Thursday, 5 September 2013

An Un-Cruise Adventure - Part 2

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

Alaska Legacy Cruise – Day 2

We always knew our first full day at sea would be a busy one – but not quite THIS busy! We were up for breakfast at 6.30 and ready to leave for a tour of Skagway by 7.45. There were another three largeships in port (with the big Grand Princess unable to reach port because of high winds and low tide) but we were off and running before the multitude.

The organisation was first-class – three of the town’s classic 1920 street cars came to pick us up and gave us a full tour of the downtown area (which consists of barely 10 blocks!) before handing us off to a coach for the drive up into the mountains along the White Horse Pass – scene of the big 1898 gold rush stampede.

Once up into the interior, just across the Canadian border at Fraser, we awaited our return journey – by the White Horse Pass & Yukon Railway. This fabulous and extraordinary feat of engineering winds back down through the mountains to Skagway, through two tunnels and over
several rickety-looking trestle bridges, sticking firmly to the edge of the mountain and affording amazing views in every direction.

Back in town, we were whisked back to our original little ship in time for lunch while we set sail for the smaller town of Haines – a more modern settlement than Skagway, which literally grew up to feed the gold rush – and another included organised excursion.

This one took us to the Haines high points, including The Hammer Museum (I kid you not!) and the local history centre of The Sheldon Museum – a repository of all things south-east Alaskan – as well as Fort Seward, the original army base, decommissioned in 1947.

After our full Haines highlights excursion (like the morning’s, fully included with the cruise), there was an optional tour at $55 a head to go bear-watching. And there was no way we were turning that one down.

Our specialist guide picked us up from the centre of town and off we went to the Chilkoot River at 5pm sharp, ready for an evening of intense wildlife viewing.

Fully briefed on Alaska’s brown and black bears, we were told about the local brown bears and
their predilection for the nearby salmon river, where there was a high chance we would see them at their own ‘dinner hour.’

We stopped en route to watch the resident seals swimming up-river to join in the fishy feast, and then spotted a bald eagle family high atop the trees. We were able to stop by Chilkoot Lake (left) and continue our tour, all the time both watching the river-banks and listening for news of any other bear sightings on our guide’s walkie-talkie.

Finally, with time running out for our ship return, the news we had been eagerly awaiting came over the radio and we were off to the observation point – where a large brown mother bear and her cub casually wandered by on the opposite bank, stopping for any tasty salmon morsels that might already have been left out on the banks.

We happily snapped away as the two made their way past our observatory, then swam across the channel to pursue more dining opportunities on the beach. Excited, elated and just a little relieved, we returned to the Legacy.

Did I mention it was a busy day? Busy? We were exhausted by dinner-time, but still had (just about) enough energy to enjoy the evening’s excellent four-course meal and then a theatrical presentation in the main lounge featuring our four costumed interpreters, and Tales of Gold Rush Skagway.

It was a fitting end to a fairly tumultuous day, but an early night was called for as tomorrow is one of Alaska’s greatest treasures – Glacier Bay.

To learn more about Un-Cruise adventures, call 0877 263 9888 in the UK; 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