Archive for the ‘cruise’ Category

Days 5, 6 & 7: Cruising and Victoria

Posted: July 19, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in alaska, cruise

The morning of Day 5 had us awake by 0530 because we were travelling up Tracy Arm Fjord and it promised to be a great chance to see wildlife. We all decided to meet up on the Pool Deck to be able to catch the view from whichever side happened to be better. After seeing the crowd and the chilly breeze, it was decided that the view would be fine from Barb and Gale’s balcony, so everyone but me went back to their room. I was enjoying the fresh air and really liked being able to get a 360 degree view, so I stayed at the front of the ship, sipping Earl Gray and snapping pics.

 
 

Like this panoramic shot I stitched together (with Live Photo Gallery):

 
 


 
 

On the right of the picture is Sawyer Glacier. Typically, the crew advised, they would take us in closer, but with all of the icebergs in the way, it would not be safe to go further. So, the ship stayed in this spot for about an hour. As you can see, it was another gray day, but the misty weather seemed to play especially well to the fjord’s beauty. Wispy clouds seemed to cling to the mountaintops and the gray seemed to make the water’s blue-green color that much more unbelievable. I eventually joined everyone else and we spent the morning hanging out. We did see a few whales and even a few seals basking on icebergs (really)! Tracy Arm Fjord was probably my favorite part of the Alaska cruise.

 
 

Day 6 was a day fully at sea… & it was the first time the sun made an appearance! Grant and I joined most of the other passengers and enjoyed the pool for a good portion of the day. Since the weather was good, they finally had the rock climbing wall open and Grant did his first rock climb. He got about 20 feet up the wall… Pretty good for his first attempt! That evening, it was funny to see all of the sun burned faces (like ours) at dinner!


Day 6 was also the day of my accident. My family and I were strolling the ship and I wanted to get a couple of pictures of me doing hand stands. On my last attempt, I got a little too close to the hand rail and my heel struck the underside as I swung my leg up. A week later, it is still a bit sore and swollen. …And I still had a day full of walking through Victoria the next day! Oops.

 
 

Day 7, the temperature in Victoria was nearly 90. 90 near the ocean is hot, no matter where you are! We had a tour scheduled to take us to the Butchart Gardens and also to the Butterfly Garden. Luckily our tour guide/bus driver did a great job narrating and we learned a lot of factlets about Victoria along the way. It was really a visually stunning area with all of the snow capped peaks seeming to hover over the sea.

 
 

The Butterfly Garden was our first stop and was an indoor garden, densely packed with vegetation, water features, rare birds and of course, butterflies. To mimic their natural environment, it was also very humid inside the garden. It was a fun stop and the kids really enjoyed seeing/chasing the butterflies. I would have liked to have had more learning opportunities, but I guess that is probably just the geek in me shining through again.

 
 

I’m not all that interested in plants, to be honest with you, but the Butchart Gardens were really pretty fun. The history of the sunken garden was pretty incredible (previously a cement quarry that Jenny Butchart converted into a garden). I also enjoyed the Japanese garden and wish we weren’t so hurried to get back to the bus. Fairly new to the garden is a carrousel for the kids and those young at heart. Grant and Allie enjoyed their ride, which, I think, was Allie’s first.


 
 

After the gardens, our driver was able to drop us in downtown Victoria so that we could get a little shopping in. We got out at the Inner Harbor, right in front of the Empress. It had been at least a decade since the last time Natalie and I were in Victoria, but it was still a very beautiful place to visit and clearly lived up to its reputation as Canada’s garden spot.

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Day 4: Skagway

Posted: July 13, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in alaska, cruise

As it turned out, Skagway was the surprise hit of our Alaska cruise. http://www.onroute.com/destinations/alaska/skagway.html The city itself lies entirely in the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. The Rhapsody docked within easy walking distance to the city right along a sheer cliff face where ship captains “paint” their signature.

 
 


 
 

We took our time getting off the ship and had a big breakfast in the Windjammer. Once on land we did some sight seeing including the city museum that was a free service of the National Forest where we learned about the city and the gold rush in an informative 30 minute movie. We next ate lunch at a fish house near the pier. I drank my lunch in the form of an Alaskan Brewing Company’s IPA! 🙂 What the heck, I’m on vacation, right?

