Alaska 2023

Click on this link to watch video highlights from our cruise.

This year we are going on a 14-day cruise to Alaska. We start with a visit to Vancouver Canada. Then we board the Sapphire Princess cruise ship and sail to Alaska, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Then we sail through Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. Then we sail to Whittier Alaska to drop off some passengers and pick up new ones, including our friends Dale and Linda. Then we sail to the Hubbard Glacier and back to Glacier Bay. Then we stop once again in the ports of Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Then we sail back to Vancouver.

Tuesday July 11, 2023
Fly to Vancouver Canada

Travel Tip: Always fly at least one day before your cruise begins. Airline delays are common, and cruise ships do not wait for late arrivals, even when you book your airline tickets through the cruise ship company. Consider the extra cost of staying in a hotel the night before your cruise as a necessary travel expense.

Well, after four years since our last cruise, thanks to COVID, we are finally traveling again. We left for the airport a little after 6AM and made it in plenty of time to go through security, eat some breakfast, and catch a 10AM flight to Vancouver. The flight was about 3 and a half hours. With a 2-hour time zone change, that meant we landed in Vancouver around 11:30AM Vancouver time.

Our good friend Jeanne Marie is staying at our house to take care of our cats while we are gone. We are very thankful she was able to take time out of her schedule to help us out.

The flight to Vancouver went fine. No problems, until we exited the plane and tried to get out of the airport. We have been to London, Paris, Chicago, and Amsterdam airports, but I think Vancouver beat all of them for being so busy. Every airplane in the world must have landed at the same time. We had very long lines going through customs, a long wait to get our luggage, another long line to exit the terminal, and a long line to catch a taxi.

Once in the taxi, things were fine. He took us to The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver Hotel. The hotel room has a gorgeous view overlooking the harbor. We are about a mile down the coast from where our cruise ship docks tomorrow morning. I am hoping to get some video of the cruise ship as it sails into port early in the morning.

At 5PM, we went on the Sea Vancouver Waterfront Sightseeing excursion, which was a boat ride that took us around to see Vancouver via a high-speed RIB boat. For dinner, we had Halibut at TheSandbar restaurant next to the docks where the speed boat excursion was located.

Wednesday July 12, 2023
Ship Leaves Vancouver and Sails Up the Inside Passage

This morning I got up early to get a video of our cruise ship sailing into port to drop off passengers from its previous cruise, which was ending today. I used a ship tracking app to keep track of its location so that I would know exactly when to have my video camera set up. It came into view a little after 6AM as it was heading to the cruise ship terminal. Those passengers took most of the morning to disembark. Then we were allowed to start the process of boarding just before noon.

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel. We checked out at around 11:30AM and took a taxi to the cruise ship terminal, which was less than a mile down the coast. There were two other cruise ships in port as well. Our cruise ship has over 3,000 passengers, and the other two ships were almost as big, so you can do the math. That many people using the same terminal, going through the check-in process, going through security, and then going through U.S. customs (all three ships were sailing from Canada into the USA).

Now I know why the airport was so busy yesterday. All of those same people clogging up airport lines going through customs, picking up their luggage, trying to exit the airport, and then standing in line for a taxi, were now at the cruise ship terminal trying to get onboard their cruise ships. I think we were probably standing in all the multiple lines for close to an hour. This was by far the slowest it has ever taken us to board a cruise ship.

Travel tip: It is important to pack light enough where you can handle your luggage. The big pieces were checked in right away when we arrived. They take them to our room for us. It is the carry-on luggage that you have to be able to carry long distances, like through the airport and the long lines at the cruise ship terminal. Many people use small pieces of luggage that are on wheels with handles. I think in the future I will switch to something on wheels instead of my backpack. After an hour standing in line, it got very heavy.

Once on board, we were allowed to go directly to our room. They no longer require you to attend a safety meeting at your muster station. A muster station is where you meet in case of an emergency, and if we have to abandon ship, it is where you go to get on a life boat.

Instead of making everyone meet together at the muster station, you watch a video on the TV in your stateroom, which explains the evacuation process and how to put on your life vest (they know if you watch the whole thing). Then you go down to the muster station to check in. Everyone can do this on their own, but everyone has to do it before the ship is allowed to leave. After checking in, we are free to go and do whatever. That part was much smoother than in prior cruises. We went up to the buffet for lunch, and then back to our stateroom to relax.

