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

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58 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

@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.

Seattle based cruises are a strong option for Alaska.  North Star has been a welcome feature that I've used often.  Flights to Seattle are also easier.

As always I was all over the ship taking pictures.  On ships with helipad access I may have visited there but I didn't stay long since there are better views on the deck above the pool deck on any ship.

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Day 7 - Juneau

Morning came early and it found us in the Inside Passage making our way South so we could pick up the inlet that heads North into Juneau.

I was determined to get some good sunrise pictures so I was up at 4am and top side.


Soon colors started painting the sky right before my eyes.



A glimpse of a glacier perhaps.


I was not disappointed this morning.


Alone as if the ship was deserted I enjoyed this moment solo. 







Eventually a few other guests emerged to share the moment.  A time lapse of a few minutes sailing down the Inside Passage.


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We have arrived in Juneau, the capital of Alaska.


Given an early Royal excursion I went to the theater, got my sticker and waited.  Shortly after our number was called and off we went up the pier.


The tour company offers a Five Glacier Float Plane tour and a Taku Lodge and Salmon Feast Float Plane tour.  As we waited our chariot arrived. My tour is the Five Glacier version.



Conveniently located close to the ship the float plane base is an easy walk.




At this point I'm going to hit the pause button. 

I have some video clips as well as still photos and I want to see how it will work out if I clip together the various short video clips to compliment the still pictures.

Back in a day or two.

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Juneau Excursion - Five Glacier Float Plane

Conveniently located right next to the ship you'll find the float plane base for Wings Airways.  On previous visits it's been hard to miss the float planes coming and going all day long. 

Looking for something different in Juneau I found the Five Glacier Float Plane excursion offered through Royal Caribbean on sale so as they say...YOLO, booked it.


The DeHavilland Otter is by no means a new aircraft having been in service for decades.  They are the workhorse of the North.  Wings Airways has five of them.


A map in their office illustrates our flight path.


They also hand out a card with the names of the glaciers.  Glaciers will be Norris, Taku, Hole in the Wall and the West and East Twins.


Our pilot greets us and we head down the ramp to the plane.  Our plane today is N339AK a.k.a. Red Stripe.



The plane features bubble like windows that let you stick your camera or your head out to get fantastic views.

Headsets are provided and a recorded sound track narrates our journey.


We have a quick safety briefing and then we are off.


A short taxi and take off and we rise up gently into the sky with an amazing view of the Celebrity Millennium as she was arriving in Juneau.

The view looking back down Gastineau Channel with Juneau in the distance.


The scenery is breath taking.





You can see how the bubble windows let you get a great view in many directions.


Our first glacier flyover.



The surface of the glacier has numerous pools of glacier runoff water that have an amazing turquoise color.




Different section of the glacier feature varying formations of glacial ice.



We circle around and continue up the mountain range.







It's hard to put into words the views and what we observe as we fly over them. 





Massive waterfalls look tiny in the these photo.  The scale is hard to describe.



The twins.  West on the far left, East on the right.



On the flight up the left side has a better view but on the return the pilot gives the passengers on the right the awesome glacier views.


Looking down the valley you can see the glacial silt from hundreds of years that has shaped Taku Inlet.


Back over the glacier you can really see the differences as it progresses downslope.



It's hard to fathom the scale of the size but the face is hundreds of feet tall.


A section has recently broken off exposing the intricate details from within the glacier. 



It's a pretty massive glacier.


The river is tidal from where it connects with the Gastineau Channel that we sailed up to reach Juneau.  The ever changing nature of the glacial silt makes navigation challenging and the narration over the headset describes small boats that inevitably run aground and have to wait until high tide to free them. 


On our return to Juneau I spot a sand bar that I spotted from the ship as we approached Juneau.


We gently land on the water and begin to taxi back to the float plane base.



What an amazing experience.  


The rest of the fleet has arrived and is preparing to take waiting guests on their tours.



Here is a ten minute video I put together from short clips I took in between taking still pictures and simply gazing out at the amazing views.

When I booked this excursion I questioned if doing another flightseeing excursion was a wise idea since I booked the flight excursion in Icy Strait Point .  I'm so glad I kept both.  This flight flew very close over the surface of the glaciers and I really got a better appreciation of the differences in glacial ice formations along sections of the glacier. 

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19 minutes ago, WAAAYTOOO said:

How did you manage to get the exit row seat

Oh, silly question. This is THE TWANGSTER you're asking. He can do just about anything. I bet they even offered him the controls of the aircraft so he could get in some flight time. But, I'm sure he declined so he could take those incredible photos to post on this blog. :3_grin:

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Day 7 - Juneau - continued

After the glacier flight it was such a nice day I wanted to go up the Mt. Roberts Tramway to catch the view.  Lines were short and I knew they would get longer later so up I went.  A ticket on the spot was $35.



