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Let’s visit Seward, Alaska!

Many cruises begin or end in Seward. What is there to do? Is it possible to stay a few days before or after? And how do I get there from Anchorage…or back?

First, let’s get there!

You need a minimum of about 2 1/2 hours to travel between Anchorage and Seward. The 125-mile trip between Anchorage and Seward follows the Anchorage-Whittier route for its first 50 miles, then veers off into the heart of the Kenai Mountains, skirts Kenai Lake and passes the road to Exit Glacier inside Kenai Fjords National Park before arriving at the port. Any additional stops along the way will add time to your journey. Be sure to plan accordingly.

Cruise lines offer transportation from Anchorage to Seward.  Generally, this puts you on a bus or motor coach. This can be the simplest and most direct option and is a good choice for people on a tight schedule. If you are taking the bus on the day your embark, you also have the opportunity to meet some of your fellow cruisers.

If you don’t want to be the first one on the ship, or are staying a day or two in Seward, consider booking your connection through a local tour operator. This opens the door to adventures and interesting sights along the way. There are many good tour operators in Anchorage. A quick google search will give you lots of options. A fun option is Salmon Berry Tours. This transfer takes 7 hours and includes a stop in the quaint town of Girdwood, with lunch at a local eatery, a trip up the side of  of Mt. Alyeska on an aerial tram and a visit to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. https://www.salmonberrytours.com/tour/anchorage-to-seward-transfer-and-tour/

If you are going to Anchorage from Seward, a fun tour to consider is the Big Swig Alaska Crafted and Cruise Transfer. https://www.alaska.org/detail/big-swig-tours

This tour is a ONE-WAY tour from Seward to Anchorage. Big Swig Tours will pick you up at the cruise port. Your first stop is Alyeska Resort, where you’ll board the Alyeska Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska (2,300 ft). The tour includes lunch at the Bore Tide Deli while taking in the incredible views of the Chugach Mountains studded with glaciers. Your next stop is Girdwood Brewing, newly opened in 2017. After this you will drive back to Anchorage, stopping at the largest distillery in Alaska, where you can sample the spirits straight or in a cocktail. The final stop is Double Shovel Cider Company, the first micro-cidery in Alaska. Big Swig Tours will drop you off at your Anchorage hotel or the Anchorage Airport after the tour. Price is $359/person, May-September. It begins in Seward at 9am and ends in Anchorage at 5:30pm, with a maximum of 14 passengers.

Another fun option is the train.

The Coastal Classic turns in front of Bartlett Glacier
The Coastal Classic turns in front of Bartlett Glacier

The Alaska Railroad Coastal Classic traverses Turnagain Arm and then the Kenai Mountains on a historic backcountry route. The train passes three active glaciers while crossing a tract of almost inaccessible wilderness. The 120-mile rail excursion—the most scenic in the state—takes about four hours.

Adventure Class service features lower level cars with comfortable seats beside large picture windows. The Gold Star service features upper level (second story) seating with domed windows, bar, outdoor viewing deck, and a dining car just below.

You can walk around the train while en route, use restrooms, eat in the dining car and catch the view through windows on both sides. Luggage is checked in the baggage car while you bring carry-on items with you. The train slows for wildlife—bald eagles and their nests, moose, even (sometimes) bears. You will see glaciers, waterfalls, wild rivers, big lakes, rugged mountains and extensive wetlands.

Costs and time will vary, depending on when you go. The Alaska Railroad website has all the information, times and prices. https://www.alaskarailroad.com Be prepared to get up really early to catch the train….it leaves at 6:45am!

Well….you’ve made it to Seward! There are so many fun and adventurous activities in Seward. It is a very walkable town. The pedestrian friendly port village has tons of activities, restaurants, museums and a public aquarium, plus hiking, paddling and fishing. It’s a launch point for deep-sea fishing and marine tours into Kenai Fjords National Park.

If whale watching and/or glaciers are on your must do list (and let’s be honest…your in Alaska, so it probably is!), a visit to the Kenai Fjords is a must. This is Seward’s most popular excursion and is a comfortable and affordable way to experience wildlife and glaciers. Trips range from 3.5 to 9 hours. The further out you go, the more likely you are to see wildlife and tidewater glaciers. Day cruises are perfect for groups of all ages and activity levels. Lunch and dinner options are available on many itineraries. This is also an excellent option if you want to do something prior to embarkation. A short tour works well, as most ships don’t depart until evening.

https://www.seward.com/things-to-do/tours/day-cruises-and-boat-charters/

You have plenty of other options available also. Flightseeing, fishing, the public aquarium, hiking and even dog sledding.

