Monday, May 26, 2008

Birthday Dinner #2

After all the unpleasantness of the disappearing birthday cake, we were given a "make-up" dinner at Cagney's by the Norwegian Star's Restaurant Manager, Adine. We received very attentive service and the staff is very proud of their restaurant.

Cagney's is the steak house and is located on the uppermost deck next to the Star bar. (Actually, the Star Bar is one of the quieter bars, if you need to get away from frenzied cruisers and crowds).

We had some appetizers:
Left: Oysters Rockefeller, Right are Crab Cakes

The main course steaks:
On the left is Rib Eye and on the right is filet mignon.

And finally, the birthday cake presented by the maitre'd and waitstaff!

And how was the food? of our cruisemates best described it as "cruise food", which is to say, it's OK but not spectacular or does not live up to the hype. Neil's Filet Mignon was a little tough for medium well. Steak-wise, in our book it's right below OUTBACK.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sawyer Glacier

(click photos to expand)

As we approached Sawyer Glacier, we noticed the ice has not thoroughly melted to allow us to get closer. This was expected since we were the first cruise of the season. So, this was as far as we got, but still an exhilirating and wonderful view!

Passage Blocked

Sawyer Glacier
Arrow points to Sawyer Glacier, which is receding an average of 84 feet a year due to global warming, so I'm told.

Sawyer Glacier

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Inside Passage

It's scenery like this that makes cruises like this sooo worth it!

After leaving Juneau, we enjoy some great views on our way to see Sawyer Glacier.

Floating little islands of ice:

Melting ice makes baby waterfalls everywhere:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Musher's Dog Camp

Due to the short time we were docked at each port of call, we only scheduled one shore excursion each for Ketchikan and Juneau.  We did not schedule a shore excursion for Prince Rupert since we were going to be there less than 6 hours.

The shore excursion we picked for Juneau was the Musher's Dog Camp.  This is where they train dogs for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest dog races.  The dogs run around tracks pulling weights and today, we are the weights!

Above is Louie modelling the latest running gear.  Note the microfiber booties for running in the snow.

Above is Bill Cotter, who was a champion at Yukon Quest (another dog race like Iditarod) with his lead dogs.  The Alpha dogs usually take the lead and the strongest most athletic dogs go behind.

There are 16 dogs total pulling the sled.

And away we go! Wheeeee!

Above is Brian showing us what he takes to the Iditarod.  His grandfather started the Iditarod races in  1973.
Above is a typical sled that the mushers use on the Iditarod Trail.

Then we go visit some puppies.

Below is a mama dog who just gave birth.  As soon as she saw us, her mother instinct kicked in and she ran inside to protect her little baby (see blue arrow).  The dogs they use in Iditarod do not look like a husky.  Today, they are bred to be leaner and stronger and they are a hybrid of several breeds including Saluki.

Below are the puppies who we got to play with:
Above left is Buffalo and above right is Hippo.  Buffalo was very outgoing and Hippo just kept to himself (herself?).

To read more about this cruise, click here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Juneau, It Is Here

View of Juneau from the ship.

Downtown Juneau. Above you can see the Alaska Hotel, which I later found out has one of the Best Bars in the U.S. according to a recent issue of Esquire magazine.

Well, we didn't go to that bar. We went to this one instead because everyone said it was famous. The Red Dog Saloon.

We asked the waiter what made it famous and he couldn't give us a straight answer. Apparently, it's only claim to fame is that it stands on an old watering hole where miners used to hang out. Ok, whatever.
It does have an interesting interior (sawdust on the floor and everything but the kitchen sink) and very friendly waitstaff.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Do You Know The Way To Juneau?

We say goodbye to Ketchikan and we are off, off, off to Juneau.

Brrrrr. Now you can really feel the cold.

How to take sunset photos. Bundle Up. Run out to deck and snap a quick one. Run back indoors and warm up. Repeat.

Dolly Arthur's House

Dolly Arthur is a famous prostitute who moved to Alaska after a troubled childhood in Idaho and eventually set-up shop on Creek Street.

Here is an earlier photo of Dolly:

She plied her trade from a house she bought on Creek Street for $800 and charged $3 a "pop" so to speak, at a time when the daily wage was $1/day. She worked until she was 72 (very loyal clientele). She worked alone. No madam or pimp. That's her house painted in mint green:

At the time in Alaska, prostitution was tolerated but only if it did not occur on land. This gave birth to Creek Street, where the houses were built on stilts above a creek with a boardwalk access.

View of the Norwegian Star from Creek Street:

Dolly decorated the house herself.
Above is the dining room with her Franciscan dinnerware.

Shown above is the kitchen with "modern" appliances.

Above is the bedroom where all the action happened. Dolly's money-maker!

Above is Dolly's private bathroom. If you look at the shower curtain trim closely, those flowers are actually made from French silk CONDOMS! As you can imagine, as soon as people discovered that silk condoms were a big mistake, there was a lot of dead stock lying around and leave it to Dolly not to waste all that valuable French silk!

Hey, maybe I should give this prostitution thing a shot!

I'll stick to blogging.

To read more about this cruise, click here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

One of two shore excursions we booked was a nature walk at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary.

The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary used to be an old logging and sawmill facility that was converted into a sanctuary after the original owner died.

We are the first group to walk through the forest after the spring thaw. It was surprisingly pleasant and not too cold.

The nature walk with the experienced guides is a great way to learn about Alaskan flora and fauna. I did not expect so much varieties of moss growing all over the trees and logs. You also learn about how bears mark their territory and other evidence of their presence and how they live in the rainforest. The walk itself is leisurely and not strenuous at all.

Below is a Devil's Club. You have to watch out for this. If you catch the thorns, they will fester under your skin for weeks!

We met Wayne who carves totem poles. Here he shows us a block of cedar and the start of a new totem pole which is going to have a bear on it. He created the totem poles outside of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary building.

The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is also home to rescued animals.

Here are reindeers saved from a sausage factory. Their antlers are vascular and if you break them off, the reindeer would bleed to death.

They also have a bald eagle and owl that have wing injuries and would not otherwise survive in the wild.

To read more about this cruise and Alaska, click here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Good Morning, Ketchikan!

Before we left, I checked the weather reports and the forecast was all gloomy and rainy, so it was a pleasant surprise to find Ketchikan all sunny and blooming! They had a snowstorm just 11 days prior.

The city has a lot of totem poles:

Shopping by the dock:

Ketchikan in the mist, as we pulled in at dawn:

Shopping and Marina area viewed from the cabin balcony:

Another view from our cabin balcony. Looks like they had a bit of excitement before we arrived:

I think their garbage cans come from Old Mother Russia: