First Full Day at Sea
I woke up in a dark room: a dark room that was not holding still like a room should. First my feet felt like they were higher than my head, and then they fell below. Did I have something to drink the night before, perhaps something excessive? No, I hadn't had anything but water, coffee, and tea. So, what was wrong?
First of all, I wasn't in my regular bed, I could tell that. Dotti was sound asleep beside me, and that was normal, but nothing else seemed right. The room was dark, darker than it should have been for as late as it felt. Drapes...there were drapes; I could see a faint outline along one edge. They were very good drapes at blocking out the light, I could see that. Pushing the button on my watch to illuminate the face I saw that it was about 15 minutes before 8 a.m., or for the irredeemable sailor, midway between 7 and 8 bells. None of that! This is a pleasure cruise. The cobwebs were beginning to clear finally. Oh yes, that is why the deck is rocking around so much: we are at sea!
My feet hit the deck and I was over to the drapes, navigating smartly around the table (smartly, because it smarts when you kick the heavy base with your bare toe) and my eyes were greeted with water: lots and lots of water. Water falling from the sky, and water all around. Not only that, but it was water in motion, rolling motion. Up and down, and back and forth. Was it going to be bad enough to trigger my motion sickness? The jury was out for the moment, but I was concerned that the verdict might come in against me.
While the deliberation was going on I decided it would be a great time to grab a camera and takes some pictures. We were located on the starboard side of the ship. (Why not the right side of the ship? Because we are on a ship, and the nautical world insists on being different. When at sea, we do as the sailors do.) Looking forward (that is almost like regular English) the water appeared dark and dreary. It was creating peaks and toughs that were moving this 82,000 ton hunk of metal in unnatural ways.
Then I turned around and looked aft. (It rhymes with daft, and that's okay. However, the "after" part of the ship comes after the forward part of the ship, as long as it is moving forward. It sort of makes sense, don't you think? ☺) Wow, it was not easing off on the rolling. My stomach was hurrying the jury along and it was looking pretty grim. The lighting in this direction was much better for seeing the white caps.
Passing thought—The ocean would be as smooth as glass on its own. Gravity would pull each and every drop towards the center of the earth, and hold it nicely in place against its neighbors if only the air would leave it alone. But air is a wandering beast and it tends to roam this way and that. As it moves across the surface of the water, it drags against it, and dislodges those otherwise peaceful little water drops. They get to moving around. With enough wind they get up and dance. When you see white, you know they are up and toe tapping a jig.
Looking at the white wake the ship was creating, I could see that there was a branch of foam sticking out at each point where a wave had been cut by the ship's hull. Gray above and dark water below, clear out to the horizon. It was a fine morning indeed!
Still, I had seen much higher waves in the past, and maybe it wasn't going to make me sick after all. The jury wasn't in yet, and I don't care how many dirty looks they gave me on their way to the jury room, you just never know until the verdict is in.
I looked down from our veranda, and saw the mess that that ship was making of the water beside us. It was churning things up pretty good as it was hitting those waves. My stomach was beginning to do a bit of churning of its own. Bad news for me!
Off to the east I could just see land under the clouds. (That was the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and we were soon to leave it far to the south of us.)
I thought it might be a good time to run in and grab my GPS and take a reading, to see where we were. When I brought it out on the veranda I found that the overhead protection from the rain also provided some interference for my GPS. I was able to get it to lock into its mandatory 3 satellites only after a great deal of coaxing, holding it out into the rain for extended periods of time. (I think the unit used an algorithm that based the amount of time, necessary for me to extend the sleeve of my bathrobe into the precipitation, in direct proportion to the amount of rain falling.) But at last I was successful! Where were we?
By this time it was now 8:09 a.m. and our position was:
Latitude: N 50° 30.398'
Longitude: W128° 50.921'
The GPS said that our speed was 24.6 mph. Well naturally that just isn't good enough for sea going folk. We have to know how many knots we are traveling!
Now, this isn't just a case of being silly, or obstinate for the men of the sea. No, there is a good reason for using the nautical mile for sea measurement. (See sidebar.) And since you are measuring your distance in nautical miles, it only makes sense then to measure your speed in nautical miles-per-hour, or knots.
By multiplying our speed in mph by 0.87, I determined that we were going 21.4 knots.
