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Everything posted by twangster

  1. Day 10 - Evening The bulk of this sea day is just like any other sea day. I did get some work done. Around 6pm I was in the vicinity of the North Star and there were no lines, so... Time change back to Pacific time tonight. Our progress...
  2. Day 10 - Sea Day Bridge Tour! How about a tour of the bridge of the largest cruise ship ever to visit Alaska? A cadet is charged with guiding our tour today. He is early in his nautical career and is currently spending a few months on various ships learning more about ship operations. Here is demonstrates the observation panel in the floor of the bridge wing so that the pier can be seen as the ship approaches it. It's very thick. The view down through the observational panel in the floor. The view aft. The Captain comes over to answer a few question and thank us for cruising with Ovation on this very special itinerary. Pretty good views forward as well. Quantum class are in the Guinness World Records. A pretty cool tour compliments of the Crown and Anchor Society for top levels of the program.
  3. Day 9 - Evening Crown and Anchor Top Tier event in Two70°. With the screens lowered the Vistarama was displaying the virtual fleet sailing behind us. I've seen this before on Anthem and it's impressive. On Anthem they presented the fleet starting with the Song of Norway slowly adding ships over the years. The video was originally created for a Board of Director's meting a few years ago and it's pretty impressive. Crown and Anchor numbers: Pinnacle 84, Diamond Plus 386, Diamond 598, Emerald 284, Platinum 476, Gold 999. Total 2,827 C&A members on board. With the evening progressing a sunset was in the making. Possibly the "worst" sea conditions so far. I ventured back to the aft Windjammer outdoor seating area for it. What fantastic weather we've had. Our progress... as we leave the Alaskan Inside Passage and re-enter the Pacific Ocean.
  4. Earlier I mentioned that the Prince and Greene store on board was being converted to offer Alaskan merchandise. It opened on day three. Here are some pictures. Having been on different classes of ships to Alaska it's not a bad little store. I've grabbed things in these types of stores before and every time I use it I am reminded of my Alaska experience. This is a great way to dispense of any extra OBC or on-bard credit you might have left over at this point.
  5. Day 9 - Afternoon Shortly after leaving Endicott Arm and re-entering the Inside Passage there were dozens of whales in the area. A tell tale sprout of water was the easiest way to spot them. Some were closer to the ship but many were more distant in just about every direction I looked. Our position as we started the trek to Seattle. Sometime after 4:30pm I headed down to the Diamond Lounge for happy hour while continuing to whale watch.
  6. The way back out Endicott Arm is still a pretty cool experience. Now with the sun higher in the sky and seeing it from the other direction resulted in equally impressive sightseeing. To prove the Arm is tidal here are some chucks of ice stranded from high tide. Waterfalls galore. Paid North Star Alaskan Experience rides continued. The inlet opens up as we move closer to the Inside Passage where we started. Ice like this doesn't hurt the ship, it basically bounces off.. A few days later on a bridge tour I learned they used the bow thrusters to push ice away from the ship. Time for my complimentary North Star ride. I had picked the first complimentary time slot of the day in the cruise planner before sailing. While this one doesn't go over the side of the ship there are still great views. Time 11:30am \ If I hadn't mentioned it before the North Star Bar offers great sightseeing views. It's hard to put into words but I could sit here all day and watch the landscape go by. Remember that sunrise shot early this morning? I spotted another Bald Eagle. Time for a beer. Okay I had two using my Crown and Anchor BOGO coupon. A small tour boat was entering the Arm. The complimentary North Ride Experience as we enter the Inside Passage in a time lapse captured as I drank my beer. Lastly, here is a time lapse from my balcony starting with our entrance to Endicott Arm through to re-entering the Alaskan Inside Passage.
