End of the Cruise Considerations

Some end of the cruise considerations and words of advice to help improve your future cruise experience.

Cruise Ship
Cruise Ship

First, after you have packed all your clothing, throw in three more pair of socks. Make that four. They take up virtually no room and there is nothing more comfortable than clean, dry socks after being on your feet for extended periods of time.

Next, if you meet someone and it sounds like they are English, do not begin by asking if they are English. Instead, ask where they are from. That way, when you find out they are in fact Irish, you will not be subjected to a detailed history of every battle and war that the Irish fought to earn their independence from British rule.

An Irish accent is lovely until you start hearing a rant about the six counties who are still under British rule and the 26 counties who have been independent of British rule since 1912 or 16 or 22 or something. If you pay heed to any of my advice in this post, pay heed to this one. And the extra socks.

Finally, when packing your clothing, do not bring that suit or dress that is just a tiny bit too snug. On the final evening of your cruise that piece of clothing will be a taunting reminder of just how many times a day you ate Eggs Benedict. And crispy bacon and sausages and hash browns and toast and pizza and steak and lobster and crab legs dipped in butter….

Most importantly, when cruising, say hi to people, have fun and be kind. Particularly to the people working on these massive floating hotels. But have fun. I certainly did.

Celebrity Century Cruises Out of Ketchikan

My days and nights aboard the Celebrity Century are beginning to blur from day into night into day. The only point of reference I hold onto is where and when we will go ashore. And yesterday we cruised out of Ketchikan, Alaska. (add photo of Ketchikan when string link to Internet is more secure)

Departing Ketchikan
Departing Ketchikan

Now, to look back at Juneau and Ketchikan, I am still surprised at the number of “fine jewelry” and watch stores available to the tourist/cruisers crowd. (add photo of 60 carat tanzanite on my hand) Who goes on a cruise to Alaska to buy a diamond or rare, expensive gems? I don’t get it.

But back on the ship. It is interesting to listen to the comments and criticisms of the other passengers I have the pleasure of spending time with. One very elderly lady complained that the artwork hanging on the walls in the stairway, elevator landing areas is not “quality” art or nice to look at. Funny thing is, I didn’t even notice that there was artwork on the landings until she mentioned it.

My observations are more about the staffing decisions. By and large, Celebrity has done a very good job of getting the right people in the right places. The best example is the young Romanian lady who works in the gelato station. (add photo of gelato station) From her early morning opening shift until she closes she is smiling and welcoming people to the ship. I asked her how she is able to stay so cheery and she told me, “I love my station. I love being able to give ice cream to people and see them smile. I LOVE my station.”

And after that, although I do not particularly like ice cream, I made a point of walking by her shop, not to get ice cream but to see her smile and get a shot of her optimism.

Ketchikan, Alaska

The Celebrity Century has landed in Ketchikan, Alaska and I am sitting in Fat Stan’s, a local watering hole.

Fat Stan's Ketchikan
Fat Stan’s Ketchikan

Best story of the trip so far; a guy on our cruise ship figured out that arriving via ship you are “marked” as a big spender and all the shore excursions are significantly more expensive when booked from the ship.

This guy I’ve been hanging out with on the ship figures out that if he called ahead from Juneau to Ketchikan he could book a fishing trip and cut the cruise ship out of the money.

So he gets a phone number for a fishing charter, Baranof Fishing Charters,

Baranof Fishing
Baranof Fishing

in Ketchikan. Before we leave Juneau my buddy dials up the folks at Baranofs to book his fishing tour. The guy who answers the phone asks what day are you coming into town.

My buddy says, “Friday, August 31st.”

Baranofs gets a bit suspicious and asks “How are you arriving?”

Buddy says, “I’m going to be driving into town.”

Baranofs, “Do you mind if a reporter from our local paper meets you when you get here?”

Buddy, “Why’s that?”

Baranofs, “Well, we’re on an island here in Ketchikan and we are pretty keen on learning about how you drove into Ketchikan.”

I Break My Fast at Tracy’s King Crab Shack

After last night’s uber-indulgent meal at the Murano aboard the Celebrity Century, I felt it was important to take care of my physical well-being and fast (you know, not eat for an extended period of time). My fast lasted until I got ashore and found Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau, Alaska.

Tracy's KIng Crab Shack
Tracy’s KIng Crab Shack

True story, once I was ashore I started looking for somewhere to eat; the first jewelry store (it seems the only kind of store in Juneau are jewelry stores) I walked into I asked the pretty girl where one can get a good meal in Juneau and she replied, “All the restaurants in Juneau are pure crap. The only place worth eating is at Tracy’s King Crab Shack.

