7/5/14

Alaskan Cruise June 8th - 15th

- Just boarded the boat and checking out Vancouver from the decks -
I took hundreds of pictures (Connie also sent me all of hers, and I had some on my phone too), I am going to have to break this trip up into a few different posts.  Still a lot of pictures on each post, but I couldn't decide which ones to leave out.  
This post will cover from June 8th - June 10th. 
I tried to write everything down on a piece of paper while on the trip, because I always come home and forget some of the things we did.  Anyway, I am going to transfer all that info to here so I can throw the paper away.  So......if you don't care for a lot of commentary on blog posts, then just browse the pictures and ignore the wordy details. 
We flew into Seattle on Saturday, June 7th.  After picking up our rental car we drove to Vancouver to meet up with Connie and Rob at the hotel.  We stopped at Ivar's in Everett for dinner, which was actually amazing seafood for such a good price. 
- Vancouver is a beautiful city.  Actually reminds me of San Fransisco, only a bit cleaner -
It took us about an hour longer than we thought to drive to Vancouver, because the Canadian border crossing was really slow.   We made it to our hotel about 10:30pm. Grandma and Grandpa came to the room for a quick hello, and then we were off to bed.
- Vancouver cruise terminal - 
The next morning, Sunday, we drove to a grocery store and bought breakfast.  Afterward we found an LDS chapel and went to sacrament meeting. 
 
Good thing the church will "take you as your are", because we weren't dressed in church attire.  I'm sure most of the congregation thought we were investigators.  Actually, we tried sitting in the back so no one would notice us, but everyone was so dang friendly :). Everyone that passed by talked to us and asked us where we were from and what brought us to Vancouver.  It was a really nice ward.  Very diverse - seemed like everyone was from somewhere other than Canada.
After church we headed to the cruise line terminal and got all checked in.  Once on board we couldn't go to our rooms for a couple hours, so we walked around and got familiar with the boat. Then we headed to the BUFFET.  Oh the buffet, what can I say about it - soooooo much food!  The reason we came home heavier than we already were when we boarded. :)  There's an ice cream bar for heavens sake!  We visited it at least once a day.  We headed to our rooms after lunch and the kids loved the bunk bed above our beds.  The bed folded up during the day, but still quite tight quarters for 5 people.  We actually booked it so that Noah was in with Connie and Rob and we had the 2 littles, but we didn't think that would be too nice to send Noah in there, so all of us stayed in one room.  We got creative with sleeping arrangements (2 on the floor and 1 in the bunk, 2 on the bunk and 1 on the pull out, 1 on the bunk and 1 on the pull out and 1 in our bed, etc.).  It worked out fine.
At night after all the beds are pulled out.  It stays light outside until after 11:00 so the black out curtains had to stay closed until all the kids were asleep.
Grandpa Rob brought some nice binoculars for the cruise, so we used his binoculars to check out the waters for any sea life that might be visible.
- Even thought the weather outside was cold, the pool and hot tub were hot - 
After the ship was sailing we had to go to the mandatory evacuations test.  Noah got to be the life-jacket demonstrator for the group.  They had him put it on and turn and spin and bow.  During the cruise a few people would stop him and say "hey, you're the little boy who did the life-jacket demo".  Noah felt pretty cool. 
-The kids couldn't believe how many plates and utensils (8 per person) were set on the table.  They quickly learned which utensil went with which meal. Of course Noah used the spoons to play with the ice in his water.  - 
Dinner was at 6:00 every night, and we sat at the same table every night. Our waiters name was Mario from Croatia, and his assistant was Anna from the Ukraine.  Anna was our favorite, she was so nice and sweet.  We sat with a lady name Sabrina from China, now living in New Jersey, and her dad Chung from China.  It was fun getting to know them a little better each night.  Chung spoke hardly any English, but he really liked Ava and would try to entertain her throughout the dinners. 
-One of Ava's, and grandpa's, favorite dessert picks. Chocolate cake with a layer of dulce de leche in the middle. It was pretty tasty. -
Dinners were long (1 1/2 - 2 hrs. every night), because they bring out each course (appetizer, soup/salad, entree, dessert) separately.  The kids did great.  They would get a bit restless between courses, but after a couple nights they got used to it and entertained themselves with my phone taking pictures or poking grandpa in the tummy. 
-First formal night.  Ava trying frog legs.-
The first night they gave the kids a different menu than us, which consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers, mac n cheese, etc.  They ordered off that menu the first night, but I realized those were their only options for 7 nights and I didn't want them eating that every night.  After the first night I told Mario they are adventurous eaters and I wanted them to eat off the regular menu.  They loved getting to choose some unusual foods and picking so many items each night. 
-Noah eating frog legs.  They were actually really good.  They taste like chicken legs. The kids had to wear those blue bands so in case they got lost the employees know which part of the ship they are supposed to be in. -
The breakfast and lunch buffet food was mediocre, at best, and got pretty old towards the end of the cruise, but the dinners never disappointed.  They were all amazing.
Not a very good picture (I believe Ava took this picture), but this is Chung. 
More dessert pictures.  I've never really liked creme brulee, but I decided to give it another shot, and this time I really liked it.  I ended up getting it a couple times during the cruise.  Guess I need to figure out how to make it now.  Noah got it a few times too.
 
