The 2013 Alaska HAL CruiseTour, Part 1

The 19-Day Holland America Line Alaska CruiseTour, Holland America ms Statendam

 

 

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert
 

 

Part One

 

 

July 20 (Saturday, Day 1, Fly to Vancouver, Canada) –

Our first travel day was very uneventful. We left our house at 2:25 PM and everything was smooth sailing. We had an almost two hour (scheduled) layover in Seattle which gave us plenty of time for a sit-down dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Rainier

Soon after, it was time for the 42-minute flight to Vancouver. (Yep, 42 minutes!) We landed in Vancouver on time at 9 PM and then managed to pass through Immigration, get our luggage, clear Customs, hail a cab, check in to the Hyatt Regency Vancouver and get to our room by 9:58 PM!! We even had time for a quick visit to the Regency Club before it closed at 10 PM but all that was available were sodas, water and fruit. We stocked up, returned to our room and sat on our nice 23rd floor balcony while enjoying the refreshments. After awhile we decided we needed to unpack a bit and go to bed. What an incredible totally relaxed travel day!

July 21 (Sunday, Day 2, Vancouver, Canada; $1CAD = $0.97, $1 = $1.03CAD) –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prospect Point, Stanley Park

After a leisurely Regency Club breakfast, it was time for the day to commence. We went to the back of the Hyatt to catch the Gray Line Hop-On/Hop-Off bus, but when it pulled up it was full. We decided to walk to the main office in Gastown about a mile away. Snookums purchased a half-price Groupon a week ago for around $20 per person, so it was a good deal. We got seats in the open-air back of the bus and enjoyed the first hour or so of the city tour. When the bus arrived in Stanley Park, we decided to get off and wait for the Stanley Park Loop bus for the in-depth Stanley Park tour. It took about 45 minutes to arrive, but it was worth the wait.

Stanley Park is a 1000-acre urban park bordering downtown Vancouver that is a natural West Coast rainforest. It was opened in 1888 in the name of Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor-General of Canada. The Stanley Cup, given to the NHL champion, is also named after Lord Stanley. Stanley Park has scenic views of water, mountains, sky and majestic trees along a famous seawall. There are trails, beaches, wildlife (mostly raccoons), restaurants, natural, cultural and historical landmarks. It seemed like all of Vancouver was enjoying the beautiful day at the park along with us. Among other things, we saw the 9 O’Clock Gun that has been shot every night since 1894 at 9 PM to allow chronometers of ships in port to be set.

After the Stanley Park tour, we had to wait for the normal Hop-On/Hop-Off bus to arrive to continue. Then we saw some more of Vancouver before getting off at Granville Island, a peninsula and shopping district which includes a spectacular fresh food market. We ate Thai for lunch and our lips were happily tingling from the spices. Snookums followed lunch with an apple sticky bun that looked great, but really wasn’t that special. While walking around we were fortunate to see three river otters in the water. They had long tails and definite legs/feet which was why we decided they were river otters and not sea lions or seals. They were much larger than the river otters in the Kansas City zoo and we were very pleased with our first wildlife sighting of this vacation.After walking around Granville Island we decided to get back on the bus and ride it all the way to the Hyatt stop since we were tired and just wanted to relax. Unfortunately, it was so late that we had to transfer to another bus at one of the stops but ultimately we made it back. We were pooped and immediately went to the Regency Club for a delicious dinner of beef skewers, seared ahi tuna, mushroom bites, roasted vegetables, raw vegetables, feta cheese and olives. We enjoyed sitting on the balcony and had it all to ourselves. The raspberry cheesecake and pastry swans were served at 8 PM. We left a little after 9 PM and realized that the boom we heard at 9 PM was the 9 O’Clock Gun. It was a full day.

July 22 (Monday, Day 3, Vancouver, Canada) –

While eating breakfast on the balcony of the Regency Club, we were greeted by our friends, John and Laura. They booked this Alaska cruisetour first and we decided to join them. Their flight was three hours late last night so we didn’t get to see them until this morning. Snookums booked their Hyatt room for them so they get to enjoy the Diamond perks including Regency Club access and free WiFi. Snookums also had an expiring suite upgrade certificate to use and they really like the huge, well-designed suite. We enjoyed a long breakfast re-living “old” times from the 75-day HAL 2012 Grand Asia and Australia cruise before doing our own thing for a few hours. At noon we were picked up by Sharie, another friend from the 75-day cruise that lives in a suburb of Vancouver, and we commenced our day of touring. (John, Sharie’s husband, isn’t big into touring and since their car only seats five, he decided to stay home. Luckily we’ll see him Tuesday night at their house since it wouldn’t be the same without seeing him!)

Our first stop was the Tap & Barrel for lunch and to meet Sharie and John’s two sons. It happened to be Liam’s 32nd birthday so that was fun. The Tap & Barrel is a pub that serves a large selection of local craft beer and “gourmet” comfort food. It is located next to the former Athlete’s Village of the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was nice putting faces to two people we heard so much about during the 75-day cruise. Snookums really enjoyed her tavern cheeseburger, served with a deep fried pickle and sautéed onions, while Filbert continued on his quest to lose a few more pounds and ate a Cobb salad without any dressing. Filbert didn’t even order any beer while Liam and Reaon ordered the Howe Sound Blueberry Wit beer which looked like foamy blueberry juice! They’ve had it before and really enjoy it.

After lunch Sharie drove us to Vancouver Lookout for a bird’s-eye view of Vancouver. After taking the 40-second elevator ride up 550 feet, Sharie did a great job of telling us about all of Vancouver and its surroundings. We all marveled at her knowledge and she simply said that she knows about the city where she lives!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver skyline from the Lookout

Then we drove by the Point Grey beaches on our way to the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Greenheart Canopy Walkway. The garden was founded in 1916 and not a lot of items were blooming, but the trees and greenery were very impressive. We made our way to the canopy walkway and had fun walking on seven or eight aerial trails through the coastal rainforest. The bouncing suspended walkways were a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain forest!

