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suralottie

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  • Content Count

    34
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About suralottie

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    New Jersey
  • Interests
    Travel, hiking, gardens, viewing art, reading, meeting new people
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    New to cruising

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72 profile views
  1. I am the original poster and found the advice given very helpful. We cruised in July and am happy to report that gala nights were no problem, there was lobster for those who wanted it and the vegetarian meals were fine. Personally I'm very happy that we didn't have to dress up and the black pants/nice top for me and chinos and nice shirt for my husband worked fine. We didn't have to "hide out" and had a great time. I found out I loved cruising and can't wait to go again. My husband is neutral about it but willing to give it another try. He was pleasantly surprised about the variety of the veggie options and releived not to have to dress up. All is good 🙂
  2. Thanks for the responses! In terms of a cruise to New Zealand one way to or from the US-I would like to keep it under 1,300 at most per person for the base fee. Guess I was visualizing a relatively straight repositioning sail without a lot of ports but that doesn't look really feasible for the spring of 2020. I looked online and most were for 2019-will keep checking-or were to other parts of the world. Perhaps someday I will take one across the Atlantic. Heidi thank you for the idea of looking into "segments" of world cruises-I am going to look into that. I've begun asking friends for TA recommendations and will search online as well. We've always planned our trips on our own but it seems as if TA's may be able to get better prices or perks than I would for a cruise. The Other Tom-we will break up the time flying to New Zealand and def. will look into using miles into perhaps flying business class for the longer leg of the trip. Also looking into "stayover" flights which allow you to stop for a few days when you have a layover. I will know more after September when I will be retiring. Still thinking of January. One nice thing about being retired will be the ability to travel off school schedule. My husband and I are making up our bucket lists and will see which ones coincide and start planning. We'd like to do our more active ones sooner-we love hiking, kayaking, museums, history and just walking around new places. Since our first cruise I am adding a South America-Antartica cruise to the top 5-we could do our hiking in Argentina before or after the cruise. Will have to learn more about budget traveling abroad to do the traveling we'd like to do. We are not getting any younger but we have our dreams and I'd like to make some of them into reality.
  3. Hi- I am seriously thinking of retiring in January 2020 (I will be 65, my husband 72-we live in New Jersey) and have always wanted to go hiking in New Zealand (rent a car and travel around 3 weeks-hiking and site seeing). We were originally thinking of breaking up the flight by visiting my daughter in San Francisco for a few days on the way out and maybe stopping briefly in Hawaii on the way back. I have lots of miles on Alaska airlines to use. However after a wonderful cruise experience on the Noordam in Alaska this summer we are rethinking this. Ideally we'd like to cruise to or from New Zealand from the mainland US as a means of getting to or from New Zealand. We prefer our own independent land tour so do not want to sail around New Zealand. Visiting islands in the Pacific would be wonderful but primarily we think it would be easier on our backs than flying and it would be exciting to cross the Pacific. Cruise ships change areas of the world they sail in at different times of the year-Is it possible to find an inexpensive cruise that crosses the Pacific from the west coast? Or other advice you could give? Ideally we'd like to sail in the winter or spring which is summer or fall in NZ. Thanks for any help you can give us. Sue
  4. It was very easy being a vegetarian on Holland America. They had veggie selections on their main menu each day and have both an additional all vegetarian menu and a South Asian menu (which has meat and vegetarian selections) daily. Just request a veggie menu ahead of time and they will your meal ready for you the next day. We found it refreshingly easy to find vegan and vegetarian healthy options. The buffets had lots of salads, east and south asian sections all of which had veggie options etc. It is a far cry from only getting carb heavy (pasta or pizza) selections. We have been vegetarians 1970. So much easier to travel and eat out now.
