Friday, May, 21, 2004 - Seattle, Washington
Our flight into Seattle was uneventful, we arrived at the airport at approximately 5:00 pm. We had arranged ahead of time for a car to pick us up, using Seattle Towncar. It was $60, including gratuity. They can take up to four people, however, luggage for four people would probably not all fit in the car. Luggage for three adults would probably fit. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel and Tower in downtown Seattle. Our room was 2211, on the 22nd floor. It had a king size bed, high-speed Internet access, and a great view of Puget Sound from our large window. The dEcor was pale woods, light carpet, and beige and white bedding and walls. The bathroom had ceramic tile on the floors which looked like tumbled travertine marble. There was a (1875 watt) hairdryer in the bathroom also, so I was lucky since I did not pack one. The coffee provided in the room was... Starbucks, what else? The only real splash of color was the paintings and photos on the walls. It was very tastefully done, and was very relaxing. We asked the concierge at the Sheraton where she could recommend for us to eat that would be good Asian food. She recommended many within walking distance, and we settled on Bambuza on the corner of Pike and Convention Center Blvd. They had what was supposed to be Vietnamese food, but I found it to be more of an Asian fusion type food. The Bambuza rolls were just spring rolls with shrimp. Randall had salmon, and I had egg noodles with shrimp and tofu. We also had some coconut sweet potatoes that were really good. After dinner we walked around downtown a little. It was not that cold, but the wind was awful.
Saturday, May 22, 2004 - Embarkation Day Embarkation day we slept in. We woke up about 9:00 am. It was lightly raining, but the wind was not bad, so it was not uncomfortable. The temperature was in the upper 50's. We had breakfast at a Starbucks about 100 yards from the Sheraton. After walking around after scones and coffee, we were struck by the number of Starbucks in one city block of Seattle. They were everywhere! We had forgotten to pack a few essential items so we found a Rite-Aid Pharmacy nearby. From there we walked down to the Pike Street Market by the water. We got to watch the fish throwers, and were amazed at the amount of produce and fresh flowers for sale. Also, we got to see the Princess ship that had rammed the pier in Victoria, B.C. the night before limp in. We were unable to see any damage on the hull, but we only saw her port side, and the damage may have been starboard or already repaired in British Columbia. We were grateful we were not on the Princess ship, as they were getting in much later than anticipated.
We then went back to the hotel and checked out. We grabbed a cab to the cruise terminal. The fare was $12, including tip, but our taxi was delayed by a train, so it would have been approximately $6-7, if the train had not delayed us. We unloaded our luggage and got in the line to drop off your luggage to be loaded on the ship. We waited 15-20 minutes in this line. Once you got up to the NCL representative, they sent you to another short and quickly moving line where they quickly x-rayed your luggage before placing in the big bins to bring on the ship. After dropping off our luggage, they directed us to another entrance for the boarding the ship about 30-50 yards away. We waited approximately 10 minutes to be checked in. The Latitudes Members line was much shorter than the lines for all others, but we were lucky enough to be in a suite this time and had a special line with no one in front of us, so I could not vouch for wait times for Latitudes Members or others.
After check-in, our butler, Maxi (from Bali, Indonesia), escorted us and other suite passengers through security and to our cabins. We had cabin number 10000. It is the Philippines Suite. When the Spirit was the Superstar Leo, this cabin was used as a lounge for suite guests. It is located on deck 10, completely forward, in the center. The butlers were available in this lounge 24 hours a day, and snacks and refreshments were on hand. Now, it is an actual suite, and there is no lounge for suite passengers. Our butlers were Maxi and Denny, and our senior stateroom steward was Randolf and our stateroom stewardess was Sonia.
The suite enters into a short hallway. The suite has a half bath on the left hand side immediately when you enter. The short hallway is part muted gold-toned carpet and part hardwood floors. The panels on some of the walls and the hardwood floors are a rich cherry stained wood. In the hallway there are two paintings hung on the walls. On the left hand side of the hall there is a small semi-circle shelf with a mirror above it and a wall of mirrored panels. On the right hand side, there is a door to the bedroom, and a built-in credenza, where extra wine glasses are stored. The hallway opens to a dining room and living room and with two windows looking out on the balcony outside. There is a small dining table for four (which can double as a card table if you take the top off - it has a green felt covered inside), with a five foot tall, faux tree in the corner. The chairs are upholstered in textured, dark red, velour. There is a small bar with a small refrigerator, coffee maker, ice bucket, and enough glasses to host a cocktail party for at least fifteen to twenty people.
The living room had a full size, golden-beige, chenille sofa, two upholstered chairs, a glass and metal coffee table, a glass and metal end table, a lamp, and an armoire, that included a 25 inch television and DVD/CD player. There was a large painting in the living room of a woman holding a bowl of fruit. The balcony door has a porthole window in the door, and a water-tight door. We found the water-tight door odd, but it was necessary due to the immense winds that would whistle through the other door. We found it was absolutely necessary to have the balcony door closed when you open the door to the main hallway, as anything lightweight was blown away. There was no furniture on the balcony, so we asked why. Maxi explained that the furniture was not allowed due to the high winds that could possibly blow it away.
