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A 99 Day Journey to Alaska (Serenade by the Sea) with a Teen and Young Adult (over 21)


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23 minutes ago, texasweather said:

I hear you. I had it February 2021 and my taste/smell is still not back to normal. Most foods and smells have returned, but some, including some of my favorites, are absolutely vile. It’s pretty sad, but I can’t complain - the only taste and smell my dad has experienced for the last 18 months is rancid garlic. I stayed in that stage about 7 months and it was AWFUL - I feel so bad he seems to be stuck there. 😔

😞   

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Posted (edited)

Quick Prep / Packing Update

 

Since we attended the awards ceremony last night, I did not get much done. Although I did look through the packing list (it is on my phone) to see if I was missing anything. I also tried to finish up a 2000 page puzzle we have been working on. The goal is to finish it by the time we leave. My DW has been purchasing travel/world related puzzles. The last one was of US National Parks. The current one is of World Landmarks (see pic). Unfortunately, the box does not have a lit of the landmarks shown (and I cannot find it online) [It is the World Landmarks 360-2000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle by Buffalo Games - if anyone knows, please forward the list; most are obvious, and we have fortunately been able to have visited many of them (and a few on my bucket list); and I saw two of them on my ride this past Monday.]

 

For tonight: I pack the carry-on, print the forms, documents, luggage tags ("laminate" with clear packaging tape) and do whatever else needs to be done. I will also set aside the clothing I will be wearing on Sunday. We will arise at a very early hour and will be half asleep (I will not have my first cup of (over-priced) coffee until we get to the airport), so want to make sure I am ready and organized.

 

I will also try to get in a light workout tonight with some weights.  Then a short run on the treadmill tomorrow, followed by a light ride on Friday (early afternoon after the tests and before graduation), then a longer ride (20ish miles) on Saturday. Although the fitness center will be open at 11 AM on Sunday, my exercising will probably be regulated to performing some isometric movements on the airplane.  If jetlag does not get the better of me, I hope to be on the track on top of the Serenade at 6:15 AM (if too wet, I'll be on a stationary bike at 7 AM when the gym open up).  My focus right now is on cycling in order to get ready for the Fight Alzheimer's charity ride in memory of my dad in September, yesterday I signed up for the Princess Marathon weekend at Disney in February a 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon on three consecutive days (waking up at 2:30 for a 5K is not great, but worth it - Disney does these races right - although ain't cheap).

 

Almost time to log into work, and it is going to be a busy day trying to get everything done before I log off for vacation tomorrow afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

Puzzle.jpeg

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6 hours ago, Travel R said:

Did you like Gate 1? Based on the 2022 sailings and the recommendations of a good friend, I am leaning towards Ama - but open to any river cruise line (that we can afford).

I did like Gate 1.  It was an impulsive booking because they were having a flash sale for 50% off and it was too good a deal to pass up.  River cruises are so expensive!  I was stressed since there wasn't much info on it even after booking (there are more reviews now, but there were barely any when I was preparing), but I figured at worst I would be in Europe and that's not bad.  I haven't been on Ama or Viking (but friends have and show me photos and videos and tell me about it), but Gate 1 didn't feel budget to me.  One of my friends just got off an Ama Danube sailing on the Viola and said the food was meh, but she liked the ship, the crew and the excursions.  🤷‍♀️

 

The big difference is (I think) the number of choices.  With Gate 1 everyone goes on the same excursion - they're lead by the same local guides as other lines, but they don't split people by activity level like Viking does.  So you may have some super slow people...but I figured out who the slow and fast walkers were after a few days and would see who picked what tags (that split us into groups) and choose accordingly.  Alcohol isn't included (except at dinner, but since none of us drink we didn't care), there are less choices of entrees in the dining room (there was a rotating menu each night along with standard fare that was always present) and they throw in some optional excursions (Schonbrunn was an optional excursion in Vienna and Salzburg was an optional excursion when docked in Linz) instead of it being all inclusive...but this all meant the price was kept lower, and your experience is more customizable.  

 

I would compare it to being a Westin as opposed to the Four Seasons.  We had tempered expectations and we had a great time.  I guess the highest praise we could give is that we'd have no hesitation in booking another Gate 1 river cruise if/when the right itinerary/schedule comes up when we go back to Europe.  

