Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day Nine - Virgin Gorda, British VI

dateline Tortola, BVI

Today I woke at 0615 and went straightway to the 12th deck café for coffee, and saw on the stbd side a most gorgeous colored sky as the sun rose over a scattering of small islands and the sea and sky were lovely colors. This being the second time I had ventured from my cabin without the camera, I went back quickly and shot a half dozen or so different pics as the sun rose and yet another cruise ship approached the island slowly. I hope the many pics do the scene justice. [Judge for yourself; see below] The ship passed us and is a celebrity liner with no name on stern. The one with us yesterday in St Thomas was the Serenade of the Seas, and my taxi driver was taking a cruise on her next week, about his 8th.

Dreams last night were wonderful, and life ain’t too bad awake either, as I sit drinking my coffee and watching the celebrity ship approach Tortola with a half dozen officious little police type ships swarming round her (and us) like Chihuahua puppies lusting after a great Dane. They are making quite a fuss and I was just telling ‘fritz’ the cfi yesterday about them rolling the cfr trucks at all the stops on the way to Bora Bora, and now I find myself wondering whether they have received some sort of threat to the ship,. Certainly it [cruising] epitomizes the type of living that Muslims find unholy.

Well we are cleared to tender, and I have twenty minutes to get myself to the stardust lounge for my shore excursion, which is ONLY a ticket to Virgin Gorda. Time will tell if I have screwed this one up, but it will be foot on a new island…..

And so I made my way to the stardust lounge, arriving about three minutes before our assembly time of 0730. It turns out that the Highlights of Virgin Gorda thing was the way to go, and we had a double deck boat filled with people on their way to get off the boat and onto open buses. No room for me. The ride across the water was lovely, and so yes, I have been boating in the BVI so there!

When we got to the dock, however, there was a lovely welcome sign and not a lot else. There was a closed customs bldg and naught else anywhere. The female running the tour told me there was no room. Someone else said there was, and she came along and said no again. So I walked away from the dock and to my right, toward visible ship masts which I hoped would yield a sail.

Found a hole in the fence and soon felt like Robinson F Caruso on a deserted island, as the ship was not going back for three hours and I was left with the following resources: sunscreen, binocs, gps, raincoat, two towels, camera, bottle of water, paper and pencil, a quiet pretty beach and a gorgeous view. So I fell back on my own resources to amuse myself, and immediately began a journal of the kamikaze event, and wrote letters to A** and C***, inviting them both to dinner in NYC if they ever have any free time. God help me if they ever say yes!

Went into the water up to my knees, and basically had resigned self to look into things next time a little further, when I decided to walk a little further. Thinking of Princess Bride, I listed my assets and what I was missing:

Have: water, beach, sunscreen, gps, writing stuff, binocs, rain parka, towels, lovely view, sectional.

Don’t have-food,, taxi, sailboat, toilet, bike, internet, postcard, reading material Incidentally, I picked up eight satellites on the gps, which it had not done since I was on the river in Bangkok heading to the Royal Orchid hotel and another kamikaze lobby entrance in my sweats.

Finally decided to walk a little further from the ferry.

It was like a twilight zone episode, as I came to a tourism center with internet (which at forty bucks an hour I passed) postcards, t shirts, batteries and candy bars, and I got them all. They had begging chickens, some pretty music, a chair and shade to sit in, and the rest of the time on Virgin Gorda passed very pleasantly. The first wasn’t really unpleasant, just a bit of a surprise, and there were a few sprinkles of rain, but not enough for me to put on the parka.;

On the beach there was even a man Friday, although he said no more than good morning as he mended his lobster pots or whatever they were. There was a tiny sandshark on the grass and again, some substantial yachts at anchor and moored alongside. The one that I saw a location on was Roadtown BVI which I now know is the capital of Tortola. I got a postcard of Virgin Gorda and one of Tortola despite my visit to Tortola being about five seconds (as Fritz dumped the flaps yesterday and I put power on the skyhawk hee hee= touch and go on runway seven – perfectly done).

Time now is 1325 local, 1225 NY, and we are under way, with no more stops till we are in NYC. I am already thinking seriously of re booking the Dawn again, even understanding that a balcony is not necessarily in my next trip for the price I paid for this one. I fell in love with being waited on hand and foot aboard the Ecstasy and this trip has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for it. BTW, I went off and left my do not disturb sign on, and have quite a collection of dirty dishes, but all otherwise fine.

When I got back to the ship, the ferry was smashing up against the Dawn as we debarked, and I remarked to myself that this was the very last time that I was going to climb aboard this lovely vessel this time out. For sure will keep an eye on prices for upcoming cruises on her, maybe even Xmas. I already spoke to R*** about same. As I wandered around, I felt again that there is just something for everyone here. Little kids were splashing in the t rex pool. Many others were at a poolside barbecue, and the garden café was also filling up, with all kinds of exotic food for every taste. Even mine, as I went to the Bimini deck for two hotdogs and some fries.

As we steam away from Tortola for NY, I have elected to remain on my balcony and catch up with the mornings activities, and won’t budge till we are out of sight of land.

For fun I just looked at my diary for a year ago, and I was dealing with nine inches of snow with the camper etc. Obviously, I have no idea what wx has been going on back on LI. But this is quite a bit more pleasant, with the warm trades blowing across my balcony and a succession of lovely green islands and white sailboats filling the gorgeous waters of the Caribbean. With the cabin gps and my TCA chart that I got yesterday, it is a cinch to see just where we are. I ran into Dr Ho earlier and asked him to telephone and come on up and share the balcony.

The British Virgin Islands are falling astern now (Jost Van Dyk off my balcony) and I am openly and overtly lonely now. . This gorgeous, sunridden balcony overlooking the gorgeous blue Caribbean and the even more beautiful virgin islands falling astern is downright lonely with an empty chair. I even thought of wondering how much a condo on one of these islands would go for.

After reading the description of the snowstorm last year on this date, the idea of sitting permanently on a warm balcony overlooking the warm water appeals. So does another cruise, although it will be tough to do without the balcony for sure. I think it is time to wander the ship and watch some people. Called Dr Ho but no answer.

Wandered here and there. Got some ham and turkey sandwiches and brought them back to the room which I forgot to leave the sign on to make up, and it is filling up with empty dishes. R*** sent some more too which I haven’t even looked at. I gave my letter to A*** and got one of her “light up the room but unfortunately infrequent” smiles.

Went to the meeting on upcoming cruises and they have one that goes to both Machu Picu and the Antarctic which sounds ideal. The ‘dead cow’ in the impressions dining room does not sound appealing so I am going to wait and have another burger in the Blue Lagoon (for such is the name of the little place next to reception). I figure to time it for 1900 and listen to the Philippinos and then go internet a little.

I stopped off in the gift shop and was successful in finding instructions which enabled me to stop the alarm from going off on my watch. While I was there, a couple was looking at a watch which sells for thirty five thousand dollars. I asked the clerk if they sold many, and she said no, they do not. I pointed out that for that price I got a house, car and airplane and boat. Her rather plaintive response was “well, it is platinum”.

And I went to the casino with twenty bucks, saw a $25 table with a rich old idiot lady and a slow dealer who was milking her dry, so as soon as I won one hand at the five buck table, I went over, and got a 13 against a ten showing. But the old lady split fours and sevens I think, and got every low card in the deck, so I stuck and the dealer broke on his 16. Feeling chuffed, I left posthaste with thirty five profit.[well, $30]

Watching CNN now, as the vacation is over and we are heading home. Terrorists attacked the US Embassy in Riyadh KSA. More mayhem in Iraq and attacks by ETA in Spain as well. Stocks seem to be way down…will go on line later tonight. . Stood awhile on the balcony of the internet café on the 9th deck watching the dancing to the Philippino trio who hit some really bad chords in Just in Time.

On line I checked and got another nice message from Mr V***, some more funny messages from S*** in Colorado who has developed quite a cult following, and no wonder, as her turns of phrase are marvelous... kind of like Erma Bombeck on speed. Quick post on pprune and I was off, without checking email at home or comics. . The blue lagoon was busy so I came right back to the room to see a sea turtle on my bed (towels) and photographed it, and looked at the last bit of stuff from R*** and it was chocolates, so I am prolly gonna skip dinner altogether.

But I did find myself back in the internet café catching up on the few things I missed first time, and to listen to the romantic trio playing. Have been catered to, waited on, looked after for eight or nine days, have seen and photographed five new islands, have six or so new postcards for the refrig area, nothing unpleasant facing me at home, and actually still two more days and nights at sea. And presumably the resources to do it all over again, to South America, Macu Picu and Antarctica if I want to. None of which explains why I feel like I do.

----Tortola Sunrise

-------- My Robinson Crusoe beach

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day Eight - St Thomas, USVI

Dateline St Thomas, USVI

Today I woke shortly before six thirty in stateroom 10*** of the Norwegian Dawn, and channel 14 showed a lovely view of St Thomas ahead. I feel good, excited, happy and at the same time calm and controlled. I barefooted up to the garden café and back with a small cup of coffee to hold me till the room service pot arrived at seven, and by then I had the identifier for Tortola airport plugged into my gps, had taken a photo of the police boat AND the bow wake together, a welcome to st Thomas sign on the deck together with Xmas ornaments which still strike me as incongruous given the 78 temp and 74% humidity.

Sky is scattered with apparent wind from the east, so flying is DEFINITELY on my mind for the day, and my hope is that Ad*** and/or Ag** will be a part of the occasion. I have filled out an embarkation card for Tortola (have sorta memorized my passport info – issued 8 Dec and no****. Next stop is the auditorium on deck six in exactly a half hour for US customs clearance, which will speed things up in NYC, unless we have to do it all over again because we are supposed to be going to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow. We shall see… mox nix.

Flew N***CH from St Thomas to Tortola for a touch and go and a low pass over Virgin Gorda where single engine planes are not allowed. The taxi driver took me for an hour ride first, so I got yet another pic of the cruise ship in a harbor, and lots more shots of pretty islands in the sun. We found Ace Aviation, and the CFI, F****, was nearly my age, looked and sounded just like Wilfred Brimley and we took another brand new fledgling CFI along for a ride in the back seat.

Nice long pre flight briefing, and I got a chart for the ride, and then we took off to the east ahead of a citation in its way to Palm Beach. We saw where Bill Gates lives, and Sir Richard Branson, and did a touch and go on 07 at Tortola. The entire flight was 1500 feet and though the winds were strong, it was not too turbulent and I enjoyed very Aspect of it. My log book was filled out and signed, and by the time I had finished the visa bill for the trip, the taxi was here to take me back to the ship.

I walked to an internet place and it was a virtual tower of Babel, as Orientals, Spanish, Turkish, polish, Korean all were jabbering at once on the phones. I found a cable car and took it up and back without getting off to ‘shop’ at the top, and got some nice views of the harbor and the two ships therein.

Thence to an internet which was five bucks an hour, and there I stayed for two hours, content.

I found R** in the internet café and together we sent off to Mr. V** a copy of my praise to NCL which I posted (as promised) on cruisecritic. I said a long hello to C*** and told her that I was going to leave it to her to find me and let me know when she has time to look at the pix. She seemed to genuinely hope that we could chat.

I dined alone and rather rapidly by the window in Impressions on sirloin steak, and then later had ham, mashed potatoes and pineapple up on deck 12, and two things of popcorn and two bowls of strawberry ice cream. The day was really a huge success if you count the two new airports, a new island, a beautiful flight with two good landings etc. The wx was just fine, the plane ran well and I didn’t fuss or cringe over the price.

The ship has now allowed itself eleven hours to go thirty miles, so I have no idea how it is going to spend the time. I do not remember a great deal about what J*** and I did on our first visit to St Thomas, but I vividly remember going over on the Grumman goose belonging to Antilles Airboats.

More food from R*** which I haven’t even looked at yet, as I am quite full. One of the taxi drivers said they have had as many as 13 cruise ships in the harbor at once. I have seen no seagulls or any other evidence of wildlife in the harbor at all, and in fact, seagulls have been notably absent from most of our ports of call,tho I think I saw a pelican at Antigua, which now seems a long time ago.

There was a bunch of perhaps Japanese enjoying karaoke while I was internetting, and they were quite good and I enjoyed listening to them. First time I ever saw it up close and personal.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Taking a Break from Cruise Posts – Life, Goes On

gThis Sunday morning, a pharmacist who works a block from the Elementary School once attended by my children went off to work as did a young girl who also worked at the pharmacy, with no idea on earth that everything they ever wanted to do or be, had happened.

At twenty minutes after ten, a robber shot and killed four people in the building. The police officer who discovered what had to be an awful and gruesome and bloody scene, reported it to dispatch in a totally conversational tone of voice, leading me to believe it was a Sunday morning drill.

A mile into a random local bike ride, I discovered that it was not, as I stumbled upon the scene in real life, not television or internet.

I am not particularly proud of this fact, but my very first reaction upon seeing this scene was the line from “Alice’s Restaurant” that ‘they had all kinds of po lees equipment that they was using up”.

The media was there

As were the gawkers, which briefly had to include me, although I left rapidly.

Here’s the thing that struck me. A block away, people were cutting their grass. Kids shot baskets in the street. Birds sang loudly in the trees overhanging the street on which I rode. A stream of vehicles passed me, occupied by people who had no knowledge of what had transpired yards from them.

It IS a good idea to enjoy life while it lasts. Sometimes it is well to remember.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day Seven -- Dominica

Dateline Dominica---day seven

Today is full of big and little pleasures. Big pleasure is sitting as I am now, on my balcony of stateroom 10*** and watching Roseau, Dominica approach, close enough now to hear roosters. Little pleasure is setting my new watch seconds to the correct gps time. Of course, it as an HOUR off, but that is my usual custom when traveling outside my own time zone. Early morning temp in the seventies, low humidity and I have a good long tour for the day.

Made barefoot trips to get coffee twice and oj once. Filled water bottle and moved stuff from the old ripped green backpack into the blue Norwegian Cruise Lines one that I got last night at the Shore Excursion desk where nobody would admit to putting the ‘ship and ‘taxi’ labels on the photo by the desk. Still smile each time I think of it. Forewent breakfast and returned to pack up everything. Was by the pool when they called all clear to go ashore, and it was an hour before I think my tour is to begin. I would be a tad upset if I missed it, but I believe I still have a good half hour to go before I need be on the pier. Wx, as stated, is sunny and pleasant.

I was on the dock maybe fifteen minutes before the 0845 assembly time, stated to be on the pier by the gangplank, but twas not, twas on the shore by the pier. There was a Welcome sign and a sweet Canadian girl from the ships company took my obligatory picture there. Very tall, glassed man was the tour guide, and he told me to go wait somewhere, and then promptly forgot me, so I was the last one on the bus. Small bus, seated perhaps 12, half of whom were polish and two were black Americans.

