Alaska – Sept 11 – Traveling home

Got up at 4:30 and was on the 5:45 hotel shuttle to the airport. Since today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, I couldn’t help but be nervous about flying. The airport was very busy even at this time of morning and it was hard to find the TSA pre-check line. It was poignant that 2 Marines stood at attention at a memorial honoring the 9/11 fallen. Security was more visible than when we arrived 2 weeks ago.

We had already gotten a notice that the flight would be delayed 15 minutes. It actually took longer than 15 minutes. The plane came in from Hawaii and there had to be a crew change before going on to Atlanta. We left a little after 8:00.

Thankfully, the flight was uneventful and I watched 2 movies to pass the time: Deadpool 2 (funny); Showdogs (lame). We landed in Atlanta after 4:00 which was fine since our shuttle was not scheduled until 5:15. The plane let the people trying to make connections get off first. Glad I was not one of them.

After retrieving the luggage, we walked outside to the shuttle area. Oh, the heat and humidity. My hair frizzed up immediately.

The shuttle was on time and there was only 4 other people riding so we had room to spread out. The new northern Express Lanes were open and we were able to speed by the stalled traffic in the Windy Hill area. We dropped off 2 people in Calhoun and 1 person in Dalton. We got to East Ridge (Chattanooga office) around 7:30.

Got home (after stopping to pick up a bag of Krystals – love those little square burgers) about 8:00. Called for the cats and they came right to the door. They were both purring loudly but I am not sure if they were really happy to see us or just wanted dinner.

One disappointment – zipper pulls were ripped off the largest bag and only left a stub that we were able to get it open. Must have gotten caught in a conveyor or something. I don’t think it can be repaired. I doubt that the travel insurance will cover it as we didn’t notice it at the airport so we failed to get an incident report. Lesson learned. Check the condition of bag as soon as it comes off conveyor.

Tomorrow will be busy unpacking, laundry, filing Chuck’s insurance claim, a Wal-mart run, and the dreaded post-cruise weigh-in. I hope the laundry shrunk my jeans.

Looking forward to our next adventure in November.

Alaska – Sept 10 – Disembarkation

Smoothest. Disembarkation. Ever. As easy as it was to get on the ship, it was just as easy to get off. Holland America and the Seattle port are heads and tails over other ports (Ft. Lauderdale and Port Canaveral being 2 awful ones).

Woke up at 5:30 to get ready. Chuck got up an hour later. We went up to the Lido and I was expecting a madhouse but there weren’t that many people in line. We each got eggs, bacon, toast, etc. Sat out in the Lido pool area and watched supplies being loaded up. Made the announcement for no smoking as fuel was being loaded and fumes could be ignited.

Our disembarkation time was 9:20. The people who could take off their own luggage were called to leave at 7:30. Holland America allows people to stay in their cabins until called. I know it makes it hard on the stewards trying to get ready for the next cruise, but it sure is nice for the passengers. Other lines herd you into common areas and people start sitting on steps and crowding the hallways, paying no attention to their time to get off.

We got our last-minute stuff together in our backpacks, grabbed our passports and we were called at 9:15. We disembarked on level 3 and I noticed crew were disembarking on level 2. I wonder if they were going home or changing ships. Maybe some of both. The Zaandam is going to do one more 14-day Alaskan cruise and then transition to start the South America/Antarctica cruises (on my bucket list).

We found the spot for our shuttle on Seattle Express and checked in with the operator. There were several other couples there but they were going to the airport. One couple was concerned as they needed to get to their house in North Carolina before Hurricane Florence. I hope they make it. They took a larger bus and we were on a van by ourselves going to the Comfort Suites Sea-Tac.

Arrived about 10:30 and fortunately she had a room ready for us. I signed us up for the 5:45 a.m. shuttle tomorrow as our flight boards at 7:05 with take-off at 7:45. While I was in the Lido, I heard someone say they just got a message that their flight was delayed for an hour. Hope ours is on time.

The hotel is fine. Clean and the beds are comfortable. You can hear the planes but we heard them from the other hotels too. Some sort of construction going on next door. Looks like Alaskan Airlines is expanding its facilities.

Our plan was to get the suitcases re-organized for the flight and then take the light rail to the Space Needle. However, today is a very cloudy day and visibility low. Also, Chuck was very sleepy. Think the late nights caught up with him as he had a long, long nap. I am glad my head cold is gone.

All my electronic devices needed updating so I spent the afternoon getting those ready to go.

We decided to go back to Wally’s Seafood Chowder place. We started the trip with a great meal from Wally’s so why not end the trip with a great meal from Wally’s? We each had a cup of the clam chowder and split a seafood platter. So good.