The bedroom had a tapestry bedspread with olive green, gold, and red floral pattern. There were gold velour curtains on the wall between the bedroom and living room. The wall behind the bed had mirrored panels like in the hallway, with a painting of koi/goldfish. On each side of the bed there was a small nightstand with a small drawer and a small bedside lamp. The ceiling had a fabric treatment that was gathered together at the light fixture. Across from the bed there was a closet with mirrored doors, six drawers to the right of the closet, with a television above the drawers, and two cabinets above the television. Also by the doorway leading to the bathroom there was a drawer and shelf.
The doorway to the bathroom did not have a door, but had a gold velour curtain instead. The floor was tiled in cobalt blue one-inch tiles that had a gold shimmer to them. The vanity and tub surround was solid black granite. The tub was a Jacuzzi tub, and they had a porcelain jar with bath salts on the tub surround. The walls around the tub were tiled in a beige tile. There was a small vanity where an upholstered stool sat. There was a stainless steel jar with cotton balls, and a small dish of potpourri. There was a double sink, tissue box and garbage can built into the cabinets under the sink. The shower had the cobalt tiles on the floor, with a small sunburst in the center. The walls were tiled in a beige tile. The toilet room was tiled in the beige tile on the walls around the tub and shower, and had a glass door that matched the one on the shower. The walls in the toilet room were a cherry stained burled wood. There was a toilet with a bidet as well!
Our muster drill was at 3:45 pm. It went quickly, so it was no big deal. The first day onboard we explored the ship. I found out that the fitness instructor was the same as the one on the Star. I also found out that the Spirit does not have spinning classes. Thank God! The concierge, Lisa, stopped by to see if we needed anything. I asked her if our CC members could get invites to the VIP cocktail party. She said she would ask. We had an informal Cruise Critic meeting at the Henry the Black Pub that evening. Everyone who posted on a roll call was there and we picked up 2 more. We had a great first meeting and really enjoyed getting to know everyone.
We ate dinner at Windows dining room the first night. We went to dinner at 7:15 pm. There was a slight wait (about 5 minutes), and we noticed larger parties were having a longer wait. We were just a party of two. I had the shrimp cocktail (you get 3 shrimp), iceberg salad with avocado, and crawfish etouffee (was bland, I had to spice it up with Tabasco sauce). Randall had the shrimp cocktail also, corn and red pepper soup and the prime rib steak. For dessert, I had the sugar free chocolate & raspberry cake (was really good) and Randall had the crème brulee. After dinner we went back to the room, Randall watched a DVD we brought with us, and I took my bath. I spent the rest of the evening reading.
Sunday, May 23, 2004 - At Sea
I woke up at 5:20 am, thinking it was close to 8:00 am because of the bright sunlight streaming through the curtains. Once I looked at my watch and realized what time it was, I went back to sleep. We had ordered room service breakfast the night before. It came at about 8:15 am, as ordered. Maxi set our table in the dining room for us. I had scrambled eggs, sausage, smoked salmon with cream cheese and bagels, fresh fruit, orange juice and milk. Randall had a cheese omelet, bacon, fresh fruit, muffins, orange juice and milk. I attended the gem and jewelry seminar at 10:00 am. They were raffling a $150 diamond tennis bracelet for those in attendance, so I stuck around for the entire thing. If you know very little or nothing about jewelry it could be informative. For myself, I know more about jewelry than I should (much to my husband's dismay), so I found the presentation relatively boring. Also, I missed the sushi demonstration that I really wanted to attend because of that, so honestly I do not feel it was worth it.
I went back to the cabin after the gem seminar. Randall and I took photos from our balcony and sat outside reading and trying to keep an eye out for whales. Soon after we went to deck 7 to the Blue Lagoon for lunch. I had the Singaporean-style Fried Rice, with Shrimp and Pork. Randall had the Cantonese-style stir fried noodles, and we shared a Shepherd's Pie. All were excellent. Then we went back to the room, where Randall continued to read on the balcony while I took a nap. I attended the Filipino language lessons with Jackie at 4:00 pm. I already knew a little Tagalog, but her lesson definitely gave me a much larger vocabulary, and more conversational phrases. I feel it was interesting and one of the most fun things I have done on an "at sea" day ever.
