Ketchikan, Alaska

Today was our last port day, as we were headed down to Ketchikan for our last stop before heading back to Vancouver. We didn’t have any formal shore excursions planned, but instead decided to wander and see what we found. En route, we had a chance to see a fair bit of wildlife, and we were “chosen” to be part of a tour of the bridge of the ship. Once in Ketchikan, we did the walking tour and saw lots of very cool totem poles, as well as explored Creek Street and some of the historic areas of the town.

Common Murres in flight. We saw lots of these guys on this leg of the trip. A word of warning. Many of the photos in this post are not up to my standards - they were taken from a moving cruise ship doing 27 knots of critters that were often far away and even heading the opposite direction. So basically, they're not very good...

After leaving Juneau, we cruised through the night south towards our next stop in Ketchikan. Once the sun came up, we had a pretty nice view of the local scenery, from fairly close up. We were expecting to see some wildlife on the last two days of our cruise, as we were in close to shore. To maximize the viewing time, we ordered breakfast to our room, and watched the scenery go by.

The scenery was quite nice, as if slipped by our balcony. As we were fairly protected and going a bit slower, the temperature on the balcony was much more civilized.

We were able to sit on the balcony for quite a while, as we enjoyed watching the world drift by. and it was very productive - in addition to many birds, we managed to see humpback whales, porpoises, seals and even a sea otter way out in the channel!

In the morning, we had received an invitation to go up to the bridge and see the operation of the ship. It was a very interesting opportunity, and one we didn't want to miss!

Our bridge tour was booked for 9:50 a.m., and we had to go through secondary security screening to go up. Seemed a bit ridiculous frankly... We were taken up in a fairly small group, and got a full tour of the bridge. It was fascinating to hear them talk about the operation of the ship. As expected, the captain doesn't actually pilot the ship, but there is a team of people that look after the various duties. There are 2 other officers, in addition to the sailor and pilot. Interestingly, they bring on different pilots for different parts of the trip, as they know those particular stretches of water very well. 

We were able to take pictures with some of the crew, and all of the bridge area. It was one of the more interesting aspects of seeing the ship.

After hanging out on the bridge, we headed back to our balcony and hung out for a while watching the scenery. We had to also prepare for our day in Ketchikan. This was (amazingly really) our first day of poor weather on the whole trip. It was overcast and raining as we headed into port in Ketchikan.

Ketchikan has such a great look to it - so many colourful houses all perched on the edge of the sea, or on the edge of a mountain.

At this port, our side of the ship was actually facing town. So we got to watch as they docked the ship. Seems easier than parallel parking a car. Having thrusters that you can turn 360 degrees must make that much easier (something we leaned on the bridge tour). 

The huge ropes from the ship, being pulled up by teams of three people.

After getting off the ship, we decided to follow the self-guided walking tour, a circular route that took in the main sites of the little city. There was also a "collectibles" opportunity, where you could buy these little charms that attach to a bracket, from a bunch of different shops on the main street. We did that for Addison and Mackenzie, as a little something from us.

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One of our first views of Creek Street, which we'd come back to later on the tour.

Ketchikan has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles, found throughout the city and at four major locations: Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, and the Totem Heritage Center. We saw many around town on the walking tour, plus we went over to the Totem Heritage Center, where they display preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan.

Thankfully, the rain held off (it was grey and overcast the whole day) and we had a nice walk. The river running through the town and along Creek Street is a major salmon river, and the salmon were queueing at the mouth of the river, attracting seals and birds. We stopped at the Totem Heritage Center, which was very beautiful, and preserves so many old totem poles (thankfully). 

The area near the mouth of Ketchikan Creek later earned Ketchikan a measure of infamy during the first half of the 20th century for a red-light district known as Creek Street, with brothels aligned on either side of the creek. This is probably what Ketchikan is most famous for - the colourful house/shops all on stilts along the river. It is really nice. Justine bought some prints from a local artist, who happened to be there and signed them for her.

As we wrapped up out walk, we stopped at a local restaurant for a snack - more King crab and a beer! Not as good as Icy Straight Point, but still amazing. From there, it was back to the ship and a bit of lazing around. We had an 8:00 p.m. dinner reservation at the Italian restaurant on the ship. This was the only time that we paid for the extra restaurants, as the food in the main dining room was really quite good, so there seemed no need. 

Dinner was spectacular - some of the biggest "filet" steaks I'm ever had, and cooked to perfection. While it cost us ab extra $50 each, it was so worth it. After dinner we headed back down to our favourite bar and watched a guitarist/singer that we had seen a couple of times. He did a great job, and it made a fine ending to our night, and last shore stop.