Tokyo, Day 1

Tokyo, Day 1

Getting to Tokyo:

In 2015, we treated my dad to a trip to Peru for his 65th birthday. That trip was so amazing that my mom wanted to fast-forward her b-day trip to her 60th (typical mom!) and she wanted to go to Japan. After 7 months of researching and planning, our late March / early April cherry-blossom-season Japan trip was in full swing. My mom, dad, and sister flew in to Tokyo Friday night and Ryan and I arrived Saturday afternoon to start our two week journey.

After navigating the busy Tokyo Airport, grabbing our (very worth it) Rail Pass, hopping a few trains and walking through markets with our luggage, we arrived at the Shinjuku Granbell Hotel. Since there were 5 of us, my sister Julia was bouncing between staying with my parents and bunking with Ryan and I. The Shinjuku had this really cool loft suite so we started the trip off with a sleepover!

We unpacked and took a quick shower before hitting the streets to find some food. We ended up at a sushi train place with melt-in-your-mouth sushi! All 5 of us got our fill of so many types of seafood for only $50 total. It was a very impressive start to our culinary part of the trip.

After we filled up, we walked back through the crowded streets to our hotel for some much needed sleep.

Day 1:

Thank goodness for Melatonin. If you don’t know what that is, it is a natural sleep aid that tells your body when it is time for bed. When you are traveling and in a place with a totally different time zone, like Tokyo which is 14 hours ahead of Dallas, it helps you reset your body clock. My sister, Ryan, and I all had a gummy version of it before bed, slept like logs, and woke up ready for an 8 hour tour day!

We met my parents in the lobby of the Shinjuku Granbell hotel at 8:15 AM to grab breakfast before our tour guide arrived. It was only 40 degrees outside and it took one step out the door for me to start patrolling for a heavier jacket when we passes markets and shops. We walked about 5 minutes down to road to a more Americanized breakfast place for coffee called Tully’s. Ryan had half a ham and egg sandwich and pancakes to load up for the day and I had a coffee. This is going to sound really strange, but my sister and I both opted instead to go to 7-Eleven for breakfast. 7-Elevens in Japan look similar to those in the US but are much different. They have a wider variety of fresh food and are much cleaner / nicer. I had heard the rumors about them and read tons of info online so my sister and I decided to Japanese foods from there instead of the American place. I grabbed a pork version of the triangular shaped rice balls stuffed with meats, veggies, or fish, a steamed pork bun, and Korean rice ball. All three were really different but tasty! I don’t know how I feel yet about seaweed for breakfast though, according to our guide, traditional Japanese breakfasts consist of rice, veggies, fish, and always, always miso soup.

After our 7-Eleven stop, we went back to the hotel to chow down and wait for Misa, our 8 hour, private tour guide. She showed up right at 9:30 in a sun hat, fur-lined hooded jacket, and boots. Her face was bright and personality brighter, and we all hit it off with her immediately. She gave us an overview of the customized tour for the day and we headed off to tour gardens.

Our hotel was located in the middle of the Shinjuku district. While it is a modern, 4-star variety hotel, it is surrounded but all of these other themed hotels which were really interesting looking and strange. A lot of them had pictures of the various rooms in front of the hotels and private entrances. Misa told us that they were all “love” hotels that can be rented by the hour. Apparently, most of the houses in Tokyo are very small and people live in very close proximity with paper thin walls. To get privacy, most people in the city, from young lovers to parents, go to these “love hotels” and it is a widely accepted but secretive process. That conversation definitely brought a new perspective to our ideas of our neighborhood!

It was about a 20-minute walk to the garden and the sun was finally starting to poke out. For the sake of time, we decided to walk the Japanese portion of the garden only, about 1/3 of the full experience. There were some large and beautiful white flowering trees and the cheery blossoms were starting to bud as well!

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My mom was ecstatic when she saw her first blossom. After all, the blooming of the trees was the reason we booked our trip at the end of March! The cherry blossoms bloom from mid-March-May all over Tokyo and are so beautiful.

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After about 45 minutes of taking in the garden, we took off to our first temple. Along the way, Misa had us try these fried red bean and sweet potato fish snacks. They were so hot they burnt by tongue, but were delicious and so cute!

