Here is our trip report on our vacation to the Pacific Northwest. We were worried that the American crisis situation would prevent us from going, or they would keep Tom at work, but we actually traveled with very few problems. We got up at 4 AM Atalnta time to be at the airport two hours early for an 8:45 flight. Long line to check in but routine and speedy once we reached the ticket agent. We flew Northwest from Atlanta to Minn. and then on to Seattle. We took a cab from the airport to the Edgewater Hotel.
It was mostly sunny and warm in Seattle when we arrived - felt wonderful! We had made a reservation months ago for a city view room at the Edgewater at a great rate. But the desk clerk offered to upgrade us to a room facing right out on Puget Sound for a reasonable amount, so we agreed. Then she told us that gave us a balcony and a fireplace! !!! It was a smaller room as the hotel is older, but it has been completely redecorated and was lovely. We went right out on to the balcony in the warm sunshine and thought seriously about just staying there for all 7 days!
But after a short rest, we took advantage of the weather and walked up to Seattle Center where the Space Needle and other attractions are located. Quite a climb up that hill for my first trip to Seattle. The park was nice, and fairly busy because they had had a special memorial service earlier that day for the victims of the Trade Center bombings. Two Hook and Ladder trucks were parked so that their extended ladders supported a huge American flag and people had COVERED the trucks with flowers. They had also begun to line a huge fountain with a hill all around the size of our cul-de-sac with flowers. They actually kept that going for three more days, even though it was supposed to just be one day. Very moving.
We had spotted an Old Spaghetti Factory on our way up to the Center so that is where we ate dinner. We were totally worn out and went to bed by 9:30, Seattle time, 12:30 AM Atlanta time. We slept well and in the morning consulted with a young man at the guest relations desk for suggestions for breakfast. He sent us just a few blocks away to a place called CJ's. We had a really good breakfast - omelets, hash browns, rye! toast, bagels, juice. Yummy!!!
After breakfast, we walked to the Pike Place Market. It was chilly and misty outside. We saw amazing fresh flowers, unusual characters, loads of fresh fish and other foods. We found a bakery with huge donuts and pastries and knew we would eat here the next day. We bought a bunch of flowers to enjoy for the week. (More on those later.) Since we were cold, we went to a "fish bar" for lunch and had bowls of clam chowder.
After lunch, we rode the trolley to Pioneer Square. We visited a huge bookstore and an antique/flea market place. We didn't spot the Gold Mining history museum til it was time to go back to the room, so we will have to go there another time. Tom wanted to get back to the room in time to see the Norwegian Sea leave the dock. You see, our room was no more than a good Greg Maddox throw from the cruise ship dock. Tom had watched them load her up earlier. So we sat on our balcony and watched her leave, Seattle fire boat squirting and all. We knew our ship, Radiance of the Seas, would come in in the morning, but we didn't know what time and were afraid we would miss it.
We went to bed, but had to get up at 4:20 (our bodies were still on Atlanta time). We checked for the ship out our window, but it wasn't there yet. We got up again near 6 and just as we looked out our window, here she came! And came and CAME! She was huge!!! It was still quite dark, so all her lights were lit and it was quite a sight, even with my contacts out! She was much larger than the other ship, so her stern was even closer to our balcony.
We went to the Market for breakfast and sampled those bakery goods - yummmmmm! We came back to the hotel and repacked. We had intended to do something else that morning, but it was just too chilly and overcast. Tom kept an eye on the Radiance from the balcony wanting to be sure they put enough food on board, but actually it didn't seem as if they loaded anything at this port - maybe got enough for the week in Vancouver on Saturday.
We checked out and simply rolled our luggage next door to the cruise ship terminal. We got on in less than an hour total time from leaving the hotel next to the ship. Carried on our own luggage, no problems at all. Rolled it right to our cabin and WHAT A CABIN! #7038 is forward and one of the ones with the double wide balcony. Everything about the cabin was great! Size, balcony, view, location on the ship (near the fore stairs and elevator, but quiet). Our Cabin attendant was Elizabeth from the Philippines and she was adorable and so sweet. She saw us walking into our room with me carrying my bunch of flowers and immediately offered to put them in a vase for me. When we returned from lunch, there they were beautifully arranged. She was there for everything we needed but never hovering - just the right kind of service.
We quickly unpacked everything into the more than ample storage space and stored all the luggage, even our deepest rolling case, under the bed. Then we headed to the Windjammer for out buffet lunch. The new arrangement with 2 stations (4 lines) for salad and fruit, 2 stations for main course, 2 stations for dessert and several other stations for specialty items, plus 2 beverage stations meant that we never waited in line. There is plenty of comfortable seating. The food was good but not spectacular.
