Cruise to Alaska: Seattle
(Just landed on this page out of nowhere? You’ll want to start with Cruise to Alaska: Before We Begin.)

We could see the Space Needle as we rolled into Seattle. Is that it? I knew it wasn't as big as the Stratosphere at home in Las Vegas, but I expected to be able to see it for miles. Not that I don’t respect it as an icon, of course, and totally want to visit it and try the signature dry-ice dessert in the revolving restaurant. But now the need to tick it off the list was a little less urgent. Hey, we’d seen it. It was cool. Mike gets motion sickness anyway. If we didn’t go on this trip, we wouldn’t feel cheated.

It was so good to get off the train. King Street Station is undergoing rehabilitation, so we weren't seeing her at her best, to put it gently. I excused myself from the crowded baggage claim room to wait outside, the perpetual hot flash going through an upswing. Taxis queued up all along the stunted little spot where people huddled for the next in line. Our half-designs on maybe grabbing a bus and being frugal vanished with no inner debate. We gratefully got into the cab when our turn came and gave our hotel name – Inn at the Market.

The taxi driver didn't quite know where that was, but I kinda sorta remembered the cross streets well enough to sorta kinda help out. (My phone was too slow to be of assistance, and the station wasn’t far away enough to buy me time.)

As we kept our eyes peeled for the hotel, we noted how interesting all the streets and shops looked. We both would've liked more time in Seattle to explore, but getting to see Portland was really special, too. Now it was nearly 4 p.m., and I wanted to get settled in the hotel quickly so we could explore Pike Place Market before it closed at six. I know some bits stay open later, but I wanted to see all of the produce and flowers, not that either could be particularly useful to us.

(People strongly debate over whether you can embark with flowers on a cruise ship in Seattle. It has been done. It has also been refused. It makes sense that you can. It’s not like they’re flowers from another country trying to come into the United States. Still, I didn’t want to risk disappointment.)

Remaining as uncouth as ever, we rolled our luggage into the hotel lobby ourselves. At the desk was a very cheerful man who was eager to show us on the map all the interesting places to go (as well as to explain the three restaurants affiliated with the hotel). “You been upgraded to a partial water view,” he said matter-of-factly. That was great news; I’d heard that the less-expensive city view rooms, like we’d booked, could get a bit noisy, and from Google maps it seemed that “view” was an optimistic word. So, I politely listened to the man speak of all the great fish and seafood dining opportunities near the waterfront even though neither of us enjoys those so-called fruits of the sea.

From the outside of Room 305 we could look down into the open-air courtyard outside the lobby. From the inside we could sort of look into the Market from two directions. After The Nines, any room would have seemed small, but I nearly found the set-up cozy and not at all cramped. (The in-laws, who were not upgraded, were not as impressed.)

In fact, let’s just cut to my Yelp review:

Don't be fooled into thinking you're just paying for location; Inn at the Market delivers at every level.

Of course, I might be able to say that because when we arrived, we were told we'd been upgraded to a partial water view. My in-laws, who'd booked later than us and were also staying longer (so there was probably less flexibility with their room assignment), had the same city room they'd booked and found the street noise to be so distracting that they considered cancelling their second stay at the Inn booked for after our cruise. (Instead, they talked to management who gladly arranged for them to stay on a higher floor for their return.)

Because this is a concern, and maybe because I'm a little suspicious of how the vending machines aren't advertised in the room's hotel info (they're in the garage, meaning I never found them at 4 a.m. as I prowled each floor before eventually settling for a mostly cold can of $2.50 Sprite from the minibar), I'm knocking off one star, but honestly, I can't imagine a better place to stay if you're in town for a short visit.

Our corner room on the third floor overlooked the main drag of Pike Place Market and one of its side streets. The windows opened, the two chairs were plush and comfy with a convenient table, the desk was spacious enough for all our electronics and my messy Smashbooking, the TV swung out to be angled however we pleased, and the minibar area as you enter has plenty of space for dismantling a carry-on as you search for some tiny item somewhere in its depths that intends to remain elusive until every item in the luggage has been pulled out.

The bathroom was long in design with the usual little amenities, and the bed - oh, the bed! So comfy with plenty of pillow action.

My in-laws found their room to be surprisingly small, and I could see how visitors might get that impression. If our room was the standard, then no, visually it doesn't seem as spacious. However, at no point were we cramped or edging around the furniture or each other, and keep in mind that a) I left our big suitcase open on the unpacking thingy (what are those called?) for the entire stay, b) we're big people, and c) we'd been guests at The Nines in Portland the night before, where our room could've hosted a party so large that you could invite two quarreling friends and not worry about them getting in each others' way, and yet it didn't spoil us for our stay here.

