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.


BenB said...

Sounds like you had an amazingly good time - and that without partaking of the free drinks offered by the ship! Personally, the drone of the ship's engine would definitely help me sleep, but I suspect would be somewhat of an annoyance during waking hours. I have never been on a cruise ship and have put that on the list of a vacation I might possibly take. A short one, undoubtedly going along the coast. My other thought, though, is a white water river rafting trip. Anyway, you tell a good tale, superbly written, highly entertaining.

Fin said...

Thank ye kindly there, Ben. Thing is, it was written by me for me, and never really intended to be shared. It is very much like what you write.

I have really not had to change very much, however, to make it public, and again, I am enjoying being transported back to that time.

Fijufic said...

Fin - How did you like St. Croix? I have been to St. Thomas (Didn't care for it) and I love St. John (My favorite Island in the Caribbean) but I have never done the St. Croix thing.

Fin said...

When I was very much younger, I vacationed at the far east end of St Croix, at Grapetree Bay. Lovely resort, side trips to the Buck Island Park and the Bomba Charger to St John, and a Grumman Goose flight to St Thomas. Loved it all.

This visit was about 120 minutes in a torn up section of the west end, and not much of an representation of the island. Hence my photo of the torn up section.

BTW, my first visit was shortly after the massacre at the Fountain Valley golf course, so it was a little nervous, although the natives pointed out (correctly) that Son of Sam had killed more people where I came from.