Tracy Arm Fjord

Did I mention that an elephant was sitting on our bed when we returned to our room last night? Yes, no, maybe?? Well, there it was sitting up staring at us as we walked in.

Clocks also went back an hour! A bit of trivia you may need to know at some point in time – or not – it’s just for reference.

Where did the elephant come from? The cabin stewards on cruise ships make animals out of towels so we had a different animal greeting us every night. I think they’re cute and this must be a very popular art as they even have lessons on board and sell books on the subject. I chose not to attend a lesson or buy the book, I’m happy to have someone do the hard work for me.

Ty’s first words this morning were ” I haven’t slept a wink all night”. He’s a funny man – he’d been snoring through the night. Do people normally snore when they’re awake? I think not……

Ship is still on the rocky side……this morning we sail into Tracy Arm Fjord.

As we enter the Holkham Bay toward Tracy Arm the water becomes calmer and the ship stabilizes, thank goodness. I have seen so many people wandering the corridors and common areas with a little round band-aid placed strategically behind their ear…..wonder if it works? I have a friend, who, on a Greek Island cruise placed a band-aid over her navel to stop sea sickness. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well even though we were in very calm waters that trip!!!

Opening the curtains we’re greeted by a spectacular sight of mist and snow-covered peaks rising above low clouds. Needless to say it was very, very cold but the views made the cold bearable.


We chose the Empire dining room for breakfast this morning, I like being served my food, rather than wandering around the big buffet/restaurant areas on Deck 9. They’re ok if you have limited time because of an early excursion and need to rise at an ungodly hour, but there’s nothing better than a nice leisurely breakfast being served to you! So we took the lift to Deck 2 and were shown to our table. We have a choice each meal time to either sit on our own or sit with others….we chose to eat breakfast on our own. For me in-depth conversations with strangers at breakfast is something to be avoided.

I have to mention our breakfast choices this morning because it amused me. Poached eggs were on the menu and I hadn’t had an egg for a while so “one poached egg please” I said to the waiter. Breakfast arrived, cereal, juice, a Danish, Ty’s healthy breakfast of eggs, sausages, bacon and hash browns and my poached egg…….looking very lonely on half a slice of sweet toast!!!! We both looked at the large plate with a small slice of toast and a perfectly formed poached egg sitting on the slice of toast. “Hmm, wonder what they did with the other half of the toast” I mused, mostly to myself. Don’t know about you, reader, but my egg needs to be slightly runny to allow me to dip a portion of my toast in the yolk…..a little hard to do when you only have a half slice of toast………

After breakfast its time to give my nails a manicure and add nail polish…..Ty was eager to get up on deck. Off you go then, my nails are coming first today, come back in an hour ….. They’ll be dry by then. Off he went, all rugged up, camera slung around the neck just the way I hate cameras being worn!!!! I know we’re tourists but I still don’t like looking like a tourist.

Ty returned with coffees, ahh, something hot to warm us up. The coffees cost $2.95 each and tasted much better than the drip coffee available 24 hours a day. The ship was moving closer to the entrance of the Fjord so it was time to go up on deck. The rain had started again but we were all rugged up and warm standing on the deck until 15 minutes later the wind chill factor kicked in and we started to feel the freezing winds through our pants. The wind was so strong it was almost blowing us over it was….thank goodness for the railing around the edge of the deck. Ok, time to get out of this wind, but where, we didn’t want to miss the spectacular scenery. Oh, of course, how silly are we, our room has a balcony.

Whilst we were heading back to our cabin two things happened.
Firstly an announcement came over asking all passengers to view the Fjord from the balconies of our own cabins, not to move the chairs from the dining areas to the windows for viewing as passengers would be dining throughout the day. I think the announcement was way too late as people and their chairs were already jockeying for position along the window edges. You’ve got to love human nature and our rebel element.

Second thing to happen was Ty spied the ice cream maker….I saw a man the night before with a very large plate of ice cream, after all the food areas had closed, so I assumed there must be a self-serve ice cream maker somewhere around. I didn’t mention it to Ty or porker (as I sometimes call him) ‘cos I knew he’d head straight for that machine as often as possible and he shouldn’t be eating too much of the sweet stuff. Bit silly to think I could have kept any sort of food from him, he spied it and off he went, like a bear following a honey pot!! “Would you like some ice cream?” he asked heading as quickly as possible to the machine. “No thanks, my sensitive teeth hurt just thinking about ice cream” was my reply. Now that he found this and the one at the other end of the dining areas he had it after lunch, dinner and in between. strawberry was the flavour of choice today! For me there were other, more, delicious dessert morsels to try.

