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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Big Business in Alaska


The four of us decided in advance that we would not book excursions due to the prices they charged. Everyone we talked to assured us that Alaska's beauty was in itself a trip of a life time. Our first port was Juneau, which is a quaint mining/fishing town. Upon first glance the downtown store fronts looked as if they would transport us back a few years. As we strolled down the main streets I noticed an unusual amount of jewelry stores whose employees stood at the front door beckoning tourist, seducing them with free charms. I may be different from most tourist, I love to shop but I don't enjoy shopping for souvenirs. As we walked down the sidewalks, I wondered out loud why such a
quaint town with rich history would have so many jewelry stores. I was surprised when the gentleman in front of me turned and said.... "If you want the truth, I can tell you." He pulled a card from his pocket and said.... "I'm a tour guide, and all of the jewelry stores are owned by the cruise lines." That was the moment the lightbulb went off for me. The morning before, the ship had a informational talk on how to select the perfect stones in port. The tour guide connected the dots for me which made me fume.  Mike and I looked at each other and he said..... "Oh, it's a profit thing" If you're a fan of the movie, The Jerk, you'll recognize that quote. Mike and I often talk in movie quotes. I am somewhat baffled by why someone would go on an Alaskan Cruise to shop for jewelry, but when
the only souvenirs available are tee-shirts, mugs, and jewelry, they probably do a good business. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe people travel to Alaska for the beauty, the wildlife, history, and culture. I find it hard believe that big business can't find an effective way to blend business with the beauty of Alaska and it's history, while keeping the integrity of both. I get that tourism is a huge part of Alaska. but I was so turned off by the commercialism of the ports, I vowed to never take another cruise. To be honest I felt a little cheated and somewhat scammed... Not by Alaska, but by the cruise lines. I'm sure Alaska bought into big business in an effort to survive, and that isn't unusual.  I read somewhere that "They've prostituted themselves to tourism".  It was probably a slow fade.... A
slippery slope. It's like a drug dealer offering you just a little buzz only to find yourself months later being someone you never intended to be. Don't get me wrong, Juneau, and the other ports in Alaska are beyond beautiful, but I left Juneau with heavy heart and a since of loss. Behind the glass
windows of the jewelry stores, behind all the tee-shirts and mugs, is a culture that is drowning in waters it was never meant to swim. America has prostituted itself out in so many ways. I was hoping I would find authenticity in Alaska that is missing everywhere else. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer,  I just wish the lightbulb hadn't gone off until further into the cruise, or even when I got home. It seems that no matter how far you travel looking for authenticity, it becomes more and more difficult to find. Still, the beauty of the Alaskan landscape is better than anything you will find on Main Street... Even those without Jewelry

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