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North to Alaska

At Sea: Several of the adults in our group had to either work, work-out, or take conference calls this morning. Lisa allowed the kids to have room service breakfast, figuring since they were checking out, she wouldn't have to listen to the housekeeping staff complain about strawberry syrup on the sheets. Dave and I were in charge of the grandkids from 12:15-1p, so we decided to sneak out for a bite to eat before our babysitting duty.

Our plan was to walk down to Pike Place Market, but one block from our hotel we saw Din Tai Fung and our decision was made. If you may recall, Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese soup-dumpling restaurant, now taking America by storm. Interesting thing? Din Tai Fung's American branches are almost exclusively in up-scale shopping malls. (Oregon peeps: Din Tai Fung will soon to open a branch in Washington Square Mall.) We have dined at their Taipei 101 branch in Taiwan and several times at their restaurant at The Americana mall in Glendale, California. Today, we dined at one (of their several) Seattle stores.

Each store has one important feature: their dumpling makers are front and center and on display on the premises so you can watch your supper being made real-time.

I consider myself a decent dumpling maker, yet am happy with 5 or 6 folds on my creations. I counted 30 on our soup dumplings this afternoon

I mean, the dumplings would taste the same no matter how many pretty folds the stuffers managed to squish together, but, dang, if it isn't an art form to pleat so finely.

Chicken Soup Dumplings

Din Tai Fung is famous for creating "soup" dumplings... because they add a bit of gelatinous stock to their meat fillings. When the dumplings are steamed, the stock melts to a broth, enhancing the entire mouth experience to another level. Genius, yet so simple.

We also enjoyed fried rice. In Taiwan, soy sauce is a major no-no in fried rice. Trust me, it is so much better this way:

We also had garlic fried spinach. These are the things we most often order at Din Tai Fung. If you don't eat pork and you don't eat shellfish, your choices are limited here, but one moment of a soup dumpling exploding on your lips will convince anyone to try Din Tai Fung.

We returned to the hotel to watch the kids for a bit while their parents worked and then we all met in the lobby, piled our mound of suitcases into a hired van (with a car seat for our munchkin (Lucy) and in a few moments we were boarding the Ruby Princess. This will be Lenny's first-ever cruise (also first for Leo and Lucy as well).

Our official embarkation photo.

Our rooms are next-door mirrored "mini-suite" accommodations with full baths and balconies. The bathroom has a tub - great for the kids. We have plenty of storage and closet space. As you enter the room, the closet and bath on are the right, then a queen bed, and a sitting room on the outside of the room. A sliding glass door opens onto the balcony. The sofa makes into a bed (so the grandkids can snooze in their parents suite).

After finding our rooms and settling in, the 4L's went up to the buffet, where Leo discovered he could eat as many desserts as he pleased FREE.


Next on the agenda was the safety muster - a mandatory drill so everyone knows where to go and what to do if we must abandon ship, and then the Sail-Away Party on the upper pool decks. Drinks were flowing. A band was playing. People were line-dancing.

The Ruby Princess sets sail to Juneau from Seattle

Bubbe orders a martini

A band (above the pool) serenades the cruisers.

Lucy, still confused as how to use her new binoculars

Lucy, still confused about the Macarena. She is three.

So we sailed away into the sunset, and had a fancy dinner in a fancy restaurant. Leo was a bit bored during dinner (he is six), so did a few drawings in his sketch book.

His mom (left) as an Egyptian Queen,
and his Bubbe as an actual Queen.

It was a long day for everyone, so we called it any early night. Tomorrow is an "at sea" day, so we will get to explore the ship and I will take more photos.

Until my next update, I remain, your correspondent.

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