~ Alaska Inside Passage ~ May 12 - 19, 2007 ~

Our latest cruise took us just short of the Yukon Territory through the Inside Passage and up to Sitka, Skagway and Juneau with a short stop at Hubbard Glacier. We've talked about Alaska but Patti and I just like being closer to equator than the poles. Her mother expressed an interest in an Alaska cruise so we decided now was as good a time as any. Everyone raves about the scenery and the wildlife so now we had a chance to see for ourselves. This was the first cruise for Evelyn (Patti's mom) and her friend Joe. Patti and I had been on Serenade last October in Hawaii so we were also looking forward to seeing some of the same crew.

As per our usual we arrived in our embarkation city early. We arrived in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday the 10th. Customs was pretty much a breeze and we caught a cab to our hotel. Our cab driver was a great tour guide giving us a little history and a few fun-facts about YVR. The first hiccup was upon check in at our hotel, Sandman Suites on Davie. They apparently were overbooked and also had some late checkouts so didn't have rooms ready for us. They were very nice and very professional and had it cleared up fairly quickly actually upgrading Patti & I to an executive suite and Evelyn & Joe to a penthouse jacuzzi suite! The rooms were quite nice with a full kitchenette. Not that we were planning to cook, I mean we're on vacation after all! After relaxing awhile we decided to find a liquor store to pick up beer and water. The hotel manager told us there was one about a block up and around the corner. It apparently closed at 6:00 PM and we arrived at about 6:15. We popped into a grocery store to pick up some snacks and water (B.C. has government liquor stores). They told us there was a liquor store "a few short blocks down". It turned out to be about 4 blocks and downhill (meaning uphill on the return trip). It was a good walk though and we worked up an appetite for dinner. A restaurant named Moxie's was in the hotel. It is a little trendy but the food was good with generous portions. I tried a drink (I forgot the name) that was a locally brewed golden ale with lemon ice floated on top. It was quite tasty, sort of a lemon flavored beer float.

Our view of Vancouver

Looking northeast toward downtown Vancouver

Another view

Looking southeast down Davie

The next day after a Moxie's breakfast (again quite good) we headed down to catch the The Vancouver Trolley Company trolley. This trolley is just like the one in San Diego where you get day ticket (actually a 2 day here) and you can get on and off at any stop. They run every 15-30 minutes from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM. We picked it up in front of the Marriot and headed out to Stanley Park. Along the way our driver/tour guide gave us little tidbits of Vancouver info/trivia. Down Howe St. heading toward Canada Place there are many hotels and condos that are the home to many actors doing TV series and movies based in Vancouver. A lot of TV series are shot in YVR!

We rolled through Canada Place which is where most of the cruise ships dock. It looks to be a madhouse when 3-4 ships are docked. People like it though because it's close to Robson St. This is where we headed next. Robson St. is the Rodeo Drive of Vancouver. Just about every designer and high end shop is here. And of course Starbucks including 2 across the corner from each other.  After Robson we headed out to Stanley Park.

Our first stop in Stanley Park was Vancouver Aquarium. Evelyn wanted to see the Beluga whales. It's a very nice aquarium and it being a weekday was not too crowded. Except for the woman who hogged the jellyfish tank we were able to see an take pictures of most everything. As with most aquariums the tanks are separated by regions representative of the area, these being near Vancouver of course. We left the aquarium and caught another trolley that took us up to Prospect Point Lookout in Stanley Park. It's a great view of the harbor, Lions Gate bridge and North Vancouver. We also sampled some of Granville Island Brewing's finest on tap. We caught the next trolley and headed down and out of Stanley Park. Along the way we saw the devastation the fierce windstorm of December 2006 caused. There are trees down everywhere still. Some were quite large.

Once out of Stanley Park we headed down Beach Ave. that follows along English Bay and Sunset Beach. The trolley driver showed us the oldest houses in Vancouver along here. There are only 8 left. From there we hooked right and headed across the Burrard St. bridge and to our next stop, Granville Island. It isn't actually an island but is a spit of land in the middle of False Creek with water touching about 90% of it. The trolley doesn't actually go into Granville but drops you off on the "mainland" side of the bridge. We wandered over and ambled through the shops and then checked out the Granville Island Public Market. Kind of large farmers market with a few craft type items thrown in. Patti enjoyed the "forbidden" fruits and vegetables. Forbidden in the U.S. that is, but plentiful here. Many locals and tourists alike shop here for their meals. We stopped in at the Granville Island Brewery and had a few more ales. Impressive place and good brews too. Not enough time for the tour though. Maybe next time.

