Day 8 – Inside Passage

by Jenn

Room service for breakfast today, followed by the hot tub and a trip to the spa for our free couples treatment.  I found it very relaxing and it left my skin feeling smooth and exfoliated – Jeff’s too, although he was a bit too out of his element to be relaxed.  We were both able to take a relaxing nap afterward though, so not too shabby.  Last day on the ship is sad – but lots to do to get ready for tomorrow’s early departure.  Nothing terribly exciting – had to pack of course and I can’t believe how much clothing fits in my suitcase.  It’s sort of ridiculous that I have 50 pounds of clothing.  Half of which, btw, I haven’t even used.  Next time I’ll plan better – but I say that every time.  We finally made it to some shows today (well we did see the love and marriage and battle of the sexes shows before) – tonight was the farewell show.  It was so so – a little random.  Dinner was yummy and it was good to see (almost) everyone one more time.  We Californians are looking forward to a get together to share photos and I am very much looking forward to keeping in touch with our new Oklahoma friends:  Patsy, Ronny, Carolyn and Fred.  I’m glad we made some probably lasting connections this cruise.  Well done. =)

Pix of us and some other stuff:

Day 7 – Ketchikan

by Jenn

No real plans today – we were lucky to sleep in till about 9am.  After breakfast we took a camera free walk along Front Street to all the touristy shops looking for a trinket that Jeff could buy.  After going back on the ship for lunch, we headed back out to catch a glimpse of the nature side of Ketchikan.  A nice 2 mile or so walk along the creek and down to the marina made my day.  We saw how filled with Salmon the creek was – incredible!  And came across a giant ugly mosquito as well.  Stopped in some of the more local shops and got a couple last items to take home.

Got back to the ship early and finally got to spend some time with Spanky and Denise!  Kept busy till dinner where we were fed lobster.  Why there is no picture of it is beyond me – too busy I guess.  Between the 10 of us at the table, 20 lobster tails were devoured!  Suffice it to say, we were full after that.  Tomorrow is a bit more sleeping in – day at sea.

Photos of our walk around town and the ship:

Day 6 – Icy Straight Pointe / Misty Bay / Hoonah

by Jenn

EARLY rise this morning.  Got in line for the tender to shore at 6:30 and we were on shore in the rain by 7:10.  After a thorough soak, we got in the Misty Bay Lodge van and took a 10 minute ride to the house to check in for our whale watching expedition with Captain Dan!  It’s a cute little place, the Misty Bay Lodge, I would definitely stay there if we were to trek back up to Alaska via other means of transportation .  Hope, Dan’s wife, checked us in and was a total sweetie.  We boarded our little boat built for no more than 7 (only 5 of us sailed) and held on for dear life through the rough seas before stopping near the coast and happening upon a sleeping humpback.  They just float!  Kinda odd.  I was enamored by that when Dan decided to take us for a ride.  “Why are we leaving the whale” I thought – but I guess he had more excitement than sleeping ones in mind.  After an hour we arrived at Adolphus Point, a well-known spot for whales to kick back.   There were other boats out there too – most were polite but some sped around and scared the whales away, which was too bad.  One speedy boat sort of helped us out though.  Dan shut off the engine when we got where he wanted, and we could see blow spouts in the distance.  The whales then made a turn away from some other boats and right toward us!  Bobbing along with the current we got right in their path, but the engines being off kept them from getting spooked so they literally came within 5 feet of the boat!  Jeff was like a kid in a candy shop – and I hope we can hear his voice on film “Oh my gosh oh my gosh,  look at that!  OH – MY – GOSH”  Definitely better than a singular sleeping humpback was this pod of 7 or 8.  One looked up at us, communicated to his peeps, and they dove under us and appeared again minutes later in the distance.  Definitely well worth the money and time spent.

Back at the lodge, Elise and Jeff stayed for fish and chips while Bruce and I went back to the ship.  I went back out in hopes of finding my party but just missed them and hung out by myself in the rain.  It was still nice out though.  I like Alaska weather.

Played some trivia tonight and went back to our room to find a surprise of Champagne and strawberries.  Long long day, very worn out.

Here are the photos:

Alaska Day 5 – Skagway

by Jenn

Today was jam-packed for sure!  We woke up early to be off the ship before 8am and to our first adventure, the White Pass Railway on a 3 hour long ride up to Canada and back.  Seeing the mountain up close and the raging water from high above was something special.  Tim and Beth were our tour guides and gave us lots of information about the many things we were curious about.  We took the train from sea level to nearly 3,000 feet!  To step out on the windy platform and look down was quite a rush.