Misa reloaded our Suica cards and we hopped on the train. I have to say, public transit in Tokyo is so well signed and easy once you get the hang of it!

We walked to the Meiji Shrine entrance and bowed in respect. We saw a lot of girls dressed up in kimonos while we walked. Misa told us that the end of March was graduation season and that was the traditional dress for the graduation ceremony. It was super cool to see so many in their traditional garb and hear about the cultural traditions. We opted to grab some Sakura (cherry blossom) tea so we could rest for a few minutes and people-watch before heading into the temple.

The temple was huge and there were two wedding ceremonies going on while we were there. The bride’s white wedding kimonos were gorgeous and they wore these large round hats. Apparently, most kimonos are passed down from generation to generation and cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. There were also some 100-day old babies celebrating their first 100 days of living with their parents and grand parents. Again, the mothers and grandmothers were wearing family kimonos with their family crests embroidered on them. It was a treat to see the traditional wear and ceremonies of the people.

We walked up to the shrine and threw a lucky 5 yen into the entrance to make a wish for our futures. The word 5 in Japanese, “Go”, is also the word for destiny, so throwing 5 yen helps ensure your wish for your destiny.

Our stomaches were starting to rumble and we hopped back on the subway to go to a lake teppanyaki lunch. We arrived at this random building and I would never have found the restaurant, up this tiny elevator to the the 7th floor.

We sat around massive grill and Misa taught us how to make these seafood and pork grilled pancakes. We got a big bowl consisting of tons of veggies, egg, and meat with butter on top. We put the butter on the grill and then added the meat and seafood to cook first. Then, we stirred the egg and veggies together into a doughy mix and put that on the grill. Once the meat was semi-cooked, we put it on top of the cake and then flipped it around halfway through the cook. Once done, we added bbq sauce, Japanese mayo, and fish flakes. THE END RESULT WAS SO GOOD! Misa also made us veggies and noodles.

If you go to Japan, you must try teppanyaki out after a long day of walking.

It was such a treat to have Misa show us how to make lunch. She was such a great guide for our day. After we filed up, we took off through the market streets back to the subway to make our way to our next stop, the Ueno Park. The park was quite crowded and the blossoms were also starting to appear.

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This garden is massive and surrounded by museums. Misa told us that all of the museums and buildings over 5 stories in Tokyo are on rollers so that they can withstand earthquakes! Really inventive.

Then we headed to our last stop, the Asakusa Shrine. At the forefront of the Shrine was a gate with a massive lantern. There was a very long street with vendors lining it on both sides from the 1st massive lantern all the way to the 2nd that was right in front of the main building.

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We were getting a bit overwhelmed with all of the people so we took a side street the rest of the way down to the temple. We walked down the market and Misa bought us some various treats to try like sweet rice balls and savory rice cakes with sake.

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By this point, we had been walking for 7+ hours and we were all starting to get weary. By the main gate, there were these shaker cups with numbered sticks. We shook the cup and got a random numbers that indicated which box to open to select our fortune. The fortunes were these long pieces of paper and all of them were positive, except Ryan’s, so he had to tie his to this rack so his bad fortune would “blow away in the wind’. Poor Ryan!

We were already feeling pretty low energy, so we found a vending machine and grabbed some espresso. It came out piping hot from the machine and Misa explained that drinks with red prices are hot and blue prices are cold in the same machine! Such cool technology and such a good idea to have some caffeine which helped us get home.

Misa took us back to our hotel and we said our goodbyes. She was such an excellent guide for our day. We decided to take a 1.5 hour nap / recharge break and met back up at 7 PM to decide on plans for the next day. My parents wanted to go back to the “Robot Sushi” aka sushi conveyer belt place again, so Ryan and I broke off to try a Ramen place. What a good idea that was! It was delicious. We split a thick wavy noodle, pork belly Ramen with gyoza and fried chicken for like $12 total including drinks. It was so good and warmed us up on the cold evening.

