Monday, September 11, 2017

Molly Goes North: Part 5 (Endicott Arm)

(Previously: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4)

Wednesday, August 23

Today was "Tracy Arm Day," according to the daily Navigator. However, only a handful of cruises in the past two years have actually been able to go down Tracy Arm, due to ice and whatnot. Most cruise ships now tour nearby Endicott Arm instead. From what I've read, because of changing conditions, Endicott is actually more scenic than Tracy at the moment. So I was happy when, on Wednesday morning, the captain announced we'd be sailing down Endicott Arm that afternoon. (Actually, we missed the announcement and had to ask a random passenger for the info., but still.)

So Endicott Arm later. But first? Disney Trivia!!

Heather and I played as a team. It was so crowded in the promenade lounge, the only place to sit was at the bar, and one of the bartenders whispered a few answers to us (ones where we were clearly stumped; we didn't count them in our score.) In the end, we got 15 right out of 26 and the winner had 18, so we were only 3 off. So close! Maybe next time?

After trivia, we had about 45 minutes to get ready for our brunch at Palo. I had done the Palo brunch on C1, and wanted to do it again, and I also wanted Heather to get to experience it. I had reserved an 11:30 time, knowing that we were due to start sailing down Endicott/Tracy Arm about noon. Palo has great views from its windows, and this seemed like the perfect time to go. (Note: Like the Character Breakfast, Palo is only offered on certain days; on this cruise, it was offered day 2, day 3, and day 7.)

Palo requires dressing up, sooo...

I took a bit longer to get ready than Heather, so we agreed to meet at the restaurant.

Once there, we were escorted to our table... which was right next to a window! Score!

We were already passing by breathtaking scenery....

For drinks, we both got pineapple juice and sparkling cider.

Our server took us on the customary tour of the buffet...

I got many goodies...

Look at all that cheese! Mmmm. 

Then we ordered off the menu. I got a spinach frittata, which was not as tasty as I was expecting, so I spiced it up with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto from the buffet.

Heather ordered a waffle. Guess what it was shaped like?

Here's my second buffet plate...

That thing in the middle was called Baked Yogurt. It had its charms.

Our server told us the chef had a special "truffle pasta" on the menu, that day only, so we got one to share. It was good, I thought. Like beef stroganoff minus the beef.

From our window, we saw the excursion boat launch a little after 12pm....

That boat made two trips out from the ship, each time carrying, hmm, 100 people? This excursion got people closer to the shores and, ultimately, the Dawes Glacier, but it cost over $200 per person, so I decided I wouldn't do it.

During our brunch, we had great views... until people started using the deck just outside the restaurant for their sightseeing and photo-taking ops. It was kind of funny, because Palo's windows are tinted on the outside, so while we could see out, the people on deck walking around, checking out their reflections, etc. likely didn't know we were right there. ;) I thought I had read that the staff closed that deck off while Palo was open so that random people couldn't obstruct diners' views, but that wasn't the case that day. It didn't ruin our experience -- it was more amusing than anything.

We left stuffed (which you should always do at Palo; otherwise, you're doing it wrong.) 

Back at the room, we found a surprise:

It was our chocolate reward for completing Anna's Chocolate Chase the day before.

I changed into warmer clothes and went back outside to take in more of the gorgeous views of Endicott Arm. 

While a lot of people camped out on decks 9 and 10 that day, I found deck 4 to be an ideal spot. It was nearly empty and very quiet. I never had to scramble for a chair. Sure, no servers brought me cocoa, and I missed a few things, like seeing some of the characters in their Alaska outfits on the upper decks, but honestly? Worth it anyway.

What an incredible day. Amazing sights. And the crazy thing is, the things I saw that day will never look exactly like that again. The chunks of ice will be in different positions, or have melted, or there will be new ones, etc. As the ship made its way down Endicott Arm, there was never a moment where I wasn't seeing something interesting. I was glad to have binoculars and a camera with a good zoom lens, but even without them I would have had plenty of sights to keep my interest.

I think a certain Disney song got it right:

"There is more to see than can ever be seen..."

Around 2:30 or 3pm, we reached Dawes Glacier...

 The ship stayed in this area a while. It made some rotations so that people standing at any railing/window on the ship could eventually get a 360-degree view.

I did pop up to the top decks for some cocoa at one point...

But then it was back to deck 4 for me...

The next two photos below were taken within seconds of each other. The first picture was taken without any zoom. You can barely make out the tour boat, center, left.

And this one was taken with my Pentax camera's 26x zoom.

So, yes, clearly the tour boat got closer to the glacier than the ship did, but... amazing what a zoom lens can do!

Sharkberg, right ahead!

We were so grateful it wasn't raining that day. It was cold for sure -- I had on leggings under my slacks, several layers of shirts, a hoodie, boots, gloves, and a knit hat.

Photo by Heather M.

Heather joined me on deck 4 later in the day. It started to get colder as the afternoon went on, so eventually we went inside to warm up.

We prepped our FE gifts, which we planned to deliver late that night...

Our gift consisted of a bag of LEGO pieces & directions for building a little Wonder. We also had a brick engraved with the description of the cruise on one side and the dates on the other....

Should you want a ship like that of your very own, I can make that happen.

Once the kits were ready (with notes to each of the families & the building instructions, of course), we ordered room service.

