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Found 12 results

  1. “Boarding has now begun for all first class passengers heading to Seattle.” I looked again at my boarding pass which clearly still read, “Coach.” I honestly kept expecting to see it magically change to “First Class,” but alas, it never did. Oh well, a girl can dream. I’d never imagined myself taking a cruise, much less planning for one. Yet here I was, waiting for our group to be called to board the flight which will take us to Seattle. The past six weeks have been a blur. Between the researching, the Google-ing, booking excursions, buying two different “for Dummies” books and four cruising the Inside Passage books, and then reading said books, shopping…sigh. And that was on top of all of the preparing and stressing that went in to leaving our business and our two year old son for 8 days. Shockingly, I actually feel quite prepared, especially since I packed according to a really great list I found online…but I still don’t understand why we need a string of Christmas lights or a roll of duct tape. At our travel agents urging, we decided to fly into Seattle the day prior to our cruise, as we had never visited the city before. I was looking forward to strolling around Pike Market, window shopping downtown, finding a great local place to eat dinner…pretty much do anything and everything to distract me from my mounting anxiety of actually boarding the ship. Double checking for what must have been the hundredth time, I made sure my bottle of meclizine was safely inside my carry-on bag. Of course it was there, snuggled beside my candied ginger, my Noro virus-fighting hand sanitizer, and these cute little lollipops I found that advertise banishing morning sickness for pregnant women. Hey, I figured if they can tackle morning sickness, they can tackle the looming seasickness that I was positive was going to cripple me. Of course my husband thought this was all ridiculous and completely unnecessary, but inside I know I’ll delight in hearing his apology when he begs me for a cherry maternity sucker. We landed in Seattle right on time and quickly catch the shuttle to our hotel. After dropping our bags and getting checked in, it was off to explore Seattle. We spent a gloriously sunny day wandering Pike Market and doing all things tourists visiting Seattle do, but for dinner we wanted to try something more local. We asked the hotel for a suggestion and we were told very enthusiastically to eat at Elliott’s. I can say that Elliott’s was quite possibly one of the best meals we’ve ever enjoyed. Everything about that restaurant was outstanding. The only disappointment was having to push my plate of fresh salmon away because I just couldn’t eat any more. Riding quietly in the back of the cab next to the hunky hubster, I realized that the butterflies that were flying around weren’t due to eating entirely too much crab fondue, they were from excitement. This is really happening, ya‘ll!! Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow we are sailing to Alaska! I’M sailing to ALASKA!!! We plan to arrive at the port around 11 in the morning and I’m really looking forward to my first glimpse of the Diamond Princess. Will she look as enormous as I think she will? Am I still having my initial worries of boredom, of feeling trapped, of certain and crippling seasickness, of how in the world I’ll swim in freezing water after the ships hull bashes into an iceberg? Maybe a tiny bit. I mean, hey, it’s happened before. But honestly, I really am getting excited. I believe my anxiety has finally flown out the port hole. Who’d have thought? Tomorrow…we’re going on a cruise, baby! To be cont'd...
  2. I literally saw every single hour pass on the hotel alarm clock display. I couldn’t sleep, I was too excited. Too nervous, too anxious, too ohmygoshthisisreallyhappening sort of excited. I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and decided to start getting ready about 6:00 am. Hey, a girl needs her time to get her face on. I have to confess that I changed my outfit twice and my shoes three times. I really wanted to look sophisticated and cruise-y, without looking like the scared-witless newbie that I was. And since we’re all such close friends here, and I feel that I can tell you anything, I may as well also confess that I brought an entire suitcase dedicated to shoes. Just my shoes. Scott’s shoes fit perfectly into his one suitcase, and I was quite proud of myself for condensing my packing list into just three suitcases and one carry-on. Honestly, Scott should be thanking me for making this small miracle happen instead of glowering at me while hauling everything downstairs to the cab. We arrived at the port of Seattle a few minutes before 11:00 am and finally got our first look at the Diamond Princess. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the sheer size of this ship. My very first impression was, wow. She was so big and so white! Scott and I were excitedly jabbering to each other about which balcony we thought was ours while snapping as many pictures as we could. Even though it was a cloudy and gloomy morning in Seattle, this beautiful ship practically glistened. She was fairly new - only about two years old at the time - but to me, she looked perfect. I have to confess it was love at first sight and I‘m pretty confident that Scott was feeling the same arrow from the cruise cupid. Check in was quick and easy. Even though we had absolutely no idea what we were doing and where we were supposed to go, we were zoomed through all of the lines and agents and walked on board only about thirty minutes after stepping out of the cab. We walked on into the Grand Plaza…what a wow moment. We both just stood there with our mouths open. We could see up floor after floor of marble and steel railings and glass elevators and winding staircases. We kept saying to each other, “This is on a boat???” And yes I realize the correct term is ship, but hey…we’re new here. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring every inch of the ship. She was just beautiful. I kept reminding myself that the little Texas town we lived in has a population of 3,400. Our entire town could fit onto this ship, with room to spare. Despite all of the traveling that we have been fortunate to do together, nothing prepared me for the wow factor this ship gave me. After completing the Muster drill, we decided to head all the way up to the Skywalkers Lounge for sail away. We found two seats right at the window at the area of the lounge that is cantilevered over the side of the ship. It felt as though we were suspended in mid-air…especially since the portion of the floor under my cute-shoe clad feet was see-thru down to the water below. We ordered our drinks and were chatting happily with each other when I noticed that the scenery below was moving. No…we’re the ones moving, not the buildings! I started excitedly babbling, “I can’t even feel it…I can’t even feel it!,” to Scott over and over. I even called my Dad from my cell phone and told him the same amazing phenomenon that I had discovered, “I can’t even feel it!!” We had the following itinerary ahead of us: Sat Jun 6 Seattle, WA 4:00pm Sun Jun 7 At Sea Mon Jun 8 Juneau, AK Noon 10:00pm Tue Jun 9 Skagway, AK 6:00am 8:00pm Wed Jun 10 Tracy Arm (Cruising) 8:00am 1:00pm Thu Jun 11 Ketchikan, AK 6:00am 12:30pm Fri Jun 12 Victoria, Canada 7:00pm 11:59pm Sat Jun 13 Seattle, WA 7:00am In Juneau we planned to catch the bus to Mendenhall Glacier and wander around the town. For Skagway we have a car reserved with Avis and plan to drive the Yukon Highway into Canada and up to Emerald Lake. In Ketchikan we we’re booked with Southeast Sea Kayaks for a sea kayaking excursion. Victoria’s plan was an evening haunted history tour of the entire city. Sitting in the Skywalker Lounge I kept marveling at the lack of movement I felt. I felt so cruise-y and non-newbie. Why on earth was I so nervous about getting seasick? Pft...amateur. I had nothing to worry about. But just to be safe I had a maternity sucker tucked into the pocket of my linen jacket. And a spare meclizine pill. And a few pieces of ginger candy. But I had nothing to worry about. To be cont'd...
  3. By the time we woke up the next morning, we had already been docked in Skagway for two hours. Knowing we couldn’t pick up our car until noon, we really had no reason to rush out of bed. When I flung the curtains back that morning, I was a little disappointed to be greeted by overcast skies. I then corrected myself, with a firm shake of the head, “Overcast skies…really? I’m in Alaska, baby! Who cares if the sky is a little cloudy?!” The man on the balcony next to me was a little alarmed to hear me talking to myself, but frankly, I didn't care. Dragging my “I-can-sleep-later-than-a-teenager” husband out of bed, we decided to just stroll around town for a bit after breakfast and kill some time before heading on over to Avis to pick up our car. We planned to drive the Yukon Highway into Canada and stop at Carcross Desert and Emerald Lake and wherever else we decided to slam on the breaks along the way. As avid four wheeler riders who enjoy riding the sand dunes, we were very intrigued to see this desert that is referred to as “The Smallest Desert in the World,” smack dab in the middle of the Yukon, no less! Walking through Skagway I was amused to see many of the