TADFF 2019: International Shorts After Dark

Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Compiled as 8 short films from various international locations, a few of them from the USA and screened as the International Shorts After Dark, here are 6 of the 8 shorts reviewed. One of them called Bar Fight was paired with a feature during Fantasia Festival in July so the review is linked at the bottom.

Maggie May (2018)

Maggie May

Director (and writer): Mia Kate Russell

Cast: Lulu McClatchy, Katrina Mathers, Sophia Davey, Ditch Davey, Don Bridges

Maggie May is about a sister who stays back to help out after their mother dies to end up in an accident which leaves her dying but her sister Maggie May simply ignores it. Sometimes, the scariest thing is not what someone does but in some situations, what someone doesn’t do. That is what powers the horror and unsettling feeling in Maggie May.

While the short itself is done fairly well, there’s this over exaggeration (perhaps deliberate) of the character of Maggie May and that makes it too over the top to make it feel as horrifying and more just a loathing in general to watch. What does work for the concept itself is the whole idea of passivity being more dangerous than the other way around in some cases. However, what does balance it out is the whole process of dying with the sister and the both the psychological and physical changes that she goes through hoping for help but also noticing the pieces around her fading away.  There’s a decent amount of blood and gore that somehow balance with the psychological elements of the whole story and pulls through a fairly effectively little short.

Puzzle (2019)

Director: Vincenzo Aiello

Cast: Marie Wyler

In a fairly concise story, Puzzle is a rather creepy one as it is based on the premise of a woman finding puzzle pieces around her home. As she pieces them together, it reveals something frightening. This one is very well-executed. It keeps its setting confined in a room mostly while using the puzzle pieces to each lead to the next one and it having the final unveil of what and possible who is responsible and yet, it still manages to keep some mysteries, mostly because its less than 5 minutes and the ability to craft something rather unnerving is already very impressive.

Eject (2019)

Eject

Director (and writer): David Yorke

Cast: Elena Saurel

Eject is about a woman that finds her arm has a USB port and proceeds to plug it in and ends up in another place where she can sort through files of her life. There are some fairly horror elements here and yet, characters finding too good to be true situations and using it to their advantage is not a new concept although this one for being a short did leave a fairly precious deeper message (in my mind but I might be overthinking) about the impossibilities of casting everything bad out of life as that isn’t reality. Its the mechanics of how this dimension works that becomes the mystery and the horror all wrapped up together. Its not a long short, less than 10 minutes and yet, long dark tunnels and empty room with a cabinet and a mysterious door leading to who knows is the unknown factors that add to this short film.

La Noria (2019)

La Noria

Director (and writer): Carlos Baena

La Noria is a Spanish animated short with no dialogue about a grieving boy who sees creatures in his attic who ends up showing him compassion.

La Noria is possibly the best short so far in all of the shorts shown at the festival. The animation is absolutely brilliant. On a visual level, the color palette is beautiful. The creature designs are also incredibly creative. There’s something of a Christmas holidays setting but somehow its the tint of light that works here. What starts off as failing to put together a ferris wheel and remembering his father turns into an intense walk through  his home festering with all kinds of creatures, all different in their appearance and having their own characteristics but all takes a surprising turn of events to something very touching. This one shows off the concept of being able to deliver an effective story with the power of visuals and sound effects and score to give it all it needs. Even the ending credits are done fantastically.

The Haunted Swordsman (2019)

The Haunted Swordsman

Director: Kevin McTurk

Cast: Jason Scott Lee, James Hong, Franka Potente, Christopher Lloyd

In terms of uniqueness, The Haunted Swordsman is a short that definitely fills that criteria. Its a ghost story puppet film that takes a horror adventure following a samurai in a world of witches and creatures. Made with 36 inch tall bunraku puppets and in live action, The Haunted Swordsman is a lot of fun filled with sufficient amount of horror, fantasy and adventure.

The story itself is a lot of fun as it starts with a samurai on a quest with a severed head, The Navigator as his companion guide, whichever it is in search of the The Black Monk, voiced by Christopher Lloyd. The samurai being voiced by Jason Scott Lee and The Navigator voiced by James Hong. The score itself blends well with the samurai tale elements and for a puppet film, the action is incredibly on point. A lot of compliments go to the attention to detail given to the puppets and how great it all looks as well as the puppeteers who make it all come to life convincingly. Its definitely a realm well worth looking at. While this is a short animated film at about 15 minutes or so, the samurai is sent on a quest, giving this concept and story a lot of potential to explore further and hopefully, director Kevin McTurk will do just that in the future.