Seward is home to some of Alaska’s most accomplished mushers. The Seavey family boasts 8 Iditarod Championships, with Dallas Seavey tying for the most wins ever after earning a fifth victory in 2021, and Travis Beals and Sarah Stokey both have memorable finishes in “the last great race on earth.” It’s the dogs, though, that steal the show on any dog sledding or kennel experience.

Take a kennel tour and explore behind the scenes of an Iditarod sled dog team with detailed tours of facilities, training programs and more. Help the excited pups train for the Iditarod by hopping in a wheeled “sled” and touring the property. These family-friendly tours are fun and affordable. Each summer there are puppies that enjoy being held by friendly visitors.

For a unique adventure, take a scenic helicopter flight to a remote glacier across Resurrection Bay and enjoy a snowy dog sled ride surrounded by icy mountain peaks. Your family will talk about this exhilarating experience for years to come.

Lodging options run the gamut from campsites to luxury hotels. I have personally stayed at Harbor 360 Hotel and can highly recommend. Great location and you have incredible views!

You won’t go hungry in Seward! There are many restaurants, bars, snack spots, coffee bars, breweries and pizza. If you love seafood, you have hit the jackpot!

Whatever you decide to do while in Seward…whether it be for an afternoon or overnight…you will thoroughly enjoy it. There is something magical about Alaska…the air, the people, the mountains, the ocean. Have a fabulous vacation!

Things to be sure to pack for your cruise!

PASSPORT! and other important travel documents, such as your vaccination card and Covid test.  I keep mine in a clear vinyl sleeve that I purchased on Amazon.  Keep these items in your carryon…you will need them to check in at the pier.  I find a travel wallet to be very useful. And don’t forget a mask to wear in the cruise terminal and while onshore. Some ports are still requiring them. My favorite is from Tally-Ho Design. You can find them on Facebook. Super comfortable, deliver quickly and can custom design a special mask just for you. Also a favorite of Capt Kate…they made her sparkly captain’s mask.

Small backpack or tote for shore excursions or for heading to the pool. Tally-Ho Design makes the one I love to use while onboard! They will also be happy to make you a custom bag if you have a design you prefer!

Packing cubes – keep your clothing organized and protected while traveling.  Also makes unpacking in your cabin super easy and fast.

Highliter – mark the activities on the daily planner you want to do onboard. However, with the new ship’s apps that are being developed, you may find that easier to use instead of the paper ones. It is also helpful to highlight important information on other papers that are left on your bed each evening.

Ziplock bags – good for dirty laundry, wet suits, keeping phones sand and water free

Hat – protect your head and face from the sun

Sunscreen – cheaper than buying on the ship!

Sunglasses – glare off the water can be very strong

Chargers for phones, computers, notepads, etc.

Charging device with extra plugs (not a power strip, most ships do not allow these any longer)

Towel clips – keep your towel on the chair, either on the ship or at the beach

Also useful is an anti-theft bag for beach chairs, such as AquaVault

Over the door hanger – helps to organize smaller items in the cabin

Magnetic hooks or clips – hang jackets, hats, keep important papers organized.

Pain killers (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) and a few bandaids…easier than going to the ship’s doctor

Bottle bags for packing liquor – protect your belongings when traveling home

And of course…..CLOTHES! Bathing suits are a must, especially if you are planning a beach day. No need to bring beach towels….the ship will provide them for you. Comfortable clothes to wear around the ship during the day. For evenings, dressy outfits for “formal” nights….evening gowns and tuxedos are not mandatory, but some people will still wear them. Wear what makes you happy, as long as you follow the ships requirements. Most do not allow shorts or gym clothes in the dining room for dinner. The ships can be chilly in the evenings, so a light sweater is a good idea.

I hope this helps make packing a little easier. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Celebrity Edge Tour and Day at Sea

Curious to see what the Edge is like? Here is a quick video taken by my son and his fiancee. Watch and subscribe to see what else this cute couple is up to!

My return to sailing!

I am so excited to share that I was FINALLY able to get back on a ship! My last cruise was on the Celebrity Equinox in January, 2020. On Sept 30, 2021, my daughter Erin and I stepped foot on the Celebrity Summit. The walk down the gangplank onto the ship was exciting and slightly emotional. Crew members were cheering us onboard….such a great beginning to our return.

