Monday, March 16, 2009
Sailing! Sailing, over the bounding Main…the Spanish Main, that is. And we bounded, or at least bounced, a bit overnight. The seas have been mostly smooth today although it has been cloudy and windy all afternoon. The Captain says that there is big storm system north of us in the Bermuda area and we are hoping that it brought rain to South Florida. The wetlands near our house now resemble the Serengeti. We expect to see hyenas and zebras any day.
We were up early and ate breakfast with 6 total strangers, a sort of involuntary socialization foisted on us by the dining room captain. In fact, we like meeting new people and enjoyed talking to several of them but not all. We were in the Ocean Bar very early for TT because it is a comfortable place to read. We not only read but we also worked on crossword puzzles and the Daily Quiz. [We were just ever-so-slightly off on several answers again today] Our team was assembled by the 11:30 start time and we charged head on into minutiae. We did better than we expected which is to say that our 14 correct tied for first place.
Had our Canadian teammates known when Canada became a country, we would now be the proud owners of more HAL mugs. We need some from this trip so we can spell some new words. We already have N, R, A, S and M [and left V and W in Baltimore when we moved], so the addition of the P for Prinsendam would allow us to spell “snap,” “pans,” “maps,” etc. There are 45 days left, so we are not worried.
We sat and chatted with Scott and Karen after TT, then went for an early lunch, at least early by our standards. From there we went to the casino where MA raced through her money on the slots while D was breaking about even at the tables. D entered today’s blackjack tournament and was the point leader through the first round. By the time the finalists were named, he was number six, but at least he was in the final. Actually, everyone who had any points after the qualifying rounds was a finalist. Only about eight people tried out and the top seven made it to the final round. Bold betting and lousy luck forced him out ahead of everyone else. Such an honor, paving the way for the rest of the players!
Meanwhile, MA spent time reading and then talking with another CCer, Barbara [worldroamer], who winters near us. After the tournament, the three of us talked about cruising, naturally. Then it was back to the room to read and update before dinner [and maybe just a little nap?]. Dinner itself was adequate but not outstanding – vegetarian [of course] and duck. The show was interesting, though. The performers combined acrobatic lifts a la pairs skating with illusions, although not simultaneously. The acrobatic aspects were quite unusual with the female dancer almost contorting her body while in the air. The illusions were pretty run-of-the-mill disappearances from an assortment of boxes. The highlight came when a man in a sport coat had it removed while he was tied up only to appear being worn by the lovely assistant. For reasons not being explained here, we thought of Ed.
We heard back from Yasar in Istanbul yesterday. We had exchanged messages about the logistics of a dinner program the first day we are there. His dinner tour turned out to be a dinner and folkloric show for 50 euros rather than a dinner cruise. Even his plan would have been a possibility until he stated that the dinner and show ran from 8:00 to 11:30 p.m. We wrote back that that schedule was not acceptable because we have to be on the dock by 8:30 the next morning. Maybe the next time we are Istanbul we can cruise between Asia and Europe while eating local delicacies.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Faith and begorrah! ‘Tis St. Patrick’s Day and there green decorations everywhere. Most of the passengers have green on them; many of the staff are in hats; the cruise staff is arrayed in green polo shirts; and tonight, as part of formal night, is the Green and White Ball. Sure and it is.
The day began normally enough with “the usual routine.” We tied for first again in trivia and again lost the tie-breaker question, so we didn’t take home the HAL umbrellas; we already have some anyway. We returned to our cabin before lunch and found an order form for jackets which will be left in our rooms on Thursday, courtesy of HAL. It may not count as one of Roxanne’s pillow gifts, but it should come in handy as we sail through the Mediterranean and Black Sea ports. We discussed bring our matching yellow windbreakers from Florida but decided we would rough it with layers of clothing. Besdies, we were out of space to pack them.
After lunch, MA read while D worked on the “accounts” for the shore excursions [and won another $5 at blackjack], then we went to the movies. We were a few minutes late, but it wasn’t hard to pick up the story line of W, Oliver Stone’s jaundiced film about George W. Bush’s background and presidency. By the time the movie ended, it was 5:00 and time to get ready for dinner because our show tonight is scheduled for 6:30, before dinner, so the Green and White Ball can take place in the theater.
We changed time zones today. Normally, on cruises, we are told to set our watches ahead [or back] before retiring for the night. Thom, the Cruise Director, had a novel idea – we all set our watches and the ship’s clocks ahead at noon. In this way, no one loses an hour’s sleep even though we lose the hour during the day. It seemed to go smoothly and we presume the same procedure will be followed during the remainder of the time changes.
Dinner tonight found the dining room and wait staff all decked out in green. Each table setting had either a St. Patty’s tiara or cardboard top hat, green of course. D wore his hat throughout dinner, but MA had more restraint and put it on for just a minute. FLASH! MA had pasta tonight because the veggie entrée was tofu. Gack! We also had wine with dinner since it was special occasion. We had found three bottles of sparkling wine when we arrived and were told by Ralph, the Beverage Manager, we could trade them for “real” wine on a one-for-one basis. Last night, we carried one of the bottles as far as the Ocean Bar in anticipation of talking to the wine steward. Ralph saw us and came over, thinking perhaps that we wanted the bottle served right then. When he discovered that the “champagne” was warm, we explained about the switch and he said he would take care of it. Sure enough, there was a bottle of chilled Sauvignon blanc waiting for us when we got to the table. It is drier than MA thought it would be and should last several more evenings.
After dinner we headed for the casino. MA lost her $5 in the slots and D played table games, first blackjack and then some weird poker variation. He broke about even for the day. We’ll talk no more about it. The show tonight showcased a British comedian who lives now in Barcelona. He was a good story teller and avoided the kind of insult and sarcastic humor which too often marks comics today. He was inoffensive but funny and did not tell the same old cruise ship jokes.
Off to bed to rest up for another day of team trivia and laziness. It’s very tiring, you know.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Seas have remained calm for another day as we sail between two stormier areas as indicated by the ship’s radar. The Cruise Director, Thom, referred to our skipper as Captain Moses last night, as if the Atlantic had parted to let us through.
Trivia was not as good as the weather. We had 15 correct, but it took 19 of 23 to win. Even with the ultimately right answers we didn’t use, we wouldn’t have been victorious. The team nearest to us exchanges papers with us every day. Most days we get different questions wrong, but we have had the same total for about 4 days in a row. If we could have teams of 12, we would be unstoppable.
We have reached the mid-point in our crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. To commemorate the event, Thom organized a “swim across the Atlantic” festivity. He and much of his staff were joined by passengers of little common sense in a dip in the mid-ship pool. We sat outside and watched them. The temperature was not too bad, probably low 70’s, but the wind was so strong that we finally went inside before they were finished videotaping the polar bears who went in. Thom, naturally, wore a tuxedo jacket with his swim trunks. A brief, albeit unsuccessful stop in the casino preceded our return to the cabin to warm up a bit and read. And nap, of course.
After dinner [escargots and veggie for her, coq au vin for him], we went to the casino for a bit. MA raced through her $5 again and went for a specialty coffee while D continued to play. He ended up ahead again, but, after all, the stakes are low, a $3 minimum at night. We went to the show which featured a young [24 years old] violinist who was quite good. She played everything from Rachmaninoff to Gershwin to Irish reels, and all of it barefoot. She said that playing in heels on dry land is tough enough; playing in heels on a moving ship would be suicidal.
And so to bed to rest up for another jam-packed day of relaxation.