Friday, April 29, 2011

Day Four --Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Today – Puerto Madryn, Argentina.. I woke around 0730 watch time, which is probably 0930 local. Because of my weight, I decided not to call room service, but walked down to deck 7 and got first coffee and then coffee and juice from the Yacht Club, which is, so far, the only place aboard that I have eaten.

Weather in a word is windy. It was so windy that another gentleman ( I was going to call him old, but he is probably about my age or so) couldn’t open the door, and watching some poor woman on deck trying to light a cigarette almost evoked sympathy in me. Parts of the deck are soaked as if by rain, but it is 7 story spray. I did half a turn on the deck in shorts and Bali t shirt and returned inside. I am going to the gym next and then go get some sit down breakfast, since food is not supposed to be brought ashore and I don’t know what if anything will be available to eat along the way.

Went to deck 11, got gps fix showing we are going due WEST for some reason, with shore to our south. Next to gym where I weighed in at 157 and did a mile on the middle ex bike which binds at the same spot each time pedals turn. Followed this with trip to the internet café where I got shown a different way to get onto the net, and spent a few minutes surfing favorite sites.. Logged off and am going to stroll by the lido lounge Then see about breakfast.

Time-ten AM. Almost entirely good news. Good breakfast of one sausage, one small pancake, two pcs of bacon, pineapple juice and bowl of cheerios. The ship docked an hr and a half early, so extra time to take GPS on board. Home is 5,775 miles away, bearing nearly straight north – 354 degrees. Lat S 42 45.7 Long W 65 01. Distance traveled is a bit off for some reason, but it is showing 784 miles.

I think it is more, and will work it out later, prolly when I finish the distance figures for the Sea trip. Nearest airport is SAVY, 4 miles due west of the dock.
The port does not look very third world, with nice condos and office buildings in view. Perhaps a dozen small boats to sea of us. Small military ship alongside. Looks very benign. Weather is windy but not cold. Overcast sky.

Time is now 11am. One thing about being on a boat with primarily people my age is that we all tend to think alike, so the gym, restaurants etc are more apt to be in use during those off times when I tend to use them. On the other hand, we are a quiet lot, polite and – get this people – good situational awareness.

I went ashore solo and rode the shuttle bus to the end of the pier, which reminded me of Puntarenas, Costa Rica somewhat. It is much hotter down out of the wind, and I rapidly had to strip my hoodie, and even the lightweight long sleeved turtleneck may be a bit much…but that depends if they air condition the bus to frigidity.
Evening. Another long, happy, full day of good times and good memories and another batch of pictures to sort and another full page of writing to try to decipher. Bus ride was several hours each way, with window starboard, empty seat beside, my first view of elephant seals (which normally island) sea lions, and back to the ship, to the shore excursion, purser, dinner, the lovely trio and all that before going back to the room.

So – met up at the icy Lounge, and again they got going way before the scheduled time, but this time I had learnt and was third onto the bus and set two rows back, starboard by a window without a curtain. With candy, water, writing pad, binocs and D**’s camera, I felt ready for anything, including having to redon the hoody due to the a/c.

Our guide was a school teacher (English, Grade 12) named Analea Laura Garcia, and the driver/mechanic was Jorge. Jorge got to change a gas filter enroute as the bus came to a shuddering stop in the middle of nowhere, and I mean that literally – the preserve is about 55 miles per side (3,000 sq km) and basically empty except for cattle (which we did not see) horses, sheep (which we did) and the guide managed to get excited over seeing several herds of leaping guanacos and several rheas which are small ostriches.

Area was started by the Welsh. 65,000 people live in Puerto Madryn. Main industry is an aluminum factory which employs thousands of people. Stopped at Interpretation center, with tower for a view and a little museum with animals, birds etc – no English. Following this including a pitstop, my seat was secure and I totally relaxed, and was taken by surprise by a bottle of water (not for three dollars) and a huge box lunch with turkey sandwich and a ham and cheese sandwich, desert and some grapes, most of which I finished. So we were declared lucky on the animals we saw and a recent rain which kept down most of the dust.

