2016 Alaskan Cruise Adventure

So, I took a little trip this past week. Just a jaunt across the country and way up north to Alaska……nowhere special! Yeah – right!!! It WAS special – VERY special! What a fantastic adventure it was! I could not believe how spectacular the views were – everywhere you looked! It was amazing and awe-inspiring and I’m so very glad I finally got there! The trip was in the form of a seven-day cruise out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. A friend from church and I both had this little adventure on our bucket lists, so we decided to go together. It was so much fun and we were great “new” traveling buddies.

I have to warn you – this will be a long post – can you even imagine how hard it was for me to narrow down over 1000 of the most gorgeous photos to just a few of the very best representations of each day? But, it will be worth it, so hang in there and enjoy!

DAY 1:     Leaving Vancouver

We boarded the Volendam from the Holland America Cruise Line about lunch time on Weds, June 22nd. We dropped our carry on luggage in the room and headed to the Lido Deck for some lunch. After a required Muster Drill, the ship set sail and we were on our way! It was a LONG day with the flights across the country and time changes, so we hit the pillows pretty early.

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The Vancouver skyline.

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DAY 2:     At Sea – Inside Passage

Our first full cruise day – Thursday, June 23rd – was entirely “at sea”, but we were traveling through the Inside Passage, so much of the way we had incredible views to satisfy our need to see pretty things! 🙂 We mostly relaxed and learned how to navigate our way around the ship. I took part in a beer tasting event with beers from the Alaskan Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska – that was a riot and the beers were actually quite good (except two that I thought tasted like soap, but the more seasoned beer lovers thought they were excellent…..go figure). One of the perks we got with our tickets was two free dinners at a couple of the specialty restaurants – on this night, we dined at the Italian themed Canaletto’s restaurant – YUM!!! We heard some passengers talking about seeing whales and dolphins in the waters near the ship, but we weren’t lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time – we did see some whale sprays a little in the distance, though. We went to the evening show – a really funny female comedian who also played the violin and brought her seven year old daughter on stage to play with her – WOW!!! Great show! After the show, we sat in one of the common areas and listened to a jazz group that was pretty amazing, too.

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Set up for the Beer Tasting Event on the Lido Deck

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This guy seemed to be everywhere! But, the first time we saw him perform was on the Lido Deck just before the Beer Tasting Event.

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Our first glimpse of a glacier, although, at the time, we didn’t know what we were looking at! After we saw more glaciers and heard the explanations of what glaciers are, we realized that the cool view we had on this day was also a glacier!

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Pat and I at our table for dinner at Canaletto’s – check out the view we had while we dined!

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A shot of the crowd starting to gather in the theater for the evening show

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Chris Pendleton and her daughter, Zoe – 7-years-old! This was a wonderful show!

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The Jazz ensemble that was playing later in the evening in the common areas.

DAY 3:     Juneau, Alaska

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So, how to do keep track of what day it is on a cruise ship? Why, you step into any elevator, of course! The crew change the carpet in all the elevators every day so that you always know what day it is!

This, of course was Friday – June 24th. We arrived in Juneau at 1:00 pm, so we had the morning to relax a little. Another perk we received with our tickets was a free drink package! Neither of us are regular drinkers, so we didn’t think we’d get much value out of this perk, but the drink package did allow us to have sodas and other beverages that usually cost extra…..AND…..we did indulge in a fancy drink (or two) each day……hey, why not!!!??? 🙂 Once in port, we got off the ship and headed to our first shore excursion – whale watching and a hike through a rain forest to see Mendenhall Glacier. We saw the most critters in Juneau – LOTS of whales, some sea lions, squirrels, a tiny mouse-like critter that no one knew exactly what it was, but it was cute, and even a HUGE porcupine up in a tree right above our heads! We also saw a few bald eagles – I didn’t think I was able to get any photos, but when I reviewed all the pics when I got home, I discovered I DID get a photo of one without even trying! It was a wonderful excursion – everything was great and beautiful and so much fun. It was a cold, rainy/drizzly day and the hike was a workout, but it was all worth it! We got back to the ship, ate dinner, and crashed in total exhaustion and achy bodies!

Mimosa and Bloody Mary

Enjoying our Mimosa and Bloody Mary while waiting to arrive in Juneau and looking out at the rainy day

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Saw this as we were pulling into Juneau – thought it looked cool! Probably looked a LOT different during higher tide!

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I took this from the ship, too…..and, look there on the end of that white arm thingy in front of the green building – I captured a bald eagle that I didn’t even realize was there until I looked at the photo!

Bald Eagle in Juneau

Here he is cropped so he can be seen better! WOW!

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Deboarding in Juneau

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This was pretty much “it” for the port of Juneau…..there must be more of the city somewhere, since it is the capital city and the third largest city in Alaska, but we didn’t see any evidence of it……not even as we took the bus to where we got on the excursions.

