Archive for June, 2008

Day Eight

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Today we will cruise into Glacier Bay and will be joined by National Park Service Rangers who will give informative talks and offer commentary. They arrive and leave the ship via a small boat. Due to the focus on the glaciers, events and activities that may distract are not scheduled. Even the boutiques and the casino is closed!!

We learn that when John Muir discovered Glacier Bay less than a century after Cpt. Vancouver sailed through it in 1794, it had retreated 40 miles and today that is 60 miles.The resulting colonization of plants and animals is fascinating. It takes years after the ice retreats for plants to take hold and eventually turn into forest, so you see different ecosystems. There are whales, harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters, brown and black bears, wolves, mountain goats and over 200 species of birds.


Being trained spotters the Rangers were able to point out things we would have missed otherwise. At one point the male Ranger pointed out a Grizzly on the side of a mountain. It was very light colored so he talked about how they actually can look quite blond. It was very hard to see even with binoculars, but it was moving, and then he said ” Oh wait! It’s a mountain goat!” This cracked up the female Ranger who was so happy that it was him and not her that announced it as a Grizzly and it was referred to as the Grizzly Goat from then on. As the day progressed we did see 7 grizzlies though, close enough to be positively identified. I got some photos with the binocular camera but they seem to have disappeared. I remember deleting some to make room for more and on the little screen I’m sure they looked like not so pretty scenery. We also saw sea otters, whales and eagles.

We did get lots closer than this, but were not allowed to get too close to the glaciers because the seal mothers and babies would be disturbed. I can’t remember if it was 5 or 7 miles, so you can imagine how huge and magnificent these things are!


We did see them calve, huge pieces dropping off into the sea with a tremendously loud noise like cracking thunder.


The blue color is due to the highly compacted ice.This photo is a closeup taken with the binocular camera.


The dirty looking parts are an accumulation of dirt and rocks from avalanches, rock slides and the scouring of the rock face, which is ground as fine as powder and is called glacial silt. As the glaciers calve and melt the glacial silt is suspended in the water and gives it a unique color.

I was cold and windy on deck, I was glad that I had packed layers but wished I had a scarf, too. There are windbreaking glass areas and inside viewing areas as well, but the best photo ops are outside. We disembarked the Rangers and left Glacier Bay a little after 3 in the afternoon; it was an amazing experience!

Activities resumed with such things as ceramics, afternoon tea, trivia games, dancing classes, fine art auction, golf simulator, ping-pong tournament, etc. I checked my email and worked on the community jigsaw puzzle – something for everyone!! The evening’s performance in the main theater was another song and dance review ” Do You Wanna Dance” – great as usual!

Day Seven

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Another beautiful sunshiny, blue sky kind of day. We have not had rain since Vancouver. Everyone says it is unusual but we are happy! Today’s bus ride takes us into Canada so we need to bring passports. We will go from a temperate 70 degrees into freezing cold and see where the goldrushers walked into the Yukon Territory with their required 1000 pounds of goods. This meant at least 10 trips up a treacherous mountain pass and many did not make it. I wouldn’t want to do it once with no pack!

On the way we were so fortunate to see these black bears foraging on the side of the road – a mother with her two cubs! This was not too far out of Skagway and she was quite unconcerned about the bus.

Notice the lupines, there are so many flowers here.

Continuing on we progressed through about 5 different climate zones til we were in this inhospitable area much like where the men crossed the mountains. I didn’t get a picture of the actual pass as it was gone before I got the camera ready. And just think – this is SUMMER – they mostly did it in winter when they could take advantage of frozen lakes and rivers to aide their passage!


The area is not without natural beauty with many waterfalls and ponds which freeze clear to the bottom so contain no fish.


Back in Skagway we opted to get off the bus in town and visit a couple of museums to learn more about the history of the area and actually see the display of the goods required for the aspiring gold seekers to attempt entry to the Klondike. It’s amazing to me that any of them made it and sad to realise that very few that did, achieved the level of success they expected.

The town is about half made up of jewelry stores as has been the case of the other towns we have stopped at, too. The other half is mostly touristy junk shops with at least one saloon with the requisite “brothel girls” and photo ops.

Back on the ship, we attended afternoon tea, which is offered every afternoon and is somethng I have wanted to try. A formal high tea served with a musical background – quite elegant!

