May 2008 RSSC Mariner


Not on the ship yet, but we’ve made it to Vancouver. We got up bright and early today, and were packed and ready for the cab in plenty of time (the cats recognized the suitcases and were sulking, though our Sweet Orange Boy did come and curl up on Lis’ chest while we sat waiting for the cab). The cab took us to Portland’s Union Station, where we were to catch the Amtrak Cascade to Seattle, and then change to a motor coach for the remainder of the journey to Vancouver. Union Station is a lovely little station – it dates to around 1910 or so, and has been preserved in pretty much its original form. I loved starting my journey there.

The train ride between Portland and Seattle is very pretty. From Portland to Olympia there aren’t that many sweeping views, but you’re surrounded by lush green foliage and pastoral scenes. Then, somewhere past Olympia, the view opens up on Puget Sound, and you travel along on the edge of the Sound all the way to Tacoma – very beautiful. From Tacoma to Seattle it was inland, and there were a few bleak, broken down urban scenes as we got closer to Seattle, but I was listening to Gillian Welch through this part, so it worked pretty well.

Seattle’s King Street Station looks like it was once also a lovely station, but it suffered some “urban renewal” in the 60’s, and is much the worse for it – drab dropped ceiling obscuring a beautifully worked ceiling, dull walling obscuring marble walls, etc. It’s hard to believe that anyone could have thought that was a good idea. They’re trying to restore it, but it’s slow going – it doesn’t look any different than it did when we were there a year or two ago.

Once we transferred from the train to the motor coach, things deteriorated rapidly. There was a very loud woman on the bus, who first had a serious of loud cell phone conversations, and then a loud, sustained conversation with her seat mates. And in addition to volume, she had few boundaries. Here’s what we know about her:

  • Her father has a restraining order against him (“don’t contact her – you need to keep yourself safe”)
  • She recently ended a nine year relationship (“I raised his children”)
  • She’s returning from a trip that included a business conference and a 3-day wedding (“I met the most amazing people at the wedding”)
  • She’s traveling to Greece soon
  • She’s a psychologist

At a certain point, I just put on my headphones and kept them there until the bus stopped. (On a side note, who inflicts a 3-day wedding on friends and loved ones…?)

We decided, since we’re just going to be in town overnight, and we’d be arriving around 6pm, we didn’t want to spend much on a room, and booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express on East Hastings. We had stayed here once before, and found it an adequate place to stay for one-night-before-a-cruise purposes. Its biggest draw is that it’s got a free shuttle that was going to pick us up at the train station today, and take us to the cruiseport tomorrow. However, when we arrived, we found that the shuttle is out of action. The hotel itself is much louder than we remembered. We’ll definitely stay somewhere else next time.

So it’s getting close to bedtime. Tomorrow we board the ship – can’t wait!!

Lis adds: Thank goodness I have earplugs. Also Mary neglected to mention the practically inedible meal we had across the street from the hotel at the “Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese” restaurant. I should have followed my rule to never eat in a restaurant that claims to provide food from three different countries, but I was hungry and hopeful. I will say that the Jr. Whopper I bought across the street at Burger King after dinner felt positively gourmet in comparison. I’m REALLY looking forward to the Mariner.

Links to Vancouver photos and videos from the cruise


We got to the cruise port a little before noon, and were among the first in line to board the ship. As always, the embarkation process was quick and painless, and within no time I was in possession of my Bon Voyage glass of champagne. Lis had accidentally left some of our hotel documentation with the singer who checked us in (more on this in a minute), so she went back out to get it (she didn’t have champagne yet) and I sat and waited at a table just inside the gangway, sipping champagne and people watching, which was quite pleasant. I was right across from the coffee bar (it’s got some official name, but I forget) – a very handsome room. The whole ship is really pretty and very spruced up. When we were on the Navigator in 05, she was very pretty but worn in places – not the Mariner. I’m always surprised by how much prettier ships are in person than the pictures you see on line.

