An Alaskan floating paradise

Last updated 12:05 25/06/2012

A week ago Nathan and I boarded the Safari Endeavor - a tour boat that would become our floating paradise for a week of cruising around Alaska.

Our temporary home offered more-spectacular-by-the-day views, an open bar, whale wakeup calls, hot tubs overlooking glaciers, an open bar, daily gourmet meals, kayaks, paddle boards, small boats for day trips, and an open bar.The Safari Endeavour

The night before we disembarked in Juneau, one crew member, obviously prepared for the usual tour's-end reaction, gently reminded passengers that the staff knew all the hiding places.

So, forced to face reality, we got off the boat this morning with a bunch of new email addresses, roughly 1000 more photos, and memories that, without question, fulfil the Beatles lyrics that spurred this blog's title.

We saw some amazing scenery during our first month in America, but Alaska has been entirely jaw-dropping - and judging by the reactions of other people on the cruise, I'm not alone in thinking that nothing else can compete. What other places in the world have this effect?

The following are my, very summarised, notes on our cruise.

Our first of many happy hours on the boatDay 1.
Picked up at Juneau airport by a stretch limo (this probably doesn't excite everyone - but, mate, I might as well have been a movie star!). Having boarded ship and dropped bags in rooms, we headed to the lounge bar for our first taste of happy hour, which would quickly become a favourite nightly ritual (did I mention open bar?).

Day 2.
First wakeup call came at 7.30am, when a voice over the speaker informed us there was a pod of humpback whales on port side. Thus ensued a frantic couple of minutes as we attempted to wake up, find clothes and cameras, and get out before the animals disappeared.

A seal jumping towards the boat

The whales actually hung around for at least an hour, so, in hindsight, the swearing and exclamations of "you're going to make me miss them" were slightly unnecessary.

We touched down in Glacier Bay National Park, where our animal photo portfolio grew substantially as we added the whales, mountain goats, seals and a grizzly bear with her three cubs.

Day 3.
With only 34 passengers on board, we were able and eager to sign up for all the daily activities being offered - small boat tours, hikes, kayaks. Looking like oompa loompas after rugging up in woollies and lifejackets, we were motored out through a maze of icebergs to Reid Glacier. Later we got even closer in kayaks - Nathan near enough to taste the ice.

Glacier on the rocksDay 4.
Figuring we could divide and conquer, Nathan and I split up for the morning's activities - him heading out for a long kayak session, and me, a hike over this place called George Island with relics from WWII.

Every amateur photographer on board had the chance that afternoon to get a first-class photo of a humpback with a backdrop of incredible snow-capped mountains, as a pod of whales danced around the ship for several hours.

Day 5.
Activity envy set on this day, with one hiking group (Nathan's) spotting a black bear, and a small boat tour (mine) seeing a moose family. The need to pick the right group, the right guide and the right activity was reinforced.
Routine was also well under way, with cocktail and dining groups now well established. As I'm sure is typical for Kiwis and Aussies who come across each other in the northern hemisphere, we created a sort of "down under alliance" with two Australian couples on board, who embraced us as their "cousins".

Day 6.
Nathan and I joined forces again, jumping into a double kayak - disturbingly nicknamed "divorce boats" by the cruise staff. However, whereas competition against each other can be our downfall, competition against others brings out the best in both of us. It didn't matter that no one else was racing - we won that kayak Paddle boarding in Alaskasession.
We also got our first try at paddle boarding. Nathan was the first passenger on the ship to have a go, and, after a well observed fall into the freezing water, was possibly the reason few others had a go.

The afternoon was devoted to a hike over a glacier - and I had a pleasing moment when someone else managed to step into a huge hole and fill his gumboot with mud (judge me all you want, people, but sometimes another person's misfortune is downright entertaining).

Day 7.
Back on those paddle boards, Nathan was determined to prove that the previous day's in-the-drink incident was deliberate. After circumnavigating the ship at speed, he casually stepped off his board and back on to the ship ... I still have my doubts.

We and the Aussies made good of our final happy hour - which, we were told, cemented our reputation as the "fun table" in the dining room.
Whales feeding at sunset
Day 8.
Well that's today. And, unable to find a stowaway spot, we have disembarked. Next mission - finding accommodation in Juneau.

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13 comments
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Leon   #1   01:40 pm Jun 25 2012

I'm trying to decide if a cruise with only 34 people on it would be heaven, or hell? I did a P&O last month with 1800 people on board, and it meant that you could identify the people who were catastrophically boring, and avoid them just in the sheer numbers on board.

maryanne   #2   03:15 pm Jun 25 2012

We have done about 4 cruises and they are really AWESOME meet so many interesting people, enjoy beautiful food and scenery even if we had to share one cruise with 2560 Amercians on board and 5 kiwis..Have always wanted to do Alaskan one this looks so tempting. Enjoying your blog.

JCC   #3   03:46 pm Jun 25 2012

This has almost made me revoke our "no cruise holiday" ruling. I am so very jealous of the amazing scenery and wildlife viewing. But curious like Leon -34 people could be heaven or hell.

PB   #4   04:32 pm Jun 25 2012

Thanks for this! Awesome, something I've always wanted to do so good to see what it's like.

SJ   #5   05:39 pm Jun 25 2012

I think boutique cruising is definitely the way to go! Easy to get on and off and generally more hospitable than the larger cruise companies! After doing a Blue Lagoon and Captain Cook cruise around the islands of Fiji I was sold on the smaller ships :D You are given much more personal attention by the crew, which always makes you feel special! Sounds like one amazing time you and Nathan had.. I'm a wee bit envious!

Damage   #6   07:41 pm Jun 25 2012

What a great trip! Are there many cruises around Alaska - did you see many other tourists? Is it light late at night over there?

ER   #7   08:22 pm Jun 25 2012

Wow so many activities!! Very exciting stuff. Sounds like you guys had a whale of a time - ha ha ha

Ice Man   #8   08:23 am Jun 26 2012

Great trip by the sounds. Did you see any orca?

Jimmy   #9   04:53 pm Jun 26 2012

Wow what an amazing-looking cruise. I've never even heard of cruises around Alaska I figured it was be solid ice in some parts. Was the limo ride part of the experience or booked separately?

Heaven or hell only if you have a s**t attitude going into it. What's the difference between a 34-person cruise and a Top Deck tour bus? It's just what you make of it! Love the pics, look forward to the next instalment!

RJ   #10   09:15 pm Jun 26 2012

The cruise sounds amazing. So jealous. Do they go all year,or is there a season? Do you know if there are also cruises that go even further north up the Canadian coast?really enjoying your blog. Keep it up.


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