December 28, we were in Bridgetown, Barbados, and it was our 22nd wedding anniversary. We woke up sailing in to port, right next to the Oceania Marina. Then the Celebrity Summit arrived and the Ocean Princess. We were the little boat today and the port would likely be mobbed. I had spent time here before, thanks to an IBM Hundred Percent Club, and it was doubtless nicer then. It was time to stay aboard and write.

I can’t leave Elvon to his own devices like I used to, or he would just vegetate in the room. So, I stick close to him, exercise in the gym, walk the deck, PhotoShop, read and write, and generally take care of business. The weather is perfect here on board. I was told it was hotter than hell on shore, so don’t waste any sympathy on me. A few party boats sailed on by to tease us, and I remembered the fun we had on the junks in Hong Kong.151228-003 BridgetownBarbadosPartyJunk

Around five-thirty, we went up for Sailaway, but Al wasn’t playing his steel pan,as we were leaving during first seating of dinner. We came up just as the Oceania ship was sailing and it said Riviera on her stern. I am sure I saw Marina in the morning so I have to believe they were both here. I don’t have the luxury of free Internet to check. Next it was the Summit’s turn and it was fun to watch her maneuver out of the harbor.   She’s big and beautiful. We have been on her, NYC to Quebec City, four or five years ago, more fond memories.

We needed to go dress for dinner, as there was, what our table-mate, Sam, called, an Ancient Mariners’ party in the Crow’s nest. They sat us with Terry, who is 93 and just delightful. She spends most of her time at sea but moves from ship to ship. She doesn’t want to go anywhere near Europe, so when the ship she is on makes it’s way in that direction, she picks up another one that takes her someplace else. Once in a while, she actually stays home. She has a condo in Fort Lauderdale, right near Port Everglades. I wonder if it’s Linda and Bob’s building. I must ask, next time I see her.

Annette Montanez, Event Manager, was there hosting, along with the Captain, et al, so she came by and escorted us to dinner. Our table had printed up a card for us, which was really sweet of them. Annette was fun. You always learn a few things when you have an officer at table. She is from New York, like Charlie and Bunny, so they connected easily. The dining room staff came over and sang “Panjang Amurnya”, and I sang right along, thanks to having learned the words last cruise.

Gabe Abelson, comedian and mentalist, found himself the opening act for the Filipino Crew Show. He was good, and so were the Filipino crew. Our wine steward, Tina, did the dance between the clacking bamboo that always makes me nervous on a moving ship, but I have never seen anyone make a mistake.

The next day, December 29, 2015, we were in Port Elizabeth, St. Vincent. Since I hadn’t actually finished the logging and blogging yesterday, I stayed aboard again and got it out. By the time that was done, it was almost two o’clock and all aboard was 4:30pm, in a tender port. So I walked a mile and a half around the deck and worked over the manifest for the Grand World, while watching the sailboats tack and reach and luff, and thinking of the good old days at the Royal St. Lawrence.151228-001 BridgetownBarbadosPartyBoat

Al was playing his tenor pan at sailaway, and Gabe Abelson came to the table for dinner. Dan brought a bottle of champagne and we were very merry. Gabe is a treat. He reads your mind by watching your eyes, your voice, etc. The formal study is Neuro-Linguistic Programming and it’s put to use by the FBI, CIA and the like. He has been recruited by them, but feels happier and safer on cruise ships. Ya think? Anyway, we all had a ball and were late for the ten o’clock show. It was a good one, too, Lazlo and Claudia, dueling violins, a Hungarian and an Italian. Volatile mixture, that, and, yes, they’re married.

Finally we got a sea day on December 30, and we could fast. We had breakfast in the room, and went to the gym, before my office hours started at 11:00am. I met Carol Martis on the way there and we talked about how we were all getting on the Grand World. It turns out we are staying at the same hotel. I stopped by the Front Desk and signed up for “On Deck for a Cause”. I’ll be walking the deck for cancer on January 3.

