Monthly Archives: October 2019

YVR Visit

We disembarked the Westerdam efficiently. However Dave had now picked up the head cold that Marie and everyone else on board got. We picked up our rental and were soon on our way to North Van in some light showers. We have been to YVR (Vancouver) several times before and Dave had lived here after university graduation, many years ago.
1053 Lillooet Rd

Finding our way to 1053 Lillooet Rd, Dave’s old residence, was tricky due to all the new condo development. There is a Holiday Inn where the Coachhouse Inn used to be. Took a few photos and chatted with the people across the street, who incredibly had also lived in 1053. They said this place would fetch 450k now more than 10 times what it was worth back in the early 80s. It’s a small 2 bedroom condo.

St. Paul’s Church

We then made our way to North Van St Paul’s Church to say hi to Fr Tap Kurideepan. OMI. It is a heritage Squamish First Nation mission church that has great spirit and is going strong. ‎We drove across the Lions Gate Bridge and found the Oblates residence called Pandosy Place in the heart of Kitsilano. Fr Robert Smith, OMI greeted us warmly as did Fr Jim Bleakley, OMI. It was Mary Immaculate’s Feast Day to honour her birthday. We were treated to a Liturgy of the Word followed by a social and dinner. Pandosy Place is named after Fr. Charles Pandosy, OMI who achieved folk hero status in B.C. after a life of itinerant ministry to first nations and settlers in the Okanagan Valley in the 19th century.

Geese heading for First Beach
Dave also live here in Pt Grey briefly

The next day we hit the road again and visited Dave’s old Imperial Oil work haunts in ‎Burnaby and Port Moody. We drove by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Terminal. Judging by the construction going on there, they are expecting imminent approval despite the latest court challenges.

Dave spent time automating this terminal with Norm Tatlow
Norm and I played a lot of golf here after work
Ioco Refinery is now a storage and distribution terminal
Dave worked here when the refinery was on the top of the hill

We drove up past Ioco to Belcara Park on Burrard Inlet and watched people fishing for crab. It was so peaceful and mystical. Returning home we opted to go out for dinner on W 4th Ave to avoid contaminating the 7 elderly Oblates living ‎in beautiful Pandosy Place.

The next day was sunny so we drove up to Whistler along the beautiful Howe Sound. The highway has been twinned and greatly improved since the mid 1970s when Dave used to drive it in winter. We walked around Blackcomb and Whistler vi‎llages marveling at the world class resort this has now become. Visited the Olympic Centre and then headed home. Dave was still suffering from the head cold he got on the cruise. Marie was finally better.

Dave rented this ski chalet way back in 1976-77

Our last day we headed for Granville Island on foot, walking the Greenway path right next to our residence. Dave remembers when they opened this giant  marketplace in 1979.  It consists of shops, restaurants, a market and nautical service outlets all crammed into what is a former industrial site. State of the art back then it still looks pretty good now but is very crowded with tourists all the time. We took a longer walk back via Kitsilano Beach, our holiday here now almost over.

We are ready to go home sweet home. After Oraison (group silent prayer) we had a social hour with Frs. Robert, John, Gilbert, Vince, Oliver, Jules, Andrew and 2 others. It was great followed by dinner and laughs. We felt so welcome and honoured by our Oblate hosts, getting to participate in their daily prayerful lives. 

Fr. Robert Smith, OMI accepts our gift with a smile

The next morning we said our goodbyes and had an uneventful ‎trip home. Our colds finally gone, thanks be to God.

Jericho Beach

It was a visit down memory lane – some good, some not so good. Thanks for reading.

I will be following this post up with one about the demise of Ioco Refinery and related issues.

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Alaskan Cruise – By the Numbers

(You will very likely be happy to know this is the last posting about this cruise.)

Our last sea day on board the Westerdam was enjoyable. They offered an Alaskan king crab with salmon lunch for previous Holland America (HAL) cruisers which was excellent. They gave us nice ceramic HAL coasters as gifts. Then we did a 5k walk for cancer research (10 laps on the Promenade deck). The captain gave an interesting talk about bridge controls and ship features. We learned that the Westerdam cost $450M to build 15 years ago and weighs 86,000 metric tons.  It has 2×13,500 HP azipod stern thrusters which can rotate 360 deg, 6 bow thrusters to help in docking and 2x25x8ft stabilizers which act like wings to level the ship. On our way out we saw the moment on TV when Torontonian Bianca Andreesku beat Serena Williams in the 2019 US Open Tennis final. Yeh Canada!

Overall we enjoyed this Holland America (HAL) cruise but perhaps not as much as past Oceania and Celebrity Cruises we have taken. Holland America is a mass market cruise line that draws cruisers who tend to prefer the more traditional ways of cruising. There is less buzz. Founded in 1873, Holland America has a long history and a steady following. Opinions abound that ever since Carnival Corp’s takeover of HAL years ago, quality seems to be sliding in an effort to cut costs.

