I just checked and I see that I left the market in good hands while I wandered off - sheesh you could have done a bit better than that!Anyway, for those interested in completely non-financial ramblings, I figured I post an update every week or two.I decided to post the results, feelings and so on – so far at least – of the rather long cruise (about 10 weeks) that we are taking. It’s a rather significant expense (can’t call it an investment, though I guess any experience you learn from could be called that in some fashion) and while I’m still trying to figure out its value, maybe the ramblings will help others. I will post these ramblings from time to time on Metar as the trip progresses, but likely will not be able to answer questions or comments as the ship’s internet connection is both stone slow and very expensive (so take these writings at face value and forgive repetitions or contradictions they are flowing from emotion to fingertip without the intervention of any excuse for brains).September 23, 2011:Flew in to Seatac on American Airlines (arrived late at night), took Avis car to Hampton Inn hotel at airport. Made sure to take room away from airport to minimize noise. September 24:Hotel was clean and quiet. They supplied a reasonably complete buffet breakfast (included with room) and evening cookies with tea/coffee/chocolate. Went to Pioneer Square and took “Seattle Underground” walking tour. This was a very entertaining history of early Seattle during a tour of the basement vaults of the Pioneer Square district. Wandered in the area in and out of many interesting shops. Of particular note was a woodworking coop’s shop which showed some very attractive furniture and tea/jewelry boxes.Walked towards Pikes Place Market. About a block before the market, spent some time in a jewelry shop where a couple of gifted ladies were building custom work with gold, diamonds and titanium. Had lunch (fish & chips) at a fish monger in a market across from the Pike’s Place one (next to the Three Ladies Bakery who supplied desert). Had halibut which was very good.Night was a dinner with friend Dave D. and his lovely wife in Kirkland – Barbequed wild salmon and an overall great time . September 25:Went back to downtown Seattle and walked around in the Pikes Place market some more and saw a group of glass blowers do their thing in the back of a shop near Pioneer Square. Interesting to see them pull about a 50’ rod of patterned glass out of a blob of molten glass. Ate at the fish and chips place again (tried the oysters which were great). Did a dry run to the Pier 91 cruise terminal and the Avis place in Seattle Center (a few miles away). Made sure that if we dropped car off there they would supply free shuttle for us (and luggage) to cruise. Ate supper at the “Roaster” restaurant. Hamburger and onion rings were outstanding and reasonably priced. Place had a broad beer list.September 26:Hotel checkout was flawless. Interface with Avis went well and ship was a significant notch better run than our last Holland America cruise to Bermuda. We boarded their flagship, the MS Amsterdam for a 70 day Asia/Australia cruise. Were able to outwait cruise line for a reasonably priced upgrade to best veranda “suite” on ship (about a 10% premium over the non-veranda cabin with window that we had booked). Holland America allows wine to be brought aboard openly. Had free drinks (probably last free thing we get) at cast-off party. Actually called attendance at boat drill (omitted on last HA cruise). That said, I suspect that (at 59) we are the youngest people aboard (most seem between 80-90). Let’s see who they seat us with at diner (hopefully all the elderly are asleep for late seating).Sat us with a Swiss couple – gone by the next daySeptember 27:Pretty heavy seas as we leave the protection of Vancouver Island and exit to its north (50 mph gale winds and probably 20’ swells for about a day) and there are barf bags being distributed. Ship has a lot of activities (including computer courses) and the whole experience is far better than recent experience on the MS Vindamm to Bermuda. Many passengers seem to take many months of cruises each year as a lifestyle. Apparently they book cheapest available cabins. UPGRADE TIP: Apparently complimentary upgrades are given if a category is filled and a “guaranty” is reserved. If a category is not filled, upgrade will not be gratis. That said, upgrade differentials become VERY negotiable as departure date becomes imminent. That said, based on advice from fellow passengers who take these long trips repeatedly, we will be less likely to pay for premium cabins (except to get closer to mid-ship where it doesn’t pitch as much) in the future. Dining room is still empty and we have asked to be put at a table with some other guests just to be able to have conversations. Marty Brill was comedian tonight – very funny guy.September 28:Captain seems to have decided to take a far more northerly route than originally plotted (according to chart on TV) presumably to avoid whatever storm is causing waves. Ship is now gently pitching instead of the few meters at a time like last night. Tonight is Captain’s formal night dinner. It is also the night Rosh Hashanah begins – so a bit of moral challenge. Internet connection on ship is shared and stone slow (as well as very expensive). About par for the course.Menu on ship is varied