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Alaska, Or, Making Lemonade

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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.

Alaska?

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.

Comments (5)

Amy, I'm with you on cruises.
It is about number 4,999 on my 100 things to do before I die list.
But, Alaska! That's way up on the list. So maybe it will make the cruise part worth it. Have fun!

sandrac:

Amy, this could be really good. If you have to take a cruise, then traveling with a large group will probably mean you'll be insulated from some of the less fun elements (like being forced to endure the high-school level of entertainment!) You can do your own thing.

And Alaska sounds really beautiful and interesting, with so many different things you can do. I've heard so many great things about Alaskan cruises that if I ever had to take a cruise vacation, that would definitely be the one I'd pick. I think your prediction may come true, that you'll have a blast (but maybe the rest of your family, including MIL, will as well!)

At the very least, you'll have plenty of anecdotes and even great photos when you come back!

Although I have never been because I am such a wimp with cold weather, I have heard tons of positive comments about Alaska including friends that have done Alaska cruises. One of my former student's family owns a little house in Alaska and goes there every summer and just loves it.

It sounds like you have a great plan as well as buffer space when you need it. Looking forward to seeing your photos and hearing about your trip.

Eden:

Hello Amy,

So here is your cure for that NTHD (?) (No Trip on the Horizon Disorder). I remember you seemed to have that ailment way back.

A cruise maybe be a "band-aid cure" to you, but a trip is trip, right? LOL.

I heard from a lot of people / friends who love cruises to Alaska. But, I am with you - not a cruise enthusiast... but a teacher makes every moment count so I have faith in you and that you will enjoy this trip!

aimee:

I hope that after visiting Ketchikan you have changed your original opinion. I live here and we believe it is the greatest town in S.E. Alaska. Just had to give a shout out for my town! Hope you enjoyed your cruise.

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