Monthly Archives: September 2011

Leaving Seattle

‘Cause I’ve seen blue skies
Through the tears in my eyes
And I realize
I’m going home

— Dr. Frank-N-Furter

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It’s over!

I didn’t get a blog post up last night, for two reasons: First, I was really tired. Second, the shipboard Internet wasn’t working. So that sealed it.

It was a pretty nothing day, anyway. We sailed all morning, during which we got one last show from the magician. He’s really very good. While we were eating supper, we arrived in Victoria. Seems like a pointless stop: we arrived at 6:30 and had to leave at 11:30, so it’s the evening and you don’t have time to do anything. There’s a rumour going around that every ship “has to” make one Canadian stop; presumably that makes it an international vessel and it gets to follow laxer liquor and gambling laws or something.

Anyway, we (me, mom and dad, and Uncle Orville and Aunt Joan) went ashore and watched the sun set. Then we went back on the ship for the last time.

I was tempted to buy a cheesy Canada souvenir in memory of my visit to this strange land, but decided against it.

I fell asleep in Victoria last night and woke up in Seattle this morning. The ship is unloading and preparing for its next cruise very efficiently. It’s my turn to get off in about twenty minutes…then we go to our Seattle hotel for one night before flying back to Canada.

An earthquake, you say?

That was today’s unexpected announcement: that there had been a 6.7 earthquake “about an hour ago” in the Vancouver Island area, and there was a “possible tsunami warning”. Actually, by the time the announcement was made, the warning had been rescinded (or, as our Dutch captain pronounced it, “reskinded”) for our area. So: They though they might have to warn us about the possibility of a tsunami, but they decided that that was unnecessary. And that’s all the news they gave us, too. I assume that Victoria hasn’t fallen into the ocean, since we’re still sailing there, but other than that I have no idea how serious the earthquake was (or wasn’t).

But before all that happened: Ketchikan came bright and early this morning. The breakfast buffet in the Lido restaurant opened early, so that people could eat before going ashore: we were docked by 7:30, I think, and final boarding was at 12:30. It’s around 4:00 as I write this from the Atrium on deck 3, and we’re about to cross the international border to the mysterious land of Canada.

Seriously, there are very few Canadians on board,. We got invited to a “Canadians get-together” last night, and there were only about 25 people there…7 from our group. It’s mostly Americans on this ship, with some Aussies, some Chinese, some Brits, probably a few other countries that I haven’t noticed. But not a lot of Canadians.

So, Ketchikan. I debarked at around 8:30, I think. Within about 45 minutes, I was bored. The town was scenic but not really picturesque: it was gray (as is usual in these parts), so the sky was ugly, and you couldn’t get a clear view of a mountain without a warehouse or a store or whatever in the way. The shopping itself…well, this is the third town we’ve been in, and as much as I like soapstone carvings and ulu knives and things made from moose antlers, I’ve had my fill. I was just totally over-saturated with that sort of thing. Enough jewelry stores to last a lifetime, too.

(Funny thing is, in the very last shop I was in, they had some ulu knives that I liked, and I’m now really regretting not buying one. Oh well.)

So, I went for a walk. I had a couple geocaches programmed into my GPS and I used those to guide me. And as a result I wandered through some interesting parts of town that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I found two places where the wooden staircases serve as public sidewalks up the steep hillside. (My GPS shows these as streets, so I’m glad I wasn’t driving, or I would have been really annoyed.) Along the base of one of these cliffs, I saw evidence of just how wet this area normally is: the ground was soaked, water was running down the side, and the ferns and whatnot that were growing there just smelled wet. Alaska – at least this part – is much, much greener than I ever expected. Tongass (?) Forest is very green and very lush. I didn’t find the geocaches, but that wasn’t the point: I got a nice walk out of it.

And while I was walking, the sun broke through the clouds. Early in the day I had already heard some locals chatting to each other about how nice the weather was (i.e. it wasn’t raining and there was a little sun), but as the day went on, it developed into what our cruise director described as “the nicest weather in Ketchikan in history”). My mood improved in concert with the weather. I shot way more photos than I had remotely expected to in the morning, wandered through a little boardwalk district, and when we pulled away from port, I was sitting in a lounge chair on the observation terrace, watching the coastline drift by, and forgetting that I had ever felt even a little bit miserable.

(This was helped, of course, by the fact that a little earlier, I had gone to the dessert section of the Lido buffet, and when I asked the nice lady for a bowl containing a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie, a macadamia cookie, and vanilla ice cream, with chocolate sauce over everything, she responded with, “Certainly, sir; would you like anything else on that?” To whatever extent meals are ever clearly defined around here, that was lunch.)

