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Los Angeles to Victoria

Saturday, April 13, 2024 – flying from Los Angeles (LAX) to Calgary (YYC) to Victoria (YYJ)

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

While I’m still on the ship, I activate the Airalo 5G data roaming, which is working well here in Los Angeles on Verizon. The Airalo data roaming also worked well in Mexico. Use my JOSEPH4203 referral code to sign up and save US$3.00. Use their app to install an eSIM – it’s simple, fast and way less expensive than paying your mobile carrier’s roaming rates!

After having some breakfast in the Lido, we leave the ship on time and take the pre-booked transfer bus to LAX. We find the gate area is a zoo, with people everywhere and everyone crowded into far too small a space. Despite the mayhem at the gate, our completely full flight to Calgary leaves only about 10 minutes late.

Westjet flight from LAX to YYC - 2024-04-13, 1:39:26 PM
Westjet flight from LAX to YYC

Flight time is 2 hours 29 minutes, so a bit faster than originally planned. I have hummus, mini bread sticks and a Coke in-flight for a midday snack. A toddler in the row ahead of me screams for the first part of the flight, but thankfully gets tired eventually.

Canada Border Control clearance in Calgary doesn’t take long, so despite only having an hour between flights, I have time to grab a turkey sandwich (for dinner) from a Tim Horton’s next to the gate for our flight to Victoria. Our aircraft pushes away from the gate at 5:20pm, so these Westjet flights to home are working much better than the Air Canada flights to LA at the start of the trip.

Westjet flight from Calgary to Victoria

My iPhone’s Find My app notifies me that my iPod Pro was last seen in Terminal 2 – Calgary or LAX? I couldn’t find the charging case as I was leaving the LA flight at the Calgary gate, so it must be on that aircraft. I have the earbuds with me, so rather than going through the hassle of notifying WestJet, I can get the case replaced by Apple for a nominal fee when I’m home.

We land in Victoria a bit ahead of schedule, retrieve our checked bags, and we’re soon home. Overall, this was a very successful trip to see a total solar eclipse from a cruise ship off the coast of Mexico. Unlike what some eclipse chasers across North America dealt with, the weather on eclipse day at our location was near perfect, and we had a great time along the way.

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Victoria to Los Angeles

Tuesday, April 2, 2024- Victoria (YYJ) to Vancouver (YVR) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Air Canada

Total Solar Eclipse & Mexican Riviera 10-day cruise aboard Discovery Princess – April 3-13, 2024

Princess Cruises sent me a notice of flight change last night. They booked me on a United flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles that had a 2.5 hour layover in Vancouver instead of the previous Air Canada flight where we wait for 8.5 hours in Vancouver. This United flight would have been much better since we arrive in LAX at dinner time instead of midnight. Unfortunately, I don’t see this flight on the Air Canada app or online, and when I check in to Victoria Airport, the Air Canada agent can’t find the reference. So we’re back to waiting 8.5 hours in Vancouver for the original Air Canada flight.

I’m ready at 8:30AM, so we drive out to Victoria airport, arriving at 9AM. When I check in, I’m on the later Air Canada flight to Los Angeles since the agent can’t find any reference to the United flight. I know today is going to be a marathon!

Aerial view of the boat basin in Sidney

My friend arrives at the gate at 11:00AM, and we depart Victoria at 12:00PM on Air Canada De Havilland Q400 for Vancouver. We have nice views along the way for the short flight to Vancouver. After pre-clearing US Customs and Immigration in Vancouver and finding Gate E81, we go to the nearby Canucks Bar & Grill to have a meal and a beer – both pretty good, albeit expensive!

Our Air Canada flight from YVR to LAX was originally scheduled to depart at 7:50pm, but after several delays, departs after 10:00pm. This pushes our arrival time well past midnight in Los Angeles. What pathetic service! While we were waiting those long hours, we were considering we might not arrive in Los Angeles in time to board the ship. We both booked airfares through Princess Cruises, we would have some protection provided by their Late Arrival Protection program, where they will work with airlines to re-book and fly us to the next port-of-call. We’re glad it didn’t come to that. We are both experienced travellers, but have a very bad feeling about this delayed flight.

