Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 1 & 2: Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Natnl. Park/Margerie Glacier

Sunday, 12 June

Wow, the last 2 days have just been a whirlwind. To make a very short-summary of the life onboard the Coral Princess, it’s pretty much eating every time you turn around. And eating GOOD. Breakfast in the formal dining room around 8:30, mid morning snacks of whatever delicious food you decide upon at any of the many eating establishments onboard, lunch either formal or informal, afternoon snack, then the formal dinner. Looking around the dining room, I’m just flabbergasted by how many people are scurrying about serving us. In fact, that goes for every facet of the ship. Everything is clean, fresh, stocked or whatever it is supposed to be. It feels like there must be 2 or 3 staff for every passenger, though that can’t possibly be true. 

And so, on with the adventure. Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon we were scheduled to pull into Yakatut Bay for a viewing of Hubbard glacier. Lunch was such boring foods as New Zealand Green mussels, broiled red snapper, and multiple amazing desserts such as cinnamon rice pudding and fruit tartlets (I had both). I’m going to be RUINED when we get back, having to eat such mundane foods as frozen chicken pot pie, frozen pizza and such. How will I ever survive?

 Jeannie and I were signed up for a wine-tasting at 3pm, which also turned out to be when the ship was pulling up near the glacier. BAD TIMING for sure! The testing was nice but I was antsy to get out of there. By the time we got out on deck we had gone from just heading towards the glacier to BEING there. There was a huge ice-field floating in front of the glacier and the Captain pulled the ship as close as he dare: they announced that it was about 6 miles. However, Hubbard Glacier is HUGE…about 6 miles across (although we could only see 2.5 miles of it as the right side was blocked from view by a jutting peninsula). The business end also towers about 400 feet above the water. To say that it’s a colossal work of nature would be a huge understatement. The ship sat broadside for well over an hour, and we didn’t witness any calving at all, darn it.

Self photo at Hubbard Glacier

Dinner was the formal ‘Captains Dinner’, where you are supposed to dress up…and we did. We certainly don’t do THAT very often. I wore my new suit and Jeannie a nice black dress with her ‘cockroach killers’ (shoes so very pointy that there is no possible corner that a bug could hide that she couldn’t squish it). Dinner was awesome as usual, and I’ve honestly gotten over being embarrassed by ordering so MUCH food. I have even given up taking pictures of the mundane soups and appetizers, as they are so numerous. Dinner was a nice piece of Halibut and was a work of art as all the meals are.

Alaskan baked halibut

And last night I even had THREE deserts! (I couldn’t just have ONE). I HAD to have the NY cheesecake again, and also the caramelized pear in some kind of baked pastry shell, and then finally the Banana Fosters Flambé. It would normally be aflame when they bring it, but they apparently don’t take kindly to flames on a ship. I will say that it tasted like it would burn very easily! And it was MOST delicious, as were the other 2 deserts.
I'm SUCH a piglet!

At least we weren’t the LAST group at the dinner last night (as we were the night before)…there were TWO other tables of extremely uncouth and in general QUITE uncivilized people who were still there when we left. Those senior ladies…I tell you! (anybody who is still there after us is quite obviously uncivilized, as we have self-appointed ourselves as the judges of civility…in case you were wondering). We strolled about the city for a bit (which is what it appears to be) before stopping for a quick Kodak moment in our ‘gussied up duds’.

Jeannie & I all gussied up

After that everybody went their chosen way. Jeannie and Terry headed to the casino (I escorted her there and left so-as not to steal her luck) and I headed to the room. All this eating is wearing me out and I was beat. I fell asleep with the TV on around midnight. Jeannie finally wobbled into our stateroom about 1:30am with her casino winnings (same as last night…you GO girl!). And another day bites the dust.

