Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Proposal (Ten Years Later)

Oh yes, there was one more very important thing that happened on the cruise. I am a terrible husband for not mentioning this sooner, and for that I deeply apologize to takaza.

The first night of the cruise, we gathered with some of our friends in our room after dinner. It had been a long day, I was tired (and a bit sweaty and a mess). All of which explains why I look so horrible in these pictures:
The Proposal 1The Proposal 2
Many thanks to rustitobuck for these pictures!

Dan and I have been together since 1998, and we celebrated our commitment ceremony on November 18, 2001. This cruise was, in part, to commemorate our tenth anniversary. That first night of the cruise, Dan knelt on one knee and popped open a ring box to reveal a lovely simple white gold band. He asked me if I would renew our vows on the tenth anniversary of our first commitment ceremony. And so it will be that on Friday, November 18, 2011 at Midwest FurFest we will have a small ceremony to renew our vows and officially join in a civil union in the state of Illinois. Expect one hell of a party to follow in our room that night 🙂

Did We Mention That We Like Cruises?

The final travel announcement we have this week is a two-fer. As you know we recently completed an Alaskan cruise. The downside of this is that…we’ve been bitten by the cruising bug. We had so much fun that we want to do it again. To that end, we have not one but two cruises planned. Don’t worry, we’re making these announcements way early so you have time to start planning and saving if you’re interested. Here’s what we have in mind:

First up: A 3-night cruise to the Bahamas – December 5, 2012 through December 8, 2012!

This cruise will be the inaugural Caribbean cruise of the Celebrity Reflection, which launches in October, 2012. Not only it be a spiffy new ship, it will be the biggest and most modern ship in Celebrity’s fleet. We’re proposing that folks fly to either Fort Lauderdale or Miami on the evening of Tuesday, December 4, and spend the night in the area. On Wednesday we’ll make our way to the Port of Miami and board the ship sometime after 10 AM. The ship will visit Cococay, Bahamas and Nassau, Bahamas, and then will return to Miami at 8 AM on Saturday, December 8. We’ll spend the night in the area then fly home on the next day.

So, what will all this cost? Well, that all depends on your accommodations. An interior cabin is cheaper than a balcony room which is cheaper than a suite, naturally. We’ve worked up a spreadsheet to help you estimate the expenses and see how it fits with your budget. You can find it at: http://goo.gl/3r74q

Interested? Leave a comment here or contact us by other means and we’ll add you to the list of interested folks.

The second cruise is even further out, but we wanted to make mention of it now to get it onto people’s radars. We loved Alaska so much, we are going to going back there in July of 2013. We don’t know what ship just yet (though there’s a good chance it will be the Celebrity Millennium) or what the itinerary will be, but as that comes available we’ll be sure to spread the word.

Group Trip 2012!

It’s that time again! No, it’s not time to butter the cats, it’s time to talk about travel. In past years we’ve made some amazing trips: Napa Valley, Pacific Northwest, Montreal, and Alaska. For 2012, we’re planning an awesome extended weekend and we would like to invite our friends to join us. We’re going to NEW ORLEANS!

Plans are still being worked out, but the idea right now is that the trip would be from March 1, 2012 through March 6, 2012. We would fly into New Orleans on the evening of Thursday, March 1, and fly out the afternoon/evening of Tuesday, March 6. We will be staying in a hotel in downtown New Orleans. We’re going to try to incorporate some of the things that everyone loved about cruising into this trip. This means that while we’re all staying in the same place, meals and activities will be on an a la carte basis – if you want to join the group, great! If you want to go off an do your own thing, that’s great too.

Plans for the trip are still rather vague right now, but will be nailed down as time goes on. You can be certain that we’re going to be eating a lot of really good food and enjoying some tasty booze. We will probably have a couple of native guides (including Genet’s brother, an officer with New Orleans Police Department), and will have the opportunity to see parts of the city and its surroundings that your average tourist doesn’t get to see.

The nice thing about the a la carte approach is that you can RSVP as long as airfare and hotel rooms are available – we’re keeping things flexible! We will need to know who’s going with us, though, so we can possibly negotiate for group discounts and such.

