Alaska Review: Aug. 26 - Sept 2 ~ NB on Star Princess

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#21
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Alaska’sCruise Companion by Rachel Cartwright

Before I go much further, this book simply MUST have a review. I cannot recommend this highly enough!!! You can buy it online – for a little less than what it costs on board ($18.99 onboard) but you run the risk that the map (one of the BEST parts of the book) will be missing. That’s the reason I opted to just wait until we were on board to get ours. The drawback to that, of course, is that I didn’t have it to read and prepare with beforehand. However, we just got up early each morning and went to the back of Horizon Court (next to the Terrace Pool) where we sat in complete solitude….got a cup of coffee and sat there reading… while looking at mountains, water, beautiful sunrises. It was a PERFECT setting for devouring my treasure in preparation for the day.

This book (and the naturalist on board) MADE our cruise what it was. As I mentioned, we’re never happier than when reading or learning something new about a destination we’re visiting. Well, this book is over 300 pgs of information about ports and things you’re sailing past, tips on the best places to see wildlife, info ABOUT that wildlife and of course, beautiful photographs.

It begins by listing the various Princess cruise itineraries – along with the page numbers where information on that particular day/port/sail location can be found. The book actually followed a Northbound route page by page, but for SB, it’s very easy to ‘find’ the pages that relate to where you are – just by using that ‘index’ in the front of the book....or of course, working your way through the book backwards…not really that hard to do, once you get the hang of it. For cruises out of Cali, there is information about San Francisco, but the ‘best’ information will start once you reach the Seattle area…..maybe Day 2?? Or day 3??? (idk for certain as I've never sailed that itinerary )

Section By Section:
The first chapter is an overview of Alaska from the 'numbers' to seasons…to locals and history. There’s a section on 'Hiking in Alaska' and it ends with pages on ‘Vancouver for a Day’, ‘Seattle for a Day’ and ‘San Francisco for a Day’.

Next are the sections on sailing days. Pages that only apply to Vancouver or Seattle sailings are earmarked with “V” or “S”. You can easily thumb through to find the pages you want. Most of the information however, is fitting to all cruises as they all tend to go the same places...and sail somewhat close to the same routes.

Each port has its own chapter with the recommended things to see in that port....maybe even a few things you haven't thought about or knew about. Between those port sections are the 'sailing' sections detailing the probable or possible wildlife viewing areas and interesting points to see en route. (there were some lighthouses we learned about in the book that we then were on the lookout for and were able to spot....nice!)

Also interspersed within these sections are Wildlife Profiles – giving information on animals such as the orca, black bear, bald eagle, humpback whale…and the list goes on and on. There were 10 Wildlife Profile sections that I counted.

Field guides are sprinkled throughout the book as well –topics such as 'Alaska’s Salmon', 'Totem Poles', 'Wildflowers', 'Glaciers', 'Shorebirds' (and more….)

An added bonus that I was surprised to see was coverage of Alaska’s Heartland: Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna, Fairbanks, and more.

I just LOVED this book!!!! (kind of obvious??? ) Just be sure to take magnets to put the map on the stateroom wall for easy reference…especially in a balcony cabin....though I would use it in an Interior too… along with the TV set on the bridge camera channel.

One more thing….on the front page of the Patters each day, in the Navigation section, they would refer to areas we sailed through...or would sail through…along with page #/paragraph # in the book for more information. The naturalist on board refered to the book OFTEN as well. It's almost as if the book is a ‘guide’ for everyone on the cruise…..By Day 3, you see LOTS of people walking around with their copy. Well worth the $19 to purchase!!

To Princess Marketing Dept: Please mail my commission check to.....
#22
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
First Sea Day:

On previous Princess cruises, sea days would be filled with ‘sales presentations’….various entertainers…Cruise Director directed activities….or sitting by the pool reading a book.. Such was not the case on our Alaskan cruise. Yeah, all those things were going on – but we were FAR too busy with All Things Alaska to spend any time shopping, playing or finding out that we’re old, wrinkled and need the latest spa service. (Thanks Princess for helping us out with those realizations by the way. )

On this first morning, I was awake and out on the balcony even before the first light of dawn….to see if there was anything to see… Yep…I went outside to see what I could see in the dark! I *thought* I saw a lighthouse on the shoreline – so had to get my copy of Alaska Cruise Companion to see if it was mentioned or named. Of course, that meant going into the closet to turn on the light - DH was still asleep…I think…. J At about 5, I could hold in my excitement no longer and awakened DH. Shockingly enough, he didn’t get upset with me hehe! - We got dressed and headed out on deck.