Well, with a recommendation like that, where else is a fella supposed to go? Off to Tracy’s I headed.

Tracy’s is a tiny little food-truck like operation on the shore in the shadow of the docked cruise ships.

 

I decided that I had to try the King Crab legs, the crab bisque, the crab cakes and the Alaskan Brewing Company Rootbeer. And I did.

The big-time Boston Bruins fans standing over the crab pot dished me up a plate of King Crab legs. And I started to eat.

Lunch
Lunch

Crab cakes? Delicious. Truly delicious. Tender little morsels packed perfectly with crab, breaded and golden-fried. A quick dip into the spicy side sauce…mmmmm.

Crab Bisque and Crab Cakes
Crab Bisque and Cakes

Then I ate my crab bisque. Exquisite is the word. Ecstasy…one of those foodie moments. Unbelievable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If perchance you find yourself in Juneau, Alaska, forget about the whale watching tours and kayaking trips. Get yourself down to Tracy’s King Crab Shack for a unforgettable lunch.

 

Disclosure: Tracy’s King Crab Shack has provided absolutely NO financial or other incentive for me to write this blog post or any follow-up blog posts. I paid for my lunch with the money out of my children’s college fund. This blog post is based upon my personal opinion and as always, I maintain complete editorial control over all content posted here.

A Day in Juneau Alaska

We are currently docked in Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, The Strip
Juneau, The Strip

although my body does not yet understand that it is not actually on a ship. The first shop I walked into I had to ask the woman at the cash if the building was still moving.

She replied that in fact as a public service they put their building on a rocker just to make cruise ship passengers feel more comfortable.

However, last night was our dinner date at the specialty restaurant, Murana aboard the Celebrity Century. Murano serves French food with Mediterranean influenced.

I have to say that after dining at the Murano, it was physically impossible for me to indulge in my late night snack. I feel my excuse is valid seeing as dinner was a five course meal beginning with a goat cheese souffle, a lobster bisque

Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque

and continuing to the main course of an 8 ounce serving of venison done medium rare, a cheese course and completing with a dual Grand Marnier and Dark Chocolate souffle.

Yes, when I awoke this morning I was still feeling the effects of the souffles.

 

Ahh yes, you did notice! Yes there are photos in this post and I have added a few more in my previous post. That is because I am on land, in B’s Bakery and Bistro

B's Bakery and Bistro
B’s Bakery and Bistro

enjoying FREE wireless Internet and an excellent cup of coffee; HELLO French Press coffee.

Life continues to be wonderful. Tonight is the second formal night for dinner so I will once again be slipping into my pin stripes and acting like a civilized gentleman for our Japanese ladies.

More later.

Day Three Aboard the Celebrity Century; Discovery Day

The Mob Moves
The Mob Moves

Day three aboard the Celebrity Century was a day of discovery. Did you know that they have shows and entertainment on these cruise ships? Comedians, dancers, game shows…who knew, I certainly did not.

However, before we get into the shows, a cool experience for me today, I joined with what seemed like the rest of the guests aboard the Century (photos of the mob) and went for a tour of the galley (that is nautical-speak for “kitchen”). While the massive group was waiting to enter the galley the executive chef asked if there were any questions he could answer. I don’t like to be a shrinking violet so I shot my hand up into the air and next thing I knew the director of food services had a microphone in my face and I was asking the executive chef; “Why do you not purchase more ingredients in the local markets? For example, the butter on the tables is from Wisconsin. Why do you not buy local?”

Although I accept his answer, I don’t think it was very factual; he told the gathered foodies that they Celebrity has a central purchasing policy in order to control the quality of the food that they purchase.

My take on it is that they probably have a central purchasing and warehousing operation because the scale of their central purchasing power is better leveraged to save money for the organization. However, I do accept that their belief in presenting quality ingredients to the guests aboard their ships is a sincere belief.

Which takes us to our dinner. Not our first or second early supper but our official six o’clock sit down in the Grand Restaurant with our Japanese lady friends.

When I am at home I find it difficult to cook a steak perfectly. Yes, it is true; I am not a barbecue master. So when I am out and I see steak on the menu, especially the daily fresh sheet, I like to order steak. Last night my travel companion and I both ordered the sirloin strip steak, cooked medium rare.

My steak was tough but “okay”.

Sirloin Steak
Sirloin Steak

(photo of my dinner) Not good, not bad enough to send back. However, the steak on my travel companion’s plate was so tough that he could not cut it with his steak knife.

What happened next was noteworthy. We called over our waiter who promptly recommended a substitute meal that he thought would be more to our liking. Can you believe it, that piece of meat was also as tough as you can get!

