May 2005 – Alaska & Victoria Cruise
May 8, 2005 – Day 1
San Francisco, CA
Hey everyone! We’re back on the travel log documenting our trip to Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia. This morning, we woke up in Dublin, to begin our day with some final packing and organizing activities. Once completed, Sophie, Alexander, and Mr. Miladinovich came over to pick us up and we all headed to brunch over at Mimi’s Cafe.
Note to self — Mother’s Day at Mimi’s Cafe is an experience! Although Natalie was brilliant and called in our name at 10am for an 11:15 arrival, we still weren’t seated until almost 11:45… I guess we still should be grateful though — folks arriving at 11:45 had a 2 hour wait! Long story short, brunch was good, and we got on the very wet and rainy road to Pier 35 on the Embarcadero to begin our trip.
Arriving at the Cruise Port, we found almost no line… Our timing had been perfect! I don’t think we waited more than a few minutes for both check-in and security screening, and we were headed to our cabin.
The Regal Princess is a great ship, but much smaller than the ships Natalie and I remember from previous travel. This might take a little getting used to, but ultimately, it is a great vessel to be traveling to Alaska on. The number of passengers is fewer, the lines are shorter or non-existent, and so far, the crew has been very nice.
We met our cabin steward, Rey, and dropped off a few bags and headed outside to pull out of the harbor. Outside, on the Sun Deck, we began to pull away and grabbed some pictures of San Francisco Bay… The best part — we had just about 45 minutes of dry sky while we moved out of the Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Hopefully, the rest of the trip will follow.
Back inside, where it was dry — we toured the ship and found a lot of the key places to hang out and play.
Dinner was at 8:15, where we met our dining staff. Nelson, our main waiter from Portugal, seems like a good guy, but too rigid and “What do you want?”. Our assistant waiter, Dirk, makes up for it. He’s from South Africa and just wants to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves.
After dinner, we headed into our first show of the trip in the International Show Lounge. It was a bit of a variety show giving everyone a feel for the entertainment on the ship.
Time to retire, tomorrow is a day at sea, so more exploration of the ship, and maybe an Art Auction to see if we can find a few more great pieces for the house.
See you tomorrow!
May 9, 2005 – Day 2
At Sea – En Route to Ketchikan
Our first morning on the ship began with Continental Breakfast delivered to our cabin. According to the comedian we saw last night, cabin is a contraction for cabinet… Actually, our room is pretty good size.
Today was a day at sea, and our first opportunity to see how the Regal Princess would respond to 1,500 people all on one ship, with less than Carribbean-like weather. Temperatures outside in the low 50s with a stiff sea breeze meant that few if any folks would be out sunning themselves on the deck chairs.
At 11:30am, we were invited to a Martini Demonstration in the Bengal Bar. There, the bar, covered in a large metal criss-cross gate was opened to reveal a pretty impressive array of liquor and spirits… More than enough to sink everyone in the room — check out the pictures…
At the demo, the ship bar staff provided a demonstration and recipes of how to make 6 different Martinis — the 007, Appletini, Cosmopolitan, Very Berry Martini, Toasted Almond, and Chocolate Mint Martini. After each demonstration martini was poured into the glass on the main bar, at least 60 shot glasses came out on large serving trays. And so the sampling began…
It was a great hour of trying out new drinks, and the demonstration was quite entertaining. The bartender in charge was a funny Filipino man who couldn’t seem to stop chanting, “Shake, Shake, Shake… Shake Your Booty”, whenever someone was making a martini… All in all, a lot of fun, and a great diversion as we continued to make our way towards Alaska.
After a lunch run in the pizzeria, we headed down to the ship atrium for the first Art Auction of the cruise. Since it was the first auction of the cruise, the auctioneer gave an intro the process, and a few sets of pieces were available to bid on. Because of the Captain’s cocktail reception later that afternoon, only about 15-20 pieces were shown. Not a ton of action bid wise, but looking forward to a few more chances over the course of the next few days.
Tonight, was the first formal night of the cruise, so we got dressed up and joined the other passengers for the Captain’s Welcome. Plenty of suits, dresses, and great food in the dining room.
The show this evening was called “Piano Man” and saluted a bunch of famous piano playing entertainers. The show staff did a fine job, and helped to cap our first full day at sea.
May 10, 2005 – Day 3
At Sea – Enroute to Ketchikan
It was a relatively mellow day today, as we enjoyed our second day at sea. We spent most of the morning resting up, as the next 3 days will be in port and quite busy.
Once we got started (about 11:30), we explored the ship a bit, found a few activities on board and settled into a trivia contest where we met some nice folks. We didn’t win, and in fact our final score was -5, (yes it is negative, but the winning team only had -2) so we didn’t feel so bad. Have to admit though… Some of these cruise passengers get a little nuts over winning some Princess luggage tags and tote bags!
