Be Back Whenever

Tag Archive: cruise

8/26 Getting to the Alaska Cruise

Live in Colorado? How hard can it be to get to Vancouver for an Alaska cruise? Not hard at all – right?? Wrong! Susan’s Mom, JB, has wanted to go to Alaska to see Denali for years. We finally convinced her that a cruise and then land tour would be the way to go (That’s a whole other story.) We signed up all three of us and Mark and Susan booked plane tickets.
The story needs a small detour here. JB lives in extreme Western Maryland and can’t drive to Dulles Airport 150 miles away. This means Mark and Susan fly to DC, rent a car, drive about 150 miles to Cumberland, pick up JB after spending a few days there, and then we all fly to Vancouver to start the Princess Cruise. At the end of the cruise in Fairbanks we undo this process to take JB home.
Well, we discovered that there’s no direct flight from Dulles to Vancouver on Star Alliance meaning the routing took us from Washington Dulles to Denver (Just like being home) to Vancouver. Either that routing or fly through Chicago (never our favorite) or have very short connections in Toronto or Newark. OK … tickets are purchased and we’re ready to go.
Not quite … JB contracts an ailment that made her decide not to go on the cruise and changing our tickets was too expensive. Plus, JB paid for the trip! Off we went to DC and spent a few days in Cumberland for a visit and managed to do a few errands for Mom before we started on our little journey to get to Vancouver. Here’s the summary of that excursion!

• Boarded the plane in DC on time, left the gate on time.
• Sent to the “holding area” when the airport had a ground stop for all west bound planes. Did I mention it’s been raining on the east coast for a month?? We hung out there for an hour waiting for the weather to clear and to get new routing to Denver, taking us way south and adding a bit of time to the flight.
• Arrived in Denver one hour late and deplaned.
• Determined our flight to Vancouver was 20 minutes late, 30 minutes late, 45 minutes late, 80 minutes late while we waited for the arrival of the plane coming from Philadelphia – east coast – not a good place to come from! Scheduled departure 8:43 PM and no change for at least 2 hours.
• We hung out in the United Club and had a grand view of the hail storm hitting the airport. The hail storm was short at the terminal and just small hail – pea size – no worries! After all the hail storms this summer, this was nothing.
• Go to the gate at 8:15 (We saw the flight from Philadelphia had arrived and we could see the plane from the United Club windows.) thinking we’d board. No gate agent in site.
• Gate agent arrives at 8:45, gets on the plane, comes back and says, “I have no idea what’s going on here.” In the meantime, the gate info shows the next flight leaving from our gate was the one to Phoenix.
• Flight crew is missing one flight attendant. Finally found one and she gets applause when she shows up. The gate agent was good at keeping us updated on her search for a flight attendant.
• Boarding begins at 9:00 and we actually manage to depart about 9:30.
• Arrive in Vancouver at 11:30, clear immigration quickly and wait for our luggage for 20 minutes. They took lessons from Denver.
• Get a taxi to the hotel, arriving about midnight and were in bed by 12:20 AM. (This is 3:20 AM DC time.)

Summary – we could have flown to Europe faster from Denver than it took to get from DC to Vancouver. Oh well … we managed to get there!

South Pacific Cruise with the “older” clientele

After spending about 2 months in Australia, we had to figure out some way to get back to the U.S. or wherever we went next.  We see “repositioning cruises” advertised all the time, mainly between the U.S. and Europe but we figured the cruise lines have to get their ships back to the west coast in time for the Alaska sailing season after spending the Southern Hemisphere summer sailing in Australia/New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Off the Chief Travel Planner went to Google and quickly found a website, It turns out there weren’t many to choose from, but Holland America was moving the MS Noordam from Sydney to Vancouver starting on April 13 and we could disembark in Honolulu on April 28.  Yes, that makes this a 16-day cruise. We crossed the International Date line so repeated April 21, just like “Groundhog Day”.

Rommel, the bartender

Our favorite bartender, Rommel, in the Pinnacle Bar.

Fortunately, most of the days at sea had flat water and sunshine. Humidity increased as we approached the equator, reaching 98% in Pago Pago.

International Date Line Certificate

Official recognition of crossing the International Date Line.

agendas for April 21

A daily schedule was in our cabin every night for the next day. Two of them had the same date … different agendas for the 2 days it was April 21. Per, our Norwegian friend, celebrated his birthday twice!

