Ketchikan Duck Tour

cruise ship at the dock

Ruby Princess in Ketchikan

Ketchikan Duck Tour

The duck tour in Ketchikan has nothing to do with quacking birds.  It’s an amphibious vehicle. Some places use former military vehicles for duck rides. The ducks in Ketchikan are custom made for the tours because the military variety are not suitable for all possible weather conditions of their waters. The top portion of the vehicles is clear, with portholes all along the passenger area which people can open or close as they wish according to weather conditions and whether or not they want open space for photos not taken through the window.

Duck amphibious vehicle

Ketchikan Duck in the water

Passengers can book the duck tour through the ship, as we did on the Ruby Princess. Tickets are also available at the visitor’s center or the nearby Quack Shack. The ducks pick up passengers who booked through the cruise line right out in front of their ship. The tour takes about 90 minutes. It starts with a short safety spiel along with the option to buy duck bill shaped quacking whistles.

inside duck amphibious vehicle

Inside the duck – with quack whistles overhead “in case of emergency”

The land portion of the tour includes a brief history of the areas the vehicle drives through as well as information about things like how much salmon is processed there, different sorts of fishing boats, and a bit about wildlife, the people and the land.

Ketchikan duck tour

Photo of the duck taken from Dolly’s house – while people on the duck took photos of Dolly’s house.. You can see how close the dock is with Ruby Princess in the background of the photo.

The duck made a brief stop at Creek Street with a chance to photo someone dressed up as Dolly Archer standing in front of her house. Apparently our guide didn’t know the funicular accessed from Creek Street was closed for repair since he talked about it as if people could go take a ride to the hotel/restaurant at the top of the tracks up the steep hill. It was out of order the last time I visited Ketchikan several years ago too, but looked as if it had been used between then and now so perhaps they have to fix it up at the start of tourist season each year. I did find funiculars that work in Quebec City and Valparaiso. Funiculars take people up steep hills on railroad style tracks.

duck ride goes into the water

duck driving down the boat launch

At a marina in an area the guide called Bar Harbor (NOT Bah Habah the way they pronounce it in Maine) the duck drove down a boat launching ramp and into the water. As the duck headed toward the Princess ship we saw a small tug towing a large floating house going past us in the opposite direction. Of course it was on the other side where it was hard for us to get a picture since all the people on that side of the duck had their cameras up. One of my sisters managed to lean over and get a photo through someone’s porthole.

big floating house

floating house going by

We passed by lots of float planes tied to docks, most of which do flight seeing tours once the tourist season gets fully underway. On the other side we passed an island which mostly looked like trees, but had an area with a glimpse of the runway at the airport of the infamous bridge to nowhere debacle. I can’t remember what the actual name of that island was, but the guide jokingly called it Nowhere, Alaska and said that even if the bridge-building idea hadn’t been killed by politics that logistics and cost would have killed it anyway.

view from Dolly's bedroom

view of Creek Street from upstairs inside Dolly’s house

Just as we almost got to where we’d be in position to get some really good ship photos very soon the duck turned around and headed back. When we got back to the launching ramp we found it occupied by a small truck attempting to retrieve a large boat from the water in a low tide that left the ramp steep and slippery with seaweed. Another duck boat joined ours in circling around waiting for ramp access while the unfortunate boater tried several times before finally succeeding to get his boat loaded. His truck struggled slowly up the ramp before he finally drove away leaving it clear for the ducks to exit.

untold stories

Stories of many former occupants of Creek Street are posted on the houses where they lived and worked

The driver approached the ramp at an odd angle because someone had left a very small boat tied to the end of the dock hanging out over the ramp. The ramp is just wide enough for the duck so driving straight up would have meant hitting the little boat – which the owner could easily have tied on the far side of the dock which was wide open and totally out of the way. Unlike the too small truck with the too big boat the duck had no trouble driving up the launching ramp. At the top our duck pulled over into a parking lot and the guide jumped out to hose the salt water and seaweed off the wheels. The driver took over entertaining the tourists. The other duck came up the ramp and went straight on out to the street. Soon the guide got back in and they returned everyone to the ship where we had plenty of time to explore the town.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan photo taken from the Ruby Princes


Things to do in Ketchikan

Creek Street

Creek Street, Ketchikan

Creek Street – the green house is Dolly’s

Creek street, so named for the creek where other places have a street, is a row of former brothels which are mostly shops for tourists now. Some have signs about the women who formerly lived and worked in those houses. One of them, Dolly’s house, is a museum preserving her furniture and belongings as the house was when she lived there. She was the last working gal on the street, retiring after age 70.

Dolly's House, Ketchikan

She’s not really Dolly and her job in this house is nothing like what Dolly’s was

The sign said it cost $10 to walk through Dolly’s House, but they let us in for $7.50 each. There are TV’s in a couple of the rooms that continuously play information about Dolly and her life in a loop. The kitchen has the latest and greatest modern appliances – when they were new. They look quite old-fashioned now. Dolly had places to hide liquor during prohibition and some interesting decor.

dolly's decor

lamps in Dolly’s bedroom


Ketchikan has lots of souvenir shops. There’s one on the pier and many more across the street and on all the nearby streets to the pier. The jewelry stores all seem to mark the prices way up high and then tell you it’s a bargain at about a quarter of the price. Some shops sell local handmade things. Things made by natives are marked with a bear symbol tag. Some things made in Alaska do not merit the native made tag because they are made by other Alaskans not from the native tribes. Other things are made in China and some of the Chinese knock-offs of Alaskan products have a knock-off bear symbol similar to the native made tag so if the price seems low for an Alaskan made product look it over carefully because it may say made in China.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Leaving Ketchikan – view of the town as the ship pulls away from the dock


There’s a visitor’s center right next to the cruise ship dock with lots of tours available for people who didn’t book anything on the ship. We also saw a few people with signs for tours and since we were the first ship of the season there may be more people offering a wider variety of things as more ships come to town.

More Blogs About Ketchikan

Dolly’s House

Trolley Tour

Rainforest Hike

Walking Tour

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016



Posted in Alaska, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Princess, Ruby Princess, Shore Excursions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

San Juan, Paseo de la Princesa, and Diving Pelicans

cruise ships at the dock

Breeze in San Juan, Puerto Rico docked next to Sunshine

San Juan Puerto Rico is a great port stop for cruise ship passengers who don’t want to spend much if any money. Of course excursions are available as are taxis and van tours at the port for those who want them. You can also rent bikes to ride around town or beyond. Two old forts sit within walking distance of the cruise ship docks in old San Juan. There’s also a free shuttle that takes people around old town. Shops sit just across the street from the pier. You don’t have to walk far to come across some of San Juan’s blue brick roads and the colorful buildings of old town.

cobblestone road of blue bricks

Blue Brick road in San Juan

The blue bricks came to San Juan as ballast from Spanish ships of the 1800’s, which used furnace slag for their ballast on the journey to Puerto Rico. Colonists made good use of this ready-made paving material that the ships left behind, paving their streets with the blue bricks. Unfortunately less and less streets have these unique cobblestones as more of them keep getting paved over.

blue brick road

Blue Brick Road near the cruise port

The biggest attractions in town are the forts, Castillo San Cristobol and Castillo San Felipe del Morro, commonly known as El Morro. Both historic forts belong to the US park system and one fee allows visits to both. Anyone not wishing to walk to or between the forts can catch the free shuttle around old town, which stops at both forts.

blue brick road

Typical narrow blue brick road with colorful buildings

Having visited the forts on prior trips to San Juan, and with the Breeze having a short and early day in port, we opted to just take a walk down the Paseo de la Princessa, a walkway near the cruise ship docks. The portion from the red San Juan Gate toward El Morro is called Paseo del Morro. When the construction going on at the time of our visit completes tourists can walk the seaside pathway all the way to the entrance of El Morro rather than having to turn around at a dead end as we did.

fountain in San Juan

Raices Fountain

Take a left at the end of the cruise ship pier and stay as close to the water as you can and you will come to the Paseo de la Princesa leading to the Raices Fountain and the waterfront part of the pathway, which was once a maintenance road for the city wall.