  5. Thanks for your replies. Love the stories of cruising to celebrate a friends recovery, meeting your spouse on the cruise and spending time with relatives in Greece. I'm especially intrigued with Antartica, St. Lucia, Baltics. I would love to take a smaller cruise ship especially to the Antartic, Galapagos or British Isles-especially if there were kayaking, but am not sure we could afford it-guess it will be an occasion to save up for. I'm soon to be 65 and my husband is 71 so perhaps the time to start that more far flung bucket list is now. We've spent most of our time hiking in National Parks in the US. We liked Holland America as it was a pretty quiet ship, had vegetarian options for my husband and wasn't crowded. Perhaps we should try Celebrity too? When my grandson is older (he is a toddler now) I would try ships with more activities for younger people. Guess it is time to dive in and plan. You have given me such good ideas. Thanks again. My mother used to volunteer with her friends in the 70's and early 80's at the QE2 when it was sailing from NYC, They never sailed it though. I don't think we would like the larger ships as we are pretty quiet people and don't feel the need for a lot of entertainment-though who knows maybe we would love it.
  6. We came back from our first cruise this August and I am thinking of planning our next. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how interested I am now in the different ships and routes. We sailed from Vancouver to Seward on the Noordam. Now that I'm back I get excited when I hear friends have also sailed the Noordam-it's like we have a good friend in common. I was surprised that I loved the days at sea as much as the days in port. I appreciated just how relaxing it was, the beautiful scenery, walking the promenade for exercise, healthy choices for meals, interesting people I met-all things I didn't especially associate with cruising previously. In the ports I appreciated the amount of time we had to explore and the ease of getting off and on the boat. I am hoping to retire this January-my husband is already retired. We'd planned to fly to New Zealand and take a few weeks to hike there. Now dances of cruises are also playing through my mind. What cruises have you loved the most and why? Do you find yourself attached to certain ships or cruise lines? Looking forward to reading your stories.
  7. Below I put my trip report for the land portion we did after our Alaskan Cruise on the Noordam. We are so happy we did our own land portion. It is easy to rent a car in Anchorage-one way rentals from Seward are very expensive. Recommend the Parks connection bus. The rental car company will pick you up from where they drop you off or the bus can drop you off at the Anchorage airport where you can rent a car. Driving in Alaska is easy peasy-no crowds. Few highways. Even stopping for occasional construction was no longer than 10 minutes. If you rent a car ahead you will get much better deals than waiting last minute. If you go to Denali and have a budget-the White Moose Lodge was very reasonable-Strongly recommend renting a car so you can go where you want when you want. July 28th-We got off the ship at Seward and at first felt a bit sad as I’d enjoyed the ship experience so much and so unexpectedly. We’d pre-booked a 6 hour Kenai Fjord’s tour with Major Marine and they picked us up right at the dock and stored our luggage. After the trip they took us to our hotel. Perfect. We picked up sandwiches to take on board but you can buy a lunch on board. My husband is a vegetarian and we felt this was easier. Cannot say enough good things about the boat trip. It was spectacular. It started out as a clear day so we had great glacier views and saw lots of wildlife, whales (humpback and orcas), sea lions, seals, otters, bald eagles, lots of puffins and other birds. On the way back it clouded completely over and it was interesting to see the difference. We were happy but tired after we got back to the hotel and decided not to take a cab to hike exit glacier. Instead we walked around the small town and harbour, took pictures, looked at murals and had dinner. If I was planning my trip again I would have added a second day in Seward to hike exit glacier and/or kayak. July 29th-Our hotel had a free shuttle to the Park Bus connection, so we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. The bus left at 10:30 and our driver made everyone feel welcome and gave a great commentary on the drive up to Anchorage. We were dropped off at the Alaska Museum and had lunch a block away at a cafe. As asked for I was given a wonderful strong cup of coffee. For the rest of our trip we bought groceries and made our own meals for breakfast (unless it was included at our lodging) and lunch. Our rental car company-Thrifty-picked us up at the cafe and took us to the rental service. I was talked into windshield protection-which we ended up not needing but was probably a good thing to have-and we picked up the car. Our phone GPS did not work throughout our trip-we have sprint but had brought our Tom Tom with us due to the good thinking of my husband. Drove to Girdwood, picked up groceries and fell in love with the town. It is surrounded by mountains, small and lovely. We stayed at the Ski Inn which I recommend. It was spotlessly clean, inexpensive and the woman who also ran their hostel couldn’t have been nicer. She gave us great hiking recommendations and provided a wonderful continental breakfast the next morning. It was my favorite breakfast of the trip-small homemade muffins, delicious greek yogurt, granola, nuts, seeds, bread, bagels, cheese, fruit, juice, milk and coffee. Nothing was overly sweet and it was all fresh. The coffee was perfect. We hiked Winners creek trail. It was a warm day and we loved being in the woods and the trail was well marked. We had dinner at Jack Sprats and it was one of the best meals I had on our trip-including the cruise. There were several great vegetarian options for my husband and I ended up getting one myself (korean). There was a wait for dinner so we enjoyed a beer in the outdoor seating area. I cannot remember which poster recommended this restaurant but I am really glad they did. After we got back to the Inn we met other hikers who were staying there and had a great conversation about hikes, their adventures and other common interests. July 30th-We had a delicious breakfast, made lunch and hiked a portion of the Crow Pass trail. This was my favorite activity of the trip. We hiked about six hours or more and only stopped because our clear, beautiful day turned into a rainy one! We saw amazing views, a creek, a small glacial lake and were just a tiny bit shy of the glacier when we turned around due to rain. One of our fellow hikers shared a picture he’d taken of the glacier. It was beautiful but I knew we were scheduled to hike on another glacier the next day so we turned around. There were some areas of the trail that were covered completely with small stones which I was concerned would be slippery in the rain. If we’d been in better shape the hike would have been shorter-we are slow but steady :). We made it back safely and given the warmth of the day the rain felt great. My husband, who is less fond of hiking in the rain, had his rain gear and a terrific broad hat which kept him dry. We had the best ice cream we had on the trip at the Ice Cream shop then drove to Glacier View. We luckily had reception when we drove through Anchorage and let the Sheep Mountain Inn know we would be arriving late. Good thing we did as we didn’t get there until 9:30pm. Their kitchen at the restaurant typically closes at 9 but they were incredibly sweet and held it open for us. We had the other great meal of our trip there and enjoyed a local brew. After we got back to our cabin it was still light at 11pm so I went out with binoculars looking for sheep on the mountains behind the Inn on the trails around the inn-not too far as I didn’t want to encounter bears. Once in Packwood I went wandering around the town and encountered a large pack of No luck but I did spot them with help the next day. July 31st-We went on our pre-booked a MICA glacier hike at 9am. They had the most comfortable hiking boots I have ever worn there-scarpa boots-they were warm, waterproof and felt like walking on clouds. We got out to walk at 9:30 and my husband and I had our own guide as a large family group went with the other guide. This turned out well as I am slow hiking and was concerned about holding younger and more fit people up. It was a cinch to walk on the attachable ice cleats and our guide was patient, informative and loved what she did. We learned a lot about glaciers, geography and the local area. I would def. Recommend MICA guides. Afterwards we drove to Valdez, making many stops along the road including the Elias Wrangell Visitor Center in Copper Center.. The Richardson Highway was beautiful. Driving in Alaska is very easy, there are almost no cars on the road. Even the few stops we made for road repairs were fine. You stop for about 8 to 10 minutes, stretch, wait in beautiful scenery and then get escorted by a Pilot car that says “follow me” something I have seen no where else. Having four or five cars waiting to go was the most traffic I experienced our whole trip! We enjoyed walking around town and having dinner at the Fat Mermaid on Harbor Drive where they had live music. August 1st-Valdez