Monday, September 30, 2019

Another Alaskan Adventure! ... Day 8 & 9

Another Alaskan Adventure!
Day 8 & 9
Friday, August 23 & Saturday, August 24

Final sea day! In the morning, the boat was still rocking.

^Aft pool, sloshing!

On the schedule for this morning there was a culinary demo, which was to be followed by a galley tour, but they had to cancel both due to the pitching of the ship. 

I had breakfast at the buffet... pancakes, waffle, bran muffin, a savory tart, apple juice, coffee, and fruit. (Obviously, I'd recovered from my gigantic dinner the previous night.)

At 11am I went to Arts & Crafts, which was being held in Sabitini's. As I walked in, they handed me a bead kit and a charm. 

Then I sat at a table and put together a bracelet. There were only about 15 people there total. It was a nice diversion though.

Afterward, I went back to my room and napped. C'mon, that's what sea days are for!

What are sea days not for? Art auctions. At least for me, anyway. After the insanity of the auction on my last cruise (in which NOBODY BOUGHT ANYTHING AND THEY GAVE AWAY A BIG FLOPPY HAT), I decided to avoid this one, save for taking this one photo as I quickly passed...

At 2pm, I went to an event called Moose Racing. People could place bets on their favorite moose. The movement of the 2-foot-tall wooden figures was determined by dice rolls.

I volunteered to be a moose-mover in 2 of the rounds! Good times.

At 2:45 they had a "Park Ranger Presentation," which was supposedly a video of the park ranger presentation from earlier that week. She'd done a talk during the morning of Glacier Bay day, but since her talk coincided with me being actually outside and looking at nature, I had missed it. 

Unfortunately, the video wasn't actually of her. The audio was of her talking, sure, but up on screen it was just maps and the occasional photo. And actually, they started the video about 15 minutes late... it sounded like the guy running the video wasn't sure which one to play, and had to go ask somebody. Anyway, I left before it was over and soon headed to...

The Voice Of The Ocean!

Three nights previously, I'd attended auditions for The Voice Of The Ocean, and this afternoon was to be the big performance in the Princess Theater. They had told us if we wanted to get a voting device, we should show up at least a half an hour early, so I did. 

By the time the show began, the theater was packed, and there were still people trying to find seats. Some people even sat in the aisles. Are there fire marshals at sea?

It was a really fun show! Some of the singers that performed were ones who I'd heard a few days prior, but some were new to me. Some did better tonight than they'd done before. I guess practice helps. Out of the seven singers, two ladies really stood out. I voted for one of them, and she ended up the big winner! Meanwhile, the judges kept things amusing.

I'd really enjoyed my chocolate milkshake earlier in the week, so tonight I tried a strawberry milkshake. Conclusion: Not as good as chocolate...

As this was the final day on board, I knew I would have to think about packing soon. For the first time on any of my cruises, I actually put out one of my suitcases in the hallway (tagged, of course) to be taken off the ship. It's always kind of a scary thing to think about doing this -- like, what if you accidentally pack your toothbrush and then... oops? Or maybe I worry too much.

Around 7:15 I headed upstairs to get some food, and as I reached the lido deck, I heard a lady on the P.A. gushing about seeing whales. I went outside and, sure enough, whales! I went back to my room for my good camera, but by the time I got back upstairs the whales were gone. I did get some nice scenic shots, though.

Then, onward to the buffet...

After I had some dinner, I went to trivia. It was supposed to start at 8:15 but they didn't start until 8:30. What was going on with the schedule today??

Oh, so at some point the stateroom host had dropped by a log of the cruise. It summarized how far we'd traveled and what the temperature had been on each day.

The typos were particularly amusing...

Ah, yes, Yakutat Bay Day... the day the ocean miraculously came to a full boil.

At some point, I began thinking about my plan for disembarkation day tomorrow. The powers that be had asked that everyone be out of their staterooms by 8:30. After that, we could hang out in any of the public spaces until our departure group got called. My departure time was at 9:45. I planned to then make my way to the Vancouver Art Museum, where I could check my bags. After a few hours there, I'd head for the airport, where I had a 5pm flight.

So how did that all work out?

Well, I'd set the alarm on my phone for 7:30am, and IT DIDN'T GO OFF! So when I opened my eyes the next morning, it was 8:17. Oops.

