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Everything posted by HALOnlyCruiser

  1. Diesel, You're right, folks don't realize how much Alaskans depend on the ferry. I have seen people drive on in Juneau with a car packed to the gills, just having been on a supply run to Freddy Meyer, WalMart, and Home Depot. What a trip to Kodiak! I have always wanted to take the "Trusty Tusty" out to Dutch Harbor some summer. Maybe someday! Your trip like on the V.C. strains those old Canoes to the limit. I don't seem to get sea sick, but I don't think I've ever experienced 16 foot seas. Came close one year in Queen Charlotte Sound and Georgia Strait. The creaking and groaning of the Mal was deafening!
  2. If you are a "through passenger", your belongings are safe in your cabin (or in a lounge on a chair or two. I've noticed unattended sets of belongings in the lounges are left undisturbed by other passengers.) in your absence. Since the AMHS doesn't really track your on/off wanderings at any given port electronically, as on a cruise, they don't know if you are onboard or not. (Good? Bad?) As long as you are sure to take your documents with you (ticket and ID) to re-embark in Haines, you're good. And a friend in Haines will save you taking a taxi into town! Haines, IMHO, has the greatest restaurants per capita of anyplace in the Southeast (Sitka being a close second). I haven't been there for a few years, but an old favorite is the halibut fish and chips at the Bamboo Room on 2nd St. (Alaskan Amber optional :D).Chilkat Bakery was very good, too. The Columbia is a good vessel to travel on. There are two forward lounges, and the dining room (solely a Columbia feature) is very nice. Not to topic, exactly, but on one of my yearly November trips to Sitka, which always sees me returning to the Lower 48 by ferry, for some reason on that trip the ferry made the northbound trip to Skagway before heading back south. It didn't cost any extra, and the AMHS apologized profusely for taking me out of my way. Joke was on them....I loved the extra ferry time!
  3. Yeah, my husband of 39 years probably would too. But gosh, all your knowledge of ships, sailing, and cruising really fascinates me.
  4. Don, Thank you for the kind words. I certainly share your affinity for the AMHS. The Blue Canoes (except for the Kennicott and the fast ferries) are getting a little long in the tooth, and I hope that when they sail their last, the system isn't reduced to all water taxi type service. Sadly, I kind of see that coming. A few years ago they were discussing a circle trip of South Mitkof Island (for Petersburg), Wrangell, Hollis, and Ketchikan; I guess that never happened. Get your grandkids on a trip while you still can! From Juneau you could invest the 2-hour fast ferry, or as they refer to it "day boat", for a quick trip to Haines. Haines terminal requires a trip into town, but it's a cute place to visit until the ferry back to Juneau returns from Skagway. The scenery from Juneau to Haines in the Lynn Canal is awe-some. Two lighthouses, dolphins riding the bow wave, seal lion rookery, and snowy mountains. But you probably already know that. Just a thought. Thank you for your reply, fellow AMHS fan!
  5. Copper 10-8: I have been enjoying your posts since I joined CC in 2006. They are the best! Will you marry me?
  6. Thanks so much JT! Very interesting article. I never minded tendering in Sitka, but onward and upward, I guess. I remember the furor over building the "new" O'Connell lightering dock. Right after that, fewer cruise ships called at Sitka. I can only imagine what the port construction did to the local gossip. I am anxious to see it, as I am taking the AMHS out of Sitka in November. Best I can guess is that the new port is out there close to the ferry terminal. Thanks again for your help.
  7. Thank you Aurora. Hey, when one is 70 years old, something that's "only" 5 years old is new!
  8. Thank you, Crew News. Never thought I would see the day!
  9. I usually visit Sitka every year, whether on a cruise ship, AMHS ferry, or plane. I did miss being there in all of 2017, however, and now I have read about folks taking a shuttle into town from the port. Port?????? Do ships no longer anchor and tender? Do all ships use the port or just some? From what I have read, this new port apparently must be far out Halibut Point Road by the AMHS ferry terminal. Are the shuttles free, or do they charge as in Victoria,B.C.? Wow, miss one year in 25 and everything changes!:eek::eek: Thanks for any information.
