So, like TWO MONTHS AGO now we went to Alaska. Jesus, that was a while ago. For my 30th birthday we went to a theme park, but we had sort of always planned for us to go to a cruise to Alaska, it’s just that Merritt was only about 3 1/2 months old at the time so obviously that was not happening. Chris and I have traveled a lot throughout the United States. Before we had kids we went on MANY road trips (a baseball one, the renovation road trip, our yearly college football trips, a Southwest USA trip, etc.) But the one state Chris had never been to was Alaska. That’s right, Chris had been to all 49 other states. And not just like, touched down in the state but stayed in the airport, but been INSIDE the state lines and traveled through it. I was at 48 – only Rhode Island and Alaska not checked off.
We had thought the idea to go to Alaska on a cruise would be pretty awesome, but didn’t really know when we would do it after we had kids. Then the idea of doing it for my 30th birthday seemed awesome. But then we had a very little baby. So we put it off and decided we would do it in a little while. Well, then we got itchy about it and thought, “Maybe we can do it this year?” The only kicker is that, well, we needed our girls looked after. We didn’t NEED them looked after, but it would certainly make going a lot easier and a vacation we would more easily enjoy because having a 1 year old and 3 year old on a cruise seemed EXHAUSTING (although we saw a lot of it, and every time we saw it the parents looked very, VERY, tired).
So we asked our parents: would you be willing to help us take care of our kiddos while we’re gone? It was going to be 8 days and my mom is away 6 months out of the year, so we coordinated it during a time she would be here and asked if she would stay at our house so the girl’s schedule wouldn’t be too disrupted. They would have day care 4 of the days we were gone, go to my dad and step mom’s one of the days, and we arranged for Chris’s mom to take them 1 of the days. But my mom would always be the one at home with them so their was some consistency for them. AND ALL OF OUR PARENTS SAID YES! More importantly, they all told us incredibly enthusiastically to, “PLEASE GO!” Chris and I hardly ever take vacations (the one before that was more than a year ago for only 3 days, and I don’t know when the one before that even was). That felt good. So we booked it!
We booked a Princess cruise, one direction (so we go to see more places) out of Vancouver and to Anchorage. We booked through Costco and then booked our excursions through the cruise (in hindsight I’d probably book the excursions at each port on their own to save money, but this was our first time and we kind of wanted to do things as simply as possible).
We had a super tough time leaving the girls that morning, but we knew it was good for us. We left very early and neither of the girls were awake. We had told Zoe what would be happening and she was excited to stay with my mom, but also sad we were leaving. Merritt only being about 13 months at the time of course had no idea what was going on.
We headed off to the airport and on our way to Seattle! As a birthday present from my brother he used his SW points and flew us round trip from Oakland to Seattle, but we hadn’t really figured out yet how we were going to get from Seattle to Vancouver. Everyone thought we were CRAZY because we were literally getting there only a few hours before the cruise left and most people get there about a day in advance just in case there are any problems. Well, we didn’t want to do that because we didn’t want to add another day of travel away from our girls. So, instead we decided we would just rent a car and drive about 95 miles an hour
It was a little stressful. Especially when the border crossing looked like this
But we made it JUST in time. This is literally what the prep area at the port looked like
Yup, one of the LAST groups of people to get on. We were still on time. Just REALLY close 🙂
Our little cabin was very cute – small and space used wisely. We opted for a cabin with a window so we didn’t feel claustrophobic. We didn’t get a balcony like many people suggested because we decided to save a bit and then go on some cooler excursions.
Our first port was Ketchikan. We only had the morning there, so we ventured around town a little bit when we first got there
A recurring theme in every town was just HOW commercial the areas around the port were. It was a little weird. SO MANY cheesy souvenir shops and weird jewelry stores. The strange thing was that people FLOODED those places. It was a little depressing actually because so many people weren’t getting out an about and discovering more authentic places. Although, it’s not like we were either because we went to plenty of places and did plenty of things that weren’t authentic. But I just don’t understand why someone would go all the way to Alaska to buy crappy jewelry at some strip mall place. Especially when after I looked into it there are a bunch of court cases against them regarding money laundering an human trafficking. Lovely.
Anyway, sorry to get depressing there… after walking around town we met up with our excursion and it was time for our first adventure! It was an all you can eat crab feast and seaplane ride!
It was pretty awesome. I think I ended up eating 4 or 5 crabs. I could have eaten more but it was almost time to go 🙂 Our fellow adventurers were a lot of fun too. They were really friendly and we had a good time talking with them. In fact, one was from West Virginia, and so was our seaplane pilot, so he actually flew us around for a bit longer
I thought I would be a bit more nervous to be on such a small plane, but it felt a lot safer than I thought. And it was GORGEOUS. SO BEAUTIFUL. The scenery in Alaska is just so amazing. So much more untouched than down here and just green, lush and cleaner. It was beautiful. That was probably both Chris and my favorite excursion we did: the food was amazing and the plane ride was awesome.
When we were done Chris of course had to inspect things
And I made us take the necessary “pose in front of the plane!” picture 🙂
We had to get back on the ship to make our way to Juneau so we headed back. Those days of sailing were a bit rough for us. Chris and I are people who like to DO SHIT on vacations. We are not sit on the beach people. We are visit as many museums, baseball games, National Parks, etc as you can people. We like to discover shit. So being stuck on a boat was pretty difficult. There were activities that the boat had (we played trivia MANY times each day), but we still struggled with so much down time.
