Our Cruise from China,
to Korea, Japan, Alaska and Seattle

May 2008

Travelog by Jim & BettyAnn

Day 1 Monday 5-May-2008 - San Francisco.

Having had several weeks to pack, we managed to get absolutely nowhere because of the puppy factor. With twelve growing puppy dogs, and the work required to keep them fed, and clean enough to show to perspective buyers, we were really pre-occupied.

Well as it stands, with nine sold, and only three still for sale, we didnít do to badly. During the last few days we had to make it a point to do our packing, which we managed to do in a rather hap hazard fashion .

Laurie, our daughter, took us to the airport for our 7:30 flight which went fairly well, what with the additional security since our last vacation. We were 1 pound over weight with one bag, but they choose to ignore it. The new rules dictate that a flat rate of $100 be assessed to each piece of luggage thatís overweight on international flights.

Be forewarned, on domestic flights; only one bag is allowed, and overweight is a flat $50 per. I donít really know what the charge is on additional baggage.

The Husbands The flight to San Francisco from Phoenix was uneventful, although because of the security, and the document checks, we almost missed the flight even though we were there two hours ahead of time. Nothing was offered on the flight except basic beverages. Not even peanuts.

Our 747 We had a three hour layover in San Francisco, which was sort of nice because we didnít have to rush through, and could afford to be courteous to other passengers with tighter schedules, a rarity.

Boarding the flight to China was an experience. We met up with all our friends from the Panama Cruise, along with other shipmates previously unknown to us. It seemed to me that we were among the last to board but thatís not unusual for us.

We found the plane, a 747, to be much larger this time around, with almost double the leg room, and at least a third more room between seats. And you can imagine how disappointed we were when we found out that alcoholic beverages were complimentary on international flights.

We were served a nice meal at the beginning of the flight (chicken or pot roast), along with our choice of beverages.

The first movie was a fantasy called the Golden Compass, which we didnít care for. BettyAnn is currently watching the Water Horse which she sayís is really good, but as you can tell, Iím missing it because Iím writing.

Day 2, Tuesday, 6-May-2008 - Shanghai

Shanghai, China We arrived in Shanghai at about 5 PM today, having crossed the International Date Line, a day was lost. So actually we arrived yesterday from the US viewpoint. The flight was fine, and they fed us well, with free drinks which included alcohol.

Getting our luggage and clearing Chinese customs took another hour, and a half or so. Then we needed to re-group and locate the transfer busses. The trip to the hotel was about an hour and a half, once we were loaded. So, by the time we registered, and made it to the room it was close to 10:00 PM. We were really tired, so we retired for the night.

Day 3, Wednesday, 7-May-2008 - Depart Shanghai

The hotel provided breakfast at 7:00 AM, and it was one of the best buffet spreads Hotel Breakfast Buffit that we have encountered throughout our travels. In fact it was amazing. After breakfast we set our entire luggage out in the lobby for pickup by the cruise line, except our carry-on, which we left in our room. Then we went touring Shanghai for about three hours on foot.

Shanghai Building One of the impressive things about Shanghai was the cleanliness of the whole city, and the newness of just about everything we encountered. This is indeed a new City; there are construction cranes and new freeways going in everywhere.

The park that we found near the hotel was unlike any city park Iíve ever encountered in the United States. The park was meticulously maintained and contained ponds in a Japanese garden type setting. The ponds had fish in them. And it was crowded, there were groups of grandparents tending to there grand children. And several independent groups of people practicing Tai Chi exercises throughout the park, and these exercises were done to music, generally played on small cassette or CD players.

In the park there was a group singing what appeared to be religious songs that they were reading from sheet music. It may have well been a church service of some sort.

Park Naturally we found a shopping area as well, but the shops didnít open until 9 or 9:30 so we didnít have Bettyann Joining in much exposure to them because we needed to be back to the hotel by 11:00 for our transfer to the ship. Anyway, we were able to purchase a few things during the short shopping window. We needed to use Chinese money as any other currency was illegal for merchants to accept. As a result, knowing our stay and opportunity to spend was very limited; as a result, we didnít exchange any currency at all. We did buy a few things in the hotel gift shop however using our American Express card.

The trip to the ship took forever. We first needed to go to the passenger terminal to clear Chinese customs, which means we needed to handle our entire luggage again. This was about a one and a half hour drive from the hotel.

Chineese shop Unfortunately there is a bridge that was built too low for our ship to pass under, so it was birthed at a commercial shipping terminal some two hours from the passenger terminal. So back into the busses we tumbled for the trip to the ship. It seems the whole port area is under construction, and most of the detours were quite long, and on dirt roads. So the trip was not to comfortable and mostly sightseeing was nonexistent.

None the less, we finally made it to the ship, managed to go through the process of getting on board after much ado about paperwork. By the time we made it to our stateroom and freshened up, it was time for our dinner seating.

After dinner we returned to the stateroom where we waited for our luggage to magically show up, which it eventually did. We dragged it all inside, and went to bed, leaving unpacking for another day.

