Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cruising Through 25 Years Together, Part 2

We began the celebration of our 25th Anniversary on May 24 with an afternoon vow renewal ceremony at our church followed by a reception. Son #2 graduated from High School on May 22, and all our family from both Florida and Texas were here to celebrate with us, so we decided it was a great time to go ahead and renew our vows. When we married 25 years ago, my father was unable to attend our wedding because my grandparents who raised me loathed him and said they wouldn't attend the wedding if he were there. It was a truly awful thing for them to do to a young bride, but they weren't thinking about me, only about themselves. Both of them struggled with mental illness, so I can't be bitter, but I'm so thankful for the wonderful relationship I have with my Daddy now. He walked me down the aisle at our vow renewal. Words can't begin to express the overwhelming sense of completion I felt as I walked down the aisle on my father's arm in my formal black gown with glittering rhinestones. Our dear friend, Rev. Keith Cook performed the ceremony (which we had initially planned for June 26, then changed 2 weeks earlier – what flexibility!)

Our wonderful church family helped us put together a wonderful reception. However, we still had just over a month left before we headed off for our second honeymoon!


The fun really began early Saturday, June 27 when we left our house at 5:30 for the Huntsville airport. After making our connection at DFW, we landed in Seattle shortly before 1:00 pm. The flight from Dallas was spectacular as we saw snow-capped mountains in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Mount Ranier loomed majestic right outside our airplane window. What a magnificent backdrop for a truly beautiful city! Upon arrival, we were immediately impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. Although we weren't scheduled to sail until Sunday, Mona from the cruise transport company provided a wealth of information, even giving us a map and telling us what bus to take to get downtown. We settled into our Holiday Inn Express, though I must admit that my first impression of the hotel was not very positive. Someone had the bright idea to use two clashing shades of green and a nondescript shade of beige the paint the outside. Ugly doesn't begin to describe it. But inside it was quite nice, and our room was very comfortable. The staff was both friendly and helpful. After Keith rested for a little while (don't forget, he IS 3 years older than I am…and he's already in his 50's…) we decided to take the city bus downtown. The hotel staff recommended that we take the shuttle which was "only $14 a person." We thought $2 a person on the bus sounded better, plus we wanted an adventure!

On the way to the bus stop we happened upon an International Festival in a park overlooking a lovely lake. We meandered through the festival for 15 minutes or so. That's all it really took to get an overview, although there were some interesting vendors with nice things. However, we were eager to get to the famous Pike Market. Our bus came, we hopped on, paid our money and got our transfers for the ride back, and off we went on our Seattle adventure. One thing that stood out to me about Seattle is how clean the city is. Another thing that impressed me is the multi-cultural aspect of the city. We heard a variety of languages on the bus and saw people from many different ethnic backgrounds. Fellow passengers were very friendly and told us where to get off and how to get to the Market. As we approached downtown, the bus entered an underground tunnel – a unique innovation in Seattle which helps clear the streets of congestion. They also have a train system that runs through the tunnel, so it almost seemed as if the bus was driving on the train tracks – in fact, it probably was.

We got off the bus and a lovely young women showed us how to get out of the tunnel and gave us clear directions. A few minutes later, a young man from LA who had just participated in a marathon began talking to us. Turns out he has traveled to several marathons, but he hasn't made it to Huntsville yet! We chatted until we reached the market at which point we parted ways. The Pike Market is amazing. They really do throw fish….and I didn't hear the fish complaining at all! The recent uproar about the fish throwing made me really curious about it; it is fascinating to watch. The market stretches for about 4 blocks and is on two levels. It's actually a wonderful collection of markets, specialty shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. We wandered through the market for over an hour. As we were emerged from the inside section of the market to the outside vendors, we heard somebody say, "Is that an Auburn shirt?" My husband was indeed wearing an Auburn shirt, and it opened the door for us to make the acquaintance of a family from Muscle Shoals. In fact throughout the day we heard "War Eagle" at least 3 times from different people! No trip to Pike Market would be complete without a visit to the original Starbucks. Keith got a souvenir travel mug and we enjoyed a strawberry and cream frappacino. After another hour of walking, we were starting to get hungry, so we began looking for a place to eat. We wound up in a little oyster bar set back inside a shopping area. The outside seating had a view of a terraced garden – it felt like a lovely little grotto. I wish I had written down the name, but I hadn't yet had the idea to do this blog! We had fried zucchini and a seafood sampler. Then we climbed the stairs beside the terraced garden to an alleyway with more shops and restaurants. We made our way back to the bus tunnel with no incident, and headed back to the hotel for a wonderful night's sleep!


