SM Room W Ocean View

July 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I recently got back from a cruise vacation. It wasn’t my vacation choice. There are a million other vacations I want to do before ever taking another cruise.

Leaving Vancouver

My mother and stepfather paid for my eldest sister and me to go on the cruise with them. They both turn eighty this summer and find it easier to travel with companions. My sister went with them on a Panama cruise a year ago and they all enjoyed it. I didn’t go to the Panama because I loathe the hot weather. Remember, I am not Summer’s child.

We traveled by planes all the day the day before the cruise started and got into Vancouver that Saturday evening. We boarded the cruise ship Sunday around noon. It was a long, tiring process and there were too many cameras around. The cruise company makes sure to get a picture of you just before you board the ship so that they could sell it back to you later. This is the only official picture I consented to – I hate having my picture taken – and thankfully, the photographers were not militant about getting a picture of me.

My mind kept going back over the only two ocean movies that I could remember. Titanic, of course, because we would be cruising some ice fields and the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russel comedy Overboard which contains the line “it’s a hell of a day at sea, sir.” I’d rather observe the ocean from dry land thank you very much!

Opulent

It was supposedly an all inclusive cruise but we still had to pay for pop and coffee drinks in the bars. Not my definition of free or all inclusive. Plus, there was the daily tip remittance that was levied to our room ($22 that was divided between all staff on board) so I ended up sending around $200 on board the cruise. Yes, some of the restaurants were included in the all inclusive but not all. I know, I’m picky, picky, picky! Again, not my idea of a vacation.

Plus, the internet was costly and slow, slow, slow so the ten days turned into an unexpected internet sabbatical. It’s not that I’m constantly on the web but I do like to read my comics every morning and to be able to check my email.

Between the (thankfully) brief first day at sea sickness and the constant buy, buy, buy I can’t say I’d ever take another cruise.

Did I mention that it rained for the first half of the cruise.

Picky, picky, picky!

Rainy Days

So, what did I enjoy.

The shows were good but corny, ie very family friendly. There was a library but no librarian (just a clerk with a MBA). I did have time to pop into one library (Juneau) doing my time on shore. Mostly, I was busy from morning to evening especially when we had a shore day. There was lots my mom and step-dad and sister wanted to see. I would have liked at least one shore day with no planned activity. It would have been nice to explore the Skagway cemetery and just spend time wondering around town.

So, what did we do on shore (other than not shop – me, that is)!

Tuesday, we went to the Lumberjack show. Burly men chopping wood and throwing axes. As my sister said, this is how men use to look. It was raining a bit and still these athletes put on an amazing show and later made time to pose for pictures. This was our quietest day as we were only on shore about two hours then it was back to the open sea by evening.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Wednesday we went whale watching. This was in Juneau. This was the day I had a chance to explore a little and visited the library. It was another rainy day. We took a smaller boat into Auke Bay but couldn’t go out on deck because it was another rainy day. Thankfully, inside the boat was spacious with lots of windows.

It was a slow start but by the end of the day we had seen three family pods of Orcas, a pod of Humpback whales feeding, numerous bald eagles and a group of sea lions playing King of the Buoy – a sea lion would swim up to the already overcrowded buoy and wait for someone to fall off or get pushed off; there were more lions than buoy space.

I have no pictures of this. The day was too rainy and then we were too busy bustling from side to side spotting the abundant wildlife. Even the tour guide didn’t want to leave the bay. We were out at least an hour longer than anticipated!

Skagway Train Trip

Thursday, it was on to Skagway. It was an extremely busy day. We briefly toured the town and then back to the cruise ship to board the bus to take us to our train tour up the mountain back home to Canada then back to Skagway and the cruise ship!

The Whitepass & Yukon Route railway was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and is a narrow gauge railroad.

The WP&YR climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.

It was a scary ride, I’m not a fan of heights, through train tunnels and one thankfully very short, rickety bridge. I sat on the cliff side of the train and avoided looking straight down the many drops along the way. In fact, my eyes were squeezed tight when we went over the bridge.

There was still snow high up in the mountains and we were fortunate enough to see a scrawny black bear heading away from the tracks and up the mountain. After the train landed in Canada where we showed our passports to foreboding custom officials (the United States citizens were disappointed that they were not Mounties) we got out of the train and were bused back into Skagway.

Back in Skagway, we panned for gold. Well we had a tour first of the history of gold mining and then panned for gold. It was a bit tricky, but between the four of us we ended up with $36 worth of gold flakes that went into a charm for mom to keep.

Sea Gulls

Friday was another sea day. We woke up to a bracing -10 degrees Celsius with a wind chill. It felt like home but we were in the ice fields. The port doors were open just down from our cabin and pea soup was being served on the bow.

My sister spent all day outside enjoying the views. She heard the ice crack off the glacier. I took a turn around the promenade but missed the calving of the icebergs. After lunch, the cruise ship left the ice fields and anchored near Medenhall Glacier for pictures.

When we stopped at the glacier for pictures there was a seagull feeding frenzy. The captain announced that we should not feed any of the wildlife, seagulls included!

By supper time, the boat once again sped up and I lost my sea legs. We had cruised so slowly for most of the day that it felt like I was in a vehicle that had sped from three to one hundred miles an hour in less than a minute!

 

Ice Fields

Saturday would be our last day at sea. I marveled at the kids playing ping pong on the Lido deck. It’s hard enough to play on a steady surface. There were mega shipboard sales everywhere. Mom bought me a t-shirt.

Do I feel spoiled?
Do I feel exhausted?
Am I just another commodity?

I will miss watching the sea with its many blues.
I will miss the quiet library and the crow’s nest bar.
I will miss watching for whale plumes far out in the deep sea.
I see no whales from here where I am 10 stories up high!

A cruise is not something that I would spend money on. I am not the target demographic!

SM Room W Ocean View

Sunday, we woke and left the ship early. It was on to Seward and Anchorage for three days. There were Tsunami evacuation route signs along the highway. I fell asleep on the bus and woke in Anchorage!

The three days in Anchorage flew by. We visited the zoo and watched the sad animals pacing. We went to the museum.  We shopped at the Mall and visited the Alaska Mint.  We mostly ate at the same place. We spent an enjoyable afternoon driving up the mountainside through too much rain. Thank the stars I didn’t have to drive. We almost got stuck on a rain-logged side road – my sister is adventurous. We went to a mining town that I would have liked to explore more but the higher we drove the more rain we ran into. We ate at McDee’s where the menu was slightly different from home and the server’s accent mystifying to my ear.

On our last morning in Anchorage, I got to briefly explore a cemetery that if I had been alone I would have spent hours exploring.

They travel best who travel alone.

Though if I did that I do know that I would miss many adventures as it is my family who challenges me to leave my comfort zone.

Happy travels everyone!

 

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