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Home Up Story 2

The Alaska Trip Begins

Itinerary of our 7 Night Alaska Cruise Aboard the Radiance of the Seas

  • Departs Saturday, July 16th from
    Vancouver, British Columbia at 5:00 p.m.
  • Sunday July 17th cruising Inside Passage
  • Monday July 18th       Juneau, Alaska  
    Arrive   12:00 p.m.     Depart  9:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday July 19th      Skagway, Alaska
    Arrive    6:30 a.m.      Depart  7:45 p.m.
  • Wednesday July 20th  Cruising Hubbard Glacier
    Arrive    11:00 a.m.     Depart  3:00 p.m.
  • Thursday July 21st     Ketchikan, Alaska
    Arrive     1:00 p.m.     Depart   8:00 p.m.
  • Friday July 22nd      Cruising Inside Passage
  • Saturday July 23rd   Arrive Vancouver 8:00 a.m.


We had 73 passengers in our group.  However we did not all fly together. Rather we arrived in bits and pieces at Vancouver. The smart ones came up a day or two early and got comfy.

There was one serious snafu. Several passengers whose flight had a stopover in Calgary were treated to a rude surprise - they were forced to claim their luggage and go through Canadian customs before flying through to Vancouver.  We had been assured by the Royal Caribbean cruise agents and by our own "travel experts" this would not happen... but it did. 

I am sorry to say that Marla lost a lot of sleep over this problem. She was embarrassed to have proudly announced at our Pre-Trip Meeting how easy the trip would be only to be blind-sided by the miserable Calgary experience.  As I always say, "Experience" is a comb life throws you after you have already lost your hair.  Marla's hair is much thinner now.

Vancouver turned out to be just as beautiful as advertised. It has received many compliments as one of the best cities in the world to live in.  Surrounded by mountains, mist, rain forest, and ocean, Vancouver is a sight to behold.

Dancing Aboard the Radiance

Although I must say the dancing about our Galveston-based Rhapsody is better, the dancing on the Radiance was pretty good too.

Due the size of our group, on our first night we were rewarded with a special  night of dancing in the Colony Club.   Gary Richardson somehow managed to lug speakers and amplifier all the way to Canada. He connected his equipment to a laptop computer and played any song we requested.  Since the evening including complimentary cocktails, our group was soon dancing up quite a storm.

We had many superb dancers in our group.  I would have to say that Doug and Charlene Tees were our top couple with Robert Goins and Cher Longoria frequently giving them a run for their money.

I suppose Marla and I would have ranked up there somewhere except that I forgot to pack my enthusiasm for dancing.  We couldn't even make the finals of the amateur Twist contest. 

Out of our group of 70, there were only a handful of people I would consider "non-dancers".  As a result we put on quite a show at the various dance events in great force.

Many of the other passengers joined us on the floor.  This was a surprising development. They were of course no match for us, but that didn't stop them from getting out there too.

When we dance on the Rhapsody, practically no one outside our group dares get on the floor with us.  They are too intimidated. 

Whereas we scare everyone from Texas into submission, the Radiance passengers drew confidence from our group.

Unfortunately none of our amateur sociologists could come up with an adequate explanation for this obvious quirk. 

Since no one else bothered to try, I suppose it is left to me to offer my theory.  I think the difference was the dance floor.   The circular Rhapsody dance floor is nearly twice as large as the rectangular Radiance dance floor.  You can see everyone from every angle.

But our group barely fit on the Radiance dance floor.  As a result all the other dancers could actually "hide" by snuggling in with the rest of us. 

Fortunately this only occurred during the large events like the Captain Reception and the Sock Hop.  The rest of the time our dancers pretty much had the floor to themselves when the band played on a nightly basis.

Another discouraging word would include the lack of cooperation from the social director Soledad.  She refused to permit late-night dancing after the band finished playing, citing the loud noise keeping the guests below awake as her reason.

Gary Richardson promised to keep the music quiet, but she refused to to give permission.  Instead she came up with a bizarre compromise to allow us to play our music on the aerobics dance floor in the gym.  The floor was great, but the time offered always conflicted with the shows after dinner or regular dancing in the Colony Club. As a result this turned out to be a very empty offer.  Oh well.

The Story of the Radiance DJ Booth

When Marla told me our dance workshops would be held in the Disco instead of their main dance floor at the Colony Club, I groaned.  Aboard the Rhapsody, being exiled to the Disco meant doom.

