Blog Sixteen - The Cruise Part One and Seward
6 Jun 2019
|Blog Sixteen – Seward and the Cruise Part One
Monday 03 June 2019
Another sleep in today however we were still up, had brekkie by 9:00 and out of the hotel for a walk by 9:30. We headed up 5th as we needed a couple of small things for the next couple of weeks and visited Home Depot on 6th. We were after a luggage strap or two for our new big arse bag and while they have them online, no luck at the actual store. To Nordstrom but again no luck. We would equate Nordstrom with David Jones – a lot of stuff but not really our place. Back to our old haunt of JC’s. A luggage strap and half price with another 10% off! They only had one but that should be fine. A luggage weight scale was also purchased from a little shop in the centre and a quick visit to the Body Shop and a visit to Starbucks and we were done with the 5th Avenue Mall.
We stopped on the way back to the Voyager at a souvenir shop but nothing of interest. We headed back to our room and finished packing and checked out waiting for our bus to pick us up for our ride to Seward – our last mainland stop in Alaska. Billy Bob did some typing whilst Shania did a quick window shop at the Captain Cook Hotel. We also used our new scales and fortunately we aren’t flying today as both our suitcases were over the limit, however our other two large bags are fine so hopefully a bit of redistribution will do the trick.
Our bus pickup was late, we waited for ten minutes after the time and were just about to ring when a call came through advising us of the delay. When the guy did turn up in a little van it wasn’t the most reassuring vehicle and he was also a bit of a worry. However this was nothing compared with the real driver and bus we were then being taken on for the three hours to Seward. It was a challenge to work out which one was worse – the driver or the bus. We decided the driver mainly due to the fact that we was closer to giving up the ghost than the bus. The whole operation appears very slapdash at best with the operational base making it look even worse. A trip by the inspectors probably should be in order. Still we made it and were dropped off at our accommodation for the next two nights, the Harborview Inn.
Checkin was great and the manager was very nice and the room semi-functional. The bed was OK but the pillows did not suit Shania at all and the hot water more like luke warm water or just above cold. With our bags safely behind locked doors we walked the 15 minutes to the harbour area for a look around and dinner. Our first stop was the fjord tour company to sort out the small details of tomorrow’s cruise. This done and our pound of king crab ordered for the evening cruise’s dinner, we headed into the wilds of Seward. It’s quite a tidy town and well looked after. June is Halibut fishing competition month and we saw some of today’s catches hung up waiting for filleting. Some of them were huge. We wandered the town and popped into some shops for a look and then went to dinner at Ray’s Seafood Restaurant, which appears to be a bit of an institution, which proved pretty spot on. The food was very good, the wine and beer good along with the service.
We departed feeling very well feed, grabbed a milk for breakfast in the morning and walked the 15 minutes home which was considerably cooler than when we had left as the sun had dipped below the mountains and the wind had picked up. Still we made it home and called it a night.
Tuesday 04 June 2019
After a very poor sleep for both of us we had a quick brekkie, reported the hot water issue and headed into the harbour area for the wildlife cruise. Unfortunately Billy Bob had forgotten his jacket so Shania volunteered to go and retrieve it while Billy Bob checked into the tour and grabbed a coffee. When Shania returned we headed down to the docks and said hello to our Colorado friends we meet in Anchorage at our hotel and we were soon on board at the back of the boat in the open with a few other hardy souls.
Shortly after 10:00 we headed off from the docks and were able to see our cruise ship and the Oceania Regatta docked at the big ship harbour. It was only about 10 minutes out in the water until we saw our first animal – an otter that was just happy lying on its back and not worried about us in the slightest. It was a very close sighting with the captain able to get very close to furry little fella. We saw a couple of other ones as well but they were much more skittish and dived when we approached with the captain not going near any with pups. A ten minute steam across Resurrection Bay saw us following a pod of orcas, but they seemed to keep a reasonable distance and didn’t pop up too often. We headed out of the bay in search of better viewing and toward our outward final destination of a tidewater glacier.
We saw a lot of wildlife on the way including birdlife such as gullimots, cormorants, heaps of gulls and the very occasional eagle in the distance. The best viewing we had however was a few different pods of orcas in one large bay. We saw three different pods seeming to idle along both close to the shore and also out in the deeper water. The different pods were confirmed by researchers who had hydrophones in the water and can actually differentiate the different pods by their calls and noises and able to isolate each pod. This delayed our lunch of a surprisingly tasty chicken wrap which we had while the captain put the pedal to the metal to make up for the lost time in getting to the glacier due to the amazing orca viewing.
