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This cruise wasn’t really planned much in advance. After all, we did just do a wonderful two week trip through the Panama Canal back in January. But one day, Mo just said, “How would you like to do the Alaska Inside Passage” and before long we had our cruise tickets and our air miles took care of the transportation to Seattle for another great vacation week.
Mo has been to Alaska but I haven’t. She drove the highway many years ago and camped in her Scout among the mosquitoes. We still plan to make a MoHo trip there before long, but in the mean time a cruise is my perfect introduction to the state. Cruising can be addictive. As the days passed and the time to leave got closer, I found myself fantasizing about the slow slide of the sea, and the way a cruise slows my own internal pace. I watched the weather, seeing temperatures in the high 50’s and rain for most of the trip, and I didn’t care. I was going to Alaska, and I was going to relax, and watch the sea and the sky and the mountains, and get waited on for a whole week. Ahhhh.
We left early Sunday morning from Medford, and found to our delight that Alaska Airlines still serves complimentary wine on their flights to Seattle. So what if it was only 6 in the morning, we mixed it with orange juice and thought it was a great start to a fourth of July day. I couldn’t see passing up that sweet little freebie, especially when we had to pay surcharges for all sorts of things, including our luggage. By the time we reached Seattle, the dark northwest clouds had descended, but it really didn’t feel too terribly cold. We had a light breakfast in the airport while we tried to entertain ourselves until the ship shuttles were functioning. By 11 we were on a bus to the Magnolia District and by noon we were actually on the ship. It was the slickest, quickest, cleanest embarkation we have experienced on any cruise so far. Impressive! Especially so after our last experience with Celebrity, such a great cruise line, and yet they didn’t even come close to the efficiency we experienced with the Princess staff.
Once on board, even though staterooms aren’t usually ready so early on the day of embarkation, ours was ready and waiting. We unloaded our carry-on’s and headed up one deck up to the Lido for the welcome buffet. This is the first time we have taken a room on an upper deck, and ours is in the middle, right at the central elevators. It’s also our first time with a balcony room, and I love it! Even if it’s too cold to just sit out there all the time, the view is open and wonderful, and we can leave the door open at night for fresh air.
I think comparisons are inevitable since we cruised so recently. Our last cruise before the Panama Canal was with Princess as well, and I found myself trying to remember just how different the Crown Princess was from our current ship, the Sapphire Princess. I also find myself continually comparing this ship with the Celebrity Constellation. It is really surprising to me that two ships in basically the same class (Crown Princess and Sapphire Princess) can be as different as they are. Last night and today, we have been exploring. Much like the Crown Princess, and very much unlike the Constellation, there are many areas on this ship are disconnected to other areas. There are three sets of elevators, but they all don’t go to the same floors, and sometimes you have to change floors to continue to the aft or forward portion of a deck. It makes for a lot of walking and climbing, a good thing for us, but not necessarily for everyone.
This trip, for the first time, we chose second seating dinner at 8. Last night we went to the early show at 7 and then to dinner at the International Dining room. The theater was large, but not especially lovely and the show was just ok, with a few dance numbers and an OK comedian. Thinking this schedule would work for the rest of the cruise, we were a bit daunted to find out that this ship doesn’t have an early show and the only way we can go to both dinner and a show is to do the late show at 10:15 pm. Maybe not! I am a morning person, my kids all know this about me, and know that trying to call me after 8pm at night will result in a pretty stupid conversation. I also know that if I call them at 5am when I am all bright-eyed, they might not be so chipper either. Except for Melody of course, who is chipper on the radio at an ungodly hour. But I digress.
Our dinner was adequate but certainly not memorable, and the dining room a bit boring. However, we did have our table for two ready for us without a hitch. The fabulous two story dining room with the incredible elegant food that we enjoyed on the Constellation came with a price. We had to fight for our table for two after some glitches, and when we did finally get one, it was right next to the work station. Entertaining, but definitely noisy. I guess there are trade-offs, no matter what. I do miss those wonderful dinners with all the flatware and elegance. Here, we both decided that we could miss dinner in the dining room without feeling as though we were missing something, and plan to do so tomorrow night so we can see the show without staying up till midnight!
Our only goal for this first sea day was to refuse to rush around anywhere, and to do everything in a leisurely way. My goal was to find the fine line between leisurely and lazy.
The morning began with a brisk walk on the top deck jogging track, small enough that it takes ten laps to get in a mile, but certainly nice enough. The skies were clear and blue and it was windy! Then down to breakfast, which by the time we got there, was very crowded. We found a table outside the main part of the cafe, and especially enjoyed the really good watermelon. ‘People-watching’ has been fascinating on this trip as well. The crowd is completely different from any cruise I have experienced, with lots of cultural diversity, an even mix of age groups, many young people, and lots of families. The pools and ping pong tables seem to be kept pretty busy with this bunch. Midmorning we explored the ship some more, found the Alaska cruise companion book with maps, and settled into the cafe area on the fifth deck for cappuccinos. A late lunch in the Savoy Dining room was delightful, with a traditional English Pub offering of fish and chips and Bass beer. An afternoon of cards in our room punctuated by whale sightings, and somehow it was time to prepare for the formal night dinner.
Dressing up is always fun, but this time it was also incredibly entertaining to see everyone else in their finery. Japanese women, young and old, were wearing special traditional lovely silk embroidered gowns. Indian men wore colorful pashminas over their tuxedos, and some women were in saris. It was fascinating. The captain greeted everyone and introduced his crew, and champagne flowed freely. Dinner was filet mignon, and again, adequate but forgettable.
It is 10:30 now, Mo is sleeping while I write, and the sun has finally dipped below the horizon. Tomorrow we will see Ketchikan, arriving early in the morning and returning to the ship by 3:30. Alaska at last, traditional Alaska with totems and Creek Street. As I watch the shadows of the wild coastal mountains coming closer in the twilight, I am filled with excitement about what is waiting ahead.