From The Boathouse: Onboard a cruise ship to the Last Frontier

Ahoy from aboard the Princess Cruises' Star Princess while I am enjoying my radio station's Alaskan cruise this week.

CRN Digital Talk Radio, which syndicates my "Boathouse Radio Show," is hosting a murder mystery cruise. My wife and I could not miss the opportunity visit Alaska, even if the weather is a little chilly and wet this time of year.

As you read the morning paper Friday while sipping your coffee, we are on a course returning to Seattle where we will disembark Sunday for our flight back to John Wayne Airport. However, I am writing this column from our balcony as the ship is cruising in Tracy Arm fjord, and I am watching huge floating chucks of ice from the Sawyer Glaciers pass by the starboard side.

This is a spectacular waterway that leads up to the glaciers while you cruise through valleys that were carved out by glacial activity. Sheer-faced cliffs with tree-covered mountains and water depths of a thousand feet allow this 953-foot ship to access this area.

The ship can only travel up the passage until the floating ice becomes impassable and too risky for the ship to continue. Then the ship spins 180 degrees for the voyage out of the fjord, giving me a view of the other side of the channel before docking in Juneau later this afternoon.

I had an odd encounter with a Transportation Security Administration agent when I was going through the screening at JWA to fly to Seattle to board the ship. I was wearing my usual attire of Docker short pants and a Reyn Spooner shirt for the flight.

As I exited the new screening equipment, an agent stopped me and said that we have a situation. It appears that the screening machine flagged my head and right knee for potentially hiding objects. I looked at him and I said, "You are kidding, right?"

He was baffled for a moment as if he did not know what to do, because I was not wearing a hat so you could see the top of my head, and my knee was exposed below my short pants. Now, my wife tells me often that I must have a steel plate in my head, but that is story for another column.

Finally after a few minutes, he realized that the machine must have given two false readings, because one can visually see my head and knee. Now I have very little confidence in the new screening equipment at the airports, plus the employee training manuals should have a chapter on common sense.

However, the screening to board the ship is very professional and the process flows very smoothly. Maybe the TSA can learn from the cruise ship security staff how to efficiently screen thousands of passengers.

We stayed at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle the night prior to boarding the ship. I enjoyed feasting on oysters for dinner. Maybe devour is a better choice of words? Shucker's Oyster Bar in the hotel is the spot for oyster aficionados. I ate dozens of different kinds of oysters that were prepared raw and baked with various toppings.

However, I digress. We boarded the Star Princess at noon Sunday, and in our cabin there were a dozen roses and a fruit bowl full of bananas, strawberries, grapes and apples.

Soon after, our luggage arrived along with a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries from the Princess public relations team. Then another tray of chocolate-covered strawberries arrived to welcome us aboard from the radio station's murder mystery cruise that we would participate in during the week.

Each day, we returned to our cabin to find a new fruit bowl and chocolate-covered strawberries from the cruise line. The dining and service aboard the ship is excellent and we enjoyed the veal at the steakhouse. There are plenty of options for dining at almost any time of the day or night.

I will not go hungry on this ship, but I will need to go on a diet when I return home.

Tip of the week is traveling aboard a cruise ship is an excellent choice for any boater who wants to be pampered while traveling to destinations that you may never experience aboard your own boat. One of the best reasons is that you can sit back and relax while the crew handles the ship.

And don't forget: Tune in to the No. 1 boating radio talk show in the nation, Capt. Mike Whitehead's "Boathouse Radio Show," broadcasting coast to coast on the CRN Digital Talk Radio syndicated network at noon Saturdays and replayed at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Safe voyages.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to

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