Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saints and Sinners

The Prinsendam is making a short stop in St. Barths today. Technically, the island is St. Barthelemy [bar-TA-la-me], named, of course, after St. Bartholomew. It is a quiet island with a small, three-sided harbor at the town of Gustavia. Even though our ship is very small compared to most cruise liners, it is still too big to dock, so we had to use tenders to go ashore.

The morning was lazy; we slept in and were among the last people to be served in the dining room. We waited to go ashore until after the Shore Excursions were well away. They didn’t start to disembark until 10, so we waited until after 11 to leave. In the meantime, we worked on crossword puzzles and checked our e-mail from the room. Scott was correct when he said that the internet signal is stronger in the room if the cabin door is open.

St. Barths, like the other Caribbean islands, is volcanic, the remains of some prehistoric eruption. Around the harbor are smaller volcanic “piles” which are mini-islands. It reminded D a little of the rocks seen as one passes Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. There is little to distinguish St. Barth’s from any other volcanic isle here or in the Pacific. The trees and ground cover would come naturally, there are plenty of artificially quaint restaurants and bars. We could be in St. Thomas or Cozumel; the only difference is in scope, not substance.

By time we got tender tickets, boarded the tender and rode the waves to town, it was almost noon. We wandered around a bit, took a few pictures and bought MA a souvenir t-shirt. Like the Prinsendam, it was a cute little place.

The Prinsendam is a small ship by modern standards. At a time when cruise ships now hold 3500 to 5000 passengers, the Prinsendam hold fewer than 900 when fully sold. Currently, we have 624 passengers, according to the captain. That number will change when we reach Athens because some folks will depart and others will begin their voyage. Prior to our departure, D found through researching Travelocity that there were almost 50 cabins still available for the full voyage. As a result, no venue is crowded and soon enough everyone looks familiar.

The scale of the ship means that the cabins are small, too, but very livable, especially compared to the “upgrade” we received last Fall. We have a walk-in closet which is crammed to capacity; a refrigerator for all of the Coke Zero; and a loveseat and a chair. We can actually sit in them, too, unlike last year when there was no legroom in front of the sofa. The bathroom is so small that Congressman Larry Craig could not have assumed his famous “wide stance” even if he removed the toilet paper holder. There is no electrical outlet in the bathroom either, a real challenge for men who use an electric shaver [D doesn’t]. In fact, there are only two outlets in the room, a 220-line for the hair dryer and a 110-line for everything else. Fortunately, HAL lends multi-outlet strips so the tuned-in, turned-on generation can charge cell phones, cameras, computers and MP3 players. Of course, the nest of cables leading to the strip looks like a snake pit.

Meanwhile, back at the narrative: After wandering for a little while, we returned to the tender pick-up point and then the ship. We were aboard by noon. We read the NYT before lunch, then claimed our table for TT. We also spoke with both Scott and Bill about a dinner cruise in Istanbul. We had e-mailed the tour operator declining the tour but now think we will take it if we get back by 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. After TT, Bill and Sharon came to our table and said that they were willing to take the dinner cruise, so D e-mailed the operator in Istanbul and changed our collective mind. We hope to hear from “Yasar” tomorrow. Speaking of TT, we scored a paltry 14 of 23 today; the winner had 17 of 23. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
We left weighed anchor around 4:00 p.m., heading to St. Lucia, tomorrow’s port of call. The captain says we will have smoother seas than we did on the way south, but we didn’t think it was very rough. It did occur to us, however, that a drunk is the only person who can walk a straight line on a rolling ship.

It’s Pirate Night tonight! Arghh! The dining room staff all were dressed in some semblance of pirate costume as were many of the passengers. Each place-setting included a paper pirate hat; ours will go the grandsons when we see them this summer.

We continued chatting with the lady at the next table especially since she will be on board for entire 50 days. We spoke to a couple before dinner who are going only as far as Barcelona and saw others in the dining room tonight trying to find their tables. We are assuming that for some reason they began their cruise today. We don’t know how many segments HAL finally broke the trip into. We know that the Grand Asia last Fall started as 2 segments and ended up being sold in 13 different legs.

After dinner we went to the casino for a little while. MA played a slot machine unsuccessfully, but D did well percentage-wise at blackjack. When you are only betting $3 per hand, you look at profit ratios, not net profits. D was surprised by the low table stakes, but on the cruises dominated by people one step removed from death, action in the casino is as likely to mean a broken hip as a crowded table. The low limits are designed to bring in the customers.

We went to the Explorers’ Lounge for a bit to listen to the piano-violin-cello trio playing there. The comparable group on the Amsterdam played rather melancholy classical music, but here the music is more contemporary. For example, we heard Over the Rainbow and a medley from West Side Story. Even these sounded mournful. And so to bed. MA was left in the room to read whilst D finished the blog from a new location. He had been using the Stuyvesant Room near the cabin but discovered a desk by the theater which had a 110 outlet strip. This will become his new hideaway late at night.

Tomorrow we are docking at St. Lucia before starting our voyage across the Atlantic. Are we there yet?

1 comment:

  1. Since you are at a table for 4 and you are talking with the lady at the next table..... why doesn't she move over with you?

    Yeah- I forgot to tell you about the lack of plugs in the cabin... we always carry an extension cord.

    Have you been taking anything for the ship's motion or has it been okay?

    So what's up with trivia? Arethe questions really hard or do you have really trivia deficient team mates?

    I got a talking caller Id.... but the voice seems to be Pakastani! Shedoes pronouce the names strangely. Every phone call provokes a laugh from us.