Boarding the ship in Sydney – no problem!  Mark had to go on a hunt for his luggage but discovered it was in Ship Security waiting for him to remove the knife they saw when x-raying the bag before it was loaded on the ship.  We traveled with a sharp cooking knife after being in a number of apartments with less than sharp knives! They missed/ignored the corkscrew, a knife on a cutting board from Tasmania, and a Swiss Army knife he had.  The knife was returned on the last night of our cruise.

Our cabin was compact but had enough room for our few clothes.  Let’s just say that Gala Nights didn’t see any tuxes or ties or jackets on Mark.  Susan used the cruise as an excuse to buy a few clothes in Sydney and Melbourne.

Cabin 1

This was home for 16 days.

Average age of 1900 passengers – guessing 75-80 or so!  We’re sure we were in the youngest 10% of the passengers – about 190 people.  We saw one baby, about 5 children under 15 and the associated parents of said children, and a family of 4 from Alabama.  We met one lady who just retired and 2 women with their 85-year-old mom.  The other 170 people in the “10% Club” we can only guess at.  The ones we put in the club are either truly younger or have really good genes.

The passengers were a majority Americans but LOTS of Canadians and Australians with a handful of other nationalities represented – German, New Zealand, UK, Norway.

We met some fun people – Per and Lise from Norway, Tim and Debbie from London who traveled for 5 months before the cruise, Jan and Chris (UVA grad) from Texas.  We quickly found our favorite bars and bartenders and got into a routine – wakeup, coffee, breakfast, workout or walk, read, watch movies, sit in sun, before dinner drinks with the group, dinner at 8 PM, after dinner drinks, bed … repeat!

Mark and Per with sculpture

This is what two passengers do when they’re the last out of the dining room and have had a few glasses of wine in the evening plus a Hendricks and Tonic and pepper and cucumber.

Per and Lise

Per and Lise live in Norway. He’s a ship’s master/captain and they have some interesting stories about taking oil ships around the world.

Tim and Debbie

Tim and Debbie live in London and are semi-retired, traveling while they’re young! Tim loves Bingo and Debbie knows all about Elvis.

Two nights Tim and Mark stayed out late (1:30 AM) and they’re sure they were the last 2 passengers awake on the ship.  We often were the last table to finish dinner and the last bunch to close the bar – about 11:15 PM.  With a passenger list as old as on this cruise, the dining room was packed at 5:15 when it opened for dinner and fairly empty at 8 PM when we went to dinner.

We made stops in New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and Pago Pago, American Samoa.  You can check out the map on the Trip Statistics page to find the locations of the various islands.  We also had 5 straight days at sea before we arrived in Honolulu.

Dravuni Beach

Dravuni Beach wasn’t as soft as Kuto but had warm, clear water.

Dravuni Fiji

Dravuni Island, Fiji

Fiji sunset

Sunset in Fiji

Kuto beach

Kuto, New Caledonia. This was the best beach of the entire trip with soft sand and warm water.

We rented a car in Lautoka, Fiji, to drive to Nadi for some shopping. Driving was a piece of cake and the roads were great after 2 weeks on Indian roads.

The local bar at the the port on Easo on Lifou, New Caledonia.

I have no idea what this plant is. It resembles a poinsettia with leaves/petals that are partly red and partly green.

Lifou view from the church

We trekked up this hill on Lifou in New Caledonia to see a church with a great view.

Pago Pago port

This is the Pago Pago port in American Samoa. Susan didn’t see much of the port after she slipped in mud on a sidewalk and sprained her wrist.  She was the third or fourth person to slip in the same place that day!

Pago Pago sunset

We had a lovely sunset as we left Pago Pago.


Fooling your Garmin Exercise tracker – method #2

We took a cruise ship from Sydney to Honolulu for 16 days, including doing April 21 twice.  We had plenty of time to make a few observations.  One of these life altering observations is you can fool your Garmin Fitness tracker on a ship just as well as you can on a rough road in India. Doing laps around the Promenade Deck of a cruise ship that’s moving will also make your Fitness tracker think you’ve walked up 10 flights of steps!

The scenery was a bit monotonous but the ship was much smoother than the safari vehicle.

Holland America MS Noordam

This is the MS Noordam, a Holland America cruise ship, sitting off shore in the South Pacific.