  7. Dawes Glacier My reservation for the $49 North Star Alaskan Experience was for 10am. Best times for glacier viewing on this sailing were between 9am and 10am. This will vary for each sailing depending on arrival time and ice conditions. After check in for the North Star Alaskan Experience there is a waiting area in a roped off section of the North Star Bar. Hot chocolate is complimentary. As we waited the ship began it's turn. Incredible weather compared to the drizzle we sailed through earlier today. That's Alaska weather. The glacier is approximately 1 mile away at this point. this illustrates just how big it is - that's it's this visible from this distance.T When it was our turn we were led up to board the North Star. By the time we boarded North Star the ship had turned and pointed down the inlet in the direction had had arrived from. We started our way back down Endicott Arm. I used wide angle lens for this next shot so it makes the glacier look small but the views are pretty impressive. Seeing the ship from outside the ship really makes you appreciate the scale of the mountains beside us. Rotating out over the side of ship is pretty awesome. On Anthem the North Star only goes up and does a slight left/right move. This ride takes you right over the edge of the ship looking down at the glacial ice floating below us. It's a pretty awesome experience. When I first learned of the $49 charge I was skeptical but having done it at both Hubbard and Dawes Glaciers I am sold and would do it again on another cruise to Alaska. Plus I still had my complimentary ride in the North Star booked for later today.
  8. Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier, continued... It's been a struggle but here are some of my favorites pictures from several hundred taken this day. However I wanted people who are taking this awesome cruise to get a preview of what to expect so here comes a bunch of photos. After breakfast I ran back to my cabin to clean my lens. Looking forward to where we are going. Looking down from my balcony it's amazing to see these pieces of the glacier floating by so close to the ship. We had entered a section where there were a lot of small pieces of glacial ice. I remember this side channel from a previous cruise. It was estimated this is where the face of the glacier was ~100 years ago. Note the presence and size of trees. It takes several decades for trees of this size to arrive. Remember 100 years ago this was solid glacial ice and no vegetation was present as the ice moved down the channel. I like to move around the ship so back to the bridge wings off the Solarium. They were getting more crowded but people tended to move forward, take a picture and back away so someone else could. For those that sought to stay in place the Solarium has awesome views. Starboard bridge wing. Looking back where we came from. The walls of the canyon are very steep and drop off several hundred feet. We are in deep water. First signs of the glacier! Time 8:30am The paid North Star Alaskan Experience ride was carrying guests at this point. Larger pieces of glacial ice was becoming more common. These pieces are called growlers. Actual icebergs are pretty uncommon at these glaciers which tend to calve resulting in these smaller pieces which are harmless to the ship. We slowed and inched closer to the glacier. Each growler is unique and display what has been locked inside the glacier for scores of years. With my telephoto lens I was able to see the glacier quite clearly even at the distance of over a mile from where we were. Crowds where starting to form to take it all in. Large waterfalls line the sides of Endicott Arm. These are pretty massive and the volume of water in each is pretty impressive. I took a time lapse video approaching this point. The North Star Alaskan Experience review has been posted to Royal Caribbean Blog here: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2019/05/23/review-north-star-alaska-experience-ovation-of-the-seas
  9. Sometimes people sign up to an internet forum to vent or retaliate what they perceive to be a transgression or offense by a company. Valid or hyperbole is subjective. That's the nature of internet forums. You can ignore such posts, their intentions are usually pretty clear or respond with your own observations without moving to their level and using their methods of expressing a position. Maybe there is some validity to their position or some portions of it. Maybe the stars didn't line up on this cruise and it was a lesser experience compared to other cruises. Maybe it was self-inflicted. We'll never know since we weren't there.
  10. I think a lot of people become focused on Dawes Glacier and miss an incredible experience in Endicott Arm. Glaciers are cool but you can only take so many pictures of a glacier. Endicott Arm is constantly changing as you sail down it. For me it's as incredible as the glacier is if not more. While I was down here on deck 5 I thought I'd check out the outer viewing areas on this deck. I like being down here when we are sailing through lots of ice. I thought I saw something on a piece of darker ice. Sure enough a Bald Eagle was perched on the ice, watching. The surrounding terrain is pretty amazing. Remember that drizzle we sailed through? Beautiful blue skies now. That's Alaska weather. Incredible volume of water coming down these waterfalls. Time to head up for a different perspective. They were running the North Star on a test run without any passengers. The Solarium was a popular viewing location but I still prefer being outdoors and moving around too much to try to anchor in a chair. It really is pretty amazing. I knew we were getting closer and I didn't want to be fading at the glacier without anything in my stomach I popped into the Windjammer for a quick breakfast. Talk about a meal with a view! Time 7:34am
  11. I hadn't spent very much time in Two70° so I thought I'd pop in to show what the views are like while the ship is in a channel. First I passed through The Via.
  12. Day 9 - Approach to Endicott Arm Yesterday the Captain projected a 5am arrival to the mouth of Endicott Arm. Consequently I was up early and top side to capture it. Time 4:57am. The moon was clearly visible. This is the direction we are heading. That valley to the right of center is where we will be in an hour or so. Glacial ice coming towards us was a sign we are on the right path. This one struck me because at a distamce it looked like a small fishing boat. The sun was thinking about rising. The entrance to Endoctt Arm is close to the entrance of Tracy Arm and I suspect that is where this boat was heading. Looks like some rain in the distance. No worries, that's Alaska. It might look like a dead end but that is where Endicott Arm leads. On a growler, the name for medium sized chucks of glacial ice, I spotted a Bald Eagle keeping an eye on us. The ice was quite fascinating, very different sizes and shapes. Upon closer inspection this one had a small colony of birds on it. Time to move around and see it from another perspective. Time 5:51am.
  13. Day 8 - Evening What do you know? The North Star had a small line. The Haines-Skagway ferry was arriving. Sail away time. Back down the inlet we came up from Juneau. Time 8:34pm. So relaxing. Waterfalls on both sides. Movie diehards wrapped in blankets. Sunset sky over Haines as we sail past once again. Time 9:22pm. This is why I tend to miss many shows when on an Alaskan cruise. Time 9:34pm.
  14. Skagway continued I asked our driver leaving Jewell Gardens if they could drop me off in town. The town isn't very big and walkable. You can see a different ship in the distance, it's not that far. I really like Skagway because it has a fascinating history related to the Klondike Gold Rush. Even though there was no gold right in this area when gold was discovered in the Klondike Skagway and the neighboring native community of Dyea were a popular route for steamships full of would be millionaires arriving from places like San Francisco. Part of that history includes the Red Onion Saloon which was actually one of the larger brothels in Skagway. Today there are women who will gladly accept your money in exchange for a tour of the former brothel upstairs. Downstairs it's simply a popular bar and restaurant. With a thirst satisfied I found something new I've never tried before in Skagway. A Klondike Doughboy. Broadway Street as it is pictured here today was not anything like this in the peak of the gold rush. The National Park Service owns much of Skagway and they moved these buildings over the years into this downtown area bringing the buildings together when they were spread out across the valley back in the day. The National Park Service has a great job and has several areas setup that describe the history of Skagway. To reach the Klondike, stampeders needed to climb into the mountains and there were two routes from this area. The first through Dyea and the second through Skagway up the White Pass. The Canadian border isn't far from the top of the White Pass but Canadian officials were finding hundreds of stampeders arriving with no supplies and no means to feed themselves so they introduced a requirement for anyone arriving at the border destined to the Klondike to have ample supplies, nearly two thousands pounds worth to sustain themselves for their trek across Canada to the Klondike. Therein lies the tortuous effort to climb into the mountains with all the supplies required to proceed and that presented business opportunities to capitalize on the stampeders. Therein lies the real stories of Skagway. The Park Service has this saloon set in the period on display along the main street. The Park service also has set up displays such as this one throughout the town. From the quote on the sign they've created this bronze monument to the stampeders. Here is what Skagway really looked like. It was mostly a tent city. National Park Service Website - Klondike Gold Rush With a growing hunger I stumbled across the Skagway Brewing Company. Prospector Pale Ale. Alaskan Halibut and Chips. Brewed on site they have a wide variety of beer available. It turned into a fantastic day and the brewery's patio was starting to fill up. Back around town a lot of these buildings are from the period. The White Pass and Yukon Route railway is a popular excursion to do. It was a gorgeous day reaching just over 70°F which in May is unheard of. Back to the ship... Remember that picture from the start of the day? Look how much the tide has lifted the ship.