The ship left port at 4:30PM. They have a sail away party on the upper deck by the swimming pool, but we stayed in our cabin because we have our own private balcony to sit outside and watch the scenery, as we sailed out of the harbor.

The ship is heading north along the inside passage between the Canadian mainland and Vancouver Island. It is a very scenic route with mountains on both sides of the ship.

We had dinner reservations at 8PM in the Savoy dining room. After dinner, we went to the Princess Theatre for a comedy show at 9:30PM. The comedian was Dan St Paul, who told a lot of old people jokes. He even joked about having to stand in all of those long lines getting onboard the ship.

Thursday July 13, 2023
At Sea All Day

Today is a sea day with no ports of call. That allows us to settle into our new routine of living on a cruise ship for the next two weeks. I am a very routine person. I do everything the same way each day. So when we travel, it always takes a day or so to re-adjust to a new routine. Once I am re-adjusted (and have some coffee), I can function normally again. I think the stress of going through the airport and getting on the ship is now past and we can relax and enjoy our vacation.

After lunch, we walked around the ship looking at all the different venues, the shops, restaurants, swimming pools, night clubs, and a poolside bar where I tried my first dirty banana (a famous Princess Cruises smoothy drink). Susan had a vodka sidecar. After a couple of hours walking around the ship, we went back to our cabin to rest up for this evening. Tonight is formal night, where everyone dresses up for dinner and where there are professional photographers to take our pictures.

We did not have any formal pictures taken, but we did dress up for dinner. We had reservations at 7:40PM in the Savoy dining room. We both had Halibut, which was excellent.

After dinner, we went to the Princess Theatre at 9:30PM to see the production show, Bravo, made up of the Sapphire Princess orchestra, singers, and dancers. They did Broadway show tunes and some opera. The lady who sang opera did a Mozart song that we heard in Vienna when we went to the Vienna Mozart Orchestra concert. We think this lady from Princess Cruises sang it better than the lady from the Vienna Mozart Orchestra.

Friday July 14, 2023
Ketchikan Alaska

Today we visited our first port of call on this 14-day cruise. Ketchikan is the southern most city in Alaska and is often referred to as Alaska's first city because it is the first stop for ships heading north through the inside passage.

We do not have time to walk around and visit the city on this day because our shore excursion lasts most of the time that we are in port. We will have to wait to see the city on our return trip in a little over a week from now.

At 7:30AM, we went on a boat ride to see the Misty Fjords National Monument located about 40 miles east of Ketchikan. John Muir, who was known as the father of the National Parks, compared the area with Yosemite Valley for its similar geology and glacial morphology.

The fjord was carved out by glaciers with 2,000-to-3,000-foot cliffs rising straight up out of the ocean and dropping 1,000 feet below sea level. Our boat was able to get right up next to the cliffs within just a few feet.

When we got back to our ship, we relaxed in our cabin to watch the scenery as we sailed away from Ketchikan. We had hoped that the ship route would take us past Wrangell Island located north of Ketchikan where our friends Jared and Destiny will be doing some missionary work later this fall. However, the ship turned Northwest instead of Northeast, so we were not able to get any video passing the island. There are many different routes that cruise ships can take through the inside passage, which is made up of thousands of coastal islands along Southeast Alaska.

Before dinner, we sat in some of the lounge areas on the ship to listen to live entertainment. After dinner we skipped the evening entertainment in the Princess Theatre so we could go to bed early. Tomorrow is going to be a long day with two excursions booked for Juneau.

Saturday July 15, 2023
Juneau Alaska

Juneau is the capital and third largest city in Alaska, behind Anchorage and Fairbanks. Juneau became the capital when the government was moved from Sitka in 1900. Alaska was a U.S. Territory until it became the 49th State in 1959. As of the 2020 census, the entire metro area of Juneau has a population of 32,255. The city experiences a daily influx of roughly 6,000 people from visiting cruise ships between the months of May and September.

At 9:30AM, we went on the Pilot's Choice Helicopter Excursion, which was a helicopter ride to the glaciers surrounding Juneau. The excursion includes two different landings on glaciers where we can get out and walk around. The pilot then provides information on the makeup and history of glaciers. The company provides us with glacier boots which are designed to grip the ice so that we do not slip and fall into a 1,000-foot crevasse.

