A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: paulej4

Getaway Day: North to Alaska with Vancouver in between

Travel is such fun

73 °F
View Silver Seas Cruise on paulej4's travel map.

Delta flight 3604 to Salt Lake City departs Kansas City International Airport at 6:00 and arrives in Utah at 7:35 having gained an hour from Central Daylight time to Mountain Daylight Time. It was overbooked by one and a lady quickly took the first offer of $500, one night's lodging and dinner plus a promise to get out tomorrow morning. Had she held out, someone else might have taken it. But, had nobody stepped up that $500 offer would have grown and grown. Life's a gamble.

We have checked two gargantuan bags. I never check a bag but for this journey that is simply not an option. For Alaska, we have down jackets and hats and neck gators and even lightweight gloves to be ready for chilly temperatures on shore excursions. For Silversea we have suits and ties and dresses. The Silver Shadow will have one formal night, two semi-formal nights and four casual nights. I love dressing up but I don't much care for packing all that is required to bring that to fruition.

Flight 3604 is a "Delta Connection" flight operated by 2,000-employee Compass Airlines which flies feeders for American and Delta. Compass is hiring pilots right now and advertises about pilot careers on its web site this way: "We know that you have big goals. At Compass Airlines, you’ll get the training and experience you need to achieve them. Our pilots were hired by some of the most respected airlines in the country. Pilots spend an average of just under three years at Compass before moving on to a major carrier.​​​" This is the first employer I've ever seen whose pitch to prospective employees is: "You won't have to work for us very long." To sum up, I have a lot more experience flying than does anybody who works here.

The aircraft is a 76-seat, 20-row, Embraer ERJ-175 with a non-functioning galley and a non-functioning lavatory sink. large_IMG_6121.jpgI've never seen this before; at least they have sani-wipes and they were kind enough to say "please." The flight attendant, Penny, is taking it all in stride and is quite delightful. I have a pair of vodka tonics and a cold lunch thingy that was left over. B4 is deep into her book. We arrive right on time.

At SLC, we connect at 8:30 to Delta Connection Flight 5834--there are three open seats on this one--headed for a 9:54pm arrival at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, gaining one more hour to Pacific Daylight Time. Same aircraft type, same inexperienced flight crew; just different faces; our FA is Joyce. The forward lavatory on this aircraft is off limits (only to passengers; I saw the Captain use it) because the smoke detector isn't working. In other words, we are on a pair of Compass Airlines flight neither of which is catered properly and neither of which has a fully functioning front lavatory. We're in first class and I am absolutely certain that Delta will contact us with a substantial refund of a part of the fare we paid as a way of making up for not giving us what we paid for. Or not.

The front cabin where we are situated is five rows with one seat on the left side and a pair of seats on the right side. In the remainder of the aircraft, it is two seats on the left and two on the right. On both flights, a part of the safety announcement includes the warning that "Passengers are not permitted to consume their own alcohol while on board."

The gate agent warns us that there was "a catering problem" on this second flight but "please don't take it out on your flight attendants." He suggests that we go to Delta.com to complain.

At Vancouver, using the CanBorder eDeclaration app that we downloaded onto our iPhones, we have completed our customs declaration in advance and been given QR codes which we can scan at a primary inspection kiosk before appearing before a CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) officer. It is supposed to save time.

Doing my research prior to the trip, I learned that once through customs and immigration and retrieving our checked baggage, we, of course, would be off to the Four Seasons Vancouver Hotel. It lies in the heart of Vancouver's financial and business district and is a twenty-five minute, fourteen-stop Canada Line Skytrain ride from Vancouver International Airport's Link Building to Vancouver City Center. It's a "Two Zone Fare" for the train: $4.20 Canadian per person which is the equivalent right now of $3.19 U.S. There is a bus called the Whistler-Skylynx (47 minutes with stops) which is $7.00 Canadian per person. You can take a taxi for $40.00 Canadian plus tip. Of course, there are Uber and Lyft as well. For each of those options, you must wrangle your luggage and know where you're going to find your car or bus or train.

On the web, I learn that you can pre-book online with a site called Blacklane and they will pick you up in a "Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac STS or similar" for $100.02 U.S., tip included. But, when I tried to book, I made a mistake and went back a page, and the rate somehow increased by $10.00. That put me off a bit so I decided to simply download and use their app. There the rate went up by $24.00 U.S. You input your flight number, allowing your driver to track your flight and therefore be on time to meet you at bag claim. They will wait for up to an hour, giving you ample time to process through customs, before taking you onward into the city of Vancouver and your hotel. But when you try to book for the 24th, the site automatically reverts you to the 23rd. Never mind, Blacklane. I deleted the app and decided to try something else.

