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Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Sea Day

In:
06 May 2022

It’s the final day of our 7-night Alaska cruise! Can’t believe the week went so fast.

Schooner Bar on Radiance of the Seas

Today we’ve been at sea - sailing through the Inside Passage and making our way back to Vancouver.

The seas were rough last night so Sydney put on her patch and slept a solid 12 hours. She woke up feeling a little dizzy and had blurred vision, but she said she didn’t have any seasickness.

We saw lots of people onboard with patches behind their ears and heard of others who were seasick with the choppy waters.

I worked a little this morning while Sydney slept in. Surprisingly, the Internet connection was strong so I took advantage of this opportunity. I was worried once we went back into the Inside Passage that the Internet would drop again.

Covid Test Onboard

Since the connection was strong, I also decided to do my eMed Covid test in the cabin. I didn’t have any issues with the connection and got my negative test result quickly.

I wanted to take the test onboard the ship in case I had an unexpected positive result. In this case, I’m covered by Royal Caribbean’s Cruising with Confidence policy. It felt like the best option since there aren't really any testing options onboard for those of us needing one for travel requirements. 

I saw multiple people taking their covid tests onboard today, so I think there were a lot of us with the same idea. It also makes the disembarkation day much easier without having to worry about taking the test at the airport last minute.

I brought the Abbott home test, but there were other tests that people used as well. I know one couple who used their FlowFlex covid test and did their proctored test through www.azova.com. I saw another couple using the orange branded covid tests who said they followed the proctor link on the box too.

I didn’t realize you could have other tests proctored, but it appears that’s not the case. Both of these couples I met purchased tests in Alaska since they didn’t bring tests onboard and paid online for a proctor ($20)

Breakfast + Spa

We had a time change last night, so the 11:00 AM closing of the Windjammer crept up on us.

I waited in line to talk to the Internet representative to make sure I was on the list of passengers getting refunded for 2 days of internet that didn’t work. He processed the refund on the spot, which was nice. I saw a few others taking their covid tests in the Internet cafe area during this time too.

With coffee in hand, we made our way to the top deck to grab a quick bite to eat before they closed down the restaurant. Sydney and I made our way to the spa to try out the thermal suite!

Upon entry, we were given a locker and bathrobes to use throughout the spa.

We first started in the thermal chairs and made our way into the steam room, sauna and aromatic room.

It was pretty quiet in the thermal suite and that doesn’t exact fit our vibe. We have a hard time relaxing for an extended time because we like to be on the go. We are always laughing and chatting, so we struggled to be quiet.

It was fun to try everything out, but I am not sure if it’s something that I would pay to do just because I am not necessarily a spa person.

Egg Drop Challenge

This one was a first, but our ship had an egg drop contest! What a concept.

Teams enrolled on the first sea day and had one week to create an egg contraption. If your contraption successfully protected the egg from an atrium drop and the egg didn’t crack, your team won a prize.

The atrium was pretty busy with spectators. The entire floor and furniture surrounding the bar was covered to protect any scrambled eggs.

Some teams got really creative with how to protect their egg. Others clearly didn’t think about the impact of gravity, drag and force when their contraption plopped right to the ground. The very first drop got caught in some atrium wiring, which was pretty funny.

The cruise director, sporting a hard helmet for the ultimate egg protection, was having a great time hosting the event. One egg splattered all over the bar, which I am sure the bartender did not appreciate.

This was a fun event and we both enjoyed watching everyone try to protect their precious egg. I am wondering if this will be a new cruising tradition or if it was just a one-time thing?

Afternoon Activities

By late afternoon, Sydney had a card date with our ‘ship mom’ from dinner and I had a little bit of work to get done.

They enjoyed a few rounds of Phase 10. The ship finally entered back into the Inside Passage during this time, so the ocean was a sheet of glass again.

I was feeling deep gratitude for the Internet finally working reliably, which allowed me to get some time sensitive things done, including the covid test. I even created a hotspot with my computer so Sydney and I could have multiple devices connected at once. 

We still had our swimsuits on from the spa earlier today, so we made our way to the Solarium for the hot tub. Unfortunately, there is only one small hot tub in the Solarium and it’s been packed almost every time we’ve tried to use it.

We did grab a snack at the Windjammer since we had forgotten to grab lunch.

Sydney and I ran into our new ship friends, Mimi and her grandson Bret (who is our age), and we invited them to join us in the outdoor hot tub.

These hot tubs haven’t been as crowded, but the outdoor weather also hasn’t cooperated much. It was misting and rainy out, but we enjoyed the hot tub and getting to chat.

Final Dinner in the Dining Room

Tonight was our final night in the dining room. The menu tonight featured options of fish & chips, prime rib, roasted turkey, cheese tortellini and lamb.

I had one last bowl of French onion soup and Sydney had the lentil soup as a starter. She said the lentil soup was super good.

For dinner, Sydney had the cheese tortellini and I had the roasted turkey. These weren’t our favorite meals of the cruise, but they were good!

Dessert was a showstopper for me with the pavlova and caramel brownie, which was topped with a marshmallow meringue. It was super sweet - exactly as I like it! Two desserts is the best way to end a cruise. 

It’s always sad to say goodbye to new friends on the final evening. Sydney and I have been blessed with great servers who took good care of us. We also connected with so many people on this cruise and loved seeing familiar faces around.

Packing and Cruising with a Carry-On

Another sad part of the last cruise night is packing up your suitcase for the journey home tomorrow. Sydney and I had gotten pretty comfortable in our cabin over the last week, so it seemed like a tornado came through when we started to pack. 

Sydney heads to Seattle and Hawaii for the next week to continue her Masters Celebration adventure. I head to Minnesota tomorrow for a quick stop for my best friend’s baby shower before flying back to Florida on Saturday.

I opted to pack for this cruise using just a carry-on, which made it really easy to pack tonight. I used some packing cubes to utilize my small packing space. I think this made a big difference!

I had a few outfits that I didn’t even wear while other pieces were worn heavily. I had to purchase a sweater because I didn’t have something warm enough to wear with my leggings. I also bought some gloves in the first port.

Layering was key for me. I packed pieces that could be worn for dinner and during the day, like dark jeans and a jean jacket. I brought 3 dresses for dinners and then wore my dark jeans with various tops the other nights. Some days I didn’t even change for dinner.

I packed just one swimsuit, which was plenty for our hot tub visits. Casual clothes included sweat pants, a golf skirt, long sleeve t-shirt and a crewneck sweatshirt. I packed a pair of overalls, which I only wore once so I probably could have left that behind and opt for a heavier coat instead.

For the trip, I only packed 3 pairs of shoes, which included rain boots, dinner shoes and tennis shoes. I wish I had packed some slip-in shoes to wear around the ship, so I did buy a $5 pair of slippers from Old Navy in Vancouver to wear. I might leave these behind if I can’t pack them last minute tomorrow.

All of my cosmetics and toiletries I carried in my backpack with me. I still had room for my laptops, umbrella and 2 covid tests.

I really limited myself to just the essentials for this trip. It’s nice to not have so much clutter. Packing lightly forces you to only wear what you have packed because you don't have many options. I also think packing cubes made it easier because I can compress my outfits into time little dense cubes.

Granted, I think packing in a carry-on would be much easier for warmer climates. I also don't think I could do any trips longer than 10 days in a carry-on without doing some laundry. 

Disembarkation + Final Thoughts

Tomorrow we will get off the ship around 9:30 AM and my flight is at 2:00 PM. I plan to head straight to the airport and hopefully have a painless travel day.

Sydney is taking the Amtrak bus to Seattle before flying to Hawaii on her next big adventure.

We are both sad that our friend-cruise is coming to an end. It was so nice to be able to travel again, especially together.

Our friendship is really special and having this much time together again at sea was wonderful. We loved our time on the cruise and getting to meet such nice people was really a highlight.

Radiance of the Seas feels like she’s been well maintained and the crew are doing their best to get the ship back to a well-oiled machine. We had a few hiccups, but everything was handled with excellent service. I think this is to be expected with any cruise ship returning to service. We've met a lot of crew members onboard who are working for the first time onboard a ship.

That's the end of my live blog for Alaska. Until next time, happy cruising!

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Tracy’s Arm Fjord

In:
05 May 2022

Hi from the choppy Alaskan seas! It’s Day 6 of our 7-night cruise, so our time onboard Radiance of the Seas is coming to an end. I can't believe tomorrow is our last day. A week onboard a cruise always goes way faster than any other week at home, right?

