Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day at Sea in College Fjord

After a very scenic and beautiful day in Glacier Bay, we had another sea day cruising across Prince William Sound (#55 on the list) and going through College Fjord (new entry #105 on the list). In Norwegian, fjord means "mountains out of the ocean". It does look just like the mountains are coming straight out of the ocean. Not only are the mountains very scenic, but like Glacier Bay, College Fjord has lots of glaciers. Steven went out of the dining room during supper to get this shot, but look how gorgeous!
While we were on the boat, we took a cooking class with the head chef on the Pinnacle Grill, which is the small and intimate upscale restaurant. It was a Spanish cooking class and the menu was chili-rubbed swordfish kabobs, shrimp, mango and jacama salad and chocolate flan. I helped with the kabobs and Steven helped with the flan. I had never heard of jacama, but it was a pretty tasty vegetable that they eat in many other countries, such as the Phillipines. It can be likened to a potato. Here is a picture of me with the kabobs before cooking them.

Steven was very proud of the chocolate flan. It was very good!

After making the lunch, everyone who participated in the cooking class got to sit down for a lovely meal. I didn't really like the swordfish. It didn't taste like it was thoroughly cooked, although that is supposedly the way it is supposed to be. During the afternoon, Steven and I both went to the gym and then Steven went to play basketball with some other people on the ship. Dinner was a "formal" night so we got all dressed up.

After supper, at 10pm, there was a Dessert Extravaganza. All of the pastry chefs worked very hard to make quite a spread of desserts that not only looked great, but tasted good as well. This is bread shaped like a dragon!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 7 - Glacier Bay National Park

On Day 7 we cruised into Glacier Bay National Park (#79 on the list). Around 7 am a boat pulled up along side and National Park Rangers came along board. As we cruised in past the mountains we began to see small icebergs, some with Eagles on them.

Glacier Bay was formed a few hundred years ago during a mini ice age when a large glacier in the area began advancing. Natives in the area, that lived in the valley where the bay now exists, were forced out of their home by how quickly the glacier advanced. When the glacier finally retreated a couple hundred years later, the valley they lived in no longer existed. During the next couple of hundred years the glaciers retreated to their current location. When the first explorers arrived to the area, they could not sail into the bay as it was still blocked by the massive glacier.

The first glacier we approached was the Margerie Glacier. From my understanding, this is the glacier that created the bay.

It is a huge tidewater glacier, that we even got to see calf...

We hung around that glacier watching it calf for around an hour. As we cruised away, the sun came out and we really got to see the beauty of the park.

All of the icebergs and the calm, reflective water were amazing.

Rebekah wanted me to mention that the lens used on this next shot messes with perspective and stretches objects along the sides of the frame.

Around lunchtime we cruised over to two of the other famous glaciers in the park, the John Hopkins Glacier...

and the Lamplugh Glacier. If you click on the picture to see the zoomed version, notice the boat in front of the glacier. That is not a small boat (probably around 100 feet, and a double decker) and really shows you the sheer size and volume of these glaciers.

While the back of the park is known for the glaciers, the front of the park is known for wildlife. Although they weren't real close to the ship, we saw sea lions...

and about 10 Humpback whales. Here you can see three of them.

Glacier Bay was amazing and one of the most beautiful places we have seen in Alaska and the world. This was one of the main reasons why we chose the cruise rather than flying down to Juneau, and it was definitely worth it.


Skagway- Day 6

After visiting Juneau, we arrived in Skagway, Alaska the following day (new entry #106). An old gold rush town, Skagway also has the rich history that goes along with this period in time. This includes saloons, the railroad, ladies of the night and gangs. Most of the buildings in Skagway are original, but have been restored and are still in use today. Some are hardware stores, restaurants, jewelry stores etc. One of the most notable places is the Red Onion Saloon.
Not just a restaurant, there is a Brothel Museum upstairs. You can go on a tour if you would like. We didn't go on the tour as it was "$15 for 15 minutes just like in 1896". However, the ladies who work there and give the tours still dress in period attire. They also talk and relate to tourists the way the girls would in the gold rush.

