Tag Archives: Wade in the Water 2017

The Klondike Highway

Our next stop after Juneau was Skagway, buried deeply in an inlet in Alaska’s Inside Passage.  To get an idea of how deeply it’s buried, take a look at this Google Maps link; the map should be big enough to show the inlet:   Google Map of Skagway

Skagway has its own history, of course; you can find a general overview on Wikipedia.  But it’s primarily remembered as the jumping-off place for the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush, in the Canadian Yukon.  Billy Moore, an early resident of Skagway, homesteaded at the mouth of the Skagway River in 1887 because he believed there were goldfields in the Klondike, and also that Skagway was the most direct route to the goldfields. 

So obviously, the major cruise ship activity on arriving in Skagway is the bus trip up the Klondike Highway to the top of the White Pass, which was the route taken by the prospectors who came by way of Skagway.  The trip was fascinating when you considered that the original prospectors would have taken it on foot or horseback.  It is not gentle country.   The rock formations below are typical.

Taken from the Klondike Highway

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Passing By Juneau

I had a plan for Juneau.  I was going ashore for one of the excursions, I forget which, and returning to the ship in time for a 2:30 massage appointment in the spa.  I was sidetracked by an incredibly stupid problem, which I’ll describe below; but because I never got ashore, all the Juneau photos I took were from the boat.  I ended up with a few, which you’ll find at my gallery JuneauJuneau, like a lot of towns on the Alaska coast, sits in a deep inlet among mountains.  A look at it on Google Maps will show you what I mean.

Juneau harbor

So, my stupid problem.  When I travel, I occasionally need to do laundry.  I wear high strength compression hose, and since they cost over $60 a pair, I have just enough for a week, and the cruise was 10 days.   So on the day we landed at Juneau, I went to the laundry in the morning to run a small load of compression hose.  This should have taken about an hour.

To do laundry on the ship you need a $3 bronze token, which you get from a vending machine, and you pay for it with your room card, which operates as a kind of credit card on board the ship.  The machine in the laundry on my floor wouldn’t accept my room card.  I called for help.  A nice young man came in response, took my card, and vanished for some time.  When he came back he said he had tried it on all 12 floors (?! yes, the ship has 12 floors with laundries), and it wouldn’t work in any of the machines.  The nice young man then produced another man, with a key, who extracted a bronze token from the coin box of another washer for me.  I got my laundry done; but by then it was too late for me to go ashore and still get back from the excursion in time for the massage at 2:30 PM.

I dimly recall that when I first got my room card, there was some kind of mixup and I had to have it rekeyed; I don’t know if this is why it wouldn’t work but I’m suspicious.

The other event while we were in Juneau was the affair of the purple bear.  In Ketchikan I poked around in a gift shop, where I found and bought a little pendant, a bear totem carved out of what I’m pretty sure is low-grade amethyst.   It was $16 so I snapped it up, and it’s one of my favorite pendants. I had it on when I went to the massage appointment I mentioned.  As I was dressing after the massage, a young woman came into the dressing room; we chatted, and I showed her the bear, which she liked.  When I got back to my room I realized I wasn’t wearing the bear.  Well, I convinced myself on zero evidence that the young woman had palmed it.  I checked with Lost and Found, who didn’t have it, and asked them to notify me if it turned up.  Then I went back to my room to fume.  Later that day they called me – a nice lady from a room down the hall had found it on the hall floor and turned it in.  (Fortunately I hadn’t told anyone of my suspicions.  I felt very silly.)  It looks like the string it’s on was tied in a single knot, and simply untied itself while I was walking.  When I got home, I asked Google how to tie a knot that wouldn’t do that, and the pendant is now secure.

My other grumps about the day in and around Juneau were that the service at early breakfast was awful (no details recorded), and the boat was freezing cold all day.  The massage, however, was very nice indeed.

Apart from the photos of the harbor around Juneau, I took a couple of photos on the ship that I’d like to share.  First was the chess board on deck 16.