We headed back to catch what turned out to be the last trolley to finish our Vancouver tour before heading "home". We stayed on the trolley as it took us through Yaletown which was home to the 1986 World's Fair. After years of industrial use it is now a heavily populated and high dollar area of town. It was also home to dot commers during the boom. Beyond Yaletown we headed past the library designed with much glass and appears to resemble a Roman Colosseum. Very impressive looking. Next up was Chinatown home to the worlds narrowest commercial building, 6 feet wide. It's in the Guinness Book of Records. Next up is Gastown named for "Gassy" Jack Deighton. From the late 1800's until Prohibition it was the wild part of town with a few hundred "drinking establishments". The most famous landmark now is the restored and fully functional steam powered clock at the corner of Cambie and Water St's. After another pass through Canada Place the driver dropped us off on Howe St. and we wandered back to our hotel. We relaxed a bit and repacked a little to prepare for embarkation the next day. On our stroll back we had checked out a few restaurants but decided to hit Moxie's again. We had breakfast there again the next morning. Hey it was good and close!

Smile!

Horses hitched to trolleys that take you around Stanley Park. They even had rubber pads for them to stand on!

Vancouver Aquarium entrance

Killer whale sculpture/fountain.

Isn't this fun!

Joe and Evelyn.

Jellyfish Bowl

Look close and you'll see the reflection of the woman who was hogging the jellies! We finally gave up and snapped a pic anyway.

AAAHHH!!!

Let's hope the mosquito's don't get this big!

A Bill Bowl

Bill acting funny in the aquarium

"There be whales Cap'n"

Beluga whales.

More Beluga's

No, beluga cavier does not come from them

Hi!

"You guys look funny upside down". Sloth in the corner.

We got Beaver

DeHavilland Beaver taking off out of the harbor (harbour?)

Prospect Point view

Lions Gate bridge through the trees

Another view

Yet another view

I cheated. This was actually taken from the ship as we sailed under.

Bill and wooden friend

Wow, these mounties are very rigid!

Granville Island

Although it's not really an island

US banned fruit!

Patti had to have pictures to take back to work

Dragon fruit

Cruise Day 1: Embarkation day. We couldn't really board until about noon but we had to check out by 11:00 AM. We caught a cab to Ballantyne Pier where the Serenade was docked. This pier is more industrial but we were the only ship there. Check in and boarding was smooth except for one small hiccup (Joe left his passport in checked luggage) that was quickly handled. As soon as we boarded we were greeted by Patrick of the Cruise Directors staff who remembered Patti right off. Just beyond him was Attila (A Schooner bartender on the Hawaii cruise) and Stephen Bennett in the Centrum Bar. Five minutes after boarding and we've been reacquainted with 3 staff/crew members already! Evelyn and Joe were impressed.

After getting the two of them settled in their cabin Patti and I headed down to the dining room to scope out our table. She had requested a table for four by a window. Our table number was on a table for six but the head waiter quickly corrected that by switching it with the table next to it (on the window). We explained the muster drill to Joe and Evelyn and headed back to our cabin to get ready for it. Our muster station was in the Schooner, how ironic. After muster we went back to our cabin to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn't. Next was trying to find out where our sail away gifts were. Patti had ordered champagne (and Baileys for morning coffee!) for each cabin from Wellwishers and it hadn't arrived yet either. It was getting close to sail away so I headed down to the Champagne Bar to get another bottle so we could all toast as we departed. Sanjay (no, not the AM Idol guy!, another of the crew we had in Hawaii) set me up with a bottle and we were set. We sailed out under the Lions Gate bridge and out toward the Inside Passage. By the time Patti and I got back to our cabin our luggage had finally arrived. We unpacked and I tried on my tux (close to perfect fit!) then we headed out to roam the ship.

At the Schooner we started talking to a couple from Las Vegas, John and Carol. They were very nice and we saw them at the Schooner (as well as around the ship) almost every day! It's a great place to hang out and meet people.

Again at the Schooner we got to chatting with another couple and found out they were on the Cruise Critic board. We struck up a friendship with Colleen and Doug and spent much of the week with them, at least on the ship. They had different tours booked in the ports.

