I thought maybe this diary will give some of you better ideas of what your cruise and excursions will be like. We are returning again this August to see some of the highlights we missed last year.
Aug 10th, 2000 -- Finally, the long anticipated day to leave for Alaska
had arrived ! Off to the airport, with a nervous father and mother in tow.
Dad, at 81, had never flown, but the captain put him at ease by giving him
a "pit" stop, that is a cockpit stop complete with sitting at the controls
and wearing the pilot's hat. The hours wore on, but were quickly retrieved
when we turned our watches back by three hours. As we prepared to land in
Seattle we were all a little nervous seeing the tops of the mountains and
then nothing but dense clouds. After a few short minutes of tension, we
landed, collected our rental car, and headed to the Olympic Mts. It seemed
the traffic was kind of heavy for a Thursday noon, but soon we were away
from the city and seeing the sights. We passed Bremerton where John got a
quick look at some naval ships and arrived at the ferry 2 1/2 hours early.
We decided to check out purchase of the tickets, and then come back later.
Little did we realize that if you don't arrive hours in advance, you don't
get on the next ferry. Luckily we were the third to the last car allowed
on, so we made it to Victoria on schedule. We were awed by the beautiful
flowers and old English looking buildings. We finally made it to our first
hotel feeling pretty good considering we had been up about 22 hours.
Aug 11th -- Off to Butchart Gardens, 50 acres of the most beautiful gardens
you could ever imagine. It's amazing that it once was an old quarry, now a
gorgeous tourist attraction. Then it was off to the next ferry to get to
Vancouver. We had reservations for this ferry, so we were one of the first
to go on. When we saw the tractor trailers and buses that were also loaded,
we were happy we had spent the extra money for a guarenteed spot. They said
the ferry held 450 vehicles, and this ferry was half the size of the one
that left on the odd hours. It sure looked big to me. After a quick lunch
on the ferry, we docked, and headed to the cruise ship. We were amazed at
the huge flat fields of potatoes and also dairy farms right on the edge of
the city. I guess farming must be more profitable in Canada, since it
seemed to me that the land could have been quite valuable for buildings. We
dropped my parents off with the luggage on a bench in front of the ship
with orders to stay put until we dropped the rental car and came back. When
that was accomplished, we found my parents, but no luggage. My mother was
so proud that she had found someone to check our bags onto the ship. One
problem, my tickets were in the luggage! Fortunately I had my purse with
our birth certificates in it which convinced them we were really who we
were and they gave us passes to get onto the ship. I was worried for a
minute there that we'd be watching my parents and sister and brother in law
sail away without us!
Ah, the ship. We walked into luxury on the Celebrity Galaxy and expected to
head for the "hole" where our cheap rooms were located. I was amazed that
our rooms were right on the floor we had entered the ship on and were
really quite stunning. After quickly donning my sea bands and swallowing
more Banamine we were off. After the lifeboat drill, dinner was the first
order of business. Our waiter was from the Phillipines and had been
investing all his earnings into buying land for farming, so you can imagine
how we hit it off. And the assistant waiter was from Australia and a clone
of Crocodile Dundee. I don't know if all Aussies have that same sense of
humor, but he had us roaring at every meal. Now you have to understand that
this water carries a towel over his arm and is supposed to be quite formal.
When my mother inquired about his girlfriend and he said he had broke up
with her because "she was a *****, Mum" I thought we'd fall off our chairs!
Every meal was an adventure with him. After dinner we watched the opening
Broadway type show, then headed for bed.
Aug 12th -- Today was a day of cruising the inside passage. I had no idea
we'd be winding our way between islands and so close to the shore. The
water was like glass and the mountains and small villages we passed were so
enjoyable that it was easy to forget we were on an oceanliner. Tonight was
"captain's night", so we got to doll ourselves up and pretend we were
classy. The ship photographer was snapping shots all the time, and luckily
the one of the group of us came out great. So I have proof that John can
survive wearing a tie. Another show then karoke rounded out the evening.
Aug 13th -- This morning we worked our way to Juneau. As we entered the
port there were mountains and lots of waterfalls coming right down to the
ocean. Since Juneau is accessible only by ship or plane, I think everyone
owns either a float plane or boat. As soon as we docked, John and I headed
out to our helicopter ride. Actually I was dragging him, since he had no
desire whatsoever to go on it. At first he tried to double his money on his
ticket, then on that last morning he was ready to GIVE it away. Our van
whisked us off to the airport when we boarded the helicopter and set off
for the ice fields, which incidentally are the size of the whole state of
Rhode Island. As we lifted off, it was so smooth and beautiful that John
soon forgot his worry of being sick. When we touched down on the blue of
the glacier, it was an unforgetable experience. I thought it would be flat,
but the surface is full of hills and crevasses, many with deep blue
waterfalls. Our time there seemed so short and soon we were off flying over
other glaciers, then back to the airport. We were all wowed by it,
including John. On the way back, our driver took us on a little detour to
see the creek where the salmon were spawning. We got to see all the little
pink pearl eggs, some fish heading upstream, and lots of dead ones on the
banks. Sort of sad they have to die after that last big effort, but that's
the way with nature. The rest of the day was spent exploring Juneau, and
I'm sure we snuck in a nap there somewhere. :-) That night the
entertainment was Mark Preston, one of the Lettermen, which was great for
us old fogies.
