The thing that will leave an everlasting impression in my mind from this cruise, my first and last cruise, was when the scenery seemed magical, and it was on this particular morning, when the sun was shining, when the water was calm, and when there was peace all around, it never really felt that way. There always seemed to be something going on, either on board the ship, or outside in the calm serenity that really never was. The other thing that I found completely disconcerting was that the scenery took many hours to change. We would creep up on a stretch of incredible snow-covered mountains, on our left, then one hour later they’s be directly in front of us and then one hour more to find them on our right. It was sight-seeing in slow motion. After taking one picture, it was an eternity before another and different view came into focus. When I finally gave up and decided 50 shots of one hill were enough, there was still 8 and a half hours to Juneau. “Let’s eat!” I joked, and after a quick breakfast, an even faster shower, some soul-searching (just in case getting off this boat was a mistake), it was time to go to level 7 and make use of the free internet that Erickson had promised.
I was by now, famous. Everyone of the crew knew of my plight. They were all wonderfully compassionate, and I was finding it hard to keep up this facade. Entering the crew office, I was ushered to an empty desk and told to take as much time as I liked to make my arrangements. I was so grateful to be back in touch with the real world without having to spend $1 a minute for the pleasure of doing do. Surrounded by caring souls, each one interested in learning what my emergency was, I started to Google Juneau and its history, along with hotels, flights back to San Jose and all of this while opening a separate window on the browser to double-check my email. I decided in the end to shoot an email to by business partner Lisa, explaining what I needed, saving me time and guaranteeing that she knew me well enough to book me into accommodations that would be acceptable and flights that would make my homeward journey simple and cost efficient. Deciding to do this allowed me to get out of the crew office and contemplate my final 7 hours on the boat. I told Lisa that I would check back in using my own email in about 5 hours, giving her enough time to sort everything out.
“Mr. Zoltie?” said a voice from behind me as I was leaving to go back to my room. I turned round and was confronted by a middle-aged lady holding some paperwork that had to be completed. “Ah yes,” I said, “the Jones Act!” Where would the United States of America be without never-ending mountains of paper work? I signed it all and ran back upstairs to struggle with the remaining 6 plus hours before we docked. We watched a movie, looked at more slow-moving scenery and then watched some TV.
Packed and ready to go, 2 hours left in our quest to be dropped off on terra firma, we went to the upper deck to watch first hand, our arrival into Juneau. It was 75 degrees and extremely calm and we could see Juneau in the distance. In fact, it looked like you could just run to Juneau quicker than this boat was going to take to reach the harbor side. It’s amazing how long it takes these ships to slow down and stop. My cell phone suddenly burst into action, my heart skipped a beat and without warning it felt like life was about to be normalized once again.
My hotel had been booked, my flights confirmed, my business partner had come through big time. We were all set. The scenery suddenly seemed nicer, the people on the boat standing next to us, more acceptable, and we were about to partake of our final visit to a buffet that I will never forget and never want to remember. Heading back down to have a quick bite to eat around 12 30, we were greeted by the now customary crew member standing at the entrance to the dinning room. “Washy Washy!” she cried out, as she squirted hand sanitizer onto our palms. This had become a ritual for everyone on board, and one that was carried out continuously at every eating place on the ship. Her ‘washy washy’ was followed up with a ‘Happy Happy!” and of course a fake smile. The system was brilliant and created some kind of environmentally friendly atmosphere on board. All the kids were running around saying ‘washy washy, happy happy’ and although it started to grate on me, it made sense what the crew were trying to do in their effort to stop the spread of any disease. My cold was already in full swing, so for me, it mattered not! What did matter was to eat, as quickly as possible, get our bags and head to deck 7, where Erickson waited patiently to escort us into an anti-room for our customs interview. Before that happened it was back to our room, and onto our balcony, where Juneau was within our grasp. Or was it?