Monday, September 13, 2010

Anchors Aweigh

My sweet sister gifted me with an Alaskan cruise (inside passage) and we embarked on September 4 from Vancouver harbour.

Prior to leaving (she asked me in June), I spent much time planning my outfits and just obtaining all the little things (according to Cruise Critic) that I would require to make my cruise enjoyable. Poor Peter, every time I would come home I would have some item and all he could see was a debit in our bank account. Of course, now I know what one really needs and I will make some post about what is absolutely necessary and what is just fluff.

Anyway - after much research about Alaska, reading forums, blogs, etc. the day finally arrives and I am on my way to the airport in Saskatoon to start my journey.

Day One -The Night Before

I have carefully packed all my luggage and make sure that I have the essentials in my carry-on and that my checked bag does not exceed 50 pounds. It weighs in at 45 pounds. I go through security and I don't know what it is about the Saskatoon airport but they must be VERY BORED or I have some kind of sign on me that says..."I should be strip searched". Well, I go through when there is absolutely no one else in security, and of course, Saskatoon has just received all those lovely toys for scanning people and I am chosen out of a line up of ZERO. I have a choice - either be searched by hand, or I can go into the new fangled body scanner. I chose the body scanner - only takes 3 seconds. I did want to ask for a picture, but I thought that would probably not go over well. And then they had to go through every item in my carry-on.

Since the only thing I was packing was shampoo, body lotions and a sparkly belt, I was allowed to proceed.

The flight to Vancouver was wonderful - clear, blue skies and wonderful views of the Rockies.

I found my sister at the baggage claim area and we saw people at a Princess Cruise kiosk and stopped to talk with them. Since we were not sailing until the following day, we were simply stopping to ask them what we should expect for tomorrow. Well, since we had booked our hotel through the cruise lines, they were waiting for us and after we collected our baggage, they whisked us off in a taxi to our hotel..://">The Westin Bayshore. Talk about being pampered -and this was just the beginning.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon walking the harbour - absolutely gorgeous. Saw the 2010 Olympic Torch sculpture and did the obligatory pictures. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that was perched over the waters. We also found the most important thing...a liquor store and bought 8 bottles of wine to take onto the cruise (this is important as you will read further on). I have no idea what time we finally went to bed, but tomorrow would be THE DAY to board.

Day Two - Boarding the Ship and Setting Sail

We wake up around 6 a.m. and it is shaping up to be a glorious day. I peak outside the curtains and see our ship, The Coral Princess, sailing into port. What a fantastic sight. We are supposed to have our BIG luggage ready and waiting at the hotel door so it can be transported to the ship. This is an important thing to note - you want to keep and have your most valuable items in your carry-on since you have no idea when you may see your main luggage on the ship. This means, have your toothbrush, a change of clothes, make-up, contact lens stuff, any medications and anything you do not want to lose (such as jewelry) in your carry-on. We packed all that important stuff, plus...the 8 bottles of wine - precious stuff, sure didn't want it to be broken in our checked luggage.

We were transported to the ship on a bus. Our bus driver was hilarious - he was German and it was like Arnold was driving and commentating. We get to the port and have to go through US Customs and Ship Security. Well, once again that target is gleaming on my back and the Ship Security were quite concerned about the corkscrew I had in my carry-on. They asked me why I had it...well, as I pointed to the 8 bottles of wine I had in my carry-on, it was so I could open them. They scrutinized my corkscrew and determine that the blade was only to open the packaging surrounding the cork (and not to commit mutiny on the high seas). After tossing my underwear and bras about the security area, I was allowed to continue.

At US Customs - all they did was scan my passport and say Welcome. And then we were on board the Coral Princess!

Once aboard we found our stateroom P615 - on the Plaza Deck 5 about midship. It was a really cute room. We had an oceanview and there was plenty of room and storage space for all our stuff. All we had was our carry-on, so we quickly dumped that in the room and set about exploring the ship. Darlene, of course said we were not allowed to take the elevators...EVER! and she like a fitness freak started running up the decks. We explored the Plaza deck first - that had the pursers counter and some shops. Decks 5, 6, 7 and 8 - amidship around the lovely winding staircase had all the shops and bars. Then we walked up another 5 decks to find the Lido Deck (Deck 14) and came upon this amazing buffet in the Horizon Court. So we did what comes naturally...loaded a dish with food (that is one of the main themes aboard a cruise ship - eat the amount you paid for your ticket in food).

After stuffing ourselves, we found the doors to outside and came across the outside pool and hot tub and more bars and a grand view of the Vancouver Harbour. Here we settled into deck chairs and next thing we know we have a Ceasar in hand and are now officially "crusin'"!

Our checked luggage arrives around 4 or 5 pm and we unpack. We ready for our first dinner. We chose late seating the formal dining room at a table of 10. We met our dinner mates - Ron and Diane from Southern California and Helen and Matt, Bruce and Glenda all from Perth, Australia. The other 2 never showed up.

During the course of the conversation that evening Ron was telling us that if we order 3 bottles of wine it's cheaper over the cruise. I said, we don't need any more wine as I brought on 8 bottles. He was stunned and said what? You can't bring wine on board. I said the only thing you can't bring on board is hard liquor. Well, Ron was just so upset with this revelation and spent the remainder of the cruise hunting down wine stores in ports so he could bring onboard extra bottles!

We were having so much fun at dinner that we closed down the dining room - the waiters standng there and staring daggers at us to vacate the premises. We finally left and went up to the Princess Theatre and took in one of the shows. And finally back to our stateroom and into bed.

The end of a great day and only the beginning of a great cruise.

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