Stunning views.




Celebrity Millennium



There are a series of trails, some short, some long.  


The short trail has some wood carvings on display, some in the form of mini totem poles.




You can walk up the trail from town but it's not for the weak knee'd.


inside the restaurant and shop area they have a bear on display.


Wood carvers using only hand tools can be observed.


Lady Baltimore is a rescue Bald Eagle that is unreleasable back into the wild.  She spends her summers in residence near the top of the tramway but unfortunately hadn't arrived yet for this season.

Time to head back down.



A video from inside a tram as we went up.

Back on the ship I saw the North Star in operation.  However it was performing maintenance runs only and not accepting guests when I was there.


In better light compared to our early morning arrival here is Juneau "downtown".



As I walked the upper deck I noticed a strange mist hanging in the trees.  It's pollen being released by the trees.


It was kind of cool.  Suddenly one tree would let loose it's pollen as if someone flipped a pollen switch on.



A look over at the Millennium looking quite nice with her recent refresh.


After dinner I went back up top side for a sunset.


Returning to my cabin I discovered a crystal block gift from the Crown and Anchor Society for crossing a threshold on this sailing.  The first block is awarded at 140 points and then every 70 points thereafter.



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Day 8 - Early

Another stretch in the Alaskan Inside Passage from Juneau to Skagway,

Progress so far...


Up early again looking for a sunrise.


I found one, plus a rainbow.


I found the location of the pot of gold!  Now I just need to raise some money for an expedition or maybe a helicopter,


A hanging glacier.



This stretch of the Inside Passage has some stunning scenery.


The town of Haines where I picked up some cell signal that was a lot faster than the ship's Voom internet this far North,


Haines is a short distance from Skagway by ship so I knew we were getting close to today's destination.

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Day 8 - Skagway

Looking back down the channel in the direction towards Haines.


We followed the Millennium up from Juneau where we shared the port the day before.  She went in first so we could hang off the end of the pier.

It had the makings of a beautiful day.


One thing about the crew on Ovation - they pressure wash the decks every morning.  On several occasions I've been chased off them when taking morning pictures.  Arriving into Skagway and the decks were closed so they could pressure wash them. 

Back here at the Windjammer outdoor eating section the deck was open but overspray from pressure washing activities one deck above us made the whole area very wet and challenging to use without getting soaked.   So much for the inaugural visit to Skagway.



In Skagway there is a floating dock where the gangways are set because the tidal changes are pretty large.  Here on the fixed section of the pier you can see the effect of the tides with Two70° and deck 5 almost at the level of the pier.

There was some drama getting to this point.  I met at the requested time for my Royal excursion in the main theater.  There we waited, and waited.  Roughly 45 minutes later we were called in the first group of excursion to go off.  Apparently the pier dock workers are unionized.  Once the ships lines were set and the forklift ready to put the gangway into place a union break was called.   Some words had been exchanged so their break became "extended".   So we sat and waited, making us late for our scheduled arrival. 

At meal with an officer later in the cruise the hotel director said in all his years he had never seen anything like it. 


At the end of the pier near the security entrance a dozen excursion operators held up signs but it's a rather small area and it was difficult to move around of find my excursion.  Eventually I did and we were directed to venture over to a less crowded area where a second excursion guide was waiting.


I know some readers are looking at fishing tours in Skagway.  The entrance to the small boat marina is very convenient and less than a minute walk from the security gate to the pier.  


They have a sign board to help you find your charter.


For my excursion they had a motor coach waiting for the eight of us so we boarded our very large bus and made our way 10 minutes to the edge of town.

Today my "Glass Blowing Experience" would be held at Jewell Gardens.

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For my excursion they had a motor coach waiting for the eight of us so we boarded our very large bus and made our way 10 minutes to the edge of town.

Today my "Glass Blowing Experience" would be held at Jewell Gardens.


We were led to a waiting area where we could see other local or non-cruise visitors at work.




Shortly after arriving we were led to our work shop and Sam, our master glass blowing artist and guide.


They have sample colors and patterns that we could pick from for our custom creation.


We were given a safety briefing and provided a smock and protective eyewear.  Seeking a volunteer to kick off our group of 5 adults and 3 children I jumped up to go first.  

My colors included a white base and party mix of multiple colors.


Sam escorted me over to the oven that keeps glass at over 2100 °F where he dipped a metal rod into the liquid glass and expertly gathered some on my pole. 

From here we took over to a smaller oven we would use several times to keep the glass at a high temperature as we would through the various phases.  Rolling and spinning the pole I could see the molten glass heating up into a more fluid but still thick gooey substance. 


We quickly moved over to the color trays and dabbed the molten glass into my colors before returning to the oven to keep it all very hot.


Here is another participant's color going on their glass.


