Alaska 2009 Rhapsody of the Seas

Saturday, 18 July 2009 12:51 by jhalloran

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RHAPSODY OF THE SEAS JULY 3-10, 2009

Tuesday, 14 July 2009 18:30 by jhalloran

ALASKA 2009

Rhapsody of the Seas, July 3-10, 2009

To cruise to Alaska is like returning to nature at its creation. Nothing has been changed in the magnificence of these mountains and waters since the beginning. And, to celebrate this majestic, the weather was just outstanding!!! We hit record-breaking temperatures in Seattle, Juneau (86 degrees) and Skagway (high 70’s) and with clear skies. You would have thought we had ventured into the Caribbean!!!! The captain indicated this was the first time since 1972 that clear weather, warm temperatures, and smooth waters came together for the perfect exploration of the Fjords, the wonders of Alaska. We carried clothing ready for a high of 60 and instead witnessed people using the pools and sunbathing in Alaska in July. We are so blessed to have been a part of it.

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Juneau—Gold Panning Adventure

This was not only an adventure, it was just plain fun. A costumed prospector named Randy toured us through Juneau, pointing out the special sites in the city enroute to our

destination.

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“Last Chance Basin” was the location where we got a hands-on experience panning for gold in the creek. There is gold for everyone, even if it is only in flakes!!! We were given our pans, filled with dirt, and taught how to pan for the jewel of the earth. Gold is a heavy metal and it sticks to the bottom of the pan. After panning, we used an eyedropper and picked up the flakes to deposit them in a small vile of water. We learned that it took days to pan for just a few ounces. With the price of gold in the $900+/ounce range these days, how many of us would have the patience to collect a sufficient amount to pay for the cruise.!!!!!!!

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The homes and buildings in Juneau are built on cliffs and steep streets that would rival any Francisco and Seattle. One can only imagine what driving on these hills must be like

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in the winter. Snow starts coming to Alaska around the first week of November and lasts until about May when the cruising season opens. June and July are the best weather times to cruise Alaska, and also the best time to see natural scenery in all of its created glory. And, beautiful wildflowers and the wildlife of the region—bears, whales, sea otters, and cruisers are evident in abundance.

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Many of our cruising friends took advantage of the Mendenhall Glacier visit by helicopter which included a trek across the glacier, an exciting experience we enjoyed on our last visit to Alaska. And, lest we forget, be sure to have lunch or a beer at the Red Dog Saloon complete with sawdust on the floor and a piano player belting out tunes from the gold mine days. On the wall behind the bar, you will see all kinds of memorabilia dating back to the late nineteenth century when the world descended upon Alaska in the Klondike Gold Rush.

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After a sumptuous dinner in the Edelweiss Dining Room aboard the Rhapsody of the Sea, we were entertained by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers in a tribute to “The Piano Man”, the pop piano stars of the 50’s to the present. The show was Broadway perfect, an outstanding performance by these talented young artists.

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SkagwayWhite Pass and Yukon Scenic Railway

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This gem carried us 20 miles directly from the ship to the Summit of the White Pass, a 2,865 foot elevation and the highest point on the railway. This “Scenic Railway of the World” was constructed between 1898 and 1900 to bring the prospectors into the Klondike Gold Fields, some 550 miles inland from Skagway. Nearly 40,000 men and women worked on the railroad for 26 months and it was opened in July of 1900. The ride to White Pass features breath-taking panoramas of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, tunnels, trestles and historic sites seen from our parlor cars.

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Upon returning to Skagway, a visit for lunch or a beer at the Red Onion Saloon is a must. Red Onion was once at the center of the gold miners expensive “free time” and the servers are still costumed appropriate to that time in history! After another delightful dinner to cap off a day marveling at the exploits of a time gone by, we were entertained royally by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers in a tribute to all of the country

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artists of all time; in a word, magnificent. And, upon returning to our cabin we witnessed perhaps the most intriguing sunset we can recall---the grey-blue sky was crossed by amber strands of hair like clouds, looking as though one’s hair dresser has just styled them. There were shades of orange, amber, pink, and dark brown flowing in this styled “hair” with the blue-grey sky in the background and it predicted superb weather for our next experience, the highlight of the trip, the Tracy Arm Fjord.

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Tracy-Arm Fjord—

The Fjord, similar to those in Norway, narrows down quickly to “a canyon of water and ice” with sheer vertical rises about 100 yards from either side of the ship. We entered the Fjord at about 5AM and watched our progress from the wide Lynn Canal Inner Passage of the Pacific to these very constrained waters. The weather was perfect. The sound was an absolute quiet. The temperature was in the 40’s with no wind, not a breath. The beauty was providential. The Rhapsody of the Seas was in its crescendo.

The ship provided coffee and sweet rolls for “our gang” of six as we watched the scene of nature unfold from our Stern balcony, nature at its very best. Words cannot describe what these pictures by Cruise Director Joanne show. Enjoy the wonder of the creation!

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After traversing approximately eleven miles of the Fjord right to the glacier at Tracy Arm’s completion, the captain turned our home at sea around “on a dime” and headed back out of the Fjord. Some elements of the glacier that had “caved” were floating all around, as you can see in the pictures, and some were the size of small craft. Our captain skillfully navigated among all of these for the next few hours while we were still “Ewing and Ahing” at the scenery, and finally back on to the Inner Passage. The Tracy Arm Fjord is to most the highlight of this Alaska adventure, an adventure into the wonders of nature.

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Victoria

With Seattle now becoming the primary port-of-call for most Alaskan cruises, one of the many benefits is adding a day long stop at Victoria, British Columbia, the final day of the cruise. What a dessert that is to an “epicurean delight”, a topping off of a visit to the wonders of nature with a visit to one of the crowns of our good neighbor, the Dominion of Canada.

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The Harbor District in Victoria is compact, with everything virtually within walking distance with the exception of the Craigdarroch Castle, a 39 room, 20,000 square foot mansion built by the magnate of the Canadian Coal Industry, now a Canadian National Historic Site, and the Mansion of the Lt.Governor of British Columbia which is surrounded by acres of English gardens tended by Victoria volunteers.

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The Empress Hotel and the British Columbia Parliament buildings, though built long after Canada became independent from Great Britain and helped pioneer the Commonwealth, these classic structures are vestiges of the style of the British Empire and the amazing infrastructure the Empire developed over all those years. Fittingly, Queen Victoria’s statue is placed in the park adjacent to the Empress and Parliamentary complex to be there forever more.

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We also had the opportunity to visit the British Columbia Museum featuring the display from the London Museum on the Treasures of the Origin of Man. Awesome.

Fisherman’s Wharf, which surrounds the harbor, is a beehive of activity from commerce to frivolity, and a short walk up the hill from the Wharf takes one to Government Street where the traditions of Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Britain, Wales and America are celebrated in the pubs that line the streets,

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The Irish Times Pub being the most notable.

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And, what’s a good pub without a Navy, so around the corner is the BC Maritime Museum which has a fascinating display of the history of the maritime community from the times the Spanish arrived until the current day. The sailing of cruise ships in the form of steamboats, sailing vessels, ferries to and fro the mainland, up to the contemporary cruise liners such as our Rhapsody of the Seas is displayed wonderfully and we heartily suggest a couple of hours visit.

Cruising to fascinating locations such as Alaska and Victoria is more than just an adventure; it is a form of art. One has the opportunity to share in the creation of nature and the ingenuity of man, and the art is the adaptability of each to the other. See you on board.

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