Last week I wrote that I was about to depart on a one-week cruise from Seattle around Vancouver Island and north along the Inside Passage to points of interest in the Alaskan Panhandle. I’m writing this note from Skagway, our second stop in Alaska. There’s much to report.
Our little party consists of four people: myself, my two granddaughters Satomi Swayne (age 14) and Olivia Swayne (age 10), and Olivia’s other grandmother, Marsha Alan. Girls only this trip, no boys allowed. Our theme for our adventure is: Girls Just Want to Have Fun. So far, we’re doing a good job of it, with a powerful assist from the good people at Princess Cruises and our cruise planner, former Aramcon, John Sugg ([email protected]).
Vicci & Marsha - Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Marsha & Olivia
Satomi & Vicci
Jessica & Satomi
Prior to departure, I had contacted the marketing department for Princess Cruises, letting them know that I would be reporting on my experience via the AramcoExPats newsletter and website and asking them if they could provide me with some appropriate images to accompany my stories. Not only did they supply me with a wealth of lovely images, but they had flowers, champagne, a basket of fruit and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for me when I checked in my stateroom. What a perfect beginning to our seven-day holiday.
We boarded our ship in the Port of Seattle at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and set sail three hours later, by which time the big girls (Marsha and me) had uncorked the champagne and feasted on the strawberries while the younger girls (Satomi and Olivia) had rendezvoused with Satomi’s friend Jessica from Korea and disappeared into the vastness of the ship in search of fun and adventure. Darkness comes later and later the further north one travels, and the sun did not fully set over the Pacific until well after 10:00 p.m., by which time we were all ready for a night of rest. We would need all the energy we could muster once we stopped at our first port of call, Juneau, the capital of the State of Alaska.
Situated along the Gastineau Channel within the shadows of Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, Juneau is comprised of a maze of narrow streets lined with a mixture of new construction along with colorful storefronts and quaint houses left over from the town’s early gold mining days. There are no roads connecting Juneau with the outside world. You can get there only by airplane or boat.
The city’s compact downtown area was within easy walking distance of the dock and the four of us spent an entire day shopping and exploring the sites. With so much to see and so little time, we did the best we could to cover the highlights. Alaska is known as “the Last Frontier” and Juneau gave us an appetizing first taste of what was to follow in the coming days. Our only regret was, we couldn’t stay longer. But more adventures awaited us further north. And so, with some reluctance, by 7:00 p.m. we had rebounded our ship and set sail for Skagway.
Railroad Over White Pass
Skagway was the primary jumping off point for dreamers drawn to the Far North in search of gold. In August 1896 Skookum Jim, George W. Carmack and Dawson Charlie discovered gold on what came to be known as Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, 600 miles from Skagway, giving birth to the fabled Klondike Gold Rush. The trail into the Yukon started in Skagway and wound up the steep slope of White Pass along what came to be known as the “Dead Horse Trail.” Thousands of gold-seekers flocked to the Klondike, every one of them certain they would strike it rich. In fact, only one in twenty ever found enough gold to pay for their adventure. Most of the adventurers returned home poorer than they were when they started out, but that didn’t stop many of them from trying.
The history of Skagway is an untamed tale of adventure and glory, of triumphs and failures, of a fight to tame a lawless frontier settlement, of a life-and-death struggle against impossible odds. Despite a full slate of activities to choose from, I opted instead to spend my day exploring Skagway on foot. Signs of the city’s glory days were everywhere to be seen as I strolled through the compact center of town. Options I did not avail myself of included salmon fishing, whale watching, a helicopter tour of nearby glaciers, helicopter dog-sledding, an excursion to White Pass Summit by rail and bus, rafting and much more.
As I write these words, the ship is getting ready to set sail for our next destination, Glacier Bay. You’ll be hearing more about our on-going adventures in next week’s newsletter.