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Ketchikan, at sea, and Seattle

Thursday, 12 May

The Bliss arrived at Ketchikan port about the anticipated 6:30, which is about the time I got out of bed. After checking my excursion voucher, I knew to be on the pier at 7:30, so had my oatmeal at Taste before leaving the ship and heading out into the large cavernous hanger-like space beyond the pier. Without interior walls, the vast space was filled with vendors, crafts people, merchandise and fellow passengers. At the far end, excursions were lining up participants. Guides would collect half the ticket stub and lead groups outside. Bliss staff alerted us than Dan, our guide, was running late for the Alaskan Cultural Experience, but there were only 3 of us: a Cuban couple from Miami and me.

When Dan arrived we exited the building, passed through an opening through the wall of shipping containers and got into his van. Off to the Totem Bight State Historical Park, where Dan took us past 14 totem poles, explaining their significance and meanings. We spent a little time in the Clan House, as he explained its structure, social placement and defense; I found it impressive. We walked on the beach, and through some scrub, as Dan explained the edible and medicinal uses of many of the plants. He had been in Ketchikan for about 40 years, married a local woman and was part of her business, Hazy Island Botanicals, offering salves, ointments and teas created from local flora.

Then on into the Tongas National Forest. We headed uphill through the woods, and I spotted the redwood water pipe before Dan began explaining its purpose. A stream had been dammed creating a reservoir, and the water was piped downhill to the wood pulp mill. While the mill had gone out of business in the 90’s, and that area was now being used by the Bliss as a dock, redwood from California had been imported to transport the fresh water needed for pulping for about a century. We followed a path into the woods, by a meadow to a lean-to where a firepit provided seating. Dan shared some salmon dip (king salmon, lite mayonnaise, sour cream) and blueberries as he talked further about the several tribes and their lore.

The couple wanted to return to the ship, rather than head into town, probably due to the Sitka jitney queue experience. Dan offered and took me into town to a jewelry shop where he knew the owner, and I was able to get a stunningly beautiful silver pendant for Mandra. And Dan drove me back to the ship before heading home about 11am. After dropping gear in the room, I went to the Observation Lounge to back up my photos from both the camera and the phone, and then did email while I had Internet service from the shore. I headed to Taste for lunch after I set my phone up to charge in the cabin.

The “all aboard” was early, 1:15pm, and the crew had been performing their “emergency evacuation drill” while most of us were in Ketchikan exploring. While I was having lunch (hummus & pepperonta, spinach Caesar, St Louis BBQ pork) the captain came on the PA system to announce an upgrade to sanitary protocols. Apparently there had been an increase in the number of passengers with diarrhea, so crew would be dispensing food at the Garden Café and other open serving areas with food (Observation Lounge, Haven.) [As it turned out, all food ws removed from the Solo Lounge.] My lunch observation was that the hummus could use more garlic, the spinach was soggy. After the wrong main was delivered, the ribs arrived with more cold fries, and weren’t the extra crispy that I asked for. And when I asked for a scoop of both of the offered flavors of sherbet, I was served only raspberry, as they were out of lemon. Unfortunately, another fail, but I didn’t want to create a fuss.

There are no notes about what I did for the afternoon, but I suspect I took my reader to the Observation lounge and read until it was time to join the solo group. Hafsa did a drawing and I won a NCL t-shirt. Laura, “Magic” Mike (from Wyoming) and I went to The Manhattan for dinner, as most of the rest of the group had to use their specialty dining freebie. From looking at my notes, I guess I overdid it: appetizers of crème d’asparagus, baked brie salad, coconut shrimp; main of paella with chicken and seafood; and we shared 5 desserts:

Mexican chocolate cake with ice cream and caramel, banana souffle (superb), Snicker pound cake (needed more Snicker), eclairs (Mike’s favorite), and an apple thing (which was ehhh.) Afterwards, Laura and I went to the wine bar and we each had a glass of an Australian Chardonnay. Then I headed to bed, as we were going to lose that “Alaska hour” we’d gained.

Friday, 13 May

Knowing that we’d lost an hour overnight, and that Savor/Taste would close at 9, I was up earlier than I might have liked so that I’d be served breakfast. My morning ritual had a surprise, and I wound up taking an anti-diarrheal pill (which I always have). Oatmeal, a banana (partially peeled, sliced in wedges), and order of crispy bacon with an English muffin, and orange herbal tea were the items I ordered. Muffins cold, oatmeal cool, bacon needed a second cooking; at least the tea stayed hot. I’d collected tickets for the free cruise drawing, so at 11 I headed to Manhattan for the final bingo round, and sat off in the corner. I’d cashed in for the $3 I won from the peel-off tickets I’d bought at the magician’s show, so was hoping for a free trip. No luck, eliminated on the first number.

I returned to Taste for lunch, ever hoping that they’d get it right. Caprese salad, corn chowder, rotisserie chicken and peanut butter cheesecake. No notes, but my recollection was that nothing failed. I ran into Mike as I was wandering, and we decided to head to Maltings to participate in the Macallan tasting. Limited attendance, we were there early enough without reservations to be allowed to sample. Chris wandered by and joined us. The offerings were the Quest, Terra and Enigma single malts, with 12, 18 and 21 years of aging. We sampled neat, and then with a drop or two of water; then with bits of chocolate (milk, white, dark). The lecturer was Indonesian, and talked the brand up well, providing lots of information regarding the process to distill and age the whisky.

We’d been mainly at sea the whole day. The solo group had a last meeting, with me winning a water bottle and coffee mug, and then seven of us headed to Manhattan for dinner. Shrimp Louie to start, bouillabaisse and the prime rib, which was excellent. The group broke up after dinner, with some going ashore to Victoria, BC (we’d arrived at 7:30pm with a departure at midnight.) I went up top with the camera to take a few shots and then returned to have a last Glenmorangie with Harty. I packed and put the large bag out and then read for an hour.

Saturday, 14 May

After waking up, I cleaned up, headed to the Garden Café for breakfast. The serving process was cumbersome, but I was able to snag a banana and get a bowl of oatmeal. Outside, the Seattle skies were overcast. I’d signed up for the Seattle tour excursion, as it would fill the morning and then take me with my luggage to the airport. Meeting in the theater at 8, we eventually were moved out to collect our luggage and clear customs and immigration. Out onto the street, I queued up my bags to go underneath, and boarded the bus, sitting with Chris.

The tour took us for a ride through downtown Seattle, heading first to Pioneer Square. Back towards Westlake, we followed the monorail line out to the Space Needle, where we left guide Sam (Venezuelan) and Tim (driver) and the bus and, with tickets and instructions to return in 75 minutes, were able to ride the elevator to the Observation Deck. Visibility was decent for Seattle, and I was able to spot St Mark’s Cathedral up on College Hill. After a circuit, down a flight to stand on the glass floor looking to the ground, and then queued to ride back to the gift shop. Done in 30 minutes! Chris and I walked a loop around the base of the Needle, passing the Museum of Pop Culture, the Chilhuly bookshop, Science Center.

Boarding the bus, we then headed to Pike’s Market, where we were treated to the fish toss, wandered the shops and food/flower markets, and Chris was able to get his selfie in front of the original Starbucks (revenge for the girlfriend back in Montreal who bailed on the cruise.) I’d picked up some Spanish blue cheese, a demi baguette, and some shortbread cookies (for the flight attendants, as well as two pastries for my breakfast the next morning.

The bus took us to SeaTac, and my luggage was there with us.

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