Place (2019)

Place

Director: Jason Gudasz

Cast: Emily Green, Nick Hurley, Stella Edwards, Emmanuelle Roumain, Willy Roberts

Place is a short about a couple the goes into their new home to find the electrician dead in a freak accident to find that something seems to also be inhabiting it.

Place is about a family adjusting to all the ghosts in the place. While the ghosts never quite reveal itself, it does take over the family one by one. It gives them a rather edgy character and each of them change in their own way as they each take on a different oddness to them, whether its their change in how they talk. A lot of it is rather deliberate and possibly in a fairly dark comedy sort of way. Each of them interact with it in a different form as well. The character changes are a bit abrupt for a short, it needs to be paced fairly quickly. However, the daughter in here does bring in those little details of giving out clues of what legends are in the equation, inhabiting their place. Place is quite odd but then its meant to be that way with those little details which adds to the story plus it does have a rather good twist at the end.

Other shorts in this showcase not reviewed here:

Bar Fight (Fantasia Review)
Your Last Day on Earth

End of Cruise & Last Day in Seattle!

The Alaska Cruise lands on the Day 10 where basically its breakfast and scurrying off the boat with our luggage. We had packed light so we just needed to carry everything in one shot without having to wait.

We took a final walk around the ship before leaving and took a lovely farewell shot of Seattle.

Seattle

Our only stop scheduled before our evening flight back home was to the Museum of Glass.  Remember where I went to the Chihuly Garden and Glass on the day before boarding the cruise ship HERE? Well, this is where all the art work happens.  Its supposed to be a highlight location.  At a certain time, they open for the workshop to show how they make certain pieces of art.  We sat there for a good bit of time looking at them craft a whale tail and this other piece which I can’t even remember what it was.

Museum of Glass

Museum of Glass Settle

The rest of the museum featured works from certain programs they have.  One of them was for kids creative pieces that they adapted into these glass works. And there were other art designs and forms from Mr. Chihuly himself.  It was a colorful adventure to say the least.

Museum of Glass Seattle

Museum of Glass Seattle

Museum of Glass Seattle

Museum of Glass Seattle

The Museum of Glass is a little dark so a lot of pictures didn’t turn out great.  Here are the selected ones that were rather decent. Its some nice work.  Some are rather abstract but I think the glass designs are really beautiful and intricate. The detail on them is just amazing.

Onward to the airport and heading home afterwards.  We took a little plane what some would call air taxi over to Vancouver and had  a little layover before heading back home to Montreal on a red eye flight.  I’m not a huge fan of red eye flights and I think I did get a few movies watched as well but I did catch a shut eye for two hours or so.  At least I had a few days off when I got home so as usual, I would just pass out from minor jet lag and just the adrenaline rush of vacation leaving my system and getting back to my normal life 😉

Recap on the first cruise

Cruises are really fun.  I’m not going to lie though.  The first two to three days of the cruise were so tough. It was being trapped in a boat with my mom and her elderly friends.  They are super nice but would also feel a lack of freedom until I found a way to just walk off and do my own thing.  However, as the cruise went by and a certain routine set in, it was really fun to board and see a lovely city and explore, take pictures and all that great stuff.  The cruise helped instill some good habits because of the boredom and the evenings were always something I’d look forward to because there were shows and events and music.  The food was also pretty decent even in the buffet, it had really great choices.  The free dining options were very accommodating and that is always a plus.  There is a feeling of being pampered on a cruise.  Someone cooks and cleans for you.  Its uber relaxed and there’s just so much time to lounge around.  That is good and bad.  For the most part, I didn’t have to make any decisions and it was just all set out and eventually that was very nice.  It may have taken me a few days to adapt to the cruise life but there is no doubt that at the end of it, I did miss it quite a bit.  Reality is awesome, being home is great but feeling relaxed and pampered and being able to have time to do everything I wanted, have a night life, meet new people also was really fun.  That’s the great thing about vacation, right?  That is why I love it so much.  If it was my everyday, it would sound good but I’m guessing I’d probably grow tired of it.  Cruising is a good way to travel and its definitely something that should be experienced.  It definitely has its perks. However, there is no doubt that when the bill came in, being on a cruise is a luxurious way to travel. Everything is pretty pricey and there’s the daily service fee charges and while its all inclusive, many activities do cost money, especially shore excursions.  Plus, next time I’d get a beverage package because that would be more cost efficient as well.  You pay with a swipe of your room key and your life is basically  there for whatever days you have the trip. Still, I’d do another cruise if I had the money 😉

Have you gone a cruise before? Did you enjoy your experience? 

Alaska Cruise on Norwegian Jewel [Day 7]: Icy Point Strait, Alaska

We’re almost nearing the end of the vacation.  Second last stop before we arrive back in Seattle and finish off that half of a day before going home.  But, let’s not jump ahead too much. These vacation posts are in delay and I did do a few little day trips afterwards so I’ll be probably posting about those after this series 🙂

After a beautiful day in Glacier Bay National Park, we arrived early morning at Icy Point Strait, which seems like a little island.  We didn’t have any shore excursions for this one so we just wanted to do a walk around the island and explore. For the first time, we needed to get a ticket sort of thing and have a shuttle boat or whatever you call those things get us from the cruise ship to the shore.  New experiences, right?

Right when our boat was about to head to shore, a whale popped up right in front of it. Obviously, it was a split second deal so my eyes captured it and not my camera.  Throughout that day, it was fabulous weather in Icy Point Strait and the island had a little trail that we took a walk around and then just explored the little museum area.

Along the waterside, I took a ton of close-up shots of shells, waves, stones, seaweed.  Stuff that doesn’t matter but I really like taking close-up shots and thing finding focus and adjusting what is the key of the photo and whatnot. That’s just the learning photographer side of me.  Here’s just a few selected ones that I thought was pretty good.

Icy Point Strait

Icy Point Strait

Icy Point Strait

We ended up going back to the cruise ship relatively early and having some time to finally enjoy some time in the hot tubs with my mom.  While I was reluctant and first to do it at first, it was remarkably comfortable and relaxing.  Plus, from where we were, we could see humpback whales playing in the water everywhere.  It was pure awesomeness! We didn’t get any whale watching shore excursions but we still got to see it as a bonus 😉

Icy Point Strait

It was a great day.  The next one would be spent at sea before we head on board back in Canada at Victoria, British Columbia.  I have a friend that moved out there so I was pretty excited to meet up with her.

Drop by next week to see the post on Victoria, BC 🙂

Alaska Cruise on Norwegian Jewel [Day 6]: Glacier Bay National Park

We’re at Day 6 everyone! Glacier Bay National Park is possibly the most anticipated in this whole trip.  We get to see glaciers and on top of that, we got fantastic sunny weather.  It was a little chilly in the morning and I had to get into a few layers since I was stupid and brought a ton of t-shirts and a sweater, fall scarf and a zip-up cardigan.  What can I say? I ended up doing a tank top, t-shirt, sweater, cardigan and scarf mix to accommodate the weather which I eventually took off the sweater by midday because it started heating up.  It may sound like a lot but I was in my 3/4 yoga pants since I was going to do workout and whatnot.  Still, we ended up running from the sun deck to the front of the ship that they opened up specifically for this area to take pictures and whatnot.

Glacier Bay National Park

It was breathtaking! And, we heard the glacier shift.  It was super far away and I barely saw it because I’m height challenged but it was this gigantic sound that just echoed in the wilderness.

This post, nothing much happens since we had fabulous weather and basically went in, did a turn and the captain took us for another turn because it was just so smooth.  Bonus on the trip, always a great thing 😉

So, here we go! Some of the best shots that I took 🙂

If any of the shore excursions didn’t work for anyone, I’m positive that this was worth full ticket price. We were surrounded by some of the most pure and breathtaking scenery that I’ve ever seen.  I may have grown up surrounded by snow in Montreal where its 6 months of the year in winter but nothing quite beats that moment where I heard the glacier crack and saw the ice in the water and the sun and landscape reflecting on the beautiful water.  That feeling..I just can’t even describe! 🙂

For the rest of the day, we pretty much traveled back into non-snowy areas, heading for Icy Point Strait. I don’t have much pictures for the rest of the day.  I probably saw a show, ate at the buffet because I was super tired of overeating, and working out like a beast like the rest of the trip before that.  There was always a show in the evenings at the lounge and I’d sometimes see people I met there from previous days.  Cruise life can be pretty routine as well but just so relaxing! 🙂

That’s it for Day 6! Check back next week for Day 7 at Icy Point Strait! 🙂

Alaska Cruise on Norwegian Jewel [Day 5]: Skagway, Alaska

At this point in the cruise, I’m thinking that its going really fast.  Look at this, Day 5 already.  I’m also thinking that I’m super tired because the night before I slept late chatting with some acquaintances and then woke up early to get on a specific time for the Skagway shore excursions. It was costly but also one of the must-sees of the trip. It was a lot of jumping through borders.  We crossed the US back to Canada then back to US.  It was kind of funny and fun all at the same time.

Shore Excursion: White Pass Railway

White Pass Scenic Railway is one of those must-sees.  It is super pretty and although I think I did a pretty decent job on the pictures, it doesn’t even come close to what its like to just take in the whole experience.  Its over an hour on the train ride but there’s an actual conductor and you get to take in a good part of the history which of course, is over my head now but I have all the information pamphlets and whatnot that we got during the trip.  Its not quite so special to see snow but the scenery here is absolutely breathtaking.

On the way to the next site, we took a stop at the Welcome to  Alaska sign after we crossed back into US from the northern parts of British Columbia.

Alaska

Shore Excursion: Klondike Gold Mines & Gold Panning

 Our next (and final) stop for the shore excursion was going back to Klondike Gold Mines.  We go through the history of mining for gold and how it all works from the evolution of the machinery.  I had a field day going around taking macro pictures and blurring backgrounds and whatnot.  I apparently like weird things but the photos turned out pretty cool.

Klondike Gold Fields

Klondike Gold Fields

Klondike Gold Fields

We ended this little trip with our own little try and sifting for gold and the whole procedure from how to swirl the pan and have the gold surface.  We got to weigh our gold afterwards and take it home.  Of course, its nothing crazy but mine came to $13 (at the gold levels then, I guess).

Walk around Skagway

After going back and having a little lunch, we went back out to take a little walk around Skagway and the interesting symbols of the cruises on the rocks across from the harbor.

IMG_9828

IMG_9812

Evening on the Cruise

That evening, there was probably a show that I can’t remember what it was.  Some music probably.  Every night its about the same so it probably was workout when I got back, dinner at the buffet area since at this point, I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed from all the eating. And then that night, there was The Beatles Tribute or was it Rock Night (I think) in the lounge.  At least I think so. Regardless, this was the group on the cruise.  They are called Next Stage (I believe).

Norwegian Jewel

I might be getting that rest of the day all mixed up but somewhere in there I took a little walk around the boat.  All I remember was that it was REALLY windy but the scenery was A-MAZING! Just look at this…

Alaska

Alaska, on the way to Glacier Bay National Park

Okay, no joke here.  I was thoroughly excited about going into Glacier Bay National Park.  It was a day at sea but it was going to Glacier Bay National Parks to see actual glaciers and if this was just going into Glacier Bay and we were even there, can you imagine how beautiful it would be?

Drop by next week for Day 6: Glacier Bay National Park! 🙂

Alaska Cruise on Norwegian Jewel [Day 4]: Juneau, Alaska

Other than the price being really worth it for the Alaska Cruise, it was also a nice route because there were only 2 days at sea and after that we were pretty much at port or circling the Glacier Bay National Park.  That’s coming up…but next up was Juneau.  If there’s anything you’ll notice, Alaska ports are pretty much all rainforest territories.  Vegetation grows on so little earth and it rains a lot, although not so apparent for us because we got only that one time where we were leaving port and it rained.  I just can’t remember if it was at Ketchikan or at Juneau.

Day 4: Juneau, Alaska

We’re here! Day 4! Juneau’s port isn’t right next to the city so we had a shuttle to go which we realized was actually a little silly because the walk back wasn’t too bad either.  It’s like a mile.  Still, we took advantage of the free service 😉

Juneau Alaska

Arriving into Juneau, Alaska

We also had a shore excursion booked for Juneau which included stopping at 3 locations. Let’s see them, shall we?

Shore Excursion: Mendenhall Glacier

This place to visit Mendenhall Glacier was stunningly beautiful.  Its a pity that we couldn’t stay longer because it had a few trails and there was the waterfall which was a decent distance to get to.  We did get there and have to run back to catch the bus on time.  There was some really nice scenery with water, glacier, icebergs, etc.  It was so peaceful and nice despite all the tourists around. There was also some really nice plants and flowers growing around the trail that we took.

Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier Mendenhall Glacier

 Shore Excursion: Macauley Salmon Hatchery

I’m from Canada so salmon is kind of a thing we know about. Hatcheries and all that stuff, I’ve visited a few of them in the past.  This place didn’t have so much value for me.  The facilities were really  nice though.  Inside there was some animals displays and had a little aquarium going with some marine life like shellfish and coral and some fishes.  It was a quick little stop for some coffee and to know a little more about the various types of salmons in the area and just how the hatching process works and the role of the hatchery.