Decorations or something more sinister?

Spikes alongside the path

Tall metal spikes sit between the pathway and the wall in one place. If you look up to the top of the wall there you can see the governor’s mansion, called La Fortaleza.

huge tree

giant rainforest tree on the pathway

The trail passes a large rainforest tree and soon comes to the red gate, once the main gate from the sea into the city when the entire city sat behind the protective wall.

historical gate

Red Gate or San Juan Gate leads from the walkway into Old San Juan

Along they way feral cats sleep hidden in bushes or among the rocks. Some come out in plain sight. San Juan’s cat colony has lived there for centuries, and is now cared for by Save A Gato, who has a feeding station alongside the trail a short distance past the red gate.

feral cat

One of San Juan’s feral cats

Save a Gato runs a trap neuter release program as well as finding homes for some of the cats and providing the feeding stations for the others.

historical wall

Garitas once held lookouts keeping a watchful eye for pirates or other enemies

Looking up at the top of the walls every so often a garita still stands guard, though other than tourists they now sit empty, the need for watchful eyes above the city long gone.

pleasant when it's not too hot out

waterfront paseo or walkway

A flock of hungry pelicans made numerous attacks on fish just below the water’s surface as we walked by. The large birds flew around, sometimes hovering and sometimes landing gracefully on the water.

diving pelicans video (very short video)

Other times one would dive straight down from high above, shooting into the water like an arrow and coming up already swallowing the fish it just caught.

wall repair

scaffolding for wall restoration

Though the wall and forts have survived for centuries, it appears they need some help to remain intact as part of the wall had scaffolding and workers on top doing maintenance. The pathway was closed not far past the red gate with other workers and road machinery.

end of the road

The path ends here for now

You would think when our ship, the Carnival Breeze, arrived at 7:00am, the third of three as the Dream and Sunshine were already there, that any business near the docks would be open waiting to help all those cruise ship passengers streaming off the ships anxious to empty their wallets. Especially since both the Breeze and Sunshine departed about 2:00pm and the Dream was ending one cruise and starting another. Though plenty of vans awaited passengers wanting taxis or island tours, many local shops didn’t open until 10:00am. Disappointed passengers who had gone out early to shop were already returning when we went ashore.

segway for rent

we would have rented these if they’d been there on our way out instead of our way back

We had thought about doing a segway tour if we found any, having seen them on the Paseo de la Princesa before and thinking it looked like fun. We left the ship around 7:30, late enough for the crowd at the gangway to clear, but early enough to get out before the heat of the day – and it was already warm. On the way back we saw a shop near the ship putting segways out getting ready to open at 10:00am, just in time for peak sunburning hours.

San Juan

City above the wall

Had the shop been open on our way out we would have rented them, but by then we were ready to go back to the ship and have a chance to use the waterslides while nobody was on them and wash clothes while most passengers were still in port. A good plan with good timing because we could slide with no waiting and I had no trouble finding empty machines, but by the time I went to get our clothes out of the dryer the washers were all full with more people lined up waiting to pounce as soon as one finished so any later would have been too late.


 in between dives pelicans rested on top the garitas

More Blogs about San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

The Cats of Old San Juan

Bicycling in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Staying in Puerto Rico

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Breeze, Caribbean, Carnival, Port Cities, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Valparaiso, Chile

cruise ship at container port

Arcadia in Valparaiso from hotel window

We came into Valparaiso by bus on a day trip from Santiago. Most people on our tour went back to Santiago with the bus at the end of the day. A few others besides us stayed in Valparaiso, checking into hotels for a couple nights before boarding P&O Arcadia for a cruise across the Pacific Ocean. After flying into Santiago the bus tour made a great way to cross the 70 miles to the cruise port at Valparaiso. Cheaper than taking a cab plus we got to take the tour. The bus went around nearby Vina del Mar before finishing out the tour in Valparaiso.

famous house

Pablo Neruda’s House

The first stop in Valparaiso was at Pablo Neruda’s house, just a quick photo stop with no time to go in. He was a famous poet in Chile, though we had not heard of him.

not the best place for a horseback ride

Lone Horseman of Valparaiso

Out the bus window just after we got back from Pablo Neruda’s house we saw a lone horseman riding up the narrow street. A rather odd thing to see in a mostly paved over city of close together houses with nowhere that looked suitable for riding a horse, let alone anywhere for it to live. The horse looks like it could use a good meal and the services of a farrier (horseshoer). Then again the rider looks like he could use a good meal too.

fancy tile stairs

stairway and funicular near the town square

Much of Valparaiso is built on steep hillsides. The city once had an extensive system of funiculars to assist in bringing people up the hills. It’s hard to say how many there ever were because it varies depending on the source. I’ve seen it listed everywhere from 26 – 33. Many of them sit forlorn and abandoned, rusting into history. At least 8 are still in use. The bus stopped to show us an abandoned one set back a bit from the roadway, tucked between some houses. We did not ride any of them on the tour. One of the other bus passengers said she took one down instead of walking with the rest of the group after the bus let everyone out up on a hill. She traded the best part of the tour for that ride.

painted buildings

Valparaiso street art

The walk down was quite interesting. We walked through a well-preserved clean area of older buildings, many with colorful street art (which discourages malicious graffiti as people don’t usually paint over a mural.) Valparaiso welcomes the artists who paint the murals and even has tours people can take around town to see the street art.

streets of Valparaiso

the houses are colorful even without murals

The steep hills and colorful buildings make great views looking up or down. Many have cobblestone streets, though some roads are not in the best of repair.

hills of Valparaiso

curb way above street level

The ground drops so steeply in some areas that the sidewalk gets higher and higher from street level until you come to a stairway at the end or sometimes even middle of the block. A network of stairways runs through the hills so pedestrians have another option besides roads in some places.

street dogs of Valparaiso

this street dog followed along with the tour after finding him here

Valparaiso has its share of street dogs, which seems common in Chile as Santiago had some too. We saw water someone had left out for them and later when we tried to feed a couple of them some leftover French fries they had no interest at all so they must be pretty well fed. My dog would have snarfed up the fries in an instant no matter how much she already had to eat.

