Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Last Glitch

On the first day of my Super Sensational Solo Summer Adventure I ran into a glitch, thanks to the airlines.

On the last day of my Super Sensational Solo Summer Adventure I ran into a glitch, thanks to the airlines.

After seeing my last sunset at sea
Alaskan sunset at sea
and seeing my last cruise port arrival
Vancouver Canada Place cruise terminal and city skyline at sunrise
Hello, Vancouver!
I was ready to head home. Off the ship with the first independent travelers with checked luggage, I tipped a porter $5 to take my lone suitcase, zip me through immigration and customs, and get me to the accessible taxis in a speedy fashion. A quick Saturday ride through the streets of Vancouver to the airport had me through check in (always a hassle because of the scooter) and security (also a hassle because of the scooter) and relaxing in the Maple Leaf Lounge by 9:55 AM. Not a care in the world, as it should be on the last day of my four month journey. 
AirCanada Maple Leaf Lounge Transborder Terminal Vancouver

Until my flight to San Francisco was delayed to the point where it was guaranteed I wouldn’t make my connection to Boise. After almost two hours of standing in line (well, for me sitting on the scooter) and the agent trying to work miracles for dozens and dozens of passengers trying to get to places like Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, and even London, I got myself a new connection from San Francisco to Boise. 

For the next day.

I made it to San Francisco on my original flight long after my Boise flight took off. 
Northern California wildfires from the air
Wildfires in Northern California
Looking for the positive in the situation, I figured if a four month Super Sensational Solo Summer Adventure was great, why wouldn’t a four month and one day adventure be even better? Although the two vodka and cranberry beverages I had on the plane probably helped me come to the conclusion…
United Airlines First Class vodka and cranberry
After waiting in a long line at United’s customer service desk in San Francisco I was texted a voucher for a night at a nearby hotel (I think I had three or four choices) and two $20 food vouchers. It’s all electronic these days. Who knew?!

I had a quick light dinner at the hotel and was asleep in my hotel by 8:30 PM. My next day flight was uneventful and the plane even made it to Boise early. 
Boise Idaho from airplane window
Hello, Boise!
Kiddo and her hubby picked me up at the airport (yay!), took me out to lunch (yay!), and helped me get situated at home (yay!). Guess I didn’t squeeze too much adventure out of the extra day but it seemed like a great day anyway. 

So…what’s next for me? We have a couple busy months of doctor appointments, service appointments, and winter preparation. Then there’s preparation for our next trip. It’s another several months long one, and this one will have hubby in tow. See you on Thanksgiving Day for my next adventure!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Ketchikan, Alaska

Hello from Ketchikan!

Ketchikan Alaska view from Pier 2

Wouldn’t you know it, the weather on the last port visit of this Alaskan cruise was rainy enough where Scooter and I couldn’t go out. Even after the rain stopped in the late afternoon the sidewalks and roads were still too wet for us. Remember when we practiced driving in the rain before going out in Isafjordur, Iceland? Well, we learned a lesson about a scooter on wet surfaces back then so we were stuck onboard the whole day today. Actually, stuck is the wrong word. I’ve adjusted my attitude after hitting the wall yesterday and I was back to the whatever happens, happens way of thinking. It was a bummer though because we were docked in prime territory for getting into town. Right there at the Ketchikan sign!
Ketchikan Alaska sign as seen from Pier 2
But it’s ok. I preordered Domino’s for Ed when he’s watching Boise State’s football game on tv. I took a nap. I put a peanut butter cookie and a chocolate chip cookie on top of each other and ate them. I watched The Little Mermaid. I listened to the rain. I made a quick video of Ketchikan.

I went to Crown Grill, the steakhouse, and ordered…fish. Specifically, sea bass.
Crown Grill sea bass on Princess Cruises

And I put together a big grocery order to be delivered before I get home. 

Am I really talking about home now? Yep, I sure am. Tomorrow is a sea day and then Saturday we’ll be back in Vancouver and my four month journey will be ending. It’ll be disembarkation day for me and if all goes well I’ll be home in time to see the last few moments of the game. Go Broncos!