Another announcement came over the intercom about towels on deck chairs. The announcement cautioned against guests placing towels on or over deck chairs at 7am, or any other time, to reserve them for later in the day. This practice wouldn’t be accepted, the announcement went on to say, and if a chair hasn’t been used for 30 minutes the towel would be removed by the attendants. Need this little rule in European hotel pool areas.  Those of you who have travelled in Europe will know exactly what I’m talking about.

After the Porker devoured the ice cream we retreated to our balcony and set up the tripod. Step out take photos, step back into the cabin to warm up, back out to the balcony, take photos – this was  the modus operandi for most of the day. The ship gets very close to the mountain walls in some parts of the Fjord, it’s such a narrow waterway.

A couple of hours later we see a huge field of ice dead ahead and we could hear lots of voices coming from the forward main deck. The ship is moving quite slowly, closer and closer to the ice flow and as we wonder whether our Captain is Italian the ship starts to move very slowly sideways. Still heading for the massive ice flow. We rush up stairs and outside to the main deck to get an amazing view of the Sawyer Glacier. The blue hues throughout the glacier are amazing and it is so big, just incredible.  We’re only seeing a small part of this glacier. There are varying degrees of blue in the glacier and the iceberg  going by. The shades of blue denote the density of the iceberg…..more blue more dense. So hard to imagine that the pieces of ice berg we see floating by make up only 10% of the actual size and that 90% is still under the water.

The ship is still turning and an announcement tells us the captain is going to turn the ship 360 degrees so every balcony has a view of the Sawyer glacier, which is situated at the end of the Tracy Arm Fjord. That was our cue to go back to our balcony because, as you can imagine, there were many people on deck trying to get that special photograph. The tripod was already set up all Ty needed to do was attach the camera as we waited for our balcony to face the Glacier.

Manoeuvring a ship this size in the amount of space available in the Fjord was a feat in itself and the Captain and crew should be congratulated for, what I think, was an amazing skill. Given some drivers can’t even park a small car in a normal car space…..yes, I’m sure you see them every day…..reversing back and forth several times and still not getting the car straight!!! So that was one of the highlights of the day as was the spectacular view we had from our balcony when the glacier was facing us. We were freezing cold, misty rain was falling at intervals and my gloves were not keeping my hands warm BUT we would never see this view again so freezing was worth it.

I suppose we could have travelled to Alaska in their summer (June/July) when the scenery would be lush and green, temperatures would be warmer and probably more wildlife around. Except Alaska, to me, is cold, misty, with snow-covered peaks peeping through that mist and freezing cold. We were prepared with all our thermals and wet weather gear.

For those of you who may not know, Tracy Arm Fjord is in the Tongass National Forest. It is one of two very deep, narrow fjords.  The other Fjord being Endicott Arm and as we sailed into Holkham Bay it still wasn’t certain which Fjord we would be entering.It depended on the weather and the amount of floating ice.

Our on board naturalist, Michelle,  explained that the area was abundant in wildlife.  Brown and black bear, as well as deer seals and wolves lived in this wilderness area. Also mountain goats, although we didn’t see any wildlife, well, not off the ship anyway.

We spent the whole day in the Fjord and as there’s only one way in and one way out which meant we got to see both sides of this beautiful place. I’m not sure the photos I’ve placed below do it justice but I did try to capture the beauty and serenity of the place.

After a full day of ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and ‘oh my god look at that’ or those (talking about icebergs and sheer cliffs now) we decided we couldn’t take anymore photos. If we didn’t have that fabulous picture now we were never going to get it and besides, we’ll drive friends and family nuts with the number of photos we have to bore them with already. Not only that but a sister and her husband are doing a similar trip to us in a couple of days so they’ll also have copious photos to show. Yes, I can hear the sounds of running footsteps as I write this….everyone’s trying to find a hiding place in the hills for a couple of months. It won’t work you know, you’ve got to come out eventually….you aren’t bears that can eat sticks and rocks to help you survive hibernation…..explanation on rocks and sticks when Juneau blog is published!!!!