Valparaiso, Chile

Navy building at the town square

The guided tour ended at the town square in a level area near the sea. The bus parked near a beautiful old building belonging to the navy. A band played loudly in a stand set up in the square. The tour guide gave everyone some time to wander around a bit on their own. He walked the others to their hotel near the town square and told us he’d drop us off on the way out of town as ours was a bit farther from the square.

view from hotel window

Regent’s ship in clear view, and the train to Vina del Mar

We stayed at Hotel Diego de Almagro on the road next to the sea. From our window we had a great view of the sea and of a cruise ship in port. We had a couple nights to stay in Valparaiso before our ship came in, but it was nice to know we would see it when it arrived. If that one hadn’t been there we never would have known it was anything but a container port since the next day a container ship sat at the pier where the cruise ship had been. Our ship ended up farther back on the dock kind of behind a dry dock anchored out in the bay.

how the containers move about the port

giant forklift moving container

Directly across from our room we could see a train station, and behind that container storage where giant forklifts would sometimes come and either put containers on trucks or just move them around.

streets of Valparaiso

wild tangle of wires

Apparently the tour guide knew which areas to walk through where we would find only clean streets and buildings. In spite of seeing a number of street dogs on that tour we never saw so much as one dog turd on the road or sidewalk. Our guide had said you could find free walking tours at the town square hosted mainly by college students who knew a lot about the area’s history, but we didn’t look for those or for the boat tour around the harbor he mentioned either. Once we boarded the ship we saw the boat tours going around the harbor. They came fairly close to the cruise ship and some nearby navy boats.

portable dry dock

ship having work done in the dry dock anchored in the harbor

Walking around on our own we went through some of the more dodgy areas where you wonder if the urine smell is from street dogs or street people. We had only seen one cat walking with the tour group, but saw more in the non-touristy areas. Probably some pets and some strays. Some of the dogs are pets too, but many are street dogs. We saw very few puppies, just one batch by an abandoned building safely off the road. They have to learn young how to be streetwise and watch for cars or they won’t live to grow old. The dogs are very smart about watching for traffic and knowing when they can safely cross even the busiest streets.

easy way up a steep hill

working funicular

We walked along the road by the sea one day and found a working funicular near the container port. We took a ride up to the top. Like just about all tourist attractions everywhere it exited through a gift shop. Outside we found a few shops and a maritime museum up there. We saw another funicular nearby, but it looked non-functional. We found a couple other working ones later. One near the main square of the touristy area and another visible from the other end of the harbor near an old pier that was open for people to walk around on.

riding the funicular up the hil

view from the funicular

Locally Valparaiso’s funiculars are known as as ascensors. Funiculars operate on a pulley and cable system with the descending car providing counterweight for the ascending car. Valparaiso’s funiculars were built from around 1883 to 1915. The earliest ran on hydraulics. A bit later they used steam engines and in 1906 they built the first with an electric motor.

old and broken

abandoned funicular

A walkway went past the maritime museum and had great views of the other nearby funicular as well as the town and the sea. It led to an area that looked like it was intended for people to set up booths there to sell things, but it was empty that day. Beyond that we began coming into a bit more dodgy areas as we worked our way back down to sea level on a rather roundabout walk. From one street we could see a building across the way that looked as if it could crumble at any time, yet it had cars parked on top of it – which is street level for the other side of that building.

slums of Valparaiso

cars parked on unsound looking building

Shells of buildings and broken walls dot the city in between viable buildings, remnants of earthquakes past. We saw quite a few on the walk back down from the funicular. We could have ridden it back down as you can go either way, but we saw more of the town by taking a different route. Lots of stairways run between buildings in places where the roads don’t go so there are many ways to get back to the lower part of town.

earthquake ruin

looking through the shell of a ruin

We walked down one road too narrow for cars. Near the lower part of the hill the sidewalk ended abruptly at a place where the road had dropped in an earthquake  leaving just enough road for a bicycle, possibly a motorcycle to pass by. One wall of a partially collapsed building stood on the side where the road dropped away, and buildings still in use on the other. Chile has the most earthquakes of anywhere on the planet so they must just get used to living with the damaged buildings and going on with their lives.

small tourist area

shops and museum at the top of the funicular

A train runs between Valparaiso and Vina del Mar and a path along the water looked as if you could take it all the way there as well. We walked along the sea in the opposite direction from where we found the funicular to what looked to us like a former cruise ship or container ship pier, now open to the public to walk around on. It seemed like a popular place.

Valparaiso street art

a very colorful stairway takes a shortcut between buildings past a dog bed

We thought the building in front of that pier was an old abandoned cruise terminal, but it turned out to be the current terminal in use. Although the ship docked at the container pier on the other end of the harbor, passengers entered and exited through the terminal building and buses transported people between the terminal and the ship. Inside the building seats in a waiting area sat next to the check-in counters and the rest of the space was filled with vendors. Wine was a popular item as people could bring as much as they wanted aboard the ship from that port.

they didn't clean up the dog poop here

stairway in a sort of dodgy-looking area

Crew milled around behind the counters while passengers piled up in the waiting area until they finally began to process people at boarding time. If you ever cruise out of Valparaiso, arriving early really doesn’t accomplish anything as they did not open the counters early and later arrivals crowded around the roped-off line area, getting in when it opened ahead of the earlier arrivals waiting in the seats. The check in crew inside the terminal was made up of people from the ship rather than people who worked for the port.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Arcadia, P&O, Port Cities, South and Central America | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cruise Ship Loyalty Programs

there's lots of cheap Caribbean cruises available

cruise ships in Saint Thomas

Once you have sailed with a particular cruise line, that cruise line would very much like for you to sail with them again. Repeat cruisers make up a good portion of the billions of dollars per year cruise ship business and whoever you sail with would prefer you come back to them rather than sailing with someone else next time around.

The big ships keep passengers coming back to them by giving good deals to people who book their next cruise while onboard. After all while you are on that ship the future cruise staff is only going to show you deals aboard that line so you won’t be comparing with what anyone else has to offer. They usually have some sweet deals with low prices on particular cruises they need to fill as well as general deals for any cruise booked. These deals often include things like onboard credit for either the current or future cruise that you only get if you book during your cruise. Terms vary from one cruise line to another. Some will let you transfer the booking you made on board to a different time, ship, or destination while with others you can’t change what you booked.

Another thing cruise lines have to keep people coming back to them is loyalty programs. The more you sail with any one cruise line the higher status you gain in their loyalty program and the better perks you get. Most lines automatically enroll you at your first sailing, but some will let you sign up in advance while others don’t let you in until you have reached the minimum level of points required to achieve their lowest level.

Perks themselves vary greatly from one line to another. Some people stay with only one line because of the perks. Personally I just consider any perks I might get as a bonus and cruise with whatever line works out best for any given cruise. Some ships offer more things for younger children like waterslides and splash parks while others have things like enrichment programs and cooking classes for adults so who sails with you can also make a difference on which ship or cruise line you choose.