All of the people doing the check in where singers or dancers from the Production Staff, with two or three people from a different dept (guest services?) moving from person to person answering questions and helping with the computer. Our singer, Alicia (an alto, I read later), said that this was their first time doing the check in. I asked if this was a one time thing, or if they were going to be doing this from now on. She said “We’re probably going to being it from now on” and while she was perfectly appropriate and non-whiney, I got the distinct impression that this was a new and not-appreciated development. I longed to ask her more questions about it, but didn’t want to put her on the spot. I wonder if they’re squeezing more work out of the staff to try to make up for rising fuel costs or something…

Anyway, lunch was great, and then we went up to the Observation Lounge (forward on Deck 12) to pass the time until we could get in to our room. We watched seagulls and ships in Burrard Inlet and practiced our Spanish (which we are attempting to learn in preparation for a trip to Mexico that we hope to take soon).

Around 2:30 we were able to go to our room – it’s very lovely, as usual, and the weather had cleared by then to a gorgeous afternoon, so after putting our clothes away we were able to sit on our balcony and read all our cruise documentation (Passages, room service menu, etc) until dinner. At one point I looked up and there was a seal just hanging in the water, watching the tug boats and barges service the ship. I called Lis (she was still putting her stuff away) and we watched him for a bit until he dove down out of sight. We forgot to bring binocs (unforgivable on an Alaska cruise – I blame hormones), so we’re hoping maybe we can pick some up soon.

We dined in the main dining room, and dinner was very good. I loved our waiter so much that I’m going to try to be seated at his table for the rest of the cruise anytime we eat in Compass Rose. Prior to dinner, we talked to the Maitre’d about Lis’ diet – she’s lactose intolerant and hypoglycemic, so can’t have dairy or sugar. He spent all sorts of time with us, getting everything squared away. Regent handles Lis’ diet better than any other line we’ve been on. Every other line tells her what she can’t have, but Regent gives her menus the night before and says “Circle what you want and we’ll make it for you.” Very nice.

After dinner Lis went to the room and got ready for bed (we are 9-o’clock-bedtime girls in general), and I went up on deck to take some pictures of the harbor in twilight. And now it’s time to get ready for bed and read all about VictoriaJ

Links to Victoria photos and videos from the cruise


When we first read the itinerary of this cruise, I was a little disappointed that we were leaving Vancouver so late (around midnight) and arriving in Victoria so early (around 6-7am), because one of my favorite parts of any cruise is sailing into/out of port. As it turned out, though, that by the time we ate dinner and read Passages and perused the next day’s menus and read and settled down, it was after 11:30 pm, and at that point I thought “What the hell” and bundled up and went out on the balcony to watch us leave Vancouver. I had to sit out for about half an hour before we set sail, but it was really cool to watch Stanley Park obscure the lights of Vancouver, and then to sail under a very lit up Lion’s Gate Bridge.

And then this morning, because I had trouble sleeping (I often have trouble sleeping on a cruise – I just get so excited to be at sea), I was up at 6:00 and able to go up on deck and watch the ship come in to Victoria.

We ate breakfast in the Compass Rose, and Lis ordered a couple hard boiled eggs, which arrived soft boiled. We showed the waiters, and they were very apologetic and took the eggs away and said they’d tell the cook they needed to be hard boiled. A few minutes later they brought 2 new eggs, which appeared to be hard boiled, until Lis broke in to the yoke, and found that they were actually kind-of-hard-boiled-but-not-really. The waiters, who were gathered around watching, looked crestfallen, but seemed to recognize that it was time to punt – they put up no resistance when Lis said “How about just a couple scrambled eggs.” As we were leaving, one of them said “I have come up with a solution. I will put the eggs on to boil now, so they will be ready for you tomorrow. ” And when we ran across the same waiter as we were leaving the restaurant at dinner, he said “I’ve got the eggs boiling for you for tomorrow.” He was really very cute. Our sommelier also remembered that Lis did not have any wine with dinner last night, and said “Are you ready for some wine tonight?” I do love RegentJ

Today we took the free shuttle from the ship to the Inner Harbour, then walked into Beacon Hill Park and up to the Children’s Farm, which is one of our favorite places in Victoria. There are peacocks and alpacas and bird houses, and the best-ever petting zoo in the land – tons of goats, mamas and babies, that come nuzzle you and lean against you and chew gently on your shoelaces and purse straps. The goats are very well taken care of, and are feed on a regular schedule, with no feeding allowed by guests – the result being that they are calm and lovable, not demanding and head-butting, like at most petting zoos. (We are connoisseurs of petting zoos – if there’s a petting zoo anywhere near, we’ll be there, jockeying with the kids for position). Last time we were at the Children’s Farm, a baby named Jay curled up in my lap and went to sleep. This time, a baby named Larry spent a good deal of time hanging out with us, and a baby named Carly stood inches from my face and gazed deeply into my eyes while I petted her. (Note from Lis: All the goats have their names on their collars and are also for sale. I had a little fantasy of picking out a baby goat and sneaking her on to the ship for the rest of the cruise.)

