Friday, September 11, 2009

Skagway

Skagway

We arrived in Skagway a little before 6AM .. and it was raining. Are you seeing a weather theme for the week yet ? We docked at the Railroad Pier right behind the Island Princess and were shortly joined in port by the Veendam and the Norwegian Sun. (I believe I forgot to mention that when we arrived in Juneau at 2pm yesterday, we had to wait for the Norwegian Sun to depart and then docked at AJ Dock, joining the Diamond Princess, the Veendam and the Westerdam. There were a lot of soggy cruisers in Alaska this week!!!)

I looked outside and said to myself, a little breakfast and then a couple hours of shopping are in order before we board the White Pass and Yukon RR for our journey du jour. Off we went at about 9 to the Horizon Court where I piled my plate with fruit. I tried to drink the coffee which has been ok to middling there all week but it just wasn’t happening today. It was purely horrible this morning and I don’t know about you, but without my AM coffee I have a lot in common with some of the Alaskan wildlife, in particular the bears. (Somehow I had neglected to hang the coffee request from room service on the door last night.) So it was off to the International Café for some “real” coffee.

We sat by the window where we were able to see passerby’s feet hopping from puddle to puddle along the dock. It was at this point that I said “Self, how badly do you really NEED an arctic fleece that say’s Alaska on it?” Self replied, hmmmm well perhaps not that badly at all silly girl .. LOOK at the weather!!” Self is often quite well respected and can prove to be very wise in these matters so I took her advice and had more coffee.

We finally made the mad dash down the dock just in time to board the WP & YR. Now I know the advice from these boards usually runs in favor of snagging the last car and sitting on the left hand side, however that was not to be today. We ended up in a car somewhere around the middle of the train. As the train pulled out of the “station” we surveyed our environment and found this particular car to be less than half full, giving everyone access to musical seating as we passed through gorgeous scenery. It was, in fact, a perfect choice for us.

We gratefully accepted lengths of paper towel to wipe the condensation from the windows. Point of fact, we were continually supplied with said paper towel and frequent foray’s by the conductor to briefly open the car doors in order to alleviate this condition. Both acts had limited success. Thankfully, we did have that musical chair thing going on because on the way back, visibility became limited due to the cloud cover moving lower and lower.

The WP & YR is a wonderful experience and I would strongly recommend it during your stay in Skagway. Molly, the narrator, was exceptional. The history of the RR and it’s relationship to what we were seeing was fascinating.

I should apologize for the lack of pictures. It turns out that we have taken so many photos and videos on this trip that editing which should be included in the web page is a bit daunting and will be a project for our return home when Bill has his “own” computer instead of my (insert derogatory comment) laptop to work on. We do promise to get those done as soon as we return home!!

We arrived back at the dockside just in time to board the ship and head for our next sea day.

Junean

Juneau

Well, I might have been a teense premature in my expectation of flight-seeing to the Mendenhall Glacier in a helicopter. The weather forced the cancellation of all helicopter flights for the day. Ah well, of we went in the pouring rain to see what could be salvaged in order for us to see the glacier and thankfully, Princess had organized some last minute excursions to the glacier visitors center area via bus. We were set, yet again.

Off we went at the appointed time with a very good driver/guide who had lots of interesting tidbits for us on the short ride to the glacier. Now when I say short ride, I am of course speaking of distance as opposed to time. Who knew that a town of 30,000 with an 4 lane expressway (of which the residents are VERY proud and I will have you know it goes for 11 miles .. I mean think of it 11 miles no wonder they are so proud) could have a huge traffic jam ???? I would never have guessed. It was consolation that Smokey, or driver was in a state of utter shock at this development and being a local we were not to worry he knew the way around this problem. Ok, it is true he did know, and so did about 24,000 of the other locals I believe. We were now wondering if the forces that be somehow did not want us to get to a glacier on this trip.

We emerged victorious and arrived at the Mendenhall Glacier visitors center for a stunning view of an actual glacier up close!! Success!!!! The visitor’s center is in itself lovely and very informative. There were excellent high powered telescopes set up which got you even closer to this massive ice cube. All in all, it was well worth the trials and tribulations. It was not the spectacular excursion we had hoped for, but then again the weather was deteriorating quickly and I must agree that safety is first and a helicopter would not have been a good thing.

