Tuesday 31 May 2022

The sun shines in Ketchikan, Alaska

 Before we arrive in Ketchikan I'll share a couple of photos from our sea on May 8. I started my day early and was thrilled to see we were sailing into a rainbow - a good omen for this trip!

We weren't alone on the ocean, though I'm not referring to the ship in the photo. 

I attended the naturalist lecture later that morning - Mark Harris told us that one can tell the difference between the humpback whale and a grey whale by their spouts. A humpback whale's spout looks like a spout, while a grey whale look more mushroom shaped. Hence I believe this was a humpback...but of course, I could be wrong. I saw spouts almost daily and even a couple of breaches!

On to Ketchikan. 

We were in Ketchikan on May 9 and 19. Both days were sunny and mild. Known as the rain capital of Alaska, I've visited the community three times and each time the sun was shining. A local told me at the burger stand that I must have brought it with me. I can't make that claim as our ship's captain informed us on every sunny day that he was responsible. (If it was overcast or rainy it was the cruise director's fault.) :)

On our first stop, our ship was parked right downtown and across from the Ketchikan sign. From there it was a short walk to the Christmas store (I bought nothing though I did look), and to Creek Street. Creek Street is infamous as Ketchikan's red light district and one of the properties, Dolly's house is now a museum. I've visited there years ago, and it's an interesting place to see. Creek Street is so named as Ketchikan Creek runs alongside. Behind the buildings is a winding pathway named Married Man's Way, a trail used by patrons to avoid being seen out front.

I thought I had taken a photo from the ship of Creek Street, but I did not. Instead you get a photo of Ketchikan Creek. There was a sign that indicated that salmon do spawn in this creek but it was too early in the year for that activity.

I did a wander about the downtown area and ended up at the Pioneer Cafe for lunch. No salmon in the creek, but I had a great homemade salmon burger for lunch. Delicious!

When I left home on May 6, I had noticed my Jacob's Ladder and bergenia's were just beginning to spring forth. In Ketchikan I found blooms!

After my lunch and a bit more walking I headed back to the ship, to the Wakeview bar for the rest of the afternoon. Just to give you an idea of how big the ship is, this is a photo I snapped on my walk back.

There was more entertainment to be found. The Coast Guard pulled over a small boat with it's lights and sirens and an officer went on board the smaller vessel. It wasn't long before the boat was on its way, so I presume all was well.

There were many float planes taking off and landing. For those who don't know, my first full time employment when I left high school (many, many moons ago), was as a dispatcher and bookkeeper for a charter air service in Northern Saskatchewan. I've never lost my love of listening for and watching float planes. This appears to be a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, a true workhorse of the north. 

In addition there was a squadron of helicopters nearby. I believe some of my fellow passengers took a flight on a helicopter in order to land on the Misty Fjord. Sorry, not sorry, I won't fly in a helicopter...ever. A fixed wing plane can usually glide to a landing spot (search Gimli Glider), while a helicopter becomes a piano when the rotor stops. I know they are flown safely every day but I simply cannot convince myself.

On a happier note, on our return trip to Ketchikan we were parked at the other end of town, basically next door to the float planes. I did laundry that morning before heading off the ship - I knew the laundry would be busy our last day at sea. 
I spent some time on the decks watching the dock crew tie up the ship. They use massive ropes for this purpose - it takes three guys and a winch to bring the ropes up. 

Look who sailed in shortly after we arrived. It's the Holland America Koningsdam we'd seen in Vancouver. I seem to recall they were in another port one other day but otherwise their itinerary was different than ours.

We off boarded from a lower deck and had a ramp to climb. This photo was taken from the ramp. Those posts are starting to look a little worn for wear from my perspective. :)

My goal that day was simply to do a walk around that area, and go to the Dairy Queen for lunch. Several of the crew members had told me that it was the best place in town for a hamburger - I just had to give it a try. There was a bit of a line-up when I arrived at 11:30, and it was a half hour wait before I got my order. As the cashier said, "we aren't making fast food here, we're making good food". Look at the size of that burger - no fries required! Like every good burger it was messy. I enjoyed my meal sitting on a bench on the dock, people watching.