After the Children’s Farm, we took a Harbour Taxi to Spinnaker’s Brew Pub (another of our favorite Victoria places) for lunch, and then went to Green Cuisine restaurant (yet another favorite place) for dessert. Then back to the ship, where we tried to make it to the 4:30 trivia, but were late. Then to the Muster Drill (we didn’t have it yesterday because people were boarding so late, because of the late departure), and then to dinner. Lis had a most fabulous steak, and I had the almond crusted halibut, which was also divine. Then back to our room, and sunset on the balcony. A very excellent day. Note from Lis: the sunset from the balcony was AMAZING! I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun set at sea before. It really looked like there was a big old fire pit in the middle of the ocean. I doubt our photos will do it justice. We were a little bit disappointed that we couldn’t get a room on the starboard side of the ship for when we’re sailing past glaciers, but boy that sunset was incredible and we wouldn’t have been able to see it from our balcony if we’d been on the starboard side.

On a technical note, the internet has been somewhat unreliable thus far, and I am apparently not allowed to upload pictures (I tried to include a couple in the post re: Vancouver) – so no photos yet. But we are snapping away, so once we get home, I’ll upload them somewhere (Flickr or PhotoBucket or something) and maybe retroactively add a few pics to these posts (Sadly, no photos of goats – I was too completely involved in the experience to remember to take any pics. But I’ve got some good peacock and baby duckling photos).

Links to Inside Passage photos and videos from the cruise 


This morning we ordered room service, and Lis gamely repeated her hard boiled egg order. We had theorized that for a room service order, where the chef wasn’t worried about the passenger sitting and waiting for their food, they would be able to give the egg the full ten minutes – and we were right; Lis said the eggs were perfect. I had scrambled eggs and bacon, and my breakfast was also very good.

At 9 am we reported to the Constellation Theater to go through US Customs. The customs agent was sitting at a table in front of the stage, illuminated by a single bright spotlight, with the spangled stage curtain sparkling behind him – it was quite impressive. I told him he should have someone take his picture for his desk, and he laughed. It’s funny how much friendlier the US Customs people are as compared to the Canadian Customs folks. I didn’t expect it, based on both the things I’ve read about the experiences that non-US citizens have had at our borders since 9/11, and my own experience of the friendliness of Canadians in general. And maybe this is not a general experience, but the times I’ve gone to Canada, the Canadian customs people are invariably unsmiling and even surly, and the US folks are friendly and affable. Go figure.

At 9:30 we had a seminar to attend, which made us a bit sad, as we love lying about on sea days. It lasted until noon, and was your basic seminar – tolerable at first, and then tedious, and then mind-numbing. But then over.

The schedule said that there was a Friends of Dorothy meeting in the Horizon Lounge at 12:05 pm, which is where we went next (for the uninitiated, Friends of Dorothy is a get together of gay and lesbian passengers – not to be confused with Friends of Bill W, which is an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Though, as one of people we met pointed out, there is probably some overlap…). There were about 16-18 people, including 2 other lesbian couples. Three of the guys are in a Master’s Suite, and they invited us to a cocktail party in their suite on June 2 – we are very excited; we’ve always wanted to see the Master’s Suite in person, plus no one has ever invited us to a cocktail party in their suite on a cruise ship.

Then we were off to lunch, this time in the La Veranda buffet on Deck 11. Because it’s a sea day, there was a fish barbecue on the pool deck, and Lis went and got us some salmon, grouper, mahi mahi and swordfish. The salmon didn’t seem cooked enough, but the rest of the fish was divine. Let me point out here that I am not much of a seafood girl, but I’ve had halibut, smoked salmon and caviar, in addition to the above, so far in this cruise, and I’ve enjoyed everything but the caviar. At lunch a lovely gentleman from Tennessee struck up a conversation with us – we enjoyed him very much, especially his Pat Summit stories. We’ve met some very nice people so far, and have surprised ourselves with our sociability – we can be a bit hermit-ish.

