Cruising to Alaska!

So it’s been 5 days since we’ve been home from our vacation. Let me tell you, going back to work after 6 working days off is tough!! But it sure was nice to be sleeping in my own bed, eating food prepared by us, oh and driving myself where ever I wanted to go. We had an absolute blast and now I’m going to attempt to do it justice by telling you all about it. (WARNING: This will be long and potentially rambling, I apologize in advance).

It all started four years ago when my husband and I were planning our wedding. We got engaged in December of 2006 and wanted to be married in December of 2007. We knew we didn’t want to get married around home, between the two of our families we would end up having to invite the entire town and we really wanted a small ceremony. So we settled on marrying in Las Vegas. (No, we didn’t elope – our families came with us!) In May of 2007 – his family couldn’t get the time off in December to go out there, so we kept pushing it up and up until we hit on a day in May that would work for everybody. So here we are rushing around trying our hardest to plan a wedding in 5 months. Easy to do when you get in Vegas actually, you pretty much buy a package and just chose from already selected options – that was the most stress-free way I could have ever gotten married! I LOVED it! Then it came down to trying to figure out the honeymoon. We wanted so bad to take a trip to Alaska. Nathan didn’t really have the money to pay for it, but I was going to pitch in some of my money as well and it would be a hop, skip and a jump from Vegas – we were on the right side of the country. However, we soon realized that we would actually be getting married, growing up and on our own pretty much … Nathan had to get back to work. We just didn’t have the time to take the honeymoon we really wanted. We were disappointed, but decided that it was okay. We would save up our money and take a belated honeymoon to Alaska on our one year anniversary. No big deal.

So what happens? We end up moving to Paducah, Kentucky. Which means Nathan has started a new job. Which means Nathan doesn’t have any time built up to take vacation days. Which meant no Alaskan trip in 2008. No big deal, we’d wait another year. … What happens next? We bought a house! Which meant every spare penny we had went towards the down payment. So no trip to Alaska in 2009. Then what, you ask? Well, I’m not really sure what happened in 2010 – we were still trying to recover from our down-payment AND put a little bit of money into our house trying to make some improvements here and there. I think it just kind of fell off of our radar since we had not been able to make it work thus far. Next thing you know, in August of 2010, my parents get the Alaska bug. They want to go in 2011, would we want to go with them? Well, YEAH! So we planned it. For May of 2011, leaving one week after our anniversary out of Vancouver, Canada, on the Coral Princess. It was set! We were going! YES!

When you plan something 9 months in advance, it feels like it’s an eternity away. I think that’s how it snuck up on me so quickly. I was a little unprepared – I needed a new jacket (that I could have bought in the winter time, but waited until  nearly March to do so), I needed long underwear (once again, waited until March to purchase), I needed a new dress to wear on formal night (got that 2 weeks before I left) and of course, SHOES to match the new dress (one week before I left)  – okay, those last two I really didn’t need but wanted. The day before we left I felt like I was running with my head cut off, it was unreal. We were finally leaving!

We left on Friday, May 20th, for Nashville. We had an early morning flight. We got to the airport on Saturday the 21st around 4:45am. (Wow, is that early!). We had gotten an email from Princess that our boat was late arriving into Vancouver and that we wouldn’t be able to board until about 5pm, that was no big deal, we would just have a lot of time to kill in town before we could go to the ship. No big deal. So we get on our first plane, Nashville to Minneapolis. This is where the fun begins. When we get to Minneapolis, the airport has LOST POWER! Yes, you read that right – no power in the Minneapolis airport. So here we are, in our airplane, parked somewhere out of the way, for two hours. At this point, people are worried about missing their flights – I don’t know why, no flights were leaving! So after two hours they finally took us to the gate. By that point, we realized we would need to run to get to our next flight because it would be taking off shortly if the power was back on. We ran to the gate on the monitor. Nope, we’ve moved gates, it’s now back where you came from. So we ran back to the original terminal we were at and got to the correct gate with enough time to go to the bathroom and get on the plane. Then we sat in that plane for another 1.5 hours because no one had left and everyone was trying to leave at the same time, we had to wait in line. At this point, we were so glad that our boat had been delayed. Of course pretty much everyone on that plane was either taking our cruise ship or the Holland America cruise ship out that day, the boats probably would have waited for us since we booked these flights through the cruise line. We finally get to Vancouver and got the city bus tour. Then we were dropped back off at the pier and could have taken another bus to some park, but by this point we didn’t want to do that. Instead we went across the street and found a pub and parked ourselves for 2 hours 🙂

