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twangster

Not so live blog - Radiance of the Seas Alaska Southbound 8/31/18

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The SMART bus does have a stop near the Gold Rush Cemetery.  It is along the road near the railway workshop and bridge over the Skagway River (you still have to walk the 1/2 mile in from there) but I was determined to walk it all today just to see how one could explore Skagway on a minimal budget.

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Day 4 - Dinner

My Time Dining Room

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Crispy Puff Pastry

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Shrimp Linguini 

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Lemon Meringue Tart

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Service was excellent (again) but I found the Linguini too dry.  There was very little sauce and the shrimp were somewhat rubbery tonight.  The Shrimp Cocktail appetizer on other nights had been much better.

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32 minutes ago, twangster said:

 

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As I continued around the lake the trail became more rugged.

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This only lasted for a short while before the trail became better defined.

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Hi @twangster Sorry to report but the majority of pics in the last non-food pic post didn't "stick". Above is a sample. Very much enjoying your posts today!

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Day 4 - Evening

I jumped in the hot tub to soothe my aching legs after two days of a lot of walking and hiking.  After that I ventured out to the helipad to capture sail away.  Explorer was already on the move.

I scoped it of course:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1BRJjeXozZRGw

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Soon after we began our departure.

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Day 5 - Icy Strait Point

Scheduled stop 7:00am to 2:30pm

Icy Strait Point is native owned and operated by the Huna Totem Corporation.  All profits go into the local community.  Part of the charter in operating a cruise port is to limit it to one ship at a time.  Often ships will split the day, one taking an early shift then another ship will take the second shift.  With long Alaskan summer days this works.  

Hoonah is the name of the nearby village and originally this was the site of the Honnah Packing Company in the 1930s.  The cruise port operated by tender when it opened in 2004 being used by Royal and Celebrity.  With success proven other lines began to call here.  A zip line was added in 2007.  In 2016 they added a floating pier and several new buildings. 

You won't find any diamond stores or other typical stores like in most other Alaskan ports and that is one of the things I like about ISP.  It's location is prime whale watching territory and some excursions guarantee a sighting.

We arrived to fog like low hanging clouds shrouding the port.

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They had a nice fire waiting for us.

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The clouds grew thicker.  This can happen this time of year due to the 'warm' waters and cooler air temperatures.

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I had booked the "Early Bird Zip Line" which meant early times in the morning.  The additional discount I received now made sense.  At the other end of these zip lines is a mountain somewhere up there.  My zip line time was 7:30am.  Who needs coffee to wake up when you can zip?

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I had a few minute to kill so I wandered around close to the Duck Point Smokehouse and Adventure Center where some excursions meet.

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I signed my waivers electronically on the tablets in the building and waited for our guide.  At 7:30am she led us outside to a bus that would make the 45 minute drive up the mountain.

Immediately after leaving the port area we saw some deer on the road.

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A few minutes through town and we hit the dirt road to the top.  "Free back massage" they joked.  It wasn't that bad.

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Our driver wore a microphone and narrated the drive.  We stopped at several lookout spots to see we were above the clouds.  

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Once at the top we had to walk down a hill toward the zip line.  Our drive warned us, watch out for the bear scat.  

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An easy walk downhill but too steep for the bus that would likely struggle to make it back up.

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Finally we made it to the zip line station.  

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Here are some pictures from my GoPro. 

You sit in a chair like harness and put your feet against a gate.  When it's time the gate flies open and away you go.

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Here is the video:

I actually enjoyed flying into the clouds.  It was a very unique experience. 

The clouds were breaking a little, maybe.  I headed back to the ship to get my good camera.   

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The restaurant and bar didn't serve until 10am but they were open for us to walk into.

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We started seeing hints of blue sky.

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I started walking towards the old packing building.

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More blue sky!  Looking better!

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They have some of the old buildings set up as a museum with old packing equipment on display.  Part of the building contains different local artists and stores.

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I was starting to get hungry (and thirsty) and ordered some lunch and a beer to enjoy the very blue sky.

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Not a bad place to eat lunch.

