Fort Worden

view from a little sandwich shop of a very small cruise ship docked in Port Townsend

Located at Point Wilson near the town of Port Townsend on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, Fort Worden was originally built as part of the triangle of fire protecting the entrance to Puget Sound. Nearby Fort Casey on Whidbey Island and Fort Flagler on the north end of Marrowstone Island complete the triangle. Built from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s, these forts were intended to protect the area from invasion by sea, though they were never needed for that purpose. Much of the original armament from Fort Worden was sent to Europe during the first world war. All three forts have long since been decommissioned and all are historic state parks now. Some of Fort Worden’s buildings are currently used as a school. Very small cruise ships from lines like Un-Cruise Adventures or American Cruise Lines sometimes make port stops in Port Townsend.

lighthouse at Point Wilson

Fort Worden State Park has a lighthouse, 2 campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, over 2 miles of beach, a boat dock, and launching ramps. Some areas of the park require a Discover Pass, which is required in Washington for access to state parks, DNR lands, and fish and wildlife areas. Day passes are available at the park as well as the standard year-long pass. Besides the campgrounds people can stay in some of the park’s buildings. Most of the officer’s houses are available, as are cottages and dormitories.

lighthouse at Point Wilson

The lighthouse on Point Wilson was built in 1879, before the neighboring fort. Point Wilson is at the western entrance to Puget Sound. The buildings surrounding the lighthouse currently have an abandoned deteriorating sort of look. The lighthouse itself is still in use for its original purpose of aiding marine traffic, but the light is fully automated and monitored from the coast guard station in Port Angeles. It’s sad that these buildings appear to have just been left to rot rather than being included in the rental pool. Being beachfront with awesome views if they were fixed up they’d likely be the most popular vacation homes in the park.

Alexander’s Castle and a bit of a battery in the background

Alexander’s Castle was the first building in the fort area, built in 1883 by Reverend John B. Alexander. The unique little brick building still stands and is currently available as a vacation home rented to park visitors.

map showing the locations of the 3 forts that made up the triangle of fire

The fort was built from 1898 to 1920 and designated as a national historic landmark in 1976. It was an active army base from 1902 to 1953. In 1957 it was purchased by the state of Washington for use as a juvenile detention facility. Ownership was transferred to the parks department in 1971 and Fort Worden State Park opened in 1973.

Fort Worden Science Museum – there’s an aquarium across the street at the end of a dock out in the water and the admission fee covers both. You can also buy a discount ticket for the park’s 3 museums.

During World War 1 the fort was used for training soldiers before sending them overseas to fight in Europe. As the role of aircraft and balloons became more important and the need for coastal artillery less, a balloon hanger was built at the fort in 1920.

homes in officer’s row are mostly vacation rentals, but one is a museum

During World War 2 the fort was headquarters for the harbor defense command and monitored all ship traffic entering or leaving Puget Sound using new sonar and sensing devices. Most of the gun batteries were modified to hold anti-aircraft guns as their original purpose for coastal artillery aimed at ships was long since outdated. After the war the guns were dismantled and the base remained as an administrative facility until its closure in 1953.

dining room in the officer’s house museum

Fort Worden has several museums. One is in a former officer’s house. It is furnished with period pieces of the sort that would have been used there, but the actual furniture and things belonging to the people living there came and left when they did. There is also an artillery museum as well as the sealife science center and aquarium. Other entertainment at the park includes kayak and rowboat rentals. There are several places to buy food and even a gift shop. The former fort also has facilities for conferences and weddings.

scene from An Officer and a Gentleman

Much of the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger was filmed at Fort Worden. Scenes were filmed in various places around the fort including some of the buildings, at battery Kinzie, and in the blimp hanger, which has since been turned into a performing arts center. Many of the off-base sites were filmed in Port Townsend. Both Paula and Lynette’s houses and the factory where they worked were actually in Port Townsend rather than across the sound as portrayed in the film. The Tides Inn from the movie is a real motel and is still in business.

bedroom in the officer’s house museum

I visited the park one day with my sister Linda. We spent a bit of time at the lighthouse, which now sits behind a fence and were sad to see how the buildings there appear to have been left to deteriorate in the effects of coastal weather. Even if they don’t want to fix them up for the rental pool, a lighthouse museum would be interesting and could include the keeper’s house as well, giving the park a good reason to preserve those historic buildings.

living room in the officer’s house museum

We also took a tour through the officer’s house museum, which is in the former quarters of the commanding officer at the end of officer’s row. The rest of the houses there are rentals for park visitors, suitable for large groups as they hold anywhere from 6-28 people depending on the house.

map of Fort Worden State Park

This fort turned park has enough of a variety of places to stay and things to see and do to make it a fun and interesting place for just about anyone.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in USA, Washington | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hits and Misses on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas

cruise ship in Honolulu

Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas

Hits and Misses on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas

Cruise ships vary greatly from one to another, and so of course do cruise ship passengers. Most people find some things they like and some they don’t on pretty much any ship. One person’s favorite thing might be the very thing someone else hates most so hits and misses on any given ship are definitely a matter of personal opinion. After cruising across the Pacific Ocean on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, these are the things that stood out most to me as what I did and did not like about the ship.

HITS

wayfinder on deck

digitally find anything on board

Wayfinder electronic display – near each elevator and stairway area a video screen provided all sorts of information with a touch. It had the daily activity schedule, the day’s menus, and deck plans of the ship. If you wanted to know how to get anywhere on board from where you currently were it could tell you that too, and even map out a route on the deck plans for you to follow. It’s hard to say if something this useful that requires touching by numerous people will survive on a ship post Covid-19 though. If they could make it voice-activated instead of a touch screen it would work, or of that’s not possible maybe accompany it with a hand sanitizer stand.

