Monday, June 29, 2009

Margarita Monday 6/29/09

As the summer heat invades the other 49 states, it's time to talk about my favorite state. Margarita's are allowed! If you want to cool off in the summer, Alaska is the place to go. Cool weather and amazing sites. Now that is a Cruisitude feeling! We arrived Whitier around 3:00 in the afternoon and once we got off the train it was only a short walk to the terminal to start the boarding process for the largest ship I have ever stood next to. Man was this thing huge! She only holds 1900 passengers and I can not imagine what these new mega ships coming out that hold 5300 passengers will look like.
The boarding process did not take nearly as long as I thought it would. They took our pictures for our ID card, took some photos in front of some fake canvas, ran our carry on bags through the x-ray machine, checked our IDs and, now we are officially on the Princess Coral. We are staying in a mini suite and, we head of to find stateroom 721 on the Caribe deck. We are greeted by our steward and were amazed by how much room we actually had. Even though it had been a long day we were so excited to actually be on the ship. We had some champagne and got ready for the muster drill. The purpose of a muster drill is to prepare passengers for safe evacuation in the event an emergency occurs while on board the ship. You get to drink champagne and then they expect you to remember how to get off the boat if there is an emergency. I think Janet has it down pat. Go to the balcony and jump. Actually the muster drill went off without a hitch and did not take very long. We now know how to evacuate if there was a real emergency. Now it is time to party! We had selected anytime dining, but on the first night you eat dinner at whatever table is available when you arrive at the main dining room. With anytime dining you can eat anytime the dining room is open or at one of the speciality restaurants. You can be seated at a table with other passengers or just get a table for 2. That is what we did most of the time. It was very cool and simple. We ordered a bottle of wine and went through the many courses of food off of the menu. The food was very good. The other cool thing is they will cork the wine you have left over and bring it to you the next night. They keep track of it by your room number. Now in our case we did not have any left for the next night. What a great evening. The next 2 days we would be at sea.
College Fjord and Glacier Bay were our next two destinations. This would be scenic cruising only. This would allow us to utilize our balcony or go to the top of the ship and view the many wonders and the awesome wildlife. Some background on College Fjord and Glacier Bay. College Fjord is located in the northern sector of Prince William Sound. The Fjord contains five tidewater glaciers (glaciers that terminate in water), five large valley glaciers, and dozens of smaller glaciers, most named after renowned East Coast colleges (women's colleges for the NW side and the men's colleges for the SE side). College Fjord was discovered in1899 during the Harriman Expedition, at which time the glaciers were named. The expedition included a Harvard and an Amherst professor, and they named many of the glaciers after elite colleges. Glacier Bay is in Southeastern Alaska.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve includes nine tidewater glaciers, and four actively calve (shed) icebergs into the bay. Wildlife in the area includes bears, deer, mountain goats, whales, and waterfowl. Glaciers descending from high snow capped mountains into the bay create spectacular displays of ice and iceberg formations.

In the last century the bay's most famous glacier is Muir Glacier.In 1879 naturalist John Muir found that the ice had retreated almost all the way up the bay, a distance of around forty-eight miles. No roads lead to the park and it most easily reached by air travel. Despite the lack of roads, there are over 300,000 visitors per year, most of them on cruise ships. Now that you have a little of history, you can not believe how spectacular the Fjords and the glaciers are. The ice displays so many different colors.
While we spent most of our time viewing the Fjords and glaciers, it did not keep us from exploring the Coral and participating in the many activities and events during the first two days. Let's see, we had a class on how to make martini's, played bingo, putt putt golf down the hallways, wine tasting, sampling reindeer chili, and champagne brunch on the balcony as the glaciers passed by.
It is amazing how many things they have for you to do if you want to. You can do as much or as little as you want. I will end this part of our fantastic trip here. I will pick back up as we pull into the ports of Alaska. The adventure so far has been unreal, and we have not even stepped off of the ship yet. Until then, Happy Travlin' Travel Your Way! How is your Cruisitude?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Evening Tequila 6/16/09