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This is our tour guide – Mircea (pronounced Meesha) Brown. He is a professional photographer/film maker, so this tour was geared towards photographers and he was there to help ensure we got the best photos we could get. The tips he gave us were so helpful! There were also only eight people on the tour, so it was very personalized and hands on…….and it didn’t hurt that he was such a cutie!!!

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There was a LOT of whale activity – we saw them spray, roll, just laying there asleep, and diving. We didn’t see any jump out of the water (breech), though – that was a disappointment. But, there was enough excitement with all the rest of the action to keep us oohhing and aahhing and snapping our cameras for the entire boat ride!

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There was one whale that came up within just a few feet from the front of the boat – RIGHT THERE in front of us! Unfortunately, the others were all in front of me, so I not only didn’t get a photo of one that close, I also didn’t even get to see it myself! Boo Hoo! Pat saw it, though!

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There were several sea lions playing in the water just off from our boat, too – they were so animated – they kept popping up out of the water to watch us and pose for our photos!

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After we were done watching whales and sea lions, we took a bus to where we started the hike through the rain forest. That was amazing! The floor in the rain forest was a blanket of moss all over everything and so much beautiful flora all around! And, this stunning waterfall! I got this great shot with a tip from Mircea on how to change my settings to make the water in a water fall look smooth as glass!

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This grassy area is actually a fluffy fern that was so beautiful!

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Then, we came to the end where the forest opened up to incredible views……and……

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Mendenhall Glacier……just spectacular!!!

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We asked Mircea to take our photo with my camera so we could be together with the glacier behind us!

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On the hike back to the bus, one of the other hikers looked up and saw this HUGE porcupine up in the tree above us just watching us go by! We stood there taking his picture for quite a while and he just sat there watching us! 🙂 He was really humongous!!! You really can’t get a feel for how really big this guy was in this photo!

DAY 4:    Skagway, Alaska

On Saturday, June 25th, We fell in love with Skagway! It is the perfect picture of what you would imagine a little gold mining town in Alaska would look like. Adorable buildings, quaint shops, friendly people, little-no traffic on the street, and SMALL (only about 300 people live there year round with a little less than 1000 in the summer months).

We got up early to disembark and get on a train ride up into the Yukon. It was a fabulous excursion with some breathtaking scenery! We did some shopping after the train ride and stopped for lunch at a sweet little restaurant where I had a pound of Alaskan King Crab legs and Pat had Halibut Fish ‘n Chips. Both meals were outstanding! When we got back on the ship, we sat in our favorite spot in the comfy chairs by the windows on Deck 5 and had a citrus martini before dinner. The show that night was a magician – he was pretty good!

Pat and Kim with Moose in Skagway_2

Sadly, this is the only moose we saw on the trip! This was taken when we got off the ship at Skagway.

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This was taken from our veranda – it is the train we took on the shore excursion. See all the “graffiti” on the rocks? Well, we found out it isn’t “graffiti” – the city of Skagway has encouraged ships ever since the early gold mining days to paint their logo on the rock wall in the port on their maiden voyage into the city to document all the ships that have docked there over the years.

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We chose the excursion that put us in the Luxury car on the train – the other cars had bench seats with two to a seat – this car everyone had a leather swivel chair for great individual views, a small group, food, and drinks! Well worth the extra $$$!!!

Mimosa on Train in Skagway

Enjoying a mimosa that was served on the train!

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Just one of the beautiful streams and views seen along the ride.

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This river is fed by glaciers – the milky appearance is due to the glacial silt that all glacier fed waters have.

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So glad this bridge is no longer in use……would not have been happy if we had to cross it!

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With all the curves and winding ledges, there were a few places where we could look out the window and see the rest of the train ahead or behind us!

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This IS a bridge that we crossed

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Along with several bridges, we also went through two tunnels!

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Here we are going through one of the tunnels – I went out onto the platform to get a photo of the light and tracks behind us

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This is the only major highway going into and out of Skagway. Even with a highway, though, it is quicker to get to nearby cities by plane or boat/ferry than it is to drive. And, Skagway is lucky to have a highway, at all – Juneau has no way in or out except for by plane or boat!

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A couple miles into the Yukon, we stopped, the engine disengaged, pulled ahead, and switched to the other track so that it could travel passed us to the back (now front) of the train to hook up and take us back to Skagway!

Later in the day, we heard that the second train tour of the day was stopped by a rock slide and couldn’t get back down the mountain to return. They had to send buses to get the people off the train and back to Skagway — how scary that must have been! Glad it didn’t happen to our tour!

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After the train ride, we took a Skagway Street Car Tour – what a hoot that was! The guide – Violet – was dressed in period costume and was very dramatic when telling the history and legends of old Skagway! We really enjoyed her a LOT!