Monday, June 13th

Breakfast in the dining room: Eggs Florentine (BURIED in Swiss cheese), bacon, pancakes, fruit plate, and fresh papaya (yummy!). Boy was I starving…not sure how I made it from midnight to 8:30am! By the time we get done with breakfast we have entered the waters of Glacier National Park. It’s the 2nd largest park in the world, only Antarctica is larger. 2 Park Rangers came aboard around the time we were eating and I went to a talk-show at 10:15 from one of them about the park. I had NO IDEA that a mere 261 years ago glaciers totally covered this ENTIRE park out to the sea. Prior to that it had advancing so rapidly that native Indian populations that abandoned villages to escape it were quoted as saying it moved “faster than a running dog”. Hard to believe that since 1750 the glaciers have retreated and gouged valley over a thousand feet deep in what is now an amazingly huge waterway that we are sailing on! The primary glacier of this park was the Grand Pacific, and it is still around today only it has receded away from the water and is barely visible as we make our approach up the fjord. The well known naturalist John Muir fell in love with Alaska and there are photo’s of him in the late 1800’s in this very park. One is at an aptly named “Muir Point” with glacier ice all around him. That part is totally under water today.

The ship proceeded to the very end of the park and we stopped broadside to the Margerie Glacier. It stands only about 250 feet above the water and is probably less than a mile across, but it is VERY active. For whatever reason the floating ice-field is nothing like that at Hubbard, and the ship gets within about a half mile I’m guessing. So close that you can’t take a single picture covering the total glacier face.

Almost the entire passenger complement stands with camera’s at the ready, hoping and praying for a massive calving. Now and then you hear what sounds like the crack of thunder, and you quickly scan the glacier face for the action. If you are lucky you can get your camera up and get a shot of massive chunks sliding away and into the water. When I said it sounds like thunder, you can’t even imagine how loud it was. It was just an awesome display of raw power.

calving 1

calving 2

calving 3

At the half-way point of our viewing the captain pivoted the ship around 180 degrees so all the people on the other side of the ship (the lucky exterior room passengers with windows and balconies) get their time to sit in comfort watching the show from their rooms. It’s hard to express how incredible a sight this was. I can only say if you EVER get the chance, you should not pass it up and go see it for yourself. I stood on deck (wearing a hoodie and a jacket over that) most of the day, not wanting it to end.

starting to pull away

But end it does, and the ship starts back down the straight but then makes a hard right turn for a few more glacier viewings. They don’t compare to the Margerie Glacier either in size or activity, and at this point we are almost immune. Oh look, another majestic peak or glacier….ho hum. We did see a few bald eagles here and there, which are always an awesome sight. They hang out on icebergs sometimes, always on the lookout out for fish .

Somewhere in the middle of viewing we stopped for a deckside seafood buffet, and then again later for tasty pizza slices. Good thing I eat massive quantities of food every 3 to 4 hours…I wouldn’t want to go hungry! OH wait, speaking of food, I’m missing HAPPY HOUR as I type. It starts out down in the covered pool deck (feels like a sauna in there) and ends down in Jim and Jackie’s room (they have a balcony and an awesome view and are just down the passageway from us).
At the very front of the pool area is where the happy times are happening

There are 2 other couples that booked this cruise with us, and each person was able to bring a bottle of wine aboard (they x-rayed luggage to make sure you don’t cheat).
Happy hour begins Terry, Jeannie & Jackie
The other couples both have kids with them, and they sneakily brought bottles for them too. So each afternoon we uncorking at least 1 bottle and getting cheese and sushi and such from the 24 hour buffet’s. I had 3 slices of pizza though a bit ago and am trying to get ready for dinner in less than 2 hours (I think I can manage).

Our dinner gang

Dinner time FINALLY arrives, thank GOODNESS! I’m FAMISHED! Lets see, various amazing appetizers, 2 types of soup and FINALLY my surf and turf (filet mignon and shrimp).

And then dessert time…ahhhh!

After dinner us guys had to run to make the 10:15 comedy show…the last 2 nights we have been in the dining room so long we’ve been missing the shows. We’ll change that tonight. The ladies don’t have any interest and go their separate ways. Jeannie again heads to the casino, and after the comedy show I swing by and escort her (AND her winnings) home. She just has the midas touch. WINNER WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER!

