Day 7 on Allure of the Seas—Nassau, in the Bahamas

NassauPano
Panoramic photo from the back of Allure of the harbor in Nassau. The Disney ship you see on the right and the Royal Caribbean ship beyond her are two of five in port that day.

First, let me apologize for taking so long to get this last day of our Allure trip online. As we did a year ago on our New England trip, we came home sick. It appears we got the flu. Kathleen had been fighting it for a few days but I came down with a full blown case on the last night. Basically coughed the entire night, fever, aches and pains…you know the drill. We were supposed to do a Miami food tour once we got off the ship but we had to bag that and beg our buddy Mike to let us come back to his place and just collapse for the day before we flew home at 6:30 Sunday night. He’s such a great guy—he quickly said, “Come on up!” So we did. Thanks Mike!

At any rate, once we got back to Redmond, I have just been wiped out and not in the mood to put this  post together. But eventually I have to kick myself in the butt and do something, so here goes.

When I last posted, we were in Nassau, Bahamas and had decided to stay on the ship. Why? Because it was 1) hotter than hell, 2) we had been there twice before, 3) since we are not beach/snorkeling/gambling people, there is not much to do and 4) there were five (YES, FIVE) ships in that day for a total of more than 14,000 people who were going to have to get off the ship and go through one little building to get on and off the island. So we stayed onboard and I took the day to take a bunch of photos of the ship with hardly anyone in them (which I will include with my last Allure post in a couple of days) and a few of Nassau from the ship (below).

One more post about this trip and and that will wind it up. In the next couple of days I will sum up the trip, give you some recommendations and tell you our general impressions of Allure of the Seas and show you pics from the rest of the ship. I only showed the inside of staterooms on our first day. These will be the public areas. Watch for it! Now, here are some pics.

Nassau, Bahamas photos (taken from the deck of Allure)

Since the beginning, it was just the same. The only difference, the crowds are bigger now.—Elvis Presley

Day 5 & 6 on Allure of the Seas

SanJuanPano1
A panoramic shot of Old Town San Juan from the sundeck on Allure of the Seas

Day 5 found us docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico where the temps were in the low 90s and the humidity near 80% so according to two apps on my phone it “felt like” 110. That’s just too hot. But being the intrepid walker I decided to take a 4 mile walk around old town, and then from one fort to another, duplicating a walk we had taken the first time we were here back in 2005. I just don’t remember it being this hot. I took some pics on my walk (as I usually do) and they are below.

When I got back to our stateroom, Kathleen was shocked at how I looked. I was literally soaking wet with sweat, my face was red and Kathleen said, “Oh my God! I have never seen you that sweaty and your face that red!” She was honestly worried about me—something she does a lot…because she loves me.

After a cold shower and lots of water, a short nap (more about napping later) I was back to normal and we were off to our free specialty restaurant dinner at 150 Central Park. For you Celebrity cruisers out there, it’s a slightly less formal version of Murano. We had a wonderful server, Lina who was totally conversant and we love talking to staff about food. She was so good to us. Kathleen had lamb Wellington and I had venison. To give you an example of how great Lina was, when she came back for the customary check-in of “How do you like your entrées,” we got into a discussion of our favorite foods. I told her I loved octopus. About five minutes later, she walked back up and set a plate of grilled octopus down on the table. I was stunned. It wasn’t on their menu. I asked her how she had done that magic and she said that another specialty restaurant (Giovanni’s, where I had lunch with our group on Tuesday) did serve it and she went and got me some. WOW! That’s service. Way to go above and beyond.

That was about it for Thursday except that we saw an outstanding show in the evening, The Company Men. They are an outstanding singing quartet that does mash-ups. When I first heard that my reaction was “Let’s skip this one.” But our buddy Mike had told us not to miss a show so off we went. I was so sure we wouldn’t like it that I even had us sit way in the back so we could get out quick if it went as bad as I thought it might be.

