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Topic: Alaska tourism

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May 17, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Alaska cruise: A refreshing walk in the woods (away from Ketchikan’s tourist traps)

Ketchikan's Creek Street is a boardwalk that was formerly home to "Houses of Horizontal Affection," as they're often called here. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Ketchikan’s Creek Street is a boardwalk that was formerly home to “Houses of Horizontal Affection,” as they’re often called here. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

KETCHIKAN – We had only a morning in port at Alaska’s self-described “First City.” It isn’t called that because it’s largest; with just about 8,000 population in its city limits it is actually the fourth-largest city in Alaska, which says something about the emptiness of this huge state. Ketchikan gets the designation because it’s the first Alaska city you come to as you travel north from the Lower 48.

The name comes from the Tlingit kitcxan, meaning “where the eagle’s wings are.”

Ketchikan is as good an example as any of how the influx of cruise ships has transformed these small Alaskan towns from quiet backwaters defined by their sourdough heritage and native cultural roots to towns defined by the almost 1 million cruise-ship passengers that visit every May to September.

I stepped off the gangplank of Star Princess onto Front Street and joined the parade of thousands of others past endless souvenir shops selling doggie mittens made in China (for your sled-dog back home), along with items such as Husky Poop candy (do you really want to know what’s in it?), all the ulu blades you will never need, and so on. A popcorn emporium also carried those tourist mainstays, fudge and taffy (though I recoiled when I first read the sign as “fudge taffy”).

My Moon guidebook saved me the trouble of counting: The author found 63 jewelry shops in Ketchikan. They cater to cruise passengers from

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Comments | More in Brian hates cruising, Cruises, Trip reports | Topics: Alaska cruise, Alaska tourism, Creek Street