The Western Caribbean Cruise of 2013 Becomes Wavy

Part 2:

Cruise of 2013 – First Full Day at Sea – November 15
I awoke early.  Stepping out on the balcony, ten decks high, I could view the sea, still a tad choppy and could feel the movement of the ship under my feet.  It had rocked me to a wondrously deep sleep the night before and I had it in my mind that I needed to go for a run.  (I don’t try to understand the way my brain works..) We had ordered breakfast the eve before to be delivered to the room (a perk of a suite cabin) and it would not arrive till after 8:00 am, so I decided to brave the elements and run outside. Two floors up, I exited the interior of the ship and promptly ran five kilometers around the deck, dodging the chubby (Americans) who waddled along the interior of the track in the “WALK” zone.  I say dodging as the ship was still plunging up and down and the wind was near gale-force, driving the ill-looking others into my lane.  When finished, I drank my water, found the actual gym and an aged but well maintained Concept 2 rowing machine, rowed 3.5km then stumbled back to my room.
Upon arrival, sweaty though nowhere near as odiferous as some of the more surprising gym visitors that morning, I found no food had arrived.  A quick call told me it was on its way and after a quicker warmish shower, was noshing on kippers and toast.  We all noted that though the room was not small, it was not well suited to meals. The only table was a sub-knee height (shin height as I would learn later on) coffee tableau.  We finished, dressed and wandered out to explore the ship.
My youngest boy did not wish to take part in the “kid” activities in the ship’s day camp areas so I was fairly quickly roped into the following:
·         Inline Skating
·         Swimming in cold pool water
·         Rock Wall Climbing
Swimming.  Cold but no colder than a public pool in the summer.  Cruise folks wrapped in towels and sweaters commented that we were braver than they.
Climbing was not as easy as I had surmised.  I made it within five feet of the upper bell and promptly slipped, misjudging a finger hold’s size.  They would have swung me back to complete the climb but I refused.  It was just not right to do so and I was not about to do it again from the bottom just yet.  Failure.  My son in the mean time climbed the same twice.  Gymnasts… Ugh
The skating was actually not that bad even though I hadn’t strapped on inline skates in almost 16 years. I whipped around the figure eight at the back of the ship, lapping my struggling boy, stopping to help him on occasion and smiling at the cruisers who seems surprised that an adult knew how to skate. Then I promptly tripped over my son, landed on my knee and hand and spent the next few hours in pain.  My only concern? My scraped knee would attract sharks in two days.
We went to one of the little café’-like shops in the middle of the ship’s open-ish air promenade to have coffee and treats.  A very attractive brunette woman and her boyfriend sat at table beside us. Ice blue eyes, well dressed, well toned, ate with her mouth WIDE OPEN.  I was aghast.  I tried not to look.  She might as well have had a hairy back and a tail.  Her BF did not seem to notice, though he being a bit of a stereotypical guido-ish New Yorker, perhaps this is not an unappealing thing? Held myself back from taking a picture of her as evidence. Didn’t finish my cookie.
A few items from the day that I jotted down:
·         Caribbean woman and man at entrance to buffet restaurant prompting everyone to use hand sanitizer with little rhymes and songs about “washie washie then yummy yummy” wore thin quite quickly.
·         Sea mist dries into salt and makes nice white marks on dark clothing
·         Being a suite guest results in constant calls and visits from concierge and guest services to make sure all is well.  Perhaps we weren’t as needy as they expected?
·         Waiter at restaurant told me that the unofficial drinking age in Jamaica is 5
·         Flying fish look like dragonflies from 10 floors up
·         Cruise people are CHATTY and for the most part drunk
·         Large people do not plan ahead when buying suits as they all seem to be a bit too small
·         Pools twelve decks above sea level SLOSH more than you can imagine
·         I cannot manage four drinks in three hours
·         The Jamaican reggae house band doesn’t seem to realize that Sweet Home Alabama is a song that sounds odd/ironic/wrong when sung by black men
That evening we received an invitation to attend a Suite Guests Only thank you dinner.  We left the kids after feeding them with a few playstation games and instructions to NOT LEAVE THE CABIN, dressed and headed to the meal.  Champagne, lobster and steak.  Nom nom. Old people.  Nice but REALLY REALLY chatty.  Opinionated too.  The HR officer for the ship sat at our table, a nice ex-military guy from Connecticut.  After a while he became increasingly bombarded with issues from our table guests.  My wife joined in.  I sipped my champagne and enjoyed lobster.
We headed back to room and ended our day well fed and relaxed.  The storm picked up outside as were gently rocked to sleep yet again.
Quote from my youngest to end the day: “Most of the people on deck ten like us are really old.  That’s probably because they want to use up all their money before they die..:

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Bow cuts through the sea
The ship throws water to port and starboard
Sea becomes white, blue, green, foam and mist
The sea flies outward, flattens, tendrils of thick foam land, floating and hissing alive
Dragonfly like fish shoot from the maelstrom, skipping across the deep, blue, rolling sea
They flutter, land with a skip and sink once more into the sea
The foam joins the fish with a final hiss
The bow cuts another wave

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The Spectacular Western Caribbean Cruise of 2013 BEGINS!

