Inside Passage, Bears and Aleutian Islands - Alaska
Week two on our 13-week bucket list cruise to the North and South Poles on the luxury hybrid expedition ship Hurtigruten Expeditions - MS Roald Amundsen.
Day Eight - Kukak Bay & Kinak Bay, Alaska
We enjoyed our morning coffee on the balcony and spotted our first bear!
I quickly pulled out the binoculars and confirmed it was not a rock but a bear playing on the water's edge.
We had just anchored in Kukak Bay, Katmai National Park, so we quickly geared up for our Zodiac cruise, beginning to understand this layering concept.
Our Zodiac Captain Freddy took us to the bears; three bears were snacking on salmon.
After 20 minutes, we continued our Zodiac cruise. We spotted a few seals, otters, bald eagles, and gigantic jellyfish while soaking up the mesmerising scenery we were surrounded by. It was the most refreshing start to the day!
We returned to the ship for lunch and cruised to our afternoon destination, Kinak Bay. Today on the menu, we opted for Vegetarian Lasagne, and we look forward to this coming back!
In mid-afternoon, we anchored in Kinak Bay and Katmai National Park. We layered up again for another Zodiac and thought we couldn't top this morning, but low and behold more bears, and we were able to sneak up even closer! We even saw a Mama bear with her two cubs.
What a day! We had our first bear sightings in the wild and counted eight during the day. I am grateful to have purchased our Canon Binoculars (Canon 12x36 IS III) with the stabilising feature to see these magnificent creatures up close.
The ship pulled up anchors, and we were back cruising for a few hours; then, to our surprise, we were stationed for the evening in Geographic Harbor. This made for stunning views over dinner and a quiet evening.
Day Nine - Geographic Harbor, Alaska
Each day continues to surprise us! We didn't think it was possible to top yesterday's luck with all the bears.
We had an early Zodiac cruise at 9 am this morning; the weather was forecast to be cold and wet, but the weather gods were on our side, and the sun shone.
First up was about eight bears by the river catching salmon and playing about! It was incredible! They are so graceful as they move their gigantic bodies! You could easily sit by and watch them in their natural habitat all day.
We enjoyed the viewing for about half an hour and then continued to explore Geographic Harbor, which is so beautiful. The surroundings were gorgeous; this was the best yet!
The ship was pulling up anchors today at noon, so we were back on board and enjoyed lunch with our fellow passengers and a rest for the afternoon.
We were impressed with the ship's values; our new friends Jonny and Ben educated us on some sustainability features over lunch. The vessel continues to impress us.
Tonight, for dinner, we booked Restaurant Aune, another excellent restaurant with stunning views and food to match. The staff were full of conversation, and we loved getting to know more of the crew we will spend three months with on this epic journey from the North to the South Pole.
This evening, we were blessed with another magical sunset.
Day Ten - Unga, Alaska
We were thrilled to see yet another magical backdrop upon opening the curtains this morning. We arrived at Unga this morning, a remote abandoned settlement also known as a ghost village, which has been reclaimed by nature and cows following the departure of its inhabitants.
Unga was believed to have a population of 116, half natives and half Russian, and the remaining family left in 1958. The cows were hiding from us, but there was plenty of proof they existed due to the number of cow pats. It was also a beautiful location for pictures. Thank you, Zoe, for capturing these special moments for us.
We got to experience the eerie beauty of this village by being dropped off in the Zodiacs to explore for the morning.
We walked among the abandoned wooden buildings that now stand only as monuments to the community that once called this place home, taking in the stunning coastline.
After one hour, we were back in the Zodiacs for a quick look at Bird Rock, smothered with seagulls; fortunately, we saw a seal sun-baking and then delivered back to the ship for a slow lunch.
In the late afternoon, we sailed away to continue cruising to enjoy the beauty of Alaska's Aleutian Islands.
Pods of whales for pre-dinner entertainment tonight, the captain slowed and turned the ship for everyone to enjoy the show. We saw about 20 whales breaching for about half an hour.
Another magical day, with more delicious dining at Lindstrom!
Day 11 - Dutch Harbor, Alaska
The Island of Unalaska is home to the International Port of Dutch Harbor - the number one commercial fishing port in the nation and the location where 'Deadliest Catch' is filmed—a population of approximately 4,200.