Perks at the highest levels tend to include things like free laundry service, priority boarding, and priority tender. Not every line offers the same things though. For instance you never get free laundry service on P&O, but then the washers and dryers in their self-serve laundries are free where some ships don’t have passenger laundries at all and most that do charge to use them.

Different lines also score the points in different ways with the most simple (and in my opinion the most fair) being one point per person regardless of age or room category for each night you spend on the ship. Some let you buy your way to higher status by giving extra points for things like booking suites or dollars spent onboard giving people with more money an advantage over those without. Others either exclude children or give kids a parent’s status they didn’t earn for themselves, neither of which seems fair to me.

Loyalty Programs of Major American Cruiselines

Carnival Legend at Circular Quay

Carnival Legend in Sydney, Australia

Carnival calls their loyalty program the VIFP Club – for Very Important Fun Person. You earn one point for each night sailed on a Carnival ship. Their levels go by colors. Your ship’s card, which is called a sail and sign card on their ships, reflects the color of your current level. If at any point during the cruise you will achieve a higher level you are given the higher card at the start of the cruise. First time cruisers have a blue card and can receive members only offers and newsletter if they sign up prior to cruising. Benefits at higher levels include what the level before got plus something additional. From the second sailing to 24 points is red and gets a complimentary 1-litre bottle of water per sailing. 25-74 points is gold and they get to add a free drink and a gold pin to their benefits each cruise. At platinum, which is 75-199 points the real benefits begin. Platinum members get priority check-in and debarkation, priority tender, a free beverage, a party, chocolate delight delivered to the stateroom, a ship pin, a limited amount of free laundry service, a variety of other priority services, and buy one get one free slot or blackjack tournament. Diamond is the highest level at 200 points and their main advantages over platinum are unlimited free laundry service and a special event. There are also several one-time things awarded at entry to diamond level.

Celebrity Infinity cruise ship

Celebrity Infinity in Costa Rica

Celebrity has the Captain’s Club. Club points are earned according to stateroom category and length of cruise on Celebrity or Azmara with a max of 18 points per night. Solo cruisers get double points if they paid full fare. Besides the perks you get when sailing with Celebrity, their Captains Club has partnerships outside the cruise line where members can get discounts for products and services offered by Celebrity’s partners. Celebrity’s categories are called tiers and start with the Preview Tier which people who have not yet sailed with Celebrity can join. At that level you get a newsletter, access to the member’s service center and Captain’s Club promotions, and partner benefits. At each successive level you add more benefits. After the first sailing you move up to Classic membership. New benefits include a free scoop of gelato each cruise, one category upgrades on future bookings, access to reunion and President’s cruise events, 10% discount on internet and photos, and access to the onboard loyalty host. At 150 points you move up to the select tier where the discounts go up to 25% for internet and 15% for the photo package. You also get complimentary pressing of 2 items and one free bag of laundry on cruises of 12 days or more, priority embarkation, complimentary wine seminar, cocktail party, and platinum level enrollment in Royal Caribbean’s Crown and Anchor society. At 300 points you become an elite member with breakfast in the Captains Club Lounge, 90 free internet minutes, one free bag laundry on every sailing, 20% discount on photos, one free port day access to Persian Garden (spa thermal suite), priority tender, elegant tea invitation, and Diamond level membership at Royal Caribbean. It takes 750 points to move up to Elite Plus where the free internet minutes expand to 200. At that level you get complimentary espresso, latte, coffee or tea, 10% discount on wine or beverage packages and 15% discount on any specialty restaurant, two complimentary bags of laundry and free dry cleaning of one item. It takes 3000 points to reach Zenith, their highest level where you get access to Michael’s Club Lounge, 1600 internet minutes, complimentary laundry, free beverage package, 25% off specialty dining, priority theater seating, upgraded bath amenities, complimentary luggage to airport service, and a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise in a veranda stateroom. At 6000 points and every 3000 points thereafter you get a free 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise in an Aqua Class stateroom.

Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy in Saint Martin

Disney – Yes the mouse has a cruise line. They call their loyalty program the Castaway Club. They don’t list the specifics of it on their website, just that the benefits include advance booking of shore excursions, child care, fine dining and spa, a welcome back stateroom gift, exclusive Disney cruise news and newsletter, Complimentary lanyard and key to the world card, dedicated Castaway Club toll free number, and more unnamed benefits that “add more enchantment the more you sail.”

Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam in Sydney, Nova Scotia (Canada)

Holland America‘s loyalty program is called the Mariner Society. You get one cruise day credit daily on your cruise, double if you booked a suite. You also get a bonus credit for each $300 spent onboard. Mariner levels are done by stars starting with one star on your second cruise. One star Mariners get embarkation lunch in the dining room, Mariner Champagne Brunch, a special gift, free subscription to Mariner magazine, special offers, and discounts for 3rd or 4th guests on select sailings. 30 cruise day credits moves you up to 2 stars where you add a complimentary photo of the ship, discounts on Holland America line clothing, and an annual cruise planner to your benefits. 3 star level is reached with 75 cruise day credits and new benefits include a Mariner welcome reception, 25% discount on restaurant surcharges, specialty coffees, wine packages and mini bar purchases, a lapel pin, and advance information on new itineraries. 200 cruise day credits brings you to 4 stars where you add the major benefits. The discount on specialty restaurants etc goes up to 50%. You get priority check-in, tender, and disembarkation and free laundry service. The discount on logo clothing bought onboard goes up to 15% instead of the previous 10%. You get a complimentary wine tasting, spa discounts, and a free 1-year subscription to either Travel & Leisure or Food & Wine magazine. It takes 500 cruise day credits to reach 5 stars, their top level. New benefits include 50% discount on 100 internet minutes, 2 complimentary dinners at Pinnacle Grill, free cooking class, and a complimentary 1-day pass to the spa thermal suite.

cuise ship docked in Jamaica

Norwegian Pearl in Jamaica

Norwegian‘s Latitudes Rewards Program requires participants to be 18 or older so children under 18 don’t rack up any points no matter how often they sail. Guests 18 and up get one point for each night sailed plus one bonus point for each of the following: Booking a suite, booking 9 months or more in advance, or booking a latitudes insider offer. They have 4 tiers with Bronze for 1-19 points, silver 20-47 points, gold 48-75 and platinum 76 and up. Special gifts are given at 250, 500, 700, and 1000 points. Benefits for all levels include Lattitudes online magazine, insider offers, priority check-in, onboard discounts, members cocktail party, and ship pin. Silver and up also get discounts on photos and spa, nightly chocolates, and an onboard gathering with ship’s officers. At gold you get priority tender, priority disembarkation, 25% laundry service for one bag, and a welcome gift. Platinum gets one bag of laundry for free and chocolate strawberries, concierge, behind the scenes tour, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a complimentary bistro dinner. Sailings must be 5 days or longer for benefits besides the ship pin and discounts to apply.

cruise ship at the dock

Ruby Princess in Ketchikan, Alaska

Princess gives points in their Captain’s Circle for number of cruises or cruise days so you can move up with either long or frequent cruises. They also count time spent on P&O. Levels start with gold upon completion of your first cruise. Benefits include special offers and member discounts, member only onboard events, magazine, newsletter, and recognition pin. At your 4th cruise or 31 cruise days you move up to Ruby and add an automatic upgrade when purchasing Princess’ vacation insurance, Captain’s Circle shoreside help desk phone number, and 10% discount on cruise DVD from your voyage. At your 6th cruise or 51 cruise days you become platinum and add a complimentary cruise atlas, preferred check-in, platinum disembarkation lounge, and some complimentary internet minutes to your benefits. Their top tier is elite which adds priority tender, priority disembarkation, free laundry service, shoe shining, elite stateroom package which includes one complimentary mini bar set-up and upgraded bathroom amenities, and a preferred  discount package with complimentary wine tasting event. Eligibility is on the next cruise after completion of a tier.

