Dave's Sketch Journal

Drawing is taking a line for a walk. - Paul Klee

Sunday, 12 Dec 2004

We were off to the wild blue yonder. Today is the day we sail.

We're up by 9:00, but there is no rush as the shuttle isn't until 11:30. We go down to the "continental breakfast" of eggs, toast, waffles, yogurt, cereal and coffee. It's not bad as these things usually are except the eggs are so rubbery (think of an egg patty) that they have the consistency of a vulcanized Frisbee.

A young Spanish guy with a leather jacket, two phones and a feminine lisp is calling out room numbers: "foa-tweny-ssseven...you in the nexs taxsi. Whatevah numba I call, you go." There is mass confusion in the lobby as one of the elevators is not working and people are still milling about sipping coffee and talking. Then someone came up to ask what shuttle they were in, could they leave earlier, what time could they leave? Meanwhile others are waiting for cousin Billy to hike down the stairs toting trunks for the voyage.

Milling about waiting for a taxi to the port

Ed spotted a guy with a red Porsche T-shirt and hat who promises to send us a couple of extras he has left over from the 2002 convention. Says he was in a 600-car rally that required the rental of an entire parking garage to accommodate them.

The shuttle dropped off at the pier in front of what looked like a fifteen-story building! This thing is massive. The Westerdam is an 82,000-ton vessel. It towers above the pier so high it blocks the sun. The glass external elevators are gliding up and down its sides as the crew ready the rooms for the occupants. There is some red tape to process before they let us aboard but it seems to go quickly as we eat from snacks Ruth has packed: nuts, water, crackers, cheese and mint chocolate cookies. An older couple behind us (we're talking in their 70s, this is the signature of this ship) benefit from two extras we had left over.

We drop off our bags and ride the external elevator from the second level to the ninth floor Lido Deck. It's the top deck where the pool is located. The music is playing and the bar is open. We order two pina coladas and eat tacos while relaxing by the pool. It's heady, dude.

There is a lifeboat drill before we leave the port. We report to a designated deck location and practice donning the life vests. I put on the vest but can't find the loops. How do you tie these things?

Lifeboat drill with Ted and Olive.

We eat at the Vista Lounge. It's at the back of the ship, ah...the stern I mean. Seas were a little rough and so was the seating. The cruise line mixed something up and instead of all six couples sitting together, we were split up and had to sit at two different tables. Some NOT in our party sat down and there was some tension before Ruth broke the ice and got everyone talking. One in our group leaned over to me and asked:

"Hey, why is Ruth talking to them, they aren't in our party?"

"I don't know. I can't be responsible for what she does." I joke.

Eventually everyone thaws from their icy stares and friendliness begins to seep through a porous border.

No matter what happens, travel gives you a story to tell. - Jewish proverb


Monday, 13 Dec 2004

Another ship next to us in Nassau

Bahamas. Nassau is the first stop. Not much here - just shops with vendors hawking their wares. One woman insulted Ruth by telling her she was cheap. We walked on and I said out loud to no one specifically but within earshot of the next vendor: "I don't know where she expects to go when she insults customers." "Nowhere!" said the next woman, and we bought from her.

The walk through Nassau was brief. If you only have a few hours, you'll only be able to walk a few blocks before re-boarding.

Carver in Nassau

The evening dinner was formal and hosted by American Express. The guys wore dark suits and tuxes while the girls wore their black formals. I packed a 1991 champagne that we popped off the deck and downed before going down to the restaurant. We had filet, lamb and halibut. I found a great Conundrum white wine on the wine list that was perfect. I ordered one for each table.

Dinner at the Pinnacle Grill

The distinguished Muths, Donna & Steve

After dinner we took in a Broadway musical of sorts. It was really a medley of tunes from European shows. The singers danced amid moving props and disappearing floors and didn't miss a beat. Now remember, we are on the ocean. The sea is pitching some and we are moving in our seats as we watch. Yet not one singer missed a beat.

"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." Oscar Wilde

A san francisco hotel is better than other hotels because of the whole package. The las vegas hotels are great but too expensive and an orlando hotel is affordable but not that good.


