Travel Recall: Seattle

Seattle Center Space Needle
The Iconic Space Needle

I am starting a new series of posts titled: Travel Recall. It will be about our travels we took before this blog. I will write all the details I could remember with help from pictures that we took. We do hope that you enjoy it and hopefully it will help you plan your future travels, too.

This time, three years ago, Ran and I went on a weekend jaunt to Seattle, Washington. I remember the dates we went because Ran was not allowed to take a day off. That was why Memorial Weekend worked for us. And also, Facebook reminded me.

I remember renting a basement studio near Downtown Seattle through VRBO. It was small but functional. But Ran really hated the bathroom because the shower stall is small and the toilet is raised up on a pedestal. We also had a car rental that weekend.

I remember hiking on our first day there. We went to Discovery Park, a 534-acre natural area park. I remember getting a map and still getting lost. But, we did not mind it because it only added about an hour to our planned hike and we ended up on a beach.

Seattle Discovery Park Hiking

I remember having lunch at Dahlia Lounge. Although I don’t remember exactly what we ordered. Then we visited Dahlia Bakery and ordered pastries. Up to this time, I still consider their Chocolate Eclair to be the best I’ve ever tried.

I remember finding out that there was a festival going on at Seattle Center. It was the Northwest Folklife Festival. I’m not too sure if we ate anything or if we just looked at stuff because it was too crowded.

I remember visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass and being amazed by the art installations. Then, Disney Cruise Line and Bellagio came to mind. Chihuly made chandeliers for both. Everything there was pretty and delicate. I wished I could afford a Chihuly. It was too pretty.

Seattle Center Chihuly Glass and Garden

Seattle Center Chihuly Glass and Garden

I remember going up to the Space Needle and enjoying the view of Seattle.

I remember signing up for a Walking Tour of Pike Place Market on our second day. It was through Savor Seattle. All of the food and drinks we sampled were great and we found our favorites. I thought it was a great idea to do a tour because all of the stores we went to had lines out the door.

Seattle Pike Place Market Walking Tour
Pike Place Market
Seattle Pike Place Market Gum Wall
Gum Wall

I remember spending a few hours at the Seattle Aquarium and just looking at the different animals. I also remember touching a starfish. And looking at my pictures, I believe it was quite a popular thing to do there.

It was a very short (but sweet) stay. We loved everything about it, the weather, the food, the environment and the amount of things we can do on a short stay.

We have since been back to Seattle once. We went right after our Alaska cruise last year. We ate at Pike Place Chowder at Pike Place Market. That was one of the places included in the Walking Tour we took. The chowder there was unforgettable, requiring us to eat lunch there before going back home to SoCal. We can’t imagine not being back to Seattle in the near future. It’s just one of those places you can’t seem to get enough of.

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Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 4

Disney Wonder Alaska Sawyer Glacier

Day 2 of the cruise was the day of the scenic cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord reaching up to the Sawyer Glacier. We were the 2nd sailing of the Disney Wonder this Alaska season. And in contrast to the bright and sunshiny weather the DVC (Disney Vacation Club) Member cruise had a week before ours, it was gloomy and drizzling throughout our cruise. We were, after all, in Southeast Alaska.

 

This was also the day we were scheduled for a Princess Gathering. The Princesses that were present were Ariel, Cinderella, Belle and Rapunzel. I think it still puzzles some people why a couple like us, without kids, still take pictures with characters. First, I really love character interaction. The lines in the cruises are much better than the lines in the park and you are not subject to weather. Second, they used to accept the photo mat at Guest Services for character signatures. But they don’t do that anymore. The last 2 cruises I had with them, I had to bring my photo mat with me during character photo-ops.

Disney Cruise Phot Mat Frame Signature
All 6 of our Disney Cruise Photo Mat Signature Frames

We had lunch at Beach Blanket Buffet in Deck 9 Aft. They had a BBQ that day and we weren’t going to miss that. We had a bit of a hard time finding a place to sit because it was drizzling a bit. But, just a bit more patience helped. I also remember having pea soup and hot chocolate while we were waiting in Deck 10 Forward where the madness was happening.

