Friday, September 19, 2014

Tourism Days Nine and Ten: A Great Honkin' Slab of Ice (and Some Rocks and Floaty Bits), then Ocean Again

I was up with the sun on Tuesday, 3 June 2014. In fact, I rose in time to turn off the alarm on my phone.

You'd never guess I was still excited about seeing a great honkin' slab of ice.

It's just that, well, we haven't had a glacier in my neighborhood since, literally, the last ice age. Tornadoes we get. Floods we get. Apparently solid blocks of ice which creep along and carry great honkin' rocks with them…not so much.

As always, click on any picture to embiggen…

As we approached our goal, the view from my cabin was impressive enough that I decided haste was in order.

Objects in lens are larger than they appear

I dressed for cool weather (sweatshirt and leggings – and, for a change, socks!) and hurried up topside, to deck ten, the upper observation deck, at the bow of the ship. My cane, my camera, and I took in the vista,
Dang, are we going to get rain all the time?
Must not be summer yet…
such as it was, initially.  But, as it had been yesterday, in Skagway, after only a short while, the rains ceased, the clouds lifted and began to break apart enough to see more clearly

what was around us.

Peering at the crowd peering at the glacier

Dawes Glacier is feeling well-protected from sunburn
Dawes Glacier, with the sun trying very hard to shine upon it

Turning counter-clockwise from Dawes Glacier, to our entry/exit passage

Fresh, intense glacial waters

I listened to a few of the other passengers discussing what it was we were looking at (I'd overheard at least four being introduced by their companions as geologists or geology professors at small colleges. Useful to have around, when looking at rocks). Plus, the public address system carried the ship's captain's voice to us, explaining things like the vivid blueness of the ice, the bright color of the water (both having to do with the ice being purified and condensed under great pressure for millennia). The striations on the mountainsides, I heard, were from glacial movement dragging great stones across, to scrape and scour).

Sure, it looks like just a chunk of ice, but (a) it's bigger than two double semi trailers, and
(b) it's a very pretty blue
We stayed to observe the great honkin' slab of ice for the better part of two hours, I think, with the ship doing a complete 360º turn so everybody got a great shot or two.

After the full doughnut, the ship pointed away from the glacier, tracking back out as slowly as we had entered, so as to keep the wake to a minimum. And, when you get right down to it, for a floating city, the wake we left was very small.

For more than an hour, the waters were glacial-water vivid

and laden with icebergs, all sizes

But eventually we got to a point where regular waters
overran the pretty aqua of the glacial supply

Still moving at just about 15-20 knots on our way out from the narrow channels of Tracy Arm Fjord,
the clouds came back over us for most of the day

Waters were still almost like glass
as the waterway widened toward the ocean

Out on the open seas by sunset, with clearing skies

Wednesday morning: somebody else's cruise ship is heading north, while we're heading back south.
This is what the weather looked like pretty much all day.

Wednesday, after I returned from my breakfast, I found a note on my bed, along with the usual stack of papers – schedules, announcements, and coupons – a notice that, due to a lack of sufficient interest from the passengers on this cruise, my prepackaged excursion to the Empress Hotel for formal tea had been cancelled (I guess they couldn't muster a dozen people who were willing to spend $120 on a bus tour, a visit to Butchardt Gardens at peak springtime, plus a lovely cuppa, served in style, with a variety of tasty desserts).  I would be free to book a different excursion through the hospitality desk, if I wished, or I was also free to be fully reimbursed for that package, either in cash or ship's credit. I arranged for a simple all-you-want-to-ride bus pass, and took the difference in cash. I would, I told myself, go for a ride, and then spend my Thursday shopping in Victoria, by jingo!

Since there were no land excursions to be had on Wednesday while we were on the open ocean, the crew had arranged all manner of entertainment. I took advantage of very little of it. There were some sales on items from the ship's duty-free shops, and I did consider buying some snooty liquor to bring home, but, well, there was nobody at home I thought would appreciate what they had in stock. (I was also disappointed that they didn't have any ship postcards. Those would have been, for me, the coolest of the cool.)

Wednesday was also the Big Day for Making Memories…that is, for everybody who wanted pseudo-studio pictures of themselves to dress in their Sunday Best and head to deck five, where, all around the central atrium, crew members had set up photo "booths", with scrims, and drop scenes, witty banter to keep the smiles on film from looking too forced. I put on my One Dress (I had bought it for my class reunion last summer, and then hadn't worn it, so it was fresh and pretty and felt completely strange), and joined the gang for our photo opp. My friend had prepaid for a full package, and who was I to begrudge her this record?

After our photo session, we had reservations for dinner not at the usual place –
all other evenings, we'd supped at the main "restaurant", but tonight, we dined in style, and on the ship's tab, due to the tangle over our rooms and room cards, back on that first day. We had a table at the ship's steak house.

For those who are unfamiliar with cruise practices, there are several tiers of services available on board. Your generic ticket, while it isn't exactly steerage, does not get you into the health club, spa, or upscale dining establishments. You have to pay extra for those. In fact, other than your bed, head, and baseline meals (which are quite luxurious in their own right), almost everything else you might want to do on the ship will cost you extra on your account. For example, to drink anything other than that doubtable tap water – e.g., bottled water, sody pop, or juices – I paid about $20 per day for the prepackaged privilege of carrying around an insulated adult version of a sippy cup, into which the bartenders would pour ice and my beverage. If I wanted alcohol added to it, I could have paid double for the package, or bought single drinks – on my shipboard account – for about $8 per drink, on average.

So, when I say we dined at the steak house, I'm saying we got a bonus service, and we didn't pay for it, because there had been a spot of trouble my friend had raised a stink about, on day one. All five of us were offered a meal that evening at the premium dining room of our choice. My personal preference would have been the Chinese "restaurant", and I know my friend's niece was very interested in testing their sushi bar (she is a chef at a raw bar in New Orleans), and the boys…well, the boys would be happy to just have plates shoved in front of them, and there was an unlimited pasta Italian place. But my friend was not going to eat all those vegetables that they put in Chinese food, and no way would she even approach the door of a place serving raw fish, and she wasn't in the mood for Italian… so steak it was. I wasn't going to complain. I kind of like steak. I kind of liked it in the regular dining room. But what makes my friend happy….

The crew of our Carnival Cruise ship Rhapsody of the Seas was very interested in making sure everybody was as happy as they could make them, within reason.

And, when I say "within reason", I mean it. We all five got free meal upgrades, but the beverages served (no, we didn't drink Diet Coke™ with our T-bones) were not gratis. My friend's niece discovered that specialty waters were available, so, feeling a need to share, she ordered several bottles for the table. At an extra $8 per liter. Which, she declared, was a fair price. Call me a philistine, but, much as I appreciated that it had a lovely flavor (or lack thereof, as compared to many bottles and cups of aqueous solution), I'd have been fine with a Dasani™. Or maybe even tap water. Well, not really plain tap water. But a good glass of filtered tap, maybe. With a twist. As long as they're not drawing from my hometown well.

But we drank a liter apiece. That was an extra $40 for water.

The steak was worth it, though. And my chocolate-laden dessert…sublime. On the other hand, my friend's niece ordered a crème brûlée, but ended up with something more closely resembling a crème caramel…she was more impressed with the work of the dessert chefs at the regular dining room than in the premium space.

Still, it was a satisfying "freebie".

After dinner, a live show. Followed by the rest of the gang playing, drinking, and smoking in the casino, and my thinking about going to bed early, but actually slipping away to soak in the hot tub, because my knees still felt like they'd been stumbling down mile after mile of slopes. And, then, to sit and watch the waves go by.

With one companion.
Found loitering in my cabin, Wednesday after breakfast.
I let him hang around for the rest of the trip.

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