Welcome to JKTravelRedmond.com

IMG_2094For my regular readers, sorry to use the same photo again but I am expecting at least a few new readers today when Adventures Await runs at 4:00 on KOMO Radio. (If you would like to listen, click here).

To everyone else, especially all the new folks I hope will stop by, WELCOME! It’s great to have you here. If you dropped by to see the list of apps that Seth and I talked about, then you can click HERE to see the full list of apps.

Then if you are new here (or even if you aren’t), I invite you to click on the About Us link above to meet Kathleen (she’s K of JK) and I. Full disclosure: when you read that you will find that besides writing about travel, and talking to Seth about travel, Kathleen and I are travel agents with Expedia Cruise Ship Centers in Redmond. I am proud to be Seth’s personal travel agent as well. If you are interested in us helping you travel, check the Contact page and drop us a note.

If you would like to read about the places we have been, I usually create an entire website about each trip from before I started writing this blog. You can find that, as well as a lot more, at our personal website that you can get to by clicking here.

If you love talking about travel as Kathleen and I do, we would love to have you subscribe and come back. You can subscribe on the right of this page. I try to post once or twice a week so I don’t overwhelm you but I will warn you that when we travel, I pretty much post every day. (Expect that the October 3-13 as we head to Fort Lauderdale to sail on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas.) For instance, if you click here you will see the story of our most recent big trip to Scotland, England, Ireland and Iceland in June 2019 and if you click here you can see our full report on our July cruise to Alaska with our grandkids on Ovation of the Seas.

Lastly, if you have another travel app you love, please tell me about it in the comments. If Seth and I do another show about apps, I promise to give you full credit if I love the app.

No one is perfect, and criticism is always welcome and expected.—Amitabh Bachchan

On the radio…talking travel…again

IMG_2094This afternoon Kathleen and I headed into downtown Seattle to KOMO radio where we met up with our good friend and KOMO-TV weather guy and KOMO radio travel expert Seth Wayne. A year ago today we were getting off Explorer of the Seas after celebrating his 40th birthday with 61 of his closest friends (which we are proud to be part of) so it was only fitting we meet up with him today to talk travel.

Seth does a weekly travel radio show on KOMO radio that you can listen to by clicking here at 4:00 any Sunday. It is also available via Tune-In by asking Alexa to “play KOMO Radio 1000.” She will grab the show for you from Tune-In.

Seth tapes the show earlier in the week and sometimes tapes more than one to be broadcast when he is traveling. Today was a day like that. We taped two shows, one on apps for travelers and the other on general travel topics (how to pick the right cruise, travel insurance, having a passport) and we had a great time doing it.

Tentatively the apps for travel show will air this Sunday, September 22nd at 4:00 on KOMO radio and the general travel show at the same time on October 12. I would love to have you tune in for either of them. I would also love to tell you that they would both be available as podcasts but that would be wrong since the people who do the podcasts at the station are kind of slow adding the shows…like a year behind. But never fear, if you are doing something else on Sunday (like watching the end of the Seahawks game) I will endeavor to tape it and put it online for you next week.

In the meantime, I promised on the air that I would put the list of apps we talked about as well as the ones we didn’t get to on this site. So if you click here you can go to the page where those apps are listed. Some will have links that you can go right to the app when I can find them. Otherwise, just search the App Store of your favorite phone or tablet.

I like to discover new things, and I’m always testing new apps. –Francois-Henri Pinault

 

100 (and gratuities)

TipJarAccording to WordPress (the platform this website resides on) this is my 100th post. It is kind of fitting then that it has been a while since I last posted, way back on our 20th wedding anniversary in August. Here we are on September 11th so it has been more than two full weeks since I posted. Shame on me! I promise to do better.

First I want to say thank you to all my subscribers and friends and relatives who actually take the time to read (and even better—comment on) my thoughts on travel, cruising and the rest. You people rock and you humble me by reading what I write. It is a labor of love and an outlet for my frustrations, my triumphs and my photography.

That said, I have had a post ready to go all during that time but I just could not get myself to publish it. It was all about the “class system” in cruising. Much of what got me to write  it came from my feelings about our Ovation of the Seas cruise in July. The more I wrote it and reread it, it seemed like I was just whining. This is not to say that I am not good at whining. I just don’t like to do it publicly 😜. So I am going to put that post on hold until I am further away from the Ovation cruise and not so down on the system that led to our problems and move on to writing something else.

One thing I thought I could point you at today is an outstanding discussion that is ongoing on Chris Elliot’s Elliott Advocacy website about cruise ship gratuities. If you have cruised you know about gratuities. For those that don’t, most cruise lines (except the luxury lines that include everything) will charge you gratuities above and beyond your original cruise fare. Depending on your stateroom class, your gratuity charge is something in the neighborhood of $13-$15 per person in the stateroom/per day. If you have four people in the stateroom this can really add up.

But there is a catch. You can choose not to pay gratuities. But to do that you have to wait until you are on the ship, go in person to the Guest Relations desk and tell them you want to not pay gratuities. At which point they may make you feel like you are the biggest cheapskate in the world, but you can do it. The discussion on the Elliott Advocacy site (CLICK HERE) is all about whether this opt-out method of doing gratuities is (as Chris Elliott himself put it) “consumer friendly” or not. If you are interested and you go to the site, you can skip the original problem. The interesting stuff is in the comments. It’s been quite the discussion and I know exactly how I feel about it.

That should do it for today. We haven’t been anywhere in two weeks or so, so I have no new pics for you. Just a giant thank you for sticking with me.

Know how and how much to tip people who expect gratuities, even in the case of poor service. —Marilyn vos Savant

20 Years—we can’t believe it

IMG_2067Can’t believe it. Today Kathleen and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage by taking a two day trip to Vancouver, BC. We have visited here many times in those 20 years as it is one of our favorite cities. We were here last in 2017 with our British buddies Paul and Gail. Before that my brother Steve, his wonderful wife Jamie and our niece Cassie were here in 2015. We used to come here a lot more often before 2006 when we switched out British Columbia focus from Vancouver to Chilliwack because we always had so much more fun with Bob and Judy.

We drove up yesterday (Tuesday) and had a wonderful dinner at Edible Canada on Granville Island and then saw an improv show at Vancouver TheatreSports League (VTSL). We have been going to VTSL for almost as long as we have been married. It’s an awesome improv spot that has in its founding members Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles of Whose Line Is It Anyway? The show was outstanding. We laughed our asses off.

This morning I went out for one of my early morning photo walks. I have done a bunch in Vancouver and it never disappoints. Saw a couple of cruise ships (one Princess and one Holland America’s Volendam) and thousands of teenage girls line up at 5:45 am for a huge warehouse sale. Just crazy.

After breakfast at our hotel (the Wedgewood—where we have never stayed but we LOVE it) we went to see the Vancouver Aquarium. We can’t believe we have come to YVR so many times and never seen it. It is truly amazing. Then it was a nice drive around the Stanley Park, stopped at Prospect Point to take pictures of the Lions Gate Bridge and have lunch at a superb little bar and grille place there.

Back to our room so I could process photos and take a short nap (we are kind of old, you know) and then dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the world, CinCin. We have had so many great dinners there since we first went with some of our Martini Mates back in 2005. Tonight was no exception. Truly wonderful Italian food and wine.

More tomorrow when I plan to walk the sea wall all the way around Stanley Park as my early morning photo walk, but in the meantime, here’s some pics I really like from today’s walk and our visit to the Aquarium.

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time. —Julia Child

A few more words about wine…and Walla Walla

No cruising or complaining today. Just a quick update to finish up our trip to Walla Walla.

When last we spoke (or when last I wrote) we were with our friends Jayesh and Lisa setting out to taste wine all around Walla Walla, Washington. And taste wine we did. We spent the entire day on Thursday trying new wines and eating. Shame on us, but it was so good and so much fun. We started out at Castillo de Feliciana Vineyard and Winery which was actually in Oregon and not Washington (by about 100 yards). What a beautiful place (see my pics below) in its own way. Kathleen and I spent a wonderful hour or so trying their wine while Jayesh and Lisa had their “morning juice.”

