I am not a big fan of the last day of a trip. Are you?
Victoria is an historic and beautiful city, made even more beautiful by the clouds vacating and allowing the sun to do its thing.
We had breakfast in the Main Dining Room for the first time, while docking in Victoria. Our excursion to Butchart Gardens, including high tea, didn’t leave the ship until 11:45, so we had time to wander a bit and get some exercise. We took advantage of a free shuttle from the Serenity into downtown, which gave us more time to wander around, and then walked back to the ship.
Packing is one of the dreaded chores. Alison and I dragged the suitcases from underneath the bed and started the process of gathering and organizing our bags for the trip home. Lunch consisted of a power bar.
Victoria is a good size – the BC Capitol, so the bus transportation and associated “tour” was enjoyable. Butchart Gardens evolved much as Longwood Gardens did. We had about 90 minutes to wander the gardens before tea time. I enjoyed the sunken garden, the Japanese garden, the Rose garden and the Italian garden.
Marion and Barry announced that this was awards night right after dinner. There was quite a presentation of simple household items (from the cabin + some dried salmon) that would enable us to survive and thrive. Hmm.
We all retired to our rooms to finish packing and putting our suitcases out in the hall, where they magically disappear – seriously, hundreds of bags, and we never heard a sound — again.
Our first beautiful sunrise of the trip, in my opinion. Scott, meet the Laundry Room. I was the first in this morning, at 6AM. Yay!
It was a busy morning. We attended an iPad Tips and Tricks, iOS 9 session, at 9, and I actually learned a couple things that I can use. That was followed at 10 by a presentation by Alex Murphy, our Geography professor, on “British Columbia’s Rich Cultural Tapestry”, which was followed at 11 by Dr. Bob Donaldson’s “Threats in the Twenty-first Centruy – Part III” Where should America and Its Western Allies Go from Here, and Why Does It Seem So Difficult to Move Forward?” Serious stuff.
We changed into our Dock Rockers Intl t-shirts and went up to Palm Court on Deck 12 for the Team Trivia contest. Ouch! We looked Super-Fantastic, but did NOT score well today. Boo.
Some of us read up on the sun deck. Some blogged. Some rested. Good day for all of the above.
Alison and I made sure to hit Deck 7 to get past our 10,000 steps for the day. – sunny and warm on the starboard side; shady and definitely cooler on the port side.
Dinner in the Main Dining Room, at table 41. We have made fast friends of Vinod, Joseph, and Deborah – not to mention the senior staff. One more night with them.
The time changed back to Pacific Time overnight, so we lost an hour – no worries. We weren’t scheduled to dock in Prince Rupert until noon or so, so we woke up and read and relaxed. The seas were much calmer than last night. (we ran into a couple people that actually got a little sea sick)
Breakfast at 7:30 up on Lido – we are creatures of habit. We changed and went for our morning walk on Deck 7. Everything was normal until…… we were walking starboard toward the bow when we saw something. Then, we saw an officer on the bridge wave us to a sighting of interest off starboard (confirmed our find), and shortly after, people above us, on Deck 8 became excited, too. We spotted whales! There were probably close to ten of them about a hundred yards from the ship. We saw tail fins. We saw surfacing, and we saw them blowing. Sadly, my photography / video skills didn’t capture the true nature of the experience, but it was totally exciting.
On the same walk, we saw the Pilot being dropped off – looks kind of dangerous to me!
Dr Bob Donaldson presented “Global Threats in the 21st Century, Part II”. Sadly, there seem to be more questions than answers. What do you do with “failed states”? The vast majority of the 110 countries that the United States has a military presence in today can be considered failed or failing states. What is our role in stabilizing? What if we did nothing at all? Obviously a complex issue. If I run into this guy on-board, I think I’ll take him up on his offer to discuss further. One more lecture of his to go.
After lunch, and docking, we changed and departed on PRR-E, the “Butze Rainforest Nature Walk” – 12:45 to 3:30. We’ve seen most of this in our previous tours, but was still nice – and we still learned a few things regarding bogs, etc.
Upon our return, we wandered the handful of dockside stores, boarded, and climbed up to Deck 12 for Tea. Relaxing. Alison did face-to-face efforts to get us in to Prego for dinner at 6. I, for one, didn’t mind dressing up for that one! We did a couple of after dinner laps on Deck 7 and the skies were improving.
