5:34 AM Ketchikan
We have docked! We are the first ship in. I can see 2 others behind us but can’t tell what they are yet. My hair is sticking straight up. Rex cut it for me yesterday to help tame it, I had forgotten that something about the Alaskan climate makes my hair go wild (er). It’s a good thing the people on their balconies are looking at the scenery. Otherwise the woodpecker thing might start up again.
The Veendam, Norwegian Sun and the Infinity are in port with us.
It’s time to go shopping again. I need some new gel inserts for my shoes. The heel inserts I bought in Seattle worked great, for a day. Now they turn upside down and backwards while I am walking and bunch up under my arches. Don’t take the cheap route when buying these things.
The shower curtain loves me. I know this by the way it hugs me. When I rebuke its advances it comes back even stronger giving me a full body hug. It is quite aggressive. I fear it is going to wrap me up and sling me to the floor. Fiberglass does not attract magnets. Where’s the duct tape Rex?
Before I forget to mention it, the pool is open today and the weather is beautiful for those who wish to swim.
We did the historic walking tour in Ketchikan. It was enjoyable and not a difficult trek. I believe I’ve mentioned that “Lazy” is my middle name. The walk is not difficult and I believe most people in mediocre shape like myself can easily handle it. If not, the busses and the Duck tour cover basically the same territory. This is not a huge city. We toured the salmon hatchery and eagle preserve along the way. We had a Rainier beer or two in the Totem Bar across the street form the ship before making our way back to the ship.
We attended the captain’s circle most-traveled-passengers-cocktail-party this evening. We chatted with the captain and his senior officers and were served our beverage of choice along with canapés. Very nice. There was a lady who has taken 46 Princess cruises! We posed with the captain for pictures. I kissed him on the cheek and Rex had him do the rabbit ear thing. The captain was very hesitant to do that. He was concerned that the hand gesture might have a different connotation as it does in his native Italy. We assured him it was a silly thing Americans do in photos. Several of our CC buddies were in attendance also. (Mental note: research Italian hand gestures)
Had to take a break. The sunset is gorgeous. The photos I just took won’t do it justice of course. Digital cameras are great but they can’t capture what the eyes can in Alaska. In case you aren’t aware of this, a lot of people apparently go out on their balconies to…how shall I say…slice (cut) the Camembert (cheese). I find that disrupts my serenity just a bit. I think it must be those who are indulging in the fried/boiled eggs and refried- bean breakfast. I must admit that I was tempted to try the refried beans myself. They looked really good, but for breakfast? I knew better.
We had our laundry done on the ship and it was returned today. The majority of the clothes were mine! Rex keeps wearing the same thing over and over again trying to save his other 50 outfits for I don’t know what. I finally had to resort to an underhanded technique to get him to put his jeans in the dirty clothes bag. I told him I knew he was wearing them over and over because they were stretched out…he he. He put them in the dirty clothes. I hope he doesn’t injure himself trying to squeeze into the clean pair tomorrow. I was more clever. I brought multiple sizes of clothes to insure I’d have something that fits on the flight back to Atlanta. I think we have conquered the gluttonous overeating syndrome and now are simply eating as we would on any holiday with a focus on food. 8^) There are actually several times during the day when you can find us not eating.
We aren’t much into the shows. We enjoy is the natural scenery. But people we have talked to are really enjoying the shows, especially the ventriloquist. It appears he is hilarious. I’m glad. It cuts down on the number of people out on balconies trying to summon the whales by making noises from parts of their bodies. Of course we are enjoying the live music in the atrium. All the musicians are wonderful.
We cruise Tracy Arm tomorrow and then dock in Juneau.
06/16/04 Cruising Tracy Arm
On the 9th day after God had rested, he realized there was still work to do and he said, “Let there be Alaska”. The weather is perfect. The on-board naturalist stated that although she had cruised Tracy Arm many times, there had only been 2 days with good weather and this was one of them. The sky is clear. The beauty is beyond my capability to describe. All I can say is, “He built it and you must come”. In the words of the Governor of California, “I’ll be back”.
I just noticed that Rex dug his jeans out of the dirty clothes. I should have known. We are in Juneau. A few tenders operated while we waited for the Norwegian Sun to get out of our way. 8^) They are gone now and we are waiting for the ship to dock. It is a clear, warm sunny day. What perfect weather. I think we’ll do the Mt Roberts Tram this time before going out to Mendenhall Glacier. The Veendam, Amsterdam, and Coral Princess are here today. We leave Juneau at 10 PM.
The pizza is much better now. You can tell by the crowds at the counter. It’s more like a Caribbean pizza stampede than an Alaskan one. If you’ve seen both you know what I mean. I think the ovens needed a little breaking in. Be sure to try the Glacier Bay pizza. It is absolutely delicious.
Andrew, our steward keeps leaving pool towels. Being AR (that’s anal retentive for the non initiates), I kept putting them away in the cabinet. We now have eight. I’ll leave him a note. They are crowding Rex’s clothes that he isn’t wearing. We have discovered that if you don’t hear the tapping at the door and room service or technicians enter, they do not even flinch at nakedness and will have conversation whether you like it or not. Andrew however laughs heartily. 8^) So I’ve decided to go out on the balcony to dress. I am starting to enjoy the woodpecker lady though after cackling for quite awhile she made a gagging sound and I was concerned about her.
The Mutiny on the Sapphire
We are back on our balcony. It is 3:30 PM and we are unable to get off the ship. There is a mutiny going on downstairs as they have just called tender ticket number 390. Our number is 977. They are calling thirty tickets at a time. The Explorers lounge and outlying areas are packed with angry people who have missed their excursions. I am not sure why we haven’t docked. We are just going to chill in our cabin away from the maddening crowds and wait it out. The view is beautiful from the balcony. It looks like we may miss Mendenhall Glacier this trip.
The delayed Juneau disembarkation was no big deal for us. The $22 for the Mt Roberts Tramway cable-car ride is money well spent. The day was unusually warm and beautifully clear. The view is spectacular and the out-look spots along the nature trail provided some grand photo-ops. The restaurant-trinket-place has cold beer. So remember if the weather is warm and the sky is clear, you’re really thirsty and want a cold beer, take a ride up the mountain, it’s all here.
After riding the Tram back down we strolled around a little. I needed a T-shirt that would substitute as a nightgown hoping the cackler would approve. We spotted the Red Dog Saloon and off we headed in that direction. We hit them at a good time because the perfect table for 2, in the front corner by the small stage was vacant. It was cold beer, good music, and lots of fun. The singer/guitar player (sorry, can’t remember his name) was entertaining. He was playing all of our favorites like “Redneck Mother”. He made good-natured fun of us tourists. We strolled back to the ship just before sail away.
It was late so dinner had to be in the Horizon Court. Each day we typically walked through to survey the Horizon Court offerings and this night we appeared to be grazing at a bad time. There was a very limited selection of things that fall into the “fried-boiled-egg” category. Rex spotted Vitor with whom he’d established a friendship of sorts and forlornly stated he was simply looking for a steak. Vitor started snapping his fingers at one of the chefs and told us he’d find us in a few. Shortly, he came strutting to our table carrying a covered silver platter. He sat the platter in front of Rex and lifted the cover to reveal not one, but two huge NY strips, still sizzling. Rex ate them…..both!
We were among the first people to disembark around 7AM. I can’t remember all the ships that were in port. I know I saw the Dawn princess, the Veendam, and the Norwegian Sun. Rex finally wore a different pair of jeans but I think that’s only because he knows I’m writing about it. Rex had never seen a bear in the wild so after much research, I decided the best way to see a bear in the wild is not on a tour where you might spot one from afar. I wanted something up-close and personal. So I reserved a car in Skagway at Avis. The Avis office is basically the first thing you come to when you enter Skagway from the Piers. I had reserved an economy car for 59 bucks but we upgraded to an SUV for 99 dollars when I discovered they had a new Toyota Highlander available. What better way is there to test drive a vehicle than a trip to the Yukon. I’d love to trade my 4-Runner (which Rex told me I really needed) in for a Highlander. It’s a much more comfortable vehicle and does not ride like a truck. Southern men like their trucks you know. Southern girls have to ride in them. We keep toothpicks in the glove box to look the part. You just don’t look right in a truck unless you have a toothpick stuck in your mouth. That’s how you can recognize a true southerner from the hoards of “Yankees” moving south.