Then after grabbing a couple of bottles of a wine that Feliciana had “found” in the cellar (a wonderful 2008 red blend) we headed back to Washington to taste some more. For those who are not wine tasting types, a note about how wine tasting works (I always wanted to know,…maybe you do too) the wineries charge to taste about five or six wines (somewhere between $8 and $15) and they waive the tasting charge if you buy any bottle or if you are a member of their wine club (more about that later). They pour you about an ounce of each of their wines, usually starting with the lightest white through the deepest red. You can split (as we did) a tasting. If you are the designated driver (as I was) you can sip the wine and spit it out (they have buckets for that) or you can pick and choose which wines to actually taste (which is what I did) and sip a tiny mouthful. I want to say that at no time during our three days of wine tasting did I ever feel impaired. The last thing the father-in-law of a WSP sergeant ever wants is a DUI. And many of you know my attitude about DUIs. Tougher laws are needed.

Getting down off my DUI soapbox, we were on to the next place, Dusted Valley Winery where we met a very nice young lady who told us all about the wine. One of the best benefits of doing this on a weekday was having very few other people doing tastings so we got to hear all about the wines, where they were grown, how they were blended. Totally boring if you aren’t into wine and but great if you are. It’s amazing to learn how and where the grapes were grown affects the taste and scent of the wine. As much as we liked the young lady we weren’t that impressed with the wine and moved on to our next place—Tranche Cellars. We had shared an amazing bottle of their wine the night before at dinner and I was really looking forward to trying others.

I was not disappointed and we left with both another two bottles and a membership in their wine club. What this means is that we joined a club at no charge and we will receive two shipments of wine every year until we tell them to stop. There is no charge to join, but we are charged (at a reduced rate from retail) for the wine. Since we loved their wine, we thought why not give the club a try. If we don’t end up liking what we get the first time, we can cancel it. This particular vineyard was just as beautiful as Feliciana in an entirely different way. After our tasting and our buying, we were off to one more before we called it quits for the day.

rocksOur last stop was Saviah Cellars where we got quite the education about a particular growing area called a terroir or AVA (An American Viticultural Area—AVA is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, providing an official appellation for the mutual benefit of wineries and consumers) known as The Rocks where grapes are literally grown in a pile of the rockiest soil you have ever seen. It produces (as Lisa says) a wine with a kind of a “funk” in the taste. It might be funky but I like it. Some really great Syrahs, (my favorite varietal of wine) so we had to buy two more bottles plus join their club as well. The woman doing the tasting turned out to be the mother of the very nice young lady we had met that morning at Dusted Valley. She was very knowledgable and we enjoyed talking to her and learning all about “The Rocks.”

There was another nearby winery we almost stopped in but we decided that at that point we were tasted out and needed both food and rest so it was back into Walla Walla for a quick bite. Before we had left I had read in an Eater.com post about a really cool restaurant inside a gas station convenience store and I really wanted to stop and try their food. It seemed like a really good place to catch a light (we were only 4 hours away from our dinner reservation) lunch. It’s called Andrae’s and it is really amazing food inside a Cenex station. Seriously! Check out their menu on their website here. We were trying to eat light so we each split a gyro but it came with fries…lots of fries. And really good fries too.

Lunch done, it was back to the AirBnB to rest, relax and download photos. Then dinner at Passtempo Restaurant (which while adequate, I can’t recommend as highly as I did Saffron the night before) and rest for the trip home.

That trip home was preceded by another early morning photo walk where I got some shots I really liked that are below, a great breakfast at the Maple Counter Cafe (known for their GIANT Dutch Baby pancakes) and a short drive to show Kathleen some of the old mansions I had found on my walks.

It’s about a five hour drive back to Redmond. On the way we made a stop in a town called Prosser for…what else? A wine tasting at 14 Hands Vineyards. We were home by 3:30. If you have not been, it’s worth a trip, especially if you love wine, which you now know we do.

There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. —M. F. K. Fisher

On the road again…to wine

You know how we hate to sleep in our own beds so with that in mind we grabbed our next door neighbors and good friends Jayesh and Lisa and took off on a quick three day jaunt to the Walla Walla wine country. We left early Wednesday morning for what is usually a 4+ hour drive that due to my choice of route (through Leavenworth, Cashmere and Wenatchee) and typical Washington summer road construction, plus a stop for some great barbecue for lunch turned into a seven-hour trip.

