The cruise to Alaska

I was not able to use the internet from the ship so I kept a diary of our adventures and here it is:

Sunday, July 13
Help! I’m being held hostage in a place where only rich folks can use the internet. The cost for a minute is $.50 if you supply your own computer, however wireless is down which means that I can’t even write offline and then upload. If there is an internet cafe any place we stop, I will try to use it, but we will not be stopping now until Tuesday.

We flew on Virgin American Airlines and the plane was gorgeous. The lights on the sides were purple and there was beautiful purple plastic separating the sections. The crew was friendly and witty and very nice. However, when we pointed out that they had smashed my suitcase to smithereens, they said that way down in the arial .0001 font area of our contract, it said they had no responsibility for external damage to suitcases. We don’t know if my things will all make it to the room here on the ship, but it’s always a good idea to have some mystery going aboard these ships.

The Princess cruise line staff was wonderful and at the airport we went through most of the processing and then we whisked away onto a bus that took us to the harbor and that process was pretty well thought-out.

Although we opted for the least expensive cabin, it is really lovely and has a big king sized bed and even a TV (as if we were going to sit and watch it….but it’s nice to have.)

We enjoyed the salad that they served when we arrived and we also had some nice fruit. The ship is enormous! Huge! Gigantic! (Did I mention BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!) It’s also very beautifully designed. I think we’re going to have a good time.

p.s. The suitcase arrived with all of my clothing intact, but it’s pretty dead. And… we saw some incredible mountain tops that have snow, the most impressive of which is Mount Rainier, about 70 miles away from Seattle, which we could see from Seattle. Amazing!

Monday, July 14

Last night, Sunday night, we were treated to a comedy show that was as good as any comedy routine I’ve ever seen. We slept well to the gentle rocking of the boat.

This morning, we got up and went for breakfast. We sat with an interesting couple from Sacramento by the window and watched the sea go by. We did a bit of window shopping at the boutiques that are located on the ship. The ship has a three story atrium that has shops, a piano where often there is a player, and bars and sitting areas. There are a number of different dining rooms on the ship, some that require additional payment (there’s a special Italian dining room that serves a 17 course meal!) We are eating at three of the restaurants: for breakfast, we eat at the restaurant that is open 24 hours a day. They have a buffet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables all the time as well as packaged cereals, lox, juice, and of course, coffee and tea. For lunch and supper, we are in two different dining rooms both run by the same supervisor. He asks us a day in advance to order the main dish that we will want for lunch and supper and then they give us lettuce, tomato, and cucumber before the meal is heated and fresh fruit afterwards. The kosher meals come a a large variety and the meat has been good, the vegetables, not so much…

This evening was a formal evening and everyone was told to dress up. Most people did and there was an array of exquisitely dressed people. Among them were Asian women dressed elegantly and Indian women in gorgeous saris. One man was wearing a full kilt outfit!

The entertainment for the evening was a medley of songs from the movies accompanied by wonderful dancing. We are so far north that after the show, it was still bright and sunny outside. Sunset was at about 10:00 pm. We set our clocks back one hour so that tomorrow, when we land at Ketchican, we will be on Alaska time.

Tuesday, July 15

This morning we pulled into Ketchican. Ketchican is a beautiful little city, incredibly picturesque. As we walked along the street, we passed one jewelry store after the other, all of them selling special Alaskan gemstones. One is “Northern Lights” topaz, a grayish stone that reflects in all different colors, one is Ammonite, a rainbow colored gem, and one is Gold Nugget quartz which is a white highly polished stone with gold veins running through it.

All three are beautiful stones.

At one point, in one of the first jewelry stores, we were looking at something and talking about the price and I said to my husband in Hebrew, “I don’t really like it, so it doesn’t really matter.” The seller responded in Hebrew, “So maybe you’d like to see something else.” What a surprise! We spoke with him for a while. He was an Israeli working for the shop owner, a Jewish man originally from Florida- who we also met. He told us that the owner of another jewelry store down the street was Jewish. Later we saw a car with Israeli bumper stickers and still later, a sign in another store that said “Welcome” in Hebrew. At yet another store, the storekeeper with whom we talked called up a man who works for him, someone with a Hebrew name who speaks Hebrew. We thought it surprising that within a couple of hours, on a walk through ten or so blocks of the town, we had already discovered half a minyan– and this was in Ketchican, Alaska, a city of 13,000 people!

While there, we went up an inclined railway, we spoke to lots of people, and we took lots of pictures. We were lucky that the temperature was decent and that the weather was fair. We bought a lot of trinkets and returned to the boat happy.