Although we didn’t have a port today, we sailed through Tracy’s Arm Fjord early this morning. We set our alarms for 6:30 AM to make sure we didn’t miss any of the scenery.

The sight of the fjord in the distance was stunning as we woke up and waited in line for coffee.

There’s been a line each morning at Latitudes, but it seems to move fairly quick. I heard a few grumbles from the people behind me about the line each morning; however, I don't think it's been that bad. 

I love my morning latte, so it's a great way to start the day for me. 

With coffee in hand, Sydney and I made our way to the helicopter pad so we could go to the very front of the ship.

Tracy’s Arm Fjord

The helicopter pad was fairly busy with other cruisers - I was surprised to see so many people already out there since it was barely 7:00 AM. It was frigid cold at the front of the ship and I was wishing I had warn my warmer pants.

In the distance, we could see the ship making its way towards the glacier. This was further than my ship was able to make it last summer (due to icing), so I was already excited to see new scenery. 

It was too cold being at the very front of the ship, so we went up a few decks to 13 to watch the ship continue sailing through the fjord. The railing here was solid and covered, so it was less windy as well. 

The scenery is unreal; if you’re sailing through the fjord on an upcoming cruise, you’ll definitely want to set your alarm. I overheard a couple saying they had missed the fjord on their last cruise because they were staying in an inside cabin and didn’t know the scenery was so beautiful.

We took lots of pictures of the mountains and sipped our coffee. What a Wednesday morning! 

The ship inched closer and closer to a line of ice in front of the glacier. Obviously cruise ships aren’t meant to be ice-breaking ships, so we just sailed right up to the ice barrier. We could see the glacier in the distance and I was shocked to see how blue the glacier was.

The ship started to do a donut spin and then slowly made its way back to the sea and out of the fjord. Coming from Florida, it was fun to be bundled up on the deck and take in such a drastic change of scenery. 

Main Dining Room Breakfast

We decided to have breakfast in the dining room since we were already up. Tomorrow is a sea day, so we have no alarms set - we figured it was a good time to do another breakfast in the dining room.

The host sat us at a table with a window, which was incredible. We commenced the beautiful morning with mimosas - as one should! This was a perfect way to use a daily drink voucher too.

Sydney and I split a plate of French toast to start and each had a breakfast burrito. I think it was even better than the one I had the first morning! Sydney loved the burrito too.

With tummies full, our early morning wake up call made us sleepy. We opted to head back to the cabin for a mid-morning nap.

Unfortunately, the Internet was still down so I wasn’t able to get connected to anything. I had scheduled a meeting at work for 10:00 AM, but that had to be cancelled with no Internet or cell service to save the day.

Of course, most people aren’t as worried about the Internet as I am. With the live blog and other remote work that needs to be done, I’m more reliant on it working. 

During the nap, I received a call from guest services asking about our excursion experience in Ketchikan. I explained how the trolley left early without us, but we were given options from the excursion staff. He was very kind and helpful, expressing his apologies for that happening.

The Captain also made an announcement that woke us up again from our nap. He explained that no announcements can be made in the fjord to protect the wildlife there, so that’s why the cruise ship is very quiet while sailing towards the glacier. He also said we would have choppy seas tonight before making our way to the Inside Passage again. 

I really like about the Captain of this cruise- he is the most personable cruise ship captain that I’ve ever had. Each day, he acknowledges the crew members who are celebrating birthdays on the ship. He’s very down to Earth and I really enjoy his communication with us.

Hot Stone Massage Experience

I had my massage booked for 12:45 PM, so Sydney and I went upstairs to grab a snack at the Windjammer. She had plans to play cards with our dinner friends during my massage.

I have never had a massage on a cruise ship before; in fact, I can count on one hand the number of massages I’ve had in my life.

Since I have neck and shoulder pain from computer work, the spa manager recommended the hot stone massage. I went with her recommendation and hoped for the best.

I was taken into a little relaxation room to fill out some forms. The room was safari themed with large chase loungers. It was a little cheesy, but comfortable. 

My therapist met with me and talked to me about where I was having some discomfort. She also recommended that I do a seaweed wrap for another $200, but I politely declined and said the hot stone massage was a splurge.

The room had floor to ceiling windows. The massage felt wonderful everywhere with the hot stones. I had only been booked for 50 minutes - and the time felt like it flew by.

I did speak to the spa manager after my massage about a small concern I had regarding the session - she was very helpful and resolved the issue quickly. I greatly appreciated how she handled my concern with both empathy and professionalism.

In fact, for the inconvenience, she offered that Sydney and I could access the Thermal Spa for today and tomorrow. We are excited to try that tomorrow on our last day of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean Service

This cruise has had more kinks than others I’ve taken recently. I am sure with an older ship just returning to service after 2 years, this is bound to happen.

I think it’s important to be flexible and remember that traveling isn’t always perfect, especially as the travel industry works on its full comeback from the pandemic.

Royal Caribbean has been providing outstanding service and support when issues arise, such as the Internet not working, our shore excursion leaving without us, and my concern at the spa.

These are all minor issues for me, but it does remind me why I am loyal to a company that I believe values customer service and strives for excellence.

In fact, I received a second call today regarding our shore excursion experience and they confirmed we received a full refund for our tour. This was really generous of Royal Caribbean because we still enjoyed the lumberjack show even though we missed the trolley. 

Solarium Wave Pool

Sydney and I decided that we wanted to go to the hot tub after my massage, so we made our way to the Solarium.

Well, apparently everyone else had the same idea because there were 10 people crammed into the tiny hot tub. The pool was actually pretty comfortable, but just as we got in, the seas became a little choppy.

The Solarium pool was slowly becoming a makeshift wave pool. We tried to use the hot tubs outside, but it was cold and rainy so we only lasted maybe 2 minutes.

I grabbed a drink at the bar and we lounged for a bit in the chairs, but the choppy seas seemed to continue. The pool waves became more intense, so the lifeguards closed off the Solarium pool.

It was almost time to get ready for dinner, so Sydney and I made our way back to the cabin to freshen up for formal night.

Evening Activities

With just a carry-on for this cruise, I didn’t have too much room for formal attire. I’ve seen over the years that most people don’t dress very formal anyway - and it can take up so much room in your luggage. I chose to pack a simple black dress for both formal nights.

Sydney was started to feel a little seasick since she has a sensitive tummy, so she wasn’t very hungry. She heard that green apples were supposed to ease motion sickness, so our waiter brought her a plate of green apples to have before dinner. 

For dinner tonight, Sydney and I both ordered both the caprese salad and I asked for the onion tart as well. I ordered the beef tenderloin while Sydney tried the eggplant parmesan.

To her surprise, the motion sickness patch (and maybe the magical green apple) did start to work by the end of dinner and she was feeling better.

For dessert, I ordered the molten chocolate cake. I’ve loved this dessert for years and years - I’m glad it’s continued to be served! It was decadent tonight and I forgot to snap a picture.

Baked Alaska was on the menu tonight, which is very fitting of course for this cruise. Here's a picture of our dinner neighbor's dessert for good measure. 

One of the best parts of dinner was seeing all the whales out in the ocean. We saw so many that were spouting water and breaching. Apparently, whales like to breach during choppy waters so that might explain all of the activity. 

Some of the whales were so close to our ship and we could see their fins popping over the white caps. I love seeing everyone run to the windows and react to the whales breaching.

By the end of dinner, the seas had calmed down and we even saw a rainbow out in the distance. It was a perfect way to end dinner.

Since we had napped today, we had a bit more energy to make it to the show tonight. We sat with our dinner friends and enjoyed a variety show that featured a comedian and musician. 

Back in our cabin, we found disembarkation information and luggage tags - a sign of the times that the cruise is coming to an end.

Tomorrow’s Plans

To my surprise, the Internet came back up this evening. It’s been consistently working tonight, so that hopefully means that I can get a few work things done tomorrow during our sea day.

I am sure you're all sick of the Internet updates, but it does seem to be playing a role in our daily activities. At one point today, I saw 10 people waiting to speak to the VOOM Internet desk! I guess they are planning to provide a mass refund for the days that the Internet was down, so that is great.

I haven’t seen this reflected on my shipboard account, so I will need to get that settled tomorrow if it isn’t updated.

We have no alarms set tomorrow! I think we might try to have lunch in the main dining room, as that’s a first for me. I will be interested to see what's offered for lunch compared to breakfast and dinner options. 

