Since departing from Whittier to a simple but much appreciated fireworks show we have been sailing west – south – west to Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan. The weather has been mixed – grey skies, intermittent rain and cold. The seas have been restless and occasionally we have had gale force winds and rough seas.
The ship we are on – the Diamond Princess – is one of the large ships that has become so popular with the cruise lines ~2500 passengers; the result is that the ship feels crowded. Compared to our world cruise on the much smaller Pacific Princess there is a much more impersonal feel to the atmosphere. Those of you that followed our world cruise blog will remember how we took pictures of the buffet and every lunch was a theme with beautifully decorated displays – no such thing here. The buffet (the Horizon Court on Lido Deck – 14th) is set up to serve breakfast, then lunch then dinner to a large number of people. The food is good but you struggle to find a place to sit – the tables are packed.
After breakfast Jay and his friends play cards and we sit near them – doing a bit of work. We have become pretty good at finding places that are warmer and quieter. Many of the small restaurants that are specialty dinner restaurants or can be booked for “anytime dining” are set aside for card games or other activities so I have learned to bring my coffee or cappuccino to one of these ‘sanctuaries’ and do my own thing. As I write this I am sitting in the Santa Fe Dining room – with seating for 100 plus and there are only about 20 people – playing Mahjong.
The passengers are a diverse bunch – a large crowd from Germany / Austria who must have come on an organized trip – they have a special assistance desk in the lobby; also a large crowd of Chinese – predominantly from Vancouver – also on an organized jaunt to Beijing. The cruise must also have been heavily promoted in the UK and Australia because they also have big contingents. You do tend to meet folk from all over though as you take the seats you can at mealtime.
We chose to do formal dinner this trip. That means we go to the dining room every evening as a default. We have the 8.15pm seating which is definitely a stretch for me given the fact I normally have early dinner at home and watch a movie or collapse early. The designation formal doesn’t mean you have to dress up – there are only 5 “formal dining nights” where you dress up – men in tuxedos, suits, or jacket and tie. Women in gowns or formal wear. The rest of the time it’s a polo shirt and slacks.
The gym is one exception to the ‘overcrowded’ status – it is well equipped and well used but I am always able to get my elliptical machine(which was not always the case on the world cruise)
Our route has kept us parallel to and a modest distance from the Aleutian Islands – you can occasionally see one in the distance. I didn’t know much about the Aleutians but they are a chain of rugged, volcanic islands spreading across the ocean between Siberia / Japan and Alaska. They separate the Bering Sea from the North Atlantic. I’ll write a bit tomorrow about some interesting history I have been reading about them