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rj42

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  1. My routine as a shy solo cruiser is to look at the dining room menu ahead of time (it's up during the day outside the upper dining room), then write down what you want. Then when the Lido buffet opens, usually 5:30, I check out what I want that's there--usually all the appetizers are there, most of the desserts (excluding things like creme brulee), and I usually get a bowl of each dining room soup there (delicious). Then if there's a main dish I want, like salmon, I'll order that for a later room service, with creme brulee for dessert, so I minimize time and still get what I want, and spread the dining out so I don't get over full. A lot of new cruisers aren't aware that you can order anything from the dining room dinner menu for room service. For vegetarians, they have some good main dish items (tofu curry is tasty), the Asian market during lunch usually has tofu dishes, along with veggie sushi, the salad station will fill you up with tons of veggies (and a veggie omelet in the morning), and even the burger bar has a tasty portobello burger. The dining room staff will bend over backwards to satisfy vegetarian needs, so just ask on the first night and they'll bring out special menus or even fix something special (many of the chefs are Indian, so they can make some amazing vegetarian Indian dishes). Then there is always lots of fresh fruit for breakfast, oatmeal and bran cereals, and HAL also has the most amazing bread rolls, with a huge variety. Then for late-evening after a show, the only thing open is usually the pasta station, where they'll also assemble lots of veggies to go with pasta and marinara sauce. Alaska is also
  2. If you just want warm water, the Vibe H20 has a large hot tub aft, protected from the wind, and there are a few small pools and hot tubs on the main pool deck, at each end. I saw people using them despite colder weather, so they're probably kept pretty warm, and not too crowded. Having been on the Joy last week, I'd say an indoor pool doesn't mean as much to me as the wealth of things to do on the ship in any sort of weather. I've been bored to death on Princess and HAL in Alaska, whereas I had the time of my life on the Joy, because of the "Footloose" show, the amazing "Elements" show, the comedy club, three different Beatles shows, country and rock bands in the various bars and on deck, and most importantly to me, the ocean promenade outside deck 8, with couches and stools to enjoy sunsets and whale watching and to walk around the ship and enjoy the beauty of Alaska. Instead of reading reviews (which usually reflect negative attitudes rather than reality), I'd recommend going on youtube and searching for Norwegian Joy videos and filter it for the last month. They had a couple of 1-night cruises for travel agents, and several made comprehensive and helpful videos of the ship after refurbishment, so you can see what the pools and hot tubs look like and get a better idea if the ship is for you. Personally, I found it the most beautiful ship I've been on in terms or decor and art and use of space, and as I said, I found the entertainment the best I've seen on a ship, but as with most cruises, it's what you make of it, especially with the unpredictable weather of Alaska and the diverse crowds and dining options on a ship like the Joy.
  3. Actually, you can get a limited buffet breakfast in the American Diner some mornings. I did embarkation lunch in Savor/Taste, although they seem to have only one lunch menu for the entire cruise (although with plentiful options). The observation lounge also has snacks for most of the day. The best option for good anytime food is The Local on Deck 7. They have a soup of the day, salads, burgers, fish and chips, sandwiches, and great chicken wings, as well as a limited breakfast menu, and are open from morning until 4 am. I found The Local and dining rooms less stressful for lunch than the buffet, although I made quick trips to the buffet for their yummy cookies and good selection of scoop ice cream. I also enjoyed eating from the buffet out on the pool deck, which in Alaska had overhead heaters over the closer tables (Ringo eats his breakfast out there).
  4. A lot depends on the weather. If it's rainy or cold out, everybody stays inside and the Lido and other public areas get crowded. My solution is to bundle up and go where people aren't, particularly the outside promenade deck, or places like the deck 2 lounges by a window during the day. The buffet area between meals is also a good option, as is the Crow's Nest in the evening, or the Lido pool deck in the evening, where I can sit on a deck chair and read my Kindle in peace. If you want to avoid crowds, then you can eat dinner in the Lido or order room service or eat at 5:15 or after 8, avoid the buffet during lunch (order room service or grab a salad and sandwich or Dive-In burger), and wait until the initial crowds have gotten off the ship in ports. And when you disembark, either choose self-disembarkation and be the first off the ship (carrying your luggage), or wait until everyone else has gotten off. Those practices work for me both on 1500 HAL ships and the 3800 on the Norwegian Joy last week.
