First, some photos can be seen at Cruisemates.com in the photo file Alaska May 2005 We had been on shore for a couple of months and we were getting that urge again. Looking for something a little cooler, we set our sights on Alaska. We decide on Princess and looking at their website, decide on the "Diamond Princess", the second week of May. We now had the ship and date, time to start looking. Went fishing on the web, but only got a few bites from hungry T/A's. I contact an agent we had used before (firstname.lastname@example.org who is part of CRUISE PLANNERS, INC.) and he comes in close to the lowest offer we had gotten on the web. By the end of the week, we had called and made a deposit for the May 7 voyage. BA on Caribe deck, port side just rear of amidships with larger balcony. Vacation minus 145 days-I go to the Princess website and update our immigration forms. Quite nice that most of the information is still on file from our last trip. In the past, we had just driven down to the docks and walked onto the ships leaving out of Los Angeles or San Pedro. This time we were going to have to travel to get to the ship. Being Mister Adventure, I start looking to expand our one-week trip into a longer vacation. I get another dumb idea; why not take the train up to Seattle. Another wasted day only to find the train would take 36 hours and if we wanted any type of comfort, would cost about 50% of the cruise cost. Never knew that the word "roomette" was actually a description of an area large enough for two chairs, 3'x6'.
Vacation minus 120 days--We have decide to fly and to get into Seattle a couple of days before the cruise and stay a couple of days after. I go to the SouthWest website and find flights still open for the online advance seats. A few keystrokes and we now have both cruise and flight tickets taken care of. Vacation minus 45 days-Go to the website William Shatner pushes on the radio. Get two different hotels for the pre and post hotel stays. About 40% off the list price, great.
Vacation minus 40 days-We had been checking the Princess web site every so often. Today we see that some excursions are being reserved and we make our final decisions. Only takes a couple of minutes and boom I owe my credit card company several hundred dollars. Except for the actual paper tickets for the cruise, were almost set. Vacation minus 1 day-- It feels like the time has flown by, start the packing and have that "you forgot something" feeling almost right away. Just after midnight I log on to the Southwest website and print out our boarding passes. Six others had already been there before me. Vacation-- Our son gives us a ride to LAX. We immediately realize how difficult it's going to be to schlep around all the baggage. Up to this time, we have just jumped in the car and driven the 20 minutes to the Los Angeles pier. Anyway, our son drives us to LAX where we hustle into the terminal with our three checkables and two carry ons. Don't know if it's an omen, but the handle of one carry ons decides this is the time to self-destruct. No time to play Mr. Fixit in the middle of an airport, piggyback it on the other working bag and head for the check in counter and get rid of the three larger bags. In the end, check in took about ten minutes and security another ten, we people watch for almost two hours. I am convinced more than ever that SouthWest is one step above a Grey Hound bus. Uneventful flight gets us to Seattle where I hump the bags about a block to where the shuttle buses park. After a short wait and tour of the city we arrive at our pre-cruise (4-star) hotel, the Westin. A fairly nice room on the 37Th floor. We open the curtains for a view of the East side of downtown Seattle. We both look at the view for about a minute, I say, "you know what we forgot?" and without hesitation my wife answers "the binoculars". We walk around the city for about an hour and locate an old-fashioned Army surplus store and pick up a cheap pair. A dinner at a mini brewery/restaurant and we call it a night. Embarkation Day minus 1-- We walk from the hotel and head down hill to the Pike Market, this place is famous for the fish market where they throw fish about 25 feet, where we find great place for breakfast with a view of Puget Sound and the Norwegian Star tied up just North of the market. Some sight seeing at Pike Market then head North to the Space Needle for the obligatory elevator ride to the observation deck. Next stop is the "Duck Boat" tour of down town and Elliot Bay. Get back to the hotel via the monorail. Some more walking, then dinner at P.F. Chang's, an up scale Chinese restaurant, then some quite time back at the room. NOT, turns out this is prom season. Three rooms on our floor with am unknown number of kids. Running, laughing, yelling and the closing of what seamed a hundred doors. Not bad, we find out later other pax at other hotels were up all night with calls to security and police.