Dinner (late seating) was very good and our head waiter Harry and assistant waiter Janet were quite delightful. Harry was heading for vacation after this cruise so that may have explained his happiness! We even met our head waiter, Puneet. We sometimes don't see them until the last night. Puneet stopped by every night we were there. We did Portofino's one night and Windjammer another during the week.

Requisite muster photo

Cabin 9076 balcony

Cabin 9076 balcony

Cabin 9076 view forward

Cabin 9092 balcony

Cabin 9092 balcony

Solarium kitty

Lifeguard?

Cruise Day 2: The second day was an at sea day. Patti and I started the day doing our usual, sleep in, get up and dressed, head to Schooner for Bloody Marys, off to Windjammer for "breakfast". Spent a little time in the casino, Patti won a $400 jackpot!! We're not the rock climbing type so that was out. The pool was freezing so that was out. Might as well head back to Schooner and spend time with Geno and Rudy!

Evelyn got a massage and spent $400 or so on beauty products. Then she went and got her hair done (it was formal night after all). I'd say she's taking to this cruising lifestyle! Joe toured the sights around the ship. They both came by the Schooner later and helped us win Music Trivia. We all won keychains AND a pen! Woo HOO!!

This was the first formal night so we had to prepare for that. Patti and I went to the concierge club for drinks and noshes before dinner. No special formal photos though. Patti and I have BTDT and Evelyn hates having her picture taken (although she takes a good picture!). It is always fun dressing up though!


Cruise Day 3: First port was Sitka. This is what Evelyn wanted to see most. It is supposedly one of the most original Alaskan cities left that visitors go to. It is a mix of Tlingit culture and Russian history. It was also our only tender port. Patti wanted to see the Raptor Center. Joe and Evelyn got up early and headed in to to town while Patti and I ambled in about 11:00 AM (hey, early for us!). We were told it was a short walk from the pier to the Center. It turned out to be about a mile and a half and through construction in one area! Joe and Evelyn took a cab and were already there when we staggered in. The Raptor Center was great! It was awesome to see Bald Eagles up close. They are truly majestic birds. On our "stroll" to the center we had seen a few Bald Eagles flying over and one in a residents yard. That was an unique sight for us. Eagles as neighborhood birds. We also didn't see any cats or small dogs out and about either. Guess they have to stay inside lest they become raptor food!

A few hours at the Raptor Center and we took a cab back to town. The driver dropped us off near Saint Michael's Cathedral. It is one of the few original Russian Orthodox churches that survive in Alaska. Actually it was destroyed by a fire in 1966 but many of the icons and artifacts were salvaged and returned to the rebuilt church. The street goes around it on both sides.

We shopped a little then wandered down to the Westmark Lounge and grabbed a bite. From there we headed back to the pier to catch a tender back to the ship. It was quite cold as we waited. There was a good strong breeze coming off the water. I also realized I was coming down with a cold. Welcome to Alaska!

After dinner Evelyn & Joe headed back to their cabin and we headed up to the Schooner meeting up with bartenders Eugene (Geno!) and Rudy. They were both on the Hawaii cruise and Eugene was at the Schooner then too.

Welcome

Sitka from the ship

The ship from Sitka

Volta

One of 2 Eagles they use for educating

Another of Volta

2 more outside (in enclosures)

Sitka with her handler, Dave

Saint Michael's Cathedral

Front

Saint Michael's Cathedral

Back

The Grindstone

Serenade awaits

First Formal

Joe and Evelyn with the "Frozen Lady"

Cruise Day 4: Next "port" was Hubbard Glacier. We didn't actually get off the ship here of course but it was a "stop". We were supposed to arrive at 11:00 AM but unfortunately Capt. Stig got in around 9 AM. Luckily we were listening to the PA and heard the announcements. We also sensed the ship had stopped and got up and looked out. We scrambled to throw on some warm clothes and headed up on deck 11. The glacier and the surrounding area were amazing. It was about 41 deg F not including the wind chill. Luckily the winds were only about 5-10 kts. We stopped and talked with David who was onboard to talk about Tlingit history and the history of Alaska. He mentioned that this was the coldest it has been in four years and the most snow they have had in 7 years. So much for global warming! Because it was so early in the season/year we did not see any ice calving. It has to be warmer for that to happen. We walked the perimeter of the deck figuring we'd run into Joe & Evelyn but we never did. We decided to check out the Heli-Pad but by the time we got there the ship was headed back out toward sea. Patti did finally wear her funny hat (kinda like the one Francis McDormand wore in Fargo). It may have looked funny but it sure kept her head warm!

