My First Visit To Victoria, British Columbia (BC)

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 13 ~Day #34
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$3400
$130.44
$4752.38
$139.77
Miles by Road
Nautical Miles
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Statute Miles
4917
3012 + 814 = 3826
000
000
9316.9

Current Location: Victoria, BC

I have been backwards and forwards across the US and Canada many times but I never made it to Vancouver Island. I was really looking forward to visiting Victoria as Vicky has always said such good things about it – I was not disappointed.

At Sea
But I’m getting ahead of myself we still had most of the day at sea. I don’t know why Holland America scheduled things the way they did but we were not due to arrive in Victoria until 4pm – and then leave at 10pm.

I suspect it has more to do with corporate profits than anything else but I’ll get into that in more depth when I do a wrap up of our cruising experience later this week.

Docking
We have always been asleep when arriving at the previous ports but this time we were able to be on deck to marvel at the process.

We used to have a 27’ sailboat which I docked many times but I cannot imagine bringing this monster in as gently as our pilot did to the dock in Victoria.

The dock ends in a parking lot and from our vantage point on deck nine forward it appeared that we were going to stop in one of the spots reserved for the tour buses. But after we disembarked it was clear we had a good ten feet to spare. Not bad for a ship this size.

Victoria – First Impressions
This is a beautiful city and it is really too bad most of the passengers will not get a chance to experience it. By the time we got off the ship and into downtown it was almost 5pm and the shops and street vendors were closing.

We spend a very enjoyable couple of hours looking around the harbour and the main downtown area before heading back to the ship to grab a quick supper and our bags.

Disembarking
The cruise actually ends tomorrow back in Seattle but since our personal next stop is at Vicky’s brother in Nanaimo we are leaving the ship here in Victoria.

Going through Canadian Customs was very easy and we were soon in a taxi headed for our hotel. We had pre-booked two nights at the Red Lion Inn through CheapO stay and got a good rate of $60 a night for an efficiency unit including all taxes – that’s Canadian dollars so we will convert it for our expenses chart.

The Liquor Store
Booze is not a big part of our lives but we do enjoy a drink once in a while. We refused to pay the exorbitant prices aboard ship so had been teetotal for two weeks. The Red Lion Inn has a liquor store attached so we grabbed a six pack of hard cider to quench our thirst.

Tomorrow in Victoria
Unlike our fellow passengers we will have the opportunity to spend the whole day exploring Victoria before we catch the train to Nanaimo on Tuesday. If my first impressions are anything to go by this looks like it will be the best port on the voyage.

Ketchikan – Alaska Cruise Day 3

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 02~Day #23
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$2300
$222.76
$2302.34
$100.10
Miles by Road
Nautical Miles
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
4917
676
000
000
5694.4

Location: Ketchikan, Alaska

Time Zone Change

As we headed towards Ketchikan we also crossed into another time zone and the clocks were set back an hour giving us either more party time or sleep time. I’m afraid we chose the extra sleep time. I guess we were still trying to catch up on our sleep from our 40 hour experience.

Shopping, Coupons and Free Stuff

When we boarded the m/s Amsterdam in Seattle, we were given a large book for coupons that covered the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.

Many of the coupons offered free gifts without any purchase necessary. I know I don’t really need most of this stuff but I just can’t resist. So, coupon book in hand, we headed down the gangway and into Ketchikan.

The Weather

The weather, unfortunately, was overcast and rainy but we tried not to let it dampen our spirits and we began to explore our first Alaskan town.

I’m not sure I ever seen so many jewelry or souvenir shops all in one place before. A lot of the jewelry was beautiful and even, sometimes, tempting, but I stuck to my free coupons and collected all my “loot”.

I have collected coins and charms (you get the whole set of eight by visiting the designated shops in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway). I have also collected some other lovely items like a pearl pendant, pearl earrings, a charm bracelet and other items.

We did a small walking tour to Ketchikan along with taking a ride on the free shuttle.

Keeping Expenses Down

In keeping with our goal to keep our expenses under control for the 6+ months that we are traveling, we bypassed any excursions or attractions but still managed to enjoy our day despite the weather and the crowds.

Crowds

That’s right – I said crowds. There were four cruise ships in port, some considerably larger than ours. At times, apparently, there can be as many as seven cruise ships in port, swelling the town to more than twice it population for a few hours.

Formal Night

This was our first formal night of the cruise. I wore my favorite “little black dress” and Geoff looked extra spiffy in his white dinner jacket and black pants.

We have lovely dinner companions at our table from Colombia who have traveled extensively and their English is just so much better than our Spanish. But the conversations are enjoyable and we are using the few Spanish words we know.

We are actually seated at a table for six but so far whoever is supposed to occupy the other two seats have not yet shown up.

