Because the Mighty Google knows the answer to most things I need to know, I posed this question to her recently.
What is the average amount of weight people gain on a cruise?
I needed to know this because, well, if you’ve been following my blog for the past four months, you know I’m on a mission to get my 50-something self back into shape and to a healthy weight. And you probably know that within that four month time span I also went on a cruise. So this was a serious concern for me! I certainly didn’t want my dream vacay to mess up my dreamier weight loss goals.
The answer Google Girl gave me to my all important question was flabbergasting! According to cruise reviewers, whomever they may be, the average weight gain on a 7 day cruise is 5 – 10 lbs!!! Ummmm…NO THANK YOU!!! I didn’t like that answer one bit and had zero desire to become another cruising weight gain statistic! The cruise we were planning was 7 days so I knew I needed a way to break the “spirit of cruise weight gain” and mess up that average some! I had worked pretty hard to lose 30 lbs in the 3 months prior to our cruise and I didn’t want my dream vacation to send me on a backwards spiral to that place I once was.
But what was I to do? From what I had heard from my cruise lovin’ friends, the food on these ships seemed to take on their own very appealing lives. The vittles were the very thing so many of them looked forward to. In fact, if the grub wasn’t up to snuff, the cruise wasn’t either. Someone even told me it was plain old dumb to be on a “diet” while on a cruise!! Trust me! I agree with that last sentiment! “Diets” ARE dumb!!
So I did what I’ve become accustomed to doing when facing any sort of dilemma. I had a chat with my Bestie about this. And He simply told me, “Trust me. It’ll be OK”
And you know what? It was. The day we returned home from our 10 day trip I sheepishly stepped on the scale and held my breath. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best but I was nervous. Because I HAD eaten way more than normal over the previous week. But when I opened my eyes, I got a sweet surprise. I was only up half a pound which was basically nothing. Because three days later when I stepped on that scale again, I was four pounds less than the day vacation started. HallelujahthankyouJesus!
So how in the world did I do this, you might ask? How did I make the gain of cruisers past my loss? Especially with every food temptation known to man set before me! Because it’s still vacation season and because someone reading this may be worried about packing on unwanted pounds while traveling, I thought I’d share a thing or two that helped me bust right through the “myth” that all people on cruises come home heavier!
Actual burger with actual bananas and peanut butter eaten on our actual vacation. It was a temptation…but not to me. My man enjoyed it and lived to tell about it! Those tots though. Scrumptious!!
Thing #1…I never deprived myself
Yep, that’s right. Don’t you deprive yourself either. The second you tell yourself you can’t have something, what happens? Yep, you think you just might shrivel up and die if you don’t have it. The desire to eat that pizza or that piece of cake or whatever is screaming your name becomes so all consuming that it’s all you hear. And the longer you wait to bite into the delectable yumminess, the greater the craving gets and before you know it , you’re a shriveled up mess crying in some corner for your mommy or you’ve taken an entire pizza to your room where you can eat it and not be seen. So as soon as this very odd peanut butter banana hamburger and tater tots were set before I us, I didn’t think twice. I hope the burger doesn’t make him sick but I’m totally eating half those tots! And I did . Which leads to….
Thing #2…I didn’t over indulge
Yep, the tater tots were fried little chunks of potato perfection that I likely shouldn’t have had. But my self control with food is better than it’s been in years. So I knew I’d be able to have a few without eating them all. Side note…I wouldn’t have been able to do this with chocolate cake. There are still things I don’t even let myself take one bite of because I may not know when to stop! Which brings me to the next thing…
Thing #3 … I ate desert every night
Wait, what? Didn’t I just say I couldn’t stop eating chocolate cake if it was set before me? While the likeliness of that being true was high, I knew I didn’t want to deprive myself. So every night, no matter where we were eating, I asked for their sugar free desert option. There was always at least one. So every night on our cruise, I ate whatever this offering for the day was. I ate Black Forest Cake, Lemon Sponge Cake, Tiramisu and the best mint chocolate chip ice cream ever. It was actually that ice cream that made us ask the chef one night if the sugar free stuff was truly sugar free. That’s when we learned that their “sugar free” deserts were actually just “no sugar added”, which is a bit different. Still….better than a full sugar anything. These nightly less sugar treats curbed any craving that might come out of nowhere for it’s more sugary cousins.
