Jay's Internet Log

Alaska 2010

Alaska 2010 – Day 14 – Victoria, B.C.

by on Jul.20, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

During the night, Royal Princess continued her passage south following the coast of Vancouver Island.  The ship will continue to do so until around 7:30AM this morning when we will turn to port and enter the Strait of Juan De Fuca.  Vessels transiting the Strait are required to follow a vessel Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) which separates inbound ships from those outbound.  Following the inbound lane of the scheme we will make our way east towards Victoria.  Rounding Race Rocks we shall then turn north and make our final approach into Victoria.  We expect to be alongside in Victoria around 2:00PM.

This morning, I woke up early and went to the gym again.  After breakfast, we started packing, something that isn’t nearly as exciting as unpacking was a few weeks back.  We only packed for an hour as I wanted to come and sit and wait for the final entertainment show of the cruise.  I sat and posted a single post before the Internet decided to give out on me, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post anything else until after getting home.  And now I’m home.  The final production show on the cruise was very good, and afterwards we had lunch, then finished packing.  Heather and I took our luggage up to the gym to weigh it, and it’s a good thing we did as one of our bags was 52 pounds, which would have cost $100 extra.

 You’ve got to love the airlines (speaking of airlines, that’s a completely different story that won’t get written up here just now).  It was funny because we had our luggage all opened and were transferring clothes back and forth between bags in the middle of the gym.  At around 2:00PM, we arrived at Victoria, British Columbia, another port I’ve never been to before.  There’s an old Maritime law that states that a ship without 100% American crew can not start and end in US ports without visiting a foreign country, so that’s why we were here today.  Someone on the loudspeaker came on and said that there was a car show in town, so Mom and Dad took off for it, while Heather and I saw a lighthouse to walk to.  As we started walking to it, down a very long, narrow pathway that descended 30 feet to either side into the ocean sans handrails, the fog started to roll in, enough so we couldn’t see much in front of us.  I found it fun.  We saw some guys fishing and within 10 seconds of saying hello to them, the conversation turned to hockey.  Yes, we were in Canada!  We had a shore excursion this night.  We went to “The Enchanting Butchart Gardens”, a tour I signed up for because Mom loves flowers, and I’m glad that I did.  Victoria itself has a plethora of potted flowers all over the city, and it smells as such everywhere you go.  The Butchart Gardens is a 55 acre area that contains some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen.  The map has a route laid out for you to walk, and sometimes you’ll be walking down a path and all of a sudden there’s a huge garden below you.  It’s a place that I’d love to go back to given more time.  So, as I said earlier in this post, I am home now, and got home about 2:00AM local time last night.  The past 14-15 days have been some of the best cruising days I’ve ever had.  It may have been the itinerary, the ship, or the crew on the ship this time, but Princess Cruises has done it again, and I eagerly look forward to my next adventure with them.

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Alaska 2010 – Day 13 – At Sea

by on Jul.20, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

Throughout the night, Royal Princess is following southwesterly courses along the Canadian coast of Graham Island.  In the early hours of the afternoon, we will continue on a southwesterly course with Vancouver Island on our port side.

Heather and I just witnessed what is probably our last sunset aboard Royal Princess, our favorite ship.  Princess is selling this ship to P&O early next year, and the probability of us being able to travel on her again is extremely low.