Here’s where we found our ‘treasure’. I’m sure thousands…MILLIONS…. of people know about the door on Deck 12 Aft…but we just discovered it on this morning - Back of Deck 12 – on Starboard side…is a door that goes out to the Terrace Pool area. Our cabin was Deck 11 Aft Port side…not far to get to our ‘treasure’….and this door became our route of choice for a quick run outside. (just as a little aside here...I think if I ever needed to go with an OV cabin, I would consider the two cabins by this door. Though they're under Lido which can sometimes be noisy, they're NOT under areas that would typically be noisy...and they give VERY EASY access to the outside...almost as good as a balcony...at OV prices. - they ARE porthole windows...just fyi. I don't have the cabin nos. off the top of my head...but that info would be easily available)

Out on the Terrace Pool area we saw the most amazing sunrise!!! Pinks, purples and blues…against the hazy shadows of the mountains in the distance – with the water off the back of the ship in the forefront. Breathtaking!!! It WAS cold out there…we were bundled in down coats, hats and gloves…had on a wicking layer and fleece layer. Ok…honestly I had on long underwear…and soon found it to be TOO much. Within a couple of hours I had returned to the room to take them off and never put them back on again through the rest of our vacation – including Denali. I MIGHT bring them on another Aug/Sept cruise…and I might not…. I just don’t know. I include this info here for those who might be struggling as much as I did in knowing how to pack for this time of year. (You definitely DON’T need that type of stuff for a July cruise…)

After our beautiful sunrise experience, we went into the Horizon court on Port Side for breakfast. The Patters says that hot breakfast begins at 6….but that’s only on ONE SIDE of the buffet. On our cruise – (on the Star) it was the Starboard side… Service started on Port side at 7…. Why is that important? Well first of all, if you want to eat, you have to go where the food is… But secondly…and most importantly…if you want to go where there are fewer people…where it’s quiet and peaceful…where you can grab a window-side table easily…you go to the side they are NOT serving on – Port side. (on our cruise…) J Yes, you have to walk to the other side to get your food…but honestly…how hard is that?? Small price to pay to have a ‘premier’ table location – I like peace and quiet with my beauty…

We actually ended up in Horizon Court for breakfast 6 of our 7 mornings – more UN-typical behavior for us as we usually really enjoy the MDR breakfast on sea days. But the scenery…the sunrises….the premier table location…we just couldn’t pass that up…even for the MDR – more ‘breaking of the mold’ in Alaska.

After breakfast, it was back out to the Terrace for a few more views, then to our cabin to change out of those long underwear before heading to the naturalist presentation at 9 am.

The Naturalist on our ship was Sandra Schempp. She gave a total of 5 Naturalist lectures in the Princess Theatre throughout the cruise. (two today) We went to EVERY ONE! There was ONE topic we thought we MIGHT not find interesting…so sat in the back in case we wanted to leave. We didn’t leave!

The presentation this morning was “Discovering the Inhabitants of Alaska’s Coastal Waters”. It was about the wildlife…an introduction of sorts…and a winning lecture in my opinion. When she concluded, DH and I looked at each other and said “We don’t want to miss any other presentations this woman does.”

At the conclusion of the presentation, she went outside the theater to answer questions and show her displays – animal skins, dried flowers, her personal map from the Alaska Cruise Companion but with her personal markings and notes added to it. She encouraged everyone to either copy her marks down on their map…or just take a picture of hers (which was WAY easier. )

After some time there, we had just a few minutes to get the last 3 stamps on our cards for the drawing that we lacked....before Coffee with the Captain at10:15. Thankfully, both the needed stamps for the card…and Coffee with the Captain were in the Piazza

Coffee with the Captain. Now…on most cruises I would never consider doing this…but this was Captain Tuvo…the one everyone here on CC raves about. Between that…and the fact that his PA announcements up to this point had us so intrigued…We HAD to go. We were SO glad we did. He was just as personable as everyone says he is…This was an interview with Cruise Director Steve…but with significant time for Capt. Tuvo to go off-script - He did a little bit of Q&A then ended with photo ops….and would autograph our copies of Alaska Cruise Companion.… I got my picture…and of course, now my copy of Alaska Cruise Companion is signed by the captain!!!

Will finish this up tomorrow.... Good night all!!
#23
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
First Sea Day Cont.:

On previous cruises, we’ve never been able to find time for the Pub Lunch. In true “breaking the mold” fashion, we made it to the Pub Lunch today. The menu is very small – 5 items - so they can get people in and out quickly…. I won’t spend time reviewing the lunch…So many others have done that. What IS worth mentioning is the dessert - bread pudding. DH considers himself to be somewhat of a bread pudding connoisseur…and said it was as good as his grandmother used to make. (*That’s quite a complement just fyi…) The bread pudding we had later in the buffet was ‘ok’…but didn’t compare to what we had in Crown Grill that day.

Things we Did This Afternoon:
  • Treasure Hunt Drawing – the one I'd been collecting stamps for. I was vying for the photo package this time. Imagine my disappointment when another cruiser walked away with my package!! still heart broken, I am.... *sigh*
  • DH was quite interested in the Photo Seminar. He's developed an avid interest in photography over the last year...took a class a few months ago...and really thought this seminar was worth the time.... It covered 'light' which he thought would be useful information. I wish I knew how to get photos to post here...as his photos on this trip were amazing...but I WILL put them on my blog when I get some Alaska posts written and posted for those who are interested.
NEXT NATURALIST PRESENTATION: "Enjoying the Wonders of Alaskan Wildlife.
Sandra Schempp had some beautiful slides…along with MUCH information that I jotted down on a piece of scrap paper I had with me (Take paper to these if you want to write down important information she gives - especially about where, when, to see certain wildlife… She then told us she would be out on the bow of the ship that afternoon to help us with spotting whales and possibly sea lions.

Out on the bow that evening we saw a whale BREECH!!! Even Sandra was a bit surprised to see that. They breech after they've finished feeding...and she thought this wasn't the time to see that.

