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02 July 2011 @ 06:14 pm
Cruise to Alaska  
Here is my vacation. My first cruise. And it was to Alaska. Not the first time I've ever been to Alaska, but the first time I'd been to this part of it, at least. However, it was the cruise part that was a whole new experience. The biggest surprise of the trip was how much free time there is while at sea. For some reason, I figured all day every day we'd be at a different port and be spending all our time on shore. Nope, about half the time is spent at sea. And for me, that was PERFECT. Whole days where there was nothing to do but grab a coffee and read a book or sit by a window and watch the mountains go by. I didn't think there would be that much down time but I'm so so glad there was. Oh, they have events you can go to to keep yourself entertained (my mom and I went on a tour of the kitchen, for instance) but for the most part during sailing time I did as I described, grabbed a coffee and a book and found a quiet spot and read.

And, of course, the meals. Everyone always talks about the meals and cruises and there's a reason for it! In one deck is a cafeteria style dinning area where there is food available almost 24 hours a day including all kinds of desserts. Breakfasts were to die for with any kind of egg or omelet made to order or pancakes or French toast, or waffles, and all kinds of fresh chopped fruit. And dinners (if you chose to attend the formal dining room rather than the cafeteria) were four course affairs – soup or salad, appetizer, main course, then dessert. I shall be spending the next two or three weeks losing the 4 or 5 lbs I put on last week, lol.




Day 1: Leaving Port

We were on the ship at 1:00, I believe and we set sail at 5:00 pm. The first day was spent exploring the ship, mostly, and getting unpacked and such. And letting my mind go "I'm on vacation! I'm on vacation! I'm on vacation!"

Here's my first sighting of my home for the week, The Westerdam
Day1Westerdam

My mom waiving to passengers on The Golden Princess (another cruise ship docked just on the other side of the pier) as we pulled out
Day1LeavingPort

Thank goodness for these maps on every deck both fore and aft and midship, I literally would have been lost without them.
Day1ShipMap


Day 2: Full Day At Sea

Day two was a full day at sea. Wake up on the ship, sail on day, go to bed on the ship. Nothing to do in between but read, relax, nap, relax, explore, relax, you get the picture. ;) Also that first night was the first of two 'formal dress' dinners. Meaning men had to wear jacket and tie to dinner and women were also expected in 'formal' wear. These use to be truly formal (tuxes and evening gowns) but are now more business dress.

During the kitchen tour; this cook was making that night's soups and sauces
Day2KitchenTourSauces

Another picture from the kitchen tour, this of all the big jars of spices. But also—how awesome is that watermelon flower carving?!?
Day2KitchenTourSpices

Just a picture of the hallway our stateroom was in. Loooong NARROW halls (and very small staterooms!)
Day2ShipTourHall

I don't know why but I just loved these signs "Mind your head, watch your step" became a little mantra by the end of the trip. If someone said, "careful" because you were about to trip or run into anything, the response was not "thank you" it was "mind your head, watch your step" lol
Day2ShipTourMindYourHead

My mom, dad, and nephew all dressed up for formal dinner. :)
Day2MomDadBrendan


Day 3: Juneau (and Sled dogging / dog sledding)

Okay, so this day isn't going to be just three or four pictures, heh. This was my favorite excursion day: dog sledding. We arrived in Juneau fairly early, I think we docked at 7 am or so. We were off the ship around 9:15, and met up with our excursion company. They drove us to the helo-field where I got my very first helicopter ride! There's no other way to get to the glacier where we were doing the sledding except for helicopter (even the dogs are choppered up there). OMG, helicopters are so awesome!! You just lift right off like you're weightless, so fun! And the scenery was breathtaking, flying down a river, then up through mountain passes, then out onto the glacier and catching sight of the camp and putting down. And MAN, was it BRIGHT!

