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Guess what we’re thinking of doing. Yes, another cruise. But this time to Alaska!! How cool is that (literally)? 🙂

It’s on the Norwegian Pearl and we’re looking at May 2012.

We’re planning this trip with another couple and we’re looking forward to exploring a whole new world. Here are some of the excursions that have caught our eye so far. Debating about the dog sledding – pricing is pretty steep for dog sledding on snow plus helicopter ride ($500+ per person). They also have dog sledding on trails (not snow) but somehow that doesn’t seem as authentic…

Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier & Salmon Bake

Work up an appetite walking around the Mendenhall Glacier before you head off to the salmon bake. This traditional salmon bake will be all you can ask for and more.Travel through Juneau’s downtown to the Mendenhall Glacier. Stroll the many walkways or enjoy the Visitor Center, then board your motorcoach for a trip to a traditional Alaskan Salmon Bake. At the Gold Creek Salmon Bake, wild Alaskan caught salmon is grilled over an open alderwood fire. Enjoy the Bonanza barbecued ribs, Cheechako baked chicken, Chilkoot baked beans, Tongass wild-rice pilaf, a variety of fresh salads, corn bread, blueberry cake, and lemonade, coffee or tea. Beer and wine are available for an additional charge. Dine beside Salmon Creek, nestled in the lush foliage of Southeast Alaska’s rainforest, under translucent domes that protect you rain or shine. Afterwards, roast marshmallows over a crackling campfire and view the beautiful Salmon Creek waterfall; remnants of the historic Wagner Mine can also be seen. Return to your ship at your leisure aboard one of the Salmon Bake shuttle buses. Note: The salmon served isalways wild Alaskan Salmon. This tour operates in all weather conditions.

Skagway: Yukon Expedition & White Pass Railway

Besides the gold, see why old-timers were attracted to this place. A deluxe motorcoach takes you to the top of White Pass with its breathtaking views, into Canada and the Yukon Territories. Pan for gold, lunch and get a picture with real racing dogs.

Climb aboard a deluxe motorcoach for a 65-mile journey to experience the magic of the famed Yukon Territory. You’ll climb the South Klondike Highway to the top of the White Pass at 3,292 feet above sea level. Majestic peaks, waterfalls, and glaciers can all be experienced on this incredible drive. Leaving the White Pass and the U.S. behind, you’ll enter Canada, and see the unspoiled beauty of the Yukon Territory. Marvel at the chain of lakes that form the headwaters of the Yukon River, explore the rustic town of Caribou Crossing (Carcross), snap a  quick photo of the ‘world’s smallest desert,’ and enjoy the tales of the Klondike Gold Rush. At Caribou Crossing, you’ll be treated to a delicious chicken barbeque lunch complete with grandma’s famous homemade donuts. After your meal, you’ll have the opportunity to tour the Yukon’s museum exhibit of local wildlife, including the Ice Age Wooly Mammoth. Carry on to the Dog Musher’s Village, where you can visit with Yukon Quest dog mushers and take pictures with the racing dogs and puppies. Once back at Fraser, British Columbia, you’ll board the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad for an unforgettable and breathtaking ride.

Ketchikan: Lighthouse, Totems & Eagles Excursion

Lots to see including eagles. Your boat tour offers views of the Guard Island Lighthouse, a lush rainforest, historic Ward Cove Cannery, the floating city of Loggerville, Revillagigedo Island of the rich and famous, and Guard and Gravina islands.This excursion guarantees excellent eagle viewing. Majestic totems and a waterfront clan house demonstrate the historical native culture at Totem Bight State Park. Get a close-up view of Guard Island Lighthouse. Enjoy a short narrated drive through Ketchikan en route to meet your Captain and Alaskan crew. Board your vessel, where you’ll hear professional narration, while you munch on salmon spread, cheese, crackers, fresh fruit, and cookies. Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, water, or soft drinks are all free. Relax in the heated main cabin or experience the open-air observation deck. Observe the areas of harvest and ancient old growth, and learn of the historical and modern uses of this very special temperate rainforest and its complex ecosystem. Cruise by historic Ward Cove Cannery and Loggerville, Alaska’s only ‘floating town.’ One half of this tour features the Revillagigedo Island waterfront; with its homes of the local ‘rich and famous,’ while the remainder explores the remote Guard Island and primitive Gravina Island. Binoculars are provided for your use. Eagles, of course, are guaranteed and we usually see harbor seals and abundant moon jellyfish. Whales, deer, blue heron and a variety of gulls and sea birds are also common. Note: We recommend you bring a warm, rainproof jacket to wear on the observation deck.