We awakened early Sunday because we were just so doggone excited we couldn't sleep! The hotel had a nice spread for breakfast, but the eggs really left a lot to be desired….so did the biscuits and gravy. They might be friendly in Seattle, but they sure don't cook like Southerners! We boarded a shuttle back to the airport where we met our transportation to the cruise ship. Hundreds and hundreds of people with thousands of bags were waiting to be transported. Our cruise terminal services Holland America as well as Princess. Finally we boarded a bus and began the trip to the terminal. We saw the Norwegian Pearl on the way and oohed and aahed. But suddenly we turned a corner and there looming before us was the Star Princess. She is a beauty to behold! Our ship is white with lovely lines and exquisite style. I learned that the 1970's show Loveboat was filmed on a Princess Ship. We entered the terminal, went through security, checked in and received our cards which do all kinds of good things: open the door to our stateroom, allow us the buy things, and let us get on and off the ship. After standing in line forever, we finally got to board and were shown to our stateroom on the Aloha deck (the 12th floor). The room is small, but nice. Our steward is delightful, and the view from the balcony is amazing – especially if there's land nearby. The first order of business was getting some lunch at the Horizon buffet. What a spread! We decided that we'll have to do a lot of walking – lots of stairs and no elevators- just to keep from gaining a ton on this cruise! We completed a scavenger hunt to get to know the ship and attended the Sailaway Party by the pool on the Sun Deck. During the party Keith won a book full of coupons and free items from various stores in Alaska. We even have a coupon for a free 2 carat sapphire! We watched from the upper deck as the ship left Seattle, then we explored some more.

Our dinner seating time is 5:30, so we returned to the cabin, dressed for dinner and headed down to the Amalfi dining room. When we arrived at our table, one lady was already seated there. She said her husband would be back shortly. Well, he did come back shortly…and told her to get her things and follow him…apparently they had some friends they wanted to sit with, which is quite understandable. But we were all alone at a table for 7! We waited and waited, but finally we ordered appetizers. I had spring rolls and Keith had a lobster pate – both were delicious. About that time our new dining companions showed up, Roz and Elliot with their 11 year old grandson Gregory. They were from Southern California and had taken each of their grandsons on a special cruise to Alaska. Greg was the youngest, and it was finally his turn. As we got to know each other, we discovered that Roz teaches Hebrew for young men and women who are preparing for bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. We learned so much about Judaism from Roz and Elliot – they were a true delight! For dinner I also had a French mushroom soup followed by pan-seared perch with delicious asparagus and rice pilaf. Keith had prime rib. After dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard variety show in the Princess Theater. The comedian was okay, but not great. It had been a long day, so we returned to our room to crash. Keith found My fair Lady on TV, so we fell asleep watching that and being lulled by the gentle motion of the ship. What an amazing first day!


We awakened around 8:00 and had a delicious buffet breakfast in the Horizon Dining Room on the Lido deck (14th floor…great view.) We attended an interfaith worship service in the Vista Lounge at 9:30. Sadly, only about 20 people showed up, but the message was good, and we felt refreshed and renewed. Then Keith went to a seminar on health and getting a flat stomach…they tried to sell him a detox program. I went to a seminar on shopping…they tried to sell me on the idea of buying diamonds and alexandrite here. Nevertheless, we had won a little book with coupons for lots of free stuff, so I paid attention to the info on the many bargains available to us in Ketchikan. For attending I received an Alaska charm bracelet and some other pretty jewelry that will make a great gift! Keith started feeling a little motion sickness, so we had a buffet lunch – I made an amazing salad at the salad bar – then we came back to the room and slept for an hour and a half. Next I went to a seminar on diamonds, gemstones and watches…learned a lot and got a certificate for another free pair of earrings. Keith and I met for High Tea; it started at 3:30, and I didn't get there until 4:00. I felt so sad when I saw him sitting there all alone waiting for me.

Dinner was a formal affair Monday night, so I wore the gown I bought for our vow renewal and decked myself out with beautiful jewelry. My appetizer was shrimp cocktail followed by a salad of mixed greens. Keith had mushroom soup, then Shrimp Newberg for his entrée. My entrée was Cornish game hen with tender spring vegetables. For dessert he had a chocolate raspberry soufflé and I had a small bowl filled with a hot baked cookie doused with rich crème. Oh my…delicious doesn't begin to describe it. The captain's welcome champagne party in the elegant Piazza began at 7:15. From the champagne waterfall (750 glasses stacked in such a way that when champagne was poured into one glass, it overflowed and cascaded down filling the glasses below it.) I had a mimosa and a champagne as the captain welcomed us to the ship. He said we had over 2800 passengers on board. It certainly doesn't seem like there are that many of us! I don't feel crowded at all.

