A Travellerspoint blog

Day Twenty - Ketchikan

Monday, 14 September 2015

The water has been so calm it is difficult to determine if we're even moving. Very few clouds as we sailed up the Revillagigedo Channel to Ketchikan gave promise for a great day. Local rainfall is in excess of 14 feet, topped up with an additional 7 feet of snow, it is a wet place and often rains for a whole week. Not today !!

We were the third ship to tie up, the other two being the Norwegian Jewel and Holland America's Volendam. That makes for about 6,000 visitors in town today. Our tour started at 10:10 and was unusual in that we walked about six blocks to the first venue, the Alaskan Lumberjack Show. An outdoor stadium with undercover and padded benches. The skill of the lumberjacks was amazing and to create an air of competition there was a USA and a Canadian team. The show is partly sponsored by Stihl so there were some chain-saw events. The racing saws sliced the spruce logs like a hot knife through butter. The buck saws were also impressive as was the axe work. Elements we don't experience at home included the axe throwing, the tree climbing but most of all the log rolling. There was also the fake name calling and supposing fist fights which were obviously staged but it was all in fun.

From the stadium we walked back towards the ship to join a bus for the tour of the Totem Bight State Park. An impressive area of forest and park land where our guide explained the many features of totem poles. There was also a lot of information about the cultural history of the local tribes. We were told that there has been a recent DNA analysis that has linked the local natives with the Maori of New Zealand on the opposite side of the world. We also saw a totem in the process of being carved. There was of course the obligatory Gift Shop but managed to avoid buying any of the intricately carved miniature totems.

Back on the waterfront we found the Christmas Store we remembered from our visit in 2010. Jenny has searched Skagway and Juneau for this store and was delighted to finally find it. We visited an adjoining store where for just over US$5 we bought the largest ice-cream I have ever experienced. One of the big differences between this visit and our previous is that we've had fine weather in all three ports. On the walk back to the ship we happened to stop in the Tongass Trading Company and found it had an extensive range of Carhartt work-wear and we bought a mate for the shirt we'd bought in Anchorage. The store is huge and the inventory is amazing with many items marked down for the 'end of season' sale.
Back on the ship we had a late lunch or early dinner. Tonight we were invited to attend a 'frequent cruisers' cocktail party hosted by the Captain and the heads of all departments. The invitations were for the top 40 frequent cruisers. Given there were only 83 Elite Passengers on the ship it wasn't such a big deal but the food and drink was extensive and we were presented with a photo of us with the Captain. Nice touch that's never happened before.

Time goes forward an hour overnight and we have 'sea day' tomorrow as we sail for Vancouver.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a photo of the Lumberjacks 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 05:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Nineteen - Juneau

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Another one of those line-ball mornings. Will it or won't it rain today?? So we dressed in layers and stepped off the ship. Luck was with us, the bus driver was a vivacious young lady with a wicked sense of humour and a repertoire of doubtful stories. Some rain spots on the windscreen were wiped away and we dodged a shower by visiting the Salmon Hatchery.

We were overloaded with facts and numbers ans spent a good hour looking around the facilities. They imprint the location on the fish by holding the juveniles in a net pond for about three months. This acclimatises them to the salt ocean water where they will live for up to five years. When the adult fish return to spawn they climb the longest fish ladder in Alaska. The trapped fish have their eggs and sperm removed and they are brought together in a bucket. In-Bucket Fertilisation !!

Next stop the Mendenhall Glacier which gives birth to a lake and a river. It is another of the shrinking glaciers and looses about 20 feet in height each summer. There are many different estimates as to when it will totally disappear but the frightening fact is that due to the loss of bulk the rate of decline is increasing. Markers show where it used to end at various times in the past 50 years.

Third stop on the tour was an hour spent at the Glacial Garden. The gardens were established on a site that was devastated by a massive landslide. The passion of the landscape gardener and nurseryman owner of the 40 acre site has turned it into a spectacular park. The range of flowers and other plants blends beautifully with the mature trees that surround the property. There are three huge hot-houses containing plants and flowers that are nurtured through the Alaskan Winter. One of the enclosures is used for weddings and other functions.

Finally we were dropped off in the shopping zone. Surprisingly, Jenny found a unique jacket that just had to be acquired. We then wandered back to the ship along the foreshore, had a quick late lunch and returned to the cabin.

Formal night tonight and there was Lobster Tail on the menu. I have that choice every time because it is inevitably well cooked and beautifully presented. Tonight was no exception. The dessert was excellent and the coffee great. This cruise and the land-tour portion have exceeded expectation. My cough appears to be clearing up as well.

Ketchikan tomorrow and hopefully a continuation of the great weather.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a photo of the Mendenhall Glacier 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 06:53 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Eighteen - Skagway

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Cold, windy and a strong hint of rain as we berthed in Skagway. A simple breakfast and collected our gear for today's shore excursion. At 08:50 we found our tour bus (coach) on the pier alongside the ship. We drove leisurely through downtown Skagway and proceeded up the Klondike Highway in the direction of Whitehorse. This is roughly the route taken by thousands of gold rush miners in the 1890s. The road is amazingly steep and at times we drove through dense fog. We stopped along the way to marvel at the effort that must have been required for these old-timers to drag themselves and all their supplies up this mountain.

