Today's Date: 25 May 2013
Last Updated: 24 May 2013 18:48:10 CIT
Welcome to Vicki's Voyage blog! Vicki Wheaton will be blogging her adventures and misadventures below as she embarks on an Alaskan cruise.
Vicki Wheaton was born in the UK but grew up in the Cayman Islands. She has a BSc in Maths and Computer Science and has worked in IT since she was 20 years old. After many years of being a freelance writer, she has decided to pursue it full-time. When not trying to meet deadlines, she is an entertainer and hosts many charity events.
PO Box 1365
Grand Cayman KY1-1108
Our last day at sea
Posted 22 May, 2013 01:17 PM
It seemed we were determined to cram in as many activities as possible on our last day. Lynne attended the first trivia on her own as I was still sleeping, then once I was up she informed me of OUR schedule throughout the afternoon into the evening.
In no particular order: we went to the last blowout bingo session with Will and Jennifer where we were sooooo close to winning $176 to split between the four of us, we could almost taste it. We also attended another Billboard trivia session where one of the answers revealed was definitely wrong, but as I didn’t want to be one of THOSE passengers, I mentioned it quietly after the quiz. I might have been a bit louder about it if it would have made a difference to our score, but it wouldn’t have, so….
Our proudest moment came in the Broadway musicals trivia game, when we actually beat everyone else by an unbelievable four points. We beamed as we accepted our luggage tag prizes. My mother will be so happy when she reads this, although Mum you won’t believe that we missed recognizing “I’m in love with a wonderful guy”. For shame…
That night we had dinner with our new friends, exchanged email addresses and promised to stay in touch. We then all went to karaoke where I was the only singer, and I did a few numbers before we went on to the final show in the theatre. It was supposed to be a British Invasion night, and they teased you with the notion that you’d hear lots of Beatles etc… but as usual we got one Beatles number and a lot of obscure songs from the era, as the cost of being able to perform them usually restricts what the ship can offer.
I had a last flutter at the casino on Blackjack where I came away a whole $30 up. We were rich!
When we got back to the cabin the suitcases had already gone. We’d packed them between activities earlier and put them out before dinner.
That night I didn’t sleep well at all. I never do on the last night before docking in port, I don’t know why.
I was tired the next morning, but got up at 9am to pack the last few things in my carry-on bag. Lynne got her final bowl of oatmeal, swearing that she’d be eating it every day when she returns to Cayman.
“Sure! There’s that great instant oatmeal!” I said.
“Nooo… I don’t care much for instant.”
“Well maybe you could cook a big lot ahead of time and then have it in the fridge to take small portions from each day.”
“Yeah…I’m wondering if that will work though.”
I gave up. Honestly, she saps my strength. After all, I’m such a fantastic traveling partner!
Once we had everything ready to go; the last drawer had been emptied and the last bed looked under, we bid a farewell adieu to our wonderful cabin that had served us so well and went to face the landlubbing world once again.
I braced myself for the departure. In Florida this usually takes ages. Long lines, Immigration, fighting for a taxi… This experience was none of those things. Honestly, from ship to taxi took us all of about 15 minutes at the most. It was terrific on one hand, but on the other, we now had five hours before our flight.
We toyed with the idea of walking the streets of Vancouver, pulling our cases behind us, but then thought better of it. We would head to the airport early, find some food and wonderful free and fast Wi-Fi, and hunker down for a while.
A break in the posts
Posted 22 May, 2013 02:20 AM
Ya can’t catcha tan in Ketchikan
Posted 18 May, 2013 02:50 AM
Well brunch ended up being a bit of a waste of time. First of all the buffet was a zoo, and then we couldn’t find seats on the food level so we had to transport our meal upstairs where there were tables available.
The service wasn’t great, the trio playing music looked like they were playing for their own funeral, and the orange juice (when it eventually came) was significantly watered down. Why had we been so keen to attend the thing in the first place?
We only stayed for about an hour and then went back to the cabin to get changed for Ketchikan. The night before Rich had announced that Ketchikan was one of the rainiest places on earth, and judging by what we saw out the windows, we had not arrived on an exceptional day.
We had already decided that we wouldn’t go on a tour – we would just wander around the town.
Even though it looked really cold outside, it actually wasn’t that bad. We took a jaunt down the street and stopped in a number of shops, but apart from a few knickknacks, there wasn’t much to interest us, until we stopped in a fine art gallery that exclusively sold the works of Eddie Lee – an extraordinary artist known for his exceptional carving work.
At the entrance to the shop was a 10,000-year old mammoth tusk he had found and painstakingly carved over two-and-a-half years. It was an incredible piece of work (see attached photo) that beckoned us into the place.
I couldn’t resist; I ended up buying a small piece for more money than I had planned to spend, but I just loved that man’s stuff.
We spent the rest of the time wandering around, and luckily I managed to find a chocolate shop before we turned back to the port. It’s always a good idea to stock up on calories in the winter cold.
Ketchikan was another very attractive Alaska town, but it was hard to see it all in the rain and fogginess. As the ship was only there for six hours, we made it a short shopping excursion and got back in time for dinner where we shared our day with our tablemates.
The comedian Johnny Cardinale was scheduled to perform again, this time with the Celebrity singers backing him up. I was tired, and so although I was tempted to go just so I wouldn’t feel I was missing anything, I made the brave decision to relax in the cabin.
Lynne went along, and 45 minutes came back to say that unfortunately his act hadn’t improved since the last time. Kids or no kids; he just wasn’t funny.
For the first time in the cruise I didn’t venture out. Besides, I had to catch up on this blog!
Tomorrow is our last day on the ship and it’s a day at sea. We’re going to miss our cabin and our new friends, particularly when we get off in Vancouver on Sunday, but at least we know our vacation won’t be over. We’ll be off to California for a week!
Let’s see what trouble we can get up to in the next 36 hours…
Dancing our way to Ketchikan
Posted 18 May, 2013 01:33 AM
So last night it was Dancing With The Stripes; an evening when the officers are paired up with passengers in a dance competition. Despite how tired Lynne and I both were after Juneau, we wanted to go along to watch it.
We got there early to get a good table, and Emily from the event staff immediately ran over to talk us into signing up. It didn’t mean we’d be picked, but at least she’d have participants.
Well of course we both got chosen. I was paired up with a nice, quiet South African officer about my height and probably 80lbs lighter. Lynne, on the other hand, ended up with an enthusiastic Filipino officer – Francis – who was only a little taller than she. They really made the perfect couple. I had attended enough of these in the past to know that you had to be wacky and stand out in order to have a chance at winning.
“I’m just warning you,” I whispered in my partner’s ear, “I’m probably going to be a bit of an idiot.”
“Oh me too,” he whispered back.
Excellent. This was going to go as planned.
Well it seemed he was all talk. The minute the band began playing the cha-cha, our first challenge, he went into serious mode. He didn’t want to go near the front where couples were already beginning to show off. Instead he tried to get me to make the right moves in a dance with which I was almost completely unfamiliar. It must have looked like he was trying to move a big, uncooperative bureau around the floor.
In the meantime Lynne and her partner seemed to be doing very well. They obviously had an advantage over us, which improved further when Francis made a spirited turn and crunched down on my relatively unprotected foot.
“OW!” I announced loudly.
“Sorry!” he shouted back, immediately returning his attention to the apparently very malleable Lynne.
After the cha-cha followed by the waltz and the tango, we got a welcome break. I was heaving but my partner seemed barely affected. Time for the first elimination.
I was completely shocked to find that we had made it through to the second round. I reinforced my plan to him that we should get to the front and start to make our presence known. He smiled, humouring me, but again once the band started he went all conservative again. Determined to get my way, I strong-armed him to the head of the pack which by now had separated into those trying to dance somewhat properly, and those who were definitely marching to the beat of their own drummer, with piggyback rides and out-and-out sprinting included in their programme. Lynne and Francis were still going strong, but I could tell that despite my efforts, we were going to be out in the next round. No amount of me trying to throw my hair around and move my considerable hips in the salsa was going to save us. Sure enough, we were out, and I’d swear my good-natured officer seemed relieved.
I was given a 2XL Celebrity T-shirt that looked more like a logo’d bedsheet, and took my seat, ready to cheer on my friend.
As good as I knew she was, I was getting a whole new perspective from that chair. Lynne and her man were fantastic! Psy’s Gangnam Style pumped through the speakers, and as the other two couples went completely, ridiculously over the top, Lynne’s team just kept their dignity (somewhat), trying to win the classy way.
It was supposed to be over after that, but unsurprisingly the sadistic judges felt they needed to see “one more performance to be sure.” The DJ was asked for a song perfect for interpretive dance, and what should be chosen but “My heart will go on,” from Titanic.
Again, the other teams were going to the extreme with life preservers being pulled out of corners and the kind of high twirls that might have ended in tragedy if one of the hanging lights had been compromised.
Lynne stood with her arms outstretched at her sides, as Francis lifted her, Cirque du Soleil-style, and gently transported her around before the pair of them almost graduated to a ballet full of long looks and almost professional lifts. In the end the whole scene was a bit like Titanic before she sank. Manic people racing everywhere with no discernible goal, and the quartet keeping their cool in the chaos, carrying on as though oblivious to the melee around them.
I can honestly tell you with my hand on my heart that Lynne and Francis got the most applause, but Joe the Financial Controller and his tall, slender passenger partner won the prize when it was all said and done. Lynne was happy with her T-shirt, and all the compliments she received afterwards from supporters who basically said she was robbed.
We headed to the martini bar for one more beverage, and even Rich who had been one of the judges stopped Lynne to say that he had been rooting for her couple. I nearly said that I might have had more of a chance if I hadn’t been stuck with some deadwood, but then I realised that said wood was standing right behind him, so I refrained.
The next afternoon the ship would be stopping at Ketchikan so we planned to get up at a decent time to enjoy the one brunch of the cruise and then dress for the great outdoors.
With that in mind we went to sleep at a decent hour.
Queens of the mushers
Posted 18 May, 2013 12:03 AM
The weather in Juneau was a vast improvement on Icy Strait Point. There was a bit of sun in the sky, and no rain. We didn’t have to meet our tour guide until 11.15am, so we had lots of time in the morning to pack enough warm weather gear to take us through an Antarctic winter. We had been told that the temperature on the glacier would be 10 to 15 degrees colder than in Juneau, and we didn’t want to be distracted by cold extremities when we were dogsledding.
I put my camera, two pairs of sunglasses, a water bottle and a shapeless yet very warm heavy woolen poncho in my backpack. Lynne was wearing all of her stuff, including her large fake-furry hat.
We stepped off the ship into downtown Juneau and quickly found the meeting point. We were a bit early and Lynne was hungry, so we found Juneau’s answer to Paperman’s (complete with an Alaskan version of Paul behind the counter) where we got coffee and two breakfast burritos. It was enough to tide us over, and we grabbed our things to take to the bus for ERA Helicopters. We were the last to join the group, so once we’d taken our seats we were given a briefing by the entertaining driver, Tammie, as we made our way along the streets to the heliport.
We arrived at the ERA heliport, and got a long talk about what to do in an emergency, how to blow out the doors on the copter, how cold the water was… I’m sure I wasn’t alone in hoping that nothing untoward would happen.
We had to check in our bags and were given boots to cover our footwear that instantly made us all look like Frankenstein. We also had to wear life jackets as we’d be flying over water. By the time I’d donned my heavy sweater over my turtleneck and fleece with the lifejacket on top, I looked like a cross between a yeti and Chaka Khan; my hair huge and blowing all over the place.
We were split into groups of six and each group was assigned a helicopter. As they opened the door I tried to fathom how I, big as I was plus ample clothing, was going to fit on that tiny seat. Seemed to me that the other three in that back row were going to be all kinds of wedged.
Lynne and another woman got the two front seats next to our pilot Jennifer, and then we were off!
At first we were over Juneau and the cruise ships, but then we turned left and began to cross the tops of snow-covered mountains that got more impressive with every minute. It’s so hard to describe the beauty of it – with a light cloud cover and the snow so white, blanketing everything save a few rocks and trees, it was hard to tell where the mountains ended and the clouds began.
We headed down between some peaks, and then towards incredible glaciers – so much more impactful from this perspective. We could see the large crevasses that split the glaciers along the top, and as we flew over them, we looked down to the dark, dark blue ice in-between.
After Jennifer had pointed out some places, we headed to the Norris Glacier where the dog camp was set up. Again – it was miles of snowy white acreage between mountains. It almost seemed criminal to set down on it.
There were tents and dog houses and that was about it. Apparently they fly everything there (including the dogs) for the summer and then work 12-hour days taking tours and training the animals.
All our helicopters arrived around the same time, and once the rotors had stopped spinning we all got out.
The first step was fine. The second, I was into the snow up to my thigh. Seemed the landscape up here was pretty soft, and so even though it was a short distance to the dog camp, it felt like miles. One minute we’d find a solid spot; the next we’d be flailing as our boot disappeared a foot or so into the snow.
By the time we got to the dogs, not only was I exhausted but I was warm. It was warmer here than in Juneau, particularly with the sun reflecting off the white everywhere. I began to peel off layers, and was down to my turtleneck top before they even began the briefing.
We were told that it was a family-run business, and that all the dogs were actual racing dogs for fun jaunts like the Iditarod. Then they showed us how to stand on the sled, hit the foot brake and sit on the seats.
“We’re going to go around in a loop,” our host said, “and even though that mountain looks close, it’s actually three miles away.