I scrambled out of bed, took the world's quickest shower, and began tossing everything into my 2 remaining bags. Because I'd risen so late, I didn't have time to recharge my phone or even my spare battery (which I'd been using to power my fan during the night, so it was drained.) And I was going to need my phone to check in for my flight, as soon as I got off the ship and found some wifi. What to do??

Around 8:33, I made my way down to the ship's library/internet cafe, hoping to find a USB port I could tap into. None of the computers had them, though, which I suppose is smart on their part. But after scouring the room, I did find a power strip with open plugs. And since no one was around or seemed to care, I charged my devices.

At some point I ran over and got some coffee and a muffin at the cafe. At 9:45, when it was time to depart, I still hadn't finished my coffee -- and they wouldn't let me take it off the ship, because International Maritime Rules, yada yada. I was really batting a thousand today! So I drank as much as I could. THEN I left the ship. I easily found my suitcase. Finding the way out of the terminal was a little trickier, but eventually I escaped. I began to walk toward the museum.

After a few blocks, I saw a Tim Horton's, so I went in, got some oatmeal and a smoothie, and used their free wifi. 

Then I walked the rest of the way to the Art Museum. I was able to check my 3 bags (they brought out a crate for me to put them all in!) and then I explored the museum. 

I'd been to this museum before, 2 years ago. Most, if not all, of the exhibits had changed in that time. And unfortunately, I just wasn't too impressed by many of the new ones. 

Also, and I know this sounds like a really picky complaint, but one of the constantly-running escalators was making an awful, intermittent high-pitched sound, which could be heard throughout half the museum.

I suppose a photograph doesn't really do the sound justice, but you'll just have to trust me.

Oh, and I'd planned to get lunch at the bistro there, but guess what? Closed for construction! AUGH! Anyway, for all these reasons, I didn't stay at the museum as long as I'd planned.

Shortly after 1pm, I made my way toward the nearest Metro Station and proceeded toward the airport. There, I shuffled around some of the things in my luggage, printed my boarding pass and luggage tag, and passed off my big suitcase to be checked. Then I went through customs and security in a surprisingly smooth manner. I got a few more snacks at the airport Tim Horton's, then sat down at my gate and checked my email. About ten minutes later, I got an email saying my flight's gate had been changed. Instead of Gate 86, my flight would be taking off from gate 94. I know those numbers sound close, but no... Gate 94 was clear across the airport. I think it may have even been in Alberta.

Anyway, new gate. A little while later, we boarded... and it was a crazy tiny plane. 

An hour alter, I was back in Portland!

Some final thoughts about the trip...

What would I do again?

I'd definitely do this itinerary again.

I would certainly consider taking a Princess cruise again.

Speed Painting was a lot of fun! I also enjoyed the Voice Of The Ocean shows. And I always enjoy watching nature go by from the promenade deck, so yes, more of that, please.

I would eat at Sabatini's again. I just might skip a course next time. Just one.

What do I wish I'd done differently?

I seem to have a penchant for trying things twice, just to give them another chance if the first time wasn't so great. Well, enough of that! No more mountain biking tours, and no more swimming while on these northern cruises! Not worth the effort! Now, maybe if I ever do a nice southern cruise on a ship with some awesome water slides... then we'll see about swimming.

I wish, and this is a small thing, that I'd been a bit more relaxed on my day in Anchorage. In hindsight I could have checked my bags at the hotel and then done just the zoo. But maybe I'm only saying that because all that walking really wore me out.

And this isn't really a wish, but in case I ever do this itinerary again, I think I'd like to try taking the train from Anchorage to Whittier. Just for a different perspective. The bus was great, though. Oh, and if I do this again, I want to allow more time at the beginning of the trip so I can take a tour through Denali!

Overall impressions of Princess?

I enjoyed Princess a lot. The activities on board were more appealing to me than the ones on my Holland America Cruise... in fact, they were more in line with the activities offered on Disney. Most of the staff was friendly and professional.

