Last day of Alaskan cruise...Final expenses for cruise and extras...Minnesota, here we come in the morning...

Snow on mountain peaks.  Ships at the Port.
Please note: We're finalizing the head count for the "Meet & Greet" for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5 pm to 8 pm at Grizzly's Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447

Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven't already done so.  Hope to see you then!

The scenery in Alaska hasn't disappointed.
Here we are, the final full day aboard a ship since April 22nd when we left Sydney, with the exception of the two nights we spent in Vancouver at the hotel. 

We've cruised a total of 33 nights since leaving Sydney and look forward to getting settled in Minneapolis after our flight from Seattle with an early evening arrival.  It will feel good to unpack, get organized and prepare for a whirlwind next six weeks.

Tender delivering passengers to the shore.
At the moment we have packing to tackle but this morning while Tom showered, I folded all my clothing from the closet, drawers, and cabinets placing them in piles ready to be neatly stacked into my one large suitcase.  Tom will pack later.

We're out to sea at the moment heading to Victoria, British Columbia, our final port of call on this nine-night Alaskan cruise, arriving around noon.  We're booked with a private tour at 12:00 pm to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island, a world-renowned garden.

Busy port in Skagway.
Tom booked us for this tour some time ago through an offering posted in CruiseCritic.  We seldom attend ship sponsored tours due to the crowds and long lines.  This smaller private group tour will suit our needs.

Besides, for years, I've wanted to visit this world famous garden and Tom surprised me with this booking awhile back.  That's not to say that he loves visiting botanical gardens but he's always been more than willing to visit the many we've toured throughout our travels.  His keen eye makes him first to point out ideal photo op

Church near the shore in Skagway.
Usually, we post stories and photos while we're still on location whether living in a specific country or on a cruise.  In this case, with Butchart Gardens, we'll be adding the many photos we'll have taken today over the course of the next several weeks while we're in Minnesota.

What stories will we tell while in Minnesota when most of our time will be spent with family and friends?  We're not inclined to post lots of family related information here in our posts. 

Boats and ocean front property in Juneau.
Let's face it, most people quickly tire of hearing about other's grandchildren and family members other than a few shots and quips here and there.  Such will be the case for us. 

We'll post of few photos of family members and friends with their permission but will not focus on turning our site into a family album.  Most readers have their own family albums and don't care to spend weeks looking at ours. 

Cruise ships in the port of Ketchikan.
Instead, we plan to share photos of places we'll visit, magical and interesting moments we experience and the beauty of Minnesota.  With so much to do and people to see in Minneapolis, its unlikely we'll be traveling far from town.  If we do, we'll certainly incorporate those photos into the daily posts.

We have no doubt, we'll have plenty of photos to share and stories to tell during these upcoming six weeks including dining in restaurants, visiting parks and lakes and sharing morsels about the hotel where we'll be staying which is located in a lovely area.

A tiny portion of Tongass National Park/Forest which is the largest national forest in the United States with 17 million acres.

We've decided to share the final expenses for the cruise today rather than tomorrow which will be a very busy travel day in getting off the cruise, taking a taxi to the airport, flying to Minnesota, picking up the rental car and driving to our hotel.  

Here are the total expenses for the nine-night Alaskan cruise on Celebrity Solstice:
Expense US Dollar
Cruise Fare  $                  4,416.38
Airfare  $                               -  
Taxi   $                          8.41
Cabin Credit  $                   (500.00)
Gratuities  $                     243.00
Tours  $                        77.00
Additional Gratuities  $                        80.00
Cruise Bill for Purchaes  $                     496.00
Total  $                  4,820.79
Avg Daily Cost - 9 days  $                     535.64

Hand carved the statue of the popular and commonly seen bald eagle in Alaska.  For more details on Alaska bald eagles, please click here.
This morning, I attempted to get a copy of our bill in order to itemize how we spent the $500 cabin credit. The line at guest services would have required an hour wait or more. 

Instead, here's an overview from memory of roughly how we spent the non-refundable cabin credit; gifts for family, hats, gloves and a scarf for cold days in Alaska, a few cosmetic and toiletry items and one zip sweatshirt.  No beverages were charged to our account. 

