We're now getting back to reality now that we are back home.
As Cruise Directors or sometimes Captain's tease at the final Captain's Reception for most of us there is no one who will be picking up that towel from the floor/tub or others pretty much taking care of your every wish.
It was an easy transition though.
All was well at home. Have great neighbors who watch our house when we are away as we do for them and if there is an issue we each take care of them.
Over the years we've learned that one of the many benefits of sending luggage home is that we are not overwhelmed with it upon our return other than whatever pieces we bring home with us. We had Luggage Concierge the luggage we had them ship knowing that we were spending four days post cruise in New York City. They shipped the luggage on Friday, September 23 and we will see it mid-next week. In the meantime, we unpacked the items from carry-ons and the two pieces of luggage we took home with us.
Already took four spin classes at home this past Thursday and Friday and prepared for two classes I'll teach next week.
Back to our just completed adventure.
Words cannot adequately describe our experience. To some extent it is analogous to when we sailed off Antarctica for a couple of days. We usually describe that experience by saying it was surreal and that we felt as if we had been sailing on a different planet or had gone to heaven.
On the Northwest Passage so much of what we saw was absolutely amazing.
We started with that 10 day Alaska Cruise. It was fun and one of the benefits is that we got settled on Serenity before the start of the Northwest Passage Voyage. Weather reminded us of our Symphony sailing in August 2009 when we encountered a lot of rain.
Also those ports in Alaska with each passing year are looking more and more like the Caribbean. The key is to get away from the downtown areas.
We do want to note that Hoonah is a nice addition to the schedule as it is not built up the way places like Juneau and Ketchikan are. Their tourism all comes from Cruise Ships and the town is simple and the area beautiful and the people who work there actually live there year round. It was raining though. But after all this is Alaska. It would not be so green if not for the rain.
Then in that magical instance the weather changed on turnaround day when that cruise ended and the Northwest Passage voyage began. It was a beautiful day in Seward as we walked between the ship and the downtown area. We saw that sun and no rain and everything looked pretty.
Those first ports in Alaska were special. We had been to Kodiak and Dutch Harbor before but what we like about them is they are what they are. No Diamonds International. People who work there live there year round.
Then we visited Nome for the very first time. Very special. Again this is Alaska. The people were very welcoming. People traveled hours to be there for our arrival. After all we are the largest cruise ship that ever visited. The largest before that was The World. Yes, some people came there to partake in selling items and that is perfectly fine. Others came just to see us. The people were very welcoming. It is certainly different than what most of us know from home. Streets are dirt roads. Some of the people such as our tour guide are involved in finding gold in the ocean. The town did a wonderful job as did Crystal in organizing our visit. The mayor was a hoot. He performed many years ago in off broadway theatre in NYC. A wonderful ambassador for this town.
Then the magic occurred as we sailed the Northwest Passage. We had absolutely wonderful weather and each day was spectacular in terms of the scenery. It was absolutely beautiful. We saw ice. We saw polar bears. We met so many nice people when we visited the villages. We walked on land and sailed in water that so few people have ever seen. We learned about those explorers and the challenges they faced. We recognized that life there is not easy but is very special. We remember on one of the unexpected voyages when we visited two islands that are uninhabited. On one of the islands when we were walking around if you looked up at the hill you saw men stationed from the expedition team with rifles watching out for bears.
It is very costly for the people who live in these places as it is for many remote areas in Alaska.
As we sailed the Northwest Passage it reminded us at how beautiful and special Canada is. Keith was fortunate to have visited some beautiful areas of Canada because of work and certainly have seen other areas that are quite nice on other trips with Anne Marie. This country is very special as are the people. We are fortunate to have such great neighbors.
The magic continued as we sailed Greenland. Loved our hike and the beauty of what we saw. Never saw so much ice as we did even though it meant that we couldn't do our tour.
The close of this voyage was nice with ports that we have visited before as it gave us time to wind down and to pack. We were blessed with wonderful weather in Bar Harbor, Boston and New York City. That arrival to New York City was very special. Often you arrive to the city at 5:00 AM when it is dark outside. And while that is special to be out and about as we arrived during daylight was brilliant and we had such terrific weather.
Crystal and the Expedition Team amazed us. The planning that they put into each and every detail showed throughout the voyage. The good news is that there are always things that can be improved so for those going next year you might experience further improvements.
This voyage is also a reminder not to pre-judge things until you see it for yourself or at least see what others experienced.