That afternoon, we didn’t to change the pace a bit and dress for dinner early as we had a 6pm date with the Princes Theatre, an on-board Movie Theatre playing newly released DVD movies. It was quite impressive and was a 200 seat movie theater right down to the comfortable folding chairs — only thing missing was the popcorn…
Our movie today was National Treasure, starring Nicholas Cage. The movie was great and we had a wonderful time. The movie promptly finished up a few minutes before dinner and we headed on over to dinner, where we enjoyed a great evening with our tablemates.
At the end of dinner, Chris, Jon, Natalie and I ended up chatting at length with our assistant waiter, Dirk about South Africa. Looks like we may have our next trip in the works!
The show this evening was the onboard comedian, but we ended up talking so late with Dirk that we missed the entire thing! Off to bed… Tomorrow is Ketchikan!
May 11, 2005 – Day 4
Even though we were only in port for about 8 hours, Natalie and I definitely made the most of our time in Ketchikan, a city (not sure if I am legally able to call it that) of 14,000 on the island of Ravilla in Southeast Alaska. It is only accessible by boat and airplane, so the quote of the day is, “Cars here don’t die of overuse, just from old age…”
Arriving into Ketchikan at 6:30 in the morning, we went up on deck to grab a few pictures, and then enjoyed breakfast on board.
Our first excursion of the day was a floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords, and although I will try, words won’t do it justice. Natalie and I, along with 4 fellow Regal Princess passengers boarded our plane and got strapped in at the “floatplane airport” with 2 airlines. The airport reminded me most of the old TV show “Wings”. Once in the plane, our pilot gave us a quick safety check, pointing out the life vests, safety beacons, etc. They obviously weren’t needed, but it was nice to know.
We each put on a set of noise cancelling headsets so we could hear the pilot and a recorded commentary of the trip. Our pilot knew a ton about the area we were flying in, so he really did most of the work, and then let the soothing sounds of Enya fill in the blanks.
We reached 130 miles per hour and experienced our first water takeoff. It was flawless. We saw the coastline, the town of Ketchikan (yes, I am calling it a town now…) from afar, and headed into the skys over the amazing Tongass National Forest.
We flew for about 35 minutes, seeing waterfalls, pristine lakes, and amazing rock faces and we flew at about 1200 feet for most of the trip. Then came the next great moment of the trip. We landed on the water in the middle of this cove that was just awesome. A mountain peak juts up one side, a waterfall cascading into the water on the other. Then we deplaned, and got to hang on the planes floats for a few minutes, taking the sights, seeing a bald eagle, and taking pictures.
Back into the plane, and 35 minutes back to Ketchikan, you just want to take it all in, all the while snapping picture after picture.
Another takeoff and another landing later, we were back in the Ketchikan Harbor. It was a great trip.
Time for lunch, and so Natalie and I combined some sightseeing into the lunch run by boarding the funicular railway to the Cape Fox Lodge. We enjoyed a hearty meal while taking in the totem poles and scenic views of the Lodge, which sits several hundred feet above the town.
After lunch, we headed back to sea level, and took care of a few errands before heading back to the ship.
Back on the ship, a nap was in order, followed by another great film in the Princess Theatre. Tonight was “Finding Neverland”. Again, great flick, and this time, we brought our own snacks.
We enjoyed another great dinner, followed by a production show called Country Roads. Tomorrow, we head into Juneau!
May 12, 2005 – Day 5
Our first big port day brought us to the capital of Alaska, where we arrived into port around 7:00am in the morning. After breakfast in the cabin, we headed out to check out the downtown area, where we saw the State Capitol, Marine Park, among other locations. Right near the ship was the Mount Roberts Tramway. This tramway looks like a gigantic ski lift, and take 60 people at a time up and down the mountain.
Natalie and I grabbed our tickets and headed up the mountain for the views from above. There, we grabbed lunch with a skyline view, got to see a bald eagle, who was being cared for because he had been blinded in his right eye, and took in some great views of the city and valley below. All around us in these areas are towering peaks covered in snow, waterfalls, and lush green forests. Definitely beats looking out the window at another concrete building or miles upon miles of freeway traffic.
We needed to head down the mountain to meet our shore excursion at 12:20pm. Today, Natalie and I went kayaking out at North Douglas, located about 9 miles north of Juneau. We met our guides, grabbed plenty of gear (spray suits, life jackets, paddles, and our kayaks) and headed out into the waters to see the mountains, local wildlife (birds mostly), and to see the Mendenhall Glacier from afar.
The kayaking was quite fun. Natalie and I did a pretty good job in our two seater, and we completed about 2 miles around the cove before finishing up. The waterproof camera did come in handy though, as the tide and the wind picked up later in the trip and things got a little wet.