exact same shops that I saw in Juneau…and curiously they were just as crowded here as they were there. Isn’t it all the same stuff?? Anywho! We also found some absolutely charming little mom and pop stores that we happily browsed in while strolling the streets., along with a cute little ice cream shop that I made a mental note to stop in after we returned the car that afternoon. Hey, a girl has to plan her meals! Armed with our passports and our camera, we picked up our car and followed the easy directions out of town and onto the highway. After a quick stop at the border, hence the passports, we quickly climbed higher and higher into the gorgeous spiky mountains. All of a sudden, we hit a wall of fog like you wouldn’t believe, and literally could not see five feet ahead or five feet to the sides of us. Then just as quickly as the fog swallowed us up, it spit us back out into the blazing sunshine, revealing a landscape unlike anything I had ever seen. Gorgeous blue skies, grey and brown mountains with snowy peaks and shadowed crevices, green mossy covered rocks along streams, and tiny little pools of crystal clear water. “FAKE” was the word that came to my mind. It was so stunningly beautiful it looked fake. But it obviously wasn't, and I truthfully felt like I was looking at a painting that God had made just for us. We pulled off to the side of the road to walk around a little bit and to take the first of roughly a million pictures. We joked that little gremlins and hobbits were surely going to pop out from behind a rock and wave at us, because that is exactly what you would expect to see in a fairytale land. Knowing we had about an hour and a half drive ahead of us, we decided to continue the almost deserted highway toward Carcross. The entire way it was like watching a tennis match, looking left then right then left then right, so that we could take in the constantly changing landscape. We saw snow gauge poles mounted along the sides of the road, and they stretched up to an amazing 12 feet tall. Can you imagine snow that deep?! WOW! Carcross was just as promised, a small one square mile area of sandy dunes in the middle of the mountains. It is actually a false desert that was created by glacial lakes retreating and leaving behind the dunes, and it was a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Our next stop was Emerald Lake, and it surely lived up to it’s name! The lake was the most beautiful emerald green color, with rings of lighter and brighter green colors rimming the outer edges near the shore. It was a perfect turnaround point for us and after spending time taking pictures and taking in the gorgeous sights, we decided to make our 75 mile trip back to Skagway. We had until 8:00 PM before we said goodbye to Skagway, so after we returned the car we decided to hop back on board for a quick nap before dinner. Why is it that you sleep SO GOOD on a cruise ship? After waking from our late afternoon snooze, we woke up craving fish and chips and decided to search it out in port rather than eat dinner on the ship. We made our way to the Skagway Fish Company located right near the dock. It was obvious from the looks of all of the bearded men that were seated at the bar that locals frequented the tiny restaurant…and boy could we understand why. After an amazing meal of halibut fish and chips so fresh it was practically still flopping on our plates, we reluctantly waddled our way back to the ship. While we were anxious to get back to our “home”, we were sad to leave yet another fabulous little Alaskan town. Skagway and the amazing Yukon Highway offered up never-to-be-forgotten sights and experiences that we would surely remember our entire lives. Silently gliding away from the dock at 8:00 pm sharp, we bid Skagway a fond farewell. Possibly the only thing keeping me from being too terribly sad was the knowledge that tomorrow would surely hold even more eye candy. Tomorrow…Tracy Arm Fjord! To be cont’d…
  4. It hit me this morning that our cruise was more than halfway over. This amazing and wonderful surprise of a vacation has gone from something that I was almost dreading to begin, to something that I most certainly dread being over. While it was obvious that I had come to love cruising accidentally, it was with total certainty that I knew I would do this again as soon as was possible. It wasn’t just the amazing Alaska scenery that had wiggled its way into my vacation-loving heart; it was also the actual cruising experience. I simply loved being on the ship. I loved knowing that I was surrounded by the ocean that I adore. I knew we had some long-term plans that would keep us from cruising again in the next couple of summers, so for now I had to be happy with the few days that we had left. Our day of scenic cruising Tracy Arm Fjord was cold, cloudy, foggy and drizzly. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but if I learned anything in my research for our cruise, I learned that you can predict Alaska weather to be unpredictable. Due to the cold drizzle, the outside decks were practically deserted as many of our fellow cruisers chose to stay inside where it was warm and dry. I, however, wasn’t about to let a little drizzle stand in my way of a day of scenic cruising this beautiful fjord. So Scott and I bundled up in our warmest jackets with hoods and made our way to the very front of the ship so that we had the best view in the house. To my surprise and delight, Princess had a wonderful naturalist on board that began speaking over the loudspeaker and directing us where to look, what we were looking at, how deep the water is, etc. He was so interesting and so informative. While slowly gliding past dozens of small icebergs that were the most beautiful bright blue color, he relayed a story from the prior weeks sailing. Apparently Amy Tan, the author of the popular book, The Joy Luck Club, was on board the Diamond that previous week and she sat with the naturalist while he was giving his talk. He included her often in his talk, and she offered up some beautifully-worded descriptions of the scenery, as only an accomplished and talented author such as herself could do. Knowing she would really be able to put into words the unique and brilliant blue color of the icebergs, he asked her to describe their unusual color, and she replied only two words, “Windex blue.” I had to agree completely with Ms. Tan’s description, they were exactly like Windex blue. The fjord offered up sights I knew I would never see again: soaring and sheer rock cliffs, dozens of waterfalls, and adorably fat and lazy sea lions snoozing on icebergs. The crown jewel in the day was seeing Sawyer Glacier deep inside the fjord. How do you feel small while on a 100,000 plus ton ship? Compare yourself to a massive glacier, that’s how! Too soon it was time to leave and make our way back out of the fjord. The naturalist promised us an evening filled with whale activity because the area that we would be cruising was known for its abundant humpback population, and he did not disappoint. We saw dozens of water spouts, several tails, and even a few whales breached for us. Yes our time on the Diamond was coming to an end, and the days ahead would be shorter and shorter as we slowly made our way south again, but they were sure to be ones for the memory books. And speaking of days ahead, I was so excited for our planned morning of sea kayaking that we had scheduled for Ketchikan. I just hoped the weather cleared… To be cont'd...
  5. We stood on deck and watched as Ketchikan slowly got smaller and smaller as we pulled farther and farther away. My only complaint about today was that I wished we had more time to spend in what was my current favorite port city of the cruise. We spent the rest of the beautiful sunny day out on deck, snapping photos and watching for whales. It was so bittersweet knowing that tomorrow was our last stop before returning home to Seattle. We had a full day at sea ahead of us tomorrow as we weren’t due to dock in Victoria, BC until 7:00 PM the next evening. To make the most of our evening in Victoria, we were scheduled on a “Haunted History” tour of the city. Waking up the next morning we were greeted by another breathtaking day at sea. We decided to take full advantage of our beautiful ship, so we spent our last full day aboard wandering every inch of the Diamond Princess. How is it possible that there are still areas you didn’t notice after being on board a whole week? I roll my eyes at myself remembering my initial fear of feeling “trapped” and “claustrophobic”. What a newbie… While I was so excited to see Victoria in person for the first time, it was sad knowing that the closer we got to Victoria, the closer we got to “home”. The cruise that I had dreaded beginning was now coming to an end all too soon. I’ve seen more and learned more than I ever expected, not only about my surroundings and about the cities we visited, but about myself. I always firmly considered myself a “land lubber”, but all I can now think about is, “When can we go again?” Victoria soon presented herself to us in all her majesty and glamour. Victoria was, and still is, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. From the stunning Parliament building, to the English gardens in front of the beautiful neighborhood homes, to the glittering lights reflecting off the water that winds its way through the downtown shops and restaurants, the city itself proved to be simply magical. We had great fun on our “Haunted History” tour that took us all throughout the city and it’s important monuments. The tour left us about an hour to stroll the city at our leisure, and we popped in and out of shops along the waterfront. This was a city I knew I would return to, and Scott and I wholeheartedly agreed that we could very easily spend at least a week in this amazing place. After returning to the ship and watching Victoria fade into the darkness, we made our way back to our room for our very last sleep aboard our floating home. Next stop…Home.
  6. I set the phone back in its cradle and with a sigh of irritation I leaned back in my chair. The custom shower tile was going to be late…even later than it already was. Delays are a part of custom home building, but this particular job has had hiccup after hiccup, and frankly this little gem of good news is not going to be received well by my client. Deciding to put off that impending phone call for just another moment, I instead began opening up the mail. Bill…bill…bill…junk…bill…junk…big manila envelope. Hmmm…it’s from our lumber supplier. Frowning in puzzlement, I slid out the glossy brochure and a letter that was addressed to myself and my partner-in-crime and “boss,“ my husband Scott. Dear Scott and Stacey, Congratulations! As a thank you from SmallTown Lumber Company, we are pleased to announce that you have qualified for our end-of-the-year “SmallTown VIP Giveaway!” As a top customer, you are one of our “SmallTown VIP‘s!” As a token of our appreciation, we’re giving our largest customers an all-expense-paid “VIP” dream vacation! This “VIP” vacation includes a 7 night Alaskan cruise, airfare to Seattle and all transfers. Please contact our corporate travel agent for scheduling and details. From everyone here at SmallTown Lumber, we thank you for being a “SmallTown VIP!” I believe I read the letter a dozen times. Is this for real? Yes…the return address is correct. Yes…I recognize the signature on the bottom of the letter. Holy cow…this is for real!! I started thumbing through the glossy brochure in amazement. The photos showed an enormous ship silently gliding through channels of sheer cliffs and snow kissed mountains. Happy looking people dotted the outside decks pointing in amazement at the beautiful scenery. A bald eagle majestically soared through the unbelievably blue sky in the background. The plume of vapor from a whale erupted from the glassy surface of the water. Bright white icebergs were dotted all around the ship’s hull. Wait…ICEBERG’S?? Reality hit me like a face full of arctic water. Uhhh…me…on a cruise??? I’m too young to go on a cruise…I’m only 28!! We’re too active for a cruise!! We’ll be bored!! What if we get seasick??!! Why, I’ll surely feel trapped! Oh. My. Gosh…What if the ship hits one of those iceberg things? What if it sinks??!! I can’t swim in freezing water! A mental image of Scott and I running together in panic, hand in hand just like Jack and Rose flashes through my mind. Ok, enough. I snapped myself out of my dramatic little daydream and snatched up the phone to call Scott to tell him the news. He had the same reaction as me, while we were overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief at the generous gift…we just couldn’t shake the, “Oh goody…a cruise,” state of mind. While we love to travel, we’d never even considered taking a cruise before. Knowing we could not turn this down, I called the travel agent to get the details. By the time I hung up, we were booked. June 6...a ship called the Diamond Princess….balcony room…Seattle round trip to somewhere called the “Inside Passage.” A cruise. We’re going on a cruise. Blinking a few times in shock, I started thinking of all the planning and research that was ahead of me. Me, on a cruise? In six weeks??!! Little did I know, I was about to become “The Accidental Cruiser”…. To be cont'd...
  7. We are going back to Princess after 5 yrs. its the Diamond which just finished a refit like 2 days ago. Its early Sept. and has 5 stops in Japan and 1 in Russia. We are only 157 days away.
  8. StaRed

    July 18, 2012

    Keeping Watch Diamond Princess

    © C. Scott Redish

  9. StaRed

    July 1, 2012

    Parallel Parking in Ketchikan Diamond Princess

    © C. Scott Redish

  10. StaRed

    June 5, 2012

    Plaza, Diamond Princess

    © C. Scott Redish

  11. StaRed

    June 4, 2012

    Two if by sea...Ketchikan, AK Sea Planes and Diamond Princess

    © C. Scott Redish

  12. StaRed

    May 27, 2012

    Emerging from Tracy Arm Fjord. Sapphire Princess

    © C. Scott Redish

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