Victoria’s Secrets: Ketchikan, Alaska is the salmon capital of the world

Cruise ships and tourists filled the waterfront of Ketchikan, making its economy robust

As the Ruby Princess cruise ship smoothly sailed south, it made our last stop at the southernmost tip of Alaska: Ketchikan, a historic fishing town founded in 1883.

Today it flourishes largely as a result of the tourist industry; five massive cruise ships filled the docks on the day we arrived there. One of the ships stayed in the harbor and brought its passengers to shore by small dinghies.

The cruise with my good friend Claire Shulman began with Juneau, the landlocked capital on the bottom of an enormous glacier. There are no major roads in Juneau connected to other towns; you get around by plane or boat. From there, we docked in Skagway, born out of the Gold Rushers; then headed over to the famous, stunning Glacier Bay National Park for a day of sailing; and now we were in rustic Ketchikan.

The one glacier we saw at Glacier Bay National Park
The one glacier we saw at Glacier Bay National Park

The ship offers many day trips and shore excursions, and we chose to take a tour that took us around Ketchikan on road and then into the bay! The Duck Ride drove right into the water converting into a boat. What fun it was! It was a great way to get a feel for this town of 8,000 people.

Ketchikan has an old-fashioned, frontier history, where miners of gold and copper, later fishermen, all of whom enjoyed 30 brothels in the town’s red light district. They say that “both the salmon and the fishermen went there to spawn!”

I was very impressed by the totem poles around town, more than 80 varieties. Each told the history, traditions and values of the tribes that lived in Ketchikan.

At the Alaska rainforest sanctuary, you can watch a master carver creating totem poles; they have the largest collection of totem poles in Alaska. I wanted to buy an 8-inch carved pole to put on my desk. Then I saw one at the souvenir shop (one of a dozen such stores sprinkling the waterfront downtown) and noticed that it cost $5.99.

I asked the girl behind the counter if that one had been made in China; she replied, “Yes.” The authentic, locally carved totem poles were behind the counter and started at $160. I must admit that I chose the non authentic one!

The Duck Ride traveled on the roads and then became a boat traversing the bay
The Duck Ride traveled on the roads and then became a boat traversing the bay

After our Duck Ride, we had to get back to the ship; it was a little frustrating just to have only a few hours on land to explore this fascinating town. That’s the drawback of cruising; you just get a taste of a place.

Back on board, the Ruby Princess offers multiple dining rooms, a spa, a casino, a photo gallery, Internet cafe, art shows, and exciting pools for swimming — too cold for me, but a few brave souls did dip in.

In the afternoon, between noon and 5 p.m., I counted almost 30 different activities available for guests; and 23 different evening activities to choose from.

For me, I loved being able to relax on my lounge chair on my terrace while reading Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” the biography of Bezos, whose stock at Amazon is now worth $1,700 per share. It was fascinating reading!

For me, that’s what cruising is about: reading and relaxing.

Next week: Victoria, an island off Vancouver in Canada.