Sunday, March 22, 2009

Canary in a Cathouse [piano]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Busy, busy, busy. We were up early this morning, at least for us. After breakfast in the dining room, we returned to the room to plan out day and somehow missed a morning coffee chat with a married couple who are now registered gemologists but who were doctors in their previous lives. We were interested in finding out how their love of antique furniture morphed into gems and jewelry, but we will have to watch the rerun on the ship’s TV station. [We did, before dinner, and found them boring and condescending.]

At ten, though, we were in the perfect position [i.e., the Queen’s Lounge] to hear Port Lecturer talk about Livorno, Pisa, Lucca and Florence. [We watched most of his talk on Barcelona on the telly yesterday while getting ready for dinner.] We have a private tour set for Livorno which will take us to both Pisa and Florence. While we were not so interested in Pisa, the rest in the group wanted to see it and take pictures. As Ed says, if we don’t have pictures, we weren’t really there.

We opted out of reserving tickets to the Ufizzi gallery in Florence, so Fabrizio, our guide, will lead us elsewhere. Certainly, there plenty of other places to see. Even seeing nothing is fun in Florence. We still talk about the first/last time we were there when we sat in the outdoor section of a café and had a coffee near the Duomo; watching people is fun. Anyway, Frank talked about a plethora of churches and museums in town and out. Weather permitting, it should be a fabulous day, but it is a long way off still.

We got schmeared in trivia today. Too many correct answers crossed our lips but never made it to the answer sheet. If they had, we still would have lost by one point. As we say, “The hand that holds the pencil, rules the world.” For us, it is Scott, who is very precise in his writing. The interesting thing about the TT on this trip is that no one or two teams seem to be dominating, although the high scorers appear to be consistent.

We lost another hour at lunchtime today. Noon became one o’clock and the old people are just as confused today as they were earlier in the week. At least, when we sail back and gain the hour, it will be at night. They will still be confused but well-rested.

We went to the Lido Deck straight from trivia to check out the 75% off sale on logo apparel. All of it was Panama-oriented because the last Prinsendam cruise was around South America and through the Canal. Had there been anything that said ‘Antarctica,” we might have been tempted. Lunch on the rear deck of the Lido brought us to 2:00 p.m. and the Whale Races.

Whale races are like shipboard horse races except with wooden orcas. When we first saw horse racing on a ship, we formed a syndicate to promote Lucky Lou. We shared the cost with D’s sister and brother-in-law, then sold shares to other passengers. It was like The Producers; if we had won, we may have owed the backers more than we made on the race. Emily and D sold the shares; Emily and cousins Sam and Lizzy performed a rap song about Lucky Lou; and Emily was our [losing] jockey.

The whale races today had cruise staff riding the whales as passengers rolled dice to see which whales would advance. Passengers grouped themselves around their favorite jockey’s assigned area. Everyone received “dam dollars” for participating and the winning jockey’s supporters received five “dam dollars.” With three races, passengers could, at least theoretically, win fifteen of the dollars which can be exchanged for sports tchotchkes at the end of the cruise. We lost all three races, so we have six dollars which may be donated to the more athletically inclined. It’s our own little charity.

It was almost time for a special presentation by the comic from the other night. On the way to the Queen’s Lounge, we stopped for a specialty coffee for MA, then found seats. The comic, Mike Goddard, has lived in Spain for a number of years including ten years in Barcelona itself and, more recently, the outskirts. Because of his knowledge and passengers’ curiosity, he agreed to talk about bull fighting.

He maintains, first, that the term “bull fighting” is already a misnomer because the corrida, as it is known, is considered an art form, not a sport. Matadors, in turn are treated to the respect given to artists and are usually referred to as maestro. The corrida is more pageant than fight and is laden with religious overtones. The matadors are dressed in red and gold reminiscent of the vestments of the priest; the bulls are large, dark, cloven-hoofed and horned like Satan; and the sword, once imbedded in the bull, shows only its handle, a cross. As if this were not enough, Goddard makes the point that it is popular only in majority-Catholic countries – Spain, France, Argentina, etc.

Another reason he says that it isn’t a sport is that the outcome is never in doubt. Good, in the body of the matador, will always win and evil, the bull, will always lose. Matadors may “fight” six days a week, but the bull only gets one performance before he is retired to the abattoir. People come for the spectacle, if not the religious imagery, knowing the eventual outcome. They are interested in technique, not result, and fans have their favorite matadors just as they have their favorite soccer teams. The top tier matadors earn up to a million dollars a week! Anyway, Goddard told stories about the corrida based on his own experiences and both entertained and informed a rapt audience.

By now, it was read/rest/compute/nap time so we could be on time and duded up for the Captain’s reception before dinner. Whee! Free drinks!

The reception was fine but crowded. We don’t know the criteria for invitations, but there were over 200 people present out of only 625 aboard. The ship tilted slightly forward. The captain made a gracious and humorous speech, people drank and ate – it was a real nice clambake.

After dinner [shrimp for her, chicken for him], we went to the show. The featured artist did a tribute to Nat “King” Cole which everyone enjoyed. The audience was really looking forward to a good show since the crowd was about twice that for the violinist. Unforgettable, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Walking My Baby Back Home and L-O-V-E were just a few of the standards he sang. It was a great show.

Speaking of great, the weather continued to be perfect. The skies were clear and the water almost mirror-like in its smoothness. As we ate lunch on the Lido back deck, it was easy to see why earlier people believed the world was flat; no matter which direction we looked, there was nothing but two shades of blue separated by a perfectly straight line, the horizon. Cruising doesn’t get any easier than this. Wind is predicted for tomorrow and, with it, some increased swell and motion. Since Capt. Gunderson has been speeding up during the good weather, he will be able to slow tomorrow if needed to help stabilize the ship. It will be a good day regardless.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Speaking of presents, so far we have received the previously mentioned cruise journals; matching business card holders; and the promised jackets. As Scott and Karen predicted, these are polyester polar-tec type jackets with detachable sleeves so they can be used as vests, also. Of course, they have a HAL logo, so we will be readily identifiable to the gendarmes should we be the victims of foul play. Actually, these beauties should get a lot of use since the temperatures have dropped aboard the ship and temperatures in our destination ports are currently in the mid-50’s. The downside [no pun intended] will be in packing them to come home. There is no telling what else will find its way to the cabin over the next six weeks, but luggage space will be precious and Dominique’s car will already be packed to the rooftop. We have yet to decide on canceling the driver and renting a car [with more room for less money].

Friday was anything but frantic. We attended the coffee chat with the 24-year-old violinist who performed the other night. She is not a good conversationalist but will get better as she matures. Trivia was exciting but futile -- we were third today in the race to the “P” mugs. There was another time change at mid-day, so we left trivia at what became 1:00 and went to the theater to secure seats for the 2:00 showing of Slumdog Millionaire. We missed the normal lunch hour and got pizza in the Lido after the show. We finished around 5:00 and took a little rest before supper.

The show tonight was a melange of the comedian and the contortionist/illusionists which we skipped, opting instead to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Although it is 7:00 p.m. ship’s time, the East Coast registers only 3:00 p.m. Yes, indeed, another 23-hour day today. The oldsters are spinning their wheelchairs in confusion.

Today we learned that there is no place to hide on the little ship. At trivia today, one of the questions was, “What did Yankee Doodle call his feather?” The room was dead quiet as answers were written and, in the quiet, a voice was heard. “I know that!” And D said loud enough for those in our area, “Lady, we all know that!” Corey, the TT ‘host’ became hysterical; we laughed so much we were almost crying; and someone in the team behind us said, “Lasagna.” At least we are having fun even if we are the perpetual bridesmaid – our 20 points was second to another team’s 21. At lunch later, Corey walked by MA at the table and said simply, “I know that” and continued walking. We fear our reputation has been made.

After lunch we went to hear what Frank the port lecturer had to say about Teneriffe and Lanzarotte, our ports tomorrow and Monday. We almost fell asleep listening to him, so we left before he was through and went for our nap a bit early.

After dinner, we went to the Explorer’s Lounge and listened to the trio which plays there every night, then went to the Queen’s Lounge for the show. Tonight’s performer was a pianist who was long on enthusiasm but a little short on skill. She hammered out an assortment of pop and classical tunes and was a real showman [show-woman?], but she noticeably fat-fingered a lot of the notes, so the performance wasn’t all it should have been; actually, she played mostly bad whorehouse piano. Still, the seniors gave her a standing ovation based on her energy level and skin-tight red sequined dress. As the salesmen said in the opening number of The Music Man, “You gotta know the territory.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Land! We docked at Santa Cruz de Teneriffe, Spain, early this morning. The weather was overcast but was supposed to clear off later in the morning. Temperatures were approaching 70. There are two ships in port today, ours and a Costa ship.

Teneriffe is one of the Canary Islands, named after wild dogs which inhabited the islands centuries ago. They and any hint of the original inhabitants are long gone by now. The Canaries are important because they are off the coast of North Africa and have provided a strategic location for centuries. Most recently, they served as a refueling stop for the Allies during WWII. The city of Santa Cruz is modern in appearance with a number of skyscrapers in the downtown area. When we were here in 2001, we found it to be a bustling city; the parts of the island we saw were busy with automobile traffic and tourists.

We made no plans for either stop in the Canaries, having seen them before. None of the tours sounded particularly interesting nor did the thought of another HAL bus. We stayed aboard and did laundry and read. At least on the Pequod the self-service laundry is free. We thought about walking from the pier to a large public park about a half-mile [or more] from the ship, but decided to skip it because of the overcast and the hill we would have to walk up. There will be enough walking and enough hills once we begin our private tours in ten days.

The ship is a little more than two-thirds filled for this segment of the cruise with about 625 passengers. So many of them have taken shore excursions or walked into town that the ship feels like the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship of legend and Wagnerian opera. It is very quiet and there were no lines at lunch [or for the washers and dryers] yet all of the ship’s services are available. It’s quite lovely, actually.

Most people were back in time for trivia and the Ocean Bar was full again. And, again, we were in second place by one point. It is starting to feel like Twenty Seven Dresses around our table.

1 comment:

  1. I will not ask any questions as I have forgotten all that I previously asked. Sorry you've hooked with a trivia deficient team. By his time you should have3 mugs, 3 bookmarks and a picture frame!