 

I wrote a review when I returned: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=635965 (for more information)

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What an awesome pre-cruise journal! I am much like you an my planning starts months and months in advance and includes spreadsheets. My condolences on the loss of your parents and congratulations to your girls! 
 

We just booked a cruise on the Ovation next summer for our entire family. DH and I went on the same itinerary in 2019 and had planned to go again in 2020 for my oldest sons birthday but obviously that one didn’t happen. We rebooked for 2021 and when that was looking like a no-go we switched to one of the Adventure OTS sailings out of Nassau…and an adventure it was. Our party of 4 is now a party of 5 and we will be sailing with our boys who will be 12 and 10 and our daughter who will be 15 months. We cannot wait.
 

Thanks for taking us along on your journey, I can’t wait to read you trip report. 

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On 5/12/2022 at 7:14 AM, Travel R said:

 

It was a fairly easy process, except trying to find digital photos of everyone.  If RCI does not like them, I am guessing they will re-take the photos during the check-in?

 

One step closer to Alaska!!!

Funny story. In May I went on Mariner of the seas with my Husband, Sister, BIL and Father. Since our cruises were linked for reservations we were all able to access each other’s check in. So we changed each other’s photos to old HS photos, Halloween photos, etc. My dads was a very old photo from the 70’s 🤣 When we checked in at the port the employee checking us in started cracking up when she saw them. She said although your HS photo is lovely we do have to take a new one. She took all new photos of each of us but when we peeked at our photos getting off the ship in port it showed our original photos. 🤣 

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14 minutes ago, Ivana Cruise said:

Funny story. In May I went on Mariner of the seas with my Husband, Sister, BIL and Father. Since our cruises were linked for reservations we were all able to access each other’s check in. So we changed each other’s photos to old HS photos, Halloween photos, etc. My dads was a very old photo from the 70’s 🤣 When we checked in at the port the employee checking us in started cracking up when she saw them. She said although your HS photo is lovely we do have to take a new one. She took all new photos of each of us but when we peeked at our photos getting off the ship in port it showed our original photos. 🤣 

One time I checked in a woman passenger who submitted a photo of herself unclothed.  Needless to say I retook her photo.   

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Busy at Work

 

Good day all!

 

I am going to spend today finishing up whatever I have on my desk at work today so I can begin my vacation this evening without any unfinished work hanging over my head.

 

I will post any updates and respond to the recent posts later this evening or tomorrow morning.

 

One interesting piece of news - a meteorologist on my sailing said that there may will be 90 degree weather next week in SE Alaska, which has a few inherent positives, but also comes with a few negatives as a tourist.

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On 6/22/2022 at 2:00 PM, plumie said:

I did like Gate 1.  It was an impulsive booking because they were having a flash sale for 50% off and it was too good a deal to pass up.  River cruises are so expensive!  I was stressed since there wasn't much info on it even after booking (there are more reviews now, but there were barely any when I was preparing), but I figured at worst I would be in Europe and that's not bad.  I haven't been on Ama or Viking (but friends have and show me photos and videos and tell me about it), but Gate 1 didn't feel budget to me.  One of my friends just got off an Ama Danube sailing on the Viola and said the food was meh, but she liked the ship, the crew and the excursions.  🤷‍♀️

 

The big difference is (I think) the number of choices.  With Gate 1 everyone goes on the same excursion - they're lead by the same local guides as other lines, but they don't split people by activity level like Viking does.  So you may have some super slow people...but I figured out who the slow and fast walkers were after a few days and would see who picked what tags (that split us into groups) and choose accordingly.  Alcohol isn't included (except at dinner, but since none of us drink we didn't care), there are less choices of entrees in the dining room (there was a rotating menu each night along with standard fare that was always present) and they throw in some optional excursions (Schonbrunn was an optional excursion in Vienna and Salzburg was an optional excursion when docked in Linz) instead of it being all inclusive...but this all meant the price was kept lower, and your experience is more customizable.  

 

I would compare it to being a Westin as opposed to the Four Seasons.  We had tempered expectations and we had a great time.  I guess the highest praise we could give is that we'd have no hesitation in booking another Gate 1 river cruise if/when the right itinerary/schedule comes up when we go back to Europe.  

 

I wrote a review when I returned: https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=635965 (for more information)

Thank you very much for the info - much appreciated.  I will read through your review (although not until after I return from Alaska) and pass it on to our friends.