Road was narrow, potholed and soaking wet as we drove up several thousand feet above the boat to the rain forest, which really was one. I’ve seen them in St Croix, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and I think in Bali and Malaysia as well, but this one well and truly was a soaker. After quite a long ride we came to a cable car which held ten people and a tour guide, with a plastic roof and open sides and seats. We rode along thru the branches of the ferns, trees, bamboo and flowers in a rain that varied from gentle to torrential and several of the tourists had got themselves six dollar souvenir slickers and I had my Patagonia jacket, but several travelers were noisily soaked, as apparently they did not know why it was called a RAIN forest.

At the top everyone opted to go for a walk thru the rain forest and across another very high suspension bridge similar to the five in Costa Rica. Was struck as much as anything by the ABSENCE of bird and animal life. We saw only a butterfly the entire hour and a half that we were on the tram…not a single other living non plant thing. No jungle sounds, nothing. One humming bird.

Still, in my experience it was the perfect way [for me anyhow]to see the rain forest – up close and personal but zero effort and zero risk…no hacking thru with machetes. Very pleased. Passed up the free rum punch and we were off to the gorge which was, not surprisingly, running very high due to the extraordinary amount of recent rains, so the split was pretty much between the Americans and the Europeans, with the latter taking the plunge, and me and the others taking a pass. I went in up to my knees, but was not altogether pleased with the arrangements for security for passport and wallet and stuff left behind, and was content to return to the bus as soon as it was permitted.

Next stop was a botanical garden with two parrots in cages which I never did see nor hear. I was so impressed I left my camera in the van for the walk, but would have taken a picture of the cannon ball tree which I had never seen before. And last stop was an overlook where there were rows of vendors and a pretty view toward the south end of the island the the Norwegian Dawn lying at pierside and this time we are the ONLY ship in the harbor, a first for this trip and unlikely to be the case tomorrow in St Thomas. I took the picture and tried to get a pic of the sign that said unauthorized vendors are not allowed, but don’t know yet how it came out, because tonight I am doing text before pictures, hoping for better continuity.

Back at the ship, I headed for the snack bar by the pursers desk and sure enough, Ad*** was there and smiled at me, but is herself working till after four and we sail at five, so no shot at going ashore with her here. A** was at the reservations desk and gave me a very wan smile, and she is still not sleeping well due to her cough and God could she use a few days rest which they ain’t gonna give her soon.

So I went back out to shore with Dr H*** and his wife who came by the reservations desk while I was there with A***, and when she asked them their stateroom I gave it for them. We walked to the first vendor stand where I said I was only going for a postcard and the internet, so we split up and I struck off on my own. I was approached several times for money by at least two or three different people and said I had only the return to Dominica coin (pronounced DomEenEeKa). The west coast of the island is washed by the Caribbean sea and the east coast by the Atlantic ocean.

Usually I can find these cafes by asking two or at most three people, but this time, I never found it, and further, as I got four or five blocks away from the ship I hit the edge of my comfort zone, and while it was a bright sunny day, and the vendors and salespeople were polite, there were a crowd of loiterers in their big hats and sullen glares that made me, while not afraid, or even uncomfortable – they made me NOT comfortable. Slight distinction there, perhaps, but I returned to the ship without regrets.

Here, I settled onto my balcony with three cookies and some ice water to daydream. C** is NOT going with me tomorrow, having off only an hour and a half while we were in port. A** wants to go and A** is still insisting that she doesn’t even know what her schedule for tomorrow is going to be. Doc H* is going to Coral World (which is HELL for a Chinese to say, trust me on that), and so my flight tomorrow may be with two lovely young ladies or alone.

However, for the moment I remain shirtless, shoe and sockless in my bathing suit with my binocs around my neck people watching in Roseau which is a football field away from my bed, and listening to guitar music on ch 14 which also has our distance travelled since leaving NYC in nautical miles which is 2158.1. And it was shirtless that the Philippina maid found me with the candy from R***.

A little later I went thru the lobby and was surprised to see A*** already on duty, and as near as I can tell, unable to leave till 2200, having had twenty minutes to get out of a waitress uniform and out to her chair in the lobby. I told her I’d be back with the pix from today if she wanted, and she said fine.

Went to internet café and posted on pprune, a tiny bit on my blog ,glanced at asf, drudge, ap breaking news and newsday, but didn’t check my email this time. I have about an hour and a half internet time left. Back I went to Ad** to show her the thirty or so pix from today and to learn that her father is going to slaughter a pig for Xmas. Although the ship has pretty decorations, the temps in the eighties and palm trees have sort of pushed Xmas into the background, and it is hard to believe it is three weeks away. Will hunker down and remember the warm beaches and tropical rain forests when the kids are having their Mom up to see them upstate..

Supper in the hamburger place by reception. I chatted with Ad*** just a few minutes more and left around 2130, making sure to call reception and tell them to let her know when it was ten, because her battery had died. I checked the camera shop and they had only aaa duracells and I need aa for D***’s camera if they should go belly up tomorrow. The music behind the reservations desk was again the Philippinos, who played quando quando, try to remember, and other nostalgia early sixties stuff.

Back in the room, filled water bottle, ate cookies, and called for room service for coffee in the morning and also a 7AM wakeup call (automatic). My flashing message this time was the room steward explaining that I had left the ‘do not disturb’ sign on and he couldn’t make up the room, which except for the towel animals is fine by me…they turn off the tv and I have a devil of a time getting it back on, and steal my bedspread which I can’t find. BTW, I pushed the heat up to the MAX and then went off and forgot it, and it was a sauna when I returned.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day Six-Barbados

dateline approaching Barbados

Today I woke at ten of eight. The automated wakeup call was set for eight, and before then I had called room service for coffee and oj. From my balcony I could clearly see Barbados which is about twenty miles away. I have declined to photograph it however, as while showing the pix to A*** last night, I became aware of how overwhelming the numbers are becoming. It looks like St Thomas which looks like St Croix which looks like Antigua which looks like etc. More and more I can understand how S*** doesn’t know where she has been, especially a drinker who would be nursing a massive hangover now as she prepared for whatever they were going to do. Mine is Best of Barbados tour commencing on the dock in a little over an hour.

This was a pleasant and well planned arrival, with my shower, slathering of sun lotion, packing for the day and everything nicely coinciding with our arrival just at 9am. Two other ships precede us that I can see from balcony portside – the Adonia from London and the Crystal Serenity. . I think I pretty well have it together for this one, with expected trip beginning in ten minutes and no cabin announcement made yet.

They finally announced that the delay was caused by tired linesmen on the dock, which I interpret to mean unbribed. On the horizon was a strange looking ship and I asked R*** to find out what kind it was, and she tried. Our driver Larry said it was a ship with Buses and cars from Japan. By the way, there is a 100 % duty on imported cars, so every car is double .the usual price. The number of cars on the island has grown from 15,000 to 115,000 in the past few years. And they have agreed to host a world cup cricket match which will bring a half million visitors.

I had less than a 30 second wait to debark. Had my bathing suit with me but we went nowhere near a beach. Like St Croix, they took us off the pier in shuttle busses, but unlike St Croix, they knew what they were doing with over six thousand people coming and going amongst the ropes and cables and freighters, fireboats police boats, more zodiacs as constant painting apparently takes place in every port, as well as bunkering.

So the buses were big and ran frequently. In the terminal I found a fine welcome to Barbados sign and got my pic taken by same and it is good. Was held up from getting on one tour bus and ergo was first one onto the one that pulled up next, and sat behind Larry whose Moms family came from Wales and his Dad’s family from Ireland, but he had been in Barbados for three hundred years, or six generations. He was white and had an accent that could not be pinned down. He said no probs with being such a minority (4% whites now) and low crime etc etc. He also rides a trek bike and has ridden competition. He was taking the place of a missing tour guide as well. One had the impression that he was called at the last minute. But he did fine.

