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masterdrago

Trip Report [May 24 2019] Radiance of the Seas Seward - Vancouver

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Amazing photos! We are doing the same whale watching tour so after seeing these photos we are very excited. Thanks so much for sharing!!

 

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4 minutes ago, kimberlydrzymala said:

Amazing photos! We are doing the same whale watching tour so after seeing these photos we are very excited. Thanks so much for sharing!!

 

Thank you. I took more gear than DW wanted me to carry. Really glad I had the 28-300 on the D7500 for the Whale excursions. The owners and operators grew up in the Seattle and Southeast Alaska area and are a great team. DW sat in the co-pilot seat the full ride so was able to see everything that Shawn spotted. Shawn has written a couple of books. One is a good mystery/chiller "Night Vision".

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On 6/29/2019 at 4:48 AM, masterdrago said:

No joke. What the one second sequence of frames look like to me is an Orca getting in on the action. Taking advantage of the food source "hanging out" around the Whale. Killer whales are carnivore marine mammals which prey on seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, sharks, baleen whales (like baby Humpback), etc. It appears that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, & 6th frame show an Orca making a near miss on the Sea Lion. Maybe it is something else and the angle and lighting are just playing tricks. I think the 4th & 5th frame clearly show an Orca. All of the frames were taken at 12:11:36PM.

I'd say just an angle, looks like a sea lion flipper to me. Killer whales usually aren't by themselves and humpbacks are known to defend so he would have stayed surfaced longer to fight.

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8 hours ago, LdyMags said:

I'd say just an angle, looks like a sea lion flipper to me. Killer whales usually aren't by themselves and humpbacks are known to defend so he would have stayed surfaced longer to fight.

I've added a closer crop of shot #4 in the sequence. I'm really thinking not a Sea Lion flipper.....  Why would a Humpback want to defend a Sea Lion? Her own baby, yes. I was thinking more that the Sea Lion uses the proximity of the Humpback as cover or protection.

 

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Your photos are spectacular!  We are going on our first Alaska cruise in August, and I can't wait for our whale watching excursion in Juneau.  I hope we see a lot of wildlife and that my photos are half as good as yours!

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7 hours ago, hsk1977 said:

Your photos are spectacular!  We are going on our first Alaska cruise in August, and I can't wait for our whale watching excursion in Juneau.  I hope we see a lot of wildlife and that my photos are half as good as yours!

I've seen some awesome photos here on CC by total newbies. I've been shooting with a 35mm for 50 years and mine still are not as good as some of the new folks. With wildlife, it's mostly being patient. But Whale watching is another ballgame. I took well over 2000 images while in Alaska. I may have tossed ~200 due to boat rocking and point of focus changed. It's either about luck or skill but not really the equipment. If the beasts get close enough, any cell phone works. Before I went digital in 2004, it could not have been done, although I did shoot 400 Velvia slides in Alaska in 1995. We were on foot for two weeks. I understand that cell phones with really long telephoto lenses are nearly on the shelves. Also the technology for incredible HDR images is very close. Right now the subject cannot be moving.

 

We might do a late August into September next time we make a trip to Alaska. Thanks for the good word. And I hope your 1st Alaska will be as good as ours. Weather could not have been better.

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Day 14: Wednesday May 29th – Ketchikan


 

We docked around 9am so it was no issue getting to the excursion pick-up after a nice breakfast onboard. We had a 10am Misty Fjord Nat. Monument flight tour with Island Wings. We went over Revilliagegedo Island, crossed Behm Canal and into the Misty Fjords Nat. Mon. There we did a landing on Manzoni Lake.


 

I’m big on natural settings so tourist towns have never been big on my list of must do. I’m sure that there is much culture and historical journey to be taken but I get more from reading a book like “Passage to Juneau: a Sea and its Meaning” by Jonathan Raban than rubbing shoulders with other tourist.

 

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The owner of Island Wings is a true professional having been flying since age 15. She is a delight to be around and was extremely helpful to all that were on the flight with us. I had pushed really hard for the 30 minutes extra time to fly over Soule Glacier. That flight required 6 to be on the plane. The day was perfect for it. Unfortunately, some of the folks on our flight were from the Grand Princess that had a departure time of 2:00pm.

 

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Michelle’s planes are in immaculate shape and extremely clean and comfortable. I’m pretty sure we flew in Lady Esther II built in 1958. Just inside the doorway is a build tag. We felt very safe in her capable hands.

 

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After signing paperwork, paying and loading, and a short engine warmup, we away smartly. Passing back around, we were able to have a good vantage point to see the ships in port – Grand Princess and Radiance of the Seas.