The first stop after the interpretation center was the elephant seals. I was disappointed that they said all the big males were gone and only little ones there, but there seemed to be a few big ones that I saw. Frankly, I felt better physically on that part of the trip than I have in awhile.

I walked fast, up and down 65 steps, kept up and passed people, and found my own way to the trail which parallels the shoreline and was about a hundred feet above the actual beach. There were perhaps at most a dozen animals to be seen, but one large one was way down at the right side, and I got some time alone with it with the wind blowing and the warm scent of the wild great outdoors, and it was good. No bugs, no snakes and only an armadillo which literally ran over my feet to both our surprise. It was a magic moment alone with the big beast watching him flip sand onto his back. Then I got two postcards in as many minutes for a buck and was back on the bus 2 min before the hour was up.

Next stop was a more active sea lion rookery. There were over a hundred of them, all ages and sizes and to me they sounded like sheep or goats. It was not very very windy and dust was blowing, but the place reminded me at times of PEI, Tenerife, Capetown, Aruba, and parts of Utah except for the ocean being right there, or parts of east Wyoming. While Jorge changed the gas filter, I changed the batteries in D**’s camera. We drive by the lowest point in South America, but I got no picture to prove it.

One good thing about a smaller boat is there is not a 15 minute wait to get on or off. I made it up the gangway, went straight to the excursion desk to see about what to do in Ushaia, then to the purser where I was assured that the fifty bucks credit was given to me, and then to the dining room where I had hot and cold pork, including pork parmagiana and apple pie ala mode. Then I went and listened to the trio in the Lido lounge, all the while before going to the cabin after reboarding. When I did, there was a [towel] skate on the bed from my little stewardess.. I saw the internet café dude but did not feel up to asking the question about sending pix to W** just now…he is a prickly dude.

It is 2200 and I am now really in my cabin for the first real time in twelve hours. To be honest, I just found out that we are not going to be at Port Stanley tomorrow, and it is a bit of a relief to have a sea day to sort of recollect.

I spent an hour or so with the Lido Trio again, and she is quite delightful and was very interested in looking at pictures of Aruba, Belize and Roatan, as she is going to be going there. She has been thru the Panama Canal. Another package of goodies was delivered to the stateroom, this one from the cruise director.

She seemed genuinely sad when I left, but I told her, we have ten more nights, and I’ll be there for most or all of them. Now I am watching the descriptions of upcoming tours and working on trying to get my pictures better arranged. I have stuck Uruguay into the Argentina folder and will put today’s in as well in a separate folder Puerto Madryn.

Actual Dictionary of the day includes
House where owner of ranch lives –estancia
Lama-like creatures about size of deer – guanaco
Small ostrich-like bird – Patagonian Rhea

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day Three - At Sea

Day three

Today I woke at sea.. It was daylight out, and 5AM on the watch so eight AM on board the Crown, and we are ‘at sea’. The motion of the ship is soothing and I like it, and it results in constant creaking. I lay in bed awhile longer and decided to use room service, which I did, ordering coffee and juice to the room, opening the curtains and seeing broken clouds with about 20% blue sky and the clouds are moving past the window at a good clip. Last I checked, we were heading due south at 17mph, but will update later today. There is a ten oclock briefing on shore excursions which I intend to attend.

At ten, I went to the lounge where the director of shore excursions was giving a talk about the next two ports of call. It started promptly, unlike the shambles on the Ecstasy, and people who strolled in eight minutes late were out of luck. I sat in the very back row by the door, and when I heard a tour mentioned that got close to elephant seals and required a good back, I shot down to the desk and booked the last tour to Peninsula Valdes at Puerto Madryn, our port of call in the morning.
Back to the presentation one deck up and I caught enough to decide that I wanted to go to the Lagoon Bluff where penguins are said to be plentiful, and if I got it right, you walk right amongst them. So I booked that one as well, and I think that is it until Chile. Everyone I hear raves about the Antartic overflight, and I continue to hope that the weather permits us a good trip. Certainly it is lovely here today right now. “Here” is about S 38 W 58.