Tonight was formal night, and after our time out on the bow of the ship we were quite rushed to get ready for dinner. - That was ok...we wouldn't have traded what we saw that evening for ANYTHING!!! We rushed to get ready and still made it down in time to have some really nice photos taken. That's possibly the ONLY thing we did on this cruise (formal night photos) that we have done on previous cruises…. And we only did that once…more info on that later…
Whales.... Photos....Formal night....Wonderful meal! It was a good evening!!

Now…the thing we missed on this day that I wish we had NOT was the Captains Welcome Aboard Party and Champagne Waterfall. The time we spent out on deck created a domino affect that caused the conflict. This was one of those times when we had to choose between two things we wanted to do…you just can’t do everything!!! --and the whale breeching was worth whatever we had to miss to see it.

Afterwards it was a little bit of walking around the ship to see 'sailing sites'...but not for long as my shoes were killing me!! We went back to our cabin and watched it from there…in slippers! J Tomorrow would be an early day so we turned in. J

That night there was a show in the Theatre…music and dancing in various places around the ship, Evening Trivia, game show, the first of the Voice of the Ocean auditions….and we missed them all. Tomorrow we were ‘due’ to arrive in Ketchikan at 6:30…but learned from the naturalist that it would actually be 5:30… We knew we wanted to be out on the balcony then to watch the ship come into port. We ALSO planned to be out on Terrace pool deck to see the sun come over the mountains… and of course to be ready to walk off the ship the minute that gangway was down. Too much to do to worry about social life on the ship!!!

Things we missed today because we were doing ‘All things Alaska”

· Fruit and Veg. carving (we normally like to go to these…but not this time)

· Shopping– Gifts for $10 (We SOMETIMES go to this on other cruises…never considered it a ‘must’ though)

· Shopping Spotlight Show: These are all about shopping in port. The only shopping I planned to do in port was for a jacket/raincoat/hoodie...and I'd been all over the Tongass Trading Company website investigating that already. I knew what I wanted.

· Captains Champaign Waterfall. (*I AM sad we missed this…but wouldn’t exchange our time out on deck for it for anything…)


Tomorrow: Ketchikan!!!
#24
Palmdale, Ca
33,898 Posts
Joined Sep 2007
Loved reading your two previous posts. Very much looking forward to your future posts.....

Bob
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#26
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
5,621 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
Thanks for your review. Enjoying the minute by minute details. If you want to post pics on this thread; here is how I do it; and its so easy. Upload all your photos to shutterfly. (shutterfly will never delete any of your pics), Once uploaded you can then right click on your photos and copy. Open up your Alaska thread and right click and paste. It takes about a minute or less to do this. the pic below is from our July cruise; Tracy Arm Fijord.

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#27
DFW
1,049 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
I'm really enjoying your review. We were NB on the Coral but we had Capital Tuovo also on our cruise--we were so lucky! I also LOVED my Cruise Companion and agree it's a wonderful thing to have. Our itinerary and activities appear to be the same as yours so I am enjoying reliving it and reading about how you spent your time.
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#28
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Ketchikan:

We were up by 5:15 to see the ship come into port. (The Naturalist told us we’d come in at 5:30) Ketchikan is a really pretty port with the houses and buildings up the side of the hill… so watching the sail into port would be very picturesque.

Because we entered Alaskan waters last night, the clock changed again – back an hour. This is Alaska Time so we would stay that way for the remainder of our trip.

We managed to get ready for the day while watching the whole ‘coming into port’ process (a lot of in-n-out to the balcony) so we were able to head to the Terrace Pool area – and our favorite table in Horizon Court (far Aft – Port Side) as soon as she got docked and moored.

Again, they opened the hot buffet on Starboard at 6 am. We got our breakfast and headed to PORT side. We easily found a table by the window. Later in the cruise, more people began to figure out my little trick…but for now, it was almost empty on port side at 6 am…giving us a CHOICE of window tables.

Getting off the ship was easy – with short lines. Yeah, we DID have to dodge the photographer but we’ve gotten really good at that. J

Ketchikan is the port that everyone on CC raves about as THE place to get jackets, raincoats and hoodies/sweatshirts. There are actually FIVE Tongass Trading Company stores in town – each with their own specialty…but a lot of the same inventory too. The first one was right at the pier area. We darted in there quickly and found those wonderful jackets and rain coats for $20 and $25! We’d return later to purchase, because right then, we were in a hurry to catch the city bus to get to Totem Bight. It only ran once every hour and we didn’t want to miss it.

Finding exactly where to catch it (to get the RIGHT bus) turned out to be a greater feat than I had anticipated….We even went to the Visitor Center to get information. Final Tally: We were sent to 3 different places before finally getting to the right one. When we stepped onto that 3rd bus, in all my frustration, I just looked at the driver and asked “Does THIS bus go to Totem Bight?” He tried to joke with me in his answer… The problem was…I was in NO MOOD for a joke at this point. I tried to cover my frustration, but I'm almost certain it came through anyway…after our search and 2 'mis-informations'. I just looked at him and said… “I need to know the truth....we’ve been sent to the wrong place twice now”. He never really gave me a straight answer…but another passenger spoke up and said “Yes…that’s where we’re headed too”. We were all ‘friends’ by the time we got toTotem Bight --and I explained our fiasco and frustration…. It WAS a city bus so made other stops…about a 20-25 min. drive.

We got there for $2pp. each way. ($4pp total)

Totem Bight is right on the banks of the Inside Passage - a beautiful location – with about 16 AUTHENTIC poles (That was an important factor for me) and a self-guided pamphlet detailing the history and information of each pole. There is a clan house that the brochures say you can only visit when on an official tour. However, the lady in the office told us when we paid our admission ($5pp) that if there was a tour in there, we could just walk in…if anyone said anything to just tell them we paid and could enter. There WAS a tour in there and we DID enter and listen to the last half of it. (no one said anything to us) From that point on, though we chose to go it alone….occasionally coming across a tour group and listening in for a few minutes then going back to our pamphlet. (There were new tour groups coming every 5 min. after 9 am so we had our choice of who to listen to) We really liked having the freedom to go...listen as we wished, but not being tied to a tour group…and certainly not paying the prices those on tours paid. We DO want information…we just typically prefer to gather/read it on our own while soaking in the beauty and peace of a destination….away from chatter J

Potlach was next door and something I’d like to see in the future. We just didn’t think we had enough time this trip –with only 6-7 hrs in port and wanting to spend some time on Creek Street and see the salmon, et al.

To get back to Ketchikan, you can either cross over to catch the northbound bus as it continues on it’s route before turning southbound….or just catch it when it comes back that way going south… It’s all the same bus…same driver which means you DON’T want to miss the ‘next bus’….you’ll wait an hour if you do.

This Silver bus route goes by (very close to) Saxman Heritage Ctr, which is where some in our new-found friend ‘group’ wanted to go. We asked the driver to let us know when he got to the best drop off spot for Creek Street…and that’s where we said our good-byes to our new bus driver friend. (He had forgiven me for snapping at him at 7:30 that morning by this time. ) We walked a little through the area, climbed up Married Man’s trail (amid wall-to-wall people) … saw the salmon on the ladder and darted into a few shops… The trail was VERY crowded by this time so that it was hard to get any good photos…we tried…. It might have been better to get to this early in the morning before things got so crowded, but we were concerned we’d run out of time and/or have to wait longer than anticipated on a bus going to Totem Bight. Totem Bight was our first priority and we didn’t want to cut it too close.

My ‘Take’ On Ketchikan:
This is one of those ports you can see and do for very little money if you wish. Some day I would like to take the Misty Fjord’s flight or boat excursion and THAT’S expensive, but for our first time in town, we really wanted to see what Ketchikan was known for - the totem poles.
Our total cost for 2 ppl: Bus: $8; Admission $10….walking Creek Street: Free. Shopping for those wonderful jackets and hoodies (and other things…): I’m not tellin’

When we got back to the downtown area, messages finally downloaded to my phone – and I got a text about an emergency situation at home. That monopolized our thoughts and emotions for the remaining 2 hrs of our time in Ketchikan….even to the point we discussed the possibility of catching a flight home from Juneau the next day.

From that point on, our mood was rather somber…. We walked through the town, but nothing ‘glittered’ anymore. We went to Tongass Trading Company and made our purchases…made our last phone call home…then got in line to board the ship….still discussing what we should do tomorrow…???
#29
DFW
1,049 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Oh no! I hope everything worked out ok!

What a great inexpensive day you had. We did the Misty Fjords cruise on our trip but if we go back, I want to do just what you did--explore the city. Our excursion took our whole day and while it was great, I never got to get any pictures of Creek Street or the Welcome to Ketchikan sign.
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#30
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Back On The Ship:

The line for boarding was very long…longest I’ve ever stood in to reboard in a port. (30-40 min) The only explanation I can come up with is that with the very short port time (6:30am-2 pm) it consolidated everyone’s return…3000 people trying to board within a very small time frame. It was never that bad again throughout the rest of the cruise.

We grabbed something to eat – pizza this time then took it to Horizon Court to get a salad….

Sailaway took us through the Tongass Narrows – This is such an interesting Sail-away. It started by taking us right past Totem Bight – we actually got some panoramic pictures of the entire place (it’s not that big area-wise) It was nice to get an ‘overview’ picture in addition to all my ‘individual’ pictures. J Then, we got an ‘up-personal’ view of the Alaska Ferry and all the float planes taking off and landing from the Ketchikan airport. The ship maneuvers between all of that. J To be honest, I don’t think we got a single pic of that though. We really were still ‘reeling’ from our afternoon conversations…it tinted everything we did and every response we had this entire evening. Now…. Before this sounds too ‘down’, I will add - Tomorrow, we will make a few more phone calls. It will set our mind at ease that everything REALLY is being taken care of at home - (We’re not just being told that by family members to ‘protect’ us or our vacation….) In fact, things will even be a little ‘better’ by tomorrow… We will be told to STAY on our vacation… That they’re taking care of things and we can take OUR turn when we return. None of that will stop us from worrying, but it will make things a little easier. We just have to get to tomorrow to find all of that out.