6am open time at the Gym – instead of opening at 8am like a lot of other lines, the gym on the Explorer opened at 6, which is great for people who want time to workout and shower before breakfast and still make it to morning events. It was necessary to be there right at opening time or before to get one of the more popular machines like treadmill or elliptical for an early morning workout though.

inside a cruise ship

overlooking the promenade café end of the Royal Promenade

Royal Promenade – Rather than just a central atrium area open several decks high like on many ships, Explorer had an area called the Royal Promenade open several decks high running from the front stairway to the back stairway. This area was set up to look like a city street with shops along the sides and at one end a 24-hour café. Inside cabins with windows into the promenade gave the look of apartment buildings rising from the street. This feature is found on Royal Caribbean ships, but not usually on other lines.

door sign magnet

a cruise line smart enough to use a magnet for their clean/don’t disturb door sign

Magnetic door sign – I’ve often wondered why cruise ships don’t have magnetic please clean my room/please do not disturb signs since the doors are always magnetic and the paper ones that hang on a doorknob tend to fall off or turn the wrong way. This ship had a magnet hanging on the inside of the door, which passengers could set on the outside of their door with either the clean or don’t disturb side out, which was quite handy as well as nice to know at least one cruise line thinks like I do about that sort of thing.

cruise ship dining room

dining room

Dining Room Carts – Waiters in the dining room have carts to wheel food to the tables instead of having to carry heavy trays piled with plates. I’ve often looked at the waitstaff on other lines crooked over under the weight of their heavy trays wondering if the ship’s staff includes a chiropractor for the dining room crew since they always look like they need one. Besides less likelihood of losing a mountain of plates in rough seas, it was much nicer to see the staff move about the dining room upright pushing a cart rather than bent over under a heavily laden tray. Plus they can move more items at one time with the cart making it more efficient than carrying a tray so that’s a bonus too.

cruise ship casino

casino on Explorer of the Seas

$2 mimosas – Each morning the casino had $2 mimosas for a couple hours. I’m not a drinker, but a lot of other passengers appreciated it even if there was a 2 drink limit per person. For me personally the biggest hit about the casino was that it was non-smoking.

solarium hot tub

one of two hot tubs in the solarium

Solarium – The ship had a solarium area separated from the main pool deck with sliding glass doors. The outer portions of the room were under cover with an opening over the pool so it had both sunny and shady chairs (with the shady ones being the most popular). This area was both non-smoking and adults only. It also had 2 hot tubs under cover. This was our go-to area if we wanted to sit out on the deck for the shady and smoke free loungers. The fact that this area had nicer deck chairs than the main deck made it even more attractive, though if the situation were reversed I’d pick a smoke-free area over one with better deck chairs any day.

cruise ship ice arena

ice show in the skating rink

Ice Arena – Explorer has an actual ice skating arena. Royal Caribbean has them on a lot of their ships. Sometimes it is open for passengers to skate. They provide skates and helmets. They also had an ice show, which was one of  the best shows of the entire cruise.

flow show

flow rider crew performing in the flow show

Flow rider – The ship had a flow rider with open times daily for both stand-up surfing and boogie boarding. Most of the crew working there were quite helpful teaching passengers how to use it. The Flow Show they had at the end of the cruise was quite fun to watch.

rock climbing wall

almost there – climbing the ship’s rock climbing wall

Rock Climbing Wall – the more things a ship has for people to do the better, and none of these activities cost extra, not the wall, flow rider, or ice arena.

No Indoor Smoking – The less smoking areas a ship has the more pleasant it is so it’s always nice to be able to walk around inside a ship without walking through smoke.

engine camera monitors

monitors showing what the engine cameras see on the behind the scenes tour

Cameras Allowed  – on the behind the scenes tour. We have been on a ship where they were not, so we appreciated being allowed to take photos behind the scenes on this ship.

Blackjack Tournament – Pays to 3 places. Unless you’re the winner it’s nice if the winner doesn’t take all because that way more people win.

lamingtons

lamingtons from the Royal Promenade café on Explorer of the Seas

Lamingtons  – Some afternoons the café on the promenade had lamingtons, which became so popular they ran out quickly once a significant amount of the passengers besides the Australians or people who had previously been to Australia discovered what they were. They may have been special for this cruise since it ended in Australia rather than a standard thing Royal Caribbean serves, which would be too bad because they were delicious.

MISSES

Too Many Smoking Areas – Although inside the ship was smoke free, there were so many smoking areas outside that a significant portion of the outside of the ship was too smoky to set foot in. There were smoking areas on the starboard side of 3 outdoor decks including the promenade deck and pool deck. Also at the center of the pool area on a platform at the front so smoke travels over the whole pool area. The Walking/Jogging track circled around the pool deck and right next to the platform smoking area so neither the track nor the promenade were suitable for anyone who likes to breathe while they exercise. No wonder the treadmills filled up so quickly – all that smoke is not exactly conducive to good health.

cruise ship pools

main pool deck with smoking on the balcony at the front of the picture and starboard side both levels

Expensive Internet –  There were no surf only internet packages available in the discounted packages prior to the cruise, and onboard the surf only cost about the same as buying the full surf and stream package ahead of time – which is supposed to be faster internet even if you don’t need the stream part, though on a ship out to sea no internet is ever actually all that fast.

doing laundry on a cruise ship

laundry hanging to dry in the cabin bathroom

No Self-Serve Guest Laundry – On a ship doing long cruises and ocean crossings some washers and dryers would be greatly appreciated by a whole lot of passengers. You can of course send laundry out for the crew to wash, but on this ship it was by the item, not the bag. Sometimes it’s almost cheaper to buy new clothes than to have the crew do your laundry, and even when they had a “special” it was $35 for a small bag and only for specific items – the ones that are easiest to handwash. We just handwashed.

reserved seats

although the reserved seats were nicer chairs than others on the pool deck, they were next to the smoking platform and had no cover and were empty most of the time

Reserved Seating – A section of seats in the theater as well as a bunch of the loungers on the pool deck were roped off with signs saying they were for people with gold colored cards only. No idea if that is suite people or high status loyalty card people. The theater ones they did open up at the start of the show so if you got there a bit late you could get a better seat than if you got there early because the special people never seemed to fill many seats.

Bathrobes – are not standard in the rooms for everyone, but something to be earned by loyalty level (though the steward did bring one when requested on day 1 before I knew it was supposed to be a loyalty perk.)

doing laundry on a cruise ship

even the dark clothes got handwashed in hot water unless I dumped in some ice from the ice bucket

Water Temperature –  in a lot of the cabins the water temperature ranged from hot to scalding instead of cold to hot. As in turn the shower to the coldest possible setting to avoid burns, and you brush your teeth in hot water because other than pouring it out of the ice bucket there is no cold. Hopefully this was due to some sort of plumbing issue that has since been fixed rather than being a permanent problem with this ship, but I have no way of knowing if it was or not.

Chair Hogs – The crew are supposed to pick up unattended towels and things from deck chairs after half an hour so other people can use the chairs, but things would sit there for hours with no people in the chairs and nobody ever did anything about it even when other passengers complained. The same people hogged the best seats in the solarium all day every day and rarely ever actually sat in them. (You could tell it was the same people because they always had the same fancy towel clips holding their towels on the chairs.) Other people sometimes set these inconsiderate people’s things aside and used the chairs anyway when there weren’t any others available and could be there for a few hours without the selfish people ever showing up. Still the crew never removed their stuff, which of course just encourages others to join in that bad behavior making the problem even worse. This is an ongoing problem on many cruises where signs say chair saving is not allowed yet passengers do it anyway and the crew does nothing about it which rewards rule breakers at the expense of everyone else.

protect coral while protecting yourself

bring your own coral safe sunscreen because cruise ships never have any

No Reef-Safe Sunscreen – With the amount of people cruise ships normally take to tropical places on a daily basis you would think the least they could do is have some reef safe sunscreen in their gift shop and try to make passengers aware of the need to use it, but they never do. Even the port lecturer on this ship failed to mention how ordinary sunscreens kill coral though at least one of the ports we went to had signs saying no sunscreen allowed on anyone going into the water.

fancy floor

fancy floor in the casino entrance

Smoke Smell – the stench of stale smoke still hung about the casino even though it had been a couple years since smoking was allowed in there.

