The social events continue with friends and family…Nature abounds, including in last year’s photo…

This pretty flower attracts flying insects, as shown in the upper left.

A week has already passed since we arrived in Minnesota last Friday. Each day and most evenings have been filled with a flurry of activities with family and friends. Today is no exception with grandson’s Vincent 5th grade graduation at 1:30 pm followed by a dinner at his favorite teppanyaki restaurant, Benihana, scheduled at 4:00 pm.

We don’t ever recall graduation ceremonies being observed between grade school and middle school, but times have changed, and we’re happy to partake in the celebrations. We’re content to be with our family members, and schedules permitting, we’ve yet to turn down a suggestion for an activity.

Tall evergreen.

With the use of the free Cozi shared online calendar and family planner, found at this link that we’re all sharing, it’s easy to keep track of our action-packed schedule. Without it, this visit could be very confusing. 

Bronze dragon statue in a garden pond.

Any of our three adult children and their significant others can easily access the calendar on their phones, tablets, or computers to see what time slots we have available and freely enter an activity with us. 

When a new activity is entered into the calendar, I immediately receive an email with the particulars; date, time, event, and location.  Providing the activities don’t include participating in bungee jumping, scuba diving, or skydiving; we’re accepting all entries. Time spent with our kids and grandchildren is our top priority.

Moss representation of an owl in a tree.

Of course, our favorite activity is spent chatting and interacting with everyone in a casual arena where we can provide our undivided attention. Often, this is around mealtimes, watching the kids participate in activities and hanging out at their home, or spending time at our temporary home at the Country Inn & Suites in Plymouth, Minnesota.

Rabbit in the bushes.

With the two swimming pools, jacuzzi, complimentary breakfast, fire pit, and accessible atmosphere, it is a fun place for the grandchildren to visit and fun for us to share with them. 

Although our hotel room is of ample size for our daily needs, it isn’t quite large enough for the kids to stay overnight. We’re happy to drive them back and forth from their homes when they come to visit on their own. 

Massive redwood tree.

Now that the school season is ending today, we’ve scheduled dates to have grandchildren spend specific days with us, one child per day, for more of our undivided attention. We’re planning fun activities suitable for each of their ages. 

Yesterday at lunch, Tom dropped me off in Maple Grove at Biaggi Restaurant in Arbor Lakes Mall to meet two of my girlfriends I hadn’t seen since we left Minnesota on October 31, 2012. 

Blue flowers line a walkway.

Theresa, my former real estate business partner, and Cathy, our mutual dear friend, were seated when I entered the restaurant’s outdoor dining area to greet them. The warmest of hugs and greetings made me realize how much I’ve missed my girlfriends all of these years.

The two hours we spent talking filled my heart with warm memories of times past and how these relationships with friends had been such a vital part of my old life. Now, I can only glean snippets of such pleasant emotions knowing how fleeting these interactions are now in this short period. 

Orchids are blooming.

We’ve decided to meet one more time amid our busy calendar and theirs. Each of our lives is full, although in many different ways. How amazing it was to share the time, and I’m hoping for one more time together before we go.

Later in the day, we bucked the unbelievable traffic to drive to Coon Rapids for a 5:00 pm barbecue at Tom’s sister Mary’s (and husband Eugene) home, a weekly come-when-you-can Thursday evening event.

This type of orchid is such a deep purple it almost appears black.

Fearing my diet would be hard to accommodate, we stopped at Jimmy John’s sandwich restaurant and purchased each of us a low carb, bread-less sandwich to-go, called the “un-wich.”  From this same restaurant, we copied their idea and often made our un-wiches wherever we may be living at any given time.

I ordered the un-wich with chicken, bacon, vegetables, mayo, and guacamole, and Tom ordered the un-wich club sandwich. It was funny how they tasted like our homemade versions, although we tend to make ours considerably larger.

Information about the lands on which the Butchart Gardens was planted.

By bringing our food to Mary and Eugene’s, there was no need for our hosts to worry about what I’d eat. Instead, we all focused on the fabulous time we had with the many family members who’d arrived for the weekly event.

It couldn’t have been more fun when we hugged and later chatted with three of Tom’s sisters, two brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and even two grandnieces and two grandnephews and their partners. Indeed, we’ll be together with all of them and more of the family in more weeks to come.

Back at the hotel shortly after 10:00 pm, we both were pooped but pleased for another great day with family and friends. This period is flying by much more quickly than we anticipated, but we’re planning to make the best of every moment.

May your days be filled with memorable moments and love.

Photo from one year ago today, June 2, 2016:

This praying mantis looked at Tom while he took this photo in Bali on the edge of the infinity pool.  He was as big as the palm of my hand.  For more details, please click here.

Last day of Alaskan cruise…Final expenses for cruise and extras…Minnesota, here we come in the morning…

Snow on mountain peaks. Ships at the Port.

