#TBT: Alaska – Part 5 of 9

Part 5 of 9: Skagway: Walking on a Glacier and Taking a Train to Canada

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings
Part 3 – Rehearsals and relaxing
Part 4 – Juneau – Nature Trails & Humpback Whales

For those of you who know me – this was one of my first ever photobombs

I had gotten a letter last night that said

my Glass Blowing excursion, due to lack of participants at 9:30am, had been changed to 1:30pm. Unfortunately, that caused some time conflicts, so after waking up at 7:30am (luxury!), I went to the Excursion Desk down on Deck 1. I couldn’t switch my excursions around to get all three in, so I told them to cancel my Glass Blowing so I could receive a refund.

I next went to the Lido Buffet (the food isn’t so great but it’s convenient) and grabbed a breakfast of an omelette, hash browns, whole wheat toast and coffee. After that I called Joe so we could talk for a while.

We were already in port in Skagway, so with several hours to go until my first excursion at 1:30pm, I decided to see the town (it was only a few hundred feet off the dock) and go shopping. And shop I did!

Below: Downtown Skagway

My first excursion was a helicopter ride to Meade Glacier, followed by a walk on the glacier and then a helicopter ride back. The helicopter ride was fun but, well, I’ve done ‘copter rides before (Hawaii and the Grand Canyon) and it wasn’t anything new or special, other than a different view – and a cloudy view, at that. But still a pretty awesome view.

The glacier though, was incredible. A massive 700 feet deep, miles wide and many more miles long. Comprised of 100 feet of snow per 1 foot of glacier ice, moving downstream at 1″ per hour. Deep crevices, above and underground streams…just an amazing thing to stand on and something I MUST visit again someday!

The helicopter ride back was just as cool as the ride there, with some awe-inspiring (but still cloudy) views:

My White Pass Summit Club train ride to the Yukon was scheduled for a 4:10pm pickup. With just a 30-minute turnaround time and a VERY empty belly, I half-walked, half-ran to Starbucks (Skagway AK: Population 800. And they have a Starbucks!) for a sandwich that I wolfed down in no time flat.

The pickup for the train ride was on time but they said the train was running late (I found out later that a car of an earlier train had derailed. Oops.). So they drove us around town…all 8 blocks of it. We saw the Skagway library, fire department and police station (the latter of which looks an awful lot like a single wide). Finally it was time to go on the train, so we drove to the area where we would board car #242.

The train ride was fun and pretty (if not particularly interesting), with some lovely views of the valley below. The tracks were built during the Klondike gold rush and as we rode, they told some stories about areas and items we passed.

The train was riding, of course, on the side of a mountain so whereas the people on the left had a lovely view, the ones on the right only got to see the side of a mountain. So once we hit the Yukon (back into Canada – we weren’t allowed to leave the train), they gave us our champagne (part of this particular tour), detached the engine car and brought it to the back of the train, where it was reattached. Our seats were made to flip to the other direction so, with that, we did the mandatory switch of passengers to the “other” side of the train and those who were on the left side now had a mountain view, while those on the right now had a valley view. It was fair. And then we made our descent.

Had the train left on time, we would have arrived back at the ship at 7:15pm, which would give me just enough time to go back to my cabin, change clothes and be at dinner between 7:45 and 8pm. Unfortunately, with the delayed start, we didn’t arrive back until 7:45pm. So I rushed to the dining room to tell my table mates what I wanted to eat, figuring I could do that, get changed and be back in time for my main course to be on the table. However when I got to the restaurant and told the people at the desk my intentions, they told me I could eat there as is, so I got to eat in jeans, a polo shirt and my brand-spanking new Tilley OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhat, LOL! The meal itself was, as always, just OK, but I chose chocolate pudding for dessert. Now granted, apparently what the British call “pudding” is not the same as what we call “pudding” (I never did figure out the difference – I’m bringing some Jello instant pudding with me to England next time I go), but I took a picture of what they gave me because it looked VERY much more like a souffle than chocolate pudding. I even double-checked with the server who insisted that the cake-like object on my plate was indeed chocolate pudding. OK, then…

It had been a LONG day with a LOT of walking. With no plans for Wednesday (another day at sea), I went to bed at 10:30pm and figured I would wake up whenever I woke up.

#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip – Part 4 of 9

Part 4 of 9: Juneau – Nature Trails & Humpback Whales

Our ship, the Ms Zuiderdam

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings
Part 3 – Rehearsals and relaxing

Rehearsing for our concert

I woke up at 6:35am and my breakfast (same as yesterday – Egg Beaters omelette, grapefruit and coffee) arrived at 7:10am. Out the door at 7:30ish, I got a little lost and didn’t get to the 8:00am rehearsal until nearly 7:50am – to a room that was nearly directly just 4 floors below me, LOL!

