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friendswithdave

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About friendswithdave

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    Cool Cruiser

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  • Location
    NC
  • Interests
    Sports, children
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    RCCL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Caribbean

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  1. Thought I would share my notes on our debarkation in Vancouver on Sept 1. Extended family of six with three elderly parents travelling with us. We were all up early this morning and we ran into each other for breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe. It was good and quick and we enjoyed a few minutes on deck as we cruised under the bridge heading into Vancouver. We planned to meet at 7:15 in Cafe al Bacio to get ready to debark but all were there early and we saw the line beginning to form so we got in it. We had all our luggage with us so it was quite a site. The line began moving around 7:30 and move quickly and continuously to customs. Customs saw mom in a walker so they opened a new line for us and we went through almost without stopping. We continued to the taxi line and walked right into two taxis. It took awhile to load us and our stuff, but we were on our way by 7:45. We arrived at the airport by 8:10 and started moving there. There were few lines and despite having to go through ticketing, baggage, security, customs, we were through everything by around 8:45 - must sooner than we expected. Therefore we took our time getting through the airport for our 11:00 AM flight. Our flight left about 30 minutes late and were very worried about making our connection in O'Hare which was only one hour. We arrived only 10 minutes late, got cart assistance for mom, and made our way to the next gate, grabbing a quick bite on the way. We made it on time and were seated on the flight. Another uneventful flight and we were back in Raleigh by 9:20 PM.
  2. After we booked a Dec cruise a year ago I continued to watch prices drop and found what I think is the best deal for December 7-day cruise. I even took a screen shot so I wouldn't forget. It was 38 days prior to sail date. It was around $75 pp per day plus $100 pp OBC for a balcony. We are planning a mid-December cruise this year with friends and are planning to wait until October or November to book. Our friends travelling with us can't understand why we are waiting, but I think supply exceeds demand significantly in early to mid December that I am confident prices will drop on the two HAL ships we care considering. We are also considering a Princess ship during this time and aren't sure if those prices will drop like I expect HAL prices to drop. Current balcony prices are $50 higher than what we saw last year and have no OBC - where there was $100 pp last year at 38 days out.
  3. Guindolf, maybe the PM system does not work, it wouldn't allow me to PM you. Our next cruise will be Dec 15 out of Ft Lauderdale on a ship to be determined, likely HAL or Princess. We will be cruising with old friends for the first time in over 20 years.
  4. Yes, wife is fine. She has a sensitive stomach that doesn't respond well to rich foods and she is also sensitive to ship motion. There was some of both, so she retired a little early a few nights. Thanks so much for asking and commenting on the review. We've never been on a repo but hope to one day.
  5. FINAL NOTES - This was our second Alaskan cruise (other on HAL) and second Celebrity cruise (other in Equinox Spring 2019). Our overall experience on this ship was better than that on the Zaandam two years ago - but I must share we paid more for "less" vacation. On that cruise, we finished with a 5-day land portion with two nights in Denali. This was a cruise only vacation. Here is my comparison: ROOM - Eclipse - but we did have a balcony. The Zaandam inside room was the best inside room we have had. FOOD - Eclipse by a hair - primarily because we had lots of on board credit which enabled us to have two nights in the fee restaurants and our experience in these was very good. Breakfast was the same on both, lunch in the buffet was slightly better on Eclipse, dinner in MDR was slightly better on Zaandam. ENTERTAINMENT - Eclipse was better - primarily the shows. That said, Eclipse was twice the size of the Zaandam. OUTDOOR AREAS - Tie - we enjoyed the lawn club on Eclipse but enjoyed the large enclosed pool area on Zaandam. BARS - this was the big difference. We had the Premier Bev Package on the Eclipse and took advantage of that. It made our trip more relaxing and enjoyable. ITINERARY - Tie - Eclipse went to Icy Strait Point and Hubbard Glacier, Zaandam went to Glacier National Park and Skagway. We loved Skagway and missed going there, but our whale watching cruise out of ISP was phenomenal - the best excursion we ever had. Hubbard Glacier and GNP were both wonderful for different reasons. I'm glad we have experienced both. GUESTS - Eclipse had a MUCH younger demographic of other passengers - typical age was 40-60. Zaandam typical age was 55-75. In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed both vacations. I would recommend HAL for older passengers. It is a quieter and more relaxed vacation. Celebrity is better for the 40-55 crowd with a little more going on and a more stylish and hip atmosphere. Comparing this ship to the Equinox - there were very few differences in the ship, food, entertainment, cabins, etc. The main differences we noted were due to this being an Alaska cruise with fewer outdoor activities and that being a Caribbean cruise with more outdoor activities. Cheers!