We got our safety briefing and an introduction to the life of the dogs then were assigned a musher. Our musher has hopes to run in the Iditarod some day. She just completed her first 300 mile race last winter (took her 7 days). Many of the dogs there were in training for the Iditarod or other races. And do those dogs love to run! As soon as they got hooked up they were literally throwing themselves forward in their harnesses, dogs that were left at camp were just howling and barking and throwing themselves against their chains. They just wanted to GO GO GO. And be careful about saying "ready!?" out there because the dogs perk right up and they're ready to go!

Our sled ride lasted about 30 minutes – two miles. I rode on the back of the sled for a section of it (riding on the back means you're standing up – there's one picture attached where Brendan is riding on the back) and you have a break you're also responsible for using when we need to halt the sled. After the ride we got to meet the dogs and they were SOOOO friendly! I wanted to take a couple home with me! lol

Then, sadly, the ride was over and we had to return to Juneau and return to the ship to depart for our next destination. *sigh* I wanted to ride the sled all day and all the next day, too!


A view from inside our Helicopter on the way out to the dog camp
Day3HeloOutFrontHelo

Another view from the helicopter – this of the FOUR cruise ships that were in port in Juneau that day.
Day3HeloOutFrontFourShips

This is actually during the return trip, a view from our helicopter of the glacier that we flew up.
Day3HeloGlacier

A view of the entire camp (some 170 or so dogs and their caretakers live there)
Day3DogCampFromHelo

The four of us upon arrival on the glacier (can you tell by our squinty eyes how bright it was?)
Day3HeloUs

Me in front of the sled we'd eventually be taking on our ride. Awesome hair day, as you can see.
Day3DogCampMeSled

Our musher getting our dogs all set to go (notice what she's wearing…short sleaves!)
Day3DogCampGettingReady

Here our musher is putting little booties on all the doggie feet. The snow is really rough up there so the booties protect their tender little pads.
Day3DogCampBooties

Dduring a rest break all the dogs looking back hoping to hear "ready" so they can run again
Day3SleddingCanWeGoNow

The four of us on our sled. :)
Day3SleddingUs

Me and my dad and the doggies and beautiful scenery.
Day3SleddingDadMe

Me and my family with two of the dogs (never mind the date on the photo, lol, the camera was set incorrectly)
Day3DogCampUs

Departing the port at Juneau at sunset. NOTE: that's an armed Coast Guard escort that went along with us for about three hours…a little strange!)
Day3JuneauDeparting

Day 4: Hubbard Glacier

So, Day 4 was mostly at sea again, except it was a voyage to The Hubbard Glacier, which is this mammoth glacier, one of the few that is still growing. And it's still moving and moving fast. They told us that some days it can surge up to 100 feet – in one day! And when it does, the part of it that empties into the water sheers off little by little – a process called calving. To get there, we had to plow through this massive ice field. The park ranger that was on the bow talking to us about the glacier said that we got closer than any other ship that season so far. It was impressive (and a little scary) going by these ice burgs (some were the size of a car or more). The pictures don't do it justice – even in person the scale is impossible to tell. We only got to within 2 miles of it (after that it was too dangerous/too much ice) and even at two miles it was impossible to believe that it was 34 stories tall. THIRTY FOUR STORIES! Man. You could hear it crack and crumble and you'd look to see the calving that represents but the ranger reminded us that once you hear it, it's already happened. We did see a few pretty good chunks break off (probably two or three stories tall). Way impressive. And cold! Then, after that, we backed out of there and headed to Sitka, our next port of call.


That blue section in between the two mountains and just to the left of me is the glacier. We're about 8 or 10 miles away when this was taken.
Day4HubbardMe

This is a little closer, maybe 6 miles away. You can see the little ice flow we were already contending with in the water.
Day4Hubbard3

And look what we passed on our way there and as the ice flows got bigger!
Day4HubbardSeal

And this is that same seal sitting on his same ice flow (the brown lump in the ice flow near the middle of the photo)…you can start getting an idea of what we sailed through!
Day4HubbardSealScale

A closer up spot, about as close as we got. You'd never guest it was 34 stories high!
Day4Hubbard4

After the close encounter with the glacier, my mom and I were freeeeezing (we were out on the bow for about 3 hours). The deck chairs, however, were SOOO WARM! They had been sitting in the sun and soaking it up. So we sat down and 'sunned' ourselves for a bit. :D
Day4HubbardSunning

Day 5: Sitka

Sitka is this tiny little fishing village on the coast somewhere. At Sitka our excursion was a sea-wildlife adventure via semi-submersible. It was pretty wild, especially the kelp forest we went through, but it didn't lend itself well to picture taking. After that, it was off to a National Historic Park they have in Skita commemorating some battle sites with the Russians (way back in the day). Mostly now it's a little walking tour with lots of native totem poles. Very cool. The bonus there is when we looked way off into the bay, we saw some sea life frolicking. We couldn't for the life of us figure out what it was. We're still not sure but we think it was a bunch of sea lions playing. To get out to the edge of the water, we had to walk through this tidal beach FULL of this yellow seaweed. The thing about this seaweed, though, was that it was inflated! It was a bunch of air pockets and they squished and popped when you walked on them. It was really rather gross! LOL Oh, and then the day didn't end after the day in Sitka ended. For that night on ship was the Dessert Extravaganza! Tables upon tables of pastries and chocolate. OMG!

A picture of our ship with the mountains in the background
Day5WesterdamMountains

One picture from our excursion: My nephew taking a picture of the kelp forest as we went through it
Day5SemiSubBrendan

The most colorful totem pole in the Totem Park
Day5TotemColor

The most creepy one, LOL
Day5TotemCreepy

This is kind of creepy, too. But this was one of the defining pictures that made us think we were looking at sea lions
Day5SeaLionFinFlipper

A close up of the inflatable seaweed
Day5SeaLionSeaweed

The full beach of this stuff we had to walk over
Day5SeaLionWalkingBack

Back on the ship. The dessert extravaganza!! Nom Nom Nom (and notice the watermelon carvings, too)
Day5DessertChocoTable1

With ice sculptures, too!
Day5DessertChocoTable2

And I believe these were chocolate covered strawberries made up like little mice. I didn't get one, unfortunately :(
Day5DessertChocoTable3

This is an entirely edible bouquet – those are vegetables they're carved from!
Day5DessertBouquet

My absolute FAV watermelon carving. We were debating what it was. What do you all think?
Day5DessertWatermellon


Day 6: Ketchikan


We had a fairly short day in Ketchikan. We docked around 7:00 am, and were off around 8:30, in time for our 9:00 excursion: a float plane ride through the National Monument, Misty Fjords (btw, we all thought that 'Misty Fjords' sounded like a pr0n name, lol). Misty Fjords are, well, quite misty. Lots of low hanging clouds but still beautiful scenery. However, it doesn't photograph well. Still, we tried. Also, it was all of our first float plane ride so that was cool! :) Also, that night was the second of the two formal dinners. We got our picture taken at one of their professional photog area, but they wanted $40 for one sheet with an 8x10 and a 5x7. I don't think so! So I took a picture of the picture, lol. Also during dinner we were joined by an entire school of dolphins! They were going opposite the ship but we kept going and going and going and just outside the windows they kept just jumping and frolicking. Very cool!

One of the better pictures of the Misty Fjords
Day6PlaneRide1

Dad and me standing on the float part of our float plane
Day6FloatPlaneDadMe

My best pictures of one of the groups of dolphins that went by
Day6DinnerSwimmers

I just loved this picture of my mom and dad I took during our evening walk around the Promenade deck
Day6MomDadSunset


Day 7: Victoria and whale watching.

