This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and information. I hope you enjoy the time you spend here.
Tom Ballard Photography
WOW, if you do something and you like it, what should you do?? I guess it depends on a lot of things, but if you can, you do it again!!!!!!!!! And that is just what happened for me in November 2013. In November 2012, I traveled from Italy to Texas on a cruise ship, and it was so much fun, I wanted to do it again.. Well, it happened, sort of.. I did not cruise from Italy to Texas, but I did cruise from England to San Juan!!! And, in the pages to follow, I will share with you the story behind the story, then the story, and maybe even some of the story after the story... Nothing is as simple as getting on a ship and going on a cruise!!! There is always more to it than that! And, I am going to share a large part of the whole thing with ya, if you have time to get through it..
As I sit here getting ready to tell ya about the experience of doing the Trans-Atlantic Cruise, I am thinking of several groups of people. The first is a group of people who have heard of cruising, but have never been on a cruise ship. Second group is the group of people who have been on short cruises, and third is the group of people who have been on a lot of cruises, but never a relocation cruise, which is what the Trans-Atlantic really is, and lastly, there are the people who shared this cruise with me.. I have friends who would like to do a cruise, but have no idea what it is like or how to get it done. I have friends who have cruised once, but cannot imagine crossing the ocean on a cruise ship, then, there are those in my social circle who for health reasons and other challenges, will never set foot on a cruise ship, but can pretend to have been there by reading my stories, and watching the exhaustively long sets of images I share... To the people who are in a hurry, Google and Facebook can supply you with thousands of short clips, where someone shares a picture of themselves on a ship or by it, plus a few lines about what a great time they had!!! This is good for the rushed crowd.. For the people with more in-depth interest, and a lot more time, lets get started on this adventure!!!!!!!!! Grab some refreshments and snacks and lets getter going!
To appreciate this story, you have to go back and read the story of the Europe Trip and Trans-Atlantic Cruise that I did in November 2012.. But, in a short, it happened because a travel agent who had helped many of us in the singles world do cruises before, put out an offer to do a relocation cruise from Italy to Texas. I signed on the trip, a year ahead of time. But, I had no roommate for the trip.. Then, along comes a lady named Darlene who wants to go on the cruise, needs to share a room with someone to save expenses, and ends up being my roommate. Then to make that even more exciting, she talked me into doing a week long tour of Europe before doing the cruise!!! The bottom line was that we had an awesome good time. It was however not without challenges.. The travel part was problem free, but after the trip got started, I started showing signs of having a cold or severe allergy, then as I got better, Darlene became the victim of it.. Lucky for both of us, we were in much better health by the time we left Italy, so for the cruise, we were in very good shape!
As a photo person, I did fall on bad times in Italy. The Nikon camera I was using, a D7000, and was depending on to record the cruise, died before we left Rome. So, there were no photos to share of the cruise itself.. But I shared the memories in words, sort of.. Also, when we arrived in Rome, we discovered we had been the victim of our travel agent, who had charged us for rooms and other services in Rome, took our money for all this, then did not pay the hotel and vendors.. We had to pay again for everything we got... A year later, we are still trying to recover the money from this travel agent. The law people tell us they are working on the case, but it is not going very fast, but if anyone ever gets an offer to do business with an agent by the name of Marlene Schroyer, run!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will update that story when I have the end of it available. Right now I am guessing she ripped us off for something close to 30,000 dollars. Her little travel business has had several different names, so by now, she is doing business under some other business name, and still stealing from other people. We have learned now that we were not the first.. We do not know however who all, other than our group, has been a victim of her stealing methods....
After the cruise of 2012 was completed, and the dust had settled from the agent issues, etc. I started thinking about what I could do to get back on another relocation cruise. In fact I sent out several queries to people on my email list, asking if there were interested persons. I expected that for as much fun as we had, there would be a fair number of people interested in going back, but I was wrong.. I seemed to be the only one. But, that did not stop me from continuing to think about how I could manage to do it again.. Of course for the quick thinkers who will be reading this, they would say, just call up an agent, tell them where you want to go, give them your credit card, and they will make it happen.. Yes, that would work, but for a bargain hunter like me, that is not the move I am interested in.. I am looking to find the bargain.. What I need is a roommate, but I cannot find one.. So, I wait... Something will come my way.. I just have to be ready to accept it when it is offered...
The year of 2013 is moving along at a steady pace, life is happening, but it is not going the way I had hoped. There were trips I wanted to do that just could not be worked out, so I was missing some great action.. Plus, I was waiting for months for the stupid Nikon to be repaired.. I think it made four trips to California and one trip to New York, for repairs.. Am not sure that it is working properly now, but I am able to get things done with it. My Canon buddies are still pushing me to come over to their side, and most likely I will, when I decide what equipment would be the best for what I do. Big heavy cameras are good for getting things done, but they are not always the proper choice for a traveler like me.. The tool has to fit the job!!!
While I wait for something to happen with the cruises and foreign travel, I decide to head out west. A buddy of mine is visiting with family in Denver, and I have been asked to stop by and visit if I head out that way.. OK, I think I now have something to do, I can pack up, go to Denver, visit a buddy, then head to Moab, Utah, where I can play in the desert rocks, then double back to Colorado and do some backpacking, etc.. I think I have a plan!!!!!!!!
I arrive in Denver just in time to be caught in what will be some of the most destructive rains that have come to that area in ages.. I do get to visit a couple of days, but then I head west to get away from the rain. When I get to Moab, it is still raining.. I continue west.. Somewhere near Las Vegas, I get out of the rain! Then, while looking at the map, I decide that since I am close to Death Valley, and I have nothing better to do, I should go there, and I do. It is a beautiful place.. I stayed two or three days, before heading back east where the rains had sort of stopped.. While in Death Valley, I visited the lowest point in the valley, minus 282 feet, or 282 feet below sea level, depending on how you want to say it, and the official temperature at the visitor center for the park was 114 degrees.. Nice and warm!!!
Traveling back east, I did my playtime in Moab, and a little backpacking in Colorado, but the calendar was running out on me, and I needed to get back for things I had planned for in Oklahoma. Plus, I had promised to stop in Omaha, Nebraska and see a 90 year old friend who had moved there not long ago. So, I had to keeping pushing all the time to stay on track, time-wise!
All during my travels, I was monitoring the online travel sites that sell last minute deals on cruises, etc.. Then, one day on the road while at a fast food place between Omaha and Kansas City, where my second friend lives, I got an offer to do a relocation cruise from England to San Juan, from an online cruise company titled, CruisesOnly. I am thinking this could be it, but not sure, however, I call. The fellow I spoke to gave me some info, but it was not as heart warming as I had hoped for. But, he took my info and said he would get back to me.. I don't think he did, but he had a really sweet talking young lady, Reka, to call me. And, she was well prepared to make the trip a good deal. They would cut the per person price by 50 dollars. I am having to pay for two people, since I will be traveling solo. They will forgive the sign on fee of 25 dollars. They will give me 50 dollars of on-board credit to use, there was another perk in here somewhere, and when the trip was over, I would get a 100 dollar refund on my credit card, plus I would get 50 dollars to use on my next cruise.... When I got this call, I was still not convinced.. But, I told the agent I would call them back by a given time this day. I did. My Kansas City friend and I were out shopping in Costco when my time was about to run out on the deal and the airfare.. So, I called and accepted the offer!!!!!!!! Now, we just had to do the paper work.. I was on the phone for over an hour, in the store.. My friend just about went off and left me.. But...
OK, the deal is done. I now have a relocation cruise that I am committed to. It will be on the Royal Caribbean ship named Adventure of the Seas, which I have been on at least three times earlier. The cruise will leave Southampton, England on November 4, 2013, and will stop at the island of Funchal, Portugal, cross the pond, stop at St Kitts, St Maarten, St Thomas, then complete the cruise in San Juan on November 17, where I will fly back home. So, now all I have to do is get ready to go.. Actually, I keep a suitcase ready to go, so there is little to do for the cruise, but there is other business that needs to be taken care of so that all is well back home while I am gone!! So, while I do all these things, I wait.. But, there is a nagging thought that something is not right with this deal.. I have arranged my airfare through my online travel agent, using the flight service of Royal Caribbean. If all the plans for flying had been worked out, I should have had my flight plan in hand a few days after I paid for it. But, it never arrived.. So, I called the online agent. They contacted Royal Caribbean about the issue. Turns out, Royal Caribbean had taken my money, but did not purchase my airline tickets from the airlines.. My agents were livid!!
And, it got worse. Royal Caribbean did get back to work on the plane tickets, found new flights for me, etc, but then planned to charge me more for the new flights because of whatever.. My agents blew a cork.. They said no way, and the fight was on.. After a bit, my agents told the Royal Caribbean people that if they wished to charge me more, go ahead, because then they would pull the voice records from the calls, all calls are now recorded, and they would use the calls to help me sue Royal Caribbean.. I guess it was then that Royal Caribbean decided it was not smart to fight with my agents... I got my tickets, and I got them at the original prices, etc.. So, if I ever have any doubts about the online agents being able to get a job done, then this was as good as it gets for me.. I'm sold..
I will also say, that I wanted to arrive in England a few days early, get a room near the ship, and wait for my luggage. I wanted to be sure I had it before I got on the ship.. My agents tried hard to make it happen, and it could have been done, but due to the fact that the planes from the USA land in London, and the ships depart from Southampton, it was going to be super hard and expensive to get me in a hotel for a few days, then get me to the ship. Cost wise, the best thing for me to do was take the risk, fly straight in, get on the ship and hope my luggage was with me.. There is more to this story, which we will talk about soon.. But, I was reminded by my friend that lives part-time on St Maarten, Southampton is the town where the Titanic sailed from when it went down!!! What a thought to have with you as you are making plans to do a cruise!
