Standing in the center of the immense lobby of Crystal Harmony, my father considers its two-story ceiling, pink-marble staircase, massive waterfall and enormous mahogany reception desk. "This room is," he says in a stage whisper while sweeping his arm a full 200 degrees around the lobby, "a rather aggressive challenge to Archimedes' principle." In his enthusiasm he manages to send both of our fly-fishing rods tumbling across the deep-pile carpet.
Our ship, a 50,000-ton liner in the Crystal Cruise fleet, is sailing from San Francisco. After a night in Victoria and an afternoon in Vancouver, it will head to Alaska's fabled Inside Passage, making several stops before turning around and heading back to California. At each port of call in Alaska, guests can go on all kinds of shore excursionsa helicopter tour of the glaciers, say, or a kayak expedition in a bay or fjord. Dad and I plan to fish. A decade ago, Crystal was the only luxury cruise line plying the waters of the Inside Passage and that head start means the company has developed an impressive network of local fishing guides and outfitters.
Before arriving at our first fishing port of call, Dad and I have five days to explore the ship. More than two football fields in length, Crystal Harmony can hold 940 guests. Most of the public spaces offer panoramic views: first of the open ocean, then of glaciers and icy fjords in the Passage. More earthly delights include a 277-seat movie theater, a disco, a casino, a cigar bar, a lending library and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center and spa.