Alaska and beyond
Well, today’s stupid idea is to fly to Vancouver, Canada, and get an ocean going, and hopefully warm, cruiser to sail up the West coast of Canada through Alaska. Sue bought me this wonderful present for my 60th. So here we find ourselves at Gatwick about to board the 10.30am Transat Airlines flight, and we are going posh class and seated in row 1. Very posh, best I don’t speak throughout the entire journey. Having had recent training in the use of a knife and fork I feel prepared for the 10 hour flight that awaits us.
Our host Mark
Mark is our host on the flight. Apparently due to the jet stream we will be in the air for an hour longer than planned. Should arrive just after 1300. Big Sue enjoyed a glass of sparkling wine before takeoff. I only had orange juice, because no beer was ready! Flight good, food good, watched a few films and got through the ten hours. We are welcomed by rain. Immigration was nearly fully automated and the queues went quickly.
Century Plaza hotel
Cab to Century Plaza hotel, the rooms are a bit tired, but there is plenty of space with a settee and a little kitchenette area. Nice view!
We find an area called Davie Village where there are lots of bars and restaurants. First bar we go into is a gay bar. We move on to another for a couple of drinks then on to a Persian restaurant. It is now 8.15 Canada time, which means it is 0415 the following day in U.K. No wonder I’m tired. Get back to the hotel after finding a liquor store for my beer, then bed. Sweet dreams .
Eventually we got on board the Celebrity Infinity and to our stateroom, ie cabin, 7th floor. All very nice. Great balcony.
Evacuation practice at 1515 and depart at 1630. Thing is we didn’t get very far. After half an hour there was a medical emergency. All stop whilst said person was taken from the ship for treatment. I think it was about 1900 when we set off again.
It would seem the majority of the passengers have a much more liberal interpretation of ‘informal chic’. Jeans and shirts or leggings and over the bum tops seem to fit the dress code. Go to the Rendezvous Bar for Sue’s pomegranate mojito. Nice but it seems Cunard, and in particular the Queen Mary 2 make better cocktails. Band playing in the background. Go to Ice Martini Bar for espresso martini. Not bad but, once again, I have a very good Queen Mary 2 drink with which to compare it. Dinner at the Trellos restaurant at 2030 all very civilised. Back to the Rendezvous Bar for the guitarist/vocalist. All in tune but wrist slitting stuff.
Cruising all through the night. We’re sailing through the North Pacific Ocean. We’re passing a few very small islands with fir trees and then just water and a distant fog.
According to my navigation we have gone about 70 miles of the required 500 to get to our first call at Icy Strait tomorrow where we do the zip wire ride. Spend some of the morning in the therapy pool and then on to listen to a lady playing the piano and singing some of the old favourites.
Very relaxing. Gym in the afternoon for 30 minutes walking and 30 minutes looking at crumpet. Return to Rendezvous Bar to listen to the lady and the piano early evening and shortly after that another band perform until we go into dinner. Shared a table with six others. Wilson was our main waiter for the evening. A jazz band are playing for our last drinks of the evening. Clocks go back an hour overnight as we enter Alaska.
Better sleep. Wake up to a cloudy sky and outlines of mountains. Due to arrive at Icy Strait Point about 1600. Breakfast, gym then adjourn to the Café for piano and vocal entertainment as yesterday. We are now seeing fir tree islands and ranges of mountains as we go along. It is still quite cloudy but the sun strives to get through. We arrive at Icy Strait Point about 1500’ish.
Icy Strait Point
What a beautiful location. Very remote. Apparently we are the 1000th cruise ship to arrive and receive a traditional welcome of singing and banging of drums. Whilst up on deck 11 I see something glinting and moving through the water, then a puff of water, it’s a whale. Possibly two. Wow. As if that isn’t enough as we get off the ship there is a wonderful rainbow. It would seem Hoona, the name of the island, has 760 inhabitants and is home to brown bears, deer and is part of the salmon run. Some passengers saw the bears fishing down stream.
Icy Strait Point ZipWire Ride
Sue and I did the zip wire ride. It was great fun, well worth the overpriced excursion. We get to meet Woody the coach driver who was born and bred here, and I don’t think ever went anywhere else. A really nice bloke, without appearing rude, has a very simple way of life. The bar on the edge of the bay sold real ale so we stayed there for a while and had supper in the Oceanview Cafe as I couldn’t be bothered to get changed.