Please note: We’re finalizing the headcount for the “Meet & Greet” for our readers in Minneapolis on June 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm at:

Grizzly’s Wood-Fired Grill at this location in Plymouth, Minnesota:

220 Carlson Pkwy N, Plymouth, MN 55447
Please RSVP if you plan to attend and haven’t already done so.  Hope to see you then!

The scenery in Alaska hasn’t disappointed.

Here we are, the final full day aboard a ship since April 22nd when we left Sydney, with the exception of the two nights we spent in Vancouver at the hotel. 

We’ve cruised a total of 33 nights since leaving Sydney and look forward to getting settled in Minneapolis after our flight from Seattle with an early evening arrival. It will feel good to unpack, get organized and prepare for a whirlwind next six weeks.

The tender boats were delivering passengers to the shore. So we have packing to tackle this morning. I folded all my clothing from the closet, drawers, and cabinets, placing them in piles ready to be neatly stacked into my one large suitcase. Tom will pack later.

We’re out to sea at the moment heading to Victoria, British Columbia, our final port of call on this nine-night Alaskan cruise, arriving around noon. We’re booked with a private tour at 12:00 pm to visit Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Vancouver Island, a world-renowned garden.

Busy port in Skagway.

Tom booked us for this tour some time ago through an offering posted in CruiseCritic. We seldom attend ship sponsored tours due to the crowds and long lines. However, this smaller private group tour will suit our needs.

Besides, I’ve wanted to visit this world famous garden for years, and Tom surprised me with this booking a while back. That’s not to say that he loves visiting botanical gardens but he’s always been more than willing to see the many we’ve toured throughout our travels. In addition, his keen eye makes him the first to point out an ideal photo op.

Church near the shore in Skagway.

Usually, we post stories and photos while we’re still on location whether living in a specific country or on a cruise. In this case, with Butchart Gardens, we’ll be adding the many photos we’ll have taken today over the course of the next several weeks while we’re in Minnesota.

What stories will we tell while in Minnesota when most of our time will be spent with family and friends? We’re not inclined to post lots of family related information here in our posts. 

Boats and ocean front property in Juneau.

Let’s face it, most people quickly tire of hearing about other’s grandchildren and family members other than a few shots and quips here and there. Unfortunately, such will be the case for us. 

We’ll post of few photos of family members and friends with their permission but will not focus on turning our site into a family album. Most readers have their own family albums and don’t care to spend weeks looking at ours. 

Cruise ships in the port of Ketchikan.

Instead, we plan to share photos of places we’ll visit, magical and interesting moments we experience and the beauty of Minnesota. Of course, with so much to do and people to see in Minneapolis, its unlikely we’ll be traveling far from town. But, if we do, we’ll certainly incorporate those photos into the daily posts.

We have no doubt, we’ll have plenty of photos to share and stories to tell during these upcoming six weeks including dining in restaurants, visiting parks and lakes and sharing morsels about the hotel where we’ll be staying which is located in a lovely area.

A tiny portion of Tongass National Park/Forest which is the largest national forest in the United States with 17 million acres.

We’ve decided to share the final expenses for the cruise today rather than tomorrow which will be a very busy travel day in getting off the cruise, taking a taxi to the airport, flying to Minnesota, picking up the rental car and driving to our hotel.  

Here are the total expenses for the nine-night Alaskan cruise on Celebrity Solstice:

Expense US Dollar
Cruise Fare  $                  4,416.38
Airfare  $                                 
Taxi   $                          8.41
Cabin Credit  $                   (500.00)
Wi-Fi
 included 
Gratuities  $                     243.00
Tours  $                        77.00
Additional Gratuities  $                        80.00
Cruise Bill for Purchaes  $                     496.00
Total  $                  4,820.79
Avg Daily Cost – 9 days  $                     535.64
Hand carved the statue of the popular and commonly seen bald eagle in Alaska. For more details on Alaska bald eagles, please click here.

This morning, I attempted to get a copy of our bill in order to itemize how we spent the $500 cabin credit. Unfortunately, the line at guest services would have required an hour wait or more. 

Instead, here’s an overview from memory of roughly how we spent the non-refundable cabin credit; gifts for family, hats, gloves and a scarf for cold days in Alaska, a few cosmetic and toiletry items and one zip sweatshirt. No beverages were charged to our account. 

Ketchikan Duck Tours, a popular open air bus for tourists.

We received all the bottled water we wanted from the Captain’s Club free happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 pm each evening. Tom only consumed alcoholic beverages during the two-hour event each evening while I drank complimentary hot tea and water. Neither of us ever drank a soda.

Stunning views in Sitka.

The tour expense listed at $77 is for today’s Butchart Gardens tour. The additional gratuities are for our cabin steward and the restaurant hostess. We didn’t include a tip for the dining room assistant for my meals when my meals were often not prepared correctly or served on time. There was no airfare associated with this cruise since we arrived by cruise ship.