We did see a bride and groom toasting each other with champagne and having pictures taken in one of the pavilions. She was in a white dress with a minimal shawl and had me shivering in my fur lined coat and boots thinking of how cold she should be. A local we surmised and figured we need not worry .. they probably knew the shortcut too!!

Smokey was very happy to accommodate all of us in the matter of shopping and getting back to the ship. We were running a little late and he was concerned that one young lady would miss her spa appointment so he returned us to the ship and told anyone that wanted to go back to town for shopping and / or Red Dog Salooning to just stay on the bus and he would be happy to take them back downtown. It was cold, rainy and getting dark and I decided that the ship won over shopping ( don’t tell anyone who knows me , they will think you are lying!!!)

Off to Skagway next!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tracy Arm

Tracy Arm

We left a wake up call for 5:30 this am so as not to miss anything… and is typical I was up at 5:00 am anyway. The naturalist was speaking from the bridge and I really didn’t want to miss any of that. Dressed warmly we grabbed out handy dandy stainless coffee mugs and off we went to the International Café for the good stuff to start the day and then it was up on deck to see everything.

At 6AM we crossed the bar and it was already starting to get interesting with chunks of ice floating by the ship. (Or was the ship sailing by the chunks of ice?... for the sake of argument lets say it is both . that seemed to satisfy my nutty husband). Can you say COLD .. all together now brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Equipped with a heavy lined coat, a stocking cap big fur boots and warm coffee to hold ..I shivered away as we watched this spectacular scenery pass by. (Note to self.. gloves are a really good idea.. wish I had thought of that earlier!!)

As more and more and bluer and bluer ice floated by, Kathy, the naturalist began to make noises reminding us that it was up to the captain how far into the glacier (how close to the glacier?.. whichever) we sailed. As we got close enough to spy the Sawyer Glacier she commented that the previous week the waters had been virtually clear but because of the rain in the time between sailing a fair amount of calving must have taken place at the glacier. By now, it appears to me that if one nuts, one could walk from chunk of ice to chunk of ice for a long long way. There was an incredible amount of ice in the water and soon out naturalist was saying she had not seen this much ice in the water all season.

In short, we didn’t get very close to the glacier but just the phenomenon of so much ice was spectacular as far as I was concerned. Of course this might have been a tempered response since I knew that this afternoon we are going by helicopter to Mendenhall glacier so I was sure to get up close .. or rather to actually stand on the glacier.

The fjords that we passed to get to the Sawyer glacier were simply amazing. We had previously thought that the fjords going into Oslo were pretty awesome, but in truth they pale a bit in comparison. Alaska is certainly big .. and by that I mean everything is individually big here. The scenery is breathtaking.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

We docked in Ketchikan at 5:30 AM and I know this because I was up taking pictures of the downtown as we sailed passed on our way to Dock #3. There was a NCL ship in dock #4, the Veendam was in Dock #1 and to Cruise West ships were in Dock #2. A full day for the merchants here in Ketchikan.

Just one teeny fly in some cruisers ointment. It is pouring down rain and in the low 50s. Yellow was the color of the day on the streets and umbrellas vied for space along the walkways. Being the hardy PNW type that we are, off we went to explore as far as my feet would allow.

I must say we haven’t actually seen Russia yet but we can tell we are getting close because every shop seemed to have Matreshka Dolls, reproduction Fabrege Eggs , amber and Russian fur hats. Well, I shouldn’t say every shop. I doubt they had them in Diamonds International, Tanzanite International or Del Sol (note I think Del Sol is particularly appropriate in a town that gets rain 240 days a year and that amounts to about 15 feet of rain we were told today).

There are some fabulous native art galleries and some wonderful native jewelry and I did not actually see anyone in DI or Del Sol or in fact any of the other chain jewelry stores.

Today was basically just a walk about tour of the town and then back to the ship. Ok, I did need to buy some mukluks but then I knew I would be doing that before we came so that is checked off the list now and in time to wear while watching the Tracy Arm Glacier in the Morning. Several excursions were cancelled due to the weather and lots of soggy people were re-boarding the ship but I didn’t see anyone in particularly bad temper from the weather so all is well aboard the Star.