And now, we’re done the Alaskan part of our Alaskan cruise. I’m done all my shopping: souvenirs for my three sisters (oooh!) and a nice jade seal for myself. I already mentioned I’m kind of regretting the lack of an ulu (and I don’t feel like describing what that is, so look it up if you’re interested). I was also kind of thinking of getting something carved from bone or antler or walrus ivory, but I didn’t see anything that really jumped out at me, and it was all a little more expensive than I expected, so, one less knickknack. Not a big deal. I was also really hoping to buy myself an ookpik, since I hadn’t managed to get one when I was in Churchill, but I haven’t seen even one. Probably the wrong sort of native culture for that. It’s all totem poles and billikins here.

(You can look that one up too. I have no idea if I spelled it correctly. My iPad doesn’t recognize it, but it wants to spell-correct “ookpik” to “lol ok”, so I’m not going to trust its opinion of Tlingkit words. And now I’m kind of regretting not getting a billikin, since they’re a lot more iconic of the area than a jade seal is, but they were always presented in a really cutesy touristy fashion so I’m suspicious of how authentically Tlingkit they really are.)

Man, I’ve written a lot already. I feel sorry for you people that have to read all this. Can you tell I have a lot of time on my hands?

We won the trivia challenge again…I think that’s the third or fourth time, though it’s only the second win that I participated in. We kept the champagne this time, and I got a deck of cards. The cruise director, who runs the trivia, claims he’s going to break up our team to keep things fair. Honestly, the one lady we play with knows most of the answers — there have only been a couple that she didn’t know but someone else did — so whichever team she’s on is a good bet to win.

This next story, you’ll just have to trust me because I don’t have pictures: during dinner tonight, we saw dolphins! The restaurant is right at the back of the ship, on decks 2 & 3. We eat on deck 2 at a table near the back so we have a good view of the sea. Right at the salad course, it became clear that something had been spotted behind us. Turns out, there were dozens of dolphins following the boat, on each side, leaping out of the water and chasing us. They really just seemed to be curious about us, and playing around. But there must have been about two hundred of them in the pod (do dolphins come in pods?). It was quite impressive; we’ve seen wildlife before now (yesterday, I saw a duck!) but this was by far the best sighting.

And finally, the boat’s Norwalk virus emergency seems to have lessened slightly. Nothing official – there’s still no cutlery on the tables, for instance – but in subtle ways, the crew seems to have relaxed. They’re not as aggressive with the Purell today. They’re not getting upset if you take your own sugar packet from the bowl instead of waiting for them to pass it to you. And, most importantly, they’ve rescheduled the Dessert Extravaganza for tonight at 10:30!

I’m still pushing elevator buttons with my elbows, though. Partly because I don’t want to get sick, but mostly, it’s fun and this is the first time I’ve had a plausible excuse to do it.

Life aboard a plague ship

Well, when the captain says that they take the threat of “highly contagious gastrointestinal illness” (apparently something called Norwalk virus) seriously, he’s not kidding around. First of all, if you show any symptoms, you’re asked to report to the ship’s medical staff, then remain quarantined in your cabin until 24 hours after symptoms clear. Complimentary room service will be provided…not too remarkable, since it’s complimentary anyways.

But that’s just the start. Here are the changes that I’ve noticed this afternoon:

  • The number of Purell dispensers on the ship has increased, and they’ve been moved to more prominent locations like in the middle of doorways.
  • When you re-board the ship, a crew member gives you a mandatory squirt of Purell.
  • You get another squirt of Purell when entering the dining room for dinner.
  • Little travel bottles of Purell have been delivered to every passenger. I’m beginning to suspect that this whole thing is actually a marketing campaign by Purell.
  • There are cleaning staff obsessively wiping down banisters, elevator buttons, doorknobs, that sort of thing
  • I’ve seen ghostbusters walking around: guys wearing backpacks full of disinfectant with spray wands. They were spraying down the tender boats after they unloaded.
  • The bathrooms used to have stacks of single-use cloth hand towels. They’ve been replaced with paper towels.
  • There are no stacks of towels by the pools anymore – you have to ask for them.
  • At dinner, no baskets of rolls are left on the table. Your server comes around with them, as well as with the butter.
  • Your server will also pour the cream for your tea or coffee. The creamer isn’t left on the table.
  • Salt and pepper are served from paper packets, given by your waiter. The salt and pepper shakers have been removed.
  • The buffet on the Lido deck has been “sealed”. All your food is put on your plate by a crew member. Ditto for the drinks.
  • The buffet staff and the security staff are all wearing disposable rubber gloves.
  • The hot tubs have been closed.
  • The water fountains have been turned off.
  • The hospitality staff are not allowed to shake anyone’s hand.
  • As I was writing this by the pool, an army of about a dozen mask-wearing, disinfectant-wielding janitorial staff appeared from nowhere and began scrubbing down everything in sight, including the chair I was sitting in.

