I’m finally getting back to blogging after two weeks of vacation. The first week was on that Alaskan cruise I told you about. Then when I got back, there was the new Harry Potter book to read and a TON of email to read and answer.
First, about that cruise: It was GREAT! We really had a good time. I’ve never been on a cruise before, but as we were getting off the boat, John Olson and I were already thinking about where we’ll go for the next one.
I suggested the Amazon. John was astounded that anyone would consider cruising a warehouse full of books. But I meant the Amazon River, and Princess Cruises really does do a cruise up the river. In any event, we’re thinking about it.
John and I gave 10 hours of lectures, and each of us did 5 to 10 hours of small-group and individual critiquing. I learned some cool things from John’s lectures. He’s already heard all my lectures, but I hope he picked up SOMETHING new.
Some pluses on the cruise:
1) Food is “free”. Not really of course, because you pay for it up front when you get on the boat. But that does mean it’s competitively priced, because before you get on the boat, you could go with another cruise line.
2) The food is great. OK, I don’t recommend eating the sorry, soggy, excuse for a vegeburger. That should never have happened. But generally, the food was terrific, and the buffet is open 24 hours a day. Can’t beat that.
3) Great people. The crew was very friendly, and the folks who came with us for our writing seminar were an excellent crowd.
4) Alaska! Alaska is cool. I didn’t know there was a rain forest in Alaska. Juneau’s in the middle of it. It gets about 100 inches of rain and about that much snow most years. This year it got about twice that. The trip up the Tracy Arm Fiord was worth the price of the cruise.
5) Eagles, whales, seals, otters, salmon, and other varmints. We saw a LOT of all of the above. We saw too many bald eagles to count in the wild, and a few injured ones in captivity. In Juneau as we were driving back to the boat on the bus, the eagles were as thick as seagulls are in San Diego.
6) Glaciers. Glaciers in the wild are blue. Aqua, actually. Very cool. The ones we saw are in full retreat. Global warming and all that.
7) Desserts. Lots of ‘em. I had intended to eat one desert for each writer in a group I belong to. It has 170 writers. Unfortunately, about halfway through the cruise, it became clear that my goal was far too short-sighted. So I had . . . 2 deserts for each writer friend. They had to roll me off the boat. OK, I exaggerate a little, but I doubled my lifetime intake of cholesterol, I’m sure.
1) Those wretched vegeburgers. Gack! Vegeburgers should never have potatoes as the main ingredient. This should go without saying.
2) Drinks are not free. The first day on the boat, we learned this when about 9000 crew members offered us a special deal on drinks–a refillable container that could be had for only $31 that would get us all the sodas we could swill for the rest of the cruise. We declined all 9000 times. Then we found out that it was a pretty good deal, because they way overcharge on drinks. A small bottled water cost me a couple bucks. That is not competitive. But hey–once you’re ON the boat, they’ve got a monopoly on drinks. Not a drinking fountain to be seen anywhere. The buffet had orange juice in the morning, and you could get coffee or tea or hot water free. But cold water? Uh-uh.
3) I’ll take one more kick at those vegeburgers, just because there’s not much else to complain about.
4) Well, there is ONE more thing. I had hoped to blog on the cruise. I did have time. But the internet access cost $.50 per minute IF you brought your wireless laptop (I did). If you used their internet cafe and their computers, it was $.75. And the connection was slow and not terribly reliable. At those prices and with that kind of speed, I had to settle for grabbing my 100+ emails per day and only answering those that were true emergencies. Not a chance to blog or do real email.
5) Phone calls on the ship cost about $10 per minute. My wife made one 5-minute call before we discovered this. The rest of the cruise, we only called home to the kids when we were in port and could use our cell phones.
I had a chance to read some. I took along Harry Potter books #5 and #6. I was kind of fuzzy on #5 and could hardly remember anything in #6. I read both books on the boat, in time to pick up #7 the day we got off the ship. Good timing, because my kids would have KILLED me if we’d been still gone on the day Book #7 came out.
I read HP #7 pretty much straight through and finished it last Sunday afternoon. I’m a slow reader and I wanted to savor it. I thought it was GREAT. Fabulous. A worthy end to an epic tale. Now I’m rereading the whole series so I can read all those little bits and pieces in the earlier books and know what they really mean.
Anyone else read HP #7? How’d you like it? DON’T post any spoilers here, but I’d love to hear your reactions in general on the story.