Macauley Salmon Hatchery

Macauley Salmon Hatchery

Shore Excursion: Glacier Gardens

The last stop of the shore excursion was at the Glacier Gardens.  Its a 50 acre rainforest botanical garden that features Flower Towers which are using dead tree trunks overturned to fill with plants as decor.  It also includes a tour that elevates a good few hundred feet to a vantage point where we can get a beautiful view of the whole Juneau area. Its breathtaking and beautiful.  The ride up was fascinating as the guide tells us about the history of how the Gardens came to be and how the owner came to have the Gardens set in the Tongass National Forest.  Its a unique experience and a lot of fun.

Glacier Gardens

In the Gardens Gift Shop

Glacier Gardens

Gardens Gift Shop: A special Mother’s Day photo with my mom.

Glacier Gardens

The ride going up to the peak

Glacier Gardens

The view at the top

Glacier Gardens

The view at the top

Glacier Gardens

Flower Towers

Rest of the Day

The tour took up a good few hours, probably around 4 hours or so.  We went back to the ship for lunch and came back out to explore the city a little.  On the path there, I bought two t-shirts which were rather subtle tourist-y ones.  But they were really nice and made from bamboo so really comfortable. We also walked by this really tourist sort of restaurant called Red Dog Saloon.  We didn’t want to go in so we just took a picture outside.

Juneau Alaska

In the city of Juneau, tourist spot, Red Dog Saloon

As I mentioned before, this day was also Mother’s Day so the boat had some little decoration in the buffet area.

IMG_9538 IMG_9535

The Moms in our group got to choose the location of dinner that night and we went back to Chin Chin Restaurant.  Unfortunately those pictures turned out a little fuzzy and I already showcased that restaurant before.  I think we might actually have another night there so there might be more pictures. I just can’t remember until we get there.  That night, it was also comedian and that didn’t work with my mom and her friends since they wouldn’t understand it so we skipped the show.  I did end up spending some time with my mom to walk around the ship and look at the decorations and take some pictures with my mom.  This trip overlapping Mother’s Day was one of the highlights so since I  moved out, its these moments that matter a lot.

I ended the evening after my mom headed back to rest since we had an early start the next day going to the lounge again.  There was some nice music and that’s when I met a few more very awesome people from southern part of the USA.  Very nice people and it was nice to chat with some younger groups of people.  We have no contact now but hey, it is a cool memory.  We did hang out a few more nights during the trip at the lounge and had some fun times. No pictures of these events since I was off duty with my DSLR and my phone was slowly dying during the trip.  I’ll tell you all about the debacle when it actually happens later on 😉

For now, this is the end of Day 4 of the Norwegian Alaska Cruise at our stop in Juneau! A really captivating shore excursion for the most part and a great evening making it a fantastic way to spend Mother’s Day with my mom! 🙂 Which reminds me, I should get that picture with my mom printed and framed.

Remember to check back for Day 5!
Easily one of the most memorable stops and the day we cross back and forth from Canada and USA over and over again 😉

Alaska Cruise on Norwegian Jewel [Day 3]: Ketchikan, Alaska

Day 3 on the Alaskan Cruise was our first stop.  After a day of being at sea and exploring the boat thoroughly, this first stop was a welcome time. We had an early wake-up time to meet up for the bus to go to where our tour start.  Right off the boat, it was full of the city and by the shore was tons of souvenir shopping.

Ketchikan, Alaska

Good morning, Ketchikan! 🙂

Rainforest Canoe Trail

Let me just start by saying that my mom and her friends did not know what they were getting themselves into, so they didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I did.  If you’ve followed here for a while, you know that I LOVE water.  I mean, like cruise feels great but I used to do dragonboat so canoeing felt great.  They thought someone would paddle the canoe but nope, it was all about us doing the work to get there.  There wasn’t a lot of people doing the tour on top of that so it was kind of funny how it was the guide, one of the cruise employees and me doing most of the paddling. Still, it was fun.  Plus, the view was beautiful!

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

We did a tour of the lake and then made our first around the river bend where there was a chef lady who had prepared some clam chowder, smoked salmon, coffee, etc for our snacks.

