Tuesday, August 14, 2012

North to Alaska Aug 5-12 2012

Captain Arjen C. van der Loo welcomes you aboard!  

Day One Sunday, Seattle: These are among the first words we heard after boarding the ship for our week long cruise to Alaska!  We decided a bit last minute, to book the great "I live in Seattle and don't have to worry about how to get to the boat price" and soon we had Granma and Granpa Bullock and Uncle David and Aunt Robyn included in our plans!  More the merrier!

This is our ship at the Port of Seattle:  ms Ossterdam.  It is important to know the name of your boat because most of the time there were several boats in port!

Marc was on his way out of town for a job in Colorado, so he was kind enough to drive the Previa (336,000 miles on that baby!) and dropped all of us off on his way to the airport.  We decided on an interior state room without windows.  I think if we did have a window with a view we wouldn't have been able to sleep in and there was a danger that we might never leave our room--room service was free too!

We loaded on the ship after security and passport checks and lots of picture taking.  We were issued a bar coded card that was used to log us off and on the boat at each port.  Their security worked well; Granma tried to get off the boat with Granpa's card and she was told that she could not leave!

After unpacking and doing a quick explore of the boat, we enjoyed some time on the promenade deck watching the ship pull out.  The promenade deck goes all of the way around the boat--3 laps equals a mile--the ship is 3 football fields long!

At 3:15 pm everyone on ship participated in a mandatory lifeboat and safety drill.  We were assigned lifeboat station 1.  No one had to put on lifejackets, but they did perform a roll call.  We enjoyed a four course dinner that night in the dining room as we made our way west to the Pacific ocean!  (Robyn cannot eat gluten and that was the only place she was guaranteed a safe meal!)  It was always yummy down there!  It took me a couple of days to get used to the waiter placing a cloth napkin in my lap for me!

The ship was pretty posh.  These are the elevator doors on one of the 11 floors.  Inside was a carpet that was changed daily with the name of each day printed on it.  We always knew which day it was, thank goodness!

Seattle was pretty warm the day we left--80's I think.  So we were all in shorts and t-shirts.  Here's Tim at the back of the boat near Port Angeles.  Weird to be on a cruise ship so near to our "stomping grounds!"  The ship only slowed down to let the pilot off!

There were two pools on the ship.  One interior one that had a retractable roof and one outside on the back of the ship.  Both stayed at about 86 degrees--oh yeah hot tubs too.

Mid ship on deck 11; just checking everything out.  Our state rooms were on deck 7 (7005) near the front of the ship--dinner was in the back of the ship.  Granpa put in some miles!

Day Two Monday, at Sea: The cabin crew was fabulous--you weren't gone 10 minutes and they had things tidied up and the bathroom wiped down!  Each night we got our new towels folded into some fun critter.  Most of the crew was either from the Phillippines or Indonesia.  Very nice, always smiling and happy to help.

First day and a half was spent aboard ship and the fog rolled in on day two.  However it was beautiful!

Jackets or a sweater was needed, but the water was always calm or moved with a slight roll.  Never much.

There was a big monitor downstairs (and on your cabin TV) that always showed where you were, the temp, the depth, wind speed, etc.  All that good stuff.  On the way up to Alaska we were out at sea; on the way back we were in the inland waterways.

Day Three Tuesday, Tracy Arm: Our first ice bergs on the way into Tracy Arm!  We were told that glacial ice is blue because the oxygen in the snow gets packed so tightly that the molecules take on a crystaline structure that absorbs every wave length of light except blue.  The brighter the blue, the more recently it has been exposed to the air (I think I got that right...)

Robyn, Tim and David on the back of the boat as we enter the arm.  It was drizzling and the wind blew at first, but the rain did stop.  The beauty of this place, for me, cannot be described. Magnificent... certainly, but the word doesn't do it justice.  Let's just say for me I felt deep reverence at God's creations...  that man is an artist!

We look a bit Scottish here, but those heavy warm wool blankets were a blessing!  Brrr!--course we WERE in shorts!

The rock faces just exploded up from the water, often only about 50 feet of water all around the ship.  It was amazing to watch the Captain (and the Alaskan State Pilot) navigate these waters.

The stuff in the water that looks like snow are the tops of ice bergs. They are much larger under the water than above.

Finally around the bend, after about an hour or so of very slow, careful travel, we came to the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm.  Wow.

