Port Call: Sitka!
Looking out the window of our launch (#16), and up at the ship gives a little perspective to the size of the ocean liner. It just goes up and up. The life boats are still sitting in their perches but the launches are down playing in the water. Off in the distance, southeast of Sitka the mountains of the Tongass Forest continue to wear their cloud mantles.
The driver's front windshield is high over our heads, and looking through it gives us a restricted view of the Promenade Deck.
Jim was turning to say something just as I snapped this picture. The driver was up at the right level to use the elevated windshield. He is all set with coffee, moonroof, a spittoon under his foot, a wireless phone, a two-way radio, a drop down screen, and other electronic assistants for his very important task (at least from our biased point of view) of getting us safely to shore and back. And for his spare moments he can play video slots by pulling the orange handle. ☺
As you can see we are 4 rows back from the forward bulkhead, and so we don't have much visibility out the lower windshields. However, the view from the side window is good, and the others were kind enough to allow me the window seat. ☺
So with the great exterior view, what do I do? I held the camera up in the air and pointed it back over my shoulder to get a view of what the rest of the launch looked like. It looks like there are 7 rows behind us, making a total of 11 rows of happy passengers heading to shore for a great time! Oh, and if you were hoping for an exterior view for this picture, in my glasses you can see a reflection of the sky through the windshield above us, as well as my blue eyes.
The joke I told must have been pretty bad (perhaps it was a pun because they are always bad, especially when they are good ☺). Jim is trying not to laugh, Tammy is holding a straight face while maintaining a death grip on her coffee (I was wishing I had some as well), and Dotti doesn't care, she is going to at least smile, even if it was only to be nice.
Now Jim did a much better job than I did. He got us all to smile! However, it is just as well you didn't see what he had to do to make it happen; it nearly got us thrown off the boat! Seriously, they waited until we reached shore before asking us to leave. (Jim is a perfect gentleman and would never do anything that would get us thrown off the boat. That's my story and I am sticking to it. ☺)
With Whale Island over my shoulder and an Alaska hat on my head, a nearly empty backpack hanging on my back, I am trying to pick up that pretty girl that I am sitting beside. You can even see the sparkle in my eye. Well, maybe that is the flash, but Dotti is the prettiest girl I've ever seen!
I finally figured out where that window was that I was leaning against, and I took this picture looking back at where we loaded onto the launch. Getting on and off the launches was the only time we went down to Deck A.
The Promenade Deck (Deck 3) runs along just at the dividing line between the black hull and the upper white decks. Counting down we pass the Lower Promenade Deck (Deck 2), and the Main Deck (Deck 1) before reaching Deck A where the hatch was located that we passed though to access the ramp down to the floating pier and the waiting launch.
High up on the ship, at the Lido Deck (Deck 9), the glass windows mark where the Lido Restaurant is located, and later in the day, I took some pictures looking down from those windows as they put away one of the launches. But I am getting ahead of myself.
A lone man stands vigil at the rail on the Lido Deck, watching the launches go to shore, and taking in the Sitka skyline. Is he planning to go ashore—just waiting for the right moment? It is amazing how much Decks 4 through 8 resemble the side of a hotel building. Each little section is a room with a great view.
This is a typical view that we had of Mt. Edgecumbe during our visit. What? You don't see a mountain in this picture? Well, unfortunately, neither did we. (See Side bar.)
We are not following behind that launch you see out the window; it is headed back to the ship, having dropped off its passengers already. The O'Connell Bridge is just visible ahead, our destination is right beside it.
Launch number 14 is getting a lot closer here, on its way to pick up another load of passengers.
Here we are looking at: the water, nearly at eye level, and rippling from our boat's wake; Launch 14, which has now passed us; and ms Westerdam, sitting as patiently as a mother dog waits for her pups; islands, mountains, trees, and clouds—with light playing off of everything in a magical way. Wow!
O'Connell Bridge is very close now. It is hard to believe I watched a plane take off from underneath this structure only a short time ago.
Notice how the cables run from the top of the towers down to large mounting studs. It is a simpler design than a suspension bridge, but it is very attractive. The color is right for the setting, and the bridge fits in with its environment well.
The St. Tatiana (See Sidebar) was was holding our place in line, as we arrived at the dock; and finally we were in a position to set foot on Sitka soil.
The sign stands beside the ramp bringing welcome, and the important information that the last boat back to the ship would be leaving at 3:30 p.m.. The red carpet (or at least the aluminum ramp) had been laid out for us.
We are on the UP ramp. (On the left is the ramp that the passengers use to return to the launch. It lowers the confusion level and speeds things up having separate routes for arrivals and departures.) Jim and Tammy are up ahead (how did those people get between us? ☺) and we are climbing to the top of the rock seawall of Sitka, Alaska.
From the ramp the view is incredible, as our launch return to the ship. It speaks for itself.
You can see the anticipation in Dotti's eyes. She is really ready to have a great time. It is that "little girl" quality—the ability to have fun—that has so brightened up our lives together. When I want to close up like a clam, she pries open the shell and says, "Come on! Let's do something fun!" She planned this cruise and here we are. Thank you Dotti!
Cheesy photo op, or priceless memory? There is a bit of the former, but there is a lot of the latter. We didn't see kids on the cruise. (The only exception that I saw were a few up in the Kids Zone on Deck 10, and they were in "day care" it appeared.) On all our shore excursions I never saw a family with children boarding or leaving the ship. This stuffed moose, (stuffed with a man) was for us adults. ☺
Tammy had finished her coffee at this point and was looking for trash can to get rid of the cup. Jim was leaning forward, following the direction from the ship's photographer, who wanted to get them tightly into the picture. The moose must secretly be a Zonie because he is giving them all a big hug.
Here's our turn with the moose, and he's a tall one; his antlers go over even my head. He also has one of the Alaska Westerdam shirts on. Hey, Sitka! Here we come.
An interesting thing happened just as the photographer and moose were about to gang up on a new set of "victims." A little fairy flew up and landed on this guy's hand. Well, he didn't want to put her in the picture, so he cupped his hand behind his back so she would have a safe place to sit while he was getting his moose picture taken. I don't think she liked it much though because she flew away before I could snap her picture. (I don't blame you; I didn’t believe it myself. ☺)
You can see a load of returning passengers already filing down the other ramp to take the seats that we warmed up for them in our launch.
The Sitka Welcome sign highlights two icons of the past. The moon is decorated with a Tlingit Indian design, and the church is the Russian Orthodox St. Michael's Cathedral. The Russians left when they sold Alaska to us, but their church remains behind, run by Tlingit converts for the most part. The cathedral holds a central spot in downtown Sitka, and it is part of nearly any photo exposé on this lovely city.
Welcome to Sitka!
As it turned out, we ended up visiting items 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9 on this map. I guess we'll have to go back and finish the list!
After 30 years of marriage, you can see they are still in love! Jim, the retired Chief Petty Office, still is proudly wearing his USS Ranger cap, and Tammy is holding on to her sailor. Two finer people you will never meet!
And yet another couple celebrating 30 years of marriage on this cruise. Here I am in a beautiful State, with my very best friends, holding onto the most beautiful woman in the world, and knowing for sure that it just doesn't get any better than this!
BTW, in case you are wondering, I didn't catch that fairy from the earlier photo. I am just trying to make my camera in my left hand inconspicuous. ☺
Here we are, under the O'Connell bridge, with launches running back and forth in the background. Dotti was up to something—probably laughing at one of Jim's jokes. They are both extroverts, and when you get them together, it is a lot of fun!
Which way should we go? The crowd seemed to be moving off and to the left, and there didn't seem to be much on the right, so we "followed the crowd."
The road we found ourselves on, turned out to be Harbor Road...not to be confused with Harbor Drive, which goes up onto O'Connell Bridge.
Tucked away in this little harbor are a lot of boats. (Most of them only have their masts visible beyond the pedestrian walkway.)
We were about to enter downtown Sitka. Onward!
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