Sunday, June 17th, 2012
Check-in was incredibly fast and incredibly smooth, and after just a short wait in the lobby we were onboard by a little after 11am. Just to impress you even more, the rooms were ready, so we were able to go right to our balcony room and drop the carry-ons off before heading to lunch. While there we met our room steward, Wilson, who did a great job taking care of us all week. We had lunch at Summer Palace, which is one of the included sit-down dining rooms, and then wandered around the ship a bit before heading to the lifeboat drill. After the lifeboat drill we went to the Sky High Bar to grab some cocktails and watch the sail away party. A great time was had by all, but we did leave a little late so we didn't really see the ship moving until we were at dinner. In our wanderings we discovered that if you made a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants from 5-5:30, you would receive a free bottle of wine with your dinner. It was such a great offer that we booked La Cucina for our first night's dinner. La Cucina was excellent across the board, and we were so pleased that we decided to return there later in the cruise. At 7pm we went to the Welcome Aboard Show, which was nice but nothing spectacular, then on to the Sing It If You Know It game show, which was a blast to watch. From there we visited the casino, where we both would finish ahead, and then off to bed (I was still on Eastern time, so late nights weren't an option yet). Before I went to bed I decided to use the ladies room, where I dropped a piece of toilet paper and almost gave myself a concussion on the ashtray above the toilet paper dispenser trying to pick it up. Seriously, I had a centimeter long cut on my forehead all week. Moral? If it falls, leave it.
Monday, June 18th, 2012
4:30am and I'm wide awake. Stupid time change. I dress in the dark to avoid waking my dad and head to the Blue Lagoon, the ship's 24 hour eatery, to grab some coffee and read for awhile. Breakfast doesn't begin being served until 5:30am, and nothing on the late night snacks menu appealed to me (who can face a tuna sandwich at 4:30am?) so I had them grab me coffee while I waited. The hostess happily chatted with me to pass the time, and soon enough it was time for breakfast. Scrambled eggs on a croissant -- yummy! Around 6:30am I headed back to the room, but my dad was still asleep so I tried to go out on the balcony. Big mistake, it's friggin cold out here! By now he's starting to wake up so I brew some coffee and tell him about my early morning adventures. Back to Blue Lagoon so my dad can eat, and then on to the History of Alaska presentation at 9:30, which would have been much more helpful if we hadn't already booked our shore excursions. At 10am we went to Indoor Bowls, which is basically carpet bocce. While I'm normally pretty terrible at bocce, the bumpiness of the sea helped me tremendously and our team won the match. Apparently I need the floor to move in order to land the ball where I want it. After bocce we headed up to the Cruise Critic meet & mingle, which I had organized. It was held at the Cagney's Extension area, accessible through the Star Bar. Many of the group were about five minutes late so they missed the captain, but all the other officers were still there. It was a nice gathering with a friendly group of people. I saw many of them around the ship throughout the week, and they were all quite pleasant. When the officers introduced themselves I recognized the Bar Manager as our very own Gianina from our October sailing on the Star. She was delighted to see us again as well, and stopped by to chat with us throughout the sailing. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the Latitudes party, which provided us with complimentary cocktails and was quite a nice little event. We followed that up with a presentation on their new ship being built, the Breakaway, and then a martini tasting, where we managed to snag two free martinis in addition to the included ones. After a brief hiatus we went to see Oh What A Night!, which was an excellent tribute to Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. A late night dinner afterwards at Indigo and then back to the stateroom.
Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
Tuesday morning began with our first breakfast at Cagney's, which was amazing! I quickly discovered my favorite, which I would eat almost every day for the rest of the week, was the Tahitian Vanilla French Toast with mixed berries and mascarpone cheese on top. Absolutely yummy! My dad varied it up each day, but everything he tried was quite good also. In addition to the full menu they had an exquisite buffet, which had dry and wet cereals, all sorts of fruits, smoked salmons, pates, cheeses, etc. After breakfast we had a bridge tour scheduled, so we all met in Maltings Whiskey Bar to be brought upstairs. The bridge tour was very appreciated by everyone from the meet & mingle, and I received many thank yous throughout the sailing from people who attended. After that we were in the casino, right up until Tribond Trivia at 12:15, which we won. Go Tequila Mockingbirds (our team name)! For lunch we went back to Cagney's, where I had a delicious pasta dish made with crÃ¨me sauce, truffle oil & porcini mushrooms. Who would have known that I liked porcini mushrooms! After lunch we disembarked for our afternoon/evening in Juneau, where we would be visiting the Mendenhall Glacier and the Mount Roberts Tram. After a bit of mass confusion, largely due to how early we were, we were pointed in the direction of our bus where Jake from Utah would be guiding us. Mendenhall Glacier was our first stop, and we went straight for the visitor's center, where we watched a movie on the history of the Mighty Mendenhall. Then outside for some photo ops, and that's about it for the glacier. It's beautiful and impressive, but not something I could spend hours staring at without getting bored. At the end of our time there we picked the bus back up and headed for the Mount Roberts Tram. Unfortunately for us it's now raining lightly and foggy, so the ride up the mountain will be less than spectacular, but still enjoyable. At the peak they have a raptor rescue center, an overlook, and a large gift shop. It would kind of remind you of Mountaintop in St Thomas, if you've ever been there -- shopping and a view, with raptor rescue instead of a bar. I continued my debate about purchasing an Ulu knife, but in the end frugality won out and I decided I would never use it and had no place to display it. After our trip back to the ground we opted to head back to the ship via free shuttle bus, which was driven by another Utahian, who turned out to be Jake's roommate. Small world in Juneau, population 31,000, and by far the biggest town we'll be visiting. Dinner tonight at the Summer Palace, where I asked the server if I could get my dessert to go and he insisted on sending it directly to my stateroom for me. That's excellent service! Dinner was followed by the That's Entertainment stage show, which was just okay. After the stage show was a comedy show with Noodles Levenstein, which was pretty funny but not as funny as his act in the Welcome Aboard show. Off to bed after another wonderful day on the Pearl. In case I haven't mentioned it yet, the crew was recently voted number one in the fleet for guest satisfaction, and it shows in everything they do. Top notch service across the board!
Wednesday, June 20th, 2012
Today we'll be getting off the ship early to visit Skagway, so we just grabbed a quickie breakfast at the Blue Lagoon before disembarking. Today we'll be doing the Best of Skagway, which includes a trip on the White Pass Rail, a stop at the Liarsville camp, and a visit to the Red Onion Saloon. We board our bus, driven by Vanessa from Florida, and head up to the Canadian border to meet the train. After a customs check in Pierce, BC, we are all aboard for the White Pass Rail! The train was built as a result of the gold rush, but was completed shortly after the gold rush ended. In the 1980s they switched from its previous use as a supply transport and began transporting tourists instead, which they continue to do to this day. The views are spectacular, and I would consider the whole ride to be a photographer's paradise. Definitely a do-not-miss experience if you're ever in Skagway. From the train depot back in Skagway we meet our bus again and head to the Liarsville camp, where I have the best salmon I've eaten in my entire life. Truly delectable. My father, who didn't like salmon until he tried it at this camp, raved about it for the rest of the day. We then hit the show at the camp, which tells the history. The short version is that the media was sent from the lower 48 to cover the gold rush, but when they arrived and discovered