18 June 2010

Alaska

Alaska aboard the Sapphire Princess

You should know:
Service- 3
Cleanliness- 5
Options (things to do)- 4
Arts and crafts- 3
Itinerary- 4
Food(taste)- 3
Food (appearance)- 5
Photo prices- 2
Coke card- 5
Bands-????? where were the bands?
Comedy shows- 5
Naturalist- 5
Embarkation-4
Debarkation-5
Shopping mall-4 (could be much better and is, I have shopped in better malls on smaller ships)
More for a newbie than a seasoned cruiser.

Day 1 of the Princess experience:
WE were delayed in boarding the vessel due to an outbreak of the Norwalk virus, the week before. 98 people got sick. Here’s the deal people….Norwalk is a type of flu, you can get it anywhere. The deal comes in that cruise ships are required to notify the health dept, Walmart or you local town is NOT. This is not a reason to not go on a cruise. If that is your reason, you should stay in your house all the time. Just use logic, watch touching “public” items (elevator buttons, railings, door knobs…..) without washing your hands or using hand sanitizer afterwards. LOGIC!!! Most of the ships provide purell, in case you are too lazy to wash your hands or you choose to do both. Most of the ships will no longer allow you to eat without first using the sanitizer, just an FYI.

Once we got on board, we headed to the Lido deck to eat. This was different, the staff served you from the buffet. Now being a person that hates places like Ryan’s and CiCi’s because people use the potty don’t wash, or pick their nose and don’t wash and then use the pizza spatula or salad tongs, grosses me out. I sort of liked this, but it did make for a very slow moving line.

Oh the food…well, I am a food person so I was looking for excitement. There was a seasoned Tilapia, which I was very excited about and a salad bar (yummy) and varying other fun looking things. Ok, the staff filled my plate and I go sit down. NO SILVERWARE! They must bring it to you, you and 45 other people that just sit down. Too LONG!!! When I finally got the silverware, the fish was cold and nasty. I could not eat it. The salad was very good and the homemade dressing was amazing. All my hot stuff was cold and gross. Not a good way to start off Princess.

We got settled and began to explore the boat. It was a very attractive boat in a classic sense. I however, like a little more BLING! I enjoyed the Pearl and the Carnival ships much better because they have FLAIR. I was warned about the colors a very bland, boring, beige scheme. Not exciting, not fun and does not entice you to spend money. Someone should really talk to them about color choices.

The stateroom is very tiny. Once again Carnival has proved that they have the largest and best staterooms on the seas. This room had 2 lower beds and 2 upper beds. 7 drawers 4x8x9, 5 shelves 10x 8x 5 and a very large closet (but it was the same size as every closet I ever see on a ship. The storage space shelf and drawer wise is ridiculous for a room that sleeps 4. Actually, I don’t know about 2 people with that storage for 7 days. Very disappointed in that. The shower was also smaller than Carnival and I did not think that was possible. I was not happy at all with the room.

That evening you were entertained by Shelley Gill and a comedy dude. The dude was great, he was a comic that does observation comedy based on the folks in the audience. I love this because even if there is a repeat performance, there is still new material. He did do 3 shows and one or all of us watched each of his shows.

OH Shelley, I love her. She was the naturalist. She was on board to enhance our Alaskan experience. Her job is to narrate as the ship sails through fjords and up the Marine Highway and to give lectures on Alaska. Her first one was just a little bit of wonderful. A bonus here, she writes children’s books and sold them on board. The books are based on her environmentalist life. She is a whale detective and Iditarod competitor when she is not writing and lecturing. A whale detective is someone who follows the whales through their feeding season, recording the flukes and the sizes of the families/pods. I would LOVE this job!!! It was exciting talking to her, because until I met her, I was the only person that I know who knew a lot about whales. Her knowledge was thrilling and I learned so much more from her. I attended every lecture that she did and every book signing and tried to be around for every narration she gave.

Trivia began tonight and we won the very first one of the cruise. That was a little bit of awesome. I love finding usage for my useless knowledge. 

Day 1 At Sea:
Today was a day of fun and activities. The plan was to hit one of the many pools and hot tubs, eat a lot, take some photos, look for whales, do trivia, attend the card making class, eat some more, explore the Japanese made ship, catch Shelley’s lecture, and shop in the mall. I accomplished all of this. And to top it off, the weather was great!!! Today was the first formal night and we took the formal pictures. Check them out.