We are also very lucky to have a window table with lovely views whether in port or underway.

Inside Passage to Ketchikan

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

June 01~Day #22
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$2200
$222.76
$2079.58
$94.52
Miles by Road
Nautical Miles
Miles by Air
Miles by Train
Total Miles
4917
At Sea
000
000
4917

Current Location: At Sea
Mileage: 000 Total:

Today’s Total Expenses: $222.76

Alaska Cruise Cost

Vicky did a nice long post yesterday but she didn’t say anything about the cost of the trip and how we are showing it on this blog.

As you might expect, the cost of your cabin is based on size and position. A suite with a balcony can cost a small fortune but if you settle for a small cabin on the lowest deck in the center of the ship (no windows) it can be much more reasonable. And guess what, the small cheap cabin goes to all the same places the expensive one does. You also get served the same food and the entertainment is also the same.

There are many ways to get the best deals on cruises which we’ll cover in our book but for this particular cruise the best price was $2895.92. This is not the advertised price; it is the total for both of us including port taxes.

Since the cruise is for 14 days that works out to $206.85 per day, all inclusive. That’s not too bad but quite a bit more expensive than the other two cruises we have booked for later on in this adventure.

The final port before we get back to Seattle is Victoria, BC, which is out next planned stop. Rather than travel back to Victoria from Seattle we have arranged to disembark in Victoria which means we will forfeit one night’s accommodation and one dinner and breakfast. So our actual cost is $2895.92 divided by 13 which is $222.76

Inside Passage – Overcast and drizzle

The Inside Passage between Vancouver and Vancouver Island has some spectacular views of the rugged Canadian wilderness – at least it would be if only the sun would come out. The sun teased us yesterday with a brief appearance as we left Seattle but has been absent ever since.

Internet Access – Sort Of

The cruise literature promises Internet access on the voyage and indeed a satellite connection is available while we sail. What they don’t mention is that the connection is very slow and the charge for using it is between 40 and 75 cents per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee.

Other Things They Don’t Want You To Know

OK there isn’t really a conspiracy of silence but there are a couple of things in the fine print that you need to be aware of when booking a cruise.

1/ The cruise line will likely put a hold on your credit card to cover any anticipated purchases. In our case Holland America is charging $60 per day per person which works out to $1680 for our 14 day cruise.

Of course if you don’t charge anything to your room that money will be released but you do need to have the room on your credit card or may not be allowed to board – check your fine print.

2/ You will automatically be charged $11 per day per person for gratuities. At the end of the cruise you can dispute this charge after you get your final bill and pay whatever you think is fair in gratuities but you do need to allow for it during the voyage.

Personally we believe in tipping for excellent service and do not think it should be automatic.

First Port Ketchikan, Alaska

The clocks go back 1 hour tonight and we dock in Ketchikan at 7am when we get our first look at Alaska.

Chilliwack to Seattle for Holland America Alaska Cruise

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 31 ~ Day # 21
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$2100
$316.42
$1856.82
$88.42

Location: MS Amsterdam
Mileage: 300 Total: 4917 (approx mileages as we took a bus from Chilliwack to Seattle)

Today’s Total Expenses: $93.66

Transportation: $90.16
Accommodation: $0.00
Food: $3.50
Entertainment: $0.00

Many Thanks

Many, many thanks go out to my baby sister and her husband for making us feel so at home during our stay with them.

Also, thanks for the warm, fuzzy jacket my sister gave me. As I mentioned in a earlier post my brain must have been elsewhere when deciding what to pack. I didn’t think to pack a warm jacket and I knew we were cruising to Alaska – DUH!

So thanks, TA! I know it will be much appreciated during the cruise.

Early Morning Departure

As we needed to be back in Seattle to begin our Alaska cruise, we looked a several options.

The first option was to just take our car with us and park it for the two weeks we would be away. Parking close to the cruise docks would have cost almost $250.

Another option was to leave our car at my sister’s home and find another way to get to Seattle. We checked the cost to fly and the best we could do was about $114 each and that didn’t include getting to the airport. We checked taking the train. It was about $75 total for the two of us but it didn’t included getting to Vancouver from Chilliwack. The option we actually chose was the Greyhound Bus. From Chilliwack to Seattle was only a total of $52.16 for the both of us. Additional costs to that would be a cab from my sister’s house to the bus station and another cab from the bus station in Seattle to the cruise port. The only catch with this plan was that the bus left Chilliwack at 2:55am! But, we decided this was the most cost-effective way to go and that’s exactly what we did.

We pre-arranged with the cab company to pick us up at 2:30am and then I called again at 2:00am to confirm that they, indeed, has us scheduled. The cab arrived on time and we got to the bus station in lots of time. The cab cost, including tip, was $15.00.

