Saturday, 7 September 2013

An Alaskan Un-Cruise Adventure - Part 4

Continuing our magnificent Alaskan voyage with Un-Cruise Adventures on their unique new SS Legacy...

Legacy Cruise Day 4
After the majestic quality of Glacier Bay, we had hoped today we would be slightly more relaxing, with another day just sailing the region – this time mainly in Icy Strait – to soak up the immensity of Alaska. Not quite.

Today turned out to be one of the most fascinating, eye-opening, astonishing – and exhausting – days we could imagine.

It began in relatively sedate style with a series of more humpback sightings, with these big, indolent creatures lazily drifting by and waving their great tales at us in passing.

A course diversion into secluded Whitestone Bay afforded a view of black-tail deer on the
shore, yet another testament to the unscheduled nature of our sea days, where the ship can wander pretty much wherever it fancies in search of wildlife.

Lunchtime was marked in typical fashion, with a table appetiser and then a choice of sandwich or salad, before it was time for another turn on deck, taking advantage of Legacy’s supreme array of open deck space, in the bow, on the top deck, along the covered promenade deck and right aft, almost at water level, as well as from the forward-facing main lounge and the aft Pesky Barnacle Saloon (truly, one of the great little bars at sea!).

With not much on the horizon – apart from the non-stop epic panorama of the Alaskan vista – we wandered up to the wheelhouse, where the open-bridge policy invites passengers to drop by at almost any time.

First Mate Katie showed us around the tools of her trade, explaining the variety of bridge equipment at the ship’s disposal, along with, surprisingly, the traditional ship’s wheel – non of that fancy modern joy-stick rubbish here!

With the hour approaching 3.30 – the appointed time for the afternoon activity sessions, of either a poker tournament in the Pesky Barnacle with Captain Danno or a knot-tying demonstration in the lounge with deckhand Kristen– our Captain paid a quick wheelhouse visit to ensure all was well but quickly noticed some tell-tale movement in the distance.
Quick as a flash, he made a course correction and headed in that direction, at the same time grabbing the intercom to announce, “Orcas on the starboard bow!” Sure enough, Capt Danno had spotted a pod of around 8 killer whales heading along roughly our course, and it took only a minor deviation to draw alongside.

For the next hour or so, with the engines idle, we watched, enthralled, as these classical mammalian sea-hunters went about their business, diving hither and thither individually and in groups.

No sooner had we started up again, though, than there was more activity on the horizon, a series of humpback blows moving in earnest towards a sheltered bay on Chichagof Island.

Here we could see some serious concerted activity close to the shore as the group of 6-8 whales circles and dived, circled and dived, moving increasingly in earnest. The reason soon
became clear in truly amazing fashion as, right before our startled eyes, the humpbacks proceeded to demonstrate the art of bubble-net feeding in classic wildlife documentary manner.

Over and over again, they dived, spun a tight web of circular water, surrounded it with bubbles – then dived up through the middle to surface, mouths agape, in the midst of a heaving mass of herring.

It was a genuine ‘Wow!’ moment of awe-inspiring proportions, not least because the whales maintained this feeding frenzy for more than 3 HOURS, coming up as a hungry group again and again in the tight circle of bubbles they had woven under water. The scene was one of nature at its finest – and an absolute triumph for the Un-Cruise unstructured cruise style.

Almost numb with elation, we stumbled down to a late dinner to compare notes in total wonder with our fellow passengers. The evening concluded with another presentation from our period re-enactors, this time with Prospector Jake Thompson telling us all about his gold mining activities – and sorry tales of nearly striking it rich.

It was a weary group that made it to bed that night – tired but truly thrilled by the day’s events. It would be hard to imagine topping the spectacle. But we would.

Tomorrow - Sitka.

To learn more about Un-Cruise adventures, call 1888 862 8881 in the US; or visit www.un-cruise.com. In the UK, specialist cruise agents The Cruise Line can also help with bookings.

Be sure to read the full report of the cruise in the Autumn edition of World of Cruising, out September 20. You can subscribe here: http://www.worldofcruising.co.uk/subscribeOrder.html