anchorage/seward

I figured it was about time that I made good on my promise to post about our cruise. . .two years later.  Yikes.  Better late than never, right?

7.22.11

We arrived as the sun was setting (?) on the horizon.  It was difficult to tell which way it was headed, but it was just peeking over the layer of clouds that was dark and thick.  We landed at about 2 in the morning and set out to find our baggage and a place to rest our heads.

Fortunately we were able to find a few rows of seating that did not have armrests, and used those spaces to stretch out and wait for the train that would whisk us away to the ship.  Rest was fitful and fleeting as we were right underneath a speaker that continuously played music or made announcements for the time and other things I would have preferred they kept to themselves.  I probably woke up every hour to shift from one side to the other and finally stopped trying around 9am.  I was pleasantly surprised that it looked sunny and warm outside, as we were expecting it to be overcast and raining the whole time.

After Jason got up, we went upstairs to get some breakfast and wandered outside where it was a perfect, warm, summer day.  We enjoyed our breakfast and read a little as the time to departure drew nearer.  Finally, we made our way across the street to the train station (how fortuitous that they were so close!) and waited for the train to board.  That’s where we were finally connected with the rest of our 20 member group.  Our numbers were called and we shuffled with the crowd, amazed at the beauty of the train.  The top halves of the cars were glass, allowing for a wonderful – and almost 360 degree – view outside.  They were also tinted so that it was pleasantly toasty inside.  Each group of four sat at a table, facing each other and awaiting the real adventure.

As the train pulled out of the station, our hostess, a wonderfully friendly and funny woman, came around and got our orders for drinks and food.  We all marveled at the beauty of our surroundings, twisting around and craning our necks to get the best views.  Cameras were constantly going off and some people even went in between the cars where it was possible to lean outside and get clearer shots.  We rolled past mountains, valleys, and rivers, all breathtaking and lush.  We even saw a few eagles and a moose.  It seemed that everywhere I looked was untouched beauty that could not be ignored.

The whole train ride took about 5 hours and when we pulled into Seward, where the ship was docked, I was still sad to leave our glass-topped vessel.  But the magnitude of the ship was another kind of beauty.  We lined up to get our documents check and our room cards and made our way to the dock.  It was difficult to believe, once we stepped inside, that we were on a ship, on the water.  The lobby had a stunning, white marble staircase, and we were given delicate flutes of sparkling cider as we stepped over the threshold.  Decadence was the name of the game, from the carpets, to the furnishings on the windows, to the elevators.

We made it to our room, our luggage rolling along behind us down the narrow hallway.  Our room was quaint, with a mini fridge, bedside tables, a queen size bed, an itty bitty bathroom, and closet space and drawers.  They had placed chocolates on our bed, along with the scheduled of the day, though it was late afternoon by this time.  While in our room, we heard our first shipwide announcement as the (very Australian and very funny) Ian, our MC of sorts, welcomed us onboard.  We were also advised that an emergency drill would be commencing shortly and we were to make our way to the designated area, which for us happened to be the art gallery.  Having barely been able to change, we made our way down to the art gallery and squeezed in with all the other passengers assigned there.  They showed us how to use the life preservers and some such and we happily made our way back to our room once the information was given.  After taking our showers we got ready for our first cruise dinner.

This being the first night we did not have to dress up as we would for the rest of the trip.  We saw a lot of people in very casual attire, flip flops and shorts and the like.  Because of the large amount of passengers, dinner was served in shifts and we had the middle shift.  The first night, our party was split between two different seating areas.  The dining room was two tiered, with the second tier wrapping around the outside of the first tier, allowing those on the second to still see those in the middle of the first.  The whole dining room was situated at the end of the ship and the floor-to-ceiling windows allowed a magnificent view as the ship made its way out of the dock.  It was a little disconcerting to see and feel the ship sway as we slowly turned around to head out to sea.

Our party on the second tier was split amongst three tables and we had two different servers who would be waiting on us every night.  I was told that by the end of the trip, our server would be able to tell us what we would most like, talk about great service!  I decided to be bold and try escargot, since I don’t plan on spending money specifically to try snail.  It wasn’t bad, actually, but knowing what I was eating did not encourage me to do it again.  Fortunately they had a vegetarian option every night (ignore the fact that I ate a snail first thing) and I could also make some dishes vegetarian, though I didn’t discover this until about half-way through the trip.

As the sun slowly set, and the light turned golden, we made our way out of the dining area and some of us decided to take a walk outside.  We got the pleasure of seeing the setting sun dip over the glaciers at about 10:30pm and watched as the sky magnified its beauty.

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