“R” is For Reservation-Cruise Tips and Tricks

There are a few activities around the ship which will fill up quickly, specialty dining, salon and spa services, private areas and on board tours to name a few.

Booking these activities is one of the first things we do after boarding the ship.  Sometimes we use the time between embarking and waiting for our room to be ready, to get this done.  The faster you make reservations, the more options you will have.

The other great thing about booking on the first day of your cruise, is that there are often coupons and promotions happening that day.   Your embarkation newsletter can help you to decide which days to make reservations.  Formal nights and at sea days will be some of the busiest in the following venues:

If you have specialty dining options (as we did with Sabatinni’s and the Bayou Steakhouse), you will want to book a table as soon as you are on board.  These restaurants often charge a nominal fee above and beyond your usual dining options but if you are looking for a special treat and/or planning a celebration, it can be fun to have dinner in one (or all) of the unique venues.  These restaurants are often closed on port days.

Formal nights can be very busy times in the salon as women get their hair styled, nails done and indulge in pampering.  Massages and spa services may be hard to come by on any sea day.  Some of the best sales and discounts will be offered on port days.

Also, if you desire to spend time in the adults only “Sanctuary”  (specific to Princess Cruises), you will want to book this as soon as you arrive for your trip.  Again, this can be a busy location on sea days.

Finally, if any galley, backstage or bridge tours are being offered, this is a great time to make reservations for those too as spaces will be very limited.

It is important to note that the above items are generally not included in your standard travel costs, so expect to pay extra.

Because there are limited spaces and time slots available at these specialty locations and thousands of guests wanting the same experiences, these activities are often very busy and sell out quickly.  Make your reservations early.

ABC Adventure-Sault Saint Marie, Michigan-An ABC List to Discover This Town

Every city, town or village can be turned into an ABC adventure!  If visiting for a day, choose one letter, or see if you can complete the whole alphabet.  If you return to this location  you can always choose a new letter or change up the way you choose to see things.  The options are as endless as your imagination.  Here is an example of how we have explored the Sault Saint Marie area over a period of years and decades.  How will you plan your adventure?

A-Agawa Train Tour                                                                                                                                                                        This is a beautiful, scenic journey which should be made at least once in a lifetime.  At 9-10 hours long, it is a full day of adventure.  The train travels along waterways and through the beautiful Agawa canyon.  At the end of the line, passengers may disembark to explore the unspoiled beauty for about 90 minutes before the 4 1/2 hour return journey.   This area is only accessible by train.  We have done this journey a couple of times in different seasons.     https://agawatrain.com/


Other A themed ideas might include getting active (hike, bike, golf, snowboard, ski etc)/ Alpine Chocolate/architecture/Alberta House (art displays)/Alford Park/Ashmun Creek Nature Trail

B-Boat Tour                                                                                                                                               The best way to experience the locks is to sail through them!  Boat tours of the locks have been sailing since 1934.  It was 1994 before we had the chance to experience them in this way.   Our sons were still quite young when we did the tour, but this was a great way to sneak in a little education while having fun.      https://www.originalsoolocktours.com

Other B themed ideas: Bishop Baraga House/ Bridge (International)/Bird’s Eye Outfitters (kayak through the locks)/Blue Heron Charters (fishing)/Bailey Lagerstrom Nature Preserve/BARmuda Triangle (brew pubs)

C-Chippewa County Courthouse                                                                        Built in 1877 for the astronomical sum of $20,000 this building was a huge investment in a thriving community. It was designated as a historic building on the National Registry of Deeds in 1987, making this one of the oldest buildings in the state of Michigan.  The walls are two feet thick!  The memorial stone on the lawn of the Courthouse is in memory of Reverend Abel Bingham, Baptist Missionary to the Indians and forerunner of the First Baptist Church founded in 1855 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

Other C themed ideas:  Cultures (specifically Ojibway and Cherokee)/Church ( Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church)/Charter Fishing

D-Dine & Drink                                                                                           There are many great places to eat in Sault St. Marie.  Here are our top 3 recommendations:

