Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cruising Alaska

We had a day at sea and then stops in Juneau on Monday and Skagway on Tuesday. Juneau was rainy and foggy. We decided not to bother with the tram ride since there would be no views at the top. We made a stop at the public library located on the top level of the municipal parking garage. The views of the bay with frequent sea plane landings was quite lovely. We got caught up with email and other internet stuff and headed back to the ship.  Photo below is downtown Juneau. Click to view the larger version. 

In Skagway the weather was good and I took a long walk around town. I stopped at the post office, the library (more wi-fi), the yarn store and the super market. Tuesday evening we dined in the Pinnacle Grille courtesy of our travel agent, Paula. Dick had filet mignon and I had lamb chops. Service was excellent and I had creme brûlée for dessert. Couldn't get any better than that. For lunch and dinner in the main dining room we've asked to be seated at tables for six and have had interesting conversations with people from all over. The largest group on the ship is from Australia followed by Canada and then the U.S.  

As I type, the ship is stopped near the Marjerie Glacier.  I'm thinking the Captain is waiting for it to calve. It would be amazing to see a piece fall off. We're told this glacier extends five miles back. The time in Glacier Bay was the most scenic.  

Thursday was Ketchikan. All three towns seemed to be oriented to the cruise trip tourists with many souvenir shops. Since it is the end of the season there seemed to be an air of desperation to unload as much ticky tacky merchandise as possible. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Onward to Vancouver

We said farewell to Chris and the twins early in the morning as they headed off to work and school. I spent some time in the morning playing card games with Orion. Before long it was time for us to head off. 

Becky graciously offered to drive us to Union Station. We arrived shortly after noon and checked our bags. Next door in the 19th century station was a restaurant, Wilf's with a lovely patio so we settled in for lunch in the Portland sunshine. You can see the restaurant's umbrella in the foreground. 

We boarded the Amtrak Cascades at 2:30 for a 2:45 departure. We followed Chris's advice and obtained seats on the west side of the train. We had lovely views as we headed toward Seattle. Not too far past Seattle, the sun set. Although the train was modern and spacious with comfortable seating and wi-fi, after dark the ride grew tedious. We were happy to hear the announcement that we were arriving in Vancouver, BC. Unfortunately there was only one Customs and Immigration official so the process was slow. Once we were cleared we caught a cab to our downtown hotel. It was after midnight so we fell right into bed.

The next morning after breakfast in the hotel dining room we packed up and headed to the pier. Since it was only two and a half blocks, we walked over. It was a glorious day. Boarding was quick and efficient. Our stateroom was ready. It was inside, as expected, but was considerably larger than the last time we sailed. We headed to the main dining room for the Mariners Lunch. It was hard to choose because everything on the menu sounded so good. I ended up with shrimp cocktail and grilled salmon. By the time we got back to our room, our luggage had arrived and we spent some time unpacking. Then we headed to the Lido Deck for sail away. With the sun shining it was quite festive. 

Here are some photos taken during sail away:

Dick enjoying the NY Times on the Lido Deck. 

Passengers enjoying the sunshine in Vancouver. 

The Vancouver skyline. 

The harbor as we prepare to sail out to sea. 

I'm hoping this weather holds for the duration of the trip. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

PDX Time is Winding Down.

We've had three full days with our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  We've walked, gone to Foster Burger for lunch, played games, travelled around on the bus and the trolley. We've spent lots of time playing Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Toca Cars. Linnea mastered purling and started a new knitting project. Here's a photo from Foster Burger. Once again, click on the picture to see the whole thing. 

We had some minor complications while we were here. I developed an allergic reaction on the plane which morphed into a full blown dry eye issue. I was able to get my internist to fax a prescription to a chain pharmacy here in Portland.  It took a day and a half of telephone tag, but I got the drops and my eyes are now fully healed. 

The other argle-bargle involved our Master Card. I got an email from Chase concerning the Home Depot breach. Our card was to be replaced. The bank was sending new ones. Since we planned to be away for a considerable time longer we would not have access to the cards. After talking to Chase, they offered to send the new cards here in Portland via UPS overnight.  Then while we were at the pharmacy, where we inefficiently made three separate purchases still using the old cards, Chase called to verify our cards were not stolen. Apparently numerous small purchases in the same store triggers this.  Actually, that's good, stopping fraud before it mounts up to a large amount. Now the big chore will be notifying all of the vendors we pay automatically on the card. That we be a job when we get home since I don't have account numbers and passwords with me. 

