Wow! What a year makes! Yes our last port of call on our Crown Princess Alaska cruise was once again Ketchikan. It was almost exactly a year ago today that we were on the Grand Princess on a similar Alaskan itinerary (also roundtrip from Vancouver), that I ended my cruise here on a sad and uncertain note.
I had been having shortness of breath on the cruise, swollen legs, and not much energy, so I went to the ship’s medical center, where I was actually admitted as a patient for the next two days until we reached Ketchikan (we had been sailing by Glacier Bay one day and at sea the next).
If you ever wanted to know about a ship’s medical center, it’s not like The Love Boat TV show (LOL!); it’s actually quite modern and they had a staff of perhaps a dozen people on rotating shifts (2 doctors) and 5 ICU-like beds. I didn’t know it at the time, but my heart surgery I had a year prior to replace my aortic valve was leaking, and basically coming undone. While the ship’s hospital couldn’t do the advanced tests a hospital could (i.e. echo, TEE, etc) they did take x-rays, gave me an EKG, monitored my body with all kinds of wires, etc and arranged for my transfer to the Ketchikan ER once we arrived there.
Again, I didn’t know how serious it was at that point, and I even had DOS bring me a glass of red wine with my hospital meal of shrimp cocktail! (Although the nurse was none too pleased; but hey we were still on the drink package!) Nice shipboard food in a shipboard hospital!
I figured we would take an Uber when we got to Ketchikan, but had no idea I would be departing the ship in a stretcher, with passengers looking down at me from on the decks.
Anyway, I’ve talked about this heart issue several times, but I point it out again as Ketchikan is where my air evacuation, and eventual 60 day stay in Seattle started. As a reminder, ALWAYS get travel insurance when you’re going on a cruise and/or especially an international trip. Fortunately we always get travel insurance so we were covered, as (at least for Americans) your health insurance is most likely not valid outside the US, and not on a ship. My 2 night bill on the ship was over $10K, (billed to our ship account), was covered, as was the very pricey flight evacuation via Leer Jet, and eventual surgery/hospitalization in Seattle to recover before I could fly home. We also had a back-to-back cruise booked after the Alaska cruise which I would have lost my money on had I not had travel insurance. Big travel tip – get travel insurance; as you could get injured falling, snorkeling, riding a bike in port, hiking, etc; you never know.
So I digress, but if you (hopefully never) have to go thru something as traumatic as this, it will stay with you for life and I still think about it daily, but in a grateful way for all the care and compassion that was shown by everyone I came in contact with. Thanks be to God!
Anyway, Welcome Back to Ketchikan Steve and DOS in September 2023! We had a nice view of Ketchikan from our aft balcony, and had breakfast at Sabatini’s aboard ship before going into town.
In the distance I could see the Ketchikan Airport where I was air evacuated from, and the airport is unique in the fact you have to take a ferry ride to reach it, be it a commercial passenger plane or private air-evac plane like we did. The airport sits on Gravin Island, so if you’re flying somewhere in or out, you need to allow extra time for the short ferry ride to the airport terminal.
Ketchikan is how I remember it mostly on our previous visits there (last year not-withstanding.) Ketchikan has a population of approximately 8,200 people, and is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World”, due to its fishery there. It also has the world’s largest collection of free-standing totem poles, according to the link from Wikipedia.
Steve (DOS) and I walked around the port area in Ketchikan for a bit taking a few photos along the way.
We eventually reached the popular Camp Street district; a rustic series of shops and buildings sitting atop a boardwalk of docks built on stilts above the large creek area. The Camp Street district is a nice place to walk around, watch the salmon swimming upstream from the bridge above the creek, browse in the local stores etc.
The day we were in port, there was only one other ship, the Celebrity Millennium, which seemed to be following us around from the last port, so the area wasn’t over-run with tourists like some of the ports. Here are some photos of the historic Camp Street district:
After walking around the Camp Street District, we walked back into a town for a bit, only to end up at the fishery from a street level entrance. There was actually a long series of steps from the Camp Street District to the fishery and fish ladders, but I wasn’t sure I could make it physically going up all those steps, although DOS went up to get a better view, prior to us walking to the fish level from the street level. (Actually the steps from Camp Street go up, along a pathway, and then back down again to where we walked from street level.)
Here are some pics from the fish ladder area, and overlooking the thousands of salmon returning to spawn.
We had hoped to have lunch at a local brewery, but the only brewery we saw was just that, a small brewery for drinks, but not lunch. We walked around some more before heading back to the ship, looking for a place for lunch, but we didn’t find many places to eat, and the ones close to the port were quite busy with cruise passengers from the two ships.
I considered taking an Uber to the Ketchikan Hospital to get a photo selfie in front of it, but couldn’t locate an Uber online unfortunately. We then headed decided to head back to the ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.
Ketchikan was much nicer this trip when we were able to walk around, instead of our visit last year spending the day in the ER while I was waiting to be air evacuated that evening!
The afternoon aboard was a lazy one as we relaxed most of the afternoon on the balcony, taking in the tranquil views of Ketchikan. We were facing the city, so we could see pleasure and sightseeing boats pass by, and even an occasional sea plane taking off or landing.
We had a nice sail-away later in the evening. From our balcony I watched the dock workers prepare to release the ropes from the dock which were holding our large ship snuggly in its place.
Soon we were on our way, and sailed past the Celebrity Millennium once again. This ship was in Skagway yesterday, and we would see it in a couple days again when we got back to Vancouver.
We sailed out of Ketchikan with a sense of accomplishment, perhaps a bit of sadness, but most of all Thanks be to God I survived the ordeal that began here a year ago. We will have reach Vancouver in 2 days, but for now we just enjoyed the peaceful evening and calm seas as we sailed back to our origination port of the cruise. So long Ketchikan! It was so nice catching up with you from this side of the ship!