Karl’s Cuisine, Winery and Brewery- “A taste of the good life”.  A great place for fish dishes.  https://www.karlscuisine.com/menus

Lock View Restaurant-Across from the locks. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with some of the freshest fish in the area! https://www.thelockviewrestaurant.net/menu

Wicked Sister-The Wicked Sister is sort of like a backward mullet: Party in the front, business in in the back. Our mission is to be playful & fun, but we’re always serious about delicious, creative food using fresh ingredients and made from scratch dishes. With such a talented crew (in the front & back), we get to have fun without taking ourselves too seriously.  Lots of interesting food items, but they specialize in burgers.  www.https://www.wickedsistersault.com/menu

Other D themed ideas:

E-Established                                                                                                                                             There are several memorial stones on Courthouse lawn which demonstrate the establishment of the area.  On the steps of the courthouse there is a marker representing the original construction at1877.  A second stone dated 1904 was placed at the site following construction on the building. The “time capsule” inside held bonds dated 1876, pictures, business cards of each elected officer, a bottle of champagne, a 1904 Evening News, a Marquette Mining Journal, a Lake Superior News, a Northern Tribune, the Sault Star, and coins. The original plan was rectangular, the addition turned it into a T shape.  The entire structure was completely renovated and refreshed with new paint,  doors and windows in 1980.  At that time the clock face was also repaired.

F-Find the Freighters     From big to small, the boats and ships must pass through the locks to move between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.  They bypass the rapids of the St. Lawrence river, where the water falls 21 feet (6.4 m). The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year, despite being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes.   Hoping to spot one of the 1,000 foot freighters?  You can track them here.    https://www.saultstemarie.com/things-to-do/finding-freighters/

Other F themed ideas: Fort Brady

G-George Kemp Marina                                                                                                                  Located within walking distance of downtown, this is a great place to dock if you are arriving by boat,  The tidy marina is situated just east of the downtown area and  offers a nice little green space if you just want to do some boat watching.

Other G themed ideas: Great Lakes/Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (Canadian side)/golf

H-Hydroelectric Plant

The Edison Hydroelectric Plant was once the second largest power generator in the USA!  Operational since 1902, this is one of the oldest hydroelectric plants in the United States. This century (+) plant combines historic architecture with modern technology to successfully generate 25 to 30 MW of electricity when operating at full load.  Now recognized as a historic landmark in Sault Ste. Marie, the beautiful sandstone building was crafted more than a century ago by Italian masons who used the stone from the canal, which they began excavating to build the locks in 1885. At peak operation, the plant discharges approximately 30,000 cfs of water, which is equivalent to about 13.5 million gallons per minute.

Other H themed ideas: Hiawatha National Forest/Historic Homes/Henry Rowe Schoolcraft Office

International  Bridge                                                                                                                   Opened in 1962, the three-arch Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Mary’s River, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  The bridge is the only fixed link crossing between the two countries within 1,000 kilometers and it is an important trade route between key American and Canadian markets via Interstate 75 and the Trans-Canada Highway. On average, about 1,900 million vehicles cross the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge every year.

Other I themed ideas:  Ice Cream/ Iva Biggen Charters (Charter fishing)

J-John Johnston House                                                                                      Visitors can tour the home of John Johnston, one of the first European settlers to the area. John Johnston, a native of Ireland, immigrated to Canada in 1785 and made a very successful living in the fur trade.

He was married in 1793 to Ozhahguscodaywayquay, daughter of Waubojeeg, the leader of the Chippewa. The couple moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1793 where they constructed a home, part of which is currently on display. See Ozhahguscodaywayquay’s statue in her beloved garden beside the Johnston home.

This historic home has been preserved to  offer a glimpse into the lives of the early fur traders and settlers.  Many items were originally from the Johnson family.

Other J themed ideas:

K-Kemp Coal Dock Office                                                                           

The Kemp Coal Dock Office Building was built in 1904 by Sault businessman George Kemp. He owned all of the waterfront property between the Cloverland power house and the Coast Guard Station. In 1917 Kemp turned his coal business over to his sons and the building became the office for Kemp Brothers Coal Company, which operated in the Sault until 1959.

In 1960 the property was given the City of Sault Ste. Marie and developed for a variety of tourist related businesses. In 2007 the Coal Company office building was opened as the Kemp Industrial Museum.

Drawn by the natural resources of the region, access to transformation and energy (from the Cloverland power house) the Union Carbide, Northwestern Leather Company, Soo Woolen Mil and Cadillac-Soo Lumber Company became the major employers of the Sault.

AS Local resources grew scarce and the processing and product demands changed the Sault’s major industries were no longer viable. All had shut down by the early 1960’s. It is these industries that are remembered in the Kemp Industrial Museum.

Other K themed ideas: Kewadin Casino (nearby but not in Sault Ste Marie)



Other L themed ideas:  Lake Superior State University-Cisler Center/Lockside Mini Golf/Lynn Trail System

M-Museum Ship Valley Camp

Other M themed ideas:  Monocle Lake Hiking Path


Other N themed ideas:  Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog Adventures/Nicolet Shores Charter Fishing/North Country Trail/Naomikong Overlook/Northwind Fishing Charters

O-Ojibway Learning Center and Library

P-Point Iroquois Lighthouse                                                                               Just a short drive westward from Sault Ste. Marie. This historic Lake Superior beacon isn’t just a must-stop attraction during the summer, it is also  a great winter attraction.


R-River of History  Museum                                                                                                               This is a small museum dedicated to the history of the Saint Mary’s river.  Development of Sault Saint Marie is covered from the glacial period to the present day.  Information on the French, Native American, fur trading, lumbering and fishing is offered through short videos and hands on exhibits.      531 Ashmun Street, Sault St. Marie, Michigan      (906) 632-1999    http://riverofhistory.org/

Other R themed ideas: Rotary Island Park/Round Island Point Nature Preserve

S-Statues-There are many amazing statues to see scattered throughout the town.   Many represent the history and/or connection to the Native American culture.                                                                                                                    Since we were only there for a short time, we only had the ability to take in two.  These are located in front of the Courthouse.

The Crane of the Sault-The statue depicts the Chippewa Legend of two young brothers who fled their wicked mother, who was pursuing them with the intent to kill them. When they reached the north shore of the St. Marys Rapids they were met by a crane, who, after hearing their story, carried them to the south shore of the rapids. The Crane then met the mother on the north shore and agreed to transport her to the other side. Instead, the crane dropped the mother in the rapids. When she hit the stones below, the mother’s skull cracked open and her brains became the whitefish that inhabit the rapids to this day. The crane adopted the boys and one of them remained in the area, married the daughter of the crane, and founded Bahweting.

The Wolf of Rome

Other S Themed ideas:  Sault Seal Recreation Area/Shopping/Sherman Park/Sault Tribe of Chiippewa Indians Interpretive Center/Soo Fishing Charters/Soo Locks Park/Spirit Stone Trail

T-Tower of History                                                                                                                  This is a great place to get a birds eye view of the area.  Towering 250 feet, the building is a prominent feature of the area.  Originally built in 1968 by the Catholic church, the building was intended to be a shrine to the Missionaries which served here.  Eventually the project was discarded and the tower was turned over to the city in 1980.  Today it serves as a museum for both local and Native history.

Other T themed ideas:  Theater (Soo Theater Project)/Trout Lake Pathway/True North Guide Service (fly fishing)

U-US Weather Bureau

V-Veterans Memorial

Other V themed ideas:  Voyageur Island

W-Water Street Historic Block (Walking Tour)

Other W themed ideas:  Winery


Y-Yooper                                                                                                            A native or resident of the Upper Peninsula

Z-Zak and Mac’s Chocolate Haus                                                                                                                                As you finish your tour, indulge your sweet tooth with a scoop or two of ice cream. There are over 30 flavors to choose from!  If fudge, popcorn or taffy are more to your liking, you can find that here also.  This delightful business has been around since the 1960’s.

