Sometimes in life a little solitude does one good. A cruise seemed like an ideal place to spend time together, rest up, admire the scenery, read a little and have some fun while seeing a little bit of the country that, until now, had remained illusive. Inside our cabin, state-room to be exact, we sat, turned on our mini TV set, looked at the map and coordinates the captain had projected onto the screen and then tuned into ESPN to watch the baseball highlights. This was excruciating. Next door, they were still fighting. The kids were unhappy about something and their balcony door was being slammed open and closed at regular intervals and with some gusto to boot. It was still light outside and my suggestion of ‘let’s go for another walk’ seemed to fall on deaf ears. By now my throat was on fire and my cold advancing faster than the speed this boat was moving. And so, with the clock ticking along to 8.23 PM, I rested my head on the pillow and the next thing I knew, it was 5.40AM!
The sun wasn’t up, although it was supposed to be. It was thick fog outside. We couldn’t see anything off the starboard side of the boat where we were situated. I looked over to Wendy and in the most sarcastic of tones said, “only 36 hours until we can get off, hopefully for good!’ She smiled, and as we stood outside in the freezing cold, looking into a solid grey mist, we realized this was not for us. We had contracted a severe dose of cruise blues.
The gym, situated on the 12th deck, forward of everything except the SPA, was delightful. On the evening we had boarded, a South African crew member called Garry had told us to come around 6 AM to work out or we wouldn’t get it. I thought he was joking, and I asked him, “with all these large people on board, does anyone actually work out?” He was adamant. Arriving at 6, there was even a line, all be it a short one, ready and waiting to get their out of shape bodies into some sort of shape to allow them all to eat all day! With a certain cold in the works, I was lackadaisical in my efforts to sweat and get my heart rate up into a frenzy, and after 45 mins, I was done. By the time we left, the gym was full to bursting. Garry had been right. It wasn’t even 7 AM and this place was claustrophobic. There was no place to hide, unless you fancied a shag in a lifeboat. But even they were locked up!
Buffet time again! You’re getting the picture now I presume? If not, look at the one posted above. We were at the rear of the ship, sitting outside, the sun was up, if only briefly, and there were hundreds of breakfast addicts munching endlessly on bacon, bacon and more bacon. The gentleman in this shot sat for at least three hours that morning just eating, and he wasn’t the only one. The sun soon vanished, sadly for the rest of the day, and after an hour session at 9 AM in the Spa with an acupuncturist, (arranged by choice to try to alleviate and old shoulder and foot injury and to pass some time), we sat back down in our room $394 poorer, and planned our escape. There was now 34 hours left until our arrival in Juneau Alaska and to freedom. We’d made our decision, we were off! The only issue now was how to get off and how to get a refund. The refund part wasn’t really an issue. We realized that we might just have to forfeit the money spent, which would be a complete waste and a tough lesson learned, although at this point, neither of us cared. The only thing that mattered was our escape. We felt like criminals, caged up for life but ready to do a runner after the lights were turned off. The only difference was, we would make haste for land at 2 PM the following day with the sun at its highest point in the sky and no place to hide.
Five and a half laps round the deck equals one mile, or so the sign states. They only thing it doesn’t say is that when it’s blowing 40 MPH outside, one side of that lap is impossible, the other side, well let’s just say you don’t need to try too hard to accomplish your goal. We walked a mile. We walked another mile and then, out of nowhere, the fog lifted, the sun, still hidden, refused to come out, but I could have sworn out of the corner of my right eye on the port side, the easy side, with the wind behind up, I spotted a whale funnel. I looked again and then stopped. By now there were two, perhaps more, and then it happened. An Orca appeared!! If you look closely at the picture below, this is exactly how it occurred.
I was really in heaven. I’d come to see whales, eagles, and bears, and here was my first whale. There were lots of them passing by, all moving with grace and at speed. All Orcas. Before we knew it, everyone was watching, and after about ten minutes, the crowd just dissipated, in favor of? You guessed it, more food. This was wonderful. To be positioned in the middle of the ocean with land at least a full day from where we now sailed and to be surrounded by whales, well, just maybe this cruise wouldn’t be so bad after all? Perhaps we were being hasty with our decision to leave? Perhaps the first sighting is the best and then after that it becomes boring? Maybe that’s why the majority of guests just retreated back into the buffet? No matter what, we stood mesmerized and momentarily happy. This experience was certainly different, it was cold, windy and it was desolate, but I was completely warm inside, and so was my feeling of accomplishment.
Another mile round the deck and then lunch. The whales had gone, the fog was back and we still had 26 hours until landfall. Perhaps it was time to check emails or perhaps it was just time to reflect on what had been a close encounter of the whale kind. I decided email it was, and so, armed with the thought of paying a fortune to get on-line (we had been warned in advance) I returned to my state-room, turned on my Ipad and hooked up to the internet at $1 per minute plus connection charges. It wasn’t too long before the temptation to book a hotel in Juneau and a flight back to San Jose, took center stage once again, and robbed me of any idea I had of remaining transfixed to the study of Alaskan whale behavior for any longer that I had to. Land was calling, and land it would be. Time to execute our exit strategy.