Tuesday, 14 Dec 2004

My uncle Richard warned me this cruise ship would have the "mature" crowd. Yeah, he wasn't kidding. They hobble down the corridor grasping the hand rails in one hand and their canes in the other. They are the pedestrian version of the "Blue Hair 10 and 2" drivers you might see on the road. Passing these folks is dicey at best. They'll stop in mid stride, or rather mid shuffle, and try to remember where they were headed. I've seen several electric scooters.

I was thinking we might get some anniversary cake but Richard says that they abandoned all cakes, including birthday pies, after an old lady's blue wig caught on fire. Burned down the entire dining room before they got it out. Besides, he says the celebrant doesn't have the lung capacity to blow out the candles. "Avoid" he says, "asking them what life was like when they were young. The cruise is only seven days!" I'm not saying I'm real young or anything, but I'd say some of these folks have hemorrhoids older then me.

After the dinner we went down to the theater. It's a three story theater with a balcony and moving platforms. Just before the illusion show, they put together a three panel, twenty questions quiz show. Fun stuff. It's just entertainment to warm the crowd. The place is jammed. This illusion show has drawn quite a crowd. (I'm typing this while we wait for the real show. Kind of rude, I know.)

In our finest with a 1991 bubbly

Earlier today Ruth went to a Dutch Tea Party. The Vista Lounge hosted the event complete with ice sculptures, sweet delicacies, and flambe coffee. I went to see the show Irobot with the guys.

The show is starting. I'll finish this later.

Wow, that was great. The guy is cracking jokes and used the thumb trick for several things. He tore a paper up, burned it, and restored the paper. In the intro illusion, there's a glass box that fills with smoke. The smoke clears and he's inside the box. In the dagger illusion, he has 45 seconds to escape before the 32 daggers drop. This is hard since he is shackled to a bed. Of course he runs out of time, the knives drop, and there's a gasp because you were just looking at his silhouette struggling with the chain across his waist. Finally, the hooded man that's been helping with the mechanism reveals himself as the illusionist. I actually thought he was better than Copperfield. He was much funnier, lighter, and
quicker with the sets.

Just to give you an idea of his sense of humor, he says: "I've even performed for the queen of England, at least that what he said he was. No, really, if I were that good do you think I'd be performing on a boat? The last boat I performed on was a 98-day tour. Unfortunately that was also the average age of the people on the boat. Hey, there's an advantage in performing for old folks like that. We can do the same show each night and no one remembers. In fact, we just go in and out of the same pier. Even the amenities aboard are different for that crowd. Instead of leaving a chocolate on the pillow in the evening, they leave a prune. In fact, the casino's one-arm bandits don't have the three cherries for jackpot, they have prunes, then they just go straight to the craps table."

Would you believe that they have a different show every night? Some are singing shows, others are the illusions, but all of them are great.

I've got to tell you a little about the ship. There is a complete sewage treatment plant in the hull of the vessel. What is called "black sewage" is treated until finally it is as clear as drinking water. There is also a glass shredder for recycling. Paper is burned in the incinerator and other waste not able to be processed is stored until they reach shore. On channel 32 (on TV), they take you on a ship tour explaining all the facilities you would never really get a chance to see.

"Travel is the ruin of all happiness. There's no looking at a building here after seeing Italy." Fanny Bujrney


Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004

I saw two people sitting together at breakfast. I assumed that they were married and traveling together. But they were really just strangers that just so happened to be sitting at the same table. The woman said to the man:

"Say, would it be too much trouble for you to get me a glass of water?"

"No, not at all, I would be glad to do that for you. But say, may I ask if you are traveling alone?"

"Why, yes I am."

"Me too. Well since we are both traveling separately, what do you say we hang out together, kind of as a team."

"Yes, that would be fine, in fact fantastic."

"Maybe we could pretend to be, you know, husband and wife just for the duration of the trip. What do you think?"

"That would be great!"

"Well, in that case" he said, "Get your own glass of water."