After dinner, we decided to check out our hotels Sky Bar. We texted my family to meet us and sat at a table under the space heaters. The staff even gave us warm, fuzzy blankets so we could enjoy the view comfortably. We had a glass of wine and discussed our itinerary for the rest of our time in Tokyo before calling it an night.

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Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier

I opened up my computer one day in July and read the best email I had ever received. It was from my sister, Julia, who requested a long-weekend sister trip to one of three national parks! I couldn’t be happier to respond “YESSSS!!!” We decided to take a long weekend in October to hike around Mt. Rainier which is outside of Seattle, Washington.

Thursday  –

We flew in from different cities but landed within minutes of each other and had quite the exciting, hug-filled reunion in the Seattle airport. We gabbed as we walked to the Uber pick-up area and got lucky that we did not have to split our Uber-Pool Prius with another 3 people – that would have been so cramped!

It only took 20 minutes or so get to the Marriott Seattle Waterfront hotel that had the most beautiful view! The check-in guy asked us if we were twins which made my day since I am 5 years older! I am not sure how my sister feels about the mix-up but I think she lets it slide for my sake.

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We got up to the room to clean up before heading out for dinner. We opted for sushi since the seafood in Seattle is so darn fresh and delicious! We opted to try Umi Sake House since it was only a few mintue walk from the hotel. We cheersed to our reunion with some cocktails and split seaweed salad, edamame, and two of the best rolls I’ve ever had in my life! (Unfortunately, I Snapped and didn’t actually save my food-porn worthy photo evidence.. ugh!)

Totally stuffed, we walked back to our room and chatted until late in the night. You’ve got to love an old fashion sister sleepover (except when you get touched by cold feet)!

Friday –

My sister mentioned she had to work a tiny bit when we first planned the trip but the “tiny” turned into 1/2 the day, so I made some solo plans. I had been wanting to try out an out Orange Theory class and there happened to be one about 10 minutes from our hotel! I booked a 10 AM class and my sister and I grabbed a yummy continental breakfast before I started the walk to Orange Theory. The directions had me go up this awesome bridge with a beautiful view of the water way. I then turned into the city for a short tour before arriving at the studio. Unfortunately for my body, it was “National Burpee Day” and the class totally kicked my butt! Maybe wasn’t the best idea with a big hike coming up the next day… (Oh, foreshadowing!)

The day was glorious – 60 degrees and sunny – and I loved walking through the city. Once I got back to the hotel, I freshened up while my sister finished her conference call. Our stomachs were rumbling so we took off to check out Pike Place Market and find a spot for lunch.

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Pike Place Market was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel and we had a great time sampling the different products for sale, like questionable moisturizer, and smelling all of the flowers. It took me back to the last time I was in Seattle for our Alaskan cruise.

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We came across a little cheese and wine shop and sampled some cheeses. We ended up buying two cheeses and a nice bottle of red to take back to the hotel for snacking later. We also found an Italian place and split a scrumptious pasta dish. (Mmm, carbs!)

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Another meeting popped up on my sister’s schedule so we decided to grab some coffee and head down to the wharf. Talk about an amazing view to take a call from, especially since happy hour with wine and oysters at Elliot’s Oyster House was to follow.

Feeling good after our wine, we went back to the Marriott to get ready for our exciting comedic evening. We were going to dinner at Local 360 before seeing Iliza Shlesinger live! I watched her Netflix special, “Elder Millennial”, a few months before our trip and could not believe she was premiering in Seattle the night we were there! I was beyond excited.

Dinner was probably an 7 out of 10. We split a weird goat cheese and beet salad, but a delicious squash soup with so, so, so much bread. My hand-made, pesto pasta dish was very good and my sister had a veggie medley over thick-cut toast.

We were so stuffed that we were glad for the walk to the Moore Theater. We had every intention of finding a bar to hang at before the 10:30 show, however, while passing by we noticed that the theater was really dark. It looked like there was a big metal gate and that the doors were closed. We walked up and, to my completed sock, we saw the below:

The sign for our canceled show - bummer!

I was SO sad that we could not see Iliza. Instead of going to a bar, we decided to go back to the hotel and get an early night’s sleep since we had an early morning to Mt. Rainier the next day.