Then it was time to tour that magnificent ship! Since we were already nearly at the top, we went the rest of the way up and worked our way down. At the very top are the golfing, the climbing wall and the children's water slide. It was never open on our trip - too cold - but I wonder if they would have let me go down it if it had been? :^) And also the Viking Crown Lounge, which has been given a different name on this ship - Star something. Just below that was the Crown and Anchor Lounge. A nice lady named Louise had certain hours she was in there if you had questions about future cruises.
Under that was the Shipshape Center with a fantastic view out the front of the ship. It would almost have been worth going in there to work out on something, but we resisted! But just across from there was one of our favorite spots - the Solarium! We never did get into the regular pool, but we did come down to the hot tub a few nights during main seating for dinner. It is lushly decorated with live plants, elephant sculptured waterfall and jungle insect and bird noises - soothing, not loud or annoying. On that same level was the outdoor pool and the main floor of the Windjammer. We found ourselves at the Centrum area with its beautiful glass elevators that either look out to sea or into the 9 level Centrum itself. There were little reading nooks near the elevators on each of the mainly cabin floors - 10 thru 7. The library on deck 9 was always open whenever we saw it and had a great selection of current fiction, non-fiction and special interest books (and I am an avid, but picky reader!) We brought plenty of books, but would have found plenty to read if we had not.
On Deck 6 was part of the Aurora Theater, the movie theater, the Casino, the Schooner bar, Portofino's and Chops, and the Colony Club that has those self leveling pool tables they keep telling us about. Tom never did try them out though. Deck 5 had the rest of the Theater, the photo gallery, the shops, Royal Caribbean On-Line (at 50c a minute :^/) and the top floor of the dinning room. We went into the dining room to check our table location and found we were around in a corner on the first floor near the kitchen door. So we went to Guest services on Deck 4 of the Centrum and they directed us to someone who was changing seating. They moved us to a table right in the center downstairs next to the Captain's Table. The lobby area of the Centrum was the only place on the ship that felt crowded. It seemed smaller than the Centrum on the Monarch, for example.
That night, we went down for dinner. Our table mates were two young women from Vancouver, a couple from Texas and a man and wife from Santa Fe with their orthopedic surgical resident son from Tucson. Our waiter was Kersi from India and our asst. waiter was "Jerry" from the Philippines. The head waiter for our area was Barbara - she was super and I will tell more about her later. The Matre D' was Brice from Australia and he knew our two young ladies from Vancouver. Tom and I both had delicious pork roast and he had a cold berry soup that he really liked. Our tablemates enjoyed salmon, or steak. Dinner started late that evening, 8:45, so we were barely finished when they called us for the lifeboat drill. We dashed back to our cabins for our life vests and found out our meeting place was IN THE THEATER - INSIDE - IN SEATS! (Our last lifeboat drill, in San Juan, was outside, standing and HOT!) It took a whole 5 minutes and we were done. We went back to the cabin and then walked around the ship some more. There were snacks in the Windjammer so we went to see what they had, because we really needed more food - HaHa! Talked to a nice chef from Australia who mostly works in the Seaview Café - we will try that one day for lunch. We stayed up to watch the ship leave at midnight, later than originally planned to make sure everyone got there. We were able to be out on our balcony. We could hear the soft conversations of other passengers, but not a problem.
We woke up Tuesday as we docked in an overcast Vancouver. We ate breakfast in the dining room - good but slow. We went out on the Canada Place pier and found there was a free shuttle to Stanley Park. Beautiful area - huge! There is a seawall walk, and aquarium and lush trees and flowers. We walked in and out for almost two hours and only covered a part of the park. We were very tired by then and they shuttle would not return for over an hour so we decided to take the city bus. But when the driver came, and we asked him if he went near Canada Place. He said yes, but then we found out he could take no cash let alone American cash. So we were going to get off to find a place to buy tokens and he said, "No, just get on anyway! I'll take you. We all have to stick together in a time like this!" He was very nice and since the bus was virtually empty, we had a lovely chat with him about Vancouver. He took us within one block of the pier.
Back on the ship we ate lunch at the Seaview Café. You could order fish and chips, chowder, hot dogs, burgers, etc, at no extra cost. If you wanted a milkshake or alcohol, that was extra. We were all set for milkshakes, but they had not gotten any milkshake mix. The fish and chips were good, though. Then Tom took a nap and Beth went to "Gastown" to look around and pick up a few souvenirs. They have a steam powered clock on one street corner. By the time it was time to leave Vancouver, the sun was just peeking out of the clouds for the first time all day.
This was formal night and we had our picture made. Dinner included choices of filet mignon and shrimp cocktail, so Beth had those. The Captain dined at his table that night, and Brice, the Matre D' had arranged for the two from Vancouver to sit there. Beth sat with the back of her chair backing up to the Captain's chair at the next table and was nervous all evening that she would do something klutsy. But all went well.
