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Everything posted by mk-ultra

  1. ALWAYS use the Royal Caribbean app to see what "ship time" is. That's what your boarding time in port is based on. In the app, even across time changes, it will show you what ship time is. To add some extra confusion to this -- ship time is up to the master's choice. It's not standardized all the time crossing international time zones (so your phone/watch may fake you out). Your daily planner (paper or app) will note time changes, usually. To keep in sync with ship time you can turn off the auto function on your phone and manually set it. If you booked the shore excursion through Royal, they'll (to the best of their ability) hold the ship --and failing that, try to get you to the next port. If you booked the excursion on your own, you're on your own.
  2. My last bit of fun (not) was dealing with Marriott's billing for my stay at the JW Marriott Parq. There's probably a better word to describe it, but totally f-ed up is a start. 3 calls and the same number of emails later I'm starting to see charges reversed and credit given. Still waiting on a last version of my folio to see if we're square, but I think we're close at this point. Marriott has gone radio silent. Not a cruise thing. But for y'all doing FH&R with AMEX a caveat.: You need to audit your folios like a hawk. I've done this rodeo a few times previously. Lotte hotel did it perfectly; Marriott not so much. When I called in to correct, Marriott added CAD $271.84 to my bill. In USD, that doesn't line up with anything I could possibly be charged for... a week+ after checking out. I finally gave up trying to deal with Marriott and sic'd AMEX Travel on them since they're technically my TA for the hotel booking. That got traction immediately. LOL and go AMEX. I'd already checked out from the Lotte, but AMEX put out a Lotte hotel offer today before the charge posted to my account. $100 back. Squee!
  3. Still batting clean-up on this trip. Another highlight was the bridge tour. If you're a nerd, please do it. You won't be disappointed. Sometimes you get to go right to the middle of the bridge, but this one (like the last) put us in one of the bridge wings off to the side. You aren't missing anything -- there are repeater consoles and controls there mirroring everything you'd see. Security is TIGHT. Like one security officer for every 3 of us, and you'll be wanded. They had one of the four main generators down for maintenance. They're electrical generators that create a pool of electricity to power both propulsion and "hotel" (the rest of the ship), not motors directly driving the props. They have two big gens, two smaller ones, and a couple of aux ones that just do hotel duty. They also do some pretty major maintenance underway -- including yanking one from service and doing top-end rebuilds like removing and re-ringing pistons. With all four online they have 90MW on-tap. With 3 they can still do 22 knots. We were joined by a young guy in a white engineering jumpsuit, who graciously answered my nerd questions by the wing console (just privately -- I wasn't asking them for our little group). At one point, I did ask a non-nerd question for the entire group. "What was your path to becoming a bridge engineering officer?" Sticking my foot squarely in my mouth. "Sir, I'm second officer on the watch." 1. Not engineering. 2. I'm not "sir", that was my father. 3. Jeebus, who let kids be watch officers? 4. I'm old. The "kid" is a fully-qualified, college educated officer who worked their ass off to get the hours and experience to confuse me by wearing an engineer's coveralls. I still gave him shit for being out of uniform on the bridge. Turnabout is fair play.
  4. Disembarking (with a Genie) is pretty damn near magical. Seriously, at least 50% of the value of having a Genie is how friction-less they make everything. I used the old "go up to go down" trick to get down to deck 5 with my two bags to meet our Genie at the Shore Excursion desk. I'm glad that one still works. We (all of Yen's charges) bypassed the entirety of disembarking drama and parted ways when we reached the CBP checkpoint. Taxi rank was about 20 minutes. Not bad. Another 15 to the Lotte hotel with a lovely driver who moved here 15 years ago. She was sweet. At Lotte, dropped my bags at the entry bell desk, checked in at the 16th floor reception, and got another winner of an FH&R room upgrade. Decor here is all Philippe Starck, but a little more marble-y than any of the other hotels he's done. Still, pushes my buttons in a happy way. Lotte is a South Korean hotel brand, and they definitely have already shown an APAC level of excellence US hotels forgot a couple of decades ago. Immediately left the hotel to be a tourist. Pike Place Market is a ~13 minute walk away. Caveat: I'm all legs. I've been there before, so quick advice: yes, it's touristy as all get out. No, it is NOT a junky tourist trap. There are fantastic eateries, fantastic meat, spice, tea and produce markets... high-end cutlery, local artist stalls... and (of course) a wide selection of tourist trinkets and clothing. The surrounding 3-4 blocks are also all packed with a wealth of choices for all of the above. I went for crab cakes and a couple of pints of one of my favorite Elysium IPAs (local beer) at Lowell's. We get Elysium in SF too, but they have a giant selection on tap here. Yay! Followed Pike's up with a little retail therapy. Went to the Pendleton store for a couple of shirts, and then some very important kitchen supplies:
  5. @tangster’s advice is spot-on about splitting things between bags. I also ALWAYS split one form of ID and a credit card / cash. One set in my pocket and one set in my carry-on backpack. Its one hell of a shock to think you lost your wallet right before needing to check into a hotel. Fortunately I found mine after I’d left the ship… stuffed into the wrong zip pocket in my backpack. Definitely a high-BP moment though.
