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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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We did the Whale Watching excursion through the ship in Juneau.  There were perhaps 20 people on board and it was a double decker boat.  We never had to fight for a spot to watch, especially when on the top deck.  The benefit was being able to go to the first deck inside to get a snack or something to drink and warm up.  We saw lots of whales and the view was definitely better from higher up.

I also support women owned businesses though.

JMHO

 

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4 hours ago, snowcruiser said:

We did the Whale Watching excursion through the ship in Juneau.  There were perhaps 20 people on board and it was a double decker boat.  We never had to fight for a spot to watch, especially when on the top deck.  The benefit was being able to go to the first deck inside to get a snack or something to drink and warm up.  We saw lots of whales and the view was definitely better from higher up.

I also support women owned businesses though.

JMHO

 

 

I have found most ship-sponsored excursions that I have taken over the years to be crowded.

 

Glad you had a great experience. 

 

With my luck, I know that if I were to sign up through the ship I would be on a boat with wall-to-wall people.

 

 

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I've just found your cruise research report and am enjoying your planning immensely.  I am doing a similar trip in July and am hanging off your coattails.  Honestly, with the great planning you are doing and allowing us your wonderful information - I am just so grateful and will definitely be using it.  Thank you.

 

I also want to send condolences on the passing of your mother.  It was a beautiful and heart felt tribute  to the woman who was your mother.  I am so sorry for your loss and that of your family.

 

I'm on page 4 now and look forward to the rest of the report.  So must valuable information.  I hope you, your wife, and two daughters have a wonderful holiday making many more great memories.

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2 hours ago, Calgary3 said:

I've just found your cruise research report and am enjoying your planning immensely.  I am doing a similar trip in July and am hanging off your coattails.  Honestly, with the great planning you are doing and allowing us your wonderful information - I am just so grateful and will definitely be using it.  Thank you.

 

I also want to send condolences on the passing of your mother.  It was a beautiful and heart felt tribute  to the woman who was your mother.  I am so sorry for your loss and that of your family.

 

I'm on page 4 now and look forward to the rest of the report.  So must valuable information.  I hope you, your wife, and two daughters have a wonderful holiday making many more great memories.

 

Thank you - I very much appreciate it.

 

Glad that this thread has been of help.  Hoping for you to have a wonderful cruise as well.

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[The final log in my journal.. . .]

 

January 10, 2022

 

Happy New Year

 

I apologize, this is a boring journal as of late, but my dad’s death and my mom’s health has been on the forefront of my mind, and work has not let up.

 

In my haze of mourning and worry the trip to Alaska seems so far away. Through it all I have still tried doing some reading and a minimal amount of research on the history of the state.

 

We did sign up for the 6-passenger whale watching excursion I had previously mentioned - I put down the deposit.

 

Ketchikan Excursion

 

For Ketchikan, I believe we have decided upon an excursion that everyone in the family can all agree upon.

 

As I have mentioned before, on a family vacation, I believe it is important to do things that the entire family enjoys. Yes, even if mom and dad are paying for it, we want everyone to enjoy. 

 

There are dozens of different excursions and things to do on your own in each of these ports. However, everyone in my family are different [this holds true even for my DW and I – complete opposites, which is probably why we have been together for so long]. Everyone has their likes and multiple dislikes. But I think the Canoe and Off-road Adventure is something we may all agree with.

 

It is an excursion that allows for some physical exertion, it gets us on the water via a canoe (myself and my DW usually try to kayak during warmer weather vacations), it is part off-road where we can drive the jeeps off-road ourselves, and it is part nature (and being in Alaska is about being one with the outdoors).  Everyone thinks that is may be fun or at least certain aspects of it. The reviews on this excursion look good, although the negatives are that both the canoe trip (20+ people on the canoe) and time to individually drive off-road are very limited. It is also being booked through the cruise ship, so with most ship-sponsored excursions, there will be a number of other people in attendance. Looking at pics of the canoeing, it looks pretty crowded, but at least the off-roading cannot have many people in each car.

 

Interesting note is that RCI was having a 30% off sale on this excursion, which made it around $20 per person less than the third-party vendor was charging themselves for this same excursion (from ~ $190 to ~$170). [I went to the 3P website as part of my research.]