So now it’s your turn: Are you interested in joining us? Leave a comment here or contact us by other means and we’ll add you to the list of interested folks!

Wuffcruise 2011 – Part 2

(Picking up our story where we left off, on Thursday afternoon)

After a couple of beers, we walked back to B&B and relaxed a bit, joined not long after by Dan and company. Soon, it was time for dinner, so we walked back downtown to Glacier Brewhouse. This is a noted restaurant in Anchorage, a huge and busy place. We managed to secure private dining room which worked very well for us. Our group was joined by Plonq, Atara, and Rustitobuck. We enjoyed a great meal and great beer, and then we closed out the night with a walk back to B&B.

Friday, May 27
Everyone was up bright and early. At 9:30 AM, the B&B was kind enough to haul us and our luggage in their van to the Anchorage Marriott, which was only 6 blocks away. Check-in for the cruise was easy, only taking 15 minutes. We left Dan and Atara at hotel and the rest of us walked over to Snow City Cafe, where we were joined by Foxfeather and Mbala to bring our full group to 18 strong. Breakfast was quick and quite delicious! We finished up just in time to head back to hotel. Our group was split between two buses. The buses took us to the airport, where we caught the Celebrity Cruises train to Seward, our eventual embarkation location. Seward is approximately a 3-hour’s drive or a 4.5-hour train trip from Anchorage.

The tour guide/waitress in our car was extremely friendly and gregarious, and was always full of useful information. Unfortunately, Roho, Genet, Rhene, Rasslor, Brophey, and Karwood were not so lucky. They were two cars back, and their guide/waiter was less chatty, and their rail car was quite raucous and loud.

We took a lot of great pictures on the trip, but I have to say that after about three hours I was ready for the trip to end. If it were my choice in the future, I’d prefer to drive to Seward, or at the very least take the bus.

We arrived in Seward at 5:30 PM. Embarkation was painless. We had accelerated boarding since we were in a suite, although those in Concierge Class had it easy as well. Surprisingly, to board the ship we had to go through a screening similar to airport, though with less the irradiation and/or groping. We had no problem going straight to our room once we were on the ship, since we arrived relatively late.

We dropped our carry-on bags in our room and went off to tour the ship. We started off at the top of the ship and worked our way downward. Two decks in, we found the Riviera Bar by the pool and started out with the first drink of the cruise, a Long Island Iced Tea.

This is a good time to talk about one of the really nifty parts of the cruise: the Premium Beverage Package. What a great deal! It costs about $50 per day, but keep in mind that only (weak) coffee, water, and juice (mornings only) are free on the ship – everything else costs. Espresso drinks, sodas, and of course alcoholic drinks typically cost between $5 and $10 each. You can see how it quickly adds up! Additionally, there’s the question of convenience – how much is it worth to you not to have to worry about expense every time you order something? Sure, it’s part of the marketing, but it’s very true.

All that walking was thirsty work, so I picked up another drink along the way and then it was down to the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4 to secure seats for the muster (formerly lifeboat drill). This is much more streamlined than in the past. There were no life jackets, just a presentation by the crew along with shipwide announcements by the Cruise Director. The whole thing was over in 15 minutes, and then it was back to the room to unpack. We met up with the rest of our group for dinner at 8:30 PM in the Metropolitan Restaurant, the main dining room of the ship. Although you can choose “Select Dining”, where you show up whenever you want and they seat you at the first available table, we opted for “Traditional Dining” for our group. This meant that we had dinner every night at 8:30 PM, but had the benefit of having the same tables and the same waiters every night. This was a very nice arrangement for us and I’d be all for it the next time we cruise.

Next up: The Fast Wrap-Up of the Cruise!

Wuffcruise 2011 – Part 1

So, a long time ago (back in April, 2010) we started to plan a cruise to Alaska. Last month, it was time to make it happen!