That something else is to simply ask the hotel to send a car to collect you. I did that. Of course, it is more expensive: $157.66 Canadian which is $119.18 U.S. And there is a 5% fuel surcharge on top of that and if you want to simply put it on your hotel bill there is an additional 10% fee. But at least someone is accountable and that helps.

The front desk folks are welcoming and the room is lovely and we are tired. But we are here; our holiday has officially begun.

Posted by paulej4 23:15 Archived in Canada Tagged vancouver seasons four Comments (2)

Day Zero Vancouver is, well, wonderful

sunny 80 °F

I have been to Vancouver many times and each time I marvel at what a wonderful city it is for an American tourist. It is a mere thirty miles north of the Canadian-U.S. border situated off the Pacific Ocean via the Salish Sea to the Haro Strait to the Strait of Georgia to the Burrard Inlet beneath the Lions Gate Bridge and past the wonderful Stanley Park. By water, you pass the U.S. San Juan Islands and Victoria, Canada, just north of Seattle on your way to the ocean.large_ef883a30-8df0-11e8-bb63-8d9d18bdc66f.png

The city is home to 650,000 or so but the metropolitan area makes the place much larger: 2.5 million of the most dense and diverse population you can imagine. More than half of the people who live here have a language other than English as their “first language.” Consistently marked in the top five cities in the world for livability and quality of life, the place got started back in 1867 as a logging center. A natural seaport, it became and remains a shipping trade link to East Asia and beyond and ranks as the third-largest port by tonnage in the Americas.

Forestry rules the economy but, interestingly, tourism is second. It is home to a great deal of film production. In the last couple of years, Deadpool 2, Overboard, Skyscraper, The Mountain Between Us, The Fifty Shades of Grey movies, Okja, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tully were all shot here alongside too many TV series to list.

The beautiful Stanley Park is over 1000 acres and is surrounded on three sides by water. A bicycle ride here is a treat. This is one of Canada’s warmest cities in the winter and one of the wettest as well. This time of year (July) the high temperatures are in the low seventies and rarely climb over the mid-eighties. Snow falls here nine days a year and doesn’t stay on the ground for long before melting away. The downtown streets, most alternating as alternating one-ways, much like New York City, are laid out on a strict grid pattern running NE to SW and NW to SE on the peninsula bending into more standard N to S and E to W in the remainder of the city.

There are seemingly endless high-rise buildings in the downtown portion of the city, each one blocking the view of the harbor, if not the surrounding mountains, from those a block behind. Our hotel, the Four Seasons, is about 1,000 yards--eight blocks--SW of the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal on Howe Street. Our room on the 23rd floor, however, reveals that we are denied a beautiful view because we are tucked away. There is a zoning rule here about the "view cone" but the city council appears to have just approved a high rise plan that will "block part of city's protected view of mountains." Alas.

Vancouver is a very expensive city in which to live and Forbes Magazine claims it to be the tenth cleanest city in the world. It is wonderful at night when the lights twinkle and even more wonderful, I recall from my first visit here decades ago, from restaurants across Vancouver Harbor in North Vancouver. A comparison would be dining in Hoboken, New Jersey, with a view across the Hudson to Manhattan.

Architects must think of this place as a playground; Moshe Safdie designed the Vancouver Library Square before creating Kansas City’s beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Little here is boring or routine. Raymond Burr, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Oh and Seth Rogan are among the many famous Vancouverites. You younger readers don't know who Raymond Burr was? Google him.

The first time I came here, probably 35 or 40 years ago on a consulting/training assignment, I was struck by finding packaged chicken feet in the supermarkets. I’ve been back many times and now take chicken feet in my stride.

Up early, I went for a long early morning walk. Up to the waterfront, around the cruise ship pier where three ships have come in to drop off their Alaskan Cruise Passengers: The Island Princess, The Holland America Volendam and the Seven Seas Mariner. There are hundreds of cruisers towing their baggage here and there, all seeking to get to their Vancouver hotel or to the Vancouver Airport. I am delighted to understand, correctly I hope, that tomorrow there will be only one ship in port. That will be ours; there will be no crowds. In this port where 900,000 depart or arrive each year there will be but 382 of us. Fun Fact: This is one of only three cruise ship ports in the world where visiting ships plug into the city's electrical grid rather than running their generators for electric power and, thereby, virtually eliminating emissions and engine noise.

Our travel companions for this cruise vacation, Fred and Jami, arrived here yesterday several hours earlier than we did. They came in from their second home in Phoenix where the high temperature yesterday was 114 degrees. When we landed last night after them, around 10:00pm and powered up our iPhones, there was a text from them wishing us "good night" with a reminder to meet in the lobby of the Four Seasons at 9:15 for a city tour that she has pre-arranged with Land Sea Tours & Adventures. Robin is our driver/guide.