This was a last minute cruise for us. My wonderful husband told us to book the cruise on Sunday, the 26th. The ship departed Miami just four days later! We decided to drive from Orlando Wednesday afternoon and spent the night at the Hilton Downtown Miami. We had an incredible room with a view of the port. The hotel was basically empty and being a Diamond member with Hilton, we got a free upgrade. On Embarkation Day, we woke up to a view of our beautiful ship.

Within walking distance is a Publix for last minutes snacks, beverages for your room or forgotten items. Erin found a great restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner, Casablanca on the Bay. It is also within walking distance and on Wednesday has a fabulous happy hour and free oysters! We ordered roasted octopus, drinks and multiple plates of oysters….soooo good!

We had an 11:30am time slot for embarkation. We decided to leave the hotel around 10:30 to give us time to drive to the port (all of 10 minutes away), park in the structure directly across from the pier and walk over. We arrived about 10:45. After delivering our luggage, we entered the terminal and proceeded directly to checkin. After a brief check of our vaccination cards and Covid tests, we were directed upstairs to checkin where our documents were checked once again. Embarkation had already begun, so we were able to proceed directly onboard. We stepped foot onboard for the first time in 20 months by 11:20am! Crew members, including Cruise Director Sue Denning, were waiting for us with cheers and waves. It was an emotional moment.

Celebrity has changed the manner in which they deliver room keys….this started before the pandemic. We were able to go directly to our cabin, collect our room key (which was waiting for us outside the door) and drop off our carryons. The Summit was updated prior to the shutdowns….I love the new decor and bathrooms.

it was now time to go explore and get a refreshing beverage (or two!).

We had already watched the new muster drill video at the hotel, so all we needed to do was go to our muster station and check in. Easy peasy….done in 5 minutes! If you aren’t familiar with this new protocol, you can learn about it here: https://wordpress.com/post/zest4travel.wordpress.com/2489

We had not sailed on a Millennium class ship in several years. Summit was actually our very first cruise ship back in 2006 when we sailed from Seward, Alaska. It was fun to refresh our memory of the layout and see what changes had been made. I loved the new design of the Oceanview Cafe…..so open and easy to maneuver around. When the ship is back to capacity, it will be much easier than the old cafeteria style layout. The staff are incredible….they could not do enough to make us happy. If you want something that isn’t in plain sight, just ask….if at all possible, they will make it happen.

The entertainment staff had lots of fun activities planned for our 4 day cruise. Poolside dancing, game shows throughout the cruise, nightly shows and several entertainers around the ship. There was a Full Moon White Party (which had to be held inside due to rain) and of course, the iconic and always amusing Silent Disco.

Our only port was Cozumel, which we had not been to before. A trip to the beach would have been fun, as the water was beautiful.

We decided to just walk around the port for a little while and returned to ship to enjoy the pool and an almost empty ship.

One of our favorite restaurants is Sushi on Five. After having appetizers in the main dining room, we enjoyed sushi and the specialty cocktails one evening. The chef even prepared some off menu ones for us (which unfortunately I did not get photos of).

Our waitstaff in the main dining room were great. We mentioned how much we loved scallops….the next night, they brought us a special plate FILLED with freshly sautéed scallops. So Good! And our sommelier went above and beyond to find us wines that complemented our meals. She even poured us some “out of package” ones to try. Miguel made us a special dessert plate on our last night. Again….the crew are amazing.

One of the things that makes Celebrity so special is running into crew members who remember you from previous cruises. We had several on this cruise….bar staff, wait staff, Cruise Director Sue Denning and our all time favorite Captains Club hostess, Rose. These are the people who make you feel like you have returned home.

All to soon, it was time to depart the ship and return home. The Summit was a wonderful return to sailing for us. If you are “on the fence” about returning to a ship….DO IT! I honestly feel that ships are far safer than land based hotels or airplanes. Celebrity is going above and beyond to keep the ship clean and crew and passengers safe.

Until next time…..fair winds and following seas!

Suprise engagement on the Celebrity Edge!

My son took his girlfriend on the Celebrity Edge Sept 26, 2021. They received an upgrade to a Sky Suite and the staff helped him plan a surprise engagement. Please watch the video!

Celebrity returns to sailing!

FINALLY….some good news for the North American cruise industry.

Celebrity Cruises will return to sailing on June 5, 2021.

The Millennium will homeport in St. Maarten. Bookings will begin on March 25th for 2 different 7-night itineraries, with pricing starting at $1,999 for a veranda stateroom.

The itinerary offerings include:

Aruba, Curaçao and Barbados – This trifecta of spectacular islands offers plenty of wonder from Aruba’s natural rock pools, caves and volcanic lava formations; to the colorful Dutch-colonial-style buildings and the Willemstad City Center UNESCO World Heritage Site in Curaçao; to snorkeling and catamaran sailings in the cool blue waters of Barbados

Tortola, St. Lucia and Barbados – In addition to the many water adventure offerings in Barbados, this itinerary adds in St. Lucia’s lush green landscape and relaxing Sugar Beach; along with one of the British Virgin Islands’ treasures, Tortola, with its mountainous landscape and beautiful sandy coves that are enough to make any beach lover swoon.

All crew and passengers over the age of 18 must be vaccinated and also test negative no more than 72 hours prior to boarding. More details regarding masks, social distancing onboard and excursions will be provided shortly.

Welcome back Celebrity….we’ve missed you!

A Safe Return to Sailing

Royal Caribbean Group has released their comprehensive program to protect everyone’s health onboard their ships.

Below is a link to the panels 74 detailed steps to safeguard the health of crew, passengers and communities.

Reinventing the muster drill

Royal Caribbean has a solution for the muster drill congestion problem. Muster 2.0 has been in development for over a year. This new technology will allow passengers to complete the muster drill without disrupting their vacation prior to the ship’s departure, in accordance with maritime law.

“The health and safety of our guests and crew are our number one priority, and the development of this new muster process is an elegant solution to an outdated, unpopular process,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “The fact that this will also save guests time and allow the ship to operate without pause means that we can increase health, safety and guest satisfaction simultaneously.” 

“Muster 2.0 represents a natural extension of our mission to improve our guests’ vacation experiences by removing points of friction,” said Jay Schneider, Royal Caribbean Group’s senior vice president of digital. “In this instance, what’s most convenient for our guests is also the safest option in light of needing to reimagine social spaces in the wake of COVID-19.”

Passengers will be able to access the information an individual basis instead of the group approach that has been followed historically. New technology, eMuster™, will be used to help provide the information to guests via their mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs. Passengers will be able to review the information prior to setting sail, eliminating the need for the traditional large group assemblies. The new approach also enables everyone on board to maintain better spacing as guests move about the ship. 

After reviewing the safety information individually, guests will complete the drill by visiting their assigned assembly station, where a crew member will confirm that all steps have been completed and answer questions.

This is the first dramatic change to the safety drill process in a decade. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas removed the life jackets from guest staterooms to the muster stations, which improved the evacuation process and has been widely followed throughout the industry. Muster 2.0 is also an initiative that will be part of the comprehensive set of protocols and procedures Royal Caribbean Group is developing along with the Healthy Sail Panel that was recently assembled in collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Royal Caribbean Group is offering to license the patented technology to interested cruise operators and will waive patent license fees during the time the world and industry battle the global pandemic. Patent licenses have already been granted to the company’s joint venture, TUI Cruises GmbH, as well as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Muster 2.0 was first tested on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas in January 2020. Guests who took part in the mock process indicated a strong preference for the new approach and also reported better comprehension and retention of the safety information.

We LOVE these masks!

We are happy to announce that we have partnered with Enchanting Treasure. They are a small, family owned business located in central Florida. The masks are custom made and can be individualized for each customer. Don’t see an enhancement you like? Or want a different sea creature without pass holder? Just ask them….they will be happy to help.

Please reach out to them on Facebook. Masks are $10 each with $5 US shipping. International orders will be considered on an individual basis.

What will cruising look like in the future?

What will cruising look like when we can finally return? This is the question everyone is asking. The most honest answer? Who really knows?