 

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Michelle spotted a pod of Orcas moving along the coastline but my wide angle just barely made them out. They were also hard to even see naked eye. Crossing Carroll Inlet it was easy to see many islands and areas that had been forested in the past.

 

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At this point we were over Misty Fjords National Wilderness. Many lakes and waterfalls were easily seen. I believe this one may be Big Lake. It had a picturesque waterfall draining out of the south end.

 

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I was told that the pollen particle size (too large) caused it to be no problem. Back on May 18th, I noticed a sinus cough that has only now cleared up. Birch pollen is just the right size to cause issues. A lot of Birch north of Anchorage. Grass pollen can be very large so maybe that was what was being referred to.

 

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We pass near a rock formation jutting out of Misty Fjord, I think called “The Owl”.

 

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Some of the sheer rock walls look like they were chiseled from the earth.

 

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The number of alpine lakes makes for the most beautiful scenery.

 

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Many have waterfalls.

 

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Adam, Michelle’s new pilot flies at a different altitude for safety.

 

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Michelle chose Manzoni Lake for us to land in. It’s a 2 mile long by 1/3 mile wide dogleg left with cliffs towering from 400 to 700 feet surrounding it. It just did not seem that long when standing on shore. It drains NW into a smaller alpine lake about 70’ below. This small lake drains out its west side into another alpine lake 330” farther down. The beauty is hard to describe.

 

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We turned and lined up for the landing at Ketchikan. As we passed the docks, the Grand Princess was tucked in with us.

 

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We then had an exceptional lunch at Annabelle’s Famous Keg & Chowder House. The food was only slightly better than the service. We thought it might be rushed because of all the folks in town but not so. Excellent IMHO. We cruised around town a bit since our departure time was 6pm. Bought a few souvenirs and checked out numerous shops. Had a great time since the Princess had to be out at 2:00. Strolled back into Radiance to find…. You guessed it, tonight's menu.

 

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By 9:00pm, we were watching the sunset from our balcony in route to the Inside Passage.

 

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Posted (edited)

Day 15: Thursday May 30 – Cruising the Inside Passage


 

We spent a late night sitting in the Centrum on level 4 after departing Ketchikan and did a relatively late sleep in on the 30th. I figured that it would be a 20 hour trip over mostly open water getting to Scarlett Point and Port Hardy, the north entrance to the Inside Passage. So that would put us into the Passage in the late afternoon. I stumbled around a bit and finally got DW to take in some of the ship scenery after a little breakfast in the “exclusive” dinning room for suite guest. I will say, it was very nice and rather quiet compared to the Windjammer or the MDR.


 

Level 13 has a nice big spiral galaxy lighting up the wall when you step off the elevator. Excuse the fuzzy image. It was hand held at 1/10th of a second.

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Not sure what level it was but think 13, we ran into Marilyn Monroe.


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The ship was quiet maybe due to so many doing late night carousing. We discovered some kids’ stuff with attendant lifeguards but few takers.


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Found one for big boys and if you look close in the upper right, you will see the “exclusive” outdoor dining area for suite guest. I think also it is for Diamond status cruisers.


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Wish my pontoon boat had horns like this….


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I keep seeing advertisements for one of the new MSC cruise ships with Swarovski crystal on the stairway. I think RCI does a nice job but hires better captains with the unspent $$$.


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We managed to find our way to the heliport and hung out there for a while. Met some nice folks from Germany as well as spotted a small pod of Dall Porpoise. 


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If you’re into walking, which DW is, then it is easy to find the long and straight paths many places on the ship.


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Made it to the Main Dining Room for our last meal there. We had reservations at Chops Grill for 7:30 and would be eating in Windjammer for breakfast debarkation day. We were seated next to a wall I had not seen the whole trip. Not sure what it’s telling me. You decide.


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A not so nice wrinkle was that we had late (7:30) reservations for Chops Grill. DW was ready for a Filet Mignon on here last night at sea. If you noticed on the menu, Filet Mignon was offered for an extra charge of $16.95 every night. Well, that was a good price since Chops told us they were out. Don’t wait if you think you want something special till the last night. Especially if you do a late dinner.


 

I don’t even remember what we ended up ordering but I’m sure it was good. We had bought the two-for-one special pre-cruise for around $35. That’s dinner for two on two nights in their specialty dining.


 

My scratchpad figuring was not correct. By the time we were beginning to see any sign of land, it was getting near sundown.

 

 

After dinner, we watched the sunset from our balcony. Not sure about northbound cruises but this southbound cruise would have us doing the inside passage in the dark. It might be good to check that out. Also, sunset was ~9:04pm PDT. My camera clock was still on Alaska time.

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We should wake up in Vancouver.

