Monday, September 30, 2013

Thursday, 09/26/13 At Sea Day 4

Thursday, 09/26/13 At Sea Day 4

During the night, the ship passed across the International Date Line, so we go directly from Tuesday, September 24 to Thursday, September 26, skipping past Wednesday, September 25. The weather continues to be completely overcast, with fog, mist, and light rain all day. Today’s seas -- “Moderate” -- with swells of 4-7 feet or 1-2 meters.

Attended the port lecture for Busan, which was quite poor; and the port lecturer continues to give inaccurate information. For example, today she said that the ship would accept foreign currency as payment for bills at the end of the cruise, and that is false -- the ship will accept only American currency as payment for bills or for any other reason, nor will the ship exchange foreign currency for American currency. Her lectures are really quite poor.

Attended the photography class -- today’s topic, “Creative Lighting.” Although the “creative lighting” part was minimal, the class was very good, and it lasted more than two hours. The class ended with a photoshoot of the atrium of the ship; the purpose was to learn to adjust the White Balance to minimize the yellow tones of the atrium. After the class, Jean-Luc, one of the professional photographers on the ship (from South Africa), took my camera and checked the settings, and suggested changing several of the settings to improve my photos, in particular he suggested putting the color setting to Adobe RGB. He said that would improve the colors of my photos.

Tuesday, 09/24/13 At Sea Day 3

Tuesday, 09/24/13 At Sea Day 3

After the calm day yesterday, the captain said that the ship would encounter another storm early this morning, and indeed, about 7:00 a.m., the ship began to encounter rough seas. By 8:00 a.m. the full force of the storm was upon the ship, with high winds and high seas, and throughout the day, the storm increased until mid-afternoon, when it finally began to abate. On the TV weather channel, the wind speed was 63 knots, or 72 mph; the seas were 12-26 feet, or 4-8 meters. This storm was more intense than the storm of two days ago, even though the winds were not as high. The ship listed very badly, making walking much more difficult than in the previous storm. Perhaps the difference was wind direction.

At breakfast, I sat at a large table with others, and the subject of living life until the end of life -- including travel -- came up. That led to a discussion of the amount of time left before dying, and a woman at the table, Paula, from Queensland, Australia, talked about having a heart attack at age 24, and living on borrowed time since then (she said she is now 66). She then talked about having “died” when she had a heart attack, and I asked her to describe that experience. She said that she had a feeling of such intense peace that it was completely indescribable. She then went on to describe the feeling of regaining consciousness and how the feeling of intense peace slowly evaporated. She said that since then, she has absolutely no fear of dying because she is certain that death is that state of intense, indescribable peace. She was a midwife, and she talked about sitting with people who were dying, and when she touched them, she was able to transfer that feeling of peace to them. When they were very agitated, her touch calmed them and gave them peace.

Monday, 09/23/13 Quiet Day at Sea

Monday, 09/23/13 Quiet Day at Sea

After the storm yesterday, the captain altered course to find calmer conditions. He had been on a course along the Pacific Ocean side of the Aleutian Islands. To find calmer conditions, he slipped between the Aleutian Islands to the North side, the Bering Sea side, and indeed the sea conditions were calmer. He announced that he would continue along the Bering Sea side of the Aleutian Islands until he was past the Islands and then he would need to swing south toward Japan.

Aboard ship, there was a lecture by the Port Lecturer, Heather Hopkins Clement, about the Japanese port of Muroran, and Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido. The evening was formal, and the production show was, “Do You Wanna Dance,” with the Princess singers and dancers. The show was really excellent, as all the production shows are, with standing room only in the theater.


Sunday, 09/22/13 Storm At Sea

Sunday, 09/22/13 Storm At Sea

The previous evening, as the cruise out of Whittier got underway, the captain announced that heavy seas could be expected, and during the night, the ship began to jerk and shake heavily as the ship encountered heavy weather. In the morning, the motion grew stronger. The headline on the weather report on the ship’s TV system showed “Violent Storm”, with winds of 72 knots, or 84 mph, and seas of 12-18 feet (4-6 meters), and a temperature of 40 degrees F (about 5.9 degrees C). I had previously read that the Northern Pacific could be rough sailing, particularly in the Autumn, and this storm certainly bore that forecast out. The storm continued throughout the day with no let-up.