We got on the boat with very little hassle later that Saturday evening. Our cabin was really nice, we had a balcony. The bathrooms always leave a little to be desired on cruise ships. But overall, our cabin was very nice and we were pleased. Our first day on the cruise, Sunday, was a day at sea. We relaxed, participated in trivia (which, we found out very quickly, we stink at!) and went to the first formal night. For those of you who have been on a cruise ship, you know that the food is delicious, and that you can eat 24 hours a day! I love that! I think I gained 10 pounds on vacation. Oh well.

Our first day in port, Monday, was Ketchikan. It was here that Nathan and I went bottom fishing. Now, I am not a fisher, this was Nathan’s choice of tour. (I got him back later, we did a couple of things he didn’t want to!) So here we are, on this little five person boat, four fishers and the guide. In other words, four men and me. I’m used to that, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. I don’t like fishing. I don’t know how to fish. I’m a stupid woman when it comes to this, but really, they didn’t make me feel stupid for not knowing what to do. The other two gentlemen taking the tour and our guide was very nice to me and very patient. They should have been – I caught a fish! In fact, I caught a rare rockfish that you’re only allowed to catch one a year per person. I thought that was pretty cool. Nathan, on the other hand, caught nothing. He said he didn’t even have any bites. I think he was bummed, but I’m not sure if he was more disappointed because I caught something and he didn’t or what. Then our tour guide took us to a camp that the company has set up where they actually cook the fish that you caught for you to have for lunch. Apparently this particular camp has won the best camp food title from some cooking magazine. Well, let me tell you, this food was absolutely delicious. I would go back and do that tour in a heartbeat just to have that lady cook for me again. It was really good. Here’s some pictures of our time fishing:

The first two are of Nathan and I while on our fishing boat. The first of me is immediately after I caught my fish, which is the second fish from the right in the third picture. The last picture is of me at the camp site.

Next up on our vacation was Juneau, on Tuesday. We had a long day in Juneau, but it was a lot of fun. It was in Juneau that I got to cross something off of my bucket list. We walked on a glacier! Yep, that’s right, we took a helicopter ride up and landed on the Mendenhall Glacier and then had the opportunity to actually walk on it for about 45 minutes. Talk about amazing. I was in absolute awe of it every moment we were there. This is something that I have wanted to do for years and I’m so glad I got to do it!

We took advantage of all the time we had in Juneau, we walked around the town a little bit. We had lunch at a local place called The Hangar, we both had fish and chips and it was absolutely delicious. We got all of our souvenir shopping done in Juneau. Later that evening we went to a salmon bake. Generally, I enjoy salmon, but I really didn’t like this, I think it was the sauce they put on it. I’m not 100% sure. But now I can say that I’ve been to a lobster bake (in Maine) and a salmon bake (in Alaska).

Our third port was Skagway. We had a really good time here as well. Once again, we did two tours in this port as well. First up was zip lining! That was so much fun! I was a little nervous at first, but it really was exciting! After we finished up with zip lining we were trying to figure out where we could go to do that closer to home, we had that much fun! And then later that afternoon, we did a jeep ride into the Yukon area. This is where we were a little disappointed. The entire reason we took the jeep ride was so that we could go off-road. But when we got to the designated meeting spot they told us that due to the road conditions (ice and snow) we would not be able to go off-road. That was fine and dandy until we took one look at the jeeps that we were driving and realized that the reason we weren’t going off-road was really because they didn’t have off-road tires on the jeeps. Such a disappointment. Especially since we could have taken the same exact tour on a bus/train combo for A LOT less money. Oh well. We still had a good time on our tour, it was just not what we signed up for. On our jeep ride we were able to see three separate bears. It was actually kind of neat, one was directly on the road – it’s really scary to think that bears actually walk on the road like it’s no big deal like the deer do around our home! CRAZY! No wonder there were bear proof trash cans everywhere 🙂