There is also an egg-dropping contraption contest tomorrow. Sydney and I are pretty curious about what that could possibly entail, so we are hoping to check that out. I am sure it will be a hoot!

We are also planning to try the Thermal Spa sometime in the morning before meeting our dinner friends for a game of cards!

The last day of the cruise means I need to pack and hopefully take my covid test onboard if the Internet cooperates… but we all know how that’s been going.

Good night from Alaska and our little towel friend!

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Skagway, Alaska

In:
04 May 2022

It’s Day 5 of my 7-night Alaska sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas on our voyage through Alaska's Inside Passage. 

I am happy to report the Internet appears to be back up and working! I’d like to officially lower my Internet reliability rating from a 6/10 to 3/10 based on the last few days.

Word on the street is that everyone will be getting a refund for 3 days because of the issues we’ve had. For the amount of time I have wasted trying to get connected, that feels justified.

Our morning today started at 6:30 AM again. Jet lag continues to be our friend as we get up early and start the day! The rough seas had thankfully calmed down by the time we were asleep, which is what the captain had told us would happen.

They weren't horrible last night and certainly not the worst I've experienced. In fact, the location of our inside cabin was fantastic for the waves last night. We had booked an inside guarantee cabin for this cruise, so we really lucked out with our stateroom since we didn’t choose this location.

I grabbed a coffee and we made our way to the Solarium. Since the Internet was still down, I started to panic about my sea day plans of working remotely. I connected to my phone’s LTE and created a hotspot to get a few things done.

Everyone else was clearly waiting for the ship Internet to work again because I had 2 people ask me if the WiFi was back on.

As I sipped my coffee and caught up on emails, Park Cafe had some tasty looking breakfast sandwiches, so I grabbed one of those while Sydney went to the Windjammer for breakfast.

The scenery was cloudy and overcast with Skagway being tucked away in the mountains.

Walking to Skagway

After breakfast and finishing up some work tasks, we bundled up and went ashore in Skagway.

There were 2 other ships docked in town today; for a city with a population of 1,200, this would be a huge influx of people!

It was cold and drizzly again as we walked off the ship and made our way to the city.

There were some golf-cart type vehicles that were offering rides, but this seemed to be mostly for older passengers and those with mobility issues. We opted to walk since the signage implied it was only 5 minutes to town.

Let me tell you - it was not 5 minutes to town.

We walked at least 20 minutes before we were in the city. Radiance of the Seas was docked behind another cruise ship, but even that walk would be longer than 5 minutes.

Stray Skagway Thoughts

As we walked along the port, we could see where the Skagway train starts, which is right at the start of the town.

Tickets were $133 if purchased in the port area. That was a little pricey for us. Also, the scenery from the ship was already so stunning, we decided to skip. We’ve heard great things about the train from cruisers who’ve done it in the past.

Word on the street is that one of the trains broke down today and passengers were issued a full refund. Guess we dodged a bullet.

The Skagway train crosses into Canada normally. Apparently, this year the train won’t be able to cross the border because of Covid movement restrictions. I am sure the ArriveCAN process for that would be horrendous anyway, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that it doesn’t cross.

When I came to Skagway 12 years ago, we did the Sled Dog Training Camp tour. This was amazing and I would highly recommend, especially for dog lovers and families. It was fascinating seeing how the huskies are raised and trained.

Broadway Street 

As we made our way into town towards Broadway Street, we immediately appreciated how quaint and charming it was. My dad suggested we go to the famous Red Onion Saloon, so we walked past that and saw it was pretty busy.

The town is very small and filled with shops along both sides of the street. You won’t need to look very far for jewelry if you’re in the market for some new bling! There are tons of jewelry shops around town that are eager to get you inside.

We started to notice a few people eating these huge bear claws. Sydney and I followed the aroma of cinnamon and sugar to Klondike Doughboy.

For $7, we indulged in a warm, doughy fry bread covered in cinnamon sugar. It was huge and easily shareable. This was the place to go in town, as it was pretty busy with cruisers.

Next, we wanted to check out the local supermarket to see how the locals live.

We were surprised to see reasonably comparative prices to what we have back home. But, we were shocked to see how sparse the fresh produce selection was.

Internet Hunt

Trying to find reliable Internet has become an unexpected storyline for this cruise.

Sydney and I saw there was one coffee shop in town, so we figured we would be able to get some WiFi there if we needed. At the very least, I was hoping to get a few things done for work.

I have 3 part-time jobs that I work remotely, including blogging for RoyalCaribbeanBlog. I’ve been lucky to have reliable Internet on my cruises earlier this year, so I didn’t anticipate any issues.

I prefer to be totally disconnected when cruising; but, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling during my husband’s deployment, which means I need to do work here and there to make sure I stay gainfully employed.

Anyway, the cafe did not have WiFi (is this becoming a recurring theme?). I had 3 people ask me whether the cafe had Internet, so everyone seemed to be in the same boat.

I guess this was a lesson learned that Internet should not be relied upon when cruising to Alaska.

I was able to get a few things done while Sydney made all the friends. We first met some crew members from the Norwegian ship who thought for the entire conversation that we were crew members too.

We also met a really sweet older couple who asked us more about our Semester at Sea voyage. They were interested in becoming Lifelong Learners  (cruisers who just join the voyage for fun but don’t take courses), so Sydney gave them her information to stay in touch.

It was pretty chilly and we had gone through pretty much the entire town by this point. We sampled some popcorn, tried the Klondike Doughboy and window-shopped in jewelry stores.

We also did some souvenir shopping right before we made our way back to the ship.

Afternoon Relaxation

The walk back to the ship took 20 minutes and it was raining more by this point. We were chilled and hungry, ready to head up to the Windjammer for lunch.

I felt better about the Internet debacle by this point because I was able to get in touch with my bosses and update them on the situation. Feeling a bit drained, I was ready for a relaxation afternoon.

Sydney and I have yet to find cozy hot cocktails on the ship. I’ve asked a few times and the best response was ‘We can make you a cocktail without ice?!”.

That one made us laugh.

Instead, we went back to the cabin to put on our swimsuits for the hot tub. We stopped at Latitudes and ordered some hot chocolate and asked for shots of Bailey’s in each. We created our own hot toddies!

The Solarium wasn’t very busy, which was great since the pool deck hot tubs were busier. We relaxed for a bit in the hot tub with our boozy hot chocolates.

Dinner in the Dining Room

The afternoon went by pretty quickly and before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner.

I challenged myself to do this cruise with only a carry-on and tonight I was feeling like my dinner outfit options were a little sparse.

Luckily, this is a cruise where people are busy all day on excursions and exploring, so there’s a wide range of attire in the dining room. I’ve been sporting some dark jeans the last few nights, as I saved my dresses for the formal nights mostly.

We started the meal with strawberry blondes, which were cocktails from the bar menu.

Dinner tonight had a really good menu in my opinion! I ordered the pork tacos for an appetizer, which is a favorite of mine, and the chicken cordon blu. I swapped the french fries for mashed potatoes and loved this as a comfort meal. 

Sydney opted for Caesar salad for a starter and requested a ‘DIY dinner option’ of tomato soup from the appetizer list and grilled cheese from the kid’s menu.

We’ve been really enjoying our new friends each night at dinner to the table next to us. While we aren’t sitting together, our tables are virtually right next to one another.

They loved Sydney’s idea of soup and grilled cheese, so they ordered the same.

For dessert, I ordered the Tres Leches while Sydney had the apple blossom. I wasn’t sure if I would like this cake, but it was delicious. The apple blossom seems to be a home-run dessert on every cruise I’ve taken, so I might opt for that the next 2 nights as well.

Tonight’s entertainment was a singer who gave tribute to Whitney Houston with shows at both 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. We’ve both been tired by the end of the night, so we called it a night a little early.

It’s funny to see a lot of the older cruisers stay up late for the dancing and entertainment while we seem to be wiped by the end of the day.

Pre-Departure Covid Testing

We came back to our cabin to find a sheet that had information about covid testing upon arrival back in Canada. I'm slowly losing hope that this pre-departure testing to return to the US will be dropped before Friday.

If you're flying from Canada back to the US, you currently will need to show proof of a negative covid test. The test can be taken within 1 day of traveling. 

This is rumored to be changing soon, but I seem to have great luck of cruising right before changes happen (like my February cruise that missed the optional mask guidance by one day).