So off we headed on a quest into the wilderness looking for cinnamon rolls, a gaze at the world’s smallest desert, a view of Emerald Lake, and a bear hunt. Glorious weather, are we really in Alaska? It’s hot!
I have always wanted to see a bear in the wild and have many times been in places where they are known to exist. The hook-up just never happened to me. Of course, bears are known to exist in the Yukon and Pam had arranged for us to pick up a rental in Skagway so that we could drive to Carcross (Yukon). The scenery is like so much of what one sees in this part of the world, simply indescribable. It cannot truly be photographed or described. It must be confronted in person. The word that comes to mind so often is, “Wow”. Around every turn,”Wow”. Look at that. Did you see that? Can you believe this? Wow! But, of course all the bears in the Yukon had decided the night before at their What-Do-We-Do-Tomorrow-Meeting to lay low. It’s an ancient ritual that bears refer to as Hide the Hide. But, as I said the wow-factor was overwhelming.
Another Alaska/Yukon factor for me is the all the railroad stuff. I am a “certified” rail-fan. That’s naf-liar spelled backwards. Anyway, there are a million train photo-ops for folks who like trains. Carcross is the little town that in Y2K had the big Join-the-Nation-by-Railway-Golden-Spike reenactment celebration. I was in choo-choo heaven.
The nice lady at the Carcross visitor’s place told us about some of the stops that we might want to check out. She confirmed the wonder of the cinnamon rolls with which Pam had become internet-familiar. She said that Emerald Lake is beautiful. Be sure to linger at the world’s smallest desert (my stomach/mind heard: “dessert” but Pam assured me that there was only one “s”, as in Sahara). She also advised us not to miss her favorite that was a little fish-and-chips place near Whitehorse. I love fish-and-chips. Personal note: Please do not tell anyone this but I even like Captain D’s fish and chips.
We continued north toward Emerald Lake, One-S Desert, cinnamon rolls, and fish-and-chips. Okay, so you’re thinking, “Pam and Rex are on a cruise where they feed you 27 times per day an amount of food that you normally eat in a month and they got off this beautiful shiny new ocean going ship, rented a car, and are driving to the Yukon in search of a lake, a desert, and two places to eat. Well, I happen to know that others have gone before us for the same reason not to mention the fact that at least one of us is “certified”.
The truth be told, I have never enjoyed cinnamon rolls. The New Truth* is that I have never before had a cinnamon roll. When the lady served them I told her that we had in fact not ordered any stuffed bean chairs and furthermore bean chairs were now considered to be old fashioned in most of the civilized world except for dorm rooms. Yes, we ate one each. I wanted another but Pam reminded me of recent unpleasant experiences wherein I had begged for a stomach pump.
*New Truth: A statement a politician makes after recent revelations.
We drove on to Emerald Lake: Wow. What would it be like to live in that beautiful log house that overlooked the lake? How big is the lake; 30 acres? 40 acres? More? The clean clear emerald-colored water. The little desert: Can you believe this? We were saturated and satiated. I confessed to Pam that I had no room for fish-and-chips and she noted that the time had gotten on and that maybe we should head homeward to Skagway and the Sapphire. Okay I’ll give up my fish-and-chips if I get to watch the next whatever playoffs without so much as one mention of the fact that she (she being Pam) cannot park her dearly beloved 4-Runner in the garage. So we turned ‘round and headed back.
Pam said she would take the wheel for the return. I normally don’t have an appreciation for other drivers and that’s why I don’t like to enjoy a Bloody Mary whilst stuffed (read: sardine-crammed) on an airline seat because at any moment the captain might say, “It appears that I and my co-captain have an allergy to packages of small stale-flavor-free peanut/salt-pretzel-things and we need a “certified” person to come into the cockpit, safely land the airplane, and save an entire airplane full of cruising persons.
The going-back looking at the other-side-of-stuff-view return-trip to Skagway was different and just as awesome as the getting-there trip. I was relaxed, not driving, and had full confidence that Pam had not eaten any small stale-flavor-free peanut/salt-pretzel things. Again, we drove past the little desert. Goodbye bean-chair cinnamon rolls, Emerald Lake, and who cares about fish-and-chips, I’m going back to the unparalleled, highly caloric Princess Sapphire.
