Land Ahoy! Finally it was time to throw in the anchor, so we could get down and explore Alaska. Our first stop is Juneau. The only tour we booked here was the helicopter ride to the glacier. We were looking forward for this ride ever since we booked our Alaska cruise. When we got down from the ship, we realized that we still had an hour before our helicopter ride. So we decided to walk in downtown Juneau. It was a very small downtown catering just to tourists. We were surprised to see the number of jewelery stores in Juneau, even more surprising was the number of Asian Indians running these stores. We later found out that all these stores were part of some chain stores from US mainland, and that they opened these branches only during the summer for cruise tourists. By the time we walked up and down the downtown, it was time for our helicopter tour. So we headed back to the bus, that took us to the helipad. When we reached there, we were told that our ride was cancelled due to the bad weather (thick fog). Everyone in the bus was very disappointed. We went back to the tour reservation desk, hoping to get hold of some other ride, to see the Mendenhall glacier. Finally we managed to get a taxi, which took us to the foot of the glacier. When we saw how huge and beautiful the glacier was, we felt even more bad. Luckily the observation center was open and we could go in to get a closer view of the glacier from the telescope and also touch a piece of the glacier that was on display. Ruchi and Siddhu who had no idea what was going on, were very happy that they were allowed to play in the rain for so long. Pretty soon it was time to get back on the ship. Which meant another nice dinner followed by another wonderful concert, this time it was Broadway show tunes. The performance by each and every single performer was awesome. And like yesterday, Ruchi and Siddhu had a fabulous time.
Our initial plan for our first morning on the cruise, was to sleep in late. But we were all so excited that it was impossible to sleep in. Praveen decided to go for a quick run on the ship’s deck while Ruchi and I got ready for breakfast. Ruchi was super excited and wanted to know when she could go see her cousin. Praveen was back soaking wet from his run – no not from sweat, it was from the rain. It has been cold and wet ever since we woke up. When we were all ready we decided to go check out the restaurant for breakfast. I had gone in thinking I was going to have something light for breakfast, but after looking at selection, it was impossible to not overeat. While we were eating on the 12th floor aft outdoor cafe, enjoying the beautiful wake formed by the ship, the people seated next to us told us that we had just missed a few whales. They had spotted them a few minuted before we walked in. After a wonderful breakfast of Toast, omelette and fruit, we decide to check out the ship. Ruchi wanted to do some rock climbing so we climbed to the thirteenth floor, but were disappointed to see that it was close. We decided to check it out after lunch again. The weather was so cold that getting into the pools was out of question and the hot tubs were always packed. So we decided to leave the kids at the kids club, while we explored other parts of the ship. Looking at all the kids inside Ruchi couldn’t wait to go in and make some new friends while she played on the jungle gym. Since Ruchi and Siddhu were together, we thought they might be fine, but sadly Rajesh anna was called back just a few minutes after we left. Siddhu didn’t want to stay without his parents, Ruchi however stayed on for some more time. Praveen and I carried on with our excursion while Sailakka and Rajesh went back to the room to change Siddhu’s clothes and feed him. The jewellery section on the second deck was so hard to miss that after a lot of debate, I ended up buying a couple of bracelets for Ruchi. Later when we me Rajesh anna for lunch, they told us that they had just spotted some whales. We are a little sad for having missed the second sighting of whales, but since it was still the beginning of the cruise, we were not too let down. After lunch we went to the top floor for rock climbing. Ruchi was super-excited until we were told that they had to be at least six years to climb. Ruchi was very disappointed. To cheer her up, we decided to relax on the chaise while we watched the ocean. Our luck was such the beautiful Sunny afternoon, changed to a very gusty windy after in a matter of seconds, chasing us back indoors. Since luck was against us, we decided to relax for sometime in our rooms, so we could catch the late night show in the auditorium. I am so glad we did it, because it was the highlight of our day. The show called “Oh What a Night Tribute to Frankie Valli and the four seasons” was one of the best shows I had been to. The group sang some beautiful Frankie Valli and four seasons songs, with the highlight being the title soundtrack from Grease. We were sitting in the middle in the front row, so Ruchi and Siddhu enjoyed the live music and the special attention they got from the performers. I never imagined Ruchi to like a live music show so much, especially since the performers were just four guys in suits singing some old songs. Now we know that we can go with Ruchi to any kind of concert.
All Aboard!!! Time to set sail. I have to say it, nothing is more exciting than sitting on your chair on the ninth floor balcony of a cruise ship, while it pulls away from the dock and slowly watch it cut through the water, while it moves further from land. We were all in a excited state from the moment we set foot on our ship the Norwegian Pearl. Since our rooms were still not ready, we decided to take a short tour of the ship, before we stopped to grab lunch at the huge buffet in Garden Cafe. Ruchi who finally got to meet her cousin Siddhu in the morning, was so happy to have a cousin to vacation with, that she never lift his side. It was very nice to see how affectionate they were towards each other. After lunch we went upstairs to check out our rooms. As soon as we stepped into our rooms, we were elated. The rooms were simple but beautiful. But what took our breath away was the balcony and its beautiful view. We couldn’t have asked for more. Since we had to attend a safety class, we quickly freshened up and we to the auditorium, where we were briefed of the safety procedures, we should follow in case of an emergency. After the session we went back to the rooms, where the kids exhausted from all the excitement, decided to take a nap. So Rajesh anna and Praveen decided to go to the sail-away party while we stayed with the kids. Praveen said it was a great party, but I didn’t mind missing it, since I had a great time watching the beautiful scenery pass by as the ship pulled away. Later in the evening, after having another nice dinner at the Garden Cafe, we decided to check out the rest of the ship. It was great to see all the activities they had on board. I wonder if we will get a chance to explore at least half of them.