After dinner we attended the evening’s theater offering which was another comedy show starring Kevin Jordan a former LA police officer who has been on Comedy Central. He was SO funny! One of the lounges had a local entertainer doing a musical journey of folklore, songs and poetry of the area. We could only see a little of that as they overlapped. There is so much to do sometimes it is hard to choose!

Day Six

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Our tour for this day is the Tram to the top of Mt Roberts which was a disappointment. We had an all day pass but once was enough and could have been had for way less money on our own. The usual gift shop, native arts and artisans, nature trails that were inaccessible due to slippery snow pack. The views were fantastic though, from the observation deck.


This is our ship, the Diamond Princess from the top of Mt Robers. It looks small from way up here!


The day was overcast but no rain. We have been so lucky with the weather on this trip.

Back on the ship early, we had lunch and attended the afternoon presentation by Libby Riddles: “Sled Dogs and Adventure”. She was the first woman to win the grueling Iditarod Sled Dog Race in 1985 by continuing on through a deadly blizzard in order to maintain her lead, a feat that helped to capture the attention of the nation and put the Iditerod on the map. She has been mushing dogs for 30 years and has a kennel of 40 Alaskan Huskies from her winning bloodlines. She has written three best selling books, “Race Across Alaska”, “Storm Run” and “Danger the Dog Yard Cat” for children. Her talk was very interesting.

We decided to have dinner at the buffet again in order to be able to attend the evening’s performance of “I Got The Music”, a song and dance show. The talent and the costumes were excellent. The early shows are presented at 8 and a repeated at 10, but we preferred to make it to the early one, leaving the rest of the evening open for whatever we wanted to do. Looking around the theater you can’t tell you are on a ship. It’s big. The big comfortable chairs are on a slope, so the view from anywhere is good. The lighting and stage could be in any city’s theater. The cast of 13 dancers and singers were phenomenal – could have done without the waiters pushing drinks, but they are everywhere and we are getting used to them.

Tomorrow: Skagway.

Day Five

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Day Five
When we woke this morning the ship was already berthed in Ketchikan; we were scheduled to visit the Rainforest and Wildlife Sanctuary. The average yearly rainfall here is 160 inches – that’s over 13 feet!! So everyone was happy to see that the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was a short bus ride to the sanctuary and our driver, a year round resident married to a native woman entertained us with stories about the area and life in general in this locale where children can catch salmon by the tail.

In the sanctuary, we split into two groups and after listening to his instructions on what to do if we saw a bear – followed the young man who would be our guide. While we never did see a bear, we did see it’s fresh poop and later learned that the first group had actually seen it! Our guide was so knowledgeable and interesting, describing all of the plants we were seeing, how they grow and their uses. You could tell he loved what he was doing. We saw eagles, ravens and some kind of wren along the approximately one mile trail.


This photo was taken with my Meade Capture View, a combination camera/binocular which should be very helpful on this trip! Thank you, Karen!!

Back at the starting place there was an old saw mill and we saw how they used to harvest the logs into boards. We met a man who carves totem poles and watched him work for a bit; he was happy to answer questions. Then we visited with the lady who rehabilitates injured birds and were able to see up close an


eagle and an owl. There were also some reindeer there with thier antlers in velvet. Of course there was also a gift shop where the usual touristy junk and native art was available as well as free cookies and drinks.

Outside along the porch were two Himalayan Blue Poppy plants!!!!! They were in bud and one was ready to burst open so I could see the brilliant blue of the petals. If only it were a day later it might have been open! I was pretty happy anyway!

On the way back to the ship, our driver deviated from his route to show us the Saxman Native Village and Totem Park which was a tour in itself. We were not able to get off the bus, but did at least see the totems. There are more totem poles in Ketchikan than any other city in the world.

Back on the ship for lunch at the buffet, we were able to just relax and look at the scenery. After lunch I went to an ice carving demonstration where two men very quickly transformed two blocks of ice into sculptures, one a leaping dolphin and the other an angelfish. It only took about 15 minutes! They worked on the edge of a swimming pool so all of the mess went into the water with a little help from the kids in the pool. The sculptures then were moved to the area that was being set up for the On Deck Fish Barbeque.

We went to a lecture “Gold! Gold! Gold! in the Klondike” about the gold rush through Skagway and the dastardly deeds of the villainous Soapy Smith, then stayed for the late afternoon movie, “National Treasure Book Of Secrets” which meant we could not make our assigned dinner seating so we went to the buffet again. The buffet serves the same menu, but of course in the dining room it is served to you all nicely presented in a gourmet fashion on the plate in courses. In the buffet you are able to sample more things though – so it’s a trade off. Eating at the buffet freed us up sooner so we were able to get to the theater in time to actually get good seats for the evenings presentation of Comedy Showtime. The comedian was Cary Long who was hilarious and has been on the Jay Leno Show.