 

Alaskan excursions are not cheap, between this and whale watching, it will be between $1500 - $1600 after tips (which is easier to digest than $1600 for one excursion, but still expensive (in my mind). Even the DIY walk in Sitka will probably cost over $100 with all of the entry fees, and this does not include food and snacks. The Raptor Center alone is $15/pp, Bishop House is $4/pp, Jackson Museum $5/pp, etc. [FYI - if we decide to also fit in Fortress of the Bear, that is also another $15/pp, plus cab fare to and from.] I do know that there are some less expensive excursions at the other ports, but I am fortunate enough to afford these – something we could not afford in our younger days.

 

Travel is expensive, and not everyone is able to do so. According to a survey by Ipsos Public Affairs in 2016, the average American has visited 12 states during their lifetime.  10% of those surveyed have never left the state they were born in. [In a historical context (if I remember the figures correctly), prior to WWI (with the exception of the Civil War), most Americans did not travel more than 10 miles outside of their home town).  Alaska is one of the most desired states to visit, and Florida is the state that most people have actually visited. I guess I am not average, I have been fortunate enough to have visited 14 states in the past two years (COVID an all) - and Alaska will be the 45th during my lifetime!

 

We will be docked in Ketchikan for eight hours, the excursion is four hours (from 3 to 7 PM), so we should also have a little time to explore the port as well (according to the schedule, we will still be in port for 3 hours after the excursion has concluded (from 7 to 10), so I am thinking about the possibility of dining in Ketchikan instead of back on the ship. Maybe just myself and my DW.

 

I think the last day in Alaska is shaping up to be quite a nice day.  The morning spent on the ship watching the land and water drift by, the afternoon in the wilds of the 49th state doing outdoor “stuff” and then dinner (maybe just myself and my DW) consuming local food while taking in the surroundings.

 

The final day of the cruise is a Sea Day, so I have the entire day to relax before going back to land (although we still have an unplanned day of adventure in Vancouver upon our return).

 

Question: Anyone have any suggestions for dinner in Ketchikan?

 

Toe Warmers

 

Side note: I picked up a box of “toe warmers” – I saw them on sale while I was grocery shopping, so threw them into the wagon.  I figured they may come in handy with the outdoor adventure, whale watching, etc.  It will probably be overkill, but it will be a nice extra to have.

 

I also double-checked to see if they were allowed on an airplane and/or cruise ship, and yes, they are allowed.

 

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Posted (edited)

Note:  All posts from now on will be current, so no need to include "[Today]" at the beginning of such posts.

 

Just heard back from someone who is currently on the Serenade.  Although he is having a great time, he did have a few comments that reflects what is going on in the rest of the the Alaskan and overall cruise world:

 

 

The silver lining:

  • The report of COVID is expected and will continue to increase and drop along with the rest of the world.  I still have 6 weeks, so hopefully the spike will have long passed when I cruise.
  • It is good to know that more crew are boarding, so hopefully they will be closer to full staff by the time we cruise.
  • Although I figured that the boarding issues would have been figured out by now (2 1/2 weeks since they first started cruising out of the port), they still have six more weeks to fix any remaining issues so I will have a smooth boarding experience.

 

As I had mentioned in the thread for my sailing - Just in case, I will be packing a triple dose of patience for myself, my family, and enough to share with everyone else. Just like my approach to mud runs - I know the obstacles ahead of me and will be ready for them mentally and psychologically so as to overcome them (I am sure there is some sort of mental preparedness as well).

 

There is no such thing as a perfect cruise.  Something somewhere will go wrong during a cruise, or will not go as smooth as you had expected it. It is how you handle these situations that will determine whether it will a perfect vacation for you . . . . or not.

Edited by Travel R
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Call with RCI Customer Representative

 

I finally had a little time to call RCI.  I got through to a rep within 2 minutes!!!!! The agent was very nice, and was very helpful. [I called about 1:30 EST, if that is of help to anyone.]

