Borrowing some words from John Denver to start my review!
Goin' up to Alaska, up to the land of the Midnight Sun where the whale and polar bear run o'er the icy blue sea Goin' up to Alaska, up to the north and the pioneer life where courage and strength still survive and a man can be free Men can be free Goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska
A year ago in Hawaii on the other Star (Norwegian Star) we were on the promenade deck having coffee with another passenger. It was early morning and we were watching the sunrise as we were sailing into Lahania Maui...We had a peaceful and serene view of the port and the hills of that island. We were remarking how beautiful we thought Hawaii was. Our fellow passenger told us..yes, Hawaii is pretty, but if you want to see REAL beauty..go to Alaska. So that is how this trip came to be .. within 2 weeks of returning from Hawaii..we were booked to sail on the Diamond Princess. An Alaskan Dream was born!!
Our inside quad cabin on the Diamond was booked even before we had a brochure to show it's location-we finally had a brochure with the deck plan in early Sept. 2002 and could start the many months of planning that we wanted to do. This was a big trip for us. Our son's ages 12 & 15 have limited years left for 'family' trips..so we had this one planned as one of the last 'big' ones. one that we hoped they would remember in years to come. In Oct. the news that the Diamond was damaged by a fire while under construction was a shock. Being so far away from sailing we had not made any other arrangements for the trip yet. Princess moved us to the Star Princess which had the same itinerary and would just go out of Seattle 1 day earlier. Slightly disappointed we would not be on the brand new ship as planned we adjusted and Princess gave us $25pp shipboard credit when we made the switch. Our voyage would be sailing on August 9, 2003. My sister , her husband and daughters 22 and 24 decide to join us.. We will have 8 of us going on this adventure..and lucky me gets to be the tour guide/cruise planner and problem solver.
Spring 2003 we get the trip into full gear mode. Purchase our airline tickets on United. (Baltimore - Seattle) The Iraq war and impact on airlines especially United with the bankruptcy status made us a bit nervous.. Final Payment comes in May and the credit card statement makes it all seem real. I start my intense information gathering on the internet, visit the cruise message boards constantly, order books from the library, brochures from the chamber of commerce's.check out the Princess shore excursions and start getting geared up for the trip to come. Precruise documents come and we get our excursions planned thru Princess set. do the online documentation. Our travel agent had called us in May to see if we would want to switch to 2 outside cabins instead of our quad inside cabin. we would pay about $250 more for the outside 2 cabins than the quad inside.good deal..we went for it.. It was the RIGHT decision!!!! We ended up on Emerald Deck, cabins 8209 and 8211..both with some obstructions from lifeboats and deck supports..but still could see plenty and had the bonus of getting out on the 'smile' deck..more on that later.
I make a great countdown calendar in June to mark off the days left until our trip.the pictures of snow covered mountains, glaciers, whales are shaping the dreams we have at night..this is going to be a fantastic trip! Make the car rental arrangements, hotel reservations, plan out the time in Seattle,,, devour every morsel of information that the previous cruisers have posted on the cruise boards..finally it is August..we can start the countdown for real..SDM-single digit midgets. each day drags by and we start packing, packing and packing. It appears the 4 of us are going to bring just about every stitch of clothing we own! 4 suitcases, a garment bag and duffel later we are ready to roll. It is August 6th and today is the day. It is finally our turn..we are Goin' to Alaska!!!!!
Slight delays in Baltimore leaving but make the tight 40 minute connection in Chicago.. arrive Sea Tac after mid-night their time..feels like 3AM to us East Coasters. Wind thru the confusing airport, pick up luggage and finally find the place 'Island 3" where we call our hotel-Ramada Inn and Suites to pick us up. Luckily they arrive 5 minutes later..we do a quick check in and drag our weary bodies to bed. We made it this far ..so far so good!
Thursday August 7, 2003
Up early for Seattle.. 7AM or so..glad to see the sun to greet our day. We have the skimpy continental (FREE) breakfast at the hotel and pack up for our day in Seattle. We had purchased ahead of time Visitor's Bus Passes to use ($5) for the day..included bus and trolley, water taxi transportation. Pick up was at the hotel next door.. long long ride into city. bus 174 was not the express route. Probably took us about 45 minutes to make it to the Westlake center. We take our trusty Seattle map and head down to the Pikes Market. Beautiful flowers, many displays..we wind around before we spot the crowd that is hanging by the fish stall waiting for their show. They take a group of tourists and place them near the ice where the fish are 'chillin' Next they call out and then throw some large fish with guts trailing out over the tourists. It was funny to watch.but not all that it was hyped up to be. Rachel the brass pig was nearby for a quick pat for good luck. Picked up some coffee and donuts then headed down to the water. Glorious day in Seattle..sunny and mid 70's . Find some fish and chips for lunch nearby , then head on the trolley car to Pioneer Square. We wind around the square (with many unsavory homeless beggars) to the place to meet up with the Underground tour. get our tickets, have an ice cream cone then join the 2PM tour led by Terry Lynn. good information and interesting walk underground Seattle. City built up a level by building retaining walls on sidewalks, sending silt down mountains to raise the ground level..objective was to provide place for the sewers, water system for 'indoor plumbing' Yep, thanks to Thomas Crapper..Seattle now has flush toilets! After tour we take the Elliott Bay water taxi for a QUICK ride back and forth across the bay. Talk to some Seattle natives about the city. Then we decide to separate for rest of afternoon . Sister and her family head to Seattle center to go up Space Needle. We go to the Seattle aquarium. Aquarium was not as spectacular as the one we have here in Baltimore..but decent displays and information about the sealife on the west coast. Nice place to bring the boys. Trolley up Alaskan Way to the end of the line and then hike UP to the top of the hill to the Seattle Center. Our son's enjoy going on a couple of the rip off amusement rides there.. shop a bit in the stores next to the space needle and then meet up with my sister's group. Boy's favorite activity of the day was playing in the strange space capsule shaped fountain near the space needle.. I let my one son strip down to shorts and enjoy the spray. Find a restaurant for dinner..Irish pub restaurant-hard for us to find a place that is 'kid friendly' and has a menu acceptable to everyone (and within budget!) we will be glad to have the cruise ship make that 3x's (or more) a day decision for us! Take the monorail back to Westlake center.. walk around the block trying to find the bus stop for our return to hotel stop..finally ask a bus driver where to meet our return bus toward SeaTac. wait there for some long near hour time before squeezing onto the bus for the long ride back to hotel. Another late night, probably 11PM before we make it to the hotel, have tired feet from the walking downtown, just want SLEEP. nighty night.
