Monday, October 22, 2012







Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Doing the Balcony dance

I usually keep a pretty good eye on price changes after final payment in the hope that I might get either an on board credit or a room update.

It is no different with the LA repo cruise - I started noticing some price softening about 2 weeks ago and was planning on mentioning it to my TA when I saw her at a friend's birthday party but when that was canceled at the last minute because of a health issue I forgot to check until this weekend when I noticed that some of my fellow cruisers were posting on Cruise Critic that they had gotten some upgrades.

Onto the Internet and sure enough there had been a major price reduction on just about all categories and with a little investigative diligence I noticed that a balcony was now cheaper than what I paid for an inside and that the single supplement had been reduced to 50% - but there is no guarantee that the cruise line will do anything. So I emailed the info to my TA over the weekend and phoned her first thing Monday morning - she would see what see could do.

Within two hours I had my answer - an upgrade to a balcony and not just any balcony but one of the better located ones on Deck 10 - I was in a very good frame of mind. Even with the upgrade NCL is still about $100.00 to the good from me but I am not complaining.

I have also noticed that there is a $15.00 on board credit in my account - that will just about cover the cost of bottle of vodka.

Only nine days til sail away.



Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LA repo cruise plans

Well it is less than a month until I board the Norwegian Jewel for the 5 days down the Pacific Coast to LA.

There are two port visits - Astoria, Oregon where I will venture with my friends Cliff and Adele as we rent a car for the day and head down the coast to visit Seaside, Cannon Beach and the Haystack rocks - they also want to see Ft. Clatsop and Ft Stevens so it will be a full day - it has been a few years since I have been down that way so it will be nice to revisit it especially after being unable to last year do to very stormy seas that prevented any ships from docking in Astoria.

Our second port is San Francisco - that is where Cliff and Adele reside - well close by - we will be visiting Alcatraz - my first visit in about 30 years + then to an In and Out burger place for lunch before winding up the day riding the cable cars.

While on board and because I have platinum status on NCL - I will have a bottle of wine to consume - and free dinner in one of the restaurants - a captain reception and a tour of the ship + a few of us have birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate.

In Los Angeles or more correctly San Pedro I will have a few hours to kill before boarding a bus to Bakersfield and connecting there on the train that will meet up with the north bound Coast Starlighter in Sacramento around midnight.

I arrive back home a year older as I will celebrate my 65th birthday on the train and that evening will celebrate that occasion with some friends at the Keg.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Am I crazy

Am I crazy - well you be the judge - just booked another cruise - albeit only a five dayer from Vancouver to LA leaving Vancouver on Sept 22,2012 - I had looked at this cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel earlier but ruled it out because I won't get back to Vancouver until early morning Sept 29, 2012 - the day after my 65th birthday and a planned celebration - fortunately for me my chief organizer isn't the most organized guy and while we discussed dates and venues nothing has been booked - also need to remember that my God son's parents leave on a 35 day Tahiti cruise on the 30th so that further limits the dates available.

So fast forward to this week and I get an email from my cruising friend - cruise more often - Adele and Cliff from the SF Bay area advising me that they are coming to Vancouver pre-cruise - well it turns out there cruise is the aforementioned NCL Jewel 5 dayer and they would like to get together for a dinner the night before.

So I said to myself - why not sail with them - a quick check on pricing and Amtrak for the trip home as I don't fly and letting my chief organizer know of my desire to cruise and I took the plunge and will now be cruising. It will be my birthday treat to myself.

I now have 75 days at sea book between now and Oct 2013!



Friday, June 1, 2012

Grouse Grind photo essay 2005 trip

I have some more recent images from the Grind but they are on the other computer so here is a link to a photo essay from my 2005 trip up the Grouse Grind.


One of the highlights of any visit up Grouse is to stop by a see the two Grizzly Bears - Coola and Grinder - both orphaned they came to Grouse as babies and have now grown to full size bears and they have learned how to entertain the crowds that visit Grouse in the summer months - here then in pictures is a photo essay of them performing for the crowds.

Hope you enjoy



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Grouse Grind comes to my blog

As my last post indicated I am moving my Grouse Grind page from my web site to this blog - so here it is - will add a photo link a little later.


