My Alaskan Cruise: Day 7

Come vacation with me!  I love to write about my family’s vacations.   I hope you are inspired to plan your own exciting journeys! Have you been on a cruise?  Have you been to Alaska and Canada?  Let us know in the comments!

My daughter and I rise early again for our early excursion.  I am so excited to be in Victoria, Canada! This is a special place I remember visiting when I was a young girl, and now I get to share the experience with my little girl. We are going to see the beauteous Butchart Gardens.

Somehow my in-laws didn’t see us, and so they missed the bus.  (They got on the next bus).  We love these little bus tours, the friendly guides/ drivers and their oft cheesy remarks.  It’s a bit chilly and there are clear umbrellas at the gardens for everyone to borrow, if needed.

imageThe Gardens themselves are exquisitely gorgeous, every bit as wonderful as I remember.  We take many photos and enjoy the lovely blooms.  We enjoy a rousing ride on the carousel, and a light snack of popcorn, after.  My daughter had just said, if I were separated from my granddaughter and there was a merry-go-round, I would know that that would be the place to meet.  When sure enough, her grandparents approach the carousel!  She runs to greet them, it is really cute.    The carousel and the popcorn stand accept our U.S. Dollars, and give me change in Canadian dollars.  I love the Sunken Garden, and the Rose Garden the best.  The fountains are beautiful.  I am deeply moved by the Love and Peace rose, vintage 2001.

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Butterflies by Del Sol (white indoors, sun-activated colors!)

We take a photo near the tea room where my parents took my sister and I thirty-some years ago. I tell my daughter the story of how we waited over an hour in the heat, and my little sister ordered both a chocolate sundae and a chocolate shake.  Our sweet mother balked, but my dear father said it was okay, as he knew he would be lucky enough to help her finish both!  Smart man!  She delights in this story, but we do not have enough time to dine here today.  Our tour bus awaits.  And since they didn’t wait for my in-laws before, I doubt they will wait for us if we are late.   We say goodbye to the in-laws and get on our bus. We will pass a cool spinning globe in front of a Starbucks, as well as the famous Empress Hotel. The bus is stopping at the Empress, and I decide we should exit here.  It is a lovely pier area, and very near our next excursion.   We take some more obligatory tourist pics.

 

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Near the meeting point is another Starbucks.  Happily we run inside for a lunch/snack/drink.  My sister in law and niece are inside!  They just finished their excursion: a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown.  We enjoy a lovely mother-daughter reunion and share our stories.  My husband brings the boys (our son and nephew) off the ship after their lunch, and we all meet up for the Hippo Tour: a bus that turns into a boat.  The kids are delighted- it really is a unique tour.  Unfortunately for us, although we are first to line up, they boarded from the end of the line and we ended up with the worst seats on the bus- right behind the driver / tour guide  in the heat with closed windows and no leg room. The kids squished in the middle and got good views, but all my photos have the windshield in them.

IMG_3638[1]The bus becomes a boat and we float through the water.  We see a seaplane land in the water, which was very cool.  Our Hippo sails so close to our Royal Caribbean ship that the ship’s wifi pops up on my phone!  After the water ride, we drive through a park with lovely peacocks everywhere. After the tour, we split up again, and my son stays with me to souvenir shop in town, and the others walk back to the ship via another park/playground.

We are looking for another baseball cap for my son’s collection. But of course, we must also stop for the famous fudge, that was once eaten in space! I am using my Canadian dollars and coins, and I am looking for a penny, when the cashier  reminds me that they don’t have pennies anymore!  I vaguely recall this news from more than a few years back.  Why do they continue to ring up amounts with pennies, then, I wonder?  The fudge is fantastic.  I try the famous maple, Dear Son tries another flavor. It’s quite fun exploring with my son, just he and I.  He navigates quite well, shares appropriate observations, and some punny jokes. It is in many ways, like hanging out with another adult 🙂  It is sprinkling, and I consider taking a penny cab back to the boat, but we can handle it.  And I log a ton of steps today!IMG_3695[1]

We return to the boat and meet for dinner.  Tonight will be for packing.  You can pack by 10pm and the staff will take your luggage off the boat for you, or  you can select early departure/ walk-off luggage, which is what we will be doing.  We packed light.

We join the karaoke line-up and Dear Daughter selects Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.  This Cyndi Lauper classic is a bit to high for my alto range, and I regret I did not do it justice.  Fortunately my sweet girl skips happily around me during the instrumental break, and we are saved.  But I do not think I will share that video.  LOL.

