Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Greetings from Glacier Bay

I'm actually journalling from within Glacier Bay. That we actually have the technology, in this more or less unspoilt place -- where we can't even approach a glacier for fear of disturbing the seal pup birthing ground in front of it, where we whisper just for the majesty of it all -- that we've rigged up a satellite for internet access in these here parts seems almost sacrilege. Doesn't mean I'm not going to use it, though.

We hit Glacier Bay itself fairly early this morning. We've been joined by a National Park Ranger to tell us what's going on, and also a Tlingit dude as a "Cultural Interpreter." I dig the presence of the Tlingit dude. I think it's right that we have a native here who can give us a different perspective on the history of the place, as his peeps were here long before we were. On the other hand, we have not only been joined by a Tlingit dude, but also the Tlingit dude's supervisor, who is silently marking down every mistake Tlingit dude makes. I have a fairly good reason to believe a significant percentage of what Tlingit dude is telling us is whale poop, but I can't actually confirm it. I am told, however, that Tlingit dude's supervisor is scribbling away in the corner, inconspicuously marking down (but not correcting) every mistake made by Tlingit dude.

I've snapped a bunch of photos, but there's some level of photographic (and sensory) overload going on here. Big beautiful snowy mountain followed by big beautiful snowy mountain -- with an occasional distant shot of a glacier thrown in. We had some excitement a few minutes ago, as a whale unexpectedly made an appearance when we were stopped at the latest glacier. ("What kind of whale?" "A damn cold one.") The whale had the annoying habit of surfacing only when I'd put my camera down. I finally shut the damn thing off so that everyone else would get to see the whale.

I've not yet blogged about the people on this cruise. I don't know why -- I guess I'm afraid somebody will read something I've said about them before the cruise is over, which would be very uncomfortable-making. Let's just put it this way -- on the first day of the cruise, the captain made a point of telling everyone his age, so the passengers wouldn't be concerned that he was too young to actually have a license to pilot this thing. He's my age.

He is, near as I can tell, the only one of this ship who is my age. The bulk of the visible crew -- the "Guest Services Representatives" (read: folks who clean your cabins and serve your food) all appear to be in their 20s, as do our "Exploration Leaders." Of the passengers, I would not say I'm single-handedly bringing down the average age -- there are about 8 to 10 "young people" who are likely also in their 20s, while most of the rest are either retired, or actively planning their first trips to the Social Security Office.

I haven't really gotten to know many of the rest of the passengers. I have all my meals with my folks (which I'd expected) but since we're taking all the same shore excursions, we've generally kept to ourselves rather than reaching out to chat with the others. Sure, there's a few couples who we've eaten with once or twice, but I'm hard pressed to remember their names or anything of significance about them. It isn't solely due to me and my folks forming our own little social circle -- it's more of this crowd being a less outgoing bunch.

I digress a moment to explain this: A few years back, I was interested in maybe cruising to Alaska with a company called Glacier Bay. I ultimately cruised the Columbia River with them, as a sort of trial run -- and was ready to book the Alaska trip with them when they inconveniently went bankrupt. We booked this cruise with Cruise West as they were, now, the sole small ship line that did this sort of trip. But, back when Glacier Bay and Cruise West were in competition, the big difference between the two was that Glacier Bay had kayaks on the back of the ship, which it would drop off at any convenient opportunity fot kayaking. Cruise West does not.

The result is that Glacier Bay attracted a class of passengers who all wanted to get out and kayak around, well, Glacier Bay. They were adventuresome. Outgoing. And had that sort of friendliness that comes from shared outdoor experiences.

Now, Cruise West offers active shore excursions. But very few people here want to do them. When we did the zip line thingie, there were only six of us, and that was six out of two ships worth of passengers (one cruise was leaving while another was departing). There were only five of us who went kayaking it Sitka. Indeed, seems like the most popular shore excursion here is some train trip someplace. 'Cause, yeah, first thing I want to do after I've been cooped up on a ship for 48 hours is to lock myself in a train compartment with the same people and stare out the windows.

Putting it another way, the Park Ranger dude announces when we're coming up on a good nature viewing place about three minutes in advance, because he knows it's going to take this group that long to stand up, bundle up in their warm clothes, and make their way outside.

I don't mean to mock anyone's age or physical condition -- but I think the sedentary nature of this bunch is also manifested in a lack of outward friendliness. If someone drops in and starts a conversation they won't turn it down, but they won't go out of their way to meet the rest of the passengers either.

(And, well, we're just going to overlook the time we had dinner with another couple, and said couple made a comment about "Colored people." I felt the tension over the table while my parents wondered whether I was going to just let that one go in the interest of not causing a scene in the middle of the cruise ship -- and the seconds seemed to stretch out to me while I weighed the pros and cons of politely indicating that I really don't go in for that sort of racism. I did let it go -- and my fatherly expertly changed the topic -- but I couldn't look that dude in the eye for the rest of the meal.)

Back to snowy mountains, glaciers, and the occasional bear.

1 comment:

helmswondermom said...

It is rather unusual to run into someone who is clueless enough to say such a thing in such a public setting to virtual strangers.  I'd hazard a guess that they older than middle age.  Wonder where they were from?  It was just as well that you let it go.