Sunday, June 12, 2011
Boy oh BOY is time moving fast. I’m going to be playing catchup it seems…posting yesterdays Adventures In Eating (AIE), along with whatever inane events strike my fancy.
And so, away we go. Saturday was our wakeup in Anchorage, breakfast in the hotel, and then just hanging out until we caught the shuttle to Whittier.
King Crab Benedict. And YES, it WAS as tasty as it looks!
Dan the MAN was our driver, and he was a very nice man. He talked about the history of the area and pointed out any noteworthy facts as we drove along the northern edge of the Kenai Peninsula. Turns out they have the 3rd largest tides in the world here…approx 35 feet. We stopped at “Beluga Point” for a quick viewing (no Beluga’s just yet..it’s a bit early for them to move in this far). Apparently Beluga’s have adapted that they can live out of water for extended periods. They will chase their prey out into the extreme shallows, and sometimes get caught by quickly receding tides. They can lie on the mud and wait it out, The inlet we were following was called “TurnAgain Inlet” (named during the Capt. Cook voyage seeking the fabled Northwest Passage). It’s a valley that has been totally filled in by glacial silt, and during low tide there’s almost no water, just gazillions of tons of mud. The stream alongside the road is a milky blue color…also from the glacial silt. After the silt hits the saltwater is when it finally comes out of suspension and thus the mud flats.
Along the way we stopped at a wildlife conservatory. The only animals they have are rescues. They have a Bald Eagle that was shot by some evil-doer, and in his rescue they had to take the wing. So he lives in a large compound, and flaps his one wing and jumps around. Still a most majestic creature, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him (or her). A bird of prey, relegated to the ground. There’s just something inherently wrong with that. Among the other animals: 2 brown bears and a grizzly (in an 18 acre wooded enclosure, all orphaned cubs), Musk Oxen, Caribou, Moose, porcupines, Great Horned owls, and 2 Kodiak bear cubs (they were SUPER cute….playing like little kids). As I said, these are all rescue creatures, and it has been deemed that they probably would not survive in the wild. Thus they live on in quite large habitats, living as naturally as is possible. Much better than any zoo I’ve ever seen. While we were watching the bear enclosure (the grizzly female was lying in the grass about 100 yards off), the brown male just wandered out of the woods and mosey’d right up to the fence and watched the tourists (a distance of about 3 feet!). Gosh, he was huge, and his claws….that measly fence wouldn’t do much good if he got angry I think. I’m not sure if he was pondering how tasty we would be, or if he enjoys watching us as much as we do him. He was really beautiful, but I wouldn’t think so if this were to happen in the wild. I would probably scare him away when I ‘inked’ and ran (octopus reference).
After the animals we continued our journey to Whittier. We have to pass UNDER a mountain it seems. The army dug a one-lane tunnel (for the railroad) back in the 50’s. Then in the 90’s it was modified to allow car traffic. However, it’s one-way (it is VERY narrow!). You go thru and pay a toll and are assigned a lane. You then wait for the tunnel to open for your direction. When it opens, it’s slow slow slow inside….speed limit is 25, and I believe Dan said it’s a 2.5 mile tunnel. Once you come out of the tunnel, well…you are in Whittier. And there is the ship: the Coral Princess. Pretty huge by my standards, but people with us say it’s small by cruise line standards. We unloaded our baggage and said our goodbyes to Dan the MAN, and it was off to the land of cruising. Inside the gigantic tent we filled out health forms (they want to make sure we’re not carrying any horrific diseases) and then we get our ‘cruise cards’…a little Princess credit-card thing that is your lifeline to everything. Of course it’s now 4pm in the afternoon, and I haven’t had lunch yet. We find pizza on deck 14 up near the bow, and it is GOOD pizza! The slices are huge, and I devour a slice and a half (limit myself cuz dinner is in just 2 or 3 hours).
We continue our wandering and I find the ice cream place. So I have a swirl cone…mmm. Boy, food everywhere you go, and free. I LIKE THIS PLACE! Our investigation of the ship continues as we take it all in. It’s a floating city, and a very nice one at that. It seems there’s almost as many crew as tourists. An hour or so later we met the other parties of our group who are now aboard, and immediately had more food. Pizza and beer. NICE!
Somehow this little gathering takes us right up to live-vest drill, which is done just prior to the ship leaving port. That seems an exercise in futility…how many times must the poor man say the same things? Seems the cattle (I mean people) are somewhat slow in the learning curve. Eventually all the info has been imparted, and everybody has proven that in a span of 10 minutes or so they MIGHT be able to actually don their life jacket. Sheesh…good luck people if we ever DO abandon ship.
I finish unpacking our stuff after that and eventually work my way down the passageway to Jackie and Jim’s room. They got upgraded and have a balcony. And we are moving! It was so smooth that I had no idea. The view from the balcony is spectacular! The mountains are partially snow covered. It’s more like the fjords of Norway is what I’m thinking. Finally it’s dinner time, around 8pm. Our little merry band gathers and are seated in what I would consider a very fine (and very large) restaurant. The waiting staff is all around, and it’s a buzz of activity. It feels like we have our very own personal crew of 3 or 4 guys, tending to our every need. NICE! Appetizers: lobster pate’, shrimp cocktails among other things. Some awesome mushroom soup, and then dinner: pan fried Burrumundi perch (whatever that is). It’s a white-fish, and it was accompanied with grilled egg plant and red pepper. TASTY!
Then it’s dessert time. I’m not usually a dessert guy, but this trip I’ll make an exception. I start off with the New York cheesecake (with strawberries) and it’s the best cheesecake I’ve EVER had! So smooth and light…just melts in your mouth. Jim and Bob get some kind of flouta thing the punch a hole in and put some kind of vanilla sauce on. MMMMM…I MUST have one of these! So I DO! Yes, it’s gonna be THAT kind of trip! Livin’ large and in charge! I could get used to this!
We sat in the dining room until somehow around 11:30pm we were the last ones there. They were kindly waiting for us to leave…which we did and they locked the doors behind us. We then hung out in Jim and Jackies room (with the balcony) watching the land go by (still light out by the way at quarter to midnight!)…and taking pictures and enjoying life. It was chilly out but not exceptionally so. Finally we decided to call it a night around midnight…and I’m actually glad our room is on the inside of the ship (NOT with a window or balcony). I don’t think it will get very dark and that is strange to sleep in. OUR room however turns black when we turn off the lights. Excpet for the laser-spotlight beam from the TV (standby mode), AND the flashing lights on the phone (can’t get them to go away), AND the laptop in standby mode. I get up and cover all these lights, and it’s now blissfully dark. Sleep falls up on us, and it is good.