 

 

Edited by masterdrago

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Day 16: Friday May 31 – Vancouver – Debarkation Day

 

We arrived early in Vancouver. About an hour if we are to believe our phones. Mine was on some unfamiliar network 4G but Roaming.


 

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We had paid RCI $43 for transfer to Vancouver Airport where we had reserved a rent car to drive to Seattle. All went well through Vancouver and dropping at the airport. We simply walked over a small enclosed bridge to the rent car shuttle pickup. In no time at all, we were picking up the jeep they had upgraded us to. Simple. Right up until we got to the U.S. border crossing. It turned into a 2+hr wait in line. We were not in any hurry, but 2 hours!! There was a guy selling pop and ice cream in the line.


 

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It should have been a 4 hour trip to Seattle. We ran into more issues with congestion caused by a wreck on the I5. I don’t remember what time we checked into the Hilton but it was well over a 6 hour trip. I then decided to save us some time in the morning by filling the tank and dropping off the rent car b4 dinner. That worked great. DW finally got her 2nd Filet at the very overpriced but very nice restaurant in the hotel. Our room had a nice view of Mt. Rainier.


 

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I was told that was rare. It was totally fogged in when we woke up.


 

I was concerned that getting on our plane might be an issue but the shuttle to Sea-Tac was a breeze. After an early boarding (1st class), it was off and away. Last great view was from altitude.


 

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I have to say, I’ve learned much about how to adjust things the next time we do Alaska. I’m now more educated on the nuances of car travel to and from. I’ve discovered more I will want to see on land tours. Also discovered that a Grand Suite is totally unneeded. But a balcony will always work for us. I hope that others can benefit from my report. If any questions come to mind, I’ll be more than happy to answer what I can. So many here on CC have been extremely helpful and it’s been highly educational and I plan on staying here to keep learning from the experience of others.

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4 minutes ago, breezy_carol said:

I you know what time you went under the Lions Gate Bridge, I would be interested.

If the clock on DWs phone was correct, it was 5:40. About 35 minutes after sunrise. This pretty much agrees with the sun angle.

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34 minutes ago, masterdrago said:

We had paid RCI $43 for transfer to Vancouver Airport where we had reserved a rent car to drive to Seattle. All went well through Vancouver and dropping at the airport. We simply walked over a small enclosed bridge to the rent car shuttle pickup. In no time at all, we were picking up the jeep they had upgraded us to. Simple. Right up until we got to the U.S. border crossing. It turned into a 2+hr wait in line. We were not in any hurry, but 2 hours!! There was a guy selling pop and ice cream in the line.

 

WOW!  I wonder if this is the norm.  We have a rental car reserved at the port at Pan Pacific to drive to Seattle.

 

Thank you for all of the information and answering my questions.  Very helpful for our cruise in 30 days (not that I'm counting.)

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Now I have another question.  We are lowly Gold level cruisers, with this being our third cruise.  The different bars - Schooner, Champagne Bar, English Pub, Bombay Billiard (I can't remember all the names) - are they just different decors?  Is any bar known for anything special?

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When we were getting near the border there was a sign that said wait was 80 minutes. It was more like 2h10m (130 minutes). I'm guessing that on days that cruise ships debark, the traffic is higher. Both Radiance and Queen Elizabeth arrived at near the same time although the cruise port schedule I had access to only listed Radiance. So the port load was fairly high. We had wrestled with the options of getting back to Houston. Staying a day in Vancouver was on our list but would require both of us to upgrade our passports from the cards. Previously only cruised Caribbean. The rent car was $97US and ~$20 gas. Hotel one night in Vancouver or Seattle was the same ($200ish).

 

All the bars were unique in what they specialized in. DW was wanting something like Vintages on Liberty of the Seas. A wine bar. Nothing on Radiance really ticked her box. We mostly spent time on level 4 Centrum and she just ordered by the glass at the nearby bar. In the Vintages, she became close with the folks servicing there at the times we went in.

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Thanks for the review, and your great photos!!!   Similar to you, I can see us heading back to Alaska as well.   There is just so many options that you can't possibly do them all on one trip!  Thanks again!

Jerry

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I finally got a video made of the first 5 days of our land tour, May 16-21, Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. I now very much respect the work that folks put into making a video after trying to learn the process of editing one together. I'm completely open to comments, suggestions and criticism in my 1st real attempt of putting so many pieces together. It is tiring for the uninitiated and novice film makers. The link for it is

 

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Finally got around to producing one more day of video of our trip. This is day #6, Tuesday May 21 at Alyeska Resort/Girdwood. Sure is a learning curve for this old man using video editing software but I'm at least getting a bit more comfortable with some of the basics. 

 

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