Alaska Adventures: Setting Sail

After receiving the tragic news of Bethany’s brother Rocky, we decided after a lot of discussion and consideration that Rocky would have wanted us to continue this adventure, so we moved forward with our cruise.  We departed our Seattle apartment and took a cab out to pier 91, housing our cruise ship: the Star Princess.  This ship has 16 decks and carriers 2900 guests + a staff and crew of 1,400.


This is actually my second cruise. I did take one with my school band back in high school, but that was a three-day trip on a smaller cruise ship. This is my first time out at sea for a week, as well as my first time spending time on the Pacific Ocean (although we’re spending most of our time on the Inside Passage of Alaska, which has more sea-like calm waters for most of the way.  Before setting sail, I was pretty nervous about spending this much time on the water.  Back during our honeymoon, we went on a dinner cruise where I spent the majority of the time avoiding sea sickness.  I even managed to feel queasy when I went sea kayaking on the weekend of Rachel & Ken’s wedding.  However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the smoothness of this journey, and how good I’ve felt without taking any kind of medicine.

We departed at 4pm on Sunday, the third ship to leave port at approximately the same time.  I got a cool shot of the other ships pulling out of the harbor while we waited.


We were treated to some great views of the Seattle skyline as we departed, and you can see the Space Needle over Bethany and her dad, Jim as we were embarking on our journey.


As we were heading out of Seattle, the ship sailed alongside many sail boats out for some fun.  It was neat seeing the steady stream of boats sail by as we headed northward.


Sunday and Monday were spent at sea, where we spent much of our team eating, exploring the ship, relaxing, sharing stories and sitting in the hot tub (I did also manage to get a work out in).  Trust me – it’s better that there aren’t a lot of pictures of me doing those activities.   There weren’t a lot of photographic opportunities in our first days on the boat, but we were treated to our first “formal night” on the cruise on Monday – where people are asked to wear tuxes, suits or formal dresses (I guess a pants suit was acceptable).  During the course of the evening, we were treated to a champagne waterfall on the promenade.



Bethany also celebrated a birthday on July 29th, so the cruise staff treated her to a cake and a song during our formal dinner.


We wrapped up our first night trying to watch Man on the Ledge “Under the Stars” up on the open deck, but grew too tired and turned in – thus concluding our first full day at sea.

Next Up: Arriving in “Alaska’s first city”.

Sleeping In Seattle: To Market We Go


Our last two days spent in Seattle gave us the opportunity to explore Pike Place Market.  For my birthday, Bethany’s mom gave me a card with a list of their favorite activities in Seattle and some money for each, so we used that as our guide to explore the market.  Our trip started off at the very first Starbucks, which opened in 1971.  Given the explosion in popularity, this location is basically a tourist trap and pilgrimage destination for serious coffee drinkers.  There’s a line that leads down the street, and once you get in you can pick our some merchandise or order a cup of coffee.  I decided to simply do the latter.  It’s definitely worth the experience of going, especially if you put a Starbucks barista through college.



After getting caffeinated up we headed down a block to Beechers, which boasts the best Mac & Cheese in the world.  After eating the bowl that Bethany and I split, I would have to agree that it’s definitely up there.  I’m not sure what criteria you use to judge Mac & Cheese: whether you prefer the soft and cheesy Mac, or if you’d prefer the cheese to be baked on and crisp at the top.  I’m more of a “crisp at the top” kind of guy, but either way – if you’re a Mac & Cheese fan, this is worth a stop as well.


When you walk down the Market, you’re treated to various samples: smoke salmon, jams and fruits.  One of the items we got money for was for peaches, and we samples some ones that were incredibly juicy.  They made for an awesome breakfast the next day.

The next day when Bethany’s family game in, we scratched another item off the list: Clam at Pike Place Chowder. Seattle has no shortage of the stuff, but in terms of richness and flavor, we definitely got our money’s worth.  They actually had a sampler platter, which I used to try four different types.  Their New England style clam is excellent, but my favorite one is the bisque.


Rewind back to Friday night: We decided to split from the craziness that was downtown and headed north west to a recommended restaurant called Ray’s Café.  There are actually three locations in Ray’s: a fancy restaurant, a boathouse event center (which was actually hosting a wedding at the time), and an upstairs café with an awesome patio.  All of them had an awesome view of the shore. We spent the rest of the evening ordering seafood appetizers and soups while taking in the spectacular view.



One of the final sights we took in before leaving Seattle was a wall along the ally behind the Pike Place Market known as the “gum wall”, where you guessed it – people stuck their chewed gum to decorate everything.  You might not want to stand too close to this attraction.


Next up: Alaska!

Sleeping in Seattle: Underground and Bainbridge Island

On Thursday we journeyed back into downtown Seattle to go see an attraction that was recommended by many locals: The Underground Tour.  Located in Pioneer’s Square, this fascinating tour covered the underground in two ways: the structures that the current city was built above, as well as the way these structures also housed activities that were considered less-than-decent – it’s Red Light District.


We were told stories of how the city was originally constructed as a logging community, built on mud slabs that were supplemented with sawdust to firm out the ground.  Being a port city, Seattle was where loggers and sailors would come together to unwind, drink themselves silly and indulge themselves.


It’s crazy seeing the original structures that now sit beside the foundations of sidewalk and street.  We were told stories of when the streets came up and built to the current height they are today, the sidewalk passages were still at the ground level. People would have to climb ladders in order to cross the street.  We heard tales of drunk loggers stumbling out of the bar, climbing the ladder to cross the street, then taking the “one step to sobriety” by forgetting about the ladder back down.


Later on, when the city was erected on top of the underground structures, we were told the structures were used as a series of underground tunnels for smuggling.  They claim this was evidenced by the fact that skylights was built into the sidewalks to allow for natural light to shine through.


You can see the under-ground view, and then the above-ground view.


I’d say the Underground Tour was worth it. The price was pretty reasonable for a history buff like me. I’m not sure what was truth and what is urban legend.  It was  still worthwhile to see though.

We departed Pioneer Square and headed straight to Bainbridge Island: the other gem recommended to us. We made our way out there by ferry and were told to go to this pub for fish & chips. We made a small detour for some wine tasting, topped off by a Port in chocolate glass.


After dinner we walked along the shoreline walk, which featured these cool statues made out of rock and wire.



On the ferry ride back to Seattle, we were treated to both a beautiful sunset over the island, as well as a full moon rising over the city, revealing a beautiful cityscape.




Sleeping in Seattle: Wedding Wednesday

Seattle was actually a work-cation for me, where I would work during the day and have some time at night to explore.  This left Bethany with some time to kill on her hands, and one of those ways in doing so was visiting the University of Washington.  Bethany found the campus to be very pretty, saying that the buildings looked aged, but well-maintained.  She actually mistook the library for a church.


In the later afternoon we made the trek by bus to southwest Seattle, where we watched our friends Rachel and Ken renew their vows to have their marriage blessed by the Church. The ceremony is a little more low-key, but was just as beautiful.


After their reception we started to make our way back to the northern part of Seattle, stopping downtown to run some errands.  We ended up over by the shoreline to have some chowder over at Ivar’s, where the seagulls would come and beg for scraps. At some point, it seemed like a scene from Birds, but the ‘gulls behaved themselves.  However, we did contribute in the disruption of the ecosystem.



The rest of our evening was pretty uneventful. We spent the rest of it walking back to our bus and heading home.  We did manage to stumble into a seven-foot tall Otter named Elliot.


Sleeping in Seattle: Take Me Out to the Ballgame


After our nice time in Whidbey Island, we set back onto the mainland to begin our week of my work-cation: where I would still be working during the day, but would have evenings free to explore the city.  We went through AirBnB to find a nice basement studio apartment that features a full kitchen for our breakfasts and lunches.  The apartment is located about 6 miles north-west of downtown Seattle, in a nice area that features restaurants, a grocery store, coffee shops and even an ice cream parlor.  We rented a car for our island adventure, but still had enough time on Sunday to make a grocery run to Trader Joe’s to get items for the week.  We then dropped the car off at the airport and have been bussing it the rest of the week.  Sunday was also Bethany’s birthday and we celebrated it with a nice dinner by Pike Place Market.

Monday turned out to be a long day at work, so we stuck around the are by our apartment and had dinner and ice cream close by.  Bethany ventured into downtown on Tuesday and got some goodies at the market and we cooked a great lunch of fresh salmon back at our place. After work on Tuesday, we headed down to the International District before we took in a Mariners game.  Unfortunately we didn’t have as much time to explore as we had hoped, but did get in a walk through the grocery market to pick up some snacks for the game, including my favorite gummy candy.  Luckily I was able to have a fun time with the strawberry gummy handy.


We then made our way over to SafeCo field, which is a parking garage away from CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks play.


SafeCo is a great open ball-park that features a retractable roof.  Apparently we are in Seattle on one of the nicest weeks of the year, so the roof was very open to let all the sunshine in.


The game was between two last-place teams: The Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Mariners haven’t been very good lately, so support was pretty sparse, however it was astonishing to see all of the Blue Jay fans over-take the ballpark. I snapped this picture behind home plate, and you can see the sea of Toronto Blue.  They really made it feel like a home game.


SafeCo is also known for it’s wide variety of food, of which many people were eating these garlic fries.  We found them too tempting to resist and ended up having a great ballpark snack!  Safeco also right in the path of planes taking off to the northwest, creating these awesome shots of commercial fly-overs on the stadium.  This was the best picture I could take, always missing that crucial shot over home plate.


We ended up leaving after the Mariners scored 2 runs in the 5h, increasing their lead to 7-2 – at which point the beleaguered Mariners fans tried to get their own revenge by chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” angering the Canadians. We felt that was our cue to leave.