“I bet you thought it was closer and you could walk to it, huh?”
I privately thought I’d be lucky if I could go another 50ft on that terrain, but I kept it to myself.
It was difficult to hear anything he said as the dogs – all 150 of them – were going absolutely bonkers. They were each tethered to their wee homes, and barking, whining and jumping in the air, clearly desperate to get hitched up and on the trail.
Again we were split into groups, but Lynne and I were happy to see that it would just be the two of us with a very cheery young lady called Tamara. She had been a musher since she was a child, and although she wasn’t keen on racing, she still loved dogsledding for fun.
For the first part of the trail across the white snow we took seats and she ran the dogs. It was quite the view we had – lots of dogs’ bums moving as one in front of us, legs keen to go as quickly as possible, each with booties on their feet.
I had been prepared to feel all guilty; this well-fed British woman lazing in a seat whilst being pulled by a bunch of unlucky pooches, but really it didn’t seem to bother them at all.
When we took our first stop, Lynne moved to a mushing position in the sled behind Tamara’s. I went back to my seat and all then all Tamara had to shout was “OKAY!” and those dogs were off again. Lynne clearly hadn’t expected such a launch forward, and I could hear her laughing behind us.
After the second stop I got to drive, and I could see what she meant. It was like being in the car being towed by another with only a rope between you. The front sled got a smooth start, but the minute that rope got taught between us, I flew forward, glad that I was gripping the handle as tightly as I was.
It was amazing – here we were, moving along this incredibly white snow, surrounded by mountain peaks, being pulled by 10 enthusiastic dogs. I felt like the white queen from Narnia.
We stopped a few times so the dogs could rest and we could switch positions. It was great fun and Tamara was a hoot. Such a brilliant experience.
When we got back we met the dogs up close, and some were more friendly than others, but then what could we expect? They had just pulled us a mile or so across the snow and we didn’t even have a treat for them.
As if by magic, four helicopters came over the mountains in a group like a scene from M*A*S*H. We got back in and made our way once again through the snow-capped peaks before landing at the heliport.
Everyone was raving about the excursion as we divested ourselves of our lifejackets and boots. This had NOT been a cheap trip, but we all agreed it was worth every penny.
We went back to downtown Juneau and Lynne and I decided we’d get something to eat and browse shops for a while. We ended up at another crab shack, and this time Lynne got Alaskan king and I got snow crab. I was starving, but I couldn’t finish my 1lb of claws. It was just too much. I was also getting pretty cold, despite the sunburn on my nose from the sun it caught on the glacier. We finished up and headed to the library for some WiFi access in the warmth.
After that it was shop after shop. We’d deliberately chosen local shops as we routinely avoid the chain ones, looking for something genuinely made in Alaska. Unfortunately we found lots of goods, but they were all very expensive. I consoled myself with the fact that transporting a totem pole to Cayman would have been fraught with all kinds of problems, and moved on.
An hour later we were both exhausted. Our feet and knees were hurting us and bags were weighing us down. We thought of the sled dogs laughing at our weak limbs as we slowly made our way back to the ship. It truly had been a wonderful day, but we both realised we simply weren’t built for mushing (or shopping) professionally.
Posted 17 May, 2013 04:15 PM
After the delights of Icy Strait Point we hadn’t been sure if we’d be up for anything when we got back, but there was a comedian – Johnny Cardinale – performing in the main theatre and he seemed to have some pretty good credentials. Maybe we’d stop by and see him.
We took seats kind of close to the back of the room because it was pretty full, and ordered a couple of drinks. Cruise Director Rich Clesen came out to build him up, and then Johnny himself took the stage.
He wasn’t five minutes into his act before two parents brought down their eight year-old child to the front row on the left. It was a 10pm show, so you had to believe it wouldn’t all be about the muppets and Dora the Explorer. He was visibly taken aback, and made a small joke along the lines of “Ah! Kids near the front, just as I requested!”
As he tried to get back on track, clearly attempting to self-edit his material to make it a bit more age-appropriate, another parent brought down her toddler and young child to the front row in the centre section. Again Mr. Cardinale made a comment, and he was now sweating a bit about it all. His discombobulation was not lost the audience, and slowly but surely, members of it began to get up and leave.
I really felt for him – it was ridiculous that parents were bringing their young kids to what was obviously meant to be an adult’s show, and he was struggling to deal with the miniature surprises dotted throughout the front rows.
We ended up leaving before the end ourselves, and as we left a woman said “Wasn’t he awful?” I tried to explain to her how difficult his situation had been, but she wasn’t buying it. I gave up and we went to the martini bar before retiring to the cabin.
The next day we were cruising but would be visiting the Hubbard Glacier – the largest seawater glacier in the northwestern United States. The captain announced that weather permitting, he would be opening the bow so people could get a close-up view.
We slept in pretty late, so by the time we woke up we could already see lumps of ice in the water. We were supposed to be at the glacier for around 10am, and so we finally got on some warm clothes to head to the bow.
It was pretty busy out there. Loads of people gathering to watch the ship get closer and closer to this huge wall of ice. Apparently the glacier is about 1000ft high, but it was difficult to tell from that distance. I wondered if the captain had ever heard about Titanic, as ice gathered around the sides of the ship and the ever-chirpy Rich announced over the speakers that the biggest percentage of ice was under the surface.
It was difficult to get to the very front. People were clearly parking themselves there for the duration, so although we couldn’t see it as well as some, we saw enough to realise that there wasn’t enough to enthrall us for an hour straight.
Cold members of staff went around with trays of Bailey’s-spiked hot chocolate for the bargain price of $9.95 with souvenir cup. Any chance to make a buck.
We took a couple of photos and went back inside.
After an hour or so of manoeuvring as closely as possible to the blue and white mountain before us, the captain turned the ship 360 degrees just in case anyone had missed it, and then proceeded to pull out to plot a course to Juneau.
Lynne and I went to an elegant tea offered to Elite Members, of which I was one. I had enjoyed one on a previous cruise with my mother and wanted Lynne to experience it. Unfortunately we got seated with a couple that were kind of miserable and basically implied that their home town in British Columbia had gone downhill due to all the Chinese that had moved into the area. As I tried to change the subject, I talked about our time in Vancouver and how marvellous it was to see all the boats parked in the harbour, to which the snooty old British lady at our table piped up: “I think you mean ‘moored’ – sorry, but I’m a yachtswoman.” I felt like saying “And you’re also a cow,” but I resisted getting into a mudslinging match with a 90 year-old. We finished our tea and resolved to speak to the Captain’s Club representative about seating us with racists and mean old ladies in the future.
We went to our dinner at 6pm to relay our tales to our (thankfully) wonderful tablemates we had come to know over the previous evenings. Deanne and Barry were from Vancouver and just enjoying a vacation; Will and Jennifer were from Idaho and celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary; and Olwyn “Ollie” and her husband Ross were on the start of a retirement trip of a lifetime that would take them from the cruise to Chicago, New York, the UK and Turkey before flying back home. A two-month odyssey that they were clearly thrilled about. We mentioned that we would be going dogsledding via helicopter the next day, and Will who used to be a helicopter pilot said I should ask our pilot to “auto-rotate onto the glacier.” I promised to not Google it beforehand, but I got the impression that a laugh at my expense was in store.
After dinner Lynne and I went to a Captain’s Club social. This is when the officers are supposed to mingle with the guests and there are complimentary cocktails and appetisers. We had a drink each, but couldn’t face the food as we’d come straight from a big meal.
Although the captain went around a bit along with a couple of other officers, the rest of them huddled in the corner like frightened rabbits, constantly referring to their watches so they could get out of there as soon as possible.
Our tea companions were sitting at other tables, so we didn’t hang about. Clearly we were going to meet no handsome officers desperate for girlfriends who collect cats like pieces of pottery, so there was no point in staying any longer.
We went to a couple of the bars where there was entertainment, but Lynne couldn’t keep her eyes open and I was feeling pretty sleepy myself. This fresh Alaskan air is obviously like carbon monoxide to the pair of us.
Juneau was the next day. Doggies, here we come!
Humpbacks in Hoonah
Posted 17 May, 2013 01:18 PM
(Carol Rouse CLEARLY doesn’t have the substandard Internet issues we have here. Rousey, this one’s for you!
Icy Strait Point was the only tender port we’d be hitting, but luckily with my cruise status (ahem) we got priority boarding so we were on one of the first tenders going ashore.
It was only a short distance, and we got a good view of Celebrity Millennium on the way. She had been there since morning and was fixin’ to leave soon.
We were early enough that we got a short amount of time to peruse some goods in the shop, and then we slowly made our way to the private tour parking lot where we found our bus. There were only four other passengers on board along with the driver Bill and our Captain Paul. Paul was holding forth on the subject of Alaska wildlife as Bill told us that we were waiting for one more.
The last person showed up about 10 minutes later: Nigel from our ship. His wife walked to the bus with him, but apparently after a terrible bout of seasickness the last time she’d gone on a boat, she wasn’t going to risk this trip.
With all accounted for we headed off to the small town. Hoonah has a population of about 750 people with no local radio or television station, but that’s fine because between gossip and notices on the board in the only grocery store, everyone easily keeps abreast of the goings on in this quirky little place.
The boat was very nice and according to Paul, recently new and acquired by his company for this season. With only seven passengers plus Paul and his son, there was lots of room and it was blessedly heated inside. The windows were large so we could see wildlife, and Paul said that when we saw a whale, we were all welcome to go out on the bow.
The rain was falling lightly and there were misty clouds around the surrounding mountains. The two together made one shiver at the idea of plunging into the water.
As we went out further and further, Paul talked a mile a minute on subjects ranging from bears to how he wished his son would paint more because he was so darn good at it. It was hard to hear him sometimes what with the engines ‘n’ all and although we’d first felt bad for Nigel, taking a seat alone near the back, we began to wonder if there was perhaps some method behind his madness as we craned our necks to hear Paul’s thoughts on why log cabins were a bad idea in rainforest country.
There were no bears to be seen, despite the fact that the area was supposedly rife with them, but what we did witness on a regular basis were many bald eagles. They were everywhere – it was fabulous. Clearly they were coming back from the endangered list in droves.
Just as we were beginning to wonder if we would ever see a whale, someone espied a blowhole over there ahead of us. Paul motored over in that direction, and even though it disappeared for a short period of time, it suddenly reappeared with a blow, a hump and finally a huge tale, that elegantly slipped down back into the water.
The moment we saw that it was going to perform a bit for us, we were out on the bow of that boat…or at least the women were. The men stayed inside in the warmth, as we entered the brisk and immediate cold, emphasised by the light rain that slowly infiltrated every piece of clothing.
One hardy soul with her very expensive camera was determined to stay out there for the entire ride once that whale was spotted. As it was difficult to operate the Canon with gloves on, she stood there with blue fingers, ready to aim and shoot the moment the beast reappeared.
Lynne and I went out in intervals. I was wearing my red and black Michael Kors poncho, complete with gold button in the front. Probably not the ideal gear upon reflection, as everyone else had donned sensible, insulated jackets for the trip. But then again, who would have fared better if a fashion runway had suddenly appeared?
My point exactly.
We followed the humpback around for about an hour or so, and curious seals popped up from time to time to squeals of delight. Although the rain was slowly becoming more determined, we stayed out to watch the wildlife. Rainbows, bald eagles, humpback tails…it was like a scene from a limited edition Franklin Mint collectable plate.
It was finally time to return to shore, and Paul’s long-suffering artist son got in a tale about facing a brown bear head-on when he had been walking with his girlfriend. His Dad then remarked that luckily he hadn’t been wearing his “damn ear buds” at the time, or the story would have had a very different ending.
We returned to the dock, and as we made our way along it to the bus, came across a boat straight out of a Jeepers Creepers sequel with a fresh bear skull sitting on its stern. Maybe I wouldn’t move to Hoonah after all.
Paul and Bill took us to a lovely vista so we could see the amazing water surrounded by mountains; then it was time to say goodbye. They dropped us back at the dock and we tried to decide whether we wanted to just go to the ship, or stick around and have some food there.
We went with the latter idea, and originally ordered some halibut and chips at the indoor restaurant where casual dining over picnic tables abounded. There was a crab shack outside, but as we were both chilled to the bone, we couldn’t face eating it out there.
We then saw people bringing the claws in with them. Now THIS was a different story. The halibut and chips weren’t really floating our boat, so Lynne volunteered to go outside and get some.
She brought back a huge selection of Alaskan king crab legs with loads of drawn butter in containers, one of which I promptly knocked over, sending hot butter all over the brown paper packaging and onto the table.
I have to say that those crab legs were delicious. I’ve always liked them anyway, but you can’t beat getting them at the source.
The last tender was at 9.30pm and we got down to the boats for 9.15. Two Celebrity staff members from Guyana were shivering in their knitted caps and thick jackets. You could imagine that they hadn’t realised they were signing on for such harsh weather when they started that work contract two months ago.
The ship looked beautiful in the fading light with the backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, but maybe we were emotional because we knew that warm, cozy cabins lay within. We bid farewell to Hoonah from our suite’s veranda, and watched the lights fade into the distance as we drank hot chocolate with not a bear skull in sight.
First port of call: Icy Strait Point
Posted 14 May, 2013 04:31 PM
So I can’t believe it – I’m actually up-to-date with this blog! The Internet on board this ship makes passenger pigeons look like cutting edge technology.