 My whole family enjoys vacations on smaller ships much more than on larger ones, because we feel cramped and stressed out on the large ships.  Small ships are very personal, have larger rooms and showers, and are usually accompanied with the best itineraries.  I hope that Princess plans on keeping Royal’s sisters, Pacific and Ocean Princess.  We will always try to book our vacations on sub 1000 person ships for as long as they are available.  Anyways, so far this post has been written out of emotion, so let’s get back to what we did today.  This morning, we woke up at 8:00AM, partly because we were tired, and partly because we had to set our clocks forward an hour last night.  We forwent breakfast (I know, it’s blastphemous) and instead went to the gym.  After working out and sitting in the steam room for a few minutes, we met up with Mom who was waiting for us in the culinary demonstration.  We watched as the head chef, Maitre’d, and head pastry chef cooked up a few dishes and joked with one another.  It’s something that we always attend on the last day of the cruise, though today’s not the last day.  Afterwards, we toured the galley.  This ship has a most interesting galley.  Since it’s a very small ship, the galley is set on two floors, with an escalator between them, so junior waiters can walk downstairs, grab the prepared food, and then have a ride up the escalator into the dining room.  After the tour we had lunch, and then I took a few hours to have a couple of beers and a cigar on the balcony.  It was quite warm and I was comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt. We then played Bingo and lost as we always do, then got dressed up for our final formal dinner.  Tonight I had Pheasant and Heather had Lobster.  After dinner, all the junior waiters paraded around the dining room, each holding a Baked Alaska, which is a tradition with Princess.  I don’t know if other cruise lines also do this, and honestly for the longest time, I thought it was only done in Alaska, as my first cruise ever was up here, but they do it on every cruise.  It’s Dad’s favorite dessert, and mine too!  After dinner, we quickly changed out of our formal wear, lost $20 in Roulette, and walked a few laps around the track.  As the time for the sunset neared, Heather and I went to the stern of the ship and watched the sun go down one last time.  We’ll see it again tomorrow, but the ship will be in port, so it probably won’t have the same effect as it did tonight.  That’s about it…it’s bedtime now.

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Alaska 2010 – Day 12 – Tracy Arm Fjord

by on Jul.18, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

Overnight, Royal Princess will follow southerly courses through the Lynn Canal and Stephens Passage.  We will cross the shallow water bar at the entrance to Tracy Arm at 6:00AM and there follows a 25 mile transit of the fjord to Sawyer Island close to its end.  The fjord is very narrow in places with the mountains rising sheer from its waters.  8:15AM would be a good time to be on the open decks or your cabin balconies to enjoy the best of the scenery.  The intention is to be in the region of Sawyer Island at 9:00AM, and to remain there for 15 minutes before retracing our steps back through the Arm.  We expect to cross the bar outbound at 11:30AM.  Thereafter our route takes us south through Stephens Passage and the Chatham Strait.  We will clear South East Alaska’s Inside Passage at 7:00PM and set various southerly courses towards Victoria.
We are nows sitting and waiting to see the comedian, Dick Gold, for the second time.  He performed the last time we were on Royal Princess and he repeated that performance the other night.  Tonight however, he promises a new performance, so I trust that it’s entertaining.  Today we were in Tracy Arm Fjord, an area I’ve never been to before.  From what I hear, cruise ships have just recently been allowed into this area of Alaska, and it’s been more than “recently” since I’ve been here.  Today was much like the Glacier Bay day, where we never got off the ship, but instead viewed the scenery outside.  The day began at 6:20AM when we woke up and were already well on our way into Tracy Arm.  Cliffs and waterfalls line both sides of the waterway, and the further in the ship goes, the more icebergs seem to appear.  They are nicknamed “growlers” because of the sound they make when they hit the ship.  It really is quite amazing to see hundreds of icebergs surrounding and bouncing off the ship hull.  We never made it to our furthest destination as the ice got too dense, which saddened me, but some of these icebergs would be damaging to the ship, so it’s understandable.  Heather and I had Champagne breakfast this morning in our cabin and watched the nature outside.  I also shot a 22 minute video of the ship spinning 180 degrees as we turned around, and look forward to speeding it up when we get home.  We saw a National Geographic ship named Sea Lion, and saw two Harbor Seals; one fat one sitting on an iceberg, and a baby one swimming near the ship.  Heather was very happy to see the seals.  This afternoon after we had left Tracy Arm, we took a nap and watched Clash of the Titans.  It has a Pegasus in it, which was really cool.  For dinner, I had French Onion Soup (again; the Head Waiter makes it special for us now), Superior Lamb Rack, and Southern Fried Chicken.  Now we’re here, sitting and waiting to see this comedian again before another full day at sea tomorrow.
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Alaska 2010 – Day 11 – Skagway

by on Jul.16, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

Last night Royal Princess arrived off Cape Spencer and entered Cross Sound where we embarked our S.E. Alaskan Pilot.  We then proceeded back through Icy Strait before rounding Rocky Island and heading north through the Lynn Canal.  Passing the town of Haines, we continued north towards Skagway.  Passing between Low Point and Indian Rock we entered the Taiya Inlet, the final leg to Skagway.  We expect to be all fast alongside our berth by 07:00AM.

