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.