North to Alaska

Celebrity Millennium

NOTE: Click on any photo to see a larger version

My  friend Harald recently booked a 7 Day Alaska  cruise  from Seward Alaska to Vancouver for August 23 – 30 on the GTS Celebrity Millennium.

At the time he booked it as a single but called me to see if I might be interested. At the time of the call I was dealing with a family problem of where a family member had suffered a major heart attack.
I declined the opportunity to go with Harald.

As I had been on 12 previous Alaska cruises Harald asked for my advice on what to see in each port.  As this was Harald’s first time I gave him what I thought the must do’s are in each of his port.
You see I did my first Alaska cruise in 1985 so I have seen the changes in 30+ years.

I fast forward to about a week before he was to depart and Harald called me again to ask me if he could add me to the reservation as the 2nd person. I won’t get into the details as to why one does this but it has to do with saving money.
I hung-up from Harald and mentioned to my better half and I was told I should just go as the family emergency was settling down.
I called him back and he said yes the offer was still on the table to go with him.

I began to make the plans of getting to Anchorage and then onto to Seaward Alaska.

Lets say my choices were not that great on short notice.
I booked a flight that looked like this. Vancouver to Seattle and sit for 6 hours then Seattle to Anchorage arriving at 0210 in the morning. The Bus left the Anchorage Airport at 0530 for the 2.5 hour trip south.
This allowed for a 3 hour sleep in the airport on a bench.
I have cruised out of Seward before and done boat tours in Seward but never spent any time walking around Seward.

When one books last minute so to speak there are problems that come along.
When you go to do online check-in for the cruise it has to be completed 48 before the day of the cruise.
Want something special order like distilled water is not likely going to happen.

Celebrity Cruises along with other cruise lines are slowly changing the way one cruises with the advent of apps for your phone to use while onboard the ship.
In April of this year I did a Tokyo to Vancouver on this ship the Celebrity Millennium.
The app was used and check-in was suppose to use the app but that didn’t happen.
Then there was the day we crossed the Dateline and had the same day twice, the app in fact crashed and that was it.

So once again I had to upload my photo to the app to be used for the cruise. Lets say it didn’t make it the ship for when I checked in.
So this is also one of the pitfalls of booking last minute.

I had made a decision to take a small suitcase on this trip which was a first for me. I did this because I get free laundry on the ship because of my past cruises.

I had planned to Geocache on this cruise like I do on all my cruises.
This would not be the first time caching in Alaska.
I have a good idea of what and where I need to go. There are few new caches in many places the ship stops.

I made a GSAK file of the caches in each Port

August 23 Anchorage (Seward), AK 8:00pm
August 24 Hubbard Glacier, AK (Cruising)
August 25 Juneau, AK 9:00am 9:00pm
August 26 Skagway, AK 7:00am 8:30pm
August 27 Icy Strait Point, AK 6:30am 3:00pm
August 28 Ketchikan, AK 9:00am 6:00pm
August 29 Inside Passage (Cruising)
August 30 Vancouver, BC, Canada 7:00am

I left on Thursday afternoon and checked into Vancouver Airport for my 1700 Flight to Seattle.
The one thing about Alaska Airlines is they open up the seats when you check-in for your flight 24 hours before departure. I moved from the last row to 2A at the front. While not a big deal in a Dash 8 short flight, I just do it. The same thing for the 2nd leg move from the back to Row 8C. Good thing I did on this leg as 30+ school kids boarded the flight and went to the back.

The flight left on time for Seattle. The decent took us onto the final approach for Seattle crossing just west of Boeing Field. Looking down there are sure a lot of 737 MAX aircraft parked everywhere.

737 Max Boeing Field

I have to say I was rather surprised after I deplaned and went inside. I thought I was going to be able to eat at either Ivers or Anthonys which are Seattle staple restaurants.  It would appear last spring that SeaTac had different ideas and both are gone.
Seattle is undergoing a major upgrade right now.

When Harald arrived we went and found a pub for a beer and food.

When that was done we headed for the gate to wait with the rest of the cattle.

