Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon Texas Prairie Fire 7/28/09

The week has started a bit more active. This is a good thing! Remember to tell your friends and neighbors to love a Travel Agent too. We always need love. It also helps keep our Cruisitude on track! If you have been watching the news lately, you know that in South Texas it is hotter than H E double heck. No rain in sight and triple digit temps. Watering restrictions to boot! It is like we have a barrier around us. Oh well, what are you going to do? While researching for this week’s beverage, I said what the heck. I might as well just join the heat and sit on the porch for a while. The only rain I am going to get is the sweat off of my forehead! So, let me introduce you to a Texas Prairie Fire. No, the grass is not on fire yet, but it could at anytime. It won't be long and we really will have Texas Tumbleweeds blowing down the street. Get your fire extinguishers out. Here is the skinny. Get your Tequila of choice (Mine is Cabo Wabo out of the freezer), Lime juice, and Tabasco sauce. Pour a 3/4 shot of Tequila in shot glass, top off with lime juice, splash in Tabasco sauce, and shoot. Are you on fire yet? Just a little kick to remind you that summer is here and is on fire. Our journey continues out of Ketchikan on our way to Vancouver. So sad that our days are coming to an end, but so filled with memories to support me for a lifetime. Our trip has two nights left and we hope to make the most of them. The Princess Coral will cover 506 nautical miles on this part of our trip. Our travels will take us past Prince Rupert, British Columbia. This is where the Canada wilderness starts. They say on British Columbia’s North Coast you don’t control nature, you pay attention to her every mood. As we continue our travels at sea, we head into the Hecate Strait. This channel of western British Columbia, Canada, separates the Queen Charlotte Islands from coastal islands off the mainland of the province. The scenery is quite spectacular.
It made it really nice that we have a balcony and could just sit back with a glass of wine and chill. There is nothing quite like this experience, along with the view. As we leave the Hecate Strait, we make our way into the Queen Charlotte Sound. Soon we will be heading into the Queen Charlotte Strait. From there we continue into the Johnstone Strait. For unexplained reasons, Killer Whales like to rub the smooth rocks along the shore at Robson Bright. This part of Johnstone Strait is very popular with researchers studying the behavior of Killer Whales. I did not see any here like we saw in Juneau. We cruise past Vancouver Island for quite a long time and will be in Vancouver in the morning. As I sit on our balcony, I have time to reflect on some of the many things we did on the ship. The Coral has so many things to offer everyone. The food was fantastic. Go on a diet before you cruise, so you can eat as much as you want. They will keep feeding you until you say stop. We chose Anytime Dining. We wanted to eat on our schedule. After a few evenings of dining we found the perfect table for two. All I had to do was tell them what time we wanted to eat and they told me when that table was available. It was so easy to do. I highly recommend this option when you cruise. Our waiters took great care of us. They always remembered our names and what we liked. We ate at one of the specialty restaurants. The restaurant we choose was Sabatini's. This evening would take about 2 hours as we would go through tastings of Italy. I think we ate 15 different items. Way too much food and worth the very small up charge. Most mornings we could not wait to see what the drink of the day or the activities were. Most of our evenings would start off with that special drink at the martini bar. There were way too many combinations and it was a cool way to people watch. During our sea days when we were not on our balcony, we played bingo and competed in many of the fun events that took place through out the ship. There were so many things that you could participate in. It was up to you how active you wanted to be. They had things for all ages. We enjoyed the wine tastings, along with the behind the scenes tour of the kitchen. The shows at night were awesome. The midnight buffets were spectacular. The unlimited pizza was heaven! I wish this could be my house. Alaska is the most incredible place in the world. I would hope if you have never been that this is on your bucket list. I want to add it back to my bucket. Our last night on this grand ship ends with great food and wine as we sit at the back of the ship and remember all of the amazing things that we did. As we wake up this morning we are presented the beautiful view of Vancouver.
