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twangster

Explorer Alaska 6/22/18 - 7 Nights RCLBlog Group Cruise!

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Absolutely gorgeous photos of the glass museum, @twangster! Really wishing I could be on that trip with all of you, or any GC that's coming up, but as with @KLAconQueso I've got life getting in my way for the foreseeable future. Maybe in 2020, if I don't have something else booked by the time Matt announces the group cruises for that year...

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On 6/21/2018 at 1:00 AM, twangster said:

T minus 2 days.

Bags packed.  Boarding pass printed.  SetSail pass printed.  Luggage tags ready.  Check, check, check and check.  I think I'm ready. 

Amazingly I don't feel like I forgotten anything, which means in about 10 hours at 35,000' I will remember exactly what I forgot.  Such is cruising.

For the flight to Seattle tomorrow I have a 6am departure.  I had plenty of choices of flight times all day but I chose 6am so I could visit something in Seattle I've always wanted but haven't been able to yet.  The Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the base of the Space Needle.  I'm a sucker for blown glass so I'm looking forward to this as a pre-cruise excursion.

I'm flying with Delta, my favorite airline since I am heavily vested in it's frequent flier program.  At 13,500 Skymiles this may be the cheapest round trip flight I've booked using frequent flier miles.  A direct flight was available departing later and arriving at nearly the same time but at several thousand more miles so I chose a connection in Salt Lake City given the early time of day plus day before cruise booking.  Connections don't bother me since I've flown a bunch.  Loyalty pays - I've been upgraded to first class on both segments.  Not bad for an 'award' ticket.

My son is joining me on this cruise flying in from the East coast.  With a Friday to Friday cruise itinerary it meant an extra day of vacation for him so another day on top of that to fly in the day before was a problem.  He doesn't get that much time off at this point in his career.  He elected to fly in the day off the cruise, something I tend to avoid.  Flying from the East coast the time change is working in his favor.  Fingers crossed.

I booked my cruise through MEI Travel and added the official hotel for the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise when it was offered oh so long ago.  Time flies, it's almost cruise day!   Shout out to Jacki York at MEI Travel for proactively checking each and every sale over several months to verify I had the best price.

Our cabin on this cruise is an interior with virtual balcony.  A full balcony cabin was nearly twice the price, per person of course.  I did an Alaskan cruise last year on Celebrity with a balcony.  One Alaska lesson I learned last year was that good excursions can be pricey.  Alaska excursions are well worth the price in my opinion to experience Alaska however adding up the total cost of a vacation experience on my second Alaska cruise I chose to spend money favoring excursions that were my second choice from last year over the cabin so interior virtual balcony it is.  Basically by booking an interior cabin we got our excursions 'included' compared to the cost of booking a balcony.  

Excursions this time around:

Juneau

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Skagway

(The description read much better when I booked it!)

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Victoria

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Booked during various sales it definitely pays to book excursions early and watch sales.  Most of them have increased in price over the months since booking.  I booked our excursions with enough time for us to self explore before or after as weather permits.  Alaska here we come!

With that it's time to close my laptop and pack it, else I might forget it in the morning at oh-dark-early when my ride arrives to carry me to the airport.

You will love the photo safari.  I did it in 2012, and it is one of my favorite excursions ever! 

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Day 1 - Seattle

In the "things that make you go hmmm..." department, I noted the hotel ironing board was behind the cross bar to hang clothes on.  You can't stand in front of it pass it under the bar (it hits your feet).  It can't go over the bar (it hits the ceiling).  Hmmm.

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Finally it's time to head down to the shuttle arranged by MEI Travel for the Group Cruise.  On my way down the hotel hallway I passed a room and saw some luggage in the hallway with ship tags on them.  Mind you this is the hotel before the cruise. 

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I hope those people didn't leave thinking that just like on the last night aboard you put your luggage out in the hall and it is magically collected for you.

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7 minutes ago, twangster said:

Day 1 - Seattle

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I hope those people didn't leave thinking that just like on the last night aboard you put your luggage out in the hall and it is magically collected for you.

 

That or they have the wrong cruise line. 🤔 DCL actually does do that for you if you stay at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando Airport (but you leave your luggage inside the room).

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Port of Seattle

We arrived with quite a few other cars at 10:15am.  It was pretty busy with two ships worth of passengers arriving.  The terminal is used for both ships, Explorer on the left, Celebrity Solstice on the right. 

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Typical boarding day routine.  Show your passport and SetSail pass, go through security, show them again, find your line and check in.  Suites/Pinnacle had a clearly marked entrance.  Despite the passengers streaming in it was all very fast and efficient.  No time to take any pictures before checking in.  No line, walked right up to an awaiting agent who took my photo and gave me my SeaPass card. 

The typical medical questionnaire was done verbally.  Have you been sick, had a fever, etc.    Check in complete in record time it was off to the waiting area.  There was no separate waiting areas based on C&A levels.

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This area is shared with the other ship and it was cozy.

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Typical stands set up to punch your card and sell you a lanyard.

