A Travellerspoint blog

Day 9

College Fjord

sunny -4 °C

After a motionless night at sea, we had a sleep in until 8.30. Following breakfast, we used the free time to collect the photos taken by the ship’s photographer. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year!! The Scenic Tour group had a luncheon together in the International Room which was very nice. The meals have been wonderful and we have tried to not over eat. I think we have achieved that most of the time (but not always!!) We had to go for a nap as I have had a head cold and Ross was feeling the same way. At 3pm we had to attend a meeting re disembarking the ship with the Scenic group.

We were to arrive at College Fiord at 5.30 so we dressed for dinner. However that proved to be a waste of time as it was freezing when we went to the bow of the ship to watch the ship approach the glacier. We raced back to our cabin and grabbed some warmer gear. Once again, we looked in awe at the huge number of glaciers that clung to the side of the mountain. Others meandered their way down to meet the water. After our viewing of Margerie Glacier yesterday, we were not expecting much from this inlet. Were we in for a surprise! The Captain took that “tank” within 1.5 ship lengths of the face of the glacier. It was truly amazing. They manoeuvred the ship, using the side blasters to swing it around so that each side of the ship could see the sight. The ranger on board said that this was the closest any ship had been to the glacier this year. It was one of the most inspiring and beautiful sights we have seen in our lives, a vision that will last forever.

Once we left College Fjord, we headed back out to the Gulf of Alaska, past Valdez, the area where Exxon Valdez ran aground. Our ETA for Whittier was around midnight.

Posted by gpric6 09:39 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 8

Glacier Bay

sunny 10 °C

After sailing through the night we entered Glacier Bay National Park at 06:04. We thought that seeing we had a morning at sea we would be able to have a sleep in. Not so. We had to be up and organised in readiness for our day in the National Park. The rangers embarked at Bartlett Cove. Our vessel passed Strawberry Island and Willoughby Island before entering Queen Inlet. We sailed past Russell Island into John Hopkins Inlet, passing a variety of glaciers. At the end of this inlet was the John Hopkins Glacier which is classified as a tidewater glacier. The mountains surrounding the inlet were as impressive as the glaciers. The ship did a 360° turn and we headed back down the inlet and turned into the Tarr Inlet. For one hour we were treated to the spectacular sight of Margerie Glacier, being witness to carving while the ship sat motionless. The sound of the ice cracking is deafening and is heard after the ice breaks away and falls into the water. A piece of ice 20 storeys high crashed down while we were there. The face of this glacier was roughly 150 feet high

Following the viewing of this awesome sight, the ship completed a 360° turn and we set sail for open sea, Gulf of Alaska, towards College Fjord. It was truly the most magnificent sight to have seen. The water was so calm, just like in the travel agent’s magazines!!

That night we treated ourselves to dinner at the Sterling Steakhouse. To dine here, there is a cover charge. It was well worth it as the meat was delicious, even if they did give me the rare steak and Ross the medium one. Our waiter took it to the station table and swapped them over. From there we went to the Piano Man Show, a variety of singing and dancing from music by Elton John, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel and Tom Jones. The costumes were fantastic and it was a great night.

After a quiet cup of tea with friends we retired for the night.

Posted by gpric6 09:35 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 7

Skagway, Alaska

sunny 15 °C

It’s times like these that you sit back and wonder what the poor people are doing. The alarm went at 6am and we looked out the door of our balcony to see several cruise ships moored near us. Behind them were towering mountains, some with spots of snow, others just rock and dotted with trees. Breakfast was had and we climbed aboard the train to White Pass and Yukon route.

OMG!!! What a spectacular sight. We had sunshine for most of the way. Our tour guide talked us through this history of the area. We heard how the miners travelled miles through adverse conditions to reach the Klondike gold mines. One has to marvel at the engineering feats achieved by the creators of the rail line. The original cantilever bridge is no longer used. The rail winds up the side of the mountains, through two tunnels, to a height of over 2200 metres. At the end of our route the temperature was 15 °F. (about - 10°). We were not permitted to get off the train so waited quietly for the train to be shunted to the new front end. The trip back down the mountain was just as spectacular as it was when we came up. We surely have been blessed.
We sail for Glacier Bay tonight so hope to get some more movie to watch. I am sure that everyone at home is waiting with baited breath to sit in the lounge and watch the footage with us!! LOL

Posted by gpric6 17:08 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 6

Juneau, Alaska … and Skagway bound

semi-overcast 14 °C

Thank goodness daylight came and we woke to find we were tied up to the wharf at Juneau. The clouds and fog were heavy on the towering mountains that surround Juneau. Waterfalls cascaded from many positions way up high. Breakfast was had and we raced to meet our tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. On the way we stopped at a salmon ranch and saw some fantastic sea creatures, seals and of course, learnt how the salmon ranching assists the life cycle of the salmon. Point of note is that it is illegal to “farm” salmon in Alaska, hence the word “ranch”.