 

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On 6/22/2022 at 2:26 PM, WxNerd said:

What an awesome pre-cruise journal! I am much like you an my planning starts months and months in advance and includes spreadsheets. My condolences on the loss of your parents and congratulations to your girls! 
 

We just booked a cruise on the Ovation next summer for our entire family. DH and I went on the same itinerary in 2019 and had planned to go again in 2020 for my oldest sons birthday but obviously that one didn’t happen. We rebooked for 2021 and when that was looking like a no-go we switched to one of the Adventure OTS sailings out of Nassau…and an adventure it was. Our party of 4 is now a party of 5 and we will be sailing with our boys who will be 12 and 10 and our daughter who will be 15 months. We cannot wait.
 

Thanks for taking us along on your journey, I can’t wait to read you trip report. 

Thank you and thanks for coming along on our pre-cruise journey.  I will follow up when we return with a full review.

 

The rescheduling of vacations during COVID has affected all of us. However, whereas I usually go on a cruise every 3-4 years, I am now planning on going on three cruises for the next three consecutive years - so maybe there is a good side!

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Posted (edited)
On 6/22/2022 at 6:33 PM, Ivana Cruise said:

Funny story. In May I went on Mariner of the seas with my Husband, Sister, BIL and Father. Since our cruises were linked for reservations we were all able to access each other’s check in. So we changed each other’s photos to old HS photos, Halloween photos, etc. My dads was a very old photo from the 70’s 🤣 When we checked in at the port the employee checking us in started cracking up when she saw them. She said although your HS photo is lovely we do have to take a new one. She took all new photos of each of us but when we peeked at our photos getting off the ship in port it showed our original photos. 🤣 

 

That is hilarious!!! Thanks for sharing (a little laughter is good for alleviating my stress right now).

Edited by Travel R
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On 6/22/2022 at 6:54 PM, Ferry_Watcher said:

One time I checked in a woman passenger who submitted a photo of herself unclothed.  Needless to say I retook her photo.   

 

No way! Although in today's world not surprising.

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Today’s post is going to be a mish-mosh of different items/updates that have occurred during the past two days (in-between work).  I am up early (even for me), so since I can’t get back to sleep I figure it would be a good time to write.  I pulled a Light FM playlist off of Spotify, got comfy on my couch, pulled out my laptop, and here I write . . .

 

Stressed

 

I know I am not alone here.  The anticipation of the COVID test weighs heavily on my mind. One test.  The results of one test could erase a year’s worth of planning.  A years’ research. A year’s hopes and dreams.  A year’s excitement.  A year of posts on Cruise Critic.

 

So far everyone in my family has tested negative on home tests this week. Yes, a very good sign. But that was then.  This is now.  A lot could change in a day or two.

 

We go for the tests at 9:30 AM.  Results could be ready by 10:30 (although their website says results can be as long as 24 hours – hence performing the tests today instead of tomorrow).

 

Tests Cancelled

 

I waited until this week to cancel the proctored tests I had set up in Vancouver so that we may return to the US.  I delayed cancelling the tests just in case the government decided to do a 180 and reinstate them.  I figured if I waited until Wednesday it would be two weeks before we return, and with the lighttight speed bureaucracy works, even if they decided to reinstate the requisite for the test, it would take at least two weeks.

 

Menu Selected

 

I have reviewed the menu for the MDR for each evening and have tentatively decided upon my selections for each evening.  I have made my choices based upon my personal epicurean tastes in addition to what dishes would make for a good discussion. Yes, if you remember from an earlier discussion, I have chosen two entrées each evening (one of meat and the other of fish or chicken). I plan on beginning each meal with either two appetizers or one appetizer and one soup (I was disappointed at the soup selection), and one dessert. As to the dessert, in order to “balance” things out, I have chosen the no-sugar added solutions; of course, I may have a taste of any desserts the rest of my tablemates may be enjoying that evening.

 

If I did not intend on finishing the dishes, I would not order all the food. I do not believe in wasting food (if you eat in the buffet, look at the amount of food left on people’s plates – it’s a shame). For the days where I am out and about all day and return in a state of exhaustion (and maybe the rare occasion where I am too tired to eat) I will reduce my order.