  10. I absolutely love riding the AMHS ferries! I even have a refrigerator magnet I got on-board (before they closed the gift shops) that says, "I believe in 'ferries'". I have been traveling on them since 1996, and have had good experiences. There have been a few hiccups, but I am a very laid-back traveler, and am able to adapt when things go awry. Since 1996 I have ridden the ferries at least once a year; more when our daughter was a student at UAS in Juneau....any excuse for a visit (read "ferry trip"). As for port times: in Juneau the port times tend to be a little longer, as Juneau is kind of a "hub" for the system. In Ketchikan, if you are on a ferry going south to Bellingham, WA, you will leave at 3:00PM. no matter what time you arrived from Wrangell (the last stop before Ketchikan on this run). Sometimes you can be in K-town for several hours. I always run across the street to the A&P (Alaskan and Proud) grocery store to stock up on ferry snacks for the 36 hour trip south. As opposed to the cruise ships, you can bring on pretty much any kind of consumable you like...but alcoholic beverages must be consumed only in your cabin (if you have one). Sadly, they have taken the bars off all the ferries. Back to port times: Sitka is usually about a 3-4 hour stop due to having to wait until slack tide to transit Sergius Narrows, about an hour and a half north of town. Because of rapid currents in the narrows, the ferries (except for the catamaran "fast ferries") can only transit every 6 hours. There is a white school bus to take passengers into downtown Sitka if they wish (small fee) and return them before the ferry sails. Most other ports are usually 45-minute stops. Between Wrangell and Petersburg is another narrow passage, Wrangell Narrows, and a pilot must board to guide the ferry through at slack tide. This trip is especially interesting at night, when red and green nav aids and white range markers line the entire hour or so passage through the Narrows. The ferries themselves are a haven to world-weary travelers. Not much phone service, unless you have a satellite phone, no WiFi, no internet, no TV. And believe it or not, people actually survive the trip without electronics! The food on the ferries is nothing fancy, but I find it pretty good. There is usually salmon or halibut dinners, much cheaper than in the rest of Alaska (which tends to have very high restaurant prices because of high transportation costs. A 12-pack of soda pop can run $7-$8 in grocery stores.) There is a daily soup, sometimes fish chowder, and always good regardless of the flavor. There is a microwave in the cafeteria, and many bring their own food. That's perfectly OK. You can buy microwave pop corn in the vending machine, but I pack my own favorite brand.) I was very disappointed to see the AMHS take the gift shops and bars off the ferries, but it's all about the bottom line. Gift shops had clothes, books, pens, pencils, postcards, stationery, toiletries, toys, etc. Too sad. As was mentioned before, the ferries run 24/7 on their route, and arrival and departure times are not often when it is convenient for you. I will promise that if you have a lodging reservation in one of the ports, no matter the hour, they will absolutely be there to pick you up or drop you off. Alaskans understand the ferry system, and its schedules. I have traveled in and out of Southeast towns at all hours, and have never been refused transportation to/from my motel or hotel. Admittedly, most all of my trips have been in the off season when the ferries are not crowded. Summer travel requires advanced reservations made the winter before (or as soon as the Summer Schedule is available), ESPECIALLY if you want a cabin, or are taking a car on board. Lines in the cafeteria will be long.The m/v Columbia is the only ferry with a sit-down dining room, but it has a quick-serve cafe as well. Same food, same prices; but you can have an alcoholic beverage with your meal in the dining room. Pets must remain on the car deck at all times. You may visit and walk your pet off the ferry at each port call, otherwise they must stay in a crate or in your car. If you are on a leg lasting more than 6 hours, there will be a "car deck call", announced over the public address system, so your pet can be taken out around the car deck for a walk. Clean-up supplies are provided. These over-water calls are only allowed if sea conditions permit. The ferries are pretty much the only way for SE citizens to get around economically. You will very often be invaded by high school students traveling to another SE town for a sporting event or academic activity. They can take over the cafeteria and/or the lounges, and if they are on board overnight, they will sleep on any available floor space. But, to be fair, non-student passengers who do not wish to pay for a cabin can take up a lot of floor space too. Since there are no gift shops on board anymore, make sure you have all your necessities, plus any reading material, puzzle books, cards, games, etc. you might need to entertain yourself. This is not a speedy way to travel, and only making 12 knots, the ferries are a great way to admire scenery, but time does pass rather slowly. This is quite the post, I know, but if you have a question about anything I didn't cover, my travel advice is happily shared. I am most familiar with the Southeast (Panhandle) routes. Except for Pelican and Gustavus, I have been in every SE ferry port. I have also been on 6 Alaska cruise ship trips. I shall travel the AMHS as long as I am able.
  11. Those were the days, but as you said, it's hard to stay up that late any more! One thing on HAL ships was the Chocolate Extravaganza on the last formal night. It was open early for picture-taking, and what a grand array of desserts. BUT what always disappointed me was that they looked way better than they tasted! The European chefs do not cater to our American sweet, sweet tooth.
  12. Thank you Jacqui and Krazy for the welcome and all the info. I sure have a long way to go, Awards-wise! Maybe now that we're close to Seattle I can take advantage of last-minute deals.....and no air fare! I've already done several Alaska cruises, but I really enjoy Alaska and would never pass up the chance to go back. I guess by now HAL has stopped giving out tiles. What else has changed in the past 12 years? Thanks again, fellow CC friends. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Copper 10-8's posts!
  13. I have been away from this board since our last HAL cruise on the Oosterdam in 2006. I was about 13 cruising days shy of my third Mariner star. My question is: has the system of assigning stars changed in the past 12 years? Since our first HAL cruise in 1993, it seems as though the Mariner recognition changed several times. Our first experience was to be awarded the Able Mariner Certificate on our 3rd cruise. Then it changed from number of cruises (with the appropriate color of lapel pin; first blue, then red...and that's as far as I got.) to number of miles cruised, (with Medallions awarded for high numbers. I think the ultimate was 100,000 miles, which we did see awarded at a few of the Captain's parties); then it changed to number of cruise days. What is the current breakdown as to Levels of Award? Is it still number of cruise days? Thanks for any replies. I have missed all of you. Incidentally, two years ago we moved from Colorado to Sequim, WA on the Olympic Peninsula. Now in the summer we can watch from our back deck all the cruise ships that leave from Seattle. They pass by Sequim, sailing out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, about an hour and a half after they sail. If I'm up about 2 or 3 in the morning (at my age, who isn't) I can see the brightly lit ships on their way from Victoria back to Seattle. It is really a treat!
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