A Floridian in Alaska--June 3rd-10th, 2013 (COMPLETE)

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by OrcaPotter, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    Thanks for subbing! A warning ahead of time: I get into a lot of detail. But then, prior to this trip, I was craving for detail and many of the few Alaskan TR's were not too detailed. So here ya go!

    Before we begin, some mug shots:

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (323) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The parental units

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (324) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Yours truly

    Of course, those smiles were after we had finally boarded the ship. Our experiences leading up to that moment, however, were something else entirely.

    June 1, 2013: Traveling
    I won't bore you too much with this, other than in saying that when you have a flight that leaves at 8 AM and you need to be at the airport no later than 6 AM, you need to make sure you've taken every precaution to ensure you are up on time. Don't forget Murphy's Law: Be waiting for Murphy with a sandwich and a glass of iced tea. We, on the other hand, didn't think about what could possibly go wrong! Both my mother and I had set our cellphone alarms for 4:45 AM. Naturally, excitement and whatnot had everyone up on the hour every hour. So, you would think that we would have caught any potential problems before they started.

    Do you sense the foreshadowing?

    Well, all of the sudden, the doorbell goes off and the dogs go wild. That could only mean my brother had already arrived to pick us up. I reached for my iPhone, only to discover the thing was completely shut off and not turning on. Clearly, it crashed and shut down--I couldn't get it back on. It had never done that before, so of course, it chose the one essential morning I needed it to function to crash. My mother's phone, also, for some reason the alarm did not go off at all. It was on and the alarm was set for the right time, but according to her, it did not go off.

    Commence a Home Alone panic sequence:
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    We had less than 30 minutes to get dressed and loaded up. But wait! My father, who ironically had been talking about packing and lecturing about packing for the past 3 weeks, procrastinated on prepping all of his medication. So of course, he was out of an essential medication that he only just discovered about the night before. Fortunately, we have a 24 hour CVS next door to our neighborhood. Which resulted in us having to stop on the way to the airport to pick up those meds --- THEN, my brother discovers he needs gas for the car!

    We managed to get to the airport by 6:30, and waited at least 10 minutes to check our bags. Then it was on ... to ... security. Let's just say, at 6:45 in the morning, I have never seen the Orlando security checkpoint as mobbed and backed up as it was. Naturally! It was agonizing watching my watch tick the minutes closer to boarding time, then past boarding time, as we were stuck in the security mire. At 7:30, they flag my mother's carry on bag, and we had to stand to the side and NOT TOUCH ANYTHING while the security woman took her sweet time discovering my father's full-sized shaving cream can.

    Needless to say, we were literally the last 3 people on the plane. To add insult to injury, all the overhead space was full, so all of our carry ons that could not fit under the seats had to be checked. There went my father's insulin (without us really realizing it in our panic), my mother's Nook, etc. It felt like it wasn't until we were halfway to San Francisco that we could calm down.

    I got to see the Grand Canyon from up in the air, though! That was a first.

    We had a 2 hour layover in San Fran, then boarded a puddle jumper for a 2.5 flight to Vancouver. We somehow got stuck with the very last seats in that tiny thing. But in a short time, we were finally touching down to see the tallest mountains I had ever seen up until that point!

    Now, my camera was tucked in my carryon, so unfortunately, no photos until we got to our hotel. But just to let you know, we arrived around 4:30 PM PST. The customs/immigration area had to be the size of a football field. And it was empty. We walked right up to the TSA person, wearing huge grins because we're finally there and ready for our cruise to Alaska, and not unlike U.S. TSA, the girl (who looked like she could bench press a walrus) just stamped our passports and waved us on.

    Vancouver Airport Tips:
    - The trek from the gate to customs took at least 5-7 minutes on an overhead hamster trail above the terminal. If you are in desperate need of a bathroom, you won't find one until you get down the escalator to customs.

    - Have your camera out as you walk along. It's a very pretty airport with a lot of native art displays and nature replicas. I regret not being in the right mind to do this.

    - The customs area looks like it could hold hundreds of people on line. We had 0 wait, but just be aware of the possibility that if there are a lot of flights in at the same time, you could be in a long line. Bring snacks.

    - The porters do not work just for tips. They had a rate of so much money per bag with a minimum bag number. If you bring a lot of luggage, like we did, it's an option. It was another 4 or so minutes to get out to the taxi area.