Ruth has been exercising and walking each morning. There's an excellent gym with weights and stationary bikes. They've got several types of spas including sea weed wrap and hot stone message. What gets me here is the price. Imagine spending $175 for a massage and "cleansing." These gym prices are insane. (By the way, the Greek word "gymnasium" means "school for naked exercise," which made toweling off the stationary bike even more important.)

We went to the Lido deck's Jacuzzi this morning. Many were in line down stairs for the shore excursions, so we played around the pool. They have large showers and body soap that you must use before going in. Imagine a solarium about 100 feet wide by 160 feet long. It covers the entire pool area and consists of five sections that compress and fold over each other to reveal a deep blue sky. Just as one of the stewards is opening the system, a 60ish woman is lathering up. She's got more wrinkles than my Atlanta map, but she continues to expose herself to the sun in a tiger print bikini. Wait! What is she doing? Oh my word, she's doing leg raises in broad daylight. I've got to turn away. Do they make sight sickness patches similar to the ones I use for the sea to prevent losing my lunch?

Jacuzzi on the Lido deck (level nine)

Ruth goes shopping in St. Maarten

I stayed back and lounged around the pool just reading. I've been reading "The Know-It-All" by A. J. Jackobs. It's about a guy that decides to read the entire Encyclopedia, all 32 volumes in a year. Others have done this, but I guess he's the only one that wrote a book about the experience. He's also very witty. Some of the facts are interesting too - like blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries are not berries at all, but bananas, oranges and pumpkins are! Yeah, I know you're wondering, "What makes a berry?" Well I'll tell you, or rather A. J. tells us a berry is a single ovary with lots of seeds. Whatever THAT means. Don't say you never learned anything from this blog.

But here's a great quote from the book. He went to meet Alex Trebek of Jeopardy who he quotes as saying: "Be curious even about things that don't interest you." I know I'm deviating from the cruise itself, but isn't reading books all part of the experience of the cruise? This is how I entertain myself when Ruth is on shore.

Back to the ship...

Ruth is back and we are enjoying a violin and piano ensemble at High Tea (3:30pm) in the Explorers Lounge. Ah, what could be grander? Earl Grey, a packet of pure sugar, a pastry and/or finger sandwich, and a beautiful view of the ocean through our portal. Here we sit on red velour crescent sofas around white linen tea tables. Highly polished silver tea pots reflect fresh cut flowers and white tea cups with royal blue borders overprinted with a gold filigree. I've been looking earnestly for a stowaway place for when we return to port. This just can't end.

High Tea

Tonight's dinner was okay. The meals have been good but not outstanding. I had duck, Ruth had an Indonesian dish. I think her meal was better. The dessert was outstanding. It was German chocolate cake with coconut filling and sitting in a lake of chocolate syrup. Fantastic.

We went up to the Crow's Nest to dance. We've been teaching ourselves to do swing but I forgot all the moves. I have to practice in the room before making a fool of myself again. The good news is that just our friends were there. The bad news is that we'll have to get new friends, they've disowned us after our dance debacle. Ted and Olive were out there doing the fox trot. Not bad.

As you know, food is always available on these big cruise ships, so we went to the Lido deck (9th floor) to fetch some dessert and coffee at about 11:30 p.m.

"To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries." Aldous Huxley

Thursday, 16 Dec 2004

It's 6:30am and the ship is coming in to port. We are at Tortola where we expect to meet some friends on a 50 foot sailboat. I took a quick walk around deck and watched them secure the ship. They use a 100-foot casting line with an orange floating ball at the end. They toss the ball to a guy on the dock. He pulls in the one-inch line that's attached to the real anchor line already formed in a loop at the end. Once the line is looped around the pier, a ship winch takes up the slack. There weren't many on deck at this time of day, just a few walkers. You could hear them coming up the deck from the squeak their tennis shoes made on the wet teak deck.

After a cheese omelet from room service we went ashore. Since we didn't know what boat our friends might have chartered, I checked with two harbor masters as well as a few charter companies. No one knew about any Kersey or 50-foot cat (short for catamaran). We must have walked three miles and checked fifteen piers but no success. Maybe they were not scheduled to come in until later or maybe their schedule changed and they came the day before. My cell phone was working and I left voice messages but that was all I could do.

