One of the best aspects of travel, as even the ancients realized, is encountering new people, new places, new lifestyles and new things. And that can even be true within oneʼs own country (the only place some people even imagine traveling, sadly). It can even be true within the tight web of contemporary packaged tourism, like the Holland America cruise on which Janet and I traveled recently.
First of all, this was our second Holland America cruise, having gone through bits of the Caribbean a few years back on the MS Westerdam, and the cruise line, like the old Holiday Inns, has worked hard to make its ships all follow pretty much the same layout. So this 2010 trip was less exciting on the MS Oosterdam because everything was located exactly where the same bar/gym/dining room/stairway/theater was located on the Westerdam, thus reducing the excitement of exploration onboard for us (but more on that topic tomorrow). This was also our second cruise with a personal balcony on our stateroom (gotta love that exaggeration), which is a good thing but this time not brand-new novel. (Our first cruise, with Carnival, the company that owns all the others nowadays, quite a while back, featured a very inexepensive interior cabin with bunk beds!) Shipboard life has become almost familiar, we found.
Second, this was a third return to the Northwest (and second to Seattle, which was our vacation location in 2008) within five years. I love the Northwest and would move to Seattle or Portland in a heartbeat if possible, but in a strange way being out there was starting to feel a little bit like home for us — particularly the three days we spent in Seattle (although we got to experience rain there for the first time). I cannot say the same for the places we stopped and saw in Alaska, but we were indulging in a comfy familiarity in location partly as well.
So it seems a little strange to emphasize the novelty of travel here. Alternatively, it is true, and we did and felt many new experiences. For today, I would like to emphasize one tiny novelty that I enjoyed… Alaskan Breweryʼs Amber!
One of the experiences that cruises present (or impose) is plentiful opportunity (if not need) for drinking. Your ticket price may include just about all the food any epicure could wish to consume, but except for water, coffee and iced tea, your beverages are extra, and beverages of the alcoholic kind are presented for consumption at nearly every turn. Wandering waiters will take your drink orders on the Lido Deck out by the pools or above that on the Observation Deck, in the theater at almost all times of day, and in the numerous bars conveniently scattered around the ship. Room service offers drinks delivered to your room! All you have to do is present your room cardkey, and you can drink whatever you want whenever you wish. Come the end of your little voyage, and only then, do you discover what the numerous little pauses for refreshment, mental and physical, have totaled in cost — conveniently charged to the credit card you had to provide upon booking (and yeah, we have quite a bit of paying off to do yet, although less than one of our unpackaged vacations).
On this cruise/vacation, I got to appreciate a couple of single malt scotches I had never before drunk (one by accident, as apparently the bar scotch at the Edgewater hotel is the Macallan 12-year-old). Unfortunately, going in, we knew HAʼs beer selection was all standard-issue urine water from the usual suspect mega-breweries. However, on the second day I kept noticing that the Lido waiters were carrying around some kind of brown bottles, clearly a microbrew, and upon investigation we discovered they were offering three varieties from the Alaskan Brewery, including in particular Amber, which we both ordered (I told you we had some bills to pay yet). Yeasty and malty but when cold quite crisp and thirst-quenching. I would like to try it on tap, but we never did, yet. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed Alaskan Amber more than several more times on the trip, although an Odin ale I had (on tap) at the Virginia Inn when back in Seattle (sitting inside for once, watching the rain and the people on the sidewalk) was better.
I liked Alaskan Amber well enough that my one souvenir from our trip — thanks to The Lovely One — is an Alaskan Amber cap (which I would have photographed for you, but the camera is still defunct).
For better or worse, more trip news to come…