In a trip like this, most of the details fall to miscellany.
illnesses When I started out on this trip, I was getting over the flu. I loaded up on garlic, fluids and decongestants. I started to feel better about the same time Kate started to feel worse. Then Todd had some mystery one-day flu or food poisoning brought on by the freeze-dried clam chowder. It's both a good place to be sick -- because there's not much else to do on the boat but recover -- and a bad place, because there's a limited amount of pharmaceuticals available in the gift shop and no real doctor on board in the event that you took a turn for the worse. The rooms are fairly comfortable and very very dark. Ours has no outside window so when you wake up you have no idea if it's 2 am or 2 pm. My sister's watch crapped out a few days ago so we have to turn on the camera to tell the time -- her cel phone will only tell you what time it is if it can get a signal. If it weren't for the purser announcing that the car deck was open [people who brought cars on board can only visit them -- and their pets -- three times a day] you'd be completely without bearings.
companions Some people handle boredom and monotony better than others. Kate and I could occupy ourselves with a piece of string for hours. Other folks like to pass the time talking to other people and so often wind up talking to us, despite clear indications that we are reading or otherwise in the middle of something. These conversations seem to take the same series of turns for me. Some guy starts talking to us, we talk back. He's pretty interesting & has some good stories so we talk some more. He starts doing all the talking. We listen politely. He goes off on some tangent, or makes disparaging comments about something he should have kept his mouth shut about [topics that come to mind are Jews, ornery women, Christmas and child abuse by gypsies]. I start looking for a quick escape from our dialogue. One or the other of us will start to read a book. The smiling and nodding stops. The next time someone flops down next to us and says "I'm bored" we suggest reading a book.
town There aren't many towns that we got to spend much time in. Most of the stopovers are less than two hours and the towns are a few miles off. In Ketchikan, we walked the two miles into town, rode the funicular and looked for a place to get food, once on the day after Christmas and once two days later, Pretty slim pickings each time. I satisfied my fetish for urban decay, even in these small towns of under 10,000 folks. There's a lot of stuff falling apart in Alaska. In Sitka, there was a shuttle bus [$7!] that took us to and from town which was about seven miles up the one road. The bus driver was congenial ["the road ends about 14 miles that way!"] even though he was also the taxi driver and had to pick someone up on our way back to the boat. Alaska has a great history, most of which we read from historical signs on the sides of the road on our walks. The rest of it we picked up in informational pamphlets that we got from the ferry terminals, all of which had magazine and books swaps. Like Vermont, about 30-40% of Alaska seems to be for sale at any given time, cheap!
wildlife You almost get tired of the eagles. They perch in every high place and zoom over your head on land. The shuttle driver told us the reason there were so many of them was because deer season had just ended and they were out in droves feasting on the leftover deer carcasses. One of the newspapers we read said that, contrary to popular opinion, eagles do not mate for life and rarely kill what they eat, preferring to scavenge off of the kills of other predators or eat refuse. Way to go, national symbol! The last time I was on this ferry there was an Elderhostel aboard -- a sort of camp for older folks -- so there were park rangers on board [and better movies] and the crew got a lot more animated about pointing out the sights around us. On this trip, you had to wait until someone who was outside having a smoke knocked on your window and pointed and you'd run outside just in time [this happened twice] to see huge pods of dolphins racing with the ferry leaping into the air over and over again, literally hunderds of them on both side of the boat. This alone was a very good reason to try to avoid ostracizing even the most obnoxious of our fellow passengers.
crew I think the pursers have flunked out of hotel and restaurant management school. Similar to the "waitresses in the sky" appellation that stewardesses endure, the pursers seem to be nothing more than "hotel desk managers of the sea" We try to get in good with them so they won't show the crappy movies again [we tried, early on, to get them to show the movies that we brought with us to no avail, but when the eleven year old girl wanted to watch "Misty", no time was spared] but they seem to be on a planet all their own. Our cabin was freezing for the first few days, and we had asked about it and the purser [the Sr. Ass. Purser perhaps?] said that we couldn't turn the heat knob up past 68 degrees or it would short out the electrics in our room. Suitably frightened, we held out, but on Christmas eve, we were tired of being chilly and asked the purser [the lady purser this time] what we could do to heat the place up. She indicated that the only way to get the rooms warm was to crank the heat knobs up to 80. I sort of think the pursers like to deliberately contradict themselves for sport. Today I went down to see if one of the rare good movies [Chicken Run] could be shown in the front cabin as well as the cramped and crowded children's room. The lady purser told me that they never show movies in the front cabin. When I replied that I'd been watching movies there for the past six days she stared at me, almost unseeing, and said that the monitor was "disconnected" and there was no way movies could be shown on it. I figured a fist fight with the purser was a surefire way to make sure we saw nothing but Miracle on 34th Street for the next 36 hours so I let it go. Kate gets the best side of the purser, however. She goes down almost daily to get the head count on the boat. Even though she has been doing this every day, the purser says the same thing "131 [or however many] of the finest people, all here because they hear you were on board!" once it's a joke, twice it's kinda lame, six times it's a pathology.