Friday May 27, 2022 Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay
Glacier Bay

On this day we cruised the beautiful fjords as a local Park Service Ranger narrated what we were seeing around us. The weather was remarkably sunny and clear once again. We explored many fjords (long narrow waterways between high cliffs), inlets, rivers and streams. While we had hoped to see some of the local wildlife along our day’s journey, we saw very little.

Captain George Vancouver first set eyes on this five-mile inlet that is Glacier Bay in 1794. At that time George described the inlet as “a sheet of ice as far as the eye could distinguish.”  By 1879, when John Muir visited the area, the ice had retreated and began to expose the bay and the surrounding majestic wilderness areas.  The park consists of 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways with mountain peaks rising to over 15,000 feet in elevation. There are many tidewater glaciers or great rivers of ice that flow into the sea and calve large chunks of ice into the ocean.

We ordered breakfast in our cabin and enjoyed the stunning scenery from our cabin’s wall of glass and our balcony. The ship sailed at a very slow speed through the park so it was a relaxing day of enjoying the snow-covered mountains. The onboard naturalist was giving narration from the crow’s nest and we could tune our television to the bow’s camera and hear her narration.

The most photographed glacier in the park is the Margerie Glacier known to be the state’s most active calving glacier.  Calving is when large chunks of the glacier crack off and fall into the ocean. We spent about an hour at the glacier and saw several smaller chunks falling into the water below but nothing major. There were many seagull type birds as well as a variety of other birds in the area.

After lunch we attended a lecture with the National Park Ranger on Glacier National Park. It was a fast-paced overview of the history of the park and the changes in the park area through history. Too much information too fast to remember. About 3:00pm we disembarked the park rangers and began sailing towards the open ocean bound for College Fjord.

This night was a more dressy night so dinner in the dining room included traditional items like beef tenderloin, shrimp cocktail, chocolate soufflé and escargot. We shared a table with four ladies, two from Vancouver and two from Orange County, California. They were all very nice.

The show this evening was another BBC Earth presents Alaska in concert. Beautiful photography of Alaskan wildlife like bears, bald eagles, fox, etc. accompanied by the pianist and violinist from the Lincoln Center Stage. After the show they had a chocolate extravaganza in the bars and casino. All of the waiters from the dining room paraded silver trays filled with everything chocolate. Kent was in heaven.

As a follow-up to my post yesterday; my father was released from the hospital and is home resting comfortably now. He seems to be feeling better and returned to his normal self.

Thursday May 26, 2022 Skagway, Alaska

Skagway from our Ship
Skagway’s Broadway
Broadway with the Ship at the end of the Street
Moore Homestead
Unique Facade

Skagway has a year-round population of approximately 1,250 inhabitants, which doubles in summer months to accommodate the million or more visitors each year. The weather on this day was extraordinarily beautiful with clear skies and sunshine.

Skagway was a part of the Klondike gold rush frenzy when, in 1896, gold was found in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory. Ships began bringing thousands of hopeful miners to town as they prepared to make the 500-mile journey to the Canadian gold fields. The town population soon grew to 30,000, mostly American gold prospectors. Within weeks the town was filled with trading posts, guest houses, stores, and saloons; offices lined the streets of Skagway and it was the largest city in Alaska. Along with its fast growth came fights, prostitutes, liquor and con-men, all taking advantage of the hopeful prospectors. Canada began imposing new restrictions on the prospectors and by 1899 the town’s economy began to collapse as the stream of gold seekers dried up.

Much of the town has been preserved as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park and rangers offer free walking tours around the historic district. We visited the National Park offices where we watched a 25-minute film about the goldrush days.

The main street of town is called Broadway and it began just at the bow of our ship. The street is very wide and filled with shops on both sides of the street. Many of the buildings are from the goldrush days and most are filled with souvenir shops for the summer tourists. Most of the merchandise was similar to what we had seen in other shops along the way.

