Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Glaciers and Salmon and Bears, Oh My!

We saw glaciers! We saw one glacier calve, like, four times. This particular glacier, the name of which I can’t remember, moves seven feet a day, which makes it the speed demon of the glacierverse.

The eeriest thing about glaciers is the beautiful blue light inside the cracks in the ice. The on-board naturalist described this as a function of very high-pressure ice formation, which produces ice with different optical properties than the stuff we put in our drinks. All I know is that the blue light’s beautiful and otherworldly, like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie. I got a photo that shows a tiny bit of it: nothing like the real-life effect, but enough to give you some idea. I’ll post that tomorrow, along with a string of other photos.

I lied. I took pictures of Glacier Bay. So sue me.

Also, the naturalist announced that he saw a brown bear fishing on a beach. Gary saw the brown bear walking. Many other passengers saw the brown bear, too. All I saw was a gigantic gray rock. Later, another passenger told me kindly that the bear was some yards to the right of the rock, and was in fact much smaller than the rock, “a little brown speck.” That made me feel a bit better.

We may see more whales this evening. First, though, Gary and I are having dinner in the super-fancy restaurant, where I’ll do my very best to have no salmon, since at lunch I had the salmon appetizer followed by the salmon entrees.

In my next life, I’ll be a salmon. Or possibly a brown bear.


We like this ship, really. We love this ship. We’d live on this ship if we could. But we do get plenty of giggles from the decor, and the super-fancy restaurant outdoes itself in Outrageous Cruise Tacky. The chairs, although comfortable, are contorted pewter and black leather and look like something designed by the villain in a Tim Burton film. The carpet’s plain blue, extremely restrained by cruise standards, but the ceiling more than makes up for this by featuring bizarre blue and red platter-like objects shaped like jellyfish and suspended by chrome fixtures. These aren’t lights. I don’t know what they are. I don’t know what function they serve. Some cruise exec probably looked at early plans for the place, scratched his or her head, and said, “Hey, great work on the chairs! But the ceiling isn’t ugly and weird enough by half! You’d better do something about that, especially since you’re using plain blue carpet!”

The designer must have been on drugs. Supporting this theory, the finishing touch of the decor is a continuous mural of the Dutch masters, painted on glass panels and backlit. The Dutch guys look a little glassy-eyed themselves. Also, the Maitre D apparently graduated from the House of Slytherin, or possibly Castle Dracula. Thin, smarmy, too many teeth. I’m sure he’s a lovely person, but if I saw him on the street, I’d be scared.

The food’s really good, I have to say. But the design strangeness extends to the plates and silverware. Individually, the elements are understated and elegant, unlike the general decor. But the elegant steak knives, if one places them on the elegant plates, slide elegantly into the food, which meant that several times I had to wipe filet mignon juice and garlic mashed potatoes off my knife with my napkin (the first time the knife traveled, I asked for a new one, but after that I just cleaned it up as best I could). Clearly, the servers need to test-drive the place settings.

I do give them high marks for desserts. Immediately after I’d ordered the decadent chocolate volcano, they brought us a small plate of decadent chocolate truffles. Good thing I bought a large pair of sweatpants in the giftshop today.

The highlight of dinner was a whale sighting. Someone at the next table, next to the window, pointed and called out, “Whale!” and everyone got up to look out the window, and sure enough, a humpback slapped the water with his fin. We all applauded, even the wait-staff. (I forgot to mention before that the first time we saw the glacier calve, a woman standing next to me called out, “Thank you!” I believe there was applause that time, too.)

Now we’re in our usual spot, listening to the string quartet. The waiter in this lounge now greets us as “Miss Susan and Mr. Gary,” chats with us about our day, and remembers our favorite drinks.

We love cruising. We just have to do something about the interior decoration. Over dinner, we fantasized about starting a cruise line decorated entirely in Shaker style, or maybe Arts & Crafts for people who really want fancy surroundings.

Tomorrow: Juneau, where we’ll ride a tramway, attend a salmon bake, and shop for yarn (well, I’ll do that; Gary will be bored). I’ll also post tons of photos. Aren’t blogs great? If vacation photos bore you, you can just skip over them, instead of being confined to someone’s living room during endless slide presentations.

Oh, and we’ve met some really interesting people. The ship’s librarian is a musical-comedy actress who reads and writes SF/F; when I told her I did too, she asked me who my publisher was, and went very wide-eyed when I said, “Tor Books.” Meanwhile, we’ve been listening to chamber music every evening with a charming engineer named Steve, a serious amateur violinist (or possibly semi-pro; he has a lot of gigs) who also reads SF/F. All the best people!


  1. I'm enjoying reading about your cruise. Can't wait for pics.

    I lived in Alaska (Fairbanks) for 2 years as a teenager. My sister lives in Wasilla (70 miles from Anchorage)- I visited her 2 summers ago, and had the time of my life. I truly miss Alaska.

    Hope your tours off the boat are amazing!

  2. I absolutely loved Juneau when I was there a couple years ago. I think you'll like it too. There's a great used book store downtown (whose name evades me at the moment) that Gary can go to while you're shopping for yarn.

  3. Anonymous8:37 AM

    Thank you for the photos - they are astounding!



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