Monday, June 27 – Ketchikan, Alaska

We were scheduled to arrive at our first port of call, Ketchikan, at 6:30 AM. That

Dockside in Ketchikan with the town beyond

Dockside in Ketchikan with the town beyond

probably happened, although we were not up to observe it. Our first land excursion was a Rainforest Nature Walk through the second largest rain forest in the world, after the Amazon. Our driver and guide for the bus ride to the forest was Lisa who announced, “I am super fantastic!… And I am also super humble.” She did give a good talk along the way, though. She described how a cruise ship,  in windy weather, refused pilot assistance and smashed into the dock, causing three billion dollars worth of damage. Three billion dollars? Maybe there was a little exaggeration there, or I heard it wrong. The population of Ketchikan is 3000, not counting tourists, and they have 13 feet of rain a year. Ketchikan is on an island and there are only three ways to get to the island, boat, plane, and canal… birth canal.

There are four grocery stores on the island, the latest to arrive as a Walmart which sold out the very first day it opened. It’s not a big Walmart, apparently. The ratio of men to women is 3:1 which you would think would be great for women except that our guide offered the opinion that the men were a little odd.

Our nature walk guide

Our nature walk guide

We then began the nature walk and I learned that the soil is only 5 feet deep, which means that trees have to grow their roots sideways, without a tap root, and more significantly, trees grow on other trees, and we saw a few examples of that along the way. The trees that other trees and grow from is okay called a “nursery log”. By the way, in case you were wondering, the Western Hemlock in Alaska is not related at all to the European Hemlock.

We’re too early to see any salmon spawning because the season for that is in August.

Bear claw marks

Bear claw marks

Also, Alaska is going through a drought at the moment. We did see evidence of brown bears which will mark the trees with their claws, high up as possible, to intimidate rival bears. There were also other marks even higher up made by baby bears who were climbing the tree to avoid being killed by adult male bears. In this region bears hibernate in a semi-conscious state, and actually deliver their cubs during their hibernation.

We saw a wide variety of vegetation, of course, including skunk cabbage, moss, lichen, Devil’s Club, Sitka Spruce and the poisonous Fool’s Huckleberry, and Red Elderberry. We also learned that the call of an eagle is a high pitched squeaky note, so in movies they use the deeper call of a red tailed hawk instead.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

The most fascinating thing was when we came to an open area with a big wooden ramp where we saw over a dozen eagles together. Most of them were gathered in the little area by the water, and it turned out the reason was that there was salmon that they were eating. It was a relatively civilized process, as food competitions go. It seems like there were more or less taking turns. There was a salmon ladder here too, and the guide explained that they now have learned that the way salmon navigate is by means of the metal in their scales interacting with the gravitational characteristics of their spawning ground, and route to their spawning ground.

We finished the tour with a visit to an old saw mill, which, I believe, has been in P1060712operation up until 1992. Has the special design feature in that it can cut a log simultaneously horizontally and vertically, and there was also a planer which can smooth four sides of a board at once.

We met Carl who has been carving totem poles for 27 years, and has cut 40 poles in that time. It takes about eight months to carve a pole. However, it

Carl's totem in process

Carl’s totem in process

looked like he was taking a shortcut with the one he was working on now. It had only about two vertical feet of carving at the bottom, and the rest was smooth up to where a big fish carving was going to be mounted. Not at all like the typical ones with the carving all the way up, that often tell a story. We did buy our one Alaska souvenir, a winged totem pole.

After we were driven back to the

Discussing my phone bill with AT&T

Discussing my phone bill with AT&T

boat, I took a walk through town, which basically consists of one street along the water’s edge, with all sorts of provisions for boats. Actually, I spent most of my time sitting in a bar discussing my cell phone bill with AT&T and got adjustments made in two categories of charges, Canadian and shipboard. Thank you AT&T! (I don’t think the picture looks much like a selfie, but it is.)

Back on board ship, in the early evening, we  met on the sixth level of the splendid golden multi-decked  Atrium to proceed

Not brewed in Alaska

Not brewed in Alaska

down to the main stairway for our “teaser” performance, which I think was very impressive, although not error-free. We then gathered in the in the Gateway Bar for a drink before dinner. If you order a beer or martini, you get two by default. It must be a labor-saving strategy. I asked for an Alaskan beer, and was served “Denali Red”, which is billed on the label to be an Alaskan style beer, and was brewed nowhere near Alaska. Oh well, I tried.

Dinner in the Provence room as usual, except this time we had a celebratory dessert with a

Happy 25th Anniversary, Pat and Sten!

