The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Vancouver to Anchorage
June 2003
"The Legend of the Seas"

The Reason:
   Our friend Les has run in a number of marathons to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This year, he made plans to run in the Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.  Several of us started talking about making the trip to Anchorage to cheer for Les from the sidelines.  One option was to fly to Vancouver and take a seven day cruise that would deposit us near Anchorage on the day before the race.  Our friends, JeRie, Karla and Sue booked their passage several weeks in advance, but we had several conflicts that needed to be resolved before we could commit. By the time we were ready to book, there were no cabins available at a price we were willing to pay. We still did not have a reservation on Wednesday before the cruise was to sail on Friday. Finally one of the travel agents was able to convince the cruiseline to discount an outside cabin and we got our confirmation around noon on Wednesday.

Getting There:
    We rushed home to pack and started looking at flight availability. We determined that our best option was to stand by for Thursday afternoon's flight to Vancouver through Salt Lake City. When we arrived at the airport, there was a mob at the gate, and even though the flight had looked like it would have available seats, it wasn't long before we were starting to sweat. We used the binoculars we had packed for gazing at the beautiful Alaskan scenery to look at the gate agent's screen and were able to see that the count of available seats was falling fast. We made a few phone calls to check on alternatives (our backup destinations were Seattle and Portland) but decided to stick to the original plan. Through the binoculars, we could see that there were still three available seats when the agent called the name of the party just ahead of us on the list.

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When they approached the counter, they told the agent that they were traveling with another person with a lower boarding priority. The agent asked if they wanted to split up and leave the other person (the employee's father) behind. We had a momentary flare of hope when they replied no, but then changed their mind. There was some question as to how many seats were still available, so the gate agent lined all of the standbys up in priority order and took everyone down the jetway while he counted seats. It was already past departure time at this point, so we hurried along. The party of three ahead of us boarded the plane, but the employee's wife told the employee's father that if he did not get on, she would get back off. The gate agent would not allow this because it would further delay departure, so the wife was told to get back off and wait until the father was boarded.  We were next and were told to take any available seat. Following our own rules, I took the first available seat IN BUSINESS CLASS. Tony was relegated to coach, but got a bulkhead aisle seat just behind BUSINESS CLASS. One other standby was boarded after us. We buckled our seatbelt and started the non-rev chant: "Shut the door. Shut the door. Shut the door..." and then "Push back. Push back. Push back..." It took awhile to calm down after all of that, but a few glasses of red wine helped. I gave Tony the couple of complimentary drink coupons that I just happened to have so that he could enjoy some wine in coach as well. In the hustle to get onto the plane, the agents forgot to mention to the coach standbys that they should pick up a meal bag in the jetway, so Tony's sustenance for the flight consisted of two bags of snack mix. I had a lovely Greek salad in business class. I saw a great movie called "Phone Booth".

The standby experience from Salt Lake to Vancouver was slightly less stressful. Before we boarded the flight, we talked to some folks who had been trying to get to Vancouver all day and were exhausted. We cheered and high fived when we all got seats. We were seated next to a couple who was going to be on our cruise ship. They let us look through their information on the cruise. We had booked so late, we hadn't had time to get any information about the cruise.

We were planning to join our friends who had traveled on Wednesday at the Days Inn, but they had gone out, so we waited for them at the pub next door. They knew just where to find us! We enjoyed a few beers with a local fellow who told us over and over how much he loved the USA. Our room at the Days Inn was spectacular! Tony and I had our own bedroom and we shared a bath with the other three girls. We spent Friday morning doing some shopping for supplies for the cruise. We learned that another friend, Steve, had coincidentally booked the same cruise. We ran into him and his friend, Tammy, while we were out exploring Vancouver. Just before we left for the ship, Tony received some interesting news about the credit union where he works. His boss, his boss' boss, and his boss' boss' boss had all announced their retirement from Delta Air Lines, but their intent to continue their employment with the Credit Union. We speculated that the Credit Union might be planning to disassociate itself from the airline. This thought is rather disturbing to us because flight benefits are such a major part of our lives. We tried not to think about the possibilities during our vacation.

