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 CafĂ© 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!