We stopped at the Moore Homestead where we toured the home of one of the early settlers of the town. The home belonged to a Captain William Moore who predicted that the area would grow when gold was discovered nearby and so he homesteaded 160 acres of land. He made remarkable amounts of money on his land and would later build a sawmill and wharf.

For dinner we dined at the specialty restaurant Tamarind again. We tried a variety of different dishes like the lamb chops and three sorbets for dessert. Everything was delicious and we ate everything.

After dinner we attended a 45-minute concert in the Lincoln Center Stage. The violinist and the pianist performed but the viola player was absent with no mention. There are many rumors about how many of the crew may be under quarantine or in isolation but it is unknown. Since we have been on the ship there has been no mention about Covid. There are signs all over the ship that say “masks recommended” but that is the extent of any mention. All crew members wear KN95 masks that fit well and they seem very comfortable with them at this point.

The main stage show on this evening was a combination show with both the dance troupe and the two piano players from the Billboard 100 piano bar. The theme of the show was music from Billboards number one songs.

As a side note, I wanted to mention that my father had an Ischemic Stroke this morning. The facility where he lives was able to get him transported to UCI Medical Center quickly. A scan showed that he had a blood clot in the brain and was given a blood thinner. By afternoon he appeared to be recovering well and they were planning to do an MRI. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

Wednesday May 25, 2022 Juneau, Alaska

Sailing into Juneau
Monument to Patsy Ann the Dog
Mark with a Bronze Totem Pole
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Interior

Juneau is the capital city of Alaska, the second largest city in the United States by area and a population of approximately 32,000 inhabitants. No roads connect the city to the state or North America so all goods and services need to be brought in by ship or by air.

It was another beautifully clear morning in Alaska with sunshine and temperatures ranging from 35 to 55 degrees. We arrived in Juneau about 10:00am and we disembarked shortly thereafter to explore the town on foot.

Our first stop was the Juneau-Douglas City Museum where we watched a 35-minute film about the history of the city, its gold rush expansion in the late 1800’s, and about Alaska becoming a state. The museum, although small, had a wide variety of artifacts honoring its native people, its mining days, famous local people, its fishing history and more. They had a temporary exhibit on the life of a local artist who had lived in the city since the 1950’s but had recently passed away.

Our next stop was at the very small St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church built in 1894. The small blue and white church is built in a hexagon shape with a small entry way.  Once inside the church the room is divided into two spaces, divided by a wall with double doors. The church was quite ornate although only had a couple of benches for parishioners to sit.

We wanted to visit the Sealaska Heritage cultural center where the native people of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people tell their stories but it was not open on this day.

Several blocks of town are filled with restaurants and shops selling tourist merchandise like clothing, packaged fish, tree ornaments, local handicraft items, etc. On our way back to the ship we stopped at a monument to Juneau’s most famous dog named Patsy Ann. Patsy Ann lived about a half-mile from the port in the1930’s and seemed to know when ships were pulling into the port. She would come down to the port and greet all of the steamships and visitors.

Mark spent a little time working on a puzzle before heading to the main dining room for afternoon tea. The tea was served with a tri-level serving dish of sweet and savory treats. Scones, finger sandwiches, cream puffs and more came one dish after another. Given that it was a port day there were only three tables of people participating in tea on this day. We enjoyed the tea with a couple from Austin, Texas (Susie and Archi) who were on their first Holland America cruise.

After dinner in the dining room we enjoyed a BBC Earth film called Blue Planet II with live orchestration by the girls who perform on the Lincoln Center Stage. The films photography of all things related to the sea is spectacular. The creatures like squid, walrus, whales, crabs and birds that live in and around the sea close up in vivid color.

Tuesday May 24, 2022 Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan Waterfront
Kent in front of the Nieuw Amsterdam
Locals Shopping Center in Ketchikan
Mark in Ketchikan
Sailing Away from Ketchikan

Located on Revillagigedo Island, Ketchikan is 90 miles north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia and is the first Alaskan city you reach when cruising north. The town is approximately 30 miles in length and not more than 10 blocks in width as it hugs the steep bluffs of the forested landscape. Incorporated in 1900, Ketchikan has a population of about 8,500 residents and is the sixth largest city in Alaska.

Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles located throughout the city as well as at several parks and heritage centers. If you enjoy the rain this may be the spot for you. The annual rainfall is 197.8 inches and they recorded 42.69 inches of rain in October of 1974. Their economy is based around commercial fishing, canneries, government services, and tourism. In 2018 the city saw more than 40 cruise ships making over 500 stops in the harbor and bringing more than one million visitors to town.

We must be living right; we arrived in Ketchikan about 6:30am with sunshine and scattered clouds but no rain. After breakfast we walked north of the ship towards the older part of town where the locals shop and work. There was a Safeway market connected to a very small two-story shopping mall with many empty shops. Then we walked just south of the ship to the tourist area of town where there is one tourist shop after another. The main street is filled with diamond and jewelry shops while the other streets are mostly filled with salmon shops, souvenir clothing and small gift items. We did experience a light rain sprinkle but it did not last long. The town streets were very clean and flower filled with tulips, rhododendrons and other spring flowers.

We sailed away from Ketchikan about 3:00pm bound for Juneau. The skies had scattered clouds but the light rain sprinkles had quickly passed and it was a beautiful afternoon. The naturalist onboard was on deck helping people spot wildlife in the area as we sailed. She spotted a bear and her two cubs and a bald eagle but they were quite far from the ship and you needed good binoculars to see them.

Late afternoon we attended a program with our cruise director Nick called Ancestral Memories. Nick narrated the story of the local native people whose land was sold to the United States by Russia although the natives believed that Russia had no right to sell land that did not belong to them. Alaska was then broken into several pieces, each to have schools built and laws created to control the native people and to make them more American. They were forced to give up their native languages, their natives dances and dress. They were forced to attend schools where they were punished for who they were.

After dinner we attended a musical presentation in the Lincoln Center Stage with a pianist, violaist and violinist. They performed a variety of musical numbers from famous operas as well as a collection of serenades. They are all very accomplished musicians and we enjoyed their concert very much.

The main stage show on this evening was another dance program called Musicology. Six dancers performed in front of a screen projection of a variety of musical instruments. The dances created the feelings of each instrument’s sounds. For example, a flute may have a soft humming sound and the dance might be flowing but a drum may have a lot of quick bold movements to the dance.

Monday May 23, 2022 Inside Passage, Alaska

Panang Curry with Chicken

The Alaskan portion of the inside passage is approximately 500 miles from north to south and approximately100 miles from west to east. There are some 1,000 islands and thousands of bays and coves making it a popular tourist destination. There are wildlife viewing opportunities from land and sea, whether you are exploring the rugged coastal mountain ranges or exploring by boat, cruise ship or kayak on the water. Over 2 two million visitors a year cruise this region in a variety of cruise ships. In addition to the cruise ships, more than 35,000 recreation boats transit the inside passage annually.

This day was a quiet sea day as we slowly wound our way north. The morning weather was very gray, cloudy and foggy. By afternoon the weather cleared and temperatures reached about 50 degrees.

We attended a lecture with the ship’s naturalist who gave us an overview of the types of wildlife that we might see along the way. She let us know that it was early in the season and that the whales who spend the winter near the Hawaiian Islands were slow to return this year. The surface temperature of the water was cooler than normal so the whales were waiting for the water to warm. She said we would most likely see some whales that winter in the area but closer to Juneau. Bald eagles would be plentiful along the shore, as would bears, birds and seals.

Nick the cruise director gave a presentation on the Iconic Whales of the Northwest with photos and videos about the different types of whales in the area, their migration patterns and feeding habits.

At lunch in the main dining room we sat with two very nice ladies named Mary and Ann from Las Vegas. There parents were Holocaust survivors who migrated from Holland to the United states in the 1950’s and settled in Covina not far from Whittier where I grew up. We had lovely lunch exchanging stories about our lives with them.