Overall we quite enjoyed our cruise on Explorer of the Seas and would be happy to sail with Royal Caribbean again in the future.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pireaus Cruise Port

MSC Lirica in Piraeus

Like many ports, where the ship actually docks in Athens is not the famous city, but nearby Piraeus, about 10 kilometers distant. On the MSC Lirica tickets to catch a hop-on-hop-off (aka HOHO bus) at the port for $20 euro per person were distributed to the cabins the night before, with a note saying if you chose to purchase it to take the yellow bus. The stop at the port exit held many yellow busses, which were operated through Greyline, as well as a blue bus and a standard red HOHO bus. We didn’t take any of them, but if the price for all three was similar the best bet would be to take the one that made the most frequent stops at each pick-up point to save long waits for the next bus when disembarking – which in this instance would likely be the yellow ones recommended by the cruise line due to the sheer amount of them, but it never hurts to check around. After all actually having room for everyone waiting to get on when the bus arrives might be easier on a less-crowded option. People can also get to Athens by subway, city bus, train, or taxi. Subway and city bus are the cheapest, and the subway is way faster than the bus.

Lirica at the dock by a port building

At that stop there is also a train tram that does local tours around Piraeus for 5 euro each. We stayed in Piraeus for a few days prior to a different cruise several years back. The little train was included free with one of the hop on hop off bus companies, but I don’t recall which. We took the train back then and it looped around all the main points of interest in Piraeus, and was also hop on hop off. Having been both there and Athens before we just walked around for a bit to get some exercise this time.

ferries in Piraeus

The port at Piraeus stretches along the waterfront for quite a distance. The slip in the main port area where the Lirica docked was probably a couple kilometers distant from the one out on the very end where we boarded Carnival Vista several years ago. Going the opposite direction from Lirica as to where the Vista docked, once past the cruise ship terminals there are ferries. All sorts of ferries going out to Santorini and many other places.

flowers by a building in Piraeus

Piraeus is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the busiest in the world. It is one of the most important in continental Greece due to its proximity to the capital city of Athens. Piraeus has been the Athenian port since ancient times. It is made up of several smaller ports expanding into the inlets of the Akti peninsula. The biggest of the three inlets is Kantharos which is used as a commercial port. The middle sized one, Zea is used as a yacht marina, and the smallest, Microlimano is mostly used by fishing boats with the area around it lined with cafes, shops, and seafood restaurants.

ruins in Piraeus

There’s not a whole lot of touristy stuff in Piraeus, but there are lots of bakeries and coffee shops, plenty of other stores, and if you go far enough you’ll find a lovely seaside walkway and the marina by the fishing boats with the touristy area next to it full of shops and restaurants. There’s also a couple museums and here and there some small ruins. We happened across some ruins on our walk that were different from the two places where we found some on our last visit.

little park in Piraeus

We also found several parks and green spaces in near the port that we did not see on our last visit.

café at the port in Piraeus

The cruise terminal has free wifi, and the terminal where our ship docked had a little cafe that also had free wifi, which was different to what the port provided. There were quite a lot of people using the port wifi, so we went to the cafe. The internet was not too slow at first when there was just one other person there. It got slower as time progressed and more people came in. Likely faster than the port’s wifi though since there were a lot more people using that one. The price of a coffee for John and a tea for me was well worth it to use the cafe’s wifi. We did have an internet package on the ship, but besides ship’s internet always being excruciatingly slow, on this ship it was not unlimited usage so we took advantage of a chance to catch up on things while in port.

scenic view in Pireaus

Port security on the way back to the ship had a big dog sleeping lazily on the job in the middle of the walkway. He didn’t stir as people walked by. Another dog was awake and just hanging around the security staff, but neither made any effort to sniff us or our belongings. Perhaps they come to life if they smell a banned substance or if one of the security staff thinks something looks suspicious and wants them to investigate.

church in Piraeus

Between the screening area and the ship there’s a duty free shop. Our ship did not screen anyone coming onboard as they had already been screened in the port so anything (like booze) bought at the duty free shop was home free for use onboard, unlike bottles purchased onboard which are held until just before disembarkation.

sadly, most places in the world have litter, graffiti, stray animals, and homeless people.

Last time we were in Greece their economy was in some sort of crisis and everything was incredibly cheap, but they must have sorted things out now because most things cost considerably more this time. Still reasonable in price compared to a lot of other places though.

stray dog

There are a lot of stray animals in Greece, and Piraeus is no exception with a population of both stray cats and stray dogs.

orange tree

There were also some homeless people. Perhaps they make use of some of the many orange trees growing along the streets.

one of the many churches in Piraeus

Walking around Piraeus there are some interesting things to see. Besides the waterfront and small ruins, there are some buildings with interesting architecture, particularly the churches. Independent of Athens, Piraeus itself is one of Greece’s larger cities. The weather is generally warm and dry. Money in Greece is the euro, which is worth a bit more than American dollars.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Europe, Lirica, MSC, Port Cities, Ports of Call | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Will Cruising Change Post Covid-19?

Ruby Princess cruise ship

Ruby Princess

While all the cruise ships are sitting at the dock waiting for the world to recover from Covid-19, are they making any modifications to help prevent future outbreaks on cruise ships? They certainly have the time for it, but only the cruise lines know for sure. The rest of us can only speculate on what they might do until the cruise ships set sail once again.

desserts at the buffet

If they want to reduce the spread of germs among passengers throughout the ship, the buffet is a good place to start. Will self-serve buffets on cruise ships be a thing of the past?Having all those passengers handle the same serving utensils is definitely an easy way for germs to spread. With each thing you serve up on your plate you touch a handle that hundreds of other people already touched. Then you touch your food, hands, or face. Maybe even the other people you are there with as well. Even if everyone uses the hand sanitizer that is always at the doorway to the buffet there’s no guarantee they won’t cough, sneeze, touch their face, or touch someone else before they finish getting all their food. And the odds of very many if any of them going back to the entrance for more hand sanitizer before going back for seconds or dessert are quite slim indeed.

