Larry and I left Vernon early on June 3 in the car. We had appointments to renew our NEXUS passes at the Vancouver airport at 1:30 and 1:45. We arrived in plenty of time. We had thought if we arrived a bit early we might get in early - not! So we ended up paying for an hour of very expensive parking that we didn't need to. Anyway we finally got through it all (late of course) by 2:50. We knew the next ferry to Sechelt was 3:50. We didn't think we had a hope of making it but decided to try. Traffic wasn't too bad and we got there just as they started loading (no point wasting any time in the line-up is there?).
We spent a couple of relaxing days at the cottage and got the 8:20 ferry on the 6th. We picked up Frank and Elaine (our neighbours from Vernon) at their hotel in Richmond and dropped the car at Park & Fly. We got the shuttle to the Arrivals part of the airport and then a cab to the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place in Vancouver. Registration was fairly quick. The weather was gorgeous and sail-away was as spectacular as could be. It was Frank & Elaine's first cruise ever so they were treated to a beautiful view of Vancouver and the Lions Gate Bridge as we left at 4:30. They also experienced their first Emergency Lifeboat Drill. Different from other cruise lines - we didn't have to bring our life jackets and we didn't go outside. They basically did roll call from the Muster Station.
The food was as we remembered with Celebrity - hot when it should be and flavourful. We had a 6 pm sitting with two other couples - George and Miluse from Switzerland and Del and Gwen from Victoria. Del and Gwen's son and daughter both graduated from Mt. Doug Secondary around the time Maureen did. It was great sharing stories of the way Victoria used to be. Maureen expressed condolences for the fact that they live in Oak Bay - haha!
We had a bit of a problem with our dinner seating. The way they had put the tables, Karen our waitress, and Emre, the Assistant Waiter, had to go around several other tables to get to all sides of ours. By the end we were simply passing plates back and forth - not the way they have trained. We had the Food and Beverage Manager and the Assistant Maitre'd trying to fix the problem. They never really did. Karen was a great waitress, very sweet and efficient. Emre was very good at keeping the water glasses full. The Sommelier was supposed to look after Beverage service as well but was not so good at that. We survived!
The show on Day 1 was a comedian who specialized in mathematical problems.
Day 2 - June 7 - This was a sea day. Sunrise was at 5:08 and sunset at 9:15 (we'll compare what it is at the end of the cruise). We relaxed most of the day,orienting ourselves with where everything is. We went on a Galley Tour at 2:30. Because it was quite cool outside (the clouds had arrived), there were hundreds of people on tour. They took them through in lots of about 50. Always very interesting.
Tonight is our first formal night. It does not seem quite as elegant and fancy as others we've been to. Tonight is also the first of three "production" shows - lots of singing and dancing plus an appearance by the Captain and the Officers. Larry didn't go to this, he says its not his style!!
Day 3 - June 8 - Ketchikan - Maureen's Birthday! We arrived in Ketchikan at 7 am. Of course we're all awake as soon as the engines go quiet. Very smooth sailing so far. The name Ketchikan means "Thundering Wings of an Eagle'. 3000 foot Deer Mountain overlooks the town. From 1887 to the 1930s, the town was known for its fishing - it grew from one cannery to eleven. They were also effected by the gold rush. It was incorporated in 1900 and is still only accessible by boat and plane. We went on a City Tour and a visit to the Saxman Native Village. Our guide was a young man who was born here and had many stories to share. He had hoped we might see a bear but just eagles and seals. At 3 pm we were back on board and went to a seminar called Salmon Six Ways - showed a few ways to cook salmon. Tonight's show was the comedy of Fred Klett - very funny in his hibiscus shirt.
Day 4 - June 9 - Icy Strait Point. This is a point of land just along from the village of Hoonah, which is the largest native Tlingit settlement in Alaska. We arrived at the decent hour of 10 am and this is a tender port, meaning we use the life boats to get ashore. It's in a very calm little bay. There was also a whale in quite close to shore. It was also pouring rain! We had a great (and huge) halibut and chips lunch ashore ($48 wow)and had a look around the museum and the gift shops. We watched the people coming down the zip line, which happens to be the world's largest - 5330 feet long, 1300 vertical drop, 60 mph maximum speed. Yikes!
We went to a sushi making demonstration at 4 pm. Pretty basic. We didn't leave Icy Strait Point until 8 pm. The show tonight was the second production show "Boogie Wonderland).
Day 5 - June 10 - Juneau - arrival 7 am. Juneau is the capital of Alaska and where the Governor lives. It was founded during the gold rush of 1880. The city is mostly built on tailings from the gold mines. Our shore excursion today was at 11:30 and was a City Tour and the Mendenhall Glacier. The Mendenhall Glacier seemed much smaller than when we were here in 2007. The weather was the same though - cloudy and cool. The driver let us off near the Red Dog Saloon where we had a little lunch and a beer. The show tonight is Jocka and Maria - amazing aerialists. Larry didn't like this show either!! We set sail at 8:30 pm.
Day 6 - June 11 - Skagway - arrival 7 am. Skagway "land of the North Wind" became the largest city in Alaska within ten years of the building of the first cabin in 1887. It's the only stop we make where you can actually drive out to the rest of the world. Our shore excursion was early today leaving at 8 am. It was a bit of a City Tour and then the White Pass Summit. This took us into BC briefly so we had to bring our passports, which they never looked at. There were lots of RVs on the road. While on the city tour we were told that the law in Skagway is that you don't have to start paying taxes on your house until it's finished - so there are a lot of almost completed buildings. All the sidewalks are wood but in very good shape. We did a bit of a walkabout, taking in the History of Skagway play and having a coffee, then back on the shuttle to the ship. The walk from the ship to the shore is along a very long pier. There were two other ships in besides us. We sailed at 4 pm. Tonight was our last formal night. When we were in Juneau, the guys found shirts that looked like tuxedos so that's what they wore! It was also lobster night and most had two. The show tonight was the last production show called "iBroadway".
Day 7 - cruising Hubbard Glacier. We arrived a half hour early - at 7 am - so we could spend some extra time. This was our clearest day yet and the sounds and sights of ice calving was incredible. The Captain got the ship within a mile and a half. Then he decided he wanted to go bear hunting - so he took the ship up the left side of the little island but no luck. The scenery was gorgeous. Tonight's show was a combo of the aerialists and the two comedians.
Day 8 - arrival in Seward - sunrise 4:24 am, sunset 11:22 pm - it never really seemed to get dark. It was raining so hard when we arrived we could hear it hitting the water from our deck. Seward was established in 1903 as a terminus for the Alaska Railroad. The town was greatly affected by the earthquake of 1964, losing the harbour and fuel docks when the level of the sea dropped six feet. If we could have seen them, the town is surrounded by mountains and many glaciers. We boarded our bus to Anchorage at 8:30 am.
The first thing the driver said was that she needed to kill time - it was only 127 miles to Anchorage. We couldn't check into our hotel until 3 pm. It was of course pouring rain still. We saw lots of eagles along the shore and had an occasional glimpse of a snow-covered peak. We stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre to kill some time. It is laid out so that the bus could drive most of the way around it - saving our shoes! We could get out in a couple of places to take pictures then we stopped at the gift shop, of course, for coffee or whatever. The Centre is 140 acres and it's mission is to provide refuge for orphaned, injured, and ill animals - those that can't survive in the wild. The centre opened to the public in 1993.
The driver then took us to Eagen Centre - Anchorage's convention centre. This is where the cruise ship buses drop off their passengers. We had a couple of hours to eat and mosey around. The she picked us up and took us to our hotel. There was some confusion there because so many people arrived at once and their entrance was under construction but it went quite quickly. The rooms were quite nice. This hotel, Millennium Anchorage, was built in 1986 and has had three owners. It is right on the shore of Lake Hood which is the busiest seaplane port in the world. George and Miluse were with us too so we all met in the pub for dinner and drinks. They would be staying for two more days then back to Whittier to join their Norwegian Cruise back to Vancouver. Del and Gwen were staying on the Celebrity Millennium and doing the reverse cruise back home.
We caught the free noon shuttle to the airport and caught our 2:55 flight back to Vancouver. It was uneventful, above the clouds. It was cloudy in Vancouver when we arrived just at 7 pm. We freshened up in our rooms in the YVR Fairmont and then went to Hanami in the airport for dinner. We met at 7:30 the next morning for the drive for the four of us back to Vernon. We arrived in time to get all our laundry done that day!!