Monday, July 27, 2015

July 18th - Time to go home

We pulled in Vancouver in the early morning. We decided to head straight home because we figured we would be ready after 16 days in Alaska. We were right. 

Our cab ride through Vancouver  left us wanting more. I can definitely see us heading back there for a 3 - 4 nights. 

We had a quick and easy experience leaving Vancouver - especially because we have Global Entry. It's great you clear US Customs and Immigration before you even board the plane. 

We had an easy flight home connecting through Houston. 

Re-entry was a bit rough. This was one of the toughest jet lags I've experienced. The only other one as bad was Japan. I think it was the combination of having trouble adjusting to the 4 hour time change on the front end because it never go dark and just enough of a time change to make things a bit difficult. 

July 17th - Sea Day aka Pub Crawl

Our last day on the ship was a Sea Day. We decided to do a pub crawl heading to all the bars on the ship with our friends Tom and Margaret. In retrospect, it was a little weird to take the most beautiful, warm day we had with amazing scenery to hop from bar to bar, but it was a blast!
The day started with Coffee and Bloody Marys 

Martinis with a shot of espresso - that's a breakfast drink - right?
We ran into our friends Jon an Jackie
The ship had a Noro Virus scare so they weren't handing out fruit. It's a weird rule. We did shots of tequila so the bartender found us some limes

Lunch with our favorite bartender - Jake 

We did finally go outside - A drink from our Mini-Bar 

Glenn and I picked up the Penny Whistle from our cabin to serenade the end of our pub crawl. 

July 16th - Ketchikan

Ketchikan turned out to be my favorite port. It's the port I am most excited to return to. We headed out in the morning on an Eagles, Totems, and Lighthouse excursion. This was the perfect excursion after so many intense excursions. The Captain was a little odd. He reminded us of a Jim Carey character in a movie making fun of people who go on these type of tours. Here's the Captain:

We saw several bald eagles, got a glimpse of the famous Totem poles and did see a lighthouse.

After the tour, we headed into town. The Maitre'D had recommended the Burger Barn for a good burger. We hustled over there, ordered a burger and headed next door to the Aslym for a beer. It took about 30 minutes for the burger. It was good.. really good. We headed over the Great Lumberjack Show.

I loved it!! It was so much fun! It was about an hour show going through some key challenges. I liked the corny jokes. It was worth the price of admission. 

We headed back to the boat to prepare for the 2nd formal night. This was lobster night. 

We were pleasantly surprised it was Maine Lobster. We are used to Caribbean lobster on other Caribbean sailings. 

That night, there was a balloon drop in the lobby to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Mosaic played and it was SO MUCH FUN! 

July 15th - Juneau

Juneau was one of the ports I was most excited to visit because the excursions are fantastic. We signed up for the Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari. I chose the excursion because it meant a small boat with windows that could open to take better pictures. Our guide was terrific, but he took the photo safari part pretty seriously. Let's just say he was not impressed with my hot pink Canon point and shoot. He would make comments like "For those of you who have cameras you can actually change the setting on...." It was pretty funny. 

We board a boa to headed out. We were so lucky we immediately got reports of a group of Humpback whales in the area. We came across a group of 7 - 9 humpback whales playing. Three of them breeched. It was an incredible moment. I even got a little teary-eyed. But - I didn't get any pictures. I'll just have to remember it always. 

Sleeping sea lions are must easier to take picture of. 
Not Pregnant - Those are my hat and gloves. 

After the boat ride, we headed over to the Mendenhall Glacier. Gastineau Guides are the only tour company allowed to offer a guided a hike on a trail that leads the back way to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor's Center. It was really nice to hike in with just us and see the glacier from what felt like a private view area. 

After the Glacier, we head back to town. We got dropped off in town and explored a couple local bars and had a great lunch at a local cafe. 

We enjoyed another night on board. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

July 14th: Skagway

Skagway is a small isolated town in Southeastern Alaska. When we visited, they hadn't had eggs in two weeks. A barge comes every Tuesday to bring supplies and they just didn't have any.

For Skagway, we signed up for two excursions. The first one was breakfast at the Red Onion Saloon and a Suspension Bridge in the Yukon of Canada. The excursion was well done. The Red Onion Saloon's history as a brothel was really interesting and a good glimpse into what the town must have been like during the Gold Rush.

The scenery on the bus ride was great. The Suspension Bridge was cool and we got to try some Canadian beers.

After the tour, we headed back to the ship for lunch. Princess highlights local food as part of the lunch offerings. Today, they were highlighting crab cakes. They were really good. 

