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Pros and Cons of an Alaska Cruise

Ah Alaska, the last frontier as they say and our nation’s largest state (almost three times bigger than Texas)!  At some point or another curiosity to travel to this truly unique state occurs to almost everyone.  Maybe it’s the diversity in terrain, the majestic mountains, the glaciers, or the unique wildlife that draws people in.  Similarly for my family in June of 2008 we visited Alaska by road and drove through the state covering nearly 4000 miles in ten days.  The experience was incredible, walking through Denali National Park and catching up on cultural sites along the way was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

So, this year when Sonia offered for me to join her and a few friends on an Alaska cruise, I wanted to share the sights and sounds of Alaska with my husband and kids and quickly signed up to join them.  We boarded the Disney Wonder and left from Vancouver last month on a mission to see whales, eagles, glaciers, and mountains.  Alaska is so big, and after looking at several cruise routes, it is NOT uncommon for cruise liners to not wander too far north due to weather and other considerations.  Nonetheless, I was optimistic about what we would experience.

Our View Everyday
The Sun, The Ocean, The Magical Mountains
Our Cruise Crew
Alaska By Sea

The cruise line route, shown below, just barely touches Alaska – somehow I felt as though I had short changed the largest state of our union by touring its Southern most islands.  The passages were beautiful and we did see a few orcas along the oceans surface along with a glacier.  We went into Edicott Arm (which was not our intended stop which was Tracy Arm) but the hours of passage between the majestic mountains really made this cruise the experience what it was.  Unlike Caribbean cruises, there is so much to take in and see in Alaska on the days at sea.

Alaska By Sea
Alaska By Road

Below is the route we drove starting in Edmonton, Canada and making our way all the way to Anchorage (see our stops on the map below indicated in yellow).  The sights and sounds along the way were incredible.  Caribou and black bears roamed the streets freely along the Alaskan Highway.  We even stopped at Liard Hot Springs and took a dip in the natural hot spring!  We then spent an entire day roaming through Denali National Park, which is home to Mt. Mickley – North Americas highest peak at 20,320 feet (15th highest in the world).

Alaska By Road- Edmonton to Anchorage
Images from our road trip in 2008:

There was so much to be seen and experienced by land that after that trip I truly felt as though I had experience Alaska for what it was: the final frontier.

The Takeaway

That being said the convenience of being on a cruise liner and of course having all the amenities of a Disney cruise at our finger tips did not hurt.  However, I did feel as though the cruise route somehow did not do Alaska justice.  On our five day cruise we had only one port stop in Ketchikan which is a quaint Alaskan town built entirely around cruise tourism.  It was nice to get off the boat and we were fortunate to have participated in an awesome port excursion that shared native culture with us.  The tour guide was an incredible spirit who was able to spot bald eagles from miles away; we saw several up-close too which was really cool!

Check out our Alaska Recap Video Here:

Also our Bald Eagle Encounter Was Incredible too!

Depending on what you are looking for and who you are travelling with, Alaska by water and Alaska by land offer two very different types of vacations.  On one hand you have the convenience of prepared meals, an entertainment itinerary and let’s face it an on board “Kids Club.”  By car you have the spontaneity of adventure  on every turn without the guarantee of a three to five start hotel at each stop.  As my kids get older, I crave a more ‘boots on the ground’ type of experience but with friends, there is nothing quite like the relaxing experience of a cruise.

Tip #1:  Having gone to Alaska in both June AND July before, I can confidently say that the weather is amazing during this time of the year.  On both trips I had packed winter coats and on both I did not need them.  Just plan on layering up and you will be just fine! Here are our favorite pieces to layer up with:

Tip #2: For traveling with fragile items and/or medical supplies (my daughter has Type 1 Diabetes) we count on our Andiamo Luggage to get everything there safely, check them out here.

I hope you found this helpful, thanks for checking out my post.

Your Chick,

Rina

Cross Off Something From Your List And Do Something New Today

On a hot summer day in Chicago, five friends set out for a picture perfect lunch on Lake Michigan.  Honestly, it felt like that kind of day…storybook or movie perfect.  Sonia and I have been long time Chicago girls, but we have met many people who come and go that never made their way onto the iconic Odyssey on Navy Pier.  It is not uncommon to take things down the street for granted and think that you will eventually do them.  In the spirit of having a #MomsOffDuty moment, we checked out a beautiful lunch cruise aboard the Odyssey on Lake Michigan and boy did we luck out!