We spent the bulk of the afternoon in our cabin, sitting on the balcony reading or lying in bed practicing our Spanish. While we were lazing away like this, the phone rang, and Lis said “Damn – the bridge tour!” – we had forgotten that we’d signed up. We threw on our appropriate-for-outside-the-cabin clothes (we’d been in sweats) and ran down to the reception area (literally). Then we were taken to the bridge, where a very cute, very funny and well spoken young deck cadet named Larissa showed us around. She was very knowledgeable and very talkative, answered all our questions and told us funny stories – we were there for over an hour and had a great time.

We ate dinner in La Veranda tonight. We enjoyed it, but they seemed to have a harder time handling Lis’ diet, and the steak I ordered wasn’t as good as the one Lis had had last night in Compass Rose. Still, it was very lovely, and Lis said her salmon was very good. Then back to the cabin for the sunset. Everything we’d read said that you should get a starboard cabin for a northbound Alaska cruise, because you see more of the fjords – so we tried, and were disappointed to find ourselves in a port cabin. But I think I might like it better, because we’ve had two glorious sunsets in a row. Plus we sat in the sun this afternoon, which may not be what you want in August but was really nice in May. Lis: sitting in the sun on the balcony this afternoon was my transcendent moment of the day.


Links to Ketchikan photos and videos from cruise 


When we were researching the various ports of call, trying to determine what we would do in each, we found a cool website (that now is less cool, as it seems to charge a fee) listing how many ships were going to be in each port. We saw that we were going to be in Ketchikan along with the Diamond Princess, HAL Westerdam, and NCL Pearl, all giant ships. As we weren’t going to do any sort of excursion that would get us away from the madding crowds, we decided that we would stay on the ship in Ketchikan and pretend it was a sea day. But then, we needed some binoculars, and on embarkation had received a coupon book, and this coupon book said we could get binoculars at the Tongass Traders for 8 bucks – so off we went. It was busy along the waterfront, with all these ships in port, but not terrible. And we loved Tongass Traders. We went upstairs to the sporting goods section for the binoculars, which wasn’t too crowded, and a lovely man named Mike showed us all the binocular choices, and gave us a little tutorial on how to focus and use then. He spent loads of time with us and was very sweet.

I had left my knit cap in the room, and it was a little nippy and my ears were cold (but dry and mostly sunny – we’ve had spectacular weather so far); but, not to worry – there was a coupon for a knit cap with an Alaska logo on it for only 2 bucks. So we made our way to the Alaska souvenir section for the hat. As soon as we entered the souvenir area, we found ourselves crammed cheek by jowl with all the other cruise passengers, and it was a challenge to find the hats, and then another challenge to get close enough to them to grab one. But we managed, and then fled to the hardware section, where it immediately quieted down. There was a huge line at the check out in souvenirs, but no line in hardware, so that’s where we paid for our stuff.

While we were checking out, the lady asked us where we were from. We said Portland, Oregon. She said “You’re kidding! I’m from Portland! Southeast 52nd!” We said “We live on Southeast 45th, near Woodstock.” She said “You’re kidding! I lived near Woodstock!” We found that we live about 8 blocks from where she was from. At this point she started ringing things up wrong and getting all flustered, and kept saying “I’m sorry about that, I’m just so excited!” She was very cute, and we decided that we enjoyed our shore excursion to Tongass Traders as much as we would have enjoyed one to anywhere else.

We went back to the ship and had lunch, then went back to the room and spent our lazy sea day on the balcony. Again, we were in the sun, which was divine (I even got a bit of color in my face), plus the port side of the ship was facing away from town and looking out over the Tongass Narrows, so we got to watch cruise ships and fishing boats come and go (while we were there, the Pearl, Westerdam and Diamond sailed away, and the HAL Volendam arrived), float planes take off and land, plus the occasional bird fly by, including a couple bald eagles.

At around 2pm I went to the gym to ride the exercise bike, and Lis did yoga on the balcony. Then Lis went and got a massage, and I took a shower in the ladies locker room of the spa (across from the gym) and then went up on deck and sat in the Jacuzzi and took in the scenery. It was very lovely. Then back to the room, where we read until dinner. Another little note about exercise: since our cabin is located about halfway between the public rooms on decks 5, 6, 7 and decks 11 and 12, we decided that we would try to always take the stairs. And we’ve been pretty good about this so far and have only been in the elevators 1 or 2 times. This morning, we had to do something on 5 before going to breakfast on 11, and we were very stalwart and took the stairs. We thought that it would be getting easier by now, but our legs are sore and we continue to huff and puff and droop some on climbs of more than 3 floors. We figure that we’ll finally get used to it when it’s time to leave the ship.

