Monday, September 28, 2009

Seattle-Alaska vacation, Part III

We had spent the first day and a half of our cruise at sea, and arrived at the port of Juneau in mid-morning of the second day. The four of us had scheduled a bus tour going to the Glacier Gardens and to the Mendenhall Glacier. Our bus was waiting for us when we disembarked, and soon took off through town. The driver pointed out some points of interest along the way, and he was especially excited to show us the bald eagles (which I was not quick enough to photograph).
Going my way?
Two large rivers going down the mountain

We drove up to the parking lot for the Glacier Gardens. They didn't really look very impressive from the road, but we left our bus and loaded onto mini-buses and golf carts, because the road was steep, narrow, and curvy. The first unusual thing I saw was tree trunks with arrangements of plants and flowers nestled in what I thought was sawed off branches.
Flower Towers
Sorry the next one is fuzzy; the vehicle was moving. Another Flower Tower
Our guide explained to us that the original owners and founders of the gardens, Steve and Cindy Bowhay, had found many uprooted trees on the property when they were developing it. The husband had a brilliant idea: he stuck a trunk into the ground upside down, and planted a flower arrangement in the roots, now on top, much like hanging baskets are planted! Many of these "Flower Towers" are established all along the road, making a sort of colonnade.
One of the friendly young tour guides

The reason so many trees had become uprooted was because of a devastating mudslide in 1984. The Bowhays created a beautiful garden and a showplace where only mud and destruction had been.
Glacier Gardens history

All along the road up the mountainside, we saw streams, waterfalls, ponds, and beautiful plants and flowers. It was near the end of the blooming season; I am sure that earlier in the summer, it is even lovelier.
A quiet place
Color in the rocks
A little waterfall

We kept going higher. The flowering shrubs disappeared, and tall trees were everywhere. We were told that we were now in the Tongass National Rainforest. The tall trees were mostly hemlocks, with a few spruces thrown in to make it look like a Christmas card. Soon, we arrived at a viewing platform at the top of the trail, and all enjoyed the refreshing cool air (in August!) and a great view of the Mendenhall valley and the Juneau International Airport (it serves the US [Alaska] and Canada [Yukon Terr.]).
Giant sequoiah
Growing tall
Looking towards Juneau
Another marvelous view
Juneau International Airport

Our next stop was a spot called Steep Creek Salmon Viewing Trail. I didn't really want anything to do with a walking trail with the word "Steep" in it, and fish are fish, and not very exciting to me, but there was no choice! It wasn't a steep trail at all, thank goodness. I guess it goes down a steep hill or mountain in some part of its journey, but the trail was relatively flat. The fish were more interesting than I expected, and we spotted a bear! He was much more interested in the salmon than I was, and the crowd of people were very interested in him! Everyone was trying to get a picture. He was walking through the woods faster than I would have imagined that a bear would walk, and I had trouble focusing my camera on him. Suddenly, he paused briefly to answer the call of nature, and I caught him! Just his back, and it looks very fuzzy, but I know it's a bear!
Tired salmon
Not quite ready for National Geographic!
Excuse me!

The glacier was blue and green! I expected it to be white, but the guide told us that on a cloudy day, like this day, the true colors are revealed. Bright sunshine cancels out the color, and it looks all white in sunny weather. There was a very informative and attractive Visitor's Center, complete with a short movie telling about the glacier and the ecology of the area. We were told that the glacier is moving, as it has done for millenia, like a river, but slower, and that it is also shrinking, probably due to global warming.
The Mendenhall Glacier
Mendenhall Glacier

The tour bus returned us to town, and we were given a choice to stay in town or go directly to the ship. We had some extra time, so we decided to stay in town. We visited some of the shops, and stopped at a park with a statue commemorating the early "Hard Rock" miners. I went into Diamonds International and got the Juneau charm for my charm bracelet that had been given to me on our last cruise, to Mexico and the Cayman Islands. It was a bear! At the Jade shop, I bought some souvenirs for friends and family.
Green building in Juneau
Downtown Juneau
Statue dedicated to miners

Our friends and I got separated from my husband, who was in one of the shops. We decided to start walking toward the ship, thinking he would catch up. It was further to the ship than we thought, and we were very tired! We finally made it, but just before we did, hubby called me on my cell phone. He was at the ship already! He had caught a tram in town - they were free! We didn't know they were free, and thought we were saving money, plus we didn't think the ship was so far away. It looked so close - we could see it!