It began, as a dream. 
Okay, no, not a “dream”. It began as an idea hatched in my devious little mind. We had travelled on the Disney Cruise Lines ship Disney Magic in June/July 2012 and I enjoyed it so much that I successfully bombarded my wife with enough propaganda that she finally agreed to another cruise.  One problem.  She wanted to try another cruise line.  The whole IN YOU FACE WITH SMILES 24/7 thing that Disney puts on was a tad much for her so we shopped around and asked our agent and finally agreed upon a nine night Royal Caribbean vacation.  Nine nights, four ports of call, a suite upgrade (two levels!) versus our previous ocean view stateroom with balcony and whammo, we were off.  Not right away of course.  She didn’t want to cruise less than a year after previous trip, and summer is not conducive to hot-country travel, so it was decided that November was the time to go.
Day 1
Arose on clear, cold November 13 and packed remaining gear and kidlings into car.  Headed off to border.  Weather forecast for drive down was good and even return trip in 11 days appeared to be only rainy, though long term forcasts are not always accurate.  Fear out of me, panic and wory packed in trunk with spare tire, we drove across border and south toward Pennsylvania.  Sadly, my chosen route meant we would have to venture again through Pennsylvania but it would be fine. It was a good day.  Until on the I-81 I saw three GIANT CROWS in a field.  I panicked.  I yelled “What the hell?!” and pointed.  My dear understanding wife Karen then laughed uproariously at me. She doesn’t get phobias.  I do, I get them in droves.  I have a mild bird-o-phobia or ornithophobia or whatever it is called. Usually it results in me ducking a lot in the woods or a park but nothing more.  I am not usually in  position where my life is at risk of being crushed by giant three-taloned feet and torn into meaty strips by a giant corvus.  I think my mild panic was justified however she just continued laughing till her chest hurt.  I tried to explain that “this is how phobias work DEAR..” and she only retorted that “….you should KNOW that there are not 20 foot tall crows standing in farm fields beside major highways!!!!” or something like that.
The drove continued in silence for a while.  Then snickering. Then more silence.
Upper New York State: Nice. Apart from giant crow statues.
Pennsylvania: Dirty.  People with crappy people and customer service skills. 
New Jersey. Confusing roads.
Had to turn on phone to get GPS.  Forgot to arrange for US roaming charge package thingy from Bell Canada so in the end we made it to hotel however I have an insane bill coming.
Hotel: Clean, nice-ish, friendly staff.
We ordered “real New Jersey Pizza” which the kids and I were unimpressed with.  We swam in pool.  We went to bed. I didn’t sleep more than three hours thanks to coughing, child #3 grinding his teeth, snoring and aircraft landing and taking off every 10 minutes.
Day 2
Woke up.  Boy #3 and I went down  to kitchen area and made waffles (yes, you can make you own at the Country Inn Hotels!).  Watched news abouty Rob Ford on CNN and laughed as they had some analyst talk about addiction and enablers. Made comment to random New Jersey business guy that we were deporting him to the US.  He didn’t laugh. Went back to room, dragged others awake and packed.
We took shuttle to ship and promptly ran to the “excursions” desk to book a cabana for day 4 of the port visits at the private “island” resort called “Labadee”.  No success.  Apparently a second cruise ship will be there as well and they did not share the bookable cabanas for suite guests between ships.  Karen is mad.  We grabbed a lunch and finally got in our rooms at 1:30 pm.
Windy and cold, we went o top deck nonetheless and watched sun go down as we exited New Jersey harbor at Cape Liberty.  Photographed the new WTC and skyline as well as Lady Liberty.  People on ship seem happy.  They gave upon the NYC lights popping out in the twilight and their eyes glaze over. I refrain from making light of the situation.  I honestly think they will be talking about 9/11 till 3011.  I left them with their smiles and then noted all the drinks.  Aha.  They were all drunk.  Apparently we were not joining in with their embarkation routines.  Day one, we aren’t fitting in.  Damn.
Travelled around ship, looked at amenities, marveled at shiny railings and lights on shoreline and climbing wall etc. Went back into room to find cold family griping about the wind.  Eventually we headed for dinner, in travelling clothes as our luggage had not yet arrived. Wandered the ship some more and noted a lot of shall we say, large or as they say in French “les ass du lard” and drunk folks about.  And old, don’t forget old.  Not a lot of kids to be seem.  Did we make a mistake?  Time would tell.
Luggage arrived after dinner was had, we unpacked, dressed for bed and slept a blissful night away rocked to sleep by the motion of a honking huge ship in gale force winds and 5 meter waves. 


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