I turned off the camera and let the seat back. The weather was warm and the view was clear. I was so relaxed, and mentally full. I could not hope for more. Pam had set the cruise control. We were on a vacation of a lifetime. You could call me “Okay Man”. I’m looking at this and I’m looking at that. Wow.
Then, out of nowhere, casually walking across the highway about a thousand or so feet in front of us there he was. I thought I was dreaming. In a very calm and thoughtful manner I spit-screamed, “BEAR”! I could not believe it. It was an actual bear. By the time we got to the place where the bear had entered the tree line he was nowhere to be seen. So we waited for a few minutes and decided to drive away because he had no doubt continued his walk and would not reappear. So we drove on and as I was telling Pam how wonderful it was to finally see the bear she said, “We’re going back”. She turned the car around and pulled to the side where we had seen the bear. Just as she stopped the car there he was again.
This time he was about 20 feet from the car (my side of the car and the window was down). I was taking pictures and my heart was racing. It seemed that he was putting on a performance. He sat down awhile to eat berries and stood up several times to look at us. He even charged toward the tree line a couple of times. He was solid black, approximately six feet tall, and very health looking. It was as if I was having a conversation with him. We had been watching him for about 10 minutes or so when he apparently decided that we had seen enough. As he casually walked away toward the tree line I said “Thank you”. He stopped, looked back to us then continued on, disappearing into the brush/tree line. We waited a few minutes hoping that he would return but he was probably hinting for us to go on. I thought of my grandfather who was known to be a charming host as well as a very outspoken man. When guests would linger longer than he wished he would say to my grandmother, “ Well, Mama we’d better go to bed so these nice people can go home”.
We drove on and snapped pictures of more beautiful scenery. There were more railroad things to see. I was trying to take it all in. There was a Princess calling my name and the world’s prettiest tour guide was driving. Again and again I thought of the bear. It all seemed so complete. Now I am really certified.
06/18/04 A Day at Sea
Sea days are my favorite. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours perfectly content. I love the view, the motion and the smell of the ocean. I wish Princess would offer a 14-day roundtrip from Seattle to Anchorage…or further. I would not need many more port days; I’d like to cruise all the glaciers in one trip.
We are going to try to get more pictures of ship-life today though I know by now many have been posted. We’ve taken well over a thousand pictures thus far. I’ve been importing each night and organizing them so I won’t have that giant chore when we return home. I think packing my laptop has been helpful and though I know some of you just can’t understand it, I’ll bring it again. It only takes a few minutes each evening to save hours of work if put off until the end of the cruise. We are finished with our homebrewed coffee. (Hint: If you bring your own mini-coffeemaker, order a carafe of hot water so you can make 2 pots), Forgive me if I’ve already mentioned this…I’m MI (memory impaired) remember? Fresh squeezed orange juice and Greygoose make a great start to the day and probably also explains our difficulty in staying up much past midnight. I really prefer drinking on an empty stomach but have not managed to do that thus far on the cruise. I prefer eating on an empty stomach but I’m failing at that also.
The blow dryer is like all blow dryers on ships. It makes a lot of noise but doesn’t blow. That really BLOWS don’t you think? I don’t really use blow dryers much anyway. Not since Rex used mine to get the charcoal lit and now if I use it, my hair smells like smoke and lighter fluid.
I have discovered that it is perfect for warming chilly feet however. It’s like having your very own in-cabin SPA. I put the TV on the Latin music channel, lie upside down on the bed so the cord will reach, close my eyes and Rex blow-dries my cold feet. Can life get much better than that? It’s included in the price of the cruise!
After lunch we were enjoying the pool when we heard, “Code Alpha, Starboard, Neptune Pool. There in front of us a man, probably in his mid-forties was having what appeared to be a heart attack. The staff was in attendance almost immediately and an IV was inserted. I was amazed at the response time. I couldn’t help it; tears started streaming down my cheeks. I thought he had died. Finally, I saw him raise his knee and knew he was at least stable. He was whisked away on stretcher. I do not know the outcome but hope for the best.
It was another formal night. We dressed and had our picture taken. We attended another Captains Circle cocktail party. Invitations were sent and people entered Club Fusion every half hour. These parties were for every member of the Captains Circle regardless of number of cruises. There were 359 members, 65 platinum and 8 elite. (These numbers are not carved in stone, as my memory is no better than it was at the beginning of the cruise). The small number surprised me considering there are 2900+ people on the ship. We had cocktails with Lisa and Eric, enjoying their company. Rex has apparently been sneaking out at night because when we stroll through the ship, hoards of women are greeting him by name. Some things never change.