Disney Wonder Alaska Tracy Arm Waterfalls
Not a bad view for lunch
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Lots of pushin’ and shovin’ in this area

So, what madness am I talking about? I’m sure that for most people during the cruise, it was their first time visiting Alaska. And like everyone else in the ship, we all want awesome pictures. But, we’ve seen people staking out their spots in Deck 10 Forward since the early morning. Nobody was budging and some people we’re being very possessive and mean about their spots. And they had their big camera equipment poking people’s faces or heads. It got intense. We did not want to get involved or be part of it in anyway. We did not let it ruin our trip. I remember us taking a few pictures in that area and just leaving to go to other parts of Deck 10 and just waiting it out. In the end, the ship is going to turn around and sail out of Tracy Arm Fjord, giving everyone a chance to get a view.

My advice for this day would be to relax, walk around the ship, go to Deck 4 where the characters are walking around giving photo-ops (something that we totally missed) and go to Deck 10 in the afternoon to get a 360 degree feel of the awesomeness that is Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier. If you have a balcony stateroom, even better, order room-service and drink your hot chocolate. Nobody is going to push you around in your own space. When you look closely to the ice floating about in the water and you see black specks, most probably it is a harbor seal with its young. We saw a lot of them. There were also a lot of waterfalls when you look on both sides of the ship, both big and small. There is no need to stay in one spot the whole day and miss everything that is going on around you. There was also some narration voiced-over the inside of the ship by the Alaska Expert.

Disney Wonder Alaska Tracy Arm
Everywhere you look, you see beauty

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Our ship did not get too close to the glacier because there was still lots of ice floating in the water. We were the 2nd Disney sailing for that season, so that was not a surprise to us. And also, being cloudy and gloomy all day, you can actually see the blue color of the glacier.

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Disney Wonder Alaska Sawyer Glacier

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This is how 9PM looks like in Southeast Alaska
Disney Wonder Alaska Tracy Arm
Calm waters of the Inside Passage

Tracy Arm Day felt like a long one. But we couldn’t close our eyes for a second because we were surrounded by all this beauty and we want to see a lot, if not all. At the end of the day, we were cold, soaked but happy. Yes, definitely happy!

Don’t miss the first 3 parts of this series:

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 1

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 2

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 3

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 3

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Dressed to the nines just like Minnie

Day 1 of this cruise is a Day at Sea. For us, that equates to Palo Brunch. Palo is a specialty restaurant aboard Disney ships. It is not part of the main dining rotation and can be booked online or while on board if available. It is strictly adults-only and a dress code is enforced. This is how their website describes it:

Savor classic Northern Italian cooking with a modern twist at this chic adult-exclusive restaurant—it’s a feast for the senses! – disneycruise.com

Palo brunch is only available on sea days while Palo dinner is available every night. We usually like to book as early as we could so if we wanted to eat there again, we would have a chance towards the end of the cruise. Dress code for brunch is more relaxed compared to dinner. I usually wear short dresses and sandals while I wear cocktail dresses for dinner. Ran wears polo shirt type of tops for brunch and go for a dress shirt and black slacks with no tie for dinner. A fee of $30 per person is charged with brunch and dinner.

 

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Brunch comes with a free Mimosa
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What I wore for Palo Brunch

We love Palo brunch so much for the selection of foods. It is served buffet-style and you can also order hot foods. The best part is that they do not limit you to one hot food. They make you try other items. Chicken Parmigiana is their blockbuster item. But I also order their amazing Cold Strawberry Soup. The dessert table is nothing short of amazing. My husband and I make sure to get different desserts so we could try different things.

After brunch, we went to our ticketed Frozen Character Meet and Greet and met some more characters around the ship. We like hanging out at the adult section of the pool deck to take a nap, so that’s what we did. For some reason, we always get fulfilling naps and a sound sleep when we’re on the ship. I think it has something to do with the rocking of the ship. It lulls us to sleep.

Olaf Disney Cruise Alaska 2015
Olaf loves warm hugs
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Princess Anna and Elsa of Arendelle

At night, we had Palo Dinner. We missed our Main Dining rotation. But it was only for one night, so that was okay. Dinner was much more dressier and it is ala-carte. We make it a point to try different entrees’ on their menu but we stick to the same appetizers and desserts. We always get the Calamari for our app and the much talked-about Chocolate Souffle’ for dessert. Now, I have tried a lot of souffle’s in my life. But Palo’s is my number one. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion is a close second.