After a Bloody Mary at Schooner we headed up to Windjammer for Lunch. We spent most of the rest of the day doing trivia, dropping quarters at the casino and drinking at Schooner.

Dinner this night was at Portofino's. One of the alternative choices for dining. It was quite good and we stuffed ourselves. As usual Joe and Evelyn headed up to their cabin and Patti and I headed to Schooner. Eugene and Rudy took good care of us all week.

Ice floes

Blue Ice

So now we know where Blue Ice comes from!

Hubbard Glacier

Looking out toward Yakutat Bay.

Patti at Hubbard Glacier

Glacier ice

There was a lot of ice in the water. Guess that's why we didn't get too close.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Cloud formation

Hubbard Glacier

There was a lot of snow still

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier

Leaving

Hubbard Glacier

Celebrity Mercury

Hubbard Glacier

Bye Bye, Mercury

Hubbard Glacier

Patti, David & Bill.

Hubbard Glacier

Brrrrrr

Hubbard Glacier

I'm warm & toasty

The Frozen Lady

She looked a little colder than usual

Cruise Day 5: This day the port was Skagway. This was the only ship tour we booked. We did the White Pass & Yukon Route train ride up to the summit and back. The tour was booked for 12:40PM. We found out that WP & YR runs on "ish" time. We headed off about 1:00 in the last car of the train. They had some problems with the speakers in a few cars that they use for narration. Due to that issue we got a delightful young woman named Jennifer who became our personal tour guide.

We learned that Skagway during the winter there are about 700 residents but swells to over 3000 from April to September. It is definitely a tourist town. Another thing was that the worker "tent" spaces  go for $300. A basic 3 bedroom house goes from $350K to 599K. Oh, you wanted local lore and history :) Gold was discovered August 16, 1896 by George Carmack and two Indian companions Skookum Jim & Dawson Charlie. It was a small discovery but started the Klondike Gold Rush. Skagway was founded by Captain William Moore. He built a sawmill, a wharf and a trail to White Pass. A "Ton of Gold" arrived in Seattle via ship and soon everyone wanting to get rich quick was heading to the Klondike. Some headed through Chilkoot Pass while others headed over the less steep White Pass. Both were filled with hazards and many men as well as 3000 pack horses died making the journey, mostly due to inexperience of the "stampeders". The idea to build a railroad was hatched by Sir Thomas Tancrede (representing London financier W.B. Close and Close Brothers) and Michael J. Haney. Construction began May 28, 1898. The WP & YR climbs 3000 feet in just 20 miles. It also features steep grades and tight corners. This required a narrow gauge. The ceremonial golden spike was driven in July 29, 1900 110 miles from Skagway at Carcross, Yukon Territory. It's amazing what British financing, American engineering, Canadian contracting and 35,000 men can achieve.

Since it was so early in the year there was minimal flora and fauna. The flowers haven't quite bloomed yet and the animals are still in hibernation. The snow at the summit was pretty though. All twelve feet of it!!

The Gold Rush cemetery is full of Skagway residents who didn't make a fortune. The two most famous "residents" interred are Jefferson Randolph Smith and Frank Reid. Smith was a gangster in wild Skagway and Reid was the hero who gunned down Smith. The back story is though that Reid was an on the lam murderer from Illinois. Wild times in the Yukon!!

When we got back to the dock we walked up to town. Rudy told us to check out the Red Onion Saloon. We walked by and saw it was standing room only so we passed. Hard to believe us passing up a bar! We wandered through an Ace Hardware that was quite cool. Quite different stuff from back home. We wandered through a few other "trinket" stores then headed back to the ship.

We skipped the dining room and had dinner at Windjammer instead. It was quite relaxing and the food was acceptable. We almost missed it. Geno reminded us they closed at 9:00 and it was almost 8:30.

What is it?

Patti says it's a smoker, I say it's just art

The White Pass & Yukon Route

Old No. 73

Steam engine. They use occasionally.

River View

Skagway countryside

Looking down on the harbor

Another view

Yet another view

You can almost see the ships in the harbor

Klondike Highway

Waterfall across the road. Tour bus heading back to Skagway.