We did make friends with a group from Nashville who was obsessed with one of the gambling machines
Chris was minorly obsessed as well, but he never played (or he might have played a dollar). We saw these folks lots and lots and became friendly with them. They were 3 couples celebrating various anniversaries (mostly 25 years). It was funny because we probably never would have talked in “real life,” but on the ship we became friends and they were hilarious. Each time we ran into them we hung out for a while and my cheeks always hurt from laughing so much. Those kind of interactions were really nice.
But again, the LONG cruising, we had to find lots of things to entertain ourselves
When we got to Juneau we walked around town a bit. Again, HEAVILY tourist trap like so close to port (for good reason, people went to those crazy shops). But we ventured a little further into town and found a SUPER yummy breakfast place
Ummmm, yes please
We tried to eat OFF the boat as much as possible. We’re a little spoiled living in Oakland because there are SO MANY food options that are so awesome, so the cruise ship food was….well… not super yummy. Plus, one of our favorite things about traveling is eating at all the different yummy places we can find.
After breakfast we visited a small museum (Juneau is the state capital) and then made our way back to the port to get on a tour bus. We did a “Best of” tour for Juneau because we couldn’t quite decide. So we got a salmon bake, whale watching and a hike to a glacier. I had no problem eating all the yummy food at the salmon bake right after that monsterous french toast 🙂
I didn’t think I would find the whale watching as awesome as I did. Do not let this picture fool you because I loved it, Chris just likes to take “awesome” pictures of my when we’re on trips
We got to see Humpback whales (a group of about 6 of them) and Orcas. Even our guide said we got a really good day. It was pretty awesome.
Almost as fun as the whale watching was watching all the people. I tend to get annoyed with people easily and man, they would just go CRAZY when they saw a whale and almost shove you to take a picture. These people needed to get their life together a bit.
After whale watching we hiked to Mendenhall Glacier. It was both beautiful and depressing. AMAZINGLY gorgeous
Like from a magazine
But so depressing
Makes you always remember how fragile our world is.
We had dinner in town again and tried to trek away from the city center to get a more authentic meal. And again, it was awesome.
The next day we were in Skagway which is a super cute, very small Alaskan town
Some of the buildings were REALLY cool
And we found out that much of the town shuts town after the tourist season and only a few places are open during winter. The town also shrinks WAY DOWN in size. One of our guides (a theme was awesomeness from the guides)…
…loved it so much that she stayed year round. All our guides were really fun to talk with. We had fun learning from them and just gabbing about life, they were all super awesome people.
In Skagway our first adventure was a train ride and then kayaking in a glacial lake. It was BEAUTIFUL
They asked me if I wanted to try to stand while kayaking, it was pretty cool
Even though literally about 4 seconds later the tip of that kayak pictured ran into our kayak while I was standing. Come on people. Our group on this adventure I was not so fond of (a lot of selfish, rude behavior), but Chris and I stayed mostly with ourselves, and who could hate this scenery
After kayaking we still had a bunch of time, so we did some zip lining. Again, awesome guides
(they took our phones to take pictures of us, but then snuck in some selfies. Again, the guides on this trip were so awesome). We had never been sip lining before, so it was a lot of fun. Chris was of course interested in how everything was constructed. The owner actually also owned a construction company, so we got to talking with the guides about that and just how they got interested in doing this (most guides are not from Alaska and come from all over the country instead). It was a lot of fun
After that we spent two days on ship on our way to Whittier – our last stop. We went through Glacier Bay National Park which was – obviously – amazingly beautiful
Then there was much time spent entertaining ourselves with trivia, mini golf, the Newlywed game, scavenger hunts and just general wandering…
Then, we got to Whittier, took a bus to Anchorage and started to make our way home. We got back the next day about mid-day and were able to get all unpacked and then pick up the girls at day care. I’ll never forget, when Merritt saw us she just flung her arms down and cried in joy and relief. She didn’t let anyone else hold her but Chris all night. Zoe danced around in excitement. Merritt’s eczema got a lot worse from the stress while we were gone, and I felt so guilty about that. Zoe did well and my mom and her made a calendar where they checked off each day that we were gone.
All in all it was an AMAZING trip that we were so thankful to take. All our parents said they would love to help out more and get us weekends away here and there, but we all agreed that 8 days was too long at that age. We missed the girls, it was a BIG responsibility for all our parents, but especially my mom, and it was A LOT of work when we came back getting back to clients and scheduling things and getting caught up. We had a outgoing message and email that was sent to people that we were on vacation and we would get back to them when we returned, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to contact us. When we got home Chris was booked out about 5 weeks within a couple days.
We were amazingly thankful for the time we got to spend with just the two of us though. Sometimes when you have kids or own your own business/work together it’s hard to remember to take those FUN times together and not take life so seriously. We have responsibilities and things and people that we need to take care of, but it’s also important to ENJOY life. And this trip really reminded us of that. Thank you Alaska!
Kathi M. says
So glad you enjoyed Alaska! My husband and I went on an Alaskan cruise with my parents in 2010 and we LOVED it. We too thought there was too much downtime on sea days, but the jam packed port days more than made up for it.
Looks like y’all had amazing sunny weather too…lucky :).
meryl rose says
Very true – when out and about on port days we made sure to jam as much in as possible, which made us feel a lot better about the laaaaazy time between ports.
We did get SO lucky with the weather, every single port mentioned it to us. It only sprinkled the morning we were in Ketchikan, and then rained a tiny bit one afternoon on the boat. Other than that there was SUNSHINE all week long. SO lucky.