The weather today was not good, but seeing how this area gets such an incredible amount of rain each year, we are very lucky to have had great weather up until this point.
We made our way down the gangplank, passed on a ship photo op in the rain with two crew members dressed up in some bear-type costumes. They weren't getting much business at all this morning.
Today's port was Skagway, Alaska, "Gateway to the Gold Rush of '89." Here is a picture of the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, home of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau:
Our excursion today was the only one that the entire group of nine of us did together. This wasn't due to a grand plan, just that we made our excursion plans separately, and these two happened to jive. Today's excursion was:
WHITE PASS SCENIC RAILWAY
Tour Code: SGY-001
Approximate Duration: 3 1/2 hours
Level 1 / Physically Limited
No trip to Alaska is complete without a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route narrow-gauge railroad that served the mad rush to the Klondike in 1898. It became the supply line for the Yukon gold fields, the Alaska Highway and postwar mining development. You will board an old-fashion parlor car and take a 40-mile, round-trip excursion. A panorama of wilderness unfolds, as you leave Skagway and pass through two tunnels, sky-high trestles and remote valleys. Outside your large picture window, view Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. Your guide will announce all points of interest and tell the unique story of this railway. After reaching White Pass Summit, the international boundary between Canada and the U.S., you will begin your return journey down the White Pass and Yukon Route.
We made our short walk and hopped aboard the train. Here is a replica of the train of how it was in its heyday:
There were plenty of seats in the car we chose, and eventually seeing Uncle Dennis and the group walking up the sidewalk, I stepped off the car and waved them down to ours.
It was a little chilly on the car, and the window-closing negotiation started. They had little windows high in the car, that most people did not realize a few were left open to keep the windows of the car from fogging up.
Of course, people being the "instant gratification" people they are, wanted them closed now to get warm now. No sense considering the consequences beforehand.
Never mind that at this point the doors were still open, which was what was really causing the cold. But I digress bitterly...
I'm not sure that this excursion was worth $99 per person, but it had its cool points. Dad made a comment, even before we departed, "Jesus Christopher. They're getting $99 for this?" Later when I saw him sleeping a lot of the way, I'm thinking, "There's nothing more expensive than a $99 nap."
Here's the lot of us on the train:
Here's a view of the train crossing over a tressle/bridge:
Here we are entering a tunnel through a mountain:
Other than some of the views along the route, the coolest thing about this trip was doing the "White Pass Summit Shuffle" at the top of the line. This train climbs 3000 feet during its trek, but it's one way up and one way back.
So, at the top, they stop the train, and do this shuffle for two reasons: 1) So the people sitting on the side with most of the scenery can let the people who were not on that side have it on the way back, and 2) so that you're not riding backwards on the way back.
Here's the White Pass Summit Shuffle: "Everyone get up out of your seat and move into the aisle. Now, take the back of your seat and swing it up and over. And, finally, if you were sitting on the left side of the train, move to the right side and vice versa."
The backs of the seats just arced up and over, so that when you were finished it was facing the opposite direction. Of course, none of us had noticed this up until this point.
There were enough empty seats in our car so that most people could stay on the "scenery side," but everyone got up and moved first, and then eventually, those who wanted to, made their way back to the scenery side.
Each car had an old (looked like it at least) stove on it that you could ask the attendant collecting the tickets to start up if you wanted to. Of course, our car wanted it started. It didn't happen as fast as we wanted it to, and we had to ask two more times. Here's mom standing next to it after it was lit:
The guy who did it, I thought, was trying to be funny, but unfortunately for him, had one of those sarcastic senses of humor that people generally don't appreciate when 1) they don't know you that well, 2) are an average age of 65-75, and 3) cold and cranky. Let's just say it didn't go over that well. A lesson in knowing your audience, context, and purpose when communicating. But I digress...
The bathroom on this car was a quaint little thing, and you had to pump this handle to flush it. One lady was in there, just starting to wash her hands when we went through a tunnel, which of course made the car, and the bathroom, pitch black.