Our dinner friends said they totally forgot this was a requirement, but the concierge in the suites lounge has arranged for them to get tested at the airport before their flight.  

I brought my Abbott home tests to hopefully take the last day on the ship, but the unreliable Internet will determine if that happens. 

My strategy is to take the proctored test onboard the ship before disembarking. If I happen to get an unexpected positive result, then I am covered under Royal Caribbean's Cruising with Confidence policy. However, the Internet connection could prove to change my plans. 
 

Tracy’s Arm Fjord

Tomorrow, we are sailing through Tracy’s Arm Fjord in the early morning from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM. We have our alarm set and are looking forward to the glacier.

Last summer, Luke and I weren’t able to see the glacier because it was too icy for the ship to get there safely. We were able to get close and sail by icebergs - that was actually our favorite day of our Alaska cruise last summer.

We are expected to have better weather tomorrow luckily! I am hoping we can make it to see Sawyer Glacier, but I know the scenery through the fjord is incredible too.

I will be looking out for the specialty drinks tomorrow morning on the pool deck as we sail through!

Also, I booked myself a massage for tomorrow afternoon. Sydney has made plans to play cards with our dinner friends during my massage. I decided to treat myself for (almost!!) making it through my first deployment as a military spouse.

That’s all for today from Skagway!

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Sitka, Alaska

In:
03 May 2022

Hi from Sitka today! I am currently blogging from our cabin because the seas are a little rough tonight. Captain said 9-12 ft waves can be expected as we sail from Sitka to Skagway and we will be sailing at (nearly) full speed. The Internet has been down all day on the ship, which is a bummer.

Sydney and I started our morning early again at 6:30 AM and grabbed a latte at Latitudes. We made our way to the Solarium to watch as we pulled into Sitka. The scenery was incredible, as Sitka is tucked away in the forested, snow-covered mountains.

I enjoyed my morning coffee while Sydney walked around the top deck and took pictures. As we pulled into port, we headed to the Windjammer for breakfast. It was pretty busy this morning, but we could still find a table just fine.

Our plan for the day was to take the free shuttle into the city and then snag a taxi or Uber to Fortress of the Bear, which is a sanctuary and bear rescue in Sitka.

We got ready for the day and we were off the ship by 9:00 AM. The sun was actually shining! Praising the heavens above for good weather finally, we made our way through the cruise terminal and onto the free shuttle.

Our Uber and Lyft apps were showing that we could catch a ride for $15 from the city center to the sanctuary, so that was our plan when we arrived.

After getting off the bus, there was a taxi driver sitting there. She said it was $20 each way to get to the sanctuary. She scuffed at us when we said we were planning to take an Uber since that was a bit cheaper.

“There’s no Uber here” she laughed. Instead of trying to prove her wrong, we just gave in and had her bring us to the sanctuary. It took about 10 minutes to get there.

She also offered us a private tour for $100/hr with a 3-hour minimum. We laughed while politely declining. Here we are trying to save $10 by taking Uber (that might not exist) and she thought we might be interested in a $300 private tour.

I appreciate her business hustle, but that’s about as much as we spent each for this 7 day cruise, so she was definitely talking to the wrong cruisers.

DIY Bear Sanctuary: Fortress of the Bear

Entrance fees for the bear sanctuary were $15 normally but we received a military discount, paying only $10 each.

The sanctuary was self-guided, so we walked from the counter out to a walkway. Right away we saw three black bears and listened to one of the stand members talking about the rescue and its mission.

Each of the bears were orphaned as cubs and the sanctuary rescued them. Without the sanctuary, the cubs would have died in the wild.

The three of them have been raised together and live on an acre of land. They have plenty of area to roam, splash in the water and climb around. The staff said the bears are fed anywhere from 50 to 100 times a day depending on how hungry they are.

The sanctuary also had brown bears, which were much bigger. These were also rescued as cubs. With just 8 bears and a small staff, the sanctuary is able to have a very close relationship with the bears and understand their needs.

We got to watch the staff actually feed meat to the bears. It reminded me of my pups back home - they know instantly when it’s treat or meal time.

These bears are taught sign language to say ‘more’ and the staff tell the bears to ‘open’ their mouths before they get the meat. They also know ‘up’ and ‘paw’ commands.

Sydney took some amazing pictures of the bears during our time there.

They explained how the bears are taught these commands so they can easily check on their mouth, paws, legs bellies, etc. Similar to dogs, the bears are rewarded with meat for listening to commands and this allows the sanctuary to provide veterinary services regularly.

The staff also explained how the bear’s lifespan is doubled by living in the sanctuary compared to those living in the wild. Essentially, these orphaned cubs are raised to be very spoiled bears who have a great life with attentive service and care. Sydney and I joked it was an all-inclusive resort for the animals.

The bears were very intrigued to see all of us there, as it was the first cruise ship of the season! Sydney and I were equally as captivated by these huge creatures. Since they’ve been raised around humans, they were very comfortable with everyone there.

We loved learning about the bears’ behaviors and interactions with one another. You could tell the staff care deeply about these animals and want to provide them the best life possible.

Bald eagles were also hanging in the tree during our visit. Apparently, they’ve been known to steal the meat right from the staff members’ hands. They hang around hoping to get some food as well.

I’d highly recommend a visit to the sanctuary if you have time in Sitka. Multiple tour groups were shuffled in and out while we were there, but we enjoyed taking it at our own pace. As someone who hates zoos and aquariums, I absolutely loved our time at Fortress of the Bear.

Taxi services are more limited in Sitka, so you can ask the staff at the sanctuary to contact one of the drivers to come get you. We also learned that you can take the city bus for $1 to the sanctuary. Of course, this has a few stops on the way out and back; but, that would totally be worth it for $1!

Our dinner friends said they spent $75 on a Viator tour that included stops at the bear sanctuary, eagle reserve and the national park. They said the bear sanctuary was more worthwhile than the eagle reserve since Sitka was full of eagles. The totem pole park is right near the city and easily walkable.

We spent $33 each for our day and could have easily done the city bus to do it way cheaper. Still a great value compared to any excursion offered.

Sitka Wandering

After our two hour visit to the sanctuary, we took a taxi back to the city to walk around the waterfront and do some shopping.

We snacked on some chips while enjoying the weather. It was cloudy and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining. I wish I had brought a slightly warmer coat, but I challenged myself to only pack a carry-on for the week.

There’s a nice sidewalk that goes right along the waterfront in the city, so we walked along the path towards the Totem Poles National Park. It was a lovely walk on the paved path, although it was a bit chilly. The national park has a nice trail through some wooded areas that leads to a small creek and bridge.

Once we arrived at the bridge, we turned back to town because we were getting a little hungry for lunch. We opted to do some shopping before catching the shuttle back.

There was a really cute store right across from the shuttle drop off. The employee was a fellow military spouse whose husband was in the Coast Guard and stationed there. She said it’s beautiful, but she was ready to move somewhere with more to do.

Come to find out she’s from Virginia (Sydney’s hometown) and will be moving to Panama City, FL (right near me). Such a small world!

We boarded the shuttle to head back to the ship. Sydney and I agreed that we’ve enjoyed getting up early, which is easy thanks for the time change, and spending our morning in port. It’s nice to come back and have lunch and relax before the evening.

Well, the world got even smaller when we found out the shuttle driver was also the trolley driver yesterday in Ketchikan. We laughed and told her that she had left us behind the day before! Of course, she apologized for leaving us behind.

I guess most of the tour drivers are seasonal workers in college who work in Alaska during the summer. She flew from Ketchikan last night to help drive the shuttles today.

Chill Evening

Sydney and I came back to the ship and grabbed a late lunch while sitting in the Solarium. At this point, my phone was almost dead and the internet onboard the ship still wasn’t working. I was annoyed with technology in general, so I opted to take a nap in the cabin instead.

After my power nap, I checked with the Internet Service desk and apparently the Internet was down because the ship has bad reception while inside the mountains. He said it should get better as we head out to sea, but it’s still been out most of the evening.

I am hoping to work while we are at sea on Wednesday and Thursday, but now I am second guessing if I will even have reliable service for that. If you’re planning to work remotely on the Radiance of the Seas’ Internet, I would definitely think twice.

The ship’s Internet would receive a reliability score of 6/10 in my book, so don’t count on doing anything time sensitive unless you’re in port and have service.

