Alaska Travelogue Part 5 – Hubbard Glacier

Sea Day – Hubbard Glacier

We were awakened way too early on our first full day at sea by the sounds of drawers and cupboards banging open and closed.  Our cabin on the back of the ship was experiencing the full effects of those 12-15 foot seas we were promised the night before.  Wow.  Was it ever.  Up, down, back, forth, right, left, and the occasional boom-bang-shudder thing that made it feel like the ship was tearing apart.  What was that shuddering?!  I would have to wait till lunch to find that out…  John usually avails himself of every opportunity to get sea sick, and I was really worried about him.  I, on the other hand, do not get motion-sick.  In rough seas you don’t want to be on the extreme ends of a ship (that’s where the most movement is) so Cristal and I deposited a queasy John in a library in the middle of the ship and we set out to explore.  We strolled through the (ironically timed) cooking demos in the main lobby and headed to the theater at the back of the ship for a nature talk.  The talk was interesting and all, but ugh, the 360 degree range of motion was starting to get to me.

We headed out to do a little shopping which was more in the center of the ship.  Woof.  Starting to not feel so good, and really scared for John.  The onboard “naturalist” for our voyage was actually an OB-GYN with a passion for nature, so he offered everyone a few sea-sickness tips.  Staying hydrated and looking out at the waves were tips I’d heard before, but he also said it helps your stomach settle if you eat something.  We were supposed to be viewing Hubbard Glacier that afternoon so I was really hoping to get us all feeling good by then.  We headed off to find John and get some lunch.  I was relieved to find him still reading in the library (tho pretty nauseas) and not curled up in a ball in our cabin.

At lunch I was seated next to a nice, older couple from Massachusetts.  I actually ended up running into this couple almost every day on our trip and it was fun to catch up with them each time.  That is one of the reasons I like to eat in the dining room for breakfast and lunch – you get to meet lots of people and get some good tips of what to do or just swap some stories!  The gentleman was retired from the Coast Guard and gave me the skinny on the weather and that unnerving shuddering that was going on in our room.  He is the one who told me we were experiencing 12-15 foot waves (not the 8-10 predicted the nite before) and that the shuddering was a result of the ship’s aft rising so far out of the water that the screws are exposed.  So yeah, it was bad.  John wisely chose to order some greasy, cheesy pork sandwich for lunch of which he ate not one bite.  I couldn’t get him to eat any of my bland turkey pasta either.  So much for settling his stomach with food.

As we sat picking at our lunches and watching these huge waves roll by, the Cruise Director came on the PA to announce that we would soon be making the turn into Yakutat Bay on our way to Hubbard Glacier.  He said that the currents are particularly rough in this area and that we would be experiencing a greater amount of motion on the ship.  You could hear the entire dining room groan!  I thought, “if this gets any worse, the ship is going to literally roll over!”  However, yet again God blessed and Alaska surprised.  The minute we crossed into Yakutat Bay the seas flattened out completely.  We were in a dead calm!  Within minutes I felt perfectly fine and finished my lunch.  John took a bit longer to recover, but he was back on his feed (um, the ice cream and cookie buffet) within an hour.

Cristal enjoying the views of Yakutat Bay

We all headed back to our rooms to bundle up, grab our cameras and head up to the Cosmos Lounge to watch the approach to the Hubbard Glacier.  It was a wise decision to go up there an hour early because it was FREEZING outside and the lounges were quickly packed out to standing room only.  I didn’t think I’d be particularly impressed with Hubbard Glacier as we had been on that 26 Glacier cruise a few days before, but I was excited for Cristal to see her first glacier.  As we arrived at the glacier we headed outside to get some snaps.  Oh my gosh!  Hubbard Glacier was on a scale we had not experienced on our previous tour!  It is awe-inspiringly expansive, and thanks to an overcast sky, it glowed the most beautiful shades of crystal clear blue.  It took a little work to find a spot to get some good snaps that wasn’t overcrowded with fellow photographers and also afforded a little protection from freezing wind and mist.

The eastern side of Hubbard Glacier, with the entrance to Russell Fjord on the right.  The misty, snow covered mountains in the background really added to the otherworldly feel of the place.

The center of Hubbard Glacier – in the very center you can see a chunk of ice calving off.

Another shot of ice calving off Hubbard Glacier into Russell Fjord. We loved how the ice at the extreme right of Hubbard looked like a blue glass parapet!

After a flurry of picture taking and glacier gawking I started to observe my fellow passengers.

All hands on deck for the show!

All hands on deck for the show!

Although the decks were crowded with thousands of people, it was eerily silent.  People spoke in hushed tones while the constant beeps and clicks of countless digital cameras were dwarfed by the ominous booms and creaks of a mountain of frozen water returning to the sea.  The occasional calving of a large block of ice into Disenchantment Bay was always met with an appreciative cheer, but the silence soon returned.  It was refreshing to see that even in an overstimulated world where people can’t drive without simultaneously talking on the phone, watching a dvd and listening for that bossy GPS lady to tell them where to turn,  people could still be awed into silence by God’s creation.

When the ship started to rotate away from the glacier and head back to the Gulf of Alaska we bolted down to our room to enjoy the show from our ridiculously large balcony.  I finally captured on video a significant chunk of ice calving, but I wish I had practiced more on our new camera before we left for Alaska.  I took lots of “pans” of the glacier, but they are mostly blurry because I moved the camera too fast.  I also discovered that wow, you can really hear it on the video when you zoom in and out.  Lame!  Other than that, I was extremely happy with the picture quality and ease of use of our new Canon Powershot SX260.

The happy couple

This was a formal nite, so after getting semi-gussied up we headed to one of the bars before the show.  I was really surprised at the quality of drinks on board.  We always like to try the “cocktail of the day” just to try something new, but they are usually made with call liquors and lots of cheap mixers.  Not so on Celebrity.  The daily cocktail was made with pretty decent liquors and fancy mix-ins.  I fell in love with 3 of these cocktails and made a beeline to the ABC store when we got home to grab my new favorite rum (Malibu Black) and new favorite flavored vodka (Firefly Sweet Tea – I chose the one sweetened with Truvia) so I could replicate them.  The daily newsletter listed the ingredients for each drink, but not the amounts, so I definitely had a bit of a science project on my hands.  Not a problem for an avid tinkerer in the kitchen like me!

The first drink of the day I was wowed with was the Blue Sea.  It contained vodka (supposed to be made with Hendricks Gin, but as we hate gin we asked for it to be made with vodka), St Germaine (the most ethereal liquor ever created!!!!!), lemon juice and a dash of Blue Curacao for color, and it was served in an adorable Manhattan glass.  I loves me some cocktail glasses!  The flavor was not unlike my own famous cocktail creation – the E-tini.  I shall have to post about the E-tini at some point, but for now I will leave you with my take on the Blue Sea:

  • 1 part vodka of choice (I use Absolut Limon)
  • ½ part St Germaine
  • ½ part lemon juice
  • splash of Blue Curacao

Shake with ice and strain into a martini or manhattan glass.

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