The third of the Naturalist presentations was at 3:30 which gave us a bit of time. I needed to get a bit of laundry done and even though this was only our 4th day, I had looked at the schedule for the next 5 days, and this was the best time to do it. I just did 1 load…and it took about an hour…most of which I spent in our room…only 5-6 doors away. (No, I don’t sit down there with the laundry…the machines are quite capable of washing the clothes by themselves…and if anyone needs our underwear and socks badly enough to steal them, they can just have them.)

At 3:30 we headed to the Naturalist Presentation: "Experiencing Alaska’s Awe Inspiring Flora". I wasn’t sure if I would like this one…While I like the flowers, it’s the wildlife that I was the most interested in. However…should I have been shocked?? It was actually quite interesting. She talked about the fireweed and how it signals the coming (and going) of summer. I was much more alert to the fireweed – especially on our Skagway day going up the Klondike Highway….for the rest of our time in Alaska. (and it was EVERYwhere)

It was at this presentation that we found out that Sandra would be up on the bow at 5:30 for our sailing through Snow Passage - prime humpback whale feeding area. That even took precedence over dining in the Dining Room for us! (See!!! More of the ‘break the mold ‘ thing’….we’ve RARELY missed a night in the dining room on a cruise… but we were missing a LOT of them on this cruise.)

Whale viewing was all it was touted to be! We saw not only several whales, but porposes and sea lions. Well worth missing the dining room for.

After our evening of wildlife viewing it was off to the buffet – where they were having the Bavarian Bierfest. We don’t have a good German place here so actually enjoyed tonight at the buffet. Of course, that meant that of the 7 nights we COULD eat in the MDR, we were missing Tues. and Wed. nights when we would be in port too late…and Friday night when we would be in College Fjord from 6-8:30….and now, Mon. night too… Only 3 nights in the MDR on this cruise.

If I had to offer any packing advice to those cruising Alaska, it would be this: You don’t need 7 nights worth of MDR clothes - IF ……IF you’re wanting to see the wildlife. Most of these viewing times seem to be during the dinner hour – (at least on NB cruises) That means you must choose… wildlife viewing….or MDR. If you’re like us, the whales win…and you simply don’t need all those MDR clothes.

The sunset was on OUR side of the ship tonight (not always the case throughout this cruise) It was chilly out on our balcony as we headed further and further north, but the view was incredible….water in the forefront…mountains in the background…a few whispy clouds in the sky and pinks, blues…purples.. It was beautiful!


Things we Missed Today because we were doing "All Things Alaska":
  • The “Visa Card Sign Up Party. Yeah….they’re encouraging people to sign up for that Barclay card. I’m one who has posted here on CC about our struggles with that card. Thought we’ve gotten several hundred dollars in statement credit, I went through a LOT to get that!!! Ugh! They really need to FIX their issues before trying to increase their numbers. They’re only increasing the number of people ANGRY with them!! Oh well…. J
#31
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by Beachiekeen
Oh no! I hope everything worked out ok!

What a great inexpensive day you had. We did the Misty Fjords cruise on our trip but if we go back, I want to do just what you did--explore the city. Our excursion took our whole day and while it was great, I never got to get any pictures of Creek Street or the Welcome to Ketchikan sign.
Thank you. Yes recovery is going well..... The minute we got home, I began unpacking and repacking....It helped that I was unpacking winter-wear...and repacking summer-wear. I'm taking my turn at care-taking now...and so thankful other family members were ABLE to step in over the last 2 weeks.

Yes, I've heard wonderful things about Misty Fjords...that's on my wish-list for our next Alaska cruise
#32
407 Posts
Joined Nov 2005
Originally posted by rgmacm
Ketchikan:

We were up by 5:15 to see the ship come into port. (The Naturalist told us we’d come in at 5:30) Ketchikan is a really pretty port with the houses and buildings up the side of the hill… so watching the sail into port would be very picturesque.

Because we entered Alaskan waters last night, the clock changed again – back an hour. This is Alaska Time so we would stay that way for the remainder of our trip.

We managed to get ready for the day while watching the whole ‘coming into port’ process (a lot of in-n-out to the balcony) so we were able to head to the Terrace Pool area – and our favorite table in Horizon Court (far Aft – Port Side) as soon as she got docked and moored.

Again, they opened the hot buffet on Starboard at 6 am. We got our breakfast and headed to PORT side. We easily found a table by the window. Later in the cruise, more people began to figure out my little trick…but for now, it was almost empty on port side at 6 am…giving us a CHOICE of window tables.

Getting off the ship was easy – with short lines. Yeah, we DID have to dodge the photographer but we’ve gotten really good at that. J

Ketchikan is the port that everyone on CC raves about as THE place to get jackets, raincoats and hoodies/sweatshirts. There are actually FIVE Tongass Trading Company stores in town – each with their own specialty…but a lot of the same inventory too. The first one was right at the pier area. We darted in there quickly and found those wonderful jackets and rain coats for $20 and $25! We’d return later to purchase, because right then, we were in a hurry to catch the city bus to get to Totem Bight. It only ran once every hour and we didn’t want to miss it.

Finding exactly where to catch it (to get the RIGHT bus) turned out to be a greater feat than I had anticipated….We even went to the Visitor Center to get information. Final Tally: We were sent to 3 different places before finally getting to the right one. When we stepped onto that 3rd bus, in all my frustration, I just looked at the driver and asked “Does THIS bus go to Totem Bight?” He tried to joke with me in his answer… The problem was…I was in NO MOOD for a joke at this point. I tried to cover my frustration, but I'm almost certain it came through anyway…after our search and 2 'mis-informations'. I just looked at him and said… “I need to know the truth....we’ve been sent to the wrong place twice now”. He never really gave me a straight answer…but another passenger spoke up and said “Yes…that’s where we’re headed too”. We were all ‘friends’ by the time we got toTotem Bight --and I explained our fiasco and frustration…. It WAS a city bus so made other stops…about a 20-25 min. drive.

We got there for $2pp. each way. ($4pp total)

Totem Bight is right on the banks of the Inside Passage - a beautiful location – with about 16 AUTHENTIC poles (That was an important factor for me) and a self-guided pamphlet detailing the history and information of each pole. There is a clan house that the brochures say you can only visit when on an official tour. However, the lady in the office told us when we paid our admission ($5pp) that if there was a tour in there, we could just walk in…if anyone said anything to just tell them we paid and could enter. There WAS a tour in there and we DID enter and listen to the last half of it. (no one said anything to us) From that point on, though we chose to go it alone….occasionally coming across a tour group and listening in for a few minutes then going back to our pamphlet. (There were new tour groups coming every 5 min. after 9 am so we had our choice of who to listen to) We really liked having the freedom to go...listen as we wished, but not being tied to a tour group…and certainly not paying the prices those on tours paid. We DO want information…we just typically prefer to gather/read it on our own while soaking in the beauty and peace of a destination….away from chatter J

Potlach was next door and something I’d like to see in the future. We just didn’t think we had enough time this trip –with only 6-7 hrs in port and wanting to spend some time on Creek Street and see the salmon, et al.

To get back to Ketchikan, you can either cross over to catch the northbound bus as it continues on it’s route before turning southbound….or just catch it when it comes back that way going south… It’s all the same bus…same driver which means you DON’T want to miss the ‘next bus’….you’ll wait an hour if you do.

This Silver bus route goes by (very close to) Saxman Heritage Ctr, which is where some in our new-found friend ‘group’ wanted to go. We asked the driver to let us know when he got to the best drop off spot for Creek Street…and that’s where we said our good-byes to our new bus driver friend. (He had forgiven me for snapping at him at 7:30 that morning by this time. ) We walked a little through the area, climbed up Married Man’s trail (amid wall-to-wall people) … saw the salmon on the ladder and darted into a few shops… The trail was VERY crowded by this time so that it was hard to get any good photos…we tried…. It might have been better to get to this early in the morning before things got so crowded, but we were concerned we’d run out of time and/or have to wait longer than anticipated on a bus going to Totem Bight. Totem Bight was our first priority and we didn’t want to cut it too close.

My ‘Take’ On Ketchikan:
This is one of those ports you can see and do for very little money if you wish. Some day I would like to take the Misty Fjord’s flight or boat excursion and THAT’S expensive, but for our first time in town, we really wanted to see what Ketchikan was known for - the totem poles.
Our total cost for 2 ppl: Bus: $8; Admission $10….walking Creek Street: Free. Shopping for those wonderful jackets and hoodies (and other things…): I’m not tellin’

When we got back to the downtown area, messages finally downloaded to my phone – and I got a text about an emergency situation at home. That monopolized our thoughts and emotions for the remaining 2 hrs of our time in Ketchikan….even to the point we discussed the possibility of catching a flight home from Juneau the next day.

From that point on, our mood was rather somber…. We walked through the town, but nothing ‘glittered’ anymore. We went to Tongass Trading Company and made our purchases…made our last phone call home…then got in line to board the ship….still discussing what we should do tomorrow…???
Really enjoying your review! (Hope that things are okay at home. It's such a helpless feeling to get those kinds of messages when you are far from home.)
#33
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by AF-1
Thanks for your review. Enjoying the minute by minute details. If you want to post pics on this thread; here is how I do it; and its so easy. Upload all your photos to shutterfly. (shutterfly will never delete any of your pics), Once uploaded you can then right click on your photos and copy. Open up your Alaska thread and right click and paste. It takes about a minute or less to do this. the pic below is from our July cruise; Tracy Arm Fijord.

Thanks for the info. I use Shutterfly for all our photos...but of course, when we got into town, I repacked and left town almost immediately - so photos aren't even off the camera yet...much less sent to Shutterfly
With this new-found information, I'll try to put some up when I get home...may be 2 weeks though...sorry....
#35
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Juneau:

I was once again up early this morning – like 5:30 early…very restless night. DH was not quite ready to begin the day at 5:30 though…. That was fine. I told him I would be at “our spot” - back of Horizon Court Port side at “our table” and he could join me when he was ready....as long as it was BEFORE 7 am as we needed to be getting off the ship by 7:30. I took my Alaska Cruise Companion to keep me company and headed out the door…

By the time DH finally made it to the dining room, I had gotten my breakfast, eaten it…and had a few coffee refills. ( Yeah...we'd actually BOTH had a restless night.....)

After DH had his breakfast, we packed our day packs and got off the ship. It was about 7:45.

Our plan was to go to Mt Roberts Tramway first thing….then come down for a 9 am phone call. It would be noon at home and there would be information/answers by then. From that point, we had TWO possible plans for the day…all based on how that phone call went.