I knew that if I went to our room to freshen up before dinner in the dining room, that I wouldn't want to leave it, so we ate in the Windjammer buffet as we were, then collapsed in our room - at least I did. I think hubby went to a show that night, but I didn't stay awake to find out. That was the only night we didn't have dinner in the dining room.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Seattle-Alaska vacation, Part II

In line to check in to the cruise ship, we saw our friends, but they were behind us. After we finally got on board, we decided to see our room (stateroom) first, and then made our way upstairs to the buffet for a late lunch with our friends, who were just finishing up! We just barely had time to eat before the muster drill started.
Muster station drill

Our room was an inside room - no window. When we booked the trip, we were thinking it wouldn't matter; we wouldn't be there much anyway, and that was true. However, we really missed being able to see where we were before having to get dressed in the morning! On future cruises, we won't forego the pleasure of a window again! It was a very nice room, though, and plenty of storage. It was our little home away from home.
Our cabin
Another view of our cabin
Towel dog
Every night, a different towel animal on our bed!

The ship, Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas, was very large and beautifully appointed.
First view of cruise ship
The large multi-deck central area, called "Centrum"
The central lobby, called "Centrum"

The huge sculpture in the Centrum
Huge sculpture in Centrum - hubby said it looked like a whale's ribcage, and I said it looked like a swoop-de-doo!

Music in the Centrum
Looking down at the piano in the Centrum. Live music performed here most of the afternoons and evenings, usually light jazz, dance music, and show tunes

Another view of the Centrum
The Centrum, again

Sailboat sculpture by the pool
Sailboat sculpture by the pool

Pool and jacuzzis through an upper deck window
Pool and Jacuzzis

Climbing wall
Climbing wall

We spent a total of four days cruising at sea, and three days at ports: Juneau and Skagway, Alaska, and Victoria, British Columbia. We saw water, sunsets, mountains, snow and ice, whales, and some people saw otters and seals. Every time someone said, "Oh! Look, there's one!" I tried to look and saw nothing. The whales I saw were far away, and I only saw an outline under the water, a waterspout, and a tail. It was fun anyway; my enjoyment of the trip did not depend on the elusive critters!
Downtown Seattle from the cruise ship window, as we ate lunch
Seattle's skyline

Mt. Rainier above the harbor
Mt. Rainier

The Vandaam following us
Another cruiseship in the distance

Joker game
Playing Joker

Two whales

Enjoying the view
Lots of people enjoying the view
Ice on the mountain
Mountains clouds and water
Sunset at sea
Me and hubby

The day we were supposed to sail up a fjord and see a glacier close enough to touch from the ship, the first fjord was too foggy, and the second one was full of ice and deemed to be too dangerous to navigate. I was glad the captain was so cautious - better safe than sorry! I think the shipping industry learned a hard lesson about ice back in 1912.
Ice in the water
Ice in the water

So, they brought some ice on board the ship for us all to enjoy!
Glacier ice sculpture

We ate dinner almost every night in the Edelweiss Dining Room. It was very elegant and fancy, and the gourmet meals were delicious! They ruined me for coffee, though. Seattle's Best was served on the ship, and when I returned home, the coffee here was like flavored hot water! Two of the meals were "formal," one "smart casual," and the rest "casual." We ate with the same group every night - the four of us plus a young couple from Tennessee, and a mother and daughter from Pennsylvania and Colorado. We had fun getting to know each other and comparing experiences.
Some of our dinner companions
Our table in the dining room

Some more dinner companions

Fruit salad - first course at dinner
Lobster dinner
Chocolate trio
Dressed up for dinner
Corrie and Ed on deck at sunset
Our friends

There were several elaborately carved fruit sculptures in the buffet dining room, the Windjammer. Someone, or many someones, is/are very talented!
Fruit carvings decorated the buffet lunch area
Watermelon fish
Watermelon flower and leaves
Watermelon flower

We attended a few of the shows in the evening. It was a beautiful theater, with all the amenities, and the performers were outstanding! One we particularly enjoyed was a Country-Western show, full of music, singing, and dancing.
Broadway Melodies Theater
Broadway Melodies theater
Country Western show
Country Western show

We slept well every night, and woke up refreshed and ready for a new day and new adventures! Next time I'll begin telling about the ports of call.