Cruise Day 1
Vancouver, Canada
All Aboard: 4:00PM
Departing: 5:00PM
We arrived at the cruise ship dock in plenty of time to get checked in and clear U.S. Customs before boarding the boat. Our first activity on the boat was to meet with the dining room manager to rearrange our dinner seating assignments. JeRie was the first passenger in line and was able to secure the best table in the dining room and get us all seated together, even Steve and Tammy. After that strenuous activity, it was time for a snack in the Windjammer Cafe. Back in our cabin, we met Hendricks, our cabin steward who explained that he would be cleaning our cabin twice a day (Hmm... Wonder if I could take him home...) We then donned our lovely flattering life jackets and hurried to our muster station for the lifeboat drill.

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We relaxed in the Viking Crown Lounge while the ship sailed away from Vancouver.

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We had a friend who had sailed on the Legend of the Seas two weeks before and told us we should look up his cocktail waitress, Yupi Yani. Lo and behold, who should serve us our first cocktails of the cruise, but Yupi Yani! The ship had some rather complicated options for purchasing beverages. A card could be purchased that would entitle the bearer to twelve drinks at a discounted price. Yupi was sometimes forgetful about punching the card when we ordered drinks. Dinner was in the Romeo and Juliet Dining Room where we had the best table in the room. We purchased the wine option which entitled us to a bottle of wine with dinner each night. The selection was very limited, but the price was reasonable. We had a very handsome waiter, Ugur, from Turkey.

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The Casino Royale kept our attention after dinner.

Cruise Day 2
At Sea

We awoke early, not yet accustomed to the time change. Breakfast was open seating, so we got to meet some new folks while we enjoyed our bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, toast and pancakes. Following breakfast, we attended a seminar called, "Eat More to Weigh Less". I was very excited about this topic, but was soon disappointed to discover that they were not revealing any new information. The "Eat More to Weigh Less" program was based on exercise. Yuck! Shortly after the seminar, we headed back to the dining room for open seating lunch. Back in our cabin, we discovered that Hendricks had left us a "towel animal". He had sculpted a towel into the shape of an elephant and left it on our bed.

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In the afternoon, Tony and I participated in the Blackjack Tournament. For $20, one was given $500 worth of chips with which to play 7 hands in a preliminary round. At the end of the 7 hands, the top money winners were posted on the winner board. After all of the preliminary rounds, the top money winners would play again. I lost in the preliminary round, but Tony tied for seventh place so he had to be in a playoff for the seventh position in the final round. After four hands in the playoff, Tony was the only one who had any money left, so he got to play in the final round. Three players were quickly eliminated in the final round. Tony was looking pretty good with two hundred and fifty dollars left, so he bet one hundred and twenty five and was dealt two aces. He split them and lost the hand, losing all of his money. But wait! Of the four final players, two had $100 left and two were out of money, so they split first and second places between the two who had money left and split third between the two who had no money left, so Tony ended up getting $50 and a "Casino Winner" tee-shirt!

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We played some more blackjack (with real money) then relaxed in the Viking Lounge with Yupi Yani before heading for our cabins to don our formal wear for the Captain's Cocktail party.

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After dinner, it was Karaoke time! Thankfully, I had brought my tiara, gloves and "Miss Behaving" sash for the performance.

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The Chocolate Buffet was the final event of the evening.

Cruise Day 3
Ketchikan, Alaska
Arrival: 7:00AM
All Aboard: 1:30PM
Departing: 2:00PM

Following a leisurely breakfast, we explored Ketchican, "The Salmon Capital of the World", picking up some lovely Alaskan treasures at the souvenir stores. We admired the totem poles, and hiked up the hill via Married Man's Trail to the Fish Hatchery.

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Most of us didn't think the fish hatchery was worth the price of admission, but we took this lovely picture through a knothole in the fence. 

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Steve and Tammy had booked a tour bus, so we waved at all of the tour busses as they went by. We stopped into the Alaska Bar for a beer before heading back to the ship and discovered that we had coupons for almost all of the souvenirs we had bought. We went back to the shops to ask if we could get our discounts. They very graciously obliged. It was Father's Day, so everyone found a phone to call their father. We stopped by our cabin to find our new towel animal, a monkey.