We arrived in Walla Walla around 4:00 and since this is Washington’s  wine country and we like wine, the first stop was the first wine tasting place we saw on the highway. After trying some really great reds and a superb white (we ended up buying the white—I know our friends who drink wine are shocked) we were off…to the winery next door. This one was in a historic school house. I thought their wines were just fine but we didn’t buy any here because nothing screamed...I AM WONDERFUL! BUY ME! 

That was enough tasting to start the trip so we made our way into the downtown core of Walla Walla to the AirBnB we had rented. This may be the nicest AirBnB we have stayed in (Click here to see the listing). Just gorgeous. Tons of rooms for all four of us (actually room for eight). A great kitchen (not that we are cooking) and close to everything. We have never been here before but Jayesh and Lisa come on a regular basis so they know all the good wineries and more importantly, the great restaurants. Last night we started with dinner at a superb Mediterranean restaurant called Saffron. If you come here—go there. Excellent food and great service. Plus when you are with good friends, you always have a good time.

This morning I was up and shooting photos around 5:30 on my five mile walk to try and wear off some of dinner and what turned out to be an amazing breakfast of chilaquiles. No matter where I go, if they have chilaquiles, I have to try them. Today’s were about a 7 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the ones I had in Santa Fe and the ones in Las Vegas being a 9.5.

At any rate, I am writing this while we are killing time waiting for the wineries to open up so I will add some photos from yesterday and my pre-dawn walk and see you tomorrow.

Close friends contribute to our personal growth. They also contribute to our personal pleasure, making the music sound sweeter, the wine taste richer, the laughter ring louder because they are there. —Judith Viorst

All the stuff I loved about Ovation

I had something else I was going to do before this post but it can wait since it is me being a “grumpy git” as my Yorkshire friends would say.

So let’s talk what I loved about our Ovation of the Seas cruise to Alaska with our kids and grandkids. So many of you have commented that every thing seems to have been horrible and now where should they take their kids on a cruise if not Royal. Well I am here to say, go ahead and take them on Royal Caribbean, just have lower expectations and a different mindset of what is important.

As a travel professional it is my job to help my clients have the best travel experience possible and my writing about this cruise is part of that. Hopefully those clients and other readers will learn from my mistakes. So here’s the good stuff.

IMG_2009First, Mason’s viewpoint. On the last night of the cruise, at the dinner table in the main dining room (while he was eating escargot for the fourth time) I asked my 8-year old grandson, “What were the five best things on this cruise?” He was really quick to answer me:

  1. The Flowrider (he had only the day before learned to ride it and he was INCREDIBLY proud of that).
  2. The service in the dining room at dinner. (I pressed him on this because it was kind of an interesting thing for an 8-year old to say but he was adamant.) He loved Res and Putu, who took such good care of all of us.
  3. The food in the dining room at dinner. (I was sure he was going to choose the buffet because of all the choices but he said no, he loved the food in the dining room best. Guess it was the escargot, shrimp and steak.)
  4. The bumper cars. (He’s 8—what did you expect?)
  5. Spending a week with Grandpa and Grandma K. (Of course I wish this had been first but it did place ahead of spending the week with his sister, mom and dad so I was happy!)

I love his list. And he really never mentioned (neither did his sister) anything they didn’t like. Now if you ask me what they really liked, it was having the complete and total attention of their Mom, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma K for an entire week—always trying to keep them entertained.

Now here’s my list of the things I LOVED about our Ovation cruise.