We ate in Latitudes tonight, the Indochine fusion specialty restaurant. We had talked with the Maitre’d this morning about the menu (that was our errand on deck 5 before breakfast), and she had made arrangements with the chef and Lis was able to eat almost everything they offered. Not that there’s a lot of dairy in Asian cuisine anyway, but still, they were very solicitous. The food was really, really excellent, though the format is such that they basically bring you a bit of everything on the menu, so for the first time this cruise I ate to the point of discomfort, as I believe Lis did, too. We had just been congratulating ourselves on avoiding eating until stuffed – I guess we spoke too soon. The other interesting thing about the restaurant was that the staff were all female – the Maitre’d, the sommaliers, the servers, everybody. About halfway through there was a young man filling waters, but otherwise it was a female space, which we thought was fun.

There was another beautiful sunset tonight, but due to the position of the ship as it navigates the channel, the starboard folks got to enjoy it this time. I suppose it was their turn…

Mary’s been doing all the writing because I decided I wanted to only drink in the cruise and not have the responsibility of documenting it. But I must post about how DIVINE yoga on the balcony is. On both this cruise and our Crystal Cruise in December 06, I borrowed a yoga mat from the health club and then did yoga on the balcony accompanied by my MP3 player. At times yesterday the roar of the float planes totally drowned out the yoga instructor in my headphones but otherwise it was quiet and beautiful and really a transcendent experience that I highly recommend.

My whole body was aching yesterday – partially my injured shoulder, partially my legs screaming from all the stair walking, partially trying to adjust to the bed, but I decided I need a massage. They offered me a special of 50 minutes of Swedish massage for $99, but she said some other massage would be better for aches, and she dropped the price from $150 to $130 if I did it while we were still in port. I was impressed with what the massage therapist accomplished in 50 minutes and I DO feel better today. Afterwards I took a steam bath and then a shower and then a sauna. Often this is all I do – I am a big fan of the “poor woman’s spa experience” in which one partakes of all the amenities of the locker room but does not purchase any actual spa services. I will say that if that’s what you’re after, Crystal has a much better “poor woman’s spa” than Regent. The Regent locker room was small and the steam room was tiny and the lockers were sort of beat up and the keys didn’t work well. But I’m evaluating, not complaining. The steam room was nice and hot, and it all made for a lovely afternoon.

Next post, back to Mary. I find myself kind of boring. But we both would like to offer this correction to her previous post. It was the weather in Ketchikan that was dry and mostly sunny, not her ears. Well, her ears probably were too, but she was referring to the weather.

Links to Tracy Arm/Juneau photos and videos from the cruise


When we got our Daily Passages last night, the schedule for today said “Whale Spotting” from 5am to 7am, followed by “Scenic Cruising of Tracy Arm” from 7am to 10am. So we dragged ourselves out of bed at 5am and then dragged ourselves up 4 flights of stairs to the Observation deck (Lis actually climbed 4 flights twice because she forgot to bring her coat the first time – how studly is she!?!). There was a pretty good smattering of people for that hour, and we started seeing whales right away. We didn’t see a ton, and we didn’t see them up close, but about every 15-20 minutes or so one would appear. Sometimes we only saw blow spouts and bits of their dorsal fins, but a few times as they did the deeper dives to the bottom to feed we saw their flukes. Lis had the good fortune to have her binoculars trained on one as it did this, so she got to see it up close. I was only ever able to see it with my naked eye. Lis: I’m sad to report that if I did see one up close, I don’t remember, but I’m very tired now.

As the morning progressed, the room filled up (though was never crowded) and the mood became more convivial (there wasn’t really a mood at first because we were all still asleep). Anytime a whale was spotted, someone would point it out and then we’d all surge to that side, trying to see or get a camera shot. It’s fun to watch a room full of middle-aged to elderly people run around excited as children.

