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Trip Report - August 2nd, 2019 Millennium Vancouver to Seward + Private Land Tour


AuroraRose
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I guess I should probably start a trip report since we start our journey in less than 2 weeks! 

 

So here's some background. My DH and I are in our late twenties with no kids, and we live in Upstate NY. Neither one of us has ever been on a cruise. A friend of mine from high school reached out to us almost two years ago asking if we would be interested in doing a bucket list trip to Alaska in 2018 before we all had kids. She proposed it would be her and her husband, DH and me, and another friend from high school and his wife (So 6 people total, 3 of us who went to high school together and kept in touch, and the spouses). Everyone was in, but DH and I and the other couple couldn't make 2018 work due to prior vacations planned etc (we went to a wedding in Malibu, CA last summer that ate up all of our vacation time and money). So we pushed it to August of 2019. The plan was to fly into Anchorage, take the train to Seward spending a few days there, then take the train to Denali spending a few days there, and then up to Fairbanks where we would fly out of. 

 

DH and I were interested in possibly doing a cruise as well, but none of the other couples were. We decided to scrap that idea initially and fly into Anchorage like everyone else. Except we had a bunch of airline miles, and for some reason getting to Alaska from NY was not working on points (I found a return trip from Fairbanks to NY without any issues). The few I could find on the way there were many more points than I had to work with, and we would have been better off paying cash for the flights rather than buying the extra points to make up the difference. For the hell of it, I decided to price out NY-Vancouver with miles, and found an awesome redemption in American Airlines Flagship First from JFK-LAX, and then regular first class from LAX-YVR. I showed DH that, and said "for the price of buying the plane tickets outright to Anchorage, we could instead book a cruise and extend our vacation." He was sold. So we started looking at one way cruises that would work for meeting up with our friends in Seward. The Celebrity Millennium arrived in Seward the same day everyone planned to take the train from Anchorage to Seward, so we ran it by our friends who were cool with it, and booked it. 

 

While trying to nail down other details of our private land tour with friends, the third couple invited ended up backing out since they found out they were expecting! Their son was born a few weeks ago :). So then it was down to two couples, which did make some aspects of planning easier since we were now looking for accommodations for 4 instead of 6. A few months ago, my friend who initially had the idea for the trip reached out to me to let me know that her and her husband were in the process of getting a divorce, and she still really wanted to take this trip but didn't know how all of this would play out with her divorce. She promised to let me know ASAP if she would need to cancel. Fortunately she was able to make it all work out, and invited another one of our friends from high school to come along instead (who is now also her roommate in the apartment they rent after she moved out of the house her and her ex-husband bought). Life is crazy sometimes right? So if you followed that rollercoaster ride, it's me and DH, and two of my girlfriends from high school (who were bridesmaids in our wedding) meeting us in Seward for the land portion of the trip. 

 

So here is our itinerary: 

Day 1 (Tuesday, July 30th): Work all day, and drive to NYC after work, dropping off our dog at our friends' house on the way (who agreed to dogsit for us). Stay at the TWA hotel 

Day 2 (Wednesday, July 31st): Fly from JFK to Vancouver through LAX. Stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel. 

Day 3 (Thursday, August 1st): Explore Vancouver. 

Day 4 (Friday, August 2nd): Board the Millennium!

Day 5 (Saturday, August 3rd): Sailing the Inside Passage

Day 6 (Sunday, August 4th): Ketchikan

Day 7 (Monday, August 5th): Icy Strait Point

Day 8 (Tuesday, August 6th): Juneau

Day 9 (Wednesday, August 7th): Skagway

Day 10 (Thursday, August 8th): Hubbard Glacier

Day 11 (Friday, August 9th): Arrive in Seward, meet friends in Seward

Day 12 (Saturday, August 10th): Seward 

Day 13 (Sunday, August 11th): Seward, take the train to Anchorage, stay in Anchorage

Day 14 (Monday, August 12th): Pick up rental car and drive to Denali

Day 15 (Tuesday, August 13th): Denali

Day 16 (Wednesday, August 14th): Denali, then drive to Fairbanks that evening

Day 17 (Thursday, August 15th): Fairbanks

Day 18 (Friday, August 16th): Fly to NY from Fairbanks

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So in my last post I started including a few places we were staying, but figured I would make a separate post on that. 

