Dave's Travel Journal

A vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking. - Earl Wilson


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."

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