Saturday, 09/21/13 Catamaran Cruise of Prince William Sound

Saturday, 09/21/13 Catamaran Cruise of Prince William Sound

Klondike Express Cruise of Prince William Sound includes views of 26 Glaciers. The catamaran was quite large, and it was completely filled; it had the feel of passengers being packed into the boat like sardines in a can. It was quite uncomfortable. Passengers were assigned seats to prevent conflict among passengers over seats. As the cruise got underway, the weather was quite poor, with heavy overcast, fog and drizzle. The temperature was in the low 40s. The day looked very unpromising. From Whittier, the boat headed out through Passage Canal, a deep ice free fjord, and circled around Easter Island. No glaciers were seen in this part of the tour, and the only wildlife was two bald eagles that could be seen in the distance. The first hour of the cruise was very unpromising. The cruise then turned into College Fjord briefly and the glaciers that had been viewed the previous day from the ship were seen again.

Only then did the cruise turn into Barry Arm of Prince William Sound, and then turn into Harriman Fjord, where three large glaciers were seen -- Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers. As the boat continued up Harriman Fjord, Serpentine, Baker, and Cataract Glaciers were seen, and then the largest glacier of all, Surprise Glacier, a glacier only slightly smaller than Harvard Glacier, seen the previous day in College Fjord. Surprise Glacier is 300 feet high at the face, and half a mile wide. It is a very impressive glacier with much blue ice. The boat parked at the face of the glacier for half an hour for full viewing by the passengers. The sight was truly awe-inspiring. Loud booms could be heard throughout our time there, and at one point a sizeable chunk of the glacier broke away and fell into the water, leaving a large hole in the face of the ice. This glacier was worth the entire price and time of the tour.

On the trip back to Whittier, the boat passed several “herds” of sea lions along the shore. As the boat returned to Whittier, one could see how small Whittier is, and the scene of the ship docked at the pier was very pretty.

The cruise across the Northern Pacific to Asia had begun -- six days at sea before reaching Japan. Clocks were turned back an hour in Whittier, and they would be turned back an hour each day for the following six days.


Friday, 09/20/13 College Fjord

Friday, 09/20/13 College Fjord

College Fjord is located very near Whittier, Alaska.  As the ship sailed into College Fjord, the ship passed a number of glaciers, all named after colleges -- Barnard, Holyoke, Vassar, etc, until it arrived at Harvard Glacier, the largest of the glaciers in College Fjord.  The previous day ended with a storm, and all during the night, the ship shook as it passed through the storm.  This morning dawned clear and sunny, with calm seas, a perfect day for viewing glaciers.  The snow-capped mountains shone brightly in the clear sunshine. 

Numerous glaciers flow into College Fjord, the most famous of which is Harvard Glacier.  Of the 10,000 glaciers in Southeast Alaska, only eight are advancing; all the others are retreating.  Harvard glacier is one of the eight advancing glaciers; it is advancing 6-20 feet per DAY.  Harvard glacier is huge -- over 300 feet tall and more than two miles across.  Harvard Glacier is fed by nine glaciers, which merge to form Harvard Glacier.  It is the largest and most impressive glacier that we saw on this cruise -- and the largest glacier I have ever seen.  The captain stopped the ship for half an hour directly at the face of the glacier.  It was a truly awe inspiring sight.  Although only a very small part of the glacier broke off (calved) while the ship was there, loud cracks could be heard during our visit. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thursday, 091913 Glacier Bay