Vancouver is awesome! I hope to come visit her again. After breakfast we await our turn to disembark the Coral. Even though this part of our trip is coming to an end, we are going to spend a few days in Seattle. I hope you have enjoyed our journey so far. I sure have! Travel Agent Love! Remember a trip like this is possible and I am here to help. Until we hookup again in Seattle, Happy Travelin' and always Travel Your Way! How happy is your Cruisitude? Mine is grinning ear to ear!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Evening Watermelon Crawl 7/22/09

Onward our journey goes. My week has started off on the quite side and somewhat slow. I know you want to go somewhere? You know how to get hold of me. Since we are in the middle of the summer, I thought we would jump start our Wednesday evening off with a Watermelon Crawl. Who? A what? A Watermelon is made for eating in the summer evenings on the back porch with family and friends. I know the adult version can sometimes have a bottle stuck in it for added flavors, but crawl around with a watermelon? Are you crazy? I guess so because this summer evening drink is crazy! Here are the details. Pour 1/3 Southern Comfort, 1.5 oz Amaretto, 1/3 Watermelon schnapps, Orange juice, Pineapple juice, in your favorite glass with your favorite type of ice, squeeze a lime, and stir. Let me know what you think. It’s not too bad! My Cruisitude has been good this week so far. How has your Cruisitude been this week? Leave me a comment about it. We are headed down the Alaskan coast. This stop is going to be our last port of call. Give it up for Ketchikan! Ketchikan is known as the "Salmon Capital of the World." The Misty Fjords National Monument is one of the area's major attractions. It is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town. Ketchikan also has the world's largest collection of standing totem poles, located at three major locations: Saxman Village, Totem Bight, and the Totem Heritage Center. I was excited about our arrival to Ketchikan, but at the same time a little weak at the knees. Janet has convinced me that I needed to get into a float plane that takes off and lands in the water. Fly up to the Misty Fjords National Monument, land and take off in some more water up in the mountains out in the wild. I am not real sure of this, but I am doing what she wants me to. Have you seen how small these planes are? We start off our morning with our usual early breakfast, and as normal I eat more than I will need for the day or so. I guess this time it was a good thing in case I got stranded out in the wild. As we get off of the ship, our first view into the town is quite picturesque. The houses and shops are quite colorful and charming. There is even a rain gauge that measures liquid sunshine. The big Ketchikan sign states "Alaska’s First City"! It is really neat looking. We will have time to explore the town when we return from our flight with Island Wings. They pick us up right on time and take us to the dock to await our float plane. There were many float planes taking off and landing. I did not see any air traffic control towers, but I am sure they monitor it from somewhere, I hope. Our plane lands and makes its way over to the dock. Our pilot is Michelle. Her helpers tie the plane to the dock and she gets out, greeting us and introducing herself. She was extremely nice. There were seven of us on this plane. Being a gentleman as I always am, I let everyone else get on first. What a mistake that was. I am already shaking in my boots and now I have to sit next to the door that does not have a lock on it. Are you kidding me! This is just great! We were all given headsets with voice communications between Michelle and ourselves so we can chat in flight and ask questions as we fly. My first question was can we lock the door? She laughed and said that at 140 MPH the door is not going to open. I took the answer like a man, but still wasn’t totally convinced. We taxi out into the water (I guess that is what a float plane does) and get in position to take off. So far this is sort of cool. The next thing I know we are in the air and I just hold my camera in hopes of not needing any air sickness bags. I guess eating too much breakfast had my stomach a little uptight. We flew right over the town and our journey had begun. At this point I am in awe of the surroundings, but not totally sure I made the best decision to fly in this plane. Maybe I should have gone on the totem pole tour or the duck tour. I heard the lumberjack show was good also. It’s too late now and I don’t see any parachutes around. As we fly around for 45 plus minutes I concentrate on taking pictures of the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen. We are approaching a pretty good size body of water up in the Misty Fjords and then we are told that this is where we are going to land. What will this be like? I am not going to lie, I was a little scared, but Michelle did a great job. She floats the plane to a small shoreline so we can get out and smell the air and stretch our legs. I was in great need of some fresh air. This is cool, I am going to be the first one to get out and touch land. Not so cool when you have to walk on the float like a gymnastic on a balance beam and hopefully not be the one that falls in. We all made it safely to shore. This was truly quite spectacular and so peaceful. We spent about 30 minutes exploring our little part of shoreline. It had such calmness about it. It's time to head back to Ketchikan. Still the gentleman that I am I let everyone else get on first so I can get my seat back. The really cool thing on the way back was that Janet got to sit in the co-pilots seat. Now I wish I was sitting somewhere else in case she hit a pedal or the special "open the door" button. I am not sure if this was up there with being the whale watching Assistant Captain, but it was real close. She was smiling ear to ear. Coming back into Ketchikan was awesome as we flew right over the Princess Coral. She is a very beautiful ship from above. As we taxied up to the dock I look back at this amazing excursion that we took. All kidding aside I would highly recommend a float plane trip out of Ketchikan. To be honest I am super excited to be on land and I think I have worked off my breakfast. Michelle gave us a great local tip for a great burger and fish-n-chips. She recommended the Burger Queen which was not a far from the ship. A whole lot better than the King! She told us to order at the Burger Queen and then walk across to the Arctic Bar and sit on the patio. They would bring our food over to the patio. See it pays to ask where the locals eat. I ordered an ice cold Alaskan beer as we watched the float planes take off. Very cool! Our order consisted of a bacon cheese burger, fries and some fish-n-chips. The food was fantastic and I would highly recommend this place the next time you are in Ketchikan. One quick note about the Arctic Bar, it is also the home of the Happy Bears and those bears were very happy! Look close, you will know! It is time to head into town and check things out. There are so many shops on Creek Street. As you shop you walk on these old wood walkways while you are over the creek. There are even people floating in tubes in the creek. We continue to walk around and head to the harbor where some boats are. This is where the Sea Star is that was on the first season of The Deadliest Catch. They had a gift shop on board that we could board the ship and look at. Those boats are really small. They look big on TV. No wonder it is the most dangerous jobs in the world. It has been a long day. We head back towards the ship and stop at this very unique wine shop. I was surprised at the selection of wines in Alaska. I order a couple of glasses of wine as we reflect on this great day. It was really amazing. You know me I need a couple of bottles to take back on the ship. Back on board the Coral, I pour a couple of glasses of wine. It’s time to head to our balcony and chill for a little bit. As we pull away from the docks there is some activity around the ship and I guess it is the Coast Guards responsibility to make sure we get out into open waters. Their boats would go from the front of the ship to the back of the ship. They were also equipped with machine guns. Pretty scary looking, but I was glad they were there. As our last port of call comes to an end we are now headed for Vancouver where we will end our cruise journey. I hope that Alaska is on your bucket list. I will never forget this trip. I guess I am getting ahead of myself. We still have a day at sea left. Ketchikan is truly a unique place. I hope to visit her again soon. Who knows what is up next, but I bet you will like it. Thanks to those who are reading and following! It is greatly appreciated. Remember to share your Cruisitude and show some love to your travel agent. If you like or dislike what you have read so far leave me a comment below and make sure and share this blog with your friends. Until our trails cross again, Happy Travlin' and make sure you Travel Your Way!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fuzzy Navel Friday 7/17/09

Well the week is almost over. What a week this has been! My youngest son left for Louisiana Tech. He is getting ready to start his college football career. Kick your butt off! My Cruisitude has been on fire! What about yours? If you love your travel agent send him some love! With it being Friday I thought we would start the afternoon on the calm side and build our way up, so why not a Fuzzy Navel. Are you crazy? No, it’s summer time and it is hot! Here is the skinny! Grab your favorite glass with your favorite type of ice and pour peach schnapps and OJ. Stir, squeeze a lime and you have a Fuzzy Navel. If you want to start your afternoon on the heavy side, pour in some vodka and you now have what is called a Hairy Navel. Your choice, but have fun! Down the road we go. Are you ready? Our destination is often described as America's most charmingly situated state capital. It's wise to note that the references refer to the surrounded-by-nature (mountains and ocean) aspect of the city. The only way in or out of town is by air or sea. No roads lead to this city. You guessed it! It’s Juneau! Gold put Juneau on the map in the 1880s, though the mining camp had several other names before prospector Joe Juneau got his to stick. Gold remained the mainstay until the mine was shut down in 1944. Juneau became the political center when Alaska became the 49th state in 1959. Wake up sleepy head a new day is here. When I first looked out of our balcony into the harbor it was foggy, overcast and misty. This was OK with me. I love exploring and taking pictures in this type of weather. This day was very special to me because Janet's main goal on this trip was to see wildlife and whales! Whales, are you kidding me? Will we get blown away? We need nourishment for our journey so we head out to get some breakfast. It is amazing the amount of selections that we have for food. I know that there are 1900 people plus staff on this boat, but what an undertaking. Stuffed to the gill and with enough in reserve for hibernation, we get ready to waddle off of the ship. We made our shore excursion with Shore Trips. No big groups for us. We meet our driver at the pier and he takes us to the Auke Bay boat harbor where we will meet our Captain for the