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Old 10-06-2013, 05:50 PM   #29
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 57

And we are too!

Day 8 - August 24, 2013 - Ketchikan: Saxman Native Village, the Lumberjack Show, Shopping, & Taste of Alaska Night!

Character breakfast day in Parrot Cay! As a reminder, your character breakfast time is assigned to you and specified in the same ticket packet that details your main dining room schedule. Since our arrival time into Ketchikan this morning was not until after 11am, this worked out perfectly! The process is similar to main dining dinner…you are escorted to your assigned table, where your dinner servers are awaiting to take care of you. The meal is menu service, not buffet, and frankly very basic, especially when compared to other character meals we have experienced in the Disney parks. That said, the characters and the fun we had with our beverage server more than made up for it! Present at the breakfast were most of the Fab 5. I had hoped that given that this was an Alaskan cruise that they would be decked out in their Alaskan attire here, but instead they dressed more for the restaurant theme (tropical for Parrot Cay).

A quick aside regarding the Alaskan attired characters…if you want photos of or with the characters in their special outfits, then make sure to review the daily Navigators and inquire with Guest Services to ensure when and where it is happening. I had read prior to the trip that during the visit to Tracy Arm, the Alaskan characters would be on decks 4 and 9. We must have had bad luck that day because we never saw any while we were on the upper deck and while on deck 4 we only found Minnie, but as we approached the associate cast member informed us that she was taking a break, returning in about 30 minutes. It was at that point that we returned to our cabin to enjoy the views from our verandah. Later that afternoon, we happened upon Donald setup in an interior location, but unfortunately we did not have our camera with us and the photo that the cruise photographer took did not come out very well. Thankfully, upon confirming with Guest Services, we learned that Alaskan Mickey and Minnie would be in front of the Disney Theater later that evening, which we made it to and got a nice family picture. In the end, we never took or were in a photo with the other Alaskan characters, but there was a nice alternative. In Shutters, we decided to purchase one of those 8x10 display folders for the Tracy Arm photo we had taken of us. The folder includes three sleeves/slots, two of which are pre-filled with an 8x10 of the Disney Wonder in a field of icebergs and another of the Fab 5 in all of their Alaskan glory!

Now, back to the breakfast! As with any other character breakfast, the process is to wait at your table for the characters to come to you. One by one, we were visited by Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. Smiles and laughs gleefully sprang from our table. The most fun though came from the napkin hats! Napkin hats? Yes, napkin hats! Apparently, one of the assigned tasks of the beverage servers during this event is to create a menagerie of headwear for their guests using their extensive napkin origami and engineering skills. I call them “napkin hats,” but the fact is that they fastened anything and everything they could to the napkins, including coffee mugs, spoons, and forks. It was really fun to see all of the hilarious creations around the dining room and everyone having so much fun with them!

We arrived in Ketchikan around 11am and needed to muster for our port adventure soon afterwards. Today’s excursion, for all four of us, was the Saxman Native Village & Exclusive Lumberjack Show! Similar process as before, we arrived at our meeting location, this time at the Walt Disney Theater, and were then escorted out to the awaiting tour bus. It was raining this morning, but not bad at all. In fact, our bus driver commented on the “nice” weather that we brought with us, adding that a day without rain in Ketchikan is a rare day indeed. It ended up raining lightly off and on most of the day. The drive from the ship dock up to Saxman lasted only about 10 minutes. Once there, the bus parked in front of a long building, somewhat separated from the rest of the complex, where we entered and grabbed seats (folded chairs) in what can best be described as something resembling a community center hall. Once the group was settled, a single young man, probably in his early twenties, ascended the stage, introduced himself as a member of the Saxman tribe, and attempted to teach us all a bit of the local vernacular (greetings mainly) and the related customs. We gave it our best shot. Next, there was a short video about the tribe and the village, followed by a quick visit to an adjoining room where two women had set up some tables to exhibit and sell some tribal crafts.

The next portion of the Saxman visit was to be in the village proper, a short walk down the hill from the hall. For those who needed assistance, they provided transportation via an extended golf cart, so mom took advantage of that. Once down at the village, we were ushered into the tribal house, where we enjoyed a very nice native dance performance by a group of children (mostly teenagers with a few adults mixed in). Presentation over, we exited the front of the house into an open grassy area decorated with a variety of totem poles:

Following our tour guide or listening in to one of the other ones, we learned the stories being told by each totem around the main hub. My favorite tale detailed the origin of a pole capped by a figure representing Abraham Lincoln. Long story short, long ago, a U.S. Navy ship named the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln arrived in Ketchikan to assist in peacekeeping between the local tribes. In honor of the fine work that the Captain and crew of the Lincoln did, the tribe commissioned the carving of a totem pole. Unfortunately, the only image the carver had of Abraham Lincoln was of his upper body, shoulders, face, and of course his famous hat. Since he had no clue how tall the former President truly was he based the length of the legs and lower body of the likeness on the much shorter measurements of men in his tribe. As a result, the proportions are a little off.

