The Alaskan Cruise

August 2018
August 2018
  • Day19

    Los Angeles, California

    August 30, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    As predicted, we didn't sleep very well, due to our room being near the restaurant. The breakfast was reasonable although the woman working there seemed bothered! This hotel was one of our most expensive so far but at least the location was ideal.

    Getting to the airport was really easy as there was a train station only a few blocks away. We nearly missed the first train though since the ticket machine decided to take forever to spit out the tickets! We had a lot of time to pass in Portland Airport but it wasn't a problem as it was very decent, complete with lots of shops and a violinist. We only bought waters and a coffee before going to the boarding gate.

    Even though we were supposed to be on Air Canada, it ended up being a Virgin America flight. When we arrived at LAX, we checked our bag in for our next flight at the United counter. We remembered there was a Denny's near the Hilton so we pretended we were hotel guests and jumped on a transfer bus to take us to the hotel.

    Denny's is always a good cheap meal for us, and again we weren't disappointed. We then caught a second shuttle back to the airport and headed to the United gate. Even though there was plenty of seats on the United flight, the agent told us the flight was weight restricted, causing us slight concern!

    Ted decided it would be a good idea to walk through the entire LAX airport. I disagreed since I would've preferred to relax. After walking for over half an hour through every terminal I was P.O'd! When Ted pointed out we'd done no cardio all day, I could see his point. We bought a present for Damien whilst in the Qantas terminal too.

    Whilst waiting for our tickets, we saw one of the flight attendants we had on the previous flight and she also said we should be fine getting on. The wait seemed to take forever but she was right - we were soon on our way home! It was not as empty as our flight over, but we were still lucky to have three seats between us.

    This has certainly been one of our best holidays, as the weather has been near perfect, and the friends we have made have been wonderful. We're looking forward to doing more holidays like this in the future :-)
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  • Day18

    Portland, Oregon

    August 29, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Today was our longest drive this holiday, so we had a moderately early wake up for the day ahead. Unfortunately it was another bad sleep for both of us, so maybe being around all these bugs freaked us out! Our drive was generally uneventful apart from a toilet and petrol stop!

    We left the freeway long enough to drive through Albany for a lunch break. Finding a restaurant to eat was hard enough. Our first stop Dairy Queen, wasn't open. We then went to Carl's Jr which had limited service due to a broken grill. We then went to Wendy's instead since it was the only other decent place nearby!

    When we arrived back in Portland, we went straight to our hotel to drop off our bags first. The location is perfect, although it's somewhat odd having a room on the ground floor right next to the restaurant. We then dropped off the car to Hertz nearby, which took a lot longer than planned since a 5 minute drive turned into a 20 minute drive due to all the roadworks in the city.

    Ted had been keen on finding a mobile shop as he was worried his sim card was broken since adding the American one. Finding a store was bizarre, since it ended up being a tiny office with one person in a multi-story building. We'd been recommended to see Powell's City of Books, which is the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. I really liked it a lot and could have spent much more time there, but unfortunately Ted wasn't as interested.

    We'd heard there was a waterfront area a short walk away so we thought we'd check it out. Bad move. Unbeknownst to us, we had to walk through the old town area to reach it first. After spending about ten minutes walking through streets of homeless people, ramshackle buildings, and people smoking crack pipes, we did a U-turn and headed back. We have seen some pretty run-down areas in cities before, but this was definitely one of the worst. It was a shame because our opinion of Portland had been a lot higher until this moment.

    We went back to our room and ate our leftover food before having a nap. We have changed our flight tomorrow to United instead of Qantas. Vlad was kind enough to check the loads for us, and fortunately there are plenty of seats. We went for a drink at a local venue called Scandals before heading to a decent restaurant on the next block called Cheryl's. I don't know whether it was fatigue or something else, but I fell really ill afterwards with a migraine. When we went out again later, most of the pubs were closing anyway. Tomorrow we head back home after our big adventure.
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  • Day17

    Chiloquin, Oregon

    August 28, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    After an average sleep, we managed to have a pretty decent breakfast, due to the amount of food we brought, as well as food Beth supplied us with for the morning. Ted thought we should explore a nearby town, so we drove down to Klemeth Falls. There were plenty of bugs again - this time they were the ones hitting the car during the drive! Klemeth Falls was nice enough for a walk around, and exceedingly better than Chiloquin. Ted was keen to visit a nearby Walmart before we headed back north again.

    This time we went to the Crater Lake visitor centre to watch a short movie about the actual crater. Ted was starting to stress about our lack of petrol but fortunately one of the rangers was able to advise of a nearby service station. It was literally two pumps in the middle of the road, but we didn't mind!

