Alaskan Cruise June 2013
Dates: July 15 - July 24, 2012
People: Mark, Sarah
- 6-7 (Travel Day)
- 6-8 (Seattle)
- 6-9 (At Sea)
- 6-10 (Ketchikan)
- 6-11 (Juneau)
- 6-12 (Skagway)
- 6-13 (At Sea)
- 6-14 (Victoria, BC)
- 6-15 (Seattle)
- 6-16 (Travel Day)
This map illustrates our sailing route from Seattle to Skagway and back. If you click on it you will get the much larger version with better detail. On the voyage north we made the port stops in Ketchikan, Juneau and ultimately Skagway. After Juneau you can see we also headed south to the Tracy Arm where we cruised in to see Sawyer Glacier. On the return trip we sailed out of Skagway straight to the open ocean and made a quick line of return until our last port stop at Victoria, B.C.
NORWEGIAN JEWEL DECK PLANS
FRIDAY JUNE 7
Our trip began at noon today as we left home for the drive to Chicago’s Midway Airport. We also put it into our plans, as we often do, to stop by Maumee for lunch and hit their Salsarita’s. This worked well and we began a good week of eating by filling our tummy’s on their fantastic nachos. It was about 1:45pm when we left Maumee and made our trek across Ohio and Indiana on the toll road. We grabbed milkshakes and a bathroom break at one of the rest areas near South Bend and soon found ourselves heading into Chicago. We headed up the Skyway to the Dan-Ryan and got off at Garfield Blvd. Thus far we hadn’t had much traffic to speak of. This would soon change. Garfield was very congested. We soon got caught in a left turn lane with nobody to help us out and ended up bailing south to 59th St. This was also very congested and it took us forever to get to the airport. Where the GPS had been saying 4:44pm for our arrival it was just past 5:08pm when we finally hit Midway. We headed up the ramp to Departures and met Dad there who had taken the El to the airport and had been waiting 30 minutes or so. We did a quick unload of gear, exchange of info, and good byes and headed into the terminal.
We were out at B23 at the very end of the B concourse. Security went pretty smooth. We had about a 2 1/2 hour wait til the flight. We both spent much of it reading, which would be a common theme for this trip. The flight for Seattle left on time and it was a rather long 4hr 15 min flight. Thankfully the crew, as it so often is on Southwest, was good and humorous. They made 2+ rounds giving and filling drinks and also made 2 rounds handing out snacks. They kept us well taken care of. I spent most of it reading. I was able watch the NOVA special on Finding Mallory on Everest. Also finished watching an episode of Frozen Planet BBC that I had started a few days ago. We arrived on time in Seattle and thank the Lord our baggage did too. It was fairly simple following the signage to the Courtesy Pickups and to call our hotel shuttle. We were staying at the Econo Lodge about 2 miles north of the airport. We told them about where we were standing in the courtesy pickup area. They took awhile in getting us but finally arrived. Probably made it to the hotel around 11:30pm local time.
SATURDAY JUNE 8
I was up about 6:30a today, probably because of the time change. I spent some time sitting comfortably near the window and reading in The Lost Explorer for about 2 hours. Sarah got up about 8am and we then headed downstairs to do breakfast. Pretty simple stuff as it usually is with Econo Lodge. Cereal, toast, hard-boiled eggs, muffins.
Just before we had gone down to breakfast the front desk called and asked if they could move our shuttle pickup time up early to 9:30 and we agreed. So around 9:30 ourselves and about 5 other people hopped into their shuttle van and headed back to the airport. They dropped us off in the courtesy van area again and this time we followed the simple signage to the Light LINK Rail system. This was a bit of a walk that takes you out of the parking garage but still through easy ramps and wide walkways. They had a machine at the station where we could purchase the $2.75 fares to downtown Seattle. The train itself was very similar to the El trains we were used to in Chicago. We rode it down to University Street Station and it took about 35 minutes.
That station is underground so we found our way upstairs to street level. We walked along 3rd Ave. up to Pike St. and then started following this toward the water front. This ran us into Pike Place Market which we had decided would be an easy way to kill a few minutes. It was already very busy. We found one station with fresh fish and we tried some of their candied smoked salmon. $19.99/lb. so we tried about a quarter pound piece. It was fantastic! We were also impressed by all the stands with fresh flowers that are all throughout the marketplace.