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Here is Violet in the cemetery telling the story of the demise of one of Skagway’s scoundrels, who was touted and buried as a hero……until the secrets of his past came out after his death!

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Downtown Skagway — such a sweet little town! Would love to have spent more time there!

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This is a shot of our ship – the Volendam – docked in the harbor from a scenic overlook we stopped at on the City Street Car Tour.

Citrus Martini

Our citrus martini – my very first ever martini, so I was disappointed it didn’t come in a martini glass! 😦 But, it was still quite good! It was made with lychee, pineapple, and some other citrus with a sprig of mint. A tad too citrusy for me to completely finish it, but it was still very refreshing and delicious!

DAY 5:     Glacier Bay, Alaska

If you think it was difficult to narrow down the photos so far…….it was impossible to pick just a few from Glacier Bay! On Sunday, June 26th, we pulled into Glacier Bay. OMG!!! What an emotional day this was! The choice of getting a room with a veranda paid off big time — we had breakfast served in the room and bundled up to take in the views from our private veranda – it was perfect! No crowds to fight for a chance at the railings for photos, comfortable chairs just for us, a roof and walls on each side to help keep us from the misty cold air, and the chance to step into our room to warm up when needed! And…..we thought there might be some scenery we might miss cause we only had a view from one side of the ship, but they turned around and went back through, so we got to see the other side, as well.

There are no words to describe our time in Glacier Bay! It was so incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring! I literally cried, it was so overwhelmingly emotional to see! And, the state law prohibits ships from playing loud music or making any loud noises, so passengers were encouraged to remain as quiet as possible, so it was peaceful, quiet, eerie, and just plain like nowhere I have ever been, or likely ever will be again, in my entire life. We were there with the glaciers from about 9:00 am till about noon.

After we left Glacier Bay, we sat in our favorite chairs on Deck 5 and read. Later we had our second promotional dinner perk at the Pinnacle Grill – best dinner of the cruise! We had champagne, I had a huge shrimp cocktail and Pat had a Caesar salad, we both ordered the petite filet mignon with shared carrots, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms. I added a 12 oz lobster tail that was gigantic! And we both had a vanilla and chocolate souffle for dessert. It was amazing! The show that night was a hysterically funny juggler and we capped off the evening by listening to a piano and violin duo playing classical music in one of the common areas. It was a perfect day!

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Our private veranda off our stateroom!

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Pat out on the veranda enjoying the scenery!

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On the way into Glacier Bay – already spectacular, but we didn’t have any idea what we were in for as we went on further!

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The first of many glaciers in the park. A glacier is formed when an ice field builds up and pushes over the side of a mountain to form a wall of ice that looks like a waterfall or, in other cases, completely covers the side of the mountain to look like an ice wall. The sides of glaciers break off or “calve” into the water to form icebergs that float off into the water. As the glacier pushes over the mountain, it chisels away at the side of the mountain and takes parts of it with it…..hence the layering effect and the appearance of dirt and debris in the ice.

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The upper part of another glacier as we approach it

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And this is what we found when we got past the opening to the cove

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Looks dirty, but it is just parts of the mountain side that became part of the glacier as the ice pushed over

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The colors and layers fascinated me! These are NOT just a bank of snow — this is solid ice walls as hard or harder than the mountain itself!

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One of many icebergs floating in the waters – they look small, but are actually quite big – chunks of the glaciers that “calved” off into the water

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A waterfall in the mountain

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And, another glacier – each one uniquely different and distinct in its own way! This one appears to have zig zagged its way down the mountain.

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These colorful rocks were so stunning! Nature’s artistry!

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And, another glacier…..

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In some spots, the fog was so dense and the quiet was so deafening, it was a strangely eerie feeling!

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Then……we got to the Grand Daddy of all glaciers and sat there in perfect silence for quite some time just floating just off the shore line from it watching and listening! It was so quiet – not even the sea gulls (that were quite plentiful) were making any noise. Then, every once in a while, you could hear what sounded like a gunshot and a crack and a splash, as a piece of the glacier would break off (“calve”) into the water. This area was so incredible……there are no words!

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Here, a waterfall was gushing out an opening in the glacier!

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Just beyond this tip, a chunk of the glacier fell into the water with such force, it splashed way up and caused a tidal wave that went off in multiple directions and was still reacting quite a ways up the side of the glacier.

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As we left Glacier Bay, we saw several sea lions playing in the water. There was also an island that the sea lions like to sun bathe on, but I sadly couldn’t get a photo of it!

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And, we also saw several whales!

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And, I just loved the look of this tropical looking island out in the middle of the freezing waters of Alaska!

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No more glaciers, but there was never a lack of beauty to behold!

Kim and Pat at Pinnacle Grill

Here we are with our appetizers and champagne at the Pinnacle Grill for dinner.

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My shrimp cocktail – there were four, but I had to eat one before I could take the photo! They were HUGE!!!