Hmm, looking forward to dinner, all that freezing cold weather makes a person hungry. Tonight we’re going to dine in the Empire Room and, as we have “anytime dining”, we can turn up for dinner in the restaurant whenever we’re ready. When you go to the restaurant you get a choice of seating…….sit at a table for two, join others or have others join you. We choose to have others join us so we were the first people seated. That way we get to meet and have a conversation with different people. It’s a good way to mingle, we hear about the place they live and work and, if they’re interested and people generally are,  we tell them about Australia and the area where we live and work.

Tonight two couples travelling together joined us, they live in Georgia. Conversation tonight centred around farming, places to visit in Australia and the usual general snippets of life in two countries. The women would love to visit Aus but travelling from US to Aus for a holiday when you run a farm could be very difficult. We hope they make it one day.

After dinner we went to watch a show but everyone in the audience was talking to someone or other which made it difficult to listen to the people on stage. Best to  head to the coffee lounge and relax whilst watching people wander by.

Tomorrow we hit the streets of Skagway………

Fun Day at Sea ….

Fun day at sea. Well, that’s how the cruise daily newsletter described Wednesday 9th May.

Sometime during the night we hit rough seas, with the ship being forced sideways and then dipping nose down into the sea. Is went on all night and when we awoke next morning it was still shake, rattle and rolling. We got up and showered, struggling to stay within the confines of the shower cubicle as the sea continued its game of toss with us. After dressing we were going to breakfast when we both felt a little ill and unsteady on our little legs. We went back to bed. Woke again at 11.30 headed to breakfast but by the time we got their my stomach was lurching in the opposite direction to the ship and I couldn’t eat. Ty felt the same but, being a diabetic, he needed to eat, so he struggled on but I went back to the cabin. When he came down a little later, I was already lying on the bed, he joined me and that’s where we stayed till 4pm!!!!! When we woke at 4 the sea was calm again and we were starving….off we went to the restaurant area and had breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea… the form of a sandwich. Then we went shopping because that helps revitalise the spirit, well, mine anyway.

Hmm, they have blue diamonds (quite like blue diamonds) in the jewellery shop so I had to try on several rings, very pretty rings, unfortunately, or fortunately for Ty, the ones I liked were a little small for my finger. What a shame but probably a good thing as my budget for this trip is limited. Remember this sentence if you read further blogs based on the Alaskan cruise.

As I said above I resisted the diamond rings but not so the Guess handbag and the Chanel atomiser with 3 vials. Well, let’s face it Guess handbags are a little expensive in Australia so $88 was a good price and the perfume @ $69 was considerably cheaper than $134 at Sydney airport – what’s a girl to do? Snap it up for the cheaper price of course!!!! However, I’m not at all impressed without tax free shopping in Aus as I purchased one of these at Sydney airport in the tax free as we left for the trip. So, how can the price for the same product be so much dearer supposedly tax free at home? Does anyone have an explanation …. love to be enlightened.IMG_3937

After the shopping experience it was time for coffee, there were 2 coffee shops on board, one on deck 9 and the other on deck 2. Deck 2 coffee shop also serves monster slices of cake. As we sat sharing a very large slice of strawberry cheesecake it felt like the middle of the day, even though we hadn’t risen until 4pm, it was hard to comprehend it was now 7.30pm and so light outside.

Later that evening we wandered into the casino and found they still have smoking areas on the ship. Even though there was one section deemed non smoking it didn’t make much difference as it’s hard to keep cigarette smoke confined to one area in a large room. There was also a smoking area at the back of the Deck 9 eating area. I’ve got so used to being in non smoking environments that it surprised me to have smoking areas inside on the ship.

I had planned to take advantage of a day at sea and do lots of things like paint my nails, huh, didn’t get round to that today, check out some of the happenings around the theatres, didn’t get round to that either!! We did sit on deck for an hour or so….until our noses turned red from cold and our fingers froze (yes, we had gloves on). The pool wasn’t seeing any action however the spa had a couple of people in it but unless you were an eskimo rugged up was the order of the day. The water slides were closed and the entry gates locked although I have no idea why, did they think someone would be brave enough in these icy conditions to go for a water slide???

