Monthly Archives: February 2018

Alaska Excursions

We managed to get our excursions chosen and booked. Since we’re traveling with my niece and sister-in-law, there were twice as many votes as usual. Still, a consensus was eventually achieved.
We booked through Norwegian, although we could probably save a bit by booking independently, but the port times in a couple of places are short enough where we wanted to be on an excursion that was run for the cruise line.
In Ketchikan, we are on the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour. We are going out on a The Aleutian Ballad – a ship that was on Deadliest Catch (season two – she was hit by a rogue wave) to catch crab. Well, to watch trained people catch crab, and then handle the catch before it’s thrown back. It’s a good chance to be on a crab fishing boat (with its slightly inauthentic heated stadium seating), see what pulling a pot is like, and see what comes out of the ocean. This was one excursion I really wanted to do, so I’m happy. (I don’t remember anyone on Deadliest Catch drinking hot chocolate, but I like it, so hand over the mug.)
In Juneau, we will go on another boat to visit Mendenhall Glacier and go whale-watching. An interesting aspect to Alaska whale-watching tours – almost all of them have a money-back guarantee! This either means there are a lot of whales in Alaska or there’s a boat that goes out first and releases them.
In Skagway, we will visit the Best of Skagway and ride the White Pass Railway. I usually avoid “best of” excursions, since you’re rushed through a bunch of places you don’t care about seeing in order to see the one place you want, but I get to pan for gold and see a former brothel, so I’ll take my chances. The White Pass Railway is a narrow-gauge rail line from the port at Skagway up to the gold mines in Canada. The mines don’t need supplies from the line any longer, so now they mine tourists. It’s the first excursion I remember where we will be in two countries, since we’re going from the US to Canada and back.
It’s interesting to see how much there is to do (although each port seems to have a specialty – Juneau for whales, Skagway you have to ride the railway), but also to remember how little of Alaska you actually visit.

Foamers

There’s a group of fans in almost every endeavor who go a bit beyond the norm. Remember, “fan” is derived from “fanatic”, so that’s already a pretty good starting point.
Still, there are always those who go above and beyond – say, the baseball fans who memorize individual player statistics (“Don’t pinch-hit Sanders! He can’t hit a leftie after 6pm if it’s more than 76 degrees and the roof is open!”), the music fans who know who all the people in the song really are (“Sexy Sadie” was the Maharishi), the fans who know where their idols live (“stalkers.”)
So, it really shouldn’t have surprised me that the same applies to cruises. Now, you would think that you simply chose a cruise, you paid your money and you sailed somewhere, and that was the end of it. Rookie mistake.
The first group are the frequent sailors (like frequent fliers) who can tell you the best cabins on a specific ship, which dishes to avoid in which restaurant, and what weeks will have the least kids. They know the T&Cs and how to work the loopholes. They know the day the line stopped putting chocolates on pillows, and the day the lobster went away.
Then, there are those who track the individual crew members (or befriend them on social media) and book cruises based on who the butler is that week. These people answer a question like “Does anyone know when Julie is back from vacation?” with “Let me call  her and check” or “When we had dinner last week, she said she had two weeks of vacation left.”
There are ship collectors, who want to sail on every ship in a fleet. There’s actually specialists in that group, who want to sail every inaugural sailing or only Transatlantics (we met some of them, before we knew it was a thing.)
So, when I’m awake at 2:30am, watching a video feed of a new ship “floating out” into open water for the first time, I’m a little embarrassed. Just knowing that “floating out” is a thing is pretty bad, but knowing how to watch it (and then thinking about going to see one in person some day) is a bit troubling. But at least I’m not alone.