A Travellerspoint blog

Day Twenty Five - Astoria, Oregon

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Solid overcast (have I said that before ?) and a touch of fog totally obscured any hint of a sunrise. This morning we sailed up the Columbia River to dock at Astoria. The fog had degenerated to a light drizzle by the time we went ashore and within 20 minutes we were carrying our jackets because the sun was uncomfortably warm.

The locals are very friendly and pull out all the stops to ensure you know where you're going. The streets are awash with caf├ęs, bars, restaurants and take-aways. There's even a drive-through espresso shack on the edge of one of the extensive car-parks. Nowhere to sit, take-away only. The other thing there are lots of is antique and collectibles stores. The free directory list no less than thirteen of them.

We walked along the River Walk to about 13th Street and then wandered back along Marine Drive. We were impressed by the size and number of SUVs, RVs and Pick-ups that travelled through the town. Amazingly, even at street corners without traffic lights, they would stop politely to let these two old wrinklies cross the road.

Marine Drive is part of the the main highway North across the magnificent Megler Bridge. Just over 4 miles long it connects Oregon with Washington across the Columbia River. For the majority of its length is a low trestle but close to Astoria it rises to almost 200 feet. These amazing spans dominate the immediate foreshore.

Spent two hours in the Theatre watching a movie. We had no idea what it was about but as it starred George Clooney, Jenny was prepared to give it a chance. The name was "Tomorrow Land". An unlikely Science Fiction with a feel-good message at the end. Before returning to the cabin we spent some time on Deck 7 watching the antics of some seals quite close to the ship. A while later the ship pushed off from the wharf. The action stirred up something from the river bed and the water birds and seals indulged in a feeding frenzy.

We are really getting lazy !! Decided on the Horizon Court so that we wouldn't need to change for dinner. The show tonight is a repeat so with nothing to do caught up with some news on the TV. We've been frugal with our Internet usage so haven't indulged in the luxury of checking for Australian News on-line. May have to invest some minutes to find out the latest on the Liberal Party leadership.

Today turned out OK for photography and the winner is Jenny looking at an amazing truck in the carpark, view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:37 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Twenty Four - Seattle

Friday, 18 September 2015

Grey overcast sky covered the city when we approached Seattle. We are booked on a tour of the Boeing Aircraft facility but first we need to clear US Customs and Immigration. After a light breakfast we assemble in the Wheelhouse Bar where we're allocated a tour sticker and directed to the Theatre to await the call forward to Immigration. In due course we are escorted to the terminal building from which point we're in the hands of the US Officials.

Slowly we are subjected to the full biometric recording, Right hand, Left hand and photograph. We then spot Paul, a friend we'd arranged to meet. He's working at the terminal and we arrange to meet him on our return from the excursion. We exit the terminal and are confronted by multiple buses, drivers and other 'official' looking people who are not singing from the same song sheet. One says "Wait here" another says 'Go over there". Eventually we find the bus and we sit and wait. Our neatly assembled party has been through the US Immigration whirlpool and we are three people short. Two eventually arrive and some time later it is decreed that the last lost individual is a 'no show'.

The drive out to the Boeing plant is uneventful and the driver's commentary uninspiring. On arrival we are reminded that no personal items are to be taken on the tour. That message is reinforced a number of times over and we had left our items on the seat on the bus. We've not been given clear instructions as to where and when to meet for the tour. Some questioning of the Boeing Tour staff determines we have a 10:30 Tour but the "Tour Leader" has to collect and distribute the tickets. We don't have a "Tour Leader" and the bus driver is blissfully ignorant of what has to be done. Eventually that is sorted out and we proceed on the tour.

The tour is well managed and very informative. The facility is so huge it destroys ones perspective. To look out over a sea of partly built aircraft and slowly come to the realisation that they are 747s and they look like model aeroplanes messes with your mind. After about 90 minutes we are returned to the 'Gift Shop' where we're invited to spend some time at the invitation of the tour guides. We were left a little uncertain as to what time we were due back at the bus. No clear instruction from the bus driver and no "Tour Leader" to turn to. We figured that as we were due back at the ship at 13:30 and there is at least a 45 minute drive we should leave not much later than 12:30. We were one of the first back on the bus and our tour party eventually trickles back. At 12:30 there are still six people missing. It takes another 20 minutes for them to turn up.