Embarkation Day- Wake up to a TV newscast pointing out today is the first day of the cruise season, which brings in $208,000,000.00 to the Seattle economy. Knowing that we will have to get to an ATM already, I feel their estimate is a bit low. Take our time with breakfast and get to packing up the bags. Princess information says embarkation starts at 12:30, we assume they will be letting pax on a little earlier and leave the hotel at 11:30 for the very short drive from downtown to pier 30. As we get to the pier, we find the police doing a poor job directing traffic. Two ships are tied up here, the "Oosterdam" as well as the "Diamond". The last 200 yards to the pax terminal seamed to take 10 minutes, taxies, cars, buses and shuttles all going for the right hand lane to spit out their riders as fast as possible. As we stand on the sidewalk, we are confused as to what is happening. There is a line of about 200 people, all with their luggage, yet there are porters standing idly with empty carts. We get the attention of one porter who in short order picks up out three checkable bags and takes us past the line to the front of the cruise terminal. We there show our tickets and identification to a Princess worker, takes custody of our luggage and then directs us inside the building. We tip the porter and get the low down on the line of people, which is a bit longer now. All these pax are personally riding heard on their bags up to the one security scanner for that line. The people using the services of a porter use a different scanner, to save the price of a tip they are standing in the sun for an hour. We are directed into the building and get into the check in line, which moves quite quickly. Show the ID again, a credit card and the tickets and two minutes later were on the very long pax gangway that zig zags up to the ship. Looking at a clock, it has taken 75 minutes from hotel room to gangway, not bad at all. Numerous pallets of supplies are still on the dock, cages of luggage being brought to the ship by fork lift and as we step foot on the ship, looking back, we see the line of pax dragging their own bags outside the cruise terminal appears to have grown to 400. Once inside, we are funneled to elevators just aft of the atrium where we are asked for our sail cards, seams we cannot be trusted to know our own cabin number. The Princess staffer lets you know what deck to go to. Stepping off the elevator, another staffer directs you fore or aft, port or starboard to get to you cabin. Nothing unusual about the cabin, found another electrical out let behind the TV where we can put the two battery rechargers out of the way. Princess has finally entered the 21st century; two more electrical outlets are by the writing desk. No need the sting wires across the room any more. The banisters for most of the balconies on this deck were varnished just a few hours ago, a little tacky right now but will be dry by tomorrow. Park our carry ons and explore the ship. Very clean ship, haven't seen a bit of rust outside or wear inside. Unlike the Carnival Pride from a few months ago, the Diamond interior is well lit and has an airy atmosphere through out the ship. That is except the casino and a few bars that were designed to have dim lighting even at high noon. Located the Internet Café with it' numerous workstations. In addition the library has an additional four screens. Logged on to check email from our son, four minutes at 35 cents a minute. One minute to read and answer the email. Three minutes for the slow connection time to the server via satellite. Returning to our cabin, the luggage is piled in front of the door and the excursions tickets are inside on the table, as well as a coupon from our T/A for a bottle of wine to be served at dinner. Our room steward appears and introduces herself, Sandra, from Mexico. She appears to be eager to please and several times offers her services if needed. Our only request is for two robes that are delivered later in the day. I have a problem with the refrigerator. It is inside a cabinet under the TV. Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the idea of attaching the door of the cabinet to the door of the refrigerator. In theory, great, except that the refrigerator, cabinet door and mechanism must be in perfect alignment and position. If not, the outside door will not close, or in my case, the outside door closes but the refrigerator is still open. This leaves the top shelf room temperature and the bottom just a bit cooler. This is not a problem, except that my wife takes medication that must be refrigerated. We had already had a problem at the hotel, Westin, they refused to allow us to put the medicine in the "mini-bar" frig saying housekeeping was ordered to discard any thing not belonging to the hotel. Interesting, no medicine in the "mini-bar" is allowed, but housekeeping has to make sure the hotel's brand of condoms are on the shelf above the refrigerator. This is the third day away from home and we have used ice to keep things cold, I can't see doing this for another nine days. I, like most cruisers, carry a "Leatherman" type tool, in short order the two doors are disengaged and a few hours later the frig is in the 30's. Princess should do the math and see how much energy is lost each day from open refrigerators. We are about half unpacked when we shove off. Some Princess staffers waving us off at the pier, other than a blast from the ship's own horn, no fanfare for the first ship leaving port for the Alaskan season. What had the TV reporter say just a few hours ago, the cruise industry brings 208 million dollars into the rather small city of Seattle. A quick trip to Lido deck for a snack and then watch the water go by. Nice set up at Lido, if people bother to follow the signs there should be no bottlenecks or confusion. We return to the cabin and continue to unpack. Large closet with close to 40 hangers, tall floor to ceiling cabinet with 5 ½ shelves. The other 1 ½ shelves is for life preservers and small programmable safe, camera, wallet and keys will fill it quickly. The door is a full-length mirror that sometimes opens on it's own. Finish unloading the first two bags, glance under the bed and slide the bags under the first bed. After the third bag, I look under the second bed forclearance and see something underneath up against the wall. I first think someone has left his trash and housekeeping missed it. In any case, I don't want someone else crap under my bed. I grab what appears to be a large brown paper bag with one hand and it doesn't budge. My curiosity get to me, 20/20 hindsight now tells me I should have contacted someone on the ship's staff. Anyway, I get my waterproof flashlight (first time I have used it in four trips) and look inside the bag. Sodas, a lot of soda, a large pile of sodas. Looking closer, there is a second bag under the bed. I start to count 5, 14, 24, 37, 50, 62. 62 cans of Coke Diet Coke and Sprite. In the mornings I get my caffeine fix from coffee, my wife gets her's from Diet Coke. To answer this early morning soda fix, we had packed 7 cans of Coke. We now had a total 69 sodas, way to many to even think about drinking ourselves. I give away 22 to the cabins next to and below us, but we are still overloaded. We'll worry about this later. Time to get dressed for dinner. Earlier in the day, we had found a card table set up by the dinning rooms staff providing information. I overhear one supervisor talking to another pax. He states that this is the first cruise for a whole lot of the staff; this should be an interesting cruise. My wife chooses the "Santa Fe" room for the sole reason that fresh guacamole is offered. We show up around 7:45 and shown immediately to a table for two. There are a number of these small tables and as couples come in, they are put next to each other. Tables of 4, 6, 8 and ten remain empty in the middle of the room. Our main waiter, "Diego", had a problem with English, and was hesitant and unsure in all paxinteractions. As it happens, the person who we thought was the helper had much more experience. So much, that he was the one trying to get the diners to buy wine tastings and cheap shot glass souvenirs. This practice of using wait staff to sell stuff is nothing but tacky. We expect the " salesperson" to work the dining room selling this type of stuff, not the waiter. We go to a short show by Max Elliot who does monologues and sings with his guitar. His act is passable, but he is much funnier when he appears during the week when he helps the staff doing "game shows". Upon returning to the cabin, something is amiss, there are three sodas on top of the cabinet that were not there before. Looking into the refrigerator, empty except the medicine. Under the bed, nothing but luggage. Except for the lonely three cans, they're all gone. We later learn she uses one room to "store" sodas for her section of cabins.
Day 2-Leisurely sea day, start with a little room service coffee then a stop at Lido deck for some food. Walk about the ship, people watch, have some drinks, take a nap, go to a take off on the Match Game TV show, bingo and then change for the first formal night. We defiantly want to see the production show "Piano Man". We walk into the " sterling" room at 6:45 and are seated immediately. We saw a women walk up and ask for reservations that night for 8 people at 8:00, she can't have it, but she can have two tables for 4 next to each other at 8:20. No problem. Because I was handed the wrong menu, we learn that the menu in the "themed" restaurants changes each week. After dinner, we go to the theater for Piano Man, which as a whole is pretty good. Afterwards I check my watch and am amazed that the entire show was less than 53 minutes. We donate some money at the casino and then watch a magic/comedy show which was almost ruined by a drunk who had seen the first show and wanted to yell out the punch lines. Although we gain an hour tonight by changing time zones, were whipped and call it a night. Day 3-Wake up with the ship in Alaskan waters, which are almost glass. Watch the shoreline pass by the balcony about 120 yards away. Decide to have breakfast in the dinning room for a change and get dressed. For the first time on the cruise, we at put at a table with other people. Later, we go up to Lido to watch more coastline slip away and I get to se my first iceberg; it has only taken 54 years. I am able to see a ship ahead of us in the passage. My research had shown that the " Diamond" was to be the first into Juneau this season, boy was I wrong. We were fourth. First in was the Sapphire Princess, then the Oosterdam (which we had left in Seattle with at least an hour head start) and third, just ahead of us, Radiance of the Seas. We find out later that the Sapphire was to have already left port and we were to taken that berth at 12:30. There was over an hours wait, rumor was a princess lead excursion for the Sapphire had not returned, so ship had to wait. During this time, we were amazed by the number of crew who turned up at the rail with cameras and binoculars. As I said before, this was the first time for a lot of the crew and I imagine this was the first time that some of them had seen snow. As we approached Juneau we are amazed at the condition of the water. For some reason, we were expecting pristine conditions. Instead the water has swirls that look like scum. As we wait for the Sapphire to move on so that we can dock, we watch large puffs of smoke coming out of the forest that surround the city. After we dock, I speak with a local and get an explanation of what's going on. Pollen, tons of pollen in fact. For the past several days, the millions of Spruce trees have been releasing their spore. So much that the it does appear to be smoke that eventually settles on to ground, water and balconies. Our newly varnished banister is thick with pollen at the end of the day. A flash picture taken after sundown appears to have been done with a filthy lens. In fact, there is so much pollen in the air; the photo has many white dots. Anyway, we return to the cabin and check the ship's weather recording, some clouds and a high of 66 We get into the recommended "layered" look (shirt, sweater and jacket) and grab the only new item purchased for this trip, a large backpack. Cameras, extra socks, jackets, rain ponchos, hats, gloves and a sweatshirt for good measure stock this nylon creation. We are set for everything but an ice storm or hurricane. We hit the dock and are directed to the correct bus. There we get the correct weather report, 77 with a perfectly clear sky. Our bulky sweaters come off and are somehow crammed into this suitcase that is attached to my back. I now have to check for clearance should I choose to turn my body. Small children and old ladies will be knocked senseless by this 25-pound mass of unneeded clothing. Menenhall Glacier: if you have come all this way, it would be a shame not to travel the extra 15 miles to see this wonder. If you are NOT doing anything else at this port, save your money and take a local bus from the dock or downtown area (which is less that 2500 feet away from the ship) no need to involve the cruise line with this one. Whale Watching: when you think about it, looking at about 5% of an animal that happens to appear above the water's surface somewhere in your general area does sound a bit strange. That is unless you actually get close enough to watch these wonderful creatures. Several companies provide this service using small to quite large boats built for this sole use. Juneau: I don't think I have ever seen a state capital as small as this. "Downtown" consists of about 8 blocks of commercial buildings surrounded by interesting looking houses. The tourist trap section consists of about three blocks of storefronts. True the vast majority of the stuff sold is not made locally, much less in Alaska. But then does your friend know you paid $0.99 for that key chain and you peeled off that "made in China" sticker the night before you gave it to them. The long bus rides, the hours on the whaleboat and the heat have drained us. A quick stop at "Alaska Shirt Company" for some gifts. I can only say this store the equivalent to Hawaii's "Hilo Hattie's" chain of stores. There is a mix of both $0.99 trinkets and higher end souvenirs. Back at the ship nothing strikes our fancy on the main menus and end up eating on Lido. We happened to pass the Sterling room and saw many an empty table, and as expected, lido was quite full. Found much duplication between the main menus and the Lido buffet, none being memorable. Anyway, we finish eating and look at what is offered as far as entertainment tonight on the Princess. After five minutes of reading about acts and shows that don't interest us, we retreat to the cabin and go to bed far earlier than we expected.
