Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Ties and Nothing

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today was a sea day, so there wasn’t much going on. We lost an hour again last night. We looked all over for it, but never did find it. We slept in and didn’t started anything until we found it around 10:00.

Since it was a sea day, Trivia was held at 11:30. As far as we were concerned, it could have been canceled and it would not have made much difference. We were skunked. The questions did not seem so difficult, but apparently the answers were. We didn’t even save our answer sheet to share the questions here. Let’s just say it was sad.

Tonight was another formal night and we were invited for cocktails and dinner with the Captain and his wife. We arrived at the appointed time [7:15] after leaving the Showroom midway through an encore by Black Tie, the Australian singers and musicians. We knew we were not late because Mrs. Captain Schoonderbeek was still there when we left. Still, we were among the last to arrive at the Captain’s quarters and almost all of the seats were filled with people who had come early.

There were perhaps twenty guests in the living room plus most of the senior officers, many of whom we know now. We were greeted warmly by all of them and soon found a place in a corner, our usual hangout. The ship was rolling so much that people were bracing themselves against cabinets and furniture if they did not have seats. Watching the waiters come around with canapés and drinks was exciting, but there were no calamities.

We struck up a conversation with a couple from Palm Beach via Cleveland and had a pleasant time. Just before 8:00, most of the guests departed leaving just 8 of us to follow Gildus, the dining room manager, to the MDR where we found our assigned places at the Captain’s table. MA was to the immediate left of Captain Scooby-Doo [as some call him] while D was to the left of Lesley, his wife. We never had formal introductions to the other six guests but know that 2 of them are host/hostess for passengers who booked through Cruise specialists, a large Seattle-based travel agency founded by the wife of a former HAL president.

Dinner at the Captain’s table is not like dinner anywhere else on the ship. Each place had a charger plate made by Rosenthal using a Versace design. All of the following china had the same patter but in different colors. The flatware had the same pattern as did the crystal – all three glasses. Of course, there was more flatware than anyone could use at any meal. Menus were placed on the chargers, large scrolls rolled and tied offering the selections for dinner.

There were appetizers of shrimp cocktail or phyllo packets; soup or Caesar salad; and a choice of crab legs or beef Wellington. Dessert was chocolate cake. Bottled water was used instead of whatever we normally get at dinner and the wine was unlimited, both red and white.

MA and the Captain had a spirited conversation throughout the meal and D managed some chit-chat with Lesley who is delightfully unaffected. The role of the Captain’s wife did change her from being the small-town English girl she was. She actually worked in the cruise industry and met her husband while she was working. She no longer operates a Shore Excursion office but does help as an escort when the staff is stretched thin. We saw her yesterday in the Banjul market where she was, as she put it, “herding” passengers of a HAL tour. When D asked her to name the hardest part of being the captain’s wife, she said she loved it all. She did concede, though, that the 5-foot bed they share is a bit crowded compared to the regulation 6-foot bed the passengers have and that the Schoonderbeek’s have at home.

Captain Albert [his first name] is a naval historian of sorts. He can recount stories of almost every cruise ship afloat and most that are no longer in service. When the subject of one of our favorite ships, the Marco Polo came up, he was able to give detailed information on its current ownership and itineraries as well as its history since the demise of Orient Lines. Like his wife, he is very approachable and affable, easy to talk to and full of personality.

Dinner broke up around 9:45, giving the Captain and his wife plenty of time to get to the Show-room for the Black and white Ball. We had already decided not to attend [we never do] although we were curious how people would dance on a very bouncy ship.

Back in the room, we read until lights out so we would be rested for another day of nothing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Everyone’s a Critic

Today was the second meeting of the Cruise Critic group, so we were up early. After breakfast in the MDR, we went to the Crow’s Nest, the top-most spot on the ship, for a 10:00 meeting. Although we were there at 9:30, Bob and Judy [voorn in CC-speak] were already there. They had made the original name tags for the group and were set up to make new ones for member’s who had lost or forgotten them and for newcomers. We added several pseudo-members today, folks who were not part of the online chat about this trip or who not heard of the group until they met friends aboard. We’re just happy to have more people.

As 10:00 passed, Lois [SlotL] started things again by suggesting that anyone with space left on a private tour share that information so those looking for tours could make arrangements with them. As that was getting started, CD Thom and Cruise Consultant Tine [Mrs. Thom] arrived to say hello and banter a bit. They didn’t stay very long before we got back to meeting-and-greeting. D made the announcement that he is a CC addict but had gone 17 days without logging in. We all just sat and talked, often comparing experiences ashore in Banjul and Dakar. We had no agenda and no real purpose except to socialize. We saw people there whom we had seen around the ship without remembering that were CCers. And we will probably forget that fact again.

D had had personalized ship’s invitations sent to all of the cabins of known members of the group and asked anyone who did not get one to see him so he could update the list. About a half-dozen people came to him to volunteer their information. The plan is to publish and distribute a finalized list with names and e-mail addresses at the last get-together in May.

MA left the meeting early to secure our traditional Trivia table and D followed when the meeting petered out around 11:10. He was reminded by Bob Voorneveld to take some fruit to her since he had not done so after the last CC meeting. The Trivia questions were easier today because our 14/17 was only good for third place. [Which is larger, a pool table or a billiards table? Who directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Alphabetically, who is the first disciple? Who was the most recent British monarch who was crowned as a teenager? What is the square root of .01?] Naturally, several of the right answers were mentioned but never made the paper. Woulda , coulda, shoulda again.

Reading and a nap were followed by dinner [veggie/beef] and then more reading before bed. Tomorrow – Tenerife, the Canary Islands

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