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Alaska Cruise 2008
For those of you who were lucky enough to be with us on our 2008 8-day cruise of Alaska, you already know how incredibly fun this trip was. For you others, read on and consider joining the NBJ on future trips (better late than never). Our trip was arranged through SEACruises and was on the Celebrity Infinity. The Infinity is really big (still not infinite) yet it never felt crowded. We had ports of call in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Victoria (BC). In addition, we spent an entire afternoon cruising near the Hubbard and Taylor Glaciers. The photos below give you some idea of our activities. Click on any photo to see a high-resolution version.


We arrived in Seattle on Friday, June 20 (some of the band actually arrived the day before - but that's another story). We met on board the Infinity and played a welcome set for our private guests in the afternoon. Since many of our instruments were still being processed by the luggage folks, we had a very strange mix of instruments. The ship departed at 5:00. Here is a view looking back to downtown Seattle. It was a very nice day for Seattle (i.e. no rain).
The staterooms aboard infinity were excellent. Unlike many ships we have visited, there was plenty of closet and drawer space. The Infinity is a very new ship; one of three sister ships in Celebrity's "Millennium" class. It holds more than 2,000 passengers and close to 1,000 crew.
Saturday, June 21 was spent cruising at sea. This gave us plenty of time to recover from our air trips, play for our guests, and explore the ship. Here is the Constellation Lounge. It sits at the bow of the ship one the 11th (yes, 11) deck.
Here is the Rendez Vous lounge. This was one of the two venues in which the NBJ performed each day.
And, of course, what's a cruise ship without a casino? Infinity's is large, brights, and loud. I was happy to find slot machines with real levers that pay off in real coins. Of course, they paid off better for others.
There are three swimming pools aboard Infinity, as well as lots of spas. Here is the main outdoor pool area on Deck 10.
On Sunday, June 22, we arrived at our first port-of-call: Sitka. We were anxious to get off the ship - pretty silly since we were so anxious to get on board two days ago. Here you see some of the NBJ and wives at dockside after our harrowing ride aboard the Infinity's tenders. Lance MacLean (banjo), Dick Doner (trombone), Larry Kostka (drums), and Les Deutsch (piano), and or course our wives.
Since it was raining a bit (as it usually does in Sitka) we stopped at a convenient aquarium to learn about the local ocean life.
I pushed my camera's macro abilities to get some fantastic shots of very small sea life in the aquarium's pools.
We visited Sitka's National Park. The park is situated in a rain forest with occasional views of the bay. Here is the Infinity. It is only a few hundred feet from us yet we had to walk 1.5 to get to this spot!
The main reason for visiting Sitka National Park is to see the totem poles. They have old polls here as well as new ones being made on-site by the local Tlingit people.
Sitka's Raptor Center is very close to the national park. This was quite important because many of our party were getting tired of walking. It was worth the small extra walk to see these bald eagles who have been rescued from various injuries. The center rehabilitates eagles and falcons and returns the able ones to the wild. This bald eagle has a permanent injury so it cannot be released. It is used to help educate the public. Centers like this one are responsible for restoring bald eagle populations to the extent that the animal has recently been removed from the endangered species list.
It turns out that several cruise ships from different companies were calling on the same ports in various orders as our own. The closer ship is the Infinity. The ship further in the distance is the Holland America Amsterdam. Our ship was bigger and newer.
Monday, June 23, was spent at sea. However, we had something to see anyway. We spent about four hours in Disenchantment Bay watching the Hubbard (shown) and Taylor Glaciers. Every few minutes, a huge chunk of ice would break off and plunge into the water. I did not manage to photograph any. By the time you hear one, its too late! The glacier the ice cliff right above the passengers.
Here is a shot of the Taylor Glacier. Notice that the water is completely covered in small icebergs. These seem to present no problem for the Infinity. The captain actually has to plot his own course depending on the distribution and direction of the ice burgs. Its a little like jazz applied to piloting a ship. I managed to photograph a seal among the ice - but the image is quite small. If any of you really want to see it, send email.
The glaciers weren't the only scenery for the day. We sailed through waters with tall snow-capped mountains on either side. The clouds presented a perfect opportunity for photography.
Topping off a perfect day of cruising, here is a magnificent sunset photographed from the balcony of my cabin.
On Tuesday, June 24, we arrived in Juneau, the capitol of Alaska. Despite being the capitol, the city is quite small. There are only about 34,000 residents. Tourism is the largest industry after government. In fact, the entire neighborhood by the cruise docks is closed during the non-cruise season! Here you can see Chet and Eileen leaving the Infinity for an exciting day of shopping.
Some of us found transportation and went to visit the Mendenhall Glacier, about 15 minutes out of town. Here one can hike right up to the glacier - if you have enough time. We had only 45 minutes to spend here before our bus left. I ran and hiked within about 1/4 mile of the ice to get some good photographs.
The ice that breaks off from the Mendenhall Glacier has formed artistic sculptures that float down the river.
The next stop on our bus tour was a church built out of logs. It was not as interesting as the view across the street! Here you see the Mendenhall Glacier once again, framed by a lake and snow-capped mountains. Who needs a church when you have this view? In fact, the church is built so the parishioners see this same view over their altar.
Here is the Alaska Capitol building in the heart of downtown Juneau. It was well worth the visit.
It is said that the shops in Juneau will always be open as long as there is at least one cruise ship in port. I cannot prove this wrong based on our experience. Here is my wife exiting one of many such shops. If it weren't for our deadline to be on board by 1:45 PM, she would probably still be in one of the shops.
Wednesday, June 25 saw us in Ketchikan. It rained lightly the entire time we were here. This improves some of the photographs.
Some of the local businesses in Ketchikan have a great sense of humor. Perhaps it's actually true that the best pizza in Ketchikan is found at the local Mexican restaurant.
The Tlingit in Ketchikan have a tribal hatchery. They have rescued bald eagles just like Sitka - only on a smaller scale.
The main purpose of the hatchery is, however, producing salmon. Adult salmon are diverted from the adjoining river where the eggs and "milk" are extracted. Salmon roe are formed in vitro and the fish are raised until they are about eight inches long. Here you can see an employee feeding the young salmon. They are released back to the same stream.
Across the stream is the Ketchikan Totem Center. Unlike the poles we saw in Sitka, these were mainly old ones - as much as 300 years. They also teach totem pole carving here.
If you are not into totem poles, the center also has a great collection of carved ceremonial masks.
And, if you don't like anything carved from wood, they have some impressive examples of weaving and bead work.
Most people come to Alaska to see the unique wildlife, like whales, moose, seals, puffins, and bears. No one ever mentions the giant slugs! My wife "captured" this six-incher on "film" (actually on RAM.)
And if you are going to let your dog run free of its leash you should not do this in Ketchikan. It seams they have contracted enforcement of the local leash ordinances to the Russian secret police.
Wednesday was also "formal night" at the Trellises, the Infinity's main dining hall. Here you can see my wife and I ready for dinner. Photo credit goes to our drummer, Larry.
Here is an overall shot of the Trellises Restaurant. The large window looks over the stern of the Infinity so we always know where we have just been while we eat. For this special dinner, many of us chose to have both lobster tail and filet mignon. Dessert was (what else?) Baked Alaska.
Thursday, June 26, was mostly spent at sea. However, we had a port of call - at 8:30 PM! We visited Victoria, British Columbia (Canada). My wife and I got off the ship at 10:00 and had to be back on board by midnight. We saw a very little bit of downtown Victoria in the dark. Here is the famous Empress Hotel.
This is the downtown marina, complete with a Canadian tall ship.
This is the government building complex lit up like Disneyland's "Main Street."
After our exhausting 20 minutes in downtown Victoria, we returned once more to the Infinity. When we woke on Friday, June 27, we were back in Seattle - ready for our next adventure.