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May 9, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Cruise ships give me heartburn, but I’m going; come along to Alaska on Saturday?

Star Princess, near shore, and Holland America's Westerdam (foreground) will leave Seattle Saturday for Alaska.

Star Princess, near shore, and Holland America’s Westerdam (foreground) will leave Seattle Saturday for Alaska. (photo by Don Wilson, Port of Seattle)

Welcome to the “Brian Hates Cruising” blog.

I’ve never stepped foot on a cruise ship. I disdain the whole idea of these massive floating hotels, many of which no longer even have the proper shape of respectable oceangoing ships because they’ve crammed aboard so many guest cabins, piano lounges, spas and, yes, golf simulators. Or, in the case of the Star Princess, on which I sail to Alaska this Saturday, they’ve plunked the flying-saucer-shaped Skywalkers Nightclub on massive pylons above the stern, like a nautical hemorrhoid. The whole vessel, as it regularly chugs past my sailboat home at Shilshole Bay Marina, resembles some sort of pimped-up Nike running shoe.

Yes, among that vented spleen, you heard me right: I sail on the Star Princess on Saturday. Like a kid who hates spinach but has never tried it, I’m going.

But I’m not much looking forward to it. Why?

  • For the same reason I don’t frequent cheesy piano bars, which is what I expect to find on a cruise ship.
  • Because I don’t generally like group tours and “managed” travel, and it doesn’t get much more managed than this.
  • Because cruise ships can carry around 3,000 people. It sounds like going on vacation with the Saturday swarms from several Costco stores, all with the same thing uppermost in their minds: consuming vast quantities of food (hey, it’s “free”).
  • Because I always loathed “The Love Boat.” Gavin MacLeod should never have given up on his Murray Slaughter character (Mary was warming to him, I’m sure of it). And Capt. Stubing should have made Gopher walk the plank on the second voyage.

    Ah, they have lifeboats aboard the Star Princess, that's a good thing. (Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times, 2009)

    Ah, they have lifeboats aboard the Star Princess, that’s a good thing. (Photo by Alan Berner / The Seattle Times, 2009)

I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s just not my schooner of beer.

If you’re one of my fellow passengers, please know this: I’m not there to rain on your parade (we’ll probably get enough rain in mid-May in Southeast Alaska). I know people book cruises to celebrate special anniversaries, or stage family reunions, or kick up their heels on a honeymoon, and I sincerely wish you all the best.

I'm ready in my foul-weather jacket, ready for the rainy forecast for Southeast Alaska.

In my foul-weather jacket, ready for the rainy forecast for Southeast Alaska.

If I find out my assumptions are wrong, I’ll be happy to admit it. In fact, I pledge to find at least one thing I like every day of the trip.

But, really, why go? Because cruise ships have been in the news more than ever the past couple years, and not for happy reasons: a fatal shipwreck off Italy; a stranded shipload of people in horrible conditions in the Gulf of Mexico (giving a whole new meaning to the term “poop deck”); on-again, off-again outbreaks of what is apparently Norovirus, known in British tabloids as the Vomit Bug. So what’s the mood on board?

Bookings have suffered for the coming cruise season — check the last-minute specials out there  –  but one might hope they’ll be trying harder than ever to get things right.

Another reason to go: In recent years, several lines have switched their Alaska boats to a Seattle base. So I thought I’d take a look. Challenge my biases. It’s a voyage of discovery, and Glacier Bay scenery should be a nice bonus.

Cruise ship passengers line the railing for a look at Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. (photo by Andy Newman/AP)

Cruise ship passengers line the railing for a look at Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. (photo by Andy Newman/AP)

Join me here for frequent reports — of what’s to do and what it really costs. Watch for photos of the day’s Most Immodest Shipboard Dessert, and my daily weigh-in (I’m packing a bathroom scale). Click on the button and “Tell Brian Where to Go” (be nice; I mean like where to go in Juneau, Skagway or Ketchikan). As in your local coffee shop, “tips are always appreciated.”

We’re all in this boat together, so to speak. Come Saturday, it’s “bon voyage.” Let’s hope.

(Click here to see READER COMMENTS AND TIPS.)

0 Comments | Topics: Alaska cruise, cruises, Glacier Bay

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