We had our official Cruise Critic Meeting at 5:30 pm in the Clipper meeting room on deck 8. We had some trouble finding this, as the meeting rooms are kind of tucked away. It is back by Champagne Charlie's on deck 8. There was some misunderstanding between the group director and myself, as I made the mistake of assuming that Christina with NCL in Miami had let them know that we would like to meet with the hotel director and concierge. She had not told them we wanted to meet with some of the ship staff. Luckily the group director showed up 30 minutes later, answered our questions, and the concierge showed up a few minutes later. We were informed that some of the ship staff could meet with us on Friday at 5:30 pm in the same room, so we agreed to meet again then. The concierge informed us that she had been granted permission to send VIP party invites to all cruise critic members in attendance, so she took down everyone's names and room numbers.
Randall and I went back to the cabin and got ready for formal night. Randall wore his off-white dinner jacket, tuxedo shirt, bow-tie, cummerbund, and tuxedo pants. I wore a black velvet, floor length, halter style, fish-tail train, gown. It had some silver beading in the v-neck of the gown. I wore plastic 3" heels with rhinestones across the toe. My earrings were black and clear rhinestone, with silver metal. We ate dinner at Windows dining room again. Randall had escargot for an appetizer, Avocado Watermelon Soup, and Beef Wellington for his entrEe. He said the Beef Wellington was excellent. I had a spinach salad for my appetizer, and Shrimp Jambalaya. The jambalaya was very bland, so I had to spice it up with Tabasco sauce. For dessert Randall had the Grand Marnier Souffle. He said it was mediocre. I had the sugar free Strawberry Mousse. It was awesome. If you like strawberries or strawberry shakes, you'll love it. I would definitely order it again.
After dinner we stopped by the kid's program and the arcade. We don't have kids yet, but we were curious as to what they had to offer. The kids program had lots of stuff for the kids to play with, and they had snacks set out where the kids could get to them. We stopped at the room with the 3 to 5 year olds. They had just gotten back from their Prince & Princess Parade. Several of them still had on their paper crowns and were dressed up for formal night as well. The arcade is right next door to the kid's program. The arcade had a good amount of games. Most of them were Sega, and many of them had not been outfitted for the American market yet, as some would talk to you in what was either Japanese or Chinese and were set up to accept Yen. After that we went back to the cabin and watched Freaky Friday on DVD, then went to bed.
Monday, May 24, 2004 - Ketchikan, Alaska
First off, when you have to set your clock back one hour the night before, obviously the ship's wake-up call computer was not aware of the time change, as the wake-up call I requested for 6:15 am, came at 7:15 am. Luckily, Randall used his cell phone as a back up alarm that night, but if you really want to be safe, bring a travel alarm clock (either one that works on batteries or will plug into a 220V outlet as there is one 110V outlet in the entire suite! Also, I had a couple 220V adapters that came with my cell phone that I wish I remembered to pack). We arrived in Ketchikan around 6:00 am. We watched as the captain eased us into the dock. Our breakfast came at 6:45 am. I had inadvertently ordered 2 orders of Pineapple for breakfast the night before thinking that one order would only be a few pieces. I was wrong. Each order had about ½ to 1 whole pineapple sliced. It was more than we could ever eat in one day. We also had salmon, cream cheese, and bagels. As Maxi was leaving we asked if he could have breakfast waiting on us when we got back on board at 2:30 pm. We ordered 3 pizzas to be waiting on us.
We quickly ate breakfast, and then headed down to the dock to meet our shore excursion tour. We were booked on the Ketchikan Sportfishing excursion. We met the tour group at 7:55 am. We quickly got under way. Randall and I were on the Ketch 'Em (name of the fishing boat) with another older couple from Oregon, and a gentleman from Sacramento, California. We got a general fishing license, and one for king salmon. Unfortunately we did not catch any fish. We did get a few strikes, but they just took of the tail of the halibut bait fish. Despite the fact that we did not catch any fish, that was okay with us. We saw several (at least 6-7) eagles, the eagle's nest up on the mountain, and two sea lions. One of the eagles flew directly above us, about 50 feet in the air. That made for some unbelievable photos of the eagle flying. The two sea lions were about 50 feet from our boat. One of them was catching salmon. Then he would roll on his back and swallow the salmon.
The wildlife made the fishing trip worthwhile. If you are only there to fish, and do not care about seeing eagles or sea lions you would have been disappointed, but if you want to see wildlife, and do not care whether or not you go home with a fish, this is a great excursion. Our captain said the average cost to process and ship a fish home is about $100 for a 10-15 lb fish. Taxidermy services were available, but we did not find out the prices on that. One person out of the 31 from our ship who went on this excursion caught a fish. The boats hold 3-6 people, so if you are in a group of more than 6, you cannot all be on the same boat. The boat has a small sheltered room with seating, a small bathroom, and some salmon and snacks set out to nibble on. Water and sodas were provided.
