May 15, 2022

May 14 - Return to Seattle and Home

The MS Eurodam returns to Seattle before sunrise. By 7:00 AM luggage is being unloaded, provisioning trucks are lined up with food, beverages and all the staples needed for the next cruise.

With the space needle not opening untill 9:00 we delay our disembarkation until 8:30

When other passengers start to disembark about 7:30 there is a light rain.  The facilities here are small and crowded compared to the ports in Florida. The terminal building is shared by two ships on opposite sides of the pier. Baggage areas and passenger processing for both ships is all in one shared space.

No facial recognition for CBP here, just old fashioned visual comparison of passport with the person presenting it. The process is quick and we are soon headed to the line of waiting taxis.  Being next in line, my carryon is placed in the trunk. When the driver learns of our destination he immediately becomes irritated. He was expecting a $50 fare to the airport and instead has a fare only going about 2 miles.

The taxi meter does not get turned on, the second indication of a bad choice.  We get to the space needle and he demands $20, more than double what the fare should be.  Of course when I try to pay with a credit card he claims the reader doesn't work and wants cash. When I ask for a written receipt he ignores me.  I have just been ripped off by Yellow Cab in Seattle.

FYI. App services like Uber and Lyft are not permitted near the cruise terminal and likewise are restricted to an inconvenient location at the airport. Taxis have an unfair monopoly here like in many cities.

The rain is stopping and the clouds lifting as we enter the space needle. There are lockers to store my carryon. Just not allowed in the building. The first two locker hours are free, then billed at $10 per hour.

The Space Needle has recently been refurbished and is in great condition. The elevators, smooth and swift. The glass surrounding the observation deck clean and unscratched.  The revolving glass floor looks like it has never been walked on. The view is great. The rain has stopped, and the sun is trying.

A girl about 5 or 6 is crying and scared to walk on the glass. Prodding from her mother is ineffective. Lynn goes over to the girl and calmly talks to her for a few moments. The girl then goes to her mother's side and walks out on the glass floor with a big smile as she looks down over 500 feet to the ground below. One of those moments that becomes the highlight of the day and makes the entire trip meaningful.

Having seen enough of the sights, we decide it is time to head to the airport. The locker won't open to retrieve our belongings.  It must be something left over from Friday the 13th as the worker tells us that none of the lockers have been reopening this morning, and she has had to override the system for everyone.

We catch a cab at the front entrance and head to the airport, probably a 40 minute drive with no traffic.  TSA takes about 30 to 45 minutes, and we still have hours to wait.

A sandwich and beer at one of the airport restaurants. The best hot pastrami I have had in a long time. We nurse the beer as long as possible.

Our plane  has been sitting on the tarmac for hours. About 40 minutes before liftoff, boarding begins. I take advantage of early boarding, something I very rarely do.  Our plane is an almost new 737 Max, yes the same plane that was grounded as a result of several crashes.  Comfortable seating, and extra large overhead bins that will hold full sized suitcases, a capability that many passengers greedily take advantage of. AC and USB power at every seat along with free WiFi and movies for your device that is perfectly held on the seatback in front of you.

Just before liftoff, the sun is bright. The brightest sun I have seen in days.

The flight to Orlando is long. There are frequent periods of turbulence. Beverage service is interrupted. I spend some time texting my daughters back home. I always say I will sleep on the plane, but I don't think I have ever been able to do it.

We arrive in Orlando a few minutes early at what must be the farthest terminal. The airport is nearly empty. My luggage that I last saw on the ship before docking in Seattle is on the carousel. Almost as far as possible from the arrival gate.  The parking lot bus is called. He will be there shortly at A34 to A36. Of course at the opposite end of passenger pickup from where our luggage arrived.

By 2:00 AM I am home. The AC, water, and water heater is turned on. Too tired to immediately sleep, and my internal clock still on Alaskan time, I just chill for a few minutes and enjoy an ice cold Bubly.

The end of an enjoyable week in Alaska. I currently have cruises scheduled for October and November, but of course that is likely to change.

Friday May 13 - Mostly at Sea

Our clocks were set forward 1 hour last night so we are on Seattle time when we dock Saturday.

The seas are slight, the skies mostly cloudy with an occasional patch of sun. 

Like many of the cruise lines, Holland has a program to transfer luggage directly to the airline. They print boarding passes for the flight, and luggage tags for your luggage. Place your luggage outside your cabin, and hopefully the next time you see it will be in the luggage carousel at your destination airport.  What is most surprising is that Holland does not charge extra for this service. Subject to acceptance by the airline, and I must assume CBP, our approved paperwork arrives this morning.

During a Q & A with the entertainment  manager I learn that we have 1400 passengers on this trip. 1600 were anticipated, but for whatever reasons about 200 didn't actually board the ship. Total crew is at 700.

Interestingly a question that I have heard asked many times but never answered is: "How much fuel does the ship use?" Well the captain shared that for our 7 day Alaskan cruise we will consume 700 tonnes of fuel.  That is less than one third the ship's fuel capacity, and at today's elevated oil prices, about a $700,000 fuel bill for the week.  Even sailing at our reduced capacity, that translates to about $500 in fuel per passenger for the week, or 27 cents per passenger mile including the cost of electricity for all the hotel operations. This is an older, smaller ship, newer ships are much more fuel efficient.

Several pods of whales are spotted throughout the day.  Listen to several lectures, start the packing process. The last day is always a letdown.

I banged my wrist pretty hard on arrival in Seattle a little over a week ago. From the middle of my arm to the middle of my fingers my skin is a rainbow of colors from near black and dark blue, to red and yellow. A byproduct of taking blood thinners is that I bruise very easily.  Confident nothing is broken, I should heal completely in a few weeks. In the meantime it looks pretty gross and I just need to avoid hitting it again. The other good side effect of the sore wrist is that I haven't noticed the tendonitis in my ankle very much.

Before cocktail hour I make a trip to guest services to collect some envelopes for gratuities for the dining room and my room stewards. The line is not long, but very slow. Lots of complaints about various charges. Why they don't just have a stack of envelopes available for passengers to pick up escapes my common sense. 

Stopping back at the cabin on the way to dinner, more news.  Our tour of Seattle in the morning that would drop us off at the airport has been cancelled. "Credit on your account will be forth coming."  No alternative is offered.

After some Google searching it is decided to just take a cab from the ship to the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, it is Seattle's number one attraction. From the space needle it will be a cab to the airport.

Our last meal in the dining room is again good. The staff is appreciative of the extra gratuity. I have not seen a single passenger offer a gratuity once the entire week. Why, I am not sure, but I find it disgusting at minimum. A sad commentary on our society.

The suitcases are packed and put out in the hall. I hope mine makes it to Florida. I say that not only because of the logistics involved, but the poor design and quality of the suitcases I just bought. Maybe that we teach me to just expect that the zippers are properly located and will function on a $450 set of luggage.

Very few passengers get off the ship in Victoria. With an 8PM arrival time and disembarkation commencing just before dusk, there is not much incentive to visit the city.

The alarm is set for the first time, but I really doubt it will be needed. A week isn't long enough to adjust to a four hour time difference.

May 13, 2022

May 12 - Ketchikan

When I awake we are already tied to the dock. It is raining. My good luck has come to an end.

After breakfast I decide it is time to test whether the application of water proofing on my jacket has worked.

Off the ship and wander some of the shops.  No, I purchase nothing.

Back at the ship, I shake off all the water beads on the outside of my jacket and carefully inspect the inside for any sign of water. None is found. The water proofing not only chased the rain gods away for many days,  it also seems to work on my jacket.

Our stay in Ketchikan is very limited. All aboard is 11:30 AM and departure is scheduled for 12:00 PM.  About 10:00 there is a medical call to one of the cabins. Fortunately the only I have  heard this entire week.

At  11:45 several passengers are called. More are called at 11:55. Not a good sign. This usually means they are not back on the ship.

