This trip is a special one in that it will be a reunion of guests traveling with the agency we have used for well over 10 years. This will be their 30th year in business. Back in 2007, we also joined this group for a 20 year reunion in Alaska, and believe it or not, they had a gathering of 435 passengers. That cruise was only for 7 days and quite affordable. Since this is double the days, the group size is around 55. Of those, we personally know five of them.
Our flight out of San Francisco was at 6:30 am. That meant we had to be up at 2am, and ready for our pick up at 3:30am. Good grief. Despite our efforts of getting to bed early, it was impossible to get in 7 or 8 hours of true rest. Your mind is still active while you think of what you forgot to do or pack. Long story short………we got about three hours sleep, and that set the tone for the rest of the day.
The good news is that leaving for the city at that time of day is traffic-free. Better yet, Monday was almost a holiday, many folks having taken off that day to make a four day weekend. The airport was surprisingly busy at 4:30am, we assume, with commuter flights. By the way, we flew with Delta, an airline we have not used for many years. So it was a nice surprise to find the flight was easy, comfortable, and well-attended by staff. We even got a nice and healthy snack pack with slices of fruit and peanut butter with a scone. Coffee or soda followed. We were landing a little over 2 hours later in Seattle to grey and heavily overcast skies.
Well, at least it wasn't raining , as it often does in this part of the USA. In fact, we have been tracking the weather in the cities we will be visiting in Alaska, and for the most part, it has been raining and quite cool. So we hope our visit will be due for better conditions. Pure luck.
Eventually, we were met at the luggage pick-up by a HAL rep, who directed us in a roundabout way to access the HAL transfer bus. They have it set up well actually. Along the way, we came across reps who directed us to elevators and hallways to a waiting area complete with bench and table seating. This was in the lower garage parking area. That gave us a little time to do some writing before a coach arrived. By then, at least 30 or more passengers had arrived to fill the bus. We left around 10am and began the 30 minute drive to Pier 91.
Lucky for us, there was little to no traffic. Our bus driver pointed out many icons in the city along the way. The guests happened to be a rowdy group, making us think we were headed to the Caribbean instead of Alaska. Yep, this is going to be a fun trip.
At the terminal building, we were directed to present our passports and our boarding passes to get inside. At the door, there were stands full of Washington state booklets and maps. In hind sight, it would have been a great idea to spend a few days in Seattle before boarding the ship. Our longtime friend and tablemate, Bob, did just that. He took the hop on hop off bus, and also did a walking tour of downtown Seattle, enjoying the fine cuisine of the northwest. That way, he was able to acclimate to the time change from Ohio, and be rested up for embarkation day. Oh well, maybe next time.
Check-in was painless, mostly because we went through the priority line for high number Mariner Society members. Once the HAL rep realized we were President's Club members, we were treated royally. Once the info was put in the system, we were given our room keys, after taking our ID photos.
We were given a choice. Either sit with the next group to be escorted onboard within an hour, or go to a quiet place and be brought on sooner. We chose quiet of course. If we sat too long, we were afraid we would fall asleep. Funny how the lack of sleep catches up with you. Lucky for us, the wait was short, because Myja, the guest relations manager came to bring us onboard. From there, it was like home coming. Many of the staff members welcomed us back, remembering our names. Bart, the hotel director, welcomed us onboard, and told us of a special Pinnacle Grill dinner they had planned for us on July 9th, the second gala evening. The Captain, Fred Eversen, partner Brooke, Myja, and Bart will be joining us, along with two other President's Club members.
We were able to get into our room, although not everything was totally ready yet. Three, our assistant room steward from the world cruise, was still here. Our new head steward by the name of Made, greeted us as well. They could not do enough for us. Our requests were in place……the refrigerator, tower fan, and extra toweling were all there. The queen bed already was made with a duvet, and Three brought us an extra blanket. We should be set for the next two weeks now.
Time to see if the dining room was opened for lunch. Usually we board later, so we have never made it on time. Oddly, there was no daily newsletter in our room for today, July 3rd. No one we knew had one. Anyway, we did find the dining room open as usual, and really enjoyed appetizers and entrees of a hamburger and veal parmigiana. Good thing we passed on dessert.
At 1:45pm, our travel group hosted a cocktail welcome onboard party, originally scheduled in the Crow's Nest, but moved to the Ocean Bar. Apparently, a window had to be replaced in the Crow's Nest, so Bart figured it might be too breezy to hold a party there. There was a special guest invited to this party……Janet Lanterman, the founder of our travel agency, and also the wife of the former CEO Kirk. To make things more interesting, she is the honorary Godmother of the Amsterdam, christening this ship back in 2000. To top it off, her birthday is around now, and the manager of the travel agency had brought a huge cake onboard for all to share. Captain Fred, Bart, the hotel director, and Twinkle, the beverage manager came to honor Janet as well. Connecting with friends Bob, Leta, and Bill was indeed a highlight of the affair. Not to mention, some of our travel agency's members, who we have known now for 12 years, presented us with a special anniversary card, signed by most everyone in the office in Seattle. Even though we won't be celebrating this 50th wedding anniversary until August, they decided to celebrate it here and now. Nice gesture we thought.
At the same time, another party was being held in the Crow's Nest for the high day Mariner members. For some unknown reason, we had not been given any invite to this party, although Myja had mentioned it to us at embarkation. Hard to hit it all, we stayed at the Ocean Bar, visiting with friends.
The next big event of the afternoon was the muster drill at 3:15pm. At least there is only one on this trip. It is so much more efficient for the boat commanders to use the handheld device to log in our cruise cards. No excuses are accepted for missing this drill, as it is announced that if you are not present and accounted for, you will be denied sailing onward. Short and sweet, it went off according to plan.
Sail away was at 4pm, and we were back on the aft deck 8 to watch it. Many folks come back there today to enjoy leaving Puget Sound and Seattle behind. Hoping to see some dolphins or whales, we never did….only a few sealions and birds.
More good news…..our luggage was delivered to our room. We had enough time to stash it all well before dinner. Packing sparingly, we noticed we had tons of closet space left on this trip compared to a longer voyage.
Dinnertime came quickly at 8pm. Once again, we chose fixed seating on deck five, table for 8. As we walked towards table 65, we noticed a familiar fellow stand up to greet us. What a surprise to find Dave, a tablemate on the Tales of the South Pacific back in 2015. Even funnier that he had been assigned by coincidence to our same table. This was great. Now we know two people, as Bob, our buddy from 2002 joined us. Newcomers were Peggy and Jim from San Diego and Patrick, a single gentleman from the east coast, we think. Despite the fact that all of us were dragging from such a long day, we had a fine time at the table. The true test is finding that we were still there well after 10pm, after enjoying a fine meal. We did miss prime rib, which is normally on the menu the first night. It was served in the Lido, however…..go figure. Both of us were happy with Caesar salads, no anchovies, and a grilled chicken breast added to the top. A lemon torte finished the meal just fine, although we have made a decision not to over-indulge in the sweets. Only if it is something special.
Going to bed was so welcomed tonight. Probably 12 hours of sleep would put us back on track. Also, a day at sea, which we have tomorrow will help.
Bill & Mary Ann