Monday, September 15, 2008

And Now, Finally, the Cruise!

Yes, finally, we're at the point where the land bit ends and the cruise bit starts. We sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, seen below.

I could bore you with all its stats, but I'm not that dumb. You just want to know one thing. What did our stateroom look like? Well, here it is:

That's the inner half, with a little hallway to the bathroom (not shown, but it was tiled in marble, had a not-entirely-minuscule bathtub for the oh-so-British Starman to bathe in, and a lovely sink area with enough room for all our clobber), a walk-in closet to the left, and our queen-sized bed.

Sorry about the poor lighting, but this is the outer half of our stateroom, with a built in sofa, TV (its only "real" station being Fox, perhaps a subtle clue as to the Republican nature of our fellow travelers), desk area, bookshelves, cabinets with drinks glasses and so forth. (I'm just now realizing we never did drink the complimentary bottle of fizzy wine, and in fact, we left it there for the next people to have. Oh well...) And, as you can see, we have a balcony on the port side.

Me, looking out at Seward, an unremarkable port city that -- like virtually all of Alaska, has magnificent backdrops.

Ah, here you go -- Starman and me, dressed for the safety demonstrations. This gives you some idea of the cabinetry in the stateroom.

We don't seem to have taken any photos of the ship's interior spaces, but they were all lovely. Several dining rooms, some "restauranty" enough to require reservations, an observation lounge above the bridge, a theater, a fitness center that Starman used, spa/salon space that none of us used, a card room that seemed rarely used by anyone, and the list goes on. The swimming pool was quite small and never used; it had sea water in it at various times, but it looked chilly. There were three hot tubs, which did get some use, although we never accomplished it.

And that brings up one of the great lessons of cruising -- it's not as relaxed as you might think. We did manage to attend almost all of the quizzes (winning three or four, I'm pleased to say), and a couple of the concerts. We played a tiny bit of bridge. We didn't shuffleboard (a regret on my part; I like the game), or walk around the deck the 11 times needed to make a mile, although I did take the stairs a fair bit. But if I'd known then what I know now, I'd have done more. Like used the hot tub instead of assuming, "Oh, there'll be lots of time," which is precisely what I did assume, and was wrong about.

Starman doesn't figure we'll take another cruise, and he may be right. I had a great time, but in retrospect a lot of that comes from the fact that I was traveling with two of my favorite people. Cruising does allow for people to split up and do separate things, and we'll see if a more conventional road trip is less pleasant because there's less spontaneity and individualism. (Hub 1.0, Starman and I are planning a road trip to Niagara and Toronto next year, so that will be interesting for the opportunity to compare and contrast.)

Mind you, Alaska is one of the places where a cruise completely makes sense: We went places that aren't otherwise easy to get to. So we were thrilled to have this opportunity. But I think of the people we met who'd signed up for the round trip, meaning 14 days of cruising with two visits to each port of call, and it's clear they were there for the cruise, not for Alaska.

All of the foregoing doesn't alter one essential fact: This was a fabulous wedding present! I think all three of us had a great time, and I think a lot of that is because we travel well together. Which is the coolest, if distinctly narrow-end, part of the trip after all.

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