I’ll be back to post one last time once I get home. See you then, whenever then might be. Saturday? Sunday? Monday? Who knows, but I do know whatever happens, happens!

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Juneau, Alaska

Hello from Juneau!

Juneau Alaska from Franklin Dock
One day back in June when I was really sick with Covid on the Island Princess I broke down and cried. Today I was almost in tears as well. Over stupid stuff. Like I mentioned yesterday, this cruise has been stressful. It seems like everything that could go wrong for me has. I've had cabin steward issues, cabin maintenance issues, accessibility issues, passenger and crew issues, food issues, and lack of communication issues. I could go on and on about specifics (boy, it's a long list) but it felt like it all came to a head today with the testing of the emergency power system. 

Today I was going back to Juneau Drug to buy more of their warm popcorn. I learned last week I could taste the delicious buttery salt (yay!) and I wanted some for a movie day in the cabin. (Another yay.) I even skipped breakfast this morning so I could save the calories for the popcorn. As I was finishing getting on my cold weather garb for the day - short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, hooded sweatshirt, hooded waterproof windbreaker - an announcement was made that the ship would be testing the power system, not to use the elevators, and once it was finished another announcement would be made. I finished getting dressed and sat back down for the next announcement.

And I waited. And waited. And waited. At the hour and a half mark I called guest services and asked if the elevators were available yet and was told no. Was told to wait for the announcement. So I waited some more. And more. And more. At the three hour mark I called. Nope, not yet, and wait for the announcement. Now I'm pretty certain guest services was mistaken but I couldn't check myself. You know those dang cleaning carts in the hallways my scooter can't get past? With no cabin steward around anywhere? Uh, yeah. Then the rain started up and I just wanted to cry. With an early all aboard time my window of popcorn opportunity quickly closed. Everything I've had to deal with on this ship these last couple weeks has been so very frustrating, disappointing (and exhausting) and I wanted a movie day with popcorn to escape from it all, by golly! 
Douglas Island from cruise ship balcony
I was mad enough I was considering cancelling all our winter cruises. But The Universe had a different plan. At the exact moment I was stewing about everything and those cancelling thoughts were going through my mind our winter ship, Discovery Princess, sailed by. Really, what are the chances?
Discovery Princess cruise ship in Juneau Alaska
I even got a better look at one of the umpteen cabins we'll be switching between.
Discovery Princess cruise ship Sky Suite S309
While I'm still upset about not getting my popcorn (and a whole bunch of other things) I had to let it go, at least for today. So for the first time I ordered cheesy fries from the room service menu (dang, couldn't taste them) and had to call it good. Breakfast and lunch all in one.
Cheesy fries with bacon on Princess Cruises
Tomorrow we're in Ketchikan. To lessen any disappointment I've decided not to make any plans until the time comes. See you there!

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Skagway, Alaska

Hello from Skagway!
Downtown Skagway Alaska from Broadway cruise ship Dock
As expected we were at the Broadway Dock, the prime spot to get into town. Just walk straight off the ship and you're there!
Empty street in Skagway Alaska
Leaving early enough allowed me empty streets, one of my favorite things about going out early in Skagway. Later on one of my least favorite things in Skagway will happen when the streets and walkways are packed with thousands of cruise ship passengers.
Cruise ship docked at the end of Broadway in Skagway Alaska
Best time of the day
Ed and I have fond memories of Skagway. It always held a place in our hearts as our favorite Alaskan cruise port. We did the same things every time we visited and they are what kept us coming back again and again.
  • Walking around a near empty town with only one or two ships in port. Or early enough before the swarms of passengers descended. 
  • People watching from our window seat table at the Sweet Tooth Cafe. Ordering at just the right time - 10:45ish - so Ed can order from the breakfast menu (biscuits and gravy with extra gravy) and I can order from the lunch menu (still the best patty melts I ever had). 
  • Making runs to Starfire and getting Thai food to take back to the crew. Having a hard time not breaking into the containers right then and there because it smelled so good.
  • Buying new Alaska t-shirts and hats in the big blue building at Skagway's Alaska Shirt Company. 
  • Sitting on a wooden bench and eating chocolate covered gummy bears we bought at the Alaskan Fudge Company.
Unfortunately, very unfortunately, not one of those businesses in Skagway survived Covid. The places we loved coming back to year after year are now buildings just sitting empty. Sweet Tooth Cafe. Starfire. Alaska Shirt Company. Alaskan Fudge Company. All gone. Closed up with nothing new taking their places. Becoming even more overrun by jewelry stores (no surprise) and way too many cruise ship passengers arriving daily on ships larger than they ever used to be. 
Royal Princess and Celebrity Solstice docked at Railroad Dock in Skagway Alaska
Two of the four ships in port today
Throw in the slide area and ships having to use tenders to get their passengers on and off makes it even more undesirable. Just check out Royal Princess' tender lines by mid-afternoon. No, thank you.
Tender dock in Marina in Skagway Alaska