Saturday:

We woke up bright and early to check out of the hotel and head to Mt. Rainier! Even though it is a 2 hour drive from the city, you could actually see the mountain from the wharf in Seattle. The drive was absolutely beautiful as all of the trees were changing to the most vibrant colors for fall!

The drive to Mt. Rainier in Washington

We took a pit stop at a grocery store on the way to grab some food for our hike. I was looking for something quick, prepackaged, and easy to eat and found the perfect lunch – Pizza Lunchables! My 5 year-old self would have been so proud.

We finally started the accent to Mt. Rainier. The mountain kept getting bigger and bolder as we drew closer and we were in awe. We took a quick stop to take some photos at a lookout point and finally made it to the hike area. The weather was perfect and the trail was up, up, and more up. Oh, my butt was burning from those burpees!

Hiking Mt. Rainier in Washington

The views and the hike got us talking about everything – wanting to move from Texas so I could hike more, previous hikes with our parents (like when we accidentally hiked through a nudist beach *cringe*), quirky family songs that we used to sing when we hiked with family, dating and relationships, and how we were going to make these sister trips an annual tradition. I have to say, I am so incredibly lucky to have Julia as my sister and built-in best friend / travel buddy. We are quite the quirky pair:

The view from the top of the hike made all of the climb worth it. We decided to post up on an out cropping for some relaxation and Lunchables.

Eventually, we had to make the trek down the path back to the car. It was pretty steep with shale rock everywhere. It was a bitter-sweet decent as I could have stayed by the mountain for ages.

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Our spirits were lifted though as we were staying the night in a tiny cabin! It was only 800 or so square feet and the bed was in a lofted area up-stairs. We were so excited!

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We were going to celebrate our day with the wine and cheese we bought in Seattle, but someone left the cheese in the hotel fridge (I finally forgive you Jules) so we “nommed” on some chocolate and went to watch the sunset in the National Park. Unfortunately, the trees were too tall and we couldn’t get a great sunset view. We were starving so we decided to try out the local Sherpa-Himalayan Cuisine at the Wildberry restaurant. It was beyond our expectations and so good!

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With full bellies and very tired bodies, we went back to our little cabin in the woods to sleep.

Sunday:

Another early morning for our last day in Washington. We made some toast for breakfast, packed our bags, and drove the 2 hours to Seattle. We had a few hours before our flights, so we parked the car with our bags hidden and took off around the city. The first stop was a Vietnamese restaurant called Green Leaf with the best vermicelli and pork I’ve ever eaten in my entire life (and I’ve eaten A LOT of vermicelli). I would go back there in a heart beat!

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After lunch, we walked through the park under the Space Needle  to the Museum of Pop Culture. I had been there once before and had to share it with my sister. It has awesome exhibits all about various artists and movie genres. If you are in Seattle, I highly recommend a stop.

The weather was perfect and we spent the rest of our time on the lawn of the Museum watching kids play in giant bubbles being carried by the wind. It was the perfect end to our trip before our journey home.

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Skagway, Alaska

Skagway, Alaska

7 AM marked our arrival into Skagway. We were surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the inlet with beautiful aqua marine water below us. Ryan and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the breakfast buffet of oatmeal, waffles, sausage, and fruit, and then we headed off the boat. The line to debark was long as there was a hold up with boat member dressed in really old / dirty bear costumes whom you had to take pictures with in order to debark. Seriously, the cruise hustles you for money at every turn!

We sneakily cut back, maneuvered around the bear photo line, and finally made it off the boat and onto shore. It was so windy and there was a low fog that blocked the sun of coming out. Apparently, all of the helicopter tours slated for the morning were canceled due to the weather! Thankfully for us, we had booked a hike and float tour and we were scheduled for pick up at 9:35 AM.

Skagway, Alaska

There is a shuttle from the ship yard into town for about $5, but with about an hour until pick-up, we walked the wharf trail to the town instead. It only took 10 minutes and was definitely worth doing! The town of Skagway is quite quaint, greeting the boat passengers with a big rail road train and statue of the founders in a well-kept garden area. Once passed the train, there are old buildings lining the gravel street dating back to the gold rush. We walked down Broadway (the main drag) and went into a historical salon that had been restored. We decided to save the gift shops for the afternoon, so we wandered the streets for about 30 minutes longer until it was time to turn back to the boat.