My GPS also said that our bearing was 325°. That meant that we were heading a bit west of north, because we hadn't cleared Vancouver Island yet. (And to make the report complete; I later found out that the captain had entered into his log that we were in "Rough Seas.")
Looking at the weather conditions, it appeared like it was going to be a good day to remain indoors. While the sea continued to be rough for the day, we did catch a break on the rain, and the sky lightened up to let us walk around topside later!
Next I took out my digital scale to weigh myself. I had done it the last 1,955 days and so it was a habit by now. However, I couldn't make it work. I hit it once to calibrate. That was fine. It came back with the 0.0 indication telling me it was ready to go. Then I stepped up on it and the trouble began. I would first lean one way, and then another, as the deck changed position. I watched the reading on the scale shift from somewhere around 185 up to over 215 and I just couldn't get a real number to use. "Rough seas," that is what the captain said.
There was a knock on the door, and when I answered it there was a rather short young man from Indonesia standing there with very large tray. It was breakfast! Dotti had filled out the form for us, so we would get our breakfast in our room, and save the hassle of fighting the crowds for food and table.
The poor steward had to fight that big tray through the little hallway leading from our door past the restroom and closet areas. It just barely fit. In order for us to have a place to eat at the little table, we had him put the tray on the bed, and we served ourselves from there.
It worked out pretty well, and the breakfast was delicious. I had egg beaters, and they were piping hot! The potatoes came in the form of very small tater tots, hot and tasty. A bowl of Special K with skim milk and half a grapefruit, went well with the English muffin. I was sipping my orange juice along the way.
The hot food was kept that way with an efficient insulating metal cover that was placed over the top of the dishes. The coffee, my final treat for breakfast, was in a well insulated metal carafe that kept the beverage at an excellent temperature for drinking.
However, the cup was acting as if it were alive, because it slid around on the table some as the ship moved through the waves. It didn’t get away from me though and I did enjoy drinking its contents.
Dotti had arranged our cruise ironically enough through the American Automobile Association. It is a very versatile company actually, and in addition to helping us make arrangements for the cruise, they were kind enough to arrange champagne in our rooms and signs on our doors welcoming us and congratulating us on our wedding anniversaries. There was to be a little get-together for all of the AAA people this very morning, right after breakfast, about 10 a.m. That was now.
I clearly was not going to make it. I had not expected to have a problem with seasickness on this voyage. In the two years that I was on the USS John F. Kennedy, I only got sick once, and we were in nearly hurricane strength winds and extremely rough seas at the time: far worse than we were experiencing here. I have to admit that I was surprised at the amount of roll the ship was experiencing for the size waves we were being exposed to. They were significant to be sure, but they didn't look that bad. Later the captain explained that we were being hit by two wave patterns: one coming in long distance from the western pacific; and a second, from the south, being generated locally by the strong winds. Our ship's stabilizers apparently couldn't compensate for both wave patterns striking the ship, and we rolled.
Well, it had become obvious that I was going to have to do something about this. So, I asked Dotti if she would mind picking up something from the infirmary to help, before heading off to the AAA party. She said that she would be happy to, as she went next door to join Jim and Tammy.
I sadly laid down on the bed wishing that my stomach were stronger, and listening to my IPOD for solace. It worked pretty well actually. The cast of CATS put on a very entertaining show as I waited, and very soon I heard a knock on my stateroom door.
Unless Dotti forgot her key, she wouldn't be knocking. So, I shakily got up and investigated the interesting noise. Upon opening the door, I discovered that it was indeed not Dotti but rather Jim standing there with pills in hand.
Now Jim is a retired chief from the Navy, and as is the case with nearly everyone who doesn't suffer from seasickness, he finds it to be amusing in others. I saw a lot of that in the Navy myself. I was fortunate enough to not be too badly cursed with the malady, and I only actually lost my stomach's contents once at sea, during my 13 years of service. Still, I know what it is like for iron-stomached people to ridicule the seasick.
Jim was very kind and didn't lay it on me like he could have; he was quite sympathetic actually. He had gone down to the infirmary to get some medication for me. While he was there he saw a lot of people in line who were looking pretty green from the ship's motion. He got the pills and brought back clear directions on how to use them.
