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Day 5: Skagway

Who needs Bears when you've got Beryl?


View Silver Seas Cruise on paulej4's travel map.

We arrive at Skagway at 8:00am. I am enjoying my early morning coffee(s) while B4 snoozes which is unusual for her. The weekend was filled with emails to the senior team back home and more. Sleep for her is well deserved.

FYI: I got a question about the statue in Juneau asking if I was lucky to be that close to a breaching humpback or if I photoshopped the picture. It is a statue but the question gives credence to the description, "lifelike." It's just a statue.JuneauStatue.JPG

The Celebrity Millennium, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas (tied up mere yards from a vertical forest wall) and the Princess Cruise Lines Grand Princess all arrived earlier and are securely tied up to piers parallel to ours. 6b7825a0-940a-11e8-b8b0-bf3a4cba6d8a.JPGThe high temperature today is supposed to be 75 degrees, the low 59 degrees with sunny skies and no chance of rain. We have "The Russell Luck" when it comes to weather on this journey (if you forget all about the fog on our first day).

Skagway’s population is estimated to be just over 1,000 in the winter, double that now during tourist season. Nine hundred thousand visitors stop here. Lots of tourists hop aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route narrow gauge railroad. I rode it the last time I was here and was delivered to a hiking trail where we were dropped off; the train stopped to pick us up on its way back to Skagway. I was travelling solo then but had hiking friends from my ship. Jack London’s great book, "The Call of the Wild" was set near here and John Wayne filmed "North to Alaska" here in 1960.

Beryl says she does not remember the once-popular song: North To Alaska. You can listen to the Johnny Horton classic on Youtube. Here are some of the lyrics:10761cc0-940a-11e8-b8b0-bf3a4cba6d8a.jpg

George turned to Sam with his gold in his hand
Said "Sam you're a-lookin'at a lonely, lonely man"
"I'd trade all the gold that's buried in this land"
"For one small band of gold to place on sweet little Ginnie's hand"
"'Cos a man needs a woman to love him all the time"
"Remember, Sam, a true love is so hard to find"
"I'd build for my Ginnie, a honeymoon home"
"Below that old white mountain just a little south-east of Nome"
Where the river is winding
Big nuggets they're finding
North to Alaska
They're goin' North, the rush is on
North to Alaska
They're goin' North, the rush is on

If you make minor changes you can capture my mindset 58 years later: from "on sweet little Ginnie's hand" to "on sweet little B4's hand."
If you make major changes you can capture her mindset: "For one small band of gold" to "For one gigantic diamond..."

It was Klondike gold in 1896 that made this place. After initial reports of riches to be had, the steamer “Queen” docked here on July 29, 1897, with a load of prospectors followed by more and more who were determined to make the 500-mile journey from here to Canada’s gold fields. Skagway became a place for merchants to provide the prospectors. During that time, this place was described as completely lawless and, “little better than a hell on earth,” according to North-West Mounted Police archives. Fights, prostitutes and liquor were paramount. Con man “Soapy” Smith reportedly swindled all he could charging five dollars to send a telegraph message to anywhere in the world even though there was no telegraph service here. Smith was shot and killed in 1898 at the Shootout on Juneau Wharf and is buried at Skagway’s “Boot Hill,” the Slide Cemetery, the only cemetery that is within the bounds of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. He was 38 when he died after being shot by city engineer Frank Reid who himself died twelve days later from injuries suffered from the final bullet fired from Soapy’s pistol. Smith earned his nickname from selling bars of soap wrapped in blue tissue paper after having promised prospective buyers that a few lucky purchasers would find a $100 bill wrapped inside of the bar they bought for $5. Of course, someone would step up to buy a bar and scream with delight and hold high their found $100 bill. It is reported that the finder was a plant in the employ of the man who came to be known as “Soapy.”

The lawlessness of yesteryear appears to have abated. The website of the Skagway News provides a link to the Skagway Police & Fire Blotter. Here is a bit of what I found: May 8-18: An officer helped a lost tourist reunite with his family. A lost wallet was turned in and later returned to its owner. Multiple lost cell phones were reported. Fire Department personnel responded to a false alarm.

It’s a good day to be in Skagway which, I surmise, is particularly clean because over this past weekend the annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event was held at the Public Works Shop at Fifth Avenue and Main Street. The highest numbered number street in Skagway is 23rd Avenue but Main street isn’t the main street. State Street is. Our dock is a couple hundred yards from First Avenue; the town itself is a mere 1.6 miles long and 4.5 blocks wide.

After breakfast outside astern, we meet Jami and Fred at 9:30 for our Haines private photo tour by Rainbow Glacier Adventures which entails, at 10:00am, a 45-minute ferry ride to Haines. We ride along steep-walled fjords past dozens of waterfalls, humpback whales and harbor seals. We are here to see wildflowers and eagles and maybe some bears. The bears come out to feed on the salmon but they don’t normally begin their run up the Chilkoot River to spawn here until next week or the week after.