crepes made fresh

making fresh crepes at Holland America’s buffet

Having a crew member serve everything that isn’t already dished up on individual plates where passengers would only touch the plate they are taking would stuff up the line and slow down the service for sure, but it would mean just that one crew person touching the serving utensils rather than countless passengers, which would certainly help prevent viruses and bacteria from spreading.

red frog on tap

serve yourself beer at the buffet on Carnival Vista

Drink dispensers are another easy source of contamination. Besides touching the button or lever that initiates the liquid filling your cup, there are always those selfishly rude people who fill their water bottles by stuffing the opening they drink out of right on the water spigot contaminating it directly – and I’ve seen people do that to the juice dispensers as well. Short of having a crew person serve up all the drinks or guard the dispensers, they’d have to have come up with some sort of high-tech hands-free dispenser that would only fill its own cups when they are sitting in a designated spot so it couldn’t be used with people’s personal water bottles to solve that one. Passengers could of course get the same water at the bathroom sink in their own cabin, but if they think they must hold up the line to fill it at the drink dispensers they could do better by using a clean cup to obtain the liquid and then pouring it from there into the bottle – without touching the cup to the bottle of course or they would need a new cup for each bit of water they poured in there.

cruise food

buffet food

Speaking of clean cups, there is a reason people are supposed to use clean cups and plates for refills. If you put the cup near the spigot instead of setting it down where it belongs when you fill it then a dirty cup will contaminate the dispenser just the same as a personal water bottle. And if a serving utensil touches a plate someone already ate off of they might just as well lick the spoon before they put it back into the food because that will contaminate it just the same.

pinnacle suite bathroom

I haven’t taken any photos of public bathrooms on cruise ships, but here’s one from a fancy suite

Of course the buffet isn’t the only place where germs can easily spread. It would be impossible to make every surface on a ship touch-free, but the public bathrooms could be updated with automatic flushing, hands-free faucets and soap dispensers, and automatic doors at the entry. Hands free towel dispensers too for the few ships that use paper towels rather than having a stack of cloth towels that go into a bin for washing after one use.

glass elevator on the Westerdam

elevator with a view – and the day of the week

Elevator doors already open automatically, but then there’s the floor buttons. Everybody needs to tell the elevator what floor they want it to stop on, so each of those buttons gets touched hundreds of times daily. I haven’t seen a ship yet with a voice activated elevator – except for the starship turbolifts on Star Trek. You can of course avoid the elevator by taking the stairs, but be careful not to touch the handrail.

MSC Lirica gangway

Ships do already have crew cleaning some of the public areas constantly. Maybe they will have even more of them in the future. For the time in between cleanings perhaps hand sanitizer stands set around the ship in more places than eateries and the gangway could be helpful, assuming everybody used them.

cruise ship gym - where to work off all that great food

gym on Carnival Breeze

The gym is another place where people touch things that a lot of other people touch. Often sweaty people since they are there to work out. There are always clean towels to wipe the equipment off with when done, but the addition of some spray bottles of disinfectant to clean it with could come in useful in preventing the spread of disease.

cruise ship spa chairs

Westerdam heated ceramic chairs

Many ships have heated ceramic chairs or benches when they have a thermal suite at their spa. This is a pay-extra amenity, so not nearly as many people are using them, but still a place where a variety of people will have touched the same thing between cleanings. Some people put towels between them and the surface of the bench, some don’t. One ship we went on had sanitizing wipes available for people to clean the chairs with. Perhaps having those available on all ships with a thermal suite that includes those chairs or benches would be a good idea.

sailing through the Suez Canal

Cruises are still a great way to see the world on a budget and a fun way to travel. People may just need to be more mindful of what they touch and wash their hands more often. Even during the start of the pandemic while there were still many ships at sea the majority of them didn’t have any Corona virus problems on board. It’s just the few that did that made the news. Later though the Costa Deliziosa – the final ship still sailing – did make the news without any outbreaks, just because they were the last ones left still stranded at sea after a longer than intended cruise until they eventually found a place that would allow them to disembark.

cruise ship medical center

medical center on a cruise ship

Ideally of course someone will invent vaccines, treatments, and cheap instant tests, but even if those things happen making strides to prevent infections from spreading would still be a positive thing for ships to help keep any other diseases that come along at bay.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Randoms, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Cruise Ship Cabins on MSC Lirica

Lirica in Split, Croatia

MSC Lirica has the same standard cabin types as most cruise ships with suites as well as balcony, oceanview, and interior cabins. These cabins come with varying degrees of service, with the higher service levels going to the suites or staterooms considered most desirable and therefore higher in price and the lowest level of service in the least expensive cabins. Desirability is based on location within the ship as well as on the type of room. Their most basic or Bella service only goes to interior cabins at the bow and stern of deck 7, the lowest level of the ship with passenger cabins, as well as interior cabins to the stern of deck 8 and extreme stern of deck 9.

Some cabins labeled obstructed view actually do have a view – like this one.

Ocean view cabins with obstructed views on deck 7 also have the Bella service. All other interior rooms as well as non-obstructed ocean view cabins, and the lowest priced balcony staterooms and suites have Fantastica service, which is their mid-level service and similar to the standard service on most other lines. This level includes a free room service breakfast menu, which is not available to Bella cabins. The highest service level called Aurea, is available only in premium balcony cabins and suites. This is the only level that has access to their My Choice dining program where you can go to the dining room anytime during its open hours rather than a specific set time and table. Aurea service also includes some free drinks and massages, a private sun deck, and priority boarding. These service levels relate more to amenities than to actual service to the stateroom. They all get cleaned daily with nightly turndown service.

balcony cabin

Balcony cabins are generally toward the center of the ship, with the rooms out near the ends falling into the oceanview category having just a window. There are no rear facing or corner wraparound balcony rooms as both forward and rear balcony areas are public spaces, though only the rear ones have deck chairs. There are some ocean view cabins with windows facing those decks.

oceanview cabin

Oceanview cabins are found at both ends of the decks with passenger cabins on them. Interior cabins sit across the hallway from the oceanview and balcony cabins. In some of the wider areas of the ship there are also additional short hallways leading to more interior cabins. Also a row at the front of deck 7.

interior cabin

Inside cabins are generally the same as oceanview without the window, although the arrangement of the furniture varies from one cabin to another and there are both smaller and larger cabins. The biggest ones are the accessible cabins, as is usually the case with the largest cabins in any category.

when more sleeping space is needed, the bunk folds down from the wall

Balcony, oceanview, and inside cabins are all close to the same size and furnished with 2 beds that can be set separately or together, 2 nightstands with cupboards, a minibar/refrigerator in a cupboard with a shelf over the refrigerator and a TV on top the cabinet, a corner desk with tall narrow cupboards on each end, and a closet with 2 doors leading to hanging space and the third door leading to drawers and shelves. The beds have enough space underneath to store even a large suitcase, and there are 2 shelves in the bathroom to hold toiletries and things so there is quite a lot of storage space.

