Cruising from Sitka to San Diego

I’ve been back home from my last Alaska cruise for 10 days now, and reality has been keeping me very busy.

Now that I have some time and am not paying 30 cents a minute for Interet access, though, I can show you a bit more of what the cruise was like. There are almost 60 photos posted below from the last 8 days of it – San Francisco always uses a lot of memory on my camera’s card!

September 17th – Sitka: Okay, back to Sitka, Alaska. Although tendering isn’t popular with many people (or with the cruise lines), I rather like it – part of the adventure and something a bit different. In the case of Sitka, the city’s refusal to build a cruise ship dock keeps the town more genuine – not enough ships come to attract the Caribbean bauble shops.

A look at Sitka from the empty Colony Club on Deck 6 aft, just before 1:00pm.

This Alaska Airlines Cargo jet came low over us on approach. Every time I come to Sitka I check out that peak below it – I think I have a route up it figured out for “some day” when Cathy and I come for a multi-day stay.

We sailed away at 3:00 pm, with the tug “Thunderbird” accompanying us to the harbour entrance buoy.

Pianist Craig Dahn put on an excellent show to end our night.

September 18th – At sea: As usual, “Captain Claus” Anderson got us in for a good look at the Queen Charlotte Islands as we passed them (this was shot at 8:10am). His passion for what he does is contagious, and he played a big part in making this cruise such a success.

“The Charlottes” (or “Haida Gwaii”) from the back of the Windjammer Cafe on Deck 11, at 10:15.

We passed the south end of the Charlottes at 11:30, and within an hour were under a heavy, low cloud cover.

The other main speaker on this sailing was marine biologist Jay P. Christofferson, who did 5 excellent presentations on sea life, from whales to recent deep-sea discoveries. This day, Food & Beverage Manager Tony Fitzsimmons also did a very interesting presentation about the ships he’s worked on over the past 51 years.

We had a great group from the Cruise Critic Roll Call for this sailing. Here, about 40 of them celebrate a $240 win during their big slot pull 🙂

Judy Kolba’s comedy show had people nearly rolling in the aisles – is she ever unique!

September 19th – Victoria: The thick fog that we had all night and for our approach to Victoria at 8:40am didn’t look promising, and as we docked it got worse, with torrential rain.

We had all day in Victoria, and by the time my sister Val arrived from up-island to meet us at 10:30, the sun had started to come out. By noon when I took this shot of the Radiance from the pub where we had a couple of beers, it was beautiful.

Me, Val and Dad at the Inner Harbour.

This looked like a lot of fun, sailing back and forth along the sea-bluff using the updrafts for power.

As we prepared to leave Victoria, it clouded over and got quite cold. Our luck with Mother Nature (both weather and marine life) during the entire cruise was astounding.

September 20th – At sea: A towel-animal-creating demonstration in the Atrium attracted a good-sized crowd.

Our second formal night was the perfect time to get a proper portrait of Dad and I done.

We went to Portofino’s, the Italian specialty restaurant, tonight. Many people wonder why you’d pay for a meal (in this case $15 each) when food on a cruise is all included. If you ever visit one of the specialty restaurants you’ll quickly discover why – both the food and service are over the top. Here, our waiter, Victor, begins serving Dad’s veal and my seafood combo.

My only disappointment with the singer-dancer troupe was that we didn’t see them often enough – their shows are excellent.

September 21st – San Francisco: To get a front viewing spot for an approach like the Golden Gate Bridge, you have to arrive very early. I did, but gave my spot up, as people were what I wanted photos of as much as the bridge, which I got lots of photos of on our May cruise. This photo was shot at 7:15am.

An outbound container ship.

This is one of the scenes that I can’t imagine ever getting tired of seeing.

Pulling up to Pier 35, the closest dock to Fisherman’s Wharf, at 7:50am.

Once again, the weather cleared as we got off the ship to go for a walk. I keep hearing that the California sea lions who used to hang around Pier 39 are gone – it ain’t so!

We walked a couple of miles along Fisherman’s Wharf, then I took Dad back to the ship and went for a very long wander to see a couple of things I’d missed in May. The first stop was Coit Tower, one of the unmistakeable symbols of San Francisco.

Both the steep walk and the $5 for the elevator ride to the top of the tower (there is no stair option) are well justified by the views offered on a day like this. This portion of it shows Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Radiance of the Seas.

The other “must-see” that I missed in May was the silliness of Lombard Street, “the Crookedest Street in the World”. When I drove it in my new Triumph Spitfire in 1970 it was just an odd but quiet residential street – now it’s crazy-busy.

It was a huge surprise to find this pen with hundreds of goats in it! Then I recalled seeing a TV program about them being used for weed and brush control, to reduce fire hazard among other things. There appears to be several of these now, as I can only find mention online of herds of 50-60.

The lineups for the cablecars were extremely long, and I saw and heard of aggressive panhandlers trying to take advantage of the captive audience.

This sweet Studebaker Golden Hawk brought back some good memories from 30+ years ago when I collected and restored Studes. I ended up with 13 of them before badly (and permanently) injuring my back while working on one (most of the memories of that hobby are good, though 🙂 ).

September 22nd – San Francisco: Sunrise over the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge at 7:10am.

I had picked out a bus tour to take Dad on today, but we got a better offer at dinner last night. Tablemates had gone on a Gray Line bus tour that was a 48-hour pass, and the driver said they could pass the ticket on to friends. It turned out to be a great choice – although their driver/guide was a dud, ours was exceptionally good. On a tour like this, most photos are “grab shots” and you have to be quick, but it can work quite well.

The Palace of Fine Arts.

Looking over Crissy Field back to downtown San Francisco.

The best viewing location of the Golden Gate Bridge that I’ve been to yet (but I haven’t been to the Baker Beach area yet).

The corner of Haight & Ashbury. It’s a rather run-down, tacky area now, bearing little resemblance to the place I remember from 40 years ago. Ah, the classic head shops my buddies and I visited!

One of the most famous views of San Francisco’s Victorian homes, from Hayes Road in the Alamo Square district. Afternoon light would be better than this 11:30am shot.

Joining the Solarium’s panther for an afternoon nap after the bus tour 🙂

As we started to back away from Pier 35 at 2:00pm, the Celebrity Millennium was approaching to take our berth.

The professional dancers tried hard to get passengers to join in the fun, but didn’t get many takers.

A close look at Alcatraz.

Good-bye, San Francisco – – – *sniff* 🙁

September 23rd – At sea:

The final night, when luggage has to be outside your cabin door by midnight. Nobody I talked to really wanted to go home!

Things were quite subdued on the ship – lots of quiet conversations going on.

September 24th – San Diego: The approach to San Diego is said to be beautiful, but it was dark so I saw nothing. The lit-up skyline was very nice at 6:05am, though.

This San Diego airport is very close to the cruise port – this is it seen from the ship! I had booked a very tight flight (a 10:30 flight with an 8:30 disembarkation) in order to avoid a 7-hour layover in Seattle, but it was uncomfortable.

Waiting for disembarkation clearance – tap, tap, tap….

Getting a taxi was quick and simple. The fare to the airport was just under $10.

Dad and I boarded an Alaska Air flight to Seattle from where we’d go in different directions. Good-bye San Diego – next time I’ll stay for a look around! I phoned home from the airport and left a message that I’d seen the weather forecast and had decided to stay in San Diego for awhile 🙂

I love seeing the earth from altitude, and the incredible variety of terrain in California makes it particularly wonderful when the visibility is this good.

A fairly large forest fire in the Sierras.

Along the California coast somewhere. I actually took enough photos from the plane that I’ll eventually be able to identify most shots as we progressed from known locations.

Seattle’s Space Needle area.

The San Juan Islands from the Horizon Air Dash 400. The turboprop plane took 50 minutes to get to Vancouver.

I had a 5-hour layover in Vancouver before catching the 10:00 Air Canada flight to Whitehorse. This is what I arrived home to at midnight:30 – 4 inches of snow and more falling. *sigh*


Cruising from Sitka to San Diego — 10 Comments

  1. Nice! I’ve been waiting for these.
    The “Space Needle area” is Seattle Center. The multi-colored blob next to the Needle is the Experience Music Project and the boomerang-shaped buildings down on the right is the under-construction Gates Foundation headquarters.

  2. You amaze me Murm. Terrific photos and expanations.
    Nice Pic of you & Dad…Say hello to him for me. Very fond memories and a few studebaker rides to dance classes on our knees in the back with no seatbelts all the way to New West….Ah Memory Lane

  3. Wait……that last picture……I recognize that car !!
    Thanks again for the ride up the mountain last year !!

  4. Great pictures and commentary as usual. I am going to miss the snow this year, but I think the heat here in Aust is going to kill me 🙂

  5. Great pictures Murray. Send some of that snow my way, the summer down here was very HOT!

  6. Your cruise looks like so much fun! I’ve never been to San FranCisco, or even further west than Wyoming at all, but I’ve always wanted to go. Thanks so much for taking such wonderful pictures of the whole trip, and especially those pictures from the airplane. The photo of the California ridges is particularly stunning, but the Golden Gate Bridge is of course the most emotionally resonant. It’s a good thing you got to spend so much time with your dad on this trip, and I hope it’s something that you will share for the rest of your lives.


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