  6. CRUISE DAY 7 - Debarkation - We were all up early this morning and we ran into each other for breakfast in the Oceanview Cafe. It was good and quick and we enjoyed a few minutes on deck as we cruised under the bridge heading into Vancouver. We planned to meet at 7:15 in Cafe al Bacio to get ready to debark but all were there early and we saw the line beginning to form so we got in it. We had all our luggage with us so it was quite a site. The line began moving around 7:30 and move quickly and continuously to customs. Customs saw mom in a walker so they opened a new line for us and we went through almost without stopping. We continued to the taxi line and walked right into two taxis. It took awhile to load us and our stuff, but we were on our way by 7:45. We arrived at the airport by 8:10 and started moving there. There were few lines and despite having to go through ticketing, baggage, security, customs, we were through everything by around 8:45 - must sooner than we expected. Therefore we took our time getting through the airport for our 11:00 AM flight. Our flight left about 30 minutes late and were very worried about making our connection in O'Hare which was only one hour. We arrived only 10 minutes late, got cart assistance for mom, and made our way to the next gate, grabbing a quick bite on the way. We made it on time and were seated on the flight. Another uneventful flight and we were back in Raleigh by 9:20 PM. Next up - final overall notes on our trip.
  7. CRUISE DAY 6 - Inside Passage - Today was a quiet day as we enjoyed all the ship amenities - the Sky Lounge (where we saw a few whales), Solarium, and a number of bars including the Casino Bar where we enjoyed some football on TV and met Guindolf and his DW. Weather was a little cooler with some off and on rain. It was lovely to talk with them and hear about their experiences and stories. Breakfast and lunch were in the Oceanview Cafe. Lunch included the dramatic dessert offerings that looked incredible but didn't taste quite as good as they looked. Dinner was in the main dining room. We took in the final show - which was the best of the lot. Many Cirque type elements and thoroughly enjoyable. The female aerielist showed some incredible feats of strength and was the most impressive of an outstanding cast. After the show we headed to our favorite event - the Silent Disco. We had a great time but didn't enjoy this one quite as much as on our last cruise for two reasons: 1 - the songs played were a little off, and 2 - it being our last night, we didn't feel like we could go all out and stay up as late as before since we had such a long travel day ahead of us. Still, a great time for wife and me. At dinner we reviewed our disembarkation plan - critical since we had an 11:00 AM flight and a very short layover in Chicago.
  8. CRUISE DAY 5 - Ketchikan - First, we had another incredible day weather-wise. Cool in the morning but high around 68 and not a cloud in the sky all day. We cruised in an area I remember seeing whales in before, so I spent much time watching for whales. Saw none in the early morning but around 11:00 I saw a few humpbacks. I believe I saw four different whales during the hour-long period from 11:00 to noon. We had a little credit left so wife and I had lunch in Sushi on 5. Wife loved her soup dish, I enjoyed my roll, and we shared some sashimi as a starter. All was very good and filled us up for the day. The morning and early afternoon was relaxing, just watching the shoreline go by. Ship docked at 2:00 and we debarked around 2:30. We took a leisurely stroll to the SE Alaska museum. Most entered, but son and I went on to Creek Street. We enjoyed watching the running salmon and three seals who live in the creek area. We also hiked up to the area with the fish ladder and admired the salmon who made their way up the ladder or the heavy rapids adjacent. We met the parents, spent more time in the Creek Street area, then son took our parents back to the ship. Wife and I enjoyed the area more until we headed back to the ship around 5:30, picking up some souvenirs and fudge on the way back. Dinner that evening was a late reservation at Murano. Wife and I enjoyed a few drinks in the Ensemble Lounge prior to dinner. Murano was very elegant and had great service - with a catch. We ordered varied apps and most ordered the lobster for dinner. I had the venison. During our appetizer course wife started feeling a little funny. It didn't take her long to realize she was at the beginning of an alergic reaction - realizing that her shellfish allergy may be flaring because they are flambeeing lobster nearby at another table. She left to the Ensemble Lounge to see whether or how much it would pass. It never did and she felt best to just return to the room. The food and service were great but the meal of course wasn't the same without her. My venison loin was very good and I had never had venison this way before. We had her duck delivered to her room, but it took over an hour to get there and wasn't the same by that time. We settled to bed after I got back to the room. I mentioned to our server what had happened, and he said it wasn't the first time someone had an alergic reaction to the flambeed lobster. He did not ask about allergies at our table or mention this as a possibility. We know now. We did appreciate that he discounted her meal by 50% since she could not spend most of it with us. Next - CRUISE DAY 6 - Sea Day
  9. We were on the same sailing. The curtains are black-out type and let no light through. Ours had velcro that kept the two ends together so not too much light came around and between the curtains.
  10. CRUISE DAY 4 - JUNEAU - We were up and atum early as this was our first and only FULL day in port. We enjoyed the balcony on the way in through heavy fog. It was amazing to hear the ship horn out there and then hear the echo which lasted a full nine seconds - I timed it! I've never heard such an echo in my life! Weather forecast was perfect - cool in the morning but a high around 70 in the afternoon. No rain. We pulled in around 7:00 AM and set to leave at 7:00 PM. We made plans the night before to meet our clan in the Cafe at 10:00 and walk off then to get our rental car. We were antsy to go so wife and I got off around 8:00 and strolled around downtown Juneau window shopping until around 9:00 when we started our mile walk down to Avis to pick up our rental car. Wife made it half-way before the smoke from the busses got her down, and I walked the rest of the way to pick up the car, then picked her up on the way. We found a good parking place pretty close to the ship and then boarded again to pick up the gang. It must have been low tide because the walk up from the dock to the mainland was very steep. We recruited two nice Celebrity gentlemen to help mom up the ramp in a wheelchair. Celebrity did a good job helping those needing assistance around and off and on the ship. We made our way to the car then headed to the Alaska Museum only about 1/2 mile away. Everyone enjoyed the museum, but our parents especially enjoyed it. They mentioned it was one of the highlights of their vacation. Much of the museum was dedicated to the native peoples who first settled the area and how they survived the harsh environment. After about an hour we headed to the little salmon dive right near the ship: The Salmon Spot. It is in a small trailer on the corner right near the "entrance" to downtown. The menu is simple: salmon chowder, salmon burgers, and salmon cakes. When you only have three things, you better do them well. And they do! Our best off-ship meal the entire cruise. Outdoor seating only, so you do hear the busses go by frequently, and not much fun on a rainy day. Simple food that tasted great and priced right. Highly recommended! From there we boarded our SUV and headed to Mendenhall Glacier. There were tons of people there, but it didn't seem overcrowded. Only wife, son and I decided to make the mile long trek to the glacier and waterfall. The glacier was cool, but the highlight was the waterfall. It is an easy hike over pretty even terrain, but is a mile each way so be prepared for that. It is amazing being able to get with just a few feet of a roaring waterfall. This stop and the hike are both highly recommended. At this point, it was mid-afternoon and the parents were tired. We took a driving tour up north of Juneau to see more of the coast and hopefully see some whales. We saw the coast but no luck on the whales. We headed back, dropped off the parents, then drove back to Avis to drop the car. I then made the mile walk back to the ship. You would think all this walking would keep the pounds from accumulating on my waistline during the cruise, but no. Too many food + alcohol calories. I gained about 5 pounds this trip. Back on the ship we had a relaxed afternoon then an early dinner. This was our second "evening chic" night so we had a nice early dinner in the MDR. Most had the lobster. Son and I had two. It was good but not great. After that we watched us cruise away from Juneau from the Sky Lounge. The scenery here is wonderful and we saw two other ships ahead of us that evening. We skipped the comedian / magician that evening and headed to bed after dark. Next up - CRUISE DAY 5 - Ketchikan.