Back at the Cruise Terminal. Paul is waiting to meet up with us. We met Paul during our first Princess Cruise early in 2012 and have kept in email touch since then. Paul used to work part-time for Princess shore staff and is a wealth of inside information. He leads us to a local bar where we spend a most pleasant two hours catching up on all those little pieces of information that doesn't make it to email. Paul has been aboard the ship and has had his lunch, we decide to order a light dish and a drink. In addition to honouring me by considering my images and blogs worth reading he further embarrasses me by insisting he'd pay. All too soon we have to join the queue for a security check prior to boarding the ship.

Up to the Horizon Court for some drinks and fruit and then spend some time on the open deck during the ship's departure. The scheduled "All Aboard" time is 15:30 but it is considerably later before we push off. The day has been a mixed bag, the wonder of Boeing, the pleasure of meeting Paul and the frustration of the worst organised Shore Excursion we've experienced.

Couldn't be bothered getting dressed up for the Formal Night so will visit the Horizon Court. Not that we're particularly hungry but need to vacate the cabin so that Rhoderic can do his stuff. I went to the Theatre after a light meal to listen to the talent of Comedian Steven Scott. He was very clever but a lot of his material required a considerable knowledge of the American culture. Passed the time and was good for a chuckle occasionally.

Earlier today Paul commented that my selection of images had changed - no sunrises. No surprise, there haven't been any. Today was not a good day for photography but I managed to catch a shot of the 'Dreamlifter'. One of only four such aircraft in the world. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Twenty Three - Victoria BC

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A leisurely breakfast after a significant 'issue' was resolved. Last night we thought some of our laundry had gone missing. Two minutes with Rhoderic sorted that out. We thought all our laundry had been returned. The latest was still in progress containing all those 'lost' items.

Overnight we've travelled only about 85 miles and have joined two other ships in the port for Victoria, British Columbia. With passengers from all three looking to find their tour bus there was quite a crowd with some confusion as to who should be on which bus. There were no less than eleven different tours from our ship alone leaving at 09:00 with multiple buses for many of them. Plenty of opportunity for confusion.

We started with a scenic drive through the city and then North into the island. Lush green foliage despite a dry and hot summer. Our first destination was a visit to the Butterfly Gardens where many colourful butterflies fly freely amongst the people. It is difficult to photograph them when they land on the lens !!

Next was the Butchart Gardens covering 55 acres of former limestone quarry and cement factory. The entire site is beautifully landscaped into themed gardens. Profusely planted with flowers, shrubs and trees the garden has been attracting visitors for almost 100 years. Amongst the natural beauty of the plants there are a number of bronze sculptures, a carousel and two giant totem poles.

There was also an impressive array of infrastructure, including a massive car-park, rest rooms, coffee shop, restaurants and the obligatory gift shop. I've no idea what the cost of entry is, it was all included in the tour price but it certainly deserves the world famous listing and proudly reflects the efforts of the 300 person army that operates and maintains the park.

After about an hour and a half it was time to make our way to the bus leaving at least one third of the garden undiscovered. The bus drove us back to the ship's side where we considered catching the shuttle back into the city. Decided to go aboard and think about it after lunch. The idea became less attractive as our feet started to protest. A much needed 'Nanny Nap' was finally considered the preferred option or in the words of Johnny the waiter "Excellent Choice, Sir".

One of the other ships in Port today was the Golden Princess heading back to San Francisco to completing her last ten day round trip of the Inside Passage. Her next sailing is a 28 day crossing of the Pacific from San Francisco to Sydney for a season of sailings from Melbourne. That's a cruise we may need to consider some time in the future.