NYC: TWA Hotel for 1 night in an Executive King Suite with Runway Views (it was $30 more than a non suite...couldn't resist!)

Vancouver: Pan Pacific Hotel for 2 nights in a 1 King Deluxe Room with City View

Millennium: Concierge Class C1 #6143 (in Suitesville with an enlarged balcony)

Seward: AirBNB rental that is actually a Bed and Breakfast. The couple who owns it lives on the first floor and guests have the second floor with 2 bedrooms, a private bathroom, and laundry to themselves. The couple cooks meals for the guests. 

Anchorage: Crowne Plaza for 1 night (in between taking train and picking up rental car; I booked this on points for all of us)

Denali: Another AirBNB. This is a private cabin we have to ourselves in Healy with 2 bedrooms, a full size kitchen, and a hot tub. 

Fairbanks: Yet Another AirBNB. This is a private house we have to ourselves, with 2 bedrooms and a full kitchen. 

 

When looking through the land tour portion of it, we found AirBNB's were significantly cheaper than booking 2 hotel rooms in every location, and we have use of a kitchen in each one so we can cook our own meals to also save money. Initially the plan was to take the train from Seward to Fairbanks, stopping in Denali along the way, but in order to rent the places in Denali and Fairbanks, we needed a rental car. We found the best deal was to rent the car from Anchorage, and take the train between Seward and Anchorage. We are renting through Alaska 4x4 rentals, which has a coupon in the TourSaver book which helped save money as well. We have the rental car from 9 am Monday, August 12th, to 1 pm on Friday, August 16th. Alaska 4x4 does allow returns in Fairbanks for an additional fee, which is what we are doing. It still saved us money overall. 

 

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Woohoo! I'm excited to read all about your adventures!

 

This trip is years in the making! So glad that you are finally able to go! It can be hard to carve out time to do something like the trip you are taking, so in all sincerity, I really am glad to see when others are able to make it work.

 

Your trip is mirroring ours in a way...doing the northbound cruise first, a day or two in Vancouver pre-cruise and then a DIY land post-cruise. The cruise is great...most of the ports are only accessible by water (or small plane from very particular airports I suppose)...but I felt like cruising SE AK was a good compromise for effort and time. I do dream of doing a DIY AK ferry tour up the coast...but that would require so much more time than we typically have available with vacation time. The build up to the land portion is a visual feast.

 

What are your Seward plans? And Vancouver?

 

Adding...and SCORE on the big C1 balcony!!!

Edited by Anita Latte
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And here's my 3rd post for today: Activities! 

 

Vancouver: We have one full day in Vancouver in between flying in and embarkation, and neither of us has ever been to this city before. DH and I are both electrical engineers, and things involving power generation really interest me, so the only thing that was on my must do list here was going to Grouse Mountain and doing the Eye of the Wind Tour. I have some other things on my "maybe" list, but I don't want to schedule too much and give us time to explore if something looks fun! 

 

Ketchikan: DH hasn't really been too involved with the planning of this trip, apart from the standard "Yes Dear..." response (he usually lets me plan and then gets excited when the trip is actually happening). But when I mentioned that there was a lumberjack show in this port, he expressed a lot of interest in seeing that. I'm kind of meh on it, but this is his vacation too and nothing else really caught my eye in this port apart from exploring Creek Street, which we will still have time to do. Once we decided to see the show, I added on the axe throwing contest to compete with my husband since that did sound fun to me as well. 

 

Icy Strait Point: I admit that I had a really hard time with this port at first. DH and I live near some awesome ropes courses with zip lines, and whale watching off the coast of Cape Cod is something we both have done before. Initially I was just going to not plan anything for this port, and explore on our own. And then someone on here mentioned there was a sale on Shore Excursions through Celebrity in March, and I started looking through them again. I saw one that I know wasn't offered before when I initially booked the cruise: A Glacier Bay Flightseeing Tour. I booked it immediately since our cruise doesn't sail into Glacier Bay, and it was one of the regrets I had about booking the cruise we did. 