The island itself is pretty, but again, I am beginning to see where S*** is coming from in that they all look alike, as they do. This one is not volcanic but coral, and the weather the last two weeks has been non stop rain, and he told us several times how lucky we were to get right onto the tour at Harrison Hill, and how very lucky we were with the weather, which spit a bit but was basically bright and sunny and stayed that way all day.

From Bridgetown we went right to Harrison Cave which is on top of a mountain but 160 feet deep, riding on an open electric tram amongst the stalactites (hanging Tight on Top) and stalagmites (which Might grow) and hidden lakes and waterfalls. It was lighted subtly and was very well done. Reminds me of another nice place where these things were similarly nicely done, but right now I can’t remember where.
Carol was our tour guide and Richard was the driver and I fell into conversation with D*** from the 11th deck who may or not contact me to look at his digital pix.

Following the cave, we drove to an orchid farm, and there I remembered it was Singapore where I had seen the orchids before and had thought then of LM as I did today. They are raised with their roots out of the ground, hanging in mid air.

Started seeing pretty views from there, and continued to the Gun Hill Signal tower where the views included our ship and a good deal of the island, which is about 160 square miles. Then back on the bus, just missing a good shot of the Barbados flag as the bus passed a tree branch.

SO- Barbados is history now. Highlight – 4 hour bus tour with underground cave, orchid plantation and Gun Hill Signal Tower. To ship and back out again for a solid hour of internet and then three telephone calls – self (no messages!!) S** and C***, left message. Posted on pprune and couldn’t find Dorrie’s site.

On my return between shore trips, I discovered that the little place by reception where I’ve been getting my ice water and where I got the cookies last night has the best damn burgers aboard, almost as good as the Ecstasy, and even tho A*** was not there, I ate a delicious cheeseburger with onions and tomato and had some fries, and then took a plate of six cookies out to A*** who cannot help but smile when I carry on like that. There are four security cameras there and she is not allowed to eat, but when she left, she had carefully secreted the cookies and was going back to her room to enjoy them, and the smile was worth it.

This minute I am on the balcony overlooking two other cruise ships and a few rather rusty looking freighters, one called the sea cloud. I am going down for some more steak at A***’ restaurant in an hour. Sailing is supposed to be at seven, so I should be thru eating although it will probably be dark then.

And so it was, I walked up to A*** at 5:30 and said party of 30, and got her great smile and dimples. She sat me alongside the wall again, and this time I didn’t fuss because we were docked. I had steak to complement my chateaubriand and filet mignon of the last two nights, this despite my finding the really great burgers down by reception. Finished off a second dish of strawberry ice cream and walked up to hang out with A*** again, showing her the pix from today, and then taking the puter back upstairs in a new backpack which I got at the tour desk.

Returned to cabin and labeled photos, and catching up on day’s diary (a little choppy I suppose) and lites out by 2300. Hooked three cookies from upstairs.

--Signal Hill

----Fireboat in Barbados Harbor

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day Five- Antigua

Date line Nevis/St Kitts off Starboard beam Time 0500 NY 0600 Local

Today I woke in my room 10*** about 0500 local, and fussed a bit with the stuff I intend taking ashore at Antigua, which is scheduled within a few hours. My primo tour may be sold out and I am on standby, and would therefore be going 4 x 4ing which I have never done but expect I shall enjoy.

It took a few minutes before I became convinced that I was not going to be able to go back to sleep, so I called room service for coffee and corn flakes and took a barefoot stroll on the deck, with the coffee and binocs and saw Nevis and St Kitts off the right side of the ship falling astern, lights along the shoreline.

In the spirit of my pic of hamburger and Acapulco, I just took a shot of sunrise and cornflakes, ‘life is good volume ten thousand’ or ‘gotta love those upgrades’. The sun is JUST rising above what I presume is Antigua at 0524 eastern standard time. It is 76 degrees with a lovely wind blowing across the balcony. The coffee is excellent, all my parts are working ok, and I am pleased to be here.

Sometimes my kamikaze touring style DOES do me mischief. About an hour before I am to start the tour of Antigua, I look in the descriptive literature and note it is one that I had crossed out. It also includes a swim, so I have put on a bathing suit now and will not know till 8AM whether I get to do this or my first choice which was sitting on a bus all day.(Antigua Highlights) Again, I have nobody but myself to blame for waiting till the last minute to book the tour. I put in for the best of Barbados as well, and have no idea whether it is sold out or not.

Out on deck 7, I saw a young woman washing windows. From St Petersburg and delightful. She is going ashore in Antigua all day and couldn’t be happier. Here aboard for 5 months. Took a photo of Guadeloupe, and realize as I did so that they ALL LOOK ALIKE and nobody much is gonna care, and even I won’t remember if I don’t keep abreast of the labeling…which so far I have done.

In fact I was so busy putting the pix on the hard drive I missed the approach into the harbor, where the Oriana London and Golden Princess (Hamilton) are already docked. Wx superb. Quick trip to the shore excursion desk yielded opposite info from last nite (tickets could be changed etc) but I am now content with the way things are set up, and will enjoying the day on Antigua I am quite sure. Am prepped for rain but not cold, and have info for internet addresses should I come across a place to surf. Also wearing bathing suit, and setting to shut down puter and lock it in big suitcase under bed, and money is locked in room safe, together with flight logbooks etc…passport with me.

Ok – LONG day in Antigua, or so it seems. Time now 1600 and am sitting on my balcony looking at the Golden Princess which is at least 16 decks I think. Popcorn in my teeth, as they began serving same in the sports bar by reception at 1600. Until then I was talking to A*** who was working alone in the lobby at reservations and just utterly exhausted. She has a cold or something and cannot even go out into the lovely tropic sunshine for the vit D.

I hit the pier minutes before my assigned 0845 muster time, and one of the people on my tour was an unattached Swiss woman living in Amsterdam, attractive but quite obviously uninterested in me except as just someone else to talk to. Asked her if she was aware of any other single women on cruise and she was not. We walked out to a land rover with eight seats in the rear, and our driver, Binky, who proved to be nuts, had us all buckle in and we crawled out of the traffic in St Johns and out into the countryside where we saw bananas, mangos, bamboo, papayas, lemon grass and the wildlife was egrets and cows, asses, horses, and lots of goats.

The hook was the off roading, and the land rovers are tough, and we bounced along roads that would have stunned the typical SUV back home, thru streams, huge ruts and up a rather steep hill. All in all I enjoyed it very much, especially as it was number two choice. Binky beeped his horn and demanded that we yell at everybody we saw, made running games with the other of the two land rovers, stopped to talk to women along the route, and in general just carried on. Once he hid and when the second jeep rolled up, he jumped out to scare them, which he did.

My biggest thrill was seeing the volcano on Montserrat, yet another island which I have now seen but not been to…and there are a LOT of them. I was neither sad nor sorry nor happy when the three hours were up. The Swiss lady (Maritina) took a very good pic of me by the Welcome to Antigua sign which is a keeper. We met and had a brief chat with Dr H*** and his wife as we boarded. Came back to the room, dumped my stuff and climbed out of the wet bathing suit (we stopped at a beach at the end of the tour for a swim) and went back into town for postcard and internet, both accomplished.

