When our meticulously planned European vacation-of-a-lifetime was canceled by God, my wife and I found a great last-minute deal on an Alaskan cruise. We grabbed it and undertook this new adventure with shockingly little planning. Really, I’ve seen better-organized demolition derbies. I almost forgot to pack underwear and lithium. But now we’re underway, and I will record a few observations here in case we’re trampled to death by a caribou herd, and we never return with our thousands of glacier photos taken from minutely different angles.
Alaskan Cruise, Day 1 – Vancouver
The cruise would depart from Vancouver, and to lower our stress level we planned to get there a day early. Vancouver’s a beautiful city. Well, all the parts that I haven’t seen are beautiful. Our taxi driver took us through the nastiest, busiest, and most disorienting parts of the city to reach our hotel. It was like being dragged through The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari by a surly Filipino in a pea-green Audi.
I now love the people of Vancouver. One lady saw us staring at a directory on the street corner like goldfish waiting to be fed, and she stopped to tell us about all the great restaurants three blocks away. Even though we didn’t eat at them because we didn’t want to spend $120 for lunch, she was sweet. And the wizened guy who ran the dim, claustrophobic crépe shop managed to communicate, through frowns, grunts and extra roasted peppers that he thought of us as his kids.
Alaskan Cruise, Day 2 – Embarkation
We don’t often drink coffee, but Vancouver has coffee shops on at least half the street corners, so we tried one for breakfast. The coffee was lousy, and I didn’t drink much, but the cinnamon roll as big as a baby’s head made sure I stayed peppy even without caffeine.
A couple of hours later we wound through the cruise line’s security/immigration/boarding pass gauntlet. We had arrived early and were rewarded with two hours in a waiting area until the ship was prepared to receive us. While waiting I noticed that we were younger than 95% of the other passengers. I’d been warned to expect that. I also noticed that about half the passengers were Chinese individuals visiting Alaska to examine the parts they intend to buy during the next decade. I spent most of the wait reading Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends and becoming increasingly depressed because I’ll never write that well.
We boarded and found our stateroom, which was as far forward as one can get without being cantilevered off the anchor. I didn’t care, since it had not just windows but also a balcony. On a prior Caribbean cruise our cabin had made me feel like I was Cool Hand Luke spending the night in The Box. We unpacked and met Panya, the gentleman who would be taking care of us.
Our packing had been a miracle. My t-shirts, cargo pants and sweaters came out pristine. My suit and dress shirts looked like something pulled out of a wino’s armpit. Panya promised to help, as long as we could pay the laundry bill. I felt compelled to agree, else I’d be attending formal dinners in my Jack Skellington t-shirt. As I looked around at our closet and drawers, a doubt skittered up my back on spider feet and whispered that we may have packed incorrectly.
Tomorrow… Day 3