Hey y’all! So, how's everyone doing? Good good… Yeah, I know its been awhile, but what can I say, when your work “week” is ten or eleven days and you work something like eight hours during that “week,” you get a little unmotivated. That, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but even an Alaskan cruise can get mundane and routine after your 12th time up. That’s right, I’ve taken twelve Alaskan cruises. That’s about four months of totem poles, ulu knifes, whale sightings (look, a spout!), hot-tubbin’ with glaciers, hand crafted beers (someone please tell me what the hell that means…), hiking, a million pictures of different mountains that somehow all look the same, and store after store of Alaskrap.
So because of all this, and my unwillingness to sit down and write a letter, I’ve waited a couple of months to let y’all know that I’m still alive and doing fine. Actually, pretty good. Its been sort of an Alaskan Wilderness Vacation. As I am writing this letter we are sailing away from
Oh, and speaking of breaking ankles, we’ve officially had six cast members swap out of our company due to medical or contractual reasons. Six people! Our cast is only thirteen. Lets see… First was Billy, who pretty much quit but was about to get fired. Next was Christy and Victor, who decided sometime around the first day of rehearsals that they didn't want to be here (took them about two weeks into the contract before they decided to let us know…) Then Megan hurt her knees dancing. Next Lisa, who was the singer who came in to replace Christy, had to leave because she was contracted to another ship. Finally Eddie had to leave us last cruise due to knee complications. Plus, we nearly lost Michael Ramey (one of our dancers) a few days ago when he slipped and hurt his ankle. So, instead of being the Jean Ann Ryan company, JAR now stands for Just Another Reblock. Even made a T-shirt commemorating our contract. Funny thing is that after it was made, we lost Eddie. So, like a new computer, our shirts was obsolete the day we got them.
So, what have I been doing lately? Welp, a lot of the same. For example, every time we’re in
Here is Michael, Uri, and enjoying a soak in the hot tub with some “adult” coffee while taking in the Hubbard Glacier. Probably one of the coolest places on the ship is for Crew only. I think the best place for a hot tub is the bow of the ship. We did this a couple more times, but the weather was never as nice as it was this day. Of course there was lots of memorable hikes, but probably the best was when Katie, Mickey, Uri and I hiked to the Glacier in
This is the waterfall that created the smallish river that separated us from the glacier itself. Most recently I hiked up to
But there are lots of things for the crew to do on board, as well. Our crew steward, who also is the JAR dance captain, makes sure that the crew on board are well taken care of, and plans events like bingo, dance lessons, theme nights in the crew bar, and a talent show. I attended this talent show, in which there was lots of music, singing, comedy, magic… and of course, what talent show would be complete without cross dressing…
No, I didn't compete, but I had a front row seat.
But then there are the sights of
Did you know that
If you are visiting
And many restaurants offer reindeer sausage too, so there are many ways to enjoy Santa’s helpers.
Hey, here’s one. When I was in Seward I was pointed to a small stream where the salmon were literally swimming on top of each other…
Oh, here’s an interesting picture. I found this while surfing the net one day.
This is when they were adding the 150 foot section to the ship in 1998.
Speaking of the ship, we’re still hobbling along fine. Maybe you saw us on the news. Yeah, were pretty famous… You see one cruise a while back, we popped another engine (for the record I am not sure whether we have two or three working right now… One never worked out of drydock, and another poops out every now and then) which made us about seven hours late getting back to
I still keep pretty busy here amidst all the sea days and repeat ports. Sea days have been the most challenging. Its difficult at first to be sedate and comfortable with the idea of not doing much. Because of this, many folks will gain weight during their various contracts on board. I have pretty much stuck to going to the gym five or six days out of the week… I mean, with all the time and ease of commute there’s really no excuse not to. There’s also a promenade on deck 7, which is nice to jog on when the weather and sea permits. Plus, when it’s a little windy, you make the turn coming around the bow and the wind will kinda pick you up and blow you along your way! Still, Deck 7 can be an adventure for the senses, well… sense. Let me explain.