  11. CRUISE DAY 3 - HUBBARD GLACIER - I hadn't talked about the weather, but it has been absolutely wonderful. A little warmer than usual with very little rain. Today we woke up to an expectedly chilly morning, but temps would warm to around 60 by mid-afternoon. It was also foggy in the morning as we spent time strolling inside and outside waiting for our approach to the glacier. Our first highlight was unexpected - a majectic mountain ahead of us peeking through the waning fog. The interwebs told us this was likely Mt. Logan - and it was. The second tallest peak in North America. We continued on and Mt St Elias and Mt King George also came into view. They were magnificent. Hubbard Glacier was incredible, but these peaks (and one other) were a close second in daily highlights and provided a much longer "show" to see both as we approached and as we left the bay. After debate, we decided to head to the very front on Deck 12 outside the gym for our viewing on approach. It was a great decision as we arrived shortly before most of the crowds did. It was chilly as the cold wind blew in our faces. Wife had the idea to sit and watch through the wind screen window, eliminating the wind and making it feel much better. The fog had lifted completely and there were very few clouds, providing an incredible view of the glacier face and "river" along with the mountains in the background. Even the small icebergs parted, providing a clear path for us to approach - according to the Captain - closer than they had been all year. Likely less than a mile away. We could hear the thunder of the calving before we could see, but on approach we had some great views to see some huge ice boulders fall from the glacier. Another memorable moment. We arrived as close as we would get by about 11:30 AM. At 11:50 we decided to meet our family for lunch in the MDR where we planned to get a great window seat. Well, our parents forgot about our meet AND we saw we would be seated on the opposite side of the glacier, so we nixed that plan and headed to Oceanview for lunch. We ended up getting a great seat and could see but not hear the glacier. As we watched, we noticed the ship stop turning one way and start turning the other way. Soon after we start heading out - a little after 1:00 PM. This was disappointing as I was enjoying our time at the glacier and we were only in the "prime" viewing area for about 100 minutes, significantly less than the 10:30 - 2:30 that we thought we would get at the glacier. Still, it was a wonderful experience and soon after we got to admire Mt Logan again as it came into view. We admired this for a few hours and a little later admired Mt Fairweather for 3-4 hours as it came into view as darkness came. Two years ago our cruise took us to Glacier Bay and I wondered which I would prefer. Thinking back, I am glad we went to Hubbard instead. Yakutat Bay isn't nearly as majestic as Glacier Bay, and we did not see any marine mammals there (like we did at Glacier Bay). However, the mountain views combined with the massive size of Hubbard Glacier and frequent calving made this experience every bit as enriching as our Glacier Bay visit. If I had to choose my favorite, it would truly be a draw. I enjoyed both areas immensely. I enjoyed the ROCK show while wife continued to take in the views of Mt Fairweather. After that we met for another great dinner in the MDR and then off to bed. Another wonderful day. Next - CRUISE DAY 4 - JUNEAU.
  12. CRUISE DAY 2 - Icy Strait Point - The morning and early afternoon on board were quiet and uneventful. We tend not to do the daytime onboard activities and choose to stroll, relax, have a few drinks, and generally just chill while on board. We did spend some time in the Sky Lounge, one of our favorite places, and say some Dall's Porpoises jump as they avoided the ship. Wife, mom and I had a whale watching excursion planned here so we got off among the first crowd - about 10 minutes later than expected. I was worried the walk would be too long for mom so just after we got off we saw a handicap cart to help us to the excursion point. We were the first there so we waited for others and the driver. And waited. And waited. Others came, but after about 15 minutes and no driver I walked on to the excursion point. Everyone was there except our group and one other, who came soon after. I told them the deal, and of course they waited. Soon after we saw a cart go towards the dock with two people - we learned the two drivers. I am guessing they were on their break and were just late to get to the dock. Mom and wife finally arrived and we were off - about 25 minutes late. The bus ride to the boat was cool - about 1.5 miles. I happened to see one bald eagle on the way. We boarded the boat and were quickly on our way out. We saw a few otters on the way. After about 15 minutes we heard a commotion from the front. A whale had breached! We continued and saw another breach. We arrived to the area and saw 10-15 full breaches by a mother humpback, apparently entertaining her calf who was with her. It was truly amazing and unforgettable! That was the best, but the first among many highlights. - While watching the breaching, two sea lions appeared suddenly and loudly about 10 feet from the front of the boat. They shocked everyone with their loud breath and complete surprise. They weren't seen before or again after their one surface but made a brief but memorable appearance. - We cruised a few miles to where three orcas were cruising: a huge male, medium size female, and a calf. They cruised around together and were seen frequently, including once very near the boat after disappearing for 2-3 minutes. - We cruised a few more miles to see five humpbacks feeding together. We took the whale excursion here