JACQUELINE GERBER'S AND ELIZABETH RHODES' EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
WCLV's Jacqueline Gerber, host of First Program, and Elizabeth Rhodes, our afternoon traffic reporter from Metro, have returned from their seven day cruise to Alaska, along with some 40 WCLV listeners. Here are some messages and pictures from the far north.
July 16, 2008
Wednesday was a day for musicians. Our total -- 4 guitarists and a piano player -- as we traveled from Cleveland to Vancouver to board the M. S. Ryndam. The first musician I spied while Elizabeth Rhodes and I checked our bags at Hopkins Airport. He was tall, with dark, combed-back, wavy hair, and distressingly retro sideburns. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and white beads around his neck.
I whispered, "Are you a professional Elvis impersonator?"
"Why, yes I am," he replied. He was the "Hawaiian Elvis," traveling with his wife after a performing
tour. He was very flattered to have been recognized, but did not say, "Thank you very much."
The second musician was behind us in the security line at Hopkins. At 4:30 in the morning, one doesn't expect to see 20-something man in a charcoal-grey three-piece suit, wearing a fedora. I leaned over in line and said, "Are you a professional performer?" He put his foot on the metal counter and lifted his trouser leg to reveal a beautifully-wrought tattoo of a guitar -- on his calf. I asked how long he'd be out performing. "About eight years," he said.
The third musician wasn't a professional. She was a young girl carrying a box that contained a guitar used in a computer game called "Rock Band." We saw her in line to board at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., as we changed planes.
The fourth musician was an extremely good-looking blond man wearing a powder-blue shirt on our Dulles-to-Vancouver flight. He loaded his guitar in the overhead bin a few rows ahead of us. Alas, although I
checked out the man I didn't see the guitar until Elizabeth told me about it after we got off the plane and it was too late to chat him up.
Thursday July 17, 2008
Some of the delightful WCLV listeners aboard the M. S. Ryndam come from not only Cleveland, but Avon Lake, Mantua, Cleveland Heights, North Royalton, Shaker Heights, and Berea. Elizabeth Rhodes and I got to see what THEY look like at our "Meet and Greet" session aboard the M. S. Ryndam Thursday afternoon. There are two sets of siblings among the WCLV group. We passed out WCLV ponchos, which were quite welcome as rain is in the forecast for the entire week. We asked them to report back on their adventures as we visit Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.
One time-honored method for romancing a girl in a vehicle is to run out of gas. That theory was tested Wednesday night July 16, when passengers on the Ryndam heard cries for help. A young couple was in a boat that had run out of gas. We were in open sea off the coast of Vancouver. The conditions
were treacherous. The Ryndam turned around and notified the Coast Guard. The Ryndam was prepared to lower a lifeboat to the frightened couple, but the Coast Guard got there first. Reports of this rescue ricocheted around the ship on Thursday the 17th. It was all the buzz at dinner.
Next time: Visiting Juneau and how to recycle towels into a menagerie.
WCLV listeners were a rain-soaked group in Juneau on Friday, July 18. It rained all day and all night. Many excursions were cancelled, especially those involving airplanes and helicopters, since fog made it impossible to see the sights.
While I was getting to know the ship, Elizabeth Rhodes was out and about. She pronounced the Mendenhall Glacier "amazing," and also toured the Mendenhall Glacier Gardens. The glaciers, melting during these summer months, are responsible for the narrow waterfalls which cut through the forested hills surrounding Juneau. A month ago they were dry.
The waters surrounding Juneau smell like that of a normal river town -- fishy, but not off-puttingly so. Lots of fishing trawlers and sea planes use the waters as their highways. Trawlers full of crabs are a common
Juneau's capitol is the only state capital to have a capitol building without a dome. It looks like a regular business building. Alaska's governor just gave birth to her fifth child.
We pulled away from Juneau's dock at 10:30 p.m. Alaska time (2:30 a.m. Eastern time) on Friday, July 18.
There are two other "personality" cruises on the M. R. Ryndam. One is from Virginia. The other, from Cincinnati, is without its personality. He was fired earlier this year. No one was sent in his place. We learned this from a Cincinnati man who joined our WCLV "Meet and Greet" session on Thursday.
I listened to his complaint, and suggested he write to the radio station. He said he had already drafted the letter and was waiting until he got home to mail it. Perhaps he just wanted to vent to a bona fide Radio Gal
before clicking on "send."
Ahead: Skagway, the Chocolate Volcano midnight buffet, and coyote teeth.
At sea in Glacier Bay, Alaska, Sunday, July 20, 2008
"Glaciers and orcas and bears, oh my!"
Sunday morning, Elizabeth Rhodes's first words were "I'm a polar bear!"
She had taken the plunge, not into
the 50-degree water in Alaska's Inside
Passage, but into one of the two
80-degree pools on the Ryndam.