All this is very impressive, and starts to seem a little excessive. The captain foresaw this, and assures us that it’s all for our own good. I guess I don’t really want to experience what happens when “GI sickness” spreads unchecked among over 2,000 people living in close quarters. But that doesn’t take the sting off the worst precaution of them all:

  • Tonight’s scheduled Dessert Extravaganza has been cancelled!

Soggy and sick in Sitka

That’s how you could describe the population of our ship right now.

The first piece of news this morning was that we had arrived in Sitka. It reminds me a lot of some of the coastal fishing towns in the Canadian Maritimes. The terrain is quite reminiscent of the Canadian Shield in eastern Manitoba: all rocks and coniferous trees and lichen.

Unfortunately, the second piece of news this morning was that gastrointestinal illness is circulating on the ship, among both guests and crew. So they’ve completely prohibited anyone from serving their own food. Not only are there people at the buffet to serve you, cafeteria-style, but it’s to the point that you have to ask your waiter to salt your food for you.

So far, nobody in our group has shown any symptoms, and I hope that continues.

Anyway, our boat is too big to dock in Sitka, so we had to use tender boats. Basically, they use the lifeboats to ferry people back and forth between the ship and the mainland all day. Each boat holds about 80 people, so it’s reasonably efficient.

Once on land, there’s honestly not a lot to do. There are a few gift shops, but it’s not nearly as touristy as Juneau was, which is both good and bad. There’s a Russian cathedral that a lot of people visit (Sitka used to be a Russian town, like a lot of Alaska was before the US bought it), but I didn’t go. Instead, I wandered around town, basically until my shoes had soaked through.

See, in Juneau we kept getting told how lucky we were to have a sunny day. Locals said it had rained every day for over a month; someone on the ship’s crew said it was the nicest weather he’d seen in Alaska in the three years he’d been working on crisis ships. Well, today it basically rained all day. Yeah, it stopped occasionally, but that was just a break before it started up again.

So, I bought some fudge, I had lunch in a pub, and now I’m blogging in the library just before going back on the boat to have tea and dry out my shoes. I took some pictures, but not a lot, because of the rain. Which is a shame, because in its own dilapidated way, it’s a pretty little town. Buildings with the paint peeling off them with a mountain in the background can be quite nice, even dripping wet.

Tonight we set sail for Ketchikan, our final Alaskan stop. If I recall correctly, we’re only there for a few hours…then Victoria, Seattle, and home.

Up the tramway

I’ve got free Internet and free time, so I’m posting two blog posts today 🙂

Today, we wandered around Juneau. As previously mentioned, this is the capital city of Alaska. It’s got about 31,000 residents. There are at least four cruise ships in port so we’ve probably increased that population by 3,000 or more. Tourism’s a big thing here, with lots of tours you can go on and souvenirs you can buy. Gemstones and jewelry in particular are huge industries. I can’t wrap my head around the idea of buying a $10,000 necklace while on vacation, but there are people doing it. I saw one item with a six-digit price tag!

It’s odd, actually…there are a lot of really expensive and quite nice things…mostly jewelry and sculpture. And there’s a lot of the typical tourist souvenir stuff…t-shirts, hats, magnets, that sort of thing. I had a hard time finding something that was both nice and reasonable, though. I eventually bought a jade seal at a fairly upscale place. I’m happy with it, and that’ll be my major souvenir for the trip.

Several of us (me, mom, dad, and Aunt Erna) took a ride up a tramway that goes up Mount Roberts. There’s not a whole lot at the top: a gift shop, a restaurant, a documentary film, an eagle, a couple of scenic overlooks. It would have been kind of a waste of money, I think, except that there are also some hiking trails. Me and mom and dad hiked the short Alpine Loop (half a mile, with a lot of climbing) and then me and mom and Aunt Erna did it again, the other way.

