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Aunt Linda Sails to Alaska – Review of Radiance of the Seas Northbound from Vancouver

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This is my second time posting a review of one of our cruises, the Radiance of the Seas sailing north from Vancouver to Seward on 22 June 2012. I’m modeling this review off my last one of the Carnival Liberty. Please bear (bare?) with me as I like the idea of sharing our experiences with you as well as keeping memories of our fantastic family vacation.

 

We are a non-traditional family of four – two dads, Dan (me) & Derrell, and two boys, Cameron & Malik. We cruise annually, usually on Carnival but we’ve done Royal Caribbean a couple times now. This year’s cruise was very special because it was an extended family cruise. This was my Aunt Linda’s first cruise. She’s special needs and when my grandparents and father passed away, guardianship passed to me. She’s charming, loveable and says some pretty funny things every once in a while. A couple years ago, I asked her if there were any places she wanted to go since she’s nearing retirement. She said she wants to go to Alaska and “go on an African safari.” I figured a cruise to Alaska was a safer bet to see how she does on a vacation! Here’s a pic of Derrell, Aunt Linda, Cameron and me on the Mister Mom II (our boat and also my handle name on Cruise Critic).

 

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My sister’s family also accompanied us as did my dear friend of over 20 years, Lindsey, who was there as Linda’s travel companion. Here’s a group pic of us take on the Radiance.

 

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It took a while to find the time to write this review. Summertime came and went and now that fall is upon us and the Mister Mom II is sheltered for the cool months, I have some time to reflect upon our awesome experience with the Radiance and Alaska.

 

You’ll also meet our travel companion, Funship Freddy! While we are not strict Carnival cruisers (sailed the Oasis OTS last year), Freddy sails with us and keeps us out of trouble (and vice versa).

 

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Freddy was a gift to us from 2 couples who sailed the Carnival Dream with us in 2010. That’s me on the left and Derrell on the right.

 

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We all raced the “Amazing Cozumel Race,” which we won! Freddy sports the winning gold medal.

 

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My planned outline (which may change as I compose this!) –

 

1. Pre-cruise (with a not-so-ideal family “tradition”)

2. 6/22 Embarkation in Vancouver

3. 6/23 Cruising the Inside Passage (Formal night)

4. 6/24 Ketchikan (Walking tour, Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, Totem Pole Park)

5. 6/25 Icy Strait Point (Marine Mammal Tour)

6. 6/26 Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier, Dog Sledding and Mt Roberts Tramway)

7. 6/27 Skagway (Skagway Extravaganza - White Pass and Yukon Railway, Liarsville Salmon Bake, Formal Night)

8. 6/28 Cruising and the Hubbard Glacier

9. 6/29 Debarkation, Rafting the Kenai Canyon, Alaska Railroad to Anchorage

10. 6/30 Anchorage to home and closing thoughts

 

I’ll try to make some recommendations throughout my review and may have a rant or two thrown in. I’ll highlight these as I go. Also, most of my 2000+ pics were family pics, but I’ll make every effort to stick to review-related and scenery pics. There might even be some food porn thrown in!

 

Pre-cruise (with a not-so-ideal family “tradition”)

 

I booked the Radiance through our standard travel agent. I managed to get 4 balcony rooms in a row – 7162-7168. Normally, I’m a bit more thorough when choosing rooms but I booked kinda’ late and wanted to have us all close together. This is a semi-rant and recommendation. Our room was right over the stage of the Colony Club which had music until midnight. We turn in kind of early and the noise through the floor was terrible. My standard procedure and recommendation is to locate a room that has cabins above AND below them to assure quiet. Cabins on high decks can suffer through the scraping of deck chairs on the floor above them. Cabins with public spaces below them can, obviously, be noisy late nights.

 

Obligatory room pic

 

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Balcony is HUGE

 

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We flew Delta from Atlanta to Vancouver. Here’s Linda and Freddy waiting to board leg 1 of our flight.

 

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Layover in Salt Lake City. Lindsey teaches Linda how to use binoculars. (Note that Linda holds them upside down. More on that later.)

 

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Airport “charging station”

 

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Upon arrival in Vancouver, I choose to use mass transit, the Sky Train. It would have been easier to take a cab but I really like trying to experience a city as if I live there.

 

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Here’s the not-so-ideal family tradition. Several years ago, I booked a hotel near Port Canaveral before a cruise. Sadly, I had booked the hotel the following night – the day the ship actually departed! AND there was a space shuttle launch so every room was booked! We had a very sympathetic desk attendant at the hotel and he found us a room nearby. I screwed up the hotel reservation. On THIS trip, I booked a hotel at the Fairmont Waterfront. When I looked up directions to the Fairmont, we got off the Sky Train and schlepped our luggage to the Fairmont. BUT it was the Fairmont DOWNTOWN! Yuck. So we had several more blocks to lug the luggage to the correct hotel, the Fairmont Waterfront. I recommend you double- and triple-check your hotel reservation dates AND locations!

 

6/22 Embarkation

 

Our view from our room the following morning

 

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The Fairmont Waterfront is a wonderful hotel to stay if you’re boarding the Radiance at Canada Place.

 

Freddy likes the view.

 

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As my sister’s family had arrived overnight, we gathered for breakfast in the morning. The waitress recommended taking the Sea Bus across the Burrard Inlet to a nice park. I recommend doing this and killing time, especially with little ones (and Aunt Linda’s!)

 

Playground equipment

 

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Sculpture with view of the Radiance in the distance

 

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Aunt Linda tries the “pole”

 

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Panoramic view towards Canada Place and our home for the next week

 

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The Fairmont Waterfront was to deliver our luggage to the Radiance. This is a very convenient benefit. Before we knew it, it was time to board!

 

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We got through security pretty painlessly. Before we know it, I can have my traditional first drink of the cruise!

 

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And it’s time for sailaway

 

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Dinner this evening was My Time Dining in the MDR. I prefer main seatings but all of those were booked. Here is some obligatory food porn.

 

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We took Linda and Timothy (my nephew) out for soft serve, wandered the ship some and turned in early. Tomorrow is cruising.

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Been thinking about an Alaska cruise, so I'm really enjoying your review. Thanks for sharing your photos too! Sound you you had a good cruise.:)

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What a fabulous couple y'all are. You're care and concern for others is evident.

 

Looking forward to the rest of the review. We were just at Canada Place boarding the Celebrity Millennium a couple of weeks ago.

 

Nancy

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We spend the day touring the ship and reconnecting as a family. While the Solarium is advertised as “adults only,” there are two sessions a day designated as family time. The days in Alaska were too cold for my tastes to swim outdoors so it is wonderful to have the covered, heated Solarium to swim in with Tim.

 

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The Solarium is wonderful with the piped in bird songs, elephant decorations and Park Café food.

 

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Tim’s parents (my sister and Lee, her husband) utilize the kids’ programs pretty frequently so they could have some adult time. The Royal Caribbean kids programs were great. I recommend them.

 

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I usually book my cruises based on the ship – usually newer and bigger. The Radiance OTS is quite the opposite! However, it was refurbished in 2011 and I really couldn’t feel that it was smaller and slightly older. Royal Caribbean did a wonderful job with the design and refurb of the ship. The amount of glass and outside views from the public spaces are wonderful.

 

Centrum

 

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The artwork on the ship is extensive inside and out.

 

Stairwell mini-furniture

 

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By the climbing wall

 

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Wayfinding is quite easy with three dimensional ship maps and signage – both static and digital.

 

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One of our favorite places to hang out is the Champagne Bar on deck 6. Occasionally, they’d have hot appetizers to go with our martinis.

 

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Martini menu

 

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This evening, we have dinner in the MDR again with the same fantastic staff. My sister and her husband had recently celebrated their anniversary and the dining staff bring them a special cake and sing.

 

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After dinner, Linda and Lindsey go to the Centrum to listen to music by the Upscale Trio. Linda loves the music and the lead singer who recognizes Linda every night! Linda LOVES the attention!

 

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The show in the main theater this evening is the one and only Bobby Arvon who sang the “Happy Days” theme. Linda takes a picture with him after the show.

 

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After the show, we return to our rooms to a gorgeous view outside. (This was taken past midnight. It never got completely dark!)

 

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We have to shoo this little guy off the bed and turn in for the evening.

 

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Hi everyone! Thanks for the compliments.

 

I'm going to be following this as well. Nice to see two fathers cruising with their sons. How old are your sons?