We arrived at Holgate Glacier and it was quite a sight. It is a tidewater glacier so its face extends into the sea and it is very wide at the face. Interestingly, there were a lot of harbour seals perched on the pack ice in front of the face of the glacier and this is the first time the captain has seen them do this. They must have been pretty confident that there weren’t going to be any major carvings from the glacier. We stayed as close as the captain was prepared to go for about 30 minutes and he turned the boat around a couple of times to get all angles so it was a great viewing. After that we powered back towards Resurrection Bay seeing a few sea lions along the way. We stopped off for dinner on Fox Island and while it was good it was a little disappointing, even with the king crab which was served as two large legs cold with butter and lemon juice. There was salmon and prime rib as well but we aren’t salmon eaters and the rib was OK. We had a talk by a park’s ranger and a quick stroll along the beach before boarding and heading back to Seward where we docked about 6:30.
It was a pretty full on day and we headed back to the motel where we got organised for our long awaited boarding of our cruise in the morning before calling it a night – with a hot water shower! Apparently a plumber had been called and replaced a part and we now have hot water! Shania even found a pillow that suited her much better and with that we called it a day.
Wednesday 05 June 2019
An easy start to the morning with no real time frame until we are allowed to board at 11:00am which coincides with our motel check out time which worked very well. We had brekkie in our room, packed up and then went for a walk towards the other side of the township which we hadn’t visited which is also where the Sea Life Centre is located and where we are going tomorrow on the shore excursion. The walk was about 20 minutes and we arrived under sunny skies and took some piccies in the absence of any people – which seems to be what we are finding at the moment. However we have no doubt this will change.
Billy Bob was considering a coffee but didn’t really see anywhere that appealed so we headed back to the motel walking along the foreshore. Luckily we did skip the coffee as on the way back we saw great wildlife from shore. We first encountered a couple of otters in the bay, and then a mum and bub humpback whale came up about 20 metres from shore! Unbelievable – you can take a trip out for a couple of hours and see a closer experience from shore just going for a walk. As we moved on we saw a few different small groups of sea lions with one particular group seeming to have a great time frolicking in the waters providing us with very good viewing.
The morning was getting on so we made a beeline for our motel. We soon had our bags done, checked out and waiting across the road for the shuttle that runs around both parts of town and to both boat harbours. The driver was great and very friendly. Billy Bob did the work with the bags as they are both more numerous and heavier than when we started nearly seven weeks ago! The bus shuttle only took about 10 to 15 minutes and we were then giving our bags to the bag handlers and walking into an empty terminal – very unusual as it is usually teeming with people and bags all wanting to check in. This experience was a bit of an otherworldly experience being the only passengers in the line and having five Viking people all wanting to handle the process, which ended up being very quick and within five minutes we were going through security and walking onto the Orion to be greeted by champagne and a large number of staff.
We were able to explore the ship for a couple of hours before our cabin was ready so we headed right to the top, finished our champagne and found a bar where it kept flowing. We had another glass or two and wandered to our cabin to check it out and unpack before heading back upstairs for lunch in the World Café which is a very good description of the food – pasta, pizza, salads, veges, breads, soup, roasted beef and heaps of other foods and then with dessert on top of all that! With a feed under our belt we then went for a swim in the infinity pool followed by a spa just next to it. Furthering the water treatment we headed down to the spa/fitness area and did the Nordic thing by going to the steam room, then the snow grotto, the steam room and finishing in the snow grotto. Shania stayed longer in the steam room while Billy Bob was happier in the snow grotto. This back and forth is supposed to be good for the body and heal the aches and pains but we’re not 100% sure this is the case, it felt good once finished and to finish our experience we sat in the indoor pool, followed by another spa next to it and then a bucket bath – yep a bucket above the head full of really cold water with a pull rope. Invigorating while taking your breath away at the same time.
