Home From the Wild

July 18, 2018

I think our hardest decision, after making the first hard decision–which was, do we really want to do this Alaskan cruise thing?–was choosing a cruise line. Yeesh, there are a lot of options. And a lot of opinions out there. After several mind-numbing days of trying to sift through all of the information on the interwebs, my husband and I waved the white flag and called a travel agent to help us figure out what would meet our needs. We just didn’t have the patience to figure it out ourselves. This sort of grated on me, because I really like to plan trips (my husband teases me mercilessly about my addiction to travel guidebooks) and I feel a little squirmy about leaving my vacation fate in the hands of someone else.

Someone might just have a few control issues, eh?

In the end, we chose the Celebrity Millenium, because we could customize enough (read: throw walletloads of cash to the wind) to be able to make a lot of decisions ourselves. Because some of us have control issues. I don’t like being told what to do. At all. I didn’t want to be told when I could eat, where I could eat, who I had to eat with, when/what I could drink or order from room service, or what activities I could do. This probably means my fussy, spoiled ass doesn’t belong on a cruise, period.

But take one I did, and despite my skepticism, I truly enjoyed it.

We decided to take the route via Vancouver and even though we spent less than 24 hours there, I fell a little in love with the city.


                             -we spent the morning walking in Stanley Park, looking out at Coal Harbor


                                             -this guy found some kindred spirits


If the cost of living in Vancouver wasn’t ridiculously, impossibly inflated, I could see myself trying to wheedle my husband into packing up and relocating there. Alas, there’s zero way we could afford to do that. You’re welcome, Canada. We aren’t headed your way after all.

Canada was going through a freaky heat wave when we arrived, so even mild-tempered Vancouver seemed a little steamy. We embarked on the Millineum late morning and were enjoying sunny skies and shirtsleeves weather on our balcony all afternoon. Miss M. was content to sit on a deck chair with her sketch book; my husband brought out the portable sound system and tortured her with Yacht Rock. I immediately resorted to liquid measures. Turns out, after a couple of glasses of bubbles, you don’t mind Christopher Cross so much.

                                              -admit it, that song sticks in your head. Saaaaiiilllllliinnnggg.


We spent the next full day at sea and entertained ourselves by hollering at World Cup matches on the outside pool deck and exploring every inch of the ship (of particular interest was the cafe serving beautiful French pastries, delicate fruit tarts and house-made gelato. Miss M. thought she’d died and gone to heaven.)

It was beautiful weather sailing out of British Columbia and I thought, “Boy, I didn’t know the weather would be so mild and lovely.”


                                                       –mild and lovely… for now


It stayed mild and lovely during our first stop in Alaska: Ketchikan. There’s not much to the town itself, although in its heyday it was full of fur trappers, seamen and whorehouses. It’s the “salmon capital” of the U.S. now, but we really didn’t feel like going out on a fishing boat or watching the kitschy lumberjack show in town, so we decided to go on a nice, relaxing hike.

Relaxing, my fat fanny. The dang thing was nearly all uphill–steeply uphill–and we panted and trudged for an hour and then had to call it quits.


                                      -Okay, okay. View was worth it. Plus, we earned more gelato and cake.


                                            -Hmm…do you see some clouds rolling in?


It was a little windy, chilly and there were a few showers when we docked in Icy Strait point, but it didn’t matter, because we were spending the day on a whale watching/marine mammals cruise, so we could go outside on the upper deck when we felt like it and then retreat to the indoor deck with big windows when we got cold. And we hit the Whale Jackpot that day. Boy, did we ever. We saw both resident orcas (fish eating) and transient orcas (mammal eating), as well as several pods of humpback whales. The humpback whales were in packs of 10-15 and were bubble feeding, so sometimes they’d surprise us and pop up in unison, jaws open. It happens without warning and very quickly, so we didn’t get pictures of their enormous heads, but we got lots of shots of them clowning around and blowing little geysers.

                                                                 -total blowhards


We also saw dolphins and porpoises, and a few playful otters. But really, the whales stole the show and our guide was completely giddy at the number and variety of whales we saw. “I’m not kidding when I say that this is by far the best whale-watching day I’ve had so far this summer,” she said. “You are very lucky people.”

Sitting down to a late “date lunch” at the sushi restaurant, craft cocktails in hand, my husband and I felt very lucky indeed. It was beginning to get dang chilly and wet by late afternoon, so we spent most of the evening indoors (there may have been hot chocolate and croissants involved).

“Today was awesome,” I said. “But just wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow’s going to be even better. Because you know…DOGS!”

Miss M. rolled her eyes at me. “You can’t be more excited about dogs than whales, mom.”

“Not just dogs!” I protested. “Sled dogs! Direwolves!”

“Mom, you are such a weirdo,” she said. “Only you get this excited about dogs.”



We woke the next morning to find that our luck had run out a little bit. It was very windy, rainy and cold in Juneau. Not ideal weather for spending the day outside, but who cares? Dogs! Direwolves! I’ll freeze my arse off in the name of dogs, no problemo.

Except there was a little problemo. Our dog sledding/helicopter adventure was cancelled. The weather was too treacherous to risk a helicopter ride to Mendenhall Glacier, so for our safety, they had to scrap our canine adventure. I may have cried a little. No doggos for me. My pouting was short-lived though; soon after, we learned that a small plane had crashed over the mountain range in Ketchikan, which we’d hiked uphill to see just two days prior. Nothing like a frigging plane crash to put your priorities in perspective. I felt absolutely ridiculous about feeling disappointed in our missed puppy opportunity.

Plus, we woke up to this:

             -look close at the clouds in the background…is that a face? Abominable Snowman?

We got very close to Hubbard Glacier, the closest the Celebrity Millineum has been able to get to it this season. It’s a magnificent thing to see. And hear. We could hear it snapping, popping and hissing. Pieces of ice cracked off, plunging into the water below. It was a powerful spectacle but also a grim reminder: global warming is real, folks. We’d better smarten up about this sooner rather than later.

We spent the remainder of our time in Alaska hiking (in Skagway), cruising through the Kenai Fjords National Park (more whales and some, ahem…frisky…otters. And puffins, which Miss M. was super excited about.) We pouted when they kicked us off the ship but all good things have to come to an end. Plus, we took a really picturesque train ride from Seward to Anchorage, with waterfalls and mountain sheep and one lone brown bear, which I failed to see as we passed.

We arrived home Saturday night, and after a couple of long travel days, home felt glorious. Even with the knowledge that unpacking, laundry, errands and grocery runs were in our future. Vacations aren’t meant to last forever–that’s why they seem so special, eh?


Q and A Bullshit, so feel free to bail now. I totally understand.


Some of you have already asked me questions about the trip, and I’ll try to answer a few here but shoot me emails/messages if I fail to address things you want to know. I’ll be happy to fill in whatever I can that you’re curious about.

Q:Would you take another cruise?  A: Maybe? I really enjoyed this one, and I honestly don’t think I’d travel around Alaska any other way. It’s just too rustic for me otherwise and the towns are small and far between. We saw tons of folks tooling around in RV’s and pitching tents and loving every minute of it, but I’m not that kind of girl. I was very happy hiking on the trails and spending time in the wilderness and retreating to a warm shower and a spacious cabin and a dinner someone else cooked for me. Adventure girl, I’m not. If we ever do go on another cruise, it will be many years from now. Unless we win the lottery or take out a second mortgage.

Q: Did all the people freak you out?  A: Not that much. Mainly because we unloaded cash to eat at the specialty restaurants and chose excursions offshore that were relatively small in number. I think the Millineum can carry about 2,000 passengers but it felt a lot smaller, to be honest. I freaked out more about the crowds at Sea-Tac airport coming home–airports are the worst.

Q: Was Miss M. bored?  A: Not often. She definitely missed her sister but we went offshore whenever we could, and there were some amusing shows in the evening (one had a fake Elvis–always a bonus in our book) and the quality of the performers surprised us. The highlight was the onboard naturalist, Chelsea. She gave a talk/slideshow almost every day, informing us about the wildlife we were going to see and telling amusing stories about her work in the field. One area Miss M. flat-out refused to participate in was the Kid’s Club. She’s at an awkward age right now (12) for that kind of thing. She feels too old for the regular Kid’s Club and wasn’t old enough yet for the Teen Club. She’s never been much for those programs, though. When she was little, she’d go only if her sister was going, so we were sort of prepared for this.

Q: Be honest: how was the food?  A: The food was really, really good. Then again, we ate at the specialty restaurants (particularly for dinner). But we often ate lunch on port days in the buffet restaurant, as it was open the longest and we were working around excursions. The variety there was massive and I was impressed by the vegetarian offerings. Miss M. was thrilled that they had a pizza and pasta bar that was open continuously from 11am-10pm. Our favorite restaurant, by FAR, was the Japanese restaurant (Sushi on 5). That’s one you’ll have to pay for but it wasn’t hugely pricey and definitely worth it. My husband and I would have eaten there every day if we’d been able.

Q: Did you gain a ton of weight?  A: Well, I sure could have! Nobody is going to go hungry on that ship, especially if you love sweets. That gelato/patisserie/cappuccino bar is dangerous, man. And the pastries/croissants available at breakfast were stunning. Thank goodness we hiked a few days. YES, my pants are a little snug but it could have been a lot worse. Breakfast was pretty easy to keep healthy: they had gorgeous fruit platters and avocado toast and egg white omelets if that’s how you wanted to roll. Lunches I kept almost completely vegetarian (unless I ate at Sushi on 5), as the offerings were very good daily (lots of salad options, Indian vegetable curries, ratatouille, eggplant parm, veggie stir fry). Dinner I ate whatever I wanted and there were definitely treats, both of the dessert and alcoholic variety. So yep, back to Le Regime. But hey, it was vacation! You gotta live a little! And we did.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Annie July 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm

It sounds like the travel gods smiled on you this trip! So glad it was a spectacular and memorable trip. You were due for one of those!! Xoxo


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