July 2017 marked a ton of celebrations! Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries…Sadly though, I spent the entire month onboard my 2nd of 3 Alaskan summer cruise contracts. So I had to celebrate everything from afar. But, being in Alaska all month meant devouring more incredible food and getting to hike new trails! So the long distance didn’t totally suck. See below for the scoop on some creepy ship guys, where to get the best grub in Alaska, and the travel product I wish I had purchased years ago!
My ship docked in Vancouver on July 1st, which was Canada Day! Concerts, parades, people in costume, and Canadian flags flooded the city streets in celebration of its 150th. We were docked in Juneau on July 4th for Independence Day, too! I was off work for a while, so I went into town to watch the parade. I met and befriended an 83 year old man there who told me he was Alaska’s past president. He shared crazy stories with me from “the good old days” that were just SO stereotypically Alaskan, it was hilarious. Stories about an eagle snatching up his neighbors dog and about knowing if a woman is the one based on if she can gut a moose. At one point he whipped out his harmonica and played me a song. It was a very odd fourth of July, but one I’ll never forget.
Other July celebrations included my sister’s birthday, a friend’s birthday, and my best friend finding out the gender of her baby! It was also my SIX YEAR (holy Gawd) anniversary with my boyfriend! I was definitely feeling the long distance woes a lot this month.
I nabbed a sea kayaking tour in Ketchikan to Eagle Island! Kayaking is one of my favorite outdoor activities, and spotting a lot of wildlife made it even better. I paddled past sea stars, moon jellies, huge jumping salmon, and a seal. Our group also got to see a few bald eagles and a Sitka black-tailed deer with twin fawns!
Speaking of wildlife, after 5 summers spent in Alaska and 2 years living on the Washington coast, I FINALLY saw wild Orca whales for the first time! I’m just so bummed I saw them while working in the youth center onboard. I only had my iPhone for photos from Deck 17, so the whales looked like tiny blobs. But still!
One of my next contracts was cancelled, so I asked for an extension on my current ship. It was approved and I got to stay an extra week! The friends I made onboard were all awesome, so I was stoked to stay longer. It also meant that I’d be flying home from Anchorage instead of Vancouver in August. Anchorage and its airport hold special memories for me thanks to an amazing job I had in the Arctic in 2015. I couldn’t wait to be back in that area, even just for a bit.
Small world story! As a travel agent, before joining this ship, I had booked my Aunt and Uncle on their first Princess Alaskan cruise. While at a lecture onboard, they saw a presenter from Ketchikan’s Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. The presenter mentioned he had gone to Unity College in Maine (represent!) so my Aunt asked me if I knew him. It turns out I kinda did. We had gone to college together, where pretty much everyone knew everyone. I then joined my ship and near the end of my contract I saw him onboard. We got to catch up and he said he’s been doing the Lumberjack Show for 7 years now! Which means we’ve totally been in the same town for the 4 summers that I’ve worked Alaskan ships! *If you’re ever cruising to Alaska, let me know and I’ll tell you which lumberjack to root for! Haha!
The ship I was on held a lot of fun crew-only activities, which really helps our morale and makes us feel recognized. We had a private showing of the production show Born To Dance, a crew-only puppy playtime with an Iditarod musher’s puppies, and a barbecue at the Jewell Gardens in Skagway. Also, the Entertainment Department created a mandatory 2-week team building “training”, which at first we all hated for various reasons (more on this is in the Lows section). But by the time we had to act out our challenges to the other groups, we were all dying in laughter. My team won first place and a big party was thrown. The Entertainment Director bought 2 drinks for everyone on the winning team!
So this team building “training” our Department had us all do. The idea behind it was for everyone in entertainment (singers, dancers, youth staff, production, etc) to learn each others names, to learn more about what each others jobs entail, and to increase our camaraderie (which was already good to begin with). We were split into groups and had to complete 3 challenges to be performed at the end of the 2-week period. But none of the challenges had anything to do with learning each others jobs, and with our varying schedules it was hard for us to all get together to work on the challenges. It just felt like we were kinda being forced to do extra work on top of our duties, and we weren’t getting paid for any of it. It didn’t really work, but the teams did complete the challenges at least.
*You guys already know this but I always feel I should state that all thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not that of the companies.
Other than slight personality clashes with a couple coworkers, there were a number of creepers on this month’s ship. An older, much taller and bigger crew member would come into my personal bubble and quietly say things to me in Spanish. He knew I was practicing and could speak a little. He started by calling me things like “doll” and “beautiful” but then he would joke about how I should give him a kiss. So in Spanish I told him I have a boyfriend. Which he then started “joking” with me by asking if I wanted two. He eventually left me alone. But then a weirdo South African always tried to get my cabin number from me…“to know where to find you later”. Nice try. Deck 0 Cabin EffOff.
