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Old 09-22-2011, 12:38 AM   #1
Grammy Grumpy
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Smile Eagles and Whales and Bears, oh my!!! COMPLETED 3/4/2012

Ok, it’s time for me to join the “Last Alaska Cruise of the 2011 season” TR party!

Who: Grammy Grumpy (aka Barb) 61 and not believing it for a minute!
DH (aka Bob) 62 and the most wonderful person I know!

When: August 26-September 10, 2011

Where: Tolono to Spring Grove to Milwaukee to Seattle to Vancouver to Tracy Arm to Skagway to Juneau to Ketchikan to Vancouver to Seattle to Milwaukee to Spring Grove to Tolono (whew!)

If you have been reading Chez and Sue’s TRs you’ll see that they had planned this trip for several years. As soon as I saw that Disney was going to Alaska I jumped on it. DH was all for it and so we booked it for the summer (July 12 cruise).

A bit of back story here. DH and I were to have gone on the Northern European/Baltic cruise the summer of 2010. Just the thought of going to St. Petersburg was awe inspiring. Yes, the cruise was expensive, but it was to be a “trip of a lifetime”. Ok, so we saved and had all the money we needed for the cruise and anticipated excursions. I started to price out airfare, accommodations, and food for several days prior and after the cruise in the UK. I really wanted to add in Disneyland Paris but that was not to be. The more we looked the worse the prices got. It was, of course, during the summer and the most popular time to travel across the pond. We even tried routing through Ireland but it didn’t help much. We came to the date by which we had to send the final payment for the cruise or lose the deposit. Although deeply disappointed we canceled the trip. We then took the deposit from that trip and added it to the July 2011 cruise to Alaska. It about paid off the remaining balance! So, we were on track, or so we thought.

We saw Mark and Cheryl at WDW in December 2009. Prior to that time I heard that they and Sue and Steve were also cruising to Alaska, but in August/September 2011. I was sorry to not be able to have some adventures with them. We had breakfast with them (and Leslie and Tom) at O’Hana one morning during our stay. I think they were then trying to work on us (read DH Bob) to change our dates and come cruising with them. DH is retired but still works part-time (is 70% really part time?) at the University of Illinois in IT. Going in late August was really not a good time for him to go as school would just have started. We didn’t even anticipate the coming college consolidation in regards to IT. HOWEVER, on the last day we could have seen Mark and Cheryl we ran into them at Beaches and Cream. We were waiting for lunch and they were on their way to EPCOT. They asked DH one more time, would he consider changing the date of the cruise??? Imagine my shock when he said “I think that would be great fun, we’ll see what we can do.” Ok, who are you and what have you done with my DH???

At this point in time we were still a go for the Baltic trip. In January I contacted our outstanding TA and asked if we could be changed to the August 30th Alaska sailing. She did her magic and we were set. And because it was the last sailing the cost was less than the July sailing. So, therefore when we finally made the decision not to cruise in 2010 and took that deposit and added it to the Alaska cruise it almost paid off the remaining balance.

One little hicup in the planning. In the summer 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am very fortunate that it was caught early, was very small, and after surgery and radiation (I elected not to have chemo) I am doing well and "cancer free" as of today. I'm now positive that someone was watching over me and that it was fortuitous that we did not go on the Baltic cruise. We have since celebrated my recovery in the only way possible (IMHO) by going to WDW just after surgery and then again with our kids/grandkids just after my radiation treatments. It was the best thing to keep me focused and motivated. That, and of course cruise planning! Now, where was I?

So, now all we had to do was wait, right? Not exactly. I did some checking and found that our cabin for the Alaska cruise was going to be right across from the laundry. Convenient yes, but not where I wanted to be. So we did some checking and found a great cabin with veranda on the port side on Deck 7. We had been on starboard on Deck 6. As it turns out it would have been very close to both Mark/Cheryl and Sue/Steve. But, where we ended up was great nonetheless! (7070)

Now we wait. It seemed like forever before the excursions were announced. DH and I took our time making our “short-lists”. We finally decided on a float trip for eagle viewing (only much later did I realized that this would be in a small rubber raft. A bit out of my comfort zone!), whale watching (on a slightly bigger boat), and bear gazing (we are going to be on a bridge over a stream where there are bears???). Therefore the TR title “Eagles and whales and bears, oh my!” Oh and our TA got them all for us AND brunch at Palo!!!