This was the exception to my “sugar free” desert options. This was brought to our table on our first Gala night . Everyone at our table was celebrating an anniversary so we all got this along with a rousing performance of a “Happy Anniversary” song from our servers.
Thing #4…We ordered room service often
Who doesn’t love the luxury of someone bringing them a big fluffy omelet, some delectable fruit and a hot, steamy pot of coffee before you even get out of bed! The benefits of this go way beyond not exposing your lovely bed head and morning breath to the world. The biggest benefit I found in doing this was no exposure to all the breakfast lovelies set out on the buffet each morning. It’s easier to not have cinnamon buns and pancakes and a plate piled high with bacon if you never even walk by them! Ordering our breakfast the night before while our senses were still sharp certainly helped me stay in the healthy zone of eating that I truly wanted to be in. On the few mornings we actually went to the buffet to eat, I just made a bee line to the Amazing Omelet Making Man. I’d just wave at the pancakes and the waffles and the sweet gooey morning treats as I zoomed by them.
Omelets to the rescue! There were 23,400 eggs consumed by passengers on the Oosterdam the week we sailed. I made sure to eat my fair share!! On Weight Watchers Freestyle, eggs are F R E E!! And speaking of no point foods….
Thing #5 … I gave myself permission to make good food choices
I’m on a cruise. Vacationing in places far from home. Food choices and restaurants filled with delectable full fat, full sugar, high carb amazingness all around me. I could’ve had my fill. But I reminded myself of how gross I would feel if I filled my body with these foods. I remembered how fabulous I’ve felt since I started making good food choices and have been eating more lean meats and fruits and veggies. I wanted to feel nothing but good on this vacation! So I gave myself permission to skip the junk and fill up with the good stuff. Every day I could eat chicken or fish instead of hamburgers or bacon. Every day I could have vegetables cooked in a variety of ways or fruit presented like it was a gift. Oh wait, it was a gift…free fresh fruit was delivered to our room daily! I’d get my fill of these healthier foods that cost me ZERO points then I’d have more of my daily points leftover for the treats. But getting full on the good stuff really caused me to not want the junk as much. (Oooo, I sorta love the Spiritual truths of that statement as well!!)
Thing #6 … We went on excursions with pretty trails
While we did our fair share of lounging by the pool or in the spa or on our beautiful balcony, according to that little Health app on my iPhone, we managed to walk well over 10,000 invigorating steps every day. That didn’t count the steps I took on the treadmill in the gym or while doing laps on the Promenade deck. (Three times around was a mile!) It didn’t count the many hundreds of steps we made just getting to all the places on the ship we needed to go. And for the record, I now just get a good old chuckle at myself for ever praying for God to place our room on this cruise “near all the things” so I wouldn’t have to walk so much. Bwahahahaha!! Oh sometimes we’re just so naive, huh? My favorite walks, though, were those walks in our port cities that took us down luscious forest trails, by water falls and streams. Even the strolls down the city streets were marvelous. All the walking we did on vacation really made me wish our non-vacation lifestyle could be a bit more active.
I’m certainly no expert on this subject but I’ve discovered some things that have worked for me. On March 1st, thoughts of this June cruise to Alaska caused me to get serious about getting healthier. I set a goal before myself and I reached it in the days before we set off on this journey. I couldn’t do this on my own. I had tried many times in the past to lose weight and just overcome a stinky mindset by my own power. Every time I started the solo trek to a healthier lifestyle , I’d get sidetracked before I really even got started. But in March, I set off with the One Perfect Weight Loss Partner…the One who is always with me, who always encourages me and always gives me strength. Four months into this great adventure, my relationship with food is different. It’s changed. It’s better. Food isn’t the boss of me anymore! I’m half way to my ultimate weight goal. Vacation , summer time, holidays, date nights, family gatherings…none of these things have set me back. If you’re struggling with your weight right now, I’d love to leave you with these encouraging words…
You can do this! You’re able ! You’re worth it!