The pilot has the choice of which route to take through the mountains depending on weather conditions. Juneau is in a rain forest and the weather can change dramatically from location to location. Our first landing was on the Gilkey glacier in a location that they normally cannot get to, but because of the good weather, our pilot was able to land there.

It was cold and windy on the glacier as the air was flowing down the mountain and across the ice. It was also very bright and sunny, and I think we got a little sunburned. Who would think that we would have to worry about getting sunburned in Alaska.

Our second landing was up on top of the Juneau Icefield, which was at an elevation of over 5,000 feet above sea level. We were standing on top of 2,000 to 4,000 feet of snow and ice. In contrast to our first landing, it was hot up there because there was no wind, and the sun was beating down on us. The mountains up there seemed small because only the very tops were above the snow line. A 6,000-foot mountain buried in snow with perhaps only the top 1,000 to 2,000 feet sticking up above the snow.

The pilot said this was only the second time that he had ever flown up there, again due to the nice weather. Normally, helicopters cannot get up that high because of cloud cover. It is nice to know that we had an experienced pilot who has done it before.

We feel privileged to be in the right place at the right time, being able to land and walk around in an area that very few people get to see.

For lunch we ate at the Twisted Fish Company which was located on the docks right next to our ship. I had the Halibut fish and chips, and Susan had the fish tacos. Very good.

Our second excursion for the day was a whale watching excursion at 5PM. The boat took us to a spot where Humpback whales are common. The excursion guarantees whale sightings, and we saw a group of whales immediately when we got to that location.

We have been on whale watching excursions on other trips, but this was the first time that we got to see them bubble-net feeding. Whales are very intelligent and work together to herd schools of fish into a small area where they can surface with their mouths open as they scoop up the fish. The whales are underwater, so you look at the sea birds flying overhead to tell where they are about to surface. That allows us to have our cameras pointed at the right location. The sea birds of course also want to get in on the action.

Our excursion lasted until 8PM so we did not have time to eat in one of the main dining rooms. Instead, we ate at the pizza place on deck 5 which is open until 11PM every night.

Travel Tip: Although you can book shore excursions directly with a tour company (and we have several times and it is cheaper), when you book a shore excursion through the cruise ship company, the ship must wait for you to get back if there is a problem. One of the ladies on the whale watching excursion had a walker and left it on the bus instead of brining it onto the boat. The bus driver assured her that his bus would be the one to bring us back to the ship after the boat ride. When we got back, it was a different bus, and her walker was not on it. They did some calling and there was some mix up. The bus with her walker was going to meet us back at the ship but would be late. When we got back to the ship, a representative from Princess Cruises was there to meet the lady and her daughter at the dock. The ship was getting ready to leave. They called up to the captain and told him the walker was not there yet. He seemed irritated and wanted to leave, but because it was an excursion booked through the cruise ship, he had to wait. The walker finally showed up about 20 minutes late, and the lady and her walker were able to board before the ship took off.

Sunday July 16, 2023
Skagway Alaska

Skagway has a population of about 1,200 but receives more than 1,000,000 visitors each year. Skagway was an important port during the Klondike Gold Rush. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was constructed to take gold prospectors over the White Pass and into the Yukon Territory of Canada during the late 1800s. Today, the White Pass Railroad excursion is one of the main attractions while visiting Skagway. We took the train ride up the mountain during our first visit to Skagway in 2006.

At 9:30AM, we went on a dog sledding excursion, which was a helicopter ride to a dog sled camp some 4,000 feet up on top of the Denver Glacier. The camp is home to nearly 300 Alaskan Huskies and puppies, which are being trained to run competitive dog sled races. The guides talked about mushing, the art of dog sledding. Then they took us on a ride while the dogs pulled our sleds on trails surrounding the camp. Susan of course went wild getting to pet all the dogs and puppies. Her favorites were dogs named Spicy Tuna Roll and Scotty, who were on the team that pulled our sled.

After the ride, the helicopters returned to drop off a new group before flying us back to Skagway. It is hard to decide which excursion is the best, but this one is for sure one of our all-time favorites. The weather was perfect. We could not have asked for a better experience.

We had the rest of the afternoon to explore the town of Skagway, which is basically one long street with all kinds of touristy shops trying to sell you stuff. Then we went back to the ship to rest up before going to dinner.

After dinner, we went to the Princess Theatre to watch the production show, Do You Wanna Dance. They performed various dance routines from around the world.

We are having a fantastic time on this cruise. An Alaskan cruise normally includes rain, but so far, the weather has been perfect.

Monday July 17, 2023
Glacier Bay National Park

Travel Tip: This picture is why we always book a room with our own private balcony. While an inside cabin may be cheaper, everyone getting ready for formal night tonight without their own balconies missed this view.

Today is a sea day with no ports of call. The ship entered Glacier Bay National Park around 6AM and stayed until around 3PM. There were several glaciers that we were able to view from our balcony, so we stayed in our cabin for most of the day watching the scenery pass by. We booked our cruise on this ship because Princess Cruises is only one of three cruise lines allowed to sail into the park.

Glacier Bay is a national park located in Southeast Alaska just west of Juneau. The park is 3,223,384 acres in size and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The National Park Service operates cooperative programs with cruise ships where rangers provide interpretive services aboard the ships. We were able to hear the commentary through our stateroom TV while we sat on our balcony. The ranger pointed out the location of wildlife several times as we sailed through the park. The ranger also provided us with the history and details about the many glaciers that we could see.

The ship spent a few hours at the far end of the bay so that we could look at two tide water glaciers, the Margerie Glacier and the Lamplugh Glacier. The ship was able to get up close and stopped to allow each side of the ship to view them for about a half hour each. There were several other glaciers that we could see off in the distance as we sailed up and back down the main channel. There is only one way in and one way out, so each side of the ship got to view both sides of the park and all the glaciers along the way.

For dinner we had steak and lobster in the Savoy dining room. After dinner, we went to the Princess Theatre to watch Showtime with Vocal Impressionist Tricia Kelly. She would sing a song and sound just like the original artist. She sang a Karen Carpenter song and sounded just like her. The Sapphire Princess orchestra backed her up and they were excellent.

After her show, we went to the Explorers Lounge to watch another comedy act by Dan St Paul who we saw on the first night of the cruise. He told more old people jokes. I do not know why, but as I get older, a comedian describing his colonoscopy is very funny.

Tuesday July 18, 2023
College Fjord

Today is another sea day with no ports of call. That allowed us to sleep in and relax for most of the day. In the afternoon we watched an egg drop challenge. The main gathering area in the center of the ship is three stories high with open staircases and railings. The challenge is to drop a raw egg three stories and hit a target without breaking the egg. They give you a bunch of supplies like duct tape, string, cloth, cups, etc., so that you can try and get your egg to parachute in a cushioned container. It was mostly for kids, but some parents got in on the action too. The winner hit the target dead center without breaking the egg.

Later in the afternoon, the ship entered the College Fjord which is located in the northern sector of Prince William Sound and east of Whittier. The fjord contains five tidewater glaciers and dozens of valley and hanging glaciers.

The glaciers in the fjord were named in 1899 by a Harvard and Amherst college professor who were on an expedition. They named the glaciers after elite colleges. The main glacier at the end of the fjord is the Harvard Glacier, which you can see off in the distance in the picture above. According to the author Bruce Molina, they took great delight in ignoring Princeton.

Once again we were treated with good weather. Because of this, the captain was able to get the ship within 3 tenths of a mile from the face of the Harvard Glacier. Normally, cruise ships stop about 3 miles away to view the glacier.

Wednesday July 19, 2023
Whittier Alaska

Today most of the passengers leave the ship in Whittier and a new set of passengers board. Some will continue their vacation via a land tour, either by train or by bus. Most of those will get to see Denali National Park. Others are taken by train or bus to Anchorage to catch their flight home.

For some of us, our cruise is only half over. We booked a back-to-back cruise so that we could visit the same places twice. Alaska normally has rain and clouds, so you double your chances of seeing the tops of the mountains in sunny weather by doing a back-to-back. We have cruised Alaska two times before and are familiar with the kinds of things to see. Airplane and helicopter excursions are often cancelled due to low lying cloud cover. We figured if our helicopter excursions were cancelled on the way up, we might have a chance to re-book that same excursion for the return trip. As it turned out, we had perfect weather on the first leg of our trip and were able to go on both of our helicopter excursions.