Ketchikan

Smoked Salmon

Ketchikan

Chef and Clam Chowder

Rainforest Canoe Trail

The view of the lake from where we parked the canoe

Then, we got to do a tour of the rainforest on that island to learn a bit of the vegetation.  The guide was young and energetic and he seemed genuinely in love with nature making him rather enthusiastic so it was even more engaging to listen to. 🙂

Ketchikan

A Berry plant..I think its salmonberry

Ketchikan

Fallen logs that nuture the growth of other plants

Ketchikan

Skunk Cabbage

Ketchikan

Can’t remember the name but these things grow in 90% non-polluted air, making Alaska one of the most non-polluted places

Dinner at Tsar’s Palace

We got back to the boat for the sailing away at 3pm or something after doing some souvenir shopping and hopping back on the boat for lunch.  I did go on the deck and take a nice picture of the Ketchikan harbor/city from there.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

I can’t remember the schedule exactly.  Its somewhere in my stack of papers.  From my notes, we did sit in the sun a little. There was the Sail Away Party in the lounge where I did go for a little while.  I think we just sat and walked around until dinner time. I might have gone to workout (since I did that everyday).

The details aren’t so important since this is freestyling cruising.  Seeing that’s Norwegian Cruise Line’s tagline, it works out, right? 😉 Tsar’s Palace is the other main dining palace.  A part of the menu is the same as Azura but there is some dishes that vary on a daily basis.  It is a bigger restaurant and has a more grand decor.

Here’s what we had.  I’m sorry that I can’t remember any of the dishes specifically anymore.  I should’ve taken a picture of the menu but apparently I didn’t…so there’s no going back from that.

Evening: Shows, Games and Country Hoe-Down

Alaskan Cruise

I don’t have a whole lot of pictures from evenings but that evening, we went to the show at the Stardust Theatre.  I walked around (resulting in the shot above of the sunset) and caught the Guess The Tune game, which was pretty fun.  That night it was called the Country Hoe-Down.  I had a ton of fun learning how to line dance.  I think I still remember some moves.  It was super fun because this old couple was owning the dance floor, aside from the staff of course.  They were right there next to me and when I got tired, I remembered that I couldn’t get owned by some elderly folks so I tried to learn it even better. It was really fun.  That’s all I’m saying 🙂

Events like this and I started making acquaintances, not bad, right? Only took 3 days 😉

That’s it for Day 3! The beautiful Ketchikan graced us with no rain until we were sailing away.  It was really some nice awesome weather we had the whole way, you’ll see…  That canoe trail though, man, I have to find some of those here and sign up for one of those.  You want to feel like being one with nature? That was totally how I felt about it.

Alaska Cruise on the Norwegian Jewel: Day 1&2

I debated wrapping up the end of my trip with the second half of Seattle but I figured I might as well follow how my vacation went.

Day 3 of vacation was the morning blitz mode in Seattle that I wrote about HERE in the previous post.

Second half of that day was spending about an hour or so boarding the cruise ship.  During the first part of the line-up, I have to be honest that I freaked out just a little when I searched all my bags and I couldn’t find my passport.  Somehow I found it tucked somewhere or another.  It was just hidden.  Its been so many months that I can’t even remember where it finally popped up.  But that is generally how I am when I travel.  Good thing I pull out these documentation in advance. Imagine the stress of not finding it at the last minute and holding up the line, I can already feel the stress 😉

So, security checks and check-in for the cruise ship, getting our Norwegian Jewel card that is technically our access and payment for EVERYTHING for the 9 days on there.  I can tell you one thing, the perspective of life changes a little when money becomes this behind the scenes figure (kind of). I’ll talk about the entire cruise experience when I’ve finished with everything during a recap.  For now, lets get these rather uneventful Day 1 and 2 over with.

Day 1: Boarding ship and settling in!

Here’s our room, which is the first place we went after we boarded since we chose to carry our own luggages there. We didn’t bring a lot so it was light and easy.

Norwegian Jewel

Our room

There were no windows.  We were on the 8th floor.  It was a decent size and really tidy.  To be honest, I really just went back to rest here between activities or sleep at night or shower between workouts and meals.  I didn’t stay in there incredibly a lot so it didn’t really bother me much. It was really comfortable and the whole no windows thing made us kind of lose track of time in the mornings when we didn’t have to wake up for a tour because we couldn’t see when it was light out 😉 That’s vacation!

There was some Sailing Away activities in the afternoon as we inched closer to the 3pm time when we departed Seattle.

Norwegian Jewel

The Deck

Norwegian Cruise

View of Seattle from the Cruise Ship

When we sailed away, we walked around the ship to explore what there was and where it was all situated so we’d be able to get to wherever we wanted for whatever activities soon.  We peeked into the Workout room which I ended up spending a lot of time the next 9 days between trips and whatnot, starting the next day where I went two times or something since we were at sea. There were activities on the middle area with pools, sat down and enjoyed the sun a little, then found where the theatre for all the evening shows and we ended up finding the game room where we found a set of Mahjong complete with all the tiles.  Guess what? My mom and her friends wanted to kill some time doing that so we did until dinner time 🙂

Our first night at dinner was the restaurant we scouted out.  My mom and her friends had already been on various cruises before but its the first time they saw Asian cuisine as free dining on the cruise ship so of course, that was our first choice. Here’s what we had at this restaurant called Chin Chin.

