Retreats, Trains, and the Last Frontier

September 28, 2018

by: Heidi Stevenson

Heat.  Wildfires.  Smoke. You’ve slayed the fire-breathing beast of Summer in the West and earned a reprieve—majestic mountains, icy blue glaciers calving into pristine fjords, quaint Gold Rush towns, eagles soaring free, and dancing Northern Lights.  In the dead of winter, paradise may be bikinis and palm trees. But summer’s end calls for a pine-tree paradise, so we recently treated 17 of our top clients and their guests on a seven night adventure to the Last Frontier—Alaska.

Jumping-Off Point: Seattle, Washington—The Emerald City

Adventure Vessel: Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas

Ports of Call: Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord and Glacier, and Victoria, British Columbia.

Let’s start with the ports of call and work our way back.

Juneau the best place to see in Juneau?

Mendenhall Glacier.  Some of us headed to the visitors center to get up-close to this enormous glacial wonder.  We hiked an easy trail to incredible Nugget Falls which tumbles from the cliffside and runs into the fjord right next to Mendenhall Glacier.  Others leveled up and took a helicopter ride for an eagle-eye view of the glacier, landing right on it to see it as only bears and the intrepid dare.

Later we explored more of Juneau and did a little fishing, snagging some huge silver and sockeye salmon from the shore.  We finished off the day eating some of the unbelievably amazing crab at Tracy’s Crab Shack. This isn’t a suggestion. Missing out on these king crab legs will leave a hole the size of Alaska in your soul.

Which Way? Skagway!

All aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway!  Mountains, glaciers, tunnels, waterfalls, and trestles slipped past our vintage train windows in a stunning panorama as we climbed to the summit of White Pass.  Experiencing Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point, and Dead Horse Gulch, so named for the estimated 3,000 pack animals who died along this trail, we couldn’t help but admire the grit of the prospectors who risked it all to find gold in them thar hills…er, massive mountains…during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

Changing gears and vessels, we opted to spend the afternoon exploring the ocean on a Zodiac high-speed raft.  Incredible! Spectacular waterfalls. Enticing timbered vistas. Bald eagles wheeling overhead, humpback whales surfacing for air, curious seals playing in the sea.  Now this is quintessential Alaska! Though the guides were prepared with gear to keep us comfortable in any weather, mid 70’s and sunny skies made all that unnecessary.  No matter which way you see it, by train or by sea, Skagway is breathtaking!

The Fjord Awakens

Sailing into Tracy Arm Fjord, a narrow, deep channel lined at times with 3,000ft tall cliffs, affords some of the most spectacular scenery of the entire trip.  Waterfalls plunge from rocky, evergreen heights, deep blue icebergs bob on calm waters, and ahead lie the incredible twin Sawyer Glaciers. There is nothing like standing on deck and feeling the rumble as sections of glacial ice calve into the fjord.  But don’t let the glacier capture all your attention or you just might miss brown bears ambling along the shoreline, seal pups resting on ice floes, or a whale’s tail rising from the sea. This is the fjord you’re looking for.

Continued below>>>

From Wild to Wow

Alaska definitely puts the wild in wilderness, but our last port in Victoria, British Columbia delivered beauty of a different kind with its eye-dazzling Butchart Gardens.  Acres of beautifully maintained gardens, tunnels of roses, gorgeous fountains, flowers in a kaleidoscope of colors, and you with your mouth wide open taking in its exquisiteness.  Victoria is a great city and a fun way to add some Canadian flair to the itinerary, eh?

Onboard Awesomeness

Days at sea aren’t dreary when Destinations and Royal Caribbean tag team it.  From learning to surf on a FlowRider session in the rain, to becoming the reigning dodgeball champs of the ship, to hosting one of the best blackjack tournaments to ever be held on the high seas, we made some incredible memories.  Plus, the Explorer of the Seas sports pools and hot tubs, an ice skating rink, a mini golf course, and a rock climbing wall.  But perhaps the most magical moment came gazing skyward as we slipped away from Skagway. Aurora Borealis—the Northern Lights.  None of us will ever forget seeing those phenomenal greens, blues, and yellows dance across the sky.

Awesome ports.  Awesome ship. Awesome service.  Royal Caribbean knows how to do groups right!  Receptions with a live band and tempting canapes and drinks, delicious dining, and inventive group activities.  There is a reason we trusted them with 17 of our top clients! Their attention to detail and wonderful staff make hosting a group on one of their ships a marvelous experience.

The Emerald City

Seattle is definitely a gem worth seeing.  We swung by what for some is sacred ground: the world’s first Starbucks.  Then we headed over to Pike’s Place Market to watch the vendors sling fish at one another (If there was an Olympic event called Fish Flinging, these guys would be gold medalists). Of course we got divine donuts at The Daily Dozen then made our way to the disgusting but iconic Gum Wall to leave our DNA-laden mark on this 50 ft. long, brightly-colored, interactive, alternative art piece.  Miraculously, we were later able to muster up our appetites for lunch at the market.

Pine-Tree Paradise

Summer’s heat requires a cool retreat, and nothing rejuvenates the soul like alpine shores, icy blue glaciers, and majestic peaks.  Alaska and Royal Caribbean never disappoint. This trip was no exception! So breathe deep and gaze skyward. The Northern Lights just might be welcoming your group to the Last Frontier.