  5. You probably won't see many out on the open ocean, except spouts from a distance. Last week on the Norwegian Joy I passed one close going out of Ketchikan, several from the boat and shore in Icy Straight Point, and others sailing around the Inside Passage. I've heard good sightings around Sitka, if you take a whale watching tour, and on the way home I usually spot whales entering the Straights of Juan de Fuca (you can also get a cell phone signal on the Washington side as you get close to Pt Angeles). My best advice for spotting whales is to walk the promenade deck, which gives you the best viewing (I've seen whales right next to the ship), but you also get others spotting whales and pointing them out, which maximizes your chances. That said, I've had better whale watching on the Mexican cruises, particularly around Cabo, where they give birth in the winter and do more jumping and movement--plus you get porpoises chasing alongside the ship and jumping.
  6. Having just returned from the Norwegian Joy, with a 2-hour very professional production of "Footloose", an exciting and beautiful Cirque du Soleil-type production, a Beatles cover band, three comedians, and country/rock bands and piano performers and deck DJs, I realized how much of a letdown it will be to go back next week to corporate-sponsored HAL music entertainment that is the same setlists on every ship ("Piaf to Peanuts" for the umpteenth time, anyone?) and second-rate comedians and musicians in the main theater (plus the same Planet Earth movie that's on every ship now). Ah, how I miss snooty Ukrainian babes in Adagio, piano bar guys who would take requests, and even some production shows that were inspired and interesting (the Westerdam ones were my favorites).
  7. You can check maritime weather forecasts right before the cruise to check wave height and direction for west of Vancouver Island, where the seas can be rough or smooth. If you're seriously prone to seasickness, then for future Alaska cruises you might choose a n/s cruise between Seward/Whittier and Vancouver, which stays in more protected waters. Another option on HAL is to order food from their seasickness room service menu, which has things like chicken soup and crackers. Late dining and alcohol also aren't wise for preventing seasickness. As with rain, though, open ocean conditions can vary greatly in Alaska, as on the Pacific Coastal cruises I like to take. Personally, the rise and fall of a ship is kind of fun for me, and gives me great sleep, and I had a lot of fun with a wild ride going out of the sand bar in Astoria one evening without stabilizers, with the captain telling everyone to sit down or hold onto something and the Adagio violinist trying not to fall off her stool.
  8. As with all cruises, ignore the haters. On the Joy last week I got stuck next to complaining women in the dining rooms who hated everything, sent most of their food back, and were just generally miserable people. I had my own frustrations and mini-meltdowns (my safe wouldn't open the final evening and I had to make several calls to get someone to open it), but now that I'm rested I can look on the positives of the cruise. Then you have to be smart. I avoided the forward elevators, because those are the ones that everyone takes to the buffet and to get on and off the ship. Book show tickets as soon as you get on the ship in the comedy club, or else go to the late show for standby--I had no trouble getting into "Elements" that way. The comedy shows sell out quickly, so I'd book every one you can and then skip it if the time or comedian doesn't work for you. I brought long johns and a glove and stocking cap, and had wonderful views out on the nearly-deserted promenade decks, sitting on a bar stool to admire the sunsets, views, and whales. It wasn't as loud or crowded as the Observation Lounge, and I simply followed the sun to stay on the side that was warmest. It's also a great place for glacier viewing after the ship leaves Juneau, and they open up the bow of the ship also. Instead of waiting to board the ship with hundreds of others, show up at 11:30-12 and you'll go right on. If you want to avoid the customs line at debarkation, hire a porter, who get their own express line to the front, and to avoid the zoo in front of the terminal, take a stroll down to the Olympic Sculpture Park and order and Uber or Lyft from there (I was even more creative, parking my car in a nearby neighborhood with no parking restrictions and riding to the terminal on an app-rented