A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Panorama

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Wordless Wednesday: Skagway Pano

Skagway Panorama

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord Cruising

Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord Black and White

2022: Year in Review

Pitons of St. Lucia

The Pitons of St. Lucia

2022 was once again an amazing travel year for us! We spent two weeks on cruise ships, many hours in airports, and saw many amazing things! We went both the farthest south and north that I have ever been and crossed off three more National Parks. This year travel felt like it was getting back to normal.

Unlike in years past, our first travels of the year didn’t come until the end of the first quarter with our port-a-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We visited some of my favorite ports of any cruise we’ve taken and I have been watching flights to St. Maarten, St. Lucia (top), and Puerto Rico since we returned (we are actually heading back to Puerto Rico in the not-too-distant future). We got to snorkel in the pristine waters of Virgin Islands National Park and explore the oldest fort in the United States (bottom). 

Ship Sailing through Fog in Tracy Arm Fjord

Cruise ship sailing through fog in Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

Almost exactly two months after returning home, we got on another plane and headed to the Pacific Northwest. We explored Vancouver, which I have been dying to see for over ten years. From there we boarded another ship and headed north to four ports in Alaska. We got to see a glacier, bears, raptors, and whales, and ride a dog sled. It was an amazing trip but I feel like we barely scratched the surface of Alaska and I can’t wait to return and explore it some more. 

After getting off the ship, we took a bus back to Washington where we spent a week exploring all of the unique ecosystems of Olympic National Park. From the mountains of Hurricane Ridge to the Hoh Rainforest and more green than the brain can process, it was a week of exploring the outdoors. My favorite part would have to be Rialto Beach and the crazy rock formations coming out of the water. It was otherworldly.

Hoh Rainforst

One thing that ties our travels together this year is rainforests. We hiked in El Yunque in Puerto Rico and drove through the rainforest in St. Lucia and St. Kitts. We explored the temperate rainforest at Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver and visited bears in the rainforest of Sitka. We hiked through the fascinating Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (right). Near-constant rain and lush greenery seems to be the common denominator of 2022’s travels.

Of course, we took the camper out after returning from the PNW and spent some time at some new campgrounds and some old favorites (those stories coming in the next few weeks). The highlight of the summer in Michigan would have to be kayaking Pictured Rocks. That is something I have wanted to do since my first visit to the National Lakeshore and it was an amazing experience that I recommend to anyone!

San Juan National Historic Site

Since the summer, we have been pretty much at home, but more travels are coming soon! You will have to stay tuned to the blog to see what 2023 has in store for us! If all goes to plan it should be another amazing year of exploring this beautiful world!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Pacific Northwest Trip Recap

Clouds over Crescent Lake

Our trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer checked off two more states, one Canadian province, and two more national parks in an unforgettable nature-filled two week trek. We visited Seattle, Vancouver, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, and the Olympic Peninsula.

I would love to take another Alaska cruise, but I think it would have to be on a larger ship. Sure, the Serenade can get into smaller ports that the big ships can’t, but there just wasn’t much going on during the sea days. I would look at ships that were purpose built for Alaska like the Norwegian Bliss that have more indoor areas for people to hang out on sea days.

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

Cruise Ships in Juneau

I definitely want to explore different ports on my next Alaska cruise and I think I would look for a cruise that visits Glacier Bay. I’ve heard that park rangers get on the ship and talk about the nature. And it would cross off another national park! Ketchikan is another Alaska port I really wish we got to see!

I would definitely plan strategically if I ever cruise out of Vancouver again. I would make sure to pick the earliest check in time and arrive maybe even an hour before that. I might even look at cruises that start in Seward (Anchorage, Alaska) before looking at cruises out of Seattle.

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

You can call me crazy, but I would fly in/out of Seattle for a Vancouver cruise again. Amtrak is running the Cascades route again so the train is an option to get from Seattle to Vancouver again. Yes, it was two additional border crossings, but Quick Shuttle was easy and comfortable and honestly, you can’t beat the price of Greyhound. Is it my new preferred means of travel, no, but it got the job done!

I would definitely wait until later in the season to really get to explore Washington’s National Parks. I really don’t know if I can count visiting Mt. Rainier if I couldn’t see the mountain! I’ve been told the fog is less common later in the summer so that is when I would plan my return trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

All-in-all, our 2-week Alaska cruise, Olympic National Park trip was another epic vacation! There were many firsts and experiences I can’t believe we got to do! Where will we explore next? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Iceberg

Serenade of the Seas 2022 Review

Serenade of the Seas from Mt. Roberts Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau

Our Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was unlike anything else I have ever done before. The scenery was unmatched and the service was spectacular. This trip was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Our trip started off on a rough note because embarkation in Vancouver was a nightmare. I should start off by saying there were three ships in port that day and the other two ships were much larger than the Serenade so there were a lot of people leaving Vancouver that day. It took us a full two hours from curb to ship. It took one whole hour just to get to the porters to drop our bags off because there was only one large elevator that went to that level. We saw a lot of people just carry their bags on, but they still had to drag them around the port for an hour. I heard people around me mumbling “never again” to sailing out of Vancouver. One thing that makes it more complicated than most other embarkation ports is that you are in a foreign country sailing into the United States, so you have to go through customs. We met people at dinner one night who have Global Entry and they said that helped shorten the wait some. If you are planning on sailing out of Vancouver, pick the earliest check-in time you can and get there early.

