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Ovation Goes North, Way North to Alaska! 11 Nights, May 13, 2019

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Marvelous photos. I love the whole report that others tend to leave out...i.e. transit in YVR, check in, airplanes (love your pics of the airplane! avgeek here)etc.  

I just watched a couple of videos on youtube onboard Ovation going under the Lions Gate into YVR and it looked so close...it was cool to see from your perspective.


My questions are: On one of the videos I saw of Ovation departing YVR was that there were people on the bow the of the ship where people had said previously there wasn't access. Are they letting people go there now? 

Also, have you been able to access via deck 13 to on top of the bridge or has it been to crowded? Is it easy to get to? 

I am going on Ovation when it goes back down to Sydney. They usually have kettles in the room for tea and coffee. Have they taken them out for Alaska?

Finally, What are the selections for food like in the Solarium and Windjammer. There aren't any really good pictures or videos on youtube or else where.

Cheers and sorry for the many inquiries...I have been on an Alaskan cruise many moons ago and looking forward to seeing the many pictures of Sitka and others to see how they have changed...especially to compare how much some glaciers remain..they were constantly calving when I was there 15 years or so.

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On 5/20/2019 at 3:04 PM, Aeroman380 said:

My questions are: On one of the videos I saw of Ovation departing YVR was that there were people on the bow the of the ship where people had said previously there wasn't access. Are they letting people go there now? 

Also, have you been able to access via deck 13 to on top of the bridge or has it been to crowded? Is it easy to get to? 

I am going on Ovation when it goes back down to Sydney. They usually have kettles in the room for tea and coffee. Have they taken them out for Alaska?

The bow is a crew only area.  It's not unusual for off duty crew to use the bow at various times but particularly at notable times like arriving in port or at a glacier.

Deck 13 above the bridge is the lower level of the solarium.  There are two bridge wings that are open from 6am to 6pm.

There is a 0.8L kettle in my cabin.

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Day 5 - Sitka

I was up early hoping for a sunrise but it was overcast with low cloud cover. 

Sitka is the only Southeast Alaskan Coastal town that is on the Pacific ocean, most are located along the inside passage.

At this point we were still in the Pacific before approaching the Sitka area.  For the Pacific these were very calm seas.


To reach Sitka we have to sail through a series of small islands that were shrouded in fog.


The despite the cloud cover it was quite beautiful to sail through them.


Finally we approached the pier we would use today.



This area is actually 7 miles from the downtown area.  There is no pier near downtown, ships that go there have to tender.  In our case free shuttle buses operated all day long to carry guests to town and back.


Since I was booked on a Royal excursion we met in the theater where we were given a numbered sticker based on our excursion.  Excursions were then called by number to be escorted off when transportation for that excursion was ready.


Key guests were also offered priority debarkation for self exploring.

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Day 5 - Sitka

My excursion was a visit to the local Raptor center and a nature walk.

We boarded a bus with three guides who took turns speaking to various aspects of Sitka from it's history to the economics of the area.




The Raptor center had it's own guides who were knowledgable about the birds and operations of the center.


Our first stop was to an area where birds who will be reintroduced to the wild were kept while they recover from what ever reason brought them to be rehabilitated here.  Their cage is very large and open to the outside with slats so that the birds feel the outside as much as possible.  

There are one-way glass that is camouflaged so the birds can't see us.  It's heavily darkened glass and very difficult to take pictures through. 


The point is to minimize exposure to humans.


Through that part of the center to the outside area there are birds that cannot be released for what ever reason.  For example this Peregrine Falcon has a wing that can't be fixed.


A number of owls are residents at the center.


A Golden Eagle.


A female Bald Eagle has built a nest.  While she can't reproduce she still has breeding instincts such as nesting on eggs so the center slips in other eggs that allow her to perform her natural instincts.





Two of the other Bald Eagle residents were still sleeping.  For this reason you might want to time a visit here mid or late morning versus this first tour of the day.

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From here we began the nature walk portion of this excursion.  We walked a short way down the road to the Sitka National Historic Park.