A is for Awesome Alaskan Adventures

I’ll admit it, when Alan said that he wanted to take a tour on a float plane, I was more than a bit apprehensive. I don’t like flying at the best of times, so I wondered how different I would feel in a floating tin can. Every time I board an airplane, I marvel at how such large objects defy the laws of gravity, the odds never seem in my favor. My brother is a commercial pilot. I know the rigors of training that he has gone through to be called such. This and the safety statistics are about the only things that bring me comfort as I rationalize the odds of dying on any given flight.   It was Alan’s turn to choose how we would explore by the letter “A” . On each adventure we have an agreement to go along with whatever is chosen by the other. Besides, the buffet on board the cruise ship would be boring on my own! Weeks before this trip, I had extensively researched the various tour companies and the best possible ways to see the monumental, Misty Fjord, near Ketchikan, Alaska.  After extensive research into safety records, I booked our tour with a privately run company called Island Wings. Our pilot, Michelle’s name came up continuously on travel sites and the comments were always favorable. Because of her record, she is one of only a few pilots, given permission to land directly at the remote landmark. Hers was also one of the only tours that would allow us to step off the planes pontoons and on to land, for any period of time.

As was normal for this area, it had just started pouring with rain when our driver Shona, picked us up in front of our predetermined point; the local landmark, better known as the “liquid sunshine rain gauge.” Located in front of the Visitors Center, it stands about twenty feet tall. It was hard to miss but as the drenching rain continued, it became easier to believe that they receive about twelve feet of rain in Ketchikan each year! Alan and I were just thankful to discover that our newly purchased raingear, was in fact waterproof! As we were selecting it, we wanted to make sure we would always be able to find each other in a crowd, so we had chosen matching, bright red jackets.  This was a change from our comfort colors of black or tan.  We hadn’t really considered how many tour operators also have the same idea in mind. The jackets were now acting like beacons on this grey morning.  Maybe that is why we kept being approached by other travelers for directions!  Shona located us quickly, then laughed apologetically as she announced that the plane was actually parked directly in front of our ship, now a mile away! Since this had been the designated meeting point, Alan and I had walked into town to meet her. Passing the three other ships docked on the waterfront, our walk had not been in vain. It gave us time to admire the beautiful flowers along the pier. Then, as we approached a large memorial statue, aptly titled, “The Rock”, we contemplated the seven life sized figures, each reflecting the pilgrimage that was required to settle the great state of Alaska! Soon we would meet the four other people that would join our tour; a pair of teachers from Georgia and a brother and sister from California.

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“A” is for “Anniversary at Aonach Mor”!-Harbor Springs, Michigan


Thirty years is a long time to be married.  We wanted to do something different for this special anniversary.  Since our wedding date falls on January 8th, we are often at a loss for how to celebrate during the peak of Michigan’s winter weather.  We had booked a beautiful room in Harbor Springs, Michigan for the weekend.  As part of our Anniversary package, we were given $150 resort credit, to be used at any of the nearby Boyne Resorts.  I scanned the opportunities.  There was skiing, tubing, dog sled pulls, horse drawn sleigh rides and something called the Aonach Mor Moonlight Dinner.  Since we were on an “A” themed adventure, this caught my eye.

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A is for Agawa Train Tour-Sault Saint Marie, Ontario, Canada

Our mission for the first alphabet adventure was to begin working our way through the alphabet, from A-Z, in order.  Unintentionally, we seemed to be starting with the letter “B” for blizzard!  As our windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the storm, I was concerned that we would have to turn around and forfeit our tickets for the “Agawa Canyon Train Tour”.  We didn’t have this luxury though, because during the winter, there is only a single trip each week, which takes place on Saturdays.  Since it was Friday, we decided to press on, hoping to make our pre-arranged departure time, scheduled for the following day.  Alan is an excellent driver and conditions like this are not unusual for those of us that reside in Michigan.  Thankfully, it was a brief and localized storm which “abated” about an hour out-of-town.   Finally we began utilizing our “A” themed words!

A challenging start to our adventure.

A challenging start to our adventure.

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