Day 2 Ketchikan:
I was so excited to return to this great little town. We had goals! Melanie and I would arise and be in town by 6 am (3 am our time) and begin the shopping and gathering of free items. There was something that I wanted last time but did not buy and was going for it first. I only spend about $15 dollars today. I got stuff at Tongass, which is one of my very favorite stores up here. And I used the coupon book like crazy. After a couple of hours, Hannah and John joined us and the girls kept shopping and John and I began our trek through town. We walked down to the IGA and went inside to snap some photos. Then we went into the marina to look around, we saw a seal, tons of jelly fish, a sea anemone, a crab and NO salmon. UUUHHHH! I wanted to see them, but we were still too early. We went shopping down Creek Street and the girl outside the brothel said “I love your power ranger hat”, that was very strange given the way she was dressed and she was supposed to be from the 1800’s. Crazy. We kept walking heading towards a Wal-mart. We walked and walked and walked. Found us some lunch at McDonalds ($18 for 2 value meals), saw a Godfather’s pizza, a mall (not great), tons of Eagles fighting over fish and took lots of photos of local fare. I LOVE this town!

Once we got back to the ship, it was time to go (we were only on board about 20 minutes before we were too leave). See I can’t even remember dinner tonight, so the food must have been just so so like I said. Dessert though was New York style cheesecake with Carmel sauce, now this was good. I do remember the after dinner show…there were whales everywhere! I had never seen so many whales from the cruise ship before. After dinner we went outside (because it was so warm) to view the whales and saw dolphins and seals as well.


Day 3 Tracy Arm Fjord and Juneau:
Well, I got up early (even though a social director said it was not worth it) and I am glad that I did. The fjord breathtaking as you entered its mouth. The landscape inside was pretty, water falls, glacial ice, trees, mountains, ice bergs, whales and fjord colored waters. I was looking for the Sawyer Twins. I was very disappointed…the twins were at the end of the fjord to the right, and then you could only see one and just a portion of the one. Even though it was pretty, after you have been to Glacier Bay National Park, this is a let down. I was very sad that we did not go back to Glacier Bay. I shall not go back to Tracy Arm and never want to.

Juneau-----Now this is what I love. Juneau is a wonderful place. We were docked at the last dock and got there early so our tour left a bit early. First stop the Mendenhall Glacier. Now this is wonderful!!!! We were dropped off at the park (which I can’t figure out why it is NOT a National Park) and walked down the path to the glacier. Of course you can see the glacier from the road, but you really need to walk up to it. It is receding at a very quick rate. I was shocked at the difference that I could see in just 2 years. I took tons of photos down by the glacier and then made my way to the visitor center. I was looking for books. I found one for Trevor on glaciers fjords and ice bergs. I did not find an adult one on glaciers, which was the goal, rats. Then it was getting time to go but I had time to go to the picnic pavilion and feel “glacial air conditioning”. It was a very warm day, so the air coming down off the glacier was not only nice, but very welcoming, and the coolest air you can imagine. I loved it.

Next we boarded our bus again and Thomas took us to Auke Bay. The bay looked the same as 2 years ago, so I enjoyed that. We boarded a larger boat than I had last time. Last time we had about 20 guests this time about 50. It was a 3 tiered boat, I was nervous about the viewing but that was to be a short lived nervousness. We headed out and almost immediately saw a whale. Actually, there were whales EVERYWHERE! Everywhere….it was perfect. At one time we had a pod of 8 right off our port side. I got 78 fluke shots with my camera, last time I got 4! What a difference!!! There were whales everywhere! We saw some calves feeding for their first time in Alaska waters and showing off a bit too. This was a great use of $170, especially if you are a whale freak like me. We also saw eagles and seals and sea lions, but that is such a backseat to the whales.

After the excursion, I did some shopping until I just ran out of time. We got on the boat about 20 minutes before sailaway. What a great day!!!

Day 4 Skagway:
John and I had been planning for months to take the train into Canada. We called Larry the Chilkoot tour operator and secured some spots on this mornings tour. Since we had all ready walked into town, Larry came and picked us up and took us to meet Shawn our tour guide. He was a bit of a surfer type, laid back kind of dude that called the town Skagwicga….he was so funny.

The first thing Shawn did was take us to the train. We had taken the train 2 years ago, but you never get to step on the Yukon soil, so that is why we took a different tour. Passports are required for this tour so Melanie and Hannah could not go. There were some photos that I wanted to take on the train this time. I had missed them the last time, and luckily I had most of the trip memorized so it was not hard to remember what I had missed. I had missed the cemetery on the right as you leave town. This is a great little place, and full of history. Then up the mountain, Bridal Veil Falls is a MUST DO on the photo talking list. I missed it last time because of a dead battery. There are rapids under the falls that NO ONE has every conquered because of the roughness and rockiness. Many have died trying. Then there is a rock about 2/3 of the way up. On this rock is a cross. The story goes….this guy was helping to build this railroad. This railroad was needed desperately. Many folks and horses were losing their lives trying to make the trek up this mountain into the Yukon country. In the Yukon there was gold and these folks NEEDED gold. They were so poor. The Canadian government was ok with American’s coming up there, but said that they must bring enough supplies to survive for one year and the Mounties checked to make sure. Now this was over a ton of supplies that each person must bring. And it was per person, so if your wife came, you brought her supplies too. The railway was supposed to help the folks get over to Canada. Well, this guy was blasting the mountain and a rock (boulder) broke loose and crushed him. The other dudes tried and tried to get the boulder off (I don’t know why, he was crushed), but they could not so they put a cross into the rock. I have just shortened the story….you get the gist but you should hear the whole thing. I got photos of the American/Canadian border and then we went to new territory (for us) up into Fraser BC. There are 9 people that live here. We thought when they called it a town there would be shopping or something….nope 9 people and a customs office. We did get our passport stamped though by customs. Shawn meet us with the bus up in Canada and took us back down into Skagway. On the way, he dropped us off at many of the great sites, glacial waterfalls, scenic overlooks, fjords, and the American/Canadian border for photo opps. He was a great guide full of the Skagway stories. Of course, my goal was to find a book of these stories once we got into town. I fell in love with these stories 2 years ago and that was on the agenda, find a book. The first thing John and I did when we got back into town was grab a bit to eat. We ate at a former brothel, the Red Onion. The chicken salad I believe was the most perfect stuff ever. I loved this chicken salad. Our server was good, but the host was rude, not the call girls were sweet, but of course they wanted to take us upstairs to the brothel and we had no desire to do that, we just wanted lunch. After lunch, we started shopping, I hit the bookstore first and got a book on the gold rush. This book does not talk about Soapy Smith so I have to keep looking. Then we found a needlework store. NEEDLEWORK!!! You never see these, do you know how hard it is to find good patterns? That is why I have taken to designing my own so that I can have some. This place was great…I probably spent more money in here then I needed too, but I will use all the charts that I bought, so I am not too concerned. I am even ordering 2 others from the clerk. Then we found a fudge store, yummy, we got some fudge and nut clusters. These were very good. I shopped for more books but did not find what I was looking for…keep looking. I went into the Alaska t shirt co (my fave store in AK) and bought some stuff. Not much only about $20 ($10 of which was a book on Alaska). Then it was time to go, once again we were just making the cut off before the ship left. We enjoyed literally every second of these ports.

Day 5 At sea:
Our second day at sea. I had a lecture, journaling class, shopping at the mall, more dips in the pool and hot tubs, cross word puzzles and reading to do, and formal night. And we had to alter our course due to very rough seas….well it was rough for us too. 15-20 ft swells. This is the stuff I love and you don’t get enough of. It was almost impossible to walk in a straight line….no it was impossible.

Day 6 Victoria:
Once again, I did not get to enjoy much of the city. I won’t bore you with details, but I will say that the government building, the downtown, the port, and the restaurants….well, I think I know a little about them all. We went into I believe every restaurant looking for somewhere to eat. Either the food was not what we wanted or they did not take minors, or they had a 3 hour wait. We settled and a little place called Wicket and Sticks and I had fajitas that were wonderful and hot tea. YUMMY!!!

This is it folks….day 7, you are rushed off the ship as soon as they get into port. I hope you enjoyed my fun.