 

Still Only Two Live Performance Shows

 

It seems strange to be going on a cruise ship and there will only be two large live performances.  As I have admitted, for the most part I dislike most of the variety show performances, but there are sometimes some very entertaining shows – rock-n-roll musical performances, comedians, magicians, etc. As of yesterday evening, there have been no more live performance events added.

 

Although there are a ton of “name that tune” activities added to the planner in the app. There seems to be about 4 trivia games a day on the planner – although I am good at trivia (not to brag), but have not enjoyed the few trivia games on cruise ships I have been to in the past.  Maybe I’ll try to attend another one next week to see if my view has changed.

 

Stuff I Don’t Normally Do

 

There are activities on a cruise ship that I still have not done before, so going to try to make a point of it to do the following while on a cruise ship:

 

·       Art Auction (not yet on App)

o   I’ve seen the art displayed on the walls, and walked by the galleries a gazillion times. I would like to finally go and see what it is about (knowing full well it is not like a normal auction)

·       Dance Classes

o   I like dancing and this seems fun – not sure why I had always skipped these, and there seems to be one a day (each for a different form of dance); maybe even get the DW to join.

·       Pickleball

o   I’ll take a look at the court.  I used to play Paddle Tennis, which is an earlier variation of this game. If possible, maybe try to join in a game if someone will have me.

·       Egg Drop

o   I am not really sure what this is about, but looks like design and engineering may be involved – which I may enjoy. If the timing works out, I am there.

·       Latin Fun Fitness

o   There is never any harm in taking a fitness class. The only issue is that they are scheduled for 9 AM, which is already late for me – I had already showered earlier in the morning and had breakfast.

·       Enrichment talks

o   None of my previous cruises had these – so will definitely be checking them out.  Although the info on Canadian Mounties seems interesting, not sure if three days of it will be for me. I would have loved to hear more enrichment talks on Alaska, glaciers, local wildlife, etc. If the speaker is engaging, maybe I will go more than one (there are three)

·       Arts and Zen coloring

o   Seems very intriguing. Something I have not done in decades (with the exception of helping my kids when they were in kindergarten).  I may try it just to see what it is about and who knows, I may like it, although not sure if it is my DW’s cup of tea.

·       Hush Silent Party

o   Sounds like a fun idea which myself and DW would enjoy.

 

Note: Myself and my DW are not joined at the hip. There will be many times we go our own way and do our own thing – which is okay with the both of us.

 

Probiotic

 

When I saw my doctor last week she mentioned that she takes a probiotic before going on any long vacations. I took her advice and have been taking pills each day. I do eat yogurt fairly regularly, but the pills should not hurt. She also gave me a prescription for traveler’s stomach – although this is Alaska and not Mexico, and no one in my family has ever experienced it, it does not hurt to bring it just in case.  As per my standard packing list Pepto-Bismol tablets are usually packed as well.

 

Puzzle

 

One of my goals this week was to finish up the 2000-piece puzzle we began a week or two ago.  Well, got to the end to realize that there were five pieces that did not fit into the four spaces that were still remaining (at least one of those pieces was a duplicate).  I believe in a world where there is ying-yang karma.  Since I had experienced the frustration this week with not able to finish this puzzle, it will provide more positive karma for a negative outcome of the COVID tests.

 

ArriveCAN

 

The ArriveCAN App has been filled out for our entry into Canada.

 

It was very easy to do (and I was able to perform the action for everyone in my party at the same time).  I just needed to fill in the basic flight information (flight # and time of arrival to first leg of the trip where I enter the country), a few basic health questions, and that was it.  It took no longer than 3 minutes (since I already had the flight information in front of me).

 

Reminder to those going to Canada to cruise – after you pass through customs and before you enter the ship, you have to make another entry into the App.

 

Empty Fridge

 

This week I had cleaned out the fridge and emptied out a lot of items. I have not gone food shopping so the refrigerator is getting very empty.  Some of our meals the next two days will need to be purchased (eat out and take in).

 

One quandary I am in has to do with coffee.  My brother-in-law gave me a bag of coffee beans about two years ago.  I bought a bean grinder and have been having my coffee with fresh/semi-fresh coffee each morning (I grind about a week’s worth at a time).  I am now out of coffee – so do I make another batch for a whole week, spend the time to just grind for two days, buy it, or do without it.  This being said, I do not consider myself a big coffee drinker or a coffee connoisseur (I don’t care which brand of coffee as long as it is flavored and does not taste like coffee) – but coffee does taste better when the beans are recently ground.