I took the first pill immediately, and he sat and talked with me a while before heading off to the AAA function. As long as I was sitting down, I was in pretty good shape.
The pills were called "Sea-Calm." The active ingredient was Meclizine HCl and each tablet contained 25 mg. Jim said that the lady who gave him the pills said that I should take one right away, and then another in 30 minutes. I could then take one every 6 hours as needed.
Note: When we got home, I checked it out on the Internet, and that is more than is normally recommended. Having the 50 mg is okay, but the DAILY dose is 25 or 50 mg. I ended up taking 100 mg that day! (I could have read the dosage on the front of the package as well, if I had been alert enough to do so.)
It was like magic the way the pills worked. I laid back down for 30 minutes after taking the first pill, listening to some more of CATS. I then took the second pill. By 11:00 a.m. I was feeling much better!
I have to say two things about Meclizine HCl. First off, for the upside: it knocked my motion sickness completely out. I never had a woozy stomach at all for the rest of the cruise. Hurray for that! The ship continued to rock and roll for the rest of the day, but it didn't bother me at all. That was golden!
Secondly, the downside: I found that I was extremely irritable in the evening. I was very much on edge and not myself at all. Since that was the only time on the cruise that I felt that way, I have to assume that it was the medication that caused it (probably the overdose). We had some rough seas a little later on the trip, and I took a single 25 mg dose that day, as a preventive measure—and it worked perfectly—but I did not have any negative reaction to that smaller dosage. I can say that the next time I go to sea, I am going to be taking along some of this medication!
Well, since I was feeling much better, and it would be a bit before the AAA function attendees would be back, I got up and decided to test out my new healthy state. I got dressed and went down to the Promenade Deck to check out the walking conditions.
The weather was pretty nice for walking. Yes, it was raining, but on the Promenade Deck, I was covered. I could walk all the way around the ship, feel the 60° air blowing in my face, look out at the choppy sea, and remain perfectly dry. Well, almost perfectly. There were spots along the route that leaked a bit between the boats stored above, but that was no problem at all.
It was one-third mile all the way around, according to the posted signs, and I decided to do a mile. So, I walked around the deck three times. I passed a couple of other people doing the same thing, but in the reverse direction. There were also some crew members taking a picture of a group of people in one spot along the route, and I passed them all three times. The group was breaking up finally on the third time around. Unfortunately, I had to cut through their picture section a couple of times but they were gracious about it. (As I said, there were a number of people walking the route, so they got used to it I imagine.)
At the end of the mile my stopwatch said: 15:51. Okay, it wasn't a terribly fast mile, but there was wind, and scenery, and I had fun. Also, I was happy that I could be walking at all after the way I had felt just a short time before!
After my walk, I came upstairs and was fortunate to run into Dotti, Jim, and Tammy, because they had already been to the cabin while I was gone. In fact they probably just barely missed catching me before I left for my walk. It was time to eat and we hit the stairs with enthusiasm, heading for the ninth deck to have something to eat at the Lido Restaurant.
There were many parts of the cruise that were almost part of a fantasy land. There were no golden-haired fairies flying around, like Peter Pan's Tinkerbelle, but there was almost no end to the luxurious surprises that we encountered. But even a cruise ship has its limitations and this is one of them: you should pick your eating times wisely, just like you do in real life.
When you arrive at your favorite restaurant between 12 noon and 1 p.m., you expect to have to wait for a table: sometimes for a long time. We arrived about 12:30 p.m. at the Lido Restaurant and things were jumping. There were a lot of people waiting in line, and nearly all of the tables were filled.
At first I wandered from counter to counter, looking for something tasty that might grab my interest. Unfortunately, the lines were pretty long at all of the counters, and ever since going through boot camp, I just can't stand lines. In this case it really depressed my appetite. I was about to give up. My stomach was no longer upset from the rolling sea, and I don't think that was it. However, I just wasn't hungry enough to wait in a long line for food. I could afford to skip a meal, and catch something later if I needed to.
Then I noticed Dotti hadn’t even started looking for food, because she was on a search mission for an empty table. She had made a couple of passes around the entire dining room but she was not successful. So, I tagged along with her and we made the circle until finally a table came open. I sat down and saved the table, and she went back to get us something to eat. (She is really a dear in helping me past lines. She doesn't have my aversion to lines, and she is the kind of person who will pull up behind the last one in line, and make a new friend on the spot. I wish I had that talent.)