Well, tomorrow morning after we eat breakfast we will be IN the port of Skagway. We don’t have a lot of plans for activities though. Jeannie and the other ladies want to just go walking and shopping around. The guys and I want to take some kind of guided tour to the top of White Pass, so we get a verbal history of the place along with the scenic splendor of the area. After that I guess we meet up in town somewhere and do whatever there is to do. Lunch will be ashore, and dinner will be back on the ship as we rest up from a busy day.

OK, this is Internet Boy, signing off …(we brought 6 walkie-talkies to communicate with each other as to our whereabouts on the ship, and that’s my new nickname apparently….as I’m always taking pictures or typing on my …along with checking in on the doggie-cams now and then using the wireless. Gotta run…bed time, and breakfast is only 7 hours away! Woo-HOO!


  1. Really enjoying your posts, Matt! Appreciate the nature and historical nuggets. That is what I would enjoy most about a trip like that.

    Hope that you are doing laps around the ship so we won't be calling YOU the "fat cyclist"!


  2. I'm enjoying your trip too, Matt. I've never really considered doing a cruise before, but it sounds like you are seeing some really amazing pieces of Alaska.

    Do the kids have activities that they can participate in during the day? I liked your group dinner shot. Does everyone know that their photos are headed for your blog?

    Oh, you and Jeannie looked very fine in your "gussied up" clothes!


  3. Can barely wait for your next update. Thanks so much for 'taking us along'! Between the pics of the scenery, the food, of you & Jeannie gussied up, & the ship, & did I say the food (I KNEW we had a lot in common! :), can't decide which I enjoy more!

    And hey, maybe Jeannie can win enough to pay for your whole trip! Whoo-hooo!

    I do have some questions - how cold is it during the day/night? With you in the jacket & hoodie, how are those other people sunbathing by the pool? Also, about how many passengers do you think are on the ship? And, have you worked out any (at the gym or around the upper deck maybe) in between your feeding sessions? :) Maybe you'll be able to rent a bike at 1 of your stops & that would be a blast for you.

    More than ever, I'd LOVE for you to go to the Tour 1 year & write up your daily adventures like this. You know, they have official TDF Tours, for both cyclists & non-cyclists, so Jeannie could come too. It would be FABULOUS! I hope to go on one of the non-cycling Tour Tours myself 1 of these years. A couple years ago, 1 of the "offical" Tours had an option where you could RIDE in the TEAM CAR behind 1 of the riders in the Final TT! AWESOME! Sure, it wouldn't be behind any contender, but I'd love it if it was for any of my fave teams. Don't know if you could pick though. I didn't see that option offered this year, but truthfully, I wasn't able to spend much time this year looking at the different Tours.

    Anyway, thanks so much! This has been 1 of the best vacations I've ever "been" on!

  4. You do great travelogue, Matt! I have had the pleasure of visiting Alaska, about 6 years ago, although I went in late August, so the daylight hours were about the same as here. Glaciers are incredible - we did an epic hike alongside one, 3500 feet of elevation change in the last 2.5 miles! You describe the calving so aptly, and you got great pictures! There is a bike path along Turnagain Arm that we rode on the last day of our trip. Everyone, GO to Alaska before it all melts! (When I was in the Canadian Rockies, we actually hiked ON a glacier, with crampons! They had signs as you approached the toe of the glacier, showing where it had ended in 2000, 1980, 1960, etc. and it was amazing - and more than distressing - to see how far it had receded. HAVE FUN, ENJOY and don't eat TOO much! (I didn't go on a cruise, I'd be with Susie or whoever it was who said she'd gain 25 lbs.)
    Thanks - Barbara

  5. Hey Matt - will you be getting Direct TV? Well, I just heard they'll be getting the Universal Sports channel!

  6. Hey Matt - where'd you go?! Having too much fun? We need our Alaska/Foodganza fix!

    Youuuuu-hoooooo, Internet Boy, over here! :) :)

  7. Where did everybody go?! You can't ALL be watching the US Open golf tournament! I live in the Wash area & just haven't gotten into yet; rain most of yesterday affecting my enthusiasm.

