Ruby Princess | Cabin Review | Mini Suite and Accessible Staterooms

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


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.

View of Mini Suite o the Ruby Princess

And here was the closet. There was a hanging part of the closet, as well as tons of shelving behind the mirrored doors.

Closet in the Ruby Princess Mini Suite Shelves in the mini suite | Ruby Princess review

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.

Bathroom in mini suite Sink and countertop in mini suite bathroom on Ruby Princess

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.

Shower and tub in the mini suite

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.

Queen bed in Mini Suite Desk in mini suite

The other side of the bed had a small nightstand with two drawers.

nightstand in mini suite

The “seating area” also had plenty of storage, along with a small couch, a sitting chair, and a small coffee table.

Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite Sitting area in mini suite

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).

Storage shelves in seating area

And, of course, the balcony! There were two small chairs and a small table on the balcony.

Balcony on the Ruby Princess mini suite

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.

Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review Mini Suite onboard the Princess Ruby | Cabin review

Ruby Princess Accessible Cabin Review (Outside cabin, obstructed view)

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.

Bed and seating area in cabin Bedroom in accessible cabin | Ruby Princess

There was plenty of room for the motorized scooter that we rented for the duration of the cruise.

Plenty of room for motorized scooter

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.

Desk area in handicapped accessible cabin

The bathroom was fantastically spacious and easy for my dad to get around in.

Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin Accessible bathroom in Ruby Princess Cabin

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).

Bench seat in accessible shower

I also liked that there was a “help” button next to the toilet.

Help button in accessible cabin

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.

Obstructed view port hole on Ruby Princess

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!

36 Hours in Seattle

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


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.

Chihuly Garden and Glass sign at entrance

As always, the combination of glass work and accompanying lighting made for really stunning sights!

Artwork on display at Chihuly Museum Blue and yellow glass sculpture floor to ceiling Closeup of the sculpture Closeup of the sculpture

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!

Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass ceiling exhibit at Chihuly museum in Seattle Glass refractions on white walls Colored glass artwork

The next room was also gorgeous and expansive. It was called the Mille Fiori installation.

Mille Fiori installation at Chihuly Museum Sign describing the room Mille Fiori exhibit Mille Fiori exhibit Mille Fiori exhibit

The rooms were fairly dark allowing for all the focus to be on the glass artwork.

Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits Chihuly Museum exhibits

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.”

Wide angle shot of the Chihuly Glasshouse

And here’s how the glasshouse looks from the outside:

Chihuly Glasshouse as viewed from outside

It was really amazing.

Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse Chihuly Glasshouse

Then, the gardens contained even more glass artwork.

Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens Chihuly Glass Gardens

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.

Seattle Public Market Sign Outside of Pike Place Market | Seattle Outside the market

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.

Meat sign at Pike Place Market Pike Place Market fish storefront Bakery Hallways at Pike Place Market Hallways at Pike Place Market Crowds inside Pike Place Market

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.”

Original Starbucks in Seattle

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:

Public Market Center sign Vegetables Fish market at Pike Place Market Fish market at Pike Place Market

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!

Steep hills in Seattle

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!)

Buildings near Pike Place Market Buildings near Pike Place Market

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.

Grand Hyatt Seattle (Hotel Review)

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015


After our gorgeous ride onboard the Amtrak Cascades Line, we arrived at the Seattle train station around 10PM. We quickly found a taxi and took it to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

We stayed for two nights, and both nights were free. A year earlier, I had applied for the Chase Hyatt credit card, which offered a bonus of two free nights. Although the Grand Hyatt Seattle may not have been the most valuable use of those two nights, the night were expiring within a month, so it was time to put them to good use! We booked a “City View with King Size Bed, floors 23–30.”

We arrived at night, so please forgive how dark the photos are!

From the door to the room was a long-ish hallway, with the bathroom on the left and the bedroom area straight ahead.

Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room

The room was not overly spacious, but it did have room for a small sitting chair and a decent size desk and chair as well.

Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room Grand Hyatt Seattle 1 Bedroom King, City View Room

The bathroom, on the other hand, was very spacious and had a lot of luxurious finishes.

There was a separate tub and shower.

Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room

And, there was plenty of countertop space, which is always a plus!

Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room Bathroom at Grand Hyatt Seattle, 1 Bedroom King room

I really couldn’t believe it, but somehow I forgot to take pictures of the lobby and exterior of the hotel. That’s what happens when you basically have about 24 hours to see the sites of a major city! It was fairly generic.

The location was great. It was about a 20 minute walk to Pike Place Market, and it was a lovely walk, with lots of shops along the way. We Uber’ed or taxi’ed to most of the other spots in the city, like the Space Needle area and to the port the next day for our cruise departure.

The service at the hotel was decent. We had shipped our luggage ahead (more on that in a future post!), and the Grand Hyatt had received it the day before and had it sent up to the room after we checked in.