We tried the sandwiches and salads (the shrimp is to die for) at the International Café. While we were there having a bite to eat, a “street performer:” entertained in the Piazza. He was spinning and balancing a huge steel framework cube. Very impressive, particularly when he took off his shirt and did some remarkable hand stands!! What a fun thing we will watch for more “street performers”

Now it is almost sail away time and time to watch the scenery in the Clarence Strait as we head toward Tracy Arm and then Juneau tomorrow. It will be a long day so some down time is a good idea!!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Sea Day

First Sea Day

Dinner last night was wonderful We met our tablemates and it seems to be a great mix. Conversation was steady and it is always interesting to meet our fellow cruisers. The food was even better than we remembered it. It was an interesting co-incidence that one of the couples at our table was from our Cruise Critic roll call.

We called it an early night and were back in the cabin by 10:30. Our cabin is very far aft and there was a lot of action from the sea. We absolutely love that, but if you are not so inclined, aft is not the place for you on this segment of the cruise.

Today we are at sea and I always love sea days. You can do as much or, as in our case, as little as you please.

We enjoyed the Cruise Critic meet and greet. It was well attended and it is always nice to put a face to the rest of the group. There was a lot of discussion of the ship movement. In fact there was a lot of discussion throughout the ship about this. Apparently some did not fare at all well through the night.

We did wander the ship to see everything. The piazza was quite busy all day it seems. We happened by there as they were doing a preview of the nights production show “Cinematastcs” with the dancers and singers. A nice touch I thought.

An amusing activity was when there was about an hour of sunshine and we watched about 10 crew members scurry to put the lounge chairs out next to the pool. Of course the pool was not accessible what with the waves and white caps in the pool itself. We wandered back through the area about an hour and a half later, and the lounges were all put away again!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We're Sailing - Embarkation

Embarkation Day

All in all, a good start to this cruise. We set the alarm for 7a.m. which is actually quite late for us on a day that we are traveling to a cruise (by air or car) but the alarm actually was needed to wake us up. Picked up Laureen and Phil and … well watched Bill fit together the luggage jigsaw puzzle in the back of the jeep (yes I do TOO need all those clothes and shoes , and so does Laureen!) The we were on our way.

I want to commend the auto industry as a whole for providing 97 different windshield wiper settings. I think I used every single possibility on the drive from Portland to Seattle. We passes through sunshine, mist, drizzle, sprinkles, intermittent showers and a few minutes of hang on I think I still see the road thought this deluge rain. Never a dull moment with this Pacific Northwest weather.

Did anyone ever mention that there is a LOT of traffic in Seattle? I think they may have understated it if you are cruising in the middle of a holiday weekend that features Seattle’s annual party called Bumbershoot. I don’t know much about this, but I can tell you it must be fabulous because the crowds were enormous and the traffic was, lets just say we could have walked from the freeway in the same amount of time. As we neared out turn at one intersection, Laureen said “ I wonder why they took you this way, it would have been much easier to come down Seneca to Denney and miss all of this” I will be asking for those directions on the way back.

I will say there were a good number of signs to the cruise terminal and they were designated Terminal 91 or Terminal 66. These made it quite easy to find the route. And we did eventually arrive at Terminal 91.

This was amazing! We drove up and I let everyone off with luggage at 1PM. I drove to the parking lot, parked the car, walked a short distance to the shuttle which left almost as soon as I boarded. Bill and I were at the top of the escalator by 1:15, on the ship by 1:35. We walked directly to our cabin and every piece of our luggage was already waiting for us, kudos to Terminal 91 and Princess. This was as easy as it come.

Since the luggage had arrived I unpacked and it was time for Muster Drill. Princess gathers all passengers in one of 4 inside muster stations which is nice on a cold day. I word of advice here, If you are going to either of the two non-theatre type seating lounges arrive early for a good seat close to the door, but if you are going to the Theatre or the Vista Lounge arrive at the last minute or you will be in the first row and it will take a while to get back to your cabin!!

Business taken care of and it was time to let the party begin!

More Later,

Kathy

It's Finanly Here!

Good Morning.


Today we start our journey North to Alaska (that song will be in my head all day I bet)! Evrrything is packed and ready to go in the car. If I have forgotten it now, I will remind myself that we are not leaving civilization and if it is really really necessary there will be someway to replace it onboard or on shore. If I packed anything I don't need, we come on I am a woman aren't I ?

So after months of planning we are 45 munutes away from leaving the house to pick up Laureen and Phil, try and fit all our luggage in .. and its off to Seattle to start this adventure.

