After years of talking about it, we finally took our first cruise! These are some of our impressions about the experience.
On Saturday we went through the check-in process and boarded the ship - a 951 foot beauty called Golden Princess. We were joined by Teddie's brother, Bill, and his wife,
staterooms were adjoining, and each had a small balcony. It took Bill only minutes to figure out how to open the partition between his balcony and ours. The rooms were clean and adequate, and we felt very comfortable from the start. (Click here for a virtual view of a similar room). We eventually went to the bar at the stern and enjoyed the largest Margarita I've ever seen, while watching the people down on the dock prepare for departure. An hour or so later they cast off, did the slowest turn I've ever seen in the harbor, and steamed out of Puget Sound, down the Strait of Juan De Fuca. As the sun was starting to set we saw Sequim go by on our Port side.
The next day and a half was a period of adjustment. After we left the Strait, we were engulfed in fog which stayed with us for the next day and a half. Visibility was only about 200' and, were it not for checking my gps occasionally, we could be going in circles for all I knew. During this time we tried to get to know the ship a little better and I discovered that I was usually lost on all three axis - I couldn't tell Port from Starboard, didn't know if the dining halls were above or below us, and was never sure which way the front and back of the ship was. It was a big help when Teddie discovered the Port hallway carpet had pink stripes on it, while the Starboard carpet had green. We still had to stop and think about which way was fore and aft, but at least it gave us a starting point to figure things out from.
The first night we had dinner in the dining room, but soon discovered that we preferred the flexibility and casualness of the buffet line on the 14th floor, so that was where we had the rest of our meals. Teddie ordered room-service breakfast a couple of times and seemed to enjoy that a lot. But other than exploring the boat, there wasn't much to do but browse around the shops and eat. For two days I felt like I was trapped in the food court at the mall.
Eventually the fog cleared and we pulled into Juneau - a town which seems to have more jewelry stores, per-capita, than any other place I've seen. I spent about an hour poking around town, bought the obligatory t-shirt with "ALASKA" embroidered on the front, and then returned to the boat, where they took my pocket knife away from me when I boarded (they somehow missed it in Seattle). It seems that huge, razor-sharp Alaskan Ulu's are permitted, but small locking-blade pocket knives are not. "Company policy", the Security guy explained with a shrug, and told me that I could get it back when I left the ship in Seattle.
We went to sleep in Juneau, and magically awoke the next morning in Skagway. I never felt the ship move nor heard the engine start - these ships are that smooth! Skagway was much like Juneau in that every other store was a jewelry store. Here we boarded a bus which took us over White Pass where we boarded a narrow-gauge train for the return trip to Skagway. It was a nice side trip and a fun day. Frankly, it felt good to be off the boat and on dry land for the day.
Leaving Skagway, we headed south for Tracy Glacier, only to have the crew discover that the navigation buoy was missing. So instead, we headed up Endicott inlet to look at the glacier there. Eventually we saw the glacier at the end of the inlet, but could not get close to it, as the inlet was too narrow to turn around in up there. We then turned around where we were, left the inlet, and continued south to Ketchikan.
Although Ketchikan is no slacker when it comes to jewelry stores, I found that it did have a lot of other interesting stores to visit. There were several large Sporting Goods stores, and even the tourist stores seemed to have good prices. I enjoyed walking around here much more than the previous stops, and wound up buying a half dozen little souveniers. Eventually we left Ketchikan and began our day and a half sail to Victoria, during which we spent a lot of time hanging around our stateroom. I found myself wondering if prison cells were about this size. Arriving in Victoria, we found the long lines to exit the ship were not to our liking, so we stayed on board that evening (we’ve been to Victoria before). We would remain at port in Victoria for only a couple of hours before casting off and sailing back to Seattle during the night.
Disembarking in Seattle was a fairly simple process. As we exited the ship and put our cruise cards into the machine, mine made a different noise and the Security Guard came over to tell me that my pocketknife was available for pickup at the exit ramp. We wheeled our bags down the ramp, quickly passed through Customs (hold your passport open to the picture page), and were soon in the parking lot where my pickup had been waiting for us.
I guess the big question now is - would I take another cruise? At this point I have no good answers. There was a lot we enjoyed about the cruise, and I'm glad we did it, but I also found it difficult to relax and felt a bit trapped on the boat. I have a need to be busy and had difficulty sitting down and reading for long spells of time. Certainly if I did another cruise, I would bring along a project or two to while away the time between ports (that wooden ship model on my shelf would be appropriate, I think). They have lots of activities on board, but most were not of my liking (line-dancing, gambling in a smoky casino, bingo, etc.). They didn't even have the shuffle-board that I thought all ships were required to install. Maybe if they brought back skeet-shooting off the stern I would be more enthusiastic. Teddie enjoyed not having to fix meals, but we both became concerned about putting on too much weight. I missed puttering around the house and hangar, and I especially missed my two little poodle girls. The cruise was fun, but now it’s good to be home.