Having just returned from Alaska, I am more aware than ever that going to Alaska means, for many people, taking a cruise. But, Melissa and I aren’t cruisers, so we did a land tour. Nonetheless, it is now impossible to be in Alaska without encountering cruisers. From the gift (junk) shops in Anchorage to Denali, cruise passengers are everywhere. The Denali National Park area, that is, outside the national park, even has hotels dedicated to cruisers who are taking side trips there. For better or worse, Alaska has been impacted by cruise ship based tourism. One of our land cruising stops was Seward, and there was a ship docked there for our entire visit. I hear good things about Alaskan cruises and the sights which can be seen, leading to this story. Many years ago, my Dad, Herman, decided to take my Mom, Carole, on an Alaskan cruise. He was excited that this was an auction item at one of the trucking conventions he attended and he aggressively bid on the “Alaskan cruise” and won the prize. However, this was not what one thinks of when cruising to Alaska. It was, instead of a scenic, inside passage tour, a cargo ship taking the most direct route from Seattle to Anchorage, fully loaded. The accommodations were in the guest cabin on a container ship. Dad was excited that he would get to dine with the Captain. Turns out, Mom and Dad were the only passengers on the ship and they had the only, non crew, cabin! There were no buffets, entertainment, or sightseeing opportunities. Just full steam ahead on a working ship. As it turned out, Dad enjoyed it; he was thrilled to see how everything worked. And, the Captain had a model train layout in his cabin, an interest of Dad’s, so he was in “hog heaven.” As for Mom, she brought along several books. There were no nice ship corridors, elevators, balconies, etc.; it was decks, stairs, and portholes. There are Alaskan cruises, and there are Alaskan cruises. Alaskans depend on the cargo transported by sea, and, thankfully, these ships ply the seas daily. But, we’ve often laughed at this situation and how different people’s perspectives can be! Bon voyage.
As everyone who knows me is aware, I have good reasons for not being a fan of cruises. I also dislike the changes they have brought to one of my formerly favorite places, Key West. The changes cruise lines and their passengers have brought to Alaska in the 31 years between David’s and my visits there were astounding. I’m sure many of them are positive for certain segments for the economy but not everyone reaps these economic benefits. For example, local residents of Seward lamented that the cruise ships clog their harbor’s parking lots with noisy, stinky buses, all departing for Anchorage, never allowing passengers any time to patronize local businesses. All of this being said, this post is not about the glamorous “inside passage” cruises with which most people are familiar. When Herman told David and me that he and Carole were going on an Alaskan cruise, I immediately, and wrongly, thought he meant they were going on a touristy excursion on a luxury cruise ship. But, knowing Herman as I did, I should have known to expect the unexpected. When he described the cruise as taking place on a freighter hauling containers from Seattle to Anchorage, I was, in a word, horrified. Thoughts of mutiny and jumping overboard were at the top of my mind! I asked Herman why in the world did he have decide to be the highest bidder for something so awful. He explained that his love of transportation extended to ships and that “cruising” on a freighter was a long time dream of his. Carole, of course, shared my apprehension, but she went along with the plans. Upon their return, I asked Carole what she enjoyed about the cruise and she said the captain was friendly, they had delicious meals with the captain, and she read 9 books. Herman, on the other hand, was gleeful about his adventure aboard a freighter. There are 2 types of Alaskan cruises, 1 for the typical tourists and the other, for adventurers like Herman and Carole. As for me, land ho!