Monday, May 30, 2011

Alaska Cruise, May 2011, Distances Sailed

Seattle to Juneau
876 nautical miles = 1,007 statute miles = 1,621 kilometers

Juneau to Skagway
94 nautical miles = 108 statute miles = 174 kilometers

Skagway to Glacier Bay
113 nautical miles = 130 statute miles = 209 kilometers

Glacier Bay to Ketchikan
293 nautical miles = 337 statute miles = 542 kilometers

Ketchikan to Victoria
573 nautical miles = 659 statute miles = 1,060 kilometers

Victoria to Seattle
76 nautical miles = 87 statute miles = 141 kilometers

Total distance
2,025 nautical miles = 2,329 statute miles = 3,750 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Alaska Cruise, May 2011, Fly Home

Fly Seattle-Dallas, Dallas-Pensacola
Our flight to Dallas is at 9:20 A.M. Nervous about getting from hotel, to van drop off, to multiple elevators and walk ways, to ticketing and to our gate on time -- we decided to get the 7:00 A.M. hotel van instead of the 7:30 we originally planned on taking.

This meant we had plenty of time to be really critical of the ghastly Seattle Tacoma Airport. It's too big and too spread out. There aren't enough people movers or motorized carts. But there's lots of really good art, including a 9 by 27 foot Frank Stella painting, from his signature "Compass" period.

The flights were smooth. The attendant on the Seattle to Dallas leg was a grump. In Dallas we got a wild and wonderful cart ride from Terminal B to Terminal C, via secret chrome elevators and elevated walkways. Who knew? We arrived on time in Pensacola but waited nearly an hour for our bags.

All was fine at home and we picked up the cats Monday morning. They were fine as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 8, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

We left the ship just before 9:00 A.M. Baggage claim was chaos, in some ways worse than embarkation. Princess did fine -- our bags were where they should be. The Port of Seattle has poor signage and doesn't expect their vendors to extend much in the way of courtesy to the arriving or departing passengers.

We headed to Alamo's car rental kiosk. The person there was not listening to anyone's questions and caused us to tote our luggage a long way. We had a very helpful porter but he put the bags where she told us to. Then she pointed to the other end of the pickup area and said the van will pick up the bags (way, way) down there and there's no one to help you. Again, no signage for the pickup area. After more than an hour a van arrived and we were taken to Alamo's counter at the Hilton. Again long, slow lines. Very slow.

Finally we got a car. Drove south to see some sights and have lunch. Then we checked in at our hotel. It was early afternoon. Good luck, it was a great hotel, we found it by accident, the Holiday Inn Express SeaTac. Excellent room and free popcorn, too.

Early evening we went for dinner and to drop the car at the airport. While at the airport we confirmed our route for the morning. It seems that if you are on foot you cannot cross the street from the "parking garage". I put that in quotes because it's where all vehicles have to take departing passengers, except those coming by private cars.

Seattle is supposed to be so "green" but if you go to the airport by private car you are rewarded. Punished if you come by taxis or hotel vans or if you have just dropped off a rental car. You must find and take an elevator up to a "sky bridge" then cross over to the main building, then another elevator to find ticketing. Not very user friendly.

Good news -- yes, we did get upgraded to first class on American's Seattle to Dallas flight tomorrow morning.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 7, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Our first, and only, foreign port of this cruise. We arrive at 7:00 P.M. and leave at 11:00 P.M. And then on to Seattle, 76 nautical miles away, for disembarkation tomorrow morning.

Why bother with stopping in Victoria at all if we'll be there only four hours? Well, we have to visit a foreign port because of an U.S. maritime law from 1886. Basically the law goes like this:
In order to embark in a US port and disembark in a US port, the vessel must visit a foreign port.
The original law was much more stringent than this but there have been many modifications and reinterpretations since 1886. For instance the 1886 version said the foreign port had to be a "distant" foreign port "outside of North America."

The cruise south was pleasant and the sea was calmer. Mid-afternoon the sun came out and it was warm and there was great visibility.

Victoria at sunset looked like a beautiful city. We stayed on the ship and packed our bags. We put them in the hall before bed and hoped to see them at baggage claim tomorrow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 6, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

We left Glacier Bay about 3:00 P.M. yesterday heading south and got to Ketchikan about 7:00 this morning. The distance is about 300 nautical miles. There's a light rain but it's warmer than yesterday.

Sunrise here today was at 4:20 A.M., sunset at 9:09 P.M., 16 hours and 49 minutes of daylight.

Cruise ships dock right in the middle of downtown.There are shops right beside the ship so we bought some gifts and had some things shipped.

At the left is a photo of Holland America's Westerdam looming over the downtown docks, taken from the Golden Princess by the Terrace Pool.