To my surprise, the Radiance Disco floor was much larger. In addition there was plenty of room to dance on the carpet just off the floor.  This meant you could dance right up the edge of the floor or even on the carpet and have no fear of hitting a wall or a railing.  Space was not a problem.

I was fascinated by the athletic ability of one of the Disco's waitresses.  We needed an outlet to plug the extension cord into so Gary could run his imported sound system.  So we asked a friendly waitress who was watching us gather.  A pretty Polish girl with short blonde hair, we were relieved when she said she could help. 

Rather than simply walk through the door to the DJ booth, she actually climbed up to a ledge in front of the DJ booth, and jumped inside.  Once there, she quickly found the outlet we sought. 

We had three workshops at the Disco. The first time this happened I simply assumed she didn't have the key to the door and thought nothing more about it. I realized since there all the chairs are bolted down, she had no props to help get up on that ledge. Therefore her impressive leap was actually called for.

As we prepared for our second workshop, we again politely asked the waitress to help. Again she did her Olympic high jump routine and cleared the ledge to gain access.  This time I raised an eyebrow. 

We were running late for the third workshop. By now I knew the drill so I carefully began to climb up on the DJ booth ledge to find the outlet for the extension cord. I was interrupted by the same screaming waitress. 

It seems passengers were not allowed to do the climbing.  I understood.  Besides, if she wanted to show off her athletic ability some more, I enjoyed the show.  However this time I couldn't suppress my curiosity any longer.  I had noticed that each time she finished plugging the cord into the outlet, she exited through the door to the DJ booth.

I asked, "Why don't you simply walk in through the door?"

"No one has a key." 

"Why not?"

Now she blushed.  With my Columbo-instincts fully aroused, I sensed I was onto a story.  With prodding, I got her to confess.

It seems when the Radiance was brand new, they had a magnificent state-of-the-art sound system.

Plus the door worked.  Since it was easy to get in the DJ booth, every staff person from A to Z, Poland to Indonesia, trained or otherwise, used the system.  Even some passengers got in on the act.  Since most people barely had a clue how the system worked, they turned buttons on and off.  When they couldn't hear any sound, they turned up the volume. Then one day, someone left the volume turned up and accidentally found the right button at the same time.  The power surge blew out the entire system.

The Captain was furious.  First he replaced the sound system with the cheapest thing he could find. Then he threw away the key and told everyone to keep the door locked.  This meant only someone with immense athletic ability could actually get in the DJ booth.  Apparently athletes have reverence for electronic systems since the problem was solved.

The reason I found this story so amusing is because here back at SSQQ, students and Staff alike feel like they have the right to go in my DJ booth and fool around with the buttons. They have no idea why I greet them like a raging bull when I catch them in the DJ booth.

I have already had to replace two $500 amplifiers which mysteriously didn't work any more.  And just recently I caught a Salsa instructor fiddling with the controls in the DJ booth at Break time. He was right on the verge of blowing the system by leaving the volume button turned way up.  It was an unintentional mistake as you might imagine, but I just about blew a fuse of my own.

Now that I know the solution to my own problem, I am seriously considering putting in a rock-climbing wall in front of my own DJ booth. 

Dance Workshops

I thought the dance workshops went very well.  For one thing, they were very well attended.  Each one of the four workshops attracted close to two-thirds of the members of our group.

Our first workshop covered Foxtrot, our second workshop covered Cha Cha, and our third workshop covered Rumba. 

Gary and Betty Richardson were nice enough to give me a day off when they taught the fourth workshop on Night Club.

It must have been obvious we were having fun.  Our workshops were held either in the late morning or early afternoon.  Although we had the floor reserved, during these times, the Disco was open to all guests.  You have no idea how many people wander around the ship.  It is fascinating to see people walk around looking for something to do. 

We must have been the only game in town because we attracted very large crowds.  People would line the dance floor gawking and pointing at us.  Eventually they would decide we were making it look too easy. This gave them the courage to suddenly jump out on the floor and join in.

Consequently we spent a lot of time fending off guests who begged us to join. 

Previous visitors to my cruise trip recaps know I have dedicated many words to the miracles I could accomplish if Royal Caribbean ever wised up and let me put a social dance program onto their ships.

Cruise executives look at empty dance floors and conclude they are wasting a lot of space.  As a result, they order ships designed with smaller dance floors.