While I waited at the burger joint, I noticed these ferns growing out of the rock wall at the back of the property. Again, at home my ferns were just barely out of the ground.

Back on board ship, I headed once again to the Wakeview bar. I'm sure you are sensing a trend here. This was the afternoon I was bound and determined to get another photo of an eagle. Unfortunately my zoom just couldn't do the job as they circled high overhead. Frustrated, I had put my camera away and was reading when someone hollered eagle. I looked up to see the bird flying just a few feet away from the ship! Did it fly by again? Of course not. 

This tug was pulling these large barges with freight cars down the channel. At one point it moved from the side to the the front (as shown here). I assume it has to do with the depth of the water. Amazing that something that small can manage that kind of load.

If you have a cool $9.2 million available this yacht can be yours. Another couple told me they'd talked to someone at a bar in town who said the price had recently been reduced. 

Though I didn't do anything special in Ketchikan, I definitely enjoyed our time there. There were people and airplanes to watch, a few elusive eagles, and great food. I even did a little shopping on the last day, picking up a photo album for those that I'll print and a t-shirt for Eli.

And that eagle photo I wanted? Well, as we sailed away from Ketchikan, I finally spotted another one. I've cropped the photo because so it isn't the best, but you can see the bird on the pole.

Next up - Juneau, Alaska

Sunday 29 May 2022

At sea it begins

I was up early on Saturday May 7, excited and anxious to get to the cruise port. While there was a restaurant next to the hotel I had read it was pretty pricey and luckily there was a McDonalds just across the parking lot. I knew I'd be eating better on the ship (most of the time) so treated myself to a breakfast sandwich and an iced coffee, while catching up on news and touching base with family.

I had decided to take the Sky train down to the port, rather than a cab. When I spoke to the shuttle driver the night prior, he mentioned it would be less expensive to catch the Sky train at the Bridgeport station rather than transferring back to the airport (about a $5 difference). So I had the hotel shuttle drop me at their sister hotel and walked the three or four city blocks to the station. The price to travel downtown the Waterview station was a mere $3.05! I certainly wasn't the only one with luggage on the train. From Waterview to Canada Place is just a couple of blocks. I missed the sign for the luggage drop-off and spent a few minutes wandering before I asked for directions.

Once my luggage was dropped off it was a hurry up and wait situation. We had to go through customs, then out of the building and back into the building, into a long line up to reach the check-in for the cruise. Here we had to provide our proof of vaccination, proof of negative Covid test, and passport, before receiving our medallions. (More on that later). From there it was another long walk before reaching the gangplank. 

All told it was about a 30-45 minute process but felt much longer because I was so excited and just wanted to get on board. I didn't expect my cabin to be ready so took my carry-on and camera and did a wander on the ship. As I mentioned in a previous post the ship is similar to other Princess ships of the same class, so once I had forward and aft in my mind, I felt pretty comfortable. The large sails are part of the Canada Place building, and the cruise ship to the right is Holland America's Koningsdam. We saw this ship a few times during our travels.

After a walk about the upper decks, I headed to the noodle bar on Deck 16 for lunch. I knew the buffet would be busy. I had a large bowl of Thai noodle soup - it was delicious, spicy and hot.  Then it was off to check out my bat cave (inside cabin).

I usually have the bed set up as a queen but decided for this cruise to try to the singles. It worked out very well for me, as I used one for my bed, and the other more like a couch and drop off spot for bags and clothing and such. There is a small desk in the room, a bar fridge, and a television on the wall above and to the left of the desk.

I should note there are light strips under the two night stands that are motion activated. These were nice to have when I used the facilities at night.