  1. Spending the week with my grandkids and their parents. It was a sheer joy to have my two grandkids knock on our door every day before breakfast and say, “room service,” laughing the entire time. Even standing in line for hours with them was great. We had so many interesting conversations. I have never played so much foosball and loved it. Mason and I have a particular bond (I was lucky enough to get to take care of him when he was really little when his Mom was teaching and his Dad had to work) and we have always just been simpatico. He’s my best buddy and I am his. So spending time with him is a joy for me. And Maylee loves me and adores her Grandma K. All the hassles we had on this cruise from start to finish are overshadowed by the incredible time we had with those two and their parents. It was a vacation we will all remember for a very long time._8106881
  2. Our stateroom. In 28 cruises (barring the one time we had a suite) this was the nicest room we have ever been in. It was the best designed, had the most storage, was the most comfortable as far as just being in it. Sure, the shower could have been a little bigger but at least it was an enclosure and didn’t have a shower curtain. And the bed was one of the worst we have ever slept on (but that didn’t detract from the great stateroom design). We should mention there are entire Cruise Critic threads out there about people bringing air mattresses because the beds are so bad.
  3. _8106906The service team in the dining room. Res and Putu were actually better than pretty much any other serving team we have ever had. After having Richard and his team in Blu (on Reflection in Iceland) I didn’t think it could get any better. But I was wrong. And the fact that I was wrong is what makes RCL the right place to take kids. You see even though the management has scheduling conflicts and the kid’s club people were just ho-hum in their interactions with our kids, the real star of the ship for kids are the adults who “get” how to deal with kids. From our room steward Shetty who talked to the kids every time he saw them to the guy running the Flowrider who took time to work with kids on trying new things (he didn’t have to do that) these people got kids. And above all, these two amazing people who served us each night in the dining room charmed our kids. Especially Res who just knew how to deal with kids so well.
  4. The gym. It was spiffy! That’s the best word I can give it. I went every morning for an hour and as usual it was packed on day one and almost empty on day six. But all the equipment is still like new. Best stationary bike I have ridden that I didn’t own. The place was kept VERY clean.
  5. The ship itself. Ovation is new and beautiful. It has been quite a while since we have been on a ship this new. Everything is still clean and sparkly compared to many other, older ships we have sailed on—even though Ovation is almost three years old. She has been well taken care of and if you are considering a cruise on her you will love the ship itself. I especially loved the artwork in all the stairwells. Of course you have to take the stairs to see it all, but the elevators are so slow, you can take your time on the stairs.

That about does it. Not perfection but not horrible either. And I can say this unequivocally—if I had to do it again, and I could avoid a few of the bigger problems (like having a passport—that we just got back from renewal today) I would. Just avoid the buffet, eat in the dining room and take your grandkids.

Nothing always stays the same. You don’t stay happy forever. You don’t stay sad forever. —Cat Zingano

 

Day 7: Victoria, BC–almost home

The last day full day of this cruise we stopped for a full day in Victoria, BC. This stop is facilitated by what I used to call the Jones Act but my friend Bob keeps informing me that  this Act only applies to cargo and that there is a Passenger something-something act that applies to people. Either way, it you haven’t heard of this before, it’s STUPID, ANTIQUATED, OUT OF DATE (can you tell it ticks me off?) law that was created back in the 1800s to protect the U.S. shipping industry. The law says that a foreign-flagged ship can’t sail from one U.S. port to another without first stopping in a foreign country. And since only one cruise ship in the entire world (NCL’s Pride of America that sails the Hawaiian Islands) is registered in the U.S., every other one has to stop in a foreign country (in this case Canada) before they can go back to the U.S. So every single Alaskan cruise out of Seattle must stop in either Victoria or Vancouver. Most stop in Victoria just for the evening. For instance, the day we were there, Celebrity’s Solstice arrived around 5:00 pm and left again around midnight just to satisfy this law.

To prove how really stupid this law is, we sailed from San Diego to Hawaii and back a in 2012 and we had to stop in Ensenada, Mexico for about 15 minutes at 11:45 pm. No one was allowed to get off. We just stopped there to satisfy this crazy law.

So, because Ovation had come to the Alaskan market a year before they were supposed to, my theory is that they could not get a spot in any other Alaskan port (most go to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan) so they did the two they could get into and then headed for a full day in Victoria. That’s cool. Victoria is a great city and we (Kathleen and I) have been there many times. In fact we went there for our anniversary last August so we really didn’t see a reason to go into town…except my kids and grandkids had never been there so they wanted to go.

So in the morning, we all watched the Masons (M1 and M2) do the Flowrider thing again and then had lunch on board (the buffet was again quiet because so many people were off the ship—but the food was still horrible) and then we took the shuttle bus into town. A quick note about the shuttle bus. On the daily cruise announcement sheet it stated that the shuttle into town (less than 2 miles) was $10 each, either in U.S. funds or Canadian funds. Now that made me laugh because $10 U.S. is $13 Canadian. So the Americans on board were paying a $3 per person premium to ride the Canadian shuttle.

It just so happened that due to our going to Canada as much as we do (when you live this close and your best friends are Canadians, you go a lot) I had about $100 in Canadian money with me. So when we got off (everyone but Kathleen) I paid for the shuttle in Canadian $$$. Then I got a laugh again when the guy taking the money for the shuttle realized I was paying with Canadian funds, thought I was a Canadian. I did nothing to dissuade him because he said, “Oh, Canadian kids are half price,” with a grin. I let him go right on believing we were Canadians and paid half price for the grandkids.

In town we walked around a little, took a horse and carriage ride (35% off due to the exchange rate) and then walked around some more before heading back to the ship for our last dinner on board. It was a nice and easy day. We spent the evening packing our stuff up and putting it out for the attendants to take it off the ship so we could pick it up in the terminal the next morning.

And that’s about it. I have a few more pics to share before I wind this all up tomorrow or Saturday. I don’t have another day to post about but I do want to add some closing comments. You see there are a bunch of people out there who think we had a bad time on this cruise and that nothing was any good. This is just not true and I am so sorry if I have given that impression. The cruise started off really poorly because of problems that RCI and Ovation could have fixed easily but it got better and there were some really standout things I loved about Ovation despite all the problems. So come back next time and find out what they were. I promise, nothing but positives.

 

 

Day 6—At Sea again, headed south

This post will be short and to the point. For some reason I awoke today (August 7, not the day I am writing about August 1) at 12:35 and could not get back to sleep so I am writing this quickly before I fall asleep.

Forgot to mention when I finished last night’s post that last Wednesday, the day of the glacier, July 30 was also my daughter Jenna and her husband Joel’s 14th wedding anniversary. Way back on Christmas when we had surprised the whole family with the cruise, Kathleen had also purchased a special dinner for just the two of them at Jamie’s Italian, one of Ovation’s specialty restaurants. We picked up the kids from their stateroom at 4:45 and they went to the dining room with us. We had an AWESOME time with just kids and Bob, Judy and their family at the next table. Then we took the kids to see the evening show, the comedian/juggler. Even though (thankfully) many of his jokes went over their heads, they loved him and we found him pretty funny as well. He’s a typical cruise ship entertainer and he says so and is proud of it. After the show we took the kids back to our stateroom for a little television before Mom and Dad picked them up. Jenna and Joel loved Jamie’s Italian and we loved having the kids to ourselves.

The next morning was a sea day. The kids slept in and we went to breakfast by ourselves. Joel was coming down with a cold so the morning was pretty quiet. I took the kids up to play another round of foosball and air hockey and do some arcade game. This was the first cruise we have ever taken where we spent more on air hockey and arcade games that on adult beverages for us. That’s a huge first.

We did lunch at Fish and Ships, Ovations fish and chips restaurant where they have a grand total of seven items on the menu. Three (fish and chips, chicken strips and chips and a fish sandwich and chips) are free and three (halibut and chips, popcorn shrimp and chips and lobster and chips) are available for an added cost. The seventh item on the list was a deep-fried candy bar for dessert. We stuck to the free stuff which was good and of course the kids had to try a deep-fried candy bar which only costs $1.

The afternoon was spent watching M1 and M2 surf on the Flowrider. (Explanation here: M1 is Mason, Bob’s grandson. He is 13 and we have known him since he was three. When our grandson was born eight years ago, he became M1 because our grandson is Mason as well, thus he is M2. And the Flowrider is RCI’s surfing simulator at the back of the ship.) M1 had been using it all week. He had started with the boogie board on his knees and by the end of the week he was doing stand-up surfing. We had gone to watch M1 surf a couple of days before as something to do with the kids one afternoon and M2 became convinced he wanted to surf too, if only on the boogie board. I will be totally honest here, I was not sure if he was going to be able to do it. He’s not the athlete M1 is but he blew me away when he just jumped in and kicked butt. By the end of the cruise he had gotten to where he could get up on his knees and surf with his hands up off the board. What an awesome kid. I am sure that Maylee would have been right there with them if she had been four inches taller and a year older.

After surfing, we headed off to formal night (not that formal) but the kids dressed up in what they had worn to one of their Dad’s work banquets and looked great. Mason and I split some escargot and Maylee spent dinner poking Grandma K and talking her ear off. All-in-all, it was one of my favorite days on board.

Here’s some pics with captions that are mostly Mason.

My grandkids are AMAZING! —Me

Day 4: Finally livable but still crowded

On the fourth day of our cruise we awoke in Skagway, Alaska, a tiny town that had less people than the ship we were on. Which by the way is part of the problem Ovation has. The ship had too many people on it. Not that other ships can’t handle that number of people, but Ovation really can’t. It just had a hard time handling the number of people we had on board. I think I already mentioned that there were (with all cabins full) almost 5,000 people on board, 1,000 of them kids. I had a thought when we were in Seattle moored next to Celebrity’s Solstice, a ship we have sailed on (or one of her almost identical sister ships) many times. Sitting next to each other, the two ships (Ovation and Solstice) don’t look that much bigger than each other (Ovation has two more decks). In fact when we were onboard I noticed that Ovation was built at the same shipyard as the Solstice class ships. And they are very much alike.

One of the things I have always felt I didn’t like about the Solstice class was that they only had two banks of elevators—one at the front of the ship and one in the middle of the ship. On Solstice (with slightly more than 3,000 people when it is full) it just means you have to walk further to get to an elevator. On Ovation with almost 5,000 people, it means that people wait and wait and wait for an elevator on a 16 deck ship. An example: I almost always take the stairs on a cruise. I do that to fight any weight gain from all the food and drink. Kathleen with her hip replaced can’t do that (one day I climbed 58 flights–yes I am nuts) so she takes the elevator. Normally I arrive after a four or five flight climb to find her waiting for me at the top of the stairs. But on this cruise, most of the time, I could climb 10 or 12 flights of stairs and then have to wait another four or five minutes for her elevator to arrive. That’s nuts and just a symptom of the problems Ovation has. I heard so many complaints about the elevators, it just got old. And this is the same reason that we were hearing announcements about eating quick in the buffet. The buffet is the same physical size as Solstice (or not much larger) and feeding 2,000 more people.

But no matter what the crowds, today we took the White Pass Railroad up to the top of White Pass and followed the same trail as miners did in the mid 1800s. It’s a great excursion and one you have to do at least once when you go to Alaska. We (Kathleen and I ) did it back on our first Alaska cruise in 1999 and we wanted the kids to experience it. They seemed to like it although I think they got a little bored with the historical stuff. I do need to say that never once did they complain. Yes, I am a proud grandpa.

When we returned from the train trip, we took a short walk around the town and headed back to the ship. Because Ovation was moored at the very end of the pier, it was a really long walk in windy conditions. When we got back on the kids really wanted to go to the buffet and grandpa got outvoted so off we went. Surprise, there was an improvement in find a a place to sit. Because so many people were still in Skagway, we easily found a table but sadly, the food was just as bad as it had been before. Cold burgers, cold hot dogs, lukewarm pizza and warm plates for salads. It was just sad. How could a food program that produces pretty good food in the dining room be so bad in the buffet.

After lunch the kids and grandkids wanted to try rock climbing and we hoped that there would be less of a crowd than there had been a few days before and we were right. Only trouble was that the first time they had done rock climbing a few days earlier, Maylee (who was well over the 42 inches they require to rock climb) was denied because she is only five (she turns six in three weeks). But why deny her now and not on the second night of the cruise? I don’t understand. Consistency Ovation!

Dinner was in the dining room and we had a really good time. The kids were tired (and so were we) so we met Bob and Judy for an after dinner drink and the kids went back to their stateroom to watch a movie on TV. It was a much better day.

 

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. —John Muir