4:30 is going to get here before I know it. Wonder if I’ll be able to sleep or will toss and turn all night.

No towel animal tonight. ☹

Alaska – Sept 9 – Victoria, BC

All good things must come to an end and today was the end of the cruise – our last port, Victoria, British Columbia.

The city of 78,000 is located on the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Originally founded in 1843 as a trading post for the Hudson Bay Co., Victoria now serves as the provincial capital for British Columbia. It still has that British feel with a number of pubs, tea rooms, and double decker busses. The Empress Hotel still serves a traditional high tea. It is also famous for the Butchart Gardens, 55 acres of landscaped grounds with over 700 varieties of flowers.

We slept late again this morning. Chuck had to tell me the alarm was going off. It’s a rare day that I don’t hear an alarm. Retirement must really be kicking in. After a coffee run, we had a late breakfast in the Lido. Then it was time for the dreaded packing. I know I am going to have to re-organize tomorrow night to ensure that the checked bags are under the weight limit and the liquids and such are in the checked bags.

We docked in Victoria around 1:00 but Chuck and I didn’t disembark until around 2:30. We took the shuttle to the downtown area. I had hoped to take the walking tour called Victoria’s City but didn’t realize that they only did one on Sunday and we missed it as it started at 2:00. We looked at the Hop On Hop Off bus but it seemed expensive for what you got. It was raining so we decided just to walk down the street and get some pictures of the Empress Hotel and their Government Building with the statue of Victoria in front. I also took some pictures of the beautiful flowers that they had everywhere. I was surprised at the number of totem poles in the parks.

I didn’t have a Christmas ornament from Canada since last year’s stop in Vancouver was just a transfer to the bus taking us back to Seattle. I found a cute one with black bears around a Christmas tree. Only souvenir purchase of the trip.

I thought Victoria was a beautiful and clean-looking city. There were some panhandlers but they were not aggressive. Surprisingly, it doesn’t get much snow. I hear it is very expensive to live here but there was condo/apartment construction all over the place so somebody must be moving in.

Got back to the ship and said goodbye to our room stewards who have been great. Gave them a little extra for all the nice extras they did for us. Since we have not adjusted our hotel charges, they get to keep the cash we gave them. Otherwise, if we had the charges taken off or reduced, they are supposed to turn in all cash gifts so that everyone can get a share. If they try to keep it and are discovered, they can get fired.

I just don’t understand people who take off the charges. I know the stewards and waiters are the ones you get to know and may only want to reward them but they can’t do their jobs well if the cooks, dishwashers, laundry personnel, cleaning crew, etc. don’t do their job. They all depend on a share of that hotel money.

Had a couple of drinks out at the Sea View pool bar area. Had to stay under the awning out of the rain but the temperature wasn’t too bad and it was not windy. As I was going down the hallway to get on the elevator to go up there which is in the aft area there was a distinct sewage smell. I know the residents back in the area were not happy. I didn’t smell it later in the evening.

Just didn’t feel like going to the main dining room tonight. A nice thing about Holland America is that some of the dishes that they have in the main dining room they also serve in the Lido restaurant on the same night. You just have to go through the line to get it. They will bring you what you want to drink including wine. Tonight was not busy at all as I guess some people decided to stay in Victoria to eat. They don’t have to be back on the ship until 10:30. Some guests actually disembarked the ship permanently today – Canadians. Save them the hassle of U.S. Customs tomorrow and getting back to Canada.

Chuck had the steak and I had the lasagna. It’s nice that you can pick out the sides you want to go with it or not get any sides at all. I just decided on lasagna and salad. Of course, ice cream for dessert.

Not a lot going on in the way of activities tonight. Casino is closed due to being in port until 11:00. The entertainers are off. They are showing a repeat of The Greatest Showman on the screen at the Main Stage. Most everyone is just saying goodbye to one another and putting out their suitcases. Time for one last farewell drink and then put our suitcases out for pick-up. You have to make sure that you keep the clothes and toiletries you need for the next day or you will be embarrassed having to wear a robe off the ship. We keep the small bag with us and let them take the 2 bigger bags.

Our departure time is 9:20. I hope everything runs smoothly tomorrow. All hinges on Customs so you can never be sure. Our shuttle to the hotel runs until 11:00 so we should be OK. Worst case scenario, we have to pay for a taxi or Uber.

I have really enjoyed the cruise even with the days of less than perfect weather. The time went by very fast.

We received the ship’s log tonight. Here are the cruise stats:
Number of officers and crew: 596
Nationalities of crew: 35
Average speed of the trip: 17 knots
Miles traveled: 3700
Fuel used: 822 metric tons
Eggs consumed: 33,000

I don’t even know what tonight’s towel animal is. Very strange configuration.