I’ll say it again!
You can do this! You are able! You are worth it!
Until next time…
PS….since I’m half way to my goal and I’ve been sharing this journey here on my blog since the day it started, here is a current “Before/After Pic”. A little more than my hair color has changed. Today’s Me feels so much better than the Before Me.
It started as a dream. A little one that seemed to grow as time passed. We’re not hugely adventurous vacationers…though we want to be. Our travels haven’t taken us much further south than Gulf Coast Florida beaches (there was the Cancun honeymoon though). Williamsburg was our great “let’s head east” trip. Heading west means we’re going to Texas to visit family. And does North Carolina count as “north”? So when I started dreaming about possibly taking a cruise one day, it felt like just that. A dream.
I had all sorts of reasons why the likelihood of this cruise ever blasting out of dreamland would come to be. I have claustrophobia and I’ve never seen cruise ship cabins bigger than a thumbnail! And don’t get me started on motion sickness. I wore those lovely motion sickness bracelets the entire time we were at Disney World because those Teacups spin mighty fast!! The thought of being cooped up in a cracker box while barfing up my breakfast for 3 days wasn’t terribly appealing. Then there was the cost of taking our family on such a trip and well…..
Nonetheless, as more and more friends talked about their love for cruising and how fabulous it all was, my desire to try sailing the big blue-green pond never really left me. And as I learned more about Alaskan cruises and saw all the magical photos my friends had taken on their Alaskan adventures, I knew that if one day I actually lived the fulfilled dream of cruising, it would be to Alaska.
I knew God would have to step in to make this dream happen simply because there were way too many preconceived obstacles floating around in my head. I’d likely be sea sick the whole time. We’d be stumbling all over each other in our way too tiny room. Blah blah blah!
As our 25th anniversary year approached, though, for some reason I forgot all about the lame barriers I had put before myself and declared out loud to my family, “No need for any fancy party or extravagant gift for our anniversary. We’re going on a cruise to Alaska.” From my lips to God’s ears, I guess, because He made it happen.
As I was busily planning our next summer beach trip earlier this year, my husband declared that he was taking me on that dream cruise to Alaska for our anniversary. He was in contact with a travel agent and the wheels on this trip were already spinning. We’d take Holland America’s Oosterdam from Seattle for a 7 day Inside Passage cruise up to Juneau and Hubbard Glacier and back.
I almost couldn’t believe this was happening. It would be a trip so full of firsts, it was doubtful I could keep up with them all! We’d be further from home than we’d ever been together and we would have long stretches of time where we couldn’t even contact our family.
So with no other cruise to compare it to or any other trip to the Pacific Northwest/Alaska in our back pockets, here are a few of my impressions. Was it as dreamy as I’d hope??
In one word… Y E S !!!!!
Now because I have a difficult time keeping any sort of response to just one word, here are the rest of the words…and a few photos of our adventure! (I apologize in advance if this becomes a Word Press Long read and you’re not in the mood for a long read!) I’ll label each section with what it’s about so if you don’t what to know about Seattle, you can move on to the next section and so on.
Our cruise started here. So fun because this was another first for us with this vacation. We spent two extra days in Seattle , trying to do all the “iconic” Seattle things. I expected to be reminded of Grey’s Anatomy the whole time I was there . But there was only one moment where I even vaguely thought of my favorite hospital drama….and it was on the other side of Pike Place Market while we were sitting on the deck overlooking the pier. Remember the episode where Meredith “drowned” and almost died? How many times has she “almost died” anyway? Anyway, I didn’t actually take a picture of the pier because big old majestic Mount Ranier became the boss of where my eyes would land every time it was in view. Definitely one of my favorite Seattle things! How is it that I only have two photos with my new favorite mountain in them? I guess I”ll need to go back!
Besides staring in awe at this unreal looking snow covered beauty , we did a few other great things in The Emerald City that I can recommend to future travelers. These were our “go to’s”.
