Jay's Internet Log

Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 1 – Boston –> Seattle –> Ruby Princess

by on Jun.01, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

On departure, Ruby Princess will cruise through Elliot Bay into Puget Sound. At Point Wilson, Ruby Princess will sail into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As we cruise the Strait, the Olympic Peninsula lies to our port and Vancouver Island to starboard.

Travelling to get to a cruise is never the best part about it, and this was no exception. I’ve actually been dreading this for about a week now as all we’ve seen on the news are nightmare stories about how long the TSA lines were at all major airports. We had a 7:00AM flight, but arrived at the airport at 4:00AM. We were second in line for the Alaska Airlines booth, which opened at 4:45AM. After checking our luggage, we were sent towards the TSA line, which wasn’t open until 5:00AM. We were also second in line for them. They got us through quickly and efficiently so that we could sit at the gate for two hours. This sure was better than missing our flight! The plane trip was uneventful, and we arrived in Seattle around 9:30AM local time. We took a shuttle to the pier along with some passengers who were on Holland America Amsterdam, which was also in port.

This is my 14th cruise with Princess, and I’m currently sitting at 145 days at sea. I’m calling this trip Alaska LPC 2016 because this is my Last Platinum Cruise with Princess Cruises. At 150 days at sea, I’ll be pushed into Elite status within the Captain’s Circle, which basically means that we get to have our laundry done for us. This may not sound like much, but it really is. Mom and Dad aren’t traveling with us this time, so it’s just Heather and I.

Once we boarded Ruby Princess, we ran all around the ship getting treasure hunt stamps for the raffle, only to be told that the raffle wasn’t until tomorrow, but that wasn’t correct, so long story short; we missed the raffle drawing due to incorrect information provided by multiple people at the passenger services desk. This did not make me very happy, as we generally do well with this particular raffle.

We stopped into the Lotus Spa in order to sign up for the Thermal Suite, which used to be called the Sanctuary before Princess Cruises made the Sanctuary something entirely different. The Thermal Suite is a set of steam rooms and saunas, which are just incredible. Heather loves them, and the Lotus Spa limits the number of people who can visit them to 40 per cruise, so we always beeline it to the Spa as soon as we board.

We had a little pasta and some slices of pizza, all of which I couldn’t taste one bit, but more on that a little later. For dinner, I had some prime rib and Heather had Alaskan Cod. She liked it a lot. I can’t tell you if I liked the prime rib or not because I’m just getting over some extreme congestion. We were surrounded by amazing food, none of which I can taste in the least. I knew that the pizza was good and crunchy, but unfortunately, I couldn’t taste it. After dinner, Heather gave me some medicine, which I took along with some NyQuil, then promptly went to bed at around 8:30. I slept very well.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 2 – At Sea

by on Jun.01, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

This morning, we will continue our northwesterly course off the western shores of Vancouver Island. We will pass Cape Scott, enter the Queen Charlotte Sound at lunchtime, and for the remainder of the day, steer a northerly course through the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance.

It’s nice to have an at-sea day after a long travel day. I slept until about 8AM, so close to 12 hours, which I desperately needed. We woke and went up to the buffet for some breakfast, and I let Heather know that I could somewhat breathe out of my nose… at breakfast, I was able to taste both the fruit AND the bacon, so I feel as though I may be getting back in business. I did however take a 2-hour nap afterwards, so I might be jumping the gun a bit.

For lunch, I had lamb medallions and shoestring fries, and they were great. We had to skip dessert because at 2PM, I had an appointment to get the Royal Shave, which is a not-so-inexpensive shave with facial and scalp/neck massage. I also had a haircut because I was being told that I needed one for the past few weeks. This is the second time I’ve had the Royal Shave; last time was onboard Royal Princess when Dad and I got them done side-by-side. Now, if you’re thinking about how lame this might be for a man to get, I don’t really care… it’s awesome, and I won’t stop getting them on each cruise!

When I returned to the room, Heather was in a deep sleep.When she awoke, we walked around the ship for a bit before dinner.Tonight is formal night, and since we’re relaxing this trip, we’re skipping all the formal aspects.Yesterday, we found out that there were two formal nights this cruise, so we booked reservations at the Crown Grill for both nights as they don’t require you to wear formal attire. I also really like the Crown Grill. It costs a little money, but they have some amazing steaks. I had French Onion Soup, a salad, and a 22 oz. Porterhouse steak. It was tough to finish, but I did! For dessert, a few waiters serenaded us as we’re celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary on this trip. We also tried a dessert sampler, which Heather really liked.

We decided to take a walk around the Promenade deck after dinner. The Grand class ships have Promenade decks where you can walk the entire circumference of the ship, and it’s really a great experience. The Promenade deck on the Royal class ships however are basically useless for this, as much of them are barricaded off. We also went up to the observation deck, on top of the bridge. It was SO very windy up there, and we spent just a few minutes up there before heading back inside. We’re now back in the room, getting ready for bed as we have an early morning tomorrow. Luckily, we’re setting the clocks back an hour!

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 3 – Ketchikan, Alaska

by on Jun.01, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

In the early hours we will cross the International Border into Alaskan waters and embark our SE Alaskan Pilot off Twin Island. Various northwesterly courses will then be followed through the Revillagigedo Channel and Tongass Narrows towards our berth. On departure, we will continue through the scenic Tongass Narrows and into the Clarence Strait. At around 7:15PM, we will approach and then transit Snow Passage. Overnight, various courses will be followed through Sumner & Chatham Strait, Fredrick Sound, and Stephens Passage.

We slept in until the wee hours of 5:00AM as the sun started rising around 4:30, after setting at about 10:30PM last night. When we opened the curtains, we saw lots of pine trees as we approached Ketchikan.

As we got closer, we saw some boats, and folks with binoculars on the deck above us spotted three Eagles across the water. Binoculars are one of the items that we didn’t bring on this trip as we were trying to fit everything into one piece of luggage.

We had a quick breakfast and then walked off the ship to meet our tour group on the pier. I noticed that there were three ships in port: Ruby Princess, Grand Princess, and Holland America Zaandam. We walked a few blocks to our tour, which was a repeat of one we did back in 2010, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. One of the lumberjacks came onboard yesterday, and we talked with him for a while. His name is Boone and his father is the owner of the Lumberjack show.  

He told us that for the last year, he’s lived out of his truck, and travels between Colorado, Alaska, Wisconsin, and Florida. He was part of the show today, and gave me a post card signed by all the lumberjacks. We bought some calendars on the way out. YO HO! (That’s what lumberjacks yell).

We walked around town for a bit, got yelled at by a local for not walking in the crosswalk even though there was no traffic, and made our way over to the famous Creek Street. This is an area with shops that in the gold rush days were brothels. They’re raised up over a creek on what seems like wooden docks. We were told yesterday from a crewmember that there were salmon jumping up the creek, but we didn’t see any. After Creek Street, we made our way back to the ship. There was now a fourth ship in pier, but I could not make out the name. It was quite a bit smaller than the rest of the ships.

Once onboard, we bee lined it to get cheeseburgers and pizza, both of which had lines 10+ long. At 2:00PM, we went to the Princess Theater to watch the movie Brooklyn, which was nice. After the movie, we headed back to the Thermal Suite and sat in the steam rooms for a bit. It’s now dinnertime, and we don’t have much planned for the evening. Tomorrow is a very early day of sightseeing, so we may not do much tonight.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 4 – Tracy Arm Fjord & Juneau, Alaska

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

At 5:00AM we expect to cross the narrow, shallow ‘Bar’ and enter Tracy Arm, and at 5:40AM round ‘Big Bend’. Our progress through Tracy Arm is very dependent on the ice conditions, which change on a daily basis, further broadcasts by our Naturalist to update you will be made during the course of the morning. At around 9:00AM we re-cross the ‘Bar’ of Tracy Arm and set a northerly course into Stephens Passage. At 11:00AM we will enter the Gastineau Channel en-route to Juneau. On departure, we will retrace our steps back down through the Gastineau Channel and then overnight transit Stephens Passage, Favorite Channel, the Lynn Canal, and Taiya Inlet towards Skagway. 

