Sunday, July 10, 2011

May/June 2001 Off to Alaska! (by cruise ship)

Saturday May 19th: flew out to Vancouver (uneventful flight) and Shirley met me at the airport. After dropping her husband and daughter off (there was a bus strike so everyone had to be driven everywhere) we headed over to the New Westminster Quay. After a tiny bit of "getting lost" we found it. Looked in the shops and then had fish and chips for lunch sitting outside and enjoying the sunshine. From there we drove back to pick up Brent and then went back to the house to relax with a wine cooler. Shirley barbequed pork chops for supper accompanied by Greek potatoes. Yum! That evening we watched the DVD of "Bounce" which was a good film.

Sunday May 20th: Up and at 'em early this morning as this was our big kayaking day. We had a quick breakfast and then headed out. Shirley and I were both nervous as this was a first for us. We reached Deep Cove and headed over to the kayak shop. Gulp! Let's just say both Shirley and I made use of the nearby bathroom. J We put on our kayak "skirts" (which attach to the kayak so you don't get wet) and the fella told us how to sit in, adjust the pedals for the rudder (my job). We had double kayaks - Brent and Richelle in one and Shirley and me in the other. A big shove off the beach and we were off. We were able to turn ourselves around and we carried on. I guess we were a bit slow as the other kayak left us way behind - Richelle kept yelling "come on you guys hurry up". Oh well. The first couple of times we saw a boat remotely headed in our direction we freaked but gradually we got the hang of it. We paddled out a fair ways then decided we should head back at a leisurely pace. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the sun shine and beautiful scenery. I enjoyed being so close to the water - I love the ocean. We eyeballed some of the gorgeous homes along the shoreline and finally got back onto shore. (much easier to head for shore then heading for a dock - still remember that canoe trip last summer in Banff!!!) All in all a fun time and I'd definitely do it again. We then headed off to downtown North Vancouver and lunch - grilled tuna sandwiches. After dropping Brent and Richelle off Shirley and I headed out again. We went to Rice Lake and walked around the area - very pretty with huge fur trees and a lovely lake in the middle. The trees out there are amazing - huge and the smell is wonderful. Very fresh…wish I could bottle it. From there we drove up Mount Seymour where there was still snow. Being the crazy women we are we had to race out and stand in the snow in our t-shirts and shorts for a photo op - brrrrr!!! We drove around the area a bit more then back home where Brent was preparing a delicious chicken casserole. Had a relaxing evening.

Monday May 21st (Victoria Day): Shirley fixed us a wonderful cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs. We fixed a picnic lunch and then started off on our Bowen Island trek. Richelle's softball team had a game out there. It is about a half hour ferry ride from the mainland. We drove over to Horseshoe Bay which is the terminus for ferries going over to a lot of islands off the west coast. It was a zoo with no long term parking that we could find. (we were told to go on the ferry as walk-on passengers) We were trying to find our way around to somewhere else when a man in a van stopped and asked if he could help. Upon hearing our predicament he said we could park in his driveway and proceeded to guide us there. Upon seeing our assortment of lawnchairs, picnic supplies, etc. he then drove us to the dock!!! What a wonderful person. Anyway as we were waiting we found out that the ferry to Bowen Island could not operate. On it's last departure from Bowen Island someone had forgotten to one of the ties to the dock and as it was pulling away it took a portion of the dock with it!!! So we had to wait for a water taxi - naturally the team went first. The ride over was pretty wild - not good for anyone who had motion sickness! We finally got there and walked over to the field. Watched some of the game and took a break and looked in the shops. Bowen Island is the standard west coast island with lots of fur trees and water! By the time we were ready to get back the ferry was able to dock again so we enjoyed the return journey much more! We took a taxi back to the car and drove back to the house. Can you believe that Richelle had another ball game. So Shirley barbequed some burgers quickly and off the family car went again. I had promised some friends of my parents that I would visit and being as there were no busses Shirley offered to drive. It was a long trip but they seemed happy to see us. Their son and daughter-in-law were there as well which was nice. Shirley was such a sweetie to drive me all the way out there.