On the other hand the motion activated light between the closet and bathroom was a nuisance - it was far to bright and a shock to the system in the middle of the night. The closet has ample storage, and the door you can see on the right side holds the safe and has shelves for more storage. I won't bother showing photos of the bathroom - it's standard fare. :)

I did some unpacking, mostly hanging items that had gotten creased in my luggage. There is a laundry area on each of the cabin floors, with irons and ironing boards for those who need it. I tend to take items that don't need much more than a good shaking out, and the humidity on the ship is enough to take care of most wrinkles. I do, however, do laundry on the ship. It costs $3 to wash and $3 to dry a load. I take my own detergent pods and dryer sheets and save $3 a load.

Then it was back outdoors, with another walk-about before I headed to the Wakeview Bar, aft deck 16 for the afternoon and sail-away. (The pictures will get more interesting, I promise.) There was lots of activity on and over the water to keep me entertained. 

Harbour Air operates throughout the Vancouver and Vancouver Island area, providing commuter services to various communities. A commute from Vancouver to Victoria (on Vancouver Island) is a mere 35 minute flight - I've flown a commuter jet from the airport and there isn't much difference in time.

At one point there were a series of sirens - and I'm not capable of saying which were which - but I presume police and ambulance or fire truck. I heard a bird screeching at the top of it's lungs at the sound. Looking up and to the port side of the ship I spotted this eagle. I think it was telling them to pipe down.

I did catch a photo of another eagle later in the trip, and saw a few more, but I really, really need a better zoom lens for my camera. I didn't need a zoom for the next bird, it landed right on the railing nearby. I'm certain it was looking for a handout...it didn't get one from me.

The area got busier as sail-away time drew nearer. I was reading a book, when Karen and Dave joined me. I had mentioned on Cruise Critic that I would be there for sail-away and they made the point of finding me. We had a nice chat and a drink in the sun. Sail-away was around 5:30 p.m. and we were off and sailing around that time. This photo shows the people watching us leave port.

This was our first look at Lion's Gate Bridge. "Lion's Gate" refers to two mountain peaks situated north of Vancouver. The suspension bridge was opened in 1939. It has a height of 111 meters (364 feet) and a ship's clearance of 61 meters (200 feet). 

We passed the homeless camp set up on the shore, just as a commuter plane was landing. I'd say they have a pretty nice spot on the water, though I suspect it wouldn't be as nice on a rainy day.

Looking back towards the city as we begin our travel into the open ocean waters.

After sail-away, I left the Wakeview bar, made my way to the cabin and got dressed for dinner in the Allegro dining room. I recall I had fish that evening and it was a good, if not great meal. 

After dinner, I changed back into my jeans and headed back outdoors. This would a theme of the cruise - unless I was sleeping, it was raining, or if we were in port and I was off ship, I was out on the decks. I missed out on a lot of the entertainment they offer onboard, but after this long and seemingly never ending winter, it felt so good to be out in the fresh air. With a book and my camera, I was never bored. If I hadn't been outdoors I'd have missed the sunset that first night.

So ends the first day of the cruise. I should mention, I had taken notes each day, but somehow managed to forget to pack them or perhaps lost them, so my photos will be necessary to jog my memory. Since we visited all but one of the ports twice, I'll share the photos from both visits in one post. Unfortunately when it comes to the glaciers, there are only two or possibly three that I am certain of the names. I'll share some info from a book I purchased in Whittier, about the communities and the glaciers as well. 

Welcome aboard!

Friday 27 May 2022

A pause in time

Just a quick note to let you know I won't be posting vacation pics and info, or my regular weekly post for a few days yet. My laptop is still broken, so I picked up a new laptop this morning. I'm at D's as she's having his birthday party for he and his friends in the park on Saturday. I'll be there to help with the logistics and to take photos. 

It's been a busy week this far with the contractor finishing up on Thursday.  More photos to come when I get the painting done.

