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!


Westin Grand Vancouver (Hotel Review)

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

By the time our flight landed in Vancouver, we transited Canadian immigration and customs, and stood in a long taxi line, it was about 3AM when we got to our hotel, the Westin Grand Vancouver. We were only staying for one night, but they had graciously already pre-approved a (very) late checkout for us of 4PM the next day.

I had long lamented what hotel to stay at in Vancouver. Which was silly because we were going to be there for such a short time. Did we want to stay close to the airport? Close to Stanley Park? (since that was going to be our primary place to visit during our short stay?)

I had been ogling the Fairmont Pacific Rim, but alas, couldn’t justify the price. Although the Westin Grand Vancouver was not terribly close to Stanley Park (we took a taxi there), it was centrally located in Downtown Vancouver and was very reasonably priced.

I booked a Deluxe Corner Suite, with view.

Upon entry to the room, there was a bathroom door straight ahead, and a living room to the left.

Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver

The living room was nice, but oddly shaped and not as spacious as I expected.

Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver Living room in Deluxe Corner Suite at Westin Grand Vancouver

There was a small nook in the hallway with a closet, coffee supplies, and a small fridge.

Coffee Nook | Westin Grand Vancouver review

The bathroom was spacious and had a separate tub and shower.

Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review

There was also plenty of counter space, which is greatly appreciated.

Bathroom at Westin Grand Vancouver | Hotel Review

The bedroom was a decent size, and had wraparound windows.

Bedroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver

The windows were gorgeous and allowed for great views of the city, but it was summer, just shy of the solstice, so the days were LONG and the sun was up early. And the room darkening curtains had some unfortunate gaps, especially in the corners. Not usually a problem when we travel, but when you’re not getting to bed until after 3AM.

edroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver edroom Deluxe Suite Westin Grand Vancouver

There was a door to a small balcony next to the desk in the living room.

Door to balcony in Deluxe Suite

There were some fantastic views of the Vancouver skyline from the balcony. And if you peak far in the distance, you can even see the coast! (er, the bay?)

Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony Views of Vancouver at Westin Grand from hotel room balcony

One minor complaint about our stay is that the elevators in this hotel were HORRENDOUSLY SLOW. There were only two, and the hotel had at least 30 floors, if I recall correctly.

But, the hotel location was great, and I was so appreciative of the late checkout that they allowed. Since our train to Seattle wasn’t leaving until 5PM, I didn’t want to have to pack up and put our luggage in storage before heading out sightseeing for the day. I’m never a huge fan of having to put my luggage in storage after checkout and before moving on to our next destination. So, the late checkout gets a big thumbs up from me!

Have you visited Vancouver recently? Where did you stay?


 

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Review (First and Business Class) – JFK-YVR

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Alaska Cruise 2015

After our long, but lovely layover spent in the British Airways lounge at JFK, it was time to board our Cathay Pacific flight to Vancouver!

You can read more about why I sat in business class and Ken sat in first class in my previous post, but here’s a quick excerpt for the lazy:

I had originally booked two business class tickets on Cathay Pacific, knowing that they usually open up first class availability at the last minute. The idea was that I would switch our seats from business class to first class. About two months before our departure, ONE first class seat opened, and I jumped on it, booking it in Ken’s name. And I kept checking and checking for one more seat to come available. There were four open seats in first class according to ExpertFlyer (meaning that only two seats were booked, one of which was Ken’s).

Long story short, a second first class seat NEVER opened. I checked all the way until the morning of our departure. The flight did, in fact, go out with FOUR empty first class seats. Ken and I had talked about it, whether we both just wanted to sit in business class together, but I told him I really wanted him to experience Cathay Pacific First Class. So, I sat in business and he sat in first.

Cathay Pacific Business Class Review – JFK-YVR

My business class seat was fantastic. I sat in the “front row” of the business class cabin, which the ticket counter agent was kind enough to do so Ken and I were really only one “row” apart, even though we were in different classes.

Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER Business class seat review on Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR 777–300ER

The business class cabin is set up in a 1–2–1 configuration, and I had a single seat. I snapped a photo of the middle seat configuration as well:

Two center seats of business class configuration on Cathay Pacific 777–300ER

The TV screen was at an angle, but popped out for viewing.

TV screen Cathay Pacific business class

The remote control and TV controls were above the seat, which I much appreciated after constantly adjusting my seat by accident thanks to the poorly placed seat controls on Air Berlin’s Business Class.

Seat controls Cathay Pacific Business Class

There was also a small, convenient table between the seat and the window.

Cathay Pacific Business class seat

The food was decent, but to be honest, I was getting pretty tired by the time food was being served. It was a 10PM flight departure, and I had already been, ahem, imbibing quite a bit at the lounge, so I was feeling pretty sleepy 🙂

I opted for the Potato Leek and Vegetable Strudel. I thought it was quite tasty!

Cathay Pacific Business class menu JFK-YVR

My starters were placed on my tray first.

Meal tray on Cathay Pacific Business Class

Followed by my main dish, the Potato Leek Strudel.

Main dish in Cathay Pacific Business Class

After dinner, I reclined my seat, put on my headphones, and started watching Selma. I fell asleep shortly into the movie (which is no indication of how I felt about the movie! Tiredness was just winning out at that point!)

I woke up to some turbulence and turned on the airshow, which showed that we were over Montana. I peeked out the window and saw some lightning in the clouds far off in the distance to the south.

Airshow Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR Airshow Cathay Pacific JFK-YVR

Cathay Pacific First Class Review – JFK YVR

Ken thoroughly enjoyed his first class seat! Toward the very end of the flight, the flight attendants even let me come up from business class to join him in his “guest” seat for a cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea.

Cathay Pacific First Class Guest Seat Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Milk Tea

Although, I had snuck up there briefly to talk to him before, and snap a picture of him cozy in his bed-in-the-sky. (Full disclosure, he’s not actually sleeping, just pretending for the photo)

Sleeping in Cathay Pacific First Class

Here were some photos he took of his bed. And seriously, how can one person have SO MANY CABLES AND ELECTRONICS next to him on his seat?

Cathay Pacific First Class Lay Flat Bed Cathay Pacific First Class Lay Flat Bed

Ken is a fairly picky eater. Basically, if there’s any “fancy” sounding ingredients, it’s pretty much safe to assume that it won’t be anything he’ll want to try. So, this gorgeous looking ramen bowl didn’t get eaten much. (Sorry, we didn’t get a picture of the menu, so I’m not sure of its precise name).

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

He did indulge on the bread though!

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

And dessert too.

Cathay Pacific First Class Dining

And check out the fancy sink in the first class cabin lavatory. Since there were only two passengers in first class, and two lavatories, each passenger basically had their own bathroom. 🙂

Cathay Pacific first class lavatory sink

Ken didn’t sleep as much as I did on the flight, so he enjoyed flipping through the inflight entertainment system.

Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class Inflight entertainment on Cathay Pacific First Class

Also worth pointing out were the seat massage controls available!

Seat massage first class Cathay Pacific

Once we landed in Vancouver (nearly 1AM PDT), we transited immigration and customs, and then hopped in a taxi to our hotel, which I’ll review next in this trip report!