    Anyway, I got to watch a bit of yesterday & today's TdSusie online. Levi had a very good day yesterday & I think he could get himself on the podium. Whoo-hoo! Don't know what's going on with Klodi. Sick? And Andy has had more UP & doowwwwnnn days than the freakin Alps. Kinda apt, doncha think? :)

    I bought my Velonews TDF Guide last night. I'd forgotten that this year's Tour has NO prologue & only ONE individual Time Trial! If Andy can't win it this year, I think he needs an overhaul of his training! Heck, even Frankie might get on the podium!

    Bottom line for me is that I'm TRYING to psyche myself up for the Tour this year. Just can't STAND the idea that Pistol Punk is going to be there. And I'm so DISGUSTED with the UCI & their a$$inine announcement today that the spectators need to "show responsibilty" & "respect" for Contador's "right" to ride the Tour. ARE YOU KIDDIN ME?!! If the UCI had not COLLUDED to keep secret the friggin POSITIVE test to begin with for TWO MONTHS, he'd already be suspended!

    Ever since the news of AC's DOPING POSITIVE broke, I'd been looking forward to this year's Tour. Which I thought would be BLESSEDLY free of Pistol PUNK & the race would be MUCH more open & EXCITING. That that liar is IN the race DESPITE the DOPING PROOF is almost too much to take.

    Of course, there are two rays of hope. One, that in his hubris, AC underestimates the effort his body had to give in the Giro & will COLLAPSE on the Tour mt stages (fingers crossed). And two, that even if he "wins" this Tour, the CAS will STRIP him of last year's title, this year's Giro win AND this year's Tour result. If that does NOT happen, then I may finally be finished with this sport. If I want to watch a GARBAGE "sport", I'll watch that godawful MMA stuff. Where I think you have to have PROOF that you actually HAVE doped before they let you in the ring...

  8. Howdy everybody! SOrry I've been MIA, but just been SO BUSY! (And the internet is SO slow here, I lost a post already and am just about out of minutes). We are cruising along the inside passage on the way to Vancouver (land tomorrow morning...Friday). It's been a whirlwind, and I can safely tell you I've eaten my weight in excellent food, mostly desserts!

    I hope to be able to post more pics, but won't be happening today. Nor tomorrow either...most likely next week). I have to run, will check in from Vancouver if I can (if I have TIME I mean)...as you were!

  9. Glad that the vacation is going so well, Matt!

    Gosh, I was thinking the very same thing about Andy Schleck and this year's Tour. He has been pretty sporadic this week, but looked like his old self today. I'm hoping that his performance in the TdS (I love the Tour de Susie, BTW) just means that he didn't want to peak too early with the mts starting later in the Tour this year.

    CVV and Tommy D really looked GREAT today also! and Levi looked fantastic yesterday. Oh, and TJ vanG has done a super job this week. Go guys! I'm excited about the Tour already.........but that darn Contador issue is just ridiculous. I've been trying to ignore it - hoping it would go away. No luck so far.

    Direct TV will have Universal now too??? OK, I might have to make the jump from cable/VHS here to dish/DVR. Wonder if I can get it all done in time for the Tour;)

    Can't wait for the rest of the pics Matt. HAVE FUN!

  10. Oh, susieb, for me watching golf is like watching paint dry...You are much more eclectic in your sports fandom than I am, I really only like cycling and soccer (I used to like baseball -- grew up in Cincinnati-- but really have drifted away from it).

    Without Contador, I wonder if the TdF would be much too much in Andy's favor. Maybe Levi could challenge him, and (hopefully) Cadel, but I don't think Horner, CVV, Wiggo, TommyD or any of the Dutch boys are quite strong enough -- not sure if Menchov is riding (don't think his team was invited)but he wasn't so impressive earlier this year either. It will be great to see what our young riders will do!

    Really enjoying the tour de Suisse -- lots of action! Is TommyD just challenging himself, or what--I didn't see the point of all his attacks yesterday, as CVV didn't benefit from any of them either

    Got rained out of my yard sale today--the skies opened up around noon and that was it! Got soaked taking everything back in the house--lucky me, 2 of my neighbors came to help me!

    And only 1 thing stolen before the rains came--and that might have just been a mistake (I had many many towels etc in 2 big rubbermaid totes, a lady offered a price for all the towels--but when I wasn't looking took one tote too! those things ain't cheap either!)