Early’ish breakfast so that we can enjoy all of the Hubbard glacier. Saw a couple of seals on some floating ice. Beautiful blues make up the glacier. Lots of bits falling off, calving I think it is called.
You hear a crack then a short while later you see the ice falling into the sea and then you hear the crash. Amazing. Lovely bay where there are mountains with snowfall on the top. It was a little cold but I braved it!
Café al Bacio
Café al Bacio for coffee and the pianist. We decided to give the talk about Celebrity cruises a miss but did go to a talk about Juneau which was very informative, and we’re told about a hike we can do. So that is tomorrow sorted. Down to Rendzvous bar where they are just starting a quiz, so quickly exit and go to Cellar Masters where two young girls are playing a keyboard and singing. Very pleasant. We go to the Constellation bar to meet the Captain and crew but the queue was too long so we returned to the Cellar Masters for another drink before dinner. Back to Rendezvous Bar for pianist and a band. Leave about 2330.
Arrive Juneau about 0700.
The ship leaves at 1930 so we have a full day to explore. Hike the Mount Roberts trail to the cable car stop. There is another trail beyond that is called Perseverance trail but that was another 90 or so minutes to the summit. We stayed put and were able to watch the sudden downpour of rain which would have made an already muddy, slippy path even worse. The walk was lovely through the national forest with not too many people on the path. The ride in the cable car took about 4 minutes for the descent.
Mount Roberts Trail, Juneau
Quick walk around town, find some coffee and some WiFi and return to the ship for a short while before heading back into town for a late lunch – sock eye salmon, whatever that is, and chips. Back to the ship and just dawdle between the Cellar Masters bar to the Rendezvous Bar for entertainment.
Whilst waiting for the kettle to boil I saw a whale, in fact, it was the first of two spottings from our balcony. As we were going for breakfast saw another one, even the tail splash! Whoopee …. since leaving Juneau we have been en route to Ketchikan, the most south east town in Alaska. When we leave Ketchikan we head back to Canada/British Columbia.
Approach to the town is through a narrow water channel. Lots of take offs and landings of seaplanes as we approach, dock and remain until 8pm this evening. Ketchikan is a little town still surviving in a 50’s way of life.
Sightseeing in Ketchikan
We walk to the old brothel and decline the $10 dollar tour. We follow the creek where the salmon go on their journey to the spawning ground. Never seen anything like it, lots of fish swimming against a torrent of water rushing against them over rocks and uphill sections of the river. Dead salmon abound as testament to the harshness of their journey. Nature seems to be very fickle. Got a glimpse of a seal in the river too. Adjourned to Annabelle’s bar/restaurant. The idea was to have a late lunch but as neither of us were hungry we just used the WiFi and had a lazy hour or so.
There were a few proper beers. We returned to the ship about 630 and just lounged about listening to various musical entertainment until bed at about 2300. Clocks go forward overnight.
Inside Passage returning to Vancouver
Disembarked from the Celebrity Infinity by 0930, taxi to Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver. Very nice. Not much of a hotel view though!
Sightseeing in Vancouver
Hop on hop off bus, two lines take us through the City and Park areas. Am particularly impressed with Stanley Park. Dine in Gastown area at an Indian restaurant after a couple of drinks in a local bar. Took photo of the Gas clock, a sightseeing must!
Bicycle tour Vancouver
After an ice cream stop we set off again on the return journey when the bike seizes up again. Another local comes to our rescue and he declares that the ‘derailer needs to be replaced! He contacts Simons Bikes, who we hired the bikes from, and they send out a member of staff for some on the road repairs. He turned up on some weird electric bike.
Managed to cycle back. Go to another local bar! As we have an early start we return to the hotel for an early night. I found this sign in Stanley Park on the toilet door, am I reading this wrong?
Up at 0515 for Rocky Mountaineer. Very efficient, there is a large hall for the 785 passengers, tea and coffee stations and stalls to buy the train merchandise. There is even a pianist to entertain us. We board at 0730 with the bag pipes being played. We’re in coach J5, seats 49 and 50. We are ‘Gold Class’ Goldleaf service, or whatever first class is on the Rocky Mountaineer. The glass roof certainly makes it special and the downstairs of the carriage is the dining hall. Very comfy seats, a sumptuous choice of breakfast and lunch and free flowing drinks of all denominations.
