(Part 2 of my tales from the road, as my friend and I travel cross-country to catch a cruise to Alaska and back)
We're not terribly wealthy people, around here. In fact, to call our fiscal condition "comfortable" would be a bit of an exaggeration. I'm dependent upon others for pretty much all my needs and wants, and have little – if any – discretionary funding. Still, because I had earned a little, doing some house-sitting in the deep of winter, and my mom offered me a little more out of the goodness of her heart, I had enough that I agreed to pay for my own extras on shipboard.
Little did I realize that "extras" included basic beverages. As I read the literature sent me by the cruise company and our travel agent, I realized that a single can of cola listed at $4, a 16-ounce bottle of water the same, and anything with a real kick could be expected to start at double that price. I suppose I could have planned to drink nothing but tap water for the duration of the cruise, but then, isn't that one of the ways they think noroviruses might be spreading on some cruise ships? Maybe not, but why take chances? The basic water, juice, and sody-pop drink package, with a "free" souvenir cup, would cost only $20 per day, in advance. I lined up mine in March.
I also took a peek at the professional photography service, from which I could purchase a gazillion pictures of myself having scads of fun on board and near the gangway, but I could not, in good conscience, pay somebody to break his camera, so…pass. The best evidence that I had been somewhere would still have to be my copious snapshots of things through windows, with the camera lens reflecting back into the picture, or other efforts to document my own movements.
Then I started looking at the excursions.
The nice thing is, you can do most of this booking of excursions and events in the same fashion as any other extras – via your travel agent, or (if you're like me and don't often keep regular enough hours to have civilized interaction with normal mortals), the cruise company allows for much planning via the internet. Their website has all the options and most of the salient points of interest right there at one's command. And, whatever they don't tell you at their links, you can ask your travel agent or, well, there are discussion boards all over the internet to help fill in the blanks.
Or, you can ask my seester. She's very smart, and well-traveled. At least, well-traveled, by comparison to me. She's been on at least one other continent, and her pre-honeymoon was a cruise to Alaska.
I began with the internet, with my ear attached to the phone, so I could confer with my host.
"Hey," I pointed out to my host, "they have helicopter flights out over Mendenhall Glacier."
"Cool. I've never been in a helicopter before."
"Me neither. We gotta do it." I looked at the price. "We gotta get the video, instead." I checked out that price, too. "Umm. Erm."
I looked at other options. Airplane flights, pilots' choices of route and duration. Nope. Not even remotely within our budgets. Whale-watching mini-cruise excursions...much more reasonable, but also not really an option.
Well, crap. I'm no fan of window shopping, but it looked as though that was pretty much what I was going to do, most of this trip. Still, I could swing for the $35 tram ride to the top of Mount Roberts, in Juneau, and either the all-day double-decker bus pass or the "hippo tour" around Victoria.
And then my seester sent me a check for my birthday, with advice on how best to spend it: "If you do nothing else, you have to take the White Pass and Yukon train at Skagway." I booked that. I also had enough left over to reserve a ticket for the tram to the top of Mount Roberts, and for high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, Canada. I might even have had some cash left over for a few gifts, and some extra-special postcards, like the oversized "jumbo", the cheesy laser-metallic, or – dare I hope? – the lenticular "3-D" cards. No helicopter rides, but then…
I now had a real excuse to leave the ship at every port of call.
I readied my good walking shoes, checked my battery charger, and bought sunscreen.