The next building that we saw was Jeff. Smith's Parlor. Also, known as "Soapy" Smith, he was a gangster and led lots of organized crime in Skagway among other places. He was a major influencing factor in Skagway during the Klondike Gold Rush. This building is original, although it has been restored.

In Skagway, the railroad was a major development that made it much easier to get over the mountains and into Dawson City where the gold was. Before the railroad was built, the prospectors would have to hike the very long and strenuous Chilkoot Trail with all of their gold-digging gear. After the railroad, the prospectors did not have to make this arduous journey on foot. This contraption was used on the front of a train engine to clear snow from the tracks. The front would spin and the snow would fly off the tracks and onto each side.

We also visited the historic Moore Homestead while in Skagway. William Moore and his son Ben Moore claimed 160 acres and named in Skagway, which comes from a Tlingit word that means "windy place with white caps on the water". The log cabin was the original building and the house was built and lived in by Ben Moore and his family, including a Native Alaskan wife. Once more people came to this area, the local government that had been established ignored Moore's homestead claims and instead gave them 5 acres for their homestead. Both buildings have undergone extensive rehabilitation so they may be preserved. Inside the blue house, there was a detailed account of how this preservation was done.

Just another interesting building in the town. Look! It is covered with sticks!!

This was an advertisement painted on the side of a building. It is a small souvenir and t-shirt shop in the little town.

We had a great time in Skagway. It was a little windy, just like the Tlingits said. After looking around the town for the morning, we went on a nice hike to a small lake. It was great to stretch our legs! After the hike, we rested up for the next day's visit to Glacier Bay National Park.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 5 - Juneau

The next morning we woke up early as the boat was pulling into the port of Juneau (#76 on the list). We had an early shore excursion so we quickly ate breakfast and met our group on the dock. After everyone had arrived we took a jet boat across the water to Douglas Island. There we put on all of our gear, had a brief safety briefing, and were trucked up the mountain to go on a Rainforest Canopy and Zipline Expedition!

There is no better way to enjoy and explore the Alaskan Rainforest (#78).

There were 9 zip lines...

the longest one spanning over 700 feet...

and reaching speeds of up to 35 m.p.h. at the fastest point...

zipping over 200 feet in the air, including over old mine remnants and pits...

and there were also 2 canopy bridges...

and a 4o foot repel to the ground at the end of the trip.

It was amazingly fun and a totally cool experience. Definitely worth doing if you get the chance.

From there we took the boat back across to the port, and after a brief rest continued with our visit. Lucky for us, some friends offered to let us borrow their car for the afternoon since there is a lot to do in Juneau. Even though the road only goes 42 miles before dead ending (there is no road in or out of the Capital), it still would have been impossible to get around to everything without that.

Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier (#77), the very impressive glacier just a few miles from downtown. The glacier is massive, even though it has retreated tremendously in the past 20 years. The glacier used to completely cover the valley between the two mountains and reach forward all the way past the waterfall on the right, as recently as the 90's.

While we were there, we took a brief hike along the side of the lake to the waterfall.

The glacier was one of the most impressive we have seen.

From there we drove around the 42 mile road (at least part of it) and took a side trip over the bridge to Douglas Island to get a view of downtown Juneau.

Next we drove over to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery (part of #103). They help supplement the natural salmon population, allowing for one of the major industries in the area - fishing - to continue. Their success rate is 108 adult salmon for each 2,500 salmon eggs (the amount that comes from a single female) vs. 2 for the same amount of eggs born in the wild. Success is determined by salmon returning to the river they were born in to spawn (and be caught).

Finally, and to have a little fun, we drove over to the Alaska Brewing Company (part of #103).

We got a tour and a history of the brewing company (which is widely known in Alaska and makes great beer) and most importantly we got free samples!

After that long day we went back to the cruise ship to eat dinner and go to bed! Juneau was well worth the visit, and one of the main reasons we did the cruise. Thanks again to our friends who let us borrow their vehicle!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Days 3 & 4 - Sea Day and Ketchikan

After spending just about 24 hours in Vancouver, we headed over to the cruise ship terminal so we could board the boat, the Statendam by Holland America Line. Here is our boat, the Stately Statendam, as the lady on the intercom would call it daily.

