SQL Cruise Alaska 2012

I had the good fortune of joining the SQLCruise this year. Below is summary of my experience. I plan to write more detailed posts since there is so much I learnt both personally and professionally, but just had to get this out soon.

Countdown: I landed in Seattle on Thursday, May 24th. In the evening I did a tour of Seattle underground – during this tour got acquainted with fellow cruiser Wayne Sheffield and his family (wife,mom and m-in-law). They were great company on the tour and also in the days that followed. On Friday I did a tour of Snoqualmie falls – which included a visit to two wineries and a chocolate factory.The day ended with SQL Cruise kick off party – which was great fun and organized very well by Tim and Amy Ford. There was food for every taste and lots of fun games/prizes too. I picked up a few of Red Gate swag books for the user group and myself (thank you Red Gate). I left the party early since the next day seemed busy and was still suffering east coast jet lag.
Day 1: I took a cab to the pier around 11 am. The cruiseline promptly took over the luggage and I joined a big crowd of people waiting in the building outside the ship. I met with several fellow cruisers there and the wait was not long before we were called to check in. The check in process was simple – only involved a brief overview of passport and cruise documents, and one was issued tickets and other necessary stuff. By noon we were allowed to board the ship although our rooms were not ready. We were also allowed to eat lunch. It was an awesome first lunch on the sunny deck overlooking seattle harbor with a light breeze blowing in, with several friends for company. The ship took off by around 4 pm – and we were allowed to get into our rooms at the same time. After a short nap/rest everyone was ready to go for the Red Gate discover the ship contest – a fun game where we get a list of things ‘to do’ on board the ship that helped us explore various areas as well as get to know our partners well. I was paired with Jes Borland and her husband Justin – we had a great time getting around the ship and talking to various people for taking pictures with them. Jes is a natural extrovert and just being around her made me feel very upbeat, not to mention the fun we had going around various areas of the ship. By the time the contest was done we were tired – although we did not win the prize it was designed really well and thoroughly enjoyed it. The next day seemed packed with training so retired early.
Day 2: The day started with Brent Ozar‘s presentation on Procedure Cache BI. This is an area I work with a lot – I greatly enjoyed the presentation and discussion that followed. After lunch we continued with Kevin Kline‘s presentation on Leadership Skills for IT Professional. I learnt many things from this, also re confirmed my own assessment of myself – that I would probably do well as a technical expert than a manager. The class was also very interactive and we discussed lots of different scenarios ranging from outsourcing problems to difficult bosses.Kevin also mentioned the Quest give away of a whole suite of tools to all sql cruise attendees  – since I use almost all their products I asked if I could raffle this away at my upcoming SQL Saturday. I think very highly of Quest tools and this is a great give away.  In all this was a great and very enjoyable day. 
Day 3: We landed at Ketchikan bright and early at 7 am. I took a boat tour of Misty Fjords, which lasted 3 hours. The boat went through some amazing landscapes with misty cliffs and silvery waterfalls all around. We also saw some seals, eagles and bears en route (too far away for my little point and shoot camera to capture :(. After lunch we had a session with Allen White on SQL Sentry’s Plan Explorer – an excellent free tool that am already using. Allen showed many scenarios that the tool can be used with which I was not aware of. That was followed by Jeremiah Peschka‘s presentation on Killer Techniques for Database Performance. I was particularly struck by a difference he found between developer and enterprise editions on handling indexed views, and also by the ‘goats in the tree’ funny calender which I plan to order soon :)) Jeremiah also explained of how benchmarking can be doctored for any environment. I have always found his presentations to be funny and informative and this was no exception. The day ended with a fun dinner with several other sql cruise-ers.
Day 4: This day began with 3 glacier helicopter tour at Juneau. Standing on top of a glacier, the ponds of blue ice and the amazing serenity are highlights of my trip and sights i will cherish for a very long time. We spent the afternoon in the suite rented by the BrentOzarPLF team. The views from the suite was amazing. We had a story telling contest where many participants shared their stories of memorable work experiences – Darcy Williams won a Kindle fire prize for her simple,down to earth story.  Brent made mention of every one of our stories and gave each of us a gift that seemed to tie in with our stories in some way. He also took time to do a brief intro summary of his rather famous pre con professional workshop, which seemed informative in itself. That afternoon was great community time teamed up with amazing scenery as the ship sailed through the glacier.
Day 4: We docked at Skagway in the morning. I could not do the hike i had planned earlier due to some minor health issues – but the cruise line kindly accomodated me on a train ride to White Pass in the afternoon. The morning was spent shopping at the amazing art stores in downtown Skagway. The train ride was the best I had ever had in terms of scenic beauty, have a hard time even describing how awesome it was. The skagway break was long and we did not have any class this day.
Day 5: After 4 days of sight seeing this was a day of hard core training and began with Allen White‘s Introduction to Powershell. As someone who has not used much of powershell I learnt a lot from this. Allen also provided several useful links/info on blogs and books for those wanting to learn more on the subject. This was followed by Kendra Little‘s presentation on Sports Medicine for High Transaction Databases – she talked of baselining strategies for busy databases, how to find windows to do maintenence, and several other tips and tricks. The day ended with Robert Davis‘s presentation on backup and recovery strategies.
Day 6: The last day began with Brent Ozar’s presentation on Scaling SQL with Solid State. It was packed with great information on Solid State/Hard drive layout and various strategies to get the best out of it. It was a tough subject for me and i cannot claim I understood all of it but it seemed like a great start to learn more and plan to revisit these slides again soon. The training concluded with Idera Iditarod challenge – a clue based ship search with some sql questions thrown in. I was partnered with Max Gomeniouk. Max was an extremly  agile creative person who handled the ship search swiftly and well, while I fielded the sql questions. Between us we made a good team and managed to win the prize – a Kindle fire, a great start to my ebook reading habit. Thank you Idera for the well designed contest and the wonderful prize!! The afternoon was spent at Victoria, Canada –  I had dinner again with Kevin and his lovely mom Shirley and bid good bye to them.

In conclusion – you can perhaps count the number of times the word ‘amazing’ and ‘awesome’ appears in my post – that is perhaps an indicator of what a great trip this was. It is not easy to organize a training aboard a cruise ship – there is very minimal electronic communication, which is what we use most of the time for events, there is no ‘common’ place where one can post timetables or itineraries and it is hard to find people when you need them. Despite all these challenges Tim and Amy Ford designed a near flawless schedule with awesome trainers and great networking.

From the time i set foot in the boarding room on Day 1 until the time I actually got into a cab to the airport (oh no wait, I met a couple of people at the airport too 🙂 I was talking and socializing with someone from the group, and that in itself speaks for what a well knit, cool team of people we were together. Do consider the next SQLCruise on your travel/training agenda, it is worth every dime you spend. I surely am considering going on the next one,  already :))


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim Ford
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 21:47:45

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it and found the value I wanted all to get from the SQL Cruise events. See you at Summit Mala and congratulations on the new Kindle Fire!


  2. diligentdba
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 00:51:37

    Tim, wish i had mentioned the free resume’ review I got with Amy and you. Thanks much and can’t wait for my next cruise 🙂


  3. Ameena Lalani (@SQLHands)
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 03:00:20

    Hi Mala,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I will wait for your other technical posts that you plan to post in future about what you learned on the cruise. 🙂


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