We walked out of the market and found ourselves at Virginia St. which runs into Victor Steinbrueck Park. The park was small but it had good views over the water and here we got our first good view of the Norwegian Jewel. From the park we had to walk another block northwest to Lenora St. On Lenora you can walk downhill and this eventually hits an elevator and stairs that take you down to Alaskan Way. From there it was a short walk down the road to Pier 66.
At the Pier they direct you first to a large baggage check area where we were able to drop off our two larger checked bags. They then direct you to a line heading into the building where check-in begins. We had gotten the impression this line could be lengthy and slow. We found ourselves moving in, however, at a fine pace and never had to wait long. Up an escalator we hit a large check-in room where they must had had 15+ terminals where attendants were taking information, checking passports, getting the room cards setup, taking a quick snapshot photo with a webcam, and taking a credit card to get everyone checked-in. Here too things were moving fairly smooth. They then ushered us through another room and then onto the ramp heading up onto the ship. We were boarded at about 12:15pm. We boarded on deck 7 in the main atrium. We thought about finding our room but found the doors to the stateroom areas were still locked. We found ourselves up to the Garden Café on deck 12 where lunch was being served at the buffet. It was quite busy and seating was nearly impossible to find as everyone else wasn’t able to get into their rooms yet either. So it was a holding area for people eating and waiting. At about 12:45pm the announcement came that the staterooms were ready.
We checked out our stateroom, 10653, and found it to be a handicap room which meant almost double the normal space. Sometime that afternoon we met our steward whose name was Henry. He was quite kind to us all week. Sometime after 2p my checked bag showed up and Sarah’s came around 3pm.
At 3:15pm there was a ship-wide mandatory emergency drill. Everyone was to go to their gathering stations, which for us was on deck 6 in Tsar’s Palace Dining Room. There we gathered for a very short talk on how we are to gather there if an evacuation is necessary.
After the drill we went up onto the Sun Deck on 14 at the front of the ship to watch the scenery as we pulled out of Seattle. We set sail on time at 4pm and the ship’s horn when it blew scared the daylights out of everyone who was up front.
After 5pm as I walked back to our room I found they were having a BBQ by the pool (as they would do many times on the cruise) so I decided I needed a snack. They had BBQ chicken and corn on the cob and it was delightful. It didn’t spoil supper however, as we headed to the Azure Dining Room at about 6p having heard that tonight was the only night with lobster. We both ordered the surf and turf (lobster, steak, potatoes, broccoli). It was actually somewhat underwhelming. The steak was flavorless and the lobster was just alright. I tried their cinnamon apple pie for dessert, which was hard and tasted store bought, Sarah tried the cheesecake which was also unimpressive.
At 7:30pm we went to the “Welcome Aboard Variety Show” in the Stardust Theater. They introduced us to Matt the Cruise Director as well as Captain Ken and all the main officers of the ship. They also introduced us to some of the entertainers who would be with us for shows later in the week.
After the show we went back to our room ready to crash. I think it was only 9p local time but that was more like midnight for us back home. As we fell asleep we tried to stay up and watch Oz: The Great and Powerful on the cable TV.
SUNDAY JUNE 9
Today was one of our two days at sea during the cruise. As we woke up in the morning it was chilly and overcast outside. It appeared as though it may have rained overnight as many of the outdoor tables and seats were wet. We grabbed our breakfast in the Garden Café buffet and sat outside with it. We tried a variety of things from has browns, bacon, and sausage to a waffle and some smoked salmon.
Almost immediately after breakfast I found myself not feeling well. I think part of it traces back to the smoked salmon I had at breakfast. It seemed to have a near raw texture to it and in hindsight it seems that just never sat well. I also think, as I would find throughout this day, that I was getting motion sickness from the waves coming at us from the open ocean.
After breakfast I tried to sit through the Glacier Talk in the Stardust theater but made it only half way til I had to leave and go walk around. It had been a decent talk explaining some of the basics about glaciers. Sarah went to a free fitness and detox seminar at 11am this morning.
We sat down for lunch around 1pm. I was still feeling pretty rotten and didn’t hardly eat a thing. Sarah had lunch at the Buffet again. As Sarah was finishing up her lunch I went up to the Sports Deck and jogged a mile and that started to help me feel better. It was a blessing I would find for this day and others that a real cure for motion sickness is jogging which helps get the blood and O2 going and also gets the body’s “mind” off the motion of the ship.