Alas, our favorite Alaskan port is no more. 

I've thought long and hard these last few days about why I'm on this ship, the Grand Princess. It's been a stressful time onboard for reasons I easily could go on about but won't. But maybe I needed to be here and needed it to not be relaxing. Maybe I needed to be reminded about the not fun side of cruising. About the rude and inconsiderate passengers. Lackadaisical crew who know they don't have to work as hard (or care) on these 7 day trips full of new cruisers who don't know any better. What a shock to the system after coming off the Island Princess where all the crew were working the World Cruise!

Maybe I needed to see what happened to Skagway for myself. Maybe I needed to be ready to say goodbye to Alaska. I wouldn't have seen the Northern Lights in Whittier if not having made this voyage. And my flight path from Southampton certainly wouldn't have crossed over Greenland if I was going straight home.

Knowing this might be my last visit to Skagway ever, I headed out of town and rolled my way to the Skagway Bridge. I had forgotten how far it was - almost two miles to get out there - but the views made it worth it. I even encountered a dinosaur along the way.
Skagway River in Skagway AlaskaSkagway River in Skagway AlaskaSkagway Bridge in Skagway Alaska
Green Dinosaur in yard
I took a little video just in case you need running water and mountains in your day.
I always knew at some point I'd have to close the page on cruising to Alaska and today's visit sealed the deal. After talking to Ed I went ahead and canceled our 14 cruises we planned for next summer. We're not done cruising by any means - we still have a couple dozen over the next year and a half - but Alaska won't be part of it. We'll leave Alaska for those who don't know how good it used to be.

Tomorrow we're in Juneau and if the rain holds off, I'm making a run to Juneau Drug to get some goodies. If it doesn't I'll have to come up with another plan. See you there!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Hello from Glacier Bay! It was a rainy and cool day here today.

Glacier Bay National Park ice in water

With the weather all gloomy - and not wanting to deal with the coughing crowds in the buffet line - I did something I’ve only done twice this summer. When my alarm clock rang at 6AM I turned it off, stayed in my nightgown, pressed the privacy button on my door panel, climbed back into bed, and went back to sleep. When the ship’s fog horn woke me up I knew I had made the right decision to pass on breakfast but not on sleep.

It was a later arrival to Glacier Bay today so it all worked out. After my room service lunch of chili and grilled cheese but before my room service dinner of a turkey sandwich I had a picture of Lamplugh Glacier.
Lamplugh Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park Alaska

I had a picture of John Hopkins Glacier.
John Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

I had a picture of a raft of sea otters. So. Many. Otters.
Raft of sea otters in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska

And us lucky ducks even made it to Margerie Glacier today. I did see it calving but missed getting a photo of it.
Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

And for the first time since Covid quarantine I stayed in the cabin the entire day. (Don’t worry, I’m fine.) There are lots of sick folks on the ship right now with no regards as to where they are coughing or who they are crowding. With the bad weather we’ve had the last couple days it’ll be spreading and I don’t need them hovering over the top of me when I’m sitting on my scooter when it does. 

Tomorrow we’re back to Skagway and will be in the prime Broadway Dock spot. I’m planning on getting off the ship early before the town gets busy. See you then!

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Northern Lights in Alaska

The Northern Lights are alive and well in Alaska! 

