Showing posts with label Island Princess May '18. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Island Princess May '18. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska: Post-Cruise Wrap Up

It was a bit of a sad day today. Not necessarily because the cruise itself is over but because we have a couple dear crew members we wish we could have had more time with. And at the most traveled guest brunch we saw one we had lost track of. We are so bummed we didn’t see him earlier in the trip! We did get his contact info so we can keep in touch and will be sure to follow him to his next contract. Yeah, we’re unusual cruisers. We don’t choose a ship for the itinerary; we choose it for who is working on the ship. Since our focus is the crew, we don’t get too upset if things go wonky with food or weather or the cabin or entertainment. We head onto the Golden Princess on Saturday. Why? Because a particular crew member we’ve sailed with is working on the ship. It’s his last week on the ship before vacation so we wanted to be on that voyage before he heads home.

If you’re looking to know what time groups started disembarking, here’s the info sheet from this cruise.

While we are not the typical cruiser, I did make some notes about the trip that may be of interest to others:

*Weather: We’ve made this voyage many times and have found that no matter the month, the weather is a crapshoot. We’ve been sunburned in May, fogged in in June, and frozen in July. That’s one reason we do the two-week trips so often is because it gives us a better chance of finding some good weather somewhere. The weather was spectacularly sunny for the first few days then turned out icky the last few. This sailing was remarkably smooth up until the point we left Glacier Bay.

*Naturalist: We’ve sailed with Mark Harris before. He not only does bridge commentary but also does multiple presentations in the theater throughout the cruise. On some ships we’ve had someone coming on anytime there have been pods of whales around the ship but we didn’t get any of that this trip. We did see more orcas at the first part of the trip than I think we’ve ever seen. The waters were smooth so it certainly made it easier to spot them. Plus I spent a lot of time early on in the cruise on a lounger writing in the covered pool area so my eyes were always glancing up.

*Food: Food is subjective so unless something really stinks we don’t complain much. We did do specialty dining one night at the Bayou Café. We booked when we got on the ship but by then there weren’t many early times left. If you have a specific night, time, and venue that is important to you, book ahead. As for dressing for dinner, some people dressed up and some people dressed more casually. We didn’t eat in the main dining room so I don’t know if anyone was turned away for not wearing something fancy on formal night. We mostly ate at the buffet which was always crowded. They’ve done away with the hand sanitizing stations and only have sinks for handwashing. Crew direct passengers to wash but weren’t consistent with everyone. I washed my hands before but also used my own hand sanitizer after going through. There were several people eating in the buffet, munching on rolls, crackers, and even fries. They need to do a better job at telling people to not eat until out of the line. Since there is no International Café on this ship, hubby just bypassed Deck 5 coffee and would give a server at the buffet his coffee card and never had a problem getting his Americano pretty quickly. There is a bar area near the breakfast bakery items/dessert area where they go to get it.

*Cruise director and activities: Callie Smit was our cruise director. We’ve been with him before on both Caribbean and Panama Canal cruises. We don’t participate much in activities but we do sometimes watch. He is the most involved cruise director we’ve ever seen. He doesn’t just leave his staff to go do the activities – he’s out there participating with them. And the number of activities planned was, well, a lot. Not just bingo and trivia on this cruise. As for the shows, we’ve been to all the shows many times over. We feel old and we get tired so we don’t go anymore.

*Cabin: We had an obstructed oceanview cabin, E509. It was nice and close to the elevators and near the library. The bed is placed under the window like you would find with obstructed oceanview on the Coral. The cabin steward wasn’t the best. It was his first cruise back from vacation and it seemed like he struggled to get back into the groove of things and even remember simple things like ice and replacing the toilet paper. Nothing big enough to complain about, just enough to make it noticeable.
*Passengers: Mostly older folks and a lot of newbie cruisers, which is typical for a May Alaska cruise. There were probably no more than a dozen kids (if that many) total. Once school is out there will be plenty of families on board, but it’s just a bit too early for that. It was a quiet group which was nice. As former teachers with over 60 years of experience between us we rather enjoy the quiet respite from kiddos.

