In 2004, the Celebrity Mercury made its inaugural call at Icy Strait Point. In that same year, as many as 32 ships visited. However, the only way to get to shore was by tenderboat. Last year, in 2016, the number of ships increased to 69 ships, mostly due to the fact a new floating dock had been installed. No more tenderboats were needed.
Ship tours included one exciting one…..a Ziprider Adventure, the world's longest zipline beginning at 5330 feet elevation with over a 1300 foot vertical drop to the bottom. Speeds up to 60 MPH can be reached, promising breathtaking views of the forest and bays if you are not screaming all the way down. The price for this adventure was $140 for 1 ½ hours.
There were a surprising number of tours, considering that our stay was only from 7am to 2pm. Six adventure tours for 1 ½ to 5 ½ hours cost from $100 to $160, which you could choose from whale watching, bear searches, kayaking, and ATV driving. Four sightseeing excursions from 1 ½ to 2 ¾ hours for $55 to $80 gave you the opportunity to see forests, Hoonah, nature walks, and tribal dances. If cooking is your passion, there was one session for 1 ½ hours for $80. Finally, you could try your luck at fishing for 3 ½ hours for $230 to $290 with a day license for $25 cash.
Having been here once on a celebrity ship, we opted to hike the area and explore on our own. Starting at the Adventure Center, we found there were a few shops, free wifi, and a chance to book tours there. Don't know how they compared in price to the ship's tours, but it was a convenience. You could buy a ticket for $3 for a mile ½ ride to nearby Hoonah. Large umbrellas were available for use while here. Also, modern and very well-maintained restrooms were in this building. In fact, restrooms were numerous in this area.
Close by, was a newly-built restaurant the Duck Point Smokehouse. You can order smoked salmon, pizza, burgers, beers and sodas. It appeared that it was fast-food style like in McDonalds. There were a number of indoor booths and outdoor seating as well.
Other eateries included the Cookhouse with burgers, fries, chili, and chowders. The ravens that hung around there on the railings were free of charge. The Crab Station served steamed king, snow, and Dungeness crab with a special Alaskan Crabby Bloody Mary. Lastly, there was a Fish House and Snack Bar.
Along the shoreline, we walked past some private residences, a cemetery, and the highlight of the village….the Warehouse and Cannery Complex. Half of the warehouse contained shops and boutiques, while the other half was a museum of the original cannery. The butchery table was displayed as it would have looked in the old days, complete with fish bodies guts, and blood. Only thing missing was the smell, which must have been overpowering. Photos of the actual process and machinery lined the walls. Good display of history.
Outside there was a Cultural Heritage & Tribal Dance Theater, a bike rental, and a kayak dock. A busy place was a tiny kiosk where you could buy donuts, that were being made right on the spot. The donuts were the tiny ones, and served plain or with a dusting of sugar.
At the end of the property was a seating area where you could wait for the shuttle to Hoonah. Or you could walk the mile ½ for about 30 minutes. Since it looked like rain was coming, we opted not to walk to town. We had been through Hoonah several years ago, and recalled that there was not too much to see there.
On our way back to the walking trail, we passed by the Wood Chip Fire, where as part of Tlingit tradition, you would throw a woodchip on the fire for good luck. Brooke, the Captain's lady, and her friends were using the fire to make s'mores, cooking the marshmallows on long sticks. Sure did smell good…..
The forest hike took us along the rocky beach across from the ship. It began to drizzle now, and we knew that rain was on the way. Good thing we were dressed for it, and also thought to bring umbrellas. By 11:30am, the rain came down really hard, but we kept hiking up the trail, which was well graveled. A single elderly lady told us that she just saw an LBJ off of the trail. OK, we had to know what she meant. And, of course, she was baiting us to respond. Anyway, LBJ stands for "little brown job", as in a mouse, mole, or possibly a squirrel. We promised her we would look for them as we hiked higher into the woods.
On the top in the dense forest of extremely tall conifers, we looked for the LBJ's and eagles, that we knew were there. Eventually, we did see a very fast-running squirrel, smaller than the ones we have at home in California. The side trail we took brought us to two ponds and the road where the ATV's were touring. By now the rain was falling steadily, and we knew the eagles would not be flying in the rain. Taking shelter in the Adventure Center was a good idea until the rain let up. Lunch would be better on the ship, we decided.
Luckily, the rain stopped by the sail away time at 2pm. We went back to the Seaview Pool, and got some great photos of a hunting eagle, one we had spotted early on. One of the pair was perched high in a tree, while the other got lucky and scooped a fish out of the water below. He had a hard time dragging his catch over the rocks. His best bet was to drag it away from the water's edge, and eat it. Both birds stayed there well after the ship left.
Later in the afternoon, around 4pm, we went to deck six forward to watch for any sign of sealife. We only saw some gulls and small sea birds. It was pretty cold out there with the wind blowing strong. With our arctic coats and hoods, we were comfortable. Captain Fred even waved from the navigation deck. Shortly afterwards, we were out of the islands, and sailing into the Gulf of Alaska, heading towards Anchorage. We will have a most welcomed day at sea on the way there.
At 7:15pm, we were invited to the Crow's Nest for an officer's reception. We believe it was attended by 5 star Mariner members and President's Club members….a total of about 90 people we were told. We joined friends for a pleasant conversation until 8pm. Drinks of our choice were offered, and kept coming, compliments of Manny, one of our favorite bartenders.
Dinner was supposed to be in the Pinnacle Grill for us, but we changed our minds, and went to the dining room. Hard to pass by the turkey dinner they had on the menu, we were welcomed by our tablemates. It was as good as always.
There was a variety show in the Queen's Lounge, but once again, we stayed in the dining room until 10:30pm.
Looking forward to a day at sea for sure.
Bill & Mary Ann