When Dotti arrived back at the table, she had procured a nice turkey sandwich, some cobbler and a cookie, and then later she got us an ice cream cone. Jim and Tammy had arrived with their meals and we all dug in.
I was becoming aware that I was eating a lot of desserts, and if I didn't pull back on that, I was going to gain a lot of weight on the cruise. It was going to be a challenge. I was getting plenty of exercise in, but you can always eat more than you can exercise.
While at the table, Jim and I decided that we would do something together, since the girls were going to get a pedicure. Jim had heard about a golf event that was going to happen at the Lido Pool and he wanted to see if he could participate. So, he got a head start towards the pool, while the rest of us were finishing up our meal.
When I finished, I left Dotti and Tammy at the table and went to catch up with Jim. He was sitting comfortably beside the pool on a lounge chair, and there was an empty one beside him, which I slid into. Unfortunately, he was too late to sign up for the event, but we still got to watch it.
The guys who did get to play were "chipping" whiffle golf balls into the pool. There was a girl with a net on a pole who was fishing the balls out of the pool. The guys were told that if they could chip three golf balls in a row into the orange life preserver floating on the pool, they could push the girl into the water. The target was maybe 15 feet away from golfers, who were standing on the side of the pool.
As it turned out, the girl was perfectly safe from getting wet! None of the guys could get even one of the balls into a hole of a life preserver. One guy hit the rim two times in a row, and he was the best.
There were a number of reasons why the feat was so challenging. First of all, it was a tough shot under the best of circumstance. But the real problems began with the fact we were on a ship that was rocking and rolling pretty good.
The water in the pool was splashing up and out of the main tank and into the capture area surrounding it. We were seriously discussing the possibility that it was actually a wave pool, because it was really splashing around, and the water acted just like the water in a wave pool does. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the girl is standing in water, and there is water splashing up above the near edge of the pool. The peaks and troughs that you see on the pool surface are caused by the ship's motion. In a normal pool, with nobody swimming in it, the surface would be like glass. There is no point on the pool's surface that is tranquil.
Also, while the golfers were being moved around, their target was moving as well. (It was tied, but not tightly enough to keep it from moving around a bit.) Finally, they were using plastic golf balls and not the real thing. There was almost no chance of them putting 3 out of 3 into that little round doughnut. Still it was fun watching them try.
While we were watching the golf, we saw Dotti and Tammy walk by and wave on their way forward after lunch. They were headed to the Greenhouse Spa for their pedicure .
Looking up through the Lido Pool skylight, we saw that there was some blue breaking through the clouds!
After the golfers were done, and it was clear that the girl was not "going swimming"; we decided to take a walk outside and have a look around. Jim and I headed down to Deck 3, the Promenade Deck, because we were not too sure of the weather, and we knew that deck was going to be dry.
We took one loop around the ship, and we stopped at the fantail to look back at the wake the ship was leaving behind. As we were stopped, a lady came by and asked if we wanted our picture taken together, and we said, "Sure!" While speaking with her, we found out that she had spoken with one of our wives in line for lunch, and knowing how outgoing Dotti is, we assumed it was her. Later, we found out that it was actually Tammy!
As the lady was taking pictures, the battery in my camera went dead, and I didn't have my spare with me. The pictures had been dark because of the backlighting, and we wanted to correct for that. So, she offered to take our picture with her camera and then arrange through email to get it to us. So far that hasn't happened yet, but we are still hopeful.
After swinging by the stateroom for a charged camera battery, we next headed up to Deck 11, called the Sports Deck. This deck gets its name from the sports court in the aft section, but I don't think many sporting events occur here on the forward section.
Off to starboard we could see land dimly. We were around latitude 53 and just west of the southernmost of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Just visible in this picture is Moresby Island behind the dark gray mist.
Jim loves the Navy, and he loves car racing (well just about any kind of vehicle racing) and you can tell that from his hat and coat. He was a chief MAA on the USS Ranger, and a big fan of Dale Earnhardt. Behind my best friend you will see the gray ocean looking even grayer because of the tinted glass panel that curves all the way around this deck. It is great at blocking the wind, but unfortunately it does a pretty good job of blocking some of the view as well. The deck behind Jim has some spots of water that were left behind by our earlier rain but a lot of the deck is now dry.
