Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.
We went on our first cruise for our 45th wedding anniversary. We did not know what to expect and came away with many lovely memories and a few things we discovered in case we decide to go on another cruise in the future. We traveled on one of Royal Caribbean's ships—The Explorer of the Seas.
Juneau, the Capital of Alaska
We loved our first stop in the capital of Alaska. It was quaint and laid-back. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was chilly but clear. We went to find some fish and chips and they were great and a bit pricey. We could eat all we wanted on the ship (included in our fare), but we just wanted to experience fish and chips from Alaska. We spent much of the day looking through the many shops on the main road. I have never seen so many jewelry shops next to each other in my life.
We learned that the city of Juneau spans more than 3,200 square miles from the coast of the Inside Passage to the border of Canada, making Juneau the largest U.S. state capital. There is an aerial tram that ascends 1,745 feet up Mount Roberts where you can see lovely panoramas of the city and nearby glaciers. The native culture is centuries old and can be seen in their amazing handicrafts.
Tip: They lure you into the shops with some free trinkets and once you get in there, they have some high-powered salespeople who try to get you to buy their incredible jewelry and watches. We fell for it a few times until we were about to buy a double sided diamond ring—you could actually turn it inside out—it was mesmerizing, but we would be paying for it for quite a while. The Alaskan jewelry has flakes of gold in it and is very gorgeous.
They had given a couple of lectures on the ship about watches and jewelry and also gave us some coupons to get you into the stores in Juneau. I loved seeing the Alaskan jewelry.
Juneau: Founded on Gold
In 1880, gold nuggets were discovered in Gold Creek, Silver Bow Basin and Quartz Gulch. Prospectors hurried to stake a settlement and then fortune hunters arrived by the hundreds. This was the beginning of Juneau. It is now a major tourist destination. The real gold lies in the spectacular scenery and the Mendenhall Glacier. There are more trails than roads. It has one of the largest temperate rain forests in the state. You can take a helicopter to explore the scenic wonders or hike, but beware of moose, bears and mountain goats.
You can find Alaskan gold in the many jewelry shops in Juneau.
Skagway was originally a camp for prospectors seeking gold in the Rush of 1898. It was a perfect base for the 500-mile trek to the gold fields. Some stayed behind to open up supply stores and saloons. It became the first incorporated city in Alaska. You can take a train or bus ride up to the summit of the White Pass, a 2,865-foot elevation. It features panoramas of mountains, gorges, tunnels, waterfalls and trestles. The main town still has some of the historic buildings with relics of the past.
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Tracy Arm Fjord
I had never heard of Tracy Arm Fjord before we departed on our cruise. We were educated that a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier. There are many fjords on the coasts of Alaska. Ice melts slowly from the end of the glacier into the water. It can be dangerous if you get too close, so the captain of our ship made sure to watch the weather and conditions and made judgments on how close to get to the glacier. We could see large chunks of ice that had fallen off that surrounded our ship. It reminded me of the Titanic disaster so I was a bit wary. But soon many of the passengers from the ship were out taking pictures of the glacier. It was very massive and impressive. Our captain felt we were not at risk so he was able to circle the ship for 45 minutes so we could all see the glacier and get a good shot from the deck.
Our Last Stop: Victoria
Victoria is an island in British Columbia. It has a compact downtown and buzzes with energy. There are vineyards reminiscent of Italy, ferns reminiscent of New Zealand and beaches and gardens. What's not to love? I have a friend who lives there and she told me about the Butchart Gardens. It had been my dream for a couple of years to visit the garden. So lucky that it was one of the excursions we could take on the island off our ship before returning to home base in Seattle.
We were offered a ride in a limousine but felt for double the price of a taxi, it was a bit out of reach. So we opted for a taxi. Our driver was very friendly and was willing to wait for us while we explored the gardens and then offered to take us through the town of Victoria since it was on the way back to the boat. It was a beautiful day and temperate so it was very delightful.
I love gardening, so this was very exciting for me.
Same glacier - different ship
National Historic Site of Canada
For over 100 years, the Butchart Garden has been blooming. They also offer outdoor evening entertainment in July and August, night illuminations June 15th - September 15th and Saturday fireworks in July and August.
We saw so many different varieties of flowers, and we could have spent a good three hours there, but our time was limited. Below are a few of the sites we saw in the different sections of the Garden. Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions.
On the way back from the gardens, we were able to see the Royal B.C. Museum and the home of Canada's oldest Chinatown. There is also a Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
The First Nations peoples have called Victoria home for thousands of years. It's easy to see evidence of their ancestral influence. There are totem poles representing these cultures throughout the areas as well as authentic Aboriginal beadwork, button blankets or baskets.
Settlers arrived in 1778 when Captain James Cook became the first recorded non-Aboriginal person to set foot on Vancouver Island's soil. Named after Queen Victoria, and became the seat of government when the colony of Vancouver Island was created. Victorian and Edwardian-era mansions grace many streets.
Our Trip Was Over
Of all the places we went on our cruise, I would have to say I enjoyed the glacier and gardens the most. I hope we can have more opportunities to travel. I am not sure if cruising is my favorite way to get around, but it is an experience I will long remember.
© 2018 Elayne