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Old July 14th, 2006, 05:28 PM
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Default Just back from Alaska Part 6

In the last chapter Lesley and I had just entered our stateroom after a smoother than silk embarkation. This was our first time on a cruise ship of any kind but during my indepth research for the trip I had managed to find many photos of Sapphire including one of our cabin. Nevertheless, I backed into our room in an attempt to surprise myself. Lesley said "Wow" and I asked "Is it nice. Is it nice?" I turned around and it was exactly as I had seen pictured. In other words, it was very nice. We had decided to splurge on a mini-suite and it did not disappoint. In addition to the queen size bed with adjoining desk, there was a sitting area with a couch that folds out to a bed, a table, additional chairs, an additional TV, (although other than checking the Red Sox results on ESPN neither was ever watched) and best of all a nice big balcony. I had seen the standard stateroom with balcony but it seemed a little tight were you to try to squeeze in more than two people. The mini-suite balcony could accomodate six people fairly comfortably, which is exactly what we did in Glacier Bay with new found friends we had met on the land portion of the trip. Oh, I almost forgot another amenity of the mini-suite. It had a bathtub. We did not take baths during the cruise but compared to the description of the restrictive showers found in some cabins, it seems we were able to luxuriate a bit. I must admit here that the first time I flushed the toilet I nearly lept out my skin. I was not at all prepared for that resounding WHOOOSH and in fact I kept forgetting and subsequent flushes sent me jumping time and again.

Our luggagge had not arrived yet so we set out to explore the ship. We went to the Lido deck first, it being another beautiful day and I beelined to the bar for a refreshing adult libation. The prices of drinks and beer onboard were quite reasonable. Lesley and I are from Boston and found that beverages were less expensive than back home. A mixed drink was about $5 including gratuity but all were made with top shelf liquor. Nothing but a sea of Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, Cuervo 1800, Johnny Walker etc...

We wondered about the top decks, trying to find the most secluded sections where we might enjoy some solitude later in the cruise. Two hot tubs aft, underneath the Skywalker lounge looked promising. Next it was on to the restaurants where we toured and admired the decor, planning possible dining scenarios as we went. There are a number of various lounges onboard but are favorite at first sight was the Wheelhouse. Dark, earthtoned, plush leather chairs and sofas. Cherrywood paneling, (I think) and cherry tables with beautiful green shaded lamps. Were I ever to become a gentleman of leisure I imagine having a den similar to the Wheelhouse where I would retire each evening in my smoking jacket and enjoy some fine cognac while watching the crackling fire. The entertainent at the Wheelhouse was to our taste as well with jazz trios performing and a singer partial to Tony Bennett standards.

The main atrium was lovely with long flowing marble staircases and glass elevators. There was a seating area for a string quartet that would perform each afternoon. Many times I saw passengers sitting on nearby sofas, quietly reveling in the beautiful music wafting overhead. All the common areas were quite pretty including the elevator banks and stairways on each deck.

That evening we went to dinner at Vivaldis. We had opted for anytime dining and found it worked best for us. Lesley and I are for the most part late diners anyways so walking up to any maitre'd around 7:30 would usually result in just a short wait. At this first meal the waitstaff was pushing the bottled water but after a 'No thank you' they relented. In fact, by the third day the shilling of any product was rare. As we began our meal I suddenly noticed the dining room had gone fairly quiet. I looked about and discovered we were about the only ones there now. A moment later the mystery was solved. Over the intercom came the announcement that the muster drill would commence in 15 minutes. Apparently, Lesley and I were among the ignorant handful who were unaware of the drill's timing. Baffled, we looked to our waiter for guidance. He waved a dismissive hand and said "Eat your dinner. You can go to the other drill." We were not aware there even was another drill but unwilling to be in the 'Summer school session muster drill' we opted to wolf our dinners, return to our cabin and retrieve our life jackets. On the stairs up we met many coming down. An official said, "You don't need your vests. Just get to your station." We turned about and got to our station where we were told by another official, "I'm sorry folks, but you will need your life vests for this exercise." Off we go again up the stairs, this time meeting an even thicker throng descending. As we struggled against this human tide we felt a little bit like Alaskan Sockeyed Salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

After the drill we ordered a beer and wine package through room service and upon its arrival retired to our balcony for our first ever 'Cruise Relaxation Period'. It had been another wonderful day and so much had transpired it seemed two days rolled into one. The midnight sun caused us to lose track of time once again but around midnight we forced ourselves to bed. Early the following morning we were to be sailing into College Fjord and I did not want to miss even a minute.
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