Where have I been for the last 12 or so days?
I have been to Alaska.
I took a cruise with a friend to the state of Alaska on the Celebrity Millennium. I’ve never been on a cruise before so it was all new to me.
I don’t need to tell you the saga of the passport, I have already done so in great detail. And really, everything else went just fine.
I got to Love Field in Dallas in plenty of time. I have the TSA known traveler number so I got through security in record time. I had a 737 from Dallas to Seattle, but the plane to Vancouver was another story! I had to walk out onto the tarmac to climb stairs into a turbo-prop that held maybe 100 people! She made so much noise you really couldn’t talk to the other people on board. I wasn’t sure she was gonna make it!
Met my friend at Vancouver airport and took a shuttle to the Hilton. I paid for the room with points I had so it was essentially free.
Boarded the boat no problem. Stateroom was pretty small but big enough. We had 2 beds. My friend, K, took the window bed and I got the one close to the bathroom. I still had a view out the porthole.
Buffet 3 meals a day. I ate a LOT of sweets. I had desert with lunch and dinner, and often a waffle with breakfast. I miss sugar, lol. I did eat some interesting food though. We had tapas at Qsine which is apparently an international chain. The sushi lollipops were amazing. There was lobster and ceviche and steak. K got decorate-your-own mix and match cupcakes for desert. I had beignets. I also tried reindeer sausage and a yak burger. Reindeer must be a very lean meat because the sausage was on the dry side. Yak is sweeter than beef but I really enjoyed it.
The cities where we stopped were more like towns. Ketchikan. Icy Strait Point at Hoonah. Juneau. Skagway. Even Anchorage is not that big of a city, only around 300,000 people. Of course we mostly saw the tourist part of town. The buildings looked like Bearskin Neck in Rockport. There were jewelry stores all over. I tried on some amazing pieces that I would never be able to afford. I liked the colorful jewelry. I liked the Northern Lights topaz, and the ammolite which reminded me of opals. I like opals too but I wouldn’t buy them in Alaska because it’s not where they’re from. I found a gorgeous colored sapphire bracelet that I wish I could afford. I wonder, though, how do they know it’s a sapphire if it’s not blue? Isn’t a white sapphire essentially a diamond? Isn’t a red one a ruby? I guess I don’t know that much about gemstones.
What I would have liked to see, would be more First Nations art. I don’t have the budget for that either, to be honest. I would like to go back with $200 to $500 for a piece or 2 of art. I did buy some blank cards with art on them that I will be sending out to people.
We saw a Tlingit village and learned about totem poles. Apparently there are several reasons you might create a totem pole: place markers, commemorate an event, stuff you’d expect. But you might also make one to shame someone. So the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska was named Seward. The local people invited him to a potlach – a community meal – which he attended. Their rules of hospitality say that if you are invited to someone’s house, they are supposed to invite you to theirs. Seward never returned the invitation so a totem pole was made to shame him for not following the expected protocol.
I stood in the water of the Icy Strait. My feet were tired and the cold water felt good. But also, I have stood in the Atlantic and in the Pacific. Now I have stood in Alaska’s waters. Next is the Gulf of Mexico, probably at Galveston. Water is important to me. I don’t know why. I have lived landlocked for 25 years now but I am still more at home on the ocean.
We went on a nature hike that like to kill me. I don’t know why I didn’t think that Alaska would be mountainous! The other people who went were obvious hikers on a regular basis. I did however find out how to distinguish female bear scat from male. Females apparently squat in one place to do their business so it resembles a cow pie. Males walk while they poop so it is spread over a wider area. I think it’s a territory marking thing, but what do I know? Even with jeans and boots, I got yellow Alaska dirt on my legs.
We did see eagles, lots of them. And a really huge raven. He must have stood a solid 18″ tall and he was bold! He stole french fries from people’s plates at a local restaurant. I also saw a marmot sunning itself, salmon jumping from the ocean where sea lions were catching them, and a mama and baby whale named Flame and Bunsen. Very cool. I also found out there are 5 types of salmon, which you can remember using your fingers: thumb = chum, index = sockeye (this is the finger you would use to poke someone in the eye), middle = king (this is the longest finger and therefore the king of the hand), ring = silver aka coho (put a silver ring on it), and pinkie = pink.
We went to the Anchorage Museum which was interesting. There was an exhibit called Death in the Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition. It was an expedition looking for the Northwest Passage which went missing. Apparently cannibalism was involved. Really, the ships would get ice bound and simply be crushed. We also had a look at First Nations artifacts. There are something like 10 tribes with a common language root, though like in the lower 48, their cultures varied. Again, I would have liked a little more art, but natural science is important. I bought some notecards at the museum shop.
It was a very good trip and I hope to travel more.