Wednesday, September 09, 2009

[Travelogue] Off to a good start

They say that the worst experiences make the best stories. If that's true, this is going to be the worst story ever, which is fine by me. As many of you already know, Nancy and I are off on a long trip. A ten weeks, this is by a huge margin the longest trip I've ever been on. It's pretty mind-boggling that none of the myriad things that could have gone wrong actually have. Our flight was not delayed. Our bags were not lost (though there were a few hours when it wasn't entirely clear whether they had actually made it on board the ship). We were not detained at the cruise terminal security checkpoint despite the fact that I very cleverly put our cruise tickets in our luggage (so our tickets got on board even if we couldn't). And they did manage to start the engines and disembark despite the fact that there was a two-hour delay while they loaded extra provisions on the ship.

Watching the ship being provisioned was actually pretty interesting, at least to a geek like me. There was this little army of fork lifts that shuttled palette after palette of soft drinks, flour, cheese, produce, and assort god-only-knows-what onto a little platform that was then hoisted onto the ship via a crane. The instant the platform reached the ship, a little hand-operated forklift would jut out from the hull, pick up the palette, and slurp it into the ship. And that process was repeated again and again and again for about three hours. Enough food and drink and booze to keep 700 human beings alive and happy for three months, all loaded in a few hours by less than a dozen men thanks to modern technology. Captain Bly would totally freak.

This ship, the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner is quite amazing. She was renovated not long ago, and I don't know if it was just a cosmetic makeover or if the re-did her physical plant, but she is unbelievably smooth. Even now as we're cruising up to the Alaskan fjords at twenty knots I can't tell that the engines are running. It's the quietest ship I've ever been on.

Speaking of Fjords, here's an interesting bit of trivia for you: there are four -- and only four -- places on the planet that have fjords. What are they, and why are there fjords there and nowhere else? Tune in tomorrow for the answer (assuming someone doesn't post it in the comments first).

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