Alaska/Juneau

Welcome to Juneau!

Juneau was by far our busiest port!  We had arranged for a taxi to take us to some places that we wanted to see as well as stops that our driver recommended that we see.  Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier.  Mendenhall Glacier is 13 miles long and ends at Mendenhall Lake and is easily viewed from the Forest Service’s historic visitor center.

Our taxi for the day.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

After we saw Mendenhall, we took at drive to the National Shrine of St. Therese.  The Shrine is dedicated to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the patron saint of Alaska, missionaries, and the Diocese of Juneau. She is known for her  autobiography, The Story of a Soul, and in it she wrote that what really mattered in life was not our great deeds, but our great love.

St. Therese

St. Therese Chapel

The view from the Chapel.

After we took hundreds of pictures of this spectacular view, we had our taxi take us to the Alaskan Brewing Company.  As I mentioned in the last post, some of the guys are home brewers so this was a necessary stop.  You can see how the beer is made and sample the traditional Alaskan amber, malts and ales.  Of course the trip would not have been complete without Tony, who works there, giving us the history behind this brewing establishment.  A fun time was had by our entire group as we sampled our way through the store and bought a variety of souvenirs from there.  We ended up going to lunch afterwards, but probably should have gone to lunch before sampling all that beer.

We had bought tickets to go on the Mount Robert’s Tramway from the cruise ship as we heard that this was the easiest way to obtain them.  So after lunch, we headed for the tram. The view from the top of that mountain was beautiful.

The view from the top of Mt. Roberts.

The Mount Roberts Tramway takes you 1,800 feet high and then lets you explore a park offering cultural heritage education, crafts and some amazing, expansive views. It’s Juneau’s most panoramic and breathtaking view!  Visit the live bald eagle display, do some alpine hiking, and walk the trails.

The live bald eagle display.

After doing some hiking at the top of this mountain, we headed back down into town and the ship.  This was the night that the ship put on the Quest; which is an adult game show that all Royal Caribbean ships do.  This particular game was not bad, but some of the ones that I’ve seen since this cruise are really x rated.  Part of our group decided to play this game and it was so much fun.  We actually came in first place and had a great time doing it.  Of course our prize was just a Royal Caribbean hat, but it was a good time.

Join me next week as we going into Icy Strait Point, Alaska!

Alaska/Skagway

Welcome to our next port; Skagway!

We started out the day taking an excursion off the ship.  It is one of the few ship excursions that we took and it was a fun trip.  It was a bus trip to the summit which is a scenic drive to White Pass in the Yukon.  I’ve known a few friends who have taken the train ride and most have enjoyed it.  We decided that we didn’t want to be gone all day so took the shorter bus ride there.  Below are some pictures I took along the way there.

After we returned from our bus trip a group of us went on a helicopter ride to see a glacier.  See below the pictures that they took.  It looked amazing.

A visit to Skagway would not be complete without a stop at the Historic Red Onion Saloon. Located on the corner of 2nd & Broadway, the Red Onion is a favorite among visitors and locals alike. Built in 1897, the Red Onion Saloon operated as one the finest bordellos in Skagway and though times have changed, the spirit has not.  We did not have a chance to visit this establishment, but it sure sounds like a fun place to check out.

We ended up the day going to lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company.  Most of the guys we travel with are home brewers and love craft beers so everywhere we travel, they are on the lookout for local beers to try.   After lunch we did some hiking then some shopping in the town before heading back to the ship.

Next week join me as we head into the town of Juneau!

Alaska/Ketchikan

After we left Vancouver, we had a day at sea.  There are so many fun things to do on a cruise ship.  We did a photo scavenger hunt and name that tune game.  Both were lots of fun to do especially with the group that we travel with.  We have a group of around 20 friends who like to travel.  Some trips we have all 20 joining but this time we had 11.  When we were planning this trip, we decided early on that each couple would get a port.  It works out well because that couple would research all the excursions that the cruise had for that port as well as other options on excursions off the ship.  We have found that if we get someone from that port city familiar with the area to take us to various spots that they recommend that it is much more fun and pleasant because then it is just our group that is going versus a bigger group from the cruise ship.  We either have always lucked out or we are just that good in our research as we have never run into any problems with the people we pick and having them get us back to the port on time.

One note on gluten free food.  I was not diagnosed celiac when we took this trip so I cannot give any recommendations on restaurants that we visited at each port.  However, I have been on many cruises since my diagnosis and I will say that the cruise lines we were on are very accommodating with gluten free options.  It also helps that you get the same waiter each night as they then are aware of your food issue and know ahead of time what you can or cannot eat.

Ketchikan was one of those ports that we all split up and did a multiple of things.  There was a group that did a float plane.  I did not do this, but from what I heard later, the group that went thought it was the best thing that they did on the trip.   The company they went through to take this excursion was called Island Wings and everyone who went said that they would highly recommend this company.  Island Wings took them on a tour of Misty Fjords and they saw some awesome sights.