The afternoon included another presentation with cruise director Nick titled Breaking the Ice ceiling. In this segment he told the stories of three accomplished Alaskan women. One who had nearly died climbing Mount McKinley and went on to become a pilot. Today she flies climbers into and out of the camps at Mount McKinley when not being a domestic mother to her two children. The second was a coast guard captain who risked her and her crew’s life to reach the town of Nome in Alaska during a horrible winter. If not for her knowledge of her ice breaker ship and the assistance of a Russian ship, the town may not have survived the winter without fuel and supplies. The third woman featured was a fisherman who enjoys the risky job of fishing the high seas in a world mostly occupied by men. She comes from a family with many generations of fisherman in Alaska.

Later in the afternoon Kent watched a Disney film called Disney Nature Bears about an Alaskan bear family as its cubs are taught life’s most important lessons. Mark attended a performance at the Lincoln Center Stage with a pianist, a violinist and a violaist. They performed music by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Dinner this evening was classified as dressy which appeared to mean anything goes. People were wearing sneakers, t-shirts and most anything else. As time goes by cruise ship dress seems to get more and more casual. We made a reservation at the Tamarind dining room for dinner. They serve a variety of Asian cuisine that was excellent. Our appetizers included a mixed satay sampler and shrimp tempura. For our entrees we tried the Panang curry with chicken and the Thai basil Szechuan shrimp accompanied by steamed jasmine rice, Dungeness crab fried rice and Asian eggplant with spicy coconut. For dessert we had a mango posset which included a coconut macaroon, passion fruit jelly and mango sorbet. Also, a Yuzu cheesecake with honey tuile and white chocolate. Yum!!

After dinner we attended a dance performance on the main stage. I’m assuming this is a cost saving measure to only have dancers and no singers. Also gone were the elaborate sets like we used to see in the past. The dance show featured only projected colors and images on large white panels.

Sunday May 22, 2022 Depart Vancouver for Alaska

Vancouver Statuary
Cruise Itinerary

This morning our friends Bob Cox and Eugene Wang picked us up at our hotel and walked us a few blocks back to their nearby apartment for lunch. They have a spacious two-bedroom apartment just a few doors from Stanley Park and a large terrace overlooking the city and park. We enjoyed catching up with them over Bob’s fresh crab and bacon quiche and a fresh fruit salad. With good friends, even though years have gone by since we last saw them, we easily picked up where we last left off with ease.

About 1:00pm Eugene and Bob drove us to the cruise ship terminal at Canada Place to board the Nieuw Amsterdam. The check-in process was quick and efficient although the route around the building to the different check-in points for Covid test results, passports, photos, etc. was complex.

Since it is a celebration for our 30th anniversary, I thought that we should have an upgraded cabin, so I got us a cabin with a balcony on deck 8 rather than our original cabin on deck 1. After many years of traveling on Holland America, the ships and cabins all look familiar. We understood that the ship was only about 50% full so that explains why there were not many people at embarkation.

Due to Covid the long-standing procedure of a life boat drill has been altered dramatically. You are now required to watch a video in your cabin about the life boat procedures along with paying a visit to your muster station to check-in prior to sailing.

At 4:00pm we sailed from Vancouver harbor, gliding under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and entered the scenic waters of the Inside Passage. They had a very subdued sail away party on the pool deck. No live music, no snacks and just drinks to purchase. What has the world come to! Although mask wearing is recommended onboard, maybe 35% of the passengers opt to wear masks onboard.

There was an LGBTQ+ gathering in the Tamarind Bar where we met a small group of fellow passengers. Our next stop was dinner in the main dining room. Given the fact that the ship was only half full, the dining room was quite busy. The menus and service appear to have survived the pandemic well.

After dinner there was a unique presentation about Alaska given by the ship’s cruise director, Nick, from Belgium. Nick narrated a story about the history of Holland America in Alaska interspersed with photos and videos projected onto two large movie screens onstage. It gave you a good starting point for the history and culture of Alaska.

