Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria

At Lake Pleasant RV Park, Seattle, Washington...

Because of the difficulty in attempting to post from the iPad and the weak Internet available on the ship, I finally gave up until we returned to Seattle. So this is a synopsis of our stops at Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska and Victoria, B. C., Canada. I also might mention that I have also added photos to the previous three posts, beginning with "At Sea."

Sitka has the distinction of being the location of the signing of the Alaska purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, perhaps  eclipsed only by the Louisiana purchase in terms of bargains. The cost? A little over seven million dollars.

The Westerdam is seen in the bay beyond the sign. Passengers had to be shuttled back and forth via tendering boats.
Perhaps its most prominent piece of architecture is a Russian Orthodox Cathedral, St. Michael's, built in 1848 and rebuilt in 1966 after a fire:

Cathedral of St. Michael
Altar Inside St. Michael's
Sitka occupies the largest land area of any U. S. city--2870 square miles--in which only about 9,000 residents roam.

The scheduled stops at Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria were fairly brief, so we weren't afforded a great deal of time to look around, but we thought Sitka a quaint town and steeped in history.

Ketchikan is the southernmost city in Alaska and dubs itself the Salmon capital of the world. Like all of our Alaskan stops, the weather was terrible for sightseeing:
Harbor at Ketchikan
It is known for its totem poles that can been seen throughout the city.

Totem Pole in the U. S. Forest Service Visitor Center
One of the most interesting places in town is the visitor center for the Tongass National Forest. This is one of the largest and most expensive visitor centers I have ever seen, complete with a huge multilevel walk-through history exhibit and a big screen theater to show films depicting the area. One of the documentaries we saw was a scenic flight over Misty Fiord National Monument, surely one of the most beautiful wild areas in the U. S. This visitor center, over-the-top as it is, is a testament, probably, to the ability of former U. S. Senator Ted Stevens to bring federal funds home to his state. (It was dedicated to him when built.) Nevertheless, it should not be missed by visitors. This stop convinced me that I must return some day to take a sightseeing flight over Misty Fiord.

Since we have visited Victoria, B. C. before and took in its best attraction, Butchart Gardens, we decided just to walk around downtown and take a few photos at the Empress Hotel, the iconic class destination for travelers:

The luscious landscaping in Victoria seems to be inspired by Butchart Gardens, one of the more beautiful ones we've seen, and certainly worth a visit if you haven't been there. 

Back in Seattle, our driver drops us back at Phannie and Mae, who sat quietly and forlornly in the park's storage area until our return. We were as glad to see them as they were to see us:

Some final thoughts on this cruise: While we enjoyed immensely the favorite gospel groups who performed throughout the voyage, we confirmed for ourselves that our traveling style may be somewhat too impulsive for cruising. We were a bit put off by the regimentation--dining at specific times, being assigned to specific tables, being issued specific times to go onshore and to return to the ship, etc. We also couldn't help but feel at little confined by not being able to just stop somewhere on a whim to check out something interesting we happened to see. On the other hand, we're probably among the least desirable customers for cruise lines, who undoubtedly would prefer those who spend time in the bars and casinos.

As far as the Alaska portion goes, we were very gratified to be able to see three Alaskan cities we had always heard about, but we got to see very little of the topography due to the awful weather at every stop. This had the effect of giving us a frustratingly tiny look at this vast and beautiful land. So the next time we go--and we will--it will not be via a cruise ship. On the other hand, It was because of the cruise ship that we were able to see the glacier and the calving of an iceberg up close--something we never dreamed we would see. And then we were able to see a number of whales--again, a first for us.

So, do we consider it a success and worth the money? Of course. But perhaps the most satisfying part was our needing to don jackets for all of our time in Alaska while our friends in Texas were baking in 100-degree heat. I hope they are still our friends when we get back.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I do not appreciate it enough every day.

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