Alaska – Sept 8 – Third Sea Day

Just hard to believe this cruise is almost over as we are on our last sea day. Tomorrow we have our last stop in Victoria, British Columbia. I really prefer having the last day as just a sea day since I spend most of the day getting packed and organized. But, it seems that Alaska and Hawaii that begin and end in the U.S. have to have a last stop as an international port.

Slept until 8:00 this morning. Did go up and get us coffee from Explorer’s but we skipped breakfast since we would have an early Mariner’s Lunch. Got to the reception about 10:35. More people started arriving before they opened the door to the Main Stage. This reception is opened to all people who have received medallions. We actually sat next to a couple who are on the President’s List which means they have 1000 or more actual sailing days. Amazing to me.

The Platinum medallion holders have 700 sailing days. The Gold medallion holders have 500 sailing days. The Silver medallion holders have 300 sailing days. The Bronze medallion holders have 100 sailing days. There were a few people who received their gold or silver. There were several couples and individuals who received the bronze.
Sailing days are different from Mariner points or otherwise known as Mariner stars. You can accrue Mariner points by adding the number of sailing days with the amount of purchases you make either pre-trip (ex. Pre-booking an excursion) or while on board. For every $300 you spend, you get 1 point. Everything counts (even the daily hotel fees that are assessed) except money spent in the casino. You get double points if you book a suite. For each star level you get a few perks. If we make it to 4 star, we will get free laundry which is the perk I am most looking forward to having. Takes 200 points so we are at least half way there.

We had our picture taken with the hotel director and the captain. Then we all went to the dining room for the luncheon. We had an officer from the ship sit at our table. Her name is Andrea and she is the Guest Relations Manager. She is from Romania and has been with Holland America for 10 years. It was interesting to hear about her experiences dealing with so many people from so many different countries/cultures. I would not have her job. Her next assignment will be the Veendam and she will be overseeing parts of the drydock changes in the Bahamas.

We didn’t get the tiles today. I wonder if they are not doing those tiles any more or we got the medallion instead.

I worked on the trip journal while Chuck went to the casino. He now threatens not to take off the medallion as his luck in cards changed drastically as he was a winner at both sessions. Medallion didn’t help me any. I was still Queen of the 16’s. Chuck has logged enough time in the casino that he got an offer of $350 casino cash but only for a new booking for a sailing thru March. He is going to call our personal cruise consultant when we get back and see if it can be applied to our November cruise. I expect she will refer him to the Club 21 number.

I went to the theater to watch Life of the Party with Melissa McCarthy. They have shown a different movie every day but this is the first one that I have been interested in. It was OK. I did enjoy the bag of popcorn that they gave out to each person.

Afterwards, we had our normal routine of Ocean’s Bar and then to dinner. Tonight the line was the longest we have waited in but that is to be expected since it was Surf and Turf night. Everyone wants lobster. We shared a table with 2 other couples. They found they had a lot in common so we found ourselves left out of the conversation. That is the hazard sometimes of sharing a table.

We had seen the stage show “Road House” on another ship so we decided to call it an early night.

The ship has been rolling all day. Worst motion we have faced all trip. The waves have been high. I never went outside to get a sense of the wind but it looked gusty.

We received our disembarkation paperwork – always a sad sight. Most of tomorrow will be spent packing. We dock at Victoria at 1:00. If it is not raining, we might get off to do some sight-seeing. There is a shop near the port and I would like to have a Christmas ornament from Canada. Nothing major planned otherwise.

Tonight’s towel animal is a monkey hanging from the ceiling.

Alaska – Sept 7 – Sitka

Today is our last port in Alaska – Sitka. Gone are the blue skies of the last few days and we are back to Alaska’s “liquid sunshine.” However, the temperature is still in mid 50 – to low 60 range.

Sitka, like Kodiak, has a Russian influence. In 1799, Alexander Baranof moved a s number of Russians and fur traders from Kodiak to Sitka. The Tlingit people were not happy with the invasion they attacked. They managed to burn some buildings and kill some people but Baranof returned and drove them to other side of the island in what is known as the Battle of Sitka.

In 1867, after decimating the otter population for its pelts, Russia sold Alaska to the United States for a little over $7 million dollars. Bet they are sorry they sold it now.

We had an early excursion through Holland America this morning – Birds, Bears, and Barnacles so room service breakfast was delivered at 7:15. We met our guide/driver at the pier. The vehicle was a school bus, our driver was a school bus driver who has lived in Sitka for 30 years. He was very funny and knowledgeable as he drove us to our three destinations – Alaska Raptor Center (birds), the Fortress of the Bears (bears), and Sitka Sound Science Center and Aquarium (barnacles).