After Skagway, we then went into two days of scenic cruising. We hit Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Personally, I preferred Glacier Bay, I thought it was more scenic. And during our time in Glacier Bay we had the opportunity to see the ice fall of the glacier numerous times. That was really a sight to see! Since we were just scenic cruising those last two days on our ship, we took the time to relax and rest up for our trip into Denali. But here’s a couple of pictures from our scenic cruising:

So early Saturday the 28th, we had to leave our cruise ship behind and hop on the train for our trip into Denali. Let me tell you what, 10 hours in a train is a very excruciating experience. Honestly, the first 8 or so hours weren’t that bad, but then I started to get antsy and I wanted off. At the same time, I’m glad that we did take the train instead of the bus. Although the bus trip was a couple of hours shorter, we were able to get up and move around a little bit, we had an actual table in front of us, it wasn’t that bad of a deal – it was just way too long. But, we did get to see some beautiful scenery. At the end of the day we were finally in the Denali National Park. Did you know that Alaskan natives actually call Mt. McKinley Denali?? Yeah, I totally just thought that Denali was the name of the park and the mountain was Mt. McKinley. And while that is technically correct, the local way of thinking is that Denali is in Denali National Park. So there’s a little factoid for ya. Oh yeah, and apparently I’ve been pronouncing Denali incorrectly all my life, too. Funny things you can learn from the local people of Alaska 🙂

So our first full day in the park, Sunday, was spent at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. It was here that we were able to go White-Water rafting (no pictures because we haven’t developed our water-proof camera yet). That was an absolute blast. Luckily, we were on a tour where we did not have to do any of the paddling ourselves, because I’m not sure I would have had the arm strength to do so. But it was definitely a wild ride! The suit that we had to put on was not all that comfortable, but we stayed dry the entire time. The only thing that I have to complain about after this particular tour is the fact that I would have preferred to have some sort of gloves on my hands because they were absolutely frozen by the time we were done.

Shortly after rafting we got on a bus and headed to the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, where we would stay the night and be in that area for part of the next day, Monday. It was here that we had a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley! Once again our weather was absolutely perfect and we could see every bit of it for the entire time we were there. And let me tell you what, I wish I had had capri pants and sandals to wear, the weather was that warm! Of course, that would not have been proper attire for our tour for that day. We went horseback riding. Now, I should just say that horseback riding is not for me and leave it at that. But I have to expand a little bit on this. First of all, I did not like being at the mercy of an animal. Secondly, when a horse stumbles twice on a very narrow trail with a very steep cliff on one side, it’s going to make anybody nervous. And lastly, it was the most uncomfortable ride I’ve ever taken. So, I think this was my least favorite part of the entire trip. At the same time, I’m glad that we took that trail ride because we actually had a beautiful background picture opportunity with Mt. McKinley (oops, Denali!).

After our trail ride and lunch at the lodge we made our way back to another bus and embarked on a 3 hour drive to Anchorage. And that was it. Our vacation was pretty much over. We had a nice dinner at our hotel, The Captain Cook Hotel (they had wonderful beds! So soft – which I hadn’t had the entire trip!) and then we went to bed. Had to be up first thing in the morning to catch our first flight back home. Our trip home was relatively uneventful compared to the trip to Alaska.

It was so nice to be home. I loved my vacation, but I swear I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation. It will probably be the only big vacation we take for quite some time. We are the king and queen of weekend get-aways, but this was a true vacation. We hadn’t taken a vacation that lasted more than 4 days in two years. I apologize for this post being so long, it’s hard to squeeze all the details of a 10 day vacation into a small post.