Come on along with us via our blog.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It Gets Busy

Why is it that you can plan a cruise for 8 months and there is still so much to do the last few days???

1. Hair cut and colored.
2. Manicure and pedicure
3. Pick up tux at the cleaners
4. Go to the bank (and call the credit card companies to tell them you

are going out of town with the card)
5. Stop the mail
6. Make sure pet sitter remembers.
7. Get gas in the car.
8. Do any last minute laundry.
9. Make sure that there are shoes to go with everything.
10. Check weather forecast for last minute re-thinking of wardrobe.
11. Sort and make or separate racks of whatever one must pack.

( I don't subscribe to the very popular pack a few days ahead
method. I don’t want my clothes pre-wrinkled)
12. Finish up the last minute before vacation work load.


Now I don’t know about you, but that list doesn’t leave me any time to cook. And, well, ummm, lets see, oh yes, I need to get in practice for having someone cook for me for 7 days. Yes that is the ticket… it is essential that we eat out or take in until the cruise!!!

For a read-a-holic like me a big factor that must me considered, and this can take some time, is the matter of the perfect book(s) to take along. Do I feel like some light chick-lit or am I thinking an interesting biography or a mystery? I still haven’t decided on this one except for one book that is for sure going. I have some friends who have been urging me to read the Alchemist for some time. I finally got a copy of that and it will be going to Alaska with me. I do think I will need something else though and that will be a last minute decision.

I think I need a vacation to get over getting ready for the vacation, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shoes, Shoes, Shoes

Shoes, was there ever a woman that had enough shoes or the right shoes to go with every outfit? Personally I think that is a figment of some husband’s imagination. It will never be observed in real life. Now, compound that with the need to pack the appropriate shoes to take on a cruise, and the order of magnitude of the problems shoots through the ceiling.

One must be able to easily go from poolside to shore excursion trek to dining and even on a couple of nights to formal dining. Then, of course, one would not be wearing the same outfit to dinner every night would one ?? This leads to the very real need for multiple pairs of shoes because the shoes absolutely must complement the outfit of the moment. (You weren’t planning to wear the silver sandals with the gold beaded champagne gown as well as the stunning rhinestone decorated red, were you ?) Well, you can easily see that packing shoes becomes a logistical challenge.

Women are uniquely equipped to meet that challenge. It is really pretty simple, just line up all 47 pair of shoes, get out one more suitcase, smile sweetly at the husband and remark, lets see you will need your tux shoes and which other pair are you taking ? Put all shoes in the suitcase and add it to the stack that he will be lugging to the port and home. Do not forget to mention how wonderful it is to cruise and not have to deal with luggage during the
week!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What Happens When they Oversell a Ship ?

Good Morning !!

It is 4 days before the cruise and lots of last minute things to get done. It will all get done and we will have time to spare but it is about this time that I start to get a little panicky.

As last minute as it is, it appears Princess has oversold balcony cabins on this cruise and is making “move over” offers. In essence the offer is this

Move – over to any 2010 7-day Inside Passage sailings and receive :

** Second Passenger Cruise Fare Free
** Complementary upgrade to a Luxurious Mini Suite Stateroom
**Will cover Air Change fee up to $150 per person
**Princess Air will be covered
** LIMITED 2009 sailings still available.

Sounds good doesn’t it. But let’s look at it from our standpoint. The cruise is in 4 days (5 when we received the offer). Pet sitting is arranged, clients know I will be gone that week and have planned accordingly and we are driving to port with another couple. We specifically did not book a mini-suite on this cruise because they are either completely covered or completely uncovered and the balcony. What we did book is half covered and half uncovered (the best of both worlds). Oh and I mentioned we are driving so the third and fourth parts of the offer are not even a consideration. Perhaps the real key for us is that when we booked this cruise we booked it on a 2 for 1 special so essentially the second passenger is already traveling free. It was pretty easy to turn this one down.

You hear a lot about really fabulous move over offers and actually they will probably keep upping the ante on this one until they get the number of cabins that they need because once you are booked you are guaranteed a room (unless there is some extraordinary reason like the cruise isn’t sailing) and each offer should be evaluated in light of your particular situation, but I am ready for vacation Now and I already have a 2010 cruise booked so this one was not for me.


Kathy