    We then drove around the lake in a counter clockwise direction, and visited one of the viewpoints we'd missed yesterday. After walking a short while to the lake's edge, we were greeted with a spectacular view. It was at this moment I realised I'd left my Iphone camera back in the car! Fortunately Ted had his so it wasn't too disappointing.

    Beth had recommended seeing nearby Lake Klamath, which wasn't that easy to find due to poor signage, and a confused GPS. It ended up being a nice lakeside area with natural spring waters. A very nice area with some wonderful photo opportunities.

    She also recommended some waterfalls that were north of the park so, since we had a whole day, we headed there next. The drive seemed to be very long, possibly because the scenery was similar for most of the route. We ended up seeing two different waterfalls - they were nothing spectacular, but it was something different to see too.

    After having a late lunch we headed back to our room to relax and re-pack for our departure tomorrow. We considered returning to Klamath Falls for dinner since they had a good range of restaurants, but considering we already had enough food and had done enough driving, we decided to stay in. Crater Lake has been quite the experience - a mixture of beautiful scenery, and rough and ready townships.
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  • Day16

    Chiloquin, Oregon

    August 27, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    After a surprisingly good sleep in a dodgy hotel, we continued our way south towards Crater Lake National Park. One thing we've noticed is how the days generally start cloudy, but then burn off to make a beautiful day. Since we'd enjoyed downtown so much yesterday, we wandered back down this morning to find a nice place for breakfast. We settled on a pub that served some decent French toast, as well as a riverside cafe that seemed to be experts in coffee.

    We left around 9.30am and stopped at a few towns on the way for petrol and groceries, particularly since we weren't sure what would be available closer to our accommodation. The place we are staying is from Airbnb. It is a cabin style accommodation rented out by a lady named Beth, and is much more reasonably priced than the other options in the area. Even though the roof is low due to it being a sloped roof, it had everything we needed.

    There also had three Australian Shepherd dogs who were a bit wary of strangers! Beth was able to give us a lot of information regarding the sights to see, so we were definitely prepared for the day. We headed straight to Crater Lake National Park, which was our whole reason for visiting this area. The weather was spectacular, and we were very lucky to be treated to unparalleled views of the lake. The lake is actually a dormant volcano, and has some of the bluest water we've seen.

    We drove the entire way around the lake, stopping at every viewpoint we thought would give a better view than the previous one. As it was getting later in the day, we also went to check out the Crater Lake Lodge which had a beautiful view out back of the lake, complete with deck chairs. The only thing missing was the beers.

    Beth had recommended that we drive to nearby Henzel Park for a view of the sunset over the lake. Not great! Despite the fact there was one car idling strangely nearby, there were also a thousand bugs (we were too scared to open our mouths!). We feigned taking a few photos before leaving to check out nearby Chiloquin. Eye opener! It is literally a run down railroad town, complete with boarded up shops and a lot of bored teenagers standing around. We did surprisingly find a decent supermarket, meaning we didn't need to stop at all those roadside general stores on the way!

    Since one of the town's "attractions" was the casino, we thought we would check it out. Meh. We put $5 into one of the poker machines before losing total interest and leaving. Truly the redneck part of Oregon here!

    The best option was to go back to our cabin and chill. There were a few bugs in the room but they seemed to leave once we turned off the outside lights. Less pleasant though were the bugs in my hair that surfaced when I washed it. A little keepsake from Henzel Park it seemed!

    Tomorrow we have another day here to explore the area. Whilst we'll give Chiloquin a wide berth, there should be more to see near the National Park.
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  • Day15

    Florence, Oregon

    August 26, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    After a surprisingly good sleep in a mediocre hotel, I went to have some of the supplied breakfast (basically bagels and coffee in the tiny reception area). Newport wasn't quite as good as we thought it would be, so we have higher hopes for the next few destinations. After packing up all the drying laundry we had scattered around the room, we continued on our way!

    Our first stop was a viewpoint to look at the Yaquina Bay Bridge. The misty environment made it an awesome photo stop, and it was well worth it. Our drive today took us along Cape Perpetua to the town of Yachats. I'm not really sure why I listed it as a place worth visiting, as it was a pretty sleepy venue. At least it was good for a bathroom stop.

    The coast scenery we saw today was wonderful, and the weather was too. When we reached our stop at the town of Florence, we weren't that impressed. The Lighthouse Inn where we are staying is modest luxury...from the 1920's. And I don't think it has been renovated or repaired since. You could probably call it quaint, but we preferred to say run-down. Since there only seemed to be the main road with a Dairy Queen next door, we jumped back in the car and headed to nearby Coos Bay.

