Otaru!

We docked this morning, September 18th as planned in Otaru Japan. After a 7:30 am immigration call and our five mile death march around this seaside town, we got back on the ship about 1:30pm. It’s sunny and warm (71°) and I’m headed to the pool.

The crossing was uneventful and enjoyable. Unfortunately, using our T-Mobile data is slow to upload pictures so I will hopefully be able to do a real post once we have WiFi at the hotel in Tokyo on September 22. Until then, know we are safe and sound and enjoying Japan.

Or follow us on Instagram as the pictures are uploading on it much faster. We are claynmike on there.

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Christmas Trees

This post was written during our month in Portland and should post while we are crossing the Pacific. We will be “live” again when we get back to having internet in Japan.

Those of you who actually know me have seen some of our Christmas trees over the years. I have always liked Christmas trees with lots of air in them (so you can see the ornaments better). When I was a child these were known in South Carolina as Balsam Firs.

The family I found on the innerwebs below is standing beside the tree I always wanted but my Mother said just wouldn’t do. She liked scotch pines as they were “full and pretty”. And they stuck your fingers and you couldn’t hang anything except little round ornaments.

When I was out on my own, I always got a NC fir tree but “full” trees were what Martha Stewart (the Joanna Gaines of her day) said everyone really wanted so I was know to sometimes trim branches off the tree to make it more airy. Actually Ms. Stewart gave me permission in one of her many television appearances to do this thing-why didn’t she just tell the folks to find trees without too many branches.

When Mike and I returned to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2006, we discovered that I wasn’t the only one who liked these trees. At the State Farmer’s Market each December, some of the tree growers would have “naturalized” trees like I wanted. Turns out that to make a tree full, they had to clip the tree every year. This would cause the branch to split into two and after a bunch of years you ended up with a “full” tree. But to get what Mike always refers to as “a happy free range tree” the grower basically leaves it alone.

So the title picture of this blog post is the 12′ tree we had the first year we were back in Raleigh. I had to stand on the 2nd floor balcony walkway to put the Star on and don’t even ask how many nights we spent on the lights! But it has enough air and will always be what I think a Christmas tree should be.

Of course that tall tree was natural and not popular so the growers charged more for it than for a “full” tree. Makes no sense except for supply and Damian’s I guess. Anyway, when we got to the Rockies I was flabbergasted by all the “Christmas” trees growing everywhere!

If I lived out west, we would never have to pay a grower, we would just be sure and have a saw in the trunk everyday after thanksgiving!

Just one more of our tree, the picture below was taken in 2009 and is of Niece Madison (she just started her senior year of high school) and Nephew Jack (he will be 14 in a couple of weeks) helping Uncle Clay light the candles on the tree. That’s right when you have a fresh tree (and a fire extinguisher nearby) you can on special occasions light it up with candles…at least for a few minutes.

Flowers

This post was written during our month in Portland but should be automatically posted while we are crossing the Pacific. Hopefully it will keep you entertained while we have no internet and can’t post.

I have been amazed by the flowers we have seen both natural and cultivated since we left. The most amazing have been the Queen Anne’s Lace along side of all the highways and the Hydrangeas which seem to be everywhere this side of the Rockies. Below are some snaps I took.

Hope everyone is well-will be back “live” when we get to land!

Transpacific Cruise

This post was written while we are in Portland but should post while we are crossing the Pacific)

While we are out of internet range, thought you might like to see where we are each day. Below is the scheduled itinerary for our cruise.

I will try to post updates when we are in ports with internet but between Sitka and Otaru don’t expect to hear anything as Celebrity charges an arm and a leg for internet access.

This will be the first time for us crossing the dateline aboard a ship (did it years ago while flying to Australia) so it will be strange to loose a whole day. It seems even Celebrity can’t quite figure it out. Some of their information calls this a 15 night cruise and other places it shows as 16!

I guess it will be even stranger coming back as we are scheduled to land in Seattle 2 hours before we leave Hong Kong!

Look forward to a post on September 19th (which will be the 18th for us) from Otaru.

Sitka

Had a lovely day in Sitka. After a 10 minute shuttle from the pier where Millennium docked (last time here a tender was required) we arrived in “downtown” Sitka.

Our first stop was the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Sitka was at one point the capital of the Russian colony in America. The ceiling of the church is made of sail cloth to memorialize lost fishermen. The inside is filled with beautiful Russian icons.

From there we walked along the waterfront, stopping to watch the fish jumping-differing opinions on why they were. Sea Lion chasing them? the fish trying to catch flies on the water? Whatever the reason, it was entertaining.

From this spot we could also see the nearby volcano. Mike overheard a local relating an April Fool’s day joke from the past. The townspeople were all in on it fooling the coastguard. Apparently fires were lit inside the crater and the coast guard called to come help with saving people from the eruption.

Next and last stop was the National Totem Pole Park. Great film about the native people, the Russians and the current fisherman.

Then it was a walk back to the center of town (about 3 miles today total), shuttle ride and onto the ship for a late (very) lunch.

Vanna Burton is pointing to where we were for the sailin this morning covered in my earlier post.

Off to Japan! Konichewa bitches! LOL

From Sitka

Good Morning! We just docked in Sitka after a beautiful morning sail in. We saw whale plumes while having breakfast and then made our way to the bow of the ship to the heliport which had been opened to passengers for a great viewing spot.

We are currently have a cup of coffee/tea on the promenade while they are preparing for us to go ashore. We don’t have big plans, we were here 16 years ago so will mostly be hoping to see that this little village hasn’t changed much…but we fear that it will have become another cruiseport town full of bad jewelry stores and Senõr Frog’s. Fingers crossed that won’t be the case.

So far we are enjoying the cruise. Despite the ship being full, it doesn’t seem overly crowded and most are generally well behaved.

We had our official Cruise Critic meet & greet yesterday morning with over 200 people in attendance. It had been a very active roll call! Our first informal gathering was at sailaway. It was a lovely afternoon as we went under the Lions gate bridge.

Yesterday while some of the group played card games, 30 or so of us went on a pub crawl/poker run. Good fun and a great way to chat with our new friends. Unfortunately, neither of us had very good poker hands so we didn’t win the $85 pot, nor were our hands bad enough to collect the $60 loser’s winnings. The ship was nice enough to provide us with our own bartender who led us to the various bars and made us a selection of Complimentary! drinks. We hadn’t expected to drink for free but since most had the beverage package I guess we really didn’t! LOL

Off to wander Sitka. I’ll post before we leave if able. If not, next time you hear from me “live” will be from Asia though there should be a couple of preschedule filler posts before then.

Around the ship

We toured around the ship and are pleased with the refurbished. The buffet was uncrowded which given most embarkation days is unusual. They have “stations” with lots of circulation space around them. We normally eat lunch in the main dining room on embarkation to avoid the wandering herds in the buffet so I was concerned that I was not going to like the fact that Celebrity only opens the dining room for lunch for guests in Concierge category staterooms. Thankfully it was not an issue.

That’s Mike’s signature pose pointing out the Canada Place Cruise Terminal sails.

We watched the sea plane base beside the ship which was interesting.

During our self Guided tour we stopped at the coffee bar and I had an espresso and Mike a fancy ice tea and we split the tiny tarts.

We came back and unpacked-lots of storage space! We’re now waiting for the emergency muster drill-known unofficially by some as the mustard drill-I like spicy brown please!

After that we will set sail. If I have cell service I’ll try and post some pictures.