Despite having unwillingly skipped most of our intended shore excursions, Ponzi and I have rather enjoyed our time aboard this Regent cruise ship. It’s been a relatively smooth ride, in some part due to the fantastic structure beneath our feet:
An innovative, no-compromise-for-quality approach in luxury cruising even extends to Seven Seas Voyager’s engineering systems. Instead of normal propeller shafts, the voyager utilizes the latest Dolphin Azipod propulsion system, a wonder of 21st century marine technology. This configuration utilizes two self-contained propulsion pods located on the underside of the ship, which are able to rate by 360 degrees in any given direction. A 20ft propeller attached to each pod allows for the ship to literally turn on a dime and navigate quite precisely in tight quarters, almost entirely eliminating the need for tugs. This unique electrically-generated system produces a quarter operation with increased power efficiency, reduced fuel, consumption and environmental pollution.
Nights have been a bit rockier than I would have expected, but nothing’s falling off the shelves (or throwing us out of bed). Our assistant tells us that it’s been far worse at times. This ship, apparently, can take it.
We had a flightseeing tour over Guatemala scheduled for the day – but early this morning, Ponzi’s body forced us to change our plans. She slept her way through most of the morning hours while I watched Pirates of the Carribean (Dead Man’s Chest) for the first time. No pirates in these Carribean waters now (that I can find)! Today’s excursion would have taken us to Tikal:
Although this region was home to Maya communities as early as 600 BC, Tikal wasn’t established until around 200 BC. By 500 AD, it’s estimated that the city covered more than 18 square miles and had a population of close to 100,000. The great temples that still tower above the jungle were at that time covered with stucco and painted with bright reds and greens. By the 6th century, Tikal governed a large part of the Mayan world, thanks to a leader called Caan Chac (Stormy Sky).
I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to view more of Guatemala’s amazing landscape. After lunch on the Regent Seven seas Voyager, we ventured down into the port’s shopping pavilion. Ponzi and I walked up and down the aisles, seeing thousands of trinkets and unique crafts alike. My dad would be proud of my vastly improved bargaining and negociation skills; as a child, I couldn’t bid a merchant lower to save my wallet. Price on the coffee grounds was set in stone (so to speak), but I found $6.00 more than fair for a pound of pure Guatemalan coffee.
I think the biggest gift we received today was from the population of Santo Tomas de Castillo. As we were preparing to set sail, dozens of local taxis and shopkeeps lined themselves parallel to our ship – to the tune of hundreds of vehicles and random Guatemalans. The cars started to flash their lights and sirens, dancing ensued, and everybody was waving us good-bye. It was an awesome sight – very heartwarming, and quite memorable. I can’t wait to share the video!
Initially, we planned on kayaking in Honduras this afternoon. Tour tickets for this port of call were secured earlier this week, but this morning we found ourselves wanting to take a leisurely approach to the day. We lay by the top deck pool for an hour in between breakfast and lunch (without actually swimming). I sucked down an icy, rum-based beverage – par for the course. “Chris P” started to get crispy, so we knew it was time to head indoors. From there, we decided to take a tender ashore for a short while – if only to take a few photographs and make a few memories. Maybe I’ve become fully Seattlized, but I’m already sunned out for the week!
During the Maya reign in Central America (between the 4th and 10th centuries), the Paya Indians populated the Bay Islands. The Payas were a smaller and less advanced group than the Mayans. Their civilization was characterized by simpler housing and tools. Payan artifacts (pottery, jade, and shells) are often found in Island burial and ceremonial sites and are referred to by the locals as “yaba ding dings.”
According to reports, in the village of Punta Gorda (on Rotan), the locals still make their own homes. I’m guessing there’s not a single Home Depot within a hundred-mile radius of our current location. No matter, we didn’t really get to explore the Island; Ponzi and I hit a single gift shop, strolled along the edge of the beach, circumnavigated the pier, and loitered around a couple of turtle pools before heading back to the cruise ship (less than an hour after leaving it). I think I’m sunburnt.
Well, so much for free WiFi. Our travel agent from Vacations to Go told us that there would be free access available from the ship’s library, but it’s apparently closer to 35 cents a minute (ouch). I’ll just give Pluggd another plug for having kept us plugged in on our Alaskan adventure a few months back. The climate is certainly warmer in southern Florida!
Our experience with Regent has been superior to this point – far exceeding our expectations. The security line was non-existent, and despite not having our cruise passes with us, we were checked in swiftly (manually, as the computer system was down). We were welcomed aboard, guided to the theatre for admission, and promptly handed our suite keys. Five minutes later, we were having a casual lunch on the top deck – where Ponzi asked about the WiFi. The waiter noted that someone would be along in a moment to help with that. Imagine our mutual confusion when someone came along to pour some white wine – which we didn’t want or need. “WiFi” sounds a lot like “white wine” in context, eh?