Then they look like geniuses when their tiny floors get crowded at the Captain's Reception!   

My point is that many Americans secretly would love to learn to partner dance.  They sense that partner dancing is equal parts romantic, sexy, and fun. 

And they would participate in the Evening dance activities if they only knew how...

Throughout these lessons people would tell me they would love to take lessons.  The most common complaint I heard went something like this:

"Back at home, I am too busy (or my husband is too busy) to take dance lessons but we are always talking about it.   Now that we are on vacation here on the cruise, we finally have the time to learn to dance, but not the opportunity."

 Put me in charge and I would design a Crash Course program that would link the dance lessons to a specific dance opportunity that same evening.

On days we were at sea, we would have a morning lesson and and an evening lesson. If the Captain's Reception was coming up, we would learn Waltz in the morning and Foxtrot in the afternoon.

For Western night we would learn the Texas Twostep instead of the goofy line dances they serve up instead. I would show those people from Kansas and Minnesota how a man puts a woman in his arms and moves her around the floor.  After all, everyone knows real men don't line dance, right?

For Latin Night, we have Salsa in the morning and Cha Cha in afternoon.

For Sock Hop Night, we have more Swing dancing.

For Ballroom Night in the Centrum, we would learn Waltz, Tango, and Rumba.

In other words, we would tailor our lessons specifically to a dance opportunity later in the evening. 

I think the cruise executives would be genuinely pleased at the results.  Although perhaps their bingo profits and gambling profits might be slightly impacted, the overall cruise experience would be marvelously enhanced.

Not only would people have a chance to actually get some EXERCISE, they would learn a valuable skill that is tailor-made for the cruise experience. They would get to know other cruise members in their classes, they would get to spend time with their own spouses and friends, and best of all they would be doing something ROMANTIC with their time.

Imagine that.


Fish and Bear Stories

The Dining Experience aboard the Radiance was a highlight of every day.  As we hoped, Moustapha, our Maitre de (pictured at right), graciously permitted us to sit at any table we wished within our group.

However since we had so many couples who came with other couples who were their friends, there wasn't nearly as much rotating through the tables as we have on the Rhapsody trips where we take oodles and scads of Wild Single People.

Every evening was fun as people shared their experiences of the day.  The Alaska Cruise had so many interesting adventures at each port of call, it was impossible to see everything.  So it was nice to hear the stories of the different things people did and saw.

One really good story came from Jeff Gray and Sally David (pictured together at right with Moustapha).  When we visited Juneau, one of the adventures offered was lunch meal in the middle of the Alaskan Wilderness.

Sally and Jeff took a bush plane flight deep into the Alaskan heartland. While in the air, they were treated to breath-taking views of mountains, glaciers, streams, waterfalls, and endless forest.

The bush plane landed in a lake and pulled up to a dock.  Once on land, Jeff and Sally enjoyed a wonderful meal inside a lush cabin along with several other guests.

As the guests relaxed after meal, they were greeted by the sounds of a bear rummaging around right outside the dining room!

Everyone was paralyzed with a mixture of fear and uncertainty. What the heck was going on? 

Fortunately the bear wasn't coming to eat them for lunch. Instead this bear knew very well he could get a sumptuous afternoon meal by raiding the leftovers thrown into a pit outside the cabin. 

My guess is this bear's appearance was no accident.  I think this bear and the cabin owner have a deal going regarding the leftovers.  Sounds like a good deal to me - the guests get an exciting view of the magnificent bear and Mr. Bear gets a magnificent meal in return for his appearance.

I'm not quite sure exactly how safe the arrangement is, but it appears to be working for the moment.  However I doubt if I would appreciate it much if I was the first person to become the meal rather than eat the meal...

By the way, I would like to thank Jeff for sharing his great picture of this exciting moment!

I asked Jeff and Sally what was served for the meal. They said "Salmon".

Now that's a real surprise!

Everywhere I turned on this trip, I was confronted by offers to eat salmon fish.

It turns out that until oil came along, practically the entire Alaskan culture revolved around the salmon.

Almost from the moment the trip began, various members of the group told me things about Salmon. For example, there are five Types of Salmon.  This was a fact I had not previously known about. Up to now, the only type of Salmon I knew about was "Salmon".   Little did I know!

So if you like are me and don't know much about salmon, for the uninitiated here goes:

The five types of Salmon are: the King (Chinook), Cohoe (Silver), Pink (Humpy), Chum (Dog), and Sockeye.