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas (internet photo)

Royal Caribbean calls their loyalty program the Crown & Anchor Society. You get one point for each night you cruise with them and double if you book a suite. They will match your tier status at Celebrity or Azamara. Children get the same status as their parents after completing their first cruise except for the very highest tier. Member benefits include discounts on certain cruises and with Royal Caribbean’s partners on shore. They have 6 tiers starting with gold. Gold benefits start at 3 points. Onboard benefits include priority check in, private departure lounge with continental breakfast, and exclusive trivia. Platinum starts at 30 points with the added benefits of an exclusive top tier event, robes to use onboard, and a lapel pin. At 55 points you move up to Emerald and gain a welcome gift. 80 points is diamond and new benefits include priority departure, behind the scenes tour of the entertainment area, various gifts, amenities, and events and a milestone recognition. 175 points is diamond plus where you get a behind the scenes tour, concierge lounge and priority theater and show seating. 700 points brings you to the Pinnacle Club, their top tier which brings free cruise certificates from 700 and every 350 points thereafter.  Some benefits like upgraded bathroom amenities and a meal with an officer started at 340 points.

cruise ship New Zealand

P&O Arcadia in Auckland, New Zealand

P&O – P&O is British rather than American, but I included them anyway. Their loyalty program is called the Peninsular Club. It has 6 tiers. Each night spent onboard a P&O ship earns you 10 points. Once you have spent 15 nights onboard you automatically become a member with access to the members only hotline, magazine, and member discounts on select cruises. Onboard benefits start on your next cruise. Each tier gets what the one before got plus more. Pacific Tier 150-500 points. 5% discount on onboard spending and access to the loyalty manager. Atlantic Tier 501-1000 points. Discount increases to 7.5% and upon entry to each new tier from this one on you get a glass of champagne and a lapel pin. Mediterranean Tier 1001-2000 points onboard spending discount increases to 8.5%  and you get slippers in your cabin, and a cocktail party on cruises of 8 days or more. Caribbean Tier 2001+ points. You get 10% off their travel insurance, priority booking and an annual gift. Onboard spending credit increases to 10%. You get priority embarkation with a private embarkation lounge onboard and you get half a bottle of champagne per cabin and an officer hosted lunch on cruises 8 nights and over. Baltic Tier 2501 + 80-200 nights onboard in the previous 3 years. You get priority on preferred airline seats on Caribbean fly-cruises, senior officers at the luncheon, and 50% discount on laundry service. Ligurian Tier 2501 + 201 or more nights onboard in the previous 3 years. Hospitality lounge to await embarkation, early embarkation, and complimentary formal attire pressing service. Sailings on P&O Australia do not count for P&O UK.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, P&O, Princess, Randoms, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Cruise Ship Port

cruise ship in Guatemala

Infinity at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Guatemala is a Spanish-speaking Central American country with volcanoes, rain forests, and ancient Mayan sites. Their currency is the Guatemalan quetzal, but shops at the cruise port are quite happy to accept American dollars. Shopkeepers at the port speak at least enough English to make a transaction. They are also willing to bargain so you can usually buy things for less than the marked price.

Guatemala volcanoes

Volcanoes on the horizon

Taking a ship’s excursion or staying in the immediate port area is often recommended when visiting Guatemala as it is not currently one of the safest places on the planet. The ship offered several excursions, most to the capitol city of Antigua involving a 90-minute bus ride each way and a fair amount of dollars. Two volcanoes stood prominently on the horizon in the morning that Celebrity Infinity came into port, only to become obscured behind a fog of clouds as the day progressed.

Guatemala cruise port

the cruise port looks like an oasis of green in an industrial area

The cruise dock in Puerto Quetzal sits near an industrial area where container ships unload. From the deck of the ship we could see the parklike cruise port area sitting next to what appeared to be an active coal mine, with mountains of something black enough to be coal at a facility on the other side.

jade museum

shades of jade

Not having booked an excursion, we opted to look around the port area in hopes of finding free internet and then enjoy some time on the uncrowded ship. The short walk down the dock from the ship leads to a small round building with a volcano shaped palapa top. Inside a marimba band played next to the tourist info booth which had a sign pronouncing that people could have their passports stamped free. Across the room another booth had a couple tour companies offering 5-hour van tours for about $45.

wi fi was hard to come by this cruise


Just one open-air bar under a canvas roof offered wi-fi connections in the port area. Not free, but not too expensive at $5 per hour. Nobody else was there when we came and the internet was fast enough to open emails and things without taking too long. As more people came and logged on it got progressively slower so definitely better to go there when it’s not crowded.

making products to sell

girl weaving

Walking through the little jungle area of shopping booths we saw many palm trees with the bottom of the trunk painted white – which a local at a port in Mexico once told us was to keep the ants away. People had a good time posing with some Styrofoam statues next to the path. Booths everywhere sold local crafts, jade jewelry, t-shirts and other things tourists might buy. Several stalls had a woman or girl weaving more items to sell.

Mayan jade

jade Mayan artifacts

At about the center of the park-like pavilion a sign for a jade museum sat in front of a little round building. People can go in there and look at their exhibits for free. The museum had a number of jade items from the old Mayan civilization on display along with interesting facts like Mayans knew how to drill teeth centuries before Europeans, evidenced by skeletons with jade baubles adorning their teeth.

things and stuff

things for sale

The little museum also had a video playing about a modern day search for the jade mines of the ancients. Eventually they found boulders in a farmer’s field containing jade that matched ancient artifacts so closely they could have come from the same boulder. Jade, it said, forms in areas of great pressure and in Guatemala is found along just one river where two of the earth’s tectonic plates meet. The museum also had a shop where the jade jewelry cost considerably more than in the little booths all around it.

what to do in port


Near the water’s edge a row of hammocks tied to coconut trees beckoned passers-by to stop for a comfortable rest and a view of the ship. At the far end of the complex you can find taxis, but in addition to going out on your own not being recommended, they are also expensive. The 5-hour tour costs less than a private taxi.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Celebrity, Infinity, Ports of Call, South and Central America | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mahogany Bay BOSS Underwater Scooters

it's not really magic and it doesn't fly

Carnival Splendor behind the Magic Flying Beach Chair

Carnival Splendor backed past the hulks of two rusted old ships into Mahogany Bay on Isla Roatan, Honduras on a beautiful sunny day. These two rusted old ships protruding from the water once delivered groceries to the island, but exploded and burned 35 years ago and have sat in the bay deteriorating ever since.

rusting hulk

the bigger of the two wrecks at Mahogany Bay

On our first visit to Mahogany Bay we stayed at the cruise port, which has lots of shops and a beautiful beach. We tried the Magic Flying Beach Chair. Even before it got stuck in the rain people with canes and wheelchairs got to the beach faster on the walking path. You can get some good ship photos from it though.

it's not that far

The walking path is the fastest way to the beach.

