A very early morning flight to Vancouver via Minneapolis...these Gray grandkids were excited at the airport and ready to head to Alaska!
They were excellent little travelers...probably better than the rest of us! We arrived in Vancouver around noon and awaited our bus to transfer us to the port so we could board our cruise boat. Our entire group numbered fourteen...Kelsey, my father-in-law Kenny, Kristoffer, Kim, Karter, Kassie, Dana, Kaden, Zach, and Emily are pictured here. Coming from Cincinnati, Kyler and Kara and Abram were on different flights than us, so we hadn't met up with them quite yet.
By the time we all finally made it through the ship check-in line and all the security checkpoints, we were all feeling a little like Kelsey...tired and hungry and ready to settle in our rooms!
Finally...aboard the Coral Princess!
Cruise ships are just so huge and fabulous...it's hard to capture their essence and size in a photo.
Our suite was very nice with a relatively large balcony where we could all hang out together.
One of the reasons we did this big excursion was to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. The Princess crew spoiled us the whole time we were on board...
...with special appetizers every afternoon and plenty of fruit baskets in between. Good thing we had some fruit lovers to help us eat all that!
The dining room wait staff even surprised us with a special dessert and their own singing rendition of "Happy Anniversary to You" in their many foreign accents. Too fun!!!
Yes, you'll be seeing lots of food pictures in the next several days...we did a LOT of eating and I love taking photos of yummy food!
We ate most dinners together on the cruise, and the children kept us entertained. Fifteen-month-old Abram did amazingly well during our long dinners...he was more patient that I was!
Two-year-olds Kassie and Kelsey were their usual adorable selves. Kelsey was fascinated by the crayfish shell...
We were all tuckered out after dinner. But as tired as I was, I couldn't resist the beautiful lighting and scenery just outside our balcony.
After a long travel day and a 4-hour time difference plus the fact that the summer daylight hours are VERY LONG way up north, everyone was in bed by the time I took this sunset photo about midnight (Alaska time).
Our first full day on the ship was spent at sea. But we sure couldn't complain about our view!
Along the trip, pilot boats often came alongside the Coral Princess to help navigate through tight channels and also to allow American captains and naturalists to come on board at various places.
It was a beautiful, sunny warm day (one of the few we experienced on the trip)...the perfect day to lounge and take in a movie on the big outdoor screen (as Zach and Emily did)...
...while Karter (7) and Kaden (5) had fun racing and jumping into the big pool.
Kassie and Kelsey started the week off in the hot tub with Dana, but by the end of the week they were swimming in the big pool...an accomplishment they were very proud of!
Chillin' in the hot tub!
Kim and I had fun watching Abram several afternoons on the boat, while Kyler and Kara did various activities and contests. We may or may not have spoiled him just a tiny bit....
While the rest of us opted out of the formal night in the dining room, Kara and Kyler and Abram got all spiffed up and went. What a beautiful family!
Late that afternoon, we saw our first whales! Captain Ahab Kaden was on the lookout...
...for the big spouts/blows from the humpback whales...
...followed by the hump of their backs just breaking the water and then their big tails coming out and going back down.
There were several different whales, as their tales were colored differently. Hard to imagine such huge creatures swimming right beside us!
Although we never got to see them breach (a wildlife photographer's dream...), they did put on a nice show for about an hour. Our children and grandkids would see more whales up close and personal during the trip, but these were the only real photo opportunities I had as Kim and I only saw a few others from a distance.
Another midnight sunset as the ship sails toward our first port...we'll be waking up in Ketchikan, Alaska!!!
After months of anticipation and planning, all 14 of us were finally happy to hear that call...