For those of us doing a back-to-back cruise, we have one option for a shore excursion. We went on the 26 Glacier tour, which was a boat ride to see the many glaciers and wildlife around Prince William Sound. When we got up this morning, we finally got to see the real Alaska. Clouds, fog, and rain, which obscured the view of the tops of the mountains and glaciers. Oh well, it is better to go on a boat ride and not see much than to sit on board the ship all day waiting for all the new passengers to arrive.

As it turned out, it was well worth the ride. The captain took us back to the Harvard Glacier, which we saw in sunshine yesterday. But because we were on a smaller boat, we were able to get up even closer. The captain was experienced visiting this glacier and could tell something was about to happen. He told us exactly where to point our cameras and then wait. I zoomed in and focused on the exact spot, and after 2 and a half minutes staring at one location, it happened. The largest calving I have ever seen, let alone being able to film. About a 200 foot chunk of ice from the glacier fell off the face and into the sea, creating a huge wave, and I got it on video.

Immediately the captain started turning the boat into the wave as fast as he could because that wave could have capsized us if it hit us broadside. That experience made the entire trip worth it, even if we had to sit inside and shelter from the rain and cold for the rest of the trip. Everybody on board was excited.

But that was not the end of it. We got good video up close to a few other glaciers. We also saw some seals, sea otters, a whale, and a bird rookery. The only thing missing was Susan did not get to see her favorite bird, the Puffin.

When we got back to the ship, we had dinner at the pizza place on deck 5 because we missed our dinner reservations in the main dining room. After dinner we met up with our good friends Dale and Linda, who flew to Anchorage on Monday, stayed in a hotel, and then took the train to the ship today. We are so glad that Dale and Linda made it and that we can share this wonderful experience with them.

Thursday July 20, 2023
Hubbard Glacier

Today our ship sailed to the Hubbard Glacier. As we got close, we could see Mount Saint Elias just up the coast, which is the fourth highest mountain in North America at 18,008 feet above sea level. The above picture was taken when we were approximately 60 miles away. The mountain is located within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve which includes the tallest mountain range in North America that you can see from the coast.

The Hubbard Glacier is also located within the Wrangell-St. Elias Park and Preserve and is the longest tidewater glacier in North America at 76 miles. Its source is located about 5 miles west of Mount Walsh at an elevation of 11,200 feet. A shorter tributary glacier begins at the easternmost summit on the Mount Logan ridge at about 18,400 feet. Mount Logan is the second highest mountain in North America at 19,551 feet above sea level in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

It takes about 400 years for ice to traverse the length of the glacier, meaning the ice at the face of the glacier is about 400 years old when it falls into the sea. The ice at the face stands about 350 feet out of the water line, and another 250 feet extends below the water line. The face is six miles wide, although we can see only 3 miles of it from our vantage point.

We had a chance to get up close due to the ice conditions and weather. Normally cruise ships get within about 4 miles from the face of the glacier. The captain said he got our ship within less than one mile. It was another special day that we could share with our friends Dale and Linda.

Friday July 21, 2023
Glacier Bay National Park

This morning I woke up with a sore throat, so I tested myself for COVID and it was positive. We called medical and they came up to our room to test both Sue and I. They confirmed that I have COVID, but their test for Sue was negative. I then went down to the medical center to be examined by the doctor. She gave me Paxlovid which is an antiviral medication that helps to reduce the symptoms and duration of COVID. They also set up an appointment for Sue to be tested again tomorrow.

Of course the bad news is that we are now quarantined to our stateroom for the rest of the cruise. All our remaining excursions are cancelled. And we cannot spend anymore time with our friends Dale and Linda.

The good news is that we have a balcony cabin so we can still enjoy the view (see picture above). Today is a sea day with no ports of call. We are repeating the Glacier Bay scenic cruise from last Monday. So even if we were not quarantined, we still would have spent most of the day on our balcony enjoying the view.

They also give us special room service treatment. All passengers can order food from room service, which is included in the price of the cruise. However, the room service menu is normally limited to just a few items, like hamburgers, sandwiches, pizza, and egg McMuffins. When you are under quarantine, they allow you to order anything off the main dining room menu, and they give you priority treatment. We can order as often as we want at no extra cost.

They also give us a full refund on the shore excursions that have been cancelled. Normally you have to cancel at least 48 hours in advance to get a full refund, but because of being under quarantine, we got a full refund on all cancelled excursions, including the one that was booked for tomorrow. We also have travel insurance which will reimburse all our medical costs. And I do not know this for sure, but I believe we will receive some kind of future cruise credit for the days that we are under quarantine. The cruise ship wants our repeat business, so they do everything possible to minimize the negative effects of being under quarantine.

I have mixed emotions right now. I am angry that COVID has interfered with some of our plans. On the other hand, the first 10 days of our vacation have turned out to be excellent, as good as we could have possibly expected. We are determined to not let COVID ruin the last 5 days.

Saturday July 22, 2023
Skagway Alaska

The Paxlovid is working because I woke up today with no symptoms. I feel normal, other than an occasional dry cough. We tested Sue for the second time today and she is still negative. We will probably test her again tomorrow if she has any symptoms. Otherwise, they do not test for COVID if you do not have symptoms, even when you are locked in a room with someone who has COVID.

Dale and Linda got to go on the shore excursion that we had booked for today. The Kroschel Wildlife Center is a wildlife sanctuary for animals that were rescued as babies, usually because their mothers were killed. In Alaska, once a wild animal is rescued and cared for by humans, it is against the law to release them back into the wild. So they must spend the rest of their lives at the sanctuary.

All the animals view Steve Kroschel as their mother, since he personally has cared for them their entire life. These are still wild animals but are relatively tame around him. Visitors to his home get to see them up close, and sometimes even pet or feed them. Linda got video of Dale feeding a Moose, which I am anxious to see once I am allowed to have human contact once again.

Sue and I spent the day on our balcony watching all the excursion boats come and go. It was a nice day in Skagway for most of the day. Later in the afternoon the clouds and rain and fog rolled in. We hope all the helicopter excursions out of Skagway got to fly before being grounded by the weather.

As I mentioned yesterday, when you are quarantined to your cabin, they allow you to order dinner from the main dining room menu instead of the limited room service menu. For our starter course, we had the Seafood Antipasto, Mushroom & Truffle Arancini, and Minestrone Soup. For our main course, we both had the Sauteed Shrimp and Sea Scallops (pictured above). For our sweet rewards, we had the tiramisu and Gianduja Souffle. Top all of that off with Coke and Cabernet.

As you can see, you don't have to feel too sorry for us. We are fine. We still have a great view from our balcony, fine food, and are very thankful we got to enjoy the first 10 days of our trip, which included our helicopter excursion and dog sledding on a glacier excursion. Those were the two main excursions that we wanted to do the most.

Sunday July 23, 2023
Juneau Alaska

For most of the day, it has been cloudy, foggy, with occasional rain. So I was not able to get any scenic pictures until this evening when the weather cleared and we sailed away from Juneau.

Travel Tip: While a helicopter excursion can be the highlight of your cruise, there is also a real chance of it being cancelled due to weather conditions. All the helicopter excursions were cancelled today due to the low hanging clouds. Always have a backup plan when booking a helicopter excursion in Alaska. We are very thankful we had good weather last week for our helicopter excursion in Juneau.

Dale and Linda went on a river raft excursion that we were booked to go on, before being cancelled due to COVID. They said it was very fun, but it was cold and rainy. Even with the wet suits that the river raft company provided, they got cold and wet. When they got back to their cabin, they had to take showers to warm up.

Tonight was formal night, which of course we could not attend. Dale and Linda knocked on our door so we could all wave to each other from a distance as they headed off to dinner all dressed up. Afterwards, they attended the production show Bravo in the Princess Theatre, which we saw on July 13th. They said they enjoyed it very much.

For Sue and I, our day was spent ordering food, taking a nap, watching TV, sitting on our balcony, ordering food again, taking a nap again, watching TV again, etc. We are still doing OK, but being isolated in our cabin for the rest of the cruise is getting old. Sue has come to the conclusion that there is no way she ever wants to live in a tiny house.

Monday July 24, 2023
Ketchikan Alaska

Well, it was inevitable. After being locked in a room for three days with a guy who has COVID, Susan tested positive this morning. Medical gave her a prescription for Paxlovid, and by this afternoon, she started to feel better. Of course, there are many who are asymptomatic and do not know they are infecting others. But some people do not inform the crew when they get sick on a cruise ship because they do not want to be confined to their stateroom and ruin their vacation. We wanted to get the anti-viral medication and informing medical was the only way to get it. Had we waited until we got home, it would have been too late because I believe you must start taking it within five days of symptoms for it to work. The medication has worked for me because I have had no symptoms for the last few days. It was simply just a mild one-day cold for me.