Tomorrow, we’ll prepare and upload a post while waiting to get off the ship, while waiting for our 1:15 pm flight at Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle. Most likely, it will be available at the usual time.

 Read here for an interesting story about the building of this tunnel in downtown Ketchikan.

We’ll be thinking of all of you and the photos you may enjoy while we tour the fabulous Butchart Gardens which appears to be taking place on a sunny day on beautiful Vancouver Island!

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, May 25, 2016:

In Bali on the prior day’s pst post, we shared a photo of two buffalos wandering by during dinner and here were four buffalos on a hike from the river seen that evening. For more details, please click here.

Boarding Celebrity Solstice today…Boarding issues…Waiting until the last minute never pays for us…Final expenses for two nights at hotel…

  I ordered this Cobb salad during the two nights at the Showcase Restaurant located in the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel.

Yesterday, we received an email from Vacations to Go to inform all of their cruiser passengers regarding today’s boarding on Celebrity Solstice’s Alaskan cruise as to the following:

“We are writing to provide you with necessary information regarding the Celebrity Solstice out of Vancouver, Canada, on May 17, 2017.

Celebrity Solstice will be docked at Canada Place along with two other vessels.

Due to the increased number of guests from all three ships, port officials estimate the disembarkation process will take longer than usual.

Check-in for your cruise will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the cruise terminal. To facilitate the check-in process, we kindly ask that you complete online check-in at www.celebritycruises.com/onlinecheckin if you have not done so already. Since there are three cruise ships at Canada Place on May 17th, all guests will need to meet at the Convention Centre Hall C (over Canada Place), where they will be organized into small groups before proceeding to the cruise terminal. Once at the terminal, guests will proceed through security and then through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before boarding the ship. Please note that guests from all three ships will be processed through a single security and CBP area. As a result, guests may experience delays.”

On this morning’s Vancouver news, warnings stated to expect over 13,000 passengers at Canada Place (the port) with long delays. Subsequently, we’ve decided not to head to the pier until after 2:00 pm. By then, half of the crowd, which are the disembarking passengers, will have been processed out of the terminal.

Tom also enjoyed his turkey sandwich with bacon and chips two nights in a row.

Now, as I sit in the hotel restaurant with my cup of hot peppermint tea, I see dozens of passengers being instructed to head to the pier at 10:45 am. We imagine most passengers will decide to go earlier rather than later. 

We’re comfortable having decided on the later boarding. Check-in ends at 4 pm and the ship sails at 5:00 pm.

The pier is walking distance, but we’ll have to take a taxi on the road leading to the pier is all downhill. I can only imagine how that would go with our heavy bags!

During the last boarding process in Vancouver on September 23, 2014, we were waiting, standing, sitting, standing and sitting for over three hours while we were herded like cattle from one check-in area to another.  We’ll never forget that day.  

This morning’s cloudy view of the street below.

Today, with three ships in the port at once, it will most likely be as chaotic as it was in 2014, if not more.  However, we’ll have our phones fully charged with books to read and games to play that will help pass the time.  Knowing what to expect helps keep the frustration at bay. 

We remind ourselves that such processes “go with the territory.” Who are we to complain? We’re forever grateful for our lifestyle and a few inconveniences along the way are to be expected and, tolerated with grace and dignity.

Over the past two days in the hotel in Vancouver, with a better Wi-Fi signal, we knew it was time to get some things done that we hadn’t been able to accomplish on the last 24-night cruise with the poor signal.

It never pays for us to wait until the last minute. The deals are seldom better, the options and selections become sparse and we find ourselves scurrying and somewhat stressed in booking that which we waited to do for whatever reasons.

Two situations occurred in the past 24 hours; one, renting a car for Minneapolis; two, checking in online for today’s cruise to Alaska., both of which we’d hope to complete on the past cruise. Unfortunately, the poor signal prevented us from achieving these two tasks.

Yesterday, while attempting to finalize the car rental transaction the hotel’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working well with many guests online in the morning.  We had a heck of a time booking a car at a decent price for the six weeks in Minneapolis. Prices were high and availability limited. When we hit “submit” to complete our order, nothing happened. I kept trying.

As it turned out, we received three email confirmations for three cars! Luckily, a credit card number wasn’t required to book the vehicles, although we’d have been able to cancel two of the transaction which we did promptly. 

Vancouver is comparable to many cities with lots of skyscrapers and business centers but is impeccably clean and friendly.

We’re were left with one confirmation for one car, a Ford Explorer SUV, which will be ideal during the six weeks.  Tom had been an Explorer fan having purchased a new version in fall of 1998. So he was thrilled to try a new model. 

