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Day Seven: Victoria

Posted on September 19th, 2009

Dave!Today's port of call was the beautiful city of Victoria in British Columbia... except the ship didn't arrive until 6:00pm. So while you do technically get a five-hour visit in the city as advertised, it's at night time. This means you can't really go sightseeing, and many of the stores are closed. I have no frickin' clue why NCL even bothers to stop, except it looks good on the itinerary they sell you.

Fortunately, I've already been to Victoria three or four times, so it's not a big deal... except such a short visit at such wacky hours seems kind of pointless. If there wasn't berthing space to let us dock at a decent hour, why not stop in Sitka or some other port where you actually have time to see things in frickin' daylight?

Oh well.

There's a restaurant here in Victoria I have been trying to visit for years. It's a vegetarian place called "Re-Bar Modern Food" that comes highly recommended.

And deservedly so, because the food there was frickin' amazing...

Re-Bar Modern Food Sign

After dinner, there really wasn't much to do but wander around the Inner Harbor. The tourist shops there are gearing up for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and their Quatchi mascot is everywhere...

Quatchi the Sasquatch!

He's cool and all, but personally, I prefer... FIDDLER DARTH VADER!

Darth Vader Fiddles!

It's getting pretty cold out at night, but roses were still in bloom...

Victoria Rose

The world-famous Empress Hotel looks even nicer at night...

Empress Hotel at Night

Victoria Legislative Building in Lights...

Sparkly Lights in Victoria

And that's the end of my cruise.

But not my vacation... at least not quite yet...


Day Six: Ketchikan

Posted on September 18th, 2009

Dave!I don't believe in luck.

That being said, I have been incredibly lucky all-around on this trip. Landed in Juneau... POURING RAIN! But then it stops just in time to trek on the Mendenhall Glacier. Arrive in Skagway... POURING RAIN! But then it slows to barely a drizzle when it's time to raft through the Chilkat Eagle Preserve. Floating through Glacier Bay... POURING RAIN AND IMPENETRABLE MIST! But then, just as the ship arrives at the Margerie Glacier, the sun breaks through and we have perfect visibility. And then this morning, dock at Ketchikan... POURING RAIN AND MORE MIST! But then, after a half-hour or so, it pretty much stops.

As I said, unbelievably lucky.

And then there was today's excursion, which was a float-plane flight to Neets Bay to look at bears...

Float-Plane Flight to Neets Bay, Alaska

Misty Alaska

Neets Bay Fish Ladder

And then I got so unfuckingbelievably lucky that I should probably buy lottery tickets immediately.

Because usually on nature sightseeing trips, there are odds that you won't get to see any wildlife at all. I booked the earliest bear-watch tour I could get since I was told the odds were better in the morning, but even that was no guarantee.

But I was lucky, again, because there were bears to be seen. And it was pretty much as I expected. Little bears off in the distance, looking for food...

Momma Bear and Baby Bear

What I didn't expect was to see a bear up close...

River Bear

I certainly didn't anticipate being just 30 feet away either...

Bear in the Bush

And I about shit myself when I saw bears just 15 feet away...

Wet Bear

Bear Says

So you can imagine how I nearly lost all control over my bodily functions when I saw a momma bear and baby bear in a tree just 10 feet overhead...

Momma Bear in a Tree

As I said, unfuckingbelievably lucky. Having a Bald Eagle show up as I was leaving was just icing on the cake...

American Bald Eagle in a Tree

Then the float-plane arrived to take our group back to Ketchikan... where the rain started pouring again...

Float Plane Landing in Neets Bay

Back in Ketchikan

Eagle Statue in front of the Norwegian Pearl Ship

Maybe I should start believing in luck after all.


Day Five: Glacier Bay

Posted on September 17th, 2009

Dave!A day in magnificent Glacier Bay.

