I have had several requests for Cruise Tour packages for Alaska, including my own desire to go back to that beautiful state. My one and only trip was in 1973, the year before I graduated high school. Yes, it has been a while.
Back then we headed out in my father's dark green Chevy truck with a Skamper pop-up camper on the back. (That is a photo of my Dad in the shirt he still had in his closet the day he passed away. Now I wonder if he kept those shirts more for the memories than the thriftiness!)
I have SO many photos in the three numbered and labeled scrapbooks my mother put together. My mother was a "scrapper" before scrapbooking was cool. For this trip, my dad worked all of the overtime he could, saved every penny he could, and took a 4 week vacation! We drove north through Banff & Jasper. We cut across Canada to Prince Rupert Port and caught a very large "ferry". They weren't called cruise ships yet. They had a main dining room and a snack bar about the size of an average McDonald's. They had a stateroom with an all metal tiny bathroom.
I was about to enter my senior year in high school and I was a tanned Texas cutie and a little flirty. My mom had her hands full. Of course on the ferry, I immediately met three really cute brothers from Israel who were hitchhiking across Canada and up through Alaska for the summer. One evening I was cold and one of them offered me his jacket, but ... it was down in his cabin. Out of no where my mom appeared with my sweater. Yes, she did not let me out of her sight - smart mom. I think the sight of my mom and dad behind my every step slowed down their pursuit.
I saw bald eagles, sea lions, and whales. We took an airplane ride over the Mendenhal Glacier and had lunch in Cordova (only accessible by plane or boat), before flying back to Valdez. What a trip. We went to Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, and Sitka. My mom put all of that together by herself in the age of encyclopedias, trips to the library, and hand written requests for brochures. That MUST be where I get "it" from - the wander lust (and I am SO thankful for google!).
One night a Gypsy circus boarded the ferry at one of the port stops. They loaded dozens of trailers full of animals and equipment on board in the bottom ferry portion of the ship. Can you imagine having that on a modern day cruise ship now? lol. Poor stewards!! I remember going with my father down to our truck for him to check something and the smell was all "livestock show"! One quiet night on the upper interior deck the gypsy bear trainer entered the room with his guitar. Somewhere in my memory they were either from Russia or from Spain, but given the politics at the time I would assume from Spain. Now, this was a ferry boat so there were no shows, events, or live entertainment except a rowdy game of checkers or solitaire. At the time, the room (& the ferry) felt HUGE... but in reality, it was probably smaller than the smallest cruise ship in Carnival's fleet. ... BUT ... back to the the Gypsy bear trainer. There he was - shaved head, gold earring, leather vest, and a worn guitar. He sat down on a low bench, under an overhead light that shown on his head like a spotlight... and he tucked his head, closed his eyes, and proceeded to play. It was flamenco guitar. I was mesmerized. My mother and I sat there for hours until we were just too tired to keep our eyes open. I can still see that moment as a photograph in my mind.
The next afternoon I was invited to play poker with the Gypsy and his two sons ... with my mom sipping her coffee one table over, of course. It was so odd, but I won every single hand! haha We were playing for pennies of course, but had at least a couple dollars worth ... until mom called me over to say that we had to leave to get ready to go on shore. Ah, my time with the Gypsies. They debarked the ferry at the next port and I watched wagon after wagon head off towards the mountains of Alaska.
It was an amazing trip of a lifetime for me. There were girls dancing the can-can and a "medicine" show by a costumed local with chains of gold nuggets around his belt. There were totem poles in Sitka and Ketchikan. I am flooded with memories of the Alaskan Steam Train Ride from Skagway to Whitehorse where I saw the wagon ruts of the old Gold Rush trail. Oh and the local boys I met in Skagway! I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me go play pool with them at the local sandwich shop. And yes, she was sitting on the bench outside enjoying the scenery - very close by. I fell in "serious like" with one of the boys for that evening and we promised to write. I think maybe we did write once or twice, but then we both moved on with our lives. haha
AND the salmon in Juneau, the capital of Alaska! I had THE best salmon dinner ever and have not had salmon that good... ever. It was up on the side of a mountain in Juneau - dinner and a show. We had fire grilled salmon, fresh caught and cleaned on site, with a baked potato on the side. They would walk over to your plate and dump that sizzling steak size slab of pink deliciousness! AND after we were stuffed and satisfied, we walked to a little theater and watched a local production of an old fashioned Melodrama. I still have the flyer packed away with the photos (and packed away so deeply that I could not find them to pull out and scan a few... sniff).
When we turned to head home, there was an inch of brown dirt on the back of the Skamper from driving a long portion of the Alcan Highway, so dad could say he did it! I saw acres and acres of pipes waiting to be laid out for the Alaskan Pipeline!
AND.. my souvenir... a genuine rabbit fur Alaskan Parka with fox fur trim. Yes, this was before it was frowned upon to wear dead animal skins. I loved that coat. I was the ONLY girl at my high school... or maybe all of Texas... to wear an Alaskan Parka that winter. I kept it for YEARS in the back of my closet until ... I don't know... I guess until I got tired of moving it. It was yellowed with age and had bald spots on the elbows. BUT... it went away, but not the memory.
SO... Here I sit working on cruise tour quotes to Alaska for several friends and family members. Boy have things ever changed! There are 9, 10, 11, and up to 18 day Cruise Tour packages. There is the Denali Tour, The Gold Rush Tour, the Canadian Wilderness Tour, the Mountain Resort Experience, the Family Tundra Express, and many more! There are inside cabins, similar to what I experienced on my first trip, ocean view, balconies, and of course those beautiful suites! The method of travel is definitely upgraded, but the view is still amazing and breathtaking.
I will go back one day! I NEED to go back. Meanwhile, I will travel vicariously through my loyal clients. While I am putting together quotes and itineraries, let me know if you want me to send one to you. Never hurts to look.
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Who knows... maybe you will meet a flamenco playing gypsy who will let you win at poker!
Bear Trainer (perhaps not a gypsy, but a good photo!)