Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Alaska part 2: go with the floe

You know those people who say "Oh, the good thing about cruise ships is that the boat is so big you can't really feel any movement, so you don't get seasick"?


Don't get me wrong; I didn't get as sick as I did on the Canadian ferry ride I took as a teenager, nor did I ever throw up, but I definitely started feeling it on the second day of our cruise.  I took some Dramamine at brunch, and it kicked in so fast and so hard that I had to return to our room for a nap!

Oh, speaking of brunch: we saw a group of workers in hazmat suits and face masks wiping down a table with bleach while another worker stood to the side and filled out forms on a clipboard.  My dad said that a woman had thrown up, and the barf had barely hit the table before she was ushered out and the workers hurried in to clean!  Thanks to the fallout from Carnival's infamous "poop cruise", they take things like that very seriously.  It still wasn't appetizing or comforting, of course; I whispered to G, "This is how the zombie apocalypse will start."

After sleeping for a while, G and I went to an art history lecture that was surprisingly good, and then we grabbed lunch before seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  The screen/sound system wasn't as big or as good as you'd get in a "real" movie theater, but definitely better than most people have in their homes!  Then we watched a lecture on Alaskan animals and hung out on the deck for about an hour. We had dinner at La Fontaine (steak, rice, and baked Alaska for me) and then hung out with my brother for a little while before bed.

Speaking of my brother: as some of you may already know, he has Asperger's.  And although I'm very ashamed to admit it, sometimes I have a really hard time dealing with him.  G very astutely pointed out that my dad and I spent decades just assuming that R was being rude or stubborn or dense, so by the time he was officially diagnosed about 7 years ago, we had already formed patterns that were very hard to break even after we knew it wasn't his fault.  But I have to give enormous credit to R, because although he did have his moments (mostly repetition based) that drove me up the wall, he did really good on the cruise.  He was very sociable with other people and made an extra effort to mind his manners.  I am so fucking proud of him!

On Tuesday, the ship cruised around Tracy Arm, so we spent the vast majority of the day on the deck or sprawled out in chairs in the enclosed (read: warm!) pool area, watching the scenery go by.  This is a "hanging" glacier; it's the Florida-shaped thing in the middle:

And a photo of a passing ice floe.  Speaking of which, didja get my awesome pun in the title?  DIDJA?!?!?

While we were up on deck, we saw several whales.  We never got much of a glimpse other than a bit of back or their tails, but it was still awesome.  At the risk of sounding like a sap, there's nothing quite like seeing animals in their native habitat.

We had dinner at La Fontaine (prime rib, baked potato, and Yukon sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce for me) and then caught a comedy show in the Queen's Lounge.  Unfortunately, that's how we learned that Robin Williams had committed suicide that day, because we didn't have internet access (wifi was $55 for 100 minutes; no thanks), so we were kind of isolated from the news for the vast majority of the trip.  So that cast a bit of a pall on the evening.  Godspeed, Mr. Williams; you were one of the greats.

Another bit of unpleasantness, though nowhere near as awful as the news about Robin Williams, was that G came down with a cold that lasted through the rest of the trip.  There were Purell dispensers all over the place, but my constant slathering of it over my extremities unfortunately did nothing but give me super dry hands, and I wound up getting the cold too.  Bleh.

Now, there are a lot of people who go on cruises and either never leave the ship or go into port and look around on their own.  But for those of us who like a little more adventure, they offered optional excursions that ran the gamut from simple nature hikes to kayaking or ziplining.  On the 13th, all five of us opted for an excursion that took us back to Tracy Arm for a closer look.  It was pretty goddamn spectacular.  Yes, the glacier was really that blue!

Here I am serving up some Nanook of the North realness in front of a waterfall, as you do.  Disclaimer:  that's fake fur (doy) and it's a puffy jacket.  It's not exactly flattering, but it's warm so whatever.

We were fortunate enough to witness "calving", which is when a big chunk of ice falls off a glacier.  There's a sound like a gunshot, so you get some warning beforehand.  One piece was enormous; the guide said it was about the size of a house!  We were maybe a quarter of a mile away, but the waves came fast and hard.  There were some seals hanging out on ice floes and they just looked up like "yeah, whatever, you folks freak out if you want" and flopped back down.

Once we got off the boat, my dad, stepmother, and G went back on the cruise ship and R and I explored Juneau for a little bit.  We didn't have much time and it was miserably rainy, so I bought an outrageously expensive combo box of Dayquil/Nyquil ($20!) in a drugstore and then we popped into the library, which was very nice.  I joyfully logged into their free wifi to quickly check my email and get my free booster spin on Candy Crush, and then R and I got back on the ship.  I took a nap and then we all had dinner at Canaletto.  I had veal picatta with lemon pasta, which didn't really do much for me, but everyone else loved their food, so I think I just got the wrong thing.  I also had pistachio gelato, which was fantastic because gelato.

After dinner, R, G, and I went to a show put on by the Indonesian crew members.  According to the emcee, the Amsterdam's crew was about 80% Indonesian, and they shared songs and traditional dances with us.  There was one section where they began chanting and I was like "Um, didn't they do that exact chant in the map scene in The Fall?"  (Confirmed; thanks, YouTube!)  When it was over, we retired to our cabin for a dose of Nyquil and a much needed night's sleep.

[To be continued]