At 2pm we met in the Stardust Theater to watch the Deal or No Deal game. For this they would sell cards, at like $20 a pop, that would have matching slots for the audience to play along with the game on stage, and each card got your name in the drawing for who would be contestant. They played through two games of Deal or No Deal with a max prize of $1000. Top winner won in the $300s. Nobody really won much of value in the audience game play.
We spent the afternoon in the Spinnaker Lounge reading books, as we would often do. We also listened to them run their Bingo game while we were there. Bingo was another one, like Deal or No Deal, that the ship must have made a fortune on as people would spent $20-$60 buying into the games and the winner, despite there being 40-50 people playing, would only pocket $200 or so. As the afternoon progressed in the Lounge I was feeling the waves again at the front of the ship so I went up to the sports deck again and jogged 2 more miles while Sarah decided to take a nap.
At 6p Sarah paid for a class with a personal trainer who did a full body analysis and gave her some helpful fitness tips. I went to the Excursions deck at this time and made our reservation for the Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan tomorrow. It was $35.99 a person, which seemed a little high for a 60 minute show, but it was one of their most affordable excursions and we had onboard credit to use.
At 7pm we met in the Blue Lagoon for dinner. This would quickly become one of our most favorite eating establishments on ship and amazing, it was never crowded. We both tried their mild buffalo wings as well as their southern-fried chicken tenders. The food, especially the wings, was excellent. Their wings had a true buffalo-style flavor and just about everything about them was fantastic.
At 8pm we enjoying time on the Sun Deck at the front of the ship and taking pictures. From there we went down to the Spinnaker Lounge again where they had an 8:30p game of Battle of the Sexes. They were taking 10-15 male and female volunteers for this who would do various simple games of physical challenge amongst their team. It was enjoyable to watch. After the game we went up top again and grabbed a few sunset pictures before retiring to our room for the evening. In our room we watched some episodes of Once Upon a Time Season 1 on my tablet. This was one of our favorite ways to pass time in the room.
MONDAY JUNE 10
I found myself waking up just after 5am today. I wasn’t sure if this was because of the Alaskan time zone change or the fact that we were in Alaska and I couldn’t wait to check out the scenery. Either way, I rushed up to the top deck just as we were getting our first views of Ketchikan. I spent time up there taking pictures and video as we moved into port. Sarah joined me up there about an hour later for Breakfast outside with the Buffet.
Today was a necessitated early start as our excursion had a 7:30am meeting time in the Stardust Theater. We found that they were gathering a number of excursion groups in the Theater and as the time and transportation for each group became ready they would send us through the security check-point on deck 6 and then to the gangway off the ship.
As we departed the ship we saw several people with NCL signs directing you to which excursion you needed to go. We found one for the Lumberjack show and they directed us to the short block and a half walk into Ketchikan it took to make it to the show. It was very close to the dock. There we entered the gift shop which was also a holding area for the show. We entered about 7:45am and were fortunate to be one of the first ones to enter the show. In the end it was sold out with several hundred people in attendance.
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack show was fantastic. The host was a nice guy named Lumberjack Slim. They played it up as a competition between an American team of two Lumberjacks and a Canadian team of two. It was humorous and exciting with the lumberjack events. They would chop large logs in half, an ax throwing competition, the tall tree climbing competition and even a carving event. The man carving with a chainsaw was going to do a rabbit and he cut out two ears and a silly face. He then made a slice on the back and started to cut the top off and it turned out the large piece that fell off was an inverted chair that he gave away to a girl in the audience.
After the show we went across the street to one of the advertising sponsors who was giving away a nice free pint glass with a pint purchased. So Sarah and I shared a pint of Alaskan Amber Ale, good stuff. We spent the next 2 hours just shopping around town and walking in several shops. We walked north through town enjoying what was turning out to be a beautiful and rare sunny day in Ketchikan. We took time then to grab a bench to sit on and call the boys for the first time.