Finally it was time to take off for our cruise. We all had to wake up early to catch our flight. Kiran was kind enough to give us a ride to the airport, so early in the morning. Ruchi was super-excited that we are finally going on our much-awaited vacation. We had a list of thing we wanted to do while we in one of our favorite city. First and foremost we had to take Ruchi to see the robotic dinosaurs at the Pacific science center. The last time we went there was just after Ruchi’s Second birthday. Then she had a great time. She loved the Science center, this time too. But the biggest difference I saw was how terrified she was to stand next to the Allosaurus. Now she knows the difference between and Carnivore and Herbivore, which she didn’t almost two years ago. Ignorance is definitely a Bliss. After spending some more time checking out the other exhibits and butterfly garden, it was time to grab some lunch. Our next stop was at the Zeeks Pizza in Seattle downtown. I really missed their Thai pizza. Sadly though, I was disappointed by the pizza. It was nothing like the pizza I had remembered eating, at the Zeeks in Issaquah, maybe I should have just made the trip there. By afternoon we got a big shopping list of the things (mainly food items) we had to buy for Siddhanth for the seven day cruise. So the rest of the day was spent shopping. Overall it was a great day. I just wish I had enough time to meet some of my friends. Ever since we landed, Ruchi kept asking when Siddhu was arriving. After waiting all day for him, she fell asleep, just a few minutes before he arrived. It was wonderful meeting him after two and a half years. He is such a sweetheart. Sadly Ruchi will have to wait till morning to meet him.
And so it begins… Ruchi first summer holidays. The last day of pre-school was as it should have been, lots and lots of fun. We are not very sure how the day started off, but it did end with a blast. The kids had cookies and ice-cream for snacks. The sugar was more than enough to get them super-excited. With all parents busy clicking pictures of their little ones last day of preschool and the teachers letting the kids go wild, it was a jungle. The kids all dressed in Hawaiian attire to keep in with the theme of the year-end party, all the children wanted to play with their school toys one last time. Ruchi had such a great time running around and playing with all her friends. Finally when it was time to go home, none of the children were ready. Each one was begging for a few more minutes. Ruchi had her year book signed by her teachers, and it was quite obvious from their messages that she was the official Dino-Girl of her class. We are so glad we sent Ruchi to Stratford. Her teachers are so nice, that Ruchi genuinely loves them. She insists on having them as her teachers next year too.
Since Praveen had to go to San Francisco to register for tomorrow’s WWDC conference, we decided to go early and spend the afternoon in the city. Every time we go to the city, we choose a new place to go visit. Today’s destination was the Palace of fine arts. I had wanted to go there, ever since I saw it in the film The Rock. So we started at noon, and stopped at Amarin Thai, our favorite Thai restaurant in Mountainview. Just as we stepped out on to the street after lunch, we were surprised to see a girls and women dressed in regal attire marching through downtown, led by a band. Luckily for us, the gate was closed for a passing train, so we had a good view of the entire procession before it marched away. We later found out that it was the 85th Annual Holy Ghost Festa celebrations, celebrating Portugal’s devotion to the Holy Spirit and a folklore about the generous Queen Isabelle. As per the folklore, the generous Queen Isabel of Portugal would sneak food to the poor, much to the king’s dismay. One time, the king caught the queen trying to hide bread for the poor in a bag. When asked what was inside, she told the king it was flowers. According to legend, when the queen opened the bag, the bread had turned into flowers, Garcia said. Thanks to our lunch stop, we learned something new today. As for Ruchi she was very excited to see all the girls in the procession dressed as queens.
After lunch we drove to the Moscone center to pick up Praveen’s badge for the conference. It was my first time there, and I was very impressed by the place and the people. One has to actually see it to realize what a big event it is. When we stepped out, Ruchi noticed a huge carousel, across the street at the Yerba Buena Gardens. So we stopped there to enjoy a couple of carousel rides. Finally it was time time for the Palace of Fine Arts. After some driving around, we found a good spot to park our car. The Palace of Fine Arts park, was as beautiful as I had imagined. Ruchi had a great time running from one section to another. She loved to check the boards to see where we were on the map. It is a beautiful location to take some great pictures on a nice sunny day. Sadly it was too cloudy today. After running around for some time, Ruchi finally found a little boy to play with. Since she missed her afternoon nap, she was quite tired by the time it was time to leave. So when we told her it was time to go, she willingly said goodbye to her friend of few minutes and walked to the car with us.