Now, keep in mind that we did not complain about the meal in order to get out of paying the bill or to get something for nothing (we realize the meals are all included in the fare). We wanted them to know that something had failed in their system.

Next thing we know, the restaurant maître d and the executive chef are at our table attempting to make things right! They apologized every which way to Sunday while adding in that nobody else had complained about their steaks that evening. That made me wonder if they were thinking we were not justified in complaining and that perhaps we just did not know what a good steak is really like.

We accepted their apologies, knowing that systems occasionally do fail, and prepared to move on. As we were walking out of the restaurant the maître d told us that he was personally going to see that there was a filet mignon (not on the menu or the daily special sheet) for both us for our next meal in the Grand Restaurant.

The lesson? The quality system failed Celebrity but the safety system, the PEOPLE they have in place made everything right. I can assure you, we left the Grand Restaurant as happy customers. Cudos to the people who are the fact of Celebrity.

I will leave the entertainment and game show stories to another blog post. I will leave this seed of a question for you; have you ever played the newly-wed game where the host separates husband and wife and asks them questions about each other and then brings them back together to answer those questions? Watching that game made me stay up late wondering how my Sweetheart would answer questions about me. Hmmmm…

 

Day Two Part Two Aboard the Celebrity Century

Day two aboard the Celebrity Century is in the books and we are into day three. That means we have eaten first dinner, second supper, late evening snack seen a dance extravaganza and had our first breakfast. Yes, this is tough work but I believe I am rising to the challenge of my work and representing the hungry class to the best of my ability.

First dinner was had on the pool deck at the Verandah Café. I had the choice of certified Angus beef, chicken, turkey or veggie burgers. I chose turkey burger and fries.

Turkey Burger
Turkey Burger

(photo) Add on a stack of bacon, grilled onions; a slice of tomato and a tiny side of fries (to help me avoid scurvy while at sea) and first supper was ready.

An interesting observation I have come to is that although it is “all you can eat” style food the staff aboard the ship serve basically all food. So at breakfast you can eat that ten pounds of bacon and sausages if you like, you have to tell the server behind the buffet line that no, those six slices of bacon are not enough and yes, you do want them to add another six slices. Having to actually say these words may in fact cut down on the gluttony and wastage of food. Although sadly I have seen some instances where sandwiches are left on tables with one or two bites taken out of them.

However, back to my food experiences. For our second supper we rejoined our assigned table in the Grand Restaurant. We seem to have been blessed with the location of our table; we are at a window overlooking the rear end of the ship.

The number of people dining with us has grown. A couple from New Brunswick and another couple from Las Vegas have joined us; now we have three people who are hard of hearing and two people who speak virtually no English.

The lovely lady sitting next to me speaks perfect English, albeit with a distinct Australian accent. We do have plenty to talk about seeing as she is an English teacher in Tasmania.

The elderly lady from Las Vegas asked us if our options for controlling students have been significantly reduced now that we cannot hit the students. My tablemate and I smiled sweetly at this question. Our Vegas friend pursued this line of questioning, asking how we control kids, how do we get them to do what we want. I shrugged and said, “Well, I usually speak to them and just ask them to do whatever it is I need them to do.”

For dinner I elected to have the cedar planked, blackened Cobia salmon.

Cedar Planked Salmon
Cedar Planked Salmon

. It was an interesting meal. Delicious yes, but not like any other salmon I have ever had. It was a very white salmon.

I noticed the Japanese ladies curiously poking at the little mound of mashed potatoes and gravy on their plates. Not wanting to be one to stereotype people but I couldn’t help but wonder if they would prefer rice to the mashed potatoes. As soon as I said rice their faces lit up. And when the wait staff returned with perfect mounds of rice they were virtually glowing and utterly effusive in their thank yous to me. Somewhere in Japan there are going to be several pictures of me standing there with my arms around two very grateful elderly Japanese ladies.

Purely in the name of journalistic enquiry I tried something at the end of dinner. The wait staff came around asking what people would like for dessert. I asked for the apple pie a la mode and the cherries jubilee with vanilla ice cream. The waiter did not bat an eye and simply said, “Thank you sir.”

Late that evening, after taking in the “Dance around the world” production in the Celebrity Theatre (a fabulous performance), we returned to the Verandah Café for our late evening snack. Seeing as were quite late in the evening, the only thing open was the pizza bar. Excellent veggie pizza.

Today we are sailing into Icy Strait. People can disembark the ship and go into the tiny community to purchase all sorts of stuff to take home.

P90XR Workout
P90XR Workout

I am choosing insetad to stay on board and continue my exercise regime. (photo of P90XR)