12:00 comes and goes. 12:05 then 12:10. The passengers are called again. At 12:15 we leave for Victoria, BC, probably without 4 or 6 passengers.

About 1:30 the skies clear and the sun returns. The seas are calm as we head back toward the North Pacific. The captain tells us that we will be cruising at over 20 knots in order to make our scheduled docking in Victoria at 8 PM on the day after tomorrow.

The sun comes and goes during the day. The Tamarind bar remains a quiet place to watch the sea pass the time. Periodically we pass a pod of whales heading north.

Dinner tonight is in the Tamarind restaurant, compliments of Alex, the food and beverage manager.

It is very obvious that we are special guests, starting with the reaction of the hostess when she reads the note attached to the printed ticket that is used when seating us at our table.

The food is excellent as is the service. Spare ribs for an appetizer, tenderloin, asparagus and brown rice for the main course. A mango flavored desert.  Of course on the menu these items carried much more exotic names.

We are entertained by the passing of several pods of whales. The restaurant is nearly at capacity, probably with the last few tables reserved for a later seating time. 

Almost as expected, Alex joins our table just before desert is served. He looks like he has had a rough day. He is thanked and assured that the staff here is excellent and works together very well as a team. Truthfully he did everything he could to make up for the  short comings of the Pinnacle Grille.

An hour of piano music instead of the production show tonight. Tomorrow is basically a sea day as we don't arrive in Victoria until 8:00 PM

May 12, 2022

May 11, Sitka

Rain was initially forecast for Sitka, but as we arrive there is some sun and scattered clouds. We were unable to book a shore excursion here, so we take the free 15 minute shuttle ride into town.

Sitka is very small, with a year round population of 8,000. The visitor center is very modern with clean facilities. There are the usual vendors selling tours outside. We settle on a 3 hour tour duplicating the tour we wanted but was sold out on the ship.

Having almost two hours before departure, we walk the town. A few stores have not survivied the pandemic. The local merchants are selling mostly local merchandise. None of the Diamond and Jewelry merchants here. We look for a place to grab a bite to eat. Not an easy task.  Stopping at something similar to a convenience store selling mostly candy and cigarettes we learn that next door has good food, and they open in about 15 minutes. You would never guess from the signage that they sold food.  

We decide to give it a try. The beef dumplings were delicious, and everything was very reasonably priced. In conversation I learn that the convenience store does about $100 per day from local residents. When there is a cruise ship in port his revenue jumps to an average of $2000 for the day. He obviously is in favor of cruise ships, a debate that occurs in many ports.

A short walk back to the departure point for our tour. Everyone is there before departure time, 11 people packed into a 12 passenger van.

The first stop is the Sitka Raptor Center where they help injured raptors, mostly bald eagles and owls, recuperate after being injured. Some become permanent residents as they will never be able to fend for themselves, most are released back into the wild.  The majority of the birds are here as a result of encounters with humans or human activity. Well done and interesting. Maybe a total of 25 people. Much better than a couple of tour buses.

Our second stop is a bear sanctuary built in the waste water processing tanks of a closed paper pulp mill. Both brown and black bears are nursed to recover from injury. Unfortunately state laws prevent the bears from being reintroduced into the wild, but there are efforts underway to change that.

Our last stop is at a National Park featuring totem poles. As with most national parks, very informative and well done. I can only guess, but the massive pole if front of the building must reach 75 feet in height and be 4 feet in diameter. All totem poles tell a story, but of course I am unable to read them.

The driver takes us back to the ship at the end of the tour. Another day with no rain.

Many crew members remember us from our cruise to Panama about a month ago. Our waiter spotted us in the Lido during lunch time, remembering not only which table number we sat at but what beverages we usually had with dinner. A command of memory that I can only dream about.

Nearing the end of the cruise I have yet to see a single passenger give a tip of any kind. A sad statement on society that I personally find very disappointing.

Dinner is again excellent in the dining room. It seems much busier tonight, whether that is fact or not I am not sure.  I am on Holland's "Open Dining", but have a reservation for most nights at 5:30 at the same table. The exceptions are the night we arrived in port at 6 PM, and the nights we went to or are going to go to a specialty restaurant.

The production show tonight is a combination of a singer from the group playing most nights in BB-Kings, the two piano players from "Billboard" and the team of dancers. A good show.

Tomorrow we are docked in Ketchikan.  The official docking time is 7:30, but have been told by the cruise director that the gangway will most likely be open just after 6:00, he just isn't allowed to make an announcement until 7:30.

A night to retire early.

Tuesday May 10, Glacier Bay & Icy Straight Point

Again the forecast is for rain and cloudy skies. The Helipad is being opened for guests. The Crows Nest Lounge on deck 11 is the popular spot for viewing the ships progress. I elect to go to the Tamarind Bar on deck 11 midship. With seating for about 50  and panoramic windows all across the ship, it is an excellent viewing place, but unknown by most passengers and never talked about by the staff.

After a quick breakfast I select prime seats where I can see out both sides of the ship.

Slowly the clouds begin to thin and the sun peaks thru. A whale is spotted about 100 feet from the side of the ship. First a water spout, and then he dives with his tail high above the water. The first sighting of hopefully many to come.

The glaciers are small, smaller than I remember from the last time I was here. A few sea lions, or seals, wildlife is scarce, but it is very early in the season. As we cruise Glacier Bay, the clouds get heavier and the sun sparser.

Just as we turn towards Icy Straight Point the rain starts. The clouds are so low and so thick visibility is cut to a few hundred feet.  
In the distance there appears to be another cruise ship, or is it just an island shrouded in the clouds.  Anyone's guess. Ten minutes later the image becomes a little clearer, most likely a cruise ship. Shortly we pass The Serenade of The Seas leaving the dock that we will soon occupy.

By the time we are tied up and cleared for disembarkation about 6PM, the rain has stopped and the sun is out. The air temperature is in the high 40's. We have tickets for riding the gondola to the top of the mountain. Maybe the rain will stay away.

One cable gondola, called the transporter, runs to the the base station of the mountain gondola and to the second pier. It has been open for about two years. The mountain gondola is the tallest in Alaska and goes to the top of the mountain. Only completed in January of 2022 the ride is smooth and the views spectacular from the gondola and from the viewing platform at the top. Not recommended if you are afraid of heights. 

The sides of the mountain are nearly a vertical slope. The pine forest very dense, the snow deep. Installing the gondola towers and cables must have been a challenging project, most likely built by the lowest bidder.

Back to sea level walking along the boardwalk to the museum, a whale continuously puts on a show for the tourists. Every few minutes a spout of air and water spray, then breaking the water and flipping it's tail as to say watch me silly people.

The zip line is another popular activity at Icy straight point. Long and fast it is in continuous use with half a dozen riders at a time. Not for this visitor. 

There is another very small ship at the second pier. The Regent Seven Seas Mariner, promoted as a luxury cruise line.

The rain stayed away and we have enjoyed another great day in Alaska.

Back on the ship, a quick change of clothes and it is time for another show by the comedian. BB-Kings's is packed, we find a seat at the bar. Not the best seat, but at least a seat. His show is excellent.

We are scheduled to leave port sometime after 10. As darkness falls, visibility drops as rain clouds move in again.

Tomorrow we will be in Sitka.

May 10, 2022

A Sea Day then Juneau

Heading Northwest toward Alaska the seas are less than 12 feet the entire way to Juneau.  some passengers find the gentle movement of the ship too much. Based on a show of hands at one of the theater production introductions, nearly 50% of the passengers have never been to Alaska, and many of those have never been on  cruise before.

There are a handful of young children, the only group to frequent the pool.

I check during the day to verify dining room reservations that had been made weeks ago. No they don't have them, but that is quickly rectified. 

A stop at shore excursions to see if there is any hope for my waitlisted excursion. Not a chance, but I learn that one of my other excursions has been cancelled but I can still book a similar but less expensive tour. I do it.  Alaska has suddenly become very busy.

