No, the *other* Vancouver!

Can you believe that Chris and I took *another* cruise? Well, we did, so believe it, folks! In fact, we took our second cruise on the very same ship we sailed to Alaska on, Holland America’s Rotterdam. We got a fantastic deal to sail from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. during the seasonal transition period (the ship changes their weekly trips from Alaska in the summer to Hawaii and warmer locations in the winter), so we got to spend one night on the ship and it cost about as much as a nice hotel room. Plus, we had three meals included, along with all the fun of hanging out on a cruise ship.

Friday, Sept. 17, we drove up to Seattle and spent the night with Chris’ uncle Bruce and his two enthusiastic dogs, Bumper (shown at right with Chris) and Maddie. We wanted to get on the boat around noon, so the following day we only spent a few minutes allowing the dogs to burrow under our bedsheets (Bumper insisted, even though he is not as petite as he thinks he is) before we took off and parked the car at King Street Station. We took a cab to Pier 91 where we waited in several long lines to check in. Chris ran into an old high school classmate, whom we awkwardly passed in the line several times. What exactly is the protocol for that? We said hi, but is there any standard guidelines for what you should do each time you pass them in line? Do you have to make small talk at each intersection?

Anyway, our confusion and puzzlement were short-lived, because when we got to our check-in desk we discovered that we had been upgraded from a stinky standard D-category stateroom with just a little window on deck 2’s main floor to a fabulous private A-category veranda suite with our own balcony all the way up on deck 6. Suck it, steerage! We don’t wait in lines, and we don’t spend our nights in steerage!

After we explored our room, we ran over to the dining room and caught lunch at the last second that they were still serving. We enjoyed a fantastic lunch of salmon, ziti, chocolate mousse cake and fruit tart – so, in addition to not waiting lines and spending our nights in steerage, we also don’t eat on the lido deck at the infectious disease buffet! However, after lunch, we did enjoy drinks on the lido – mojitos and a sidecar – as Chris narrowly beat me at cribbage. And can you believe that they took photos for such a short cruise? Well, they did, so of course we had to go to the photo gallery to check out our prints.

After we had a loverly dinner in the dining room (yummy penne, eggplant cannelloni, toffee and apple strudel) with what appeared to be the cast of the Russian version of “Jersey Shore”, we met up with the ship’s photographer, Andreea, whom we had met on our first cruise. We’d been keeping in touch with her on facebook since our first cruise, so she was expecting to see us – we chatted over tea, and afterwards, she hooked us up with some of the photos of us that were at the photo gallery (wink wink!). It was nice to see a familiar face amongst a sea of so many strangers (except for Chris’ high school class mate, of course, which was just a bit awkward).

On Sunday, disembarkation started bright and early (ok, it wasn’t bright, since it was still pretty much dark outside). We ordered room service to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 am, and at approximately 6:29 we got the knock on our door and the general PA announcement telling everyone to get off the boat according to their disembarkation group. Since we were in group 23 we at least had time to eat our breakfast, but we were off the boat with our packs on our backs by 7:30. Yawn! We had to go through Canadian customs, and were greeted by a smart-ass agent who cheerfully referred to us as being from “Vancouver Jr.” I looked over at Chris and almost wanted to start chanting “fight! fight! fight! fight!” but since we were going to have to do a lot of walking, I thought it might be best to conserve our energy.

We had to take some sort of bus through the port terminal, and then we took a taxi to Stanley Park. We didn’t really have a plan for the day, other than to “explore the great international city of Vancouver, B.C.” Unfortunately, there’s not much happening on Sunday at 7:30 in the morning, so Stanley Park was a good choice for us – we walked around the eastern side of the park as it started to rain, and then took a bunch of pictures at the totem pole display. After milling about for an acceptable amount of time, we walked back to the central part of the island to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is actually a pretty cool place. In addition to the standard fish exhibits, they also had a large section dedicated to the marine life of that area, a tropical rainforest section (with bats, a sloth, and tortoises), and a 4D movie about ocean life. Plus they had sea otters, particularly one named Milo. He really liked to eat!

After the aquarium, we took another taxi to the west side of the city, near English Bay, and shared fish and chips at the Boathouse – yum! We reluctantly strapped our heavy backpacks on (even though what we really wanted to do was take a nap) and started walking southeast through the very colorful Davies neighborhood. We jogged east through Robson, then southerly to Chinatown, where we spent some time walking through the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Incidentally, I discovered that mastering the Chinese yo-yo is a whole lot harder than it looks, and that it is quite possible to bash yourself in unfortunate places with either/both the yoyo part or the sticks. I’m not sure I’m going to try *that* again.

After that, we walked west to the train station, where there were more very long lines and no upgrades available to business class. But that was actually ok, because once we were on our train, we found our seats to be quite roomy and nice – not at all like traveling on an airplane! Although the drinks were just as spendy – I enjoyed two rather large white Russians (courtesy of Christopher), a couple of episodes of The Office (season 6) on Chris’ laptop, and a nice nap after watching the sunset as we traveled back down to Seattle. I was briefly disturbed by a customs agent who came on at the boarder crossing – he asked us what we had purchased during our time in Canada, and my response was to look at the food wrappers on our fold-out trays and tell him “you’re lookin’ at it.” Grumpy when I get woken up from a good nap, duh!!!

We were back in Seattle by 10:30 pm, and since we had parked the car right at the train station, we were back on the road in short order. We drove down to Portland, and were in bed by 1:30 am. It was a busy trip and a long weekend, but we had a really great time seeing fancy new international places. You can check out more pictures by clicking here. Whew!