June 27th: While still asleep Sapphire had supposedly pulled into and docked in Skagway. When I awoke though, squinting through sleepy eyes I was for a moment disoriented. Off our balcony was a grey rockface awash in colorful graffiti. Had we been shanghaid during the night? I stepped onto our deck and upon closer inspection saw that the graffiti was actually logos and emblems of the various cruise lines that had docked over the years. Some were applied with stencils while others were painted in free hand. Both varieties though indicated a certain level of courage and ingenuity as neither Lesley nor I could figure out how anyone could retain purchase on such a vertical canvas.
Passengers were already exiting the ship and to my dismay saw that as each reached the bottom of the gangway they were being waylaid by a costumed bear and moose. Souvenir photo ops you see. I am for the most part a good sport but at this time of morning was not particularly keen on being accosted by anything furry. After a quick breakfast we made our way to the gangway and although I had hoped these animals were taking a breather from their suffocating pelts I found myself in a combination bear/moose hug and stoically posed for the obligatory picture. By the way, we never bought these somewhat cheesy snapshots.
We walked for about ten minutes until we reached tiny Skagway. Only 5 or 6 blocks in each direction with a year round population of 800 hearty souls, it's streets were now clogged with a few thousand, courtesy of the Sapphire and the Dawn Princess which was in port as well. Not being much of a shopper in general and jewelery more specifically, I found Skagway proper to be kind of a bore. The entire town is rife with jewelry stores, one after another, some employing barkers that attempt to entice entry into their particular shop. I toured around as best I could while Lesley investigated some of the 'promising' deals that were advertised from storefronts. I was lucky enough not to have to endure too long for we had tickets for the 'White Pass Rail Tour' which we had heard many fine things about.
The train ride was good. I don't mean to be unenthusiastic about the tour but because we had seen such spectacular natural beauty so often previously in the trip we were perhaps a bit jaded at this point. That said, there are some glorious views from the train and the history of the actual building of this railway is surely grand testament to human fortitude and endurance. In all, I am glad we took this 3 hour adventure if for no other reason then it spared me from shopping. To be fair I must also add that there are a number of other excursions and diversions to be found in Skagway so do not take my tepid view too close to heart.
That evening after dinner we found ourselves as if on auto pilot in our favorite Wheelhouse lounge. The entertainer that night performed sets throughout the week and on this night was singing Tony Bennet and Frank Sinatra standards. He had a drummer and pianist backing him up and was quite good. Lesley and I more than once lifted ourselves from our comfy deep leather couch and danced to a song we particularly enjoyed. We both looked around as we swirled about hoping that a Princess photographer would appear and snap a picture of such a happy, satisfied couple for their next brochure.
We retired a bit early, (at least for us) this evening as tomorrow will find us in Juneau and we have a long hike planned in the rainforest. I have really been looking forward to this excursion because although we have flown over, driven in and kayaked through Alaska, we have yet to really walk within it. I am excited to touch the land and employ all my other senses as we enjoy close up and first hand this most magnificent place.