We were picked up at our hotel by a van that would shuttle us and our mountains of luggage to the cruise port fifty miles away. Our driver was a typical Alaskan - a Costa Rican by birth who lives half the year in Los Angeles and the other half here. He explained to us that while Anchorage has ready access to the sea, its waters are not navigable since so much glacial silt piled up in the waterways over the years that it has formed shallow quick sand beds. Although the area is strongly influenced by the tide and a sort of surfing wave forms twice a day as the waters move in and out, even the surfers take their lives in danger when they wipe out and fall into the muck. Kayakers who fall over lose their oars in the silt when they struggle to right themselves.
Therefore, we would have to transfer to Whittier, which has the closest deep water dock, to board the Sapphire Princess. As we rounded a curve a looming range of mountains appeared, highlighted by the sun which hung low in the sky. Our driver said these mountains were part of the Aleutian chain 250 miles away. They took my breath away, but you'll have to take my word for it. No photo shop was provided.
The photo above shows the entire town of Whittier, hardly a town at all. Whatever here is here is because this is a coast guard base. The town is very isolated. Because the Army Corps of Engineers tunneled 2.7 miles through a nearby mountain, Whittier became connected to the Kenai Peninsula and its deep water port makes it a supply depot for the towns past the tunnel, Anchorage in particular. The tunnel is one lane and traffic moves in and out of Whittier on the hour and half hour. Trains use this tunnel as well.
We were impressed by how quickly we checked in and came on board the Sapphire. Our luggage also arrived quickly - always nice to see that suitcase once again. Later we understood why. Over half the passengers boarded the ship in Vancouver and toured Alaska before arriving here. Many of those folks will disembark in Beijing while we go on to Bangkok. The ship is impressive and we love the balcony in our room. Great views of the Alaska coastline passed by as we unpacked. We're going to like it here!