Pike Place Market! But be prepared for the smell of fish everywhere….catch one if it flies by you! Also be prepared to face the desperation of the homeless in the city and the strip club across the street. These things threw me , to be honest. Regardless, just experiencing the atmosphere , the FLOWERS, the fish market, the produce and the water views was not something I’d want to miss. Oh, and buy your bottle of wine for your cruise while you’re at the market! Amazing locally made wine ! If you wait and buy your wine on the ship, expect to double your price per bottle!
The Space Needle ! We took the monorail from near our hotel to get there. Sadly (or embarrassingly!), I really had no clue what the Space Needle was all about before we got there. I didn’t know it was built for a Worlds Fair. Or that it was built so quickly by men who really had no protection from falling off…yet didn’t! The views from the top, of course, were spectacular. The revolving glass floor moves ever so slowly and was a fun and different view from underneath your feet. You can get a snack at the top and a cup of Starbucks coffee…of course! There’s a virtual reality experience available for no extra cost if you’re dying to know what it would be like to bungee jump off the Needle…I wasn’t. But I appreciated the fact they didn’t charge you more to do this. The gift shop is great and full of every imaginable Space Needle souvenir you can imagine. I got a shirt. Because, you know, why not?
Chihuly Garden and Glass! We almost skipped this because we’ve seen a Chihuly collection at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. But we were both so glad we did this. So much beautiful artwork in there. And it was all sitting out, unprotected from being bumped off its pedestals or shelves by curious little(or big) hands! There was a sign telling people not to touch and that was all. But since I wasn’t stepping over any shards of broken glass, I guess the visitors that day were careful and obedient! This is a definite must see if your eyes delight in beautiful, colorful, imaginative glass work! It was all just stunning. And conveniently located right next to the Space Needle, it was easy to get to.
The Museum of Pop Culture (or MOPOP) was the last thing we saw in Seattle. This was on my husband’s “must do” list and I’m glad it was. The building itself is so fun and unique that you just know it will be filled with great things. And if you’re a fan of the music of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and Prince you will super love spending time there! We explored all the musical highlights of the museum but found ourselves too exhausted to see the other areas, which included Fantasy, Horror, Sci Fi, Movies. I probably would’ve enjoyed this more than the music exhibits but the old dogs were barking!
The Ship..MS Oosterdam
Next, the ship!! As I said before , this was our very first cruise so we have nothing to compare it to. But I have a strong feeling that we spoiled ourselves to any other cruise line or ship in one fail swoop here. As “older adults” traveling without children, this ship was perfect! While there were things for kids to do on the ship, the entertainment was certainly geared more towards adults. There were no water parks or go karts or zip lining or anything like that. Just a couple of swimming pools…which were always full of kids. And by “full”, I mean a couple dozen. I know there was a Kids Club on board but since we took zero children with us, I have the same amount of knowledge of what exactly happens in said Kids Club.
So some highlights of the beautiful, magnificent MS Oosterdam from the eyes of this first time cruiser.
Its size was perfect. According to good old Google, the ship holds 1964 guests, is 936 ft. long and 105.8 ft wide. In other words, it was big enough to get a good workout in every day with all the walking we did while on board (three times around the Promenade deck was 1 mile!) but small enough to get pretty darn close to Hubbard Glacier on glacier day! Was it so small, though, that we stayed sea sick the whole week? In my research, I found that you are less likely to feel the motion of the ocean in larger ships. When you compare the size of the Oosterdam to , say, a Royal Caribbean ship that holds twice as many people , it’s on the smaller side. So yes, we could feel the movement of the sea but it was only bad on our one sea day. On that day, we couldn’t walk in a straight line if our lives depended on it. The ocean was rough and it showed on board. I never got sea sick or even felt a twinge of discomfort but from the low attendance at dinner that night, I’d say I was one of the lucky ones. Can I just say that taking one doTerra DigestZen capsule a day may have been my lifesaver! After that one tricky day, it was smooth sailing the rest of the week!