Once again, I had an inside stateroom. (I think the only way I'll ever do a window view again is if its cheaper than an inside, and that hardly ever happens.) Deck 10 was a good location on the Golden Princess. It was halfway between the promenade deck (7) and the lido deck (14), and before you say something mathy, you should know that the ship didn't have a 13th deck. Well, it did, but they named it 14, because ghosts or something. Deck 10 was also a very quiet location. Once or twice I heard my next-door neighbors, but I didn't hear anything above or below.

Other thoughts about my stateroom:

*The shower was super tiny. :(

*I loved the room configuration, especially the location of the closet. (And in retrospect, I like that the closet didn't have doors. Those just slide around making noise on rough sea days.)

*I didn't love not having enough outlets or outlets by the bed, but that seems to be the norm on the older ships, so I won't blame Princess.

*I realized after the cruise, while looking at my photos from my other cruises, that my stateroom didn't have a coffee table or couch this time. Yet I never missed having them.

*The on-board library seemed so neglected. I wanted to stay on board a few extra days and give it some TLC. 

^The book return on disembarkation day. So full the door burst open and nobody did a thing about it.

*Embarkation and disembarkation were pretty straightforward... and quick.

Favorite thing I saw?

Glacier Bay. Everything in Glacier Bay.

Thanks for reading my trip report! Check back soon for a report on my even-more-recent trip to Disneyland and Universal Studios!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Another Alaskan Adventure! ... Day 7

Another Alaskan Adventure!
Day 7
Thursday, August 22

I had a hard time waking up this morning, probably due to my late night of watching Avengers. Still, I had an excursion planned for later, and couldn't stay in bed forever... even though I wanted to.

For breakfast I ate the cookie I'd bought in Skagway, but I thought I might need something else before my excursion. So I went to the International Cafe. Alas, they were switching between breakfast and lunch, and were temporarily not serving any food! I rushed up to the buffet and grabbed a bran muffin, hoping that would be enough to sustain me.

Without having even checked the weather (or gone outside to look) I'd dressed in many layers. Yoga pants and track pants. T-shirt, down vest, hoodie, and rain jacket on top. Two layers of socks. Supposedly waterproof shoes.

As soon as I disembarked, I realized it was drizzling. The rain would continue throughout the day. Oh, Alaska....

The twenty or so people on my excursion, Rainforest Trail Bike & Hike Adventure, met on the pier and boarded a bus. 

We rode through Ketchikan for about 20 minutes. The driver stopped along Creek Street at one point and let us out to look at the salmon swimming upstream. 

Then we drove out of town and into the forest. We made a stop where they divided us into two groups of 10. One group got off the bus, and the rest of us stayed on and were driven a bit farther.

At our final destination, we got off and walked to an area with some gear -- extra clothes and stuff. (Not very many size choices, though.) I was amazed to see that two of the men in my group were wearing shorts! One of them opted to don some of the provided pants, but one guy did the whole tour bare-legged. 

^My "before" picture.

Our group did the hike first. (The other group did the bikes first.) The hike was very short. Nothing too interesting. (Which is to say, I saw no bears.) We made a big loop. 

About two-thirds of the way through the hike we stopped at a clearing where there was a fire pit and a picnic area. There were snacks waiting for us: clam chowder, coffee, cocoa, bread, jam, salmon spread, chocolate mints, and even fishie crackers.

After 15-20 minutes we left the picnic area and walked to another sheltered area, where we chose bikes and helmets. 

Now, I could have sworn that when I was reading the description for this excursion, it said that we'd be riding electric bikes. But I think I might have seen the electric bikes thing on another website, for a slightly different excursion ("Ketchikan Electric Bike And Rainforest Hike Ecotour" -- similar in price, but not offered through Princess.) 

Because, yeah... the bikes they gave us, here, were typical non-electric mountain bikes with really uncomfortable seats. So that was disappointing -- for me, anyway.

I'd also gotten the impression that this would be a leisurely ride. (Again, I think I'd read that on the other excursion's website.) There was nothing easy about this ride. Sure, there weren't very many hills, but there were numerous rocks and ruts and puddles along the trail. Plus, rain was hitting me in the face, and I really, really hate those unforgiving bike seats. Every once in a while there'd be a stretch of road/path where there weren't any rocks or holes, and on those occasions, riding was kind of fun and exhilarating. 

^My "Yay, I guess?" picture.

The guide and 7 of the others in our group seemed to be right at home with the bikes and the terrain. They sped ahead and would have to stop every now and then to let me and this older couple catch up. (I was faster than the older couple, but a few times I chose to ride behind them.) It was kind of eerie, at times, being "alone" on the trail. What if something had happened? I had no way to communicate with the guide, who led the pack. Maybe she would have come back to look for me, eventually....

Finally, it was over. Everyone had gotten muddy. The front of my pants and the back of my rain jacket took the most of it. Some people had muddy faces, but at least I was spared there. You can imagine what happened to the legs of the guy who was wearing shorts.

^My "I'm still alive, right?" "After" picture.

I still might try an electric bike tour someday. But I will make absolutely sure that that is what I actually book. I'm done with mountain bikes on tours. They're just not my friend.

We returned to the bus and were driven back to the pier. Despite looking like I'd just rolled in mud, I stopped at a few souvenir shops to get some last-minute gifts.

Back on the ship, in my stateroom, I began peeling off my layers. Every single thing I was wearing was muddy or wet. My shoes were less waterproof than I'd thought, and they were out for the count for the rest of the cruise. After taking a shower, I rinsed the mud off my pants and jacket, and hung everything up to dry. (Which was quite a feat, considering the small size of the shower stall.)

After my shower, I felt a bit better, although I was still tired. I decided not to nap, though, because I had a dinner reservation at 5:15. Earlier in the week I'd gotten a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants, Sabatini's. 

Prior to dinner, I popped into trivia. After winning the Disney trivia the other night, I still wanted to play trivia, just not officially. (I'd just keep my scorecard to myself.) 

I got 14 out of 20; the team that won got 18. The most amusing part of this event was listening to a nearby group of people -- probably in their 60s -- bemoaning half of the questions. ("Video games? How should I know?" "MUSIC? The only music I know about is The Beatles!") They were literally saying these things; it was beautiful. They should have asked me to join their team, although to be fair, two of the questions I missed were about video games and music, so maybe I wouldn't have been much help.

After trivia, I made my way toward Sabatini's...

I was seated at my own table and ordered a club soda. There was an assortment of bread -- a loaf of crispy-ish bread, a long bread stick, and these potato-flour rolls that came with a kind of tomato-y dipping sauce. Alongside all this bread was a dish of olive oil for dipping.

For my Antipasti course I got the Alici -- Fried zucchini and yellow squash, smoked scamorza, and toasted house-made crostini. (Anchovies were optional. Hint: if you go to any restaurant on a cruise ship, it can't hurt to tell your server you're a vegetarian.)

Soup & Salad - I got the Grana Padana Fondue -- Celery, foraged mushrooms, and toasted hazelnuts.

It was basically a soup. And it was very delicious.

Dal Pastaio - I got the Risotto -- Vialone nano rice, beets, and gorgonzola dolce latte.

It wasn't as good as the previous courses, but it was okay.

Secondi Piatti - Polenta Soffice -- Soft polenta with mushrooms, fresh mozarella, and a truffle essence.

I did enjoy the overall taste. The cheese was so stringy! I wasn't a big fan of the polenta, though. And by now I was getting quite full. So maybe I shouldn't have ordered dessert after this, but...

Dessert - I chose a "sampler" of the four main desserts:

*A vanilla/wine one with strawberries
*A fruit compote
*A ferrero rochert chocolate concoction.

Sampler? Ha. Each dish held what any other restaurant would call an actual dessert.

The people at the table next to mine ordered just the ferrero rochert, and it basically came in a fishbowl.

I sampled each. Really, I did my best.

I'd purposely not eaten much throughout the day in anticipation of this meal. I'd had the cookie and the muffin for breakfast. I'd had a few snacks during the excursion (bread, jam, fishie crackers, mints.) But that was it. I thought I had room for a six-course meal.

As I waddled out of the restaurant afterwards, I thought I might explode. I made it back to my stateroom and almost immediately went to sleep. Three hours later, my stomach seemed to have settled. Which was a good thing, considering the ship had started moving like a rocking horse in an earthquake. 

As I looked over the itinerary for the next day -- our final Sea Day -- I saw lots of activities I wanted to do... in fact, some things conflicted with others, so I would have some choices to make....

What would I do on the final day at sea? Find out next time! In the meantime, enjoy this random gallery of ship officers....

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