Terri was in there when we were stopped at the summit, and it was so quiet in the car, and everyone else had nothing else to do but taunt her, and started yelling things to the bathroom door, like, "Hurry up Terry, you're holding up the train." Her exit from the bathroom became so highly anticipated that I caught it on film:
I always find it interesting to observe "process improvement" as it happens. There were basically three of us, me and a British couple, who were braving the elements by stepping outside of the car in a little platform area to take pictures in the rain.
The man was very Cockney, and I was reminded of Eliza Doolittle, probably due to the show we saw the first night on the ship. I wanted to hold his chin and make him say, "The insane rain falls mainly on our train."
Anyhow, back to the process improvement. For the first part of the trip, we were taking pictures from the outside platform area in the front of our train car. After a while, though, he came out when I was out there, and said, "You know, if you take them from the back of the car, the rain isn't coming at you, as it's blocked by the train, and it's so much nicer." From then on, we took our pictures from the rear platform.
Back in town, the train made two stops, one in the downtown, shopping area, and the other back at the pier. Everyone but Vivian and I got off downtown, as we had our second excursion to go to, which left from the pier.
We decided that we had enough time to re-board the ship, put some things down that we didn't need for our helicopter ride, have a quick lunch upstairs, and then get back on the pier by 12:35.
We did that successfully, disembarked the ship again, and on the pier, handed our tickets to excursion agent for this tour:
“PILOT’S CHOICE” HELICOPTER ODYSSEY
Tour Code: SGY-012
Approximate Duration: 2 hours
Level 2 / Flight
This exciting excursion takes you to remote, glacier-filled valleys and the vast gold rush country beyond historic Skagway. Your helicopter lifts off near the Skagway harbor, gliding over the cruise ships and continuing to a region of rugged mountains and glistening glaciers. The flight itinerary remains flexible, allowing your pilot to select the best sights according to the glacier and weather conditions. Majestic waterfalls en route to the Ferebee Glaciers, jagged peaks surrounding the Chilkat Glacier or the dramatic Meade Glacier flowing from the Juneau Icefield may be among the wonders you encounter. Two landings allow you to discover intriguing glacial features such as crystal clear pools, deep crevasses and glacial moraines.
Note: Flight time is approximately 50 minutes with two approximate 15-minute landings on the glacier. Glacier boots are provided at the heliport. The actual time spent on the glacier may vary due to weather and glacier conditions. Once on the helicopter you may remain onboard while on the glacier.At the pilot's discretion, flight routes, landing sites, number of landings, and time spent on glaciers may vary due to weather or glacier conditions. THIS TOUR IS NON-REFUNDABLE.
The agent handed our tickets back to us and said, "I'm sorry, we've had to cancel this flight due to the weather. The ship has been informed, and they will credit your account."
This was a huge disappointment to us, as it was one of the things we most looked forward to on the trip. Oh well. A bad day in Alaska is still better than a good day at work.
Vivian stayed in town to shop, and I went back on the ship, where I changed into my swimsuit and headed to the hot tubs on Deck 11. There was a hot man in one of the tubs, and, presumably, his wife in one of the other ones.
I'm not sure why they were in separate hot tubs, but they were definitely together as they talked across the tubs to each other, and when she got up to leave he said, "I'll follow along in about 10 minutes."
I got in one of the other two empty hot tubs, where I continued to soak for 45 minutes. It was totally relaxing, and it reminded me of hot tubbing at the ski slopes.
Back at the room, I changed, grabbed my laptop and went to the library to catch up my blog. I left this note on a spiral notebook on Vivian's bed:
I'm in the library, Champagne lounge, or foraging for
P.S. Check out the Wrangell excursions. I'm game for either of the two I've marked, or just relaxing, too. You decide.