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After lunch, we headed back to the casino for a little more blackjack action. We met some really interesting characters at the blackjack table. Tony nicknamed one of the dealers, Darth Vader. She never smiled, she dealt really fast, and she had a nasty habit of taking everyone's money. One by one, all of the players would leave the table when she came to deal. We were no exception.

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We headed back up to the Viking Lounge for Country Music Hour and to see the very friendly Yupi Yani. The dress for today's dinner was "Casual/Country and Western", but since the wardrobe was not published before the cruise, everyone had to settle for casual. Instead of cowboy boots, I wore lighted flip-flops. After dinner, I stopped in to see the entertainment, a "Country and Western Hoe-Down". They were teaching a few line dances, but I was afraid if I tried them in my flip-flops, I might wind up with squished toes!

Cruise Day 4
Skagway, Alaska
Arrival: 9:00AM
All Aboard: 7:30PM
Departing: 8:00PM

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Skagway! We walked into town, stopping to take several pictures of the surrounding mountains. We did a little shopping for some more Alaskan treasures in town before heading back toward the ship. Sue read a little bit of Skagway history to us. The name Skagway originates from a Tlingit Alaskan Indian word that means "lady reliving herself on a rock". We found Tony, who had given up on the shopping, at the bar nearest the boat, enjoying an Alaskan Amber and gazing at an eagle perched on the mountainside beside the bar. We joined him for a beverage and watched Steve and Tammy depart on their train ride. We headed back to the ship just in time for lunch! After lunch, it was naptime! Tony, Karla and JeRie napped in deck chairs where they actually got a little sunburn. I opted for my comfy bunk in the cabin, where I found yet another towel animal, a rabbit.

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Sue skipped naptime and did some more exploring in Skagway. As had become our custom, we met back in the Viking Lounge for cocktails before dinner. Tonight's dress was "Smart Casual".  After dinner, the blackjack tables held our interest until bedtime. We met more interesting passengers. One lady from New York was extremely rude (imagine that) and kept threatening to leave the table if we continued to follow the rules of basic strategy. Another fellow who looked like our friend Carlos was notorious for splitting tens, and an older man felt compelled to tell us about his health problems (shingles).

Cruise Day 5
Juneau, Alaska
Arrival: 6:30AM
All Aboard: 4:30PM
Departing: 5:00PM

The girls called early to say they were going to book a whale watching tour for the day. We decided we were ready to get off of the water for awhile, so we opted out. We went for a walk around town and then stopped into the tourist information office where we learned about a tour of the Alaskan Brewing Company.

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We caught the bus to the brewery, took the tour and sampled all of their beers. My favorite was the Smokehouse Porter. At the end of Salmon season, they take their hops to the local smokery where they are smoked for several days before they brew the beer. The beer made me crave BBQ ribs!

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After the brewery tour, we got back on the bus and asked the driver to let us off near the Mendenhall Glacier. The bus stop was about a mile and a half from the glacier. By the time we got to the bus stop, I really needed to "Skagway", but we had hooked up with another couple, so I refrained. About halfway to the glacier, Tony stopped us and pointed out THE BEAR that was crossing the road just ahead of us. I fumbled around with my camera until the bear got just out of sight and then I snapped a picture.

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It was a black bear, probably about 5 1/2 to 6 feet tall. After that sighting, I was no longer tempted to go into the woods to "Skagway". We made it to the glacier and back to the bus stop in time to catch a bus that would let us barely make the "All Aboard" time for the ship.

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We returned to our cabin to find all of our towel animals playing cards.

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When we reconvened with our friends, we learned that the girls had seen numerous whales on their tour, but none that did circus tricks for them. They learned much from their tour guide about Alaskan Culture.  On the subject of romance, they were told that, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd."  Steve and Tammy had a rather disappointing day. They had booked a helicopter tour, but the weather was too cloudy. We had missed lunch (oh no!), so we headed for the Pizza and Burger bar in the Solarium before happy hour in the Viking Lounge. Dress for dinner was "Casual/50's & 60's". Again, having had no prior notice of the dress theme, we had to opt for just casual (which of course included my lighted flip-flops). More blackjack in the casino, and then off to bed.