versus Juneau because we read that there whale watching here was better. While I don't know that this is true, this was FAR better than our whale watch tour in Juneau two years ago, and the highlight of our entire trip. The only downside was our trip was a little shorter than expected because of the late start and 7:00 PM tour right after ours. This wasn't their fault and more a matter of circumstances. Icy Strait Whale Adventures - highly recommended and booked privately (not part of a ship tour). We boarded the ship after we were dropped off right at the ship. That was a nice bonus. We got ready for dinner, headed to the Ensemble Lounge for a few drinks, looked at our pictures and videos from the tour, and made our 8:30 res for Tuscan Grill. It was a wonderful experience with great service and food, most of which was served family style, We shared a few apps, a few salads, then most got the filet with a few pastas served with it. Meal ended with dessert. Absolutely wonderful experience and probably one of the top five meals of my life. Everyone else retired and I went to the Rock show in the theater. It was good and I appreciated the live band that supported the rest of the performers. Next up - DAY 3 - HUBBARD GLACIER
  13. CRUISE DAY 1 - Our first sea day. There were a few highlights from this day as we cruised along the Canadian and Alaska coast. First, I remember them having good sales in the shops. We rarely shop while cruising but took advantage of some real sales on clothing. Wife and I both got quarter-zip sweaters for $10 each and she got a few scarves for a good sale price. There were lots of people shopping and taking advantage of the sale. We enjoyed a few hours in the Solarium in the afternoon which included some hot tub time. Had a few drinks and just relaxed. We enjoy that area. This was the first "Cruise Chic" night so dinner had lots of great choices in the dining room. We planned to eat around 6:30 but had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. We were seated and dinner took longer than expected, but food and service were otherwise very good. We made it out in time for the 9:15 Topper show. We saw this on the Equinox which was better there. In our show, the "moon guy" wasn't working so some of the songs were sung by no one, making things a little strange for those unfamiliar with what should be expected. The live performers were all good. We planned to do the Silent Disco after the show, but wife was feeling a little off so we went to bed after the show. Next up - CRUISE DAY 2 - Icy Strait Point
  14. CRUISE DAY 0 - Everyone was up on time at Windsor House and we had a relaxing breakfast, bothered only by the yellow jacket who wandered in and wanted to be involved in everyone's food. We left around 9:30 and decided to tour Stanley Park. We first crossed the big bridge and found a Tim Horton's, both things we all just wanted to do. After the coffee and doughnuts we headed into the park for real. We first parked in the lot near the bridge that had the cliffs. It really was perfect there. Wonderful views, great weather, we could have stayed all day. We took a driving tour around the rest of the park. We would have stopped to smell more roses if we had more time, but we wanted to tour Granville Island before we boarded. Granville Island was an ecletic place full of crafts and craft food and drink. We got on the wait list of the Canada restaurant and took our tour of the area. They happened to be having an old boat festival so it was cool to see and board a few of those. Our meal was great but a little longer than planned. We did not have time for my son to visit the exotic car dealers we saw on the way in. We headed back to Windsor House, loaded up with all our bags, and headed to the port - Canada Place. We arrived right at 2:00 PM - exactly when we planned to arrive. My research about the port was good but not quite complete. BIL dropped us right in front of Canada Place and we unloaded our bags and made our way down under for baggage drop. Once we got there we realized we could have been dropped off underneath. LESSON - if you are being dropped off, drive under the building so you don't have to schlep your bags at all. The entire underground area was like a ghost town. Seemed like there was no one there. It felt like we were in the wrong place. However, we were right and the Celebrity reps pointed us in the right direction. We continue to luggage drop, then security, then check-in, then customs, then on the ship. The only waiting we had was at customs - 2-3 minutes tops. It took longer to get from place to place then we spent in any one place. I expect we boarded about 20 minutes after we were dropped off - and we walked slowly. Mom was also placed in a wheelchair early on so she wouldn't have to stand or walk so far. We appreciated that assistance and the man who pushed her. Funny, I remember few specifics after we boarded. Maybe it was the few drinks we had, or that everything was just right - but not memorable. We enjoyed going under the bridge on sailaway. We looked for marine wildlife and did see one whale that evening. We considered going to Murano on the first night because it was discounted but it and Tuscan Grill were both full all evening. Still, we had a great dinner that evening in the main dining room. Most had the prime rib and it was very good. Wife wasn't feeling right by the end of the evening so I saw the comedian on my own. He was OK, not worth seeing the adult show the next night. Headed to bed after that. We had a great day all around. Next up - sea day. CRUISE DAY 1
  15. Yes, our flight on Delta LAX to YVR was supposed to be 12:10 to 3:00 but was about an hour late if I remember right.
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