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A jacket is not required for Palo
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I wore the same shoes for brunch and dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Amazing Chocolate Souffle’

And that folks, is a recap of how our first Day at Sea went. It was very relaxing and revived us of our energy for tomorrow’s scenic cruising along Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier.

Here are the links to Part 1 and 2 if you missed it:

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 1

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 2

Why We’re Excited For Our Danube River Christmas Market Cruise

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So, we are headed to Europe for a Danube River Christmas Market Cruise in late November. We are sailing with AmaWaterways on the AmaSerena. No particular reason for choosing AmaWaterways except that it fits our dates. This will be our first time cruising on a river.

Here are our reasons for why we’re really excited:

  1. It is our first time in Europe. We’ve never set foot on European soil. Everything will be new to us and there will be nothing to compare it to. Who doesn’t want new adventures?
  2. It is a Christmas Market River Cruise. And I (Jan) love Christmas. I am a sucker for Christmas season. I decorate my room, my door, and have my own Christmas tree outside my room. I listen to Christmas music as soon as Kost 103.5 starts playing them non-stop. Christmas is awesome!
  3. We will be visiting three countries, six river ports, all in seven days!20160518_211419
  4. The idea of not having to pack and unpack every time we have to go to another place eliminates most of the stress of traveling. I have to admit that packing/unpacking is agonizing for me. I was never good at keeping my luggage and things organized enough and I always end up overpacking.
  5. We would love to sample regional food and beverages (wines and beer). But we do not know where to start. If AmaWaterways sticks to what they say on their brochure, we will be able to do just that. We love eating and we are always up to trying new cuisine.

#AsiaEurope2016 can’t come soon enough!

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 2

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Saying “Goodbye” to Vancouver for now…

We started this trip by flying into Seattle, Washington and taking the Amtrak to Vancouver, Canada. The train arrived at around 10 PM. We stayed the night at a family friend’s house about 15 minutes outside of Downtown Vancouver.

The next day, we checked in at Days Inn Downtown Vancouver, left our luggage inside the room and set off to walk around Downtown. The hotel we checked into was a stone’s throw away from Canada Place, where we disembark for our cruise, and more importantly, near a Tim Horton’s! We walked around the port and we got to see (for the second time) the winter Olympics torch.

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On the day of embarkation, we woke up pretty early. Got our breakfast. And decided, we were going to walk around the port for some early morning exercise. We got to see the Disney Wonder pulling into the port. Now, that got us more excited.

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The “wonderful” Disney Wonder pulling into port

As we were going about our walk, we decided to go straight through to Stanley Park and see the Totem poles. It was a great walk and when we got to the Totem Poles we were the only ones there. From this area of Stanley park, one can also get a nice view of Downtown Vancouver. I think the walk was about 3 miles total.

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Downtown Vancouver Skyline from Stanley Park

When the time came to embark, we walked from our hotel to Canada place. It was about a 5 minute walk, two streets to cross and a ramp. That was the reason I chose to book here, for the convenience of just walking to port. It was not bad at all. Or at least, Ran was not mad about it. Other than a line full of excited Disney cruisers, embarkation was painless. they even had chairs while we were in line.

The first order of business once we boarded the Disney Wonder was for Ran to be in line at Guest Services for character tickets while I get our Palo brunch and dinner reservations changed. It all worked out and we were on our way to Parrot Cay for embarkation lunch soon after. After lunch, we got into out stateroom, which was an inside. No surprises there. The Safety Drill was scheduled at 4 PM. This was the first time we were stationed on Deck 4, so we were able to see the inside of a lifeboat. Pretty thrilling! As soon as we got done with that, we headed towards Deck 10 for the Sail-Away Party with the characters. The weather was gloomy and it was drizzling a little bit. But we persisted because it is tradition for us to always attend and listen for the ship horn signalling the start or our trip.