One minor complaint though on our arrival. We hadn’t eaten anything since we left Vancouver. So we were damn hungry and looking to grab a quick bite to eat. We asked at the front desk if there was some sort of quick sandwich or takeout place, or even just a nearby fast food place that was open. It was nearly 11PM, and according to our quick searches on Yelp, our options were fairly limited. The front desk staff said, “No, the only option at this hour is Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Mention you’re a guest and you’ll get a discount.” This seemed pretty suspect that Ruth’s Chris was the only other option available. I explained that we were just looking for something quick and inexpensive. They said no, everything in that area was closed. So, we were annoyed. We went up to the room and unloaded our luggage.

Then, we decided to venture out to walk around and see what we could find on our own. I had found a restaurant while searching on my phone that was a few blocks away and still open. We started to take a different exit from the hotel, and lo and behold, there was a deli LITERALLY ATTACHED TO THE HOTEL. Like, we didn’t even have to exit the hotel to get to the deli. I guess the front desk staff had forgotten about this place? Or maybe they get more of a kickback for sending people to Ruth’s Chris? Either way, I can’t be sure. Ken and I ordered sandwiches from the deli and went back up to the room to devour them. Just what we had been looking for! Something quick and easy before crashing in bed after our long day.

And it was definitely a comfy bed!


Amtrak Cascades Line Vancouver to Seattle (Review)

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

After our quick stay in Vancouver, it was time to make our way to Seattle, the embarkation city for our Alaskan cruise. And what a scenic journey it was!

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

As I mentioned in the introduction for this trip report, I kinda tripped upon the Amtrak Cascades Line as our method of transportation from Vancouver to Seattle. To recap:

My original plan was to just stay at an inexpensive hotel near Vancouver Airport, and then drive the following morning to Seattle. (Our flight wasn’t arriving in Vancouver until like 12:45AM, so I didn’t want to start driving so late at night. But there was one issue. Rental cars were INSANELY EXPENSIVE. A ONE DAY rental from Vancouver to Seattle was going to be $199 CAD (About $150 USD.) I swallowed my pride and made a reservation, but I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better, and cheaper, way.

And lo and behold, there was! I came across the Amtrak Cascades option! I had read that it was a very picturesque way to get from Vancouver to Seattle, and much more relaxing than a drive. Even though we have Global Entry these days, the line at the Canadian-US border crossing can get very long, so the train seemed like a good option to minimize the delay as well!

Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station

We arrived at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station about an hour before the train departure.

Outside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

We weren’t sure what kind of Canada customs or exit processing there would be. There was a dedicated line for the Cascades line, since it was crossing into the United States. There was also a dedicated line for business class passengers.

We walked around the station for a little bit.

Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station Inside Vancouver’s Pacific Central Train Station

After a short while, they started processing the passengers, including checking our passports and providing seat assignments.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class Review

Amtrak Cascade Line’s business class consists of seats in a 2–1 configuration, which I had learned long before our departure. However, I wanted to make sure that we were on the “coast” side of the train. Since the train was heading south to Seattle, that meant we wanted to sit on the right side of the train to have the best views of the coastline. But, I was never able to figure it out in advance if the coast side was the “2 seat” side or the “1 seat” side.

Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class configuration Amtrak Cascades Line Business Class

At the check-in, we were assigned seats in the “2 seats” side of the train. I asked the agent if that was the “coast” side, and she said no. That traveling south, that’s the “1 seat” side. Even though it meant not sitting next to each other, we opted for the “1” side. But, as a bonus, she was able to give us two single facing seats, instead of sitting one in front of the other.

Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class Seats facing each other on Amtrak Cascades Line | Business Class

Since we still had quite a while before the train departure time, I went outside and took some photos of the exterior of the train.

Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle Exterior of Amtrak Cascades Line from Vancouver to Seattle

Views from Amtrak Cascades Line, Vancouver to Seattle

This train route has been touted to be one of the most scenic in the world, and I dare say that I have to agree! [Photo overload to commence] View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

It’s worth pointing out that since we were traveling south, and seated on the west side of the train nearing sunset, it was incredibly sunny! Ken wore his hat and sunglasses even on the train!

Sunny side of Amtrak Cascades Line View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Seriously, SO scenic. I couldn’t take my eyes off the outdoors.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

At the Canada-US border crossing, everyone had to stay in their seats while US Customs and Border Patrol officials boarded the train and checked passports. We were stopped for about 20 minutes or so at the border, and then the train continued on.

View from Amtrak Cascades Line | Vancouver to Seattle

Photo Tip: The glare from the windows of the train really could have affected our photos if we had not had our polarizer filters on our SLRs! Seriously, if you do this train ride, be sure to have a polarizer filter, otherwise your photos will be filled with glares!

I walked around to some of the different cars and took some additional photos.