*Dry dock changes: The Island had a dry dock back in November. There is new carpet, mattresses, and new huge TVs in the cabins. The new TVs are like the TVs on the Royal and Regal – except they’ve put these new TVs in the corner where the older ones were. They don’t fit. And they still don’t have the on-demand feature that is on the Royal and Regal. So it is basically the nice TV without all the nice programming. Hubby was bummed when the sports and news channels weren’t available when we were docked in Skagway.
A couple oddities:
*When we switched out our elite minibar for some Diet Coke, it was Diet Coke from Chile (Coca Cola Sin Azucar). Island did the South America 60 day voyage this year and they are still using up their supplies from that trip. It definitely tastes different than the American Diet Coke. According to a knowledgeable source, the minibar swaps and bars on the ship are using up the South America stock and dining rooms have access to the regular US stuff. I’m guessing they have to be getting close to using it up.

*The first time I used the shower it felt like it wasn’t draining but I wear glasses and couldn’t tell for sure. I stopped the shower and grabbed my glasses and by that time it had overflowed and flooded the bathroom with about an inch of water. I threw the bathroom towels down and a couple pool towels that had been left in the cabin and it still didn’t soak it all up. (I probably should have dried myself off first!) I called passenger services and they sent someone up within a half hour or so. By that time the water had drained out of the shower and I noticed the drain was full of long hair. I have short spiked hair so it was from a previous guest. Yuck. Maintenance plunged it and someone else cleaned up the bathroom and we never had a problem after that.

*And not an oddity but something that surprises me every time – passenger conversations. Everyone is an expert, or so they think. One night we overheard a guy in Crooners talking about the “Johnson Act”. He meant the Jones Act, which means he really meant the PSVA. I really wanted to insert myself in the conversation to correct him – he was giving out so much wrong information – but I just let it go. Who is going to believe that a young-looking 52 year old female knows more about cruising than a gray haired 70 year old man? Not that I know it all, but I do know a lot.

If you’re looking for the log of the cruise, you can find it here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Last Day

Hubby and I are on the younger side (at least in the cruising world). Other passengers sometimes assume it’s our first cruise. Start bragging to us about them being Elite. 16 cruises they say. And they proceed to tell us all about Princess and the ship and blah, blah, blah. Sometimes their language is condescending and they treat us like we’re stupid and don’t know anything. I’ve now started becoming a bit bolder when they behave that way. I’ve been using the Oh, you’re just baby cruisers line on them. Which leads them to asking how many cruises we’ve been on. When I tell them how many (it’s a high number) it shuts them up. I don’t like having to pull that line but sometimes I can’t stand being treated like an idiot. Anyone who knows me knows I’m about as far from an idiot as you can get. So now we try and avoid conversations with passengers as much as possible and choose a table for two no matter the venue.

Today was the Most Traveled Guest Brunch, the gathering for the 40 passengers with the most days at sea on Princess Cruises. (Side note: most traveled guest had 1024 days.) I don’t know where we fell in the mix but on Alaskan cruises we are nearer to the top of the forty than the bottom. At these parties we get questioned a lot. I can see the wheels turning in the minds of some of the passengers at these gatherings, trying to figure out how we could be in the same room with them. Last year on this same ship I had a gentlemen practically insist I tell him how many days I’ve been with Princess. He couldn’t let it go. So even at these most traveled parties we try and get a table to ourselves.

And today we were lucky enough to snag one. We’ve been to the cocktail party, the luncheon, and the brunch before. We’ve learned to always go on an empty stomach.

They started by bringing around some breakfast items. Parfait, mini blueberry pancakes, some fruit, eggs benedict. (We skipped the eggs, so I added the fruit and seafood salad to the breakfast photos.)
We also had some tasty chicken in a nice sauce, bacon-wrapped scallops, a yummy spicy potato triangle thingy, and a mini lamb chop in another nice sauce. They came around with several other items that we skipped.
They also served desserts. Tasty, tasty, tasty.

This evening the ship will be doing scenic cruising in College Fjord. The weather doesn’t look the best so the fjord won’t be nearly as beautiful as on the sunny days. I have some interviews to finish up with crew so I may not make it outside during that time. I have plenty of pictures from years past so I’m okay not taking any others. (Update - I made it outside just long enough to snap one photo.)

And it was good old packing day. We usually stay two weeks on the ship in Alaska, but we are joining the Golden in a few days to meet up with another of our dear crew members so packing time it is. Since we don’t shop, and we came to the ship with a suitcase stuffed full of goodies for the two crew members on the Island, we now get to leave with a half empty suitcase. Sure like that!

Here is today’s Patter. This week has gone way too fast. If I can get some wi-fi tomorrow I will do a trip wrap-up.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay is always a special day. Park rangers were on all morning giving commentary but fog and drizzle and rain and a very biting wind made it not the best day for seeing the beauty all around. We’ve been here before so we know how spectacular it can be on sunny days when you can see forever. While the voyage through Glacier Bay was a bit of a bust, Margerie Glacier’s frequent calving made up for it. Today I was able to capture the blue of the glacier and then a second photo of the glacier calving at the same moment a seagull was flying by. My best photos of the day, I think.
There is nothing like hearing the crack of the glacier and then seeing the chunks crashing into the water. I never get tired of listening to it and watching it fall.

Today is pub lunch (the line was huge so we skipped it), the Elite Wine Tasting (skipping it because it’s always the same) the Captains Circle Party (skipping it because we get tired of the how many cruises have you been on questions) and formal night (I don’t have a good excuse why we’re skipping that one). I guess it kind of sounds like we’re pretty boring cruisers.

There is probably some truth in that. I’m working on two new books right now so a lot of my time is being spent writing and doing interviews on the ship. It has been a fun way to spend the days but it also means I don’t do much else. There is a crafts class today I might partake in. My tagline is cruising and crafting so it might be a good idea to get to a craft class while on a cruise.

Tomorrow is College Fjord scenic cruising, packing day, and the Most Traveled Passenger Brunch (which we will attend).

Here is today’s Patter.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Skagway and Dogsledding

Skagway is another port where we’ve done everything possible. The last few years we have just gone into town to eat. We either go to the place with the best patty melt in the world (by my standards) at Sweet Tooth Café or have the best Thai food in Alaska (again, by my standards) at Starfire. But today I had to knock something off my non-bucket list.


My first choice for dogsledding has been flying in a helicopter, landing on a glacier, and being pulled by sled dogs. But every year I look at the price of that excursion – in excess of $500 per person – and my first choice gets bumped out of the running. I can’t justify spending that kind of money on something that only lasts a partial day. I can either cruise for a week or go on a dogsledding adventure for the same price. It’s not a hard decision. So choice number two.
Dogsledding on dirt. Pulled by dogs while riding on a wheeled sled on a rainy day. Not the same – not even close – but it did the trick. And we got to hold puppies afterwards. Gotta count that as a good day! (Although I did have to shower as soon as I got back to the ship because I smelled like wet dog.)
After the shower was a quick stop at Crooners for a tasty martini 
then off to Bayou for dinner. We both went with steak (which was super delicious) but the sides still need some work. My dessert, a peach fried pie was just, well, peachy. Yummy, yummy.

Tomorrow is Glacier Bay. It’ll be an early morning.

Here is today’s Patter.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Juneau and Nugget Falls

I was up super early this morning working on the new book. I’ve been camping out on a lounger at the covered pool and had a great view of our approach into Juneau. Can’t beat being able to write with a view like this! By the time our arrival was announced at 8:20ish I had already put in a couple good hours of work.
One of the best things about being a writer is a view like this

On our previous visits to Juneau we’ve been to Mendenhall Glacier, the Salmon Hatchery, rode up the Mt. Roberts tramway, walked the town, been out drinking and eating with the crew, and watched whales. The one thing we’ve planned, but never got to do, was walking the trail to Nugget Falls at Mendenhall. So today’s goal was one thing and one thing only.

Get to the falls.

