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Putting the tourist hat on

Here's the Thing

Posted: August 12, 2012 - 8:00am

My mother gave my husband and me two tickets she won with one of the popular cruise line companies that leaves Seward and ventures into the Kenai Fjords National Park. The tour itself was seven hours long and included a buffet of salmon and prime rib. My husband mentioned how excited I must be about the prime rib, my favorite meal when we celebrate special occasions. Although it’s true, he still got punched in the arm for making me feel like a fatty.

We woke up in our home in Kenai (perfectly natural) at the ugly hour of 5:30 a.m. (not natural at all). I’m not sure if you’ve met that hour, but it basically lets you know that unless you pump your body with caffeine or tape your eyelids to your forehead, not much enthusiasm is happening.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to wear my hoodie even though the weather said twenty percent chance of rain, but mostly sunny. I even brought shorts just in case. When we pulled into Seward, my naïve optimism about the weather punched me in the face.

Let me give you an idea what we rolled up on when boarding our cruise. Cold, heavy fog and tourists. I love tourists. But this was a whole new breed. They had on expensive outdoorsy brands, waterproof everything, hiking boots to the ankle (more adventurous then rustic), and cameras with various gadget attachments. I felt out of place. My eyes darted back and forth staring at the people’s multi-pocketed backpacks. When we go to Seward, Homer, or Anchorage, not once have I said to myself, “You know what I really need to bring? My backpack.” My brain was not in hiking mode, it

was in see-Orca-whales mode. They were prepared and I was not.

After boarding the impressive tour boat, we sat down at our table with six other people and the tour began. The female tour guide over the intercom made me frown by saying phrases like, “the stress of the valley bore down to give birth to the fjord,” Ok, maybe she didn’t say exactly that, but with hushed tones over the intercom she probably did. And “hear how the glaciers sing. What they’re saying is...” and I’m like, lady. Please. Let me have my own conversation with the glacier.

On the upper deck you can see and actually hear the glaciers. They crackle and when chunks fall into the ocean it sounds like thunder. It’s magical, but what made it really special is my husband enjoyed it. He grew up in Washington, so I forget that he never studied this type of stuff in school like us Alaskan kids. It was like watching a wee child on Christmas morning. (Just kidding.)

The marine wildlife put on a great show that day. A band of puffins flew by and I begged them to hijack the tour. A couple pods of friendly Orca whales swam by and tempted me to jump overboard. Overall, the sea creatures were happy to see us and evoked a lot of excitement.

The buffet was delicious, but I skipped the salmon, because I’ve eaten enough salmon in my lifetime that I’m picky with how I eat it. After lunch everyone at my table fell asleep, so I got the best hot chocolate of my life and went on the upper deck.

Then it happened. Right in my line of sight a humpback whale peeked out. After the tour guide spotted it, she said it dived down. Everyone sighed and went to leave, but since I was already there, I stayed. All of a sudden the giant whale made its way out of the water at a full speed jump, turned to show its impressive belly, and splashed on its side back into the water.

Hallelujah. I said it must be trained for the Olympics, but like usual I was the only one laughing at my jokes. Then the whale took its tail (the only body part to view) and smacked the water 47 times with it, like it was fanning someone on a hot day. After that, it turned on its side and waved its fin out of the water, as to wave us all goodbye. It was glorious. The Alaskan whale seemed trained with such a grand performance, but of course it wasn’t.

Here’s the thing: Seven hours is way too long on a tour boat. Unless you have an excellent partner (one that doesn’t sleep) it might not be so bad. But even so, you can’t beat the sights and adventure of having an Alaskan experience, one that you can’t get anywhere else in the world. It’s the end of summer, be a tourist and enjoy this place we live in. (Even *if* you’re not decked out in hiking gear the entire time.)

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