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
Arrive 12:00 p.m. Depart
- Tuesday July 19th
Arrive 6:30 a.m.
Depart 7:45 p.m.
- Wednesday July 20th Cruising Hubbard
Arrive 11:00 a.m. Depart
- Thursday July 21st
Arrive 1:00 p.m.
Depart 8:00 p.m.
- Friday July 22nd
Cruising Inside Passage
- Saturday July 23rd Arrive Vancouver
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
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
"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
For Sock Hop Night, we have more Swing dancing.
For Ballroom Night in the Centrum, we would learn Waltz, Tango, and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"No kidding! What happened?"
"The men discovered the girls were afraid to step on the scales."