The cafe charged three us dollars for 15 minutes, which is six times Costa Rica and four times Cozumel. I was on for 45 min and posted on pprune, a quick entry in the blog and returned a PM to D*** (who again made me smile), looked at a few back websites and tried to catch up a little on the trrbpsoit thread. Got a postcard from a sweet white woman who was very chipper, but I knew she had to be exhausted with eight thousand tourists in the place at once.

The C Columbus is to our right and the Golden Princess to our left, and there is one behind her which I don’t remember. Folks come and go in small boats, and zodiacs. They were painting the anchor on the C Columbus and they just went by my balcony with some device which was cleaning the outside of this ship as well.

My overall impression of Antigua is very favorable and I enjoyed it entirely. I am going to be eating supper when we leave the harbor, as A*** has advised me to be there by 1730 and by 1800 it is going to be jammed. She had HUNDREDS of people at once last night, and both C*** and I felt sorry for her, and especially since she is feeling sick.

So I went down to the area near where A**** was going to be the hostess, and listened to some blowhard in a pink flowered shirt complain about his family, and listen to the cocktail pianist (there are a few aboard and they are all good) and I was promptly seated at 1730 at a table by the window, and so I was able to watch Antigua harbor slip away. Funny bit – thousands of flashbulbs were going off on all the decks of both of the huge ships still in the harbor as they took a pic of us doing our pirouette out of the harbor and off to sea, where we passed Guadeloupe (not a second time, the first one was not).. Supper was called hanger steak, but I thought it was more like roast beef. The service was quick and professional and I skipped salad, soup, appetizer and had a bowl of strawberry ice cream for dessert – my second of the day, as I had one up on the 12th deck upon my return from the land rover ride.

Following supper, I went and hung out with C*** at the entrance to her restaurant awhile, eating a piece of candy she gave me. She got called away to a meeting and I wandered up to the lobby where another good pianist was finishing and being replaced by the mariachi type guitar players from the Philippines. A*** was there again, and I spent much of the evening talking to her. It was she who had given me such a warm welcome in the little coffee area as I came ashore earlier, but I had simply not recognized her because she was wearing the waitress outfit that is usually Philippinas. Funny how the mind works. I apologized to her. She has a boyfriend on another boat and the photographer is also kinda proprietary as well. R*** came by and we exchanged our usual pleasantries.

When she had a meeting with a maitre d, I passed by her daytime work station and asked for a cookie. Saved myself a trip to 12th floor as they gave me a tray of six of them with plastic on top. Returned to the room, sorted and corrected some of the pix (what I thought was Guadeloupe was Montserrat etc) and just enjoyed a quiet evening without the theatre or any entertainment other than the tv. Put some of my laundry in to be done.

At 2300 I saw lights from my balcony, and THAT was Guadeloupe. Nearest airport was 18 miles away to the east TFFB, followed by TFFR[38 miles] and TFFM [47 miles]. The cabin has 19television channels. The Ecstasy had 3. And the Dawn has popcorn, and ice ceam if you search it out.

Antigua Countryside

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day Four - US VI

Today, as happened last night, I went to sleep around 2200 and was awake again two hours later, thinking it was much later, possibly around 0500. Totally unknown why I should get jetlagged with a one hour time change, twice now. As I was tired all afternoon, I am quite wide awake now at midnight.

Anyhow, I walked upstairs and filled the water bottle at the gym which is two decks up and there was only one person there, and then I walked thru all quadrants of the garden café and it is closed tight and being cleaned assiduously. I set up an automated wakeup call for 0830 and then decided to call room service for a ham and cheese sandwich…same as I took to Xuanantinich from the NCL Sea, asking them to hold the cold slaw and pickle but bring on the chips, and it is on its way.

On the news, I see that Ottawa rioted when Bush visited. I am sure B** is not thrilled over many of Bush’s policies, as are many Americans. Dr H*** is seemingly conflicted about going with me on the upcoming flight, scheduled for thirteen hours from now, destination Tortola.

The sandwich really hit the spot and I went to sleep happily, waking a second time minutes before the automatic wakeup alarm call came at 0830. I went to the Garden Café and got two cups of coffee and retreated to my warm, sundrenched balcony without spilling a drop and picked up mail by the door. Imagine my total surprise to see a revised itinerary which has us docking today at……Saint Croix!!!

I am reminded of the expression, “I make plans and God laughs”: as the changes completely negate the careful planning (up at 1AM putting my passport in the green knapsack, filling out the Tortola embarkation card etc)

So now Grenada has been cut from the itinerary. I had NO plans to do ANYTHING there, did not want to go there (S*** had been advised not to set foot ashore when she docked there) and – get this, we are going to Tortola. So I have saved another two hundred bucks by not having to fly there. In all respects it could not have worked out better, for me. The ship is running on one engine, and as luck would have it, they have shut down the port engine which is directly below my cabin, and the noticeable vibrations which had struck me as the only downside to this little piece of heaven where I presently sit-- are gone.

The sea has calmed, the sun is intermittent, the balcony temp is mid seventies, dry humidity, all the food and drink in the world within reach (apparently room service is free) and my physical health remains good.

The room temperature and the telephone system on this ship are superb. Many of the crew have cell phones and are accessible anytime anywhere, although I have been unwilling to do so. The room steward has shown me where the do not disturb sign is, and I intend not to be disturbed for the balance of the morning. My schedule includes seeing about telephoning the fbo [fixed base operator] at St Thomas airport and getting onto the internet long enough to post an effusive praise of NCL on cruisecritic. The captain made a very long and detailed announcement in English and German regarding the shutdown of the port engine and he lives in NYC with his family.

// 1045 Ship position N 19 05.6 W 65 22 course 165 speed 21K rain to stbd sunny my side

Just noticed that at this level, the printed announcements explaining what to see and do in Port are customized with my name upon them. Perks of the top deck I guess. I wrote a nice thankyou note to R** and thanked her for the tarts and gave her the URL for the Kitzbuhel cam. Perhaps because of this timing, the nice lady at the pursers office allowed me into the back room to place a courtesy call to the FBO in st Thomas to inform them I would prefer the rental at ten AM on Sunday.
Stopped at the reservation desk to see the Polish and Romanian hostesses. Both seemed happy to invite me to supper at their respective restaurants, which tonight include filet mignon.

So to recap – no Grenada, scheduled stop in Tortola, and no need to rent a plane today.

Dr and Mrs H*** stopped by my room at my invitation, since I feel I am no more entitled to the balcony than they are, having made similar timely complaints, his prolly being ignored due to his abysmal English. They showed and we saw two birds go by, one gull like with orange beak and black wingtips and suddenly, to my actual surprise, I saw st Thomas way up ahead.

We are currently just at lat 18 and passing abeam of Vieques, despite the arguments I got from several people who did NOT bring 1944 vintage National Geographic maps with them, nor watch the in-cabin moving map display. I am 100% content that we also saw the outlines of Hispanola in the distance with the mts disappearing into the clouds and Puerto Rico off to starbd. From my balcony I can now clearly see St Croix, with the eta shown as 1600 but a distance of 30NM. They are nursing this puppy thru the seas with one engine shut down entirely and the other one the only thing between us and an extended vacation, which would delight some of us and utterly freak out many of the others, whose grumbling continues at arriving at St Crois an hour before dark.

Came back to cabin and had call from R***. I told her how much people were doing to make my ride pleasant, like shutting down the engine under my stateroom and cutting out the island I didn’t want to see anyhow. I said that everyone really seemed to want me to have a wonderful experience, unlike the NCL Sea, where they wouldn’t have cared if I fell overboard. She laughed and laughed and allowed as how she was pleased with the link to the Kitzbuhel webcams.. I tried to get her to quit sending food to the cabin, but hell, one out of two isn’t bad, The little tarts were sensational and the herring I flushed.