So, what I want you to take note of is the people who made this trip happen, it was the people at CruisesOnly. And, the agent who held my hand through it all was just the best person to work with I have ever worked with. Her name is Reka Benjamin!!! So, if you are ever interested in doing a cruise, I think the place for you to do business is: http://www.cruisesonly.com , and the person to do business with is Reka. You can get her person assistance by asking for her when you call CruisesOnly. Tell her I sent ya.. I cannot think of anyone better to do business with! Also, ask for the perks.. They do give away on-board credits, etc, but you may have to ask for them... So, do it!!! If you need their phone number, it is 1-800-CRUISES or 1-800-278-4737.. Someone is always there, 24/7...365!!!! OH, and yes, I got my airline tickets which completed my packing list.
If anyone is interested, the room I bargained for was an inside stateroom. The rooms with the portholes, balconies, etc, would be of little interest to me, as I am not in a room enough to appreciate anything other than the bed and the shower.. Most everything else would go to waste, as I am in the room very little.. For a lot of the people I have met, having a balcony is worth it's weight in gold, or something like that. I suppose they have a much different lifestyle than me. Maybe they sit out during the day and read or something, but for me, I am out doing things.. So, just for the record, I only do interior staterooms..
Day 0, is here!! It is November 03, 2013. I have just reached the age of 62 on November 01, and have gone to the proper place and have gotten my SENIOR PASS!!! Now I can get in all the National Parks for free for the rest of my life!!! To me that is a big deal.. Maybe not in dollars, but in bragging rights it is!!! I plan to carry it everywhere with me, and today is no exception. It will be in my wallet when I leave today.
Lucky for me, I do not have to fly early this day, in fact, my plane leaves St Louis at 1:45 PM, it arrives in Chicago at 2:55. At 6:00 PM, it leaves Chicago and is supposed to arrive in London at 7:45 AM. At least that is the plan, per my documents. And, you know, it pretty much happens just that way, without a hitch. Well almost.. I dropped my car off in long term parking, bused over to the terminal, checked my big suitcase at the “outside” station, and got all my tickets, etc.. Then, I headed for the gate.. Went through security quickly, and even got a priority on my seating.. This is going almost too well.. Something has to go wrong..
In Chicago, we were on time or even a little early.. OH, I forgot, I am flying American, as if that is a story, but I am... And, today they are doing great.. I have a pleasant wait at the airport, playing games on my tablet.. There is no free wifi at the airports, so you are stuck if you think you are going to play on your computer, etc.. There is a pay service type of wifi one can get, but for as little travel as I do, their plan is of no use to me.. I will just ruff it!!!!!!
Again, I have a priority boarding for the flight leaving Chicago, so I am one of the first to get on, which helps me a lot to get my day pack stuffed in a good spot before the space fills up!!!! Then, once loaded, we are off!!!!!!!!! But, we are packed in like sausages in a can.. Vienna sausages I think is what they are called.. I forget what model of plane we were on, but I have never been on a commercial flight where the people were packed in so tight.. You talk about trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip, AA is trying to do it with this plane.. The seats were so close together, even I could not fold the tray down in my lap.. I should explain. If you can imagine what a full size tray looks like in a plane, then think of cutting it in half and this is what we had.. Actually they had taken the full size trays and hinged them in the middle so they were half size.. Only a five year old kid could use the tray when it was unfolded.. I am surprised the passengers were not all charged with rape and other sexual misconduct activity, just by how close they were sitting to each other.. There were probably people on the plane who had sex, or sexual contact, even when they did not intend to.. It really was a mess to be on this plane!!! It was just the worst... And, excessive lack of space may have been the cause of our issues on the plane, though we were never told what happen.. But...
The plan for this long flight across the pond, from Chicago to London, was for us to have a small evening meal, and I mean small, but it looked big because it was sitting on a tray about the size of your tennis shoe.. Then before landing in London, they were to turn the lights on, making sure these sardines were awake. Once awake and with a few squeezed breathes, we were to be given coffee, and a morning snack, then squirted out the door and into the receiving area in London.. You might like to know that on this particular airplane, not only did they do the seat belt and oxygen mask training, but they gave breathing instructions. No two people sitting side be-side could breathe in or out at the same time.. It all had to be coordinated. All seats are labeled with an I or an O. Depending on which seat you are in, you have to breathe In or Out when the beep sounds. Takes some practice, but after a few minutes and a starving need for oxygen, you get the hang of it.. Coordinated breathing.. What will they think of next!!!! Gotta get more people on the plane!!!!
I did see one of the airline officials sketching something on a piece of paper.. Looked a lot like the comb in a bee hive, if you know what I mean.. I am thinking the airlines might be looking for a way to put each person to sleep, slide them in a tube, then slide the tube into a given location in the plane.. It works for bee hives, and for wasp nests, so it should work wonders for the airlines... I am thinking they could require people to put on a diaper before they put them in one of these cells, and with that, they could eliminate the bathrooms on the planes as well.. Of course, we all know that the planes are now flown by GPS and auto-pilot, so by eliminating the flight deck the airline could add a few more body cells.. If anyone can solve the space problem here on earth, it will be the airlines!!! God bless their little hearts, they are doing their best to make life here on earth better for all. You are going to love being wherever you are going even if you have to go through hell to get there..
I almost forgot, that breakfast treat I mentioned earlier, it did not happen.. At some point during the night, a flight attendant came on the PA and asked that if we had medical people, such as doctors on board, please come to the rear of the plane. Apparently some did. Later when I had to make a trip to the bathroom, at the back of the plane, the floor of the galley area had several people crowded around it, and at least one person was wrapped in blankets and seated on the floor, plus they were leaning against the cabinets.. They did not look well, for sure..
Then as we neared the London airport, and were expecting the crew to turn the lights on and start serving coffee, etc, it did not happen.. No lights in the cabin, no coffee served, no treats handed out.. We flew quietly along and then descended to the airport. The lights stayed off and nothing happened until we were almost ready to land, when the flight attendant came back on the PA and said he was sorry that no morning service would be shared with us as there had been two medical emergencies during the night and that the food galley had been turned into a medical center, rendering it out of service for us to get our treats, and he apologized, adding that he knew we would understand.. I guess we did, as I never heard anyone complain about the issue.. For all of us except those involved in the issues, it was a good flight and we were delivered a few minutes early, and we were off to do whatever we came to do.. I think each person was silently saying their thanks to the great spirits that it was not them who had the challenge!!!! …................... Lets say this is where Day 01 starts!!!
2013-11-04, Day 01 of Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
When we landed, it was November 04 at around 7:30 AM. Had been an interesting flight. Actually, I got to spend a good deal of it visiting with a young man named Joe, I think, who was returning to the Pakistan war area, where he was a contractor. He had been home for a couple of weeks vacation, but was now headed back to his job. He had been in the Air Force, then left there and went into civilian work, but in the USA, that was not going well, so with his military training, he started looking for contractors in the war areas. He found one that could use his help, and off he went to Pakistan, but he was there as a civilian, not a soldier.. He said the life there was a challenge, but it put food on the table.. We hear a lot about men being overseas to protect our flag and our country, but the need for a pay check is also a big reason why many are there.. If there was money at home, they would be home. I don't remember who was asked why they robbed banks, but their reply was “Because that is where the money is”...
Once off the plane, it was time to go find my precious luggage!!! If it got here, that would solve a huge stress point in my mind.. But, where do I go to find it.. Lucky for me, we are in an English speaking country!!!!!!!! The signs are in English, but surprise. English is not the same everywhere you go, and words do not have the same meaning in all places.. So, I am faced with a little culture shock.. I can see the words on the signs, but I do not know what they mean, as in how they relate to me.. In our airports, the sign says baggage claim.. And, you follow them to your baggage. But, over here, no.. You do follow the signs as best you can, but then things start happening that you do not expect!!! Long waiting lines!!! Long waiting lines to get our luggage!!! Are you serious!!! Yep, well sort of.. I kept asking around until I found two women from Scotland or Denmark, who were able to help me.. As it turns out, you have to get off the plane, travel about a mile through the airport, then get in another mile long “ZIGZAG” line, where you shuffle along forever!!! Then just about the time you get to the place where you can get to the person behind the counter, they change the line and you have to wait another 10 minutes, then this is repeated again and again. At least it was for me.. Seems the lady making the line calls did not like me!!! Who knows, but I finally got my turn to see the suited person in the box!!! They wanted to see my passport... Once they saw it, and I got my stamp, I was good to go.. I think somewhere in all this they ask how long I was staying in England. I said about 4 hours!!! The lady smiled and said you too must be headed for the cruise ship.. I confirmed that I was. She smiled and wished me a good trip!!!
Once I find the baggage claim area, I start looking for my big bag!!! But there is something like 11 lanes where baggage comes in.. I look all over, no way to know where my luggage is or will be.. I am currently standing at station 10, I think.. So, I head off to my left to look for my luggage.. I have a backpack on my back, I have a CPAP on my shoulder, and I have my hands full of papers, but no suitcase.. I walk all the way to the left end of the room, looking for my suitcase. Nothing.. But, as I turn around and look back where I come from, I see a sign. It lists where the bags are for incoming flights. I find the word Chicago!!! That is where I come from!!! It says Chicago #11... Is this for real!!!! When I came into this room, I was at #10.. Now I have to walk a half mile back to where I was.. I did it, and there was my trusty bag, riding around on the baggage thing, all by itself!!!! OK, it sucks that I have gotten all this extra exercise that I did not want right now, but might have needed, but I was super happy when I saw my bag!!! Sounds good, right.. More on this later!