Nothing eventful happened until the cabin door was closed and a passenger across from me decided to argue with the Flight Attendant about how she was told she should be in First Class for this flight and she wasn’t. The lady insisted that she be able to talk to a gate agent to fix it. She was advised that if the cabin door was opened at this point the lady could talk to the agent but would not be allowed back on the flight. The reason given was she had plenty of time to deal with this prior to boarding and the door being closed.

I went to sleep and woke just prior to landing in Anchorage.

Upon deplaning in Anchorage and going down the jet way  I could smell smoke. It was then we were told that there was a forest fire burning some 70 miles south of Anchorage since June and they were letting it burn.

Once we arrived in the terminal I had thought I would go Geocaching around the area only to find when I went outside I was feeling like a smoked Salmon.

Grab a bench and try for some more sleep.

Waking up at just after 5 we both cleaned up in the bathroom and headed to the bus location.  Arriving there in plenty of time we waited and waited when Harald’s phone had a text message asking where we were.
The driver was told to pick us up at the south end while we had instructions to be at the north end.
We were soon united with the driver and Bus and the only 2 headed to Seward.

The driver asked if he needed to wear the headset and we said no we are going to sleep.
We were told there was a stop halfway for the bathroom at a State Park.

I dozed along the way and managed to do a Virtual cache when we passed by.

A short time last we made a bathroom stop. Hey this were not your fancy bathrooms, they were plain old out houses.

There was a delay along the highway a short distance away at Moose Landing.
You see a few weeks before Snow Glacier above the town developed a lake of water that was 1/2 mile long and 450 feet deep. The one wall let go and there was a flash flood down river that badly damaged the Alaska Railroad and the highway itself.
This caused single lane traffic on the road and ALL Alaska Railroad trains to bus passengers to Seward.

Arriving at the cruise Terminal in Seward just slightly after 0800 left us with a small problem and that was where could we store our luggage.
The passengers had just started to disembark the ship and they were not at all ready for new ones.
We could say we were the first ones at the terminal for the cruise.

We found 2 ladies who were setting up a table near the entrance for those that wanted to check their luggage. We did just that and headed outside to board the shuttle bus to the town of Seward itself.
The bus makes about 7 or so stops around town.
We made the whole circuit and then stayed on to ride the bus down to the Aquarium. We declined to visit the Aquarium and continued on to look for a few nearby Geocaches.

The first one was called wildflower Mural cache. It took about 10 minutes before I figured out where this little bolt was hiding.
The downside to this one was the missing log. The problem is I normally carry spare logs but they are currently located in my suitcase that I checked at the pier.

Then it was off to one more along the water which didn’t take long to find and sign.

The next one was one I had seen before I left which was classified as a puzzle cache. It was called Book Smart, Not Street Smart. Reading the cache page one had to visit the local Library and then locate the book in the Library. The Book is called BIG Black Book.
So we entered the library and headed upstairs to look for this book. After back and forth several times Harald and I were unable to locate said book.
Harald made a small suggestion that maybe we should look at the computer for the book. I decided to ignore Harald and go talk to the Librarian. The Librarian suggested that I try the computer.
Well off to the nearby computer and look up the BIG Black Book. Sure enough the book was there and carried a Dewey Decimal number.
Off to find it, we soon had said book in hand.
Over to the corner where I opened it up and there were 2 containers in to book. One contained the Logbook and the other was for trade items.

GC454BTThe Big Black Book

As most Geocachers know Geocaching will celebrate 20 years next May.
I have been playing this game for 11+ years and cached in 44 countries around the world.
Alaska for the most part is still very much old school for caching as they still put some thought into caches that have been placed and still being placed.
I can’t say that where I live. That is the primary reason I don’t cache in my home area very often.
The 3 caches in Seward took me to places and had some sort of History or area view.
Alaska is still very much the last Frontier.

Seward SmokeSmoke from the Fires

We then wandered around the city stopping in a place called the Chattermark
Harald I tried a White Lager that locally brewed that was very good. After a couple of beers we headed back to the pier to get our carry-on luggage and head aboard the Millennium.

We head to our cabin to get our key cards which are on the door in a sealed package.  A quick drop off of our carry-on and away we go.

