Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Suite Life on Deck goes to Alaska

It has taken me ages to blog about our wonderful Cruise to Alaska, mainly because with so much happening in a span of 7 days, it was hard to get organized and figure out what makes the cut - to be able to show what Cruising is all about. Plus, I had to deal with my real life, getting Fi ready for big school, and lack of sleep because we keep really horrible hours now.

Our starting point for the cruise was Seattle, you can read all about our layover tips here. It was easiest to just take cabs from  our hotel to where the ferry was docked because the hotel was charging us an arm and a leg for the shuttle.
Everyone excited to go Cruisin'
Team Number 1: all the Aunts
We were on Auntie Celita's Team, so Sofia was watching our luggage,
while we sent everyone off in their cabs.
Team Number 2: Tito Bong's Family
Team Number 3: Ninong Tinggot and Papa (and wives)
Team Number 4 (Selfie) : Kids with Auntie Celita 
Goodbye Sunny Seattle! It was great seeing you.
Day 1 of our Cruise. Excited Much.
Sofia in front of Oosterdam before check-in.
We were still all smiles here.

Nobody told us that they were the most disorganized bunch when it comes to checking in and that it would literally takes hours. I sure hope they change, because it sure starts off the cruise on a really bad note, which was a sad thing since once you get on the ship, the service is really good.
We had to start eating our snacks while in line
because we were starving. It was past lunch time already.
Thank God for Piroshny Piroshny's yummy baked Apple Pastry.
After 1 Million Hours, Finally Checked-In and
Ready to Board.
We just brought all our stuff and went directly for lunch at the Lido Deck.
I immediately availed of the Prime Rib.
Since all the food is free, I told myself I had to limit myself to one steak a day.

After lunch, we looked around the deck. Sofia already wanted to go swimming!

However, the luggage was still being brought up, and the first order of business was the Emergency Drill.
Lifeboat 1- Complete!
Sofia met Auntie Celit's best friend, Tita Winkie,
Another Aunt who spoils her.
On the deck with Auntie Celit before Sail Away,
with Seattle in the background.
We also checked our the Club Hal for the kids.
The arcade.
And the outdoor play area on Deck 10.
Photo Ops before Sail Away.
We grabbed 2 tables on the outdoor deck for the Sail Away party.
Sofia and I also grabbed a lounge chair for a better view.

We got coffee and Ice Cream from the Lido Restaurant, and the servers were also going around with some food.

The only problem was that we had the 5:30pm sitting at the Main Dining room and the Sail Away Party was at 4:3pm. Hahaha.
The have a Kid's Menu and Kid's Activity Sheet so Sofia was happy.
Then there's always a choice of Starters (Soup + Salad if you want), Main, Dessert and Coffee.
I think I had the Mozza and Asparagus (Good)
+ French Onion Soup (Not Good - as it was not rich enough)
For my main, I ordered the Avocado and Melon Salad (Good).
Sof enjoyed her chicken nuggets, and the others has Prime Rib or Salmon.
We always get to try a lot of the desserts because we order different ones
to share.

After dinner, I normally bring Sofia to the Kids Club and leave her for a few hours at Club Hal.

It's at the center of the ship on the 10th deck, the Vista Dining Room is at the back and our cabin is in the front, so if we take the lift without thinking, we need to walk on the outdoor 10th floor deck.
It's beautiful at night.
But it's very cold and it gets quite creepy when it gets dark,
so I run the whole way. Hahaha.

After getting Sofia out of the way, we were able to unpack in peace. It was quite stressful at first when we saw our small cabin with all our luggage.
But it's ok once you get organized. They have a slot of areas,
(inside chairs, under the beds, etc.) where you can keep your things.
Every night, there's a different towel sculpture and chocolates.

Ads and I went to play Bingo before the show started.
Planning our first 2 days while waiting for the game to start.
Little did we know, we were bound to get lucky!
Not just on the first night.
Fif playing statue dance before I picked her up.
Then we passed for the yummy freshly baked cookies at the Lido Deck.
We caught some of the show.
Then we passed for some popcorn at the cinema.
Before finally calling it a night.
We opted to share the sofa bed (with double cushions).
Our neighbors opted to use the bunk bed that
comes down from the ceiling instead.

