A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

April 10 – FUKUOKA, JAPAN

sunny 68 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Kon nichiwa (Hello) from Fukuoka, the largest city on Japan’s Kyushu Island, just 120 miles from the Korean peninsula.

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Keeping their waterways clean, one sweep at a time.

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Water feature in Tenjin Underground City – on our way to the subway.

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Helpful, and cute, information girl

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Moving along to our destination, Ohori Park, one of the most beautiful water parks in Japan.

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Families enjoy picnics under the Cherry Blossoms

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In the park

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Swan boats!

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Also in the park area are the ruins of Fukuoka Castle. During the Edo Period (1603-1867) it was the largest castle on Kyushu Island.

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The feudal lord must have had a good view over his kingdom!

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Still in the park area – team players drag the “field” before a game.

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The castle was constructed with a giant moat system, which people and birds still enjoy.

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Me and Holly Hobby. I have no explanation.

Posted by Swenigale 17:44 Archived in Japan

April 12 – SHIMIZU, JAPAN

overcast 68 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Every port in Japan seems to have a Ferris Wheel. Fun! This is Shimizu, a quiet town known as the “Gateway to Mt. Fuji”.

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A guide today described Fuji saying, “She is very shy, and she can be moody”. That was to apologize for the faint glimpse we had of the mountain’s snow cap this morning. Look in the sky above the lamppost.

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Can’t see the mountain? Here it is in seafood!

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Traveling by coach back in time – our guide’s trainee holds the storyboard as we learn some Japanese history. Centuries ago in the Edo era, 53 towns, called “post towns” sprang up along the Tokaido Highway. The road was built to unite Tokyo (fist known as Edo) and Kyoto. All the towns still exist. Shimizu is one, and today we traveled to Yuinoshuku, another “post town”.

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In the resort home of the late Emperor of the Meiji era we were instructed in the proper celebration of the tea ceremony, served by a Tea Master.

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On the same site is a museum devoted to the block print art of Tokaido Hiroshige.

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Friendly turtles

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Next – the ancient pine grove near the sea, Miho no Matsubara, a “sacred place and source of artistic inspiration”.

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On a clear day this is a wonderful place to view Mt. Fuji – but today – it’s a really big, empty black sand beach!

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Me, again

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Driving back to Shimizu – rows and rows of hot houses, growing acres of wonderful strawberries!

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Yum.

Posted by Swenigale 00:56 Archived in Japan

April 13 – TOKYO, JAPAN

overcast 62 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

DAY 2

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Fireboats welcomed our arrival as we sailed under the Rainbow Bridge into Tokyo Harbor. Our afternoon arrival was timed for low tide – so we would clear the bridge! (This is our first time docking right in Tokyo, instead of in the Port of Yokohama.)

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But – we left Tokyo behind for the afternoon and travelled by coach through Yokohama to Kamakura, the seat of the Regent and Shogunate during the Kamakura period. Main draw – the bronze Great Buddha, second largest Buddhist image in Japan, created 7 ½ centuries ago.

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Our cute guide-trainee, making sure we knew our departure time from the Temple

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So – these monks must be taking photos of the great Buddha, right?

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Nope.

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Driving to the next shrine – guess schools out –

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What?!!

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We walked under this classic Torii arch at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

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Water to cleanse oneself before entering. The shrine was founded in 1180, and enlarged to what we saw today in 1828.

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Saki barrels – for?

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Lovely

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Back on the ship, a local group called “Core” performed on the drums – impressive precision and very loud!

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Overnight in Tokyo Bay – so special.

Posted by Swenigale 17:19 Archived in Japan

April 14 – TOKYO, JAPAN

overcast 64 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

DAY 2

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The sixth, and final segment of the 2016 World Cruise begins: “Glacial Grandeur”, from Tokyo to San Francisco!

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But first – some free time in this amazing city of more than 12 million people. A real effort to be “green” can be seen everywhere we look.

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We explored a small portion of the lower shopping level of massive Tokyo Station. We were there just before 10am.

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At precisely 10am, lights and music came on and all of the gated store-fronts opened up!

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The classic exterior of Tokyo Station on the Marunouchi side – beautifully restored. Tokyo is getting ready for the 2020 Olympics.

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Not being in the market for shopping in the upscale Ginza neighborhood – we walked, instead, to the Imperial Fortress.