The trip into Vancouver was kind of a “scenic route” as we stopped may places to pick up and discharge passengers. Once in Vancouver we had about an hour to change to the bus heading for Seattle, so we picked up a cup of coffee and waited.

Back in Seattle

The trip to Seattle was uneventful, even when we crossed the border. The US customs and immigration officers were friendly and cheerful and we got through in record time. Of course, the fact that, at this point, there were actually only six of us on the bus probably made the process speedier than usual.

All in all the trip took just a little over 7 hours. We left Chilliwack just before 3am and arrived in Seattle just after 10am.

We had hoped to get a little sleep on the trip, but this just didn’t happen. We had decided that since the taxi was picking us up at 2:30am, there was really no point in going to bed earlier that night. Actually, I was worried that we might not get up in time if we did that. So, we just watched TV until it was time to go.

By the time we arrived in Seattle we realized that we had now been up for about 26 hours and we still had to get to the ship and board.

Checking in with Holland America

We were able to get a cab just outside the bus station that took us directly to the cruise ship dock. The cost for this cab, including the tip, was $23.00. Our major expenses for today, not including the cost of the cruise, naturally, was transportation.

We arrived at our ship’s check in point at about 10:30am. I was a bit worried that we would be too early to check in. (I just LOVE to worry about stuff.) The information we received was from Holland America was that check-in was a 1:00pm and we would sail at 5:00pm.

However, as is normally the case, I needn’t have worried. There were already lots of people there ahead of us.

Check in is much like going through airport security: you need to show your passports lots of time to just about everyone; your luggage goes through the x-ray machine and you have to go through the metal detector. A plus, though – we didn’t have to remove our shoes.

All through this process Geoff was the one lugging our big duffle bag which contained all of our clothes and carrying the computer as well. I was carrying our toiletries and my purse. That’s seems fair, right?

Well, after we had checked in with the duffle bag in tow, we were told that we could have checked the duffle bag downstairs where we came in, otherwise, we’d have to keep it with us until the rooms were ready – sometime after 1:00pm.

So, Geoff schlepped the duffle bag back downstairs, we put the toiletries bag inside the duffle bag, too so that meant that we only had to deal with the computer and my purse – much better. We headed back upstairs, back through security and then waited until we could board.

By the way, the Holland America check in staff we both helpful and welcoming.

Boarding the MS Amsterdam

At around 11:30am they started the boarding process. When we checked in we were issued to boarding group number. We were in group 3 so once the process started we didn’t have long to wait before our group was called.

They took to inevitable boarding photos as this seems to be a standard thing on all cruises and then we walked up the gangway to the ship. The weather was overcast but fortunately it wasn’t raining as parts of the gangway was not covered.

Food, Food and More Food

Anyone who has cruised before, or even knows anyone that has cruise before, knows that there is pretty much non-stop food available on a cruise, and I’m not going to tell you any different.

Upon boarding the ship we were directed toward the Lido Deck where there was a huge buffet of all kinds of food waiting for us. There were buns and salads and sandwiches made to order and hot food – Asian, Italian, etc. – and, of course, desserts and lots of other items that I haven’t mentioned.

We got some rolls and salad and a couple of other things and settled into a window seat and enjoyed our lunch while trying not to give in to how tired we were.

Another Challenge?

As you know, our main challenge for the entire time we are traveling is to average no more than $100/day. The cruise will skew this average for a while until we can add in a few less expensive days after the cruise.

However, another challenge that I have set for myself is to actually try to lose weight during the cruise. Probably a more realistic goal is to try not to gain any weight, but I feel I’m up for the challenge.

I plan to weigh in tomorrow morning and then track my weight throughout the next two weeks. No, I’m not going to tell you what I weigh but I will let you know if it’s going up or down. Wish me luck!

Cabin’s Ready But Where’s Our Luggage?

At about 1:30pm there was a ship-wide announcement that all the cabins were ready so we headed to our’s to check it out.

We realized when we checked in that we had been upgraded without even knowing about it. Thanks Jennifer! (Our Holland America cruise consultant).

As we are trying to do this entire trip in the most cost-effective way we, naturally, chose the least expensive cabin. We had expected to be in the smallest stateroom on the lowest deck (Deck 1). To our surprised, we were upgraded to a larger stateroom on Deck 2.

Our luggage had not yet been delivered to our stateroom so we spent some time just exploring the ship and trying to stay awake. By this time (about 2:00pm) we had been up for about 30 hours. I think at this time we were well passed overtired and into our second, or possibly third, wind.

Leaving Port

At about 5:30pm the ship began to leave port. It was lovely and sunny – a welcome change from the overcast and slightly raining it had been most of the day – and we reclined on deck chairs at the aft of the ship while we slowly left Seattle.

Wet Clothes and No Shower!