Day 4, Thursday, 8-May-2008 - At Sea

This was a great day, we actually had a chance to sleep in for a change, and rest up after being abused by jet lag. We spent some of our time unpacking, and finding places for everything. This ship is among the smallest in the fleet, so the staterooms are somewhat smaller than weíre used to.

Instead of a couch, we have an overstuffed chair and no refrigerator because of the lack of space for one. Everything seems a little tighter, and provides unique challenges for stowing our gear.

Life Jacket Drill As usual, yesterday the first order of business aboard was to don our safety gear, and report to our life boat station. We do this on every cruise, and have become old hands at it. Kinda makes you wish one of them would sink so we could put our skills to work.

There seems to be very little reduction in the spaces used by the public areas, such as the lounges, pools, spaís, restaurants, sundeck areas and so forth. The dining is excellent, but I wonít go into the actual menu items except to say the food is outstanding, and the service is as good if not better than J. J. Garlicís restaurant in Milwaukee.

I was up early this morning, and ended up with a few other members of our group (there are ten of us that plan cruises so that we can get together to dine when traveling) for coffee at the Windjammer Cafť. We have a hot pot in the room, so I took several packets of hot chocolate back for BettyAnn along with an assortment of rolls. This way we can stockpile a few hot chocolate packets for later, or tomorrow. I didnít bring any instant coffee with me, and they donít have it in packets, so I have to go fetch my own coffee each time I have a hankering for one.

Dinner is Formal Speaking of the coffee, the version here aboard a Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship is ďvery strongĒ to ďintolerably strongĒ, or somewhere in between. Itís become just automatic to take a half cup, and then fill it up with hot water. By doing that, it becomes magically normal (not Starbucks normal, but Dennyís normal) and Iím able to drink it.

Dinner tonight was formal, so we had a chance to dress up for a change, there should be several more such nights during the course of this cruise.

We have been too tired to make a stage show so far. We almost went tonight, but there was an hour between dinner and the show, so I napped and when I awoke, BettyAnn didnít want to go. As it turned out it was a musician doing piano pieces which would have most likely put us to sleep anyway. So it was probably best that we continued catching up on our sleep.

Day 5, Friday, May 9, 2008 - Busan, South Korea

I was up early this morning, and prowled the ship long before breakfast was served. This gave me a chance to catch up on some off line email work, take the pictures off of the cameras memory cards, and write some memoirs.

Coffee is available at the Windjammer Cafť at all hours, even though the cafť may be closed. They open for breakfast at 6 AM and are located on the main pool deck at the front of the ship. The outside (salt water) pools and spaís are amidships, and the indoor (fresh water) pools and spaís are aft in the solarium.

At breakfast I met up with some of our cruise friends, and planned what we would be doing in Busan, as we had docked just shortly before breakfast. Some of us decided to take the shuttle to the fish market, which is a large shopping area with street stalls.

Shopping area just off the ship Ship under construction We finally left the ship about 8:00 AM, and everyone received a gift which was a bit larger than we wished to haul around all day, so I was elected to haul them all back aboard to stow in our stateroom. The gift was a beautiful fan which would have come in handy on a hotter, more humid day. We also found a nice souvenir tent at dock side. We did find out that hotels and cruise ships are not the best place to exchange currency however. There was an exchange just off the ship with a much better rate of exchange. The rate was $50 for about 50,000 Won, which everyone affectionately referred to as the Wong Money.

Once on the dock, and all organized and such, it was only a short wait for the shuttle bus to show up. Fishing Boat We were on our way to the market in short order. The trip was about a half hour, and passed the ship yards, where at least fifteen large ships were under construction.

Fish Market Display The fishing fleet is located directly behind the fish market some distance from the ship yards, there are many such steel hulled vessels, and they are all built the same. There is no question about the freshness of the fish at the market here.

The Korean written characters are much simpler in appearance than the Chinese characters we encountered the day before yesterday. In any event, itís all Greek to me. This was one area where we found that almost no one spoke English, and very few signs or streets are in English. In comparison, most streets in China had English titles, if you could pronounce them, and several shops had English translation subtitles on there signs.

Busan sports one of the largest fish markets in the world. Most of the fish are kept alive using a water system which would seem wasteful to the casual observer. However these are saltwater sea critters, so the water is pumped directly from the sea, where it is returned through aqua ducts.

Octapus for sale The fish market was somewhat like Sea World, there were octopi, sting rays, slugs, sea snakes, crabs, lobster, and several hundred species of fish. The traditional smell of a fish market was missing as most of the stock was alive, dried, Shop Owner Foo Ye or cooked directly at the many small sea food restaurants that abounded in the market place.

One thing that was absent was the abundant array of convenience markets. I generally rely on these places (similar to a scaled down Circle-K) to purchase a can of beer now and then, to avoid the high priced restaurants and bars while the girls are shopping.

We spent most of our time here because it was so interesting, and the people were interesting to observe as well.. But these areas werenít offering touristy things for sale. Oh, it was great if you wanted a dead fish, or a frying pan. Found a place that sells beer We found the people to be very friendly and courteous, there were more English speaking folks here than in China, but less than weíve encountered in other unlikely places.

