6.7.Tracy Arm Fiord
06.07.2010 06:07 | J&J
Have You ever woken up and thought that You were still dreaming? That was my feeling when I woke up and looked outside. I could not believe my eyes. We were in a place one thinks that can exist only fairytales, Tracy Arm Fiord: Misty mountains, high granite walls, countess waterfalls and chunks of ice floating in the water. At 6:30 we rushed to the breakfast. This time we were quick and efficient. Shortly after 7 a.m we came close to the Sawyer Glacier which is located at the end of the Tracy Arm and is said to be Alaska's most dramatic. Everybody got a chance for a kodak moment and lots of people used that one! The air was cool and fresh. Hot chocolate was available for purchase. We continued our trip along the beautiful shore. At times the fog was so low that it was convering the tops of the trees.
After that amazing moment, lots of people made a retreat to their cabins to compensate for the lost ”resting time”. And then again – it was time for a light lunch. This time we went to our a la carte restaurant, Edelweiss. A small salad turned into a huge plate filled with all the tasty stuff. While eating we saw multiple whales. It was a really funny situation – grown-ups behaving like kids: rush to the windows and and shout ”whale, whale”.
There are 2 formal evenings during the cruise and today was the second one. Fortunately we all were still able to fit into our clothes...
( Päivitetty: 10.07.2010 06:09 )
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9.7 - Back in Seattle
09.07.2010 03:32 | J&J
We arrived in Seattle quite early but as our departure time was fixed only for 9:00 we had time for a nice breakfast in the Edelweiss restaurant.
Around 8:30 we headed towards the theatre which was the assigned ”official” waiting place for our group. To avoid queues the passengers and their luggage are assigned a number and a colour beforehand and are asked to follow the instructions clearly. We sat in the waiting area untill our number was called and then we disembarked the ship. Our luggage (which was collected on the evening of the previous day) was already waiting for us in the terminal area. It was a bit of a challenge to locate own bags as there were hundreds of similar ones around. The passport control was easy this time, no fingerprints nor pictures taken so after just a few minutes we were out of the terminal building.
Next we took a taxi who drove us to our hotel – it seems that we made a small circle though... Fortunately the rooms were ready so we just dropped our luggage and left towards the city center.
It was extremely hot so our pace was quite slow. After a tiring 30-minutes walk we were in front of the famous Pike Place Market, which is filled with shops and people. You can buy anything in there, starting from the fresh fish and ending up in Polish pottery!
Then it was high time for food again. The place was preselected beforehand – surprise – Hard Rock Cafe.
After an afternoon nap and just before the sunset we went up to the Space Needle. An elevator took us up to the top. The timing was perfect – we were lucky to see Seattle in daylight and then the sunset itself. What an amazing view – sea, skyscrapers and then the mighty Mt.Rainer (which is actually not a mountain but a volcano) far away in the horizon.
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8.7 - Victoria, BC
08.07.2010 03:14 | J&J
We docked in Victoria – the capital city of British Columbia which is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and belongs to Canada. It is a city of spectacular beauty, mild climate and the most British looks one can find in Canada and maybe even in the whole North America. Many refer to the city as city of gardens and i could not agree more with them :-)
It is possible to use a shuttle service, but we chose to walk. The weather was fantastic – beautiful sunshine and a light breeze. In the city center our group splitted into 2 – the bloggers decided to walk all the way over to the Craigdarroch castle, whereas the rest of ”Team Finland” targetted for the famous Butchart Gardens which are located in the Brentwood Bay and are known to receive more than one million visitors every day.
On our way to the castle we enjoyed the nice atmosphere of the city in its full bloom. We reached the castle after a 30 minute walk (from the city center). The castle was built in the late 19th century by an Scottish immigrant Robert Dunsmuir who made fortune from Vancouver Island coal. He named the mansion Craigdarroch which in Gealic means ”rocky, oak place”. Poor guy never had a chance to actually live in it – he died shortly before it was completed.The mansion is a 4-floor building and it is preseved perfectly – up to the detail. Furniture, pieces of clothes, even dishes on the table create a very cosy atmosphere.