We headed back to our cabin to see if our luggage had arrived yet and to get ready for dinner. We had chosen the late seating for the dining room which meant we would be seated at about 8:00pm.

Still not having slept, we wanted to shower to get refreshed and then dress for dinner. For the first evening aboard ship the dress for the dining room would be casual.

Our suitcase had arrived – Yay! I began to unpack and start to hang things up when I realized that several of the items in our suitcase were very wet. Had our luggage been left out in the rain? Dropped in a puddle? We didn’t know. But, when I reported the problem to the office they sent a room steward to pick up the clothes to have them cleaned and returned to us at no charge.

Next, we headed for the shower, turned the knobs and NOTHING happened! No hot water, no cold water – nothing. The sink worked fine, the toilet worked fine, the shower stayed dry no matter what we tried. It was getting close to dinner time and we really, really wanted to shower.

The office promised they’d send someone right down but we waited for as long as we could and then used the sink in our bathroom to wash ourselves down before heading off for dinner. The office said they’d get the shower fixed while we were at dinner.

Discretionary Purchase

On the way to the dining room we noticed a liquor-tasting event and stopped for a bit. We tried some Sheridan’s Coffee Liquor – it comes in an impressive bottle that is actually two bottles in one, one side is a creamy white and the other side is a dark brown. There are two spouts and you pour both at the same time. The white liquor floats on top of the dark brown coffee liquor and the resulting taste is exquisite.

As you can purchase liquor duty-free onboard they were offering two large bottles for $39.95, but the clincher was that there was a third, smaller bottle that came along with the purchase, that you could take back to your room as long as you finished it before disembarking. No problem there!

As the challenge we have set means we need to keep costs down whenever possible, we will not be purchasing any alcoholic drinks while we’re on this cruise. So the temptation to have such a tasty liqueur in our stateroom proved irresistible. So, yes, we bought the two bottles for $39.95.

As this is a discretionary expense, we have not included it in the daily total.

First Dinner Onboard

There are always many, many choices of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard a cruise and this cruise is certainly no different. Both Geoff and I opted for the “Chef’s Recommendation” for our first dinner. Unfortunately, we found we were both somewhat disappointed. The soup – double baked potato soup – was lovely, but the baby back ribs were fattier than I like and not very tender. But, this is only the first day and I am looking forward to wonderful things! So, I don’t plan to dwell on such a slight disappointment.

Evening Entertainment

Immediately following dinner we headed to the Queen’s Lounge for the first evening’s entertainment.

The entertainment was light and there was a lot of information about upcoming events and entertainment and the introduction of the cruise’s social staff. The real entertainment begins tomorrow night.

Still No Shower?

We arrived back in our stateroom around 11:00pm still craving a long, hot shower to find that the shower still wasn’t working!

Instead of calling the office we went directly there and they promised they’d sent someone right away.

True to their word a maintenance person arrived very quickly and fixed our shower. Yay!

Time For a Good Night’s Sleep

It was now almost midnight and that meant that we had been up for almost 40 hours straight. Yikes!

Not knowing how long we would sleep in after being up for so long we put a Do Not Disturb sign on our door and settled into our comfy king-size bed and quickly drifted off to sleep anticipating the second day of our cruise.

Five Days in Chilliwack

Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 26 ~ Day # 16
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$1600
$15.70
$1505.07
$94.06
Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 27 ~ Day # 17
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$1700
$0.00
$1505.07
$88.53
Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 28 ~ Day # 18
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$1800
$0.00
$1505.07
83.61
Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 29 ~ Day # 19
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$1900
$22.93
$1528.00
$80.42
Our transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment cost so far

May 30 ~ Day # 20
Budget to date
Spent today
Total to date
Daily average
Total
$2000
$12.40
$1540.40
$77.02


Current Location: Chilliwack, BC

Mileage: 000 Total: 4617

For a few weeks now we won’t be doing any driving. We plan to leave our Jeep with Vicky’s sister while we take a two week cruise to Alaska.

We plan to leave the ship in Victoria BC and visit Vicky’s brother who lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. I’m looking forward to this because although I’ve been to Vancouver a couple of times I never made it to the Island.

We’ve had a great week here in Chilliwack. Vicky got a chance to catch up with family and I got a chance to catch up with our posting.

We got a chance to see Bridal Veil Falls and Harrison Hot Springs today. Beautiful scenery even when the sky is overcast.

The small expense today was for ice cream which I paid in Canadian dollars and converted to US dollars to remain consistent with our other posts.

We’re all packed again and ready to start the next segment of our journey. We plan to take a Greyhound bus from Chilliwack to Seattle where we board the ship. The catch is the bus leaves here at 3am so we have to grab a cab at 2:30am. We’ll see how that goes and let you know tomorrow….