With each port
of call in Alaska comes the opportunity to explore on your own
or to pre-book excursions that you feel will enhance your sightseeing
experience. Celebrity devotes a full section of their website
to descriptions (including costs) of these mini trips that last
anywhere from a couple of hours to half a day. We longed for
close-up and personal visits with Ma Nature so this was where
our big splurges came in. We chose three splendid adventures.
Fjords Cruise and float plane sightseeing
In Ketchican we boarded a high-speed catamaran eager to experience
the Misty Fjords National Monument. It was a perfect day as
our motorized vessel made its way into the heart of unspoiled
wilderness. Feasting our eyes on the passing scene we listened
to the crews' intermittent historical and geographical commentary.
Passengers who wanted more specific information made use of
the helpful maps and books stored onboard.
Alaskan hospitality prevailed as we were treated non-stop to
lovely goodies -- fish chowder, pasta salad, fresh fruit slices
and chocolate chip cookies. Two hours into our journey the truly
spectacular scenery began and we all went out on deck to enjoy
the natural wonders that surrounded us. Making our way up the
Behm Canal we were enthralled with cascading waterfalls running
off towering granite cliffs. Bald eagles swooped while low lying
clouds played 'round the mountain tops. In the distance was
New Eddystone Rock, a volcanic spire that rises an incredible
237 feet above the water. Our cameras couldn't record all of
these visual treasures fast enough but the best was yet to come.
catamaran docked in a secluded cove to wait for tiny float planes
that would fly us back to Ketchican. One by one the four and
six passenger aircraft landed on the water and we were boarded.
Within minutes our tiny craft taxied on the water and then up,
up into the air. For twenty minutes we flew between cliffs,
above small lakes, summer waterfalls and bright green forests.
Too soon, the plane banked to the right and began it's smooth
descent into the harbour where our Celebrity cruise ship awaited
P.S. Something to consider.
Journeywoman believes that this excursion would be best taken
in late June to September when the salmon are spawning. We were
several weeks too early to see any of the wildlife that normally
make their way to the shoreline to catch the fish that fill
Sea Life Discovery,
Due to Alaska's
long hours of summer daylight and nutrient-rich currents, plant
and marine life thrive beneath the North Pacific. In Sitka,
my girlfriends were keen to board a 65 foot semi-submersible
tour vessel to explore the wonders of these cold Northern waters.
I went along for the ride but was pleasantly surprised by what
we were able to see. Each of us was seated in front of our own
viewing window as the Alaskan underwater world floated by. A
naturalist walked amongst the guests introducing species that
we were not yet trained to recognize -- a red rock crab here,
a sea urchin there. To your left a leather starfish, on your
right a green anemone, and sunflower star. Soon, we were excitedly
pointing and calling out, "I see a jellyfish; there's a
gray rockfish!" We floated through giant eel grass and
huge kelp that can miraculously grow two feet each day. A staff
scuba diver using underwater video equipment explored the sea
floor for more examples of aquatic life and relayed his images
to the ship's viewing monitors. For a more up close and personal
experience, he scooped up a giant vermillion starfish and swam
past each of our windows. Incredible! We finished this excursion
with an above deck visit to the boat's 'touch pool' -- kind
of a marine petting zoo. Before biding us farewell, the genial
staff served marine-inspired refreshments -- cookies topped
with Alaskan kelp marmalade.
to consider. Travelling with toddlers and young children? They
will be bored on this excursion. Older kiddies could, however,
be mesmerized by what they'll see.
Ice Age by Helicopter
I saved the best
for last. How could we three Journeywomen resist a Juneau-based
excursion that promised to travel 'back to the Ice Age with
Alaska’s glacier helicopter company'? Mendenhall Glacier
is over two hundred feet high, three miles long and one of the
largest glaciers in Alaska. True it's only 13 miles from Juneau
and you could get there by foot, car or by bike but on this
helicopter trip participants land right on the glacier. Warm
clothes (fleece sweatshirt plus rain-proof jacket, hat and gloves)
were in order as well as sunglasses that cut the glare of the
ice. Prior to take-off glacier boots designed to prevent slipping
were fitted over our shoes. Then it's absolutely thrilling to
be part of a group of helicopters that takes off one after the
other flying in formation to the famous ice field. Getting there
was more than half the fun as we soared over Alaska's dramatic
scenery and then descended ever so gently on to the ice itself.
Trained guides helped us to experience the blue-hued glacier
first hand. After plenty of time for a mini lecture and fabulous
photo opportunities, we were once more in the air, swooping
between mountain tops and making our way back to the helicopter
airfield. This was truly a fabulous adventure!
P.S. From what
I was told, this excursion fills up quickly so if you plan on
taking it, book as early as possible.