Nowadays the mansion is owned by a non-profit charity society and all the income is used for the conservation of the national treasure. The tickets, by the way, were 12$ per person. The tour is self-guided so lots of flexibility is left to the visitor.
After a nice ”kodak” moment, we slowly started heading back to the harbour. We chose a very nice route leading through a huge park and finally along the seashore. The air was clear and we could see the mountains covered with the snow as if they were rising from the water. A beautiful view!
Then there was time for a light snack and jogging. Deck 10 (where the jogging track is located” was pretty empty, so it was a very enjoyable experience to walk around it this time.
In the evening we enjoyed a great 3-course dinner as on every other day of the cruise as well :-)
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7.7 - At sea
07.07.2010 02:49 | J&J
After the breakfast we ”climbed” again to the top deck for our everyday portion of jogging. Next we went over to the theatre where the captain, the master of our ship, and the other 4 officers in command were sharing the details about the ship itself, the logistic processes and the people that do their best everyday to make sure that the ship does not sink, keeps it's route and the customers are happy. The ship is like a factory of it's own with higly advanced planning and execution processes. The Chief Engineer, Mr. Pentti Tyni from Rauma, came over to talk to us again and we got a chance to thank him personally for the bottle of wine :-)
The evening programme started with a show in latino style. We were enchanted by the skills of the dancers, especially the leading couple, which by the way was from Estonia... The unforgettable show was followed by a disco session, open to everybody and playing music from the 70s.
Then it was time for dinner again– Jerry and Jani made sure we all had great time. The food was excellent and the wine even better :-)
The culmination of the evening was the late-night buffet with sculptures made out of chocolate and canapes looking like pieces of art themselves.
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5.7 - Skagway
05.07.2010 05:50 | J&J
Our next port of call was Skagway, a picturesque little town which marks the northermost point of the inside passage. It is framed by the the waters of the Taiya Inlet and surrounded by the Coast Mountains. You can still sense the feeling of the gold-rush there when looking at the buildings and the atmosphere inside them - as if time had stopped. It was the Klondike Gold Rush that transformed the city into a bastion of gold seekers, artists, gamblers and painted ladies and that is also why the city is known as the Gateway to the Klondike Gold.
Skagway has everything to offer for almost anybody: countless shops, nice bars (saloons) but also the close proximity to the nature. We used all of those options. Before hitting the track we listened to a very educational presentation on the bears and how to avoid an open conflict. Here are some of the highlights:
Usually bears just want to be left alone so even if they charge, the attempts are ”false” - just to make You leave.
Having been prepared properly we entered the track. We walked uphill for about 20 minutes so our heartbeat increased nicely. After having reached the shore of a lake, the track turned even and we proceeded with quite a good speed. At all times we were cautious – were there any bears nearby? Did they notice us? Those questions remained unanswered – and i'm saying this with a feeling of relief.
Before going back to the ship, we went to a saloon-bar called Red Onion. It's a local ”must see”. The waitresses wear old-fashioned dresses and You can put the tips into their bras. Our men were deprived of that opportunity :-) There we enjoyed nice cold Margaritas.
The time was ticking, we had to go back to our ship and prepare for dinner. There a nice surprise was awaiting us. The Chief of Engineering which we met during the Captain's welcoming event has sent us a bottle of wine. What a nice gesture from a countryman!
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4.7 - Independence Day in Juneau
04.07.2010 05:44 | J&J
It was nice to wake up in Juneau, with no symptoms of any illness. Again – thanks to Underberg. After a typical breakfast consisting of multiple dishes we left the ship. There was a complimentary shuttle service to the city center but the queue was really long, so we figured, we'd just take a walk. The distance is only 1,5 km.
Juneau is Alaska´s capital city (however not the biggest one) but funnily it can only be accessed in very limited ways: either by boat, plane or just by getting born there. There are of course alternative ways like cross-country skiing but this is probably not the most popular nor the recommended way. Believe it or not, there is simply no connection by road! It is situated at the foot of the Juneau Ice which is home to 38 major glaciers. It is inhabited by only a bit above 30000 people.