Island Wings Float Plane

Some of us went on a Duck Tour.  I know it sounds lame, but if you’ve never been on one before, you need to go on one just for the fun of it.  The drivers are usually highly amusing and the tour does take you on an overview of the area.  While taking the duck tour, we did see an eagle.

Ketchikan is known as the salmon capital of the world and it is something to see when the salmon are swimming upstream there.  We went end of August and we were surprised at how many salmon we saw.  I tried to capture them jumping and did not have much luck, but you can see from the picture below just how many there were.

Make sure you leave plenty of time to walk around the town as it is cute and they have lots of little shops to go into.  Also, when packing for an Alaskan cruise you should bring a rain jacket and layer.  It was rainy in Ketchikan but I would say that it was in the mid 50’s when we were there.

The Town of Ketchikan

Please come back next week as our next stop is Skagway!

Alaska/Vancouver

Alaska was one of my all time favorite trips.  Since there was so much do and see there and since we did both a cruise and land tour, I am going to make multiple posts on this trip.  I will start with Vancouver.  Our cruise originated out of Vancouver so we decided to go there before the cruise for a couple of nights to sight-see a bit.  We went in August of 2010 and the Olympics were held in Vancouver in February of that year.

I’m pretty much obsessed by the Olympics so I was pretty excited to be seeing a city that had held the ceremonies only a few months prior to our visit there.

The Vancouver Olympic Cauldron

Canada Place

Canada Place is a building on the waterfront of Vancouver.  It is the home of the Vancouver Convention Center, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, and Vancouver’s World Trade Center .  The building’s exterior is covered by fabric roofs resembling sails (at night these sails turn different colors).  It is also the main cruise ship terminal for the region, where most of Vancouver’s cruises to Alaska originate.

A group of our friends took a bus tour of Vancouver which gave them a nice overview of the city.  Another group went to Stanley Park which is a large urban park.  It is designated a national historic site of Canada and you can enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, sky and trees along the seawall.  There are also lots of hiking trails.

We stayed at the Terminal City Tower Hotel which is within walking distance of the pier.  This hotel was very nice, but we picked it for it’s close proximity to the pier and restaurants.

I would recommend going to Vancouver at least one night prior to your cruise departure date to see some of this city’s sights.  Our trip there was very enjoyable.

We cruised with Royal Caribbean and went on the Radiance of the Seas which I would also recommend especially for cruising to Alaska as the Radiance has floor to ceiling windows that offers you incredible views.

Come back next week when we go into our first port; Ketchikan which is called the salmon capital of the world.

 

Hilton Head Island

I just returned from a trip to Hilton Head.  Hilton Head in February is a much different visit than if you go during the summer time.  In summer, Hilton Head is packed, but in February it is much less crowded.

Hilton Head has the most beautiful sunrises and you need to make sure you wake up early enough to see one as they are worthwhile getting up early to see.

I went with my sisters so we did a lot of shopping and sight seeing in the area.  Harbor Town in Sea Pines is one place that you need to stop by and check out.  There is a lighthouse there that you can walk to the top of and check out the view.  In October, 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Hilton Head and they are currently in the process of building this area back up again.

View from the top of the lighthouse.

Harbor Town Lighthouse

We did a lot of walking, but we all enjoyed the walking in the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge area.  We even saw a couple of alligators.

Can you see the alligator sitting on the shore?

We took a couple of trips off the island.  One of those trips was a visit to Bluffton.  Every Thursday they have a farmers market that is something to see.  If you like to see churches, they have a church there that is very beautiful and the area around it is so scenic to see.

While you are in Bluffton, you need to eat at the Cottage.  We ate lunch there and they were able to accommodate my gluten free eating.  It was crowded but it would be worth the wait to eat there.

We also went to Savannah.  Savannah is less than an hour car ride from Hilton Head.  There is a lot of history in Savannah and you can take a trolley tour or simply walk around, which is what we did.

The Cathedral in Savannah

I did not have too many issues eating gluten free on this trip.  One of the places we ate at on Hilton Head was called Rockfish Seafood & Steaks @ Bonboras.  It is a restaurant/bar in Coligne Plaza and is owned by a couple who used to live in my home town of Cincinnati, Ohio.  If you go there, they have quite a few Cincinnati dishes; Montgomery Inn Ribs, Big Boy Burger, and other Ohio favorites.  They also have The Art Cafe above that would be good to take kids to on a rainy day or just a day away from the beach.  They were very accommodating with me and made a gluten free scallop dish that was delicious.

Doesn’t this scallop dish look  yummy?

There is one place that you need to go to and that is Marche de Macarons.  We found this place in Savannah, but found out that they also have a shop on Hilton Head as well.  These macarons are the best that I’ve ever tasted and they are entirely gluten free.  Check out their website at www.marchedemacarons.com.

We all really enjoyed our little winter get away.  It is a great place to take the family to.  If you’ve been to Hilton Head Island, I’d love to hear what some of your favorite places there are.