I was on the Millennium back in May on the Transpacific cruise from Japan to Vancouver and saw the ship after her $75 million refit then.
It had been a few years since Harald had been on Millennium several years ago so he was interested to see the changes.

As the afternoon proceeded we had 2 different times for lifeboat drill one at 4:30 and one at 7:15 right in the middle of dinner.
It turns out that the later was true that we would do lifeboat drill in the middle of dinner.
I have to say in all the years I have cruised I have never seen Lifeboat drill in the middle of dinner.

After the drill we headed to the dinner where there was a table for set to dine for 8:00 from Cruise Critic.
The problem was this I was told when I booked that this dinner was scheduled and there was no room for me at the table.
I was fine with this but went along because there might be a chance someone doesn’t show.
As it turned out there was some major confusion with the Dinning Room Manager as we didn’t have the Cabin number of who reserved it. Once we got that we then found out they changed their plans and ate in another dinning room. Since it appeared that there was not room for us then questions started as to what next.
The Dinning Room Manager I knew from the Japan cruise so I stepped up and she recognized me. After the hellos etc. I said I was part of this group and we would love some help to get this sorted out.
Within minutes we had a table in a very nice location.

Hubbard Glacier

Today we sailed into Yakutat Bay in a low overcast and drizzle.
As we proceeded down the Bay and into Disenchantment Bay the rain appears to be letting up.
An announcement is made that the bow will not we opened to view the Glacier as it is raining and the deck is wet.
So the question is why are the upper decks open then? It is raining up there just like the bow. Maybe it is a different rain?

As we approach the Glacier we can hear and see the calving of the Glacier in front of us.
Hubbard Glacier is the only Glacier in Alaska that is still advancing. It has a height of between 12 – 14 stories.

The Captain spun the ship around 3 times so everyone got a great view.

While there the clouds somewhat lifted and the rain stopped.

I also managed to do the Earthcache that is located here.

I am often asked which is the better Glacier to see.

They all have their plus and minus. Glacier Bay used to have two Glaciers at the end but Grand Pacific is retreating and it is hard to see what is being left behind and what is actual Glacier. What is left is Marjorie Glacier. She is still offers great views.
As one sails into Glacier Bay you pass 2 more glaciers before you reach the end, Reid Glacier and John Hopkins Glacier.
The situation is this from May until early August the last two Glaciers are closed to viewing due to seals breading in the inlets.

Approaching Hubbard Glacier

Calving in the centre of the photoNotice how the change in light changes the colour of the ice. 

The early part of the season can have a lot of ice in the bay.

Some cruise lines offer College Fjord which is a series of Glaciers named after Ivy League Colleges. There are many of them that are of the Hanging Glacier type so they are not as grand as the others.

Juneau Alaska

This morning we cruised down the Fjord arrived into Juneau to low clouds and drizzle.
We drew the unlucky dock at the fuel dock which is a long walk into town.

During breakfast Harald and I discussed what we were going to do once we went ashore.

The plan was to ashore and look around downtown and go from there.

We left the ship and went to catch the shuttle bus which a few dollars round-trip.
As we stepped off the gangway the rain started and we headed quickly to buy the tickets and then for the waiting area.
The bus arrived and the rain stopped in time for us to board the bus.

Arriving at the drop off location we got off the bus and headed to Mount Roberts Tram.
As there was no line we decided to take the tram to the top and check it out.

View from the top at the Earthcache Getting a bit crowded with Ovation of the Seas arriving Wind blown trees

Arriving at the top a short time later we got off and looked around the Gift shop. Typical Gift shop with all the things one would buy get them home and say what was I thinking.

We left the Gift shop area and headed out to find the trail for the lookout where I could do the Earthcache “What do Juneau about Glaciers?” that was up here.
It was a nice walk through the forest to the viewing point.

From here we headed back and followed the Alpine Loop trail the other way and locate the Alpine Loop Cache.

Looking for the Troll Found it!

The great thing is I have OSM Maps on my GPS and they have all the trails I need for up here.
I have written about OSM maps on here.

Once we completed this we had been up here for over 2 hours and maybe it was time to head back down the mountain and into town.

Once we walked into town we decided to stop at The Red Dog Saloon but the lineup was coming out the doors. Up the street we went where we found a very nice local establishment.
Harald decided on a Reindeer Hotdog along with a nice local Brew.

After our couple of brew it was back to the ship but not before doing one last cache back at the ship.

Working in a Gold Mine

Time for a light snack before heading to the Captains Club Lounge for Happy Hour.

The Captains Club is the Club that one gets a membership to after their first cruise on Celebrity Cruises.
There is different levels that one obtains for the number of cruise days they have spent on board one of their ships.
In my case I am Elite which allows me to attend Happy Hour nightly for snacks and free Drinks.

Since we had Internet here we decided to talk about what we were doing in Skagway tomorrow.
I thought Harald was going to take the White Pass Railroad up to Bennett Lake but he had decided that he wanted to go with me.
It was my plane to rent a car tomorrow and head north to Carcross and then Whitehorse.
I checked Car rental costs at Avis and it was about $150 USD for the 12 hours. We decided that we would wait until morning to get our car.

Juneau EveningBye Juneau

Skagway Alaska

This morning we arrived in Skagway and while it was overcast it was a pleasant day.

It was off to Tuscan Grille for Captains Club Breakfast where we discussed the days plans.

Once leaving the ship we walked into town to the Avis Office. Arriving where the Office used to be I found the area boarded up. A quick look around saw that the office was now where one used to pickup their car.

Walking into the very small office we asked about a car and soon found that the car we wanted and was available last night is no longer available and we would have to take a SUV (Subaru Forester) at a heart stopping $250 USD for 12 hours.
I think I just made a car payment for this rental.

We were soon in the car and off to places north.

The first stop was Gold Rush Cemetery to show Harald the history of those that lived here during the Gold Rush.

Once we left here is was north with a few stops along the way to show Harald where the White pass railroad was in relation to us and the terrain.

It was not long before we arrived at the Canada Customs crossing. We had to wait about 15 minutes while the buses jockeyed for parking to pick-up passengers from the White Pass Railroad Station.
We were now entering British Columbia.

One does not begin to understand how the miners climbed the Chilkoot Trail through the Chilkoot Pass and onto Lake Bennett.
There was a second trail called The White Pass Trail which was 10 miles longer and had it’s share of problems.

As one drives north you begin to understand the challenges that these miners faced when you look at the terrain.
There is one thing for sure and it is pretty unforgiving country.

We arrived in Carcross and stopped by a lookout area I was at a few years back. At that time Bennett Lake was frozen over. It was a fantastic day here this time.

Cariboo LookoutCariboo Lookout cache – I did this one a few years back and the Lake was frozen over

I then looked at my GPS and noticed a small problem. I did not have any Geocaches on it for this part of the trip.
I had to go via memory from my last time here as I had 2 Did not Finds on that trip.
A slow drive over to the Tutshi Memorial which is a old stern paddle wheeler.
I looked for the cache while Harald looked at the Memorial and what is left of the Tutshi.
I managed to find the cache quickly and joined Harald for the rest of the visit.

From here we headed north and stopped briefly to do the Great Cariboo cache.
I soon found this and signed the log.

Back into the car and north to Whitehorse but not a long way up the road I showed Harald the most northerly desert in the world. I decided to stop next at Emerald lake. I have been here before but it was too early and frozen over. Not today it looked fantastic.

Emerald LakeEmerald Lake and there is a Earthcache here

The one thing we did notice was the changing of the colour of the trees as we left the lake.

We came to our next turn which was a turn onto the Alaska Highway.

From here we continued into Whitehorse and proceeded to the airport. I wanted to show Harald a few things such as the worlds biggest weather vain. Then there is the Transportation Museum.

DC 3
What I wanted to show here was the machinery that was used by the US Army to build the Alaska Highway. When the US Army completed the job they just left everything behind.
There is also a river boat that was used to move people up and down the Yukon River.
If you want a closer look then visit the National Historic Site of the SS Klondike.
There is a very nice trail along the Yukon River that has many caches along it.
I suggest stopping by a cache called The Copper Nugget.

Yukon RiverYukon River from the trail

If you want to see early Yukon then stop by the MacBride Museum. How it has changed since I was here.

There was no building built over it last time I was here

We continued into the downtown core to find a Tim Hortons which is a Canadian Coffee House. I have to admit it has fallen off in recent years with it being taken over by Burger King.
We needed something to snack on and I needed my cup of tea for the drive back. Harald suggested another fine establishment where we could have a beer with our lunch. I said sure but I am telling you now I am not having a beer as I have a rule that that I drink NO alcohol when I drive on roads like this. Too many tourists not paying attention.

Harald decided to try the latest craze of the Beyond Meat Burger. I suggested that this would not be the place I would try one as this is a coffee house.
The next indicator was the 10 minutes we had to wait for it.
Harald tried the Burger and said he can now say he has tried one, it will be his last one.
I took my Tea to the car and my box of Timbits that was going back to the ship.

Ready for the RoadReady for the trip back

While I may be a tourist myself I have been in the north many times and aware of what to watch for.
Whitehorse has a weekly flight on Condor Airlines from Germany that drops people off here. Most of them rent Motor homes and tour for 1-2 weeks at a time. They stop without warning, turn without warning etc. One can get lulled into a false sense of no one being on the road with them, hence the sudden stop, turn.
Then there are animals such as Bears, Moose, Caribou and Deer to name a few more of the things on the road.

When we headed back towards Skagway and were about to turn onto the Alaska Highway Harald asked me to stop because he never thought he would ever get the chance to drive on the Alaska Highway.

There wasn’t much to see on the return trip south.
We managed to stop at the Yukon Border this time as there were many Tour Buses at it on the way North.  The other reason was the last time I was here I had to leave the cache here because it was covered in snow.  Not this time, I signed the log on was on my way.

I am standing in BC and the Yukon is behind me.

It wasn’t 5 minutes later when we were quickly gaining on 3 motor homes.  Suddenly they stopped on the road and jumped out. No they didn’t pull onto the shoulder even though there was lots of room.
I saw why with 3 moose in the lake beside the road. I pulled off the road up the way where we managed to walk back and view the wild life.

There is a baby Moose behind.

We left a short time later and the US Border Station was upon us. A quick stop and we were on our way.

On our arrival back in Skagway it was fill the car with gas and return it.

We then walked back to ship in time to get changed and head upstairs to Happy Hour.

When one arrives at Happy Hour and places a box of Timbits on the table people start asking questions as to where we hot those. They didn’t see a Tim Hortons in Skagway. I said we got them in Whitehorse which of course would get Whitehorse how/when. Explained rented a car and went North.

I had brought the Timbits back for the Captains Club Hostess Edrilyn but she was not there.
After an hour or so I offered one to our Appy server. She had never seen them before and tried one and said those things are good where can I get them. I had to explain in Vancouver across from Canada Place.
There was our drink waiter who got the next one.
It was down the last 15 minutes and our Appy server was back for one last round and I gave her a 2nd one and told her that if Edrilyn didn’t show then she could have them. She offered to Call Edrilyn and get her up here, which she did.
Edrilyn arrived and I presented the last 7 in the box to her to Thank her for her hosting the nightly Happy Hour.
She went into the back room to try one and came back and said she needed more of those to take on the Transpacific in 2 weeks.
At the end of Happy hour Edrilyn came to Harald and I asked if we would like to attend sail-away on the Bow tomorrow with the Suite Guests.
Lets say Yes wasn’t too hard to say for this.

Icy Strait Point, AK

This was an early arrival today.

We remained in bed well after the ship docked.

There was no hurry to get off the ship as there are no Geocaches here in Icy Straight.

Looking out the window we could see forest and then some buildings once we woke and opened the curtains. There was a overcast layer of cloud looking like it could rain.

It was off to Tuscan Grille for Captains Club Breakfast and then get off the ship.

Around 10 am Harald and I headed ashore to find out what the wilds of Icy Straight point offered.
There appears to be several walking trails and then a trail into the start of the area built for cruise passengers coming ashore.
As we got farther in we could see several buildings including a building where one starts different tours.

From what I saw I saw few Tlingit Natives working the different venues.
I am not sure why this is, but I have my own thoughts on this.
In BC we have many First Nation People that claim they want work and when work is provided it is turned down.
I will use an example of this where the Band was given a land settlement and the right to Govern themselves and tax people. The band provided the land to build a huge mall and build condos. From this the Band would get the tax money for the band.
The money is then provided to Band Members monthly. The problem was when the mall opened very few if any of the band members took jobs in the mall. It had been said that why take a job when one can sit at home and get a monthly payout from the band.
It is sad and needs to be looked at how to fix the mind set on this.

While it is true that Icy Straight has a mean looking zip-line I am not sure that this is a true Native experience.

You start from the top of the Mountain

If one wanted to do something that Natives in this part of the world know about it is Whales and I would suggest this would be the place.
Whales are a Big part of all Coastal Native Bands and they can been seen on the many Totem Poles up and down the west coast.

Harald and I got back to the ship a few hours after we left. We had a bite to eat and noticed it was starting to clear.

The time came to head to the Bow for sail-away. We put our Jackets and hats on and headed out. Arriving at the Theater we met up with the group and started the trip to the bow.
The sun was out and we looked out of place with our Jackets etc. We grabbed a drink from the table and waited while the lines were let go. I mentioned to Harald that once we started to move many on the bow would be departing as they were not dressed for what was coming.
The Celebrity Eclipse was now coming in to replace us.
EclipseYes it doesn’t look bad…right now Doesn’t get better than this in late August

Sure enough the cold wind started over the bow and people started to leave. Now we didn’t look as out of place at all.

Ketchikan, AK

Arriving in Ketchikan  this morning was pleasant as the weather cooperated and it was very nice.
I have to say over the years I have been very lucky with the weather here and avoiding the rain.

Ketchikan from the ship as we dock.

Stepping off the ship is interesting because your right downtown and on the pier is the rain gauge on how much rain Ketchikan has had to-date.
Now if you forgot to bring a jacket this is the place for you. Stop at the Tongass Trading Company  store to buy a nice jacket for $20. The funny part they have been $20 as far back as I can remember.
Oh yes need that wooden train whistle for the Grandchildren, this is the place to get one of those too. It will surely do the trick of driving the parents nuts well after you have left.

The plan for the day was to take Harald over to the Red Bridge at the start of Creek Street.
At this time of year the Salmon are returning to spawn upriver by the thousands. If you have never seen this before it is a sight to see.

A word of caution here if you visit during this time of year. You will see many people fishing from the bridge and reeling in fish which they promptly gut and clean right on the sidewalk. They do not clean up after themselves.

Creek StreetCreek Street from Red Bridge

We proceeded up to Creek street which was best described in the 1920’s as fishermen, bootleggers, & prostitutes.
From different viewing areas we could see hundreds of salmon fighting their way up stream trying to avoid the seals in the river.
We crossed over a bridge at the end of Creek Street to view things from the other side. We managed to see the seals having a food frenzy just taking out a bite of one salmon at a time.

Proceeding back over the bridge we decided to proceed up Married Mans Trail to the Fish Ladder where we see the salmon using it to bypass the rapids.
As we proceeded across the street to view the river we could see thousands of fish resting in the river waiting to proceed farther up the river to the hatchery.

Salmon resting

We continued up the road along the river until we came to a Geocache that we were passing by. This is a Travel Bug Hotel in the front area of an Apartment Building. Lets say it is a very large ammo can. I soon logged the cache then we carried on.

Arriving at the Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery we went inside to take a look around. We saw the rearing tanks for the Chinook salmon.
The hatchery releases 100,000 Chinook smolt into Ketchikan Creek a year.

Deer Mountain Fish Hatchery

Hatchery’s play an important part in sustaining the Salmon fishery on the west coast of Canada/USA.
I will suggest that if you can visit one please do. It is amazing that the Salmon come back to the place they were spawned.

There was a free city shuttle bus from Totem center next to the hatchery that took us back down town.

When we got back to town we headed off to do 3 Geocaches one at the rain gauge and 1 virtual at the statue next to the Gauge and then one at the large Bald Eagle at the other end of the pier.

Virtual cache

I have to say that there are many interesting places in Ketchikan even if you don’t Geocache.
As far as geocaching goes there is enough trails out of the downtown to take up most of the day. Just remember that early in the season is Bear time. Take the precautions needed to keep yourself safe. This goes anywhere in Alaska early on.