On our way to the city center we booked a combo tour consisting of the visit to the Mendenhall glacier and whale-watching. The price was only 97$ per person so we did not hesitate much. Due to the Independence day parade scheduled to start at noon, our departure was not possible until 2 o'clock. We had 2 hours spare time, so we spent it walking around the city and enjoying the nice atmosphere.
At 2:15 we were picked up by a shuttle. The means of transportation was an old school bus and the driver was a very talkative Texan. We got a detailed explanation on almost every building we were passing. He dropped us near the entrance to the Mendenhall visitor center.
The Mendenhall glacier is located only 13 miles from the city cente. It towers more than 100 feeet above the surface of the Mendehall lake. It is even more vast below the surface of the water. The color of the ice is bluish and it is 9 times as dense as the ice we are used to seeing.
After having taken countless amount of pictures we wandered to the bus stop from where we were supposed to be taken to the harbour. The bus arrived punctually and we were warmly welcomed by an elderly lady in a white hat. Her name was Teresita and she was a native American. She was very happy to hear that we were from Finland as she visited our beautiful country on one of her cruises. World is a tiny place, isn't it?
In the harbour we were expected by a young man named Vincent who brought us to our boat. Our guide was a young lady, a specialist in marine biology, by the way. During an almost 2-hour trip we got a detailed explanation on the habits of the whales and how to spot them. We sailed for about half and hour at a high speed enjoying the spectacular scenery and then it begun. We spotted multiple humpack whales or rather their backs and huge tails. While breathing they let huge amount of water in the air, and that's what You start scanning the sea when looking for them. Some were diving and some slapping their huge tails agains the surface of the wate countless amount of times. There are 2 possible explanations for that kind of behaviour: that's how they communicate with other whales or they just try to get rid of the parasites attached to their tail. What is interesting about those huge animals (which by the way belong to one of the most endangered species in the world) is that they never sleep. Only half of their brain is put to rest, while the other is on the watch. If they fell asleep, they would drown. We were lucky to see also the orcas, so called killer whales, which funnily are not really whales but members of the dolphin, family, sea-lions and bold eagles. A trully amazing excursion.
When we arrived at the dock, a surprise was awaiting us. Vincent was there but there was no bus. Things got sorted out nicely. We were offerred a drink, a sandwich, a hat and an opportunity to shout at Vincent (which nobody used :-)) while waiting for Teresit to fetch us. As it seems the other driver just forgot the group and went home. Anyway, Teresita dropped us to the harbour and we were back in our cabins well before the ship departed.
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03.07.2010 05:41 | J&J
The second day onboard was a bit unlucky for some of us. We were sailing full spead on the open sea (which was a bit rough) towards Juneau. The fellowship (called now ”Team Finland”) had to split – 2 (the writer here and M) were forced to retreat to the cabins shortly before dinner. The rest of the companionship was unbreakable and enjoyed a nice meal. Lucky them and bless Underberg (which I luckily ”smuggled” onboard) – it's a life-saver.
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2.7 - 2.7– The cruise starts
02.07.2010 05:39 | J&J
After an early-wake up we rushed to the railway station. There we were asked to fill in the customs declaration and (surprise) the green visa waiver form. Seems that the process is not clear to all the clerks. ”Our” lady demanded a 6$ fee for entering the country, other clerks did not. But we are quite persistant so after a prolonged chat and a few checks, also we were freed from any fees. After all our data was in the system already as we arrived in the US only a few days before.
We left the Vancouver station a bit late but still arrived in Seattle in good time as the cruise boarding started only at noon. The taxi drive to the harbour was quite an experience - the driver whose name was the same as that of a famous boxing starr, started playing a CD with a higly religious content. Fortunately none of us was in the mood for any discussions and we reached our destination – pier 91 where Rhapsody of the Seas was docked.