Aug 14th -- Arrived in Skagway today and took the White Pass Railroad up
over the mountains that the gold miners had to scale in order to reach the
goldfields. The mountains and waterfalls were beautiful until we got high
enough to enter the clouds. I'd love to see it on a sunny day, but Alaska's
sunny days are few and far between. When we got back to town it was
raining but we still did some exploring, then watched a movie on the gold
We left Skagway at 4 PM and arrived at our next port, Haines at 6 PM. We
had scheduled an eagle/nature tour for an hour and a half, since our ship
would only be in port for 3 hrs. The owner of the van was a crazy native,
who must have enjoyed us, since he kept us out for 2 1/2 hours, racing up
and down a dirt road looking for grizzly (they call them coastal brown)
bears. He finally spotted some for us, so we all jumped from the van, got a
good look and then sped off to find others. Seeing them plus the eagles,
sea otters, and sea lions was much more than we had expected of that tour.
Then he took us to a museum where they had every Alaska animal stuffed.
What a fun 2 1/2 hrs, even in the rain! The ship headed out into the ocean
and there we found some very large, rough waves. John and Don were thrilled
out on deck watching them, but Judy and I preferred seeing them through the
full length glass windows. Apparently the Banamine was working, since I
didn't feel a bit queasy. In fact, sleeping was great being rocked all night.
Aug 15th -- Around 11 today, we approached Yakutat Bay where the fastest
moving glacier, Hubbard Glacier is found. Because it moves so quickly,
there is a lot of calving, where chunks fall off the glacier. As the ship
got closer and closer to the glacier, we began to realize how large it
actually was. Six miles wide and 76 miles long! We kept scanning our eyes,
hoping to catch a glimpse of it thundering, then dropping into the ocean.
Little did we know that it would do it about every minute! Luckily the rain
stopped when we were within a half mile of the glacier, so it was enjoyable
out on deck watching it. The rest of the day was a fun one on the ship,
attending trivia games, losing $5 worth of quarters in the slot machines
(not much of a gambler, I guess) eating, discovering the dessert buffet mid
afternoon, checking out the gift shops, eating some more, watching the
evening show, etc.
Aug 16th -- Today was our big day, taking a float plane in Ketchikan to a
remote island to watch the bears catching salmon. The six of us, bundled in
raincoats with cameras underneath, piled in the plane looking forward to a
pretty flight. We were soon holding each other or anything we could grab
onto, since it was MIGHTY bumpy! If you've ever seen the movie, Six Days,
Seven Nights, you can picture us in the air. A smooth landing reassured us
we were all in one piece, so we set off for the viewing platform at the
waterfall where the bears catch the salmon. Immediately we spotted two
black bears catching fish and realized there was no need to carry
binoculars. We were up CLOSE! At one point I was talking to the guide with
my back to the water and there was a bear just a few feet from the viewing
area. Panic! Luckily the guides carry bear mace or guns, but I think the
scared look on my face was enough to send this bear on his way. Whew! After
2 hours of viewing the bears we headed back to the dock where our float
plane would return to get us. The weather seemed quite nice at that point
so we were a little surprised when the pilot said all the other excursions
had been cancelled since the weather was very bad in Ketchikan. He said it
would be too dangerous to have all our weight in the plane at once, so 2
people would have to stay behind and hope he could make a second trip to
the island. Of course we were very diplomatic, women and elderly first! So
John and Don were left behind with the guide. We were pretty thankful to
get back, but still worried about the guys since the ship was leaving port
within 2 hours. All stories end happily ever after, and this one was no
different. They made it back and even made dinner! I think knowing it was
lobster on the menu that night was what helped. That night was more
entertainment, a "not so newlywed game" which we got my parents to enter.
Dad insists Mom wears a size 4D bra! It sure was funny, and better even
since they won. After the evening show, we managed to make it to the big
Grand Buffet at midnight. The food looked sooooo beautiful, but I stuck
with the fruit and desserts since when you can't identify what you're
eating I prefer to pass.
Aug 17th -- Today was a day of rest, John slept until 11:30! Then we
watched scenery, ate, ate some more, enjoyed the ship's entertainment and
said our goodbyes to our waiter and assistant.
Aug 18th -- Back to Vancouver where we picked up a rental car to head
south. We wandered into farming country in Lyndon WA and then fought
traffic to get back to Seattle. With 8 lanes of bumper to bumper creeping
along at times, we were too late to get on a tour of Boeing, so we just
went back to the hotel to recuperate from the drive.
Aug 19th -- Got the flight and unfortunately couldn't get a bump to insure
we'd have another vacation. But when we got home, John said he had loved it
enough to go back again next year. As I opened envelopes from the pile of
mail, one had a free companion ticket to fly anytime within the next year!
So I'm already making our plans. Anyone want to come along?
Patty, that was beautiful. Made me remember my last Alaska cruise, also on the Galaxy and my other 6 Alaska cruises as well. We will be back next year on the new Celebrity Summit, going one way between Vancouver and Deward, then we will spend a week on the Kenai Peninsula, especially Homer, AK which is one of the most beautiful spots on earth.I find Alaska cruising VERY addictive.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading your diary Patty. My sister-in-law and I are on the Mercury in September. BTW we are aussies, don't think we are Croc Dundee types, but not surprised by the "*****" remark as most australians do just say it as they find it.
I particularly enjoyed reading about Butchart Gardens and the bears as I'd love to see both. Really looking forward to our cruise and this only increased my anticipation (I didn't think that was possible).
Reading your comments about the "Aussie" waiter having a great sense of humor reminded me of my last trip to Australia. I found that most Aussies have terrific humor and really enjoy life! If you get a chance to go to Australia, I highly recommend it. Right now the US Dollar is very favorable to the Australian dollar.
I loved your Alaska diary, we were going to take the bear trip but when we found out the 20 minute walk was unescorted we chickened out. We'll do a guided one some day when we go later in the season. Thanks again