Saturday, July 29, 2017


Okay, so we've been home a week and I've had time to think about the whole experience and decide what I really thought about the cruise.

First off, for those of you that didn't know, I have wanted to take and Alaskan cruise for as long as I can remember. It's been one of the those big list items. I've been working on checking those off recently and this was a major one. But I was still worried about it. The newly gained seasick issue from the past couple years was the biggest worry. And the fact that it's still been random. Not on the sunset cruise, not on the Christmas ship cruise, not on one snorkeling trip but on another. And when it hits it's BAD. I wouldn't wish it on pretty much anyone.

So yeah, I was worried. And I was worried enough that I decided not to do any small boat site seeing while we were on the cruise just in case. I figured if the big ship didn't make me nauseated that was great, I shouldn't push it with a little boat then back on the big ship. So I made allowances. And I also got a lot of advice from my friends who cruise as to where my room should be and what to bring along just in case I got queasy.

It ended up just fine. Not even a hint of seasickness. We could feel the ship rocking at different points but it wasn't much. So that was great.

Now it could be that to get a ship this size rocking enough to make me sick it would have to be bad weather, like REALLY bad weather. But I'll take it. And there were a lot of people on board sporting the little dots behind their ears and one woman we saw in one of the shops on board who was already sick and we hadn't even left port in Seattle yet. Eek!

So anyway, the first hurdle was an easy one. No seasickness. Calm enough that if I had known ahead of time we would have done a small boat tour or two. Oh well! Lessons!

The next piece we were worried about was the actual time at sea. As many of you who have followed my vacations in the past know, I'm not really good about just sitting still. If I am visiting someplace I might not get back to I want to see as much as I can and do as much as I can so I schedule tours, hikes, dives, drives, restaurants...I fill our days. I've gotten a little better about scheduling open blocks of time to do whatever as well, but it's not my preference. If you are a lay by the pool kind of vacationer I would drive you nuts. So we were worried.

And we were a little right to worry. I did get a little bored on the first at sea day. I drug Brent to a few lectures and the glass show and we watched a live stream of the Gold Cup game but I was pretty antsy by the end of the day. It just wasn't very vacationy to me to sit still and do nothing. Even with a great view off of our balcony. I tried not to make Brent crazy. I really did.

And I figured it out a bit by our last day out to sea. I packed a bag, went to my favorite spot on the ship and spent the day looking for wildlife and reading and taking pictures and counting down the hours until we pulled in to Victoria.

The ports of call were interesting though I would choose different tours now. The snorkeling in Ketchikan I would not change. Even though it wasn't the best snorkeling ever as far as visibility goes, it was a great experience. And I love being able to say I went snorkeling in Alaska.
Like aliens underwater..

The wet suits really worked, but it was SO difficult to get on I almost gave up. There was a point in the dressing room where I was trying to get the suit over my hips and butt that I thought, I'm going to have to go out and tell Brent to go ahead without me because my 10 pounds of mud will not fit in this 5 pound sack...It was a little disheartening for sure. But then I got it to move an inch and had help with the zipper to get my boobs contained and I was ready! I walked like a Barbie with non-bending joints, but I was in! And like I said, it really did the trick. We've been colder snorkeling in Hawaii for sure. So if you like to snorkel I recommend this, just for the experience if nothing else.

Ketchikan was also the closest we got to bears on the trip. I had really been hoping to see bears in the wild. I had my binoculars trained on the waterfalls and coast line just waiting for a bear sighting the whole trip...and nothing. But we did see this:
These headless fish were bear snacks. We didn't know it when I was down there taking pictures. We were trying to figure out why in the world someone would take the fish heads and leave the rest. Our hiking guide in Juneau told us that the fish are so plentiful that the bears get a little wasteful. They like the brains and the eggs the best so they will eat those and leave the rest. These were really fresh so we missed seeing a bear by probably too close for what I really wanted my bear encounter to be. So maybe a good thing we didn't see any bears.

In Juneau the tour we took was a different one than what I thought I was getting. I thought we were actually hiking to Mendenhall Glacier and would be able to walk out on the glacier. Going back and re-reading the description of the hike I can see where it was wasn't, and also see that it was pretty closely phrased to sure seem like it was. Now, don't get me wrong, it was a gorgeous hike and it was a challenging hike, which was a nice counter to the 24 hour access to food, but it wasn't exactly what I thought I was in for. It's very hard to be upset with views like this, though:
Mendenhall Glacier 

The lady in the ice...

