Monday, February 3, 2020

Day 21 (Feb 2 and Feb 3 and Feb 2 (again) 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Traveling to Seattle

Our Korean Air 787 flight from Guam was uneventful (which is exactly what you want when flying).  We were in “Prestige Class” which is essentially business class.  Leaving Guam at 2:30 am, we were very happy to have lay flat seats.  The flight attendants were incredibly nice and very service oriented (but they were ALL wearing masks).  We arrived in Seoul 30 minutes early – at 6:00 am with a one hour earlier time change.  We slept until they turned up the lights at 4:30 am to serve breakfast.  The food was on par with US airlines – not great, a few items (like yogurt, roll were edible).  Our luggage was checked through to Seattle (our next stop), so no need to claim.  We made it through security and entered Terminal 2.  The Seoul airport is absolutely beautiful.  Abundant trees, live plants, orchids, etc make it really pleasant.  It almost seems like an upscale shopping mall with designer stores (Gucci, Chanel, etc) as well as a plethora of Duty Free Shops.  There are kid’s zone playing areas, IT and virtual reality experiences to spend your time, and robots wandering around to interact with.  As we walked through the airport, we noted that easily 90% of people were wearing masks – presumably as protection from the coronavirus.

Wow, how can you go wrong with Giant cats and Dragons!

Tech everywhere - this is a long film strip shaped screen curling around on itself

Yes, Robots!

Sunrise at Incheon Airport
We have a 12.5 hour layover.  Yes, 12 hours.  Sounds absolutely miserable?  Actually, it was very pleasant.  We walked a little over 2 miles exploring the airport and then went to the Transit Hotel and checked in for 8 hours.  They rent rooms by the hour and it was small, but spotless and perfect.  We slept until 1:15 pm, then got up showered, changed into clean clothes, and watched a little TV (they had CNN and BBC World in English).  We actually felt human again. 

Looks inviting and it was.

By the way - no comments from anyone about checking into a hotel that you pay per hour. It was obviously not THAT kind of hotel. 😀

We checked out at 4 pm and went to the Korean Air Lounge (our flight to Seattle is on Delta but they don’t have a lounge in Seoul).  There are the usual bar items along with nice food offerings including salads, garlic rice, corn soup, chicken in gravy, shitake mushroom meatballs, shrimp balls, and all sorts of bread items.  A great way to get some snacks before boarding our 6:30 pm flight.

Our Delta flight to Seattle left on time at 6:30 pm.  We had dinner and then went to sleep.  The lay flat seats were fine, and we each had a door to our “compartment.” Another uneventful flight.  We landed in Seattle early.  YIPPPEEE.  Not so much. We waited on the tarmac for 90 minutes, first problem was getting a gate, next problem was not being able to get through the airport due to (airplane) bridge construction.  Sigh.  It’s pretty frustrating to arrive early after a 10 hour flight and then wait another hour and half before you can actually get off the plane. That was a total of 35 hours from when the taxi picked us up in Guam to when we got to our hotel in Seattle.

We’re in Seattle for two days for a medical treatment for Bob and then back to Utah to prepare for our next adventure.  It’s been a great trip.

By the way, congrats to the Chiefs and their fans. Coach Reid has Utah roots and we are happy to see him finally get his Super Bowl win.

Our total trip distance, both air and sea was 15,614 statute miles.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Day 21 (Feb 1, 2020) – Crystal Symphony – San Diego to Guam – Guam

We took a short walk on the Promenade Deck.  Julie started early – a few minutes after 5:00 am.  It was clear for her walk, Bob started a bit later and walked outside until the rain started, and went inside for a few laps and then outside and it was still raining and inside and then finished outside.

Do you remember the bird from a few days ago?  Well, it turns out the bird was back on the Promenade Deck, looking much better today.  When Julie approached it to take a picture it walked a few steps.  On one lap she could see it with its wings spread – it had quite a wingspan.  The next lap there was a runner that startled the bird and it was flying, but was up against the bottom of the lifeboats.  It went back down to the deck.  Next lap – it was gone.  It seems that it is now a Guam citizen. [Note from Bob - naturally you need to ignore the fact that we are hundreds of miles from where we saw him previously - maybe he has a teleporter.]

We were escorted into the Port of Guam (BTW - it is a US Terratory, like Puerto Rico) by two tugboats and one boat that looked sort of like a big zodiac, except it had a machine gun on the front (it was US Coast Guard).  We’ve seen that in ports before as a security measure.

We have traveled 6,188 nautical miles or 7,121 statute miles. BTW - one nautical mile is roughly 2000 yards and equals 1 minute of arc in latitude. That is a LONG way!!!

We ordered room service breakfast so that we could eat while getting ready for our Guam excursion.  We first had to go through immigration and customs.  The Guam officials were supposed to start the process at 8 am, but seemed to arrive somewhat late and then it took a while before they began.  Our shore excursion was originally scheduled to depart at 8:45 am but the time was changed to 9:15 am due to the mandatory face-to-face interview with the officials.  There was already quite a line up when we arrived outside the Galaxy Theater at 7:45am.