Boy was I wrong. Sure enough, Allure did not disappoint. Another outstanding show. These guys are amazing vocalists (check their website linked above and listen for a few minutes) and what they do to put two, three and four songs together from different eras is truly amazing. We loved the show The Company Men. They play a lot of cruise ships (their website has their schedules as there are three traveling groups) so if you ever get the chance to see them, don’t miss it.

Friday was another sea day so we had our last class with Nate. He had arranged a tour of the ship’s bridge to start the day so we all met with security and were escorted in. Kathleen and I are kind of jaded when it comes to being on a cruise ship bridge. It’s something we have done at least three times before and to be honest, all cruise ship bridges pretty much look alike. The only difference with Allure’s was the size. On the others we have toured (Celebrity’s Infinity, Century and Azamara’s Quest) you could walk from one side of the bridge to the other in about 20 big steps. On Allure it would have been about 50 big steps, she is that wide. Otherwise, a ship’s bridge is just a bunch of computer monitors and a couple of chairs with joysticks. See the pics (I only took a few because there’s not much to it) and you will understand. The officer giving the tour was a really nice guy so we did have a good time.

After that it was back to class and today was just short, open book (or in our case, open Google) test about all we had learned this week. I am too old to memorize everything when I know right where to find it online. We also did some celebrating as Nate had gotten a cake for all the October birthdays (including Kathleen’s on the 27th). And one of our group (Jenna from our corporate offices) had gotten engaged the day before as well. The group of agents we are traveling and taking classes with are really great folks from all over the US and Canada. Since we have seen them in class, at shows and at dinner we have really gotten to know some of them very well. It’s great to compare how we all do our travel jobs.

After class we used our free specialty restaurant lunch and went to Allure’s Mexican joint, Sabor. It was pretty good Mexican food and the fact that it was free (normal charge $20 per person) made it all the better. We even got our margaritas comped. Didn’t know that until we were done eating. If I had know that, I would have had another. 😀

After lunch I actually went back to our stateroom and took a nap. This is a big deal for me as I hardly ever do this. This week I have found myself really tired late in the morning and through the afternoon. Last night I figured out why, (BTW: As I am writing this it is Saturday, our last full day and we just arrived in Nassau, Bahamas). Last night as I lay in bed my legs starting hurting like they were on fire, followed by my back doing the same thing. I have had this three times before in my life and it is always the same thing—caffeine withdrawal. Now I have been drinking cappuccinos every morning but either they were too much milk or they were using decaf but suffice it to say, I spend a horrid night until 7:00 am when the onboard Starbucks opened (THANK GOD FOR STARBUCKS) where I ordered a cup of black coffee with two shots of espresso. I sat down right there to drink it and within 10 minutes of my first sip, I was feeling better. By the time I finished the grande, no pain whatsoever. I am now flying 😜 but I feel great.

But back to last night. We saw our last production show, Blue Planet. Your typical Cirque de Soleil-type show that cruise ships are really into right now. Music, acrobatics and dancing. We have seen these on Celebrity ships before but because Allure is so BIG and has such a huge theater with a huge stage, they can do much more staging-wise. That made it a really interesting show. If I hadn’t seen it, I would go and I recommend you do if you are onboard.

We were there for the early show at 7:00 and were out by 7:45 and off to dinner with fellow agents and then back to our stateroom for the aforementioned horrible, caffeine-withdrawal night punctuated by a cough that both of us have seemed to pick up. When will be able to travel without getting sick?

But enough about illness, here’s some pics from my walk around San Juan and our last day in class.

San Juan, Puerto Rico photos

Photos from our bridge tour and last day of classes

There’s definitely healing properties to being in proximity to the ocean and that breeze. There’s something about that Caribbean climate and humidity.—Johnny Depp

Day 3 & 4 on Allure of the Seas

StKittsPano1_1
A panoramic view of St. Kitts harbor from the sundeck on Allure of the Seas

More about Allure…which almost rhymes. Day three was another sea day and we had class from 9:00 to 12:00 and then we had lunch as a group in Giovanni’s Italian restaurant, one of Allure’s specialty places. (BTW: The pic above is St. Kitts from the ship. Looks pretty right? Not if you hate heat and humidity. More below.)