We made it back to the dock at 1:30 pm. Randall and I stopped in a few shops to pick up gifts and a couple Christmas ornaments that we buy on every vacation we take. One ornament was a glass blown miniature cruise ship. The other was a blue, purple, and green glass blown salmon. We bought a few children's books as well. The line to get back on the ship was unbearable at 2:00 pm, as it was cold and raining, so we continued to stop in many of the jewelry stores to stay dry and kill some time. At 2:30 pm everyone was supposed to be onboard, but our Port and Cruise Consultant, Noel, was not even in line yet, as I had just left him at Diamonds International, so I had a feeling we would not be left if we were not there at exactly 2:30 pm. We slowly made our way back to the ship where the line was slightly better, so we went ahead and got in line. Shortly after we got in line, I noticed, Noel about 20 people behind us in line. We got onboard at about 2:45 pm.
Maxi had us a cheese pizza, veggie pizza, and a pepperoni pizza waiting for us when we got back to the room. The pizzas were about 7 inches in diameter, had about 1 inch thick crust, and were okay. They were definitely not your cheap frozen pizzas. We stuffed ourselves, and I went to take a bath since I was still chilled to the bone from getting so damp and cold. Randall read while I took a nap that afternoon. Later we gave a tour of the suite to a couple we met on the fishing excursion the day before. After that we watched Mona Lisa Smile on DVD.
We had dinner at Maxim's Steakhouse. We ordered a bottle of J.P. Chenet Merlot. Randall had Shrimp Cocktail, Crabcakes, and Filet Mignon. I had the same as Randall, but also had a cup of Clam Chowder. We ordered cheesecake and a chocolate cake to bring back to the room for later. We were unable to finish the bottle of wine, so we had them save it for another evening. The chocolate cake tasted somewhat like a Hostess "Ding-Dong" without the cream filling, only richer. The cheesecake was okay. It wasn't the best I have had, but certainly not the worst. After dinner I went to look at the pictures we had taken by the ship photographers so far while Randall went back to the room. I still was unable to find our photo from embarkation day, but the rest I quickly found and put all of them together, so that I could show Randall the photos later. I was impressed with all of them from formal night. I then went back to the cabin, read for a little bit, and then went to bed.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - Juneau, Alaska
Our wake up call for 6:15 am worked this time. Breakfast was delivered at 6:45 am. I had scrambled eggs and sausage. Randall had a cheese and mushroom omelet with sausage. While we ate there was an eagle on the roof of the library/parking garage about 100 yards ahead of us. He sat there for the longest time, preening his feathers, and watching the water for any fish to catch. The Holland America ship, Ryndam, was coming in and was going to dock right next to where he was perched. We trained the video camera on him and watched him while we ate breakfast. Sure enough, as soon as the Ryndam got close enough, he flew off, and I was lucky enough to catch him on video as he flew off. We figure he was not happy that he lost his fishing spot.
From our balcony we were able to see a couple waterfalls coming down the mountain. They probably extended from at least 5000 feet elevation. The waterfalls reminded of those we saw in Kauai, Hawaii. Also, if you have Sprint PCS service, this was the first port it worked at since Seattle. We used this to our advantage and called my dad that morning, Randall's office, and my mother (on her Sprint cell phone, so it was free!) that afternoon. We were on the Juneau City and Mendenhall Glacier Tour. There was a slight delay in getting to leave, but that was okay.
Our bus driver took us through town, pointing out important things, and giving her commentary on different things. I took a photo of the Scottish Rite Temple as we passed it, as my dad is a Scottish Rite Mason. She pointed out the federal building with a bronze statue of pelicans in front. She explained that the state of Florida had commissioned the same artist at the same time to make this piece of artwork, and when it was finished and they received the piece, they unwrapped it to find the statue of pelicans. They figured out what had happened and called the federal building in Tallahassee to see if they had their bronze statue of eagles, and they did. The people in Florida said they liked the eagle statue more, and wanted to keep it, thus, the federal building in Tallahassee has a bronze of eagles, while Juneau has a bronze of pelicans. We found this interesting.
After the driving city tour, we were off the Mendenhall Glacier National Park. It was unbelievable. There was a waterfall next to it, called Nugget Falls, and it was beautiful. The glacier had a pale blue to white coloration on most of it, with a few dark blue pieces. The visitor's center had a small gift shop, observation area, and an 11 minute movie. Also, there are trails that lead to an outdoor observation area, which is closer, and some people were hiking out to the waterfall. Your depth perception is altered when there, as things appear closer than they are. If you are on a tour that is only there for 1 hour, there is not enough time to hike out to the waterfall. Please do not be late getting back on your bus. We had one elderly couple who held us up from leaving for 10 minutes, only they were 20 minutes late, since the driver said she would pick us up at 45 after and it was 5 after when they showed up. They acted like it was no big deal, and they didn't realize we had been waiting for them. If you know what time the bus driver says to be back, be back then, it is not fair to the rest of us. (Just my little editorial there! ?) They were lucky we waited for them, since the driver said a taxi from the glacier is $40.
After the glacier, we drove by the University of Alaska - Southeast campus. It was so pretty. They are lucky to have a campus that pretty with such great views. Then we went to a salmon hatchery. We stayed only about 30 minutes there. It was neat to get a cup of food to feed the salmon on your way out. Also, if you are a lady, and the line for the ladies room is long upstairs (where the gift shop/aquariums are), go downstairs. There was no line, and lots of stalls. Our bus driver was gracious enough to drop off those who wanted a few blocks from the ship so that we could explore and shop a little before heading back. We noticed many people getting off the bus and not tipping the driver (We tipped her $5 a person, so $10 total). I do not believe the tip was included in the excursion ticket price (I believe it was $40-45 per person). Personally, I feel if you felt the driver added a little more to your trip, tip them. If the driver did a bad job, maybe a tip is not warranted.
We stopped in many of the shops along the Franklin Street, in front of the cruise ships. There were many jewelry stores, t-shirt and souvenir stores, and many Russian goods stores. The fudge from The Alaskan Fudge Company (195 Franklin St., Juneau) was really good. We bought a slice of the mint chocolate fudge. Yummy! There is a tram by the cruise ship dock that will take you up on the mountain. We did not do this, but talked with some people who did and they said it was fabulous. We are unsure of the cost, but heard it was between $20-25. We went to get back on the ship about 1:15 pm. Luckily when we did, we noticed they had opened one more line to get back onboard. I suppose after the fiasco of one line the day before that was soooo long and people having to stand in the cold rain while waiting to board, they wanted to avert that problem. The line moved quickly, and by 1:30 we were back in our cabin.
We saw Maxi in the hall on the way back to our cabin and had him bring us 2 club sandwiches for lunch. They were good. Fellow Cruise Critic members, Dawn&Pete, came by for a tour of the cabin that afternoon before we got too far underway to Sawyer Glacier. It was really fun talking with them. Their cabin was only three doors down from us.
We put chairs out on the balcony once we got underway to Sawyer Glacier. We took lots of pictures and videos of the icebergs as we went along. Slowly, the number of glaciers increased, as we got closer to the glacier itself. They ranged from clear, to white, to a beautiful blue. When we got very close to the South Sawyer Glacier we saw many seals with several pups, sea lions, and an eagle. The glacier itself had a deep blue tinge at the bottom near the water. The icebergs were huge near the glacier, and so numerous there were too many to count. It was very cold. I was wearing a turtleneck sweater, silk long-johns, blue jeans, my ski jacket, a warm hat, and a scarf tied around my head, covering my ears to help keep them warm. I was very glad I brought my ski jacket for the trip. We did not get to hear or see any "calving" (the sound made when chunks of ice break away from the glacier) of the glacier. It was extremely overcast, some low-lying clouds or fog, and rained lightly off and on. It was quite an unbelievable sight.
As we were on our way back from the glacier, we began getting ready for dinner. We went to Shogun for dinner. We ate at the sushi bar. We ordered the Osaka combo. It had 2 different types of California rolls, a New York roll (with eel), Boston roll, 2 pieces of crab Sashimi, and some other weird roll with smelt egg, gourd, spinach, and pickled radish. I did not eat any of the New York roll (I don't like eel), but Randall said it was good. I did not have any of the weird gourd roll. Randall said he did not like it very much because it was too sweet. After we finished all of that, we ordered 1 order of Ebi (shrimp sashimi), and one order of Hamachi (yellow tail tuna). It's pretty hard to screw up Ebi, so it was good. The Hamachi was the best we have ever had, period. After dinner I ordered a bowl of Matcha (green tea ice cream). I get this at home, and it is wonderful anywhere I have had it. We always think it is funny because to someone who doesn't know what matcha is, it looks as if we are eating wasabi paste.
After dinner we went to the photo gallery, found our photos, and purchased two 8x10"s and one 5x7" photo. We then went back to the cabin and watched Big Fish on DVD, and read some more before bed.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - Skagway, Alaska
We got a call at about 7:15 am from our butler saying he was on his way with breakfast. Thank God he did, as my wake up call I put in when I was half asleep the night before was at the incorrect time. The butler showed up about 1 minute after the call, so it appears he called from down the hall. I had scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Randall had bangers and mash, with toast. After breakfast I crawled back into bed, since my back was killing me and I was still really tired. Randall went ahead and went down to the dock and walked to town. Randall walked around town, bought some Cokes at the only grocery store in town. There was one bank, a Wells Fargo. Also, there was only one post office. I got up later, and made my way to town about 10:00 am. The city transit is called the S.M.A.R.T. bus. They run at least every 20 minutes. They pick you up at the end of the dock, and then drop you off at three different intersections, 2nd & Broadway, 4th & Broadway, and 7th & Broadway. The fare is $1.50 each way. Randall said he spoke with his driver on the way back to the ship when no one else was onboard with them. He said the driver was also the mayor, and had lived in Skagway for all 69 years of his life.