Stay tuned for more developments on this. I’d knock off a few items on the Life List (cruise to Alaska, travel to the Yukon, travel to British Columbia, maybe dog sledding) – this would be cruise #7 (of a target 10 on my life list goals).

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They thought touching the ceiling was cool 🙂

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The last two days were “at sea” days and we enjoyed the sun, relaxed on the ship, saw a couple of shows on board and pretty much vegged for the rest of the cruise!

Chris and I spent Thursday night at the karaoke bar where they hosted Karaoke Idol. Anytime you mix singing with mojitos, I’m there! 🙂 Sue and the girls went to the main show which consisted of performances from various corners of the globe. The girls loved it.

We went to the final grand prize bingo session (and lost).

We played another round of Name That Tune and we tied for first place. 🙂

Friday we went to a Second City improv show which was fun. During the day, we did all our packing, last-minute shopping (duty free rum!), picked up the photos we wanted to purchase taken by the ship’s crew…

Thursday:

Breakfast buffet

Lunch: There was a special event called Taste of India and we went to that. It was fantastic and the staff were all from India which made it even more special. 

  • Starters: Chana Masala, samosas with coriander sauce, a spicy tomato soup (can’t recall the name)
  • Main: Rice, butter chicken, aloo jeera (roasted potatoes), naan bread
  • Dessert: Rice pudding (awesome!)

Supper:

  • Starter: Chicken satay (coconut crusted) with pineapple sauce
  • Main: Atlantic cod with veggies
  • Dessert: Flourless chocolate cake

Friday:

Breakfast in bed, Lunch buffet

Supper:

  • Starter #1: Escargots bourguignone
  • Starter #2: Mozzarella, tomato and basil salad
  • Main: English cut strip loin, yorkshire pudding, potatoes, veggies
  • Dessert: Lime sherbet

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Today, we docked in Nassau. We were supposed to go parasailing today but we were worried that it could be cancelled like the kayak tour, so we changed our plans and decided to visit the Atlantis resort instead, which was awesome.

The resort’s theme is based on the lost city of Atlantis, with casino, beach and pools, aquarium, high-end shopping, water sports, anything you can think of and great for all ages. The architecture was fabulous and the blown glass sculptures scattered throughout the resort were amazing (see pics). We got to tour the Dig, the underground aquarium and saw some great sea life. I got to pet a starfish. 🙂

There’s a suite (nicknamed the Michael Jackson suite since he stayed there at one point) that’s situated in the span between the two main buildings (you’ll see it in the pics) which goes for $25,000 per night with a minimum 4 night stay. Holy moly.

Afterwards, we headed to the marina area and stopped at Jamba Juice for a quick lunch (Mango a-go-go smoothie…mmm).  We actually walked by where the Top Chef finale was held which was pretty cool (Seafire Restaurant). We did some shopping at the straw market (picked up 2 prints which I’ll be framing) then headed back to the ship.

Breakfast Buffet, Lunch at Jamba Juice.

Supper:

  • Starter #1: Mediterranean Sampler including lamb sausage wrapped in grape leaf, red pepper, feta
  • Starter #2: Fatoush salad
  • Main: Grilled steak with peppercorn sauce, fries, zucchini
  • Dessert: Banana cheesecake

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Today we were in Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island. Our original plan was to go on our morning excursion (kayak tour), come back to the ship for lunch and head back for a day at the beach.

We had to take a tender boat to the island, and since our excursion was first thing in the morning, we were on the first tender boat. Unfortunately, once we got there, we were told our kayak tour was cancelled since the water on the back side of the island was too rough. So, we rented a clamshell (see pic below), lazed on the beach, went back to the ship for lunch, then spent the rest of the day on the beach with Sue and the girls. I wasn’t able to cross off kayaking from my Life List but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Breakfast in bed, lunch buffet.

Supper:

  • Starter: Sauteed scallops
  • Main: Turkey with sweet potatoes, dressing, brussel sprouts
  • Wine: Benziger Merlot (we’ll be visiting this winery in the fall so thought it would be fun to try it out)
  • Dessert: Mocha pot de creme

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OMG It’s Harry Potter Day!!!!!

First off, I’d like to put my childlike excitement into perspective… I’ve been a HP fan for years. I’ve read all the books (more than once) and most within a day of receiving them (love special delivery mail on Saturdays). I own all the movies, have seen those more than once too. I’m a fan of the magical world and the whole concept. So, when I heard that Universal was building an entire wing of their park dedicated to Harry Potter, namely Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, well, you can be sure I started planning when we’d be paying a visit. And today was The Big Day!!!

