So…did I mention there were actually a ton of wonderful things about our trip? You thought it totally sucked, right? On the contrary.
First off, we had absolutely perfect weather everywhere we went. Seattle was sunny and hot everyday. Alaska, notoriously unpredictable, was warm (or definitely milder than we’d anticipated) at most ports, apart from a couple hours of rain one day. On our last day at sea it was so balmy that we spent the whole day in swimsuits by the pool!
Highlights of Seattle:
Jose and I totally fell in love with this city, hills and all. Such a beautiful place to explore! The coffee was phenomenal, no surprise there, and we found it pretty darn kid-friendly. Or maybe we just had our parental radars on high alert. Either way, we discovered this beautiful play area right in the shopping district with a fountain, food trucks, live music and an outdoor reading nook that we went back to a couple times. The area around the space needle was another essential find. The musical fountain, this giant orb that shot massive jets of water to the beat of anything from Ratatat to Pachelbel, was a real hit with the little one and helped us all cool down. We also managed to go to the Experience Music Project—which we were really eager to see—since Leni loves music too.
The most wonderful part of our visit there was getting some quality time with my bestie Hilary and her fella Ben, who drove up from Vancouver. We talk often enough, so when we do manage to see each other it feels as if we’re simply continuing our last conversation. I guess we kind of are. That is, until you have to say goodbye and then you’re like, oh shit I may not see you again for 6 months! Why isn’t there more time? And why didn’t we take more pictures? Always. Every damn time. Still, I am so grateful that Leni and Hil had some time together since they both hold a big chunk of my heart. Meeting my sister Erin and her fam in Seattle prior to the cruise was pretty darn wonderful too.
Highlights of Alaska:
Nature! We saw so many whales! Our first day at sea, my brother and I were looking out on to the Pacific and he said, no joke, “I wish we could see some whales.” And, as if in response, one passed right by us! It was pure magic. After that, we started to spot them all the time. We saw Orcas and Humpbacks. It was exhilarating. The days are long this time of year, with the sun going down around 11pm and rising again around 3:30am. On the last night, sun still in the sky, just as a giant full moon was rising, I witnessed a school of Killer Whales approaching the ship (from my balcony!), leaping like Dolphins. They came so close before they dispersed, I could see their entire silhouettes beneath the water!
The views from the ship were always stunning, whales or no whales. One morning we travelled through glacial waters filled with icebergs and surrounded on all sides by misty mountains. Every time we looked out, in fact, the views were absolutely breathtaking.
In Juneau, we saw more bald eagles than I thought existed on the planet and on a whale watching excursion, we were able to see Humpbacks lunge feed right up close from a catamaran. In Ketchikan, we saw a seal approach some kayakers and star fish laying on rocks by the docks, near where we ate fresh Alaskan king crab dipped in butter. We also went on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, which takes you right up through the mountains to the old gold mining territory. The views were unreal. Mountains, waterfalls, glacial springs, glaciers. Well one beast of a glacier, really. We got right up close to the Mendenhall Glacier earlier that day and were granted another insane view from way up high on the mountainside from our train car. I’m not sure how much Leni absorbed, but I think any chance to get your kid around nature is worthwhile.
Another really obvious thing that was cool was just being on such a massive ship. I’d never been on a cruise so I had no real frame of reference for what it would be like. There were indoor and outdoor pools, several restaurants and bars, a club, a casino, live theatre performances, a glass blowing studio, an arcade, a bocce court with real grass, a mall, a spa, a gym, a basketball court, a library, and the list goes on. There were 2,500 passengers and yet it rarely felt crowded. Exploring the ship was a lot of fun for everyone, including Leni and her cousins. And it was pretty easy to keep track of them too, which doesn’t hurt either.
Getting to experience everything with my family—the one I made and the one I came from—was so lovely. To get that time together at this point in our lives is such a gift. Especially for Leni. I want her to have strong relationships with my family, so I’m always grateful when she can get some serious time around them (even though she was clinging to me and Jose through most of it).
I still wanted this post to be semi-readable so I spared you every minute detail, but there it is in a long-winded nutshell. But wait. There’s more!
Leni had a HUGE surge in her development over the course of our trip. Her hair got blonder, her legs grew longer, essentially she really started looking and acting more like a little girl and less like a baby. She also had a massive spike in her language. New words were popping out of her mouth every day of our trip. I also credit some post-trip development to our adventure out west. The day after we got home, walking finally clicked (or maybe it seemed a lot easier to walk on solid ground next to the sway of the ship) and she’s been using it as her main mode of transport ever since. Lord help me! A couple days after we got home we found 2 new teeth, too. I feel like all that new stimulation just catapulted her into this next phase. Sure, it’s possible all these things were on the brink for her anyway. Before I became a parent, however, I’d noticed that whenever my nephews and niece went away they’d get these major growth spurts, so I do feel like there’s something to it.