I get my bag and start walking circles trying to figure out how to get out of here.. I think the one word they do not have in England is EXIT!!! But, I found someone who could help and I was headed out, but out to where! On my way out, I stopped and asked an official looking person if there was an area where cruise people picked up incoming guests.. He smiled and said to continue in the direction I had been going!!! And, I did, and sure enough, I rounded a bend in the hallway and there they were, the sign people.. Must have been 50 of them. People who are here to meet people, have signs to hold up to get the right person's attention. This can be personal, with a person's name, or it can be the name of a hotel, where a person is to stay, or it can be a cruise-line, like mine.. And as I browsed the line, I saw it, Royal Caribbean!!! I went to the woman, asked if she was collecting people for the Adventure of the Seas, she said yes and that I should come to the other side of the area and join the group. I did. I had no ticket to show that I had paid for a shuttle from London to the ship in Southampton, some 1.5 hours away, but I was told my name would be on a list. And, it was.. I just had to prove who I was and I was done... Now, I sit and wait while other people who will be on the shuttle, come join us. There will be people from several airlines coming here to get on one bus!!! The wait was not long, and when all were accounted for, we were lead outside where a bus was to be waiting for us!~!
By following our guide, we were soon standing outside the terminal, with our suitcases in tow, and looking at a very nice tour size bus... I guess this is it!!! While we were standing around, we were instructed to place our suitcases off to the side, place our carryons beside the bus, then climb on!!! This takes a lot of trust!!! More than you would think.. For a few minutes in my life, everything is accounted for. I have my suitcase that I had worried so much about, and I have my CPAP that travels with me, and I have my backpack, which has my photo gear, extra clothes, dress shoes, etc, in it.. Now, I am being asked to leave it all here and go get on the bus.. That is not easy!!!!!!!! But, I do.. And, I do see that the backpack is placed in the bus, but I do not see what happens to the suitcase!!!! I am sure it is not on the bus as there is not enough room.. But before I get on the bus, I grab my camera and take my first photo ever in England. I think it is of a warehouse!!!! Who knows... Then, I get on the bus.. And, this is where the fun starts!!!
I guess luck does happen, even though we wonder and think it does not happen enough, but it does.. We just forget, I think... But, as it turns out, I was near the back of the bus, as I was one of the last to get on, and I ended up with a seat section to myself, but... In front of me sat two people who would become great buddies during the cruise, Roger and Ann. Then, there were the two people sitting behind me who I was around quite often on the cruise. Tom and his wife, whose name I did not record. Then there was an array of other people on the bus that I met this day and would see frequently as the cruise moved along.. But, Roger and Ann, live near where the ship is docked, but drove their car about 100 miles to London and dropped it off, so that when they flew back to England, their car would be here at the airport.. International planes do not land into Southampton, as I understand it... Tom and his wife flew here from St Croix. After the cruise, it is just a hop over to the island where they live full time now... He is a retired dentist. If anyone is interested, Tom Johnson is his name and he and his wife spent many years on a sailboat in the Caribbean. Later he wrote a book about their adventures. The book is titled “Sailing The Dream”. You can get copies of it on Amazon.com. The funny part, and the part that got us laughing was when Tom started defending his home state of Oklahoma!!! I gave him a hard time about it.. But, later revealed that I too was from there, so we got along nicely from then on!!!!
What can you learn about England by looking out the window of a bus?? Quite a lot really.. You have to start with an expectation, then work around that starting point.. First of all, I had never seen any photos of England that did not include that big clock they have over there in London somewhere!!! But to be honest, I did see a few photos of some men on horses, dressed in very tight-legged pants, wearing other strange bit of clothes, and strange hats, plus they blew horns and had the horses jumping over fences. There was also a lot of dogs in the photos and a fox.. Not much else was revealed.. But, I gathered this was the way these country boys do their hunting over in this country!!! Of course I had to ask Roger and Ann about this, and they said it was the real deal.. Men did dress this way and they did chase these little foxes with a pack of dogs.. The discussion did not go far, so that is about all I learned.. However, England does not look anything like I expected...
In my mind, England was kinda hilly, with big pastures, and a bunch of castles, etc.. And, I think Roger said there are places where that is the case, but we are now in southern England and it is much different here.. First off, the roads are rather narrow. I did expect that. The trees along the road grow right up to the road!!!! The darn limbs will almost brush your car as your drive by. In our country, we have right-aways. Some of them are quite wide.. But, not in England, the right-aways there are maybe 2 feet wide!!! Basically they do not exist!!! What do you do when you have a flat or have auto issues??? Don't know... Then there is the building issue. Most all England photos show old houses that date back to the days of Christ or something like that.. They are made out of rock!!! But, not here. NO HOUSES as we drove along the highway.. Where are all the people?? They been making babies for hundreds of years. There should be houses on top of houses here!!!!!! It is sort of that way in other places!!! But, when I asked, the locals said the houses were more or less hidden from view by trees and hills, etc... That said, we did see some houses, and buildings when we arrived in Southampton, but not as many as I expected!!!
What I did not mention about the bus ride and the view of England, was the huge fields of green.. They had something growing there at the time that created miles and miles of beautiful green fields. Would be something like our Kansas corn fields, only this stuff was dense.. Roger and wife were not sure what it was, but suggested it might be wheat!!! Whatever it was, it was neat to see! Then, speaking of seeing, we rounded a curve and there it was, our home for the next two weeks or so!!! The Adventure of the Seas was waiting for us!!! The bus pulled up very close to it and off we went!!!
I am not sure what was going on here, but things were different here.. Normally, when getting on the ship, there are huge lines to stand in.. Not this time. We walked straight into the dock rooms used to process our papers.. We went straight to the counter. In short order, we were given our sea pass card and told to go have fun!!!!!!!!!!! Within minutes after the bus dropped us off, we were on the ship, ready to go!!! But, the ship was not ready for us!!! And, I got into a bit of trouble while all this moving in was happening!
When I got my sea pass, I headed up stairs to find my room, as I always do, but I never been on a ship this early, except when we were doing a back-to-back. So, I was a little off my normal routine... When I went upstairs, I headed for the hallway that would lead to my room... There was some kind of big door partly covering the entrance to the hall, but I thought nothing of it, since I saw someone go past it and disappear.. I followed them. But, I sensed something was not right, as there were a lot of red and green bags, etc, in the hallway.. Hummm.. I guess they are still cleaning some of the rooms, but surely mine is ready or I would not have been let on the ship, so I kept going, but I did not get far.. One of the managers caught up to me and said I was in the room area too soon.. I would have to leave and come back after 1:30 PM.. It is about 11 AM now!!! I left, the rooms area and headed back to the public areas, where I finally found a sign that said the rooms on the ship would not be available until after 1:30 PM.. This sign had not been out where I could see it when I came in.. So, now I know, and I have to find something to do.. Of course, I am on cruise ship, so food will be the thing to do.. Having been on this ship before, I know where the food is, so off I go..
The food this time of day is in two places, the promenade area, where there is coffee and tea, plus sweet treats and small sandwiches, then, there is the buffet area, which is where I headed.. And, once there, I proceeded to gather up the food from the food line and head over to the back of the ship so I could look out and eat at the same time.. And, if memory serves me correctly, this is where I first met Brian and Ann.. They too had their carry-on bags with them and were doing the food thing while waiting for their room to be ready.. We got in some good visiting while we waited.. They were from England.. Northern England I think... She was a widow. She was retired, but he was still working,. I think he works in the ambulance business. He used to do the hands on stuff, but now has a management position.. They had met on an earlier adventure, and had just become travel buddies.. But, they lived close enough together that they saw each other each week or weekend... After my visit, I was off to explore and then check on my room..
The first stop on my adventure was to check on the ice cream machine!! Found it.. It works, but was not getting as cold as it should!!! This would be an issue for the rest of the trip.. The machine needed some work done on it... But, the product was good, and so I was smiling, as I did my cone and checked out the upper decks.
Second stop on my do list was find my room.. Found it! Was super.. And, it was not long until Jaypee, my stateroom attendant arrived to welcome me to my new home.. He turned out to be the best help you could ask for!!!!!!!!! You will see Jaypee more as the trip moves along!
At 4 PM, we had to go to our muster stations. These are the preassigned locations on the ship where you go if we have to exit the ship in an emergency!!! Each muster station is located beneath, or next to, the life boat that will carry you to safety!! Once there, your name is checked against the ship documents, and you have to listen to a short speech by the captain!! When that is done, you are free to go.. This lasts about 15 minutes.. This started at 4 PM, was over by 4:15 PM, and the ship left the dock shortly after 4:30 PM.. We were on our way!!!!!!! For the next 13 nights, this is home!!!
As the ship left the dock, I walked about the upper decks, and some of the interior spaces.. At one point I ran onto Roger and Ann, who I met on the bus that brought us here from London.... Then, at 6 PM, I went to my assigned table!!! And, guess what, I have four table buddies!!! The table is for six, but there is five of us seated at the table.. All five are single guys!!! And, none of us had ever met before.. Nearly all the men had puzzled looks on their faces and asked where the women are?? Why would a cruise-line set a table with all men, and no women??? Well, we never found out, but, but this is how it was, and so, we would see how it went!!! You will get more on this later!!!
After dinner there was the usual welcome aboard activities, etc.. But the interesting part for me was that I had not seen my suitcase since I left London!!! I was so worried that it would not get to England, but it did, and I picked it up, but then the bus people asked me to sit it with the others not far from the bus.. I did, and that was the last I saw of it.. So... The facts are that I expected the suitcase to be in my room when I arrived there. But it was not. I expected it to be there after dinner, but it was not.. Etc, etc.. I was now very uncomfortable!!! What happened to it? How could I have lost it after it crossed the ocean with me? I went to Jaypee, my attendant, and asked for help.. Actually he and I talked several times about the bag. Actually he and I made a trip around the ship and down to the first floor, where the bags come it, to see if it were there, but it was not.. This is getting serious.. He calls his manager, etc.. Before long we had a lot of people looking for the bag, but it could not be found.. I feared the worst, and even started trying to work out how I would get by without my stuff...