After lunch, we tried some beers at the Skagway Brewing Company and did some window shopping. We bought a bottle of Alaska Rhubarb vodka as a souvenir. Our second excursion was on the White Pass Railway train. It went the same way as the bus ride from the morning - just on the other side of the river.  The train had the best scenery. 

We arrived late back to the ship and headed straight to dinner. Tom and Margaret met us after their Crown Grill Dinner. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 10th - 13th: So many Glaciers

On Friday, we headed back to Anchorage to meet up with our traveling party. We had a late lunch, did laundry, and then headed to Glacier Brewhouse. That was a great choice. The service and good was excellent. I had the King salmon special. Glenn had the halibut special with cajun seasoning. Both dishes were really good. The beer was also excellent. The best beer the thought was the cask conditioned IPA. After dinner, we headed to Snow Goose restaurant. The restaurant has a rooftop bar with views of the mountains.

On Saturday, we boarded the Alaska railroad for a ride to Whittier. 

We were in the back car on the second level so we had great views of the mountains. We saw two moose on the way. We  passed through a couple tunnels chiseled in the mountains. Boarding the ship was really easy. 

We had a great first lunch in the dining room. Impressed with the size of our cabins balcony. It was largest balcony we ever had. Dinner Saturday night was terrible - both the service and the food.  We were worried about the rest of the trip. After dinner, we went up to the nightclub and enjoyed the great DJ. It was incredible to be sitting in the night club at 11 o'clock at night with a full daylight view. We even saw some otters.

On Sunday, the ship headed to Hubbard Glacier. In the morning, we attended a lecture from the naturalist on board. She had a lot of great info about glaciers and what our best opportunities for wildlife sightings would be. We played morning trivia and had a great pub lunch in the Crown Grill. We heard a pioneer filmmaker talk about living in Alaska and his National Geographic show - Dead End Express. We took a penny whistle class that comically serious. Imagine Glenn and I playing a recorder. Then we saw Hubbard Glacier.  

The glacier is six miles wide. Entering the bay we saw icebergs with seals laying on top. We took turns going back and forth between our balcony and  Jon and Jackie's balcony on the other side of the ship. 

It was incredible. Dinner Sunday night was very good. It was formal night so Princess had their signature Champagne toast. 

On Monday, the ship entered Glacier Bay National Park. We got up early and met the naturalist on the front of the ship. We saw otters and a pod of humpback whales. As we cruised through the bay, we enjoyed all the glaciers and commentary by the park rangers. At Margerie glacier we saw a huge area of the glacier calve off into the ocean. 

The sounds of the glacier were incredible. It sounds like gun shots and thunder as pieces of ice break off. We had another great dinner. I had a great Thai halibut and the king crab legs were so delicious. This was the best menu we have ever seen on a cruise ship. Glenn sang karaoke. We listened to Mosaic a bit more and headed to bed.

Friday, July 10, 2015

July 9th - A day on the river

We saw a bear and a bear cub! Today we spent the day on the Kenai river on a rafting trip through Alaska Wildland Adventures. It was was a fantastic day. The scenery was gorgeous. When we were traveling around the lake - we even saw a bear.

For dinner, we went to Showcase Lounge - an old school place in downtown Seward known for its Halibut Butt. You can get a "bucket of butt". We had a little wait, but it was worth it. The seats were vinyl love seats on wheels. Totally awesome. 

After dinner, we headed to the bar across the street. Still couldn't get used to the fact it was 11:00 pm at night and it was still light out. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

July 8th- Seward Museum, Chinooks, Humpback whales

We started the day exploring Seward. We took a walk along the harbor and saw several otters paddling around. Then we headed to the Seward  museum. It is located in the Main Library right downtown. It's a nice collection of exhibits telling the history of Seward. Took us about 30 minutes to walk through it. At the end, a table with binders with more information was really interesting. I read the profiles of some of the early pioneers. They also have a reproduction of a newspaper from 1925. The part of the museum I liked the best was the section about when this area had been owned by Russia. I thought that was an interesting look at how these settlements really started.

For lunch we had to do to Chinooks-  a harbour front restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised by the modern menu - especially the cocktails. The best dish of the day was the halibut cheeks. They were served in kind of a seafood chowder with deep fried capers. They were delicious. Glenn had the steak salad which was very very good. I had to bahn mi sandwich which was okay.