Next up: Upgrading to Business class and will 4 suitcases be enough? AND it’s finally time to get on the road!
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:10 AM   #2
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Great start Barb! I am so glad that we were able to talk you into changing your dates... now just to work on you for December 2012 - either at WDW or on the Fantasy...
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:34 AM   #3
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Ok, so I jumped a bit ahead of the game. Besides the shore excursions things like airfare, lodging, activities not cruise related, food, etc. needed to be decided on and booked.

First off was getting to Vancouver. I tried many different variations but eventually we decided to that in order to save some money and to cause the least stress on our fur baby (border collie named Nala) we would leave her with our daughter in northern IL. Her kids were really looking forward to it and we struck a deal with our DGrdS (he's 9) for services rendered while we were gone. Our DGrdD (she's 3) was instructed to play with her as much as possible. It was a concern to leave Nala there as they have two cats, one is 17 years old and probably deaf so we didn't want her ambushed by our dog! The other is much younger and we thought that perhaps they could come to friendly terms. Nope, that didn't happen either. Nala is just way to eager to play and the cats are, well cats! We didn’t want the dog to cause a problem with their household but our DD convinced us to go ahead and let them take care of her. Ok, one problem solved. Because they live 4 hours away from us we thought it would be best to fly out of an airport close to their house. Of course there is O’Hare and Midway in Chicago, but they can be a hassle to use. They are still some distance away from their house so we looked at going out of Milwaukee. Let me tell you trying to find a way to fly into Vancouver was a challenge. I failed at the challenge. So, we looked at Seattle. Hey, AirTran flies direct to Seattle out of Milwaukee!!

Then how to get to Vancouver. Well, you can fly, but the cost of that was more than from Milwaukee to Seattle. Need to find another option. Well, there is Amtrak. That was a possibility but also meant we’d have to find transportation from the train station to our hotel and back later. An option but not the best.

Then we found Quick Shuttle. They would pick us up at the airport and take us directly to our hotel (which we are also in the hunt for at the time). AND we could get a senior rate of $99 round trip each. Ok, that looks better.

But before we book let’s settle on accommodations. Cheryl, Sue and I had been corresponding over the course of time about various things, including where to stay. Cheryl, the consummate trip organizer and planning mentioned the Pan Pacific. I went to check it out and WOW was it fancy. But they are located right at the cruise terminal and Quick Shuttle does drop off and pick up there. I don’t usually use Expedia or other internet facilities to book rooms because if they turn out bad you are usually stuck. And you have to pay up front. So, I called them direct and found out I could get a AAA discount and only a deposit was due at the time of reservation and if necessary I could cancel up to 48 hours before arrival.

Ok. Now we were scheduled to arrive on Saturday, August 27th and were not returning home until September 8th. We knew we wanted to spend time in Vancouver before and most likely after the cruise. So I booked 3 nights with a harbor view before and one night with a city view after. We would return to Seattle the day before we flew home and hoped to get to at least see the Space Needle in the time we had after arriving on the shuttle. We went ahead and booked the shuttle, booked one night at the SeaTac Clarion. We also booked one night at the Milwaukee Clarion airport as they had a “park and fly” option. For $99 we stayed one night and got to leave our car in their guarded/gate lot. Pretty good deal.

DH and I spent lots of time trying to decide what to do in Vancouver. We knew we’d have a small amount of time on Saturday after arriving on the shuttle. We had all day on Sunday as Mark/Cheryl nor Steve/Sue would arrive until very late on Sunday (and if you are reading Sue’s TR you’ll see that they didn’t arrive until late on Monday). So, we found a tour we wanted to take, and also purchased the “hop on-hop off” trolley tickets. Online they were buy one day, get the second for free. Great deal. We’d use one day with the group and one day after the cruise when others were leaving the area.