We left on Wednesday, May 25. takaza and I worked a half-day, and then his mom was kind enough to drive us to Milwaukee Airport (and keep an eye on Buddy while we were gone). We had a 2:10 PM flight on Frontier Airlines, our first time flying with the carrier. We upgraded our seats to “Classic Plus” on all legs; it was probably too expensive, but it was worth the perks, especially guaranteed seating in the “Stretch” section of the plane. Four inches doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make all the difference in the world when you’re flying 8 hours! Among other benefits, we were able to use the “Best Care Club” at Milwaukee Airport while waiting for our flight, and we had priority boarding, which was utterly awesome since it meant we were usually the first passengers to set foot on the plane (yay for always having overhead bin space!).

The 2.5 hour flight to Denver was uneventful. I liked the DirecTV at each seat; it distracted me enough through our flights that I didn’t use the iPad that Rustitobuck had so kindly let me borrow for the trip. Once we got to Denver, things looked bad – first our flight to Anchorage was delayed a little, then a lot, then back to on time. It turns out that our plane (which was coming from Chicago, irony of ironies) had a mechanical problem, so they provided us with a new plane.

The five-and-a-half hour flight to Anchorage was fine, but a little long. The Anchorage Airport was OK as well, though it seemed a bit of a maze to the unfamiliar traveler. We took a cab to our accommodations: Earth Bed and Breakfast. On the way, we passed a crowded park filled with people walking around and enjoying the lovely weather…except it was 10 PM and as bright as if it were 3 PM.

So, how was our stay at the B&B? I’m going to cheat and copy the review that I posted to TripAdvisor, since that covers everything.

How can I give a high rating and yet not everyone in our group enjoyed our stay? It’s very simple – our expectations and reality were different. I have encountered two types of B&Bs: the first is similar to a small luxury inn, the second is more like staying with relatives. Earth B&B is definitely the latter, but our group was hoping for the former. This is not Lori and Ronda’s fault at all! They were impeccable hosts – friendly and accommodating (heck, Lori mentioned she could have driven us to Seward, which probably would have been a much more interesting trip than the train ride we took there!).

The rooms were spotless and the beds were comfortable. The living room was comfortable and a pleasant place to chat with friends. The breakfasts had a nice variety of cold foods and a home-baked bread each morning. If pressed for something negative to say, it was mentioned by some of our group that better room-darkening curtains/shades would have been appreciated as they acclimated from Eastern Time to Alaska Time. This is relatively minor, though.

Part of the problem was that we had two groups of three and my partner and I, plus another couple we didn’t know, all sharing two bathrooms. This can get a little cozy, and when you’re trying to get everyone rolling in the morning can introduce significant delays. As long as you understand that there is one bathroom to share between two rooms downstairs and another bathroom to share between two rooms upstairs (the third upstairs room has its own bathroom) and are comfortable with that, you’ll do just fine.

In summary: Earth B&B offers incredibly good room rates, great rooms and comfortable beds in a welcoming environment. As long as you are OK sharing a bathroom (or can get the Mt. St. Elias room, which has a private bathroom), I would recommend them highly!

Roho, Genet, Rhene, Karwood, Brophey, and Rasslor stayed at the B&B with us (those six people, in two rooms – you can see why it was a bit cramped!). The change in time zones hit several of us hard, particularly Roho and Genet (and Rhene, who was from Denmark – I don’t even know how he managed to stay awake!). Once everyone was awake and rolling, though, we walked the 8 blocks or so downtown. We passed a huge number of tourist joints selling many and varied Alaska-themed tchochkes, all made in China.

Our first target was the Official Iditarod Store. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to find it in a dying mall. It was pretty sad, too. There was a limited amount of unique race-related stuff – mostly just generic crap that they had printed “Iditarod” onto. Dan picked up a few trinkets and we moved on.

We were joined for lunch by Roman and Austin at Sack’s Cafe’, the first of a series of excellent restaurants that Yelp helped guide us to. After lunch we walked around a bit more, but my foot was starting to bother me so we split up and I went to Humpy’s with Roman and Austin, where we chatted and enjoyed inspecting their beer list. We were later joined by Karwood, Brophey, and Rasslor.

That’s all for now. Part 2, coming up soon!