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stark wilderness into context so I sought guidance. I had sailed with Captain Martin Stenzel when he was Chief Officer on QE2 in the mid-1990s and visited him on the Bridge as we approached the Inside Passage. He believes the main difference in Alaska is


scale. “The landscapes are wilder,” he pointed out. “Norway and Alaska are both beautiful in their own way, but here the wildlife is more impressive. Norway is gentler, but still spectacular.” His advice for cruise passengers is to do Norway first then, with that experience under your belt, head to Alaska. “To get the most out of your visit to this beguiling land, combine your cruise with a stay in a wilderness lodge,” added this sage, who’s been enjoying the region since 1987. The next day we traded the gliding kaleidoscope of scenery for our first port of call. Ketchikan – whose name is derived from a Tlingit phrase meaning ‘thundering wings of an eagle’ – rests on a bluff on Deer Mountain. This linear city is no more


than four blocks wide but stretches some 14 miles along the Tongass Narrows. Much of the older part of town is suspended on


pilings over the water, while many of the homes are precariously perched on steep cliffs. In this self-proclaimed ‘Salmon Capital of the World,’ three other cruise ships lined the waterfront, fussed by a swarm of floatplanes and tourist boats, like ants around their queens.


red-light district. In its heyday during the early 1900s, this winding farrago of public houses boasted more than 30 brothels, with Dolly’s House being the most renowned.


W


During Prohibition in the 1920s, these became Speakeasies where bootleg alcohol was smuggled in through trapdoors in the floors from small boats at high tide. Opting for a 130ft funicular ride up to the Cape Fox Lodge, we enjoyed panoramic vistas with bald eagles circling overhead as well as generous Bloody Marys and freshly-caught Halibut. At this latitude the sun never set before 10pm so a


pre-prandial stroll around the Promenade Deck revealed quiescent panoramas of the endless Tongass National Park. So far on our cruise we had been lucky with the weather; in Ketchikan they measure rainfall in feet not inches. Indeed, more than 18 FEET of rain fell last year; could our luck hold? We approached Juneau – the only capital city in


the world that cannot be reached by road – through the Gastineau Channel. Set beneath the snow-tipped Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, its narrow streets are connected by a maze of staircases and the busy waterfront teems with every type of watercraft. Not wanting to tempt fate, we set out with waterproofs and umbrellas. We ambled along Marine Way and Franklin Street


and, by the time we got to the pioneer-style Red Dog Winter 2011-12 I WORLD OF CRUISING 21


e explored Creek Street, whose wooden boardwalk built on pilings over the fast running falls was once the town’s


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