The Raptor Center was currently housing 27 raptors of various kinds and sizes. We watched a film about their operations and we could see briefly inside the clinic portion. Most of them would be able to be released back into the wild once healed, but, if not, would be used for educational purposes. One of the handlers gave us a demonstration with a 2 year old eagle named Spirit. Spirit had not yet gotten his white feathers and wouldn’t until he was about 5. He was skittish today and tried to fly off of her arm a number of times today. Really spun her around with the force. Since they can pierce a deer hide with their talons, she has to wear 5 layers of leather on her arm so he can sit.

Another raptor that gets a lot of attention at the Raptor Center is the snowy owl – AKA – the Harry Potter owl. He was very cute.

We watched the salmon in the stream. We had a few minutes to go down the path to the stream but a sign said there had been bear sightings so going past the point was inadvisable. So noted and heeded.

Our next stop was Fortress of the Bears. This bear sanctuary rescues orphan cubs. The state of Alaska has no bear rehabilitation program so until the law is changed, the Dept of Fish and Game will shoot orphan cubs if the mama is confirmed dead. The Fortress of the Bear people try to get to them first.

Their latest additions are two cubs from Seward who just came to them about 2 weeks ago. They really put on a show splashing around at the salmon that were swimming in the river that runs through the compound. They didn’t seem bothered at all by the people oohing and ahhing at them.

The larger brown bears on the other side were nonchalant about the visitors also. There are signs that tell you not to feed the bears but you had to wonder if people do because one sat up on a large pile of sticks and stones and looked right at us, stretching out his paw and yawning. When he realized the handlers were throwing oranges to the other 2 larger bears, he quickly slid down the mound and joined the other two catching oranges. They didn’t look like they missed too many meals. I thought it was interesting that the handlers would soon start withholding food to encourage the hibernation process.

They also had 3 black bears who were roaming in the forested area. One finally came out of it long enough for pictures.

The last stop was the Science Center. It was originally a science building and an experimental fish hatchery for a college. One day the administration just up and left – not telling the instructors, students, or town. What a mess. The town decided to take the science building and the hatchery over as a non-profit and keep the hatchery open and the science center became a teaching aquarium. The other buildings are different venues such as museums and art stores, etc. The college administrators must have been able to hide their financial problems from the accreditors as they would not have been able to shut down suddenly like they did.

Still raining pretty hard as we walked outside to look at the hatchery process. Since only 20% of the salmon eggs in the wild get fertilized and then even less make it to adulthood, the hatchery plays an important role in keeping the wild salmon supply up. The fish remember the stream that they were raised and come back to it to spawn.

We watched the fish swimming up the stream. Once they got to the spot, where they would normally spawn and then die, they were caught up in a net and separated males and females into tubs. If the females were ready to spawn, they were killed and the eggs harvested. If not, they were tossed back into the stream to wait for a few more days. The males were killed and the sperm harvested. The fish are then either sold to the local catfood processing place or given to the Raptor Center or Fortress of the Bears. Nice to hear that the non-profits were supporting each other. It was startling to see several young people clubbing the fish and then gutting them all the while chatting and laughing with each other. It’s a job.

The eggs are fertilized and then kept in containers in the stream until they are fry and ready to release back into the wild. They will make their way back to the stream once they are grown. I am always impressed by mother nature.

We went inside to the aquarium and spent some time around the touch tank of starfish, anemones, and sea cucumbers and looking at the native fish in the large tank. Even had a skeleton of a killer whale hanging overhead. Afterwards, we walked down to look at the water and note the number of fish jumping in and out.

The driver was taking us to town where we could take the shuttle busses back to the ship. We still had time to wander the town if we wished. We parked right next to the public library so I wanted to use their free WIFI. I had hoped to be able to download a couple of more books but it wasn’t strong enough. I was able to catch up on a couple of emails. Wouldn’t you know that now the sun is coming out.

Got back in time to eat lunch. The rest of the afternoon went by pretty fast. Chuck played some cards while I watched for wildlife during the sailaway. I saw a sea otter, a seal, some eagles, and a whale. It was a beautiful blue-sky afternoon and quiet out on the deck. This was also a time I spent thinking a lot about my Dad. He passed away a year ago today. I was fortunate that he and my Mom were able to and wanted to take family vacations and show us different places. I think those times inspired my love of travel and I am forever grateful.

We listened to and danced to the music of the Ocean’s Trio before dinner. They are talented. We got a table for 2 again and the service was pretty speedy.

Opted out of the singer’s performance tonight although I hear she was very good with a wide range of musical selections.

Tomorrow is our last sea day so we would not have to set an alarm except that we have the Mariner’s Reception at 10:45. I know we don’t have to get dressed up for it but since we will be getting a picture with the Captain, I want to look nice so we will wear what we plan to wear for tomorrow night’s last Gala night.