By far the most popular trail within the Greater Vancouver area - this hike has become a cult following to many and seems to be the one trail that visitor's to Vancouver consider a must do. Many people are known to do it more than once in a day - especially if they didn't like their time the first time up.

The trail itself is only about 2.9 Km in length but gains 2800' in that distance and is unrelenting - the grade can be as sharp as 45 degrees and there are no flat stretches to speak of on the trail and in the summer there is little or no water available - the fortunate part is that most people just do the upward portion and use the Skyride for the trip down especially since Grouse Mt. now sells a year round recreation pass for $99.95 (2012 price) or for a single download price of $10.00 - tickets available for purchase at the Alpine Chalet. The Annual pass is good for one year from date of purchase and gives you a number of deals. Check out Grouse Mountain's link found elsewhere on this page for full details.

Edited May 30, 2012 - Metro Vancouver which has jurisdiction over most of the trail does not allow for downward passage on the trail - they have very large signs posted at the top to this effect. If you don't want to pay the downride fee you could hike down the nearby BCMC trail.

I have previously described this trail climb as being like a non-stop stair climb up the CN Tower in Toronto - despite the steepness it is estimated that upwards of 100,000 people do the trail and when you consider that for three or four months in the winter the upper portions are covered by 3 or more feet of snow and you should get the picture as just how busy this trail can be in the summer from dawn to dusk.


The Grouse Grind trail is the scene of an annual foot race each fall in September - the current record is about 28 minutes and most regulars do it between 45 - 60 minutes. The average time is between 75 and 90 minutes. The urban trekker did it recently in a time of one hour and forty minutes. My first attempt in several years so I was happy with the time


You can get to the Grouse Mountain parking lot by following Capilano Road all the way to its upper terminus. From downtown Vancouver - take Georgia Street and drive the Stanley Park causeway and over the Lions Gate Bridge - take the North Vancouver exit and then get in the left lanes for the turn onto Capilano Rd. The drive up is quite scenic past the Cleveland Dam - source of Vancouver's drinking water and then to the parking lots. Grouse is now charging to park in their main paved parking lot but the gravel one is still free - however it is likely to be full on most weekends - so if you are planning on doing the hike and arriving by car either get there early or be prepared to pay to park.

By bus - take Seabus across the harbor to the Lonsdale Quay - then the Grouse Mt. bus from the terminus.

By bike - if you really want a work out - take either Seabus or the Lions Gate Bridge and work your way up Capilano Rd to the Cleveland dam and then do the final climb to the parking lot - there are bike racks near the service center - remember it's all downhill for the trip back to Vancouver and there are no restrictions or extra fares required to take your bike on the Seabus


Before you start the hike make sure you have some water - decent footwear - sunscreen - perhaps a light sweater/jacket as it can be several degrees cooler at the top - and bring a camera as the views are spectacular up top and there are other short hikes etc once you reach the top - there are also a variety of other routes down the mountain if you don't want to pay the $10.00 download fee.


You shouldn't have any trouble finding the start of the trail - it is well signposted and just look which way all the hikers are heading.

The start of the trail is actually the Baden Powell trailhead which runs the length of the North Shore Mountains from Deep Cove in the east to Horseshoe Bay in the west. The start of the trail has seen some changes this year 2011 - once through the gate you will make an immediate left and head up a new section of the trail - this will make it easier during the wintertime closures to enforce the no entry rule while still allowing people to hike the Baden Powell trail through to Skyline Drive - after the half way mark you start to edge closer to the chairlift cut and you will have a few opportunities to get some views and even wave to the folks using the Sky Ride to access the mountain. After what will seem like an eternity you will finally see the chalet roof and come out of the forest and onto an open bluff - this is the terminus of the ride - rest up - take a walk around the commercial area and enjoy the wood carvings and Blue Grouse lake and if doing the hike in the summer head up to the summit of Grouse and a world famous panoramic view before you leave the mountain. You might also want to check on the progress of the two grizzly bears who make their home on the mountain - just follow the green signs towards the old peak chair.


Note to first timer Grinders - worry less about your time - in fact put your watch in your pack and start walking - just take it slow and easy and you will be amazed how soon an hour or so has past and you will be nearing your destination.