While we had beautiful weather on our port days, every sea day was cold and rainy. We had hoped to play Pickleball as we did on our Caribbean Cruise, but because of the weather, it was never open.  We tried to enjoy our balcony, if you wanted to be out there for an extended period of time, you needed to seriously bundle up. On our way back from Alaska, we had the roughest seas I have ever encountered on a cruise. Seriously, they had barf bags placed around the ship for those prone to seasickness. I have to say, I had never seen that before.

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

The Serenade of the Seas is the smallest ship I’ve ever sailed on. Having sailed on the Explorer of the Seas almost exactly three months prior, I was doing a lot of comparing in my head while onboard. Small ships like the Serenade have their pros and cons, the pros being that they can get into ports where the larger ships don’t fit. The Serenade is actually the ship Royal is using for their World Cruise in 2023. The biggest con, of course, is that there is less to do on board. I don’t know if it was because we were usually the smallest ship in port, but we always ended up at the dock farthest away from town (left).

Since our cruise on the Explorer was when Royal Caribbean was getting back into sailing at almost full capacity, a lot of my complaints from our spring cruise had been resolved. Crew members were no longer serving everything in the buffet and service in the dining room was much smoother. With my time dining, they didn’t try to seat you in the same table every day like they did on the Explorer so we didn’t have to wait as long to eat.

Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

From the sail-away show, I knew the entertainment on this ship was not going to be for me. John, the cruise director came on stage singing Sweet Caroline and had everyone play Simon Says. I felt like I was in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when she goes to her camp in the Catskills (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this show, it takes place in the 1950s. That’s really all you need to know for this reference). Shortly after that, the assistant cruise director came out to sell you Bingo cards. I felt like the youngest person on board by at least 40 years. Royal Caribbean is known for being a family cruise line so I was not expecting this at all.

Mini Golf on the Serenade of the Seas

Mini Golf on the Serenade of the Seas

In my review of the Explorer of the Seas, I was blown away by how many activities were going on around the ship when we were in port each day. That was not the case on the Serenade. We had three sea days on this cruise and I felt like there was nothing to do. Because of the weather, everyone was indoors. There was trivia twice a day that was standing-room only. There was a small movie theater where you wouldn’t get a seat if you didn’t show up half an hour early. There was an enrichment lecture by Canadian Mountie that we went to because…what else was there to do? We did enjoy the production shows and the comedian made us laugh. We kept running into him in port, which was funny.

Sailing under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver Sailing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver

While this review may seem like it’s full of complaints, I really did enjoy this cruise. I think if I were to sail to Alaska again, I would choose a ship that was purpose-built for Alaska, like the Norwegian Bliss. It has many more indoor areas to get out of the cold, rainy Alaska weather at sea. After this cruise, we are taking a break from Royal Caribbean. We have another cruise booked, this time on Celebrity, which will be interesting.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we begin our journey from Vancouver to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Serenade of the Seas Pin Serenade of the Seas Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Sled Dogs

Sled Dogs

Dog Sledding in Skagway

Sled Dogs

When planning our Alaska cruise, one of the excursions I knew I wanted to do was dogsledding. The cruise lines offer amazing dogsledding excursions at most of the ports, some of them even involving flying a helicopter to a glacier to have a more “authentic” experience on a dog sled. I really wanted to do one of those helicopter/dogsled excursions but it was really hard to justify a single excursion that cost more than the whole cruise fare. So, I went for the compromise called dogsled and musher’s camp in Skagway.

When we docked in Skagway (at the pier that has been closed since it had a landslide just a few weeks after we docked at it) and took a bus to the Musher’s Camp. Like a lot of Skagway, this felt very cheesy and like it was built for cruise ship tourists. From the base camp, we loaded onto this giant all-terrain vehicle to get to the dogs. We were the first group of the day and the dogs were excited to get going! They were yipping, howling, and pulling at their leads. We divided up into several groups, six people to a cart, and finally got to be pulled around by a group of canines.

Iditarod Trail Marker

On the drive up, our tour guide Laryn, explained the dogs we were about to meet are professional athletes. And once we got loaded onto our cart, our musher explained that the dogs that were pulling us are her team and they actually race the Iditarod together. She explained the commands she uses (“gee” and “haw”) to tell the dogs which way to go. She also explained how important camps like this one are for the dogs. Not only do they work on strength training during the summer, but being around the all the tourists prepares them for all the people the dogs will encounter at the checkpoints along the Iditarod. So, while we were in a cart, not a sled and going over a dirt path, not snow, this time is important for these dogs. So, yes dog sledding in Alaska is a tourist activity, it has its benefits for the dogs and the musher as well.

Cuddling a puppy

Puppy cuddles!

After we got done with our ride, we went back down to “basecamp” where we met another musher who told us the history of the Iditarod and showed us some of the gear they carry on the race. She explained that the “Alaska Husky” is actually a mix of breeds that they breed for their racing ability.

 

From there, we got to go to my favorite part where we cuddled the puppies (above)! Mine fell asleep in my arms. My husband didn’t get to hold one because I wouldn’t let him go. I really wish we had more time with the puppies before we were pushed to look at “teenage” dogs sleeping.

Sled dogsIf you are planning an Alaska cruise and want to do a dogsledding excursion, I highly recommend it! We had a great time in Skagway with Alaska X excursions! While I’m sure the helicopter/dog sled excursions are amazing, once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experiences, the dog-cart experiences are in no way “fake” and are a great way to get to experience sled dogs without paying as much as your cruise fare for a single excursion!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I review our time on the Serenade of the Seas! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Cruising Alaska

Cruising Alaska

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