was having its annual Goldrush celebration and we took an interpretive walking tour of Old Valdez in the morning. The Interpreter was born and raised in Alaska and had family in Valdez at the time of the earthquake. She was a soft spoken, knowledgeable speaker and we enjoyed the tour and learning about her family as well who had moved to Alaska during the goldrush. Afterwards we took several walks in the Valdez area, saw a bald eagle, went to the fish hatchery and saw both gulls and seals, sea lions feasting on salmon and had a quick look at the Valdez museum and annex. Had dinner on Harbor Drive again and saw the gold rush “jail” as it tooled around town. August 2nd-Our tickets for the Valdez museum were still good so we finished our museum visit. This museum is a gem-one of the nicest local museums I have visited. It was larger than I expected and was housed in two buildings. It included paintings, covered extensive history, had recreated historical rooms, a beautiful art deco lighthouse light, original fire trucks and numerous artifacts. It included information and two great films, one on the earthquake and another on the oil spill. Afterwards we drove back to Copper Center and hiked the two hikes at the interpretive center-nice views. The views appeared different on our return trip along the highways. We finally saw sheep up on the mountain at one of our stops thanks to a very patient young man who step by step led me to where I could locate them with my binoculars. We stayed in Palmer to break up our trip to Denali the next day. Had the best spinach crepes I’ve ever had at the Red Turkey. After dinner we hiked Bodenburg Butte along with quite a few families and runners walking their dogs. The view at the top is worth the hike up. August 3rd-Nice drive to Denali including Hatcher’s Pass where we took a short hike at Gold Cord Lake and made a few stops. While the mountain scenery was beautiful we were struck by how many dead spruce there were and learned later that the spruce bark beetle is making its way north-it has not hit Denali yet. Luckily we also stopped for a short hike along the Kesugi Ridge trail as it was raining when we reached Denali and we decided it was too wet to hike. Picked up our tickets for our 8am pre-booked trip to Eielson. Stayed two nights at the White Moose Inn which we recommend as a low cost, clean motel with a fridge, microwave and coffee maker. The 3 bears is a local, well stocked grocery store. August 4th-Denali-Despite the rain,heavy at times we were happy to be on the bus-the ride was more comfortable than we thought as we’d heard it was on an old school bus. Our driver Patty was quiet but terrific at spotting animals along the way. We saw grizzly bears numerous times, moose, caribou, including one striking caribou at the top of a cliff and dall sheep. The mountains were unseeable on the way up it was so overcast-but we had a better view on our return. There was a mudslide on the road which caused a 90 minute delay but luckily no one was hurt in it. The trip overall due to delays and stops was over ten hours and we decided on an early night when we returned August 5th-It was still raining in Denali but we decided to hike anyway-the rain was light and lifted at times. We were glad we did! We took the Tiagaloop and Horseshoe Lake trail-an easy hike-didn’t need our poles and we had a close view of two owls perched above us on the lake trail! There is a large beaver pond on the lake. Afterwards we had a “picnic” and headed out to Talkeetna. We got lost trying to find our bnb there but a nice jogger helped us out by using his phone’s gps (we had no phone service) and got us there. The sun was shining there and it felt good to see it after a few days of rain. We strolled around the small town, had dinner and called it another early night. August 6th-We looked for Denali-which was not to be seen and walked on the lovely lake trail outside town-highly recommend it. You can hike it for a mile or 5 miles-flat-through beautiful woods and several lakes. There are several well marked trail heads from the road out of Talkeetna. We arrived at the rental car agency early so they dropped us off at the Alaska Museum. Surprisingly we were able to put our large suitcases into the lockers there. Spent a few hours at the museum and then took a cab to the airport.
  8. Thanks for the info on Antartica- we are now thinking of a smaller ship that will allow us land excursions. I love the South America intinerary and am def. still considering that for a year for now when I retire. In the end as other posters stated there is such a wonderful variety of ships/experiences to choose from. I liked HAL very much and would certainly love to sail with them again.
