This cruise took place earlier this year (2019).
WE WERE LATE LEAVING SAN FRANCISCO. We were supposed to leave at 4pm, and we even got us upgraded to business class!. We had just done up our seat belts, and
EVERYONE OFF THE PLANE!
They just discovered that they had put too much fuel on the plane. Apparently they can neither add fuel or take it off the flight while passengers are on board. So, off we go, back into the airport. While they were reducing the fuel on the plane, we all sat there, grumbling.
So when that was done, we thought we were all set, UNTIL..
The pilot came out and explained to all of us that this plane was a no-go anyways, because there were warning lights that had come on. So, no problem, he said, we’ll just take a different plane……
….except there were NONE available. There MUST be a plane that we can get , we just have to find it! Meanwhile, we’ll give you snacks and bottled water.
Well, there IS an A320 currently in Puerto Vallarta…… yeah, let’s get that one! Be here in just a moment, kinda sorta.
The plane was called to head north, and arrived at 6pm.
Luckily, everyone was in amazingly fine spirits. We thoroughly enjoyed chatting to a family group who were in San Francisco, visiting from Christchurch, New Zealand. They told us that we really needed to visit there, because they LOVE Canadians! Okay, we will move you up our must do list!
We finally got on the new plane, all the way from PUERTO VALLARTA! Luckily our upgrade status still applied, so we were served dinner on the flight. Mind you, it was chicken on quinoa, so didn’t appeal to many of us. Of course, we were pretty full of snacks and water by then, so we didn’t starve.
We are currently staying at the Pan Pacific Vancouver, at $500 per night. At this point, I can clearly see the value of this accommodation! The entire outside wall, overlooking the harbor, where our ship, the Volendam Holland America, rests. It is patiently awaiting its load of sailers, like us. that are scheduled to depart on the four o’clock sailing, this afternoon.
I am incredibly excited to be cruising once again! It has been FOURTEEN years since our last cruise, that departed from Rome and cruised the Mediterranean Sea. That was our twenty-fifth anniversary. It was important to us that we have at least one exotic port on that trip! That port probably would have been on the stop in Tunisia, which is frighteningly close to Libya. Kinda scary neighbors!This cruise is tame by comparison. Leaving from Vancouver British Columbia Canada, we cruise up the inside passage, between the islands and the mountains, ogling at miles of astounding views and photo ops.
We hope to find THE picture, that will eventually grace our living room wall. This is why Glenn’s Nikon camera was invited on this trip! The camera has better image sensors, and the telephoto is MUCH better than the one on the iPhone, with apologies to Apple. Although, unsubstantiated rumor has it that Apple is in quiet talks with some camera makers……
It is now gone 5 o’clock, and we have just had a relaxing time in the shipboard bar. While a young pianist coaxed the ivories into a soft tune, we enjoyed cocktails that we haven’t had in many moons. Despite coolish weather, I HAD to have a Pina Collada, while Glenn selected a Mojito. We relaxed, as the stunning scenery slid by easily, while we sighed over the many cottage properties that dotted the hillside.
The ‘spoil your sweetie’ package that Glenn ordered when he booked this cruise, included a beautiful floral arrangement, which was delivered early this afternoon. Then, a brochure was dropped off at our cabin door, offering our choice of many wines and spirits, so we chose two of our favorite chardonnay.
So we are both softly buzzing, and are back in our cabin. During the mandatory drill concerning lifeboats, life vests, and evacuation we had plenty of time to chat with our fellow cruisers. One couple on our lifeboat was actually from Windsor, and the gent taught history at our high school, after we had left. His wife is a long time customer of Tabi, Tan Jay, and Northern Reflections. She didn’t recognize me, but then, I didn’t have short spiky hair then, either!
Thursday morning brought a slight rocking motion on board the ship, undoubtedly due to the part of the coast we were sailing. Land masses would appear, then melt away, as we gently went along. Having just checked the progress we have made on the main map posted in the stairwell by the Lido deck pool, we can tell basically where we are. Currently, we are sauntering up the coast towards our ultimate destination: Alaska.
Our first stop in this northernmost state is Juneau, but before we get there we can attend an informative even telling us where to shop and where to dine. That starts at 11am, so we’re off to grab a seat for this!