I tried to take some pictures that would show you perspective--that's a 75 passenger double decker whale watching boat in the bottom left of the glacier--we are about 10 stories up from the water.

If you look closely, those tiny dots on the ice are harbor seals.

David and Robyn inside looking out as the ship was turning around on a dime!

Glacier from the back of the boat as we were leaving.

Crazy but we passed another cruise ship going in as we were coming out--this one is Norweigan Cruises.

 Isn't our towel puppy cute?

Day Four Wednesday, Juneau: Next morning we were in Juneau!  Time for an excursion.  We decided to join a canoe crew on Mendenhall Lake and paddle out to the glacier there!

They provided the rain gear, although we still got wet!  Tim was smart and wore a hat--live and learn!

I should mention that the glacier goes down where you cannot see it, about twice as far as above!  This glacier is also receding and moves 3 feet a day.  The lake does not have any fish that live in it.  The glacial till blocks sunlight so nothing grows there.  David and Robyn saw a bear eating salmon at the visitors center on the lake shore.

We were in 14 man canoes; there were two of them.  We were picked up at the dock in Juneau, driven the 15 miles or so to the lake, donned our highly fashionable rain suits and PFDs and paddled 5 miles round trip (with a snack and hot cider up at the glacier).

Just to the right of Mendenhall Glacier was this raging waterfall/river.  Yeah we paddled into it and "shot" the rapids...Kinda fun!--Hey we were wet already.

The guides didn't let us get too close to the glaciers in the lake because they can flip unexpectedly and can kill you if you aren't careful....yup.

Did I mention that our excursion began at 8:15 am?  We were back in Juneau to look around by 11:30. Juneau is the second largest city in the United States in terms of geographic area--Alaska is so big and so sparsely populated, it is departmentalize into boroughs--the borough of Juneau covers more than 3,000 square miles making it three times the size of Rhode Island.  30,000 year round residents (Silverdale-ish) with 5,000 seasonal workers coming to town to handle all of the tourists--that would be us!  Oh yeah, there are only about 35 miles of paved roads in and around Juneau.  The tour guide said the only way into town was by plane, boat or birth canal.  :)

Across Gastineau Channel looking across from the docks.  There wasn't much downtown, but we did add another poster to our collection!  David and Robyn saw bears and whales on their excursion.

Gpa didn't get off the boat much because it hurts him to walk very far.  He seemed to enjoy looking out of the ship's windows.  He and Tim did however, ride the tram to the top of Mount Roberts (below) for the view--the tram was right next to where we were docked!  Gma enjoyed the local shopping.

 End of another day done!  This one is a rabbit.

Day Five Thursday, Sitka: Next day we arrived in Sitka!  The rugged beauty of this port was spectacular!  We did not have a dock in Sitka, so we used the ship tenders (lifeboats) to ride across from where we were anchored to town.

Sitka is known as Alaska's Little Russia.  This is St. Michael's Cathedral; brightly costumed Russian performers typically perform traditional folk dances for visitors, but not on this particular day--dang.  We roamed all over town, found another poster for da collection and found some fabulous fudge to nibble on.

This is their pioneer home with a swank view of the harbor.  Pioneer home is what they call the local rest home.  It even had a gift shop in it too!

It was really beautiful here; I even broke out my watercolors and got some tips from gma.

This is the view out the front of the tender boat--that is our ship out there with tender boats ferrying people back and forth for the afternoon.  David went into town 3 times!

The inside is completely inclosed with the pilot sitting on a raised platform.

As mentioned earlier, every night we had (if we chose to) a four course meal--appetizer, soup and or salad, entree and dessert.  Robyn tried duck pate and chilled pumpkin soup to name a few and I had a bit of steak tar-tar (gag me now!)  Lobster and filet mignon, one night--all kinds of fancy stuff--desserts were killer too--not a lot of food, but you were very satisfied at the end of the meal.

This is Nikko.  He was outside of the dining room every night with mints, figs, dates, whatever.  He was a huge flirt and made you feel happy each night--at least the ladies...!  This particular night was a "formal" night--the guys had to wear ties (and jackets) and we wore dresses.  The other nights we dressed up nice but without ties.  Breakfast was usually on the lido--anything from french toast to cheerios.  Lunch for us was also usually on the Lido--almost anything you wanted there too.  I stuck with a big salad each day in hopes that I would stay away from the killer bread pudding!

