Sitka, Alaska

After leaving the port in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, our cruise ship, the Celebrity MILLENNIUM headed up through the inside passage for our first port of call in Sitka, Alaska. It was in Sitka that the ship took on the fuel we would need for our eight straight sea days before reaching Japan. Half way through those eight days we are scheduled to cross the International Date Line where we will lost an entire day in a moment’s notice. Yes, this year the month of September has only 29 days in it while on the ship; there is no Friday the 15th!

One of the things that Sitka is known for is the strong Russian cultural heritage. Given that Alaska was actually “Russian America” until it was purchased in 1867, there was and still is quite a Russian presence in the town. Most of what you will want to see on a short visit to the town is on Lincoln Street that runs mostly parallel to the harbor line. You can visit the Sitka Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at sitka.org.

St. Michael's CathedralSt.Michael’s Cathedral sits right in the middle of the “fork in the road” along Lincoln Street as it makes it way down past the shops toward City Hall and Castle Hill. The original cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1966, but fortunately most of the relics, treasures, and paintings were saved by the locals. It took ten years to finance and rebuild and exact replica of the old cathedral, and today’s building is worth a short stop to look inside (and to take photos of the front of it.
Just to the right of St. Michael’s (as you face its front) is the Lutheran Church (of Finnish origin) and with its 1844 Kessler organ from Estonia. It has an interesting mix of glass treatments on the inside.

Totem Pole at Totem SquareContinuing down the street, and down the hill toward the water, on Lincoln Street, you’ll come to a nice grassy park area in front of Pioneer Home. This state home was built in 1934 for elderly Alaskans and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places (visitors are welcome). In the park area out in front of the Home is Totem Square, punctuated by a tall totem pole that displays the double-headed eagle of Sitka’s Russian heritage. The plaque gives the chronology and the history of the Baranov Totem Pole.

Russian Bishop's House Russian Bishop's HouseGoing back up Lincoln Street past the main stop light (the only one?) you’ll see the Russian Bishop’s House. This is a National Historic Landmark Site, and it’s the oldest intact Russian building in Sitka. It was built in 1842 by the Russian American Company (remember that what we now call Alaska was called Russian America before its 1867 purchase by the USA) as a residence for the bishop of the Orthodox Church. When you’re in Sitka, you’ll notice the proximity, about a quarter mile, of the Bishop’s House to St. Michael’s Cathedral back down Lincoln Street.

Our time in Sitka was short, but it was nice to be able to stretch our land legs as we would be using only sea legs for the next eight days!


Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out an infrequent newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2017 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. Ownership of images and content from linked sources remains with those sources or their attributions; no ownership by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC, is implied or claimed.




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Dutch Harbor — A Friendly Port

September 13, 2016 — onboard the Celebrity MILLENNIUM
Unless you’ve cruised through the Aleutian Islands or you’re a fan of the television show The Deadliest Catch, you’ve probably not heard of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. It is a small town with a permanent population of about 4,000 residents so it’s a big deal when a cruise ship holding 3,000 passengers arrives.