We returned to our cabin and changed into more comfortable garb, as many passengers were casually dressed. We ordered room service so Rex could eat his weight in Lobster without embarrassment. (4 Lobster dinners) Delicious!
I saw many Orcas this morning before the heavy fog rolled in. A pod passed close to the ship right under the balcony. I got a good view but there was no time to grab the camera. It was all too quick.
We are staying on the ship in Victoria this go around. After all, we were just here last week and this is our last night on the ship. No regrets on disembarking tomorrow. We will spend the day in Seattle. We plan to visit Seattle center and the Space Needle. We’ve had a long vacation and we miss our puppies. They are giving Rex some Godiva chocolate for Father’s Day. He has eaten my pillow chocolate every day of the cruise.
We chose the Santa Fe for our last dinner as we both like guacamole. We had the Love Boat Dream for desert. 8^) Truth is we could have walked in anywhere as the ship was deserted. We took this opportunity to take more photos and finally returned to our cabin. We were already packed as we took the fog opportunity to get a jump on things. We kept our packed luggage in our cabin however until we were in for the night. You never know when you might need your espresso machine.
New Captains Circle cards were delivered to our cabin along with lapel pins. Tres cool. As the British say, “We have arrived”. A Crystal trivet was also given to each cabin commemorating the inaugural sailing of the Sapphire. We are content and very satisfied with our cruise.
Since we did not have a plane to catch, we were assigned a late disembarkation color. We were on the ship until after 10 AM. We could already see the 6/20 passengers arriving and chomping at the bit. We had our final all-you-can-cram-down-your-throat buffet feast then waited it out in the wheelhouse bar. When our color was called we were off the ship, through customs and checked into our hotel in no time.
I miss my dogs.
After checking in at the Westin Room 3833, we walked to Seattle Center. We ascended the space needle and snapped a lot of photos. We walked around the park, toured the Science Center where I played like all the other kids. Rex got bored and I told him once again he does not make a good tourist. We walked, and walked, and walked. Of course, we had a cold one in the Experience Music Building…at least I think that’s where we were. There is a great fountain for the Seattle kids to play in. We rode the bus provided by the monorail service back to the Westin.
Speaking of the Westin, I think they might not give Priceline folks the best of rooms though we did have the best of views. Our first room had a Murphy bed that was not particularly comfortable but we could look out over the Sapphire. The second room had 2 doubles, no king or queens available. The furnishings were worn and the white duvets were not so white. Our view of the space needle was great though.
We showered and went out again on a quest for perfect fried shrimp. This is a vacation ritual that Rex makes me endure each trip we take. Usually we end up stopping at the grocery store close to home and buying shrimp for Rex to cook because he is never satisfied. We walked towards the Space Needle and took a left toward Pier 66 and walked to the waterfront where we took another left. Pier 66 is really nice. We walked along the waterfront scoping out restaurants and shops until we wound up at Ivars. There is a sidewalk fast food part and an indoor ocean view sit-down full service restaurant. We discovered that the food is the same, just twice as expensive indoors. We opted for the outdoor fast food service. We each had some huge fried prawns and chips. They were fantastic. Rex then had fish and chips. My mouth said more but my stomach said no, so I declined the second round. We walked back to the Westin and by this time I was trudging. It was 10:30 PM. It was a full post-cruise day. Back in the room we fell asleep to a movie I can’t remember.
It’s so good to be home. There has obviously been lots of rain that has urged the kudzu to cover most of the red Georgia clay.
The dog reunion was grand and once again I renewed my pledge to be the man they think I am.
I am thinking of our vacation. The beautiful shiny new Sapphire Princess. All the attentive service. The great weather. Exploring. The food. The food. The food and all the other stuff about which we have written.
I remember going to the laundromat each night after Pam went to sleep. I only had one pair of jeans that fit comfortably so I had to wash and dry them each night so that I could wear them the next day. Even that was not an unpleasant experience thanks to the conversation with all the different ladies who were doing the same thing.
We’re already talking about our next Alaskan cruise. I hope there’s a bear that wants to continue a conversation.