Tortola vendor and friend
(Tortola means turtledove in Spanish)

We did check out some of the shops and some tents just outside the gates to the pier. There were three other ships our size in this tiny bay, so there was a lot of traffic from the taxis and people bustling around. I have to say that we really didn't spend much on this trip. I mean I still have money in my wallet. Of course you can't use cash on the ship. You just tell them your room number and they charge it to your room. They also issue you a room access card. It looks like a credit card, and on the ship it functions like one. This is a problem since you really lose track of how much you've been billed. When we got on, we had a $300 ship credit. Today they gave us another $50 ship credit. That was cool. Since alcohol is additional, your wine and mixed drinks can add up. At our formal night I bought some Conundrum white wine. It was great but reduced my ship credits by $45.

Each evening when you get back to the room, there is usually an itinerary of the next day's activities. Also a mint and sometimes a gift is left on your bed. The first day we got a canvas tote bag "from the Captain," the note said. The tote bag has the ship's name on it. Now as we go around the towns, people know we are tourists. They may have already known that because of the cameras hanging from our shoulders and the fanny packs clipped to our waists. But now the totes make it clear in case some were questioning.

Some of our friends were left an invitation to the Captain's lounge where you shake hands with the guy and ask dumb questions like: How fast does the boat go? (it's not a boat, it's a vessel or a ship, dummy) or How many trips have you taken? or How far below the water does the ship go? Those sort of questions. But alas, we didn't get the Captain invite. Maybe they know I'd ask those stupid questions and didn't want to put the Captain under undue stress. And that's okay with me since I don't want to ruin any chance of making home again. I mean, irritating the captain would be as smart as insulting your dentist while giving you gum surgery.

I did get to talk with the illusionist while I was in the Jacuzzi. He does two shows for the entire cruise. That's two shows every week. It takes him a full day to set it up. The lights and sound are all computerized and pre-timed. He just needs to be sure he's in the part of the stage for the spotlight. It takes another eight hours to tear it down and pack it. He brings six thousand pounds of stuff with him. And I thought I packed too much. He's on for two months and then off for a month. And Richard, if you are reading this, he'll be on your cruise in June to Europe. He's got a great show, you can't miss it. Anyway he's real down-to-earth Australian and brings his family with him. He has a boy, three, and a little girl, four. In fact, she was with us in the Jacuzzi and asked her dad to turn off the bubbles. When he told her he couldn't, another guy in the Jacuzzi (they have some big Jacuzzis) told him that he should be able to do it through magic. "Oh please, don't tell her that!" he said.

We pulled out of port at exactly 4:15. A band plays as we pull away. Sometimes you'll hear over the intercom for such-and-such party to please call the front desk at #92. Here's the cool part. Remember the card you use to get into your room? It is what you use to get on and off the ship. As they run the bar code reader over it, your face comes up on their screen. They scan going off so know who didn't get back on. The mug shot attached to the card was taken on Sunday when we first boarded.

We've heard all kinds of stories about people that get into accidents while ashore. One couple got into a moped accident, a bad one. Had to max out all their credit cards to fly them off the island -- $15,000 worth! Others that miss the boat just get caught up shopping and miss the re-board, so they have to scramble to arrange a flight to the next island to catch up with their ship. We always try to get on ship at least an hour before we have to.

We decide to eat up in the Lido instead of the more fancy main dining room. The food is all good but we just wanted to try something different or someplace different because it's really all the same menu. Also, you don't have waiters fussing over you nor do you have to wait for the next course. You just get up and get what you want, which reminds me that at our first sitting we had a waiter that showered less often than I go to the opera. This tends to discourage a few taste buds.

Tonight is card playing night. We're going up to the Muth's for some Canasta. They've got one of the deluxe suites. The place is big enough to park a HumVee in. Their bath is better than I've seen in most hotels. Two basins, shower and whirlpool bath. Gold fixtures set off the smooth Corian counters and marble floors.