Deck 7 port side smells. There, I’ve said it. Everyone notices this. But it just doesn't smell, it has altering smells, or moods I think, depending on where you are. Here’s a good example… We were leaving
I’m smelling poop now, so I jog a little faster. Bow of the ship in sight, I’m now towards the front of the ship… hey, this is a new smell. Not really alluring, but unique. The Dream has really out done itself this time, for it’s mixed the smell of Gasoline with the smell of Poop! As I was jogging, I tried to think of a name for this amazing new smell… Gas-o-Poop. Then I hit the bow and come back on the starboard side, which incredibly has no smell except the clean smell of the ocean. Then I turn the horn for lap two… and in case you forgot the order… Dead fish, macaroni, gas, poop, and finally Gas-o-poop. To put this in perspective, I usually run ten laps. Three and a half laps equal a mile. So that’s nearly a mile and a half of stink. Still, the smells don’t stop there… read on…
Lets move into the passenger areas now… Lounges, theatre, restaurants. The average age of our 11th Alaskan cruise was 64. This cruise is supposed to be higher, and the
Finally, let me tell you a funny story about performing on this cruise ship. The wall of the proscenium arch that faces upstage has a huge vent on each side that blows cool air on the stage and somehow is supposed to cool the house as well. The air comes from outside the ship… somewhere. Now, in our eleven day cruises we stop in
So, we have about two months left in our contract. From here we finish our final Alaskan cruise in Vancouver (not
I’ve become an expert of sorts of
Probably the most important is figure out what ship you want to be on. I love the Dream despite her inadequacies. However, she is slow because of all her engine problems. Generally the newer the ship, the bigger and faster it is. The Dream was built in 1992, which is getting up there for cruise ships. I don’t have a clue how fast she’s supposed to go, but right now it averages around 16 knots. Faster ship equals less sea days and more time at port. I know it sounds funny to say, but keep it in mind. Next, are you wondering how important it is to have an exterior cabin? Unless you live here (I love mine), I don’t think it means that much. If you figure your going to be out at port or enjoying the ship’s activities, that means that you’ll only be in your room to sleep. So you can save the thousand or so dollars and spend it on all the expensive tours and ten dollar drinks. If you are going to get an exterior cabin, make sure it doesn’t say “obstructed view.” Do ya know what that means? That means that you open your drapes and get a big orange life boat in your face. Plus, it makes the ambient light in the room orange…
Next, think about the itinerary.
I have never seen people so excited about going to a sandwich and coffee place in my life. It starts two nights before, when if you stand still in the middle of the ship, you can hear the thirty or so Canadian crew members vehemently whispering words like “Timbits” and “Turkey Sandwich.” (Timbits is Canadian for doughnut holes.) Then the day we hit PR, it’s like watching a parade in fast forward, or more like a marathon race to beat the line. In any case, besides that, there’s a mall about the size of a Super Wal-Mart, about a dozen souvenir stores (only one of which is Canadian themed, complete with a large Canadian Royal Mountie motion activated bobbing head thing), and a fishery (yes, the one next to the ship).
So, back to the point, the itinerary. Some ports are awesome, while others don’t offer much. In this case, Whittier and Haines. The others have enough to keep you occupied without going on a tour. If you are going to go on a tour, keep in mind that unless you are doing something really special like a helicopter tour, you can usually get the same tour on land for a lot less. Since the ship books all the tours with the folks in the cities your going to visit, doesn’t it make sense to do it yourself and save some money? Most of the time, right where you get off of the ship is a bunch of stands offering city tours, glacier tours, whale watching, and the other usual outdoorsy type Alaska stuff. The only reason to book onboard is for the peace of mind. You see, if you book onboard, and the tour you’re on is late, then the ship will know and not leave without you. If you book on the pier and your bus breaks down, then make sure you have your camera, because you’ll have a great photo opportunity as the ship sails away.
Also, and I think it’s funny that NCL does this, a lot of folks get on board and think that we’re going to Anchorage. What NCL does is say this on the itinerary:
Guess which one you’re going to? You wanna go to
Then there’s little things. Look up the ship online and see what people think of the food and service. Did you know, for example, that one of the hidden charges is a ten dollar a day service fee? That goes towards your room steward and hotel staff. How about that automatic 15% gratuity on all purchases on board? Some people get upset and fight it, and while you can remove the ten bucks a day, the 15% stays.
Anyway, its certainly not rocket science, but those are a few key things to consider when booking with NCL or any other cruise line.
Hey, by the way,
To make a long story short, at one point the streets of Seattle were built above the sidewalks, from as little as 10 feet to as many as 30 feet, due to non tax paying business owners and a history of a “fix it fast, not right” attitude. So in order to cross a street you had to climb up a ladder (later stairs), cross the street, and go back down. When things started falling off of the street and killing people, then Seattle decided to cover up those sidewalks. Now the businesses had two entrances, one above ground and one below. People actually preferred the underground areas because it kept them out of the elements, and so it thrived as a place of business, as speakeasies during prohibition, and as barracks during World War I. So, now you know…
Plus, it seems that
All right, well I gotta get into costume and do a little “Sea Legs At Sea,” our neat little song and dance show. As I conclude this letter, we are leaving Prince Rupert and on our way to Vancouver, and continuing south to the Panama Canal, and back up to Houston to warmer weather and sandy beaches. Hope all is well with all y’all back home, and let me know how your summer went!
Michael Lamendola (sitting on a glacier)
“Gas-o-Poop” is my new band…
Look for another song from our shows following this E mail... in a couple of days.