suite

Suites on the Lirica are definitely bigger than the other cabins and have more furniture, but they are not as fancy or oversized as those found on some ships. Somewhat like what would be an extra-large mini-suite compared to ships that have really big fancy suites.

a bunk not used for sleeping works for laundry hanging space

While the standard cabins sleep 2, there are cabins with space for additional guests. Some of them have bunks. The Lirica has the old-style bunks that fold down from the wall, which are not recessed into it at all. They stick out into the room when not in use, although we found the one in our cabin useful as a place to hang not-quite-dry laundry when we needed to either take down the clothesline in order to use the shower, or use it for wetter clothes. Newer ships have bunks that completely fold up into the ceiling without protruding into the room at all when not in use. Lirica has no self-serve passenger laundries so on a long cruise options are to send laundry out for the crew to wash or handwash in your cabin.

standard bathroom on MSC Lirica

The shower is quite small which means not much hanging space for laundry as well as not a lot of room for a person between the shower curtain and the wall. I felt cramped in the shower and I’m a small person. It didn’t help that our shower curtain was missing a couple key hooks that would have kept it out at the bends of the track rather than going straight across so that the standing area in the shower behind the curtain did not extend all the way to the edge of the shower floor as it would have if the curtain had stayed out at the track. The space we ended up with was about half what it should have been. Crazy what a difference a couple shower curtain hooks would have made.

There are 4 outlets over the desk. Two are 220V European style and 2 are 110V American style. Having the appropriate adapters makes using all of them possible as long as you are careful what you plug into the ones with the adapters – things that can handle other voltage than your standard like phones or computers. We also had a travel plug with 3 outlets upping our space for american style plugs to 4 without taking up much luggage space.

view through the window of an ocean view cabin

For some reason Europeans don’t use washcloths. Traveling through Europe, only one of the hotels we stayed in had any, and when we first boarded the ship our cabin did not have any either. We asked the steward for some and then he kept our room supplied, but they are not a standard item so you only get them if you ask. Kind of like extra hangers. Cruise ship closets don’t often have enough, but if you ask the steward for some they always have more. Or at least they have so far every time we’ve asked on a variety of cruise lines.

The bathroom came supplied with a liquid soap dispenser at the sink, and a shampoo and body wash dispenser in the shower. No conditioner. It had a kleenex holder in the side of the bathroom counter, but there was nothing in it so we had to ask for a box of kleenex. No idea if this is a per request item on this ship or if the steward had just not noticed there was nothing there.

Balcony cabin with bunk

Items in the mini-bar cost a fortune, and you are not allowed to bring any water or alcohol on board on boarding day, but on our cruise they never cared if people brought in things like bottles of water or even beer or wine from port stops.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Lirica, MSC, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Busan Tower and Gujke Market

Westerdam in Busan

view of the Westerdam from Busan Tower

Holland America Westerdam docked in Busan, South Korea on a slightly hazy, mostly sunny day. The haze could have been either weather or pollution or maybe a little of both. Since we just had the one Korean port everyone had to clear customs when disembarking the ship, and pass through again for exit customs before getting back on. The disembarking was done by numbers that people picked up when they were ready to leave and then left when called, which kept the lines once off the ship pretty short. The waiting time from getting a number to having it called was about 15 minutes at the time we got ours, which was shortly after the process started. The wait may have gotten longer later on.

love locks are a big thing in Asia

We saw love locks in several places in Asia, like these love lock trees at Yongdusan Park

We had no specific plans for this port. The terminal had free wifi and an information desk with maps and people to answer questions. Just outside the building a bank booth offered money exchange. We got South Korean Won from our bank at home before the trip, but exchanged the leftover for American dollars on the way back to the ship since we had no other Korean ports.

Busan Tower and dragon

dragon statue at Busan Tower

We took the free shuttle into town, which dropped people off at Yongdusan Park. The main attraction there is Busan Tower. We got there shortly after 9am and the tower didn’t open until 10 so we decided to wander a bit. The area near the tower had a sea monster type dragon statue, some sort of pagoda, and a giant gong. Down a stairway sat a row of little booths, all closed up.

Busan Tower

stairway down from the tower plaza

stairway in Busan

stairway down to the shops

A long series of stairways with an escalator in the up direction led to a street filled with shops. The stairway empties onto Gwangbok-dong Fashion Street in an area with lots of shoe stores. There’s plenty of clothing stores, and stores with hair and skin products and make-up supplies on that street too.

Busan shopping

Gwangboc-dong Fashion Street

The stores seemed to be grouped together with other stores selling similar things – a block of mainly shoe stores, with the next block mostly clothing and the next one something else. These are mainly brand-name stores, a lot of them from the USA. Various bronze colored statues dot the street, along with the best décor of all – no smoking signs.

Busan, South Korea

alleyway leading to Gujke Market

A short distance down the road hiding between stores a nondescript alleyway that would be easy to miss offers entrance to the Gukje Market, with shops and booths running for quite a distance in all directions. There are bargains to be found there and some shopkeepers are even willing to haggle over the price. Unfortunately there are not any no smoking signs there. We even saw a shop owner sitting at the entrance to his store with customer repellent in the form of a smoking cigarette, and no customers in his store. Like the fashion street, stores in the market often seemed to be somewhat grouped with like stores where one area had lots of stores selling socks, in another area they had purses and backpacks, and one alleyway had electronics and tools.

Gukje Market Busan South Korea

some of the domes over the market streets have fancy entrances

Kitchen stores popped up randomly and not all stores of any one item were within the grouping. The narrow passageways between shops seemed more like walkways than roads, but people frequently came by riding motorcycles. Many of the alleys were covered over with dome-like structures. We walked around for quite awhile up and down different lanes through the market and probably didn’t cover half of it judging from the amount of covered walkways we saw later from the tower.

Busan, South Korea

Gukje Market

The bad thing about Busan was that passing near any of the numerous sewer grates meant getting a strong whiff of sewage smell wafting up from the underlying sewers. Like China, South Korea vents their sewers to the street rather than using fully enclosed pipes, though the streets we walked on in China did not have nearly the sewage smell the narrow alleyways in that market had. Even the main streets in the fancier shopping area smelled worse than anything we saw in China near sewer grates, but not as strong as the smaller alleys in the market.

Busan street workers

people at work on the fashion street in Busan

We found a few things in the market to buy as Christmas gifts for various relatives before making our way back to the fashion street. Mostly purses and socks. We looked in a few shops as we worked our way down the fashion street as well, but their products were far more costly than those in the market and we didn’t buy anything.

