Sunday, August 25, 2019

Royal Princess at Hubbard Glacier

Hello from Yakutat Bay!

We've had a great day today. I told hubby that something about this cruise just feels different but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe because we embarked in Whittier instead of Vancouver for a change? Maybe because we are so very comfortable on this ship? Because we have so many crew members working here who are near and dear to our hearts? Knowing these will be our last trips to Alaska? Perhaps because I have a huge filming schedule ahead of me and I feel confident I can share things first-hand others are asking about? Whatever the reason, it just feels good. I don't even have to rub my I choose joy tattoo to get myself in a positive mood.

Even though it was light out early and we have a balcony cabin, we both woke up later than usual. Moseyed on up to the buffet, grabbed some breakfast, and ate outside on the back of the ship at the Horizon Terrace without another soul to be seen. (But inside? Man, it was crowded.)

I had my Encouraging Words Project pocket with my dollar bill in it, waiting to put in the Wake Show box. Along with leaving my encouraging words pockets around the ship, I've been dropping them in the Wake Show boxes for the last few years. Over the course of those years, the cruise director here (Cruise Director Extraordinaire Matt O', that is) has been the only one consistently reading them - and believing in the power of them. I stopped by several times to see if the box had been put out so I could get those positive vibes into the world. Only when I ran into him did I find out they aren't doing the Wake Show Box during the seven day Alaska cruises anymore. So I gave the Encouraging Words Project money pocket to Matt O' personally.

Then later as I was headed to the crafting class, I saw the Princess Live doors open and CDEMO (Cruise Director Extraordinaire Matt O') was filming tomorrow's Wake Show. I popped in a bit to watch. I even made it in time to watch him as he read my Encouraging Words aloud. I almost taped it live right then and there (I decided against it), but when the Wake Show is on the TV I'll tape it and add it to tomorrow's post. I have to say, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that they've opened the taping up for people to watch. It was interesting to see and I definitely will attend again.

After the Wake Show taping I barely made it in time to the crafts class. I did get to meet a blog reader and her daughter in there. (Hi Chelsea and Emily!) Then I met up with hubby at Crooners where he was already chatting with crew member friends. I so love the connections we've made with the crew members. I do believe it's the best part of cruising for us.

We headed back to our cabin in time for the narration during our approach to Hubbard Glacier. Did I mention how much I love our cabin? Like I said in yesterday's post, we had booked a last minute BW obstructed balcony cabin and were upgraded to free to a special BB balcony cabin. It's actually a handicapped accessible cabin and it is huge.
The bathroom is great for hubby and the shower is easy for him to use since it is walk it (actually roll-in) with a bench to sit on.
While we could probably always request a handicapped cabin, we never do. But this week they've put us in one. In fact, we are on this ship for three weeks and have to change cabins three times. Two of those cabins are handicapped accessible ones. I guess that's a benefit to booking super late - they stick you wherever they can. We are so good with it! I think I'll do a cabin tour video sometime this week as I know there are folks asking about what handicapped accessible cabins are like.

We watched as the Hubbard Glacier excursion boat loaded passengers to give them a closer look. I can't remember the cost of the excursion, but I know it was more than I was willing to pay.
After the excursion left, the Royal Princess moved even closer to the glacier. The Captain turned the ship so both the port and starboard sides got to see the glacier. The naturalist also does some narration during the time. You can hear it from the balconies, open decks, and on the bridge cam station on the TV.

Tonight is formal night and we're skipping it. We'll probably make our way to the buffet where I'm sure we'll find some great choices.

Tomorrow we're off to the best day of any Alaskan cruise - Glacier Bay.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Royal Princess Embarkation Day: Whittier, Alaska

For those who guessed I was in Alaska, you were right!

We spent the night in downtown Anchorage. It's been a while since we've had Anchorage as our only stop. Usually we are off to the Kenai Peninsula, or Denali, or Talkeetna, or even one time I made a day trip from the ship on turnaround to just run quilts I had made to Air Force base. But we wanted to see Anchorage again, and I'm glad we did.

We flew in yesterday and arrived in the early afternoon. We took the city bus (called the People Mover) from the airport to downtown. It only cost $2 for me and $1 for hubby as he's disabled. Made us feel like a local. It was so easy as the bus was right outside terminal and the downtown stop was right across the street from our hotel. While the hotel wasn't anything great, it was much cheaper than the price all the Holland America cruise passengers staying there had paid. It was in a great location, though.

We ate dinner across the street at the Glacier Brewhouse. It was so delicious. Amazing. Tasty. Great vibe. It was so good I'll actually be doing a separate blog post about it. Yes, it was that good. And good enough that we decided to go back for their weekend brunch on embarkation day. They open at 10 on the weekends so it gave us time to relax in the hotel before heading out.

We had the hotel hold our luggage and had a tasty breakfast at the Brewhouse and then wound up with more time to explore Anchorage. We walked the couple blocks down to the Egan Convention Center.
Egan Convention Center
Egan is the staging area for Princess and Holland America and where the shuttles to the ship and the airport pick up and drop off. As I get lots of questions about how that process works, I took plenty of photos so I can do a separate post about that, too. We wandered around the shops in the area a bit, but since we're about collecting moments, not things, we decided to sit outside the visitor's center in the warm Alaskan sunshine and do some people watching.
Visitor's Information Center
As some of the smoke from the wildfires had cleared out overnight, the weather was just spectacular and the sun felt oh-so-good. We then headed back to the hotel to pick up our transportation to the ship. We used A.C.T. (Alaska Cruise Transportation) They do the ship runs but also do one that adds a stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center. In all these trips to Alaska we never have been there so we chose that option. Even with the extra stop, it was still cheaper than if we took the direct-to-the-ship Princess bus transfer. The bus made a couple different stops at downtown hotels and made the final pickup at the airport. By then every single seat but one was full.

We had beautiful views of Turnagain Arm as we made our way down to the Wildlife Center. This is the same route the trains take on their way to the ship, too. 
See the train tracks?
As I had a window seat on the bus I got to see all those views I've missed out on all these years when I was driving. It was high tide this time around too, and that changes things. Why? Because the chances of seeing Beluga whales were higher. And we saw them!!! (Can you tell I'm excited?) It's the first time I've ever seen a Beluga in the wild. They were all throughout the waters, several times over. Unfortunately, the glare of the glass combine with my less-than-powerful camera didn't get any good photos. But they were there. I saw them. And I was pleased.

At the Wildlife center everything is all gravel, rocks (small and large), and uneven ground. With hubby's mobility and balance issues it was impossible for us to really get anywhere. We carefully walked to the bathrooms, gingerly made our way to the gift shop for a quick looksie, and cautiously made our way to the little food truck. As we knew we were having a big dinner later, we shared a Twix, small can of Pringles, and a Diet Coke. We made our way back to a bench outside the gift shop and sat in the sun. We snacked, watched the Lynx in the enclosure right next to us, and people watched. And boy, was there some interesting people-watching to be had! Might have even been more interesting than the animals, actually. We had about an hour at the Wildlife People-Watching Center before heading back to the bus. 

We arrived at the ship just a little after 5 and here's where my biggest disappointment came in. There were three lines at embarkation. One was for people who had their Medallions who were already Ocean Ready. (That was a long line). One was for priority boarding. (Which is the line we should have been directed to. It was completely empty.) And one line for everyone else. (Another very long line.) Typically, as Elites we are ushered to the shorter priority line. But here they made us go to the long Medallion line. I asked if we could use our shorter (actually in this case no-one-in-line) priority line and was told no. We had to use the long Medallion line. Now I'm not sure how or why they've decided Elite passengers aren't allowed to use the Elite line anymore, but it was a bit frustrating. Even when we finally got to someone to check us in, they still had to take our passports and head over to another computer to scan them. Definitely not efficient. Next time around I'm thinking to avoid the long lines just to skip getting our Medallions ahead of time. 

But we did make it in time to use our B1G1 free specialty dining coupon that is only valid on embarkation day. As soon as we got on the ship we headed right to Sabatini's. It was pretty much empty, but the gal at the front was not budging about letting us get in for dinner. She wanted us to make reservations and come back after muster drill. (Even though it was 5:15 and muster wasn't until 7:45 pm.) Lucky for us, dear Franco saw us (we've come to know him from previous cruises) and made sure we got in right away and got a table by the window. It's always great to see crew members we know who take such good care of us!

Dinner, as usual, was delicious. I did a separate write up and posted the menu back in May (you can find it here), but we did try a couple different items this time.

Fagioli Bianchi e Cozze - white bean & black mussel soup 

Petto di Pollo con Asiago e Pomodorini, Salsa al Marsala - chicken supreme stuffed with eggplant, Asiago and sun-dried tomatoes, Marsala sauce

 Zabaglione - whisked Marsala foam with ladyfingers
Both the service and food were outstanding, as usual. As long as we keep getting these coupons we'll keep eating at Sabatini's. Our plan is to work our way through the menu!

After dinner we headed to the cabin to drop off the backpack. We LOVE our cabin. Since we booked last minute we had a guarantee balcony in the BW category. (That's an obstructed view balcony.) But we were upgraded for free to a BB. I'll post pictures later this week but it's not a standard BB. It is awesome! So was the view from the balcony.

Such a beautiful day in Whittier, Alaska.
We should have had muster at about that time, but some of the trains were delayed and so was muster. It wound up being at 8:45 pm instead. Whew, that's late! But it gave us time between dinner and muster to spend in Crooners. We have crew member friends working there so we visited and visited and visited. Then after muster we headed back to the cabin, got in our pajamas, and were under the covers before 10 pm.