Today was completely awesome.  We woke up at 5:00AM and went up to the breakfast buffet to watch our entrance into my favorite Alaskan town:  Skagway.

 As I arrived onto the deck, I noticed a large Princess ship coming in behind us.  At this point I didn’t know which ship it was, but it turned out to be the Sapphire Princess.  After we docked, I recorded it docking, a process which took over 36 minutes, but I plan on speeding it up so it takes much less than that.  I hope it works.  We disembarked the ship at 7:45AM and boarded the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to take a trip up 3000 feet to the White Pass Summit and into Canada.  I love trains, and this was a great trip, especially on the way down because the engine switches sides at the top and we ended up being the last car on the way down, so the sites were fantastic.  After the three hour ride, we had lunch, then walked around the small town of Skagway.  It still has the old western feel to it that I remember, and we bought a totem pole.  This totem pole is unlike any other we’ve seen this trip, and we met the designer of it.  He autographed it for us, which was really nice.  We visited the Sarah Palin Store and bought a magnet.  Heather tried on a really nice fur hat, but we didn’t buy it.  We also saw a Bassett Hound eating ice cream.  We saw a traffic jam, which consisted of a train and two cars.  When we got back to the ship, we saw a local man sing and tell poems about the history of Alaska.  I had the best dinner of the cruise so far.  It consisted of a pineapple appetizer, French Onion Soup, then Duck in Asian sauce, a Ribeye steak, and a Turkey Pot Pie.  For dessert I had pineapple orange ice cream.  It was great.  There isn’t a show tonight as we’re just leaving Skagway after being here for twelve hours, so instead, we’re going to bed early as tomorrow we have an early rise to hopefully view some more wildlife and glaciers.

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Alaska 2010 – Day 10 – At Sea

by on Jul.16, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

After letting go the lined in St. Paul’s Harbour, the Captain and local pilot maneuvered the ship back out through the entrance channel and into the Chiniak Bay.  Once safely clear of the channel, we disembarked our local pilot and Royal Princess once again entered the Gulf of Alaska.  Following an easterly course, we will make our way back towards Cape Spencer in North East Alaska.
This morning we slept in until 7:30AM, which is the latest yet.  Tomorrow we need to be off the ship by 8:00AM so we may want to get a wake-up call.  I am dreading getting home and having to wake up at 6:00AM after being 4 hours behind normal time.  I’m sure I’ll make do.  Anyways, today we walked/jogged 5 kilometers for Breast Cancer research.  This is something that Princess does on every cruise, and Heather and I started doing it on our previous trip.  It’s something that we plan on doing on every cruise, both because it’s for a good cause as well as it’s great excercise.  I should add that I had a chocolate chip cookie prior to the jog.  The weather changed during it, which it seems to do quite quickly in Alaska, and we were out in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska all day.  We are still out here, though getting closer to our next destination: Skagway.  I’ve been to Skagway twice already, and we’re repeating the excursion that we did in 1988, going on a narrow gauge railroad on the trails that the gold rushers did back when they were searching for gold.  I remember enjoying it, and as I really love trains, I’m looking forward to it.  How did I get off topic again?  It’s probably because I didn’t do a whole lot today.  After the walk, we had breakfast (French Toast, Bacon, Oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar), then I fought with the Internet for a few hours, but I did get caught up with my posts.  The annoying part is actually uploading the photographs.  My photos are all about 15MB in size, so I first edit them in Picassa, straighten them, crop them, and touch them up, then I export them as smaller images so they become about .5MB and ready to upload into my log.  After this, I connect to the Internet and usually get mad at it because we go through a cloud or something and the connection gets cut.  I joke about the cloud, but I really have no idea what’s causing the disconnect.  I just know that most cruises aren’t this bad, so I’m guessing it’s our location as well as the mountains that we’re usually around.  Heather and I had a nice lunch at the very stern of the ship, as far back as you can go, and watched the wake as we moved along.  She went and watched Alice in Wonderland this afternoon as I rested.  For dinner I had Spaghetti and meatballs, as well as Prociutto and cantaloupe; one of my favorites.  The food is always amazing on Princess, and I think it’s even better than normal this trip.  So now we’re waiting to see yet another comedian.  So far they’ve been really good, so I’m hoping this one will be as well.  After this they are having a Champagne waterfall, where they stack Champagne glasses up in a pyramid and pour the Champagne throughout it.  If we make it there, it will be the first sip of alcohol that we’ve had this trip.  I’m not sure if we will though as we need to get up so early tomorrow.  The next two days should be rather amazing, especially if the weather stays nice.
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Alaska 2010 – Day 9 – Kodiak