Dinner at Pinnacle Grill_12 oz Lobster Tail on Petite Filet

And, just look at this 12 oz lobster tail sitting on top of my petite filet!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lobster tail so humongous!!! And, it was sooooooooo delicious!!!

Vanilla and Chocolate Soufflett

The souffles were perfect, too!

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The cap for the evening was listening to this classical duo – very nice! But, the only seats available were a little too close and the music was very loud, so we didn’t stay too long. But, what we heard was extremely good!

Day 5:     Ketchikan, Alaska

On Monday, June 27th, we pulled into Ketchikan. We weren’t as impressed with Ketchikan as we were the other stops. It was a nice little city, but very commercialized and touristy – lots of high end jewelry stores and the employees were standing in the doorways begging you to come in and buy something. We did find a great store called “Christmas in Alaska” that I stumbled on cause I was looking for a place to buy a stamp for a post card. I’m glad I didn’t have a ton of room in my suitcases or I would have bought out that store and made my pocketbook very unhappy!!! We didn’t book an excursion for this port, but did decide to take a trolley tour to Totem Pole Park, which was very nice. We also had lunch at a cute restaurant called the Fish Pirates Saloon – they had live music – a guy who sang classic outlaw country songs and sounded just like Waylon Jennings! After dinner in the dining room on ship, we sat and listened to a guy in the piano bar playing oldies for the lounge to sing along with and then went in to playing songs from all the states and countries that people yelled out – that prompted a lot of singing-along, too! It was a lot of fun! And……to make the evening complete, we saw the only beautiful sunset of the cruise! All the other nights were foggy, cloudy, or the sun went down very late…….the day in Ketchikan was the sunniest day and the warmest (almost 80 degrees) and the night sky was clear and made for a beautiful sunset!

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Getting off ship at Ketchikan

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Ketchikan is Alaska’s first city! And, apparently, the salmon capital of the world! 🙂

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We were told that this tunnel is in the Guinness Book of World Records because it is the only tunnel in the world where you can go through it, over it, around it, and when the tide is right, you can go under it!!!

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I really wish I could have taken this guy home with me! He was gorgeous!!!

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The restaurant we had lunch at was on the third floor of this building

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This was the lunch time entertainment – just like listening to ole Waylon himself!

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One of the totems in Totem Pole Park

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Most of the totem poles were VERY TALL…..the guide told us the story behind many of them.

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We also stopped to check out Creek Street – the red light district in Ketchikan’s gold rush days!

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Beautiful rock wall mountain side

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This sculpture shows the old lady with the drum in the front telling the story of the first settlers in Ketchikan.

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When we returned to the ship, we had a cocktail and appetizers and read in our favorite spot on Deck 5. Pat turned me on to a Cosmopolitan – and, look, it came in a martini glass! I thought that was VERY good — never had one before, but if the opportunity arises, again, I will likely order one – I liked it!

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The piano bar guy doing sing-alongs after dinner. Fun!

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Our one and only pretty sunset…..

DAY 7:     At Sea, Inside Passage

Our last day on ship was a return trip through the Inside Passage enroute back to Vancouver. We did a lot of relaxing, reading, and packing up our bags to prepare to head back home the next morning. Here are just a few more photos worth sharing:

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I mentioned several times about our favorite chairs on Deck 5. Here they are – they were so comfortable and gave us a wonderful view of whatever there was to see along the way! Here, we would just gaze out the window, read, have cocktails, or sit and people watch.

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Our state room – we had a bathroom with a whirlpool tub and a shower, two beds, a comfortable seating area, and our private veranda – which we LOVED!

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View of the dining room

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Our view from our breakfast table one morning.

Strawberry Cream with Chocolate Lady Fingers

Desserts were stunning and oh, so decadent!

Desserts

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And, finally, I leave you with one of our “at sea” views…….inviting, isn’t it?

All in all, it was a fabulous trip! I loved every minute of it (well, except for the airports at Toronto and Vancouver – I will avoid at all costs flying into, through, or out of any Canadian airport, again, but……)! I wonder where my next adventure will take me! 🙂

6 Comments on “2016 Alaskan Cruise Adventure

  1. What an awesome tour!. I relived our Alaska cruise of many years ago through your week on that cruise. So delightful. Thanks for sharing! We’ve never had a balcony room, always inside rooms. That must have been incredible to be able to seed those views so close up. Thanks for sharing!

    • Fabulous pictures. I relived our Alaska cruise of many years ago while reading your blog and seeing your pictures. Thanks for sharing.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  2. first class trip. first class travelogue! coolest I have been in months.
    memories captured with your creative eye for photos. congrats!

  3. Looks like a fun trip Kim! Glad you got to go and mark one off your bucket list. Gary has been wanting to go to Alaska on a cruise I’ll have to show him your pics.

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