A simple dinner in the Horizon Court and watched the 'Jewel of the Sea' leave her berth. Made our way to the Theatre in anticipation of a performance by vocalist Solomon Jaye. He was athletic and tried very hard. His songs meant nothing to me and he just didn't connect so we left about 15 minutes into his show. Spent some time recording these words and will upload this from the Horizon Court as I did last night. Seems to work better from the public areas.

With over 100 images of flowers to choose from it has been difficult to select a favourite. The overview of the Sunken Garden won the day. You can view the image by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 20:37 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day Twenty Two - Vancouver

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

After a quick breakfast we caught up with some of the people we had got to know on the land tour portion of this outing. They were headed home and we exchanged email addresses. Not sure how many passengers are continuing on to the next leg of the cruise but it looked like just about everyone had luggage out last night.

Today is a 'turn around' day where almost all of the passengers leave the ship and a whole new manifest is brought aboard. We were not obliged to go ashore as there was a change of policy in the US Border Protection organisation. We had our passports ready anyway 'just in case'. The 'Canada Place' terminal combines both ship berths and convention and hotel facilities. All access is under cover and the whole facility is a far cry from what we've experienced in Sydney. The process of going ashore was simplified even further because as 'Passengers In Transit' we were able to walk straight through. The return to the ship was equally simple.

With some time to fill in and memories to refresh we found or way to the SeaBus ferry and sailed across to North Vancouver. At CN$ 5.50 (for the two of us) we could travel on the ferry, the buses and trains for about 90 minutes. We visited the "Q" Markets and again admired the wealth of food and goods available. Returned to the ferry and sailed back across the harbour. Almost managed to walk past the RCMP gift shop but Jenny tricked me and we walked out with a Beaver Mountie.

Back on the ship for a quick lunch before all the new passengers swarmed into the Horizon Court. Picked up a printout of our account and confirmed that the On Board Credits were correct and that the shore excursions had been charged.

Just waiting for the Muster Drill due at 15:45. Read again the Transit Passenger FAQ. It states there that we DO NOT need to attend the drill. That's great because I can then be in position to see the ship sail out of the port. Not sure who makes the rules but we had to attend the drill on three occasions aboard the Ruby last February.

At the scheduled departure time I found my way to the mini-deck under the bridge. It faces forward and provides unrestricted views not available from anywhere else on the ship. While waiting for the departure I was intrigued to watch float-planes land and take off. Watched the ship sail out of the harbour and under the Lion Head Bridge as we dawdle our way to Victoria on Vancouver Island at the blistering speed of 11 knots. It is a ridiculously short distance and lots of time to fill in. Didn't bother to make our way to the dining room and ate a light meal in the Horizon Court. From there we worked our way to the Theatre where the Cruise Director introduced her staff and the comedian provided us with a taste of what's in store.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view one of those float-planes taking off by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 21:09 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Day Twenty One - Day at Sea

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

There was a hint of colour to mark the start of a cloudy day. The wind is brisk and the temperature bracing. The highlight of the morning was the Culinary Demonstration with the Chef and Maitre d'Hotel. Both provided an entertaining parody of a cooking show. The 'show' finished with one of the waiters singing a farewell with a voice worthy of an opera star. His performance received a well deserved standing ovation.

We drifted into a simple lunch and made our way to the Theatre for a screening of the ship's videographer's captures of the Glacier Bay Experience. We were so impressed we signed up for a $60 set of DVDs.

At about 16:00 we were advised that there may be possible whale sightings as we entered the Canadian Inside Passage, a series of narrow gaps between islands where the waters are quite turbulent. We stood on the open deck for over an hour and eagerly snapped images of the simplest sightings of a whale blow. I was able to recognise about eight separate images where there is a hint of a whale.

Dinner was in the Horizon Court after which we watched a movie - "Woman In Gold" staring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. A powerful story sadly shown in a mediocre venue which made much of the subtitle text impossible to read.

Tomorrow we arrive in Vancouver where most of the passengers will disembark. We will need to leave the ship while some essential maintenance is carried out.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a collage of whale sightings by following this link to my main album.

Wishing you good health and safe travel.
Have a great day and stay well.
Cheers .. Tony

Posted by greynomadm 05:43 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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