Friday August 8th, 2003
Start day around 7AM with another not memorable breakfast in hotel, head to airport on shuttle to the Alamo car rental for our Toyota corolla we have reserved for the day. Head north from airport to make Everett,, where they have the Boeing Plant. We have tickets for the 11AM tour there. Arrive a bit early and are switched to the 10:30 tour instead. Tickets can be reserved ahead of time for $10 per person.. you can try to get in person at reduced rates $5 adults, $3 children but you may not get the time you want or they can be sold out for the day. See excellent movie in the theater there showing the history of the plant and the overall process. Load us on a bus to drive over to the huge assembly building. Largest building by volume in the world! HUGE..they say that Disneyland would fit inside it. Our tour guide takes us down the steps and up the elevator into the plant. We see dozens of workers (from the near 20,000 total employees on 3 shifts) working on airplane wings. It is an incredible site-they have bicycles 13,000 of them to help the workers go from one part of the plant to the other. We can see 1 of the 3 assembly lines, where the large 2 aisle 747 aircraft are assembled. 11 month process of about 200 million and up cost per airplane. Back on the bus they take us to where they are painted and tested. About 7 airplanes are in this area waiting the last steps til the delivery to the customer. Our guide stated that delivery day is a very special one, they take the buyer's pilot on a special 3 hr flight, transfer all papers in a ceremony and then the plane is flown out by the buyer. We were told that usually these aircraft are instantly put into service as a 'revenue' flight. within hours is the time frame they told us. I guess I would prefer a more 'seasoned' aircraft for my flights if possible!!! We take our rental car down to the ferry at Milketo to do the short crossing over to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Have about a 15 min wait til we are efficiently brought on the ferry. These are impressive transportation vehicles, very clean and comfortable with large reasonable priced snack bars in the middle. We have popcorn and drinks and go outside for a glimpse from the back of the ferry. Only a 20 min ride we were enjoying it and wished it could have been longer. Off on the island we circle down to a cute town of Langley and pick up some goodies from the bakery there. Next stop is the Whidbey Island State Park where we hike down to a little beach there, return up the hill and share our bakery goodies at the picnic tables. Off on the main island roads..I am surprised by the large size of these islands, what looked like maybe 10 miles or so on a map is more like 20+ miles.. Final destination on Island was Deception Pass State Park. You can walk out in the middle of the bridge and look down at the swirling currents between the islands..and look towards the San Juan Islands. That view made the day for me. Beautiful!! Long haul back to Seattle, we seem to be arriving just as the Friday afternoon rush hour comes to a peak. We are lucky to qualify for the HOV carpool lanes with our 4 occupants in the car. We circle a bit to find our hotel and relax for awhile. Boys hit the indoor pool and we order them pizza from pizza hut. After that arrives husband and I go to Denny's down the street for some 'couple' time. pick up some beer from the gas station convience store next door, back to hotel for the evening. Do a quick load of laundry so we can board the star with all ready for the week. My sister and family return to hotel about 8PM. They had gone south to Mt. Ranier for the day. Enjoyed several hikes there including one to a waterfall. One negative experience they had was they had stopped by airport to return rental car to Alamo so they wouldn't have to worry about it the next day. Alamo wanted to charge them a $160 day rate instead of the $17 internet rate we had booked for returning the car early. After a major fight with the rental clerk they did get that charge adjusted. They did get hit up for the full tank of gas ($31) since they had signed up for it that morning that way. We all chatted about our day..and toasted our beers to the voyage to come -TOMORROW, the day we have been waiting for ..the day we sail off on the Star Princess.
Saturday August 9th, 2003
Husband Paul is up early and has the Seattle paper to read with his coffee. When I join him downstairs he calmly asks me if our ship is named the Star Princess. I reply yes (tho he has been told this information maybe a dozen times by now!) he shows me the 2 column article about the Norwalk Virus causing illness to over 100 passengers and crew last week.. Oh boy was that just what I DIDN'T want to hear right before getting on the ship. I tried to rationalize in my head that 100 passengers out of 2800 passengers just wasn't some huge outbreak but the worry was hard to shake. We repack our luggage and check out of the hotel around 10:30AM. Our limo driver arrives about 10:45-this is our first limo experience for myself and our boys so they were enjoying touching every button, taking pictures and chatting happily on the ride down to the pier. First view of the ship on our left..HUGE..then we see the TV cameras waiting to interview the returning passengers. Drag out the luggage and take it to the check in area. Wait about 15 min before they move us into terminal to load the bags on the xray conveyor. Move over to the ticketing area and have about 30 people in line ahead of us. There is a separate line for platinum ticket holders, no express line. We are given a 1 page letter explaining that the embarkation will be delayed til 7PM,sailing til 9PM while they will be disinfecting the ship to prevent any further illness from the virus. They outlined a $50 per cabin, shipboard credit, that they would provide transportation to a hotel downtown and that Princess would provide hospitality suites there for passengers. I was not totally surprised by this news but still disappointed. To be at the port early is one of my goals,, I love the time on the ship when it is still fairly vacant to explore and find all the hidden treasures. Lunch aboard then relaxing, unpacking and getting that first drink to celebrate the trip to come is all part of the top 10 favorite cruise experiences for me.. not this trip. Ok..we find seats in the waiting area and try to plan our out unexpected free time in Seattle. After about an hour we are loaded on buses and taken downtown to 3 different hotels. Inside our hotel, the Hyatt, (nice!) Princess had a large hospitality room, with sodas, water , coffee, there are 2 representatives there with brochures for different Seattle attractions. We settle in with our drinks and decide to hit one of the movies from the theaters down the street here. The hotel concierge gives us a nice printout with movie times - we decide to go next door to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch - we were told to return no later than 7PM to return to the ship. ( I guess the question should have been how EARLY can we board the Star.. some passengers were able to get on at 4PM ) Wait a bit for our lunch at Cheesecake factory...Unfortunately I was feeling headachy and stomach flip flopping all day so it was not as enjoyable as it could have been. For me to turn down any cheesecake is a sign that all was not WELL. We walk down the street fair where Tyler (12) does the golf putting and gets an impressive hole in one! They reward him with a beer glass (?) music performers, little exhibits, we wander into the shopping mall Brookstone store and waste time playing with all the gadgets there. 