    Even though the town wasn't overly interesting, it was fortunate that we arrived during the - I kid you not - Blackberry Arts Festival! There were some nice street markets selling plenty of products, some of them involving blackberries. The blackberry pie was totally worth it.

    Apart from an antique shop, there wasn't much more of interest nearby, so we drove further south to nearby Shore Acres State Park. Shore Acres was originally an estate owned by a Coos County timber baron who sold the land to the State of Oregon for use as a park in 1942. Now it is an assortment of gardens with beautiful shore-side scenery. And again, the weather was perfect.

    After finishing here we decided we'd have to eventually return to Florence! Our room was huge but the cleanliness was debatable. We walked to the area behind the hotel where we could see some amazing sand dunes, located across from a now derelict waterfront restaurant. It reminded us of a ghost town. After some more wandering around, we eventually found the road that the hotel clerk said would lead us to the main part of town.

    Clearly us and the town of Florence got off on the wrong foot. To our surprise, the street lead us to another part of town that was loaded with boutique restaurants, shops and cafes. The busy road and our hotel gave us both the wrong first impression, as we were duly impressed with all the venues along the Siuslaw River.

    Considering the fact we thought Dairy Queen was the only place to buy food, we were pleasantly surprised with Florence. We went to the Bridgewater Fish House and Zebra Bar for a great afternoon of dinner and drinks before wandering around town for a bit longer. So Florence has really been the biggest surprise so far of Oregon.

    We were going to walk around at night but it started to mist so we stayed in our hotel. I read an interesting brochure about what to do in a tsunami, which was somewhat unsettling! I'm not sure how we're going to sleep here though as we can hear every footstep in the room above. Tomorrow we continue to Crater Lake!
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  • Day14

    Newport, Oregon

    August 25, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    After a good sleep, we collected our belongings to continue on our way again. As nice as this hotel is, one thing we found strange was how they asked us in the compendium to wash the dishes before leaving, even though we didn't have a kitchen sink! Well we did our best to tidy up but couldn't really figure out how we were expected to do that.

    We decided to check out nearby Astoria before continuing down the coast, which was my idea as it's the town setting for the movie "The Goonies". Thanks to the internet, it was easy to find the film locations, and an in-car GPS makes it even easier. Whilst some locations like the Flavel House Museum and the Oregon Film Museum were easy to access, others such as Mikey's house were blocked off from the public. There was a sign at the end of the long driveway advising the police would be called if anyone tried to photograph the house. Therefore, we decided to move on!

    I hadn't read anything about the Astoria Column, but Ted saw it from town and thought we should check it out. Truthfully, it was amazing. Not only was the view from the top worth the admission alone, but the amount of detail on the column was awesome. We also climbed the tower and walked around the small lookout at the top before I remembered I have acrophobia and headed back down.

    After leaving Astoria, we headed back on the coast road south towards Newport, which included taking another picture of Haystack Rock from a different viewpoint. For some unknown reason, the GPS took us off the coast road to drive us through the middle of the countryside instead. Therefore we ended up seeing the underwhelming town of Garibaldi (right in the middle of cow country!) before stopping for lunch at a local Denny's.

    On the way we stopped at the natural blowhole Devil's Punchbowl, before continuing onto Newport. Newport ended up being somewhat plain, as it seemed to be little more than a busy road going through an industrial area. After checking into our hotel, we walked down to nearby Nye Beach which was a bit better.

    We stayed in Nye Beach for dinner at an Irish pub, as finding an inexpensive venue with a water view was an impossibility! One thing we have noticed about this town though is the abundance of blackberries growing everywhere. Since there didn't seem to be any memorable nightlife here, our evening was spent either watching TV (Ted), or doing laundry (me). Tomorrow we continue onto the town of Florence.
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  • Day13

    Seaside, Oregon

    August 24, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We woke up at 6.15am today, as we need to transfer from the port back to Seattle King Street station for the next part of our holiday. We had an early breakfast before heading around to Woody and Stephen's cabin to say farewell to them. Stephen must've misheard what time I said we would be there, because they had both barely gotten out of bed! We gave them time to get themselves together before heading back again to say goodbye.

    After disembarking the ship, we walked towards the Uber pick-up area to catch a ride to the train station. The walk was quite a long way from the port, but it was easy once we arrived. Our driver was from Mexico, so I had a lot of fun practicing my Spanish abilities with him. Surprisingly the traffic in Seattle was good, and we ended up arriving in plenty of time to the station.