Tomorrow we will disembark in Seattle, and enjoy the city before we head home in the evening.  Can’t wait to share more with you!   I will also be sharing my godson’s video with you.

 

 

 

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My Alaskan Cruise: Day 6

I’m writing about my recent cruise to Alaska.  Have you checked out my entries for the other days? I hope that by writing about it, you will be inspired to book your own vacations! Here’s what we did on Wednesday of the cruise.

Today is another Day at Sea and we do the morning breakfast routine.  There is not much different from other days, if you have been reading along.  Starbucks after the buffet. The weather is nice and there is not the crazy rocking that we enjoyed when we were sailing north a couple days ago. It has been very comfortable wearing  a t shirt or  tank top  with shorts or a skirt on the ship, just bring a sweater or jacket if you are on deck in the afternoon and evening.  It was too cold to for surf simulating or  rock wall climbing, but ping pong in the secret covered area is perfect.  The kids opted not to attend any of the kids club functions.  Sunset has been extremely late for us, around 10:30pm!  The return to ship time has also been comfortably late, as in 8:30pm.  We of course returned early for dinner and evening activities.  But I do recall that the return times were much earlier in the Mediterranean ports last year.

I liked Princess a lot, the food was slightly better, to be honest.  Princess is like the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas,- beautiful, fancy, chocolates on your pillow, maybe a little dated.  Royal Caribbean is like the Venetian Palazzo- newer bigger, and so many amenities- like the rock wall and surf simulator.  Not that we used them.  So Princess is just fine for us.  Know what I mean?  Royal Caribbean has a lot more families.

After brunch, we make our way to the lounge where the Spelling Bee will be held.  The girls are so happy to find the spot for their last elusive selfie from the selfie challenge yesterday, in this lounge.

Surprisingly, my son does not volunteer- although he is a Spelling Bee Champion, as well.  He just wants to watch.  That’s okay. There are about 8 individuals and some adults, some kids.  The hostess has an Australian accent, and she mispronounces the word Tyranny, and a foreign child gets it wrong.  An adult- an English teacher- wins.

We decide to swing by the Captain’s Corner in the theater, where the captain, cruise director, and hotel manager and another high official (engineer?) are taking questions.  It’s great fun, they are so comical.  I love when kids ask questions, like Who’s driving the boat? Have you ever hit an iceberg?  The boys will finish the entire session, but the rest of us gotta go see the Ice Skating show “Spirit of the Seasons” again.  The grandparents haven’t seen it in full yet (since it was cancelled during our first attempt at rocky seas), and we are trying to get the seats nearest the aisles where the performers invite little girls to be in the show.

We are so lucky to get the second row, so we strategically place my daughter on the aisle seat.  When the time comes, the performers are looking at the family in the first row, their little girl is not budging, however.  I see the performer start to look around for another participant, because the show must go on!  And I say to my daughter, stand up, and Go! Go! Go! The performer looks relieved.  I hope the first little girl’s parents are not mad at me, but she wasn’t moving!  So my daughter happily gets into position as they help guide her into the sled. What an experience for her!  I’m so happy she gets this chance of a lifetime.   This is during the Winter part of the show, and the performers are dressed in wintery attire, taking turns pushing the two little girls (one from the other side) around on the ice rink. The other day her brother had his moment in the spotlight, today is hers.  The smaller rink is an intimate venue, and the audience applauds warmly as she gets out of the sled and exits the rink.   Let me tell you, this is right up there with the first time she met the Princesses at Disneyland when she was 3 years old. #mommybeams

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That’s my girl!

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Spirit of the Seasons, Winter. 

I think this is the day they go back to ping pong, so I just do my own thing and find somewhere to read. The girl cousins create their own dance routines, entitled “Spirit of the Cousins.” I love how they incorporated ice skating moves into their dances. My eleven year old niece is lifting and spinning my eight year old daughter, and she loves it.

 

After a quick pseudo dinner in the Windjammer- it was closing so there was no good food available and I had to text my hubby to bring his daughter some pizza from downstairs- we head to the Ice Rink for Open Skate!  How many of you can say you’ve ice skated in the Pacific Ocean?  Actually, not me, as I decided to just watch. My back had just recovered from that first night on the sofa bed, and I didn’t want to risk hurting it.  My son and godson and I watched as my hubby and his sister took the two girls out for a skate. I really enjoyed watching the boys watch people fall.  The one time my daughter almost fell, she said it was fun!  That’s because her daddy and godmother each held one of her hands and she was saved.  IMG_3484[1]Watch her fall in slow motion on my godson’s video, which I will post at the end of these journals.

