Cruising Family Style

So against our better judgement we have joined Kelly’s family on a Disney cruise in celebration of her fathers 65th birthday. We enjoyed the weekend before in Seattle with Kelly’s BFF from college and her family. Now we are on the boat, fondly remembering our time in Seattle with adults but, admittedly enjoying the sleeping late and impeccable attention and service from the cruise staff.

We are on a boat that is basically a floating city of all things Disney. There are over 10 restaurants, 5 bars and several venues with kids entertainment. Did we mention that even the beer mugs have The Mouse on them? There is a constant barrage of Disney music and pictures in the hallways and elevators. It’s a bit much for us, but the nephews are in heaven, the food is fantastic and we must again comment that the cruise staff is out of this world.

Admittedly, they are trying there best to keep us busy and entertained to the point that the schedules and appointments are ridiculous, but there are a lot of people on this boat and over half of them are children, so there is a lot of chaos to compensate for.
While there are only so many places to escape and experience some quiet we have found them all and, on the whole, are finding this to be an acceptable break from the hustle and bustle of our work lives.

The first three days of the cruise we are on the boat 24×7. We have been taking the stairs everywhere and using the outside track to get some exercise. There is a workout room, but every time we have seen it, it has been packed with talks about weight loss and healthy living ( a bit strange for a cruise that offers 24 hour ice cream and hamburgers). We did manage to get a good workout in while all the not-so-fit cruisers were attending a stomach-slimming session (funny that they talked about exercising but never once mentioned cutting back on trips to the buffet line!) The workout ended up being a bit painful for Todd as the ceiling in the room was low and he kept hitting his head while on the elliptical machine.
We can’t wait to get off the boat tomorrow! We scheduled a 38 mile bike ride into the Yukon. It sounds like it is all downhill, but it’s something.

Wednesday:
Today we finally got some gorgeous scenery! We spent the day slowly motoring up the narrow and twisting Tracey Arm. After several hours of spotting eagles and marveling the countless waterfalls on the sides of the fjords, we came to our turn around spot – the Sawyer Glacier. It was a perfectly picturesque spot – a wall of beautiful blue ice stretched across the fjord in front of us while dozens of seals basked on the floating ice that had calved off the main glacier. To top it off, a bald eagle swooped across the inlet and headed out the winding channel that we had just passed through. We spent about a hour in front of the glacier and then we slowly turned around the narrow fjord and headed out to the main channel.

Next we head to Skagway where we finally get off the boat tomorrow for a bike ride! We were informed that there was not enough interest in the longer bike ride, so we’ve downgraded to the 15 mike version. A little disappointing, but it’s still better than sitting on the ship for another day.

Thursday:
Finally, we got off the boat!!! Even though we didn’t have to meet up for our bike ride until 11:45, we got up at 7am, grabbed some breakfast and got off the boat. It felt good just to stretch our legs on solid ground. One thing that many of you may not know, and we were very surprised to discover… Skagway, Alaska is THE place to buy jewelry!! We know this because they gave several talks on the boat (that we did not attend) that were supposedly given to teach you everything you could ever possibly want to know about the fine art of jewelry shopping in Skagway.
As we explored Skagway we were surprised to learn that at least 90% of the buildings were selling jewelry – even the Starbucks was selling diamonds.
This mysterious over- abundance of jewelry shops had us scratching our heads.

Who are these people that travel allllll the way to Skagway, Alaska for jewelry ???
For those of you who don’t know much about Skagway, allow us to describe the quaint little town for you. It sits at the head of a beautiful bay, surrounded by mountains and miles and miles of untouched wilderness. It is a very picturesque place. If you close your eyes and and sit still for a few moments you can hear the river gushing by, the bears digging for grubs and the mad hoard of cruisers searching for their charm bracelets that are on sale for today only!
Did we mention that the town is at the base of the Tongass national forest (the largest national forest in the US!) and there isn’t even a sign denoting its existence.

Fortunately we weren’t staying in the town for long as we were ready to go for our bicycling adventure.

Our cycling adventure started with a train ride along the winding river, across the Canadian border and to the top of White Pass. We disembarked from the train in Fraser and mounted our bikes for the 15 mile ride down the mountain and back to Skagway.
We enjoyed the ride and were glad to see more of the area. We passed numerous waterfalls, scenic vitas and heard many stories about the history of the area and the Yukon gold rush. We completed the descent and arrived back in Skagway a bit cold, hit the liquor store and made it to boat in time for dinner with the family.
After dinner, Todd and the nephews went off to enjoy The Avengers in 3D in the on-board theatre and Kelly is relaxing, checking emails and keeping you all updated on our day :). Tomorrow we kayak in Juneau!