By this time it was that time of the day so we showered, dressed and headed out for pre-dinner drinks at the Living Room Bar and then headed into The Restaurant for our dinner and drinks. The meal was so-so and while nice it wasn’t really our thing – a little bit too American and pretty standard fare. We went for a wander around the ship and ended up at Torshavn’s – the all dancing and basecamp for all things musical. It was very strange going in as we were the only ones! The band saw us and encouraged us in with the music sounding pretty good as well. We found a chair, had the barman descend and we were soon singing along with our favourite tipple – go drinks package! The band were really good with the two singers, Crystal and Speedy both very good but Crystal was exceptional and before long a few other disco-souls joined us and not long after that we got up on the dance floor and were eventually followed by a few other jivers. The music and dancing went on for a few hours and we were eventually the only ones left in the room again with the band. We ended up having a great interaction with them and managed to get the technician up as well to sing a song (haven’t seen him since!) and finished the night with a final drink before heading up to our cabin for a shower before falling asleep before our heads hit the pillow. Who would have thought the Dunlops would be the big groovers on the ship!
Thursday 06 June 2019
We were up reasonably early, at least considering the night before, and headed to the World Café for brekkie. Another serious amount of food with all the favourites and Billy Bob tucked in sampling quite a few of the options. Luckily for the “diet” we had to be in the assembly area for our first shore excursion by 8:15. Fuelled up for the day we headed down to the Star Theatre to be then ushered out of the ship and onto a motorcoach for the 10 minute drive to the Sea Life Centre for a “self conducted” tour of the aquarium. We ended up spending over two hours looking at all the various tanks but spent a large proportion of the time at the touch tank, the spotted seal tank and the aviary/small fish enclosure. The latter taking our attention for the longest as there were a varied assortment of birds including murres, gullimots, horned and tufted puffins and the odd eider and harlequin ducks. It is mating season and there was a lot of displays of both bird-lovin’ and showing off by the males to entice the former and it was definitely eye catching. A couple of puffins in particular caught our attention with their antics in the water, seemingly having skulled a couple of red bulls they were going crazy batting wings leaning on one side and even doing a backflip. It is very difficult to describe what they were doing and we will have to get the video out to fully understand. It was hilarious. We also checked out the gift shop and because (and only because) the proceeds go to further conservation efforts we purchased a memento of the centre which will no doubt go to the display cabinet.
It was time to leave so we wanted (needed) the exercise so we walked back to the ship. No doubt what a lot of the ship’s other passengers would think of as a form of torture, but it was a pleasant day and we walked back along the foreshore and sometimes onto the rocky tide water area for a closer look at a few sea lions frolicking in the calm waters of the bay. It took us an hour and a half of stop-start walking and photo taking for us to arrive back at the harbour, go through security again and call it stumps as far as Seward was concerned. We headed back to the World Cafe (fast becoming our favourite) for lunch, all washed down with a very tasty rose for Shania and an Asahi beer for Billy Bob.
Another dip in the infinity pool and spa and it was back to the cabin to shower and dress for Manfredi’s Restaurant. The ship was due to depart sometime around 5:00pm and strangely there was no announcement. All of a sudden we realised that the ship was moving away from the docks so we did a bolt upstairs to watch the Orion say farewell to Seward and start our sailing south. We ended up at the front of the ship and saw some dalls porpoises streak alongside the ship in two separate sightings which was exciting. They look like small orcas and are one of the fastest swimmers in the seas. More interestingly was the fog or sea mist that the ship was approaching dead ahead. As we neared the mist and steered to port to head down the coast out of Resurrection Bay we were enveloped by it gradually to the point where we couldn’t see more than about 30 metres in front of us. By this time the captain started sounding the horn at very regular intervals – something that was both reassuring and made us nervous at the same time.
We headed down to the Explorer’s Bar for a drink and then down all the way to deck one to Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant for dinner. Again the fare was good but not something that we would walk over hot coals to make a reservation (although we have one again in a week). Manfredi’s is one of the exclusive restaurants on board which we booked when we were first able to seven weeks before we boarded. The wine was good and the silver spirits package continues being a winner.
We then walked up a deck and the length of the ship to the Star Theatre for the Captain’s Welcome Reception, This was actually a bit better than expected and we were also introduced to some performers who had just joined the ship and would be performing in the days to come. By this time entertainment at Torshavn was up and going with the Viking Band so we headed out and danced the night away and were again the last to leave and had a chat with one of the bar staff who had spent a few days in Oz and thought it was the greatest place he had been and couldn’t believe how friendly the culture was and how everyone helped him. The Dunlops again being the party animals and outstaying everyone else. By this time we had had a full day and decided to call it a night with our first port of call for the cruise on tomorrow – Valdez.