Afterwards, we head to the Theater for the evening performance. I always enjoy the music of a live band.  It is a nice time to relax and enjoy our Shirley Temples, even if sometimes we snicker a little during the performances.

We walk by Karaoke but since my song of choice was featured in the evening performance, I am not feelin’ it.   Dear Daughter knows when she is turning into a pumpkin and declares it her bedtime.   I bring her to the room and let the boys wander together.

Tomorrow is a Port day at Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada!  I am so excited!  There will be beautiful flowers everywhere!

Have you been on a cruise?  Have you been to Alaska?  Drop me a line!

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 5

Hello Friends! I’m in the middle of journaling my recent vacation: a family cruise to Alaska. I hope that in writing about our trips, you may be inspired to plan your own vacations, too!

We are awakened this morning by the announcement from our cruise director, stating that we are at Dawes Glacier  in the Tracy Arm Fjord and the captain will begin a 540 degree turn of the ship so that everyone can see it.  We are near the first viewing side, and let me tell you, it is majestic. It is a mile from my balcony.  I can’t help but think of how lucky we are to be able to see this beautiful side of nature in Alaska. We take photos, but we are still in pajamas, so after we rotate past, we go change so we have better clothes on for the next pass (and photos).  We observe calving, the collapsing of glacier parts into the sea. It is very noisy, it sounds like a  thunderous earthquake, even though only a little falls.  We train our binoculars onto the cotton candy pieces, but we do not see any seals or any other animals. Later this day we will see whales, which is so exciting!  Alas, they do  not photograph well, as they splash and disappear.

Enough talk.  Here are some pics of the Dawes Glacier.

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We meet up with the rest of the family for breakfast in the buffet.   This is basically another day at sea, with the added bonus of glacier spotting in the morning. The 3 youngest kids enjoy a Selfie Scavenger Hunt activity, taking pictures of themselves all over the ship. I will be spending some time by myself this morning, I venture to the Chapel, but as half of it has been taken over by a baby play area, it’s kinda weak, in my humble opinion. Even better, however, is the Dizzy Gillespie Lounge, talk about a room with a view!  Surprisingly, most  folks up here are sleeping in chairs or reading books.  I thought about reading, but THIS VIEW!

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The kids and my hubby and sis-in-law like to play ping pong.  So it seems like they go there a lot!       I am glad hubby has the sense to avoid this basketball challenge from our godson, after what happened last year on our Mediterranean cruise.  I will enjoy a Swedish Massage at the Spa today.  There is an Acupuncture seminar in the waiting room, so I enjoy part of that, as well.  The massage therapist is from England and she likes my sparkly pink nail polish.  🙂  This is a nice hour of bliss.

We quickly change into our formal night attire.  I am wearing the same charcoal dress and the silver side of my reversible necklace, hair up.

IMG_3903[1]We take some more formal photos, but there are too many of us on the backdrop, and it looks weird. I do wish I had maybe purchased a couple of them, but they wouldn’t let us combine pics from our 3 different family accounts into one discount purchase.  Annoying.

This evening we will enjoy another round of Shirley Temples as we enjoy another entertainer performance show.  This guy can really play the trumpet, man.  He’s got chops!  He also is kinda reminiscent of Tom Jones. Sometimes (more than half) the entertainment is watching the entertainment.  Am I right? It’s kind of cheesy and kind of funny, and still the talent of the live musicians shines through.  My mother would love it!   I don’t think my godson appreciated it though.  I think he was trying to fall asleep during it 🙂

Cheesecake lolly-pops before bed, and it’s another time change.  Time to set our clocks forward an hour to Pacific Daylight Savings Time.   Tomorrow will be another day at sea: a special opportunity at the Ice Show, and more ping pong and maybe Karaoke…

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 3

I woke up refreshed after having slept on a real bed! The rocking has calmed somewhat, it’s now very mild only to remind you that we are on a boat.  Which I love. My kids say that the do not even notice the gentle rocking. We have gained an hour overnight, as the ship set clocks back to Juneau time overnight.