Granted a little time to explore on our own, most of the group headed straight for the restrooms and gift shop. Mom purchased a couple post cards, but nothing really jumped out at us. The most amusing thing about this though was watching and listening to a frustrated shuttle driver, trying desperately, and threateningly (“I will leave you!”), to get his group aboard his bus. I don’t know if he succeeded, but he did eventually leave and I didn’t notice anyone running behind the bus. Free time over with, our group then reorganized in the nearby standing room only carving shed. Here, the same young man who greeted us at the community center introduced us to a tribal carver and talked to us a bit about the art of totem carving. One slightly awkward moment occurred when, even though he was very clear that all questions should wait until after his speech, one particular woman repeatedly interrupted with inquiries. At first he was nice about it, but soon his tone and response became a bit irritated and short; eventually she got a clue. Questions were mostly addressed to and answered by the carver, an older gentleman, who seemed to be less than excited to be there and who gave mostly brisk answers. All in all, it was neat to see a pole in mid-carve and to learn about the skills and unique tools they use to craft their art, but seeing them finished and displayed on the grounds in all of their majesty was the best part of this visit. Tour now complete, we boarded the bus en route back to downtown Ketchikan for the lumberjack show, but before we left we received one final visit from our Saxman tour guide, as he thanked us for coming and handed out a free postcard to each of us. That was a nice final touch to an enjoyable visit.

The Great American Lumberjack Show sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Ketchikan, a less than 5 minute walk from where the Wonder docked. Having been dropped off early, a few blocks away, by the shuttle bus, we meandered to the show, window shopping along the way. There was indeed some fine shopping to be had post show! Anyway, we entered the main building, making our way through the souvenir shop to the competition arena. The seating area offers multiple sections of bench rows; I estimated about 20 rows up. Most of the benches are covered, excluding the first few rows of each section. Claiming our seats, we nestled in, snacking on some popcorn that mom bought from the concession stand, watching the rain start to fall again. Rain or shine the show would go on!

Truly, I was really looking forward to this! As a kid, for several years Sea World San Diego had a lumberjack show and I recall absolutely loving it. I hoped that this performance would be just as good as I remembered…I was not let down in the least! As the show began, an emcee came out, welcomed us to the show, and introduced the two teams that would be competing. The arena seating was then virtually split in half, one side being represented by one team and so on. After a quick cheer competition to see which side could yell the loudest, the games began! To keep score, the winning team of each event received a piece of the wood they used during it. That piece of wood was then given to an audience member from their side, always a kid I think, not only as a tally, but also as a souvenir. At the end of the show, they counted pieces of wood to decide on the ultimate winners!

All of the usual events were there, including chain sawing, axe chopping, pole climbing, and log running; but my absolute favorites were the axe throwing and the log rolling:

There were also a few audience involved events (I wonder if these are what made it Disney “Exclusive”), such as musical “log” chairs, where (and I cannot recall exactly on this point) either the overall winner or all of the participants (all adults) actually received a log chair. Our daughter was the lucky recipient of a hunk of wood, a full heavy disc of wood (easily 3 inches thick and almost 12 inches in diameter), not a small chunk, from one of the sawing events. She was ecstatic, but my wife and I immediately looked at one another with wide eyes, thinking about how the heck we would pack that thing. In the end, our team proved triumphant and a mighty cheer was roared!

While the lumberjacks posed for pictures with those who requested it, the rest of the crowd, including us, exited through the gift shop (I wonder if they learned this from the Disney parks?). Disc of wood in hand, we walked up to an employee at the cash register, asking what our options were with it. Motioning up to a series of Priority Mail boxes mounted up on the wall behind her, she told us that we could have it mailed to our home. We showed her the size of our souvenir and she pointed to the $15 box. Did we really want to spend $15 to ship a disc of wood home; a disc of wood that honestly we would do nothing with. We looked at our daughter, who upon sensing our feelings on this issue immediately extended her lower lip, saying, “Please.” My wife, being the genius that she is, asked, “If we buy you something else for $15 would that be ok?” In a millisecond, our daughter’s extended lower lip turned into a big smile. “OK,” she exclaimed excitedly and she handed over the wood! Pointing over to a set of large bins near the front door, the employee told us to simply toss the wood into one of them as we left.

