So, let’s start this with a brief discussion of excursions. We made a decision not to book through NCL for our flight or excursions, thinking we could save some money and break away from the herd on the ship in doing our own thing. We were right on both counts. After searching out things to do in Ketchikan, the Ketchikan Kayak Company that offered an ocean kayaking trip. Having never kayaked in my life, electing to have my first kayak trip on the open ocean sounded like a very well-considered thing to do, so, reader, we booked it.
On Wednesday morning, then, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the buffet, threw our day’s supplies into my cool, new (and supercheap) lime green waterproof backpack, and walked right off the boat and into a panel van driven by Ryan. A reflection: it’s amazing how much trust we put in people—see a guy holding a laminated paper sign, say hi, and immediately let him drive one and one’s family into the deep woods of Alaska. What could go wrong?
The answer is nothing.
Ryan turned out to be the Mike or Craig of Ketchikan: an amazingly positive, smart, and insightful guy and fantastic tour guide. Ryan’s story: 29 years old, from Ohio, got an Accounting degree from the Ohio State, realized he hated Accounting and wanted to travel the world, has been traveling ever since, picking up tour gigs or odd jobs along the way from Alaska to Wyoming to New Zealand, has been living in Ketchikan for 4 years now and has decided he wants to stay here, hates superhero movies, really likes the Deerhunter, doesn’t understand Millennials. Plus, he performed the amazingly cool move of kayaking with a cup of coffee bungeed to his boat. We loved Ryan!
According to Ryan, we were lucky enough to arrive in Ketchikan on one of only 33 sunny days a year—it was truly beautiful and bright. Weather in Alaska is super unpredictable unless the prediction is that it’s going to rain.
After a couple quick lessons on how to paddle a kayak, a quick life jacket fitting, and a demonstration on how to scoot off the dock into the kayak, we were off in our tandem boats (Ned/Harper, Anne/Penn) and in the open ocean. To be fair, this inlet is fairly calm, but it was still the Pacific!
We had an absolute blast, paddling along the shoreline and across the inlet under blue skies. We got to see bald eagles swooping through the sky, sitting in tree tops, and guarding their massive nest. The kids held starfish as we paddled through remarkably clear waters and gorgeous, slowly swirling seaweed up to where seals might be hiding and saw one popped up to sneak a peek at us before disappearing into the depths. In short, it was incredible! Throughout, Ryan was a convivial conversationalist, and when we asked a question he couldn’t answer, he pulled out his phone and googled it—offering the perfect tech balance to our low-tech tour (or in Ryan speak, “there’s an app for that”).
Ryan had recommended the Burger Queen for lunch, noting cryptically “locals don’t eat seafood.” Sadly, though, BQ was closed for an extended 4th holiday. Up the street, we found Annabelle’s, a longstanding Ketchikan restaurant with an entire menu of unusual tacos: we got the salmon and prime rib (x2) plus Buffalo wings (Upstate!) and a side of crab cakes. Yum!
Scenes from Ketchikan
We had just enough time to make it back to our boat, passing the Dirty Dungee and Arctic Bar: stay classy Ketchikan. That crab image may just be why Ryan told us locals don’t eat seafood.
And then we were off again for the journey to Juneau. The dark ocean against the cloud streaked royal blue sky never gets old. What is invisible, except for the occasional spout of spray or the waves running counter to the current are the many whales swimming alongside the ship. I had this image of an entire flotilla of giant shy whales swimming just below the surface helping our ship get to its next stop, “follow us Norwegian Sun, we’re the Ryans of the ocean.”
After dinner at another main dining room, the Four Seasons, our goal was to do the Battle of the Sexes game show because cruise, but it had already started. So, we settled in for another game of Shanghai, during which I literally fell asleep several times. This led Ned to exclaim that, while he doesn’t mind losing (lie), he could not cotton losing to a sleeping competitor (true).