Well, that was pretty much a waste of time for us, since we are not here to invest in diamonds, or any of the precious gems that apparently can be had at many local shops at shore. Ah well, we at least learned where some awesome halibut and chips can be found!When we were seated at our table for dinner at 8pm, we were delighted to see that we had window seats, overlooking the rear froth from the ship’s engines. Eventually, two more seats were taken, by a couple that were originally from England. He is a structural engineer, and has recently had placements in Zimbabwe, and Australia, which is where their kids currently live. They have one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. The couple currently resides in Australia, so they will have contact with their growing family.
Later this afternoon, when we get closer to Alaska, we will be in USA waters. At that point, the ship will be ‘in US waters’, so the ship’s current Canadian pilots will hand the steering back over to the American pilots. It is figured that this will happen in the middle of the night, so we’ll be none the wiser. The theory is that as we enter into shallower waters (closer to ports), the hazard areas will be best known by the pilots familiar with the area.
Before returning to our cabin, we passed by the collection of photos that were taken when we embarked. I was barefaced, completely without makeup at that point, so as I feared, the camera made me look like a ghost. NOT a keeper.
It is now gone noon, so I think that it is time to wander towards the dining venue for lunch.
Oddly, the temperature has dropped steadily throughout the afternoon. It currently stands at 48 degrees Farenheit, with winds gusting at 18 knots. After a light lunch we came back to our cabin to read, watch a movie, and generally try to find the energy that we think that should have! The theme for dinner tonight is dressy but not formal.
We never got there. Thanks to being chatty, and enjoying discussions with our fellow cruisers, we spent a wee bit too long at the shipboard bar, accomp hanied by a pair of first time cruisers from Victoria. Glenn and I each had two booze heavy cocktails, his a mojito and mine a long island ice tea. Frustratingly, he was not really affected by this, but I, I was….. DRUNK.
We needed to change into dress wear for dinner, so back to our cabin we went. I made the mistake of laying down while he commandeered the bathroom. Changes in position, like horizontal vs vertical, are never easy, since my concussions. Add a couple of boozy drinks, and these changes knock you flat.
When I tried to stand up so that I could exchange my pants for my long skirt, caused me to swoon. BACK down on the bed I cascaded. And there I stayed, except for periodic gulps of the ginger ale that Glenn had gotten for me. When my bladder insisted that it really was worth the vertical trip down the hall, my stomach couldn’t resist registering its complaint. I sealed my lips to avoid a ‘mishap’. After having quickly dealt with the needs of my bladder, I lurched back to the comfort of BED. Our eight o’clock dinner time came and went, as I chewed my second Dramamine. I insisted to Glenn that he was welcome to go to dinner, but he was deep into one of the ebooks he had downloaded before we left home, and demurred.
It is now 945am Friday morning, and breakfast is done. I am still paying for sins in that I require being close to the facilities. Glenn is off for a brisk walk to stretch his legs on the wide open assembly deck, where the life boat drills took place. Although I initially offered to accompany him, I soon demurred, feeling that my needs would be best served by minimizing
the distance to the bathroom until I got my sea legs well and well and truly under me.
Sunrise was as predicted, at 529am. Sunset occurred at 954pm last night. We have cruised 445nm (nautical miles) and the ocean’s depth is estimated to be 90 meters. I guess that this is testament to our being in a much more northerly locale. All of those statistics are designed to make you shiver.
We just watched the ballet, as the captain called it, of a much smaller ship coming alongside of this much larger vessel, in order to offload the passengers of the first side trip. This first trip was to Tracy Arm, to get a close up of glaciers. The cruise ship goes past the glaciers, but does not go in to the fjords for unclose viewing, simply because this ship is TOO BIG for these narrow waterways!
Glenn’s morning stroll around the ship gave him a view of two whales, on the port side of the ship. Sounds like they were providing a photo op, undoubtedly at the crew’s behest. Since we will be on the port side for the return trip to Vancouver, I can only hope that they oblige me as well!
Our tour departs at 2pm, giving us that much longer to rest and relax after our adventures of last evening. While having breakfast, we noticed little advertisements for today’s special lunch in the dining room: Alaskan Fish and Chips! You don’t need to ask us twice! We have ordered such a meal many times in our lives, only to be served Captain Highliner fish. The absolute very best we’ve had was at Pat and Hank’s in Windsor, Ontario, where we grew up. The Chish and Fips was a close second, but too often restaurants will entice you in with the promise of fish and chips, only for you to learn that it didn’t come close to what you were expecting. However, I have better expectations of today’s lunchtime offering, and hope not to be disappointed!