Boy, did we have a beautiful day for it. We walked to the tour booths down by the Mt. Roberts tramway and bought tickets for the Glacier Shuttle Express. The $45 per person cost was an ugh moment. But the idea of being able to take our time and not have to worry about car rental or city bus or taxi made it worth it. Sometimes convenience costs more than we’d like. We hopped the 9:30 am white bus with only six other folks. We thought it was an old school bus but it actually was an old prison bus. The hard seats had been removed and padded coach seats were added. It dropped us off at a stop in the visitor’s center parking lot.
Glacier Express drop spot for Mendenhall

Mendenhall Glacier

Having never walked the trail before, we were a bit worried about how hubby would be able to handle it. It was a nice wide path that ranged from packed gravel to loose gravel to packed dirt and then turned to sand once we hit the last stretch to the falls. The trail was mostly flat but there were a few somewhat gentle inclines along the way.
Along the Nugget Falls trail
Even though there was only one bench along the two mile roundtrip path there were several boulders where he could sit and rest. It would have been nice to have more benches for those with mobility issues, but we know it’s a wilderness trail so we can’t expect it to be too easy.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

But by the time we got back to the ship we had walked almost five miles. We are both pretty much dead. The Royal Wedding was rebroadcast in Explorers this afternoon and we missed it. (Actually, even if we were full of energy we still would have wanted to miss it.) Libby Riddles is this evening and we will be skipping her presentation. We have a couple meet-ups with crew members later tonight so we’ll make those. Right now it’s five o’clock and our privacy sign is out and it is staying there for a while.

Tomorrow is Skagway. After two days of walking in ports, hubby needs a break so he’ll be staying on the ship. I’m scheduled for a dogsledding run in the afternoon. Not the expensive $500 one but the cheaper one where they run on dirt. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow so it may wind up being cancelled. Let’s hope not.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Icy Strait Point

This week is our 14th cruise to Alaska and it’s the first time we’ve had Icy Strait Point as a port. We originally booked a wildlife tram excursion, but after reading the detail onboard we decided to cancel. The description stated there was a walk over uneven terrain and with hubby’s limited mobility we couldn’t risk it. We have to take great care with him when we travel. We bring our handicap placard with us everywhere when driving, we go places where we can avoid stairs and only use handicapped ramps, and can only walk places that have spots to sit all along the way. It’s rare for him to leave the ship unless we’ve scoped things out ahead of time.

After canceling our excursion we didn’t do any planning and we never received a port guide so we just had to wing it. While there is a bit of a walk to get to land, there was a little shuttle for folks with disabilities.
Walkway to land
Another view
Thankfully it was a spectacularly beautiful day. We waited forever to get on the handicapped shuttle and even had to wait for a second one to come around some 15 or so minutes later as some passengers seemed to think they were more disabled than others and pushed to the front of the line. Listening to the conversation of those cutting the line was quite, well, interesting. Someone was legally blind. Someone just conquered cancer. Someone had spinal surgery. My hubby, who has cerebral palsy, just rolled his eyes at me each time one of the folks tried to one-up each other. And wouldn’t you know it, when the shuttle showed up every single one of those people made a mad dash for it. Some appeared even spritely at that moment. They were so pushy and hubby has to move so slowly I almost thought we would have to wait for a third shuttle.

The shuttle dropped at a couple different points along the way and we chose the stop where the shopping was. We’re not shoppers but there was a beach that had some benches along it. It was so warm I think we might have even gotten ourselves sunburned.
View from the beach
We saw some whales, watched some local kids playing in the water, and did some people watching. I made a stop in the Icy Strait Museum which was basically a bunch of stores with a museum at the end.
You have to go through the building full of shops to get to the good stuff
After the mess of catching the handicapped shuttle we opted to just walk back to the ship. We walked the upper level of the beach area where there were lots of benches and logs to sit on along the way. We even stopped at a campfire for a bit, which was probably good because as soon as we rounded the end of the beach we ran into some biting wind for the rest of the walk back. Brrr and double brrr.
There was also a shuttle that took passengers into the village itself for $5 but we opted to skip it as we had already walked a couple miles and hubby was done for the day. If we visit again, I’ll take the village shuttle on my own so I can explore a little farther out than the cruise ship area.

All aboard isn’t until 9:30 pm tonight and we have an 8:00 am arrival in Juneau in the morning. Looks like we’ll have good weather for one more day so we’re hoping to make it to Nugget Falls if hubby is up for it. So no big plans for the evening, just some rest and some conversation with our Crooners guy. Let's not forget a Violetta martini.

