Cruise through Alaska, June 2001

We sort of expected a Love Boat-esque departure from the harbor at Vancouver. You know the kind- everybody stands outside and waves to everyone else on the shore. Everyone's all excited and yelling "Bon Voyage!" or as Bugs Bunny would say, "Bonne Voyagee!"

We thought maybe the captain would come over and tell the passengers to get to the decks and wave to everyone on shore. Well, our expectations were either a little dated, or they suffered from too much Hollywood influence. We didn't know we were moving until we saw the dock floating by from the elevator. Talk about a weird sensation.

-Vancouver, B.C. Day One-
"Planes, busses and boats"-

Vancouver is beautiful. I don't know enough about the area to tell you what's in these pictures, but I can tell you that this one is the skyline and dock from which we departed.

This is probably as good a place as any to let you know about some things that may or may not happen on your cruise. We were fortunate enough to travel with another couple who had been on many cruises and coached us through most of the itinerary. They had some expectations of the cruise lines that were not met because of our late arrival to Vancouver. On a lot of cruises, the line takes your bags straight from the claim to the boat, and you meet the luggage in your room later. This is what we expected. What we got was different.

As you board the boat, you're given strict instructions about your new room keys. They are linked with computer images that will allow the ships personnel to identify you as you venture on and off the boat. Like Disney and so many other vacation venues, they also are your credit cards for purchases. DON'T lose 'em!


 

Another cruise ship in the harbor. It's not so much that we like cruise ships or that we can appreciate it's beauty. I took this picture thinking about all the cool shipyard stuff. Sure, the rainbow helped, but what guy would admit to that?

When we landed in Vancouver, we pushed through customs and waited for the next bit of instructions. There was a little sigh that said Royal Caribbean and a lady underneath it who, to be frank, didn't know her- well let's not be frank. She was no help. This is where you learn the first most important lesson: You're not the only one leaving today for a cruise. Not only that, but there are about sixty different cruise lines who are all doing the same thing in the same space at the same airport. You are an ant, and it's your job to roll with it and relax.

The next most important lesson is that the cruise will not leave without you. Now, that's not to say you can take in an ice cream and stroll around with a stupid look on your face, but if you've at least let someone know that you're there, they won't leave without you. The airport is a cluster, and it's no fun if you want immediate answers.

Early arrivals are treated more kindly, with valet baggage from the baggage claim to your room at the boat. We were the last bus to the docks before departure, so we had to carry our bags to the bus. Even once on the bus, our luggage stowed underneath, the lady in charge couldn't tell us if we would need to carry them from the bus to the boat. This was extremely frustrating if you want a good idea of your next move once off the bus. Even at the docks, we were unsure if we should stay at the bus with our bags or heave them to the next line. The Royal Caribbean personnel was useless.

We simply could not believe how beautiful the room was! My parents had been on a cruise 20 years before and said that the room was small, and dark and an unpleasant place to stay. Not ours!
Here is a picture of Alicia out on the deck of our room. We were on the seventh floor, starboard side of Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas. As it turns out, this was a wonderful difference from the other rooms with balconies. Ours was larger by a foot or so, and you could look straight down to the water below. Beautiful and private.

As it turned out, we were ushered to a line where we were asked to have our tickets, passports, or other official documents in order. This is where I saw what one of my friend's brought as his id: His *original* birth certificate. This wouldn't be so weird if it weren't dated from 1945! It wasn't even torn or tattered. It looked like he'd just taken it from a frame. I'm still impressed when it crosses my mind.

You've just left your luggage at the bus and now you're finally on the boat. Here's where another lesson could be learned: Take a change of clothes with you in your carry on. After traveling 2,300 miles and 14 hours, I wanted nothing more than a shower, some food and some fresh clothes on my back(side). We arrived on the boat at 6:00 PM, our luggage didn't get to our room until 11:30 PM We were a little anxious, to say the least. The cruise contract says that if they leave your luggage in Vancouver, they're obligated only to get it to you at the next port of entry. In our case, this was Juneau and two nights away.

On our first day, EVERYTHING was cool, new, different and worth a picture. A little nondescript island, a little snow on a mountain, little waterfalls, a plane with water runners, and funny rocks. And, if you think about it, these are the ones that made it to the page! Can you just imagine what's on the cutting room floor?

Everything was something we'd never see again. Just stick with us through the next few days and you'll see why I feel like such a rookie when I see some of the other pictures we took.

Instinct will take you from the front door of the boat right to your room. Once there, you may or may not have a bottle of wine that your travel agent has sent for you. Many lines offer these services for you to order. If you have reserved the trip yourself or if your travel agent doesn't rock like ours does, do yourself a favor and order ahead. You really do feel like celebrating when you finally get to the room, and the beverage of your choice is a wonderful way to wet your very thirsty and relieved whistle.

When you do finally get in your room, you'll meet your cabin steward. They are the unfortunate person who has to deal with your sleep habits, pick up after you, and clean your toilet every day. Sound glamorous? It isn't, but they still smile from ear to ear and tell you how wonderful everything will be and to call them when you need something. For the most part, that's true. For the thing you want right then- your LUGGAGE- they can't help you. There are 2,000 other people on board who don't have their stuff, either. I promise, your voice is no louder than theirs, and if it is, remember that the Captain has the power to remove you. Play nice, she may spit in your mouthwash.

Our first tour of the boat was a breathless adventure to explore every nook and cranny of the floating hotel we'd heard so much about. This is the upper deck (13th floor). The railing behind us looked out over one of the outdoor pools. Think it's strange to have a pool on an Alaskan cruise? So did we.

Oh, and once again, the point of the pictures was not the boat, it was the snowy mountains in the background.

OK, I'm kidding. She probably won't spit in your mouthwash. But, you should be nice, anyway. Another thing to remember is that she is one of the six or so people that you'll be tipping at the end of the week. Initially, I thought she was smiling because she was just happy to be away from wherever she came from. That may be elitist, but it's what I thought until I read the tipping schedule. At the end of the week, you are "asked" to tip a few folks. This sort of irked me as we dropped some serious coin on this little venture, and I wasn't sure where it all went if we were responsible for paying the crew. Yes, I did tip her. No, I found no loogies in the Scope. Yes, she made little animals from the room towels. More on that later.
Here's something you don't see everyday. We can only assume that an avalanche, mudslide, or some other disaster caused this stripe along the side of this mountain. We could assume other things, like man and mining, but that wouldn't be as relaxing, now would it?

 

One of our friends says she'll never take a cruise 'cause she has a problem not being able to see land. We assured her that an Alaskan cruise through the Inside Passage would never be too far away from land. We took this picture for two reasons: 1)Ya can't see land. 2) Look what you CAN see- Beautiful!
We had no intention of going to any show, particularly not one with the "Bluegrass band" from our first night. But, our friends were going, and we thought it would be fun to hang around with them. It turned out to be a good show after all, even if it was geared squarely to the over 50 crowd. It was difficult, that first day, to look out the windows and see varying levels of sky/water ratio as the boat swayed through dinner. It was 1:30 AM and we had finally settled in after wandering around the boat and eating dinner while trying to get used to the constant swaying from the ocean. We slept like babies until day TWO.

On to
>>Day 2
Juneau, Alaska<<