We had breakfast in bed and got ready for our excursion, stopped for a quick lunch by the pool before heading out to our bus. Orlando is about an hour’s drive away – but we finally arrived and made a beeline to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Oh my God. The first peek we got was of Hogwarts in the distance – very cool. As we approached the HP area and walked through the entrance, we were surrounded by the snow-covered roofs in Hogsmeade. We walked by the Hogwarts Express, Zonko’s, Honeydukes, the Three Broomsticks, the Owl Post Office, Ollivanders… It was unreal.

We headed straight for the ride I absolutely didn’t want to miss – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The line was about an hour, but with all the stuff they had to keep you interested along the way, the time flew. From the greenhouse (with fans and water spray to keep cool), to hallways with talking photographs, to Dumbledore’s office where we see Albus, to the Defense Against the Dark arts classroom (where we see Harry, Ron and Hermione – and it snows!), to the great hall with the candles hanging from the ceiling… It was then time for the ride and WOW – it was totally worth the wait. It was similar to the Spiderman ride (like a simulation), and we followed Harry across the grounds of Hogwarts, met a dragon, the spiders, the whomping willow, played some Quidditch, got chased by Dementors, it was awesome. 🙂

Next came a taste of Butterbeer (I liked it, Chris hated it – too sweet for him). We got some pumpkin juice too (apple-cider and pumpkin spice taste). Then came shopping. I went a little crazy…but I knew that going in. I got 2 t-shirts (Dementors and Gryffindor) as well as a cap (Quidditch / Gryffindor).

I also bought a wand! You could choose from all the main characters’ style of wand: Harry’s, Hermione’s, Ron’s, Voldemort’s, Dumbledore’s, Sirius Black’s, McGonagall’s, Ginny’s, and lots more. I, of course, picked Dumbledore’s since it was the Elder Wand (one of deathly hallows), and the most powerful wand of all. It was a no-brainer. 🙂 It was fun to see the choices other people made – there were a couple of Voldemorts, a Harry, a Hermoine, another Dumbledore… Each style was very unique – it was pretty neat.

Next: Honeydukes. Again, went a little nutso in there… I got a chocolate frog (which comes with a collectible card – I got Godric Gryffindor). I also got Peppermint Toads, Every Flavor Beans (I’ll be bringing those to the office for the treats table – to be eaten at your own risk), gummy worms and candy sticks. This store is a candy-lover’s paradise. I didn’t want to leave. 🙂 Next was Zonko’s, where they had all kinds of gag items and fun stuff like extendable ears. It was great.

Then, the Owl Post Office. I picked up 2 journals (one is for you Christina!) and a pen/quill (also for you C). Speaking of quills, anytime you had to sign the credit card receipt for your purchases, you used a feather quill. And everyone called us muggles.

We ate lunch at the Three Broomsticks. The architecture was so wonky, it was hilarious. Mismatched wooden chairs and tables… English food: Chris had the fish ‘n chips, I had Cornish pasties with salad.

I could have stayed there forever.

We decided to eat a light supper before the bus ride back to the ship and stopped at Margaritaville, where we shared the biggest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen. If anyone has been to a Margaritaville, you know it’s a party place. We had a great time – everyone was singing along, dancing, drinking margaritas…

LOVED IT – this was my favourite day!

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Sunday was our first “at sea” day, on our way to Port Canaveral. The weather was cool on deck. Not bathing suit weather just yet but it got into the mid-20s by the afternoon. Luckily there’s so much to do on the ship with no chance of getting bored.

Sue and I (and the girls) went to play Name That Tune while Chris went to get his hair done at the salon ($29 to shave his head!). We didn’t do very well – it was a 70s disco theme and we only got about ten correct. They played a few bars of 20 songs and we had to guess the songs.

We checked out the shops, played some cruise bingo (we almost won a few hundred dollars), explored more of the ship, checked out each others’ rooms, did a lot of relaxing… 🙂

Breakfast: Buffet (first day at the buffet was chaotic but it settled down as the week progressed), had the usual bacon, eggs, etc.

Lunch (dining room):

  • Starter: Fried calamari
  • Main: Penne Bolognese (again because it was so good!)
  • Dessert: …can’t remember and didn’t write it down!

Dinner:

  • Starter: Market greens with pear, pecans, walnuts and goat cheese
  • Main: Lobster tail, red snapper, basmati rice, asparagus
  • Dessert: Apple pie with butter pecan ice cream

Again today, Maddie was asking “When are we going on the boat??” 🙂

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