In due time we returned to the ship with about half of our money left over and there was a souvenir stand across from the ship that accepted US dollars, and freely exchanged them for Won on a one thousand to one basis, no exchange rate, they needed to deal with other currencyís, and were happy to trade them off for there legal currency. Actually there transactions were illegal by Koran law. So some remembrances of Korea were purchased after all.

Then it was back to the ship for dinner with friends in the main dining room, and off to bed once again missing the show at the Broadway Melodies Theater. Maybe some day weíll be caught up enough to start attending the theater.

Day 6, Saturday, May 10, 2008 - At Sea

Seems like we are really lucky, its rainy and foggy again today with low visibility, but thereís no snow in the forecast. This morning right after day break we traversed the southern straits of Japan. We were told that itís the most congested area for ships in the world. At any given time we could see at least twelve other ships nearby. Iím not sure if this passage required the use of a pilot or not, but I rather suspect that it did.

Overcast and cloudy today Main stair case in the terrarium Today being another sea day, it was also our second formal attire day for dinner. The Japanese customs people are aboard so that we can clear customs today before our arrival. This will speed up our disembarkation tomorrow.

The public area amid ship starts from the fourth deck, and bores itís way to the ninth deck. It sports two outside type elevators that face into the atrium

The cold I was anticipating finally reared its ugly head, so I begun Dristan Cold therapy (thatís all that was available aboard). Maybe I can pick something up for it at a pharmacy in Japan tomorrow. After dinner, I retired to sleep away most of the night, fighting the on coming cold. BettyAnn went to the stage show whilst I slept.

She saw Edmundo Rahme, a tenor who put on an excellent show, according to BettyAnn. That fact was collaborated by other members of our group.

Day 7, Sunday, May 11, 2008 - Kobe, Japan

Happy Mothers Day to all. Got up early this morning, and made my way to the Windjammer Cafť, where most of the breakfast and lunch activity takes place. The cafť is located at the bow of the ship on the ninth deck, just over the bridge. The view from there is commanding when the windows are not fogged over. BettyAnn slept in until they opened.

Actually I was up about 4 AM, and found the outside pool deck blocked off due to weather. Unfortunately this is the only source of coffee that early in the morning. I could see the coffee bar, but couldnít get to it. What a bummer. So I went below, and formulated an email to our daughter. It seems that the contractor is doing a great job with the painting, and will start the floors next.

We were able to observe the approach to the harbor in Kobe, and ultimately our docking of the ship in the slip. Although we didnít pass directly through the typhoon, there was considerable damage aboard on the upper decks, one of the large sliding glass door to the Windjammer cafť was broken (and ultimately boarded up), as well as canvas, and other items on the open pool decks.

Once we were secured to the dock, and the ship was cleared, the transits left. Oddly enough, apparently here in the Orient, the ship picks up, and drops off passengers much like a choo choo train of days past. I expect these short trips are rather expensive, and first class in nature.

Thatís the reason all announcements are made in English, and at least two Oriental languages as well. During this portion of our voyage, the dinner menu is very heavily slanted towards Chinese and Japanese dishes. Iíve never been on a cruise where passengers were picked up, and dropped off, or at least I never noticed it before. It wasnít long before we were off the ship, looking for the free shuttle into Kobeís downtown shopping areas.

Once the bus stop was found the trip didnít take very long at all, and it dropped us off at Starbucks Coffee Shop. Kobe Street Scene We needed to return here to catch the return shuttle to the ship. As this is an overnight stay, we werenít to concerned about the time, but still didnít want to miss the dinner hour aboard.

Kobe Market Scene We walked around and managed to turn ourselves every which way, but we had a good map. And better yet, we found a Japanese Gentleman who offered to escort us to Chinatown, where we wanted to go anyway because the prices would be lower than in most other places.

Once in Chinatown, it was almost like being in a Shanghai shopping district, except the beautiful parks were missing. The prices were indeed less than in other places in Japan; unfortunately the US dollar doesnít Lunch time buy much in Japan. The exchange rate for here is $1US = 100 Yen, which seems like a lot, but a breakfast of eggs and toast can easily exceed 1200 Yen.

Cute Japaneese Child In the Chinatown area there were several eateries, and it seems everyone was eating. Come to think of it, it was close to lunch time, so thatís probably the reason.

During our explorations, we went into a slot house, which is set up very similar to a casino slot machine floor. This game is like pin ball without flippers, and the ball drops vertically. Itís apparently not to complicated, and itís a very popular game here in Japan. To tell the truth there are more slot houses here than there are bars in Milwaukee Wisconsin, and thatís saying a lot. Conrad checking out a Kobe Slot House The slot houses are gambling establishments, we didnít try our hand because it wouldnít be possible to take our fortune out of Japan.

Kobe Street Band We ran across a street band, there doesnít seem to be too many of these around, at least not in this area of Southern Japan. They were playing up a storm, and selling there CDís left and right. Although, with the high cost of living in Japan, I doubt that they were getting rich very quickly

Another thing we found here is that the people are very in tune to healthy life styles. It seems everybody is fit, it also seems everybody is under thirty, at least it seems that way. As an example, we found a really large group of young people doing a 10K walk. I have no idea what they were walking for, but it doesnít make much difference, the important thing is that they were taking time out of there busy schedules to do it.