Happy 25th Anniversary, Pat and Sten!

candle for Pat and Sten, who were celebrating their 25th anniversary this day.

At 9 o’clock I headed down to the casino to try my luck at no-limit Texas Hold ‘em. I bought in for $45 and came away with $61 so that wasn’t too bad. We started with two players, one girl joined us, who quickly busted out, along a couple of others who did the same. When I quit, at about 11 pm, we were a table of six congenial people.

ALBUM FOR THE DAY
(Selected pictures that wouldn’t fit in the blog.)

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More Ketchikan

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Ketchikan

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Teresa discussing the day’s offerings

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Two for One night?

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Two Hippie Chicks

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A Bald Eagle

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Where a Black Bear hibernates

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Tropical rain forest mushrooms

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Sunday, June 26 – First Full Day on Board

After breakfast with Tony and Greta in the Provence Room, we went to make sure that the drums and keyboard, etc., would be ready on time, and we were assured that everything was in order. At breakfast we sat with a new couple, Jean and her 86-year-

Our new 1st Alto, Jean and her mother, Pat

Our new 1st Alto, Jean and her mother, Pat

old mother Pat. It turns out that Jean has been singing professionally since she was 16, has toured with a jazz band, sang in choirs, and volunteered that she could sight read quite well. Teresa immediately recruited her to the altos, and she worked out well, bringing our altos to a total of three.

At 9:30 AM we assembled for our shipboard rehearsal in the Wedding Chapel called “Hearts and Minds”.

Our Musicians

Our Musicians

The bass player and drummer with his drums arrived on schedule and we had a good rehearsal, at least I thought so, but what do I know?

There were some discrepancies in the graphic schedule I had produced, so I fixed them up and made a new sheet for the ship to print. Later on, the office would print 40 copies for us. However, it’s still not exactly right!

Getting ready to sing

Getting ready to sing

With 2200 passengers on board, it is important to keep them occupied. The Captain’s Log delivered this morning listed 31 activities in the morning 32 in the afternoon 18 evening attractions, for a total of 81 events in one day, which I found mind-boggling. All we wanted to do was relax!

After another humongous buffet lunch I headed for my massage, which was okay. Afterwards she tried to sell me about $80 worth of skincare products that would put oxygen in my muscles. That was not that okay!

Tonight we got dressed for a formal evening in the dining room. We sat at our same table and tonight we were joined by Bob and Barbara Eisele, as well as Kat and Sylvia.

Viking Longboat for dessert

Viking Longboat for dessert

Bob retired from a career in managing controlled burns to prevent major forest fires. His claim to fame is that during his whole career, he only burned 18 acres that were not supposed to be burned. His dad was a firefighter and he was a volunteer fireman.

Bob and Barbara Eisely joined us tonight

Bob and Barbara Eisely joined us tonight

For dessert several of us picked a chocolate item that looks like a Viking longboat. Kat couldn’t decide which of three desserts she wanted so the waiter brought all three. That was not a bad deal for the rest of us, it turned out.

After dinner Teresa and I had a wonderful time exploring the upper decks of the Coral Princess, and here is a photographic summary:

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June 25 – Boarding the Coral Princess

We had a leisurely morning of packing after breakfast at the Blue Horizons

Our last breakfast in Vancouver

Our last breakfast in Vancouver

restaurant. It was a short taxi ride to the pier where the Coral Princess was waiting for us. We had never been in as large a mass flow of people as this before, 2200 moving to our ship and I don’t know how many more to another ship nearby. But it was marvelous how everything has been thought out and there were plenty of people to tell us where to go next. Provisions for security were impressive. We had to show our passport and other documents at least four times, and they took our picture twice and compared it with our passport,

Almost aboard

Almost aboard

etc. We finally got halfway up the gangplank, when they told us they had to change our entrance point because they were moving some equipment or something. Except for that, the whole operation was amazingly well-organized.

Our stateroom is wonderfully comfortable. Our steward Cirelo seems ready to serve us in every way. Once again my computer was saying no networking hardware, but I used my workaround successfully, this time the problem was no connection of the network to the Internet but that was

Our steward, Cirilo

Our steward, Cirilo

because I had not signed up for the exorbitant charge they place on Internet use. I finally bought 200 minutes for $99, and we’ll see how far that goes.

P1060603We heard about a buffet that was open, and we had not yet had lunch so up we went to try the Horizon Lounge and found it was wonderful. It is open from 5:30 AM to 11 PM every day! Sylvia Malvaez and Kat Denk came along and joined us for lunch, too.