The ship set sail just as we were finishing dinner. The wind and sea were calm, and the skies seem to be clearing.
Alison went up to the cabin, and Marion, Barry and I went into the Galaxy Lounge to listen to Pianist / Humorist, Dale Gonyea – a Victor Borga kind of guy.
No, I had never heard of Sitka before, either….., but no worries. It was formerly known as the “Paris of the Pacific” – and was also the former capital of Russian America. The town was founded around 1799. The Russian occupation ended October 18, 1867 and the Russian flag was lowered for the last time on what is now celebrated as Alaska Day.
It is pretty – that’s for sure. Population of 20,000 or so, although the town is about 4 miles from where the ship is docked. In fact, we are the ONLY ship docked in here today. It’s obvious that Sitka is not a big hitter on the cruise ship card.
We woke up to our first genuine rain of the trip. Marion and Barry were signed up for a Rain Forest Tour – yep, they certainly got the rain portion of that correct. Alison and I were signed up for the SIT-D package – Dry Suit Snorkeling.
Huh? OK, OK. We are in Alaska. The air temperature this morning is 54 degrees. The ocean temperature is 45. It is windy and raining. Perfect! Alison and I went up to breakfast as they opened up on Lido at 6:30. No deck walking this morning – well, we could have, but no. Departure time for the excursion was 8:45.
On a ship with some 1100 passengers, there were six of us – including one brave volunteer from the ship staff, our escort. It was less than a 5 minute trip from the dock to the dive shop, in a 12-passenger van that we hoped would make it. “Nathan” is a local, who has been going to the University of Oregon the past 3 years, and working up here in the summers. “Brendan” was our tour guide – a local, 25, and married.
Brandon gave us the low-down on what was going to happen. We took off our shoes and any bulky clothes. We put on a fleece onesy, to keep us warm (they ARE nice, Lauren), we were “fitted” for our “surface dry suits”, which are designed for staying on the surface (neck dam and wrist dams to keep the water out), neoprene hood, neoprene gloves, and mask and snorkel.
The boots (shoes) were built into the suit. Once we were more-or-less dressed, we grabbed our remaining gear and went out to the van for the two minute drive to the parking area above the “beach” – no sand, lots of rocks. We finished suiting up down by the ocean, performed an interesting maneuver to vacate the air from inside the suit, and carried our mask/snorkel and fins out into the water with us. Mask and snorkel – OK. The guide had us lie on our backs – easy to do in the suit – and he put our fins on.
A fully blossoming patch of kale almost strangled us – similar to the Harry Potter movie, and the wind was much higher than normal, generating higher waves and kicking up the sand – so, visibility was not the greatest. What are you going to do, right? Our small band saw a couple small crabs, a couple of fish, and a couple small jelly fish – not exactly the richness that we had expected, but it was an interesting experience.
We went straight to the Bistro, on Deck 6, for Hot chocolate when we got back. Up in our cabin, we took a much deserved shower. I noticed some splashing in the water a couple hundred yards from the ship, and we decided that they were Sea Lions playing – one had a fish in his mouth. This lasted several minutes and involved 2-3 sea lions. We quickly settled in to reading and a good nap. When we woke up, the rain had stopped and we went out on Deck 7 to pass our 10,000 step goal. We then went up to Deck 12 for the formal tea, and returned to Deck 8 and our cabin to read and blog before dinner.
We JUST shoved off to the music of Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World before 6PM – significant because this is the first time we’ve heard it played this trip – and I like it! The four of us trekked down to Deck 5 and the Main Dining room for dinner – same table / same staff, and we had a wonderful meal.
Serenity has been out in the open ocean now for a couple hours and the seas and winds are a lot rougher than we’ve experienced, thus far. We typically like to get out on Deck 7 for a walk after dinner, but they had the doors blocked off, tonight due to the rougher seas. OK.
We all decided to call it a night – on the early side – reminded that we set our clocks forward an hour tonight – back to Pacific Standard Time. We don’t dock in Prince Rupert, British Columbia until almost noon tomorrow.
Same old from a weather perspective – mostly cloudy, fog, a bit of drizzle, and on the cool side – getting down to the mid-40’s.
We were one of the two cruise ships allowed to enter Glacier Bay each day. Right around 7AM, three National Park Service Rangers were piloted out to the ship to make presentations, answer questions, and help us out with what we were seeing – or not. Goat Island was one of the first sites along the waterway into Glacier Park – and we couldn’t even see the island, let alone the Mountain Goats, due to the fog.