A roommate I had this month (her very first contract) had talked to a guy for all of 20 minutes and he wouldn’t stop calling our cabin the next day. She wasn’t in when he called, but I picked up. He kept asking where she was and when she would be back and for how long she would be gone. I don’t have GPS on her! We later found out he was mad at her because she didn’t call him back, and he wanted to hang out with her in port. Clingy much? Her contract was only ONE WEEK. No chill.
The local guys at the bar in the tiny town of Whittier were odd too. Every other week, crew from our ship would flood into this bar once we docked at midnight, to enjoy the Alaskan beer, pool tables, and music. We had a lot of strange encounters with the local men again this month, some wanting photos taken with us and some trying to kiss our hands. I was having a conversation with a fisherman and a much shorter local man came up to me. He just smiled and stared, and once in a while would put his hands up to say “Wow…Beautiful.” It was definitely a unique experience, that bar.
Claiming to have the best chowder and fish-n-chips in Ketchikan, Alava’s Fish-n-Chowder didn’t disappoint. At least not in the food category. I was a bit annoyed that they opened 15 minutes late and I was told the chowder would take 30 minutes to prepare. So I sat at a table and waited with a few other people. A ton of others came in after and wound up being served before me, so my wait time just to get a cup of chowder was over an hour! The claims were true though. That chowder was insanely delicious.
Another amazing chowder (and halibut) place in Ketchikan is the Alaska Fish House. Be prepared for a line out the door, though it usually goes quickly. Their smoked salmon chowder with smoked salmon cornbread is one of my greatest weaknesses. Plus, the inside resembles a wood cabin or shed and sits on the harbor.
Sweet Mermaid’s coffee and pastry shop in Ketchikan is another favorite. I tried their special called The Honeybee, a vanilla macchiato with honey drizzled on top, and it was BOMB. Their baked goods look incredible too.
Yes, I went back to Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau. Long-time readers know that I mention this place a lot. There’s good reason for it. Just the crab bisque alone is why I ask for my summer cruise contracts to be in Alaska.
I also rave about Juneau’s Heritage Coffee. I think I’ve found my perfect combo of latte syrups here. Blueberry and Macadamia Nut. I also bought myself a bag of their Seasonal Blueberry coffee beans and their Klondike blend for my sister.
This month I walked into a new cafe in Skagway and fell in love. Bites On Broadway, you had me at sea salt & butterscotch mocha. They’ve got a penny bar and cool Alaskan wall art decorating the shop, with a corner area selling local artists’ goods. They also sell their own sauces, preserves, apple butter, biscuit mixes, and even dog treats. Heritage Coffee partnered with them to create a Bites On Broadway blend, too!
While out in Vancouver, I saw a sign that said something about matcha with an arrow pointing into the Granville Station. If there were ever a way to kidnap me, this would be it. I wandered inside to find the grand opening of the cute RAD Tea Room. Since it was opening week, they gave away a free watermelon slushie with my matcha latte boba tea!
There’s not much in the tiny Alaskan town of Whittier, as you could probably tell by the bar stories in the Lows section above. A small handful of cafes and restaurants are there among the gift shops and outdoor adventure tour booths. You wouldn’t think anything special to eat would be there. But they’ve got this world famous salmon spread bagel that is absolute heaven! You can find it at The Lazy Otter.
Best Wildlife Shot
So my Nikon lenses need to be upgraded. But I was still happy with the overall outcome of this shot I took in front of some glaciers. This is a Black-legged Kittiwake. These birds flock around the ships, eating whatever fish and inverts get churned up. They’re also the only gull that can dive and swim underwater!
Most Popular Instagram Shot
This Instagram photo was taken at the end of my Sea Kayaking tour in Ketchikan. We were paddling back to the dock and I just liked how the gear barn looked and how the kayak matched the seaweed on shore. I definitely got my arm workout for the week that day! (Let’s pretend I have an arm workout to begin with, mmkay?)
Featured Travel Product
I have no idea why I’ve never spent the tiny bit of extra money to get Skullcandy Earphones before. I’ve been using ear buds that hurt my ears after just a few hours. I eventually snapped one of the bud cords in half. I knew I didn’t want to be traveling with the bulky headphones that go over your ears. So I picked up Skullcandy and I was actually super impressed with them! They’re pretty comfortable and they fit much better in my ears. They also had good noise-cancelling ability and I liked that the left cord had a microphone piece attached. FaceTime has been less stressful because I can actually hear and talk to my boyfriend. Plus, I’ve been using them a lot on planes and public transport when I don’t want to be social with whoever is sitting next to me.
I’ll be starting the month of August on this ship, and then joining a different ship back to Alaska for one week. At the end of the month, I’ll be joining the newest ship of the fleet for a 5 day contract in Japan. Dog sitting and travel agent meetings are scheduled for my time home, in between contracts. To say August will be exhausting is an understatement.
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