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Gardyloo

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  1. This has been coming for some time, and to me it makes a good argument that if you're not trying to achieve elite status with an airline, you're probably better earning miles through a hotel (or at least non-airline) credit card that allows you to transfer hotel points to airline mileage accounts, sometimes with a pretty good exchange rate. For example, Marriott's "Rewards Plus" program (now called "Bonvoy") allows you to transfer Marriott points (earned through the usual channels including co-branded credit cards like with the airlines) to any of a very large number of airline frequent flyer programs (44 at present to be specific.) So, while it can be time-consuming, you can shop for well-priced airline awards across numerous airlines, then if you see a decent deal, transfer your Marriott points into that airline's frequent flyer program (which you can join for free) then turn around and redeem them. This might be near instantaneous or might take a day, during which you might be at risk of losing the seats, but it's better than being trapped in one airline program where "dynamic pricing" results in lousy deals forever.
  2. There are two reports from the last ten days on Yelp (I know, I don't give Yelp much credibility either) and others over the years, including on some "bed bug registry" websites. It's been some years since I or anyone I know stayed there (I did a couple of times back in poverty days 😉 ) but it's always had a very sketchy history. Obviously, It's your money and your choice. However, I just looked on Hotwire for the night of May 23 (you're sailing on the 24th, right?) and for $134 they'll guarantee you'll get a room at one of these four hotels - Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, Crowne Plaza or Kimpton Vintage. Just sayin'.
  3. Serious dump. Notorious, two reports of bed bugs within the last week.
  4. Half a mile, pretty level. https://goo.gl/maps/GxYgjhycTqZPqNNx5
  5. Different parts open at different times; the restaurants at 7 or 8, most of the vendor stalls by 8 or 9.
  6. It's a "historic" (translated - real old) hotel located quite close to the Pike Place market. It's not air conditioned, and if we get a hot night, be careful with the windows opened because there can be quite a lot of street noise. The hotel sits on top of the Moore Theater, a very popular music venue, and sometimes when the concerts break up there can be a lot of commotion on the street, including the occasional encore performance from the lead act. So you might want to ask for a room facing Second Avenue on the south end of the hotel, the opposite end from the theater entrance. Do try to get to the market as early as possible. During the summer cruise season the crowds at the market become pretty dense by around 10:30 or 11 AM. It's great to go for breakfast at one of the iconic places in the market like the Athenian (featured in Sleepless in Seattle) or next door at Lowell's (my preference) when they're first open, then watch the merchants setting up for the day. Buy some flowers for your cabin on the ship, queue if you must at the "original" Starbucks (it isn't) and then beat it. If you're still on east coast body time, remember that 8 our time is 11 for you, so getting going early shouldn't be difficult.
  7. All the major mobile/cell companies have excellent coverage in the Seattle area, and of course most hotels and many restaurants will offer free wifi, so the phone company doesn't matter. Seatac airport has (excellent) free wifi service, and out of curiosity I phoned the Port of Seattle (who run both the cruise terminals and the airport) yesterday to see if they had free wifi at Piers 66 or 91, and the answer was no, they don't. That's a shame, because it would make ordering up a Lyft or Uber that much easier. If you're spending some time before the cruise in Seattle, then I think getting a compatible SIM in advance, or, better and maybe cheaper, just buy a prepaid phone when you arrive, makes a lot of sense. I'd probably go with one of the bigger carriers like AT&T or Verizon so that you'll be able to use the phone in ports in Alaska. Some of the smaller companies may or may not have compatibility with those carriers in small markets like Ketchikan or Juneau. You can buy prepaid phones all over the place; if you're staying in downtown Seattle before the cruise, have a look at the downtown Target store, a block from Pike Place, where they'll have a large selection.
  8. Most cabs in Seattle are Toyota Prius or similar vehicles. You might be able to arrange for a van, but unlikely. I'd suggest booking an UberXL (which offers SUVs and vans, usually for around 50% more than the standard Uber/cab price, so better for large groups compared with two cabs.)
  9. Well, we certainly hope your hubby is fit for travel by next summer. What I'd do, if Yosemite is still an option, is to book accommodations now, but be sure they can be canceled with no penalty. (Most will allow this.) Waiting until next year is a recipe for disappointment.
