Monday, August 23, 2004

We’re BACK!

Alaska, Seattle and Vancouver were AMAZING! I can’t say enough about our vacation. I think a 7-day cruise was long enough to enjoy, yet we did want to come home when the time came. If you’ve never been on a cruise, I HIGHLY recommend it for your next vacation.

Some highlights of our trip:

Lindi and I flew to Seattle Saturday night. We met up with my long-time friend Alicia at the hotel (and it happened to be her b-day) so we headed out to Aztec for dinner to catch up. It was wonderful to see her again, and to see the both of us are much happier than the last time we met up back in 1995.

Sunday Morning, Lindi and I jumped on a shuttle bus and we drove to Vancouver, anticipating a nice 2 hour delay at the Canadian border. Typically, customs requires all bags be removed from cargo and each person has to get off the shuttle bus and go through customs. We were extremely lucky – there happened to be a traffic jam, so two Canadian Immigration officials jumped on our bus, talked to a couple of people, and we were gone in a matter of minutes. That made us 2 hours early to board the Norwegian Sun!

We went through all of the processing of getting on the ship and were stunned by the beauty of it. It was literally, a 12 story hotel on water. We were given a “key card” and that was how we were to pay for everything on board – no cash allowed – which actually made it really easy to keep track of expenses. Our room was small and Lindi and I each had twin beds, but we had a BIG window, and, frankly ,we were just grateful to be there.

The food was amazing! Norwegian Cruise Line has a unique offering called “Freestyle Crusing”. You can eat in one of their 10 restaurants or eat at their buffets, which weren’t half bad at all! The restaurants don’t allow jeans or shorts after 5:30 and only two nights were designated as “formal”, so we were able to enjoy their exquisite fare as often as we’d like.

While on vacation, I tried for the first time:
Escargot (loved it!)
Paté (hated it!)
Caviar (both pink and black – I liked the black better)
Mahi Mahi
Two different styles of “cold” soups
Watercress tea sandwiches
Alaskan Beer (whut whoo!)
Grand Marnier Soufflé (never had any kind of soufflé)
Chocolate Sushi

The first night, we all met out on the desk and talked, drank beer and just relaxed with the family and Lindi and I enjoyed a beautiful sunset alone. We didn’t see Sarah a lot, as she was involved with the Teen Program on board, and they kept her very busy. She met a lot of great kids and had a wonderful time.

The first day, we were at sea all day, and we decided that night would be our family formal night. We all dressed up, had formal pics taken, enjoyed champagne and caviar and were seating in the main dining roo, where I met the second love of my life, Marzena. She is from Poland and could be Angelina Jolie’s little sister. (Lindi can verify this) She filled my water glass and I stopped breathing. She was very gracious and our paths crossed a few time on the cruise, and I have a picture of us together. Big Sigh.

Tuesday we hit Ketchikan, where I departed the ship early to go fishing. I shared the boat with Joe from New Mexico, Brenda and Rob from Canada and Allen from Australia. Hijinks insued, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. We all hit it off and became fast friends, sharing home addresses and I even developed my disposable camera on board to make sure Allen had pictures to take home with him (his camera didn’t advance so he had no pictures at all) and made an extra set for Brenda and Rob. The fishing trip was successful, and Joe and I, the Americans, split the boats catch (as it was too expensive to ship for the others) and we each ended up with 26 lbs of filets of fresh salmon and halibut! My parents received the Fed Ex’d shipment only 2 days later! Lindi and Sarah spent the day shopping.

The evening’s highlights included an Art Auction, which I got to view an actual Picasso and a pencil hand-signed Salvador Dali. Beautiful artwork – way out of my price range, but hey, there was free chamapgne. I did walk away with two aroma-therapy massages with full facials for Lindi and I at $60 each, which was an incredible deal.

Wednesday was Juneau, and man, was it beautiful! Large forest covered mountains on either side of a cute Park City like town. Shopping was wonderful, diamond shops and fur traders, totem poles and Alaska Fudge. Sarah and Grandpa got brave and took the tram up the side of the mountain while Lindi, Grandma and I sat and rested. That evening we enjoyed a very funny comedian, Bud Andersen.

Thursday was Skagway, another beautiful city. Sarah and the grandparents took a 3 hour train ride around the mountain and from what they said, it was beautiful. Lindi and I did some more shopping, then rushed back to the ship for our scheduled massage! We enjoyed a relaxing massage and facial, then as we were leaving, our ship was rounding Sawyer Glacier, so we grabbed the camera ran to the top deck to take pictures. We drank hot cocoa (I had coffee with Grand Marnier) and enjoyed an amazing spectacle of thousands-year old ice wedged into the mountains, small ice burgs in the water, waterfalls on the mountains, even mountain goats! The temperature dipped to the 40’s which was the lowest it had been on our entire trip (we had been enjoying 65+ weather). The scenery was amazing! As we rounded the island and put the Glacier to our backs, we were joined by a couple of whales and dolphins who came along for the ride!

It wasn’t unusual to see jumping fish, dolphins or whales blowing out of one of the windows at any given time. It was quite astounding now that I think about it.

Friday brought the town of Wrangell – an old Alaskan town the way it used to be. Very limited shopping, so the three of us met up with a cousin and traveled to the Petroglyphs on the coast, which are so old, no one can date them or figure out what they mean. There, I was able to actually touch the Alaskan waters for the first time, to feel it’s healing energy and peace. We then traveled to the Rainbow Forest, a rainforest, and while the others hiked her trails, I sat and communed with the beauty around me.

The four of us headed back to port and stopped at a local shack – literally, and had freshly caught and prepared whole dungenous Alaskan Crab. It was awesome! $10 and a picnic bench, Lindi, Jessie, Sarah and I enjoying fresh crab – the best meal I had the entire trip!

That evening, we had another family dinner and enjoyed one another’s company.

Saturday was a full day at sea, heading back to Vancouver. We enjoyed a Chocoholic Buffet (EVERYTHING made out of chocolate – it was the most amazing display I’d ever seen!), a putting contest, a vegetable carving display, and some shopping on board as well as gambling in the casinos. Lindi won quite a bit! That night, the two of us had a romantic dinner in the restaurant alone, accompanied by three baby Orcas outside our window and a gorgeous sunset.

We were very sad to depart on Sunday morning, but all was well as we left the ship with our trinkets and pictures (730 in all) and headed back to the port to catch our Shuttle bus to take us back to Seattle where we spent the night and flew out Monday.

Obviously, there are so many highlights and stories to tell, and I am sure I will put some pics on here, but just suffice to say the vacation was wonderful, I wasn’t in a lot of pain (I had my moments) and I loved everything about Alaska.

THANK YOU to all who posted here while I was gone. You are THE BEST!!!!


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