The Odyssey has been sailing on Lake Michigan for more than 20 years from Navy Pier which means that the party does NOT stop when you get off the boat. See a full list of things to do at Navy Pier here!

We enjoyed all the ship had to offer including, three chic climate-controlled decks with LED lighting and a lit dance floor, a premium bar menu, vegetarian friendly menu items, and a relaxing rooftop lounge with modern deck furniture.  The staff was attentive and courteous (S/O to our server Nick for finding us no matter where we were on the boat).

The Looks:

 Rina’s Floral Wrap Skirt is On Sale for $43 here | Sonia’s Floral Dress is $25 (She is wearing a Medium and it is TTS)! and linked here | Rina’s Tie Front Tank is here (size down) | Rina’s Favorite Summer Shoes are True To Size (TTS) and linked here

Sonia’s Black Fox Crossbody is $46 and linked here | Rina’s White Rina Bag comes in all colors and is $42 and is linked here

All in all, we were so grateful to take in the skyline on a day like this and enjoyed the time that we got to spend with some of our closest friends (being #MomsOffDuty of course).  We ended our cruise experience on the dance floor where we really let loose!

What is something in your town that you have been meaning to check out?

Cheers,

Rina

Chick Picks:

Thank you Entertainment Cruises for having us!

A Girls Getaways Close to Home; Check Out the Grand Geneva Well Spa

I am a Chicago native, and for most Chicago folks we look forward to Spring and, of course, summertime CHI!  However, stepping away from the hustle and bustle of the city is a great way to decompress and reconnect with nature!

I recently took a weekend trip with some girlfriends and drove up to Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. It was a quick 2 hour drive from the city!  Lucky for us, one of my girlfriends has a house right on the water. Having a place that felt like home made our trip just a little bit better. We started our mornings with a healthy breakfast and ended our days with girl talk on the couch filled with lots of laughter!

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva has a quaint downtown with boats, restaurants, and even a small beach! We set out to see Lake Geneva and try some of their yummy eats.  While I didn’t love our dining experiences there, the feel of this small city is just what the doctor ordered.

The Grand Geneva Spa

One thing we knew for sure was that we were going to top off our weekend with some time at the spa.  In doing some research, we realized that the spa at the grand Geneva hotel is rated the best in Lake Geneva. Of course we couldn’t leave without checking it out!  Each one of us received different services ranging from seasonal farmhouse massages, to deep tissue services.  We were greeted with a friendly face, and shown the amenities of the spa. The spa offers a whirl pool, sauna, steam room, and place to get your nails done! Since there were seven of us, we were given the Tranquil Lounge to sip on champagne and nosh on small bites while we waited.   I did the deep tissue with Diana, I have to say she has fingers of magic! I would highly recommend requesting her if deep tissue is what you are into.  The Grand Geneva certainly did not disappoint, we spent a little bit of time before and after our services just enjoying the amenities.

Thank you Lake Geneva for creating a lifetime of memories for my friends and I. Also, thank you Grand Geneva for giving us the rest and relaxation we needed to end our weekend filled with laughter and love!

Also, if you have not already, check out all the beauty tips we have on YouTube here!

Your Chick,

Sonia

At Home Spa Essentials:

Check Out Our Charming Adventures in Charleston!

When you take a trip with your sister for Spring Break it is a Chick Trip and Family Trip all mixed into one!  This year, we set our sights on some southern charm and headed to Charleston, South Carolina.  We loaded up our mini’s (all four of them) and pulled off a fun and memorable trip complete with loads of laughs!

What to do:
Carriage ride:

A great way to get your bearings for this quaint city is to take a carriage tour. We hopped over to Palmetto Carriage Works for a ride through Charleston‘s historical district. We absolutely loved our guide, Jim.  He was knowledgeable, relevant, and funny! We would highly recommend starting your trip to Charleston with this tour to understand fun spots to visit.  As women and as bloggers, we found the story about the Grimke sisters who were early advocates for abolition and women’s rights to be pertinent and interesting.  It was a refreshing reminder of women in history and a great teachable moment for our young children!  The streets of Charleston are lined with historical homes that make the city truly a place to visit!  We got lucky with a morning ride so it wasn’t too hot or too cold.