The service was very nice.  The food was very westernized.  They called it Asian fusion, but its not.  Although, you will see that we did end up going back for lots of dumplings and possibly fried rice 😉

To wrap up the evening, we went for an evening walk on the deck where I discovered the Spinnaker Lounge which I will end up spending nights there checking out their game/theme nights and its kind of my way to have some alone time to relax and not be rushed from point A to point B. It was still relaxing but I do enjoy time to myself.

Norwegian Jewel

First Night on the Deck

There was also the Welcome Aboard Show at the Stardust Theatre to end off the night.

Day 2: At Sea

I was still experiencing jet lag on Day 2.  I’m telling you, as I get older, this jet lag business takes longer to settle especially those 3 hours time shifts.  So, guess what? I woke up at like 5 or 6 am or something and walked up to the deck and took some sunrise shots.

Norwegian Alaska Cruise

2nd day, sun rise!

Fresh air, ocean in front of the us and the dawn of a new day! That was an amazing and incredible feeling! 🙂

I had an early breakfast, headed to my first ever Zumba class then because the instructor was late and the class wasn’t long, I headed up to the gym to get in some jogging and rowing, before showering and heading down for lunch.  Sadly, it seems I didn’t take many pictures of the buffet portion of the trip, which I spent mostly for breakfast and lunch.  I can’t remember exactly what happened but I remember activities in the middle area with the pools slowly being opened and the hot tubs and whatnot.  There was the Mr. Alaska competition which was pretty entertaining, some music that followed.  We sat in the sun a little, booked our tours for the next few stops and just relaxed.

I’m telling you..I love relaxing but the first two days started getting so relaxing that I didn’t really know what to do so I walked around and explored by myself, especially after I went to do a second workout and lost my mom in the process on the ship.  I eventually found her right before dinner.  This night, we had already said to meet at one of the main dining halls called Azura.

Azura was very accommodating, especially for my food allergies.  The service was great and the food was delicious.  I can’t remember the name of the food at all but I have an idea of what it all is.

We ended the evening with a show at the Stardust Theatre called Back on the Road Show. I think it was a singing show.  I can’t remember anymore.  Then there was a game show called Battle of the Sexes which was really funny.

Its a calm two days and nothing much to really talk about so I put them together. We arrive at Ketchikan in Alaska for our first stop the next day! 🙂

Seattle (Day 2): Blitz Morning Mode

Wow! So this whole vacation thing is taking a  million years to get going.  But hey, that’s the perk of having a blog, right? You put up the content as you see fit.  We’ll be going a little faster through my vacation (back in May) now that I have more time and festival season is (mostly) over.

If you missed the 3 part Day 1, you can see it here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Now on with business! We had a morning before we had to board the ship back at Pier 66 where we scoped out the day before.  We had set some closer destinations to the hotel to visit.  By the way, in case I didn’t mention before, we stayed at Inn at Queen Anne.  The exterior and surrounding of the hotel is nice.  A little off downtown but its a decent location near a bus stop. Also, the rooms itself are a little run down but it does include a kitchenette.  It was one of the more affordable choices at the time and since we were only staying for two nights, it was okay.  We really just went back to rest and sleep.  I mean, we had more than enough time to sit around when we were on the cruise (although you’ll see that I didn’t do much of that).

The morning, we did a crazy run through everything in KeyArena area.  We went in to visit some of the places but only took pictures of certain other ones.

First stop was pictures of Space Needle.

Space Needle

We already went to see the Observatory the day before so we didn’t see the need to go up the Space Needle.  We sat around while waiting for museums to open and admired it while playing games on our devices (?).  My mom and her friends were completely obsessed with trying to beat 2048. So I just walked around and took pictures.

Around the area, we also came across this lovely and innovative exhibit called Sonic Bloom.

Sonic Bloom

Its pretty cool because on the top of the flowers are solar panels which activate it to light up at night.  While also having sensors that when you walk past each makes a different sound so you can actually make music if you run through it in certain sequences.  Super awesome, right?

While we were waiting, we also took a little walk around the EMP museum which had a cool exhibit but no one else was interested so we ended up skipping it. However, that building was designed really nice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a picture that did it justice.

