Travel pics: Texas A&M

While visiting my parents for the Christmas holidays, we decided to take a late afternoon stroll across the main campus of Texas A&M University, knowing that it would be the last day of good (read: clear) weather on our visit.

Looking across the Simpson Drill Field towards west campus.

Looking down Old Main Dr. towards the Albritton Bell Tower.

Travel pics: Top of the Rock

The last time we hit the Top of the Rock, we went during the middle of the day. Spectacular views for sure, but I later realized I’d screwed up the timing. Sunset. Sunset is when I needed to be up there.

So this past Labor Day weekend, that’s what we did. And this is why I wanted to be up there then.

7:30 p.m., right at about sunset.

7:45 p.m. My favorite of the three.

8:00 p.m. Couldn’t find an open place to set up my Gorillapod (you can’t set up real tripods on the Rock’s observation deck), so I had to make the best of hand-holding this shot. Still not too shabby.

Alaska Cruise 2012: Last days…

(Back to Part Seven…)

The last full day of the cruise was spent entirely at sea—no more shore excursions. Time for one last look around at the sights on board our floating home away from home.

Here’s a peek at the sights to which we were treated to finish out our time at sea…

A view down the main promenade circling the ship.

At sea on the last full day of the cruise.

Another view at sea on the last full day of the cruise.

A completely lucky shot of a bald eagle far off in the distance, as seen from our stateroom.

Sunset as seen from the ship on our last night of the cruise.

Pulling into the port of Vancouver, ending our amazing cruise.

And with that, Alaska Cruise 2012 came to an end. Five days on land, the better part of a week at sea—and it still felt like it ended too soon. An absolutely wonderful way to celebrate 10 years of being married to my sweetheart. Can’t wait to see where we go for our next milestone celebration…

Alaska Cruise 2012: Ketchikan

(Back to Part Six…)

Our last port-of-call brought us to Ketchikan, home of the picturesque postcard staple Creek Street in the heart of downtown.

Picturesque Creek Street in downtown Ketchikan.

From a tourist standpoint, the calling cards of Ketchikan are the numerous native totem poles located in and around the city. However, totem poles were not on our list of things-to-do. No, our plans called for something a bit more interactive. Our plans called for…

…scuba diving. Yes, scuba diving. In Alaska. But really, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all—it was fantastic. For starters, we were suited up in thick 6-mil drysuits. The suits themselves kept you toasty warm (in fact, almost too warm—we were most grateful for the trickle of water that would inevitably seep its way down your back occasionally… sure it was cold at first, but it quickly warmed to a pleasant coolness via your own body heat). The suits also were ridiculously buoyant—I don’t think you could have drowned if you tried. And as a bonus, they actually carried prescription scuba goggles, so even without our glasses, we were able to see everything clearly! A very nice touch, and one that completely remedied our initial worry of “how are we going to be able to see anything?”. Sea urchins, starfish, tiny jellyfish… all of them were in our playground for a couple of hours. Honestly, this excursion was one of the highlights of the entire trip.

(Side note: If you ever want to enjoy your own scuba experience in Alaska, I can’t recommend the outfit at Snorkel Alaska highly enough! Thorough, friendly, experienced dive instructors, and a fabulous setting.)

Billy, Kristi, and Kurt, our most excellent Snorkel Alaska dive instructors.

Upon being returned to the dock, we had about an hour or so before the ship set sail. Yes, it was a little sad having to leave behind such a great excursion experience. But it was also a little sad knowing that with this, our next stop would be our last one: Vancouver, and the end of the cruise.

Saying goodbye to downtown Ketchikan as we pull out of port…

The view from the ship, on our way to Vancouver.

Alaska Cruise 2012: Juneau

(Back to Part Five…)

Our next port-of-call: Juneau. Also the only one of the three shore days for which we did not pre-plan any excursions, so we would make up the day as we went along.

Guess which stateroom is ours?

Juneau itself, at first glance, is filled wall to wall and sidewalk to sidewalk with souvenir and gift shops. Since we weren’t trinket hunting, we decided to get out of town a bit. Our destination: the Mount Roberts Tramway, an aerial gondola that takes you to the top of (duh) Mount Roberts on the outskirts of the city. The views were, to put it mildly, quite impressive…

A virtual cruise ship traffic jam in Juneau, as seen from the Mount Roberts Tramway.

Downtown Juneau, as seen from the Mount Roberts Tramway.

After making our way down on the tramway, it was off to the second half of our make-it-up-on-the-fly day trip: Mendenhall Glacier, a not-too-lengthy shuttle bus trip outside the city, where we spent the rest of the afternoon just hiking and wandering (two things we excel at given the time and opportunity).

Mendenhall Glacier. It looks close, but we’re still across the lake from it…

Nugget Falls, next to Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau.

One more shore day left on this trip. Next stop: Ketchikan…