Thoughts, Musings, and the Occassional Bit of Wisdom

North to Alaska!

I started writing this post onboard the Holland America Line MS Zuiderdam as Linda, her sister Debbie (who had her own cabin BTW), and I sailed the inside passage between Vancouver Island, British Columbia and the mainland of BC en-route to Glacier Bay, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, Alaska before returning to Vancouver.

At anchor using tenders to get to the dock in Juneau

At anchor using tenders to get to the dock in Juneau

Linda and I started cruising in 1985 and I confess I was a reluctant participant in our first cruise. What was I going to do for 14 days on-board a cruise ship? I had a great time and Linda thought she might have to call security to get me off the ship.

That particular cruise was magical. It was a Holiday cruise where we spent Christmas, New Years and our anniversary on-board.

This isn’t an exaggeration; I came off the cruise a changed person. I never had a vacation that was so relaxing and mind clearing. I was in a very stressful job situation at the time having recently participated in the startup of a technology company. I was in dire need of a break.

Since that first cruise we have now accumulated about 200 days on various cruise lines.

Being on a cruise ship is an interesting experience. The people are as varied as the ship and the itineraries they sail. It has been said that each ship has a personality and we’ve found this to be very true. The Captain and crew set the tone of the ship. Like any large organization, if you get a bad leader you usually have issues with the staff and the feel of the organization. We’ve seen the tone of a ship change the day after a new Captain comes on board. In one case, the tone was very regimented and the ship had a sense of being “uptight”. We had a change of Captains and the crew loosened up considerably. There were more smiles, more laughs, and the Captain made a point of thanking the crew for their efforts. This was in stark contrast to the first Captain.

The physical ship itself also has a feel to it. Some of this is the décor. Interior designers are paid big bucks to have the ship convey a certain image. Sometimes the image they convey is not to my liking.

Additionally, the ship itself has a definite feel. We’ve been on ships that had such a pronounced vibration we had trouble sleeping. Other ships had strange noises that we couldn’t figure out. We’ve even had crew on one ship tell us that the entire ship had a strange feel to it and these are people that sail on the same ship for up to a year. You can trust their instincts.

A cruise provides a microcosm of the world we live in. Sometimes this microcosm is very specific. We’ve been on cruises where we appeared to be the youngest on the cruise and we were in our 40’s and 50’s. One cruise had me convinced that an entire senior’s village had been displaced but that certainly doesn’t mean it was bad. We had a great time.

This Alaska cruise was far more diverse. We had a mix of cruisers including mothers to be, families of all ages, the physically challenged, and of course, seniors.

At breakfast one morning, I watched a family of five consisting of what appeared to be two teenagers, a boy and a girl, and a younger girl who appeared to be about 11 or 12. They were all smiles and appeared to be a very loving family. Dad unconsciously I’m sure, gave his youngest daughter a pat on the shoulder as he was heading to the buffet lineup. Dad caught the son trying to steal a piece of bacon from the youngest sister’s plate while she was getting something else to eat. A pretty typical sibling action I’d say. Dad told him to leave her food alone.

I saw a man arrive for breakfast with a backpack strapped to his shoulders that I’m sure would have held enough supplies for a two-day trek. Why he found it necessary to bring something of that size to breakfast is beyond me. We weren’t even getting off the ship that day so it certainly wasn’t forward planning.

One of the breakfast buffet staff had to move a guest’s power scooter out of the way. Here he was with a big smile on his face, driving past his buddies and taking the long way to where he needed to store it. He was having a great time.

It truly amazes me how people forget a simple “please” and “thank you” when interacting with the ship’s crew. These people work harder than most of us ever do in our lifetime and they do it for what we would consider inadequate wages. Yet, I’ve seen cruise passengers treat them like “the help” being brisk to the point of rudeness and taking them to task for what I would normally consider to be a minor issue. Linda and I have always gone out of our way to acknowledge their efforts and appreciate their work. This has been returned to us many fold during our cruising years. We get smiles and warm conversation plus we get to know a bit about them and their families. They in turn remember us, what we like to eat and drink, and greet us warmly whenever they see us. It makes you feel good. 




0 Comments on “North to Alaska!

  1. Audrey
    August 1, 2013

    So glad you’re writing again, Nelson! Can’t wait for part 2….

  2. ramblingsfromamum
    August 1, 2013

    Oh Nelson. Thank you for the post and wait for the continuation. With the noises..perhaps it is the ghosts that still linger..ok I shall not be morbid. You made me laugh about the displaced senior village, many ‘older people’ take cruises but also as you say there are the families and the young ones. So do tell, what decor was it and why didn’t you like it? I think fortunately as we are ‘old school’ we are abhorred by the lack of manners which to us is common occurrence. I haven’t been on a cruise (it really doesn’t rock my boat) pardon the pun. I can’t put it down till I have tried. Those who vacation and think that staff are there at their beckoned calling would be irritating, I am glad that Linda and yourself are not one of ‘those’ people. Those that feel they are belittling themselves for having to say a please or thank you to anyone… well what can we say for they have ignorance and are ill mannered. Off my soap box again 🙂 x

    • Nelson - One Old Sage
      August 2, 2013

      Nice to see your comments. Regarding decor, it’s difficult to explain. We’ve been on so many ships that they soon start to run one into the other but I’m not one for garish decor and some designers go overboard. The ships I like best have a tone of understated elegance. I really like the decor on some of Holland America’s newer ships like the Eurodam and Niew Amsterdam. Oceania Cruises Marina and Riviera are also two other favorites.

  3. Blake Wickland
    August 2, 2013

    Looking forward to “the rest of the story”

  4. Knot Telling
    August 3, 2013

    Please, sir, may I have some more? 🙂

  5. Lynette d'Arty-Cross
    August 6, 2013

    I’m catching up and reading your posts backward but a great read, Nelson! Love your posts. 🙂

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