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Fortunately they soon opened the doors to the ship and off we went.  Boarding started around 10:40am.

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Best of all I beat @Matt !  (I had an unfair advantage, no kids with me)

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My son had landed while I was still at the hotel with his flight arriving early.  He pulled into the port just after boarding started and he reported no lines, no people, never stopping, just a super easy check in and walk out to the ship.  I had done a quick scope and just made it up to the pool deck when he boarded. 

To put the pier area in perspective, here is Seattle and the Space Needle from the ship.

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Celebrity Solstice beside us.  At 1pm when I took this photo the cars in the arrival area where minimal.  The gray building is the terminal.  The corner closest is where Explorer guests entered and the corner furthest is where Solstice guests entered.  The drop area is shared so have your luggage tags on and make sure to ask the porter which ship their cart is for.

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All in all a very easy embarkation.

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Group Cruise Lava Flow Meet Up!

Viking Crown Lounge

Here is Matt scoping as the bartender prepares one of many batches of Kraken Lava Flows.

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This would be our second and third lava flow having introduced my son to them shortly after he arrived.  Yum.

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Muster complete sail away with the Solstice starting first and soon after we followed. 

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Great views of downtown in the distance as we pulled out and turned into the harbor.

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Matt was... scoping of course!  That's him at the railing with his iPad surrounded by several members of the Royal Caribbean Blog team.

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Some fellow blog readers approached me with an issue they were having with their travel router.  They invited me back to their cabin to take a quick look.  The deck 12 panorama suite tour they offered was too good to pass up.

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What an incredible view forward!

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That complete my son and I decided to do the Windjammer for dinner.  It was empty and we had our choice of aft view seating.

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I decided we should check out the Peak-a-boo bridge where you can look down into the bridge.

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Just off Port Angeles we started a distinct turn back in the direction we had come from.  I thought maybe there was a medical situation but it turns out our harbor pilot was getting off the ship.  They turned the ship to give the pilot boat shelter from the wind to make it safer to approach and pick up the pilot.  By this point we had overtaken the Solstice as we have further to go and were running faster to get there.  If you look close you see the pilot boat waiting for the Solstice to approach and drop off her pilot as well.

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My son was exhausted from his early flight and coming from the East coast the 3 hour difference caught up to him so he went to bed.  I saw the makings of a sunset through the overcast and found the deck 4 outer decks the only place to catch it.

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It was very cool and we had a strong wind so they closed the upper decks and helipad access.  I grabbed this photo of the pool deck as I sought places to capture the sunset.

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Since I have the drink package my route between photo locations somehow included a bar along the path.  Here is the Promenade as I made my way back down to deck 4.

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I am trying a new camera this cruise and decided to push the limits a bit to see what I could away with.  This is a 1/3 second shutter speed trying to create some motion blur in the waves while hoping for a clear and steady picture of the ship.  I think it turned out pretty good.

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Same trick looking aft.

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As the sun continued to set there were some lovely pastel colors presented in the mountains surrounding us on both sides of this passage between Canada to our North and America to our South.  Combined with varying levels of cloud coverage it was very pretty.  This was shortly after 9pm.

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Back inside I happened across "The Tavern" in the Boleros area on other ships.  This is kind of a sports bar at times but also used for things like Karaoke.

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To the pub for a beer and some pub music.

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I ventured back outside and again did some experimenting with my camera.  By this point the moon was out and combined with gaps in the cloud coverage it created some dramatic scenes.

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I ran into the @cookingyo s at the Schooner Bar and sat with them for a while.  It was getting late and time for bed so I hopped in an elevator and made my way back to my cabin.  Saturday already.

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Day one complete.

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1 hour ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

That or they have the wrong cruise line. 🤔 DCL actually does do that for you if you stay at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando Airport (but you leave your luggage inside the room).

Explorer tags on them.  I wonder if they are down at guest services asking about their lost luggage. 

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1 minute ago, twangster said:

Sony A7 III.  I made the switch as a long time Nikon shooter.  Still getting used to it, but liking it so far.

I'm a Nikon guy, I thought that they have the best cameras for photography, but looking at these pictures... I'm not so sure now! Glad you're liking it.

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Following! You always take amazing photos, Mr. @twangster, happy cruising to you and your son 🙂 

Alaska is on my bucket list, but I can’t afford it right now with three cruises booked between December 2018 and December 2019. Maybe RCB/MEI Travel will book another Alaska Group Cruise for either 2020 or 2021? 

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

Group Cruise Lava Flow Meet Up!

Viking Crown Lounge

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Is that @crzycatldy5 there on the right? Face looks a lot like her profile pic.

 

2 hours ago, twangster said:

I am trying a new camera this cruise and decided to push the limits a bit to see what I could away with.  This is a 1/3 second shutter speed trying to create some motion blur in the waves while hoping for a clear and steady picture of the ship.  I think it turned out pretty good.

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2 hours ago, twangster said:

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2 hours ago, twangster said:

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smh. "Pretty good", he says. Sir, those are not merely "pretty good", those are stunning and gorgeous!

 

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