I’m back in town now, and will shortly be heading back onto the boat. Tonight should be quiet…there’s dinner, and I’ll probably go to the song-and-dance show. I honestly forget where we’re going tomorrow, but since I’m not driving I guess that’s fine!

Juneau

Things you may not have known about Juneau:

  • It is the capital city of Alaska
  • By area, it is the second-largest city in the USA.
  • It has an enormous number of jewelry stores

I’m in the “Juneau Public Library And Parking Garage” (really), where there’s free internet! I don’t have a lot of time, but here’s a few pictures, starting with the library:

More to follow, hopefully…

A lovely day

Today, nothing happened.

Really, it was kind of uneventful. The seas calmed down, we cruised around some pretty places, and now it’s night. This was another full day on the ship, which means we’ve been at sea for two and a half days. We’ve gone waaaay far north in one uninterrupted run, and from now on we’re basically working our way back south.

The reason we went as far north as we did was to visit Glacier Bay National Park, which is, I believe, the only US national park that you can’t access by land. We sailed up to Johns Hopkins bay, home of Johns Hopkins glacier, and the crew was kind of excited about that because they’ve never been before! Seriously, that bay is off-limits until September because it’s a protected breeding ground for some sort of marine animal…seals, or sea lions or, I don’t know, walruses or something.

(The string quartet in the Explorer’s Lounge where I’m writing this just started playing My Heart Will Go On. Given that we saw icebergs today, that’s ominous.)

The point is, this is the first time this year that they’ve been allowed to cruise into this bay, and it sounds like this crew, including the captain, hasn’t ever done it before. Which was kind of neat, because you could see some of the crew members were kind of excited about it.

Anyway, it was astounding. Just completely beautiful. We saw two glaciers, one fairly close up, and rising directly from the shores on either side of the ship were untouched mountains of red rock and green trees and long narrow cascades of water. Ice floes from the glaciers were all around us, with sea lions riding them. The silence was broken by the occasional thundering roar of the glaciers, as they shifted and cracked and calved into the bay. The scene was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I totally blew my “100 pictures a day” photo budget, so if I suddenly stop taking pictures around day 5, you know why. I’ve only got so much storage space, after all.

It’d be worth it, though, because just as we were approaching Johns Hopkins Bay, a totally unexpected thing happened: the clouds broke, the drizzle stopped, and we had blue sky and sunshine for the photos. The captain previously warned us that the weather in Alaska at this time of year is basically wet (“They have three nice days every year, and they’ve already had two”), so some half-decent light for photos was a nice surprise,

It was still absolutely cold, though. The winds varied between almost zero and gusts of what must have been over 80 km/h, it rained on occasion, and because I couldn’t stop taking pictures I spent about four hours out there. I probably won’t warm up properly until June.

Of course, one challenge in a situation like this is finding somewhere to take pictures from. Astoundingly, I did. I found one little deck on the bow of the boat, at the front of deck 9, that was long and narrow and unsheltered and had nowhere to sit, but was only accessible by one out-of-the-way door, and it seemed almost nobody else knew it was there. While everyone was fighting for elbow room, we had an entire peaceful silent deck to ourselves.

For about half an hour. Then others started to arrive, one or two at a time, but steadily. That’s when we realized that this deck was directly in front of – and visible from – one of the most popular locations on the boat: the Crow’s Nest on deck 10. That has the same view, but from comfy chairs indoors where you can enjoy a drink. Someone confirmed that, yes, they could see us from there, and once people saw that there was a public deck there, they hunted around until they figured out how to get on to it.

Still, the lack of any attempt to make the deck comfortable meant that only a certain subset of the ship’s passengers were interested in hanging around, so it was still one of the best places on the ship to watch and photograph from. I’m sure I’ll be back on it later.

Now, for all this talk, you’ll note that there aren’t a lot of pictures here. That’s because I need to be online to add pictures to my posts, and that uses up my limited supply of Internet minutes. Tomorrow, we’re in Juneau – allegedly the capital city of Alaska – and if I find some free (or even cheap) wifi there, I’ll try to post more pics.

What else? Hmm… We didn’t defend our title at trivia, coming in second or maybe third. We saw an actually-quite-good stage magician tonight. We were too late to reserve our usual table for dinner, so we got a different table and a different waiter and honestly pretty poor service. The northernmost point of our trip today was just a hair further north than Churchill so I’ve set a new personal record for farthest distance travelled north. The seas calmed right down (though for a while in the morning I thought they were calm, then realized I was just used to it). We saw some orcas and (probably) porpoises, all from a distance. “Probably Porpoises” sounds like a cheesy family movie. I can’t figure out where the drinks waiter in this lounge went and I want a Coke (there’s a first-world problem for you).

