We also had stops to see a beautiful lake made from glacier melt off along with a creek filled with the newly salmon spawning. It took three times in Alaska for us to catch this. lol Along the banks were many half eaten salmon left by the bears who come there to feed.
Once through the tunnel, you arrive in Whittier. A very small port surrounded by mountains covered in glacier ice and waterfalls. More beauty of Alaska. The city itself would be shutting down for the winter. There is only one hotel (very small) and one residential building. The grocery stays open year round. The single building school house has an underground tunnel used from the apartment building for the kids. This city goes from a busy fishing port to nearly abandoned for the winter. And I wouldn't want to be one that stayed. (below is also a photo of the train that comes in and out of Whittier from Anchorage)
During these six days at sea we enjoyed two formal nights. We began with the three couples in the left photo. (Bridget, George, Bob , Me, Ken & Mary Kay) Later we added another couple, Ken & Jean. In the right photo Ken & Jean joined us but Bridget & George missed this formal dinner.
Another very exciting thing we did was Cross the International Dateline. We felt like we lost part of our life though. lol Saying that, we were so messed up on our time change we were waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. each morning and wondering what to do. The gym didn't even open until 7 a.m.
Another thing enjoyed was the every other day English Pub. It was served in one of the dining rooms normally closed off for lunch. Very good.
The Sapporo Clock Tower was a huge attraction. Seems everyone had to get their photo made at it so we did also. The Clock tower opened in 1876 and the mechanics came from Boston. It still runs today. After a wonderful day in Sapporo it was back to the long drive to the ship. As we saw on the way to Sapporo, we passed the active volcano on Mount Usu. As you can tell in the below photo - it has smoke clouds constantly coming from it. After boarding the ship - the Japanese kids team performed for us before we sailed away. What a great port to visit.
A day at sea then another country. Yes, from Japan to Russia. The ship docked in the Golden Horn Bay in Vladivostok, Russia. A huge city and some things can be seen just within walking distance of the ship. (shopping, train station, many monuments) We had prebooked a tour as part of Peters Group. The cost was $58 per person and would include eating at a Dacha. Since I am a picky eater - I was worried. (and even more worried about what the bathroom situation would be in Russia)
This sitting area is also found up at the highest point - The Birds Nest.
Another stop on the tour was at the Train Station. This Train Station has the mural ceilings and luxury look to it. Its trains run to Moscow, St Petersburg among other places. It also has the Trans Siberian train which is the longest train ride in the world. In the lower section of the Train Station you will find the old Steam Engine. It was built in America and was given to Russia in the Lend/Lease Act on June 11, 1942. (below is a photo of the steam engine and our CC group photo which was taken just across from the old steam engine)
The typical Dacha for lunch seems to be small and most serve caviar as part of the menu. All of them grow their own food that is served. Our dacha was a small two bedroom (as you can see this table had to seat 11 people and took up the entire kitchen) and it seemed to be in disrepair (which might be normal there). We are so glad we did it but I personally wouldn't do it again. Many people (including my husband) loved the food but I was a little to picky. Thank goodness they had mashed potatoes and a plate with some ham and cheese on it. lol I survived on that. Since we didn't speak Russian and they didn't speak English - the social part of being with a Russian Family was missed in my eyes. But the visual part of it was a learning experience.
From Russia, with love and on to Busan, South Korea - with hopes. Yes, we had high hopes visiting South Korea and we can say - it was more than we could ever imagine. Since the port offered a free shuttle to town (and the hop on hop off buses run very close to the port) we chose not to book a tour. Bob, Me, Ken and Mary Kay headed off on the shuttle and were dropped off at the Phoenix Hotel. This hotel was just across the street from Chagali Chi Fish Market and just a block from Piff Market which we walked thru but didn't buy anything. (but I sure wanted to) From here - we were off on our own.
The only time we got off the HOHO bus was to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery for the Korea War. This was the most stunning cemetery I have ever seen. Since the USA never leaves a fallen soldier - no casulaties during the war were buried there. The US had the second most people to lose their lives in this war but only 36 people are buried there. Those are all soldiers who married and/or lived in South Korea after the war and chose to be buried there. Each country has its own section marked off with its flag. A great tribute to the families of those fallen and/or served in that war.
After changing routes on the HOHO bus, we were able to arrive back to the ship. Sitting at the port, the below drums, were used for a show that was performed as we prepared to sailaway. I do want to mention how the people treated us in this country. They were the most friendly, helpful people I have ever met. If they could not speak english, they would use their cell phone to help get someone who did. It seems they went out of their way to be helpful to everyone. At the UN Cemetery - we were treated like royalty. They seem to be so appreciative for our help in that war. I would love to revisit South Korea in the future.
Finally - to China. Our first stop would be Qingdao, China. A huge city of about 8 million. And our first site of China. Where are the rickshaws, bikes, etc. China isn't what you see in movies. We decided to prebook a tour with our CC friends Yolanda and David again. This tour would include a family style chinese lunch which we heard is great. So for $70 per person, we figured tour/lunch was worth it. But first - off to visit some sites. I do want to say that Oct 1st, 2010 is the 61st anniversary of the New Republic of China. They celebrate for a week. And this is China's National holiday and biggest holiday of the year. So we would encounter a lot of people and surprisingly - many weddings. Seems many people get married during this holiday week. Their tradition of attaching a huge wreath of flowers to the hood of the "couples" car and everyone flowering in a parade was so neat. The following cars all usually matched so a lot of rented cars. Same color, same car, and same color ribbons on the windows. Very neat.
From Small Fish Hill, it was off to two more places to tour. First, the Governors Mansion which was his summer palace. (packed and boring) Then to Tsingtao Beer Brewery. Being non-drinkers, we just tagged along and listened. Everyone that did drink enjoyed the pitchers of beer at the end compared to other breweries that everyone says you just get a taste of the beer.
Enough touring - time to eat. Family style meant you have a lazy susy in the middle of the table and they bring plate after plate of food that will be placed on the lazy susy and passed around. The problem, you don't know when the best things will come and if the plate of food isn't placed in front of you - well, it could be empty by the time it gets to you. No seconds except rice. They eat a lot of tofu in their meals, very little meat in others, and many vegetable dishes. Guess that explains why most chinese people are so thin and healthy. Very very good but didn't get enough of the dish that we liked. lol
It seems that China loves its "squares!" We passed through Zhongshan Square which was impressive with all its wonderful buildings that are banks and financial institutions. The below left photo is a monument in Friendship Square. Many people go to this area to shop at the Friendship Store but we just drove through. One of my biggest regrets is not doing more visiting at the largest square in Dalian - Xinghai Square. This square was very popular for the weddings parties that drove around the square continually. So much there to see but we had so little time. There is a monument close by that is an open book with no words. It has a walkway up to it that has feet print that starts with large feet until baby feet. This monument represents the book of the future that hasn't been written yet. We missed seeing that except from the bus. (bathroom break took our time) But this Square (below right photo) was so beautiful with its totem poles and flowers.)
From Xinghai Square we took Binhai's scenic road. Unfortunately, we were sitting on the wrong side of the bus. ;( We visited Tiger Beach where it has the below sculpture in its park.
After a buffet lunch at the Holiday Inn Express - it was off to Russian Street for last minute shopping. Prices are all negotiable but the windy, cold, drizzling day wasn't the best for shopping.