And RUSH was the theme of the day for sure.  The gold rush affected Skagway in 1898 when people from all over came in by boat and ship to then take a nearly 600 mile journey to the Yukon.  No gold was actually ever found in Skagway, but it was famous.  We passed a spot where they actually dredge for gold and now tourists can pan for tiny flakes, but we didn’t do that, we went straight on to a canopy covered rain forest to ride a series of zip lines.  What fun!

That started with some warm up on a 20ft high teeter-tottery bridge, followed by a one zip after another that got progressively higher and longer.  I did some upside down, backwards, sideways and rotating.  More pix and video of all of that will come soon!

Here are some shots:

Alaska Day 4 – Juneau

by Jenn

Water and Salmon and Bears, oh my!  That’s right – we saw BEARS today!  Soooo excited about that one.  First one we saw was behind some brush but looked right at us.  Second one was being boring and sleeping in as tree, but the third one ran right past me about 10 feet away.  Woah!

Glad we just went where the wind took us today.  We had absolutely nothing planned when we stepped off the ship, but caught an express bus to Mendenhall and took a gorgeous hike to Nugget Fall.  Spend a good 2 hours looking around then went back toward the stream where we got dropped off and bears just seemed to be all over.  They are totally unpredictable but I could see myself coming up here again and just camping out waiting for that perfect shot.

Came back and ate yummy hot dogs for lunch and then back out for some good old touristy shopping.  Will post pictures a bit later.

—update: here are the photos.  Spent the rest of the day chilling out on the boat and went to our welcome back cocktail hour where Gulsom once again made sure we never had to wait to drink more champagne.  She’s great!

Pix of the morning / afternoon:

Alaska Day 3 – Hubbard Glacier

by Jenn

Woke up early this morning and I went to a massage and facial. That was supremely relaxing. Jeff wrote for the blog while I did that – though we have yet to get online (obviously if this is posted we will have been online). Following that was bingo. Jeff got to be the commissioner and won a Ringo the Bingo Seal stuffed animal which is akin to a rally monkey I guess. They want us to bring it back to every game we play, and if we do, we get an extra jackpot bingo play. Well that was all we won for those four games, but we will go back again for sure. After meeting up with people, relaxing a bit, and having lunch, we went to a napkin folding class (so cool!) and then it was time for the Hubbard Glacier. This thing is massive, and we stood outside for a good hour plus just looking at it. As we got closer, we saw seals lying on icebergs and swimming, but we wanted to see some major calving action – that’s when the ice falls off the side of the glacier. Well lucky for us, a couple big chunks did fall. Missed the first one but caught the massive wave it created, and got great documentation of the next huge chunk slamming into the water. Hung out with the group after that – sipped some wine and chatted – then formal dinner was a riot of laughter and stories shared between us 6 and the other family of 4 at our table. Patsy, Ronnie, Carolyn and Fred are fun people and our wait staff is hilarious. I showed off my new learned napkin skill and Deb and Nengah showed us some more. Another waited, from Jamaica, sung a wonderfully funny song to us, and we all left the dining room full and in hysterics. Next up is Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier. Ice, waterfalls, salmon, and bears are all to be seen! Pictures from today here:

Alaska Day 2 – Onward to Seward

by Jeff McNeil

After our long and relaxing morning Jenn and I left the Courtyard Marriott and went to the Anchorage Airport to meet our shuttle bus that would take us to Seward, where the cruise ship was docked.  The scheduled time of the pickup was 1pm.  Jenn and I were there at 12:30 to be sure we didn’t miss it.  1pm came and went, 2 pm the same.  I called at exactly 2pm to see where the bus was, the guy on the other side of the phone said to be patient he was sure the bus was around the corner.  I waited another 20 minutes before calling again and getting a different person who said the same thing.  She said he had some drop offs that were very far out of the normal area and that took longer.  Well the bus arrived at 2:30pm and when the group of us asked where he was and why it took so long he said, “I know, I have been getting a lot of calls.”  He didn’t apologize or say sorry or give a reason why he was late, just that he got a ton of calls. According to my confirmation email, gratuities are not included in the price of the ticket, yeah and they will stay not included.

The trip took us just shy of 3 hours to get from Anchorage to Seward.  Once at the docks we went right through the ticketing line and were on the ship in less than 5 minutes.  We went to go look for Denise and Spanky and found them in their rooms on the deck above ours.  Folloing a short hi and hello, Jenn and I went to explore the ship.  We climbed the rock wall and had the drink of the day, Summer Breeze.  It was a good drink that I wish I could have tons more of, but on cruise ships, all alcohol costs $.