and very good. Deserts are just “OK” – few are above good but they are there ?.The ship has a plethora of (generally free) activities to keep one running around. I start the Day with a bit of time on some gadget or other in the gym (to work off the calories of a half a desert or so), then migrate to Tai Chi before breakfast. After making sure that I won’t starve to death during the day, it’s off to a dance class (figured it’s about time I stop destroying the wife’s feet), then watercolor painting class, trivia (pretty world class challenge here), digital photography/editing/general PC etc. (the instructor is light on knowing much about the PC, but is a commercial photographer and I’m learning a lot about all the settings on my camera and why they exist). Then probable drop into a lecture about the ports we will be visiting (not the sort of shopping nonsense that they have in the Caribbean, but actual background stuff) or to listen to a series of lectures on marine biology. Then comes lunch and the afternoon is more of the same kind of thing. I have decided that unless things get seriously out of whack, I’m not going to fool around with my stock portfolio for the duration of the voyage (but do admit to peeking on occasion).Ship demographics:This is not a clinical or exhaustive survey, but rather a series of impressions based on ad-hock conversations and “visuals”. The average age seems to be north of 80 (certainly above 70). There is apparently one child (likely a great-granddaughter) and the cruise line accommodated this with her very own “kid’s club” and a person to take care of her. Most of the passengers seem upper middle class (though this might account for the ship being half empty for this trip). There are some former military type guys who seem to have gotten some special deal. While the price of the cruise is far from cheap, it is still (I guess) achievable by retirees (and those of the “investment banker class” who retire may elect to go with a “better” line – though having traveled on a broad variety of lines in the past, in this case that’s merely perception as this experience is pretty high end I see little evidence of the very wealthy). There are a handful of assorted Europeans (probable about 5%) and quite a few Canadians who linguistically masquerade as USians (except those from Quebec who have difficulty passing as French). While we have met a few people who spent their working years in New York City, so far we seem to be the only ones still living there. Again, this may be due to the rich dudes favoring other means of retirement transportation, it also points at an exodus of retirees from the City. An ad-hoc peek at the level of gown decoration and jewelry worn by the ladies at the first formal night (guys either look like penguins or are trying to prove they are non-conformists, so not too much help from that corner) seems to support the above conclusion.October 2, 2011:While we’ve travelled more than most over the years, there are a surprising number of passengers who have completed dozens of cruises of this duration. The consensus among them is that cabin “class” ls rather unimportant and, since they are used primarily for sleeping, anything more than the least expensive groups (other than moving towards mid-ship for more comfort in rough seas) is a waste of money. This is advice I will take into account from now on.I think what bothers me most is that each day has become a routine. We are barly 10% into this thing and I am already getting a bit bored. Maybe it’s because we haven’t stopped anywhere yet – we’ll see. We lose a day today when we cross the International Date Line (hopefully we’ll get it back – I’ll believe it when I see it ?).The waiters and cabin stewards are all Indonesian (and the cooking/bar staff all Philipino) and universally friendly and helpful. I think this goes a long way towards explaining the loyalty of the long term passengers to this line.I guess I shouldn’t complain as there is a constant stream of things to do, but somehow I feel unfulfilled (maybe it’s lack of being in control?).Tomorrow I have to straighten out a couple of messes caused by people who didn’t read directions and shipped stuff to my old business address. Bit of a PITA to do this by remote control. Having our mail collected is another chore which we have to figure out a better way of handling during long trips in the future. October 3, 2011:The difference between pitching and yawing is one of direction. We have more than a little of both going on. We are still north of the Aleutian Islands and we have sea swells of about 30’. While dance lessons were canceled today for safety reasons (sudden periods of weightlessness as the ship drops away can be a bit disconcerting) and loud crashes are emitting from the elevator shafts as counterweights bang around (as least I hope that’s what it is), the long string of choppy weather seems to have given most passengers their sea legs and I don’t see anyone getting sea sick any more.Well – time to wear the penguin suit again tonight. We brought a case of wine aboard but still haven’t gone to the effort to drink any (cancel that – just downed a Zinfandel). Dancing was a bit challenging on a moving floor ?.Another couple of days until our first landfall in Kamchatka.Woke up this morning to pretty calm seas.Jeff
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