Alaska Cruise 2014 travel blog

Tram heading up Mount Roberts in Juneau

The Pearl Cruise ship as seen from Mt Roberts

Demonstation inside the gift shop

Rescue Eagle looking back over her shoulder

Kathy near the top of the Alpine Loop Trail

Wild eagle perched near the docks

The first sign of a whale is the steam as they surface

Often, the only picture I get is their tail

Another tail

Finally a whale breaching the surface!

SIDEBAR: As is obvious from yesterday’s journal. My blog is not turning out as anticipated.

I had concluded on previous trips that I can’t read or write when moving. This applies to planes, trains, cars, buses, etc. There was no reason to expect that it would be any different on a cruise ship. And, it isn’t.

I thought I had a solution. By installing a speech-to-text program on my laptop, I could simply dictate my journal into a microphone.

Yesterday’s journal entry proved that it wasn’t working nearly as well as I had hoped.

Yes, Dragon attempted to transcribe what I said. But, it made many, many errors. I tried using it outdoors, on the sun deck, on the promenade deck, and by the pool. The sound of the wind confused it. I tried using it indoors but it picked up the voices of other passengers walking by.

Even when it did work, it incorrectly guessed the words I was saying almost as often as it guessed correctly. One interesting function it supports is alternative translations. Whenever I said, “correct that”, it would display a menu of alternative phrases that it thought I might have just said. Often, its first alternate phrase was exactly the phrase I wanted. I would just say “Select 1” and proceed from there. Unfortunately, it was sometimes so far off that it wasn’t even worth trying to correct. I found myself constantly using its editing commands, such as “scratch that”, “delete last line”, and “go back”.

Eventually, I got frustrated and gave up. I resumed working on my journal when the ship was securely docked on shore in Juneau, Alaska. I left yesterday’s entry in its draft from so that you could see how badly it turned out.

My other assumption about my writing my blog is that I’d be able to upload my journal once we reached a U.S. port.

All modern cruise ships are equipped with Internet access while at sea. But, to do so, they use a direct satellite uplink. This is slow and expensive. To avoid that, I planned to use my cell phone’s Internet data access whenever we were in port. I had checked in advance that my cell phone carrier, T-Mobile, considers Alaska as part of their “nation-wide” coverage, which would be free under my plan. I even checked that Juneau and other ports of call for this cruise were covered by T-Mobile. I made the bad assumption that their claim also applied to data not just phone calls. Once we reached shore, the dreaded “r” showed up on my phone, meaning that Internet access was considered “roaming” and not free.

So, I enabled roaming data just long enough to enough to download my email then disabled it to save on access charges. The same happen at the other ports of call.

That’s why I’m back home now writing my journal on a computer with a full-sized keyboard, a full-sized screen, and a fast Internet connection. Sorry, that the rest of the blog was not “live”. It just became too difficult.

Back to my journal!

Yesterday we were at sea the entire day, exactly as planned in the itinerary.

We started our day Square Dancing and Round Dancing with our fellow dancers. After lunch, I went on the deck trying to find something, anything on the horizon. All I could see was fog.

I knew that we were near shore because my phone’s built-in GPS showed me our exact location. Prior to leaving home, I had downloaded the appropriate maps. I was now able to pan and zoom even though I no Internet connection. According to my phone, we were very close to shore. Looking out from the ship, it appeared that there might be land in the distance. There was so much fog, we couldn’t see much.

I suspect that the ship was traveling just far enough from shore that the international laws allowed them to open the on board casino.

Without anything to see outdoors, we focused the remainder of day on the indoor activities. Kathy enjoyed the opportunity to visit the casino and join in a few rounds of Bingo. She and others firmly believe that the slots are “lose” at the beginning of the cruise to encourage guests to gamble more during the end of the cruise. She could be right.

I attended two shows at the Stardust Theater. One was a movie called “Travelling the Inside Passage” about our upcoming ports of call. The other was a live show called “Oh What a Night!” It was a sneak preview of shows that we would be having on the ship including dancing, singing and comedy.

The rest of the day, we just relaxed and enjoyed the cruise.

Today is Day 3 of our cruise. As has become our routine, we spent the morning dancing with our friends. Then, had a leisurely lunch.

We arrived in Juneau precisely on schedule at 2pm despite our emergency detour in Seattle. I assume that they just burned extra fuel to make up the lost time. I know that the ship’s speed is controlled not by the maximum speed that the engines can handle but rather by how many nautical miles are left until the next port. These days it’s all handled by computer. The staff in the bridge normally just watch the instrument panel. The ship’s computer uses GPS and other instruments to plan the ideal route and steer the ship.

We had decided that our first adventure for the day would be a trip up the Tramway up Mount Roberts. Simple, easy and fast. Having been at sea level for the last two days, we decided that a view from high about the city would be a great way to start.

Without an advance reservation, we simply walked from our ship to the base of the Tramway. It was easy to find, just follow the wires as they come down the hill. (grin) The trip was easier and faster than we expected. We bought two round-trip tickets and boarded the next tram. We couldn't see much while on the tram but did get a view of the town.

At the top, we visited the Nature Center. There's a rescue eagle there that was fun to watch. Unfortunately, her wing had been injured years ago preventing her from flying. So, she lives there in a cage.

We finished with a short hike on the Alpine Loop Trail behind the Nature Center. Some were taking the long trail to the top of Mount Roberts but we decided to take the shorter loop trip and head back to the ship.

On our way back to the cruise ship, we saw another bald eagle. This one was perched on a roof near the docks. The locals tell me that she likes it there and is a frequent visitor.

After dinner on the ship, we left for our 2nd adventure of the day. This was on a catamaran that went out to the smaller coves which our cruise ship couldn’t visit. Basically, we spent the evening searching out humpback whales. Each time our naturalist spotted a whale we would stop to watch and take photos. We never got very close to one but did get within 100 feet of several whales. We were told that at this time of year, the whales are feeding on the abundant sea life and not traveling in a group (called a pod).

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