Ports of Call

Ketchikan, Juneau, Icy Straight Point, Victoria, Astoria and San Fransisco.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Formula

The Ship is in the midst of a 12 day Alaskan cruise out of San Francisco. Alaska is beautiful, but honestly this itinerary has been the most boring out of any I’ve been on. Too many days at sea, weird arrival and departure times and a lack of amenities ashore makes life a bit more difficult for crew members, but if you’re into hiking and wildlife and you’re looking for summer vacation ideas, I could see the appeal of this particular set of ports.

The home port being San Francisco, I was able to enjoy a few favorite spots while the ship disembarked old passengers and brought aboard the new. Well, after a trip to the worst Guitar Center in existence that is. Seriously, I’m no fan of GC’s in general but the store in downtown San Francisco has got to be the biggest shithole I’ve ever stepped into.  Apparently this place was in the midst of completely renovating the entire store, but decided to stay open and not cover up any of the equipment. Everything was covered in dust and half the ceiling was torn open.  If you’re a horn player like me, GC’s are generally pretty useless, so if you’re in San Fran and need some supplies head over to Union Music off of Market St.

The first two days of this cruise are at sea. Entertainers tend to loath sea days simply because they are boring. Most of our work happens at night, so the days are mostly spent in our rooms. In warmer climates we might enjoy a few hours of sunbathing or a dip in the pool up on the forward crew deck, but this being Alaska you can rule that out straight away. Mostly we practice, write music or watch movies. Exchanging shows and movies with friends helps, but by the third or fourth week you’ve watched everything, so it’s pretty important to have something constructive to do.

Our first port was Ketchikan. Any port that cruise ships dock in are tourist traps, and Ketchikan is no exception. Let me describe the layout of any port you’ll visit: one main street right off the gangway, usually called Bay or Wharf St; tour companies with white vans and taxi drivers soliciting the best whale watching or zip lining or beach resort in town; a small, annoyingly quaint shore side village filled with nothing but restaurants, jewelry stores and souvenir shops. There are very few exceptions to this formula. Here’s the real trick to having a good time in port: Get away from the fucking ship. Because everything is set up so close to the docks, any pub or cafĂ© or shop is going to be filled to the brim with cruise ship passengers. If you go just another few blocks down the road or few hundred yards down the beach, you tend to receive a bit better service and the environment tends to be a little less crazy.

Today we are in Icy Straight Point. This port is a tendering port, meaning the ship anchors offshore and everybody takes the little lifeboats into the docks. There isn’t much of a town ashore, but they do serve fresh crab legs ($20 a pound for guests!) and feature a huge zip line and some hiking trails. Hopefully tendering won’t take too long and we’ll get some good shore time before we have to head back aboard for our evening stage show. Tomorrow we stop in Juneau, one of the better ports on this itinerary. Juneau as a lot to offer as far as food and activities go, from sea plane tours to a great hike up a pretty big mountain. It’s also one of the prettier stops we visit. Unfortunately we’ll only be in port for a short while, which is super disappointing.

The best part of this trip comes at the end of it, so I’ll do my best to have the next post ready by then.