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Diamond 6/19 Review (Long and Belated--Part II)

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Sunday, June 20th—another beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 60s once the fog burns off. The ocean is calm. First up, two miles on the very nice jogging track over the spa on Deck 15 forward. Plenty of room for joggers and walkers, and it wraps around the basketball court. Breakfast at the International Dining Room—decent lox and bagel, good service again. DW and I split up—for me--Adobe Photoshop classes (Warren, a college professor, was a nice and helpful instructor—free opening lecture, $25 for class following), then mini golf (hard nine holes!), lying in the sun on the deck reading the Princess Alaska Cruise Companion (well worth $20 for book and accompanying map), wasting $20 in a slot tournament, and good pizza at Prego and a fair knockwurst at next door Trident Grill. I checked my office e-mail at 35¢/minute in the ship’s Internet Café, very large and empty with a coffee bar and a helpful attendant. For DW, a ceramics class (you pay depending upon what you make), line dancing class, and an excellent lecture on Alaska from Michael, the onboard naturalist. DW liked the trout at the Horizon Court buffet for lunch. We then had a very nice and decadent afternoon tea in Pacific Moon, followed later by a swim and a dip in the hot tub. One pool area is covered with a retractable roof and is heated. This pool is big (there are others as well) and deep (5-7 feet+) good for laps and not too crowded.

It looks like the average age on the boat is mid-50s, which I used to think was old. Not any more! Not a huge amount of senior citizens. My guess is around 10% of the passengers are 21 or under and the same amount over 70.

Dinner at IDR was again good—crab quiche, beef and salmon for us. Lobster Bisque soup and DW’s hazelnut soufflé were only fair. I had cheese and crackers for dessert since I had indulged at afternoon tea.

We then saw the Piano Man show—it was outstanding. Excellent choreography and singing from a talented cast. We would have paid to see it at home. Don’t miss it.

Monday, June 21st—a beautiful sunny day in the 80s. The Inside Passage Waters are like glass. Two more miles on the jogging track in a losing effort not to gain weight. Very nice breakfast selection in the Horizon Court—good chorizo sausages. The onboard naturalist gave a very nice slide presentation in the Princess Theatre on Alaskan wildlife. We arrived in Juneau before the rescheduled 12 noon time—off the boat by 11:45. A long line through the casino to disembark, but it moved very fast. First order of business (as always) is to shop since we won’t have much time for that here. Then to Capt. Larry’s whale watching tour, with the Orca Enterprises office being only a 5-10 minute walk from the dock. Orca Enterprises has a very professional staff and does a wonderful job. Larry and Randy, the on-board naturalist, explained in advance that on bright sunny days at is actually harder to see the animals surface. We did end up watching a mother and baby orca for a long time, but didn’t see anything else. After we got off the boat, the Orca Enterprises bus dropped us off at the Wings Airways office for the floatplane trip to the (now rescheduled for 5 PM) Taku Glacier Lodge.(It turns out that we could have saved $25/PP by booking directly with them instead of the ship). This trip features a spectacular flight over two glaciers, followed by a very good salmon bake meal at the lodge. We highly recommend the Taku trip, but READ MY LIPS—BRING MOSQUITO REPELLENT. We are from Florida, where the mosquito is the unofficial state bird, but they attack you in the Alaskan wild like waves of B-29s. A stint in the enclosed pool and hot tub and then to bed.

Tuesday, June 22nd—already in Skagway when we woke up around 6:30. Unbelievable--another beautiful sunny day in the 80s. (It turns out that for the first time ever this week, Juneau has had six straight days in the 80s.) The natives seem to hate it, but we love it. We grabbed a quick bite in the Horizon Court (good muffins) and then ran to the Avis office (opens at 8) to get our pre-arranged rental car for the day (the cheapest and most convenient way to spend the day if you want to drive up the White Pass into Canada.) It turned out that the Avis office is in the first building you hit when walking into town and it looked like they had plenty of cars for walk-ups. After stopping in the NPS visitor’s center across the street from Avis and getting some helpful information, we drove over the White Pass into Canada to Emerald Lake a few miles past Carcross. This is a magnificent drive past beautiful mountain lakes and landscapes, but again it was apparently too hot for the wildlife, as we didn’t see any. The car let us stop many times to view and take pictures of the scenery at our own pace, which the train or a bus wouldn’t have allowed. The road was also much easier to drive than many mountain roads I have driven (and there have been a lot in Europe, Colorado and North Carolina.) We had a very nice and reasonably priced lunch at the Cinnamon Cache outside of Carcross (were we ran into Julie and her family)—excellent sandwiches, chicken soup, and cinnamon buns. Carcross itself can be done in ½ hour.

