OK, now that we're back, I'll tell the story of our Alaska trip, perhaps a day at a time.
Day 1, Thursday, Aug. 23. We get picked up 6:30am or so for a 9:45 flight. This "three hours lead time at the airport" rule is best served by ignoring it, but I have trouble doing that, so we get there early. We had the clever idea this time to reduce our luggage count and use One Big Suitcase. Suggestion for future travellers: don't do that. We get to the airport and discover that our bag is overweight (a risk we assumed might happen) and that we had to redistribute the weight. What the hell? We figured we'd be able to just pay an extra tariff or something; no such luck. So we redistribute. In the course of the redistribution, I drop the now-70-pound suitcase on my toe. Broken nail. Ugly. Painful. Ow.
But we got on the plane OK, and it was an uneventful trip, the best sort. At SFO, we dither around a bit and then find the guy to show us the way to the bus to the ship. Turns out there are four couples on the bus (for the first stretch), and three of them lived at some point in the town of Monroe, Washington. Pure coinkydink.
We get to the ship. It's an odd looking critter. Built in 1991, it was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Same guy who did the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The ship? Well...it's a really dumb design. There's no place to stand outside on the front of the ship! All front views are enclosed, and what's worse, the glass is treated with some real crappy ultraviolet blocking stuff that also blocks a lot of the view. What's more, there's no classical promenade around the ship. Dumb design. There's a reason Princess is retiring the Regal Princess next year; it's just not a very good ship.
Anyway, we make our way to our room, and discover, unlike everyone elses' room, ours is closed and locked. So we stand around for a half hour while they find someone with a key. For all the grousing we might do, this was the only instance in the entire cruise (not counting one ill-advised foray to the hamburger bar) that we got anything other than excellent service from the staff. (Oh, and not getting our luggage delivered until late that evening; if they'd just told us that often luggage takes several hours to make it to the rooms, we'd not have been so pissed. It does seem to be a running joke among the entertainers.)