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Disney Wonder Lifeboat

That was how our Embarkation Day went. Stay tuned to read more about our Alaska Adventures aboard the Disney Wonder.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, please click this link: Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 1

Alaska Archives: Cruising with Mickey Part 1

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On Deck with Donald

Cruising through Southeast Alaska has long been a bucket list trip for me and Ran. Last year, after putting in long hours and extra days at work, we finally made it happen. For the past four summers, we have been booking and cancelling our Alaska cruises. It just never seemed financially possible at the time. I have read trip reports saying that excursions at the Alaskan ports are not cheap. And then, there’s also the issue of booking a balcony vs. an inside stateroom.

Originally we were booked with Holland America, embarking and disembarking at Seattle, Washington. A mini-suite sounded like the perfect room to book. It had Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Victoria as its Ports of Call and also a scenic cruise through Sawyer Glacier. Then with almost 90 days before embarkation, I decided to check out Disney Cruise Lines Alaska sailings. Everything that I had planned with Holland America went crumbling down. I just had to do it with Disney. So, I booked it.

So, what made us change our minds?

1. Before going on this one, we’ve already been on FOUR Disney cruises. We know who to book with. We know the process. And, we know what to expect. This cruise made us in to Gold Castaway Club members, which, I will discuss in a future post.

2. The port times are longer than the cruise we booked with Holland America. The Jones Act prevents a non-U.S. registered ship from traveling between two U.S. ports unless they stop at a foreign port. The Holland America ship embarks and disembarks in Seattle, Washington. Hence, a stop at Victoria, British Columbia is necessary. On the other hand, the Disney Wonder leaves from Vancouver. So, there was no need for an extra stop.

3. We could not pass up on the chance of having brunch and dinner at our favorite: Palo Restaurant. Just thinking about the amazing food (and Chocolate Souffle’) is enough to make me think about booking another Disney cruise.

4. I really love taking pictures with the Disney characters. It is so much different from the parks. The lines are not as bad and you’re not under the heat of the sun. They even have a ticketed system on the more famous ones (Frozen characters, Princesses).

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Ravin’ good time with Rapunzel

 

We had to downgrade to an inside stateroom. But, we didn’t mind that at all because that was what we usually book from our past cruises. And even though we booked past the penalty date, we were still able to secure the excursions we really wanted. We were booked for the White Pass Scenic Railway with Liarsville Salmon bake at Skagway, Helicopter ride to the Mendenhall Glacier and a high school classmate of mine gave us a private tour of Ketchikan.

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On our way to Mendenhall Glacier

We did not regret changing at the last minute, at all.

To be continued…

Travel Plans For 2016

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” -Dalai Lama

We live by this quote. Ran and I believe that traveling to a different place every year makes us richer. And just imagine the stories you tell when you get back from your vacation. Travel is that something that you spend money on and yet you come back even wealthier than before you started.

This year, we are planning for our longest vacation so far. I will be away from home for 28 days. On the other hand, Ran is away for about 22 days. Now, don’t think we will be vacationing separately. I will simply be getting a head start. As a nurse (or at least where I work), it’s easier to ask for vacation days. I work 12-hour shifts 3 days a week, while Ran has weekends off.

We are tagging this year’s grand vacation as #AsiaEurope2016. We are hitting 2 Asian countries (South Korea, Philippines) and 6 European countries (Hungary, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, France and UK). Originally, we were only going to Europe for a Christmas Market river cruise. Then, Ran’s cousin invited us to her wedding in the Philippines. And, we just have to go to South Korea while we’re at it because we love Korean food and culture. And by culture, I mean Korean dramas and music. Vacation starts the week before Thanksgiving holiday.

We are both anxious and excited about this vacation. I love Christmas season. And, to experience this in different countries with the love of my life will be amazing.

This June, though, I will be flying to Florida with my friends and their families for a week. We will be in Orlando for 4 days and 2 days in Key West. I have been to Key West once as a port of call for a Caribbean cruise and to Orlando, 4 times. I know. Some people gasp at the idea of an adult being excited to go back to Walt Disney World. But, believe it or not, there’s always something new to experience there. We don’t have kids. But Ran and I enjoy it a lot. This time will be a little different though as Ran won’t be able to go because of work. I will be with friends and their kids.

Occasionally, we will do road trips for a weekend (Las Vegas for Ran’s Bowling league) and tour local areas (family and friends visiting So. Cal.). Join us in planning and seeing our travels through.

We hope you enjoy our future posts and please feel free to comment. We would like to get to know other travelers!