While I was on deck six, I did a quick check with purser about filling out the debarkation form, and without meaning to, I had to go into sufficient detail about my Dawn experience for her to specifically check the VIP list for debarkation, and I AM ON IT!! SO- no more wondering about those choc covered strawberries etc. BTW, the Captains cocktail party is tonight, and I am supposedly due about three invitations (passenger, latitude and VIP) but have received none. The Captain’s name is Ronnie Borg, and I have enjoyed his announcements.

Went on deck and took a fix, and twas windy. Course altered from 180 to 226.. I threw sweats over my shorts and Bali t shirt.

Next came a long session with the internet. I needed just a little help to get going, but mostly because I didn’t have the wireless card in tight enough. Soo with forty cents a minute, I read several blogs, caught up on trrbpatsoit, tried to use the emailanywhere, even did back comics for craps sake, in fact I was on line for about an hour and a half, and only quit because I was getting hungry.

Lunch was substantial but not piggy.......well, maybe it was, as I seemed to have gained four pounds since yesterday - must go re-weigh self shortly. I had pork, sliced cold cuts, some salad with Roquefort cheese dressing, a hotdog, some French fries and a dish of rum raisin ice cream. BTW, have not seen popcorn yet.

Not surprisingly, I then slunk into a deck chair at the very stern of deck eight, one deck above the closed swimming pool and larger deck covered with many towel covered passengers and I just watched the stern wake, watched a bird (kestrel, albatross,?) swooping back and forth across the wake. He was dark in color and much bigger than a seagull and used his wings more than a pelican say, but I never actually saw him fishing. I estimated visually that the ship is pitching about five degrees, with zero roll at all. Soothing, not uncomfortable, but one does tend to grab the rails frequently. In fact, I suspect I dozed off for a few moments.

Noon – captain on pa. 50,000 pop of next port, eta ten am tomorrow. Nearest land 30NM. Viz good. Air temp 63 f. sea temp 68F. Press 1024mb. SSW wind force 4 10-15Knots. Sunset at 7:44. // Back home news is stocks down, temps down, snow up. The predicted northeaster DID dump a foot of snow some places, and I hope I didn’t lose power and all the related headaches that go with it.

Went up to the gym on deck ten and got on an exercise bike for a 65 calorie burn off but I am uncomfy about having no sneakers. They were busy with a tour however and took no notice of me. I was not happy to see 166 lbs showing for my weight, as that is about twenty more than I want and 15 more than I thought. Still, I had gone back for seconds for the ice cream after my laze on the back deck.

At 1700 ships time (1400 at my snow covered crumbling mansion) , I got a call from Hannah, who is the concierge and is mine if I want her. 8224 is her extension, but she did not invite me to meet the hotel director etc. At least not yet, since I told her I was being well looked after and that I doubted I would use her very much. Still, one never knows. She sounded like she came from about the same area as R*** on the Dawn (Kitzbuhle).

Hehe. Having just told Hannah that I wouldn’t be bothering her much, I called her back as soon as I exited my lovely hot shower (with bar soap thank you so much) and asked if she could have a pair of pants pressed, and there was a knock on the door within five minutes. I am sorta pulling out all the stops for the party, with wingtips, fresh pressed slacks, and cashmere turtleneck and blazer.

One of the perky little fun people who works for the cruise line (and who probably enjoys the college Bermuda runs a whole lot better than this boatload of official old farts) was running a game in which she asked people to bring her things. One was a picture of the white house, and I was mildly annoyed to have totally forgotten that it appears on a ten dollar bill. Among other things she wanted were black teeth (comb) expired drivers license, expired credit card, car keys (all these on the sun deck where everything should be back in the room), sox with a hole in them, a bar tab, a hundred dollar bill (same guy had both of those) and dentures.

// The pants were back, pressed within ten minutes. It’s good to be very important.

