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Cruising Alaska: May/June 2006

Vision of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Page 2: Lynn Canal to Icy Strait

Vision of the Seas
    Page 1: Whitehorse - Seattle - Juneau
    Page 2: Skagway - Icy Strait - Victoria - Seattle

Radiance of the Seas
    Page 3: Vancouver - Juneau
    Page 4: Skagway - Sitka
    Page 5: Icy Strait - Hubbard Glacier
    Page 6: Seward - Whitehorse

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

    Monday, May 22: Passing Haines at 03:15 a.m. - when there are photographs to take, sleep just doesn't make it onto my schedule! Haines, only a few miles from Skagway by water, only gets a few small ships docking, so still feels like a real town, in contrast to the Disneyland feeling of Skagway.

    Skagway has a year-round population of just over 800. When 4 ships drop almost 12,000 people on shore, it gets pretty busy. Once things thinned out, I shot this picture of the White Pass & Yukon Route train loading, the famous ship signatures on the granite, and the golf cart used to shuttle people who need assistance.

    Cathy drove down and met Dad and I, and we spent the day at our cabin having a barbecue. During her two round trips, Cathy saw a total of 6 black bears - we sat just a few feet from one for several minutes, and the bear, tightly focussed on eating, wasn't the least bit troubled by our presence.

    Tuesday, May 23: The mountains behind Glacier Bay glow in the very early morning light (04:02 a.m.), seen from Icy Strait. Sunrise today was at 04:21, sunset at 21:21.

    We arrived at the village of Hoonah just before 07:00. There are no docking facilities for large ships, so 90-passenger tenders were used to get people to a tourist operation called Icy Strait Point, located a mile and a half from Hoonah. With little about it on the 'Net, I didn't have high expectations for the day. The first impression was very good, though, as when you step off the tender, you're handed a little package with cedar chip to add to a fire burning down the beach.

    This historic cannery is the home of Icy Strait Point. It's a quality operation run by the local Tlingit Indian corporation, with many things to do, both free and paid. This is only their 3rd year in operation, and it's expanding rapidly. Only one ship per day is going to be allowed, to keep the location as natural as possible. Many people chose not to even leave the ship - they missed the most "Alaskan" port we visited.

    A Tlingit storytelling/dance presentation is performed in a theater modelled on a Tlingit longhouse. It was a little pricey at $36, but extremely good, and should be considered a "must-see". Much of the ceremonial regalia worn by the dancers was magnificent.

    The historic salmon canning machinery still works, but is now used to can little stuffed animals, which they'll mail home for you, for $14.95. Many people took photos of their can going through the line.

    The beach, boardwalk, and a trail through the forest were all great for gentle walking. There's a beachfront restaurant just around the corner, but don't plan on having lunch there - it was very crowded and prices were high (we didn't stay).

    Passing Chicagof Island at 4:30 p.m. We saw well over 100 Dall's porpoises in the space of 3 hours or so in this area, some right beside the ship.

    Wednesday, May 24: One of the quiet spots on the ship, the library. I'm seen here at 02:30 in the morning (using a self-timer on my camera), but it never did see much use. It's a far nicer library than the one on the Radiance - perhaps they've been downgraded in newer ships due to the lack of use.

    The shops aboard carry everything from t-shirts to liquor and diamonds, and are always busy when they're open. Not being a shopper, I can't say whether they have good prices or not.

    The entertainment was excellent, as always on these ships.

    This group was performing Big Band music in the Centrum, and attracted a good crowd.

    The fancy Midnight Buffets used to be offered every night, but they've been cut back to once per cruise now (it takes over 200 man-hours to put one together). We just had a brief look at this one, as it was crowded and some people were pretty pushy (some the waiters attempting crowd control were quite frustrated by it).

    Thursday, May 25: One of several beautiful old lighthouses to be seen as you cruise among the Canadian Gulf Islands and American San Juan Islands approaching Victoria.

    Approaching our docking position in Victoria's Outer Harbour, at 10:20 a.m. - the breakwater leading out to the little lighthouse is a popular walking/jogging route for locals.

    The harbour was extremely busy with both boat and air traffic, keeping me amused while the crowds getting off the ship dispersed. The harbour was heavily fortified during World War II, and many of the gun emplacements are still in place - 2 of the smaller ones can be seen just in frontn of this plane's tail.

    It may have a few age-related rough spots, but the ship was always immaculately clean, and this is why. Cleaning crews were at work around the clock. This is a good place to mention the staff generally - they were, without exception, both friendly and professional.

    This was one of the more unique excursions I saw during the cruise. I didn't know what exactly they did, but thought it was a safe bet that it wasn't wildlife viewing! Once I checked their Web site, though, I saw that I was wrong.

    The 2006 Swiftsure International Yacht Race was held 2 days after our arrival, and many of the impressive sailboats were already in the Inner Harbour. The British Columbia Parliament Buildings form the background for this image.

On our final night in the dining room, the recommended main course was "Alaskan scrod." I told my tablemates that there is no such fish, and that this was just their way of mixing all the leftover fish up rather than tossing it. It turns out that "scrod" is a market term used interchangeably for young cod, haddock, and sometimes cusk and pollock.

    Friday, May 26: We arrived back at Seattle in the very early morning. We had a high number in the disembarkation priority, and would have barely made it to our bus if it hadn't broken down. A replacement bus took us back to the Vancouver airport, where Dad and I had a leisurely lunch before he boarded his plane home, and I took a shuttle to my hotel where Cathy met me late that night.

To Page 3: Radiance of the Seas, Vancouver - Juneau