We were wondering

Lunch with Kat and Sylvia

Lunch with Kat and Sylvia

about the time zone change, and if it would affect our rehearsal time tomorrow morning at 9:30. But no, we set our clocks back tomorrow night.

It’s tough to get the lay of the land (that’s a poor metaphor on board a ship!), but we began to get a feel for things. It seems like there’s a lot of things going on all over the ship and there is no central directory that lists everything. But every member of the staff is really helpful at every turn.

They announced that the Fire Drill had been postponed to 4:20, and sure enough of that time seven short and one long blast over the PA system meant it was time to grab a life jacket and head for the Princess Theater, where a lady over the PA system explained a lot of things including that the alarm did not mean Abandon Ship. I noticed that the lights were flickering a little bit. I thought added a realistic touch. We put our life jackets but failed to test our whistles which I thought was a shame.
Dinner at 5:15 came around pretty quickly, but off we went to the Provence Room. We were assigned table 118, and lo and behold, we are sitting with our luncheon

Dinner in the Provence Room

Dinner in the Provence Room

companions, Kat and Sylvia again, which is just fine with us. The staff got one entrée wrong which they fixed in a flash and one dessert wrong, which just meant we had an extra dessert, so that worked out well. Time went by and finally they had to throw us out to make room for the next sitting. Tony and I headed for the Wedding Chapel to check out our rehearsal location for tomorrow and found that there was no piano. So off we went to the Customer Service Desk to get things right. It took a while, and two staff members to get everything arranged.
Next on the agenda was another visit to the Princess Theater to get an introduction to the entertainment programs, followed by a routine by Cary Long about new arrivals on cruise ships which was really funny. I think everybody must have recognized themselves somewhere during the routine. Cary made sure we knew he had been on the Jay Leno show not one but two times. Also, it was his 18th anniversary this week, but ours was our 25th!

Back to the cabin for the evening.

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Friday, June 24 – Our last full day in Vancouver

At first, our plan was to pick up sightseeing where we left off and we planned to Hop-off at the stop that had the Planetarium, Maritime Museum, and History Museum. We quickly P1060589decided this was going to be a relaxing day, and the museums disappeared off our agenda. We had breakfast right in the hotel, and I had a huge serving of French toast. I then found that I had no Internet connection, and perhaps spent over an hour with Dell technical support. My computer kept saying, “Windows detected no networking hardware”, which is rather alarming because one the thing I would not be able to get solved so quickly is a hardware problem. The tech was eventually able to get me online, but he said there was a problem in the system, and I should keep him informed if there was any further difficulty. Not that comforting a request. Actually, I think I found a way to bypass the screen that gave me the bad news and connect to the Internet another way. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.
Then Tony and I had the task of setting up the revised slideshow that Jerry Kowalski had put together. I had brought the new files with me on a thumb drive, but the copy of Word on the chorus’ computer had not been activated, so while we were eventually able to view it, we could not save it where we wanted to. At one point I got so frustrated, I just had to take a nap, but I woke up really refreshed! We finally figured out a workaround, while Greta came up with some snacks to keep us energized and on the job. So far, Tony hasn’t found a non-singing volunteer to do the slideshow, which involves following a musical score, so for now he will be waving a projector controller instead of a baton, while he conducts.

The Pink Elephant

The Pink Elephant

It was then about time for dinner and Teresa had done P1060579some research which led us to the Pink Elephant Thai food restaurant. Everything was pretty delicious, and the staff was helpful. The only thing wrong was that they served Teresa the wrong rice, the wrong entrée, forgot the vegetables I had ordered added to my curry, and charged me for a bottle of wine when I only had a glass! The food was delicious though and we worked out the details.

On the way home we had frozen yogurt at Qoola, which reminded us of Menchies, a shop

Talking shop

Talking shop

in St. George, Utah in which we have a share, and are in the process of selling. Then on the way home we passed another shop called yogen früz, and Teresa wanted to compare notes, and she wound up talking frozen yogurt business with the owner. Earlier we had passed the same shop and I wondered aloud what language the name was, and Sten said it was probably a made up name, and we confirmed just now that that was true.
Back at the hotel, Teresa went swimming for a second evening, while I wrote something called a blog. Tomorrow, check out time is 11 AM and we’ll head from the hotel to the boat.

One thing more before we leave the hotel. It had three elevators and huge pictures, maybe three or four times life-size, on the back wall of each one: “Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”
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We were greeted by one of these each morning!