 

Juneau: We booked a helicopter glacier landing privately in the morning. Celebrity offers the tour from this port too, but it was much more expensive than privately booking. I also found a way to book it through Trip Advisor during a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, and all in all we saved $400 compared to booking it directly through Celebrity. The tour is with Coastal Helicopters, which has very good reviews and seems to be one of the operators the cruise lines use anyways. I think we will probably go find somewhere to eat for lunch after the helicopter tour, and then decide from there what to do. We may go to Mendenhall Glacier or up the tram; not sure yet and probably going to play the afternoon by ear. 

 

Skagway: This port was another one I really struggled with. While everyone seems to recommend the White Pass Railroad, I know DH and myself well enough to know we would probably get bored after 15-20 minutes. We got bored after that amount of time at the Grand Canyon, so I didn't think this would be any different. I honestly just thought maybe this would be another port that we just wandered around on our own in and not book anything until I read a trip report from last year (I can't seem to remember who posted it though). They went to Kroschel Wildlife Refuge, and I decided we needed to see if it was doable for us. It was, but only by booking through Celebrity it seemed. We are honestly fine with that as we are only in port until 3 pm, and the tour doesn't get back until after 1 and involves a 45 minute ferry ride each way to Haines. At least if anything goes wrong we are on a ship sponsored tour so they will either wait for us or get us back to the ship. 

 

Hubbard Glacier: So Celebrity is also offering a small ship excursion from the Millennium to get closer to Hubbard. We decided not to do that, as we think the views from the Millennium will be fine. We did however book a behind the scenes tour of the ship while the ship leaves Hubbard, and I am really looking forward to that!

 

Seward: So we are going to try to be the last people to disembark the Millennium, then drop our luggage off at the BnB (the owner said it was fine to do prior to check in at 3), and meet our friends at the Seward Brewery downtown for lunch. We may also check out the Sea Life center that afternoon. The next day our friends are doing an all day glacier kayaking tour. This didn't sound fun to us based on the reviews, and we don't have the proper gear for it anyways, so we haven't decided what to do with ourselves on that Saturday yet. On Sunday, the four of us plan to go to Exit Glacier in the morning, and our train leaves around 6 pm that evening. 

 

Denali: We are going rafting on the Nenana River for our full day in Denali. We will probably also explore the main road into the park and the visitor center on the day we leave before we head to Fairbanks. 

 

Fairbanks: For our full day in Fairbanks, we plan to go to the Chena Hot Springs. 

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10 minutes ago, Anita Latte said:

Woohoo! I'm excited to read all about your adventures!

 

This trip is years in the making! So glad that you are finally able to go! It can be hard to carve out time to do something like the trip you are taking, so in all sincerity, I really am glad to see when others are able to make it work.

 

Your trip is mirroring ours in a way...doing the northbound cruise first, a day or two in Vancouver pre-cruise and then a DIY land post-cruise. The cruise is great...most of the ports are only accessible by water (or small plane from very particular airports I suppose)...but I felt like cruising SE AK was a good compromise for effort and time. I do dream of doing a DIY AK ferry tour up the coast...but that would require so much more time than we typically have available with vacation time. The build up to the land portion is a visual feast.

 

What are your Seward plans? And Vancouver?

 

Adding...and SCORE on the big C1 balcony!!!

 

Anita, I poured over your trip report for days trying to get ideas for ours, so I really appreciate the detail you put into it! I actually saved all the dailies you posted to my computer so that I could reference them if need be! 

 

I hope you get to do the DIY ferry trip eventually; that looks amazing! I understand the issue with vacation time though. DH and I are pretty much using every last hour we have of vacation time this year to do this trip! 

 

Vancouver and Seward are actually the two places that we don't have a lot set in stone yet. I really want to go to Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, and see Exit Glacier in Seward, but other than that we are probably going to wing it and decide what to do when we are there. Winging it worked incredibly well on our honeymoon in Ireland; we actually discovered a tour from a local that hadn't been well advertised online and it ended up being the highlight of our trip! So I always try to allow enough time to take advantage of opportunities like that on trips now. 

 

We initially booked a Sweet 16 Balcony, and then prices dropped so substantially that rebooking into the C1 actually saved us a few hundred dollars, so I couldn't resist! 

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While you're in Vancouver I highly recommend spending time at Stanley Park ... rent bikes and ride along the seawell for several miles and take in the sea views, beaches, totems, gardens, etc.    Or walk !

https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx

 

The huge public market on Granville Island is another fun thing to experience.

 

I enjoy both locations when I visit Vancouver for a weekend.

 

The Seward harbor is a very interesting place to wander around.... so many boats coming and going, charters weighing their catch.  There's a path that follows the waterfront from the harbor all the way into downtown ( about 1 1/2 miles, ending near the SeaLife Center).  Just past the harbor by the RV park, you'll often see otters playing, and bald eagles.  

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I love that you are doing that tour at Grouse Mountain. I look forward to reading about that from your perspective...I think that's the beauty of trip reports...especially if people do what is most interesting to THEM. There's a quote out there about people who read books living 100s if not 1000s of lives...I should look that up...I love to read...but I would apply that to TRs too. People who read AK TRs get to go to AK many more times than they would on their own! LOL.

 

DH would never do that wind turbine thing...well, he would, but he would hate it. He doesn't enjoy tall structures like that. We were chaperones for a chorus field trip to Chicago and we went to one of those super tall buildings that have an attraction at the top...Tilt something? You stand in the Tilt thing and grab side bars and the whole thing tilts forward over the street below...I don't recall the degree of tilt...but it was significant enough. Such things make me laugh. I laughed and laughed because it was so thrilling. DH stayed far away from the windows...LOL.

 

Watching the prices really pays off. I think you did a good thing...I don't recall where your stateroom is...but those sweet 16 are forward...I am officially banned from booking forward cabins now!

 

Love your no plans...that's the way to live in the moment. 

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@Anita Latte I know the quote you are referencing and it's true! I already feel like I have been there given how many reports I have read. DH is kind of humoring me for the wind turbine thing, but I don't think heights bother him, and he seemed at least a little interested in it too. It's funny, we are both electrical engineers, but he is much more into microelectronics and programming, and I am into power generation and distribution, so we are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to what we like. We each work in the fields we enjoy too, so our jobs are incredibly different even though we are both the same type of engineer. 

 

I'm actually currently getting my Master's degree part time while working full time, and a class I took this past semester was on wind turbine design and installation. We got to go on a "field trip" as a class to a turbine testing and training facility, and even got to stand in a hub (the round bulb looking thing where all 3 blades attach together. So I'm incredibly excited to get up close to one and go to the top of one after taking this class. I'm in the middle inside the hub in this picture (behind the guy in the green shirt): 

 

IMG_20190426_160700452.jpg

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@mapleleaves Thank you for the recommendations. Stanley Park and Granville Island are on my short list of places to see, but I also want to keep things open. Basically we can default to those if nothing else really stands out as must do's if that makes sense. I will have to keep an eye out for eagles and otters while in Seward as well!

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We are traveling on the same cruise. Unfortunately due to work schedules (My mom works until 1 next Wednesday and the school I teach at requires teachers to be back on Aug. 12) we can only fly out the day before and are flying home at 8pm the night the cruise is over (a redeye back to Newark). I am 30 and my mom is in her early 60's. We were supposed to go on a cruise out of San Juan but the flights were more than our flights to Alaska. We were looking at 700-900 per person to San Juan and found great deals for Alaska with a bit of a wonky itinerary. 

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following! we're doing Millenium alska end of August, so just finished reading Anita's blog

 

and we are going to do a trip in Vancouver (4 days there before) so Capilano suspension bridge park (free shuttle from Canada place it seems). Just need to get ideas for rest of the trip!

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So we are pretty much packed and ready to go, and we start our trip after work today! I think we are both feeling guilty over leaving our dog and cat for so long, but they are both in good hands and we will be back before they know it.

 

I didn't keep track of exactly how many shirts/socks/pairs of underwear I packed, but here's a general overview. DH and I both each have a large suitcase that we are checking, a carry-on rolling suitcase for the overhead bin, and backpacks for under the seat in front of us. 6 bags total between the two of us, but only checking two of them.