Now (2PM give or take) I am energized enough to roam the decks some more rather than laptopping on the balcony.

One more slow turn around the deck barefoot in bathing suit and grabbed another hotdog and fries on the Bimini bar up top forward. Made my way aft past some contest or other drinking beer poolside, thru the children’s’ play area, sipped some water at the litely used gym and just as I arrived back at my room, ‘important public announcement’ was pina coladas, rum punch and margaritas all free for awhile. This is gonna make as many people happy as I have been, but it is a good incentive to stay by my balcony and watch St Croix arriving slowly to port and enjoy my ice water; the rooms have refrigerators and safes unlike the Sea which had neither.

It is just 1500 now and the mighty ship has come to rest off shore of Frederiksted, US Virgin Islands, St Croix variety. From my balcony I got good pic of the tender coming alongside, only it passed astern. The stern thrusters kicked up some gorgeous green water which made yet another terrific shot. It looks very much as if we are going to tie up with the port side along the dock, which means I get to watch from the comfort and security of my own cabin, and it is SO good.

Did I mention that I told R*** that it was very nice of NCL to shut down the port engine to reduce the vibration in my stateroom, but that was a bit over the top? She definitely likes my sense of humor. A second pilot boat has come by but did not stop. As all good drinks are on the house, I suspect most people don’t care a whit, and I think back to the people in the casino when we went thru the canal.

// how cool is this -- all along the ship people like me are leaning over their rails like me, to watch the activities associated with our arrival.

In the end, after all the running around of the locals in the pilot boats etc, they berthed with the bow forward and quay alongside the starboard, so I walked over and watched. The announcement said not to go near the gangplank until the PA announced it was ok, and there were two ambulances on the dock, but I soon became aware there was also a solid stream of people leaving the ship, so I worked my way down with a mob of people to deck four and debarked.

There, a local person was stopping everybody and trying to get them into a 15 passenger van to make the trip to the head of the pier. People were already getting rowdy and antagonistic when I pointed out there were 2,000 people to get off the ship, and one other man and I began walking past him. We were yelled at to return, and just as we did, a young but very official looking Scandinavian or perhaps German officer from the ship told the officious local in NO uncertain terms that 2,400 people were not going to leave the ship by one van.

Ahead of us, another self-important local in a smokey bear hat and a pfc stripe had a gate chained shut, but fortunately, ahead of me was a very vocal and loud and pushy similarly endowed group from the ship, and he told the cop to open the gate, which the cop did, and the rest of us poured through. My mission was to try to find an internet café, and I did not, but I ended up meeting a lovely woman from Wyoming who had moved down there, and we chatted awhile, and basically I ended up at the public library, and that just minutes before it was to close. I checked my msn email account and one or two quick websites before logging myself out and thanking her profusely.

Inflation has taken its toll, because a scroungy looking woman on the street accosted me and wanted twenty bucks. Gone are the days of brother can you spare a dime I guess. Anyhow, I thanked the ladies at the library, walked a block up and back to the ship. The entire main street of town with the arched walkways is torn up and under construction, so I couldn’t even get a good pic of the ship at dock, tho I took one showing it with a payloader in front of it.

I was one of the first ones back to ship, and enjoyed watching the crew go thru their drill, with a simulated fire and finally abandon ship. They tested the fire and water tight doors and I guess somewhere they swung a ship over the side as well. I became gradually aware of the fact that we are going to be in Antigua in 14 hours and I have no plans yet, so I signed up for the ‘best of’ trip which lasts six hours, and then fell into chat with C***, who was alone and lonely at the reservations desk, and before I knew it, had signed up for dinner at her place (with a twenty buck cover charge, which, as she said, was worth it.)

So I have dinner at LeBistro at 1830 and will cashmere up and put on long pants for the occasion. Perhaps I will eat more and more slowly than I did when I ate at A***’s place-Impressions.

And so I did. Not only did I not blanche at the $15 cover charge, I added five to it as a tip. What else to do when one dines in cashmere between Monet and Renoir…originals. Actually had photo taken of me by the Monet and another pic with the hostess, who is also an attorney in Romania. For supper I had asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and half a bowl of really good onion soup, but when the waiter, who by then totally had my measure brought over the silver dish (presentation IS everything at LeBistro) he said “and here is your cheeseburger”. Best filet mignon I’ve had today! Ok, in several years, and for some reason, the original artwork given to the ship by a former owner of the Star Cruise Lines gave the atmosphere a little something extra. Not that it needed it.

Got to my room and found a note that the tour I had picked for tomorrow for Antigua is sold out, which was not total shock since I booked it 14 hours before it began, so I went down and booked a 4 x 4 tour to tear up the environment and drive S*** nuts with a clear conscience.

We are incidentally under weigh once more, with a new island for tomorrow and a new adventure. Got a phone message that they couldn’t make up the cabin because I left the do not disturb sign up, which I did. In fact the alligator is still on the bed under the spread.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day Three- Many good things

Today begins early, in stateroom 10*** aboard the Norwegian Dawn. Position N28 58 W68 57.

Although I have my gps with me, and now have a balcony with a table and two chairs from which to take a sighting or position fix, the fact is, channel 14 on the tv has a really really GOOD position and weather and sunrise etc channel which does naught else day and night but crank out this information. By the way, the clocks have been moved ahead an hour, and we are roughly at the latitude of Tampa but out to sea.

The ships time is now 0530. Last night, I cut and pasted some of my description of Poland for A*** to read before looking at the pictures. And it can go onto the blog without much further modification. However, R***, the guy running the computer café has advised against using the wireless card in order to avoid confusing the computer which is used to dialup. However, dialing gets me to my msn email nicely, and that is how I was able to thank C V again.

One of the tv channels has tapes of the on-board live show that I missed. Some channels are kid cartoons (Yogi Bear) one is a James Caan movie, there are some that are CNN shows, one channel looks like friends, there is now one describing various land tours available. My first order of business when I got moving was to go to the 7th deck and visit with the Polish lady. Luckily, I passed coffee on the way, and found her very quickly and returned to my cabin for the dell.. Next we passed a most pleasant hour or so, with her and her colleague from Romania [C***, attorney at law] looking at pix from Berlin, Poland, Aruba and this morning’s cruise..

Following this, I said hi to the Turk as he came by and then invited Dr H** and his quiet but highly intelligent wife to come and visit me in my stateroom, which they thereupon did. He is a PhD and has devoted a lifetime (he is two years younger than I) to trying to figure out scientifically how acupuncture works. He is fascinating but requires attention to understand. Surprised to hear he and his wife have no health insurance. I showed them some pix from Belize and then we set off in search of food, but ships time was by now 1400 so the Venetian and several of the cafeteria lines were closed, and I ended up in the garden café again where I had pork, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, rice, pizza and rainbow sherbert ice cream. And went back for another big oatmeal raison cookie.

Catching up on today’s diary I am sitting on the balcony of the stateroom with whitecaps rushing by just under my left elbow, and some blue sky showing amidst some dark looking rain clouds. I am totally relaxed and without any ‘gottas, oughtas or even wannas’ to deal with. In fact, surprisingly I find myself almost ready for a nap. Ships time is ahead an hour of NY, and I should not really be tired, but other than internetting, deck walking or casinoing, there isn’t a lot I need or want to do. I have made no ground arrangements for any of the four islands we are going to visit, and frankly was hoping that A*** might be able to join me on one of the tours. Dr and Mrs H*** also might join me.