Ridin' the rails

Hanging off :)

The long train

The Engines waaayyy up there

Lots of snow!

Tunnel Mountain

The old steel bridge

Built in 1901, used until 1969

2nd Tunnel

Replaced the bridge in 1969

Gold Rush Cemetery

Resting place of Skagway residents including Gold Rush gangster Jefferson Randolph Smith and hero Frank Reid

Skagway Dock

It's pretty cool. You catch the train right next to the ships.

Registry Rocks

Crewmembers paint the rocks with ship info and captains name.

Registry Rocks

Story is the higher the painting the more the crews respect their captain. I think it's more of an outdo the other crew thing.

Our car

No. 234, Lake Cowley.

Downtown Skagway

Broadway.

Bank of Alaska

Old Wells Fargo?

Driftwood building

Driftwood closeup

Old Rotary Snowplow No. 1

Display only now

Old Rotary Snowplow No. 1

WP & YR Depot

Say what!?

Somebody forgot to tell the Princess captain he's at the wrong dock. Or is everything just bigger in Alaska?

Junk or Art?

Either way it looked kinda cool!

Cruise Day 6: Last port was Juneau. We hadn't planned anything for Juneau. The only "tour" we considered was the tram to the top of Mt. Roberts. We were only here until 3:00 PM so it didn't give us much time. When we got off the ship it was foggy and damp so $25.00 to go up and see nothing but fog didn't sound appealing. We took the shuttle bus into town and ended up wandering around town sightseeing and shopping. Patti was kind of miserable now that she had my cold so she wasn't too energetic. Patti and I tried to get into the Red Dog Saloon but the "bouncer" turned us way, too crowded. We didn't want to wait so we wandered on. We checked out few book stores but didn't find anything. At one everyone was all atwitter because Michael Chabon was doing a reading and book signing that night.

Just in time for us to reboard the sun came out! Talk about bad timing :( I guess the tram ride will have to wait till next time.

2nd formal night. Went off without hitch.

Since this was the last real full night we could stay up "late", after Schooner we hit the casino and ran into Doug and Colleen. They were playing Roulette so I decided to try it out. It was fun, though I didn't win anything. Colleen did though! Patti played the slots on $5.00 of her own money all night! Not a bad deal.

An RCCL Ad shot?

Watch out for the bear Patti!!

The only bear we sighted

The famous Red Dog Saloon

We were turned away by the "bouncer"

Downtown Juneau

Downtown Juneau

Sunrise

First time in a long time we've seen the sunset and the sunrise! All in less than 6 hours!

Sunrise

4:00 AM!!!!

 

Cruise Day 7: Last day was a sea day. We got to see the cruise through the Inside Passage. It was quite amazing to be cruising with land on either side. Since we usually do the Caribbean we're not used to it. We missed it on the way up as we were sleeping. All these little (some not so little) islands were interesting with all of these small towns right on the water. They didn't appear to spread much farther inland.

Unfortunately now we had to start thinking about packing :( We put it off as long as possible. As usual we hung out at Schooner after dinner but made it an early night. They kick you off early in the morning.

Cloud reflections

Schooner view

Dinner view

Dinner sunset

10:00pm

Miscellaneous shipboard shots: All in all it was a great cruise. A little too cold for our liking but the scenery, ship and people were spectacular.

Stoplight

We'd never seen this before. 3 shots, Cherry Brandy, Galliano & Midori

Vortex

Playing with time exposure

Anselmo Boles

Piano entertainer nights at Schooner. He was quite good and very personable.

Our bar staff!

Gilberto, Eugene (Geno), Ambar, Amaryl (Bar Manager)

"Y.M.C.A."

The Not So Village People. That's Matt Sole the C.D. as the Cop.

Yeahhh!!

Patrick on the "warpath"

Cow sculptures on Deck 13

Only viewable through the elevator

Cow sculptures on Deck 13

Family Portrait

Evelyn, Patti, Bill & Joe

 

  LINKS  
Vancouver Granville Island Stanley Park
Sitka Alaska Raptor Center - Sitka Tlingit (Wikipedia)
Hubbard Glacier (USGS) Skagway White Pass & Yukon Route
Red Onion Saloon Juneau Red Dog Saloon
  Mt. Roberts Tramway Inside Passage
Royal Caribbean Cruises   Cruise Critic

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