 

Being that we live in Upstate NY where the weather can be all 4 seasons in a day, we are used to dressing for anything. Generally our outfits consist of layers. My go to work outfit that I have many combinations of is nice jeans, boots, a blouse, and a cardigan, so I pretty much packed my everyday wardrobe plus swimsuits and workout clothing.

 

Generalized packing list:

  • Enough shirts/blouses/cardigans/underwear/socks/pants to last about a week to a week and a half (we plan to do laundry in Seward; hoping to have enough packed to not do it on the ship)
  • Rain coats (essentially waterproof windbreakers; these have no warmth to them)
  • Heavier but thin jackets (my Northface with a water resistant outer layer and fleece lined; I usually wear this in the winter in NY on days between 20-45 degrees F; DH has a similar no name jacket)
  • A few dresses for Vancouver/the ship, including 2 sundresses, a swimsuit cover up, a dressy jumpsuit, and a black cocktail dress
  • A few hoodies for layers
  • Two workout outfits
  • Three swimsuits (probably overkill, but I like options!)
  • 4 pairs of shoes: waterproof hiking boots, Sperrys, flip flops, and dressy wedge heels. I will wear either the boots or Sperrys on the plane.
  • Winter hat and a pair of thin gloves
  • A waterproof hanging toiletries bag with full size shampoo/conditioner/other toiletries in the checked suitcase (I only use Pureology now since it has made my hair incredibly healthy and I know I can't get that on the ship; DH is perfectly happy using the ship provided toiletries). I also put in some of my makeup (foundation, liquid blush, etc.) that I couldn't fit in the quart size TSA carry on bag even though they are under the 3.4 oz limit.
  • OTC medications that we want to have with us (motion sickness, anti-nausea, Benadryl, Iburofen, Zyrtec, etc.)
  • Some books, a journal, and a small laptop for down time.
  • A cooler bag for our land tour. It packs pretty flat and will come in handy for snacks/drinks during our long road trips in Alaska.
Edited by AuroraRose
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Hello from the Millennium! We boarded yesterday and are loving the experience so far. I'm posting this from my phone while we are cruising up the inside passage since amazingly I have LTE coverage.

 

So to summarize the past few days, we stayed at the TWA hotel at JFK, flew from JFK to Vancouver in American Airlines flagship first, stayed at the Pan Pacific for two nights, and had a whirlwind of a day exploring Vancouver. 

 

Now onto more details (and hopefully pictures if I can get them to upload!). 

 

The TWA hotel was a pretty good experience overall. The location cannot be beat; we parked our car in the long term lot and took the Airtrain to the terminal where the hotel is, and then took the Airtrain again in the morning to our terminal. The room was comfortable and quiet, and pretty affordable for a NYC hotel at ~$300 a night. The terminal was lovingly restored and is very cool to explore. We did hit some snafus though; the runway view room we booked was located in one of two towers. The air conditioning was not working in that tower when we arrived, so they moved us to a terminal view room located in the other tower (lower category room then what we booked). However, to acknowledge the change and inconvenience, they took $100 off our stay, bringing the cost down to $200 and change for the night, which was much cheaper than the standard room rate they offer for the lowest category room. There was no coffee maker in the room, but there were places to buy coffee in the terminal/lobby area. My iced coffee cost $7 and was very overpriced for what it was, but I needed caffeine and it was the closest option by a long shot. I only bought one and waited until we cleared airport security to get more coffee. All in all I would stay there again due to location, but might prepare better to have caffeine easily accessible. 

IMG_20190731_080956658_HDR.thumb.jpg.b6aa8618647e86d2827cc22a97b91ed3.jpgIMG_20190731_081006912_HDR.thumb.jpg.997110a2273baa143e88e353b98d498f.jpg

 

Pictures above of the king terminal view room. 