Time 1900. supper was two slices of sliced hot pork, two pieces of cold smoked turkey, and a double dip of pineapple sherbert. I followed this with three turns around the outside of deck 7. This is allegedly a mile, but even if not, I at least walked some of the dinner off. I asked about popcorn and they drew a blank. Ecstasy no, Sea (tho it had little else going for it, yes) Dawn yes and Crown is still a question mark. The sea is still swelled, but sunny and bright, and I think we will cross over forty degrees south sometime tonight. Just peeked at the ‘list’ of cruises and I still need to come up with the mileage of the Sea trip to Belize.

Cocktail party in ten. //very different from the one on the Dawn. No receiving line. Snuck into very back corner, declined champagne and most of the hor doerves, and only belatedly fell into chat with two other couples, but only because of my recent expertise in NCL. The captain is good with English (he is Swedish) and he gave the dimensions of the ship, said we have good wx for at least the next two days (fingers still crossed).

There are 509 Americans aboard out of a passenger list of over a thousand. Many from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, lots from Canada, Germany, a few French, etc. I going over the notes from the day, I was bemused to find it was on the back of a letter I wrote to C*** on the Dawn and never delivered.

Lido Lounge, 2200 or so. The evening had a nice ending when the trio met Richy, the guy who shared the plane ride with me down from Atlanta. The pix of the dawn went over really well, and the lady liked the towel pix, another of which I captured tonight when my current stewardess made an alligator.

The wi fi almost hooked me up, enabling me to surf and listen at the same time, but I think I am just beyond the range, which covers the library and the other hallway. Sort of teasing me, cuz the light will go steady for awhile and then blink again when I try to log on. After well over an hour of solid bosa nova, I said goodnight to them and came to the library where the light was solid green, and still couldn’t get onto the net for some reason.

Midnight buffet is calling me, but fingers are reminding me that THEY don’t like me weighing over 150 lbs, and neither do my good clothes.

Checked out the buffet both in the casino and top of crown – too late for one and too early for the other, so returned to cabin and worked with laptop awhile.

Monday, April 25, 2011

South America - Day Two --Montevideo, Uruguay

Today – Montevideo, Uruguay. I am in bed with the laptop in room 8019 of the Norwegian Crown and the tv has a bow camera which is playing pretty music and I can watch cars driving by the bow of the ship. It just played “Cheek to Cheek” with Ella and Louis. Out my huge window I have a view of an old, very Uruguan-looking church steeple. The reported temp is in the seventies and there is cloud cover.

To get the fussing over with – my lower middle right finger remains extremely painful, which makes a series of routine chores difficult to impossible, like opening the digital camera, typing of course, dressing etc

To fuss further, the announcements in English, German and Spanish that we had docked in Montevideo came at – 0430 on my watch, or 5:30 AM local time. I am very glad that I picked the noon tour and not the earlier one. Am lazily contemplating room service, but, since I have all my clothes now, I shall probably put on shorts and venture forth for some coffee, which I think is aft and one deck down. I am embarrassed, but I haven’t worked out which side of the ship I am on yet.

Further embarrassment when I went by the Internet Café at 5AM and the guy was in it, and said “Didn’t you set your clock? And I had set it the wrong way. So my watch is three hours slow, and I am wondering whether I brought my short wave with me. I know I could use sneakers which I did not bring. Could have been worse I suppose, like the couple on Roatan who missed the boat and spent a week there with no ID and no money.

As it WAS in fact eight AM, the Yachtclub on deck seven was quite busy, so I returned a glass from the bar last night (water) and brought back a cuppa to the room. The little suitcase is all unpacked and sox, underwear and t shirts neatly put away logically in separate drawers. By the way, it is raining heavily outside now, so going out onshore for an internet café session is out, and I will bring this down to the café presently and see if I can get going, at least posting yesterday’s blog.

//Made my way with wireless card and puter over to the internet café where the guy who runs it got me going. I took the hundred buck package and got onto journalspace first, posting my gps fix blog on it and then looking a little at pprune. He seems to know what he is doing but he has a bit of an attitude about him which is going to bear watching. It was freezing cold there and I wanted more coffee, so I logged off fairly soon and went and got a second cup for the room. While there, I finished unpacking the suitcases, leaving the real cold weather gear in them under the bed. Looks like the rain stopped but could begin again.