  10. Once the upgrade is confirmed, yes.
  11. Okay... Yosemite is around 3 hours east of San Francisco, and unless you have gobs of time, I'd break up the trip into two parts, Alaska and Yosemite. Alaska: there are round trip (return) cruises departing both from Seattle and Vancouver. These will go as far north as Skagway or Haines in Southeast Alaska, then turn around and go back. Cruises from Seattle travel to the west of Vancouver Island on open ocean (thus a chance of rougher seas and less scenery) while those from Vancouver travel on protected "Inside Passage" waters to the east of Vancouver Island. (Consult a map.) There are also one-way cruises to/from Southcentral Alaska that depart from Vancouver and arrive in Seward or Whittier, both connected to Anchorage and points north by road and rail. (One way cruises don't operate from Seattle due to US maritime law.) They then turn around and sail the other way. Both types are typically for seven nights. So if you want to see Denali or other parts of Alaska not in the Southeast "panhandle," you should be looking at the one-way cruises to/from Vancouver, flying the other way. You can either do guided tours or (most people's preference) self-driving tours once you're in Southcentral Alaska, either before or after the cruise. This board, the Alaska "ports of call" board, and other travel boards on the web, are full of itinerary ideas. Yosemite: Driving from Seattle or Vancouver to Yosemite takes a minimum of three days unless you load up on stimulants and don't need to sleep. There are several route options, the most scenic of which is to travel along the Oregon coast and through the redwoods to San Francisco, then east to Yosemite. Here's a map showing this route (using my favorite roads; others might disagree, the fools. 😉) https://goo.gl/maps/1tL1b6JvD5n As for how much time at Yosemite once you get there, it's a judgement call. You can see quite a lot with just one day in Yosemite Valley - the famous waterfalls, big rocks (El Capitan and Half Dome) etc., or you can spend several days exploring places like the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees, driving up to the Tuolumne Meadows, etc. Some logistic notes about Yosemite: First, timing is crucial. The park becomes insanely crowded during the summer period, starting in the spring (May - June) when the waterfalls are at their peak beauty from melting mountain snow. If you decide to visit Yosemite, it's imperative that you book accommodation as soon as possible. If this is for next year, you're likely to encounter some fully booked conditions already. While it's possible to stay outside the national park boundaries, commuting in and out can be quite time-consuming due to the distances and queues at the park entrances. By the end of the summer and into the autumn (September and early October) some of the waterfalls have run out of water and are just trickles or even dry. The valley floor, like other areas of the Sierra foothills and California's Central Valley, can be very hot, and the risk of forest fires peaks. Second, it would be a shame to visit Yosemite and not take the time to explore the wonderful "gold country" that extends along California Hwy 49 (numbered after the 1849 gold rush.) In addition to passing through some splendid country, Hwy 49 (and some of its tributaries) passes through a number of extremely picturesque and historic little towns. Google Sutter Creek, Volcano, Murphys and Columbia California. So it comes down to a couple of factors only you can answer. Here are some options: 1. Fly to San Francisco, get a car and visit Yosemite and the gold country, then return to SF and fly to Seattle or Vancouver for the cruise. Flights are inexpensive (around US$75 to Seattle, under $100 to Vancouver) while one-way rental cars are very expensive. I'd allocate 3-4 days for the Yosemite area in this scenario. 2. Do the above in reverse. 3. Fly into SF (or Sacramento, closer) and drive to Yosemite, then drive north to Seattle or Vancouver and drop the car. (Or drive to Portland or Seattle, drop the car and take the train the rest of the way.) Then do the Alaska cruise and/or land portion depending on your preference, time availability and budget. 4. Do the above in reverse. 5. There are a few Alaska cruises that depart from San Francisco, mostly for 10+ days. These mainly return to SF, having traveled to Southeast Alaska, although there are one or two that return to Vancouver. You could visit Yosemite before or after the cruise. If it was me planning to visit both Alaska and Yosemite, I'd start in late May or June with Yosemite, then fly to Vancouver and do a one-way cruise to Seward or Whittier (7 nights) followed by at least a week of touring in Alaska once I've arrived. Thus having around three weeks would be the minimum time I'd make available; any less and I'd look at a round trip/return cruise from Vancouver instead. Hope this doesn't have your head spinning. Both destinations are incredibly beautiful. Yosemite in June Gold Rush country (St George Hotel, Volcano CA) Hubbard Glacier, Alaska College Inlet (near Whittier AK)
