Monday, May 7, 2018


I've been recovering from a cold I probably caught on the plane back from the trip.  A kid sitting next to me was sniffling through the whole trip from Seattle.  That's the only negative from the two weeks. 

It was a great adventure and on the perfect ship for me.  Only 27 passengers had braved a trip to Alaska this early.  I had a small room (there were only two singles on this one and none on some) just behind the bow on the first floor, where the kitchen and dining room was.  The lounge was on the second floor just over the bow  with space for people to get outside.  The stern had less space but was also not as windy, so I spent lots of time on both. 

We saw marine mammals, harbor seals, sea lions, whale blows, otters, and porpoises rushing in the other direction from time to time.  They had supplied each room and the lounge with binoculars, which were so much better than the ones I brought.  (new ones soon?)  Going along the coast and between islands almost all of the time meant mostly calm water.  The captain warned us twice about times we had larger open water.  It was a joke at first that the captain only brought bad news when he came down to address us, but later we got to know him better as a very nice and witty guy.  Probably the overall best thing about the boat was the crew, absolutely everyone we may have encountered seemed to love working on the ship.  If I ever remarked about anything beyond a greeting, each would immediately stop for a conversation.  Evidently they, mostly 20 somethings, were well-chosen and well-trained, but it didn't seem faked at all.  The guides were mostly college grads or on a break year.  The head guide was a vocal graduate from IU and her teacher was someone I had met in choir and asked her if she knew (Sylvia McNair).  She was really surprised.

As far as the activities, five years or so earlier would have been much better for me.  But I managed all the skiff trips and the shorter hikes.  It was very difficult to get into the skiff without railings and some water motion, but there were always two strong arms right there.  Actually, we saw more on the skiff trips than the kayakers could.  I might have tried that, but it wasn't that appealing.  It was not exactly balmy up there.

Food was great, but mostly healthy, especially the lunches and dinners.  Breakfast at 6:30 in the lounge for early risers and 7:30 downstairs had a huge selection at both, especially a large fruit tray.  I was happy to get my first tea with milk, followed by coffee with a piece of toast early.  I was impressed with how efficiently and creatively everything was used up.  At dinner there was always a meat, fish or veggie choice.  The waitresses were so excellent and would cheerfully get any extra thing, even dividing the dinner choices into halves or thirds.  All alcohol was included, wine at dinner or cocktails in the lounge.  The young bartenders were great guys, and one of them was my room straightener too.  This is obviously a very well run corporation.  

My main reason for going was to see this part of the world the only way it can be seen, from the water.  And it was incredible to spend the two days going past Canada to usually see vast hills and mountains of forests on both sides.  In Alaska the ship could stop at smaller towns without ports and use skiffs to take us to shore.  One time we went through an interesting narrows very close to both shores, where we saw some deer.  Later we spotted a mountain goat when close by high mountains, which was most of the time in Alaska.  The last town we stopped at before Juneau was Haines.  It is surrounded by mountains and sea, very beautiful place.  The weather was pretty good for early April.  This was the first time Uncruise had a tour this early to Alaska.  We had lots of clouds most days but not enough to obscure the mountains, except for the two days of snow at Glacier Bay NP.  The three days before we got there was spent anchored at islands for activities, and the weather was really nice. The view from my room is on one picture.  I enjoyed just lying there watching the wilderness go by.

All above in San Juan Islands

Screen in the lounge showing GPS position of ship.

Basalt formation

a fungus !

A guide made a snowman on a bow table.

Plenty of snow on the bow the two days at Glacier Bay NP.

Beach combing in Haines

A final sunset in Haines

A beach on a San Juan Island.



Thursday, June 30, 2016

Christmas in San Diego, 2015

Spotted the Maritime Museum on the short bus ride from the airport and walked back to take in later that afternoon.  Also checked out the San Diego Athletic Club's rooftop pool and weight machines.  It's just about six blocks from the hotel and $50 for the week.  Ended up there almost every morning before breakfast.

Outing to one of the first Spanish missions to the north of city central.  It was interesting to hear more about Spanish history in California, which is much more extensive than Anglo's know (or admit),  Our guide is a lovely, enthusiastic Mexican-American woman.  She gave up almost all of the Christmas week to this trip, but her family will join her at the hotel on Christmas eve.

Balboa Park was originally built for a world's fair.  It contains too many beautiful buildings with extensive exhibits for one day.  I spent most of my free time at the Japanese Gardens before lunch and a visit to the zoo.

Botanic Gardens

Japanese gardens

A visit to La Jolla to the aquarium and a downtown park on the coast.

A drive and walking at Point Loma.

We had a most interesting typical Christmas Mexican lunch at an elderly center prepared by a local group of women.  After lunch we walked under the freeways to photograph the interesting graphic art.

Christmas day was spent at the historic hotel on Coronado at an exorbitantly priced buffet.