bhdickson

bhdickson
Third Mate

Joined: 09/27/2014
2
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2
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13
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bhdickson's Past Cruises

Emerald Princess

November 2014 - Emerald Princess to Caribbean - Western

Great week in spite of bad weather

This was our first time cruising out of Houston and we found it a bit of a challenge figuring out where to stay the night before (coming from the West Coast that's pretty much of a necessity) and the most economical way to get to from George Bush International to the port.  We found that our best choice was to rent a car through Costco from the airport and drop it off in Webster near our hotel.  We stayed at the Best Western Nasa and were quite happy with it.

We chose to book obstructed view staterooms for ourselves and son and daughter-in-law.  There's not much to see out on the sea, but we like to tell night from day.  Our only complaint with the room was the minuscule shower.  I am a small woman but found it a real challenge to shave my legs in that shower.  The bed was comfortable and there was a comfortable chair.  Storage space was fine.

Service was excellent.  We experienced bad weather so that we were unable to visit Belize, a real disappointment.  Cozumel was very windy so that snorkeling was a challenge and we gave up on it pretty quickly.  This meant that we had five days on the ship with no ports.  Nevertheless, we had a great time because there were excellent activities.  There was that old favorite trivia at least twice a day.  In addition there was a golf chipping contest most days in which contestants attempted to chip a golf ball into one of several hula hoops floating in one of the pools - not easy.  There was bocce ball, croquet, paddleball, hoops contests.  At night we enjoyed Majority Rules, Liar's Club (try to guess which of three definitions for words is correct - and these were words that must have come from a search of an unabridged dictionary to find the most impossible words), Marriage Match (definitely PG-13).  I felt that these were some of the best activities I've enjoyed on a ship.  I would have liked lectures like can be found on Holland America or Celebrity.

The ports would have been good had the weather cooperated.  We had been to all three ports several times before and they are really good ports.  We arranged a boat snorkeling tour for Roatan with Roatan Ecotour and that worked out very well.  There were whitecaps at West Bay but Alex Manzato took us to the other side of the island for excellent snorkeling.  I had arranged a cavetubing and zipline tour with cavetubing.bz for Belize.  We didn't get to do that, of course, but we had done the cavetubing part of the tour with the same company on a previous cruise and enjoyed it thoroughly.  We took a cab to the Money Bar on Cozumel and were able to use a comfortable beach lounge for the price of a drink and also got lunch there, very good for a reasonable price.  We had been there before and had very good snorkeling there.  Our son and daughter-in-law found scuba operators off the ship in Roatan and Cozumel for a reasonable price and were very happy with what they did.

 

 

 

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Amsterdam

September 2014 - Amsterdam to Alaska - Inside Passage

Great ship, so-so ports

Our experience on the Amsterdam itself was outstanding.  The food was some of the best we've had on a cruise.  The staff was friendly and helpful.  I especially enjoyed the culinary demonstrations, really about the most entertaining I've had on a ship.  Our cabin was very good except for engine noise, something we didn't expect on the lower promenade deck about 1/3 of the say from the back.  A couple traveling with us was next door and were lucky enough to have their room changed to one on a lower deck that someone had canceled.  They had no more trouble after that.

 

I should say right off that my husband was never interested in an Alaskan cruise because he had attended trust meetings held in Alaska for a number of years and so had gone on a number of excursions.  In addition, being from Tacoma, Washington, we generally think of going somewhere warm and dry on vacation.  We went because other family members we wanted to cruise with wanted a different experience having been to the Caribbean several times.

 

We enjoyed going up Tracy Arm and seeing Sawyer Glacier in spite of the cold.  We went the last cruise of the season, not the greatest idea I suspect.  It was quite chilly on deck and I would strongly recommend gloves, hats and scarves for going anywhere near glaciers.

 

We enjoyed Juneau.  We road up on the Mt. Roberts Tram and enjoyed the film presentation with accompaniment by a member of the Alaska String Band.  All of us but my husband (who had been to at least one glacier before) took a helicopter (actually 2 helicopters) to the Mendenhall Glacier and that was an amazing experience.

 

Sitka was rainy.  We went in the community center (I think that's what it is) by the tender area and a local group was presenting a photo op where people could dress in furs and pose with huskies, a sled and snowshoes in front of a backdrop for $20.  The pictures turned out very well and the dogs were friendly and beautiful.  Other people saw the raptor center, which they said was great.  A brother and sister-in-law of ours managed to find the Bishop's House and they said that was interesting and well worth seeing.  Unfortunately, with the rain and trying to read the wet map, hold the umbrella and protect my camera I threw in the towel and just shopped for the last grandchildren on my list.  The one advantage of the last cruise of the season was the sales in the shops.  I saw lovely handpainted Russian nesting dolls and ornaments as well as beautiful wood bowls that can be used to serve food (hand washing necessary).  The best shopping that I saw was in Juneau.

 

Luckily, Sitka was the only port where rain was a problem.  We had a short stop in Ketchikan.  I went snorkeling.  The tour personnel were very good: knowledgeable, friendly and very helpful.  The only problem with it was the wetsuit.  I knew going in that it would be tight as reviews from other passengers had mentioned that.  With the cold water it was necessary.  Unfortunately, I have arthritis in my hands and that makes them very weak.  I had to have help pulling the thing on and the hood does make one rather short of breath.  We saw colorful sea stars, a sea cucumber, and bright red spiny sea urchins.  Amazing!  We also saw two whales at a distance spouting and their tails when they dove.  I would recommend this tour for younger people with stronger hands.  Other family members took a taxi tour and saw salmon running.

 

A law passed in 1885 that I think needs to be amended meant a visit in a foreign port.  This is why Ketchikan was a short stay.  We couldn't arrive in Victoria, B.C. till after 7:00.  By the time we could venture out it was dark and everything was closed except for bars and probably other nightlife.  We aren't into that and four of us got a taxi and had a tour by night. 

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bhdickson's Tips

La Paz, Mexico - We went to the Serpentario on our own. It's not the nicest habitat for its creatures, but better than some we've seen. The people in charge seem to be doing their best with limited funds. We saw snakes, iguanas, other reptiles, turtles and there's an area for small birds and bunnies where one can go in and feed them.
Cozumel, Mexico - Very good snorkeling at the Money Bar with a beach lounge for the price of a drink, Chankanaab more expensive but fun, good shopping - at Puerta Maya Los Cinco Soles has nice things a cut above the tourist junk
Belize City, Belize - But not this time since high winds meant we couldn't go there. Previously we went cave tubing with cavetubing.bz booked online. Altun Ha is a decent ruin. We had a nice time cruising down the River Wallace after Altun Ha on a previous cruise with a ship's tour
Houston, Texas - Expensive to get from the airport to the port. There are no hotels with shuttles to the port (at least none that I could find), transportation to the port from the airports is expensive.
Sitka, Alaska - Not as picturesque as I'd been lead to believe. I'd have liked it better had it not been really rainy.
Victoria, British Columbia - This would have been a great port had we been there in the daytime. Only included because of an 1885 law to keep foreign ships from trading in U.S. ports
Seattle, Washington - I say it's great because we're from Tacoma and didn't have to take a plane, just park. It was well organized.

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