August 26, 2008
August 23, 2008
We got let off at the Empress Hotel (http://www.fairmont.com/empress/) and began to wander around the city. We saw a ton of lovely flowers, and understood immediately why Victoria is called the flower capital of the world...there were beautiful flowers everywhere. I'd never seen some of them before, and never seen so many Hyacinth in all sorts of blue-purple-pink combinations. Simply beautiful.
We then headed up Government St just to window shop, and we cam across Bastion Square, and a great little restaurant, appropriately called Wharfside. We sat overlook the wharf, and had a great meal. I had Irish stew and Honey Soy wings (hoping the hot would make my nose un-stuff and my sinuses clear. It didn't.)
So after dinner we got directions to a London Drugs and I bought all sorts of cold medicine, and that did make my feel better. We then returned to Government St and did some window shopping ans some real shopping. We got back to our boat by 10:30 and just enjoyed the evening, started packing our things, and went to bed shortly after we left Victoria after midnight.
Tomorrow, back to Seattle for the day before the red eye home!
Mom and I were the only ones who scheduled an excursion in Ketchikan, but it was the one I was most excited about. We went...Crabbing! I think the technical name was something like "Crab feast and Misty Fjords tour" but whatever!
We got off the boat super early, and got on our bus to head to George's Inlet Lodge, where we boarded a boat (the smallest we'd been on so far) and went to pull some crab pots. As we were in route to our final destination, we were treated to great trivia and knowledge of the Misty Fjords/Tongass National Forest. The water we were in at the deepest point was 1300 ft. I was really impressed with how much each tour guide seemed to know, on each excursion, and also how much they seemed to like their jobs. Everyone really seemed be be here because they loved it.
We got to where the crab pots were, and our guide pulled them up; in the first pot (which is really a basket) there were at least 6 crabs. He then explained which ones would be legally acceptable to keep (males, 6.5 inches or larger only) and which ones we would have to throw back. He even offered to let anyone who wanted to hold one do so. I did not want to hold one, because I don't really like the idea of getting pinched. But I took lots of photos, and will upload them asap.
We moved on the the second pot, and in it there were more crabs, and a flounder. OMG! We threw it overboard quickly, and then investigated more of the crabs. We headed back to the lodge where a crab feast had been prepared for us!
Granted, it was like, 10 in the morning, and I am usually not interested in all you can eat crab legs at that hour, but this was an exception. and some of the best crab I've ever had. We had one crab each, and then they offered us refills. I passed, because I was stuffed! We also had a contest as to how tall you could make your crab shells. Our table (we were seated with a very nice couple from Washington state) was very clever, and asked if the bowl of crab shells could be elevated...it could, so we did! Jim was a great sport and balanced the bowl of shells on his head while standing in a chair, and we won! We didn't actually win anything but it was lots of fun. We then hastily departed and got back on the boat about 15 minutes before it left.
At 3 pm we went to the Indonesian Tea ceremony and had traditional pastries and teas from Indonesia, then mom and I headed to the hydrotherapy pool and thermal suite. (I love spa's, and this was a great one!)
Tonight we are headed to the 5 star restaurant aboard ship, and then the Chocolate extravaganza. tomorrow is Victoria BC, and then our trip is over :(
in the rain. Seriously, it started raining when we were in Juneau, and I don't think it's stopped since. We now understand why Alaska is a very green state. Because it rains all.the.time.
anyway, we have another shore excursion planned today in Sitka, this one with the whole family. We're doing a sea otter/wildlife quest tour thing. Basically, it's get off our HUGE ship and get on a much smaller ship and go look for wildlife! YAY!!
We board our catamaran and set off in search of sea otters and other assorted wildlife. Boy do we find it. We see a ton of bald eagles, sea otters, jelly fish, (yes, in Alaska), a black tailed deer, more sea otters, a few porpoises, and a whale. Yeah, that's right, another humpback whale. This one was super close to the boat and we had some great views of its tail. Sadly, it was raining pretty constantly and pretty heavily, so my photos and videos are much fewer, and not great, but I'll post what I can, when I can. I'm glad the whole family was on this trip (even if P and G fell asleep).
My camera is great, and I am very glad I made the investment and bought a video camera, but one little problem is, it can't quite figure out what to focus on, so a lot of my pictures are GREAT of the raindrops on the window, and not much else. One thing that struck me as funny is one of the crew was constantly outsider squeegeeing the windows! I also really liked that the served us hot chocolate or coffee and little pastries, so we could stay warm and not starve!
