Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Cruise - Day 4

Skagway was a little town at the end of the Taiya Inlet where people came for the Alaskan gold rush in 1920.  It’s a pretty touristy town now.  We had breakfast at Triton’s this morning before heading out to our excursion.  Are excursion was to head out to the glacier. It was my first time in a helicopter and I don’t think it will be my last.  The view was amazing!  We traveled up the Taiya Inlet around to the glacier.  Along the way, we could see whales in the water.  I think they were humpbacks.  We were about 2,000ft up so they were hard to identify.  All along the way the water was like glass and the mountains were dense with trees.  A lot of the mountains had snow on the peaks.  As we traveled high above a river that came out into the Taiya Inlet, we approached the glacier.  I think spectacular would describe it.  We landed on it and walked around.  There were huge crevices, really blue water channels running off of it, and words cannot describe the massiveness of it.

After spending some time on the glacier, we headed to the helicopters and flew back to the port.  The scenery was as beautiful coming back.  We flew over the Disney Wonder before we landed and I was able to get video if it.  Once on the ground, we visited the town of Skagway and dropped off some postcards to family back home.  Then we got back on the ship and hung out for the rest of the night.

Here are some pictures from our helicopter trip to the glacier.

May 12, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Cruise - Day 3

Today was really cold.  We worked our way up to Tracy Arm, which was a spectacular view of all the amazing mountain ranges.  We woke up around 7:30am and ate breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet.  We went to a presentation after breakfast about one man’s journey down the Yukon River in a kayak.  After that it was all about scenery while we made our way up to Tracy Arm.  Along the way, we saw whales breaching!  Such an amazing site to see, even if you’ve seen it before.  The Disney characters were prowling the decks in their winter outfits throughout the day.  As we got closer to Tracy Arm and the glacier, the weather got colder and icebergs starting showing up in the water.  By the time we made it to the glacier there were so many icebergs it was amazing with the glacier in the background.  Also, we had prime viewing of the glacier, since we had our massage rescheduled for today.  We ended up in the Jacuzzi at the same time we came up to the glacier.  It couldn’t have been better.  After our spa treatment, which included a hot stone massage for her and a seaweed wrap and massage for me, we headed back down to our room to get ready for dinner.

Dinner was good; we ate at Parrot Cay tonight.  After Parrot Cay, we headed back to our room to call it a night.  Tomorrow, Skagway!

Here are some pictures from Tracy Arm.  Amazing sites!

May 11, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Cruise - Day 2

This morning we headed to Parrot Cay for Character breakfast and to meet our table mates for the first time since we missed them at dinner last night.  It turns out that some of them were also at Palo last night so everyone met for the first time this morning.  We were seated with 3 guys from Atlanta, Georgia and a couple from Holland.  Everyone got along great and we had nice conversation.  We got pictures with Chip, Dale, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy during breakfast.  Later in the day we had a massage package in the spa villas at the Vista Spa that included relaxing in a private hot tub, but unfortunately the hot tub wasn’t working.  So they gave us a complimentary massage and rescheduled our actual massage for the next day.  Kati watched “The Golden Mickey’s”, another Broadway style show; I decided to watch the views of our way up through the pass.  We got dressed up for formal night and got pictures taken with Mickey and Minnie then had dinner at Animator’s Palate and headed for bed.

No pictures today, but I promise lots will be posted soon.

May 10, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Vancouver - Day 4

Today we woke up at 5am to drive to Stanley Park to watch the Disney Wonder come in to port around 6:10am and so we can get pictures.  It was so exciting to watch it get closer and closer to the Lions Gate Bridge from the Straight of Georgia.  As it got closer, we realized how big this ship really is.  It was such a spectacular site to see.

After we watched the Wonder come in we headed back to the hotel to eat breakfast and re pack our entire luggage.  Once that was completed, we headed down the street to the cruise terminal to turn in our rental car.  Since we were only told to turn it in at the cruise terminal, we weren’t exactly sure where to go, so it took us a little time to realize that the rental car return was actually in the main parking garage for the cruise terminal!  Duh!  Once we got the car turned in, we were headed to check in.  But first customs, that was really easy, no questions, just show our passport, get stamped, and onto the next step.

The computers for the Disney Wonder check in were acting up and people were getting irritated.  Not us, we were just glad we were on vacation and taking it all in.  We knew we were getting on the ship. 

About 1 ½ hours later, we were on the Disney Wonder!  We headed to Beach Blanket Buffet to grab some lunch and take in the beautiful city of Vancouver from a different perspective.  After 2pm our room was ready and we headed down to settle in.  The cruise was on!

We watched the sail away party on Deck 9, headed to the first Broadway style show called “All Aboard, Let the Magic Begin”, and got dressed up for our dinner reservations at Palo.  Palo will always be one of my favorite restaurants on and off the ship.  It’s Italian Cuisine and is for adults only.  Make sure to make reservations before you get on the ship.  The chocolate soufflĂ© is the world famous dessert to have!

Palo will fill you up and after we were done there, we went to our room and got ready for bed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 9, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Vancouver - Day 3

The whole time we have been here so far there hasn’t been any rain, mist, or drizzle at all.  The weather reported showers before we arrived to Vancouver, but today it's sunny and we’re headed out to see some whales!

We headed to Richmond to the Stevenston Harbor to board a boat from Vancouver Whale Watch company.  After about an hour ride from Canada to US waters around the San Juan Islands near Washington state, we saw a pod of Orca whales.  Along the way we saw a lot of Bald Eagles, California Sea Lions, Great Blue Heron, and Harbor Seals.  After spending some time watching the Orcas, which was very cool to see, we saw wild deer on an island, and Stellar Sea Lions. 
Orca Whales and baby
Bald Eagles
Stellar Sea Lions
California Sea Lions
Once we arrived back on land, we had lunch we packed and headed back to Vancouver.  We took a nap, ate dinner, and went down stairs to grab dessert. 

Tomorrow we will wake up early, around 5am to watch the Wonder come into port before we board later in the day.

May 8, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Vancouver - Day 2

Inukshuk - The symbol that Canada used for the
2010 Winter Olympics

Today we went out to see the city and then some.  It’s been about 55 degrees everyday, so definitely manageable.  It’s just like being in the winter I came out of at home.  After waking up, we had some breakfast, got ready, and hit the road.  We had a couple things on our list.  First up was seeing the Inukshuk (the symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics that was here in Vancouver).  We arrived there in about 10 minutes or less from our hotel.  Then we walked on the beach from where the Inukshuk was and got some pictures of the scenery.  Have I mentioned the air is clean?  The area was peaceful.  It was at that point I thought about living here.  Well there is that and free tuition for a University!  Oh, and Vancouver is trying to be the cleanest city in the world, and they are big gay community supporters, and their taxes are not outrageous, and all the people I met so far are friendly.  Now, if the medical coverage is good, the housing market is reasonable, and the job market pays well, you may have a new family in your country! 

Okay, got off on a rant there, continuing where I left off, after the beach walk, we headed to Stanley Park (the park named after the same guy that they named the Stanley Cup after.)  This park is huge!  I was told, bigger than Central Park in New York.  This was again, only 10 minutes or less from the hotel and the beach where we came from.  We parked in a parking lot and started walking along the trail around the perimeter.  This park is a rainforest with huge redwood, cedar, and Douglas fur trees in it.  Around the outside trail is the bay.  We started walking around the outside to see all the different landmarks all of which we have pictures of.  First we started on the shipyard side.  There were a lot of cargo ships in the area.  My guess is fish amongst typical import/export products.  In the same area they have a bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  It’s very high up, but not as long, going from the park and connecting to North Vancouver.  The next landmark was the lighthouse.  As we rounded the bend we can see seaplanes taking off from the water and giving tours of the area.  We can also see the cruise terminal where we will be leaving out of on May 10, 2011.  To sum it up, I think we walked at least 5 miles around the perimeter and through the middle of the park.  We saw some local wildlife like Canadian Geese with their chicks, Brown Squirrels, we even saw Raccoons we were able to get really close to.  After we finished our trek, we got back to the car and ate the lunch we packed. 
Here's some pictures from Stanley Park:
The Light House at Stanley Park

Great Blue Heron at Stanley Park

Raccoon at Stanley Park

One of the many trails through Stanley Park
After lunch was done, we were not.  We were off to the Capilano Suspension Bridge.  It’s a walking bridge that is not too wide and is about 200 feet above the river below.  This was on the way up to Grouse Mountain where we were headed.  I am afraid of heights, but I always seem to push myself to the limit of conquering that.  This was a very cool place.  It’s a suspension bridge that has been there since the 1800’s.  It has been reinforced and safe, etcetera, etcetera!  It’s something like 150 feet across.  So it’s no small thing.  After getting to the other side, there was more walking areas were you can hover over the cliff and look straight down.  Also, in this particular forest area there are a lot of old trees and it was cool just to be there.  They have a Douglas Fur tree that was aged at 1300 years old, it was 205 feet high, and 20 feet around.  That’s a big Christmas tree!  We also walked around up in the trees through a series of small suspension bridges before heading back across the main bridge and to the car.

We certainly were still not done with the day and headed up the street from here to Grouse Mountain.  Sounds far right?  Before you read more, I want you to understand that we are staying in downtown Vancouver.  It’s pretty much at sea level.  For those of you who have been here, you will understand.  Okay, we headed to Grouse Mountain, it was only 15 minutes away from downtown Vancouver and it’s a ski resort!  There is no snow in Vancouver at the time we are here, but once we got up to the top of Grouse Mountain via a tram ride (1 mile up) they had runs open and a lot of snow still.  We just went there to check out the scenery.  I wish I brought my snowboard!  Unfortunately, it was pretty foggy up at the top today, but if it wasn’t, we could see Stanley Park and all of Vancouver!  Just 15 minutes from downtown!  Everything is here and so close!  I love Vancouver so far!

Once we got down off the mountain, we got back in the car and drove back to the hotel.  It literally took us about 20 minutes to get from the parking lot at Grouse Mountain to the front door of our hotel!  That’s crazy knowing that it’s two totally different climates and terrains from downtown to 4,500 feet up and that close.

After getting back to our hotel room, we weren’t really exhausted, but we were done for the night.  We took a shower, made some food, and watched some TV.

May 7, 2011 - Alaska Cruise on the Wonder - Vancouver - Day 1

We leave from SFO to Vancouver.  It was a quick 1:45 minute flight.  We rented a Chevy Impala to get around in the next four days.  From the airport we went to a Super Store, kind of like a Wal-Mart super store, but Vancouver’s version, to pick up some groceries.  We got a hotel room with a full kitchen, so we decided to save money and buy food to cook.  After we shopped there we drove to our hotel, Century Plaza Hotel in downtown Vancouver.  While on our way there, we went through what looked to be the upper class side of town with big houses and fancy cars.  I was blown away by first seeing a Ferrari driving down the street, then I saw a Bentley, and I was driving behind a Lamborghini (pictured below).  

After being blown away by all that, we made it to downtown.  It really is like San Francisco like other people have said it was like.  But it is a lot cleaner!

We checked in and stayed in for the rest of the day.  It was about 5-6pm when we arrived to our hotel.  So we decided to make some dinner and watch TV and get settled in.  The sun sets at about 10pm here during this time of year and rises around 5am.

This is a view outside our hotel room.