The line to go through customs and security was very long. After that, we were able to get on the boat and take our bags to our stateroom. Luckily, the rest of our bags had already arrived ahead of us. We dropped everything off and went about the ship to explore a little bit before we had to go to the lifeboat practice. We grabbed a quick snack at the Lido Restaurant; the ship's Golden Corral-like buffet. The food there was just OK (we much preferred to eat in the nicer dining room). After eating a snack, we had to go to the lifeboat practice. That took awhile because people had to find their correct lifeboat station and then we had to learn how to put on our life jackets.

After that, we went around the ship a bit more to explore and see what was there. We found the shops, the casino, the dining room, the gym, the showroom (where all of the nightly entertainment shows are), the movie theater, the art gallery and the pool to name just a few places. I even found the laundry room. After looking around for an hour or two, we decided to get ready for supper. The boat was still in Vancouver and was not able to leave at its scheduled time because someone on the boat was sick and they had to send another boat out to take this person off and take them to the hospital. So, we headed to eat while enjoying a view of the Vancouver bay. The dining room was nice, although the service was pretty slow. It took about 2 hours to be served and eat our meal. After we ate, we headed to the show. Once we sat down in our seats, someone asked if we wanted to be a part of the show. We said sure, not really sure of what we were getting ourselves into. It turned out to be a really fun contest in which we raced another couple in making a bed and also creating a towel animal (a cruise ship staple). We ended up making a snake! We tied the other couple and we each won a book about how to make different kinds of animals out of towels. You might be the lucky recipient of one next time you visit us.

After the show we went and got some sleep because we hadn't gotten too much the past few nights due to our travel schedule. The next day, which was a sea day, we participated in many on board activities including a tour of the main ship kitchen. Below is just a small part of the kitchen.
We also got to "sea" many cool animals and shapes made out of bread, such as this lobster.

We also got to attend a cooking show where the chef cooked up some salmon. There were also some seminars relating to shopping in the ports, which were not that helpful. Although the speaker did give us some coupons so we could get some free earrings and necklaces from some of the jewelry stores.

Then we prepared for our first port stop in Ketchikan, Alaska, which was the following day (new entry #102 on the list).

We had an exciting excursion booked on the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's Tour.

It was a boat that used to be on Deadliest Catch, named the Aleutian Ballad, but was then converted to a boat for passengers (i.e. tourists). They took us out on the boat and showed us how to catch bait fish for the crab pots. They also showed us how to pull up a crab pot on to the boat. This first pot had king crab (part of #86) in it. Here you can check out a nice Wikipedia article relating to fishing for king crab in Alaska.

The fishermen held up the crab and we all got to "pose" with it. It's pinchers were a little too strong for us to be trusted to hold it ourselves. ;)

After the king crab, they pulled up another pot with Opilio crab (part of #86). These crabs do not have the same bumpy and rough shells that the king crab do. They also do not have such large pinchers, so we were able to hold these ourselves.

After looking at and learning about the crabs, we also got to see octopus, sea stars and various kinds of fish that live in Alaskan waters. Then, we got to our favorite part of the tour. There is a small island off of the coast of Ketchikan that is owned by Natives. The waters around this island are also owned by the Natives as well, so in this area, Alaskan state regulations do not apply. Usually, in Alaska, feeding eagles is illegal. However, the fishing boat company has entered into a joint venture with the Natives and we were able to throw pieces of fish from the boat and feed the eagles. It was pretty impressive; there were about 30 eagles flying around our boat picking up the fish out of the water.

After we saw the eagles and all of the other animals, we headed back in to shore. The tour was great and we were planning to walk around Ketchikan for the rest of the day and explore Alaska's first canning city. We went to the museum that was attached to the local library and we got to learn about the city's history. Ketchikan has a rich Native Alaskan history too. Members of the Tlingit tribe lived here. There were also many great totem poles which were restored to their original condition.
After a long and busy day, we headed back to the boat to get cleaned up for supper. We took one last picture of our boat in the port of Ketchikan, Alaska's First City and the Salmon Capital of the World.