Serveral "executive" talks by the Holland America Spokesperson for Alaska, or by Ryan the cruise director takes up much of the day.

Dinner in the dining room is excellent. I am sure I made some of the staff nervous as the food and beverage manager sat with us for half an hour while we had a cocktail and our appetizers. Genuinely concerned and apologetic for the Pinnacle Grille manager. She is leaving the ship, and obviously her duties, and he would like us to have dinner in one of the other speciality restaurants as his guest. Yes I would appreciate that, but need to check when that would fit the schedule. He promises to find us again tomorrow.

A production show and some piano music ends the evening.

We arrive in Juneau about 30 minutes early despite our late departure from Seattle. We are soon joined by the Koningsdam and the Celebrity Solstice.  Up to an hour before docking the forecast was for rain all day with a high temperature of 48. We dress appropriately.

Our first stop is the tram ride 1800 feet to the top of a nearby mountain. Having just openend this week, the nature center was still closed, but the views and native american presentations were superb.

Maybe a snowball was made.

A slow stroll past the dozens of jewelry stores and then a stop at the Red Dog Saloon. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, and the same piano player that was here 5 or 6 years ago is still playing at the young age of 83.

Never a drop of rain, but instead bright sunshine and temperatures that reached the low 60's. My travels are definitely blessed.

Having over dressed, I arrive back at the ship hot and sweaty. Quickly freshen up for dinner and head to the Ocenaniew bar.

"Sorry, we don't have any Bamboo Saphire gin." What gin do you have?  "There is no gin anywhere on the ship. We did not get a container of provisions, and there is no gin." I settle for a glass of wine.

Another question for Alex?

I try again at dinner to get gin. No problem, they have my gin. Alex comes in the dining room shortly after we start our appetizer. Directly to our table. We settle on Thursday at Tamarind. He makes a phone call and it is done. I elect to ignore the no gin issue. He has enough to deal with and is doing a very good job at it.

The group of dancers just joined the ship this week. Some of the shows are the same as a month ago, others are new, but similar to the shows of my last cruise.

I do have to digress a moment, when I boarded Saturday, the carpet in the elevator said Friday. Oops. The clocks around the ship are now working properly. None of the elevators are continuously turned off. Holland is trying to keep the ship in good shape. With the exception of the Pinnicle Grille and the Manage, the staff of the Eurodam is doing an excellent job.

After the production show, the comedian in BB-KIngs excellent. The piano players are new. Older music and popular piano songs are good. When they play music of the 80's and 90's I find I don't recognize any of it. 

We leave Juneau about 10:30, long after I am asleep. My body hasn't yet fully adjusted to the 4 hour time difference and probably won't until the day I head back to Florida.

Tomorrow we cruise Glacier Bay to view the Glaciers and then dock at Icy Straight Point at 6:00 PM for about a three and a half hour stay.

May 08, 2022

March 5 Seattle and then Alaska

Alaska has finally opened up after being closed to travellers because of covid for two seasons.

I am booked on Holland America's Eurodam, the same ship, and coincidently the same cabin as my last cruise. Available flights to and from Seattle are getting scarce and expensive. More than 2 months before traveling, I was unable to get 2 adjoining seats on the return flight to Florida. Some of our first choices for shore excursions are already sold out.
As we prepare to leave Florida the weather forecast is for rain every day. In preparation I give my outer jacket an extra coating of water proofing.

Then the first positive news. While checking in for our flight online, 1 seat has opened up on our return flight, adjacent to one of the two seats we have booked. A few quick clicks and we have adjoining seats.

The trip to the airport is uneventful. The weather is supposed to be in the high 90's this week in central Florida, our first hit of summer heat. It is a good time to be leaving Florida.

Park N Go, my favorite parking location in Ft Lauderdale now has a lot serving the Orlando airport.  Very easy and we are at the terminal in a few minutes. Bags checked and grab a sub sandwich to eat on the plane. 

Our plane leaves a few minutes early. Six hours later we touch down in seattle. As expected it is raining.