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Some trees are still full bloom

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What a great Japanese innovation! Wrap-around waffle ice cream sandwich!

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Admission to the Imperial Fortress grounds was free, and it was a perfect peaceful, enjoyable walk in the park, so to speak . Tomorrow is a day at sea, then we have two more ports in northern Japan. Two ports in Russia follow that, with lots of time changes coming and the weird situation when we again cross the dateline and experience 2 days called April 21st!

Posted by Swenigale 22:59 Archived in Japan

April 16 – AOMORI, JAPAN

overcast 45 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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A day in Aomori.

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Where is that? On the northern tip of Honshu, Japan’s largest island.

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Sheriryuji Temple

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Nabutu float

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Sushi box lunch

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Going up Mt. Hakkoda.

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Snow!

Posted by Swenigale 04:54 Archived in Japan

April 17 – OTARU, JAPAN

overcast 45 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Otaru, our final stop in Japan, is on Japan’s northern most island, Hokkaido. We joined this raven up on the 13th deck to watch our sail-in.

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We drove less than an hour away to Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital city.

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Lots of German-looking influences – probably because of Sapporo brewery?

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We drove half-way up a mountain and a 3 minute Mt. Miowa Mini Cable Car took us to the top for a view.

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No, we didn’t find this cute guy up there– just his portrait.

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Mountain mascots – they’re really trying hard to get tourist trade.

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Lunch at Sapporo Brewery – the oldest of Japan’s four breweries.

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Cook your own – on a Mongolian warrior helmet-shaped cook top!

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First, smear fat, then put on bean sprouts, then the lamb, with onion and pumpkin slices around the base. Dip in soy sauce and enjoy! Unlimited, as was the beer!

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Back in Otaru – Hello, Kitty!

Posted by Swenigale 17:47 Archived in Japan

April 18 - KORSAKOV, RUSSIA

snow 30 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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And now - we are in Russia! To be exact - on the southern tip of Sakhalin Island, located as close to Japan as it is to the Russian mainland. We anchored in the bay and tendered to shore.

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The island is remote and sparsely populated, but our motor coaches were comfortable and our guide's English was very good.

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The land has been contested between Russia and Japan but little of the Japanese influence is left to be seen. This is a beautiful little Russian Orthodox church.

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Once a Russian penal colony, today Sakhalin welcomes tourists.

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We have traveled to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital city. We enjoyed a light lunch at one of the two 5 star hotels. Borscht, of course.

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And blini!

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We've been having high winds at sea and snow on land, as you can tell, looking through our bus window.

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The Sakhalin Regional Museum is in a Japanese building from 1937.

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An outdoor exhibit - Russians seem to love tanks.

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Researchers have assembled thousands of objects based on natural history, Archeology, and the history of the land and its people. Museum staff kept close watch on us - just doing their jobs.

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Male and female deer both have antlers. Our guide claimed that only happens here. I think I need to look that up!

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Crystal's little comfort spot on the tender dock.

Posted by Swenigale 20:35 Archived in Russia

April 20 - PETROPAVLOVSK, RUSSIA

sunny 25 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We sat in the great bay of this remote city on the Kamchatka Peninsula of eastern Russia waiting for Russian officials to clear us to go ashore for a brief visit.

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Going ashore was eventually cancelled, due to unsafe conditions for exiting the tender boats.

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It was freezing out, but crystal clear! These pictures (some taken with a zoom lens) are all taken from the ship.

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Still here, at twilight - the golden hour, waiting for the Russians to let us leave.

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We had a wonderful show at night put on by the Crystal singers and dancers and musicians and guest performers. The four women in the string quartet and the two lead dancers who have been on the full world cruise, are all from Russia, so our Russian show was authentic!

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We have three sea days ahead of us as we travel to Alaska and the other side of the International Dateline.

That means we have two Thursdays instead of one. By Sunday we'll be four hours behind Eastern Daylight Time and on the same day.

Posted by Swenigale 19:35 Archived in Russia

April 23 - DUTCH HARBOR, ALASKA

sunny 39 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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After three days, crossing from Russia, we glided into the Port of Dutch Harbor in the peaceful pre-dawn hours. The Bering Sea is to our north, the Pacific Ocean to our south and we are in the heart of the Aleutian Islands.

