Alaska Cruise 2014 travel blog

Square Dancing in the Lounge

Kathy at the Sunken Gardens

Another view of the Sunken Gardens

Everybody else wants to see the Sunken Gardens

Some roses

Close-up

Crowds gathering to watch the fireworks display


Today will be our last full day on the cruise. We head home tomorrow.

This morning we danced for the last time with our square and round dance friends. We were up in the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 13. We could see the mountains now was we cruised along. With all the dancers moving around and the scenery sliding past, everything seemed to be moving. My seasickness had still not gone away. The whole world seemed to be spinning. I had to stare at the tables since they were the only objects that weren’t moving.

We spent some leisurely time walking along the Promenade Deck savoring the view. We’re going to miss this.

One thing we surely won’t miss is the CHOGS. On a sunny afternoon like today, the CHOGS were out in full force. CHOGS stands for “Chair Hogs”. These are selfish guests who place one towel on each of several deck chairs to claim them for themselves and then leave. The cruise line tries to discourage this behavior, but they do it anyway. The cruise line requires a $25 deposit for each towel. This means that if I calmly walked past four chairs and threw their towels in the towel bin, the CHOGS would be out $100. You’d think that would stop them but it doesn’t!

We received our luggage tags this morning. Two avoid a rush of 2,000 guests swamping the immigrations lines on departure, everyone is assigned to a specific disembarkation group.

We arranged for transportation directly from the ship the airport and were assigned to the “Lime” group. Each of our tags was lime colored. Our instructions were to place our luggage outside our cabin before retiring to bed tonight.

We pulled out two of our suitcases, which had been under the bed the entire trip, and put everything in them that we knew we wouldn’t need tomorrow. We carefully reviewed all of our belongings to ensure that we had everything we would need tonight or tomorrow. I’m told that there’s always someone who has to disembark in their pajamas because they forgot and accidentally packed all of their clothes.

The ship arrived at the pier exactly on schedule at 6pm. This was to be our last port of call, Victoria, British Columbia. We had booked the “Enchanting Butchart Gardens Evening” excursion, which was scheduled for shortly after our arrival in the port.

Since we’d be going through customs to enter and then leave Canada, we took our passports out of the cabin’s safe and filled out the Canadian custom’s form.

We disembarked the ship and got in line at customs. No one seemed interested in seeing our passports. No one asked for our custom’s form. Not a problem, they must be waited until we left Canada.

We loaded onto one of several buses headed for Butchart Gardens. After a brief tour of Victory, the bus entered the park. The driver made sure we remembered where the bus was parked so that we could get back to it later.

If you’ve never heard of Butchart Gardens, it’s an enormous garden built out of a former limestone quarry. Back in 1904, Mr. Butchart owned a cement company and used the limestone from the quarry to make cement. When the limestone in the quarry was exhausted, it left an ugly crater right next to their home. Mrs. Butchart decided to turn the now abandoned quarry into a huge garden. With help from workers at the cement factory, they brought in top soil and created what now called “The Sunken Garden”. For many years, she kept expanding the garden and inviting guests to come and enjoy them.

Fast forward to the present, the Butchart Gardens are now internationally famous with more than 1,000,000 flowering plants.

We toured the grounds until well after sunset then joined the crowds to watch a fireworks display. We expected the usual sky displays of exploding fireworks. There was some of that but very little. Almost all of the display was at ground level including moving figures outlined in flaming colors. Everything was timed to music. It was unique!

After that brief visit, we returned to The Pearl, dreading the possibility of huge lines. To our surprise, there was almost no line at all. They were just checking our sign-and-sail cards. Nobody wanted to see our passports. No one collected our custom’s forms. Did we really leave the United States? No wonder so many tourists think of the Canadian province as just northern United States.

We returned to our cabin, put our luggage outside, and went to bed on the ship for the last time. We barely noticed when the ship pulled out of the harbor around midnight.

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