Most people who know us understand we enjoy sea travel. We've
become old friends with ships in the Princess fleet and the
Sapphire Princess in particular. In late 2005 we decided that a
trip to the Far East was in order. We had never been to Russia
and China and I hadn't seen as much of Japan as I would have
liked. A relocation voyage
from Alaska to Asia was a
good way to see it. On September 16th we picked up the ship in
Whittier, Alaska and
for the next 3 weeks spent time in the Russian Far East, 3 ports in
Japan and one port in China.
Marsha loves Alaska but we decided not to spend any extra time here because we're already going to be away three weeks. We embarked and sailed overnight to Kodiak Island, spending the day. The island has some of the best commercial fishing in the world so its a busy place with nearly everyone owning a boat. Its isolated, but long days at work take the edge off. Kodiak and the Aleutians are noted for serious marine weather and they didn't let us down. We had to weave in and out of the islands for the next four days. Our path took us over 1,000 miles through notorious waters to the Russian coast. We were south of the Aleutians until Unimak Pass and then tranversed north. We passed about 150 miles north of Adak Island and 35 miles north of Shemya where we crossed the International Date line at 170º East Longitude. Only one night was really rough and the Captain told us that this was normal for the Aleutians, (I wonder why he was the only one wearing a life vest? Just kidding!) Waves hit 20 feet at one point and it was exciting but the ship handled it well. Some people didn't eat dinner that night From the Western Aleutians onward, the weather was near perfect for the rest of the trip.
|Off Aleutian Isl.
||Break for a snack
signs of building
|Waving the big hand
|Which one is real?
||Local Culture||Re-boarding in
Four days out of Kodiak, we entered Russian waters. Neither Marsha or I had ever visited Russia before so we were particularly excited about this port of call. Petropavlovsk is a city of 200,000 people with about 300,000 total on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Its a remote part of Russia most noted for its wildlife and volcanoes and has seen few visitors until recent years. That makes it attractive. It has the distinction of being the second largest city in the world that is isolated from all other roadways. In other words, everything coming into or going out of the area must be by sea or air. The people often feel closer to Japan because they're so far from Moscow. Considerable trade occurs with Japan including importing most of their automobiles.
Only a few cruise ships stop here during the year so its a big deal when they arrive and the process is sometimes confused. One mistake is they didn't have a good means of getting money exchanged at the ship so visitors couldn't buy things since the shop keepers don't take foreign currency, Visa, etc. I got the feeling that they are still learning how to handle international visitors. Marsha went to a sled dog breeding and training camp and I went on a cultural and history tour. Our guides were school teachers and often brought along some of their students who are learning english. We had lots of fun interacting. Kamchatka has some very tough weather with snow permanently on the ground from October to May. Their weather usually comes off Siberia so winters are cold. The harbor is well sheltered from the open sea but it does ice up in the winter....not so bad that bigger ships can't plow through. In the summer, they do 4 wheeling, hunting and fishing. In the winter, skiing, dog sled riding and various outdoor winter sports. The main attraction to the city and area is the Russian Nuclear Submarine Base and fishing. During the cold war the area was off limits to even the Russians if they didn't have business in the area. A local problem is keeping doctors as they want to go to the bigger cities with better pay. We visited one of the markets and the produce looked very good. Lots of Caviar for sale. The people live mostly in apartment house style structures with heating usually provided by the state. It was mentioned that 30% of their energy needs comes from geothermal. I noted that DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service was available in some areas. We still don't have it in our neighborhood! Only two churches in Petropavlovsk. Gasoline prices were comparable to those in the U.S. but income is lower. In all we enjoyed our first visit to Russia very much.... the people were very nice to us.
| Marsha upon
|Russian Customs||Seaside view of
|My Russian guide
|Sled Dog Puppy
Further information can be found at: