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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

“A Little Better than Hell on Earth!”

Day 8, October 25, 2023, Skagway, Alaska.

We had an early start this morning as we arrived in Skagway at 7am.

We had to be in the Encore Theatre at 8am for our excursion so rather than try and fight the masses in the Garden Cafe for breakfast, we ordered room service. Since we had paid for Priority Access, we can have room service at breakfast delivered without a fee.

I had texted our friends to have them meet us outside the Encore Theatre before 8am so we could get on the same boarding group for our excursion. Experienced travellers like us know that even if we have the same time booked for our excursion, we could be split up if we don’t get the vehicle assignment.

Today we are visiting Skagway, Alaska.

In 1896 gold was found in the Klondike region of the Yukon and Skagway was overrun with 30,000 eager, mostly American prospectors looking to make the 500 mile journey to the gold fields in Canada. By June 1898, Skagway with a population of between 8-10,000 was the largest city in Alaska! The North West Mounted Police said Skagway was ”A Little Better than Hell on Earth”, with fights, prostitution, gambling, and alcohol ever present in Skagway. In 1898 the ‘White Pass and Yukon Route’ began laying narrow gauge railway track in Skagway to provide a safer and faster way to get to the gold fields. The gold rush petered out in 1899 and the railway was finished in 1900 at a cost of $10million USD with Britain providing the financing, Americans providing the Engineering and Canadians providing the Contracting.

Our excursion today was to take the White Pass and Yukon Route railway 20.4 miles, ascending to 2,915 feet to the White Pass Summit.

White Pass and Yukon Route train cars.

Warming my hands over the oil stove while I waited for the washroom in our train car.

Vintage train car.

Jackie and Richard hamming it up on the train.

We sat on the right side of the train heading out from the Skagway Train Station. We didn’t realize that the scenic side of the train was really the other side of the train. Not to worry because we were told everyone would be changing sides on the train once we reached the White Pass Summit.

When we left Skagway there was no snow on the ground. That quickly changed as we started our ascent

An abandoned train car along the way to the White Pass Summit with snow on the ground.

The further north we went, the more we saw frozen ice formations.

While on the train we had a narrator on the P.A. System who would come on to speak when there was something we should be watching out for. We got really excited when our narrator said there had been a ‘cat’ sighting and that if we looked out the window around the bend we would see the cats. We were all chattering to ourselves about what kind of cats they might be.


Our narrator gave us directions on how to do the ‘Skagway Shuffle’ as he called it when we reached the White Pass Summit and switched seats with our neighbours across the aisle from us. We had to flip the seats the other direction so that we could watch out the train windows in the direction we were now heading which was back to Skagway.

We have started our descent and I was able to capture the front of the train through our foggy train windows. Since it was so cold up at the top of the Summit, and of course we have a train full of breathing people, and the train is warm, the windows were fogging up like crazy!

Mount Harding and the Harding Glacier at Rocky Point which is 637 feet above sea level and at mile marker 6.9.

Crossing the east fork of the Skagway River at 402ft near Denver Glacier Trail.

Almost back to Skagway on the train.

After we departed the train at the first stop, which was downtown Skagway, we walked into town and looked for somewhere to get a bite to eat, since it was close to lunch time.

I found the Skagway Brewing Company but the rest of the group found another bar which didn’t have a long line up to get in. The only problem with the other bar was there was nothing to eat but hot dogs; and nothing to drink but beer, neither of which I wanted. As I sat down to join the group, I suddenly started to feel very, very dizzy. I’ve had this issue before when I’ve gone up and down a mountain suddenly in an unpressurized vehicle and I suddenly felt very dizzy and nauseous. The last time this happened was at Mount Aetna in Sicily this year when we were on the Neptune for the World Cruise. At least recognizing what the issue is, is half the battle. I left the bar and sat on a bench out on the Main Street breathing in the fresh air and while I was still dizzy, at least I felt a bit better.

Brewery in Skagway.

After Richard downed his beer at the Brewery he joined me and we wandered the main streets of Skagway. I walked like I had been drinking but at least I was able to walk around the town and take some photos.

Richard showing off his Mazda CX-50 bag which we have taken all around the world. Mazda Canada gave me the bag last year before the car was launched and I know proudly drive a Mazda CX-50 and I love it!

We took a shuttle back to the ship about 500 yards, after walking to the entrance of the pier. With recent landslides, the town is not taking any chances of a rock landslide hurting their cruise revenues!

Our dinner this evening was at Q Texas Roadhouse. We enjoyed the food and the service giving them a 9/10 for both. We had live entertainment during dinner by a band called “Raquel and the Wildflowers” playing country music. Raquel had absolutely no interaction with the audience or the band and while she could sing, she was a terrible performer. Entertainment 5/10!

After our meal we went to the Encore Theatre for 9:30pm hoping to get seats to “Choir of Men” which was playing at 10pm. We knew that this show was the most popular one on the ship, so we were really hoping to get seats. Luckily, we found great seats and the theatre did not fill up! About 9:45am the cast of the show came out and started interacting with the audience. The next thing we knew a bunch of cruise guests were on stage with the cast enjoying a few pints! The setting for the show is in an English pub, so it makes sense that the cast would be enjoying a few pints before the show.

Set for Choir of Men with the cast interacting with the audience.

Choir of Men was a fabulous 90 minute show with singing, instrumental and dancing by all of the cast members. With a live band, the show really rocked playing covers of different popular songs and doing some amazing accapella harmonies from the men in the choir. The show is currently performing in Tampa at the Straz Theatre and in London in the West End. The show will be moving to Las Vegas for a residence there shortly. The tickets for the show are normally $75 USD so we really feel we got a great deal having this entertainment included in our cruise fare and being able to walk into the theatre 30 minutes before the show to get seats. Choir of Men 10/10!

Our day in Skagway was a lot better than HELL ON EARTH! We had a fabulous time on the train, dinner was excellent at Q and Choir of Men really topped off the day with a lively, entertaining show. For a 7 night cruise, Norwegian certainly does pack in a lot of value for the price!

Tomorrow is scenic sailing and we are looking forward to a sea day as we always do!

And my dizziness cleared up after a few hours on its own. Very strange but something to watch out for in the future if we have to do any quick up and down elevations through mountains!

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