There is no wait for a cab. Traffic is slow, but we are soon at our hotel.  A few surprises. There are no rooms ready. Lack of staff. The restaurant and bar are both closed. With no where to go we patiently wait at the desk. Finally an available room.

The elevators require reading a room card before a floor button can be pushed. A secure but slow process. In the process I manage to hit my wrist on the edge of the door. A large "goose egg" soon appears. 

While unpacking I see that the zipper on my brand new suit case has pulled open. Fortunately the contents are undamaged. It is time for dinner.

After consultation with Google we decide on nearby Zeek's Pizza across the street. Bundled in jackets to protect from the rain we make the short walk. "Yes we are open, but the chef won't be here for another hour".

Happy hour time as we wait to get some food.

Self serve breakfast at the hotel is acceptable, actually better than many. Next task is to take our covid tests. Couldn't do them in Florida as that would have been too early. Making a suitable workspace in the room is quuickly accomplished. Less than a hour later we have both tested negative for covid. The last hurdle in paper work to board the ship.

With the forecast remaining gloomy, we Uber to the Seattle Aquarium, a mostly indoor facility that is the most highly recommended thing to do when it is raining in Seattle.

The Aquarium is nice, clean, and not busy. We even have lunch in the aquarium cafe.

Time to call Uber to get back to the hotel. Shortly after I complete the request, my phone totally dies. The battery went from 30% to dead almost instantaneously. Uber should be on the way.

We wait, and wait, but the Uber driver never shows up. Too far and too wet to walk. After numerous attempts to restart my phone, Lynn installs Uber on her phone and we try again. The app keeps telling us the car is on the way, but then the progress map shows it heading away from us.  Finally the driver arrives even though the app still shows the car several blocks away.

After getting my phone working I can see that the first Uber driver cancelled the ride a few seconds after it was confirmed. I must assume if my phone had worked I would have known that.

It is back to Zeek's for dinner. No desire to venture out in the rain. A different bar tender than the previous day, we are carded before we can enter. Washington law. Chicken wings, cheese sticks, and adult beverages were good.

The next morning as we exit the hotel to call a cab to get to the cruise terminal, there is a shuttle bus loading. He is headed to the pier and he has room for two more passengers. Maybe our luck is changing.

Boarding is typical. Passengers that don't have required paperwork or can't find it on their phone is the biggest holdup.

Prepared with paper copies, processing is very quick. The terminal empoyee even compliments and thanks us for being so organized. We are on the ship enjoying lunch 90 minutes after checking out of the Hyatt.

A lazy afternoon as we await our 3:00 PM departure. In recent weeks this was moved forward an  hour or so and other adjustments were made in the week's schedule for unknown reasons.

3 PM comes and goes - we finally cast off just after 4 PM. Go figure.  As we leave, the rain stops and the sun tries to peek out.

It is rare that I stay in the same cabin on different cruises. My travel agent did it, and I wasn't even conscious of the fact until long after booking. It gives the opportunity for comparison. All good, the TV control seems to work, and the sticky balcony door latch has been replaced.

Dinner tonight is in the Pinnacle Grille. We are propmptly seated. The temperature is much more pleasant than a month ago. The food was good, the service absolutely horrible. No one ever checked back on the table, I waited for over a half hour to get a second beverage, and the food took about an  hour after we finished appetizers before it was served. My steak was excellent, the baked potato hardly warm enough to melt butter.

We were told some truths, and probably some excuses. Confirmed was the fact that they reassigned one of the staff taking care of us to go to another area of the ship and clean up a bar.

The  restauant manager's resolution. Give me a free drink.  You can guess how that was received as I alread had paid for a package with unlimited drinks for the entire cruise.  After a long conversation and apology from the food and beverage manager, I am sure there will be more to this story.

Dinner took too long to catch the main show, but we did get to listen to Ryan talk about Alaska.

Tomorrow is a sea day in the north pacific as we head towards Juneau. The seas are generally under 8 feet, and there is some rocking to the ship, but nothing excessive.