We walked back to downtown and shopped another hour while hitting a good bookstore and checking out a National Forest Service museum. We were back on the ship at about 12:45pm to do lunch. We found they were doing another poolside BBQ so we tried that again. They had BBQ chicken, shish-ka-bobs with sausage/mushroom/pepper on them and a large seafood-laden jambalaya mix. The chicken was good again. The seafood jambalaya was good at first, but it was hard to tell what all was in it and the spices began to become overbearing after awhile.
After lunch Sarah napped while Mark read and took pictures of the ship departing from Ketchikan. It was really a nice slow-going easy afternoon. For supper we ordered pizza around 6pm. For just $5, plus tip, they would deliver a 16” pizza to you anywhere on the ship. We enjoyed it in our room while watching more Once Upon a Time. In the evening we spent time watching scenery from the top deck. At 9:15p we got seats in the Spinnaker Lounge for the “Name That Tune” game. We were thinking we could do well at this but so many of the tunes were from 50s and 60s shows that we only recognized about half of the 25. They were also introducing a cover band here called “Next Stage” who were holding “Band-a-oke” as entertainment.
TUESDAY JUNE 11
I was up again early today hoping to catch the views heading into Juneau, but I wasn’t quick enough. I got up around 6:15a but when I got to the top deck I found the ship had already docked. I headed back downstairs to get Sarah and we did breakfast just before 7am. We were hoping to have a little time in Juneau before our 9:15a excursion.
As we left the ship we found that we were docked at AJ dock which is about a half mile east out of town. Fortunately they had an ample number of shuttle buses running that were running passengers from our ship to the shopping area in Juneau. We rode the bus to town and were dropped off at the base of the Mt. Roberts tram. We shopped around for about 45 minutes hoping to also find information on Coastal Helicopters who was running our excursion. We found none. We did find quite a large number of tourist booths that were selling tours out to Mendenhall Glacier.
We hopped the shuttle back to our ship to wait outside in the parking lot. We found another nice family waiting with us who was also doing the Coastal Helicopters deal so that made us feel a little better about it. The mom was originally from Frankenmuth and they now lived in Glenview in the Chicago area. They had 3 mostly grown kids with them.
Promptly at 9:15am a man driving their shuttle van showed up to grab the whole lot of us and drove us to their base right on the airport. I talked to the driver most of the way over there. He reminded me of Nick Forsythe. They dropped us off at Coastal Helicopters and we were ushered inside. We showed them our ticket vouchers and they weighed us. They then fitted us with the special boots that slipped over our regular shoes and had some screws and treads on the bottom to help with the walk on the Glacier. We watched a short safety video and then were allowed outside in their safety area to wait for our helicopters. Apparently their first tour of the morning ran late and so they were behind schedule. We waited and waited outside for helicopters to show up. Finally one arrived and they loaded it up with 5 people from all of us waiting. They departed and then actually returned 5 minutes later. The grounds crew checked a few compartment doors and all and then the chopper took off again.
It was past 10:30 when ours finally arrived. They lined up Sarah and I and 4 ladies who spoke French. We loaded up the 6 of us passengers and our pilot Matt. Sarah and I sat on the right side in the back row of 4 of us who were sardined in there. We got the standard headset to wear and talk into as necessary. The initial flight was just amazing. He flew us out of the airport and on a course where we could see the big Mendenhall Glacier area. He was great about pointing out mountain ranges and other sights as we flew. We ended up flying right up and over the initial line of mountain peaks which was just **AMAZING**. He then began to lower us into the Herbert Glacier area. At first we descended near the dog camp they had around 3500ft on the Glacier. Some of the other tours were headed there. He then flew us down to around 1800 feet where we landed on the Glacier. The flight up was about 15 minutes, I tried to take video the whole time.
The track of our return flight from Herbert Glacier to the Juneau Airport
We all piled out and began walking around. His main instruction to us was stay on the ice and steer clear of any of the white fresh snow areas as we won't know what lies below them. We were fascinated by the sights all around us. It was also interesting checking out the small streams of Glacial water that were growing on the surface. Matt told us it would be safe to drink the water from the streams and so we tried it. Cold and refreshing. We spent 30 minutes walking around on the ice until Matt finally told us we had to load up again. He was kind to allow those two who had sat on the middle of the 4 seats (myself included) to swap with those who had window seats. I did this for the flight back but found being crammed up next to the window really didn't provide me with any better view than being in the middle. The flight back was 10 minutes and then time he flew us down past the toe of the Glacier and almost immediately out over the bay waters where we could see the glaciers and mountains from a distance. All in all, the helicopter flights will remain one of the absolute highlights of the trip.