Into his SUV, we absorbed highlights like historic Gastown, Chinatown, scenic English Bay and the picturesque Vancouver Harbour. Stops in Stanley Park featured First Nations totem poles, as well as spectacular views from Prospect Point including a unique vantage point looking across the Lionsgate bridge (under which we will tomorrow sail). large_21230970-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPGThe totem poles in Stanley Park are all replicas, the originals having been destroyed by the British a century and a half ago in the false belief that they were representational of idols to be worshipped. Instead, for a people with no written language, they were three dimensional history books. Carved from western red cedar trees, each one tells the story of a real or even mythical event. Oft occurring symbols include the eagle denoting the kingdom of the air, the whale denoting the lordship of the sea, the wolf representing the genius of the land and the frog being the transitional link between land and sea. large_12d366d0-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPG

Afterward, we visited the charming farmer’s market at Granville Island where virtually anything and everything you might want to eat was on offer alongside locally made items ranging from apparel to knickknacks. B4 could become forever lost in here as shiny object after shiny object interrupt ones path.

Then we were off to Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, nestled across the narrow waterway from Granville Island and beneath the wildly creative Vancouver House, under construction nearby. large_43ffeda0-908b-11e8-84c3-2b8a16339592.jpgThis is a seriously twisted building that, when complete, will be I think iconic. Here's a rendering of what it will be. The food at Ancora was fine but the service was lackadaisically delivered by a very personable young woman and her new hire shadow. Hint to owner: use your best most customer oriented and solicitous server as your trainer; not this friendly but inefficient young person.large_03786eb0-905e-11e8-9b88-558cc1e3de90.JPG

Back at the Four Seasons, we settled in for a rest before we leave--in three hours--for dinner.

Friends Ron and Chris, over dinner in Kansas City a few nights ago, recommended that we dine at the Bacchus Restaurant at the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver. I checked with Fred and Jami, and they agreed that sounded good for them. Ron and Chris are accustomed to fine dining and, from our few outings with them in the past, are not only great company they are knowledgable about cuisine.

Bacchus is an old-world fine-dining establishment to be sure. At the venerable Wedgewood Hotel, a seven minute stroll SW from the Four Seasons, we are greeted there by velvet banquettes, dark mahogany carved woodwork, white tablecloths, fine patterned china, a pianist; the works. Tim, our server is animated but not overly so, quick to recommend a dish unlike many servers of no opinion who say that, "either dish is a good choice." Tim, for the first time in my memory, recommends the chicken. Always the least expensive entree, no server recommends it for selfish reasons as 20% of $25 is less than 20% of $30 but Tim says, "This chicken is special." I have it and he is correct. large_Bacchus.JPG

Great conversation about the book that B4 just finished and that I am half way through (Red Notice by Bill Browder), our impending embarkation, the weather in Phoenix, the state of customer service in the world and much more decorates our evening at Bacchus. Thank you, Ron and Chris; you were correct. After a walk home through a downtown pocket park where the outdoor movie screen is set up for a dusk screening of "Oceans 11" for the 200 of so people there gathered, we are back to the hotel and ready to write this and call it quits.

We agree to meet at 1:45 in the lower lobby for a transfer to the ship. It was a fine day in Vancouver.

Posted by paulej4 21:21 Archived in Canada Tagged restaurant vancouver ancora bacchus Comments (0)

Day 1: Aboard Silver Shadow

Six Stars

sunny 80 °F

We are again up early. B4 has an 8:30 ninety-minute massage which, for her, is pure bliss. I fill that time with a long walk (8.5 miles/15,500 steps) to the waterfront, down and through Stanley Park and then back to the hotel. The Silver Shadow is in port and I walk past her, listening to the purser announcing which groups are scheduled to disembark at what hour, watching luggage come out of the hold and spying on what our balcony will look like and where I hope to have breakfast most mornings. This is not the most beautiful ship I have ever seen; she is, I think, almost unsightly looking directly at her bow but her profile is better.SilverseaLogo.JPGSilverShadowPanoramaLoungeDeck.JPGSilverShadowBalcony.JPGSilverShadowInDistance.JPG

My walk takes me past the marina and the sea plane base. The marina is home to yachts and houseboats some more remarkable than others.large_SeaPlanePort.JPGlarge_HouseBoats.JPG

We have a checkout time extended until 1:00pm but cannot board Silver Shadow until 2:00. There is no problem with what to do for us as passengers but the same cannot be said for our shipping container sized suitcases. The bellman will hold them, of course, but is a hassle. And, based upon their weight, a workers comp hassle for the Four Seasons.

We meet Fred and Jami, as planned at 1:45 to make our way to our ship.

As cruise ships go, the Silver Sea Lines’ Silver Shadow is quite small; as has been mentioned here she can accommodate only 382 guests.