    I had been looking forward to this part of our trip, as I'd purchased Business Class seats on the Coast Starlight. Clearly I was blinded by the words "Business Class", because it was rubbish! The train was surprisingly old and run-down, and the so-called "business class seats" were up against a wall with no tray table or seat pocket. Thankfully Ted found some better seats towards the back, which I really appreciated because I was so P.O'd!

    The one decent thing though is that we were on the upper deck, giving us a better view. We were also right near the dining room, and the observation room, which had huge overhead windows to enjoy the scenery. Since the weather today wasn't that great, we were more than happy with the view from our seats.

    We booked in for lunch in the dining room, which operated on a somewhat regimented system, where you wouldn't dare enter the dining room unless you were called first! The meal itself was pretty mediocre, however it was nice talking to two people we were seated with - an older lady from Seattle, and a middle aged comic book guy.

    When we arrived at Portland, the train station was located in a pretty grungy area, so we were happy to move through it quickly to reach the Hertz office. The service was very good, and we received our car very quickly. We left Portland straight afterwards for our drive to the coastal city of Seaside.

    The drive through the green countryside was really nice. We arrived at the Seaside Inn, which is like a holiday hotel on the Pacific coast. Seaside is very laid-back, scenic and relaxed. It's also pleasant to have the mountains on one side, and the beach on the other. The only unsettling thing though are all the signs indicating we're in a tsunami hazard zone. Definitely something I haven't seen before outside of Asia.

    Ted and I walked along the boardwalk before arriving into town. The buildings along the water are very art-deco, and I found it really interesting that the local cinema was showing the original "Jaws" movie. We then went to the local supermarket to get some food for dinner before heading back to our hotel.

    Ted was interested in going for a drive so I suggested we head south to see Haystack Rock at sunset. That was a good decision because it was spectacular. We actually drove into a beachside hotel's car park to get the best photo opportunity, but decided not to stay for too long in case our rental car was towed away!

    We stayed for a short while longer walking along the beach before heading back. Ted was interested in going to a local venue, so we headed to nearby Astoria to see what we could find. Ted had read on the internet about the Triangle Tavern, so once we parked, we headed across the busy road to check it out.

    Well, the information Ted had read was misleading - if anything, the Triangle Tavern was more like some sort of maritime bikie bar! When we entered and saw a lot of heavy-set bearded guys and thought we were in the right place. Uh no, we weren't!

    After having one drink, we decided to head back. Tomorrow we have a short drive down to Newport, as I've tried to create an itinerary where we aren't spending our whole time inside the car.
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  • Day12

    Victoria, British Columbia

    August 23, 2018 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    I've continued having these simpler breakfasts every morning now, showing you can sometimes have too much of a good thing! Today is our second last day on the cruise before our arrival back in Seattle tomorrow. We had to start packing up again for the next part of our journey, although we're just going to walk off with our suitcase, rather than wait forever for baggage services to deliver it.

    When we looked out of our cabin window, we thought there was a lot of fog. As it turned out, it was smoke again, meaning we're near Canada. I thought I would try trivia again, so after a snack of waffles, headed off to give it a go. There weren't as many comments from the peanut gallery this time, although I didn't end up winning either! But I like the thrill of competition too.

    We had lunch with the Welsh guys Andy and Craig before our arrival into Victoria. We had already arranged with our party of eight to explore Victoria together, so we first went to (where else?) for drinks before disembarking. We originally had a party of ten, but we haven't been able to locate the Canadian boys lately. We suspect they might have received a better offer!

    Victoria ended up being quite contrasting. When we disembarked, we first walked through a nice seaside neighbourhood, with a lot of fancy houses and gardens. As we arrived into the city, we were similarly pleased with the Downtown area, and got some great pictures of the Legislative Assembly and the Fairmont.

    As we went further into town though, it tended to go downhill somewhat. Maybe we just wandered offtrack, but the harbor area we ended up in wasn't particularly attractive or appealing. By this stage, we were happy enough to head back to the ship.

    After having dinner upstairs, we returned to our room to finish packing. We said goodbye to Chris and Andrew, and Craig and Andy before going to bed. It will be sad to leave our new friends, but it will also be great to continue on the next half of our holiday, as we travel around the state of Oregon.
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  • Day11

    At sea

    August 22, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    Today was another ship day, so once again we were scouring the daily program trying to find something to do during the day! Apart from the occasional mediocre trivia contest, there wasn't much that interested us, so most of the day was spent chilling and hanging out with our ship mates.

    Our day started pretty early as I was convinced I could hear music and feel vibrations from our room. Through further investigation, I found that it was actually coming from the auditions in the theatre, which were loud enough to be felt in our cabin. Not extremely loud by any means but definitely noticeable.

    We lost an hour today due to time zones, so at least the ship day wasn't excessively long! Breakfast was really crowded since everyone had nowhere else to go, and Ted and I went to check out the photo galleries afterwards. We caught up for lunch with Stephen and Woody and on the way back to our cabin, Ted tried to play a trick on me. When he ran ahead, I suspected he was hiding behind the wall to try and scare me. Sure enough, I waited for a couple to walk by first, only to hear Ted scare them and then have to apologise for his attempt.

    We caught up with the boys again to play cards (no espresso martinis this time!) before having a small snack and heading back to get ready for dinner. In the evening we had planned on having a formal dinner with our party of eight, especially since we hadn't had one previously.

    We all dressed up in our Sunday best, but first went to The Martini Bar before heading to dinner. Ted and I felt slightly overdressed since we were the only couple wearing ties! Fortunately for our group, there was a photographer nearby to capture how handsome we all looked that evening :-)

    Dinner ended up being really good - we had become so accustomed to the buffet, that it was nice to have something fancy for a change. It was a bit harder for Ted though with his diabetic requirements, but we ended up going to the buffet afterwards so he would be okay. After dinner, we all headed off to tonight's show in the theatre. Ten minutes later, we all walked back out again! Sadly, the Rock City show wasn't quite as entertaining as the other show we saw.

    Afterwards, a few of us went to have a few drinks, before having a relatively early night. After all the previous nights we've had, I think it was definitely needed!
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  • Day10

    Skagway, Alaska

    August 21, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    The novelty of having all these buffet breakfasts has worn off, as today I was craving only porridge. I didn't think I'd ever get sick of all the sauteed mushrooms and baked potatoes but I guess you can have too much of a good thing! At breakfast I spoke to a gentleman who confirmed that the Northern Lights didn't end up appearing last night, so at least I didn't wait up all night to see nothing.

    Most of our group had plans in Skagway but since most of them were so expensive, Ted and I decided to walk around and see what we could find. The most popular option seemed to be the train tour but it was way too pricey. After a short walk into town, we looked around the area just to check out what was available.

    We signed up for a walking tour with the Tourist Information office which seemed to be the only thing on offer. After some more exploring, we found a tour company that offered bus tours to the same Yukon territory where the train went. It seemed like a great option so we signed up for it.

    As we needed our passports for the tour, I had to return to our cabin to get them. I think I misjudged how long it would take, as I ended up running most of the way. Just as I reached the gangplank, I was then told it was only for disembarking - I needed to use another one further away! (Our ship was coincidentally also the furthest one away too). After saying "excuse me" and "sorry" enough times, I managed to finally make it to the bus pick up area, totally puffed out, but with our passports in hand!

    The tour ended up being better than expected, particularly since Alaska again turned on a beautiful day. Despite all my running, the bus tour left late anyway. The majority of the passengers were Aussies and our driver Beverly was really engaging. Firstly we did a quick tour of the town, where she was happy to point out many houses of, as she put it, "negotiable affection"! We then headed along the Klondike Highway towards the White Pass Summit.

    Some of the highlights included the Tormented Valley, Summit Lake and Lake Tutshi, as well as the Yukon Suspension Bridge. At the latter, we had a comfort stop as well as buying coffee and some dill pickle chips (not likely to find them elsewhere in the world)! The fact we have 20-22 hours of daylight here makes the days seem even better.

    Apparently there have been a lot of bushfires here in Alaska too, but it certainly didn't impact our day in any way. It's hard to say whether the bus ride is better than the train since we haven't done both, but we were very happy we did this. I'm pretty sure it was better than our walking tour of Skagway would have been! :-)

    Whilst we were in town, we went to the Skagway Pub for lunch. I had fish tacos, which were pretty small servings. The beer was good though. As the afternoon continued, some clouds rolled in and, for the first time ever on this holiday, we had some wind and rain. It didn't matter though - Ted and I were already walking back to the ship so it didn't ruin our day in any way!

    After having a snooze, we caught up with Stephen and Woody for dinner before heading off to our favourite venue on the ship, the Martini Bar. We even managed to meet some of the travellers from the Pied Piper group there too. After a great day, we all went up to the Sky Lounge for some dancing and drinking before heading off to bed.
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