A Travel Photography Blog

Tag: Cruise Page 1 of 7

Returning to Old San Juan

Old San Juan

After our white-knuckled TSA experience in Orlando, we had an uneventful flight and landed in the daylight in San Juan. Once on land, we headed to El Colonial Hotel. El Colonial is probably one of my all-time favorite hotels. It has a great location in the heart of Old San Juan and a rooftop patio to hang out and enjoy the beautiful Puerto Rican weather! And of course, you can’t go wrong with their 24-hour open bar.

Once we were checked in, we headed out to see the sights. We saw everything that we saw on our first visit to Old San Juan, both Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal. For lunch, we visited Cafeteria Mallorca, a historic eatery not far from our hotel. I had seen Cafeteria Mallorca on an old episode of Samantha Brown and it had not changed at all since that episode aired. They are known for their mallorcas, traditional Puerto Rican sandwiches dusted with powdered sugar. We enjoyed our meal so much, we came back in the morning for breakfast.

After lunch, we went back to the hotel and caught up on sleep and soaked up the air conditioning. When it had cooled down a bit, we headed back out to explore the city some more. We revisited our favorite popsicle stand from our last trip, Zip Pops. Nearby, Señor Paleta is more well known, but Zip Pops never had a line!

Christmas lights in Paseo de la Princesa

By this point the sun was setting and we noticed Christmas lights in Paseo de la Princesa (above). It was beautiful to walk through and enjoy the breeze without the hot Caribbean sun beating down.

This is about the time that we realized that we should have made reservations in advance for dinner. Every place we stopped had at least a two hour wait. We ended up getting seated at a restaurant and being one of the last tables served for the night. We are from a small town where most restaurants don’t take reservations, but we learned quick that that is not the case these days in cities. While there are some restaurants that book up a month or more in advance, you should probably start making plans a week in advance if you would like to eat before 9 pm.

Cruise ships in Old San Juan

One thing that made a big difference in this visit from the last was that there were three large cruise ships docked in Old San Juan on this day (left). I consider myself a bit of a cruise nerd and I was impressed that I recognized the Odyssey of the Seas from the air, but these large ships left off thousands of people into this historic city. At times, it was hard to get around on the old, narrow sidewalks there were so many people. Heaven help you if you needed to drive on the roads. This experience really made me consider the impact that these large ships have on the places that they visit. Yes, the ships pay to dock at these ports and the people get off the ship and spend money, but with free food and beds on the ship they do not spend as much as a land-based traveler. I’m not saying I am done with cruising, but it makes me want to figure out how to do it in a responsible way. Maybe we need to get away from the enormous mega-ships with all the bells and whistles and back to smaller boats that have less potential to overwhelm the ports they visit.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord Cruising

Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

Wordless Wednesday: Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord Black and White

2022: Year in Review

Pitons of St. Lucia

The Pitons of St. Lucia

2022 was once again an amazing travel year for us! We spent two weeks on cruise ships, many hours in airports, and saw many amazing things! We went both the farthest south and north that I have ever been and crossed off three more National Parks. This year travel felt like it was getting back to normal.

Unlike in years past, our first travels of the year didn’t come until the end of the first quarter with our port-a-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We visited some of my favorite ports of any cruise we’ve taken and I have been watching flights to St. Maarten, St. Lucia (top), and Puerto Rico since we returned (we are actually heading back to Puerto Rico in the not-too-distant future). We got to snorkel in the pristine waters of Virgin Islands National Park and explore the oldest fort in the United States (bottom). 

Ship Sailing through Fog in Tracy Arm Fjord

Cruise ship sailing through fog in Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

Almost exactly two months after returning home, we got on another plane and headed to the Pacific Northwest. We explored Vancouver, which I have been dying to see for over ten years. From there we boarded another ship and headed north to four ports in Alaska. We got to see a glacier, bears, raptors, and whales, and ride a dog sled. It was an amazing trip but I feel like we barely scratched the surface of Alaska and I can’t wait to return and explore it some more. 

After getting off the ship, we took a bus back to Washington where we spent a week exploring all of the unique ecosystems of Olympic National Park. From the mountains of Hurricane Ridge to the Hoh Rainforest and more green than the brain can process, it was a week of exploring the outdoors. My favorite part would have to be Rialto Beach and the crazy rock formations coming out of the water. It was otherworldly.

Hoh Rainforst

One thing that ties our travels together this year is rainforests. We hiked in El Yunque in Puerto Rico and drove through the rainforest in St. Lucia and St. Kitts. We explored the temperate rainforest at Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver and visited bears in the rainforest of Sitka. We hiked through the fascinating Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (right). Near-constant rain and lush greenery seems to be the common denominator of 2022’s travels.

Of course, we took the camper out after returning from the PNW and spent some time at some new campgrounds and some old favorites (those stories coming in the next few weeks). The highlight of the summer in Michigan would have to be kayaking Pictured Rocks. That is something I have wanted to do since my first visit to the National Lakeshore and it was an amazing experience that I recommend to anyone!

San Juan National Historic Site

Since the summer, we have been pretty much at home, but more travels are coming soon! You will have to stay tuned to the blog to see what 2023 has in store for us! If all goes to plan it should be another amazing year of exploring this beautiful world!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Pacific Northwest Trip Recap

Clouds over Crescent Lake

Our trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer checked off two more states, one Canadian province, and two more national parks in an unforgettable nature-filled two week trek. We visited Seattle, Vancouver, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, and the Olympic Peninsula.

I would love to take another Alaska cruise, but I think it would have to be on a larger ship. Sure, the Serenade can get into smaller ports that the big ships can’t, but there just wasn’t much going on during the sea days. I would look at ships that were purpose built for Alaska like the Norwegian Bliss that have more indoor areas for people to hang out on sea days.

