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Live from the Encore July 24-31


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LauraS
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We are cruising again!

This will be our first time on the Encore and we are both super excited (it takes a lot for my dad to be even remotely excited so this is big news.)

This will be our 27th cruise with NCL and our 13th week in Alaska.  Although it is easier and more convenient for us to sail on the Jewel leaving from Vancouver, we opted for the Encore sailing out of Seattle because there is a crew member on board the Encore who has become a friend and we wanted to sail on the same ship as him.  When I emailed my dad about this trip, he sent back a response that went something like this:

There is no way I am going on an expletive airplane right now or traveling to Seattle expletive expletive.

I replied with a multiple choice quiz that went something like this:

So pick one option below so I know whether or not to ask you anymore:

A) willing to take a cruise out of Vancouver on NCL this summer

B) willing to take a cruise out of Vancouver this summer on a different cruise line

C) willing to fly somewhere to take a cruise this summer

D) prefer to stay home even if Yvonne decides to travel

He did a little research and ended up choosing C (always choose C!) so here we are.

 

We typically travel on the Jewel-class ships because they have the two bedroom suites.  On this trip we are in a Haven forward facing penthouse that is not in the actual Haven.  We travel very well together when we have our own rooms, so this will be an experience.

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My journey begins with a long drive this morning as I drive through cities A, B, C and D to pick up my dad then across city B to get into city E where the airport is.  I have prepaid for airport parking and when we arrive at the long term parking lot at YVR a scanner reads my licence plate and a little green chip plops out of the machine.  Not as good as a gumball but I’ll take it.  (When I was a kid my mom told me gumball machines were filled with decorations.  Can anyone relate?) If I was traveling by myself I would take CanadaLine but it doesn’t connect to the city where my dad lives.  

At the airport we zip through security and US customs then have a long wait for our flight since we arrived so early.  The man on the seat across from me suddenly leaps up in a panic and dashes off to the airport departures board. When he returns I ask if he is ok.  He says yes, but he missed his flight this morning so they rerouted him and he just found out his new flight has been delayed 6 hours.  This means he won’t make his connecting flight from Newark to the Dominican Republic.  

The Vancouver Whitecaps are on our flight so they must have a game with the Seattle Sounders.  They all go to Tim Hortons and come back with bacon wraps, creamy chocolate doughnuts, Timbits and coffee chillers.  Good to know they will be well-fueled for their upcoming match!

 

The gate attendant yells at my dad because his carry on looks too large.  I tell him not to yell so he yells louder.  I ask him for his name and tell him to stop screaming or I will report him.  He makes my dad check his carry on for no good reason.  Sometimes people have bad days.

 

Our plane is a little Bombardier that sounds like a motorcycle revving up for a race that it won’t win. Drink service consists of apple or orange juice boxes.  Juice boxes always make me feel like I’m a kid going on a field trip so I happily choose apple and enjoy the quick flight. The windows aren’t aligned with the rows so I can’t see outside.  I keep telling my dad to move his head so I can see out the window.  Pretty sure he enjoyed all the neck exercise he got today.

 

Here is our check-in experience at the Marriott Waterfront:

Hotel clerk to the people in front of us: here’s your keys, your room is in the newly renovated wing, these are your breakfast vouchers and over there is the M room with snacks available.  My name is Colin and please let me know if there is anything I can do to make your stay more enjoyable.

Clerk to us: your room isn’t ready yet, we are oversold and maybe there will be a room for you in an hour.

Me: blink, blink

 

Since our room isn’t ready, we decide to explore.  We love to walk! There is a lively festival at Pier  50-something, sponsored by Peloton.  Must be for rich people with well-toned buttocks.  We walk right on by.

I have a general idea where Pike Place Market is, but I’m not sure how to get there from the waterfront.  I ask one of the festival crowd control people and she says “oh yes, I’ll tell you the easy way to get there.  You go that way toward the aquarium, cross at the crosswalk, go around the barricade, dodge the construction, take the detour, take that little path going sideways, go up those stairs, find the parking garage, go up more steps and you’ll be right there.”  We walk up some stairs then up more stairs and arrive at another staircase. Emerging in the market, we are in a squishy crowd watching the fish fly by.  I am 5’4” which puts me at prime armpit height and it seems like 72% of the market visitors today opted to forgo deodorant today.  

