Today we arrived in the port of Ketchikan. Ketchikan is the oldest established city in Alaska. In it's boom days, furs and fish flowed from this tiny port. Today, it is a essentially a tourist trap. That is not to say that there are not other industries in Ketchikan, however with the huge bulk of the city's income comes from the tourist trade, and much of that from cruise ships.
If you love shopping, Ketchikan is definitely the place for you. There is more to find besides the standard tourist junk (onyx polar bears, t-shirts, Sarah Palin dolls, etc.) There are fur shops and jewelry stores by the score. If jewelry is your thing,
good deals can be found on Alaskan gold, diamonds, topaz, and numerous other gemstones mined in Alaska. You want a fur coat? Fur can be quite cheap (relatively) in Ketchican. Of course, fur never truly cheap, and you can go as high end as you can afford. Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills has a shop in town and moves a lot of there stock to their Alaskan store during the summer cruise season. I saw a mink and fox coat marked down to only $19,995. Deal! Deals! Deals! Of course if you want something a bit more rugged for your fur accessory needs, there are several highly skill taxidermists in town, and all of them ship to almost anywhere in the world... for a reasonable price of course. If you are planning to go to Alaska to shop, here's a tip: Take a cruise late in the season. Everything but jewelry tends to go on sale at the end of the season, especially anything with Alaska written on it somewhere.
However, I am not much of one for touristy crap and the other stuff was way out of my budget for this trip. That's ok, though. I was a man on a mission... I mission I plan on fulfilling in every port. I was looking for the best burger in port.
I walked all around town seeing what I could see and asking the locals what they thought the best burger in town was. I asked everyone willing to talk to me and they all agreed. Burger Queen is the best burger in Ketchican. However, this news saddened me, because their signage stated that they were closed on Sundays. I went to drown my sorrow in ruggalach at the Sweet Mermaid pastry shop. Consequently, they make a delicious ruggalach. While chatting with the owner I come to ind out that the Burger Queen is open ANY day a cruise ship is in port and there were four ships in port that day regardless of what the sign said.
I scarfed down my pastry and rushed over to the Burger Queen and walked in just as they were opening. It's a good thing I did. By time I was done with my meal there was a long line of people waiting to satisfy their intense burger need, and believe me, after a week or so of eating nothing but rich, fancy food, nothing tastes better than a good old fashioned burger. However, this burger is far beyond mere goodness. It was almost a religious experience. I ordered the burger called the Big Boy. It was a half pound, hand made patty made from ground chuck and actually grilled on a charcoal grill. This was no pumice and gas rig. They used real hickory charcoal and it makes all the difference in the world with the flavor. They cooked my burger to order and served it topped with cheddar cheese, a thick slice of ham, and all the standard fixings on a sesame seed bun. I was told
that Burger Queen had the best burger in Ketchikan, but I was not expecting it to be as good as it was. This burger easily ties with Capital Bar & Grill's burger as the best burger I have ever eaten in my life. I will be dreaming of this burger for months to come. Also, at $7.25 it has turned out to be the best bargain burger to be found in Alaska. If you find yourself in Ketchikan, Burger Queen is a must stop location. Also, try their milk shakes. They are rich beyond imagining.
Aside from shopping, eating, and all the other standard touristy distractions, Ketchikan is also an excellent place for salmon fishing during the spawning season. The bridge over the main creek that runs through town was crowded with dozens of fisherman. The fishing was so good you could almost catch them with a hooked and a piece of yarn. I could do without all the shopping, but I think someday I must return to Ketchican for fishing and more of those delicious burgers.
Before I go today, I really should talk a bit about life on the boat. The service is fantastic... In some ways a little too good for this intrepid reporter. These guys wait on you hand and foot. They are polite and attentive and pay a lot of attention to detail. I am in no way used to this much attention paid to my needs and desires and sometimes it makes me a little uncomfortable. However, most of the clientele seems to enjoy this level of service. My insistence to do things myself at times seemed to alarm some of the service staff at first , but we have come to a very comfortable arrangement now. None of this was verbally expressed of course, it is just my sense of things.
The food is just absolutely fabulous. At this point, I have yet to taste anything bad. A lot of folks will spend most of there time eating at the Lido Buffet, and that certainly is a viable option, because the quality of food is quite good and quite fresh. The set up is a bit different from Lido buffets on other cruise lines. For one thing, over half of the full buffet is cafeteria style rather than self serve. Also, none of the buffet is 24 hours. I am glad to see there is no full buffet available at all hours of the day. There is a full buffet available for several hours breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an additional taco, pizza, and burger bar open through the afternoon and a pastry/dessert bar available from early morning until about 8-9pm. Now I am all for this aspect. It insures that the food on is fresh. This also tends to encourage the guest to have actual meals rather than eating on a buffet all day at all times of the day and night. From my conversations with friends and colleagues, this kind of gluttony tends to be rampant on other cruise lines which provide a 24 hour buffet. That is not to say one cannot easily eat oneself sick on a Holland American cruise, however the culture of how food is served here somewhat discourages that kind of unhealthy behavior. With as rich and tasty as the food is you really don't need to eat so much to feel you have gotten your money's worth. Also, if you get a serious case of the munchies after the buffet and restaurants are closed, room service is available 24/7. If you walk away hungry from a Holland American cruise hungry, it's your own fault.