We were offered a cabin upgrade a couple weeks before the cruise and we took it. Remember the claustrophobia issue I mentioned earlier and my certainty that all cruise ship cabins were cracker boxes? Well, our room for the week was just evidence to me of how God sees me and cares for what concerns me. The Signature Suites on the Oosterdam are H U G E!! Yes, our room was very large. It had a King size bed, a sitting area with a sofa and coffee table, a desk with shelves, an additional desk area that made a perfect “vanity”, two bedside tables, three closets, plenty of drawer space , a large bathroom with a separate shower and a jetted tub plus double sinks. AND we had a large balcony with plenty of room. The bed was super comfy and in all honesty, the cabin itself was as big and cleaner than the Westin hotel room we stayed in while in Seattle. It was cleaned no less than twice a day by our amazing room stewards. Who cleans their room twice a day? I miss that!
Speaking of our room stewards….oh man! So kind! So gracious! Always smiling! They’d see us from the other end of the mile long hallway and they’d wave and call out our names. Actually, all the crew members and staff were great people. We didn’t pass a single person with a Holland America name tag on who didn’t greet us . And can I just say that the vast array of accents we were greeted with was amazing. The Oosterdam is staffed from 38 unique nationalities. We loved that! We were personally served by precious souls from Bali, France, Jamaica, India, Indonesia, England, Norway, France … just to name a few!
I had heard that the walls of cruise ship cabins were super thin. Hmmm….we barely knew we had neighbors. Not once did we hear noise from the cabins on either side of us. The only time we ever over heard conversations was while we were all sitting outside on our balconies at the same time. Our cabin was so quiet!
The ship was decorated in a very classic, beautiful, ornate way. I loved that it so often felt like a throw back to a different era. It was also exceptionally clean. Maybe that’s because there was ALWAYS someone cleaning something. Every time we left our room, we’d find people cleaning the banisters or the windows or vacuuming the hallways. Almost motivates me to keep my house cleaner when I think about it…almost!
The entertainment was delightful to our music loving souls. From string groups playing movie tunes at Lincoln Center Stage to dueling piano playing singers sharing songs from many decades in Billboard Onboard to the more upbeat music at BB King’s Blue Club, we enjoyed it all. We danced. We sang along. We drank adult beverages. But it wasn’t all about the musical entertainment. There was Justin Rupple, who is a comedian and voice actor; Jessica Jane, who is a “Magical Entertainer”; and in America’s Test Kitchen, which rivaled any cooking show on TV, we learned to cook many delectable treats. All good stuff!
A couple of little extras we had on the ship were 7 day laundry service. We’d gather up our dirty clothes , make a call and our room steward would pick it up. By the next morning, our clean clothes would be returned neatly hung up or folded. Sigh….I miss that! We also had 7 day access to the spa, which included a hydrotherapy pool and heated ceramic loungers with an ocean view. After a day of exploring the ship or one of our ports of call, it was soooo nice to be able to relax in the spa. The only disappointing “extra” we had was the internet service. We got our money back for that one.
Lastly, the food. One of the things I so commonly hear from cruisers is how incredible the food is…how they want to eat all the time…how it’s so readily available. It’s almost as if the food itself becomes a planned activity to look forward to. Don’t get me wrong. Our food was good. There was only one meal we had that turned my stomach a bit….but I don’t do food with eyes! Or mushrooms that literally taste like dirt! But everything else was tasty…just not “slap yo momma” good . So we were able to eat reasonably without feeling like we were missing out if we weren’t constantly eating. Neither of us gained any weight on this cruise. I hear that’s pretty uncommon! Big thanks to the No Sugar Added Desserts every night!
Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria
So how do you choose a cruise with a fabulous Alaska itinerary? If you’re planning your very first cruise to The Last Frontier , just pick one. It’ll be amazing no matter where you stop to stretch your sea legs! Seriously, it didn’t take me long to decide God must somehow favor Alaska . Because He gave this state an abundance of breath taking , amazing, glorious, awe inspiring scenery. The phrase “pictures don’t really do it justice” must’ve originated with the first person who shared pictures of a snow topped Alaskan mountain or icy glacier. Oh blessed Alaska Dwellers, please never take for granted the beauty you live within!