We saw lots of floating ice throughout the trip, including a couple of Harbor Sea Lions, regular Sea Lions, lots of gulls, and even a Bald Eagle. We had hoped to spot some whales along the way, but no such luck. The park includes 12 tidewater glaciers – those that “calve”, or break off into the Bay – some as much as seven feet per day.
The highlight is Marjorie Glacier, and by the time we reached her, the fog had lifted (still cold and a gentle rain / mist), but she was majestic – and we got close. Alison and I had been walking around Deck 7 to get our steps in, and observing the Glacier, when, all of a sudden, a big CRACK, like a thunderclap, and we saw a portion of the glacier fall into the bay. Wow! Then another, and by that time, I was ready for more – and I caught one or two via video. Mother Nature is impressive! The ship stayed on station form a little more than an hour, and had our attention the entire time.
Lunch was followed by a lecture by “Ranger Dan” at 1:30, who presented Glacier Park to the audience. Our ladies took off to watch for whales or other wild life, while Barry and I walked a bit then went to Hollywood Theater to watch a Pierce Brosnan film, “Urge” – possibly the worst movie I’d seen in 40+ years. It was so bad that Barry and I – and probably two thirds of the audience bailed on the film before it ended. Yuck!
At 4:15, we listened to another Alex Murphy lecture, “Why Geography Matters – For Understanding Pacific North America and Beyond”. I actually stayed awake for the whole program, this time. We dashed from Deck 6 to Deck 12 to join some music and dancing and have a couple cocktails before dinner. At 6PM, we repeated our crashing of the 6 o’clock seating down on Deck 5, the Main Dining Room – getting the same table and staff as last night, which was fine by us!
After dinner, we went up to Deck 6 and the Galaxy Lounge for a 7:30 show by singer, Reva Rice of Broadway and Las Vegas fame. She was GOOD.
Back to the room to call it an evening and get caught up before crashing into bed. These days at sea can be exhausting!
Skagway, Home of the North Wind, and gateway to the Yukon during the Gold Rush in 1887.
The Serenity continued up the Inner Passage approximately 90 miles from Juneau to Skagway, our furthest point North. We docked right around 7AM next to the narrow gauge railway, which played a key role in our plans for the day.
Alison and I actually started breakfast up on the Lido deck a little after 6, and Marion and Barry joined a little later. It was a rather easy excursion for us today. Meet at 8:00 in the Galaxy Lounge for the SGY-H White Pass Scenic Railway tour. We walked from the Serenity right to the train. Our train (and there were at least 2 ready to go) had two diesel engines and about seven period-based passenger cars. When the Gold Rush commenced, there was no train, and the trek up to Canada’s Yukon was, to quote someone, Hell on Earth.
The train track was laid at the cost of 35 documented lives, probably more, and still runs multiple times daily. It runs from Skagway up to the Canadian border and a few miles into Canada before the engines decouple and move to the other end of the train for the trip back to Skagway. It was an interesting 2-3 hours, and well worth it.
Upon returning to Serenity, we went to the Main Dining Room for lunch. After lunch, Alison, Marion and I walked into Skagway’s downtown for exercise and to shop. After returning from the cold and wind, we boarded and went to our cabins to shower and dress for the evening.
At 5:00, we went to Dr. Bob Donaldson’s lecture on “Global Threats in the Twenty-first Century – Part 1: How did we get to this place in history, and why does it seem so dangerous here?” I know, not an uplifting topic, but interesting nonetheless. Instead of waiting for our dinner reservation at 8PM, we sccessfully crashed the 6PM seating.
At 8:30, we attended the nostalgic production, “Across the Pond”, which was a 50’s and 60’s song and dance production that was pretty well done. The lead singer was a bit of a square peg (with a good voice), but the music was near and dear to our hearts, and we enjoyed the show.
We knocked out 3 miles before breakfast, and wandered up to Deck 12 for breakfast. We didn’t dock until almost 9AM.
Four ships in port today. Total populaton of Juneau – just over 30,000. Clean and very pretty city. The city was founded back in the 1880’s. It’s been the capitol city of Alaska since 1923. Alaska became a state in 1959. There was talk of moving the capitol to one of the larger cities, either Anchorage or Fairbanks, but cost was the deciding factor and declined. There is essentially one major road through town, and both ends are marked with “End of the Road” signs. If you want to get anywhere, you take water taxis or boats, sea planes, or helicopters.
