Ruby Princess – 1 Night Repositioning Cruise

Repositioning cruises can be a lot of work. Most travel agents and seasoned cruisers cringe the moment you say the words repositioning cruises. I get it, it’s a lot of effort for less than 24 hours on a ship, however I feel I have a system down pat that is as effortless as possible. Research your options as early as possible to make the day go as seamless as it can. This cruise was a one day repositioning from Vancouver to Seattle, in the Fall the repositioning cruises will be from Seattle to Vancouver.

By 8:00am my Aunt and I were caravanning into the USA to drop a car off in Bellingham at an airport parking lot for cheap, safe parking. I had booked the Bolt Bus back to Bellingham as it’s a very reasonable option (it was $8.00 USD from Seattle to Bellingham), so we could just clear customs ourselves and get back to White Rock without having to backtrack.

Once back in Canada we picked up our other travelling buddies (a coworker and my Grandmother) parked back at my Aunt’s and boarded the express bus to Bridgeport Station from South Surrey, exchanging to the Canada Line straight to Waterfront, right around the corner from Canada Place (the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal). We arrived just after 10:00am and could have arrived earlier. If there is more than one ship in port, they are directing people to go upstairs after a certain time into a “holding area” in the convention centre. We were given a green card and a number and sat down. They do have free wi-fi in the holding area, which I can see would really help and offset some of the painful waiting time during peak times. We didn’t have to use it however as our assigned number was called within twenty minutes or so. They have the holding area so that they can control groups of about 50-100 people to go through security at once, it is good as at least there are chairs, access to water and washrooms in the convention centre. Once through security we were lined up and sat in rows in another holding area to go through US Customs. There is a Nexus line, so if you had Nexus (my coworker didn’t so we sat in line with him), it would save you more time. We waited here about another twenty minuted and we were called to go through Customs.

I’m so happy I was able to use the priority line at this point, when I check in I have Elite Captain’s Circle as I have completed their travel agent training program. This gives me quite a few awesome perks which I’ll talk about in a minute, however skipping the very long check in line at this point was a huge advantage. Within ten minutes we were boarding the Ruby Princess, Black Elite cruise card in hand. By this time they were boarding, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the embarkation lounge for Platinum and Elite passengers. We were welcomed onboard and we headed straight for our rooms. I had booked a balcony stateroom, however was able to get an upgrade to a mini suite at no extra charge.

We were assigned D304, a wheelchair access mini suite. I have to say I really liked our room. It was massive. If ever offered, I would totally take a wheelchair accessible room again. I didn’t mind not having a bathtub, when I cruise I’ve never taken a bath anyways. In the bathroom, my Elite bathroom amenity kit was placed (it included an eye gel mask, lip balm, linen spray and a few other extras). The extra room also meant an extra large balcony! The room steward had our free mini bar set up (Elite perk) and three glasses of champagne waiting for us (mini suite perk). Great start to a cruise!

We headed to Da Vinci’s Dining Room for a seated lunch. The food was really good however the portions were a little on the large side, so I couldn’t finish my dessert. We then went off to explore the ship. It’s a pretty big ship, the Ruby Princess has a guest capacity of 3,082, so it’s a medium to large ship for sure. It has 4 pools (one is adult only, near the front of the ship near The Sanctuary), mid-ship you will find Movies Under the Stars (a jumbotron overlooks another pool) and at the aft Skywalkers Lounge with some pretty awesome outdoor space above.

Then the annoyances began to surface. I endured the lengthiest by far muster drills ever. I lost 45 minutes of my life and was not happy about it. It was so disorganized, as people were still boarding the ship during muster. They should have postponed it until the last guests had boarded, that way we could have been enjoying the ship, instead of sitting unnecessarily for almost an hour (clock is ticking on these short cruises).

After the self guided ship tour and muster station mayhem, my Aunt, Grandmother and I decided a snack was a good idea, we stopped by the Pizza and Ice Cream Bar for a very fresh (and delicious) slice of Margherita pizza and a vanilla/chocolate twist ice cream cone. Gotta test all the food options right?

We headed back to our room and enjoyed a cerveza on our balcony as we pulled away from Canada Place, it was Cinco de Mayo, so a Mexican beer was very fitting! Once we sailed away, we went to the aft of the ship to Deck 19 where we awaited sailing under Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge, a definite highlight! With just a few feet to clear, we sailed under, waving to bystanders on the bridge. After a few videos and photos, we were en route to the Elite sailaway party in Skywalkers lounge. They offered complementary hors d’oeuvres and drink specials. In keeping with the Cinco de Mayo theme, it was margaritas all around and they were delicious.

