Monday, November 26, 2012
After boarding the Celebrity Millennium in Honolulu, our first stop was in Hilo, Hawaii for just a few hours. We did not sign up for any tours but took to the streets on our own, which is what we really like to do more than anything too organized.
Hello from Australia! Just a quick note to say we are alive and well and having a wonderful time on our trip. The cruise was a blast, but internet onboard was super pricey and spotty to boot so I mostly just made periodic Facebook updates and didn't try to do anything more. Now I am so far behind that I hardly know where to begin.
I got to pet this cute little guy at a wildlife preserve a few days ago. What fun! We got off the ship last Thursday (Wednesday for you North Americans!), picked up a rental car (or "hired a car" as they say here) and hit the road for the Blue Mountains for a few days. It was quite exciting for Rich to get to drive on the left side of the road whilst operating the controls from the right side of the car. I was a nervous wreck the first day, reminding him to "keep left" and "give way!" ("yield!") but we really did get the knack of it pretty quickly and had no major mishaps. :) The controls for turn signals and windshield wipers are in the opposite position of those in US cars, so Rich says you can tell the American tourists because they are the ones turning into an intersection with their windshield wipers flapping on a sunny summer day in November. (Now that sounds funny, too, doesn't it? Yes, it's summer in the southern hemisphere and a little disconcerting to be hearing Christmas carols and seeing Christmas decorations! Makes you wonder if all the snow-themed, cold weather songs about Christmas seem odd to Australians.)
After several days in the scenic Blue Mountains area, we drove back to Sydney, turned in the car, and checked into an apartment we're renting in the city, within walking distance of many sights and close to public transit if not. We've spent hours exploring and have a ton of photos to share. I'll do my best to post a little bit each day and fill you in on our many adventures. Hope everyone's doing great wherever you are!
Watching the total solar eclipse from the ship. Amazing!
Friday, November 2, 2012
We built in a few days' cushion in case we had bad weather in Unalaska--certainly did not want to miss our cruise! Not to worry, Monday was sunny and calm and we actually had an on-time departure, one of the few I've experienced out of Unalaska! We got to Anchorage around 7 PM and made our way to the Copper Whale Inn for the night. The manager is a supporter of KUCB and one of our underwriters; he gave us an overnight stay for our auction last February and I happened to be the high bidder. It's a cute little place in downtown Anchorage and I was happy to meet him in person after communicating with him for work over the past few years. We walked next door to Simon and Seafort's for a nice dinner before hitting the sack.
Tuesday morning, our friend Anne picked us up, we went to get Jeanette from work and went to an early lunch with them before being dropped off at the airport. It was great to see them and catch up! We had a long flight to Honolulu but the time went by fairly quickly despite being in the dreaded middle seat. There was a medical emergency at the back of the plane so I had a moment of thinking we might be heading back to Anchorage. However, the medical personnel on board got the woman stabilized and we went on. It was also the biggest baby-crying flight I'd been on in a long time. Bless their little hearts, and their moms and dads, too. We've probably all been there and it's no fun to have an upset baby and not be able to do anything to make him or her happy.
We arrived in Honolulu around 6 PM and checked into the Hawaii Prince Hotel at the marina. Here's the view from our window on the 16th floor--so pretty! We immediately went out for a walk and enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather--yay! Had some dinner and came back to our room to crash. Yesterday, we walked to the Ala Moana Mall and spent several hours shopping for various items we needed and couldn't get at home. We are very easily pleased and shopping is big fun after living on a remote island! :)
Since we've been to Honolulu a couple of times before, we are finished with the touristy things and spent our time relaxing (when not shopping!)
This morning we saw our ship heading into the harbor! We had to change hotels due to our complicated relationship with priceline--we made a reservation for the last night while we were still at home, figuring even if we got delayed, we'd be here by now. Then we waited till we got to Anchorage to bid on the first two nights' lodging, which meant we ended up with two different places. Tonight we are at the Seaside Hotel, which is not nearly as nice as the Hawaii Prince. When we got here, we waited around for them to have a room ready for us but when the bellman brought us to our assigned room, it was not clean yet. The bed was unmade, there were towels on the bathroom floor and a water bottle on the bedside table. The bellman quickly took us back downstairs with lots of apologies and we stood around and waited and waited some more. Eventually, they offered us another room, which ended up being much better--nicer and bigger. So maybe, in the end, it was a good thing that other room wasn't ready. Even though the hotel is not as nice as some, the staff have been super friendly and helpful so that makes up for a lot. :)
We then walked a few blocks to a laundromat and washed clothes. I have a bit of a laundry addiction and can't stand to have too many dirty clothes. Plus the ship does not have a self serve laundromat, which kind-of annoys me. You have to hand off your clothes and pay to have them done. SO I would rather start with all of them clean!
Tonight we went to dinner at Duke's with about 30 of our new best friends from the cruise. A woman named Anne, from Michigan, started a Facebook page months ago for anyone on this cruise. There are over 50 of us who have been chatting for quite awhile now and feel like we already know each other somewhat. It was great fun to meet everyone and get to visit in person! It's a fun group and I think the cruise will be more interesting and entertaining since we already know a bunch of people!
We board around noon tomorrow! We are really excited and can't wait to get underway! Will check in when we can and hope to be able to get online often enough to post some photos and a little bit about the trip.