Jim took this shot of me while looking aft from the very front of the Sports Deck. The antenna mast reaches high into the sky behind me. The bulkhead that holds the rail I am leaning on probably protects electronic spaces behind it.
Here is Jim testing the railing out for comfort and durability. It did well on the latter. (Right behind Jim, mounted in the bulkhead, right above the brass plate that is visible are the coins that were placed at the ship's dedication. I discuss this in more detail at the bottom of the Ship's Art page.)
We headed aft next and found our way up to the Sports Deck once more, but this time it was the real deal! We were on a basketball court. So we naturally shot baskets for a while. I'm 55, and Jim is in his 50th year (sorry Jim☺) but we still like to play basketball. We just do it slower these days.
While we were shooting, a gentleman named Daryl came by and shot a few baskets with us. Jim went over to
test out the golf area and I continued shooting baskets with Daryl. He said he was a missionary in Chicago. I told him that city could use a missionary. ☺
When he told me about his cruise, I found it really interesting! He said that he and his wife have been married 40 years, and they have friends of theirs from college who also have been married 40 years, and they took this cruise as a celebration! What an interesting coincidence, that they were doing exactly the same thing with their friends that we were. ☺
I bumped into Daryl one more time on the last morning when we pulled into Seattle, and I was up early wandering around the ship taking a few last pictures while the other three were still sleeping. He said that he was heading back to Chicago. I said that it would be getting cold there before too much longer. He replied that it would, but with children and grandchildren there, it would be warm enough. I thought that was really nice.
After Daryl left, I came over to the golf area to watch Jim take a couple of swings. The full basketball court was completely enclosed with netting so the basketball could not leave the court, and with the strong sea breeze, that was a very nice feature. The small golf area was also netted in, so the golf balls would not be lost either.
We decided to head back down to the Lido Deck and see how the ladies were doing. They were sitting in the chair having their feet attended to, and enjoying it completely. Jim and I decided to leave them to their pampering and headed back into the Lido Pool area. We grabbed a soda at the Lido Bar.
We thought the stools at the Lido Bar were pretty cool. They were each a sculpture of a large fish, positioned so that its head was down against the deck and its tail was up in the air, and curved back over its head, and nicely shaped into a seat. It wasn't the most comfortable seat I have ever used, but it sure was one of the most original!
After having our soda, we wandered over to the maps that showed where we would be going during the cruise. We were spending all of Monday cruising north to reach Alaska for our rendezvous with the glaciers on Tuesday. I have seen glaciers before at a distance but something told me that I had no idea what was in store. And I really didn't.
The last thing we did was to play some ping pong. We played several games and I enjoyed a tremendously! I hadn't played in a long time and I didn't realize how much I missed it.
While we were playing, one lady went in to use the showers behind the table, and when she came back out she tracked quite a bit of water right across where I was standing. It made footing a bit tricky for a while. I spread the water around to help it dry quicker and it worked after a while. No harm was done and we finished our game.
We made one more check on the ladies and the pampering continued as this time they were getting their hands done. They were laughing and having a great time with the girls who were working on their finger nails. Somehow, I don't think they were concerned about all the fun they missed out on the basketball court or at the ping pong table. ☺
Seven minutes later Jim and I were back to our respective staterooms, and I was out on the veranda taking this picture of the Queen Charlotte Islands. There was sunshine hitting a great deal of the land surface and that was a nice change of pace! Who was Queen Charlotte? Born Princess Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, she was the wife and Queen to King George III, the monarch who sat upon the throne when America fought its War of Independence. She was married to King George in 1761 at the age of 17, and bore 15 children during the next 21 years. Busy, busy, busy!
We were about 520 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, and nearly that far west from where we started. On a straight line, we were at least 700 miles from home, and still we were churning the water behind us, driving north, and north some more.
Looking up and slightly forward I could see the portion of the bridge that extended outward from the main body of the ship. The bridge is the control module for the ship, and it is the bridge which gives Deck 8 its name: Navigation Deck, because our course was controlled from there.