Rehearsals went fine…our conductor set us up on stage, we did a run-through of most of our songs and were done by 8:55am or so.

I went back to the Explorations Cafe to “loan” Nancy and Jessie computer time for them to fix something that would best be done on the ‘net, but Jessie was late in getting there to meet me so we decided to do it later. Meanwhile, I tried to log on with my computer and couldn’t – apparently we had lost satellite signal because of the mountains on either side of us. So I kept myself happy by looking at the scenery, both from the comfortableness of inside and, for a few minutes, from the dreary, wet, cold, windy miserableness of inside.

 I decided I was getting hungry by that point, so I went to the Lido Buffet for my “second breakfast” in the form of a nice bowl of oatmeal. I met Esther there so I had someone to eat with.

I went back to my cabin to get ready for my massage, then went up to 9 Deck for my 11:00am appointment with Melanny. I had a seaweed body masque (it felt weird and smelled even worse, LOL!), then got cocooned into a body wrap that made me sweat, while floating on a bed of water. When that was done, I had a full body massage. She tried to work on my shoulders but, as always, they were just way too tight (NOTE: 8 years later, they still are).

When I was done with my massage, I grabbed some Mexican at the poolside buffet (meh), then went back to the Exploration Cafe to hang out for a while. We were nearing Juneau by this point, so I turned my phone on and lo and behold, I was on AT&T! So I called Joe so I could talk to him for the first time in 3 days, which was, of course, wonderful!

We arrived in Juneau around 2:30pm. I went outside but it was raining and chilly out and, with having to take a shuttle bus to get into town, decided it wasn’t worth my effort when I had a tour in an hour, so I went back inside. I was scheduled to go on the “Photo Safari By Land & Sea” tour at 3:45pm so I went to the designated wait spot at the end of the dock at 3:30ish.  Our guide, George, arrived a few minutes later and between our group and a group from another cruise ship, there were 13 of us in total. Esther, one of the ladies from Tampa, was on the same tour.

George was a 24y/o guy with a degree in visual arts. After giving us an overview of Juneau from his POV (The Costco is a hopping place, most people live about 8 miles from town and complain about the 15-minute commute, etc.), he gave an overview of what settings to use on our cameras, whether we had fancy shmancy cameras, aim-and-shoots, or anything in between. We were scheduled to go to a park/forest area to see a the glacier and the forest, followed by a boat ride to possibly see some whales…but the boat was iffy because of the weather, so we would see what happened and if the boat was cancelled, we’d be refunded half of our money.

Mendenhall Glacier was beautiful…and HUGE! And the forest offered all sorts of interesting picture-taking opportunities, using settings I rarely used and/or never knew where to find, LOL!

If you look really carefully, that black lump in the water is a (I don’t remember if it was a humpback or killer) whale

The boat, thankfully, did not get cancelled so we were able to see several killer whales (relatives of Shamu) as well as humpback whales. The rule is that the boats can’t get within 100 yards of whales but once we’re just outside that boundary, the whales can get as close as they want to us. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to. More unfortunately, the zoom on my camera isn’t that great so my shots are pretty far away. It was still fun to watch, though.

We got back to the ship at 8:15pm, 15 minutes too late for our dinner seating at the Vista Restaurant (we knew that was going to happen – the excursion started at 3:45pm and was 4.5 hours long). Esther and I decided to meet at the Lido Buffet after dropping our stuff off – well, I looked for her and she looked for me but we never did find each other again. The food at the Lido was, as always, just OK. You can’t really make buffeteria food delicious, no matter what you do with it, LOL!

After such a long day, I was ready for bed early and was sleeping before midnight. Goodnight!

Towel Art: Monkey

#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip- Part 3 of 9

Part 3 of 9: Rehearsal & relaxing

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:

Part 1 – Arriving in Vancouver
Part 2 – On board and getting my bearings

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith an 8am (8am? On vacation? whine, whimper) call time for rehearsal, I was up (before the alarm…ARGH!) at 6:35am and out of bed a few minutes later. In order to sleep as late as possible (ha!), I had requested room service for breakfast so before I left for the rehearsal, I enjoyed an Egg Beaters omelette with ham & cheese, half a grapefruit and coffee. Not bad, not terrific. But definitely convenient!

