North to Alaska!

Departing Vancouver 2We boarded our ship in Vancouver, BC and sailed beneath a high bridge. We headed north into the Inside Passage, the route that slips past islands and along the northwestern coastline of North America. The first day on most cruises with a south-to-north itinerary is a relaxing sea day because of the distance to the first stop, Ketchikan. The scenery surrounding us as we sailed was green with evergreen trees, laced with deep water and mountainous – perfectly northern Pacific coast.

Ketchikan classic

Ketchikan’s waterfront

Ketchikan is an old gold-miners town and the town’s leaders keep it just as it was more than 100 years ago – “house of ill repute” and all! The buildings at the entrance to the town have appeared in many ads and brochures for Alaska cruises. They house gift shops and other tourist favorites and make good subjects for amateur photographers. We enjoyed a tour on an amphibious vehicle – one that drove us around town and sailed us around the harbor. As in every Alaska tourist town, pontoon airplanes and adventurous activities are very available.


Juneau and the mountains that cut it off from the world.

The next day we were in Juneau, America’s smallest state capital. Juneau can’t be reached by road because it’s surrounded by mountains. Travelers to Juneau must arrive by plane or over the water. Some of our group took pontoon-plane tours and enjoyed seeing mountains and glaciers from the air. There’s not a lot to see and do in Juneau besides tourist shops. That makes this a good day for an adventurous excursion.

Skagway 1

Skagway, where ships practically tie up on Main Street.

Skagway was our final stop on the Inland Passage. The town is mostly owned and leased by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It’s a retail national park. The shops are carefully chosen to keep both the sense of gold-rush Alaska and to offer a wide variety of merchandise. Many of the buildings date from the late 1800s and the more recent buildings are in the “gold rush” style. Skagway the most fun of the three cruise-port towns.

Tom Ganner

Tom Ganner and a couple of French-speaking photography students.


haines alaska

A view of the nature preserve near Haines Alaska

This was my favorite day of the cruise because my friends and I enjoyed a photography excursion with professional photographer, Tom Ganner. Click the link at his name to see some of Mr. Ganner’s nature photography. Our day with Tom began with a short but interesting ferry ride to the town of Haines, Alaska. This gave us an opportunity to see a small town that’s not a tourist haven. Tom showed us around, gave us a history lesson, and introduced us to totem poles. Then we drove outside the town to a wildlife preserve along a small river. Tom pointed out nesting eagles in this area of serene beauty. We aren’t expert photographers and two of the four of us didn’t speak much English but Mr. Ganner was very patient with us and that excursion was a highlight of the cruise for me.

Glacier Bay 1

A much smaller ship than ours approaches the great glacier.

As our cruise days were dwindling we entered Glacier Bay. We were there at the very beginning of June, still a cold time in Alaska. We saw and heard the enormous slowly moving glaciers. We watched small tour boats approaching the pale blue ice, dodging mini-icebergs. Global warming is causing the glaciers to shrink more each year. If seeing the great glaciers is important to you book your cruise for early in the season.

Glacier Bay

The shrinking great glacier.

I know some of you have cruised in Alaska. Please use the “Comments” section below to tell us about your favorite experience on your cruise. You may be more adventurous than I am. If you ventured farther from the ship by seaplane or kayak, please tell us about it.


Find Tom Ganner’s photos and arrange a photography excursion with him by going to


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