Cruise Day 6
Sitka, Alaska
Arrival: 7:00AM
Last Tender: 4:30PM
Departing: 5:00PM

Sitka was not my favorite stop, mainly because we anchored offshore and had to take a tender to the dock. After breakfast, we got our tender tickets and waited to be called. The weather was fairly mild, so we chose to ride atop the tender rather than in the crowded cabin below.

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Our favorite part of Sitka was the eagles. There was a big eagle sitting on a rock just off of the coast, and a number of eagles perched in a tree above him. We were able to get close enough to get a fairly good look at them.

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After a little sightseeing and shopping, we stopped at Ernie's Saloon for some refreshment. I decided to try the "Arrogant Bastard Ale" and the others opted for Alaskan Amber.

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We spotted a fellow outside who looked just like our friend Pepper. While I was looking at the Pepper clone, a man popped up outside the window and peered in, startling me. I screamed, and he came inside to tell us that he doesn't usually have that effect on women. We got a big laugh out of it. There were very few pay phones in Sitka, so after waiting in line, we decided to head back to the boat and try the cellphone. The temperature had dropped significantly so we had a cold wait for the tender. We opted to sit inside the cabin for the ride back.

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Our late lunch was again at the Pizza and Burger Bar in the Solarium. Today's pizza was gorgonzola and walnut! Mmmmm! We stopped by our cabin to see our new towel animal, a peacock!

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We played bingo (this was very expensive - we decided that if we go on another cruise, we'll wait until the last day and just play for the jackpot) and then had a little time for blackjack and a cocktail in the Viking Lounge before getting ready for another formal dinner. The menu for the evening included steak & lobster!

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I went to see the "Love and Marriage Gameshow" after dinner where they quizzed four couples with questions from the Newlywed Show. It was quite entertaining. One lady thought the strangest place she and her husband had ever made "whoopee" was upstairs at her parent's house, but her husband said it was on the back of a snowmobile. The emcee asked if the snowmobile was moving at the time and the man answered, "Well, I was." After the "Love and Marriage" show, they brought out the big name act for the cruise, "The Coasters". We listened to a few of their songs and then went back to the casino for our nightly dose of blackjack.

Cruise Day 7
Cruising Hubbard Glacier

We awoke early to see the glacier in the distance and take a few pictures. We could see another boat that looked like it was up against the glacier, but our ship kept its distance.

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After breakfast, I went to a napkin folding class, stopped by the room to see our new towel animal (a frog) and then met up with the others in the casino.

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At lunch we were seated with another couple. When we asked them if they were enjoying their cruise, the man exploded with anger about how far away we were from Hubbard Glacier. We talked about all of the other activities they had done and exchanged stories about what we had all seen during the cruise. He seemed to calm down some. While we were eating lunch, we saw two whales alongside the boat. We hurried to finish our lunch so we could attend the beer tasting in the Viking Lounge. We had earlier discussed that people on a cruise tend to do a lot of complaining, but it was REALLY apparent after the beer tasting when the bartender asked if anyone had any complaints about the bar service. One man felt that he was getting watered down drinks when he used his purchased cocktail card, but thought he got good drinks when he charged them to his room. Another lady thought we should have gotten more beer at the beer tasting. Almost everyone was disgruntled about our proximity to the glacier. When we got back to our room, we had a note from the captain explaining that we could not go closer to the glaciers for fear of separating the seals from their pups. I went to the Guest Talent show and sat next to the lady from lunch. She said, "I was so glad we sat with y'all at lunch. My husband was so angry I was about to walk out, but you all just diffused his anger." After the talent show (which had two really good acts and about five not so good acts), the dancing bartenders came out and juggled bottles, glasses and trays. I found the gang in the casino and we played blackjack with Mrs. New York, Carlos, and Mr. Shingles before retiring to the bar next door to try the special drink of the day, a Glacier Ice Tea (rum, vodka, tequila, triple sec, blue curacao, tonic and a squeeze of lime juice). When I was telling Sue about the Guest Talent show, I said, "I could have SO done that talent show." Sue interpreted "SO" to mean "SEW" and said, "They had a seamstress category in the talent show?" We hooted over that one.