Our rehearsal was held in the theater where our show would be. At 7:45am, I was the first one there but the rest soon arrived also (Caroline and I agreed it didn’t count as “bumping into each other” since we were both scheduled to be there, LOL!). Our conductor told everyone to sit in their sections as they had been told in rehearsals at home, to which I looked at him and said, “Huh?” Orlando and Tampa hadn’t had any rehearsals (I could see why they wouldn’t…there were only originally 5 singers, now we were just 4, and we were divided into 2 + 2 between Orlando and Tampa, but it certainly put us as a disadvantage – “Carlene” and I hadn’t sung the songs in a concert since October ’08 and poor Celeste and Esther had NEVER done them in a show – so all we had was sheet music and rehearsal CD’s. No pressure…) so we had no IDEA of where to go or even who else sang what parts in order to figure out where to sit. But eventually we figured it out and I took my place with the other 5 Second Sopranos.

The rehearsal was short and sweet, thanks in part to the fact that our piano player, Gabriel (a Nicholas Cage lookalike) was just seeing the music for the first time and was playing via sight reading. He didn’t do too badly, all things considered, and even improvised on the songs he already know, like ‘Fly Me To the Moon” and “New York, New York.” So by 8:40am, we were done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wandered back to the Explorers Club and did the jigsaw puzzle they had – I used to LOVE jigsaw puzzles when I lived in Staten Island but we just don’t have a decent place to do them in our house yet. Anyway, theirs was HUGE! 4,000 pieces! of course, Caroline and Sue came by (this time they were definitely stalking me, not me stalking them) and Caroline did the puzzle while Sue wandered about the room (I’m talking with a lot of Brits so I’m starting to pick up on their verbiage). When I got tired of the puzzle, I finished Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone (again) and then tried to nap in my chair for a little while but it was too loud. Plus I was getting HUNGRY!

I went back to the Lido Buffet for lunch, where I got rotisserie chicken, Virginia ham, some stir fry veggies and a few French fries – it was all pretty good. I wound up eating with 4 Brits – 2 from the choir and a husband and wife team from the Leeds area who I thought were from the choir but in actuality were just British (apparently not all Brits on the ship are Choir Brits, LOL!).

After lunch, the 2 ladies left for plans that they had so I had my dessert (chocolate ice cream) with Antony, Colin, Pauline and Ann, where we discovered yet another difference between American English and English English…what we call Jello, they call jelly and what we call jelly, they call jam. It’s funny how 2 languages that are so much the same can be so different!

We all went to the Crow’s Nest Lounge next, for a trivia game. Our team was me, Colin, Antony, Carlene and “Stewart.” Some of the questions were easy (how many dots are on a pair of dice?) and some not so much. We got 11 out of 15 right but some team got 14 right so they won. The prize was “Dam bucks” for Bingo – something I could live without, anyway.

I had some spare time before my next planned event on my schedule so I went to the various decks, inside and out, and took some pictures – the scenery was beautiful!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a 2:30pm reservation for a wine tasting in the Queens Lounge, as did Esther and Celeste from Tampa. It was a typical “here’s how you taste wine” seminar, with 2 reds, 2 whites and a champagne – none of the wines were awful (not even the oaky chard) but none were really good, either. Oh well…it took up an hour.


4:30 brought my facial, which was VERY relaxing. The girl who did it was named Leisl (or was it Lisette?) and she was from South Africa. 50 minutes later I was very relaxed, with VERY smooth skin.

I tried to grab a quick nap after that – laid down for a good 30 minutes but never fell asleep. And with needing to get ready for Formal Night for 7:45pm, I finally just gave up and got dressed.

I arrived at the lounge near the restaurant around 7:15ish and was waved over by Celeste and Esther who, as it turned out, were sitting next to Caroline & Sue, of course, LOL! We got a round of drinks, got the band to play ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (with two Sop 1’s, a Sop 2, an Alto and a Tenor between us, of course we sang along) and soon enough it was time for dinner.

Everyone looked SO nice in their formal duds…

I got a shrimp cocktail appetizer, the rack of lamb (with ratatouille and a potato cake) and a small butterscotch sundae for dessert. YUMMY!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the midst of the meal, a bunch of people suddenly started Oohing and Ahhing and going towards the windows…apparently there were some whales nearing, diving. I was able to see them blow out their blowholes but as I was so far from the windows, that as much as I could see. The poor servers had to wait for the melee to end though.