For the last several months as I cruised above the Arctic Circle I kept my eyes on NOAA's 30 minute Aurora forecast. You can find the website here. I was in Iceland and Norway in June, July, and August of this year and the 24 hour and almost 24 hour sunny days stopped me from seeing them. A couple weeks ago in Greenland my inability to know how to take a picture of them stopped me from seeing them. But I still kept my eye on the forecast and things worked out in my favor this month.

Two nights ago as we were pulling into Whittier, Alaska they started to make an appearance. Then again last night there was a brief moment where they popped up again. Here's an important thing to know - your camera can see them much better than your eyes can. If I saw something looking a bit greenish I'd hold my camera up and by golly, there they were. 

Just like being able to experience Greenland by way of cruising Prince Christian Sound, visiting two coastal villages, and seeing it from above all in one week made my Greenland trip complete, being able to see Northern Lights on the last leg of my 4 month long journey has made my Super Sensational Solo Summer Adventure complete. And it's not even over yet!

I don't think I'll be complaining about my iPhone camera anymore. I can't choose a favorite photo so you get to see them all. 

Northern Lights with blue sky in Whittier AlaskaNorthern Lights over mountains in Whittier AlaskaNorthern Lights over mountainsDouble row of Northern Lights over mountains and oceanDouble row of Northern Lights over mountains and oceanNorthern Lights over mountains in Whittier Alaska
Northern Lights over mountains in Whittier Alaska
Northern Lights over mountains in Whittier AlaskaNorthern Lights over mountains and ocean in Whittier AlaskaNorthern Lights over mountains and ocean in Whittier Alaska
Northern Lights over mountains and ocean in Whittier Alaska

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Whittier, Alaska

Hello from Whittier, Alaska!

Town of Whittier Alaska from cruise ship deck
What a beautiful day. Since it's usually rainy when we're here I decided to spend my day exploring. And exploring I did! When I messaged my husband to tell him I had a great and interesting day he wanted to know why. So I wrapped it all up in one text.
He can see the pictures on his iPad and now you can see the pictures, too.
The Inn at Whittier Alaska
Our hotel is closed for the season
Avis car rental ramp at Whittier Alaska
New ramp at the car rental/harbor store/liquor store
Walkers outside Harbor store at Whittier Alaska
With walkers for those who need them
Begich Towers in Whittier Alaska
Orange and white building where everyone lives
View towards cruise port in Whittier Alaska
View from the school's playground
Log Cabin Gift Shop in Whittier Alaska
Little shops and cafes at the end of the marina
View from water's edge in Whittier Alaska
Sat at a picnic table at the edge of the water at the end of the marina
Saw otters going into the fish cleaning stations and digging out the scraps. Then they played follow the leader afterwards. This one's a video!
Alaskan Railroad arriving in Whittier Alaska
Saw the train come in
Should I go on? I have to because I forgot to tell him a couple things. I scootered my way towards the tunnel...
Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel in Whittier Alaska
and saw there is a new pier being built. It's a joint venture between Norwegian Cruise Line, Huna Totem Development Corporation (I think they are the ones who built Icy Strait Point which is nothing but a tourist trap made just for cruise ships), and the City of Whittier. This new pier is only phase one and is located at the end of the bay so I suspect the area around it will become another man-made fake cruise port.
Building a Norwegian cruise ship terminal in Whittier Alaska
I used up both batteries today (on mostly paved roads, even) so I know my adventure was a long one.
Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Whittier Alaska
Almost home
Tomorrow we're in Yakutat Bay and will see Hubbard Glacier. Update:We have passengers traveling by train to the ship who have been very delayed because of a mudslide. They won’t be arriving to the ship until almost midnight (poor folks!) so we will be skipping Hubbard Glacier and Yakutat Bay tomorrow. You can read and see photos of some of my previous visits to Hubbard Glacier and Yakutat Bay here and here

Tomorrow I have some simply amazing photos I took last night that deserve their very own blog post. I have another chance to take more of these special photos again tonight so come back tomorrow for what is the icing on the cake when taking a trip up north. See you then!