Southeast Alaska

          I had set the alarm clock to 3:15 am so we could look at Juneau. Overnight the big diesel engines continued to flood the ship with a warm, harmonic rumbling. That and the gentle rocking as we plowed southward lulled me off to sleep.
          I was awakened at 1:30 am by dead quiet. The engines were off, and the floodlights outside indicated that we were docked. Apparently I had misread the schedule or we had gotten in early. Being too tired to get up, I turned off the alarm and fell back asleep.
          Around 4 am I was awakened by morning light; it was very quiet but the ship was rocking noticeably left and right as we sailed through a wide channel. I checked the GPS to see where we were, finding that we were only about 20 miles south of Juneau. I slept very lightly, waking up again at 5:15 am. I finally realized that the cold was keeping me awake -- the room had dipped to 64 degrees according to my travel clock-thermometer, so I gathered a few more blankets and was asleep again. It was only when I woke at 9 am to find Shannon already up that I mentioned the cold, and she pointed out that we did have a thermostat. She offered me another blanket from her bed (making four blankets covering me), and with that and the room warming up I finally slept well.
          We got up after 11 am in time to go up top and see the old Russian town of Petersburg. The weather was mild (55 deg F) and sunny. We disembarked for about 20 minutes to look at the pretty, bustling town but found almost no stores or shops near the port, so we got back on and had dinner in the cafeteria as the ship pushed off. Shannon had a cheeseburger and fries, and I had spaghetti, corn, and garlic bread. With the ship trembling as the directional propellers pushed us into the harbor, I likened the experience to eating in a Furr's during a weak earthquake. After lunch we went to the deck, looking at the town receding behind us, then went back to the room to relax and read.
          Before long we were approaching the small town of Wrangell, and we went on the deck again. It was sunny and very warm outside, and the town was very pretty to look at. Shannon disembarked momentarily to mail some postcards. We sat on the deck with our feet on the railing with drinks and myself cutting slices of kiwifruit, watching the town recede. After this we retired to the room with abundant sunlight in our spacious cabin. Shannon and I read, then I organized some of my belongings and separated my American and Canadian money. We then had dinner in the cafeteria (me turkey sandwich, Shannon game hen, both good) with a breathtaking view of the southern Clarence Strait.
          Towards dusk (yes! dusk, with dark sky and stars!) we coasted into the town of Ketchikan. It was about 10 pm. We didn't get off, but from the deck we could see that the town was quite touristy with some neon signs here and there and plenty of commercial development. Well over half of the ship disembarked. At 11:15 pm we prepared for bed, and the ship set off for Prince Rupert.
          Overall the Alaska Marine Highway was a great experience, with only one drawback -- sound. Sound carries readily between cabins (bring earplugs if you positively have to sleep). Slap your neighbors around if they are carrying on at 1 am. Also feel free to slap the parents around who let their kids run around on the deck and stairwells at odd hours. It bothers all of us in the cabin deck trying to rest. Additionally, one minor drawback is the cabin curtains do little to hide the late sunsets and early sunrises at these moderately high latitudes.

Miles driven today: 0
Business ratings (0-4 stars):
Alaska Marine Highway, S.S. Matanuska * * * 1/2

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Petersburg, AK -- early in the afternoon our ship pulls into Petersburg for a brief stop.

Petersburg, AK -- Shannon and I, as well as half of the ship's passengers, disembarked at Petersburg to look around. We only had half an hour to spare, so we didn't stick around long.

South of Petersburg, AK -- in the middle of our cruise, Shannon and I relax in our spacious cabin. The cabin was much better than I expected!

Ketchikan, AK -- docked at Ketchikan at 10 pm. The nights were finally getting darker!

Ketchikan, AK -- when the ship was docked, passengers were allowed to visit the car deck. This was the view when we went downstairs to put a suitcase in the car at Ketchikan.

Ketchikan, AK -- looking down the cabin deck corridor towards the stern. Well over 100 private cabins were on this deck.