When I woke up this morning, the reason for my face tingling became apparent. Seems that using those pads the night before was not a good idea after a facial. My eyes, cheeks and chin were red, swollen and hot. Terrific. Time to avoid the ship’s photographers.
I could only hope it would all recede after a day in the cold, as I open the curtains to reveal a grey, overcast sky hovering above snowcapped mountains.
Lynne had already had some breakfast and coffee, so we went to the Internet room to try and send some of these blogs. It was truly an exercise in frustration. It costs $0.55 a minute for a connection reminiscent of dialup modem days. I finally managed to post a blog, but lost all the minutes I had purchased in the process. Tartarrrrr sauuuuuce!
When we get to the port I’m taking my iPad with me to find a Wi-Fi spot so I can surf with ease.
We are really looking forward to this stop as I’ve booked us on a whale-watching tour (as opposed to the “whaling” tour I incorrectly called it a week ago) where apparently whale spotting is guaranteed! We’re really going to have to don our warm clothing. It’s mighty chilly out.
We went to trivia earlier today, and scored 12 out of 20 on Billboard questions. The winning team got 16, but we were only two against their four, so…
I am now sitting in our suite, looking out over beautiful, stark Alaska, wondering what this trip will be like this afternoon. I can’t wait!
This is Lynne in Vancouver under the Robocop signage (finally got to post a photo)
Leaving Vancouver behind
Posted 14 May, 2013 04:28 PM
Our bags arrived at the cabin pretty quickly, so we were able to unpack everything and put it away early. Determined to utilise our verandah more than I had in the past, I went out there with my iPad and watched us leave the harbour while I read a book.
This was the life – sitting on a big deck and watching the world go by. In fact I was so enchanted with it all, I suddenly noticed the time on my watch. We were 40 minutes late for dinner!
I flew into the cabin and announced the issue to Lynne who calmly took it on board as I flailed through drawers and the closet to find something appropriate to wear.
We managed to make it down within 10 minutes, and although the doors to the restaurant were initially closed, we managed to get to our table.
We were seated at a table for eight, and that night there was a couple from Australia and Idaho. The last two seats were no-shows.
Our dinner compatriots were good fun, and we managed to keep up with the courses, so by the time their dessert had arrived we were fully caught up.
That night we went to the main theatre to watch the opening show with the orchestra, the dancers and a performer who apparently had made it through to the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent with his quirky comedy and juggling act. He was lots of fun, and the young boy in our row certainly seemed beside himself as he watched ping pong balls being juggled in the air with only the entertainer’s mouth being used to propel them towards the ceiling.
We went for a drink or two at the martini bar afterwards, and at about midnight we went back to the cabin to watch a bit of TV and see if anything was recognisable outdoors now it was dark. Nothing was, and we went to sleep soon afterwards.
The first day at sea
When we had returned to our cabin the night before, the usual daily schedule for the next day was sitting on our beds, chockfull of activities that included everything from trivia and Zumba to scrapbooking and wine tastings. That was always the signal for Lynne to bring forth her green highlighter, which she carried with her everywhere along with said schedule and the map of the ship. The girl guides have nothing on Lynne.
We attended a trivia session, and didn’t do too badly, although it certainly displayed weaknesses in my knowledge. Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the globe? I need to pay more attention to those kids’ cereal commercials in the future…
We both went for separate spa treatments, where I got the usual gasp of horror from the therapist when I mentioned that I washed my face with soap.
I must admit that my skin did feel a whole lot softer after she’d finished with the facial, and although the lotion that she swore would “become my new best friend” sounded fabulous, I left the negotiations when I heard the price tag. I already had a best friend, and she was wandering the ship with a green highlighter.
By the time my treatment was done, I only had about 15 minutes to get ready for the first formal night. I flew through the door and grabbed my make-up, formal clothes and jewellery, throwing it all on at speed.
This time our table was full. The last two seats were filled by a couple from Vancouver, although the wife was originally from Montreal. Everyone was great fun, and we all had a good laugh when the server, clearly keen to get us out of there for the second seating, completely dismissed my gentle (believe me) comment that the fish was slightly overcooked with “WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL!!” I guess no one ever has anything but marvellous things to say, or he’s selectively deaf under such circumstances.
After dinner we went to see a four-piece band play in the Crystal Room to a crowd of four including us. Almost everyone had gone to the main theatre to the Captain’s Welcome Evening. We had gone to a number of these in the past, and they always involve the captain introducing himself and all his officers, followed by the singers and dancers of the ship putting on a production. We weren’t up for it that night and besides, it seemed we were really needed by these poor souls in the Crystal Room, led by a pretty blonde girl shaking a rattle of some ilk, looking as though she’d rather be anywhere than there.
The band played for about an hour – music usually only reserved for the finest of elevators – and then it was karaoke time. As if by magic the room filled up with loads of people, including many Asian-Canadians who clearly liked a bit of a sing-song.
I sang a couple of numbers before we left to go to the casino for a short period of time. This was REALLY old school, with slot machines that not only took coins, but would only cash out in the them. There were buckets by each machine so you could catch your quarters and take them to the cashier. Wow! Talk about the old days!
I used up Lynne’s $4 in quarters, and then went up to the cabin. It seemed people were retiring early, even though we were putting our clocks back one hour that night and we didn’t arrive in our first port until 3.30pm the next day.
Rather than using soap on my face to wash off the make-up, I used Lynne’s Neutrogena oil-free make-up remover pads. I was going to try and be better from now on!
We put our clocks back, and even though I tried to stay up for a while, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My face was tingling a bit as well. Hmmm….
I fell asleep just after 12.30am.
Heading to Alaska
Posted 14 May, 2013 04:27 PM
Once again, Lynne was out and about before I even realised it was morning. She was going off to get a few provisions, including a pair of gloves for me, as I had only been able to find one woollen glove and one satin elbow-length elegant example in the depths of my closet.
It was Sunday, so she came back empty-handed, as by the time the appropriate shops would be open, we’d be leaving the hotel to go to the ship.
We packed up our things, bid the Pan Pacific adieu, and took the lifts down to the Cruise Ship (CS) level, where many other passengers were moving, Land Before Time-style, towards the immigration and check-in areas.
Lynne got hitched to my EEC passport wagon, instead of being able to speed through US Border Control on her Canadian documentation. The line was moving pretty well, but it was quite long, and people just kept pouring into the room. Suddenly a 4ft-nothing British lady in her official red jacket screamed at people “NO MORE! NO MORE!” with her hands in front of her as though trying to hold back a bulldozer. She was small but feisty, and they paid attention.
It was amazing how efficient those staff members were. All smiles and constant eyes on the line and available officers. They would have been terrific in any major airport; or behind a bar.
We eventually made it through, and then it was on to security. It was at this point that Lynne remembered she’d left her quality binoculars at home, because there was a stand selling everything from fairly standard models to things that could almost see into the future they were so powerful.
Although it was more money, we realised it would be silly not to get a pair. The ship always provides them, but they’re cheap little things. We were going to Alaska; a place of whales, wildlife and incredible vistas. We couldn’t be squinting through glorified bottle ends at it all.
She ran off to get $150 worth of enhanced vision, and then I went to another vendor to buy a pair of gloves. It was the most expensive security line we’d ever been in. On the upside, with the number of binoculars we had accumulated over the years, we could open our own birdwatching club when we returned home.
After security was the actual check-in, and then we were officially going to the ship!
We were greeted with the usual glass of champagne, as we circumvented the eager server man from Serbia trying to tie us down to a dinner reservation at the specialty restaurant that night. Even though it had been years since a man had begged me to join him for dinner, I declined. We needed to get the lay of the land first.
We got to our suite, specifically chosen for its large balcony, and then went down to the casino which was also our muster station. Time for the safety drill, which was a bit drawn out, and then we were all welcomed to the cruise. The ship would be departing in about an hour. Woo-Hoo!
Vancouver: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest
Posted 14 May, 2013 02:22 PM
We arrived at Vancouver airport at 11.45pm after entertaining (at least in our minds) the gentleman on the aisle seat; one Dave, originally from Vancouver, who was flying in from Colombia for three days, only to head back to Panama bright and early the following Monday. The long commutes didn’t seem to faze him at all, despite the fact that I couldn’t fathom it after being cramped in economy seats for the last seven hours, all told.
We breezed through a very friendly immigration section, and then sprung for a town car to our Pan Pacific Hotel overlooking the harbour. I had specifically chosen this hotel as apparently we could simply take a lift down to the cruise port on the day of departure.
The hotel was really nice, and although the city view we had was a bit stark, the beds were very comfortable. I ordered some late night room service, paying something like $20 plus significant gratuity for a mediocre BLT and fries, but I was starving and exhausted so I didn’t care. We both fell asleep in about three minutes. I dreamt about endless gates and concourses in Houston all night.
I had vowed that I would sleep in as late as I liked, no matter what lure Vancouver held, but I still got up at around 9.30am. Lynne had already gone off exploring as she always does. She likes to get the lay of the land in any new place, so if Godzilla should suddenly appear, she’ll know the fastest route out of the city.
I texted her to see where she was, and we agreed to meet up for some lunch. I asked what the temperature was like. “You’ll love it,” she said, knowing my penchant for cooler climes. “Just wear a T-shirt and your loose sweater thing.”
I quickly got ready, donned my sweater thing and headed downstairs to go outside. The moment the front doors opened I stepped out, waiting for the cool air to embrace me. And….nothing.
Where was it? Where was that cold, crisp wind I’d been promised? This was like a morning in Cayman, humidity and all.
It didn’t take long for me to begin sweating, and that woolen albatross I’d been told to bring was turning the arm conveying it into a furnace. Of course it was all uphill, this meeting point that Lynne had chosen, so what with my Usain Bolt impersonation in Houston the night before and now this steady climb in unusual tropical temperatures, I seriously began to question if this vacation had been a good idea after all.
I eventually found her, and we went off for some food at a Japanese restaurant. We were the only ones in the dining room, and our grateful Vietnamese server was therefore difficult to shake. She kept checking that everything was okay, and did we want more food?
It was actually very good food. This place could have shown the Pan Pacific a thing or two.
We then headed back to the hotel, and although both of us were pretty tired, we didn’t want to waste our one full day in this terrific city. We therefore dropped off all warm clothing in the hotel room, along with a takeaway box of crab rolls to which all the homeless people we’d offered it had turned up their noses, and headed in the direction of famous Stanley Park via the waterfront.
We’d had a letter in our hotel room to warn of filming nearby, and if we heard gunshots, not to be alarmed. Visions of a major crime going down in the city and everyone laughing it off as Hollywood effects sprung to my mind.
As we left the hotel, we saw dozens of major lights, electronics and other expensive looking equipment lining the pavement. Turned out they were filming the remake of Robocop next door. Samuel L. Jackson et al were a stone’s throw from our very hotel!
Lynne posed under one of the film props, and we smiled at the sight of a Detroit transit map smack in the middle of Vancouver. For any visitors unaware of the situation, they might well have wondered why the heck such a thing was posted in this Canadian city.
The walk to the park was wonderful. The weather finally began to cool off, and we marvelled at the boats parked at the docks, particularly the ones that looked like little houses. Retirement plans leapt into my brain.
It was a long walk but we finally made it to the park, an absolutely stunning area of beautiful trees and flowers. There were bicycles and dogs everywhere, just a terrific atmosphere.
We decided to head to the aquarium, which was another good half-mile. By the time we got there, our feet were getting pretty sore but as we’d come this far, we might as well go the whole hog.
We took a look at many interesting creatures, including frogs of all shapes, sizes and colours. The place was so big that we nearly left before realising we’d missed the whole tropical and rainforest section.
In fairness we didn’t dawdle at this stage. We were fading fast. After looking at the umpteenth fish that I’d completely mislabeled, we figured it was time to go. There was a taxi waiting outside so we grabbed it and headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
That night we went to The Irish Heather, a popular gastro pub in a great location. We had a terrific meal, and both of us tried whiskey drinks even though whiskey isn’t usually our poison of choice. They were good drinks, but I don’t reckon we’ll be buying shares in Jack Daniels anytime soon.
It was raining when we got outside and we had to walk to the corner to get a cab, but managed to grab one pretty quickly. Back to the Pan Pacific for another night’s sleep before our cruise to Alaska the next day.
To Vancouver…and beyond!
Posted 12 May, 2013 01:25 PM
To Vancouver…and beyond!
So in my continuing bid to become the youngest quadruple platinum diamond cruiser in the world, I booked an Alaskan cruise for myself and my best friend Lynne a while back.
We also decided to take a drive down the coast of California afterwards so we could visit friends that have been begging us (honest) to come and see them.
Our flight to Vancouver through Houston was booked for Friday, 10 May and I had managed to buy our tickets with points. We were flying United for both legs, and got to the airport in plenty of time to check in.
Of course the airlines’ bid to separate us from as much money as possible began immediately. For priority boarding it was about $25, and then it went up for more leg room, window seat, aisle seat… As much as it galled me, I confess I buckled when it came to more leg room. Lynne’s only 5ft tall so really she didn’t need it, but how could I deprive her of my company? I therefore insisted that she join me in luxurious row 12.
The biggest surprise was the luggage charge. We only had one check-in bag each, and yet there was a $25 fee per bag! For the first checked bag! To Vancouver!! It wasn’t like we were going there for the day fer cryin’ out loud!
So $150 later we had more leg room and two checked bags. Time to board.
