Birthday Cruise : Keelung, Taiwan

For my birthday last year my parents decided to go on a short cruise around Japan/Taiwan, and as a special treat they told me I could invite a friend to come with us! As soon as they told me, I contacted Brinky who immediately jumped on board. Princess Cruises had a “Buy 2 Get 2 Free” promo during this period, so it was perfect. My parents booked their trips at a regular rate and Brinks and I were the “Get 2 Free“. (Of course there were still taxes and plane tickets to be paid, but the cruise fares were waived :D)

The cruise begins in Keelung, Taiwan so we took an early flight to get there.

t01 (3)

Kupos in pink

t01 (4)

Hello Taiwan!

t01 (6)

t01 (8)

We booked a shuttle to pick us up from the airport and take us to the port

t01 (13)

t01 (12)

During our last cruise my parents were finally upgraded to Platinum status, so we were able to skip the long check in lines this time around, yay!

The ship we would be sailing on is the Golden Princess, which is actually the same ship we were on during our Alaskan cruise (you can find my blog entries about that by clicking HERE). That was my very first cruise, so this ship holds a special place in my heart. Being back on board made us feel really happy, and we even met a few crew members who were there with us during our Alaskan cruise – and some of them actually remembered us! Pretty amazing considering that was two years ago and they usually have about 2000 passengers on board for each voyage.

t01 (14)

Ceiling shot while waiting for the elevators

t01 (15)

The crew was setting up for the champagne waterfall to be held that evening

t01 (17)

Pretty~

Continue reading

Stopover in Seattle

This day marked the official end our of Alaskan cruise, but we had some time before our flight back to LA so we decided to spring for one last tour before heading to the airport.

We were really sad to have to leave the ship, which had been our home for the past week.  We made a lot of precious memories on the Golden Princess, ones that will stick with us forever.  This was truly a dream vacation, definitely one of the (if not “the”) most magical ones.  This ranks way up on my list of memorable trips, along with last year’s Hawaii trip.

IMG_3070

After 8 days, it was time for us to say goodbye to the Golden Princess.  We disembarked via the gangway that we used to board the ship as well.

IMG_3071

IMG_3072

Goodbye Golden Princess

IMG_3079

Thank you for all the wonderful memories

At the port, we found our guide who would be taking us on a short tour of Seattle.  Our first stop was the Space Needle.  On the way there, we passed by several boat houses.

IMG_3082

Our guide pointed out this particular one because it’s quite popular among tourists.  He told us that it was the one that Tom Hanks lived in for Sleepless in Seattle.

Soon we arrived at the Space Needle:

IMG_3092
IMG_3088

IMG_3088a

IMG_3102

IMG_3157

 Our guide gave us our tickets and told us to return to the bus in an hour.  Before making our way up to the top, we decided to take a few pictures first:

IMG_3097a

IMG_3095

I took this nice one of Ezra with the Space Needle.  I had a hard time because I didn’t have my wide angle lens with me. I had to kneel on the ground to capture the whole thing in the frame.  In return, Ezra volunteered to take my picture for me. This was the result:

IMG_3096

 Can you see my huge smile?  No?  How about this one:

IMG_3097

 (I’m so tiny that even my watermark is bigger than me).  Thanks a lot Ez!  (And she had the nerve to complain that she pulled a muscle while taking this shot.)  Fortunately my dad was able to take a decent shot of us

IMG_3097b

After this we made our way inside to get up to the top.  Ezra and I waited for my mom because she had to run to the bathroom, while my dad decided to go on ahead to save us a spot in line. During that short time, a group of tourists arrived and the line got extremely long

IMG_3104

IMG_3108

We spotted my dad way in the front of the line.  He was so far ahead that we felt bad about having to cut in front of all those people.  In the end we just decided to just go to the back of the line.  Unfortunately we didn’t realize how slow the line moved. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the front, which left us with just about 10 minutes to explore the view from the top.  To pass the time, I took a few pictures of my surroundings

IMG_3105
IMG_3108a

IMG_3115At least the line had a nice view of the Chihuly Garden next door

Continue reading

Hello Canada! – Golden Princess Cruise Day 7

We spent most of our 7th day on the ship since we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Canada until later that evening. To keep us occupied, we checked out the different on board activities that the crew had prepared.  We saw that there was an outlet sale at the Bernini Dining Hall so we went to check it out

IMG_2863

IMG_2924

I mostly looked around but didn’t end up buying anything. My parents bought a couple of souvenirs.