by on Jul.14, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

After letting go our lines in Seward, the Captain maneuvered the ship, abeam Lowell Point and took up southerly courses back through Resurrection Bay.  Rounding Caines Head, we then continued out through the Harding Gateway and into the Gulf of Alaska.  Parelleling the Kenai Penninsula, Royal Princess followed a south westerly course towards Kodiak Island.  Entering Chiniak Bay, we made our way through the buoyed channel leading into St. Paul’s Harbour.  Once in the Harbour we made our way north towards our berth expecting to be alongside by 7:00AM.

We are sitting here waiting to watch a dance show, I think about the 1920’s but I really don’t know.  I just know that I’m saving seats in the front row while eating cheese, grapes, and crackers.

 This morning we pulled into Kodiak, a port that only this Princess ship goes to.  Most Alaskan cruises hit the eastern ports, and some of them start in Seward and Whittier, but only this ship and a single Clipper ship go to Kodiak, one ship per week.  Today’s tour took us to Fort Abercrombie, an old military base on one end of the island.  This was a walking tour, and we ended up walking a few miles in the rainforest.  Lucky for us, it wasn’t raining today, but was overcast.  I’ve never seen a forest like this.  The trees are very big, but what stands out is that they have moss growing on every branch.  There’s moss everywhere, and it’s quite the spectacle.  We saw a lot of different flowers, and Mom was very happy about that.  We also got to walk around some old abandoned barracks that have been turned into a museum.  This park was very nice.  After getting back to the ship, we had a quick lunch (curry chicken and rice, pineapple, and a slice of cheese pizza), then Mom, Heather, and I walked into town.  It’s just about a mile walk to get downtown, but runs along salmon canneries, so it’s quite pugnant.  There also aren’t any sidewalks, but we made do.  Kodiak has just a single traffic signal, and I took some photos of it.  We visited the Baranov Museum and a few shops before heading back to the ship, while being sprinkled on by rain.  We are now officially headed home, as we are heading East.  Tomorrow we have a full day at sea, which are always our favorites.  I look forward to not doing anything.

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Alaska 2010 – Day 8 – Seward

by on Jul.14, 2010, under Alaska 2010, Gaming, General, Vacation

During the night, Royal Princess will follow westerly courses approaching Kenai Peninsula at 6:00AM.  Rounding Rugged Island and into Resurrection Bay, we expect to pick up the Local Pilot at 6:15AM.  We will proceed northbound towards our Berth in Seward, where we will be safely alongside by 7:30AM.

We are now sitting and waiting to see a comedian.  He doesn’t start for another 45 minutes, but this waiting gives me a chance to write this up.  

Today we were in Seward, AK, a port I’ve never been to before.  There’s really not a whole lot here, and I always respect ports that are barren more than those filled with diamond stores.  Today we did something that we’ve tried to do on two other cruises and never been able to; horseback riding.  One time the weather came into play, and the other time, a hurricane diverted the ship.  Luckily though, the weather here in Seward was sunny and in the 70’s, so nothing was stopping us!  We took a short van ride to the stables, signed a waiver declining helmets, and jumped up on our horses.  We took them down a road and into the woods, next to a stream, and eventually out on the other side of where the ship was docked.  We saw families of eagles and moose droppings.  We didn’t get to see any moose or bears though.  The horses went through some streams and my sneakers got soaking wet.  Heather’s horse was named Frisco and mine was named Buddy.  Our horses, especially Frisco, wouldn’t stop eating the grass and flowers.  As I saw patches of flowers, I wanted to jump off and pick them as I would in Red Dead Redemption.  It was a very fun experience, and I assume much better than if we were in Jamaica or some other Caribbean island.  After riding the horses, we returned to the ship, showered, ate a cheeseburger, then went back to town.  We walked around the shops and bought a few small knickknacks.  We got back to the ship within 15 minutes of it leaving, had dinner, and are now waiting for the comedian, listening to the really good jazz band play before the show.

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Alaska 2010 – Day 7 – At Sea

by on Jul.14, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

Following the completion of our scenic cruising in Glacier Bay, we disembarked our Park Rangers off the Ranger Station in Bartlett Cove.  Once clear of Glacier Bay, we proceeded out on westerly courses through the North Passage and North Inian Passage finally entering Cross Sound which marks the exit into the Gulf of Alaska.  In Cross Sound, we disembarked our East Alaska Pilots who have been helping us navigate safely since our arrival in Alaskan waters.  Once past Cape Spencer and into the Gulf of Alaska, Royal Princess will set north westerly courses towards our next port Seward.
There’s not a whole lot to talk about today.  We slept in until 7:00AM which is a record so far this trip.  The reason we were able to sleep so well is due to the crazy amount of movement the ship had all night.  With 10 foot swells, we were rocking slowly all night, and it hasn’t changed at all for the totalement of the daytime.  The pool has been closed off all day, and was recently drained as the ship’s movement was making the water splash all over the top deck.  It is currently 9:00PM and the sun is far from setting.  All day we haven’t been able to see any land as we cross the ocean, and we saw Orca whales all around the ship just thirty minutes ago.   Since there’s not much to talk about today, and we spent the day just relaxing, I’ll talk about what I ate.  For breakfast, I had my usual pancakes, ham, bacon, and hash browns.  For lunch I had buffalo wings and a pulled barbecue beef sandwich.  For dinner, we skipped out on formal night to eat up stairs in the bistro.  I had a pizza, steak, fries, and green beans.  It was really awesome.  I did get to the gym; something I’ve been doing on most days.  I coined a term while up there:  “Extreme Weightlifting”.  This is when you’re lifting weights while the ship rocks so much that you’re actually moving up and down about 20-40 feet between waves.  I was going to try Extreme Tread-milling, but I wasn’t that brave.  Seriously, it would be dangerous to get on a treadmill today.  I sat in the steam room for a bit, and watched the movie “Crazy Heart” in the afternoon.  I’m now going to go to bed, as tomorrow we have a full day, though only a single tour, in Seward.
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Alaska 2010 – Day 6 – Glacier Bay

by on Jul.14, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

** Intended Program **
Rangers on at Bartlett Cover – 8:00AM
Queen Inlet (Start of Commentary) – 10:15AM
Arrival at Margerie Glacier – 12:15PM
Departure from Margerie Glacier – 1:15PM
Arrival at John Hopkins Inlet – 2:30PM
Arrival at Lamplugh Glacier – 3:15PM
Presentation in Cabaret Lounge – 3:30PM
Rangers off at Bartlett Cove – 6:15PM

The above times are subject to changes due to weather, ice conditions, and Captain’s and Glacier Bay National Park Rangers discretion.
We just saw a large pod of Orcas.  It was awesome.  Anyways, this morning was rainy, cloudy, and cold.  This is the first day that the weather hasn’t been agreeable and I was worried because today we were going into Glacier Bay for a day of glacier viewing, and I was looking forward to using the new video camera.  As the morning progressed and we got closer to Glacier Bay, Heather and I suited up in our waterproof gear, I threw the G10 into its waterproof casing, and we went out on the deck.  The wind wasn’t anything to worry about, but the rain would have destroyed an unprotected camera.  This didn’t stop most people from bringing theirs out on deck, but we were the only ones that had a waterproof one.  Mom and Dad were in the Royal Lounge, protected by the elements.   I brought the computer up there for a bit in hopes to post some of these up on the site, but the Internet was still flaky.  All the mountains all close up to us hinder the Internet in a huge way.  For lunch, we had burgers and hot dogs while we viewed glaciers.  I’m glad that Heather got to walk on one before seeing them today.  We saw many of them calving and I was able to break out the video camera a bit in the afternoon as the rain stopped periodically.  During dinner, a pod of Humpback Whales came up behind the ship and the whole dining room got up on their feet.  After dinner we saw more whales, including the aforementioned Orcas.  We are now waiting to see a show in the lounge; a show that we’ve seen twice already, on this ship and on one of the large ones.  The Captain just came on the loudspeaker and told us that we were heading into 14 foot swells tomorrow, so the ship should be rocking nicely.
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Alaska 2010 – Day 5 – Icy Strait Point