That night the 6 of us, Denise, Spanky, Elise, Bruce, Jenn and I had a lovely dinner in the main dining hall here and then retired to our cabins for some much needed rest.  It has been a wild trip to get us to the cruise but we are happy to be on it.  I am sending this post to you from the internet café here on board, and then plan to go check out the shops while I wait for Jenn to get done with her massage and facial.

Til next time – Photos:

 

Alaska Day 2, Part 1 – Back to the Lake

by Jenn

Woke up early this morning and ate breakfast at our hotel.  We then had some lazy time in the room.  Not much to blog about but we did go back to the lake from last night – Lake Hood – where we watched, and listened to, the sea planes taking off.  Here are some photos:

Alaska Day 1 – Part 2: Lounging in the lounge leisurely sipping libations

by Jenn

Decided to stay at the hotel tonight for dinner.  We are actually right outside in the courtyard enjoying the light that apparently never ends in the summer and Jeff is having an Alaskan beer while I sip on an appletini – complete with a lime? I had to throw that thing across the room before I could enjoy my drink but all is well now.  Hot broccoli and three cheese soup is making me comfy and bacon cheeseburgers are delicious as well…

Skip forward to midnight – went out for a midnight (well lit) walk.  There is a lake right across the street from our hotel and the weird Alaskan light makes it beautiful. The sun is both setting and rising right now… I imagine it will be back up in an hour or two – but I am off to bed in a sec.  All I know is that at 8pm it sure looked like midday and as you can see in the pictures below, it does not look like midnight.

Here is my favorite from the little walk:

And here are some other unedited images:

Day 1 Part 1 – Alaska

by Jenn

A 5am wakeup started our day. We then attempted to get the paperwork we need for our hotel and failed. Starbucks and then to Jen P’s for a ride by 630. We got to the airport a bit before 7 and stood in line to chek our bags. That seemed to take forever and Jeff was getting stressed. 15 minutes later we paid $40 for our two bags (each of which weighed EXACTLY 50 pounds – woo!) Then all went to shit as we received our boarding passes and found out Jeff was a Cylwik and NOT a McNeil as all his IDs indicate. Okay okay this happened in Asia, a supervisor just has to reprint. We have old license and passport as proof. No problem, right? WRONG! “We don’t do that” was all the hostile woman at the “agent assistance desk” could tell us. What assisance. So I stopped at a TSA agent who referred me to another TSA agent who referred me to a TSA supervisor who told me the airline had to change the ticket. When I told her they refused she said they could and to demand so. She asked what time our flight was. 8. What time is it now? 7:25. “Okay we will make it work” she tells me and off we go to the counter. Half way down she has a change of heart and calls us back. She’s goof to escort us through security. Luckily she caught that although Jeff’s old passport is hole punched, it isn’t actually expired. Odd. But she checked all IDs Jeff had on him, threw me for a loop when she asked me how to pronounce MY name, and to the conveyor belt we went. Not bad for th huge amount of stress Jeff was feeling. We got back our stuff, put in our shoes and got directly into the boarding line. Suprisingly no problems with our massive amount of carry on luggage and smooth sailing – er, flying – from there.

At Seattle airport on our layover now. Flight delayed about 30 minutes due to a passenger who is traveling on a stretcher. Hmm.. odd. I’m quite curious about that one. But we had some good food and we are ready to be in Alaska and a little more relaxed. Will post again tonight and maybe we will have taken a photo by then.

The Alaska Cruise is Next

by Jeff McNeil
Royal Caribbean in Alaska

Royal Caribbean in Alaska

Our Alaska cruise is just over 3 weeks away and I am getting excited.  We have made most of our plans with our friends Denise & Spank and Elise & Bruce for our excursions and outings while on the cruise.  Our four friends will be doing a 4-5 day land tour of Denali and Anchorage sights before the cruise while Jenn and I are arriving just before the cruise departs.  It will be a trip of a life time for them, and a very fun and exciting cruise for us.

The cruise is a 7 day southward bound journey along the inside passage.  We will be stopping at the Hubbard Glacier, Seward, Skagway and many other luscious green towns along the Alaskan coast.  Some of our adventure activities include ziplines, mountain train rides, and an up close and personal whale watching trip with only the 6 of us on the boat (plus a captian).  The trip has been in the works since September 2010 and it is only 3 weeks away… yay!