While the Internet access certainly is not free, I’m able to get online from the comfort of my own bed in the Penthouse. Awesome! We haven’t even left port and already I can tell this is going to be a spectacular experience – as every
moneymoon honeymoon should be.
We made it! The honeymoon has begun! Break out the champagne! Where’s the Tylenol!?
We flew from Seattle to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale – leaving home at 9 AM (PST) and hitting the hotel pillow somewhere around Midnight (EST). It was a long day, but in retrospect – it “flew” (so to speak). The first, and substantially longer, flight was on one of Delta’s newer 757s – with LCD monitors sewn into the back of each seat’s head rest. I watched “Little Miss Sunshine” on demand, a few minutes before Ponzi started to watch the same movie. I laughed, I cried.
After that, I went back to the main menu, flipped through a couple of Dish satellite-powered television stations, then opted to try my hand at a touch-screen clone of Galaga. A few minutes later, my screen had completely locked up – and I didn’t know how to reboot. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and ultimately gave up. Thirty minutes later, it seemed to reset itself – and I saw Linux booting! Yes, I just so happened to capture a few seconds worth of video just for posterity. No telling what distro they’re using, though.
The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant – so it’s pizza delivery for dinner. Our room is cozy, and doesn’t smell like fart. I hate it when hotel rooms smell like fart.
Alas, this week is winding down. We’re on our way to Victoria, British Columbia – that’s in Canada, for all of you who aren’t familiar with the name or territory. I’ve only been on the outskirts of Victoria, spending most of my BC time in Vancouver. I hear they have wonderful gardens in Victoria, actually – but I’m not sure if we’re scheduled to see any of ’em. Ponzi’s signed us up for some kind of tour and “high tea.” Guess that means we’ll be riding around in a bus with our pinkis extended? I wouldn’t mind traipsing through Victoria’s gardens, actually – it must be a shutterbug’s paradise. There’s not a cloud in the sky this morning – nothing but ocean outside our stateroom window. We have a western view for the moment, and that scenery won’t likely change until the evening hours when we roll into port.
I’m sipping my way through an espresso in the Neptune lounge again. It’s bitter, but at least it’s keeping me from getting a caffeine headache. My body has treated me rather well this week. I got slapped with dizziness only once, after a shot of Southern Comfort and a few puffs of a cigar late one night. I didn’t get seasick, and I never really felt the need to recouperate in the middle of the day. The schedule is a little wonky on this, the last day of our Alaskan cruise. Everything winds down not long after we return to the ship from our Victorian excursion. Passengers are expected to be fully packed by Midnight, placing tagged luggage outside their respective rooms well before our arrival time of 7am. All things considered, I’m happy to be returning home in the morning – we’ll have a full weekend to catch up and prepare ourselves for the coming week.
Ah, vacation. You’re almost over! Thank you for delivering wonderful experiences and fantastic company. Holland America did fine by me, too – especially with wireless Internet availability (which came to me courtesy of Pluggd). I didn’t capture our time in audio, but I did take plenty of photos – and this trip was certainly a visual smorgasbord. Would I recommend an Alaska cruise to anybody? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I can’t remember falling asleep last night. It’s not like we had a very active day (though I did crash early the night before after another round of fine cigars and cognac). Ponzi was up late, ordering chocolate cake and a club sandwich from room service after Midnight. I woke up to the sound of the ship’s activities director, telling us that we had finally arrived at Sitka. I didn’t want to get out of bed – it was too comfortable. What’s there to do in Sitka? Not much, as we would come to discover.
According to reports, there were a few stores in town – and Ponzi’s sale magnet was spinning wildly (she had it implanted a few months ago). We finished watching the morning movie, ate our breakfast in bed, and prepared ourselves for a small adventure in Sitka. This is where Alaska became a member of the United States – a good reason to go ashore via tender. We didn’t even grab a cup of coffee before heading out!
On the streets of Sitka, we found several stores. Before too long, however, we found ourselves dining at the Raven Room. I ordered the reindeer sausage sandwich and an Alaskan ale – and I’d heartily recommend both. We stopped by the post office to mail a few postcards, moseyed down the block to pick up two breve mochas, and continued to window shop our way to exhaustion. Two hours seemed like four, and I was ready to head back to the ship for a game of Scrabble and leisure time on our verandah. Didn’t get to tour Castle Hill, but at least we can say that we were there.
Spam checked, bLaugh read, reports written (courtesy of Pluggd). Time to play afternoon bingo and snack on some gourmet cheese.