  15. For my excursion they had a motor coach waiting for the eight of us so we boarded our very large bus and made our way 10 minutes to the edge of town. Today my "Glass Blowing Experience" would be held at Jewell Garden. We were led to a waiting area where we could see other local or non-cruise visitors at work. Shortly after arriving we were led to our work shop and Sam, our master glass blowing artist and guide. They have sample colors and patterns that we could pick from for our custom creation. We were given a safety briefing and provided a smock and protective eyewear. Seeking a volunteer to kick off our group of 5 adults and 3 children I jumped up to go first. My colors included a white base and party mix of multiple colors. Sam escorted me over to the oven that keeps glass at over 2100 °F where he dipped a metal rod into the liquid glass and expertly gathered some on my pole. From here we took over to a smaller oven we would use several times to keep the glass at a high temperature as we would through the various phases. Rolling and spinning the pole I could see the liquid glass wanting heating up into a more fluid but still thick substance. We quickly moved over to the color trays and dabbed the molten glass into the colors before returning to the oven to keep it all very hot. Here is another participant's color going on their glass. Sam handled the rod for the most part and had us "help" by putting our hands on the pole and following his movements. After giving an initial puff of air into the cool end of the hollow pole to start the process of making a glass globe we went back and forth to the heating oven several times to keep the temperature up. Sam used a waterlogged wooden spoon to shape the glass so that we would end up with a round ball instead of some weird shape. The work table is set up with a tube we could blow into that inflated the ball at Sam's direction. As a result it is our breath captured inside the glass globe for all of time. The colors are subdued at this point in the super heated state but as it later cools they will return. Sam expertly cut our creation from the pole where we had a choice of a glass loop to hang it from or a glass flat base so it could sit on a table. Once completed the glass globes where placed in a oven to keep them around 900 °F from where they will be slowly cooled to set the glass otherwise if left out to cool in the air they would shatter if the glass cools too quickly. Shipping is included so we all should get our creations in the coming weeks. The process was repeated for all 8 participants including the family with kids. It's actually a pretty cool activity as a family as everyone picks their custom colors and participates to create the globe. New clean mouthpieces are placed on the tube we blow into for each participant so that it's hygienic. After we concluded this portion we were free to explore the grounds and visit the glass blown display center then to a restaurant they have on site. We were offered a complimentary beer or wine and a small plate of tasty snacks. They have a model train that runs around the track. I confess i did purchase a few more items in their shop. For a nominal shipping fee it should all arrive at home shortly. While not a typical Alaskan excursion I'll have a lasting memory to take me back to the experience and Skagway every time I look at it.
  16. Day 8 - Skagway Looking back down the channel in the direction towards Haines. We followed the Millennium up from Juneau where we shared the port the day before. She went in first so we could hang off the end of the pier. It had the makings of a beautiful day. One thing about the crew on Ovation - they pressure wash the decks every morning. On several occasions I've been chased off them when taking morning pictures. Arriving into Skagway and the decks were closed so they could pressure wash them. Back here at the Windjammer outdoor eating section the deck was open but overspray from activities one deck above us made the whole area very wet and challenging to use without getting soaked. So much for the inaugural visit to Skagway. In Skagway there is a floating dock where the gangways are set because the tidal changes are pretty large. Here on the fixed section of the pier you can see the effect of the tides with Two70° and deck 5 almost at the level of the pier. There was some drama getting to this point. I met at the requested time for my Royal excursion in the main theater. There we waited, and waited. Roughly 45 minutes later we were called in the first group of excursion to go off. Apparently the pier dock workers are unionized. Once the ships lines were set and the forklift ready to put the gangway into place a union break was called. Some words had been exchanged so their break became "extended". So we sat and waited, making us late for our scheduled arrival. At meal with an officer later in the cruise the hotel director said in all his years he had never seen anything like it. At the end of the pier near the security entrance a dozen excursion operators held up signs but it's a rather small area and it was difficult to move around of find my excursion. Eventually I did and we were directed to venture over to a less crowded area where a second excursion guide was waiting. I know some readers are looking at fishing tours in Skagway. The entrance to the small boat marina is very convenient and less than a minute walk from the security gate to the pier. They have a sign board to help you find your charter. For my excursion they had a motor coach waiting for the eight of us so we boarded our very large bus and made our way 10 minutes to the edge of town. Today my "Glass blowing Experience" would be held at Jewell Garden.
  17. Looked at it. If they included Hubbard again or even Sitka I might have booked it. On the fence.
  18. I've sailed a number of times now since The Key program has been available. Only once have I purchased it when I did the review on the initial Key cruise on Oasis in November. I've cruised six times without buying The Key as a D+ with the Key available for purchase. I've experienced zero impact to my D+ benefits. As far as I am concerned I am glad Royal has a developed a new source of revenue that doesn't require me to buy into it or have any impact to me. This means they can keep the cost of cruising low for the rest of us without cutting service levels. I have no problem with that. The most impact was one sailing when Key guest were called to board after suites but before D+. This "delayed" the D+ call by 47 seconds. Yep, I boarded 47 seconds later that I would have otherwise. No big deal. No impact.