The class was fine but again, the conference room was so cold it gave Kathleen a migraine headache that was so bad she missed lunch and was in bed all afternoon. Entirely due to the frigid temps and the constantly blowing AC. Our instructor Nate asked to have it warmed up a bit and maintenance told them they had complied with his request but you would never know it. From now on I am bringing a small thermometer to conferences. She missed a great lunch and the best session of the classes we took. 

We had two guest speakers that afternoon. First we got to meet a Royal Genie. If you are not familiar with the Royal Genie program, it is pretty much one-of-a-kind. It works like this: If you book certain VERY expensive suites onboard many of Royal’s ships (the big ones predominately) you get the services of a Royal Genie. Think of him or her as a super butler. In fact to become a Royal Genie you have to go to London to a butler school that is run by a former butler to the British Royal Family. 

A Royal Genie’s job consists of contacting you about a month before your cruise to find out your likes and dislikes, whether you have any special requests and to generally make you feel ultra-special. They carry on a pretty detailed dialog with you via e-mail for the month prior to the cruise. In that time they might book shows for you or make reservations at specialty restaurants (in those suites, all specialty restaurants are included). Then when you arrive at the ship they meet you at your car and escort you through check-in and directly to your suite which is ALWAYS ready for you. After that, every wish you have (within reason but they can be pretty crazy) is taken care of. When it is time for you to go to dinner at your specialty restaurant, they come and escort you there. Same with shows. And if you don’t want to go out but want a meal from a specialty restaurant, then they can have it brought to your suite and they serve it for you. If you want a party for other guests on board, they take care of that as well. All at no additional charge. Of course a seven day cruise in a Royal Genie serviced suite will run you anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000, but hey, it’s worth it. 

The Royal Genie that came in to speak to us was very interesting and described his job as well as telling us a bunch of stories (with no names of course) about crazy requests he had dealt with in his six years as a Genie. Hilarious and crazy stories you will have to ask me about later. Too many to tell here. 

After our Royal Genie session we got to spend about 45 minutes with our Cruise Director Jimmy Rhodes, one of the funniest CDs I have ever had the chance to listen to. He has been an RCL cruise director for 17 years and was the first black cruise director on a major cruise line. He started with RCL as a dancer in their shows and moved his way on up. If you look up the word “Hoot” in the dictionary, you will see his picture.

He also told us some great stories and answered a bunch of questions about the ship. One of them was whether the water show would be performed that night. Allure (and all the other Ovation class ships) have a huge water show that takes place outdoors on the aft end of the ship. The day before it had been postponed due to rough seas and high winds. We were interested because many of us had reservations for that night’s show. He was quick to reply that they would probably postpone the shows for that night as well and they did end up doing that. We did get to see the show the next day at 5:30 pm and I can’t say enough good things about it. Our buddy Mike told us the shows were great on this class of ship and he has been right on so far (tonight we are going to another one and I will let you know if we go three for three). For this show, I got to take lots of pics and the light was pretty good, so you will be able to see what we saw. Suffice it to say, it was AMAZING. See the pics below. 

The next morning we arrived on the island of St. Kitts. Kathleen and I had never been to this island before so we had booked a Royal Caribbean shore excursion to take a train ride around the island on a narrow gauge train that was set up for taking travelers to see the island. We were aware that we would have to take a bus from the ship to where we would join the train and one back as well. What we didn’t realize that we would be on a poorly air-conditioned bus for more than an hour to get to the train over some of the worst roads you have seen. On the train we were served water, rum punch, rum and cola, rum on the rocks, Pina coladas, rum and rum or just about anything with rum in it. Like a plastic cup. Just a note that we would NOT recommend this shore excursion to anyone. Hot and boring unless you like looking at grass, trees, ocean and the rest of your fellow travelers who are on board. The tour was also fully narrated but because of the age of the train and tracks, you couldn’t hear the narration. It was an extremely loud train trip.

