North, To ALASKA! (and a few other places)

The Brink family has returned from this year’s main vacation, a cruise to Alaska on Princess Cruises, thoughtfully given by my in laws and including not only our family but also Valerie’s parents and both of her sisters and their families as well. While we did pay for our own excursions and souvenirs and what not, the majority of the cruise was covered for us. There was no way we could have ever afforded this trip on our own so a big thank you to David and Janet is in order.

I will admit that I wasn’t too keen on visiting Alaska as I am not a fan of cold or snow, and I was a little bit leery of cruising in general. I am happy to report that those doubts were quickly deemed unfounded as we had a really good time. Sure, there were a few minor hiccups here and there, and I was not a fan of every aspect of the trip but the good far outweighed the bad on this particular journey.

As mentioned, I never really understood the appeal of cruising, but I get it now. All staff on board are there to cater to you and provide anything you wish in minutes. It’s kind of like having a butler available everywhere you go on board. In particular, our stateroom attendant, Seccario, and our waiter Eugene were excellent and went over and above for our family-so much so that we insisted on eating in Eugene’s section every night. They both helped make this trip both easy and special.

The cruise director, Jody, and staff were all nice, fun, approachable people as well. We interacted with them on a few occasions. Tessa won an event during a contest with Jody by doing the splits in multiple directions (going to dance class and being 14 pays off), and Team Brink also won a t.v. based trivia contest hosted by assistant director Alistair. We participated in other trivia contests too (tying for first place in a “name that tune” style music contest), and had lots of fun as a family unit.

The food on our ship was all top notch, not only in the formal dining room, but also the buffet and specialty restaurants scattered throughout the ship. I’m going to be on salads for like three weeks to compensate for the many meals eaten on this trip.

We had a balcony stateroom (which is the only way to do it, really, I can’t imagine having an interior room be any good), and so our views were constantly amazing. I also found it extremely relaxing to sit out on the balcony when docked or traveling inland port to port with the waves gently rolling and breeze in my hair. In fact, I may not have ever been more relaxed.

Our cruise was not booked to capacity, which was good because it meant less crowding overall. There were still some pretty long lines for some pf our meals and for exiting the ship come excursion time, but crowding was kept to a minimum.

The only issue I had with our ship was that it wasn’t operating at full power. There was a problem with one of the engines which, while still perfectly safe, adjusted our times, speed, and overall schedule of the cruise. I understand that it wouldn’t be easy for Princess to just stop cruising and fix the issue-they have already missed two years of cruises and so from a financial and staffing standpoint, delaying things further would be a disaster for them, so I get it. However, we did have to deal with some of our excursions being cancelled and replaced by ones that were maybe not as nice. I also think that the engine issue (and one technical delay) meant that when we were on the open sea it meant that the boat had to move faster than it normally would, and on one of our days at sea I got motion sickness, which I have never experienced before. Everyone agreed that the ship was rockier than it should have been, so no one really was surprised, but it did put me out of action for most of the day as I just slept a lot. The next day though, I was right as rain.

As for our destination, I was NOT looking forward to going to Alaska. I am a warm weather guy, and anything below 60 degrees is considered cold to me so I was trying to have a good attitude, but I’m not sure how successful I was. Turns out, Alaska was pretty darn HOT.

Our first days at sea were in the upper 50s/lower 60s, which I expected, but in Juneau it was 75 degrees and in Skagway we hit 85! It was actually warmer that day than it was back home in St. Louis! Trouble is, our excursion that day was all about a sled dog/ gold mining experience and we were warned to dress warmly in layers. So we did. Mistake. We were sweating buckets, and the poor dogs didn’t really know what to do with this unexpected heatwave. Nor did the actors who had to dress the parts of Klondike gold miners, now that I think of it. Everybody was kind of miserable, but we still got to pan for gold (which is super touristy I know, but you kind of have to do it) and we did get to see a presentation of the sled dogs briefly going around the training track. We also got to pet the dogs and hold sled dog puppies which was the cutest thing ever and totally worth it.

We enjoyed all of our ports, I got some fantastic fish tacos in Juneau, which is where I fell in love with Rockfish, and some fresh and delicious crab in Icy Point Straight (where we would have loved to spend the day as there are tons of things to do but we had only a few hours) and the kids dipped their feet in the cold, cold ocean.

Perhaps my favorite stop though was going to Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. On July 1st, Canada Day no less. Some of my favorite musicians are from Canada, and two of my favorite television comedy series as well. I have always wanted to visit (in Summer, of course) and I finally did! Again, we were only there for a few hours but we were able to walk through the outer parts of the town through the Fisherman’s Wharf area and to the edges of downtown. So we didn’t actually participate in any Canada Day celebrations but it was a pleasant walk (though considerably chillier than we were used to) and fun for me. As Bob and Doug would say, “Beauty, eh!”.

Also, our cruise took us through Glacier Bay National Park. The day was in the lower 60s, bright, clear and sunny. We could not have ordered better weather. I took over 150 pictures there alone. Every minute felt like Bob Ross had had a hand in designing the scenery. We saw several otters swimming around, bald eagles, seagulls, and even a few whale spouts, though no actual whale bodies. It was a truly beautiful afternoon.

Our last day of vacation was spent in Seattle after disembarking and before waiting for our evening flight. The tour we were on had no tour guide as she had called in sick with Covid (of course). We were still treated to a trip to the Space Needle, which is cool and interesting, though not quite as tall as our own St. Louis arch. We went to the Pike Place market and watched fish being thrown, had a snack at the chocolate shop, and soaked up the big city atmosphere. Seattle is a cool city. It is green-minded, largely progressive, and has a really good, open vibe. It’s not the prettiest city I’ve ever been in, but I liked it a lot and would definitely consider going back.

After our quick tour we had a few hours to kill in the airport, which can be frustrating and quite boring. Fortunately for me there is a Sub Pop record store in the airport, because it’s Seattle so of course there is, and I was able to spend dome time shopping for CDs and merch. Had I known this existed I would have saved a little more souvenir money for this store, but then I probably spent too much at Sub Pop as is, so I guess it’s just as well.

Our flight back had a little turbulence but not much, however we did change time zones so it wound up being 12:30 am by the time we landed here in STL, and probably after 2:30 when we finally got home to sleep.

All in all it was a really nice vacation filled with memories to last us all a lifetime and a good time was had by all.

Until next time, safe travels.

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