Keeping everyone healthy onboard is always a big challenge. We noticed there was no enforcement of hand sanitizer use upon entering the Lido/MDR nor was there a personal health disclosure form that each passenger had to fill in upon boarding. Both these practices were in force last year on Oceania Cruises on our Baltic cruise. We appreciated that there was a Catholic priest onboard offering daily Mass. This a common practice on HAL and very rare elsewhere.

People were calm and polite onboard. Staff were extremely friendly, polite and well trained. They really try hard to please and seemed generally happy working for HAL. The itinerary and weather were generally good. The food in the Lido (buffet restaurant) was disappointing. Eg, all types of fish tasted the same and was overcooked, side plate salad appetizers looked rather unappetizing. Food in the dining room was good to excellent, arriving just a bit cool sometimes.  The Westerdam ship was adequate and very clean but at 15 years old, is showing it’s age in our view. We absolutely loved our aft balcony cabin which gave us a 270 deg view. Highly recommend aft balconies!  Pool and hot tub were good as no one else was usually there.

By the numbers:

  • 7 nights Anchorage to Vancouver
  • 3 ports, 3 sea days
  • 2600 kms, 125,000 USG fuel (bunker and diesel)
  • passengers 1900, crew 783
  • best‎ day – Glacier National Park (10/10)
  • worst day – pulling out of Seward in the rain
  • respiratory illness alert while we were on board (many were coughing with some fever for a day or 2)
  • excursions our group had arranged were average to good, say 6 on average (no bears, did see lot’s of salmon, eagles and a few whales, best was to Meldenhall Glacier and falls)
  • really enjoyed the train ride from Anchorage to Seward
  • Anchorage itself, so-so due to the location of our hotel and high prices
  • the trolley bus tour we took there was fun and excellent
  • the drive to Mt Aleeska resort and tram ride were excellent
  • this was more like a river cruise than an ocean one as you are close to shore which is probably one reason Alaska cruises are extremely popular
  • best moment of the whole trip was when the sun came out in Glacier National Park‎, totally unexpectedly
  • even the captain Vincent Smit remarked how lucky we were that day!

Ratings (Marie’s – Dave’s)(out of 10)

  • ship 6 – 6.5
  • itinerary 6 – 7
  • food 7 – 7.5
  • shops/activities 7 – 6
  • service 9 – 9
  • cabin 8 – 9
  • overall‎ 6 – 7 (Our previous HAL cruise on the Zuiderdam we rated 8)

Would we cruise on HAL again (this was our 2nd)?

– not likely, but never say never

Would we cruise Alaska again?

– not likely (too much like NFLD for Marie and like YVR for Dave) plus, we prefer warmer climate cruises.

Happy Trails to You

Thanks again for travelling with us. If you haven’t cruised yet, perhaps you would like it too.

Hope to see you out and about soon.

Marie and Dave XOX


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Alaskan Cruise – Juneau and Ketchican

Mike is back

We awoke on day 4 docked next to downtown Juneau, the capital (pop 33,000). You cannot drive to get here – only boat or planes connect it to the outside world. Tall hills tower above us as the Celebrity Eclipse parallel parked in behind us.‎ The Norwegian Jewel was also in. Sharron called to say she was finally good to go!

We all walked off to the pleasant downtown and caught our taxi right beside a large fish processing plant. We drove to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier Park. We walked on the trail for about 20 minutes to reach the base a wonderful waterfall.  ‎The huge tidal glacier was another couple of km away and not accessible. Many photos later we turned back. Dave walked by a stream teaming with large salmon. Bears were close by but we did not see any. Our cab picked us up and we were back in town, wandering around the many shops and boutiques. The Crystal Symphony ship was now in too. Another great outing in the warm Alaskan sunshine.

Everyone is back

Our taxi driver was originally from El Salvador. He explained that‎ Alaska puts aside royalties from petroleum and mining. Every Alaskan receives an annual dividend payment from this investment. An incentive to come and live here for sure. Ex Governor Sarah Palin tried to move the capital from Juneau to Anchorage but failed. We chuckled.

We had lunch on our sunny balcony as a pile driver drove big piles into the sea nearby for a new pier and float planes took off and landed in twos and threes. Time for another hot tub and swim before sail away. Then ‎off we went toward Ketchican in the glorious sunset. Another very nice day.

Next day, we pulled into Ketchikan mid-morning. It was clouded over but not raining as forecast. The HAL Oosterdam, a Regent ship, the Coral Princess and Norwegian Bliss were already there to greet us. Later the Celebrity Eclipse showed up again after the Bliss left. All in all, roughly 14,000 cruise tourists in one day here!!