Sydney and I also stopped at the Diamond Lounge for the first time tonight. She grabbed us a few snacks before we went down to the Schooner Bar for a drink before dinner.

At this point, the Captain announced that the wind had picked up and our seas might be a little rough until 11:00 PM tonight. Sydney spent the first 4 days of our Semester at Sea in bed with sea sickness (along with most people) when we crossed the English Channel, so she popped some medication right way. I’ve got good sea legs apparently, so I opted for a mojito instead.

Dinner tonight was excellent. I started with the baked potato soup for an appetizer and then had the lasagna, which is a favorite RCL dish of mine. Sydney wasn’t feeling great at dinner, so she didn’t eat much.

I finished off my meal with Royal Chocolate Cake, which was full of rich, decadent chocolate.

Sydney and I called it a night early because of the rough seas. With the internet down all day, I wasn’t able to finish the live blog. We’ve had 2 busy days, so an early night was just fine with us.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Ketchikan, Alaska

In:
02 May 2022

Greetings from Alaska! We arrived in our first port of the cruise today in Ketchikan. Mother Nature welcomed us with cloudy, foggy and rainy weather as we pulled into port.

With a time change on our side, Sydney and I were up early at 6:30 AM. Others clearly had the same idea of getting a specialty coffee at Latitudes because the line was at least 10 people long.

The warm latte was perfect to sip on as we watched us pull into port from the heated Solarium. 

Outside looked like cuddle-up-and-watch-a-movie kind of weather. Everyone was wandered around the ship in their cozy clothes.

Sydney and I made a few calls home before having breakfast in the Windjammer. We had purchased tickets for the Trolley and Lumberjack show last night since the forecast was looking bleak. The excursion was scheduled for 9:45 AM (this is an important detail for later!), so we enjoyed a nice breakfast and took our time getting ready.

We bundled up with jackets, hats and gloves because we had seen even a few snow flakes from the top deck as we pulled into Ketchikan.

When the excursion leaves you behind

Sydney and I got off the ship around 9:35 AM and made our way to the terminal meeting place. We took a few pictures with the ship and started looking around for our excursion.

After looking around a bit, Sydney asked one of RCL’s excursion staff members where we should meet for the Trolley. We showed them our tickets and the crew member looked concerned and responded, “Oh… the tour has already left”. 

We looked at our watches and it was 9:42 AM, so the trolley shouldn’t have even left the cruise port yet because it was scheduled to depart at 9:45 AM.

The crew member stated the meeting time was 9:30 AM and we told her we were in the terminal within probably 5 minutes of that time. We didn’t see the trolley or anyone holding the sign while we waited before asking for help. 

She said she would try to call the trolley back, but then the other crew members stated the trolley wouldn’t be able to return to pick us up. We asked if we could go meet the trolley somewhere, thinking it hadn't gone very far. That wasn't an option, unfortunately. 

Apparently, the tour only had 8 people booked for today. We bought tickets last night but she said 2 people must have bought tickets early this morning as well. The lists are printed the night before for excursion runs, so the total number of participants wasn’t updated from 8 to 10 people.

When 8 people showed up, the trolley tour decided to leave early because that matched the list total. Bummer for us.

At first, the crew members told us we could do one of the following: either take a later trolley only and miss the show or do a later lumberjack show and skip the trolley.

They said the later lumberjack show could include a crab feast, but it was $199. I think they could tell we were not pleased with either of these options and questioned how the excursion could have left without us when they had our names even on the list. 

Finally, they said we could do the lumberjack show at a discounted rate - first it was 30% and then they upped It to 50%. This felt reasonable, so we accepted that offer.

We had an extra hour to burn so we shopped in the terminal and walked to a coffee shop in the freezing drizzle.

At the end of the day, this was probably just a series of unfortunate events on both sides. We should have been off the ship sooner to be at the meeting place right at 9:30. The excursion certainly shouldn't have left early and without checking the list of passengers who were booked. With such a small group, once everyone showed up, we were already out of luck. 

I am glad Royal Caribbean gave us options and they wanted to make up for the unfortunate instance happened. Of course, we were bummed we couldn't do the trolley but at least we had options. 

Sydney and I joked that 'travel is back!' and all of the unexpected that comes along with it - that's part of the fun. Our semester abroad was filled with the unexpected and unplanned. It's best to just go with the flow, especially traveling in this post-pandemic phase.

Excursion round 2

We figured that there would be transportation included to the show since it was raining. But, at the designating meeting place and time, they instructed us to all walk 3 blocks for the show.

Here's us in the cold rain walking to the lumberjack show.

This was no big deal for us, but certainly took us by surprise because we figured the sticker price of $59 would include transportation. If we had older family members with us, I wouldn’t have been very pleased with walking in the rain. 

As we arrived at the show, I saw a ticket stand at the venue where tickets were being sold for only $37 - for the same show and time!

Had we known this, we would have just done that from the start. The excursion didn’t even include transportation so there was literally nothing that made the excursion worth $20+ more!

Luckily, the venue was covered and had heaters. It was still very chilly and I opted to purchase souvenir gloves to be more comfortable.

The show was fun and very interactive. It was cheesy, which would make it a great option for families with kids. I am glad we opted to do the show since there wasn’t much else that appealed to us in town, especially considering the weather.

I wouldn’t say the show was worth $60, but it would be a nice activity for the $37 tickets sold at the venue.

Creek Street

After the hour show, we briskly walked in the cold rain to Creek Street. I had visited this area with my husband last summer, and it was a beautiful spot to stroll and shop. We also had gorgeous weather last year, keep in mind.

Sydney and I walked into a few shops but after sitting in the rain at the lumberjack show for an hour, we were both pretty chilly and ready for lunch.

We did make one last stop to an art shop where the owner told us how her roommate in college did Semester at Sea 30 years ago, so that was a fun coincidence.

It was a quick walk back to the ship luckily. Ketchikan is very walkable right off the port area and it really is a lovely town. Last year, Luke and I grabbed lunch at a taphouse that had great food (cheese curds for us Midwesterners), craft beer and fun cocktails.

There’s also plenty of jewelry shopping and other local shops to enjoy. If you forget a coat for the cruise, you can find pretty nice coats for $10-$20 in the shops. We had to do this 12 years ago when we took an Alaska cruise and it was much colder than we anticipated.

Slow Afternoon

After the excursion debacle and the cold weather, Sydney and I grabbed lunch at the Windjammer. We made our way to the Solarium where I plopped myself down on a chair with 3 towels and napped.

We heard that people who did the Misty Fjords that they had rough seas today, so I was grateful we didn’t choose that excursion. It was nice to come back to the ship and take it slow.

I strongly believe the scenery that can be seen from the ship is equally as gorgeous and scenic as the excursions offered to the fjords and glaciers.

Of course, if you want to do something particular or see a glacier, you will have to venture to those places specifically. Overall though, the scenery from the cruise ship is captivating and stunning on its own.

We’ve seen whales and dolphins from the ship too! Even just sailing the Inside Passage is great for me and I don’t feel like I need to do any special excursions to see more scenery.

Dinner in the dining room

Our first night in the dining room felt a little disorganized and chaotic. The servers seemed to be a little frazzled, perhaps because they had a much larger crowd this sailing than the last one.

Last week was the first sailing on Radiance of the Seas since the pandemic restart and 800 passengers sailed from California to Canada. This week, we have 1,600 passengers, which is around 60% capacity. I am sure that was stressful the crew to transition to a busier ship. 

Tonight, we had great service in the dining room and the experience was much smoother.

We stopped at the Schooner Bar to grab a cocktail for dinner since the night before it took a while to get our drinks. One of the bartenders looked very familiar... and then it clicked - Luke and I had met her last summer on our cruise! She was from Colombia and gave Luke recommendations for an upcoming training he had in her home country. She remembered us, so that was another fun coincidence of the day. 

Sydney had the lavender daiquiri and I had a strawberry mojito - both were excellent. 

For dinner tonight, Sydney and I both started with French onion soup and had beef short rib for entree. Sydney’s short rib was fattier than mine, but it had great flavor and it was very tender.

We both polished off the meal with Mississippi Mud Pie, which was excellent.

Comedy Show and Solarium

We had finished dinner just in time to make the 7:00 PM comedian show. Since we had missed both showtimes for the Tango show, we were excited to experience the entertainment.

The theatre was pretty full and we both liked the comedian, who was decently funny. With an older crowd onboard, the jokes were definitely geared towards the greater audience.