After we got back to Skagway, we took one of the NPS ranger tours and shopped. At dinner, we were the only people at our table, and the International looked about ½ empty. We had a long chat with Adam since he only had a few people to deal with. This is his 6th contract with Princess, and he had a lot of interesting things to say. Again, dining room service and food presentation were excellent, with the food (a combination of Italian Night and the Pacific Moon Asian menu) being good but not great, a bit bland for our tastes (we do understand the requirements of institutional cooking). Simply prepared swordfish and an assortment of gelato were outstanding, however.

We then watched Bert Stratton in Crooner’s Bar, which is filled to overflowing each time he plays there. If you like a bubbly piano man and lots of sing and clap along songs, you’ll love Bert. DW stayed up for his second set—I went to sleep.

Wednesday, June 23rd—two more miles on the jogging track, then it was time for Tracy Arm. As with our prior days, another bright sunny day, and warm (in the 60s-70s) except for an occasional cool breeze. We thus had perfect conditions to see the fjord. We ordered the special room service breakfast for Tracy Arm day, delivered promptly at 8:00 AM (get it at 9 if you want to eat while viewing the fjord). It includes a small bottle of Moet champagne, smoked salmon, fruit, crab quiche, and baked goodies—very well worth it for $20 total. The naturalist gave a fascinating play-by-play commentary of our 3 hour trip up and back. A beautiful trip the whole way that he enhanced with his insight. Tracy Arm, in and of itself, makes getting a balcony worth it. We made it to what appeared to be a few hundred yards from South Sawyer glacier at the east end of Tracy Arm. Small chunks of icebergs filled the fjord, and we couldn’t go any deeper into it since it was clearly blocked by solid ice. We did have nice views of North and South Sawyer Glacier, a couple of orcas, an eagle’s nest, and a moving unidentified crawling object on the shoreline that DW thought was a bear.

Breakfast and lunch at the Horizon Court. The selections change enough for each meal every day to keep it interesting. At peak times, it is sometimes hard to find a table, especially today when people are camped out at each window seat for extended periods to do sightseeing. Another opportunity to try to set the record for most diet cokes engulfed in one week on the old soda card.

DW and I took it easy in the afternoon. She attended crafts classes; I went to a computer class. We also took a couples’ massage class in the Lotus Spa ($49) that was fun and included a bottle of the massage oil. The naturalist followed up his Tracy Arm commentary with a very worthwhile talk on glaciers and related Alaskan folk tales. Michael takes a very spiritual approach to his lectures that truly make them fascinating.

Dinner tonight was our evening at Sterling. Sterling has a very nice, more intimate atmosphere than the IDR, with lots of tables for two. We made this reservation to have an extra night of steak and prime rib, so of course we both ordered the Alaskan king crab off of the regular menu, which was a substantial portion and quite good. I did have those luscious onion rings again off the Sterling menu, and well as excellent apple pie ala mode. We then saw a comedian, Stu Moss, in the Explorer’s Lounge. My kind of lowbrow humor—10,000 potty jokes and the like. DW went on to see Jeff Peterson, a comedian/magician, and liked him. Since I’m getting a cold, I went to bed early.

Still more to come.


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[size=3][color=darkred][b]Thanks, Les. Going over to read your next installment right now. I'm so glad to hear you felt the same way about Piano Man as I did. Some reviews have said it was mediocre at best. I'm with you. I think it's not to be missed by anyone having the opportunity to see it. The cast works very hard to put on a great show and I think they do.[/b][/color][/size]


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Great Review!!!!! We will be on the Sapphire in October.

It is great to hear details about the classes they offer. I've sailed mostly on Carnival and they don't offer any classes. I'm looking forward to them.

Also, it is great to receive confirmation that you can try one of the PC dining rooms even though you select Traditional. There has been some controversy over whether that was allowed or not.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review!

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