Dutch Harbor is a harbour on Amaknak Island in Unalaska, Alaska. It was the location of the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942 and was one of the few sites in the United States to be subjected to aerial bombardment by a foreign power during World War II.
We were on the first shuttle out to explore the area. The first stop was downtown, although I am not sure the name is appropriate, as we came across a church, a few fisheries, and very little else. This town is definitely for working families only, as there wasn't much to see or do, and it lacked shine from our perspective.
We strolled around and came across a large pod of sea otters off the pier. A giant bald eagle landed before us and then jumped back on the bus for the hotel.
Today was our online day, so we tucked ourselves in the cafe's corner to connect. The hotel had no wifi, but they had a satellite option to purchase on the island, starting at USD 25 for 1GB, followed by USD 80 for 5GB; fortunately, the speed was fast.
After spending the afternoon online, we returned to the ship on foot, navigating through the port and shipping containers to prepare for dinner.
Tonight was another incredible pre-dinner show of over 40 whales surrounding the ship; the captain stopped the ship for half an hour for everyone to enjoy the whales and ensure they had no distractions in their home whilst they were feeding and to continue their journey.
Before dinner, the captain announced we were in for some rocky waters this evening, so be sure to take your motion sickness pills if required; we got through the evening unscathed and were rocked to sleep all night, but nothing too dramatic. Dinner views were also spectacular this evening; the lush green hills as we sailed by were impressive!
Day 12 & 13 - Bering Sea, Alaska
Due to the low weather pressure system, we had to bypass Chuginadak and had a sea day! The ship was rocking all day; we were in the Bering Sea.
Our day was lunch in Lindstrom, followed by an afternoon nap. We then joined our new friends Jonny and Ben for dinner; it was a night full of stories, laughter and delicious food. This was followed by a very rough night! Fortunately, we had no motion sickness, just a restless sleep.
Insider's tip: choose a midship cabin when the ocean is a little on edge.
Day 13 was a scheduled sea day, and we woke to another wild ocean, so another quiet day, staying horizontal to avoid motion sickness. We know preventing the bow during these times can be quite an adventure.
We enjoyed lunch in Lindstrom, followed by a lovely afternoon of blue skies and the sun peeking through.
We opted for Restaurant Aune for dinner as they had roast lamb, and we couldn't pass up one of our favourite meals. We had a beautiful evening dining slowly and were happy the ocean took a breather and turned on calmer seas from 8 pm, so we were guaranteed a lovely night's sleep.
We finished the evening with a birthday video call to Mum and Dad (via Facebook messenger); it was great to catch up whilst we were in the middle of the Bering Sea via video to wish Dad a happy birthday.
The quality was much better than we expected.
Day 14 - St. Matthew Island, Alaska
This morning, we were blessed with the most intense sunrise, and we didn't even need to wake up with the birds; it was 8 am!
The ship anchored just off St Matthew Island in uncharted waters, accompanied by guidance from the local fishermen. An uninhabited and remote island in the Bering Sea. It is a completely deserted island, home to voles, birds, wild grasses and natural scenery.
Excursions were all first up; we were in the second group, so at 9 am, we were on the island.
Upon landing on the island, the expedition team were there to provide us with instructions and to feel free to help them remove the trash; there was lots of debris washed up.
We were all keen to help with this beautiful initiative, and as we explored, we collected foreign items that did not belong in nature.
The Hurtigruten team ensured the rubbish collected was brought back to the ship to be disposed of correctly when we arrived in Nome.
Hurtigruten takes eco-travel to the next level, always leaving a place better than they found, a Hurtigruten motto. They actively encourage guests to help collect washed-up waste to be recycled.
As we sailed away, it was announced we had all collected over 1000 kilograms of trash to recycle.
We enjoyed another lunch (yes, we are eating our way to Antarctica), soaked up the sun by the jacuzzis, and chatted with our fellow pole-to-pole friends. Our lovely friend Cath from France gifted us with this gorgeous piece of art as we enjoyed an afternoon wine.
We celebrated our new friend Ben's birthday and dinner in Fredheim restaurant; we enjoy visiting the different dining venues regularly.
The sun has been shining all day, and the waters have been calm, so a perfect day!