Gold Class, Goldleaf Service Rocky mountaineer
The last few miles are along the Kamloops lake. Absolutely beautiful. Saw osprey and eagle nests and some big horn sheep (looked like deers to me).
Wingate hotel is very nice, room spacious with two big beds. Lovely view from Hotel.
Dinner is taken up the road at some ‘redneck’ bar full of TV sport, beer, nachos and er ‘Red Necks’! A great evening.
Off to Jasper
Pick up at hotel is 0715. Second day on the train. The posh people sitting opposite us for breakfast on the train start to tell us about a ‘dreadful’ bar they went to last night. It appears to be the one we went to which we thought was good! To be fair this couple live in Devon and ‘open’ their gardens (Plural) to the general public.
More sunny, blue sky days. Scenery changes from semi arid desert to pine/spruce forests, rivers and lakes. There was a big forest fire in 2003 which wiped out a load of trees and due to lack of rain they have not regrown. Looks really eerie, like lots of matchsticks coming out of the ground.
Another sightseeing spot was the site of a train crash which killed hundreds. Lovely! Nice sightseeing spots of rushing rivers, different rock formations and the changing forests. Another sad story is that there is a beetle affecting the pine trees which eventually kills them off. The fir and spruce trees don’t seem to be affected. At the moment about 53% of the trees are dying as a result of this. Saw some more eagle and osprey nests, a badger lodge, a few big birds circling high above our train.
Cheese and wine pre lunch
The service on this train journey is superb resulting in me making the decision that the diet starts another day!. I need more exercise, and less booze. Having said that the food provided on the train was superb. As there are 2 sittings for lunch, we are the second sitting today, having just had breakfast and mid morning snacks, we are given a cheese and wine tasting session prior to lunch.
Drive to Banff
0750 pickup for glacier adventure. It is a lot colder here and we’ve lost the blue sky for cloud, albeit the sun did continue to fight through the cloud. First wildlife spot of the day was an elk. Huge creature. Through the day we visited the Icefield Parkway thru’ Jasper and Banff National parks.
Banff National park
This meant stunning scenery, very high mountains way above tree lines, glaciers, ice fields, waterfalls and forests. Some of the forests bore the scars of previous forest fires. Apparently we have been really lucky with the weather and visibility during our trip as there have been massive forest fires where the smoke obliterated views of the mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. This was also mentioned when we were on the cruise that visibility had been dreadful for weeks before our cruise. Another part of our day was the Columbia Icefield skywalk- a glass walkway 918 feet above the canyon! How brave were we?
We travelled on a special, huge wheeled vehicle on the Athabasca glacier and had a short walkabout on the glacier.
Visited lake Louise which surrounds the Fairmont hotel. Dropped off at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge, Banff. Lovely room with our own fireplace with logs provided.
Obviously I didn’t book or pay for it!
The town of Banff is very busy, the houses look very expensive.
Found a local brewery for supper. Got a free shuttle back to the hotel for a nightcap in the room. Wonderful day.
Sightseeing around Banff
I notice the destination on the front of the bus and remember that the local Red Indians use to call it ‘Lake Little Idiot’ but it got changed for political correctness purposes.
Buffalo Mountain Lodge Banff
Explore some more of the shops, and then just sit watching the world go by – on the Canada ales. Walk back to the hotel. Walk back into town and find a bar with an outside terrace so we can watch the people, vehicles and more importantly the views. I’m going to miss the mountains, amazing backdrops everywhere. Enjoy dinner in a Greek restaurant, Balkan. Very good seafood dish. Get the free shuttle back to the hotel and finish the day with a large glass of beer on the balcony. Nice place this Buffalo Mountain Lodge Banff.
Air Transat to Gatwick
Up at 0700 to pack and transfer to Calgary airport. All very painless and arrive at the airport just before 1200. After check-in we treat ourselves to the Aspire lounge for a few hours before boarding the plane, seats 2 A & C. Take off about 1600 and 8 hours 26 minutes later we arrive at Gatwick. Lovely food and service on Air Transat.
Great time …..