After our 3 hour tour (and yes, mom and I sang the Gilligan's Island theme song just about anytime anyone commented on it being a 3 hour tour) we disembarked at the dock and mom and I set out to see the Russian Orthodox Church and get some lunch. We went to the church (very easy to find, as it's literally in the middle of the road) stopped by a bookstore, asked about a place to get lunch, then went to said place and...got lunch. Mom and I ordered the same thing: A cup of the tomato basil soup, which came with a huge piece of dill bread, and the rice and beans. Both items were very tasty, especially in the rain. I also purchased some crystallized ginger, just in case the boat was rocking and rolling again. We headed back to the tenders to get back to the boat, and were on our veranda a little before 4. We kept watching float planes take off!
Tonight is the Master Chef dinner, and I honestly have no clue what that will be. We're meeting before hand to have drinks.
Ok, the Master Chef dinner is code for FUN!! We got to our table, and each person had a chef's hat to put on. The menu was great, and the entertainment was just what you would expect. They had two of the singers from the entertainment staff that sang a few songs for our amuse bouche (sp) and salad course, and dessert. Great fun, and I think P and G really got a kick out of our waiter juggling.
for someone who doesn't like the cold that much, I'm totally loving all the glacier and iceberg
this is a "day at sea" but really we're at the Hubbard Glacier/Yukatet Bay. Mom and I woke up really early (even with our drapes closed, once the sun rises, we really couldn't sleep past about 7, so we went for a walk on the promenade deck again, and saw some beautiful views of the Gulf of Alaska, and I don't know what else. we had breakfast, and by about 10 were headed into the Hubbard Glacier area. I really must pay more attention to where we're headed, but I was just so amazed at the scenery that I tuned everything else out. We headed up to deck 10 along with the rest of the fam, and started watching for the glacier. Being that this was a cruise, of course we had our drinks in hand, but also had split pea soup served at noon. This is a Dutch tradition, I don't know if just for the glacier, or for any sailing; either way, I like it! We took loads of pictures, and the boat slowed down to a crawl to pick its way through the various ice bergs (yes, really) to get us close to the glacier.
The water out at sea had been pretty blue, but the closer we got to the glacier, it turned a milky green (caused by the pressure from the glacier crushing the land below, i think) We saw
Then the real fun started, G had complained about not feeling well, but was urged to come up to lunch with the rest of us. Not a good idea, because she did, and then got quite ill, and had to be taken to the ships doctor for an anti-nausea medicine. She was quarantined to the room for the rest of the day, though mom and gdad suspected it was just over-indulgence.
Once we left the glacier headed to Sitka, the waves and wind picked up, and we were rocking a lot. Mom and I tried to rest some, but even my acupuncture wasn't making the rolling disappear. We headed down to dinner around 7 with granddad and T, and I must admit, the soup, coke and being much lower helped immensely. I felt way better; good enough to purchase an after dinner drink with a collectible shot glass. D joined us too, but didn't eat much, and he and T went back to the room shortly thereafter.
Mom, Granddad and I went to the Philippine Crew show, which was a riot. Seriously, some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen in my life. The had songs (sung by the crew, and I admit, the singers were very talented) but what made it so funny was there apparently aren't enough women for the paring for the dances. So what did they do...dressed the males as woman and made them dance. The costumes for the dancers (the men as women) consisted of skirts and tops, stuffed with oranges to make them more feminine. And when they bent over, the oranges would fall out and roll across the stage...
But it was great to see how much pride the crew took in putting this show together, and was great fun to watch.
After this we went to bed, where I watched Gone with the Wind, and Rocky, because I
We all met for breakfast, and I had my first breakfast buffet on the Lido deck. Can i just say that nothing brings people together like the word "buffet". I swear everyone on board was at the buffet! I had a create-your-own-omelette's, (with spinach, tomato, mushroom and bacon) a side of bacon and a mini waffle with some GREAT berry compote on it. I didn't eat everything, but I could have!
Since our excursion from the boat left before anyone else had an excursion, after breakfast mom and I headed back to our room to get ready for Whale watching and the Mendenhall Glacier hike. We were off the boat by 10:45 and on our way soon thereafter. Our guide informed us that we were going to get to go Whale Watching first, and then to the Glacier, and then if we wanted he would drop us off downtown. We took the 20 or so minute drive to the Auk
WOW. This is truly one of the most amazing things I've ever seen in my life. We headed out into open sea (OK, not really, we could always see land) and within about 12 minutes were seeing the spray from the humpback whales. We must have seen 6-8 humpbacks in the first 30 minutes, and it just got better from there. We saw one breech (jump totally out of the water-and dang it, i didn't get it on camera. I do think in the video I shot for it you can actually hear me going "damnit! i missed it"), we saw them bubble net feed, we saw them do their signature dive where they show you their tales. We saw them all around the boat, in groups of 2-3 (which is very rare, since humpback's are solitary animals. It was amazing. I was so excited, since I've loved humpback whales since I was a small child.
