Saturday 21st September 2019

Woke up this morning and opened the windows to find out that we were pulling into Canada Place into our berth right on 6am.  There were two ships coming in behind us as well, so it was going to be a full morning in Port. The ship was beginning to wake up, just as we did.  The port was coming to life as ships were pulling into port and stevedores were getting going pulling in lines etc

We headed off up to the Lido Market for breakfast and made sure to get a good decent feed as we weren’t sure when we would have lunch.  The Lido was packed solid, but then it was only one of the two venues open for breakfast and room service was not available. It was crazy though as the Lido Pool was practically empty, so that is where we sat.  I made sure to have a hot breakfast today and before we knew it, it was time to head down and start getting stuff together. On the way back you could see the cabin stewards getting their stuff ready for cleaning, like making sure to have keys ready for each room for lights etc, even door stops. 

We packed up the last bits and pieces and made sure we hadn’t left anything behind (in the end, I certainly did, the vegas card I left in the power key slot).  When they called our group, we headed for the 2nd deck and it was time for this cruise to end. We disembarked to as usual a group of staff waiting at the end of the gang plank saying goodbye.  Into the terminal we went to find our bags which were waiting for us. Then through the non event that was CBSA. This time no questions, just hand over the customs form and off we go. This was when the shit show began.

We had booked a rental car to get us home.  It was with National using one of our free days.  They have a rental agency in Canada Place and the last time the desk had been in a great spot right where we came out of customs.  Apparently this has now changed as when we came out they directed us to the parking garage, down an elevator to level 1. So off we went, confirming with staff along the way that is where they were.  Yeah… nope. We got off the elevator to find… nothing. No people, no cars, just a note saying go to the other building, this desk doesn’t exist. Let the frustration build begin. I came back up to go to the other building it said to go to and asked some staff giving directions.  Both of them sent me back where I had just been. I let them know there were signs saying this was wrong (mind you heidi was sitting on a bench right where the signs had posted).

Finally someone sent me in the right direction and pointed me to where I should be going.  The other two staff looked at her and said “when did that change”. This got me super frustrated, as someone who deals with this kind of stuff on a daily basis, directions and information are key to keeping people moving!  So over to the other building I went, waited in line, picked up my keys and when I told them about what happened, a shoulder shrug and the response “we told them that months ago”. Numerous people were laying into them about it so it seems like I wasn’t the only one and that it had been ongoing for quite some time, with not a single person who cares.  I returned back to where I left Heidi trying to swim upstream through all the people flowing out of the ships. I made it back to the elevator which now had a considerable line and asked someone if there was steps to go down (as I had come up steps but spat out at a different spot). Again I shouldn’t have asked as I got the answer of “Down the Elevator”.  To which I just looked forlorn as it was going to be a 20 minute wait just to get down! But then the lady looked at me and said “where are your bags” and i said “downstairs, which is where I need to go!” She pointed me to the stairs as though I was an idiot. I went back downstairs, collected Heidi and then got in the elevator again to go downstairs one more floor to the car.

Once we found the car, I inspected it and then we tried to leave the car park.  The signage just had us going in the same circle around and around again as though it was a final insult to anyone wanting to leave Canada Place.  A final “fuck you” to anyone thinking they could escape the shit show that wanted to do anything but get a cruise provided shuttle bus. We left Canada Place and headed out of the city towards the border.  Once out of the city the freeway made it a straight shot to the Peace Arch and before we knew it we were at the Nexus lanes and with just one car ahead of us when we pulled up, a few questions about what we were doing in Canada and off we went.

We hit I5 and got going south towards home.  We stopped off at Snow Goose Produce for a final ice cream before they close for the season (October 6th for anyone who cares).  This ended up being our lunch and about an hour or so later we were approaching the city. We stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up some food so we don’t starve tomorrow morning and we were home by 1pm.  This was around the same time as the bus would have been leaving Vancouver for us if we had used it to come home. A 1pm time to get home vs a 1pm departure from Vancouver. Let me think about that! Home and the trip was now fully over… *sigh*

Friday 20th September 2019

Woke up this morning, our final full day onboard. We were due to be crossing Haida Gawaii today towards Vancouver Island. Last time we did this was on our first full day onboard, and there was some movement. So today we decided to get up late, have some room service breakfast and just relax through the morning. 

In the end I need not have worried. It was dead calm throughout the crossing, however it was a real pea souper. The fog was heavy so every 2 minutes what you heard on deck was “baaaaaarrrrrppppp”. There was no view, no looking at sunshine etc, just fog, glary fog. I was ok with this as it allowed me to sit in bed for a bit working on the trip report. 

Around 930am I got myself up and moving to go for some laps around the deck before heading to my first activity of the day, Ask the Captain. Unfortunately they don’t offer tours behind the scenes apparently (which is wrong because I heard people did it in the end). They offered the chance to sit in the main stage and ask the Captain questions about the ship and Holland America. When it started unfortunately the Captain was unable to attend as he was required on the bridge due to the fog. So they sent the Staff Captain instead (the executive officer essentially). 

