The maritime exploits of a suburban housewife … and her sister with a camera

We’ll be here on August 10 from 7a.m. to 1p.m. along with the Norwegian Pearl (2,395 passengers) and another ‘dam ship – the Noordam (1,916 passengers). We’re scheduled to be at Dock 1. It’ll be a bit crowded in town, so make your plans and have a bit of patience.

Ketchikan is the southeastern-most city of Alaska, with a population of 8,000 in the city proper. It’s also the wettest, with an average of 153 inches of rain per year. (Seattle only gets 37 inches per year by comparison; even the Hoh Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park gets “only” 142 inches!) Don’t forget your rain coat or poncho, just in case. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles, and we’ve got plenty of places to see them. As a side note, most of the totem poles at Totem Bight and Saxman are recarvings of older poles, done by native craftsmen.

One of the 14 totem poles at Totem Bight

Totem Bight State Historical Park ( In addition to the 14 totem poles, there is a clan house (which would have housed 30+ people). You can get there by taking a city bus, if you’re so inclined, though a tour with a guide would give you a greater appreciation of the totems. There’s a bit of walking to see all the totems, but it’s an easy walk, with lovely views in addition to the totem poles.

Saxman Native Village ( – yup, more totem poles – 24 of them. There’s also a clan house and a carving shed where you can watch native artists at work.

Totem Heritage Center ( As the name implies, this little museum focuses primarily on totem poles, explaining why totem poles were made and their meaning – the story they are telling. Original, unrestored totem poles rescued from abandoned village sites are on display. And it’s part of the walking downtown tour.

Creek Street ( Once a red-light district with more than 30 houses of ill-repute, the houses have been restored and it’s now a fun place filled primarily with arts and crafts shops. Within easy walking distance of the cruise ship dock.

Our float plane in the Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument I’ve taken two flight-seeing excursions (it’s that breathtaking) and we even got a chance to land on a lake and walk around a bit. Not cheap, but oh so worth it. And if small planes aren’t your thing, (one was a Cessna and the other a DeHaviland Beaver) there are boat tours as well.

Tongass National Forest ( – not so much an attraction, but a lovely nature walk through the rain forest. You don’t really need a guide, but having one adds to experience – I have to admit, I’m not up on my botany! Lots of birds including eagles, salmon in the rivers and a good chance to spot black bear. Many of the trails are long – the shortest and flatest is the Ward Lake Trail.  You’ll start out at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center (spend a bit of time here for a wonderful overview of historical information) and get a map if you’re doing this on your own.

This year, I plan on doing the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s excursion, one I’ve not done before and have wanted to do for years(aka Deadliest Catch for landlubbers, as you never actually get out into the open ocean). Even hubby is on board with this one!

Ketchikan is my favorite port for shopping.  Most everything is within walking distance of the ship. Again, get away from the dock and head a few blocks into town. There are too many to review, so I’ll just list the two I always visit.

Walrus made of whale bone. I love his expression!

Scanlan Gallery and Arctic Spirit Gallery. My favorite place! No mass-produced trinkets here. Arctic Spirit ( specializes in native art. The pieces are exquisite. And Michael, the owner (yes, we’re on a first name basis), loves to educate folks on native Alaskan art. Best of all, no sales pitch, he just is a delight to talk to. Scanlan Gallery ( is an art gallery with fine art, photos, prints made by Alaskans. There’s something for every budget, though be warned, native art made by native Alaskans is not inexpensive!

If you want some “made in Alaska” souvenirs and products, check out Sam McGee’s ( This is the place to go to pick something for all the people you’ve promised to bring something from Alaska. Food, salmon, seasonings, candy, beauty products, kids books and toys, t-shirts, pet treats – you name it, it’s here. Some of my favorites that you won’t find down in the lower 48: birch syrup and birch aramel topping (think maple syrup crossed with molasses – it’s hard to describe but I can eat it by the spoonful), fireweed honey, salmonberry jam, kelp pickles (trust me on this one, if there’s a pickle lover on your list, get this), Spruce Tip salt, glacier silt soap, and my dog loves the Yummy Chummies.

Cape Fox Lodge ( – upscale dining, a great view of Ketchikan. You can get there by way of their funicular (kind of like a cross between a cable car and a railroad), otherwise it’s quite a hike to the top! If you go, have the Baked Brie and Crab Dip and their Seafood Chowder.  And you’ll even be rewarded with the opportunity to see more totem poles.

Alaska Fish House ( – as spoiled as we are in the Puget Sound area in regards to fresh fish, I have to admit, the halibut I had here was just about the best I’ve ever had. And their smoked salmon chowder – yum!

Burger Queen – Tiny, hole-in-the-wall type joint but with awesome burgers. Not a lot of seating, so snag a table ASAP.
Pioneer Cafe – A ’50s style diner, with good diner food, but with reindeer meat options!