Finally, at 10 (or something), one of our must-sees opened up and it was the Chihuly Garden and Glass.  I may have reversed the name but the point is there.  This place is full of blown glass crafted to look like different scenery. Its not only an indoor exhibit.  It also has an outdoor portion.  There’s a few of my favorites.

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Sea scape with tons of little sea creatures at the bottom

Chihuly Garden and Glass

A rainbow room casted from the glass sculptures scattered on the top

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Pond scene

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Boat ride scene

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Japanese tree outdoors scene

Isn’t that beautiful? That’s like 10% of the exhibits.  The outdoors has the reanimated in glass version of tons of plants.  You can see it on their site.

We also did a quick visit of Pacific Science Centre.

Pacific Science Centre

Pacific Science Centre Outdoors area

When I say this was a brief visit, I mean like we ran through all the exhibits included in the general admission.  If we had more time and paid for the special exhibit it was a cool one on Pompeii. That would have been really fun.

All that running took up most of the morning and we went so fast and efficient that we had time before going to grab our bags and walk to Pier 66, so we sat down at the dome that turned into a fountain and watched the show a little while some kids were playing around in the water. It was pretty fun, just to relax a little and take in the city a little.

KeyArena

KeyArena

The weather had stayed really nice.  We sat outside to take in some sun before heading back to the hotel to get our luggage.

That’s it for this part.  Day 2 is split into two parts.  When we get back to the next vacation post, we’ll be heading on the cruise for probably the first 2 days, since we were at sea for that duration of time 😉

Have you been to Seattle? What did you enjoy? What attractions do you seek out when you travel?

Seattle (Day 1): An Extreme Walking Tour [Part 3]

Its taken me a little more than a week but I finally got together the final part of Day 1 in Seattle to wrap up the Extreme Walking Tour.

To give you an idea of time, we started with Part 1 at around 9am or so.  The bus ride to the Museum of Flight took quite a bit of time. By the time, we wrapped up Part 2 after the Seattle Aquarium, we were in the 4-5pm range, I’d say.

1) Pike Place Market

Our first stop was to make a little pit stop at Pike Place Market which was just across and up the stairs/slope depending which way you chose to go.

Pike Place Market

Up there, the market was cool with lots of beautiful fresh flowers and fruits/meats, etc.  It was really awesome.  I didn’t have a whole lot of time because my mom’s friend really wanted to go see The First Starbucks!

Pike Place Market

The First Starbucks!

She was a brave lady, I tel you that. The line up was out the door.  We stood around for 20-30 minutes waiting for her as she went in to buy a cup as a souvenir for her friend.   Now that, my friends, is dedication.  I wanted to get a tea but no tea is worth waiting in line for that long crowded in a tiny space.

2) Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour

I talked about this one before in a photo challenge and I’m not exactly sure what else I can say.

Bill Speidel's Underground Tour

Underground Tour

Underground Tour

Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is pretty entertaining if you’re into a little sarcastic humor about the whole underground city under that area as you walk among the ruins. How the city was burnt down and then rebuilt and all the crazy history behind that. Informative and fun and just the type of humor I liked.  I really enjoyed it and would totally recommend it if you are into this sort of thing.

3) Pier 66 and the Waterfront

Our next stop was straight back to the harbor waterfront to check out where we would be boarding the next day and scope out the area.

Pier 66

Seattle Waterfront

I love waterfronts in general but Seattle’s waterfront is definitely very pretty.  Its just really calm (despite the construction area next to the Seattle Aquarium).  We walked along pretty much the whole waterfront all the way to our next stop…

4) Olympic Sculpture Park

Our last stop for Day 1 is Olympic Sculpture Park.  I think that there’s a different path at the bottom of the route that we took which is uphill and working downwards.  I didn’t do any research on this but the way we went upwards, we went through some gardens with sculptures along the way.  Its pretty abstract art in my opinion so I wasn’t totally into it but the garden itself had some nice flowers.  I didn’t put any flowers since I can show those any time but these should be the highlight.

olympic sculpture park

olympic sculpture park

olympic sculpture park

olympic sculpture park

The last sculpture here is the coolest feature here.  At least I thought it was.  This is a metallic tree.  I mean its all metal and it blends right into the environment except when the sun hits it at a certain angle and there’s a reflection.  Now that is impressive, right?

After 3 parts, we’re finally done Day 1 of Seattle.  Man, only one day of my vacation done but I wanted to get together some good posts together while I sifted through my photos.  While Alaska was the highlight, Seattle was extremely pretty as well so we’ll take our time with this vacation’s post 🙂 I’ll be back with Day 2 in Seattle soon.

If you missed Part 1 & 2, you can find them Here and Here.