Now , somehow, I’ll try to put into words some of our favorite times in our five ports of call. After that one rough day of sailing through choppy water, our first stop was Juneau. We opened our black-out curtains that morning to our first view of Alaska land and even though it was cloudy, the beauty before us was stunning. We didn’t arrive in Juneau until after lunch time, so I spent that morning getting a pedicure in the spa. Yes, I’ve had a million pedicures in my life so why pay more to do something I can so easily do at home ? Because I can safely say I’ve never had a pedicure with such a view! And honestly, here I sit two weeks later and my feet are still baby soft! So y’all, pay the extra bucks for a luxurious foot treatment with a view!
Our only disappointment of this trip happened in Juneau. I had spent a good bit of time polling friends and researching the best excursions. The one excursion that 90% of my friends loved the most or regretted not doing was a helicopter ride to the top of Mendenhall Glacier with a guided walk along the top. This particular excursion was highly rated and had even been featured on Good Morning America. We went back and forth over this one because it was so pricey! We decided it would be the most “Alaska-y” thing we could do so we bit the budget bullet and decided we wouldn’t regret it. However, as we pulled into the Port of Juneau, I had a feeling our dream excursion wouldn’t happen. It was drizzly and overcast with thick clouds. Here is where I have a BIG TIP to share...plan ahead and book the excursions you really don’t want to miss . They do fill up. However, have a Plan B in mind in case something happens. Like thick cloud cover that helicopters can’t see through. Yes, we were super bummed that our first excursion was canceled. That one disruption in our plans for our Juneau day changed the whole course of my carefully planned day. Being flexible while traveling is super important as well. There’s just no room for grumpiness over things you have no control over! Determined to not let this ruin our day, I pouted about this for as long as it took us to walk to the booth selling whale watching excursions…which was about 60 seconds! We booked our Evening Whale Watching Excursion as our Helicopter trip was being refunded. Yes, the refund was nearly instant so we were grateful for that! Booking all our excursions through Holland America came with a big safety net…we’d not be left behind in a port and refunds for canceled excursions would be quick!
Because our whale trip would be in the evening, we had time to get a $90 round trip bus ride to Mendenhall Glacier, which was 20 miles away. Seemed like a lot to spend but it was worth it. The glacier and the waterfall were truly a sight to behold. And making the 2 mile round trip hike to these beauties in boots not my own showed me that perseverance in spite of blisters pays off ! We spent some time ooing and aahing over the glacier before we hiked back up to the visitors center where there was a small exhibit on all things glacier . We were a bit rushed, though, because we had to be back on that bus in time to get us back to the port where our whale watching excursion would begin.
As much as we had been looking forward to that helicopter ride to the top of this big old glacier, our “Plan B” whale watching excursion ended up being my favorite thing we did on this trip. After we boarded another bus to take us to a different pier and I was assured there would be warmth, food, drinks and bathrooms on our little boat, I was ready for this experience. Our “little boat” had two levels of heated cabins where they had a really nice spread of food , including some Alaskan delicacies. We took our seats but as soon as the captain spotted the first whale, we braved the elements and headed to the outdoor decks to get a better view. This was our only super “Alaska cold” cold time. I never took myself to be someone who would be mesmerized by the site of any sort of creature in the wild…until that first mighty whale poked his humpy back out of the water for us to see. Whale after whale showed their tails and with each one we were more awed. But it wasn’t just the whales that thrilled us. The mountains surrounding us, the clouds, the mist, the rainbows…all just visually stunning. So much of God’s glory wrapping us up in a big old hug to our senses. Then just for fun, this buoy filled with seals taking a free ride across the waters delighted us with their cuteness! Such a great time!! So whale watching somewhere on your Alaskan adventure is a must!
