We recently returned from a cruise to SW Alaska. It was the first time both to Alaska, and on a cruise ship. We left a beatiful Sunny Saturday in Seattle and knew within a few days we'd be experiencing March in Seattle. Why did we go to Alaska when Seattle was in full summer bloom? Some photos will help.

Leaving Seattle when it's 80 degrees and sunny is difficult considering most of the year we are stuck somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees with clouds and rain. However, we knew that we'd be viewing some of the most amazing landscapes on the planet.

We left on a Saturday afternoon and sailed for a day and half to get to our first stop in Juneau, AK. Our port stops would be in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan. We'd make a final stop in Victoria, B.C, Canada on the Friday before arriving in Seattle on Saturday.

Juneau is a port town located at the northern most stop we'd be at during this trip. We probably saw less of of Juneau than any other stops we made in AK. We disembarked the ship and walked around the waterfront town and looked in a few shops. The first thing you notice, and this was most apparent in Juneau, is the number of jewelry and diamond stores and some kitsch outlets. Access to a captive audience has brought many of these store to the waterfronts of these port towns. It's sad to see these when most travelers would like to see more authentic offerings. Also, "owned by native Alaskans" was posted in many shops in all of the ports.

Our two favorite stops were in Sitka, Ketchikan and Glacier Bay. Technically, we didn't stop or port in Glacier Bay, but it provided one of the most amazing views of two major glaciers. In Sitka, we traveled on a small boat to visit Starfish Island, a small island approximately 10 miles away from town. We pulled up and they dropped us off and then left us alone for about an hour with just our guide and fellow travelers. Our guide anwered all of our questions and gave us her version of living in Alaska. A small world that it is, we found out she went to Sammamish High School nearby where we live.

We explored the little island digging up rocks and seeing many rock crabs, star fish and marine plant life as they were plentiful during low tide. The boat captain did mention when he was out in the area last weekend with a few friends, there was a bear in the brush. Nothing happend as they looked at each other and walked quickly in opposite directions.

After arriving in Sitka, we schedule a small float plane ride into the misty fjords. If you've never been in a small plane (seven seats or less), it's quite an adventure in itself. It's not for the queasy. Even though we had low clouds and rain, the views offered of the water, high mountains and take-off/landing in completely remote areas are amazing. If you want to get lost in America, Alaska would certainly be the place to do it in.

Overall, we had a great trip and found the cruise surprisingly enjoyable. The food was good and plentiful and we met several nice families. The trip was the result of a charity auction and I'm glad we went. We enjoyed it so much that we might do it again and travel farther north in the state. It would take many months to see the vast landscapes of Alaska including the high peaks and areas only accessible by plane or ferry.

One final note — while traveling, we read a great story of living in Haines Alaska and I highly recommend it. Author, Heather Lende, obituary writer for the local paper, gives you a very good idea about the challenges of living Alaska and the [mostly] good people that live there.

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