  19. Still a perk, had one on Ovation last week. This was an top elite heavy cruise with many D+ and P so the meal was in the MDR away from everyone else. There were 10 tables each with 6-8 guests at them. Choice of red or white wine that they kept pouring when my glass was 1/2 empty. Our table had a Hotel Director. Understand it's not a one-on-one lunch with an officer but shared with other 340+ guests which is usually kind of cool because they ask questions I haven't thought of. Opposite my experience. I've quite enjoyed them. I've had meals from Chops, Jamie's or special items from the galley. You may not always get the Captain at your table but every officer has something unique to contribute. I've don't recall being asked to sign up. I just get the card in my cabin stating the time and venue. Sometimes you get lucky and sit right next to the Captain, sometimes you are at the other end of the table and it's a lower level officer but generally speaking most officers have been around a little while and there is always something I get out of them, if nothing else than a meal and as much wine as i can drink (in the middle of the day). I also enjoy the free bridge tour, galley tour and entertainment tours. You learn something different every time.
  20. For any Alaska cruisers who have Icy Strait Point (ISP) as a port of call here is a handout that was provided by Royal during a recent cruise that called on ISP. ISP.PDF
  21. For all you Seattle Alaska cruisers flying to your cruise be aware that the Port of Seattle offers a free luggage valet. This program is offered free by the Port of Seattle and does not carry a charge like the Luggage Valet program offered by Royal Caribbean at some Florida based ports. Luggage valet is a program for those flying from SeaTac (SEA) airport. You register around day 3 of the cruise providing your flight details then later in the cruise you will be provided special luggage tags for any checked bags you plan to fly home with. On the last night of the cruise you place your luggage out in the hall and it will be delivered to the airport and your airline for you. You don't have to handle your luggage again until you arrive at your destination airport. To take advantage of this program there are eligibility criteria: You must disembark between 7am and 9:15am Your flight must depart at 12pm or later the same day that you disembark. You must be flying from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac, SEA) You must have a confirmed airline reservation Participating Airlines: American Airlines Alaska Airlines JetBlue Airways Delta Airlines (domestic only) United Airlines Southwest Airlines (flights between 12pm and 6pm only) Any baggage fees charged by your airline will still apply. Remember to NOT pack any medication, valuables, identification and documentation like passports plus a change of clothes for the day you disembark. Here is the luggage valet form that should be delivered to your cabin around day 3 of your cruise: SEA Luggage Valet.PDF
  22. Day 8 - Early Another stretch in the Alaskan Inside Passage from Juneau to Skagway, Progress so far... Up early again looking for a sunrise. I found one, plus a rainbow. I found the location of the pot of gold! Now I just need to raise some money for an expedition or maybe a helicopter, A hanging glacier. This stretch of the Inside Passage has some stunning scenery. The town of Haines where I picked up some cell signal that was a lot faster than the ship's Voom internet this far North, Haines is a short distance from Skagway by ship so I knew we were getting close to today's destination.
  23. Day 7 - Juneau - continued After the glacier flight it was such a nice day I wanted to go up the Mt. Roberts Tramway to catch the view. Lines were short and I knew they would get longer later so up I went. A ticket on the spot was $35. Stunning views. Celebrity Millennium There are a series of trails, some short, some long. The short trail has some wood carvings on display, some in the form of mini totem poles. You can walk up the trail from town but it's not for the weak knee'd. inside the restaurant and shop area they have a bear on display. Wood carvers using only hand tools can be observed. Lady Baltimore is a rescue Bald Eagle that is unreleasable back into the wild. She spends her summers in residence near the top of the tramway but unfortunately hadn't arrived yet for this season. Time to head back down. A video from inside a tram as we went up. Back on the ship I saw the North Star in operation. However it was performing maintenance runs only and not accepting guests when I was there. In better light compared to our early morning arrival here is Juneau "downtown". As I walked the upper deck I noticed a strange mist hanging in the trees. It's pollen being released by the trees. It was kind of cool. Suddenly one tree would let loose it's pollen as if someone flipped a pollen switch on. A look over at the Millennium looking quite nice with her recent refresh. After dinner I went back up top side for a sunset. Returning to my cabin I discovered a crystal block gift from the Crown and Anchor Society for crossing a threshold on this sailing. The first block is awarded at 140 points and then every 70 points thereafter.
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