Today was special – our helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. We had attended our glacier lecture yesterday, so we were experts, right? Of 20 total excursions today, two of them were helicopter based. JUN-C and JUN-D. We learned shortly after arriving at our Galaxy Lounge meeting place just before 9:30, that JUN-C had been cancelled due to flight conditions. But, JUN-D was still ON – yeah!
The bus took us the 20 minutes or so out to the Juneau International Airport. A mix of facts and humor made for an entertaining ride. The difference between low and high tide is some 20-24 feet! Amazing. We saw numerous Bald Eagles along the way. The salmon were easy pickings for the bald eagles during low tide. We had to have sighted at least 50 bald eagles while traversing both directions from the airport. We even saw them at the docks!
When we got to the helicopter tour offices at the airport, we listened to a short safety video about the tour, obtained our cleated boots for use up on the glacier, life vests were handed out, and I got another jacket to go over the one I was already wearing.
A total of 4 helicopters were in rotation – as a group. They would each fit 5 people, meaning that each tour would accomodate up to 20 customers. 15 minute flight up – 30 minute tour on the glacier itself – and 15 minutes back down to the airport. Plus the 1 hour or so of ferrying by bus to / from the ship to the airport and the safety videos, etc.
Barry, Alison and I were on JUN-D. Marion took another Mendenhall Glacier tour. We simply LOVED the helicopter trip. The sights and the commentary were wonderful. All four helicopters landed on the glacier and discharged their passengers – and picked up the earlier passengers to take back to the airport. There were approximately 6 guides up on the glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier is some 12 miles long, 300 feet deep and traverses down the mountain at between 6” an 12” daily. The glacier falls about at its end – dropping into the Mendenhall Lake. There are fissures, and streams – streams throughout the thickness – making it like swiss cheese. There are lots of gorgeous blue colorations; the product of select materials, oxygen availability, etc., etc. We drank from a glacial stream by lying on the ice, and essentially doing a push up to get our drink. It was cold and very windy up on the glacier. The guides are up there between 10-12 hours per day! brrrr. They have a hut they can use for protection, but apparently there isn’t too much opportunity to take advantage of it.
One of the guides asked if we could do her a favor, as she led us to the awaiting helicopter for the trip back. Would we wish Carly, back in the office, a happy 23rd birthday. We did one better. We got back to the airport, had an accomplice help identify Carly, and we sang happy birthday to her. She was very happy.
The pictures were numerous and look good on the small screen. I can’t wait to see what they look like on a larger screen.
Even MORE Bald Eagles – and salmon – for us to see on the way back to the ship. We got back around noon, but Marion wasn’t expected until after 2;30. Barry, Alison and I went up to Deck 12 for lunch, then we all basicallly took our own pathway forward. I blogged and read, Barry wandered the ship, read, and listened to music. Alison hung out, too. Eventually, Alison and Marion hooked up for walking around and shopping in Juneau. They didn’t get back until about 6:30, at which point we looked for an alternative to an 8:30 dinner in the Main Dining Room. We found Traces up on Deck 12 – more of an International Cuisine Tapas restaurant, which hit the spot.
We all opted for a quiet evening after that……
12,319+ Steps – Fitbit on the fritz a bit, in terms of charging.
Low clouds this morning. Misty. Alison and I got up and went out on Deck 7 for almost 2 miles to get warmed up for the day. As usual, she runs on the hot side, and I’m on the cool side. We laughed at the thought of people trying to guess what to wear by watching us!
We hooked up with Marion and Barry and went up to Deck 12 for breakfast – reasonably healthy – at least for breakfast.
The ship “docked” in Ketchikan just before 8AM. There are two other ships, one much larger and one about the same size as us. In total, the population of the 3 ships is far greater than the Ketchikan population. AT&T wireless popped up, so we took advantage – for a bit, at least.
We meet in the Galaxy Lounge at 8:30 for our excursion, “Wild life sanctuary, Eagles and Totems”, which will last about 2-1/2 hours and involve walking, which is great! KET-D, follow “Bob”, the magician, down to Deck 4 and your bus… We had an amusing 20 minute bus ride up to the Rain Forest tour starting point. The driver, one of many summer student hires, was hilarious.