The flight to Houston was pretty easy, and we got a row to ourselves. Hot dog! My main concern was the connection time when we arrived in Houston. We only had about an hour and 10 minutes, and although I’d been told that immigration there was pretty good, it was still tight for me.
When we got into the hall (and the flight was 20 minutes early, thank goodness) it really wasn’t very busy. Excellent! Our bags were checked through to Canada, so maybe we’d have a minute or two to eat.
Not so fast. Out of about 15 booths only three of them were occupied with officers, and by the looks of things they were asking Ellis Island-level questions. As we stood in line I began to get stressed. One couple after the next went up to the officer, and you could see great breaks in communication involving sections of forms that hadn’t been filled in and difficulties grasping the concept of fingerprint scanning. I dug my fingernails into my palm as the fifth couple in a row went forward, followed by a series of furrowed brows and gesticulations. Our next flight was at 9pm and it was now 8.40pm. I grabbed an agent to ask if we’d make it in the hope that she’d help. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Good luck!” she said unhelpfully.
As I finally was up to the officer, I told Lynne that I’d run on ahead to let the plane know we were on our way. Two minutes later I made it through and the race was on. Let me preface this by saying that the last time I did any exercise, Prince William was still a bachelor.
I started off, pulling my bag behind me, heels pounding the tiles. The first barrier was baggage claim. I entered one end of the hall and had to make it to the other. By this point I was loudly wheezing, and in the relatively empty space, my dying lungs bounced off the walls. I struggled past the carousels as the women there said “Excuse me, would you like to check that your bags have definitely gone through?”
“TOO LATE!” I gasped, as I handed my card to the customs officer. His raised eyebrow confirmed that my face was the colour of beets, and I flew on to security. Gate C45, Gate C45, Gate C45…kept running through my mind. I wheezed the same question to the security man. “Will I make it?”
“Oooo well you might. It’s just around the corner.”
I kept going. And going. And going. It was now 8.53pm and I was officially in the throes of death. All I could see were “E” gates and C had disappeared off the radar.
Just when I thought I would drop where I shuffled, I heard a golf cart behind me with Lynne on board. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.
“Get on!” she yelled. “Maybe we’ll make it!!”
We sped down the hallway, SO much further than “just around the corner.” We got to the gate with seconds to spare, gave the driver 20 grateful dollars in tip, and ran onto the plane, still gasping as we went.
I’m gonna finish this if it kills me!
Posted 15 May, 2012 11:24 AM
May 14th (the final stretch)
So here we were, having the last dinner of our vacation at Rue 57. The food was excellent – both Carol and Lynne went with the recommended fried chicken – and our server was lots of fun. It was hard to believe that the trip was nearly at an end. It seemed as though we had been away from Cayman forever.
We walked back to the hotel, chatted with the staff for a moment and headed upstairs. Tomorrow it would be New York, farewell.
I had thankfully checked us in online with AA and managed to get us upgraded all the way to Cayman. The charge was worth it, as I had been secretly dreading having to squeeze myself into one of those economy seats after living the high life for the past few weeks. The biggest challenge was going to be finding a taxi big enough to take us and the luggage to the airport. We already knew that an SUV wouldn’t cut it – it had to be a minivan.
We finished packing and the girls went off to get a manicure at their favourite place around the corner. I asked them to be back by 9.45am, as even though our flight was leaving at 1.15, I had a feeling that grabbing a minivan might end up being a bit of a headache. They ran a little late, but at least their nails looked spiffing.
We got all the luggage downstairs, and then I alerted the doorman to our situation. He looked thrilled at the idea of having to snag madam a sexy minivan taxi, but dutifully took his position in the middle of the street and started looking. Minutes passed, and still nothing. The only one that went by was already occupied; all the rest were cars or SUVs. We knew we could take two taxis if necessary – we just didn’t want it to get to that stage as it would cost us double. Lynne kept mistaking SUVs for what we needed, and after twenty minutes offered to go up to the next avenue to see if she could flag one down. It was only after she left that Carol asked why we had sent the one member of the group who wasn’t even sure what she was looking for.
Ten minutes later Lynne was back, and with nothing in tow. In the meantime I had seen minivan after minivan whizzing past on the avenue to the left of us. I resolved to get it sorted, and I semi-jogged down to the corner. There were two large trucks blocking the first lanes by the traffic lights, so I was gingerly able to step out a bit further to make my move. The lights turned green and they were off! Taxis flew by me, but all cars on my side. Anything bigger seemed to favour the furthest lane away. Surely it was just coincidence? I would wait for the next group. So it went, light after light…a school of minivans went by but all on the other side. As the third car pulled over for me, only for me to wave it away again, I decided that I would cross the street to be closer to my target. Of course the minute I did so everything changed and suddenly the minivans were taking different lanes. If anyone had been watching me from the windows of the numerous coffee shops in the area, they would have thought I’d lost my mind. I bobbed, I weaved, I ran to the middle of the pavement and then back to the lights. Just when I was about to give up, or try standing in the road and let the fates take me, a blessed van headed straight for me. I waved him down and he was mine!!!
I called Lynne to let her know I was on my way back to the hotel. We pulled up, got the luggage in thanks to two strong men, tipped everyone a bananas amount, and took our seats for the ride to JFK. Whew!
The Daily Show!!!
Posted 10 May, 2012 02:05 PM
May 10th (Back in the office but I shalt finish the blog about my trip!)
The next morning Lynne and Carol continued their daily ritual of going to the Starbucks conveniently located across the road to get their fix of coffee and brekkie. Actually Lynne ended up going alone this particular morning, dutifully bringing back supplies for all. I would always say that I didn’t want anything, but would inevitably beg a bite of breakfast muffin. That’s the kind of friend I am.
After enjoying the bus tour so much the day before, we resolved to take the uptown loop before heading to the live recording of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The weather was still quite pleasant outside, and maybe even a touch warmer than the day before. Lynne therefore foolishly decided to only wear her jacket, hat and gloves instead of bringing the duvet from the hotel which had been the plan up until then. I packed my big woollen wrap in anticipation of the inevitable.
We walked to the Central Park stop where we had been dropped off the day before, and it wasn’t long before an uptown bus arrived. We headed to the upper deck and prepared to plug in our headphones, but there were no jacks. Turned out that this one was fitted out old-school with a microphone and speakers. A portly woman with unnaturally blonde hair, hands like Scarlett O’Hara post-harvest at Tara, and a voice like grating metal began her talk about the surrounding buildings as we headed towards Times Square. It was an amazing way to see the famous square upfront and personal, and I randomly snapped shots of billboards that I will probably never look twice at again, but I couldn’t help myself.
We hadn’t gone very far when suddenly it was all-change. “We need to get awf heeyah!” yelled out our leader, and so we did – wondering if we were on the wrong bus. Turned out that this was the end of that particular section and we needed to take another bus to finish the route. Thankfully it wasn’t long before a replacement arrived, and up we went again to settle into our seats. This time there were headphone jacks but no power. External speakers again.
Our tour guide was the complete opposite from the woman before. He was young, slender (skinny) wearing large reflective aviator sunglasses, using a voice to describe every landmark like it was a movie trailer. He was hilarious and we liked him immediately. He sat next to Carol, who dutifully held his seat with her leg whenever we had to make a stop. He was clearly an aspiring actor with an excellent memory for facts, as he hit us with rapid-fire information as we passed every block. We passed a large movie set near Grant’s Tomb, and craned our necks to look for film stars, but then thought better of it as traffic lights nearly skimmed our noggins.
Before we knew it we were in Harlem, and driving past the Apollo Theatre. On the other side of the bus a man in full African garb wandered along the pavement, stopping briefly to watch two men playing lightning chess on a folding table by the side of the street. It all made for fascinating watching and I snapped away like a paparazzo.
Our route also included the Met, where a red carpet was being arranged and fencing set up. We found out later on that it was for a huge event – the Met Ball. All the stars came out in force that night. If I’d known, I would have pulled one of my formal outfits from my suitcase and gone along to join the fray. After all, I AM Vicki Wheaton!
We joked with our guide, who seemed to have the inside scoop on everything in New York city. He was like the Stefon (SNL) of Gray Line tour buses – a real hoot.
Sure enough, Lynne had felt the cold about five minutes into this tour, and after initially offering to rent her my shawl, I kindly decided to lend it gratis. After all, I HAD eaten some of her breakfast.
As we approached our final stop (and also our starting point), it began to rain a bit. We all prayed that it wouldn’t get any worse as we were completely exposed on the open upper deck. Luckily it remained a light drizzle, and we got off relatively unscathed. We ran to a restaurant, ordered far more food than we needed because apparently we could not get out of cruise ship mode, and then sprinted to the hotel to get changed for the Daily Show studio.
I was worried that we would be late because our letter specifically stated 4.30pm or we would lose our seats. There was nothing to fear in the end, as our driver from Colombia drove at the same speed with which he conversed. We were there in 10 minutes flat.
It was all terribly exciting as we approached the doors. We knew in advance that Sacha Baron Cohen as “The Dictator” would be the guest, so this should be a good show. I strode up with my letter in hand and announced my arrival to the two sour-faced men with earpieces and folded arms. They found my name on the list, and gave me three tickets with nary a smile. “Come back at 4.30,” they said. And that was that.
We stood around for a while, and then just decided that we’d wait for the extra fifteen minutes it was going to be rather than wander around the neighbourhood. When people were eventually let in it was VIPs first (thazz us) then the rest of the audience. We went through a security screening, and I had to give up my backpack. Fine by me.
I thought it was going to be a brief wait before we were let into the main studio. Nope. We had to stand around for 30 – 45 minutes as Carol first hopped from foot to foot to alleviate the pain in her back, and then gave up and leaned against the wall. Finally the announcement came up and we were in!!
It was brilliant being in the room, seeing the familiar desk and the date scrolling by on the digital displays. Wow!! It also looked for a moment that we were going to be seated in the front row – this was too good to be true!
Yep, it was.
We were instead told to go along a row, and keep going, keep going, until we were in the far corner, view completely blocked by a large camera at the end of a crane. They had told us that cameras constantly moved and not to worry, but we couldn’t help being a bit concerned. Honestly, we couldn’t see anything but that camera.
It took quite a while for the audience to filter in, and although the staff seating people seemed to have some sort of rhyme or reason behind their method, it was difficult to figure it out. Lynne just sat there with an expression on her face that indicated she was unhappy with the formula they were using, and why weren’t we in the front?
Once everyone was seated, the warm-up comedian came out who got us all to whoop, laugh, scream and clap like idiots. Then it was……JON STEWART!!! He looked fabulous; and short.
He thanked us all for being there, and then was happy to take some questions. My hand shot up in the air immediately, but I was outpaced by a chick up the back who proceeded to ask him if he realized his name in Chinese meant the same as our four-letter word for excrement? Understandably he had been previously unaware of this, and they got into a conversation which made me immediately jealous. Damn! Why wasn’t I fluent in Chinese??
Once that little tete-a-tete was over, I tried again, but was beaten to the punch by a SHRIEKING girl from Iowa behind us who we originally thought was a plant she was so over-the-top and bonkers. She thanked him on behalf of other Iowans for making fun of their state. I’m not sure her fellow neighbours back home would have chosen her as an ambassador, but Jon certainly took this tidbit and ran with it.
The next time we were allowed, I threw my hand up and was finally rewarded with his attention. In my poshest British accent (‘cos I thought he would be all impressed) I asked “Do you ever get nervous even after all of these years of doing this?” Now THAT was a question!!
Well he basically teased me for being a foreigner (served me right), and then went on to say that no, he didn’t really, and something about being middle management and dead inside. I berated myself for not coming back with something wittier, but I didn’t want to interrupt the man, and I certainly didn’t want to align myself with the banshee from Iowa. I laughed and clapped along with everyone else. I was clearly going to have to revisit the set and do this all again sometime.
Once the show got going, the camera did indeed move, and in a marvellous twist of fate, planted itself right in front of the front row. We had a copy of the teleprompter rolling up on the screens before us, so it was interesting to see what he followed and what he adlibbed. The writers sat on their swivel chairs in front of the screens looking all cool with their headphones around their necks, checking the prompter and typing on their phones.
We didn’t really pay attention to much of what Jon was saying; in fact if you asked me about one segment, I’d be hard-pressed to remember anything. We were just taken in by our surroundings and the atmosphere and the fact that we were actually at a taping of The Daily Show!
Sacha Baron Cohen was hilarious as The Dictator, and it was very interesting to see that even his responses were scripted and on the prompter. I’m sure it’s not always the case, but I guess because he was playing a part, everything had been written beforehand.
Although we were told that we’d be out of there between 7.00 and 7.30, it was actually finished before then. I suppose they have to give themselves time to cover any potential bloopers or hiccups.
When we filed out I got my backpack back, and just like that it was over. Lots of fun and well worth any waiting around.
I wandered down the street a bit of a way to get us a cab, as outside the studio we were competing with others. It wasn’t long before we got one to pull over, and we went back to the hotel to repack our bags and figure out what we were doing for dinner. Although there were so many restaurants to see, I really wanted to revisit Rue 57 and the others were up for it, so hey! Why not?
We’ll make a brand new start of it – in old New Yoooooork!
Posted 07 May, 2012 11:14 AM
May 7th (a bit later)
(As you can see, I am trying to get up-to-date here)
Everyone was up by 8.00am yesterday – I guess we knew what we were doing on that cruise! We slept like the dead and were now raring to go!
