Monday, 9 September 2013

An Alaskan Un-Cruise Adventure - Pt 6, Petersburg

More from our magnificent Alaska cruise experience with Un-Cruise Adventures on their unique SS Legacy...

Legacy Cruise Day 6

Another morning in Alaska, another morning of majestic whale-sightings. We are on our way to the tiny Norwegian-founded community of Petersburg today, which means a morning traversing Frederick Sound, and a wide, lake-like body of water that is home to many hundreds of humpback and minke whales.

In typical fashion, we are pretty much wide awake with the early-riser breakfast served at 7am in the main lounge (as an alternative to the full breakfast served in the dining room an hour later) and on deck in time for the first sighting of the day (actually, it was the second, as a minke had already been spotted by the earliest risers).

With the sea a complete, glassy calm all around, it was easy to see the first humpback surface.
And the second. And the third. And so on, until the Legacy was completely surrounded by more than a dozen whales, all cruising the Sound in search of food.

To one side was a group vigorously slapping the water with their tails; to the starboard side was a group dipping and diving in regular fashion. Aft of us was yet another pod engaged in what looked like sideways feeding, where we could see their heads first, then their flippers and finally the big, signature tails.

And, off in the distance, was a solo ‘performer’ simply enjoying the pleasures of a late summer day, breaching at regular intervals and crashing into the sea on his back. Why to whales do this? No-one seems to know, but it could well just be because they can.

Finally, after an hour with the ship drifting along to enjoy the show, the Captain got us back on course for the small town of Petersburg – population less than 3,000.

This heavily fishing-inspired port sees little in the way of cruise traffic and is all the better for it.
We were met at the dock by two ‘fishing’ guides, locasl who can tell us the town’s maritime history (largely based on salmon fishing and processing) as we walk along the shore to the Sons of Norway Hall.

Here the local Norwegian-inspired youth put on a show of traditional dancing (below) while we enjoy coffee and pastries, concluding with some amusing stories from the kids about their lives in Petersburg, and others’ perceptions of it.

The tour continues with a bus ride to the key local sites, which include the quaint downtown area, the Scandinavian-inspired domestic architecture, wall murals and the extensive muskeg at the back of town – a thick peat bog that most people are advised to avoid at all costs!

A black-tailed deer wandered out into the road at one point, bothering the driver not a jot, while
a stop at the Clausen Museum afforded an opportunity for some of the group to jump off and learn more local history.

We preferred to head back into the ‘downtown’ area (all 3 blocks of it) and learn that the Petersburg Fisheries (a division of the Icicle Seafoods, Inc) had canned some 21,792,048 cans of salmon so far this year. Yes, that's right more than 21 million (although the salmon canning industry used to be MUCH bigger in this region, before people started demanding more whole-fish product).

It was easy to see why, as the various different harbours afforded huge and easy access for the big fishing fleet here, and it was refreshing to see a true working port without any of the usual heavy industry or even the yachting marina with its pleasure craft instead of working vessels. There is nothing pretentious about Petersburg – just honest-to-goodness simplicity and sureness.

Back on board, the mist and fog had started to roll in as we prepared for dinner, providing for
some suitably atmospheric photos of the inlet and its surrounds. 

We were due to stay in the area overnight, dropping anchor just up from the port itself, and we enjoyed yet another impressive 4-course dinner, this time featuring a chili-rubbed bison ribeye steak that was truly taste tantalising.

The evening was given over to a one-man tour de force from one of the costumed characters, Kenny, playing the part of successful prospector CJ Berry (who had appeared earlier in the day with his faithful wife Ethel - as played by re-enactor Arika) and regaling us with his stories of failure and ultimate triumph, in the Klondike.
Once again, it underlined the great novelty – and interest value – of this period-style voyage,
and ensured we had yet another memorable historic experience to go with our present-day ones.


Tomorrow - Wrangell

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