On our way to Steveston, we drove along SW Marine Drive which is known for its huge mansions. Most homes in Vancouver have huge boxwood hedges in front of them that provide a lot of privacy and this was the case on this road, too. The hedges are all so nice and trimmed and Sharie says they need trimming about once a year. There are other varieties of hedges, too, and some really don’t need much trimming. Nothing like having your own natural four to ten foot fence in front of your house!

We soon found ourselves in Steveston village which is an historic salmon canning center in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond. It was originally inhabited by mostly Japanese Canadians and some of the architecture reflects this. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery was at one time the largest plant in British Columbia. While walking along the water’s edge, we found a bunch of wild blackberry bushes. While on the 75-day cruise, John regaled us with stories of picking blackberries and then eating blackberry pie. Most of them weren’t quite ripe, but we managed to find a few that were and enjoyed them. We continued our walk and Sharie took us to the RBC branch office (Royal Bank of Canada) that she managed in the early 1970s. It was full of good memories for her. We ate fish and chips on the dock at Pajos and although none of us thought it was that good, it was a lot of fun and the atmosphere was great. By the way, the weather all day was sunny and in the mid-70s – perfect!

It was after 7:30 PM when we left Steveston for Queen Elizabeth Park. On the way there, we drove by Sharie’s blueberry farm in Richmond that she sold about eight months ago. She picked blueberries for 12 hours a day during the blueberry season until she was 15 when she lied about her age to get a “real” job! (You had to be 16.) Her parents had other full-time jobs, but owned and worked the blueberry farm, too. She did NOT enjoy picking blueberries back then, but doesn’t mind it now that it is no longer forced upon her.

We arrived at Queen Elizabeth Park right before sunset. Queen Elizabeth Park is a municipal park in Vancouver on Little Mountain (550 feet above sea level). Its surface was scarred at the turn of the twentieth century when it was quarried for its rock, which served to build Vancouver’s first roadways. It is Vancouver’s horticultural jewel and is a major draw for floral display enthusiasts and view-seekers. It is the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore. We walked amidst the many beautiful flowers and landscaped areas and enjoyed the spectacular views of Vancouver. We all decided it was the perfect ending to a great day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth Park

Sharie drove us back to the Hyatt around 9:30 PM and we all agreed to meet again at 11 the next morning for more touring.

July 23 (Tuesday, Day 4, Vancouver, Canada) –

We took the SkyTrain to the stop where Sharie wanted to meet us. It was kind of funny since we bought our tickets at our outbound station and realized that all of the gates said “No Entry” even though there weren’t any barriers at the gates. We finally decided to just walk through and made our way to the correct platform. When we got off the SkyTrain and saw that Sharie wasn’t yet there, Snookums talked to a SkyTrain employee to find out why there wasn’t anywhere to swipe the tickets in order to gain entry (or to exit the SkyTrain station). The employee said that it is still on the honor system and by January 2014, the gates will actually be working and will have barriers that are closed until a passenger swipes a valid fare card. We all had a good laugh since after buying our fare cards we just kept looking around and couldn’t figure out what to do and finally just walked through. Well, that was the right thing to do!

Sharie arrived at 11:15 and drove us by her childhood home in East Vancouver and then her and her husband’s first home that they purchased for $25,000 and sold for much more later. We made it to the Lynn Canyon Park suspension bridge and enjoyed walking across the swaying bridge 160 feet above the canyon’s floor. After crossing the bridge, we hiked through the woods to the 30-Foot pool. We opted to not get in the water, but we could see many people playing in it. The outside temperature was around 75º but the water was much colder. After spending a few minutes balancing on the rocks, we hiked back to the suspension bridge only to find a large husky pulling its owner away from the bridge. The dog was scared to death to cross back over it, but that was the only way out. After awhile the owner picked up the dog and carried it. Halfway across the suspension bridge, the owner put the dog down and it took off like a shot to the other side. When it made it off the bridge, the dog patiently waited for its owner and in a few seconds was happily wagging its tail. We waited until the dog was completely off the bridge since we didn’t want to have to deal with some kind of crazed dog on the bridge. There was a table with various berries and cherries for sale and Sharie bought 10 pounds of blueberries for $22 for the quinoa salad she wanted for our dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suspension Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vancouver Expedition Members

Next we drove to Burnaby Mountain which is 1,214 feet above sea level. We had spectacular views of Indian Arm fjord, downtown Vancouver, the North Shore Mountains and the ocean. There were many beautiful landscaped flowerbeds and a large (25 feet tall?) ivy sculpture of two herons. We also saw a collection of Ainu totem pole-like carvings which commemorate the goodwill between Burnaby and its sister city, Kushiro, Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flag over Burnaby Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dancing Herons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totems

We made a small detour to go to Sharie’s house to drop off the blueberries as well as to say a quick “hi” to her husband, John, who was also on the 75-day cruise with us. When we left their beautiful house, we stopped on the side of the street so that Laura could take a picture of Mt. Baker. She and her husband drove to Vancouver from Seattle for a day trip a few years ago and on their drive back to Seattle they kept seeing a beautiful mountain in the distance that slowly got closer and closer. They never knew what it was until now – Mt. Baker.

We were starved and on our way to Fort Langley so we had lunch at Beatniks where Filbert enjoyed his wings and chicken skewers and Snookums enjoyed her grilled chicken baguette. Then we drove another three blocks to Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada. Fort Langley is where, a century and a half ago, a huge fur trade organization called the Hudson’s Bay Company established a small post to trade with the First Nations of the West Coast. The enterprise grew, evolved, and influenced history, leading to the creation of the colony of British Columbia. Today it is made up of reconstructed buildings and interactive displays and it was interesting (and hot!) to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Fort Langley

We piled back into Sharie’s Hyundai Santa Fe (which does hold five adults, but there isn’t a lot of wiggle room!) and went to Rocky Point Park which is situated along Burrard Inlet in Port Moody. It is almost 10 acres and has a swimming pool, skateboard park, free splash park, boat launch, hiking trails and wildlife viewing. One again we were all amazed at how beautiful and plentiful the parks are. There is a bandshell that is used every Sunday and the donations that are given for the music are given to the hospice that Sharie and John support.