I'll be back for certain next week as things get back to normal...or as normal as they ever are for me. :)

Friday 20 May 2022

Sailing the Majestic

As I start this post, I'm in my cabin Aloha 724, taking a brief time out before heading back out on the deck of the ship. We're in Ketchikan today, one more sea day and then we disembark in Vancouver.  Fingers crossed, I'll make it through security in time for my flight.  

This morning (Thursday) I took a walk through the ship and snapped a few photos of areas on the ship I particularly like. I'm on the Majestic Princess, a ship built originally for the Asian market. All around the ship the signage is in English and Chinese characters.

In the center of the ship on decks 5, 6, and 7 is the Piazza. Most of the ships are built in Italy so despite the Asian influences the Piazza is a necessity. 

On each of the floors off the Piazza are various services, restaurants,  bars, shops, the internet Cafe, guest services,  just to name a few.

In the Piazza on deck 5 each afternoon there is live music. It's a pleasant spot for a beverage and a sit.  Assuming, of course you can find a seat.

On this cruise that doesn't seem to be an issue. The ship generally averages 3400 passengers,  however on the way north we had a little over 1800, and southbound, a few over 2000. Thus the ship doesn't feel crowded at all.

To be honest I haven't spent much time inside. Even with fewer passengers I'm avoiding close contact as much as possible. More on that in another post. 

One of my favorite spots on the ship is the seating area on the aft deck 16, outside the Marketplace (a fancy name for the buffet area). It was a busy place in the late afternoon but I often had it to myself, with a couple of waiters, for lunch and those days it was warm enough to enjoy breakfast. 

Another favorite area, for watching the glaciers, or looking for wildlife, or simply relaxing with a book was an area forward on deck 7.

Again it seemed to be an area that few others found...or maybe they were staying indoors.  Not me! The fresh air and the views kept me outdoors most days. It helped that with the exception of Juneau as we traveled north, and Glacier Bay going south  we had very little rain. Mornings were often overcast but the skies cleared by noon.

If you wondered if there are old fashioned deck chairs, they have those too. Sadly most are in the smoking area but I found these ones on the port side of deck 7.  I got some time out there today (Friday) early in the morning in the sunshine. A little bird joined me, I wonder if it knows how far it is from home.

When it was cool, I did spend some time in the Hollywood Conservatory. No idea why it is called that.  It was a nice quiet space,  deck 17 forward, where one could watch the sea for whale spouts.  This was an adults only area, though this cruise there were only a few children on board.

The one flaw I found was the food. For the first week I ate in one of the main dining rooms with sit-down service. The food was presented nicely, tasted fine, but hot and cold foots were often tepid. In one instance I sent dinner back as the fish was cold and oily. There was one superb meal, the evening I dined at Bistro Sur le Mar. This is one of the specialty restaurants,  with a surcharge. My lovely travel agent, L treated me!

The second week I ate mostly at the buffet. There wasn't a while lot of variety day to day, but enough items on the menu that I always found something to enjoy.  This experience is unlike my previous cruises and I suspect has much to do with supply chain issues and fewer staff than normal.

And since I didn't cruise for the food but rather the scenery and the ports this did not hamper my enthusiasm and enjoyment at all. 

It's now late afternoon Friday. I'm back on the aft.of deck 16 enjoying the sunshine and watching the ship's wake. My suitcase is packed, I've checked in for my flight, there are just a few items left for my carry-on. 

Time to hit post, find some dinner, and settle in for what will likely be a restless night. No matter how often I travel I have difficulty sleeping the night prior. Excitement and worry that I'll sleep through the alarm, miss my ride to the airport, etc. Hasn't happened yet. 

And just like that someone hollered whale, and I turned and saw the spout. Saying so long dor now.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

A quick post from Juneau, Alaska


Taken last night as we sailed from Skagway. More to come in a few days.

Friday 6 May 2022

North to Alaska

I've started this post mid-week, thinking that I'd likely hit post when I got to the airport. I'd never tried to post from my phone so we'll see how that goes!

