Iâ€™ve travelled my entire life to different places around the world, but I have never seen anything as impressive and majestic as Alaska. I must say however, as awesome as the destination was, the means to the end was by far the most cherished memory I will take away. This was a much needed, long awaited Ahuja Family outing that has long been in the making and shout out to my two sisters in law, Roohi and Jassi for coordinating this, would not have been possible without you.
The anticipation leading up to the cruise was intense. Making sure we had all the travel docs, bare essentials, necessities and then driving to my eldest brotherâ€™s (Sonny) house in Maryland the night before was rather exhausting. Once we got to my brothers place, the topic of discussion was not so much what to expect in Alaska â€“ but wtf we would do for 7 days without internet access, thank you in-flight access and the handy iPad. My father had already arrived here from his place and we were all set to go. Precisely at 4:00 a.m. the shuttle showed up at the house and on our merry way we went to the airport where we met up with my other brother (Monty) and his family.
We flew into Seattle and spent one night there and got to see the sites and had a good ole time with the fam. I did manage to mix a little business with this trip and met up with Sam Sim the co-founder of Guppy Media and he was nice enough to pick a few of us up and show us his office and his fabulous staff. After a brief meeting and signing of an agreement (top secret stuff) we headed back to the hotel and called it a day.
This trip, I could tell from the start, would be very different from our my other cruise, so many personalities, so many likes, dislikes and stories and experiences to share.
What especially intrigued me about visiting Alaska was the sheer vastness of it. We all know that Alaska is big (more than double the size of Texas and one-fifth of the size of the entire continental U.S.). But I couldn’t grasp exactly how big “big” was … or what the difference was between a glacier and an iceberg … or how blue whales looked and sounded. Most importantly: What on earth should we have packed for Alaska’s climate?
Alaska certainly met my expectations size-wise (it’s huge!), but there were plenty of things that took us by surprise both on and off the ship.
Icebergs. Glaciers. Black bears. Brr, it’s cold, right? Not always. I’d read that from June through August, average lows and highs in southern Alaska (where the ships are) range from the 40’s into the 60’s so we duly packed jackets, sweatshirts and anything else to keep us warm.
Wouldn’t you know we visited Alaska during a precipitation-free, beautiful sunny weather, no joke â€“ we were in tank tops on the top level cruise sunny weather! Temperatures soared above 70 degrees every day.
The Perfect Family Vacation
A lot of us considered Alaska to be a bit of a “mature” destination (most of the people we knew personally who’d been there were grandparents and/or senior citizens), but the minute we boarded ship I realized we had it all wrong. There were lots of children onboard, mostly school-aged, and they all seemed to be having a grand old time. The biggest surprise was seeing so many multi-generational groups — families, and older folks traveling with their children and grandchildren.
Alaska is a great choice for families who want to introduce their kids to nature and science — something other than the surf-and-sand experience. It certainly helped that Royal Caribbean offer innovative and extensive children’s programs and facilities to cater to the kids who hit the high seas each year.
We all wished we could stand in some magical spot and see whales breeching, eagles soaring, bears lurking, etc. Unfortunately, nature is unpredictable, and in seven days we did not see much on our own. However, we did take a fabulous excursion to go see some whales and also went to an amazing camp for dogs where we got to ride on a dog sled.
Ironically enough, one of the more stunning stops we had was not in Alaska but Victoria BC, a heavenly place called Butchart Gardens.
Built by cement king Robert Pim Butchart and his wife Jennie, Butchart Gardens began in 1904 as a project to reclaim a quarry pit near their Vancouver Island estate. By the 1920s, her work had turned into a tourist attraction that brought more than 50,000 people a year. Thereâ€™s something amazing about how controlled the gardens appear, surrounded as they are by the nature and forests around.
The Gardens are spread across 55 acres and are broken up into different types of arrangements. Thereâ€™s a Japanese Garden, a hanging basket garden and a grove of old growth trees.
We certainly werenâ€™t the only one enjoying the Gardens on this day. Butchart draws visitors from all over the world; I heard people speaking Japanese, French and German, among other languages which I canâ€™t begin to guess. Flowers are a worldwide draw, it seems
All Good Things Must Come To an End
The central priority of our trip was being able to spend quality time with our whole family, this was the first time all of us had actually got to go on a vacation together. Our cruise to Alaska was truly a therapeutic journey of a lifetime. My wife, daughter and I feel so blessed to have had the experience, not only to go to Alaska, but being with all the family members from our father to my youngest nephew. I am absolutely sure it will long be regarded as one of our most memorable vacations.