Mendenhall Lake

But I do know if I want to hike on the glacier or the ice fields I will need to take a helicopter tour next time. But then it's only about 15 minutes on the glacier itself. So there are trade offs for sure.

Now, I should back up. Before we pulled in to Juneau we went through the Endicott Arm and saw the Dawes Glacier. It was an early morning, we were up and in the Sky Lounge planted in front of my favorite window before 5 AM. And the whole morning was exactly what I had pictured in my head when I dreamed of taking an Alaskan cruise. It was awe inspiring. 

 Dawes Glacier

A hanging glacier. That means it's not attached directly to a body of water. Our naturalist also said this one didn't have a name so we were free to name it after ourselves. Mastenbrook Glacier sounds pretty impressive right?

I loved watching the ice in the water as well.

Harbour seals, humpback whales, ice flows, birds, glaciers, water falls, it was all just gorgeous. A wonderful morning. 

So on to Skagway...

Everyone says to ride the train in Skagway. But everyone didn't tell me that until after I had already booked our outing so we didn't. Next time. We went and saw the sled dogs. It was, again, not exactly what I had expected. Instead of a small sledge with some sort of wheels that would mimic a winter sledge we were in this giant holds six people and the musher contraption. I thought we would actually work with the sled dogs a little and learn a bit about how to be a musher. It was much more touristy than that. Though these were really sled dogs teams who do work during the winter. But it wasn't exactly what I had been thinking. I was a little disappointed but only a little. I mean I got to spend time with these guys and give them ear scratches:

And the tour ends with this:

So you know, how could you be disappointed really?

Victoria was our last stop and we originally weren't going to do any tours because we were going to have just been there. But when sabbatical got moved our trip to Victoria got pushed as well so we did a short two hour overview tour. Victoria is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to going back and actually exploring it a bit. The tour? Not so great. But again, it was a last minute add and we were probably just expecting too much. We've done tours of other cities before that were in smaller vehicles with more stops and more information about the town and I think that's what we were expecting. This was a giant bus and a driver who talked a lot and said very little. 

But it is gorgeous and we are looking forward to going back. We also checked housing prices while we were reason...

Let's see, what else? We played a fun game called "who bought the drink package?" I swear there were people that were trying to make sure they got their money's worth on that before we ever left Seattle. Crazy. The food was okay. Not bad, not good, just okay. But it was plentiful. You could always find something to eat if you wanted to. And I think that a lot of cruise weight gain for people is that if you get bored you can go get something to eat. I know we did it a couple of times. "Let's grab a snack." The room was decent. Not terribly small and the bathroom was actually much bigger than I thought it would be. Now, that doesn't mean it was big, just bigger than I thought it would be. The bed was not very comfortable and the pillows missed being pillow like, so that was a bummer. The shows were not for us. We came up with a new comedy level. Cruise ship funny. Not a comedian we would pay to see off the ship but he was cruise ship funny... That was the second guy. The first guy we didn't go see his second show. He wasn't even cruise ship funny.

The smaller musical groups were better than the big productions. They had a string duet that was lovely. And an acoustical guitar duo that was really nice. The "house band" was a decent bar band. But the big productions were not great. We saw one that was supposed to be about Mozart called Amade and it was...well...the best I could figure was it was written by a guy who had heard of Hamilton and thought if he put someone in a powdered wig and had them sing Katy Perry it would TOTALLY be the same thing...It wasn't.  I think if we had bought the drink package we might have liked it better, so really that's on us.
I wasn't sure what I thought of the overall experience when I got home. We liked the things we thought we would like (great scenery, easy transportation), we didn't like the things we didn't think we would like (boredom and crowds), so at least we know ourselves very well. The thing that has made me laugh is every night since we've come home I've dreamed about being on a ship so obviously my brain was still processing the trip.

I think we will cruise again. We don't care for the actual cruising part as much, though ironically, two of my favorite days were sailing days (Endicott Arm and sailing in to Victoria looking at TONS of wildlife). But being out to sea if there was nothing to look at would be super boring after a short while. The part that will bring us back is we did really like how easy it was to get places. We saw four cities without having to pack and re-pack. We were able to relax during the transit instead of deal with TSA and small airplane seats and tiny bathrooms. So I think we will do it again. I think we will upgrade to the level where you have access to other restaurants and areas of the ship so we can avoid some of the crowds and maybe get a more comfortable bed. And we will be sticking to cruises with lots of ports of call. It gives an overview of an area and if you want to go back and spend a week someplace you could on your next vacation. I even think we will cruise to Alaska again someday. The next time we will go farther north and see more glaciers and bears dammit...we will see some bears!

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