Plan A:
  • Pick up rental car.
  • Mendenhall Glacier; McCauley Salmon Hatchery and Douglas Island/Treadwell Mine
  • Return rental car then go BACK up the Tramway to see things in the evening light… then play it by ear from there on out….
Plan B:
  • Make flight arrangements; Get back on the ship to pack and do whatever is necessary to leave the ship
  • Transport to airport and fly home
Our ship was docked at Franklin Street dock...and though it’s not the closest to the Tramway, it wasn’t a bad walk…maybe 6 blocks. It was chilly…but a BEAUTIFUL day!! The Tramway began running at 8 so we were the 2nd car to go up…not crowded at all. It got VERY crowded later in the day. We talked to people later who planned to go but decided against it because of the lines. It was VERY pleasant up there that early in the morning....temps probably around 50 at 8 am - and forecasts of 66 for the afternoon high. In addition to the viewing decks with windows that opened for photos, there was also an extensive trail system all over the mountain with maps for sale in the gift shop. We would have liked to have spent more time up there…maybe hiked one of the trails but needed to be down off the mountain by 9 for our phone call….. We looked around a bit…then took one of the trails to the first two lookout points. It was a very nice vantage point (2nd one was better....) with views of the Juneau harbor and the Star Princess below. The Eagle Raptor Center is up there as well, but they didn't open until 10. We decided that if we returned that evening, we’d see it then - they were open until 6 I believe.

Getting down off the Mountain wasn’t any problem at all that early…we waited less than 5 min. Such was NOT the case later in the day. Some on our ship reported wait times of an hour for that return tram down the mountain.

It was 9:05 when we got off the mountain - and I made my phone call. As I mentioned yesterday, that phone call put our minds at ease (kinda….) There was improvement…and other family members were taking care of all that needed to be taken care of. We were INSTRUCTED to NOT fly home… I felt better after that call…still worried…but at least the dark cloud hovering since yesterday was gone….

Now …moving forward with Plan A There was a bus – full 54 passenger bus in the ‘square’ that went out to AJ dock – where the NCL ship was docked. It was meant for NCL passengers…but we needed to get to Juneau Rental Car which was right by AJ Dock. Walking it is not impossible…but it’s about .8 mile. I didn’t know if PCL passengers were ‘welcomed’ on this…but with my lanyard and PCL cruise card removed, we could get on that bus as if we belonged there. From the drop off point, it was about a block over to the rental office.

A Few Words About Juneau Ca Rentals. They rent older model, higher mileage cars – for much less than Avis et al. And since Avis closed their office on the pier, (the hotel they were located in closed for remodel this year) their cars had to be picked up at the airport….which would be either time consuming(city bus) or expensive (taxi). I got our car from Juneau Rental Car for $59 for the WHOLE day… not pro-rated by the hour. We had NO PROBLEMS with the car. It ran fine. It didn’t have all the bells and whistles that newer cars have…but honestly, I was there to see Mendenhall Glacier…and Treadwell Mine, et al…not ring bells or blow whistles.

Our first destination with the car was Mendenhall Glacier. Some recommend getting there as early as possible if you’ve rented a car and are in control of your day. We just really wanted photos from the Tramway in the early morning light…otherwise, I would DEFINITELY recommend that. The parking lot was not big but adequate for the cars there – as most visitors arrive via bus tours… The Visitor Center and areas surrounding however, were packed with people.

We took 2 hikes there - Nugget Falls and Photo Point Trail. The views from both are similar – both nice and I am glad we did both…but they aren’t drastically different. (Photo Point trail gives a more ‘straight on’ view of the falls and glacier together while the Nugget Falls Trail gets you RIGHT UP TO the Falls [- if you choose to get that close...and a view more from the side. ) The weather was pleasant though we had our down coats and hats. Back at the visitor center was a viewing deck and room with full windows if you didn’t want to be outside.
#36
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
After leaving Mendenhall, we headed toward McCauley Salmon Hatchery. We looked for a place to stop for lunch en route. I assumed we’d find many options…we actually only saw 1 - McDonalds. That was fine.

We relaxed a bit there, took advantage of the wi-fi, then headed to McCauley. This is not actually a “tourist” centered location (though they give a pretty good little tour.) It is in fact, a REAL hatchery where they’re fostering the spawning process…..and ‘hatching’. Now…They give regular tours…and when we arrived, we were instructed to just join one already in process. I wish I had just asked to wait until the next one as coming in after it had started left a lot of gaps in our ‘information’.
Because they’re more of a working business than a ‘tourist’ attraction, they don’t really have the ‘running of a tour’ down to a science. That’s not a complaint as we thoroughly enjoyed our time there….it’s just an observation. I DO highly recommend a visit here though -to understand all about the salmon spawning process….and the impact that has on the economy of SE Alaska. Their website says there’s a $5 admission. The tour guide asked us to stop by the desk to pay that…but there was no ‘monitoring’ of this. After we finished our tour of the hatchery, we went inside and DID stop to pay our admission…but we seemed to be alone in that…???? As DH was paying the girl there, she commented that not many people actually did that… hmmm…. I find that interesting…that people who can afford a trip to Alaska can’t afford a $5 admission….. Good Grief!! We didn’t mind at all funding what they’re doing there….They’re not raising the salmon to harvest; they’re raising them to release. Now….most of them WILL end up either being food for bears…or food for eagles…or food for other wildlife…Some will be caught by fishermen and be food for people…but that’s the plight of ALL salmon. This operation is just increasing those numbers…. (ok…off my soap box now….)