A 10K walk in Kobe We managed to get ourselves sort of lost, but lets face it, when your on foot how lost can you get? Iíve made it a habit to photograph the street sign from whence we depart, and being in the local dialect it makes a good tool for asking anyone for directions back. Iíve found a picture of the ship doesnít work, all that nets is a Japanese version of ďOh, what a nice ship.Ē

BettyAnn and Cindy Shopping in Kobe, Japan We found our way back to the Starbucks where our adventure began, but there was no room on the bus for us this trip. The girls were ecstatic, what a nice opportunity to do a little more shopping.

You would think they would be shopped out, but I guess that doesnít happen until the money runs out, and with todayís credit card system thatís not likely to happen.

We finally did make it back to the ship however, and there was a nice shopping area in the passenger terminal building, imagine that. BettyAnn bought a couple of nice T-shirts, and I found a cooler in the back with beer in it. Well, that made everything much better.

We were back on board for the dinner hour, however, because this was an overnight stay there wasnít a show scheduled for tonight. The cruise line did offer a movie however, but after such an exciting day we were pretty tired, so after dinner we went to bed, which was okay with me as Iím still fighting a slight cold.

However before going to sleep, BettyAnn informed me that a T-shirt would need to be returned to the Japanese merchant in the terminal building for another size and that would be my job. Right.

Day 8, Monday, May 12, 2008 - Depart Kobe, Japan

One nice thing about staying overnight is that itís so calm, and we slept well. Kobe Sun rise I was up at sunrise, and even awake enough to snap a photograph. Being the first up, I dashed up to the Windjammer Cafť for coffee, and a bite to eat. Our departure from Kobe is scheduled for 11:00 oíclock.

The Dock I took some rolls and juice down to BettyAnn, and made her some hot chocolate. It was time to get up if she wanted to exchange the T-shirt before we left. A brunch consisting of Kobe Beer didnít sound bad either (canít drink the water you know).

After sufficient objections were countered, BettyAnn agreed to go ashore and exchange her own T-shirt. It was just as well too, because they were sold out of her size, and so she had to manipulate the assets. And a little more shopping in Kobe before the ship leaves This generally means that treasure transfers from our personal treasury into someone elseís, which Iím getting sort of used to because thatís been happening a lot lately (but not on the scale of missing a flight out of Madrid).

In a way this was good for Steve and me as well, Steve came ashore with us to join me for brunch. We had the opportunity to enjoy two beverages.

We made it back in plenty of time to avoid being left behind; however that wouldnít have been so bad at this juncture. All we needed to do was catch the bullet train to Tokyo and board the ship there in the morning.

Cindy doing a Jigsaw Puzzle in the Solarium The group is spending a lot of time in the Solarium (indoor pool) doing fantastic puzzles. Some may take several days, and others are a bit easier. Once started, just about anyone pitches in to help

After dinner we went to see the headliner at the Broadway Melodies Theater. The show tonight was a magic, Illusions and dance act by John Taylor. The show was very good displaying a lot of talent and energy.

Jack and Marsha's Anniversary After the show we were invited to Jack and Marshaís stateroom to celebrate there wedding anniversary. Jack had the room decorated, and laid in some champagne, and sparkling juice as a few of our group is Mormon. They have a balcony suite but itís useless during weather like this. The party lasted about an hour, then it was time to head for the old sleeping bag so weíll be rested for our landing in Yokohama, Japan tomorrow.

The weather is turning colder, and the ship is being tossed around like a toy sailboat. We canít see any lights from shore, but we canít be that far from the Japanese coast. I always sleep better in stormy weather

Day 9, Tuesday, May 13, 2008 - Yokohama, Japan

We arrived late in Yokahama because of the weather, we were supposed to get Yokohama Skyline their at 8:00 AM, but didnít arrive until 10:00 oíclock. By the time we cleared the ship it was almost 11 AM. The ship leaves at 6:30 PM, so there isnít much time to waste. A trip to Tokyo was out of the question given our late arrival, so we decided to take a shot at the big Buda.

The free shuttle took us to the train station where we could catch transportation to other destinations. The man is real, he's giving instructions out of an information window The train system here is fully automated, from the auto-ticket dispensers to the driverless trains. Once in the station, we joined into a larger group going to the same place, also off our ship. Then we stuck together for the day.

During our trip on the trains, we earmarked several shopping districts to visit later, time permitting. Keep in mind, if we get lost and missed the ship, we would need to fly to Alaska and wait the five days for the ship to arrive there. Not a very good scenario, so everyone was a bit nervous about finding our way back to the ship.

After learning how to run the ticket machines, we boarded a train going in the direction we wanted to go, three stops later we switched to another train on the advice of some local passengers. Four or five stops later, we got off and took a city bus to the Big Buda. The bus dropped us off at the entrance and from there, finding the Buda was a snap.

The Big Buda A Samloi driver limbering up The Buda was very large, and was made of brass, although at first glance it appears to be made of concrete. You could even go inside for 2 yen (2 cents), which may be the best bargain in all of Japan. Anyway, once inside itís obvious that the statue is brass, as you can see all the bolts holding it together, as well as the relief of the features in reverse.

