Sunday, August 17, 2008

Alaska Cruise - Day 8 (Seattle, WA)

Saturday August 16

Disembarkation. Yesterday we packed-up our suitcases before we went ashore in Victoria and put them outside our stateroom for the stewards to pick them up. We have been issued a color and number combination (Yellow 5) in our case and a disembarkation time (8.15am – 8.30am). We had set our alarm for 7.00am so we would be awake for it otherwise there is a very high probability we’d sleep through our disembarkation window.

So, 7am came and we woke up. We grumpily turned around a few times and finally got up to get showered. When we had packed-up everything left in our stateroom into our daypacks it was nearing 8am. We took the elevator up to the Lido deck one last time and got some breakfast. There we got to talk a bit about the disembarkation and figured out that the window we were given was the earliest you’d find your luggage in the terminal. If we’d go a little later we’d know for sure our luggage would be ahead of us, plus most of the other luggage assigned in the same window would already be picked-up so we decided to take it easy and finish breakfast at a leisurely pace.

At about 8.45am we were done and made one final elevator trip down to the Main deck to disembark our now very familiar and very comfy ship. No more all-you-can-eat-all-the-time-free-food, but back to paying for every meal. How bourgeois… 

The walk back to the terminal was easy and customs was a breeze as always since we were able to take the international line which was a very short one on this cruise. It took less than 5 minutes to get to our luggage and another 5 minutes later we were in-line waiting for a cab back to our Red Lion hotel at SeaTac. This time we had a regular cab and the fare was $28 plus the now obligatory fuel surcharge ($2). All displayed in nice clear and big letters inside and outside the cab. So image a little surprise if our cabbie (who we had planned to give a $5 tip) wrote $32 on the credit card slip. I missed it initially, but Jen caught it so we asked why and he mumbled something about the fuel surcharge. I said it is displayed clearly on the outside of the cab that there is a flat-fee to the airport of $28 and that there is a $2 surcharge. Not $30 and another $2. So, needless to say he now did not receive our intended tip and instead of walking away with $35, he now only had $30… I was more than a little ticked-off. It’s not the amount, but when you make an agreement, you don’t unilaterally change it on a dime. It’s the principle…

OK, since it was only 9.30am we fully expected our room not to be ready, but when the receptionist was looking in the system they had our room already cleaned and available, so we went to our room with our luggage and turned on the TV to watch some real-life images of the Olympics rather than the ESPN still-shots of Michael Phelps which was the only thing ESPN was allowed to show under the NBC contract with the IOC. Stupid system, don’t you think? At least allow other networks to carry some highlight footage.

We had a relatively short night, especially for Jen so I watched some more of the Olympics when Jen watched some more of the inside of her eyelids. Since our flight wouldn’t leave until 6.05am on Sunday we had the whole Saturday in Seattle so we had planned ahead and decided to go see the Space Needle, Pike’s Place Market, the Seattle Underground Tour and the Seattle library building since it was designed by a Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Jen ending up sleeping until about noon, so we decided to start with the Needle and work our way back, time permitting. From the hotel we took the airport shuttle to the airport to take the bus to Downtown. We looked up the schedule and the line number and armed with all the required knowledge and goodies we waited for the right bus. Right… that bus came fairly quickly, but it was the slow one so we opted for the express which would come 7 minutes later. Bad choice. That one was already packed and they only let 2 people on and passed-over us--as the pregnant couple. Ah well, we’ll wait. And wait and wait and wait… So after about 75 minutes of waiting outside for the bus that is supposed to come every 30 minutes the airport terminal with a good number of people in clear and utter defiance of the no-smoking signs, we took the first bus that would get to Downtown, Express or not.

Long story short, we got to Downtown Seattle around 2.30pm so we went straight to the Monorail to take us to the Space Needle. The entrance is in the Westfield Southcenter-mall on the third floor, so, since we are traveling with Niels, who was now clearly hungry and displaying some food-addiction-withdrawal signs, we decided to stop at the food court first but when we saw a Motherhood Maternity store we actually went in and bought a few things for Jen since DJ decided to ‘build’ an addition to his current ‘crib’. A good 30 minutes later we were eating lunch. How sweet it is to have some food… even if you have to pay for it!

Next stop, the Monorail. Build in the 60’s for the Worlds’ Fair (as was our first destination, the Space Needle). A quick ride later we got out and the first thing we saw was a carousel. Those who know about our Paris engagement trip know that immediately following me putting the engagement ring around Jen’s finger we went on a carousel and had some plain old fun. Image our surprise when we saw a VERY recently married couple taking some of their wedding pictures on this one. How cool. It also made us realize we have been married forever now (well, in Jen’s mind at least) and we gave each other a nice kiss and walked over to the Needle to get in line.

For a structure being 40-some years old it still looks very cool, albeit a bit dated, but the elevator-ride up to the top was done in under a minute and with a very cool view. Talking about cool… with us coming from Alaska we thought that spending a day in Seattle was a good step in between 60F degrees in Alaska and 90F-some in Ohio, but imagine our surprise that we happened to visit Seattle on the hottest day of the year. It was a balmy 92F (32C) degrees so the breeze at 600 feet was a nice one. So was the view, albeit a bit hazy. We saw the house boats featured in the movie ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, the Downtown area, our ship (in the distance) and some of the mountains in the Olympic range. It was unfortunately too hazy to see either Mount Hood or Mount Rainier. When walking outside we caught a little bit of the guide’s speech, but we only got the tail-end of it and with the next tour not starting for another 30 minutes we decided to find bathroom for Jen. We did, but they all had a big line so we went back to the elevator, being released into the obligatory gift-shop. Wow, what a rip-off. $30 for a t-shirt that would otherwise cost $5, just because it has a picture of the Space Needle on it? Not us, but plenty of others did. We did buy a few things with Alaska on them while on the cruise, but not $30 t-shirts. After Jen found her bathroom we walked back to the Monorail (which doesn’t yet have Air, they were testing the upgrades on another train) towards our next destination, Pike’s Place Market.

Seattle is a very hilly town and if you’ve ever seen the streets in San Francisco you’ll recognize the pattern very quickly. Pretty much the same steepness on the streets facing the Puget Sound and fairly level on the cross-streets. Just before getting to the market, we saw a little alley that had a baby and kids store. They had all kinds of fun political onesies, like ‘baby got barack’ and ‘barack-a-bye-baby’ (we ARE in Seattle...) and even mini-Norwegian sweaters. Very cool, but probably just as much fun taking a picture of than buying, so we did just that.

We walked out of the alley to the Market, but since it was already around 4.45pm most of the vendors were closing down for the day. What stuck with us the most about the market was the incredible deal on the most beautiful flower bouquets. Very cool! I wish we had that selection for that price back home in Ohio. We were half-tempted to buy some of the fruit, but decided not to and instead opted to find a bus stop that would be serviced by our bus back to the hotel.

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait nearly as long for this bus as for the one up and about 15 minutes later we had a seat. Good, that would mean Niels would get some dinner within the hour… Nope, not this Saturday. There happened to be an NFL pre-season game (Bears vs Seahawks) and the traffic was bad enough to cause a mile-long gridlock in downtown Seattle. Great! We were half-tempted to see the game, but I don’t think we would have been able to face our friend Gabe it we told him we went on an Alaskan cruise AND see his beloved Chicago Bears.

Next stop, Denny’s for some dinner. Niels actually had a breakfast slam, but since it was about 7pm we’ll just call it dinner. Walking back to the hotel we quickly realized it was nearing the end of summer since some of the leaves on the trees were already starting to turn brown. It was beautiful to see the range of color, but a bit sad that the summer is already coming to an end. Hey, we haven’t even finished our summer trip yet (not until tomorrow at least…).

Back at the hotel we turned on the TV and were very pleasantly surprised that the Rick Warren Interview of both Barack Obama and John McCain was on tonight. Cool. We watched both of the interviews and came away with a very favorable opinion on the format (Rick asking the same questions to both candidates, given to him by the attendees of Saddleback Church). We saw a clear difference in answering-styles, with Obama taking the time to really formulate and articulate a real response where McCain appeared to be more pulling lines from his campaign that kind of matched with Rick Warren’s answers. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Rick in these style setting. Maybe not for this election, but I can see this being a format that will be repeated.

After the interview we each took a shower and fell asleep for our short night in order to catch our 6.05am flight home tomorrow.

Sleeping in Seattle

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