In this era, bigger is thought by many to be better (seven years ago, I sailed from Fort Lauderdale aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of The Seas which, when every cabin is occupied, holds 5,400 passengers--6296 if a third passenger is crammed in to staterooms designed to accommodate that). Reality is that you have a fourteen to seventeen times greater chance of conversing with someone who has sailed aboard the Oasis than someone who has sailed on the Silver Shadow.

The Silver Shadow boasts that it has “one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea.” Calculated by dividing the number of passengers into the gross tonnage of the vessel, the Silver Shadow ratio is 74. The Oasis, for example, has when loaded to normal capacity, a space-to-guest ratio of 41.4. Norwegian Cruise lines’ largest ship, the Escape, boasts a ratio of 39. Think of it this way: the largest ships are similar to giant floating resorts while the small ships feel more like intimate retreats. Both are fine with me and I enjoy them equally but the experience offered is remarkably different.

The Silver Shadow was refurbished just last year so everything feels new from the carpet to the upholstery on the chairs in the dining rooms. She was built in 2000 at the Mariotti Shipyard in Genoa, Italy. Her passenger-to-crew ratio is 1.31; putting it another way there are three crew members to take care of the four of us. She is 610 feet long and 81 feet wide with 194 “suites” throughout decks four through nine of this ten deck vessel. (The Oasis of the Seas is 1,187 long and 208 feet wide) large_b8c062b0-8eb9-11e8-a32b-1bf7ab598671.png

The largest accommodation on board is the two-bedroom Owner’s Suite which measures 1,264 square feet. Going down in size from there are the Grand Suites, Royal Suites, Silver Suites, Medallion Suites, Veranda Suites, Terrace Suites and finally the Vista Suites which measure 287 square feet. Ours is Silver Suite 719 (the largest and fanciest stateroom I’ve ever been in) at 700 square feet. silver-shadow-silver-suite.jpg

It is midship which means less rocking from front to back. Think of a ship in rough seas as you would a kids’ playground teeter-totter. The ends move up and down a lot but the middle moves no much at all. We’re just aft of the middle.

This fancy suite has, outside its large sliding glass doors, a teak veranda where padded patio furniture awaits. There is a living room with a separate dining area separated from the bedroom which holds a queen-sized bed. There are two vanities in the bathroom adjacent to a full-sized bath tub and separate shower. The writing desk comes outfitted with personalized stationary and the walk-in wardrobe is large enough to please B4 who requires more closet space than most.

Boarding, you quickly notice that the staff—most of them at least—are clad in white gloves. We are handed champagne flutes and escorted to the seventh deck where we are welcomed by our Butler. We are offered a choice of bathroom amenities (a luxury wasted on me) and a choice of pillows. I opt for goose down. The Butler offers to unpack for us. He tells me that he will “polish and condition” my shoes.

Silversea cruises come with a comparatively hefty base price tag but there is more value than meets the eye due to all the things that are included here that are extra-cost items elsewhere. For example, room service, “selected” wines and premium spirits are all included. Drink as much as you want without being handed a bill. I particularly enjoy having a glass of prosecco in my hand at virtually all times. All non-alcoholic beverages, extra cost items elsewhere, are included as well. Full beverage packages cost about $60 per person per day on most other ships and there is always a 15% tip assessed on top of that.

Gratuities for the crew are included. Those run from $14.50 a day per person in a regular stateroom and $18 a day in suites aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines. Unlimited internet access is included but costs as much as a half-dollar a minute on other ships. B4 likes to be online.

Doing the math, it would not be unusual for a couple to be handed a bill for just under $1,500 for extras consumed during a week’s voyage.

Excursions and spa treatments are extra cost items on virtually all cruise lines. And, most have “premium” restaurants which cost extra if you opt for them over the very fine dining room fare which is included on all ships.

I’ve been privileged to spend 161 nights aboard ships on 16 cruises on eight different cruise lines, the shortest being four nights in the Caribbean and the longest being 36 nights across the Pacific. I am anticipating that this seven-night Alaskan Silversea journey alongside B4 will be the best of all.large_b18fb7c0-8eb9-11e8-a32b-1bf7ab598671.jpg

But, take note: this cruise had to have at least one stop outside the United States, hence our departure point from Vancouver. Couldn't we have made the departure point Seattle? No. Why? Read on:

The Jones Act, “requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.” While that may sound bureaucratic and overly technical, and not a concern of most Americans who aren’t in the shipping industry, it makes a huge difference to cruise lines, and thus to cruise passengers. Simply put, because of the Jones Act, cruise ships that were not U.S. built, U.S. owned and with U.S. crews cannot travel between U.S. ports, unless they stop at a foreign port. Which means that a ship that is foreign in any way (origin, ownership, crew) ship can go roundtrip from Seattle to Alaska or San Francisco only if it stops in Canada.

There are not, to my knowledge, any U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Therefore, at least one Canadian port will be and must be contained in any "Alaskan" cruise. Now you know.