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

Cruise Ships in Juneau

I definitely want to explore different ports on my next Alaska cruise and I think I would look for a cruise that visits Glacier Bay. I’ve heard that park rangers get on the ship and talk about the nature. And it would cross off another national park! Ketchikan is another Alaska port I really wish we got to see!

I would definitely plan strategically if I ever cruise out of Vancouver again. I would make sure to pick the earliest check in time and arrive maybe even an hour before that. I might even look at cruises that start in Seward (Anchorage, Alaska) before looking at cruises out of Seattle.

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

You can call me crazy, but I would fly in/out of Seattle for a Vancouver cruise again. Amtrak is running the Cascades route again so the train is an option to get from Seattle to Vancouver again. Yes, it was two additional border crossings, but Quick Shuttle was easy and comfortable and honestly, you can’t beat the price of Greyhound. Is it my new preferred means of travel, no, but it got the job done!

I would definitely wait until later in the season to really get to explore Washington’s National Parks. I really don’t know if I can count visiting Mt. Rainier if I couldn’t see the mountain! I’ve been told the fog is less common later in the summer so that is when I would plan my return trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

All-in-all, our 2-week Alaska cruise, Olympic National Park trip was another epic vacation! There were many firsts and experiences I can’t believe we got to do! Where will we explore next? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Iceberg

Wordless Wednesday: Tracy Arm Fjord

Serenade of the Seas 2022 Review

Serenade of the Seas from Mt. Roberts Serenade of the Seas docked in Juneau

Our Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was unlike anything else I have ever done before. The scenery was unmatched and the service was spectacular. This trip was full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

Our trip started off on a rough note because embarkation in Vancouver was a nightmare. I should start off by saying there were three ships in port that day and the other two ships were much larger than the Serenade so there were a lot of people leaving Vancouver that day. It took us a full two hours from curb to ship. It took one whole hour just to get to the porters to drop our bags off because there was only one large elevator that went to that level. We saw a lot of people just carry their bags on, but they still had to drag them around the port for an hour. I heard people around me mumbling “never again” to sailing out of Vancouver. One thing that makes it more complicated than most other embarkation ports is that you are in a foreign country sailing into the United States, so you have to go through customs. We met people at dinner one night who have Global Entry and they said that helped shorten the wait some. If you are planning on sailing out of Vancouver, pick the earliest check-in time you can and get there early.

While we had beautiful weather on our port days, every sea day was cold and rainy. We had hoped to play Pickleball as we did on our Caribbean Cruise, but because of the weather, it was never open.  We tried to enjoy our balcony, if you wanted to be out there for an extended period of time, you needed to seriously bundle up. On our way back from Alaska, we had the roughest seas I have ever encountered on a cruise. Seriously, they had barf bags placed around the ship for those prone to seasickness. I have to say, I had never seen that before.

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

The Serenade of the Seas is the smallest ship I’ve ever sailed on. Having sailed on the Explorer of the Seas almost exactly three months prior, I was doing a lot of comparing in my head while onboard. Small ships like the Serenade have their pros and cons, the pros being that they can get into ports where the larger ships don’t fit. The Serenade is actually the ship Royal is using for their World Cruise in 2023. The biggest con, of course, is that there is less to do on board. I don’t know if it was because we were usually the smallest ship in port, but we always ended up at the dock farthest away from town (left).

Since our cruise on the Explorer was when Royal Caribbean was getting back into sailing at almost full capacity, a lot of my complaints from our spring cruise had been resolved. Crew members were no longer serving everything in the buffet and service in the dining room was much smoother. With my time dining, they didn’t try to seat you in the same table every day like they did on the Explorer so we didn’t have to wait as long to eat.

Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord Cruising Tracy Arm Fjord

From the sail-away show, I knew the entertainment on this ship was not going to be for me. John, the cruise director came on stage singing Sweet Caroline and had everyone play Simon Says. I felt like I was in the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel when she goes to her camp in the Catskills (for those of you who aren’t familiar with this show, it takes place in the 1950s. That’s really all you need to know for this reference). Shortly after that, the assistant cruise director came out to sell you Bingo cards. I felt like the youngest person on board by at least 40 years. Royal Caribbean is known for being a family cruise line so I was not expecting this at all.

Mini Golf on the Serenade of the Seas

Mini Golf on the Serenade of the Seas

In my review of the Explorer of the Seas, I was blown away by how many activities were going on around the ship when we were in port each day. That was not the case on the Serenade. We had three sea days on this cruise and I felt like there was nothing to do. Because of the weather, everyone was indoors. There was trivia twice a day that was standing-room only. There was a small movie theater where you wouldn’t get a seat if you didn’t show up half an hour early. There was an enrichment lecture by Canadian Mountie that we went to because…what else was there to do? We did enjoy the production shows and the comedian made us laugh. We kept running into him in port, which was funny.

Sailing under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver Sailing under the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver

While this review may seem like it’s full of complaints, I really did enjoy this cruise. I think if I were to sail to Alaska again, I would choose a ship that was purpose-built for Alaska, like the Norwegian Bliss. It has many more indoor areas to get out of the cold, rainy Alaska weather at sea. After this cruise, we are taking a break from Royal Caribbean. We have another cruise booked, this time on Celebrity, which will be interesting.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week as we begin our journey from Vancouver to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Pin This:

Serenade of the Seas Pin Serenade of the Seas Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Sled Dogs

Sled Dogs

Wordless Wednesday: Cruising Alaska

Cruising Alaska

Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén