Happy new year everybody! I hope everyone had a great holiday. Ken and I went to Pittsburgh to visit with my family for almost a week, and then had a belated Christmas Day celebration with Ken’s family from Baltimore at our house on New Year’s Day. Did you have any holiday travels?
We got an Amazon Echo and two Echo dots for Christmas! We’ve been having a blast with these. Perhaps most entertaining is how our 3.5 year old niece and 20-month-old nephew have caught on fast that trying to yell “ALEXA!” can trigger a response. However, neither of them can quite pronounce “Alexa” correctly to get it to turn on. Well, really, our 20-month-old nephew was just baby-talking at it the whole time.
Back over the summer, I got a new car! It’s a Ford that has Sync 3, and I’m very excited about the prospect of asking Alexa to start up my car. It’s my first car with remote start, but I can’t get used to starting my car up in the morning to warm it up! I’ve tried to work it into my morning routine, but I keep forgetting! Maybe if it integrates with Alexa, I’ll remember!
Please take a look at these enormous vultures that were pecking at one of our community’s trash pickup spots. I’ve never seen these around here before! Literally the one is taller than the trash bag.
I finished the entire season of The Crown on Netflix. I thought that was a really fantastic show! Highly recommend. Although I feel a little guilty now that most of my historical “knowledge” about King George VI comes from watching the King’s Speech and now The Crown. Seems like a legit way of learning, no?
My commute home on metro yesterday was absolutely brutal. After searching twitter to see what other people had to say about Metro/WMATA, I definitely wasn’t the only one! These tweets made me laugh out loud.
But now, let’s get to the REALLY fun parts of the hotel!
The Pools, the “Ramblin River,” and Outdoor Lounging
We spent the vast majority of our time in the pools with our niece and nephew. The pools were huge, relaxing, and had plenty of free inner tubes to lazily float along the ramblin river endlessly.
This “beach” area was especially popular, and allowed for a shallow water area for kids to play and splash.
There was also a very large hot tub:
As well as a kiddie pool:
And an adults only pool, which I’m pretty sure was empty the entire time we were there. (P.S., the pool is Texas-shaped).
One of the favorites of my three-year-old niece? The waterslide!
There were plenty of outdoor lounge chairs, as well as cabanas available for a rental fee.
Evening S’mores and Outdoor Movies
Every night, the hotel hosted free evening s’mores at a huge fire pit. Everything about the s’mores was free (marshmallow, graham cracker, chocolate, etc.). Unlike, for instance, Disney resorts that let you roast the marshmallow for free but charge for the chocolate and graham crackers.
The staff on hand even removed the marshmallows from the sticks so that your hands didn’t have to get all sticky. Their technique was pretty amazing! They slide it off by pushing it between two graham crackers.
Then, on some evenings, there were outdoor movie showings (it appeared that these were mostly on the weekends. We were there in May, so I’m not sure if that changes as the season progresses.)
Other Miscellaneous Activities and Amenities
There was a good size playground for younger kiddos. My 3 year old niece was a fan of this place!
There were also free bicycles to use, both adult and children’s sizes. There was even a trunk full of helmets to use.
Also much appreciated were these free drinking water stations all around the grounds. Perfect for that hot Texas weather.
There was also a surfing / wave rider type thing, but it’s worth noting that this is an extra charge.
And, if volleyball is your thing, there was a beach volleyball setup on the resort grounds as well:
We also found a fun little arcade at the resort as well. Ken and my nephew spent some time playing arcade games and air hockey here!
I also thought these little “selfie spot” stickers were fun!
Food and Dining at Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa
We ate at the resort for about half of our meals. I found the meals to be relatively reasonbly priced, perhaps a bit over what you’d pay for breakfast at a normal (non hotel, non resort) restaurant. But definitely MUCH MUCH cheaper than, for example, my New York City $34 plate of spaghetti room service debacle, which Ken still never lets me live down. And, for instance, our $30 plate of pancakes at the Park Hyatt Moscow. So, you won’t go broke eating at the Hyatt Hill Country. Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos of the restaurants and meals, but I was pleased with all of them. My family especially like the sports bar, where my dad could watch hockey games and basketball games, my nephew tried his hand at billiards, and the music was loud enough that nobody noticed if my niece was being, ummm, boisterous.