We have our standard buffet breakfast in the Windjammer.  There are omelets made-to-order in the back. Fruit Loops are offered today, very exciting for the kids (I don’t usually let them eat sugary cereal at home).   We are at sea for the morning, docking in Juneau after lunch, where we will enjoy our planned excursion of  Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier. My sister-in-law says there was a Geography Trivia event in the late morning.  This is my dear son’s area of specialty and he is even wearing his National Geographic State Geo Bee Participant tee shirt from earlier this year. The cousins and my sister-in-law will enjoy watching and supporting him.tavern

The Geography Trivia event is a gathering in a small lounge/bar area called the Tavern. Through the decorative port hole windows, we can see the lush green land as we approach the Port of Juneau.  The crew member hosting this trivia event is standing behind the grand piano.  There are some families, but mostly adults playing. There can be teams of up to 6.  My husband and I are sitting near our son, but he is the one playing. My son is a 4-time School Geography Bee Champion, and 3 time State Geography Bee Participant, finishing 12th, 8th, and then 4th earlier this year.  The questions are a little different that the sample questions he is used to, for example: How many times can the state of Rhode Island fit into the whole of the state of Alaska?  (This is the only question he missed.  He guessed 420 and someone else had guessed  500 and the answer was like 480.) And, Drive from Nebraska to California in only four states.  This one we had to talk out our answer.  Does Nebraska border one of the Four Corners states?  Which one?  Colorado? Okay, Colorado meets Arizona at the Four Corners, Arizona borders California.  Boom. My son won the contest, to  much applause, and a few shouts of “Ringer!” His prize: 6 Royal Caribbean Highlighter Pens. My son said it was the Highlight of the cruise. winner

After lunch in the buffet, we make our way off the boat and onto the Pier.  There is much confusion as the person in charge did not have paperwork nor a telephone number, nor even any information about the time start and meeting location. We had to pay for a shuttle to take us a mile away to the meeting point.   We enjoy a chartered bus with a friendly driver, who entertains us with such comments as “And the Juneau State Capital Building, voted the 50th most beautiful capital building in the United States!”  We always enjoy when the tour guides include humor 🙂  He points out all this awesome wildlife so casually: “OH there’s another bald eagle for you, anyway as I was saying…” I can hardly get my camera ready fast enough to capture the image.  Here is a pic that my godson took.

eagleMy godson also made a video of our trip, I think I will share that after my entry of the 8th day (with his permission).

The Mendenhall Glacier is a beautiful cotton candy blue.  We have only one hour here, and the guide recommends a 45 minute medium hike to the waterfalls. But he stresses that there will not be enough time to visit the Center if you do that.  Most of our party hike to the Falls, but my daughter and mother-in-law and I decide to do our own thing, check out the Visitor Center, Gift Shop, and enjoy a shorter hike.  I am so happy to share this with my young daughter, as I recall visiting my first glacier in Alaska when I was about her age.  We  enjoy a short walk to the beach and take numerous photos, also talking with the other visitors, as you do.  We even use our binoculars to try to spot our family members walking to the falls.  It doesn’t work.  They look like ants.

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Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau

 

 

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Our tour guide drives us to another lookout point at Douglas.  He takes our family photo with our ship in the background.  Can you say Christmas Card?

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As we return to our meeting point, our party divides.  My husband, sister-in-law, and the boys decide to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens with me.  So we stay in town a bit longer.  The grandparents take the girls back to the ship and will dress for fancy dinner.  I’m glad they can enjoy this special time together.  I’m glad to have an opportunity to watch this fabulous movie again!  We are looking for a drugstore in town, as we’ve discovered our ship does not have self-service laundry.  The one drugstore does not, so hubby takes advice from the pharmacist and walks a mile further to a grocery store.   This is like the Road Block in The Amazing Race in which only one team member can participate and fulfill the task. Sis-in-law heads back to the shuttle.  I take the boys to Alaska Fudge store, as we wait for my hubby.  I pick up a cute tee shirt for my daughter along the way.  As we wait on the benches near the shuttle, I find myself without a book, phone (hubby took it because  Apple Maps are better than whatever he has on his phone), nor tablet. I didn’t bring a book or tablet because I’d wanted to lighten the load that is my backpack for the excursion.  I thought, there’s always e-books on my phone!  But here I am without a phone.  And with two teenage boys who each have their own phones, and they don’t really want to be talking to their forty-something mom/aunt.  It is like pulling teeth, but I get some very interesting conversation from them.

Hubby returns and he’s all energized from walking.  We decide not to wait for the shuttle, and begin the walk to the pier.  It sounds great, but everyone is taller than me with longer legs, and I can’t keep up.  Hubby teases me and asks if I will be doing the “band walk” as he calls it.  If you squat a little, your legs will cover more ground.  Yes, this is a thing I remember from marching band, when you have only four counts to get to your next mark. There’s a moderately steep incline and it now begins to more than sprinkle, I’d call it a light rain.   I’ve stopped counting the busses that pass us, I don’t want to notice if it is the one that we could have taken.  The walks takes longer than we thought, and now we do not have time to eat before the movie.  (Who said that you don’t get any exercise on a cruise?  I logged over 15,000 steps today!)

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“You can do it, Honey!”

We go straight into the theater where SIL is waiting.  Luckily, I have some yummy cherry bars in my backpack.  Afterwards, we go back to the buffet, before we return to the grandparents’ room to collect our daughters.

 

My daughter is dancing deliriously and clearly having a  grand old time.  We walk by the karaoke singalong to check it out, but it looks lame.  The bartenders are singing, begging for singers. But I am not singing the Commodores.  She’s a Brick….HOUSE. Ow.

Tomorrow we will be in Skagway, for the Fourth  of July! There will be gold panning, 40-Below chamber and PUPPIES!

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 2

I had slept on the pull-out sofa, which wasn’t good for my back.  The rocking of the boat was quite noticeable, it had grown from subtle to in-your-face.  I don’t mind the rocking, in fact I find it soothing to be rocked to sleep. But I decide to trade sleeping spots with my husband going forward.

Our extended family party of nine met for brunch in the Windjammer Café (buffet) again. There is a crew member assigned to greet diners and also squeeze hand sanitizer into our hands.  He proudly holds the big pouch of clear goo wrapped in a black cloth napkin.  That’s his job.  (Even though there are also three free-standing hand sanitizer dispensers beside him.)  I wonder, when they see the duties posted, do the crew members think “YAY!  I get to squeeze the goo!”  or “Pshaw, I get the goo again!”  We will see this gentleman on each of our seven mornings.

This is a day at sea, and we are happy to explore the ship. We spend time in the Arcade, which has vintage games such as Galaga/ Ms. Pac-Man, as well as air hockey and skee-ball. Great fun to reconnect with one’s inner child, am I right?

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Kids, Let me show you how it’s done!

There is a Starbucks/ Ben & Jerry’s on the promenade deck,  we enjoy some girl time and my niece French braids my daughter’s hair.  I think this is the day we have soft serve ice cream, available on the pool deck, but we eat in inside because it is so cold, windy and wet on the pool deck.  We took this funny video of the Caution sign on the deck. Soon they would close off all exterior decks and place complimentary barf bags near the stairwells, as well as offer free sea sickness pills at the Guest Relations counter.  We have a quick bite of pizza from the  Café Promenade and make our way to the Theater which is showing the film Zootopia. It is fun to watch the film in this fancy theater.  There are some scary parts for little girls, but ultimately it is good fun.  I note that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be playing during dinner tomorrow evening.  I’m so there!

 

We decide to dress now for Formal Night, before making our way to the Ice Skating Performance Show and then dinner. I’m so glad our luggage was found and we can wear the dresses and jewelry I had planned.  Tonight I am wearing my new charcoal scoop neck short dress, Mary Jane’s and this fabulous necklace from Premier Designs.  I am wearing the green side showing, with my hair down.   For our next formal night, I will wear the reverse silver side showing, and my hair up.  Here is a link to my friend Maria’s webpage where you can order your own reversible necklace and more. My daughter is proudly wearing her new dress (similar to her cousin’s) and reversing the brown belt to the black side, so that it matches her “fancy” black shoes.  The guys are wearing khaki’s and polo shirts, which are more comfortable.  We see hardly any tuxedoes  tonight, most men are dressed similarly or don sportcoats. My godson is looking dapper in his suit.  (I do notice a particular group of young girls who seem to casually walk by our party quite often!)