We spent about an hour there before leaving for the Pagoda Gardens a few blocks away. In the meanwhile we finished taking all the pictures that we wanted.

Then we hit the street, and walked the three or four blocks to the gardens. The lower gardens Along the way we saw a samloi driver limbering up a bit. The Buda was certainly spectacular, but the gardens were even more so. There was a 500 Yen entrance fee, Upper level Terracotta Dolls and as it involved a lot of steps, BettyAnn decided to stay below.

The gardens were spectacular at the very entrance, and covered several acres. But climbing the steps took us to a new level of spectacular. The landscaped gardens went all the way to the top, and when we reached the top there was the Pagoda, as well as several other areas, one of which contained miniature terracotta dolls.

There was another shrine with other small dolls all lined up similar to the terracotta dolls, and these filled several tiers, that were thirty or forty feet wide. There was also an old bell that is said to be famous there also, itís also made out of a ceramic material as best as I could tell.

Upper level Pagoda There is a viewing area that overlooks the city below, and part of the coastline. Upper level view This area was used for meditation, picnics, or just to sit and read. The whole park was meticulously kept up.

We probably spent too much time there, or at least thought we might have. People in our group were starting to get nervous about missing the ship should we hop a wrong train and become hopelessly lost on the rail system. So we started down.

Once on the street, we found a subway entrance nearby, and caught a train going in the direction that we thought was the way we wanted to go. After asking some questions of English speaking Japanese travelers it was determined that we were just fine.

We needed to make one more train change to get to our destination which was the shuttle bus pickup point. Itís interesting to note that they even have flower boxes between the train tracks, wonder what thatís all about. It turned out we arrived with plenty of time to spare, and the shuttle that was there didnít have enough open seats for our whole group. So the girls and I did a little more shopping.

Even the rail way has flower pots between the tracks Eventually we made it back to the ship, and even had time for a drink before dinner at 6:00. During dinner we pulled out of Yokohama right on time. Because of the Typhoon the Captain requested ladies not to wear high heals to dinner.

Bettyís been on sea sickness pills as a precaution even though we are not susceptible to sea sickness. The seas have been very heavy and sometimes waves splash against our window on the third deck. The forecast as we head across the Pacific isnít promising, once clear of the breakwaters the ship went into itís toy sailboat act and I well imagine there were several seasick passengers before tomorrow was upon us.

With this in mind, we went to bed and let Mother Nature rock us to sleep.

Day 10, Wednesday, May 14, 2008 - At Sea

In the wake of another sad day Another day at sea, and another day of going nowhere, itís so good to sleep in for a change. My cold is in Massive remission, I hardly even know I have one. However, for one reason or another I was sick last night. It was just a general irritation and had nothing to do with the heavy seas that have plagued this Pacific sailing so far.

The day was spent mostly loafing around after a light breakfast, in fact BettyAnn missed breakfast altogether, and as it happened, and she missed lunch as well. We spent quite a bit of the morning in the solarium, where the indoor fresh water pool and spa is located. Cindy, one of our cruise mates, was working on a large puzzle at one of the tables. So that seems to be the place we have been congregating as a group for the past few days, to discuss all the exciting things happening aboard, like whatís for supper.

The days are still overcast, but any precipitation today seems to be from the ocean spray stirred up by the ship.

We saw the movie ďEnchantedĒ at the theater this afternoon, right after the drawing for the diamond ring which we failed to win. Never seem to have much luck at those things, Oh well. The movie wasnít bad, a fantasy type of show with some animation. Dinner is formal tonight, meaning a coat and tie.

After dinner (Lobster or Prime Rib, or both), we were invited to a party for the Crown & Anchor Society, of which we are members. Another formal night and a chance to dress up snacks and cocktails were served, and we met most of the ships officers. Boy, just what we needed, more food after a large sit down dinner. We had a few drinks, and enjoyed the company of friends. Afterwards, I changed out of the coat and tie before going the stage show.

The show was supposed to be two musicians, but unfortunately one missed a connection, and missed the ship out of Yokohama. The solo show that resulted was amazing. Duo Yalba had mastered at least forty musical instruments, and he took us around the world with music. He had a great singing voice too, as well as being a good showman. Some of the musical instruments he played I had never heard of, but thereís nothing unusual about that. So it was a pretty active day for a sea day.

Day 11, Thursday, May 15, 2008 - At Sea

Weíve been setting the clocks ahead each day now for a few days, and will continue to do so until we reach Alaska. Soon we will be crossing the International Date Line, I had thought today would be the day, but nothings been mentioned about it so far.

Our weather is still with us, itís overcast and gloomy with high seas.

Anyway, today was a good morning to sleep in, which we did. After a late breakfast at the Windjammer we went to the mall. BettyAnn put me in for a drawing on a diamond ring, which ultimately we didnít win. It did however make us late for a 2:00 movie because we had to be present to win at the 2:00 drawing.