I was unable to meet up with Randall in town. I found many very interesting stores. My favorite was at the corner of 2nd & Broadway, on the same side of Broadway as the Red Onion Saloon (which has a brothel museum - no, I didn't go in). It was a store that sold beautiful table runners, throws, throw pillow covers, purses made out of old rugs, and rugs. I could have spent a small fortune there. Close to 5th & Broadway, I entered an antique store that was really neat. There was not much antique furniture, but I found some vintage hats that were beautiful. I collect antique hats, so I ended up buying a black pillbox hat, with little silver embroidered starbursts all over it, and a black fishnet veil; and a satin, seafoam green, pillbox hat, with an unusual gathered bow at the back of the same colored satin. I also bought Randall a vintage aerosol can for him to use for chemical testing. The Outlet was a good place for gifts. I bought a small stuffed animal moose purse for Randall's goddaughter, and a pair of flannel boxers for myself. I went in several of the other stores, none too memorable.
I had lunch at Starbucks, where I had a ham sandwich, a Dr. Pepper, and a tall latte. I bought a cookbook with Alaskan recipes at the gift shop at Starbucks. After lunch, I caught the bus back to the dock, where I finally found Randall. We talked about what we did, then got on the train for our shore excursion. We were on the White Pass Railway. It was really interesting, and we just happened to choose the car where the narrator/announcer and any extra train staff would sit. It was neat to hear about the different young people's lives. The scenery was unbelievable! Some may find it boring, and I could see if you are around mountains on a daily basis thinking it is no big deal. However, we are from Texas, and Southeast Texas at that, so we are certainly not used to mountains. We found much of it absolutely breathtaking. We found it really neat that a tent site in town for the summer is $400 per month, and RV site with hookups is $450, and a shower is 25 cents for 2 minutes, not guaranteed to be warm.
The line getting back on the ship was about the same as in Ketchikan or Juneau, but it was sunny, so it was not as miserable of a wait. Once back in the room, we were on the balcony looking for a sea lion colony that we were coming up on. Before we got to the colony we saw a small orca whale off the portside bow. It would swim up close to the ship, then it would surface close to shore. It did this for a few minutes. So we finally saw a whale!
The VIP cocktail party was in the Celebrity Disco. Our entire Cruise Critic group was sent invitations, and everyone showed up. We had fun drinking and visiting with everyone. The captain came and talked to our group for at least 5 to 10 minutes. It was also interesting to learn that the two owners suites were both couples who gambled over $10,000 per cruise on average. They did not have to pay for their cruise outright. We figure they paid for it in the long run probably! After the party several of us decided to have dinner together. We had dinner at The Garden Room with Suzanne, Michael, Jean, Chuck, Sharlene, and John. At dinner we both had Lady Diana's Pear Avocado with shrimp salad, President Nixon's Crab Bisque, and I had the Sea Bass, while Randall had the lamb. Suzanne and Michael had their anniversary cake and shared it with everyone. The cake was actually pretty good. After dinner we invited our table guests to stop by and have a tour of the cabin. Suzanne and Michael stopped by shortly after dinner. Randall and I both read for a little bit before bed, and then it was lights out.
Thursday, May 27, 2004 - Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada
We had breakfast delivered at 8:30 am. Randall had the Spanish Frittatta, and I had a mushroom & cheese omelet. Both were good. We got dressed and Randall went to the lecture on Prince Rupert while I went to the talk about future cruises with the Port & Cruise Consultant, Noel. The art auction followed immediately after the future cruise talk. In the past I went a little crazy at an art auction on the Carnival Triumph, so Randall was a little leery but there was a raffle for a $1800 retail piece of art, so I figured I'd go for a chance to get some free art. Well, they had a much higher caliber art collection on this ship than on the Triumph, so I was impressed. The sheer number of original Salvador Dali sketches was unbelievable. We would like to have one, but the price is a bit out of our current budget, so that will have to wait. That being said, the auction started, most pieces were not our style, and then this beautiful Marc Chagall signed lithograph of the Paris Opera House ceiling was up for $300. For a signed Marc Chagall I could not turn it down. In the end it cost $431, including shipping and the matting and framing. A frame and mat for a piece that size at home would be over $300, so it was not a bad deal.
The next piece they placed on the easel was a $34,000 Marc Chagall original. I just about fell out of my chair. I whispered to the lady sitting next to me, "My car costs that much." I understand art, especially by someone like Chagall, appreciates over time, but for $35,000 it better have tires and an engine! I liked my $300 piece more anyhow. I stayed for the entire auction, but did not win the art raffle. I went back to the cabin right after and broke the news to Randall. He wasn't thrilled, but he wasn't mad, but he doesn't know who Marc Chagall is, so I don't think he understood what a good deal I got. Randall and I went to meet with Noel at 1:15 pm to discuss a future cruise. The couple in front of us talked his ear off and went way over their allotted time, so we did not get into see him until after 1:35 pm. We got brochures on all of their cruises, as we really are having a tough time deciding. We want to cruise the Greek Isles, but NCL doesn't have any ships in Europe anymore.