  9. Totally recovered-thanks! What have been some of your favorite cruises?
  10. Thanks to everyone on the cruise critic for answering my many questions prior to our cruise. I've been trying to get my husband to go on a cruise for many years and he finally agreed this year when I reassured him there would be veggie options and the cruise would take us to places in Alaska he'd otherwise have to fly too. We both loved it and I'm already planning on another cruise. Count me in as a convert. Cruise portion of the trip-7 days July 21st and July 22nd-We took a taxi to Canada Place in Vancouver from our B&B and began the Alaskan portion of our vacation. I was incredibly excited about taking both my first cruise and my first trip to Alaska. Despite reading about cruises and talking to friends who had taken them I was still filled with romantic ideas of what a cruise would be like. Although it was quite different from the trans Atlantic voyages depicted in old movies of the 30’s it was a joy. I never knew a trip could be so stress free and relaxing! The checking in process went smoothly and although there were lines, people were cheerful and the lines moved fast. The vacation atmosphere was infectious. We were able to board several hours earlier than our scheduled boarding time and had lunch on the ship. We sailed on Holland America’s Noordam. The state room was larger than I expected and our fully obstructed view actually was only partially obstructed-over half the window sported a clear view. At night I simply changed my position so that I lay with the clear view ahead of me 🙂. Next cruise I am treating us to a veranda. I loved how everything was arranged to maximize space. The rest of the day I explored the ship, found an exceptional history book in the library that I loved reading,wrapped up in a blanket on a chaise and watched the beautiful scenery pass by. My husband had lots of vegetarian options to choose from and there was an additional vegetarian menu as well from which he could order ahead. I loved how families played board games and put together puzzles in the library-reminded me of our earlier family life, we are now 64 and 71 with two grown daughters. I would love to take a family cruise sometime when my toddler grandson is older. Day two-Inside passage- we walked several miles on the promenade, watched the scenery pass by, spotted a few whales, enjoyed happy hour in the crows nest and listened to Lincoln Cente which really impressed me. We ended up listening to them every evening for the rest of the trip as well as seeing the BB King group and the comedians on several different nights. I loved the ease of it. There were plenty of quiet places to sit and interesting people to talk to when we felt sociable. One older couple after raising 11 children have been cruising around the world, including Antarctica. This is something (Antartica) that we are now considering a few years down the line but I understand from another post that HAL may no longer be sailing there then. July 23rd-Day 3-Ketchikan-We left the ship, hiked the Rainbow Trail which offered nice views, a walk through the rainforest and is an easy walk from port to the trailhead. Afterwards we strolled leisurely through town and visited the Totem Heritage Center which was wonderful and the salmon hatchery/ladder. We discovered happy hour where you could order the second drink for $2.00 and although we didn't always take advantage of it-I enjoyed our happy hours, especially in the Crows Nest or simply taking our drinks out to the promenade. July 24-Day 4-Juneau-As we had a 1:30 reservation with Harv and Marv for whale watching, we decided to do something close to the ship in the morning. We walked over to the newly remodeled Alaska State Museum and were very impressed. It is a beautiful museum and full of cleverly arranged exhibits mixing media, new and old artwork/items and presentations. We learned a lot about Alaskan history and also enjoyed the cruisin the fossil coastline exhibit. Went back to the ship for lunch and got picked up right at our dock for the whale watching trip. The bus driver is a local who gave a great running commentary. The trip was fantastic. It was a small boat with six passengers and our captain gave us plenty of time to see whales and was clearly enthusiastic about her job. We saw whales bubbling and a mother and calf swam not far from our boat. Heartily recommend Harv and Mar. Hope that our fellow traveler on the boat sends us the pictures she took of the whales as my videos could make you sea sick. I evidently cannot record properly and watch whales at the same time-have wonderful memories though. July 25th-Day 5-Skagway-took out our hiking poles and hiked Lower Dewey, Reid falls and Sturgil’s Landing. Lower Dewey was pretty with a small flowering meadow by the lake. My husband who is very interested in tree and plant identification, got excited over something he saw and fell over a tree root. Unfortunately he hurt his wrist which luckily healed well over the next week. We made the mistake of taking an old trail back thinking it was a short cut (it wasn’t-instead it was a steep rock filled slippery adventure). It was then my turn to fall. Deciding that was it for the days hiking we went into town, got my husband a wrist brace, had lunch and explored the town, visiting shops and the local historical museum. It was a small town and there was no need to use the public bus. July 26th -Day 6-Glacier Bay. This was my husband’s favorite part of the trip. Both National park rangers and a cultural interpreter from the Hoonah Indian Association arrived on the ship and gave both formal presentations in the ship’s auditorium and commentary on the top deck. One of the Rangers gave a wonderful, informative running commentary as we cruised Margery glacier. We were really happy we brought a great pair of binoculars for our trip. The close ups of the glacier were beautiful. July 27th-Day 7 was a full day at sea and very relaxing. We slept late, walked the promenade, read and enjoyed ship activities. We never used the pool or hot tubs or even played shuffle board which we had joked about playing. Yet we absolutely loved it. We met lots of interesting people, had too much ice cream and appreciated the long port days so that we didn't feel rushed. The staff was wonderful and accomodating. Couldn't have asked for a better week.