This one is a duck.  Sometimes in the evening we would go to a show--there was a comedian and another night the crew put on a show with native dress.  There was always something happening.  Sometimes when we were on board for a whole day we would take in a movie in the screening room.
They showed Hunger Games one day.

Day 6 Friday, Ketchikan: 
Next day we were in Ketchikan.  David, Robyn, Tim and I took an excursion to see some bears, eagles and salmon and Tlingit totem poles at Saxman Village...we did see eagles--there were about 9 in this particular tree and we did see a bear out under the zipp line (which looked like total fun).

We were right up near the Tongass Rainforest--most northern temperate rainforest in the world.  It always rains in Ketchikan--kind of like Forks!

After black bears and eagles we visited Saxman Village to check out the cool totems.  Hand carved which each family's animal totem represented.  Beaver, Eagle, Halibut on this pole.

Their long house with tribal art on it

This particular totem had an interesting story that went with it.  The guy on the top is a white man--a Mr. Seaman--the guy that purchased Alaska for 2 cents an acre for the US from Russia.  He was in invited to four pot-latches with the local tribe and was given a gift.  As you know, you are supposed to return the favor and invite the tribe to your place and give gifts.  He did not do that.  He is sitting on a bentwood box and there is an upside down white face on the totem which is their symbol for owing a debt shamefully.

After our bus tour of the island and such, we headed back into Ketchikan to look around.  There was a lot to see and not too much time!

Ketchikan is a working fishing, timber and mining town and very vibrant.  Tons of people from the (4) cruise ships and lots of pick-up trucks moving about.  Across the harbor was an island with no power, etc.  The fishing boats and planes were hauled up tracks into "garages" next to people's homes.  As with every other place we visited, Ketchikan is an island, the only way in or out is by plane or boat.  I think there are only 15 miles of paved road.

This is Creek Street.  The buildings were built up on stilts to avoid prohibition and prostitution laws in Ketchikan--hey the building is not technically on land.  One gal there, I think her name was Loddie, paid for her place in one day.  Miners made about $1.00 a day, she charged .50 for 3 minutes of her "time".  Her place cost $300; you do the math...

Huge salmon were in the bottom of the river decaying.  Today the buildings are filled with shops of all kinds of tourist stuff, including art and ivory carvings from Mammoth bones.

As we were running around, I saw this van and I got a kick out of it!  Ketchikan has a Walmart!

View heading south to British Columbia.  We sat upstairs on the deck chairs under wool blankets and got sunburned!

There's a monkey in my room!

This is the atrium in the ship.  Every lounge had live music: piano and violin, guitar, singer, 4 piece bands and even a dance hall and casino.  Something for everyone!

Day 7 Saturday, Victoria BC:

The fog was pretty thick out in the straight and we got into Victoria 3 hours late.  We were passed up by every other cruise ship headed back to Seattle!  It was dark, but we bummed around for an hour before we had to get back onto the bus and go back to the ship. This particular night there were 2 other cruise ships in town.  It was so crowded.  It would have been nice to have more time there.  Oh well, I guess we will have to drive there some time soon!  :)

Still don't have a stamp in my passport....dang!

This was our last port of call.  We had to pack our bags and set them outside the door  for the porters before we went to bed.  We were off the boat by 8:30 am Sunday and Marc met us once again for the ride back home.  Monday late morning we were taking our guests to the airport for their homes!

I have rarely come home from a vacation so rested.  At first it was kind of hard to slow down and just mosey and wander and sit and eat, eat, eat.  (The food was really good and had a lot of variety).  I was worried that I would put on a ton of weight, but the morning gym with Robyn, walks on the promenade deck with Tim and salads for lunch did the trick--only 2 pounds added!  Yeah!

Will we do a cruise again?  YES!

Monday night, Tim came home from work and nothing was ready for dinner!  I guess I will have to stop waiting for someone else to do it!

Love you all! XO

Tim and Peggy/ Mom and Dad/ Grammy and Grandpa

P.S.I have been reminded that I forgot to post about our hike up to Rainier.  I will do that soon, out of order--sorry!


  1. I've read and re-read this entry like five times. SO jealous. What an adventure! I've already told Ethan we HAVE to do this some day. Wow. I'm so glad you guys went and that you decided to go on the canoe trip. The glaciers were breathtaking! Wow!

  2. WOW! You guys did so much. I am jealous. The pictures are great! The glaciers are sooooo blue!!!! We get to come next time.