that the journey was actually difficult, they settled in at the campsite and reported the prospector's tales as if they were firsthand facts. This reporting encouraged more people to visit Skagway to get in on the gold rush, and gave them completely false impressions as to what the journey entailed, hence the name Liarsville. Neat story, isn't it? After the show I panned for gold (apparently not a skill I possess), and then we headed back to the bus for our final stop at the Red Onion Saloon, which was a brothel & bar back in the gold rush era. Ladies of the evening charged a whopping $5 for each 15 minute trick, which is amazing income for the 1890s. Their system of selection and accounting fascinated me, so I'll go ahead and share it. When a man in the bar wanted to purchase the company of a lady, he was given a selection of ten dolls that were made to represent each of the ladies (blond hair w/green eyes, brunette w/brown eyes, etc). When the man had made his choice he would lay the doll on its back on the bar, which would signal the bartender to fetch the appropriate lady. At the end of his fifteen minutes the madam would knock, and as soon as the man left the lady would open a hole in her floor to drop the money in, where it connected via copper tubing to a safety deposit box in the basement. When the bartender heard the money fall down the pipe, he would know that the lady was once again available and would return her doll to the upright position behind the bar. I found the whole thing very clever. Anyway, after we left the Red Onion we meandered down the main street of Skagway toward the ship. Lots of cute little shops but I managed to restrain myself. Back on the ship we decided to hit the Folkloric Show, performed by a native Alaskan who did a great job combining storytelling and songs. The songs were quite old, and of the Johnny Horton style of music, but the combination was really well done. After that we went to see the Second City comedy troupe, which was good but similar to the skits we had seen on other sailings. After that we had some dinner, a semi-brief stop at the casino, and then off to bed after a long but fun day in Skagway.
Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Breakfast at Cagney's, and then a beautiful morning in Glacier Bay! First let me say that rumors of wildlife in Alaska are greatly exaggerated. We started out the morning on deck where I picked up a coffee/hot chocolate/liquor beverage called a Grizzly Bear (the only bear I would see this trip - haha). After a little while on the upper deck we decided to make use of our balcony, which was on the port side of the ship. The view was filled with scenic vistas, soaring snow-capped peaks, and floats of ice. We even saw our first iceberg! Early on my dad saw something pop out of the water, but we couldn't tell what it was. Nothing big, though. The starboard side saw wildlife aplenty (Brown bears off the starboard side! Breeching whales off the starboard side! Mountain goats off the starboard side!) but the port side turned out to be bare of anything but seagulls. That was okay, though, as the views more than made up for it, and I did manage to see some calving at Marjorie Glacier, so my day was complete. After we had our fill of the views, we headed to the atrium for Natural Landmark Trivia, which brought a grinding halt to our winning streak. We were terrible at it, ending with 11 out of 20 correct. To make matters worse, we had three more correct answers but written for the wrong pictures. Not our strong suit! We followed our defeat up with lunch at Cagney's and then I headed up to Spinnaker for the darts tournament, where I also lost. At 3pm, though was Wine Lovers, the Musical, which was basically a wine tasting and musical show combined. It was very well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, even when a couple of the wines were not to our taste. Once the show was over we headed to Maltings for a whiskey tasting, where I learned that I like Bushmill's more than Jameson for Irish Whiskeys, and that Gentleman Jack is really quite tasty. Also I learned that Dewer's is not hideous, but I wouldn't drink it by choice. From there we went to Shows of the 70s and 80s Music Trivia, where we made a good showing but still weren't victorious. Dinner was at the Summer Palace, followed by the comic juggling of Barry John. Barry John does a neat trick where he juggles while balancing a working TV on his head, but you'd have to see it to appreciate how cool it is. After a brief stop at the casino we headed back to the room. Another wonderful day at sea!