Local time now 1900 exactly. I feasted on oatmeal cookies and ice water and smiled as I rode the elevator with a young couple who also had their hands full of oatmeal cookies. I am a tad hungry (should check the thing that R*** sent up) but I think entertainment and otherwise I am pretty much through for the night. I won a whopping two and a half bucks in the casino.

I saw the two European ladies at the entrances to their respective restaurants minutes ago, and I told C*** that I had sent her an email and that as soon as she responded I would send off the pic of the sunken boat in Aruba. A*** was explaining to the H**’s who were there (by coincidence only) that shorts were not allowed, and looked up with astonishment as she saw the legs belonged to me.

Sea conditions have moderated from rough to moderate. We are 400NM from St Thomas with continued scheduled docking of 1100AM> N 24 22 W 67 16.

The food from R*** is sweet little tarts with strawberries, blueberries and kiwi’s and they hit the spot. Got a final email from C V saying thanks for the kind words and bon voyage.

Ended up not having too much in the way of supper, but scarfed up a few cookies a few times. I went down to the Spinnaker Lounge (forward Deck 12) and listened to a small but professional band play Glen Miller, Count Basie, Dorsey etc. A pair of Philippina sisters sang Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, and the accent sounded Japanese. The waitresses wore floor length black dresses slit halfway to the thigh. I had a towel croc on my bed when I got back and took a pic of same.

Opened the door wide and there is almost a full moon shining on the water. It is currently 9:30PM local time and I have a big day tomorrow. I thought it was spitting rain as I walked back past the pool for my cookies, but the moon is bright in what looks like a largely cloudless sky. I have signed up for one tour only, and until the tickets come, I don’t remember which one. It was for the island of Antigua (I think) which is the second stop. I think a tram is involved, many hours and a cost of a hundred bucks. I have two hours left on the internet from C***, and will look around for an internet cafe in St Thomas tomorrow between the plane ride and the sailing, to see if I can catch up on things like my e-mail and other favorite websites.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day Two -- Between Carolinas and Bermuda

Life is good chapter one hundred and twenty.

Today began as I dropped off to sleep in the warm, spacious and comfortable stateroom 90** aboard the M’V Norwegian Dawn. I have a written intro to the internet guy and a written invitation to a VIP party to meet the Captain tonight. I showered and put on t shirt, shorts and a lite sweater and made my way to the Garden Café (same name as on the NCL Sea) and had a bit of scr eggs, bacon, ham and sausage, some oj and some really good coffee. Scoped out the gym and it is, again, somewhere in size between the last two ships, but has a drinking fountain with a filler for water bottles, one of which I have opened and enjoyed.

After breakfast, I checked on the steak house, as I am in the mood for at least one monster steak meal this trip, and the twenty buck service charge can come out of the money I save on the internet. I suppose I am going to get the fifty buck package, but I will not be disappointed or totally stunned if he comes across with the hundred buck one, as the man (C**) has more than a bit of class and then some.
R***, the head concierge has phoned me and asked me to meet her for coffee in a few minutes, and so I shall.

// Time 1315 That memorable letter has had nothing but positive ripples since I wrote it. R*** was in the stairway when I headed down to meet her for coffee in the lounge opposite the purser desk. I find that she is the exclusive private property of the people with huge suites of rooms and the owners suite etc (and a select few complainers it would seemJ) and while we were having coffee we were joined by three other ships company – the director of hotel services, his assistant the the man in charge of food and beverages aboard. I told her I felt like I did in Kuwait when dining with the ambassadors and billionaires, but thanked her.

Following the meeting, I went and watched the first hour and a quarter of ‘The Alamo’ with Dennis Quaid and Billy bob Thornton. I was struck again by how there seems to be something fun to do for everybody aboard. Last night at the barbeque while still docked in NYC, a man was happily soaking in the jacuzzi in the middle of the Hudson river. I have mentioned before about the slot machine pullers happily ignoring going thru the Panama canal. Others virtually never quit playing bingo. There is a delightful reading/writing room here, where other old people are enjoying a quiet read of a book (they do not have the Davinci Code) and here I sit with my dell, the grey, stormy, wave tossed ocean and just a flood of nice experiences to write about.

When I got back to my room, my next door neighbor, H** (an acupuncturist, and perhaps a doctor at that)had sent me a letter to come visit. He was busy planning his shore excursions, and he very much wants to go with me on the fight to Tortola, and more so if we can move it up or cut it short just a little.

Then I used one of the new cards given to me to contact the director of food and beverage aboard, and he is going to try to track down where the Polish waitress is working and let me know. They were having a latitudes party to which he invited me, and which I politely declined. My bottle of ice water is full in my stateroom, and I am well content with life in general just now. In a short while, I will make my way to the internet café and see what they have for me, scoffing up a bit to eat along the way.

The room tv has replaced the digital display of information with a live camera shot of the ocean, and I am hoping that when it gets dark they will resume the flood of interesting information that was there last night, including wind speed and direction and a visual of how it was hitting the ship (quartering starboard).

It is 1545 And I have seen some of the rest of the Alamo movie, but not to the end. The ship is 33 deg 20.85min N and 70 deg 37.21 west. We are in the Saragossa sea off the south tip of south Carolina. I have sat with Dr H*** and discussed our plans to fly to Tortola.,. Heading 161 speed 21.3 knots. We are passing off Bermuda to the port side, but many miles away.

// I wandered over to the internet café and caught up with R***, who advised me the internet package offered me is the one hundred dollar one, so very naturally my first act was to send what I think was an effusive message of thanks to CV, thanking him for his kindness and generosity.

Then I posted a tiny blurb on the blog, cracked up at the S**’s blog (“the handyman hated me for my pursuit of a dream to own a functioning bathroom”) and did a quick read of pprune. I also got a hamburg, hotdog and fries up on the Bimini top bar, and was the only person there. Burgers still are nowhere near as good as they are on the Ecstasy, but measurably better than on the Sea. So, this cruise is really turning out to be a good one. I am invited to the Captains Party tonight, friends with the acupuncturist and his wife from the Bronx, prolly gonna take them flying, enjoying the computer, got cold water in the room frig, etc.

I went to the casino, got one of those buy ten get fifteen chip deals, and played blackjack till I was up forty, and quit. Watched some very attractive Germans playing the sliding coin machine game until my back could no longer stand it. At my room, there was a knock and a lovely Philipinna delivered a dish with the compliments of Hugo, the Hotel director. Presentation is everything, with silver dish, sliced onions etc, but all I recognized was onions, and I think the rest was herring. Oh well. Captains cocktail party at 1900, one hour from now

This is true. I had JUST taken a picture of the little stateroom 90**, two actually, put them on my hard drive and labeled them ‘not too bad’ when I noticed a little light flashing on my room phone. It was a recorded message from R***, the lead concierge asking me if I would be interested in an upgrade to an outside cabin with a balcony.

That was one time I didn’t need begging to work, and by the time I made it to the captains cocktail party, where I buttonholed him and the chief engineer on the reception line where they couldn’t get away, I had packed everything up and ten minutes later, having finished a tonic water with a twist of lime, I was on my way to room 10,*** which is portside, near to the aft end and has a double bed, couch, table and a balcony with two chairs.

At the captains cocktail party, the Food Service Director told me he had tracked down the Polish waitress and she was in fact the receptionist/hostess at Impressions restaurant, to which I repaired rapidly and found her busy busy and people waiting upwards of 40 minutes for a table. I don’t think they were particularly happy when I was seated within seconds. And we have a date to meet tomorrow to look at my Poland pictures..