We had two days at sea because the ship normally goes to the furthest point first, then it docks at the different destinations on the way back. The sea was really rough on the first day during the stretch from Canada to Alaska!
It was beautiful to wake up to this sight.
The Buffet Breakfast at the Lido deck was so good.
I love the American Brown and Serve Sausages.
Then they had a station that does Eggs Benedict too!
These are four different kinds so we Ady and I tried them all.
Sofia and I hanging around the breakfast table,
before going for a swim.
It was 10 degrees outside.
The thick blankets should have given us a clue.
We opted to swim in the hot tub on the outdoor deck instead because atleast it was 10degrees with some sunlight.

After a quick dip, (Been There Done That), it was time for us to eat again. Hahaha, seriously.
The strawberries were really yummm.
Sof had freshly grilled hotdogs and a burger
which I shared.

Sof went back to Club Hal so Ady and I explored the other areas of the ship. One of our favorite places was the Library and the Explorations Cafe on the 10th Deck.
You need to pay for the coffee but it's so much better than the crap
they serve at the restaurants.
Drinks are for sale, but you can just ask for the food,
if you want anything to eat.
There were puzzles, but we didn't really add much progress to it.
The Library is supported by the New York Times,
so they have all the bestsellers that made the New York Times List.
I loved this space where I read magazines and watched the sea.
They also had a lot of board games but we never got the chance to play.

Normally on days when we are at sea, we make it to the Main Dining Room for Afternoon Tea. I try to eat a heavy breakfast (10ish), not to eat a lot at lunch (12ish), so I can eat at tea (3PM), but then eating dinner (530PM) remains to be a challenge.
Sofia and my Cinnamon Tea
The servers go around, so you only get what you want, and not the
3-tiered plates filled with snacks. Less ambiance, but it's also less wasteful.
My picks.

Our first day on the ship was the first Formal Night.
Everyone was dressed for formal night.
Starters and Mains.
I had the berry salad starter, the steak, and some of Ady's Risotto.
As usual, we went all out for dessert.
The Souffle and New York Cheesecake were really good.

After dinner, we all watched the Captain's Toast and the Show.
Sofia with Gammy and Lolo in the favorite Spot.
The HAL Performers were quite good.

After dinner, we chose our spot for our family pictures. We picked the spot which the official photographers were using at dinner time. Hahaha.
Sofia and Tita Ignie dancing around.
The siblings.
With Spouses.
With Kids and Grandkid.
With Everyone.
Other permutations.
After dinner, Auntie Celit, invited us for a round of drinks at the
Crows Nest.
Bedtime. My 2 Huskies were Ready for Day 2
Our second day was still at sea, but we had the scenic crossing at Tracy Arm to look forward to.
On our way to breakfast, we saw the Deck Sale,
so we stopped to shop first.
Sof will all the Towel Sculptures
I was to cheap to buy this book. I bet you can find a tutorial on youtube.
As usual, we don't come out of a sale empty-handed.
The scenery was just breathtaking.
We picked a table with a view.
My new breakfast faves include Omelette and Sticky Buns.

For lack of anything better to do before lunch (yes, meals are our highlight), we attended the cooking demo at the Culinary Center.
Sof liked the bread pudding so much, she asked for seconds...
and thirds. Hahaha.
Then Sof had Fish and Chips for Lunch
While I had a some Lamb, Veggies, and Parma Ham and Melon.
Post lunch, I brought Sofia back to the Culinary Center because
Club Hal had pretzel making. 
We went out on Deck 10 for the Scenic Cruising, but the ship
wasn't able to go through Tracy Arm because there was still a lot of ice.
When we finally got bored, we went in for the Cupcake Tea,
and I saw a whale (not in picture) right here.
In a way, Cupcake Afternoon Tea is so much better than the normal
one because they also have the tea sandwiches.
After Cupcake Tea, we enjoyed Scenic Cruising from our own Balcony.
Sofia got an origami tulip at dinner because her
food took so long to arrive.
Sof enjoyed the chowder. I think I had the Terrine and the Seafood Salad.
Dessert was also good as usual, but I think it was already starting
to come out of our ears.
Sofia's Sundae.
The highlight of the second night was taking Sofia to Queen's Lounge for ABBA Night.
She stayed until she could dance to Dancing Queen.
Or more accurately, so Lolo could dance while carrying her.
Towel sculpture of the night was Mr. Crab.

