An Alaskan journey: On the high seas

Trooper Mike Levi showed Detective Inspector Protheroe into his hotel room.  Bigger than my cabin, thought Protheroe, though hardly better decorated.  Faded cheap wood furniture; plush beds; a view of Anchorage and its port.  Protheroe checked out the bathroom, well, the marble is a nice touch, he said to himself, good to have a bath, finally

It had been a while – at Melville Manors, before the body was discovered.  Then there was the train and another murder; and Vancouver …

Oh the humiliation.  Here is a body with 34 stab wounds and a severed head, Polaroids of the alleged murderer defiling the corpse … how was he to know that the victim had already been killed – poisoned, for God’s sake – before being stabbed and decapitated?  Alaskan bainberry extract.  In the salmon mousse.  And the butler really did do it this time.  Moral of the story? Just because a homicidal maniac stabs, defiles and dismembers a body, it does not mean he’s a murderer.

Reputation in tatters, Protheroe had driven north … he drove, and he drove.  Somewhere he turned left, and then there was Skagway at the end of the road; running into Trooper Mike in front of the Red Onion Saloon, the mysterious goings on on the Cruiseship, the floating body, reputation spectacularly restored in what the press later called Eye on Gloomy Knob.  And now this, a shabby hotel room with a marble-tiled bathroom in Anchorage, before he heads back to the comforts of his own cold bed in Ottawa …

August 11

Arrival on Board

Melamine platters. Wings and ribs. Pink watermelons.  ‘Coffee’ out of a tap. 

After about two hours waiting in line and being processed by the various authorities, I was looking forward to my first lunch aboard on my first ever cruise.  Or, rather, ‘looking forward’.  We were to be cruising for a week, three of those entirely on board, and no escape.  That was the element of fear, the what if of the unknown.  Then again, I had read much about the quality of the food on board: the five restaurants, the various cafés, the brand new Piazza … that was the element of excitement, the lets unwrap this bon bon of the unknown.

Melamine platters. Wings and ribs. Pink watermelons.  ‘Coffee’ out of a tap. 

Cafeteria style.  The ‘coffee’ is made from coffee syrup.

Seven days and nights of this s***?

The platter was a nice touch.  If, that is, you are obese or bulimic.  We ate quickly and, with the same mix of trepidation and excitement – after the lunch, more trepidation than excitement – set out to explore the ship.  Big.  Parts of it reflect what a 1980s Toronto architect’s conception of luxury for the local Italian community.  The rest, standard pastels right out of Miami Vice.  The ship was built in 2004.  Then again, if Mitt Romney can retire “retroactively,” there is no reason why a ship can’t be decorated retroactively.

That evening, the dinner was considerably more pleasing, and the ambience more pleasant.  That is to say, I had no urge to jump ship.  After dinner, we tried what were advertised as dance clubs; for tumbleweed, perhaps.  And that was the first day and the first night.


Ship at dock, stern

Ship at sea, bridge in view


August 12

At sea

Our first full day on board we were entirely at sea.  The skies overcast; the sea grey.  I brave the elements to swim a few laps in the outdoor pool, dodging diving preteens, and decide that the gym is, on the whole, a better proposition for keeping active on board.  We meet some very interesting people, and make a remarkable discovery: there are five white-linen dining rooms in different fake decors – that was not remarkable – and all have the same menu.  Club Med has more imagination.  The menu has two parts: standard and changing.  The standard menu has the staples of Good Restaurants in Middle Anywhere: shrimp cocktail, tenderloin, chicken breast, Alfredo, blah blah.  The changing menu has some interesting options (lobster, pheasant, lamb in coconut curry, bangers and mash).  But regardless of what one orders off whichever menu in any of the restaurants, the food tastes the same: bland, inoffensive, Cooked Just Right.  Except for the English Platter at lunch – I have no idea why I ordered it, but there you have it – where the lamb and the beef tenderloin are cooked to resemble, and feel like, saddle leather.  On the positive side, they still taste bland, like the kidney and the ham they accompany.  These are my contemporaneous notes: “The green beans are miraculously alive, but to avoid any sensation of virtue, they are drowned in a sea of gravy.”  And the waiters sing.

The dessert menu does not inspire, so I wonder off and run into the Piazza, the midship congregating locale.  In addition to the milky cappuccino ($2.88, forced tip included), they have a tiramisu that is simply divine.  I decide, there and then, that the cruise has been well worth it.  And then I hit the gym to feel less bad about the three tiramisus I put away after dinner.  My notes say 40 minutes on the treadmill.  It was actually an hour; I lied to myself to feel less of a loser for spending so much time in the gym.


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