This time we tried something different and unique by booking a shore excursion on the B.O.S.S underwater scooters. BOSS stands for Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter. These scooters operated about 8 feet under the surface, with a buoy attached to keep them at the right depth and so those above the water know where to find them.

swing chair

if you take a detour on the path from the cruise port to the beach you can find this sea view swing

Just getting to the bus for our excursion brought us to parts of the port we hadn’t seen on our last visit. Beyond the canned cruise ship shopping area with all the usual cruise port shops we saw a zip line and a building marked independent tours. There’s a taxi stand and along the road out from the port a number of locals with signs for random tours wait for people looking for something to do.

shopping area

fake boots for photo posing at the cruise port

The bus to Flowers Bay where scooters awaited took us through town where houses range from looking like they were hand built from scraps to picture perfect without a paint chip out of place. Most homes sat up on pilings or had open cement basements whether they were built over water or on uneven ground or not.

Roatan homes

houses at Flowers Bay

At Flowers Bay we left the bus and walked down a small wooden dock to an open sided covered boat with one tiny toilet below decks. On board they told everyone how the scooters worked and passed out snorkel gear. Half the group rode scooters first while the other half could either snorkel or stay on the boat, then the two groups switched.

scooters on board

tour boat at the dock

We joined the snorkel first group in the water, and once our turn came for the scooters I felt very happy to have had a chance to see the area first. While snorkeling around the bay we could see plenty of coral as well as fish and other sea life. It all looked rather large if somewhat distant at the bottom of a fairly deep bay as far as snorkel sites go – probably somewhere around 20-30 feet deep.

underwater photo

sea floor snorkel photo

At times we got close enough to get photos of the other group riding the scooters, a sight not normally seen while snorkeling. Then the time came to go back to the boat and get ready for our turn on the scooters.

how to ride a scooter

demonstration on how to ride a scooter

The scooters stayed out in the bay while the riders ditched them and swam the short distance back to the boat. Someone from the crew stayed with them. I normally have my snorkel mask on before putting my face into salt water, but snorkel masks and even swim goggles have no place on an underwater scooter as they would just impair vision.

each scooter is tethered to a buoy

buoys show where the scooters are

We could swim the few feet to the scooters with our heads out of the water, but to get on the scooter you have to go under the water, get your head below the fish bowl-like helmet area and then rise up inside it where it is full of air rather than water.  Not wanting to get salt water into my eyes, I closed them before diving under the surface and just felt my way into the scooter, which is not hard to do as it is pretty easy to feel the lower edge of the helmet area. Once inside you just breathe normally and can see through the glass.

scooters on the boat

when not in use the scooters sit on the back of the boat

If I had not snorkeled first I would have thought we were at the bottom of a rather shallow bay. Through the curved fish bowl helmet the sea floor seemed just inches below the scooter. Rather than flat, it appeared as if the bottom rose up all around and we’d likely run into a wall of rock at any moment. Having seen the area first when snorkeling I knew that was an optical illusion. The bottom was quite a ways down and had nothing anywhere that we could hit.

riding scooters under water

people on scooters

The coral and sea life that looked so big and distant through the snorkel mask looked tiny and close through the scooter. Fish looked like the little ones that you see in the average home aquarium, and the coral and seaweed no bigger than decorative aquarium plants. The divers that stayed with the scooters looked about the size of Barbie dolls. While it always appeared as if our feet could scrape the ground, the minuscule-looking divers swam under the scooters with ease.

rider on an underwater scooter

diver with a scooter

Several divers stayed with the group, one to follow and a couple to herd people, watch over them, and make sure nobody had problems. One took photos. You can take underwater cameras on the scooter. One even has a mount for a GoPro. If using a wrist strap, the camera has to go on the left hand as the right hand mans the go button. I wasn’t sure how I’d take photos and drive the scooter at the same time so I left mine on the boat. It would have been nice to get a photo from inside the helmet to show how everything looked from there, but since I didn’t take the camera with me I couldn’t get that shot. A GoPro on a head strap would be ideal to show what you see in there, but I don’t have one of those.

ready for some fun

diver waiting for scooter riders

The scooters move pretty slowly and the handlebars move up and down from one side or the other to turn the vehicle. Mine felt as if it always wanted to turn right and I had to keep cranking it over to the left to go straight. Whether the scooter actually had an issue or not I couldn’t say because though I thought I held them equally, the right side does require the go button held down continuously to keep it moving which might unintentionally put more pressure on that side. Even without the go button what feels equal to me is probably also much stronger on the right since my left arm has no strength due to having once broken it inside the elbow joint.

riding scooters underwater

people riding BOSS scooters

Following along behind other scooters was pretty easy, but when the itsy bitsy looking diver in the lead turned the group starting at me I suddenly found myself at the front of the pack. It was a bit harder to figure out through his hand signals which way he actually wanted me to go. It’s always interesting to try something different and the scooters were fun to ride. If you do this excursion try and get in the group that snorkels first so you know what the area really looks like before you ride the scooter.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Ports of Call, Shore Excursions, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Towel Teddy Bear

I’ve got a lot of hits on my towel bear blog recently, and I think what people are actually looking for is this towel teddy bear, so to give people what they want, here it is. This is not my creation and the video is in Spanish because it came from what I am guessing is the creator of the one towel teddy bear.

one towel teddy bear

towel teddy bear

Supplies Needed To Make Towel Teddy Bear

1 hand towel

rubber bands


any other desired decorations like eyes, nose, tongue

How To Fold A Towel Teddy Bear

Towel Teddy Bear Video – It’s not English, but the movements are easy to follow even if you don’t know the words

Towel Teddy Bear Folding Instructions

how to fold a towel bear

fold over one third of the towel from a short end

Lay towel out flat. Fold over 1/3 of the towel from a short end.

how to fold a towel teddy bear

roll one side, then the other to the center

making a towel teddy bear

both sides rolled to the center

Roll each side to the center on the long sides.

step by step towel teddy bear folding instructions

towel flipped over so the rolls are on the underside

Turn towel over so the rolled end is underneath.

towel teddy bear folding instructions

twist the towel so the end with the original fold has the rolls facing upward

Twist the end with the folded edge halfway around so the rolls on that end are on top. These are the legs.

step by step towel teddy bear folding

fold over the end of the towel that had the rolls still facing down so that they are facing up on top of the other rolls that were already turned up when the towel was twisted

Fold over the other end across the short side and put the rolled ends on either side of the other rolls. These are the arms so you do not want them all the way down to the end of the legs.

teddy bear towel

push the arms off to the sides and unroll any part of the towel that remains rolled so no rolls are left on top the leg portion of the towel

Push the arms off to the sides of the bear. Unroll top edge above the arm part so there are no rolls left over top of the leg rolls, just smooth towel between the arms.

making a towel bear

gather in the sides of the towel above the arms and put a rubber band on it to make the head

Gather in the neck area and place a large rubber band around it.

teddy bear towel

small rubber bands around he upper edges make ears and a ribbon finishes the teddy bear

Use small rubber bands to turn the side rolls on the head part into ears.

teddy bear towel

finished per the video

In the video she puts an additional large rubber band around the neck before tying on the ribbon, but I’m not sure what the purpose of that was as it does not seem necessary. I ran the ribbon over the front of the neck and wrapped it around rather than just setting it across the back and tying it over the front for better rubber band coverage and did not use the extra rubber band on the neck.

bear made from hand towel

one towel teddy bear

It’s done per the video once you tie the ribbon on, but I added googly eyes and a black felt nose. A little double-stick tape holds the face on. I like it better with a face, but it’s optional.

For lots more towel animals please visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page


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Quebec City

Quebec cruise port

Veendam in Quebec City

Holland America Veendam cruised down the St. Lawrence river to Quebec City, where the ship spent a night before disembarkation. It was nice to have a port stop with no concerns over hurrying back to the ship before it left port. People could come and go as they pleased, going out for the morning, afternoon, evening, nightlife, or all day if they wished. People wanting to venture beyond the city could take excursions to see things outside the immediate area like a waterfall and large cathedral. The Veendam docked in the old town area so passengers didn’t even have to leave the ship for a great view of historical buildings and one of the town’s most famous landmarks – Le Chateau Frontenac.

hotel with many additions

View from the ship – Le Chateau Frontenac dominating the hilltop

From the ship passengers could walk right to the lower section of the old town, with buildings and narrow cobblestone streets reminiscent of old European towns. Le Chateau Frontenac dominates the landscape, perched at the edge of the upper area of old town. The hotel did not start out so gigantic, but rather got that way in several additions over time.

old church

Notre Dame des Victoires

We walked through the lower town for awhile, finding an old church at the edge of a public square. People could go inside the church, where they had signs posted about the church’s history and how the townspeople had twice prayed to be saved from invading forces which were turned back both times whether by defense or by weather. The church got the name Notre Dame des Victoires because of this.

pretty much a box on a steep track

Funiculaire travels between upper and lower old town Quebec City

Down the road a ways we found a gift shop housing the entrance to the funiculaire, which brings people up the hillside to the upper level of town. At the top you exit through another giftshop onto Dufferin terrace which was built over the ruins of the original fort that eventually grew into governor’s homes.

really big hotel

Le Chateau Frontenac from Dufferin Terrace

Le Chateue Frontenac rises imposingly above the terrace. The nearest door enters into a Starbucks. Around the other side of the building the front doors enter into the impressive lobby of the immense hotel. Seeking to avoid wind and rain we went in to explore the hotel. Most people headed down the hallway pointing to bars and restaurants, but we headed down a stairway instead hoping to find an uncrowded restroom, which we did.

still a post office

Old Post Office Building which is next to the Chateau

Beyond that we found another hallway. Along the sides of that hallway a number of glass cases held museum like exhibits of artifacts and historical information on the various renditions of a fort and subsequent governor’s house that once stood on the edge of the city wall. Each fort got larger than the last.

tourist shops

Shops in the upper part of old town

The second governor’s house built on the foundations of the first burned down one cold winter when all the firehoses were frozen and unable to fight a chimney fire. The earlier governors came from France, the later ones from England after France lost Quebec to England in a war. By the time we finished going through the museum area the wind had died down and the rain stopped.

in the cellar

Under Dufferin Terrace

After the fire the remains of the home were razed and the terrace built. In 2005 during restoration work on the terrace the old remains were found and excavation began, lasting until 2007. They found much of the cellar intact. Walking around on Dufferin Terrace in front of the hotel we noticed a couple glass bubble areas where you could look down into the cellar. At one spot we saw a stairway going down to the cellar with a parks department person guarding it.

not as old as it looks

Colonial style chocolate bar

In one of the bubbles we could see someone walking around down below. On the other end of the terrace we saw a parks dept building of sorts so we went in and found that we could get tickets to go down below for less than $4 each. They also had historic style chocolate bars for sale for $1 so we tried those too. Harder, crunchier, and not as sweet as modern chocolate bars, but good.

it had a deep pit

storage area of the old cellar

We had to walk back to where we’d seen the parks dept person at the stairway to find the entrance to the cellar as the one next to the ticket building was locked and marked as the exit. Signs and interactive video kiosks explained each area of the cellar and each case of artifacts. It’s worth the minimal cost to see this exhibit. I’ve definitely learned more history and geography through traveling than I ever did in school.

blends right in with the buildings

Even the street musicians have a colonial look

Pretty much anywhere you walk around the old town area, whether upper or lower, you can find charming historic buildings. Like the lower level, many buildings in the upper town house shops and restaurants geared to the tourist crowd.

interesting store

Geomania store is right across the square from the old church

On our way back to the ship we stopped to take a look around the Geomania gemstones shop in the lower town across the square from the old church. This unique jewelry store has a whole room dedicated to Canadian gemstones. Each display has a different stone. A sign on top the case gives the name of the stone and tells a bit about where in Canada they find it.

best jewelry store ever

display of different types of gemstones in Geomania

This store is worth a visit just to look around and see how many different stones you probably never heard of that are found in various places around Canada. They make most of their jewelry right there in the shop. While not expensive compared to a lot of jewelry, most of the items in the cases cost more than I cared to spend that day. They did have some single stone on chain necklaces for a lot less on some small shelves on the wall. I found a labradorite there and since I rather liked that stone I got one of those – with a 10% discount for having a cruise ship card from the Veendam.

painted building

Quebec has a lot of interesting old buildings – even one with a mural of buildings painted on one side

There’s plenty to see in Quebec City within walking distance of the ship, and when spending a night there as ours did there’s also plenty of time for people venture out farther.

lower town

street that leads to the funiculaire

In early colonial times the lower area was mainly for poor people like merchants, sailors and artisans while upper town was for those considered higher quality citizens like government, clergy, and the rich and elite.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016
Posted in Canada, Holland America, Port Cities, Ports of Call, Veendam | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Gluten Free Cruising

Ruby Princess

view from the Promenade deck

Although we’ve always enjoyed the company of the friends we’ve met at the table on set time dining, when cruising with my husband we usually opt for the anytime, your time, freedom, or whatever a particular cruise line calls their dining program where you can show up anytime within the given hours for dinner. On the Ruby Princess my sisters and I opted for the Anytime Dining program there too. One of the dining rooms served anytime dining through the whole dinner period and another served early seating first and then opened for anytime later while the third dining room did just set time dining with an early and a late seating. Not having the same table or waiters never matters when cruising with my husband, but neither of us has any special dietary needs.