 

Below is what transpired:

 

Linked Reservations - My Time Dining

 

Background - As mentioned in an earlier post, I tried to make joint MyTime reservations for both my cabin and those of my DDs. Our reservation #s had been previously linked up. After making all the needed inputs (with times) and including my DDs, when I went to check-out, the reservations showed up on my calendar, but not on theirs.

 

According to the agent, although I cannot see my daughters as part of my party on my end, and it is not appearing on the calendar for my DD's booking, the dinner reservations are linked and they will be included as members of our party when we go to the dining room to eat.

 

I am still a little weary (more than just a little); but have to go with what the agent of the RCI corporation tells me.  It's not like they have ever been wrong before. 🙂

 

I am still waiting for RCI to respond to my original electronic inquiry via the website.

 

Classic Soda Package

 

When I went online (via RCI website) to purchase the soda packages for my DD's cabin (I was in their booking), I received a message that the transaction could no be completed online and I should call customer support.  Mind you, although one of my DD's is under 21, I am only ordering soda for them, so did not know what the issue could be.

 

The rep said sorry, they have been having computer issues (like that never happens on their website) and was able to make the purchase for me.

 

Mystery Dinner Theater

 

While I had him on the line I asked about the Mystery Dinner.  He looked it up and said that it would be on our cruise (to be reserved onboard).  I did not see it in the Compass, I wonder if it has not begun yet due to staff shortages?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, familycruzinnewbie said:
  • What is the Mystery Dinner?

 

It's a dinner while a mystery is being solved (usually a murder). Some of the people dining are actors (posing incognito). You help solve the mystery, and some diners may unexpectedly become part of the "show."

 

If you have never experienced it, they are lots of fun. During the last one we attended, I was very chatty with multiple people before we sat down to eat, then again with the people at my table. [For that one you were asked to take on a new identity, so I went with it.] A few of the other guests thought I was one of the actors.

 

Food is "okay," but a house wine is usually included with dinner (although there is usually a pay-bar as well).

 

I have not experienced a mystery dinner while on a cruise ship, but should be a similar experience.

 

Of course, there is an upcharge for this experience. I believe it was $79 per person pre-COVID, not sure of the current pricing (not sure if that includes gratuities and taxes). Also - it looks like it begins at 5:45 on other ships that have had this in the past.

 

From the official RCI site: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/cruise-activities/mystery-dinner-theater

 

From what I understand, it should be available to reserve online, but I have not seen it listed for our cruise (or maybe due to staffing and COVID issues, they may not know if they will have it until they set sail, so we would need to go to ticket booth or reserve via the app). The rep on the phone sounded very sure of it, and even mentioned that it will be held in Giovani's.

 

My DD's would like to do this, so I hope they do have it.  If they could make an extra $80 a per person for a full dining room, I am sure they would try.

Edited by Travel R
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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Travel R said:

Vacation To-Do Checklist

 

I cannot remember if I had posted the vacation to-do checklist before, but this one has been modified specifically for an Alaskan Cruise.

 

Hopefully some of you find it handy . . .

Vacation To Do Checklist.pdf 115.83 kB · 0 downloads

 

If anyone gets a chance to look over, or uses the checklist for themselves, let me know if anything is missing (items listed that do not pertain to an Alaskan cruise remain on the list, but have been stricken out - this list is also obviously for a US citizen).

 

This list refers to a "Last-Minute" checklist, which I had created for the first time for the cancelled vacation in 2021.  I am making a few changes additional changes to that list and will post it within the next day or two. It is being adjusted for current protocols (which were different than when I originally wrote the list a year and half ago).

 

COVID Testing

 

FYI - my family has been boosted today!  As I had mentioned before, I am not taking any chances.

 

I just learned that I would have to pay for a COVID test while in Vancouver.  I heard that the cost is CAN 79 - at least at one place, and I just saw an in-person testing for CAN 199.

 

Unless I can find cheaper options, I am going to order some do-it-yourself w/ technician watching tests.

 

 

 

Edited by Travel R
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COVID Booster

 

My family is now all boosted. 

 

I have a lot to say about it, but most of it would be against the rules on these boards, so I will keep quiet.

 

However, I did not react well to the shot. Glad I took it over the weekend so it would not interfere much with work.

 

COVID Testing in Vancouver

 

After seeing some of the prices for the in-person tests in Vancouver, I have decided to go with the self-administered route w/ an observer. I went through one of the more well known companies, so they will be here in the next week. I also ordered an extra test, just in case there is an issue with any of the other ones.

 

Note that there is an in-person testing place in the cruise port itself. It costs CAN 79 per person, and is something to keep in mind in case you (or someone you know) needs a quick test before getting on a ship or flying out of Canada (results in under 30 minutes). However, it is expensive, so for me at least, would have only been a means of last resort.

 

According to the test's website I should be able to get reimbursed by my insurance company for at least part - which is a positive.

 

I have to remember to put this on the packing list - although I think I already have listed self home tests to keep as a measure for self-monitoring.

 

I have already received the confirmation email and can schedule a time to take the tests - which I will do so later today.

 

COVID Anxiety

 

When my parents were in rehab/hospital, I was taking a rapid test at least once a week.  I never once thought I was going to test positive, and had absolutely no anxiety about taking the test or wondering about the results. However, since the stakes are so high, I do have a lot of anxiety about it.  I did book this cruise vacation being well aware of the situation and possible consequences - however, now that the count is coming down to the finish line, I have begun to worry.  All of the planning, expenses, time spent, could all be naught based upon a simple test.  I am not someone who usually spends a whole lot of time worrying (I plan so things should not go wrong, and if they do, I have a backup plan, so no need to worry), but I guess that being human, a little worry every now and then is good - it is what keeps us cognizant of the things around us.

 

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  • Hubby and I had boosters before Christmas and kids slightly thereafter. Our province had strict protocols and over 90% vaccinated including 5-11 year olds. Due to supply and intervals between doses most were hitting 20 weeks post 2nd dose when omicron hit, so they lowered that to 20 weeks, so it was a mass rush to boost as many people as possible. 
    I wasn’t going to worry about a 2nd booster until the fall, figured cases would drop right off for summer. But now wondering if I should get it if offered/eligible. Not sure if 50+ are eligible yet. The reports from last serenade are scary. 
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34 minutes ago, familycruzinnewbie said:
  • Hubby and I had boosters before Christmas and kids slightly thereafter. Our province had strict protocols and over 90% vaccinated including 5-11 year olds. Due to supply and intervals between doses most were hitting 20 weeks post 2nd dose when omicron hit, so they lowered that to 20 weeks, so it was a mass rush to boost as many people as possible. 
    I wasn’t going to worry about a 2nd booster until the fall, figured cases would drop right off for summer. But now wondering if I should get it if offered/eligible. Not sure if 50+ are eligible yet. The reports from last serenade are scary. 

 

Where are you seeing reports from the last Serenade cruise?

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3 hours ago, familycruzinnewbie said:
  • Hubby and I had boosters before Christmas and kids slightly thereafter. Our province had strict protocols and over 90% vaccinated including 5-11 year olds. Due to supply and intervals between doses most were hitting 20 weeks post 2nd dose when omicron hit, so they lowered that to 20 weeks, so it was a mass rush to boost as many people as possible. 
    I wasn’t going to worry about a 2nd booster until the fall, figured cases would drop right off for summer. But now wondering if I should get it if offered/eligible. Not sure if 50+ are eligible yet. The reports from last serenade are scary. 

 

We are all eligible to get our second booster after 4 months (in US), including my DD17.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, familycruzinnewbie said:

The reports from last serenade are scary. 

 

I know that there were reports of COVID on Serenade - but have not read about a huge outbreak.

 

There have been several reports from the Allure of a large outbreak on their last itinerary (one member stating that it was so bad that they ran out of beds in the red zone (where those with negative results are put to pasture)).

 

Also a review from the most recent sailing of the Quantum in Alaska did not mention a huge outbreak; although did mention the busses (?for an excursion?) not being full, speculating that it may be due to the uptick.

Edited by Travel R
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5 hours ago, Travel R said:

COVID Testing in Vancouver

 

I just want to clarify one thing, which believe it or not, I had overlooked (and someone on FB had pointed out to me).  Although it will not affect me personally since I will be staying a day after in VC, the negative test to get back to the US is to be conducted/received within one day prior to return. Not the two-day time period provided for boarding a cruise ship.