So now, I am in a much nicer stateroom, and I had chateaubriand for supper rather than another hotdog by the pool, I have a date with the Polish woman tomorrow and amongst the top echelon of the ship, there is nobody who does NOT know who Mr B** is, and they are definitely giving me the VIP treatment.. I intend to repay by saying many many nice things about NCL on cruisecritics. And another letter for C** for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Another Cruise Saga

Today --I begin my third cruise in as many months, destination Caribbean. I woke without external help around 7, and pushed up the heat and slowly surfed my favorite sites. The weather is setting out to be atrocious, and weather delays are going to be widespread. With M**, LIRR and a cab as my means, I should be OK, but air travel is going to be horrible due to wind, rain and in some places, snow.

Time now is 1120am. I am aboard the train to take me to NYC. . Wrote a PM to A** who is aboard an NCL ship in Hawaii. Called the tour outfit in UK and hung up after the third time of getting put on hold. And lastly, I reached S** who talked me thru the outbound checklist of her own, tickets, passport etc. She is in the midst of a gale, and it is raining in my place as well, but not particularly hard. Pump rigged however.

As it turned out, I called W** and asked if they would like to take me all the way to the pier, but they would not, so back to plan a, just to the rr sta in Ronkonkoma. Car safely locked in garage and not running up parking charges or subject to vandalism, theft or other damage. No planes to worry about, and it is a good thing too, because there are nationwide delays all over the country, and it would be easy to miss a connection today…wind, rain, and in some parts of the country, heavy snow.

M** came with an umbrella and was most attentive to my needs. The first ATM at the bank did not work, so he got on a line of cars and the second one, at the drive thru, did, but I had to get out of the car to use it, and this time I got rather soaked It was a routine and pleasant ride to the rr sta, and I found myself in a jam packed ticket office because the eastbound train to Greenport was cancelled and the room was full of people waiting for a bus to take them there, typical bus riding Greenporters.

I am wearing my standard dress up outfit, cashmere blazer and turtleneck and dress slacks and wingtips but I need the yellow parka over top and it looks strange. 40 min wait for the train to leave, but was aboard for maybe ten of that. A fair more number of people than I remembered are with suitcases, and I got both of mine overhead without problem and got a forward facing seat portside. All I need to do now is catch a cab.

Well it is now 1800 and I am comfortably settled into my cabin 90**, which is twice the size of the one on the NCL Sea and nearly as big as the one on the Ecstasy. The color tv has a digital gps and clock built in and I have the heat quite a bit up after being on deck to watch a tug pull the fuel barge away, the pushback, the statue of liberty and the Verrazano narrows bridge go by.

In NYC, I used the bathroom in the Penn sta, took the escalator up the stairs and walked basically right into a waiting cab. The rain had quit. It was a seven and a half buck ride to the pier, and I was deposited right in front of the porters. Minutes later I found myself in conversation with a pleasant Chinese man from the Bronx who ended up in the cabin immediately beside mine. Like me, he had complained bitterly about Tortola, but unlike me, he complained to the cruise company and got no satisfaction. Perhaps he will fly with me to Tortola. The lines moved quite rapidly and within a half hour I was aboard.. In fact from out my front door to inside my cabin was just under four hours.

The lifeboat drill was conducted without benefit of going outdoors. The girl who had our sign J10 was American and works in the show. The views of downtown NYC as the sun set were quite gorgeous. The empire state bldg is red and green currently. Parts of NJ with the sun setting behind it looked more like Istanbul than Hoboken.

I fell into a long conversation with another worker, named something like A**, college degree and working as a waitress, missing two successive Christmases. I offered to show her my pix of Poland. Instead of the mobbed barbeque, I went upstairs to a smaller hamburger place and got one which was again, midway between those on the Ecstasy and those on the Sea. With a few French fries and a few cookies, that’s about all I’ve eaten, or want to eat. My suitcase made it to my room quite schnellish – and many of the announcements are being made in German as we have 150 aboard, tucked into the breezy cold places to enjoy the good views.

I have not found a water fountain yet, but I did find a ‘water station’ on the 7th deck which will do. There is a show at 2130 tonight, but again, I am prolly gonna be too tired to bother. I made a quick stop at the Pursers Desk (five on duty) to ask about the internet, but they had no info on it The tv has lat, long, time, dist to go, distance traveled, sunrise and sunset times etc. I am slowly unpacking and will be done with that by tomorrow for sure, and it will not have to be done again for ten more days. I like the Dawn a LOT better than the NCL Sea, and the crew once again has a lot of Europeans in it, including some pretty ones.

When I was settling in my cabin and unpacking, a phone call came from the head concierge. She asked me if I was the Mr B** who wrote to C***, and I said “Not necessarily. Is that a problem?”. Quite the opposite, she was gonna send some things up to my cabin and invited me to the Captains Cocktail party tomorrow night.

That email seems to have been a pretty good idea all together. I went down to see her and she is a big fearsome looking Austrian.. The cabin steward came by to introduce himself and take away a stowed bed, and I basically blew him off as I was trying to remember how to get the ten pix from d**’s camera memory card onto the hard drive. It took awhile, but I have started a new folder Barbados and have saved some but not all of the pix I took as we backed out of the pier and headed out under the Verrazano narrows bridge.

The movement of the ship is quite noticeable tonight (8PM) but I don’t know whether that is sea conditions or being on the 9th deck up. As I say, the stateroom is about double the size of the one on the sea, and while a window would be nice, a balcony nicer, I am quite pleased with what I paid and what I got. While standing on line, there were about four different prices quoted for what we each paid. The outfit I use seems to have had the best prices.

I think the cabin is going to be a quiet one,. The doors seem much solider than on the Sea, where I could hear everyone going by. At not much after 2000, I closed my eyes, asked the steward in the hall where the light switch was (under the tv) and listened to Mario Lanza singing ‘be my love” and wondered how I could instantly remember his name and know all the words to a sing I haven’t heard for probably 40 years. I expected to wake up around 4AM and perhaps go to the gym.

Well, when I woke it was just after 2200, to my surprise. I put on a sweatshirt and dungarees and went topside to see what I could see of the waves which are up to 12feet high and definitely rocking this ship which is nearly a thousand feet long. The way the forward railings are fixed, you really can’t see much. They have plastic splash shields up and I think, like some other ships, the forward bow area is crew only.

I was also hungry however, and secondary reason for being out was eating, and I found a midnight buffet in the rear dining room, which is similar to the ones on the last two ships, only this one was closing down shortly and I barely made it in for some hamburg with cheese, a hotdog, some fruit, French fries and three oatmeal raisin cookies and sev. glasses of water. When I got back to my room I had an invitation to a VIP cocktail party with the captain for tomorrow eve and the letter saying I had an internet package and to go see R** in the internet café, which is on the same deck as my cabin. So -- life is good again!

I love the moving map display with time, temp, water temp, seas, distance traveled, distance to go, eta, temps in all the pools, plus a moving map display which shows us off the south coast of NJ, with course 140 and speed 21.3 knots. And it looks super accurate as well, and tomorrow, for the first time since the Norwegian Sea, I’m going to try to set the seconds on the $10 watch I got aboard it.

The shops and casino on this ship are huge. The casino looks to be half again as big as the Ecstasy. Thanks d** and c** v for a nice glow. I even put my three dollar bottle of water into the room refrig so I can fill it in the future at the spots I have found to do so.

This is NOT the one I flew on the year before.