I had the extreme good fortune to get sent on the last SQL Cruise to Alaska. I love my job. In case you don't what this is, SQL Cruise is a trip on a cruise ship during which you get to attend classes while on the boat, learning all about SQL Server and related topics as well as network with the instructors and the other Cruisers. Frankly, it's amazing. Classes ran from Monday, 5/30, to Saturday, 6/4. The networking was constant, between classes, at night on cruise ship, out on excursions in Alaskan rainforests and while snorkeling in ocean waters. Here's a run down of the experience from my point of view. Because I couldn't travel out 2 days early, I missed the BBQ that occurred the day before the cruise when many of the Cruisers received their swag bags. Some of that swag came from Red Gate. I researched what was useful on a cruise like this and purchased small flashlights and binoculars for all the Cruisers. The flashlights were because, depending on your cabin, ships can be very dark. The binoculars were so that the cruisers could watch all the beautiful landscape as it flowed by. I would have liked to have been there when the bags were opened, but I heard from several people that they appreciated the gifts. Cruisers "In" the hot tub. Pictured: Marjory Woody, Michele Grondin, Kyle Brandt, Grant Fritchey, John Halunen Sunday I went to board the ship with my wife. We had a bit of an adventure because I messed up our documents. It all worked out and we got on board to meet up at the back of the boat at one of the outdoor bars with the other Cruisers, thanks to tweets letting everyone know where to go. That was the end of electronic coordination on the trip (connectivity in Alaska was horrible for everyone except AT&T). The Cruisers were a great bunch of people and it was a real honor to meet them and get to spend time with them. After everyone settled into their cabins, our very first activity was a contest, sponsored by Red Gate. The Cruisers, in an effort to get to know each other and the ship, were required to go all over taking various photographs, some of them hilarious. The winning team of three would all win prizes. Some of the significant others helped out and I tagged along with a team that tied for first but lost the coin toss. The winning team consisted of Christina Leo (blog|twitter), Ryan Malcom (twitter), Neil Hambly (blog|twitter). They then had to do math and identify the cabin with the lowest prime number, oh, and get a picture of it and be the first to get back up to the bar where we were waiting. Christina came in first and very happily carried home an Ipad2. Ryan won a 1TB portable hard drive and Neil won a wireless mouse (picture below, note my special SQL Server Central Friday Shirt. Thanks Steve (blog|twitter)). Winners: Christina Leo, Neil Hambly, Ryan Malcolm. Just Lucky: Grant Fritchey Monday morning classes started. Buck Woody (blog|twitter) was a special guest speaker on this cruise. His theme was "Three C's on the High Seas: Career, Communication and Cloud." The first session was all on Career. I'm not going to type out all my notes from the session, but let's just say, if you get the chance to hear Buck talk about how to manage your career, I suggest you attend. I have a ton of blog posts that I'll be putting together over the next several months (yes, months) both here and over on ScaryDBA. I also have a bunch of work I'm going to be doing to get my career performance bumped up a notch or two (and let's face it, that won't be easy). Later on Monday, Tim Ford (blog|twitter) did a session on DMOs. Specifically the session was on Tim's Period Table of DMOs that he has put together, and how to use some of the more interesting DMOs in your day to day job. It was a great session, packed with good information. Next, Brent Ozar (blog|twitter) did a session on how to monitor and guide SAN configuration for the DBA that doesn't have access to the SAN. That was some seriously useful information. Tuesday morning we only had a single class. Kendra Little (blog|twitter) taught us all about "No Lock for Yes Fun". It was all about the different transaction isolation levels and how they work. There is so often confusion in this area and Kendra does a great job in clarifying the information. Also, she tosses in her excellent drawings to liven up the presentation. Then it was excursion time in Juneau. My wife and I, along with several other Cruisers, took a hike up around the Mendenhall Glacier. It was absolutely beautiful weather and walking through the Alaskan rain forest was a treat. Our guide, Jason, was a great guy and it was a good day of hiking. Wednesday was an all day excursion in Skagway. My wife and I took the "Ghost and Good Time Girls" walking tour that ended up at a bar that used to be a brothel, the Red Onion. It was a great history of the town. We went back out and hit a few museums and exhibits. We also hiked up the side of the mountain to see the Dewey Lake and some great views of the town. Finally we hiked out to the far side of town to see the Gold Rush cemetery. Hiking done we went back to the boat and had a quiet dinner on our own. Thursday we cruised through Glacier Bay and saw at least four different glaciers including sitting next to the Marjory Glacier for about an hour. It was amazing. Then it got better. We went into class with Buck again, this time to talk about Communication. Again, I've got pages of notes that I'm going to be referring back to for some time to come. This was an excellent opportunity to learn. Snorkelers: Nicole Bertrand, Aaron Bertrand, Grant Fritchey, Neil Hambly, Christina Leo, John Robel, Yanni Robel, Tim Ford Friday we pulled into Ketchikan. A bunch of us went snorkeling. Yes, snorkeling. Yes, in Alaska. Yes, snorkeling in the ocean in Alaska. It was fantastic. They had us put on 7mm thick wet suits (an adventure all by itself) so it was basically warm the entire time we were in the water (except for the occasional squirt of cold water down my back). Before we got in the water a bald eagle flew up and landed about 15 feet in front of us, which was just an incredible event. Then our guide pointed out about 14 other eagles in the area, hanging out in the trees. Wow! The water was pretty clear and there was a ton of things to see. That was absolutely a blast. Back on the boat I presented a session called Execution Plans: The Deep Dive (note the nautical theme). It seemed to go over well and I had several good questions come out of the session that will lead to new blog posts. After I presented, it was Aaron Bertrand's (blog|twitter) turn. He did a session on "What's New in Denali" that provided a lot of great information. He was able to incorporate new things straight out of Tech-Ed, so this was expanded beyond his usual presentation. The man really knows what he's talking about and communicates it well. Saturday we were travelling so there was time for a bunch of classes. Jeremiah Peschka (blog|twitter) did a great overview of some of the NoSQL databases and what they should be used for. The session was called "The Database is Dead" but it was really about how there are specific uses for these databases that SQL Server doesn't fill, but also that these databases can't replace SQL Server in other areas. Again, good material. Brent Ozar presented again with a session on Defensive Indexing. It was an overview of how indexes work and a deep dive into how to apply them appropriately in your databases to better support access. A good session, as you would expect. Then we pulled into Victoria, BC, in Canada and had a nice dinner with several of the Cruisers, including Denny Cherry (blog|twitter). After that it was back to Seattle on Sunday. By the way, the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle isn't a Science Fiction Museum any more. I was very disappointed to discover this. Overall, it was a great experience. I'm extremely appreciative of Red Gate for sending me and for Tim, Brent, Kendra and Jeremiah for having me. The other Cruisers were all amazing people and it was an honor & privilege to meet them and spend time with them. While this was a seriously fun time, it was also a very serious training opportunity with solid information coming from seasoned industry pros.