Yongdusan Park South Korea

gong pagoda at Yongdusan Park

The park was quite different when we went back. Instead of looking deserted except for newly dropped off cruise ship passengers it had lots of activity going on. All the little booths were opened up into tiny shops except the information booth which was still deserted. Rows of tables and chairs were set up for outdoor eating in an area near the tower entrance that had just been open space earlier.

Busan Tower

Busan Tower

We paid our entry fee for the tower, which translated to about $16 for two. We got the ticket only option. For a bit more they offered popcorn and soda or popcorn and beer. There was also a burger place on the lowest level and a coffee shop just above the burger joint.

Busan Tower elevator

video on the elevator ceiling going up the tower

Access to the tower is by elevator. There were enough people there to make a line, but we didn’t have to wait long. Ever-changing light scenes on a wall keep people entertained while they wait for the elevator. Before boarding the elevator you have the option to have pictures taken, which they put with tower backgrounds and offer for sale at the top. Videos of scenes of the city play on the roof as the elevator rises. The elevator attendant gave out all sorts of information on the way up, but since the whole spiel was in Korean I have no idea what she said.

inside Busan Tower

inside Busan Tower

There’s a 360 degree view from the top of the tower. You can walk around and look out all the different windows for a variety of different views. Distances to far off places are displayed on the windows. One would assume each place is in the direction you are looking from that particular window, but the view is definitely not so far into the distance as to actually see any of them.

Busan tower view

view from the tower of Gukje Market sprawling through Busan

The view from the top is spectacular. It’s quite a large city. We could see the ship from one side of the tower. An immensely tall building towered above all the other tall buildings out another window. The covered alleys of the market sprawled for many blocks between buildings.

Busan tower view

tower view of very tall building

A large monument to the Koren war sat on a hillside, visible from the tower and other locations including the ship. The monument is at the only United Nations cemetery in the world. People from 11 different countries who fought in the Korean War are buried there.

Busan tower view

tower view of the monument on the hillside above Busan

As you work your way around the top of the tower you pass by the picture sale desk and then into a gift shop area. These things are all near the center while the outer edges remain open for viewing the city and taking photos. A barricade keeps people from making a complete circle back to the elevator, which you have to descend one level on a narrow stairway to take back down.

Busan Tower lights

light show on the way out of the tower building

After descending the elevator exits into an area with black and white scenes on the walls. As you work your way through the maze you pass over windows in the floor with lights down into the deep, a dark area with an ever-changing light show, and another dark area with lighted scenery. The doorway is a couple stories up from the ground. It leads to the café or an elevator to the ground with a sign saying if you want to walk down there’s a stairway in the café. The burger place is on the lower level under the café.

Busan Tower painting

tower mural painted on a wall near the building’s exit

The view alone makes a trip up the tower worthwhile, and all the little fun things along the way going in and especially out add fun and whimsy to the experience.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Holland America, Ports of Call, South Korea, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Easy Gluten Free Vegan Maple Pecan Cookies

maple pecan cookies – soft, unchilled dough

Maple Pecan Cookies

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups oat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup coconut
½ cup pecans
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons milk of choice
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter (optional – leave out for vegan or lower fat cookies)

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Put all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir until blended. Drop by spoonful onto prepared pan, leaving cookies room to spread. Bake 11 -12 minutes for soft cookies, 14-15 minutes for crispier cookies.

For thicker cookies chill dough before baking and drop by spoonful. For thinner chilled cookies flatten the dough before baking. Chilled dough will not spread as much as unchilled dough.

maple pecan cookies – crispier cookies with dough chilled and flattened

maple pecan cookies – drop cookies with chilled dough, longer baking

You don’t have to be on any sort of special diet to enjoy these tasty cookies – and this recipe comes in quite handy if you want to bake something when you’ve run out of eggs.

Copyright My Cruise Stories
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The Benefits of Cruise Line Stocks

Celebrity Infinity cruise ship

Celebrity Infinity in Costa Rica

Anyone who does much cruising has a lot to gain by adding cruise line stocks to their portfolio. In normal times these are good stocks that gain value over time. Some of them pay dividends. And if you own 100 shares of the company that owns the ship you’ve booked a cruise on you can apply for free onboard credit, something they offer as a benefit to shareholders.

P&O Arcadia

P&O Arcadia in Auckland, New Zealand

If you don’t have cruise line stocks and plan to cruise once the world returns to normal, these dark times are an opportunity to get stocks at rock-bottom prices. Along with most of the rest of the stock market, cruise line stocks have plummeted during the Covid-19 crisis. While this is bad for people who already owned stocks as they see their portfolio value going down, it is a good opportunity for anyone cruises, but doesn’t yet own cruise line stocks.

Holland America Veendam

Holland America Veendam in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Generally the shareholder benefit is about $50 for cruises of less than a week. $100 for a week-long cruise, and $250 for extended cruises. The exact amount may vary depending on cruise line, cruise length, and currency. You don’t have to own stocks for each individual cruise line, just the parent company. If you cruise on a variety of lines belonging to more than one parent company it’s good to have them all, but you stick to just one line or all lines belonging to the same parent company then that is the only one you need. The stock benefit is not automatic. You have to send them info for each cruise that includes date and place of sailing as well as which ship and proof of stock ownership. Only one person per cabin can claim the stock benefit regardless of whether or not they share an onboard account.

Carnival Vista in Malta

Carnival Vista in Malta

Carnival Corporation owns the most different lines in the USA, and some lines based in other countries as well. Besides Carnival Cruise Lines, this stock will also get you the onboard credit on all their other lines, which include Princess, Holland America, P&O, Seabourn, Cunard, AIDA, and Costa.

Explorer of the Seas cruise ship

Royal Caribbean Explorer Of The Seas in Honolulu

Royal Caribbean stock will also get you onboard credit with more lines than just Royal Caribbean. They own Celebrity and Azamara and have a stake in Silversea, TUI, and Pullmanter which means their stockholders get onboard credit for all of those lines.

Norwegian Pearl cruise ship

Norwegian Pearl in Cozumel

Norwegian also operates Regent Seven Seas and Oceania. So even there you have other options beyond the parent company.

there's lots of cheap Caribbean cruises available

cruise ships in Saint Thomas

Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean pay dividends on their stock. Norwegian does not.