 

Weather in SE Alaska (Maritime Cloud Covering)

 

The weather in Southeast Alaska is expected to be warmer than usual while we are there. Although this is great news for our daytime travels, this means that there is the possibility of a Maritime Cloud Covering to engulf the area during the evenings and mornings.  From pictures it looks like a very heavy fog.  Although it usually does dissipate from the sunshine during the day, it may affect our traverse down the Tracy Arm and viewing the Sawyer Glacier – it would not be safe for the ship to do so.  So all we can do is wait, hope, and pray.

 

Breakfast & Lunch on Sunday

 

Although not on my packing list, there will be additional food items added to our carryon bags. It does not look like we will be having any meals on the flights, breakfast selection at Newark Airport is expensive and lacking, and not sure if we have much time during the layover in Toronto. So being a planner, I have decided to buy some bagels, rolls, and cold cuts so we have stuff to eat for breakfast and lunch – then pick up coffee and drinks while in the airport/airplane.

 

Traveler’s Tip: Stay hydrated, it helps with a more pleasant flight as well as assists warding off some of the symptoms of jet lag.

 

Donate Blood?

 

I donate blood fairly regularly.  I am wondering if I would be able to donate on Saturday, but we will see how things play out.

 

Docking in Sitka

 

I looked at the most updated docking information for Sitka.  Serenade will still be docking at the Sitka Terminal Outside (STO), but because of the damage the Radiance caused last month the QE will be docking on the other side of town at the Anchorage Bridge Dock (at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park – near the Fortress of the Bear). No need for tendering (I think I was looking forward to it), and still have to wait on line for the buses. I think the QE has an edge over the Serenade since the Fortress of the Bear is walking distance from their dock, while ours is not near very much.

 

Arranging Taxi to Airport

 

For the 10 years prior to COVID I would use the local taxi / car service in town to go to the airport. I called yesterday and they are no longer a 24-hour service, so could not pick us up early in the morning. This is another way where work shortages is affecting our vacation. But found another car service in the next town – so no issues here.

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On the Serenade now and it's been amazing.  Both the Serenade and Radiance were docked in Sitka on Tuesday so I think the pier has been repaired.  

 

We've had multiple stage shows through the week, most of them music related. We've only gone to one so not sure how the others were.

20220621_095916.jpg

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2 hours ago, Hummingbird33 said:

On the Serenade now and it's been amazing.  Both the Serenade and Radiance were docked in Sitka on Tuesday so I think the pier has been repaired.  

 

We've had multiple stage shows through the week, most of them music related. We've only gone to one so not sure how the others were.

20220621_095916.jpg

Awesome news and love the picture.

 

I checked the most recent dock report for Sitka and it is scheduled to dock at the pier. the QE2 will dock at a different pier on the other side of town (near the Fortress of the Bear).

 

Good to hear about the live products. As people have written - there are many updates to the schedules/activities on the App on the day you sail.

 

Cheers and thank you!

 

 

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As I had posted elsewhere - I am cruise-bound!!!! Myself and my family have tested negative.

 

We will be able to sail on Sunday and more importantly, we will be able to attend graduation this evening!

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Good day all!

 

The Travel R family is back.

 

The adventure began with a few bumps in the road (flight cancellations, etc.). It ended with us running for what seemed like a one mile sprint and barely making our connecting flight with only moments to spare.

 

We arrived home late in the evening, and have been up (and working) for nearly an hour already [there are many, many emails to go through].  I have created a thread for the review and marked it with a photo of the matching sweatshirt our family had worn.  Once I get a break in the day (although it may not be until later this evening), I will begin posting.

 

I have taken multiple pages of notes, so it will also take me a little while to organize and digest them in a logical fashion that will be of most use to everyone.

 

The review is available here  . . . . . 

 

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2 hours ago, familycruzinnewbie said:

Welcome - I broke my right hand.  Do I need it for Alaska lol. Probably need surgery and still in cast for trip 😞

Oh no - feel better!!!!

 

Fortunately, you will only need one hand for most things you will do on the cruise - and it will give you time to rest and relax your hand!

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