 

 

Pictures of the renovated terminal where check-in, bars/restaurants, shops, and tunnels to JFK terminal 5 and hotel rooms are:

IMG_20190731_081532796_HDR.thumb.jpg.d93a34edd3d81f07159e97e7b0bba8ad.jpgIMG_20190731_081546763.thumb.jpg.f98a8026a1c5b53b87ff8c0297d035ad.jpgIMG_20190731_082604605.thumb.jpg.798d71d66ae7fc2648828734abe3328b.jpg

 

And a picture of the pool with a view of one of JFK's busiest runways: 

IMG_20190731_082102332.thumb.jpg.1623a2958bcc6e0c24fa48eb418df506.jpg

 

American Airlines' Flagship First is an amazing product and you should try it if you ever get the chance. We went through security in a private lane and then had lounge access post security with breakfast in the Flagship First dining restaurant. We then had a 7 course meal on board the plane for lunch, followed by naps in the lie flat seats (pillows and comforter included), and we're able to have dinner in the lounge restaurant in LAX. Not bad for spending $5.60 per person on flights (plus 50k miles per person). Our flight from LAX to Vancouver was uneventful and in regular domestic first recliners (also included in that price I stated above). 

 

 

More to come on Vancouver and our day onboard.

Edited by AuroraRose
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So going out of order here a bit, but after hearing the naturalist speak briefly last night we decided to get up early this morning to enjoy the view and look for orcas. She said we had a pretty good chance of spotting them between 5:30 am and 9 am. 

 

We ordered room service breakfast for 6 am with the intention of enjoying it on our balcony while looking for orcas. I set my alarm for 6 and opened the curtain to the balcony to find this view:

IMG_20190803_063605703.thumb.jpg.f3f489483ac771e4de15ef18cbfa4ec9.jpg

 

The fog is so heavy that you can't even see the water unless you get right up to the railing and even then it's only 10 ish feet of visibility. The ship's foghorn is sounding fairly regularly as well. To give you an idea of how heavy the fog is, here is our current position, showing that we should easily be able to see land (and the reason I still have cell phone service):Screenshot_20190803-064443.thumb.png.1af5f05aaa54a1cb459c885dff61263d.png

 

So no orca sightings this morning. We enjoyed our breakfast in the room and are going to go back to sleep. I'm going to try to write more of this report until I get tired again. I guess this is part of cruising; things don't always go as planned! 

Edited by AuroraRose
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Back to the report: Vancouver.

 

We landed pretty much on time around 10:45 pm with an uneventful flight. Customs was quick, and we had our bags around 11. We hired a limo company to drive us to the Pan Pacific that night (I found a sale on Viator). The driver showed up in a Tesla Model S, which was our first time in a Tesla. The car was comfortable and had plenty of room for luggage. It was weird pulling away from the curb and hearing no engine noise!IMG_20190731_225448706.thumb.jpg.204c2e3f3cb43d81278940f7ef0a184e.jpg

 

We had booked a standard king city view room at the Pan Pacific, figuring we would see enough of the ship on board and in ports. They upgraded us for free to the next category up, which was a larger room with a sitting area. They also tried to upsell us to the club level room for $75 a day. While that is an excellent price for that room compared to what they normally charge ($250+ a night extra), we still didn't feel we would get the value out of that (mainly a lounge with free breakfast and free wifi in the lounge only). There was coffee in the room, a Starbucks in the building, and a Tim Horton's across the street. We did intend to pay for Wifi for 24 hours, which was $6 for up to 4 devices I believe, we had access to it from our room, and the lobby staff waived it for us anyways at check out (we didn't ask; he just automatically said he was going to do that for us). 

 

The room and hotel were gorgeous. We have no complaints about our stay and would stay there again in a heartbeat. The hotel staff collected our bags from our room on embarkation day and they arrived to our stateroom in perfect condition. It was very convenient to be in the same building as check in for the cruise. I didn't get a good picture of the bed but here is the sitting area, bathroom, and view:IMG_20190731_233636422.thumb.jpg.b8dcfb8b2e39305ae219b9fef4b0127f.jpgIMG_20190731_233646522.thumb.jpg.a3f3748ece98ab6082339a264e0edc8f.jpgIMG_20190801_071557816_HDR.thumb.jpg.16ce8f046f78a2353603d6a34ebbd0ff.jpg

 

 

Edited by AuroraRose
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Sorry for the delay; my cell service was spotty at best for the rest of the trip! We arrived in Seward today and we met up with our friends, checked into our AirBNB, and are winding down for the night. We even caught a glimpse of the Mille sailing away after dinner. More to come in detail in the next few posts, but the summary is that despite my last report about the weather on the ship, our voyage turned out to have fantastic weather for the entire cruise, except for the morning of cruising the Inside Passage and some foggy nights. 