A long day, but a great one. Sunday is Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

The School Bus Blues

School is back in session in our neck of the woods. As former teachers, hubby and I have the same reaction to back-to-school time. To seeing a school bus. To even thinking about school supplies in the stores.

Anxiety and stress.
A need to run and hide.
To bury our heads in the sand.
A desire to hide our eyes and cover our ears.
An urge to escape. To get as far away from school as possible.

Between the two of us we have almost 60 years experience working in the public school system. We did our time and we don't want to do it again.

We saw more than one school bus this week. And then we looked at our to-do list from summer and it was complete. Like totally finished.

Summer projects completed:
      Wills revised  
Shrubs removed
Gravel laid down
Grass dug out
Rubber mulch down
Quilts for assisted living made
Hundreds of items discarded or donated
Landscape timbers in place
Bike ride every morning (just me, and almost every morning)
Finish travel agent training
Tree trimmed
Sprinkler valves replaced
Garbage cans cleaned
Shred old documents
Be a foster to a momma cat and her five babies
So we decided it was time to really hide and escape and get away from home. Here are some clues as to where we are at right this moment:
  • It took two flights to get to today's destination.
  • The stopover airport was Seattle.
  • The place we are currently in has been experiencing its hottest temperatures ever.
  • Smoke hangs in the air from the numerous forest fires. Heavy enough you can smell it.
  • We were able to pack lighter because we won't be renting a car this time around so no need for the phone/GPS holder or the handicapped placard.
  • No snorkel equipment was packed.
  • No sandals or swimsuit cover up was packed.
  • We paid all of three dollars ($2 for me, $1 for disabled hubby) to ride the bus from the airport to downtown.
  • From the bus we walked across the street to our hotel.
  • We saw spectacular views from the airplane window before we got into the smoke-filled skies.
Snow? Nope. Something else cold.

We are on the move tomorrow, so stay tuned to find out what's up.

The Friday 15

It has been a while since I posted about my Friday 15s. How well did I do at discarding and donating 15 items every week since I've been gone?

July 5
Plastic containers I no longer need.

July 12
I decided to take off all the bling off my scooter. We recently had to travel to Seattle for a few days and I was too sick and weak to make the trip. But since it was non-refundable and hubby just had to go (which meant I had to go), I needed to take Scooter along with me. I realized when I was using it I just don't have the same excitement about stuff like I used to. So off goes 20 pieces.

July 19
Two sweatshirts, one pair of shoes, a magazine, and a bedskirt not making it into the picture. An ironing mat, lantern, office chair, two dry erase markers, and a dry eraser with no picture. And a bunch of other things that did make it in a picture. Boy, I did bad in the picture-taking department this week.

July 26
Hubby can tell when I'm getting desperate for 15 items because I get him involved in scrounging the house for more things. Between the two of us we came up with 15. (I still can't believe he gave up his NASCAR favorite driver coffee mug.)
August 2
Sold on eBay: 130 different fabric scraps and a big box of yards of kids' fabrics. Another package of safari fabric and fabric panels to make Back to School books. I think all those fabrics easily count as 15.
And let's not forget my five foster kitties heading for surgery, soon to be ready for adoption at Simply Cats. Goodbye, my good babies.
August 9
More eBay sales: 24 spools of thread

August 16
12 quilts made for the residents of the assisted living center.
eBay sales: One Minions fabric panel, a Clifford the Big Red Dog fabric panel and five quilt patterns.

August 23
(No pictures this week as I was trying to get as much as I could out of the house and photos fell by the wayside.)
More eBay sales: One Roku player, one baseball bobblehead, five yards of animal fabric, a Christmas fabric panel, a package of kids' fabric scraps, 100 quilting fat quarters, and over 10 yards of gingham fabric.

Junk from the shed: a TV stand, three bottles of outdated mosquito spray, an unused drawer from the refrigerator, an old brown shelf, a busted set of plastic drawers, a vase, a hedge trimmer, an old mop, and two wooden bedposts.

Things from inside the house: A yard of random fabric, one too-big-for-me shirt, an Idaho DVD, two books, plastic drink pitcher, curtain, flower press, Halloween wall quilt, 24 sewing patterns, three Elite toiletry bags from Princess Cruises, two zippers, a pack of Christmas cards, bag of batting scraps, magazine, brand new cat collar, 10 hanging files, a PowerPoint slide advancer, two metal shelves, and a trinket box.


And with that another two months of discarding or donating (or selling) 15+ items a week is done. Since I've been at this almost two years now, I think it's time to take a donate-discard break. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Unboxing the Ocean Medallion from Princess Cruises

Sailing on a Princess Cruises MedallionClass ship? Want to know what the Medallion looks like? Want to know what you get for free? Check out my video! Watch along as I unbox our Ocean Medallion from our Princess Cruises MedallionClass ship.