After dinner, I walked out with Nancy and Jessica (I’m SLOWLY starting to learn names) and we and a few other (not ALL the names though, Maybe a half-dozen) got our pictures taken by a photographer. Before they could drag me to get my picture taken with the Captain, I slipped back to my cabin and put on real clothes again. Finally, after updating my blog, I got ready for a well-deserved sleep!

#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip Report: Part 2 of 9

Part 2 of 9: On board the ship & getting my bearings.

In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip, click here for Part 1.

Saturday, August 15, 2009 (Going On Board)

I  woke up at 8am and went to the Starbucks in the hotel (did you hear that? A Starbucks IN THE HOTEL! Joy of joys! [Modern day note: friendly reminder that in 2009, there were not NEARLY as many Starbucks around as there are nowadays]) and got coffee. I finally got the rest of my stuff packed up, put my cruise information on my suitcases and went downstairs to meet everyone.

This was my first trip with this choir and the first time I was meeting the vast majority of the 50-something people with whom I was traveling. We were told to wear specifically-designed shirts for identification though, so it was easy to pick other choir members in a crowd – all of whom were British, save for 3 of us from Orlando and 2 from Tampa. So every time I bumped into one and said hi, I was greeted with, “Oh, you’re one of the alaskabusAmericans!” It was kinda fun (grin). There was one woman who said it before I even said anything – I was like, “Does it show?” But it was only because she knew everyone else on the trip and I was “new”.

So we all loaded onto the bus and away we went. It was a quick trip (15 minutes, tops) and when we arrived we had to wait on line for Immigration since we would be traveling from Canada to the US. The wait for that was pretty long – lots of people going on cruises! But eventually we got through and were allowed to board the ship.

The Lido Buffet

We were told that our cabins were not quite ready so we were invited to have lunch at the Lido Restaurant. It was a buffet, with salads, sandwiches, roast beef and rotisserie chicken. I got a salad and some chicken, along with an herbal green tea that was much better than I anticipated. I ate with a handful of British choir people – as always, I’m horrible with names but they were all very nice.

Once they announced that our cabins were ready, I found mine (6027) and since my luggage wasn’t delivered yet, I started wandering the ship to sign up for stuff and get a general lay of the land. I signed up for a few Spa treatments, checked out some of the bars, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur emergency drill was scheduled for 4:15pm. After I put on my lovely orange flotation device (it was stored on the top shelf of my closet…what a trip it was to try to reach…how I wished I had a roomie who could have gotten it for me! I miss you, Joe! LOL!), the alarms went off and I went to Deck 3, as instructed.

Once we were done with the emergency drill, I went back to my cabin, to see that my luggage had been delivered so I spent some time unpacking, organizing, etc. I had no idea I had brought SIX pairs of shoes (not including slippers or the shoes I was wearing. Just call me Imelda Marcos, I guess!).

We left port not long after that, so I went up to Deck 9 to hang out with everyone while we began our trip in earnest. I bumped into Caroline and Sue again (we’ve bumped into each other no less than 5 times so far – I’m not sure who is stalking who, LOL!), plus several other Sing Live Brits (Colin, Ian, Ann, Jean, Pauline, Sue, Jane, etc.) and Celeste and Esther from Tampa (BTW, we discovered that us 5 Americans have our own table…we figure it’s so we can understand each other, what with the language barrier and all, LOL!).

We were scheduled to queue up for dinner at 7:45pm so I left around 7ish to (A) find the Internet Cafe for further reference (they had a special where you got an extra 20 minutes if you signed up before 10pm) and (B) change my clothes and get ready for dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner was on the 3rd floor, in the Vista Dining Room and, as I said, us 5 Americans had our own table (#63). There were several choices of salads, soups, appetizers and main courses, with wine by the bottle or the glass. The food was really, really good. I got the mussels in a wine sauce for an appetizer, almond encrusted salmon (with shaved zucchini and mashed potatoes) and coffee and a baked Alaska for dessert (covered in raspberry sauce. I never saw a baked Alaska that wasn’t flambe, but this one wasn’t. A “ship thing,” I’m sure. It was still good, though).

After dinner was done I went up to the Internet Cafe to sign up for my plan and get some blogging done so I could go to bed. And so it is.

#TBT: Alaska ’09 Trip Report (Pre-Day 1)

PART 1 of 9: In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! 

Friday, August 14, 2009 (Pre-Day 1)

After waking up at 6:30am on Thursday morning and going to bed at midnight. I woke up at an ungodly 4:30am. It was so early that even Dobby, my daily 7:00am alarm clock in the form of a 4.5-month-old toy poodle, looked at me as if to say,  “what are you doing up so EARLY?” (I did admittedly take some small bit of satisfaction at ME waking HER up for her morning potty, for a change – and to say goodbye, of course).