Sharie had told John that we would be home for dinner around 6 and we pulled up at their house at 6:15. After making several delicious salads, the six of us enjoyed a great grilled dinner outside on the patio and it felt just like we were back on Holland America’s ms Amsterdam! Sharie’s apple streusel pie was a definite hit as was the four kinds of grilled protein, salads, baked beans and corn on the cob. We stuffed ourselves and finally decided we needed to call it a night around 10:30. Sharie drove us to the nearest SkyTrain station, about 15 minutes away, and 35 minutes after that the four of us were back in our Hyatt rooms. It was another great day with friends.

The 2012 Alaska Cruise, Part 3

The 2012 14-Day Alaskan Explorer, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Part Three

July 7 (Saturday, Day 10, Homer) –

Kilts in Homer. Why? Who knows?

Snookums, Filbert and Matt left the ship and looked for the rental car woman on the dock. We didn’t see anyone and asked a local to call the rental car number. We then found the woman in the big maroon van that was to be our rental car. She took us to the airport for us to do the paperwork and then we were off on our adventure. On the way to the scenic overlook by the cell towers, we passed the Farmer’s Market and stopped. It was small but sold all sorts of produce, fish, handicrafts and potting plants. Zucchini were $4 each and tomatoes were $5 per pound. We talked to a vendor to find out why things were so expensive and he explained that he has two green houses that he heats with wood for 24 hours a day beginning in March and that is why things are so expensive. Matt wanted to bring his zucchini to Alaska and become a millionaire. It started sprinkling and was around 55° but we were okay.

We then headed to the overlook and were on the hunt for moose. We didn’t find any moose, but we did have a nice view of Homer. The Sprint phones had no service and Matt’s Verizon phone had one bar of service while standing next to several cell towers!

On the heights over Homer

Then it was on to Fritz Creek General Store. First, though, we passed the sign for Bear Creek Winery so we stopped there. Matt and Filbert enjoyed several tastings and ended up buying six bottles of various wines including gooseberry, rhubarb, raspberry and port wine. Both of them were amazed at how little the rhubarb wine tasted like rhubarb (which they both love) but they really enjoyed the rhubarb wine and bought two bottles of it. Snookums enjoyed the crackers with salmon spread that the lady was handing out while they tasted many wines.

We continued on to Fritz Creek in order to hopefully find moose. We didn’t see any moose but drove on a little road for a long time before it finally ended at a house. Along the way we saw houses, shacks, a rundown school bus that somebody probably lived in at some point and other dwellings. We drove back to Fritz Creek General Store and Snookums had the soup of the day (curry spiced tomato with garbanzo beans plus three slices of homemade sourdough bread – delicious soup and bread), Matt had a piece of blackberry/blueberry pie with a custard layer on the top (excellent) and Filbert had an Italian hoagie and carrot cake (yummy). Milk was $8 gallon in the store and Matt talked to the sales clerk and found out that a lot of the homes in Fritz Creek don’t have running water so they don’t even bother trying to save money by using powdered milk! Fritz Creek is kind of a hippie community, albeit a very small one.

On the way back to Homer we stopped at NOMAR which is a local company that makes polar fleece and sea tarp travel bags. We could see the factory part of the store which contained 10 huge tables and each one had a sewing machine on it. Since it was Saturday, no one was working, but all of the work stations appeared to be in use. Zippers could be purchased by the yard from a bolt as well as all sorts of fasteners and buckles. NOMAR specializes in making marine items like canvas for boats.

After that shopping trip, we went to the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center and watched a short movie about the area and looked at some exhibits, including hands on items like marine life that was caught that morning (starfish, little fish, etc.) and plants that were cut that morning. We learned that the white flowering weed that we kept seeing that kind of looked like Queen Anne’s Lace is highly toxic (like poison ivy) and is called Cow’s Parsnip. We did the little half-mile nature walk and saw three lesser sandhill cranes. There are four that are nesting in Homer and the naturalist was very excited about them since they return to their nesting areas each year. So, we saw three-fourths of the lesser sandhill crane population in Homer!

At the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center (chicks are in there somewhere)

Our final stop was at Homer Brewing Company. Two tastings per person were allowed and they were much smaller tastings than at the brewery in Juneau. Matt bought beer in a plastic 2-liter soda bottle to take to dinner.

We drove back to the ship but first drove up and down Homer Spit since that was the part of Homer that Jean and Pat would have seen since they were just going to walk from the ship. (You can’t walk to Homer proper from the ship. You can only walk to Homer Spit which is a mix of commercial fishing, some touristy stores and restaurants.) A lot of RVs and campers were parked in the various Homer Spit RV areas and the only road was busy. We drove to the end of the road on the Spit and turned around and parked the rental van at our dock. Matt agreed that just walking the Spit didn’t look too exciting. (Snookums and Filbert walked the Spit two years ago.) Although we didn’t see any moose, it was a good day.

July 8 (Sunday, Day 11, Kodiak) –

Snookums, Filbert and Matt got a rental car and ended up driving 107 miles. There are less than 100 miles of road on Kodiak Island!! Snookums really wanted to see a bear, but instead we saw a bison ambling down the middle of Pasagshak Bay Road for about ten minutes. There were two cars in front of us so the three cars just patiently waited for the bison to leave the road. Matt said that the bison was on the road since it was much easier terrain than the hill on either side of us. We also saw a lot of eagles and Filbert and Matt saw a large black tailed Sitka deer. Snookums drove the car back to where they spotted it, but it was gone by then (or at least hidden by the heavy brush). We also saw a rabbit (maybe an arctic hare?), cows and some horses that appeared to be untethered and unfenced, grazing half-way up a small mountain.

Bison on the road

We drove to the end of the Pasagshak Bay Road and saw the Kodiak Launch Complex which is a commercial rocket launch facility owned by the State of Alaska. It has had 14 launches, all successful, since it opened in 1991. After we drove to the end of that road, we decided to drive to the end of Chiniak Highway. It turned into an unpaved road which we followed for several miles before turning around.