The next day, we are all excited because when we woke up, we were already docked in Juneau, the Capital of Alaska.
View from our Balcony.
I couldn't imagine that this was Alaska's Capital.
We asked for Coffee and Croissants in the room,
to serve as our wake up call.
Everyone met up after breakfast and was ready to explore Juneau.
We ended up walking along the main street, until people started going their own way. We did a quick visit to the Mendelson Glacier.
It was beautiful. More on Juneau in a separate post.
The town was so small, we could easily go back to the ship for lunch,
then we went back out again to shop for souvenirs.
The Mexican Buffet was really yummy + Cookies and Coffee.
We were back in the ship on time for our 530PM dinner at the Main Dining Room.
Sofia had a Pengiun waiting for her on our table.
I had the Goat Cheese Tart as a starter, which was excellent.
Then I think I had the steak while Ady had salmon.
The desserts were getting less interesting,
or maybe we weren't sitting with Kuya Ian, who has a real sweet tooth.
After dinner, Sof bought bracelets from
Gold by the Inch.
Then we watched the Cabaret featuring Songs from Broadway.
Then Sofia played with all her goodies from Juneau.
Goodnighty! Do you notice we keep getting more
and more on the Sofa Bed?
The next day, the ship docked in Sitka. It was an even smaller town, whose highlight for me was the free wifi downtown. Hahaha.
Don't get me wrong, it was still beautiful. The ship couldn't dock nearby,
so we needed to take a tender, and this was our view.
You can just walk around the whole town.
Maybe I'll blog about it separately (if I have enough material, hahaha).
We were back on the boat by lunch, where Auntie Celit asked the
Filipino chefs to prepare Salmon Sushi with less rice.
Sof and the Aunts.
After lunch, Sof had a dip in the pool.
Then napped beside Lola Celita.
I  ate a light dinner because there was a Dessert Extravaganza at 10PM.
Even light dinners come with dessert.
We visited the Russian Bazaar, but we didn't find anything to buy.
The Dessert Extravaganza by the Poolside was impressive.
The lines were really long, so we got dessert from the satelite
counters that we not too crowded.
I'm just glad Sofia was able to sleep even with the Sugar Rush.
The next day, we docked at Ketchikan for our last day in Alaska.
It wasn't a late start so we had time to have a proper breakfast.
I figured out that you could have only one Eggs Ben, and ask them
to put all the toppings I liked (good for 3 eggs ben).
The Ketchikan Port in the background.
Ketchikan is known for Totems, but they also have a lot of
Jewelry Stores (with pricing for Cruise Ship Passengers).
We made it back to the ship in time for lunch.
They were having an Alaskan Cook-out by the Poolside.
I had the sausages, including Venison and an Asian Stir Fry.
In the afternoon, Ady and I shared a set of Bingo Cards for the
chance to win the $80,000 Jackpot.
We didn't win it, but we won $800+ for first place instead.
After Bingo, we had to dress for the second Formal Night.
Sofia carrying around new Husky Bag with her Formal Wear.
The food was outstanding for the second Formal Night.
I had Escargot.
The Snails were Ok but the Garlic Butter was To Die For.
The main was the best yet - Surf and Turf (Lobster and Steak).
The dessert was quite good too.
After dinner, we all posed for pictures by the
staircase. (Also an official photographer spot) Hahaha.
More Family Pictures
Our family just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
The next day was our last day at Sea. We had a lot of time on the ship because we were docking at Victoria from 6PM-Midnight. Just in case you're wondering, yes, you need a Canadian Visa for 6 hours, or they won't even let you board the ship in Seattle.
On our last day on the ship, we struggled to wake up for the disembarkation
guidelines. They also tell you that each guest is automatically charged
(around $12 per person per day) for gratuity, and they introduce the crew.
So we had breakfast afterwards instead.
The Chocolate Croissants are all Sofia's.
The also had another poolside event.
We weren't really in the mood for lunch after our heavy breakfast, so I gave Sofia a bubble bath instead, then we ordered room service while we were getting packed, as after we got back from Victoria, we needed to leave our luggage outside the door.
The towel sculpture came early because it was
the last day on the ship.
I was still able to grab some Mexican before we went to clear immigration,
at Victoria.
Victoria was nice, but the timing was a bit off, so we didn't get
to visit Buschart Gardens.
Midnight snack before sleeping.
Sofia was happy because she managed to bring home
more babies.
Thanks so much Auntie Celita for this
really wonderful vacation.

Sofia (and all of us) loved every single day we were Cruising! just saying.