4PM we go to our movies. Seabiscuit, Pirates of Caribbean and Freaky Friday were the choices for the 8 in our group. After the shows we meet again and head back up street to the Hyatt. There is a short line getting on the bus. Head back to the pier. It's after 7:30PM when we are finally ON the Star. We head up to the Emerald deck, walk forward on the Starboard (right) side and find the 2 cabins that will be HOME SWEET HOME for us this week. Put the boys in 8209 with the 2 twins beds, large 12 inch deck support is blocking some of the view from their large window. We are next door in 8211, has a nice queen bed, and some part of window blocked by lifeboat #1. We really liked this cabin arrangement. First one of our 12 cruises with the separate hallway for the closet. This prevents that problem of doors banging into each other from bathroom and closet that we have had previously. Our cabin Steward Augustino from Portugal introduces himself and shows us the important things about our cabin. Meanwhile they make the first announcement that muster drill will be held at 8:15PM. I am trying to hustle everyone so we can be in the dining room before that stops everything..but no luck. By the time our group is ready, passengers are going down to the promenade deck with their life jackets. Dinner will have to wait. I had made all the compromises I wanted to for that day, I was ready for a temper tantrum! I really feel that this drill could have been postponed til Sunday or at least delayed until the passengers who didn't get on the Star until after 7PM could have had their dinner in the dining room. I know the buffet is opened 24 hrs. and there is room service..but I had expectations for being served and wanted that more pampered experience. The rest of the group went to muster and for the first time in 12 cruises I skipped the drill. I was ready in the cabin if our steward requested that I go..but meanwhile used the nice quiet all alone time to unpack and have a few minutes to finally take a deep breath..we were on the STAR at last. Drill over, our family speed down the stairs and made it to the Capri dining room before they closed for the night at 9:30PM. Ok Sailaway menu. (flourless chocolate cake a disappointment,, NCL has this one beat by a mile!) We were on the port side of the dining room and could see the ship start to move by the passing of the orange cranes lighted in the night. I would have liked to be up on the top deck watching the lights of the Seattle skyline fade into the distance. I heard later that there was no real fanfare up top. No band playing, no sounding of the ship's horn. Off to Alaska! Our first dinner over..finish the unpacking for the boys. My sister knocks on the door to see if we want to go to the 10PM show in the Princess Theater. We join them and find some seats off the entrance on deck 7. Nice comfortable lounge, long aisle seats like in a stadium movie theatre. Seems to be too small for the size of this ship. Often crowded and problems with saving seats by some people. Not too many waiters available for drink service. Show introduction by Billy Hygate, older 60 ish?? Man with decent voice, seasoned cruise director, he has his job down and can smooze the passengers with ease. He introduces the cruise activity staff,,,much older than ones we have had on other cruise lines, the dance team does a number to welcome us for the week, then we are treated to the humor of Kevin Hughes. He is just what this weary sailor needed for the night. His on target assessment of men and women relationships had just been played out in real life for us that day. I laughed and laughed. It was a delightful end to a difficult day. Off for the first night to sleep on the Star. gentle rocking motion of the sea sending us off to dream land.only negative was the ROCK hard pillows provided by Princess. I think even prisoners are given better padding in their cells! My sister had the cabin attendant give them substitute ones for the week. I was saved by my 'squish' pillow that I always bring from home-good planning on my part.
Personal Choice Dining-- We had chosen Personal Choice Dining for this cruise based on the time we would be in port. We thought it would be better to be able to dine when we wanted instead of being locked into a set dining time. We had 3 prior trips on Norwegian Cruise Line with freestyle dining and had enjoyed how well that worked on their ships. On the Star I would rename the personal choice dining,, IMPERSONAL choice dining. I will give them points for fast and efficient moving of people in and out of the dining room What is lost in this process is the pampering and usual friendly greetings from the host/hostess and wait staff. The usual greeting entering the dining room was barked at us with the words "How Many?" and then "Is everyone with you?" I understand the need for Princess to try to reduce the waiting time at the dining rooms but we have had this same set up on Norwegian and they handled things efficiently as well as with a touch of 'class'. how about changing that greeting to ."Welcome to the Capri Dining room. How many will have the pleasure of dining with us this evening??" It bothered me every time we would go to either dinning room. One night my husband tried to get the name of one of the host staff to have for my comment form as he was especially nasty (the night we were going to Victoria) and he barked back Damon at him.so watch out if you see him at the door! We had most of our meals-breakfast , lunch and dinner in either the Capri or Portofino dining rooms. Service about the same in each one. We tried on 2 occasions to get the waiter Dennis in Capri that someone had mentioned was exceptional. He always had tables reserved ahead of time. The wait staff we had continued with the rushed and impersonal service. I would say maybe 4 waiters out of the 2 dozen or so meals in the dining room that week took the time to introduce themselves and talk about the menu for the night. Most rushed to hand us the menus, came back to take the order.. This was the first ship that did not have the usual array of silverware on the table. Maybe it was a sanitation thing, for the most part it was ok. You didn't have to think about..gee what fork am I supposed to use since there was only 1 fork available! Sometimes however your fork had disappeared with the prior course and you would not have one to use until you could grab the waiter to bring you another one. Coffee was available with dinner but it usually arrived just as you were finishing the dessert. Cappuccino which used to be a complementary beverage is now an extra charge. (Carnival and Norwegian have it complementary in dining room) I was not impressed and this dining experience ranks bottom out of the 12 cruises we have had. Food quality ok, sometimes we had difficulty finding choices that appealed to us. The waiters were good about asking if you would like a replacement entrée for something you did not care for. We didn't think the desserts for the week were worth the calories. The exceptions are the chocolate silk pie available for lunch midweek, the duet of chocolate mousse (Thurs) , and the love boat dream dessert. (Fri) We had some good meals, especially the lobster and crab legs - but most were not that impressive especially with the less than remarkable service.
Horizon Court dining- We used the buffet for several breakfasts. had pizza from the mid-deck café..both had adequate food. The buffet has little 'island's with the food which may prevent lines but has the passengers groping about trying to hit everything. It was a hunt to find the butter, the jelly etc. none near the bread items as you might expect. This food court was open 24 hrs per day. We did visit 2 late nights around midnight for a snack. Food looked like most items on the regular evening menu on the buffet. My son did eat a pile of shrimp one night that they had peeled ready to eat in a large shell bowl! Ice cream without an extra charge is only available in dining room or for 1 hour in the buffet 3:30-4:30 each day. We finally found it one afternoon and thought the quality was poor. Store brand ice cream at best. There is a nice ice cream café mid-deck near the pool called scoops.bring your ship card because you have to pay for ice cream from here. We have always had decent ice cream and access to soft serve on the other ships we sailed without charge so we did not feel the extra charge on Princess was acceptable. I had read about the coffee being made from a syrup..I asked my husband if he noticed any difference, I am not a big coffee drinker. After that he kept saying that the coffee tasted weird ..I should have kept my mouth shut! Star Princess was the first cruise we had been on that did not have special midnight food offering or a grand midnight buffet. I guess this is a cruise line wide policy... we usually only go to look at the magnificent food displays , just another not as expected event of the week. No biggie.certainly don't need those extra calories! At breakfast they had some premade omelets available in the buffet line..but no omelet man or waffle man as usual on our other trips. Again, don't know if maybe they are making changes due to health reasons or maybe it is not the usual on Princess. Just little things we had before missing on this trip. Most first time cruisers would not see the subtle differences, for us it was hard not to compare.
