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Inside Passage

June 4, 2022 – the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage
Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage

I have breakfast in the main dining room, but they don’t have a group to seat me with, so I eat alone. The Nieuw Amsterdam emerged last night from protected waters after leaving Ketchikan into Hecate Strait, and is proceeding down the Canadian Inside Passage: Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnston Strait and Georgia Strait, where the ship will wait overnight. We arrive in Vancouver harbour the following morning around 7AM.

It is raining and foggy outside this morning, which I take photos of as I sip a cappuccino in the Crows Nest Explorations Cafe. I’m eventually driven out of there by the noise and crowds playing some game with a host, so I wander around the ship at loose ends. Since the shipboard Internet hasn’t worked for me for the last several days, I complain to Customer Service. They can’t get my connection working either, despite insisting it is working for others, so they give me a 2-day credit.

Crow's Nest - Explorations EXC & Explorer's Bar
Crow’s Nest – Explorations EXC & Explorer’s Bar

I meet friends on the Lido pool deck for lunch, which is protected today with a closed canopy. I have a Beyond Meat version of The High Dive burger and fries, along with a beer. They tell me the crew have said are only around 700 passengers aboard, but there are 1,700 passengers boarding in Vancouver tomorrow. I believe the ship holds about 2,100 maximum, so currently they are only one-third of capacity. Having so few passengers aboard but with a full complement of crew means we have been spoiled on this voyage with excellent service. Although some of the crew are new, and they are operating under new protocols like having to wear masks the whole time they are on duty, they have all done very well. I know the passengers have appreciated their work…I certainly have!

Lido Bar setup for evening service
Lido Bar setup for evening service

I go to my favourite premium restaurant this evening at 6PM. Tamarind is an Asian Fusion restaurant that offers superb service, very creative and tasty food, and it is located mid-ship on the top deck, offering wonderful views while dining. There is a dedicated sushi chef and eating area for those who go for that cuisine. Personally, I like my seafood cooked and served in a traditional way, so I stick to their main dining area. They also offer a lovely bar, which is a nice, quiet area during the day, since Tamarind only operates in the evening.

Mongolian barbeque lamb chops - Tamarind
Mongolian barbeque lamb chops – Tamarind

I have a Classic Martini to start, made with Tanqueray 10 gin. Some Shrimp Chips with soy sauce & sweet and spicy sauces goes well with my cocktail as I take in the view of northern Vancouver Island sliding by as we sail south through Queen Charlotte Strait. My starter is Lobster and Shrimp Potstickers, served with smoked shoyu and pickled ginger. Since my martini is finished, I have a couple of glasses of Le Grand Courtage Brut Rose French wine with my main course: very tasty and tender Mongolian Barbecue Lamb Chops, with baby bok choy, toasted sesame seeds, mirin plum sauce, and Dungeness Crab fried rice. I finish off with a dessert called Mango Posset – coconut macaroon, passion fruit jelly, mango sorbet. I leave a glowing review – JoeTourist recommended!

I go to see the Step One Dance Company: Presents Off The Charts in the main stage at 9PM. It is a pretty good song and dance show, flashing back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s performing artists. There is also a singer from the BB King venue adding her voice to the blues review part of the performance.

I walk around the Promenade Deck to get some exercise and fresh air before returning to my stateroom. It’s time to pack and put my bag out for pickup this evening, in preparation for disembarkation in Vancouver tomorrow.

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Anchorage to Whittier

May 29, 2022 – Anchorage to Whittier, Alaska and board the Nieuw Amsterdam

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

We don’t leave the hotel until 12:10PM, so I finish annotating my photos this morning, posting a new Denali-Anchorage album to my Flickr account before I leave. The hotel Wi-fi is pathetically slow, so I’m glad I have my mobile LTE roaming from Fido to work with.

I say goodbye to our Tour Director Cassandra Joy, encouraging her to look me up if she finds herself in Victoria. We board our bus to transfer to the rail station, and take an Alaska Railway dome car to Whittier, which is a 3-hour scenic trip. There is snack and drink service to the seat offered by each car’s attendant. We pass through a tunnel that is shared by road vehicles and trains – a unique approach to saving the expense if having two tunnels!

The Nieuw Amsterdam is waiting for us at the dock. Check-in is slow due to the health check requirements before boarding, but it takes well under an hour before I’m in my lovely verandah stateroom on the ship. A short time later, my checked bag shows up, so I unpack and settle in.

First order of business is to find my Muster Station and register with the crew there, and then watch the safety video in my cabin. Gathering all passengers on deck at their muster stations is no longer done, in order to avoid crowding and risk of infection. I have a wonderful dinner with 4 others in the main dining room: snow crab cocktail, Alaska salmon fillet, and strawberries with ice cream. Since I have the drinks package, I have two glasses of Italian Pinot Gris with dinner. The ship leaves at 6:00PM or so, while I’m at dinner, which is earlier than the scheduled departure time of 10PM stated in my itinerary.

I can’t stop taking photos and video on this trip, and today is no exception. The train ride down was through a scenic inlet and moose flat wetland, and then the ship sails past snow-capped mountains and through a lovely channel with lots of islands as the sun sets behind us. I can already appreciate the charm of an Alaska cruise, and we are just starting out!

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Montevideo

March 9, 2020 – Montevideo, Uruguay

2020 South America cruise

I’m on a standard city tour today, with the Carnival Museum added on at the end. We pass the Graf Spee anchor as we leave the harbour for the historic part of the city. As with Buenos Aires, Montevideo’s harbour is on the Plata River estuary, which is the widest river in the world, and is formed from the confluence of the Uruguay and Paraguay Rivers. Montevideo is on the north shore of the Plata River, and Buenos Aires is on the south shore.

Our first stop is the Plaza Independencia, where the impressive Salvo Palace is located. It is a 1930s colonial building designed by Mario Pisner and is now used for offices, residential and a tango museum. The Embassy of Canada is also located on the edge of the plaza, as are both the new and old Presidential buildings, and the impressive Teatre Solis. The centre of the plaza is dedicated to a monument and mausoleum to Uruguayan hero José Artigas. As found in Buenos Aires, Montevideo is full of neoclassical architecture emulating European cities during that era.

Horse-driven freight wagon outside the Mercado Agricola de Montevideo
Horse-driven freight wagon outside the Mercado Agricola de Montevideo

Our second stop is to visit the Mercado Agricola de Montevideo, or agricultural market. It is raining, so its nice to have a roof over us as we explore the produce, meat, and seafood being offered for sale. A horse-drawn freight cart goes by on the street outside as I return to the bus.

Our third stop is the Palacio Legislativo – the country’s seat of government. Nearby is a Burj al-Arab hotel lookalike and some nice murals. Our guide Lilianna shares that the price of meat is very low since it is the main industry in the country. Consumption is 100kg/person annually. Maté is a national tea-like drink, which virtually everyone drinks. Sharing maté is a symbol of friendship. There is both private and public health care available, and education is compulsory, with university being free for everyone (even foreigners).

Our final stop is the Plaza de la Armada where we get a good view of Plata river shoreline and city skyline. There is also a nicely-designed bronze monument dedicated to the fallen heroes of the Navy.

The tour wraps up at the Carnival Museum, which is back in the dock area of the city. The focus of this museum is the Candombe dancing, which is one of the most popular Carnival themes followed in the country. We are seated and served wine, baked cheese, and beef (sausage, steak, blood pudding) while we watch the cultural show. Some members of our group get up and dance after being given costumes and props!