*An evening note - the lady at the handicapped shuttle who cut the line, the one in the wheelchair who complained to everyone that she's had to use it everywhere she went on this trip, just ran past me, carrying a cane (no wheelchair in sight), trying to follow a bald eagle that was flying towards the front of the ship. Can't wait to tell my eye-rolling husband.

Today's Patters can be found HERE.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska - Sea Day

Today was a sea day and it was packed with activities. We didn’t participate in any of them. Just spent time with our crew member guy and gal, and finally got our gal’s goodie bag delivered. We came to see them so our day revolved around their schedules.

In between the times when we were with him and then with her the most exciting thing happened to me. I just wish I was better prepared for it!

I was sitting at a table in the buffet while hubby was grabbing some food. I had my Cruising with Confidence book on the table because I’ve been proofing it for publishing. (The ebook and audiobook of the second edition have been out for a while, but I’m getting ready to add the print edition.) A lady walked by me, smiled, and stopped and spoke.

“That’s a really good book.”

My only response was, “This one?” and then, “Did you read it?”

And her answer to both was, “Yes”.

Now if I was thinking I would have asked her more about what she liked about the book. I would have said I knew the author. Or I could have really told the truth and said I was the author. But I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say. I so blew it. Someone had read my book, said it was really good, and I didn’t do or say anything of any substance. Obviously I’m not a good PR person. Guess that’s something I need to work on.

Tonight was formal night. We used to do the dining room for dinners every cruise but after umpteen cruises we prefer grabbing something at the buffet. Rarely do we ever find a time we can’t find much to eat there. I’m a carving station fan so I stick to the beef, chicken, and turkey. Hubby is a soup and salad guy so there are always possibilities for him.

Of course we spent some time at Crooners, too. Although we don’t have to, we typically stay away from the lounges on formal night since we’re not dressed up. But about half the folks were wearing casual clothes so we didn’t feel bad about spending some time there.

Back to the cabin for another early evening. We set the clock back an hour tonight so an extra hour of sleep before we arrive at our first port tomorrow, Icy Strait Point.

Here are today’s Patters. If you'd prefer it in a Google doc you can find it HERE.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Island Princess to Alaska, Embarkation Day

We spent the night right at the pier at the Pan Pacific. In all our visits to Vancouver we’ve never sprung for the expensive hotel, but after a week of bumming it in cheap hotels around Washington we decided to go for it. Plus, we think this might be our last trip here so might as well go out with a bang.

It was so easy to get from the hotel to the port. The hotel took our luggage to the port so all we had left was our backpack and an elevator ride that put us at port level. We left the hotel about 1:00 pm and checked in at the port pretty fast. But as usual, the immigration line was huge and we had quite a wait. Once through there we headed right onto the ship.

We are taking this cruise to see a couple of our favorite crew members. We saw our first gal when she was greeting passengers as they were going onboard. We chatted a bit with her and found out she has been switched from room service to the dining room. Boo hoo. When she was in room service we got to see her every single day. She might be working in the buffet in the morning so we’ll have to check there. We really don’t want to do the dining room at night if we don’t have to. We also saw our guy right away as he was working in Crooners. No alcohol for us – just water – and lots of conversation with him until muster drill.

We are so not impressed with the new muster drill routine. Not having to take lifejackets anymore is great, but the lightheartedness of the presentation and lack of authoritative voice for the directions are putting passengers at risk. We’ve had emergencies on ships before. With this new presentation people will really be panicked – and clueless about what to do – in a real emergency. Those of us who cruise a lot know muster drills should be serious business. I fear it will take another Costa Concordia type incident to shake the cruise industry to where they will focus again on the seriousness of the safety presentation.

No balcony for us this time so after muster we headed up to the buffet for sailaway. The buffet on the Island Princess is at the front of the ship so the views can’t be beat. We stayed there through dinner and boy, it got busy. After a while we headed back to our cabin to pick up the goodie bag we had put together for our Crooner’s guy. We always love the smile on the faces when we deliver the huge bags. After that we headed back to the cabin and called it a night early.

Here are the Princess Patters from today.