Menu on Amtrak Cascades Line Dining car on Amtrak Cascades Line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Snack bar on Amtrak Cascades line Advertisements for Amtrak Cascades

As we got closer to Seattle, farmland started to mix in with the coastal views (which were still scenic!)

View from Amtrak Cascades Line

And then, the sun started setting farther below the horizon.

Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line Sunset from Amtrak Cascades line

We arrived in Seattle, disembarked, and took a taxi to our hotel, the Grant Hyatt Seattle. Highly recommend Amtrak Cascades!


A few hours in Vancouver, B.C. (Alaska 2015 Trip Report)

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

Arriving in Vancouver in the wee hours of the morning and then having a train to catch to Seattle at about 6PM, we certainly didn’t have much time do see even a sliver of the sites that Vancouver has to offer. But, since our transportation option to the Pacific Northwest took us to Vancouver, we decided to make the most of the short time we did have in Vancouver. We spent all that time at Stanley Park. And holy smokes, we probably could’ve spent another full day or two JUST seeing that park.

Well, first, we started off with breakfast at Le Petit Belge, just a block from the hotel. They offered some amazing Belgian Waffles, both sweet and savory! (I got savory, and Ken got sweet!)

Exterior of Le Petit Belge Sign for Le Petit Belge Savory waffle with prosciutto, asparagus, and egg salad Large waffle with maple syrup

It was fantastic, and we definitely recommend it!

Since we were so short on time, we took a taxi to Stanley Park. From some of the first sites in the park, we were enthralled. Take a look at that skyline!

Skyline view of Vancouver from Stanley Park Sailboats and Skylines at Stanley Park in Vancouver

As we walked along the path in the park, we came across the First nations art and totem poles exhibit.

Totem poles in Stanley Park in Vancouver

According to the City of Vancouver’s website, “Three beautifully carved, red cedar portals welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Their form represents the traditional slant-roof style of Coast Salish architecture. The gateways show the history and thriving modern culture of Coast Salish people.” They were installed in 2008.

Brockton point totem poles Totem poles in Vancouver

As we walked around, we saw a seaplane taking off! We were watching it closely because we would be going on a seaplane in just a few days time on a cruise excursion in Ketchikan, Alaska!

Seaplane taking off near Stanley Park in Vancouver

The paths were well marked with lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Paved paths in Stanley Park Bike and pedestrian lanes in Stanley park

And again, the views of Vancouver! Stunning!

View of Vancouver skyline from Stanley park

As we continued our walk around the paths in Stanley Park, we came across the Brockton Point Lighthouse.

Brockton Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park Lighthouse in Stanley Park | Brockton Point

Just past the lighthouse, we saw a lovely sculpture, which we later learned was called “Girl in a Wetsuit.”

Girl in a Wetsuit Sculpture in Stanley Park | Vancouver Statues Sculpture that looks like Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid Statue | Girl in a Wetsuit

And right near the statue was a replica of the S.S. Empress.

Replica of SS Empress in Vancouver’s Stanley Park Description of the SS Empress Replica of SS Empress in Vancouver’s Stanley Park

And a few more fun finds in Stanley Park:

You are here sign in Stanley Park

A sign that I thought was most stereotypically polite Canadian: “Water not suitable for swimming.”

Funny signs in Vancouver | Water not suitable for swimming

And of course, those views!

Water views from Stanley Park

We reached a shadier area with lots of trees, and we even spotted a splash park for kids.

Stanley park trees Splash pad in Stanley Park

It was at this point we had burned off all our Le Petit Belge breakfast calories, and we were getting crazy hungry! And we had no idea where to pick up a taxi. (At the time, Uber was not operational in Vancouver. Not sure if that’s still the case.)

But, we actually located a bus stop and waited there for a bus. Only one problem. When the bus arrived, we realized we had ZERO Canadian money. Since we had verified that taxis took credit cards, we just assumed that we wouldn’t need any cash during our VERY short time in Canada! The bus driver still let us board, and we were apologizing profusely. We were mortified.

We were going to take the bus all the way back to the hotel, but we were driving past a strip downtown that looked like it had a good concentration of restaurants. So we got off the bus, and headed to a pizza place. Except the pizza place was open air and didn’t have A/C. And we were pretty sweltering at that point (it was pretty hot weather for Vancouver. Seattle was the same way, pretty unusual). So, we opted for a pub-like place right across the street called Malone’s.

Malone’s Restaurant in Vancouver

We started out with some poutine (of course, right?)

Poutine

And we both had burgers, albeit with different toppings!

Burgers from Malone’s Burgers from Malone’s

We finished up our late lunch, rested our legs for a little while longer at the restaurant, and then decided to walk back to our hotel, which was about 15 minutes away. We needed to get our things packed up and to get ready for our train ride. Since the train was going to Seattle, we’d have to transit customs at the train station, so we wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time for that.

We definitely need to get back to Vancouver for a more thorough trip! I think I envision a Pacific Northwest road trip sometime in the future!