Sunday, August 09, 2009

Alaska Trip Journal – Part 5

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
After a couple of days on the water, the ship was set to dock in the first of three ports cities today, Ketchikan. After waking several times, false starts if you will, I mad it official around 6:45am. When I first checked the time it said 7:45am but I recalled at that bleary eyed moment that we had entered a new time zone and for out trouble, we earned one hour on the clock (that I won’t soon forget is actually a debt that must be repaid, much like the initial three hours borrowed when entering P.S.T.).
After getting ready for my day, I headed over to the “Garden Cafe” to test my skills at buffet control. I am proud to say that I did a terrific job exhibiting self-control with a single plate of food that included:
  • Scrambled eggs (just a wee bit)
  • Smoked salmon (rounding out the proteins)
  • 2 mini-croissants
  • 1 strip of bacon
  • 1 turkey sausage link
  • 1 wedge of watermelon
  • Oatmeal – 1 bowl, with 1/2 tsp. brown sugar and a little sprinkle of cinammon
The meal was satisfying and got me primed for spending some time ashore. A quick trip back to the room to get some necessities such as identification and my ticket for the Ketchikan Duck Tour.DSC00047 I found my way to the gangway, exiting the ship with a couple of hours to kill before my scheduled tour. I followed the crowds to downtown Ketchikan where any number of tourist traps were waiting to ensnare the vulnerable crowd.
Tourist traps are great for people watching, particularly if you like to watch complete fools  unsuspecting people being taken for a ride by complete fools whose eyes I’d like to poke out. Part of me feels for the suckers unsuspecting people but in my opinion, if you are away on vacation and your stopping to check out the “fabulous jewelry bargains”, you might deserve a bit of a wake up call. ***Tangent alertBy the way, I don’t think there could be too many worse investments than jewelry (at least as it is sold in most jewelry stores, especially the ones in the tourist traps). Rarely do you pay fair market price based on intrinsic value but rather the (often exorbitant) price based on the value the thief sales person has assessed that you place on the item based on your reactions during the sale. End Tangent***
keth duck1 Time passed rapidly, so I found my way back to the port where the amphibious vehicle was waiting for me and the 40 or so other passengers ready to go. The duck tour started with the driver making small talks and cracking a few jokes, some of which I thought were a bit inappropriate and not all that funny but what the heck, I went with the flow. The tour overall was enjoyable, especially when on the water where we witnessed a bald eagle couple hunting for their young.
Turns out, there’s very little full time employment in Ketchikan; most work there is seasonal. I learned that over the last decade or so, tourism has become the number one industry here (especially due to the cruising industry). They pointed out one of the streams where salmon swim as part of their spawning ritual. The Ketchikan salmon population had suffered because of the structure of the stream. Government wildlife agencies intervened by building a pass through, allowing the salmon to pass this particularly difficult point in their journey more freely and as a result, the salmon population has increased many fold in a relatively short time.
As a bonus, particularly for a salmon lover (I am), I learned the five species of Pacific salmon:
  1. Chum
  2. Sockeye
  3. King
  4. Silver
  5. Pink
It was noonish when the duck had returned and I was ready for lunch. With an “all-on-board” call at 1:30pm, there wasn’t much time to do anything else ashore that I hadn't already had my fill of so I boarded the ship and found my way back to the Seven Seas restaurant for what I hoped to be a wonderful lunch; but not before I snapped one last picture of a dock side bar that I hope will make you laugh as hard as it made me (if you click on the picture, it will enlarge and be more evident):
DSC00053 You may recall my disappointment with last evening’s dinner, I am happy to report that lunch was delightful and delicious and from the robust menu of gourmet selections, I chose the following:
  • Bruschetta with buffalo milk mozzarella, some cured meat whose name I can’t recall, and fresh sweet basil with a side of spreadable garlic awesomeness
  • Fried calamari with a delicious dipping sauce that was even tastier than it’s name was fancy
  • Beef curry with jasmine rice and mango salsa
  • Mexican flan with fresh berries
As you may have guessed, after the meal I chose to walk for a while. Walking off that meal was my only intent, at least for some time, until I got involved in a random game of ping pong. Aside from sort of sucking at ping pong, it was pretty windy and the table was outdoors :). It was fun and effective at working off the just ate a meal feeling that I was hoping to accomplish with the walk so it turned out to be a pleasant diversion.
I retreated to a lounge chair on the pool deck relaxing as the ship made its way out of port.Some good (and bad) pool – people watching, relaxation and journal writing followed. Before long, 4:00pm was drawing near so I headed to Dazzles disco where there was a mock game show about to begin, “Who Wants to Be a Gazillionaire?” Lots of laughs and fellowship with fellow cruisers.
I spent the hour after the game show ended strolling the decks, despite the extremely strong winds; I found it to be invigorating and relaxing. Shortly after, en-route to the stateroom to get ready for dinner, I saw a guy selling watches for what seemed to be a flat price of $35.00. I left my watch home and was going out of my mind without one. While I didn’t buy one on my first pass through, I did gander at the selection and there were several handsome ones that seemed like far too good a deal to pass up. I know, I’m the guy who says if you’re on a cruise and shooing, you are off your rocker and here I am, well…look, I didn’t intentionally seek out a watch, I just kind of walked into it…it found me, or rather, we found each other :) I didn’t buy one, not here, not now but I reserved the right only because I was dealing with a bad case of naked-wrist syndrome.
I chose to hit one of the “premium” restaurants for dinner. The “premium” restaurants require an additional cover charge, in this case $15.00 but the offering was sushi, all you can eat, no problem for me on this one. When it all ended, I would estimate the value at my meal at a sushi restaurant would easily be $100.00. I love Norwegian Cruise Line’s (NCL) freestyle cruising concept and while there are plenty of choices for dining that are included in the cruise price, I am a bit irked, pet peeved if you will, that there are “premium” selections. I really wish cruise lines would fully embrace the “all inclusive” concept and stop with the nickel and diming, like if you want a soda…I’m keeping this positive so i shall stop here. Perhaps at some other time I’ll create a posts on how the make the joys of cruising even more joyful.
DSC00059 When the sushi had filled me, I retreated to the Stardust lounge for a performance my “Rushlow/Harris”. I hadn’t made the connection when I saw the names in the program, nor when I bumped into (literally) Doni “Harris” in the elevator back on the first day of the cruise. Tim Rushlow was a founding member of country group Little Texas, who had several big hits in the early 1990’s and Doni Harris, his cousin, was in his solo project “Rushlow” who had a hit just a couple of years ago. I met Little Texas at Fan Fare in Nashville back in 1992. These guys put on a great show, though cruise ship abbreviated. Part of me was thrilled to see these songs performed by the original singer/writer (I was singing along) but it seemed to be such a major fall from grace from being #1 artists to performing on a cruise ship. Show business can really be cruel.
Sometime before the show started I had my camera set on the glass table in the Stardust Lounge and fiddled around with the lens a bit ending up with this neat little artsy fartsy photograph. I happen to like it.
On the way back from the show, all of my senses were restored as I passed the watch guy and realized his sign read “all watches from $35.00”, wake up call reminding me of my own message so I moved on watchless as I walked on and through Dazzles where yet another mock game show, this time a parody of Family Feud called “Friendly Feud” provided yet more entertainment and many laughs with fellow cruisers.
A very brief stroll found me back in my stateroom to chill out for a bit and get some sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s arrival in the port city, and state capital of Alaska, Juneau.
To be continued…

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