June 2009

Vancouver's original and new convention centres
The Party's Over... it's time to call it a day

Saturday May 16, 2009.

Sadly it's time to call it a day and go back to the reality of every day life on land where  I can't dance for three hours every night. At least not unless I find an equally enthusiastic dance partner!

I was up very early to watch as the Sapphire Princess passed under the Lion's Gate bridge to enter the Cruise ship treminal at the port of Vancouver.  I had elected the disembarkation  option of walking off the ship carrying my luggage as that was listed as the first group of passengers to disembark. I was a little bt concerned that it would be awkward to drag my heavy suitcase off the ship and through the terminal but I figured if I could travel to  Europe,  Asia  and South Africa with it I should be able to handle a gangway.

approaching the portSo we had to assemble in the Santa Fe dining room with our luggage by 7:20. v2

I see those harbor lights... the ports of Seattle and Victoria

On Thursday, May 14th we arrived in Seattle and were moored by 9 am. I decided that I had to try out the gym facilities at least once since I lugged my workout clothes and shoes with me to California so I thought I would go there early before having breakfast. I was up at the gym area by about 7:30 and to my amazement there was not an unoccupied treadmill or elliptical machine. These baby boomers do not let a mere holiday mess with their fitness goals. I hung around for a bit admiring the view - its great to work out with a wonderful sea vista all around - and finally when someone vacated a treadmill I was able to get on it.

After a reasonably good workout I decided to check out the Horizon buffet, so after a quick shower, I dressed and went to have breakfast. It was still really cool - cold actually. We had had quite cold weather from Santa Barbara onwards. I guess it is not surprising for early May. Anyway the buffet was good- I found fruit, yogurt, and lots of coffee. I had decided that I would not bother with tours in either Seattle and Victoria, both cities that I had visited often before, and that I would try and get some writing done. I had a dance lesson scheduled and that was fun. Then I took my lap top up on deck and worked till it was time to get ready for dinner and more dancing.

That night the Sapphire Princess orchestra was playing "A Tribute to Big Band" in the Explorer's Lounge; a venue we had not used despite a slightly bigger floor than the Wheelhouse - because they always seemed to have stand up comics or trivia games going. It was actually quite nice. They played one set at 8:30 and then another was scheduled for 10:30.

In between the Cruise people held a "Passenger Feud Gameshow" - apparently like Family Feud- something I have never watched. Anyway to keep our seats near the floor, Carrie who was standing in for Wendy, suggested we wait it out. Raoul entered four of us as a team to play. I agreed to be one of the team members but luckily our team did not get selected.

We danced the second set and then most people seemed pretty exhausted and took of to their cabins. I have this problem that the more I dance the more energised I get - sort of like a wind-up toy that just keeps going instead of wearing down - so it took me ages to fall asleep with big band music running through my head.

Haystack Rock, OregonAstoria and the South Oregon coast
Wednesday May 13 The ship schedule stated: Arrive Astoria, Oregon 7 am - depart 5 pm.

When pre-booking my tours I decided that after three days of dancing and two wine tours it would be time to have a relatively quiet day, try out a Deep Tissue Massage in the Spa and catch up with my writing. That was wise planning as I  was by that time  three days behind in posting to my travelblogue. But the evening  before,  Raoul, Nancy and Dean had invited me to join them and share costs of a drive down the south Oregon coast to Tillamook. It took me about two seconds to decide that if I could change my Spa appointment I would join them. A phone call later and my massage was set for Friday , and I was up for the trip.

The view  through my window showed a grey overcast sky so I decided jeans and layers would be wise. Raoul had rented the car so after assembling at the Passengers' Services Desk at 9 am, we disembarked onto the pier of a cold and very rainy Astoria and made our way through a series of market stalls to the rental car area. As Nancy observed ironically, the overhead announcement said it would be ”partially cloudy” but they neglected to mention that the other part was rain. Lots and lots of rain! It was very cold and wet but being from Vancouver, I found it nothing out of the ordinary.

A lesson from Piero in Skywalker's Night ClubDancing at Sea: Dance and Workshops 
Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Tuesday  was the only day when the ship did not  call in at a port and we were at sea all day,  sailing  to Astoria, in Oregon. According to the ship's log - "throughout the day the Sapphire Princess steamed various northerly courses paralleling the coast of  California on her starboard side at a distance of approximately 30 nautical miles."  The sea is described as being "moderate" versus "slight" out of Santa Barbara, and "calm" on most of the other days.

  What "moderate sea" translates to in practical terms is that the ship was noticeably rolling a lot more than on other days, and on the dance floor, a step could quite easily turn from a graceful sway into a Frankensteinian lurch.

Wendy had arranged for dance workshops in the morning, so we assembled at 10 in the wheelhouse lounge for a rumba lesson from Piero followed by a lesson in cha cha from Brian. It was good to learn some new and different dance sequences. We rotated partners but since more of the ladies turned up (naturally)than the men at each change a couple of people were partnerless. The sequence Brian introduced included a double spin  which led to some interesting "new" moves when the ship rolled just as one was spinning. And one really needs a strong and steady lead for spinning, so it is hard to practice it on your own.

SeaSahackSea Shack Seafood Restaurant and Lounge,
Oregon, USA
Ph: 1- 503-368-7897

It is always great when you can get a recommendation for great food from a local resident. One of the ports of call on my recent  West Coast Ballroom Dancing Cruise was Astoria, Oregon.
Rather than an organized tour, at this stop  I chose to take a drive with some new friends down the South Oregon coast to Tillamook.

SaeThe recommendation for a seafood restaurant for lunch, was the Sea Shack in the tiny village of Wheeler. So that is where we decided to go. When we arrived, a little early, there was no one else there so we had our pick of tables and were seated at the window with a great view of the river and bird life. Shortly after we placed our order several groups arrived and the tables started filling up.

I noticed there was an oyster chowder on the menu and decided to try it.  One of my lunch companions from Charleston commented that he made a fantastic oyster chowder but the friendly server said that she guaranteed that the Sea Shack's soup was out of this world. What a challenge. I couldn't resist and decided to try a plate. Well she was right. I think that this was the best oyster soup I have ever tasted.


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