As the Celebrity MILLENNIUM pulled into port a few days ago, we felt appreciated by the locals as they dispatched all four of their school buses to ferry us from the dock to the town’s main meeting place, the Safeway grocery store! I think it’s also the place with the largest parking lot as many municipal services were there on display: Fire, Police, Paramedics. I was one of many who decided to walk the two miles since we’d just had four consecutive sea days — it was nice to be on solid ground. On the way to town I passed the airport, and it’s one of those that stops the road traffic if a plane is crossing the road while taking off or landing.
dutchharborairport-2-compresseddutchharborairport-1-compressedI made it to Safeway, bought some postcards, jotted a few notes, put the mailing labels on them, and mailed them at the nearby Post Office.
A real highlight in town is the Aleutian Islands World War II Museum. aleutianww2museum-01-compressed It’s not a very large building, but it has a small movie room and an upper floor with additional exhibits. They opened early for us and it was nice to see that there is no entrance fee for veterans — that’s a classy move.aleutianww2museum-05-compressedaleutianww2museum-06-compressed
I continued my walk across the Captain’s Bay Bridge to the actual island of Unalaska; the ship is docked at Amaknak Island. One of the main sites here is the Russian Orthodox Church, aka, Church of the Holy Ascension. The church was not open for tours but we were able to stroll around the grounds and take photos.
russianorthodoxchurch-1-compressedrussianorthodoxchurch-2-compressedThe ship tied up in a commercial docking area in the Iliuliuk Bay, and there is a small river on Unalaska Island that feeds out of the bay into Unalaska Lake. Huge salmon were spawning in that river, and it was an incredible sight to see. In addition to the photos below, I’ve also posted some videos on my YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/Stuart1947Gustafson)
iliuliukriver-compressedisaaluxbridge-2-compressedspawningsalmon-2-compressedspawningsalmon-4-compressedAccording to the meticulously detailed map provided by the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Convention & Visitors’ Bureau (Click Here for their website), I had already walked five miles and I hadn’t had lunch. I’m not one of those cruisers who runs back to the ship for the “free meal,” but I was getting hungry. As I walked back toward the ship (another three miles), I stopped in at the Norvegian Rat Saloon (Yes, it is spelled with a v and not a w).norvegianratsaloon-1-compressedThe big lunch crowd (mostly from the ship) — pictured below — had already had their Crab Fest and had departed, so it was much quieter. norvegianratsaloon-4-compressednorvegianratsaloon-5-compressed My server Teressa (not to be confused with her sister Teresa; true statement) wore a friendly smile and was very pleasant. I had a delicious Aleutian Sandwich with pastrami and all the fixings; the homemade chips were sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for a nice added touch. And yes, the Alaskan Amber tasted mighty good!
I was going to walk the remaining two miles back to the ship, but the mist outside was getting pretty thick, so I decided that I’d rather stay dry. So I walked over to the “center of everything” — yes, the Safeway — and rode a school bus back to the ship.
For completeness, I did go to the Museum of the Aleutians, which is supposed to be very good. But I don’t like it when a place does not post their admission prices in a visible place. The only way to find out how much it costs go inside is to stand in line and then be told by the clerk — I didn’t go in.

Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), is an avid TripAdvisor reviewer, and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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Heading to Unalaska!

September 4, 2016 — in the Pacific Ocean
Celebrity-MillenniumYes; you read that correctly. I’m currently cruising on Celebrity MILLENNIUM heading out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to our first port of call in Alaska. The port is called Dutch Harbor, home of the TV show The Deadliest Catch, and it’s on the island of Unalaska — look it up; that’s it name!

It’s not surprising that the weather is “not ideal” for cruising as the weather has been cool and damp. We left Vancouver two days ago on the 2nd, and we are having four straight Sea Days before we get Dutch Harbor. We are holding steady on a 285 degree heading; I thought we would head more northerly, but in looking at a chart, Unalaska is almost due West from Vancouver! Dutch Harbor is a small port with a few museums, and I hope to walk around and visit all of them (there are no organized ship tours).

I gave my first talk yesterday and it was on “Journaling Your Trip.” I received many suggestions (no surprise) on how other travelers do their organizing of their trip information. Some of the suggestions were excellent, such as adding sketches into your journal (even if you’re not an artist). I liked that idea. This afternoon I begin my “Music of the Masters” series of talks with an overview of classical music and an introduction to the five masters I’ll present later in the cruise. Speaking of music, the evening entertainment has been excellent. We had a great pianist last night; the night before was a brief introduction of a vocalist and a magician — I watched closely and I still don’t understand how the cut rope becomes whole again! Perhaps that’s why they call it magic!

For those not fond of Formal Nights — they’re gone! We now have what’s called Evening Chic — tuxes and ties are no longer required for the men. Let’s see how it turns out. I brought my ties, so I’ll probably wear one.

There’s not much to talk about on Sea Days; I’ll be back after we’ve been to Dutch Harbor on the 7th.

Happy Travels!
Stuart



Stuart Gustafson is America’s International Travel Expert® who speaks on cruise ships, writes novels, sends out a monthly newsletter (almost every month!), and loves everything about travel. Visit his website at www.stuartgustafson.com. You can also connect with him and other travelers on his International Travel Expert page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/International-Travel-Expert-147321228683651/


All information and images copyright © 2016 by Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC. America’s International Travel Expert is a U.S. Registered Trademark of Stuart Gustafson Productions, LLC.




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