Summer Travels: Alaska (pt. 1)

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Alaska...it was one of the last few states that my family had yet to visit. AND IT FINALLY HAPPENED!! There was so much anticipation for this trip between all of us, and it did not disappoint! But before I even get into the trip, I need to thank my parents for providing us with this opportunity. It was a once in a lifetime trip, and I could not be more grateful to my parents for this incredible experience! 

So this trip was actually what my grampa chose to do in celebration of his 80th birthday. How cool is he?! So I also have him to thank for going on this trip! Altogether, we were a group of 14...9 from my immediate family including my bro-in-law and nephew, 2 including my grandparents, and 3 including my aunt, uncle, and cousin. What a party! Now, my family is not exactly the "cruise-going" type of family. We much prefer camping in our motorhome! So this was something new to most of us.

Our trip to Alaska was 2 weeks, but in this blog post, I'm covering the first week on the cruise. Our cruise ship was the Norwegian Jewel, and it took us to 3 different towns including Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, as well as through Glacier Bay. 

Some of the guys had a salmon fishing excursion planned for Ketchikan, but the rest of us just wandered around the town, found some wooded trails, and a really great place to eat lunch where we met up with the rest of the gang! The most touristy part of Ketchikan was Creek Street, but it was such a cute walk! It was essentially a boardwalk along a creek with colorful buildings through the walk. One of the coolest things that happened in Ketchikan actually happened while we were on the boat at port! Toward the end of our time there, a whole pod of whales were making their way through the channel! When my uncle texted that there were whales off the side of the boat, I rushed over with my camera and snagged a couple shots! It was awesome to see them so close to us! It was a rainy day (actually 90% of the cruise was rainy...), but that didn't stop us from having fun and exploring!

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And now for my favorite part of the entire trip...Juneau!! We had an excursion planned to see Mendenhall Glacier up close and personal! We booked a trip with Liquid Alaska Tours, who picked us up from downtown, took us out on a canoe ride to the glacier, and then guided us on a hike on the glacier! They even provided us with the option of hot chocolate, coffee, or hot cider after the frigid canoe ride back! I highly recommend booking an excursion with Liquid Alaska Tours if you're ever in Juneau and want an adventurous view of Mendenhall! Our guides Mo and Ryan, and one of the managers, Abby, became part of the family by the end of our journey together! They were sure to keep our safety first, but also make sure that we saw as much of the glacier as possible and gave us every opportunity to take photos! And if you know anything about my family, it's that we like to be as efficient as possible to get the most out of an experience as we can. So they were all on board with paddling out as fast as we could to optimize the time we had on Mendenhall (we actually made the record for the fastest canoe ride)! 

It's hard to even begin explaining the beauty of Mendenhall Glacier. First, I was struck the how massive it was! And this was after years of the glacier receding, and I didn't even get to see it all! Once we made our way up and I saw it from above for the first time, it looked to me like frozen waves! Mo and Ryan took us to several spots on the glacier, and I couldn't get over the blue color from glacial silt! Again, it was raining the whole time, but it actually made our canoe ride much smoother and it was truly an amazing sight!

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They gave us these metal "cramp-ons" that attach to our boots that cut into the ice to help us walk.

They gave us these metal "cramp-ons" that attach to our boots that cut into the ice to help us walk.

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That's my cousin and uncle on the right side. They were actually with a different tour company, but arrived at the same time!

That's my cousin and uncle on the right side. They were actually with a different tour company, but arrived at the same time!

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Our third and final stop on the cruise was Skagway. I think we chose the best thing possible to see as much of Skagway as we wanted, and that was...rent a couple jeeps and cruise at our own pace! It was awesome! We were given an audio recording of the history and story behind Skagway as we drove along, and a list of places to stop and check out. We saw amazing views on our drive, but to be honest, my favorite part was cuddling 4-5 week old huskies!!! It was almost unbearable how cute they were...take a look for yourself!

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If you look closely (and I mean REALLY closely), at the very center of this photo you can see a tiny black speck...this was our first bear sighting

If you look closely (and I mean REALLY closely), at the very center of this photo you can see a tiny black speck...this was our first bear sighting

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And finally, the Norwegian Jewel cruised through Glacier Bay as someone over the speaker described everything there is to know about glaciers. Fortunately, my parents had a cabin with a balcony where we all gathered with our breakfast as we passed by these massive, calving blocks of ice. It was probably a funny sight to see, about 6-9 of us trying to squeeze on that balcony at any given time. It was truly unlike anything I have ever witnessed! (Obviously...I'm from Florida) There were chunks of ice floating next to the boat, and we could hear them crackling in the water. We could also hear the thundering sound of slabs of ice breaking off of the glacier, and then see a huge splash from it hitting the water below! 

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If you've made it this far, THANK YOU! Alaska was such a phenomenal trip, and I would love to talk on and on about every detail! In this post, I really only covered what we did at each port (which is the good stuff anyway), but if you want to know anything about the in between time on board, shoot me a message! I hope you've felt like you were along with us on this trip through my blog. I highly recommend a trip to Alaska if you ever get the opportunity! 

 

P.S. Keep an eye out for my next blog post about our time camping in Alaska after the cruise! I promise it won't be as long as this one...