A quick taxi ride gets us to the Cruise Port. We are among the first to board; we arrive at the terminal just after 2:00pm. Our bags are whisked away by porters. As we are the only ship in port, there are no lines. None. Our passports are checked by U.S. Customs & Immigration because we are technically leaving Canada now and, as we enter the boarding area we are back in the USA even though we are on a dock in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our carry-on bags are run through the x-ray machine and we are run through the metal detectors. At the next position we are checked in by Silversea and given our suite cards which are magnetic keys. Our next stop was the ships reception desk where they confiscated our passports, took a digital photo to attach to our suite card file, ran my credit card for incidentals and a steward escorted us to our suite: 719.

It is the largest accommodation I've ever enjoyed on a ship; you can check the floor plan for yourself. Our bags won't be here for a while so B4 leads Fred and Jami and me on a ship tour which primarily consisted of finding the spa and making multiple appointments for various services there. large_B4BedroomDoor.JPGlarge_B4LivingRoom.JPG

We are greeted by our butler, Abraham. He cannot tell us when our bags will arrive and he cannot tell us whether or not our specialty reservation at La Dame has been confirmed. Mostly, he is of no value as yet. Off to the spa, I can see that this is going to take a while so I retreat to the pool bar. I am joined by a smiling B4 who has three things arranged. We are back to 719 to unpack and then off to Muster Station B on Deck 5 for the mandatory emergency drill.

Our Captain is Swiss Samuele Failla who joined Silversea is 2003, the same year I started ej4. The Staff Captain is Sicilian Giacomo Castiglione, formerly with Carnival but I won't hold that against him. As second in command, he is responsible for ships's maintenance as well as being in charge of safety, security and discipline on board. The Chief Engineer is Italian Guido Capurro formerly with Costa and new at this; he became chief engineer only last year. The Hotel Director is Romanian Marius Octavian I. Sima, with Silversea for a decade, formerly as Food & Beverage Manager on the Silver Whisper, Silver Shadow and Silver Spirit. Finally, the Cruise Director is Dominican Rico Du-Breil who greeted me when we boarded and swears that he remembers me from a past voyage. He is mistaken but, hey. Formerly with Club Med, he joined Royal Caribbean in 1998 as an entertainer and joined Silversea in 2016.

At 5:45, I feel the ships engines come to life and see that leaving the pier. The port side bow thruster engages and the Silver Shadow begins to pivot so that we are on course to pass beneath the Lions Gate Bridge.

There are helicopters and sea planes buzzing about, freighters standing off and at piers here and there. North Vancouver is off to our starboard side (our suite is on the starboard--or right--side and I am enjoying the view from our extra-long balcony. The weather is perfect, the sky is clear, the city behind us is beautiful and we are happy.

It is 548 nautical miles to Ketchikan.

Posted by paulej4 18:42 Archived in Canada Tagged sea shadow silver Comments (0)

Day 2: Cruising the Inside Passage

You can never find your ulu when you need it

overcast 57 °F

"The Inside Passage." I find the phrase to be at once romantic and adventuresome. large_fa2f2020-8df0-11e8-bb63-8d9d18bdc66f.png

We awaken early to fog so thick you could cut it with an ulu*.

large_727FoggyMorning.JPGlarge_727PositionMap.JPG*According to Wikipedia: An ulu (Inuktitut syllabics: ᐅᓗ, plural: uluit, English: "woman's knife"[1]) is an all-purpose knife traditionally used by Inuit, Yupik, and Aleut women. It is utilized in applications as diverse as skinning and cleaning animals, cutting a child's hair, cutting food, as a weapon and, if necessary, trimming blocks of snow and ice used to build an igloo.

After about an hour, B4 uttered to me--with a straight face--"I think the fog might be lifting a little bit. I can see a little bit more water than before." She loves to cheer me up. Knowing from the map on the in-suite television screen that land is nearby on both sides of the vessel, being able to see a little bit more water is not reassuring to me. B4 made that statement without her glasses so you must take it with a grain of salt--or in this case--salt water. The temperature is 54 degrees outside and we are on a northwest heading at 17 miles per hour into a breeze of 28 miles per hour. The wind is not enough to move the fog.

I ordered black coffee for two and it arrived in 15 minutes. Then, I ordered black coffee for two again and it arrived in 5 minutes. Tomorrow, I'll order black coffee for four and expect it in 10 minutes.

Today's weather forecast is for sunny skies with a hight of 86 and a low of 5 degrees warmer than it is right now at 7:15am. My fingers are crossed but I can't see them because if I hold them at arms length they are shrouded by fog.