All shore excursions leave from the Starlight Lounge.  We waited for our turn.  We chose the excursion that was about 4 hours long and included some WWII sights.

Ok, so, pictures. It turns out that we took a ton. Unfortunately, the picture storage card was left in our room and the camera didn't tell us that there was no card in it. We don't know why it doesn't bother to tell us something really important like that, but cest la vie.... We took a few pictures of the signs in the various locations, for information for us, but alas, they do not show what we saw... BIG HUGE SIGH. Here are a couple of pictures of the island we took from the ship after we realized that we had made a big mistake (the port was a very commercial port like many that we sail into).

The first stop was at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park- Asan Bay Overlook. This was the highlight of the tour.  There were some bronze sculptures that depicted the events on Guam during the Japanese occupation and the battle to take Guam back in 1944.  There is a Memorial Wall containing the names of the 1,880 US servicemen who died in the 1941 defense of Guam against the Japanese forces and those who died retaking the island from Japan in 1944. Interestingly the wall also listed ALL of the Guam people that survived the war.

Next up was the Latte Stone Park.  These were originally used as a foundation for the homes of the native Chamorro people. They are sort of mushroom shaped.  There was also a fallout shelter in the park, leftover from WWII.  Originally the Japanese forced the captured people to dig the tunnel in order to store munitions. We had a few minutes to wander around an adjacent park.

Across the street was the Plaza de Espana (Spain Square) and we wandered around that. It was the location where the Spanish governor's palace when the Spanish arrived in 1734. In 1898 after Spain lost the Spanish-American war, America took possession of the island and the place was the residence of the Naval Governor. Much of this area had been wiped out in the bombing just before the American invasion in 1944, so much of it was just ruins. There were a few buildings that had been reconstructed.

We had a short stop at the “Chamorro Village,” which turned out to be a small shopping center.  It is Saturday and yet most shops were closed.

The last stop was the Asan Beach, where the Marines landed to retake Guam from the Japanese.  All in all, the tour was pretty mediocre.

Once we returned to the ship we had lunch in The Waterside.  It was a nice lunch and then………………… back to our cabin to pack.  It was painful.  Even though we bought NOTHING on the trip (with the exception of a couple of small cans of macadamia nuts in Hawaii), it seemed like things just didn’t fit well into the suitcases.  We finished at about 5:15pm – just in time to go up to The Silk Bar for pre-dinner drinks.  We were dressed very casually (nice jeans and a shirt) because we were leaving the ship to start our journey towards home tonight and decided that we would be more comfortable eating in the Churrascaria.  We enjoyed a nice salad, a couple pieces of meat and grilled cinnamon pineapple for dessert.

One of the Lido guys serving some meat. 
The sides bar

The salad bar
\The evening’s entertainment was Kym Purling – an Australian pianist, composer, conductor, and amazing entertainer.  We truly enjoyed the performance.

We have struggled for the past week trying to arrange transportation from the ship to the airport tonight. We had contacted our travel agent for assistance when the Concierge said that they were unable to help with private transfers.  Our travel agent came up empty. Guam has the equivalent of Uber/Lyft called Stroll.  Bob signed up for an account, exchanged email with the company and put in a scheduled pickup request.  The company assured us that closer to the requested time someone would likely pick it up. No one committed to our request.  While we were on our tour Julie ended up talking with a parked taxi driver about transporting us at about 10 pm to the airport.  She got his card and he said to call him about an hour before we wanted to be picked up – we called at 9 pm, and lo and behold he said he’d be at the Port at about 9:30.  Because we were not disembarking within the normal times we had to take our luggage off the ship ourselves, which was a bit of a challenge due to the pitch and steps on the gangway.  Some kind Crystal Crew members helped us get the luggage off and then we had to walk about a block to the area where the taxis are allowed.  Our taxi driver was there waiting!  In chatting with the taxi driver he said that they only get about 4 cruise ships per year in Guam and just don’t have the ability to handle the mass influx a cruise ship brings.

We are writing from the airport lounge.  We have a grueling flight schedule.  It is not easy to fly out of Guam.  Our flight leaves at 2:30 am (yes, am) to Seoul, So Korea (about 5 hour flight), arriving about 6:30am with the time change.  We then have a 12 hour layover in Seoul.  Luckily, there is a transit hotel within security there, and we booked a room.  We leave Seoul at 6:30 pm for Seattle (10 hour flight) arrive about noon on Sunday.  We fly home to Utah on Tuesday.

Morning Exercise: 2.6 mi on the Promenade Deck
Weather: 72 at 5am and starting to rain
Seas:  Docked in Guam (at about 8am), last night the seas were relatively calm.
Breakfast: Room Service
Lectures: None
Trivia: None
Fun Trivia Question: None
Movie: "Alladin" the live action one with Will Smith
Dinner: Churrascaria
Trivia Answer: None
Daily steps: 20,154
Daily miles: 8.6

BTW - we are at 371,277 steps and 163.7 miles total so far for the whole vacation.