Went for a real breakfast, cold meat, cheese, sc eggs, toast, sausage, oj and a pancake with syrup. The room had been done when I returned, and so now I have about two hours to kill before the tour of the city on a bus begins later.
Well, it’s quarter to ten now. Having finished emptying the big suitcase, I tackled the tangle of papers that have already piled up – boarding passes luggage claims, ship maps, letter re sickness of ten percent of prior trips, map of Atlanta airport, extra copies of Argentinian customs and immigrations forms, the baggage tags for the flight and extra cabin tags for the 4112 stateroom in which I never set foot.

Got the ticket for today, the photocopy of my passport, put the key card in my wallet and found a letter showing I had On Board Credit of $50, so I took a few minutes and walked down to the pursers desk where she was totally mystified, and it was not until I dropped the magic name of *** that her face all lit up, attitude improved and she assured me they would get in touch with Miami and send me a letter to my cabin, and experience has shown me that they damn well will. I also had a letter to give to the Maitre D because I was celebrating an important event on the trip – dunno what, but the name G** has somehow crept into the equation, and I am trying to remember if C** had dealt with me in those terms – don’t think so.
While I was at pursers, people were complaining of wrong wine in the cabins, non working toilets and everything in between. Brother of one of the ships officers was sent to the bridge, and I explained that I wanted to go to the bridge too, and she laughed and said so did she, but she didn’t have a brother who was an officer.

// . The sun has come out before 11am at least partly, and that is better than rain for sightseeing. It seems the tour sold out (remember Virgin Gorda) and I am glad I went to the tour desk yesterday before even going to my cabin.
OK – it is coming up on seven PM now, and there are several ways I can do this. One is to go fresh with what just happened, then read my copious notes for the day and then try to do the earlier part. More commonly, but more disjointedly, I just pour out my feeling, thoughts and impressions of Uruguay and they patch up the rough edges later from the notes.

Most everything in Uruguay went well, and my impressions were almost 100% favourable. The country is well educated, with literacy rate of 97%, crime rate seems ok, they have one doctor for every 270 people and one hospital for every 70, with life expectancy of 75, about what I am expecting for myself actually.
One interesting thing is that the big tour bus loaded and actually departed the dock ten minutes before the assembly time and 15 minutes before the scheduled tour was to begin at 1230. The good news is that I was aboard by a window, which, sadly had a curtain, but the big expansive window seats were all taken, and the bus rolled minutes after I boarded. The first thing I saw of interest was the anchor from the Graf Spree, which is sunk in the harbor behind where we are docked. Uruguay has several hundred miles of coastline, mostly on the Porta Plata river, which was so rough today that they were literally surfing on it, and some on the ocean. Houses sell for less than 200K USD in nice areas. Condos can be had on the ocean as well for less.

We saw, and I photographed, many different official buildings. There are palm trees, and plane trees which are pretty. In BA they had Jacinta and barrel trees. The lady guide was named Betty and she spoke basically perfect English and was funny and attractive as well and I enjoyed her. There were stops for photos, postcards, for others to buy water which I had brought with me, and a 15 minute stop at the Memorial to the Marines, down on the very windy beach, and then back to the ship along the shoreline.

I had made a quick foray onto the dock well before the tour, and returned for additional clothes. Had my pic taken by the ship with an Uruguay flag for my collection, and also snapped a readable one of a Uruguay license plate from the bus. I wore cashmere turtleneck with the Australia light sweater over top of it, and think I left the heavy cop sweater home. With the sneakers and short wave.
Two parenthetic thoughts: first, a fancy platter of choc and vanilla covered strawberries has found its way to my stateroom courtesy of the hotel director. Hmm. Second, met a guy playing with a Garmin GPS on deck, same as I met Bob D on the fantail of the Ecstasy. Told him about my blog and he’ll probably read it next chance he gets.

Possib blog joke – Good news – lots of mother-daughter combo’s aboard. Bad news, in every case, the daughter is older than I. Bit of a flap over the stern flag, which looked like a photoshop of a Danish and Guyana flag, but upon long walk and many queries, is Bahamas, not Uruguay as I had been told. Nice girl took my pic by the real Uruguay.flag with ship gangway behind. In State line photo folder already.