Someone in our group, probably Carla Upchurch, explained how you could use the fingers of your hand to remember.  Chum = Thumb. Okay, that's a good one.  Pink = Pinkie.  Another good one.  King = Ring Finger.  Getting creative now, but okay, that works too. 

The last two however escape my memory.  Apparently the middle finger is supposed to remind you of the Sockeye because you can use it to poke someone in the eye with it.  Please. Can't we do better than that?

And somehow the Index finger is supposed to remind me of the "Cohoe" Salmon. Yeah, I have that one right here at my fingertips for sure.

Just when I thought I had my Salmon memorized, some spoilsport named Cher Longoria came along and said it is a little more complicated than that.

She immediately began to show off. Without missing a beat (she never does), Cher rattled off King salmon, chinook salmon, tyee salmon, Columbia River salmon, black salmon, chub salmon, hook-bill salmon, winter salmon and blackmouth. 

She paused for a breath, then continued with some more names.   Silver salmon, hook-nose salmon, blueback salmon, jack salmon, salmon trout and white salmon.

This time she didn't pause for a break. She just went rat-a-tat-tat like a machine gun:
Dog salmon, calico salmon, chub, fall salmon and keta salmon.  

Then she smiled. Cher does that well.  Before I could stop her, she started up again. Humpy salmon, dog salmon, hone salmon and humpback salmon. 

This woman is a freaking encyclopedia of salmon!  And she still wasn't done.  She started to play with me. She said, "Hmm, let me see if there are any I missed. Oh yeah, four more:
Red salmon, blueback, silver trout and kokanee.  Kokanee is my favorite salmon."

I asked politely, "Are you done yet?" 

"Yes, I think I got them all."

I smiled.  I decided one good Salmon story deserved another.

"Cher, did you know that Salmon can grow as big as 100 pounds?"

"Of course, Rick, everyone knows that!  Tell me something I don't know."  She smiled again. "That is, if you can think of something."

"Did you know that salmon are seriously endangered in the Lower 48 due to the hydroelectric dams that prevent salmon migration and interfere with their spawning?"

"Rick, everyone knows that."

"Did you know that salmon only spawn once in their life, then they die?"

"Yes, it's sad, but I knew that too."

I rolled my eyes.  This woman is such a Know-it-All!

"Well, did you know the Salmon is sacred to the Tlingit Indian?" 

(Pronounced "Cling-it", the Tlingit Indians have inhabited the waters of the Inside Passage for centuries.)

"I didn't know that, but it seems fairly obvious.  Is that the best you can do?"

I frowned.  She was getting under my skin.

"Well, there are many legends about salmon in the Tlingit culture.  For example, the salmon have long been the key to their survival.  Even today, modern children are expected to be expert fishermen. Did you know that in order to graduate from the eighth grade, all students in this area have to spend an entire weekend alone on an island?  Most manage to stay well fed by catching fish."

Cher smiled. "Of course I knew that, but you are warming up. Keep going."

"Some of the fish are so large that children can actually step on them without falling in the water!"


"Yes.  Back in ancient times, the salmon were so plentiful during spawning season you could actually cross a stream by running across their backs."


"It's true. In fact, the Tlingit people created their own version of the Olympics based on the running of the salmon.

"Now this is interesting.  Where did you learn this?"

"I had a talk with a native Indian lady who operated the gondola at the Mt. Roberts tramway in Juneau.  She told me a lot of things about her tribe.  I enjoyed her story about the Indian Olympics."

"How did these Indian Olympics work?"

"Their people were divided into two clans or tribes: the Ravens and the Eagles. These two tribes would compete against each other in various activities.  One of the main events was called 'the running of the salmon.'"

"How did it work?"

"The male children of the Raven clan and the Eagle clan would run a relay race across the stream.  The children were light enough to actually use the teeming salmon as stepping stones."

"Why weren't the girls allowed to participate?"

"Actually one year the girls were allowed to join the competition.  The Eagle clan had lost several years in a row. The theory was the nimble-footed girls would have an advantage because they were so light. It would be easier for them to find fish big enough to support their weight."

"I bet those girls were so good they weren't allowed to compete anymore."

"Well, for a moment it looked like the gamble would work until the girls began to scream and fall in the water. It was a terrible fiasco."

"No kidding!  What happened?"

"The men discovered the girls were afraid to step on the scales."

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