Have to set the clock’s forward one hour tonight. Tonight’s towel animal is a floppy-ear dog.

Alaska – Sept 6 – Cruising Hubbard Glacier

Chuck had a very late night of cards so he was sleeping hard when I got up at 7:00. I just got dressed and took my book upstairs and had a Latte and read until 8:00. It was looking to be a gorgeous day.

Got him up and at ‘em with coffee at 8:15. We were slow moving around this morning so we missed breakfast in the dining room but had a nice breakfast in the Lido. Seemed a lot of people were having a late morning.

However, now it is foggy and the Captain is sounding his fog horn. Big question – will we or won’t we get to see the Hubbard glacier?

We did. The fog lifted and it was again a gorgeous blue sky day. The sail into Yakut Bay was picture perfect cruising between what is known as the Roof of North America. The snow-covered mountain peaks were stunning.

As we came closer to the glacier, the temperature dropped considerably and the wind picked up. Many people were on the bow. More and more ice floats in the water but the Captain was able to pull up very close. Doubt that my pictures will do it justice.

The naturalist on board was able to narrate over the loudspeakers what we were seeing. Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America and the largest piedmont glacier in the world. It performed for us as we had a giant calving on the end. Unfortunately, it happened too fast for me to get video.

We did see a small two-man boat sail closer in but it was a good thing they were not nearer the calving section or they would have been swamped with the wave that came when the chunk hit the water. I noticed that they pulled farther away from the glacier after that calving incident.

Unlike Glacier Bay last year, I did not see any seals sleeping on the ice floats this time.
After soaking in hours of the beauty of the glacier, we were ready to come in to the warmth. I think because I’m still battling a nagging head cold and Chuck’s late night, we decided that a nap was in order.

Getting to the room we discovered an invitation to the Mariner’s Reception. Being invited to the reception is no big deal. Everyone who is a returning guest gets to go to the appreciation luncheon that they hold at the end of each cruise. Everyone gets a commemorative tile. I use them as coasters.

However, this invitation was different. It stated that we are to receive a bronze medallion due to our sailing days and we are to go to the Main Stage at 10:45 to receive them prior to the brunch. I have heard about the medallions but I had no idea we were close to receiving one. We get Mariner points for the numbers of days sailed plus the amount of onboard spending. However, medallions are supposed to be just for the number of days sailed. I have to wonder if they counted correctly.

We had a table for 2 at dinner tonight so the service was pretty fast. We both had the scallops which I thought were delicious. Lo and behold, carrot cake was on the dessert menu so we both ordered it with ice cream. No wonder our jeans are feeling tight. I don’t think the laundry service is shrinking them.

Chuck played a few hands of cards while I came back to the room to get my book. I thought about going back to the Explorer’s Lounge but opted to stay in the cabin. Don’t think people want to hear me blowing my nose.

There was a message on the machine from Guest Services checking to see if we received our invitation and would we be in attendance. I called them back and told the operator we would.

We missed the movie and live music “Wild Alaska” a few days ago (food coma from Pinnacle Grill) so we went to tonight’s 10:00 showing of “Planet Earth II” with live music. Very nice presentation.

Early night tonight as we have an 8:30 Holland America excursion tomorrow – Birds, Bears, and Barnacles – in Sitka. We will have room service breakfast. Unfortunately, the forecast tomorrow is for rain.

Tonight’s towel animal looks like a dinosaur but I am really not sure.

Alaska – Sept 5 – Kodiak

I really don’t like the 7:00 – 1:30 port stops. A number of places aren’t open that early and if we are doing something on our own, I am constantly checking my watch. I know it is only one hour less than a typical 8:00 – 3:30 but it seems shorter.

We ordered room service breakfast and it was delivered about 6:45. We docked at an industrial port that seemed to be the cannery. It smelled very strongly of fish. Turned my stomach. Unlike the other industrial ports, we were allowed to walk out of it if we wanted. Some people opted to do it but there was no clear map on how to get out of there or how far it was to the town.

There were some taxis at the port but the cars looked sketchy as did the drivers. I had thought about getting a taxi at the port and going to Fort Abercrombie but I would have to rely on a taxi to come back and pick us up. After seeing them, I just wasn’t ready to do it. Especially since my phone was giving the roaming warning again.

We decided to wait for the free shuttles to take us into town. They were not scheduled to get to the port until 8:30 because the shuttles were the town’s school busses and they had to take the children to school first. The first shuttle to arrive was the one that was only going to Wal-Mart. Interesting how many people got on it. I know the crew love Wal-Mart because they can get needed items but I have to wonder what the passengers needed.