After our four-hour driving tour, we went to the Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center museum that has the whale skeleton in it. While there we ran into Jean, Judy and Pat and ended up taking Jean with us while Judy and Pat decided to walk back to the ship. Then we drove over the Fred Zharoff Bridge in downtown Kodiak and got out for a view of Kodiak, population 6,000. After a quick stop at the Safeway, we drove to the ship. First, though, we had to stop at Kodiak Island Brewing Company and Matt and Filbert each decided to buy a pint. Beer is sold in growlers or in pints. The pints must be consumed on the premises. It is NOT a bar and really is a brewery. There is no food and no other beverages. Just the beer on tap. While there, Matt took an empty 50-pound hops bag that he was thrilled with since it was made out of heavy-duty plastic. He said he was going to use it for his dirty clothes on the way home.

We got back to the ship around 2:30 and had a light (late) lunch since dinner would be at 5:45. Tonight is formal night but we had reservations for Canaletto, the Italian restaurant, which doesn’t require formal attire. Everyone was happy with that decision.

July 9 (Monday, Day 12, Cruising Hubbard Glacier) –

Snookums met with the future cruise consultant to put a deposit on a South American cruise. Snookums and Filbert then attended the talk by the travel guide about the many tribes (12 or 13 – Snookums can’t remember how many!) in Alaska. It was very interesting.

At noon six of us enjoyed the Indonesian lunch that was just for the Deluxe Verandah Suite guests. (Snookums asked if Matt and Judy could attend and was told “yes”. Jean and Pat weren’t interested in attending since they wanted to eat Caesar salads with lots of anchovies in Lido.) It was very good and a nice change of pace.

Scenic cruising

Snookums and Filbert attended the park ranger’s talk and learned about the glaciers we would be seeing. Around 3 PM the “scenic cruising” started as we entered Yakutat Bay. We cruised by Malaspina Glacier which is the world’s largest piedmont glacier at 40 miles wide and 28 miles long. A piedmont glacier never reaches the water and instead just fills a plain with ice. Since it didn’t meet the water, we couldn’t really see much of it but did notice a line on the horizon where it was. The star of the show was Hubbard Glacier. It is North America’s largest tidewater glacier and is more than 6 miles across and 300 feet high. It was actively calving and the weather was sunny. The ship got as close as it could and then the port side (our side) was turned to face of the glacier. We stayed that way for at least 30 minutes since there was so much calving going on. At one point the ship started to leave but the calving really started so it stayed where it was. Our side got a great show and even Mom and Dad could enjoy it from the comfort of their suite. The rest of us were on the verandahs, though, listening to the loud roars as the ice broke and watching the big splashes as they tumbled into the water.

Splash

Jean attended the Indonesian Crew show at 11 PM since both of our waiters were in it. She enjoyed the hand dance the most. Everyone else in our group was probably sound asleep!

July 10 (Tuesday, Day 13, Sitka) –

Tlingit canoe

Filbert and Snookums took one of the first tenders to Sitka and walked around. Snookums got the free charm of Sitka and both got the free mink roses. When we were in Sitka two years ago we didn’t know about any free items since we went on a tour right away and missed the coupons being handed out at the dock. We bought duct tape, too, since Mom’s luggage (that Snookums lent to her) had a three-inch rip in it. We saw the commemorative Tlingit canoe by the library. We also saw an eagle on the top of St. Michael’s Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church that is a major Sitka sight.

July 11 (Wednesday, Day 14, At sea) –

Today was a sea day and it was overcast and 59°. Everyone attended the medallion ceremony and saw Dad get his copper medallion for cruising on Holland America for 100 days. (Mom got hers on the last cruise since she did a Panama Canal cruise 25 years ago with Snookums and other women.) Snookums also got a new medallion, a silver one, for 300 days. According to her calculations Snookums was only at 238 days, but if HAL says she gets the silver medallion, she’ll take it. (Filbert is at 204 days.) Mom, Dad, Judy, Jean and Matt enjoyed the Mariner’s lunch after the ceremony and sat with the mother of the future cruise consultant. They learned that the ship is chartered for the next two weeks by two different religious groups and so the casino staff, bar staff, performers and future cruise consultant are not allowed to work. They will get paid, but for those that work on tips, like the Filipino bar staff, the HAL wage is basically nothing. The future cruise consultant, though, is an officer and essentially gets a two-week paid vacation if she stays on the ship. If she goes home to Portland, she won’t get paid so she is going to stay on the ship and enjoy being like a normal passenger.

Medallions

Tonight was the last formal night and Filbert was happy that Escargots Bourguignons (escargot in melted butter) was on the menu. Our last cruise a few months ago was on Oceania and this typical formal night appetizer was never served so Filbert ordered two of them! (It should be noted that most nights Snookums ordered two desserts since the fruit crisp of the day was usually a good flavor and then there was always another dessert she wanted to taste.) As a surprise to Matt, the waiters sang the Indonesian “Happy Birthday” song since his birthday is in one week and we gave him a Hoops & YoYo singing surprise card. He was surprised and enjoyed the chocolate birthday cake.

After dinner Pat bought two future cruise deposits for Holland America since she is going to take her husband on an Alaskan cruise. She has four years to use these so the clock is ticking! Snookums and Filbert might just have to accompany them, too, since they are always looking for a reason to cruise.

July 12 (Thursday, Day 15, Victoria, BC) –

We woke up to the foghorn sounding every five minutes and fog so thick that you literally couldn’t see. Snookums and Filbert have experienced the foghorn before but never in fog this thick. It lasted for at least three hours and then as we got closer to Victoria, we sailed out of it. We could look behind us and see the line of fog. It was weird. Around 11 AM it was sunny and nice, though, and everyone enjoyed the salmon bake that was being grilled by the pool.