Upon returning to Coastal Helicopters we returned our over-boots and were able to hop the shuttle to town fairly quickly. The gal who drove the shuttle dropped us off right at our dock again and we were on the ship by 12:15pm with time to spare.
We did lunch at the poolside BBQ today and it was grilled salmon and chicken. Yum! We added to this a pair of coronas and it made for our best lunch of the trip. In the afternoon we found 16 Candles (movie) on the TV and ended up watching it. From about 4p to 6:30p we followed the cruise and sights into Tracy Arm Fjord. We had made it topside just as the ship was entering Tracy Arm. We went to the front of the boat down on deck 8 where they let everyone out into a crew-only area at the very front of the ship. The sights in and through the Tracy Arm were great. I followed our progress on my GPS as we went along wondering which corner we would pass that would finally reveal to us the Glacier.
As we progressed further into Tracy Arm the icebergs became more numerous. We ended up being stopped by icebergs as we got within sight of the Sawyer Glacier. We couldn't approach it close enough to get some real close-up views or to see if any chunks of ice would calve into the waters. The ship finally stopped and just about did an entire 360 in place so that people on all sides of the boat could get views. We also saw a smaller vessel approach our ship at this time and we heard word that it was carrying passengers who were delayed on an excursion and were being reunited with us here.
At 7:15p we headed to supper in the Blue Lagoon where we could also watch the sights on the way out of Tracy Arm. I tried their Buffalo Wings again (Hot this time), and wow they were fantastic again. Their grilled chicken sandwich was also great and tasty. Sarah tried one of their salad dishes.
At 8:30p we watched another of the Deal or No Deal games in the Stardust Theater. Neither of these two contestants were very successful and again nobody in the audience won anything of great value in play. We retired early tonight being tired from two very full days in Alaska.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 12
I slept in ever so slightly today. No 5am or 6am wake-up calls today, it was more like 7am. I woke up and decided to hike today.
As I re-entered Skagway I gave Sarah a call on the phone and we decided to meet up to walk around town I joined Sarah at the gangway for the ship. They were running various fire/emergency/evacuation drills for the crew at this time. I ran up to the room to change clothes and then we departed again for town. Walked and shopped town for an hour and a half or so. We found a gift for Lisa here and spent some time talking to the trail guides about options. I shared with them I had been up to Upper Dewey Lake already this morning and at first the gal didn’t believe me. She thought I just meant the Lower Lake but I gave her some details to convince her I had been up to the top already and she was impressed. She was very helpful in showing us the easy way to find the Yakutania Point trail and so we took one of her maps to help us out later. We also spent time in the Klondike National Historic Park visitor center while in town. I forgot our NP Passport books so I got stamps for us on paper, but somewhere during our walk in town I lost those.
We headed back to the ship for lunch and ate at the buffet and sat outdoors in the Great Outdoors as was our usual custom. After lunch we geared up to make the hike to Yakutania Point.
Yakutania Point and Smuggler's Cove Trip Report.
Upon returning to the room it seemed like the right time to finally try out the pools. A good number of people were still out on the White Pass Railroad excursions and so the ship was not crowded at all. The temps in Skagway were also just perfect with clear sunny skies and a lower 70s temp. The pool water was about 85 degrees which felt like bath tub water. I came to find out they were also using a salt water solution instead of chlorine to keep the pool water clean. Sarah also decided to join me in the pool and so we enjoyed about half an hour of swimming. Stepping out of that pool made the air temperature feel freezing, so we made a quick move into the hot tub. A good 20 minutes in there made us warm up through and through. It was an experience to relax in a hot tub while looking up and seeing mountains. We spent the rest of the afternoon in some deck chairs pool side enjoying the shade and fresh air.
At 5:30p we went up to the Sun Deck to watch the scenery heading out of Skagway. For supper we returned to the Azura Main Dining Room having seen that their special was Alaskan Blackened Salmon. I decided to try that while Sarah tried a similar dish of filleted salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans. Again, I was somewhat disappointed that the salmon, while tasting decent, was mostly flavorless. I tried fresh pecan pie for dessert which was an improvement over their apple pie from a few days ago.