Our group was broken into three with each getting a guide from the bus.  As we walked the trail with her she explained the ecology of the area and the types of vegetation in the region.  

It's a beautiful park with well established trails.




This river is close to the mouth of the ocean and late July would be loaded with Salmon returning to spawn.


Our guide talks about the different kinds of Salmon and the different life cycles.  Some new salmon immediately make their way to the ocean while others spend a year growing up in the river before heading to the ocean.  


This sign talks to the lifecycle of the Pink variety of salmon.


The trails continue and our guide talks about the types of trees.


This was the second oldest tree in the park that broke during a wind storm last year.


The park contains a number of totem poles that were brought here in the early 1900's, provided by a number of native tribes in the region.  This is a replication since the original poles are made of wood that weathers and breaks down over time.


The trails continue and we make our way to the coast as we head towards downtown.


Historically these poles are painted once at inception and from that point are not touched up.  


Here is a section of an older totem pole that has been removed from it's original pole to keep it from deteriorating.  


The forest service has a visitor's center located here.


Each pole tells a story that belongs to the tribe that contributed the pole.  Out of respect the story is not told by other's, only that tribe can tell the story.


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The next phase of the guided walk moves to the area's history once being a Russian possession.  We move to a boardwalk along the coast with the town growing closer.


The interaction of the Tlingit and the Russian companies that were trading in fur was explained, as well as the role of America further down the coast.


We spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle in a tree above us. 


Fishing is a large part of the local economy.


Another visitor dropped in to listen to our guide.


We walked through town to the Russian Cathedral.  


This was lost to a massive fire that consumed much of Sitka in 1966.  It was rebuilt based on plans since it was on the historic register.


Inside the cathedral is very ornate and beautiful.



This was all saved from the fire by a human chain of towns people who saw the fire advancing and hand carried as much as they could including these doors to safety.




At this point the guided walk was over and we were free to explore Sitka on our own.

It was several hours and a lot of walking but very informative and I learned a lot about different economic, cultural and historical aspects as well as information about the flora and fauna of the area.  

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I was growing thirsty so I found a solution to the problem. 


At a local bar...  


That solved my thirst issue but with a growing hunger I needed to find some food.


This was solved at the Sitka Hotel.



Fish and Chips.


Plus a local porter to wash it down.


From here I set out to self explore Sitka on my own.


It's a very nice town with a population of 8,900 making it the 5th largest town in Alaska.


It's very easy to walk with numerous sign posts such as this one to help you find your way around.


The airport is on an island accessed by this bridge.  


The site of Baranof castle that has long since been lost but this was also the site where the purchase of Alaska was concluded when America bought it from Russia. 


Finally back to the visitor's center downtown to queue up for the shuttle back to the ship.


The line moved quickly with a number of buses ready and waiting to bring us to the ship.  

Sitka is only accessible by air or sea.  The total road available is 14 miles.  

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On 5/21/2019 at 7:18 PM, twangster said:

Timing is everything but I've gone for several rides, just about every day it's been offered.

I'm sure it doesn't hurt the timing that there's a bar right next to where you get on line.

"Hmmm, line's looking long. Bartender! Another kraken lava flow, hold the lava and hold the flow!"

15 minutes later: "Hmmm, line's looking long..."

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The cruise ship terminal at the pier in Sitka has shops for those last minute typical souvenirs.


It's an active boatyard for servicing the smaller fishing boats and it's been quite busy with a number of boats being lifted out of the water and maintenance performed on the hulls.  


Back in my cabin I looked down to see this guy walking around with some king crabs.  


Basking in sunlight I thought it might be an opportunity for some photos given how overcast much of the day had been so I headed up.


Bumper cars were going with a small line as bumper car lines go.


No line for the North Star so why not?





Soon after our sail away commenced and we started to see the landscape we missed in the morning due to the heavy cloud cover earlier.


Pictures don't do it justice.  It's simply breath taking views everywhere you look.




Some flowrider action.


Plus some instruction going on in the iFly.


It was Diamond happy hour so I happened across the North Star bar.


The North Star bar has been a favorite place to get a drink and soak up the views.  


Looking back towards downtown Sitka on the lower left.







Our position as we turned into the Pacific to head North towards Hubbard Glacier.


I really enjoyed this call at Sitka.  The presence of the largest ship to ever visit was the talk of the town.  Extra buses were brought in and anyone who had a commercial driver's license was engaged to keep guests moving.  Our bus driver on the return shuttle to the ship lives in Juneau for the summer but was flown over to work in Sitka for the day to make sure the shuttle lines between the ship and town were never too long.  After we leave he'll fly back to Juneau where some of us will see him driving a bus there.

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Day 6 - Hubbard Glacier

Our progress at 4:22am:





I was hoping for a sunrise and managed to get a glimpse of a sunrise through the breaking cloud cover.




Our destination began to appear in the distance.  It was pretty windy at this point but seas were pretty calm.


Here at 7:30am the Solarium was still pretty empty.



Some guests secured a front row seat.


You can't see it here but it was pretty windy.


The glass panels did a great job deflecting the wind but allowed me to stick my camera through the space between.



Weather like this isn't unusual here.  I've seen it be like this and clear up later so I wasn't too concerned about the high winds and drizzle.


The shops had set up on the pool deck selling hats, gloves, jackets and stuffed animals.




As we got closer the winds died down so they were able to run the North Star through a test cycle.  This allows them to validate winds at elevation and ensure the ride is ready for guests.




Something you don't see very often is the North Star going over the sides of the ship, at least not here in North America.  This is part of the new North Star Alaska Experience that is a paid option.    




At this point it's 8:50am and we've entered Disenchantment Bay.


Click here for more details on the North Star Alaskan Experience.

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This visit to Hubbard Glacier is a special one. 

Hubbard Glacier is not a regularly scheduled stop for Ovation of the Seas.  This may be one of those rare occasions when an itinerary lines up like the stars.  Who knows when Ovation of the Seas might return?  

While the day started out cold and wet in full Alaskan fashion that didn't last long and we we treated to a fantastic finish.





From North Star as we swung out over the side of the ship.


Pretty cool seeing Ovation slowly navigating through large pieces of glacial ice in the water.











Zan Ma and Li Bao's first visit to an Alaskan Glacier.


Not a bad seat in the house.









Talk about a change in the weather?  What a glorious day!


Alas it was time to leave...





My third stop here at Hubbard Glacier and this is the best weather I've experienced.  

What a special day!

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@twangster, as always your photos and videos are amazing! The totally unobstructed pics of the glacier taken from the North Star while over the side of the ship are especially impressive; while I wasn't keen on the idea of Ovation doing Alaska sailings because it will (almost) only be doing 7-night round trips from Seattle, having that opportunity to get a really unobstructed view makes the idea of sailing Ovation a lot more appealing. And of course, when fouler Alaskan weather hits you have all of those indoor activities to fall back on.

Also good to see that there is lots of seating available for looking at the glacier back by the Flow Rider. With no ability to stand in the bow (and no helicopter deck to give a good view even you could), having those options is great! Looks from your time lapse like the ship did as others do and made a couple of 360s to give everyone everywhere a chance to see stuff? Were you running around to different spots on the ship like you did for your earlier Alaskan sailings, or did you tend to stay more in one place? (around waiting in line for your turn on the North Star)

I personally feel that I'd still prefer the longer one-way sailings on the smaller ships, but if I was doing a full-family cruise with the kids Ovation would definitely be a strong contender, just for all the stuff to keep them engaged on sea days and times of less ideal weather.

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Day 6 - Evening

After dinner I always like to go top side and take in the views.  Shows and entertainment are great but I came here to see Alaska.

This particular stretch of coast has a long running mountain range.



It's basically the coastal area of Glacier Bay National Park, the same mountains I flew over just a few days ago.


In the evenings like this the North Star bar is often empty but there are great views.


This one section has a number of glaciers right next to each other.







Early start in the morning, time for bed.


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