It was a good talk, covering some stuff that I never would have thought to ask, and some information that would come in handy later. After the tour Heidi went and picked up our photos from the gallery and we both got ready for our lunch today. We were invited to the Mariner Society lunch for all returning cruisers. Some people got some medallions for excessive days at sea. It was a relatively good lunch but we never got our tiles, so that was dissapointing. 

After lunch we journeyed around to a few different activities like America’s Test Kitchen, I also did an animal towel folding demonstration and also a talk about women in Alaska. My favorite activity that afternoon was Team trivia which we ended up winning on a tie break. The winning question, well that was how many people in a lifeboat onboard the ship. An answer we got from the talk that morning! Score! 

After heading up to the Neptune Lounge for a small afternoon tea we headed back to the room to begin the long process of packing our bags.  This was as though we were making the trip come to an end, but we also spent some time on the Balcony as we cruised through past Vancouver Island.  This part this afternoon had parts of islands and mainland so close together it was maybe two ship widths, and we were not the first ship in line. We followed the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry through the area.  It was so beautiful even the whales and seals were out playing. It was such a fun afternoon, that it made packing feel almost tolerable.

Dinner tonight for one final time was in the dining room in the same area we had been eating in, at the same table as the night before.  I had pre ordered a usual to ensure they didn’t put any garlic in my dinner, but Heidi was still choosing from the menu. Dinner was fun as there was the occasional possible whale sighting out the window, and a couple of tables of Aussie’s half way across the dining room begging for the windows to be opened.  Fun times! 3 courses, coffee and an adventurous ice cream flavor later, we headed off to some after dinner entertainment.

First up on the entertainment choices tonight was Billboard Onboard.  This is the piano bar onboard with dueling pianos. It was an “icons” selection but it felt more request like.  The best one was an american singing John Farnham & Paul Allen. I was so impressed with that!! The show went for about 45 minutes which was perfect as we were heading to another show due to start 15 minutes after that, so we would be right on time.  The second show we were going to was the final Main Stage show which was a mixed variety show of a short show of the Aussie comedian and the Illusionist as well.

It was a really good show, the comedian was on the ball in my opinion and the illusionist had some good, single person stuff including the show finishing escape from a straight jacket.  A fantastic show to end a fantastic night. We strolled back to our room after the show not wanting the night to come to an end. But we needed to pack up the last of our clothes as we had to have our bags outside the door by midnight.

Thursday 19th September 2019

Woke up this morning and it felt like the ship was not even moving forward it was so solidly calm.  The weather was good outside, cloudy but not raining. This was a good sign, with plenty of islands around us as we cruised down into Ketchikan.  We were not due to arrive until mid morning but it didn’t stop us from going on a morning walk on the Promenade deck. Hell maybe we would see some wildlife.

After our walk we had breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill and then stopped by the Neptune lounge to arrange some stuff for dinner that night.  I wasn’t sure if they would have enough time to get my dinner prepared in mind for my allergies, but we would see how it went. After coming back to the room and finding Jas still cleaning, we hurried to get through packing up our stuff, but in the end I had forgotten a major thing.

We pulled into Ketchikan as the ship was the last of the 4 ships to arrive.  We pulled into Port with two Princess ships (Golden and Ruby, our Skagway neighbors) and sister ship Eurodam.  It was a beautifully calm morning and the best part was watching the seaplanes take off right next to the ship. I even saw a Hovercraft leave the waterfront area.  While we took time to get aside I watched as the bits and pieces all came together. The moment they got the gangplank set up, it was as if someone opened a spigot and all the crew just flowed out of the ship on to the dock with all their gear.

Soon enough we were off the ship and headed out into town on a walking tour led by my wife and her phone.  She had downloaded an app that showed all of Ketchikan local landmarks and how to get around. This few dollar app cost us less than a walking tour led by the ship and would have covered much of the same information if not more.  Saving us hundreds! The one activity we had planned today was the Lumberjack show but this was not until the afternoon.  

So while doing our walking tour it was now that I had realised I had forgotten something important.  I had forgotten to strap my foot. This was not going to be good. One little mistake and my foot would be in pain for all the day.  But I soldiered on, even being a bit of an ass to my wife at times, Sorry honey!. But I still tried to keep going as best that I could.  We ended up back in downtown right as my foot was giving me problems, so we made our way back to the ship for some lunch and I fixed up my foot ready for the afternoon.  

We hit up some of the stores we wanted to see, as well as the ones for all of our freebies.  The best part was the fact that our limited time meant we could skip out on the hard sells. Awesome!  We made it to the Lumberjack show and had a great time. While very similar to the woodchop displays I had seen every year at the Ekka back home, this was a very well done version.  Lots of humor, lots of talk of history and skill and how Ketchikan was not always just about the Salmon and the tourists, it was once about timber as well.