  11. It doesn't have to be an either cruise or cruise/land package. As other posters have written you can do a drive on your own to add to your cruise, take a round trip to add ports or as wasn't discussed you could plan your own landtour and take day cruises to see marine life and glaciers. It really depends on where you want to go in Alaska, what your interests and priorities are, budget etc. I just got back a few days ago from an Inner Passage cruise on the Noordam which we followed with a 10 independent driving land vacation. I loved the cruise, my first and am already thinking of the next one. The cruise was incredibly relaxing and I really appreciated the length of times we had in port-which gave us great flexibility on what we wanted to do. Personally I think if I had only cruised I would have felt like I missed out on "seeing" Alaska. The cruise is a wonderful experience in and of itself and takes you to places you would otherwise have to fly to or take a state ferry. Adding a land portion gives you a more expanded experience. We opted to make our own itinerary as we don't like to be rushed and like being able to pick exactly what we want to do. Driving is very easy in Alaska-the least crowded roads I've ever driven. For ideas about Alaska travel-the Tripadvisor travel forum for Alaska is very helpful. Similiar to this site you can ask questions and read Trip Reports. I found this invaluable in planning my trip. We had a great time.
  12. Wow-I just came back from the exact same ship and voyage on the Noordam (July 21-28) to Alaska and had a fantastic time! It is true that the BB King Band wasn't playing the first night due to a band member's illness but Anna was singing in the Piano Bar (and has a great voice). This was my first cruise so I had no prior expectations which maybe the difference-but we had such an enjoyable experience. I loved listening to Lincoln Center in the evening and found the rest of the entertainment just fine. Other than happy hour in the Crow's Nest and the library, where I found a great history book that I ended up reading (instead of the books on my kindle) happily wrapped up in a blanket on a very comfortable lounge chair on the promenade-we really didn't need much else. I was happy it was a quiet kind of ship-we loved walking the promenade for our exercise and only made it to the gym once. There lots of quiet nooks to sit and read or chat if you were feeling sociable. The food seemed fresh and I liked the afternoon ice cream although the special flavor of the day tended to run out, perhaps that is part of the cutbacks. I found the food at dinner a bit bland but others I talked to didn't. My husband who is a vegetarian loved the selection and was happy to see that in addition to the vegetarian options at dinner there was also a vegetarian menu to preorder from. The food was fine and somedays pretty great, but I wasn't expecting gourmet meals as I figured they had to cater to so many people with different tastes and from different backgrounds. I appreciated that they had so many different types of offerings in the buffet-surprised and happy to see Asian selections and fresh salads as well. Loved my made to order omelette in the morning and the regular coffee was stronger than I anticipated which I liked. The highlight of the trip for my husband was glacier bay and we really appreciated the rangers who came on board as well as the cultural interpertor who not only spoke on the deck, but provided naration while we were at Margery Glacier and gave formal talks in a large inside venue. I appreciated the wonderful staff and the length of time we had in Skagway and Juneau-12 hours-which made it possible to really explore the area and not feel rushed. I liked the ports we went to and chose the trip for the itinerary, days it sailed and affordability. Our cruise was very reasonable and less expensive than the 10 day independent tour we took afterwards (and enjoyed as well). I liked the trip so much that I am already planning to take another. Thinking of South America and Antartica as a possibility in 2 years. I can sympathize that things have changed and there were cutbacks but I felt well cared for on the cruise and was pleasantly surprised-didn't expect to love it as much as I did.
  13. Great! I am so happy about the laundry. As we will be in Vancouver for a few days before the trip and traveling after the trip it will save us from having to visit a laundromat before and after the cruise. We can just sit back and enjoy. Cannot wait.
  14. Hi -Can you purchase the unlimited laundry after boarding or do you need to arrange it before your cruise. So happy they can do laundry on the cruise. Thanks! Sue
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