After a while (at about the time that the schedule said), we stopped seeing whales and started seeing icebergs, some white and some blue. At this point the ship’s destination specialist got on the PA system (only heard in the public spaces) and started telling us about the icebergs and the Tracy Arm Glacier from which they came, and the geology of the canyon we were in, and how glaciers form the landscape. His delivery was sort of monotone, and at first he didn’t really do much for me. But then it became apparent that he was just as excited as the rest of us, but trying to behave like a grown up about it, and I fell in love with him a little bit.

There was a good bit of ice, so we weren’t able to get very far in to Tracy Arm and therefore never saw the actual glacier. We saw lots of fantastic ice sculpture, though (including one that looked like a chicken), and several bald eagles perched on the ice, plus a couple seals and some porpoise, and the weather was gorgeous, so I felt satisfied.

After a wonderfully hearty breakfast on the aft deck of La Veranda, we went back to the room and found that it wasn’t made up – the room steward hadn’t been around when we left at 5, and so must have assumed that we weren’t up yet. So we decided to go drop off our menus with the maitre’d and then go back up to the observation lounge. Once we dropped off the menus, the full implication of our plan hit us – we were on deck 5, and the observation lounge was on deck 12. Ever stalwart, we hiked up, and it wasn’t even as bad as we expected – maybe our legs are finally adjusting.

We had a peaceful sail in to Juneau, then lunch in the Compass Rose (fish and chips – very yummy), then off to the Mendenhall Glacier. We took a local shuttle that ran every half hour. The driver tried to tell us interesting stories about Juneau on the way but only every third word or so was actually intelligible, so it was a bit of a trial. (Lis: On the drive back, when the driver was continuing to tell unintelligible stories AND the majority of the bus was speaking loudly in a foreign language in an attempt to be heard over the driver, Mary leaned over to me and said, “This must be what hell is like.”) The glacier was spectacular and the weather continued gorgeous. There are a bunch of trails around the glacier (and the lake into which it empties), including one that takes you right next to a giant roaring waterfall and within 500 feet of the glacier face. We took this one, which was pretty easy except that right before you got to the waterfall you had to scramble over this huge expanse of boulders and rocks – we weren’t expecting this, but it was great fun. I think I’m probably going to be pretty sore tomorrow, though.

Once there, we snapped lots of pics of the glacier, the icebergs, and the waterfall, and didn’t realize until we got back to the ship that our (somewhat elderly) camera had started to fail and that on some of the photos the lens shutter had only opened a fraction. The saddest thing is that this really cool shot of the waterfall in the foreground and the glacier in the background was one of the victims. Sadder still, enough of the shot was visible through the partially open shutter to indicate that the shot would have been really good:-(

We had decided yesterday that, what with getting up so early and all, it would be better to do room service than try to go to the dining room, where we would probably fall asleep between courses. Turned out to be a very excellent idea – we were very pooped by dinnertime, and were glad to retire for the evening. We had our room service dinner on the balcony, looking out over the sea – the temperature was perfect and the water was still, reflecting the snow-capped hill across the way – very beautiful. Dinner itself was good, but a bit unwieldy, as they brought us all the courses at once. We had read somewhere, long ago, that if you have room service dinner on Regent they will serve it to you in courses, but this has never been our experience. We have figured that: (a) it just isn’t true; (b) it was once true but is no longer; (c) you have to ask; or (d) you need to be in a room with a butler. Nevertheless, it was a lovely experience.

I’m writing my own post because Mary believes in shorter blog posts so I’m not allowed to add on to hers.

Room service dinner: I was glad they brought all the food at once. We’ve been getting up so early, I really wanted to go to bed early and that is hard if you have dinner in the dining room – that is a long, drawn-out affair. I was done with dinner in 30 minutes and we were in bed reading by 8:30. I fell in love with Juneau through our window. As Mary said, the water was calm and it was really, really quiet. From the bed, I could see the aforementioned snow-capped hill and some little houses across the way. I kept saying I felt like I was in the Swiss Alps – it was so picturesque and peaceful. I would have been happy if the whole cruise we were docked in Juneau with that view outside our window. Again, though we wished for the starboard side prior to the cruise, I am SO glad we ended up on the port side, primarily because that means that when we are in port, our view is generally of the water side rather than the town side. Since we spend so much time in the room and out on the balcony, even while we’re in port, that matters a lot to us.

