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Three score and ten or more

Monday, June 01, 2009

I had really planned to make a systematic report of our trip, but when I logged on to the internet wireless on the ship I found out that I had to pay an activation chard of $3.95 (reasonable) then my internet use would cost $.75 a minute and the way I do the internet thing, I am too darn chintzy to pay that much. I have done a report, and like much that I write it is garrolous and long, so I am going to send the report for the first couple of days, and it is too darn long too, but if you don't want to read it, just take a nap naturally somewhere.

Cruise Journal.May 24, 2009
This really has to begin Sunday morning when Alex rousted us out of bed to leave for Seattle to take the ship from Pier 91. We had all our stuff packed with a little left over (from our Shopping tours of discount stores etc in Vancouver and Portland) so I asked Alex to lend us a little black duffle bag that he had recently purchase. He agreed, and we finished the packing, ready to go. Alex helped us load the baggage into the car and away we went. We stopped once at a McDonalds for a 1.00 large coke and a snack and were in Seattle in plenty of time. We were to be there for loading at !:00 and we were half an hour early. We dumped the baggage out of the car and began to attach baggage labels. I asked him to go the front of the line to pick up a baggage label since we had only been given four and we had five bags.

“What do you mean?”, he asked, “We only have four bags.” I froze. I knew that with his duffel we had five, so I insisted on looking back in the car for a fifth bag. He was right, and the bag that was missing, probably still sitting beside the bed in Vancouver was my “carry on”. It contained all of my spare underwear, my socks, all my shirts but one, and a pair of black shoes that I had included for the “formal night” on board to go with my tux. I instantly foresaw and long stinky trip. When we unpacked I foresaw, as well, a less than healthy trip as well since I couldn’t find the “Saturday to Sunday” divided box that contains my medications. When one is seventy plus years old and the co-payments on my monthly prescriptions exceed one hundred and fifty dollars every month, that means that lots of meds are missing, heart meds, arthritis meds, neuropathy meds, and a few like C Q 10, alpha lipoic acid, vitamins of all sorts that can be categorized as hypochondriac meds..

In spite of my baggage concerns the entry into the ship was pleasant and easy. Alex had picked up a three wheel walker at a yard sale or Goodwill the day before we left and it proved to be a life saver. The first and most obvious reason was that it helped people to know that we had some special needs so we didn’t have to wait in a lot of lines. The second reason was that Janet was actually feeling rather shaky, and was frequently in a lot of pain. Another reason that our entry was rather painless was that I had actually filled out and filed, on line, all of the complicated entry papers that provided me an “instant entry” form. We got on board and Alex called to see if he could bring back some shirts or something,, but it was clear that no one was getting on board temporarily so he gave up, called me a couple more times and made his way home. We found that we had been upgraded so we went from deck four behind the life boats to deck six with our own little balcony.. It is really pleasant with a wonderful view and nice fresh air if you can put on enough layers to go sit outside and watch the sea go by.

They didn’t have our room made up when we boarded, so we went up to the Lido room and had lunch until they called us. While we were sitting there I suddenly panicked realizing that all of our bags were labeled 4065G, and we were up in 6016, so I purely wore the folks in “hospitality” our until, about six o’clock that evening when we were well out to sea a steward came to the door with three of the bags. Of course the one that was missing was the little duffle bag that we had inadvertently substituted for my socks, underwear and meds. It took another hour before they found that, and it was then that I discovered that I also didn’t have the black shoes to go with my tux, or the cufflinks and studs for my dress shirt, or my cummerbund. Oh well, formal night isn’t till tomorrow, and I will probably do that in stinky underwear. We finished up the evening going to the Vista Room for dinner. It was really lovely. We shared the table with someone we didn’t know, a nice lady from Virginia, visited a lot, and I had a wonderful fruit appetizer served in a goblet, and almond crusted salmon followed by a lovely strawberry short cake, while Jan had a baby spinach and arugala salad, a wonderful piece of prime rib with baked potato with a dessert of chocolate mousse. When it was over we both remarked that it was a mistake not to have taken pictures of our plates, salads, desserts etc. Since Eric has come to spend a lot of time at our house, we have begun to watch the Food Channel and are now more aware of the value of “presentation”. We went to bed early and slept for twelve hours.

May 25

The next morning we began one of the nicest days of my life. We started the day with breakfast at the Lido. We had eggs benedict Italian (Italian because Jan has a very low opinion of mayonnaise), a bowl of delicious fresh fruit, and a bowl of soft chocolate vanilla ice-cream with a cookie. We then went off to the Vista Lounge to listen to a lecture about where to go and what to do on shore adventures.

It was not great. It turned out to be a sales pitch for Juneau businesses, paid tours, and discounts at particular stores that was delivered with an enthusiasm that put most television commercials to shame. It reminded me of the old medicine shows as they were portrayed in the movies of my youth. It was entertaining enough that we sat through the whole thing, but not informative enough that we remembered much that was said. I went to rent a pair of black shoes to go with our “formal dinner” that night, and we spent some time wandering through the art museum in preparation for the art auction that evening.

We had lunch at the Vista where we were seated next to a large window at the stern of the ship where we looked out on the wake of the ship and over the ocean. It was very beautiful. We shared a table with a couple from Wisconsin (or Minnesota, my brain didn’t sort out the states well), and two ladies who were taking an excursion without their husbands. (I think they were sisters, but I’m not sure.). I can’t remember what we had for lunch except that I finished with a piece of strawberry cheesecake, but it was delicious. The sommelier was a bit miffed that no one was having wine, but he smiled, even as he sniffed a bit while collecting our wine glasses.

After lunch we walked back to the Vista lounge (a nice theatre with balconies and a good stage), pausing on our way to listen for a few minutes to Adagio, an excellent string quartet, who played to an appreciative audience, some of whom were seated in their little concert lounge and some of which, like us, were standing in the hall, leaning over the rail. We were on our way to listen to a young native man who gave an excellent and informative illustrated lecture on the Huna culture, the early life style and current status. I loved one line (actually many, but this is the one I remember) “You people,” he said, “look out and see a seal on a rock and think ‘Isn’t he cute’ while I look out at the same seal and think, ‘Won’t he be delicious? Yum.’” He told some of the mythic tales of his village and they were very moving. It was an excellent experience.

We then went back to our stateroom to get gussied up for the formal dinner. Janet looked so beautiful I teared up a little. She is always beautiful but she looked so lovely in her black gown with the diamond necklace that I had brought her from Turkey, and she was so excited. It was wonderful. I, in dressing, discovered that I had also left my suspenders in Vancouver, but fortunately or unfortunately my waist was large enough that my pants stayed up unsuspended, and the coat covered my lack of a cummerbund quite well. I think we looked quite regal, my cane and Jan’s walker notwithstanding, as we walked back to the Vista Restaurant for dinner. We walked past the stacked and collected art works set out in preparation for the Art Auction and Janet commented about a particularly beautiful painting of flowers, run rampant, that she would like to be able to buy. We walked on down the hall and ran into a photographer who pulled us into place, dumped the walker and cane (and our glasses) and posed us in a series of romantic poses then shipped us away. I am sure that the time will come when they will want to sell us these pictures, but they didn’t even take our name or stateroom number which, for some reason, makes me a little nervous. Soon we arrived at the Vista Restaurant and were seated for dinner. On this evening we were seated with six others. Two couples who were traveling together and a third who were strangers to us all.

It turned out to be a wonderful experience. We had things in common with everyone, and the conversation was interesting, witty and friendly. I wish I still had a memory so that I could remember some of what we discussed. Being two months short of seventy five with a memory like a sieve has it’s disadvantages, I do remember the food.(which says something about my mental priorities.) All but one of us had shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. There were four or five enormous prawns hanging over the edge of a goblet looking for all the word like swimmers making a unison dive. Several of the party had salads as well, and everyone but Janet had a form of “Surf and Turf” with a very nice filet minon, several large grilled prawns, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. Janet was the single exception with a chicken breast and large prawns. We decimated some of the shrimp populations of the area. The shrimp were delicious, not quite as fresh as those we buy in Brooklet, fresh out of the sea, but fresh, tender and gigantic all the same. We had almost all made the same choices for appetizer and entre, but the desserts were all different and all luscious. One of the couples who were on their fourth or fifth Alaskan cruise talked about spending the afternoon listening to a band called Jenny and the HAL cats (HAL for Holland American lines) and that they were good to dance to. Hardly in condition to dance with Jan’s walker and my cane, we went down to the venue where they were playing (can you guess that I can’t remember the name) and listened for awhile, then, taking our balance in our hands we danced one of the numbers. I hope Jan enjoyed it as much as I, though we hardly did much more than stand cheek to cheek and rock back and forth in time, but I was so happy I was almost in tears. We couldn’t quite finish the number, so we sat, listened to the end and to another couple of songs and then went on our way. We got to the Art Auction too late to register for a number, but we sat in for awhile. Janet got really frustrated that she was unable to bid, so we left early. She muttered for quite awhile about the picture of flowers that she had wanted to bid on, but considering the prices that were going when we left, if she had been able to bid, we might have had to sell a couple of children and the house to get the picture (Actually, I asked around and it only sold for four or five thousand. Whew!!)
Our next destination was the “Big Show”. We stood in line to get into the Vista Lounge, and I couldn’t help but think that Formal Night on the tour brings out some of the most beautiful and some of the least flattering dresses ever made. They are interesting though, and the wearers always enjoy themselves so much.

The ship has a company of singers and dancers who were to perform scenes (set to music) from around the world. The singers and dancers were polished and showed great energy but they were all so “miked” in the MTV manner, that the music did not even sound stereophonic. I find myself frustrated that the electronic gimmickry of much modern music performance encourages singers to ignore the fact that the music has lyrics which have meaning, but current styles and electronics lead, in my opinion, to a sort of musical pyrotechnics in which glissando and crescendo are featured over meaning and solo vocal gymnastics are more important than the song. (Granted a lot of music is written for this effect, but most of this performance was made up of songs from various countries, and the scenery was a great revolve with windows through which much peering was done to pretend that there was an emotional context).

Having said that, the dancing, though the choreography was often unfocussed, was excellent, The Can Can numbers were a little more than traditional and this was one time when the performer’s skills were worth receiving the focus. I noted that one of the very best dancers was quite a bit larger than the others (shades of 1950’s movie musicals) but that she was featured in several numbers. So often, talent that is “a different size”, if it gets the job at all, is frequently slipped to the corners or back line in this day and time, but this young lady was not only often featured, but stole moments of the show. In one of the opening scenes a young ballerina also got my attention with some wonderful toe work, (coming back later and dancing very well in all the different styles.)
The Irish scene, though the vocal work was sometime histrionic rather than having the purity that make Irish music so popular over generations was excellent in spite of some really grotesque costumes on the women. Overall it was what one might expect from a competent revue at a Theme park. One scene, from which country I can’t remember had the ladies in knee length skin tight grey body suits with patterns on the legs and red boas wrapped around the waist, with a dangling boa tail (large) that seemed to shift positions. For that costume the dancers should, en masse, surround the costume designer and flail him or her (no programs) with wet spaggetti. A very talented young group though, and I found myself applauding enthusiastically at performance work that was hindered by technical foofera and affectation in the blocking. (I would have given anything to get to the sound board and cut down the gain a little)

It was building to what I though might be a very nice climax, but Janet by then was in a lot of physical pain and we had to leave about five minutes before the end.

I am being critical of the performance because I spent nearly fifty years as a performer, director and teacher, and I can’t help being critical. (There was time when Janet would not sit by me in any play because I would be taking notes) but it still was the conclusion to one of the most beautiful days of my life. We sat, with her curled up against my arm, and in a way, I was melting. This day, the first full day of the trip, was by itself worth the price of the purchase. (It was after all the planned big celebration of our Golden Wedding Anniversary, even if, by doctor’s orders, it was two years after the date.)