Day 3 ~ Ketchikan

Vancouver to Ketchikan    535 Nautical Miles        Speed 14.4 Knots

If Vancouver was considered our first port of call then Ketchikan is our first Alaskan Port of Call.

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It’s still raining. That’s not too surprising because Ketchikan, besides being the “Salmon Capital of the World” is also the Rainfall Capital of the U.S. Ketchikan is located in what is sometimes called the “Banana Belt” of Alaska for it’s mild summer climate if you can tolerate the rain. They even have a Liquid Sunshine Gauge to measure the average rainfall which can reach 152 inches per year.

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Ketchikan is located in the Tongass National Forest, part of a temperate rain forest that extends from Northern California through Southeastern Alaska creating a climate that allows for such majesty as the California Redwoods. Tongass is the earth’s largest  remaining temperate rainforest with over 17 million acres of forest and protected wildlife preserve.

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Ketchikan sits on its own island, Revillagigedo Island. This is such a tiny town it would only take about an hour to explore it on foot. Most of the island is  a steep, craggy wilderness with the town hugging the shore. Most of the streets are built over a complex array of trestles and boardwalks.

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From the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center to Misty Fjords there is so much to see in such a little town and so little time. We will only be in port for about 6 hours.

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Speaking of Misty Fjords, this is a national Monument named for the weather conditions you are likely to encounter but the areas profound beauty has earned it the nickname of “Yosemite of the North”. Accessible only by floatplane or boat  put the cost of this excursion out of our range for this trip. According to the passengers that did go, it was well worth the money spent.

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When in the Salmon capital it’s important to know that there are 5 different Species of wild pacific Salmon. To remember the 5 types of Salmon just raise your hand.

  1. Your thumb rhymes with Chum-Chum Salmon…Chum
  2. Your pointer finger can “sock” someone in the “eye” – sockeye Salmon…sockeye
  3. Your middle finger is the tallest – King Salmon…King
  4. Slip a silver ring on your ring finger – Silver Salmon…silver
  5. And your pinky –  well that’s easy – Pink Salmon…Pink

Ketchikan is sometimes called Alaska’s “First City  ” because  it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north.

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Ketchikan was originally a summer fishing camp for the Tlingit (pronounced Kling-it). In 1883 a man by the name of “Snow” opened the first salmon saltery and a fishing town was born. When gold and copper were found in the surrounding mountains a supply center was needed and Ketchikan flourished.

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Creek St, Ketchikan’s downtown section, is said to be the most photographed street in in Alaska! Now lined with shops and art galleries Creek St was once the town’s red light district.

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Ketchikan was the first chance we had to learn about the cost of living in Alaska. Fresh produce is scarce and pricey and milk  can run as much as $6.00 / gal. As we rode in the tour bus along Creek street we spotted a “Burger Queen”. Ketchikan has a Family Dollar or should I say $1.29 store. It lasted as a dollar store about 30 days before the cost of shipping in goods forced a price increase. But the best example was the local Subway where you could enjoy the foot long special for only $9.00. (if you have a local Subway you know that’s a $5.00 ft. long in the lower 48)

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Even souvenirs are not immune. If you are a plus size expect to pay a surcharge of $3.00 per T-Shirt!

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Ketchikan is home to The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show but we decided to explore the culture of the native  Tlingit people with a visit to the Saxman Native Village.

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Day 2 at Sea

Last night after leaving Vancouver the Island Princess turned to starboard  at Point Atkinson passing into the Straight of Georgia. Had we been looking we might have seen Point Atkinson Lighthouse at the mouth of Burrard Inlet but we were either in the Princess theater or perhaps sleeping.

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Once in the Strait of Georgia we are headed north to Alaska at last. Vancouver Island lies to the west along the port side  while the mainland and off shore islands of British Columbia lie to the east or starboard.  This is the beginning of the famous Inside Passage.

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The Inside Passage stretches for over 1000 miles north providing an almost continuous protected route to Alaska. We are following the path of such notables as Captain Cook and naturalist John Muir.

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Following our breakfast buffet at the Horizon Court on the Lido Deck we retired to the Lotus Spa for our massages. I’d like to say it was pure heaven but only if you sprinkle in a bit of pain. It had been many years since I have enjoyed a deep tissue massage and I had the knotted muscles to prove it. It took my masseuse a good deal of effort to work the kinks out of my shoulders and upper back…Ouch! but in the end I was moving better than I had in years. I may have to consider doing this more often.

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A sea day is either boring (if you don’t like cruising) or relaxing. In our case the rainy, raw weather followed us out of Vancouver. This is when the cruise director and his staff can really shine. It’s up to them to have enough activities to keep even the most restless of their passengers amused.  On the Island Princess activities included a spinning class, yoga and zumba.

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Shopping is also a big pastime. They even devote a channel to this subject on the ship’s TV lineup. Another big draw is gambling. The casino hosts a $500 Slot Tournament and later on a $60 Texas Hold’Em Tournament.  There’s also bingo and a ballroom dance class. Today’s lesson the Cha Cha. Around 3pm, if the Cha Cha wasn’t for you, a line dance class was being offered in the Universe Lounge, one of the entertainment venues.

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Round out the activities with a presentation about the Glaciers by the naturalist on board, an afternoon trivia game or an afternoon tea in the Bordeaux dining room.

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Dinner tonight was one of the 2 formal nights planned for our 7 day cruise. This was the one time we saw the photographers in the dining room taking formal portraits.


Our night wrapped up with the evening show “Motor City” which as you have probably guessed was a salute to MoTown. It was a great show.

For the night owls the partying continued with  a 2nd presentation of Motor City , more gambling tournaments, a dance party, a comedy show and movies under the stars. Never a dull minute.

Island Princess Revealed

Like all of the other cruise ships I have ever been on, the Island Princess was huge.

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From Bow to stern the Island Princess measures 964.3 Ft.  Walk the halls back and forth just 3 times and you’ll almost have a mile! The ship is 105.6 ft. wide. She can carry a maximum of 2368 passengers and 810 crew members. The Island Princess first set sail in June of 2003.

The Island Princess has swimming pools. One is covered  but the other is in the open and eventually was drained as we cruised north and it got colder and colder.

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There is a small casino.

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A spa and beauty salon.

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Multiple entertainment venues.

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Movies under the stars (Even when it rain or so they claimed)

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Open decks

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An internet café…unfortunately because of the mountains the service was spotty and slow. I have an issue with paying for “minutes” when the service takes forever to connect. If the internet was fast I’d be the first to sign up. But I had to use it one day to answer just one work related email and it took 12 minutes of my 15 minute package to connect.

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I remember my first cruise. I spent most of my cruise lost. The 2nd cruise was easier and I found this one easier still but Sandy was on her first cruise and the size of the ship and all it’s decks was like a maze to her. It all takes time. By the end of the cruise she’ll be an old hand at getting around.

Day 1~Embarkation

Following our Scavenger Hunt list we explored the ship finding the shopping area including the Art Gallery, the Internet Café, Sabatini’s Italian Restaurant, and finally the Lotus Spa. Beware the spa visit!

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As we collected our stamp, Spa Attendant Dolly asked of we’d like to see the most relaxing place on the ship. Of course we said yes. She let us into a little room off the reception area where 4 ceramic lounge chairs were the main focus of the room. Even though we were still in traveling clothes she had us sit down on the chairs. Oh My! Heaven. The ceramic was heated and as it radiated up into my travel weary muscles I could feel the knots releasing! I hated to move. Sandy was feeling the same way. She immediately signed us up for a chocolate scrub and unlimited use of these stone beds.

I allowed myself to be convinced to have a massage as well and Sandy also agreed to have one. The fees were charged to our on board account. That makes it easy to spend without thinking about the actual cost. A dangerous side effect of the “cashless” policy.

About that time I realized I had lost my Scavenger Hunt Card. We’d accumulated all the stamps so we went looking for the Welcome Aboard Party to turn Sandy’s in. We ran into quite a few other guests looking for the same thing. Apparently the rain had canceled the party.

That was ok because now it was time for the Safety Drill/Briefing. Back to our stateroom we went to retrieve our life vests then down the stairs to our muster stations.( Sandy was worried about getting her daily walk in…Ha!) Once we were all assembled the crew performed a series of demonstrations on the use of the life vests before we had a chance to try them on ourselves. The Safety Briefing is mandatory on all cruises as a requirement of law. In view of all the recent  cruise ship mishaps, I think that’s a good thing!

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The Island Princess was scheduled to depart Vancouver at 4pm but was delayed for maintenance. That’s ok with me. Fix it now… not at sea!

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While we were at dinner in the Bordeaux dining room around 6:30pm we finally noticed we’d begun to move. As she sailed away from Vancouver the Island Princess sailed through the Burrard Inlet with Stanley Park on the port side. Lion’s Gate Bridge spans the inlet.

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What we didn’t realize at the time is that the sail away from Vancouver is ranked as one of the world’s most scenic.

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It is recommended that you view the departure from the outside deck allowing at least an hour to see all the highlights.

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Oops! Well we certainly enjoyed our dinner and met the first of some very interesting people even if we didn’t see all of the sights.

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After dinner we made our way to our balcony before we headed to the Welcome Aboard Show in the Princess Theater.

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Little did I know that this would be one of the last sunsets we’d see in quite awhile.

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Well Once again I am counting my lucky stars! Sandy and I had a great trip on the Island Princess only to come home to news that Royal Caribbean passengers aboard the Grandeur of the Seas are not having such a good time!

John Bacon and Gene Sloan, USA TODAY10:59 a.m. EDT May 27, 2013

MIAMI — A fire broke out Monday aboard a cruise ship on its way to the Bahamas, but the blaze was quickly extinguished and no serious injuries were reported, Royal Caribbean Cruises said.

The ship Grandeur of the Seas did not require evacuations and continued under full power, reaching Freeport, Bahamas, this morning. Royal Caribbean said that after the fire on a rear mooring deck, passengers had to report to evacuation stations. The ship is being “evaluated,” the company said.

“Grandeur of the Seas experienced a fire this morning. Captain mustered all guests. No injuries of guests or crew reported,” the line said on Twitter.

Royal Caribbean Cruises owns several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

The fire is the latest in a series of cruise ship mishaps that has shaken the industry. In February, fire in an engine room of the cruis ship Carnival Triumph left the ship dead in the water in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to a lack of propulsion, the ship was without power for essential services such as food preparation and, for a time, running water. Toilets stopped working, as did air conditioning and lighting. The vessel eventually was towed to Mobile, Ala., but not before passengers had to spend four days on board in what was described as miserable conditions.

America’s trust in cruise lines has dropped significantly in the wake of problems aboard the ships, according to a Harris poll released in March.

The survey of 2,230 U.S. adults, which took place between Feb. 19 and 21, found a 17% drop in a measurement of America’s trust in Carnival Cruise Lines following the much-publicized February incident.

Measurements of trust in rival lines including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Holland America also dropped, though not as sharply.