The Land Of The Midnight Sun
Alaska was a destination I had wanted to see for so long, but when it was coupled with the opportunity to travel on UnCruise it was simply too good of an opportunity not to miss.
When I think back to the moments that just took my breath away. The stories that when I’m talking with my friends or clients light me up the most are the ones I want to share with you here. Grab a glass of wine, a cup of hot chocolate or whatever makes you smile, and join me as I share the stories from my trip. Let me start by saying I went into this trip with one mission, I was going to go big or go home. This was an adventure, and the plan was to lean in as far as I could. Little did I know just how far that lean would take me.
Hiking on an Old Logging Road
Our captain who, we will talk about coming up, was also just getting interested in logging. From his newest interest, he had made some amazing contacts with a local logger. One day we were sailing near a small islet, the captain pulled into the logger's dock and we were able to get off to explore. We were in small groups of only about 10 people, each with a member of the crew who was there to share knowledge with us. We hiked up an old logging road until we came to a field in the clearing. The guide was showing us the different flowers that were blooming there and why they were growing in that area when one of the guests let out a squeak. We all looked up. Over by the treeline along the edge of the field was a grizzly. We were in awe. The bear then got up on his hind legs and the stare down began. Okay, he stared, we scrambled for cameras. The guide told us to be quiet, not say a word. The silence was deafening, well it would have been had it not been for the clicking of the camera lenses. After a few moments, the bear dropped back down to four legs and sauntered away into the bushes again. The guide radioed to the other groups behind us to be on the watch, and to make as much noise as possible so that they didn’t startle the bear. Safety was always their first priority, but the most amazing experiences of nature ran a close second. I will never forget the day we got to stand face to face (okay yes with a field between) with a grizzly bear.
It’s just as it sounds, we plunged into those polar temperature waters… on purpose. This is something they offer of the sailings in Alaska. You get an opportunity to jump right off the back of the ship - while it’s anchored, of course. It started mostly as a challenge from my daughter. She was going to do it, and there was no way I could chicken out. I wasn’t about to let her hold that over me, so if she was doing then so was I! The water was about 40 degrees and at some point the realities of what I was doing set in. Unfortunately, it was just a split second before I hit the water. At that moment I sent up a prayer “Dear God, Please don’t let me have a heart attack when I hit the water”. Thank heavens for the answered prayers. I survived. Not to say the air didn’t instantly suck out of my lungs the second I hit the water, but they had warned me that the cold water would be a shock to the system. This was the one moment above all else on this trip where I was faced with whether or not I was truly committed to going big or going home.
A Kiss for Good Luck
At least that’s what they told Caitlynne. According to the guides kissing a banana slug is supposed to bring you good luck. I’m not entirely sure if Caitlynne believed it or not, because the video didn’t capture it the first time, so she had to do it a second time.
When I think of traveling with my teens, it’s people like the cruise director and guides that can make a trip a vacation of a lifetime. The guides were so awesome, they weren’t stuffy or boring, in fact, they seemed to know exactly what to say to inspire the teens to participate - by choice. The guides seemed to speak their language to keep them engaged and entertained. So much so my daughter hardly ever noticed that she didn’t have a wifi signal. I swear that it takes a very special person to make that happen.
The Captain I think had to be the most surprising element of our adventure. Typically on most cruise ships you only ever see the captain when he does his celebrity tour through the foyer for the photos with the captain evening. That wasn’t the case on this ship. The captain had such energy of being a family man. It was as if the crew were all his family, and best of all we were being hosted by him and his family in their home. If the ship was docked, it wasn’t uncommon to see the captain driving a skiff with passengers, or offering a hand to help you on and off the ship. I think my admiration of the captain was strongest when you would come back on board the ship and find him playing cards with his crew, laughing together, smiling and enjoying their time together. I adored that the captain was an EVERY person, that he wasn’t too big for his britches, yet at the same time seemed to be constantly wanting to ensure we were safe at all times and having a great vacation. There is nothing more comforting than to feel like you are a guest in someone’s home.
Bubbles from Beneath the Ship One of the truly unique experiences we had (among so many others) was our ability to just shut off the engines and wait. We could stay in one place and watch nature unfold. We were sitting inside of an inlet, the engines cut, watching over the sides. The bubbles were forming in the water beside us, bubbling their way to the surface. This was the whales bubbling the fish into a circle so that they could come up and swallow as many as they could force into one area. It was exciting to see those bubbles forming because we knew the whales would be breaching soon.
The guides shared with us as well, that when you see a flock of birds circling out over the water, the whales will be coming up soon. The birds circle above the bubbles waiting for the whales to come to the surface, then the birds go in and capture the fish that the whales didn’t swallow. I wonder if that’s a bird's version of hunting fish in a barrel?
The one thing I haven’t yet mentioned about UNcruise, that I feel is their number one differentiator is that they go where no one else does. The ports or stops we made you’re simply not going to find other ships. They provide a truly authentic experience where you will connect with nature in ways you simply can’t do with other cruise lines. It really is the UN cruise way to explore by cruising.
When we were in Alaska, we did my newest favorite thing to do while on vacation. We hired a local photographer to take us around the area and explore. She took us to her favorite spots (locals know the best spots) and took our photos. In many destinations, the photographer is usually with you for about 60-90 minutes, but this photographer was sensational and toured us around for hours. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get that close to a bald eagle, much less have someone else capture the moment. As an added bonus she took us to Tracy’s Crab Shack for lunch and it was ah-mazing. I’m a mom, just like so many of my readers, and unfortunately, that means I hide behind the camera. I can’t encourage you enough to hire a photographer when you travel. Whether you do it in a few destinations or just the one on your trip, the memories are so precious. When you look back at your vacation you will be in the memories, and that’s a treasure for your loved ones too.