We got on the first town shuttle. It arrived at the visitor center where a person was handing out maps with different trails – cultural, shopping, and nature. We decided to take the nature trail. I was surprised at how hilly the town was as we started out.

Kodiak Island is the second largest island in the United States (The Big Island of Hawaii being the first). It is equivalent to the size of Connecticut. There are 6000 people who live in the city limits and another 7000 that live in villages around the island. There is a strong Russian influence in the town. They also use windmill power for the majority of their power supply. You could see the number of windmills on the top of the mountains just whirring away.

We passed by the Baranov Museum and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. We continued across the Fred Zharoff Bridge to the North End Park. There was a sign there that outlined the trails in the park but they were not marked for distance. Could have been ½ mile or 5 miles. As we were debating walking them, a lady sitting on the bench said that the loop trail would not take more than 30 minutes or if we had longer, we could take the spur to the lake area.

So off we go into a very dense fir forest. I have to give it to Georgia. Their parks are well marked with signs and the trees have painted spots on them so you always know what path you are on. This trail, not so much. There were also little side trails that you didn’t know if it was a trail or just a shortcut that locals had made. Made the main trail hard to follow.

I wasn’t worried about coming up on a bear as the Kodiak bears live in the 1.3 million acres of the Refuge which is only accessible by plane or boat. I did start wondering about moose. We also hadn’t seen any other people on the trail. I started to get a little panicky especially when a couple of the paths seemed no wider than pig paths.

We did get back to the beginning of the trail and more people were coming into the park. Frankly, I was glad to leave it as it was a pretty dark dense park. Once out of the park, I was able to take some video of 2 bald eagles flying around.

We hiked back over the bridge and found the McDonalds. I wanted to use the free WIFI to check in. I was surprised that you could get a cup of coffee for one dollar. I know that is what is advertised but in Alaska everything is more expensive so I figured it would be $2. Chuck got coffee and I got a diet coke. They have a 30 minute time limit but nobody seemed to be checking. I was not the only one who had the idea to use the WIFI. It was pretty crowded but the WIFI worked well.

We then visited the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Naturally, its theme was Kodiak bears and salmon. Interesting exhibits.

Got back on the shuttle and rode back to the ship around noon. Had lunch in the Lido and then spent some time on the sea view deck enjoying the sunshine. Lots of people milling about it too.

We pulled away from the dock at 1:30. We’ve been able to pull away at the all aboard time at every port instead of having to wait the 30 minutes for stragglers. Seems everyone is cognizant of the time and we have no pier runners and the captain has not had to blow the warning horn. Big difference from the Carnival cruises that stop in Cozumel where there is always someone staggering in after the all aboard time.

I was feeling like I may be coming down with a head cold. I have a slight cough and was feeling very tired. Decided to lie down for “just a bit.” Chuck decided to go to the casino.
I didn’t wake up until 5:15. Got in the shower and was feeling better. Chuck came in and we decided that we would just eat dinner in the Lido. I wasn’t feeling very hungry and we just didn’t want the long wait time. I ended up with just a bowl of soup and some fruit, ice cream for dessert. We tried our hand at blackjack and my luck on the ship wasn’t any better than the last time at the casino. I was queen of the 16’s.

Also found out why the pool closed – it was leaking and needed to be resealed. Should be back open soon.

Chuck switched back to his regular game and I got my book and some hot tea from the Explorer’s Lounge. Read until time for the main show. He was a funny comedian named Frank King who interacted with the audience quite a bit. Afterwards, we went to the Ocean’s Bar to listen to and dance to music from the Ocean’s Trio. Wasn’t long before the “Pub Crawl” group came in and the place got crowded.

I called it a night and Chuck went back to the casino.

First time today we have had trouble with the laundry and it happened twice in one day. First time, I opened the bag this afternoon to put up our clothes and found a sweatshirt that was not ours. Then I realized that Chuck’s green button-down shirt was missing. Trip to Guest Services to turn in the sweatshirt and report our missing shirt. Got back to the room at 11:00 and we had our shirt but we also had a basket of clothes meant for another room. The number looked like ours except if you looked closely, the “5” was actually a “6”. Another trip to Guest Services to return the basket of laundry. Hope the room didn’t need the clothes for in the morning as I expect they won’t get them until then.

Tomorrow we cruise to Hubbard Glacier so I don’t plan to set the alarm. Tonight’s towel animal is a rabbit “with an attitude” (arms crossed as if he is a rapper). Funny.

Last note – When checking my phone with the WIFI, the sad news came in that my assistant and friend, Jeri Ann, passed away from her battle with cancer yesterday evening. She was a wonderful woman and I’m thankful I got to hold her hand and talk with her before I left. I don’t know that she heard me but I want to believe that she did. Her celebration of life ceremony will be Monday night. She was only 46.

