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Ringo Boitano: A Return to Alaska

the cruise ship Radiance of the Seas sailing by the Hubbard Glacier, Alaska
Radiance of the Seas and the 76 miles long, 6.5 miles wide, and 1200 feet deep Hubbard Glacier. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

A Return to Alaska
By Ringo Boitano

eople just want more. The Alaska cruise continues to be the second most popular cruise in the world, with many of its visitors repeat passengers. It all makes perfect sense to me. What can be said about a state that is one-fifth the size of the continental United States and four times the size of California. It is a land of spectacular Ice Age glaciers, Native American culture, breathtaking mountain ranges and fjords, historic Russian settlements, the Midnight Sun, and world-class sport fishing. I’ve often thought that the Aleut’s name for the region is still the best: ALYESKA – THE GREAT LAND (www.travelalaska.com).

Sitting on the deck of the 2,501 passenger: Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas with the Vancouver sun at my back, I couldn’t wait for the cruise to begin. Soon we would be gliding through the stunning the Inside Passage. Yes, I am one of those repeat visitors. I knew what to expect, and relished the attractions that awaited me. I opted for the cruise/land tour package, which would also include transportation by motor coach and train into the state’s mighty interior. I was also ready for a serious dose of RCCL’s seemly endless amenities: Themed bars and lounges, specialty restaurants, indoor/outdoor country club, spa and fitness center, Las Vegas-style shows and Casino Royale. Perhaps this time I really will climb the rock climbing wall. I recalled that after a long day of excursions retuning to the comfort of the vessel always felt like a return home.

houses and shops on stilts along Ketchikan Creek
Credit: Deb Roskamp

Ketchikan: Today Ketchikan is billed as the Salmon Capital of the World. If it’s a fishing excursion that you want, this is the place for it. My own personal pick is a tour of the Totem Heritage Center, which feature a collection of carved totem poles and caring demonstrations.

aerial view of downtown Juneau along the Gastineau Channel
Credit: Deb Roskamp

Juneau:

Spread along Gastineau Channel, Juneau is the only US capitol city inaccessible by road. A trip to Mendenhall Glacier is the most popular excursion, but my pick is the 1800 foot tramway ride to the top of Mount Roberts for wildlife viewing platforms, Juneau Raptor Center and breathtaking views.

the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
Credit: Deb Roskamp

Skagway: Located the northern tip of the Lynn Canal, Skagway was born as the land entryway for thousands of gold-crazed miners to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. The town is well-preserved and rich in gold rush history. My pick: A trip aboard the vintage White Pass & Yukon Route railway, for a train journey back into time.

Saint Michaelís Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka
Credit: Deb Roskamp

Sitka: My own personal favorite of all of Alaska’s destinations, Sitka is nestled on Baranof Island and offers an amazing mix of Tlingit Indian, Russian and American history and culture. The attractions are endless. My pick: The Sitka National Historical Park. The 113-acre coastal park features the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, plus beaches, hiking trails and scores of totem poles.

Seward: One of Alaska's oldest communities, Seward is considered the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. This where land packages begin, and I look forward in the future to spending more time is this historic community in the future.

Fairbanks: Based 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks is the ideal venue to experience a real living history, highlighted by the majestic midnight sun. My pick: An excursion on the Riverboat Discovery Sternwheeler, with a stop at an Athabascan village, for traditional fishing, hide tanning and dog sledding demonstrations.

Denali National Park: Departing from Fairbanks, the Wilderness Express train travels deep into the Alaskan interior to the 6 million acre Denali National Park. Seeing one of the world's last great frontiers from the comfort of this luxurious glass-domed train car only enhances the experience. My pick: A seven-hour bus ride on the Tundra Wilderness Tour for undisturbed wildlife viewings.

Talkeetna: A locale that’s perfect to just bask in the beauty, Talkeetna also offers fishing, nature and float tours, and white water rafting. My Pick: A helicopter ride above Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. To experience such a heaven’s view was like being there at the moment of creation.

Anchorage: Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage boasts all the urban pleasures of fine dining, shopping, nightlife, and world-class museums. My Pick: The twenty-six acre Alaska Native Heritage Center, which provides a fascinating insight into the arts, customs and lifestyles of the five distinct native cultures found in Alaska. Not a bad way to end my return to ALYESKA.



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Feedback for Ringo

I love Ringo's piece on historic hotels. I once stayed at the Laurentian in Montreal - is it still around, is it historic? And then there was the Heups in Bismark.

It is interesting that two of your entries are in CANADA.

Brent, Seattle, WA

It's no mystery that you are great at what you do.

Sandee, Seattle, WA

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The Mystery on the Oasis pics are very funny!

Ramon, Kansas City, MO

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Ha ha ha ha ha...love your "schtick" Ringo!!

Dolly, Las Vegas, NV

Hello the travelling Boitano's hope you enjoy. Best wishes.

Elsa Magdalena Berno-Boitano, Laussane, Switzerland

My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it? Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks for blazing the trail!

Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA

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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.

Key Logger, New York

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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest bar.

Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Jeff–

Thanks for taking the time for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.

- Ringo

Ringo,

I thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.

To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then. The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda" been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this to yourself all these many years.

Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.

Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA

Hey, Ringo –

Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos, too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.

Mick, Greenbay, WI

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Mick –

Now that football season is over --- I’ve often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off season ---- it’s great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy. Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products, and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations --- you know, what’s a city, which one is a town, ect – so better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to argue about any subject.

- Ringo


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