 
 

Next up, we boarded a tour bus that would take us up to White Pass Summit where we caught the White Pass and Yukon Route Train back to Skagway. The tour on the bus was well done and very informative. A couple of interesting things mentioned were the Skagway Brewing Company’s Spruce Tip Ale ( http://www.examiner.com/x-54210-San-Bernardino-Craft-Beer-Examiner~y2010m6d30-Spruce-Tip-Ale–Keeping-Scurvy-at-Bay-for-Centuries–From-Skagway-Brewing , which I did not get a chance to sample) and that rhubarb grows particularly well in Skagway (due to the long summer days) and the locals love their rhubarb. The train ride back down the mountain was fun, too! http://www.wpyr.com/index.html It was definitely a photographers dream come true!

 
 

Once back in town, everyone else wanted to go shopping but I really wanted to see the Gold Rush Cemetery, so we split up. A minor problem was that I didn’t actually know where it was, so I stopped to ask at the General Store (recommended on the tour). I was told it was more than 20 blocks away and then another half mile down a dirt road. A normal person would have scrapped the idea, but not me. I strapped my backpack down tight and started running! I had never gone jogging with my winter coat on before! When I got to the cemetery, I was the only one above ground. There were loads of side trails and it would have been fun to explore more if I had more time.

 
 

The run back to the ship was a bit tougher with a pretty strong wind in my face the whole way. I earned some extra dinner that day!

Day 3: Juneau

Posted: July 11, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in alaska, cruise

Allie had a marginally better night, but still woke up at least 4 times. My last time was at about 530AM, which was 630 in our home time. I couldn’t sleep anymore, so grabbed the laptop and cameras to head up to deck 5 to watch the world go by and to type up my notes and to transfer pictures to the laptop. We are now in the Inside Passage and the seas are tranquil. Much more pleasant! The view was also pleasant with forested mountains peaked with snow. There were also many little islands dotting the waterway.

 
 

Juneau greeted us with a constant mist and short bursts of rain through the whole day. From the pier we hopped on a tour bus for the quick ride into town. We stopped by MGT (Mighty Great Trips) to purchase our tickets out to Mendenhall Glacier and were told that it would be a few hours until our trip. That made for a perfect opportunity to ride the Mount Roberts Tramway! The tramway ride was a highlight of Juneau with superb views down to the ship. After Mount Roberts, we had just enough time to grab a quick bite before our tour to Mendenhall.

 
 


Our time at the Mendenhall Glacier was way too short. We had just enough time to snap some pictures and catch a quick video at the Visitor Information Center before having to get back on the tour bus. In the video I learned that the reason why glaciers have a blue tint is due to the crystalline structure of the ice and as the structure breaks down, the ice goes from blue to white. There was easily an entire day’s worth of exploring around this area, but it was cold and rainy anyway, so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Our bus driver took us for a short tour around Juneau to end our trip.

 
 

The remainder of our time in Juneau was spent shopping downtown. It was evident that tourism from the cruise lines fueled downtown Juneau.

Alaska Cruise: Seattle

Posted: July 10, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in cruise
Tags: , ,

Day 1

The drive to Seattle went smoothly, although the trip was a little long for Grant’s tastes. Our group of vacationers included my wife, son & daughter and my in-laws, Barb and Gale. The route we took to get to the pier took us right by the Space Needle, so we were able to get a real good, close-up look for the kids. We arrived at the parking lot shortly after noon. There was a shuttle bus running from the parking lot to the cruise terminal and we were able to have the driver pick us up directly at our car and didn’t have to first lug our luggage 🙂 to the standard pick up area. The cruise terminal was hectic to say the least and had lines to wait in line. At the security screening check point, it was determined that my keychain Swiss Army Knife was a security threat and was confiscated. I have to believe that this was somebody’s misunderstanding of protocol because once we were on-board, they sold bigger pocket knives in the GIFT SHOP!

