Friday, 13 September 2013

An Alaskan Un-Cruise Adventure - Pt 9, A Whale Of A Day

(Pic Courtesy Jocelyn Pride)

Continuing our magnificent Alaska cruise experience aboard the SS Legacy with the unique style of Un-Cruise Adventures...

Legacy Cruise Day 9

Finally out of US waters, we are heading for two days of gentle sailing through Canada’s own Inside Passage, a series of narrow inlets that the big ships avoid but which is tailor-made for Un-Cruise sailing.

The weather varies from periodic curtains of light rain to bright sunshine, with cloud still lingering among the towering hills and mountains to either side.

Spectacular waterfalls cascade down precipitous slopes and the occasional sea-lion and porpoise slides by in the ice-cool green waters. After the run of port calls, today’s ambience is distinctly slower and lazier, with people taking
the time to settle down with a good book, a game of cards, a jigsaw puzzle or just convivial conversation in the lounge. The Grenville Channel provides the occasional whale sighting, but they prove fleeting and largely elusive.

Several groups of passengers – notably the New Zealanders – gather to rehearse for the evening’s ‘Open Mic’ night, which promises to be quite a laugh, but otherwise this is about as low key as the voyage has been.

Of course, the lure of the local wildlife keeps many eyes drifting back to the windows and the waters beyond; waters that have developed a distinct glitter under the late-morning sun and are studded every now and then by another startling waterfall.

A message from the bridge briefly brings most people out on to deck at reports of a humpback whale sighting but, once again, it dives deep and is not seen again, even though our Captain idles the engines for a while in hopes our mammalian friend might resurface (yet another reminder of the unscheduled Un-Cruise style).

Lunch is interrupted by a ‘call’ at the former cannery site of Butedale, a derelict Canadian industrial plant that was abandoned in the 1950s yet still has a caretaker (and his family) standing guard over the slowly decaying remains. The Legacy noses up to his small dock
and one of the crew throws several bags of cookies to the eager incumbents. A special delivery indeed!

Another tannoy announcement of ‘Whale!’ brings a minor ripple of attention to the outdoor decks – which soon becomes a MAJOR event, and quite a surprise for the sleepy day.

Two humpbacks are spotted feeding close in to the shore (barely 5 yards away at times), then two more and then another couple, including a calf. A huge breach REALLY gets our attention, and that quickly gives way to another example of bubble-net feeding – not as dramatic as Day 4’s but still attention-grabbing.

What happened next will probably have us still talking about it for years to come. As the ship again cut its engines to allow for a prolonged observation of the group, two broke away to come and look at US. Passing along first one side, then the other, they topped this truly eye-popping close-up wildlife show by nosing under the bow and drifting along the port side, tilting to one side to eye us up and ascertain what kind of creature was threatening to move in on their feeding grounds.

Or maybe they were just curious. Or maybe they were feeling playful. Either way, we were again treated to the kind of live-action wildlife theatre you usually see only in the most vivid TV documentaries. We galloped from one side of the ship to the other as the duo performed their slow-motion ballet alongside and cameras almost went into meltdown as everyone
tried to record the moment and add it to an indelible memory.

Both whales eventually moved off with a long, languid wave of their huge tails, and we settled back – emotionally exhausted once more – to compare notes on this amazing hour-long experience that even had Captain Danno looking back in awe.

First mate Katie drew a good crowd in the lounge for her lecture on maritime navigation and, before we knew it, it was cocktail hour once again and the precursor to a dinner featuring an absolute feast of Alaskan king crab (or filet mignon for those who might be shellfish-averse).

Finally, Open Mic Night offered us a hugely amusing mix of the entertainment crew (our re-enactors, turned singers, musicians and comedians) plus passengers in a fairy raucous selection of singers, comics, poetry readers and Capt Danno (again) offering one of his
inimitable rhyming stories (poems are too small a word for them).

Yet again, another example of a day at sea with a difference. We can’t wait for another one tomorrow! 

To learn more about Un-Cruise adventures, call 1888 862 8881 in the US; or visit 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 now! You can subscribe here:

PS: Yes, that is Yours Truly at Open Mic Night - a fearsome sight (and sound!) to behold. There is even a video file of it online somewhere, although I hesitate to mention it. Oh go on, then...