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Mountain snow turned pink as the sun continued to rise over the eastern mountains.

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The moon was setting……….

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………. And, next to the ship a bald eagle kept watch.

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It’s a small town, with less than 5,000 permanent residents and it is the home port for TV’s “The Deadliest Catch”. There are more fish here than anywhere else in the Pacific Ocean and thus there is very lucrative commercial fishing.

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The original inhabitants, the Aleuts, also known as Unanagan, have fished and hunted here for 9000 years. They developed specialized boats and equipment for seal-hunting in the frigid waters.

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The Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension – parishioners were busy preparing for their celebration of Easter tonight, Saturday.

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Dutch Harbor’s residents are very friendly; a young woman with her baby in a car seat offered to drive us to see some of the countryside.

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Her parents are part-owners of a fun new eating and drinking establishment.

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What a setting!

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Hästa finds a rat – stuffed of course.

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We ate King Crab in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Wow!

Posted by Swenigale 18:45 Archived in USA

April 25 - KODIAK, ALASKA

all seasons in one day 38 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Alaskan weather is changeable. Our morning in Kodiak was rainy, windy and cold..

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...weather-resistant eagle....

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...but an afternoon in Fort Abercrombie just outside the town, was sunlit and magical!

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The Fort, now a wonderful park, was established as a coastal defense post. It was a critical element in the protection of America in World War 2

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NO INTERNET THE NEXT TWO DAYS IN GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK

Posted by Swenigale 13:25 Archived in USA

April 26 - SEWARD, ALASKA

rain 40 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Hoping the weather and the wildlife would cooperate, we went on an afternoon whale watch in Kenai Fjords National Park.

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Well, it was cold, windy and rainy -

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But, we did find something living - see those three things in the water?

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Aww - sea otters!

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And there - sea lions and kittiwakes (the white birds).

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It was exciting being out in Prince William Sound. By the way, our boat's name was the Fairweather Express. Heh heh.

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What we COULD have seen (it's from their trip brochure).

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Just to see if you are paying attention - we COULD have seen orcas, too. (Another photo from their brochure)

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We did see bald eagles, and on our way back to Serenity - excitement! We spotted a juvenile gray whale that surfaced several times and was too unpredictable to photograph.

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Wild life sightings and weather not guaranteed - know what? It was awesome anyway!

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Dinner tonight in the casual dining restaurant, "Tastes", way up on deck twelve. What a view!

Posted by Swenigale 20:25 Archived in USA

April 27-28 - HUBBARD GLACIER AND GLACIER BAY NATIONAL PARK,

rain 40 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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With US Park Rangers and Alaskan pilots onboard, we began our two days of glacier viewing.

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We are the first cruise ship of the season – and the beautiful snow-capped peaks are our reward!

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We slowly maneuvered as close as possible to Hubbard Glacier, past small icebergs and “bergy bits”. Hubbard Glacier is North America’s largest tidewater glacier (one which reaches the sea) – seventy-five miles long and covering over 1,350 square miles in area.

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We are 1 ½ miles away from this 300 ft. wall of ice, just hanging out, listening to the cracks and booms …..

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…….as chunks of ice break away and fall into the sea (the camera zoomed in on this one).

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Stellar sea lions hauled themselves out of the sea to rest.

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Sea birds catch a ride looking for the next meal.

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It’s brisk out, but we can finally use all those cold weather clothes we brought!

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The next day we entered Glacier Bay. Crew members were out taking selfies with the snowy mountains to send home.

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Glacier Bay is part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site. Not unusual for the area, today was rainy as we viewed Margerie Glacier.

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We attempted to also see Johns Hopkins Glacier, but the Captain could get no closer than 12 miles because of ice.

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Our rangers climbed down a rope ladder to their boat and headed back to their home base at Gustavus.

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Meanwhile, the sun came out as we left the glaciers behind us and the Captain steered our course on to Skagway.

Posted by Swenigale 19:05 Archived in USA

April 29 - SKAGWAY, ALASKA

sunny 38 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Ships fly the flag of the country they are visiting when in their port. So many exotic flags have flown here on this amazing world cruise. But our American flag is a beautiful sight, as we dock in Skagway, Alaska.

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Our first robin this Spring!

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Original gold rush buildings on Broadway - the stampede after the 1896 discovery of gold in the Klondike and the 1898 gold rush created a town of 10,000 with the reputation of the "roughest town on earth".