 

Cam (the smaller guy) is 17 and Malik (the refrigerator) is 16. They've lived with us for 7 and 9 years, respectively. We're going through those awkward teenage years but they're great guys!

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After the show, we return to our rooms to a gorgeous view outside. (This was taken past midnight. It never got completely dark!)

 

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We have to shoo this little guy off the bed and turn in for the evening.

 

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Great review! Keep it coming!

 

These two pictures are very striking and shows how much more daylight time you got around the summer solstice. My GF and I sailed the 8/31 sailing and it got dark much earlier. It was dark around 8.

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Oh goody!!!!! We go next Sept.

Very interested in the SkyTrain info....and your family pic reminds of the T.V. show Family....ha ha! You could have your own show......

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A quick check of the ship information channel….

 

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And we’re in

 

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We hopped off the ship for a self-guided walking tour. We started with

 

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It was quite the haul up those stairs. Aunt Linda did great!

 

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The view from the top. We made it!

 

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Even Subway is more expensive in Alaska!

 

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Cool eagle carving

 

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Different view. J

 

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The salmon ladder. I’d recommend going later in the season when the salmon are running. Sadly, we didn’t see any.

 

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We then headed down…

 

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Freddy has to show off.

 

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The ship was so close to town we headed back there for lunch in the Windjammer. Linda took a power nap.

 

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We had tour tickets that started off with the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. It was a lot of fun! Linda has trouble smiling for the camera. I think she was nervous surrounded with all those lumberjacks.

 

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Tim won a chip of wood for our team!

 

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We then took a trolley to Saxman Totem Park. There was a carver working.

 

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What’s up with these guys?

 

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We headed back to the ship for drinks and dinner in Chops Grille.

 

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Get the raspberry martini. Highly recommended!

 

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The grilled tomatoes and rosemary showed up at pretty much every meal. After imbibing several raspberry martinis, we created a little rosemary “forest.”

 

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It was also Aunt Linda’s birthday.

 

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Dinner at Chops Grille was our favorite meal of the week. If you had to pick one specialty restaurant, Chops would be the place to go.

 

Again, we were wore out so off to bed we go!

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I love your pictures! I also admire you greatly for taking care of Aunt Linda. I have a brother who is developmentally disabled and some day he will be my responsibility. And yes she is probably nervous...my brother gets like that too:)

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I’m loving your review, and your photos are beautiful! Thank You so much for sharing.

 

Your family is lovely, including your sister’s, your Aunt Linda, and your dear friend Lindsey.

 

I also admire you greatly, the same as CC member Baseball fan (Hi Dena :) ) for taking care of Aunt Linda. She is very blessed to have all of you in her life.

 

Take care, and as always... Happy Sailing :)

Edited by LitaArn

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After imbibing several raspberry martinis, we created a little rosemary “forest.”[/size][/font]

 

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Tee hee, I love this.

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Love your reviews and glad to see a new member of the family.....she's one lucky gal! Also, as I. Recall from the last review good thing no driving involved!

 

But are you once again going to leave us hanging on for days????

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The grilled tomatoes and rosemary showed up at pretty much every meal. After imbibing several raspberry martinis, we created a little rosemary “forest.”

 

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I can never understand how they can afford to go through so many tomatoes that inevitably end up in the recycling bin... not like they're cheap! Hey Royal - cut back on the tomatoes and put the chocolates back on the pillows!

 

Great review so far!

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Love your reviews and glad to see a new member of the family.....she's one lucky gal! Also, as I. Recall from the last review good thing no driving involved!

 

But are you once again going to leave us hanging on for days????

 

Not planning on it but weeknights tend to be busy with kid stuff. I will hopefully have time for another chapter tomorrow evening.

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Ya know, I had pretty low expectations for Icy Strait Point. I’ve been to enough “cruise-made” ports (Mahogany Bay, Falmouth, Labadee, Half Moon Cay) to feel like I’m in a “cruise-made” port but I was pleased with Icy Strait Point. Of course, it has the vanilla, Disney-like atmosphere of a touristy spot, but I was pleasantly pleased.

 

Quick position check

 

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How could you NOT have breakfast on the veranda?