The internet connection has been great in the Solarium, so Sydney and I made our way up to the top deck to relax as the sun begins to set. There’s virtually no one in here; as I blog, Sydney as the hot tub to herself.

Tomorrow’s Plans

We arrive tomorrow in Sitka for our second port. Sydney did a little research and found that there is a bear sanctuary just 5 miles from the town.

A free shuttle is provided from the ship to the city center, which is a nice option. We plan to look at either a taxi or see if they have Uber or Lyft available for us to get to the bear sanctuary.

The weather outlook seems to be a bit more promising with only a slight change of light rain showers tomorrow in the afternoon. Hoping we get lucky with some better weather than today!

That’s all for now! Good night from Alaska.

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
01 May 2022

Hello from Radiance of the Seas! It's day two of our 7-night sailing to Alaska and today was a sea day. 

We lucked out with beautiful weather today for our day at sea! It was 60 degrees and sunny all day with not a cloud in the sky. The seas have been so calm both days. I can barely feel the ship moving. 

Breakfast with new friends

Sydney and I slept off our jet lag this morning thanks to our inside cabin being pitch black. I normally sleep with white noise but the ship has been so quiet, I didn't even need to. We woke up just in time to have breakfast in the main dining room, which was open until 9:30.

I started with a latte from Latitudes while Sydney waited to be seated. I'm low functioning without my coffee so this was a delicious way to start my day and use one of my drink vouchers.

We were seated with a really sweet couple from the UK who were on their very first cruise! I typically don’t love sitting with strangers but we really enjoyed our relaxing breakfast with new friends. We all started with yogurt parfaits and then I ordered the breakfast burrito while Sydney had the power bowl.

My burrito was delicious - filled with chorizo, hash browns and cheese. Sydney said the power bowl tasted healthy and definitely needed salt + pepper.

A morning stroll

As we were leaving breakfast, the atrium was filled with people doing a group Zumba class. I haven’t seen that many people in a workout class on a cruise in a long time! Everyone looked like they were having a lot of fun with the music and dance moves.

We bundled up and started to walk along the top deck. Sydney and I both love walks, so this was perfect after our breakfast.

The sea was perfectly calm with the water beautifully glistening in the sun. As we turned the corner, we even saw whales and dolphins off in the distance. The nature up here in Alaska is so untouched - it really does take your breath away.

Sydney and I couldn’t get over how nice the weather was. It was definitely nice to get on the top deck for a bit and take in the sunshine. The forecast for the next few days looks like it will be cloudy and rainy.

Apparently, there’s 100% chance of rain the next few days. The statistician in me questions that kind of certainty, so I am holding out hope we might have better weather than predicted.

I couldn’t believe the number of people who were walking and exercising. This is probably the most exercise I've seen happening on a cruise ship. Maybe it was just the weather, but we saw tons of people being active. Between everyone doing Zumba earlier and then lots of people doing their own workouts on the top deck, the ship seems to be full of active cruisers. The gym looked pretty busy as well.

This is a far cry from my spring break cruise on Mariner of the Seas the other week where the main activities were drinking, tanning and eating. 

Afternoon activities

After walking the top deck for about an hour, Sydney and I headed down to the Schooner Bar. There was a solo traveler meet-up at 12:00 PM and Alaska Trivia starting at 12:15 PM. We couldn’t really identify if there were any solo travelers meeting, so we opted just to wait for trivia to start.

Trivia was Alaska themed, but Sydney and I both warned one another that we were not good with trivia or knowing fun facts. To our surprise, we scored 7.5/15 questions! Nothing to write home about, but better than we expected.

I didn’t imagine we would be able to sit on the top deck during this cruise, but the weather was too gorgeous not to enjoy the pool deck today.

We bounced between the hot tub and pool chairs a few times. We also indulged in a pool-side cocktail. There weren't many people on the pool deck, as I think people assume it's cooler outside than it really is. The Solarium was much busier. The pool water was actually pretty comfortable; we even saw a few people in there while walking earlier.

Since we had a reservation for Samba Grill at 6:00 PM, we went back to our cabin to freshen up. We also treated ourselves to some downtime with face masks before getting ready for dinner.

If you are like us and love pampering yourself but don’t want to pay for the spa, consider bringing a few spa-like treatments onboard. We brought 2 kinds of face masks to enjoy each night and I packed some nail polish too. We also requested robes from our housekeeper to help us really bring the spa to our little inside cabin.

Samba Grill

Sydney and I made a reservation for 6:00 PM to dine at the specialty restaurant, Samba Grill. I’ve cruised a lot with Royal Caribbean and hadn’t even heard of this specialty option. Since I have a BOGO voucher to use on Day 1 or 2 for specialty dining, we thought it would be fun to try something new.

I was blown away by the experience!

We were greeted by servers from Brazil when we entered the restaurant. Sydney and I actually traveled to Brazil during our Semester at Sea, so we were excited to talk about the cities we visited and ask the servers about their hometowns.

Our waiter explained each part of the meal, which would start with a trip to the appetizer bar. This included a goat cheese and pineapple salad, Canja de galinha (chicken soup) and assorted meats and cheese.

The next course was a warm bread basket that had 3 different options. I have very fond memories of Brazilian Pau de Quejio, or small balls of cheesy bread goodness. We also enjoyed a warm, flaky empanada with cheese inside. It melted in your mouth as the cheese oozed from the pastry. There was also garlic bread in the basket, which was crispy and delicious.

Not to be dramatic, but the heavens opened when the bread basket was delivered. 

Next, we were served feijoada (pronounced like 'fish - wader'), which reminded me of a burrito bowl. The feijoada had a mixture of rice, beans, pork, bread crumbs, collard greens and oranges. Our server explained that Brazilians eat feijoada at least once a week so it was a must-try.

We were also served fried bananas, polenta and yuca fries. We loved the bananas and feijoada!

The main event was up next - THE MEATS! Served by a gaucho sporting a cowboy hat, we were given tongs to grab freshly carved meats as he made his way around the restaurant delivering the meats.

We started with bacon-wrapped chicken followed by sausage. The chicken was amazing. Next we had garlic marinated steak, which was so tender and flavorful. Then we were served parmesan crusted pork and lamb. These weren’t our favorites, as Sydney said the lamb was fatty and my pork was a bit dry.

The last one served was a filet mignon, which was a showstopper.

A few times we had to turn our green card back to red so we could have a break and make room for more food! Everything tasted really good but our tummies needed breaks once in a while.

We were lucky enough to start spotting whales during our dinner too! The seas have been so calm that it’s easy to spot any motion in the ocean. Sydney ran outside a few times to get pictures, even though they all look like splashing blobs in the distance.

At one point, there were 4 spouts that we could see at one time in the horizon. The whales were breaching and putting on quite the show for us.

It’s so funny when someone spots a whale or dolphin because everyone stands up and heads over to the windows at once. It’s a unifying moment onboard when wildlife is spotted!

Back at our table and after the whales swam off in the distance, we were served cinnamon spiced pineapple. The pineapple was warm and sweet, a perfect comfort food that hit the spot. This was Sydney’s favorite part of the meal.

As if we needed more food, we ended the meal with a dessert sampler, which included a domed, dense chocolate cake, a passion-fruit flavored parfait called mousse de maracuja, and a rum custard.

The mousse was our absolute favorite! 

The whole dining experience took about 2.5 hours between eating, talking with the servers and whale spotting. Apparently, it was our server’s second day of work on the ship! He said he had never worked on a cruise ship and we told him he did an excellent job. Alexander, who is from Brazil, took the time to explain everything in great detail, which made the experience more authentic.

We were planning to go to the 8:00 PM Tango production show, but we didn’t make it in time. We then planned to attend the Tango production show at 10 PM, but the seas were mesmerizing and we couldn't get ourselves down there in time. Also, 10 PM is a little late for us these days!

I am glad we took a long time to savor the meal and watch the wildlife, which you can’t predict! That's what this cruise is all about anyways - enjoying the Earth's beauty. 

Tomorrow's plans in Ketchikan

I am taking the time to write tonight’s blog from the Solarium, as it’s still light out at 10:00 PM. The ocean looks like a sheet of glass and I think our ship is moving at a snail’s pace as we work our way towards Ketchikan.

As I wrote earlier, we didn’t have any excursions planned for this cruise, but unfortunately the forecast looks bleak to just meander around town. We ended up booking an excursion tomorrow for $69 called Ketchikan Trolley and Lumberjack show. 