I've managed to keep relatively busy the first few days of the week. There were groceries to buy, more to ensure there is food in the house when I get back, but also to stock some items I know my son will enjoy while I'm away. I ran an errand for my daughter and mailed off a parcel of items for her. For my Canadian readers, if you are looking for a deal on postage for parcels, the flat rate boxes are a good buy. I paid less to mail the largest flat rate box (interior 15 X 11.5 inches) for less than I have paid to send a much smaller box. The postal clerk told me I could stuff as much as I liked in the box to a maximum of 11 pounds. In this case there wasn't anything really heavy but I certainly managed to mostly fill the box. Back at home, I left the car on the driveway and gave it a good wash. 

The carpenter finished up the work framing and installing the drywall on Tuesday. The electrician stopped by as well to get a sense of the scope of the work - he'll be installing pot lights, adding an electrical outlet and removing one that I no longer need. Later on Tuesday, the guy who does the mudding and taping of the drywall was here as well (and returned again every day since). While the last fellow was here I decided it was time to tackle the garage. I swept up the debris that tracks in throughout the year, dirt, leaves, and grime. I broke some boxes that were thrown out there that I won't use and reorganized the ones I'm keeping. There were a couple of boxes of items meant for the thrift store that were forgotten so I put those in the trunk of the car for my next trip to the store.

I had forgotten to go to the bank to get cash for my trip, for tips and small purchases, so did that on Wednesday. A stop was made at Walmart to pick up a couple of needed items as well. Back at home, I chatted with my most wonderful travel agent. She has been spending a lot of time ensuring this trip goes smoothly for me. Canada has a app that individuals entering the country must complete - ArriveCan. To enter Canada, one must complete the documentation which includes passport and proof of vaccination, and for non-Canadians proof of a negative Covid test. I had assumed, wrongly, that I would not need to complete this step until we returned to Vancouver at the end of the cruise. I had already downloaded the app, uploaded my proof of vax, and passport info. But as L discovered, cruises are treated differently and the ArriveCan process must be completed before embarkation. She also learned that it must be done no more than 72 hours prior, though it will allow one to do so. I had to delete my first receipt and reenter the info.

I had earlier scheduled my Covid test, a requirement for the cruise, for Friday at noon. After discussing it with l  I decided to reschedule for earlier in the day. This was easy, just a couple of mouse clicks. The fact it was that easy suggested the clinic isn't busy...making me hopeful I'd get my results quickly. 

The rest of the day was spent vaccuming the main floor of the house, packing a few more items, and reading in the sun room. Our weather has changed for the better though there is rain in the forecast beginning Friday.

Then Thursday happened. First off I'm writing this on my phone. My laptop power insert broke and I didn't notice the battery draining and suddenly it shut down. I can do most things on my phone but when I checked in for my flight the download receipt for my checked luggage disappeared.  I was worried I'd be asked to pay again at the airport but that didn't  happen. 

Meanwhile I got a bunch of housework done, finished crocheting the edging on three dishcloths, and checked and double checked my packing.  

Friday morning went by quickly. I got my walk in, the construction crew came by with supplies for next week, and I remembered a few more items to pack. The taxi showed up on time and I arrived at the airport just prior to my appointment.  The RAT was completed in short order, I tested negative,  and then it was a quick process to drop off luggage and through security.

Then it was a whole lot of waiting. I had 2.5 hours before boarding my first flight, an hour and a bit before my second, and about a 20 minute wait for the hotel shuttle. We had a fair amount of turbulence between Regina and Calgary,  but a smooth flight between Calgary and Vancouver. I did get a 20 minute nap on the first flight, but had an excitable youngster (about 3) in the seat ahead of mine in the second flight so read for most of the trip.

The hotel, a Holiday Inn, is lovely. I had done the online check-in so it was a matter of getting my key card and arranging a shuttle for the
 morning to get to the train. I'm at the end of the hallway  and though there is some traffic noise I suspect I'll sleep well tonight.

On that note I'll say goodnight and wish everyone a good weekend.

Friday Funny