The food arrived just in time for us to whisk it over to the Buena Vista Theater for one of the showings of the live-action Beauty and the Beast. We had both seen it previously, but thought we might as well see it again. There was a semi-annoying toddler in the theater whose parents didn't seem to know how to shush him, but otherwise, it was a nice time. I still don't get why they needed to (spoiler alert?) give Belle's mother a backstory and have the enchanted book be a thing along with the enchanted mirror, but... oh well. Oh, did I mention it was in 3D?

After the movie, I headed down one floor to get in line to meet Donald Duck. One floor below that, Mickey was doing his own photo ops...

It was about 7:40, and Donald would arrive by 8. Currently, Chip & Dale were in that spot...

The line moved very slowly. I noticed that the statue of Ariel looks odd from that particular angle. Hmm.

Here comes Donald!

He looped around to the other side of the room, waved, and danced a bit.

The line continued to move slowly. By 8:05, I was beginning to get nervous, because there were still 20 people ahead of me, and I needed to go to dinner at 8:15. At 8:15, there were still 15 people ahead of me. At 8:18, there were 14, and I left. I was slightly disappointed, not because I didn't get to "meet" Donald, but because I basically spent 35 minutes in line for nothing. Well, not nothing... I did get some fun pictures and video. Okay, never mind, it was fine.

Dinner time!

First up I ordered a Bora Shake ("pina colada, fresh bananas, and blue ocean"). I'd remembered having this drink on C1 and enjoying it. 

This time around, though, something was amiss. While it was blue, it tasted like vanilla ice cream and nothing more. No banana, no pina colada, nothing. I was sort of angry at myself for ordering it at all, though in retrospect they must have made it wrong, and had I realized so then, I could have asked them to correct it. (Later, when I got home, I glanced at my stateroom bill and realized they didn't charge me for this, so I wonder if they also realized they'd screwed up that night?)

For my appetizer I ordered the Black Pasta Truffle Pursettes, because I'd heard people raving about them. They weren't as delicious as those potato dumplings I'd had the previous night, but they were still good.

For my entree I had  Pumpkin Stroganoff ("Oven-roasted pumpkin, squash, carrots, and tomatoes in a yogurt sauce over wild rice" -- although I want to point out that on the menu, they did not put a comma between "squash" and "carrots", leading me to literally Google "squash carrots" just now, just to be sure that isn't actually a thing. (It isn't.)

This entree was really good, but between the "Bora" shake and the room service we'd had at 5:30, not to mention the huge Palo brunch from earlier, I had a hard time finishing my dinner. I did not get a dessert.

That night in Animator's Palate they were putting up sketches on the video screens along the walls. Our table was next to a screen (we were next to a window in the other two restaurants) and we all had fun guessing what the sketches were going to become. They were all Disney characters, of course, but they appeared so slowly that oftentimes our guesses were way off.

"I think it's Mickey!"
"No wait, Pinocchio?"
"No, I think it's Stitch?"
"Oh wait, maybe Pooh?"
"Nope... it's Ursula!"

As the evening progressed, the sketches gained color and began to become animated (as in, moving)...

Towards the end of the evening, Sorcerer Mickey came out and strutted around the room...

I don't know why he looks so huge, there.

After dinner, Heather and I stopped by our room and saw that we had a new towel animal...

Not even gonna try to guess what that is, but I'm leaning toward "Dr. Suess Character." Wait, FOUR chocolates?! Ma'am, you can make towels in any shape you want!

Then we headed to Azure to watch Wonder Quest. We got there early, and the on-board musician John Charles was in the middle of a mini-concert...

He had another show after Wonder Quest, and we ended up staying for that one as well, because he was pretty entertaining. He took requests from the audience, and unapologetically rejected some requests as well.

Heather seemed more familiar with his songs than I did, although some of them were rock or folk classics that probably everyone's heard once or twice.

In the middle of his two mini-concerts was a game of Wonder Quest. I'd heard this one could get wild, but I only wanted to watch.

The MC would ask teams to bring her items, and whoever could deliver the item to her the fastest got a certain number of points. Items included "two left shoes," "an ice cube," and "one of the bartenders." It was certainly entertaining.

After leaving Azure, Heather and I headed to the D lounge, because we wanted to do karaoke again, and we saw it was still going. There was nobody in the room except a dad and a daughter, singing, and the two CMs running the event. After the dad & daughter finished and left, it was just me and Heather, so we both sang to... well... each other! Heather sang Poor Unfortunate Souls and I attempted Just Around The Riverbend.

Afterward, we went back to the room, grabbed our FE gifts, and tiptoed around the nearly-empty, eerily quiet corridors, making our deliveries....

I had written down the numbers of the staterooms and matched them to a map of the ship, so we were able to find all the rooms pretty easily. It was strange "sneaking" around the ship at night. Once, while we were delivering a gift to a stateroom far aft on the ship, we saw a "secret" staircase (actually a crew staircase.) So here's a tip for some added fun -- explore the ship at night, when no one's around, and you may discover cool things! But maybe have a legit reason for being out there (ie, "delivering gifts"), in case anybody gets suspicious. ;)

From Palo to glaciers to secret staircases, we'd had one full day!

Tomorrow: Skagway, our first port of call!

No comments: