Fresh back from an All-you-can-eat Alaskan cruise, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my wisdom and knowledge through my keen observation skills as a law enforcement veteran. We chose an Alaska cruise for a couple of reasons. One, neither of us had ever been there. Two, with the threat of global warming, we wanted to see the glaciers before they melted. And last but not least, Somalia pirates hate cold weather. Plus my wife had to see the humpback whales up close and personal.
Cruises aren’t cheap, so plan a year in advance where you want to go and start putting a little of your extra job and overtime money aside. Going through a travel agent is a no brainer, especially if it’s your very first cruise. They have a wealth of information and they will get you the best deals. Yes, travel agents make a commission but in the big picture, the discounts and upgrades they pull out of their hats for you are well worth it.
Putting together a vacation package like a seven-day cruise is simple. I say simple because I have a wonderful wife who took care of every single detail right down to the uniform of the day. I say uniform of the day because there are formal nights where in the main dining area a tie and jacket are required. If you don’t like getting dressed up for a few nights, grin and bear it, all the women are dressed to the nines — I guarantee you’ll see a few 10s too.
Six months away from a trip of a lifetime, we started choosing our excursion packages. They’re the little (pricey) pleasure (costly) tours (steep) and (exclusive) outings you take while the ship docks at the different ports along the route. This is important because excursions can be expensive (if you catch my drift). Activities include things like train rides, pedicab tours through the port cities, bus tours through parks and rainforest, whale watching, river rafting, zip-lining, and shopping.
One of the excursions is a helicopter ride to a glacier where you land, walk around in special glacier boots, have a catered glacier picnic, take awesome glacier photos, and then chopper back to port and get on the ship. This pricey little tour cost about the same as a brand new Beretta Bobcat but because they had weight restrictions on the helicopter, my cost for this excursion was going to set me back the cost of a Beretta 92FS INOX.
The four-hour bike and hike with granola bar and complimentary souvenir water bottle was more my speed.
Two months away from our cruise I decided to lose some weight and was able to take off 13 pounds. I’m glad I did because I think the airline industry in an effort make a bigger profit by cramming more passengers into their fuselage, made smaller seats. I felt like a piece of crawfish in a tube of Cajun Boudin.
There are lots of fun things to do both on the ship as well as off the ship. Besides the bars and lounges with entertainment, there is a casino, boutiques for shopping, Broadway shows, dancing, swimming in indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, basketball, shuffle board, ping pong, exercise rooms, cooking classes and even a workshop teaching the inside secrets of the iPad that only CIA agents and Navy SEALs know about. My wife brought along her iPad and took that workshop. Now I can’t even open that thing without a top-secret security clearance.
The best part about losing those 13 pounds was weighing myself when I got home. I had only gained back seven of those pounds. I thought for sure I had gained the 13 pounds plus another seven pounds on top of that.
All a cruise ship really is is an all-you-can-eat five-star restaurant. There is food being served someplace on the boat 24 hours a day or you can pick up the phone and your cabin steward will bring it to you. You could usually find me hanging around the pizza bar at midnight or the made-to-order pasta and stir fry area in the wee hours of the night.
Since daylight begins at 4:30 am and it doesn’t start to get dark until 10 pm, it throws your healthy eating habits right out the porthole.
Every evening the main dining room has a dinner that is second to none. Each night there is a different menu with numerous selections of appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts and the best part is you can have as much as you want. It’s all inclusive.
One night I was wearing dress slacks with the adjustable elastic waist band. Make a note: these are the preferred slacks to wear on the S.S. Smorgasbord. When it was my turn to order I brought the menu up to conceal my face and whispered to the waiter to bring me three appetizers, a salad, and for my entrée, one lobster every ten minutes until I said stop. When it came time to look at the dessert menu that was easy: one of each.
The cruise ship lost money on me and I even won $740 in the casino.
Police Car Photo Op
One of the things I like to do when traveling is to find a police car and get a picture standing next to it. I have taken hundreds of photos through the years and one day I’ll make a nice photo album or a collage or maybe both.
One of the port cities we visited was Skagway — a wonderful, historic little town with breathtaking ice-capped mountains all around it. I was determined to find a police vehicle when I spotted a bike officer named Amy who pointed me in the right direction.
Just two blocks off the beaten path and I’d have my picture. My wife and I had the opportunity to see bald eagles, humpback whales, sea lions, king salmon, glaciers, and icebergs while traveling down Tracy Arm Fjord. We went bicycling through rainforests, river rafting and hiking along the Chilkoot trail… a trip we will never forget.
But the cruise wasn’t complete until I had that photo of me standing next to a patrol car. Finally I found it, a brand spanking new Skagway Police Vehicle, so new that it didn’t even have license plates on it.
Next stop, the Caribbean. I wonder what patrol car will be added to my collection.