Last year, my mother in law asked that we accompany her on a trip to celebrate her 80th birthday. For a great variety of reasons, as much as we welcomed the chance to honor her and help her celebrate, it wasn't something Larry and I were terribly overjoyed about. Lots of conversations ensued over locations, mostly centered on trips she had taken with her mother 20-30 years ago. Switzerland came up a lot, as she feels comfortable with the language and food (at least on the German side); she's been there before; and scenery is her "thing." OK, we thought. Not Italy or France, but at least it's Europe. We can sneak off with the boys and do a bit of hiking and sightseeing, she can sit and look at lakes in a place she's comfortable, everyone's happy.
After a lot of research on my part, and some provisional planning, she decided that an Alaska cruise would be a better choice. She's been on a few cruises, and likes that everything is taken care of, that she has to do very little, and the pampering. She's not exactly Nature Girl, and prefers her natural beauty from a comfortable chair.
I'll admit, I was perplexed. I knew nothing about Alaska, except it was far north and had a lot of snow. As I started researching I realised that Alsaka was a destination that our family would love--but that a cruise ship is the worst possible way to experience it.
We're really not Cruise People. Larry and I had once gone on a Caribbean cruise many many years ago, and hated it. The mediocre food, high-school level "entertainment", and hurried port visits weren't our idea of travel. But hey, MIL wants it, we can deal. And then to our great delight, some of Larry's extended family told us they were also considering an Alaska cruise, then his sister was able to make things happen so she could come--and suddenly there were 11 of us booked on Holland-America for the end of August. With cousins we actually like, and aunts and uncles for Hanna to be with when we go off on our own.
Thank you, God.
So, I've been researching, surfing the web, visiting some really frightening cruise message boards, and putting some plans in place. MIL and the aunties will do some gentle touring, and so we're free to explore by ourselves off the boat. We'll fly into Seattle for a few days beforehand, and we've rented a little house in the University area. It's been years since we were there, and its a city the boys will enjoy. Once we get on the boat, we'll have port stops in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. In Juneau we'll rent a car, and drive over to Auke Bay to meet up with our private fishing/whale watching charter. Five hours of salmon fishing and chasing whales--I don't know who is more excited, Larry or the boys. You can have your catch smoked and sent home. Probably that'll end up being the world's most expensive lox ever. Then we'll head to Mendenhall Glacier for some hiking, and then explore the town. In Sitka, we're doing wilderness kayaking, and then walking around town. Ketchikan is the town with the least appeal for me (seems horribly touristy), but we only have a half day there. Larry and the boys are doing a rain forest zipline; and one of the cousins and I are thinking of taking a flightseeing plane to Misty Fjords, and then going to one of the totem pole parks.
The photos I've seen have been nothing short of spectacular. Weather is likely to be lousy (rainy and cold), so we'll need raincoats and rain pants, and positive attitude. We'll deal with the cruise scene with a sense of humor, watch our dollars fly out of our wallets, won't think about Paris, and pray that MIL enjoys herself. The ultimate irony is if we have a blast, and she hates it.