The view from the deck was very lush and green as we sailed off in the direction of Tracy Arm, a Fiord.

Wednesday July 16

This morning, at about 6, I was on deck, experiencing the beauty of Tracy Arm, a fiord just south of Juneau. In addition to the tall mountains on both sides that are covered with tall trees, small pieces of the glacier that have broken off were floating on either side of the ship. It was, however, cold and windy. Still, it was worth it as you will see from the pictures.

When we arrived in Juneau, I was surprised to find that it was a small town! It looked as if the downtown area along the docks had been constructed last week for the four cruise ships that were docked there. Our guide on the bus tour we took, a native American Indian who has lived in Alaska his whole life, told us that in Juneau many people earn their entire year’s salary in the five months that the tourists come. Of course, in addition to tourism, there is salmon fishing and processing. The state capitol is in Juneau. But there is a movement to change it to Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous city. In fact, Juneau has been losing population in the last several years.

On our tour we traveled to a couple of places where we could take pictures of the scenery and then we went to the Mendenhall Glacier. It was spectacular! Although we had seen another glacier (even from close-up) this one was amazing.

Shopping in town was similar to shopping in Ketchican. In both places, there are coupons that we were given to use in the store as well as “specials” that get us into the store in the hopes that we will buy more. We have bought quite a few gifts and so it’s been fun. One of my purchases was nail polish that changes color in the sun (I bought a light pink that turns a deep rose). I can’t wait to try it out. I think the grandchildren will love it!

Thursday July 17

Today was spent in Skagway. Now this is a small town! They tell us that there are around 800 year round residents and a school with a graduating class of 6. They waited until the summer guides (mostly young people) showed up before they held the prom for those 6 graduates. Presumably there were about 120 people at the prom, most of them not dressed up, since the summer guides are used to wearing casual clothing. The town is about 7 blocks long and about 3 blocks wide,

While there, one of the sales people asked us where we were from and she told us that she loves to visit Israel and comes every year or two. She had been writing grants for an Israeli charity, but now she has friends and enjoys visiting. “Oh,” she said, “And by the way, I’m Jewish.” She said that the man who owned the international grocery down the block is Israeli. It might be said that the sun never sets on the Jewish empire…

We enjoyed walking around and seeing the local color, although it was cold outside and windy too. We returned to the ship for dinner and then saw a show that featured Broadway tunes. It was very well done.

Through the night, we were rocked by the boat in the somewhat wavy sea, but it had been very pleasant.

Friday & Saturday

We had two days at sea that were relaxing and fun. I can’t say we did much. We talked to some interesting people, we heard some lovely music– a string quartet, a rock-type band, and everything in between. The weather was a bit brighter as we traveled southward.

At about 5 this evening (Saturday) we docked in Victoria, British Columbia which looks very pretty and quaint from the deck. Although we were unable to see it, we had a nice time watching from afar and watching the two other cruise ships that came in just after us. It seems that there is much money to be made from cruise ships traveling to Alaska.

I have a few thoughts about cruise ships:

First: WOW! they are huge huge operations that seem to work like clockwork. We should have some cruise ship people running things like our energy companies and the United States. Things are coordinated. People are friendly and helpful as well as efficient and they seem to enjoy their jobs and working together.

Second: They are their own little world that gets recreated every week (or so) as the passengers change.

Third: The passengers all get along nicely. People are friendly and polite and patient. Our cruise had people who spoke many different languages and from many different ethnic groups. We had a very large number of Asian people. And everyone was polite and kind to each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world were like this?

Fourth: Our only news came from CNN. It is really true that CNN runs the same story for days until something more interesting comes along. Yuk. If I hear one more time about the New Yorker cartoon of Obama, I believe I will be sick. They should invest in new writers. Better yet, they should get a cruise director to reorganize their entire operation.

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  1. Cold and windy sounds so good right now! We can’t wait to see the pictures.

  2. Ken Goodman says

    Glad to read of your safe return. Those Alaskans have been known to drain your walet. I tried to send Leah a Be-sha’a tova (or Besha’ah tovah) but her web leader keeps asking for passwords and I have too too too many to remember them all, so please pass our blessings on to her. Maty and I look forward to our meeting
    P.S. Thanks for the pixs of Shlomo

  3. Hi Rona,
    Thanks for taking us along on your wonderful trip…

    Cant wait to travel…

    Toby Vogel

  4. I hate to say I told you so but wasn’t it wonderful! We went in the opposite direction but also had our eyes opened constantly to the wonders of nature! I am glad you had the opportunity!