After we left Analaska, we were about 7 more days at sea and the time factor was strange. Not only did we have numerous 25-hour days as we set the clocks back many nights, but we crossed the International Date Line! That’s right, the day of Thursday, September 17 did not exist for us! The activities people on the ship put on a party to celebrate with a countdown and a band and a balloon drop as Wednesday night turned to Friday night in an instant. The next day we got these really cool certificates:
The sea days kind of ran together. It was cold and foggy. Sometimes the ship rocked noticeably– I loved that! Fiercely described it as unexpectedly feeling heavier, then lighter as she walked around. It was wonderful to look out the windows and see waves and sometimes the horizon. I ate way too much – they made their own ice cream! There was a Mousse of the Day! There was a Donut of the Day! I was doomed, I tell you. There was always food, so delicious, and never a bill. We went to the fancy restaurant a few times, which was a bit out of our league with all the forks and glassware and all, but the staff were kind and tolerant of us and we did meet some nice people that way. And again, no check! Here’s us trying to be swanky:
Fiercely spent time with us or with younger kids – there were said to be other teenagers on the ship but they did not reach out. The rest of the kids befriended a sister and brother who turned out to be marvelous companions – unschoolers and long-term travelers hooray! Their mom, originally from China, gave us some great information and helped us plan our post-cruise adventures.
We went to some of the entertainment –a comedian, a guy who did card tricks, the ship performing group in an elaborate ballroom dance production. It wasn’t all that exciting, I don’t think they aimed at our demographic, but they certainly aimed to please.
We made friends with the amazing marine biologist Chelsea Behymer. She gave enthusiastic and informative talks on sea mammals, ocean bird life, and the ocean ecosystem. She was superb in getting us all interested in the life around us. It was wonderful for the kids to talk with her and hear her stories about growing up on the California coast, kayaking near whales, and her studies on marine life and oceanology.
We found a stranded bird- a sooty shearwater- on the deck during some high winds and helped Chelsea rescue the little creature. She checked the bird for injuries and told us it would be safer and more comfortable back on the sea.
It was beautiful to see it fly free after seeming so out of place and possibly confused on the deck. Chelsea explained that some seabirds live years on the open water and are rather akward navigating land, or a giant cruise ship for that matter.
Yokohama, Japan. This was the first port of call in Japan. As we arrived at the pier, a marching band was playing and a large sign welcomed us.
The city is close to Tokyo and many passangers had plans to go there, however, with our situation – limited money and time, kids, no Japanese speakers among us, public transportation challenges–we chose not to go there. Instead, we spent about 6 hours walking around the town and just being amazed that we were, in fact, in Japan!! Everywhere we looked were Japanese people doing Japanese things – in Japan!
It happened to be Fiercely’s birthday, and while that may sound like an awesome thing to do on your 15th, it was actually not that thrilling for her since the time difference and the lack of wifi made it hard to communicate with her friends back home.
We tried to cheer her up, we walked around a park high on a hill (no idea of the significance of the park or its structures since all of the plaques except above were written in Japanese), then we walked around a commercial district where we were amused by the pampered small dogs about. There were little dogs in strollers, little dogs wearing jeans and t-shirts, little dogs worn in carriers like the ones I used for my kids when they were infants. Mr. Fantastic and Cleverly say they saw a Japanese woman wiping her dog’s bottom, with a special tissue for that purpose, after the dog relieved itself. Check out the dogs in strollers!
We ended up in an amazing race-type challenge in which we tried to find a present for Fiercely after she re-boarded the boat. We looked and looked for a DVD of the 1st or 2nd season of the BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. We got a local to write down the Japanese characters for the show title, and we were directed to three stores in a row on different ends of town where we found a) nothing, b) rentals only and c) the exact DVD we had hoped for, only it cost 6x what it cost in the US and we weren’t sure if it would be in English. We bailed on the plan and made it back to the ship before it left, thanks goodness!
That was our first day in Japan. We sailed that night and part of the following day.