 

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The approach

 

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I am GOING to find that fireplace and sit by it

 

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We make our way to the Aurora Theatre to get in line for the tender. We have The Marine Mammal Tour booked so we get priority tendering. Pretty convenient. Unfortunately, Lee (Sister’s hubby) strains his ankle in the theatre while oogling sound equipment (he’s a techie). Poor guy. We find ice for his ankle and first aid. He was VERY well taken care of on board – x-rays, crutches, TLC. He’s in good hands so we head to the tender to make our tour.

 

Linda makes a new friend on the tender.

 

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Obligatory “pull away” ship shot

 

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Here we are!

 

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We directly board the tour boat and head out to look for some whales.

 

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This tour was simply amazing. Granted, the weather was yucky (cold and wet) but I had “suited up” with my rain coat, rain hat and rain pants so I stayed on the open top deck to feel the full outdoor experience. I’ll try to pick the highlights of the several hundred pics I took!

 

Thar be whales!

 

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Okay, here’s the scoop on whale watching. The whale will come up for air and will exhale several (3-4 times).

 

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After she or he has his or her fill of air, s/he will dive back down to feed.

 

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Once that happens, that whale is gone for quite some time. So the boat captain then has to keep her (that’s right, her. This crew was all female) eyes out for another whale surfacing for air. We must have had 4 or 5 whale sightings so I had plenty of opportunities for photos.

 

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I recommend you bring a camera that can take multiple pictures in rapid succession. Out of the hundreds I took, I can easily say only a handful came out well.

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Not only did we see multiple whales, we also saw a cute sea otter.

 

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Linda tried using the binoculars provided by the tour. Note how she holds them!

 

 

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Time to head back. Where’s that fire place?

 

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Once we debark the tour boat, we take a self-guided nature tour of the area.

 

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This dude (dude-ette) was kinda’ loud.

 

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If you are feeling truly adventurous, I recommend you book the “world’s longest” zip line. Sadly, we had not booked it and all the reservations had been taken. You can barely see the start of the zip line amongst the clouds.

 

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The landing site.

 

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I manage to find that fire place. It’s in a pretty unremarkable restaurant so we keep on going. Continuing our stroll, it’s time to eat! Alaskan beer and chowder!

 

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Some final Icy Strait Point pics.

 

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Farewell Icy Strait Point.

 

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We successfully make it back to the ship. Freddy recommends tipping your room steward throughout the cruise.

 

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We have martinis (again) at the Champagne Bar and then it’s off to Samba.

 

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Family pic. Wait, where’s Lindsey?

 

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Oh, there’s where she got to.

 

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Overall, we were not impressed with Samba. The appetizer/salad bar was amazing and, I suppose, purposely built to fill you up before all the meat was presented. The meats were very good but it was a challenge to get the gaucho’s attention. The little light you turn to green to get more meat was relatively ineffective.

 

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Regardless, it was family time so we were happy.

 

Linda, being the party animal she is, drags us out to the Colony Club to listen to music and dance. My sister, Jen, even pawns the kids off on her crippled husband and gets a night out, too!

 

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We meet a lovely couple from Australia (note how light it is outside at around 10:00pm).

 

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By now, Lindsey and I are pretty well lubricated and Jen stumbles off to bed. The Colony Club is closing for a “private function.” Linda is still WIDE awake so she drags us up to Viking Crown to continue the party. Even at 67, Linda just won’t stop. She dances and dances and several liquored up frat boys dance somewhat inappropriately with her. Lindsey and I run interference and chase them off. However, there’s one young guy that dances respectfully with Linda for what feels like an hour or so. She SO loved the attention! It is a memory she’ll have forever. I wish I had pictures (because he was HOT)!

 

We all stumble off to bed after a CRAZY night.

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I am loving this review and pics.

 

Alaska is the number one cruise I want to go on, however will have to wait until the kids are a little older to appreciate the beauty.

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What a wonderful family and you all look like you are having a great time!!! Keep up the great work!

 

Thanks so much!

 

I am loving this review and pics.

 

Alaska is the number one cruise I want to go on, however will have to wait until the kids are a little older to appreciate the beauty.

 

I think you have good logic. 5 (Tim's age) was probably a bit young but Malik and Cam at 15 and 17 were really able to appreciate the natural beauty. Stay tuned for Malik's profound statement about Skagway!

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