Posted June 3rd, 2017, 11:48 PM
Joanie is not with me on this cruise because of the change In the HAL smoking policy but she continues to push me to keep cruising.
For the record, I was offered a $99 upsell to a SS category but I would have to move from my aft VB, losing my great view for a few square feet of space. I declined.
The turboprop Alaska Air plane was new and landed with nary a bump when it touched the landing strip. Since we had to walk out on the tarmac to the plane and back to the arrival terminal, I accomplished my walking goal for the day.
While waiting in the Seattle Terminal to board, I met a lady from Albuquerque who is working on the same project that had been before I retired. Such a coincidence so far from home. She is now armed with my Embarkation Day, excursion, and dining tips. She and her traveling companion are also going on to Denali as well. Two new CC members, I hope.
The Vancouver Airport Arrival was interesting to say the least. All passengers from all arriving aircraft enter a serpentine of stanchions/tape with about 30 passengers in each of the 20+ 50-foot lanes. All lines were in constant movement at a walking pace. When I arrived at the final lane, I looked back and saw the sea of passenger flowing like streams of water moving in different directions. A video was in order but not permitted in the Security Area.
The Customs process is entirely automated, once you reach the end of the serpentine line, with touch screens that asked lots of questions, each requiring a press of the "Continue" button at the bottom of the screen. The latter had many stumped so the 30 terminals were occupied for several minutes by each passenger. A final stop to speak to a Customs Officer involved answering the same questions that I just answered at the input terminals. Total Customs time was nearly one hour.
Another 20 minutes was spent with the HAL reps who were in panic mode trying to get arriving passengers to the Nieuw Amsterdam departing in less than two hours.
I photographed all of the shops in the Food Court across the street from the Hotel/Cruise Terminal in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel to be better able to describe what was available to those not wanting to pay the very high prices for hotel meals. Many businesses, fast food, shoe repair, dentist, luggage, snacks, clothing, and even an H&R Block for late tax filing were present. The aroma of Greek food beckoned and I could not resist stopping for an early dinner. The quantity of lamb skewers, Greek salad, rice, and pita was more than I could finish.
The Pan Pacific hotel is definitely 5-Star in quality and the HAL price that included transportation and porter fees was much better than I could find anywhere else. Luggage is still left in the room and the hotel gets it to the ship for you. The last time I stayed here, our luggage arrived only a few minutes after we entered our stateroom at 11:40 AM.
Being collocated with the Convention Center there are always events happening. Tonight was a formal affair with evening gowns, tuxedos, and a plethora of stretch-limousines dropping off attendees. From the height of some of the ladies, the event must have had a basketball/volleyball connection.
The last time that I stayed at the Pan Pacific, the Canadian version of "America's Got Talent" was holding auditions on Embarkation Day and we were awakened at first sunlight by screams as contestants were trying to get the attention of the many network TV camera people.
I received an email from HAL this morning advising a 9:30 AM arrival time to avoid a large number of tour buses arriving and two ships being in port at the same time. What happens when three ships are in port at the same time??
Tomorrow, I will be conducting a ship's tour at 1:30 PM for members of our roll call who are new to HAL as well as to familiarize myself with any new changes to the Noordam. All have been advised to bring cameras as it will be the only chance to see all of the spa facilities open for viewing. With any luck, I will run into some HAL crew members that Joanie and I have met in the past.
I will be observant of the check-in process and report back on this thread. Like many passengers, there is always hope of a "free" Neptune Suite upgrade tomorrow.