Our cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage
Our cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage
My parents and sister flew to Vancouver and the next day we boarded the Star Princess cruise ship at Canada Place to make our way to Alaska.
After a slightly chaotic boarding and delayed departure (the previous passengers had been struck by norovirus and they were sanitizing the boat), Star Princess slipped her moorings in the early evening. We exited Vancouver harbour, timing our sailing underneath the Lions Gate Bridge with sunset. Spectacular!
Having run around the Seawall many times and spent countless hours in Stanley Park, it was fun and interesting to see it from another perspective, especially on such a beautiful evening and with my family by my side! The ship made its way out into the Georgia Strait, and as we approached Bowen Island and beyond, the sky put on quite the show for us.
We spent the first evening eating (but of course!), admiring the views, exploring a bit of the ship, and then made our way to bed.
We spent day two at sea. During the early hours of the morning, Star Princess continued through Johnstone Strait and transited the tight and twisting Seymour Narrows, with the help of Canadian pilots (small boats on either side of the cruise ship guiding the way). While we were asleep, the ship passed through Alert Bay and Haddington Passage. Around breakfast, we set out into the open waters of Queen Charlotte Sound and the gulf of Alaska.
For the next several hours, there was no sight of land. Only the sky and the ocean! My sister and I staked out some comfy chairs on the 7th floor deck, blankets in hand and covered in layers, and spent hours reading, napping, and watching the ocean go by.
In the late afternoon, we had our FIRST whale sighting – a pod of humpback whales close to the boat. Having spent my 4 years in Vancouver never seeing a single whale, my trip was already made! Note: many years ago, we went whale watching in New Brunswick, and I dropped my camera in the ocean during the excursion. Since that time, I have lived in fear of a repeat occurrence! Fortunately, no cameras or iPhones were lost during this cruise.
That evening we continued to explore cruise life: unlimited fruit delivered daily to our room (what a dream!), the nightly musical theatre performances, trivia and bingo, afternoon tea, and strange dessert concoctions at one of the many dining rooms. My favourite was a gelatinous Oreo peanut butter pie.
After a somewhat rough night at sea, in the early hours of the morning we arrived in Sitka Harbour, our first port of call! We were excited to get off the boat and begin our first adventure. After a short ride on a shuttle bus into town, my sister and I began our EPIC hike and my parents set off to explore downtown Sitka.
While I understand how long miles are, some of us (cough my sister) do not. Madie had done excellent research on what to do in each port, prior to the trip, including fantastic hikes at each stop! But little did we know, miles are slightly longer than kilometres.
We made our way out of downtown Sitka, toward the start of Indian River Trailhead in Tongass National Forest. There, we commenced our hike to Indian River Falls. In case you ever find yourself in Sitka, read the full hike directions here.
The hike, while long – we ended up hiking around 20 km – was beautiful. Alaska is home to the world’s largest temperate rainforest, and we were surrounded by lush ferns, greenery, and trees. The trail was otherwise mostly deserted. What kept the hike interesting and fun were the 5 bridges and streams we got to cross along the way.
After reaching a clearing with views of Sisters Mountains, we were ready to give up. We had been hiking for hours, with no sign of a waterfall. Fortunately, we continued on and within minutes reached the falls.
We made our way back, returning to downtown Sitka in the late afternoon and with a few hours to spare before we had to catch the shuttle back to the ship. Despite tired and spasming legs (which left us in fits of laughter), we made the most of our time in Sitka, enjoying coffee (real coffee!) at Highliner Coffee and fresh-from-the-ocean sushi at Little Tokyo.
We wandered the harbour, taking in views of the mountains and fishing boats, and did a quick walk up Castle Hill for views of the city. Admittedly, the views were not the best, and the guidebooks made the “climb up” seem much longer than it actually took. From there, it was back to the boat!