Joe drove me to the airport and I met up with my singing friends “Carlene” and “Stewart” while I was waiting on line at Starbucks – but not before I saw the brand-spanking-new (well, to me – I don’t know how long it’s actually been there) Famiglia Pizza in Terminal A. Yay, we finally got a straight-from-NYC Famous Famiglia Pizza in Orlando again, after the one near Walt Disney World closed! Unfortunately, it’s in the terminal Joe and I hardly ever visit. Sigh.

Our plane took off on time and, joy of joys, whoever was supposed to sit between Carlene & I either didn’t show up or sat somewhere else. So we had plenty of extra room for our “stuff.”

img_0895They served breakfast around 10am. Well, they sold breakfast, anyway. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a nearly 6-hour flight; if you want something more substantial than one 1.4 oz oatmeal raisin cookie and a 1 oz bag of pretzels and soy beans, you’re going to have to pay for it. And, sucker that I am, I did. For $6 I got hash browns, sweet sausage and reconstituted egg product. Let’s just say the hot tea was good.

The rest of the (long, LONG) flight was thankfully uneventful and we arrived in Seattle around the time we were supposed to, if not a little earlier. We had reservations for the QuickShuttle shuttle bus but with a little more than an hour to wait for it, I took the opportunity to buy a salad, apple and Dasani water to go (lest anyone think I made 100% healthy choices, I also got a package of chocolate & peanut butter M&Ms, too).

img_0900img_0896img_0898I have no idea what our route was to Vancouver – I’ve never been to Washington State, let alone Seattle (nor Vancouver, for that matter) so short of the one famous needle-topped building and chain stores, I have no idea of anything about where we were or to what places we went. I saw signs that said we were on I-5 for quite a while, if that means anything to anyone. But otherwise, the trip to Vancouver was alternating cities, towns, mountains and naps. Oh, and the little old Spanish-speaking lady in the front row who never shut up. Ever. For the whole trip. She yak yak yak’d with her daughter(?) for the entire trip. ¡Ay, Dios mio!

We eventually made it over the border (Border Patrol Dude: “Why are you coming to Canada?” Me: “Because that’s where the cruise ship leaves from”) and they did indeed let us in. I even got the Border Patrol Dude to stamp my passport – something he says he never does. But hey, I asked, LOL!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter stops at a few other hotels AND Vancouver’s airport, we finally arrived at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, where we were scheduled for a 1-night stay and where, at some point, we would hopefully meet the rest of the choir.  It was a REALLY nice place, with two towers that were each 30-something stories high. We were in the South Tower, on the 14th floor. My room, which was originally supposed to be a double (long story), was an interesting L-shaped corner room with 2 double beds that overlooked a busy section of Vancouver.

After dropping off our stuff, Carleen, Stewart & I went in search of food, since all of our meals all day had been small and far between…so we were starving! The only problem was that we didn’t know the city at all so we pretty much just picked a direction and started going straight. We bypassed some icky-looking places that sold pizza, paninis, Viet-Tai, etc., checked out the place that a homeless woman recommended (no, really!) and eventually came upon a nice restaurant called the Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAlocated at the Wedgewood Hotel & Spa. There were LOTS of people in the main dining area – so much so that we were seated in the back. Or so we thought. But it eventually dawned on us that our sitting so far away from everyone else may have been less so because of lack of space and moreso because we were very underdressed for the establishment. Think a tiny step above a “nice” restaurant that’s “dressy casual” and then there was us, in varying degrees of jeans, sneakers, stretchy pants, polo shirts and Hawaiian shirts. Fortunately, they were still willing to take our money, LOL! Anyway, the food was delicious…I had a steak, Stewart had the NY Strip and Carlene got the duck – we didn’t have a complaint about any of it.

We wandered back to our hotel and, after spending some time on the free internet (YAY!) on the 3rd floor, I walked around and looked for fellow choir people – ANY choir people because, if nothing else, we had no idea of what time or where we were meeting the next morning, to travel to the ship. I finally met up with “Caroline” and “Sue” at the bar (most of the choir people were from the U.K. Two British people at the bar? Coulda knocked me over with a feather…). and they gave me the lo-down…have the bags ready inside our rooms at 11am, tags attached, and meet outside at noon. Got it! Went back to the room, called Carlene and Stewart to let them know the plan and then, with most of this blog mostly written, I could FINALLY go to bed!

Next Throw Back Thursday: Driving to the ship and our first day at sea!