IMG_1701 We took a walk around the ship eventually pulling up a stool at the Piano Bar. The pianist, Keith, was playing and singing 60’s tunes so we sat for an hour, had a drink and sang along. After which we headed to an adults only comedy hour. Doug Williams was the comedian. We sat next to a couple of ladies one from Seattle and one from LA. We chatted for awhile before, after and during the show.

Time now to say goodnight…….ship started its dance routine again although not as violent as last night. As I drift off I imagine the ship to be a paper boat floating in the bathtub with a large hand thumping the water every so often to make the little paper boat tip every which way.

Tomorrow we reach Tracy Arm Fjord a place I’m very much looking forward to.

The photos below are of our cabin and the water slides on the very top of the ship.

North to Alaska and the Embarkation Rituals of Cruises .

North to Alaska and the embarkation rituals of cruises.

It’s a short walk from the taxi stand to ritual number one – the luggage drop off. We crossed the pavement to the main terminal entrance and stepped inside. We weren’t late as embarkation was from midday till 3pm and it was only 12.30 however the luggage drop off line was already weaving like a giant conga line through two halls, Ty and I made up the tail. Of course, people were arriving all the time so it wasn’t long before we graduated to the middle of the line.

It’s always an interesting pastime to people watch and today was no exception. The couple in front of us were mid to late sixties and their luggage tags were a rather pretty shade of purple, a colour that always attracts my eye, and one of my sisters for that matter. We often turn up tp lunch or family gatherings dressed in the same shade of purple. Back to the luggage tags, apart from being a pretty colour the tags also had the following letters on one edge….VIP. The gentleman was very much aware of his VIP tags and the status that came with those 3 letters. A representative of the cruise line walked by and he called them over and pointed to his tag and asked “Where is the VIPs luggage drop?” “This is the only luggage drop off, all luggage must be scanned” said the rep. “Oh” our VIP uttered. The rep carried on about their business. A short time later, the conga line had moved and we were now closer to the x-ray machine, a customs officer came by and asked everyone to ensure they had their passports out to be checked. Our VIP instantly pointed out the the customs officer that he and his wife were VIPs and was there another line to hasten their luggage drop. “There is only one line, sir”, she replied and carried on checking passports.

After placing our luggage on the conveyor belt we stepped up to ritual number two – another long queue for passport and ticket formalities. We last saw the VIP asking another customer service person whether there was a special line for VIPs, only to be told they had to join the main US and Canadian citizens queue. Mind you we also joined that queue before realising it was the wrong queue and we hastily retreated to non citizens queue….this queue was a lot smaller for which we were thankful. Just as we wandered up to the queue a cruise representative came to us and asked for our passports and then ushered us straight to a window…….took us past the other non citizens lined up before us. We became queue jumpers by authority….loved it, now where was VIP man….I wanted to wave my passport at him!!!!! But wait that wasn’t all, the customer service woman came back to us and gave us…..wait for it……. a VIP card to walk past the queues embarking the ship! We laughed, we had completed ritual number three with ease, and looked around for VIP man, typical he wasn’t there for us to also wave our VIP card at him. He still had to line up with everyone else to board the ship. So our assumption was that VIP status must commence when you actually get to your cabin on the ship and not before. An interesting people watching episode!

Of course between the formalities of embarkation and entering your cabin there are a number of photo opportunities that cannot be avoided. Eventually we’re able to make our way to our cabin on Verandah Deck, only took an hour and a half after joining the conga line to opening our cabin door. Probably could have taken longer had we not got the VIP treatment…..hahahaha!!

Our stateroom cabin was spacious enough for the two of us, there were three wardrobes, Ty had a wardrobe and I had the other two plus a couple of drawers as well. The was also a king bed and a lounge with table. The balcony wasn’t huge, it held 2 chairs and a little table, there was room to set up a tripod and still plenty of standing room. The bathroom was compact, as they are on cruise ships. No one spends all their holiday slothing in the cabin so they don’t need to be huge just comfy and our cabin was.IMG_0267

Our luggage wouldn’t be delivered for a while so we headed up to the Promenade Deck for a very late lunch after which is took up a position aft (see I know the lingo) to watch the Seattle skyline fade into the distance as the Carnival Spirit set sail for the wilderness of Alaska. It was cold and the wind was increasing in intensity but I had to stay glued to the spot for the best photo opportunity of Seattle and the Space Needle. Becoming obsessed with this photography thing methinks……IMG_3625

