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First Cruise

Updated on November 27, 2008

Why Cruise?

I've done a fair amount of solo traveling over the years, but had never been on a cruise. Several people in my office rave about the cruises they've been on, "best trip ever", and sign up year after year for a cruise. But I wasn't sure if it was the thing for me. So I thought about the reasons against and for taking a cruise:

Reason Against #1 - I don't swim - EVER. I could not float to save my life. I almost drowned as a child, and have some fear of water. Every time I go over a bridge, I get a brief flash of my car blowing a tire, I fly off the bridge and go into the river, and of course drown, since I can't swim. But that's just me!

Reason Against #2 - Will a cruise be too confining? Will I find ways to pass the time (since we already know I won't be lounging around the pool) ??

Reason Against #3 - the first thought that comes to mind when I hear someone's going on a cruise is: Caribbean, islands, hot sun, lots of kids. If I won such a trip - - - I'd pass it on to someone else.

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Reason FOR #1 - unpack suitcases once and only once.

Reason FOR #2 - all meals included

Reason FOR #3 - some ships actually head north - - - to Alaska! NOW, we're talking!!

Reason FOR #4 - when was the last time you heard of a cruise ship sinking?? Okay, I mean besides Titanic and the ship in Antartica. (wait a minute - - they both involved ice, and I'm thinking Alaska???)

Reason FOR #5 - big bang-up celebration of a milestone birthday

North to Alaska!

I looked over the scads of cruises going to Alaska. Almost half of them were roundtrip, usually from either Seattle or Vancouver. The rest were one way trips, the logic being you cruise northward to Alaska, and then do a land or train trip and work your way back south, or fly home from Anchorage / Fairbanks. Or you could flip that itinerary and do the land portion first, and then cruise south to Seattle / Vancouver.

With my budget and time constraints, I opted for the roundtrip cruise from Seattle in the middle of July. By the way, Alaska cruises only operate from May - September.

All-inclusive?? Well, Almost!

After booking the trip, I started reading all the blogs and travel sites and learning more about what I would be experiencing. Some of the things NOT included in the price of my cruise:

Laundry / Ironing - - most of the ships have a self-service laundry, but not MY ship!! They did have a package price for unlimited ironing for $30, and you could pay piece by piece for service.

Coffee / Soda / Wine / Drinks - - you can have free with your meals, juice, regular coffee/tea, water, iced tea. But if you wanted any specialty coffees, all sodas, wines and mixed drinks were additional and rather pricey. You could purchase a prepaid wine card, for example, that would include 10 or 20 glasses of house wine, at a savings of about $2 per glass. Likewise, their were prepaid cards for the other beverages.

Elite Dining - there was one premiere restaurant which charged a $20 flat surcharge to dine there. For my birthday dinner, I decided to go all-out and dress-up for my fancy schmanzy meal. I more than got my money's worth out of that meal. It was the first time I was ever served an "amuse bouche". If you've never heard of this before, an amuse-bouche, is a small gift from the chef to "please the mouth." See further at Wikipedia - - - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amuse_bouche

Internet - typical fees were about 50 cents per minute. They also had a prepaid plan of 250 minutes for $100. You really learn how fast you can move around the internet and checking email. When I knew I was going to be emailing friends an update of my trip, I would write up my text in a Word document, and then when I got online, I'd cut and paste the text into the body of the email and send! I mainly checked email to make sure I dumped all the spam that piles in every day.

Onboard shopping - duty-free, lots of primo jewelry, souvenirs, sweatshirts (for those frigid days near the glaciers), and the necessities you forgot to pack.

Casino - - lots of slot machines, blackjack tables, etc.

Sneaky drink sales - - Pulling away from the Seattle pier, they invited everyone to the top deck for a Sail away Party, complete with a deejay spinning music. I walk out there and was greeted by dozens of waitresses, each one holding a tray full of drinks. I was drawn to the Margarita, said thanks to the young lady, and then she pulled out her receipt pad for me to sign. Apparently, the drinks were NOT complimentary, but was $7, plus handling fee. Oh well!

DVD rentals were $3 per day.

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FREE items included:

wonderful lending library, with a large assortment of the New York Times bestsellers and lot of other wonderful books to check out.

a full activity schedule - cooking classes, trivia games, assorted lounges with live music, classes regarding the sights and cultures we'd be visiting, fabulous shows twice per night - - singing, dancing, magic, comedy, and staff talent.

room service - - especially good for the mornings you can't face people before having your coffee. For ship safety, there are NO coffeemakers in the cabins.

fresh fruit of your choice kept on stock in your room.

room stewards who keep your ice bucket filled. (there must be a secret sensor in the bottom indicating when it's empty)

bed turned-down every night, along with a piece of chocolate and a towel animal sculpture left on your bed.

Towel sculpture - monkey

every night would be a different towel animal sculpture
every night would be a different towel animal sculpture

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