The Rugged, Awe-Inspiring Alaska Cruise Experience

Many avid travelers desire a rugged, awe-inspiring Alaska cruise experience.  Where families might struggle to decide between Princess, Carnival, or Royal Caribbean, I spent the last month aboard the USCGC Healy , exploring the Arctic Ocean and contributing to the understanding of the chemistry of the Arctic Ocean.

One of the best aspects of a cruise is the nightlife.  I was on the night shift, and was quite impressed with the range of activities that the Healy had to offer all night long!  While the ship was in motion, our crew collected hourly samples to better understand the chemistry of the surface of the ocean.  At a number of chosen sites, we also collected samples from a range of depths using a conductivity, temperature, and depth instrument (CTD), which is useful because it enables scientists to look at variability in the ocean profile instead of just the surface.

This map shows two CTD transect lines we sampled during out trip.  The pink dots represent actual data points where CTDs were deployed.

This map shows two CTD transect lines we sampled during out trip. The pink dots represent actual data points where CTDs were deployed.

 

Sampling from the CTD

Sampling from the CTD

Days on the Healy were luxurious, and filled with a number of exciting activities.  These activities included checking into the science lounge during coast guard training drills, looking at cool scenery from the bridge (such as the Smoking Hills, featured in the photo below), and watching the day shift filter water samples.

View of the Smoking Hills from the Bridge

View of the Smoking Hills from the Bridge

Like any quality cruise experience, mealtime was very important.  Cruise-goers got the chance to enjoy a variety of themed meals including nacho Tuesdays and pizza Saturdays, but were also constantly surprised and excited by the different shapes of French fries that we were served over the course of the month.  Daily drink specials included instant hot chocolate, kool-aid, and a variety of coca cola beverages!

While packing for the cruise I really struggled to choose which bathing suit to pack!  Turns out that wasn’t so relevant…

While packing for the cruise I really struggled to choose which bathing suit to bring! Turns out that wasn’t so relevant…

Sea ice!

Sea ice!

As I reflect back on my month on the USCGC Healy, I try to determine what made my Alaska cruise experience exceptional.  It wasn’t the opportunity to network with other Arctic oceanographers, or the chance to become familiar with ship life and the coast guard.  It was the souvenirs.  Where other cruise-goers might return with a sassy t-shirt or indigenous art piece, our crew returned with hundreds of water samples, ready for analysis!

About Lauren Frisch