We woke up Wednesday as we came into Victoria with blue sky breaking through! We ate at the Windjammer and hurried off the trip as we had arranged for our own tour. We were met at the bottom of the gangplank by folks in colonial costumes handing out mini carnations to all the women. We waited for our shuttle, but when it was 10 mins. late, I called them and they said they would be 1 hour late. We had wanted to get out to Butchart Gardens early so were frustrated by the delay. But there was a Blue Line double decker bus that had been waiting at the pier. When we went over to ask if it was an open tour to the Gardens, we found out it was waiting for a private tour group, but the leader said there was still plenty of room, so if we wanted to join them, for $22 American a piece, we were welcome! That's compared to $50 each on the RCI excursion. So we said yes, and enjoyed a great tour with folks from two large churches in the Seattle/Tacoma area.
First we drove through the city for a while and then headed out to the Gardens. We only had two hours there. It was just barely enough, but we wished it had been more. It was so wonderful to be out in the sunshine! We went to Mt. Tomei and drove along a bit of coastline on the way back to town. We returned to Victoria at 1:45 so some of the ladies in the group could go to Tea at 2:00 at the Empress Hotel. Beth decided to get off too as she had spied some great looking shops in town. Tom went back to the ship with the tour bus. He ate and read. Beth didn't eat (yet) and shopped. Saw literally dozens of violet china sets and cups and saucers - I was overwhelmed! Victoria was wonderful and we needed several more days there. We would like to go back and see the Gardens again, and also the Royal Museum, the small underwater aquarium and the antique auto museum.
Beth took a shuttle ($5 unlimited trips) back to the ship and went to find Tom. I passed through the Solarium on my way where they have PIZZA available and got two slices. That held me over til snack time in the Windjammer. We went to the Solarium hot tub before dinner and then dressed for Smart Casual night. Beth had Shrimp Scampi and Tom had Turkey something for Italian night. The waiters all marched around to music and then gathered on the "Twelve Oaks" stairway and sang "O Solo Mio" with the Captain, who had come around to our table and said hello earlier. It was great fun! We were pretty tired and crashed after supper. Haven't been to a show yet.
Thursday was our day at sea and naturally, the sun had gone back into hiding again. But we were in the lower part of the inside passage maybe 150 miles from Seattle, and we had a great view of the land on both sides. Never saw any sea life, and it was too chilly to sit on our balcony, so we went from place to place on the ship, reading and looking out the windows. We had breakfast in the dining room. Beth went to the Crown and Anchor Lounge to talk a bit with Louise. One of the questions was, why was there no C & A reception? I found out they were having just a little coffee that morning for Diamond and Platinum members only. We are Gold, but will be Platinum after this cruise. Maybe next time. They don't do a big reception on cruises under 7 days, she said. She did invite us to the coffee, but we said no thanks.
We had lunch in the Windjammer, and then went to a very interesting talk and question and answer session with the Captain, the Chief Engineer and the Environmental Officer. The Radiance is a gas turbine vessel and this is something new. Like engines on a DC-10. More expensive to buy but much less expensive to maintain, and much quieter. They answered lots of other questions too. And right after that was the cooking demonstration in the Centrum. The Chef had enlisted the help of a male passenger and - surprise! - our head waiter, Barbara. This was her first time to assist him in this and they were supposed to whisk whipping cream for Black Forest Cake. Hers just would not thicken and all her looks and actions were hilarious!!! They were to brush on the sugar/water/liqueur mixture and by then she was behind the others so she just poured it on. Then she started eating the cherries. And she pretty much had to pour the whipping cream on too since it was so thin. The Vancouver girls were there watching too and it was so funny!
Our last night at dinner offered prime rib. We never did eat lunch in the dining room, but I was sorry we had not on our day at sea because I found out they had had trout! The waiters sang again, this time "Hey, Look Me Over!" The Vancouver girls had eaten in both Chops and Portofino's during the trip. Brice had arranged it for them so I doubt they had to pay extra. They said it was very good. They would come and sit with us for our appetizers and then go off to the restaurant.
We got our packing done after dinner and filled out all our forms. We checked the sheet to see what color tag we needed to get off in time for our flight with the 2 hour requirement. And the tags they gave us were not early enough so I went down to the service desk to switch them. As it turned out, since we again intended to carry our own bags, they called all passengers carrying off their own bags to get off, if they wished, at 7:30 AM! We were still eating breakfast in the Windjammer, so we finished and left about 8:30 AM. Debarkation was very smooth. Only line was at immigration, but since we again had our form filled out and no fruit or food off the ship, we were through shortly.
We took a cab to the airport. The posted cost is $25, but since there is a line for the cars to go through for extra security, the extra time cost us about $5 more. It turned out to be fortunate that we were there early tho' as we checked in at the e-ticket kiosk, found out one of our flights was delayed and changed to an earlier flight. We were back in Atlanta before nine and at home before 11 PM. We had some soup and went to bed and slept until 9 AM. It was great to be home and in our own bed!
So hope you enjoyed this report of our trip as much as we enjoyed the trip itself!!