Sam handled the rod for the most part and had us "help" by putting our hands on the pole and following his movements.



After giving an initial puff of air into the cool end of the hollow pole to start the process of making a glass globe we went back and forth to the heating oven several times to keep the temperature up.  Sam used a waterlogged wooden spoon to shape the glass so that we would end up with a round ball instead of some weird shape.


The work table is set up with a tube we could blow into that inflated the ball at Sam's direction.  As a result it is our breath captured inside the glass globe for all of time.


The colors are subdued at this point in the super heated state but as it later cools they will return.  Sam expertly cut our creation from the pole where we had a choice of a glass loop to hang it from or a glass flat base so it could sit on a table.


Once completed the glass globes where placed in a oven to keep them around 900 °F from where they will be slowly cooled to set the glass otherwise if left out to cool in the air they would shatter when the glass cools too quickly.  Shipping is included so we all should get our creations in the coming weeks. 

The process was repeated for all 8 participants including the family with kids.  It's actually a pretty cool activity as a family as everyone picks their custom colors and participates to create the globe.  New clean mouthpieces are placed on the tube we blow into for each participant so that it's hygienic.  

After we concluded this portion we were free to explore the grounds and visit the glass blown display center then to a restaurant they have on site.  



We were offered a complimentary beer or wine and a small plate of tasty snacks.


They have a model train that runs around the track. 



I confess I did purchase a few more items in their shop.  For a nominal shipping fee it should all arrive at home shortly.

While not a typical Alaskan excursion I'll have a lasting memory to take me back to the experience and Skagway every time I look at it. 

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Skagway continued

I asked our driver leaving Jewell Gardens if they could drop me off in town.  The town isn't very big and walkable.  You can see a different ship in the distance, it's not that far.

I really like Skagway because it has a fascinating history related to the Klondike Gold Rush.  Even though there was no gold right in this area when gold was discovered in the Klondike Skagway and the neighboring native community of Dyea were a popular route for steamships full of would be millionaires arriving from places like San Francisco.


Part of that history includes the Red Onion Saloon which was actually one of the larger brothels in Skagway.


Today there are women who will gladly accept your money in exchange for a tour of the former brothel upstairs.


Downstairs it's simply a popular bar and restaurant.


With a thirst satisfied I found something new I've never tried before in Skagway.


A Klondike Doughboy.


Broadway Street as it is pictured here today was not anything like this in the peak of the gold rush.  The National Park Service owns much of Skagway and they moved these buildings over the years into this downtown area bringing the buildings together when they were spread out across the valley back in the day.


The National Park Service has done a great job with several areas setup that describe the history of Skagway.


To reach the Klondike, stampeders needed to climb into the mountains and there were two routes from this area. 

The first through Dyea and the second through Skagway up the White Pass.  The Canadian border isn't far from the top of the White Pass but Canadian officials were finding hundreds of stampeders arriving with no supplies and no means to feed themselves so they introduced a requirement for anyone arriving at the border destined to the Klondike to have ample supplies, nearly two thousands pounds worth to sustain themselves for their trek across Canada to the Klondike. 

Therein lies the tortuous effort to climb into the mountains with all the supplies required to proceed and that presented business opportunities to capitalize on the stampeders.  Therein lies the real stories of Skagway. 


The Park Service has this saloon set in the period on display along the main street.




The Park service also has set up displays such as this one throughout the town.


From the quote on the sign they've created this bronze monument to the stampeders.


Here is what Skagway really looked like.  It was mostly a tent city.  That sign post indicates Broadway Street.  The same Broadway Street picture above.


National Park Service Website - Klondike Gold Rush

With a growing hunger I stumbled across the Skagway Brewing Company.


Prospector Pale Ale.


Alaskan Halibut and Chips.


Brewed on site they have a wide variety of beer available. 



It turned into a fantastic day and the brewery's patio was starting to fill up.


Back around town a lot of these buildings are from the period.


The White Pass and Yukon Route railway is a popular excursion to do.  I was tempted to do it again on this glorious day but think I'll save this excursion for a future cruise with friends and family that haven't experienced it.




It was a gorgeous day reaching just over 70°F which in May is unheard of.


Back to the ship...


Remember that picture from the start of the day?  Look how much the tide has lifted the ship.  These Alaskan Inside passage inlets definitely experience tidal changes.


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Day 8 - Evening

What do you know?  The North Star had a small line.






The Haines-Skagway ferry was arriving.






Sail away time.  Back down the inlet we came up from Juneau.

Time 8:34pm.


So relaxing.  


Waterfalls on both sides.






Movie diehards wrapped in blankets.


Sunset sky over Haines as we sail past once again. 

Time 9:22pm.


This is why I tend to miss many shows when on an Alaskan cruise.

Time 9:34pm.


Here is a time lapse of our departure from Skagway to Haines in the Taiya Inlet:


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