Carol and Lynne really wanted to visit Macy’s “The World’s Largest Store” and I was happy to tag along. We figured we’d walk the two-plus miles there to work off some of the calories. It was an admirable goal, but I probably undermined my efforts by purchasing a red velvet cheesecake and apple crumble from a well-known bakery along the way.
Lynne was trying to use Siri on her iPhone 4s with mixed results. We were so proud to stand beside her as she backed up to a Starbucks window trying to take advantage of the free WiFi whilst repeating “DIRECTIONS TO MACY’S” over and over again into her palm. In the end we went the old-fashioned route and asked for directions. Things were so much simpler before technology. The sun was shining – it was a beautiful day.
What with stops and starts and window shopping, it took us about an hour to get there. We agreed to meet up outside two-and-a-half hours later. Synchronise watches…
I lasted about an hour. The store was really big, and I had foolishly brought my handbag full of stuff so my shoulder was killing me. The only thing I purchased was a backpack into which I stuffed everything, and although I looked like a dweeb I was infinitely more comfortable. I still had a sandwich left over from earlier, and some of my pastries. I went outside to sit on a fragile looking metal folding chair in an area where lots of people were sunning themselves. I think I was the only one deliberately seeking out shade. It certainly made for some fascinating people-watching. A city cleaner took a picture of a couple of women and they tipped him for his efforts. He flashed them a huge smile before going on his way. Then there was a lady all bundled up, carrying a large plastic bags of cans around with her, bullying people to finish their sodas so she could have the cans. A chick who made me look tanned walked along the pavement with long bleached blonde hair, wearing a violet coat from her neck to the ground. She was thin, and the coat had gold buttons and cord crisscrossing the front of it. Her hair was pinned in a bizarre fashion in the back, and she had long silver rings on her hands, one shaped like a claw. She was part anime and part Underworld, and was clearly garnering a lot of attention as she leaned on the wall by Macy’s doing something with what looked like an old Walkman.
A Mister Softie ice cream van pulled up to the corner for a while, until the good ol’ NYPD shut the operation down. I guess they didn’t have permission to be there.
Lynne and Carol came out way before deadline. Turned out that the World’s Largest Store had a frustrating lack of choice and it was exhausting just trying to find the right escalators.
As I had been sitting outside for some time, I had seen the routes of the Hop On/Hop Off tourist buses that we had considered riding. After all, the weather was perfect. Lynne had to have something to eat first, so we got to a Tim Horton’s for her. I took the opportunity to use the facilities and lined up for half an hour to take advantage of the one washroom in the place.
We then went off to the Empire State Building stop (didn’t even realise where we were or that the building was behind us – we just saw the sign for the Gray Line.) It took a couple of buses before there was space upstairs, but we eventually got on.
The tour was fascinating and we really liked our guide, but Carol and Lynne were freezing whenever we went into shadow. The wind was whipping us fairly well, and the difference between sun and shadow was about 20 degrees. We went through SOHO and the Meat Packing District. We passed Chinatown, the United Nations building and the World Trade Center Memorial. We saw the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River. It really was a great way to view it all, and we were glad we’d bought tickets that allowed us to take other routes the next day. Carol and Lynne were huddled together in front of me whilst I tried to figure out why one of my earphones kept giving me a shock.
We had nearly done the entire route when we got to the Central Park stop. I wanted to get off there. We were near the hotel and FAO Shwarz, and….Central Park! I had never visited the park before, so this time I was going to make an effort!
We went past some artists, and I bought a print for a friend, only to find the exact same thing for half the price a few stalls down. “Wow, you got ripped off in New York,” said my dear friend Carol unsympathetically. Ah well, it wasn’t anything expensive.
I have to say, I sometimes mock tourists for doing touristy things, yet there I was chatting to a man with a horse and carriage discussing his rates. Sure enough, the next thing we knew, we were in the carriage, Lynne and Carol covered by a blanket that Lynne kept sniffing to make sure it was up to standard.
We made our way into Central Park as the smell of horse excrement filled the air. Reminded me of the horse ranch we used to visit in Montana. Lynne’s nose wrinkled. Carol was just grateful to be warm.
Our driver was Irish, and he told us a bit about buildings that we had already heard on the tour. It was when he got to the juicy gossip about a bar from which Charlie Sheen had been booted that our ears pricked up. Who cared about the history of some of these magnificent edifices? We wanted to know the real celebrity dirt!
The journey was 20 minutes in all. We saw a wedding down by one of the ponds, and someone proposing to his girlfriend by one of the massive rocks overlooking the water. Guess it was a day for romance in the Big Apple.
The horse and carriage thing was hokey, but I didn’t care. I’d enjoyed it (and that’s all that mattered.)
We went over to FAO Shwarz for an hour. They had a Muppet workshop where you could make your own, but alas they were out of stock so I couldn’t do it. I love the Muppets. I was disappointed.
I consoled myself by buying Bazooka Joe gum and a multi-pack of Pop Rocks. Candy always makes it all better.
Once we were all outside again, we endured Lynne’s relentless “LE PARKER MERIDIEN” into her iPhone, which yielded nothing. Maybe Siri didn’t like her tone. We again had to ask an actual human being for directions. It wasn’t a far walk, which was good, as really we had expended a lot of energy that day.
We figured we’d go out for Chinese food for dinner, even though I could have happily revisited Rue 57 again. It was a quick turnaround in the rooms and then out to Tang Pavilion on 55th Street as recommended by our Concierge. The restaurant was simple but nice, and there appeared to be a lot of Chinese in the place which we took as a good sign. “Jimmy” our server was fairly pleasant, although any requests outside what they offered got almost an eye-rolling response. Lynne wanted green tea. “No green tea,” quoth Jimmy.
“No green tea?” replied Lynne, somewhat incredulously.
“No green tea,” he repeated, already fed up with the inquisition.
She got Oolong instead.
We really liked the food, and the price was very good. I had a couple of Cosmopolitan martinis. As I ordered my third I thought Jimmy was going to morph into an AA counsellor with his weary “One more?”
It was a very nice dinner and the food hit the spot. Even though it was only about 9.00pm the place had nearly cleared out by the time we left. We were not in the main dining area – we were in the room next door. We had been having a fun time, laughing and joking. Carol wondered if when we left we would find all the diners that had previously surrounded us in our room now seated in the main dining area to escape the three foreigners at table 14. I waved goodbye to Jimmy, after telling him that Le Parker Meridien had recommended them. I had a feeling that the hotel would be getting a call from Tang Pavilion with a list of guest criteria to be followed in the future.
We had originally planned to go to the cinema, or catch a show, or go to a comedy club. That all went out the window by the time dinner was done – we were too tired.
The Comedy Awards Show was on Comedy Central, so Lynne and I decided to watch that. The Daily Show won for best Late Night Show, which was terrific as a) We all watch Jon Stewart; and b) We were going to watch a live taping the next day!
I tried to read a book for a while, but my eyelids were heavy. I just couldn’t stay awake. I began snoring (so I’m told) at about 10.30pm. I didn’t stir until this morning.
Making our way to the Big Apple!
Posted 07 May, 2012 09:36 AM
When I woke up in London the next morning, I gingerly tested the floor with my tootsies. Would I be forever crippled by those stupid boots? Surprisingly I was absolutely fine – walking like a pro. Yay!
Carol and Lynne had visited Marks and Spencers the day before, and with the short period of time we had in the city, weren’t interested in venturing out much again as we were to be picked up by Virgin Atlantic at 1.00pm to go to Heathrow airport. Our flight was departing at 5.15pm, but as we were flying Upper Class, we wanted to spend some time in Virgin’s fabulous lounge before we boarded the flight.
It took me a while to clear the cobwebs away, so once I’d showered, changed and applied some make-up so I didn’t look like a gargoyle, it was almost time for the driver to show up. I had warned Virgin about our amount of luggage, and in the end had to use double my air miles to ensure that we got a big enough vehicle to accommodate us. We got down to reception only to be informed that not only was the driver already there, but that he only had an estate car. As I was about to blow a gasket because I had spent an expensive 15 minutes on the phone with Virgin the day before to sort all of this out, another call came in to say that a second car was also waiting. The street outside the hotel was crammed with vehicles, and now we had to get nine cases into two transports without getting run over or jamming up the lanes. It was a finely tuned operation under pressure. One car took all the bags, and we went in the other one. Our driver Abe was from Nigeria and a great laugh. He was also frustrated with the other driver who apparently was manoeuvering the lanes like “an old woman.” I wasn’t bothered either way – I just didn’t want to see our bags heading in another direction.
The drive-up check-in at Virgin in Heathrow makes you understand why some people might marry for money. It was so smooth, and security almost sang to you as you went through; none of this “NEXT!” business that we all have to endure when we fly economy.
The shopping at Heathrow is almost as good as downtown London. Everything is set out beautifully and it’s all terribly shiny. It was all we could do to drag our eyes away as we focused on getting to the lounge.
The Virgin lounge in Heathrow is something to behold. It is absolutely huge, with a la carte menus, buffets, full open bar, spa…as you can imagine we hated it. We wolfed down cheese and salami and crackers like they were our final meal, and basically tried to sample everything without making ourselves sick. When you don’t get to experience something like this very often, you really don’t take it for granted.
When our flight was called we boarded and were shown to our large seats with pillows and duvets. I helped Carol with her bag as there was only space in the bins above Lynne and me, and tried to be grand about it by throwing a bagged duvet out of the way with perhaps more gusto than was necessary. I therefore managed to knock over my mimosa perched on my small tray, which dribbled champagne and OJ all over my seat and onto my pillow. That’s what I got for showing off.
The service was excellent, and the food was very nice, although Lynne reckoned her steak tasted like dishwater. I’m sure those at the back of the plane would have been eager to hear her laments.
I managed to see “War Horse” in its entirety, a ridiculous choice for me as I ended up sobbing for over two hours in a packed cabin. I wrote a bit of my blog, and then tried to watch “Chronicle” but the flight was landing before I could see the end. Tres frustrating.
We didn’t know what Immigration would be like at JFK, but I was ready to get off that plane like a greyhound from a trap. Unbelievably the hall was empty! We were through Immigration and Customs in 15 minutes and now we had to brace ourselves for the taxi stand. It was $51 flat rate from the airport to anywhere in Manhattan, but would obviously be double if we had to take two cars. We therefore decided to wait for a minivan which thankfully didn’t take long to arrive. The driver stared at the bags. I was beginning to wonder if anyone travels like we do. Surely we couldn’t be the only people to “need” this much luggage?
He managed to fit it all in, and I got the honour of the front seat which smelled overwhelmingly of incense. From the moment we pulled away he was on the phone in fairly loud Bengali, yabbering into his Bluetooth as I tried to pick up on what Lynne and Carol were discussing behind me.
The trip to the hotel took about 45 minutes and it was exciting to see the New York skyline as we approached Manhattan. We were staying at the Le Parker Meridien hotel thanks to my Amex points, and it was an elegant building near Central Park that seemed very posh to us gals. The doorman also boggled at the luggage (Really? Even in Manhattan??) but miraculously got it all on one cart like a giant’s game of Jenga.
I tipped the taxi driver an extra $10 and he looked at me like I had shot his mother. “Flat rate $51. I guess…” he said glumly. Clearly I am disappointing drivers on an international level on this trip. He drove off to badmouth us to his colleagues and we turned to enter the premises.
A lovely lady checked us in, and then we got to our rooms. They were huge rooms by any city’s standards! Lynne and I had two double beds, and Carol was in the king room next door. We squealed with delight. Okay, maybe only I did. This was fab!
I was extremely thirsty once I had tipped the doorman and the bellman a small fortune, desperate to show that I could roll with the big boys. I opened the minibar to look for the price list. It was $5 for a 10oz bottle of Coke. We were going out to find a corner store – stat!
We went back to the lovely lady downstairs to get info on where cheap people purchased their necessities. Apparently Duane Reade pharmacy around the corner would suit our needs. At the same time we wanted to go somewhere to eat. When we got to the pharmacy we spied Rue 57 restaurant across the road. That looked nice, and besides, we were a bit tired. We weren’t about to head out for hours to find the perfect spot.
Rue 57 turned out to be an excellent choice. Our server Richard was brilliant and the food was terrific. We had really lucked out. Once we finished our first official meal in New York, we went over to the pharmacy, bought four bottles of water and some orange juice, and headed back to our hotel. It was tough to disguise four large bottles of Evian as we made our way to the lifts. Maybe I should have just loudly announced to the crowd in reception “I will bathe in nothing else!”
We had had chocolate covered strawberries the size of potatoes and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot delivered to our room earlier – a gift from very good friends to celebrate our vacation. We had some of the strawberries immediately, but are saving the champagne to toast our last night.
Tonight would be the test of how our internal clocks were doing. We all fell asleep by midnight.
I’ll have the steak please; hold the boots…
Posted 07 May, 2012 08:23 AM
We got to the DoubleTree Courthouse hotel on Great Marlborough Street off Regent Street. It seemed an apt choice as Carol is a court reporter and this was once a courthouse, complete with bar in the old jail downstairs.
As we unloaded the bags I decided to give the driver an extra 20 pounds as a tip. He stared at it and then started asking for more money because he had had to wait so long at the port! I politely refused, as I explained that it was not our fault he had waited four hours for us. The politeness disappeared as he continued to ask. It was hard for me to keep saying “no” but I stuck to my guns, perhaps also partly due to Carol’s presence behind me. She had remained quiet through the exchange, but I knew she would leap in if I succumbed to the pressure. I put an end to the conversation with a firm and final “NO,” but not before checking that we had every bag and belonging with us, as I think we would have been paying through the nose if I’d had to call him back.
