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Alaska Cruise:
Amsterdam (7 night Seattle return)

by Murray Lundberg

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Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

    Wednesday, July 25: We arrived at sunny Ketchikan at 7:30. From a tourism perspective, this community is best known for great salmon fishing, and as the gateway to Misty Fjords and some good bear-viewing locations.

    Given the fact that we were only in Ketchikan for 4½ hours, we decided to just take a bus out to Totem Bight State Historical Park. Although we had talked about going on a Misty Fjords flight, we hadn't booked anything, and a multi-fatality plane crash in Misty Fjords the day before soured our enthusiasm for it.

    The cheapest way to get to Totem Bight is on the Blue Line city bus, which leaves from the bus stop across the street from this eagle sculpture. The 17-mile trip costs $1 each way. Pick up a schedule from the large Visitor Center on the dock across from the "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign.

    Aaaaaah.... far from the madding crowds, on a quiet path through the lush Alaska rainforest that houses the park.

    Signs such as this one placed around the park provide a very good self-guided tour. A walking tour brochure with details about each totem pole is available in the Totem Bight Visitor Center for $1 or can be seen online at the DNR Web site.

    To learn about totem poles throughout Southeast Alaska, the 151-page book The Wolf and the Raven: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska is an excellent, easy-to-read resource.

    The setting of Totem Bight is magnificent, overlooking Tongass Narrows.

    The rugged beach is very interesting at low tides. Ahead to the right is the sheltered gravel beach that attracted the Tlingit Indians to use this location as a campsite.

    The star of the park is the Clan House. When the park plan was first drawn up in 1938, a complete village known as Mud Bight Village was going to be built here, but the start of WWII halted the project.

    There are 14 totem poles as well as the Clan House in the park. A brief look around can be done in the hour available until the next bus departs. To do any study of the poles allow 2 hours, and 3 hours if you really want to study each figure and walk the beach.

    For those of you used to taking city buses, this route is different - it runs primarily along the coast, through industrial, commercial, residential and forested areas. This photo was taken from the window of the bus. Drivers vary - on the way to the park the driver said nothing so I obeyed the sign that said not to talk to her, while on the way back to town the driver was very chatty and we got quite a tour.

    We had to be aboard by 12:15 for a 12:30 sailaway - a short day indeed. With a couple of lattes on the dock and a book I bought at Totem Bight, our total expenditures for the very relaxing day were $29.

    Ketchikan's harbor is a busy place, and I can watch the action for a long time. Here, a Turbo Otter from Promech Air takes off past the 164-foot yacht Evviva, which carries its own helicopter on the aft deck. In the background can be seen the airport expansion work being done.

    As happened last year, we were escorted for a few miles by a pair of Coast Guard Zodiacs, who amused themselves in the wake of the ship!

    We got very lucky with the weather - not many Ketchikan sailaways see the outside pool area busy. My biggest complaint about the Amsterdam is that it isn't sun/fun friendy - getting a seat in a hot tub was pretty well impossible and a deck chair in the sun wasn't usually much better (every chair in this photo was filled a few minutes later). I recognize, though, that this was not typical Alaska weather nor typical HAL passengers, so that criticism may not be justified for most Amsterdam cruises.

    We ended this day with dinner at The Pinnacle Grill. There is a $30 per person surcharge to dine there, and it's worth every penny - every aspect of the experience was superb, except that every bottle of wine under $52 was "sold out" (the wine steward brought the wine list to us opened at a page with wines ranging from $350 to $950).

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