Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grumpy Summer Vacation, Day 7

Last night was a rough night. My sister has never been on a cruise, and has the cabin next to ours. She wasn't sure what normal rocking was, and we were occasionally woken by her screaming at her husband that the ship was sinking. Then she'd call us for reassurance. An hour later it would start over again.

On my initial Alaskan cruise several years ago, I had a truly memorable swimming experience. We'd gone much earlier in the season. The pool on top of the ship was heated, and it was in the 60’s outside. I had a relaxing time, lazily swimming back and forth as the water sloshed with the ship’s motion. Most people were downstairs playing bingo or napping or whatever, and I had the area to myself. It was quite nice.

Until a wind kicked up. And the temperature dropped. I wasn’t too alarmed, as I was comfortable in the pool, and my bathrobe and towel were within arm's reach.

Then it began snowing. A LOT. And the temp dropped into the 30’s. And when a strong gust of wind struck I watched in horror as my bathrobe and towel blew into the gulf of Alaska (I later got billed for them, too).

I was trapped in the pool.

The distance from the pool to the nearest door was only about 50 feet. Not so long. But when you are soaking wet, with nothing other than a wet bathing suit, and it’s 37° F, with 40 mph winds, and snowing, that 50 feet looks like a light year.

I jumped out of the warm pool. The blast of cold was awful. It was the longest 50 feet of my life. By the time I got inside I had a lump in my throat, which I’d previously used to urinate with.

With that in mind, I’m glad the Smorgasbord has a covered pool.

For those of you with my vice, I give you the most valuable cruising tip of all: When you walk on board, the ABSOLUTE FIRST THING you should do is go straight to the nearest bar (usually you enter the ship near the lobby one) and buy a soda card (fountain card on some lines). They give you a card, or put a sticker on your ship ID, giving you access to unlimited Diet Coke (or lesser soft drinks of your choice) for the duration of the trip. A Diet Coke bought individually is $2.50. So for someone like me the $55/7 day card pays for itself in, oh, say, 20 minutes.

The Smorgasbord’s cruise director is Stu. Like all cruise directors, he always sounds like he lives on Prozac and coffee, and can make even the most mundane activity, or dire emergency, sound like something that will be a hell of a lot of fun you don't want to miss.

Stu, although a native English speaker, isn't native to the American dialect. As a result he routinely wishes us a "cracking day". Fortunately, by reading ABB regularly, I've come to learn that this doesn't involve what Americans normally refer to as crack (unless you consider the oversupply of poorly fitted bathing suits at the pool).

He’s a good guy, but personally, I preferred Goose, from our July, 2009 cruise. Besides the name, Goose also had his morning phone-in TV show, and the drunken/stupid/both calls he got reminded me of a typical day at my office.

At lunch today, to my surprise, my cell phone rang. I figured only Mary or Annie would be calling me directly, so I answered it.

Dr. Grumpy: “Hello? This is Dr. Grumpy.”

Ms. Slowhuc: “Yes, this is Local Hospital. We have a consult for you, on the lady in room 755.”

Dr. Grumpy: “I’m in Alaska.”

Ms. Slowhuc: “That’s okay, the nurse said you can do it tomorrow.”

Dr. Grumpy: “No. I’m on vacation. I won’t be home for a while.”

Ms. Slowhuc: “You are refusing the consult?”

Dr. Grumpy: “I’m not there! Dr. Cortex is covering. Please call...”

Ms. Slowhuc: “But the consult isn’t for Dr. Cortex. It's for you.”

Dr. Grumpy: “But he's covering for me.”

Ms. Slowhuc: “They asked for you.”

Dr. Grumpy (sigh): "Just call him. Trust me.”


After lunch I went golfing with the kids and their cousins. Marie’s shot off the 8th hole is now somewhere at the bottom of the Inside Passage (she really doesn’t grasp the difference between driving and putting very well). I got billed for a lost ball. At least it’s cheaper than the basketball I put overboard last Summer off Mexico.

My parent’s are both vitamin addicts, and don’t go anywhere without their little Ziploc baggies of pills. And a watch with multiple alarms that go off to remind them when they're supposed to take what. I think the constant beeping and chirping at different times of dinner scared our waiter Vladimir, who was afraid we had a bomb under the table (actually, Craig was under the table, trying to tie my shoes together).

Today we're quietly heading north. To my disappointment, we aren’t visiting Prince Rupert, which is a pretty little town in western British Columbia. It’s historically an interesting place, more because of what it might have been. I was there a few years ago.

In the early 20th century, as trade between North America and the far east developed, west coast ports grew increasingly busy. Charles Hays, General Manager of a railroad company, aggressively developed the area. He realized that it was geographically close enough to Japan to significantly shorten shipping routes, and wanted to make the town the major hub for western North American shipping. The plans might have made Prince Rupert an immense metropolis had they been carried through.

But Mr. Hays died in 1912 on the Titanic, and his dreams for Prince Rupert went with him. In retrospect, the area is so lovely that it’s probably best they never happened.

A particularly interesting feature of Prince Rupert is the harbor park, which is designed to be a memorial for those lost in the Pacific. The centerpiece is an oddly out-of-place Japanese fishing boat, resting under a Shinto shrine. There is a sad story behind it.

On September 26, 1985 retired civil servant Kazukio Sakamoto left Owase, Japan, for a routine fishing trip in his boat the Kazu Maru. He never returned.

On March 26, 1987 a Canadian patrol vessel off British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte island encountered a capsized, but still floating, hull covered with barnacles and weeds. They towed it to the harbor, where it was found to be the missing Kazu Maru. It had floated from Japan across to Canada. In a bizarre coincidence, Owase and Prince Rupert have been sister cities since the 1960’s.

There was no trace of Mr. Sakamoto, and his demise remains a mystery. With the permission of his family, the boat was made the centerpiece of the park, and remains there today as a poignant reminder of those lost at sea.


Zoey said...

We had Vladimir in the supper club. He was annoying and I still don't know the rules of his country's handball game.

When you get to Juneau, take the fam on the 'Pilot's Choice' helicoptor tour through TEMSCO helicoptors (not through the ship). Contact Mary at 907.789.9501 to set it up. Ask for pilot Skip. He's an older guy and brought along the mechanic's 6th grade son for a ride when we went (which we thought was a very good sign!) It is well worth the 2nd mortgage you will need to take everyone :). Seriously. Just do it. It was my 11 year olds favorite part of the week.
Email our dog Zoey if you want more info.

gem said...

Welcome to beautiful BC! One day you should visit the sunny Okanagan (well worth it).

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful relaxing reading.
You really do have the writing talent thing.
Big thank you for brightening up my day!

The Mother said...

There's a hotel in Banff which is in an old railroad castle--it's a stunning place. They have an outdoor heated pool, working clear through the winter ski season. You freeze on your way in, trying not to slip on the ice.

Once you're in, though, floating in the warm water with freezing temperatures above you is absolute heaven.

Getting out? Not quite so fun.

Anonymous said...

I always advise cruise critic forums for people going on a cruise... no matter how many times you go, there is always something new to learn.

For instance, I get my caffeine via an intravenous coffee drip at home. I was worried about getting my fix as cruise coffee is pretty nasty. On our last cruise the line we sailed with had instituted a coffee card good on REAL freshly brewed coffee! Best thirty bucks I ever spent. They also had a smoothie and shake card which I passed on, but the males in our rather large party did not. The over under was 15 pounds on the milkshakes. The party was significantly larger when we disembarked.

Glad you are having a great time, and using your $2.67/minute, butt-slow internet time to post updates for your readers.

DaddyBear said...

Sounds like great fun!

But your experience during the snow squall sounds like going to the sauna and rolling in the snow afterwards to me.

Tabitharuth said...

That is so odd, we were on that same cracking cruise last month. I totally recommend the Deadliest Catch excursion in Ketchikan--especially if you want to see bald eagles up close.

terri c said...

Your poor sister (well, and everyone in hearing distance)! I have a feeling she will be living this one down for a long time! Great update.

Kim Kasch said...

Life is all about perspective. Considering what Mr. Sakamoto lost, I guess a basketball and a golf ball, a bathrobe and a towel aren't so bad after all - even considering the 50 yard, um, feet dash.

Anonymous said...

enjoy the scenery! Now I'm going to think about this post wnever I see a cruise ship go by and wonder which one you are on. Small world eh?

Don said...

I lived on board a ship for 4 years, when I was in the Navy.

My ship was about the size and shape of most cruise ships.

I got some of the best sleep in my life when we went to sea. The rocking motion of the ship would put me to sleep almost intantly.

Your sister is a wimp :)

RehabNurse said...

It's been years since I've been to BC, but I'd love to go of these days!

So many beautiful places!

Anonymous said...

I've been on 2 cruises and both times the rocking was just about too much for me. I was scared out of my mind. The last night I "knocked myself out" with Dromanine as we were warned the waves were going to be really bad that night because of a storm. Needless to say I'm not in a hurry to get back on a boat.

Anonymous said...

i'm more worried about what you can hear though the walls. not that 11 in 3 is conducive. or.... how does the staff deal with it?

Amy said...

Love your description of the snow that kicked up while you were swimming! Made me laugh.

It reminds me of an (semi-)indoor pool I go to sometimes in the winter. The pool is plenty warm. The changing rooms are plenty warm. But they are not connected, and you have to run from one building to the other, in frigid temperatures, while wet, in your swimsuit. I cringe just thinking about it.

outre said...

I slept through what my family claimed to be a rough night at sea when we went on a cruise.

I'm really good at sleeping. I pretty much slept through my last MRI scan which was 2hrs long. I only woke up when they took me out for contrast.

I wish I was on a cruise now...

Marie said...

I am loving these posts. I have never had any desire to go on a cruise, and I still don't, but it is a treat experiencing it vicariously through your adventures.

This post is especially affecting, making me laugh out loud at your description of losing your robe and towel, at your surreal conversation on the mobile and then the sobering and touching being moved by the descriptions of the two lost men.

"Oh hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea." keeps running through my head. Although I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. lol

Thanks for sharing your humor and your sensitive observations.

Chrysalis Angel said...

I agree with Marie. These posts are enjoyable. Interesting info, and you always seem to throw something in there that about makes me snort my tea!

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