Board games are always popular on cruises, the Japanese and Chinese play a dominos type game in the Solarium almost continuously

A Chinese game that resembles dominos The movie didnít interest me much, so I went back to the stateroom and caught some zzzzís before dinner. Tonight is the night chosen for Country and Western So the dress is Casual, or Country and Western. Oddly enough, I didnít have a stitch of western attire with me, not even the belt I generally wear at work.

The sit down dinners are typically five courses; however the food isnít as good as we have had in the past. Oh, itís fancy with a violinist and all of that, but just doesnít taste as well. The head waiter has said that they have taken steps to reduce costs. Little things like tomato juice are missing, but I feel that the quality of the food has succumbed to the ax as well. I cannot recall ever having a tough stake on past cruises, however itís happened twice on this cruise. This could be attributed to the cold I have, which may cause me to be a bit to critical.

Tonight is Country and Western night, and the show tonight is a Tribute to Country and Western Music. It was performed by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers which was a full production stage show that would rival any that Las Vegas has to offer.

After the show, we went to the ďShall we Dance LoungeĒ. Now that is a stupid name if ever I heard one. In keeping with the Country and Western theme, we watched Line Dancing classes at the lounge. We even managed to do a couple of dances ourselves. We didnít partake of the line dancing lessons, it reminds me to much of a bunch of trained monkeys.

By the time we left the Shall we Dance LoungeĒ, it was past our bedtime. Our daughter had written that she sold another puppy, so before bed, I got on the internet and changed next weeks ad in the Arizona Republic to reflect one less puppy for sale. A real pain when youíre at sea, very tired, and paying .55 cents a minute for internet service. Well, night yaíall.

Day 12, Friday, May 16, 2008 - At Sea

Another late day, didnít get up til the crack of 8 oíclock, which is all well and good because our group planned to have a Chinese Checker get together at 10:30 in the morning. The days at sea are lazy ones after the hectic schedule in the Orient. I think everything was spaced to close together, giving people almost no time to recover from jet lag.

The activities aboard the ship were mostly ignored, and everyone opted to play games in the Solarium. They start serving food about 11:00 AM, Pizza, Hotdogs, and that sort of thing. They also have coffee service of course so itís as good a place as any for me.

The solarium is really the only place to go swimming aboard, with the water temperature around 80 degrees. The outside pool is ocean water thatís been filtered, and isnít heated; Iíve seen one or two people go in, generally after a prolonged hot spa session. The outside pool temperature is between 38 degrees, and 45 degrees, and not a place a person would want to lollygag.

Atrium Staff Guitarist There is a guitarist that performs in the atrium in the evenings, he generally plays light classical, and ballads. Heís quite good, and reminds me of Escobar (or whatever his name is) on the Home Shopping Network.

We had a Country & Western night last night, and formal attire the night before, for dinner. We all brought Chinese outfits, so decided that as a group we would do our Chinese night this evening. As it turned out, the individual that instigated Chinese dress night left his outfit at home. He sure took a good ribbing for that, but he claimed it was his wifeís responsibility to see that it was packed. Sounds like a bunch of hog wash to me.

The show tonight was a singer from Australia by the name of John Christie. BettyAnn went to the show, while I returned to the room and made a Hot Toddy and went to bed. With the ocean as rough as it has been, it didnít take long for me to fall asleep.

Of course, when BettyAnn returned, she woke me to tell me what a wonderful show I had missed.

Day 13, Saturday, May 17, 2008 - At Sea

Today we awoke to calmer seas, again late in the morning, possibly about 11:00 AM. An island we passed in mid-Pacific It was a struggle to get up and dressed before they closed the breakfast buffet at the Windjammer. However it wasnít really all that bad, as I had turned my clock ahead as usual, but eventually came to realize that this was the first night during the crossing that we didnít need to. So in any event, I was an hour ahead of myself.

We passed an island in the middle of nowhere, what makes it unusual for us is that itís the first land weíve seen in days. Just wonderful, an island covered with snow, not really my cup of tea.

Having changed through six or seven time zones during the last week makes the 10:00 AM time we got up today, 4:00AM a week ago, it does take a toll. One wouldnít think it would be possible to experience jet lag on a ship traveling at twenty-five miles an hour.

Towel art done by our cabin boy Each night our Cabin Attendant does a bit of towel art for our room, sometimes they are quite intricate. This is one of our favorites, depicting a monkey hanging in a tree.

Todayís the day of the Talent Show, and that takes place at 2:00 PM sharp. Harlene singing like a bird So there isnít much time between breakfast and the show. Only one of our group is participating this trip, and that would be Amy, one of the singers in our group. Jack, the story teller is sick, and Harlene, also a singer, doesnít have costume and music with her this trip. Sometimes sheíll sin a duet with her husband Dean when she performs. Itís kind of nice to have a normal dinner tonight without the formal dress up fan fare. Well actually, casual is about as dressy as we get when we go out in Phoenix, unless itís a wedding or a funeral.

The show tonight was Jaquas Renay, the title of which is ďThe Tom Jones ExperienceĒ. The show was actually superb, that is much better than I expected. After the show, about 10:00 PM, it was still daylight outside, A sign we were close to the North Pole. The sun had set by the time we retired an hour later.