With our port adventure now officially over, we had a little time to check out the shops before needing to return to the ship to change for dinner. I will say this…we did think it to be a bit of a bummer that with the later docking time, the length of our tour, and our earlier dinner seating, we really didn’t have much time at all to explore downtown Ketchikan. I know, we chose to do the excursion, knowing how long it would be, and we chose the earlier dinner seating, but it would have been nice if the ship stayed in port later into the evening in order to allow guests more time to do things. OK, off of the soapbox…back to shopping. The primary shop that we all wanted to hit was Christmas in Alaska. It was huddled half way between the lumberjack show and the Wonder. After making a few purchases in this wonderful shop, our little group separated. Mom, satisfied with her acquisitions, headed back to the ship, while my wife decided to quickly find a nearby jewelry store for their free Alaskan charm. Still on the hunt for something of the totem variety and with time running out, my daughter and I checked out a shop called Caribou Creek Company! Back in Skagway, I had found an orca totem carving that I really liked. It was not a totem pole, but rather something resembling a whale jumping up out of the water, arching forward. At that time, the price put me off, plus I figured I would find it easily in the other ports. No dice in Juneau and initially no luck in Ketchikan…until, there it was! Now realizing the market price for this item, I resolved myself to the cost. Each one being a bit different, I picked my favorite one and continued to look around the store. Against the opposite wall, I came upon a large basket filled with many odd shaped totem carvings. It was full of totem style moose heads! The sign read, “Clearance. $10.” I picked one up and immediately fell in love with its quirkiness! Add to this that I never saw one like it in any other shop, in any port, so I figured it was more unique! Or, they were so darn weird (and ugly) that no one else sold them (hmmm?). I showed one to my daughter, asking her opinion, and she smiled from ear to ear. I asked her which one she liked better (the orca or the moose) and she pointed to the moose. Done deal! I had my totem!

Back on the ship, dinner tonight had us back in Parrot Cay for the Taste of Alaska menu! I was very excited about what this might offer and I will be honest, in the end was a bit ambivalent. To start off, my wife and mom ordered an Ice Berg, one of the specialty cocktails made with Bacardi Silver, Absolut Vodka, Cointreau, Peach Schnapps, Sambuca and Sprite. They looked and tasted wonderful:

Not wanting to be left out of the adult beverage group, I asked Levi, our beverage server, if I could get a Witches Brew. I explained the backstory (see Tracy Arm day) to him and told him that they had the recipe at the nearby Promenade Lounge. Lickety-split, I had one of my favorite drinks:

For our appetizers, my wife requested the green and white asparagus spears, while I ordered the cheese and carrot soufflé. Honestly, I chose this because none of the other three offerings interested my palate. I am not a fan of asparagus or salmon and I really do not like crab legs (give me lobster or shrimp any day!). As our soup and salad course, I had the yellow pea soup, garnished with sour cream and bacon, and my wife had the mixed green salad. I found the soufflé and soup to be fine, but nothing special. Neither was as flavorful as I had hoped. My wife, on the other hand, really liked her selections. My wife’s entrée was the honey-mustard marinated Alaskan salmon and I wanted the juniper-spiced elk tenderloin in a black currant sauce. When I initially ordered the elk, Januar, our server, immediately asked me if I was sure. I said absolutely, but remembering his sage advice about the lobster macaroni and cheese from the other evening, I accepted his offer to bring me a little to try first. Upon receiving my sample, I took one bite, closed my eyes and smiled, and nodded approvingly. “You like it,” he asked. “Oh yes, please bring the full order,” I replied. “You are brave,” he retorted and with that I got my entrée. Yes, it was different, but it was very flavorful, very lean, and very satisfying.

As the dessert menu arrived, I was shocked to see that of all nights there was no Baked Alaska offered! I asked Levi why it was not there and he simply smiled, telling me, “Tomorrow night!” For dessert, I had the Taste of Alaska Sweet Temptations, which included a chocolate truffle torte, poached pear hazelnut cake, and vanilla panna cotta. They were all delicious! My wife ordered the Cool-n-Crunch Sundae, made of chocolate mint ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and crunchy meringue. She was very happy with her choice! All said and done, I felt the Taste of Alaska menu was, for me, hit and miss. While I found the appetizer options somewhat lacking (at least for my palate), my entrée and dessert more than made up for it!

Dinner over, we headed over towards the shops and the Walt Disney Theater to queue up for our picture with Alaskan Mickey and Minnie. Another visit to the shops and I yet again took advantage of the 40% off all “Alaskan” items, this time nabbing a nice dark blue pullover that I had been mulling over. So what to do next, how about a movie?! Checking the Navigator, we confirmed that Monsters University would be showing in the Buena Vista Theater shortly, so we high-tailed it over, grabbed some seats and enjoyed the flick. My opinion, it was fun, but nowhere near as good and the first Monsters movie.

After the movie, mom headed back to her cabin to retire for the evening, while the three of us decided to stroll around the upper deck a bit. Since it was a bit chilly, we agreed that a nice hot beverage was in order. After grabbing a free hot chocolate from the deck 9 dispensers for our daughter, we found a table in front of the Funnelvision, where they were playing Teen Beach Movie (cue excited 7 year old!). Taking turns, my wife and I walked down to the Outlook Café and each got a specialty coffee. So, we now had hot drinks and a movie…what else do we need? Snacks of course! And what happened to be open right next to us? Pinocchio’s Pizzeria…taco pizza! Nom, nom, nom!

Up next - Day 9 – Day at Sea, Part Deux: Chocolate Tasting & Spa Day!
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