouver. The ship entered Vancouver Harbor at 6:30 a.m. and reached her berth by 7:30 a.m.
According to the "Log of The Cruise", compiled by 3rd Officer Paul Bryson, the Sky Princess steamed a total of 1,697 nautical miles or 1875 statute miles.
It was here in Vancouver, after Sky Princess docked, that we had to depart our ship and board a bus that took us to Seattle, Washington for our return flight home.
I cannot even begin to put into words what a fascinating adventure my entire trip to Alaska turned out to be. Between the 4-day land tour with all its highlights and the 8-day cruise and all our side trips we took while stopped at a port of call...it was for me the thrill of a lifetime.
Even our time spent on board ship while cruising was filled with hours of entertainment, movies, musicals shows, comedians, shopping, to say nothing of the food which was indescribably delicious.
I will never, ever forget this fabulous trip that I took with the Ashland Order of the Eastern Star.
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