Friday, August 19, 2005

Alaskan Cruise

Greetings from the borderland. This is something new for us so bear with us as we experiment with blogging.

We know that we told many of our friends that we would have our vacation pictures online quickly. We apologize. So without further ado, here's our vacation to Alaska.

First off, we started our journey in Seattle, WA. We checked in early and had time to do some site-seeing. We went over to the Space Needle and had some fun.

After that, it was time to leave for the ship. Here is a picture our it, the Norwegian Dream.

The first few days of the cruise were fun but not amazing. A few days before the Cruise started, the cruiseline contacted us to tell us that we would not be visiting one of the ports of call on the cruise because of some engine trouble. The Chief Engineer later explained that the ship has 4 engines, two fathers and two sons. One of the father engines threw a rod which blew out a casing. Long story short. We only had 3 engines instead of 4 and were going slower than usual so one of the ports had to be cut to catch up on the time. What we didn't realize at the time is that we were going to be sailing for 4 days before we came in to any port at all. However, the cruiseline prepared for this and had plenty of things to do on the boat.

For those of you who are thinking that all you do on a cruise ship is eat food and play shuffleboard, that is not the truth. The Norwegian Cruise line has what they call "Freestyle Cruising" which is a fancy way of saying you can do anything you want when you want to do it. There are no set times that you must eat, no assigned tables. Everyday you get a newsletter in your cabin that tells you what there is to do around the ship that day. If you don't like that you can always swim (however, you must be brave to do that in Alaska), play basketball, go the the spa, go shopping, play games, or just read. There are plenty of nighttime acts to go to. We saw an illusionist and a comedian while we were there.

Anyway, the first few days are rough if you've never been on the ocean before. Our cruise went from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska, cruising through the Gulf of Alaska. We had some pretty rough cruising through there as you can see by Carolyn getting sick (not really).

The first stop that we made really wasn't a stop. We cruised into Disenchantment Bay and saw the Hubbard Glacier.

Just to give you some perspective on how large this glacier is, it is six miles long. Here are some pictures to give you some perspective. Here are two pictures, the one on the right is zoomed in to show you a little fishing boat that they took out to scoop up a piece of glacial ice. In the picture on the left it appears as a black line in the water.

Here is a picture of the glacier calving. Calving is when a piece of the glacier falls off into the water. It sounds a lot like thunder. While we were in the bay we heard a lot of calving going on but couldn't see it because it was up further on the glacier.

Disenchantment Bay is also really beautiful itself. Alaska has a lot of coastal mountains and they are all so very beautiful.

Well, our first Port of Call was Whittier, Alaska. The funny thing about Whittier is that the town only has a couple hundred people in it and something like 95% of them all live in the same building. Until a couple of decades ago, the only way to get to Whittier was by boat. It's just a small coastal town. However, there is a road leading through a mountain that connects Whittier to Anchorage. This tunnel is so scary. For starters, it is the longest tunnel in North America stretching 2.6 miles in length. It also has no supports to keep the mountain up. The rock is stable enough not to collapse, so you are just driving through this tunnel watching the bare rock walls as you pass. Did we mention that it only has one lane and that cars share that lane with trains. The whole tunnel is timed very well so that every 15 min. cars are allowed to go through, one way. Then when trains come, they schedule those to take up some time too. We're sorry we don't have any pictures. It really is quite a site to see. As soon as you get to the Anchorage side of the tunnel, there is Portage Lake. We stopped there first. The mountains around the whole valley are so breathtaking.

On Portage Lake there is, of course, Portage Glacier. The boat we went on was a smaller than the cruise ship, so we could get a lot closer to it.

Next we went to Big Game Alaska and saw black bears, moose, elk, bison, etc. Big Game is a preserve for injured animals. We're sorry but we don't have any good pictures from here. The last stop on our trek was Alyeska ski resort. There are some very beautiful and breathtaking views from the top of the mountains there. In this first picture you can see the mud flats in the Turnagan Arm.

That's it for this post. Look for our next post about the College Fjords.

College Fjords

The night after our stop in Whittier was our first year anniversary so we decided to splurge and eat a the French restaurant on the ship. The food was excellent. That night we cruised into the College Fjords. For those of you who don't know what a fjord is, it is the trough of dirt and rock that a glacier leaves behind as it moves across land. They are named the College Fjords because it was a multi-university expedition to discover them. Each glacier or fjord is named for a university that participated in the discovery. Don't ask me which fjord has which name. All I know is the Harvard Glacier is the big one at the back of the bay (therefore is the one in the big pictures).

Juneau and Prince Rupert, Canada

The next port we went to was Juneau. There is a lot to do in Juneau. There are tons of shops and touristy things in town. We went whale watching. There aren't any really beautiful whale pictures. The humpbacks are primarily what we saw. Turns out that humpbacks come to Alaska/Canada with only one thing in mind. FOOD!!!!!! They don't do anything else. Unfortunately, we didn't see any flying up out of the ocean to splash us like Shamu. They were very intent on feeding. After they eat, they take a trip down to Hawaii to breed. We also saw some Harbor Seals that day. If you look closely you can see them on the rocks. They look like sausages. We couldn't get any closer because they are very skittish.

Next in Juneau, we visited a Historic Gold Mine and panned for gold. It takes some real skill to pan for gold. We got to keep any gold that we find in the process.

Here's a picture of us and our little bit of gold in Ben's hand.

Khutzamateen Grizzly Bears

Prince Rupert, Canada was actually the last port we visited but the Grizzly Bears fit in well here. In Prince Rupert, Ben went Halibut fishing while Carolyn went to see the fuzzy wuzzy bears. The bears are kinda hard to see but give it a try. Carolyn also saw some more whales on her trip.

When Ben finish fishing, he went for a walk around town and got some good shots of the Prince Rupert City Hall and a tribal lodge.