A quick note here about the most overriding thing about this trip—the HEAT! And the humidity. Going outside of any air conditioned part of the ship is awful. And I fully take credit for that since we are total heat and humidity wimps. But that’s why we live in the Northwest. We hate heat and we hate humidity. More about this when I write about San Juan on Saturday.

Back on the ship we had a late lunch and I went to work out. Normally I work out in the morning but this cruise has really thrown off our schedules. We have late seating which means we eat dinner at 8:00 pm, then hang out until at least 11:00 to let our food digest and then go to sleep. That means that I am sleeping until 6:30 or 7:00 which doesn’t leave me enough time to work out, eat breakfast and make it to class or a shore excursion so I have been working out or walking later in the day. On Day 3 I walked five miles around the ship’s jogging/walking track in the later afternoon (and about died due to the heat and humidity) and on Day 4 (yesterday) I went to the gym around 3:30. Thankfully the AC was working better than it had been on Monday morning. I am somewhat worried what is going to happen to our schedules when we get home on Monday.

After the workout we were off to see the aforementioned water show that had been postponed. And as I said, it was excellent. After the show, dinner, then hang out and bed. Tomorrow (really today) is San Juan, Puerto Rico. More on Friday from the Nassau, Bahamas.

St. Kitts photos

 Ocean Aria Aqua show photos

St. Kitts’ government is much more libertarian compared with the U.S. It’s not even close.—Roger Ver

Day 1 and Day 2 of Allure of the Seas

Day 1 Pano
A small pano from the top of the ship

Fully realizing that I promised you some daily updates, I have already missed a day so here goes. A little touch of Allure of the Seas for you.

We left Mike’s house early Sunday morning and got about a quarter mile away when Mike texted and then called us to let us know I had forgotten my bag with my camera and computer in it. This is laughable since my biggest screw up in traveling was leaving that same bag in a rental car the last time we sailed from Fort Lauderdale. After retrieving it from Mike’s (and we were so glad he saw it before we got all the way down to the port…and gave us curbside service for pickupthanks Mike) we had an uneventful trip to the airport where we dropped the car and took a cab to the cruise port. If you have not sailed from Fort Lauderdale the airport is about a 10 minute cab ride from the cruise port so this was really easy.

Embarkation (unlike our departure on Ovation in Seattle in July) was beyond easy. We had filled in everything in advance including uploading our photos. Once we arrived at the line where we would normally have presented credit cards, boarding pass, etc. our passports were checked and we were released to the waiting area for boarding. We found our fearless leader Nate (who would be teaching our classes —I am writing this while he is teaching right now) and after a short wait we were onboard and gone. With Royal, you no longer get your seapass card before boarding. You find it later outside outside your stateroom.

Once on board we raced to our conference room on deck 3 to drop off our carry-on bags and then we raced to the other end of the ship to deck 17 (the top) to see some suites before the folks in those suites got there. If you want to see how the other half lives on board, I have included some of the suite pictures below as well as the staterooms for the rest of us. I also added some pics I took from the ship leaving Fort Lauderdale as well.

After we were done touring the staterooms, we were free until that night. Kathleen and I went to find someplace to eat lunch. Eating lunch on embarkation day is always a challenge. Most people’s first meal on a ship is in the buffet because that’s all they know. We asked our instructor for recommendations and he suggested Park Cafe in the Central Park area on Deck 8. It is one of a handful of complimentary restaurants available during embarkation. It was crowded but we were able to get in and grab a sandwich before we headed off to sit and wait for our cabins to be ready.

I want to make a point here that this is a BIG ship. We were told in class today that there are more than 6,000 passengers on board including more than 900 kids (I want to know how are they getting out of school in October???). This means that this is a very crowded cruise. And you can really see it on embarkation day before the staterooms are ready. That hour or so between the end of lunch and 1:30 when the announcement is made that staterooms have been released is very crowded. We ended up sitting in a bar (not drinking), just sitting on the Grand Promenade for about half an hour before we heard that announcement that staterooms were ready.