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Inside I ordered a Halibut Sandwich and a red ale.  They handed me an electronic tracker that i placed on the black mat on the table.  With this they were able to find me.    

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It was very good and the beer tasted great while looking out at the water and blue sky.

Time 11am.

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The restaurants have free wifi that is limited to one hour.  My phone had 3G coverage which was fine for most needs, except scoping.  So I scoped from the restaurant:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1ynJOYOdPZkKR

After my early lunch I made my way back to get some pictures with the blue sky.

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These are private residences.  Maybe grounds keepers for ISP?

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The wooden pillars have small Inukshuks on top of them.  I couldn't resist taking some pictures of them.

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What a difference on a clear sunny day makes.

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There is a short nature walk that starts near the Adventure Center and runs through the woods then along the water in front of the ship.  It's well packed and accessible.  I did see a guided tour was available that I presume uses the golf cart type shuttles that are used on the pier.  That path is very wide.

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Inside the main building you first enter is a small store.  

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Its quite nice inside and also serves as the excursion meeting point for some of the excursions.  

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The ladies in red shirts are the excursion desk.  Just in front of them are a series of tablet stations where you can sign waivers electronically and have a copy emailed to you.  Very professional. 

The pier walkway is covered in case it's raining (it's Alaska, it rains).

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They have a shuttle for those that need it with a covered waiting area on the pier.

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All in all they did a great job on the 2016 renovation.

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The blue sky was too much for me and I had to ask.  How much for a do-over on the zip line?  The girl gave me a break on the price and my 1pm zip line time was set.  She warned me it was the last zip of the day and they need a few more guests to operate it.  They guaranteed my return to the ship well before the 2:30pm all aboard.

1pm arrived at the waiting area in the building and I counted more than six.  Houston, we have lift off.

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The bus drive this time yielded much better views, both near the port and in the mountains.  

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Our driver spotted a deer and stopped the bus.

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A fellow victim zip rider.

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Video, of course:

 

What a ride!  What a view!

Time 1:55pm.

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With 35 minutes left there was time to enjoy the outdoor patio at the restaurant.  I mean the ship is right there...

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Beer time.

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I loved ISP last year and I really enjoyed it again this year.  This port never seems to make it on the Seattle round trip itineraries despite being very close to Juneau and South of Skagway.  I like this port enough I may cancel my 2019 Ovation booking and look at doing another one-way.  The friends I will cruise with next year will definitely enjoy this port.  It's uniquely Alaskan without the commercialization yet with modern luxuries, great food and very friendly locals.

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I think I mentioned that ISP is located in a prime whale watching area which means our sail away could yield some whale sightings.  Time for the helipad.  

The view from my office:

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Notice the glacier in the distance?  More on that later.

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Many Alaska communities are landlocked - no roads in or out.  Alaska boasts the "Maritime Highway".  A number of car/passenger ferries that have scheduled service between communities so you can drive along the Maritime Highway.  Here is one of them in the distance.  

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Several whales were spotted in the distance but too far away to get a decent photo, that is until this one popped up just off the helipad port side, about 30 yards out.

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It was a little stingy with it's fluke, not giving us a nice full view but some whales roll that way.

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In the distance we could see several water spouts.  A sizable pod was swimming a mile or so away.  There must have been eight or more taking turns spraying water into the air.

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If you are going to whale watch on the sail away from ISP you might want gloves and a hat.  With a slight wind it was a little chilly.

Since I had Voom I looked at a map and sure enough Juneau was straight ahead on the other side of Admiralty Island that sat between us.  As suspected that is Mendenhall Glacier in the distance.  

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After dinner my friends from deck 13 had heard a rumor that the Northern Lights might be active tonight.  

While they did not appear, there was amazing star gazing from the helipad.

Can you find the Big Dipper?  It's on the Alaska state flag so appropriate tonight.

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Oh my, you do have a talent to part people with their money. First the dslr and corresponding photography courses and now I'll have to look into Alaska cruises rather sooner than later 🤣 Pics and blog are brilliant as always!