day. It takes about 25 minutes to get to Auke Bay boat harbor and we meet the other couple going with us. I am not kidding 2 couples and a Captain. A little travel agent speech, book your shore excursions with the independent operators like Shore Trips uses. The cruise lines like to scare you about missing the boat and you are on your own getting back. Come join our big group of people where you fight for viewing rights. Sorry to get off track, but it is just not right. Don't get me wrong. I love groups, but the ones that I am associated with. The captain gave us a brief overview of our boat as we get ready to head out in search of the whales. Our whale watching excursion begins in beautiful Auke Bay. It is still foggy and misty. It is awesome going into the unexpected. Janet is now in Assistant Captain mode and on the move. She has already become friends with the Mr. Captain and is now worked her way to his assistant. We make our way through the fog and mist and now we can see what lies ahead. It was a little choppy, but not too bad. We cruise around for a bit and we see a few blowing streams of water in the distance. We know you are there. Oh Mr. and Mrs. Whale, where are you? All kidding aside we saw many whales. There were Orcas and Humpbacks everywhere. Janet was like a kid in a candy store. She stayed in with the Captain and spotted for him and then would come out on the back of the boat and get a close up. The boat was not huge, but big enough to make us feel like we would not tip over. The Humpbacks were defiantly bigger than we were. As an amateur photographer my photo opportunities were incredible. I love the low hanging clouds and mist. While it might look spooky, it was so surreal. We cruise along the shorelines of Admiralty Island, known as the "home of the bears". It boasts the largest concentration of Alaskan Brown Bears and nesting Bald Eagles in the world. We saw many Bald Eagles and nests on the shores, but no Brown Bears. They are so amazing! While cruising around we get to see two beautiful lighthouses, Point Retreat Lighthouse and Sentinel Lighthouse. Then we see a buoy off in the distance and I would call it a Kodak moment. There are seals on this buoy and they are just chillin'. Hopping' on, and then hopping' off. What a site! The next thing I know is a Bald Eagle out of nowhere lands on the buoy and is hanging out with these seals. You have to be kidding me! What a photographer's dream! I think I need a beer. I am still out of breath and off in a short distance we see some Orca's. Can it get any better than this? I don't think so! The 3 hours in the water have gone by so fast, but has left us with some memories that will be with us for a lifetime. It is time to start heading back to the boat harbor. I take a moment to reflect on this grand morning. We are blessed to have a place like this to go and the ability to share the same space with these amazing creatures. We make it back to the harbor and are met by our driver who will take us back to the ship. We were not scheduled to go to Mendenhall Glacier on this excursion, but we asked if we could stop for a bit and our driver was very accommodating. The Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles long and 1-1/2 miles wide where it stretches across the Mendenhall Valley. Its ice can be 400 to 800 feet deep. It is located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. We walked around for about 20 minutes and took some great pictures. It is an amazing site and my pictures do not bring out the true beauty of this glacier. It’s time to head towards the ship and wander around town. Our driver drops us off at the Alaska Cannery and Smokehouse. There are way too many things to sample. Salmon cooked 500 ways. Just kidding, but cooked and smoked with many different flavors. Very yummy! As we have built up a tremendous thirst, we could not leave Juneau without stepping foot and sitting out butts at the bar of the Red Dog Saloon. First, a brief history about the old girl. Founded during Juneau's mining era, the Red Dog Saloon has been in operation for decades. For a time, "Ragtime Hattie" played the piano in white gloves and a silver dollar halter top. Later, in territorial days, the owners would often meet the tour boats at the docks with a mule that wore a sign saying, "follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon." The Red Dog Saloon has been recognized by the Alaska Legislature for its longevity as the oldest man-made tourist attraction in Juneau. We find a couple of seats at the end of the bar and I order an Alaskan Amber. Janet is not a beer drinker, so she had a soda and let me sip my beer while I enjoy the old time feeling in this historic saloon. The shops are calling and Janet is now in her zone. It has been one heck of a day so far. Juneau is an awesome place to visit. I hope to come see her again one day. What is up next? Maybe some Happy Bears! I love HappyBears! Make sure and hit the follow button and you will find out automatically when I write my next blog. Until our trails cross again, Happy Travlin' and make sure you Travel Your Way! I would love for you to leave a comment below. One more thing! How is your Cruisitude today?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday Afternoon Tire Swing 7/9/09

Keeping with the drink theme, I thought I would find a very unique drink for today’s blog. There really is a drink called a "Tire Swing". Here is the scoop! Mix Amaretto, OJ, 151 Rum, crushed ice and blend. Pour it in a mason jar and find an old tire next to a lake or river and sit back and relax. Sounds like my kind of drink! Let our travels begin. A place exists in Alaska where the past lives on, where the cries of "gold in the Yukon" still echo from steep canyon walls, where the sounds of bar room pianos and boomtown crowds ring out in the night. A place where the romance and excitement of yesteryear linger around every street corner, every bend in the trail. That place is Skagway! One strange note about Skagway that you will not believe. Skagway makes it into the Guinness Book of World Records for Most People Tossing Eggs: 1162 on July 4th, 2008. That is a lot of eggs and must of been fun. We awake in Skagway and check out the scenery from our balcony. It is misty and a little chilly. We could not see too much except a lot of rocks on a hill that had most of the names and dates of the ships and their arrivals painted on them. It was cool! We head off to catch some breakfast and fuel up for our 7 hour adventure today. We are going to take the White Pass train into Canada. We really did not know what to expect, but we were really excited as this was our first shore excursion during our cruise. We disembark from the ship and walked down the pier until we spotted our tour company that we had signed up with. They check us off the list and we board the train for our adventure with our group. It was a pretty old set of trains and I am not going to lie, but I was a little nervous. I checked my Cruisitude at the front door so I was good to go. Our journey started off through some of the town and before no time we were headed down the track into the woods and were blessed to see some of the most amazing scenery that we have ever seen. We traveled by so many waterfalls and steep cliffs. There were old tunnels and some very old bridges that the White Pass trains used to travel over. Those bridges were spectacular to look at, but how in the heck did those trains not fall off of the tracks? Those must of been some very brave train drivers and the train conductors must of had some unruly passengers to deal with. Our train journey of 3 plus hours ended in Canada. You had to take your passport on this trip and they collected our passports to verify who we were and then they allowed us off the train for the next portion of our trip. Some people would either take the train or a motor coach back to Skagway. Our journey would continue into Canada. We were lucky and made our shore excursions with Shore Trips. This allowed us to travel via motor coach with a much smaller group of people. We only had four other couples with our group. If you use the cruise lines shore excursions you are in very large groups and cannot ask the bus driver to stop every time you want to take a photo of something. In our case we could stop whenever anyone requested. We are now headed into the Yukon where we will view Emerald Lake and visit the very quaint town of Carcross. As we head to Emerald Lake we stop at several other lakes and with the mist and fog we were again blessed with some very awesome photo opportunities. We work our way past more beautiful scenery as we arrive at Emerald Lake. I am not sure how to explain this lake besides it is incredible. It almost looks like you are in the Caribbean. The water is Emerald in color and we were just in awe of this lake. The photos I am taking do not do this great lake justice. You just will have to see this lake in person. It is finally lunch time and we arrive at Caribou Crossing. This is a cross between barbeque joint, gift shop, museum and a Husky race team kennel. I know it sounds really touristy, but it was not. The barbeque was very good. Yes, I am from Texas and I know barbeque, so don't laugh. The chef must of been from Texas. The Alaska Amber was excellent as well. The museum was very informative bringing us the history of the Yukon and the knowledg of the animals that were in this region. Janet had been waiting all day to get to this point of our trip. She could not wait until she got to be up front and personal with some real Alaskan Huskies. These dogs were incredible. Not only did we get to see them in action, we got to go in the kennel and actually pet some of these amazing dogs. Even though they were waiting their turn to get hooked up and dash through the woods pulling their sleigh, they were still very gentle and loving. This is something that Janet and I will never forget. As our time winds down at Caribou Crossing we get ready to head to Carcross. On our way to Carcross we stop to view the desert. I said that correctly. Carcross is also home of the smallest desert in the world. There were snow mobiles cruising across the sand. It was truly unbelievable. We make our way to the town of Carcross. Carcross, originally known as Caribou Crossing, is an unincorporated community in the Territory of Yukon, Canada and is located on Bennett Lake and Nares Lake. It has a population of 431 (June 2008) and is home to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation. This was the first nation in the Yukon Territory in Canada. Many of its citizens now live in Whitehorse. There were many shops and the little post office was amazing. We travel back towards Skagway and pass again through the Canada/US border again. It is passport time again. We stop at a few more waterfalls and finally make it back into Skagway. It is still misty and a little foggy when we arrive at the pier. It is time to get rid of our damp clothes and grab a glass of wine. What a remarkable day this has been. Skagway and the areas around here are a must visit while you are cruising Alaska. I will end this part of our trip here. We head to Juneau next. Oh my, do I hear the sound of whales? This once in a lifetime trip has been incredible so far. Until we cross paths again, Happy Travlin' and make sure you Travel Your Way! One more thing! What is your Cruisitude?