We headed back to the lodge to wait for our friends Tom and  Margaret to arrive. Then we headed out on a boat. We took the Kenai  Fox Island dinner cruise. We are headed out into the fjord, stopped at Fox Island for a prime rib, salmon, and king crab dinner, and then headed back. A real treat on the way back was when we came across the pod of 7-9 humpback whales feeding. We watched as they circled around and use bubble netting to capture a lot of fish. We even saw several them come to the surface several times. I was so excited.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

July 7th - Exit Glacier

We started the day at the Bake Shop. This cute little bakery in Girdwoos served up some good breakfast.
We hit the road for Steward. The views on Steward highway are beautiful. We headed to Exit Glacier. It's one of the few glaciers in Alaska you can hike to from the road. It was a moderately  strenuous hike uphill. The views were incredible. I was shocked at how much the glacier has receded since I have been here in 2000. There was a sign showing the difference.
After glacier viewing, we headed to downtown Steward for lunch. Steward Brewing company serves up some good brews and some good food. They had a great steak salad. We had to laugh because the wings were tiny. Glenn call them one bite wings.
We did some souvenir shopping. Then we went to Steward Windsong Lodge to check in. The resort feels like summer camp. The rooms are in blocks of 8 spread out around the property. It's a functional room. We walk down to the Salmon Bake for dinner. We couldn't resist the bug sign out front advertisng cheap beer and lousy food. It had neither. We drank our beer out of mason jars and enjoyed the fried halibut. We had a nightcap at the Resurrection Roadhouse which is part of the resort. They had a great beer list. Again we enjoy the beautiful weather.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 6th - Roadhouse, Hot Dogs, and a mountain

Breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse is a must do. The portions are huge. You eat family style at long tables. It was fun to chat up other travelers from around the world. The food was okay. I think that a place known for the quantity over the quality of the food is a good indication of what you're going to get.
We hit the road Anchorage. Our destination in Anchorage with the International House of Hot Dogs. This was on Glenn must do list. It turns out the International House of Hot Dogs is a trailer in an auto parts store parking lot. It was the friendliest service we have ever had. And the hot dogs were delicious. We both had reindeer polish sausages with different toppings. Glenn's had pineapple, sauteed onions, salsa, mayo, and jalapenos. My reindeer polish had onions and a chipotle cream sauce. We also tried the smoked salmon quesadillas. All the food was very good.
We headed down Seward Highway to Girdwood. The views are fantastic. We arrived at Hotel Alyeska on the side of a mountain. We checked in and then headed out for a  on Winner Creek Trail. A five mile hike. Which may have been a little more than my couch potato legs were ready for. We hiked to a gorgeous creek and the only way to get across it is on a hand pulled tram. We didn't take the tram because the line was long but it was really cool to see.
For dinner we headed up a motorized tram to the top of the mountain to eat at 7 glaciers restaurant. We got a seat at the bar with an amazing view and had a fantastic meal. The highlights of the meal were the scallop bisque, the kale salad, halibut ceviche, and the chocolate tart. The bartenders were really friendly and made some good drinks. One of our favorite drinks was the rhubarb cosmopolitan made with Alaskan rhubarb vodka. It was a really really fun night with a gorgeous view.

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 5th - ATVs, Gold Panning, and Target Practice

We took the Homestead ATV tour. After a brief lesson and test drive, we headed out on ATVs with a family from China. We took a tour of downtown Talkeetna. We stopped by the VFW - the site of the annual bachelor auction. We watched a plane land on the town air strip. Then we headed out to Dennis' homestead. We had to cross a couple bridges. It took a bit of concentration as the bridge is 46 inches wide and the ATVS are 43 inches wide.
Dennis showed us the original homestead of his family.  His family moved to Alaska in the sixties and took advantage of the Federal Homesteading Act to secure a deed to  mile by half mile plot of Alaskan wilderness. He still lives there and took us to his cabin for lunch, target practice, and panning for gold.
It was a lot of fun. The gun was huge and used for protection against bears. It was so loud! Glenn and I both go within an inch of the bullseye. The parents in the Asian family both got bullseyes. They were so excited!
After the tour, we were very dusty. We headed into town to enjoy the gorgeous weather. It was in the seventies and sunny. We sampled some Alaskan beer at Whispering Cafe. Then had fried artichokes and pork belly at Twisted Creek. We finished with salmon at Latitude 62 - a more spot popular among the locals. They have four tables outside. When we entered the restaurant and asked to sit outside, the bartender said, "Sure, but I'll probably forget about you." We laughed. Gotta love a restaurant with with a warning.
We headed back to the cabin to chill out for the rest of the night.