Tomorrow we're heading to Vancouver, BC, via Amtrak. We're told it's a beautiful ride up the coast. We'll have one night in a hotel and then board the Zuiderdam on Saturday. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And we made it

We arrived in Portland right on time. We debated about taking a taxi but in keeping with the rest of the day, we opted for public transit. The trip from the airport to Chris and Becky's house is $1 each for "Honored Citizens."  It involves the light rail, a bus and a two block walk. Both Dick and I were wrangling two suitcases and a backpack. (I probably have mentioned this in a previous post. It's a consequence of booking a trip that combines Alaska and glaciers with the Panama Canal and sunshine) My biggest concern was the elevator at the transfer point. If it's not working, it's one big flight of stairs. I've managed it in the past, but not with two suitcases. 

Fortunately for us, the elevator was working and when the bus pulled up, the driver put out the handicapped ramp. We were able to roll our suitcases right on. She did the same thing when we reached our stop. Tri-Met at its best. 

The kids were waiting up for us and were so excited when we finally arrived. I'm always so delighted at the way they respond to us. So, we now have a little more than three days before it's time for the next phase of our journey. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Travel Day

I'm sitting on the plane enroute to San Francisco. It's full, not a single seat open. So far, no angry confrontations about reclining seats have occurred.  There have been three separate incidents in the past few weeks so I wondered if we would experience it. The gentleman in front of me is quite tall and has reclined his seat, probably because the person in front of him did so. My left knee is jammed a bit but it's manageable. When Dick and I travel together, we usually take an aisle and a window seat. The hope, of course, is that the middle seat will remain empty. No such luck this time. 

We took a taxi to the Westfield Transit Station and caught the train to the airport. We considered walking to the station, we have done this in the past. But, each of us had two suitcases and a backpack. The train to Newark was an express which was fortunate. We found elevators every place we needed them. The biggest challenge was navigating what NJ Transit refers to as "the gap" between the train and the platform. In Newark it seemed enormous. Good citizens and a train employee helped us at each point. Once we got to the airport we were able to shed the large bags. The journey from home to EWR involved four legs but was totally seamless. 

We have a long layover in SFO. We used our guest passes to the United Club which is quite comfortable. There are snacks, drinks and wi-fi. It's given me a chance do do some blogging. We're told the terminal has a number of good restaurants. With the time change, it will soon be dinner time for us. We plan to give one a try. 

Click on the photos to see them full size. 

Here is Dick doing what he does best, reading the NY Times. The United Club was a nice place to do that. 

It was a six hour very full flight from Newark to San Francisco. As luck would have it, I was seated next to a knitter. We had a lot to talk about during the flight as we both worked on projects. I made a lot of progress on my sock. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Packed and Ready

Well, we did it, packed all the things. There were frantic moments, mislaid sunglasses, a quick run to Target for another suitcase, lots of pill counting and packaging. It's amazing how much work it is to go on vacation. We each have a carry on bag and one to check. It's going to be an arduous day because I was unable to book a direct flight. We're flying to San Francisco and after a long layover, on to PDX. I'm told there is free wi-fi at the SF airport and many good restaurants. And we have passes to the United Club. I'm sure we'll find ways to pass the time. 

I feel as if we are going off on a great adventure. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bucket List Cruise

On Monday we set off for Portland, OR, on the first leg of a great adventure. We'll spend a few days with our west coast family before boarding Amtrak to Vancouver, BC. There we will board the Holland America ms Zuiderdam and set sail for Alaska. Seven days later we will return to Vancouver but rather than disembark, we will continue on as passengers as the ship relocates for its winter season in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It's a total of 27 days. You can see the map below. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will see the entire itinerary. 

I haven't used Blogger in over a year and my skills are rusty. I'd like to continue the text after the graphic, but it's resisting my efforts right now. I'm planning to report regularly from the ship with photos and remarks. I hope you will follow along.