The show ran about an hour and when we came out it was as though someone had turned on the best way to finish an afternoon.  The sun was out and shining and best of all the town was calm and quiet for our walk back to the ship. We stopped in one final shop a few blocks from the ship but made it onboard for a quick snack and a rest on the balcony. 

The ship began to pull away right after 530pm as the Captain came on for his evening briefing.  He let us know that there may be a little bit of movement but it was unlikely to be much compared to the night before.  We had a dinner reservation for 6pm and knew that we would be taking a while to get out of the narrows around Ketchikan.  We sat down for dinner just as we finished pulling off the dock and headed out of the city, so as we cruised out we watched the city disappear.  We saw one whale off to our side out the windows of the dining room, and the Pilot boat come out to collect our pilots (who will somehow get back to Kake in a day or two for pick up.

We watched the illusionist on the stage show, who was really good, and finished off the night watching BB Kings Blues Club for the Orange Party (celebrating dutch heritage).  We made it back to the room to watch TV and finish off a movie before falling asleep as the boat cruised south towards British Columbia.

Wednesday 18th September 2019

Awoke this morning cruising down icy straight heading towards Glacier Bay.  We had ordered room service breakfast as this was going to allow us to enjoy the national park to the fullest.  A big breakfast here and then we would make it through to afternoon tea without much of an issue. The best part of the day would be around lunch time and we didn’t want to miss any of it.

We sailed into Glacier Bay in the rain and fog and it meant that it was not going to be a spectacular day.  But you make lemonade out of lemons if you have to. The surroundings were still beautiful, even with plenty of rain about.  Just after our breakfast arrived, so did the National Park Service with their small boat coming aside, pilot style, to drop off some rangers and our Tlingit Guide too.  The boat made a loop around the back of the ship and then came around to the Port Side. Unfortunately it meant we couldn’t watch them trying to board up a rope ladder.

We followed Ruby Princess up into Glacier Bay as we made our way up towards the Grand Pacific Glacier, 60 miles to the north.  It was raining as we passed through what was meant to be an area of high whale concentration. There wasn’t many around today. Very little wildlife in fact.  We headed up to the crows nest area for the rangers welcome talk and it was good, crowded but good. On our way back down the Bow area was ready and open for us.  Thankfully it was on Deck 5 so we could just walk to the other end of the deck. We checked it out (it was really empty at this point) but we were not really dressed for it.  So we went back to get some real cold weather gear.

Made it out to deck after getting our gear on and it was right as we rolled into Lamplaugh Glacier.  We didnt spin here, but kept moving towards John Hopkins Inlet. This made it the prime time to be out on the bow and it did not disappoint. We also went to a few more spaces on the outer deck of the ship, ones that were not crowded, almost empty.  Once they spun the boat to head out of the inlet, that was when we retreated back to the room, safe and dry. This allowed us to get all the photos we needed in the best way possible.

After we left John Hopkins inlet we started cruising further north, upstream to the Grand Pacific.  This was a good hour or more upstream past more scenery and the one piece of wildlife I saw that day…. Mountain goats.  Well that is what I think they were, they were so far away they just looked like white specs on the rocks. When we did arrive at the Grand Pacific Glacier you wouldn’t even know you were there.  It was all black. What you could see was the margerie glacier. It was beautiful.

Sadly I didn’t get a photo of ruby princess in front of it for some perspective, but the Captain brought the ship nice and close and they stopped all commentary, allowing us to enjoy the moment in the silence.  Silence of the surroundings, silence of the people, silence of the ship. You could hear the ice popping from the Grand Pacific and then every now and then you would hear the ice calve from Margerie. Then seconds later a big chunk of ice would come crashing down into the water.  It was magnificent. By the time we got our photos from the boy we were both frozen solid and wet and had an amazing time.  

I decided not to bring the big camera up for me as I knew they would spin the boat.  This meant I could take all the photos I wanted safe and dry and I did. We sat there enjoying it for around half an hour.  Then the captain slowly pulled the ship away from the area and slowly began the 60 mile journey out of the bay. We attended a couple of talks by the ranger and the Tlingit guide.  Then it was time for afternoon tea. This was a big disappointment as the selection was quite limited, but the company of a few Aussies on holiday helped out.

After tea, we headed back to the cabin as we knew that it was not going to be an easy night.  The wind had picked up significantly and we were headed out to open ocean. As the rangers departed for their final cruise of the season (the two specific rangers were moving out of the bay for the summer and unknown if they were coming back) everyone waved goodbye.  The captain came on and gave me the worst feeling everywhere. High seas, high winds and a 9 hour ETA to calm water.

I was really having a full on anxiety attack.  I took some sea sickness meds and they helped, but the main thing was that there was no way to avoid it.  I was going to have to suck it up. I retreated to the room and ended up watching plenty of TV. The ship was ok for about the first hour as we cruised out Icy Straight point but then it began to move about.  Now this was far from the worst that I have been in, but it was not an easy night.