Where could that bag be??? Wherever it was, it was causing stress. But, I elected to not worry about it.. Everything would happen as it was supposed to happen.. So, I gave up on the hunt for the suitcase and went off to see the evening show, then to some other social activities on the ship... Then, back to my room, to ponder life without my bag.. But, when I opened the door to my room, there was my bag sitting there by my bed... The next day, Jaypee caught up to me and said it was found in another hallway.. It would seem the delivery people had dropped it off at the wrong door!!!!!!!!! So!!! The bag is back and I am ready to go!!!! From what I can tell so far, it is going to be a great trip, as all the people I have met so far have been great! I will add this, there were places on the ship that was showing wear!!! In fact, in the images I will share for this day, I show the wear on the furniture in my room.. I heard later that the ship was to be docked and updated sometime in 2014~! So, maybe these worn features will be replaced, etc.. Some of the carpet was being replaced as we sailed..
November 05, 2013. Day 02 of the Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Last year, 2012, on this day, my roommate had a birthday, and we spent the day celebrating.. Eating ice cream during the day, then going to a special restaurant that evening for a nice steak!!! Was great fun, so today, I will remember the friend and the day with a couple of ice cream cones and a few laps around the track!!! There was no steak restaurant on this ship!!!
These trans-Atlantic cruises are a lot of fun, but given the time of year that they happen, iffy weather can be part of the adventure, and that is just how it was for us this year.. Today, we would be in really nasty seas. So bad in fact that people were not allowed out on the decks.. Wind and water were screaming across the decks, where sunbathing people would normally be laying!!! Even with all the stabilizing gear on the ship, we were pitching and rolling!!! But, not so much as to ruin a person's day!!! But, since we could not go out, we had to find other things to do... For me, it was mostly walking around the ship and taking photos of the decorations, which are really nice.. A person who is into photo stuff can stay busy for hours taking images of the ship!!!! And, it was on this day that I met a new friend and waiter, Wengang HU.. He was a new waiter, on his first cruise!! He was from China, and he liked photography.. This day and for most of the days after, he and I talked a lot about cameras.. He had already heard that Nikon was a problem. He owned some Canon gear and planned to get more when he had more money.. He knew a lot about the craft, and probably some day, I will see his work making the big time!
It was on this day that I met Adam, down at the coffee shop.. He and his wife, Ruth, were here from Germany.. That part is good, but the bad part is, due to a few fast plane changes, their suitcases did not make it onto the ship.. The ship checked and their suitcases arrived at the ship too late to be put on board!!!!!! And, when Adam found out what happen, he was told there were also 15 other people whose bags were left behind as well, but... But, they would most likely see their bags in a few days, when we reached the island of Funchal. Per the cruise- line, the bags would be flown there, and would be brought to their rooms as soon as possible!!! I expected Adam to be super mad, but he was calm about it.. He said the company went out of their way to provide them with as many nice items as they could to get them until they reached the island and got their luggage.. The ship give them toiletries, then they bought undies, etc, from the ship store..
Tonight was a “formal' night, so everyone was dressed up.. This is mostly done so people can get their photos taken at the photo setups arranged for the evening.. Some people like to have the images as memories of their trip!!! The results are generally very good.. But, they are also expensive!!!
At the table, I meet up with all my table buddies who are well dressed for the evening.. Of course I get the staff to take memory photos for me!! Then, after dinner, I am off to see the evening activities.. On this night I would attend a welcome aboard show that featured the captain and his staff.. He was a very impressive captain.. Best I have had on a cruise!! Had a very social and amusing personality!! Then it was off to the main show at the Lyric. Tonight the entertainer would be Alan Stewart, who did an awesome job.. Then, it was off to the coffee shop, but along the way, I stopped and listened to the piano man, Laurence J Blacker.. Was good!! He has a website started.. It is www.ljblacker.co.uk...... While listening to the piano man, I ran on to more people from the bus, from London.. It was my ole Oklahoma friends, Tom Johnson, D.D.S, and his wife. They are now retired and live on St Croix.. I hardly recognized them in their formal clothes.. Is amazing how much different people can look, when they go from comfy ole travel clothes to the formal gear!! They look sharp!!!
I finally made my way to the coffee shop, and while sipping on my brew, a lady came over to me and said, “Do you remember me?”!!! I about jumped out of my seat!!! YES, I remembered!!! This was Sophia Cox, from St Lucia.. She was working on the ship, in this coffee shop when I was here in 2012!!! She still remembered me!!!!!!!!!!! How cool is that!! I had taken a lot of photos of her when I was here before!!! She is a sweetheart.. Got to visit with her several times after this night.. I got my photo taken with her again, and I got my table buddy, Sonny, to be in a photo with Sophia as well...
After Sophia had to get back to work, Sonny and I wandered across the isle to the Duck and Dog, a beverage and song pub.. The music had stopped, but we went in anyway. The entertainer, Dallas McCord was sitting at the bar, and so Sonny and I joined him.. Sonny treated us to a round of beverages, while we did the chit chat thing. As it turns out, Dallas had been here in my home town of St Louis, doing some visiting and a few shows.. So he knew the area.. Actually, I think he said he was in Webster Groves which is just another part of this bigger city! But, Dallas was telling us about some remodeling that was to happen to the ship, later.. While this was happening, he mentioned the look a-like image on the wall.. Some art on the back wall showed a fellow with a beard, making he and Dallas look a lot alike.. So, it was only natural that I would suggest we do a photo shoot with he and the art work.. We did.. You will see some of the images in the share set.. And, speaking of share set, lets go there, but I do want to mention, that while we were in the pub, Brian came in, I took his photo, then followed him outside and took photos of he and Ann.. They looked great all dressed up.. This is the couple I spent so much time with the first day on the ship, waiting for our rooms to be ready!!!
November 06, 2013. Day 03 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Oddly enough, this was a non eventful day at sea!!! With the weather being nasty, there was not much to do, except relax, eat, sleep, etc.. But, I do have a few memory images to share. They are from the show in the Lyric Theater.. Was a neat show.. To see the memory images I am sharing for this day, use the link below: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 03.
November 07, 2013. Day 04 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Today is going to be a big day, in several ways!!! First of all, I was up fairly early, but do not get to breakfast until 10 AM. There is no need to hurry to breakfast, but I do have things to do today!! At 1 PM, we will be stopping at the island of Funchal Madeira, a Portuguese island, off the coast of Morocco. I have paid for an excursion here, so I need to be fed and ready to go as soon as they let us off!!! So, by doing a late breakfast, I can skip lunch and then make up for the loss at dinner!!!!!!!!
I take my sweet time getting to breakfast, get my omelet, etc, and go find a seat.. Today is crowed in the buffet seating area, but I get a table!! Then, after I sit, a nice couple, who needs a place to eat, ask if they could join me. I surely agreed and in short order, I had a couple of really neat people to chat with. Turns out this is a married couple named Liz and Mike, from southwest England.. Liz is in the real estate business and Mike owns and operates several taxis in the town where they live. They have adult children who have left home to make their way in life, leaving Liz and Mike free to travel!! Was fun to visit with them. You will meet them in the share file..
After my visit with Liz and Mike, it was time to go watch the ship arrive at Funchal.. Does not seem like that would be a big deal, but turns out it was rather neat! I discovered a mystery feature on the island that I just could not explain. It looked like a long wharf built along the coast. I expect I would leave this island without knowing what it was, but then the answer was revealed.. When you watch the share file, see how long it takes you to figure out what it is!!!!!
At the given time, we docked and were given permission to leave the ship, where I met my tour group. For a price of approximately 80 dollars, I was to get an adventure tour on the island, but not far from the ship.. It would include two rather famous adventures on the island. One would be a sled ride down a street, and the other would be a scenic gondola ride, plus there would be a few other little things thrown in to kill some time..
So, I meet the person holding the sign that says the name of my tour, I present my ticket, and am directed to the bus I will be doing the tour on.. It is important to remember the bus number as there are lots of these things running around, and they pretty much all look alike.. My trick is to take a photo of the front of the bus, as soon as I can. That way if I forget, I can refer to the photo in my camera to get the info!!! Not my greatest achievement, but it does work!! Each bus has its own number, etc.
Once on the bus, we are at the mercy of the guide and the driver.. That said, it soon become obvious that both are very professional, so we can drop the fear factor to near zero... But, there is still the bus ride with all these strangers!!! And as it turns out, I get to sit by a nice fellow who will not talk, or so it seems. I tried to get a bit of conversation going with him, but he was not interested. And, he had the window seat, but was not using it to take photos!! Guess he was not all that interested.. I gather he was not in charge.. His wife and daughter were seated in front of us, and from what I could tell, the daughter was the leader of the pack!!! Someone had to do it!! But, the short of it all was that we did get a short joy ride in the bus going up the side of the mountain that is visible from the ship. In fact, if you were standing on the deck of the ship, with binoculars, you could have most liked watched our whole adventure!
The bus came to a stop on a narrow street and out the door the guide went.. We followed.. We did not have a clue where we were going, but we were going! Turns out, we were going to visit an old church. I never did get the name of it or the details that might make it famous, but it was a neat old church, and we rambled around in it for awhile and then were called to head on down the hill to our true first adventure, a sled ride down a street in a wicker basket, that had been beefed up to slide down the street. This basket was large enough to hold two people, was made of wicker, and had hard wood runners that were smoothed off to make them slide on pavement! Novel idea.. Now, from what I could understand of the story, these sleds got their start as an answer to a problem. The problem was how to get product from the top of the hill to the bottom. The answer, slide it down in sleds. What was being moved I do not know, but... And it was from this that people started riding in the things. For those who have creative imaginations, the sled ride takes 10 minutes. The distance is about 2 kilometers and the website that advertises this ride says it will reach speeds of 35 kilometers per hour, I think, and you do share the street with cars and you do zip through intersections..
