Sweet Life on Deck

Trip Start Apr 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 19, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Sunday, May 24, 2009

The trip from Yellowstone to Vancouver involved a couple of days of serious driving through Montana, Idaho and Washington State into British Columbia along a freeway. The mountain sections were picturesque and so was our overnight stop in Willow RV Park, Moses Lake, surrounded by flat potato fields as far as the eye could see.

Vancouver is just north of the border with the US and we were pretty pleased to see our friends David (the Librarian) and Jenny and their boys Dan and Tim who are expat Aussies enjoying life in Vancouver. They are well situated in a modern unit within walking distance of schools, parks and shops. I was impressed with Vancouver's ambience - lovely architecture, great town planning and rhododendrons in flower, and with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. We checked in at the Dogwood campground, surrounded by trees and very pretty for an urban RV park.

Saturday was our first real day in Vancouver. First Dave took us on the Skytrain to the waterfront, with a ferry ride across the harbour for lunch at Lonsdale Quay. Then off to Stanley Park, where we explored the gardens, forests, and view of the bridge from Prospect Point. Highlight of the day was seeing a real raccoon, foraging for food left by the tourists.

Sunday we visited the Vineyard Church where the Librarian and family worship. We were surprised to discover the congregation head downstairs for a coffee break in the middle of the service and a lady even brought her dog to the service. The congregation were a great bunch of people and we enjoyed a bowl of hot soup with them for lunch.

Then we dealt with the logistics of getting to our ship. We parked our RV on the street around the corner from the Librarian's quarters, hoping it would still be there on our return. Then lugged the heavy cases onto the Skytrain down to the harbour, and discovered, to our joy, the magnificent Norwegian Sun. Now as you probably have gathered, we are usually the cheapskate travellers, but this was our week of luxury, extravagance and hopefully renewal after a lot of time crammed in an RV.

Our stateroom (yes, did I mention luxury and extravagance?) on the starboard side of the Norwegian Sun comes with a king size bed (for master and mistress). Six inches away (yes we are imperial on this cruise) is a queensize bed (for junior misses) and fold down bed above, for lucky miss, all within a compact space. Open the curtains and voila! You have a door onto our balcony 8 storeys above the ocean with a 5 star view. Not to mention our circular and superb ensuite bathroom. Dave and family were conveniently located on the same deck.

The Norwegian Sun is a large and luxurious cruise ship which carries 950 crew and a couple of thousand passengers. The first couple of days were exploring time, as we headed north. Our cabin was on level 8, but the real action only happens between levels 5 and 12.

We soon discovered that eating is a major part of life on a cruise ship. We could choose to eat at the Garden Café, Great Outdoors, Four Seasons, Seven Seas, Pacific Heights or Las Marambas Tapas Bar. So we tried them all.

Our ship travelled north for about a thousand miles along the Canadian and Alaskan coastline weaving in and out of islands and including some ocean sections. It seemed an endless parade of rocky shorelines and forested mountains, becoming snowcapped further north. Although cold and somewhat windy, we had little rain, and lots of sun.

In Ketchikan we explored the old town, including Creek Street, the former red light district on a boardwalk over a creek, and found our way to the Salmon hatchery where we were able to get up close to a pair of bald eagles. We also visited the totem pole museum where a friendly native American (Tjingit) chatted with the kids.

Juneau is the State capital, and you can only get there by sea or air. We took a bus to see the Mendenhall Glacier. An information centre was built at the foot of the glacier in 1950 but the glacier was receded a mile and a half since then, and a lake has formed in between. We walked as close as possible to a foot of a roaring waterfall. There are Arctic Terns nesting there, tiny white birds that fly thousands of miles from Antarctica each year to breed in the north.

Then to Tracy Arm, a classic fjord with a glacier at the end. The giant Norwegian Sun crept along at low speed through the water which was sprinkled with small icebergs that had floated down from the glacier. We were amazed at how close we could get, and could see seals by the waters edge through our binoculars.

The next day we arrived at Skagway, the old port of entry for many gold seekers during the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s.
Skagway town is full of lovingly preserved timber buildings and is a magnificent tourist town. Karen and I went for a walk in the forest while Jen, Dave and the kids explored the town. We all rented a couple of cars in the afternoon for exploring further afield. There was drama at our first stop, the historic Skagway cemetery and Lower Reid Falls, where we heard cries of "Help" from the forest high above the Falls. We waited until the emergency services arrived, but left before they climbed to the top.

The gold-seekers had to climb over White Pass on their way to the Klondike, on treacherous paths and snowfields. A railroad was built across the pass and then a road, but not until after the rush was over. We drove up and over the pass, heading 100km north to Carcross, a village in the Yukon. On the way back we saw a black bear and a porcupine, briefly, before they scurried away.

Of course, many people care little for scenery or exploring on cruises, and prefer to while away their time shopping and enjoying the onboard entertainment. With the shore parties over, we turned our focus more to shipboard entertainment. Richard and the kids enjoyed the swimming pool one day when the water was sloshing from end to end. We all enjoyed table tennis and tried the basketball court and golf driving range. We particularly enjoyed the dance and acrobatic show on the Peter Pan story and there were things for kids from making pizzas to seeing how many ice cream scoops they could eat.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Norwegian Sun
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