Now that the Alaska cruise season has started, I thought I would share our adventure's on the trip that Janet and I took to Alaska in 2007. It is a trip that is still fresh in my memory and I will never forget it. We elected to cruise with Princess on this trip. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and could not think of a better destination than Alaska. So we decided to do a wilderness tour for 5 days before we caught up with the Princess Coral in Whittier (Near Anchorage) We started off our trip from San Antonio with a long flight to Fairbanks through Minneapolis. It’s a long ways to Fairbanks. Packing for the trip was even more difficult because you had to have one bag for the ship and one for the land portion. When we arrived in Fairbanks they took our bags for the ship and told us that our bags would be in our cabin when we boarded the ship in 5 days. I hope I see my clothes again! We were just staying one night in Fairbanks and catching the train to Denali in the morning. Since it stays daylight in Alaska forever, we had no problem checking out Fairbanks. Neither one of us slept at all with the anticipation of our journey starting in the morning. Morning arrives and we take the motor coach from the hotel to the Princess train. Most of the cruise lines all have their Double Decker trains all hooked together. We were seated at our assigned table on the upper deck and had the most amazing view from our domed train. They had a specialist on the train who gave us the history of the different areas that we were traveling through. We were able to get up and walk around the train. They had an area at the end of train that you could go outside and see the views from there as well. As you can see Janet is a Happy Camper! It was really awesome. About half way through the train ride our table was called to go down to the dining car where we ordered breakfast and watched the most amazing scenery go by as we sipped our coffee and juice while we waited for our breakfast to be served. After breakfast we went back to our upper deck table and watched the beautiful scenery pass by. As we arrived in Denali there was a small lake off to the left side and we saw our first Moose playing in the water. Well I think it was playing!
We have now arrived at the Princess Lodge at Denali National Park. This is so cool! Hoo Ya! We get off the train and we are just about 1/2 of mile from the lodge. Once we get to the lodge we walk around a bit. It is a huge place with several restaurants and shops. Our favorite place was the Base Camp Bistro. It has the most amazing decks that looks over the river and mountains in the background. We liked it so much that we ate lunch and dinner there. They had this most incredible appetizer. It was an Alaska Crab Pot. It had crab, artichoke hearts, sherry cream, celery and loads of Parmesan cheese served with toasted Parmesan baguette slices. I am drooling! As we were eating lunch we kept seeing these Mewgulls flying around. There was a group that had just finished eating and their table had not been cleaned yet and all of a sudden here came the Mewgulls and stole the french fries. Crazy birds. We spent the rest of the day walking around the many trails around the lodge and visiting the Denali National Park Museum. It was really breathtaking. We awoke the next morning for our 65 mile trip into Denali National Park. We elected to upgrade our tour to the Tundra tour that would take us even further than the Natural History tour. We saw, Grizzly Bears, Moose, Caribou, Dall’s sheep and many other wildlife. Way too cool! Can not explain the rush when a Grizzly Bear comes right up to the school bus that we were on. I would love to spend more time here, but we are now off to the Princess Mt McKinley Lodge. Oh mountains here we come! Mt McKinley is a very strange mountain and only likes to show her beauty once every so often. We take a motor coach form Denali and arrive at the Mt McKinley lodges. They were spectacular with many restaurants and shops. They also had this amazing deck that looked out over the area where Mt McKinley is supposed to be, but nothing but clouds blanket her. We walked around some of the trails around the lodge. The funniest thing is the warning signs for the bears while you are on the trails. They show you six bear types and what to do if you see that type of bear. One bear type has you lay in the fetal position, another has you start clapping and yelling. I can tell you that if I ran into a bear no matter what type, I would not take time see what type it was nor figure out what I was supposed to do. I would be running like hell as fast as I could in the opposite direction. We had several meals, drinks and played cards in the bar that looked out over the deck waiting for the glimpse of seeing the mountain. No such luck on day #1. The next morning we take a motor coach to the small town of Talkeetna. This place is so cool. It has old shops, restaurants and a super tiny grocery/package store. We found this awesome pizza joint called Mountain High Pizza Pie and I have to tell you that besides my mom's pizza that this was the BEST I have had anywhere.
Those of you who know me know I love to eat and I love pizza. Oh yea, the beer was good too. When you finish your pizza you need to walk around a while and make room for pie at the Road House Cafe. Sweet Perfection! Not to take away from desert, but we found the city hall while walking around and they were selling shirts for the Moose Dropping Festival the next weekend. How bizarre is that? I guess they have a Moose Dropping toss, like in Texas they have the Cow Chip toss. Too Funny! We head back to the lodge in hope of seeing a glimpse of the mountain, but nothing but clouds. We have a few drinks and toast the mountain and still nothing in sight. We are bummed that we can not see this mountain. Are you really there or you just a myth? Off to bed we go and it is still daylight. It never gets dark in Alaska and this makes sleeping quite interesting. We wake up the next morning and pack our bags as we are heading to the Princess Coral today. We put our bags outside for the staff to pickup and we head to the big deck to see if maybe she might show a little and oh my gosh. There she was in full view and not a cloud in the sky. Janet was smiling from ear to ear. She was so excited! Almost like being in a candy store. She took video and I snapped tons of pictures. In a matter of 15 minutes she was gone. The clouds had taken over Mt McKinley and she had vanished. We were so blessed with the perfect timing and the view that would last us a lifetime. So Unbelievable! We jump on the motor coach back to Talkeetna where we will board the train down to Whitter to board the Princess Coral. The train will take around 6 hours to get to Whitter. We have a great table to see all of the awesome scenery as we reflect on our first trip into the interior of Alaska and what an experience it has been. We are very excited about our first cruise to Alaska. I can tell you this much, I fell in love with the area's of Alaska that we have visited and I will return again. I will end here as our land portion of our trip has ended. I will continue my next story on this fantastic trip as we review the various ports of call. Until then Happy Travlin' Travel Your Way!