 

I'm going to try to remember as much as I can, but please let me know if you have any questions! I think I left off on our day in Vancouver on Thursday, August 1st. We woke up early and decided to go try Tim Horton's, since we had never been there before. The food was comparable to Dunkin Donuts, but the coffee was amazing. Overall we were pleased with our $10 breakfast instead of paying 6x as much at the Pan Pacific. We even went back again the next morning for more coffee before we boarded the ship. 

IMG_20190801_085744.thumb.jpg.e1cca7bd903b559e580227543e99a22d.jpg

 

After Tim Horton's, we got in line for the free shuttle to Grouse Mountain. We narrowly missed the very first one of the morning at 9 am (we watched it pull away from the curb from the other side of the street), but the second one was there at 9:15 am, so we didn't have to wait too long and just enjoyed our coffee and views of the harbor. The shuttle ride went through Stanley Park and over the Lion's Gate Bridge, so we got some pretty amazing views. We got to the mountain just before 10 am, and we were on the mountain by 10:20 am. The views on the gondola ride up were spectacular. We primarily went there for the Eye of the Wind tour, which didn't open until 11 am according to a sign at the bottom of the mountain before we boarded the gondola. So we walked around aimlessly a bit until we discovered the grizzly bear habitat. Grouse Mountain has 2 grizzly bears that were rescued as cubs and couldn't be released back to the wild. They were active and eating breakfast themselves, so we watched them for a few minutes. IMG_20190801_102354321_HDR.thumb.jpg.e49aeac4f4f249852118d9d1cb72f610.jpg

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Then we walked back toward the gondola area around 10:45 am, and realized they were going to do an owl demonstration at 11, so we decided to go see that and then find Eye of the Wind after that. The demonstration was with a 4 month old owl who was not used to crowds, so she was feisty. She couldn't be released back to the wild due to imprinting on humans, so they were trying to socialize her instead. IMG_20190801_104355284_HDR.thumb.jpg.be243a32f85390a7296233cab372b2a9.jpg

 

After that, time for Eye of the Wind. This involves taking another chairlift to the peak of Grouse Mountain. It felt like an eternity, especially since we couldn't see how far away the top was due to the heavy fog. I think in reality it took 15-20 minutes. The walk to the wind turbine was about 5 minutes from the chairlift unloading area, and we just showed the staff our tickets and one of them led us up a set of steps into an elevator inside the base of the turbine. The elevator was surprisingly fast, and before we knew it we were in the glass observation deck right below the hub of the turbine, watching the blades spin in front of us!IMG_20190801_112446604.thumb.jpg.f960b33e58df2d7211dd06a7b3d91c2d.jpgIMG_20190801_113118414_HDR.thumb.jpg.df4d54ff2c8452b5e242234dce0fb070.jpg

 

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Our Day in Vancouver Continued: We were lucky enough that the fog started to lift in spots while we were in the glass observation deck and we got even more great views of downtown Vancouver. We went back down the elevator once the excitement of it all wore off, and back down the never ending chairlift. By the time we got back down to the top of the gondola offloading area around noon, the place was packed with tour groups and summer camp field trips. We decided there was nothing else we wanted to see, and that we wanted to go get lunch somewhere in downtown Vancouver that I had on my bucket list for this trip. 

 

We hopped back onto the shuttle, hungry and excited to try a restaurant unlike anything we had ever seen before, and hit heavy traffic trying to cross the Lion's Gate Bridge back into downtown. There was a 3 car accident on the bridge in the other lane that closed part of it for a while. We finally did get through, but it took about double the time we expected it to take, and we were ravenous by the time we were dropped back off at the Pan Pacific. 

 

We quickly made our way to the SkyTrain station, not wanting to risk taking a bus to the restaurant in even heavier traffic in downtown due to the bridge accident. We finally made it to our destination at about 1:58 pm. I know this because happy hour started at 2 and they honored it for our drinks and food. 