electric bike, with my duffel bag over my shoulder). If you're going to go to the buffet or restaurants during peak hours, expect crowds. I simply ate at 8, and only made buffet visits for a quick plate of Indian food or a dessert of cookies, scoop ice cream, and gummi bears (plus peanut brittle one night). The Local was also a great choice if I was in a hurry or the dining room menu didn't appeal to me (they don't change the dining room lunch menu, but there are many choices). Another hidden breakfast option is the American Diner, which has a small buffet and is quiet with plenty of tables with views. If you want to explore the ship, wait for a port day, when most people are gone--there's just beautiful modern art and decor everywhere, the most beautiful ship I've seen. If you want to see the Beatles band in the Cavern club, show up at least a half-hour early if you want a chair, otherwise stand or watch the show they do one night in the main theater. If you want to visit Hoonah, go early and walk, instead of waiting in line for a 1.5-mile bus ride, and Hoonah Adventure Tours offers $3 return trips to the ship from the church parking lot. Walking also allows you to visit the Trading Company outside of town that has groceries and a little souvenir shop at the end of the pier, and there's a little tavern next door if you want to have a beer with locals. As for food, try something different (Indian food, Chinese noodles, crepes), and look for other things they do well, like pasta, salmon, chicken wings in The Local, and shrimp. They try hard to get people to the buffet for dinner, with themed nights, but to me the stress and temptation to gluttony isn't worth it, except for a quick bite when I could find a more secluded area or ate outside. Finally, look for the experiences that bring Joy--whales appearing suddenly, watching the leads of "Footloose" holding hands on a beach, the exciting main shows, watching Ringo having breakfast every morning on the pool deck, laughing myself to tears from a comedian mocking a drunken heckler, amazing sunsets on the promenade deck, watching Elliott Bay in Seattle in the deserted Observation Lounge the final morning, and witnessing the wonder in the faces of the Filipino ship workers who were seeing a glacier for the first time in their lives, as well as Southerners who'd never seen a whale or bald eagle or majestic mountains before.
  9. A couple more solo deals I got in on: HAL Oosterdam 12-nt Baltic cruise from Copenhagen, 5/31-6/10 for $1140 inside. HAL Noordam 7-nt Vancouver-Honolulu October 13-20 for $707 inside.
  10. youtube videos of 'norwegian bliss food' will also give slide shows of the actual dishes, so you can start building your appetite and check portion sizes. A reviewer also did videos last week of the Joy buffet, particularly on the amazing seafood buffet (crab legs, oysters, lobster, etc). This video is a good start, photos and listings of 65 different menu items:
  11. As with just about everything for HAL/Carnival/airlines lately, it comes down to maximizing revenue and minimizing costs. They probably saw a single ship at a port every 1-2 weeks as something to be cut, so they could consolidate everything at Ft. Lauderdale, especially since it seems the Caribbean is oversaturated with ships and facing drops in demand because of recent bad hurricane seasons. As a West Coaster, I'm at least happy they're sticking with San Diego instead of an industrial harbor in LA. I fear a future of HAL Lido decks covered completely in cabanas and each with an EXC tours touchscreen inside.
  12. For those looking for photos, just check out youtube, since there was a recent short cruise out of Vancouver where several travel agents and reviewers took videos and photos of the cabins, public areas, and gaming attractions. For those looking for menus of the dining rooms and The Local, I found this website for the Bliss, which should be pretty much the same: http://www.beyondships2.com/norwegian-bliss-menus.html I'm leaving on Saturday, since I'm a local and saw both a solo $459 fare and a week of excellent Alaskan weather for early May. For those interested in glaciers, you might want a Bliss itinerary that specifically goes into Glacier Bay, or do a N/S cruise that spend more time with glaciers and in ports (Jewel was down to $299 the last I checked), or else do a r/t cruise that includes Hubbard Glacier, which I found to be the most huge and impressive, with lots of calving and that's actually growing, unlike the other shrinking glaciers.