We passed through the US Immigration Post at Fraser, then some miles further on crossed the actual border between the USA and Canada. Soon after the clouds lifted and a feeble sun broke through. Canadian Immigration check consisted of us holding our passport next to our face as the official passed through the coach. Just down from the White Pass summit of this pass through the mountain we came upon the tourist attraction of "The Suspension Bridge". Some years ago someone had the notion to build a steel suspension foot-bridge across the river, build a café, gift shop and more recently a restaurant.

The structures are all first class but I do wonder why or how it survives. We spent a pleasant hour before retracing our steps down the mountain to the outskirts of Skagway where we discovered "Liarsville" a recreation of a tent city of the late 1890s. There we were welcomed by a rather bizarre character and invited to a lunch of grilled salmon with salads, corn bread and a cake, tea and coffee also provided. After a more than generous meal we wandered through the camp comprising a number of crude structures, tents and recycled bits of odd machinery and tools. Yes !! There was the inevitable Gift Shop where Jenny bought me a fancy cap.

Back on the coach and a bonus detour to a high vantage point overlooking the town and the two ships in port. An amazing view of the ships and directly down onto the runway of the local airstrip. A serious lapse of judgement had us depart the coach in the down-town area. Wandered in and out of a few shops and even into one or two jewelry stores. "Just looking", says Jenny. Long story short we bought a diamond ring.

Back to the ship for some fruit and to make some notes. Decided to skip dinner tonight and went to see the 'production show' tonight. We're not normally a fan of the singers and dancers and the over-the-top loud music. Tonight's performance may have converted me completely. It was without doubt the best staged musical number we've seen on any of the ships. Top marks to all involved !!

Back to the cabin and finish this tale. Will have a go at uploading but will hold off to the morning if the response is too slow.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a photo of the Suspension Bridge 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 06:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Seventeen - Glacier Bay

Friday, 11 September 2015

Today was all about glaciers and we selected a forward position in the Horizon Court Buffet to ensure a good vantage point. The forecast was for rain and wind and fog, almost a repeat of yesterday.

We watched the National Park Rangers come aboard and after another hour or so decided to brave the open deck. We got all rugged up and went out on Deck 7 to find that the rain had passed, the wind dropped and there was even some sunshine. The Captain drove the ship into the John Hopkins Inlet and was permitted to proceed some miles further towards the John Hopkins glacier because restrictions had been lifted only yesterday. We spent almost two hours near the glacier. Ship's crew remarked that we were lucky as these were the best conditions experienced through the whole season.

We took a break for a quick lunch and found that the ship had sailed up Tarr Inlet to the Margerie Glacier. Another spectacular display and even some occasional sunshine. Again the ship hovered close to the glacier for over an hour. We are currently making our way South down Glacier Bay and will sail to Skagway overnight.

We were promised 'Scenic Cruising' and we certainly experience some of the best in the world. These past two weeks are shaping up to become that 'once in a lifetime' experience and we have so much more to see. An hour or so to dinner to be followed by the evening show. Will complete this later.

Dinner was excellent but the service was not really as polished as we've experienced on other ships. It wasn't helped by an obnoxious man on the adjoining table insisting his hamburger was not well done enough. The second one arrived and looked so charred and tough it could have been used as boot leather.

The show tonight was an excellent illusions show by Alexander Great, the illusions varied from elaborately staged to simple slight of hand stuff. Quite the best we've seen on board ships.

Will post this early tomorrow when there may be some clear bandwidth.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a photo of the Margerie Glacier 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 06:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Visit to Yakutat Bay

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Not a brilliant start to the day, solid overcast with rain and temperatures forecast to range from 10 °C to 12 °C. Had grand intentions to attend various enrichment lectures in the Theatre. I was in there less than 10 minutes and experienced another violent coughing bout. We decided I should get something better than 'over the counter' medication so went off to join the queue at the Medical Centre on deck 4.

Most patients were there for 'motion sickness' and were able to buy the recommended medication over the counter. Not as cheap as you'd buy it ashore I guess but I did hear the nurse almost scoff at the treatments the passenger had tried. I filled out the forms and saw the doctor. He confirmed what I'd suspected - I have an upper respiratory infection. He prescribed a course of Cefturoxime antibiotics and some Prednisolone. I hope it works, that little visit cost me US$228.04 and over half of that was the medication. We don't know how well off we are in Australia with our subsidised medicines.

Because I'd hardly slept last night I made full use of the darkened cabin and slept away most of the day. Had a light lunch and got up to try and photograph the Hubbard Glacier. It would have been very impressive in some reasonable light but the mist, the rain, the overcast and the colour of the water and the glacier all merged into shades of blue-grey.

Tonight was the first formal night and as we had lugged our formal gear halfway around the world we felt obliged to put it to use. It was a nice feeling to look almost as good as the waiters when we entered the dining room. We enjoyed the 50th Anniversary Menu and the special dessert was exceptional.

If you want to look at what I've been up to you can view a photo of the Glacier 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 21:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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