The polar bear part occurs when you
emerge dripping into the 45-degree
Alaskan morning air. The polar bear
plunge ended with the supervising
Holland America crew member
jumping into the pool fully clothed.
Skagway, Alaska, habor
The M.S. Ryndam departed Skagway Saturday night and sailed south to the glaciers. Park rangers brought aboard for the day provided commentary from the ship's public address system. At each glacier, the ship slowly turned around, so that passengers on each side had equal time. On one of the pool decks, a white-haired shirtless gentleman in white shorts reclined, sunning himself, surrounded by passengers in coats, hats and scarves, taking photos in the stiff breezes.
At least one of our group spied a bear on
the coast. Whale-watching was at its peak
today. One whale played to the audience as
he blew and flapped his tail repeatedly. One
WCLV listener who toured the dog camp in
Skagway reported that he let a husky puppy
fall asleep on his chest. No matter that the
puppy was 3 months old and was big enough
to cover his whole chest.
Last night at dinner the serving crew performed
the "Parade of the Baked Alaskas" to the beat
of the "Radetzky March." Later, Elizabeth and I took in the Las Vegas show, featuring an Elvis
impersonator -- alas, not our "Hawaiian Elvis" -- and Sam, the piano player from Pittsburgh, on
keyboards in the show band.
This is Skagway's "Wall of Ships." Cruise vessels paint their logos, ship names and year of the
cruise on the vertical wall along the pier where the cruise ships dock. The Skagway Fire
Department lends artists the ladders and "cherry-pickers" for access to the wall. Local legend
has it that the more the crew dislikes its captain, the higher the ship's logo appears on the wall,
but it's just a rumor.
Glacier Bay - This chunk of seal-shaped floating ice (lower left hand corner)
seemed a fitting companion to the real live seal sighted in Skagway Bay.
The real seal we named "Flotsam," so the ice seal became "Jetsam."
At sea, Tuesday July 22, 2008, 3p.m. Pacific Time
If Juneau represents Alaska's tradition, and
Skagway represents its storied past, Ketchikan
is the present. Ketchikan was, to several in the
WCLV group, the first real city we've seen since
Vancouver. It has a hospital, a business district,
a drugstore, drinking establishments and a host
of jewelry and souvenir shops.
Some of the WCLV listeners tried the chocolate-
covered Oreos at Ketchikan Candies. Others avoided
overloading their luggage by mailing boxes from the
post office in back of the taxidermy shop. That shop
had a specia advertised in the tourist magazines:
buy three buffalo or coyote teeth at regular price, get one free. No one seemed to be taking them
up on the deal. If the teeth weren't your cup of tea, the badger claws had a few takers.
Totems, lumberjacks and salmon got the listeners' attention. The lumberjack show is a perennial favorite. One listener who took the totem tour remarked, "After you've seen one totem, you've seen them all." One
listener shipped a huge box of salmon home to Cleveland.
Listeners loved the whales and bears they saw on this trip. Any sighting of a whale sends passengers to the windows.
Yesterday's weather in Ketchikan was mild, with morning showers. Since Juneau was raining and Skagway was windy, the tourists took advantage of Ketchikan's better weather and shopped all day.
Even with a city nearby, the area is isolated. A visitor gambling in the casino had a heart attack aboard ship. Helicopters can't land on the decks, so the man was placed in a harness and raised to the helicopter and
flown to Seattle. The rest of his group stayed on the ship.
Last night was the Master Chef's dinner, during which the dessert was paraded around on trays by the serving staff while the diners applauded and waited for their share. The midnight chocolate buffet featured a
chocolate volano, chocolate palm trees, piles of profitoroles, and puff pastry lobsters. Elizabeth Rhodes, our resident chocololic, pronounced it "amazing."
Last night Elizabeth and I attended a reception hosted by the ship's captain. We met the
head chef, Karl, and the chief security officer. When the latter found out we were from Cleveland,
he did a fist "bump" and elbow "bump" and said, "Cleveland Rocks!" Oddly enough, with his
dark glasses and husky physique, he could have passed for Drew Carey's older brother.
Today was the farewell to the crew, a cooking
class, and the ships's management session
in which passengers were asked what they liked
Tuesday's weather has been sunny and
60 degrees as we head back to Vancouver
for tomorrow's disembarkation and return flight to
Cleveland. We have enjoyed our time with the
WCLV listeners and new acqaintances from all
over the world. There are many Asians and
Australians on this cruise.
During the cooking class, a Brit fondly recalled the television programs of Graham Kerr,
"The Galloping Gourmet." After helping to prepare a meal of salmon, beef salad and creme
brulee, Elizabeth and I rather hoped that this was our Food Network audition, but they haven't
called us back yet We're still waiting.