Time was flying. In less than two hours we were going to be at our dinner table and this was going to be a "formal" night. So, I had to hurry up and transfer the pictures from my camera and get ready, because we would be getting dressed for dinner soon.
When Dotti and Tammy returned from their pampering session we almost immediately started getting ready for dinner. The ladies looked lovely in their pretty outfits, and Jim and I had on our ties and suits. We were ready to head down to the Vista Dining Room on the Lower Promenade Deck for dinner.
Here's Jim coming out of his stateroom. He is ready to get some great food!
We made our way out into the Forward Elevator area where we could take some nice pictures. The stairs and elevator landings were always great places to take pictures. (See the Stairs and Elevators section of our cruise.)
Jim and Tammy posed in front of the tree in the elevator area, and what a handsome couple they made!
Next it was Dotti and I who were in front of the camera. As always Dotti looked awesome!
Even though we were in our formal attire, we did not use the elevators. We walked down the stairs from Deck 5 to Deck 2. It wasn't a long walk, but it was some exercise. Along the way we stopped a couple of times for pictures. This is what cameras were made for, capturing beautiful women!
Jim I got in the show too, when Dotti snapped our picture. Can you tell we were all having a very good time?
On the way to the dining room, we came up to a little niche where they had a picture of the bow of a ship put against the bulkhead and a camera set up to take pictures. We naturally stopped and had our photos done.
When we got to our table, we found that our menu was done up in a fancy scroll. I asked Tammy if she would hold hers up for this photo, and she graciously agreed to. Her dark outfit made a sharp contrast with the menu's white paper.
The waiters learned quickly what we had ordered the previous time out, and so this time we had our water and iced tea all ready to go, without even having to ask for them. The silverware was laid out for us, and then they would adjust what utensils would stay, which would leave, and what new ones might need to be added. (E.g. nearly every evening Tammy had a special sea food knife brought to her place, because she favored the fish offerings from the menu.)
Dinner in the Vista Dining Room was always pleasant. We came to the dining room, were immediately given access to our table, and we were attended to devotedly by our serving staff.
In addition to the planned attentions of the ship's crew, we also were lucky enough to meet some of the passengers who sat close by. One couple, Bob and Judy, who hailed from Florida, will always be remembered, because they were such nice and cheerful people. I felt like they could be our close friends if we were living in the same town and could spend some time together. Linda, the lady who sat behind us also turned out to be very nice.
Okay, I know that I am not an unbiased observer, but I think Dotti is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! She just radiated in this photo, and the fancy menu she is holding just has to take a back seat the lovely sophistication of this gorgeous lady. I am one very lucky guy!
We passed the camera back and forth and got some pretty nice pictures at dinner. The setting was dark and it made for a great background for the pictures. With everyone dressed up, we ended up being really happy with the results too.
It was a happy evening for all of us. We really had a good time! And the fun wasn't over after dinner either. We still had a show to go to. The Westerdam had assembled a crew of singers and dancers and they put on a show. The lead male singer had fair hair and an outstanding voice. (It is a tough call, but I think he was even better than the tenor we heard later on. They both did the song Granada and I liked this guy's version better.) His voice was clear and powerful. It resonated with the music in a way that made it seem effortless, each note seemed perfect. The brown-haired female lead singer had a very strong and beautiful voice as well, and together the two made some exquisite music. There was a third singer, who was more than adequate as well. Westerdam had assembled some top quality talent for our entertainment!
The ship was still rolling around pretty severely and I was surprised that the dancers could perform their tricky steps without losing their balance but they did very well. (As was always the case with performances we attended; no photography was allowed. So, we have no pictures.)
When we returned to our rooms, we were treated to something that became a tradition that we looked forward to each evening: towel animals. This night it was a penguin and he brought big smiles to our faces.
Beside our penguin, our daily program telling us about Glacier Bay for tomorrow, and our evening mints, there was a card lying on our bed that notified us that the ship's clocks would be set back one hour at 02:00, to bring our time in line with Alaska Time. In the morning, we would be in Alaksa!
Dotti and Tammy went back down to the Lower Promenade Deck to visit the casino, while I transferred pictures from the cameras to my laptop. As it worked out, I finished with the pictures around 23:00, about the same time as Dotti and Tammy got back.
It had been a long day, and I was ready for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow: Glacier Bay!
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