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Clear skies and snow-covered peaks enticed us to take the White Pass and Yukon narrow gauge railway up into the mountains.

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Our car was right behind the engine and we were able to ride outside most of the way up to the almost 3,000 foot summit. Yes, it was cold!

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The White Pass was the easier of the two routes over the mountains to get to the gold fields. The nearby Chilkoot Trail was the more arduous and led to misery, hardship and even death for many a fortune hunter.

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Our platform

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Two tunnels had to be built through the mountains. The tracks were completed in 1900. Quite a feat!

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This landmark steel bridge, finished in 1901, has been "retired" and replaced by a newer, safer bridge. When it was built it was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world.

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At the summit, the brakemen climbed out of our car and unhooked the engine which then chugged past us and hooked up to the other end of the train.

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The US and Canadian border

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Now, going back down with the engine up front, we have a clear view and no fumes!

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Almost back to the depot

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Snowplow number 1, built in 1899. Sure get a lot of snow in them there mountains!

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A windy departure from little Skagway, which now has a population of just 1,000. It nestles between the mountains and relives the past for millions of visitors.

Posted by Swenigale 16:35 Archived in USA

April 30 - JUNEAU, ALASKA

rain 38 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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Out on the water, again - this time on a whale watch catamaran sailing from Juneau to explore Stephen's Passage in the Inside Passage. This Stellar's sea lion has found a not so convenient resting place.

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We are in the eastern boundary of the Tongass National Forest - the world's largest temperate rain forest. So, the rain is no surprise!

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Excitement! A "blow" over there! It is early in the season in this summer feeding ground of humpback whales, but the crew was confident we would find a few.

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Yay!

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Everyone was surprised by this trio of Dall's porpoise passing by - they weren't sticking around, either - the camera only caught their splashes.

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The Allen family has given saint's names to their large fleet of tourism-oriented vessels. We are on the St. Peter.

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We spent a lot of time on deck out in the weather, intrepid adventurers that we are :) - interspersed with thaw-outs and coffee in the boat's warm cabin.

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There! And we all rushed to see!

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Pleased with our brief time in this pristine wilderness, we traveled back to land and on to visit the Mendenhall Glacier.

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The Mendenhall is a 12-mile-long river of ice, one of the 30 or more glaciers produced by the 1,500 mile Juneau icefield which is high above the city.

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Looking back at the Visitors' Center from the Lookout Point. This glacier is receding, as are most of Alaska's glaciers.

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Posted by Swenigale 16:05 Archived in USA

May 1 - KETCHIKAN, ALASKA

rain 44 °F
View SERENITY 7 on Swenigale's travel map.

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We've arrived at our last Alaskan port, and again we boarded a catamaran early in the morning. Miriam, a Haida Clan elder, was onboard to talk about her native culture. She was also fashioning jewelry out of "Devil's Club", the wood of a native plant.

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Our destination today was Misty Fjords National Monument, more than 2 million acres of wilderness in Tongass National Forest. It was raining, of course. Even bald eagles were hunkered down in their huge nest which we stopped to see.

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No eagles - but our sharp-eyed crew spotted a black bear and her club on the beach below! This picture is one our friend Jeff was able to get with his fancy-schmancy camera. Thanks, Jeff!

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British Captain George Vancouver put most of the currently used names on the map during his mapping expedition of 1793. This is New Eddy Stone Rock, a volcanic spire rising out of the sea. In the mist and fog it seemed like a mighty sailboat to early explorers.

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We made quite a wake with our 78-foot water-jet powered catamaran as we zoomed 35 to 38 miles per hour to our destination.

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Of course, the beautiful result of all this rain is the fantastic waterfalls.

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We are in Rudyerd Bay, and in Punch Bowl Cove beneath 3,000-foot glacier-sculpted cliffs.

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Horizontal scraping and scouring by an ancient glacier are clearly visible on the granite.

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Harbor seals catching a nap

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Captain Lee and his crew provided excellent piloting and information about this part of the Inside Passage and gave us the opportunity to enjoy the pristine beauty of Misty Fjords.

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We were back on Serenity, which is docked right alongside Ketchikan, the Salmon Capital of the World.

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This welcoming committee is never bothered by the rain!

Posted by Swenigale 11:15 Archived in USA

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