We dodge tourists and fish water trickling at our feet, gawk at the block-long line up for the original Starbucks then explore the busy streets surrounding the market.  A jaunty musician has rolled his piano onto the street corner and he haphazardly plunks away on his keyboard with a sign taped to his instrument saying he will accept Venmo for tips.  

In contrast to the Seattle of ten years ago, the Seattle today feels tense, dirty and just overall icky.  We enter a Walgreens to buy earplugs and the security guard is refusing entry to some repeat “customers.”

 

I don’t have a fitness tracker but after what feels like 15000 steps we search for a pub and end up at Pike Place Brewery where we sink into chairs, grateful for the air conditioning and a chance to rest tired feet and refuel.  I have an amazing cider from Portland Orchards and my dad goes with his favourite, a pale ale.  We share a herbivore pizza and wow is it delicious!  Garlic oil, mushrooms, kalamata olives, roasted garlic, feta and mozzarella topped with sundried tomatoes.  

 

 

Back at the hotel, our room is ready.  My dad, whose hobbies include jigsaw puzzles, travel and complaining, grumbles about the distance from the elevator to the room.  Turn a corner in the hallway?  

Complain.

Around a bend and down a corridor?  

More fodder for complaints.  At one point he said “don’t they know I’m 79 years old and I need a room near the elevator?”  This is after we spent the afternoon walking the Seattle waterfront, Pike Place Market and a lot of downtown.

 

The room is fine but super basic.  There are zero amenities.  No little lotions or shower caps or cotton balls; I feel like a cave person roughing it.  The toilet paper is located back behind the toilet and one must be a contortionist to access it.  To the Marriott’s credit, the toilet paper is soft so I use a lot in anticipation of the sandpaper-like experience on our cruise this week.

My dad is tuckered out so we settle in for the night and watch some tv.  I notice how different American commercials are from Canadian ones.  There seem to be a lot of health products to either get things out of your body or purchase things that go in your body.  At one point a do-it-yourself home colonoscopy kit is advertised.  Things have got to be pretty sh*tty if one is resorting to this. Also, Ted Danson got really old.

This photo is through the hotel window looking out on Puget Sound.  Where the Bliss was today at Pier 66 tomorrow the Encore will be docked. We are excited!

 

Book recommendation for the day (with a Seattle connection) is This Is How It Always Is 

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Cruise day 1

 

It’s cruise day!  We wake up at the Marriott waterfront, slide the drapes to the side and look!  There she is, the Norwegian Encore!

 

We both slept until 9:30am this morning since the air conditioning unit at the Marriott (which was OFF) vibrated like the inside of an unlubricated engine for hours last night.  While we have stayed at many Marriotts around the world and had positive experiences this one just wasn’t the right choice for us.

Neither of us felt like breakfast so even though we had an 11:30am port check in time we decided to walk across the street and see if we could check in early.  We can!  It doesn’t seem to matter about port arrival times.  Before we entered the doors to the terminal portside employees were reminding cruisers that they would need passports, negative Covid tests, vaccine records and the ArriveCAN app.  We entered and were immediately welcomed as Haven passengers.  The first check point was boarding passes, then a quick jaunt through security before entering the Haven processing room.  There were 4 check-in line ups and 1 family ahead of us so the process was quick and easy.  She did ask to see our ArriveCAN QR code.  We had a 15 minute wait before the ship was ready for passengers so we had breakfast in the Haven waiting room.  I had an open face sandwich with Brie, figs and apricot, a mini danish and some fruit.  Bowen, the Encore concierge, touched base with every group offering his business card and a warm welcome.  He then led us into the ship and up to the Haven lounge where he gave information about what his role is, what the butlers will do and what the room stewards will do.  In contrast to our previous experiences, on this cruise the butlers are the ones who are making dining reservations.  

 

Let’s take a moment and talk about dining reservations . I had booked 3 specialty restaurants online but couldn’t book the 4th.  I did a chat with NCL and the rep couldn’t (wouldn’t?) make the reservation.  I called the pre-cruise concierge and she made the reservation then asked what snacks and amenities we wanted in the room.  She gave me a verbal list to which I responded, “why yes, we would like a bowl of gummy bears, peanut  M&Ms and a bowl of mixed nuts.”  She asked what we wanted in the fridge then enquired about our pillow menu choices.  I spent my youth camping and using my hoodie as a pillow so to me any pillow is a good pillow.

 

We spent the first little while on board exploring from the highest desk then working our way down where we walked the Waterfront.  We may have stopped at a few bars on the way.  Mai Tais may have happened (they were delicious and refreshing!) 