After the show we visited the Billboard 100 lounge where two excellent young pianists, George and Lena, sang current Billboard top 100 songs and those from past years.  They both played specially arranged piano accompaniments and had great voices.

Saturday May 21, 2022 Vancouver, Canada

Spring Flowers in Full Bloom Everywhere
Abandoned Barge on the Waterfront
Paul, Kent and Ken
More Spring Flowers
Kent, Steve and Mark

A view of the spring leaves in Stanley Park

This morning Kent spent working on his emails from the past several days while Mark ventured out on a walk through the local neighborhood. The city streets are filled with beautiful spring blossoms everywhere. Most of the streets are tree lined and most every building has lush landscaped beds of flowers out front. Many of the trees have gorgeous white flowers while the beds are filled with azaleas, rhododendron bushes, hydrangeas, tulips, irises and a variety of other local blooming plants.

This winter included plenty of severe weather causing a barge to wash ashore in a king tide not far from our hotel. After attempting to find a way to move the barge it was decided that the barge would need to be cut up and scrapped for its metal. The demolition of the barge is scheduled to begin next week.

In the afternoon friends Ken and Paul came to our hotel and we walked along the sea wall into Stanley Park catching up. After our walk we stopped into the Sylvia Hotel Restaurant for wine, salads and dessert. It was so good to see them after so many years and to hear about their retirement, Mahjong playing, lunches at the local senior center, travel experiences and more.

In the late afternoon we wound our way to a dear friend who luckily happens to be a doctor. Dr. Steve’s services were needed for our medically monitored Covid-19 test prior to boarding our Holland America ship the following day. Steve lives just a few blocks from the Sylvia Hotel so it was a short ten-minute walk to his home. He is recently retired and has his gorgeous penthouse condo on the market, hoping to sell it. Getting the business out of hand first we completed out Covid-19 tests and we were both negative. That was a relief.

We then enjoyed drinks on a large terrace overlooking the city, Stanley Park and the English Bay. The weather was perfect with sunshine and temperatures that had reached nearly 70 degrees. Kent and Dr. Steve met in 1981 and so there were a lot of years, people and stories to get caught up on.

After drinks we took a short walk over to Denman Street where we dined at a Spanish tapas restaurant called Espana. There we enjoyed more drinks, a variety of tapas, a large skillet of paella and churros for dessert with warm chocolate sauce for dipping. The food was very nice but more important was our time visiting with Steve. We hope to be able to see him again soon before too many years pass us by.

Thursday May 19, 2022        Vancouver, Canada 

We had planned a trip to Alaska and Denali National Park back in 2019. Due to Covid-19 we were unable to travel. We are a bit nervous about traveling but have decided to take the risk and move forward with our plans. It also happens that we just celebrated our 30th anniversary, so one more reason to celebrate!

We were scheduled to depart San Diego at 12:45pm on Jazz Airlines, a subsidiary of Air Canada, bound for Vancouver. Our flight was running a little late so we ended up not departing until about 1:15pm. After arriving in Vancouver about 4:30pm we found ourselves with thousands of others trying to navigate through passport control lines before colleting our luggage. The entire process took about 90 minutes. 

Our dear friend, Bryan Parker, was kind enough to pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel on English Bay and Stanley Park. Our hotel for the next three nights was the Sylvia Hotel. The Sylvia Hotel opened its doors on May 3, 1913 as a 70-unit apartment building. It was the tallest building in Vancouver at the time and attracted affluent tenants. Through the decades the Sylvia transitioned to shorter term accommodations while still maintaining some permanent residents. During World War II some rooms were even used to lodge English Bay’s Merchant Marine crews. In 1975 the city of Vancouver designated the Sylvia a heritage building, ensuring its survival for many years to come. Today it remains one of the few publicly accessible heritage buildings in Vancouver. 

After checking in and getting settled we walked a short distance to Bryan’s condo where he had prepared a delicious and plentiful dinner of grilled chicken, rice and a green salad. The dinner was finished off with a lemon cake with fresh raspberries.