This is my fifteenth port since September, and my 14th ship sponsored shore excursion, with three of them off the Ecstasy. All have been way better than average, leaving nothing to be desired IMO. Was bored on bus and listed them: Acapulco, Puntarenas, Aruba, Ocho Riso (no tour) Cozumel, Cancun, Roatan, Belize, St Croix (no tour) St Thomas (no tour) Tortola, (Virgin Gorda trip) Domenica, Barbados and Antigua. And plenty more to go.

As I had an empty seat beside me on the bus, I was able to have my water, some peanuts, writing paper, binoculars and camera spread out and handy for me, and as I put, stayed well within my comfort zone every inch of the day in this country, which I find to be highly under rated. Given the lack of Indians, browns, or blacks, and mostly a solid European Portuguese stock, I would think there would be crowds of older Americans retiring here. Perhaps the welcome Fidel (Castro) signs might put some of them off. They were graffitied everywhere. They have low tax rate as well. Sounds like a variation of the Costa Rica story. Just heard that Montevideo is second lowest crime rate in the world, behind only Tokyo.

The square in the center of town was loaded with cops and dozens of television trucks with various Uruguan twinkies doing stand ups with the building in the background. The New president is being sworn in tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Castro pays a visit. Doubt that old GW will be here, tho we did drive by a hotel where Hillary is said to have stayed. BTW, failure to vote here is reason for a fine. Montevideo means 6th hill and Uruguay means river of colored birds. Didn’t know that. Thinking now of ALL the tours I’ve taken: Iceland, Rio, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Madrid, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong , maybe Taipei, The temp was 24C.

The buffet is NOT serve it yourself. Having had my hands sterilized twice in ten minutes, I all but had my hand slapped by reaching for some salad (!) when I saw they had blue cheese dressing. Has to do with the Norfolk or Norwalk Virus which I guess hit them pretty hard, and resulted in the obligatory letter as we boarded.
BTW, my cute little stewardess confirmed that the strawberries etc are NOT routine for this cabin, just the tenth floor penthouses. Hehe. Postcards were a quarter each, or actually, four for a buck, but I only got two, and really only because I missed one in Buenos Aires. Statues seen and photographed included a stagecoach and a covered wagon…where are we again?? Sure enough, they formed a part of their history as well.

My finger, likewise, has gotten better and worse in stages, to where I might consider sitting in with the Dixie group now, whereas I couldn’t play a single note with my right hand last night. Typing likewise affected.

I saw (and photod) but one mcdonalds all day, and down by the water there seemed to be a few more signs in English than anywhere else. This is the first time I can ever remember seeing surfers on a river, with spray bounding twenty feet in the air. It apparently rained really really hard this morning on the tour that I didn’t take. They have a beach called Little Copacabana, and sure enough, that IS what it looks like (fun to be able to say that).

Back on board, it was tres windy. The ship behind us was from Valetta, and my mind skipped to my walk by the docks in Valetta where I saw a ship from Swansea, and how close I was to that earlier this month in Dublin, and like that. There were two Chinese ships tied up behind us side by side, and the sight of the big (relatively) ocean liner leaving had the rails filled with the curious. I was fascinated by the cranes handling the huge cargo containers, some of which roll along on wheels like a gigantic upside down U, and some are just little one at a time backhoe type operations, loading them onto trucks which hold two small ones. There was also a rail siding there and lots of lumber which is one of their exports, like leather and football players.

The eighth deck holds most of what interests me right here. I can get glasses of water, hear very good jazz trio with pretty female vocalist and f\lute player with bass and guitar and OH are they mellow. The internet café is right there, and in the library, I found a huge book with all of the New Yorker Cartoons therein. I am up to page one hundred and have not put a dent in it.