I tried to make myself sleep, but that did not work either, so I stayed flat on my back watching TV in bed.  This made it the easiest for me to get through the movement but also keep me distracted enough for me not to lose it fully.  We watched several movies and I even let Heidi pick some so that she could enjoy herself as she stayed with me the whole time.  Funnily enough Heidi has the opposite when she starts to feel queasy in seas. She wants to be eating and it keeps her ok. So she ordered some room service dinner to tide her over.  By around 10pm I was super tired and had made it so I could barely keep my eyes open. I passed out with the ship moving about quite a bit, knowing that by 1am, it would be over.

Tuesday 17th September 2019

Woke up this morning as we were pulling into Skagway.  In the dock was two ships already so it was so strange to already be in port before 7am.  It didnt even feel like we had moved overnight it was that smooth. It had been a calm journey up one of the biggest fjords in Alaska and the sad thing is they do it at night.  When we woke up the mountains were out and the stunning blue sky made it seem like we had wasted so much time doing this at night. Skagway was our longest port as well. People were disembarking before for tours well before they called to allow everyone out.

We had breakfast on the Lido deck today as we had an earlyish tour.  The place was jam packed so we ended up taking a seat out on the back Sea View Pool deck in the open (Heidi was cold though).  I got stuck into my first bit of vegemite for this trip. It was amazing that they had some onboard (then again it is filled with Aussies).

After gettig ourselves ready for the morning we headed off the ship and onto the pier where we boarded our train for the White Pass & Yukon Route Summit Excursion.  Up to the summit of the White Pass and back again. This was the tour I was most excited to go on. We would spend the morning in Vintage railway cars travelling up and down a very scenic mountain range being pulled behind some Vintage locomotives (yes I like trains).  Sadly the steam train had ended just a week before or I would have chosen that without a doubt, no matter the price.

It was such a stunning day with bright blue sky and the pictures all came out amazingly.  We both enjoyed the train ride and the commentary talking about the Yukon Gold Rush and how the train became to start.  Once back in town, we went back to the ship for lunch (since getting some time in town would have been a miracle). It was such a good idea (though apparently everyone on tour had the same one).  After lunch we ventured out into “town” to check it out. This meant walking the streets trying to find interesting things to see, but also avoiding all the chain jewellery stores…. Ugh.

Town was not that big, but I did end up buying myself a hat and a few shotglasses in town.  We sat down at the train depot in town and watched the WP&YR trains come and go and that was fun for a bit.  We even made it back onboard for Afternoon Tea in the Neptune Lounge. We spent most of the afternoon just relaxing in the room and attending any onboard stuff we wanted to.  

We spent the night eating dinner at the Dining Room for the first time and that was a great experience.  The staff were great and tried to go out of their way to help me with my allergy. They even suggested I pre order my dinner ahead of time and they can make it without garlic.  We didnt end up doing that as the next night was going to be out in the ocean and it was very likely I was going to be a mess.

We finished up buy watching the BBC Earth show on the mainstage and a movie in bed before falling asleep as we pushed back away from Skagway.  A pretty nice day!

Sunday 15th September 2019

I woke up a little early this morning to the ship beginning to move around.  I checked the App and it showed we were hitting some open water. It wasn’t like we were far out to sea or anything, just some open water between some of the islands in BC.  So gone had been my protection for calm water and we had some motion. Now a lot of people would experience what we had and say “well that wasn’t much” and be fine with it. My anxiety had taken full control of me.  It had stopped me from sleeping and doing much of anything.

I was pretty much frozen solid in my room for a while until Heidi woke up.  When she woke up she let me sit for a bit before making me get up and get moving.  We did some laps of the promenade deck and even with the motion, I felt much better.  I didn’t eat much to make sure that I was going to be ok (the Neptune Lounge had some fruit salad so I stuck with that).  We got ourselves moving about the ship and before we knew it, we were into more calmer waters of the “Inside Passage”. It was a good day though with plenty of stuff to keep you going.

America’s Test Kitchen, some talks about Alaskan heritage etc, Trivia, all interspersed with checking on photos from Embarkation and just relaxing in the room.  By the time the afternoon rolled around, the weather had improved, the whales were out and about around the ship and I was having a good old time! We had an early reservation tonight at the Pinnacle grill.  It would mark the last of our complimentary specialty dinners, but that wasn’t a horrible thing. It was good because it was also Gala night. So we would have to get dressed up anyway and meant that we could have a nice, special night to celebrate our anniversary.

We got dressed up, had some photos taken and had a blast enjoying ourselves while eating a fantastic steakhouse dinner.  I had a New York Strip (I was on the Nieuw Amsterdam of course) and Heidi had the double cut pork chop. For dessert they brought out on top of what we ordered a special chocolate cake for our annivesary.  We never cut into it but they wrapped it up for us to take back to our room (which seems silly for on a cruise ship).