Despite the warnings of other bloggers, the whole check-in process was quick and easy. First we got rid of our luggage then filled in a health declaration, and finally we proceeded to the security check which totally reminds that one You are used to experiencing on airports. After that we got our stateroom keys and boarded the ship. While boarding the ship a photo is taken of every passenger and the stateroom card is registered. The passengers are prompted to carry the card along always when leaving and boarding the ship. The card is also used for payments onboard – so there is no need to run around with pockets full of money at all times :-)
The Windjammer cafe was already open so we rushed upstairs to have some lunch. After all it was already quite a long day. The food was excellent – lots of choices for meat-lovers and haters and everything in between... If You have problems with self-control when it comes to eating, it might not be the best place.
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01.07 - Canada Day
01.07.2010 20:45 | J&J
1st of July is a Bank Holiday in Canada, so called Canada Day and it is celebrated in all the territories. Our morning started however the usual way: early wake up, breakfast consisting of bagels with cream cheese and a visit in the fitness center.
After that we walked to the Chinatown where the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen classical Chinese garden is located. A classical Chinese garden is a reflection of the Daoist phiosophy of Yin (Female) and Yan (Male). Everything is in harmony: buildings, rocks, plants and even the cloudy jade green water. The Vancouver garden is the first full-scale classical garden constructed outside China and its architecture represents the classical design of the Ming Synasty. It was built by 52 experts from Suzhou by using material which were shipped from China.
A truly unique experience, i must say.
Having been enriched culturally we set our sails towards the city center, namely the Canada Place where most of the Canada-day happenings were supposed to take place. Indeed, it was filled with people of different races and genders carrying tiny Canadian flags in their hair or on their cheeks. There was live-music, performances, fairs, people dancing...
After that hunger got us again. We ended up in a restaurant named Steamworks, which appears to be really popular with the locals. It was totally crowded – no wonder, it's really a cool place with nice food and good service.
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30.06.2010 20:23 | J&J
30.6 - Grouse Mountain and Grizzly bears
We woke up quite early again and as the breakfast room opens only at 7, we decided to start our day in the best possible way: jogging. Vancouver is an ideal place for physically active people and while running You'll see many of them cycling, running or just walking. Our starting point was the mighty Science World building and we followed so called Seawall path which is the shore of the False Creek.
After the breakfast consisting of blueberry bagels with cream cheese and cereal with yoghurt, we took a bus towards the Convention Center and the Seabus Terminal. There we boarded a water-shuttle to the Longsdale Quay. The ride takes only 12 minutes and is very popular with the locals and the tourists. Our next means of transport was a local bus which took us to the foot of the Grouse Mountain – the Peak of Vancouver. Located only 15 minutes from the city's downtown it is the most-popular and visited attraction.
The tickets are quite expensive, one single ticket costs 40 $ per person, but it is worth every penny. First You step onboard an aerial tram which takes You up to the mountain top. In just a few minutes which You can spend either with Your eyes and mouth open (the scenery is spectacular) or – if You are afraid of hights just shaking and praying for the trip to be over, You reach the peek. There the adventure starts.
It was quite cold up there, only +5 degrees Celsius and as we were wearing only shorts and sandals, we were freezing. The only way tostay warm was just to start moving. Firstly we walked towards the five-acre mountain sanctuary the inhabitants of which are 2 grizzlies – Grinder and Coola. I have never seen a bear from such a short distance (except for my own belowed teddy of course) so the feeling was quite incredible. Next we climbed the top of the mountain, ignoring the signs warning about possible bear encounters. Finally we enjoyed a Lumberjack-show with lots of humour but also lots of physical exercises like tree climbing and axe throwing. While going down we saw 2 wolves which live in the valey forest taking a rest. Amazingly beautiful creatures.
The trip back was easy and was really cheap. The bus driver did not accept our payment but handed us the tickets and said: ”Have a nice day!”. What a customer service!
It was finally time for dinner. We selected a nice Indian restaurant in the city center. The food and service were all first class. Eating out is not very cheap in Canada, especially if You want to enjoy a drink along with Your food. But then, what's the holiday for – spending without paying much thought to it :-)
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