This is a "sea day" meaning that we have but two things on our agenda: enjoy each other and perhaps participate in items on the ship's schedule of activities. My love has booked herself a "Body Composition Analysis" at 9:30 at the ZAGARA spa. Later, B4 is drawn to the 11:15 "Cooking Demonstration with Executive Chef Grant. Come and learn the culinary secrets of our chef and impress your family and friends back home." I am uncertain as to what that means but I suspect that he will teach her how to cook for our next party of 382 guests without employing a caterer. She is keen for the Martini Cocktail Demonstration as well. I've no idea where that came from.

Tonight at 7:00 in The Show Lounge, Captain Failla cordially invites all guests for "Welcome Aboard" cocktails and later on at 10:00 Silversea proudly presents: "Argento" featuring the Voices of Silversea. Our Swing show charts the success of this great distinctive style of music, from the early 1930s, right up to modern day interpretations of the genre." Looking around, there will be plenty of eye-witnesses to that period to testify to the accuracy of this portrayal.

Here we are at sea but not. The literature boasts: "Always within reach of land, Silver Shadow glides past isolated communities nestled beneath hills which turn into mountains which turn into sky. There are seals on ice floes, glaciers, calmer waters than one would find outside on the Pacific and sea life below that reveals itself and then hides again." The swells are such that Silver Shadow--and this is the major downside of opting for a small ship rather than a larger and/or behemoth sized one--is rocking and rolling at a modest rate but enough so that I, normally unaffected by seasickness, lost my 8:00 breakfast at 10:30. Both B4 and I had vowed to come home without gaining weight. I am feeling good about my prospects as we pass through this more unprotected portion of our routing: Queen Charlotte Strait.

Trivia: Last night around midnight we passed through a narrow channel called the Seymour Narrows of the Northwest Passage. Here, tidal currents can be downright treacherous approaching 15 knots (about 17 miles per hour) where once stood submerged Ripple Rock, twin peaks blocking or partially blocking the narrows (2500 feet side to side) as they were a mere nine feet below the surface of the water at low tide. Mariners would hit the rocks or get caught in eddies created by the swirling currents around the rocks. Over 100 people died here. In 1958, Ripple Rock was exploded (one of the largest non-nuclear planned explosions in history) in a nationally televised event. Google "Ripple Rock" and see for yourself. It was pretty spectacular. We barely noticed our passing there because we were sound asleep.

At precisely 3:27pm, Silver Shadow emerged from the dense fog bank and into clear air, albeit beneath a cloudy sky. We still cannot see land off our starboard side (and there is only Pacific Ocean at port) but we can see from charts that are just about abeam of the southern end of Aristazabal Island. Said another way, there is still fog masking our vista but it is far away. Like a skunk, it's impact is diminished with distance.

The seas have calmed a bit so Silver Shadow follows suit. The headwind has actually increased to about 32 miles per hour and our speed has decreased to just under 15 miles per hour. Somehow, though, being able to see farther off the starboard side than a hundred yards or so is uplifting. B4 snoozes but I am energized and will now find total concentration on my book (Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder which is referenced in front page news of the current day) will be more difficult. Read this book. 2625de20-91ee-11e8-a0f2-9d9ef7aad4eb.jpg Were she awake, she would strongly agree with this recommendation.

Energized by the fog's departure, we head up one deck to the Panorama Lounge for afternoon tea. I am more of a coffee person but B4 orders tea and is given a brew timer to ensure the perfect cup.

Scones, a pianist and our first clear view of the passing sea help us fritter away 45 minutes or so before we are back to 719. My suits are freshly pressed, Abraham delivers afternoon snacks and there is a fresh bottle of Bianca Vigna Prosecco extra dry on ice in the sterling bucket.

Our dinner reservations are at 7:30 at La Dame, obtained after much to do, angst and wrangling. Offering seating at a mere 7 tables for a maximum of 30 guests, this tiny restaurant is in high demand and most passengers are disappointed--even angry--to not be allowed in or to find reservations they thought they had lost or otherwise not honored. We attempted to make reservations 30 minutes after the opening date for requests--weeks ago--and found that every slot for every night was already taken. Or, not. Cajoling and persistence seems to have paid off because we have a table for four at 7:30. From a public relations perspective, Silversea would be better off not having this dining venue as it causes upset among those not admitted. No one, from a fine dining experience, wants a bad taste in their mouth. The service was quite good; B4 said she thought the food in the main dining room was slightly better. So, our advice is: save the money and the aggravation and worry about getting into La Dame only if you feel the need to check it off your bucket list.

By the way, the "dress code" is in no way enforced on this ship. I saw one tuxedo and only a handful of ties and, oddly, a few t-shirts. My theory about dress codes is a simple one: if you have it, enforce it; if you're not going to enforce it, for heaven's sake, don't have it. (I wore a black suit and a black and white tie over a crisp white shirt and felt good about it. But then, uncommon among men (I am told) I love to "dress up."

