How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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North to Alaska: Snooping Around

We arrived late for lunch with no idea the buffet would be closing soon. No one blocking the food, I managed to take these pictures of various stations.

The buffet servers work eight months on the ship and return home for the remaining four.

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A boom-boom disturbance overhead disrupted after lunch coffee. No other patrons seemed worried or appeared to pay attention. A couple noticed my bewilderment and the man explained there was a basketball court overhead.

“You’re not pulling my leg?” Mary asked.

“I’ll bet my lunch that’s the sound of a bouncing basketball.”

Mary giggled. “You’ve no lunch to bet.”

The sun struggled to brighten the day but dark clouds had other ideas, thrusting it into the background. Huddled in our jacket collars, we jogged a couple laps around the promenade deck after lunch—three and a half laps = 1 mile. A biting wind forced us back inside. Had the weather cooperated, we would have logged a few miles more. We passed a few pairs of walkers, a meditating woman on a blanket (b-r-r), and another one practicing yoga. Three men in white overalls painted the outside deck walls. Phew. I gagged on the fumes, though we were outside. I wondered why none wore masks against the toxic vapors. Seems Health and Safety rules do not apply to painting with nautical paint. Or is this a non-issue since all the workers are from poor countries and nobody cares? Shame. Shame.

I had my heart set on a generous feed of fish and shrimp, but we were late arriving. The buffet had run out. More arrived after we’d finished a fish dinner and Mary scooped up a half dozen to share. I’ve only had shrimp that huge once when I purchased them for a New Year’s Eve dinner party years ago. Thank goodness, I hadn’t invited the neighborhood.

Tummies happy, we searched for advertised entertainment. The Hudson room offered a piano/violin duo and inviting deep chairs but the music didn’t suit our mood—too sedate.

Next, we discovered the duty-free store. A female employee in the jewelry area talked us into sticking around for a free draw in ten minutes. She tore off matching tickets: one for each of us and the twin for the bin. We figured with only a half-dozen participants, we had an excellent chance of winning something. Soon the employee hooked 50 or 60 male and female shoppers and those waiting for the piano bar to open. Ten minutes turned into a half-hour.

What a setup. The person with the winning number had 30 seconds to open as many boxes as they could manage in an effort to extract one containing a jewelry surprise. Soon, a couple of the ‘winners’ asked if there were indeed prizes as the first handful were not lucky. The employee threw the empty boxes back in the bin to encourage deeper digging. What felt like hours later, we left empty-handed and yawning. Six happy winners dispersed to the bar. The lounge singer behind a ¾ wall crooned for some time to clinking glasses and the murmur and hum of energetic conversation.

It had been a long day fighting bitter winds, moody clouds, and noxious paint fumes. The first full day surrounded by nothing but water and food drew to a close. I wished for my pillow to hasten our time of arrival in Juneau the following day.

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Next on April 13th – North to Alaska: Yay!  Juneau Ahead

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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North to Alaska: Chit-chatting Passengers

Soon lazy navy water replaced buildings and civilization in exchange for distant snow-capped mountains and tiny islands. Did I mention deep water?

 In the excitement and knuckle-biting of the day, I had forgotten about food, but it was 5:30 p.m.  I had worked up an appetite. Mary insisted we return to our room to change for dinner. Mouth-watering aromas of food drifted around us. I drooled as we passed a buffet (manned with servers) down to our stateroom. We needed our credit cards out of the safe, anyway, for a celebratory toast to the beginning of our new adventure.

I chose the prime rib for dinner (yum—so-o tender), adding twice-baked potatoes and chopped bok choy, just enough to satisfy my hunger, vowing not to overeat on this cruise. We shall see. Dessert is never on my radar, so no added calories there.

After dinner, we sashayed to a bar passed earlier for a glass of wine. The line of customers seemed endless. When my turn came, I ordered only one glass because the Cabernet on offer was expensive and only four stingy ounces. This was day one after all. The nimble-fingered bartender mixed and poured drinks and wine and served beer without breaking a sweat. He was from the Philippines and worked every day, ten months of the year. The remaining two months, he spent back in his country. I forget how long he had worked on cruise ships. Years, of that I am certain. Though he had an accent, his English was excellent.