    - Most of the taxis in Vancouver are Toyota Priuses. If you have more than 2 large suitcases, they won't fit and you'll need to wait for a van. This was the shortest wait for a van we had the entire trip. The ride to downtown took about 20-30 minutes and cost around $40.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (5) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The view from our room of downtown Vancouver

    We stayed at The Sutton Place Hotel. Now, our pre-cruise hotel was a subject of a lot of scrutiny on my part. Ideally, I wanted to stay at the Pan Pacific--which is directly connected to the cruise terminal. However, a month prior to the trip, rates were still well above $350/night for the Pan and I just couldn't swallow another grand just for 2 nights in a hotel room, no matter how nice or convenient it was. The Sutton was listed on most sites as a 5 star and was located about 4 blocks away at the heart of downtown from Canada Place (the cruise terminal). I paid, after taxes, about $240 a night. Finding anything close to the terminal for under $200 was very difficult, and since this was a huge special vacation, I wanted to stay someplace very nice. The Sutton had a lot of good reviews.

    It's a smallish hotel and very, very posh looking once you're in the lobby. Like, I felt grubby when I was walking around there. But they were friendly and the concierge staff was what made this hotel so wonderful. Because I booked through Kayak, naturally I got a bargain room. We ended up in an oddly laid out king room with a rollaway bed squeezed in:

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (2) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    You walked in to face a sitting area, which is where I was seated and looking to my right to face the rest of the room. The bathroom was around that corner and nicely sized.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (3) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Looking left toward the door.

    We were strangely alert for having been awake for over 12 hours, so we refrained from getting too comfortable and decided to go look for dinner. At first, we were ready to eat in the hotel. However, the prices were crazy, and we were not dressed to fit the atmosphere. Cue the awesome concierge staff! The lady not only grabbed a free package of shaving cream to replace the can TSA confiscated from Dad, but recommended a restaurant directly across the street for dinner.

    It was Joey Berrard--which is kinda like a chic Ruby Tuesday's and it would appear to be a chain, as when we walked down Berrard toward the water (later), there was another Joey's a few blocks down. We had no wait to be seated, and I was fascinated by their life-sized horse lamp:

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (4) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    "I have brilliant ideas, but no one pays attention."

    One thing from me: Unless my plate of food is utterly fascinating or special in some way, I don't take food pictures. You'll have to take my word for it on what I ate and what it looked like.

    My mother had a steak, which she thought was fantastic, along with mashed potatoes which were wrapped in an egg roll. It was really interesting but tasted great. I had fish tacos; I had to be careful with what I ate because I have a very sensitive stomach and when I went to Disneyland in 2011 and had their more traditional Mexican food the night I arrived--the results weren't pretty right after. Dad had salmon and thought it was great, too.

    I highly recommend the place! Just make sure you're in your right mind when you go to pour salt in your hand ... when in reality it's soy sauce and you just sit there looking at the dark viscous liquid running down your arm as if you just had a sci-fi movie experience. :-):cough cough:: MOM)

    We went right back across the street intending to go straight to the hotel because we were beyond exhausted. However, we wandered up the cross street for a few stores before spotting a Canada souvenir shop. We spent a good while in there checking out all the mostly-made-in-China goodies and spent a goodly amount on t-shirts, keychains, etc. Then finally we made our way back to the hotel, but not before I spotted the Japadog stand right there on the corner to the left of the hotel. (Unfortunately, despite all my intentions of trying out their cuisine, I never did :()

    Tomorrow: DAY 1: ADVENTURES IN VANCOUVER!
     
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  3. labdogs42

    labdogs42 <font color=darkorchid>I managed to wrestle a play

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    oooh, looking forward to reading more of this! You did my magnet DIS-igns for my upcoming cruise, so I already feel like we "know" each other! Enjoying getting to read all about your cruise experience! We are doing Bahamas this time, but I think I want to try Alaska in 2015! Keep the details coming!
     
  4. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    All holidays seem to start out with some sort of panic, I think it helps you appreciate the holiday part afterwards even more!
     
  5. mattiekram

    mattiekram Earning My Ears

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    We leave tomorrow. Love it so far. Thanks for telling cab price to downtown and snacks for customs suggestions. Appreciate it.
     