Totem Pole

The best part of leaving Ketchikan is sailing out of the Harbour either north or south is the beauty of the area. Find a place to sit and take a look at what you sail past, the scenery changes every few minutes.

While the ship sailed at 6:00 PM everyone has to be back onboard by 5:30 PM. I suggest you don’t be late as the ship WILL leave you behind.
We went upstairs to Happy Hour and picked a window seat for the next 2 hours as we sailed south. There was only one whale sighting and that was as we left Ketchikan harbour.

Cocktail Hourview

Inside Passage (Cruising)

Today we sail south and currently in open water of the Pacific Ocean.

Some cruise lines head inside south of Prince Rupert BC and take the same inside passage that BC ferries takes. This is a spectacular area to sail.

As we approach the northern tip of Vancouver Island we take on 2 Canadian Pilots for the rest of the trip to Vancouver.
For those that are headed to Victoria/Seattle you will be sailing the outside of Vancouver Island.

later on this afternoon will will approach an area called Robson Bight that is a protected Marine Wildlife reserve for Killer Whales. The Killer whales use this area to rub their undersides on the rocks here.
many people are not aware there are 2 types of Killer Whales the resident Pods and the Transient Pods. Resident pods eat Salmon while the other eat seals etc.

What I am saying there is a great chance that one should see some form of whale activity.
Today we only saw 2 Grey Whales.

Today we spent most of the day just watching the world go by and talking to people we met onboard.

We had the most magnificent sunset.



I failed to talk about food and many other things onboard the Celebrity Millennium.

Food is a very subjective between passengers. While I have done Alaska many times on different brands Celebrity food is a notch above the other brands for the most part.
Having said this the one thing that most passengers look for onboard a Alaska cruise is Salmon.  There is wild Salmon and farm raised Atlantic Salmon. Almost all Salmon served on a ship anywhere is Atlantic Farm Raised. The Salmon is raised in pens both in BC and Argentina and fed coloured feed to turn the flesh pink.
Farm raised also have a sea lice problem that is becoming at problem for wild salmon.
I will ask what salmon a waiter/restaurant is serving before ordering.
For instance Celebrity has salmon available every night at dinner and you can bet it is Atlantic Farm raised.
I found that on our cruise when Salmon was featured on the menu it said Wild Pacific Coho Salmon.
Holland America makes a BIG point of serving wild Salmon on board especially when the Copper River Salmon is caught. Holland America’s head office is in Seattle so they understand the Salmon issue.

The Millennium went through a major refit back in March where the ship was almost gutted and rebuilt. The ship for the most part is great. There are several things about this ship I noticed back in May when I was on her that were still a problem. The showers in the cabins are having a problem with the grout coming up between the tiles. There is still paint over-spray down the halls around the doors.
I did notice something new this time in Icy Straight Point. Celebrity changed the hull colour of the ship to a new colour of blue. A ship needs constant painting and it appears the deck hands were using old paint because there were large areas of the “old” blue.
On a positive note I did notice a change in the bathrooms on the shelves where they have added a wood lip to stop things from sliding off.

Cruising and Geocaching

I started cruising back in 1983 and starting Geocaching in 2008 and thus combined the two things to have a great time.
Yes it takes planning to find where you want to go and where the Geocaches are that you may want to do.

There are several things that can happen if you want to cruise and Geocache. Do you want to do the work on your own, or join a Travel Agent group that has put a Geocaching trip together.
I have helped assemble a group for a cruise that had about 550 people on the cruise along with a few smaller cruises. So I have some experience in this matter.
I have gone cruising with about a dozen cachers who I have met over the years cruising.

If you decide that joining a Travel Agent Group sounds interesting consider several things before you put the money down.
– How many people are going on this trip.
– What is the cost vs doing it on your own or with friends
– Am I/we going to achieve my goals for the trip?
– What extra perks am I going to get if I book this cruise with a group?