Sailing out of port, it was memorable to see a different view of the familiar Seattle skyline. We spent probably an hour watching from Barb & Gale’s balcony. The rest of the day was spent unpacking and exploring the ship. Our main dining room dinner time, unfortunately, was scheduled for 830PM. The kids typically go to bed at 8 & the Maitre’d’ was unable to switch us to earlier dining… so, it looks like we will be doing a lot of dining in the Windjammer Café (the buffet). Fortunately for me, the buffet had many healthy, paleo choices. I ate lamb, pork, fish & chicken (portions were miniscule) and also had loads of veg (such as grilled asparagus, salad, tomato w/ pesto, artichoke heart… & the list goes on).

After dinner, we took a stroll and then showed Barb and Gale our room. They got a good chuckle at our little porthole windows compared to their balcony. We were all tired and decided to call it a night. Grant chose to sleep in Grandma’s room, which turned out to be a good choice since Allie woke up crying nearly every hour!

Day 2

I gave up and woke up with Allie at about 7AM. We got dressed and went for a walk/jog along the running track. The morning air was refreshing and brought about giggles. We were greeted with a couple loud horn blasts from the ship, to which Allie responded, “Scary”! Allie & I then went down to the Windjammer and had some breakfast. After that we checked out some more of the ship and watched a bit of World Cup Soccer in the Schooner Bar before going back to the room to check on Mommy. Natalie was already awake and about to meet up with everyone else for breakfast, so we all packed up back to the ‘jammer.

After breakfast, Grant went to meet new friends in Adventure Ocean, Royal’s kids program and we headed back to the room for a nap. We met up again for lunch but I wasn’t very hungry after two breakfasts. The seas also were beginning to get rough which unsettled some stomachs. Natalie took some “less sleepy” Dramamine… which put her to sleep. Grant went back to Adventure Ocean & I took Allie for a walk. Along the way, we ran into Barb and Gale and we decided to do some more ship exploration. We found the Viking Lounge where some passengers and staff were practicing dancing. Allie thought that was pretty fun and joined in.

Later that night, we tried formal dining even though it started at 830PM. We were sure to nap the kids prior to dinner. The seas were still rough and I was even feeling a little green around the gills at this point, so I had my worries. Barb and Gale chose not to go, but offered to watch Allie for us. We had a pretty large table with room for maybe 10, but there were only the 3 of us. I guess that just gave us plenty of individualized attention by our waiter, Rommel (from the Philippines) and our assistant waiter, Ahkil (from India). It was nice to have our own table since we were all feeling pretty drained of energy. Our energy level was better than some of our fellow diners because there were quite a few children sacked out in their chairs and one teen ager slumped down with her head on the table near us. Dinner was tasty. I had escargot again this cruise for an appetizer, some beef with mashed potato/cauliflower and asparagus for the main course and bittersweet chocolate soufflé for dessert. Grant was graciously offered cheese pizza and chocolate milk for dinner… oh, yeah, & french fries!

Allie did great with Grandma & Papa and we all turned in after dinner to prepare for our first port day in Juneau.

Alaska Cruise

Posted: June 20, 2010 by jgrantmarshall in cruise
Tags: , ,

Rhapsody of the SeasWe are very excited to be going on another cruise, this time to Alaska, and the whole family will be going!  We will be on the Royal Caribbean “Rhapsody of the Seas” where we will start in Seattle and cruise to Juneau, Skagway, and Vict0ria, BC.  We are less than 2 weeks away until departure, so are in full swing in planning and getting the “stuff” we need.  Last night, we picked up some dress pants for Grant and some nice clothes for Natalie.  I will  have to have my suit dry cleaned and I’ll need to buff my shoes, but I’m pretty well set.  It will be logistically “interesting” travelling with the kids this time, but it will definitely be fun to share the experience with them.  Grant is especially excited to see whales in their natural environment and I would be lying to say that I wasn’t, too.

Here is a Google Earth “movie” of our cruise’s ports.  (May have to save it locally for Google Earth to recognize it, but you will definitely need Google Earth installed on your computer first.)