We remember those articles about this being another Titanic. Really we thought to ourselves do they realize this project was approved when NYK was the owner and NYK is one of the most conservative and slow moving companies out there.
We remember those articles about all of those demonstrations that we would see and how the Inuit people would not be welcoming. Well, we wonder if they realized that representatives from Crystal Cruises and the Expedition Team met with them over a couple of years, multiple times. We wonder if they realized that donations were made to the villages, that some of the Inuit people were trained and hired as guides, that we would purchase items which provide an opportunity for them to sell what they make.
There were those articles that implied that sailing this area would be harmful to the environment and that somehow this sailing was the cause of the warming of the earth. Really? Just thinking out loud but if this is being caused by us we wonder if things such as the millions of automobiles around the world, factory pollution, dumping of items in our water, or even the thousands of vessels that travel the seas play a role. How about all of the roads, the waste, and the list goes on and on.
Our take is that this voyage helped illustrate that there is already an issue out there. It was not that long ago that you couldn't sail this area of the world.
For those who sail Alaska take a look at Glacier Bay. We could see a big change just comparing what we saw on this year's Alaska cruise and what we saw in 2009.
Then there were many people saying that we would flood the villages with guests and overrun them and that we should instead be on an expedition ship because after all how could you see things with so many other people on the ship. Well, as I always say to each their own. There are some people who would never sail a luxury line no matter where it goes while others would only sail a ship half the size of Serenity or two times the size of Serenity. We are all different and that is good as we don't have the same preferences. This is what makes the world go round.
What we can say is that for many of us this voyage had the look and feel of being on an expedition ship with the benefits of being on a luxury ship. We never flooded those town because of how the process was organized. We got into those zodiacs in a way that was more efficient, and orderly than getting on and off a tender.
When we landed on those beaches it was pretty much no different than if we had been on an expedition ship. And when we walked around those places we didn't overwhelm the town and on some of our walks we saw very few people from the ship.
This has been an incredible adventure. We do think a cruise of a lifetime. Unlike some voyages the ship was not the destination. The destination was the itinerary with the added benefit of doing this itinerary with the amenities found on Crystal Cruises ships.
By and large the guests were on board for one reason and that was to see the Northwest Passage whether or not they could get off the ship in the actual NWP villages. Although there were only 26 first time Crystal Cruise guests, many cruise Crystal or other cruise lines infrequently. Several we met had not cruised Crystal in 10 to 15 years and many had only sailed Crystal a handful of times if that much. We had people of all ages. Yes, even a small child. Never in all of our Crystal Cruises have we seen a Question and Answer Session where the questions were not about "why are the beds too hard or too soft", or "why no candy on the bed", but rather questions that were about the planning that went into the voyage, and about logistics, or challenges or things that kept people awake at night. We had also never seen a session like this where at the end those on the panel got a standing ovation.
We thank Crystal for creating this cruise. This was unlike anything they have ever done. It had never been done with a ship this size. It was something very new. It required lots of planning. Heck, they had to do a business case to figure out if they would make money from the sailing as the requirements were so different than anything they had ever done before. It required lots of coordination that went way beyond the company including all of the sessions with the Canadian authorities.
We are hoping that the bar that Crystal set will be something that is required of other ships that might choose to sail this passage. It was not a walk in the park. When we sailed that narrow strait that was something very few had done and no ship anywheres close to our size. We do not believe the World sailed that area.
In many ways it would have been much easier for Crystal to not have untaken a project of this magnitude and just gone with the same old stuff instead. Its success has opened a new door and hopefully will lead to sailing to other areas. On this cruise the Northeast Passage was mentioned by guests. Maybe that could be in the future. Time will tell.
We will close by saying that I often mention that one of the benefits from travel is making memories that will last a lifetime and we have made many lifetime memories from this voyage. We will all be able to relive them in our own way. For the two of us it will be from what we remember ourselves, and from the photos we took and from our writings and from the video we will receive from Crystal Cruises in a few weeks.
We are of the belief that the best form of discovery involves seeing things through our own eyes. We realize this is not always possible due to time and financial commitments or other issues such as one health. We are so very thankful that we saw some very unique places in 2010 while we spent close to a month in the Middle East on Serenity visiting some countries that in the foreseeable future very few people from North America will be able to see. Those two segments of the 2010 World Cruise coupled with that entire World Cruise might have been the most special one we had ever taken before we sailed on this Northwest Passage Voyage which was truly amazing.
Until next time we bid adieu. Until next time.
Keith & Anne Marie