After this, we decided to head over to the Princess Theater where the Head Chef and Maitre D’ were holding a cooking demonstration to promote the ship’s cookbook.

IMG_2866

IMG_2874

They put on an entertaining show because the Maitre D’ kept teasing the Head Chef during the demonstration. The chef seemed seemed like a really serious person and the Maitre D’ made it his mission to get a rise out of him

IMG_2883

After demonstrating a few of their recipes, they called the waiting staff up on stage to introduce them. Jerome, our waiter at the Canaletto Dining Hall, was there too of course.  When the show was over, we were invited to take a tour of the ship’s kitchen.

IMG_2894

IMG_2897

IMG_2921

Very clean, as expected.  I was hoping to see a bunch of cooks preparing food but the kitchen was pretty empty during the tour.  We mostly just looked at the equipment they used.   However, they did have a few culinary art on display

IMG_2902

IMG_2905

 Check out the details on this watermelon rose

IMG_2912

IMG_2920

When the tour was over, we made our way back to our rooms to rest

IMG_2926

At 6pm, all the passengers who were asked to obtain a Canadian Visa were asked to gather at Vista Lounge .  A Canadian Visa was one of the requirements for this tour since a stop in Victoria was part of the itinerary.  It didn’t matter if you planned on staying on the ship during the stopover, you still needed to have a Canadian Visa because they check everyone’s passports during Day 1.

IMG_2929

The reason we were asked to gather at the lounge was to make it easier for the Canadian immigration officers.  The process was simple but it took a while.  We were there for about 3 hours before we were allowed to leave.  After making it through immigration, we gathered at the Princess Theater for our tour of the Butchart Gardens

IMG_2933

IMG_2940

We signed up for two tours that day, but they had to cancel the Butterfly Garden tour since we were a little behind schedule.  We were reimbursed of course, but it’s still a shame since we really wanted to see it.

IMG_2945

IMG_2933a

 Hello Canada!

Continue reading

Totem Poles in Ketchikan, Alaska – Golden Princess Cruise Day 6

On our 6th day in Alaska, we explored Ketchikan, AKA The Salmon Capital of the World:

IMG_2733

IMG_2534

Like the newsletter tells us, Ketchikan is a great place to see authentic totem poles, so we signed up for a tour to the Totem Bight State Park.

IMG_2534as

IMG_2534asa

 We debated on whether to see the Lumberjack show too, but we figured one tour was enough for the day

IMG_2537

 We were fortunate enough to find ourselves on Rusden’s bus.  He’s definitely one of the best tour guides we’ve had.  He was funny, knowledgeable and very passionate about Ketchikan’s history.  He clearly loved what he does.  He even baked cookies for us the night before!  We were his first tour group for the season, so we were a bit special 😉

On the way to the park, Rusden pointed out something very interesting about Ketchikan – apparently, they have a lot of these stairway streets in town:

IMG_2537a

Do you see it? They’re actual streets with street names and everything, but they’re essentially just a flight of stairs.

IMG_2546

 Here’s another one

Totem Bight Park was a short drive away.  On our way there, we enjoyed the view while Rusden told us stories about his experiences when he first moved to Ketchikan

IMG_2725

We arrived at the park shortly

IMG_2668

IMG_2568

IMG_2568a

 It was extremely cold that morning!  We were totally unprepared!  I mean, I know that we’re in Alaska and all, but so far all the other places we went to (aside from Glacier Bay) had been pretty warm. I thought Ketchikan would be the same so I just wore a dress and stockings.

IMG_2568b

 My poor mom shivering in the cold while she listened to Rusden’s stories.  He gave us a brief history of the totem poles and explained what each one was used for.

IMG_2572

IMG_2588

 He also showed us the clan house where the Native Americans had their banquets, feasts and meetings

IMG_2598a

IMG_2604

IMG_2608

Continue reading

Glaciers Galore! – Golden Princess Cruise Day 5

The fifth day of our cruise was another sea day, which meant that we stayed on the boat all day.  However, instead of simply being out in the open sea, our cruise took us to the Glacier Bay Basin.

Only two cruise ships are allowed to enter the basin each day to ensure that it is preserved. Rangers from the park were allowed to board our ship that morning so they can provide the guests with facts and trivia about the place.