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Back in the cabin, we made our own towel animal - a man, holding Hendrick's tip envelope, and then headed off for our final dinner.

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The blackjack tables closed at midnight so it was an early night for the girls, who had been known to stay in the casino until the "wee hours".

Cruise Day 8
Seward, Alaska

This was probably the best disembarkation experience we've ever had from a cruise ship. We had a leisurely breakfast, finished packing and met the girls in the Schooner bar where they used their last punches on their drink card for Bloody Mary's. We got off of the boat around 8:15AM, found our luggage and got to the bus stop in plenty of time for our 9AM departure. Now, the bus experience is a different story. We didn't see a bus, so we called the bus company and they said they had sent the bus out early and no one was there, so they would send it back. When the bus arrived, it was a 15 passenger van. We reluctantly crowded into it, and immediately started removing layers of clothing because it was so hot. The van driver took us about a mile down the road to a bus depot and told us to check in at the desk. While we were getting checked in, the driver was unloading our luggage and putting it on what looked like an airport shuttle. When we boarded the bus, it was already almost full. Tony, Karla and I took the three center seats in the back between two other fellows.

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JeRie and Sue were seated in aisle seats further forward and we started the 130 mile trek to Anchorage. The driver, trying to be both driver and tour guide, would point out various sites along the way. It was very enlightening. He would say things like, "I think that is a church, but don't hold me to it." Every time he would turn to tell us something, he would swerve and then jerk the bus back on the road. When it came time to stop, he would pump the brakes. The fellow next to me had given me his life story in the first fifteen minutes of the trip. He was originally from Chicago, but had moved to Bethel, Alaska with his partner. They are the only two gays in Bethel, but there are lots of lesbians. He thinks they are accepted because they have respectable jobs. He doesn't know how they would be treated if they didn't. He was going to run in the Midnight Sun marathon. Tony's seatmate had been released from prison at 4AM that morning after serving eleven years. He had taken the rap for his brother because his brother would have been given a life sentence. He had served most of his sentence in Arizona, but had been flown to Alaska to serve the last four months. He said, "You know that movie, Con Air?" Well, its not like that. They don't really chain your hands and feet to the floor unless you cause trouble." When we made our first stop at a rest area with a portalet, I looked back at the bus and noticed their slogan, "Seward Bus Line - More Than Just A Ride".

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The bus driver made an unscheduled stop in Alyeska to drop off one party's luggage at their Bed & Breakfast. We rode around the area for about 10 minutes stopping to ask several people if they knew where the B & B was. Before we got back on course, the driver took us on a short tour of Alyeska. The fellow next to me started to get very pissy because he was supposed to meet people at the airport at 11:30AM and it was already noon. We finally got the driver back on track and made it to the airport and the bus depot where we were able to get a taxi to take us to our hotel. We met Les and his mom and had a wonderful lunch at a little pub they had found.

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After lunch, Tony and I decided that we would forego the race festivities and take the overnight flight back to Atlanta. After sampling an "Amber" and a "Blonde" at the brew pub across the street from the hotel, Tony and I grabbed our bags and headed for the airport. When the cab let us off at the airport, we realized that we had left our hanging bag at the hotel. Fortunately, our friends were nice enough to bring it with them even though we had given them a hard time about how much luggage they had brought all week. We had to eat a little crow when they said, "Now we see how you can travel so light - you just get someone else to carry your bags."

The trip home was fairly uneventful. We really hate Delta's new promotion to sell first class upgrades at the gate. Had it not been for that, we would have gotten to sit in first class. We got to sit together in coach, which was nice because I would rather have laid my head on Tony's shoulder than some stranger's. Back in Atlanta, we are still trying to get rid of our sea legs, our jet lag, and the extra weight we packed on during the cruise.

BJ and Tony Morris