After meeting with Noel, we went to the cabin, grabbed our jackets to wear in Prince Rupert, and went down to Blue Lagoon to grab some fried rice for lunch. The service there is slow. We could have gone to eat in the main dining room and been done by the time we got our food. Luckily, we were not in a hurry to get off the ship.
We got off the ship about 2:30 pm, and then we went into Prince Rupert's downtown first. We walked along 1st Street to the museum. We stopped in the gift shop there and looked around. There were several books I wanted, but Randall and I agreed they would be able to be bought at our local Barnes and Noble, so we did not buy any. There was a Safeway grocery store across the street from the museum. We walked up to 3rd Street and walked down the main drag. There was very little tourist shopping, many vacant store-fronts for rent, lease, or sale. Randall said he heard in the lecture on Prince Rupert that the city has decreased in size considerably, and that most of their industries have failed, leaving cruise ship tourism as a possible last hope. The homes were affordably priced. We saw one 3 bedroom, waterfront home for $85,000 Canadian dollars, and one huge, 5 bedroom home, with city and harbor views, for about $224,000.
On the way back to the cruise ship we stopped at the museum again and actually took the tour. There was a lot of Native American artwork (mostly Tsimishien tribe of British Columbia). It was $4 per person in US dollars. It killed some time, which was good, as there is not that much to do there. We walked to Cow Bay next. There are some shops in a red building right next to the dock. They were okay, but further down the road there are some better ones, in our opinion. We actually like Cow Bay better than downtown Prince Rupert.
We got back on the ship about 7:00 pm. I was so tired, so I crawled in bed and took a short nap, while Randall read his book. He woke me up at about 8:00 pm. We decided to go eat in Windows since it was lobster night. We had about a 5 to 10 minute wait. People in parties larger than four had to wait longer. We got a great table for 2 by a window. We got our unfinished bottle of wine from Maxim's to have with dinner. For an appetizer, I had the lobster mousse, which I found not that appetizing. Randall had the beef tenderloin medallions. We both had the salmon bisque, which we found rather bland and more like a chowder, as it had no tomato base to it. We both had the lobster for our main course. There were 1 & ½ lobster tails on each plate, and they were pretty small (a little larger than the jumbo (8-10 ct) shrimp we get in Texas). We ordered another plate each. For dessert we both ordered the mocha fudge pie, with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The pie was not very good. There was very little flavor to it, and it was kind of dry. We went back to the cabin and watched television and went to bed.
Friday, May 28, 2004 - At Sea
We both slept in this morning. We did not order room service breakfast the night before. We planned to go eat breakfast at a restaurant. Randall slept till 8:00 am, and I slept until 9:30 am. Once I was up, Randall saw hundreds of dolphins swimming along the portside bow of the ship. They did this for about 5 to 10 minutes. We decided to skip breakfast and just eat an early lunch, before the Latitudes member's party at 1:00 pm. We went down to Windows dining room at 11:30 am, thinking they would be open. We, along with about 20 others, were told they do not open until noon. We did not want to wait 30 minutes, so we decided to tough it out at the buffet instead. It was like a mad house. One elderly lady looked irritated that I joined Randall in the line for the buffet (they were setting out food and we were one of the first dozen in line) after I got my tray and silverware.
The food did not look great, but we were hungry. The best thing we found was a chicken tortilla casserole. We did not know what it was. We just saw chicken with onions, and what appeared to be cheese on top. Once we sat down and began eating, we both said if we would have known what it was and that it was that really good, we would have got a big plate with nothing but that on it. We picked up some desserts on the way out of the buffet and brought them back to the cabin. We went to the photo stand to see if they could give us credit for a photo bought earlier when we forgot that the honeymoon/anniversary package included a picture. They said they couldn't, so I asked if I could see the pictures from initial embarkation, as I had never found ours and they were no longer up. They pulled out a basket, and ours was the 5th one in the stack I looked at. I chose one of the two for my complimentary honeymoon/anniversary one.
We then joined our fellow CC members at the Latitudes party. It was held in the observation lounge on deck 12. The Latitudes pins were not there, but they said the home office in Miami would be mailing them out the next week. No one from our group won any prizes. After the party, Randall and I went down to the bridge viewing area. It was neat to see where the bridge is in respect to our room. The watch officer sits over our dining area and the captain's chair is over our living room area. We then went back up to the room until the art gallery room was open again so that I could show Randall our Chagall and the $34,000 one. On the way back to the room, we ran into Maxi, and we asked him if we could get breakfast in our room on debarkation morning. He said yes, but we would need to do so between 6:00-6:30 am, because he and Denny had to go do immigration fingerprinting for Indonesians after 6:30 am. He said they are required to do this every week for immigration. I think that would get really old.