Btw is the accumulation of bear photos a nod to a naughty bear  in a certain FB group?

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Day 6 - Ketchikan

Known for it's rain, Ketchikan didn't disappoint.  I stepped outside after a Windjammer breakfast... and got wet.  I can't complain though as this is the first measurable rain we've had so far.

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Today's excursion is The Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour

I saw this offered last year on Celebrity Millennium but opted for a Misty Fjords boat excursion.  Once onboard Mille last year I learned that Captain Dave Lethin and his wife Denene, owners of the Aleutian Ballad, would be sailing with us and giving a number of talks and Q&A sessions during the cruise.  Those became must attend presentations and listening to his stories and his wife's experiences holding down the fort at home while he fished were amazing.  If you ever meet any crab fisherman who has fished the Bering Sea, you will learn they have stories to tell.  I couldn't change my excursion last year at the last minute but vowed if I ever returned to Ketchikan I would do this excursion.  And so I did.

Looking down off deck 12 the Aleutian Ballad was tied up right beside us.

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Down to deck 5 for a closer look.

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A quick scope while under the cover of the lifeboats on deck 5:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1YpKkLVLblXGj

It was raining pretty good so I put my waterproof case on my phone and left my good camera in the safe.  Rain coat engaged I made my way onto the pier and down to the Aleutian Ballad.

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On board I found they had two live tanks with different marine life in each.  

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While still in port I did another quick scope from the Aleutian Ballad.

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1ypKdYOYnZvGW

Once all the guests were on board they did the mandatory Coast Guard safety briefings and we departed.  

The boat is set up specifically for this purpose.  During some of the talks on Millennium last year, Captain Dave talked about what an effort it became to transform a crabbing boat into an excursion boat.  The $900k budget quickly exceeded $2.5M.  The regulations to carry passengers are very different than those for a fishing boat. 

The boat is setup with an upper and lower viewing areas both of which are covered.  Ceiling mounted heaters keep passengers toasty warm on the lower level.  

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An upper viewing area provides a different perspective.

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There is an area where they do most of the demonstrations that at times is chained off to keep passengers away from the danger.  At times this area is opened up and we were free to explore it.  

On this rainy day you could have stayed in the shelter and warmth of the lower seating area but I chose to move around and explore more.

The Aleutian Ballad has a storied history even before it's appearance on the TV series "The Deadliest Catch".  The previous owner was fishing the Bering Sea in a storm when a rogue wave flipped the boat on its side.  When turned sideways the engines get no oil and shutdown for protection.  With no power, steering or propulsion and the boat laying on its side in storming seas in the black of night, the Captain gave the order to don survival suits and abandon ship.   A nearby fishing boat heard the mayday call and a few hours later picked up the crew and brought them back to Dutch Harbor.  Dejected having lost the boat,  after a few days the crew was stepping foot onto their plane for the ride home when the Coast Guard called and told them they had found the boat, still floating on it's side at sea.  With the storm past they went out with stand alone pumps, got the boat upright and limped it back to Dutch Harbor.  The first thing the owner did was buy a 4' x 8' piece of plywood and strapped to the boat in the dockyard with the words "For Sale" spray painted on it.  That's where Captain Dave enters the picture and shortly after the Aleutian Ballad's appearance in "The Deadliest Catch" in seasons 2 and 3.  

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During a season of the Deadliest Catch the Aleutian Ballad encountered another rogue wave.   This time the boat righted itself.  You can see that clip here:

The Bering Sea is not for the weak.  

Soon enough the fishing demonstrations begin.

I scoped one of them:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1MnxnZNZpqoxO?t=2m2s

This led to a spot where they could throw fish which would be picked up by passing birds, including some Bald Eagles.  

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It was raining and my phone was safe in its waterproof case but case but boy was I missing my good camera.  Can you spot the Eagles in the frees?

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There are four in this tree.

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The fishing demonstrations continued and they discussed various approaches such as long lines and single pots.  

This bait bucket and the hooks are carefully arranged so that it can be fed into the sea very quickly without tangling..   

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There are thousands of ways to die and many of them can be found on a crab boat.  This kind of fishing isn't for the faint of heart.  When setting a line of pots in 900' feet of water if you get tangled in the line you are going down.  At that point as they say, it's a matter of recovery, not rescue.

They retrieve a line of four crab pots that had been placed the day before.  In the real world a line could have hundreds of pots.

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This one contained a Pacific Octopus.

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They talked about the Pacific Octopus and how it is the nemesis of the crab fisherman.  Once they find a crab pot they will return night after night and feed from it.  

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Next they talk about Prawns and how they differ from Shrimp.  Those that were caught are passed around for us to hold before returning them into the sea.

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They talk about the different kind of crab pots used to catch different crab.  

Here in the water close to Ketchikan you won't find King or Snow crabs but there are plenty of Box crabs.

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The deck hands carry them around for all us to hold.

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With instructions how to hold them so you don't get pinched.

Box crabs don't have a lot of meat and aren't something you'll find at any restaurant.

Snow crabs on the other hand...

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These you do not hold by the body because they can reach you with their pinchers.  

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Then there are the Golden King Crabs of Alaska.  They don't pass these around but the crew displays them for us (their pinchers can do some damage).

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They talk about each and the characteristics of them.  How for example if a predator like an Octopus gets a hold of one leg, some can shed that leg to escape.  "Both go away happy" as they said, the Octopus gets a meal, the crab lives another day.  

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During all of this they tell stories of the experiences fishing.  It's quite a life.  After fishing for a few months its not unusual for a young man to receive a check for thirty or forty thousand dollars, his share of the take.  This contains no withholdings and many a young fishermen find themselves behind with the IRS and after a few seasons this can quickly grown into a monster sized debt with the IRS.  Those that grew up in a fishing family are taught this at an early age and those that listen set money aside for this purpose and avoid this trap.

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We begin making our way back to Ketchikan.

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I scoped some of our return:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1MYxNqyyPNRJw

While scoping we pulled up beside the 'Time Bandit' - another crabbing boat featured in 'The Deadliest Catch'.  Since I was scoping I couldn't take pictures so here are some screen shots from that scope:

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That was a special bonus.

Now back to the pier where we started.

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On the Millennium last year Captain Dave told the story how the Aleutian Ballad ran aground one time.  The Captain he had hired that year fell asleep and the boat hit a rocky beach.  They managed to limp it back to harbor and get it out of the water at a dockyard.  Captain Dave flew in and met the insurance adjuster in the boatyard.  After inspecting the boat the adjuster told him "Okay, here is what we are going to do. First we are going to strip the keel off and we are going to put a brand new keel the length of your boat.  Next, you are going to find yourself a new insurance company".  Fishing is quite the life.  

To be fair, its very hard to articulate everything in this one post.  If you are a fan of the The Deadliest Catch or you just want to know more about crabs and fishing, this excursion is well worth the cost.

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Ketchikan - continued...

After returning to the ship and getting a bite to eat I ventured back out to walk around Ketchikan.

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I visited Creek Street last year and I like that it tends to have some local items beyond made in China fridge magnets.

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Sometimes times referred to as the Creek Street mall there are a number of stores selling everything from interesting local artistry to cheap t-shirts from overseas. Not all the stores have local artwork but I managed to find some things this time as well.

In the earlier days of Ketchikan, Creek Street had a different purpose.  Maybe purpose isn't the right word, but it was known for a certain type of business.  Struggling for words, I'll let this sign on Dolly's House explain it:

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The peak of the annual Salmon spawning was just over but the remains of the event were still present and the gulls were eating very well on this day.

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After spawning, Salmon die and the nutrients from their bodies become part of the life cycle of Alaska.

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Bears, Eagles and gulls among other animals all eat well this time of year.

At the end of Creek Street is a small waterfall.

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My Creek Street scope:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1OwGWWOkvppGQ

I was hoping to repurchase some items from a native art store near the end of Creek Street that I bought last year.  Sadly they didn't have any left given that it is approaching the end of the cruise season in Alaska. 

With that it was back to the ship.

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