Next, we were unable to do the online cruise check-in.  We missed the window of time required to check-in online which we’ll have to do once we get to check-in processing desk at the terminal. We called Celebrity to confirm it was OK for us to do it, which they confirmed. 

Tom had tried checking in while on the last cruise (ending two days ago) but it was impossible due to the ship’s poor signal.  We had no other option other than to try once we checked in to the hotel.  Alas, we were unable to do the online check-in. No worries. It will all work out.

Sorry, we don’t have many photos today. With the cold rainy weather after walking almost five miles on Monday, we were both needing a quiet restful day indoors.

Here are the final expenses for the hotel, drive from Seattle, shopping, and meals for our two nights in Vancouver:

 Expense   US Dollar 
 Hotel – 2-nights   $                     317.86
 Driver – Seattle to Vanc.                          792.00
 Airfare    $                          –
 Taxi to Pier    $                        20.00
 Pharmacy (probiotics)   $                     310.42
 Meals in Hotel (incl. tips)   $                     105.92
 Additional tips   $                        20.00
 Total   $                  1,566.20
 Avg Daily Cost    $                     778.10
These costs were higher than we’d hoped but we chose the “easy” type of transportation from Seattle to Vancouver with the private shuttle. With our three checked bags and two carry-on bags, it wouldn’t have worked to find other passengers to share the vehicle.
That’s it for today folks,  In a few hours we’ll be on our way by taxi to the pier, Canada Place, with the hope our later arrival will serve us well. We’ll be back tomorrow to report if our assessment of the situation was correct.
Back at you soon on our way to Alaska. If at any time you don’t you don’t see a new post come through on any of the nine days on the ship, please know that it’s entirely due to a poor signal.  We’ll be taking plenty of photos that we’ll be anxious to share as soon as possible.

Photo from one year ago today, May 17, 2016:

This is the exterior of the photo shop in Bali where we each had visa photos taken for a nominal price for our visa extensions. For more photos, please click here.

Memorable dinner with a loyal reader in Vancouver…

Tom and I with our friend Sheila, a Vancouver reader and resident.

Several weeks ago, we received an email from a loyal reader and Vancouver resident, Sheila, who’d found us long ago due to Tom’s frequent posts on Cruisecritic.com. On many occasions, including the 24-night cruise we just completed, we’ve met many members/passengers who’ve seen Tom’s posts.

We invited Sheila to join us for dinner at our hotel in Vancouver, the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown. She was able to arrive at the Showcase Restaurant by 6:15, arriving by public transportation from work.

We became fast friends with Sheila and hoped to see her again someday.

Seeing her warm, friendly smile and hearty welcome warmed our hearts. Seated at a comfortable booth in the pleasant surroundings was conducive to our spending almost three hours engaged in animated travel chatter.

Sheila, an experienced cruiser/traveler, was rife with her own experiences we found varied and exciting. We giggled when she explained she felt she’d known us for a very long time, having read almost all of our posts over these past years.

This bed and bedding were outrageously comfortable. For the first time in weeks, we had a good night’s sleep.

Over these five years of posting, I’d hadn’t given much thought to how readers may come to know us from reading our posts; our quirks, our views, our foibles, along with the nuances of our nomadic lifestyle. 

She reveled in our openness and vulnerability in sharing such finite details of our daily lives. Still, She insisted she’s much more private about her personal life and would never be able to “spill the beans” as we do daily.  Although, Sheila didn’t hesitate to express how she enjoys our revealing candor.

Functional and comfortable lounge area in our hotel room.

It interested us to hear this perspective, and we paused for a moment that perhaps we may “overshare” at times. But, as we’ve watched our worldwide readership grow, we’ve come to realize that part of which may most appeal to readers throughout the world is that very vulnerability. 

We’re all human and seldom have an original thought, expression, or emotional response. For the same reason, many can’t stop watching reality TV (which is often scripted in parts); they may be curious to follow our posts.  The difference, though, is that nothing  about our lives is “scripted.”

View from our hotel room at the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown.

Every day, we tell it like it is; no exaggerations, no embellishments, and no fluff. As lived by these two senior citizens traveling the world, it’s simply real life because we can because we love it…a story told in a world of words and photos.

By 9:30 pm, we’d taken today’s photos, said goodbye to Sheila with hearty hugs and promises that, if and when we ever return to Vancouver, we’ll surely get together again. It was a memorable evening. Dinner wasn’t too bad either!

Thank you, Sheila, for taking the time and effort to come to see us, to share your thoughts, your vast travel stories, your warm demeanor, and your kindness. You’ll always hold a special place in our hearts.

May all of our readers find themselves in the company of someone as delightful as Sheila!

Photo from one year ago today, May 16, 2016:

This appeared to be a Balinese boat, called Madurai, one of many designs that we spotted in the fishing harbor in Negara, which is quite a sight to see. For more beautifully decorated boats in the harbor, please click here.