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Saturday and Sunday--Ballard Locks, At Sea from Seattle

(Apologies for the late posting, but internet access is hard to come by or obscenely expensive on a cruise)

Saturday morning we packed up our bags again, and headed over to Ballard to see the Ballard Locks and the fish ladder. Its set in a lovely little park where you can watch the boats as they approach to enter the lock, which brings the boats up or down to the level of the water they’re entering. Beyond is an artificial fish ladder, where mature fish jump up on their way to inland streams to spawn. You can walk below to see the fish through windows. Some nice sushi down there.
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From Ballard, we drove over to the cruise ship pier. Man, these ships are enormous. The Oosterdam is a huge white thing. Holland-America has embarkation down to a science, and within 10 minutes had checked luggage and were were walking up the long gangway, after going through security and passing several ominous signs about gastro-intestinal infection. These ships are floating epidemics waiting to happen.

We were herded onto an elevator to go up and eat lunch at the Lido buffet. The doors closed, and the elevator just stayed there. Remember the kids adventure in a Paris elevator? Three of us turned to glare at Dan, who insisted “it wasn’t me!” We eventually got out and tried another elevator.
At this point, I need to talk about the Oosterdam’s décor. About the best I can say for it is that some maker of mirrored surfaces had a great year when the ship was decorated. Imagine bright blue and red carpet and paint, mirrors, shining ceilings, glowy walls, oddball faux Far Eastern carvings, and some of the most atrocious furnishings and artwork I’ve ever seen. It’s like Vegas-era Elvis meets disco, with a side of 1972 ethnic. As the motion of the ship increased throughout the evening, I found the ships public spaces more troubling to my vertigo than the sway and roll of the water.

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Lunch could be summed up with “eh.” Cafeteria-style in flavor, but there sure is a lot of it. We eventually were told our cabins were ready, and headed down to deck 6. Larry and I have a nicely laid out cabin with a little verandah. Thankfully decorated with less mirror than outside. The boys have a tiny interior cabin, which they began calling steerage. We unpacked, and then wandered around. People were already bellying up to the 11 bars. We had a hysterically funny Lifejacket Drill, where one crewmember told us to go stand at one station, and then another led us back to where we had started out. My class of preschoolers is better at recognizing their own names at a firedrill than our fellow passengers. In any case, I fail at lifejacket tying.

The ship finally began to pull out. Room service delivered a cheese plate and some smoked salmon. Sitting on the verandah with a glass or wine was lovely, watching as we went past Seattle and up through the bay. This I like.

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Dinner, with yet more cafeteria-like food, but this time nicely arranged and served by waiters. How anyone can get salmon this dry and flavorless is beyond me. Such a shame. It was fun being with so many of Larry’s relatives, who we don’t see nearly often enough. The boys love being able to order anything they want, and it’s funny to see their reactions to the excess of everything. We walked around after dinner, peeking into the smoke-filled casino, the busy bars, the “show” that was predictably full of smarmy humor and overblown props. We found some non-smoking bar areas with comfy chairs overlooking the water.

Sleeping was interesting. As we headed out the sea, the roll and pitch of the ship dramatically increased. I had handed out Bomine to everyone before bed, and was glad I did. Hard enough to sleep when you are moving around so much, and a gippy tummy would not have been fun.
Larry and I were up early Sunday morning, and headed down to the gym. It was surprisingly busy, filled with those passengers who were not in the "overfed or nearly dead” category. Did time on the bike and treadmill, which was an interesting experience as the ship moved around. I decided that the cup of coffee earlier was not a good combination.

The day was spent at sea, as we headed up towards Juneau. We were amused to see people starting on cocktails at 10:30 am. The daily schedule has a few teen events, which the boys said were mostly empty. They played basketball, went swimming and to the hot tub, and ate at every opportunity. Dan’s discovery of room service cannot be a good thing. We avoided most of the planned events, but did go on a tour of the huge kitchens, and caught the tail end of a cooking demo by some Top Chef former contestant. At the demo, Larry ran into a longtime co-worker. Lunch was better than pervious meals had been, and I made a plate of a variety of salads and some veggie sushi. The waves calmed down considerably, thank goodness. We walked around outside on deck for a while, and then took a nap which we both needed after the night of lousy sleep.

Tonight had been decreed to be Formal Dress, which I was told on this line is taken pretty seriously. At least it gave me the chance to wear the outfit I wore once to a fancy Bar Mitzvah party, which is what I suspect many of the female guests appreciate about formal nights on cruises. We met the relatives downstaitrs and saw the “show”, after the captain made lousy jokes and introduced the uncomfortable-looking senior crew. About the show I will say that the lead singers were decent, but the dancing, costumes and choreography were pretty funny. And a few of the dancers seem to have been hitting the buffet a bit too often. Dinner was far and away better than the previous one, and I had some terrific lamb. Birthday cake for the MIL interrupted her worries about rainy weather tomorrow and the draft in the dining room. After dinner we went up to one of the bars, and then to bed.
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Comments (6)

Hi Amy!
Do you have your 'sea legs' yet?? Sounds like you all are settling in to shipboard life, and finding some fun. 10:30am cocktails, anyone? ;p

sandrac:

Having your own veranda sounds wonderful, Amy, and your photos look great! I can't wait to see your shots from Alaska. I hope your MIL is enjoying herself and that no one gets sea-sick (all the rolling and pitching of the boat is beginning to make me feel queasy! That and the buffets.)

I love your descriptions of the decor in the public areas and your photo of the little mermen is incredible. A sofa such as that would certainly be a conversation piece! (I have to go back and look at it again!)

Chiocciola:

Sounds like you got off to a good start, Amy! Your post made me laugh. I am picturing your sons in their bunks madly ordering room service!

That picture of the snowcapped mountain in the distance was spectacular.
You droll descriptions of the entertainment have me chuckling.
And, my MIL had a white lace sweater exactly like yours. She wore it every day!

I've been to the Ballard Locks and the fish ladder. I still don't understand how the locks work.

Glad the food is getting better. Hope you don't have to test the life jackets in a real emergency. At least you have that fire drill experience behind you. Can yo swim?

Kim:

I can't wait to hear more about this trip!

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