Sunday August 10th, 2003 At Sea en route to Juneau
Wake up to dense fog outside our window. Can hear the fog horn sound from time to time. Squeeze into the shower..experience the nice little packets of shampoo/conditioner (Kevin Hughes comedian claim they are unopenable..it is a bit tough) off for breakfast..eggs benedict in the dining room. We take time afterward to tour the ship as we had missed out on that on Saturday. We especially liked the 'secret' emergency door forward on deck 8 starboard side where we could go thru the double doors and go out on the nice 'smile' deck in the bow of the Star. Nice but usually windy view. There was a bench that was sheltered near the stairs that we would sit on for hours gazing at the beauty of Alaska. Usually very private, it was like having your own HUGE bow balcony! Loved it and was only a minute escape from our cabin when we would see something especially lovely to view outside. Checked out the other decks, lounges, pools, etc. think we found everything except the Almalfi dining room someplace on Deck 6. I don't know where this room is hidden but we never discovered it that week. Maybe if we had traditional dining we would have lost 5 lbs instead of gaining it-not being able to locate the room all week! Go to Princess theater at 10 to hear the naturalist Michael Modzelewski. I enjoyed his lectures. Sure I think if you hooked a lie detector up to him it would be off of the charts with his stories.but he is entertaining and gets you in the Alaska mode with his tales of wildlife and escape from the world. I didn't buy his book on ship..too cheap to pay that price. Found it on amazon used for $1.47 plus shipping so if you are frugal like me wait and get it for cheap. Good slides of Alaska to highlight his talks..we usually went to his shows or caught them on the TV later all week long. Sign the boys up for their respective kid's clubs for the week. Was great for Tyler (12) who made dozens of friends all week and had a great time. The older son PJ (15) didn't get to mix in that first night and never really made a 'connection' all week. Oh well, 1 happy out of 2 is not bad. PJ was happy going to shows with us, movies on his own, or watching TV in cabin when we were out and about. Have lunch in dining room then meet in Skywalker Lounge the cruise critics that have been corresponding for the months prior to our trip. This was our back up meeting time..good planning on Vicki's part since our original 3PM Saturday sailaway meeting never came to be with our delayed sailing. Beautiful lounge with full 360 viewing from the top of the ship. We were lucky to have fairly calm seas, sunshine and nice conversation together. I especially enjoyed meeting Janet and her husband Bob as we had jointly obsessed for the past month via email all of the little decisions about our trip to come.
Sea days are great..somehow this one evaporated like they all do. Blur of food, activity and just some sit out and watch the water sail by time. See 2 weeks notice movie in Princess Theater. Formal night. We all get ready..protests from the boys about the ties/belts/dress shoes but manage to survive. Have a couple FREE drinks in the Promenade lounge for the 'captain's party' before dinner. Salmon for dinner was tasty. Decide to go to 8:30 Juggle show..interesting and funny, ping pong balls popping, unicycle riding very talented man. On way back to cabin we are hooked into listening to Bert Stratton. His voice carries in the atrium. Excellent pianist and wonderful voice. He has a crowd hanging on the rails of the lounge and all seats but 2 taken. We grab those seats and join in the singing and clapping. GREAT show..one of the best we have had on our many cruises. Thank you BERT. Head up to deck 14 and drag our son Tyler out of the pool there, he eats a pile of shrimp and down we go to sleep again for another gently rocking night on the way to Juneau. Midnight.
Monday August 11th, 2003
Princess Patter for the day has a special yellow sheet outlining the canceled excursions and ones that have times changed. This is our first knowledge of the late arrival in Juneau. I had naively thought the ship would be able to make up the lost 4 hrs and arrive on time. This has changed our plans for Juneau. I am scheduled with my son PJ to go on a whale watching trip with Captain Larry at 2PM .. we had arranged for pick up at glacier. My husband and son Tyler are on a princess tour to the mendenhall glacier via canoe..that trip time changed from 11:30AM to now 6PM.. We adjust the day and eat breakfast in the Lido..watch some amazing scenery outside the window and then head to our front 'bow' location to watch most of the morning. See some little porpoises playing in the water ahead of the ship as we sail along. It is a beautiful day..warmish 50'60's out front.. sunny and clear! Thank you God for this beautiful day, this beautiful ship and all healthy on board! Busy at lunch in Portofino which is the only dining room open. (seating around maybe 500 in that room, backed up several times during week for lunch as this was the only choice besides buffet) Wait in room for announcement that the ship is cleared. Juneau is big time busy. Float planes flying, 2 other ships in port.. crowds on the street going to shops. My husband spots the passengers leaving the ship so we join in the long line headed to the gangway. Off around 2:30PM , husband and son Tyler go shopping, PJ and I head to the Orca Enterprises office across from the tramway entrance to see what was happening with our whale watch. Somehow Orca had found out about the delayed arrival of the Star and had been able to move our group of 4 to the later whale watch trip. Because of the juggling , our original plan to go to the mendenhall glacier and have a pick up there could not be done. With only 1 ½ hrs before our tour it was too close a time frame to do it on our own. We decide to head across the street and go up the tramway in the meantime. HOT..the temps in Juneau are upper 70's and we are layered in long sleeves, sweatshirts, windbreakers, leggings and windpants. We peeled off a bit and joined the ticket line at the tram way. I asked the wait time to go up and down on the tram. The girl estimated 20 min wait to go up and didn't know the wait to come back down..with our 90 min time window shrinking fast before our whale watch we decide to just spend the time available in the stores. Great shopping in town..reminds us of the Caribbean with the many vendors. Most have the same assortment of tee shirts, ulu knives, totem poles, stuffed animals.. we join in the buying frenzy and have several large bags to tote to the Orca office. Get a quick photo of the Red Dog saloon and head back for the tour office. They kindly agree to hold our shopping buys..load us into the little bus and head us out to the marina. Nice driver gives us a mini tour of Juneau, he stops at the parking lot that has a wonderful field of wildflowers framed by the Mendenhall glacier and also mountain peaks on the side. Postcard perfect we jump out and snap some photos. 