Well, it was bound to happen someday. Last night, we had some really bad service in the dining room. This whole trip, the dining room staff has appeared overworked, and tonight was the straw that broke the camel’s back. First of all, we are sitting in Anytime Dining, which we don’t usually do as we’re usually traveling with Mom and Dad, who require set meal times.  No matter when we arrive at the dining room on this voyage, be it for lunch or dinner, there is never a table for two available, and we are made to share with others.  This is fine and all, but the staff at the door has been very rude to us, which is something that I don’t normally see on a Princess Cruise.  The day before, we walked into the dining room to see over 5 empty tables for two, but none available for us to use.  So last night, we were told that the only table available was for six people, and there was another couple waiting with us, so they seated the four of us at that table.  As soon as we were about to order, another couple joined us, so we then had to wait for them to look at the menu and order.  Dinner has not taken any less than two hours this entire cruise, with wait staff running around crazy-like, and noticeably sweating. I ordered a Curtis Stone-inspired Chicken and Leek Pot Pie, which on paper sounds very good, but as soon as I cut into it, I noticed what looked like mushrooms, which prompted a head waiter to come and tell me that there aren’t any mushrooms in it.  It was apparent, but I also found out that Ruby Princess is running wait staff of 1 team per roughly 20 guests.  This sure explains why dinner takes so long.  I really feel bad for these waiters and junior waiters. This head waiter reserved a table for two for Heather and I for the rest of the cruise.  I’ll let you know how that works out in a future post, and that’s all the negativity that I’m going to spew today. We’re here to relax, and that’s what we’re going to do!

[short update post-cruise] – Best Head Waiter Ever

We awoke at 5:00AM and opened the blinds up to the absolutely stunning views of Tracy Arm Fjord.

This place is magical, with lush forests that turn into huge rock formations that tower over this large ship. The last time we were here, we got a balcony breakfast, which was awesome. Today however, we dropped some laundry off and had some fruit for breakfast, before heading up onto the Observation Deck to check out the scenery up there. Two small boats had tied themselves to us for tours that we had thought about jumping on, but never did. These tours must only be offered on the large ships, as they can’t make it up too far into Tracy Arm. They then take you further up while the ship turns around and heads to Juneau. The tour guests will meet us in Juneau later in the afternoon. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I’d like to do that tour in the future.

In comparison to the last time we were in Tracy Arm Fjord on Royal Princess (currently Fathom Adonia [my favorite ship currently sailing]), we barely scratched the surface of Tracy Arm. As we started our way out, Heather and I went down to the Thermal Suite and sat in the tubs and steam rooms for a bit. My body got so hot that I had to cool down afterwards by walking around the open deck in my swim trunks, flip-flops, and an undershirt. All sorts of people bundled up in winter gear looked at my like I had three heads, but it was very refreshing.

We had a quick lunch of cheeseburgers and pizza before the ship arrived in Juneau.  Holland America Zaandam, Grand Princess, and Coral Princess were already in port. Our only tour today wasn’t really a tour, but we bought tickets to go up a tram that has a great lookout over Juneau. I didn’t know that there were all sorts of hiking trails up there as well. We looked around the gift shop and Heather saw a magnet that she wanted to get for her sister, but we figured we could just get it down in one of the shops below later on. We sat in on some local folk music being performed, visited an Eagle that they have in captivity up there, and then took a short hike up to some observation areas to get some photos.  This is probably the best “deal” for a tour in Alaska.  It cost around $35 per person to ride the tram all day, and there’s more to do up there than just look down, though looking down is worth the price of admission alone!

We then took the tram back down and walked around the various gift shops. Not a single one had that magnet that we saw up top, so on the way back to the ship, we decided to take the tram back up since our tickets were good for the whole day. We bought a few magnets, then headed back down. We’re now in the room getting ready for dinner, which I hope is a whole lot better than it has been so far this trip.

Libby Riddles is onboard to give a lecture tonight, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to catch up with her. She’s a dog musher who was the first female to win the Iditarod. We met her back in 2010 when she came onboard for the same type of thing.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 5 – Skagway, Alaska

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

Once clear of the berth we will set a southerly course back down the Taiya Inlet & Lynn Canal. At 5:45PM we will pass the historic town of Haines on our starboard side and then at approximately 6:45PM we will pass Eldred Rock Light. As we continue to head south, it is worth staying on the upper decks as providing the visibility is clear, the view of the mountains, glaciers, and general landscape is particularly dramatic.