This seemed like a good option for seeing the city even if it’s raining most of the day. It would be a shame to come all this way and feel like we can’t do or see anything because we aren’t able to walk around.

We purchased tickets at the shore excursion desk because the app was giving us an error. The crew member who helped us was from Brazil and we told him how we just had an amazing meal at Samba Grill.

He said he actually worked with the head chef at Royal Caribbean, along with other Brazilian crew members, to develop the menu that is served to ensure it's authentic. He was happy to hear it was a great experience and I told him it was probably better than the steakhouse I tried when visiting Brazil!

Off to bed for us! Sydney was told the Alaskan pilot comes on the ship at 6am, which will be 5am with the time change. Lucky for me, she decided that was too early so we should be getting a restful night's sleep. 

Radiance of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Vancouver, Canada

In:
30 Apr 2022

Reporting live from Radiance of the Seas in the beautiful Pacific Northwest! 

Today, Sydney and I embarked on our 7-night sailing from Vancouver, Canada to Alaska. It was a gorgeous spring day with the perfect temperature. We really couldn’t have asked for a better send off on our first cruise day!

Our boarding slot today was for 1:30 PM this afternoon and we packed in a full morning before boarding the ship. Sydney and I stayed at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center in downtown. This was a great location in the city for exploring. It was also a quick 5 minute drive to the cruise port, which was perfect for us. We enjoyed our stay and would recommend the hotel for any cruisers because of its prime location.

Vancouver and Stanley Park’s Seawall

Downtown Vancouver is a super fun city to explore. I would highly recommend allowing some time to enjoy the downtown area if you're cruising from here in the near future! They have great walking and biking paths right along the waterfront that shouldn’t be missed. Stanley Park is also gorgeous and has a 6-mile looped called The Seawall. 

With jet-lag on our side, our morning started early at 5:30 AM. Sydney and I had coffee and a lovely breakfast at the hotel before making our way towards Stanley Park. Sydney is someone who loves to be active when traveling, so we decided to rent bikes for an hour. Our plan was to our bikes around the 6-mile loop and enjoy the views from Stanley Park. 

It was only $5 USD to rent the bikes and included a helmet - very affordable and a nice activity for all ages to enjoy. As my luck would have it, the gear of my bike collapsed within a few blocks of renting the bike so I had to walk it back and trade for a new one. I am so glad this happened before we had made any headway on the trail because it was a pain waling back my broken bike. 

With a new bike ready for round 2, we made our way back to the biking trail. Once we were finally on our way, the bike ride was absolutely stunning. The weather was a brisk 55 degrees and we were comfortable with pants and a light jacket on. We could even see the ship in the port! To my pleasant surprise, the path is flat and paved for the entire 6 miles. The route takes you along the waterfront and even goes under Lions Gate Bridge.

After we finished biking The Seawall, we stopped for a snack at Break Bakery and Cafe. This was recommended to us as a good local cafe to grab coffee or a pastry, so I opted for a brownie cookie which was perfectly gooey and chocolatey. 

Sydney and I did a little bit of shopping downtown to pick up a few things for the cruise before getting ready to pack out bags and head to the ship. We forgot to pack enough conditioner for the week - and this is a cruising must! The showers only provide a 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash so it's nice to have your own conditioner.

ArriveCan Chaos 

We opted to take a Lyft from the hotel to the cruise port right around 1:15 PM for our slated arrival time. The Lyft was super cheap, only costing us $8 USD. The conversion rate right now is amazing!

When we arrived, it seemed pretty quiet in the terminal drop off area. We dropped off luggage and began the boarding process.

Before entering the terminal, one of the port workers simply asked if we had all our necessary documents and we showed her our Set Sail Passes. I was surprised she didn't verify we had the right documents, she just took our word for it! We went through security and then we had to complete customs and immigration since we are leaving Canada to enter the United States.

 

The line moved quick enough as fellow cruisers shuffled through the customs kiosks. These are similar to what you find in the airports where a slip is printed after scanning your passport and declaring any goods you have. Sydney and I weren’t selected for any additional screening luckily, so we went on our way to the next boarding phase.

Also, I have Global Entry and I am pretty sure I would have been able to bypass the line and the kiosks. I didn’t want to separate from Sydney so I chose not to go in the Global Entry line, but it seemed to be an option.

NOTE: If you are cruising from Canada soon, you will want to read this section to save yourself major headache!

One of the port workers asked to see our ArriveCan forms and we showed her the emails we received for our flights. (This was also when I realized that masks were seemingly required in the terminal because I lowered my mask to use my FaceID on my iPhone - she immediately snapped at me to get my mask back on). 

Currently, if you fly into Canada, you will need to enter your travel plans and upload vaccination proof before entering the country. You receive a QR code after and can download the ArriveCAN app that will have your info and QR code. I only needed to show the gate agent for my flight into Vancouver in order to board the flight. 

The port worker snipped at us and said we needed another ArriveCAN form to board the ship. We were dumbfounded and had no idea this needed to be done.  

None of the communication from RCL mentioned that we would need to fill out ANOTHER form on ArriveCAN to board the cruise. Clearly, no one knew about this because it was utter chaos in the terminal.

Everyone was on their phone - and clogging the cell network - trying to get another ArriveCAN form submitted because you couldn’t board the ship without having the form completed.

We saw a lot of older guests who were struggling trying to fill out this information on their phones; that is, if they even had a phone to use because there were no computers available that I saw. 

We also received no direction on how to fill out the marine entry form, as it’s different than the airline one with just arrival date information. Sydney and I were frazzled as the app was slow to respond.

Finally, we were able to complete the marine travel form on the app and thought we had done them correctly. We got in line with our QR codes only to get told at the front of the line that we entered the wrong information.

Apparently you have to enter the entire duration of the cruise from start to end. I guess we had just entered today’s date for departure. 

By this point, we were super annoyed with how everything was being handled. People were sitting on the ground trying to upload proof of vaccination and complete the forms. Lots of older guests were receiving little to no assistance either for filling out the required document. 

Finally, our information was correctly entered and we were able to board the ship. This was also where our passport was scanned, negative test was verified and health questionnaire was complete. 

The port worker said that they had just heard of the requirement that morning. I am not sure if RCL dropped the ball on the ArriveCAN app or if the requirements were only made known to RCL right before the cruise. Either way, this was poorly executed and left many of us frustrated and frazzled.

Either way, if you sail on Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver, save yourself the headache and complete the marine travel form on the ArriveCAN app before arriving at the terminal. 

Sailaway

After boarding the ship (finally!), we dropped off our luggage at our stateroom. We are sailing in an inside cabin (3071) for the ship and it’s very comfortable with plenty of storage. We booked an inside guarantee and our cabin is located almost midship, so we can't complain!

Next, we made our way to the dining room to schedule our My Time Dining. I guess you can book your dinner time online prior to the cruise because they were barely able to accommodate us for dinner at 5:30 PM.

I used to just take it day by day with My Time Dining, but my cruises this year made me realize you need to apparently book your dinner time prior to boarding if you want to eat before 8 PM. I thought My Time Dining was meant to be a flexible option, but I guess not.

Eventually, we made our way to the top deck for lunch at the Windjammer. We ate outside on the back deck and the weather was perfect for spring. I had a hot dog and Sydney had a salad and small ice cream cone.

The trauma from boarding was only cured by the cocktails we enjoyed on the top deck as were admired the beautiful scenery. The Sailaway party started around 4:00 PM and the pool deck slowly filled with people wanting to watch us leave port. There was actually some lively energy on the pool deck and everyone was enjoying the scenery. We were looking for whales and seals from above but didn't have any luck.

At 5:00 PM, Radiance pushed back and we were on our way to Alaska! We sailed out of Vancouver and under Lion’s Gate Bridge, which was stunning!

Dinner in the Main Dining Room

It was well past 5:30 PM, so we made a pitstop at our cabin to change and made our way to deck 4 for dinner. There was a long line at the entrance, so I was glad we took care of our reservation right after we boarded. 

Our table for 2 was tucked between two other tables of 2 with less than a foot between the tables. It seemed that the waitstaff was very busy, essentially trying to accommodate multiple tables of 2 each ordering at different times. 

We are seated near a window and saw whales from afar, which was so fun!