When we entered the Horizon Court that morning we saw this right outside our window:

DSC04970

DSC04965

We were excited to get a closer look so we quickly inhaled our breakfast and went out on deck

IMG_2354

Guidelines for the tourists

The view from the deck:

DSC04970a (2)

DSC04970a (3)

IMG_2322

There were lots of people out on deck taking pictures of the glacier

IMG_2327

IMG_2483

It was pretty cold that day.  The crew set up a small shop near the ice cream bar where you can buy jackets and other winter gear in case you forgot to pack yours

IMG_2335

There were also crew members going around serving drinks to warm people up

IMG_2330a (1)

That’s the Margerie Glacier behind us

IMG_2277Closer look

IMG_2312

IMG_2291

Occasionally we would see parts of the glacier breaking off and falling into the water

IMG_2294

The ranger told us that the falling ice tells us the direction of the glacier’s movement

IMG_2296

We were also told to watch out for birds flocking around where the ice has fallen. (I forgot why. Something about the ice disturbing the water, which causes the fish to gather there or something …)

It was very cold out on deck.  And it was raining too!

IMG_2351

IMG_2351a

IMG_2367

Continue reading

Twin Telepathy in Skagway, Alaska – Golden Princess Cruise Day 4

Our ship docked in the small town of Skagway around six that morning.  My uncle, who had gone on this same cruise three times already, advised us to skip the tours since the town isn’t that big.  He told us we can save money by just going out and exploring it ourselves.  Since we didn’t have a strict schedule to follow, we took our sweet time getting up that morning and eating our breakfast (which was actually brunch because it was almost 10am by the time we made it to the Horizon Court).

DSC04673

Most of the people were done with breakfast by then so we were able to get a table by the window

DSC04677

Outside we saw this mountain covered in graffiti.  At first I thought that Skagway had a vandal problem but according to this site, it’s actually the work of the crew members from different ships:

This hill has been “decorated” for years by the crews of different ships that dock nearby. The crews honor their captain by painting the name of the ship and captain on the hill. Legend has it that the higher the name, the more the crew respect and love their captain.

Interesting…

We planned on heading into town between 11am and noon.  We had about an hour to spare so Ezra and I walked around the ship.
DSC04673a (2)

We found this dolphin near the Horizon Court

We went up to the deck to check out the view
DSC04673a (3)

Look at those beautiful snow capped mountains

DSC04673a (3)a

DSC04673a (6)a

DSC04673a (5)

There was another cruise ship docked nearby

At around 11:30, we met up with my parents and got ready to explore the town
IMG_1825

A friendly reminder from the crew

Once we got off the ship, we took a few photos as usual

IMG_1841

In front of our Golden Princess

IMG_1825a (4)

IMG_1825a (3)

People queued up for the White Pass Scenic Railway Tour

IMG_1835

IMG_1843

IMG_1846

IMG_1875

IMG_1881

IMG_1882

Continue reading

Juneau, Alaska – Golden Princess Cruise Day 3

Our third day on the ship was my parent’s 30th anniversary.  The crew knew about it beforehand so they prepared a nice little surprise for my parents.  This is what they woke up to that morning:

IMG_1300

IMG_1300a (1)

Lovely way to start off their day 😀

After taking a few pictures, we headed down to the Horizon Court for a heavy breakfast.  We had a shore excursion that would last until the afternoon and we wanted to make sure we had enough energy for it.  This was going to be our first time off the ship since we boarded, so we were pretty excited.  Our tour was going to take us to the Glacier Gardens, the Mendenhall Glacier, and the Macauley Salmon Hatchery.  We were instructed to wait at the Princess Theater for a quick briefing before getting off the boat. We got there early so we passed the time by taking few photos and videos.

IMG_1310a (2)

IMG_1310a (3)

Shortly after this, a crew member appeared to give us some instructions for our tour.  After she was done, we were asked to queue up to disembark the ship.

IMG_1310a (6)

The line moved very slowly~  I think they mentioned that they had a little problem with the gangway.

IMG_1310a (7)

Ezra and I got tired of standing in line and just collapsed on the floor

Finally, after a bit of waiting, we were able to get off the ship:

IMG_1310a (8)

IMG_1316

 Once we made it outside, we looked for our bus where we met our driver/tour guide.  His name was Nico Bus, how cool is that.  He drives a bus, and his last name is Bus.  At first I thought he was trolling, but he was telling the truth XD

IMG_1321

 Hi Nico!

I took some pictures of the beautiful sights outside my bus window on the way to the Glacier Gardens:

IMG_1784

IMG_1335

IMG_1327

IMG_1328

IMG_1334

IMG_1341

After a short drive, we made it to the Glacier Gardens:

IMG_1348

Nico introduced us to another guide who would be showing us around the garden.  He took us to see these upside down trees:

IMG_1348a

IMG_1352a (1)

Continue reading