Day 4-The ship docked at Skagway while we slept, the 6:15 wakeup call got me out of bed long enough to open the drapes before I got back under the covers. I remember looking out at an empty bay and the side of a mountain less than a half-mile away. Closed my eyes for a few minute, OK more than a few, twenty to be exact. Opened my eyes again and my panoramic view now included a cruise ship. In that short amount of time, the Radiance of the Sea had eased into the dock and had tied up. Another crowed day on shore, great. Splashed some water on my face, get dressed and get something to eat, have to get ashore by 8:20 with our birth certificates. We are taking a bus into Canada and taking the White Pass Railway back to Skagway. Have the TV on in the background, local Alaskan news show going on. Find out that yesterday, Juneau had set some sort of record for heat. Get to the dock and find our bus in about four minutes, then have to wait over a half hour because some one can't find the first bus from the gangway. After we get going, we find we have lucked out and have a driver that is not only knowledgeable, but is entertaining. A quick tour of a still sleeping Skagway, then head North for almost a hundred miles. Jokes, stories and even poems with frequent photo stops make the trip fly by. We started at sea level, go up through forests, to ice fields at the summit, back to forest and even a small area of bare sand called the Alaskan desert. The turnaround point is a place called Caribou Crossing, which is a jumble of restaurant, stuffed animal museum, Husky dog breeder and miniature golf course. Sounds like a tourist trap or a dump, and looks questionable from the highway, but the food is great and the people running it are wonderful. Could have used at least another 30 minutes there looking at all the stuff, but have to get on the bus to keep to schedule. Backtrack about 30 miles to where the train will pick us up. There are three other buses dropping people off at this wide point in the road, which is also a border checkpoint between Alaska and Canada. There are eight railcars to handle the crowd so there is plenty of room. This narrow gage train was reborn after the cruise industry started making Skagway a normal stop. Different types of ore mines would use this rail system, to get the load to the ships. Pax who take the first train in the morning, step off the ship, walk about 25 feet and get on the train. There is a steam locomotive that is still in use, but you will more than likely get two or three diesel engines to take you. Ice, snow, frozen lakes, forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, trestles, bridges and tunnels, quite a trip. As excursions go, this is on the expensive end, just under $200 a head. But as far as value it is worth every penny. Get back to the Skagway train station and wait for the U.S. Customs man to walk through, other than a couple from England, everyone in our rail car was checked through in less than four minutes. The downtown area has gone out of it's way to have the buildings to have the 1800's look. All the buildings are either bare wood or painted wood on the outside, wooden sidewalks and even barrels cut in half serve at very large flowerpots. We were at the first corner from the railway office and saw that a fire had started in one of these "flower pots", the barrel itself was burning putting up about eight inch flames. I stepped into the store closest to me and asked if they had any water, the young man working as a barista pointed to the rear of the store where sodas and bottled water were being chilled. I said, " it's not for me, it's for you. Your barrel's on fire". The guy grinned at me and I left. We got about 30 feet away before he bothered to check it out. He ran inside and came out with a pot and poured coffee on the fire. I yelled back "did you use that Hazelnut crap, it never sells". He just grinned and kept pouring coffee, I think the fire was a lot bigger than either of us thought. Did some window-shopping and returned to the ship. We were up to getting dressed for dinner, but looking at the "Italian" menu we just looked at each other and said Lido. After eating, went on to Club Fusion where a take off on the Match Game was put on, then a movie in the Explores lounge. After midnight we drag ourselves back to the cabin to find a bed. Day 5-this is a sea day with a stop at Tracy Arm, a scenic fjord where the ship is to rotate 360 degrees, from 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. We watched the steep canyon walls get closer to the ship and the number of small ice chunks increased. Went to Lido, sat where it was out of the wind and had something to eat. At 10:15 we returned to our cabin to get jackets and camcorder and head for the top deck. Just before we get topside, I look outside and I notice the ship has stopped. In a nutshell, we are still two turns away from the fjords end, but all that lies in front of the ship is a solid field of small ice. Very few appear to be wider than 20 feet or 5 feet high, the vast majority are less than 10 feet wide and just above the water's surface. The captain has cited safety concerns and has decided to cancel this stop. The ship slowly does a 180 turn and