Sunday, May 8, 2011

Less than a Week Left

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day One of the Crossing

The next week will be filled with the same routine as the beginning of the cruise more than two months ago. Breakfast, Trivia, read, nap, dinner and maybe the show. Nonetheless, no two days will be the same.

Before we venture into today’s narrative, we must mention the excitement at dinner last night. Because the journal was posted early in the day [around 4:30 ship’s time], there was no opportunity to talk about the dolphins. As we were sitting at the table eating and chatting, Bahtiar came to point out the school of dolphins which was literally right outside our window. Not only did they break the surface of the water, which was remarkably calm, but they were jumping clear out of the water, too. As they slid back down, they resembled humpback whales but from seven stories up, they seemed smaller. Regardless, it was a beautiful sight. Other diners rushed to the windows, but we could see quite well from our table.

We gained an hour back last night, so we are only four hours ahead of the East Coast. The extra hour meant that we woke up earlier according to the clock which was good because Trivia was at 10:00 instead of its usual 11:30. Why? The first of three [!] Mariner receptions and luncheons was held today starting at 10:45. Almost everyone on the ship is a Mariner, a repeat HAL passenger, and half of us have reached the 4-Star level with 200 days or more. If Trivia had been held at the regular time, a third or more of the regulars would have had a conflict and we all know that Trivia rules the ship.

Speaking of Trivia, we were second today with14/17. Had we had that 15th answer, we would have tied for first and then won the tie-break because Kevin asked it before we scored our papers. How long is a nautical mile in feet or meters? We still won another GD each, so that’s three days in a row. Yeah us!

After lunch in the Lido restaurant, we went to the showroom for an afternoon presentation. A guest lecturer was speaking and singing the first in a series called Cruising Broadway. Her concept was to sing selections from Broadway musicals and give the back-story to the shows. Her operatic style was not appropriate for the material she chose and her singing wasn’t very good anyway. Her monologues about the shows were poorly presented and boring. After fifteen minutes, we left, the first time we have ever walked out on a speaker or performer. As a fitting irony, though, she and her husband occupied the vacant table next to us at dinner; we are hoping we scared them off and they do not reappear tomorrow.

There were no dolphins at dinner; maybe the speaker scared them off with her singing. The show tonight was by a group called The Unexpected Boys, a cover group who performed songs by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The group was good although the frame story they used for the first part was no match for Jersey Boys. On the other hand, it was among the best shows of the cruise.

Tonight was the penultimate formal night and our “pillow gifts” were rolling suitcases in the cruise’s signature umber color with the cruise logo. These will go well with the Grand Africa and Med luggage straps which appeared a few days ago. These bags will hold lots of stuff but may prove to be too big to use as carry-on luggage when we fly. Their arrival signals the end of the trip just as the Fedex labels for our baggage did when they showed up two days ago. And the days dwindle down to a precious few.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

And Then There Were Six

Happily, we gained an hour’s sleep again last night and are now only three hours ahead of the rest of the family. We have six more days to make up the time.

We were on what passes for the normal schedule this morning with Trivia at 11:30 again. For the fourth day in succession, we finished literally in the money with a second place finish and more GD for the collection. Kevin told us today that we can ask for pretty much anything we want at the last redemption day. It seems that HAL HQ in Seattle sent the same number of prizes to the 850-passenger Prinsendam that they sent to the 1380-passenger Amsterdam, so the ship is swimming with “cheap ship stuff.” We will not take too much advantage of this, but all of those candies and sodas will finally pay off.

Lunch on the Lido deck today featured a whopping big fresh tuna, once again being butchered right before our eyes and then popped on the grill. MA isn’t a big tuna fan because it is normally served rare, but D enjoyed his. There was also fresh-caught “tooth fish” like the ones we saw in the Madeira market the other day [corbo?]. Along with salads, it made a tasty meal.

After lunch, there was Human Ring Toss by the pool. MA watched as D tossed hula hoops over the bodies of Cruise Staffers winning another 3 GD for the collection. The reward was secondary to the challenge, but we didn’t turn down the money, either. However, as we watched, the skies grew darker and darker and we knew that rain wasn’t far off.

The End draws ever nearer. We had to reclaim our passports today. There weren’t many new stamps in them for some reason. Maybe everyone is cutting back on government services. D also went to the Fedex lady and got some additional wire ties to secure the suitcases being shipped home. Fedex doesn’t deliver on Saturday according to another passenger, so our bags should arrive Monday; that will give us a few days to settle in before unpacking and doing laundry.

The rain came finally in the late afternoon and by the time we went to the Ocean Bar before dinner, it was almost impossible to tell sky from sea. The horizon had practically disappeared. The seas rolled for the rest of the night and into Sunday morning but not enough to make anyone too uncomfortable.

We and the Pettuses ate dinner at Sandra and Alan’s table tonight. It was nice having more and different people to talk to for a change. We went to see the comedian after dinner and laughed at most of his jokes, even the old ones.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother’s Day and Mariners

Skies were still dark and unsettled when we awoke and there was a storm behind us as we ate breakfast in the MDR. The important thing is that it stayed behind us and the day turned sunny and warm while the seas settled so that there was almost no motion by late morning.

Because the second of the three Mariner receptions and luncheons was held today, Trivia was early and awful. Our consecutive streak of rewards ended with a thud today – even with the “woulda, coulda, shouldas,” we couldn’t have placed in the money. As soon as the competition was over we had to leave the Ocean Bar, our home away from home, and hurry to the showroom for the reception.

We were directed to the front of the room along with everyone else after greeting the Captain, Fermin, Thom and Tina. Drinks and canap├ęs were passed and MA had a mimosa while D had a Virgin Mary. We both declined the hors d’oeuvres knowing that lunch was not far off. Thom called passengers’ names while the Captain and Firmin handed out medallions to those who had sailed on HAL for 300 or more days. As part of that group, we received our medallions and had our picture taken with the captain and Hotel Manager. There were 53 people in the room who had passed the 300-day mark on this trip. Friday, the 500-day and 700-day repeaters were honored. There were also another 100 – 150 Mariners present who have not passed the 300-day mark yet.

Prior to the start of the awards ceremony, a member of the crew sought us out and asked us to remain in the theater after everyone else had left. D asked with whom we were dining, a logical question under the circumstances, but was told it was a secret. Dutifully, we did as requested. After a bit of confusion in the MDR, we were once again escorted to the Captain’s Table where we were once again joined by Captain Albert and his wife Lesley. Lunch was delightful because we truly like Lesley’s company. Talking with her is easy because she is, as we have said, “just plain folks.”

Back in the cabin, we read and napped a bit. D left to update the journal but promised to return in time to wake MA for dinner. Linda/Ginger and Dave joined us tonight for dinner while Ed and Roxanne ate at the Captain’s Table. We knew before they did that the Captain would really be hosting tonight because Lesley mentioned it at lunch; D told her we would be nearby in the Ocean Bar to fill in in case someone did not show up for dinner. We all knew it was a joke and, as it turned out, everyone showed up.

We skipped the show tonight, a violinist. She may have played classical music; she may have used an electric guitar like Vanessa-Mae; she may have been really good. We will never know.

Tomorrow – more of the same.

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