Shops by the Dock
Dockside shops in Ketchikan make it easy for shopper tourists.

Tonight is formal night and that's a good reason to eat at the Crown Grill again. But the food there is so good we don't really need a reason.

Getting wet outdoors in Ketchikan must really be fun.

We were on our way to Victoria, British Columbia at 12:30 P.M. The distance is 573 nautical miles and it will take until 7:00 P.M. tomorrow to get there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 5, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Alaska's State FlagGlacier Bay
We have now sailed about 1,200 nautical miles since we left Seattle. Today we cruise around Glacier Bay and stop to see several glaciers up close. A cold, but light rain is falling off and on. Lucky for us there's no wind.

Yesterday we got a note from Captain Vincenzo Lubrano inviting us to visit the navigational bridge tomorrow morning. It's always a treat to visit the bridge but today is extra special since the Captain, the local pilot and the Captain's team will be actively maneuvering around the bay and showing us glaciers.

Cruising Around Glacier Bay
Cruising Around Glacier Bay

Throughout the day park rangers are on board and announcing details about what we should watch for and pointing whales and bears.

There are 12 glaciers in Glacier Bay. At the top of the park, the northwestern end, is the Grand Pacific Glacier (and Canada). The Grand Pacific has been receding for many years and is now heading inland. Along the shore of the bay it has left a huge moraine of dirt and rocks. You cannot see the glacier from our ship.

To the left is Margerie Glacier. It rises 250 feet above the bay and 100 feet below it. The ship pulls up close and then slowly turns around so everybody get a good view.

For more photos click here for a slideshow of photos we took in Glacier Bay.

We then continued around the bay and in Johns Hopkins Inlet we stopped to see another tidewater glacier, Lamplugh Glacier.

Lamplugh Glacier
Lamplugh Glacier

Breakfast was from the International Cafe and eaten in our cabin -- self-service room service. Lunch was regular room service and dinner was in the Donatello Dining Room.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 4, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Alaska's State FlagSkagway
Sunrise here today was at 4:07 A.M., sunset at 9:50 P.M., 17 hours and 43 minutes of day light.

We had a quiet morning on the ship and left for the White Pass & Yukon Trail Rail Road train ride at 12:30. We got back around 4:30.

White Pass & Yukon Trail Rail Road
OK -- I didn't really take the above photo, but our train
went along this very section of the track.

Getting good photos from the train was difficult: the train was moving, the track is old and bumpy and the windows are very reflective. I have lots of photos that have wonderful scenery around the edge of the picture and a big, clear reflection of the camera taking up the middle.

The trip, lasting nearly four hours, was wonderful with thrilling scenery. We climbed to nearly 3,000 feet and went along the edges many steep cliffs. In some places the snow beside the tracks was higher than the train cars. After we entered Canada we turned around so everybody got the other view on the way back.

Here is a slideshow of some photos we did take.

Breakfast was in the Horizon Court. Lunch was just snacks because dinner was going to be the Chef's Table event at 6:45. As always at the Chef's Table the wines and food were remarkable and this time the appetizers were all new and my favorite part of the meal.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 3, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Smooth sailing last night up the calm inside passage. So far we have traveled 896.5 nautical miles north from Seattle. The total for the cruise will be a little over 2,000 nautical miles. We are very tired today, feeling the jet lag and the time changes.

There's also a lot more daylight than at home. Sunrise in Juneau was at 4:16 A.M., sunset at 9:36 P.M., for 17 hours and 20 minutes of daylight. In Pensacola today sunrise was at 5:50 A.M., sunset at 7:42 P.M. and there was 3 hours and 28 minutes less daylight.

Heading for Juneau's cruise ship dockOriginally we had planned to take a bus to visit the Mendenhall Glacier but the weather was damp with little visibility. We stayed on the ship and relaxed. Room service for breakfast and Donatello Dining Room for lunch, tea and dinner.

We also spent some time today getting caught up with email and checking out the ship's library. In addition to books, the library also lets you borrow board games. Anybody for "Candyland?" And for a very small charge, I think it's $7, you can buy a needlepoint kit to make a Princess logo glasses case. In nine cruises I have never seen one of these cases or anyone making one.

Downtown Juneau, Alaska from the Golden Princess
A chiily day in Juneau. Nobody's at the pool.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 2, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Alaska's State FlagAt sea
A restful day at sea as we head north into the Inside Passage and on to Juneau in the morning.

The sea isn't very rough but the stabilizers are on most of the time because of the light chop. Weather is damp and gray with temperatures in the low 50s. It's a good day to read, relax, get to know the ship and nap a bit. Most of the time we can see land, far away snow-capped mountains with cliffs along the shore.

At noon today we were half way to Juneau. So far we have gone 450 nautical miles since we left Seattle. We had breakfast in Donatello Dining Room. It has waiter service and everything is cooked to order. Lunch was in the International Cafe in the Atrium. Very good choice of soup, salads and sandwiches and best of all great coffee and French pastries. Excellent food. Tonight is "formal" night and we don't dress up. Dinner was in the Crown Grill Steak House. Excellent as always. And well worth the $25 per person cover charge for the peace and quiet and fantastic service and food.

Life Preserver, Golden Princess
"Hamilton" on the life preserver indicates the ship is
registered in Bermuda.

Ceiling Light in the Atrium by the Panoramic Elevators
This pink flower is a ceiling light in the four-story atrium.
The blossom is huge, about 12 feet across.

Alaska Cruise Handbook by Joe UptonWe have been reading the Alaska Cruise Handbook by Joe Upton. It came with a handy fold out map of our route. There's a mile-by-mile numbering system in the book and on the map that Princess uses as well so we can follow along when announcements are made on board. When we get to Glacier Bay National Park Rangers join us on the Golden Princess to answer questions and point out interesting things via the ship's loud speakers and TV channels.

Tonight we must set our clocks ahead one hour -- we will be in the Alaska Time Zone.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Alaska Cruise, Day 1, on the Golden Princess, May 2011

Alaska's State FlagEmbarkation Day, Port of Seattle, Pier 91
We've sailed on eight cruises before this one. Sailing out of Ft. Lauderdale, Cape Canaveral, and New Orleans. Embarkation is often a frantic rush under the best of circumstances. But we have never experienced one as unpleasant and uncomfortable as Seattle's.

And that's saying a lot when you consider that the dock in New Orleans was a temporary setup -- Princess was testing the New Orleans market with a few winter cruises -- and both the embarkation and disembarkation were conducted in tents. Big, circus-size tents. And the process was handled smoothly and quickly. The Port of New Orleans really came through for Princess; the Port of Seattle didn't care to. When Pier 91 opened a few years ago all the reports said there were some serious service problems. It seems that it hasn't gotten any better.

Seattle's Skyline from Pier 91

Once we got to the part of embarkation that Princess handled, everything got better fast. Helpful people led us through the process and soon we were in our cabin on Dolphin Deck 9. We arrived in the cabin at 12:30 and by 1:00 we had our bags. We were unpacked before muster drill at 3:00. Our cabin steward is Constantine and he appears to be very polite, and efficient. And friendly, too.

The Golden Princess is in great shape and looks beautiful. Launched in 2001, it had a major dry dock refurbishment in 2009. New dining features were added and the cabins and public areas were given new carpets, wall treatments and drapes.

We pulled away from the dock at 5:00 about an hour late. The captain must have been waiting for a group with a delayed flight. We headed north through a slightly choppy sea. We had our dinner in the Horizon Court Buffet.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alaska Cruise (one day before) -- A Sunny Day in Seattle

Alaska's State FlagWe now have all our luggage and it's a sunny, warm day in Seattle. The TV news says it's the first day this spring to reach 70 degrees and by the look of the streets and parks lots of Seattle folks took the day off.

Celebrity Infinity in Seattle

We took a taxi to Pike Place Market and it was shoulder-to-shoulder in there. We found a cafe in the rear of the marketplace and saw Celebrity Infinity docked at the downtown cruise ship terminal.

Pike Place Market sign from downtown.

Pike Place Market sign from the harbor.

This is our ninth cruise and the first time that we have had to fly to the cruise port. In the past we have taken the car and spent a night or two on the way to the ship. Flying adds another complication to the adventure and especially to the packing for the trip.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Alaska Cruise (two days before) -- Fly to Seattle

Alaska's State FlagBilly D. picked us up around 8:30 A.M. and took us to the Pensacola airport for our 10:30 flight to Dallas.

All our flights were uneventful and on time. The good news: American upgraded us to first class, from Dallas to Seattle. The "other" news: they lost our luggage.

The luggage clerk at SeaTac assured us, via her scan code machine, that the bags were coming on another plane and would be delivered to our hotel in the middle of the night. At the hotel we confirmed this by computer and hoped for the best -- very glad we had added an extra day to our itinerary.

Coming in from the airport we were upset about the missing luggage but couldn't help noticing the sunshine and clear skies. No Seattle rain today.

The view from our hotel window
The hotel was good and the front desk clerk told us our room had a great view of the space needle.

The Space Needle as seen from our hotel room window.
And it did.

After a night of fitful sleep, I called the front desk at 5:00 A.M. and learned our bags arrived at 3:00 A.M. All three of them. What a relief.