10 min later we are at the marina and can see the Awesome orca coming into dock. The prior tour (our tour!) exits the boat all raving about the whale experience they just had. We hope we will be as lucky. Captain Larry welcomes us aboard and the 23 or so of us squeeze into the bench inside seating. Captain Larry gets on the microphone and introduces himself and the 'naturalist' Susan for our tour. He does most of the commentary for our trip.. A little information about the area, the boat and what we hope to see there this beautiful afternoon. Boat speeds out to the whale habitat in about 15 minutes. almost instantly we spot the 'blow' of a whale near the shoreline - Soon after we see a pod of about 7 whales doing bubble net feeding. The camera is not cooperating with snapping the pictures as instantly as is needed to capture their brief time above the water. We see this several times over. The binoculars are helpful.what I like most is the 'surprise' factor.. the whales will spout, feed and then return under the water for 4-7 minutes..you watch for the seagulls to circle over head and then surprise..up pops a HUGE whale and then others in succession. It was a visual thrill every time. We experienced this pod bubble feeding about 5-6 times and also saw another pod of 4 whales further in the distance. It was exciting. I asked Larry how he would rate this trip we experienced on a scale of 1-10..and he said he would give it a 12! I don't know if it was truth or not but seeing those huge mammals in the wild was one of my favorite Alaskan memories for sure! All too soon we were heading towards an island, spotted some harbor seals lazing in the sunshine, some oyster catcher birds. Sped us back to the dock, Susan served juice, water , crackers, cheese-coffee to Captain Larry. I had the feeling she was more his 'girlfriend' than his naturalist?? Maybe she did some whale talks on the back deck that I didn't hear .. otherwise the information was shared by Larry. I found him comfortable to talk to as long as you were the one with the questions. Back to the marina and bus back to the port. Nice day in Juneau, I was anxious to hear how my husband fared on his canoe excursion. We had a nice dinner in the dining room, joined by 3 generations of women from Tucson-I go out on Promenade afterward to wait for the canoe trip to return. They were scheduled to be back at 10PM..the same time as sailaway from Juneau. They arrive just in time for them to disassemble the gangway and we head up to the lido for their late dinner snack. They both loved the excursion. Only 10 passengers, 1 guide on the canoe. Paddled out to the glacier, then to a nearby waterfall, got out and had a nice snack of salmon spread, hot cider. They both had a great time and enjoyed every minute of it. I was happy it went well and shared my whale tales too. Great memories of Juneau. Sunny skies, whales, canoes to paddle, souviners bought, photos to remind us of all the wonders of that day. Ship sails on north to Skagway and we head to bed, whale tails, glacier views are the last thoughts as we drift off. gently rocking along with the Star. Good night.
Tuesday August 12th, 2003 Skagway
Another good nights sleep on the Star. Wake up and then start to worry that maybe the Avis car rental office might not hold our rental. We had reserved for 7am and would be more like 9am when we would make it to the office. I jump into the shower and head off ship with my husband to make a call to their office. Again Paul's shipboard card buzzes instead of 'dings' when he puts the card in the slot before leaving the ship. Mine is fine. The gangway attendant acts like this is the first time this has ever happened and tries unsuccessfully to use the card which continues to buzz every time. Paul is sent down to another gangway,and then to the purser's desk where they claim to have fixed the card. This happened at every port every time when Paul would try to exit the ship..it even happened when we were going off for final disembarkation in Seattle!!! Tho this time they put his name on a paper and didn't make him go up and down decks to get it straightened out. Just a nuisance!!!!! No luck getting the avis office to answer. We go on ship and get everyone ready for breakfast. I head off again and this time get an answer at Avis, they are fine with the 9AM pickup so we relax and have an nice meal in the dining room before heading out. Take the rip off $1.50pp bus less than mile to the first town drop off. Head down the street to the Avis office. My brother in law Kevin checks in first and gets a free upgrade to a Nissan Pathfinder. boo! I made these reservations and had gone off ship twice that AM to hold things and they get the better car! We decided to give them Tyler as a passenger as punishment. We get the grand am (better gas mileage) car that we had reserved. Head up the road to the Yukon.. first stop cemetery and Reid's falls. Off to Canada. The road climbs steadily, we pass the US custom's checkpoint. Across the valley we can see the tracks for the train. For us the car rental made sense..for about $65 for the day plus gas the 4 of us will have most of the same scenery as the $92 pp train ride.. Plus we get to stop for photos every time we get the urge. The mountain vistas, blue lakes , green growth everywhere give us a visual treat around every turn, Tooshi Lake, Bove Island it all seems too pretty to be part of this earth. I can't understand all this 'waterfront' property being unclaimed. sure the water and winters are cold but awesome awesome world to wake up to. I can't begin to describe in words the immense beauty of it all. We stop every five miles or so for photos, and make the trip (65 miles) to Carcross Canada in about 2 1/2hours. They have a nice visitor's center there with great restrooms,, we are given directions to the gold panning place. Have a nice ice cream at the store across the street and walk up the road to 'top of the world' the gold shop where Edgar will show you how to pan for gold for $5 American. Our boys both grab a pile of dirt and follow the instructions from Edgar. It is a multistep process which finally yields small flecks of gold. They put the shiny mini nuggets into tiny vials and thank Edgar for his help finding GOLD..None of the lunch places in Carcross sound that appealing, we head up to Emerald lake (another 10 miles or so) varied shades of green across this picturesque lake. too darn beautiful here in Canada.. I would move if the climate was more 'friendly' to warm blooded people like me! Get a photo of the carcross desert and stop at the gas, convience store for snacks for our ride back down to Skagway. My mistake was using a $20 American bill to pay and get a fist full of canadian dollars and change in return. I ask them to 'convert' back to American for me..but the owner claims he only knows how to convert from American to Canadian..not Canadian to American.I decide not to fight the twisted logic of it all and figure we can spend the extra in Victoria Friday night. (anyone want some Canadian currency still on hand???) Drunk Native American Angus is verbally assaulting customers so we decide to exit south and head back down to the USA! US customs gives our passports a very careful look see and then they send us on our way. Drive down the Dyea road to the nice overlook over Skagway. Fill up the tank at over $2 per gallon..nice to have a better mileage car after all!!! Paul and PJ head to take the car back, I go off with Tyler in town and get a few more Alaskan goodies to bring home for the folks back home. We walk back to the wrong dock, and then cut thru the marina to the railroad dock where the Star is waiting to welcome us back. Weather for the day was mostly cloudy. then breaking to sunshine in Canada.., back to cloudy in Skagway. Temps in the 60's in town, dipping to 50's up on the high elevations, with a bit of wind. Our niece had stayed on the ship when we were touring Canada. She had hopes to go on the glacier dogsled scheduled for 1:15PM.. unfortunately conditions on glacier were not safe the the tour was canceled. It was a big let down for her and she ended up staying on ship ordering room service, watching a movie til we returned.. Plans off course again..it is hard not to feel this trip has a curse on it! Off for Italian night in the dining room.. Eggplant Parmesan is delicious, good shrimp flambe diablo, tried the cheesecake for dessert.. good meal overall. We head out to watch the ship sail away from Skagway from our Emerald deck bow bench. Cold and a bit nippy, follow the Coral Princess up the passage and see the lights of Haines ####### in the night before we head up to get some hot chocolate (brought packets from home) with hot water from lido upstairs. Early to bed tonight.have Tracey Arm tomorrow at 6AM and don't want to miss a minute of it. Dreams of the lakes in the Yukon are with us as we drift off to sleep.