by on Jul.11, 2010, under Alaska 2010, General, Vacation

Departing Juneau, Royal Princess retraced back out the Gastineau Channel.  Turning to starboard around Marmion Island, we entered Stephens Passage passing between Douglas and Admirality islands.  During the early hours of the morning, the ship transited the Saginaw Channel, a narrow section of water that separates Stephens Passage from the Lynn Canal.  Entering the Lynn Canal, we turned port and on southerly courses before finally turning around Couverden Island into Icy Strait.  We expect to be anchored off Icy Strait Point by around 07:30.
We generally take an excursion in each port that we stop in, and sometimes we skip out on them if we’ve been there before, like when we visit the Caribbean.  I signed us up for a few excursions in each port for Alaska because this place is just so awesome.  Yesterday we broke a record for number of excursions done in a single day, with two.  Today, we are signed up for two again, but Heather and I broke the record and took an additional excursion as well that we weren’t signed up for.  Today we are in Hoonah, Alaska, in Icy Strait Point.  We started the day tendering in to Hoonah, a small island that only allows a single ship per day.  This place reminded me a bit of San Blas, but is much more populated and the people aren’t annoying you by trying to sell you their goods.   Our first excursion was a sightseeing tour and tribal dance demonstration.  We rode around town in a van and a local Tlingit (pronounced Klinket) Indian woman told us of their history and showed us some areas of their town, including the airport, which is large enough for a commercial jet to land, but not take off.  We then were taken to a theater of sorts, and it resembled a modern day clan house, like the one that we saw in Ketchikan.  Some of the locals put on a few tribal dances for us, and told us their 12,000 year history in the form of dance.  Heather and I even donned their ritaulistic outfits and danced along with them for the last one!  After this informative excursion, we returned to the ship via tender, had a nice, short lunch, and tendered back over to the land.  This time we got onto a tram and were driven through the rainforest and out along the beach.  We were able to see the ship anchored and of course, I took way too many photos of it.  This was called a “Nature Tram” and we were educated about the island’s different berries (salmon, blue, huckle, and a few others).  We saw a few sea lions out in the water, and even saw one catch a fish, and then have an Eagle swipe down to try to steal it.  The Eagle failed, but I got it all on video, so the sea lion and I both win.  We stopped and walked around the beach for a few minutes where Heather decided that she needed ten rocks because they were all so different.  We then got back on the tram and were taken back to the port area, where Heather and I boarded another bus for our third and final excursion:  Zip lining.  We try to zip line on each cruise that we take where it’s offered, but we didn’t sign up for it this time in order to take some more educational ones.   We signed up for this when we first arrived in Hoonah in the morning, only after seeing the zip lines.  This is the tallest and longest zip line in the world.  It starts 1300 feet up and comes down to sea level.  It is over 1 mile in length, speeds up to 60MPH, and takes 90 seconds to descend. Usually these excursions go from tree to tree, but this is just a single drop, and up to five lines go at once.  We took a 45 minute bus ride to the top of the mountain, saw a deer on the way, and then we dropped all the way down in less than two minutes.  I tried taping it but was zoomed in for the beginning, so only the ending of it actually came out good. It was fun and exhilarating, and Mom and Dad were waiting at the bottom taking pictures of us as we arrived.  It was a good way to end the day in Hoonah.  We then boarded the tender, got back on the ship, had dinner, and then got to see a few seals and whales at night.  It was a pretty awesome day.
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