Birds are seen skimming the waves and our tenuous satellite connection with CNN has reconnected, both signs that there could be some land in our future. When we described this cruise to others, many expressed concern about having five days at sea in a row. "What will you do all that time?" they wondered. While there is a program full of activities available to us every day, we find time to do relatively few of them. In the company of good friends, good books, and our laptops, the day whizzes by.
In my case the day starts mighty early. I have yet to sleep past 4am. But since our nightly bedtime ritual involves setting the clock back an hour or two, 4am was 8am three days ago. This blog is written and photographs posted, long before breakfast is served. A nap helps me to make it through dinner, but I feel like a small child when my eye lids start fluttering during a great comedian's routine, and my watch says 9pm. Last night our sleep was further interrupted by horn blasts. Today the captain announced that we found ourselves amidst 200 Japanese tuna fishermen in the fog. We are never really alone.
The ship is full, about 2600 passengers. We have traveled on full ships many times, but we have never had so much trouble getting in to the big events that are scheduled for the theater, which holds 800 at most. Shows are available twice, but lectures are not. So that all four of us could attend the first port lecture seated together, we brought our Ipods to the hall about an hour before it started. Ship staff has started broadcasting these lectures over the TV system; hopefully that will help relieve the crush.
This lecture about Muroran, our first stop in Japan, was conducted by a Japanese man who had great slides and knew how to use his computer to show them to the best advantage. Muroran like Kodiak, is rarely visited by cruise ships, so he made it sound like the city has prepared enthusiastically for our arrival. It is located on the northernmost island of Hokkaido at a latitude equal to Boston. Olympics aficionados will recall that the winter Olympics were held here in Sapporo. We could take a tour to Sapporo, but it is a two hour bus ride each way from the port. Since Japan is a volcanic country we have selected a tour focusing on the geology of the countryside. However, the slides of a cultural village featuring the Ainu people looks tempting, too. The Ainu were the original people of Japan and their features look more Eskimo than Chinese. There are only about 20,000 of them left and their language is being lost as well. At times they were treated about as well as we treated our native Americans, but these days they are appreciated once again. While cruising is a convenient and comfortable way to visit new places, we will probably feel conflicted many times on this trip as we try to select the one thing that we will devote the day to.
But while we are at sea, the biggest decision we have to make is which restaurant to choose for dinner. When we started cruising, each ship had one or two large dining rooms and passengers were assigned to eat at one of two shifts a the same table with the same guests every day. Now we have four "free" restaurants to choose from as well as two others that charge a surcharge for their superlative food and service. Last night we decided to broaden our horizons, sitting at a table for six in the hopes that an interesting couple would add variety to our conversation. We were joined by folks old enough to be our parents who had recently celebrated their 60th anniversary. It gladdens the heart to hope that we will still find ourselves on the high seas when we reach that lofty age.