We returned to our room to change into something nice and warm. I wrapped up in my Alpaca cape, and we headed up to the Lido deck for movies under the stars. Bear in mind this ship does do Caribbean routes, so I can imagine that people would love the idea of relaxing on deck under the starlight of the Caribbean sky. First of all, here it doesn't even begin to get dark until 9:30 or later (the further north we go, the later it is.) Secondly, it's downright cold up there. But we both wanted to see the feature movie, Frost/Nixon. It was worth braving the elements. They did provide us with blankets to wrap up in, and my Alpaca kept me quite toasty! The movie was fantastic – what an amazing job David Frost did of finally getting President Nixon to admit his wrongdoing. Yet President Nixon was a pretty sympathetic figure in some ways, too. I found myself feeling sort of sorry for him, even though his downfall was totally and completely his own doing, as he finally admitted. I remember living through that time period as a high schooler, and the movie brought back memories. After the movie we headed into the Horizon for a tiny late night snack, then down to the Promenade Lounge where Bruce the piano player delighted us with tunes from old TV shows favorites from the 70's. Finally around 11:00 we headed back to the stateroom, deciding it was time to call it a night, but almost too excited to sleep because we knew we'd wake up in Alaska!


Excitement about awakening in Alaska kept us from a really sound sleep. We fell asleep with the curtains open, but by about 3:30 the dawning light woke us up, so we closed the curtains to get a couple more hours of shut-eye. By 5:30, though, we just couldn't stay in bed any longer. We were approaching the quaint village of Ketchikan, and wanted to grab some breakfast before we headed out for a well-planned day of shopping. We found a window seat for breakfast and watched as we neared the dock, joining two other ships who had just docked this morning. Shortly after 7:00 we left the ship for our first Alaska experience. A boardwalk runs along the dock, and several visitor information centers awaited us. At one, we found an excursion (greatly discounted from the shipboard price) which we booked for 8:15. We had about forty-five minutes left, so we pulled out our shopping guide and got busy looking for the freebies. From a whaletale pendant to tanzanite earrings to a 2 ct. sapphire, we got lots of goodies throughout the day. One of the best was a collection of four distinct crystal Christmas ornaments from four different stores.

At 8:15 we boarded our shuttle for a trek into the wild. I hoped we would see a bear, but we never did. However, we did see majestic bald eagles as well as leaping salmon struggling to make it upstream so they could spawn and then die. Our first stop was a waterfall tucked into a wooded area (See the picture above). We explored the area for about 10 minutes, then boarded the bus for our second stop where we saw the salmon and bald eagles from a great vantage point. Then we traveled into Saxman, a native village made popular by the abundance of totem poles. We actually saw the carving house as well as the tribal meeting place. We weren't allowed to go into the tribal meeting place, but we could hear some sort of chanting coming from inside. It might have just been a recording, but it sounded impressive. Each totem pole tells a story. One particularly interesting pole is a ridicule pole of William Seward, the man who purchased Alaska for .02 an acre in the 1800's. He had been invited to 4 different potlatches – special meals where gifts are given to the honoree – by 4 different clans. Courtesy dictates that he should have given some sort of return gift within 2 years, but that didn't happen. So they carved him sitting on top of a ridicule pole. What a way to be memorialized just because you happened to have bad manners! As we left Saxman we saw a tall tree with a bald eagle nest complete with mother and babies. (It took binoculars to see the activity in the nest, but it was there!)

Back in town we visited Dolly's House. Dolly was a madame who moved to Alaska to make a living in the world's oldest profession. She and her "soiled doves" even had a "married men's path" to the back door of the house. It was such a sad story – I asked the hostess for more information about Dolly, and she told us that she was abused from the time she was 6 until she was 11. The love of her life was money. Keith and I both felt so sad as we left. We continued down the Ketchikan boardwalk, visiting various little shops along the way. Around 1:00 we came back to the ship for lunch in the Horizon buffet. We were thrilled to find flowers from my dad waiting for us in our room. What a delightful anniversary treat! I took a few minutes to call my dad to thank him, then we went back out or some more shopping. We had to be back on the ship by 4:00 when we set sail for Juneau.

At dinner we celebrated our anniversary with our tablemates, Roz, Elliot and Greg. We got a bottle of wine and toasted our 25 amazing years together. Roz and Elliot recently celebrated their 52nd anniversary, so it was a joy to share this time with them. At the end of the meal, our waiter brought us a small chocolate cake courtesy of the Captian for our anniversary. We were too stuffed to even think about eating it, so we brought it back to our room to enjoy later. After dinner we went to Motor City, a musical production in the Vista Lounge celebrating the history of Motown. Then we came back to our room to finish our celebration!

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