We went to the Main Stage for the captains toast, and then watched the comedian.  Jim Short was an Aussie who had spent time in many countries and now does his time on the cruise ships.  It was funny to see him and there was a lot of Aussie’s in the crowd. By the time we got back from dinner/evening we were heading back out to see.  Hello anxiety and this time before going to bed, I took a sea sickness tablet and I managed to fall asleep without vomiting. That was good.

Saturday 14th September 2019

Another early wake up (gotta get used to these this week) and this time the rain isn’t coming down much at all.  When we went to bed on Friday night it was coming down. So we decided to walk down to Canada Place via the waterfront and get in a few photos of our ship, as it pulled in early this morning.  We took some photos, checked out the other ships in port and walked back to the hotel for breakfast.

After cleaning up, getting our bags sorted, we tagged our bags with the cruise line tags and headed out of the hotel.  We checked out and said goodbye to the fantastic staff before they drove us off to the cruise terminal. We left the hotel around 1035am.  This is important because when we went it was super early. Check out from the hotel is 12pm and our cruise check in was meant to be 1230pm.  This is good timing you might think right? Well there was 3 ships in port today, all with check in at the same time. Yeah… nah!

So when we were dropped off at the cruise terminal, someone took our bags immediately and pointed us in the right direction.  Essentially.. Follow the signs and the staff and you will make it perfectly. Ok then. Carrying my backpack and camera bag, along with our duffle filled with 2 dozen bottles of water, we headed off following the signs and the different stages we needed.  Having a Neptune Suite helped as at each stage we pretty much went straight forward to someone waiting. At check in it was super easy and then at immigration and customs (you preclear into the USA) we jumped the line due to our Nexus Cards. Life is great! We had our photos taken and by the time we walked onboard it was 11:25am.  Less than an hour from start to finish, a great experience. The only downside was our rooms were not ready yet, so we sat with everyone else on the lido deck and waited (they all started lunch early, we didn’t).

Once the rooms were available to us, we headed downstairs and took some time getting what small stuff we had situated.  Our bags were not there yet, but we took what we had and got it sorted. Soon enough they would arrive, but first came the rain.  After exploring the ship for a bit, we had some lunch in the lido market and then returned to the cabin to get ourselves sorted. Our cabin steward, Jas, came by and introduced himself and we asked him for a few things and he delivered our bags when they showed up.  Unpacking of bags happened and we went off in search of other things throughout the afternoon. Stopping by the neptune lounge to check it out, getting a tour of the spa and fitness area and just looking around the ship in general.

We did our safety muster drill as required and then went off for the sail away party.  It was here that they mentioned how the weather was going to be that night. The expected winds were meant to be 25 knots overnight so when we hit some open water the next day, there was going to be motion.  Once I heard that, the panic set in a little. If you know anything about me it is that I just don’t like boats on open ocean. I have massive panic attacks. I don’t really get sea sickness, but my stomach turns knots due to anxiety.  I had a lot of anxiety for the rest of the night. I was a little withdrawn but Heidi did what she could to keep me ok.

We had dinner the first night in our first complimentary speciality dinner at Caneletto.  It is the italian restaurant on the Lido deck. It was pretty good, slightly family style but not.  It was a good free dinner, but for me, it was a big hit of garlic that the only way to avoid would be to make a fuss.  I just decided to eat what I could, take the hit from the allergy in the morning and the meds would keep me going. We had our dinner, went to the welcome reception at the Neptune lounge and then saw the first of many of the talks/shows they put on for Alaska.  It was a good easy night that was not to full on. Fell asleep watching a movie in the room and all in all a good day onboard.

Thursday 12th September 2019

After waiting our turn for a taxi and using the small amount of cash to get to the hotel (we had like $15 in CAD but they took credit card so we weren’t worried) we dropped off our stuff because we knew the room wouldn’t be ready at check out time (sold out hotel & early arrivals don’t always help). That was fine with us as we had plans for what to do.

Change out our jackets and off we went to get some money exchanged. See every year my folks keep sending me Australian cash for things like birthdays etc and if I convert in the USA I get horrible rates. But if I keep it for the times we visit Canada, the rates are usually almost even. Today it was a little bit of a loss but the rates were good in comparison to the USD. It meant that for the next few days in Vancouver everything would be at the thanks to my folks.

We had lunch at one of our favorite little sushi places (Rue 909) in the middle of the city. It isn’t fancy but its quick, cheap and delicious. It is a working mans place right in the middle of all the office blocks, downstairs below street level, but they pump out some tasty eats. It was a good fortification before heading over to grab my free attraction pass (the benefit of being a travel agent) and heading out to Capilano.

