Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tourism, Days Five and Six: Hurry Up and Wait, to See the Sea

Yeah. The scenery.

The day didn't start out too badly.

A plate filled with…license.
We had breakfast here, surrounded by license plates of all states and a few foreign lands, but not much in the way of customers.  They did a nice job of getting my very fussy order right (it was the last meal at which I was concerned about sticking to a health-based plan. The rest of the trip, I piled on the medications in order to gorge myself).

They also served the boys a couple of beers each, with their eggs and bacon, during which, at first, they looked as though they were doing something bold and new and, somehow, scandalous in front of dear old Auntie. I told them of the time I had run out of milk and poured the last can of cruddy beer onto my puffed rice cereal.  It was, I said, the loudest breakfast I had ever suffered. They were suitably impressed…or, maybe that look on their faces was horror. I'm never sure, when it comes to tipsy young men. My friend, it seems, held her judgment in reserve. But she also, generously, paid for all our meals. I covered the tip. It was about all I could do, at the time.

At any rate, by about 8:30 a.m., we were back on the road again, enjoying the ubiquitous traffic standstill.
This pic may be from the day before. I can't tell – all Seattle traffic jams look alike, to me.
The fifteen mile trek from our breakfast stop to downtown Seattle took, as expected, an hour. It was worth it, though, to pull off the major thoroughfare and onto the overpass to the pier, to see our ship front and center.

Well, right behind the smaller, more interesting craft which was, actually, front and center.

Ummm. Behind the building behind the smaller, more interesting craft which was, actually…well, you get the drift. It's the liner with the coat of arms on its stack. We were looking at the Rhapsody of the Seas, on her first Alaska voyage of the new season.

Some research vessel, then us, then a Carnival ship…all ready to set sail
We were directed to the gimpy section for unloading and cruise prep, at which point my friend and the boys tossed things about, with wild abandon, trying to get those things not going with us to fit into the cab of the truck.

While unloading our luggage from the truck, I'd realized that I was not going to have the muscle power to carry everything I wanted, and didn't want to dump on anybody else, so, for a moment, I hesitated, and left the bag which held my exercise "bicycle" in the pile of stuff to stay with the truck. My friend asked me if I were sure I wanted to leave that behind, and I shrugged, indicating, no, I was not sure, and wanted advice. She told me to take it, so I said, "Okay," but, somehow, as she pulled he truck away, to take it back to the Motel 6 parking space, my pedals were not there with the rest of my luggage. I was going to have to do without my toy to help me unkink my knees.

Naturally, when my friend returned – two hours later – she told me I should have brought the "bike" with me. One of the boys could have carried it. Yeh. Thanks for that.

As we were trying to settle in, I learned that, during our winters, the ship heads for the southern hemisphere, and takes Australian cruises, then comes up to hit the waterways of Alaska at the end of May. The crew goes, of course, where the ship goes, with a six-week break each year to see their families back home (most in the Philippines, Indonesia, and peninsular Asia). I didn't ask about pay, but I hope it's a hefty check, for all that. Certainly the young man who tended to my cabin, by name Adi, was worth every penny I wished I could have paid him (sometimes, it really stinks to be mostly broke).

At any rate, when we arrived at our cabins, initially I had mine on deck three, directly above my friend, her niece and the boys. I may have already mentioned this, but I had offered to share, warning the group that, (1) I snore very loudly and, (2) I need the thermostat in my quarters to be set at effing cold in order to sleep, otherwise my middle-aged night sweats rule my moods. Naturally, I had nobody leap at the opportunity to share with me. That suited me fine. I had a very nice, large, fully-accessible cabin, near the center of the ship.

Before we got underway, though, my friend called me to ask "How many beds does your cabin have?" I looked carefully, confirming that it had a pair of twins pushed together to make a single king-sized bunk. There was also a love seat and matching chair, a coffee table, a desk chair, and two end tables. I thought about describing them to her, but refrained from doing so. She announced that she was coming right up. She sounded more than miffed.

When she arrived, she looked more than miffed. "Your room is bigger." Huff. Pace. "Will you trade with us?"

Sure. No problem. I don't need a lot of room for sleeping. I'd have been happy with a bed in the head, if necessary.

So, she took our key cards to the hospitality desk, where she had them switch us around and issue us cards according to our new locations.

Except that, my card no longer got me into either room. It took five tries before they finally got the thing to work. My leg hurt, I had no way out, and I was near tears. Fortunately, my friend's niece was kind enough to do most of the leg-work, fetching the key card and giving it the necessary testing, each time it came back to us.

In the meantime, we did a lot of sitting and waiting.
Waiting. And sitting.
While I waited, we had the passenger muster, where we were to all gather at assigned locations near the lifeboats…a watery fire drill. Not sure I would ever get into my cabin, I nevertheless went to the lifeboat I might just be climbing into for sleep, that night. Well, if it hadn't been well-covered and way the heck above the deck. My cane and I were getting tired of standing around and wondering if, maybe, I shouldn't just jump overboard and walk ashore.  But once the "all clear" was signaled, we were under way, and that wasn't the best option, any more.

At long last, I managed to get into my new accommodations, at which point Adi and crew had already shifted the furniture around to match what had been in the cabin directly above, and he sort of shook his head. I'm not sure if he was simply perplexed, or even a little bit laughing as he quietly asked, "They have the cabin just above?" He pointed to the ceiling. I nodded. "I think they're exactly the same room."

I looked around for a second and said, "Well, I didn't bring my tape measure, but I'd guess you're probably right. Except that the other cabin has one big window pane, and this one has…"

One for each eye.

 "…a split."  Not to worry. I had anticipated spending most of my scenery-absorbing time up on one of the open-air decks, taking in the brisk northern Pacific air. And, under normal circumstances, when I take a picture out a window, I don't sit 'way back, but press my nose and the lens right up against the glass, so as to get as much of the view as possible.

And, now, I had a bonus: I was practically right down at sea level. Out my little ole windows I could practically see the fishies laughing at us. The only people below me were the crew. We were the water babies. If I could have opened the porthole, I'd have reached out blissfully and felt salt water slap against my skin.

I had an hour to rest and unpack, before we were to meet and eat.

After supper (sorry, no pics of the buffet. I was too hungry, and it's hard to carry a camera plus a plate, while still leaning on a cane), we took in the welcoming committee show, performed by regular members of the crew, followed by rest. Rest and relaxation. Meanwhile, the ship passed through Puget Sound

Being of Sound mind…
and eventually made its way out upon the Pacific Ocean. Friday shipboard didn't end too badly, then. Just the middle was messed up.

At dawn of the first full day asea, I checked our status on the television in my cabin:

How did we pass Nanaimo without I got a Nanaimo bar?
We still had some time to go. The entire day, all we saw of the great northern scenery was
We saw the sea.
ocean. Plenty of ocean.

We ate buffet for breakfast and lunch, and I over-ate, as anticipated. In the afternoon, I attended part of an event at which one of the social directors explained the shore excursions and how to book them (I'd done so through our travel agent and online), and then another told us how to get HUGE BARGAINS ON JEWELRY and other items, using a booklet that they'd be giving away at the door, a little bit later. I got my booklet, listened briefly to the instructions, and, suffering sensory overload again, made my way to a quiet deck to watch
What did we see?
the ocean. 

Late in the afternoon, I got a call from my friend's niece, asking if I were interested in meeting them at the indoor pool, so we could sit and soak in the hot tub. "Twist my arm," I replied, and was washed and ready to soak in fifteen minutes. We had the company of a couple of very nice (and, in one case, very attractive) men. I didn't participate a whole lot in the conversation. (It sort of sucks to be tongue-tied around strangers, especially when words come so fluidly on a page.)  Eventually, though, the men went back to their wimmen folk, and we  three wimmen folk dried off and got ready for dinner.

My friend had made reservations for a regular, sit-down dinner for every evening, so we sat together for truly delicious food (I had a different type of steak each night, because, no matter how daring I felt, anaphylaxis due to ingesting seafood was not on my list of cruise adventures). After the feast, we saw another show on the ship's main stage (the theater actually seated more than the old Rivoli movie house, here in Monmouth). And then, while the rest of them aimed to spend some time and money at the ship's casino (the only deck where smoking was allowed), I headed back down to my cabin to listen to music, rest my brain, and watch the sun set across the… 

We saw the sea
 Pacific Ocean.

It took a while. We were, after all, in northern waters, only a few weeks away from the summer solstice. But by jingo, I stayed up to see the sun set.

On the sea.

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