The world could be ending right now and I wouldn’t know it. Sure, we have satellite television on board – but the time we’ve spent in our suite has been minimal. Internet access is a premium, so I haven’t spent much of my time catching up with the news online. I’m largely unplugged this week (ironic, as Pluggd is keeping me connected to the Internet for the duration of this voyage). Yes, this week wouldn’t be half as much fun if I wasn’t able to log on and post updates near real-time. And as far as I’m concerned, a couple of times a day is just about as close to “immediate” as you get on the high seas. We haven’t been boarded by pirates yet, though.
Ponzi and I had a wicked time in Juneau yesterday, coptering halfway across the city to land on a glacier. There sits a modest dogsled training camp – populated by over 300 dogs and a dozen mushers. We walked amongst Iditerod champions and hopefuls in the early afternoon hours – but when they took us on a short run “around the block,” we were smack dab in the middle of the action. Certainly, the teams didn’t open up all the way. It was a first for us, though. I’m surprised the weather was relatively temperate, especially at the higher altitude. Even so, I’m glad we picked up suede gloves in downtown Juneau earlier (miles away from and well below the dogsled adventure).
What goes up must come down, and so another helicopter returned us to less-icy ground. The views from the air were spectacular. On the bus ride back to “the city,” we spotted an American Eagle – another first for both Ponzi and myself. I snapped a few pictures through the tinted glass, so I’m afraid the images won’t be crystal clear. When we returned to Juneau’s downtown shopping district, Ponzi wanted to hop out and poke around – but I was ready to eat (as we hadn’t hda a nibble since breakfast). I’m pretty predictable when it comes to my “I hate to shop” attitude, so we shuttled our way back to the Oosterdam for a relaxing afternoon.
Today? We’re visiting the largest glacier in North America.
Despite weathering a relatively restless night, I feel refreshed. The bed was comfortable enough, with two twin mattresses akimbo, 250 count sheets, and soft pillows. However, my sense of balance kept me from enjoying a peaceful sleep. I think I’m finally getting my sea legs, though. At least, I hope! It’s most difficult to manage when I can’t see the horizon. The temperature outside? Chilly, but certainly tolerable with thicker clothing. Despite the cool climate, We opted to dine on the verandah for breakfast this morning – the view was oceanic and the company kept us warm. Ponzi and I have a private space just outside our stateroom. Despite the weak coffee, they did bring us heavy cream (per our written request). We’re now getting ready to enjoy our day on board, with Ponzi hot to attend a couple of classes (even though some of them are designed to teach you how to buy more junk that you don’t really need).
Last night, Ponzi and I decided to get a nice cigar and sip cognac in the Oak Room on the upper deck of the Oosterdam. Neither of us smoke, and we really don’t drink, either – but it was an “experience” nonetheless. I took a few more photos, though I might wait to upload my favorites at the end of the day. Tried to help a mergers and aquisitions lawyer with his wireless connection a few minutes ago – seems I can never escape this lot. Coffee’s good in the Neptune room (though I had to bring in the heavy cream from breakfast). Gotta check my email now… and again, thank the gang at Pluggd for enabling us to get online and check in with friends on our journey to Alaska.
The Internet connection on this Holland America liner, itself, is flaky – and not very trustworthy. For some reason or another, Akismet crapped at at some point in the past 24 hours, and I can’t load a full page to clear ~250 junk comments from my legit queue. Argh! Ooooh, now I sound like a pirate.
We’re finally aboard the Holland America cruise liner! Yes, right now – on a wireless Internet connection. Thanks again to Pluggd for providing the ability for us to get online and post updates. I’ve only been aboard for a couple of hours, but… I’m beyond impressed. Our room is absolutely amazing – and we’ll be able to eat breakfast every morning on our “private” verandah. We’ve got cocktails with the ship’s captain right before dinner – so the fun hasn’t even begun. No, seriously – Holland America is teh shiz. Puts Royal Carribean to shame! Oh man, everything’s so clean. I think this is the first vacation I’ve ever taken when I didn’t want to leave the room.
However, as was explained to me beforehand, Ponzi and I are the only people on board who aren’t members of AARP. Ronni and Millie would certainly blend in with the crowd. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? Let’s get a whole bunch of bloggers together and crash a cruise. It’s gotta be a Holland America cruise, though – wow. I’m just blown away by our room.
There are WiFi locations scattered throughout the cruise liner – including down the hall on deck 7 (where we’re staying). Gotta check in with the concierge, too – they’re giving us complimentary DVDs! Oh man, I never wanna go home. Hey Ponzi? Can we stay another week? I’ve already started to upload our photos from the trip (although the Flickr upload tool is acting weird). I think it has something to do with the connection’s caching mechanism. Stay tuned!