The ice show is entitled Spirit of the Seasons.  Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line with ice rinks on the ships.  It is 1/8th the size of a standard rink. which allows for a very intimate performance. (Later they will open the rink for All Skate sessions.)  It is wondrous seeing the first two numbers, but the rocking has accelerated and the Cruise Director walks on the ice to announce the suspension of the show, due to the safety of the performers. Completely understandable.  Here’s a lil snippet of what the waves looked like. We have some time before out dinner reservation, so we walk around taking photos. Dinner for a party of nine is challenging. I don’t know why the travel agent didn’t advise us to book our dining time early.  We had choices of 5:15pm or 8:30pm on most nights.  5:15 is fine when you are At Sea, but early if you are out on an excursion.  Every day some time was spent trying to change our reservations.  Kind of an annoyance, since it would have been avoidable had we been advised to select early or late dining, or at least book our “My Time” dining reservations earlier.

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Be Our Guest

We are seated near a window on the top floor of the three-floor dining room.  We have two tables pushed together four our large party.  This works better than a large circle table, actually.  It’s easier to sit next to who you want to talk to.  We have noticed that when your party contains children, they tend to seat you in the corners.  This is to our advantage, actually, as we can enjoy views from the windows. The food is not bad, the desserts are pretty good.  (The kids desserts on Princess were better than the kids desserts on Royal.)

 

We take formal pictures, as well as pose in all combinations ad nauseum for casual pics.  Then our group separates and my sister-in-law and I take the kids to the production show in the Theater.  We order Shirley Temples, Cherry Cokes, or Virgin Pina Coladas for all, and enjoy the show.  Afterwards, we swing by the Karaoke event, but my nerves kick in and there are no new songs in the karaoke book.  We say good night, as Dear Daughter knows when she’s turning into a pumpkin.  It is still light out!   A swan towel awaits us in the room (but no chocolates).

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Tomorrow we will be at sea in the morning, and port in Juneau I can’t wait to share with you all my pictures of the gorgeous glaciers, cool wildlife, and especially the cute puppies!  That’s what it’s all about, on this Alaskan cruise.

 

 

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 1

My family has been so fortunate to enjoy some fun family vacations at some spectacular destinations.  I am so grateful for these opportunities.  It is my hope that  writing about them will encourage some of you to get out there and plan your own dream vacations! 

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Can you tell we’re related? ❤

We began the morning already happily packed. This is one of the times my creative brain works very well with my logical side and I can Plan, to Have Fun. May I say, I’ve got packing down. Four outfits,  three pairs of shoes, carry-ons. See my recent post on packing necessities. 

 

For some reason, we had decided to pack two large bags for the family, and check them this time. Upon checking in, we observed that the checked luggage was piled near the area, and we saw one of our bags get on but not the other.  So we hovered and watched about twenty bags go through the queue, before they got to our second bag.

Turns out, that second bag never made it on our flight!  There was a similar-looking suitcase spinning on the carousel, and I thought maybe someone had taken mine, instead.  This was the larger suitcase containing all clothes and shoes for myself and my daughter, as well as our toiletries and borrowed binoculars.  My hubby tells me he added his own toiletries and medications to our bag. too.  Great. Our airline offers $600 if it is lost, but there remains a possibility it could arrive on the next flight which arrives in two hours.  They ask me what uncommon or easily identifiable objects might be inside, in case they need to open it. The first unique item that comes to my mind is my romance novel paperback!

I tell my hubby I think we should take the $600.  I can go to Target or Walmart and shop.  We cannot wait until 2pm to go shopping, because we have to be at the pier by 2:30pm.  So we decide to do this: I take a taxicab to the nearest Target and begin shopping.  Meanwhile, my kids and hubby wait at baggage claim.  Fortunately, I had made sandwiches for everyone, and the kids enjoy those while hubby calls his doctor’s office to see what happens if he doesn’t take his meds for a week.  If the next flight arrives and our bag is not on it, then I purchase.  If our bag arrives, then I just abandon my cart.

I happily sail through the girls and shoes departments throwing items in my cart. This part is very easy, actually, as I’ve now memorized my packing plan and I know what items are needed, and there are many 4th of July sales/ clearance items, as well.  Perusing through Women’s is much less fun, however. I quickly decide just to abstain from swimming and not even buy a swimsuit.  I have to dig deep and search for a black sundress which could double as “formal” night wear.  Four tee shirts, two skirts, one pants, one shorts, all complementary colors per capsule wardrobing.  Darnit, my beloved reversible necklaces are in my suitcase!  I need to buy three bras, jammies, underwear, socks, jewelry for me and hair accessories for my daughter, the whole kit and caboodle.  It’s not completely overwhelming, as I’ve still got my wits about me.  But it is less fun, now. The whole time I am thinking: Thank God I had the sense to keep my anxiety meds in my backpack! I’ve just sailed through health and toothbrushes when my hubby calls with good news:  our bag arrived!  I purchase only a few items and run outside to wait for my family.