An Air Canada agent shows up at 8:45pm and there are three flight attendants and two pilots in the gate area, so it looks like our flight will eventually happen. Our aircraft is coming from Calgary, so it pulls into a domestic terminal gate first and is then towed to our International gate, so the agent warns us that will take a bit of time. Our 22-year old Airbus A321 (C-GITY) finally pulls away from the gate at 10:10PM. Our flight time is 2:26, landing in LAX at 12:44 AM. I’ve never been so happy to see Los Angeles airport (see banner image above, for our final approach view)!

Thankfully Air Canada doesn’t lose our bags, however taxis and ride shares are no longer allowed at the LAX International terminal. We have to schlep our bags onto a blue shuttle, which takes us to a lot behind the terminal buildings where we hire a taxi to the Courtyard by Marriott – Torrence Palos Verdes. It is now 2AM – we are so beat!

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Vancouver Arrival

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 24, 2023 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada and onward to home in Victoria

The Koningsdam arrives in Vancouver harbour in the dark before sunrise. I have my usual light breakfast in the Grand Dutch Cafe return to my stateroom and do some last minute packing, leaving around 8AM. Since I’m a 4-star Mariner and I’m pulling my own bag, I can leave the ship whenever I want. I walk down the gangway, clear Canada Customs and Immigration, and walk one block to the Waterfront station to catch the Canada Line Skytrain to the airport. I take the free shuttle bus to the South Terminal, where I check in with Pacific Coastal Airways. Now the long wait begins for my 2:45PM flight back to Victoria.

It’s 8ºC and raining at the airport, so there’s no way I’m going outside to spot planes as I usually do. I have a couple of scrambled eggs, toast and potatoes at the Galiano Cafe before lunch to tide me over until dinner time at home. I manage to while away the hours working on my journal and travel photos on my MacBook Pro until it is finally departure time.

Pilots and instrument panel in cockpit

The flight is delayed for over an hour due to a number of factors: late arrival from Victoria due to weather; and after we are loaded, it is discovered the aircraft is overweight, so the last passenger on the roster has to leave along with her luggage to wait for the next flight. Once we roll off the apron, for some reason the pilot performs a thrust test before we take off into some pretty dreadful conditions all the way back to Victoria. Thankfully, after flying through clouds the whole way, there is enough visibility to land at Victoria. My family has waited for over an hour for my eventual arrival, but I’m finally home!

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Victoria to Vancouver

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

I like to arrive in a cruise departure city the day before a cruise leaves, in order to not be rushed and to reduce the inevitable anxiety of being ready to board the ship at the appointed day and time. I have a leisurely breakfast at home and take care of some last minute packing before going to the airport in the late morning. I check my bag at the check-in desk, go through security and have lots of time left to spot aircraft from the domestic gates waiting area. I only spot the usual suspects today: Westjet, Air Canada and Flair, and of course Pacific Coastal, which is my airline today.

Air Canada Rouge, Westjet, Porter, Flair & Pacific Coastal spotted at Victoria airport
Air Canada Rouge, Westjet, Porter, Flair & Pacific Coastal spotted at Victoria airport

My Pacific Coastal Airlines, Flight 106 on a Beech 1900D leaves Victoria Airport at 1:40PM, arriving at Vancouver airport’s South Terminal at 2:15PM. Skies are clear as we cross Georgia Strait, giving me some good views of the Gulf Islands. As we approach Vancouver Airport from the east, it’s fascinating to fly low over the Fraser River delta farms and urban development in Surrey, Richmond and Delta. I even catch some glimpses of Mount Baker to the south of us through the orange-coloured haze in the sky this afternoon. I take the shuttle to the Main Terminal and board the Canada Line Skytrain, arriving at the City Centre Station a half hour later. I’m staying at the Metropolitan Hotel, which is a 5-minute walk away.