  12. Here's a map - https://goo.gl/maps/65Bxbf1YnRz
  13. No idea if that will work. The Bliss is pretty humoungous if memory serves, so if your timing is a bit off, you might find yourselves in a pretty long taxi queue. But post customs, I'd imagine you'd be pretty safe with allowing an hour from the street to the check-in counters at Seatac. The landside walk from T6 to TBIT at LAX is a pain but shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes, so you ought to have plenty of time. I did, however, want to throw out an idea that might be quite impossible, but hey, it's only bytes... Lufthansa has a nonstop flight to Munich that departs from Vancouver at 6:25 PM the same day, arriving at MUC 15 minutes earlier than the LAX flight. In addition, there's a bus (Quick Coach) which picks up passengers from the Seattle cruise terminals and delivers them to the Sky Train (light rail) station at a casino that's around 10 minutes from YVR airport. The summer schedule - https://www.quickcoach.com/schedule.htm - shows a 10:30 AM pickup and a 2:20 PM arrival, which would give you gobs of time to get to YVR. I don't know how much the change fee would be with Lufthansa, but I'd compare it to the cost of a cab to SEA from Pier 66 and the cost of the flight to LAX, less the cost of the bus to YVR. Maybe a pointless exercise, but maybe not.
  14. Gardyloo

    Arctic Circle

    Getting to the Gates of the Arctic NP is pretty complicated. The nearest town (accessible only by plane) is Anuktuvuk Pass, which is reachable only by bush flights from Barrow or Fairbanks. There are no visitor facilities there (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and the only access to the national park is by foot or a chartered flight. There are plenty of excursions (fly/drive or drive only) up the Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks, where you'll cross the arctic circle, which is just a sign by the side of the road, by the way. Can I recommend an alternative that - in my mind at least - could provide a much more enjoyable, and probably cheaper way to experience the arctic? (Don't answer, here it comes anyway. 😉 ) You can fly on a scheduled Alaska Airlines jet from Anchorage to Kotzebue, an Inupiat Eskimo village on a branch of the Arctic Ocean, for around $320 round trip, or, if you have some Alaska Airlines frequent flyer miles, for as few as 5000 miles each way (i.e. 10K round trip.) (This price is comparable, or even cheaper, than many of the fly/drive or drive-only excursions up the Dalton.) Kotzebue is above the arctic circle, so, depending on when your visit takes place, you'll be able to see at least "midnight" sun, but possibly 24 hour sun if your visit occurs during the 24-hour period (roughly all of June and into early July.) In Kotzebue there's a comfortable Native-owned hotel across the street from the beach - http://www.nullagvikhotel.com/ - which costs roughly the same as comparable lodgings in Anchorage or Fairbanks. You can stick a toe in the Arctic Ocean, visit the regional cultural center, visit a working fish camp... lots of activities. If you have more time (and I'd make time if it was me) I'd also visit Nome, which is served by the same plane as Kotzebue (the flight stops in Nome going to or coming from Kotzebue.) Nome isn't above the arctic circle (it's on the Bering Sea, not the Arctic Ocean) but it's a fascinating place - very historic and full of colorful characters, including the loonies who dive to the bottom of the ocean to suck up gold. (Watch Bering Sea Gold on the Discovery Channel.) The unique thing about Nome is that there's a substantial road system radiating from the town out into the Seward Peninsula bush. You can rent a vehicle in Nome and drive out into the sticks, where you're likely to see wildlife ranging from muskoxen to caribou and reindeer, moose, foxes, maybe a bear or two, and a bazillion birds. Look here: http://www.alaska.org/destination/nome/scenic-drives and http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.sewardpeninsula Visiting one or both of these places would give you a glimpse of parts of Alaska that 99% of visitors never experience. It would be well worth your time.
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