Alaska Cruise - Days 2 and 3 - Icy Strait Point Bear Watching

 I'll use these screen shot maps from my phone to show where we were on different days.

I'll use these screen shot maps from my phone to show where we were on different days.

Day 2 - A Day at Sea

Day 2 was spent completely at sea, as we headed north past Haida Gwaii and up towards Alaskan waters. It was a good day for us to explore the ship, as we were a long way from land most of the time.

We did have some nice mountain views from time-to-time, but generally, it was a relaxing time. Day 3 brought us to our first port of call at Icy Strait Point, where we had booked a shore excursion to go looking for Alaskan Brown bears (grizzlies). 

We started off the day pretty low key. We didn't sleep in all that much, and ordered room service for breakfast on the balcony. That ended up being the main way we had breakfast, only heading to the dining room on one occasion, but otherwise bundled up in winter cloths and blankets on our balcony. We were going to use it!

The food was pretty good, even if it didn't stay warm for long outdoors. It was nice to watch the water drift by. From where we were, it was a long way off to Haida Gwaii, but you could see land every once in a while.

Each morning our routine turned into me waking up to have a peak outside to see what the weather was like, and what if anything we could see. Most days we were pleasantly surprised...

 A pretty common view on day #2.

A pretty common view on day #2.

After breakfast, we went for a tour of the galley. I think half the ship showed up for the tour, and we went off in groups of ~15 people to see behind the scenes. It was fascinating - no idea how they prepare that much food, day in and day out, and do it so well!

The big event that was going on that week was the knock out round of the World Cup. At the back of the ship, there was an outdoor "lounge:, with a huge TV screen. They were playing the late morning games up there, complete with sound. They would also do movies most days. It was a bit chilly, but if you could get a seat and some blankets, it was a pretty cool way to watch the games. 

Today's game was Belgium-Japan. We only caught the second half, but it might have been the best half of a game that I've ever seen. Felt bad for Japan, but what a comeback by Belgium!

Watching the game on our first full day at sea.

At lunch time we went down and fought our way through the buffet. Not my favourite part of the experience. After lunch, we hung out on the balcony and watched the scenery drift by...

PAnoramic view of the scenery as we headed north.

Haida Gwaii was quite far off in the distance.

Late afternoon, we thought we should check out one of the presentation. We went to the "Alaskan Wildlife" show in the main theatre with the on-board naturalist. It wasn't a very good show - he tried too hard to be funny, and while there was the off interesting, new fact, most was a rehash of things we already knew. We'd pass on the presentations going forward...

After that, it was up to the Constellation Lounge at the front of the ship. This was right above the bridge, and gave you a great view of where you were going. We ended up spending a lot of time here. and even saw dolphins off the bow of the ship one time.

Eventually it was time to head for dinner (more excellent food), and then drinks in the Cellar Master bar afterwards. We ended up getting friendly with the main bartender there, and ended up back in this bar quite a few times.

Day 3 - Icy Strait Point and Bear Watching

We woke to another amazing day, and once again had breakfast on our patio. On waking up, I was really happy to see that we were close to land! We watched the scenery go by for a while, impressed by the sheer number of mountains around us.

After sitting around for a while, we headed upstairs to watch the England-Colombia game. Not surprising, the place was packed - lots of Brits on the ship - so we couldn't get a seat. We watched for a while, then dropped down to the buffet and grabbed a snack, and went back to the room to watch the rest of the game.

When we got back to the room, there was an invitation to go out onto the helipad on the very front of the ship as we entered Icy Strait Point. That seemed pretty cool, so we planned to do that.

The scenery as we entered the strait towards Icy Strait Point was spectacular.

 As the strait narrows, there were lots of great little islands that we drifted by.

As the strait narrows, there were lots of great little islands that we drifted by.

Just before 3:00, we headed down to the theatre, which was how you accessed the helipad. It was breezy up there, but we had a great view as we came in.

Icy Strait  - 14.jpg

It was pretty busy, but there was lots of room and you could get a great view of the little town we were coming into. Our Celebrity sister ship - the Celebrity Millennium - was just leaving port and heading on her way. It took a while to dock the ship, and the ship just dwarfs the entire surrounding area.

Once docked, we were able to head off the ship. We got to see deck 1 - no reason other wise for us to end up so low in the ship. We had booked a bear watching expedition with a small, local outfitter. We walked over to the meeting point, through the very nice little set of buildings they have built for supporting the cruise ships. One of the activities you can do here is a zipline that's one of the longest - 1.3 miles apparently. 

The welcome center

 The crazy zip-line coming down overhead.

The crazy zip-line coming down overhead.

We met our tour guide and headed off. There was a big family from LA in the van with us - they were quite annoying. He headed out of town (that didn't take long) and almost immediately we had a really good bald eagle sighting.

We drove around for quite a while. The scenery was spectacular, and we saw a few more eagles, but I was starting to get concerned that we weren't going to see any bears. Then all of a sudden there was some commotion up ahead of us, and we had our bears! A mother with one cub (and three other vans of tourists...). She seemed unperturbed by us, and we ended up with a lot of great looks at the mother (and a few of the cub) while they grazed the grasses. She looked a little bit skinny, but the cub looked good. At one point she stood up on her hind legs, which was cool (but I didn't get any pics as she was back in the bush). 

My best shot of the day - momma and cub.

My one decent shot of the cub by itself.

Our guide felt that momma was starting to get a bit tired of all the people, so we headed out. We drove around a bit more, but other than a deer and some more bald eagles, didn't see much.

You might want to "click" to make this one bigger. The view back on our drive, and you can see the amazing scenery - and how the cruise ship just dwarfs it all!

After our guide dropped us off, we still had a bout an hour before we had to be back on the ship. The sun was starting to go down a bit, and the light was beautiful. We walked around and took some pictures, before deciding we needed some king crab legs...

As we were getting back underway, we were treated to the most amazing sunset of the trip.

 Hoohah, then on to the Hubbard Glacier!

Hoohah, then on to the Hubbard Glacier!

A perfect ending to a great first day in Alaska!