Tuesday May 22nd: we relaxed in the morning over our coffee and then went to the dog bakery in West Vancouver so I could pick up some gourmet biscuits for my spoiled canine. Then lunch at White Spot - love their burgers!!! Shirley went to lunch and I walked along the path by the sea that starts behind the shopping centre in West Vancouver. There was a beach just for dogs so spent quite a while there just watching a bunch of dogs playing in and out of the water. What intrigued me was two owners for about 20 dogs - obviously they were pet sitting!!! I carried on with my walk and could not resist the impulse to take off my shoes and socks and paddle in the ocean. Then I headed over to Marine Drive and the shops. I stopped for dessert - a European berry gelato ice cream. Yum! Then back to the shopping centre and looked around. I did buy myself a sweatshirt with the Ross name and crest which pleased me and also treated myself to some new silver Celtic earrings as I had lost one from each of my other sets. (I am always doing that) Shirley picked me up and we all headed out to supper at Milestone's in West Vancouver. I had a Caesar Salad as I was still full from the huge burger from lunch, the ice cream and the carrot cake later that afternoon!!! J

Wednesday May 23rd: This morning Shirley went off to work and I relaxed around the house, did my laundry, repacked my suitcase and wrote postcards. When Shirley came home we went for lunch (sub sandwiches) and then went to pick up Pat who was coming up from Seattle. (she was visiting friends there) Pat's bus was late so we headed over to Stanley Park and drove around - we then got snarled in traffic and it took forever to get back to the North Shore. We walked along Ambleside Beach and I ordered Vietnamese food on Shirley's cell phone - ah, the conveniences of modern technology!! (though I still don't want one!) We picked up Brent and then the food and back to the house for a quick meal. (the food was delish) Once again we dropped Richelle at ANOTHER ball game (that would drive me nuts) and headed off to show Pat some of the sights. We went back to Deep Cove, took her to see Lynn Canyon then up Cyprus Mountain for a view of Vancouver. Back home for a drink and a chat.

Thursday May 24th: This morning we had bagels for brekky then off to walk the seawall at Stanley Park. I always enjoy that walk so much and this morning we had the added excitement of seeing our cruise ship sitting at Canada Place waiting for us!!! It was so much fun to walk with and talk to two of my very best friends together! Three hours later we were sitting eating fish and chips at Petticoat Lane in West Vancouver - that's beginning to become a tradition for me when I am in Vancouver! Back to the house to get sorted and changed and then off to our cruise ship. Shirley dropped us off and we began the embarkation process. We were escorted to our state room and it was small but just fine. Two single beds, a desk, TV - storage space. And a bottle of champagne waiting for us from my travel agent. We were so excited we were almost bouncing up and down on the beds like kids!!! We then had a life boat drill. (the highlight being a cute Dutch officer whom I never saw again. L) Then back to our rooms to get changed for dinner. Crab legs, spinach salad and sirloin steak. I was good and had fruit salad for dessert. Our table mates were a couple from Ontario. They were hilarious - although they didn't realize it!! We spent the evening exploring the ship.

Friday May 25th: We were traveling through the Inside Passage today so it was a 'stay on the ship' day. Lots of Mountains and islands. Had breakfast on the deck. We joined the fitness program which enabled us to collect points. (we each were able to collect a t-shirt the last day of the cruise) Walked on the deck as well as attending different seminars and sports activities. I sat in a lounge and read for a while and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the ship. Trying to ignore the assistant cruise director Kurt's loud speaker announcements for Bingo - boy did they ever get annoying. Met Roger the naturalist and attended one of his presentations. We quickly became Roger groupies because he had eagle eyes and we wanted to see a whale. Roger is the only man I have run for besides Paul McCartney! Dinner that evening was formal so we put on our fanciest duds - which believe me weren't that fancy compared to some. However there were all sorts so we didn't feel out of place at all. The meal I chose was wonderful: prawn cocktail, French Onion soup, Caesar salad and Rack of Lamb. There was a great selection to choose from. In the evening we went to a live show which was pretty good - hits from the 50's and 60's.