If you have a season pass you can even keep track of your times for both the Grouse Grind and the other summits on the Grouse Plateau - just scan the bar code on your pass at the trail head and again at the summits. You can also print out your times at Guest Services.
For further information on Grouse Mountain check out their web site at:

Time for a change May 30, 2012

For the past ten years or so I have maintained a web site called the Urban Trekker which at the time was the way to communicate on the Internet - since that time blogs, Facebook, twitter etc have become the norm.

Well since I only really have one page of that site that gets any attention it seems fruitless to keep maintaining it so I have made the decision to kill the site - it is up for renewal later in the year and since someone has a similar named site only using some Capitalization it was becoming harder to access + I seem to have with my newer computers lost my log in info.

The one page that was getting hits was my detailed description of the Grouse Grind - it will move to a stand alone page on this blog.

I am also considering changing the thrust of this blog to be more reflective of my hiking and biking activities and using my Facebook account for the daily report.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Things are moving along

I am starting to get some things off the bucket list for the big trip - the hotel in Fort Lauderdale is booked and now that Amtrak dates have opened up I will be booking the rail to the Port of embarkation.

Recieved some travel info on FLL so now I have a better idea of where everything - the hotel is only about 1/2 mile to the port entrance but depending on just which berth we sail from I will either be able to walk to the ship or take a short cab ride.

The hotel is close to restaurants and grocery stores etc. It doesn't appear to be that far to the downtown core and the 17th St entertainment district - I have one full day in FLL - they have a low cost public shuttle bus that I will likely use to get around - there is also a water taxi service linking some of the sites as well but it appears to be $12.00 for a day pass vs $2.00 for the shuttle.

As for the trip itself - I have been finding and bookmarking many sites on the ports that I will be visiting and when on the big computer have been printing off some info.

Did book my first excursions - one of the cruisers has a short 3.5 hour private tour booked in Fortuleza -  our first Brazilian stop so I have opted for it at this time.


On the home front my next volunteer assignment is the Celtic Fest held in conjunction with St Patrick day - my orientation training will be Saturday -  I will have a number of different jobs to do - being an office runner - helping with the setup of the Celtic village and finally on the Sunday the big parade - the nice thing about this assignment - it all happens within blocks of my condo so little or no travel is needed.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Travel plans - the South American cruise planner

Really haven't been posting much here but that is about to change - a year from now I will be on a long 49 cruise around South America starting in Fort Lauderdale Florida and ending up in San Francisco.

I booked this trip more than six months ago but was on a wait list which I was able to bypass thanks to a computer savvy friend who realized that when Princess was updating their reservations they exposed those cabins to anyone online and I was lucky enough to be able to get a cabin booked.

As I don't fly this is one of the few opportunities to do South American by starting and finishing in North America - the Grand Princess is too big for the current Panama Canal so to get it to the west coast it will do the South America itinerary.

One week after I got the booking Carnival announced that they were moving a couple of ships and one of them is too big for the Canal - I spend several days procrastinating which one to take as they both had plus and minus points but decided to stay with Princess - a cruise line that I have cruised with twice before.

So now starts the long planning process and with overnight stops in both Rio and Lima lots of opportunities to see the sites.

Just how I will pay for the cruise I will discuss with my financial guy later in the year.

I will also need to renew my passport as it expires within six months of the trip. I will also have to get a visa for Brazil but luckily there is an office here.

There is a thriving group on the cruise critic website who have already organized a number of private excursions but most are fill - the ships list is only partial at this point - they will add more as the year goes on.

Got the hotel booked in Fort Lauderdale and are now just waiting for the Amtrak web site to let me book that part. Will just do the Vancouver to FLL part for now as I haven't decided whether to stay a day in SF at the end.

Have picked up a book on South America and one on Rio to help with my planning - have started a binder where I am putting useful info that I am gathering from the net.


In other new I am keeping myself busy with daily walks or bike rides and visits to the Y - will be doing a volunteer stint with the Celtic Festival next month and then shortly after that - the training rides for the Vancouver Marathon which will be more fun this year as the course has been changed.