091913 Glacier Bay

Today the ship visited Glacier Bay National Park, a World Heritage Site.  Throughout the day, the ship slowly made its way up the bay and back out again, providing close views of the glaciers in the bay.  The National Park Service boarded the ship at 7:00 a.m. and provided commentary throughout the visit.  At 9:30 a.m. we passed the first of the glaciers, Reid Glacier, and then we came immediately to Lamplugh Glacier, which the ship passed slowly, but without stopping.  Immediately after Lamplugh Glacier, the ship very slowly crept to the mouth of the Johns Hopkins Inlet to permit passengers to view the Johns Hopkins Glacier at the end of the inlet.  This glacier is the only one that is still growing; all of the others are slowly retreating.  At this point, the captain turned the ship around to permit passengers on all sides of the ship to view the Johns Hopkins Glacier and then the ship slowly made its way back out of the inlet.  As the ship returned to the Lamplugh Glacier, the captain paused the ship for very close viewing.  The captain slowly spun the ship completely around to permit all passengers to view the glacier several times.  Following the Lamplugh Glacier, the ship made its way farther into Glacier Bay until it reached the end of the bay, at which point both the Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier merged into Glacier Bay.  Grand Pacific Glacier is brown from all the dust it had accumulated over the centuries; however, Margerie Glacier is truly spectacular, the most magnificent site on the entire cruise.  Margerie Glacier is about 25 stories high and two miles wide at water level, and the captain parked the ship directly in front of the glacier for a full half-hour.  A few small ice-floes broke away from the glacier as we sat there watching.  This site was by far the highlight of the entire cruise, and one of  the greatest sights in the world.  After the ship had been stopped for a half-hour, the captain turned the ship around, providing great views of the Grand Pacific Glacier, and again the Margerie Glacier before slowly making his way back out of Glacier Bay.  In the afternoon, a naturalist came aboard to lead a whale-watching time as the ship made its way back out of Glacier Bay; however, only a few dorsal fins were spotted.  While the weather was very pleasant, though very cold, for glacier viewing, heavy fog and rain returned in the afternoon as the ship made its way back out of Glacier Bay.

The evening was formal, and the show was a production show called, “Piano Man”, which would seem to feature Billy Joel music; however, the show had music from the 50s to current music.  The production shows are truly great shows, featuring the Princess singers and dancers, and this show was excellent as well.  Dinner was with a man and his wife from Denver; I had met them on the White Pass Railway, where he had introduced himself and asked me if I were Jon Voigt.  Later on that tour, I took their photo at the suspension bridge, and as we talked, he asked if I would join them for dinner tonight.

Wednesday, 09/18/13 Skagway

09/18/13 Skagway

Today I took the White Pass Railway from Skagway to White Pass, the high mountain pass through which prospectors had to travel to get to the Klondike gold field.  At one time, the railway was used to transport all goods into Skagway, but now that the Yukon highway has been constructed, it is used only for sightseeing.  The train makes its way up the mountain from sea level to an altitude of 3,000 feet; the trip ends in Fraser, Canada, where Canadian border officials checked all passports before passengers were permitted to exit the train.  Buses then took everyone to a pedestrian suspension bridge over a creek several hundred feet below, and then back down the mountain to the ship.  As the bus passed down the mountain, it passed the U.S. border control station, where U.S. customs officials had to check passports.  At the base of the mountain, in Skagway, the bus stopped at a very pretty garden, “Jewell Garden” for lunch and a walk in the garden.  The lunch was not very good, but the garden was really beautiful.

An interesting incident occurred while on the train.  The weather was cold and raining, but I stood on the little platform outside the rail car to take photos.  At one point, two other men were standing with me, and one of them asked me if I were Jon Voigt.  When I told him that I was not, he said that I must get that question a lot.  Indeed, over the years, many people have asked me if I were Jon Voigt, and several have even gone so far as to ask for my autograph.  One man who had worked on a movie with Jon Voigt told me that he thought I was Jon and even began to talk with me as if I were him, until he realized that I was not him.  He was quite startled at the resemblance.  I don’t see the resemblance, but others do. 

Tuesday, 091713 Juneau

Tuesday, 091713 Juneau

Ship tour to watch whales -- Allen Marine Tours ( -- a family run business conducting marine tours in Alaska since 1970.  The young woman who was the captain of the boat seemed to be either a member of the family, or someone associated with the family in some way.  She was excellent in finding whales and following them.  The weather was not good; it was heavily overcast with misting rain all day, sometimes heavier than others, with a breeze, and temperature of about 45 degrees.  It was not pleasant standing outside on the boat trying to take photos.  At first, we saw only one whale, and not well, so she moved the boat to a small island where sea lions were resting; there must have been at least 50 sea lions on the small island.  Then she moved the boat to another area where there were other boats that seemed to have seen whales.  Suddenly we seemed to be surrounded by a large number of whales, so there must have been lots of food fish in that area.  We stayed in that area for the remainder of the tour and we saw numerous whales.  Fortunately, I was able to get a few nice photos of the dorsal fins and some nice tail photos as well.  I felt that the trip was quite good. 