Lest you think the in-laws are surly and unable to be pleased, they did give high marks to the Asian restaurant on site as well as the attached cafe. (We went to the cafe for breakfast and, yes, it was tasty - all the usual items with some nice twists, like pesto in the eggs and fresh juice blends. Sit outside if you don't want to be cramped, though.)

The staff at the Inn never failed to be helpful, whether it was pointing out sights on a map (unrequested but appreciated) or arranging a van for us to go to the pier the next day.

I'd also like to give them an approving nod for setting out cocoa packets along with the coffee and tea in the lobby. I know it's Seattle and I probably won't be allowed back for saying this, but (whisper) I don't like coffee. (Looks around nervously.) I guess I drank enough cocoa in front of the fire to not begrudge the Sprite.

And, you know, I can only write about my own experience so... yep... let's reinstate that fifth star. We had a great time, and I'd love to have an excuse to stay at Inn at the Market again. We considered many well-regarded hotels nearby that were less expensive and had their own appeal (the Klimpton hotels and their loaner goldfish!), but when I thought about the value of the location, and then I thought about all of the other trip expenses, it seemed foolish not to "do it right" and pay a few Hamiltons more to stay at the Inn. Being able to step in and out of Pike Place Market in a matter of seconds will spoil you for life. And, when I stood alone in the quiet of sunrise on the observation deck, sipping my hot chocolate and watching our ship glide into port, I knew I'd made the right choice.

Inn at the Market - Room 305

Inn at the Market - Desk

Inn at the Market - Restroom

Phil and Carol were out at the Boeing Museum (which they recommend), so we checked in with them and set off for the Market.

The first place we went was Beecher’s Cheese. Curds!

Pike Place Market - Beecher Curds

It cannot be overstated how much I love cheese. Mike has IBS and has had to consider which foods are triggers. At one point he said, “Maybe I’m lactose intolerant.” My mind immediately reeled like an alcoholic whose best DT buddy is considering going sober. No! Don’t become one of THEM! Don’t stop the party! If Mike were lactose intolerant, what would I do? What would happen to our annual December tradition of buying a variety of untried cheeses and tucking in to our month-long Christmas cheese board? What’s next, Mike? Are you going to be skinny, too? Traitor troll!

So, yes, seeing the curds made me happy. Now I know how all the people on tequila tasting tours feel... except there were no free samples at Beecher’s. They didn’t need them. I did note, though, that they were open past six. Okay, we were coming back!

Pike Place Market - Hazelnut Orchards

Inside the covered areas and along the streets, there was so much to look at. I didn’t want to miss anything, although it’s hard to cover the Market in a linear fashion. If we lived in Seattle, I would have to bring an entourage to carry all my bags. (A whole stall of hazelnut products? I would be such a happy poppet!)

Pike Place Market - Goldicia Bouquets

Pike Place Market - Angry Mickey

Pike Place Market - Three Girls Bakery

Pike Place Market - Amazon Truck

Pike Place Market - Giant Shoe Museum

Pike Place Market - Fruit Logs

Pike Place Market - Pastas

Pike Place Market - Athenian Lunch Seafood

Pike Place Market - Garlic Spears Are Back

Pike Place Market - Garlic Spears

Pike Place Market - Sanitary Public Market

Of course, we had to see the "original" Starbucks, where it all began 41 years ago. (Unless you read this page and find out it wasn’t quite in the same location.) Mike and I make a good couple because we both detest coffee (although a pinch of espresso in a chocolate flourless cake can be divine), but Starbucks’ double chocolate Frappuccino (creme based, not coffee-based) deserves a salute.

Pike Place Market - Starbucks

The line doesn’t look too awful there, but keep in mind that this is just the outside line. “I don’t really want a Starbucks,” said Mike. “Let’s just stand in this line and see what happens,” I replied.

What happened was that we stood in the line and barely moved. “Oh good,” said the people in front of us when we joined. “Now we don’t feel as silly.”

It was neat to see the original Starbucks logo still in action.

Pike Place Market - Starbucks Logo

The evolution of this logo to the de-sexualized, de-mythologized, and soullessly stylized version of today is an easy metaphor for the company’s changing image overall. (Some would say that includes Starbucks’ decision to sell those non-coffee products I enjoy so much.) I really like this logo and think I used the phrase “aquatic sheela-na-gig” when I originally posted it on Facebook. I’d love to see more of this rough and powerful symbolism in American architecture, but alas, it is America. (This page has a scholarly and interesting discussion of the logo - they are totally with me on the sheela-na-gig imagery.)

We finally shuffled up to the window of the store. Yay!

Pike Place Market - Starbucks' Clever Obfuscation

Wow, Starbucks. Not cool.