People were on deck relaxing on the sun lounges, swinging slowly from side to side in the hammocks. Some were huddled in blankets with just their heads exposed, most of us wore hooded jackets and scarves to keep warm against the icy wind whilst one brave man sat on a sun lounge naked from the waist up. Possible causes for this nakedness could have been either his internal thermostat was not working very well or he’d had a bottle of rum. Although my theory is he ,as many men do, left his packing to his wife and, she, being fed up with having to think for him as well didn’t pack his shirts.IMG_1095

The ship was supposed to set sail at 4pm, but didn’t leave Smiths Cove until after 5pm. Let the cruise begin!!!!!

Our first night on board was spent unpacking and familiarising ourselves with the ship. We had cruised the Greek Islands on smaller cruise ships so the Carnival Spirit had a lot more common areas to explore, not to mention the shopping precinct held more shops to tempt us. It’s well known that I do not need any tempting to spend money!!!

We decided to have an early night, as it had been a long day, and we had another full day of sailing before we reached our first stop. The bed was comfortable and we were in “lalala” land before we could count to 3!!!

Cruise Day – taking us North to Alaska


Today, Tuesday 8/5, we board the cruise ship. ….Carnival Spirit…embarkation is from 12 noon. After showering and repacking it’s time to head out to find somewhere for breakfast. We wander round the corner past the cafe offering southern dishes such as jambalaya and gumbo, the bagel shop doesn’t  me either. Funny how you crave a simple breakfast, “hmm, let’s head back up the road and see what’s on the other side of the hotel” I say to Ty. He’s so very patient with me the poor man, he would find something to eat wherever we went. Not so me, a fussy bum (his words)!!

We wander into the Bacco cafe, adjoining our hotel, Inn a the Market. The breakfast menu is comprehensive and they have oatmeal and fresh fruit on the menu….yum, just the thing for this chilly morning, it’s quite a bit colder than yesterday. Ty chooses the big breakfast with eggs, bacon, hash browns and rissoles.

It was just a small cafe which filled up fairly quickly. A couple of people came in with a child of about 3 and sat at the table behind us. Everyone in the cafe could hear their conversation or should I say, his conversation! He was quite loud and complaining about a number of things including the way his wife fed their daughter each morning and how bringing her to a cafe such as this “allowed her to eat the food slowly instead of it being forced into her”. He was telling the woman with him about where they lived and how far the park was for exercise. All this in between making baby noises to the little girl. You know the ones, goo goo, ga ga, yummy yum and so on. I can’t elaborate on these any further as I’ve never been into baby talk. Meanwhile the woman is telling the little girl to “eat more food for grandma”.

I was bemused when he got up and told the cafe he was going to the mens’ room. Ahh, peace and quiet for a couple of minutes was my immediate thought. Everyone was enjoying their breakfasts when he burst back into the room telling all and sundry how there was only one toilet and he had to line up and wait his turn. This was not a satisfactory situation for him and the cafe should do something about it. Luckily we had finished breakfast and chose to have coffee elsewhere!!!

We headed to Starbucks on 1st Ave for coffee but it was standing room only and we needed to sit for me to write and publish the blog, luckily there are dozens of Starbucks in Seattle. We headed to the 4th Ave shop and found a seat. We perched here for an hour, I wrote as Ty read the news and people watched. Seattle has a wide variety of cultures, it reminded Ty a little of San Francisco.

It was now 11.15am time to get back to the hotel to check out and organise a taxi to the port. Ty had thought we might walk to the port, I didn’t find that statement at all amusing or even sensible. Was he going mad with cruise fever before we’d even got on board? Is there such a thing as cruise fever or did I make it up?? He has thought the peer was in walking distance, hmmm, the ship berthed about 4 miles further north of where we were…..he could walk if he wanted but I was not.

I had promised to send postcards, yes there are people out there in the world that still like to receive the good old fashioned postcard to stick on their wall or fridge and I’m very happy to oblige. So there were 3 postcards to send but no post office in sight when enquiring at the desk the concierge told me the hotel has a complimentary postal service for guests. How good is that!

The taxi arrives and we commence our ten minute drive to the Smith Cove pier for embarkation.

Seattle – definitely not sleepless or legless.

Arrived at our Seattle hotel around 11.30pm after a long sleepless night because I had forgotten that night flights seemed to be when most people travelled with little ones. Earplugs and ipods are wonderful inventions. Other than crying babies and several toddlers whingeing throughout the whole flight it was otherwise uneventful.

After checking in it was a race to see who could reach the shower first. Do you notice how energising a hot shower is after a long flight? Nothing better……

Ty thought he wouldn’t be able to sleep after his shower because he was now wide awake….hmmm, he dropped off pretty much after uttering those words!

DSCN0013Woke with light filtering through the curtains, it was only 5.20am, closed my eyes and slept till 6.30, by 8am we had showered had breakfast and were walking out into the morning sun. The air was quite crisp at this hour but the snippets of sun we felt intermittently was very warm promising a good day for sightseeing.

First stop was Starbucks for coffee and then Pikes Place Markets. We were so early hardly any of the stalls were set up except for a couple of the flower sellers and one of the fish mongers. “Not much happening here, let’s walk” Ty said.

We wandered up the street to the shopping district. Monday is very quiet in Seattle!!!! Except for a number of homeless people and a few, what appeared to be, gang members. A little further down the road we saw two police cars with lights flashing and a rather large man sitting on the edge of the gutter naked…he obviously had a mental issue because it wasn’t hot enough to be sitting anywhere outside in the nude.

We headed down the road taking in the sights, clicking away on the camera here and there as tourists do. Love the streets in the US they are so wide. The monorail station appeared before us, “why not take a ride and see the sights from above” I said to Ty, thinking it might be like the Sydney monorail. We should have read up on it first… only went one stop and that was to the Space Needle, we both laughed. Oh well we wanted to see the Space Needle and we didn’t have anything else planned.IMG_1248

The elevator to the viewing platform took 45 seconds, guide said so. Wandered around the viewing platform taking photos then went to the gift shop…..exit elevator opens in the gift shop on the way down so you can’t avoid it. As usual we did our bit for US economy!!!!

Thought about walking back but decided to take the monorail back to 5th Ave and then headed into Macy’s. Ty went to the mens floor and I headed to the lingerie floor…my underwear is so much cheaper here. The price in Aus is around $17 a pair and I paid $6.40 a pair today. I know you didn’t need to be told but it’s important to me so I felt it should be mentioned. Which brings me to the question, why are do we pay so much for our clothing in Australia?

After shopping we dropped by the hotel to empty the backpack and then headed to Pikes Market for lunch. As there was fresh seafood everywhere we decided to go to the Athenian, an old fashioned diner. We sat upstairs with views over Puget Sound, ordered fish and chips for two, a glass of riesling and a diet coke. You know who the diet coke was for, no need for further explanation!!!!

Our over lunch discussion centred around what to do next and the Duck Tour won on the day. So off we trotted up the hill and down the other side to the Duck Tour pick up point. It was $28 per person but apparently cheaper on line, so their brochure said. It was an interesting tour. Our Duck Captain was Duncan and as well as changing into various hats and trying to sing, he gave us snippets of information we might never hear otherwise.

IMG_1307Once the duck tour was over we decided to head to Miners Landing, it looked an interesting place as we passed it on the tour. I thought we should go left from the hotel (using it as a landmark) but Ty laughed and said ” no, we turn right and follow the water, you know your sense of direction is not good”! Hmmm, this was one time he got it wrong. After walking for quite some time it was time to stop, have a cold drink and consult the map. Funny about that but we had walked the wrong way and had to back track. Took another 20 minutes to reach the place.

It was now 7pm, we’d been walking for the best part of 7 hours, yes, I took out the lunch break and the 90 minute duck tour. Time to go back to the hotel for a relaxing bath and change for dinner. Our feet and, particularly, our knees would be extremely thankful for a rest. My feet and knees are crying out for a break.

We ended up at Planet Hollywood for dinner with Fajitas the order of the day also ordered Creme Brûlée but except for the crunchy top it was nothing like the creme brûlée I’m used too. It was now 10.30 pm. This had been a very busy day, we wouldn’t have any trouble sleeping tonight!!

Tomorrow we embark the cruise ship but we’ll be back to Seattle in 8 days so there will be a sequel.IMG_1236