We grabbed a bistro-type table with four empty chairs overlooking the water. A woman with a distinct accent asked for one of the extras. Soon we struck up a conversation with her and her husband. She said the Alaska cruise had been on her wish list for a long time and was a popular destination for Australians. I had a private giggle as half her country people were already on our ship. Glenda was about my age with a cap of silver hair, a sparkle in her blue eyes, and an unlined face. She was as chirpy as her appearance was youthful. And she loved to talk. Her husband, Max, reminded me of Lyndon B. Johnson—remember that president? Max was her opposite, quiet and pensive but engaging when the subject interested him.

Within minutes, another couple they had just met on the ship joined us. They treated each other like long lost friends who had known each other forever. Our talk included Canadian Healthcare versus the U.S. system. We learned Australian healthcare is similar to ours (Canadian). We also talked about unions, work, and workers. Mary and I talked up the men, but Glenda and the other man’s wife took a step back, talked between themselves, and did not engage in our conversation. I’ve had previous discussions with a group of husbands and wives where the women faded into the background. Why is that? I cannot recall if I acted the same during my long-ago married life.

Tummys happy and close to 8:00 p.m., Mary and I decided to take it easy for the rest of the evening. Nothing much on TV, we read and managed to stay up late (11:40 p.m.). Relaxed as a nodding kitten, I’m sure I snored before my head hit the pillow. The ship gets no kudos for rocking me to sleep. The credit is all mine—I think.

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Next on March 30th – North to Alaska:  First Day onboard

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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North to Alaska: All Aboard

My heart dancing the Watusi, I took in nothing of my surrounding as we boarded the cruise ship, MS Volendam. We were already in the system as it was mandatory to complete an online registration no less than a week prior and up to 50 days before departure. Doing so also opened an onboard account to which all extras (drinks, purchases, internet etc.) excluded from the cruise price were billed to our (registered) credit card.

From the time we arrived at the port, continued through processing, and arrived in our stateroom, an hour and a half had passed. I’ve no recollection how we found our cabin. Our ocean-view room troubled us due to noisy people passing by and conversing on the deck outside the window. Mary closed the drapes as we thought they could look inside but as it turned out, they could not. Feeling exposed, we kept them closed throughout the cruise.

Mary’s bag arrived at 1:47 about 17 minutes after arriving in our room. I asked our stateroom attendant, Dan, “Where the heck is mine?”

“Maybe tomorrow,” Dan said, “if not today.” He was a reedy Pilipino in a signature Volendam jacket, mischief in his eyes, crooked teeth center stage. He had a bit of an accent but his English was excellent as was his partner’s, James.

We cut expenses where we could

We decided to explore and ended up on the lido deck for a snack. Upon our return, my luggage still had not arrived. We asked the young attendant outside our door what might be taking so long.

“Maybe they found liquor inside.”

What? The cruise line allowed one bottle of wine per passenger (only wine) with a warning of confiscation if more. Just my luck. I prepared for such a drama.

An announcement over the PA system suggested attendance to a Safety Meeting. A couple we met on the lido deck said we sign in with our room key. If our information isn’t registered at the meeting, they come to get you. Some suggestion. We moseyed to Station 8 Muster Station for the presentation shy of 4:00 p.m. Large groups gathered at various stations we could see all along the length of the ship. I worried about so many people on one side at once. The day was dull and dry but it was chilly and I wanted the meeting to finish.

People in large groups act like children. They act as if rules do not apply to them. Some kept talking during the demonstration and we couldn’t hear the woman speaker. “Be quiet!” The talkers were warned, not once but twice, before they zipped their lips.

We returned to our room afterward and I could not believe my bag had finally arrived. The lock had not been broken; I checked inside. Both bottles hid in the folds of clothes in their bubble wrap cocoons, dry and in one piece.