It was then time to walk off the snacks with a little bit of shopping. We headed down to the Promenade Deck, where we checked out our boarding photos and checked out the boutiques. I bought a magnet (I always buy a ship magnet) and a shot glass. My mug cabinet is getting a little full, so I swap it up from time to time to shot glasses from mugs to save on space. It was time to go back to our room, relax a bit before dinner. Our view from our room was facing East, so we were facing Vancouver and that side of the coast as we sailed. There is something so calming about sailing on a ship, I love it. Makes me really excited to sail again in August (this time for longer and on the Mediterranean Sea). Cruising is my happy place for sure.

We ate dinner in Botticelli’s Dining Room at the aft of the ship. We were seated at the very back of the ship at one of the windows. It was such a nice view of the sunset. Shame that’s where our pleasant dining experience ended. Our waiter was very inattentive, I had to ask for a wine list. The girls seated beside us (a bachelorette party) clearly were just onboard to party and very inconsiderate to everyone else with the noise level. It was just very disappointing. I was disappointed in the service level I am used to when cruising and disappointed in the group next to us acting like children in a what is supposed to be a nice dining room. It kind of tarnished my view of Princess Cruises to be honest. I know one day cruises are an anomaly, they can be rowdy, however that is usually kept to the clubs after dark or in the buffet. I was surprised. The food however was delicious and the company at our table was great.

After dinner, we trekked all the way forward to the Princess Theatre where we saw the show “Magic to Do”. This was probably the best show on a cruise ship I had ever seen! It was so good! Definitely a highlight of this cruise. By the time the show had ended it was past 11:00pm, we said our good nights and headed back to our respective staterooms. I sat on the balcony for awhile wrapped up as it was quite chilly and watched the lights in the distance slowly fade by. It was a very smooth sailing, never felt the ship sway once.

I woke up very early, I guess I sensed us pulling into the harbour near Seattle. I again bundled up and went out onto the balcony where the Eurodam (a Holland America ship) was just ahead of us docking, then it was our turn to maneuver into position and alongside the pier. We all got dressed and headed upstairs to Horizon Court (the buffet) where we had coffee and breakfast. The waffles are worth the wait, just saying. So crispy and delicious, plus they have lots of toppings to choose from. The buffet selection was very good and very fresh. Once breakfast was over it was time to check out of our room and wait in the Elite disembarkation lounge until we wanted to leave the ship. It was a very quick trip and it had some ups and downs. I was really disappointed in the level of customer service onboard and others noticed the same. I had better customer service in general on my Norwegian Cruise this past Fall and they are supposed to be lower than Princess.

Upon leaving the ship, my shopping bag had developed a hole from my water bottle leaking, which my shot glass fell out and broke on the gangway (thankfully I was able to repair it once I got home), just kinda summed up my trip with Princess, I was left disappointed. We got off the ship only to wait in another long line for passport control, two lines, one from the Eurodam and one from the Ruby. Then joined another long line for taxis.

It was a $20.00 USD cab fare from the Smith Cove Cruise Ship Terminal (Terminal 91) to where the Bolt Bus was going to pick us up, and we got there in plenty of time. Once we boarded the Bolt Bus, we were in Bellingham an hour and a half later. The airport parking had arranged for the shuttle to meet us at the bus terminal, so it was a easy ride back to my car and back home.

Overall, I had a great time. I do like these one day cruises. Talking to other guests, it seems like the customer service and lack of friendliness is contained to the Ruby Princess. So I am willing to give them another try. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing another one this year however, too many other trips to look forward to and not enough time 😉

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The Adventure Group Whistler – Snowmobiling, The BC Tour

I checked into the The Adventure Group desk at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler just before 12:00pm on January 23rd, 2017. I signed my waiver and showed my Vancouver Experience Pass. I was so excited to try this company out! Speaking to the desk agent, while we waited for my shuttle to arrive, I sounds like what they offer is really exciting and can’t wait to try all their activities. Once the shuttle arrived, I was taken to “Cougar Base” located on Cougar Mountain just North of Whistler. There were a couple other people on my tour. The BC Tour they offer is an intermediate snowmobiling tour. It had been a few years since I had been snowmobiling last, however I had confidence in my abilities.

I was fitted for a helmet and offered goggles, mittens and boots. I brought my own, however it’s really great to know that if you did want to take advantage of a tour last minute, they can help outfit you. We were then introduced to our guides Timon and Josh. They walked out to the snowmobiles where we were briefed on safety instructions and a refresher on how to use a snowmobile. Then we were off.

