The SSQQ 2005 Alaska Cruise
The Adventure of a Lifetime!
Written by Rick Archer
Saturday, July 16 - Saturday, July 23
We billed the event as our "Adventure of a
You know what? The trip actually lived up to its billing.
For an entire week we explored the mysteries and phenomenal
Alaska's "Inside Passage" aboard RCCL'S Radiance of the Seas.
We explored the labyrinth of islands and inlets, gazed at the majestic mountains,
and learned about the Tlingit Indian culture. We stared in awe at the
immensity of the glaciers, gasped as huge chunks of ice
plummeted into the ocean, and shook our heads in wonder at the endless panoramic vistas.
If I had to make a quibble, the "Abundant Wildlife" obviously decided
to take this week off. Yes, we saw an occasional whale flume,
but for the most part the whales stayed underwater. Only two of our
group actually saw a bear. There were eagles seen from afar; big
deal. Someone saw a couple goats; incredible.
I guess most of us
were spoiled by Yellowstone Park where the bears practically walk up
to your car and ask if you want to take their picture in return for a
hotdog. Not in Alaska. They have so much to eat, why bother
making the tourists happy?
Our first stop was Juneau, the State Capital. Some people visited the
nearby Mendenhall Glacier by bus while others took a helicopter that
actually landed on the glacier. Another fun activity was taking the
gondola up to the top of Mount Roberts for a spectacular view of the
rainforest as well as the beauty of the water channel below.
Our next stop was Skagway, famous as the starting point for
the gold miners seeking their fortunes in the Klondike Gold Rush of
1898. Skagway is the home of the marvelous White Pass and Yukon
Route train which lugged more than half our group 20 miles to the
Canadian Border and back.
Then came the Hubbard Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in
North America. At six miles across and ninety miles
long extending all the way into Canada, this glacier seemed enormous.
But then to add to our awe, the ship crawled to a stop less half a mile away
from the glacier. Now that was quite an experience!
is so big it is roughly the size of Rhode Island!! We were
treated to an unusually active day of "calving", the term for the
intermittent breaking off of massive chunks of ice which then fall
into the sea. Until you've
seen and heard the thunderous roar of ice sheets crashing into the
sea, it is safe to say you've never experienced anything like it.
Our final stop was Ketchikan, the rainiest city in America.
Fortunately all we got was a little mist. Here several of us went
kayaking, hiking, watched lumberjacks, and a few fortunate people even
took a bush plane into a fabulous national park known as the Misty
Fjords. The spectacular beauty of this area with its neverending
forests, magnificent mountains, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, channels,
and eerie misty clouds clearly bespoke the origin of its name.
Our ship known as the Radiance was just as beautiful as advertised. More than half
the ship was glass which was a good thing because there was
practically always something to look at. Unlike our Caribbean
Cruises where the sea is endless, this ship hugged the Alaskan coast
most of the time and provided all the passengers with the
awe-inspiring view of vast wilderness. There were entire
days when you would see not one sign of mankind. The coast was
primitive and unspoiled just as generations of Indians must have
viewed it from their kayaks. It was absolutely stunning to look
Of course Alaska isn't always this wonderful. I imagine the climate is
very cruel during the winter months. But for this brief week in July,
we saw all kinds of natural beauty that made returning to civilization
very very difficult indeed.
More than once I let my fantasies wonder about a little cabin in
Juneau when Marla and I retire... it turns out I wasn't the only one
who thought the same thing! A lot of our friends were idly
thinking about just the same thing. This place is indeed a
heaven on earth!
Before we get started, it is important that I express my gratitude to
Gary Richardson (pictured at right with his beautiful wife
I will get the glory for the story on Alaska. But as they say in Show
Biz, I could not have done it without Gary.
Gary Richardson took practically every picture you will see. He
also collected the pictures other people took, edited them and added
them to a commemorative CD he created for the trip. Gary put in
a staggering amount of his own time to take the pictures in the first
place and share them with all of us in the CD.
As I wrote the stories, I first collected the pictures that Gary gave
me on the CD. The pictures made the experience return to me in
living color and suddenly the story came alive. Gary deserves a
huge amount of credit for the joy he has brought all us. As you gaze
in awe at the pictures you soon be seeing, think nice thoughts of
Gary. His kindness is immense.
I would like for all of you to do the following:
Thank him personally when you see him at the studio.
Or email Gary to tell him how much you appreciation his enormous
If you would like a CD Slide Show of the trip, be
sure to contact Gary by email or phone (713 461 8660)
And if you are ever in the market to buy a
computer, Gary sells the finest computers in the entire world. I
should know - I have bought over 20 of them and they ALL work great.