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I didn’t hear of huge outbreak just that there were 75 guests quarantined and that some cabin stewards disappeared (had COVID) and that many more people tested positive trying to fly home or after they arrive home. This was talked about in various fb groups and on an RCI forum.  

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Sitka Dock

 

In the news - the Radiance of the Seas did a little bit of damage to the dolphin moorings at the cruise terminal in Sitka (May 8th).  Someone mentioned it on these boards.  A report is that Ovation was rescheduled from Sitka to Icy Straight Point a few days ago.

 

A news report states that the dock can no longer support two cruise ships at a time. Some ships may have to tender or be sidelined to other ports.

 

From all the research and reading I have done on Sitka, it is really one of the ports I am looking forward to visiting. There is a great deal of Russian, American, and indigenous history there that one cannot find elsewhere.  It seems like a great place to walk around yourself to discover its history. If we are diverted to another port, we will make due - but as a planner I hope they provide us (me) with enough plans to conduct research on the port and decide what to do once we go ashore.

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Posted (edited)

Sitka Socking Situation pt. II

 

I have Gordon Lightfoot playing in the background. I put on his playlist unconsciously - maybe to get me into a frame of mind to visit our Northern neighbor? [I have been a long-time fan. I have seen him in concert twice back when I lived in Michigan (Auburn Hills and Fox Theater); my buddy saw him this past weekend with great seats - second row center stage (he held onto them for three years due to COVID cancellations).] I even went up to Whitefish Point to see the Edmund Fitzgerald exhibit. "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" is currently playing - and one of my father's bucket list items was to take a train trip across Canada (something that my parents had booked, but unfortunately cancelled due to the onset of Alzheimer's). But my mind wanders to back to Alaska . . .

 

In further investigation of the Sitka docking situation, I looked back at my notes; we are due to dock at the same time as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth.

 

I wonder which ship will have priority to dock at the port?

 

We both have about the same number of passengers - 2547 (QE) to 2490 (SOS). I wonder if that matters?

 

QE is obviously a more expensive ship to travel. I wonder if that matters?

 

Does anyone reading this thread know how they would determine priority for docking?

 

I am okay if we dock, tender, or go to a different port - the planner in me wants to know so I can plan accordingly.

 

I am also wondering (yes, a lot of wondering today) - in the case we tender, will it take us directly into town, or does it still take us to the cruise dock. If it takes us to the dock, we would have to then wait for, and take a bus, into town (it could be a half hour of travelling on tender and bus and that is not including waiting for either). Of course, I am sure if tendering, the pax with ship-purchased tours will get the first tenders to shore. It's an 8 am arrival time, which means a more leisurely breakfast in the MDR, and will have plenty of time to change and shower after my morning exercise.

 

It's been a while since the last time I had to tender - if I remember correctly, I had enjoyed it. If you think of tendering in a positive light, it is a "free" excursion provided by the cruise line for a spectacular small boat cruise in the breathtaking waters of Sitka. It allows you to see the beautiful scenery of the town and perhaps an encounter of a sea creature.

 

It's been two weeks since the incident at the port, and so far no word from RCI. You would have thunk that by this time they would have figured out the docking situation for our itinerary by this point. I was going to finalize my tour for Sitka this coming weekend and purchase any tickets for the various attraction. I am not sure if any of the tickets are time-stamped (i.e., entry allowed only during a certain time period) - which would throw off my planning groove.

 

Got a busy day ahead of me at work.  Maybe a day for Canadian musicians in the background . .  After Gordy maybe some Rush, then Neil Young (solo and CSNY), and some Bryan Adams (I first saw him when he was the opening act for Journey at MSG (early/mid-80s)). I'll round it out with some Alanis Morrissette, DFA, Joni Mitchel, a little Shania, and a few others.

 

 

 

Edited by Travel R
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18 minutes ago, A&L_Ont said:

@Travel R Are you starting a new thread when leave home for the ship and how long until you sail?  

 

Good question - I have been thinking about whether it will be beneficial to CC readers to start a new thread for the cruise review itself (which sets sail in about 5 weeks).