Matt, Jean, Snookums and Filbert left the ship around 12:30 and headed for the Tilley store. Tilley is a Canadian company and the founder created hats that are guaranteed for life. Filbert bought one five years ago and has worn it a lot and recently decided to buy a lighter weight version for the hot climates that we travel to. After Snookums pulled it out of the wash the last time, the nylon stiffener was coming out of the edge of the brim which meant it could be replaced for free. Filbert found a hat that he liked and Snookums found a pair of pants. Jean and Matt didn’t find anything. We continued walking around downtown and Filbert found a used bookstore. At that point Jean and Matt went on their way. While Filbert was in the bookstore Snookums enjoyed sitting outside in the sun people watching. She put on Filbert’s hat and decided she needed one, too. So they went back to the Tilley store and bought a hat for her and got another pair of free socks since there was a coupon for free $16 socks with purchase. They left the Tilley store for the second time and walked through the inner harbor and looked at the various vendors. They bought kettle corn and enjoyed eating it while walking the mile or so back to the ship. There was about an hour and a half before dinner so packing was started.

After dinner Filbert continued packing while Snookums wrote in the journal and also went from cabin to cabin delivering things and passing along messages. The bags were put in the hall around 10 PM and we settled in for the night.

July 13 (Friday, Day 16, Flying to Kansas City) –

After cruising 3,675 nautical miles (or 4,225 statute miles), the ship was cleared for disembarkation at 7:20 AM. We all met at 7:45 AM for a leisurely breakfast and then met in Mom and Dad’s cabin at 9:15 AM to leave the ship for the last time. We gathered our eleven checked bags and multiple carry-ons (including Matt’s bag of dirty laundry that was in the 50-pound hops bag from Kodiak Island Brewing Company!), found a porter, cleared Customs and headed out to where our pre-booked van would pick us up. All of this took about 25 minutes but was relatively hassle-free.

When we got to the airport at 10:15 AM it was a mob scene and getting our bags checked and going through security took at least an hour, but we had plenty of time since our flight had already been delayed an hour until 2:45 PM due to bad weather in Houston. We ate lunch while waiting for the plane and also bought dinner for on the plane since we wouldn’t land until 8 PM in Kansas City. The Southwest flight was uneventful and four of us even had an empty seat next to us. Our shuttle van was waiting for us at the KC airport and the first stop was at Mom, Dad and Judy’s and then Filbert and Snookums got home around 10 PM. Everything was fine except the yard was brown due to the watering ban in Lee’s Summit.

Other than not seeing any moose or bears, Snookums thought it was a great cruise. Filbert really enjoyed feeling like “being at home” on Holland America as compared to his feeling while on Oceania. Filbert gained 3 pounds and Snookums gained 3.4 pounds and enjoyed every one of her dinners that included double desserts since the Daily Baked Alaska or the Fruit Crisp of the Day was typically one of her dessert choices.

The 2012 Alaska Cruise, Part 2

The 2012 14-Day Alaskan Explorer, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part Two

July 3 (Tuesday, Day 6, Juneau) –

Mendenhall Glacier

Filbert and Snookums walked to Juneau Car Rental Company, about a mile from the ship, for our 8-passenger rental van. We picked up everyone else back at the ship and drove to Mendenhall Glacier. Mom and Dad stayed in the visitor’s center while the rest of us “hiked” to Nugget Falls which is a waterfall near the glacier. The weather was nice and it was an easy walk. Pat spotted a mountain goat that all of us were able to see. Snookums still wants to see a bear and a moose, though!

The gang at the glacier

After that we drove to Sand Bar & Grill for what many consider to be Alaska’s best halibut and chips. We all thought it was very good. Filbert and Matt ordered the 8 oz. meal for $17 while the rest of us had the 5 oz. meal for $14. A pitcher of Alaskan Summer Ale was also consumed.

Then we drove to Shrine of St. Therese. We hoped to see whales and other wildlife and nature but didn’t. It was beautiful, but we all stayed in the car since the mosquitoes (and mud) were prevalent. Then we headed to WalMart for some basic purchases before heading to the Alaskan Brewing Co. This brewery no longer gives tours (a video is played) but the free tastings are large and the limit is six per person! Dad enjoyed his Amber Ale. We piled into the van one more time, filled it with gas at $4.23/gallon and headed back to the ship. Everyone except for Snookums, Judy and Jean got out and returned to the ship. We returned the van and then we walked back to the ship while stopping at all of the free charm and necklace places. Snookums and Jean each bought a large bag of kettle corn for later, too.

Everyone was intrigued that Juneau can only be reached by air and water and not by road. It is the capitol of Alaska and has a fleet of state-owned seaplanes that we kept seeing land and take off.

The ship left Juneau at 10 PM and Juneau was going to celebrate its 4th of July with fireworks at 11:45 PM on July 3. (Sunset was at 9:56 PM.) Starting around 7 PM people built bonfires on the shore across from the ship and started shooting off fireworks. There were just a few to begin with, but as the night went on, more and more were shot off. Boats came to the harbor, too, since the official fireworks shows was going to be in the channel. As the ship was leaving there was a large personal fireworks display and the smoke was intense. Although he was dead tired, Filbert sat on the verandah and watched all of it. Snookums joined him for some of it and we ate the kettle corn purchased earlier in the day.

July 4 (Wednesday, Day 7, Icy Strait Point) –

Humpback, rather close

We were on the first tender of the day and got to Icy Strait Point around 7:35 AM. Our whale watching captain, Paul Comolli, was waiting for us with the Hoonah Travel Adventures van (hoonahwhalewatching.com). He asked us if we wanted coffee and Jean said “yes” and so we stopped at one of the two coffee shops for coffee to go. It was Jean’s birthday so if she wanted coffee, she could have coffee.

Then we drove to the 35-foot whale watching boat and set out for our adventure. We saw humpback whales, sea otters, stellar sea lions (even mating ones!), harbor seals, bald eagles and a mink. At one point, the water was full of “boiling fish” since there was a huge school of herring that were making lots of small waves and “pops” at the top of the water. Captain Paul gave Jean an enamel pin of a humpback whale since it was her birthday. After our 4-hour whale watching tour, Captain Paul took us on a tour of Hoonah.

