Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cruising Alasksa

Seattle, Washington
Friday, August 1, 2008  4:00PM  Let go all lines.
Seattle to Juneau--894  1 nautical mile=1.15 statute miles.

Excitement in the little Port Orchard house is high.  Paulette and I prepare for our cruise. Chris and Mike (our hosts) get ready for their  dance competition in Tacoma.  Packing, repacking, deciding what to take and what to leave.  We are loading Mike's Rav 4 twenty minutes ahead of our self-imposed deadline.  It's 10:00am.  Paulette and I are dropped at the Bremerton Ferry. We wait about fifteen  minutes and board for the 45 minute trip to Seattle.  The weather is gorgeous after yesterday's day of rain.  We hire an independent taxi driver who delivers us to terminal 5 for $10 in his Lincoln Town Car.  We enter gate 5 and there is the Amsterdam, our home for the next seven days.

Cars, buses, taxis and people with multiple bags are everywhere.  The boarding process looks daunting and time consuming.  I'm worried about Paulette's passport that expires August 23, 2008.  The recommendation is a passport six months to expiration.  We attach tags to our bags after we are given our cabin number.  They disappear into a scanner and we are directed to the next counter.  Passports checked (the desk person didn't blink an eye) photos taken, key cards issued and we are passing through the metal detector to the gangplank.  It is less than half an hour since Paulette paid our taxi driver.

Smiling crew members welcome us, in several languages, as our key card is scanned and we step aboard.  We are directed to the Lido deck for lunch and before we reach the elevator the announcement says the cabins are ready.  We find our cabin and Inan, our steward.  He asks if we want the queen bed turned into twin beds.  We say yes and thank him.   We leave our carry-on bags and find the Lido deck.  Here we are eating less than thirty minutes after boarding.  Yes! there is a lot of food.  Yes! it is good.  Well, it is lunch time.  We find a place at the rail of deck 9 for sail away.  We snap pictures, listen to the ships horns, (the Princess cruise ship blasts it's horn) in response ours.  The other cruise ship and the Seattle skyline disappear.  From the deck below Jessica and the HAL Cats play rock and roll music.

After half an hour or so we descend to deck 8 and drink beer as we chat with a couple from West Virginia and watch land disappear.  When we return to our cabin our checked baggage is in the middle of the floor.

We dress up and go to our first on-board dinner about 7:00pm.  Four courses: appetizer, salad or soup, entree and of course dessert.  After dinner we go to the Ocean Bar.  The trio from Mexico played cha chas and rumbas.  We have a drink and dance for a while.   Paulette leads and we are the only ones on the dance floor; almost the only ones in the bar.  

Saturday, August 2, 2008--AT SEA:  12:00nn  GPS position: 51 degrees 09'5N/ 130 degrees 07'9W  Gentle breeze, overcast.  Temperature: 54 F.

What to do on a ship at sea?   We go to the gym and walk on treadmills while watching the ship glide through the water.  Breakfast first:  anything you want and things you don't are available. A seminar on shopping in Juneau.  A presentation about a two minute make-over.  Selling something of course.  I find various places to sit and read, buy a not-very-good latte and walk through the gift shops.  Not much there to tempt me.  This is a good thing.  We decide to sign up for a tour in Juneau--Bike and Brew.  Of course I can do it.  I skip lunch but have some ice cream and coffee in the afternoon.  Another great dinner, no, I can't remember everything I ate; mostly fish and seafood.  My favorite dessert was a berry cobbler with ice cream.  We are seated with a couple from England.  He a retired school principal and she a school principal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008--Juneau, Alaska  11:12am-First line ashore
I set foot in Alaska.  We rush to take pictures of this accomplishment.  I have now been in all fifty of the United States.  It's misting rain.  We find the statue of Patsy Ann and Paulette takes my picture.  I take one of her while she tries to send a text with my picture in Alaska.  It did not work.  
Patsy Ann, a Bull Terrier was born in Portland, Oregon in 1929 and came to Juneau as a pup.   Her sculpture sits a short distance from where her coffin was lowered into Gastineau Channel as a small crowd  watched  in 1942.  Her sculpture sits watching and waiting with eternal patience, whether shrouded in fog, bathed in sunshine or covered with snow.  Patsy Ann was stone deaf from birth but she somehow 'heard' the whistles of approaching ships long before they came into sight and trotted to the wharf to meet every ship.
We join the throngs of people rushing to the shops, Red Dog Saloon, and other attractions of Juneau.  We purchase post-cards and trinkets and I find a somewhat water resistant jacket to replace the two sweatshirts that will soon be soaked.  I think, maybe the bike tour will be cancelled.  NO, The leaders right on time and we climb out of the mist into the vans for a drive to our starting point.  By the time we are issued bikes and helmets the mist has stopped and we are ready to ride.  The first up-hill is more than I can peddle I walk the last 100 yards and after that--no problem.  The tour is nine miles.  We ride through the University of Southeast Alaska, Juneau.  We stop at the Chapel by the Lake.  A beautiful log building with a view (behind the pulpit) of the lake.  We ride for a time and stop on a small beach where we have a snack and can see the Mendenhall Glacier across the lake.   We ride around the lake on bike rails and through a forest. One log house, not a cabin by any means, flies a big Nebraska N from it's balcony.  Our guide tells us the rule when riding through the forest is:  Don't let a bear eat the guide."  We get a closer at the glacier and a waterfall.  Then it is back in the van to the Alaskan Brewing company.
The brewing company, a real treat, (not just the beer).  We are handed a small glass of beer and led to where we can see the brewing tanks.  Our guide tells us how to make beer.  He is a great story teller and entertains us with the history of the company.  Everything that comes to Juneau must be brought in by barge or plane.  (There are three large brewing tanks.)  There is no road access to this capital city.  When our glasses are empty we are invited back to the bar for refills and then he continues the story.  He strokes his gray beard as he tells us the rest of the story.  We are invite to have another glass of beer and buy souvenirs.  The bike guide returns us to the dock.  We choose not to ride the Mount Roberts tram due to fog covering the view.  We try to go into the post office but it is locked--then we remember it is Sunday.  The Twisted Fish sounds like an interesting  place to eat but a little pricey so we opt to return to the Amsterdam dining room.  We never did get into the Red Dog Saloon.

10:43pm  All lines gone.