Now, before anyone gets too creative with their thinking, I will tell you that these sleds would most likely not go down the hill without help.. Each sled requires two men to push and guide it down the hill.. It is a novel idea that requires a good deal of strength, and experience. Plus, it requires the right shoes. All the men who guided these things had shoes that were modified with rubber soles that looked as if the rubber had once been the tread of a car tire.. Might have been.. But they use their feet as brakes, etc.... Tis fun to watch them, which I did, since I ended up riding with the silent man, from the bus. His wife and daughter were in the sled ahead of us, which gave me the perfect chance to get some action photos.. I tried to get one of the drivers to do photos for me at the top, but they were in too much of a rush.. This is such a tourist attraction that these fellows are always on the move and moving fast. But, I did get one of them to do a few shots for me at the bottom.. Then, their “people” tried to sell me photos of me and my partner. This business, like many other event operators, have cameras set up to take your photo, then use a fast printer to make a print to sell to you.. This time, they were selling a 5x7 and a DVD of a sled ride, etc, for 10 euros.. I did not want the photo or the DVD, but I also did not have euros in my pocket. The man said they take credit cards, but still I said I was not interested. I should add this. At the top, the guide is in the lead and has a contract with these sled people to do these rides. She stood there and made sure it was her people getting on and she made sure there was always two people in a sled. I had to wait for awhile until this solo fellow came along. He and his family were three, so they needed an extra..
It might be of interest to some as to how this sled thing works, so I took a lot of images of the ride and the operation. In a short, the ride is handled by two pushers, then at the bottom, there is another team of men who gather the sleds, load them on a truck, and hauls them back to the top of the hill. The drivers hop on a shuttle bus and follow the sleds back up the hill, where the process starts all over again. The whole place smells of burning wood.. The hard wood runners on the sleds must get very hot on the trip down, because the smell is with you all the way down!
Once all the tour group is off the sleds, we walk to our bus, which is now parked close by, and we are once more hauled back to the same place where we got off before. But this time we walk right past the church and the sled starting point, and head over to our next starting point, the loading platform and building where the gondola ride starts.. We were given tickets and directed to the line to take the ride down the mountain.. What can I say, it as a gondola ride.. I can say the equipment looked brand new and super clean! As for the view, yes, it was really neat. Took some 15-20 minutes to get down, I would guess. Might have been longer. But, it was a long ride.. What I can say is that you almost have to see the images to have any idea of what I saw.. You will like it. Pay attention to the banana trees growing in people's yard. I am not sure what we were told about this, but there is no space wasted on this island. If there is land there, use it.. Open spaces are a no-no.. And, watch for how water comes down the mountain. There is a lot of rain at the top of this mountain, as somewhere back in time, small canals were built to bring it into town. The canals went where they had to go.. Water flows downhill!!! Some of the canals go though peoples yards, and probably under their homes, etc.. The water has the right of way!!!
Once we were back to the bottom of the hill, we once more loaded on the bus and were off to our next adventure. This time it was a place that sells embroidery. The most important thing here for me was the restroom they had.. Then I was off to look around the area, as we had about 45 minutes here. I found the local farmers market, and looked around a bit, plus I was able to find wifi and send a note home via my tablet.. After this, it was back on the bus and off to our next stop, a winery. I had high hopes for this place, given how long we had been out playing.. A good glass of wine would be nice..
We stopped on the side of the street, and were told by the guide that this is where we would be required to meet the bus at 6 PM sharp, if we wanted to ride it back to the ship, otherwise, we would have to take a taxi or walk.. I made sure I remembered where this bus stop was located. I even took a photo of it, in case I had to show it to a local and ask how to get back!!!
With the instructions and planning out of the way, we followed our guide through the streets until we came to a hole in the wall, where we entered and saw things that appeared to be a winery. Once inside, the guide acquired tickets which were given to us. The instructions we got said that as we entered, we would be given a sample of sweet wine, then with the ticket, we could get another free sample of any other wine of our choice. I was excited, and hurried to be near the front of the action. Well, the air went out of my tires pretty fast on this one. At the door, I got my first sample, which was about one ounce. Turns out that was too much. This had to be the most awful stuff I had ever tried, under the name of wine. Then to make things worse, I sit it down and used my ticket to get a semi- dry sample. It was even more bad.. I just sit it down and left, after I got a few memory photos. I never tasted such nasty stuff, that was supposed to be wine!!! If they were depending on me to buy their wine, they would starve to death!
It was at the winery that the guide disappeared. Don't know where she went, but she was gone. So, from the winery tasting area, I escaped out a side door and headed for a local park, where I found some very unusual trees.. You will see them in the files. Seems that some countries have some very fast growing trees that do some amazing things as they grow! Whatever the deal with the trees is, it is interesting. But, I am keeping a sharp eye on the clock and soon head back to the bus, which I find without any issues, but true to what we were told, at 6 PM sharp, the bus driver closed the doors and off we went. Actually by my watch he left a few minutes early, but no matter, I was on it.. Later I talked to people who walked back and said it was a great trip. They even had photos to prove it.. Now I wish I had walked back, but it would have been at least 30 minutes of walking. As it turns out, by taking the bus back, I came off the bus, entered the ship and went straight to my dining room table. Of course I was not dressed for the dining room, but today it was not an issue, and many people were doing the same...
At 9 PM, I was seated with my front row buddies in the theater, where we watched one of the ships own horn players take over the job of doing the evenings stage entertainment. He was pretty good for a beginner... Then, after the stage show, it was time to rush out to the deck and watch the ship cruise away from Funchal.. The sail away time was 10 PM, I think.. Funchal was fun, but would have been more fun if the wine had been good! Over all it was a great day.. To see the memories of this day, use this link: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 04.
November 08, 2013. Day 05 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
This day was the first of many that we would be at sea as we cross the Atlantic Ocean!! As I look back at my notes and photos, I see that is was a very lite day at sea, but then as the evening arrived, the action picked up and if you could call this a lite day and heavy night, I will suggest that will be the description for this day..
Not sure what time I was up and around, but at 12:30 I attended the “Solo Travelers Lunch”, which has already become a hit with we solo travelers, and this would only be our second lunch together, if my notes are right. Many ships have a happy hour or something for singles the second night, but on this ship, it was the lunches for solo travelers, and it was a big hit!!! Lot of people started some neat new friendships at these lunches. On this day, a lady name Doris, from Cologne, Germany, was seated next to me. And, as the cruise proceeded, we became good friends and almost constant companions. How else would I have met her, but, I am getting ahead of the story.. More on this later.
After the luncheon was finished, people took off to do their next fun thing for the day. For me it was going to the Creative Writing Class Part 1 With Ryan, in the Blue Moon lounge. I had no idea what to expect, but I expected it would be fun and I might meet some fun people. Both things were true.. This fellow Ryan, a ship employee, with a family history of writing, had been chosen to lead the class and he did a good job.. For this class, we were broken up into four or five groups, and as I recall, I ended up with a wonderful mother and daughter team from England. They were named Ruth and Rhonda, but I forget which name went with which person.. Maybe some day they will see this and send to me that info.. But, they were both great fun today and in the days to come, as I saw them on the ship a lot and in the classes in the days ahead.. Also, these ladies were great with their writing assignments.. I was very impressed.. I did not write a thing in these classes, I just went to listen, but that was fun as well.... So.. It is what it is..
At 5:00 PM, the first big event of the day took place. In Studio B, there was an ice show to see, and I was there!!! But, I got there a little late, which means I did not have the best seating in the place, but, I had seen this show before, on this ship. So, not having the best seat this time was not a really big deal.. When I was here before, I think I saw the show twice, maybe three times.. Was great.. Actually one of the earlier shows was better, due to the comedy person they had in the show at that time. He was not here for this event.
From the ice show it was off to dinner at 6:00 PM and the to the Lyric Theater for the main show at 9 PM.. Tonight is was awesome.. Was a great night to be on the front row! The fellow who put on the show is named Neil Lockwood, but he is preforming as Elton John tonight. I don't know if he does other impersonations, but this one is great!! The show was just awesome and me and my front row buddies were front and center for the whole thing!!! Was just great.. I hope the photos give you some idea of the fun we had.
After the show, most people headed for the promenade where there was a big ship party going on.. Very upbeat and high energy.. So much so that I was standing in the middle of it all dancing with the crowd, and doing my photo thing.. Then while doing this, I turned to my right, and there was the lady from Germany, Doris, so I danced with her.. Big fun! Then after the official party was over, Doris and I carried on with our own party!! Actually we went just a few feet away to the coffee shop and indulged in some hot tea.. But, we did get to do a lot of visiting with each other and with whoever else came by that wanted to chat with us... But, there came a time, probably late, when we had to say good-bye, but before doing that, we agreed to meet for breakfast the next morning!! So, we have a plan for tomorrow morning.. Already looking forward to it....
As for today it was everything from slow and easy to exciting and high energy. Was great fun.. To see the memory photos from this day, use this link: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 05.
November 09, 2013. Day 06 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
This was a very busy day. I ate, went to a show, ate, went to a show, ate, then went to a show.. How cool is that!! It was a great day and yes, I did all the things mentioned above and in that order!! But, that is boring. What really happened is that I met Doris for breakfast as planned, then together we went to see the awesome presentation given by the captain of the ship, at 10:00 AM. Captain Henrik Sorensen, from Denmark, had to be the most fun and most likeable captain I have run into in all the years I have been cruising.. I cannot explain how he did it, but he reminded me a lot of Johnny Carson, or someone comedy person like that.. While on the ship, he gave several presentations, etc, and all of them were great, to include the little announcements that come to you over the intercom... Great Captain, and his presentation today “The Secrets of Ship Navigation” was just great fun, in that it was informative but presented in a humorous way.. Loved it. On this day, and most days afterwards, Doris was with me except for the afternoon dancing sessions. At some point during the cruise I fixed her up with one of the fellows at my table. David Berry, from England, was a widowed man who had taken up dancing. In fact, he had done so much of it in the last nine years or so, since his wife passed away, that he was now an instructor!!! He was having issues finding a lady to dance with, and when I heard that Doris was an avid dancer, I fixed the two of them up, for the daily dance sessions the ship offered. So, at around 2:00 PM each day, she was off to dance with David and I went to seminars, etc... Worked out great.. Also, Doris had 8:30 PM seating for dinner, and I had 6:00 PM seating for dinner, which means that from about 4 PM to 10:00 PM, we were both off to do our own thing.. Then, we would meet back up at the coffee shop to have tea and chat with all of our new friends, etc...
