Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau

One of the only disappointing moments that occurred during our cruise through the Alaska Inside Passage was crab night on the ship. Despite what you might think, the crab on the ship was just a rubbery and tasteless vehicle for butter. Thankfully, however, our experience was redeemed by the freshest, most delicious crab I’ve ever tasted in Juneau.

Stumbling upon Tracy’s King Crab Shack was kind of an accident. We had spent the day hiking to Juneau’s enormous Mendenhall Glacier and only had about an hour left before we had to get back on the boat. The crab shack looked cool, it was basically an outdoor biergarten with an open kitchen “shack” right in the middle and a gorgeous backdrop of mountains and glaciers (pictured with a cruise ship blocking the view).

The menu is pretty simple: king crab legs, local Dungeness crab legs – all of it fresh, none of it cheap. If you order the king crab bucket, it comes with a few rolls and all of the melted butter and slaw you could ask for. I love shellfish like crab, lobster, oysters, and mussels because I really enjoy food that involves some work on your end. Mastering the art of hammering open a lobster claw with a wooden mallet and prying out the meat in one slab was something I learned at a young age from my Boston-bred parents. When eating requires that a skill, I’m always up for the challenge.

Tracy's King Crab Shack Alaska

Without knowing, we found ourselves the best seats in the house at Tracy’s when we sat right at the counter of the open kitchen shack. If you ever get the chance to go here, SIT AT THE COUNTER. The crab on the menu is expensive, though worth it, but the chefs give you more bang for your buck when you sit at the counter by throwing you any scraps of hot crab meat fresh out the pot. We must’ve gotten 4 or 5 pieces, and I’ll never forget the first tantalizing bite I took into the crab meat that seemed to melt in my mouth without the aid of butter. Yummm!

Being a foodie doesn’t always mean finding the most elaborate recipes and intriguing flavor combinations. One of the great parts about food in Alaska is its simplicity – the food coincides with the pure beauty of the surrounding wilderness. When it comes to a meal in Alaska, the focus is freshness. Fish caught that day, jam made from fresh berries, smoked reindeer sausages in a bun are a few staples that seem simple enough, but taste unlike anywhere else in the country because of the environment they come from. That was the lasting impression Tracy’s crab left me with.

Journal Entries from the Alaskan Cruise

Found these gems written in my notebook this morning. This all feels so far away now. I hope you all find time to spend writing for yourself this holiday season. Even if it’s just a list of New Year goals, writing even short entries in a notebook is such a healthy way to privately acknowledge your thoughts as worthy of thinking. Here were some of mine that took place during my first ever cruise:

Journal Entry: 6/21/15 – 

The first day of a cruise is definitely a wondrous and exploratory experience. You’re dashing your way around, trying to follow the fingers of middle-aged women pointing towards the starboard side, the bow, movie night, or the adult-only exclusive pool area called “The Sanctuary.” And you find that a majority of other guests and employees on the boat don’t speak English and come from all over the world. You learn everyone’s reasons for being here, how many other places in the world the boat has taken them. You learn that it’s not appropriate to call the ship a boat.

All the while, you hold your palms against the wind current so that it takes you on quick dances up and down choppy invisible air waves, and you run them up the smoothness of the wooden railings, sneak away briefly to catch a remote corner of white steel wall for sunset. And you tell yourself, “This is home for the next 8 days.”

Journal Entry: 6/22/14 – 

At sea since we left.

In the middle of the Great Pacific, we realize that our boat is silent. The black waters fly by and roll endlessly into the skyline.

After a journey of hopping rope and dodging behind wind barriers as we chase sunset to the bow of the boat, we see our first wild Orcas. They announce their presence with 6-foot high spats of water from their blow holes. Then just as concern bubbles up that you maybe imagined the distant white fountains, one whale rolls and dives. I think they call that breaching.

Upon further exploring we found a basketball court and mini golf course. Playing H-O-R-S-E in our formal wear was the first time that we really started having a good time on this boat.

People here are old. We wonder how much money they have.

Ketchikan, Alaska: A City of Salmon and Totem Poles

This summer I took my first cruise ever, and not a cruise to anywhere tropical. My first cruise was to Alaska, up through the Inside Passage. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it beforehand. I like spending a lot of time in one place. When I was in Italy, everyone encouraged me to explore Europe but outside of one trip to Amsterdam, I spent my entire time getting to know every part of Italy. However, by the end of the cruise I realized that they’re not all so bad. I got to see so much of Alaska in such a short time, experiencing the nuances in culture and history between each city. Ketchikan was our cruise’s first stop.

Ketchikan Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

Ketchikan, the first city (town) ever formed in Alaska, started as a single salmon saltery in 1883. Two years later, businessmen from Portland invested in another saltery and general store. Another two years later and the area was a flourishing spot for fish trade. By 1900, the town had 800 residents and was officially incorporated as Ketchikan.

Although it was the smallest town of our stops in Alaska, Ketchikan was perhaps the most vibrant with history as it is home to a booming salmon industry, the great Misty Fjords National Monument, and the world’s largest collection of totem poles.

My first 24 hours on the cruise were spent at sea, and I was not a happy cruiser at first. It took me a while to get my sea legs, and just when I felt the sea sickness subside, we were docked in Ketchikan. I got off the cruise ship ready to kiss the ground when in less than 45 minutes, I joined my boyfriend and 3 other passengers on a sea plane tour through the Misty Fjords. My thoughts immediately after takeoff: “Why did I consent to this? Can I just get my feet on solid ground for like one full hour please?”

Ketchikan Alaska sea plane tour

A little background on the Misty Fjords National Monument. A mere seventeen thousand years ago, the area was completely covered in ice. In that time, massive glacier action carved out what is now a landscape of long saltwater fjords, surrounded by 3,000 foot cliffs and waterfalls to match.

We hopped on a sea plane and flew over and in between these cliffs, getting closer than I ever imagined a plane should go. When I started to feel nervous, the pilot noticed and played the Jurassic Park theme song into our headphones. It was awesome.

Ketchikan_Alaska_Plane

Ketchikan_Alaska_Plane_Tour

Ketchikan_Alaska_Sea_Plane_Tour

After the sea plane excursion, we walked around Ketchikan and tried some salmon in many forms – jerky, canned, pâté, you name it! We took a walk down Creek Street, which was really a boardwalk type deal. Along the boardwalk were galleries filled with art by inuits of the area. Stay tuned for Part Two of our cruise through the Inside Passage. Until next Friday!