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Fort Sumter – Patriots Point

When we arrived at our hotel, our rooms weren’t ready.  In an attempt to kill some time we drove over to Patriots Point and BOY are we glad we did (literally a 12 minute drive from the historic downtown area)!  We walked over to the USS Yorktown and toured the ship.  Tickets were $22 for adults and $14 for kids.  Definitely worth it!  The boat was easy to navigate with tours that are clearly marked (audio tours are also available)!  We were traveling with 4 young kids who all found the ship’s many rooms fascinating.  Aboard the ship you see where crew ate, slept and lived life while on board.  The top of the ship was lined with fighter jets from both the navy and marines!

This is an awesome stop for both kids and adults! We went on a simulator that showed what it would be like as a pilot of a fighter jet, this helped jump start the kids imagination when we made our way to see the jets in real life (tickets were $6 per person).  I would allow about 3-4 hours to check out the ship.  Next door is Fort Sumter, of you plan to do both you would be looking at a full  day outing depending on the ages in your group.

Sullivan Island : Lighthouse and Beach

We had planned to stop at Sullivan Island during our planning for the trip.  I should warn that we went in the month of April for Spring break and the weather didn’t quite hold up for the beach.   We made a stop over at the lighthouse which we could only see as we walked past it.  Not the most picturesque lighthouse, but something to see nonetheless.  Just past the lighthouse was a  boardwalk to the beach.  The kids loved collecting shells while we basked in the spring sun.  It wasn’t quite warm enough to get in the water, so keep that in mind when planning a visit in the Spring months.  A quick mention, if you have young kids and your hopes of spending a day at the beach get ruined, there is a park with playgrounds just up the road that was a savior for us!

What to eat:
Basil

Situated right off King Street in Charleston Basil is a Thai restaurant that has absolutely delicious food!  With a blend of vegetarians and non-vegetarians in our group  this was a sure bet for dinner.  Most dishes can be substituted for tofu.  In general we are regulars to Thai food, but I must say the food here stood out!  Their Pad Ke Mow is a must try!  My kids love Panang curry…unfortunately Basil didn’t offer this but had Massuman curry which was a perfect substitution!  If you like Thai, you’ll love Basil.

Basic Kitchen

While shopping with the kids, we were looking for a lunch spot.  Upon a recommendation we ended up at Basic Kitchen.  This place was gorgeous! It had a light and airy feel and was clean and well staffed. They offered a good selection for the kids menu which made the kids…and us happy!  We tried the bbq tempeh, cauliflower wings and avocado toast…all three were so good!  This is a must stop for good clean and vegetarian eats!

Mex 1

What a fun Mexican restaurant!  You can’t miss it off the main road once you get onto Sullivan Island.  This place offered both indoor and outdoor seating, we sat indoor since it was a tad on the chilly side the day we went.  They offer an extensive menu of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.  It wasn’t like most Mexican restaurants with the standard quesadillas and burritos.  They had an array of salads and bowl options as well!  Come on, as people who love spicy food, they even had a hot sauce bar…my favorite was the blue agave sriracha..made in Austin, of course!  Over lunch we noshed on guacamole and chips, and even sipped on some Paloma’s….we even spotted a celebrity from the show Southern Charm…Austen!  I would definitely recommend this place.  Of course, you know the chicks at ChicksAndSalsa can’t pass up a food spot for some “chips” and salsa!

Where to stay (or not):
Hyatt Place

We waited until the last minute to book our trip so we had very few options for hotels.  We ended up at the Hyatt Place which we didn’t love.  When we pulled up they were not very helpful.  There was no one to help with our bags or even greet us.  We helped ourselves to unloading our luggage onto the cart and then again upstairs…. this made for a terrible first impression!  The room easily fit 6 of us, we had two double beds and a pull out sofa bed.  The pool was indoor and decently kept, the kids liked that the water was heated so they enjoyed their time!  Our room stay included breakfast…we thought this would be a good perk, but the food was just OK and the dining area was very crowded.

We were grateful to have something to start to the day, but truthfully we preferred to have breakfast out of the hotel.  Overall, we are grateful to have had a place to stay, but would not recommend the Hyatt place, especially if you are big on service!

All in all, the city is so unique and distinct from the Chicago and Atlanta landscape that we are used to! We loved driving on the beautiful bridges, being by the water, shopping on King Street, and of course eating in Charleston!

Another one for the books, check out our other travel posts here!

Cheers,

Rina And Sonia