We had originally signed up for a hiking excursion in Wrangell, but we did not get booked on it for a reason never made known to us. It just didn't show up on our list of confirmed excursions. I guess that it was either full by the time we booked, or it was canceled.
So, due to that, and our canceled helicopter excursion, we wanted to sign up for another excursion in Wrangell, where we'll be tomorrow.
I was surprised to find that the library was everything but quiet. Part of it was actually the place in which they encouraged game-playing, with many games available in the glass cases along the side.
A group of kids was playing scrabble. An adult couple was there to meet another couple to play some bridge, but when they didn't show up after about 10 minutes, the couple there scribbled a note, and left it on the table. Everyone who came into the room after that read the note, even if they weren't bridge players. Sort of like finding a message in a bottle, I suppose.
A group of three women came in, which seemed like grandmother, mother, and daughter, and they played scrabble. The grandmother was the type to point out things to the other two as she noticed them. For instance, when the daughter put a word down ending in "s," she pointed out to her that she should save the "s" to add to two words ending at a common point later on to get many more points. She was right, but also slightly annoying, as I didn't get the impression that the mother or the daughter much cared about points -- or the game at all to the degree that she did.
The table tops of these table had green felt on them, as they were card tables. I wrote out the remaining six post cards of mine, and then booted up my laptop to address them from the address book in my desktop Palm Pilot. After that I stamped them all.
I headed back to the cabin, and on the way ran into Vivian, Uncle Dennis and mom on Deck 7 near the Champagne Bar. Both Vivian and Uncle Dennis were ready for a drink, so I told them I was going to run my laptop back to the cabin, and be right back. Then, we'd all go up to the Sports Bar together.
Back in the cabin, I saw that Vivian had added this note to the steno pad:
Gone to find you and alcohol. Deck 11 Aft or Deck 11 Pool or Deck 11 Sports Bar
Going back to meet you where I just left you.
The whole lot of us, minus dad, sat in the Sports Bar and drank for a couple of hours. We had some peanuts, then some finger-food snacks, and eventually some popcorn. Folks took turns picking up the tab, and we just had fun conversation.
At one point, I was sitting alone with Bob, and I said to him, "I'm really glad we got a chance to meet you and Lou. You're very nice people."
He said, "Well, likewise. You know we've heard a lot about you and Vivian, and what great kids you are, and you are, but until you meet people, well it's just not the same."
At around 6:15 or so, I called dad to see if he was up for dinner, and he was. He came up and joined us, and after another round of drinks, he and mom went to the buffet. Some of the group ate in the Sports Bar. Vivian and I went to check out the Tapas bar, and I got a selection of four Tapas, one of which was chourico! I let dad taste it and he said that it definitely was not chourico.
After dinner, Vivian took mom and dad to tonight's "Spotlight Showtime" presentation: Norwegian Cruise Line is proud to present the innovative high-energy show of two time international juggling champion Greg Kennedy! he was recently featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Stardust Lounge, Decks 6 & 7, Aft.
I went back to the cabin, and caught up my blog, and then headed back to the jacuzzi. I left Vivian this note:
Gone to the Jacuzzi. Come join me. Fat floats! :-)
At about 8:40, Viv came out to the Jacuzzis, but not in her swimsuit. She said that the show was incredible, and that mom and dad just loved it. Cool.
Shortly after that I went back to the room, and we watched a few scenes from Sordid Lives again, and a couple of the interviews with the actors. Vivian hadn't realized that "Sister" was Beth Grant, whom she said was from Greenville.
After that we briefly discussed and decided upon our excursion for tomorrow, deciding on a Jetboat ride up the Stikine River. We got into a total laughing fit playing through the scenario of someone weighing more than 250 pounds joining us on this excursion. Both of our stomachs hurt from laughing before we stopped.
Next, we played Catch Phrase for about a half hour, with more laughing fits here and again throughout the game. It was a lot of fun.
I guess we finally had lights out around midnight, looking forward to a glorious night's sleep, as port call tomorrow isn't until noon.