Before I start with today’s entry, I must touch upon dinner last night. After having some issues a few nights back, one head waiter told us that if we ask for him by name, he will have a table for two set up for us each night for the rest of the cruise. Dinner last night was fantastic. It was Italian night, and our head waiter sat us at a table for four, but just for the two of us. He provided us with some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. He made us some fresh pasta that was very spicy and good. We also had spaghetti and meatballs, prosciutto and melon, and I had braised pot roast while Heather had Alaskan Cod. The service was excellent and exactly what I’ve come to know Princess Cruises for in terms of “dinner”.

Last night, two people were late getting on the ship, but we waited for them like always. I’ve never seen a Princess ship leave passengers ashore, even though it is threatened. I think it’s just that though. This time, the culprit came running towards the ship with a 12-pack of Heineken in hand, noticeably intoxicated. My guess is that they lost track of time in some Juneau bar.

Today we were in Skagway, which is my favorite port on this itinerary. This is Heather’s second time here and my fourth. This will also be the fourth time that I’ve taken the White Pass & Yukon narrow gauge railroad up the mountain. If I had to only choose a single Alaskan tour in any port we visit this trip, the train ride would be it. As soon as we were allowed in the train area, I booked it to the front car, right next to the engine. This happened to be a brand new car, with a nice balcony on it. The train takes you up 3000 feet above the ships in Skagway, into British Columbia, with breathtaking views the entire way. At the top, a conductor comes and detaches the engine from all the cars, then takes it and attaches it to the other end of the train, meaning that the ride down is much more relaxing than the noisy ride up. All you hear are the click-clack of the tracks as you descend the mountain. It’s very relaxing.

After the train dropped us off in town, we walked back over to our ship, had a quick burger and pizza, then headed back into the town of Skagway in order to shop, mail some items back home, and hopefully find Robert Lee (LeeBob) who we met in 2010 and bought a totem pole that he made. We entered the shop where we bought the piece, only to see that he wasn’t there, but a new, 6+ foot tall version of it was in the window. We inquired about him from a woman who ended up being his aunt, and she told us that he was at one of three possible stores, but wasn’t sure which one. We ended up tracking him down at an ulu and knife shop, and chatted with him a bit. It really felt good to catch up with LeeBob, and we exchanged email addresses.

We mailed our items home and continued to shop around. We picked up a small carving that was made out of an antler for our display case at home, then headed back to the ship. We headed to the Thermal Suite for about 30 minutes, then got ready for dinner.

Dinner tonight was just as excellent as last night. I had country-fried chicken while Heather had scallops, and we shared a few pieces of chicken on sticks. When we came back to the room tonight, there was a large, bright rainbow outside our room, and salmon jumping all over the water. It was really beautiful.

 It’s now 8:30PM and Heather’s in bed. Star Wars TFA is playing up under the stars in 30 minutes and I’m hoping to go watch it, but it is absolutely freezing outside now, so I may just go watch a few minutes, as they’re playing it inside tomorrow afternoon, and that’s more Heather’s speed… especially since she’s already in her pajamas. There is a stargazing lecture where they turn the deck lights out at 11:00PM, so if I can stay up that late, I’d like to try it out, but we have bamboo massages at 8:00AM tomorrow, so I’m not quite sure. We’ll see.

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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 6 – At Sea

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

Our two SE Alaskan Pilots will disembark at 11:00AM and we continue on a Southerly course down through the Chatham Strait. At 5:30AM we will enter the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska / North Pacific Ocean and set a Southeasterly course, taking us past the Prince of Wales Island, Dixon Entrance, and Haida Gwaii Islands. Late tonight we will pass to the west of Cape Scott, the northern most tip of Vancouver Island, and will continue off its Western shores on a Southeasterly heading towards the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

I didn’t make it far into Star Wars last night, but that was expected due to the temperature here in Alaska this early in the cruising season. Clouds also rolled in while I was up there, so I decided against staying up to see stars, as I don’t think I would have.