Can’t really think of anything else. It was a quiet day. Try again tomorrow, maybe something exciting will happen. We get to go on land!

(Thrilling conclusion: the drinks guy eventually showed up and I got my Coke.)

Arr, the sea!

Location: 54.540 N, 133.89 W.
Shipboard location: Deck 10, Explorations Café.
Heading: 326 degrees.
Distance from home: 2,535 km.

First of all: I know there were a few errors in the last post (typos, punctuation, implying that zeppelins were somehow land vehicles), but I’m not going to correct them. Why? Because I’m posting via satellite (really!) and the per-minute charges are comically high. So I’m not spending any more time than necessary actually connected.

That settled, on to business. We spent the entire day at sea, keeping up a very steady 37-40 km/h, which is apparently pretty much the ship’s top speed. The captain today told us that the ship produces (I think) 88,000 horsepower, which requires 4,000 gallons of fuel per hour, so we’ve gone through something like 400,000 liters of diesel today!

As you might guess from the fact that I’m spouting ship trivia (if you do three laps of the promenade deck, you’ve walked a mile!) at some point just being on a boat is no longer interesting, and you start needing some sort of diversion. After all, a day at sea, much of that with no land in sight due to first distance and then fog, is kind of same-y. Boat trivia starts to become interesting.

The cruise includes a lot of possible diversions, though, and one of them today was, in fact, a trivia contest. Me, mom, and dad formed a team which dad named the Jets (he was wearing a Winnipeg Jets t-shirt), and then a group of three ladies from Washington joined up. One of them turned out to be excellent at trivia, and we ended up scoring a perfect 20 points and winning the game, which resulted in the guy running the contest announcing: “And the winning team is the Jets from Winnipeg!” The folks from Washington won the coin toss, so they got the champagne, but we got some other souvenirs like tote bags. We plan to meet again tomorrow morning to defend our title.

A whole bunch of other things went on throughout the day: Jonathan and I watched the movie “Source Code” in the cinema; Dad and Uncle Orville taught Uncle John and Jonathan how to play Kaiser (and, unsurprisingly, beat them); I found and attempted to read a Dutch newspaper; Mom and Aunt Erna attended a wine tasting; I discovered a place where they will give you free hot chocolate and cookies if you ask. But the story of the day really has to be the weather.

Yesterday I mentioned that the captain had warned us, in his wonderful Dutch accent, that big waves were coming. Well, the weather system didn’t move as predicted, so the rough seas didn’t arrive on schedule. This was cruel of it, because just when we were getting all confident and saying, “That wasn’t so bad,” the captain let us know that the bad weather hadn’t actually occurred yet!

We are now definitely feeling what the captain calls “the motion of the ocean”.

It’s been getting steadily worse all day. During dinner, Uncle Orville and Jonathan estimated that the biggest waves we could see were 15-20 feet high, from crest to trough. These aren’t big scary mean waves with whitecaps, just large swells that rock the boat inexorably back and forth, which makes walking down hallways an adventure. Now I know why the boat has handrails everywhere.

And if I understood the captain correctly, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Uncle Orville disputed my claim yesterday that the Outer Passage around Vancouver Island was part of the problem: he says the currents in the Inner Passage make that sea worse. And there may be something to that, because the captain explained that the Queen Charlotte islands have been shielding us from the worst of the waves, and they’re to our east, between us and the mainland. We’ve just begun to get past the northern tip of the island we’ve been sailing past all day, so we should be due for even more rocking soon.

But it could be worse: While there’s a strong wind (50 knots, which is over 90 km/h; I think it’s a 4 on the Beaufort scale), it’s a tailwind, so it’s not fighting the boat and the waves aren’t hitting us from the side. Jonathan and his greenish complexion are, I’m pretty sure, grateful for that.

I’ve never been susceptible to motion sickness, and I show no signs of starting now, but after eight hours, the constant rocking is becoming somewhat tedious. However, it’s kind of interesting to see curtains swaying back and forth, or watch the water in your glass tilt from side to side.

What with the ocean being such a prominent part of the day, I decided to get all thematic and sit up on the observation deck and read The Old Man And The Sea. But I moved indoors to the Crow’s Nest (a lounge right at the front of the boat on deck 10) when it started to rain.

