Glacier Bay

If you’re ever lucky enough to go on a cruise to Alaska and you see Glacier Bay as one of the ports, it’s not really a port.  The ship docks in Glacier Bay, picks up a couple of rangers for the day, and then sails slowly around the bay so that passengers can talk to the rangers & enjoy the sights.  We got out the binoculars, bundled up, and hung out in the solarium most of the day, which was warm enough with a light jacket or sweatshirt.  We only went outside on deck when we saw something we thought would be worth photographing because it was colder today than yesterday and there was a light rain that proved to be relentless.  There were a lot of things I wanted to photograph and share, but I knew a lot of them wouldn’t really be captured that well with the gray, cloudy conditions we had.  Here are a few of the images of the glaciers and general scenery we took over the course of the day. Continue reading “Glacier Bay”

It’s Raining in Ketchikan…and What We Do on Sea Days

The weather has been beautiful since we left Los Angeles…until today.  To our dismay, we woke up to chilly rain and gray fog.  The good news is that we could see the town from our breakfast table.  We’re so close.  It’s literally as if we parallel parked on a street in Ketchikan – except in a ship.  We threw on several warm layers and our rain jackets and set out to see the city.

Continue reading “It’s Raining in Ketchikan…and What We Do on Sea Days”

Our Itinerary for the Next Two Months – Southeast Asia!

It feels like we just got home.  My suitcase is still on the floor in the bedroom, half unpacked.  I normally wouldn’t have left it there, but I plan on bringing mainly the same items on this next trip, so I’ve been just using the clothes and then replacing them as I wash them.  Fred has been doing the same thing.  We didn’t even discuss it.  It just seemed more logical than putting it all away, making another list, and dragging it all out again in less than two weeks. Continue reading “Our Itinerary for the Next Two Months – Southeast Asia!”

12 Things You Should Know Before Going on a Cruise

I was talking to a friend today who is taking a cruise for the first time.  I started giving her unsolicited advice that I’ve gathered over the years about cruising.  I hope she didn’t mind 😉  Having just come back from a two-week cruise, I couldn’t help myself.  Since I’m on a roll, I figured I’d share the tips I gave her with you all as well – plus a few new ones that I thought of after our conversation.  If there’s anything you’ve learned that’s not listed here & you’d like to share it, then please leave a comment.

  1. Bring any all all toiletries, supplements, medications, etc. that you might need – even if it’s something you only use on occasion.  If you can fit it in your bag and it won’t be an issue at airport security (if you’re flying), then bring it.  Otherwise, you will be paying a huge premium on board or in many ports for these items.  We will now be bringing bandaids, Dramamine, Benadryl, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a host of other things.
  2. Put a white noise app on your phone and use it at night to block out any noise from the hallways (or deck chairs being moved above your head at 1am…see below).
  3. When booking, make sure your cabin is surrounded by other cabins – also on the floors above and below.  You don’t want to hear deck chairs being moved around above your head at 1am, believe me.  Unfortunately, I’ve learned this one the hard way.
  4. Bring books to read, music to listen to on your phone, video games, cards, etc.  There will be activities on board, but there will still be some downtime and you will want to have ways to entertain yourself…and your family.
  5. We have almost always been disappointed in the spa services on board the cruises we’ve taken.  If you book something, don’t be surprised if it’s not up to par with the quality you typically expect at home.  We do still book massages for our first or second day on board, if we’ve had a long flight beforehand.  Even if the massages aren’t amazing, they do still help with stiff post-flight muscles and jet lag.  Always go early and ask for the type of massage therapist that you like.
  6. You can do laundry on board some cruise ships.  Check with your particular cruise line to see if it will be available.  Consider bringing your own laundry detergent and dryer sheets, as they charge a premium for those items on board.
  7. Excursions booked through the cruise lines are generally overpriced.  Do your research before leaving home and book guides or tours through local companies if possible.  Alternatively, many tour companies & taxis offer their services for hire at the ports when you disembark.  You can hire them on the spot.  The only downside is that you are responsible for getting yourself back to the ship on time.  We’ve used all of these methods and have never had any issues whatsoever.
  8. As of 2018, the internet on some ships is still really slow and can be dependent on the number of people online.  On our last cruise, we were told that the best time to be online for the fastest speed was between 4am and 6am (because most of the crew was asleep by then and the passengers hadn’t yet awakened).  Also, we were told that if you can get closer to the wireless routers, you will fare better.  On our particular ship, there were routers in a lot of the public spaces.  It’s worth calling your cruise line and asking about internet service and what the speeds are really like & how to get the best speeds.  Don’t buy an internet package until you’ve researched this information.  One time, we ended up with a package we didn’t even use because the speeds were too slow and the experience too frustrating.
  9. Bring a sweatshirt or windbreaker even if it’s in the summer.  It may get cool in the evening on deck or it might be a little chilly inside a theater, casino, or dining room.
  10. Bring a backpack for your day trips.  They are really great for bringing water, rain gear, jackets, swimsuits, snacks or anything else you might need.  Since we don’t like to add a lot of bulk to our suitcases, we like these.
  11. Get to know the crew.  Learn a few words in their native languages.  Most of them are truly incredible people and are genuinely interested in making your time on board the best it can be.  Crew members also have shore days in the same places that the passengers go and they have often been to the same ports many times, so they are a great resource for finding out where to go and how to spend your time at each port.
  12. Bring rain jackets for rainy port days.  I learned the value of rain jackets living in the Pacific Northwest.  They are way more useful and work better to keep you dry than umbrellas.  They also don’t take up a lot of space.  If there’s ever a chance of rain on a port day, we roll them up and toss them in our backpacks.  If it rains, we simply put them on and continue to go about our day.  You can find an example here.  You don’t need the fully insulated ones – just the shell that makes a great outer waterproof layer.   They’re light and easily packable.