After leaving the whale watching, we were bussed to the Mendenhall glacier, which was very interesting.  I could not help comparing it with the Briksdahl glacier in Norway.  The Briksdahl glacier was much harder to get to; we had to walk a couple of miles up a trail to see it, where the Mendenhall glacier was in full view from a number of viewing platforms.  The National Park Service made it easy to view the glacier, and visitor center also had a really nice video and other displays that provided much information about the glacier.  I felt really good about the experience of seeing the Mendenhall glacier (as I also did about seeing the Briksdahl glacier). 

Later, I walked the one street in Juneau.  Juneau was the town built around the Juneau gold strike.  It is a very narrow town built along a river, with only one street.  Beyond the one street, a high mountain blocks further development.  The state capitol is a plain brown building with no dome.  The entire town is only about 30,000 population, and it is spread out over a wide area.  The one street is filled with the same tourist shops and jewelry shops found in so many places in the Caribbean; many of the jewelry shops are owned by the cruise lines.  Dinner was with an Australian couple and a young couple from San Diego. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Monday, 091613 Ketchikan

091613 Ketchikan

Neets Bay bear watching.  Twelve adults and one child signed up for the high-speed boat trip to Neets Bay to watch bears in the wild eating salmon.  The day started off very cloudy and misty, but as we got going, it cleared up.  The captain of the boat was Captain Mike, and the tour guide was Bailey, a girl who had just graduated from high school last year.  She turned out to be interesting.  Her dad works for the U.S. Forest Service, and last year he had been offered the chance to be transferred to Alaska from Ohio.  He asked his wife and five children what they should do, and they agreed to the transfer.  Bailey is the oldest, and she finished high school last year.  The others are still in school.  This summer, she got the job with Captain Mike, and he taught her what to say on the boat to explain what customers were seeing. 

The boat ride to Neets Bay was about 45 minutes at high speed.  Once there, the captain watched for bears and then took the boat as near to them as possible to let passengers observe them.  For a while, it appeared that we would not see any bears, but after a time, one bear did emerge from the dense forest to walk along the water’s edge in search of salmon.  Unfortunately, we were too far from the bear to get a very close look, but I did take photos.  We also saw sea lions and seals, which also eat the salmon.  Later at the end of the time in Neets Bay, we went by a small island that was filled with sea lions and a nearby, second island that was filled with seals. 

The temperature was about 45 degrees, and I was very pleased that I had dressed warmly, with heavy undershirt, heavy shirt, sweater, and jacket, along with gloves.  I needed all those clothes, and I was still cold on the way back from Neets Bay.  On the way back to the ship, we encountered a shower, which is not unexpected in Ketchikan; the average annual rainfall in Ketchikan is 14 FEET. We were lucky that it did not rain while we were out looking for bears. 

After arriving back in town, I went for a brief walk in Ketchikan, which is very neat, and is all set up for cruise passengers, with the same jewelry shops and gift shops found in the Caribbean.  Many of these shops are owned by the cruise companies. 

Sunday, 091513 Day at Sea

091513 Day at Sea

Today was Sunday, and the Redskins were playing Green Bay on TV at 10:00 a.m.  After breakfast, I watched the first half of the game, and then turned it off.  I spent the day relaxing, reading, doing a Sunday crossword, and exploring the ship.  The evening was formal, and I wore my tuxedo.  At dinner, I met several people who I found interesting -- a couple from New Jersey, two people from California, and two women from Australia.  The two Australian women, both grandmothers, were married, but traveling alone, their husbands didn’t want to travel with them, so they traveled alone.
The evening entertainment was a production show, “I‘ve got the music“, featuring songs of Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, and Lionel Richey.  As always, the production shows on Princess are great, and this one was, too.  The theater was standing room only, as always for production shows.