Captain Failla's cocktail soiree featured introductions of the senior staff. Argento was nothing to write home about even though I am, here, writing home about it. Clocks are set back tonight one hour and, behold, when we arrive back at 719, the staff has already performed that task on our bedroom clock radio. That's service.

Oh, about that weather forecast:large_bb7ef320-91fe-11e8-8dae-f100da726c18.jpgOops.

Posted by paulej4 06:15 Archived in USA Tagged inside passage Comments (0)

Day 3: Ketchikan

What a difference a day makes; twenty-five little hours... The weather is gorgeous.

sunny 78 °F
View Silver Seas Cruise on paulej4's travel map.

We arrive at Ketchikan at 8:00am joining the Grand Princess (2,600 passengers and 1,150 crew) which got here two hours ahead of us. The Disney Wonder (2,400 passengers and 950 crew), which I can see on the horizon astern, is due to dock at 11:00am. Adding our 382 passengers and 295 crew members, there are 7,777 visitors here today. The high is forecast to be 76 degrees, the low 60 degrees with sunny skies with a 10% chance of rain.

The morning is spectacular. The sea is calm because the wind has subsided to but a breeze. We watched the sunrise over the mountains as we cruised closer to Ketchikan and left the sliding door to our veranda open to enjoy the 65 degree morning. The sound of the waves reminds me of our place in Vero Beach. This is but one of the things that I love about cruising and what I hope B4 comes to love as well.

Ketchikan, settled in 1885, is home to just over 8,000 people and is the southeasternmost city in the state of Alaska. If you count the folks living in surrounding boroughs, the population climbs to just under 14,000 people. Just under twenty percent of these folks are of Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian descent. Water dominates the region. In fact, Ketchikan is located on the west coast of Revillagigedo Island (called Revilla Island by the locals). At one point, there were seven salmon canneries in operation here producing 1.5 million cases of salmon each year. Logging was big here until the turn of the century. Today, most folks here work in farming, fishing and forestry along with the typical services needed to support any city.

This is either the first or last stop on almost every “Inside Passage” Alaska cruise. In all, around 500 times this season—from May 3 through October 6—cruise ships will tie up here bringing just over one million people to visit what is billed as “the world’s largest collection of totem poles.”

No vehicles are allowed on many of Ketchikan’s streets because they are actually wooden walkways, the most infamous of which is Creek Street, once Ketchikan’s red light district which formerly hosted around 30 brothels.

The Ketchikan International Airport is a five-minute ferry ride from here on Gravina Island. You may recall the infamous proposed $398 million “Bridge to Nowhere.” In 2005, then U.S. Senator Ted Stevens proposed it to replace the ferry. Labeled “pork barrel spending” it was fiercely opposed as wasteful, and never built.

The whole place is surrounded by the 17 million acre Tongass National Forest which is the largest in the United States. large_OutsideKetchikan.JPGSailing in you get an idea of how much timber there is. Forty miles away is Misty Fiords (Fjords if you prefer) which is accessible only by boat or float plane.

KetchikanMainStreet.JPGEffyStoreCloseBy.JPGb1c3d5e0-9284-11e8-88ad-6986f9091436.JPGOverBusyKetchikan.JPGSilverShadowTiedUpKetchikan.JPGBusyKetchikanHarborWide.JPGSummerJob.JPGBerylBalconyCU.JPGBerylBalconyWide.JPGBerylWithMiner.JPGOur berth is in the primary spot--even though Grand Princess arrived ahead of us--and the view from our veranda is directly down Mission Street. A panoramic view gives proof to B4's comment that this looks more like a movie set than a real town just as long as the movie you are making is about jewelry stores. Were it up to us, EFFY would star in the film. We stopped in their store and visited with the manager and staff, swapping stories about Effy and Benny and more. Once they figured out who B4 was their eyes lit up bigger than their jewelry--which is stunning of course. EFFY is wonderful product from wonderful people.

As we sailed in, B4 and I snagged an outside table for breakfast lingering as those who had early excursions fled the ship. This is truly a delightful morning.

We have agreed to meet Fred and Jami to disembark Silver Shadow at 9:30. Our itinerary called for us to meet our shuttle bus near the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau at the Rain Gauge and bronze “Founding Fathers” statue at 9:40am for a 10:00am departure from Misty Fjords Air & Outfitting Seaplane Base. That is, thanks to Jami's pre-arrangements, what allowed us to have such a leisurely morning.

Our aircraft is a 5 passenger plus pilot and co-pilot (we don't have a co-pilot so Jami sits there) de Havilland Beaver and we are treated to a one-hour-fifteen-minute flight over 2.3 million acres of untouched rugged wilderness with one twenty minute stop on the water. Eric is our captain. Born and raised and still in Ketchikan, he fell in love with airplanes as a little guy and is living his dream; at least in the summer months.