That’s all I’ve got right now, so please comment if you’ve learned something useful that’s not listed above.  We’re leaving in just four days to go on our next adventure, which happens to be a 60-day cruise to Southeast Asia…details to follow soon 🙂

 

Getting a Visa for China

Since we’re going to a couple of ports in China on our next cruise, we are required to get a visa.  I even read somewhere that they won’t let us on the cruise ship without the visa, since you can’t just stay on board in China if you don’t get the visa.  You *must* have the visa to be in port – even on the ship.  That being the case, we needed to head down to the Chinese Consulate General to get our visas.  Today was the day. Continue reading “Getting a Visa for China”

Four Days in Rome

Ok, just imagine me harnessing every ounce of my previous 7-year-old self, jumping up and down with glee, and shouting, “Rome is awesome!” Seriously, Rome is awesome!  We’ve been here for four days, our flight leaves tomorrow morning, and I’m not ready to go home.  Even though we’ve been gone for three weeks and I miss my own bed, my fully-stocked kitchen, and my bathroom full of LUSH products, I’d still love to stay here a bit longer.  Continue reading “Four Days in Rome”

Florence was a Bust…and a Photobomb

Planning is so important when traveling & I had everything mapped out for our day in Florence.  I researched the port of Livorno, the port city where we were to dock, as well as travel on the busses and trains.  I checked out all of the museums and other interesting sites.  I did comparison shopping for excursions and group tours.  I even looked at the restaurants beforehand, but things don’t always work out the way you plan them. Continue reading “Florence was a Bust…and a Photobomb”

Genoa – Trains & Hiking from Santa Margherita to Portofino

When Kayla and I were planning our trip, before we left the comforts of home behind (like high-speed internet), we decided that Portofino would be a better destination than another big city like Genoa (sorry, Genoa, no hard feelings).  Simply put, we fell in love with the photos we saw on the web.  It just looked gorgeous to us!  Plus, I had read somewhere that the walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino is just chock-full of postcard-worthy views.  Since we just had such a fabulous time hiking in Gibraltar, why not take another long walk (albeit this one not so grueling)?   Continue reading “Genoa – Trains & Hiking from Santa Margherita to Portofino”

Marseille – Errands, Vieux-Port, and a Random Stroll

Today was another good day, but we had to take a chunk of our sightseeing time to run some errands.  When traveling as long as we have, you are bound to need to revisit some of the more mundane things in life.  Think pay bills, buy supplies, send snail mail – that sort of thing.  Lucky for us, Marseille is a big city, so we knew it wouldn’t too difficult to do these things – even if we’d have to do it in broken French.  I won’t bore you with the details of us trying to find a place to call American Express to pay our bill.  I’ll stick with the better parts of the day 🙂 Continue reading “Marseille – Errands, Vieux-Port, and a Random Stroll”