That afternoon, returning to Juneau, we exited one bus, and boarded another — the Glacier Express to take us up to Mendenhall Glacier. We got to see it from about 6 miles away, while kayaking, and it was impressive, so we figured the close up view would be even better.
Arriving at the glacier, we had about an hour to look around and take pictures, so we got right to it. Although it was a quick trip, it was well worth it.
Back in Juneau, we stopped off at the Public Library, where free internet access allowed us to upload the first 4 days of the travel log and pictures.
Back to the ship — tomorrow is Skagway!
May 13, 2005 – Day 6
Skagway is small… But that is what makes it so great! With a population of only 800, during the cruise season, most of the guides, trips, and workers in this tiny, former gold rush town come from Haines and other locations to give Skagway a needed worker boost.
Arriving into Skagway early in the morning, Natalie and I took a quick walk into “downtown”. When downtown is only 1 block wide by 7 blocks long, it doesn’t take too long…
We did a quick walk through town, grabbed some pictures, and headed to meet our tour for the day. The Glacier
Point Wilderness Safari was described as a bit of everything tour. We got the recommendation from Natalie’s sister, Sophie, and let me tell you — we were not disappointed. We boarded a catamaran to take a high speed trip down the Lynn canal, and headed towards Glacier Point. On the way, our guide, Ben, walked us through the area, from the environment, to the animals and the sealife. He was extremely knowledgable and really loved his job. Made all the difference on this tour.
Upon arriving at Glacier Point, we learned that Ben and his 11 fellow tour guides are the only permanent residents on Glacier Point during the tour season, with everyone leaving during the Winter season. They live in very simple setups, with individual cabins and a community area. they take care of the 4×4 buses, the canoes, and the facilities.
Upon seeing the scenery that these guides share for 5 months out of the year, I could understand the wanting to be out here in this majestic area. It is amazing. With jagged mountain peaks, temperate rain forest, and a glacier making up the final component of that backdrop, you almost want to spend a few extra days or weeks here…
We took a 1 1/2 mile drive in a 4×4 bus to the setup area, where we were layered up… I had a long-sleeve shirt and a sweatshirt. Then they gave us another hooded sweatshirt, a rain jacket, and a life jacket. Bulky, but appreciated, as the temperature drops about 15-30 degrees as our trip progresses.
We took a 1/3 mile hike out to the canoes, where we boarded 9 person canoes, and began paddling out to the Davidson Glacier (which is about a mile from the canoes). The river we paddled up was a chilly 36 degrees and the closer you get to the glacier, the colder it gets… We viewed the glacier from afar, and as we got closer, we saw icebergs the size of school buses floating in the cove. Rounding them, we moved closer to the glacier, and it just got bigger and bigger. Check out the picture on the right with the canoe for perspective… It was a great trip with amazing guides.
We made our way back to the ship on the catamaran, where we got to see harbor seals, stellar sealions, and of course, a bald eagle or two…
Back on land, we picked up a really good milkshake at the Kone Kompany in Skagway, and attempted to find internet access. Unfortunately, we were out of luck as the place we were looking for was closed due to damage from a broken water pipe… So we will have to update the log when we get home…
Back to the ship, for another great dinner, and the evening production show — Shake, Rattle, and Roll… Think 50s and 60s… Tomorrow, Tracy Arm Scenic Cruising!
May 14, 2005 – Day 7
Tracy Arm Scenic Cruising
Today was a unique combination of scenic cruising in the Tracy Arm and a Day at Sea as we work our way towards Victoria, British Columbia. Well, bright and early at 6am this morning, we entered the start of the Tracy Arm. I was awake with camera in hand, and as I made my way onto the open decks to see the scenery, it was cold — chill you to the bone cold. Funny part was that we didn’t have any problems in any of our ports with this, but mix the cold water, with the glaciers, and the gray storm clouds above, and we were in a perfect equation for an impressive wind chill.
We began down the Tracy Arm seeing some nice waterfalls and sheer rock faces in the fjord. The naturalist on board was providing commentary as we moved our way slowly up the channel. As was progressed though, we were noticing more and more surface ice. Normal for a glacier, but the concentrations were getting more and more dense.
We still had a way to go when the announcement came over the loudspeaker — Further up the channel, the ice has packed solid and we would proceed no further for the safety of the passengers and the ship. Check out the pictures!
We headed back inside to warm up and to enjoy another day at sea… Tomorrow, another day at sea as we continue making our way towards Victoria!
May 15, 2005 – Day 8
At Sea – En Route to Victoria
Today was a nice, relaxing day. There was still a lot to do onboard though. We started the day with a culinary demonstration with the Dining Staff. We got to see three different dishes being prepared by the Executive Chef of the ship. Then, members of the audience with special circles in their programs were invited up to the stage to try out the dishes. There was a Salmon Fettucine, a spicy shrimp dish, and cherries jubilee for desert. Along with watching the food being prepared, we were also provided with some recipes of some of the more popular dishes that we have had on ship.
From there, we headed over to trivia before the bar staff came back for an encore performance with their bar demonstration… Today’s focus — Margaritas… 5 Margaritas were made for us, along with the ever so popular SAMPLES for each of us to try out. 18 Karat Gold Margaritas, Melon Margaritas, Blue Margaritas, Peach Margaritas, and the Very Berry Margarita. A great time was had by all!
From there, a trip to the Mexican buffet brought plenty of Quesadillas, Enchiladas, and everything in between, as we made our way through the way too busy dining room.
The art auction was in the afternoon, and again, plenty of art, some of which was intriguing, but nothing too absolutely had to have today.
This afternoon, in the Princess Theatre, we caught the 5pm showing of Meet The Fockers. Great movie, and lots of laughs before heading back to the cabin to prep for the last formal night of the cruise.
Dinner was wonderful as usual, and the lobster was flowing. Lots and lots of lobster. We kept the wait staff busy as they went back for lobster tail after lobster tail.
We had another stage production show tonight, followed by the big party and champagne waterfall in the Atrium. You would have thought it was New Years! A huge balloon drop, lots of music, and plenty of champagne! It was a lot of fun.
Tomorrow — Victoria
May 16, 2005 – Day 9
Arriving into Victoria at 6:00am, it was a bit on the dark and dreary side, but there was no rain to be found, at least not yet… Natalie and I were one of the first off of the ship today as we decided to head out on our own, rather than take a shore excursion from the ship. Our game plan was pretty simple… First, we walked the 1 1/4 mile from the cruise ship dock to downtown Victoria…
Once there, we saw the Parliament building and Victoria Harbor. By this time, we were nearing 7am, so we headed to the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel for breakfast. We dined at the breakfast buffet in Kipling’s – the hotel’s restaurant, and let me tell you — the ship’s food isn’t too bad, but this was what makes a 5 star hotel truly 5 Star.
After breakfast, we walked out the back door of the hotel, and crossed the street to Budget Rent-A-Car, where we picked up our Silver Chevy Malibu for the day. We left downtown, and began heading north and west towards Brentwood Bay, and Butchart Gardens.
The freeways on Vancouver Island are a bit slow for my liking — 80 kph or 50mph, but we made good time, and arrived to Butchart Gardens early — about 8:30am, which gave us about 30 minutes before all of the tour buses began to arrive. We got our tickets, and as the rain began to come down, we picked up free umbrellas (very, very smart of Butchart) and headed out to see the gardens.
It was quite an impressive setup. The old rock quarry had been transformed with gardens, statues, fountains, and huge numbers of flowers from all points around the world. Made for some pretty cool sightseeing and picture taking.
After making our way through the gardens, we headed out to Church & States Winery (formerly Victoria Estate Winery) to do some wine tasting. There Natalie tried out 4 different wines and the Merlot stood out, so we picked up a bottle.
Heading back to Victoria, we pulled in for some gas, and made our way back to the car rental facility to drop off. Although our time in Victoria was brief, it really made a positive impression on us. So much so, that I think we may make a return visit in the not too near future.
Back on the ship, we watched another art auction while playing cards, and rested a bit in the afternoon before dinner. Tonight, was Alaskan, and couldn’t be complete without the parade of Baked Alaska around the room.
The show for this evening was called “Curtain Up” and the singers and dancers did a fine job as always. Another long, but enjoyable day…
Tomorrow — Our final day at sea…
May 17, 2005 – Day 10
At Sea – En Route to San Francisco
Our final day at sea before heading home brought us a whole lotta rocking and rolling. So much so that the Captain closed the outside decks for the safety of the passengers. Not that we would want to be outside in 48 degree weather, with stiff winds, heavy swells, and pelting rain…
So… It was a perfect day to be inside. As it was the last day before heading home, we needed to start packing, but before we did that, Natalie had a morning at the spa. She bid on a “Pick A Mix” at the Art Auction and picked up an hour of spa services for only $35. Kinda wish I had too! She got a mini facial, head, neck, and shoulder massage. Very nice!
Packing our bags took a bit, but they are done and allows us the rest of the day to enjoy activities on the ship…
We headed up to lunch at the pizzeria, where we picked up a veggie and a ham pizza. They were pretty good.
From there, we headed down to the art auction and selected a frame for one of our pieces. So far, this trip, we have picked up 3 pieces. Two we purchased, and the third we won in a raffle.
May 18, 2005 – Day 11
Arrival Back In San Francisco
Wrote this one early, as today was our arrival into San Francisco at 6:00am. Customs, immigration, and then disembarkation at 9:00am. We’re headed home to do a bunch of laundry, but had a great time this trip, and look forward to the next trip! Check back soon for the details of the next vacation!