The wait for our transport seemed like it took forever as the wind whipped our hair around and made it much colder than inland. Eventually, two wilderness men showed up looking very mountaineer with a mixture of hiking sandals, big beards, and plaid. Sam and Rosco were to be our guides on our hike and float, and they quickly escorted us to “Kylo Ren”, the newest, all black van in their tour fleet. The guys both had quirky and hilarious personalities, telling corny jokes as we made our 40-minute journey through town and then the mountain side to our hiking spot.

The views along our drive to the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The view along the drive was spectacular. We followed the inlet into the mountain side during low tide and even saw a few bald eagles.

Sam was a funny type of informative, as many of his historical tid-bits got distracted by seeing his girlfriend biking on the side of the road or further improved upon with side stories from his own journeys. While he had a bit of a tough crowd in the 9 of his passengers, he definitely made for an entertaining guide with a great spirit! This continued as we started up the rainforest trail. We would stop to hear stories from travels around the world, or about Sam’s fascination with finding wild mushrooms and how some of his friends are convinced that, in order to find good mushrooms, you must leave “tokens” of important items in the forest for the gnomes and trolls that live there.

The trail through the forest was so lush. There was moss at every turn and giant trees that were so dense they blocked out the sun. Occasionally, we would have stumbled upon a little stream, or even bear claw markings on the trees that let other bears know how big and strong they were. One of the bear claw markings must have been 10 feet up on the tree that was marked upon!

Hiking on the Chilkoot Trail in Skagway, Alaska

The hike itself was not super strenuous, but that was mostly because we stopped often to chat. There were quite a few steep climbs up and down rock stairs, but our hike was nothing compared to the 33 mile trail the gold rush passers had to take with 100 lb. packs with all of their belongings with another 500 miles to go after they passed through Canada. Those people looking for gold must have been very determined to make such a trek!

We got to talking to our other guide Rosco and, as it turns out, he is a member of a well-known band called “Etcetera and So On” and he toured on Warped Tour and all over the world. He was in Alaska visiting / working for some friends at Skagway Brewery between tours. It was really interesting talking to him about his life, his travels, and his Shell Silverstine tattoos. You can meet some incredible people if you just put yourself out there and talk to strangers on your travels.

It took about an hour for us to make it to the river. There were wellies waiting for us to change into so that we could get in / out of the raft without getting completely soaked. We had to add a few layers on as well since the open water was much cooler than the hike in the forest. We hopped into the boat and took off. Captain Sam went bare foot and I couldn’t fathom how he wasn’t freezing! I guess you get adjusted to the cold just as you get adjusted to the heat. However, Sam did say that the wind chill in the winter of Skagway can get as cold as -40 degrees and I do not think anyone can get acclimated to that!

Anyways, the float down the river was so peaceful. Rosco took over the paddles and him and Sam traded off telling stories about their adventures going down 4 and 5 level rapids. Apparently, the trees that float down the river can get clumped up in certain areas and become very dangerous for those who fall off boats as they can get stuck easily within their branches and pushed under water. Our river was very calm with no rapids at all so our adrenalin only started pumping when our guide’s stories became intense. We saw a few more eagle nests and learned about the strength of the water and how it’s flow from the mountains changes and completely alters the landscape on a constant basis.

At the end of our very relaxing float, the guides had some snacks of Salmon, cheese, crackers, Oreos, and Capri Suns for us. We felt like we were back in grade school with that assortment of snacks, but it was so fulfilling after our trip!

Sam and Rosco drove us back to town and dropped us off at the Skagway Brewery. We heard so many good things about it, we had to try it! The place was packed but we got a table pretty quickly. Ryan got a flight of their beers and I had the Spruse Tip Ale. It was delicious! I also had some warm chilli and focaccia bread for lunch which warmed me right up after being cold for the better part of the day. It was so satisfying!