Wednesday August 13th, 2003 Tracey Arm Fjord
Wake up early this am around 5 am , shower and head up to lido for breakfast.lots of early risers today we are lucky to grab a starboard table to watch outside. See the Star turn into the fjord for Tracey Arm. We will follow this narrow passageway until we reach the South Sawyer Glacier. Already there are wonderful jagged mountains and waterfalls on both sides of the ship. We spot our first icebergs floating in the water.. see the ice blue color we will come to know so well. At about 7AM we bundle up and go out on Emerald bow deck to see the sights unobstructed by glass. It's a breezy 46 degrees and we are glad we had brought the wool knitted hats, and gloves for our morning on the glacier. Wow Wow Wow..these views are so incredible that you can't believe your eyes. You want to burn these visual images into your brain so that you can retrieve that beauty in the depths of winter sludge in Maryland. So many little blue ice bergs, then you see a glimpse of the glacier around the next bend of the fjiord. Michael is narrating the voyage down to the glacier with his verbal explosions of wonder like he is seeing this for the first time. Waterfalls on both sides of the mountains, the huge blue glacier comes into view. All icebergs sculpted by nature just floating by as you glide closer the amazing jagged edge of the glacier. See several small calvings of ice drop into the water to form new ice bergs along the edge of the glacier. Little seals have found their space on the ice, some with their own personal sized ice bed to sleep on. The star launches a small photo boat that goes along shooting pictures of passengers along the rail..the tiny boat looks like an insect in the water next to that large glacier mass of ice. Bring out the video camera to capture some of this beauty. Stay here for over an hour, the ship turning slowly to provide all sides of ship an equal view. The clouds are hovering but Michael says it is perfect for glacier viewing..the sun washes out the intense blue color and you will not get the same visual effect. Clouds hang at the tops of the mountains it is all so intensly beautiful..we stay til we are too cold to enjoy it any longer then retreat for warm up in our cabin. Have a decent lunch in the dining room. Go to the standing room only lecture in Princess Theater by Michael with his talk about Glaciers and Tracey Arm. Good slides to highlight the morning we just experienced. Head to cabin for a nap to recover from early morning wakeup but can't get off to sleep. Bundle up in the robe that our cabin attendant Augustino brought on request over bathing suit and head up to indoor pool mid deck 14. Nice WARM fresh water pools.most excellent memory-this was our first fresh water pool experience on a cruise ship..had only used the hot tubs prior..nice touch Princess. too bad they have that stingy have to bring up from your cabin towel policy! Maybe they think that prevents the chair hogs from reserving chairs?? Find the free ice cream in the Lido (3:30-4:30, pretty tasteless Ice cream tho) Brother in law Kevin hits big on slot machine in Casino +$250 so he is a happy cruiser! Dinner in dining room , try Capri this time. Good menu.. Alaskan crab legs..nice being already split in ½ so that it is easy to retrieve the crabmeat. Head to the Princess Theater for Kevin Hughes 'relationship' show.. Favorite comedian of all of our 12 cruises. GREAT job Kevin. loved your insights into the male/female head games..you are on target! Ventriloquist in Vista lounge not to our taste..decide to head out after 10 min or so.. Too crowded to hear Bert without having to deal with the mob scene there on promenade lounge. Head to bed early after our predawn wake up. Ice bergs floating by in rainbow colors fill our dreams this night on the Star.
Thursday August 14th, 2002 Ketchikan
Last stop in Alaska..our short port day that starts early. We are up and eating in dining room around 7AM. Have the strange english breakfast which includes baked beans! I think that is a once in lifetime experience for me. Weather is cloudy, bit misty with rain and not too pretty. They say it is typical Ketchikan..tho they had just had 10 days of sunshine..a drought for them! Stop in the green visitors' building for the check in for the 'duck' tour.. booked online independently for myself and Tyler. We also had the lumberjack show at 8:20 on our plan. My husband and son PJ along with niece will be doing the princess snorkeling tour here. Do some quick shopping before heading out to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. This tour had been highly recommended on the cruise critic Alaskan board so we were anticipating a good show. They kept us waiting in the drizzle and rain til the last minute for our 8:20 show. Once inside I was surprised to see the banners for the Iron Jack/ Iron Jill competion and the TV cameras in view. They announced we were 'lucky' to be here for the world competition for the iron jills.hey wait a minute..I wanted to see lumber JACKS not jills..this was not what we had paid for. It did turn out to be an interesting competition, I especially liked the one lumber JACK pole climbing activity.. but it was not as advertised and I couldn't help feeling they only cared about the cameras filming away not the audience who had paid for this experience that morning. Show ended, can't remember who won...but I can say it was a girl! And then headed towards the ship where we would be meeting the duck tour. Hit a few shops on the way. Nice little amphibious vehicle especially made for Alaska our's called Koby for the tour. Has seats for 48 inside. There were Plexiglas walls put up to keep out the rain of the day .. little portholes could be opened for photographs. Blankets on each seat for warmth if needed. Our guide cracked some silly jokes but gave us a nice commentary as we rode the streets (and boardwalks) of Ketchikan, up to the Totem Heritage Center, to the creek with the Salmon swimming upstream, down to Dolly's house..over thru the tunnel into the harbor. The Duck vehicle just goes down the ramp and becomes a watercraft. We see several float planes land and take off, The fish cannery has a fisherman who comes out holding his catch of the day. Many fishing boats in port ready for their next trip. Good information, nice 90 minute tour.good choice for our limited time in Ketchikan. We return to the Star just in time to board before the 12PM sail away. My husband and son PJ were back from their snorkeling trip. It was another great excursion..reasonable for Alaska at $79pp. They were fitted into wetsuits and entered the waters near Ketchikan where they discovered many interesting starfish, sea urchins, a large sunflower starfish. From what they said the operators of this tour do a fantastic time. They felt well cared for every step of the way and also that the marine life of the area was treated with respect. Good photos from the cheap fuji underwater camera testify to this great Alaskan memory. It was nice to have such happy cruisers on the ship that aftternoon. Big LONG line for the only open dining room Portofino after we board the ship. Decide to wait it out til 1PM and still have a 15 min or so wait til we are seating in the dining room. This is one thing that Princess should think about. when all are getting aboard at noon and are hungry..the one dining room and buffet are not enough to manage the 2800 passengers wanting lunch.they really need to think about opening a 2nd dining room that day for sure. Nice filling lunch. Head up to skywalker lounge to meet with fellow cruise critic Janet and her husband Bob. This is their first cruise experience and it is intersting to get a new perspective from their point of view. Enjoy