FOR some time, Shane O’Keefe and his wife, Yvonne had wanted to cruise the inside passage in Alaska and with Yvonne having friends living in Vancouver, the stepping off point for the cruise, it was an excellent opportunity to do both.
Arriving in Vancouver they spent two nights and met up with their friends and toured the city using the hop-on-hop-off bus. Shane says it’s a great way to get around.
The next day they bordered their ship, the Star Princess, to begin a seven day cruise of the inside passage. Their first stop was Ketchikan. There was a lot to do so Shane went sea kayaking and Yvonne visited a cultural village.
Shane says the sea kayaking was great. It was cold. Only seven degrees, but there was no wind and the sighting of seals and eagles really made it an adventure.
Juneau was next and they had wanted to fly over the huge glacier there but the weather had closed in so instead they took a bus trip up to the glacier.
Arriving at the tourist centre, there was a large crowd gathered and the centre of attention was a bear and her three cubs. The rangers were trying to keep everyone back as bears can be very dangerous but the cameras were out clicking away at the mum and cubs. It was a really great photo opportunity.
Back in Juneau they heard there was a band playing at a local venue. It was the Alaska String Band; Shane and Yvonne had seen them on a tour of Australia and it was great to see them again on home soil and enjoy the bluegrass music.
They then sailed on to Skagway from where they took the train up on to White Pass; the old gold mining fields. It was snowing and cold and on the way down they stopped to go gold panning. The water had been warmed so it was not too cold for the tourist’s hands.
They panned and everyone found gold. The assay office said their gold was worth $35 so they bought a necklace to place the gold in.
Now it was two days of cruising as they sailed Glacier Bay and Prince William Sound. The glacier had been calving huge slabs of ice off its face into the icy waters. As the icebergs floated by their ship stopped in front of the glacier to let everyone experience the silence of it all.
The Star Princess caters to 2,500 passengers and has a staff of 800. Shane and Yvonne found it wonderful. They had a balcony cabin and the views as they sailed along were incredible; so was the food on-board, and the entertainment.
The cruise had come to an end and so they took a train to Whittier in the Denali National Park. The train had glass sides so the view spectacular.
At Talkeetna they stayed in a lodge owned by Princess Cruises and took a jet boat ride on the river and visited an Indian village.
The next day they moved on to another lodge and took a trip into the Denali National Park. They came across caribou and moose and as they were admiring the animals it began to softly snow. It was a beautiful feeling seeing nature at its best.
Their next stop was another lodge, but this time it was at Fairbanks where they took a riverboat ride on the Chena River. They were out in the wilderness and houses on the river had floatplanes to get around.
It was now time to leave Alaska and head for the USA. They flew to Houston in Texas where they hired a RV or motor home.
They took time to visit the space centre at Houston. The displays were excellent with many craft that had returned from space. They then took a trolley bus tour of the space centre where they visited mission control. It was just like you see it on television and it was great.
Shane and Yvonne travelled to New Orleans. Yes, they enjoyed Bourbon Street, the Mississippi River and the site of the war in 1812 between the British and the Americans.
At that time the American side had white Americans and African Americans and river pirates who fought side-by-side against the British and won.
They toured a plantation mansion and saw the plantation’s basic accommodation for the slaves. From there it was onto Memphis and a must do is a visit to Graceland’s and enjoy the memories of Elvis.
They toured Graceland’s and saw the cemetery where the family along with Elvis is buried. Later they took a tour of the recording studios where it all began.
On the final leg of their journey they flew to Las Vegas. The casinos were very impressive. It was 45 degrees on the day they visited the Grand Canyon. It was hot in the desert, but the next day it reached a sweltering 47 degrees, so it was time to stay indoors in the air-conditioner of the casinos.
Finally they visited San Francisco. Another hop-on-hop-off bus tour to Fisherman’s Wharf and then across the Golden Gate Bridge and of course a tour out to Alcatraz.
Back home, Shane and Yvonne have great memories and lots of photos to enjoy. They would like to thank Lauren at Lyn McNaught Travel in Mooroopna for arranging everything.
Until next time,