I use the MarineTraffic app on my iPhone to check on Koningsdam’s current position. As of 4:30PM, the ship is just entering Johnston Strait near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island, heading south to dock in Vancouver tomorrow morning. After having a shower and catching up with my online social media, I go downstairs to the hotel’s Diva bar and restaurant for some dinner. I have Grilled salmon over a roasted beet salad with a glass of Granville Island Pale Ale.

After dinner, I go on a walkabout downtown at sunset, taking photos of the buildings with my Canon R5. The art deco Marine Building is always a good subject, especially since it is surrounded with modern glass towers which reflect its image. The Apple Store is across the street from my hotel, but I’m not tempted to shop, despite being an Apple fan!

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Vancouver Arrival

April 30, 2023 – Sunday – Arrival in Vancouver and onward to home in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

I’m up at 6am to experience the beautiful light as we sail past English Bay, under Lion’s Gate Bridge and Stanley Park, down Burrard Inlet to the harbour. I grab a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant from the Explorations Cafe to take back to my stateroom. The ship docks in Vancouver a bit ahead of time, despite having two cruise ships docked at Canada Place ahead of us: the huge Discovery Princess and the much smaller Brillance of the Seas. This is the end of the cruise for me, and a return to reality!

Since I’m rolling my own bag off the ship, I’m one of the first off the ship, leaving at 8AM. Canada Customs and Immigration don’t want to talk to the departing passengers, so I make my way to the nearby Skytrain Waterfront Station and board the Canada Line which goes to the airport. It takes 35 minutes, so I’m at the airport station by 8:45am, catch the shuttle to the South Terminal, and check my bag with Pacific Coastal Airlines for my flight home to Victoria.

My flight doesn’t leave until 12:45pm, so I try going to the observing platform outside the terminal to spot planes, but the breeze is cold and there are very few aircraft moving at this time of day. Retreating back to the terminal building, I grab a muffin from the Galiano Cafe and settle in to wait by editing some of my photos on my notebook.

The flight goes without a hitch, however the dull grey weather means I take few photos out the aircraft window. We land on runway 13, which is unusual, but brings us very close to the apron in front of the terminal. My family are waiting for me, and my bag is the first on the belt. We pay the $2 parking fee and drive home, where the rest of the family are waiting to greet me.

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Victoria to Fort Lauderdale

Apr 7, 2023 (Friday) – Apr 8, 2023 (Saturday) – Flights from Victoria to Ft. Lauderdale via Toronto

2023 Panama Canal Cruise

My Air Canada Rouge flight (AC1900) on an Airbus A320-214 (C-GFCH) from Victoria (YYJ) to Toronto (YYZ) leaves Victoria at 11:24PM. This red-eye flight has lots of empty seats, so we can spread out a bit to rest, with some passengers have 3 seats to themselves, so they can lay down to sleep better. I have a good rest, but as usual don’t get any sleep. Flight time is 3:57, and the sunrise is pretty out the aircraft window as we land at Pearson Toronto Airport at 6:37AM the following morning.

My Air Canada Rouge Airbus A321 aircraft at the gate

Going through US security and Customs and Immigration pre-clearance is the usual sh*t show, which involves taking off shoes and jackets for security. The immigration line only takes about 10 minutes, so I don’t bother with the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) | U.S. Customs and Border Protection app before getting in line to talk with border security agent “Hernandez”. He appears to be pretty bored with all the cruise passengers he must be dealing with, asking me how long the cruise is and then waves me through.

My Victoria-Toronto flight arrival gate is in Terminal 1 and thankfully my Toronto-Ft. Lauderdale departure gate is in the same terminal. So after finding the gate for my Fort Lauderdale (FLL) flight, I start looking for a quiet place to have a cappuccino and some breakfast since I’m pretty hungry by this time. As it turns out there are few options, so I end up at the Hearth restaurant for breakfast, paying CA$30 for a vegetarian omelette and a cup of coffee!

I put an Apple Airtag in my checked bag before leaving home, so I now flash up the ‘Find My’ app on my iPhone. It indicates my checked bag is very close to me in the same terminal…a bit of a relief considering Pearson Airport’s recently newsworthy baggage handling fiasco.

When I return to the gate area, I still have about three hours to wait for my flight to start boarding. Passengers are gathering for a flight to Miami, leaving mid-morning. Huge numbers of parents with young kids completely fill the waiting area. The gate staff are making it clear that not all the carry-on bags will fit in the cabin, so they are urging passengers to check their bigger carry-ons.

The boarding process for my flight is a similar mess. It’s a full flight with lots of folks with wheelchairs, walkers, baby buggies and lots of oversized carry on bags that they eventually have to check, since there’s no more room in the cabin. Despite the chaos, the gate agents board everyone quite efficiently, and our Airbus A321-211 (C-FJNX) starts rolling off the apron at 12:45pm. The pilots start one engine using the power wagon, then start the second engine after they roll away from the gate.

This 2-hour 51-minute flight is fine, once everyone settles down. The kids are good, and my seat mates in the 3-3 configuration are fine as well. We fly south offshore from the Atlantic coast of Florida, and since I’m in a window seat on the right side of the aircraft, I have some good views of the ocean, beaches and cities before we turn in at Fort Lauderdale to land at 3:48 PM.

Atlantic shoreline at Hillsboro Beach

Since we pre-cleared in Toronto, we go straight to the departures area. To my great relief, my bag appears early on the belt, so I can get ahead of the crowd. I take a taxi to the nearby Hotel near Port Everglades | Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel, where I check-in and get settled in my room. I soon go downstairs to the R Lounge for dinner: tasty Mahi-mahi fish tacos with chips and salsa and a Space Dust IPA | Elysian Brewing for a total of US$35.

I’m quite pleased with how the flights went. I used some of my Marriott Points to pay for the night’s stay in this very nice hotel, which is in a good location.

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Arrival in Vancouver & home to Victoria

Oct 24, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada & flight home to Victoria

2022 Hawai’i Cruise

I’m awake as the ship passes English Bay and under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, sailing into Vancouver Harbour. The ship docks at Canada Place at 7:15AM – precisely as the captain predicted yesterday! I get dressed and go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for my usual cappuccino, blueberry muffin and yogurt/fruit parfait. There is quite a line, so it takes about 20 minutes for Kaye to make my cappuccino, but I’m in no rush. After breakfast, I return to my stateroom and finish packing. By that time, the announcement is made that the ship is cleared and disembarkation is starting. 

Since I’m a 4-star Mariner, I can disembark anytime I wish up to 9:30AM. It feels pretty good to be able to bypass all the passengers waiting for their group numbers to be called as I have my keycard scanned for the last time, and roll my bags down the gangway and into the terminal. The CBSA agent welcomes me to Canada after I give them my declaration. They don’t ask to see my passport, so I walk out the terminal and turn left onto Cordova Street to walk the block in the rain to the Skytrain terminal to board the Canada Line to the airport. I mistakenly get onto the train to Brighouse-Richmond instead of YVR, but no worries since I get off at Bridgeport and board the following train to YVR three minutes later.

The South Terminal shuttle is waiting right outside the pedestrian bridge at the US departures, so I’m checked in at Pacific Coastal Airways in short order. Now I wait five hours for my 3PM flight departure to Victoria. I settle in to work on my travel photos, but have a cappuccino from the Galiano Cafe first, and then an hour or so later I have some delicious seafood soup for lunch.

Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR
Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR

I spend an hour or so this afternoon plane spotting from the platform outside, taking photos of each aircraft as they takeoff and climb out. A Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxis past the platform to the private terminal next to South Terminal. Perhaps there is a VIP aboard? My flight is delayed 20 minutes but otherwise the flight goes smoothly. The pilot must have had a takeoff time slot booked, since he really hustles down the taxiway to the button, not even stopping at the stop line before taking off! The flight to Victoria was a bit bumpy, since we were flying at 2,000′ below the clouds. We fly a straight in approach over Sidney to Victoria International Airport, and roll onto the taxiway 15 minutes after our takeoff from Vancouver. There is an Air North Boeing 737 aircraft on the apron in Victoria, reminding me of my flight to Whitehorse back in May.

My family is waiting for me in the baggage claim area. My checked bag is one of the first to appear on the belt, so we are out of there in quick order, driving home in the rush hour traffic.

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Victoria to Vancouver

Oct 7, 2022 – Fly from Victoria to Vancouver & stay overnight

2022 Hawai’i cruise

Skytrain bridge over the Fraser River
Skytrain bridge over the Fraser River

After lunch at home, we drive to Victoria airport, where I take a Pacific Coastal Airways flight to Vancouver South Terminal (YVR), flying over the Strait of Georgia looking SE on a smokey afternoon. I take the shuttle from the South Terminal to the main terminal, and get off at the first stop (International and USA departures), walk across to the Skytrain terminal, and take the Canada Line to City Centre Station at Pacific Centre – about a half hour trip costing CA$9. The Skytrain is quite scenic as it crosses the Fraser River.

I’m staying at the Metropolitan Hotel (a Marriott), which is a half block walk from the Skytrain station. For nostalgia’s sake, I walk back to the intersection of Georgia and Granville Streets to take a few photos, and then do some last minute shopping at the London Drugs store on the corner where Birk’s Jewellers used to be when I lived here in the 1970s. The Birk’s clock is still there, but is now buried in the high-rises. After returning to the hotel, I have dinner at the hotel’s Gala bar and restaurant – a chicken clubhouse & Granville Island Pale Ale, before retiring for the night. I board the ship tomorrow.

Panorama of Georgia at Granville – Hudson’s Bay, London Drugs, Pacific Centre
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Vancouver Arrival

June 5, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver and returning home to Victoria, BC, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I’m awake at 5:30AM, get dressed and go up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 11 forward where the Explorations Cafe is located. The staff are preparing for opening at 7AM, but I’m interested in watching the ship pass under Lion’s Gate bridge as we sail into Vancouver. It is raining and gloomy outside, but I manage to take a time lapse video with my iPhone that captures the few minutes it takes the ship to pass under the bridge. The North Shore industrial terminal is on our left and Stanley Park is on our right as the ship makes its way through Burrard Inlet to the Cruise Ship Terminal at Canada Place in Vancouver harbour, arriving right on time at 7AM.

Time lapse video of the Nieuw Amsterdam passing under Lion’s Gate bridge, entering Vancouver harbour

I grab my last cappuccino from my favourite barista and head back down to my stateroom on deck 5, where I’m facing the dock at Canada Place. My preordered breakfast arrives at 7:30AM, right on time – my last lox, cream cheese and bagel for breakfast while aboard the ship. My debarkation time slot is second to last, so I have lots of time to relax and let everyone leave the ship. No doubt some are in a hurry to get to flights home and other onward travels. When my turn comes to leave the ship for the last time, my keycard is scanned by ship’s security, and I’m soon in the Canada Place terminal with throngs of other travellers.

Cruise passengers make their way into the city from Canada Place

It is actually pretty well organized, with lots of staff to point everyone in the right direction, and keep people moving. The Canada Border Services officers are waving everyone through, taking our customs declaration forms, but they don’t want to see passports, vaccination cards, or our bags. Perhaps this is the benefit of everyone onboard having previously entered the required personal information into the ArriveCan app. I’m soon directed to a line to wait for the bus that transfers us to Vancouver Airport. A half hour later I’m dropped off with my bag at Domestic Departures, and walk a bit further to the free South Terminal shuttle, which soon arrives, taking me on a 20-minute drive out the main terminal area and back into the south terminal area.

The south terminal used to be Vancouver’s main airport, which I can remember taking flights from when I was a kid in the 1960s. Now, it is home to Pacific Coastal Airways and other small airlines serving people travelling to small BC destinations. I arrive at 11AM, but my flight doesn’t leave until 6:30PM, so I have the whole afternoon to kill before I fly home. I surf the Internet for awhile, but I’m soon bored, so I have a plate of fries at the Galiano Cafe for lunch.

Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris
Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris

I’m looking at a lot more waiting time before my flight, so I go outside and soon discover a plane spotting platform on the north side of the terminal. It has a great view of the executive jet facilities next door, and the main, southern east-west runway, which is being used for takeoffs this afternoon. Plane spotting using my long 100-500 lens keeps me busy for a couple of hours. I spot a couple of executive jets landing or taking off, an Air France flight taking off for Paris, a Japan Airways flight destined for Narita, along with the usual traffic. Vancouver YVR is a very busy airport.

I clear security and wait for my flight in the only secure boarding lounge in the South Terminal. My flight to Victoria aboard Pacific Coastal Airways takes off a few minutes early, since everyone has checked in and are onboard. The flight takes about 20 minutes, and os clear enough for me to take a few photos out the window with my iPhone as we fly over Georgia Strait and the southern Gulf Islands before arriving at Victoria Airport at 6:30PM. We retrieve my bag and drive home, where my Jack Russell Terriers are waiting to give me a frenzied welcome.

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Juneau

June 2, 2022 – Juneau, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

The ship arrives in Juneau at 8AM and my floatplane excursion doesn’t leave until Noon, so I have plenty of time to have breakfast and look around the city. Juneau is the state capital of Alaska, so in addition to tourism, the city has the government and some industry to base their economy on. There are nice plazas, a developed waterfront, the shops are plentiful and appear to be prospering. Before returning to the ship, I check out where Wings Airways dispatches their seaplanes from, which is only a 5-minute walk from where the ship is docked.

Five Glacier Seaplane Exploration

The pilot selects me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, so that’s a real bonus, allowing me to see out the front of the aircraft as well as having a side window. We soar over the lush wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, catching our first glimpse of five distinctly different and majestic glaciers making up a section of the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field. We fly over the deep crevasses and azure blue meltwater pools of the Norris, Hole-In-The-Wall, East and West Twin Glaciers and lake, plus the impressive five-mile-wide Taku Glacier. Of the 36 named glaciers comprising the Juneau Ice Field, the Taku Glacier is the largest. The Annex Creek power station is visible as we fly along the Taku Inlet. There is a verdant valley between the foot of Norris and Taku glaciers and Taku Inlet.

We end the flight by overflying the harbour and city before landing on a southerly heading, returning to the dock. I buy a souvenir t-shirt and ball cap combo from the seaplane office before returning to the ship. I have lots of photos and video taken with my iPhone 13 Pro on this spectacular flight in clear and sunny weather – well worth the expense for this excursion.

I have a pizza and a beer from NY Pizza aboard the ship, sitting in the shade beside the Sea View pool on the stern, overlooking the city and harbour. It’s a lovely warm and sunny day. In fact, Juneau breaks a record today set back in 1946 for the hottest day:  28ºC (82ºF). Our Belgian cruise director complains about getting a bit of a sunburn today!

Since I have the drinks package, I’m making a point of ordering cappuccino and alcoholic drinks anytime I want one. Today I had two cappuccinos with breakfast, the beer with lunch. I also have another cappuccino in the late afternoon at the Explorations Cafe, where Maria, the young barista thanks me for leaving a complimentary comment using the Navigator app a couple of days ago. 

I skip dinner or even a snack this evening, since the personal-sized pizza I had this afternoon was 6 slices, which filled me up. I attend the 7pm Step One Dance Company Presents: Humanity and send a comment through Navigator app: “This is my first MainStage show viewed on this voyage, which I thoroughly enjoyed! Please pass on my congratulations to the performers. I know it must be tough to play to a mostly empty house, but their enthusiasm and professionalism shone through.”

I spot my first small Humpback whale at 9:30PM this evening from my verandah as we pass through Frederick Sound. The ship is making 20 knots to Ketchikan, so there is only time to grab binoculars, not my camera.

Juneau
35 photos, 1 video