By now I didn’t want a Starbucks either, not if it meant at least another 30 minutes in line with no guarantee that there would be anything interesting to get other than a drink we can buy on every other street corner across the country. As we left the line we peeped in through the open doorway to see the wall-to-wall people. Nope, not our scene at all.

Besides, we had to admit that we were pooped. The lack of sleep before the trip; the comfortable but too-short sleep the night before; me with my so-hot-and-wan-but-not-sweating boringness - nothing sounded better than grabbing some carbs ‘n dairy and conking out in the room with that so-soft bed.

(Actually, Mike fancied the Cuban stall, but by the time he dashed back that way, the death knell of six p.m. had struck.)

So, we queued for some cheese bread and little honey-hazelnut crackers from Beecher’s then went a few doors down to Piroshky, Piroshky, a Russian Bakery, for potato, cheese, and onion piroshkies.... which were sold out. Just cheese and onion, then.

Pike Place Market - Piroshky Examples

Pike Place Market - Piroshky, Piroshky

Didn’t matter; they were stunning. (Better than the Beecher’s bread, but of course Beecher’s isn’t a bakery... which might explain the crackers. Meh. They tasted like the horrible whole wheat vegan things I used to bake before I decided that I would just try harder to buy butter from humane companies instead.)

The fun of getting fresh market wares aside, we would’ve liked a real meal, but nothing within “about to keel over and zonk” radius sounded good (or like they had decent vegetarian options). We searched for Indian places, of course, but they were all too far... so imagine our shock the next morning when we saw an Indian restaurant right behind and across the street from the hotel. Argh, talk about off our game!

But no matter, we were having great fun despite the snail’s pace and range. I woke up in the middle of the night again, because that’s just how I am. For someone who can be so sedentary and slow during the day, I have the worst time sleeping for very long because my brain loves to THINK! RESEARCH! INVESTIGATE! PONDER! NOW! LOOK IT UP NOW! SKETCH IT OUT NOW! PLAN, BABY, PLAN!

After the already described investigation of each floor for a vending machine (although not the front desk where I could have just asked), plus a quick peek at the location of the in-laws’ room for no good reason, I contented myself with “Smash booking” at the desk using one of the booklights so as not to disturb Mike... further. (I may have seized upon one of his groggy sleep noises to try to start a conversation about dying of thirst for something cold and the principle of not having vending machines and I could have water from the tap but how the hell were we meant to fill the ice bucket. “Just get a can of Sprite from the minibar.” Men, always about the solution.)

Speaking of rants, if you haven’t ever been treated to one of my rants about Modern Scrapbooking, here comes the short version:

Okay, I started keeping raggedy travel scrapbooks when I was a kid (thanks to an awesome English teacher) which were mostly diaries with things taped in - receipts, brochures, coins of the realm, and so on. Then when the “matched paper and intense coordinating embellishments” method of modern scrapbooking became popular I was very attracted to that. However, as I attempted to make the most of products and tutorials, I kept coming back to a problem:

I wanted to make a scrapbook. The industry wanted me to make pretty photo albums.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I almost never make a print of a photo unless it’s going on the desk or the wall. I wanted to do layouts based on ephemera and journaling, but I felt like I was flying solo as I came up with my own ideas. Furthermore, my “to be scrapped” pile was getting higher and higher as I put off scrapbooking little things (that didn’t fit into a larger thematic layout) or big things (because I couldn’t decide on how to lay it all out).

Some months ago, a billboard went up by my house for a scrapbooking convention. I checked it out online and noticed a workshop for “Smash books,” a “new” way to scrap.

Hahahaha. A “new” way to scrap? This was the scrapbooking that people did before scrapping became a major industry!

So, I Googled around and found that Smash book had its critics (“This is nothing new!”), although most took offense over the idea of buying a bound book of pretty papers when “you can easily make your own with a ring binder and your own papers.”

True and true, but the Smash book looked like a nice package at a reasonable price. (Even more reasonable if you use your local chain craft store’s 40%-off coupon and don’t get all excited like I did and buy it at the convention.) I went to the workshop, shook my head in non-judgmental amazement over all the women exclaiming how new and liberating Smash booking is, got a bunch of cool free supplies, and came home a fan. It is liberating, and I remembered why I enjoyed scrapbooking in the beginning. Just “smash” items into your book (using cute clips, the special SMASH glue-pen, whatever) and journal and doodle around them. Easy! Satisfying!

And perfect for our cruise, I decided. Instead of trying to do a write-up (or at least bullet points) every day in a notebook, as I usually do when traveling, I would glue things into the Smash book throughout the trip and write my thoughts in there instead. I got a bunch of stickers (cruise-themed and otherwise) to embellish and tossed them into my luggage in a little vinyl pouch along with small scissors, glue, and glue dots. Since this isn’t modern scrapbooking, no fussing with bone folders and die cutters and all that crap. (I use the word “crap” lovingly.) Just pretend you are in high school and make it a true book of scraps, not an album of layouts.

Not to give spoilers for the rest of the cruise, but here’s a video of how my Smash book turned out:

Once I caught up on that, I loaded the camera with the 100-400mm rental lens and went up to the deck on the fifth floor.

Short review of the lens: It was good to have on the ship. I couldn’t have used more zoom and had dramatically different photos (unless we’re talking something that is literally, and I do literally mean literally, the size of a small cannon) under those circumstances. If I’d taken it off the ship, who knows? It wouldn’t have helped for the excursions we chose, but of course there are other excursions. Having the zoom instead of a prime was useful; I used the full range and was glad to not have to swap lenses so often. But, in the end, it’s all about your style, so I’m afraid I’m no help, just like all the people on the forums I researched before renting. I wanted to hear “definitely do XYZ,” but that’s just not possible. Well, except for “bring something wide” - my 15-85mm walkaround was fine for that. And “bring some kind of telephoto.” But whether to zoom and how long to go are difficult to predict for someone else.

By the way, I used That’s not a paid endorsement (nothing I say is a paid endorsement... le sigh!); I’m just a satisfied customer. They shipped the lens early to make sure July 4th didn’t slow it down. The lens came with a really nice case (Lenses have cases? What?) and a hood; and all I had to do to return it was take it to the nearest mail services store, hand the box to the person working there (with included return label on box), and ask for a receipt.

No one was on the hotel's observation deck. No one was (visible) in Pike Place Market.

Pike Place Market - Empty

Pike Place Market - Illuminated Sign

I clumsily edited something out of that photo, but I’m admitting it, so that’s okay, right?

Seattle Great Wheel - Night

The World - Extraordinary Cruise Ship in Seattle

”That’s got to be a cruise ship,” Mike and I agreed when we saw the ship in the bay on Saturday afternoon. But which one? No obvious logo stood out. How intriguing.

Later, we all speculated about the ship while out on the deck after our own ship had come in. But not until somewhere in the Alaskan waters days later did I backup the photo to the iPad and twitch my fingers to zoom in on its name.

”The World.”

Oh wow.

Mike told me about this ship once; some famous Australian out of Perth has two suites on it, or somesuch. Wikipedia says that an “Ocean Studio” (something a bit smaller than the size of a standard Carnival balcony cabin) costs $600,000 and that the monthly fee begins at $20,000. Then Wikipedia goes on to say many, many things that reaffirm my long-held theory that I would be very good at being rich.

I find myself wondering if you have to dress for dinner on such a ship. I mean, if you’re that rich, do you cross some kind of dress threshold (say that three times fast) and get to wear shorts all of the time? (One-hundred percent linen paired with a raw silk shirt, I’m sure, but still shorts.)

Moon Over Seattle

Yes, I did like that rented lens.

Seattle - Container Ship and Great Wheel

Seattle - Farmer's Market

The sky was getting lighter.

Pike Place Market - Illuminated Sign, Again

I returned to the room and played on the iPad. At some point I peeped out the window.

Our ship! The funnel was in port!

Facebook alerted! Cruise Critic alerted! Mike alerted! (Again, I waited for the slightest sleep grunt and chose to interpret that as “Yes, I’m awake! Please start a conversation, honey!” Being married to me is a vibrant experience. Except for all the dull bits.)

Soon Mike was lying awake, texting with his Dad. (From email to texts to clicking “like,” non-invasive communication is one of my favourite applications of tech.) Carol wanted another hour. Phil wanted coffee. Mike wanted a shower. I wanted to go see my ship!


Soon the guys and I were back up on the deck, Mike’s first trip up there. Ship!

Norwegian Pearl from Inn at the Market

On our last cruise, on Carnival Splendor, I took a photo of the ship coming in while standing on the bow of the Queen Mary, and then I took a screenshot of Splendor’s webcam, pointed at where I was. The Norwegian Pearl was facing away, but I took the screenshot (earlier) anyway. It’s my new tradition.

Watching Our Ship Watch Another Ship

And while our ship watched another ship, I watched Mike and Phil.

Inn at the Market - Mike and His Dad

Inn at the Market - Rooftop

Pike Place Market - Flowers

Ah, my daffodils.

Mike, a Bit Shaggy

Back to the room, a nap for Mike, then the four of us down to the cafe around back (which was fine, busy, had to sit on stools which isn’t the greatest for short-legged dumpy folk like myself), then back to the room again (lobby cocoa in each hand) to double-check the packing and whatnot until it was time to meet in the lobby to take an arranged (by concierge, per my father-in-law) van to the port.


09 December 2012 |


 We built a house. 

 Rabbits tolerate us. 

  We play modern board games.  

 I hunt the dead.