Vancouver began more than 10,00 years ago with territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. The modern city, originally named Gastown, was built around a tavern near the Hastings Mill and dates back to 1867. The name Vancouver came about after a deal with the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886 when the railway expanded west.  George Vancouver, who the city was named after, was a British naval officer who had explored and charted the North West Pacific Coast between 1791 and 1795. Vancouver is now a city of about 675,000 inhabitants, while the greater Vancouver area has a population of 2.6 million people. The city is the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada with more than 50% of its residents belonging to a minority group. 

Sylvia Hotel on English Bay
English Bay
English Bay Park and Beach across from the Sylvia Hotel

Friday May 20, 2022 Vancouver, Canada

Kimmie, Dennis, Susan, Eleanor and David
Bryan and Kent at the Anthropology Museum
Anthropology Museum
Anthropology Museum Mask
Anthropology Museum Artifacts
Kenny and Mark

Kenny, Mark and Kent

Happy Birthday to my father David on this day as well as a Happy Anniversary to my big brother Dennis and his wife Susan.

After a lovely breakfast at our hotel overlooking English Bay, we headed out on the sea wall into Stanley Park for a 2.5-mile round trip walk. The weather has been spectacular with plenty of sunshine and temperatures up to about 65 degrees. It has been raining here for weeks but we brought some San Diego sunshine with us.

This morning our friend Bryan took us out to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to visit the museum of Anthropology. The Museum of Anthropology is a collection of world arts with a special emphasis on the First Nations peoples and other cultural communities of British Columbia. The museum was designed by architect Arthur Erickson with cedar post and beam construction found in traditional Northwest Coast Aboriginal Villages.  Built on a steep promontory overlooking the ocean, a great hall includes massive First Nations sculptures. Unfortunately, this large main gallery was undergoing seismic retrofit and was temporarily closed. Many smaller galleries include exhibits from First Nations communities of Pacific Islanders, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. The museum is a public research and teaching facility with one of the most advanced and comprehensive research infrastructures of any museum in North America. Included are state-of-the-art conservation and research laboratories, audio visual and oral history studios, library and archives, as well as modern storage facilities. This modern facility allows works to be preserved, researched and interpreted.

The collections at the museum not only consisted of Canadian First Nation artifacts but there are other collections from many cultures around the world. On the day we visited, there was a temporary exhibit of Latin art with a very diverse look at their people and culture.

After our museum visit we met up with friend Ken Kwong for a wonderful dim sum lunch at a restaurant called the Golden Ocean Seafood. We sat at a large round table with a lazy Susan and the servers brought baskets and dishes of assorted food.  Most dishes consisted of four pieces of items like stuffed rice balls, fried taro root balls, meat balls, and desert pastries. Everything was very tasty and we enjoyed catching up with Ken.

After lunch, Ken took us on a driving tour in his Mercedes convertible.  We visited various parts of the city and enjoyed driving through the UBC campus.

For dinner we took a short walk to a quick serve Greek restaurant for a light bite to eat. As this weekend is a long weekend for Victoria Day here in Canada it was very busy on the streets. The streets were busy with cars all afternoon and the streets were filled with people in the evening.

David and Carole Cujak’s Wedding Anniversary

In honor of what would have been my parents 64th wedding anniversary I share a few photos of them together from their wedding day August 10, 1957 to a photo of my parents at my wedding reception January 18th 2014. We lost my mother in October of last year and we miss her dearly.

Wedding Day August 10, 1957
Formal Portrait Studio
It’s a party!!
1978 Philadelphia Street house in Whittier, CA.
Wedding of Dennis Cujak and Donna Gwynne 1981.
25th Wedding Anniversary in 1982 at the house on Philadelphia Street in Whittier, CA.
25th Anniversary Toast in 1982.
50th Wedding Anniversary on a Holland America cruise to Alaska 2007.
Another World!!
Mark’s Wedding Reception in San Diego, CA January 2014.