They finally made that announcement and we were off to our stateroom (10653) on deck 10, midships. Our stateroom is very nice but not in the same ballpark as the one we were in on Ovation of the Seas in July. This is a fairly old ship and the stateroom looks like it. I have pics below. We hung out in the stateroom until the muster drill which took place at 4:00 pm. This is a mandatory drill and our advice is that if you have a hard time standing for an hour, get to your muster station (ours was in the champagne bar) really early and get a seat. Otherwise you will be standing through the entire, boring exercise.

After the drill we went back to our stateroom and as we were walking up to it, Kathleen looked way down the corridor and said, “That looks like our luggage.” Sure enough it was. We wonder how long it would have taken them to get it down to our room. We grabbed them and got them in ourselves and unpacked. That’s the BEST part of cruising—visiting multiple countries and cities and only having to unpack once. We hate living out of a suitcase.

After unpacking, we were invited (by Nate) to a sail-away party on deck 17 but I went up to take some pics as we sailed out, and it started pouring rain. So I took a couple of pics and headed back to our stateroom to change for our cocktail party. That cocktail party was a private event just for our group of around 30 Expedia Cruise Ship Center travel agents from the USA and Canada. It was very nice and we went from there to dinner at 8:00. We don’t usually have late seating (as our friends Paul and Gail will testify to) but the entire group was signed up at 8:00 so we eat at 8:00. Had a nice dinner and had a chance to talk travel with a lot of great agents from all over Canada and the USA. A really great networking experience.

Day two was a day of classes. We started early and had classes from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. We enjoyed the classes but the rooms were freezing which gave Kathleen a migraine. They run the AC way too cold. Then drinks in the Diamond Club (we get access to the RCL loyalty club because of our status on their sister cruise line Celebrity) and dinner at 8:00 with Kathy and Cheryl from Wisconsin who were some of the few not at a show.

Speaking of shows, we then headed to the 9:30 pm performance of Mama Mia. It was a GREAT performance and we really enjoyed it. I wish I could have taken photos to show you what it was like but they were adamant that no photos or videos could be taken. I learned today from the Cruise Director that they used to have no problem with people taking photos but two reps from the company that licenses the production to Royal were on board and saw people taking pics and warned the ship that if it continued they would pull the rights to the play and they would no longer be able to perform it and that would be a shame as it was easily as good as the one we saw at the Paramount in Seattle and certainly better than the Mama Mia movie because Pierce Brosnan didn’t sing in it 😜.

That ended day two and with that I will conclude. Tomorrow we have more classes and hopefully the water show in the evening. Then St. Kits. I think I will hold off and not post again until after we visit there.

 

What’s the most fetching thing that provokes people? A volcano? Fountains that dance? A pirate ship that sinks? Some other animated device or presentation? Is that as strong as mystery? Allure, intrigue, is much more powerful… It taunts you.—Steve Wynn

Last day in South Florida

Morikami Pano
A panoramic photo of the Morikami Gardens

Just a quick post with some photos before breakfast. We will be boarding Allure of the Seas at 10:30 am and I am writing this in Mike’s family room at 6:30 while Kathleen is getting ready to go.

Yesterday was a really great and relaxing day. Mike does volunteer work at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens where he is an information specialist (a fancy name I am giving him for the guy who sits at a desk by the entrance and answers questions). The gardens are beautiful and the weather cooperated while we were there.  Big, fluffy clouds on a nice blue sky let me take some great pics while we toured.

After Morikami we headed north on Highway 1 along the coast. We drove by the infamous Mar-A-Lago Country Club (that you-know-who owns) and then a little further before we stopped at Benny’s on the Beach (a really cool restaurant on a pier perched over the Atlantic) for a delicious lunch. After that it was north to Palm Beach where we stopped to buy some postcards (yes, we still send those—I’m very retro, 😀 so sue me) to send to the grandkids and other friends and relatives. Speaking of retro, we got the postcards at a little drugstore that Mike had been to before that was a total throw-back. Even had a little luncheonette. Reminded me of an old Woolworth’s.