Day 14, Sunday, May 18, 2008 - At Sea

Our last formal night Another late morning, and we did need to set our clocks ahead an hour today, which puts us on Alaskan Time as far as I can tell. Every time we do that there are several things to change, such as two watches, a clock, two cameras, and the computer. Oh yes, and the calculator I have is date sensitive as well. Some require the time and date be corrected, and others like the computer, require a time zone change.

Atrium Staff Entertainer Tomorrow we will be docking in Seward, so today we are busying ourselves with US customs forms. Itís nice that we donít have to worry about changing our currency into Alaskan money; Iíll have to remember to dig out my cell phone, and charge it up.

Most of today was spent was spent watching the coast line from the upper decks, and playing board games in the solarium.

BettyAnn on formal night Dinner tonight is our last formal affair, so that makes three on this trip not counting Chinese night. At least it will give us all a chance to get decked out one more time before the end comes.

The show tonight was another spectacular called ďBallroom FeverĒ with the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. The show is somewhat special, as the lead singers are leaving after 130 shows together. They will be getting off at Seward, Alaska. I think they are both leaving for there respective homes, and retiring from the cruise ship show circuit to pursue other careers. Actually, singing and dancing an hour long show requires great athletic ability, and acting talent, not to mention a super memory. We wish them well.

After the show we went outside and took a photo using the extended daylight provided by this Northern part of the world. This photo was taken at 10:00 oíclock at night.

Day 15, Monday, May 19, 2008 - Seward, Alaska

We awoke reasonably early this morning, and watched the coastline as we Jim & BettyAnn approached Seward, Alaska from the usual perch in the Windjammer Cafť. That way we were able to graze and sip coffee at the same time.

It seemed to take along time to dock, but they like to do it all in slow motion, I doubt that I would have the patience to drive one of these ships. Meanwhile they were all set up for us when we got there, immigration that is. We needed a picture ID, and a drivers license was acceptable, so we left our passports in the safe in the stateroom

Street in Seaward Seaward Alaska, Iím sorry to say didnít impress me much. We were in port for five hours which gave scant time to do much. From the ship, a shuttle was available for $12 (round trip) into town. It could be walked but was about a mile and a half. The down town we went to was a typical tourist trap. Ship at dockside It was an old picturesque main street lined with souvenir shops, specialty shops and bars. There was no drug store, convience markets, or grocery stores in this area. If this is a typical Alaskan town, then Iím Bob Hope.

I was looking for a drug store for cold remedies, and asked the shuttle driver about it on the trip back to the ship. He was very nice, although he couldnít take the bus to the Safeway store; he made arrangement for a van to take us at no additional cost. I finally got what I was looking for, however it did little to change my first impression of Alaska.

Well we were back in plenty of time for dinner, and the ship left at 7:30. There was no show tonight, which was fine as we were tired anyway. So we went back to the room for a nite-cap and read before retiring.

Day 16, Tuesday, May 20, 2008 - Hubbard Glacier

BettyAnn went to the doctor after breakfast this morning because she had come down with an infection. Hubbard Glacier Hubbard Glacier The doctor was a Japanese fellow, and he seemed to know his job pretty well. Anyway, BettyAnn got a Z-Pack Antibiotic, and commenced it immediately. By noon she was already feeling better.

Shortly after lunch we entered Disenchantment Bay, and proceeded to the Hubbard Glacier. It was a slow trip because of all the ice in the water. As we were entering the area, we passed the Serenade of the seas which was leaving. Weíve been on that ship before during another cruise adventure. Itís also a Royal Caribbean Line vessel.

As it turned out, we couldnít get very close to the glacier today because of the amount of ice that was in the water. But we were able to get some nice photographs, mostly thanks to telephoto lens technology. We lingered at the glacier for about an hour, then started making our way out of the bay, so our departure from the bay was around 4:00 PM, or three hours after we entered the bay.

Hubbard Glacier We both went to dinner, but didnít eat very much. We mostly chatted with friends about todayís glacier watching activities. Unfortunately we werenít close enough to witness any calving ice (ice falling off the glacier) . And we were to far away to see any of the sea life. Such as seals which abound in the area. Actually I was disappointed, Trained Seal Towel Art it seems we put up with the cold weather all this time for a second rate show.

The show this evening didnít interest us much, and we were still under the weather, so we retired early in the hope that tomorrow we would be feeling better.

Our room attendant made us a seal this evening. At first we thought he had forgotten our mints (itís so easy to become spoiled). But he didnít, they were used as the weights to hold the ďballĒ on the sealís nose.

Day 17, Wednesday, May 21, 2008 - Ketchikan, Alaska

Today weíre visiting Ketchikan but it sure seems like another sea day, except we can see the Totum Pole Factory Alaskan coast from our port window. We did the usual morning things after we got up, which was well into the breakfast hour. BettyAnn was feeling much better so I guess she diagnosed herself correctly. She wouldnít let the doctor take any tests, and had to sign a waiver to that effect. Totum Pole But sheís been this route before, and knows the symptoms well.