Saturday May 26th: Arrived into a warm and sunny Juneau just before noon. Immediately upon leaving the ship we bought a ticket to go out and view the Mendenhall Glacier. It was spectacular. Unfortunately my backpack fell off a low ledge and I broke my camcorder. I had to use Pat's from then on. Back in town we went up Mount Roberts by tram. Pat walked up even further but I stayed around the gift shop area. We were able to see our first Bald Eagle there which was exciting. Back down in Juneau we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where we had a drink. Really interesting place - sawdust on the floors and all sorts of things on the walls. It's one of Juneau's landmarks. Juneau is pretty - surrounded by mountains. A real frontier type of town. The only way in or out is by plane, ferry or cruise ship. It is Alaska's state capital. Looked in the shops on our way back to the ship and bought a few bits and pieces. Back on the ship all the restaurants were closed so we ordered room service. (all free)

Sunday May 27th: This morning we docked in Skagway. Walked over to a tourist office and booked ourselves on an early morning ( as in 8 a.m.) float trip. We walked into town and were picked up. Chris and his wife were really nice (despite being hauled out of bed to accommodate us) and we were the only participants. On went the wet gear and life jackets and off we went down the river. It was a gentle raft trip - not white water. It was lovely to just sit and observe nature and enjoy the beautiful fresh air. We saw a few ducks - nothing wildly exciting but it didn't matter. Chris and his wife (I forget her name!) live in Skagway all summer then move back to Seattle during the off season where he is a tax accountant. Quite different life styles! After being dropped off we walked down the main street and looked in the shops again and staggered back to the ship with all sorts of goodies. Back on the ship we had lunch and relaxed. At 3:30 we left on our tour to Haines - that is the only tour we booked through Holland America. We all got in a bus which proceeded to drive about a block and drop us off at the dock - talk about a waste of time!! We took a catamaran down Lynn Fjord to Haines where we were greeted by our guide. She took us around the area in a van and we observed more Bald Eagles. Haines is another beautiful city nestled in the mountains. Stopped at some beautiful view points - I think I made Kodak very happy on this trip! We then visited an Eagle preserve and learned the difference between a reserve and a preserve. We saw Bald Eagles all right - stuffed ones!!! Oh well, live and learn. It was a nice tour as the scenery was so pretty - the most excitement was when the driver nearly backed us right into a ditch! Pat had to yell at him to stop. Back to the dock where we had our salmon bake. Very good. We were late leaving Haines but they radioed the ship and they waited for us - there were about 40 of us total. (there were about four different tours within Haines) Most of us walked back to the ship!!!

Monday May 28th: This morning we enjoyed breakfast on the deck. What a life. We could not believe how lucky we were with the weather. Blue skies and sun. We entered Glacier Bay at around 10 a.m. Beautiful! We headed towards the granddaddy of them all - the Grand Pacific glacier. The ship stayed there for about an hour and we were able to watch it calving (part of the glacier breaking off and dropping into the water) There was a bear spotted on shore but you really needed your binoculars to see it - after ten minutes finally was able to see it through my binoculars (I was being directed by people looking at a rock!) We then sailed on and stopped at another picturesque spot and the ship slowly turned around - surrounded by glaciers on all sides. We were out on the deck having lunch at this point and it was quite the experience. Pat and I both agreed: life should always be like this. Just a gorgeous day - as we were leaving Glacier Bay at 4 p.m. B-I-N-G-O B-I-N-G-O came over the loud speakers - good old Kurt at it again! (no loudspeaker announcements were allowed while we were in Glacier Bay) It was another formal evening and the meal was super: I chose Lobster tails and they were superb. We shared our bottle of champagne at that meal. Dessert was Baked Alaska - each waiter carried one out all lit up. Quite a sight. We went to another show that evening but had to leave after the second song as we were in hysterics. It was called "Under the Sea". Picture mermaids done up with Tina Turner wigs singing "Proud Mary". You had to be there but we barely made it out of the theatre before nearly falling down with laughter.

Tuesday May 29th: This morning we arrived in Ketchikan. Upon leaving the ship we booked a city tour which turned out to be quite interesting. We visited two Totem Pole parks and were able to watch one being painted. Another lucky day…the saying in Ketchikan is "if you can't see the mountain it's raining, if you can see the mountain it's going to rain". It rained five minutes before we got on the ship!!! Being as there is an average of five feet of rainfall yearly in that part of the world we were incredibly lucky!!!! After the tour we were dropped off at Creek Street which used to be the "red light" area of the city up until the 1950's. Creek Street is unique in the fact that all the buildings are wooden and on stilts. The big tourist place is "Dolly's Place" which used to be a house of ill repute - "Dolly" still hangs out there waving at all who go past - you can actually tour the house but we skipped that! Lots of shops though and I treated myself to a black and white sketch of a puffin - had seen my first puffins a couple of days before. We then walked around the town a bit and looked in the shops. Back on the ship for dinner which was a Dutch meal. We even got to wear Dutch huts!! I chose Bami Goreng (spicy Indonesian pastal) to start then on to Brown Bean soup and sirloin steak. Dutch Apple Tart for dessert.

Wednesday May 30th: Woke up about 3 a.m. and the ship was rocking violently. Staggered over to get some motion sickness medication and then went back to bed. (never had any ill effects but wanted to make sure) We got up and dressed - did not bother with a shower until later in the day as we figured we would fall out of it at that point!!! There was barely anyone at breakfast so did not have to line up for a change. Apparently the waves were up to 18 feet high. We reached calmer waters by mid afternoon. We spent the day doing "our own thing" - looking in the shops, reading in the library. We went for a body analysis which was interesting. The fitness instructor who did mine was more interested in selling me $279 US worth of detoxification pills. After Pat and I had seen her smoking the previous evening (very disillusioning) we did not take much of what she said seriously. I did treat myself to a face and neck massage which was fantastic. At dinner that evening said goodbye to our table companions. (although we did run into them again the next day) That evening we wandered around the ship taking last minute pictures and video. Back to the cabin to pack up our suitcases and leave them outside to be picked up sometime during the night.

Thursday May 31st - this was it - the end of our cruise. Had breakfast on deck and then sat and waited with our hand luggage. And waited, and waited. We were one of the last off the ship. Finally our number was called!!! Shirley was there to greet us so we regaled her with stories of our trip. Off to Queen Elizabeth Park which was a bit of a let down as we thought there would be more flowers. From there we drove over to Jericho Beach where we dipped our toes in the ocean. We then sat and ate lunch and then went for a walk. Off to the bus depot to drop off Pat - she was going to Seattle and then back to Buffalo. Shirley and I headed over to the Taiga store - this company manufacturers sports wear and I wanted a water resistant jacket. I treated myself to one and then we headed south to Richmond to meet my penfriend Darlene. We arrived at her house and visited for a bit and were entertained by her budgie Cashie. I have never seen a bird like that - so smart. We then drove over to Steveston Village where we had supper - fish and chips all 'round. Back to Darlene's house to look at photos and a chat. Then it was time to say our good-byes and it was off to the airport. Shirley dropped me off and the trip was over. The flight back was good - very clear so I had a bird's eye view of the Rocky Mountains.

A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY!!!! Enjoyed all the ports and would recommend the cruise to anyone - if the weather behaves. We were incredibly lucky - still can't believe it.

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