I was suddenly very tired by the time we got to reception. Not as tired, however, as the poor bellmen who had carried our nine cases from the street and up two flights of steps. The rooms were not ready, which was unsurprising as it was 11.30am. We left the bags and went in search of food across on Carnaby Street.
Pret a Manger would have been a good choice if there had been a single seat available, but it was now lunchtime in London and young executives with a penchant for all-natural, no-additive foods were crammed into every chair.
We went into the place next door – a pub that seemed to cater more to tourists than locals. I say this because one of their best-selling dishes was the “Codfather” and chips. I’m embarrassed to say that I ordered it, Lynne got the regular fish and chips, and Carol got the Croque Monsieur – a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. When it all eventually arrived at the table, I couldn’t tell any difference between my size cod and Lynne’s. The only thing I got extra was a small tub of curry sauce, oh yes, and four pounds more on my bill.
After our lunch that had Carol pining for Wonder Bread and Kraft slices, we headed back to the hotel. Apparently one of the rooms would be available in about 15 minutes. Carol kindly offered it to us, as I was clearly fading. Before they came to tell us that we could go up, I was already asleep on one of the lobby couches. Carol took a photo. I am going to get her to delete it.
The first friend that was supposed to be making it to the hotel was mine from university – Saj. She was already in London from early that morning, but I had warned her that I would need to nap. Sure enough, I got to the room and hit the deck. I didn’t wake up until about 4.30 and even then it was extremely difficult to pull myself from the bed. She got to us for 5.30pm and then others started arriving. We met up in the Jail Bar as the rooftop terrace would have been icy. London was pretty cold that day.
At 8.00pm we went to The Living Room on Heddon Street for a wonderful dinner. There were eleven of us in total, and some of us hadn’t seen each other in years, yet it was as though no time had passed – within minutes we were all chatting as if it had been only yesterday when we parted. We had food and wine and dancing later on, although the boots I was wearing didn’t allow me to bop for very long. When we all had to say “goodbye” it wasn’t sad at all – it was almost as though we expected to see each other tomorrow. The whole evening made me realise how important good friends are, and how we should all make an effort to see them more often.
As we left The Living Room I wondered if I could walk another step in my six-inch heeled boots. They had been mighty comfortable for most of the night, but Donna Summer and her Last Dance were quite prophetic. A pedicab was ridiculously expensive for the relatively short distance back to the hotel, and I couldn’t see a single available taxi. Lynne encouraged me to try and walk it, and so we set off. She had to give me support under my left arm to alleviate the pressure on my feet. I can’t imagine what we must have looked like. With those heels I was a towering six feet tall, and she was under five-and-a-half feet in her shoes. What had seemed like a happy jaunt on the way there was now an interminable slog back. The pavement stretched out for miles before me, as I hobbled along at a snail’s pace. Yep, high heels. SO fashionable.
I couldn’t get to the room fast enough to peel those instruments of torture off my feet. I was asleep in less than five minutes. What a great night it had been.
Okay, okay! I’m writin’ a new post – Jeez!
Posted 06 May, 2012 07:59 AM
Little note before: Thanks to everyone who has been commenting! I do realise that I haven’t been posting as often as usual, but honestly the internet was expensive and up and down like a pogo stick on the ship. I now have access to a more reliable system, so hopefully they will be expedited from now on. X
Again we couldn’t help but sleep in, particularly with it being a sea day. At this stage it was getting frightening, however, as disembarkation day was fast approaching when it would be an alarm set for 8.30am. We kept meaning to get on schedule but it wasn’t happening. In the end Carol wisely pointed out that we would only be in London for one night and then we would be over to New York. Perhaps this was the best way to tackle the situation – fighting Greenwich Mean Time all the way.
We went up to the café on deck 14 and I ate what was becoming my standard lunch – egg salad with French bread. Honestly, the amount of carbs we’ve consumed on this trip doesn’t bear thinking about. As we ate I felt tired again, but we had plans at 4:00 to attend the final jackpot bingo where over $2000 was definitely going to be won by someone. I announced to Carol and Lynne that I had to “go and take a nap before bingo.” The moment I said it I realised how absurd I sounded considering the fact that I was only in my early forties. We all had a good laugh at my expense.
My throat was still sore, and I had to sing in the theatre the next night. I was a little concerned, particularly as I was planning to scream out “BINGO!” when I inevitably won later on.
I enjoyed a quick slumber, and then the three of us headed to bingo, daubers in hand. We bought extra cards for the jackpot and made a beeline for our seats on the back row. By now we were pros. There were a few games leading up to the big one, but every time one of us looked close, some annoying person would win.
By the time the big one arrived, everyone was on edge and the room was deathly quiet. All I could hear were the knitting needles next to me going at a furious pace. My neighbour seemed determined to have a baby blanket started and finished by the time bingo was over.
Well…about 10 minutes later we were no richer. A woman from New Brunswick won, so Carol consoled herself that at least someone from the same province had taken the prize. We packed up our daubers and went back to our rooms to change for the last formal night.
It was a lovely evening in the Moonlight Sonata, but I could already feel the tears pricking at my eyes. I always get so attached to the staff on these ships, so saying goodbye is difficult. They put on a napkin waving performance, the lights flashed, the servers paraded by, and everyone was introduced over the microphone to raucous applause. At the end of dinner Ozan showed us how to make other napkin shapes, including a hanging chicken which was pretty impressive. That man should have a showcase in Vegas.
The ship went very quiet by about midnight, as most of the passengers were going to take the long trip to Paris the next morning. As we weren’t going, we tried to keep the party lively, but in the end three enthusiastic people could not keep the music pumping. We retired for the evening and I read a book for a while. Our plan was to head to Honfleur by taxi, take a stroll, buy a couple of things, and head back to the ship. We were setting the alarms for 10.00am.
10.00 came and went. We called Carol and she reckoned 11.00 might be better. From the evening before I had begun to question the wisdom of wandering out at all. I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, we still had to pack all our bags to put outside our room by 11.00pm, and I had my big performance that night. A look out the window to an overcast, cold and wet Le Havre sealed the deal – we were staying put.
I had a rehearsal at 6.15pm and although at the end of it I wasn’t entirely comfortable, I decided to leave it. I’m sure the last thing the staff wanted to hear was complaints about the key, and why there were no brown M&M’s in my dressing room. Thankfully I had packed everything earlier so I was all set. In the meantime, Lynne had gone on a trivia rampage. There were only a few people around, so she joined one of two teams for one competition. They won, and suddenly she had herself a brand new shiny luggage tag. Spurred on by this victory, she went to another, this time with Carol, and again they won. Lynne now had two tags and Carol had one. Apparently they were an unbeatable team, and so even though I really hadn’t wanted to attend any that day, Lynne dragged me to the third one she had highlighted (with an actual highlighter) in her daily programme. Carol was with us, and so we were the Three Musketeers once again. Of course this is all where it went horribly wrong, not helped by Lynne going over to her former teammates from earlier that day to inform them that they were about to be administered a spoonful of losing from hers truly.
I guess I was the bad luck charm because we came last. I gave Carol my luggage tag that I had won randomly the week before. It was the least I could do after killing their winning streak.
I had to open the 7.00 and 9.00pm shows, and as 7.00 approached so I got quite nervous. Suppose they didn’t change the key? Suppose my voice gave out? I was a twittering idiot backstage. I had decided to do “Midnight Train to Georgia” instead of “At Last” to mix it up a bit, but now I was regretting the move. Anyway, all the worrying was for naught. It went very well and the quarter-full theatre dutifully applauded.
I met the gals back at the staterooms, refreshed my perspiring visage, and then joined them at the restaurant with just enough time to choose my food before I had to run back to the theatre. This time it was nearly full, and thankfully my second performance went off without a hitch. I curtseyed to the people guilted into a standing ovation by the cruise director, and then happily went to get my dinner. I was STARVING!
The final night had a fair number of people out for a while, and we got to say fare-thee-well to a lot of staff we knew, including the cheeky Kirsten who had become a good friend. Other passengers discussed the ship’s gossip. Rumours had whirled about people dying on the cruise, caskets being taken off in the Azores, passengers kicked off for shoplifting and unruly behavior. As usual, it started off with about four cases and by the end of the cruise people were whispering like we’d lost half the passengers on board in 13 nights.
A contestant from the karaoke competition who was very sweet and very light in the loafers came over to congratulate me, and then confided that a lot of people hated me because they thought the whole competition was rigged and that I was a professional singer hired by the ship. “But I stuck up for you whenever I could,” he said helpfully with a gentle hand on my knee. I made a mental note to double-lock our door that night against the angry mob.
It was time for one last martini at the martini bar, one last poker hand, and one last hug. We got back to our cabins, made sure our bags had been taken, and tried to get to sleep. We had booked the latest time to leave – 9.00am – marvelling at the fact that the crew would have to get rid of all of us, and then greet another onslaught a few hours later.
It was unsurprising to find that none of us could drift off easily, and it really didn’t help when I was awoken by a phone call at 7.00am to let me know that our driver had been waiting nearly two hours for us, even though I had specifically stated that we would be disembarking at 9.00.
I have to say that the process of leaving the ship in Southampton was a DREAM compared to Miami. We had already gone through passport control on the ship, so all we had to do was make our way to baggage claim, and there were our suitcases, all in their proper sections. A quick walk through Customs was all that stood between us and the cold British air. We were through in a flash, and I called the driver to let him know we were through.
An unkempt man wearing a black corduroy jacket and trousers showed up sporting a black woolen cap on his five o’clock shadowed head featuring a pair of bloodshot eyes. I explained to him that I had told the company 9.00 but none of it seemed to be registering. We helped him get the bags in the car, and sat back for the nearly two-hour drive to London. We had decided on a private vehicle rather than the train as the idea of trying to find space for all of those cases on British Rail was one we did not wish to entertain.
Donde es the working internet?
Posted 03 May, 2012 09:26 AM
May 2nd, 2012
As much as the first part of the cruise seemed to go really slowly, the end is the exact opposite – we feel like time is rocketing by now. It is sad, yet inevitable. That being said, Carol wisely stated this morning that she needed to be somewhere where she was paying for every morsel of food that passed her lips. The whole all-you-can-eat thing is not terribly conducive to weight loss.
We spent the rest of the day at sea before Spain relaxing, apart from a meet-up with Ron and Camille, our new friends from California. I had offered to assist them with their iPad and iPhone setups, as they had contacted home about five times and already racked up a bill of about $1000 with Verizon. After that I think the word to the kids back home was phone calls only if someone has lost a limb. Lynne and I went to meet them at the pool bar at 2.00pm and we finally saw Ron saunter into the area at about 2.15. He was oblivious of our presence and went to lie down on deck chairs with his wife. Unwilling to let it go, I went over and prodded him in the foot to remind him of our appointment. Apparently the memory of the arrangement was fuzzy. The Martini Bar will do that to a person. He came over and we showed him how to disable roaming and 3G. After that we headed off our way and he went back to the loungers to recuperate.
It was another lovely dinner at the Moonlight Sonata, and we didn’t bother to go to the Eclipse Theatre so Lynne and I went to Quasar nightclub for a 45-minute ABBA-only dance fest. We bopped to every song and I’m embarrassed to say that I knew every number and most of the lyrics. At least it was exercise. After seeing Carol for a while Lynne went to bed and Carol and I went back to Quasar where Ron, Camille and Vladimir (from the US) were partying it up. Ron told me earlier that Vlad was flying back to Miami after this cruise, overnighting there, then taking a sister ship across the Atlantic AGAIN, this time for 15 days to Amsterdam! Listen, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely, but two of these back-to-back?? The guy is bonkers.
Thanks to our associates and good music, we were up until very late. I had not heard anything by now about the upcoming karaoke final, and so I figured I was not in it. That was actually fine by me, as singing twice on the last night of the ship (the prize) could be quite inconvenient. I therefore was quite happy to scream along with the nightclub music and yell at friends across the bar. When we finally got back to our staterooms I found a letter on my bed that started with “Congratulations…” My throat immediately began to feel sore.
The next day we had sworn we would arise at 10.00am to check out La Coruna. None of us slept well – I think I got a total of three hours. There seems to be something about going into port – it affects our sleeping patterns. We called Carol to suggest staying in bed longer and leaving the ship around 1.00. She was all for it. By the time we departed the vessel, it was about 1.30pm. A large shopping centre just outside the terminal had “FREE WiFi” stamped all over the windows. This looked like the place for us! Six sandwiches and three coffees later we were no closer to getting connected in the first indoor café we found. The man running it was awfully sweet, but couldn’t help us much as he was snowed under with customers. We were able to log into his system, but there was no internet to be had. We had other passengers constantly asking us for help so we tried to assist them, whilst at the same time working on our own problems. Once in a while we would get a connection to another signal for a few minutes, only to lose it later. Then they would all come back asking what they had done wrong, and we had to explain the basics of modems, signals and the joys of internet in a foreign country.
We gave up on that for a while and wandered the streets of the town which was very quiet due to the public holiday. There were a few sweet shops open, and a store with goods from China which seemed to go back and back like the wardrobe to Narnia, shelves crammed with unrelated objects. If I had needed a universal remote and a statue of an Indian warrior, this place would have been a blessing.
