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parentsof5

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  1. We have been home almost a week from our 25th Anniversary Trip, and I am ready to tell our story (also not ready to jump into weekend chore mode!). I started the planning for this trip about 18 months out. We are typically frugal travelers. This trip, we were doing everything we wanted to do, I decided a long the way. We splurged on some things.While it could have been more expensive, with even more excursion choices, it also could have been done for less and still had a great time. For those of you just starting to plan, keep at it. It can be daunting, in fact, was the hardest trip I have planned thus far. There is so much to take into consideration, and getting the order down in order to make reservations, etc., was not always the easiest. Be diligent, make reservations that can be changed in case you come across something new that trumps the old, know that no matter what, you are going to Alaska - everything is beautiful and you can't go wrong. Just because everyone goes one way, if that doesn't sound like your way - it's ok. Listen to your gut. When deciding which cruise, I took into consideration time we could get away from work. The further into the summer, the harder for me. Which way the cruise was going. And ports. In the end, we chose this option because it was during our anniversary and also during a slower time of work before it kicks in to busy season, we could tack it onto a holiday to get an extra day off work to recuperate, it went North and we decided to follow the advice it gets better and better every day, building to fantastic. We did not regret one of those decisions. It did leave us with what appeared to be the lesser of ship choices. I kept a positive attitude about what we read, taking the stance that if we had never been on the ship before we wouldn't know the difference. I will say now, if at all possible, I would still chose the same option because it fit all of our other criteria. I especially found it difficult to navigate, however, after the second morning, with some time alone moving around the ship, I found my base - the atrium, and could get there from everywhere without getting lost (most of the time), and then in turn could get to where I wanted to go for dinner, theater, etc. It would not be my choice for ship though. I think that some of the other amenities on ships I read about would fit us - like on the Coral without the added cabins breaking up the flow as with the Island and the International Cafe. This was our first time on Princess. There were things we liked, and some not so much. We really liked the sea day activities. They were fun, informational, and kept us busy. Food was not as enjoyable, however, it did get better. The first couple of nights the options in the dining room weren't fits for us, and while things we would eat, just really didn't wow us. We did eat supper (evening meal) in the buffet a couple times instead, which was something different for us. With the low key vibe, and late times in port, it was a better fit. One of those nights was some delicious seafood. I wasn't blown away with the dessert offerings, and did't partake several times. That said, we liked what we ate ok, we of course did not starve, it just wasn't a wow for us - so take this with a grain of salt. We all have our own tastes. We did anytime dining. We enjoyed meeting a variety of people. While one night was a little harder with the fit of company, I would not change any of it. We had wonderful conversations with people from Canada, California, Virginia, Florida, just to name a few. And had a great time meeting up with a few of them along the way and enjoying further time together. All of them were older than us, and the majority retired (we are 47 and 50) - and we loved every conversation. My one regret of the trip, was not taking, or having pictures taken of us with them. I am sure I will have other tidbits as we go along, but let's get started! Our trip actually started Sunday, May 13. We flew out at 4:30, through DFW with a rather long layover. It went fast though, and is a nice airport. We had dinner at Papadeaux's - which we love and don't have at home. We left a little after 10 pm and arrived in Vancouver, BC shortly after midnight their time (so 2:00 am our time). We were not tired, having taken a little nap on the plane. Customs was fairly easy, although we did boof it. It has been a few years since we have flown to a foreign country, and evidently we had forgotten how to do it.....we both went to our own kiosk - mistake number one. They printed out blank claims forms, so we had to hand-fill out ours. But we made it through, grabbed our luggage, and found a cab. Nice driver, told us some about the city - standard $35 CA (set fee) to our hotel downtown, The Westin Bayshore. We have a daughter that works for the company, and we are fortunate to get the family rate, or we would have gone another direction most likely. We checked in quickly, and were up in our room between 1 and 1:30 am. We enjoyed the view for a bit, and even though we were (well, mostly me) so excited we weren't tired, we went to bed. And had no trouble falling asleep after a conversation about leaving our phones on Airplane Mode until we were alert enough to make sure our data was turned off, etc. We slept soooo well, until 6:30 am when my husband's phone started ringing!!! Over and over. He finally answered, it was the wrong number! (Guess who didn't leave it on Airplane Mode?) Well, needless to say, we could not go back to sleep. We decided to just get up and do some exploring. We enjoyed breakfast outside at a small restaurant next to the hotel. 6 Degrees is a charming small eatery ran by a husband and wife (with precious little one strapped to mom in a carrier helping get drinks, etc.). They had healthier type options, with one option for eggs, toast, meat. I had a wrap that was very filling, although could have used some sort of moisture in a sauce or something. I think because of the whole grain type wrap. My husbands eggs, toast were good. The family was lovely. Nice view of the harbor, as long as you choose a table without a car parked at the curb in front of it. Even with, still a lovely view over the car. AM View We didn't really have a plan when we left, and decided to walk around a bit. I had not planned anything this day, because I really thought we would sleep late, talk, piddle, take our time getting around and just hang out near the hotel that day. In hindsight, we should have went back to the hotel, regrouped, and planed a little if only because we ended up doing a lot that day, walking, and encroaching on some of the plans for the next day. But I can go with the flow, so really didn't think. We walked along the harbor, and ended up walking to Stanley Park. We walked along to the Totem Poles, and eventually ended up at the aquarium. The aquarium was nice, not necessarily our favorite ever, but had a lot of smaller exhibits with lovely fish (and some not so lovely). What made it stand a part were outdoor exhibits with seals, penguins, etc. That was pretty neat. This is not a cheap stop at $39 pp, but we enjoyed our time there. By now it is lunch time (maybe a late lunch), we started the walk back toward the hotel and found an outdoor map and got a bit more of a lay to the land. We were not quite back to our hotel, and found that at the next street and a couple blocks up, there were several restaurants. The street is Denman. This is to be remembered, in my opinion, it is close to the hotel, has many eating options of all types of food (think mom and pop type places with good food). Also on this street is a nice Safeway Grocery and would have been great for picking up picnic food and a little money savings.This day, we ended up eating at a great little Italian Restaurant, Bella Ristorante Italiano. I had the eggplant parm appetizer and a side salad and the husband had lasagna. All very good. We then walked back to the hotel, and kept going the other way, strolling to Canada Place, taking our time, enjoying everything in between. We checked out the cruise terminal and got the lay of the land for our departure later in the week. Then we walked back. Let me say here, this was not as small of a walk as it appeared from the hotel. This day, we did a bit over 20,000 steps. We went back to the hotel and rested for a bit, as the late night, sort sleep was catching up with me. Later that evening, we decided to head back to Denman for dinner. This night we chose Barbecue and Buckstop. This is small bar that serves food. While it is not BBQ like home, it was good. We had a sampler type platter we shared. The smoked chicken was our favorite. We had some sides that while sounding BBQish, were twists on them as far as we were concerned. That wasn't a bad thing, just don't want you to think KC BBQ, etc. We left full. I was done for the evening at this point, and we went back to the hotel, watched some tv and I was soon sound asleep.
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