Their taxi arrives and I eat my sandwich in the cab.  We are on the phone with the cruiseline, saying we can see the boat from our taxi, we are only 2 miles away.  They say, fine, as long as you are here by 3:30 for the 4pm departure.  And here we were rushing to get there by 2:30 per their instructions.  We meet our family on the pier and check in together.

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Boarding the Explorer of the Seas

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Hubba Hubba!

I’ve brought lanyards for my kid’s Sea Pass Cards, which are our ID’s, room keys, and charge cards while we are on the cruise. Hubby says, “Do I get one of those?”  Uh, no, as you are not a kid. LOL.  Our Jr. Suite is every bit worth the upgrade we paid!  We have a balcony and a walk-in closet, more shelving and drawers than we know what to do with, but most of all, all this space to walk around in the room! Last summer we were in a regular Balcony room, and it was tight quarters.  (We learned to upgrade to a Jr. Suite  when we sailed to Mexico earlier this spring.)  Our nephew is visibly and vocally jealous. I almost feel bad telling them about the walk-in closet.  The closet is really handy though, as it also serves as a private dressing area, which is nice when you are travelling with family. One time, when we were just hanging out in the room, I looked up at the kids and said, Where’s Daddy? They said, In the closet!  (The rocking of the boat had shut the door on him.)  Here are some pics I found online of our Jr. Suite. Beds View Desks View

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Panoramic View from our balcony

We are all starving, so our Party of Nine checks out the Windjammer Café (buffet).  We all decided to go back for seconds and call it our dinner.  Exploring the ship is really fun, there are so many more activities than we are used to.  Arcade, Ping pong, rock wall, mini-golf, and surf simulator.  It’s too cold to surf or golf, though.  My 8 year old daughter proudly carries her notebook wherever we go and takes notes for her daily journal entry.  We end up at the Theater and enjoy a welcome production show including singers, dancers, live musicians, and a comedian.  The Cruise Director is also extremely entertaining. It’s like he is a comedian, too.

We begin our bedtime routine although it is still sunny outside.  Sunset will be at 10:30pm!  The blackout curtains overlap, so its all good.  The boat is rocking, gently, well, moderately.  But I love it.  We are on a boat.

Tomorrow is our first day at sea.  I can’t wait to explore the ship even more!  Plus, it will be Formal Night, which is always fun.

 

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making friends wherever she goes!  a crewmember brought her chocolate milk.

Wednesday Wellness: Cruisin’ 101

Happy Wednesday!  Today I am going to do something a little different for Wednesday Wellness- I am going to talk about how to cruise.  I had never been on a cruise until last year, now I’ve sailed on three.  There’s always a bit of stress when planning and packing and travelling- but with a little preparation,  you can manage the challenges and even practice self-care. Here are some tips I’ve found. 

Cruising 101– choose your destination and your cruise line wisely.  There’s nothing wrong with Princess, but they don’t have a surf simulator like Royal Caribbean, for instance. If you are travelling with kids and multi-generations, make sure there is something for everybody.

The staterooms are small. NO, really.  Even if you have researched and studied Pinterest, as I did, you will not pre prepared for the minuteness of the bathroom and the army barracks of  bunkbeds.  If you pack light and smart, you can deal.  We pack for 4 days, wearing our bulkiest jeans and tennis shoes on the plane.  Plan to do a load of laundry on the ship.  There is not a self-service laundry in every ship- so do your research.  Otherwise you may be spending $30-45 a bag for wash & fold service, but it is a 48 hour turnaround, and what are you going to wear while you are waiting for your laundry?  You can also bring detergent and hand-wash in the tub.  If you have a bathtub, that is.

Hanging Shoe Organizer is a necessity.  Hang this over your bathroom door to increase counter space for your toiletries.  I got mine at Walmart for $3.  Such a space saver.

Travel Surge Protector is another must-have item.  There’s only two plugs in the stateroom, and so this little gizmo increases your ability to charge all your family’s devices.  This one has two usb ports in addition to three American plugs.  If you are travelling internationally, bring a converter, as well.

