FEATURES
spooktacular
EVERYDAY LIVING
IN EVERY ISSUE
Header
placeholder
Photo by Adrienne Morgan

Awe-inspiring Alaska

Beautiful, bountiful and boundless: Alaska by sea

By Adrienne Morgan


The backdrop blooms with everything spectacular. The landscape teems with all that runs freely. The glaciers stand magnificently in the distance. This is life on a grand scale. Welcome to Alaska.

Very few places can compare to what I found in Alaska. This destination is truly a feast for the eyes…and all senses for that matter.

Stepping onto the ship deck, breathing the brisk mountain fresh air, I truly understood what unspoiled beauty is. To my right was the sight of waters splashing, as sea otters played nearby. Surrounding me was the sound of waters cracking through the immense sea of ice. The early morning mist off the glaciers awakened and enlivened me. This is Alaska. This is what vacationing for the destination is about.


placeholder
Photo by Adrienne Morgan

Uncharted Territory

I wanted to experience the sights, and not merely just see them. So I decided to take advantage of one of Alaska's greatest hidden treasures—the small ship cruise. All Alaskan cruises are not the same. Large ships are a wonder of their own, with amenities and onship offerings galore. However, with a small ship cruise, the surroundings become your vacation. I found myself completely immersed in the total destination.

Recently having cruised on Cruise West's Spirit of the Colombia, I can tell you that a big vacation experience is waiting with the small ship cruise experience. I was enthralled with the ship's frequent wildlife sighting stops. A black bear feeding on the nearby land and a group of porpoises swimming literally feet from the ship became unexpected stops. After nearly missing a humpback whale sighting, I learned the important lesson to keep a camera within arm's reach.

Glaciers are beautiful from the distance, but as I stood on the top deck—what seemed like a few hundred yards away—they were absolutely breathtaking. I was spellbound by the calving—or breaking of the iceberg—with the feel of glacial mist upon my cheek. What seems so simple has actually taken thousands of years to accomplish. I stood eagerly, camera in hand, waiting for the perfect photo, in what can only be described as a genuine sensory overload.

Back to Top


placeholder
Photo by Adrienne Morgan

Hello, beauty. Meet reality.

It's quite a feat to wake up surrounded by glacial ice and sunning seals. Throughout my travels, I found the certain power of nature all encompassing as I explored the state's unspoiled landscape.

Padding down to the ship's bottom deck in my pajamas early one morning, I was pleasantly surprised by Alaska's mild coastal climate and ample sunshine. The state boasts 17-24 hours of light during the summer months, making a midnight walk or even a late-night round of golf on land a reality. I found sleeping during my travels almost nonexistent, as I didn't want to miss a second of the surroundings which were only amplified by the natural sunlight.

It's very difficult to comprehend a place with such absolutely breathtaking views, to which words cannot do justice. Some of Mother Nature's greatest gems are waiting to be explored in Alaska—from sweeping vistas and eye-catching river systems to snow-capped mountain ranges and pristine glaciers.

placeholder
Photo by Adrienne Morgan

Prince William Sound is a perfect example of nature at its finest in Alaska. A smaller ship is able to navigate tight passageways, fitting in very snug inlets, and stopping right before the natural landscape. The remote waterways of Prince William Sound lie offshore from the Kenai Peninsula. Here is where I found remarkable coves, inlets and steep rock cliffs surrounding various islands, all of which make up the picturesque land. These islands, fjords and tidewater glaciers carve out the serene coastline. I kept my eyes peeled for marine mammals like humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, sea otters and sea lions, all of which swim freely nearby.

The narrow Ester Passage was another one of my favorite Alaskan highlights. The ship glided through a massive river of ice, leading us to the amazing College Fjord. Here I found glacier views like none other. At the head of College Fjord lies the face of Harvard Glacier, which is surrounded by a dozen other glaciers that flow into more glaciers or the fjord itself. The various glaciers were all initially explored by members of the Harriman Expedition in 1899. Due to the participants' various Ivy League college associations, the glaciers all bear similar names—Yale Glacier, Vassar Glacier, Smith Glacier and so forth. Witnessing the spectacular calving of these glaciers is an extraordinary experience, one not to be missed.

Back to Top


placeholder

Adventures Abound

Clapping my hands to a traditional Eyak cultural dance or viewing the making of an authentic native art were experiences I will not forget. At the various ports of calls, there are great opportunities to not only experience the land, but also to learn about the local culture.

To regain your land legs, explore the area with informative walking tours. As Alaskan weather can vary, be prepared for wind and water (a lesson I learned the hard way). For the more adventurous types, you can actually see massive glacial masses up close with helicopter glacier treks. For avid fishers, Alaska's legendary fishing environment is an ideal place to hone your sport. I stood feet from where local fishermen were cleaning their catches, which brought an entirely new meaning to the term "fresh seafood." And where else can you bring your binoculars for an encounter with black bears? In Alaska, bear watching (and whale watching) tours are quite popular. Depending on the region, you'll be able to find a plethora of various excursions.

Back to Top


placeholder

Port of Call Spotlight: Cordova

Some of the greatest perks I appreciated with small ship cruising were the unique ports of call I had the opportunity to visit. Cordova is the epitome of small town ambiance shaped by the spectacular surrounding wilderness. A very unique Alaskan town, Cordova is only accessible by sea or air; however, oddly enough, it is not an island.

Cordova is home to various festivals and celebrations throughout the year. Visit in the winter for an ideal skiing locale, with the beautiful Chugach Mountains in the distance providing perfect slopes. Or visit in the summer like I did, when kayaking is extremely popular in the area.

Be sure to make time to stroll the quaint downtown area. I kept busy for hours shopping at the local shops, visiting the Ilanka Cultural Center, and admiring the handmade crafts and native artifacts. Or you can simply congregate with the locals, taking in the local flavor with the freshest seafood around and a pint of Alaskan ale at a nearby restaurant.

placeholder

The Alaska state flower is the forget-me-not. Quite fitting this is, as you will not readily forget any of the astonishing experiences, breathtaking views and one-of-a-kind wildlife sightings in your travels to Alaska. The forget-me-not's season is late June through July; however, lucky for you, travel to Alaska is year round. Whether you visit in the summer for bright nights or winter for the exciting Iditarod race, there is no wrong time to visit the great state of Alaska. And be sure to catch the next issue of Going Places, where my Alaska adventure continues with a land tour.

Back to Top