After we finished with the tour and paying our admission, we went through the displays they had there. It’s just 2 rooms....but interesting. There’s a tank with fish, a few interpretive displays and an area where you can ‘touch’ various sea creatures. I don’t know if that was meant for children, but I enjoyed finding out that the spines/spikes on many of these creatures are actually very soft… They LOOK ominous to protect them from predators…but they’re neither sharp, nor hard…. Interesting….

At the end of our tour, we made another phone call home to get the latest doctor report. Though we WERE enjoying our day, ‘home’ was constantly on my mind…these calls and good reports helped me make it through the day.

We then left McCauley and headed back toward town and crossed the Douglas Island Bridge over to Douglas Island. It was quite challenging to find the Treadwell Mine area - It’s not a Tourist Attraction either….visited by only the few who know it’s there…. Haha! There’s no “Visitor Center”….no Signs to show you where to go /find it. It's just a small parking area - in the middle of a residential area - leading to a path with markers...that you have to 'find' on your own. Thankfully, I had printed the explanations/descriptions for all the markers from their website (http://www.juneau.org/parkrec/facili...readBroch1.pdf ) so had that with me….without it, we would have been at a total loss. To do this, I actually copied/pasted it all to a document, then edited it a LOT to bring it down to a more manageable size...didn't want to print and bring 11 pages!!!)
The Treadwell Mine story is actually quite interesting. It was the largest gold mine at that time….operating 24 hrs a day, 363 days a year and employing almost 2000 people. They had a facility fitting to only the most elite. In 1917, the shafts of Treadwell Mine flooded with waterfrom Gastineau Channel…

Even with all the information I had, we never found the location of the actual cave in/flood. It’s somewhere over by the water (Obviously….) and we were walking part of the path that was probably 300-400 ft inland…would have to drive over to find the other markers. We just didn’t do that.

Honestly, we were very tired at this point… (long day; restless night) After about an hour or so, we headed back to Juneau. I DO recommend a visit to this for anyone interested in history....and wanting solitude.. It's very peaceful and quiet walking those paths. The only people you encounter are locals walking their dogs...

We knew that Libby Riddles would be doing a presentation at 7 and we kind of wanted to hear that….We got gas in the rental, returned it, transported back to the ‘square’ area and walked the 6 blocks or so to the ship….stopping off at a souvenir shop on the way. DH saw some Alaska socks he just HAD to have. I just giggled…

Getting back on the ship was a breeze compared to yesterday…no lines at all. After dropping our things off at the cabin and grabbing a bite to eat in the buffet, we headed to Princess Theater to hear Libby Riddles. I was SOOO glad we made the decision to return to the ship early to do this (that was NOT part of our original plan..) She was a HOOT!! She tells her personal story/history, talks a bit about the dogs…the Iditarod…then takes Q&A from the audience. Crew members carry the mic around for questions. She did a Meet N Greet at 6:15 that evening which we didn’t know about until later (I hadn’t paid much attention to anything in the Patters prior to 8:30 pm – All aboard time. )

After this, we went to get more oatmeal cookies to take back to the room (LOVE those oatmeal cookies….) and went to bed…It had been a long day…and tomorrow was going to be ANOTHER long day…

Yes…that evening, there were entertainers all through the ship…Trivia, Art Sales, Tanzanite raffles, movies and Comedy shows....even a MUTS movie at 10:15. But…Alaska was taking ALL our time and energy…no time for any of those things…..
#37
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
To get to Juneau, ships must sail UP the Gastineau Channel…That means that when you leave, you have to go BACK down that channel to get to Stephen's Passage. At that point our ship turned north headed to Skagway. Within a few minutes of sail away, we sailed by the Treadwell Mine area and could have seen the remains of the mine where the cave in/flooding was.... but we missed it. I was disappointed in myself for not remembering to be out there to see that. (Cause I knew we would sail past it…) I fully intended to but just got so involved in the Libby Riddles stuff that it totally slipped my mine.

There’s also supposed to be good eagle viewing at Juneau sailaway – they release salmon around Sheep Creek….and the eagles congregate there. Prime humpback whale viewing is a little further as well as the beginnings of the Chilkat Mountains - about an hour and half from sail away. We missed those viewings too…

I include that information for the reader’s interest - not because I have any commentary about it.

By the time WE passed the whale area, we had completed our oatmeal cookie heist, disposed of all the evidence and were headed to bed.

Next I’ll write about our Cabin – angled balcony B744
#38
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by Woobstr112G
Loved reading your two previous posts. Very much looking forward to your future posts.....

Bob
Thanks Bob....I'm enjoying writing it...and reliving it all. Can't wait to go back!
#39
379 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by ams cruiser
Really enjoying your review! (Hope that things are okay at home. It's such a helpless feeling to get those kinds of messages when you are far from home.)
Thank you. Yes things are going ok at home...it was a VERY helpless feeling. .I"m taking my turn at care-taking now...and it's going well.