Then it was back to Mike’s where we watched a little college football until Mike’s neighbors Barb and Hans came over to see us. We had sailed with Barbara and Hans on a two week South East Asia cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong (one of our favorites) in 2010. It was great to see them. We always have a lot to talk about. Then it was dinner out at a Cuban-American restaurant and that was it—a really nice day.

Here are the pics I promised you and you will get our first report on Allure either later tonight or tomorrow.

It doesn’t matter how much I think I know about Florida, it still flips me on the head every time. It’s just an absurd, eclectic place, and the stories that can come out of that place just never stop.—Matt Passmore

On the road…again

RCI_AL_Drone_DJI_0061_RET_CMYKSometimes I think we are the living embodiment of the Willie Nelson song. Or if you are my age, the Canned Heat song. But then we spend a few days with our good friend Mike Preisman and I realize that as much as we travel, he travels more. And he writes about his travels even more than I do. I linked his website above. It is worth going to before you travel has he has probably been where you are going.

I mentioned Mike because we are in humid and hot South Florida staying with Mike before we board Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas tomorrow. I may have mentioned that I am not a big fan of the Caribbean but we are taking this cruise to learn. Almost all of the cruise lines out there do what are referred to in the trade as FAM (familiarity) cruises from time to time. These kind of cruisers give travel agents a chance to see a ship and learn about a cruise line while on a cruise. They aren’t free (nothing ever is…) but we do get a very nice discount and there are some nice perks. Of course we still had to pay to get down to humid south Florida, but it’s still a bargain.

It especially helps if you have great friend who will put you up a few days before the cruise as well. We are staying with one of our super Martini Mates, the aforementioned Mike Preisman. And besides getting to see him, we were able to see some friends who we met on our first Celebrity cruise through the Panama Canal in 2004, Bert and Annette. We had lunch with them at their country club (a really swanky place) and just a great time talking about all we have been doing since we last saw them five years ago when we had lunch in the same place.

So tomorrow (Sunday, October 6) we board the Allure of the Seas at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. This is our first time on an Oasis Class ship. The Oasis class are the largest cruise ships in the world. Only one ship sailing has more cabins than Allure. When the ship is at maximum capacity she can hold 6,314 passengers and more than 2140 crew members. That’s 8,500 people on one ship. For me that three times the size of the town where I spent most of the 90s, Leavenworth, WA.

We will board tomorrow morning before most of the other passengers so we can do a ship’s tour that will let us see some of the staterooms and suites before others come aboard. Our FAM group is composed of about 30 Expedia Cruise Ship Centers travel consultants and people from their sales department. During the week, on the four sea days (out of seven) we will have classes from 9:00 am to noon and then from 2:00 to 4:00 pm every day. The coordinators from Royal will not only talk about the ship we are on, but all the other Royal ships in the fleet. And I am sure we will have plenty of time to see all the public areas on this ship…which means you will get to see a whole bunch of photos this week.

At least I hope you will because we have free use of Royal Caribbean’s Voom internet which is (according to their marketing) the fastest internet at sea. So if it really works (they say you can stream Netflix) so we shall see. If it is that fast, you will get daily updates all week, so be ready. This will be your chance to find out all about the biggest ships at sea.

We hope it all goes better than our last cruise on Royal’s Ovation of the Seas when we took our grandkids (and their parents) to Alaska in July. And since we are doing this cruise by ourselves, this will be much more about the ship. We are seeing shows almost every night, have planned a shore excursion in one of our ports (St. Kitts) and want to try as much as we can while onboard. I should mention that our other two stops on this cruise are San Juan, PR, a port we have visited twice before and Nassau in the Bahamas. We have no interest in those ports so we will probably stay on the ship. I may get off and walk around in San Juan as their old town is really quaint and picturesque.

Be ready for some posting this week while we take you cruising on Allure of the Seas.

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. —Zora Neal Hurston

 

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