Ketchikan Duck Tours, a popular open air bus for tourists.
We received all the bottled water we wanted from the Captain's Club free happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm each evening.  Tom only consumed alcoholic beverages during the two-hour event each evening while I drank complimentary hot tea and water.  Neither of us ever drank a soda.
Stunning views in Sitka.
The tour expense listed at $77 is for today's Butchart Gardens tour. The additional gratuities are for our cabin steward and the restaurant hostess.  We didn't include a tip for the dining room assistant for my meals when many times, my meals were not prepared correctly or served on time. There was no airfare associated with this cruise since we arrived by cruise ship.

Tomorrow, we'll prepare and upload a post while waiting to get off the ship and, while waiting for our 1:15 pm flight at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle.  Most likely, it will be available at the usual time.
 Read here for an interesting story about the building of this tunnel in downtown Ketchikan.
We'll be thinking of all of you and the photos you may enjoy while we tour the fabulous Butchart Gardens which appears to be taking place on a sunny day on beautiful Vancouver Island!

Happy day!
Photo from one year ago today, May 25, 2016:

In Bali on the prior day's pst post, we shared a photo of two buffalos wandering by during dinner and here were four buffalos on a hike from the river seen that evening.  For more details, please click here.

Sitka, a surprising Alaskan experience...

The cloudy scenes were appealing although a sunny day in Sitka would have been nice.
Please note: We're finalizing the head count for the "Meet & Greet" for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5 pm to 8 pm at
Grizzly's Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447

Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven't already done so.  Hope to see you then!
It's not easy to describe Sitka, Alaska.  It's a combination of rustic cabins, many worn and tattered, ocean front homes of varying sizes and value and a few more modern properties built or being built by those seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of life in more populous areas in North America and other parts of the world.
The "Welcome to Sitka Alaska" sign greeted us as we disembarked the ship.
However, it's easy to see how Sitka may become the chosen place to-run-away-and-hide from the rigors of big city life.  The surrounding scenery is some of the most exquisite in the world, rife with wildlife, lush vegetation, mysterious little islands and some of the world's most prolific fishing suitable for all skill levels.
There are thousands of small islands in the sea surrounding Alaska.
Here are some fun facts we found on Sitka from this website:
  1. Sitka is the first and oldest city in Alaska, some sources say it is 10,000 years old

  2. For 63 years Sitka was a major Russian port. (Fur trading)

  3. Sitka was the site of the signing of the Alaska purchase on October 18th, 1867.

  4. The City and Borough of Sitka, Alaska, encompasses 4,710 square miles, making it the largest city in the United States.

  5. Sitka, Alaska is the 4th largest city in Alaska by population after Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. (Population around 9,000)

  6. Sitka was featured in the hit US movie, “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock, although most of the scenes of the city are actually filmed in Boston

  7. Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka number 9 in the 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013

  8. Travel Channel Recently Featured Sitka on their popular show “Bizarre Foods

  9. James Michener lived here while writing his epic novel Alaska

  10. John O Connell Bridge between Baranof and Japonski Island is the first cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere

We were the only ship in port and the crowds in the town weren't bad.
As is the case in each location we visit, we ask ourselves the interminable questions, "Should we return here for a two or three-month stay or could we ever live here?"  Yes, to the first question.  No, to the second.
Our bus driver explained that most days it was so foggy and cloudy a scene such as this would have been impossible.
We'll never live in such a cold and snowy location after spending a lifetime in Minnesota for Tom, and over 40 years for me, in the frozen tundra that so well describes the winter months in the cold northern state, bordering Manitoba, Canada.
Walrus tusk decorator items.
Then again, the bigger question becomes..."Will we ever "live" anywhere permanently?"  Highly unlikely, based on our current joy in living as nomads, a lifestyle we've easily adopted, hopefully for the long haul
Me in another giant bear chair.
Yesterday, after uploading the post, we bundled up in warm clothing and made our way to deck two to depart the ship for the free bus shuttle to downtown Sitka. 
Is this some type of Bison?
Getting off the ship was relatively quick and easy but the line inside the visitor's center waiting to board the free shuttle buses was long and slow.  We waited for no less than 20 minutes.  
Me, posing in yet another bear chair.
The ride to the center of the small town was another 15 minutes but the breathtaking scenery on the way and the informational chatter of the bus driver kept us occupied.
St. Michael's Cathedral is also known as the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel".
It's nearly impossible to take good photos from a fast moving bus.  Once we arrived in downtown Sitka, the photo ops were plentiful as we walked around the town bumping into other cruise passengers along the way, occasionally stopping to chat with others we'd met on the cruise.
View of St. Michael's Cathedral from the main road.
As we wandered through the tiny town, my interest in visiting Sitka increased.  The cozy small town feel, the handcrafted items in the shops, the playfulness of its residents whether the bus driver or shop owners, all play a significant role in making Sitka a desirable location for visitors.
Alternate view of the church.
We're totally convinced that the "flavor" of Alaska is hardly perceived on a cruise.  Yes, its' a decent way to catch a few of the highlights but it's hardly the perfect medium to fully embrace the vastness and beauty of this magical place.
Shops in the center of Sitka.
Hopefully, someday when the time comes to explore North America, Alaska will be on our itinerary if we're able to find affordable vacation homes in a few different areas or, as our friends Chere and Gary did a few years back, rent a motorhome/caravan and explore on our own.
A pretty scene from the shoreline in Sitka.
Today is a sea day.  We're comfortably situated in Cafe al Bacio on deck five in perfect seats for viewing the upcoming Egg Drop Contest, whereby ambitious passengers make contraptions from which they can competitively drop raw eggs from upper decks to the atrium floor on deck three.  It's a silly but fun event we always find humorous to watch.
View of the bay in Sitka.
With no breakfast this morning, we'll head to lunch after the Egg Drop Contest, the Captain's Club happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, dinner in the Epernay Dining Room by 7:15 and later head to the 9:00 pm show in the Solstice Theatre.  At 10:15 pm, we'll stay up for the adult comedy show.
The dense fog in the forested hills.
Between preparing today's post, managing our many photos, chatting with passengers, my working out in the gym, the sea day and evening will be packed with plenty to keep us occupied and entertained.
Tom, by our ship.
Tomorrow is packing day.  In 48 hours, we'll be disembarking the ship to grab a taxi to the Sea-Tac airport to fly to Minnesota.  How the time has flown!

Be well.  Be happy.

Photo from one year ago today, May 24, 2016:
A year ago we had the opportunity to meet Gede's our house man's gracious parents who live in Lovina, Bali where we went to extend our 30-day visas.  For more details, please click here.

Part 2, Hubbard Glacier...Wow! Wow! Wow!

There are aspects of this world we encounter in our travels that leave us emotional with our mouths agape in sheer wonder and awe.  Such was the case yesterday when our ship sailed to the Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.
As we made the approach toward the Hubbard Glacier.
Our captain's adventurous nature and desire to please his passengers got us as close as any cruise ship dare venture when calvings (equivalent to avalanches) were occurring every 10 minutes of so.
Beautiful mountains surround the glacier.
We'd love to have been able to capture a calving but they happened so quickly we kept missing the photo op, especially without our tripod handy on deck five where we stayed watching the glorious scene for over two hours.
As always, Tom was having a great time.
It was cold outside and we were bundled up as best as we could with the clothing we have on hand; lightweight jackets, flannel shirts leftover from chilly Penguin, Tasmania, and gloves we'd purchased in the ship's Alaska shop.  I'd added a hat and scarf to my glove purchase but none were available for men.
At times, we wondered if dark chunks of floating ice were wildlife but alas, we never saw an animal in the area.
Tom, who more easily stays warm than I, had no trouble staying warm while I nestled up close to him for some added body heat.  Many passengers had brought along heavy down jackets and gloves but we have no room for such items.
As it turned out, the dark ice was a compilation of rock and dirt trapped in ice.
When we're on the Antarctica cruise in January, we'll be renting full cold weather outfits through the ship's pricey rental program but is certainly better than purchasing everything we'd most likely never use again.
Close up of the top layer of Hubbard Glacier.
After the few hours on deck five, we headed up to our veranda where we were able to take the more steady of the two videos included here today when we used the tripod placed on the outdoor table.
This expanse of the glacier is approximately ten stories high.
The conditions were overcast with dense clouds although the sun tried to peek through from time to time.  We did our best with the photos, knowing they wouldn't be perfect in the less-than-ideal conditions.
Ice floating in the rippling sea as we neared the glacier.
We both feel we'll need to purchase a more sophisticated camera while we're in the US especially with Antarctica and Africa upcoming in the future. These simple cameras we've owned over these past years are no longer sufficient for our needs.
The size of the glacier is hard to believe and it continues to grow over time.
Although I still have a lot to learn about taking photos, I think I'm ready to go to the next level, perhaps taking an online course to help me.  I've been hoping a more technologically advanced camera would hit the market soon within a reasonable price range which is relatively easy to use without changing a lot of settings while shooting.
The closer we maneuvered toward the glacier, the more the floating ice in the sea.  It's still early in the summer season.
Alas, I've yet to encounter such a product and will soon begin a search for what will work well when weight is a big factor for me and for our baggage.  We certainly don't need any added weight to our already heavy bags and carry on.

If our current camera continues to hold up, we'll keep it since Tom seems to be getting good at handling it and the idea of us each taking photos in both of the upcoming locations might prove to be the best idea for capturing unique and special shots. 
An edge of the glacier.

Today, we're in Sitka with a plan to get off the ship and explore yet another tourist orientated town with shops and restaurants.  There's so much more to see in Alaska but we're convinced that someday we'll return and do so in our own way and time.

In reality, one-day visits to ports of call generally don't do it for us with a few exceptions. It's the magic of living in a location for a period of time that provides us with the type of experiences that fill our hearts and minds with the richness and depth of any location, hardly accomplished in one day regardless of any tours on which a traveler may embark.
At certain points, the ice appears blue.
This further exemplifies our chosen method of traveling...not quickly skipping from one location to another, instead, spending the time to discover the wonders this amazing world has to offer.

Of course, one generally doesn't stay long at the Hubbard Glacier and for our purposes, this cruise fulfilled our expectations.  The sights and scenes yesterday left us reeling with delight over having made the decision to spend these short nine days on this Alaskan cruise.

We'll be back tomorrow with many more photos we've yet to share.  Have a beautiful day filled with richness and wonder!

Photo from one year ago today, May 23, 2016:

One of the narrow roads we walked in the neighborhood in Bali.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1, Hubbard Glacier, Alaska...Wow! Wow! Wow!...

Tom , hatless and happy anyway!
Please note: We're finalizing the head count for the "Meet & Greet" for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5 pm to 8 pm at
Grizzly's Wood Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:
220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447

Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven't already done so.  Hope to see you then!
As we began posting this morning as we were nearing the Hubbard Glacier and we were both bundled up in our warmest clothing, prepared to bolt outdoors as the ship made the approach although not cold in the realm of Alaskan weather and we were very excited to get as near to the glacier as possible. 

Me, bundled up and freezing my you-know-what off!
 For details on this massive glacier please see below from this site:

"Hubbard Glacier

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard landsat-tn.jpg
False color image of the Hubbard Glacier
TypeTidewater/Mountain glacier AKA Valley Glacier
LocationYakutat City and Borough, Alaska, U.S., Yukon, Canada
Coordinates60°18′50″N 139°22′15″WCoordinates: 60°18′50″N 139°22′15″W
Length122 kilometers (76 mi)
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in eastern Alaska and part of Yukon, Canada, and named after Gardiner Hubbard.

Map of Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, squeezes towards Gilbert Point on May 20, 2002. The glacier is close to sealing off Russell Fjord at the top from Disenchantment Bay at the bottom.
The longest source for Hubbard Glacier originates 122 kilometers (76 mi) from its snout and is located at about 61°00′N 140°09′W, approximately 8 kilometers (5 mi) west of Mount Walsh with an elevation around 11,000 feet (3,400 m). A shorter tributary glacier begins at the easternmost summit on the Mount Logan ridge at about 18,300 feet (5,600 m) at about 60°35′0″N 140°22′40″W.
Before it reaches the sea, Hubbard is joined by the Valerie Glacier to the west, which, through forward surges of its own ice, has contributed to the advance of the ice flow that experts believe will eventually dam the Russell Fjord from Disenchantment Bay waters.
The Hubbard Glacier ice margin has continued to advance for about a century. In May 1986, the Hubbard Glacier surged forward, blocking the outlet of Russell Fjord and creating "Russell Lake." All that summer, the new lake filled with runoff; its water level rose 25 meters (82 ft), and the decrease in salinity threatened its sea life.[1]
Around midnight on October 8, the dam began to give way. In the next 24 hours, an estimated 5.3 cubic kilometers (1.3 cup mi) of water gushed through the gap, and the fjord was reconnected to the ocean at its previous level.[1] This was the second largest glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in recorded history and had the equivalent flow of about 35 Niagara Falls.
In spring 2002, the glacier again approached Bert Point. It pushed a terminal moraine ahead of its face and closed the opening again in July. On August 14, the terminal moraine was washed away after rains had raised the water level behind the dam it formed to 18 m (59 ft) above sea level.[2] The fjord could become dammed again, and perhaps permanently. If this happens, the fjord could overflow its southern banks and drain through the Situk River instead, threatening trout habitat and a local airport.
It takes about 400 years for ice to traverse the length of the glacier, meaning that the ice at the foot of the glacier is about 400 years old. The glacier routinely calves[3] off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. Where the glacier meets the bay, most of the ice is below the waterline, and newly calved icebergs can shoot up quite dramatically so that ships must keep their distance from the edge of the glacier in Disenchantment Bay."
Now, late in posting, we're rushing to upload today's post with the first round of Hubbard Glacier photos we took while standing for several hours on the deck in the icy cold weather totally entranced by the sight before our eyes.  We had no idea how magnificent it would be.

By noon, after the close sailing to the glacier, we'd scheduled to meet Diane and Helen for lunch in the dining room.  We'd met them on the last RC cruise from Sydney to Seattle, finally managing to find one another on the Solstice so we could catch up.
Photos don't do this massive glacier justice.
Cafe al Bacio was packed when we arrived after the enjoyable long lunch so we sat with another couple for a half hour and chatted while we waited for a table in our usual spot along the railing.

A table opened up only a short time ago and soon we were situated at our favorite table and chairs, all in the ergonomically correct position for ultra comfortable typing and researching.

As soon as we upload today's post, we'll return to the cabin to shower and dress for the evening.  Thank goodness tonight is "casual" dress which makes the prep time quick and painless.

The remainder of the day includes a Cruise Critic private party in one of the "royal" suites on the 11th deck to which we're invited and will attend.  Afterward, we're meeting a couple in the Captain's Club lounge for happy hour from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm. 

Then, we're off to dinner in the Epernay Dining Room where we'll share a table with other passengers who enjoy sharing.  By 9:00 pm, we'll take off for the night's entertainment in the Solstice Theatre.  We've discovered we prefer to sit on the balcony level of the theater preferably in a back row.
While we watched there were numerous "calvings", the equivalent of an avalanche on a glacier.  A loud sonic type boom followed several seconds later.  It was unreal!
If a show doesn't entertain us, inconspicuously, we can slip away.  With both of us possessing "short attention spans" we seldom find one of us prefer to stay for the show unless it extra special.  It's not uncommon for one or both of us to nod off during a show.
Over these next few days, we'll share the balance of our Hubbard Glacier photos and our up-close-and-personal experiences in participating in this extraordinary observational event.
Thanks to our readers for hanging with us during these past 30 nights of cruising "less the two nights we spent in Vancouver before boarding the Solstice).
With only four days remaining until we disembark on Friday, catching our flight to Minneapolis, our hearts are filled with enthusiasm to see our loved ones once again.  Lots more Hubbard Glacier photos will follow tomorrow!
Have a lovely evening and be well and happy.
Photo from one year ago today, May 22, 2016:

This close up of my dinner in Bali appeared to be a lot of chicken  But, once I dig in there are only a few good bites on each leg and thigh section.  Tom eats the two breasts which are a little meatier but the dark meat which I prefer is sparse as a result of locally lean free range chickens.  For more Bali photos, please click here.