Thursday, June 16, 2016

Been Cruisin' Grand Finale

Let's pretend today is yesterday. Now let's pretend I didn't forget to post yesterday's post. Let's pretend I didn't take a long nap instead. Okay, I feel better now.

If you'll remember, our four travelers have left the hotel and headed for new adventures aboard the Explorer of the Seas. We enjoyed our short stay in Seattle. Debbie even got to use a gift card she had been saving for a Seattle Starbucks. She and Nancy wandered into one of the seven thousand Starbucks shops to order coffee. Debbie ordered a caramel, cinnamon, deluxe, super-duper Frappuccino and handed over her card. Nancy ordered next and decided on the same thing. Debbie was feeling generous so she handed her gift card to Nancy and said, "hey, this is on me." There was twelve cents left on the card. Okay, back to the cruise.

After an hour and a half working our way through lines we were finally able to board the ship. Here we were told our rooms wouldn't be available until 3:30 in the afternoon. It was suggested we walk around the ship or get a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants. We decided to try the Windjammer restaurant at the top of the ship. Lugging our carry-on luggage behind us, we found a bank of elevators and squeezed into one of the cars. We soon discovered everyone who had boarded ahead of us were doing the same thing. Windjammer is a buffet style, all you can eat eatery. Evidently the mindset on this first day is to see just how much a person can eat on the first day of a cruise.

We finally found an empty table and left Debbie with all the luggage while we worked our way through the various feeding frenzies. The experience wasn't at all what we expected for a classy cruise. It was more what one might expect on a college campus 'free food' day. After we polished off our 'light meal' we asked an attendant if there might be a place we could leave our luggage for a few  hours. He politely recommended we leave them in our rooms. It seems our rooms had been ready for us before we boarded.

As I mentioned in the first part of this story, our rooms were very nice. 'Plush' is the word that comes to my mind. Of course my mind had conjured up an image of a steel tank with a bunk bed. After enduring muster, which is a mandatory meeting of all passengers aside their pre-assigned life boats in order to scare the bejeebers out of us, we were free to "start the party". We were all tired so we went to our rooms for a nice long nap. Party on dudes!

We decided we would avoid Windjammers and try out one of the classy restaurants for dinner. We were assigned to a table next to the windows, in a corner with two very efficient and pleasant attendants. Carlito introduced himself as our headwaiter who would be assisted by Rommel. He took our drink orders and was pleased when Nancy ordered a bottle of semi-expensive wine for herself and Mike. Debbie and I ordered iced tea which immediately told Carlito we were the lesser half of the group. Moments later Rommel arrived at our table and introduced himself as our headwaiter assisted by Carlito. Rommel read off the chef's recommendations and left us to decide. We decided the chef was either sadistic or insane. We chose our meals from the menu. Carlito brought us an assortment of breads while we waited for our meals. When time came for dessert Rommel brought out dessert menus. We each ordered something different with plans to share. When the desserts arrived I made the mistake of saying, "Oh man, I wish I had ordered that". Rommel took off and returned with a second dessert for me. A classy guy would have chuckled and said, "Ah, thanks Rommel but I don't really need a second dessert". I said, "Wow, thanks Rommel! Can we do this every night?".

Nancy had to sign a tab for the wine she ordered for dinner that first night. She felt she had been given great service from Carlito so she added 20% gratuity before handing it back. She didn't realize the cruise policy is to automatically add 18% gratuity to any purchase made on the ship. Carlito was thrilled with his 38% tip and gave Nancy especially good service the entire week. In fact, he appeared to be so fond of Nancy we considered trying a new restaurant out before the week was over.

One more mention of food on the cruise then I'll move on. I went to the Windjammer early one morning to get a coffee. I found the frenzy to be over and folks were acting human again. I sat at a table by myself and watched people come and go. An elderly woman walked up to the table next to mine with her little granddaughter in tow. She told the girl to sit and wait while she went through the line for their breakfast. She asked if the little one had any special requests. The girl said she wanted bisgetti and milk. As her grandmother rolled her eyes and walked away the girl held up a finger and yelled, "Make that chocolate milk". I don't know...I just found that to be humorous

Our first stop on the cruise was Juneau. A lovely city with lots of charm. We were scheduled for a whale watching tour so we didn't get to see much of the city. What we saw made me want to move to Alaska. Debbie said no. The tour into the fjord was cold and choppy. I prided myself on being the only member of the group not needing a motion sickness pill. I hope to add a couple of photos here to show at least one of the many humpback and orca whales we saw. I doubt I will be able to because I am naturally incompetent and lose most photos I try to post.

We were thrilled to see so much beauty around us and experience whales closer than we expected. The guide told us we were lucky too to see humpbacks and orcas swimming together since orcas normally eat humpbacks. I think we would have been darned lucky to have seen that. The whale watching was probably the highlight of the trip for me.

Our second stop was Skagway. This little town had more jewelry stores than I've ever seen on one street. It seems the tourists who arrive for three months out of the year really like jewelry. We took a tour to the top of a summit, the name lost in my defunct memory bank. The tour guide was funny and filled us with more history and stories than we could possibly remember. The highlight of this tour was the bear that came right up to the road. The guide stopped the van about twenty feet away so we could get pictures. As we were parked there a car pulled up and a woman jumped out and ran toward the bear to get a close up. We heard the guide whisper to himself, "here's your lunch!" Luckily for the woman her fast approach startled the bear and he ran off. I loved Skagway and the people living there. It was a really laid back town. I told Debbie I could live there. She said no.

Our last stop was Victoria, British Columbia. This is without a doubt the most beautiful city I've ever seen. We took a tour of the city and fell in love. It is so clean and remarkable we were spellbound. Debbie took pictures nonstop until her battery finally gave out. Pictures couldn't possibly do justice to the beauty of this city anyway. Victoria is situated in a "rain forest" range. Because of its location anything will grow there. The temperatures year round are between 58-78 degrees. We enjoyed high tea at the historical Empress hotel while watching people stroll the streets. I told Debbie I could easily live there. She said she thought she could too if we could convince our sons to move the grandkids up.

I know I've gone on too long about this trip. You may be thinking, "Good grief, I hope he never goes on a European river tour". If I do I promise I won't go on and on about it. This trip was special because it was on Debbie's bucket list and because I dreaded it for so long. I was so impressed by it all that I felt the need to share. We are going to the Caribbean next week. I promise I won't tell you anything about it.

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