Epic Trip Stop 7 Part 1 – Westward Bound

After filling me up on love, Canada saw me off at the airport in Toronto early in the morning of August 3, 2015.  I was heading west to Vancouver to get aboard my Alaskan cruise.    FYI, flying across Canada took five hours.  I know, I was surprised too when I was booking the ticket.  I had forgotten that it’s a giant country that occupies just under half of the North American continent.

Going to Vancouver included a time zone change so by the time I arrived there 5 hours after leaving Toronto at 7 am, it was just about 9 am local time.  I found my cruise desk at the airport, where they tagged and took my luggage (no more luggage left behind for the rest of my epic journey) and got me and fellow cruisers onto a bus that would take us to the cruise ship terminal.  At the terminal, we went through immigration, since we were leaving the country and heading north to America, then finally got on the ship.  As an avid viewer of The Love Boat when I was growing up, I was excited for my first cruise experience, but mostly I was bursting with excitement because I was going to Alaska!  This was a lifelong dream come true.

I made my way to my cabin and was not disappointed.  It was an inside cabin, which was cheaper – this was important because cruise ships charge by stateroom, not by person – but I didn’t once feel the lack of a porthole during my seven days on that cruise.

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My cabin aboard the Norwegian Sun…the bed didn’t make my “best ever” list but it was as comfortable as any standard hotel bed

I quickly left my luggage and went about exploring the ship.  I located the restaurants, gym, spa and entertainment areas, then I showered, dressed for dinner and went back to the gym because they were having a drawing for a free spa treatment.  And I won!  I really had no expectations of winning but honestly, my cruise could not have gotten off to a better start.  Afterwards, I had dinner in one of the restaurants then for a walk around the deck, smiling the entire time, because I was finally on my way to Alaska.

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My spa treatment winnings

The next morning, I put on my exercise clothes and went speed walking on the deck along with a bunch of old-ish people.  I didn’t care that I was probably the youngest person out there at that time of the day; I was thoroughly enjoying my first Alaskan sunrise.

Of the seven days that we would be cruising, we had three ports of call and I had pre-booked all my shore excursions because why go on a cruise and stay on the ship?  So after breakfast, I joined my fellow passengers walking down the gangway and into the port at Ketchikan.  My excursion for the day was a nature walk through a rainforest on a nearby island.  My smile persisted; I was in heaven.

A shuttle bus delivered our tour group to Knudson Cove, from where we took a dinghy to an island about 10 minutes away then walked around the island, learning quite a bit about the plant and animal life there (I’ve forgotten most of it now) from our biology-student guide.  It was so beautiful and quiet and peaceful out there that I couldn’t help but feel my wellspring of joy being filled up.  When the walk was over, we had a snack then, back on the beach, our guide had us shout across the cove to hear the echoes.  My fellow nature walkers were acting shy so I piped up with a good shout (I used to be a cheerleader, I know how to project my voice) and got a good callback and a round of applause from the rest of the group.  The dinghy took us back to Knudson Cove and the shuttle took us back to the ship, where I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, then showered and dressed for dinner.

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Clockwise from top left: View into the forest; pebbles on the beach; walking the plank through the forest; view of the cove from the trees

The next day, my shore excursion in Juneau was an easy hike to Mendenhall Glacier.  This was the first glacier I ever saw in my life.  At the start of the hike, our guide gave us a pack with water, a rain poncho and bear spray – you know, just in case a bear unexpectedly came out of the woods at us.  Seriously.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as bear spray, which is apparently a type of pepper spray.

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Didn’t believe me about the bears?  Check out the sign at the bottom

We hiked for a while up a mountain and through the woods, passing beautiful waterfalls, watching salmon swim upstream, and learning about the retreat of the glacier over the previous centuries.  And then we saw it…Mendenhall Glacier.  People, ah swear me glad bag buss.

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Mendenhall Glacier, a river of ice flowing into the lake below

We eventually got down near to the glacier and it blew my mind that the ice that I was looking at was hundreds of years old and had taken that long to get to Mendenhall Lake from up in the mountains.  When in my life did I ever conceive that I would be this close to an actual glacier?  Never, that’s when!  It was the Serengeti all over again, with a little less intensity this time, but just as powerful.  The awesomeness of nature surrounded and pressed in on me and I kept filling up on joy.

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Can you imagine waking up to a view like this every morning?

By the time we got back to town in the late afternoon, I was practically bursting with joy.  I had gone on a hike, the weather was drizzly and chilly just like I love it and I had seen the beauty of nature, as well  as my first glacier.  The day could not have been more perfect.

Back in town, I bought and mailed postcards then made my way back to the ship.  I showered and went to dinner, where I had delicious fresh Alaskan salmon.  Then I went to bed, truly content and happy with life.

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