"To loose a passport is the least of one's worries; to loose a notebook would be a catastrophe." Bruce Chatwin


Friday, 17 Dec 2004

The waves are two to four foot and the ship pitched all night long. It wasn't really too bad, once you stop fighting it and embrace the lulling. We brought patches and cut them in half - this helped I'm sure. I have not been sea sick nor even queasy. When I lay down, I kind of imagine I'm on a huge water bed.

Tying my robe in the morning was the toughest part of my day

So after climbing out of bed, we go for breakfast. Although we've had breakfast in bed a couple of times, it's nice to go up to the restaurant and see what's cooking. So here we are in the Lido (9th floor) eating scrambled eggs, sausage, mocha-coffee, and rolls.

Reading at breakfast in our favorite spot

Today is a sea day. That means we will not see any ports today - just water, endless water, fathomless water. It's the longest leg at sea for the entire trip.

As I nurse another cup of coffee, let's take a look at the agenda left in our room last night. Let's see what's on the schedule.

Hmmm...there is New Body Aerobics in the Greenhouse Spa (level 9), Win a Cruise Bingo at 9:45, oh here's one, Singles & Solos Lunch Get Together, yeah...er...no wait a minute...not sure what Ruth would say, better skip it. Cruise Crafts at 3:15 in the Piano Bar ... now I KNOW I'm on the old folks ship. Cruise crafts, what are they going to do - make ships out of popsicle sticks? Hey here's something: Dessert Extravaganza in the Vista Dining Room. Yeah, I could force some more dessert down the tubes. And another promising one: Holland America Flaming Bahamian Coffees in the Explorers Lounge at 7:00 this evening. I don't know, flaming and ship just seems like an oxymoron; they don't seem to go together. Doesn't sound like a great idea but then again there would be plenty of water to put it out.

One great thing about these cruises - you can do as much or as little as you wish. I decided to read. It's a good thing I brought plenty of books. I'm trying to finish The Know-It-All. Here's another excerpt: "Most people know about synonyms and antonyms but most don't know about capitonyms. A capitomym is two words that differ only in the capitalization of their initial letter like Polish and polish or Herb and herb." I know this is not earth shaking or anything but it is a know-it-all kinda thing to remember and relate to all your current friends, and I stress current. Try this out at your next dinner party. Here's another: A. J. Jakcobs (the author) reports that the higher your IQ, the more compulsions you're likely to have. For example, Nathan Hawthorne used to write the number 64 on all scraps of paper. Yeah, you heard it right. Every scrap of paper he handled he wrote "64." Now the author of this book has an even crazier compulsion, he can only turn off a radio just after a noun is spoken. Crazy I know but that's what he does.

A group has gathered at our table. We try to get the table with the angled glass facing the front of the ship. Then you can actually see the Navigation bridge and some activity below. Anyway, we decide on a few activities today. Scavenger Hunt sounds fun. Six of us decide to go at 10:30. Meanwhile we check out the gift shop.

These shops carry souvenirs but also gold by the inch and Russian diamonds, the best in the world. We start looking through the stuff. Ah here's one...five diamonds set in platinum for just $2,800. I'll take two. Not interested in diamonds? How about a watch? Here's one for a mere $12,000? That's correct, you read that right, twelve thousand dollars! It'd make a great gift for the graduate. Maybe if I saved up and skipped some lunches.

We decide to head down to the Scavenger Hunt in the Explorer's Lounge. There are twenty-five items you need to bring back within the hour. As soon as we see the list, we decide that the bast place to start is in one of the suites. We find a bag with Westerdam on it, a Westerdam envelope, some non-Westerdam candy, but a feather? Where are you going to get a feather in the middle of the ocean? Someone suggested the down pillow they brought from home; so we opened it up for a down feather. Some of these items are impossible: signatures from the staff? a picture of the White House? and a photograph of Times Square? Where are we going to get this stuff? Someone comes up with the idea of getting a book from the library. We decide to check it out on the way down. Meanwhile we are looking through the Holland America picture books they left in the rooms for the answers to other questions: what does the "ms" in ms Westerdam stand for? Name the ships in the Vista line. Well you get the idea.

We tried hard and ran back within 45 minutes, but we were beaten by three other teams. We were the third group back with four missing items. Two groups tied for first place and had every item (including a picture of Times Square in their digital camera) and got a set of give away items.