Mary also didn’t write about Patsy Ann. There is a statue of Patsy Ann that greets passengers disembarking cruise ships in Juneau. We were fortunate to be docked right in front of wonderful Patsy Ann. Patsy Ann was an English Bulldog who used to come down to the docks and greet the steamships in the 1930s. She had an uncanny ability to know not only when a ship was coming in but which dock it was going to. There are two signs next to her statue that tell her whole story beautifully and Mary took photos of both, so maybe eventually we will post them. At any rate, we both fell in love with Patsy Ann, and Mary, perhaps because she was so tired, started crying when she read the signs.

While we were looking at Patsy Ann, two of the women we had met at the Friends of Dorothy party came up and asked where we had been because they hadn’t seen us on the ship. I said, “We’ve been around, but we spend a lot of time in our room and out on the balcony.” (In fact, yesterday I was thinking it would be fun to bring a sleeping bag and SLEEP on the balcony.) One of them said, “Do you not live together or are you apart much of the time?” Mary said, “No, in fact we just don’t seem to get bored with each other.” Really I think the proper question would have been, “Do you not have a stateroom at home or a balcony?” It’s true we are together a lot but we also just love our room and our balcony and we are admittedly less social than many people. These women said they had been out on their balcony maybe 5 minutes this cruise, which is about 1/1000th of the time we’ve been out on our balcony. But that’s what’s so great about cruising – like some stupid ad copy says, “You can do as much or as little as you want” and I maintain there is nothing more divine than hanging out on your balcony when everyone else is off in port or at a show or gambling or whatever. We have our own quiet little world – a BEAUTIFUL quiet little world – and I think there is nothing like it.

Links to Skagway photos and videos from the cruise


Today was a low key day – we both woke up tired and a bit cranky from our exertions of yesterday, and so decided to just hang around the ship. We had a late breakfast, then came back to the room and decided to do some laundry. There are self-serve guest launderettes on most of the decks, and they are free and pretty fun to use. We did a couple loads. At 11am Lis went to the spa, where she had a reflexology appointment. They were running some sort of special for another treatment, and Lis managed to talk them in to giving her the special price for the reflexology, simply by asking for it. She did the same thing with her other spa treatment, I believe.

While Lis was having her treatment, I wandered the ship taking pictures of the public rooms, then went to the coffee bar and had a cookie and some coffee, and read Time Magazine. Then it was time for lunch in the Compass Rose. This time, I ordered from their “Build Your Own Sandwich” menu – roast beef, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, mustard and light mayo, in a flour tortilla. Turned out to be the best sandwich I’d EVER had, but I could only eat half of it, and the idea of just throwing away the other half was breaking my heart. We’ve often bemoaned the fact that you can’t really get doggie bags, and how sad it is when something’s really good – especially at lunch time, when you know you’re probably going to want some sort of snack later on. So I gathered all my courage, risked looking tacky, and asked the waiter if there was any way to save the remaining sandwich for later. He said he’d be happy to wrap it up for me, or he could have room service send it to my room. I opted for the latter, assuming that room service would wrap it up so I could put it in the mini fridge – but they didn’t; it was sitting on a plate under a plastic room-service-plate-lid-thingy (on a lovely linen table cloth, of course). Luckily I had a small plastic bag in the room that I was able to use to wrap it up. So there are still some bugs to work out of the system. But it’s good to know that there is the option of saving some food without looking too horribly tacky in the process.

After lunch we wandered into Skagway for a bit – nothing much to it, but a pleasant little town. The town’s setting, though, is spectacular – sweeping, snow capped hills (peaks?) in every direction. There are apparently a good number of hiking trails around, too – would like to come back someday when we’re less pooped.

Another interesting thing about Skagway is that a steep rock face in the cruise port area is covered with gigantic graffiti – some just standard graffiti (names, skulls, etc) but some cruise ship names and logos. We asked our waiter at lunch about it – “Do the cruise ships do that graffiti?” He said yes – every ship that comes to Skagway makes sure it’s got its name and logo there. Then a couple other crew members joined the conversation, talking about the new Regent logo they added last year, and some of the graffiti that’s really high up on the wall and wondering how they do it, and commenting that ships have been doing this since the 1960’s. I found it all kind of fascinating.