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
We arrive to an early morning in Ketchikan where we'll be visiting Saxman Native Village and seeing the Lumberjack Show. When we arrived it was 70 degrees and sunny, unprecedented so far this season according to the locals. We browsed the shops near the pier and picked up our bus to take us to Saxman. At Saxman we were shown a short video telling us a little bit about the tribe, then taking for a short walk through the woods to the Beaver Clan House, where they welcome us with some traditional native song and dance. After the show we are shown several of their historic totem poles, and given the history of each. My personal favorite was the one of William Seward, the Secretary of State who purchased Alaska. The story goes that he visited Saxman and a great potlatch, or party, was thrown in his honor, where he was given many valuable gifts and a totem pole was erected in his honor. Tradition states that if you are honored with a potlatch you must then throw one yourself, in essence returning the favor. Seward, not knowing that this was the rule, left Alaska never to return, and so his nose and ears were colored red on his totem pole as an indication of his shameful behavior. After being shown several poles we were taken to the carving shed, where new poles were being made by tribal artisans. There we learned all about the carving process before being turned loose on the gift shop. From there our bus brought us to downtown Ketchikan, where we would have a short time for browsing prior to the Lumberjack Show. It gave me just enough time, in fact, to briefly lose my father, find him again, and get a sample shot of rhubarb vodka, made in Alaska. The show was quite entertaining, with lots of hair-raising stunts and audience participation. Once it was over we headed back to the ship, stopping briefly at the shop near the pier to pick up our selections from earlier that morning (we hadn't wanted to carry them all day). We were back on the ship just in time to watch ourselves sail away from sunny Ketchikan, and then I was off to a Mojito Muddling (& tasting), where I met a delightful group of women from Australia. Turns out that our commercials lie, and Fosters is really Australian for "swill we sell to other countries". From the tasting I went to Backstage Tales of the Second City comedy troupe, and then Name That Tune with Larry Steele on piano. At 7pm we headed to the theater for Encore!, which was a tribute to Broadway show tunes and was better than I had anticipated. We finished up in perfect time to make our 8:15 reservation for dinner at Cagney's. Both my dad and I had the crab cakes appetizer, which was delicious, followed by the lobster bisque, which was decent but not fantastic. Dinner for me was Salmon ala Oscar, or something like that -- whatever it was, it was scrumptious, but I was fairly full by then so I didn't do it justice. A brief donation to the casino and then off to bed. Mostly a sea day tomorrow with an evening stop in Victoria, BC.
Saturday, June 23rd, 2012
I love days at sea! Today we'll be starting with breakfast at Cagney's, where I branched out a bit from my French toast to try their omelet (also very good). My dad, after experiencing the crab cakes at dinner last night opted to try their crab cakes benedict, which he seemed to like. From there we went to the Officers Q&A, where three officers answer audience questions about the ship and such. Immediately after that was over they began final jackpot bingo, which I was forced to sit through because I had raffle tickets to win a free cruise, and it was required that I be present to win (sadly I won nothing). For some reason I had been moved to buy "pull tabs" before the main shows a couple of nights, which are basically like a scratch-off ticket that doesn't need to be scratched, and with your pull tab purchase you got free raffle tickets. Anyway, from there we went to grab a quick bite from the buffet. There were absolutely no tables, so we just took our food back to the room and ate in just enough time to make it to the 1:30 margarita tasting. This was probably my least favorite of the tastings (though I ended up with two bonus shots of tequila), and even so it wasn't bad. I was actually ambitious enough to hit the martini tasting afterward, which was probably not the best idea I ever had but it worked out okay. I did not, however, feel up to catching a bus to downtown Victoria and figuring my way around, so I settled with a brief foray to the end of the pier where I picked up a little something for my stepdaughter (something from Victoria for Victoria). As it turns out, Canada doesn't allow the ship to keep everything open when they are in Canadian ports, so only a few bars and restaurants were options while we were there. That being said, and since I had to pack and put out my suitcase, I made it an early night. Back to Seattle in the morning!
Sunday, June 24th, 2012
Since my flight wasn't till 11pm we opted to stay on the ship as late as possible, which turned out to be 9am. We did have time for me to enjoy one final stack of French toast at Cagney's, though. Disembarkation was fairly quick and painless, and we were able to spend a nice day in Seattle prior to me catching my flight. Many thanks to the crew of the Pearl for an amazing cruise!