 

On one hand I hate adding new threads when there is no need for it. On the other hand, I do not want people to get confused if this thread becomes a review.

 

My thoughts at this time is to create a new thread (I will have this thread in my signature for reference, and probably create an index to topics for easy reference).

 

I will most likely go lights-out during the cruise. I will not be purchasing WiFi/Zoom so will not be doing a live review.  Most of my past recent reviews have been fairly detailed with photos, so even after I return it usually does take me time to write out all of the details and upload all of the photos.

 

Any thoughts on this - continue this thread of start a new thread for the review itself?

 

 

 

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Rethinking MTD (MyTime Dining)

 

I have been reading many horror stories about MyTime Dining on recent cruises.

 

I had used this seating variation on previous cruises to ensure I could be flexible in my dining times based upon what we were doing that particular day.  No need to rush back for an early seating if we were in port later or having to miss a specific entertainment because it interfered with my dining schedule.  For instance, the days we are in port late I have much later dining times and those days (such as at sea) are much earlier.

 

Reports (from many different ships) is that MyTime is more of a walk up anytime to the venue hand wait for a half hour our even forty-five minutes. Some pax even describing the area outside the venue to become upset/angry even at people merely walking to get onto the elevator because they were expected of maybe trying to cut the line.

 

I am not sure if this is because of staff shortages (kitchen and dining room staff), which will make for longer dining times for the early sitting, then back up the MyTime diners.  The system they have basically replaces these early diners with the MyTime diners - but if they do not finish up and clear out, there are no empty tables for us MyTimers.

 

As mentioned I like the flexibility of MyTime, but if I have to wait 45 minutes for a time I reserved two months earlier, it negates the flexibility. Many times there have been a 5-10 minute wait in the past, but that is to be expected.

 

At least I know what to expect.  I'll hope for the best, but expect the worst. I'll plan on it and take a banana or some type of fruit from the WJ earlier in the day and eat it prior to leaving for the dining room so I will not be overly hungry (which will lead to even greater frustration) when waiting on line. Plan ahead, and relax.  If the lines are really way too long and we are really hungry, WJ is always a secondary option.

 

If it is a matter of staff shortages, no reason to get upset. There is not much the cruise line (RCI or any other) could do (except maybe not sail at full capacity until they have the proper number of staff to handle that capacity).  Workers are having trouble getting visas - slowed down because the government offices themselves are understaffed, as well as the issues of transportation, and COVID also affecting the number of staff members already onboard.

 

One member had discussed how Carnival has a notification on their app that notifies people when their table is ready. No waiting in lines - when the app rings or buzzes, you know you are ready to eat. I like that idea.  [RCI Reps, if you are reading - take note.] On the other hand, it would mean that at least one person in your party has to carry around their phone.

 

Although I have thought about it, I am really not going to switch back to traditional.  I'll hope for the best.  Still another month for Visas to be issues, staff to make it aboard the ship, and training to be performed for new staff.

 

The most important thing to pack for any vacation is a positive attitude.

 

New Thread for Review of Cruise

 

I have put some more thought towards this.  I will be creating a separate thread for the review itself.

 

However, I am going to experiment yet again with the format of the review.  Instead of just a flat review of the ship and excursions, it will be a multi-part production, which will include the following parts:

     * What You Need to Know - highlights or what I did and experienced, providing hints, tips, how-tos, pain points, etc. that I thought were useful that may be of help to you and other fellow cruisers. 

     * The Adventure - My daily life is spent reading, writing, and editing very dry materials.  I am going to let my more creative side loose, and create a narrative with a direct analogy to everything that was going on in the cruise. It will include side-bars/cut-aways' where I will differentiate between the fiction and reality of the tale.] It will be a fan-fiction of sorts, with most of the story based on what has occurred during my cruise - and the photos will be real (from this voyage).  I will at least start posting this and wait for your reaction 

     * Culinary Cavalcade - Photos and reviews of all the food that is paraded in front of me, including some history, origin, and maybe even an interesting story or two about each of the foods and dishes.

     * Miscellaneous - I am sure there will be other items I will add to my review posts as I get to them.

   

I am already thinking about the review and have not even sailed!

 

But, "A Planner Plans"

 

 

 

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