The moment we got on that bus to capilano though, the heavens opened and the rain started pouring, and I mean pouring. It was coming down solidly. This meant a soggy time at Capilano but it was ok. Here is the thing though. I was fully in to going to out to the park and checking it out. But the moment I stepped onto that bridge, i REALLY started to panic. I have never had a problem with heights before, but the height of that bridge, the movement, the amount of people bouncing around on it and the slipperiness from the rain and I was freaking out. I tried twice to cross that bridge and I just couldn’t do it. The afternoon was a wash because I was too afraid to do it. It meant I was fully chicken to do anything but it didn’t stop Heidi from enjoying herself (thankfully).

We came back to the city on the free shuttle and walked back to the hotel and headed up to our room. I was now soaked and Heidi was pretty wet as well. But we dried off and went off to dinner downtown at a place called Mooses Down Under. It was recommended to me by a friend and it was an Aussie Pub in the middle of Vancouver. Sold! The menu looked great and they had lots of true aussie foods, including Chicken Salt and Bundy Rum. Dinner was delicious and most of the staff were either Aussies or Kiwis. It was funny to find so many aussie accents in Canada.

We strolled back to our hotel and passed out early after a long day.

Friday 13th September 2019

Woke up early as we had an early meeting and went out for a walk. We walked down to a bakery in the West End area of Vancouver that was an outpost from a chain back in Australia. Bakers Delight in Australia is called COBS in Canada. We got there right as they opened and everything was warm and fresh! We stepped into the Safeway next door to check the price on a few items before we walked back to the hotel to clean up etc.

Our meeting got moved to a different time but that was ok, it allowed us to run a few errands (picking up stuff for the cruise) and then we headed over to Waterfront Station to meet up with our tour guide. We were scheduled to do a movie tour throughout Vancouver looking at some of the locations that the “Hollywood of the North” has provided to tv shows and movies. There was a few spots I immediately recognised but then others I had never even noticed before. The sillyness of some of the places not even changing items in the production (such as street signs etc) or the downright crazy of adding buildings that don’t exist while keeping others that do.

After the tour we had a Japadog for lunch and walked back to the hotel for a quick rest before the meeting. The meeting went well and we rested a bit before walking up to Canada Place and doing the Flyover Canada. Think of Soaring California at Disneyland but all about Canada. This place was a shit show and although we got in, it was not easy having to deal with the people who were waiting (or running the show).

After finishing Flyover the two of us were pretty tired. We stopped off for some Nice Cream (non dairy banana ice cream) and grabbed a sandwich or two for dinner. It had been a long day and we were both pretty tired and had an early night. Tomorrow would be stressful as it was technically a travel day. Back to the USA tomorrow without even leaving the city.

Thursday 12th September 2019

This morning was an early wake up (but thank god not too early) to get ourselves downtown to King Street Station. The ride down in the Lyft was good as the driver had spent some time in Australia and was also a substitute teacher. That dude got a good tip. He dropped us off right in front of a seemingly empty station.

The station was indeed quite empty at this time as it was just over an hour to departure. That meant no real lines to drop off bags etc. But sadly within moments of finding somewhere to sit, it seemed even the train station could not avoid Gate Lice. The lines began! Around an hour prior to departure they started checking passports (mainly that you had one) and assigning seats for the train (a pink ticket with a sticky label on it). We were close to the front, but not that close to the front unfortunately. It felt like a morning on lines was going to be upon us.

Before we could do much we were in line for passport check, then in line for ticket check, then we could rest a few minutes until they started boarding the train. The train was smaller carriages then I remember the last time I was onboard (2011), but I know it hasn’t changed other than getting older (even the train car signs were broken and replaced with taped pieces of paper). The seats were still comfortable though and there was enough space to ensure you didn’t smash into too many people (didnt stop the guy in front of me from trying to recline into me though, but i put a stop to that 😉 ).

The train left on time but sadly it was a very slow journey. Getting about 2 miles out of the station took 10 minutes and to get up to Everett, an hour. It was a very pretty journey though so I can’t complain all that much. The trip was all together a little boring. I ate the breakfast we brought with us. I drank a cup of coffee I purchased for an ok price. By the time we reached Bellingham we were about 2 hours into the journey. They did another Passport check to make sure everyone could get in and handed out customs forms. From there the journey took another 2 hours to wind its way into Vancouver. That drive would normally be about an hour or so plus wait time at the border. We didn’t wait at the border so that was a little annoying.

Once we pulled into the station, we had to wait onboard until we were allowed to go into Customs and immigration but, they did it car by car. It took a while to allow us to move (pretty much right after I used the restroom) and then it was more waiting in line (about 20 minutes). Our luggage made it safe and sound and by the time we got to the CBSA it was a few questions and “Have a nice stay!”. Off to the taxi line (did I mention it was a day of lines) and off to the hotel by cab (because Rideshare is illegal here at the moment).

Sunday 8th July 2018

After getting the last of our bags all sorted we checked out of the Park Hyatt and got a cab over to the station. We could have taken the free shuttle but it would drop us on the whole opposite end of the station. We would have two ways of getting over to the New South Entrance to Shinjuku station. The first would involve crossing numerous platforms going up and down, more than likely stairs, to get to the platform we needed. The second option would be to wind through either streets or department stores. Taxi it is!

