Saturday, April 23, 2011

South America Cruise begins

// as I drone thru the morning sunshine on my way to Argentina, it occurred to me that my very first flight of my life was fifty years ago this month, occurring, if memory serves, on my fifteenth birthday. As further luck would have it, I may have that diary with me this trip to look at and transcribe. Got caught aft by the announcement that we were beginning our descent, and could not BELIEVE how long some people still took in the bathroom.. My sinuses and ears cleared beautifully for me, and comfort level high for such a long trip. The empty seat makes huge difference. Buckled in, had a perfect view of the countryside in our descent, left base entry for landing runway 11 (so said the captain as I exited).

Debarking from the plane was much easier than sometimes. I fell into conversation with the guy behind me, who looks a bit like Kevin G, but is Richy Minetta from Huntington and he is a comedian aboard the Crown. He says he has worked all the NCL ships at one time or another. It explains why his cabin is below mine however.

After the usual wait which seems endless, both suitcases arrived and without a cart, I humped out the door and it took me asking several people before I found the NCL rep, who was not near the exit. I went and got a cart and they were leaving to get on the bus as I got back.

Local time (two hours ahead of NY) 7:49AM Dateline” Buenos Aires, Argentina

It just feels so COOL to say that! I am on a tour bus at the airport listening to Spanish Music and surrounded by people who look a generation older than I, but as I found out earlier today, they may in fact be five years younger. The weather was clear, bright, warm and sunny for my arrival in South America this being my 5th South American country ( Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Chili formerly). The countryside was pretty and there is a sizeable city (which I suppose is BA) beside the ocean. The local temp is mid seventies, and the nine inches of snow on Long Island seems a long way away, as indeed it is. GPS signals are stingy currently, but I GOT MY FIX when I needed it.[crossing the equator]

Immigration was a breeze and they ignored me totally at customs. The NCL rep was a young slim Spanish woman without any charm whatever and not very good speaka da English either. But she had me go get a cart for my suitcases which both arrived intact with with the cabin stickers still attached.

Pitstop in downtown Buenos Aires, and I add the city to my McDonalds. The little tour guide that had been so incommunicative at the airport has turned out to be charming in her own, Spanish way, and has done a decent job of giving us an abbreviated city tour. I have enjoyed it. but have no real desire to return any time without added incentive. The weather is sensational and feels more like spring in the air than summer. There are many trees and even a few palm trees, statues, squares, people sunbathing..Barrel trees, jacacinta trees. 3 million residents.

Saw HSBC, Shell, Esso, McD, many serious cyclists, ranch, cattle, blockbuster. People on bus from Mich, Cal, Ariz, Hawaii, Paris, Texas. Saw Evita balconey, spring smell in air. Kids begin school soon=mar 1st. BA was fairly quiet but has 40 thousand taxis and a safe subway system which costs 70 cents to use. We drove along the widest boulevard on earth – hooray.

well, it has been an up and down kinda afternoon. The transition from riding the air conditioned tourbus and getting used to the idioms that Cinthia uses went to hell when the bus stopped, there were no porters there and conflicting info about what we were supposed to do. We were told we had to walk the baggage thru a scan, but then they wouldn’t let us in there. The next hassle was four more pages of papers to fill out, which I did, making about six times I filled out the same form, and a good job it is too that I’ve memorized my passport number, which has seemed to give the last few people pause when they scanned it.

And having done all that, THEN they give you the letter saying that you might want to cancel the cruise because so many people got sick on the last one. After twenty hours of travel and paperwork and such, not bloody likely. Then, as you emerge from the security check, with belts undone, fanny packs askew, knapsack unslung, hat and sunglasses off, THEN they say they want to take your picture for ‘security’ which is absolute bullsh*t, because the picture is taken inside by the checkin folks.
The actual checkin itself is done shipboard, which is a first, and nice. I found the latitudes checkin and waited till called, and hit the first up bit when I was told the cabin had been changed from4112 to 8019.

I was very happy to hear this, but it rapidly dissipated when my passport was held. This has never happened before and I was NOT pleased and said so about four time s in different ways. Anyhow, I got my key and instead of going to the room, I went right to the shore excursion desk where the guy remembered me from the Norwegian Sea, and he tried to discourage me from a bus tour of Montevideo tomorrow because it is some kinda holiday.. But, as it is the bus drivers problem and not my own, I signed up for the noon tour with the thought that I am likely to be exhausted at seven thirty in the morning and unlikely to pass this way again.

Only then did I repair to my room [or so I thought] where I found they have key keys and not key cards, but it was open, and I set the safe, poured myself some water, hung some stuff up and then found that the computer wouldn’t plug in. Asked steward and he said, ok electrician for 8018 – which of course is not the room I was assigned. VERY Embarassedly, I left the wrong stateroom, glad that I hadn’t been interrupted in anything by the rightful owners, and made my way to the other side of the boat.

Deck eight, where I am (but my luggage currently ain’t) has NO inside staterooms, so I have a huge picture window, which doesn’t open, but has a good view of the lifeboats and plenty beyond, and is a far far better place than inside down on deck 4.

I have elected to wait to eat till supper, but didn’t see anything I particularly liked to eat…couple cute waitresses already. The staff with whom I have dealt so far have been way above average. I couldn’t get any gps signals on deck 11, but will try again later. There may not be any water fountains either.

//Luggage still not here, but going to the top of the crown at 3PM local time for a tour of the ship. I also have an invite to cocktails with the captain, but I think that is courtesy of latitudes, rather than ** personally involved.….

I peeled off the tour to go down to deck four where I found the smaller of the two ventura suitcases sitting beside the door to what was supposed to have been my stateroom. As of 1600, no sign of his big brother, so the pursers desk notified, and I have made two additional trips down to deck four to see if it turns up there. Upon my return to stateroom this time, large bowl of fruit therein. I also smacked my middle right finger, not hard, but it has presented with some rather severe pains, similar to what I experienced last week, only a lot worse.

I continue to tell myself that I am going to enjoy this stateroom every night for fourteen nights, and the temporary going without the big suitcase is an ok price to pay. But I could use some aspirin on this, the first time ever that I didn’t bring any. It is a teeny ship compared to the Dawn, with three terminals in the internet cafĂ© instead of twenty, but a nice guy to run it and plenty of ‘hot areas- or so he says. Lifeboat drill is the next big adventure.

//Lifeboat drill went well thanks to four prior cruises and a pair of South Africans who were highly entertaining. I sat and listened to English, German and Spanish and when done, put my lifejacket back in my room, found my missing suitcase on the 4th floor and brought it up to the stateroom and went out on deck for the ‘sailaway’ party. I told the pursers desk but not the hallway guys, as their attitude stank.
A week ago, I was playing piano with Bruce in the Iridium with H and D in the audience, and today, sitting on the Rio Plata river watching the coast of Argentina roll by on my way to visit Montevideo tomorrow. Damn! The sail away party featured Dixieland music, not too much better or worse than ours, but highly unexpected. Elec bass, elec piano and no banjo, and every time one of the twinkys wanted to make an announcement, their power was cut – riffus interruptus.

I found freshly carved roast beef and went back four times, and finished it off with some ice cream, and am highly content with things as they are here. Both suitcases in the cabin, which has come up four decks and gone from inside to outside. Weather is picture perfect. Temp still in the upper seventies and cloudless sky with just a little color beginning as sunset approaches in South America..

While there are no drinking fountains, I was advised to simply ask bartenders for a large glass of water and I have done, keeping my evian bottle in the room full, the computer charged and working fine, and both suitcases to unpack when I get around to it. My middle finger really hurts however, with occasional flashes of pain in the lower joint that are way up there on the ten scale around seven or maybe even eight.. Bad enough to where I went looking for some aspirin aboard to buy.

Have not explored the tv channels yet. There was no moving map in the plane which would have been nice. // My fellow passengers all seemed to enjoy the Dixieland, which speaks volumes of their demographic. Almost 100% Caucasian, and almost all of them older than I. I think one girl said there are three kids aboard. Few if any teens. Have seen no blacks whatever, and there are a few orientals who may be Vietnamese.

The library, where I am sitting alone presently, has nine floor to ceiling windows with a view of the sun setting over the pampas (maybe) but pretty with the potted plants in the foreground and rows of big stuffed leather chairs and big books. Nobody else here now. Some are getting ready for dinner, and I am getting ready for sleep I bet. Will try to get the pictures into the puter before going to sleep, leaving internetting for tomorrow. Puter seems to have survived trip ok, but is doing funny things to this file for instance, promising to ‘merge’ it with a temp file later.

Came back to room which now had all my stuff and found some light switches by the bed, another which turns on and off the PA announcements in the cabin, and tried to get the temp right. Got four pillows and found a sleep switch on the remote control so that I wouldn’t wake up like I did on the Dawn. The tv fare turned out to be Sgt Bilko and an I Love Lucy show that I had not seen previously.
Sleep came before 2100 on my watch, waking up maybe once or twice during the night and going back to sleep.


Buenos Aires falls astern on the Rio Plata


John0 Juanderlust said...

Trying to pinpoint date of this trip

Anonymous said...

It was in early 2005, before I had met Miss B. It was summertime in the southern hemisphere. Don't want to be too much more specific, with all the stateroom numbers etc.

In fact I have a second entry ready to post, but I think I will redact a bit more henceforth.


Fijufic said...

Nice story. My last cruise was in July of 1994 and after that we decided the ships were way too big and the lines were too long.

Anonymous said...

NCL retired the Crown shortly after BA and I took her to Bermuda. It was actually stretched by the new owners and renamed the Balmoral.

For me, and for us, it was a really nice size. It was big enough to have a range of activities and venues, but small enough to dock at St George and Hamilton, which the big guys cannot.