Another day of rain greeted us on our arrival in Ketchikan. Luckily, we had space at the pier and did not have to tender at this stop. We put on our rain gear and went to the gangway to get off the boat.

Island with house on our way into the port of Ketchikan, Alaska.
Large map of Ketchikan, Alaska.
Ketchikan arch over street.

Busy Place

Even though there was a steady rain, Ketchikan was hopping. The visitors center is located right at the pier, so it is easy to pop in and pick up a map. Several independent tour operators in the building were trying their best to sell outdoor activities. One of them was selling plane rides to see the fjords. The visibility was abysmal; getting into a small plane surrounded by mountains hiding in the clouds was a hard pass on that one.

Saxmon Village

Ketchikan has a lot of totem polls and several places to see them. Some of the totems are in the town, but we hopped on a local bus and headed out to Saxmon Village, where a collection of totems is gathered. We listened to a guide talk about each pole and its meaning. The poles are not religious; they tell the story of a family or period of time. Restoration is an ongoing project at the park.

Totem pol in Saxmon Village
Tall totem pole in Saxmon Village.
Totem pole in Saxmon Village, Alaska.

More Mexican Food!

There were several Mexican Restaurants in Ketchikan. We picked one that was a little farther from the busy tourist streets and stopped in for lunch. Yum, it was fabulous. The place is small and frequented mainly by locals. The walls were painted with bright murals, the service was fast, and the food was hot. After we had our fill, we headed back out into the rain.

Chico's sign in Ketchikan.
Chico's interior.
Chico's veggie burrito.

Creek Street

Back in the day (gold mining era), Creek Street was known as the red light district of Ketchikan. It has not been converted to a quaint shopping area with brightly painted buildings towering over the creek between the shops. There is a museum called Dolly’s House that tells the story of that piece of history, but we did not stop there. The place was crowded and still raining, so we ducked into a few shops. We even found a souvenir we thought was worth purchasing and moved along.

Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Creek street in the rain in Ketchikan, Alaska.

So Many Shops

The port area can hold four large cruise ships and is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. We wandered through many shops; most carried the same items at the same price. Jewelry stores are also abundant in the area. We didn’t check those out as we don’t wear much jewelry, but I wondered if people spent lots of money on jewelry in a place like Ketchikan, Alaska. Most of the stores were empty when we passed them. I did check out an art store with a massive (life-sized) bear sculpture on display. When approached by the shop staff, I explained I didn’t think it would fit in my suitcase. No problem, he said; shipping is included. So I asked him how much it was, and he said it was only $19,000. We moved on to the t-shirt store.

Street in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Street in the rain in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Ketchikan from above.

Back to the ship

We returned to the ship and settled in for the night. We enjoyed Ketchikan and would return given the opportunity.

Statue at the port of Ketchikan. Alaska.
Houses perched on a mountain in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Cruise ships in port in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Cruising the Inside Passage

The next day, we were supposed to be cruising the inside passage. During lectures, there was tremendous hype on the ship about how beautiful the passage would be and all of the wildlife we would see there. The daily newsletter also listed the inside passage and approximate time.

It was a beautiful day, so after breakfast, we went to the deck on the back of the ship, found a chair, and settled in to wait to enter the passage. We met a couple who were missionaries in Cambodia and spent the morning visiting with them. is a great place to track cruise ships, so we would check the ship’s location now and then to see where we were. When we were just a short distance from the entry to the passage, our ship turned towards the west and headed to the Pacific. What was going on here? We were not the only ones to notice. The captain came on the PA system at noon and made his expected announcements but nothing about the change in course. After a while, with no correction in sight, we went back into the ship and had lunch.

Clouds on mountains in Alaska.
Mountain view from the ocean in Alaska.

Mid-afternoon, the captain once again made an announcement over the PA system stating that a navigation error had been made on the bridge. Although he had been in touch with corporate, they could not find a pilot to take us through the passage, so we could not go there. He said that we would maintain the course we were on to our next stop in Victoria. He also mentioned we would receive a letter that evening with compensation.

Our fellow guests were not happy; some were quite livid. They had traveled great distances to see the inside passage and were very disappointed. The compensation was 10% of our cruise fare in a future cruise credit that must be used within the next 12 months. Like most of the other guests we talked to, our calendars are booked for the next year, so I doubt we will be able to use them.

Northern Lights

That evening, there were forecasts of possible sightings of the Northern Lights in our area. Once again, we went to the back deck after dinner, watched the sunset, and tucked in, hopeful for a light show that evening.

Jim watching the sunset on the Holland America Westerdam.
Clouds in the sky at sunset.
Sunset in the Pacific ocean while on the Holland America Westerdam.

We were not disappointed! The lights showed up at about 10:30 PM and remained strong until midnight. The lights we saw in Norway were stronger and danced right on top of us, but the show we saw this evening was the best outside of Norway that we had seen.

Northern lights over the pacific ocean.
Northern lights over t he ocean
Northern lights from the Holland America Westerdam in the Pacific ocean.