Not on the schedule sent out to the masses was a special event for people like myself who had a lot of points built up from having been on a lot of Royal Caribbean cruises. After you have been on ?? number of cruises, you start getting invitations to welcome back parties.. Most of the time you get a few free beverages, and you listen to someone from the ship say nice things to you and you leave.. Today was a little different, in that they had turned the ice rink into a party floor, where they set trays of food, etc.. I suppose you were actually supposed to eat it, but I saw few people try it as it was just after dinner time. I had just finished dinner!! But, at this event which I attended, I saw two fellows that I had seen when I was here before. They were then, and again here, dressed in very costume type clothes. Not sure what is going on there, but.. Last time I saw them, they were holding the record for most days on a Royal Caribbean ship, or something like that.. But, this time, they were not the winners.. This day, an award would go to a man and his wife who had been on a Royal Caribbean ship for more than 1750 nights!!! I did not stop and calculate how many years that is, but that is a lot of nights to spend on a cruise ship.. Actually I had seen them before on another ship, and yes, they were given an award.. How many awards can they get!! I think they might be recycling them!!!! But, they were pretty much living on the cruise ships!!!
It is nice that the cruise people have these parties, and it is nice that they give out drinks of sorts, for free, but the gesture is all that is good, the drinks are horrible... When I went in, I tried the rum punch. Really bad. Sat it down. Tried the red and white wines. Both really bad. Set them down. Ordered a beer, thinking how could they mess that up, but they did, it was so bad that after a few sips of the stuff, I sat the beer down and left the party.. Geez the party drinks were horrible.. So, if you get invited to one of these ship parties, keep your expectations in check until you actually get to test the product!
After the run-in with the miserable beverages, I headed to the main show, which was pretty good. The entertainer this evening was a singer who had a style similar to opera, I suppose. Not sure how to evaluate that, as it is not my thing, but it was entertaining to be there... Then, after the show, it was time to head off to the coffee shop and meet my new friend, Doris... Was another great day, except for the drinks and the opera..
November 10, 2013. Day 07 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Still at sea and we are starting our seventh day at sea!! Wow, what a life!! And, yes, it started with breakfast with Doris.. Not sure what time we met for breakfast, but it had to not be late as I had to get to the buffet in time to get an omelet, which are so great here on the ship. They have all the normal breakfast foods on the food line, but the omelets are just great, so I had to get to the buffet area while the cooks were still there doing the special orders!!! You have to stand in line to order them, then stand in line and wait for them to be cooked, etc... Does not take long, but still....
What to do after the breakfast buffet??? Well, you go get something to eat.. It is true, there is a lot of food on the ship, but this does not mean you have to eat all of it, but if you try, you will not be doing a bad thing.. As far as I could tell, they used very good products in the foods they served.. Much of it was fruit, veggies, and a protein like fish and chicken. There was some beef and lamb, but I was impressed to see most people eating healthy choices, even if they were eating a lot of it... Today, after breakfast, they had a little buffet outside near the pool area. These are neat for a snack or lunch, if you have eaten breakfast early, which a lot of people do.. And, we have sun.. When this trip started, we were getting some really nasty weather, so we had to stay inside. Now, the sun is out and all the people are out most of the days, soaking up the sun by laying on the deck chairs or by walking the track, which is what Doris and I would do.. Five times around the track was equal to one mile.
What was really neat for me this day was meeting up again with Sara Wilson, from Costa Rica!! When I was on this ship in Feb 2012, Sara was the waiter's assistant, for my first week. She and her main waiter, Jelena from Serbia, were just the best. They were so great that I was spoiled and begged to be at their table the second week, but the ship people rotate the workers each week, so we were unable to have her the second week, but we bonded so much and became so close that she remembered me when I came back to the ship this time. I drink a lot of ice tea with my dinner, and she always had a fresh glass waiting for me when I arrived for dinner each evening.. WOW, what a reunion. Was sooo great to see her again. On this cruise, she was working the buffet dining area. I asked about Jelena, and Sarah said Jelena was back home on vacation. These people work contracts that last about 6-8 months, then they go home for a few months, then return on a new contract.
Meeting Sara again was a real highlight of this day, but there were other good times to follow. We had an awesome sunset to see before heading off to dinner. Then after dinner we had a great show to attend. Noting special, but was nice.. Then, it was back to the coffee shop and more time with Doris and all our new coffee shop buddies. To see the images from this day, use this link: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 07.
November 11, 2013. Day 08 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Today is a bit of a holiday back home, and it will be acknowledged here on the ship as well. On the Cruise Compass, the daily menu of what is happening around the ship, this is called Remembrance Day.. Back home we show it on the calendars as Veterans Day. I do not see in my records exactly what time it happened, but according to the data on my photos, which are not always correct, the big wigs of the ship, came out on the sundecks and started a ceremony to honor the day. There as a musical played, then there was 2 minutes of silence. That was different, but effective. Two minutes is a long time when you are standing in a crowd of people, doing nothing!!! Amazing!
Today, it was breakfast with Doris, then walking, I think, as we tried to do a lot of that, and we visited with our friends as we passed them on the decks. Lot of the people we had met so far were very friendly and always open to a good chat if we stopped by! The one couple I show in my photos is Roger and Ann.. We accused each of being spies, as it seemed that everywhere any of us went, there the others were!!! Whatever, it was fun!!! So, saw them on the decks a lot.. This includes today!
At 11:45 AM this day, the solo travels met again to be social and make new friends, which we did. Doris and I were seated together at a smaller table this time, but we were joined by two other neat people from the group, Margaret, a retried school teacher, and Darrel, a retired IT manager from IBM. Both were great fun.. Plus, there were other fun people there, but these were new to me.
In the evening it was time to start the night life and I did. First it was dinner with my buddies from Scotland and England, then it was off to the theater for the big show.. And, big it was. It was only one man, but wow, could he ever sing. Singers like this fellow, Roger Wright, can rock the house, or should I say boat.. He was awesome. He was from England, tells us that for several years he sang in the original “Lion King”, when it was a stage production.. Later I would catch up to him in the coffee shop and ask him why he left the stage and this production. He said, as I have heard others say, you just cannot do the same thing forever, it will get to you.. You have to take a break and go do other stuff, which he has been doing, and he is loving it.. In the coffee shop where Doris and I caught up to Roger later, he sat with us for a long time and talked about his career path and all the neat stuff he had done, and what he hoped to do in the years ahead.. Whatever it is, I think he will do great. Awesome voice!!
After Roger's Wright's show this evening, it was back to the coffee shop to meet up with Doris and whoever else showed up.. This evening it was Darrel who came to sit and visit for a long time.. He was traveled the world several times in his career with IBM, so he knows a lot of places and has lots of neat stories to share. Oddly enough, he has not been retired very long, but is already headed back so that he do more traveling and working.. When does work become fun???? Well, he said it as for him, and he wanted more, so by now, I will assume Darrel is back to having fun!!! Side note: Doris and I would generally meet each night in the coffee shop at around 10:20 PM.. Having a “late seating” which started at 8:30? PM, her evening meal did not end until after 10 PM.. So.. To see the images from this day, use this link: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 08.
November 12, 2013. Day 09 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
This is day 9 of our cruise and we are having great fun, but today is pretty much a relaxing day. Not much going on except eating, walking, visiting, etc.. We did however have an entertainer with an amazing violin. I forget exactly how he came by it, but it has something like 10,000 bight shinny stones attached to the special violin in his show. I think he said he was contracted to so some special event for a company somewhere back in time and they wanted this thing to be in the show, so they had it built for the show, then had no need for it afterwards, so they gave it him. Now he and this shinny violin travel the circuit entertaining people with the looks and the sounds that goes with this special creation. The man who plays this thing is named Craig Halliday. Was a great show.. But, he was not the last show of the night!! After the theater performance was over, there was a deck party to attend, so off we went to that!
November 13, 2013. Day 10 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Day 10.. Another relaxing day at sea... Does it get any better than this!!! Well, truth is, few people relax at sea. Most are too energetic, to just sit, but some do.. It is a fact that some people do come to relax, but the bulk of the ones I have met are bundles of energy!!! So.. But, it was as great day at sea, followed by the usual fun evening entertainment, etc..
Two things happened during the daylight hours that are worth sharing.. First, while waiting for lunch, I went out and walked around the ship, gathering images of the ship, to include some of the ship art, and the climbing wall, etc... Then for the second part, this was another day for the Solo Travelers to meet for lunch, and they did. It was a slightly different group than before, which just added to the fun.. This day I sat with Michelle and Dick. Kinda forgot what all life stories they shared, but. Was great fun chatting with them.. Then as our lunch was ending, a couple of lost late comers arrived and took our table. The lay who took our place was a professional bee keeper. She had thousands of bee hives which she contracted out to farmers in California, and others places, during the pollination season.. I forget her name, but you will see her here, then again later in the evening, all dressed up...
The entertainment this evening was local talent!!! The ship offered to let passengers get up on stage and do their thing.. They did great.. Most sang, but one did a very long poem, from memory!! Was different! Plus, there was a professional act that followed the local talent.. Was a good evening for the stage..
Just a fun note. When I was first on this ship, some years ago, I got my photo taken with the lions at the entrance to one of the show rooms. This year I got my photo taken with them again.. Plus while doing this, I include Doris, who was with me, along with several other people I/we met earlier and now.. The bee lady came by for a few memory images, and we met a lady from Germany who was back here on a cruise with a lady she had met on an earlier cruise.. Everyone was having the best of fun!