navigates through sparse ice to the channel. It's not long before we are going over 17 knots. As my wife reads, I go to the closest Laundromat, for the second time, and find an empty machine. On other cruises we have looked into the laundry rooms but not used them. Two days a go I stuck my head in the one closest to our cabin, half the machines were in use. Today it's a problem getting in. After the clothes are dry and put away, we head out to the Pacific Moon dinning room at 7 PM and were seated immediately, there was no line. Made our way to Club Fusion where we get involved in a take off of "Weakest Link". Within four rounds were both sitting downstairs holding gift certificates for some type of clock. Head back to the cabin since we need to be getting up at 5:15 AM. Day6-our wakeup call comes way to early and looking outside it's cloudy and there's water on the railing. The ship has already tied up at Ketchikan and from what I can see the town is still asleep. Get dressed in some warm clothes, this time they are needed, and head for Lido for some substantial food. Twenty of us meet on the dock at 6:20 for our final arranged side trip, Adventure Kart Expedition. By bus we go about 30 miles, where we take small gas powered "karts" on a ten mile round trip on private property near lakes and waterfalls. We then took a fast boat along the coast back to a small pier between the bow of the Diamond and the arena where the "lumberjack show" is held. Still had a couple of hours to kill, so we stopped at a couple of the tourist traps next to the pier. I don't think it has to be said, but I will, three ports and a number of stores, all the same merchandise (most of which is made in China) with about the same prices. That is until today; at the left end of the pier is what appears to be another shore front tourist store. I wanted to pick up a few more sodas for the last days at sea and they weren't being sold at the regular tourist traps for some reason. Anyway, I saw a small sign for this store saying "shop with the locals" with an arrow for directions. Tongass Trading Company is very interesting. I entered on the side closest to the pier and saw most of the same junk I had seen in the past hour at four other large stores. However midway through the store, it changed to general merchandise, hardware and marine supply store. And true to their word, I stood in line with locals buying light bulbs and batteries. Returning to the ship I stopped at a small coffee "shack" on the pier. Talk about an Alaskan gold mine, cup after cup of real brewed coffee being sold at twice the normal cost. Get on the ship and drop off my bags at the cabin. Looking down, the "lumberjack" has just let out. The line returning to the ship went from about twenty people to two hundred in just minutes. We took a couple of minutes to fix our "helmet" hair from the excursion and went for lunch, again on Lido. Both sides of the buffet were open and general gridlock ensued. The people were packed into the actual buffet area so tight, those wanting to leave had to wiggle their way to the one opening marked exit. Once you were out, you now had to find a place to sit down. Again packed, people holding tables for relatives trapped inside the buffet, small groups of people standing behind other pax waiting for them to leave like a busy lunch counter. Or like me, just kept walking till I found two empty chairs by the rear bar. We sit and have our lunch as we leave port. There has been a little movement in the harbor. When we got off this morning, we saw the Oosterdam tied up behind us. Just before we push back from the dock, another Princess ship appears from a channel in the distance. As soon as we pull out the Princess ship, someone tells me it's the Island, heads for the spot we vacated. We left at 12:30 leaving the Oosterdam still tied up. At about 4:20, the Oosterdam is of out port beam, and stays there for close to an hour. At 6:15, it crosses our bow and is lost from sight to the starboard side. As we are about to get ready for the second formal night and my wife is channel surfing and comes across some American Film Institute documentary. I am sure no one on the ships' crew knew about this, but as my wife hits the remote, the scene of the " Poseidon Adventure" comes on in mid capsize scene. We both crack up and finish getting dressed. Take a short walk about the ship; note that quite a lot of people have not done the formal thing. In fact one would think the dress code asked for Levi's and wrinkled T-shirts. Pass by the Vivaldi Dining room and see a line of about eight people, go to the starboard side and we can be seated immediately in the Sterling Room if we don't mind sharing a table. We sit at a table for four with a nice couple from Colorado and have a sociable meal with them. Up to this point, we have experienced nothing but friendly, attentive and professional service from each and every Princess employee or representative. This is remarkable since this is the first trip for many of the crew. The name badge of our headwaiter read "Garbot" and from the start we noted he had an "air" about him. Without rehashing the entire meal, this waiter was rude and straight out insulting to the wife of our tablemates and