We are currently at 58 degrees north latitude, whereas Ottawa is 45 degrees, and San Francisco is 40 degrees north, on the latitude scale. We are currently heading up to Juneau.
Currently, it is 10am, and we are traveling at 17 knots, with apparent winds at 20 knots. We have travelled 1200km, since we left Vancouver, BC.
Every time Glenn steps out onto the verandah, he spots something worth seeing. But by the time I manage to join him out there, the special sight has disappeared. If I was inclined to be paranoid, I might question this, but the reality is that his eyesight is a bit sharper than mine.
We had our fish and chips lunch, which was very nice, but still paled in comparison with the fish we remember from days of old, which might in fact be because our memories are either jaded or enhanced. Yes, it was halibut, but not as crisp we would have liked! It helped that I chose a vintage ginger ale to accompany the meal. At least I was able to eat most of the meal!
We are now docked at Juneau. It is a cute looking little town, that thrives on the presence of cruise ships. We have been fully briefed on all the little shops where we can purchase amazing jewels at amazing prices. Sadly, that isn’t on our shopping list. Our shore excursion will depart at 2pm.
This morning was full of lemony sunlight, as we gazed upon the Skagway harbor. Most of our fellow passengers were booked on earlier tours, so we up and breakfasting by 8am. Not us; Glenn wisely arranged an afternoon trip, so this morning was all about relaxing, and having that second cup of coffee in the dining area. We had fortunately found a table by the window, so spent some time gazing at the ‘grafitti’ composed by travelers that came before us. This is obviously a stop that is favored by Holland America, as there were several tags that mentioned the names of other of their ships.
We are booked on a round trip train trip that takes us on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The train cars are reconditioned, and the rails are 110 year old iron rails! We’ll go through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles, as the guide recounts the tales of the gold rush. At the summit, of 2865 feet, the train makes a loop, and heads back down the pass. This narrow gauge railroad is considered to be a world wide wonder!
Most folks know how I feel about train rides. So I don’t mind admitting to being somewhat giddy with excitement! I know, silly, but I AM my grandfather’s granddaughter, after all.
Many fellow passengers are taking more adventurous (read ‘strenuous’) tours, but I’m happy with what I CAN do, and am ever so grateful that Glenn seems okay with these restrictions as well.
Luckily, zip lining doesn’t top his to-do list either. We laughed when Carolyn bemoaned Ryan’s refusal to participate in this activity when they visited Costa Rica, while quietly questioning to ourselves what WE would have done. Neither of us spoke up to say that we would have done it, because the reality is a bit harder to speak.
It is 1030am, on Saturday May 25th. We have travelled 891 nautical miles so far. Sunset tonight 951pm but won’t actually be dark until after 11pm, and sunrise tomorrow will be 407am. This means that we only get about 5 hours of darkness. Welcome from Juneau, and is probably one of our last opportunities to mail the postcard I wrote to Willa and Hattie, so it will have an Alaskan postmark. Welcome to the land of the midnight sun!
We just took a quick lunch break before our train trip, and noted that the rug lining the elevator said ‘Friday’. Either we have time travelled, or one elevator got missed when the daily rug changes were made. I’m thinking it was the latter
The train trip simmered with nostalgia, as the guide pointed out numerous sites where the original creators of this railroad now lie. An announcement in the press of the day declared that gold had been found! This was in the midst of a depression, so tens of thousands of men and women arrived to stake their claims. What they didn’t realize was that six hundred miles of treacherous terrain lay before them before they would reach the gold!
When they arrived, some prospectors were required to carry a ton of supplies up the ‘golden stairs’ to the summit of the Chilcoot Pass. Others chose the longer, less steep White Pass Trail, thinking that pack animals could be used, and would be easier. In either case, both trails lead through interior lake country.
The White Pass & Yukon Railroad Company began construction of a narrow gauge railroad. This rail climbed from Skagway at sea level, to 3000 feet, in just 20 miles, and featured steep grades.
The original narrow gauge rail was restored in the 1980’s, and is continuing to this day. A tall wooden trestle was retired in 1969, but much of the original track is still used, and is continuously updated and maintained. This news spread like wildfire, when it was published in 1899.