Our next day was Hubbard Glacier, which was basically a sea day with the most spectacular views ever! This was a day we were prepared for more “Alaska cold” , but as the sweet waiter roamed the deck of the ship with his “free hot chocolate when you buy the $5 souvenir mug” , not many people were buying because they were too busy taking off all the coats and hats they were wearing. It was a strangely warm day. High 60’s and sunny! Not exactly hot chocolate craving weather. I guess it wasn’t a good day for pea soup either. I heard Holland America cruises also offers free pea soup on the deck on Glacier Day but I never saw this happening. Because God blessed us with such spectacular weather that day, the captain was able to steer this big old ship closer to the glacier than he’d been able to get in a while. Of course, he may tell all his glacier loving passengers this to make them feel like they’re getting the best up close views. But seriously, we were able to get much closer than I anticipated. We spent some time out on the main decks of the ship but we were basically having to compete with others for the best views. So we ordered a pot of coffee, grabbed some snacks and headed back to our suite where the views from our own private balcony were ours and ours alone. No competing for that primo rail spot! From our balcony we could hear the thundering sound of the glacier preparing to calve. Then it was like a a game of “Where’s Waldo” as we scanned the surface of the glacier to find the spot where the ice would break away and fall into the ocean. This is yet another Alaska thing I had no idea would grab me so sweetly and entertain me for hours. As our ship finally pulled away from Hubbard Glacier that day, I was already longing to go back.
Our next stop was Sitka. My only knowledge of Sitka came from the movie “The Proposal”, which took place in Sitka but wasn’t actually filmed there. I never saw any Ryan Reynolds or Betty White wannabes. Most of what we saw really didn’t look much like scenes from the movie. Except perhaps the water and forest scenes. And the Native American regalia Betty White wore in the dance scene. Remember that? Our one excursion in this cute fishing town was a tour called “Historic Sitka”. We were lead by a wise native Sitkan of Tlingit Indian descent. He took us to the Sitka National Historic Park where we saw and learned alot about totem poles and Tlingit history from a native woman who shared much of her hand made regalia. Cue the Betty White reference here. We learned from our tour guide that the low man on the totem pole was actually the most important person because the story the pole told was about that “low man”. We also learned a lot about salmon and how they fill the river that runs through the park during their season. We saw bald eagles flying around like they owned the sky. We walked through a refreshingly cool rain forest and saw trees and flowers unlike most we’ve ever seen in Georgia. Our tour guide also took us to the earliest Orthodox cathedral in the New World, which was full of historic artifacts. We went to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and ended with an entertaining Russian folk dance show. Sitka was our only stop with enough time to explore a bit after our excursion ended. So we walked through the two block downtown area and enjoyed a little bit of shopping while being awed by the snow capped mountains, the 60 degree June temperatures and the all out beauty around every corner. We even stopped for a bowl of stew at the Sitka Hotel…a bowl of reindeer stew. I’ll admit I had a hard time thinking about eating reindeer but after the first bite, it became easier! So delicious!
Our Friday stop was Ketchikan. This was adventure day!! Now I’m not much of an adventure type girl but this trip sparked a big old dose of adventure seeking in me that I didn’t even know I had. Our excursion for this day even had this thrill-seeking word in its title…Adventure Karts! Now this go cart riding adventure through the Tongass Rain Forest would take up most of our time in Ketchikan. So we decided to get up super early and explore this adorable town in the hour we had before our excursion began. And it was early. 7am is just early on vacation and by this point in the week, our bodies had acclimated to the four hour time difference between Alaska and home. So we scarfed down a quick omelet (we ate SO MANY eggs on this trip!) and headed to Creek Street, one of the most popular, historic sites in Ketchikan. It was a short walk from the pier to the creek where this stilted boardwalk street nestled itself on a slope. Creek Street is now lined with shops , restaurants and museums but it was once home of a brothel or two. One of the first buildings you walk by is Dolly’s, which is a brothel turned museum. And before 8am, it was one of the few things open for business. As a woman ,authentically dressed for the part, encouraged us to come in for the 15 minute tour, I almost felt like I had been transported back in time and my husband was being “propositioned” by one of Dolly’s house “employees”! We just walked on by, telling her we where short on time! I barely made it past her!