Saturday, 09/14/13 All Aboard Diamond Princess

All Aboard

The bellman knocked on my door at 7:30 for my luggage, although the bus would not arrive until 9:00 to leave the hotel for the ship.  I had breakfast in the hotel, and I had a feeling of elegance having breakfast in such an ornate dining room.  The eggs Benedict were wonderful.  After breakfast the wait was brief until I boarded the bus for the ship.  As the driver pulled the bus away, I asked him if everyone was on board.  He suddenly stopped the bus and made a head count, and said, no, everyone is not here.  Soon some others arrived and we were off.  If I had not asked him my question, I guess they would have been left behind.  The ferry crossing was uneventful except for one thing -- I decided to pay $12 to sit in a luxury section with comfortable chairs and snacks provided.  It was well worth the price.  After leaving the ferry, the driver took us a different route back downtown to the pier where the ship was waiting, and it was very interesting to see a different part of Vancouver.  It is a very pretty town, and so orderly and clean. 

Boarding the ship was uneventful; although the lines were quite long the process moved quickly.  When I arrived at my room, I felt “at home”.  A feeling of comfort, both physical and emotional, came over me.  I freshened up and went for a walk and a bite to eat at the cafeteria on the top deck while I waited for my luggage to arrive in my room.  At 4:00 p.m. the ship held its mandatory safety drill.  I discovered that somehow my dinner reservations were “free style”, which means any dining room at any time.  When I went to dinner at 8:00 p.m. the lines were long at the first two dining rooms, but when I arrived at the Santa Fe dining room , I was seated right away with a very interesting elderly couple who were originally from Uzbekistan.  They came to America in 1991, after the fall of communism, and lived in Pennsylvania until a couple of years ago, when they moved to Florida.  They told me about living in Uzbekistan, which they loved until Stalin came to power.  After that they said that living was very hard.  They had relatives in the U.S. but they were not permitted to visit, or ever to leave the country together; the thought was that if one was left behind, the other would return, too.  Eventually, they were permitted to immigrate to the U.S. and they have been very happy.  One of the great things about traveling is the interesting people one meets.

In the evening, I skipped the comedian, and went to sleep early.

Friday, 09/13/13 Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens, Victoria

Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens, Victoria

The bus arrived at 8:15 a.m., and we were off to Vancouver Island.  The bus driver was very informative, talking constantly as he drove the bus through the downtown area, then south past the airport and on to the ferry terminal an hour away.  The city of Vancouver is very neat, very well organized, very clean, without litter and graffiti.  The presence of a large Asian community is very noticeable.  As the bus drove out Cambie Street, the driver informed us that a subway line had been installed the under the street prior to the 2010 Olympics, and as a result, development was underway around the stations.  Indeed, we could see dozens of buildings under construction near the subway stations.  The area had formerly been residential, and houses near the stations were empty, with signs indicating that new buildings were planned.

At the ferry terminal, the driver informed us that the ferry transported both large vehicles and cars, as well as bicycles and even foot traffic.  The ferry held 410 cars and 34 large vehicles, including busses and even semi.  The bus pulled into the second deck, and passengers went upstairs to the fifth and sixth decks for seating and refreshments.  While on the ferry, I stepped outside to take some photos, and at one point, I noticed a young Muslim woman trying to take a self photo; I took her camera and took the photo for her. 
Then her companion, another young Muslim woman, came up, and I took both of their photos.  Then they permitted me to take their photos with my camera as well.  At the appointed time, passengers reboarded the bus, and when the ferry arrived at the terminal on Victoria Island, the driver was on his way to Butchart Gardens.  Travel time for the ferry was about 1.5 hours.

The driver described Butchart Gardens, now more than 100 years old.  It was formerly a shale quarry, and after the shale played out, the wife of the owner decided to install a garden in the pit and surrounding areas.  Now, after 100 years, the gardens are a national shrine.  Inside, the bus driver explained that passengers would have two hours to visit the gardens, and we were off.  I wandered about  and took photos of the beautiful scenery.  It truly is amazing how a former mine pit has been transformed into a beautiful site.  While I was taking photos, again I saw the two young Muslim women taking photos, so I took a few photos of them with their camera, and then again, they permitted me to take a photo of them with my camera.  I talked with them for a moment, and it turned out that they were visiting from Oman, attending a conference in Vancouver.   I was able to tell them about my one day in Muscat, Oman, on a cruise in 2010.  After wandering about, I stopped for gelato before reboarding the bus to Victoria.

The bus driver took a scenic route to Victoria, driving along the coast.  Eventually, the bus arrived in Victoria for a loop around the downtown area before stopping at the stately Fairmont Empress Hotel.  A large, imposing red brick building, the hotel was constructed more than 100 years ago.  It sits across from the Parliament building, constructed about the same time by the same architect.  After checking in, I went to my room, which seemed to be an original room, with little upgrading since construction.  With high ceilings, and a ceiling fan whirring, the room seemed to be out of a historical movie.  The bathroom was tiny, with very old fixtures, and even the furniture seemed very old.  I found it all charming. 

After my luggage arrived in the room, I took off quickly to walk the downtown area of Victoria for some photos.  Buildings along the two main streets in the downtown area., Government Street and Wharf Street, along with adjoining streets, were constructed 50-100 years ago, and had been renovated, forming a very picturesque scene.  Most of the shops were tourist shops.  I took photos until the sun set, and then returned to my room before going out again to dinner at a restaurant that overlooked the marina sitting just in front of the hotel.  After dinner, I took photos of the Parliament building which was outlined in lights, forming a very pretty scene. 

Repacking before bedtime; luggage must be ready the following morning by 7:30 to return to the mainland and then to the ship.

Thursday, 09/12/13

Thursday, 09/12/13

Jet lagged, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. ready to start my day.  I planned to walk the downtown area of Vancouver, getting a feel of the city.  However, after I took my shower and got dressed, I was feeling very groggy, and decided to lie back down for a few minutes.  I woke up FIVE hours later!  I was totally exhausted from the travel and the time difference.  This time, after getting up, I went downstairs to an underground food court and got some breakfast -- an apple fritter from Starbucks and coffee from McDonald’s.  Then I began my walk at noon, local time. 

The concierge at the hotel had mentioned that one of the most interesting sights in Vancouver is an area called Yaletown, in the far Southeast section of the downtown area, so I headed in that direction.  It turned out that the hotel was located in the financial district of Vancouver, and it reminded me of the financial district in New York, with many tall banks and other financial buildings.  Like Lower Manhattan, this financial district is also located on the tip of the peninsula by the cruise port, the ferries, and marinas.  Vancouver had also built an elegant convention center on the water front, with five tall “sails” on the building, denoting the five provinces of Canada.  The convention center is also the cruise terminal, and a Silver Sea ship was in port. 

Slowly, I made my way south, turning when I saw a building that looked interesting.  When I got to Robson Street, I turned east, toward a large indoor stadium.  It turned out that Robson Street is one of the most important streets in Vancouver, running east-west through the entire peninsula.  Businesses line the street from one end to the other.  Along the eastern part of the street, most of the businesses were Asian -- Asian restaurants (Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, and others), and Asian stores.  Throughout my stay in Vancouver, I was struck by the large Asian population there; it seemed that almost half of the people were Asian, and I will have to look up the percentage when I can.  Many Hong Kong residents came to Vancouver when Hong Kong reverted to China from Britain. 

After reaching the large stadium at the east end of Robson, I turned south again and walked through an area of high-rise apartment buildings until I reached Yaletown, which turned out to be an area in which old warehouses along two streets had been turned into upscale restaurants and shops.  The area was very interesting in appearance, although I did not enter any of the shops or restaurants.  At one end of one of the two streets, a farmer’s market was underway.  I was pleased to have visited the area, although I was not sure that it had anything for me.  I was told that the area is very lively in the evenings because of the restaurants.

I made my way back in a northwesterly direction, passing hundreds of small shops, which were everywhere in Vancouver.  I noticed that everywhere I had walked, everything was neat and clean; there was no trash on the streets, and no graffiti.  The entire downtown area was very clean and neat.  Slowly, I made my way back to the northwest until again I arrived at Robson, where I decided to turn west.  Again, Robson was filled with small shops, many of which were Asian, as were many of the people walking on the streets.  And so many young people everywhere -- people in their 20s and 30s.  Vancouver seems to be filled with young people.  I walked almost to the end of Robson, stopping once for gelato. 

Toward the end of Robson Street, I turned to walk along the waterfront all the way back to my hotel, and that turned out to be a really wonderful walk.  A wide pedestrian sidewalk zig-zagged along the water all the way back to the convention center near the hotel.  All along the waterfront, high rise apartments had been built, and the area reminded me of Naples Florida.  I could easily imagine living in that area.  It was really beautiful, and the green park areas all along drew people into them to sit on the lawns or benches next to marinas and all of the activity on the water.  As I walked along, the Silver Sea ship pulled out of the port and made its way out to sea.  People lined the walkway to watch. 

After the long walk, I arrived back at my hotel at 6:30 p.m., having walked for 6 ½ hours.  I did not have my pedometer with me, but I guessed that I must have walked 8 or 10 miles.  It was a really great walk, and I felt that I had really “been” to Vancouver.  Later, I went out to eat in an area called “Gastown”, another old area that had been renovated and is now an upscale area filled with restaurants and shops.  It was a really lovely area, and I stopped to eat at an Italian restaurant that was filled with people, indicating a good restaurant.  After eating, I went back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to leave the following morning to go to Vancouver Island, to visit the Butchart Gardens and Victoria.  I was notified that my bags would be pocked up at 7:30 a.m., and the bus would arrive at 8:00.  I asked for a 6:00 a.m. wake up call, and went to sleep.

Wednesday September 11, 2013

Wednesday September 11, 2013

Although I had set my alarm for 5:00 a.m., I was awake at 4:30.  I rose, took my shower, and began to run through my list of last-minute “to do” items -- check email one last time, unplug computers, unplug phone so that all calls would automatically be routed into voice mail, adjust thermostat, water indoor plants one last time.  Close and lock luggage.  I had arranged for the taxi to arrive at 6:00. 

The trip to the airport was uneventful, with no delays, and airport security was quick with no long lines.  As usual, my camera bag required hand checking by security, but that process was not long.  The woman who hand screened my bag never once made eye contact with me.  Boarding was strange, as usual; the attendant called for rows 20-34, but after a few moments, I realized that everyone on the plane had formed a line and was being boarded; so I got in line, too.  No questions were asked, and I boarded with no problem.  The flight to Los Angeles was uneventful, and I tried to take a brief nap; however, as usual, I was not able to sleep on the plane.  During the flight, I worked crossword puzzles -- five New York Times Sunday puzzles with sports themes from a book I had.  It’s always interesting to pass over the great plains, with vast areas of neat farms, and the desolation of Death Valley was striking.  The arid landscape and brown air of the great basin of Los Angeles were also striking, leading me to wonder again about the vast population that continues to pour into this area.  People clearly come for the opportunity and not the geography. 

During the three hour layover, I got lunch and read a bit, and then boarded the small plane to Vancouver.  Again the flight was uneventful, and I leafed through the airline magazine.  Just before landing in Vancouver, the plane made a sharp turn to the East, and out my window I got a fabulous view of Vancouver with the snow-covered mountains to the North.  I wished for my camera, which was stowed; however, I realized that I would not have been able to take a photo because of the water and age stains on the airplane window.  Still, I enjoyed the view very much.  I was struck by the farmland so near and even within the city of Vancouver, much of which was standing in water.  Later I learned that the previous week had brought heavy rains to the area. 

The passport control process at the Vancouver airport was odd.  Passengers entered the airport at the far eastern end and then proceeded to walk through a very long hallway all the way to the far western end of the airport, where passport control was located.  The hallway was glass enclosed and on the second floor, giving passengers a view of the entire airport, which was very beautiful, and later I was told that this airport had won awards as being the most beautiful city airport in North America.  The airport predated the 2010 Olympics, having been constructed in 2001.  After I got my luggage and went through passport control, the Princess Cruise Line representative, George, was waiting for me by name, and escorted me to a waiting Lincoln SUV to take me to the hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront.  When the young man brought my baggage to my room, he informed me that if I were a member of the Fairmont Presidential Club, Internet use would be free of charge.  I immediately went to the front desk and inquired about joining, and I was told that I would enroll online.  After enrolling, I was given a FPC number, which I phoned to the front desk, who deleted the charge for Internet use. 

When I first got to my room, I noticed that the time was 7:20 p.m. Pacific time, or 10:20 p.m. Eastern time; my total trip had been 13 hours 20 minutes.  I was exhausted.  After freshening up a bit, I went out to eat; the concierge recommended a restaurant nearby, so I went there -- Rogue.  I sat outside in the beautiful evening weather and had macadamia crusted halibut; it was not great, but it was okay.  Afterwards, I fell asleep immediately.