The taxi dropped us on a higher level than the train but a quick elevator ride and we were there. Pretty simple really. The platform for the Narita Express was well and truly on the other side of the station compared to say the Yamanote line. It felt closer to Yoyogi station than to Shinjuku. This was also the same platform for all the limited express trains that were used (so anything with a seat reservation). We got there just as the previous train was pulling into the station so we stayed out of the way as everyone piled on and the train departed. Mere seconds later our train rolled into the station and terminated. The cleaning crew went on so we would have to wait a little bit before we could use it.

Soon enough though we had access to the train and we got situated. The train was going to be relatively full with plenty of people getting on. Thankfully we were in the train in the first group of people as the train filled up people had problems storing suitcases (it only holds so many large suitcases but the racks were all full. The train rolled out on time to the second and off to Narita we went. The train followed the Yamanote line through to Shibuya to pick up more people and kept going all the way to Tokyo where it joined the rest of the train (we were the back half). From there the train picked up speed and ran express to Narita.

When we got to Narita it was a matter of a long long walk through to the station and a giant line of people at the ticket gates. Lines were a mess as people were lining up to have Suica cards refunded or fares adjusted and a lot of people were getting mixed up as they thought this was the line for rail passes to get out. It was a total mess! After winding our way up all the escalators to the departure level (numerous times i heard people say “should have taken the elevator”) and found our way to check in. Lines moved quickly and we were checked in quickly as well.

Soon enough we were off to security after checking the prices at the currency exchange (why didn’t we change it for the fantastic rate in shinjuku..why!). Security was easy and I didn’t have any troubles (i’m looking at you TSA) and then down to immigration we went. I tried to figure out how to fix up my tax free purchases with customs (apparently you just through the receipt in a box) and joined the extremely long lines for outbound immigration. After making it through the lines we headed off to relax in the lounge.

The ANA lounge was a shit show. People everywhere, crowding, very little in the way of seating, it was like being back at work, ugh. After finding a couple of seats and having to walk the entire length of the lounge to get a glass for a drink (again… ugh). We settled in to try and relax a little. We both were stressed over the environment and after a little while the lounge emptied out some so we found some more comfortable seats. Soon enough we left the lounge to head towards the gate via some final souvenir shopping.

We went to small shop that has always had good candy choices by the lounge. Without fail this place has always had choices that were not available elsewhere. Low and behold today was just like always. We managed to pick up a packet of Tokyo Banana kit kats and some pocky for Heidi before making the long trek to the gate.

The gate (58B) was all the way at the very end of the 50 pier and was both up a set of escalators and back down some stairs. Why… no idea! We got down there and went through a secondary security check (three times for me for some reason) and ran into some of Heidi’s friends we had drinks with the other night. We chatted before boarding was called and it was time to head over to the gate.

All Nippon Airways – NH178
Tokyo Narita to Seattle Tacoma
1815-1125
Boeing 787-8 (JA814A)
Business Class – Seat 9A

Boarding: 1751 (Gate 58B)
Push Back: 1815
Take Off Roll: 1840 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1028
Touch Down: 1100 (Runway 34R)
Shut Down: 1106 (Gate: S11)

Boarding was called for pre boards, though they didn’t go far as you could see them trapped in the jetbridge. A couple of minutes later boarding officially began with the traditional bow from the staff. Moments later after all of the top tiers were through the gate they let us on. Onto the exact same aircraft we had flown over on. So far this year I am 2/2 for registrations…. That isn’t all that much to talk about, but what is scary is that of 3 different flights on 787-8s with ANA, two out of three have been on the same aircraft. That is kinda of strange. If it had of been the same aircraft for all three, I would just give up!

This time Heidi was stuck sitting near me onboard, so there was no having to go back and forth between cabins. Thanks to Japanese efficiency they had the aircraft boarding right quick. Even with the fact that all of the economy class passengers were walking past us, it still felt pretty easy. Pre Departure beverages were served in plastic (but that is more of a need to be done quickly thing I think) and with a choice of OJ or Champagne. I took an OJ since I wanted to keep my single drink for something else later in the flight.

After they closed the door and came around to get all the cups we started to push off the gate. We pushed back and made the long long trek to the other side of the airport following a long line of other aircraft. As we taxied out to the active there was a long line of aircraft taking off right outside my window with an amazing sunset as well. Watching the aircraft take off gave me chances to practice some panning shots with my point and shoot camera. It went pretty well in my opinion.

It was finally our turn and we turned quickly onto the active and off we went. Although coming out of Narita is usually pretty bumpy, this evening it wasn’t that bad. Not saying there was no bumps, because there was a couple, but it was pretty easy. As we climbed out it was a matter of getting comfortable for what was slated to be a quick flight. Although it’s normally a 9 hour or so flight heading east, we apparently had some good tailwinds tonight as the flight was dropped down to just over 8 hours. Pretty slick, but it meant no real time to relax and sleep or enjoy more than the two meals… no snacks tonight apparently!

As we climbed out the service started with the handing out of menus, when they came back around to take orders they took drink orders and also the meal orders at the same time. One thing I noticed with ANA is that when they have a full cabin, they tend to take a while to get the service moving. When they do it is slow, but it’s very determined and thorough. This is not always a bad thing, but on a flight that may be short like tonight, sometimes you just want to get through the service. I guess you could just order a smaller meal like a bowl of the ramen and get some sleep, however that was not what I wanted to do tonight.

I went with the Japanese course as it would give me a final chance at some kaiseki. Although not as extensive as the first course option, the business class meal looked pretty impressive. There was some conger eel on it, which I never really enjoy, but I would still give it a go. The meal was delicious, extensive and just downright fantastic. But by the time it was almost over it had been 2.5 hours since we took off. This is a loooong time! When dessert came by I was a little greedy and asked for both options (but I didn’t have any cheese, if that helps). This got a strange look but I was the last person in the cabin to be served so i guess it was fine. I tried to use the provided spoon for the blueberry tart and it cracked in half. Thankfully I had already eaten the cassis parfait (which was delicious!).

After dinner was finished I had a cup of coffee and a sake. Yep… sake. I got chastised by my wife for having sake when I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t care. I sat down and enjoyed it with the coffee and slowly sipped away at it. It was pretty delicious! By the time it was all said and done I was almost through my second movie of the flight. The FA came to take away all of the items and i put the seat back to try and get some sleep (though it never really came). I drifted back and forth between rest and awake for a number of hours and eventually got up about 3 hours out.

I didn’t bother to try and get some food when I woke up, because I knew that at two and a half hours out, they started to offer the final food options throughout the cabin. So i fired up a final movie and just waited it out. As the time progressed towards Seattle you could smell the food begin to be heated up. The smell of warming bread just filled the cabin, so that was a great chance for me to get myself all sorted. When they came around to check on us, I took the option of the western breakfast with some cereal as well, because I had not had any in weeks… I was desperate!

The western breakfast was a great spread and included a lovely omelette. None of these fake crappy omelettes from the USA, this was a true, french style omelette, something the japanese do well. It tasted fantastic and was a good breakfast/early lunch as we would touch down just close to lunch time.

As the meal was cleaned up we were about an hour out from Seattle so I got myself sorted for the remainder of the flight. Getting my shoes on, getting the earplanes in and situated, cleaning up around the seat. We passed Victoria BC just as we started descent into Seattle. It was a nice sunny day in Seattle as we began to head down the Olympic Peninsula towards Tacoma and having to head back up. We passed over Bainbridge Island which meant out my window you could see downtown Seattle. You could see the three ships in port picking up boatloads of tourists up to Alaska.

It was sad to have the flight end which meant the vacation to Japan was finally over. We turned over Tacoma to line up for SeaTac and the end of this adventure. As we came into SeaTac there was a giant smackdown and a bounce to the left. Way to finish the flight with a bumpy landing. But the roll out wasn’t too bad and the taxi back to the S gates was relatively quick. We pulled into the gate and low and behold right next to us was a 777 from British Airways starting to be unloaded. This meant a rough time during immigration with a whole 777 load of people right ahead of us. Joy!

Leaving the aircraft, thanking the crew, it was off into the FIS at SeaTac. I have been through there once in the past, on ANA back in 2013. Back when there was not as many flights into the airport. 5 years ago half of the international flights into SeaTac didn’t exist. Now it can be an awful experience. When we got down there though, the lines didn’t look too bad. We skipped all the way through to the Global Entry area which had no one there at all.

Global entry for Heidi went off without a hitch. For me though, not so much. For one, the machine refused to read my green card without the help from one of the CBP agents. From there it just started going downhill, not that I didn’t expect it. So because i am in the waiting period again, apparently Global Entry isn’t valid for me (not that anything anywhere says that). Apparently I also need to have my own customs form and need to go through the main line. Thankfully the CBP guys took pity on me and put me through the process without having to go back over to the other side with all the giant lines. Thank god!

They were all nice about it, which is perfect for me, but for next time I will make sure to do it the right way, rather than the way it happened. Hopefully this will all be sorted out soon enough so that there isn’t too much of a problem. Once through immigration we spent more time waiting for our bags to come out, so I guess it was fine to take a little bit longer. All the bags arrived intact and customs was a non issue. When asked what food we had the answer was “kit kats” “but you can get them here” “not these ones” “how many did you bring back” “too many”.

Onto the train back to the main terminal, Lyft ordered and by the time we got out to the pick up point, we only waited a few minutes before the driver was there. Minutes later we were home, into the house, with Darcy in heidi’s arms within seconds.