 

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Thursday, June 23 – Vancouver City Bus Tour

Today was our first serious day of sightseeing, and as is our tradition for a new city, we took the Hop-On Hop-off city bus tour. Tony & Greta Mostardo and Sten & Pat Bjernefalt are with us too, and first we all headed for breakfast at Breka Downtown, which was OK but the

Breakfast at Breka Downtown

Breakfast at Breka Downtown

quiche was too  dry. But the interesting thing was that at the checkout register the amount showing on the screen was $19.43. When she thought I was going to pay by cash she rounded it up, asking me for $19.45. It’s the first place I’ve heard of that doesn’t deal in pennies, and I thought it was great, and I told her so. The credit card bill was still $19.43.

We headed for the bus in a drizzle, and while the sides and top were transparent, as advertised, it was floppy plastic and the visibility was pretty poor. The good thing was that it was an English-only tour, and so

"Transparent" roof

“Transparent” roof

there was no need to use multi-language earphones. We soon went through Stanley Park which is billed as the largest urban park in the world. They have a world renowned Rose Garden but in view of the weather we didn’t see a rose. I wanted to get off at the aquarium to see the beluga whales and other sea creatures, but I got voted down. It was just as well, because the choice getting off in Chinatown worked out much better. Along the way we were told about the “story poles”, or totems, which were carved by the “first nation” of natives. We also saw replica of the Little Mermaid, duplicating the one in Copenhagen.

Vancouver has no freeways, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way, because the residents don’t want to see ribbons of concrete displacing what they have right now. We crossed over the Lion’s Gate Bridge built by the Guinness family make their personal travels through the city easier. They have since given the bridge to Vancouver.

I began to wonder how the recorded messages were timed so well to our locations. Was it the bus driver pressing a button to advance to the next segment, or what? The answer is that the message is controlled by bus location as determined by GPS. And sure enough, when we made a loop that caused us to go through the same point again, we heard the same message again! At one point there was a stop that included a Planetarium, Maritime Museum, and a History Museum, which seemed like a good choice, but nobody seemed inclined to get off, so on we went. We went through Yaletown which, at one point was a rough working-class neighborhood and now has become highly gentrified. Now they have Orpheum Theater which houses their orchestra, and the Vogue Theater which is the main venue for  big-name live entertainment.
In a storefront along the way I was surprised to see a full-size locomotive, just sitting in the window. It was Engine 374 which pulled the first train from East to the city, and marked a new phase in the development of Vancouver. I wish I had been fast enough with my camera.

We passed the Vancouver Library where

"THE WORDS DON'T FIT THE PICTURE"

“THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE”

there was a “sculpture” which consisted of an illuminated sign: “THE WORDS DON’T FIT THE PICTURE”. It’s not too clear what the message is, but it’s something to think about. (The picture is not too clear either. You’ll have to trust me,)

Vancouver history: In 1867 there wasn’t much here, but John Dayton built a saloon here anyway, with zero-pauroll labor because he paid them in booze. It was totally successful, and “Gassy Jack” (because he talked so much) became a local hero and the city developed from that point on. In 1886, of fire burned the city to the ground. Nothing was left. But the people immediately rebuilt the town.

We got off the bus at the Chinatown stop and headed immediately to the Flying Pig for

The Flying Pig

The Flying Pig

lunch. Sten had heard that it was a great place to eat, and so it was. Since nobody was displaying any symptoms  we had tastes all around, and everything was delicious. My lobster and prawn risotto was especially wonderful. I tried the local seasonal beer, their “Tricycle Rattler”. They told me it was grapefruit flavored, and so it was, and it was the most delicious beer I have ever tasted. A little sweet and not so sharp as regular beer. We all liked it, even Teresa, who has never liked beer,

The Steam Powered Clock

The Steam Powered Clock

We then rushed off just in time to see the 3 PM operation of Vancouver’s Steam Clock. Sure enough on the dot, steam began to come out of the top of the clock, and it began playing the big Ben notes like a deep throated calliope. The other evidence of steam was that there was a small single-cylinder steam engine in the lower portion presumably powering the clockworks.

By then it was time to board the bus and head for home. This time the bus had a roof that was actual glass and we could see clearly through it. (Of course it might have been because it was a bright and sunshiny day by now.) The side windows were still plastic but much clearer.Three PM in Vancouver. That’s a little steam engine,, powering the clock.

Our true glass roofed bus

Our true glass roofed bus

Since the bus ran only from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM I wondered how they could advertise themselves as a “24-Hour Tour”. The answer was that at whatever time you boarded the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus on the first day, you could board the bus up until the same time the next day, giving you a 24 hour window to board, even though the bus only runs from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. The next puzzle was that the tickets that we were given don’t show the boarding time! How could they verify our initial boarding time? The answer is that there is a QR code on the ticket and scanning the ticket with her machine gave her our boarding time as 11:22 AM, which was correct. She wasn’t scanning anybody’s ticket, though.

For Rent: The Olympic Cauldron

For Rent: The Olympic Cauldron

On the way home we passed by the four legged 2010 Winter Olympics torch. If you want to have an outdoor party around the torch you can rent it for four hours for $5000. I decided we would pass on that. Tony and Greta got off one stop early to do some shopping, while we headed home.

We had intended take a nap but instead we went for a swim and relaxed in the spa. We had a pleasant time with a lady from a city in northern Germany and her 14 year old who were here for two weeks in Vancouver, and were then headed for the Calgary Stampede. The spa was great too, 102° F, for sure, and strong jets.

Our 25th Anniversary at the Forage

Our 25th Anniversary at the Forage

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary, and we decided to dress up a little and Sten made 8 o’clock reservations for us at the nearby Forage restaurant, a place they had been to before. As much as possible, their food is locally sourced.  In Forage the dishes are served in turn, to be shared by all. We started with mushrooms, then a salad, followed by their specialty honey-flavored bread,, a bison entrée, and finally a duck entrée. It was all absolutely delicious. We decided to forgo the desserts though, and headed for D’oro, right across the street from the hotel, for gelato. Among us, the most popular flavor was rum raisin.

Robson Street

Robson Street

The Bjernefalts invited us up to their 19th floor room to see the view, which was spectacular. We stayed a while and then headed to bed.

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Arrival in Vancouver

Well, we’re off to the airport for a couple of days in Vancouver before the official tour begins. Th Air Canada flight was OK except that the flight attendant had no cookies to offer us! I guess we are spoiled by Delta Airlines. On the other hand, the plane was really full

Standing by our car

Off to Vancouver

yet Teresa and I had three seats to ourselves, which made for a comfortable flight. I got a chance to try out my new lightweight laptop/tablet reading James Michener’s “Alaska”. It’s a big book and neither of us have gotten very far in it. After all, the novel begins billions of years ago like I think many other of his novels do. An animal named Mastodon is the first actual character in the novel. He was a gentle, likable fellow, mainly focused on avoiding saber tooth tigers.

Native canoe

Native canoe

The Vancouver airport is stunning. It’s full of exposed architectural structure which makes it interesting to me, but the most fun for both of us was stepping off the plane into a jungle scene complete with a running stream, native canoe, and jungle sounds.

We drove north to the city of Vancouver, and as we crossed False Creek, our taxi driver pointed out the almost-finished Trump Tower on the left. I wonder if there is any connection between the two names. The Blue Horizon Hotel is comfortable, with large rooms, but no room service. That turned out to be all right because after a short walk down Robson Street we found a

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Steamroller: Burritos only

great place calls Steamrollers that serves nothing but steam cooked burritos. They were delicious, and mine had a garlic-yogurt sauce that made it even better. After that delicious meal we hit the sack.

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Bon Voyage Concert

Saturday, we had our final practice for our Sunday Bon Voyage Concert, “SALUTE to AMERICA – Let Freedom Ring!”. (Check the previous post for more information about the tour.) It was our first night to try the slideshow that accompanies our P1060482performance, and it went pretty well. Personally though, I was really tired, having finished a strenuous session with my trainer just before this session, so when it appeared that our rehearsal was over, I was really ready and glad to go home. But then I noticed that most of the group was still sitting in their seats. Why was that? I soon I soon learned that we were only half done, that we were going to do the whole performance one more time! I managed to struggle back to my seat, and our final run through went fine.
SelectedWe had a pretty good turnout for the actual performance Sunday, and I also heard the Love Offering went well, always good news, and for which we are grateful. In view of the massacre that recently happened in Orlando, Florida, it was pretty tough to get through parts of our program, which is wonderfully patriotic and upbeat. Nevertheless, I know we are all looking forward to our concert performances on tour. Regarding the performances, the good news is that we have added a third performance on land, so that we will now be singing at the Anchorage Heritage Museum, a Resort Hotel in Denali , and the Pioneer Theater in Fairbanks, as well as the two concerts on board the Coral Princess.

Whenever I mention our tour to anyone they usually ask where we are going in Alaska, and I am hard-pressed to come up with the names of the cities, which are Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, College Fjord, Whittier, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks. Well, the initials are KJSGCWATF, and the way I am remember them now is with the sentence: Ketchup Just Smells Good, of Course We All Think Differently, Folks…. Works for me.

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