We also went to the Disembarkation Talk, but I don't even want to think about it. We'll be the second group off. One point that the Cruise Director made as they brought out the support staff on stage was that so many nationalities are represented, "therefore demonstrating that we all CAN get along." Good point. There were Indonesians, Philipinos, Asians, Germans -- 29 nationalities in all. There are so many involved in the support services, there are chefs, wine stewards cabin stewards, navigators -- 800 people in all to support about 2,000 people. 11,000 meals are cooked per day for just 2,000 people. How can a person eat five meals a day? Yet it did seem as though we were always eating something, eating somewhere. Ted looked at his watch: "Hey, it's been over an hour and a half since I've eaten. We've got to get up to the Lido Deck." Speaking of eating...

Dessert with Olive

Dessert Extravaganza was at 3:15 in the Vista Lounge. The Vista Lounge is not just a small affair. It's a huge restaurant that can seat 1,000 people on two floors. It has a center spiral stair case large enough to place a baby grand piano, violinist, and cellist halfway up the stairs. The center lighting resembles a canopy of multi-colored flowers about three feet across. The petals and their white stamens are made of glass. Our table is right at the glass of the promenade overlooking the wake of the ship.

Chocolate fountains

As you walk through the maze of dessert tables, it's apparent you'll never be able to eat all this. It is really a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach. There are ice sculptures of birds next to towering tiers of tarts, cakes, and chocolates. There is a chocolate fountain provided so that you can perform your own strawberry baptisms. There is chocolate everywhere - white, dark, filled, and drizzled. You can also get a slice of cheese cake with toppings of chocolate or fruit or no toping at all. As our waiter pours my tea and I glance out the portals into the vast sea my conscience strikes me a bit. There are so many in this world that scrape through with what they find in a trash bin and here we are indulging every sense. Couldn't it be just a little more even? As I contemplate this, I ask for another cup of Earl Grey tea.

Ruth watching her intake

By the time we finished the dessert, it was time to eat again. Tonight is formal so Ruth dresses in her black gown and silver necklace. I attempt to affix my new bow tie. Why did I decide to buy this thing? This is the first time I've ever owned a real bow tie. The others I had as a kid were simple clip-ons. It's very hard to get this right in spite of the printed diagrams I got from the Internet. I've tied it more times than they've tied this ship to pier, and my knots still don't look as neat. I do the best I can and hope no one will notice. I'll keep my chin down.

I've never had escargot, you know, cooked snails? I'm willing to try, I order escargot and lobster tail. Even though I've had dessert just two hours ago, I try real hard to get this down. Wow the escargot in butter and garlic just melts on the palate. The waiter comes by with melted butter for the lobster tails. We polished them off and Fred ordered another round of tails. Who could possibly eat better than this? Now the lights dim and coming from the front of the restaurant are a parade of waiters carrying Baked Alaska embellished with lit sparklers. It just got better.

Fred and Cathy Coronado elegantly dressed for the exquisite lobster meal

There were photographers all over the place. When we left the restaurant, we ran from photographer to photographer. Each had his own backdrop to pose in front of, one was just a setting sun, another was a ship at twilight, and the last was just plain white. Steve and Dona were with us, and just before the photographer snapped the picture they each whipped out a pair of sunglasses. This is their signature for for their cruises, formal dress with shades. So when it was our turn, we likewise donned the sun filters. Steve said we looked great. Must check this out tomorrow. Along the walk to dinner, they post all the photos taken the day before.

Ruth and I have been practicing our swing dance in the room using the iBook Patrick loaned me (it's got a DVD player). We think we are ready, so we ascend to the Crow's Nest. It's at the front of the ship. There are leather captain's chairs all around the walnut dance floor. We're nervous, shy, scared, intimidated. Everyone else is floating out there as if they don't even touch the floor. The boat pitches, we grasp some excuse about unstable floor and we leave to find the perfect dance surface. Besides, the steel drums don't match what we practiced.