We didn’t walk around for long. I guess we wanted to feel we had visited the shores of Spain, but really there wasn’t much going on. We went back to the centre, determined this time to get our Internet sorted out. Another round of food and drinks eating into our Euros at another establishment finally enabled us to connect, and we stayed there for about an hour, revelling in our connection to the world. Lynne went back to the ship earlier than we did, and I purchased Carol a handbag as a gift. She had had her eye on it when we walked in. The salesperson was lovely. I was throwing a mixture of French, Spanish and Italian at her, but with lots of gestures we managed to communicate.
There was one souvenir shop before we got back on board, and Carol and I bought a couple of things, including a block of chocolate so heavy, it could be used as a weapon. When we got back to our cabins, I had 30 minutes to spare before I had to head down and meet the other singing contestants and record a video for that night. Then it was a show (impersonator), dinner, and the competition. Once again the day seemed to be filling up really quickly.
The video didn’t take much time. We just had to say our names and where we were from; vote for us, blah-de-blah… As it was going to play that night in the Sky lounge I was tempted to say “And let’s have fun! Like trivia’s supposed to be!” but didn’t in the end. Besides, I had to rely on the votes from the audience!
The female singer in the theatre had won BBC’s “Ultimate Impersonator” or something and she was very fun, but I wasn’t sure of all of her imitations. Dusty Springfield was fine, Annie Lennox didn’t sound like her (although she looked good), Cher was very good (but she went a bit over the top near the end), and Tina Turner was very good as well. She had a great voice, but I’ve seen better. Then again, she’s making a living with her singing and I’m not, so maybe I should just shut up.
After her show we went to dinner, and then I had to retire to my stateroom to freshen up before the Karaoke X-Idol finals.
By the time the competition began, the place was packed – standing room only. I was sitting next to one of the other finalists in our VIP area and tried to chat to him, but got nary a smile. He grumbled about how it had all been arranged. “Well it’s just a bit of a laugh,” I said brightly. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. Fair enough.
There were a few singers from the two weeks that thought they were in the final, and went up to the event staff member Nigel to query the situation. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights as he tried to explain to the crestfallen passengers that they were not included. One woman took it pretty well, but another guy said something in disgust and stormed out. As I said, a bit of a laugh.
All of the event staff were there – people we’d come to know, love and respect on this cruise. Kirsten sat with me for moral support as Lynne and Carol were out in the crowd front and centre. Charlotte was on the mic, Nigel was dancing wherever he went, and Michael was there smiling away, maybe ready to break up a karaoke fight if need be. When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet…
I sang “At Last” by Etta James. I had done it before, and would have been happy to sing something different, but their selection of songs was really limited. In the end I guess it was good enough because I won! It was a really great feeling, particularly because guests had to press a button on a remote to vote for you. They liked me; they really, really liked me! People came running up saying “What do you win? A free cruise? Money??”
“No, no,” I replied, eyes shining. “I get to sing in the Eclipse Theatre for the final show!!”
I was greeted with a chorus of “oh.” Bueller? Bueller??
Of course we had to go off and celebrate at the Martini Bar and Quasar. Besides, the next day was a day at sea…
To the Azores…and beyond!
Posted 30 April, 2012 12:19 PM
Me and my future husband, Rui.
April 30th (I know, I know…it’s been a while – hey! I’m on vacay!)
The night before the ship pulled into the Azores, we barely got any sleep. I don’t know what it was, but I got about one hour, Lynne got approximately four, and apparently Carol got two hours and 17 minutes. She knows the exact amount because she fell asleep at 6.00am and I woke her with a phone call at 8.17am to see if she was up yet. We were meeting Rui at 10.00 and so had ordered room service breakfast for 9.00. Room service on these ships is always a risk, and you never get exactly what you ask for. I got four boiled eggs when I requested two, but then there was less toast than we’d ordered, and when I say “toast” I mean “cold stiff white bread.” We got blackberry jam instead of raspberry and two orders of two eggs, bacon and sausage even though Lynne had requested one. I think it’s the interactive system on TV. It asks for number of guests and then number of eggs etc… I always thought it needed to know number of guests for cutlery purposes, but maybe there is some behind-the-scenes multiplication going on. Anyway, on the plus side the coffee was better than before and the food filled a hole, so…
We got off the ship and through the terminal and…no sign of Rui. I called him and it turned out we had gone the wrong way. Back we went and as we exited through the correct doors I caught a glimpse of a GORGEOUS man holding “Mrs. Vicki Wheaton” on a sign. Honestly, I think I actually squealed with joy, I was so punchy from lack of sleep. Before he even managed to draw breath I corrected him on the “Mrs.” part of the sign, eyelashes all a flutter. Carol and Lynne rolled their eyes behind me.
So began an amazing tour of the island. We left Ponta Delgada and visited the hot springs, Furnas Lake, the Fire Lake, the Tea Plantation, a park, and the most magical waterfall I have ever seen complete with tall vegetation everywhere and a pool beneath it. Rui’s knowledge was extensive and thankfully his English was impeccable as I “obrigado”d everywhere. I was talking at a million miles an hour due to a combination of overtiredness and obvious adoration. Carol was a dry wit behind me throughout the journey, basically reminding me to slow down before I had a seizure.
The weather wasn’t terrific – a bit of rain here, an icy wind there. Lynne was dressed up like a freezing Yoko Ono in her leather jacket, hat and gloves. The hot springs were one of her favourite stops. She found a small geyser and placed herself on top of it, jumping from foot to foot to get warm. I was a complete sap and bought a bag of corn for the myriad ducks in the area, AND a bag of cat food for the stray cats that appeared almost the moment my change was handed back to me by the savvy businessman in the food truck.
Despite the bits of fog and 80 per cent overcast sky, the beauty of the Azores was breathtaking. Mountains, valleys, green everywhere and the stunning lakes – I snapped loads of photos, but none of them really did the island justice. Or Rui, for that matter.
We stopped at a small café and the girls had coffee served by a flamboyant Portuguese man who was a scream. I went with an adult beverage, and he concocted something so sweet that the sugar high only added to my hyperactivity.
Six hours later Rui was driving us back to the port. It had been such a fabulous day. Honestly, we have got to get back there to stay for longer. That island deserves more of our time than the short visit we were allowed. I will be writing a piece on the Azores for the Compass when I return which covers the island in greater detail with accompanying photos.
Despite the lack of sleep, hiking and being buffeted by cold winds, we were remarkably energetic. I went to the pool bar to wave goodbye to Ponta Delgada and chatted with a bartender bundled up in a windbreaker, scarf and a hat. Apparently business hasn’t been booming on this trip at his location so he was grateful for the company. As we chatted an announcement from the captain came over the loudspeaker. Even though our next stop was supposed to be Cobh, Ireland, he was going to have to change course due to a big storm in the area that promised 25ft waves and 60km/h gales. Sounded like fun to me – what was the problem? Anyway, he reckoned it wouldn’t make for a comfortable journey so we were redirecting to La Coruna, Spain. The staff was happy, the passengers were not. Carol was disappointed – she had been looking forward to Cork. We also subsequently found out that May 1st is a public holiday in Spain, so very few shops will be open. We’ll probably end up trying to find a place with free WiFi and stay there for a bit as I wrestle with my high school Spanish.
We finally made it back to our staterooms and napped a bit before dinner. I honestly wasn’t even sure I wanted to go to the restaurant when it was time to go. In the end I reluctantly arose to change, and once I got to the table my appetite had returned. We spoke with other guests who had mixed reviews of their cruise ship coach tours in the Azores. We were SO glad we’d gone private!
Can you believe we actually stayed out until the wee hours? I think the clocks went forward again. Honestly, we might as well just do it every night out of habit. I don’t know how we’re not 653091 hours ahead of Cayman by now. By my reckoning we are somewhere just off the coast of New Zealand, based on time changes.
Yesterday morning (afternoon) we got up very late. So much for trying to adjust as we go. The weather was pretty rainy and cold so we pottered about for a bit and then went up to the outdoor bar on Deck 14 for trivia. This particular one was titled “Random Questions.” Everyone was surrounded with blankets, and we needed a spare. We asked the people behind us if they were using the one on the couch beside them, and a surly, miserable Englishman replied that he might be using it later. I am embarrassed to say that a lot of the troublemakers on board are British. Whiny, complaining, rude…it’s mortifying.
Our event staff member Charlotte was the unlucky host, and the complaints started before the quiz did. Why were the questions on a sheet? Why wasn’t she reading them out? Why were we not answering numbers 18 and 19? Honestly – I wouldn’t last a DAY in her job. Once we got our sheet we realised they had gone easy on us before. These were extremely difficult questions, and the three of us felt like idiots. I kid you not, we had “Whistler” as the highest mountain in Canada (Carol and Lynne are BOTH Canadian) and Lynne reckoned that the successor in Scotland was called “The Bruce.” Maybe she’s just a fan of Monty Python…or Australia. We were so awful that we carefully chose the team to which we would give our sheet for marking – a group that looked kind and gentle. We ended up marking the winning team’s sheet. They beat us by 11 points (out of a possible 17) and the name on the top of their sheet?
Their spelling certainly was (“Johnny Vershache” sold 25 Picassos in 1999), but they knew that the man who invented bullets to spray out causing maximum damage was named Shrapnel, not Winchester. Holy hell we were terrible.
We went for beverages afterwards, and then attended Qsine again for dinner. There was so much food, and it was even better than the first time. Carol left a bit early to see if we’d won a raffle (we didn’t) and then met us at the Martini Bar to witness the Masque party where dancers were dressed up in the tall white wigs and French court costumes, rocking out to various hits on the floor below and in the lifts, much to the surprise of unsuspecting passengers who were just coming down to see if they could find the Guest Relations desk.
After the extravaganza was done and Carol had taken lots of amateur video footage, we stopped by the casino for a bit. That didn’t last long – the place was REALLY quiet and clearly the staff were ready to close up.
Back to the bar for a while, where we bumped into a man we’d met the night before who lives in West Palm Beach and knows all the friends we have there! It’s a small world folks!
Off to bed late again, and we ordered room service as we put our watches forward an hour. I hope I’m out of the habit by the time I get back to Cayman, otherwise I’ll be wondering why the sun is setting at 10.00pm.
We woke up in the early afternoon today, and apart from Lynne and Carol attending bingo, it’s been a very quiet one. We arrive in Spain tomorrow, then it’s a day at sea, then France, then Southampton on Friday morning. All of a sudden it feels like the time is flying by, but we are looking forward to visiting with friends in London. I am NOT looking forward to dealing with luggage again. We’re wearing everything we brought so we can justify our over-packing.
So now you’re up-to-date! The ship is barely moving – the captain is waiting for the storm ahead of us to move out as we will still brush the edge of it. If I had been awake at 10.00am I would have heard his announcement.
Adios until tomorrow!
The dirty fork
Posted 27 April, 2012 02:47 PM
April 27th (Catch-up day)
Yesterday we all arose at about 11:00 a.m. The constant time changes were taking their toll, whether we went to bed late or early. The Captain decided that as we were heading into rough seas, formal night was to be moved up a day so people could still walk in their finery. We went to Café Al Bacio where Carol and Lynne visit at least once a day now because apparently the room service coffee is “AWFUL!” I don’t drink the stuff, so I probably wouldn’t know a good bean from a bad one. I bow to their higher knowledge.
There wasn’t much on that interested us in the programme. Sure, there were trivia competitions, but the crowd on this ship takes them so seriously and you have to get to the room about half an hour in advance if you want a seat, so we’re not going overboard (ha-ha) on those. The hours passed quickly, and we headed back to the staterooms in good time to get ready for formal night. The ship was already rocking more than it had days before, but I was determined to don my heels. We had a dinner reservation at Tuscan Grille – the specialty restaurant we had visited before, and then we were going to get to the theatre early for “Eclipse: The Show,” a very Cirque du Soleil kind of presentation. As we staggered down the hallways, I wondered how on earth the performers were going to manage it. The lift was more like a Wonkavator – the turbulence sending it more diagonal than vertical.
Dinner at Tuscan Grille was proving to be very nice once again, with the ever-smiling Maitre D’ Hotel and attentive staff. It all went a bit off, however, once Carol received her Rib Eye steak. It was rare, she had asked for medium-rare, and it was beyond marbled – it was fatty with bits of sinew everywhere. A dreadful cut of meat. We called over the server, Robert, and then the fun began. He apologized profusely, could he bring something else, he had warned us that the Filet was best etc… etc… We argued that if the Rib Eye was that unreliable, what was it doing on the menu? Still throwing out the apologies, he went off, only to be replaced by his assistant server, Viktor, who clearly had aspirations of his own, reiterating that he would have recommended the Rib Eye and his superior should have done the same. As we explained that Robert had, and he had done nothing wrong, the chef was brought to the table so we had to give the story all over again. He apologized and offered a replacement dish, but Carol demurred, already quite full. As he left a female manager came to the table to ask if everything was okay. By that stage we didn’t have the strength, and told her that we had already relayed our disappointment to half the staff. There was no need to go through it again. Honestly, it was the “Dirty Fork” Monty Python sketch come to life!
Time was creeping by and I wanted good seats for the show. Carol had to go back to her stateroom, and I waited for the bill. We’d given them a 20%-off coupon at the beginning of the meal, but it had not been registered on our cheque. As I got ready to do battle, Lynne went to try and save us places in the theatre. By the time I got out of there all she could get were three seats along the back where the upper view was blocked and I was sitting in front of a pillar. I was unpleased.
The performers were remarkable considering how the ship was moving. We all applauded and left to once again visit the Martini Bar which was hopping. The orchestra was downstairs playing big band classics, and when “Sing, Sing, Sing” came on I couldn’t help myself – I headed to the grand staircase making my way down to the beat of those fabulous drum solos. Clearly I thought I was somebody. Thank goodness I didn’t trip and fall.
We met a fun east coast couple, and an 82 year old woman who maybe looked 62. She was very attractive and stylish. She said she can’t find a man. Hey, if she’s having no luck we might as well forget it right now.
That’s right – didn’t mention. The night before I was sitting with Carol, chatting with another couple, and the wife came right out and asked how long we had been together. We made it abundantly clear that we were not that way inclined. The woman used to be an LA police officer. Nice investigative skills.
We stayed out very late – a foolish thing to do, as there was yet ANOTHER clock change and we all slept until about 1:00 this afternoon. Tomorrow we arrive in the Azores, and our tour guide is meeting us at 10.00am. I didn’t think it would be a bad time when I booked it, but I’m beginning to think that it’s going to be tough to get up for that.
It’s hard to believe we’re now halfway through this cruise. It has been SO relaxing thus far. We went to the Café earlier and then attended TV Theme Tunes trivia. Charlotte, the host, has clearly been dealing with this lot for a while as her first words were “I know there are British guests on board, but these are the tunes I’ve been given. Please don’t shoot the messenger.”
We got 11 out of 15 correct. Honestly, our only chance for glory and a perfect score was that day we defied Carol and paid the price.
Going off to get ready for dinner at Moonlight Sonata tonight. I’ve a feeling we will not be chasing the dawn like last night. Really looking forward to seeing the Azores with our tour guide Rui!
Falling behind because Internet is really twitchy….honest
Posted 27 April, 2012 02:14 PM
The comedian/juggler ended up offering a bit more than we bargained for. I always like to sit in the front row, as with my experience as a presenter, I know what a difference it can make to have fun people up front. The three of us took our seats next to a few others and then Cruise Director Lisa came on to introduce him. Apparently he has performed on TV, at large shows and even for Queen Elizabeth!
Next thing we knew, a jerking, bouncing man came on stage barking jokes and giggles at us all whilst the veins bulged out on his forehead. He had already begun to sweat profusely and as he approached the front of the stage, sprays of spittle flew from his mouth with every exclamation. “He looks like he’s going to have a heart attack,” whispered Carol in my right ear as he strode back and forth, spewing spit and perspiring as he went.
It was the first time I questioned the wisdom of sitting where we were. Carol was clearly disgusted by the bodily fluids being thrust in our direction, particularly on a ship where Purell is offered everywhere you go. Lynne and I both found it revolting, but I couldn’t stop laughing at the look on Carol’s face. He actually jumped down at one stage with knives in his hand, and we all scarpered as he leapt up on the armrests of the chair next to Lynne. We didn’t care about being cut in two, we just didn’t want to catch the lurgy. The faces of the people in the row behind when presented with this spluttering man who at this point was actually dripping sweat everywhere like a low-flow faucet were priceless. The unfortunate thing is that he was actually a very talented juggler, but who could concentrate with all the rest of it? At one point he put two ping-pong balls in his mouth, rolling them around, ready to launch them into the air to catch them in his mouth again. “If one of those things lands on me…” growled Carol. I lost it at that stage. I was in fits and couldn’t stop. At least he must have thought he was doing well. The minute he finished Carol was up like a shot. “We’ll talk,” was all she could muster as we made good our escape.
Just outside the theatre was Nigel dancing with the other guests learning the Beyonce single ladies steps. I have to admit, he pulled it off pretty well. We applauded his efforts, and were going to head to the dining room and wait for our seating time, but then we were invited to join in the Jeopardy challenge going on in the small theatre. In we went, and when it came to choosing the next set of contestants, my hand shot up. There were four of us – two men and two women, but really only the chick from New Jersey and I had a shot. Despite being instructed not to do so, we were thumping those buzzers halfway through the question. More Family Feud than Jeopardy. At one stage, in order to curtail our bad habit, our buzzers were switched off from the main board until the end of the question was read. The staff member forgot to turn them back on in time, so there were the pair of us going all whack-a-mole on our consoles until the presenter politely reminded us that this equipment was not as hardy as perhaps we thought it was. I won the overall game in the end, and now I have a shiny luggage tag to show for it. Hot dog!
Dinner was lovely – a french onion soup to simply die for. We all declined dessert, aware of clothes fitting for the next two weeks. Next was karaoke in the Sky Lounge. The first night had been quiet, but this one was packed. We sat at the bar, and I put in a request. “Before he cheats,” by Carrie Underwood. At least it had an upbeat rhythm in the midst of one dirge after the next. The song went really well, along with a bit of the ol’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” later on. We left around midnight to join the Martini Bar crowd for a while and then retired for the evening. Clocks went forward an hour…again.
Napkin folding queens
Posted 25 April, 2012 02:55 PM
So much for our big plans last night. We went to dinner (which was fabulous – at-table preparations of lobster and Dover sole) and then Lynne and I bowed out early to go back to our stateroom and read. Honestly, I slept late and went to the room for about 9.30pm! This was NOT the Vicki you all know and (ahem) love.
I forgot to mention that on the first night of our voyage I used an Oil of Olay cleansing scrub followed by moisturising lotion because spa staff are always telling me I have dry skin. I guess I went a bit nuts with it because the next morning I looked like I had first degree burns on my cheeks. My eyes were puffy, my skin was bright red…a fabulous start. Since then I’ve avoided anything but hand soap.
This morning I made myself rise earlier than usual. I have got to try and accommodate these time changes. I went and read by the pool for a while. The hot tubs have been unusually devoid of people so far on this cruise, so I may make a move in the next couple of days. Time to break out my shocking-white-legs secret weapon.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat before a napkin-folding class which, I kid you not, was standing room only. I blamed any of my amateur results on my particular napkin which was more rhombus than square, but I managed a fairly decent Bird of Paradise and Party Hat, no thanks to our demonstrator on the port side who forgot how to fold a Butterfly himself as we were halfway through it.
After that we headed to Name That Tune trivia, maybe trying to make up for yesterday’s lazy day. Our host Nigel was hilarious, and thanks to his love of Dr. Hook, half of the answers revolved around hits by that band. Carol went to the Ladies afterwards and encountered a woman grumbling about “too many Dr. Hook answers.” Really? First prize was a PEN. You can tell that many of these teams take the whole thing wayyyyy too seriously. We’re still willing to show our faces, even after I said that “Year of the Cat” was “Honesty” by Billy Joel. In fairness I was only given the first few notes.
We’ve just returned to our stateroom after a brief stop at the Oceanview Café. Tonight is definitely a big night. Comedian/Juggler (a rare combination) Steve Rawlings takes to the stage at 7.00pm, then we have to cheer Nigel on in a Beyonce dance-off competition. Yes, you heard me right. After that it’s dinner at Moonlight Sonata then karaoke in the Sky Lounge. Madness I tell you!
The sun has come out!
Posted 24 April, 2012 12:53 PM
Finally we are seeing some sun, and the passengers have emerged like cockroaches to swarm over the pool area. As much as the rain and wind really didn’t bother us, we admit that it’s nice to be able to use our balcony if for no other purpose than drying some clothes. My workout gear is on the table and chairs, and Carol’s underwear is secured under the legs of her furniture.
Last night we went to see the comedian Troy Thirdgill in the Eclipse Theatre. I have seen him on a number of previous cruises, but only on the introduction evening. I had never witnessed his entire show before. He was excellent. We sat in the front row and laughed until our sides hurt. He’s an intelligent comedian with such insight, particularly when it comes to the behavior of cruise ship tourists. He asked me a question and my mind went blank. I was lost for words! Me! I just sat there opening and closing my mouth like a fish out of water. SO pathetic! Carol and Lynne loved every moment. We have GOT to get him to Cayman to perform in the Laughter Lounge; he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.
After his show we went to dinner in the Moonlight Sonata dining room. This was the first time I had ever eaten there, as when I travel Celebrity I usually book Aqua Class which means Blu restaurant every night. We had a great time and our servers from Turkey and Nicaragua were terrific. Looking forward to seeing them again.
The Eclipse orchestra was playing Motown music in the grand foyer and I managed to catch up with some of the event staff I’d met on previous cruises. We sat at the martini bar and played hangman in the snowy rim I mentioned in an earlier blog. Carol got the answer every time before the man hanged.
Lynne went back to the stateroom at a decent time but Carol and I decided to stay out later and give as many people as possible the benefit of our company. The clocks went forward for the second time last night so what with that and my tendencies to socialize into the wee hours, I will probably be sleeping until about 3.00pm by the time we arrive in Southampton.
Today we wandered about a bit and showed Carol the Lawn Club – an area of live grass outdoors on the upper deck. I’ve never been interested in playing bocce before, but I may just have to give it a try on this ship in the middle of the Atlantic.
Oh yes – how could I forget! Carol and I actually went to the gym yesterday! We were only planning to work out for 30 minutes, but there was an episode of Law & Order on TV that we wanted to finish. Thanks to Briscoe and Logan, we exercised for a whole hour.
Dinner at 7.00pm tonight in Murano (another specialty restaurant), and then maybe a show. We’ll have to see. Gosh – it’s just ALL so exhausting.
Lynne beside the lawn club – she’s part lizard; always cold, even when it’s sunny.
Happy passengers sunbathing by the main pool.
Posted 23 April, 2012 10:53 AM
Well we didn’t win anything at bingo, even though Carol had nine cards per game, I had 15 thanks to my Captain’s Club “Select” status and Lynne had 12 as she was “Classic.” We had our daubers at the ready while Maria the Activities Director barked out the numbers rapid-fire. We could barely keep up. There we were, the youngest participants in the room, bleating about slowing down whilst geriatrics effortlessly stamped their 72986514 cards. We might have had bingo and just didn’t know it. As I wiped the sweat from my brow, I was sure I’d missed a few squares. We grudgingly applauded those that won then headed off to nurse our sore daubing arms.
I got a spot prize of a $10 free slot credit for the casino. Thanks to issues with my sea pass and a newbie attendant, it took about an hour to actually redeem it. It went in less than a minute on The Treasures of Egypt. Satisfied that this was not a winning day for me, I made my way back to the room to get ready for our first formal night. The three of us donned some of our finest garments, applied our make-up, and arranged our hair. I arranged mine as much as it would allow me. This night we were dining in Qsine – a restaurant that was first introduced to the Celebrity Solstice line of ships on Eclipse and was now my favourite. You order your food on iPads and it is brought to the table in quirky presentations. The whole room looks like it was designed by Tim Burton. The experience is fun and the food is excellent. After many “journeys” we rolled out of there barely able to move. Thank goodness for the earlier bingo or we would have had no exercise at all that day.
We went to the martini bar for a while – a social hotspot with a bar that features a rim of snow so people can write their names on it, or reveal their inner artist. Qsine had taken its toll on us however, and we all decided that we would retire to our rooms relatively early to watch a film or something.
The weather did not improve throughout the day. If anything, it was getting worse. Lightning flashed outside followed by thunder, as hundreds of people in formal dress stumbled down the hallways in a manner usually only reserved for those departing a bar at closing time. The boat wasn’t violently leaning or anything, but it was moving just enough to affect everyone’s ability to put one foot in front of the other.
We got back to the rooms and changed into pyjamas to watch a bit of TV. When it came to sleeping time I tried to move onto my side for a while, but thought better of it as when the ship rocked I felt in real danger of being rolled out of bed. I had barely closed my eyes when I realised that I needed some TUMS. As Lynne was already asleep, I didn’t want to wake her with noise or light (Lynne and I are sharing a twin cabin, and birthday girl Carol has a queen cabin all to herself). I got up in the dark and felt around for the antacid. The bottle was nearly full, and I was trying not to shake it like a maraca so instead I reached in with my fingers to extricate one. The first escapee merrily jumped out of the bottle and bounced away on the floor. I tried to catch its location when a flash of lightning briefly assisted between the curtains, but couldn’t see it anywhere. I would have to take the bottle to the bathroom where I would have some light. As I approached the door the ship encountered a bit of a wave and I careened into the wall. So much for my concerns – Lynne slept through it all. I got my TUM (singular) and went back to bed before I did myself and the cabin further harm.
The seas are calmer but it is still grey outside. I forgot to mention that yesterday afternoon as it was blowing a gale and the rain was coming down in sheets, there were still four people in the hot tub by the pool. Clearly they were determined to enjoy all the amenities regardless of the weather. I suppose wet is wet.
Anyone who has been on a cruise knows that laundry isn’t cheap, and on a longer cruise like this it can really add up. Savvy passengers such as ourselves bring a small bottle of detergent with us so we can do a bit of our own. Of course we didn’t count on Mother Nature. I had a pair of underwear and jeans nicely drying on our verandah on the first evening. That night I forgot to retrieve them. The next morning they were soaked through thanks to the storm. That’s what we cheap people get.
Carol went to see Antone Davis from “The Biggest Loser” give a talk this morning in the theatre, and now she and Lynne have gone off for coffee. I figured I’d get my blog up-to-date although the internet has been intermittent ever since we got on board. The minute it becomes available I’ll post this as I’m sure you are all on tenterhooks to know what we’re up to.