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Cruising Alaska: May/June 2006

Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Page 1: Vancouver - Juneau

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

Radiance of the Seas
    Page 1: Vancouver - Juneau
    Page 2: Skagway - Sitka
    Page 3: Icy Strait - Hubbard Glacier
    Page 4: Seward - Whitehorse

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

    Friday, May 26: the view from our room at the Delta Vancouver Airport. There was a special on that upgraded us to a higher room with more features and a view for only $20 - definitely good value, making a fine hotel even better. Cathy had a late flight and didn't arrive until almost 11:00 p.m., so I got more enjoyment from it than she did.

    Saturday, May 27: Check-in and boarding was smooth and uneventful, in contrast to last week's mess in Seattle. I heard a few comments from people in Seattle that on previous cruises out of Vancouver, they also had had no problems. We got a delightful surprise when we realized that we had been assigned an oceanview stateroom (as a speaker, I don't get to choose a cabin). We hated our inside cabin last year, and still call it "the cave."

    It was a pleasure to be back on the Radiance - a superior ship to either the Vision or Costa's Mediterranea. We enjoy little touches such as this laid-back, life-size panther on the pool edge (and a tiny lizard on the roof of the Solarium hot tub). The superb new itinerary this year is frosting on the cake.

    Every morning for almost a dozen years, way back in what feels like a previous life, I used to back my semi-trailer into the loading dock at the large warehouse in the centre of this photo. Loaded with 40 tons of sugar, I'd head back to my base warehouse 40 miles out in the Fraser Valley. Looking at the place from the deck of a luxurious cruise ship now is an odd feeling.

    I enjoy watching the loading of the food we're going to help consume over the next week. The quantity is quite astounding.

    The arrival of a tug to take the fuel barge away was a good sign that departure time was near.

    Having the lifejacket drill in the theatre seemed odd - in the event of a real emergency, I want to be out on deck, not in any enclosed space. But it did provide a colourful photo op!

    The Seaview Cafe on Deck 12 is one of the little secrets on the Radiance - a nice quiet place to grab a snack, with a great view.

    A few pieces of luggage got delayed somewhere, and were brought to the ship by water-taxi. In a hurry, the guy tossing the luggage from the small boat slipped and almost lost a large suitcase overboard!

    I love this view of Vancouver, with Stanley Park in the foreground.

    Goodbye, Vancouver. A cyclist on the Lions Gate Bridge gave us a memorable good-bye wave as we went under it, with his bare butt!

    Sunday, May 28: At-sea days don't usually provide any interesting stories. This cruise was very different. About 4 hours north of the north end of Vancouver Island, Captain Rune Lokling announced that we had a medical emergency on board. Neither Coast Guard (American or Canadian) was able to assist, so we had to turn around and go to Port Hardy to land the sick person. About 2 hours after turning south, though, this Canadian Coast Guard Sea King helicopter arrived and picked the man off. I was giving my presentation about grizzly bears so missed it all, but Cathy got some great shots from the window of the Fitness Center.

    Another of the details that we enjoy on the Radiance - a large plate on each elevator floor always tells you what day it is.

    Monday, May 29: We saw several humpback whales 2-3 hours south of Juneau, always a good area for them. As always, views were distant and fleeting, though - small-boat excursions are needed to get close. Getting closer to Alaska's capital, there were a few sailboats - the one seen in this photo made a quick dodge out of the middle of the channel after several blasts of our horn disturbed his day-dreaming.

    We arrived in Juneau about an hour late, having made up most of the time lost on our detour. We had to tender, and for some reason it was a logistical disaster - it took us 2½ hours to get off. While I was waiting, I took this picture of the governor's mansion. Many excursions were cancelled due to our delay, and some people just gave up trying to get off - there were many complaints.

    Taku Glacier Lodge seemed to be a very popular destination - that's where all of these Turbo Otters were going.

    Dad and I had such good luck whale-watching with Captain Larry last week that Cathy and I headed for their office as soon as we managed to get ashore. There was still room on the 3:30 boat, so we only had a brief look around Juneau before boarding their bus for Auke Bay. As before, we were soon among the humpbacks. While the ship-booked whale-watch boats such as the one seen here were jammed, we had lots of room to move around, both inside and on the open decks.

    This humpback was being shadowed by a Steller's sea lion - we watched the odd pairing for quite a while. A little later, we got close to a pair of sea lions who were doing a mating dance with a humpack close by.

    The Herbert Glacier was again on our route of travel - the Eagle Glacier is just a short distance off to the left.

    Cathy captured me "hard at work", with the Herbert Glacier in the background. In the 2½ hours we werre on the water, we saw about 15 humpacks, twice what we saw last week, and I thought that was good. Again, we had wonderful weather - calm seas, light breezes and only a few drops of rain.

    It's fine to hear that humpacks are baleen whales who filter great quantities of water for such things as krill which they eat, much better to have your captain (Larry) net a bunch of krill so you can have a close look at them. It's hard to imagine how many million of them a whale must eat in a day.

    A happy busload of people made it back to the tender dock about half an hour before the last tender - there was a bit of a line-up, but we were aboard the Radiance within 45 minutes or so. This photo was taken at 10:45 as we left the harbour, at a ½-second exposure (thus the blur from not being steady).

To Page 2: Skagway - Sitka