Preview: Exploring Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard Star Princess
Gail Jessen, Live Voyage Reports
“Up north there’s a land without fences. Animals outnumber people, sunlight shines at midnight, and nature reigns. Life is different. This northern frontier still boasts pristine landscapes, majestic wildlife, and a coastline that is one of the most enthralling waterways in the world” (Princess Cruises). I’ve been craving a wild travel experience for some time now. Not booming nightclubs and a mysterious tattoo that appears in the morning, but wild as in true wilderness. I’ve been craving open spaces, land untouched by humankind, and silence. Los Angeles, by way of comparison, has a population of 3.9 million people. Alaska, a frontier spanning 1,400 miles by 2,400 miles, has a total population just under 732,000. In other words, perfect.
This will be my first trip to Alaska. Though I’ve been trying, I can’t figure out how one possibly prepares to be seduced by such grandeur. I suspect many Live Voyage Report readers have experienced her beauty before. I look forward to your comments and interacting with you throughout the trip. Follow along as I post daily and feel free to contribute travel tips or your favorite memories of Alaska.
This will also be my first Live Voyage Report. I met Ralph Grizzle as one should expect to meet him, on a ship in an exotic locale. My friend Kris and I were sailing with Viking River Cruises on the Danube, hopping from one fabled Christmas market to the next. Ralph and I ended up in the ship’s empty dining room at the same time, and proceeded to have a conversation about everything from lost luggage to bike culture in Copenhagen, from creativity to the weather and our professional credentials. When I rudely pulled out my iPhone to photograph a beautiful dessert, we started following each other on Instagram, have kept in touch, and now here I am pursuing my life’s passion.
In retrospect, I’ve always been a writer and a photographer in some form or another. Professionally, personally, accidentally, I always find my way back to what makes me come alive. I’ve been blogging for seven years now, and tweeting and instagramming from the moment the apps were released. I’m what demographers are now apparently calling a SINK: Single Income No Kids. I’m a thirty-something professional living in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah and am 12 years into a career as a community college administrator. While I love what I do, I also know that in real life I’m a storyteller and a creative old soul. I’m at my best when I’m in motion. I’m in a state of centered bliss when I’m untethered. I don’t merely want to travel, I need to travel. I’ve traveled my whole life, but particularly so over the past 15 years. I’m on the move so regularly that taxi drivers at the SLC International Airport know me by name and actually comment when I change my hair style, but it’s still never enough. I know many of you reading this right now can relate to that ache of insatiable wanderlust. Cheers to our vagabond souls.
Photography is a serious hobby for me. Throughout our journey in Alaska you can look forward to visual storytelling as well as written daily reports. I’ll report each night from the ship, but you can also follow along in real time on Instagram and Twitter. What will you be following in real time, you ask? I booked a shore excursion in each port, as did my travel companion. We’re taking two of our excursions together, but we booked different adventures in the other two ports. This way you’ll get the benefit of a review for six different excursion offerings.
I’m most excited about taking flight in a seaplane above the glaciers, waterfalls, and lush rain forests of the Juneau Valley. I’ll also be making my way to the remote Bennett Lake by train on the historic White Pass and Yukon Route. As silly as it sounds after such epic adventures, we’re actually both looking forward to a double decker bus tour in Victoria, BC (I have a photographic memory and have used the ubiquitous tourist trap bus rides to orient myself in cities all over the world). My friend is going whale watching and also visiting a wildlife park, so we have the animal lovers covered. We’ll both be visiting a Saxman native village to learn about the daily life and ceremonies of Alaska’s indigenous cultures. Finally, we also have a number of days at sea. I’ll do my best to poke around the Star Princess ship and see what interesting features I can share with you. I mean, if I must get a hot stone massage in order to accurately report on the Lotus Spa, I’ll do it. For you, dear reader. For you.
Check back daily and enjoy your virtual vacation!