We found a Jazz Bar, well at least that's what I call it. The girl sings blues with a buttery smooth voice. The bassist is also very good. We find some seats in the back, clear a small private dance area, and do a few steps. The floor is very stable here amidship, so we are not thrown off trying out our beginner steps. I just can't dance anywhere and certainly NOT in the rain. I am so bad; any little movement creates great confusion for my brain as I try to signal to Ruth what I'm going to attempt next. I've got the all the steps in my mind but it's a challenge communicating them to Ruth in a pitching ship. We practiced "he goes" "waist slide" "under arm" "open and closed position" so we feel we are ready. Besides, it's safer here in the back; no one's looking except the performers. At least we are better than when we started on the voyage, however insignificant.

Tomorrow is our last day but we try not to think about it. We go to our suite at 12:30 and start to watch a movie.

"It's time to return home when you look like your passport photo."


Saturday, 18 Dec 2004

This is the last day. We decide to watch us pull into Half Moon Cay (or San Salvador). We are to spend a full day here. Holland America purchased this island here in the Caribbean. The ship moores just outside the crescent bay and "tenders" in the passengers who want to go ashore. There is a small square complete with a post office on the island. The sand reminds us of Kailua, Hawaii. It's powdery white with almost the consistency of confectioners sugar. There are stacks of lounges, shaded tents, palms and hammocks. We decide to take our time going onto the island and eat breakfast at leisure.

There is often a rush to get on shore or back on the ship, so we tend to wait and go ashore after the rush. We spend less time ashore and come back early. I mean really, it's supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Rushing tends to destroy the very thing I'm trying to accomplish here. Besides, there is little on shore to do. I didn't even go ashore at St. Maarten; that way I had all the ship's accommodations to myself, well mostly except for a very few other smart shipmates.

We bump into the Ebners, so we go ashore with them in the same tender.

Tender pilot to Half Moon Cay

Ed bought a really cool watch. It's got a clear front and back made of sapphire. You can see all the gears inside.

Ed's faceless watch

Very cool. Now he can stick his arm out the window of his Porsche at the stop lights with pride. I asked him if I could borrow it on long trips in my Porsche. He gave me a frowny face and rolled his eyes. He doesn't wear it on these shore excursions. Doesn't want to mar it's polished surfaces. So I get a kick asking him, "Hey, Ed, what time is it?" This irritates Ruth but gives me great satisfaction. I wear my twelve-year-old Seiko everywhere, even weed whacking.

Anyway, I swam out to the swimmer's rope some 200 feet out. The bow of the ship faced the island at about a half a mile out. I snapped a picture of Jesse and Becky with our ship in the background.

Little Tilly, Jesse and Becky's daughter, was a real trouper. She had a great time with mom and dad.

Tilly (Jessie and Becky's little cutie)

The weather is perfect. The temperature is 81 degrees. There's an island-fresh gentle breeze combing through the palm trees just over my head. Puffy clouds against a royal blue sky is what I saw as I lay on the lounge. The water was a baby blue color graduating to a midnight blue under the ship. What could be better? "Dave, want something to eat?" says Ruth just behind me. "How about a hot cheese burger from the grill?" Yeah, maybe so.

We packed up shortly after 1:00 to head back to the ship. It looked like it was getting ready to rain and we wanted to beat the rush back to the ship. Besides, we figured we could hang out in the jacuzzi, kind of have it all to ourselves.

Approaching Westerdam in tender from Half Moon Cay

Ruth is talking about playing some ping pong. They have two Ketler indoor/outdoor tables identical to ours at home. There were a few good players. They had scheduled some tournaments too. The Chinese father and son team were great.

Sure enough, we got back to the ship and it started to pour. It was a beautiful tropical rain. After a shower to wash off the sand, I sat on the outside balcony to watch the rain patter against the calm seas. The weather is awesome. I was so tempted to jump off the ship from our room just about six stories up. The cameras would tag me for sure.

We all ended up at Ed's room to have some Champagne before our last supper. Over dinner Steve and Donna showed us some of the expensive-looking rings they got from the gift shop. On the last day they try to sell out everything. Some of the stuff goes to 40-75% off. They were having a special on rings. This stuff looks great! So after dinner we went on a shopping spree and bought four rings. What's cash but to spend? The others bought a ring or two each.

