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Linda Coffman


A Crystal Clear Alaska Cruise
"Glacier Discovery" Diary

Ketchikan, Alaska
Known as the "Salmon Capital" of the world, my first priority was the catch of the day. I didn't join the fishing excursion, though... I headed for Salmon Etc. to have smoked salmon shipped home. Nearly everything is within walking distance in Ketchikan and I picked up a walking map before leaving Crystal Harmony. It's been nine years since I visited Alaska and in the interim, Ketchikan seems to have grown with more shops and attractions than I remembered. The main ones are still Creek Street where you can tour the infamous Dolly House (of dubious repute) and the Totem Heritage Center, a collection of totem poles gathered from remote villages and displayed on the site. For a taste of the cultural and natural history of the region, I stopped at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center to browse through the exhibits before returning to Crystal Harmony and lunch of (what else!) a salmon burger. (More... Sights to see & things to do in Ketchikan)

Juneau, Alaska
Unlike my last visit to Juneau when tendering ashore was necessary, Crystal Harmony docked right downtown. After petting the bronze statue of Patsy Ann, a bull terrier nicknamed “the official boat greeter of Juneau” in the 1930s because of her habit of meeting all arrivals, I made my way to the bus that was to take us to Mendenhall Glacier and a salmon bake. The park and ranger station at Mendenhall are vastly improved since 1996 with expanded exhibits and informative park rangers on hand eager to share their knowledge and love for the area. We had enough time for a bit of exploration (and to work up an appetite) before heading for the salmon bake. Actually, the salmon was based with a thick mixture of butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice and grilled. Absolutely delicious and seconds were in order! (More... Sights to see & things to do in Juneau)

Glacier Bay
I was particularly excited about our day in Glacier Bay. It promised to begin early as Crystal Harmony was scheduled to enter Glacier Bay at 6am. Determined not to miss a moment, before retiring I turned the television on to the channel with a view from the Bridge Cam (and turned down the sound) so I would have a birds-eye view with my wake up call. My plan didn't include low clouds or fog. Unfortunately, that was the view I awoke to. Plus, there was precipitation on the Bridge Cam. Rain. Oh well, nothing could spoil my day. By the time I hurriedly dressed and finished my room service coffee it was light out and time to head for the Vista Lounge and a spot at the rail. Unfortunately, it was really raining by the time I arrived in the lounge and we were advised that the outside deck was slick.

Margerie Glacier treats Crystal Harmony guests to one of many BIG splashes

It's a long way from the entrance to Glacier Bay and the face of Margerie Glacier, so I settled in with fellow passengers to listen as the park rangers provided commentary and pointed out that we would be seeing if the fog lifted. Rain continued to pour until we began spotting ice floes in the water--lots of ice. The rain let up and I headed for the Promenade Deck for a clear view. Spectacular! This is what we were all anticipating. Margerie Glacier met our arrival with a roar and near-continuous calving as Crystal Harmony settled in for an hour or so. Mid-May is early in the Alaska season, but we got lucky and were able to get very close to the glacier as it calved and calved and calved. My theory is that Mother Nature put on a special show to greet Crystal Harmony, realizing that this is her last season of Alaska cruises. 

Even with the rain it was an extraordinary day and one of the most memorable I've spent at sea. (More about... the Sights to see in Glacier Bay)

College Fjord
Crystal Harmony advanced slowly through College Fjord most of the day. It would be hours before we sighted the glaciers named for Ivy-League schools, but it wasn't time wasted. The day was beautiful and crisp--just perfect for sitting outside with binoculars to watch for wildlife ashore. I didn't see any bears or moose, but did manage to spot a whale, which made my trip complete. After the splendor of Glacier Bay, I thought College Fjord might be a let-down. However, the scenery was magnificent and Mother Nature once again smiled on us as the sun came out to reveal the colors of Harvard Glacier just as we arrived.

Sweet Dreams
One of the special touches on a Crystal cruise that I appreciated the most is the bedding--silky Egyptian cotton sheets, huge down pillows, and feather bed toppers. But they go a step further and extend a "Pillow Menu" with a choice of hypo-allergenic pillows, round neck pillows, firm pillows, and therapeutic sleep-sensitive pillows. No need to pack your own favorite--any of these make you feel like a pampered guest. 

Pure Crystal Touches

  • No need to pack any bath and body goodies either. An ample supply of Aveda products are waiting in the bathrooms. 

  • Refrigerators in all accommodations are kept stocked with bottled water and soft drinks.

  • Naturally everyone wants clean hands, but a lot of us popped into the public bathrooms for another reason--the Elemis hand lotion in a wall dispenser was irresistible.

  • Chilly? Toss the mohair throw over your lap (it's on the closet shelf).

While Crystal Harmony would soon be turning southward for an additional six days of cruising, it was time for me to depart in Whittier. After her final Alaska season and a series of Mexican Riviera cruises, she will depart the Crystal fleet for her new home with parent company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK),  where she will replace its cruise ship, Asuka and will be renamed Asuka II. A new ship is in the planning stages for Crystal Cruises, which aspires to remain a three-ship fleet.

Back to Part One -- > Crystal Harmony Cruise Diary

Cruise Line Profile: Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises - Cruise  Reviews

Crystal Cruises Web Site

Sights to See & Things to Do in Alaska Ports of Call

Cool Cruising - Get ready to go north to Alaska & other cold climates.

Alaska Packing Suggestions - Special requirements for Alaska cruises.

Photographs Copyright © Crystal Cruises & Linda Coffman