LED Tea light(s) are important as the rooms get pitch dark.  You don’t want to waste a plug for your kid’s favorite nightlight.  Just bring these.

Hand Wipes my family is never without these.  Cruise ships don’t have toilet seat covers.  Use a wipe to clean the toilet seat before use.

Sticky Notes are great for leaving notes for each other, or for your stateroom attendant.

Trial and Travel size toiletries.  Save money by not paying extra to stow your baggage on the plane. You won’t have too much room in the cabin for all your big bottles of your favorite shampoos, etc., anyway.   These little gems will fit nicely in your shoe organizer.  In addition to shampoo and conditioner (which ships may not provide)remember sunblock, lotion, Clearasil, medications, etc.  If you have curly/ frizzy hair like me, you’ll like this  gem I picked up in Vegas: Frizz-Ease touch up crème.  Though in a pinch, a little hand lotion will also help calm the frizzies. Don’t forget you will be in stale air on the boat for hours at a time.  I recommend eye drops, hand lotion, hair serum, and collagen under-eye treatments.

Now we get to the fun part.  I love travel clothing.  Multi-purpose clothing, skirts with pockets, sundresses that can be worn on formal night, reversible jewelry, mary janes which are great for casual and formal.  Today I am wearing my Essential Dress (2014)from Royal Robbin- works great for casual or even more formal with some sparkly jewelry.  I brought this awesome dress for my recent cruise and wore it for both formal nights- once with my hair down and the green necklace, once with my hair up and the reverse side of the necklace showing.  All clothing should be able to be rolled, for packing.  There are no irons in your room.  But who wants to be ironing anyway?  I brought a wrinkle release spray, but we never used it. My husband and son wore khaki’s and polo shirts to dinner for formal night.  No sweat.  My young daughter wanted to bring 7 dresses,  I let her bring 4 (one of which was reversible).  Pack a maximum of 3 pairs of shoes per person: sneakers (wear on plane and excursions), crocs (for swimming and late night snack breaks), and flats (mary janes for formal and casual dinners).  There is no reason to bring heels when you are on a boat which may be rocking in 100 nautical mile winds. (My son has black tennis shoes, so those also worked for formal night.)  You just need a light sweater/jacket for being on deck, and something water resistant for your excursions.

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Backpacks and totes:  I didn’t bring a purse. I carried a backpack on the plane, as did each of my kids.  I packed collapsible daypacks (drawstring backpacks) for our excursions. At night, I wore a phone purse which also held my cruise card,  lip gloss, and a pack of wipes. My daughter carried her own little purse which also held our Mio (water flavoring)  I also had a passport holder that hangs from one’s neck, and this waterproof phone lanyard which has come in handy while zip-lining on Guam last year!

Kid stuff: my kids pack their own backbacks with activities and books and headphones.  My daughter also brings art supplies. Journals and pens are essential.  I also brought lanyards for each of them for their cruise cards.   A mobile phone/ tablet comes in handy for “down times” but also the cruise selfie scavenger hunt challenge activity.  For excursions in crowded cities last summer, I had them wear brightly colored neon clothing.

Save Money: We didn’t pay extra for beverage plans.  Rather, I paid for a couple of coffee drinks or sodas at random.  I did prepay for the surf-only internet plan for one device.  I would log off and share the code with my husband when he needed to log on for work.  That’s all you need and it was pretty reasonable.  We never dined in the specialty restaurants, which have a $25-40 cover charge (last summer my young daughter proudly ordered alphabet soup at the fancy shi-shi cruise restaurant).  I did order a filet mignon in the main dining room for $16.95 (9 oz.)  (The filet mignon was actually more expensive and only 6 oz in the specialty restaurant.)

Wellness practice There is a gym on board, and we often took the stairs over the elevator.  I had saved money beforehand for a Swedish Massage, which would be my little treat.  I listened to music and meditations if I wanted to tune out.  I brought along books and ebooks. Watercoloring with my daughter was also a highlight of the trip for me.  It is a wonderful way to connect (we honor my dear friend who passed away by continuing her tradition) and preserve memories of the astonishingly beauteous sea- and landscapes.  There are glaciers and whales just off your balcony, and this glorious view from the top. It’s not too hard to be grateful. ❤

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How do you stay well when travelling?

Stay tuned for my travel journal from this Alaskan cruise!