It was so much fun! The views of the mountains were just incredible and really enjoyed every minute of this tour. We did get off the main logging roads (The Adventure Group Whistler grooms their own trails that were once active logging roads) and hit some single track trails. It was just amazing! The pace was based on how we were all doing, and never felt like it was too fast or too slow. They do take you out in smaller groups as well, which I really appreciated. I did take a few photos at a couple of the viewpoints we stopped at. It seemed to go by way too fast, and about an hour and forty five minutes later we were back at “Cougar Base”. I thanked Timon and Josh for guiding such a great tour and boarded my shuttle back to The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

I can’t say enough good things about this snowmobile tour and highly recommend it. The Adventure Group Whistler also offers other types of snowmobiling tours, including a beginner and an advanced tour. They also offer many other activities in the Winter and Summer. For more information on The Adventure Group Whistler, please click here to visit their website.

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Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 2

We started off today early… 4:45am early.

We met Anthony our Rocky Mountaineer FAM Host in the hotel lobby at 6:10am. Once we were all assembled we were given our boarding passes, luggage tags and we were off to the Rocky Mountaineer Station. We were supposed to be a little earlier than the rest of the guests because they incorporated a train inspection of the GoldLeaf train. I’ve already seen it, but it was a nice start to the day. The only issue was that we were given the wrong vouchers and we were waiting for the correct taxi company to arrive. They didn’t show up in time, so we boarded a bus that was heading to the station instead. Because we were early, I made sure to get a photo of the locomotive this time as I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a photo of it anywhere else on our journey.

We then assembled inside the station for the “All Aboard” call. It’s kind of a tradition. Afterwards we boarded our respective trains. It was so nice to get onboard and relax. We left the Rocky Mountaineer Station at 7:55am and were on our way to Kamloops. We were all served some fruit juice and had a welcome toast. As we were toasting we slowly moved by the “wave off”, just over one month ago I was waving off a Rocky Mountaineer train, now I was on the receiving end this time.

Once we were out of New Westminster, we were served a warm cinnamon and raisin scone along with a fruit salad and coffee. This was the start of the never ending food. About twenty minutes later we were served an omelette with apple chicken sausages with roasted potatoes and tomatoes. It was really interesting to see a different side of travelling out of Vancouver through the Fraser Valley. Once 9:30am hit, coffee and Bailey’s were free flowing as we were going through Mission. The scenery along this leg of the journey changes quite a bit, from the farm land of the Fraser Valley, to the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate and Cisco Crossing in the Fraser Canyon to desert near Kamloops. British Columbia is very diverse in the way of ecosystems and microclimates.

We actually did really well on this trip. Typically fright trains have right of way and priority. However we only stopped and waited once for about fifteen minutes for a train just outside of Cache Creek.

Food just came coming, we were given snacks and had a Whistler Beer. We were given a delicious tomato salad with a mustard seed dressing followed by “lunch” which I had Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and root vegetables. It was amazing. This was followed by more coffee and Bailey’s and a brownie cake. The scenery from the train was amazing. Hearing the stories and the history of the railroad and the area made the trip that much more memorable. I was just taking every moment in. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with this journey so far. It’s truly amazing. Today we saw some bighorn sheep and many eagles along the river. We reached Kamloops ahead of schedule due to no delays with fright trains. We were welcomed into Kamloops by two volunteers on horseback, waving us “welcome”. This time the transfer situation was much more streamlined. We were given hotel keys before we even left the train. When we did leave the train, we were steps away from our bus that took us to our hotel, The Thompson Inn. Our suitcases along with a note and some chocolates were waiting for us in our rooms. This alone makes the Rocky Mountaineer stand out and truly sets them apart from any other tour company I know. Their customer service is outstanding.

Click Here to Read – Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 3

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

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Keep Calm and Ride the Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 1

I am so unbelievably excited!

To be invited to experience the Rocky Mountaineer is an amazing opportunity. To me this is a bucket list trip. My aunt was actually involved with them and helped develop their first reservation system. So the Rocky Mountaineer fascination for me goes way back. When living in Revelstoke, BC for a time, the train would constantly go through. I always told myself, one day I would be on that train. Well my day has come. Tomorrow morning, along with eleven other travel agents, we will be doing the Rocky Mountaineer First Passage to the West in SilverLeaf from Vancouver, BC to Banff, AB with an excursion extension ending in Calgary, AB.

Tonight we started our familiarization trip at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, BC. This is one of the hotels that Rocky Mountaineer uses for guests who are adding pre-hotels in SilverLeaf service. I love the Starwood Brand group of hotels. I am a Starwood Gold Preferred Guest and always love staying at these properties. I am also a member of their “Pro” program which is for travel professionals.

I checked into my room (2352 in the North Tower) and got settled in. The towers are beautiful and the rooms are spacious. The Sheraton Wall Centre is located in the heart of downtown Vancouver and offers amazing views of the city. We did a site tour and viewed a few of the other room categories, the North Tower is definitely more newer and all rooms are larger. South Tower has undergone major renovations, however standard rooms are smaller.

After a great group dinner, a few of us chatted for awhile before heading for a very much needed sleep before a VERY early start tomorrow morning, we are meeting our Rocky Mountaineer Host downstairs at 6:10am!

Click Here to Read –  Rocky Mountaineer – First Passage to the West – Day 2

PS – Did you enjoy reading this travel guide? Please consider joining my Wanderlust Journey Community as a Patron supporter. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee per month (my community membership tiers start at $2 per month), you can help support me create more content! Click here for more details.

Norwegian Pearl – 1 Night Repositioning Cruise

Back in June I was given the opportunity to sign up for a one night repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Pearl on September 25th, which I totally jumped on! The cruise left Seattle, WA and travelled to Vancouver, BC. To get to Seattle, I took the Amtrak train from Vancouver. The train ride was very relaxing, and going through White Rock it really gave a different view. Usually I’m walking along the pier watching the trains go by, this time I was on it 🙂 By Amtrak it is a 4 hour journey from the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver to the King Street Station in Seattle. The train does have priority, so we only had to wait a couple times briefly for a cargo train to finish passing. Once I got to Seattle, it was a $8.40 USD cab ride to Pier 66 where the Norwegian Pearl was docked. I arrived at the pier at 11:30am, checked in, waited 5 minutes then we were boarding the ship. They did say that the rooms were quite not ready when we entered the main atrium, however mine was. I was assigned a balcony stateroom (10586), Category BA. The NCL Pearl is going into dry dock February 2017, I’m going to be honest, it needs it. The carpets in the staterooms are quite loud, it’s currently a colour  theme that fits the Caribbean, not necessarily anywhere else haha. The bed was quite comfortable, bathroom is quite small. The Pearl has a coffeemaker in the room, great for coffee on the balcony in the morning. I was hoping to take a look at a room service menu (as I heard that NCL started charging for room service on some items) however I couldn’t find one in my room, possibly because it was just a short cruise.

After settling in a little bit, I went to the Summer Palace to eat lunch. This is the main dining room on Deck 6 at the very back of the ship. It’s definitely starting to look a little tired. However the food and service was excellent. I had a Caesar Salad to start, followed by a delicious burger and a peanut butter cup chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Did I mention the food was good? After lunch I explored the rest of the ship. The Starlight Theater was beautiful and I can’t say enough great things about the Mandara Thermal Suite (except for a customer service issue at the end). The sauna has an amazing view! If you are ever on this ship, it is a must do, the saunas are part of the female/male only areas which for me is an even bigger plus. I really loved the heated mosaic loungers, the only downside is that they are not facing the windows as I’ve experienced on other ships. The outdoor areas have lots of deck space, the back of the ship has a rock climbing wall and a huge multi sport area. The promenade deck has oversized checkers, chess and shuffleboard. There are so many lounges onboard, having a drink while listening to live music is always an option. The “sail away party” was held midship at the Tahitian Pool, great atmosphere and enjoyed sailing out of Seattle with the daily drink special of a Long Island Iced Tea ($7.95 plus 18% gratuity). It was strong! Thank goodness there are free drink stations around the ship, I refilled mine with regular iced tea and made my drink last about three times over.

After the sail away party, I headed to the Thermal Suite for some relaxation before dinner. It was so nice watching the sunset from this area of this ship. Afterwards, I headed back to my room, took some more sunset photos from my balcony and got ready for dinner. The only main dining room open tonight was the Summer Palace again, Indigo was closed for this cruise. The food was good, I had a bit of a chill so the French onion soup and fried brie starters took my chill off, followed by steak frites and a raspberry chocolate torte for dessert! After dinner, they had live entertainment in Spinnakers Lounge, there wasn’t enough people onboard to use the Starlight Theater, which I understand. The entertainment was great! What you would expect from a live cruise ship show. By this time the shops downstairs did open and I bought myself a couple shot glasses and my cruise ship magnet 🙂

It was a crazy busy day so after shopping I went to bed and had an amazing sleep! I woke up briefly to cruising under the Lions Gate Bridge and docking ever so gently at Canada Place. I fell back asleep for another hour and enjoyed the view of downtown Vancouver from my balcony. I did have breakfast at the Garden Café Buffet, there were quite a few great choices and pretty good coffee. The one issue I did have was they charged me for the spa, when I had a free pass. Apparently this happened to a few other guests and they simply handed us a card to contact guest relations off the ship. Kind of disappointed that they didn’t handle it onboard, especially as the agents were quite rude to the customers next to me. Didn’t leave the ship with the greatest memory, but it was a pretty good trip overall. I’ll definitely sail with NCL again and hoping they sort out the spa pass issue soon 🙂

I love cruising and can’t wait until my next full voyage!

Cruising is certainly my happy place! 😉

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