There were also outdoor food (and drink, including alcoholic beverages) options, so you never had to venture far from the pool if you didn’t want to.
Other Miscellaneous Photos of the Hyatt Hill Country
And finally, here are a few miscellaneous photos from around the Hyatt Hill Country resort and spa that don’t necessarily fit into any of the above headers!
Ken and I had booked a mini suite with a balcony on the Ruby Princess. This was our third cruise together. On our first cruise (a Caribbean cruise), we had a balcony. But on our second cruise (a Mediterranean cruise), we had opted for no balcony to save some money. We really regretted the decision on that cruise. So we decided that for all cruises in the future, we’d book a balcony.
This review will cover our mini suite, as well as a handicapped accessible, obstructed view outside cabin that my dad booked. My sister and her family also booked a mini suite, so no separate review is required there! My sister and I decided to book cabins nearby one another on the same deck, but on opposite sides of the ship (one on port, one on starboard). That way, regardless of the side of the ship with the best scenery, we’d have access to a balcony!
Review of Mini Suite onboard the Ruby Princess
This was the view of the room immediately upon entry. The small doorway on the left leads to the closet and the bathroom door.
And here was the closet. There was a hanging part of the closet, as well as tons of shelving behind the mirrored doors.
The bathroom was basic, but had plenty of countertop storage space, as well as some small shelf space too. The mini suite had a shower / tub combo.
I wish there was a little more space for shampoo and soap bottles in the shower, but I feel like those tiny shelves are pretty standard in all accommodations these days. Boo.
The queen size bed was comfortable, and there was a desk area right next to the bed. The desk doubled as the nightstand for the one side of the bed.
The other side of the bed had a small nightstand with two drawers.
The “seating area” also had plenty of storage, along with a small couch, a sitting chair, and a small coffee table.
The storage area was great for things like charging our cameras and cell phones, and we kept things like bottled water and sodas on the lower shelves (that we had brought with us onboard the ship).
And, of course, the balcony! There were two small chairs and a small table on the balcony.
It’s worth noting that we were on the Emerald deck. Not all ship cabin balconies have fully covered “roofs.” We definitely wanted to be on a deck where our balcony was fully covered, to shield us from the rainy Alaska weather as much as possible. We were really lucky and only had one day of rain, but I’d still recommend the fully covered balconies.
Here are a few other miscellanous photos of the cabin, just from other angles.
My dad was going on this cruise, and since he has some pretty extensive mobility problems these days, we booked him an accessible room. It had large open floor space in between the furniture, a no-threshold shower, and plenty of grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet.
There was plenty of room for the motorized scooter that we rented for the duration of the cruise.
The storage was low to the ground, with the exception of the safe that was higher up in the closet. Luckily my dad can still stand up and everything just fine, it’s just something to keep in mind if traveling with somebody who can’t stand at all.
The bathroom was fantastically spacious and easy for my dad to get around in.
Like I mentioned, there were plenty of grab bars in the shower, as well as a good size bench for him to sit on. (Which was good for the two fairly rough seas days we encountered).
I also liked that there was a “help” button next to the toilet.
Although it’s not the best picture, hopefully this gives an idea of the “obstructed view.” Basically right outside the window is a deck walking area (in other words, the window port hole is not directly on the side of the ship). There was also a lifeboat right outside the railing of the walking area. But, at least you get sunlight in your cabin! It was only a few dollars more than an inside cabin.
The only real complaint about the room was that the door to the room was incredibly heavy, just like all the other cabin doors. That made it really difficult for my dad to open the door, which opened inward toward the room, and maneuver his way out the door on his scooter. It would have been really nice to have a button that would automatically open the door for a few seconds to give him a chance to get out the door without having to try and open it.
One other minor complaint. Like most cruise ships, the cabin/stateroom hallways and corridors are very narrow. And throughout most of the day, cabin stewards keep cleaning carts along the walls of the corridors as they clean the cabins in the morning and do things like turn down the beds in the evening. When these cleaning carts were in the hallway, which was much of the waking hours, my dad had an incredibly difficult time moving around the hallways. Luckily my dad’s room was right by the elevators, but sometimes it was more convenient to use another elevator bank, or if he was coming to our cabin or my sister’s cabin.
Anyway, I don’t think that is specific to Princess cruise lines, and it’s definitely nothing I had noticed on previous cruises, but that was only because I was never traveling with somebody who had mobility problems before.
In the next post in this series, I’ll cover a review of the ship and the ship amenities, like the pools, restaurants, and bars!
December 2013 was a pretty light month of posts. Why? It might have had something to do with my eight day battle to pass a kidney stone. Yee-ouch!
I talked about how I was going to sign up for a Hyatt Diamond Status challenge to get better amenities during our stay at the Park Hyatt Moscow a few months from then. (Spoiler alert, it didn’t work. But, here’s our review of the Park Hyatt Moscow anyway).
We had less than 36 hours to spend in Seattle before our Alaska cruise boarded. We’ll definitely have to go back in the future to spend more time there, but we tried to squeeze in a few highlights.
Ken and I are huge Dale Chihuly fans. We’ve seen his work in so many places in Atlanta, Las Vegas, and in Pittsburgh (not blogged about). So, when we heard there was an entire Chihuly museum in Seattle, we put that at the top of our to-see list!
Chihuly Garden and Glass
The Chihuly exhibit is located right next to Seattle’s famed Space Needle. After getting acquainted with that area for a bit, we stood in a short line to get our tickets and made our way into the entrance.
As always, the combination of glass work and accompanying lighting made for really stunning sights!
One room had glass work and lights on top of a clear glass ceiling. The walls were white, and the colors of the glass created beautiful designs on the wall!
The next room was also gorgeous and expansive. It was called the Mille Fiori installation.
The rooms were fairly dark allowing for all the focus to be on the glass artwork.
After the indoor portion of the museum, you exited through the “Glasshouse,” which, according to their website, is “a 40-foot tall, glass and steel structure covering 4,500 square feet of light-filled space.”
And here’s how the glasshouse looks from the outside:
It was really amazing.
Then, the gardens contained even more glass artwork.
Pike Place Market
After the Chihuly museum, Ken and I met up with my sister and her family, and my dad (they were also going on the cruise and had traveled separately from us to Seattle).
We set out to Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Ken, my sister, my niece and nephew, and I all walked to the market from the Grand Hyatt Seattle (about a 20 minute walk, the weather was lovely). My brother-in-law took an Uber with my dad since my dad has a lot of mobility problems these days.
Pike Place Market was a fun (albeit very crowded) place to walk around. Lots of fresh flowers, meats, spices, fish, and bakeries all throughout the market corridors.
Adjacent to Pike Place Market is the “Original Starbucks.” There were lines out the door. (However, I later learned that the original Starbucks was actually destroyed in a fire, so this isn’t the “original original.”
The next morning, I even walked back to Pike Place Market to get some breakfast foods for my family (from Piroshky Piroshky. So delish!). It was a lot less crowded early in the morning! However, the shops were still all set up:
One thing about walking back TO the hotel from Pike Place Market … those hills. Goodness gracious, the hills. I feel like Seattle gives San Francisco a run for its money!
The Pike Place Market area also had lots of picturesque old store fronts and other places to walk around. We also stopped at a nearby Target to get some stuff to take with us on the cruise ship, like some sodas and bottled water. (A lot cheaper to bring it onboard than to pay for it on the ship!)
After I walked back to the hotel, we all ate our breakfast, and before long it was time to hope in a taxi on our way to the Port of Seattle to board the Ruby Princess for our Alaskan cruise! Although we would’ve loved to have had more time in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll be sure to go back in the future and have the proper time to experience more of what it has to offer.