After lunch, we walked in and out of the dozens of souvenir shops. There was everything from art to jewelry, soaps to clothes, additional excursions to fun magnets. We opted for some Chia Tea lattes as a walking break and continued on to find something fun to buy for my mom. We had been walking for about ten minutes when I realized my backpack was not on my back – it was on the seat’s back at the coffee shop! Ahh! I sprinted through the hordes of tourists back to the coffee shop and to my relief, my backpack was right where I left it. *Phew!*

After that scare, we walked back past the train and the founder’s garden, and back to the ship. We were just in time for our 5:30 dinner, so we grabbed some wine from our room and met Ryan’s family at the dinner table. They had been on the rail road to White Pass and had nothing but good things to say about their day. For dinner, I had baked goat cheese to start, a lamb tartar, raspberry mint sorbet to cleanse the palate, pork tenderloin with various veggies for a main, spicy penne with mariana and a separate plate of scallops that the waiter brought out extra for us to try, and then we finished with vanilla ice-cream and green tea cookies. Again, so stuffed! The waiter took our empty wine glasses from our room, so I had to smuggle out our water glasses so we could refill our wine and bring it to the comedy show that was next on our agenda!

Carlos Oscar was the comedian for the night. He had a funny story about getting on the cruise. I was not super fond of his delivery as it was a bit all over the place, but he had some good punch lines and I laughed quite a bit. His show lasted about an hour until it was time to watch the sun set and go to bed.

Alaska Packing List

Packing for an Alaskan Cruise 101

Featured above & worn on my trip:

DailyShoes Hunter Rainboots | Makeitmint Military Anorak Jacket | Love Lakeside Cashmere Feel Winter Plaid Scarf | Refresh Wynne Combat Lace Up Ankle Bootie | ScarvesMe Solid Ribbed Beanie & PomPom | NeatPack Foldable Backpack | Gap 1969 Boyfriend Jeans | REI Smart Wool Hiking socks | The North Face Venture Rain Jacket

Everything I read while researching online before my cruise indicated that it would be cool on the ship and warm on-land. Warm to the point of tee-shirts and shorts. So I packed light jackets, a few pairs of pants, tee’s, and shorts for excursions. Unfortunately for me, my reading was so chillingly WRONG! It was freezing on the boat and only 40 – 50 degrees on-land. I wore all of my jackets on-top of one another and rocked my warm beanie every day! Thankfully for you, I am here to help you weather your cruise so you are warm and comfy throughout your trip!

Below are my recommendations for a 7-day Alaskan cruise. Overall, layers will be your best friend, so try to pack things that match well with one another.

Clothing:

  • Jackets (3): Heavy jacket, layering jacket, water proof jacket
  • Shirts (7): Base layer tee’s for layering. Bring a few cute ones for around the cruise ship and some active style shirts for your excursions
  • Pants: warm leggings (2 pairs), jeans, shorts (1 pair)
  • Formal wear: 2 nights worth of dresses or nice skirt / top combo
  • Bathing suit
  • Sweat wicking socks for active days (REI has the most comfy hiking socks around for great prices)
  • Workout gear: most cruise ships have a full gym so packing a few days of workout clothes for your full sailing days is a great way to defeat the buffet

Accessories:

  • Water bottle
  • Binoculars & camera
  • Gloves, beanie, scarves
  • Umbrella
  • Day bag: packable backpack recommended
  • Sun screen & bug spray (if you go on a hike)
  • Clutch wallet for your phone and cruise ship id to bring around the boat

Shoes:

  • Waterproof shoes or rain boots
  • Comfortable walking shoes for excursions: sneakers or hiking boots
  • Sandals for walking to the spa or pool / hot tub

Packing for an Alaskan Cruise 101

Seattle, Washington

Seattle, Washington

Getting to our Alaskan Cruise:

After a stressful day at work getting everything finished before 7 days off the radar, dropping the dog off at daycare, loading our bags into the Uber, and bypassing security, we were finally in the airport by gate 14 for our departure to Seattle, Washington for our Princess cruise to Alaska! We grabbed some celebratory margaritas at the Chili’s by our gate, (which were surprisingly good for airport drinks), and finally boarded our plane! We had checked our bags, so we didn’t have to stress about finding overhead bin space.

The 4 hour American Airlines flight was bumpy but had some amazing views as we flew over Colorado’s mountains. We were not expecting the views to start before we even landed! The snow-capped mountains called our names as our recent skiing experiences have us hooked on the slopes. We had to remind ourselves of our current adventure and that skiing wouldn’t happen for a little longer, but the thought of moving to Colorado in the future did cross our minds!

Anyways, after watching one of my favorite movies, The King and I, it was time to land in Seattle; a new State to check off my list! It took about 30 minutes to grab our bags from baggage claim and we walked through a sea of Toyota Prius’ in the parking lot to find our Uber to town. Apparently, Uber and Taxis drivers at the airport can only drive Prius’ for eco-friendly reasons.

It took us about $30 and 40 minutes to arrive at the Maxwell Hotel in downtown Seattle. Boy did our hotel have personality! Upon checking in, we were greeted with cupcakes, pineapple water, and smiling receptionists. The hotel’s mascot is a Husky puppy and they have plushies you can “adopt” in each room for $25 that goes to the ASPCA. Additionally, there are free yellow bikes you can use to go around town, umbrellas for the rain, and huge feathery comforters for covering the bed! Each bed comes with two of these fluffy duvet covers and we took the two from our bed and the two from the other bed in our room to make a super comfy, pillow-fairy certified sheet experience. It was SO COMFY!

My boyfriend Ryan’s family arrived before us and were waiting in to lobby for us to check-in, dump our stuff, and head down the street to dinner. It was a quick, block long walk to the neighboring Vietnamese restaurant. We walked in and the smells we were greeted with made our empty stomachs rumble! The restaurant was tiny so we pushed a few tables together. While there were only a few other people in the place, the two young waiters were bustling around, a bit inefficiently if I may say so. Our waiter took Ryan’s sister and her husband’s order first, put their order in, ran to another table, came back for Ryan and my order, put our order in, ran food to another table, brought over Ryan’s sister’s drinks, went to another table, brought Ryan and my drink, ran to the back, and finally came back for Ryan’s parent’s orders. It made me tired just watching him!

I ended up getting some delicious pho soup and a grilled pork bahn mi sandwich for dipping into the soup. Yum! We arrived at 8:30 and the restaurant closed at 9. Usually, there is some wiggle room for current guests to stay after 9 PM closing time, especially on a Friday night, but the waiters were trying to hustle us out. They not only brought the checks right after we got our food, but were busing dishes and informing us they had busses to catch home at 9:10. Needless to say, we ate quickly, ran out the door, and walked back to the hotel to jump into the mound of covers and sleep.

Heading to the cruise:

The nice thing about going to the West Coast from Texas is that you gain two hours of sleeping in time. Getting up at 8 AM was really like sleeping in until 10 – so nice! It was sprinkling outside so I popped on my new yellow galoshes and we took off to meet Ryan’s family up the street at Mecca Café for breakfast. It was about a four block walk filled with lush gardens, cute little restaurants, and a great view of the Space Needle!

There was a line out the door for the restaurant but thankfully, Ryan’s family had some bar seats warmed up for us. The diner had a strange but warm personality with a menu full of comfort food. I got the biggest bowl of oatmeal and blueberries with a side of toast and their famous bacon. So much food but so good! After we had our fill, we paid and realized it was pouring out! Thankfully, my jacket’s hood saved my hair-day and we made it back to the hotel without being drenched.

The Maxwell Hotel rooms come with huge yellow umbrellas for use during your stay. We grabbed ours and took off for a post-breakfast stroll. The hotel was a quick walk from the EMP Museum, housed in huge colorful modern building. Right behind the EMP is the Space Needle surrounded by gardens and modern statues. Such a beautiful walk. This part of town is clean, seemed safe, full of well-kept gardens and surprises! We turned down a street and saw the bay at the end. We decided to walk to the bay and found a bridge overlooking the bay and a park on its shoreline. We could even see our cruise ship from there! We only had 30 minutes before we had to head to the ship, so we hustled back in the rain to depart from the hotel.

Graffiti wall in Seattle, Washington