Ruby Princess chicken dinner

this gluten free chicken dinner is on the everyday side of the regular dining room menu

On the first night on the Ruby Princess my sisters and I went to the dining room that opened first for anytime dining, but not right at opening time. When we got there we found out that the wait there was longer than the time until the other dining room upstairs opened for anytime dining so we went there instead, planning to go back to the other one at an earlier time the next day. Since both my sisters are gluten free they asked the waiter what was safe for them to eat. They had a gluten free chicken dinner on the every day side of the menu that is always available, so they both ordered that for the first night.

surf and turf

my sisters ate well with meals like surf & turf

The head waiter came by later with menus for them to choose something for the next night that would then be made gluten free. He said to come back there, but we said we really wanted to eat earlier so had planned on going to the other dining room. He said to come to his dining room 25 minutes after the early seating started and he would take care of us. He meant the time exactly too because when we came a bit earlier just to check in with him he seemed a bit flabbergasted, probably thinking we expected him to seat us right then. We left for a few minutes and came back at the proper time, making sure to always show up at exactly the specified time from then on.

cruise food

crab dinner

Although the ship offered options for the anytime dining, for people on special diets that order their dinner the day ahead the wait crew need to keep track of who orders what and when and where to serve it to them. Because of that, set time dining is a better option for anyone on gluten free or other special needs diets since you have an assigned table there.


one day both sisters tries the escargot

The head waiter took good care of them. He brought the menus around each night and took their orders, then sat us somewhere within the same waiter’s section each night. The timing on when he wanted us to come was because he had to wait until the time passed for the people on set time to arrive if they were coming and then he’d put us at a table where they didn’t show. We had the same table all but one night, so its assigned occupants must have chosen to eat either at the buffet, the 24-hour cafe, or at one of the premium restaurants most nights. It worked out well for us. The start time was good for us and we always got right in at a time when there was never a line since early seating had already started and anytime at that restaurant was still a long way off.

cruise food

lobster was on the menu one night

On the last night we told the head waiter we planned to go to the afternoon tea and skip dinner as the ship stopped in Victoria that night and dinner would run too late. He didn’t seem to want us to go to tea rather than dinner and produced a menu too good to pass up on. He said they were starting dinner early that day since a lot of people would want to get off the ship. He gave us an earlier start time, which was about 15 minutes before the dining room was scheduled to open. Since they had made all dining rooms anytime dining for that night when we got there quite a line had already formed. We worked our way up near the front of the line. Amazingly enough we went quite a ways through the line before anybody already standing there said anything. One of my sisters said we had an appointment and kind of quickly explained on the run about gluten free diets. We got near the front of the line, but had not quite gotten to the check in point yet when the whole line suddenly started pouring in through the door. They must have let in another special needs party and gotten mobbed by an impatient crowd they weren’t ready for following them in because as we got to the door the host told us to run to our usual table before someone else snagged it. We made it to the table and were rewarded with steak dinners for my sisters, turkey for me, and baked Alaska for everyone for dessert because they had made a special gluten free one. We quite enjoyed the food on the Ruby Princess, it was very good.

steak dinner

on the last night they had steak

One day we did go to the tea, but did not make any special arrangements in advance for my sisters. They had just planned to pick whatever they could eat off of what was served and not trouble anyone for special food. The head waiter spotted them there and panicked about them having a reaction if they did that. He said that would never do and had something special brought up from the galley for them. Some people with gluten issues like celiacs are sensitive enough that they will have a reaction if their food touched anything with gluten in it, but while gluten will make my sisters ill, they are not celiacs.

cruise ship dessert

floating islands with vanilla sauce and caramel drizzle

We had breakfast at the buffet most days and they had no trouble finding food they could eat. The one day we had breakfast in the dining room they discovered gluten free pancakes on the standard menu, which one sister ordered and liked quite well.

My older sister discovered a gluten free dessert at the buffet’s late night selection one day early on in the cruise, which she quite enjoyed. After that though we were far from needing anything else to eat, we went up to the late night buffet for 2nd dessert so they could try another new gluten free option since it changed to something different each day.

cruise food - Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

It’s not possible for any cruise ship to come up with an alternative menu that would serve the needs of everyone with special diets since what a given person can or can’t eat varies so much from one to another. Instead they have the passengers with special needs diets view the next day’s menu each night at dinner and the chef alters the selected meal to fit within that person’s diet. They did this with all the dinner courses, but my sisters never knew what they would get for dessert. They always got something. It was never the same as what the late night buffet had, but was always a version of one of the dining room desserts on the menu that evening. Princess has great food and even people on special diets can eat well onboard. They do ask about that in the registration process so they know before you arrive that you will have special needs.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2016


Posted in Cruise Food, Princess, Ruby Princess, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Fold Towel Ducks

how to fold a towel duck family

towel ducks

How to Make Towel Ducks

Supplies Needed for Making Towel Ducks

Bath Towel – for large duck

Hand Towel – for small duck

Washcloth – for duckling


Towel Duck Folding Instructions

If you want to make a large duck, use a bath towel. If you want to make a small duck use a hand towel. All steps are the same for both sizes.

towel duck step 1

fold corners of long side into a triangle

Lay towel out flat. Fold over top corners along the long side of the towel making a triangular tip.

towel duck step 2

roll both sides to the middle from the folded edges

Roll both sides in as tightly as you can from the pointed tip along the folded sides.

towel duck folding

roll both sides to the center as tightly as you can

Tuck the loose ends in between the rolls on the wide end.

towel duck step 3

tuck the loose ends between the folds

Set towel with rolls down and shape wide end to look like the back end of a duck.

towel duck folding step 4

shape the wide end to look like the tail end of a duck

If you have rolled your towel nice and tight like a cruise ship stateroom steward, fold the narrow end back over the top of the duck body into a S shape for the neck and head and pose as desired.

Of course not everyone is able to roll their towels tightly like the stewards do. I broke my arm at the elbow joint a couple years ago and have a bit of nerve damage down into the fingers. Things could have been a lot worse since it healed better than expected and nobody else notices the arm is not quite normal. There are however some things I can no longer do and rolling towels tightly is one of them. Thus the necessity for other ways of making animals, which are also useful for anyone who is not an expert towel folder.

cheater tips for poor towel folders

if the duck head and neck don’t stay put flatten them with a book

If you are unable to roll the towel tight enough for the neck and head to stay posed, fold them back into an S shape and put a heavy book on top. Leave book for several hours to overnight and the head and neck will stay up when you remove the book.

making a towel duck

the neck needs to curve back a bit to hold up the head

Once the head and neck are posed, place eyes on the head. Use google eyes if you have some, if not make eyes from felt or paper. If the eyes do not stay on their own use double stick tape to keep them in place.

Towel Duckling Folding Instructions

washcloth animal folding

fold edge over to turn a square into a rectangle

Lay washcloth out flat. Fold bottom edge of washcloth up 2 or 3 inches to make a rectangle instead of a square.

folding a washcloth into a duckling

fold corners down into a triangle same as with duck towels

Fold down the top corners and continue following the same instructions used for the larger ducks.

making towel ducks

towel ducks

For more towel animal folding instructions visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

how to fold a towel duck

towel duck

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