Veteran travel journalist Katie Jackson continues her dispatches from Crystal Serenity’s voyage to the elusive Northwest Passage with a recount of her recent visit to Dutch Harbor…
The locals have a saying. “In Dutch Harbor there is a woman behind every tree.” There aren’t any trees in Dutch Harbor, the most famous port in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Judging by the apparel selection in the community’s biggest store, Alaska Ship Supply, one would think there aren’t any women either. “Where do you shop?” asked one Crystal Cruises guest navigating the racks in a sea of men’s workwear. “Online,” answered the smiling salesperson, a stunning woman of Aleutian descent.
Dutch Harbor is known around the world for its role in Discovery’s hit series, Deadliest Catch. It’s home base for the stars of the show, boisterous fishermen whose harrowing pursuits of Alaskan king crab keep viewers on their edge of their seats, and appreciative of their comfortable desk jobs.
The harbor and nearby town of Unalaska may be lacking in the tree department, but that doesn’t stop dozens of bald eagles from nesting in the colorful, rocky cliffs lining the shore. In fact, a few of the regal birds and their babies, eaglets, have currently taken up residence at the busy post office where signs warn package-toting visitors to proceed with caution.
Even hours after departing Dutch Harbor, the talk around Crystal Serenity’s Crystal Cove Bar centered on the sightings. Guests sipped peach puree Bellinis and dirty martinis while passing around their phones filled with photos of eagles, humpback whales and entertaining endangered Northern Sea otters—all seen while exploring the area on foot.
While Crystal Cruises had busses running between the ship and the WWII Museum (Dutch Harbor was bombed by Japan in 1942) and the Grand Aleutian Hotel, those who hired taxis covered a bit more ground. “Two took us to a cannery,” said one couple of guests, raving about their local guide, a woman whose name was like the number. “We got to peek inside the facility and see, and smell, the fascinating process of taking catch to can.”
The same couple later dropped $30 each on plates of mouthwatering Alaskan king crab at one of the locals’ favorite watering holes, Norwegian Rat Saloon. Filled with colorful décor—including wooden surfboards—and even more colorful characters—like the friendly three-fingered bartender—the saloon doesn’t actually serve rat. However, it does advertise the best ribs in town.
Granted, most people associate Dutch Harbor with its surf, not its turf. After all, for 18 years in a row it’s had the country’s most lucrative landings—some 700 million lbs. of fish and crab each year.
“We are a unique fishing town, and you will not experience anything like us in Alaska,” promises Mayor Shirley Marquardt. That’s right, the mayor of the place where “there is a woman behind every tree,” is a woman.
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