Alaska via cruise ship. Part one.

Mark and I are members of the Skeptics Society and every other year or so we like to attend one of their conferences. This year they went all out and put together a trip to Alaska entitled “Glaciers and the Science of Climate Change.”

We signed up despite the fact it was on a cruise ship.

Yeah, yeah I know, some people just luuuurv cruising, but we’ve come to the conclusion after this last go at it that we are not the cruising type. We’ll never do it again.

The floating prison- I mean, the ship we were on was called The Oosterdam. Coincidentally, we’d sailed on this same ship about five years ago out of San Diego. This time around, she was docked in Seattle. Sagan and Kailas have been on a cruise ship before, so they thought they knew what to expect.

Kailas has had a recent streak of playing the pesky little brother, so Sagan wasn’t too happy to learn she’d have to share a bed with him for a week.
Don’t let all those peace signs fool you, Kailas.

I like being on the water. No one in our family gets sea sick. The ship itself was a facinating achievement in human engineering – so what do I have against cruise ships?

You become a captive consumer. A tawdry tourist.

Having servants following me around cleaning up all of my messes, asking me every few minutes if I’d like another drink while flashing me a canned smile is not my idea of a relaxing time. I can’t sit back and enjoy being slaved over while the real situation for these men and women is so bleak.

One slow evening in the lounge we started a pleasant chat with a particularly sharp Indonesian waiter when his supervisor suddenly sent him a cease and desist hand signal. What an utterly dehumanizing way to treat your employees. Is there some rule that they can’t fraternize with their customers?

The ship, of course, is opulent and extravagant – in many places acheiving a PTL level of gaudiness. I appreciated the design of the italian leather furniture, the color schemes and thoughtful layout of the sitting areas. And then there were things like this:

The dining experiences were impressive, and I’m happy to report so were my children’s manners for the most part. It is nice to have people tap my shoulder as we leave and say “you have such well behaved children” after forcing them to sit through four courses of dinner that lasted for almost two hours! We didn’t do that every night, by the way.


Over this last week I’ve consumed twice as much food as I normally eat. It wasn’t because the food was all that great (dishes ranged from outstanding to school cafeteria quality). Why did I do this to myself?

I took part in the cruise culture, which is one of over-indulgence. People want to forget about their worries and throw moderation out the door. Of course while they ditch their personal troubles they certainly aren’t going to let hints of other folks problems bother them.

Just ignore the cart carrying the morbidly obese man with an oxygen tank next to us, gorging himself on chocolate cheese cake.

This traveling honeycomb of humanity produces a lot of waste. They must go through an acre of Alaskan trees to print up all the daily menus, activity sheets and special “you are invited” cards that filled our cabin each day.

While looking out the window one afternoon, watching the whales surface in the distance, we saw a layer of brown bubbly slime; sewage dispersed most likely from the ship just off the horizon in front of us. Mark was curious of course about the rules on dispensing ship’s waste products, so he went to the front desk to ask.

Silly me, I imagined that big ol’ cruise ships couldn’t just spew all their poo into the ocean! Turns out they can. And do do.

It is hard to ignore this disregard for decency. Actually we don’t try to ignore it – we point it out to our children, and anyone else who’ll listen. Now that I’ve done my rant on cruise ships and how much I don’t like them, I can go on to the amazing parts of the trip.

Glaciers! Up close and personal!

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About marlashane

Artist. Explorer. Freethinker. Mother of two children.
This entry was posted in Alaska, Exploring the USA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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