After a stroll on deck, weird that is is still light this late, we stopped to check photographs and email before retiring for the night. They are constantly photographing you in hopes that you will purchase them. I don’t plan to!

Day Four

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

This was a full at sea, just cruising through the beautiful scenery. Some people reported seeing dolphins jumping, but I didn’t see them. We attended a video presentation and tour of the public areas which was very interesting. There were so many fun things being offered that it was difficult to choose what to do. One I would have enjoyed was offered by the culinary artists who turn ordinary fruits and veggies into edible artworks. They were just beautiful and used to decorate the buffet tables. But the tour overlapped it so I didn’t attend, hoping that it might be presented again. It was not. There was one about Alaska Ports and Shopping that we checked on, but by the time we got there it was standing room only so we didn’t stay long. Jewelry shopping seems to be quite the focus! The theater really is big, but we are learning that you need to be there a half hour early to get a seat!

For breakfast and lunch we tried different restaurants and were seated with new couples, one from Turin, some from England as well as Americans. The food and the company was really good! The ship is full of folks from everywhere, both the passengers and the staff. There are lots of young people from all over the world working for the summer. What a fun opportunity for them! They are super polite and focused on serving, but are obviously having fun too and anxious to talk about where they come from.

After lunch there was a presentation by a naturalist on “Glaciers and Whales” that was very interesting. That was presented in the theater and was followed by a movie – “27 Dresses”. Since I had not seen it I decided to stay on for that. It was pretty good, but a long time to sit still so I was happy when it finally ended!

Dinner that evening was the first formal one, so we got all dressed up and went to our dining room only to discover that we were the only ones from our table to show up. Looking around, there were quite a few empty chairs. There are so many options for dining that many people just choose to stay casual, I guess. Again, the food was great and our waiter was very attentive. After dinner we strolled around amongst all of the elegantly attired guests, checking out the boutiques and the various clubs, each with it’s own entertainment offerings, various types of music and dancing. There was a fine art auction, much jewelry for sale, even a jigsaw puzzle in a quiet corner near the library in case you wanted to just get away from it all!

Walking back to our room, we checked in at the Internet Cafe and found that time on the internet would be very expensive at $.75 a minute and it would be sporadic as it apparently depends on satellites. You could purchase larger plans for less per minute, but I don’t need it a lot, just to check in occasionally will be fine.

Tomorrow: Ketchikan!

Day Three

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Today we boarded the Diamond Princess. It’s huge! Like a floating city really, with shops, library, clubs and restaurants, spa, a theater, pools, places to play golf, jog, and more!

After finding our room (larger than expected, and very efficiently planned) and settling in- our luggage was already there – we attended the obligatory safety drill. Then we decided to explore. Starting with the top 4 decks of public areas, it was really amazing the amount of space and things to do there were!

Since we had signed up for early dinner (5:45) seating, we dutifully reported to our assigned restaurant and met our dinner companions – two very nice couples who were also on their first cruise. The service was impeccable and the food was quite good. We excused ourselves a few minutes before 8 to go to the theater for the evening’s presentation of “Piano Man”, but found that it was already full. So we explored the remaining decks of public areas. All of the bar spaces had entertainment or activities happening and we stopped at one that had a Trivia game going. That was fun!

Then we walked out on the deck to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Strait of Georgia and were ready to return to our room and settle in for the night. We discovered that the TV had continuous broadcasts of activities available on the ship and information about the next days offerings as well as educational facts about the next port of call along with things to do there. A few regular channels were also available, like CNN for keeping up with world events, and the volatile weather conditions back home.

The bed was very comfortable and and before we knew it it was time to get up!

We’re Home!

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

We’re home! It’s always fun to get away but good to be home again. Touristing is hard work! I’ve finally gotten caught up with the email and shipping the orders that came in while I was gone and of course unpacking and washing and putting away clothes. One interesting email alerted me to the post from Robert Kaufman Fabric Co’s Spring Market Review featuring my “Chicory” quilt that they loved at Spring Market! Thanks Ruthie!!

As promised, I will try to give you the highlights of the trip on a day to day basis.

