A Travellerspoint blog

Day 20 - Monday 18th May 2015

Ketchikan, Alaska - Lumberjacks and Ducks

sunny 21 °C

We woke this morning at 6am to find we had already docked in Ketchikan, our first port of call on this cruise. Looking out of the balcony towards land I saw a Celebrity and a Holland America ship also docked. After showering and getting dressed I looked out again and a Norwegian ship was docking. We ate breakfast in the buffet rather than the dining room to save time, as we had booked 2 shore excursions and we needed to be on the pier by 8:20am. Before we headed downstairs to disembark I saw yet another ship had arrived, another Princess ship but this had to anchor offshore as the docks were all taken. That meant 5 ship loads of tourists were about to descend on to a small Alaskan community - it was gonna get crowded.

Our first exclusion was to see The Great Alaskan Lumberjack show, we decided we'd walk to the theatre which was only a few blocks away. The show pitted 4 lumberjacks against each other in the various forms of competition like chopping, sawing, axe throwing, log rolling and a few others. It was a little staged for laughs but the skills shown were quite amazing. After the show we slowly walked back to the pier, we had an hour to spare before our next excursion so picked up a few more souvenirs to bring home.

At 11am we boarded the amphibious vehicle for our Town and Harbour Duck Tour. The vehicle drove us around the narrow streets pointing out some of the locations all the while with very funny narrations. The vehicle then entered the water and we motored around for some time also taking in the sights. We got back on board our cruise ship well in time to still have lunch, they were serving a salmon feast so we ate up on deck today.

The ship sailed off just after 2pm, I watched some of the scenery go by from the pool deck. We had no real plans for the afternoon, I tried a quick dip in the pool at the rear of the ship, reserved for adults only (there are hardly any kids on this cruise anyhow), but it got cold quickly, despite it being a nice warm day. Apparently it rains 300 days a year in Ketchikan and today it was a beautiful sunny day but soon after we left the dark clouds came in. I warmed up in one of the spas then headed back to change and go to trivia while Vicky decided to take a nap in the cabin.

Not for the first time this cruise I misread the venue for the trivia, assuming they always have it in the same lounge. So there I was waiting for it to start all the while missing it as it was played elsewhere. I headed back to the cabin to wake Vicky up so we could get to dinner earlier than the previous night and hopefully avoid having to queue. We managed to get a table quite quickly and to ourselves.

After dinner we headed to the theatre to watch comedian Gary Delena, who we saw on the first night. Tonight's show was a longer and funnier and ruder one, we had lots of laughs. After the show Vicky went to a lounge to saw one of the ship's singers performing Michael Buble songs, she went with one of the ladies we gad dinner with the first night. I went to a different lounge for The Liars Club, where the audiences tried to guess which of the cruise staff were lying or telling the truth regarding the meanings of words they called out. All a bit of fun. We both got to the cabin later than normal, so nearly midnight before getting to bed.

Posted by Ace from Oz 02:04 Archived in USA Tagged alaska ketchikan lumberjack Comments (0)

Day 19 - Sunday 17th May 2015

North to Alaska

sunny 18 °C

Our first night aboard the "Star Princess" and we slept soundly as we were so tired. The water here is very calm as we don't sail out to open ocean, this helped us sleep in until 9am. We showered and dressed and grabbed a breakfast on the run and hit the trivia at 10:30am.

We then wandered around the main shopping decks of 5, 6 and 7. Vicky bought two t-shirts and I ordered some duty free alcohol that we collect on our last day to take with us when we disembark. As we only had a light breakfast by now we were hungry for lunch. We decided to try the English Pub Style lunch at the Crown Grill. I ate fish n chips and Vicky got a Ploughmans Plate, a mix of a few items.

Lunch wasn't filling and there are no shortage of places to get food or snacks, so on the Lido deck I grabbed a slice of pizza and two fish tacos. I headed off to another game show trivia while Vicky found a spot on deck out of the wind to rest but the sun came out from the clouds and it was too hot to stay there.

We headed to the Wheelhouse Bar for Happy Hour, buy a drink and get a second one free. The two drinks which made us feel tired so we came back to our cabin, napped a little then got ready for dinner. Tonight was Formal Night where they ask the passengers to dress up. Attire for men was either a tuxedo or black suit and evening gown for women. As we were traveling for so long we didn't pack either of these, I had slacks and business shirt n tie and Vicky had a dress top and pants and we were ok mix with the formal crowd. Not everyone dresses up formally for the evening anyhow.