 

DH and I are un-apologetically nerds. We love Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, board games, etc. The restaurant we went to is called the Storm Crow Alehouse, and is a testament to nerd culture everywhere. They had shots dedicated to Marvel Movies (including the Infinity Shots....one shot for each Infinity Stone colored to match), a life size TARDIS, a shot and burger menu where you rolled a 20 sided die to decide your fate, Star Trek Deep Space Nine episodes playing on the TVs, Christmas Lights with the alphabet for fans of Stranger Things, and drinks and food named after references to movies and TV shows. IMG_20190801_135348136.thumb.jpg.cf7980b4caced340afa102c92e9cef3c.jpg

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DH ordered the Dungeon Burger (where he rolled a 20 sided die to decide everything that was part of the burger including the type of bun, type of patty, toppings, etc. with an alignment thrown in for good measure. His burger was a "Lawful Evil" alignment...this had no impact on taste as far as we can tell). He also ordered a "Potion of Power / Gamma Juice" mocktail and poutine for us to share. I ordered the "Chili Creature from the Beef Lagoon", a Cthulhu ale, and rolled a 20 sided die for a shot. I got a 19, which was delicious, but I was bummed I didn't get a 20 because then I could have kept the shot glass! The food was excellent and the presentation of the mocktail was fun with dry ice and light up ice cubes. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for something fun, different, and that has delicious food!

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Our Day in Vancouver pre-cruise, continued: after Storm Crow, we started running some errands and doing some shopping, including buying energy drinks for DH and new raincoats for both of us since both of us somehow forgot to pack them. We both reminded each other numerous times to pack them, and we both knew we had to, and yet we only realized it when we made it to Vancouver and they were forecasting rain for our day before the cruise. We lucked out that it never rained while we were there. Anyways, that took up pretty much all of our afternoon, and we got back to the hotel around 7 pm with our newly acquired raincoats and other necessities for the cruise. 

 

After packing our new purchases into our suitcases, we decided it was time to hunt for a place to eat dinner. We hadn't yet explored Gastown, so we walked over there. We were mesmerized by the steam clock, and watched it play its tune at 7:45 pm. We walked around for a while, but none of the restaurants looked good to us, so we made our way back to the hotel, and walked past it to the convention center area where we discovered the Tap & Barrel restaurant, which had a rooftop terrace with an amazing view of the harbor. We were seated within a few minutes at a table next to the railing overlooking the bay. IMG_20190801_210456746.thumb.jpg.1c8c1039e25fe258236a45ac30d1d8fd.jpg

 

We took a little while to decide what we wanted to eat, but the waitress came over to take our order right around 9 pm. As I was telling her what I wanted, a loud bang echoed across the harbor. DH and I jumped. The waitress chuckled at us and nonchalantly exclaimed "oh that's just the 9 o'clock cannon". I think the utter confusion on our faces prompted her to give us more details: every night at 9 pm, a cannon is fired from Stanley Park so that ships can set their clocks properly. The tradition dates back to the 1800's and it happens every night, even on holidays. This certainly never came up in my research, and people we talked to later on the cruise had never heard of this even though they had sailed out of Vancouver many times. Here are more details for anyone interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9_O'Clock_Gun. Hopefully sharing my story prevents others from having a heart attack if they are near the harbor at 9 pm!

 

Anyways, apart from us nearly having a heart attack and learning a bit of history in the process, our meal was delicious at Tap & Barrel. We decided to stop for gelato on our way back to the Pan Pacific at a gelato place a few doors down from Tap & Barrel, and we sat on benches overlooking Canada Place and admiring the lights on the sails. We packed a ton into one day, but I think we got a pretty good taste of Vancouver, and I would love to go back to that gorgeous city sometime!

 

Time for bed tonight, but tomorrow I will post more of this trip report. DH and I are having a quiet day to ourselves in Seward tomorrow while our friends go kayaking at Aialik Glacier (we needed time to do laundry and rest after the cruise before another intense week of activities!). Next up is boarding the Millennium and our first day cruising the Inside Passage. 

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Loving your trip report we have a couple of days in Vancouver prior to our cruise and I appreciate the information you provided. I have been reading trip reports for a year now and we are so ready for this experience! Hope your having a great trip and thank you for sharing. We are less than two weeks away....

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