Rings and more rings

I brought with us our '97 Chateau St Jean reserve. We went back to Ed's room to photograph all the girls rings and then all the guys rings. We opened our '97 and it blew us away. This stuff was outstanding. It went down like water but exploded on the palate. The body was viscous and the bouquet was full and rich. There were six couples by now so we each got enough to taunt us.

Since our bags need to be outside our cabins by 1:00, we all ran to our staterooms to pack. We are to meet at the Atrium Lounge for song, dance, and some wine. We just dump our stuff into the suitcases, sit and zip. We've got another night aboard to fill and we can't be bothered with these incidentals.

I sit here writing these last words before our final night. I'm near the Internet office using a wireless notebook. The leather chairs surround chrome and glass tables sitting on deep wine-colored carpets.

We dance our final evening in the Atrium Lounge. Ruth and I have gotten better - no one laughs at us. Sure there is some polite snickering, but I truly believe it's because they cannot spend the big dollars on lessons that we did. No matter, we'll be teaching beginners out on the dance floor soon. Last night in the Crow's Next (afore deck, tenth floor), we saw a man in his 90s gliding a woman around in her 60s. I was checking the floor for oil or grease - he was so smooth. He was hunched over and was only about five foot five. He wore a black hat that looked like a Greek fisherman's hat complete with a braided band above the visor. This is the man I aspire to - not the stature but the dance.

We drained our bottle of '97 St. Jean between dances. We also had a stash of extra chocolates left each night on our pillows. Chocolate and Cab go together well. And that's what's cool about this journey; you can carry your drink or bottle anywhere and opened. Try THAT in a moving car sometime.

We sleep soundly.

"If you always traveled, where would you call home?" - Dave Terry


Sunday, 19 Dec 2004

I'm remotely aware I'm on a ship, but it all seems so calm. Are we in port? I'm at the lanai now looking out our cabin and see ugly container boxes. It's true, we are back. Uggghh. We need another week or maybe two. Perhaps Ruth has surprised me and bought us a back-to-back cruise? Just thinking how cheap it would be to LIVE aboard. The cheapest cabin is $350; that's $700 for the two of us each week. It would include food. We wouldn't need a car so no car payments, no mortgage, no car/house insurance, what else? No yard service costs, no health insurance because they have an infirmary. Yeah, the month-to-month is looking better. Ruth will teach basket weaving during ship craft sessions aboard. I could wait tables, do ventriloquism, or just swab the deck...maybe work my way up to Captain. If I stow away, they'd have to keep me until the next island anyway. By then I would ingratiate myself with the crew.

Ed calls. They are up in the Lido and we are eating our last breakfast in our state room. Ed would probably tell the crew and blow my cover. I guess I need to go up there and join them.

Ed and Debbie Ebner, our cruise organizers

The de-boarding was uneventful but very shocking. Taxis, buses, people, fire trucks and sirens are blaring through the pier. I nearly ran back to the ship. What a mess. This can't be happening.

The End of a great time

Of all the airline tickets, the best ones come from midwest airlines, closely followed by hawaiian airlines. Then there are the allegiant airlines but there are more expensive.


Final Cruise Log

Total distance: 2277 nautical miles

Ports: Ft Lauderdale, Nassau, St. Maarten, Tortola,
Half Moon Cay

Average speeds: 15, 21, 12, 20, 21 nautical miles

Max speed: 23 knots

Temperatures: 84, 86, 90, 80, 84

5 diesels generators (3x16,000hp + 2x12,000hp)
1 gas turbine (18,000hp) total: 84,000hp

Fuel consumption:
diesel: 216 tons/day = 57,000 gallons
gas: 90 tons/day (200,000 gallons)

Water production: 1,700 tons/day (450,000 gallons)

Water consumption: 750 tons/day (200,000 gallons)

If you are looking for a travel vacation and donít want the monotonous hotels, maybe you are looking for cruises instead. You donít have to worry about the car rental either. You can just board cheap flights and take off with the cruise itself.


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