While we were in our cabin before the art auction we heard an announcement to avoid decks 12 & 13 for the next hour or two. They were medivac-ing a passenger off the ship. We later found out a woman onboard had a stroke a few hours prior, so they were sending her to Vancouver. The medivac helicopter was a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter. They made several passes, and were unable to land on the helipad, so they ended up lifting the person up in a basket. After all the hubbub with the medivac, we attended the art auction preview. I found one Dali piece that I really liked. Charlie, the art auctioneer, said to come back between 7 to 9 pm and he could work out a private sale for us.
After that we walked up to Noel's office to book 3 rooms on the Sea out of Houston or the Dream out of New Orleans for next summer. He said there is no ship scheduled to go out of either port next summer. I truly hope they eventually end up putting something at one of those ports, since it is so convenient for us to drive to either port. So, we were unable to book a future cruise. Randall and I went back to the cabin and began the arduous task of packing. I had all the suitcases set out and mostly packed when I realized it was 5:30 pm, so I quickly ran down to the Clipper room for the final CC meeting, where the hotel director and others were to meet with us. I was truly disappointed, as the meeting became a time to air our gripes to the staff, when half of the things some pointed out are out of the ship's control. Much of the problems were with the port authority at each port. Many people pointed out the long waits in the restaurants. Randall and I did not have a problem with any long waits. Most of the time we waited less than 10 minutes or did not have to wait at all. Granted, we eat later than most people though, and we are not concerned with going to any of the shows.
An older couple voiced concerns that there was no where to sit at embarkations at any of the ports or on embarkation day. This problem lies with the port authority, as NCL has no control over things that happen off the ship or how each port has their terminals set up. Also, this may be more of a problem in Alaska with the older clientele. The wait in the restaurants can be compared to if you go eat at say, Outback Steakhouse at a peak time on a Saturday night. Of course, you will have to wait. If you go toward closing you probably won't have a wait, or at least a much shorter wait. It is unrealistic to expect to have no wait at all at any meal. If that is what you are looking for, go on a traditional cruise line or something like Seaborne where you have a higher staff to passenger ratio.
Jean and I felt very bad that the meeting became such an attack on NCL/the staff, so we had to say that we have been happy with everything, and we both said because we do not go to the shows, we had no problems with any long waits. After the hotel director, asst. hotel director, and food & beverage director left, Lisa, the concierge, gave out VIP disembarkation tickets to those who needed them. It was very nice of her to provide this to those who had early flights out.
I went back to the cabin, changed for dinner, and Randall and I decided on sushi again. This time we ordered a California roll, a Boston roll, one order of hamachi, one order of ebi, and one order of sashimi (Ahi tuna). It was even better than before. We totally recommend it, if you like sushi. After dinner, we went up to the art gallery. We looked at all the Dali's on hand, and we kept coming back to one called Henry VI. It was a hand signed original etching from the "Paradise Lost" series. The paper it was on looked like a type of rice paper. It was very pretty, and I can't wait to get it home and figure out where to hang it. We then went back to the cabin and resumed packing. We had invited everyone from our CC group back to the cabin for champagne at 8:30 pm. Suzanne and Michael were the only two who showed up. We had a really nice visit with them. They had to leave to start packing, and we still had to finish, so we said goodnight.
Saturday, May 29, 2004 - Seattle, WA - disembarkation Day
I woke up at about 5:00 am. There was light streaming into the room. Randall was already out of bed, laying on the couch in the living room. I tried to go back to sleep, but really just laid there. At 5:30 am, our wake up call came. I trudged out of bed and began to get dressed while Randall was in the shower. We finished packing our carry on luggage and watched some CNN. Breakfast was delivered right before 6:30 am. I had scrambled eggs with bacon. Randall had a cheese omelet with bacon and sausage. We both agreed we were not in a real hurry to get off the ship. I think we will miss the room. We also agreed, that if we were in an inside cabin we would have been ready to leave about 3 days ago. Since we had VIP disembarkation and a flight at 11:30 am, we met the concierge at Henry the Black Pub at 7:45 am to get a VIP escort off the ship. We quickly got through the customs line.
On our way down to retrieve our luggage, we saw our butler going through immigration and waved goodbye to him. All the VIP luggage was grouped together downstairs and was easy to find. We grabbed our 4 bags and ran outside to catch a cab. The fixed fare from the airport to downtown hotels is $25. Our fare from the cruise ship terminal to the airport was $27. We got to the airport a couple hours early, but we got a Javachip Frappaccino from Starbucks and camped out until our flight was called. We flew first class on the way back to Houston. One of the meal choices was salmon salad. It was very good. We got home from the airports at exactly 8:00 pm. When we got home I immediately started laundry and I am still working on it this afternoon. I miss my butler... It was a great cruise, but I've seen Alaska now and I really don't think I will want to go back. We found we are a little partial to warm weather cruising. Read Less