  6. Ellester

    Ellester DIS Veteran

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    Yay!!! I agree that there were not too many detailed Alaska trip reports so I am really looking forward to reading yours. We sail on 9/2 and are in the midst of trip planning. We do have kids (widespread progeny as you put it! LOL!), but it will be great getting the adults' view as well. Can't wait for more!!!
     
  7. goingsouth

    goingsouth I should be Cruising today

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    great report so far. And as a Floridian going out of Orlando at 8:00am the morning of our upcoming trip to Alaska, I paid very close attention to that part of the story! Extra alarm clocks!

    joanne :)
     
  8. amybethchristiansen

    amybethchristiansen Mouseketeer

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    We are also on the July 1 cruise! Looking forward to your report!
     
  9. dsnydaddy

    dsnydaddy DIS Veteran

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    Subbing. Great start. I'm on the July 1st sailing so, I'm looking forward to what you have to say.
     
  10. J&C's Mom

    J&C's Mom DIS Veteran

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    Subbing. I have read one of your other reports and it was great...can't wait to read this one as we leave in September :cool1:
     
  11. Rai's Mommy

    Rai's Mommy Mouseketeer

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    Subbing. I'll be heading to Alaska in August 2014 with my DD14, my mom, my brother and his girlfriend. This will be the 3rd DCL cruise for me and DD but first for the others. My brother was concerned that the cruise might be too kid focused but I've somewhat convinced him that DCL is great for adults too so I'm really looking forward to sharing your trip report with him. :)
     
  12. chris31997

    chris31997 Disney Kid at Heart

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    I'm all for the details :dance3:

    Thank you for being so kind to share the details with us.

    My worst fear is not having my documents and not getting up in time. Glad you made it though
     
  13. ktalina

    ktalina Earning My Ears

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    Hi there! Thanks you so much for sharing all this info with us. We are heading there next week :) I sent you a Private Message.

    Thanks!
     
  14. becca1976

    becca1976 Mouseketeer

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    I can't wait to hear all about your cruise. We cruise in August of next year, so I'm reading up on all the info that I can! Thanks for taking the time to share. :)
     
  15. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    East Coasters! Get ready to be weirded out by only 7 hours of nighttime! Well, it was strange that it didn't get dark until 10 PM and the sun rose around 5 AM. It was even stranger in Alaska when sunrise was around 3:50 AM!

    But nevertheless, just like my first morning at Disneyland, I was ready to take on the world around 6:15 AM for our full day in Vancouver. My attitude was with all there was to see and do, I could sleep when I got home. Nevermind I went straight from work to vacation, so operating on little sleep was what I was used to.

    The Sutton Place is in the perfect location downtown. You can walk to anywhere on relatively flat land within 10 minutes. We skipped the crazy expensive and uber upscale hotel breakfast and asked the concierge for a recommendation. Yet again we struck gold with them; we were pointed a block and a half away to a little place called Bellagio. I later discovered that Bellagio is like a chain, but you never would have guessed with the small setting and laid-back atmosphere. We had a French waitress who gave us the most amazing French toast. I dream about that French toast. If I could go back to Vancouver right now, I would eat that French toast.

    Once finished, we went back to the hotel to grab a taxi to take us to the aquarium.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise--Mom (4) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    A pause for obligatory in-front-of-hotel photos!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise--Mom (5) by orcapotter, on Flickr

    Notes about Vancouver:
    - We unknowingly packed sunshine from home and took it with us. For the 3 days we were in Vancouver, all of them were bright and sunny. The temps were in the 60's ... which is bordering cold for us. In the shade we needed to bundle, but in the sun it warmed up nicely. We were repeatedly told how abnormal this was, so if you're on your way to Vancouver, do not expect the weather to be awesome like it was for us.
    - Vancouver is awesome. It's super clean, easy to navigate, friendly people, and very well taken care of. You definitely need to plan at least a full day to spend here. You can easily spend 4 full days checking it out. I want to go back!

    The taxi ride to Stanley Park took only about 7 or so minutes with traffic. The park is huge and with the weather as nice as it was, it was really busy. The aquarium is toward the center and we were told we could have walked there, but that would have been a long walk. Bike rentals are insanely popular in Vancouver and the city is very pro-bike ... if I were with my friends, I would have wanted to take some time bike riding around. I'm sure I could have biked there.

    So, I love marine life. Orcas are my utmost favorite animal, but I could live in an aquarium/Sea World. When you're used to Sea World, other places tend to pale in comparison. The Georgia Aquarium is my second-favorite aquarium; I had read many reviews about the Vancouver Aquarium about it being really small and unimpressive. Well, while it is small, it was very nicely done with an impressive variety of animals. We easily spent 6 hours there and we did and saw everything. Most of their marine mammals are rescues that cannot be returned to the wild.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (8) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The outside entrance is being remodeled.

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    alaska cruise0007 by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Souvenir photo they take when you walk in. For about $30 you get the 8x10 and a sheet of semi-wallet size prints with your choice of a keychain or magnet. And you had different backgrounds to choose from. We got the 8x10 in this print and our "wallets" with penguins. I use quotations because it is not a standard size.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (19) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The current temporary exhibit is called "Jellyfish Invasion" -- they had dozens of different species on display and you just want to stare at them for HOURS

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (22) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    SEA OTTERS HOLDING HANDS WHILE NAPPING AND FLOATING OMG

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (23) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (31) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    2 rescued Pacific White-Sided Dolphins performed in the shows; one of them has a partially amputated pectoral flipper.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (40) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    For an extra fee, you can "help" the trainers.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (41) by orcapotter, on Flickr

    We saw 2 dolphin shows (one was a "how to train" and the other was just a "show") ... be prepared that there is no seating at the tank. As you can somewhat tell from the photos, you can stand almost 360 around the tank. The good spots filled up early. These shows were nothing like what you see at Sea World, but I didn't mind. I love seeing the animals regardless. All the shows lasted no more than 15 minutes and had no story or music or anything. The beluga area had seating but an odd layout.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (42) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Harbor seal, and the reason we couldn't get close to the Tracy Arm glacier. YOU SILLY SEALS.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (43) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Steller sea lion

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (48) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The first Harbor Porpoise I've ever seen! They didn't have them on display, though, other than an aerial view of their tank.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (53) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    They had an entire exhibit of nothing but baby sea lions. CUTE

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (55) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Hi.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (58) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (61) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Look at the penguins, yo!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (72) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    How to train beluga show

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (75) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    How to crawl inside of your beluga

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (76) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Have you ever seen a beluga jump out of the water? Neither have I. Getting all that blubber out of the water can NOT be easy.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (79) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    I kid you not, they did this for 5 minutes trying to show us how they get the whales to pee. AWKWARD.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (85) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (117) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Back for the dolphin show show


    Continued in the next post!
     
  16. OrcaPotter

    OrcaPotter Lucky to be local to the Mouse

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    [​IMG]
    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (118) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (122) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Becoming one with the frogs

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (124) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Giant bullfrog

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (142) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (148) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    GIANT PACIFIC OCTOPUS!

    I took a ton more photos at the aquarium; you can see them here. We were there about an hour after they opened and stayed until about an hour before they closed. There is even an included-with-your-admission "4D" movie about bears and salmon that was definitely a different experience. We're talking stuff thrown in your face, chairs vibrating, etc etc. My mom was overwhelmed with it, which just made it that much more amusing. Considering most museums and places make those types of things an extra fee, it was worth it. Honestly, I felt that this aquarium was a lot bigger than expected and definitely worth seeing. I wanted to check out Stanley Park more, but my father was tired (this was a very demanding trip for him), so we went back to the hotel. I was willing to go walk down to the harbor by myself, but Mom offered to join me. We left Dad to a nap and set off for our city adventure!


    We spent at least 2 hours walking everywhere. We found a Pandora store (my family is big on Pandora; we all have bracelets) and decided we had to go in. They had 1 exclusive Vancouver charm but it was nothing special at all, so we ended up with symbolic charms: Mom got the snowflake and I got the polar bear. Mom also got me a clasp with a starfish on it! From there, we found a 2 story tall Michaels (where I got some scrapbook stuff), discovered a seafood place for dinner at the recommendation of the Pandora Store (more on that in a bit), and then it was down to the water.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (157) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Canada Place, where we would set sail tomorrow! Plus the Pan Pacific, which was where I had wanted to stay.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (161) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (163) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Looking toward Stanley Park

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (165) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    We'd be boarding the Wonder there tomorrow!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (167) by orcapotter, on Flickr

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    The sea planes literally take off every 5 minutes here.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (170) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    The 2010 Winter Olympic Torch!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (174) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    One of the many fake orcas I would see on this trip.

