Wednesday, August 3, 2011

North, To Alaska (AKA: Now THIS is what vacation should feel like)

A couple years back, I was blessed to work not one but two jobs to pay the mortgage on my house in Denver and keep the cat in fresh food and pooping powder.  When I say blessed, I mean to say my company crapped on every one of its employees and I had to find extra income.  Gannett gave us all pay cuts, took away our cars, and then gave us multiple weeks off with no pay.  It was clear I would either need to find a nice looking overpass to dwell under (something my cat felt was beneath him) or I would need a second job.  That second job is the best gig I have ever done.

I went to work for FedEx loading and unloading planes.  Unfortunately, it was at 4 in the morning.  But I loved it.  One of the perks of that job was getting the huge discounts afforded to airline employees.  I took them up on their crazy cheap tickets for a cruise, and as luck would have it, I was moving to a cruise port city!  Huzzah.

That brings us to September of last year.  I was about to embark on what I couldn't really imagine and was sort of leery of, but couldn't wait to see what would happen.  I have never been on a cruise, coming from Colorado, two hours on a boat means you've seen the lake a dozen times in a circle!

I was on the Sapphire Princess.  I got the huge suite with the big balcony.  It woulda been awesome in the Mediterranean or Caribbean...  It was chilly in Alaska.

First stop on the journey, Ketchikan.  It is a tiny little town that has become nothing but a tourist trap.  Instead of chilling in town, I went on a bear cruise.  It was pretty cool, but I fully believe the bears are paid by the cruise company to show up so the hundred bucks we blew to look for em wasn't wasted!

Next up, Tracy Arm:

Tracy Arm is a super long fjord that ends at a giant glacier.  To get to the glacier, you have to pull a Titanic and press on through all of the icebergs.  It was well worth it.  And cold.  Very cold.

After a morning cruise in the fjord, it was off to Juneau.  I can never resist...  Juneau the capitol of Alaska?  Well, do you?

After taking the tram up the hill to see a bird's eye view of the huge metropolis of Juneau, it was time to take life and limb into your own hands and jump on the blue bus from hell.  The bus didn't seem to have what it took to get us all to the Mendenhall Glacier, but it looked like a heck of a story in the making.  It was.

The glacier is gorgeous and calves quite regularly so everyone felt they got their money's worth.  Plus, it came with some awesome waterfalls!

On the way back to the boat, the bus driver was singing some horrible song over the loud speaker about a man who lived through the rain in Spain.  It turned out for one man on the cruise it was the greatest song ever.  Every time I ran into him, he was singing that stupid song.  After 7 days, he is lucky I didn't punch him.

After Juneau, it was up to Skagway and Haines:

Skagway was the heart of the Yukon gold rush back in the day.  I took the train up to the Canadian border.  It was a beautiful view and so much cooler than that stupid cog railroad up the top of Pikes Peak back in Colorado.  Skagway itself reminds me very much of Ouray...  small pretty dumpy town filled to the brim with tourist traps.  If you can avoid buying anything stupid for eight grand, you will enjoy it just fine.

After Skagway, it was a long two day cruise in the open ocean back toward the Puget Sound.  The final stop was in Victoria, BC.  I love that city.  I've been there a few times now, and it never disappoints.  It was however raining to beat the band the night our ship came in so it put a damper on the festivities.

Anyway, the next morning everyone awoke to see the Space Needle out the window and I knew I was once again home.  It was a week of truly being pampered and having every need cared for.  I would definitely do it again.  Somewhere warm!

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