Around 5:00 o’clock, a gentle murmur underfoot—a light vibration no more than a whisper—signaled we were underway. Mary and I watched from inside the eighth-floor deck as the ship skimmed over the shimmering, glass-smooth water, soundless as a ghost ship. We eased toward the underside of the Lions Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, barely disturbing the surface.

We sliced through the water barely disturbing the surface, shown bottom left of photo

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Next on March 23rd – North to Alaska: Chit-chatting Passengers

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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North to Alaska: Where’s the Easy Button?

A garbled voice announced boarding a half-hour later. Flying time expected: four hours and 28 minutes at 40,000 feet with a few bumps along the way. We had three flight attendants for our 113-seat Boeing 737.

Had I glanced back, I’d have been dumbfounded how few passengers followed. Heads bent forward and shoulders raised, Mary and I scuttled across the tarmac. The weather was cold, the sky overcast, and the air damp. The two-level approach to the plane was longer than the distance from the building to the bottom of the walkway.

                                                  Transporting a two-level boarding bridge on the left

Airlines overbook, don’t they? We noted many empty seats, only 37 occupied, which meant seventy-six stood empty. How often does this happen? “If there are only two people on board, we will still fly,” the flight attendant said to Mary’s inquiry. This airline must be making good money ‘cause they’re still in business. This brings to mind a news story of the opposite happening and a man was removed from a flight to accommodate a crewmember. This is not allowed in Canada.

We enjoyed complimentary satellite TV, movies, and drinks, but the water for tea hadn’t been boiled. Yuck. Is it ever? I know the difference and couldn’t finish it. We ordered no bland, over-priced airplane food as I packed fruit and sandwiches from home. Tired, I managed to kill a couple hours dozing but felt I hadn’t closed my eyes at all: they burned, I felt light-headed and punch-drunk. Promising myself I wouldn’t, when nature called I gave in to visiting the loo though I avoid airplane bathrooms with a passion. People have nasty habits. Why do they leave a mess like children in public facilities?

Always a relief to arrive safe, our touch down on Mother Earth was quiet and uneventful, likely due to the absence of passengers. We deplaned fine but baggage claim proved nerve-wracking. No flight and carousel numbers posted for long minutes. After a couple walkarounds to all three carousels, the first one showed our flight. Last one on, first one out. The luggage soon pounced through the chute lickety-split. Let the adventure begin.

 As females will, we found the Ladies and rushed through Arrivals with our bags. Sunglasses-and-light-jackets weather, a cool breeze greeted us outside the airport. A clear view due to few cars parked at the curb, Mary said, “I wonder where Jean is.” Pacing after the cramped sit, Jean and Michael arrived about ten minutes later. Tight hugs and hurried catch-ups, Jean’s hubby loaded the luggage into the van.

As previously arranged, we had other plans and did not head for their house. By prior arrangement, Belcarra Regional Park beckoned instead. The clock read approximately 8:45 a.m. Vancouver time—three hours behind Ontario.

Had we left from Jean and Michael’s house, our destination would have taken less time. If a road or bridge traversed the water, we’d have made it in minutes, but Michael had to arc a long way around from the airport. As he drove, Jean, prepared as ever, surprised us with mouth-watering Greek mini pocketless pita sandwiches. Mary and I grinned. I can’t recall the delectable fillings snuggled between the slices, but I devoured the treats like a little-used Hoover put to work. Michael suggested a coffee stop but we passed. Good thing, too, because we arrived late for the appointed time as had a number of others joining us.

The park covers a vast area with a number of trails and parking areas. It took a couple of misses before we found the right carpark and picnic area. Turned out we weren’t the last to arrive. Someone pronounced everyone present and Jon arranged a digital remembrance of the moment.

                                                                  Belcarra selfie ©Jon Nightingale

One trail, considered moderate, stretched (was not circular) 5.5 kilometer forward and back and another one, an additional 5.2 km. A democratic group. You could do one or both. Hadn’t Mary and I just flown four and a half hours from Ontario? The hike sounded fun a month ago when we planned it. Was joining this group a bizarre idea?

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Next on February 16: North to Alaska: A-Hiking We Will Go

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles