We arrived in Victoria at mid morning and after waiting 45 minutes or so for the preferred guests to disembark, we non-preferred guests ventured out to see the city. We got a few photos of “welcome to Canada” signs to prove that we actually made it to Canada after all these years. There’s a $6.50 all day shuttle to downtown so we took it. A person can walk, but it’s more than just a stroll. We decided we’d save our legs walking around downtown.
Let me mention that there are two big attractions that everyone talks about when Victoria is mentioned. First there are the Butchart Gardens and second there’s the Royal BC Museum. Both of those are biggies that take time to really experience. Since our ship’s final call was 5:30 and since we really just wanted to experience the city, we opted for a hop on/off bus tour. I don’t know that we made the best choice, but that’s what we were in the mood for on our last cruise day.
Victoria is a beautiful city. The residents take pride in Victory and it really shows. Flowers are everywhere from the immaculate grounds of the Empress Hotel to the front porches of humble houses. By taking the bus tour we saw several neighborhoods beyond the area around the busy harbor and downtown.
We hopped off at the city public library so Jackie could check out yet another library and I took advantage of the WIFI to upload photos and check email. At one point the bus tour came to around 12 or 13 blocks of the ship, so we got off and walked back to Rhapsody so we could drop off the computer and everything else aside from our cameras. After a quick lunch in the Windjammer, we took the shuttle back into the city, explored the manicured grounds of the Empress, and got back onto our on/off bus to continue our whirlwind tour of Victoria.
This is a city worth exploring and we’d like to return for a more casual visit some day.
One of the things I wondered about was why the ship was leaving so early with Seattle close by. After all, one can take a fast ferry from Seattle to Victoria in around 45 minutes. As Rhapsody pulled away from Victoria I realized what was happening. We went, not toward Seattle, but back out to sea. Before long, it was announced that the casino and duty free shops would soon be opening. My guess is that we had just a short day in Victoria so the cruise line could make more money from the gamblers.
We ate a wonderful meal (Jackie had lobster) in the formal dining room and enjoyed the farewell from the food staff that came out for introductions and even a song. Those in the dining room gave them a standing ovation for the food and service.
After dinner we took a stroll around the deck and then returned to our room to pack. Some people had opted to do express disembarkment and just carry their luggage off the ship. Everyone else was given luggage tags and instructed to keep just a carry off and put the tagged bags in the hallway before midnight.
We finished and called it a night around 10:30. However, with the gambling and partying going on many came to their rooms considerably later. It was the noisiest and least restful night of the cruise.
Our Wednesday was spent at sea and the rocking and rolling continued. However it was only mildly objectionable. Again, my objection was that the itinerary showed us being in the inside passage for this part of the cruise. When I booked the cruise one of the negatives for this particular cruise was that it went out to sea as it traveled north in the first days of the trip. I decided I’d risk the possible sea sickness to get north as quickly as possible and then enjoy the inside passage the rest of the trip. Instead, in addition to the journey north, it seemed we were out of sight of land at every opportunity. Thankfully, Jackie and I weren’t suffering from sea sickness. Still, though, the constant motion was somewhat disorienting and, instead of watching the beautiful green mountains and occasional wildlife, we had the rolling sea with whitecaps in all directions.
This was an interesting stage of the cruise, as people had pretty much figured out what is what on the ship. Rather than exploring the ship, one could pick an area and go straight to it. For instance, I settled on the 11th deck with its large, ceiling to floor slanted windows as my favorite hangout. Sitting here I could see a great distance. The ocean view highlight of the day for me was seeing two dolphin crest in perfect unity right next to the ship.
Jackie went to a couple of demonstrations: one on cake decorating and the other on towel folding. I read and, in the afternoon took a nap. I decided that I have a strange reaction to the Bonine motion sickness pills. Prior to the trip I took one just to be sure I wouldn’t have some unexpected reaction. Around twenty hours after I took it, I became quite drowsy. Then on the cruise that same thing happened every time I took a Bonine. Weird, right?
Since this was an at sea day and since the morning had lots of sunshine we joined about half the ship in walking laps around the deck. We walked a mile in the morning and then, as fog rolled in and it began to cool we walked another mile in the afternoon. Then the fog got so thick that one couldn’t see from one end of the ship to the other and from the upper decks the water wasn’t even visible. That lasted a couple of hours. By the time the fog lifted the seas had calmed and we finished the day with yet another mile around the deck.
In spite of having trouble going to sleep, Jackie and I managed to sleep soundly into the morning. If there’s any advantage to having an inside cabin (aside from price) it’s that it stays quite dark in the morning. There’s no pesky sunlight disturbing sound sleep. We awoke to the sound of the captain’s announcing that we would soon dock in Ketchikan and that the weather forecast called for very good, sunny weather.
Because of the schedule change, after months of thinking about and researching our cruise we ended up in Ketchikan without a clue as to what to do. I’d seen tons of information on the area but ignored it because we were going to Skagway instead. The downtown looks a lot like Juneau with tons of nice shops intended to draw the cruise ship passengers. The harbor is also very picturesque. Since we were clueless as to what we might like to do in Ketchikan we went to the welcome center and picked up a walking map of the city. From there we, and a thousand or so fellow cruisers, set off on a personal tour of the town. Included in the tour was the city library which made Jackie quite happy. Then, we set off following a beautiful mountain stream that was filled with salmon. At one point there’s section of rushing, falling water. I managed to get a photo of some of the salmon leaping out of the water to swim up stream.
Just a bit farther on is a fish hatchery operated by Native Americans. We paid $13 each to tour the facility and to visit the totem museum just across the stream. The tour was sort of interesting as we saw tanks of the small salmon at various stages of development. At one point we saw workers killing and filleting fish for food. One fellow was in the water where the returning salmon were being corralled. Using a big net he scooped up several of the 3 foot and longer fish. He culled out some and the rest he hit with a club so the fish could be passed on for processing. I had to smile when I thought of some suburban momma with her suburban kids finding out the hard facts of how food ends up on the table. The totem museum was interesting and had lots of information about the history of the totems as well as some samples well over 100 years old.
Continuing the tour, we passed a small grocery store and bought a few desired items, including some powdered coffee creamer that I like better than the little liquid creamers on the ship. Frankly, I was disappointed in the ship’s coffee. It’s was way too strong for me. In fact, I heard someone else say the same thing. By doubling up on the creamer I managed to tame the coffee down to where it was almost drinkable!
Then, we found an internet café and I used my laptop to get on the internet. I mostly wanted to upload photos of our trip for family and friends. I also checked out my email.
After a return to the ship to drop off the laptop and to have lunch, we returned to the nearby shops. I sat and people watched while Jackie did some shopping. It wasn’t long though, before we were ready to return to Rhapsody for a couple of hours of downtime before departure. I took a short nap and Jackie read. Then, as the ship departed Ketchikan, I processed the photos from the day.
For supper we ate in the main dining room and I enjoyed one of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten. A shrimp cocktail, followed by New York strip steak with portabella mushroom and some wonderful shrimp, topped off by a very good banana-almond-cream dessert. I don’t make a big deal out of food, but this meal was absolutely terrific.
By the time we finished the meal the ship was beginning to do its rock and roll thing again. I could only hope it was temporary and not an indication of what to expect from Wednesday’s day at sea as we made our way to Victoria, B.C.