Our tour guide was, we believe, a high school senior, who grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and is soon off to college for a degree in Journalism. She was quite knowledgeable and funny. This is a rainforest with annual rainfall placed at between 13 and 14 FEET, and it rains some 240 days/year. She said that all 8th graders take a mandatory 2 month survial course, which ends with them being put on an island for a week or two to – well, survive. She pointed out the various items that were edible and those that were poisonous. She introduced us to “banana slugs”, deer and wolves, types of trees, etc. At one point, someone spotted a bear down by the creek, and that stirred some radio traffic among the guides.
We actually all saw the bear a little while later – a 2 to 3 year old, who, at that age, was already sent out on his own. We also saw adult and adolescent bald eagles, in their element, which was very cool. I had my binoculars with me, so we all had an up close visual experience with these guys. As the salmon capital of the world, we got to see some of them – not the teaming streams of salmon swimming up-stream or anything. And, we saw a native American Totem Pole carver doing his thing near the beginning stages of making a new totem pole. The bus ride back to town was with another kid from Northern Las Vegas Community College, who was extremely funny, too. We wandered around town for about an hour before returning to the ship for lunch.
Seaplanes EVERYWHERE – taking off and landing every couple minutes, ALL THE TIME. It’s loud and it’s amazing.
We had lunch in the Main Dining Room, and had a blast. Wine, shepard’s pie, salad, and a sundae for dessert.
A little update of the blog and I’m ready to join Alison for a nap. I love it!
Formal Tea up in the lounge is always a nice event, and this day, all the servers were dressed in dress costumes, and the string quartet from St. Petersburg were dressed and playing beautiful music.
From Tea, we walked down to Hollywood Theater on Deck 6 to listen to the second presentation – this one on Glaciers; specifically the glacial formations that we were coming upon. While interested, I have now fallen asleep in my second lecture! Argh.
We had our first dinner in the Main Dining room tonight. The food, as always, was good, although it was a long, drawn out meal for whatever reason. It didn’t really matter, since we didn’t have any plans for the evening.
We woke up around 5AM, still not adjusted to the timezone, but not far off. Outside, it was about 54 degrees and you couldn’t see 50 feet from the ship an any direction. The fog horn was blaring every few minutes, and, on occasion, we could hear a response. The water was as flat as glass, but there was still a sway to the ship.
Alison and I spent far too long connecting to wifi and the associated apps they told us to make use of – argh – but we finally managed it. I signed up for the ATT Wireless Cruise Package, but no sign of that on my iPhone – argh. [ATT gets a reprieve – it showed up later in the day]
We opted for breakfast up on the Lido deck, which was nice and relaxing. Today is a sea day – one of only a couple on this voyage. After breakfast, we started a couple loads of wash and knocked off a 3 mile walk. We moved the wash to the drier, went down for a cup of coffee and took showers.
11:00 – Dr Alec Murphy, professor at the University of Oregon, presented “Land and Life Along the Northwest Coast” – interesting speaker, and we will hear more from him over the next few days.
“Team Trivia”. We called our team Dock Rockers, but only scored 8 out of 15 points – boo – the winner got 13.
Informal lunch up on Lido, which was still cool and somewhat foggy.
Good day for a nap, and we took advantage of that!
3:30 Tea up on Deck 12. Our cabin is on 8 – and per our “policy”, we take the stairs, not the elevator, and amass quite the number of steps that way. And, after, we went up to Deck 13 to tour the gym and spa – not use! Then we returned to Deck 7 and made several more rounds at a more leisurely pace.
In reality, it wasn’t long before it was time to get dressed for dinner at Prego – our only black tie dinner. IT WAS, in a word, Super-Fantastic! Great company. Great wait staff. Great Sommelier. And fantastic food. In fact, we put ourselves on the wait list for a second reservation later in the cruise.
From dinner, on Deck 7, we walked down to the Galaxy Lounge on Deck 6 for the “My Life – The Music of Billy Joel”, starring James Fox, from Wales, with support of the Crystal Orchestra, singers and dancers. What a show! Incredible!
We made the trip up to Deck 8 to our cabin, thoroughly satisfied by the evening. 🙂 For whatever reason, we were reminded to turn our clocks back an hour tonight. I don’t know why, but I’m not arguing.