One of my guests came by for a better understanding of Distinctive Voyages and left with the 2016 DV Brochure. They had been furious at the ship for not keeping the pools functioning when in port. It’s a complex issue, as you can’t fill them within so many miles of land, but this lady had been a school principal most of her life, and basically ran a NYC school district, so she’s a heavy duty manager. She’s organized and knows how to get a tough point across. They booked an appointment with Bart, the Hotel Manager, and she gave it to him for about a half-hour. The pools are full in port now, and they had a lovely free Le Cirque dinner in the Pinnacle last night – on Bart.

Another guest stopped by to complain about the fact that she has not been able to use her verandah more than twice in 12 days. She doesn’t think she is getting her money’s worth. After office hours, I went to see Daphne Groeneveld, Guest Relations Manager, and she promised to do something for Louise.

While I was waiting for Daphne, I ran into Gabe Abelson and told him four of our table mates were at The Pinnacle tonight, and would he like to eat with us again. He would, good. Maybe I can gather more moss. I did, three of my people and it was a lot of fun, again. The show was just the singers on stools, singing, and it was called “Sessions.” Good enough for us.

New Year’s Eve, we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After every fast day, we have a nice pig out in the Lido at breakfast. Elvon is still having Eggs Benedict, but I have been branching out. Today’s cheese and onion omelet, with maple syrup, and bacon on the side, was just yummy. You can tell I am from Quebec. Then we went up to the gym to work it off and for me to have another mini-massage. Then I delivered my last newsletter and the comment cards.

When that was done, I went back to the cabin and packed up my computer to go get some decent Internet. Since it cost me about $100 worth of ship’s Internet to kill the virus I picked up in a Café in Portugal, last year, I am only using big hotel chains, libraries and yacht clubs, when I go ashore. I couldn’t find a yacht club on RHKYC’s list, so I figured it would be a Hilton.

On the way to the elevator, we met our nonagenarians, who are the healthiest people on the ship. She was in a bathing suit, with a skirt. They had been to the beach, and she had gone swimming! I still think I want to be Dolly, when I grow up, but Molly is healthier! She’s swimming in the ocean in her nineties! Anyway, they said it was a $15 taxi to get to the Hilton, but they had picked up a free bus on the way back. I should take it out there. Some of them are open air buses, I should get one of those.

Right. I got Elvon settled in a deck chair, and went looking for the free bus. The Carnival Sunshine was in port along with us and the HAL Zuiderdam. I took the first open bus that came, as I didn’t mind the idea of a ride around San Juan. I had never been before. The bus was crowded and I had to take a handicapped seat to start. Next thing I knew, two lovely young girls in miniskirts decided to share the seat beside me. They were in a party mood, and they were from Quebec. There was quite a bit of hooting and hollering on the bus, which catered to both locals and tourists. Hey, the price is right for everyone.

It took us past city hall and other civic buildings, out to the fort on the waterfront. It was all very lovely and I clicked away, fully intending to dump at least 9 out of ten pictures. This is the real definition of point and shoot, and the camera performed well.151231-009 SanJuanPuertoRicoFromBusTheDriver

I asked the driver to let me off at the Hilton, but it wasn’t on this route. So, he left me off at the bus terminal, where I found out the Hilton was out of Old San Juan. I went over my options and a police officer told me there was a Sheraton, not far away at all. Since I had spent an hour on the bus, and could see the Zuiderdam from where I was standing, the Sheraton looked like a pretty good option.

It pays to dress up a bit. Those white Indian tunics I buy look elegant, especially with my expensive Tilley Hemp Hat. I approached the hotel greeter and explained that I had not been on the Internet on land in 12 days, and would buy whatever it took to get it. She sent me to the 2nd floor, where there were rest rooms, a teeny tiny coffee shop, and a reception area, where it looked like a buffet might happen soon. I bought a coke in the coffee shop and got to work, downloading much that had been left in the cloud, some of which was business, much of which was Christmas letters.

After about an hour and a half, I noticed my glass was sweating a puddle. Because I fear liquids near computers, like the plague, I got out a Kleenex to wipe up the condensation, and… knocked over the glass. I had been keeping it well back of the computer, but liquid is fast. I think I saved it and I am sure none got on the keyboard, but it will be a concern for some months. The mousie sat in the coke for a little longer, while I saved the computer, so he might go, but mice are cheap, as life forms go.