 

The whole reason we booked the Encore is to see one specific person.  He is a bartender that we met on the Pearl years ago and with whom we have cruised numerous times since. He is on board and we are so, so excited to see him again.  He messaged where he is and we go find him and spend a gorgeous sunny afternoon at his bar soaking up the pre sailaway vibes and chilling.  We aren’t really “chill” people so this is pretty fun!  The sun is hot, the pool is full, the deck chairs are out and this feels like a Mediterranean cruise instead of an Alaskan cruise.  It’s just missing the Greek ladies who didn’t get the memo that NCL sundecks aren’t topless.  I have a Mai Tai then ask Bartender Extraordinaire to create whatever he wants for me.  After that drink I have to switch to water before I can walk again.

 

When my knees are no longer wobbly we head up to the Haven sun deck (which says ages 16 and over but there are kids and young teenagers up here shouting away) and find loungers and an umbrella.  We chat with a crew member who is from Guyana and he tells us he used to be the only crew member from Guyana but a couple weeks ago one more person arrived so he is not alone anymore.

 

Our dinner reservation is for 5:30pm at Onda.  We have enjoyed many wonderful meals on NCL and my dad said tonight may have been the best.  We both requested half portions of the entrees and the chef obliged.  Such an enjoyable meal!

 

 

After dinner it’s time for John, Paul, George and Ringo.  They get the audience dancing in their seats and clapping along.  Great show with a standing ovation.  To the 63 people who entered the Beatles Invasion late, there is a sale on watches tonight in Tradewinds.

 

To be continued tomorrow.  I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open any longer!

 

Yvonne’s reading recommendations if you enjoy books set on cruise ships or boats:

 

The Unsinkable Greta James (takes place on an Alaskan cruise embarking from Vancouver)

 

Shipped (takes place on an expedition voyage in the Galapagos)

 

Float Plan (starts in Florida, ends in the Caribbean and contains an internal and external love story.)

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I was so happy to see another review from you today. 
Thanks for taking time out of your vacation to keep us entertained.

Have a fabulous cruise with your dad.

I will look forward to catching up each day with your adventures.

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Looking forward to reading about your cruise.  Enjoy and thank you for taking us along.   We travel sometimes with my dad who is in mid 80's and I can relate.

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Yay! So excited to follow along with you again!  We were on the Encore to Alaska last August and it was fabulous. You're going to have a wonderful time. (Sorry to hear about your bad experience at the Waterfront Marriott. We stayed there last year, and they let us check in early & we had a water-view room, so it was great for us. I guess it's just the luck of the draw.) Also, a little too late, but maybe for the next person, there's an elevator on Alaska Way in the parking garage between the Marriott and Pier 57 that will take you up to Pike Place. It goes up to the next street (sorry, I don't know the name), where you cross and enter another elevator.  Go up and you are there!  (We discovered this too late for us, too, but next time.) Thank you for sharing your cruise with us! 

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Cruise Day 2

Things my dad has complained about in the last 24 hours:

-the ceilings are too low

-his bed is too big

-he has too many pillows

-the light on the phone blinked and kept him awake “all night” (the message was delivered silently from Bowen at 8:02am)

-he can’t figure out how to close the drawers in his room

-we are paying for a Haven cabin but it isn’t actually in the Haven (we knew this)

-the hallway is long

-the ship is trying to cater to people with expensive taste

-the ship went too fast last night 

 

When we went on the Breakaway years ago when it was new, I knew he would have a lot of complaints so I made him an official complaint booklet where he could record his thoughts instead of directing them at me.  I asked him where this book is and he says he still has it somewhere.

Coming back from breakfast, he starts complaining about how many pillows the room steward will have put on his bed.  I tell him he needs to start using the pad of paper and pen in our cabin as a makeshift complaint book.  When we get back to the cabin and I go to give him the pad of paper we see there is only 1 piece of paper left.  We both burst out laughing since there is no way this one tiny paper can contain his multitudes of grumbles.

 

We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in the Haven.  I had a cappuccino with the perfect ratio of froth to espresso.  My pastry from the mini buffet was still warm from the oven and my eggs and hash browns were just what I felt like.  After breakfast I had a mimosa from the Haven bar.

 

It’s completely fogged in and grey today so my plan to work on my tan is thwarted.  Instead we attend the This Is Alaska presentation in the Encore theatre.  We’ve seen it many times before but this time the Shore Excursions staff member was hilarious, adding in his own thoughts and opinions.  Even my dad claps at the end!

 

There are no Scrabble games in the library but we had seen two games in the Haven Lounge.  Haven is now worth it for us just because they have Scrabble!  My dad played a 7-letter word, earned a 50 point bonus and beat me handily.  We had a quick lunch in the Haven before traipsing down to the Latitudes “celebration” in Q.  The captain and officers lined up, nodded their heads politely, did not engage with anyone, were introduced and left. This is off-putting, especially after the friendliness and warmth we experienced on the Jewel.  There were maybe 30 people there.  Alexa came to play at the end as people were trickling out.

 

Let’s talk about Latitudes rewards on the Encore.  We are Diamond.  They forgot to deliver welcome aboard chocolate strawberries yesterday.  There is no Behind the Scenes Tour and no dinner with the officers.  We are signed up for Wines Around the World and they are trying to organize the sail and sustain mixology experience.  There is no $50 credit for the unavailable benefits.  I politely told the Cruise Next manager that NCL needs to do a better job taking care of their repeat customers.  Since we have the beverage package, perks like the free bottle of “champagne,” Wines Around the World and the mixology experience are pretty much useless.  

The Cruise Next Manager is telling everyone that if they book a future cruise by 8:00pm tonight they will get 40% plus an additional 10% off for booking on board and they will give a free cabin upgrade.  I know this is his job, but this doesn’t seem accurate to me.  Anyone experience booking incentives like this before???

 

I’m so excited to tell you about Choir of Man that I can barely remember what we did this afternoon.  I know we spent a long time at the Haven bar!  Ron-Ron is the bartender/mixologist extraordinaire.  He made me a drink that we named Somewhere Over The Ron-bow with apple infused whiskey, muddled cherries, mint syrup and some dashes from the potions bottles.  Those bottles remind me of the green elixir in Wicked.  The drink was delicious.  We did go to Tri-Bond Trivia and we went to listen to Alexa in Observation Lounge.  Alexa doing show tunes?  Yes please!!  She is fabulous.  Truly. 

 

Even though today wasn’t sunny, we still enjoyed a fun sea day.  I love sea days!  The best part of the day was actually in the evening: Choir of Man was tonight!  I’m a huge Broadway fan and have song lyrics from Wicked tattooed on the back of my neck (I fainted during that tattoo!) and Choir of Man is up there in calibre, talent and extraordinary performances from every artist on the stage.  I smiled so wide and had both tears of laughter and tears of being human rolling down my cheeks.  I loved it when they invited audience members to raise a glass for places that welcome all diversities.  The tap dance and the bartender and the piano player were incredible.  What a show!  It was like a blend of Come From Away and Priscilla Queen of the Desert with a little moment of the old finale show  Norwegian used to do, Fountains.  Remember that? Crew members in sheets spewing water from their mouths at each other?  That was good entertainment, albeit disgusting.

 

While the big ships may not be our thing, an evening’s entertainment like we had tonight was definitely a joy.

 

Before seeing Choir of Man we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Ocean Blue.  Since being on the Bliss in March and trying the roasted cauliflower steak with Ras al Hanout, almonds, grapes and capers I have been drooling about it.  Tonight it was just as decadent as I remembered, smelling and tasting like a Moroccan spice market.  We both ordered the vanilla raspberry cheesecake in a jar.  In essence it is a jar full of yum.

 

Today’s book recommendations from this teacher librarian for middle grade readers are Wishtree, Fish in a Tree, Counting By 7s and because of mr. terupt.

 

If you enjoy fast paced, exciting books with a little mystery, check out The Guest List and The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley.

 

Tomorrow we are in Juneau from 3pm to 11pm.  We do have a private shore excursion booked and I told my dad I would buy him an ice cream.  The Garden Cafe had rum and raisin ice cream today so he was thrilled about that!

 

I also wanted to add that there are 3600 passengers on board including 800 kids.  Most of those kids seem to spend a large part of their day in the Haven hot tubs.  The last time we cruised with 800 kids was on the Pride of America many years ago over Christmas and the Food and Beverage Manager told us in the Q and A that he had ordered 5 times the normal amount of French fries for that particular week.

 

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8 hours ago, YVRteacher said:

we went to listen to Alexa in Observation Lounge.  Alexa doing show tunes?  Yes please!!  She is fabulous.  Truly. 

You're killing me!! 🤣We're all envious enough without this!

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