He tells us that Ketchikan and its downtown is "mostly boarded up" from the time the last cruise ship departs in early October until the first one arrives on May Day.

B4 and I have seaplane experience out of New York City with wonderful friends Dennis and Liz so the water landing on the Beaver’s pontoon floats is old hat. Below us are vertical rock formations, including New Eddystone Rock, large_NewEddystoneRock.JPGsnow capped peaks far in the distance (up to 6,000 feet above sea level), waterfalls, freshwater lakes and saltwater fjords. large_AlgaeBloomBoundaryKetchikan.JPGAlgae plumbs have overtaken much of the seawater below making for excellent filter feeding for humpbacks but none were here today for the feast.

Sometimes there are black bears, grizzly bears, mountain goats, bald eagles and whales and we all have a window seat for the show. But the show is a no-show. I saw one eagle far below us. Oh; and bear poop on the beach. (Does a bear poop in the woods? I don't know but that's a 'yes' for the beach.) 3374f940-92b5-11e8-8c1b-45d45e92d879.jpgThe noise-cancelling headsets are a nice feature allowing us to clearly hear our captain’s narration. FYI: Misty Fjords Air boasts “a perfect safety record since our inception in 1981.” Today is no exception. Eric says there are about 40 "floats" flying cruise ship tourists around here on any particular day; I believe him as they are thick as bees near a hive.BerylDeplaning.JPGBerylPaulBehmCanalCove.JPGLandingOffBehmCanalCove.JPGGroupWIthBeaver.JPG

According to the Ketchikan Daily News, the same cannot be said for Taquan Air (just a couple of miles up the road and buzzing by us as I write this) which had one of its de Havilland DHC-3T Turbine Otters carrying 11 passengers crash into the side of Mount Jumbo on July 10th. 72-year-old pilot Mike Hudgins said he had been flying under visual flight rules with visibility at 3 to 5 miles when clouds and fog closed in and he tried to climb out of it but ended up crashing into the side of the mountain. The U.S. Coast Guard sent Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Sitka to the site to implement rescue operations. As with our flight today, everyone survived.TaquanAir.JPGKetchikanDuckTour.JPG

The Ketchikan Duck Boat Tours are only slightly filled. The Branson tragedy of just nine days ago where seventeen died is perhaps to blame.

All aboard was 1:30 (and all were) and we sailed at 2:00. B4 has a spa appointment at 3:00 (BIOTEC Firm-A-Lift...whatever that is. The only thing I know is that it was delivered by an esthetician whatever that is) and I have a writing assignment, hereby undertaken. At 5:30 there is "Boutique's Special: Diamond and gemstone talk with Alberto Brand Ambassador Anna." B4 buys from Alberto and wants to go. Should I warn Anna as to who is going to be in her audience? No; such pressure has been known to create atrial defib.

But before any of that we again go to "Afternoon Teatime" where Natalia plays and we have finger sandwiches. We are so damned civilized that I want to hold my pinky up whilst I sup my English Breakfast. That's a lie by the way. I had coffee with my finger sandwiches. I was shocked to learn that they come in many varieties, none of them containing fingers.

When we return to 719, Abraham has provided a new bottle of prosecco, properly iced in our silver bucket and delivered this evening's canapés: guacamole and ceviche with chips, fancy olives, portions of a spanish frittata accompanied by fresh fruit, including B4's favorite fresh berries. I hope this can hold us until dinner.

The Captain comes on the PA and announces whale spouts ahead. I get out the camera and the big lens and there is a payoff. Just off our balcony: one good tail picture.large_TailDrenched.JPG

Did I mention that laundry and pressing is included at no charge? No? Well, it is. Ours came back with our dainties properly folded and wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a bow. I am, frankly, disappointed that my shirts don't arrive pre-placed upon my body. Dinner tonight is supposed to be "Dinner Under The Stars at The Pool Grill" at 7:00. The stars will be up there but will undoubtedly go unseen as sunset is not until 8:58pm at this longitude. But the real problem is the wind and the dropping temperature. We decide to forego "Under The Stars," change clothes a bit and head back to the main dining room; it's again great.

The Silversea "Voices of Silversea" are performing "O'Reilly's" tonight but we skip it. There is a Silver Shadow Trio to hear in the Panorama Lounge and Piano Vocal Soloist Ramon in The Bar. We try Ramon. I don't care for him; he uses a synthesizer with strings and organs and heaven knows what else. It's too much. I have heard only a snippet from Cocktail Pianist Natalia (She is in The Bar before dinner) but she is very good indeed. Truth be told, B4 aspires to be like Natalia at the keyboard. When she has time for lessons, I wouldn't bet against her. She should have time for lessons in 2022 or so.

Goodnight, Moon.

Posted by paulej4 23:36 Archived in USA Tagged alaska ketchikan Comments (1)

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