Petroglyphs, Wrangell, and a Sunny Silver Shadow Evening
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
I’ve been trying to get back to Wrangell, Alaska for nearly a decade. Today, Silversea’s Silver Shadowhas made that dream a reality.
Situated on Wrangell Island just north of Ketchikan, the town of Wrangell is small – so small, it’s technically a borough, with a full-time population of about 2,300 as of 2010.
I first came here back in May of 2005, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun. Norwegian, at the time, had been courting Wrangell as a new emerging cruise destination within Alaska; sort of similar to what Royal Caribbean was doing with Icy Strait Point. Beginning in the summer of 2000, one Norwegian ship had made a weekly call on the city, bringing with it up to 2,000 tourists at a time. As it turned out, my initial timing was very good: Norwegian dropped that call on Wrangell from their itineraries after the 2005 season.
An analysis of the situation in Wrangell – prepared in 2006 by a consulting firm bidding on the task of liaising with the cruise industry on behalf of the city itself – found that most guests did enjoy their time in Wrangell, but that improvements could be made to the overall passenger experience. Still, it left Wrangell with no large ship calls for the entire 2006 season – and beyond.
One of the recommendations the report made was that Wrangell was poorly suited to inclusion on the weeklong runs that Norwegian had been trying to operate. It was a much better candidate, the report said, for longer 10-and-11-night voyages operated on smaller ships.
And here we are – on an 11-night voyage onboard a small, luxury vessel with a discerning group of passengers. Many of them have been there, done that when it comes to the ‘mainstay’ Alaskan ports like Juneau and Skagway, but few have ever been here before. Silversea, however, has: even in the dark days of 2006, after Wrangell lost their large ships, the line called here six times.
So why did I like my visit back in 2005 so much? I loved Wrangell for what it lacked. There were no tacky diamond shops on every corner. No trinket-crap stores, no giant stuffed bears, no hustling. Wrangell had this hard but beautiful edge to it. It was just a nice, small, working-class Alaskan town filled with – gasp! – Real Alaskans!
Plus, the fact that Petroglyph Beach was only a short, one mile walk from the cruise terminal (more of a pier, really) didn’t hurt, either.
Although Silversea offers six different excursions here in Wrangell, I opted to do my own touring around town, armed with a map of the town. The entire populated area is very walkable and, if you were motivated, you could even walk the short distance to the Wrangell Airport on the other end of the island, where the odd Alaskan Airlines 737 could be seen powering into the sky.
I enjoyed today’s visit as much as I had hoped – which is good, because I’d been hyping Wrangell up to some of the guests onboard. Today, it’s still just a nice, quaint town with two grocery stores, three bars, and a handful of shops populated by nice, hardworking Alaskans. The local newspaper – published every Thursday – is 12 pages long and costs $1. According to the byline, it’s the “Oldest Continually Published Newspaper in Alaska.”
But there’s a fabulous honesty and pleasantness to Wrangell. It’s a place I’d actually like to spend the winter in – just to see what makes it tick.
If, however, you wanted to venture further after, Silversea had some rather impressive excursion options here in Wrangell, including a four-hour Fishing the Inside Passage excursion; a 3.5-hour Sea and Sky Kayaking adventure; and a journey to the Stikine River and Wilderness Glacier Lake that runs about three and a half hours.
This year, only four different ships call on Wrangell – and today was Silver Shadow’s only call of the entire season. I actually met passengers onboard who, like myself, had been to Wrangell before – and they’d chosen this itinerary specifically because of Wrangell’s inclusion. I’d love to see Silversea offer more itineraries that call here. I suppose all I can hope is that it resonated well with the guests onboard the Silver Shadow, and that they will mention it in their comment cards.
I always like to say that the weather on your cruise isn’t as important as where you’re going, but there’s no denying that the brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures today had a positive impact on Silver Shadow’s guests. Jackets came off, bathing suits went on. The pool and hot tubs were the busiest I’ve seen them this voyage, and I think nearly everyone – myself included – ventured up to the Pool Grill for lunch outdoors. They even ran out of my favorite Alaskan Amber ale. It’s hard to believe just two days ago I was freezing my-you-know-whats-off in Sitka, and it made for a fabulous afternoon onboard.
Here’s a look at where the rest of the Silversea fleet is on this Thursday, June 26, 2014, courtesy of the Silversea Chronicles:
- Silver Cloud: Copenhagen, Denmark
- Silver Wind: Hvar, Croatia
- Silver Whisper: en-route to Copenhagen
- Silver Spirit: Mykonos, Greece
- Silver Explorer: Tromso, Norway
- Silver Galapagos: Bahia Gardner, Ecuador
- Silver Discoverer: Shumshu Island, Russian Federation
Since the weather today was – and continued to be – so fantastic, I kept my reservation for The Grill featuring ‘Hot Rock’ dining that I had made online pre-cruise using My Silversea, but which I had been toying with cancelling yesterday. I am glad I hung onto it; dining out on the Pool Deck became one of the hottest things to do this evening aboard the Silver Shadow!
This time, I changed things up and had the Caesar Salad, Filet Mignon, and Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. But just because this is outdoor dining doesn’t mean that it’s rushed or a lesser dining experience; particularly on an evening like this, dinner for most guests – myself included – was a three-hour affair. In fact, I’ve never seen The Grill filled to capacity on this voyage until tonight; both starboard and port side wings of the pool deck were completely full.
To top it all off, we were treated to the most beautiful sunset of the voyage so far as we sailed past Ketchikan and made our way toward the border with the United States and Canada. As I write this, we’ve officially left Alaska for the last time – but there’s still more adventure ahead. Tomorrow, we’re docked in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. A relaxing day at sea follows, and our final port of call – Victoria – will occur on Sunday.
No one, however, is talking about that just yet. For now, guests aboard the Silver Shadow don’t seem content to let this evening slip away. Guests are strolling the open decks and admiring the sunset that grew more spectacular with every passing minute. They’re listening to the live music in the Panorama Lounge and relaxing in The Bar on Deck 5. Despite the fact that we have to set our clocks ahead by one hour tonight, this is one night that deserves to be lived.
Whenever people ask me why I love cruising so much, I point to evenings like this. They’re great on any ship – but somehow, they seem just a bit better here onboard the Silver Shadow.
Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow continues tomorrow with a call on Prince Rupert, British Columbia! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.
Follow along with our entire journey!
Silver Shadow, Alaska
|Thursday, June 19, 2014||Vancouver, British Columbia||Embark Silver Shadow||18:00|
|Friday, June 20||Cruising the Inside Passage|
|Saturday, June 21||Ketchikan, Alaska||08:00||14:00|
|Sunday, June 22||Juneau, Alaska||09:30||23:00|
|Monday, June 23||Skagway, Alaska||08:00||17:00|
|Tuesday, June 24||Sitka, Alaska||09:00||18:00|
|Wednesday, June 25||Cruising Tracy Arm / Sawyer Glacier|
|Thursday, June 26||Wrangell, Alaska||07:00||16:00|
|Friday, June 27||Prince Rupert, British Columbia||08:00||17:00|
|Saturday, June 28||At Sea|
|Sunday, June 29||Victoria, British Columbia||08:00||23:59|
|Monday, June 30||Vancouver, British Columbia||07:00||Disembark|