Did I mention that the weather’s kind of lousy? A little cool and generally damp: some sea spray, a lot of fog, some drizzle. Everything outside is wet. Today I saw the staff using a hose to wash the water off the deck (?), and then I went back to my cabin where there’s a note saying “Waterway is precious, please conserve it”. Something doesn’t add up here.

As a distraction from all that, tonight was the first formal night, so we got all gussied up. I have to point out that Jonathan was wearing a suit that cost him a total of $12.50. I wouldn’t’ve thought it possible. Dinner was good; dessert was fantastic: they had a chocolatier as the highlighted chef tonight, and he made some espresso mocha ice cream torte thing that was just amazing.

After dinner, we went to a stage show where a six-piece band backed four singers performing their own versions of a selection of Broadway show tunes. Of the two male singers, one reminded me (in mannerisms, not appearance) of Neil Patrick Harris. And then he introduced one of the other singers as his wife. Hmm. Anyway, the show was decent, if not spectacular, and that pretty much capped off the day.

Tomorrow: scenic cruising through Glacier Bay. Apparently we’re going to a part of the bay that the crew has never sailed to before… We also get to enter a time zone that I didn’t even know existed in North America: it’s an hour earlier than BC time.

Sailing off into the sunset

That’s what we did today. As the sun set on this beautiful Sunday evening, we were cruising directly towards it through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. While we maintained a stately 21 knots, a nice man named Antoni served us prime rib and baked Alaska.

Yeah, it’s a rough life.

We started the day in a frankly mediocre Best Western near Seattle airport. We had the continental breakfast, which was pretty good, watched the Grace church service (well, the sermon) on Jonathan’s laptop, and the Uncle Orville took us on a driving tour of Seattle. Which was exciting, because none of us had ever been to Seattle, so we were navigating by gut instinct and my GPS. And I hadn’t put any Seattle maps on it.

But we saw some nice houses, drove through some astonishingly nice green space, all ravines and ferns and tall trees, and made it back well in time to catch the shuttle bus to Pier 91 (I think) where our ship, the Oosterdam, was docked.

The first thing they told us when we boarded was which restaurants were open. That’s the sort of place this is. I’m writing this in a lounge chair by the pool, so the word “spoiled” comes to mind, though given some of the borderline tacky decor here, “decadent” might be a better choice. This is the sort of place that decides to fill that annoying gap between lunch and dinner with a full-on barbecue by the pool. With, of course, its own dessert bar. And the food’s free. Not “free” as in “you get one free dinner per day”, but “free” as in, “Antonio is more than happy to bring you a second helping of prime rib and two desserts if that’s what you want”.

It’s not all sunshine and chocolate-covered strawberries, though. Before we even left shore, I think, the captain let us know that some…dramatic…seas are ahead. Specifically, ten to fifteen foot waves.

See, we’re taking the “Outer Passage”, which means that we’re going around Vancouver Island to the west, instead of between Vancouver Island and the mainland. So we’re in the big ol’ Pacific – no real shelter. We’re expected to hit the rough seas later tonight, and the captain said that he just wanted to warn us in advance so that when we wake up in the middle of the night and the boat is rocking wildly, we know why.

Should be interesting. I have to admit that I’m kind of looking forward to it. New experiences, y’know.

We’re not even there yet, and already the pool is doing some pretty interesting things. Also, for some reason the captain hasn’t stopped blowing the horn for the last 45 minutes. It’s like road rage on the high seas.

I could talk some more about the boat, but it’s almost too ridiculous. There are eight full public decks (2-9) plus two observation decks 10 and 11). It must be close to a city block in length. My legs are killing me from just walking around it, and I may have completely blown my knees from all the stairs. How big is it? After Jonathan and I boarded, it was something like two hours before we managed to find the rest of our group back.

And the amenities are just unreal. I said that I’m by the pool, but it would be more accurate to say that I’m by the big pool. There are at least two…though only one has a giant chess set next to it. There are shops. A piano bar. A theatre. A casino. An art gallery. A stage. A spa and salon. Too many bars and restaurants to easily count. Several hot tubs. I think I saw a sauna. There’s a library somewhere that I’m going to have to find back. An arcade. And right up on top, on deck 11, in the open air, there’s a basketball court.

For added flair, there are glass elevators going right up the side of the ship.

As far as I can tell, these ships are the modern equivalent of what airships were before the Hindenburg disaster put an end to all that. It’s on sea instead of on land, but it’s got all the same luxury. While taking a break from composing this post, I happened across a lounge where a live string quartet was playing classical music, and I stopped in for a listen. It just seemed like the sort of thing that one does, when one is on a cruise.