Chessboard on deck 16

That’s not on a table. That’s on the deck, and the pieces are about 3 feet high.  Players walk around on the board to make their moves.  I wish there had been someone playing so I could show the scale.

And here’s the outdoor swimming pool on deck 14.  You notice nobody is swimming in it; it was a cold, overcast day, and there’s another pool on the same deck with a glass roof.

Outdoor swimming pool on deck 14

I never did get a full count of all the swimming pools on that ship.

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Lumberjacks

On any cruise you have the option of choosing multiple things to do in port, and in Ketchikan I chose two, the walking tour I described in my last post, and a lumberjack show in the late afternoon.  I’m still not sure why I decided it would be fun, although it had its moments.  But it was primarily a huge testosterone festival, with two competing teams of lumberjacks (U.S. and Canadian) showing off their skills with long-handled axes, two-handed saws, and gasoline powered chain saws.  The photos I took are the last 13 in the Ketchikan gallery.  I’ll share some of them here.  Here’s one of the U.S. contestants:

Lumberjack competitor (U.S.)

See what I mean by testosterone?

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Ketchikan

I see from my first post on this trip that I planned to write it up sooner.  Well, I won’t go into details here but 2018 has been more chaotic than I expected. Before I talk about Ketchikan I’d like to add some more comments on cruises, from my notes in transit.  As I mentioned in the first post, we had 4 hours a day of seminar lectures and rehearsals.  They were very interesting and I always like to sing, but the ship’s management on this round apparently wasn’t nearly as cooperative as the ones on the first cruise, and our assigned rehearsal space was an empty bar, and the only seating was backless padded hassocks.  The area also had very poor lighting and very loud air conditioning.  Lynne put up with that for about 2 days, then moved us to the other end of the bar, a quieter location with better seats, on the principle that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.  We stayed in the new spot for the rest of the trip.  I also have a note about formal nights, when everyone was supposed to dress up for dinner.  In most cases this was just nice dresses and sports jacket, but I swear one formal night I saw a man in white tie, tails, top hat, and a cane!  He didn’t sit at our table. On to Ketchikan, where I opted for the walking tour of the town.  All the Ketchikan photos here, and a number of others, are in my photo gallery Ketchikan, which you can see by clicking on the link. Ketchikan’s harbor is very small, and looks even smaller when it’s full of cruise ships. 
The Grand Princess in Ketchikan harbor
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At Sea on the Cruise Ship

I have no photographs from the cruise while we were at sea.  Frankly, the open ocean, or even the ocean relatively near the coast, is not very “photograph-able.”  It’s a flat blue expanse below a featureless blue sky, when it isn’t a flat gray expanse below a featureless gray ditto.  That’s why most of the photos I took were in port.  I’ll get to them in later posts.

If I ever cruise again, which is not a given, I’ll want to find a female friend to room with.  There weren’t any real problems with my roommate, except that she is very close friends with the couple who organized the trip, and she preferred to hang out with them.  She and I were the only people in our group who weren’t part of a couple.  I can’t speak for her, but I spent most of my meals alone in the buffet – or briefly alone.  I soon found that if I sat down at an empty table with 4 settings, within 10 minutes or so a couple would come along and ask if they could join me; and most of them were quite friendly and chatty.  So that was interesting, and passed the time.  It isn’t a way to make friends, but people on cruises tend to be quite friendly and outgoing.  I was amazed at the number of people who prefer cruising as their chosen vacation.  I had no idea.

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Try Something New

I did something new in the summer of 2017.  I took a Princess Cruise – inside passage, to Alaska and back.  I didn’t do this on my own.  I sing with the Oakland Symphony Chorus, directed by Dr. Lynne Morrow of Sonoma State University.  Dr. Morrow – Lynne – is, among other things, a scholar of African American spirituals, and this cruise was her second effort at a floating seminar on the subject, ending in a single performance on the ship, the last night before we docked in San Francisco.  I couldn’t go the first time she did this, a couple of years ago, so when I got an email about it in September 2016, I signed up. 

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