Friday:
Juneau was just as beautiful as Skagway. It has a population around 30,000 and is the Alaska state capital, even though there is no way to get to the city by car. We didn’t get the chance to spend anytime in the city itself because our plan was to try out sea kayaking.
We headed out to Douglas island, just across the channel from Juneau where we donned rain gear and loaded into kayaks. The weather cooperated nicely and while still chilly, we had a nice smooth cove to explore by kayak.

While kayaking, we did our normal arrangement that we found always works best – Todd steers and Kelly navigates. Once Kelly relaxed and turned off her back seat driver mode, we were gliding around the water like pros; at least compared to some of the other kayakers.
Our guide did a wonderful job of balancing paddling time, rest stops and relating stories about the area. The paddling felt fantastic and we had great views of the Mendenhall Glacier. We were surrounded by several islands, which we learned contained the the highest concentration of brown bears in the US and a fox farm gone wild. We also saw numerous bald eagles and a curious harbor seal that followed us for about 20 minutes, periodically poking his head out of the waters to check us out as we paddled along.
After about 90 minutes of paddling about, we made our way back to shore where we thawed out with hot apple cider, salmon spread and reindeer sausage. We were given pins proclaiming that we kayaked in Alaska (the nephews are now proud owners of two new Alaskan kayaking pins) and we headed back to the ship in time to shove off again for our next stop – Ketchikan. Tomorrow we’re attending a lumberjack show with Kelly’s family – should be ….. interesting.

Saturday:
Today was a short port of call. Todd is calling it the day of Rs for rain, rest rejuvenation and most importantly, lots of red wine.
We woke up in Ketchikan, Alaska, grabbed breakfast and headed out in the rain to check out the town. It was another touristy small town full of souvenirs and over-priced jewelry that were having the same “end-of-season” and “today-only-50%-off” sales. Funny how we always happen to be present on the exact day for those one day only sales – naturally the only logical explanation is that it’s the magic of Disney!
Kelly managed to convince Todd to wander into both a bamboo shop and a jewelry store that sold Pandora bracelet charms. With minimal time and effort, Kelly was able to get bamboo sheets that she had been wanting along with free shipping and a pandora charm with the Alaskan state flower, the forget me not.
After that we met up with Kelly’s family for the lumberjack show. It was a terribly cheesy ( this is Disney after all) but yet entertaining show that featured a competition, setting American vs. Canadian lumberjacks and guess who won… It was fun to watch and the nephews got an actual chunk of wood from the show! I’m sure that they are already begging their parents to pack it up and take it back to Texas.
The remainder of the day was spent napping, working out and Kelly got her spa time, while Todd did his best to avoid all things Disney for a brief time (10 seconds) and eventually just worked on simpler goals like finishing off the box of wine we brought on board in Skagway (he got close).

Sunday:
We slept in to give us both some rest from the day of Rs – Todd in particular needed a bit of recovery time from his goal involving the final R.   Todd did finally crawl out of bed and hit the gym and Kelly decided to take the day off and spend more time resting. We met for lunch and went back for a nap and to read some of our books.  Finally after dinner, we reached Victoria, Canada. We got off the boat with Kelly’s family and after the quarter of a mile walk down the wharf, both the kids and the grandparents were ready to sit down. We decided on a limo tour of the city to get in some site seeing while allowing everyone to stay seated. We lucked out and found the sweetest limo driver in the area! All 8 of us jumped in the back and we were off. The driver gave us the history of the area while showing us unique scenic spots and even letting us stop and feed harbour seals (the kids where in heaven). We saw the world’s largest totem pole, lots of beautiful old houses, peacocks and a wonderful view from the highest point on the city from which we could see the USA.  When we were done everyone agreed that had been the best way for us all to see the city together and Kelly’s parents declared it the highlight of the trip. We spent the remainder of the evening in the adult only lounge and made it back to our room by midnight. Tomorrow is an early day, we have to be out of our rooms by 8:30am!

Moday:
Travel day… we hate these. When is someone going to develop a Star-Trek-type transporter ? Beam us up! Until then, we hurry up and wait. We have spent enough time traveling to realize that we would rather give ourselves too much of a buffer than not enough. Not knowing what time we would get off the boat and make our way to the airport, we booked a 4pm flight. So when we arrived at the airport at 8:30 am (since we carried our own luggage off the boat we were free to leave anytime after 7:30), we knew it was going to be a long day in the airport. We visited with Kelly’s family when they showed up and then spent the rest of the afternoon reading, eating, drinking and shopping. Lucky for us the Seattle airport actually has a good selection of retailers, plus you can walk between all of the terminals. These are our favorite kind of airports to be in. The worst being the ones where you are stuck in some terminal that only has a Hudson News with day old pizza and cold canned cheese nachos.

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