Actually, Day 7 was mostly an entire day at sea. We didn't' get into Victoria until 6:00 PM. When we arrived we were one of the first off the ship and whisked off to Whale Watching. And we saw whales! The guides were so amazed at how sunny and calm it was. We were able to see much farther than normal because of how calm and smooth the water was. Which was good because though there were a ton of whales, they said the pod was spread out over about 10 miles so at any given time we would only see one or two whales. However, they could have told me this was the best whale watching ever and I would believe them because it was amazing! We never went more than a minute or two between seeing a whale come up and take a breath. And at the beginning of the adventure there was this beautiful rainbow (and a double rainbow at times) in the back ground and by the end a beautiful sunset. Truly wonderful. The highlights were seeing one whale breach (jump clear out of the water) and another time one came up pretty close to our boat, close enough to really hear him breathing and talking. I took a lot of pictures, and a lot came out as empty sky or empty water because I wasn't looking through my camera most of the time, just pointing it in the direction, clicked the button and hoped. Which is why I'm super-surprised to have gotten on of the breach. Cool!


A whale with the rainbow – see? Amazing!
Day7RainbowWhale3

A little harder to see, but there's a double rainbow, and the whale is just to the right of the other boat in the picture (and notice how crooked the picture is, lol, another case of just pointing and hoping)
Day7DoubleRainbowWhale

I can't believe I caught this picture! And though it's not a great picture, as my dad said, it's proof-of-sighting. Seeing that live, though, and hearing and seeing the big splash as it landed, just spectacular.
Day7WhaleBreaching

Whale watching by sunset
Day7SunsetWhale2

This is one of the pics I got when the whale was really close to the boat. Very cool.
Day7SunsetWhale3


Day 8: Back in Seattle

Sadly, the adventure had to come to an end. We docked back in Seattle early in the morning and were assigned a disembarkation time of 8:30. *sigh* We got a shuttle to our hotel and then walked to Pike Place Market. I wanted to go to the original Starbucks store which is located there. It was like a trip to Mecca. LOL I bought everyone coffee and also bought myself a Pike Place Market Starbucks mug.

I then rested much of the rest of the afternoon (I didn't know why I was so tired at the time but it turns out it was because I was coming down with a cold). I took the redeye out from Seattle to Detroit. Then our flight from Detroit took off on time but after only 10-15 minutes had to return to the airport because they couldn't pressurize the cabin so we couldn't climb. After we landed we were told a door had come open. Zoiks! An hour and a half later, now two hours late, we took off again back home.


From inside the Starbucks. Still very rustic and authentic looking (and busy!).
Day8LookingOut

A map indicating where all their coffee comes from from around the world.
Day8CoffeeMap

And a shelf of Starbucks mugs from around the world.
Day8Mugs2

Ahhh, me with my mocha in front of the original Starbucks store.
Day8MeAtStarbucks



And then it was over. Until next vacation. :D

 
 
gorengal on July 3rd, 2011 05:25 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, what beautiful pictures! Thanks especially for sharing the cruise ship since I've never been on one. :) I'm so glad you and the fam had a fun trip. Did your nephew enjoy it? (Oops, some of my post got erased when I hit post.) I hope you're feeling better. ♥

Edited at 2011-07-03 05:26 am (UTC)
xaristocatxxaristocatx on July 3rd, 2011 11:05 am (UTC)
There is so much awesomeness in this post. You somehow make the most amazing vacation destinations look even more stunning. Thank you for that :)
sipmansipman on July 4th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
My last cruise was in 1991 after the birth of Angel Baby # 2...there is talk of taking one next year for our 25th wedding annav.

Alaska is on my To DO/Bucket list.

All of your photos are gorgeous! But i esp love the one of your Mom & Dad...that one made me :)

Thanks so much for sharing <3
citjara on July 5th, 2011 07:37 pm (UTC)
What a amazing trip! WOW!!! This would've been something for me, too...

And I love dog sledding. Too bad I can't do that in my life and where I live...