Leaving Seattle at 4pm in brilliant sunshine is both a difficultand easy thing to do. After barely 24-hours in this mega-friendly city full of challenging architecture, smiling baristas, technology geeks, friendly flower sellers and articulate water colourists, I feel I have barely scratched the surface.

But when your departure is aboard Holland America’s MS Oosterdam – and the sun is shining and the deck steward is pouring Pinot Grigio – it’s kind of easy as well.

I’m onboard with my friend of 30-years, Peta. She’s a party kind of girl, so we are onto and into the activities with a vengeance. I sleep through the morning trot around the deck at 8am, but we do make it to BSBC – Body Sculpt Boot Camp for the uninitiated – by 10 am, where Angie makes us sprint and stretch and yell and sweat for a terrifying 45-minutes. It sure feels good when it stops. Next up we attend the DETOX for Health and weight-loss seminar where Steven frightens us witless describing the toxicity of battery-fed chickens and how we might all glow in the dark if we’re not careful – or die early if we’re sincerely delinquent. Time to get out of here, we say, so off to the cabin for a quick refresh and then we hit the Lido Bar for buffet lunch – a delicious salad eaten in double quick time (sorry Steven) so we can rush down to the Culinary Arts Centre where the divine Zoltan, the ship’s sommelier, is conducting a one-hour wine appreciation course. Wow – is this fun? For just $15 USD we are treated to four sensational wines: an Italian Pinot Grigio, a Californian Chardonnay, an Argentinian Malbec (my personal favourite) and a Chilean Merlot. Zoltan teaches us how to regard the colour, appreciate the bouquet, taste the fruit, consider the salivation and, well, simply enjoy what is in the glass. He talks a lot about food pairing and we learn that a simple, inexpensive white can be matched to hearty Italian food for the betterment of both – the wine responds to the food and vice-versa.

After this, exhausted from our learning experience, we head to the Explorations Café where deep leather armchairs at full-length windows, facing the prow, invite us to settle down, a barrista-made latte in hand, and the choice of fiction, biography or political memoirs from the New York Times bestseller list.

I’d like to report more about the ship, but I’m feeling a little sleepy in the wake of Zoltan’s excellent wines, so stay tuned tomorrow for an update as we sail toward Tracy Arm and the fjords of Alaska.

Written by Kaye Fallick