Sea lions

He was a member of Juneau’s police department for 20 years before retiring to Hoonah, population 850. He wears many hats including being a volunteer fireman, an EMT, an electric company employee on Saturday and Sunday, and a whale watching captain. In his spare time he hunts bear and deer and does chainsaw art (by commission). His wife enjoys living in Hoonah, as do his three children. Hoonah has a grocery store, Ace Hardware and filling station all in one location and also has two coffee shops and a bait/tackle/gun store. We also saw a thrift store and a gift store (most likely for the tourists that come during the summer on the four weekly cruise ships). It is located three hours from Juneau, via ferry, or 30 minutes via seaplane. A round-trip ticket costs $150 for either mode (with a car allowed on the ferry). People buy a lot of their food from the Costco in Juneau and ship it in at a cost of about $1 per pound. Gasoline is $5.05/gallon. The high school class of 2011 had four graduates!

In the 1940s government housing that was destined for Guam was redirected to Hoonah. As a result there are many, many houses that look identical. And, since they were gifts of the government they are exempt from property tax. As a result, there is no property tax in Hoonah for anyone (and no state income tax for Alaska).

After our great tour we got back on the tender and headed back to the ship. We briefly stopped in our cabins to shed some layers and then arrived in Lido for lunch around 2 PM. Everyone was starving. There is something about being out in nature to make you extra hungry.

In the afternoon we had a birthday party for Jean in Mom and Dad’s room. Jean opened her presents and Mom even got various sweets from Neptune Lounge to go with the one bottle of champagne that was given to each Deluxe Verandah Suite.

There was another party at dinner as the wait staff sang the Indonesian version of “Happy Birthday” and presented Jean with a birthday cake with a candle in it. Everyone was full so Rofi, our waiter, made it into an aluminum foil swan to take back to the cabin. It was a good day.

July 5 (Thursday, Day 8, At sea) –

Today was a quiet day. It was overcast and around 50°. The highlight was that we all met in Neptune Lounge prior to the formal dinner for a family photograph.

Family photograph

Snookums and Filbert attended the 4-star Mariner cocktail party after dinner which was hosted by Captain Fred Eversen and Hotel Manager Frank Ulbricht. Snookums ordered a non-alcoholic blended mocha drink but it wasn’t as good as the free one she had on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam in February. Filbert had red wine.

For those of you wondering what there is to do during a day at sea, the following activities happened between 11:00 and 2:00 today:11:00 – History of Faberge, Queen’s Lounge11:00 – Flavors of the Amsterdam, Culinary Arts Center11:00 – Women’s Football Toss, Sports Court11:30 – Windows 7 with Techspert Patti, Digital Workshop1:00 – Team Trivia Challenge, Explorer’s Lounge1:00 – Art Auction, Ocean Bar1:00 – Relay Race, Atrium1:00 – Flower Arranging, Culinary Arts Center1:00 – $500 Slot Tournament, Casino1:30 – Texas Hold’em Tournament, Casino2:00 – Card Players Meet, King’s Room2:00 – Toast with Celebrity Designer Onboard, Piano Bar2:00 – Travel Guide Jeanette Presents “Fire and Ice”, Queen’s Lounge2:00 – Navigator Wine Tasting, La Fontaine Dining Room2:00 – Dance Class: Quickstep, Crow’s Nest

July 6 (Friday, Day 9, Anchorage) –

Snookums and Filbert took the shuttle to downtown Anchorage and then waited for around 50 minutes in line at Avis. We finally got the minivan and drove back to the port to pick everyone up. After a few delays for security reasons, we got to the ship around 10:30. Everyone was there except Mom who didn’t sleep much due to being slightly under the weather. She was fine, but tired, and decided to stay on the ship.

Closest we ever got to a moose

Our first stop was the Alaska Botanical Garden. Unlike most botanical gardens, this doesn’t have an arboretum and instead has woodchip paths through the woods with a few gardens sprinkled throughout. The mosquitoes were thick (and big and slow and easy to kill if you saw them in time) and we stayed for about thirty minutes. We did see the famous Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue Poppy) which was very, very blue and very pretty. Dad picked up two of the petals from the ground to show Mom.

At the Alaska Botanical Garden

Then we drove to Humpy’s, which is a local bar with food and around 50 beers, many local, on tap. We sat at two tables and Snookums ordered the cod and chips, Jean ordered the salmon and chips and Filbert ordered the halibut and chips. The three of us shared and the halibut and chips was definitely much, much better in Juneau. It was $6 more at Humpy’s as compared to the cod or salmon. The deep fried cod and deep fried salmon were both good and the salmon didn’t even taste “salmon-like”. It was red so it was definitely salmon, but it was very mild. Pat ordered a tuna salad sandwich that the menu specifically stated was made without onions and she was thrilled with that since raw onions make her sick. It came with homemade clam chowder, too, and she said that was also delicious. Two kinds of beer were consumed and everyone was happy.

After lunch we drove to Point Woronzof which is very close to the airport. It is supposed to be a scenic spot to see the ocean and downtown Anchorage. We were hoping to see whales or something but didn’t. However, since it was close to the airport, we ended up sitting on the side of the runway so that the interested parties (Dad, Matt and Filbert) could watch a DC-6 and several cargo 747s take off. At one point while Snookums was at a stop sign and before we realized how close we were to the airport, she put her foot on the gas pedal right as a 747 flew overhead a few feet. (Okay, it was probably more than a few feet, but several people in the minivan yelled and Snookums thought they saw a moose. Nope, a very low flying plane. That incident led to parking on the side of the airport and watching planes for 45 minutes or so.)

DC-6 taking off

After the airport “sightseeing” we stopped at Earthquake Park which is a small park that has plaques describing the 1964 Anchorage earthquake. The mosquitoes were thick there, too, and Snookums spent most of the time in the minivan. Judy was covered from head to toe, including having the hood of her parka on and tied so that only her eyes, nose and mouth were showing and she still managed to get five mosquito bites right above her eyebrows. But, unlike Snookums, she read all of the earthquake signs.

On our way to our last stop we filled up with gas and used the bathroom. While in the gas station convenience store, Dad realized that the licorice that was being sold was Mom’s favorite brand. There were seven packages of it (American is the manufacturer) and we bought all of them. Then it was on to Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary which was another nature spot with boardwalks built over the marsh for bird viewing. We found Potter’s Marsh but never saw any boardwalks. Instead we drove up a curvy hillside, with lots of switchbacks, to a subdivision and saw some very, very nice houses. On the way out, we went a different way and finally saw the boardwalks. By this time, though, we were done sightseeing and decided to go back to the ship.

Snookums and Jean dropped everyone off and returned the minivan to Avis and took the shuttle back to the ship. After a quick stop in one of the ship’s public bathrooms to wash hands, they went straight to dinner and got there around 5:45, right on time!

Pat and Matt stayed up for sunset at 11:39 PM and told everyone that it was still very light out at that time.

The 2012 Alaska Cruise, Part 1

The 2012 14-Day Alaskan Explorer, Holland America ms Amsterdam

Text and pictures by Snookums, webification by Filbert

Part One

(Remember to click “read more” if you’re looking at this from the main medary.com page to get the whole article!)

June 28 (Thursday, Day 1, Flying to Seattle) –

Flying over Yellowstone

Note – Snookums, four of her siblings, her parents and her husband Filbert are on this cruise.

Our shuttle minivan to the airport showed up on time. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t know how to stow the seat in the floor and after 15 minutes, Filbert was the one that figured it out. In the meantime, Snookums called the shuttle’s office and requested another (complimentary) shuttle minivan be dispatched to Mom and Dad’s house. Our shuttle made it to Mom and Dad’s house and five minutes after we arrived there, the other shuttle arrived. The five of us (Mom, Dad, Judy, Snookums and Filbert) piled into the two minivans and took off for the airport. Jean and Matt (Snookums’s siblings) were there, too. Judy and Snookums pre-boarded the Southwest flight with Mom and Dad and settled in while saving seats for the others. After ten minutes, we had to get off the airplane since there was a mechanical problem with the flaps. We joined Filbert, Matt and Jean back in the Kansas City airport gate area. Southwest announced that a spare plane was flying from Portland, Oregon to Kansas City to come for us. That meant we had a four-hour wait. Oh well, at least it wasn’t a weather delay. We knew we were going to get out of Kansas City, albeit a bit later than expected. Southwest gave every passenger a $100 travel voucher good for one year. That was a very nice thing for Southwest to do since it was not mandated. Much to our surprise, about an hour later an announcement was made that the mechanics identified the problem as being just a sensor and replaced the sensor and everything was okay. We re-boarded and took off on our 4-hour flight to Seattle and landed around 2 hours after originally planned (and $100 per person richer in Southwest travel funds).

Our hired 10-passenger shuttle van was waiting for us. It was around 63° and overcast which was nicer than the 95° we left in Kansas City. On our way to the Hyatt at Olive 8 we stopped at the local Walgreen’s so Jean could run in and get her antibiotic prescription that her Kansas City doctor had called in for her walking pneumonia. When we got to the Hyatt at Olive 8, Pat was waiting for us since her flight landed four hours earlier.

Matt walked to Pike Market for dinner and Snookums and Filbert enjoyed tilapia and a spicy chicken dish at Thai Ginger. The others ate dinner at the restaurant in the Hyatt. After dinner Snookums and Filbert went to Bartell’s Drugstore and bought three boxes of wine and a case of water to take on the cruise.

Filbert was asleep by 10 PM!

June 29 (Friday, Day 2, Boarding ms Amsterdam) –

Everyone enjoyed the free breakfast at the Hyatt at Olive 8’s restaurant. Snookums managed to save a free breakfast certificate for her and Filbert’s return visit later this summer. Mom and Dad ate breakfast with Mom’s cousin who also cruised with us to Alaska in 2010.

The van picked us up at 11 AM and we boarded the ship around noon and went to Lido for lunch. The rest of the day was spent unpacking, going to the lifeboat drill and running among four cabins. (Snookums and Filbert are in 7046, Jean and Judy are in 7048 and Mom and Dad are in 7058. These three cabins are very close to each other. Pat and Matt are in 6216 which is down one deck and halfway between 7046 and 7058.) Our steward, Soly, speaks excellent English and he is the steward for all three of our cabins on Deck 7. Sienna and Kate, the Neptune Lounge concierges, also speak very good English and Sienna remembered us from the 2010 Alaska cruise. Jean and Matt hadn’t been on a cruise in around twenty years so we all had fun bringing them up to speed.

Dinner was nice and we met our waiter, Rofi, and our assistant waiter, Pras. As usual, it was an early to bed night.

June 30 (Saturday, Day 3, Cruising Vancouver Island) –

Snookums and Filbert went to the gym around 6:30 AM and worked out. Then we went to Neptune Lounge for breakfast. Neptune Lounge is only for passengers in Deluxe Verandah Suites. On this ship, there are around sixty Deluxe Verandah Suites which means that Neptune Lounge is never very crowded. We didn’t make it to the noon Welcome Cocktail Reception for Deluxe Verandah Suite passengers. It was 50° and the seas were rough so Mom took Dramamine. Even Pat was feeling the motion of the ocean.At 2 PM Filbert and Snookums went to Jeanette Shanigan’s lecture, “Feathers, Fins and Furs” and then went to Royal Dutch High Tea with everyone. We dressed up for the formal dinner and had a good time in the Dining Room. The wait staff sang to Mom and Dad since we were celebrating their 61st anniversary. In addition to the desserts we ordered, we all enjoyed the chocolate cake that was part of the celebration.

Anniversary serenade, with cake

Filbert and Snookums went to their cabin while others attended the “Dancing Under the Stars” production show.

July 1 (Sunday, Day 4, Ketchikan) –

Snookums woke up early and went to the gym. That was a first since she never works out on port days!

Everyone but Mom and Dad met at 8 AM for our 4-hour salmon fishing charter with Captain Dan Leathers (http://northpacificcharters.com/default.htm). Captain Dan has been leading fishing charters in Ketchikan for 22 years. His 35-foot boat, the Kisutch, was well suited for the six of us. It had inside seating as well as a large fishing deck at the back. Captain Dan lives on the boat and during the off-season goes to his permanent home in Walla Walla, Washington. We saw bald eagles and they swooped in to get herring. It was amazing watching them get the herring in their talons and then transfer it to their beaks.

Eagle with a fish

Captain Dan put six trolling lines in the water and soon enough, Matt caught a king salmon, a coho and a pink. Matt also caught one that was too small and it was released. Filbert caught a king salmon and Snookums caught a coho. Pat tried catching four, but they all got away. Judy did her best to not have anything to do with the fishing and Jean didn’t want to actually catch any, but she did help. Everyone but Judy managed to get salmon blood on them. (After the first salmon was caught it was thrown on the back fishing deck. The hook made a bloody gash in the salmon and when it thrashed around, it managed to spray blood. Snookums’s khaki pants took the brunt of it, but she didn’t mind.)

First catch of the day

During the fishing, Matt spotted a black-tailed Sitka deer on the shore. They are very small deer. We also saw a lot of whale spouts, some backs and flukes. Captain Dan even grilled a pound of pink salmon for us on his portable Coleman propane grill and we devoured it. That convinced us to get our salmon catch processed in 1-pound vacuum packed packages and not smoked. Captain Dan figured that we would end up with around 22 pounds of processed salmon from our five fish!

Snookums’ prize
Filbert’s king salmon

(Note – Our frozen salmon arrived on July 18. We actually received 28 pounds of salmon – 14 pounds of king, 9 pounds of silver and 5 pounds of pink. The total cost was $207.61 and here is the cost breakdown from The Cedars Lodge:

– 28 pounds (filleted weight) of fresh salmon at $1.99/pound = $55.72  (Smoked would have cost $3.99/pound) – Boxing cost = $12 – Shipping = $114.70 – Tax = $4.06 – FedEx fuel surcharge = $21.13 – Grand total = $207.61 [or $7.42/pound])

It started raining on the way back to the harbor. When we got back, we went to Salmon Etc. and Filbert bought four cases of smoked salmon. Two years ago he bought two cases (24 total cans) and loved it so much that he doubled his purchase on this cruise. The store ships it so we don’t have to worry about hauling it back with us. After that stop, everyone went back to the ship for a quick lunch and then Jean, Judy and Snookums went back out, in the rain, to get the free charms at the various jewelry stores. We made it back to the ship by 4:15, which was 15 minutes before the all-aboard time. It was a full day!

Filbert put together a slide show depicting the day’s activities and everyone enjoyed seeing it at dinner. After dinner Mom and others went to the show that featured Jeff Tracta. He is an actor and is “Thorne” on CBS’s “The Bold and the Beautiful” which is Mom’s favorite soap opera. She really enjoyed his show which was a combination of comedy, impressions and singing. He performs in Las Vegas, too.

Diving whale

July 2 (Monday, Day 5, Cruising Tracy Arm) –

Waterfall

We woke up and went to the gym for cardio and did our planks back in the cabin. (We’ve been sprinkling flax meal and chia seeds on our food since we started doing that at home, along with daily planks [core exercises], about a month prior to the cruise.)

We enjoyed breakfast in Lido and Snookums enjoyed her first raisin bun of the cruise. It was tasty.

Mom went to Jeff Tracta’s 10 AM “Behind the Scenes” talk and enjoyed it, too. Pat and Dad went to the Veterans’ Get-together hosted by Ted Arnold, the ship’s Safety, Environmental and Health Officer who was also a veteran.

Veteran’s Get-together
Waterfall: closeup

Then it was time to bundle up and head outside at 10:30 AM for Dutch split pea soup served on the bow of the ship. Nothing like eating split pea soup in the morning while standing outside in a beautiful natural setting. The rest of the day was spent doing “scenic cruising” and the majority of it was between noon and 3 PM.

The glacier

We were fortunate in that Mother Nature cooperated and the ship was able to get as close as possible to the glacier. Some times there are icebergs in the way and the ship can’t get all the way there. But, this time we could. We saw several seals on icebergs and we also saw several icebergs that had red splotches on them that looked like large pools of blood. There was snow on the tops of the mountains and lots of waterfalls on the sides of the mountains.

Seal on ice

Mom and Dad watched the scenic cruising from their Deluxe Verandah Suite, Crow’s Nest, the Dining Room and Lido. They opted not to go outside in the 55° weather. It was partly sunny for most of the day and was a nice day for scenic cruising.

Snookums had three of her four shirts ruined by HAL’s laundry service. Her two ExOfficio long sleeve shirts were snagged in many places and her long sleeve dressy t-shirt was returned with a large hole near the elbow. Strange!! The salmon blood mostly came out of her khaki pants, though.

Medary.com – Springtime in Paris

This is just a bit tardy, but . . . Snookums and I took our honeymoon (our FIRST honeymoon, anyway) in Paris. Yes, the one in France. Here are a few pictures:

The French referendum on the European Union was going on while we were there. I wanted to get a picture of Oui and Non posters together and caught this one from the top of a tour bus:
Snookums and I (and some other guy at right) in a mirror in Versailles:
Next, a typical Paris street. Actually, some of them are more picturesque than this one, some of them aren’t, so this one is pretty much average.
Of course, any trip to Paris includes an elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower:
Sunset in Paris, from the top of the Eiffel Tower:

Israel Approves Gaza Pullout

Israel approves Gaza Pullout
Palestinian officials were unhappy with the measures, which they view as an attempt by Israeli leaders to draw borders unilaterally.
It’s astonishing to me that the Palestinians are putting up a fuss about this. Would they really rather quibble about a couple of square miles than accept success at last? Maybe . . . long range strategic thinking does not seem to be an Arab strength.
“It’s not an easy day, it’s not a happy day,” Sharon said at the beginning of his marathon Cabinet meeting Sunday. “But it’s a critical move for the state of Israel.”

This is a leap into the dark for Israel. Will the extended hand of peace finally be accepted, or will it again be slapped aside? Stay tuned.