November 14, 2013. Day 11 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Day 11... This is where we see land for the first time since leaving Funchal, and where we start having the customary daytime cruise fun.. Today, our ship has arrived at the island of St Kitts in the Caribbean!! So, what to do? Go play of course... So, as soon as we could get around to it, Doris and I were off the ship and joining the other tourist who had invaded St Kitts... I am not sure if Doris had been here or not, but I think not. Or, at least, she had not taken a tour here, to see the island.. So, I suggested we do just that. It was easy enough to find one of the 20 dollar tours that start going out shortly after the ships arrive. We found the 20 dollar deal we were looking for, and within a few minutes we were being directed to a van in the parking lot, where all who were signed on for this adventure were being loaded. I normally end up in the back of these buses, but today, I end up in the front with the driver.. Actually there is more to all this than I have said. So let me back up a bit..
When we go off ship and arrived at the entrance to the shopping area, Doris indicated she wanted to go shopping.. I suggest we go on the tour.. She said fine, we would do it later.. Later was not an option.. So I had to explain to her that it was after 10:30 AM, the tour buses would stop going out soon, and the buses could only be gone for a certain period of time, as we were supposed to be back on the ship by around 4:30 PM, at the latest.. So, we have to go now, or not go at all.. We went! Actually we headed for the van, where one of female employees of the tour company was waiting at the van, to load us. When it came my turn to get it, she ask me if I knew how to drive, and could I drive this van, I said sure, no problem.. She, great, get in the front!!! She was doing a humor thing.. After I saw what was going on, I offered Doris the front seat.. In our country, we drive from the left of the car, but here, they drive from the right side of the car!!! I ended up in what would normally be the drivers seat, but there was no steering wheel!!! But, I did have a very clear view of the road, and I used that clear view to snap a lot of photos as the went along.. I have been on this tour many times, but never got to sit in a front seat, so I took full advantage of this great opportunity!
The tour is always the same, stops at all the same places, etc.. And, today is no different. The first place we stop is a little roadside stand where a really neat lady name Miriam(sp?) sells beer, other beverages, and souvenirs of different types.. She is always here. When I was here last time, I saw that there was some trees across the road that had white cotton ball looking thing of them. When I asked about them, a lady said come with me, I will show them to you.. With that, I followed her across the road and got the grand hands on tours of the strange plant(s) that were producing this white silk or cotton stuff. This time, when we arrived here, I told the lady who was selling the drinks, that when I was her last, there was a lady that took me and showed me the special plants across the the road, but I did not remember who it was. She said it was me, don't you remember!!!! And, guess what, she remembered me and she remembered showing the plants to me.. Amazing, out of all the thousands of people who come here, she remembered me!! I knew the lady looked like this lady, but had no idea is was the same person.. How amazing! The plants were not in bloom at this time, but Miriam, the ladies name, did have some samples in a bag and got it out and showed the silky material to us!!! I got my beverage, drank it, got my photo taken with this kind and gentle lady, then it was back on the bus and we were off to our next stop.
Between two of our stops, we ran into a rain storm!! A good one, but by the time we got to our next stop, the storm was over and we were able to get out and be tourists!!! One place is on a beach that has beautiful black rocks along the beach.. They are nice to look at, but would be worse than hell to be caught in them, in the surf!!! You would get torn up bad!!! What we did see here was an old dog that had so many pups that she was really a mess.. You will see her in the images..
While at this stop, we got some of their local brew, took photos, and got back in the van, to shuttle off to the other stops along the tour route... The tour circled the island, I think, then dropped us off back at the ship.. Doris was a bit hungry, so she left and headed back to the ship to eat and get a nap, but I was ready for a few brews, so I went off to track them down, and I found them... They are always here somewhere.. There is a bar in the public shopping area, but they charge at least double for beverages, over what you can get them for just around the corner!
After my brews I scampered back to the ship, got on board, went to a nice observation area and watched as we departed the island of St Kitts.. Then, I stayed out for the awesome sunset that we got to watch this day!!! Was not as majestic as some of the others, but very pleasing.. From the sunset, I had to hurry to get my shower and get to the dining hall in time for dinner.. I made it, and after the dinner was finished, I was off to see the stage show and share the coffee shop with the new friends I had made.. Somewhere around midnight, we all called it a day went off to get some sleep, as we have to be ready to invade another island tomorrow!!!!!! This was a great day.
November 15, 2013. Day 12 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Today, we are invading another of those Caribbean Islands, this time it is St Maarten. I see the name of this island spelled several different ways, but this is the spelling as seen on the island!!! So, I will go with that... It is one of my favorite islands... I have seen a small part of it, Orient Beach, but plan to expand my adventure on the next trips here.. There is something unique here that I just have to try, and that is going to the airport and standing under the big jets when they come in to land.. They are so low when they cross the beach that you feel like you can touch them, or so people say!
But, back to the story.. I had breakfast with Doris this morning, then got my stuff ready and headed out on my adventure for this day, which was to go to Orient Beach, something I always do when I come here. Beautiful beach... It is super crowed, but if once you get your mind past that challenge, you are good for a fun time. Today Doris will go off on her own, to do whatever suits her fancy, and I will go to the beach, and so it is, I have my travel bag, and off I go.. A note to those who have not cruised, you do not have to bring beach towels on cruises, the ships provide as many beach towels and you want or can use, or something to that effect.. No matter if you are on the ship or going off the ship, you can go to the beach towel stand, submit your ship card, and get beach towels.. I am not sure there is a limit, but I am guessing they are expecting no more than 2 per person. When you submit your card, you are agreeing to pay a fee for the towel, should you not return it.. Some people might take them to the beach, lose them, and then what!! So, when you take a towel, you have to return a towel or be charged 25 dollars I think it is.. OK, so, beach towels are not an issue, do not pack one!
Today I have my beach towel, my day bag, my camera, sun screen, etc, and I am finally good to go, but I am late, say maybe 11:00 AM.. As I leave the ship, I run onto two of my coffee shop buddies, Elinor and Jack from Iowa.. We visit, I take their photo, we talk. They have already left the ship, did the shopping thing, and are on their way back.. Early birds they are. Then, as I continue on to towards the shopping area, I meet my ship friend, Sophia Cox, coming back to the ship.. She has been out shopping already and is on her way back.. I visit, take photos, and then continue on.. Just as I arrive at the taxi stand, I find they are loading a van headed to the beach, so I get on.. On the way, a conversation starts between me and other people in the van. Somewhere in here I tell these people how bad NIKON is and that NIKON SUCKS!!! That got things going. In front of me sat a really neat couple, who I learned later was named Laurie Kelly and Dean Hawk from Chicago. Turns out Dean is a fan of Nikon, the opposite of me.. He kept trying to get me to agree to try a NIKON F4.. Said that would solve all my Nikon problems!!! I doubt anything except a miracle will solve Nikon's problems, but it was a nice thought!!! We had fun talking about the issues!
At the beach, everyone hopped out and headed off to do their thing.. Actually, I think Laurie and Dean agreed to have the taxi back here at 3 PM for a ride back, and I was invited to join them. I will keep that in mind.. For now, I am off to see the beach and grab some current images.
The taxi has let us off about midway down on the family side of the beach. I say that to separate the two parts of Orient Beach.. There is the family side, if you want to call it that, then there is the nude side. At this time I am on the family side.. Having been here before, I know my way around, so all I have to do is just wonder along, look, and grab some memory photos. The beach on this side is very colorful.. Lots of shops selling lots of colorful gifts and clothes, to include most of the sunwear items you might think of.. I even stopped at one of my old hangouts and got a beverage before moving on..
When I finally got to the dividing live between the clothed and the unclothed, I stopped at a shop that had wifi, bought a brew, to get the password for the wifi, and started using my tablet to catch up on some emails.. This did not take long as most of my friends knew I was out to sea, and would have limited access to wifi while gone, but I did no a bit, then it was time to go check out the naked people. Actually, I have a friend who owns a cabin on the naked side.. Met this lady here some years ago. Really neat person. If you have seen earlier photo sets I have shared from this island, you may have met her, but, she will not be here today. She and her boyfriend closed the cabin and left on the 13th. They will not be back until February. That said, she gave me the names of some of her friends, who I was supposed to look up when I got here, and I did.. But, on my way down the beach to find these friends of a friend, I ran onto people I knew from the ship!!! Hardly recognized them in their birthday suits.. But, I stopped and had a nice chat with them for awhile, before moving on..
I did find the people I was looking for an had a nice chat with them. They too own cabins here on this beach... And, they come here quite often.. There are some people in the world who really are out living life to the fullest before it is over for them!!! So many of my friends, spend all their time worrying about something and end up never getting anything done!!!!
There is a cafe and bar on the nude side, so I went there and got a brew, then went for about a half hour swim.. Was great. The water and beach here is so amazing.. Everyone should see it.. I am sure I will find beaches somewhere that are better, and I will keep hunting for them, but so far this is the best. But, I should warn anyone coming here, it is not the nude people who are an issue, as you almost don't even notice them after 20 minutes or so, and they are all great people, but it is the sun that will get ya.. I spent a mere 30 minutes or so out in the water, without sunscreen on, and that was enough to turn me pink later on.. So much so that I was not burned, but very tender!!!!! So, if you have never come to the Caribbean, ALWAYS protect yourself from the sun. Just a few minutes too much can do you in.. It did me years ago, when I as in my 20s or early 30s. My back blistered so bad in just a short period of time, while out snorkeling, that I almost ended up in the hospital.
