story and photos by PATRICK WONG
Alaska now seems to resonate most loudly with that Tina-Fey glasses wearing governess, Sarah Palin. But for what it’s worth, Alaska has a lot more to offer than funny speaking vice presidential candidates, doggoneit!
This past summer, an Alaskan cruise was the unconventional choice for a family reunion. A few days on the frigid waters to Alaska were fraught with buffet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, old people, karaoke, old people, crumbling glaciers and the occasional whale sighting.
The time I did spend on the actual land of Alaska was pleasant, albeit a little boring.
We docked in Skagway for an excursion into this old gold-rush town. Preserved like it was still in the time of the claim-jumper, the town was a quaint touristy visitation to the past. Alaskan art monuments mixed with gift shops catered toward the non-natives, but it was fun nonetheless.
An old railroad runs through Skagway up to the mountains, and even though this has ‘tourist’ written all over it, the ride on the old train up to through the mountains is breathtaking. Just the mere fact that the train never hopped the track and went careening down the mountainside was a bonus to the amazing views of Alaskan nature.
Ketchikan provided another nature-embracing adventure as well. The whale-watching tour was spectacular. Exploring the nearby bay, tour guides tried to spot as many whales as possible while staying within legal range for people to take pictures.
Seeing a whale breach the surface of the water and fall again back into the sea is something that has to be seen. The ride can be a bit choppy. If you are sensitive to motion-sickness, I would at least bring some medicine (the whales are totally worth the nausea and vomit), or if you’re like me, the up-and-down motion will lull you to sleep. The addition of natural volcanoes and waterfalls makes the experience that much better.
Despite the fancy name, Victoria was probably my least favorite place to visit in Alaska. It might be in part because my newly formed cankles were giving-out from the weight I gained in the buffet line, but really there’s not a whole lot to do other than stand around at a port. A shuttle was offered to go to town to shop, but shopping is nothing special, especially after visiting the other towns.
By the end of my trip, I was satisfied with my experience. However, I couldn’t help but feeling that Disneyland may have been a better choice. I had no problem with the constant cold of Alaska, rather, it only enhanced the immersion into nature that Alaska offered. But I suppose I am not much of a nature person.
Seeing wildlife and exploring the Alaskan cities was great, but I only had this much fun as a tourist, and even then, my downtime was utterly unentertaining. Alaska is a gamble for anyone who would rather ride a ‘coaster and eat greasy amusement park food, but for anyone akin to the outdoors and spectacular views, Alaska is where it’s at.
Maybe I would’ve had more fun if Palin showed me around.