The old saying the more the merry isn’t always the case especially when it come to Geocaching.
Think about it this way. Buses in North American can carry upwards of 55 people.
Do you want to be following the leader to the cache  to sign the log? Will you accept a Group Stamp as your proof you were there?
There will be that “slow” person who wants to sign the log then stop and take several photos and be last on the bus.
There is always that Geocacher who is a high time cacher that only wants to do quick caches because he is a numbers guy and doesn’t want to do quality caches no matter what was agreed to before you left for the trip.

The cost of the trip could be very high compared to what you could do on your own.
Look at what is included. Does the group provide a bus in each port Is there a cocktail party provided for the group.
You see when a group is formed the normal situation is that with every 8 cabins sold the Travel Agent is given 1 cabin. Based on this formula the Agency stands to get 7 cabins for a group of 55.  There are several ways to deal with these cabins. The agency will sell them and this is pure profit. So if the trip is $2000 PP that is $4000 per cabin x 7 or roughly $28,000 to the Agency depending what type of cabin is sold.
Some groups I have done have put this amount back into the group reducing the cost for everyone in the group. There is an option to add perks such as the Cocktail Party or Group Jackets or put it towards the buses for the group.
In some of the groups I have been asked to look at by fellow cachers I was amazed at the prices they are paying. vs. what they are getting.
In one group I looked at the group appeared to be paying upwards of $500 pp above what I could see the cruise being sold for. Then the group was to pay for buses once they got into port that had been arranged for them.
So stop and think about this, another $26,000 is being made on top of the $28,000 for $54,000.
The next question one needs to ask if the cruise price goes down prior to final payment does the Group price go down. This happens more than one would think.
If the cruise price does go down you should benefit from it.  Some Agency’s don’t like dropping the price due to the fact they loose commission but lets be real here they are still making good money.

When one plans for this type of Group get as much information as you can as to where you will be stopping and what you will be seeing. I heard that recently a trip stopped at many Guard Rail caches, we have all seen far too many of these. Is this what you went to Europe for?
When I go caching off a cruise I try and look for local attractions and see if there is a cache nearby. I may walk to it if not far, take a train or a bus.
I have been known to walk 16+km around a city.
I have seen some pretty amazing things along my travels like the Snail in Venice Italy, or the old Greek Church in Athens built about 1050 and still being used today.
I can tell you I have been in some pretty interesting situations  but always got back to the ship without problems by using my brain. Think about where you are, what Country you are in. Will placing a cigar tube back behind a electrical box with a Police Officer with Sub-Machine Gun near by draw their attention. (Yes this did happen to me)

Your goals need to be set before you book and then during the booking process are those goals going to be met. How many of them are going to be met.

Every Group cruise I have done has had perks in one way or another. They could be a reduction in fare like I discussed above.

Now ask yourself this, are you going to cache with a cellphone or a GPS. Cellphone can be damn expensive if you decide to roam.  I was in Vietnam where one of the group decided to use their phone and got back to the ship with a $200 charge for data roaming.
Open Street Maps work all around the world and can be downloaded for FREE!
I have used them on every trip and not had a problem.
If you see a cache near a place that you are going to visit and it is disabled for a period of time put a note on the cache for the CO asking if he intends to replace it. If no response after 7-10 days put an Archive Notice on it. This will either get it replaced or the CO may email you and ask you to replace it as he won’t get back there for a few more months. The worst is it gets archived and shows the CO had no intention of replacing it.

Lastly as I said this was trip 13 to Alaska and I love Alaska. I have even made a sheet up of how to plan a trip to Alaska via cruise and how to get around  in the different ports for friends that plan on going to Alaska.
Alaska has some great caches in every port.  Skagway has a great 2 old time Virtual caches. Juneau has many Earthcache. Then there is Glacier Bay, Hubbard Glacier Earthcache.

On this cruise it cost me about $1000 CAD including Air to Anchorage and transfer to the ship and rental car. I had an outside cabin as well.
Many ask me why I don’t put Geocaching groups together and there are many reasons. I have tried to do a few but when push comes to shove many cancel killing the group.
This is why I keep it to friends who want to join me.
The next is if you are not careful you can loose a ton of money. I had a Travel Agent who was doing one of the groups go Bankrupt as a result of the group because the price dropped.

I have seen some very good pricing for summer of 2020. I have pointed several fellow cachers to some of the prices I have found.

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