Alaska – Sept 4 – Homer

Another day of brilliant blue skies and highs in the low 60’s. Beautiful day in Homer. Time in port is 9:00 to 6:30.

Homer is a new port for us. It is located on the shore of Kachemak Bay and has the nickname of the “halibut fishing capital of the world.” There were several tours today that involved going fishing. Outside of the town of Homer is the Homer Spit which juts out 4.5 miles into the Bay. We docked on one side of the Spit at the Homer Boat Harbor but you had to be bussed to the other side of the Spit, unless you were willing to swim between the 2 areas. We were not.

Historians believe the Spit was created from the glaciers moving dirt and evidence of Pacific Eskimos have been discovered. It sank during the 1964 earthquake but has been restored. The locals have to continually work on maintaining it as the winter storm winds try to erode it every year.

I was on plan B for the day. Plan A was to take a taxi to the Wynn Nature Center and hike some trails but before we left home I discovered it closed on Labor Day. So Plan B. I was going to inquire at Mako’s Water Taxi about their tours to Gull Island. The website said you had to have 2 people for the $50 tour or 3 people for the $75 tour. However, the receptionist said it was 3 people for the $50 tour and 4 people for the $75 tour. Nobody else seemed to want to do it so we were out of luck.

Just looking around the Spit area were sea kayaking tours, fishing or sea plane tours – none of which appealed to us. Otherwise it looked like it was going to be just perusing the shops. Just then, a red hop-on, hop-off trolley pulled up and we decided to get on it. Figured we would at least get a history of Homer. Plan C it is.

We enjoyed the ride and did get off at the Alaska Islands and Ocean museum. Walked around it and looked at the exhibits. Then we took the boardwalk through the marsh area and down to the Bay. Saw many birds and even a young eagle. We could see glaciers in the distance. Really a pleasant walk. They warned us that Moose had been sighted but we didn’t see any. We did see a lot of weeds that had been tramped down along the boardwalk so that could have been evidence of them. Hunting season has started so the Moose have started drifting into town again. They will go back to the Mountains once the season is over and then will come back in the Spring to give birth, away from predators. Pretty smart.

One place we stopped but didn’t get off was “old Homer” some of the original buildings of the town. I was fascinated by the artwork that was created with hundreds of plastic bouys that drifted to their shore from the Japanese tsunami some years ago.

The tour guide said that several of the RV parks closed yesterday and several were shutting down this week. I still thought there were quite a few RV’s parked all around. There is even a ferry that will take people, cars, RV’s, and transfer trucks to Kodiak and beyond. Homer is 200 miles away from Anchorage so I guess people really like driving to the end of the road.

Homer was named for Homer Pennock. Apparently, he established bogus coal and gold mining companies and then went back East to sell stock in them. He retired comfortably in New York, a rich man while the stockholders who came out to claim their portion of the coal and gold got nothing. But, many had to stay as they spent all their money getting there. Why would you choose to honor the man who cheated you by naming a town after him?

After getting back to the Spit, I took a couple of pictures of the Salty Dog, a bar that has thousands of dollar bills stapled on every surface. Weird. I heard the bar was also featured on the TV show “The Deadliest Catch” but since I’ve never watched it, I really don’t know.

Got back on the shuttle to the ship. Had a sandwich and salad for lunch and then did a couple of laps on the promenade deck. Could not walk all the way around as they were working on some of the lifeboats. The Lido pool is still closed too. Still get a whiff of varnish when you walk near it. I have to say that people are constantly working and cleaning this ship. Saw rolls of carpet stored so they are probably going to replace the hallway carpets. I know that our hallway carpet is very worn and needs replacing.
First time my phone has given me the “roaming” warning. I believe that I could still make a call or text but having any data download would exceed my plan. I just put the phone back into airplane mode. Will try again in Kodiak and Sitka but I expect I will get the same message. My plan doesn’t cover Canada either so it may be Seattle before I get data access again.

Did a few abbreviated laps around the promenade. Abbreviated because they were working on a section of it and had it blocked off. We had to just stop and turn around.
Ate in the main dining room with a very nice couple from Texas. Went to see the Zaandam singers and dancers perform “Rock Legends.” We have seen this show before on previous cruises both Holland America and Carnival. Always outstanding. They did a great job tonight too.

Hard to believe in 60 days we will be departing on the Zuiderdam on a 10 day partial Panama Canal out of Ft. Lauderdale. First time to see the Panama Canal.

Called it an evening as tomorrow is a very early port – Kodiak. Tonight’s towel animal is an elephant.