After the nude beach visit, I went back to the wifi location, had another brew and checked email, etc, some more.. And, I was joined by one of my front row buddies from the ship, Brad from Dallas, Texas came in to sit and visit a bit.. Then, we noticed it was getting a bit late, so we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the ship.. There is a lesson to be learned here. Just feet from where the wifi is, there is a small dirt parking lot at the end of the nude beach, where you can almost always catch a taxi who is loading up a van to go back to the ship.. There are lots of them, up until a certain time.. This certain time is what got me and a buddy in trouble on an earlier trip. We stayed too long on the beach. When we went to get a taxi back to the ship, they were all gone.. We were stuck!! The cruise ship was going to leave without us.. We would have to arrange to fly to the next port, or something.. So, knowing we were in trouble, we accepted out fate and started walking back towards the ship. Low and behold, we saw a taxi parked on the side of the road next to some apartments. We asked him if there was anyway he could rush us back to the ship, before we missed it.. He said he could if the people who requested the taxi could not be found. Someone from the apartments had called for a taxi, but he could not find them. Finally he said, OK, I will get you back to the ship, and he did.. We just barely got on the ship before it took off!!!!!!!!!!!!! And yes, we paid him a very nice tip for saving our butt... So, when you go to Orient beach, it is a great rule of thumb to not stay past 3:00 PM, or you might not have a ride back to the ship.. Take that as a word to the wise.. I now always try to be gone before 3 PM...
Back at the tourist shopping areas, I met one of the ladies from the ship, had a couple of brews and some good conversation with her, then we got on the ship and sailed away.. Was a great day on St Maarten!! We even had an awesome sunset to finish the day!
After dinner, it was time to do the entertainment, and I did.. Tonight I had almost all my front row buddies with me. Two sisters from Germany, Heike and Sonja, on one side and Brad and Michael on the other side.. Brad is from Dallas, Texas, and Michael is from somewhere in Australia. The show was awesome as usual.. The is was off to another ship party in the promenade. Very good show. This is where I run into Dean and Laurie again from the taxi to the beach.. Had another great chat with them here.. From this conversation I traveled on and met up with the rest of my new ship buddies. Karen, Joe, Doris and I, finished off the night with some music in the Blue Moon Lounge!! Was an awesome day.. Does that statement sound familiar!!!! But, it was.. To see the images from this day, use this link: Trans-Atlantic Cruise 2013, Day 12.
November 16, 2013. Day 13 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
Today will be a sad day, and things will get worse. This morning, when I turned my phone on, I got a voice mail from the daughter of my friend Mary Rocha, an 87 year old lady that I have known for about 13 years, and who lives just a couple of hundred yards from me. My friend Mary has always loved to walk, and somewhere back in time, she started picking up aluminum cans, etc that were tossed away. The money she got from recycling the cans she found, she gave to charity. She probably walked about 6 miles each day, if you totaled all of her trips. She had a loop around her area that she walked three, or more, times per day. Not only did she gather cans from the street, etc, she had several businesses who helped her by giving their cans to her. On Mary's rounds each day, she went to the local laundry, the local car wash, the muffler shop, the motorcycle shop, and at least one gas station. To make her rounds, she had to cross through several busy intersections and cross at least one large street. Per Mary's daughter, last night as it was getting dark, Mary was trying to cross the large street in front of the gas station where she would get a large Dr. Pepper, and check for cans, when she got caught out in the turn lane, and was hit by an SUV.
Being within a block of the firehouse, the ambulance came to Mary's aid almost in seconds. They rushed her to the nearest hospital, but she was badly broken up. I was to call the family as soon as I could. I did. I got as much info as the family had, and they would update me as often as possible, while I was on the island and had access to my cell phone. Things do not look good for Mary. In fact things are really bad.. I got several reports throughout the day, but when the ship shoved off, I lost my support for my cell phone. The next time I would get an update on Mary's condition is when I arrive tomorrow morning in San Juan.
Today is our last big day for this Trans-Atlantic Adventure. Today we are at day 13 of this adventure and we are visiting the island of St Thomas.. It is a beautiful island, and one I have been to many times. The island is probably best known for the beach named Megan's Bay.. It is a neat place, and I have been there many times, but I am not so sure why it is so highly rated.. It is nice, for sure, but... It is just a beach, and one that has very high priced beer on it! Plus, I think you have to pay a fee to get into the park where the beach is.. But, really, I forget.. I think that at one time this was true.. But, no matter, Megan's Bay would have been an option, or one of the 20 dollar tours would have been and option, but Doris wanted only to go for a nice walk along the bay area where the ship was docked, so that this is what we did..
From the dock were the ship it parked, there is a nice wharf area that goes off to the left of the ship. This ended up being the path we took. Was a nice walk, nothing outstanding but a nice walk, and I did stop and put on sunscreen as it was blistering hot out here in the sun..At one point we reached the seaplane terminal, where I visiting the little boys room, made a few calls back home, and relaxed in the shade a bit, then we started back, stopping along the way to view some oddities we found along the way.. Just a nice visit with the island. That said, I knew where the cold beverages were sold, back near the ship, in the shopping area, so I went there and grabbed a couple of brews for the walk around the area.. Oddly enough, the city and merchants were already decorated for Christmas.. They had their big decorations strung across the street, etc.. The brews were finished, the walk was complete, the clock was running out, so we headed back to the ship..
Back on board, there was a quietness that one seems to find in funeral homes. We are so very aware that this is the last full day of our adventure. Today we have to pack and get ready for the mass exodus that will happen tomorrow morning in San Juan.. Some people have had enough, they are ready to go home, but for others it is really sad, as they have had such great fun that they want it to go on forever, as least for much longer, but it is just about over.. Tonight, at my dinner table, there is one seat empty. David Berry from England is not with us and will not be with us.. His trip ended yesterday in St Maarten. David had friends who lived on St Maarten, and so rather than get off of the ship in San Juan and then fly back, he had made special arrangements with the cruise line to let him depart the adventure in St Maarten.. It was kinda a big deal. When David was signing on for this trip, he knew he wanted off at St Maarten. To do that, he was required to contact the ship, get a permit from the captain, etc, to do so.. Permission was granted, and David left us on St Maarten. Tonight there are only the four of us, but before David left, we all exchanged email addresses, etc, so we can stay in touch as we desire. At the time of this writing, I have only been in contact with Paul Rowe. I will try to contact the others when I finish this summary of our trip!
November 17, 2013. Day 14 of this Trans-Atlantic Cruise.
This morning, early, I turned my phone on, checked my voice mail, Mary is still alive and knows I am on my way back home to see her. I call Mary's daughter. Mary is fading. I am going to have to hurry if I get to her before her life ends.
Day 14... It is all but over now.. It has to be the hardest of things to change from fantasy to reality. Today this is the problem. Late yesterday we had to complete the exit packing, put our luggage outside our doors for transport to the dock area where we could pick it as we left the ship. This morning, everyone was up super early. Everyone was in the dining areas grabbing up some energy foods before starting the trip home.. For me, I would be home around 8:30 PM, if all went well. My plan would be to go straight from the airport to the hospital where Mary is. For Doris and some of the other people heading back to Europe, they would not arrive home until in the evening tomorrow, or on the 18th.
I met Doris for breakfast, then returned to my room to brush my teeth, get my camera and carry on bags, then head down to the waiting area where we would wait until such time as we were permitted to leave.. As it turns out, she and I were on the same schedule. We were to leave the ship at the same time, go to the same terminal at the airport, etc... And, we were both going to fly from San Juan to Chicago!!! But, not on the same air carrier or at the same time, although pretty close!!! At some point we got our bags checked by the agriculture people, then we had to say our good-byes, and off we went in different directions.. My flights back home were a little touchy for some reason.. And it looked like my connecting flight was going to be in trouble due to us leaving San Juan late, but when I got to San Juan, I found that the flight to St Louis was also late!!!! Meaning I had made it... When I did get loaded, I sat by a young fellow who was a college student in St Louis, but a native of Chicago. He had been home for a few days visiting.. During the conversation, I convinced him that he should sign up for investing classes when he arrived back in St Louis.. He seemed serious in saying that he would.. He was a history student, and for the upcoming semester, he needed one or two more classes to fill out his ticket, and an investing class would fit right in. I hope he did. It is a shame that so many college and universities do not require these classes, to prepare young people for the real world. Making money is only the first step, managing it and making it grow is where the real skills of life come into play. Winning and losing in life comes from what you do with what you make.
Back at the St Louis air port, I headed to the baggage claim area, where I looked for my suitcase to arrive, and as I did this, I called the voice mail on my phone. The message I got was a heart breaker. My little lady friend who I had known for over 13 years, who lived some 200 hundred yards from me, had died before I could get back to St. Louis. When I called my voice mail, Liz, the daughter of my friend Mary Rocha, had left a message for me. Mary had passed away while I was on my way back. I have lost another friend. Not only was she a great friend, but she was an awesome lady and was a legend in her own time, in the area where she lived.
Mary is gone. There is no need to rush to the hospital, but it is going to be a long drive home now..
This adventure was just awesome, met some great people, had some great fun, made some new friends. Really neat. But, it is so sad that I Mary's life was taken from her, while I was gone. This is an amazing thing to think about, Mary was 87 years old, would have been 88 on March 12, 2014, she never drove a car in her life, but was killed by one at the age of 87, while trying to do charity work. Makes you wonder about the big plan for people's life.
My friend Mary's family elected to have Mary cremated, then have a memorial service for her. The service took place in the funeral home chapel on Sunday, November 24, 2013. I was offered the chance to make a presentation at the service, and I did. As it turns out, this is the same week that the country was remembering the death of John F Kennedy, who was also killed 50 years ago. For my presentation, I presented the parallels in the life stories of Mary and JFK. They came from different backgrounds, but both worked to do the best they could with what they had to offer, then their life was cut short by an outside force. When I was putting the presentation together, I heard someone say a quote that I think came from JFK, which said, “One person can make a difference, everyone should try”. They both tried, and I think each of us should keep that goal in mind as we continue through life.