Supped, still in shorts, at the yardarm. Had chicken cutlet parmagiana, a little salad and then a huge plate of spaghetti and ziti with tomato sauce and cheese. Followed that with rum raisin ice cream, and it is no wonder I weight 162 on the scale in the gym, which says no street shoes. Let the record show I skipped lunch and have not used the elevator once today, even to the eleventh deck. I watched us push very slowly away from the dock and out thru the breakwater, and the people on the pilot boat all waved cheerfully back at the hundreds of passengers who were lined up and waving at them. As I said, an old, white, mellow and pretty compatible crowd. Very very few kids, teens or even young couples. Pretty much as I hoped it would be actually.

Just before 2100 went down and had a second dose of rum raisin ice cream, out on the back in total solitude. One woman was smoking a cig all alone too, till she left and twas just me. I finished another hundred pages of the New Yorker cartoon book and got a glass of water from the 8th deck bar to bring back to the bottle in the room, and learnt that the music there starts at 2115, so I will go listen.
The cabin stewardess has brought me blankets for tonight and eaten my choc strawberries at my request. No little animals tonight, but I got tomorrow’s Daily sheet and two little chocolates. Have been careful to go for short walks instead of lying down, cuz I suspect I am going to be flat on the bed for the balance of the night

Short version – went to aft lounge to listen to Brazil trio, who also played on the dawn. She was one of the loveliest women I’ve met aboard yet.
Musically, they are superb trio – standup elec bass, acoustic guitar and female vocalist who also plays flute. They play bossa nova, Brazilian style music. She has a soft, lovely voice and hair nearly to her waist, pretty face, slim attractive figure, and last night she was wearing a black outfit.

I fell into conversation with them on their breaks, and they were friendly and engaging. The guitar player has lived all over the US, from Louisville to Los Angeles and San Francisco, so is English is perfect. She is Argentinean and her English is more basic.. I expect to become a fixture there, as they play at the glass covered lounge at the aft end of my deck, adjacent to the bar where I have been getting my drinking water.

Monday, February 28, 2005

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 café 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

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another Repost--A Fix for Fin

There has been some interest in my posting more of my travel experiences. I found this entry in an account of my flight to Buenos Aires preparatory to my cruise around Cape Horn.


In 1992, I purchased a handheld Trimble GPS receiver, slightly larger than a pack of cigarettes with six buttons on it. If it has received signals from at least three satellites and you push the right button, it will give you a ‘fix’ showing the latitude, longitude, altitude, and the time and date when the fix was generated.

These fixes can help you find a car in a huge field at an airshow, or find your way back to a hotel in an unfamiliar city, or the right direction off the Acropolis when the sun is almost directly overhead, but they also make little ‘souvenirs’ as it were, and I think some of the ones I have gotten are pretty neat. Because battery failures in the past have lost some of my older ones, I have decided to list the current ones here now, not to impress anybody, but because (a) I DO think some of them are neat and (b) it will leave some kind of a record if the thing loses the fixes once again.

The reason this is in my mind is because I crossed the equator last night, and in the eight previous crossings, I had never gotten a ‘fix’ and last night I did. I am particularly chuffed because I had figured out almost exactly when it would happen, woke myself somehow and got it in the dark. It goes nicely with the one taken on the Zero Degree Longitude line in Greenwich, England.

Acapulco; Anchorage, Buenos Aires, St Barts, Belize, Berlin, Block Island, Bora Bora, Cabo San Lucas, Calgary, Cancun, Capetown, Churchill, Cozumel, Costa Rica, Cape Verde, Detroit, Duxford, Equator, Gaton Lake, Greenwich, Home, Houston, Johannesburg, Katmai, Kuwait, LA, London, Malta, Milan, Ottawa, Peking, Guam, Honolulu, Princeton, Raleigh, Roatan, Honduras; King Salmon, Alaska; San Marco Plaza; Saskatchewan, Seattle, Sofia, St Maarten, Tahiti, Tokyo, Toronto, Venice, Virgin Gorda, Vienna, Warsaw, Winnipeg and Xuantanich [those of you who looked at the pix in Westy’s site will know that one].

I will not dwell on the fact that I have ‘lost’ an equal number of neat sounding places before these!.