Alaska Cruise 2014 travel blog

Seattle Monorail

Approaching the Public Market

Where there are tourists, there will be con artists

Inside the Public Market

Seattle's eco-friendly mowing system

The Seattle Great Wheel

Light Rail in an Underground Station

Buses in the exact same station

The NCL Jewel, a sister ship of The NCL Pearl

Why haven't we left port?

Still loading the ship


AUGUST 02 Visiting Seattle

Today was a rest day before our cruise. I had intentionally not scheduled anything for today. Our upcoming week is so busy that I had decided to have one day of doing nothing.

I had not even figured out how to get from our hotel to downtown Seattle. To my surprise there was a very simple technique. We took the free airport shuttle back to the airport then took what they call “The Link”. This is a light rail transit with only one route, from the airport to downtown and back.

I've taken light rails, railroads, buses, trams, and trains all over the world. One of the first things you have to do is figure out how to buy a ticket. This may seem like a very simple task but it's different in almost every city.

For this light rail, they seem to sell tickets only at a kiosk machine in the stations. As with all such systems, the locals know how to use it. The tourists always puzzle over how it works. Fortunately for us, instructions on this machine are an English because we never left the United States. I walked up to the machine and just navigated through the menu of the choices offered us. The option I chose was $11 for two all-day passes.

Tickets in hand we prepared to enter the station. I expected to pass through some kind of gate or turnstile into which we would insert our ticket. We couldn't find one. We looked around and saw everyone else just board the train. So we did!

Much later, I discovered that there are three ways to buy a ticket. One option, which is what we did, is to purchase a ticket valid for a one-way ride or all day. The second option is to buy a monthly pass valid for every day of one month. The third option is what they call an ORCA ticket. The orca ticket is similar to a debit card. You add money to the card at one of these machines. Each time you use a train or bus or taxi, it deletes money from your card. These are the only cards that need to know when you enter or exit the train. Before entering the train, there’s a yellow post. You tap your ORCA card on the post. Whenever you leave a train, you tap another yellow post. Everything runs on an honor system. It all seems to run quite well.

We noticed that one of the stations was called Pioneer Square. Since this was listed in the guidebooks, and it seemed like an interesting place to visit. Because we had all day pass on the light rail, it wouldn't cost us anything extra to visit it. Well, it's a good thing that it didn't cost anything because that's about what it was worth. We couldn't find anything worth seeing. So, we went back down to the underground station. Our next stop was the end of line so we kind of had it get off there. This was very close to the monorail station which I want to ride.

The monorail was one of the first monorails ever built anywhere. It was a signature piece of the 1962 World’s Fair. It doesn't go very far, just from downtown to what used to be the fairgrounds. The other centerpiece signature piece of that World’s Fair was the Seattle needle space needle, which is still there. But that could wait until later today. First we wanted to explore downtown.

Another site in the guidebooks for Seattle is Pike’s Place, also called the Public Market. It’s a huge indoor/outdoor market with fresh produce, flowers, fish and other seafood. Downstairs were several small shops. The area was mobbed with tourists. Many like us were getting ready to board a cruise ship; many had just gotten off a cruise ship. Some are just visiting Seattle and a few appear to be local.

Our bodies are still adjusting to the three-hour jetlag. Nonetheless, it seemed like time to have lunch which we did.

“The Seattle Great Wheel” is a new icon of Seattle. It wasn’t there on my last visit to Seattle. It is the largest observation wheel on the west coast, standing 175 feet tall with 41 gondolas, each of which can seat up to eight adults. It’s visible from the Public Market and not very far. So, we walked over to see it. When we saw how long the line was and checked the admission price, we decided that just watching it for while would be good enough. We bought two ice cream cones and watched the other tourists for a while.

After this, Kathy wanted to return to the hotel but I wanted to stay a little longer. I accompanied her back to the airport where she took the shuttle back to the airport.

I managed to get a good nap on the train to the airport and back. That meant that I was now ready to go exploring again!

At one of the light right stations, I found it curious that the city buses used the exact same lanes in the station. (See photo.) I’m guessing that it saved money to use the same tunnels under the city.

I’ve heard that some cities are now renting goats rather than using mowing machines. Seattle is very ecologically conscious. I’d never actually seen it before. (See photo.) Not a bad job!

We are scheduled to depart on the Pearl tomorrow. Today the Jewel is in the same birth, which is pier 66. Its schedule is nearly the same as ours but a day earlier. So I knew that I was scheduled to depart at 4 PM just like ours. I thought it might be nice to watch it leave of the harbor. Our ship will be doing that tomorrow but I’ll be on board and won’t be able to see the actual departure. I got to the pier at about 3:30. Perfect! I'll be able to watch this farewell party from the pier.

By 4:10, I realized they weren't sticklers for schedule.

At 5 PM, I saw them still loading luggage. That meant two things. One, it wasn't leaving anytime soon. Two, our ship probably won't leave on time either.

By 5:20, I gave up. The gangplank was still attached to the ship. The cranes were still working. And, it was getting late.

The two events I had wanted to do in Seattle was to ride the new Giant Wheel and to ride the old Monorail. I saw both; but didn’t do either. Sigh. An excuse to return again.

I took the light rail back to the airport for the second time. And then, the shuttle back to the hotel. We had a long ahead of us and needed to pack.

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