The Mendenhall Glacier is a prime example that shows climatic warming. We were able to walk to a viewing area, from which we could see the glacier in all its glory as well as Nugget Falls. The latter was covered by the glacier but over the past few decades has seen them exposed and flowing freely. The visitor’s centre was very informative explaining how the Juneau Icefield forms the source of this glacier and many others.

On our return to the town centre, we used our ticket for the Mt Roberts tramway and climbed rapidly to 2000 feet above sea level in a few minutes, past pine trees to an amazing view over the city and valley below. What a view!! The visitors centre was well stocked. Outside was a beautiful bald eagle who had been shot through the beak. She lost the sight in her eye and is now cared for at the top of Mt Roberts. We did think about going for a walk on another track but fortunately we didn’t as it started to rain and the wind started to blow.

Now I forgot to mention that this cable car/tramway rose up the mountain on 70 degree angle roughly. I was not looking forward to the ride down but it was quite Ok. We had lunch and headed out for shopping. Lots of sales on due to cruise season coming to an end but we couldn’t find the souvenirs that we had seen earlier that day in the Mt Roberts shop. So would you believe we rode that tramway to the top of the mountain again. I am so proud of myself and this bravery was all in the name of shopping!!!

Back on board we had drinks and then headed to the Italian restaurant for dinner. During dinner, the captain announced that we were ready to set sail for Skagway. He also mentioned that we could expect good weather not a repeat performance from the previous night – a sobering thought.

At 10pm we went to the live show “I Got the Music In Me”. Very enjoyable. The Aussie compare hails from Bondi. One American couple mentioned to us at breakfast that he shouldn’t have the microphone so close to his mouth as they can’t understand him. We don’t have a problem and he is quite entertaining.

Posted by gpric6 17:05 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 5

Ketchikan, Alaska … and Juneau bound

overcast 15 °C

Well, believe it or not, they parked this “tank” without us even knowing it. We rose at 6.15 am and went onto our balcony to see the bank opposite Ketchikan township. It was overcast but not raining. The hills were heavily wooded and quaint little cottages were scattered along the waterway. Several other cruise ships were in port. We ate breakfast and headed for the wharf to meet our tour to Saxmen Village.

Our tour guide drove the bus and gave us a running commentary about the Ketchikan’s history on the way to Saxmen. Once we arrived we were shown a video to give us some background on the Tlingit tribe. Their language is one of the hardest languages to learn in the world and only a small part of it has been translated to English. We were supposed to learn two phrases but I think our group failed miserably.

We took a stroll through the temperate rainforest, chewed on the pine needles which apparently Captain Cook chewed to get his Vitamin C intake. Ross and I discovered this fungus that was growing on the ground. The young guide informed us that it was new to the area and apparently has been brought in through bear droppings.

At the community hall we were privileged to see the traditional dances of the Tlingit people. The hall has been replicated on the lines of the original village that was some 80 miles south, an area still held scared by these people. No nails or screws were used to construct it, leaving the floor boards to move when walked on. The totems from that original area were also raised outside the community hall. Our tour guide explained that there are many types of totem poles, some for burial, some to tell stories, some to indicate clans who lived at a house and some to sham people. Totems, carved from cedar, are only ever painted once and are never added to. Once erected, they are allowed to deteriorate with the weather and usually last 70 years.

A wood turner with over 40 years’ experience showed his skill during a presentation by a young Tlingit lad, who described the process used for the use of bark and the painting of totems. He talked about how the Tlingit women made the paint, adding spit to the mix. He said that for some reason the women don’t want to make the paint anymore so then men have to make do it. He then pulled out a tin of paint from the local hardware store! How cultural traditions have been taken over by technology!!

The Tlingit people are encouraging their young ones to learn the traditional ways of their people and have them involved where possible in this tourist attraction so as to not lose the skills and traditions of the past.

Back on the bus, we were dropped at the main township to do some souvenir shopping. We found a lot of cheap replicated stuff and we also came across some beautiful soaps and candles. We also came upon a local artist who provides artwork for screen prints and his artwork is also incorporated into blankets.

Lunch was ready for us on board when we returned at 1pm and we set sail for Juneau at 2pm. Ross went to the gym and I rode the bike six kilometres to nowhere. I then completed 4 or was it 5 laps of the promenade deck. The current in the sea flowed rapidly by and the wind was quite strong.

Following our exercise regimen, we met the Scenic group in another bar. Well what a night it was! We were having a quiet drink in the bar when the Captain announced that we were going to experience some bad weather on our way to Juneau, in the form of storm and in fact the wind was worse than he had first thought. We were told to expect wind of up to 60 knots and we had to “batten down the hatches”. As we were on the port side of the ship we were instructed to not open our balcony door as the wind was blowing from that direction. We thought that it safer to retire to our bed after dinner. The Captain’s Log is transmitted via TV in our room so we were able to watch how the crew navigated this ship through the straits. It also gave a report on the winds, air pressure, seas etc. The wind was force 9 and air pressure was 930 and falling. Yes we actually know now that the photos they put in the travel magazines are fake!!

Posted by gpric6 17:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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