  6. Towel buddies all lined up for self-assist departure tomorrow morning. Dudes, gonna need a bigger bag to get you through customs.
  7. Did a quick 2.5 hours ashore in Victoria. Not enough time to really explore, but fine for a nice walk to the wharf and a crab fight. Came back to a Genie gift. Carved wood salad serving set with Tligit style eagles on the handles. Awesome! It's really is a personalized gift -- Yen knew I loved cooking. Her two other cabins got different, equally well thought out gifts. I spent some time looking for some sort of a Tligit raven to take home that piqued my fancy (no joy -- eagles everywhere). In Tligit mythology, the raven is the one who releases mankind from a clam shell. The raven is also a notorious trickster. I like the raven. Eagle is beautiful, but raven is me. A lot of Tligit art has raven, man and clam on one side... and all the other animal spirits on the other having a, "WTF did you do, raven?" moment of stern stares.
  8. Day 7 - Victoria BC Brief update since I’m still doing it, but ship docked at 1700 and hit the gangway at 1730. Immediately got on the path that follows the harbor counter-clockwise. Er, Canada. ANTI-clockwise. About 8 or 9 minutes into walkies hit Fisherman’s Wharf, which was bustling. OK… must check out. Oh, seafood shack with local beer flights? I’m in. Unfortunately, there was a very obnoxious 2lb Dungeness crab in a tank talking smack. FOB kinda attitude. So we had it out. Armed with the mallet of goodness, taught the miscreant a lesson. And I swear, the deadly goose from Vancouver found me again. Just creepily staring me down If you want to brutalize a Dungee, don’t dally. The Fish Store (aka the place with crab) starts rolling up the carpet around 1830. Glad I did it first thing off the ship.
  9. On Quantum now, heading for Victoria today. Last brief stop before disembarking in Seattle tomorrow. Happy to report that Starlink has been very usable for 99% of the cruise — almost everywhere on the ship. One or two minor blips here and there, but no real issues. I was able to do work stuff (ugh) including both SSL and IPSEC VPN and a couple of Webex video meetings.
  10. This is rough. Anyone who has read my drivel has probably noticed I don't feel a need to be exactly linear on timelines. So, here goes: Day 5 - Juneau Did the "Last Frontier Food Tour" Because I'm a lazy douchebag, here's the rain-soaked itinerary I've cobbled together: Started at Taku Smokeries, and nibbled on what are called smoked salmon wings. Near as I can tell, it's belly salmon meat. Small, tasty bites. Be prepared to smell like smoked salmon from that point on. Next up, Tracy's King Crab Shack. This is the one of the two places you want to go to be fed if you do Juneau on your own. Had king crab bisque, a world-class mini crab cake and a salted roll. I'll abbreviate and mostly ignore the rest. The stop that competed with Tracy's was Deckhand Dave's for rockfish tacos. It's a food truck atmosphere and the beer and rockfish tacos there pleased everyone. As always, I mostly eat food... rather than photograph it. Also visited Harbor Spice & Tea, Crystal Saloon for a blueberry mojito, and got a half pound of fudge. 2.5 hours of assorted food and drink, but doesn't equal a meal. Worth doing, but if you only have time to do one thing: make it Tracy's King Crab Shack.
  11. Didn’t order. Just a Genie surprise since I mentioned food I’m fond of.
  12. My best absorbent party buddies found the still-wrapped RFID enabled soda cup I didn’t even notice. Booze doesn’t go into it.
  13. The “surprise” in-cabin lunch was both fantastic and overwhelming. 3 level cart shows up. OK. They put 3 covered dishes on the cabin dining table. Smells awesome! Cool Then they unload the second level of the cart. My eyebrow goes up. More? Then they unload the 3rd level. Dear god. Table is totally covered with food. Then the plates and silverware for 4 people (I’m solo). I’m beginning to think I’m being pranked. So, view of lunch facing our wake: No description of the food as it was unloaded onto the table, but I’m decent at IDing grub, so here goes: Crispy Filipino lechon (pork belly) with a dipping sauce I’m pretty sure was soy sauce, vinegar, green onion and a little cane sugar. Adobo chicken drumsticks. Adobo-ish pork (only meh thing). On the Indian side: Chicken tikka masala Vegetable basmati Chana masala Raita and a bunch of papadums.
  14. Bah. Cafe270 has a “Kummelweck” roast beef sandwich. One of my RC favorites. Served on a rock-hard, dried-out cumin seed (not caraway) roll: fail. Served with industrial brown gravy, not au jus: fail. Just call it a shitty roast beef sandwich and stop maligning the mighty Kummelweck At least they were playing some Tom Waits in 270. Unexpected nice surprise
  15. There are two guys working our rear cabins: Kumal and Mark. I think Kumal is the section leader (dark uniform) and Mark is the attendant. Kumal appears to be the towel animal genius. Both are amazing dudes.
  16. Okay, where the hell did I leave off? I've been deliberately doing all the things -- especially ignoring my work laptop and phone. Conscious decision to be a bit more disconnected on this cruise, because, well, 3 years of not enough vacation time. So, armed with a Corona in the cabin, picking back up from yesterday: Day 4 - Sitka 1000 arrival in Sitka. 1145 Tongass Forest Nature Hike. The hike is billed as "moderate" with +-300' elevation changes, mostly over trail stairs. Some other non-stepped inclines/declines. The hike begins from the "Mosquito Cove" trailhead, about a 5 minute van ride north from the port. Promising name. Almost foreshadowing (but not really). I'll start with the track I recorded using the GaiaGPS app. It's the one I use for serious bizzness hiking or off-roading. It may help picture what we hiked: The trailhead is at the south end of that almost totally north/south bit starting where the road crosses it SW to NE. The Mosquito Cove trail is actually a "loop" trail, but we only did about 1/2 of it... heading north along the water for maybe .75 mile with frequent stops to have some history / nature explained to us. One naturalist specializing it botany in front, one college student doing a work/study program bringing up the tail end to make sure someone didn't get eaten by a bear or something. Naturalist guide was very good (and kinda saucily funny). Student had a bit of a moose-in-the-headlights thing, but warmed up when everyone engaged her. Learned a lot about the flora and fauna, and the, "volcanic top soil that has a pH which means we don't have mosquitos here." It took everything I had in me to not raise the hand (I was using to slap a mosquito off of my neck) and ask how the loop trail got its name. After the N/S out-and-back we hoofed it about 1/2 mile back west down the road and then joined another trail (the squiggly bit at the bottom of the track). This one did a half loop through a slightly different ecosystem, climbing up to a marshy/bog area very different from anything else we'd seen. Lots of varying spruce, hemlock (the tree kind, not the poison your emperor or philosopher kind) and some very pretty yellow flowers (skunk something -- I'll dig the name up). The older ones live up to the name... not in a gross way, but a vaguely "I think I smell a skunk" way. Came across two of my favorite AK plants: A really big Devil’s Club and some Cow Parsnip Go ahead and touch ‘em. Free entertainment for the rest of us I think GaiaGPS was very accurate on GPS track, distance and time for this hike. Don't let the 113' foot ascent number throw you off. Every foot you go up, you come down (hopefully). Make sure you have shoes that don't jam your toes going downhill. That gets old, fast. Glad I brought all my usual hiking duds and not just the around town stuff. Weather was good to excellent. Rain didn't really start until we'd pulled away from the dock. Photo dump: Din-din was at Wonderland. Slightly hit-and-miss. Mostly hit. Miss: tomato water served in a test tube with some oddball sodium alginate molecular gastronomy "sphere" in it. That stuff was done to death by Grant Achatz a decade ago and needs to be sent to wherever things like that go to die. Miss: vegetable garden thing served on the weirdest deformed bean shaped "plate" ever -- guaranteed to dump your silverware in your lap at least twice. Water-logged veg allegedly blanched, served on some tasteless "soil" -- with (god help me) bear scat looking chunks of freeze-dried foie gras. Absolutely nothing about it worked. Except the one, lonely, slightly pickled beet. The beet should just be served on it's own shining dish where it can be properly admired. Don't F with the beet. Hit: crispy crab cone. Top layer is a gauc-like avocado puree, with crab below, and at the very bottom of the cone a little wasabi land mine to clear your sinuses. I love wasabi. Hit: crispy wrapped (and sadly only one) shrimp with a habanero foam to dip it in. Win. WIN. WIN. More shrimp, please. Foam had some heat to it, but nothing that will send you running to put your mouth (or other end) out. Hit: tuna tartare, served in a scooped out lime, with a citrus granita and some tobico eggs on top. Bonus when you sneak some of the leftover habanero foam over to that plate. Hit: entree was the branzino with a kinda fake skin on top made from finely crushed panko, some jasmine rice underneath, surrounded by a sweet/sour tamarind sauce. Win. I don't know what it is with RCI and branzino, but it's always been one of my faves no matter how they prepare it. Mostly miss: dessert was that massive chocolate "world" globe they melt down with some hot caramel sauce. It's got some peanut butter ice cream inside sitting on top of a chocolate ganache. Meh. That's dessert overkill -- like fire-hosing the room with sugar syrup. Too much going on for it to really taste like anything. I dare you to let your kid have one and chase it with a double-espresso. Tomorrow is a sea day. Bridge tour, custom Filipino lunch served in my cabin (go Yen -- Genies pull off some cool stuff even without explicitly asking)! First time I've ever had room service / in-room dining on a ship. I'm usually low-touch. Then a bridge tour. Then Escape Room. Then Jamie's. Then totally face-plant. I'll try to backtrack and write-up Day 5 tomorrow. Last Frontier Food Tour.
  17. I’m sticking with “aardvark with bondage fetish.”
  18. No starfish yet, sadly. I’ll figure out where to fit it into my animal party if one appears.
  19. Yuppers. Grilled tomato. I used to kinda scoff at them, but they grow on you after your one-thousandth Full English.
  20. Obligatory nerd content. Internet speed is still holding up (other than the Solarium). 55N.
  21. The trip to Annette Island for the "Wildlife Safari & Beach Bonfire" was worth it. It's about a ~40 minute boat ride from the cruise dock to the island, where they lightly beach the boat and you climb down a ladder from the bow to lightly beach your person. On arrival, the "bonfire" has already been lit. Okay, they're doing a little marketing. It's a damn campfire. One over which you will roast some reindeer sausages if you desire. Take that, Rudolph. Plenty of beer. You get about an hour to poke around the beach area, but you aren't at risk of going far. The hillsides leading to the beach/cove are steep and the ground above the beach is an impressive (I mean that genuinely) pile of blow-down timber. HUGE timber. Boat has two captains, a deck hand and a naturalist giving a play-by-play on the PA while you're underway. Saw multiple whale spouts, a couple of breaches, and a ridiculous bunch of adult and juvy bald eagles trying to get themselves a herring-run brunch. Boat returned a bit late, so no Chef's Table for me tonight. I'll trade extra time seeing what we all saw today, all in good company, over Chef's Table any day. Tomorrow: Sitka, with a Tongass Forest Nature Hike.
  22. You can’t leave the damn towel animals unsupervised for a second.
  23. Lunch with a view from CK. Caesar salad. Roasted chicken (yum) with a weird, cold “farro and veg risotto.” You're not allowed to use farro and risotto in the same sentence. Not yum. Crème brûlée with a side of snow-capped mountain.
  24. Passing what I believe is Annette Island, which is where the excursion boat will be taking us for our hike and bonfire thingy in a few hours.
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