One member of our group was quite sick, and had purchased a ticket for a shore excursion. He offered his ticket to us, so I encouraged BettyAnn to accept and take the tour, because I planned to seek medical help, and I really would like to try the BCBS PPO to see how dependable it really is.

As a result she went off with Marsha in place of poor Jack, and had a great time. The tour included Indian totem pole making, and a lumberjack show. Quite an exciting day for her.

We finally docked in Ketchikan, and I started following the PPO procedure by calling for plan doctors in town. BCBS gave me two doctors, and a medical center. Both doctors were simi-retired and not accepting any new patients and the so called medical center turned out to be a nut house.

I can already see that my 5-1/5 hour stay is going to be challenging. Once I got off the ship, I was amazed to discover it was a real town with grocery stores, and drug stores, just about everything but a Wal-Mart, and Iíd bet that if I looked hard enough, Iíd find one of those too.

Well, I hailed a cab and went to the Ketchikan Hospital Emergency Room, where they wouldnít discuss my BCBS card until Iíd been triaged, and assigned a room to wait in for the usual three hours.

Lumberjack Show Finally the doctor came in and prescribes a Z-Pack, and cough medicine with Codeine. He said the cough medicine would probably help a lot, but the Z-Pak wouldnít be worth the powder to blow it up, but I could fill it if I choose to. Lumberjack Show Once the doctor left, they couldnít snatch my BCBS card away from me quickly enough, it sailed over to the copy machine trailing smoke. But to their credit, they didnít charge co-pay, but I suppose thatís coming.

I did choose to fill the Z-Pack, and there was a convenient bar across the street from the drug store, where I waited for the meds to be filled. The store didnít accept my BCBS card, but the cost was under fifty bucks. Yes, the cough medicine did help a lot, the effect was almost immediate.

Jim & the ship This left me about an hour to look around, so I went back to the bar for a beverage to wash the medicine taste out of my mouth, then spent the rest of my stay taking pictures.

I got back on board in time for dinner, so went even though I wasnít really very hungry. About five other folks from our group were there including Poor Jack. His wife and mine made it back a shot time later, and opted to eat dinner in the Windjammer Cafť on deck nine, rather than in the main dining room.

By the time dinner was over, the ship was leaving for our next, and last, port. But first, another wonderful sea day

Day 18, Thursday, May 22, 2008 - At Sea

Itís the last day at sea, and the last chance to take advantage of sleeping in, Dining Room Farewell at least on the ship. We did make it up for lunch though. This is also our packing day, and I really hate to get out the suite cases because once out, and un-nestled the room becomes very cluttered, very quickly.

Our Waiter I tried to convince BettyAnn to wait until after dinner, but she wouldnít have any of it. So we started packing about 3:00 in the afternoon. Everything went pretty smoothly, and we were finished, with the bags out in the hall before dinner time.

The rest of the afternoon was spent reading, and chatting with fellow passengers and friends. I was on the last few pages of the book I was reading, and it disappeared. I think it may have been left on one of the decks when it was set aside to take a picture, just another case of mysterious disappearance.

Final Dinner aboard Dinner tonight was a gala affair, being the last night. The kitchen staff put on a farewell show for our benefit. Sometimes I suspect itís a ďglad to get rid of yaíallĒ celebration. Everyone in foodservice was involved from the dining room manager down to our assistant waiter. It was very nice, with everyone carrying a flag representing their country.

Of course all this celebration stuff delayed desert, and being the last night and all, I just ordered everything that looked good topped with a chocolate sundae.

Sting Ray Towel Art After dinner, we skipped the show and continued to pack our carry on luggage. It soon became apparent that we had way too much to fit the confines of the carry aboard luggage for an airplane. So we needed to pull back a suite case or two and repack a bit. We knew full well that we were going to be way overweight.

To bad we missed the final show; I hear that it was quite an extravaganza staring the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers.

The towel art on our final night was a flying fish.

Day 19, Friday, May 23, 2008 - Seattle

Today was an early up, and by now our luggage was gone. Breakfast was early also, and we would start disembarking within an hour of docking. This was coordinated to get folks with early connections off first. Our connection wasnít until 2:00 in the afternoon, so we were almost the last to leave.

Seattle Skyline Which means that we enjoyed the use of the ship that much longer. It did seem like the bumís rush however because the ship needed to be sanitized, cleaned, new passengers loaded, and depart for Alaska at 7:00 PM.

We turned our excess books, and the Chinese Checkers game in at the library, rather than take them with us. I had to ditch the left over brandy, however I kept it with me, for medical purposes only, right up to entering the airport security scanner.

My knife also disappeared the other day, but BettyAnn found it at the bottom of her purse. Naturally this didnít happen until the checked luggage had been picked up for delivery to customs. I asked BettyAnn to remind me to switch it to checked luggage when we walked it through customs tomorrow.

She forgot, so airport security got the knife. But once settled in the aircraft it was just a short hop to Phoenix, and we napped most of the way. Once on the ground we were surprised to find it raining. All of the luggage made it to Phoenix too, and like a miracle, our daughter Laurie was right there to pick us up.

And so ended our Oriental Cruise Vacation. Was it a wonderful vacation? Well, thats debatable.