Arrival in KetchikanI was reminded that Alaska attracts adventurers from all over the world when I was sitting at the gate in Seattle, waiting to board the plane for Ketchikan. The flight appeared to only be about half-full, but about 90 percent of the passengers were men, and all were dressed in denim and flannel rather than the business suits often seen on other flights. In addition, most were carrying fishing rods rather than briefcases.
It was sunny when we left Seattle, but lightly raining when the flight touched down in Ketchikan. The Ketchikan airport is on an island, so arriving and departing passengers must take a ferry or a water taxi to get into town. As we waited on the ferry, it was fun to watch the float planes landing and taking off. Sometimes the water "runway" has over 500 take-offs and landings in a single day! While on the ferry, I saw one of the fishing boats made famous by the cable TV show, "The Deadliest Catch". During the week, we would see other boats from the series.
Driving along the coast, I noted that Ketchikan, like Juneau, is a little town packed along the narrow channel dividing it and a nearby island, with water on one side and mountains on the other. There were two large cruise ships in port--one from Holland America and the other from Celebrity, so many of those flights may have been for passengers going to see Misty Fjords or other nearby natural wonders.
We arrived at the New York Hotel, which is on Stedman Street, right next to the bridge over Ketchikan Creek and famous Creek Street, the old "red light district" of Ketchikan. The managers (and Jack & Jill of all trades) of the quaint old hotel, Jessica and Jose, warmly greeted me, and Jose drove me the short block over to the fisherman's wharf at Thomas Basin and harbor where my suite was located. Jessica and Jose have been renovating some of the former bordello buildings on the wharf into lofts and suites. The outside of the building is corrugated metal and very rustic, but the inside is spacious and modern. It even had two large flat screen televisions and cable TV. Our second floor suite had two bedrooms, a living room, den, full kitchen, dining area, bath, and good view of the Thomas Basin. The hotel was probably much nicer than when the "sporting women" were working there! I loved the location and ambiance of this hotel, and it's a great place to stay either before or after an Alaskan cruise. A family could easily stay in the suite and cook their own meals if desired. Also, it was fun to tell our friends back home that we stayed in an old bordello!
Although it was pouring rain, I put on the rain gear and took a walk to get some dinner. I found a Thai restaurant, ate some Singapore noodles, and read my Kindle while listening in to the conversations around me. My friend Julie arrived not long after dinner. It was still raining hard, and we kept our fingers crossed that the next day would be better.
A Day in Rainy Ketchikan
The next morning, I awoke about 7 am and peered out the window. It was still raining. I laid back down, and almost immediately felt a shake, followed by two more gentle tremors a few seconds apart. An earthquake! I got up, dressed, and discovered that Julie was already up. The first thing out of her mouth was, "did you feel the earthquakes"? Glad to know I wasn't dreaming, but doubt if I would have noticed it if I hadn't been lying in my bed half-awake.
Because of the rain, we took our time getting ready to go out and explore Ketchikan. Julie drank coffee and I drank tea. Finally, we left about 9:30, donning our rubber boots and most-water-resistant clothing since the deluge continued. We sloshed over to the hotel, had a delicious breakfast, and checked out of the room. Jose had already told us just to leave the bags and he would pick them up around 10 am and make sure they were delivered to the Cape Fox Lodge where we were to meet up with our Wilderness Discoverer cruise group at 3 pm.
We explored the city, not finding much open. Julie and I wanted to tour Dolly's House Museum, a renovated bordello, but it was closed, as were many of the shops. Only one small ship other than ours, the 382-guest Silversea Silver Shadow, was in port. The cruise season was almost over, and I guess the shops didn't think that less than 500 cruise visitors warranted opening on a very rainy Saturday. (Ketchikan was expecting over 10,000 cruise passengers the next day. I bet all the shops were open then, no matter what the weather was!)
We hated to go inside even the few shops that were open since we were dripping wet. We did go into a local cafe for a hot chocolate. Hadn't been there long when two young guys came in, one of whom was wearing a Georgia (UGA) bulldogs shirt. Julie and I couldn't help but ask where he was from since we both graduated from UGA. He was also a UGA graduate and had a driver's license with The Rock as his address! Small world--The Rock is only about 10 miles from where Julie grew up and only about 30 from where I live. He was visiting his friend who was working in Alaska for the summer.
Julie and I sat at the hotel for a while and used the Internet, but finally went on up to the Cape Fox Lodge about 1:30. Although there is a funicular going up to the lodge, which sits on a hill overlooking downtown Ketchikan, we opted to walk to get a little exercise. We ate a light lunch at the hotel. I had a spinach salad, with cranberries, pecans, and Gorgonzola cheese and a light vinaigrette. Julie had a crock of the creamy seafood chowder, which was loaded with scallops, clams, halibut, and potatoes. She said it was the "best ever".
Since there are many things to do and see in Ketchikan, I wish the weather had not been so horrible the day we were there. Glad I had visited before, and guess I'll have to return.
When we met at 3 pm, we had an hour's presentation by Joe, a native Tlingit who lives near Ketchikan. He spoke for an hour on the Tlingit culture and traditions. Very interesting and kind of sad that the Tlingits abandoned the family traditions that had been followed for about 10,000 years when the tribe decided in the 1930s/1940s to assimilate with the white man. For years when Joe was growing up (he was 68), he didn't learn very many native songs, dances, or cultural history. Today, they are teaching the young people about their cultural past since they realized that it is important to understand both the culture and traditions of the past as well as the present time.
At the conclusion of the presentation, our cruise expedition leader came in, and I was both surprised and delighted to see that it was Kristan Roth, one of the crew I had enjoyed sailing with last year on the small ship the Mist Cove. After her presentation, I went up and reintroduced myself. She recognized my face, but couldn't place where we had met. However, she suddenly asked if my husband was the exceptional bass fisherman from Georgia. So, she remembered Ronnie, but not me!
Boarding and First Evening on the InnerSea Discoveries' Wilderness Discoverer
We were on the InnerSea Discoveries' Wilderness Discoverer by about 4 pm, and it was really raining. The ship was full -- 68 passengers or so (a couple of cabins had solo travelers). We never even had to show our ID to board--just give them our names. We went to the cabin, and our suitcases were already in the cabin. Our cabin was very small. We had twin beds on either side of the window, with a small space in-between. We had a cabinet between the two beds and a sink in the room. The shower/toilet is very tiny, but has a shower curtain to keep you from getting the toilet wet. The cabin worked out fine, especially since we could hang our coats and put our rubber boots out in the hallway and store our suitcases under the beds.
We went to happy hour where they had really cheap well drinks at the bar -- $2 before dinner. They also had brownies, grapes, thinly sliced apples, and prosciutto, grapes, and bread with ricotta cheese spread to go along with the drinks. Nice appetizers!
Dinner was absolutely delicious. We had halibut with a salsa verde sauce (olive oil and herbs), potatoes with skins, carrots with fennel and chard, and a spinach salad with cranberries, nuts, cheese, etc. Julie said the bread was extra good--kind of nutty, grainy white bread. (I resisted) Dessert was a marvelous mixed berry cobbler topped with sour cream. All meals are served buffet style, so you can control your own portion size. Wine was only $3 per glass, so it's cheaper than on other ships. One guy at our open-seating table didn't like fish, so they grilled him a chicken breast. They also had a vegetarian option--grilled portobello mushrooms.
After dinner, Kristan the expedition leader gave a talk about the next day. Since they were expecting 40+ mph winds and driving rain, the Captain decided to stay at the dock until 4:30 am rather than face 8-9 foot seas on our smallish boat. Good decision.
We were asleep before 10 pm. Lucky for me, I had been in Ketchikan before on a gorgeous sunny day, which makes everything look better and results in a more festive, resort-like atmosphere. The town has many outdoor activities for vacationers such as hiking, fishing, or ziplining. Ketchikan also has several museums, and fascinating totems are scattered around the town. Like much of Southeast Alaska, it's also one of the rainiest areas in the USA, so be sure to take along your rain gear!
Alaska Adventure on the InnerSea Discoveries' Wilderness Discoverer -- Cruise Travel Log
- Voyage Introduction
- Day 1 - Embarkation in Ketchikan
- Day 2 - Bubble-Net Feeding Humpback Whales
- Day 2 - Lake Bay, Alaska
- Day 3 - Hiking near Petersburg, Alaska
- Day 3 - A Stroll Around Petersburg
- Day 4 - Endicott Arm and Ford's Terror
- Day 4 - Dawes Glacier
- Day 5 - Halleck Bay
- Day 5 - Orca Encounter
- Day 5 - Bubble-Net Feeding Whales All Over Again
- Day 5 - Frederick Sound Sunset
- Day 6 - Port Houghton Bay
- Day 7 - Windham Bay
- Day 8 - Disembarkation in Juneau