Our day in Ketchikan was a repeat of the last few days. We ate food, we took a nap, we sat on our balcony looking at the scenery, we watched TV, we ate some more, took another nap, looked at all the excursion boats coming and going, watched sea planes land right next to our ship, ate some more, more naps, etc.

Travel Tip: A balcony cabin is essential when you factor in the risk of getting COVID on a cruise. Looking at four walls in an inside cabin for five days would have been not so good.

As we sailed away from Ketchikan, we had another gorgeous sunset.

Tuesday July 25, 2023
Sea Day All Day

Today is a sea day with no ports of call. Our side of the ship was looking at open ocean for most of the day. It is also the last full day of our 14-day cruise. Since we are confined to our cabin, we basically did the same thing we have been doing for the last several days: Eat, sleep, watch TV, look at the scenery from our balcony. We also packed our luggage for the trip home tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon, we entered the passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia Canada. Our side of the ship was facing Vancouver Island, which gave us some interesting scenery to look at. Later in the evening, Sue got some pictures and video of a pod of killer whales, as you can see from the picture above. That was the highlight of our day.

Wednesday July 26, 2023
Disembark Ship in Vancouver and Fly Home

Our ship made it to Vancouver Canada around 6AM. The picture above is when we were about to sail under the Lions Gate Bridge which marks the entrance to Vancouver harbor.

There was a special procedure for all of us passengers who were in isolation. We all met at 6:45AM in the Internet Cafe located on deck 7, which was about one hour before the rest of the passengers were to meet at their designated disembarkation meeting locations. There were about 3 dozen other passengers, which was our first indication of how many had gotten COVID during the cruise. Or should I say, how many had informed the ship that they were sick with COVID.

Nobody talked with each other. Nobody seemed very happy. It was as if we all had Leprosy and did not dare to make eye contact with each other.

After the ship docked, they herded us off the ship through one of the back emergency exits, away from having any contact with the rest of the passengers. They had a special row of taxis to take us to the airport so that we would not come in contact with any other passengers. We were all required to wear masks, of course. I felt sorry for the poor taxi drivers assigned to take all the COVID casualties away from the ship and off their hands. The ship did not care what we did once we left, and the airport no longer screens for COVID. So beware rest of the world; WE ARE AMONG YOU NOW!

I found out later from Dale and Linda that there were many people in the regular disembarkation meeting spots who were coughing up a storm. There were obviously more than 3 dozen passengers out of 3,000 who got COVID during the cruise. And on the plane ride home, we heard many who were coughing on the airplane.

There were no problems for us during our flight home. We wore our masks the whole time. I have been feeling normal now for at least 4 days, and Sue is almost back to normal, but we both are still infectious.

We had Jeanne Marie leave early before we got home. She did an excellent job taking care of our cats while we were gone. The cats seemed somewhat interested when we got home. They usually try to not act like they are happy to see us. It is more of a punishment attitude, like, Oh so you finally decided to come home and feed us?

So it is good to be home. Overall, I have to say we enjoyed our vacation, when you factor in the first 10 days with excellent weather and being able to enjoy both of our helicopter excursions. The last 5 days were fair, with the scenery from our balcony and still being able to order the fine dining from the main dining room menu. Although we had to miss our last three excursions that we had planned, we also could have had those two helicopter excursions cancelled due to poor weather. Being able to go on those excursions was more important to us than the last three that got cancelled. So even without getting COVID, you have to be ready for unexpected travel plan changes for a variety of reasons.

But I also have to acknowledge that we learned a valuable lesson. We probably were being too optimistic about not getting COVID while traveling. It is true that COVID is no longer as deadly as it was at first. But a cruise ship still has the right to quarantine you when you get sick, not just for COVID, but for any infectious illness. The Norovirus has been plaguing cruise ships for many years, long before COVID, and it will get you quarantined if you tell the medical staff on the ship. That is why many people self-isolate when they get sick on a cruise and do not tell anyone. That is why so many who got sick on our cruise never told anyone.

COVID is definitely a reality for anyone making travel plans. It is something that we will have to consider if and when we ever decide to take another cruise.

Thanks for following my travel blog. Click on this link to watch video highlights from our cruise.


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