Smoke gets in your eyes…er, lungs

Last view of Seattle from starboard side of the Volendam
Last view of Seattle from starboard side of the Volendam

Smokers are a minority now. We didn’t expect to be affected by them on this cruise. More on that below.

Jerry and Emmie prepared one last, generous breakfast and then brought us from Whidbey Island to Pier 30 in Seattle.

On the way we took a side trip to Alderwood Mall, where a Kits Camera staff member won high marks for good service. The filmy surface on my camera’s ultraviolet filter turned out to be some new-lens gunk, easily removable. The card reader was, as I’d determined, a dud. We left with a clean lens and a new card reader. No receipt required. No questions asked. Just a helping hand and a smile.

American friendliness continued after we said our goodbyes and passed through many Holland American employee hands on our way to the ship. My uncertainties about the whole idea of a long cruise began to fade.

Then we entered our stateroom and walked into a space so permeated with smoke we backed out and followed our cabin steward to the Front Office. The young woman at the desk was friendly enough, but she and everyone Robin talked with in his repeated visits there gave the same story: Sold-out cruise. No other options. We’ll change the linens.

Leaving Little Smoke, we toured every accessible deck and began meeting people. At lunch Patricia and Pierre, a couple from Quebec, rightly saw we were open to company and joined us. At 81 Patricia is lithe and lean, a great-grandmother who could pass for sixty.

A scheduled lifeboat drill seemed a bit of a non-starter. With plenty of warning, we tugged on our life jackets and gathered under assigned boats. I suspect the rather haphazard drill was sufficient to fulfill requirements, but I wouldn’t want to put it to the test in a real emergency.

After an hour of music and cocktail noise in the Crow’s Nest, the cruise to New Zealand loomed long for me, like maybe it would be one, long party. As someone acutely sensitive to noise and easily over-stimulated, I began to wonder if this cruise might have been a big mistake. Smoky room, noisy crowds, claustrophobia kicking in…would Robin and I survive the journey?

I settled into the Explorations Café, the ship’s library, plugged my laptop into the sole outlet, and prepared to write a blog entry while Robin checked once again on the room.

That’s when I met Brian and Hannah from Wellington. Bless them both. A casual exchange between them tipped me off. The clipped “yes”, which for a Kiwi comes out more like “yis”, made me ask if they were returning to New Zealand.

By the time Robin returned from his frustrating errand and from listening to the cruise’s pianist, I’d invited my new friends to have dinner with us. My need to escape had evaporated after an hour’s easy conversation.

Dinner, a show (a Temptations revue), and then we’ll settle into our smoky stateroom (which we hope will, by then, be at least tolerable). I know how lucky we are. I just needed some down time and some friendly folk to remind me.

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