Art our tour guide, is Haida whose family came from BC. Ketchikan is actually on an island, the salmon capital of the world with a population of 14,000. ‎We drove by the Simsian Nation island reserve. Art said they have timber and fishing rights on their lands. We are a 1+ hr float plane flight from Prince Rupert, BC.

We went to a small river but perhaps as it was midday again, we saw no bears eating salmon. We then visited the Saxman Totem Row Park.   It consists of dozens of authentic totem poles relocated from Tlingit village sites in the 1930s. We met a native guide and followed him around.  ‎Each totem pole tells a story but you need an interpreter. Art then took us to another stream teaming with pink salmon.  As we went to pick one up a local man came over and blasted Art for encouraging this. Art’s response to us was that there are a billion pink salmon (the least valued type) and they are all about to die anyway.

Art our tour guide
Teaming pink salmon

We saw a few more interesting sites. Ketchican Indian Community Centre provides free medical, clothing, food and housing assistance to any Native American. You have to prove you are at least 1/8th Indian explained Art. 1,145,000 annual tourists visit each year.‎ 12+ feet of rain a year, 1949 record 202.55 inches = 12. 66 ft. Salmon like rain. We learned a lot about life here from Art.

Back on board the HAL Westerdam, it was gala surf and turf night in the Main Dining Room followed by a singing and dancing show on the Mainstage. Food was excellent, the company great and the entertainment very good.

Overall rating of cruise to come.


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Alaskan Cruise – Glacier Bay and Haines


As we entered Glacier National Park on the Westerdam it was grey, cloudy, foggy and windy with a bit of rain. Oh sure we thought, won’t see much today. As we journeyed north to John Hopkins glacier, some 50+ miles, gradually it cleared!! Suddenly we could see the peak of Mt Fairweather (15300ft) in clear blue sky. Chunks of ice floated by. We saw a humpback whale surface for a breath. Moreover, because it was now September, our cruise ship was permitted ‎to cruise right up into the Johns Hopkins inlet as the seal mating was over for the season.



Mt Fairweather

IMG_3771 (2)

Calving of the Johns Hopkins Glacier

On the larger pieces of ice we saw numerous seals floating by.  Some startled by our ship, slid off into the torquisey water.  Wow! We saw 2 or 3 big “calves” of ice fall from off Johns Hopkins into the sea.‎ Dave cought the splash of one in a distant photo. We could hear and see the roar of a waterfall pouring into the bay. Thousands of seagulls were flying around the base of the tidewater glacier, awaiting their lunch. We learned that when the ice tumbles it stirs up food for the gulls as the water churns up fish from deep down.  We were served hot pea soup on the promenade deck, a warm touch we thought.



Johns Hopkins Glacier


Johns Hopkins Inlet

After an hour the motionless ship rotated and we sat on our aft balcony in strong sunlight that felt almost as hot as Mexico.  Another HAL shipped passed us going into Hopkins.  This was surely one of the most awesome cruise experiences we have ever had.‎ It does not get better than this. We headed further north. We turned to look at the 250 ft high Margerie tidal glacier not before we looked towards the north to see the Grand Pacific Glacier grinding in from BC now just a few km away.


The spectacular Margerie tidal glacier


The Grand Pacific Glacier grinds in from Canada

Finished the afternoon with a soak in the hot tub and swim in the pool in the warm sunshine. Played some cards and then off to bed after a so-so meal in the Lido. Next day we awoke in Haines to low lying cloud. Our friends Mike and Sharron had not been feeling well. We were hopeful they would be better today.


With the Correaus in Haines

Mike was better while Sharron remained under the weather. We walked around the small town surrounded by the sea and mountains. We found the library for some free wifi. After, Dave toured Fort William H. Seward. Haines (pop 4000) was founded in 1881 by the Presbyterian Church at the invitation of the Tlingit Indians. The fort was built starting in 1909 in response to prolonged border tensions with Canada. In its hey day, over 200 men and officers were stationed here, a hardship posting for sure. However many of these men adapted to Alaskan conditions and ended up settling here.


Remains of a Company barracks building that burned in 1981.

The original hospital of the fort is now Alaska Indian Arts Centre.

Totem pole restoration workshop.

The parade grounds and officers row.


In the PM we went on a short excursion to Chilcoot Lake and river in search of brown bears eating salmon. Alas we only saw a few eagles, a few salmon jumping, some dead salmon and many mercanser diving ducks. There is a wire weir across the river with only a narrow opening in the middle. A man sits there and counts the number of salmon passing thru the opening. Strange we thought as he goes for frequent breaks.  Returning to the ship we enjoyed happy hour and a fine dinner with Mike, Mary and Dave.

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