the Princess Colada drink (watch out strong!), and all the views as we sail off south towards Victoria. Stop by the shore excursions desk later when they are opened from 4-6PM. Talk to Elke about the disappointment with our lumber 'jill' show. She seems surprised to hear we didn't like it.. said the passengers who booked onboard the Star were given the information that the show had been changed to the TV taping..she gave us passenger comment forms to fill out. We stated we felt that the show was not as advertised, that the events listed in the show brochure were not ones we saw that morning and requested that Princess refund our tour price. (not talking big $$ here, my ticket $29, my son's ticket $14.50..but for an hour show that was not as advertised too much to just drop easily) back to cabin I get a phone call from someone named David Williams who wants to argue with me over the number of events that we saw and what is outlined in the brochure. I didn't care for his less than customer friendly attitude. He said Princess would investigate the excursion and send us a letter before we would disembark on sat.. I dropped the pamphlet with the events listed off at the shore excursion desk-we later got a letter signed by the shore excursion manager stating we would not be refunded despite the show being 'lumber jills' instead of lumber jacks, they claim we saw the events listed in the Princess tour book and since we stayed for the show we are not due a refund. There is an address and phone number for follow up and I will be attempting to get that office to refund us as we requested. I was surprised at their lack of understanding.The issue is how our precious time in Ketchikan was used -we made a decision to go to a lumber jack show, we should have been provided the same information about the change in the show contestants as passengers who booked on the ship. Formal night again. we dress and head to Portofino at 6:15. Have an excellent meal. Lobster and our favorite chocolate dessert of the week, The chocolate mousse duet..white and dark chocolate mousse. YUM YUM>>> Go to the Princess Theater for Da Beat Dance show afterward. I didn't care for the music selections, costumes ugly with neon accents. I guess we have been spoiled with the dancers on our other trips. Just OK> Take a nap before trying to go see the Champange Waterfall in the Atrium. Wake up right at 11:30 but feel too tired to try to fight the crowd there.decide to head off to dream land instead. Have to set clocks up ahead an hour tonight.
Friday August 15th, 2003 Victoria will not happen
Fairly calm seas thru the night, had a bit of choppy ones mid afternoon yesterday so am glad we had a peaceful night. Last full day aboard the Star and I am already fighting that vacation is almost over depression that is setting in. Foggy and overcast out our window. Shower and head to breakfast , meet with a couple from Califorina. Lots of west coast passengers, some from Australia, and lots of Asians on this voyage. Have eggs Benedict again. Stop by photo store and redeem the vouchers we have for free photos! Yeah..nice bonus! Funny culinary show in Vista Lounge at 10:15..have recipes for some yummy dishes..hope to make that shrimp diablo sometime. Have quick glance at galley..really not much to see besides miles of gleaming stainless steel refrigerators, tables etc. Good lunch in dining room then head up to deck 15 hot tubs near the shuffleboard court. Glorious warm water to soak in with the misty fog surrounding us, peaceful and relaxing. Have it to ourselves for awhile then are joined by John who is full of tales of his work life and plans to buy an engagement ring at good Canadian prices in Victoria that evening. Cloudy and cool when we get in the hot tub..the sun come out and it turns into a perfect summer day. Find out John lives in Mt. Airy Maryland about 10 miles away from our home.. Small world out there! Another couple from California joins us and gives us information about Victoria. We are sad to be leaving the Star tomorrow but having the port ahead to distract us makes this day go so very fast. Head to cabin, change and then start the most hated chore of the week..trying to repack all the clothes etc into our luggage. I was smart enough to bring some nice garbage bags will pull ties on top for the dirty clothes, had an extra light weight dufel bag and stuffed that full - put the new AQUA 1 tags on and finshed with the rest of the repacking. I don't know how our clothing has expanded (along with our waistlines!) on this trip but now the 7 bags were needed to hold what came aboard in just 6. Remember to put all the film and cameras in the carryon luggage so it will not be ruined by the airport Xray machines. Put out clothes and shoes for last morning..it is sad to be thinking of getting off this beautiful ship in the morning..this week went way TOO fast. Made reservations at 5:15 in Capri dining room so we could escape the rush trying to eat before the port stop in Victoria. Wind is blowing strong outside and there are whitecaps on the water but we can see the other ships along the docks of Victoria so have no clue of the changes to come. Nice table for 8 mid dining room. Good food, especially enjoy the cute love boat dream heart shaped dessert. I can see the ship moving then stopping then moving again. I can't figure it out but to me it seems the ship is sailing in circles. My intuition is sending red flags but my brain is not catching on.. Outside the dining room there are many passengers lined up to get off the ship when it docks. We head up to gather our backpacks to join them and on my way down the hall I overheard another room steward saying the ship has tried to dock 2 times and has not been successful. He says there is no official word yet but he expects we will not be docking in Victoria. I want to scream NO.. I can't believe this is going to happen to this voyage already with the many changes in plans from what we had scheduled so carefully. A few minutes later the captain comes on in halting English to say that the wind and rough seas will not allow us to dock this evening. The other ships in port had managed to make it into port before the weather changes .blah blah blah. I didn't really care what he had to say at that point. I was just plain angry that this was another let down that happened on this trip. Walked down to the promenade deck and it was so frustrating to be able to see clearly into the city there..can SEE those 2 other cruise ships that somehow made the port ok.even tho the Amsterdam was right beside us in Ketchikan the day before somehow that old tub made the trip faster and was able to dock?? I glanced back at the cabinets holding the life jackets and had a moment of insanity..I wanted to pluck those orange lifevests into the water as an act of revenge against this ship that had let me down.I was clear headed enough to stop at that impulse but the feeling of cruise rage was there big time! I was next to the purser's desk and could hear the voices of the passengers with major problems caused by this change in itinerary. Passengers had been given permission to disembark in Victoria instead of Seattle the next morning..another mother was there asking what would happen to her son who had missed the ship in Ketchikan (along with 4 others I had heard) and was supposed to reboard and meet the family in Victoria. I felt the very unhelpful answers and lack of any understanding over this impact on the people requesting help was inexcusable. I was glad I only had to deal with the disappointment over missing Victoria not any logistical nightmares caused by that change. Billy Hygate cruise director announced a new show in the Princess theater, combination comedy act from the entertainers that had performed earlier in the week. 2 shows..that was the only gesture of compensation offered by Princess. I think an hour of open bar could have extended a bit of goodwill that could have turned some passengers around from their disappointment. I know all the fine print in the cruise contract allows Princess to change port and offer nothing for the inconvenience. but even their parent company Carnival gives $20pp shipboard credit as a courtesy. Went to Skywalker for a drink of the day..strawberry colada..where we had a nice view of Victoria. Looks rather pretty at night from that perspective. It may end up being as close as I ever get to experience that unique city. (and I still have that Canadian money to spend I got stuck with in Carcross!) Headed to the Princess theater at 8 to get into the show at 8:15. every seat was filled except for the ones being saved by passengers for other passgengers. We decided to wait it out til the later 10PM show. Listen to duet in Tequila's restaurant a bit., cash traveler's checks at the purser's desk, lose $5 in the casino slot machines that they graciously opened along with the shops so we could 'enjoy' this bonus our last night at Sea in Victoria. The ship anchored there for the usual port time 7PM til 12 AM. I guess this meets the requirements for the ship to visit a foreign port?? We did get a $4.56 refund on our final statement labeled tax refund,, I imagine this is the port charges for the visit we did not make??? Great show in lounge at 10. Liked the guitar comedy of Elliot Max who we had missed somehow earlier this week. I could have done without the singing by cruise director Billy. His vocals are fine but the Tom Jones wanna be stage show stuff is not for me. The highlight of the night was Kevin Hughes..loved his ribbing on Michael the naturalist. the frank criticism of the captain and the 'doomed' voyage we had had all week. I forgot to mention the 'assessment party' announcement one late night - found out about a fire in the restaurant Sabatini's one night mid week. yes it was a challenging trip for the Star Princess that week!!! Thanks for the laughs Kevin..I needed it! We were able to enjoy the last songs of Bert Stratton and his 3 encores in the much larger and nicely furnished Explorers lounge. I don't know why they don't put him here all week. The usual band in this lounge is really bad! Bert's playing and singing that song "Those were the days my friend' will be a lasting memory I will treasure of this voyage on the Star. Great performer BERT.. thank you! Ride up the elevator to Skywalkers to see what is happening. Looks like late teens on the dance floor and techno music. Not to the taste of these old hippies. we stop by the buffet for a little snack and head to cabin 8211 for our last sleep and wake up on the Star. Big time depression is making the fog of sleep hard to come-finally drift off with the rocking for the last time on the rock pillow with the Star enroute to Seattle.
Saturday August 16th 2003 Seattle
This is the day we don't want to wake to the sunrise. The day our long awaited Alaskan adventure will come to an end. The beauty of the land will stay with us as we fly east but the feeling of return to reality is always a difficult transition for me. Bummed, I answer the call of the alarm clock and do my last squeeze into the shower - look out the window..yep we are in Seattle. Had a dream we had somehow managed to dock in Victoria and we would have a bonus morning there. Not to be. The ugly cranes outside are greeting us just like they were a week ago when we first arrived at this pier. Dining room is only open til 8:30 and we don't want to miss our last chance to be served in style. Group gathers around 7:30 and down to Capri we go for a nice last meal on the Star. I have eggs and french toast.. both good and filling for the long travel day ahead. Pack up the carryon's and head to the Explorers lounge after the breakfast. We are scheduled to be off of the Star at 10:30 am and have arranged for our limo drivers to have 2 limo's waiting for us then. Slowly the different colors are called, CNN is playing on the big screen in the lounge..time drags on. We don't have much to look forward to. 6 hr flying time and several more hours waiting time. then a midnight arrival back in Baltimore. No..this is not a fun day. Our aqua 1 tag color is finally called about 10:45 AM we don't' expect the long slow customs inspection line in the terminal took us over an hour to navigate to the outside. For some reason they are inspecting every passport and ID even tho our ship did not enter a foreign port. We are a bit stressed as noontime approaches.. our limo is not in sight. My sister calls on her cell phone and they say they will be here in 15 minutes. I remember tales of the huge 2 hour security lines at SeaTac on Saturday departures so am wishing we had more of a window to make this plane. 1 Limo arrives in about 10 minutes time. My sister and family climb in. I ask the driver to see when the next Limo will arrive. He says 15 minutes. I don't have another 15 minutes to wait. We decide to take the rest of us in a taxi. End up sending my son Tyler in the limo with my suitcase off to the airport. we arrive some time past noon. United is a busy place. We try the easy (?) eticket check in and it won't allow us to continue. Finally get a gate attendant to pull up our boarding passes and print out the baggage tags. Drag the luggage to the Xray conveyor.Luckily the security line has shrunken to about a10 minute wait.. head down 2 escalators, thru a tram ride and over to gate N1. Have about 15 min til boarding is expected to begin. 3 food choices, bagels, cinnabons, and burger king. As this may be the only food we can get to purchase til we arrive home midnight we opt for the huge..45 minute wait at burger king. Luckily the United flight was just delayed enough to let us grab our food and go. I manage to do some last minute shopping that I didn't accomplish in Victoria at an airport gift shop. Flight to Chicago 4 hrs with 'snack and movie.."down with love" pretty silly but a good time waster. Have time for quick restroom break in Chicago and pizza to go for the short 1 ½ hrs to Baltimore. We have the last 2 rows in the plane and must have the section with the 'germs to go' both my sister and myself have wonderful colds to deal with that we think we have courtesy of the 'friendly skies' Back home,, hot in Baltimore and after we drag all the luggage out to the median to meet our shuttle..it starts POURING..monsoon like..wonderful welcome home greeting! Our shuttle arrives in about 10 minutes and finds a small overhand to park under so we can load the luggage without getting soaked. Stop by my sisters for a minute and pick up our Van. Home about 1AM (only 10PM Seattle time) and our dog Gypsy is happy to see us. Tail wagging jumping for joy..at least someone is happy to be home! We decide to just let the luggage wait til the morning except for my 'squish' pillow that I dig out and bring up to bed. No rocking tonight but the slight afteraffects of our week on the star. Hard to get to sleep with all the time changes and swirling memories of Alaska in our heads. Finally we drift off. thinking of
Goin' up to Alaska, up to the land of the Midnight Sun where the whale and polar bear run o'er the icy blue sea Goin' up to Alaska, up to the north and the pioneer life where courage and strength still survive and a man can be free Men can be free Goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska
August 19, 2003
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away." Lifes a journey, enjoy the ride."
12 Voyages completed 1999-2003, 64 wonderful days at sea dreaming of .... Majesty of the Seas 10/03 Radiance of Seas 11/03