The passage to Alaska

The passage to Alaska

Sometime back, my husband JR Ramesh and I, decided to embark on an Alaskan cruise. Our cruise was nothing short of an incredible experience. It opened up different worlds in front of us — enriching and sometimes bewildering.

Our journey began when we boarded ‘Celebrity Infinity’, a millennium class cruise ship, which started its journey from Vancouver, British Columbia. The ship carried approximately 2,000 people with around 900 crew members. Cruising the ‘Alaskan Inside Passage’ the whole of second day, we reached Icy Strait Point on the third day. There we embarked and stepped into the town of Hoonah.

Hoonah is a largely Tlingit community on Chichagof Island. It lies 30 miles west of Juneau across the ‘Inside Passage’. It was amazing to understand and get acquainted with the culture and history of Tlingit. I even remember spotting a bald eagle there. 

We then left for the Hubbard Glacier, the world’s longest glacier, which flows more than 90 miles from Canada’s Yukon Territory to Alaska’s Yakutat Bay. It is famous for ‘surging’ or moving forward quickly. Most glaciers slide an inch or two a day. In 1986, Hubbard made headlines around the world by moving so quickly that it created a wall across the mouth of Russell Fjord, one of the bay inlets. At the Hubbard Glacier, the ship stopped but we stayed onboard (fortunately, we stopped in front of the glacier). Most of us got out on deck, taking photos and watching in awe. We were unusually lucky on this cruise.

The captain said that on other cruises this year, the closest he was able to manoeuvre the ship through the ice-filled waters was eight miles from the point where the glacier reaches the sea. We got within a half mile. It was superb to see the glacier suddenly melting and falling down with a thunderous sound. To be more precise it was awesome, a sight to always remember.

Our next stop, the next morning, was Juneau, the capital of Alaska. We were going to watch the whales and what a sight it was! It was raining a little and we could see whales swim by. We also undertook a little city tour. There were shops selling blue diamonds, yellow diamonds, which was just... well! I have no words to explain.

Mendenhall Glacier, which was nearby, was our next stop. Indeed, the glacier was so beautiful. That night, we left Juneau. By next afternoon, we reached Ketchikan. 

Ketchikan is a centre for commercial fishing, lumber and pulp milling, and tourism. It is also a port on the ‘Inside Passage’ and is often called the ‘Gateway to Alaska’. Several commercial airlines, but no highways or railways, serve the city. Ketchikan began as a supply center for gold miners during 1890s.  We left Ketchikan at night and after cruising ‘Inside Passage’  the whole of next day, we returned to Vancouver. 

The cruise itself was an incredibly entertaining. Every day, we had different programmes like dancing, singing and cooking competitions. At the big theatre complex, there was quite a number of events like comedy show, characters enacting songs from the seventies till now. The ship had jogging track, swimming pool and a basket ball court.

When it came to food, the variety was great. The Ocean View Restaurant, situated on the tenth deck, served both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.

There were all kinds of pastries, snacks, icecreams and fingerchips. We had ‘parathas’, ‘dal’ and rice and curds.   Everything has to come to an end and so did our cruise. However, our rich experience is something we cherish even today.

Meera Ramesh
(The author can be reached on 9449349134 or meeramsin@gmail.com)

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