Today, there are no bears to be seen and I am, to put it mildly, bummed. Two days; no bears.

But the eagles are soaring. My eagle expectations are blown away. large_64906290-9462-11e8-b877-c3acd48c8d3b.jpglarge_5abde3a0-9462-11e8-b877-c3acd48c8d3b.jpglarge_b7cc2cb0-9461-11e8-9ad5-a59dce778840.jpgAt one point, we encounter three bald eagles, two adults (mom and dad?) and a young one. In the photographs below you will clearly see mom and dad but you may have to look to see the young bird. Look closely; it is there.large_ef284620-9462-11e8-905d-2de400a8ab6a.jpglarge_e73312b0-9462-11e8-905d-2de400a8ab6a.jpg

Oh, and we spot three seals far up the stream where they normally might not be.large_0e1e4ca0-9463-11e8-905d-2de400a8ab6a.jpg

The space is beautiful, our guide Jen was fun and knowledgable, Fred and Jami are wonderful travel companions and my Beryl beats bears any day.large_MountainChair.JPG

The ferry ride back to Skagway takes 45 minutes and it is just as beautiful as was the ride to Haines. Beautiful is the word that best describes the view left and right, fore and aft. Alaska--this part at least--is gorgeous and breathtaking and must be seen.

Tonight we have a mini-cocktail party at Fred and Jami's suite. We expected a ship's staff representative to be our host but he or she didn't show. We were then off for La Terrazza for dinner. Fred was refused entry because he didn't have a jacket; he went back to 729 and got one. Later, we watched others arrive without jackets. La Terrazza has jackets for "loan" if need be and a handful of gentlemen needed those for admittance. The interesting point is that they did not need to wear the jacket; they needed only to accept it and then drape it over their chair back. One gentlemen wore a sports jersey, shirttail out, #13, with the name "LUCKY" printed on the back. The dress code situation is an absolute joke. For me--a man who likes to dress up--it isn't an issue other than the fact that I would like everyone to comply. But, when being a "rule-follower" makes you out to be a fool, one second-guesses one's hosts. We are doing that.

In a conversation today, we have all agreed that the superiority of Silver Sea is probably a myth. The food is better on Silver Shadow. The suite is oversized and fine but oversized and fine suites can be purchased on most ships if you are willing to pay more. But, on Silver Sea, the service varies based upon who your butler is. Fred and Jami have a gem who anticipates their needs, puts welcoming notes on their mirror at day's end and decorates their bed with "bath-towel animals." Our butler comes when we call him but anticipates nothing and provides no elegant touches. Therefore, given that their suite is five doors down from ours, "service" is inconsistent.

Entertainment is sub-par at best. Were I Silver Sea I would be embarrassed at what they are offering. I've been on lots of cruises on several lines and they are all superior to what we have this week on Silver Shadow. Activities are limited on Silver Sea with much less on offer than what I have seen on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Princess or Cunard.

The ship is smaller but I don't know what the advantage in that is. The key is space per passenger. We have never felt crowded here and never stood in a line. That is quite nice and I can't say that about other ships I have been on. Lines are, in varying degrees, a way of life on ships. Not here; that is quite wonderful. The disadvantage to "small" is when seas are rough. What six foot waves do to this ship is a fraction of what they do to a large ship. Is the passenger subject to seasickness or queasiness? Then don't sail with Silver Sea; take a mainline line instead.

On Silver Sea, beverages are included. Beverage packages are available--often as an incentive for no charge--on other lines. When not available on a complementary basis, that is a definite cost benefit--depending on how much you drink. WiFi is complementary with our suite level on Silver Sea. So is laundry and pressing...a fact we didn't know when we purchased our cruise. Gratuities are included as well. Arithmatic can easily be computed to determine the value quotient for these items versus the fare paid.

All in all, we have come to this conclusion: if you want a first class experience buy a larger accommodation on Celebrity or Norwegian and you'll get the same or higher level of service but you must pay for your beverages, WiFi, gratuities and laundry but still save money while enjoying a more stable ship, vastly more in the way of activities, much better entertainment but tolerate slightly less in the way of cuisine. You'll have more choices of where to dine, where to drink, where to play, where to relax and more. Skip Silver Sea. Sad and unexpected but true.

Does all of that mean we aren't having fun? Absolutely not. Does that mean that if we had it to do all over again that we would have gone for the large suite on Princess or Celebrity or Norwegian and had a better experience? Yes; we think so.

This is my third Silver Sea cruise. One was wonderful, one was disappointing and one was, well, also disappointing. Shame on me for not figuring that out next time.

It is not the fault of Silver Sea that I have yet to photograph a bear.

Posted by paulej4 08:03 Archived in USA Tagged alaska skagway

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