Daddy helping Grant with his shrimp cocktail.  They brought out a couple baskets of bread at the beginning of each meal, and it was devoured within minutes. 
- The Maitr d (who looked exactly like Mr. Bean), brought a cake for Connie -  
Mon. - June 9th
Woke up and ate breakfast at the buffet.  Grant requested pancakes every morning (that's what he was most excited about for the cruise). We sent the kids to the Fun factory for a few hours while we went to the Rendezvous lounge (a room with floor to ceiling windows on the bow) and watched for whales (saw a couple spouts in the distance).  The fun factory was awesome.  The workers there were so nice to the kids. You could drop off your kids pretty much whenever you want and they entertain them with games, arts and crafts, dancing, etc. 
- We had them celebrate Connie's 60th birthday on Monday, since we would be off the ship on Tuesday (her actual birthday)-
We picked up the kids from the Fun Factory and decided to try out the pools.  Even though the air was cold, it felt great in the pools.  They were salt water pools and probably heated to the mid 90's.  After swimming we went to a science presentation on Alaskan wildlife.  Noah loved it.  Adam, Grant and Ava went back to the room to take naps while Noah and I explored the ship a bit more. We found a great little delicatessen to stop at for more treats, and then we found the library to play a quick game of chess (I don't really remember the rules of the game - I need Freddie to give me a refresher course).  
Adam told me that while we were gone, Grant had fallen asleep on one side of him and Ava was awake on the other side of him.  Adam ended up falling asleep and when he woke up Ava was gone.  He panicked a little and looked in the bathroom and on our deck, but she was not in our room.  He opened the door and found her laying on the floor next to grandma and grandpa's door (they were in the room next to ours).  She left to go see if they were in their rooms and no one opened the door, but she was locked out of our room and Adam didn't hear her knock.  Scary, but luckily she just stayed put until someone found her.  Little stinker.
 After the boys napped, we all got ready for our first formal dinner night (photos above).  When we got back to our room the towels were in the shape of a bunny.  This kids thought it was awesome, and they LOVED getting chocolates on their pillows every night.  It became a race to see who could collect the most chocolates.  
We let the kids go to the Fun Factory for an hour after dinner while I watched off the balcony for sea life.  It was my quest to find whales off the ship.  I did see a few spouts in the far distance and a pod of dolphins fairly close to the ship. 
 