All cruise lines are developing new safety and health protocols to be implemented once they return to sailing.  Each line has a different name for these new protocols but they are all basically the same. Some of the new features may include the following:

Pre-Boarding & Embarkation

  • Guests will check in online and complete a health questionnaire
  • Guests will receive an assigned arrival time to minimize congestion
  • Guests will undergo temperature checks before entering the terminal
  • Guests will complete a second health questionnaire at the terminal
  • A second temperature check will be done at the ship gangway via contact-free fever screening systems
  • Guests who show signs of illness will be seen by the medical staff and may be denied boarding
  • Luggage will be disinfected before it is brought aboard
  • Additional measures and precautions may be required depending on ports of embarkation/disembarkation

Capacity Control & Social Distancing

  • Reduced capacity when ships resume service
  • Reduced capacity in restaurants, entertainment, fitness center, pool deck, casino, retail spaces, bars and lounges
  • Social distancing of at least six feet of those outside of one’s travel party will be required
  • Reduced capacity in elevators

Disinfection Protocols

  • Frequent disinfection with medical-grade products listed on the EPA List N, and approved for use against COVID-19, norovirus and other infectious diseases
  • Frequent disinfection of all guest accommodations utilizing medical-grade disinfectants
  • Onboard social spaces disinfected with increased frequency including all public bathrooms, corridors, stairwells and elevators, restaurants, bars, lounges, entertainment and enrichment venues, retail spaces, fitness center and spa
  • Touchpoints such as handrails, elevator buttons, table-tops, door handles, etc., disinfected with increased frequency during peak hours
  • All dedicated children’s and teens’ facilities disinfected frequently
  • All recreational equipment disinfected with increased frequency
  • Public areas will be deep cleaned and meticulously disinfected with medical-grade disinfectants during overnight hours
  • Electrostatic foggers will be used as an additional tool for disinfection
  • Additional hand sanitizing stations using alcohol-based sanitizer will be placed strategically throughout the ship

Responsive Mask Policy

Masks will be required in venues and instances where proper distancing is not possible, including restaurants before being seated, show lounges, casino, fitness center, elevators, ship tenders, shoreside terminals and tour dispatch areas

Cruise lines will comply with all destination health authorities, which may require masks ashore

Food & Beverage

  • Open Seating Dining will continue with social distancing considerations
  • Guest seating will ensure ample spacing
  • Disposable cutlery will be provided, upon request
  • In-room dining choices will be available 24/7
  • Contact-free dining service will be implemented in all onboard venues
  • Self-service options will be eliminated in the buffet areas
  • All restaurants, bars and galleys will be disinfected with increased frequency
  • Increased hand washing and use of hand sanitizing stations will be required
  • Stringent procurement guidelines will be enforced

Air Filtration & Ventilation

  • All air filters and cooling coils are frequently thoroughly checked and maintained to ensure the highest standard of air quality possible
  • Guest accommodations and corridors set aside for isolation in the event of illness feature ventilation systems with separate ducting and air supply

Shoreside Partners & Excursions

  • Tour coaches and tenders will be disinfected to meet each cruise lines standards
  • Excursion group sizes will be reduced to help allow for proper social distancing
  • Each line will monitor port regulations and adjust requirements and schedules as needed to maintain guests’ health and wellbeing
  • Cruise lines will strongly recommend that guests who choose to book tours independently consider that these operators may fall short of the disinfection standards that are required of their partners
  • Cruise lines will partner with local destinations and tour operators to ensure the industry-leading health and sanitation protocols extend to the shoreside experience
  • Cruise lines will only visit safe, open ports of call; this may cause changes to the itinerary
  • Guests will be kept up to date with the latest confirmed itinerary changes
  • Additional health screenings may be required by local health officials before disembarkation in certain ports

Crew member Standards & Practices

  • Crew to be tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding
  • Crew will undergo frequent temperature checks and regular health monitoring
  • Crew will wear face shields, masks and other necessary PPE when interacting with guests
  • Crew transfer between ships will be minimized
  • Crew are prohibited from personal contact with guests such as handshaking and hugging
  • Crew are trained on health and safety measures

Medical Center & Services

  • The medical team comprises a doctor and nurses aboard each ship, available around the clock

Public Health Officer

  • The Public Health Officer is trained in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program
  • Oversees outbreak mitigation and cleaning protocols
  • Closely coordinates with medical teams
  • Ensures that daily cleaning protocols are in accordance with CDC guidelines

We are all anxious to return to cruising. Hopefully, this will occur sooner rather than later. Right now, sailing is paused until the end of September 2020 and Princess has just announced a further pause till December 15, 2020. It would not be surprising to see other lines follow this extended pause.

Until then….wash your hands, keep physical distance from others, stay home if you feel sick and wear a mask when you go out.

We wish you fair winds and following seas.

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