  13. The Bliss r/t from Seattle is $499 inside guarantee leaving on May 5 and 12, and the Joy is down to $449 leaving on May 11. Summer weather next week in Seattle, so Alaskan temperatures look to be around 60, so not a bad option. The two ships should have similar specials until schools get out next month, at least. I also saw a NB Island Princess leaving on June 5 for $625 for a solo, and if you get a targeted AMEX offer, it would give $225 back, which would cover the extortionate tax/port fee charge. Those ships are better if you want to see glaciers, although neither Glacier Bay nor College Fjord are as impressive as Hubbard Glacier, which has been increasing, instead of receding, like most of the other glaciers.
  14. I received this offer today for my AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card, you have to book through the Princess site or by phone, book by 6/30. "DETAILS Get a one-time $225 statement credit by using your enrolled Card to spend a minimum of $750+ on cruise reservations online at princess.com/amex2019 or by phone at 1-800-774-6237 by 6/30/2019. See terms for exclusions. OFFER TERMS Enrollment limited. Must first add offer to Card and then use same Card to redeem. Only U.S.-issued American Express® Cards are eligible. Limit 1 enrolled Card per Card Member across all American Express offer channels. Your enrollment of an eligible American Express Card for this offer extends only to that Card. Offer valid only for reservations booked between 5/3/2019 and 6/30/2019 with Princess Cruises at Princess.com or phone at 1-800-774-6237. Must be booked on US website only. Valid only on purchases made in US dollars. Excludes physical gift cards, electronic gift cards and bulk/corporate gift cards. Excludes onboard purchases, transfers/transportation to the ship, gift and services, parking fees at port, online shop, cruise personalizer, Worldwide Emergency Assistance Services, special events in culinary arts, digital workshops, special entertainment venues, Formalwear Rentals, "Give a Guest a Gift", Princess Ezair and motor coach program. Excludes if not booked at time of reservation: airfare booked through cruise line, excursions, hotels, cruise Insurance, luggage valet service, Celebrations (birthdays, weddings, etc.) and MedallionClass. Offer is non-transferable. Limit of 1 statement credit per Card Member. The enrolled account must be active, in good standing and not in default to receive the statement credit. Statement credit will appear on your billing statement within 90 days after 6/30/2019, provided that American Express receives information from the merchant about your qualifying purchase. Note that American Express may not receive information about your qualifying purchase from merchant until all items from your qualifying purchase have been provided/shipped by merchant. Statement credit may be reversed if qualifying purchase is returned/cancelled. If American Express does not receive information that identifies your transaction as qualifying for the offer, you will not receive the statement credit. For example, your transaction will not qualify if it is not made directly with the merchant. In addition, in most cases, you may not receive the statement credit if your transaction is made with an electronic wallet or through a third party or if the merchant uses a mobile or wireless card reader to process it. By adding an offer to a Card, you agree that American Express may send you communications about the offer."
  15. BTW Callie Smit is a male South African, despite the name. I was also on the first voyage, which had plenty of hiccups--we had to circle the bay outside Vancouver to calibrate the GPS, the first-night disco show was delayed due to technical difficulties, as were the outdoor movies part of the time. Having loathed the cattle pen buffets on the Ruby, with traffic monitors handing out plates and blocking reentry, I was quite happy to be allowed to enter and exit freely now. The areas also have some food stations facing the seating area, so you don't have to go in the inside area if you just want a quick snack. Unfortunately, the fancy signage, decor, and seating don't hide the awful, limited nature of the buffet food. As always, the quietest seating areas were in the back, where the BBQ and Steamers are set up at night. Fortunately I liked their pizza, which as added other items, like stromboli and calzone, and the burger place added street tacos, more upscale burger options (including an upcharge Ernesto burger), and chili dogs and fries. One slight disappointment was that the Ocean Medallion screens in front of every cabin means no little nametag with your loyalty status color, or a spot to leave papers.
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