The kids made crowns in the fun factory, and stopped off at the ice cream bar on the way back.  We stopped off at grandma and grandpa's room for a few minutes and then sent the kids to bed. 
-View from the balcony-
Cruising in Alaska is quite different than the other cruises we've been on.  Even though we had great weather, it's still pretty cold (especially in the evenings).  So sitting out on the balcony at night (because it's light until 11:00 at night you can watch the scenery much longer) was really cold.  Cruising the inside passage it great too because for most of the cruise there is beautiful scenery to look at while getting to our destination.  Alaska really is breathtaking!  Speaking of weather, we really couldn't have asked for better (well, 20 degrees warmer would have been nice).  I checked the forecast and it was supposed to rain for half the cruise, but we didn't get any rain until the last day on the ship.  Locals in the ports kept commenting on how lucky we were to have it be not raining.
Also because we were on the inside passage the waters were really smooth.  A lot of times we would look out and dream about water skiing on that water is was so glassy. There were a couple of nights that we could feel the boat swaying back and forth, but that was only when we were out in the open ocean (on the outside of the passage).
Tuesday, June 10th - Connie's 60th birthday!
Pretty cold in the morning.  Went to breakfast at the buffet and then watched a movie in our room.  Kids went to the Fun Factory and made some hats and played games. Adam and I went and sat in the hot tub with Con and Rob for an hour or so.  We picked up the kids and went to the buffet for lunch.  After lunch Adam took the kids back to the room to take a nap (Adam loves his naps).  Noah and I went to the Rendezvous lounge to watch for animals.  We saw lots of dolphins. 
We made it to our first port around 3:00 in the afternoon.  We tendered there, so we had to take little boats from the cruise ship to the dock at Icy Strait Point.  Icy Strait Point is actually a port that they "created" for cruise lines.  It really doesn't have much there besides a little museum, a few shops and then shore excursions.  The kids were just excited to be off the boat and wanted to play at the beach, so we didn't do any excursion at this port.  Since it was Connie's birthday we wanted her to do something fun.  She turned 60, so we thought she'd better do something "youthful" like the worlds largest zipline. :)
We waited at the bottom for them, so these pictures are from Connie.  At the top of the zipline.

 
They survived! 
Before grandma and grandpa left for the zip ride, we took a little hike through a forest that ended at the beach.
The only animals we didn't see that we really wanted to (although we have plenty of them in California) was a bear.  These carved ones were as close as we came - minus a few piles of scat that we saw on the trail. 


Noah's idea of paradise - tidal pools, water, rocks, unlimited things to discover.
Cool puffy seaweed with tiny crabs on them.
The rocks were covered like this.  Had to step on them to get anywhere.
The tide was out, so it was perfect for finding all sorts of cool things in the tide pools.
My little explorer.
Found these weird slug-like creatures that have hard shells down their backs.

There are bald eagles everywhere.  They are such amazing birds. It was so cool to see so many.  At one of our science shows on the boat, the scientist said to look for golf balls in the trees and that will be an eagle.  Sure enough when you look in the trees they look like golf balls.  We also learned that baby and young eagles are brown and don't get their white heads until they are ready to mate.  The "brown" eagles are still huge.  On the picture above you can see the adult eagle (just left of center toward the top) and the young eagle (just right of center toward the bottom).

Lots of totem poles to pose in front of.
Our cruise ship.  Thought this picture was cool how the smoke makes the ship look blurry.
She looks pretty great for a 60 year old!
There is a little town called Hoonah about 2 miles around that bend, but we didn't end up going there.  The kids just wanted to explore the coastline.
Ava found all the huge dandelions along the path.
We explored the little museum that talked about the fishing and Alaskan culture around this part of the state.
I want these glass floaters.

Huge king crab cages.
For Min, they had this old tube amp radio in the museum.


Sea Otter fur - the softest fur I have ever felt.  Would LOVE a blanket in this.
Their salmon display was comical with all the fake blood.

Duck Dynasty hats in one of the stores.


There were these long poles in the ocean and everyone had an eagle on it.  So cool.  This is a younger eagle - see how big it is still?!
I went camera happy with the poles and birds.  I thought it just looked so cool.





A few of Noah's treasures for the day.





As you can see, while the kids looked for star fish I snapped lots of pictures of the cool dock posts in the water.   We also saw some jellyfish near the surface of the water that were really cool - the bright pink/red ones.

We went back to the boat for dinner and then put the kids to bed.  This little seal was playing near the ship as we were leaving Icy Strait Point.

We left this port around 10:00 pm and it was still as bright as it was at noon. So crazy.  It was really beautiful scenery as we headed toward our next destination. 


Saw this cool rainbow as we were leaving too.  It looked really close, almost like you could reach out and touch it. The light coming through the clouds at this point was really cool too.  You can see the "beams" coming down by the mountain in the back.
Phew - did you make it this far?  Congrats!  Next up: Hubbard glacier.