I didn’t want to leave right away, as I wanted to keep the computer running for at least a half-hour, but the wedding party was closing in. Amazingly no one tossed me out, but there were a lot of waiters assembled in formation and the lobby was full of gorgeously dressed guests, as I made my exit. I was very happy I didn’t look too shabby. FYI, it was an American wedding and all the waiters spoke unaccented English. Did they import them for the occasion? We’ll never know.

New Year’s Eve on the ship very festive, and I hear it went on to 4:00 in the morning. We took a fancy picture of one of the best tables we have ever had, and I promised to make a card and bring it on the last night.151231-002 Table150-4x6

We talked about table karma, when you stay and when you leave and all agreed this was a very, very good one. We went to the show, Latin American Virtuoso Pianist, Juan Pablo. He was good. We stayed put for the dancing, which, to us, is another kind of show. We were against the wall near the very back. The Party started at eleven, and the free champers came out on schedule, at 11:45pm. We drank it, wished everyone around a Happy New Year and retired to our stateroom, to watch the ball fall in Times Square.

New Year’s Day, found us in Samana, Dominican Republic. I worked for a bit and took a tender to shore for my walk. This little town has a long paved beach walk, which I did from end to end in an hour. There wasn’t much open, but there were a few kids entertaining for tips, and I paid them to get pictures.160101-001 SamanaDRKidWarriorsSmall

By the time I was back near the ship, the moto-taxis had come way down in price and I got one for an hour for $15. Samuel really wanted me to do two hours, and maybe I should have, but that would have got me back too close to all aboard for comfort. A moto-taxi here is a tuk-tuk in Asia. It’s a motorcycle with a box behind. It’s a pretty flimsy box and there are a number of teeth-jarring potholes in this place. Samuel managed to avoid most of them, but I did feel a good few.

I got back to the ship and Elvon around three thirty, and we had ice-cream, deck time and sailaway. When we got back, I found a Comments Card, chiding me for the lateness of Happy Hour. I devised a new plan and delivered another letter. I made it back in time for another nice dinner at our table and a show with Vegas Headliner, Ricardo Antonio.

January 2, was out last port, Grand Turk and Caicos. There was a very nice beach a stone’s throw from the ship, but I elected to just stay aboard, pack and catch up with myself. I am trying to relax more. We had a nice dinner, in Canaletto, with Irene and Leslie Gruenwald from Shore Excursions. We like to catch up once a year. It was a production show, called Atlantic Crossing, with all British songs. I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t know many of them. On January 3, 2016, our last day, we were at sea and everyone was packing. I had packed the day before, because I had office hours, boarding passes to do, and a cocktail party that was now starting at 4:30pm. That isn’t fun for me and I am sorry I did it.

Office hours were quiet. I did the boarding passes and finished packing. We went up to the Crow’s Nest at 4:30pm. There were never any more than five of us at a time. It was nice and relaxed, but not a plan I would repeat. We had a lovely farewell dinner at our table and missed the last show, which was the Finale of the Dancing with the Stars competition.

Docked back in Fort Lauderdale on January 4, ae dragged our feet about getting off, as the hotel would only make us wait for our rooms anyway. It took Elvon forever to get going and along the corridors, but the exercise is good for him and would be all he would get for the day. Our Canadian friend, who is coming on the World, was a bit ahead of us, and saved our luggage from being picked up as unclaimed in the terminal. Then we had to wait for her, as she gave hers into HAL’s custody for loading on to the Amsterdam, when it docked. By the time we got back together again, there wasn’t a cab to be seen. Bob Eckert to the rescue and the three of us made it safely to the Hilton Marina, just about across the street from the port.

I did some last minute shopping with Linda and went back to the room to be a travel agent for a couple of hours and have a tub bath.

We had dinner at Coconuts, with the Eckerts and the Muschetts. We knew they’d have Bridge in common, we didn’t realize how many Jamaican friends, too. They had been going to the same New Years’ Eve parties for years, years ago. To add to the Jamaican connection, my one other Jamaican friend, Theresa, called in while we were waiting for our table. What a happy coincidence.