We chose to skip the Captain’s Cocktail Party for Seven Seas Society Members (meaning you’ve cruised with Regent more than once.) We had dinner in Compass Rose, where their previously fantastic attention to Lis’ special diet began to slip – after double checking with her a couple times that she was in cabin 864 and had the no-dairy diet, they brought her entrée with some sort of potato side dish, piled high with grated cheese. She said “Is that cheese?” and the waiter looked flustered and confused, took away the side dish, and asked if she wanted some alternative. She asked for roasted potatoes, which they brought right away, but apparently too right away – they weren’t fully cooked in the middle. In the meantime, Lis was concerned whether the rest of the meal was non-dairy, which they somewhat nervously assured her it was – but Lis took a Lactaid or four just in case, since they’d been so tentative in their assurances.

We wondered what had happened – they had been handling her diet so nicely. Then we remembered that one of the waiters told us that they lost 3-4 waiters in Juneau – their contracts were up, but their replacements weren’t coming until the end of the cruise. So they are shorthanded, and we figured that might explain it. We’re hoping that things stabilize.

Back in fall 2004, when we were trying to decide which cruise line we wanted to go on for our Very First Cruise, we quickly decided that we didn’t want a mass market, and then narrowed down the small ship/luxury lines to Regent (then Radisson) and Crystal. Ultimately we picked Regent because of the open seating and because it sounded more relaxed.

In December of 2006 we had the opportunity to sail on Crystal, and were very curious to see how it would compare to Regent. In particular, we had read many times that Crystal was superior to Regent in food and service, and we wanted to see if we thought so, too.

We did agree about the food – the food on Regent is good but the food on Crystal is incredible. It was some of the best food either of us had ever eaten, on sea or on land. But we found the service on Regent to be far superior. In fact, it was so clearly better that we couldn’t understand at first how so many people could think that it wasn’t (because it’s pretty consistent in the online things we’ve come across – “Crystal has the best service” seems to be the consensus).

On Crystal, the staff are encouraged to learn the passengers’ names, and to greet them by name throughout the cruise, and we decided that this was where the “Crystal has the edge” came from. Most of the passengers seemed delighted by this, and talked in the elevators about how great it was, etc. However, we found it less than great, for two reasons. First, it became tiring after a while – I’d be walking across the pool deck and someone would holler “Hi Mary!” I’d whirl around to see who was talking, finally spot the staff member speaking to me, and smile and wave – over and over and over. At a certain point, I just wanted to be left in peace. (Lis: to me it reminded me of shopping at Safeway, where everyone has to say hi to you and they insist on attempting to say your last name at checkout. I hate it, and once even wrote a letter to them about it.) Second, because the staff was so focused on memorizing names, they would overlook things that we considered to be real service, like noting preferences and anticipating needs. Once on our Crystal cruise I stood at an event holding an empty coffee cup for about 45 minutes, while several staff members came by and said “Hi Mary.” On Regent, no one would have said “Hi Mary,” but I wouldn’t have been holding that coffee cup, either.

As we came in to breakfast in the buffet the other morning, and the waiter remembered that Lis likes hard boiled eggs, boiled for ten minutes (we suspect she might be famous throughout the ship now – but they’ve got the eggs down), she commented to me “I’d rather they remember what I like than what my name is.” I agree (besides, on Regent my name is “Madame,” which I very much enjoy).

Another issue where Regent is better, and I think it comes under the heading of service, is in how it treats the room stewards. Yesterday, Lis was chatting with our steward (who is somewhat below the Regent standard in anticipating needs, but makes up for it in personal delightfulness). We always ask about their hours and breaks, because we like to patronize cruise ships that treat their people better (not that any cruise line treats their people particularly well – I would die if I had to work as hard as cruise workers work). Our steward said she works about 10 hours a day – which is pretty good, comparatively. On Crystal, they make the room stewards handle the room service, too, so their hours vary by how many room service orders they have to deal with. One morning, most everyone on our floor had room service breakfast, so the room stewards worked all day with no breaks. This affected us because, one, our room wasn’t made up until 2-3pm as a result, and two, we never ordered room service after that because it made us feel too guilty.

One odd thing on this Regent ship – We have had numerous hand towels with holes in them, which I find surprising. I think it’s because there isn’t enough room to hang all the towels separately so people end up taking the hand towels and hanging them on the knobs meant for bathrobes and poking holes in them.

So, all in all, we’d have to say that while we enjoyed Crystal very much, and have very fond memories of the food, Regent remains our favorite line.

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