Sydney started with the crab cake and I chose the wild mushroom soup. My mom dies for the crab cakes, so I was surprised when Sydney said it was a little mushy. My soup was pretty good but I could have used more truffle flavor. 

For dinner, I had the prime rib and Sydney the herb-crusted salmon. We both really enjoyed our meals, although the service was a bit slower than normal. We also didn’t have a beverage waiter stop by for a while, so we asked the main waiter if we could order cocktails. I think it added some more stress to his plate, so I will opt to get a drink before we head to dinner again. 

Dessert tonight was key lime pie, warm hazelnut chocolate cake and peach berry cobbler. Sydney didn’t know the cobbler was low sugar, so she said it was a little tart. The key lime pie and chocolate cake were fabulous. 

After dinner, we were pretty pooped so we came back to our room and unpacked. There was no headliner show tonight except for some movies playing, trivia in the pub and karaoke tonight. 

Tomorrow is a sea day so I am excited to relax a bit tomorrow. We also booked dinner at Samba Grill Brazilian Steakhouse tomorrow! I’ve never heard of this speciality dining restaurant onboard a Royal Caribbean ship! Our dinner table friends said they heard amazing things about it, so I have high hopes. 

Radiance of the Seas - Live Blog Preview

In:
28 Apr 2022

This week, I’ll be heading up north for the very first Royal Caribbean Alaska cruise for the season! 

Radiance of the Seas in Alaska waters

I’ll be sailing on a 7-night sailing onboard Radiance of the Seas from Vancouver to Alaska. Our itinerary includes port stops in Ketchikan, Sitka, and Skagway. The cruise will also sail through the Inside Passage and Tracy Arm Fjord, which I’m very excited about. 

Queue the song “North to Alaska” - one that my dad sang everyday of our first Alaskan cruise!

This week, I’ll be sailing with a very special friend, Sydney! We were roommates during our Semester at Sea and we haven’t sailed together since we disembarked from our ship in 2015. From sleeping in a remote Senegalese hut to hiking almost the entire island of Santorini, we have some incredible travel memories together. 

It’s been 4 years since we last saw each other at my wedding, so we have lots to catch up on during our week in Alaska. We've been wanting to take a trip together since our semester abroad, but life has been busy for us both. The pandemic didn't help, of course.

Travel Requirements

When we booked our Alaska cruise in February, it wasn’t entirely clear if Canada would allow cruise ship travel. Given the country’s overall cautiousness with the pandemic, I was hesitant to get too excited about the cruise. 

Luckily, Canada has allowed the entry of cruise ships and our cruise is a go! Sydney will be visiting Seattle and taking the train to Vancouver, while I will be flying from Florida directly into Vancouver. As fully vaccinated travelers, we don’t need a negative covid test to enter the country. 

Both of us were required to fill out the ArriveCAN form online, in which you receive a QR code to board your flight. The website says you can be randomly selected for COVID testing, but those recovered from COVID within 180 days are exempt with a positive PCR test. Sydney and I have both recovered from COVID in the last 180 days so we will be traveling with documentation to exempt us from the testing. 

Royal Caribbean still requires a negative COVID test within 2 days to board the ship and the United States still requires a negative test for airline travel. I’ve been holding out hope that the international testing requirement would be dropped for airline travel, but who knows if I will luck out by May 5. 

I am planning to take the Abbott Home-Test (proctored) for both the cruise and the airline requirement since I am outside of the 90 day recovery window. I’ve had great luck using these tests and I will probably pack and extra just in case. 

Alaska Experiences

I’ve sailed twice to Alaska before, both on Royal Caribbean cruises. The first time I did an Alaska cruise was in 2010 with my family and grandparents. We sailed south from Seward to Vancouver onboard Radiance of the Seas as well. 

I will never forget showing up to the train in Anchorage; we were under the impression it was a quick 30 minute ride to the cruise port Seward. Someone told us to enjoy the train’s beautiful views during the 5 hour ride - and we all were shocked to hear it was a long haul ride to the port. Guess that’s what life was like before iPhones! 

Our cruise was incredible though, even with the weather being unexpectedly cold. I have vivid memories of doing the dog sled training excursion and whale watching from the sea. Our horse-drawn city tour excursion hit a car in Ketchikan, which was very memorable. We also cruised right up to an iceberg and could hear the cackling and crashing of ice chunks falling into the freezing sea. 

The worst part of the trip was when I got home and found out I had mono- which explains why I got sick on the flight home from Vancouver. Hoping for better health this time around in Vancouver!

The second time I sailed to Alaska was last summer in July 2021 when cruising had just restarted. My husband and I sailed for 7-nights roundtrip from Seattle on Serenade of the Seas. Luke and I desperately needed a vacation after he graduated from his rigorous pilot training program and I finished grad school, not to mention the pandemic wearing on all of us at that point. 

We just wanted to cruise and honestly didn’t care where it went. When Royal Caribbean announced that Alaskan cruises would be restarted, we booked right away. It was perfect for us because it didn’t require approval for Luke to leave the country. We were true Floridians escaping the summer heat to vacation somewhere cooler!

Overall, our exploring was quite minimal. We had no plans because we wanted to have ultimate relaxation filled with eating, drinking, sleeping and being literal vacation blobs with no schedule in mind. 

We accomplished just that and enjoyed a week of much needed cruising relaxation. We didn’t do much in the ports other than walking around. The scenery from our balcony each evening was spectacular - and we had been upgraded from an outside cabin for free. We also have excellent weather and were actually able to use the outdoor pools a few days. 

Radiance Class Ships

As I mentioned, I sailed on Radiance of the Seas nearly 12 years ago. The ship was refurbished in 2016, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of her upgrades. We had a New Zealand cruise scheduled for March 27, 2020 on Radiance of the Seas, but you all know how that ended! She's definitely a great ship to sail anywhere with gorgeous landscapes and natural beauty.

Radiance Class ships are some of my favorite. In fact, in the last 5 years, I’ve sailed almost exclusively on Radiance Class ships. I appreciate the more intimate size of these cruise ships and the glass atrium gives truly incredible scenic views. 

Being on the smaller side, these ships are usually placed on longer sailings with more interesting ports of call. Radiance Class ships might not have all the bells and whistles of the bigger cruise ships, but they’re so comfortable and have everything you need for a great cruise. 

This Cruise

For our week in Alaska, Sydney and I are going to take a freestyle approach. We weren't sure if excursion policies would change so we haven't booked any tours currently. We are open to doing a tour if the opportunity presents itself but we normally like traveling on our own and exploring the port cities.

This is the first sailing of the Alaska season for Royal Caribbean! I've never been on a ship’s first inaugural season sailing, so that will be fun. It’s looking like we won’t be having amazing weather, as the forecast is showing 40 to 50 degrees each day. Looks like it will be rainy and cloudy. This is expected for late April so I’ll be packing all the cozy sweaters.  

Apparently, Radiance of the Seas just returned to service in April as the 22nd Royal Caribbean ship to resume cruising. I'll be interested to see if the ship's recent return to service will affect the onboard operations.

Glacier in Alaska

Sydney and I got an incredible deal on our cruise. We booked an inside cabin guarantee for $450 each with $100 onboard credit included. With the price being so low and the sailing being the first of the Alaska season, I will be interested to see what capacity we will be sailing at. I assume most who sail to Alaska sail in the summer in hopes of better weather and kids are out of school. After my busy Mariner of the Seas sailing last week, I wouldn't complain about a quiet ship.

Last summer, our Alaskan cruise had boozy hot chocolate and coffee during one of the mornings sailing through the fjords. This was something I was so excited for because I saw pictures online before we sailed. I asked at every bar when the boozy cocktails would be served but most bartenders didn't know what I was talking about.

Apparently these amazing drinks were served one morning on the pool deck and there was no announcement, much to my disappointment. They didn’t serve these special boozy drinks again the rest of the cruise. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the different cozy cocktails that will be served and I’ll be darned if I miss the warm cocktails on the pool deck again! 

Sydney loved getting up early on Semester at Sea to see the sunrise as we pulled into new ports - and I never once joined her (haha). This time around, I don’t want to regret missing beautiful sunrises or sunsets if the weather looks like it will cooperate. 

Overall, we are very excited to be sailing through Alaska. I really think it's the best way to see the state and all of its natural beauty. Getting to sail through the Inside Passage and the fjords can't be matched with a land trip. Of course, Sydney and I are equally as excited to see each other again after we lived in a cabin together at sea for 104 days!

Bon voyage!

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