After a quick photo-taking jaunt down Creek Street, we made our way back to the pier where we caught our bus to the Adventure Karts location. Now we were excited for this trip because we really had never done anything like this before. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the temperature was a perfect 65 or so. It would truly be a great adventure…I mean the only restroom available once we got out there was a port-a-potty and some tall trees!! We got to the site where we were suited up with helmets and rain coats. Not a drop of rain in sight or a cloud in the sky but we were told we might want to use the rain gear to cover up our bags and keep our back sides dry on the seats. These locals let us know that the seats of the carts held on to water and in spite of the fact that their town was actually in a drought (in rainy Alaska??), we may appreciate the booty protection. After learning all the safety guidelines and rules of the “road”, our little group set off in our carts built for two, following Duncan, our young guide. As a “gift” to my husband, I let him drive the whole 14 mile path. He’s a little more risk-taking in his driving than I am and I knew full well he’d not have as much fun with my more cautious driving style! Honestly, though, I really just loved being his passenger as we whipped safely through the cool canopy of the forest. The views were obviously breathtaking because we were still in Alaska and all things in Alaska are amazing to look at! We made two stops with our group and had a snack together…a granola bar and water. The water was especially appreciated because the snack we had previous to the granola bar was d i r t !! Because it hadn’t significantly rained prior to our trip, the road we traveled was dry and dusty. And when you combine that with an open cart and fast speeds, well…the term “eat my dust” took on a whole new meaning! By the time we were finished with this seriously fun adventure ride, we were filthy and I was wearing a nice layer of dirt lipstick! Still, I’d do it all over again. Maybe after it has rained, though!
Our last stop before making the final journey back to Seattle was Victoria, British Columbia. Now I made zero plans for Victoria for a few reasons. I was not 100% sure we could get into Canada without a passport. The consensus was split amongst my friends on this issue. All we had were our birth certificates and drivers licenses. Also our time in Victoria was late…6pm to 11pm on a night when we’d be expected to have our bags packed to be ready to disembark the fabulous Oosterdam bright and early the next morning. So we were iffy about doing anything beyond dinner near the port. Yet, when we got up and moving the morning of Victoria day, we decided all would be well and we booked a tour called “Highlights of Victoria.” For the record, you CAN get into Canada without a passport. All we needed was our room key (which was loaded with all the info pertaining to our place of birth) and our drivers license to get off the boat and step onto Canadian soil. Easy peasy! So the good and bad of our tour of choice…it was a total bus tour of the city. Two hours long! The bus was nice, comfy and warm and outside the bus was very chilly and blustery. Even though the bus stopped once to let everyone out to stretch their legs and ooh and aah at some gorgeousness, it was soooo cold the leg stretching was quick! The good part of this tour is we saw a good portion of Victoria, which would’ve been difficult on foot, while learning about the city from our great tour guide. We drove through Beacon Hill Park, full of peacocks! We drove through town and saw The Empress Hotel and flowers hanging from all the street lights. We saw Chinatown…which I didn’t know Victoria had. We drove through gardens and neighborhoods and parks. Victoria has got to be the most beautiful city we’ve ever seen. So clean. Flowers everywhere. It was just spectacular. Definitely a place we want to return to and spend more time. 90% of our Canadian photos were taken from the inside of our moving bus. Not too bad for an iphone camera! While this was a good and informative tour for first time visitors of Victoria, I’m looking forward to seeing Butchart Gardens and maybe a castle or two next time.
Well if you made it this far into this little old blog post, congratulations. You’ve finally made it the end. Thanks for coming along on my walk down memory lane. This was easily the best trip we’ve taken as empty nesters! Over the past two weeks, a lot of people have asked me what the best part of this trip was. And while I want to say all of the above things you just read, my true favorite part was simply spending an entire week with my husband, no distractions. No pulls from the Internet or social media. No messages from work to contend with. Just the two of us having fun together, doing new things together. Remembering why we’ve spent the last 25 years together!