Royal Princess in Seattle

Current prices are lower than any of them have been for many years as cruise ships struggle with Covid 19 outbreaks, bad publicity, and cancelled sailings. Assuming these companies all survive through this crisis, once it is over and the world begins to get back to normal their stock prices will rise again. Even now they go up when the market takes an upswing. It could take awhile to get back to where they once were as many people may be leery of cruising for sometime, but the onboard credit from these stocks is a benefit cruisers can’t get from any other stock, bringing more value to cruise line stocks than what avid cruisers could get from any other stock. If you happen to be a cruiser looking for an investment, owning those 100 shares while they are available at bargain prices could be the best deal out there.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, P&O, Princess, Royal Caribbean | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Cruise that Wasn’t

Celebrity Eclipse (internet photo)

Shortly before Covid-19 hit and brought the world to a standstill, My sister and I booked a Pacific Coastal cruise on Celebrity Eclipse which was to set sail on May 3rd. This one-week cruise would have sailed round trip from Vancouver BC (Canada) with an overnight in San Francisco and stops in Seattle and Victoria. We’ve been to all those places before, but this was just to be a little vacation and a fun get-away for us.

Amtrak train at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver BC

Our plans were to take a train up to Vancouver the day before and get a hotel for the night near the dock or at least near a sky train station on the route that goes to Waterfront Station, which is next to Canada Place where cruise ships dock. There is a hotel right at Canada Place. That one isn’t really in our budget, but several nearby were.

bridge and boat in Zhujiajao, China (an ancient city turned into a tourist attraction)

We had talked a bit about options of things to do at the various ports, but hadn’t made any concrete plans when the first news hit about coronavirus, before they named it Covid-19. Initially of course it just seemed to be a problem in China, but then when a cruise ship hit the news when the attempt at quarantining it in Japan turned it into basically a plague ship, followed by news of coronavirus on other ships, it led to people frantically canceling their cruises or wondering whether or not they would still sail.

cruise terminal and park all in one

Westerdam in Yokohama – the port where the Diamond Princess was quarantined

Meanwhile the cost of cruises dropped and we were upgraded from balcony to concierge class, which comes with a more choice room location as well as things like priority boarding and concierge service onboard. Most of the world was still functioning normally at the time and we were looking forward to this more premium than we are accustomed to designation and sailing on a ship that was likely to have far less passengers than usual.

Seattle Skyline

Seattle waterfront

Soon the big news was a nursing home in Kirkland where the virus ran rampant. At the time my husband’s mother was in a nursing home in Everett, which is not that far from Kirkland (or Seattle). Luckily he and his sister were able to get her out before other area nursing homes became an issue, though she had needed medical attention for an unknown flu-like illness that ran through her nursing home shortly before coronavirus became a thing. Was it Covid 19? That was prior to when any testing for it began in the USA and before the Kirkland nursing home hit the news so we will never know. She did say some other residents of her nursing home vanished mysteriously at that time, never to be seen or heard from again. Now that researchers have discovered many people have mild cases or no symptoms at all she’s definitely not the only one wondering if they’ve already had it. Anyone who thought they had a cold or the flu earlier this year may wonder now if that was really Covid 19, and even people who never had anything might speculate if they were one of those asymptomatic carriers.

Canada Place in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada

As things got worse and the virus hit more states and countries all cruising in the USA initially shut down for a month. It looked at the time like ours might still sail as it was nearly two months distant. Then the virus spread farther around the USA, hitting Canada as well. Borders closing between countries followed and Canada closed all their ports. At that time Celebrity was in wait and see mode, probably hoping the situation would improve, as of course was the rest of the world. We figured as long as they stayed in wait and see mode we would be in wait and see what they do mode.

Victoria Parliament Building

Parliament Building in Victoria – one of the port stops on the cruise we couldn’t take. Victoria is on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The city of Vancouver is on the mainland.

Things got worse and we were pretty sure our cruise would never sail since no port wanted to let any ships still at sea in and the border to Mexico closed as well as the one to Canada. For a time there was no news from Celebrity. If we canceled the cruise ourselves then we would get a full refund. If we waited for Celebrity to cancel it we would have other options, so we waited to see what they offered. The options they gave us were either a full refund or 125% of what we spent on that cruise applied to a future cruise taken any time up to December 2021, so when things settle down and the world gets back to normal we can make new plans. Unfortunately we did not book any shore excursions, as we would have been given 125% of the cost in future onboard credits if we had (or a refund if that were the option we chose.)

Meanwhile our biggest concern personally is for our father, who hits nearly all the marks for people who are most likely to die if they get sick – and for my sister trying to insure that he doesn’t catch it, (or our mother either). I live too far away to help by doing anything other than staying away so as not to expose them to anything I may have come in contact with. Broader concerns of course extend to the entire world since this is a global problem.

Cruising into or out of San Francisco means passing under the Golden Gate bridge  where it always looks like there is no way the ship can possibly fit under – but it does

Hopefully cures and vaccinations come soon and life can return to normal, but that’s likely wishful thinking. Living in Washington, which was the first and one of the harder hit states in the USA, life has pretty much ground to a halt. Just about everything not deemed essential closed here before the rest of the country and will remain so for some time yet to come. Because of that new cases are under better control here than on the other side of the continent at the new epicenter in New York where their totals far surpassed that of Washington State and the rest of the country bringing the USA into the current epicenter of the world. Some countries definitely handled the impending pandemic better than others early on while they still had the chance to keep it from getting so far out of control.

out for a walk

Piper on a trail at a now-closed park where the crowds consist of deer and ducks, not people.

Even the parks here are all closed – everything no matter how remote. Which was done to keep urban people from congregating in city parks and popular recreation areas. In the rural area where I live the parks are acres of trails where you’re more likely to see a deer, bird, or squirrel than a person, and can easily avoid them if you do happen across anyone, but they are closed anyway which actually puts more people out to walk their dogs into less area. It ends up having the opposite effect in putting people closer together rather than spreading them farther apart.

smoggy view from the Shanghai Tower in China – and this was on one of their clearer days

The only bright spot in all this is with so many people staying home and so many things shut down the air around our planet has become cleaner. People in places like some areas of India and China can see what the world really looks like when not viewed through thick brown smog. Even where I live the view of hills and mountains has slowly faded away in a haze over the years from beautiful vibrant bold bright colors that appear nearby to unimpressive, pale, and distant looking. They are currently bolder and brighter than they’ve looked in years.

sunset over the Strait of Juan de Fuca

After all this if enough people worldwide decide to work from home more often than they did in the past both air and traffic conditions would benefit. And if after that glimpse of color and chance to breathe fresh air all the countries of the world would turn to green energy sooner rather than later then something good could come out of all the bad.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020
Posted in Celebrity, Randoms, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Seattle Underground Tour

Royal Princess in Seattle taken from Miner’s Landing (pier 57)