Airfare booked – check, accommodations booked – check, transportation booked from Seattle to Vancouver – check, tours booked – check, trolley booked – check. I think we are almost ready to go.

Since we would be in Canada I contacted our credit card companies to inform them of our travel and to find out if there would be a surcharge for foreign purchased. Of course!

I contacted our cellular provided (we have iPhones) about international charges for phone and data. OH BOY, way too much! So the phones stayed off while in Vancouver.

Then I searched around for a place to change some US $ for Canadian $. When I called our bank they told me they did not have any available but I could order it online. The minimum was $250 which was more than I wanted or needed. So, when I was on that side of town I stopped in the main bank (which I had called remember) and they said of course they had Canadian dollars and how much did I want? Ok, that’s done.

Pre-packing had commenced some time before and I started to worry that I was taking way too much for this trip. I had to remember that it was the 7 days of the cruise and some days might require more than one outfit, but we had time in Vancouver and Seattle let alone travel days so it seemed justified. Then I started to add in our door decorations, some things I had bought for the group the first night, some door decorations I made for Sue/Steve, Cheryl/Mark, power strip, shoes, etc., etc. It was way too much. Daily I would add and subtract from the items so very carefully arranged on the spare bed. In the end I did indeed pack too much. Note to self, remember this for future trips!! The best thing I purchased for this trip was a luggage scale. Not sure how I managed before. Of yes I do, we usually ship home the overage! Not really an option here when it cost $1.03 Canadian for a postcard!!! Only found and had time for one US post office in Skagway. More of that later.

Well, the check off list is getting checked off and the date is fast approaching.

Next: Final packing and how are we going to get all this stuff into our car along with the dog and all the things she will need for two weeks?? Again, will 4 suitcases be enough for us this trip?
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Fall Festival Fun with Friends!

Eagles, and Whales, and Bears - Oh My!!
My Countdown Counting down to: Just us two and a few PPers too!
Lovin' this trip!
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My Previous TripsTreehouse Villas 1987, All Star Sports 2000, Coronado Springs 2002, POR 2003, 2004 x 2, 2005 x 3, 2006 x2, 2007 x 3, 2008 x 2, 2009 May Flower and Garden, Sept DD Bday, Dec PPfest! 2010 Sept Bounceback with DH, Dec SSR with Kids/grandkids!!!, 2011 Alaska cruise, Thanksgiving with Mickey!, 2012 Poconos, Cruisin' and NYC, Birthday in the Bubble, 2 whole weeks in the bubble Sept 2013
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:51 AM   #4
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I'm glad you've started your report, so we'll have all 3 going at once! Sounds like it was a long trek and a lot of planning to get you to this cruise, but glad you joined the "Crazy Disney Passporters" Trifecta!
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Old 09-22-2011, 08:48 AM   #5
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Great start and plans Barb!
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Old 09-22-2011, 12:56 PM   #6
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Great start!! Figuring out exactly what and how much to pack for a trip like this must be very difficult!
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Old 09-22-2011, 01:16 PM   #7
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a TR
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Old 09-22-2011, 01:36 PM   #8
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Great start, and so happy to have a chance to read a third perspective on the trip (and more incentive for me to book Alaska!)!
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Old 09-22-2011, 02:17 PM   #9
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Four cases for the two of you for that long - seriously? Ok, so we were up to four by the end, but we started out with three, so I'm thinking there probably were a few items you maybe didn't use/wear?
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Old 09-22-2011, 04:00 PM   #10
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I was so happy to find this TR Barb! That was quite some planning to get everything in order, but I am glad it all worked out. Can't wait for more!
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Old 09-22-2011, 04:45 PM   #11
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Great start and plans! I had the hardest time packing for our trip too. Our schedule was pretty much like yours except we flew out of our home airport but it just seemed like we needed so much stuff. In the end, we did overpack.
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Old 09-22-2011, 05:01 PM   #12
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Great start Barb - I am so excited now that you have started to have three versions of this amazing trip. At least I know I will have reading to keep me busy for the next few weeks
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Old 09-22-2011, 09:44 PM   #13
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WOOOOOHOOOOO you started a trip report!! Can't wait to read it all!!!
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Old 09-23-2011, 01:25 AM   #14
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A few days before we left our oldest DGrdS Anthony and his finance Kelly stopped by to see me and say good-bye. Also before we started our journey, we had dinner with our DS Bob, DDinL Brandy and twin DGrdkids Abigail and Tyler. We promised them all some goodies upon our return. We are blessed that they all live very close to us.

The day to depart has arrived. We were heading from our house to our DD house in Northern IL. We would only be there for a few hours getting our Nala situated at their house then on to Milwaukee (about an hour or so drive from their house) to stay at the Clarion across the street from MKE. We got up about 6:30 am, you know, can’t sleep before leaving on a trip! We had some packing to finish, eat breakfast and most important I wanted to upgrade to business class for our flight and I had to wait until it was 24 hours before. Unfortunately with Hurricane Irene on the warpath I probably should have called a bit earlier. I called early but because of people changing flights or cancelling the wait time was longer than average. I did finally get in and using our A+ rewards from AirTran (probably going away because of the merger with Southwest so we put them to good use) I was able to secure row two on the left side of the plane (facing the cockpit area). This is good because row one doesn’t have a place to put carryon bags under seats. Securing this gave us a $30 credit for seats already purchased and all our bags were FREE!!! Yea, throw some things in the fourth bag and let’s get on the road!

We headed out about 11:20 am after putting the remaining items in the car, including the dog, a dog crate (she isn’t crated at home any more but this kept her from terrorizing our DD’s cats), a container of her food, her bed for inside the crate, her toys, water and food bowl, towels to wipe her feet, etc. Needless to say my purse and one carryon was on my lap or at my feet in the front seat. We drove our Ford Escape and the leg room is a bit limited. The rest of everything, including the dog, was in the back (seats down to make one flat surface). We stopped in Dwight IL about 12:45 for a doggie potty stop and some food for us. It was a beautiful day and the journey was uneventful.

Here are some pictures from along the way (thought I’d never get to posting any pictures, huh?)






Honest Cheryl, I looked everywhere for some cows!






Wind generators along the road.

When we arrived we were greeted enthusiastically by our DGrdD Emma. She was about to start pre-school (she is almost 4) and was making a countdown chain out of construction paper.







While in the middle of that her brother Trevor (he’s 9 and in the 4th grade) arrived home from school. We spent some time going over Nala’s care and what they both could do to help their parents with her.






Our DSinL Brian came home from work and we all had a quick meal together. We wanted to get to the hotel early enough to really settle in and get a good night’s sleep. We were a little unsure of how to get there but with the help of googlemaps and our GPS we set off. It was bittersweet to only have a few hours with them but they understood and it was great we were able to eat with them.




The journey to Milwaukee was going well until we got to what we thought was to be our exit for the motel. It was kind of strange as the map and GPS showed we were to get off the interstate, head down another road and then double back for the hotel. Well, when we got close we saw signs that said that the exit was closed and to take an alternate route. Did we believe them? Of course not! Needless to say we had to drive past the closed exit and hope we could find a way back along the interstate. So, after driving for about another 10 minutes we passed the construction and took the very next exit. From what I could see we were close to the road that the hotel was on, but which way? Being that the detour had taken more time than we expected the sun had already set. So here we were a bit lost and unsure of how to proceed. Miraculously we had indeed found the street the hotel was on and because of going further down the road we avoided the funky double back. All was well.



We checked in with no problem. They asked if we had eaten dinner, but we said yes. I think they had either a discount or some freebie snacks available if we wanted. We did accept the coupon for a free drink in their lounge. So after getting all the bags to our room we found the lounge and enjoyed the free drink while watching the Packers football game (we were in Wisconsin after all!)





Afterwards we headed back to the room to try and settle in and sleep.












Ha, that’s a laugh. All I was able to do was toss and turn. My mind kept asking the same questions “Did we forget anything?” “Will we oversleep and miss our plane tomorrow?” Stay tuned to find out the answers!
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Old 09-23-2011, 02:26 AM   #15
chezp
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Glad you were able to spend some time with the family, even if it wasn't very long. Love the room!
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