myself. Princess will be notified, but not tonight. We refuse to let this spoil our evening. Nice company and great food followed by a stand up routine at the Explorers Lounge. Another full day leaving us whipped and we call it a night. As soon as we get there, the ship's movement starts to get active. We have just cleared Queen Charlotte Island and are now in open ocean vs. inside passage. As I retire, we are traveling at over 17 knots, winds are near gale at 28 knots and seas are 5-7.5 feet. As my wife sleeps, I stay awake and enjoy the motion while I can. Day 7-Woke up to a calmer sea, although per the ship's channel on the TV say 7.5 to 12 foot seas. Either there's a twelve-hour time warp between the event and the report or they are pure fiction. I guess if I want to know the weather, I'll look out the window. This is more of a sea day since we will stop in Victoria at 7:00 for a 4-½ hour stop. Things are winding down around the ship; the string quartet who have been in formal attire all week are in street clothes as they play, fewer activities are planned around the ship, a long line of people are in front of the purser's desk making arrangements and the shops are having "sales" of overpriced items. By chance, we stumble by the Vivaldi room, which is usually closed and locked. This morning it is open and has the appearance of the basement at Sears. Half the room is filled with clothes, watches, dolls, purses andhats, which are advertised at big savings. What I find interesting is the fact that a lot of this stuff has last years date on them. Check for email from home; go to another game show parody and then the final bingo session of the cruise. Why not, the odds at the casino are worse and there has to be a guaranteed winner in the final game. There is, but it isn't us. A little after 5:00, there is a general announcement. The captain states that do to the bad weather the ship has seen last night and today, it is impossible to get to Victoria on time, we will be an hour late. All pax with certain excursions will be credited the cost of the side trip. The problem I have is I have been looking out my window. Since 9:00 this morning there has been calm seas, in fact at the time of the captain's announcement, it is almost glass. Last night the ship was going 17+ knots and the bow wake was still foam back of amidships. Since I got up, we are going slow enough I can see no wake and the "from the bridge" channel no longer has the ship's speed listed. In any event we dock at Victoria at 8:00 and it felt like every person on the ship hit the dock at one time. From the time the ship tied up, all pax only had 3 ½ hours to find a way into town, do whatever and then get back to the ship. We stepped off the gangway with no particular plan. We saw at least 1200 people in lines waiting for different types oftransportation. We look at the lines and then at a very small store right there on the dock. No contest, go to the store and pickup a phone card for our stewardess and head back to the ship. Went to Lido and loaded a platter of sandwich makings and returned to the cabin. We spent the next few hours eating, packing and watching movies I had brought on the laptop.
Disembarkation-Princess has come up with something new to us. Everyone is issued new baggage tags that have a pull off tab showing color and number (we have orange 4). The idea is that pax show this tag to security to let you off the ship in a controlled flow and order, per a pre-arranged timetable. In the past pax would get off the ship out of order and stand around until their bags were made available. In theory, this may work, but there's a problem. The Oosterdam, which has been shadowing us all week, is also letting off their pax into the same customs line. Per the schedule, we were to hit the gangway at 8:55.we waited in the cabin for our tag to be called. That time came and went without ANYONE being called. As usual, no explanation is given, and the first release of pax occurs just prior to 10:00. I woke up before 7:00 and we were already tied up in Seattle. At least three hours in delays and no info from Princess, however the are numerous announcements telling waiting pax not to block stairways and to stay away from the area around the gangway. From our balcony, we can see the new passengers lining up at the terminal building. Our color was finally called at about 10:45, but by looking at the line ON the gangway I knew we were far from getting out. About two hundred people are standing on the gangway with little movement, leading to another line inside the building. Misinformation on where bags were piled inside the building and fighting your way through the people waiting to get on the ship for today's sailing we get in a cab a few minutes prior to noon. On the ride to the hotel, we learn that a lot of cabs have been waiting for hours for us to get off the ship. Almost feel guilty about the $8 fare downtown vs. the $20 fare to the airport the driver was waiting for, but I know he will return quickly and get another customer within 15 minutes. At the Renaissance Hotel, here was a room available and since it was prepaid, they let us check in early. I see a few people walking about the hotel I will describe as strange. We