One thing I was very impressed about is how much our guide knew. She was a font of knowledge, and I seriously think the only questions she didn't know
We also saw Stellar Sea Lions, porpoises, eagles, ravens, Orcas and a sea otter. We passed by Admiral Island, where there are more bears than people, and learned that a woman had been mauled the day before (for doing exactly what you're NOT supposed to do when you encounter a bear.) Mom and I would have been happy if this is all our excursion had included, but we still got to go to the Mendenhall Glacier!
We docked and re boarded our bus, with our friendly bus driver Bob, and he starts telling us about bears in Alaska. I think people must really not understand that bears are wild animals, because he had story after story of people who had not paid attention to the rules, had not done what they were supposed to, and in the end, been mauled or killed by bears. He warned us " DO NOT take any food with you when you get off the bus. The gift shop doesn't even sell bottled water. The glacier is in a national park, and being such, has wildlife. This includes bears." He then proceeded to warn us, quite seriously, of what you should and should not do if you encounter a bear.
We got off at a stream about 1000 feet from
Then we headed off to see the glacier. By this point in the day, it had started to rain a little, but that didn't stop us. We followed the trail, and all of a sudden, you could see the glacier. it was huge, and blue. the water in front of it was dotted with ice bergs, and we saw a few people in kayaks (another excursion choice) headed toward it. Awesome is about the best word I can think to describe it. At the shore line I found
We finally decided we were wet enough to go inside, so we visited the gift shop and headed back to the bus...where our bus driver told us of the 2 bears he had just seen in the parking lot! They had come out of the woods, and just lumbered across the parking lot. A group of cyclists all jumped off their bikes to get pictures, and all the bus drivers had to stop them from getting too close. Um, guys, these are BEARS. Not teddy bears, not Pooh-Bear, real life
We got dropped off in downtown, and headed to The Twisted Fish, a place mom had a recommendation on. We had a great meal, though by this time, I think any meal wold have been great, as we were starving, and did a little souvenir shopping. We then headed back to the boat, and relaxed the rest of the night.
August 22, 2008
We sat on our veranda and watched nothing go by but ocean. Occasionally we would see some seaweed or a porpoise, but for the most part, nothing. It is amazing to realize that there is still so much untamed out there, so
much land and water and air...I can always take a moment
and appreciate that the world really is huge and we humans are a very small part of it.
Mom and Granddad and I go to the Promenade deck for a walk, and enjoy a nice walk, constantly commenting on how beautiful the scenery is, and laughing at the fact that there is a cruise ship that has been following us since our departure from Seattle (turns out this ship does the same exact trip we do, just different cruise line, so we see it all week. And can I just say, this is a frigging' huge ship.)
After our walk, we get a call from T w
ho invites us to: BINGO. Not one to pass on
much of anything, mom and I decided to go! We get to bingo, and had a great time. None of us won, but part of the fun was in the playing! After that Mom and I went to Pilates (gotta keep exercising) and then I had my first acupuncture treatment. It was amazing. I felt so energized and relaxed, and she had given me something for the slight bit of motion sickness I had, and now I felt nothing. I swear since that day I did not feel the ship move, save for the night there were 20 foot waves outside, but I can't expect miracles!
After acupuncture, we all get ready in our finery (tonight's a formal night) and meet at the Ocean bar for a pre-dinner drink. P discovered that there are Mocktails on this trip, and became addicted to the "Not-a-Cosmo" I had a mojito and it was good!
We then went to the dining room for our 8 pm reservations (a note about HAL, and my personal opinion. HAL does not have scheduled dining like other cruise lines, and personally, I do not like the "At your service dining". I prefer having the same waitstaff every night, knowing when you can show up and get a meal rather than wait and possibly have to be split up. But that's just me. However, HAL does offer the option to make reservations, and after the first night we agreed that this would be the best idea for all involved, so we could count on a time.)
We had a lovely dinner; I had shrimp cocktail, Alaskan King Crab legs, and Crepes Suzette for dessert. After that we went to the captains toast, where we got to meet the captain, some of his senior staff and got free champagne! then off to bed where a stingray awaited us! Vacationing is hard work!
Mom and I went downstairs to breakfast at Andaluca again (Steel Cut Scottish Oats topped with bananas, berries, currants, brown sugar, milk on the side) and then went in search of a few things we'd forgotten for our trip...double sided tape, allergy medicine and Dramamine. We couldn't have found a better location in Seattle, because seriously, everything was right there at the hotel.
Go back upstairs, do our 27th check of everything, and call a cab. HAL here we come!
We get to the cruise terminal, and the usual craziness of traveling with 7 other people ensues, but we quickly check in and at 11:30 board our ship!! I have decided to carry my luggage on the ship, but what's nice about HAL is they let us leave it in one of the bars while we go to the Lido deck and have lunch. After lunch we wander around the ship until our staterooms are ready, and at 1 pm we go to our staterooms! Mom and I unpack quickly and then sit out on our *balcony* to watch what's going on on the pier.
The last thing we do before we leave Seattle is have the life boat drill, and then go to the very very top of the boat and watch the ship sale out of Puget Sound.
Seattle is beautiful, but I can't wait for Alaska.
This evening we have our first dinner in the Vista dining room, and it was not to be missed! I had an acupuncture consultation in the middle of dinner, but was assured it would only take 10-15 minutes. I slipped out after salads and before entrees and was back in time to enjoy my roasted lamb over garlic mashed potatoes. (and I had made an appointment for acupuncture, but more on that later)
I had the poached peach rice cloud for dessert, and it reminded me a lot of rice pudding with a peach flavor. All in all, very good.
Once we all headed back to our staterooms, mom began to feel a little seasick, since she is particularly aware of any motion, but she was finally able to fall asleep. and when we woke up: mountains on each side, and then eventually...nothing but ocean.
Here's the first entry from my recent cruise to Seattle and Alaska.
Today started at an ungodly hour of 5:30 am. When we got to the airport it took us about 30 seconds to check in, but I hate that now airlines charge you to check baggage. If it’s a a discount airline I understand, but in terms of a real airline, I think it’s a load to charge you for your bags. Luckily mine was under the 50 lb limit, but just barely. (48.5 pounds whew!).
One of the things I love about traveling is that once you get into an airport, it’s like time stops being divided into day and night, and is its own special breed of time. Go to a restaurant at 7 am or 7 pm and you have the same selection. In other cities I’ve traveled people can be seen drinking beer at 6 am. It’s amazing how once you cross that security checkpoint threshold, time loses all meaning really. The only time that matters is the time you have between your flights.
Two uneventful flights later we landed in Seattle.
We took cabs to our hotel,(http://www.mayflowerpark.com/) dropped our stuff off at our room and freshened up a little, then went downstairs to the bar to get lunch. Upon entering the bar, we were informed that children were not allowed, and so, we exited quickly, at which point I asked the concierge where could we go eat. He pointed us in the direction of a GREAT Italian place (http://www.ilfornaio.com/) We were given a complimentary buschetta for being out of town customers to the restaurant (Bruschetta
Pomodoro-Grilled Il Fornaio ciabatta bread rubbed with garlic, marinated chopped tomatoes basil and kalamata olives ) which was some of the best tasting bruschetta I've ever had. I had the minestrone soup and a fantastic salad (Insalata della Casa-Chopped salad of romaine, radicchio, cannelloni beans, avocado, tomato and cucumber with Gorgonzola dressing).
We were all too full for dessert, but not to full to walk to the Space needle. It was about…8 blocks maybe? I really didn’t count since I was constantly looking left and right and just admiring the area. We walked past a Glass Blowing Studio, and the pieces on display in the window were amazing. I wanted to go and see the demonstration and look at the gallery, but we didn’t have time. We followed the monorail system, even though it was under maintenance for that time. Part of what was so cool was we could see the Space Needle for pretty much thewhole walk. We got there and found the entrance, purchased our tickets and in 90 seconds were overlooking Seattle on a beautiful mostly sunny day. Honestly I lost track of how long we spent up
there because the views were just amazing. We did partake in a toast at the top and celebrated Granddad’s birthday early.
We headed back to the hotel (after a mandatory stop in the gift shop), and got a phone call from D and T that they would meet us for dinner later that evening. We decided to go to the restaurant in the hotel, Andaluca.
We met for dinner, and had a great time. Andaluca specializes in Andalucan cuisine. (YAY!) We split our orders according to family; Mom and I had (direct from the menu) Grilled Asperagus (maldon salt, luis herrera extra virgin olive oil), Marinated Manchego (vine tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, pan fried baguette, luis herrera extra virgin olive oil) Mushroom ala Greque (garlic, lemon, oregano, rosemary) and a Mini Crab Tower (dungeness crab, avocado, palm hearts, gazpacho salsa). We also had tastes of the paella from D and T and each had a drink with our meal. I had a Raspberry mojito, and it was GOOD!
We invited everyone upstairs to our room and presented everyone with the Cruise T-Shirts Mom and I had made.
Then we walked D and T back to their hotel, admired the plushness of the "W" (I swiped the very cool square pen) walked back to our hotel and went to bed!