For our dinner option on this cruise we chose "Anytime Dining" which means we aren't stuck to having dinner at the exact time each night. The downfall to this is if you don't reserve a table - which we hadn't for tonight - you could be left waiting a while for one to be available. We lined up at 7pm and were given a buzzer, so we sat at the bar and eventually around 7:45pm we got a table.

Tonight we had a table just for the two of us. Dinner was nice as per usual. I even skipped dessert cause I still felt full from our drinks a few hours earlier. We got to the show although missed the first 10 minutes, another comedy act who was also funny. We decided to call it a night, we set our clocks back one hour as we are changing time zones overnight and went to our cabin. Tomorrow we dock in Ketchikan and have 2 tours lined up, the first one requires us to be on land by 8:15am so need an early rise to get ready and eat breakfast before we disembark.

Posted by Ace from Oz 02:02 Archived in USA Tagged alaska cruise Comments (0)

Day 18 - Saturday 16th May 2015

West to Vancouver - First Blood and Setting Sail

overcast 18 °C

We slept little last night and so started packing the car early for our 400km drive west to Vancouver. We hit the road about 7:15am, and the road from Kelowna was great - all 2 lane highway or more, and for the most part were able to motor along at 100kph or over. It was a long weekend in Canada and weren't sure how much traffic we'd encounter but there were very few cars that early in the morning.

After an hour we had a rest stop at a town called Merritt, then kept moving. The scenery for this leg of our trip was totally different to what we had seen during the previous week in the Rockies. Our next stop was at a town called Hope and as we had often done, tend to stop in to the Visitors Information Centre of the town. I noticed several mentions of the Sylvester Stallone movie "First Blood" in the centre and was informed by the staff that the movie was filmed in that town. In fact the opening seen when Rambo first walks into the town was filmed in the street outside the Visitors Centre. It was certainly an interesting place to stop at with no prior knowledge of the film being made there.

As we continued towards Vancouver we noticed the increasing number of cars of the road, more so in the opposite direction as the city folk headed into the mountains for the weekend. We noticed there was a toll bridge coming up and as we didn't have a pass for the toll I pulled over into the office where I could prepay the toll.

We got into Vancouver just after midday. Our cruise ship check-in time had been pushed back to 5pm as the ship was delayed arriving from San Francisco. As we had a few hours to spare, we checked out the cruise terminal for instructions on how we needed to drop off our bags. Even though we couldn't check in for hours, we were able to leave our 3 suitcases there, tagged for our room. As we were getting hungry and parking was difficult in the city we decided to head out towards the Capilano Suspension Bridge, thinking we could eat lunch and then tour the bridge. Instead we saw a Denny's restaurant so ate lunch there.

We got to the Capilano parking lot after lunch and realised it was very crowded (probably due to the long weekend) and seeing as we didn't have a long time to fully enjoy it, decided we should fill the car with petrol and head back to the cruise terminal, I dropped Vicky off with the remaining hand luggage and I drove the rental car back to the drop off site and walked the 10 minutes to the terminal. It was still too early to check in so we sat on a bench nearby where I could get wifi access from the nearby restaurant and we caught up on writing our diary and blogs and made a couple of phone calls to home.

Once 5pm rolled around we lined up for the whole check in process. As the ship arrived in late it was quite hectic in getting all the new passenger on board but in the end it wasn't too difficult. We made it to our cabin with a balcony, dropped off our stuff and went to dinner. We were seated with 3 other couples, all USA residents and good company. And as usual on cruise ships we probably ate too much. We went to the on-board theatre to see the comedian act which was quite funny. It was a long day with little sleep so by now we were both very tired and retired for the evening.

Posted by Ace from Oz 01:59 Archived in Canada Tagged alaska vancouver first_blood princess_cruises Comments (0)

Day 17 - Friday 15th May 2015

Kelowna BC

sunny 24 °C

For the first time this trip, today was a day that we had little planned, which suited is fine as we had been on the go every day which gets tiring. We started our day with a wonderful breakfast cooked by Steve who is an ex-chef and he presented us with a wonderful meal outside on the patio of his home, with sweeping views of the lake and the city of Kelowna. He served us chocolate and blueberry pancakes with caramelised banana, fruit with yoghurt and scrambled eggs with bacon.