Royal Princess docked in the center of the waterfront activity at Seattle’s Pier 66. This pier is so much nicer for a port stop than being stuck out at pier 91 where ships often board for cruises usually heading out to Alaska. Being out in the boontoolies is fine for boarding day, not so much for a day in port. With a scheduled port time arrival of 11am, a line to get off the ship builds quite fast. To speed up disembarkation the crew split the line just ahead of us and our section was funneled out what would later become the crew entrance leading directly to the dock rather than the passenger entrance through the port building. Which meant no professional port photos at that stop for anyone in that part of the line who may have wanted them, and nothing looked familiar on the way back in.

free waterfront shuttle

We had plans to take the Seattle Underground Tour. We made reservations in advance directly through their website for about a third of the price of booking through the ship. Of course the ship’s tour includes transportation, but besides the free waterfront shuttle being available if anyone wanted a ride to Pioneer Square, it’s not that far so we just walked.

old building in Pioneer Square

We knew to walk south from the pier and inland a bit, but were not quite sure where to turn inland from the waterfront. The sign saying Pioneer Square with an arrow pointing up a road made it pretty obvious, as did the Pioneer Square flags on lamp posts along the street leading directly to where we needed to go so we didn’t need to use google maps or anything to find it. It was just a couple blocks or so from the waterfront to a more or less triangular plaza where Doc Maynard’s Pub is located, and the entrance to the underground tour right next door.

remnants of a bank in Seattle’s underground

The tour starts with everyone sitting in a room listening to a bit of Seattle history. More historic stories were told throughout the tour at various stops along the way. Early settlers built in the tide flats so the original natural waterfront was at Pioneer Square, even though it’s now inland a couple blocks. Entire horse-drawn carts could disappear into the potholes in the early roads, which were then filled in with sawdust, a plentiful by-product of the town lumbermill.

abandoned toilet in the underground

When your town is in a tide flat sewage is a major issue. You can’t dig a pit for a pit toilet and anything that goes out with the tide comes back in when the water returns. So they were ecstatic at the invention of the crapper, though it took the shipload with their order for 10,000 of them 10 years to arrive. Residences on the hills above did just fine with their new installations, and of course the plumbing (in wooden pipes) all ran downhill emptying into the sea. Down in the tide flats toilets flushed just fine at low tide. Not so much when the water came in. People built higher and higher toilet platforms trying to elevate their crapper higher than the neighbor’s because whoever had the lowest one got a geyser of sewage coming out when the tides came in and backed up the system.

remains of an old wooden pipe

All the buildings of the town were made of wood. With metal nails being expensive and hard to come by boards were often stuck together using glue. Which sounds fine except their glue did not come out of handy plastic bottles labeled glue. It came from highly flammable compressed animal parts heated to boiling over a fire. When a newbie to town didn’t watch his glue pot it boiled over.

even the street signs were made of wood

Circumstances ranging from him exacerbating the fire by trying to put it out with water on the glue to the fire department using new and untested waterlines that didn’t have enough pressure trying to put the fire out after it spread into the building and ending up with no water, to wind blowing the ever increasingly raging fire onward through the row of wooden buildings that made up the town led to burning down a significant portion of the business district. It didn’t help that at the time even the water pipes were made from wood.

drawing in the underground showing the streets high above sidewalk level

For rebuilding the town leaders required use of brick and stone. They wanted to raise the streets so they could run the plumbing underneath ending the toilet backup geyser issue, which sounds fine, but would take about 10 years and nobody wanted to wait that long to rebuild their business. They needed to rebuild right away so all the buildings had to be at least 2 stories high in order to have at least one level above the height of the new road after it got built. Once the roads were raised the sidewalks and business entries were a story below the roads so people had to go up and down ladders whenever they crossed the street. Not an easy task for a woman in old fashioned long dresses with hoopskirts, and even harder for the men who got drunk and ended their drinking problems with Seattle’s one-step program. This involved climbing up the ladder to street level and taking one step in the wrong direction. These deaths were given the classification of involuntary suicide.

some of the walkways through the underground tour are flat, level, and easy walking

others not so much

Business owners finally convinced the town to add sidewalks adjoining the buildings to the streets so the second story became street level and the first story the underground. Sidewalks included sections of little glass squares to provide light to the lower level.

from above the little glass squares just look like fancy sidewalk decor

from below they still provide some light in spite of aging to a purple color

At the time the glass was clear, but over the years it became purple. The lower level was a lively business district for awhile until rats moved in and a bubonic plague epidemic broke out. The underground was sealed off and mostly forgotten except during prohibition where it became a handy place for moonshiners.

view of an old sidewalk on the underground tour

Over time the sections used in the tour vary as some areas get renovated and used for new businesses, and others filled in to support the buildings above which otherwise could sink into settling ground or fall in an earthquake. The floor in some areas of the underground has dropped and settled so unevenly that those spots would be prohibitively expensive to renovate and will probably remain on the tour, which has built a wooden walkway over some of the uneven areas.

relics in the underground

There are glimpses into the past in the things left behind by former occupants, discarded to the underground forever in piles. Here and there signs from former building entrances remain. The skylights in the sidewalk provide some light in a few underground areas, through the aged purple glass. Electric lighting provides most of the illumination.

underground memorabilia in the gift shop

As is usual pretty much anywhere, the tour exits through a gift shop. This one is in a renovated area of the underground, which looks nothing like the unrenovated areas. The floors are even and the walls are clean. It does have some items from the underground on display, but they too are clean and nice looking. Again nothing like the dusty piles of discards we passed on the tour.

fancy toilet up close

It even has a toilet. Old fashioned, yes, but clean of course, and quite fancy. The store also has some regular touristy type underground tour themed merchandise. Being part of the underground, it does require going up a set of stairs to get to street level.

view from our table at Anthony’s on pier 66

I had a gift card to Anthony’s someone had given to me on a Christmas past, which I hadn’t used since there isn’t one near my house. Knowing there is one on the Seattle waterfront, I brought the card with me on the cruise. We had time on the way back to the ship to stop in. Anthony’s is conveniently located on pier 66. Extremely convenient for us since that was where our cruise ship docked. This waterfront restaurant normally has views of Elliot Bay and Mount Rainier. We were seated at a table by the window overlooking the pier – with a view of a portion of the Royal Princess. When there’s a giant ship docked in front of a restaurant on the pier, that’s all you see, the ship. And not even all of it since it was close enough that we just saw a portion of it through our dockside window. Guess we couldn’t really complain about that though since we came in on that ship – and we could get all the view the restaurant normally had and then some from the ship itself.

under the sidewalk skylights on the underground tour

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2020

More Blogs about Seattle

Seattle Tourist Attractions, Seattle Great Wheel, Ballard Locks, Fishermen’s Terminal

Posted in Port Cities, Ports of Call, Princess, Royal Princess, USA, Washington | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments