Our first port of call on the Crown Princess cruise was at Sitka, Alaska. This is a port that is not visited as much on many Alaskan itineraries, but it has a rich history and heavy Russian influence making it a charming port. Sitka was under Russian rule from 1799 until the US purchased it in 1867. It is now the 5th most populated city in Alaska with a population of nearly 8,500 people. Here is a link from Wikipedia that provides some good information on Sitka past and present.
We’ve been to Alaska several times, but this is only the second time we’ve stopped here on a cruise. Last year I wasn’t well enough to get off the ship, although Steve (DOS) did tour Sitka at my insistence, taking photos of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral I wanted to see, and of course bought a few souvenirs in town. (More pics from DOS’s view inside the Cathedral further on down below.)
This trip we both got off the ship and walked around the city together. The cruise port provides a complimentary shuttle bus which takes approximately 15 minutes to get into town. From there you can see the rustic fishing village with dozens of fishing boats and the marina, as well as the downtown area of Sitka.
We walked in a different direction than DOS had done last year, so at least the first half of the trip was new to him as well. We took our time walking, stopping to take photos along the way. We first passed several historic buildings and churches on our walk, including a small high school in Sitka, right across from the waterfront.
Down a bit further were two churches (not the Greek Orthodox Cathedral we would see later). First we walked by St. Gregory Catholic Church, and then went next door to St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church.
We went inside the St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, which was open, and dates back to 1899, as well as listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The Church and surrounding community including the Bishop Rowe SEE House (built in 1905) are used for services and church-related programs, as well as gathering place for youth-related programs.
We took a few photos, and as always when going in other churches, I said a short prayer of thanks and blessings for their community. We made a small donation in the donation box there, and I also made a donation on-line when we got back on the ship, as they are in need of a new roof and some updates to the property; no doubt due to the age of the Church and the harsh weather conditions during winter months.
We kept on walking a bit until we reached the “Fish Ladder” at the Sitka Science Center along the waterfront. Basically it was a small fish hatchery that provides education to the public, and training for college students and others in aquaculture. We saw thousands of salmon returning to spawn in this area, and many were jumping out of the water.
I asked the local informational guide there a few questions, and she explained the process and life cycle of the salmon there. She said that scientists don’t know why the salmon jump out of the water (I thought they were being chased by sharks! LOL!), but possibly as they are practicing to swim upstream.
From outside the hatchery, you could see several college students in “training”, which seemed to be a cruel slaughterhouse where they club the incoming salmon (via the fish ladder) to death, and then split the females for the eggs, and males for the milt. The staff then fertilizes the eggs, and a new generation of salmon will be born in a few months, and repeat the life cycle. The guide said the incoming salmon were actually at the end of their life at that point; as they die shortly (usually within a week) of returning from their upstream swim which can be over a 1,000 miles. The lifestyle of the salmon sounds pretty fascinating, and I’m linking to some information about it here, from the University of Alaska Museum, which I looked up when I got back to the ship.
We walked around the outside of the hatchery for awhile taking some more photos of the quaint area, before walking back to the downtown area of town.
Steve (DOS) had self-toured the other side of downtown Sitka, which is where the Russian Orthodox Cathedral was located. The original Cathedral was completed in 1848, although it burned down in 1966, at which time it had been the oldest Church in Alaska. It was rebuilt on the current site using drawings from 1961, which helped built it to the former dimensions, but using more fireproof materials. (From Wikipidedia.org)
We took a few photos of the outside of the small Cathedral, but unfortunately it closed at 3:30pm (it was 3:23 when we went by it), but the closing time must have been for tours only at that point? Fortunately DOS took some photos last year when the Grand Princess stopped in Sitka, which I’m attaching below.
After touring Sitka on our own, which included a considerable bit of walking, we were glad to be able to take the shuttle bus back to the port, which was a 15 minute ride.
We were in Sitka until 8pm, and by that time we were comfortably having our pre-dinner vinos at Vine’s Wine Bar.
So long for now to Sitka! Tomorrow is Hubbard Glacier, a “sea day port stop”.