Alaska – Sept 3 – Anchorage

The tour speaker said despite that it being Labor Day most all the attractions will be open today. There may be a few small shops closed so people can get in the last of the camping and fishing for the season but larger places will be open. I was surprised to hear the number of people who plan to make a run to Walmart.

The forecast in the daily program calls for sunny skies and high of 65 degrees. Keeping our fingers crossed. No big plans today. The last time we were in Anchorage, we arrived by train from Denali at dinner time so really all we had time for was dinner and a brief walk around the block. We had an early tour the next morning so we didn’t stay up late.

Today we had breakfast in the dining room and sat with 2 other couples. One couple was from Michigan. They were very familiar with Adrian. I don’t think the other couple ever said where they were from. We were all pet lovers so we spent most of the time talking about our pets. I had the eggs benedict again but today the eggs were a little cold so that was disappointing.

Best day weather-wise that we have had. Started out with blue skies and 42 degrees. Temperature rose to a high of 61. Just gorgeous. Chuck opted for shorts and wore his light jacket. I wore jeans and had my heavier jacket.

Since we docked at an industrial dock, we were not allowed to walk through it so we had to board tour busses that took us downtown to the Convention Center. Right around the corner, at the Visitor Center, we boarded the 1 hour trolley tour.

The tour guide was a retired teacher who had lived in Alaska since 1977. She and her husband, who had been born in Alaska, raised 5 boys. She was very knowledgeable and had a good number of stories. We saw the Moose Gooser, a little engine that would travel in front of the coal trains to shove the moose off the tracks so the big train wouldn’t hit them. We saw EarthQuake park where you can still see the rolling mounds that formed when the earthquake hit and swallowed up some homes. Since the 9.2 earthquake hit on a Good Friday in 1964, many buildings were closed so only 19 people in Anchorage died, mostly those who had houses that got swallowed up.

After the park, we drove through some neighborhoods that had houses for sale at around $500,000 which in La Fayette would go for about $125,000.

She talked about the moose problem in Anchorage. Though we didn’t see any, she said they roam throughout Anchorage as they wander in and out of the mountain ranges. We did see a lot of moose crossing signs. People who plant apple trees must pick or clean up all of their apples before they are fermented as the moose will eat them, get drunk, and run amok. She had a story of a local Moose that the newspaper named “Buzz Winkle” because he seemed to have every apple tree location memorized and would stagger from tree to tree around the city. They even had a picture of him leaning against a wall of a tavern and not far away was a drunk man leaning on the same wall. One time he got tangled up in Christmas lights and had them wrapped around his antlers. I would like to have seen that sight.

She told a story that she had walked through the woods to borrow some eggs from a neighbor and when she was walking back, she realized 2 baby moose were following her. She started running as she knew Mama was not going to be happy. The Mama came crashing out of the brush and she had to crouch down between her car and the garage but the moose was ramming her car. Her 8 year old heard the commotion and was smart enough to start throwing fire crackers at the moose which scared her away. She really doesn’t like moose.

After that tour was over, we waited for the Zoo shuttle. We rode it out to the Anchorage zoo. It is not the largest zoo we have seen nor the smallest. It specializes in animals native to Alaska. We enjoyed strolling through it, eating our popcorn (coupon compliments of the trolley tour), and looking at the animals. Some were asleep in the sunshine (polar bear, brown bears, tigers), some were roaming their enclosures (wolves, snow leopard), many were eating (goats, musk ox, camels), and one was not in sight at all – the wolverine. Many of the information signs said that the animals either came to them as found orphan animals or were injured and could not go back to the wild. Others were on loan from other zoos. It was a well kept zoo and seemed to have a lot of patron sponsors, both people and corporations.

We got back to the ship early afternoon and ate at the Dive In burger place. Enjoyed the sunshine and music on the back of the ship.

Tonight between 11:00 and 1:00 was supposed to be the best time for a sighting of the Northern Lights. We decided that we would eat an early dinner in the Lido and then take a nap until 11:00. We would then go out on the back of the ship and wait for the lights.
Everything went off like clockwork. Chuck had the special tonight – clam and corn chowder with spare ribs. I had the sea food pot pie. We rarely eat dinner in the Lido but we are always pleasantly surprised at how good the food is. After enjoying a little more sunshine on the back deck we headed for our room. Luckily, the stewards had already serviced it. Set the alarm for 11:00.

At 11:00, got up and dressed and back up to deck 8. There were several hardy souls doing the same thing. Unfortunately, I heard someone say that the conditions didn’t turn out that good for the Lights like had been predicted. With hot cocoa, we made it to midnight but decided to give it up. Back to bed we go.

Tomorrow is Homer. Tonight’s towel animal is a turkey.

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