Mists on Glacier Bay

Mt. Cooper

Sunny Mountains


The Margerie Glacier

Norwegian Peal Glacier Overlook

Blue Glacier

Blue Ice

Island in Glacier Bay

Johns Hopkins Glacier


Day Four: Skagway

Posted on September 16th, 2009

Dave!Today was a very early day arriving in rainy Skagway.

And the reason it was an early start was because I had booked a river rafting trip through the Chilkat Eagle Preserve outside of Haines, Alaska. The rain wasn't entirely unexpected, because this area is smack in the middle of a rainforest. What was unexpected was that the rain decided to let up the entire time our group was on the river, so it actually made for a fantastic (and relatively dry) morning.

There was quite a bit of mist hanging around which looked really cool, but made spotting the eagles a more difficult...

Trees in the Mist

The mist also made it quite challenging to photograph the eagles, but there were 44 of the birds spotted during the trip so I was able to get quite a few good shots. Since I was on a moving raft I forced a high shutter speed on my camera to keep things sharp. This caused the picture quality to suffer, but at least I didn't end up with a bunch of blurry eagles. Once I used Photoshop to zoom in and add some contrast, they look pretty good...

It's an Eagle!

It's an Eagle!

It's an Eagle!

Overall I shot close to 70 pictures of these beautiful creatures, but it's just not the same as seeing them in person.

After an hour floating down the river looking at Eagles, it was time for a picnic lunch and a ferry ride back to Skagway. The scenery along the was was pretty spectacular...

Harding Glacier in Skagway

Skagway Falls

Skagway Harbor

The town itself seems to be one big tourist trap, and I'm told half of the businesses here belong to Princess Cruise Lines, which makes a lot of sense. Still, it's kind of a charming place that maintains ties back to its gold-rush roots with wooden sidewalks and such...

Skagway, Alaska

I'm not much of a shopper, so it was time to walk along the pier so I could beat the crowds and get back to the ship for and early dinner...

Skagway Pier

Tomorrow is a day at sea. Usually I don't like sea days, but I admit it will be nice to be able to sleep in and relax for a while.


Day Three: Juneau

Posted on September 15th, 2009

Dave!After disembarking in Juneau, it was time to take a helicopter ride over the Tongass Forest up to the Mendenhall Glacier for a walkabout. Definitely one of the more amazing experiences in my life! It was not at all cold, there was no rain, and visibility was fantastic. I took a couple hundred photos, but am too knackered to go sorting through them tonight. I'll just post a few that caught my eye.

NOTE: I know it may look as though I've done some Photoshop trickery to get that brilliant deep blue color on the glacier... but I didn't. That's all real, exactly as my camera recorded it! If anything, it's less vibrant in the photos, because it's all flattened out.

Flying above the freaky ice formations of the Mendenhall Glacier...

Flying Above the Mendenhall Glacier

Blue Mendenhall Ice Cracks

Glacier Cap

Landing on the glacier...

Helicopter on the Glacier

Trekking around in search of glacier ice...

Mendenhall Rift

Mendenhall Split

Glacial Pool

Above a Rift

Glacier Split

Mendenhall Glacier Flats

The helicopters return to pick us up...

Helicopter Landing

Walking around the nifty State Capitol of Juneau, Alaska...

Downtown Juneau

Returning to the ship at night...

Juneau Harbor at Night

All in all... a pretty darn good day!


Day Two: At Sea

Posted on September 14th, 2009

Dave!Cruises have their pros and cons. The biggest pro is that you get to visit a lot of places without having to pack and un-pack your suitcase. Your "hotel room" travels with you, so all your stuff gets to stay where it is. The biggest con is that any time you're not visiting someplace, you're trapped on a giant boat. For some people, this is paradise... but for somebody like me, it's paramount to torture. And it's all my fault, I'm sure. I don't like doing arts & crafts. I don't like cheesy trivia challenges or BINGO games. I don't like non-stop eating. I don't like socializing with crazy strangers. I don't like going to the spa. And I really don't like "Broadway-style" shows and crappy comedy routines. That leaves walking around on deck and reading books all day. Which is okay... but not the kind of adventure I'm used to having while on vacation.

But it is relaxing because you get to look at stuff like this all day...

Queen Charlotte Island from Sea


There are a lot of people onboard. And most people are idiots. And many of those idiots are assholes.

Yesterday after I got onboard, I immediately went to the shore excursions desk to confirm my reservations. I was third in line. The couple at the front of the line was finishing up, and gave their room number to the agent for billing. It was on the lowest deck in a not-so-glamorous area of the ship, which caused the guy ahead of me to say "Gee, they sure stuck you in a crappy cabin!"

How do people like this live with themselves?

For all anybody knows, that couple might have saved money for years for this cruise, and that cabin was the best they could afford. Suddenly a vacation they were excited about was crapped on by some moron with poor manners and a big mouth.

Me, being me, was compelled to say to the couple "Hey, at least you can take consolation that you're not on the jerkwad deck!" which was good for a laugh. Sure this makes me no better than the asshole, but what can I say? I live to humiliate mean people.

Because I will never understand those who gain happiness by bringing misery to others.

Which is why I very nearly screamed "SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!" to yet another dumbass who was heckling a musician playing on the pool deck. Here was this guy doing his best to entertain people. and he has to listen to some idiot keep interrupting him by screaming "FREEBIRD! FREEBIRD! FREEBIRD!" and "DO YOU KNOW ANY OTHER SONGS?"

People like to joke that I travel so much because I am a global assassin for hire. If that were true, I would kill this stupid fucker at no charge for the benefit of all society.

Anyway, it wasn't all boring today... there was some excitement too.

First of all, I saw a whale swimming outside the window during dinner. He was beautiful as he arched through the water, and it evoked a lot of "oohs and ahs" in the dining room. I didn't have my camera ready, so I can't show you what he looked like, but I can show you what he didn't look like...

This is not a whale!

At first I found it funny when people would get all excited because they thought they were seeing whales, but were instead seeing a piece of wood or a blob of kelp. But after the tenth time it gets pretty tiring.

The second thing that happened is that we were attacked by pirates...

Pirate Boat!

At least I thought they were pirates. It turns out that it wasn't a boat full of evil pirates after all... it was just a pilot boat making sure we didn't crash into the coastline or something.

But we didn't need pirates. There was already evil on board. AN EVIL TOWEL PIGEON WITH BEADY LITTLE RED EYES!! He was sitting on my bed when I got back from dinner...

Evil Towel Pigeon

But the most exciting thing today was the sunset view from my balcony...

Sunset at Sea

Pretty sweet. Tomorrow the ship arrives in Juneau. That'll be even sweeter.

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Day One: Seattle

Posted on September 13th, 2009

Dave!Ooh! It's time for vacation!

I'm departing sunny Seattle for the rain-soaked shores of Glacier Bay, Alaska. At least I'm assuming they're rain-soaked shores, because that's what everybody has been telling me. Whenever people hear where I'm going, it seems to be all they can talk about... "Those Alaska cruises are fantastic... if you like rain" or "You'll love it... if you don't mind getting wet" or "Yeah, I did that Alaska cruise... AND I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MUCH RAIN IN ALL MY LIFE!" Since rain doesn't bother me much, I'm not worried about getting wet. I am, however, a little concerned that it seems to be the most memorable part of the trip for people who have done it before.

Interestingly enough, Seattle had positively flawless weather today...

Sunny Seattle

Sunny Seattle

But the minute we headed out into Puget Sound, the clouds started rolling in...

Aboard Ship

Looking Aft

Which made for a nice sunset...

Ships Passing In The Night

After the sun had gone, mist drifted in and covered the shoreline...

Sun Has Set

Misty Shore

And now it's getting dark. That must mean it's time for ice cream.


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