In the evening we started watching Les Miserables on my tablet and bid farewell to Alaska.
THURSDAY JUNE 13
This was our second full day at sea of this voyage, and without any special on the agenda, we slept in today. It wasn’t until 10am or so that we headed upstairs to have breakfast at the buffet. We sat outside with it as usual and for almost the first time this entire trip we found it to be completely cloudy and a little chilly. After breakfast we lounged in Spinnaker for an hour or two enjoying some reading. At 1pm Sarah went to a hypnosis talk with Brenda Kaye I went jogging for an hour or so.
I grabbed a light lunch at the buffet and then played some basketball til almost 3pm. Sarah went to a class on making towel folding animals and grabbed one of their DVD’s. Around 3p I met up with Sarah in the Great Outdoors where she was finally having some lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon in Spinnaker again reading and relaxing.
At 6:40pm we hopped in line outside the Stardust Theater for the Le Circu Bijou show which was supposed to be really good, and really crowded. The doors opened at 7p and we moved in to get some seats. The show didn’t start til 7:30p. It was an excellent show. It was a constant mix between singing, dancing, and acrobatics. Several of the NCL performers along with a couple named Duo Elegia put on some amazing elements of acrobatics above the stage and on two vertical ropes hung down in the main aisles.
We did supper again tonight in the Blue Lagoon at about 8:45pm. We both tried their buffalo wings one last time. I had already eaten a lot this day so I went simple and tried their all-beef hot dog with fries (which was good). Sarah tried their fish and chips. We relaxed in our room the rest of the evening and found Big Fish (movie) on the TV.
FRIDAY JUNE 14
Today was our day in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Unlike the other port days where we would arrive in port at 7am, Victoria wouldn’t come for us til 2:30 in the afternoon. So we had a mostly leisurely morning. I was up at 8am and went walking 3 miles on the sports deck. I tried to jog but found that my upper legs were very sore from the hike in Skagway the other day. Apparently my 3 miles and 3000 feet of jogging descent really overstressed certain muscles that deal with just those things. After the jog Sarah and I met for breakfast at 9:45am.
After breakfast we went and read in Spinnaker and then the Library til about 11:30am. Sarah then went to a weight-loss hypnosis talk with Brenda Kaye, I went and sat poolside to do some more reading. We did lunch at another one of their poolside BBQ’s. Today’s menu had steaks and fresh salmon. It was really tasty. We did a little more reading in Spinnaker after lunch and then went topside around 1:45p to take in the views of the approach to Victoria.
We debarked just after 3pm for Victoria and walked along Dallas Road and then through Holland Point Park. We followed Dallas Rd back to the ship and then walked out along the Ogden Point Breakwater and back. We figured we probably got 3 miles walking (at least) there in Victoria. In all we spent about 2 hours there in Canada and then hopped back on the boat. We were trying to make a 5pm game of Shout-it-Out movie trivia in the Fyzz Lounge, but upon arriving there found only 5 people had shown and they cancelled it. We decided to do our usual and grabbed our reading materials and headed to Spinnaker to read for a few hours.
Around 7:30 we finally got hungry and opted to do the Buffet tonight. I mostly wanted pizza and this was the easiest way to do it. They had an excellent cheeseburger pizza tonight which featured ground beef, slices of red onion and cheddar cheese. For desert they had vanilla ice cream of which I enjoyed a large scoop with a good caramel saucer drizzled over it.
After supper we killed some time in our room watching a little more Once Upon a Time. At 9:30pm we headed up to Spinnaker one last time where they were having Couples and Lovers music and dancing with the band Next Stage. Sarah and I danced to the last song they played. At 10:30p Sarah stayed for Brenda Kaye’s last hypnosis session. It was apparently a very entertaining session Sarah tells me. I walked the top decks and watched as the ship made its way across the Strait to Port Angeles and then along the Washington coast.
I never figured out exactly, but they must have parked the ship somewhere along the Washington coast for a few hours overnight, as it surely shouldn’t have taken us 8-9 hours to go from Victoria to Seattle.
SATURDAY JUNE 15
We were up at 7am for our last day to finish packing and get ready to debark. I went up on deck about 7:20a to get a table for breakfast. We were both eating our last breakfast just after 7:30am. Spent awhile enjoying the sights in Seattle including a great view of Mt. Rainier from the back of the ship.