Our only real plan for today was to meet up and have lunch with a Facebook friend I have that lives in Kelowna. Since we had a few hours before lunch. We headed to the two biggest wineries in the area. The whole district around Lake Okanagan is wine country, so we only had to drive 10 minutes to the wineries. They seemed everywhere, like every block had its own small winery. We were advised to go to Quail's Gate winery as it is one of the biggest. It was well set out with great views of the lake. I tried "ice wine" for the first time, super sweet dessert wine. We bought a few souvenirs from the shop then moved on to our next winery.

We visited the Mission Hills winery and were blown away by the opulence of this place. Greeted at the front by tuxedo wearing staff, the entire complex is magnificent. The restaurant outside overlooking the lake was amazing. The entire design is based on the old missionary style architecture you might find in Spain or South America.

After our brief winery visits we headed into Kelowna and met up with my friend Sherri for lunch. We ate at Earl's restaurant, a smart casual place across the road from the lake and the marina. It was great to meet up in person with someone I've known for over two years on Facebook and who is a sweet lady. Lunch was pleasant but went too quickly as we both had limited timed parking, so it was over in less than two hours.

As we had no other plans we were happy to drive around Kelowna looking for a shopping mall to spend some time wandering around in. We soon stopped at Orchard Park which had a large number of shops so after 2.5 hours wandering there we had picked up a few more items to add to our growing list to lug around on our trip with us.

We weren't that hungry for dinner given the nice breakfast and lunch we'd eaten, so we picked up some take away sushi to bring home for later. Sherri had given us a bottle of white wine which we put in the fridge, and as the sun was setting we had dinner and the wine on the patio of the bed n breakfast and were joined for a drink by our host Steve.

We relaxed in our room that night with another jacuzzi and arranged some luggage for our day to tomorrow where we had a long drive to board our cruise ship to Alaska.

Posted by Ace from Oz 01:53 Archived in Canada Tagged kelowna Comments (0)

Day 16 - Thursday 14th May 2015

Long Drive Westward

overcast 16 °C

We packed our belongings once again, although we had stayed three nights at Canmore we seem to be forever packing and repacking. After another wonderful breakfast we said goodbye to our hosts Carmelo and Anneke. We thoroughly enjoyed their bed n breakfast "Stella Alpina" and their hospitality and would recommend it to anyone holidaying in Canmore or Banff.

We had a long driving day ahead - in the end we were on the road for nine hours and covered 550kms but had lots of stops. We decided to stop back in to see Lake Louise, when we had stopped there Monday it was about 6pm and the sun was in our faces taking pics so we wanted to see it in the morning. Sure enough, no sun to worry about and the temps were very cold. We quickly walked to the lake which was still frozen, took our pics and walked back to the car to warm up!

We drove west and stopped at the Spiral Tunnels lookout. This viewpoint shows the spiral rail tracks and tunnels they built so the train can wind their way slowly down the mountain rather than plummet straight down at steep angles. We knew a train was approaching as we had passed it on the way so we waited for it and took pictures of the same train on three different parts of the track. The front of the train coming out of the tunnel, the middle of the train entering the tunnel and rear of the train underneath.

We took a quick detour to stop at Emerald Lake and the Kicking Horse River falls through a natural rock bridge. We only stopped long enough to take pics and move on, as we had lots of road to cover and didn't want to waste too much time.

The rest of our day was driving and stopping usually for a stretch, a coffee or a toilet stop. We stopped at places called Golden, Revelstoke and Enderby. We finally got to Kelowna about 6:30pm, and as our bed n breakfast accommodation was over the other side of the bridge we decided to grab dinner first. Just a light sushi meal, we had snacked all day long during the car trip.

We got to our accommodation around 8pm, and wow what a place! Up on the mountainside overlooking the lake and the city. We rented the Grand View room - amazingly spacious, our own private jacuzzi with a view over the lake too. The room is massive, the bathroom also massive. Biggest shower I've ever seen. You can fit six people in there (not joking). Super neat and so beautiful here, totally blows our minds. After a long dong driving we decided to relax in the jacuzzi for a while, then jumped into the comfy bed and crashed into a deep sleep.

Posted by Ace from Oz 18:57 Archived in Canada Tagged kelowna lake_louise kicking_horse_river spiral_tunnels Comments (0)

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