Days One and Two:
After getting up at 2:15 to make it to the KC airport on time, that first day was a long one! We took off on United Airlines at 6:30 AM, changed planes in Denver and made it to Vancouver at 10:10 AM. Sounds good! – but there was at least a 3 hour time difference in there so it really seemed a lot later when we got there. A Princess rep was there to meet us and get us in a taxi for a long ride to the Bayshore Westin where we would spend the next few days. It was raining so we thought it might be a good day to spend the afternoon at the Aquarium.

Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center is billed as one of North America’s biggest and best. We purchased tickets at the tours desk, got settled in to our room and went to lunch. It was two o’clock when we arrived at the aquarium only to find out that they were closing at two for a special event. Luckily we were able to re-catch the shuttle back to the Westin and make arrangements to have the dated tickets honored on the following day which was predicted to be rainy again anyway. We had hoped to spend a day at Victoria Island and the Butchart Gardens, but decided a trip to VanDusen gardens in Vancouver after the Aquarium would do as well. I was really hoping to see some blue Himalayan Poppies on this trip.

The next morning, after a ridiculously expensive breakfast at the Westin, three dollars shy of $50.00, (never mind, we are on vacation!) we set out for the aquarium again. The aquarium is not on the Westin shuttle route but nice tips work wonders and after the regular route we were taken there anyway. A bonus was that we got a tour of the city as well. We had thought that we would spend a couple of hours in the aquarium, but when we were hungry and looked at our watches it was already one o’clock! There was a lot to see with exhibits ranging from Arctic to Tropical. Fish, mammals and other sea creatures abounded.


These cool little guys bury themselves in the sand and grab little bitty things that drift close enough.


I had no idea these things were so colorful!


In addition to fish there were seals, sea lions, walruses and sea otters too.

Time flies when you are having fun and the aquarium was a really fun place to spend a rainy day. We made our way outside to find the covered lunch area next to the Beluga Whale exhibit and discovered that the rain had cleared and it was a lovely afternoon. As we ate lunch, we watched a session of whale handling where the due any day pregnant one rolled over as she had been taught so that a blood sample could be drawn from her tail. By now she has had her baby, a girl and you can watch them on belugacam.

By then it was too late to go to the VanDusen Gardens, but since we were in Stanley Park and within walking distance of the city we decided to enjoy the flowers there instead.


Rhododendrons were in bloom along with many other lovely things.


Hostas and other foliage plants were already huge and lush.

A raccoon came up and grabbed my bag, realised it didn’t smell promisingly of food, so he trundled off and couldn’t be bothered to look back for a picture.

After a bit of a rest we caught the shuttle to the Public Library which is quite impressively styled after the Coliseum in Rome and offers free computer use so I was able to clear some email and respond to the important stuff. Computer time on the ship will be quite expensive. We walked back to the hotel stopping at a restaurant called The Rooster’s Quarters that I had read a good review for in Frommer’s. It offered Quebec style cooking, sounded better than it actually was though.

A full day; tomorrow we will board the ship!

Off To Alaska

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

We have to get up at 2:15 in the morning to get to the airport on time tomorrow so it’s off to bed for me….. I am really hoping to clear my head and find some inspiration on this trip. It’s not likely I will find much computer time available but when I do get back home, I’ll tell you all about it!

Shade Garden

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Here’s a photo of this spring’s garden project – a stone patio for the hammock and me in a new shade garden.


Some planting was done last fall in anticipation of things to come. I had ordered an Orange Crown Imperial and this is what bloomed! Not sure what it is – maybe some kind of Allium? Whatever, it’s not a Crown Imperial! Too bad I didn’t take the picture last week when there were more things blooming.


This little plant is Black Brass Buttons. It looks like a teeny tiny fern and seems quite happy in the space between the steps up to the deck.


Sunday afternoon was lovely after the rain and the breeze was so fresh and filled with the scent of flowers, I had some hammock time in the shade garden with a good book- “Angle of Repose” by Wallace Stegner. The birds and their songs made it hard to concentrate though. We have the prettiest birds! Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, Cardinals, Goldfinches, Summer Tanagers, Hummingbirds and so many less colorful ones – I could do a bird colorwheel!

I have not been doing any quilty things lately. The Alaska trip is just days away and the planning and the prep has taken all of my attention. I guess I don’t travel enough for fun to make it routine and it actually seems a bit of an ordeal, but I am sure it will be worth it! We are really looking forward to getting away and putting the daily demands aside for a bit.