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise-Kim (175) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    Pretty fountain along our walk.

    Now, as nice as Vancouver is, it's still a huge city. And like any city, it unfortunately has its homeless. There was at least 1 homeless person per block. Never intrusive; they simply sat or stood where they were with a sign or not. It was heartbreaking to see many with animals; I'm sure that helps the person gain more sympathy (it works). Mom felt compelled to give those with animals some money ...

    Side note: We used Canadian currency while in Canada for most everything unless it was a big purchase. Currently, the US dollar is weaker by a dollar or so. Canadian cash is both in note and coin form. They have $1 and $2 coins that Mom kept insisting was "play money" and she couldn't get the hang of them for some reason. Otherwise, there was a 3% foreign transaction fee on all of our credit and debit cards. Don't forget to put a travel alert on them!

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    2013 June Alaska Cruise--Mom (21) by orcapotter, on Flickr
    This man played on his violin for hours with a sign that he was simply playing for his dog, which laid there without moving for just as long.

    By now it was dinner time and Dad was calling wanting to know where we were. Another note about cell service: I had done research to find out if Verizon had coverage in Vancouver. Everything I found claimed that if you called or texted a US phone number, there were no extra charges. However, my phone said "roaming" the entire time I was there; Mom's non-smart phone intermittently would not. To be on the safe side, I kept my phone in airplane mode while in Canada. We kept any calls on Mom's phone to a minimum. Being on vacation, you really need to unplug, anyway. It's scary how dependent we are on technology these days.

    We picked up Dad and headed to the restaurant the Pandora lady suggested called "Coast." We had scoped it out beforehand and even tried a sample of some salmon flatbread that was really tasty. The prices were high but we figured most dinner places in the city would be. After all, it was recommended! It must be amazing, right? So, in we went. Again, we (or at least I) felt grubby in an uber jazzy modern city hangout that made you want to run out and garb yourself in every namebrand that sells shirts running a minimum of $80. But no one seemed to bat an eye at us. We ordered the special, which was a prawn dish with pasta, and the salmon flatbread.

    Well, here is an instance that we had to take a photo of our food. Brace yourself:


    Yup! All ours for the low price of $18 a plate! ONE giant prawn, staring right back at ya, seated on a little tuft of pasta in a sea of a sauce-like substance. Dad's reaction says it all:


    Honestly, the flatbread would have been enough. I was full after eating a few slices of it. Thank goodness we had ordered it! With all that room leftover, we ended up ordering dessert. A banana cake that was awesome. All in all, though, unless you like an upscale modern city dining experience, trust your concierge over the Pandora lady.

    We went back to the hotel after that and prepared for our Alaskan voyage in the morning! Coming soon, Day 2: Boarding the Wonder to Alaska!
     
  17. tink too

    tink too DIS Veteran

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    Loving your TR. Your photos at the aquarium are great - and the sea otters are just too darn cute! :goodvibes

    The light nights won't bother us - it was still light here at 10.30pm tonight and the sun will be up again around 4am. Blackout blinds are our friends! :rotfl2:
     
  18. lucy0558

    lucy0558 Mouseketeer

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    Thank you for taking time to write this detailed TR, it is fun to read too! We'll be on the same trip at the same time of year so I'm taking good notes!
     
  19. RweTHEREyet

    RweTHEREyet DIS Veteran

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    Still reading and enjoying very much. Thanks again for posting and sharing your trip. :goodvibes
     
  20. caralyn817

    caralyn817 DIS Veteran

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    I'm enjoying your report so far. I love aquariums as well. Georgia Aquarium is amazing. My favorite area is the Whale Shark exhibit. I could spend hours just seating in the observation room watching them. Have you had the chance to visit the new Penguin Exhibit at Sea World yet? We are debating about whether or not to go there on our next trip in July. Love the pictures! I'm sure they don't do the scenery justice.
     
  21. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Love your Dad's face, i'd have been the same.

    I saw the Pandora shop but then couldn't find it again.
     

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