then see the signs for the Xena Warrior Princess convention. My wife has to get me away from the area after we see the guy with a plastic sword and the rear half of a cardboard horse glued to his butt. Got half way up the escalator before I started laughing out loud. We then went down to the pier where a maritime festival was in progress. Tugboat races, chowder cook offs, free museums and kids having fun. Have a great time and go back to the hotel around 4:00. We both lay down, just for a second, next thing we know it's 9 PM. Roam the streets finding places already closed and others we are not dressed for. After about 40 minutes we stumble across a McCormick's seafood restaurant. Post Cruise Day2-after breakfast, make our way to Safeco field and watch a MLB game. After the last out, we take twenty steps out the gate and get on a free bus heading north. I'll take this time to write about getting around Seattle. From the airport, there is the line of taxis waiting for you into town for around $20. The problem is almost all the taxis are standard cars. The two of us used taxis to and from the ship, one large suitcase, one "jellyroll bag", one garment bag, two small roll along bags and two adults filled all the space except for the seat next to the driver. A third person would fit, but don't know if the extra luggage from the third person would make it. We opted for the shuttle run by gray line that uses full size buses. $17.50 per person for a round trip airport to the downtown area. Stops at about 15 hotels in the downtown area, running every 30 minutes. If you don't mind spending a lot of money you can rent a car. The problem is where to put it when you're not driving. All the street parking does not look like it, but it is metered. You park and find the "machine" on your side of the street. Put your money in, get a receipt, return to your car and place the receipt in your window. Or you can park at your hotel. Our hotel wanted $20 a night. We saw one lot that wanted $24 for anything over 6 hours. I had done a little research and we relied on public transportation. In the downtown area, it's only about 7 blocks (East to West) from the pier area to the boundary of the freeway going through town. There are numerous bus lines going North South and just a few going East West. The amazing thing is, except for a 90-minute period in morning and evening "rush hour", the buses are free downtown. In addition, there is a bus underground line with five stops along the downtown area before it returns to the surface once out of the area. The monorail is still being used from the Seattle World's Fair, and get up to a pretty good speed, but the entire trip is over in less than 100 seconds. If your if your stopping at the Space Needle, the monorail may get you back close to your hotel for a couple of bucks. Then there's the trolley built sometime in the 20's, starts just North of the waterfront area, goes South to the ferry building and turns East for several blocks makes a turn South and stops across the street from the South end of the underground bus way described above, depending on the hour $1.25 or $1.50 that will let you ride back and forth for four fours. We had used this series of transportations several times to get back to hotels from the waterfront. I bother to get into the Seattle mass transit operations because of our experience. Got off the free bus from the baseball game near the pier and had dinner at a Red Robin. Headed for the trolley and head South. One stop before the rails ends, the crotchety old conductor booted everyone off the trolley, saying he was going out of service. One couple started fighting with him and got back on and the trolley, only to jump off into the street about 100 yards ahead. We ended up in the wrong part of town on foot among the homeless. Kept moving until we spotted a bus, didn't care where it was going, jumped on and got out of Dodge. Got back to the hotel 45 minutes later and locked ourselves into the room. We later learn the conductor does this on a regular basis to get a longer break at the end of the line.
Last Day-Take the shuttle back to the airport several hours ahead of time and watch movies on the laptop until our flight leaves. Didn't pay to much attention to a planeload of people who were waiting for a replacement airplane. Hit some rough air on the way home but arrived back in Los Angeles ahead of schedule. Getting home we watch the news, the original SouthWest airplane people were waiting for in Seattle had hit clear air turbulence and people were hurt. This explains why at one point the stewards were in mid snack service and a slight bell rang four times and they dropped what they were doing and ran for their seats and strapped in. A great trip that spanned twelve days, but sped by like four. In a short period of time, we traveled by plane, diesel bus, trolley, amphibious vehicle, monorail, electric bus, subway, taxi, cruise ship, ATV and smaller boat. By the way, there was a fire on the monorail a few days after out ride; per the local TV news, it may take months or years before it's running again. If you have lasted through this short story, congratulations. Over 720 still photos were taken and over 10 hours of videotape used.