Sunday May 26th morning was another unusually bright beautiful day, especially for normally somnolent Alaska. We are just cruising today, heading north to view various glaciers. We reached the end of our northward objective at 1145am: the glacier, and it’s arm, the Marjorie glacier. We are pausing here to allow everyone a chance to photograph these partially hidden monoliths, at least to the extent possible.
When I thought of glaciers before, I was picturing clear blue sharp edged large chunks of ice. I now know that this is NOT the general picture of ice bergs. In fact, they could most likely be described as looking like dirty snowdrifts, that are potentially hiding the more pristine parts under silty cloaks of solidified snow. THAT is a glacier, as recognized by the scientific community!
As we were standing on our balcony just now, there was a sudden disturbance of the surface of the water. Within a few seconds, the cause of this appeared. A sizable chunk of clear blue ice rose to the surface, bringing its snowy mantle with it. Glenn mumbled about the ship being hit by and iceberg, but this wee chunk was probably not even noted by the ships crew.
Still standing, transfixed by the ice, we heard grumbling and distant crackling, as Marjorie cut loose another small serving of ice from her bulk. Even with glancing furiously in the direction of the sound, we were too late. The sound actually was the live happening of the cut, so by the time we heard the sound it was too late to see the action.
We are now heading back down the Tarr inlet, back towards the mouth of Glacier Bay. When conservationist John Muir first visited this area in 1879, he stimulated the publics’ interest in Alaska. People began arriving in ships to view this natural wonder. Sadly, polar regions respond to changes in climate at much faster rates, than temperate and equatorial regions do. So, how much will Glacier Bay likely change in our lifetimes? In our grandchildren’s?
Glacier Bay National Park is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is located in the Tongass National Forest. It is one of the world’s largest protected natural areas.
Glenn has spent the past several days engrossed in the books that he downloaded onto his IPad. Because I had most of the packing lists weighing heavily on my mind, I just grabbed a book off my shelf, thinking I wouldn’t likely have much time to read. Well, wrong, and more wrong! I grabbed a book that I had already read. Damn!
And I have plenty of time to read, but no material TO read. Luckily, this ship has a fair collection in their onboard library, so I was able to find the sort of reading material I prefer. The autobiographical work of a man about our age that describes his year of living in Alaska, and building his own home, while surviving basically on his own: gardening, hunting and fishing to
survive. Oh yes, a friend had given him a sourdough starter when he left.
This book is called ‘One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey’, by Sam Keith, from the journals and photographs of Dick Proeneke.
I also found another book the interested me, so I’ve noted the salient facts about it, as well. Bruce Chatwin, “The Songlines”, ISBN 01400914.296, ?
Penguin Books, 1987/1988
This one is about a man that ventures into the desolate land of outback Australia to learn the meaning of the Aboriginals ancient “Dreaming Tracks”.
I absolutely love non fiction, and can rarely tolerate fiction. I know: WEIRD!
WE are technically on our way to our last stop, Ketchican. We are experiencing a slight delay, since our on board computer systems are acting a bit flakey. Holland America is run on PC’s, so that is understandable, or so says Glenn. All they need to do is ask for Glenn’s help…….
A couple of days have passed since I have had time to sit and blog. I have to finish my book before the end of the cruise, since I will have to leave it here. I’m nearly finished my book, so will be able to leave it behind without regret.
Yesterday, we went to a native village, and saw/heard a presentation from the Tlitkin tribe who are Alaska’s aboriginals. They were actually discovered on an island off Alaska’s coast, but for our purposes, a village was set up on Alaskan soil. It was interesting to see how the younger folks are trying to maintain their heritage, and how babies and small children are woven in to the fabric of their day to day lives. Babies are not surprisingly often frightened of the loud drums, but they showed how they became acclimatized to it, as they are woven into the ceremonial dances.
Our latter part of the day was a ‘lumberjack show’, but in hindsight was rather theatrical. Several quite well built young men were the lumberjacks, who played for the numerous teen girls in the audience! Afterwards, anyone was able to pose with these fellows, an offer taken up by young and older ‘girls’ alike. I was able to resist, mostly because I could imagine the derisive reaction of my two boys to this!
We will arrive back in Vancouver later tonight This has been a truly awesome trip, but I’m really not ready for it to end! We will have an extra day in Vancouver at the end, but I’d like to start all over again. We never did manage to find a place to buy stamps in Alaska, so we could mail our postcard to the girls, providing an official postmark from this distant state. Perhaps it is one of this situations of the best made plans not being brought to fruition.