For the debarking process we asked at the front desk the night before because we had not seen any information about it. They had four different luggage tag color options which would be based on what time you wanted to get off the ship. And a fifth option was to carry your own luggage off. We did that. As the morning went on from about 7am to when we debarked just before 9 they would call the various luggage tag colors to let those groups know their bags were ready. We walked off the long ramp taking us off the ship and through a very brief customs checkpoint and then to the main level of the pier terminal. There they had a large room with the luggage in long rooms sorted by the color luggage tags. Each person had to walk through and identify their pieces.
We left the ship around 8:45am. There was a very brief customs checkpoint where we dropped off a customs form. I don’t believe they even checked our passports. As we headed out of the Pier terminal we found that the concierge desk in the office next door to where we exited did luggage storage. We dropped off our two big bags for $3/piece, cash only, to be stored while we walked Seattle. We had til 3:30pm to pick them up.
We walked down Alaskan Way past the sculpture park and then up Broad St. to Seattle Center to catch the Space Needle. We found that we could get early bird tickets for $18/person as opposed to the regular $22. It was a short wait at that time and so we made it up top fairly quickly. The views were perfect as the weather was just a few clouds and around 70 in temp. We could see Mt. Rainier very well and enjoyed snagging a bunch of pictures of all directions. As we entered, before the elevators, they were taking everyone’s pictures and they gave us a slip of paper to go to the internet and download a free copy of that picture later on. Of course they also had more expensive photo packages to go with it.
When we got down from the Space Needle we found we had a lot of time to kill. It was about 10:15am. We started looking into seeing Man of Steel in the theaters. The IMAX Theater there at the Museum had just started at 10am, we just missed it. The other theaters within walking distance also had times that just wouldn't work. We finally opted to walk to a Barnes and Nobles on 7th and Pine St. to kill time. We walked there together and I looked at mountaineering books while Sarah had a coffee and read. I then walked back down to Pier 66 to grab our luggage and hauled them back up to B&N.
We did lunch at Subway along 4th Ave. Were there til about 1pm when we walked over to the LINK station between 5th and 6th. Rode the LINK back out to the airport and were at the terminal for check-in around 2pm. We both had extra checks put on us at security. I was a random selection to have my bags checked a little more thoroughly. Sarah had some jewelry that kept setting off the metal detector. We spent the next 2 hours just waiting by the gate and reading. We both found a light supper at the Quizno’s near the gate. It was difficult knowing when to eat as our flight left at 5:30p and arrived in Chicago at 11:20p. With having had a late lunch we just weren’t that hungry.
Our flight left about 10 minutes late but that wouldn’t make much difference. The flight crew on our flight to Chicago was much poorer than the crew headed west. We only got drinks once, though with about 45 minutes to go they did come around to give us water. They also only offered snacks once. Our initial flight attendance seemed to have disappeared after bringing us drinks because we only saw one other flight attendant the rest of the flight.
On the flight out of Seattle I was able to take a few pictures of Mt. Rainier until we flew into a thick layer of clouds. I spent almost the entire rest of the flight reading Jim Curran’s book on K2’s history. We arrived into Midway in Chicago just over 20 minutes early. I coordinated with Dad our pickup. Baggage claim took forever as it appeared Southwest/Midway was having some baggage issues behind the scenes. The whole area was full of passengers. We waited about 20 minutes or so, just slightly longer than normal for our bags. It seemed many others who were waiting when we arrived were still waiting when we left. We initially planned to be picked up at arrivals, just outside departures. Upon walking out there it was *full*. The driveway was nearly gridlocked. I quickly called Dad who had just enough time to swing upstairs to departures and Sarah and I went up the escalators to meet them there.
The boys were so excited to see us in the car and had many anxious stories to tell and share.
SUNDAY JUNE 16
We went to church with the family at Trinity, Lisle this morning and enjoyed a Father’s Day lunch at Fuddrucker’s. We had a little soccer game in the outlot after lunch and then proceeded to get everything packed up. We didn’t want to arrive home too late tonight and so we pushed to be on the road by just before 3:30pm central. It was an uneventful drive home and we arrived around 10pm eastern. Bear cat was very happy to see us home finally.