We awoke this morning at 7:00AM as we both had massages booked at 8:00AM. My massage was basically 75 minutes of getting beat up with bamboo sticks by a very strong Romanian woman. As I write this 8 hours later, my legs are still in pain. I very rarely get massages, and I sit at a computer all day, so my muscles were very tight. Afterwards, I met Heather in the Thermal Suite, and then we came back to the room.

Heather went off to get her nails done, while I started my very last load of laundry ever on a Princess ship. This wasn’t so easy though, since this is a huge ship and it’s the last sea day of this voyage. I went to decks 9, 10, 11, 12, and 14 just to see every single washing machine full. As my last hope, I wandered down to deck 8 to see two machines empty.

I started them up, put some soap in them, then headed back to the room to grab the clothes. After dropping them off, I had some fries and a Diet Coke. When I went to change the clothes over, Heather showed up with beautiful nails. We then went and had our normal lunch of cheeseburgers, fries, and pizza. You really can’t go wrong with that combination on a Princess ship!

At 1:45PM, we watched in full, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s always fun to watch with people who have never seen it before, and this theater was packed full of them. We had a blast. Heather’s now taking a nap before dinner tonight, which we’ll have in the Crown Grill again. I’m thinking that I might try their lamb chop and maybe a small steak.



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Alaska LPC 2016 – Day 7 – Victoria, British Columbia

by on Jun.03, 2016, under Alaska 2016, General, Vacation

At lunchtime, we will pass Cape Flattery on the Washington Olympic Peninsula and enter the Strait of Juan De Fuca. At around 5:00PM, we will cross the International Boundary into Canadian Waters and set a Northerly heading past Race Rocks on our Port side. At 5:45PM, we will embark our Canadian Pilot by boat on the Starboard side and enter the harbor to be all-fast on our berth by 7:00PM. On departure, the Canadian Pilot will disembark and a Southerly course will be set towards Port Angeles where we will embark our Puget Sound Pilot at approximately 1:20AM. An East and then Southerly course will be set into Puget Sound towards Seattle where we will all fast alongside at 6:00AM.

I mentioned yesterday that I “might try their lamb chop and maybe a small steak”. Well, that’s true to an extent. I did have their insanely amazing lamb chops, along with a rather large and excellent NY Strip Steak, while Heather had filet mignon and four lobster tails. Also, we shared garlic fries, mashed potatoes, salads, French Onion Soups, freshly-baked rolls, ice cream, and a sampling of four different desserts. It was amazing as the Crown Grill usually is. This is the first time that we’ve visited them twice on a single voyage, and I’m glad that we did.  After dinner, we watched an episode of The Love Boat and went to bed at around 10:00PM.

We slept in today all the way until 8:00AM, which is the record for this trip. We got up and went to the Thermal Suite to sit in the hot tubs and steam rooms for a bit before we got packing. There’s not a whole lot going on today, so we’ll be packing our bags most of the time so that we’re ready for our tour later on. We’ll be revisiting the Enchanting Buchtart Gardens, so I hope it doesn’t rain later on!

Mid-afternoon, I saw what ended up being the Norwegian Pearl coming up strong and close on our port side, and as it got closer, both ships entered heavy fog. This was the first time this trip that we’ve seen such dense fog, and it was a lot of fun listening to the two ships blow their fog horns back and forth to each other. We were the last ship to dock in Victoria, after the Pearl and Holland America Amsterdam.

After dinner of Tom Turkey and custom-made French Onion Soup, we returned to the room to find my Captain’s Circle information, which made me very happy!

The Buchtart Gardens were phenomenal as always. I think we were a bit early in the season, as many of the flowers weren’t much more than buds at this time, but it was still an amazing trip. It was good and dark by the time we left the gardens, and once we got back on board Ruby Princess, we had enough time to put our luggage outside the door and get a 5-hour nap.

As I said in the first post, the main reason for this trip was to get Elite status in the Captain’s Circle club, and that goal was attained, along with some much-needed relaxation.  I’m now very-much looking forward to our next voyage!

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