Sorry this is so late. You’ll see why, as you read. We stayed in the Hilton Marina in Fort Lauderdale, overnight and had dinner at Coconuts with old IBM friends, the Muschetts, and new travel business friends, the Eckerts. I thought Bridge would be the topic that united them, but it turned out to be Jamaica. These people had attended the same New Years’ Eve parties, for years, back in the day. Small world. Good times, still. Good to have brought these nice people together in their own town.

The Eckerts took us to the ship around noon, and we got in line to board. It didn’t take too long and I was soon at work. This time my list matched the ship’s, so I could get to work on my welcome letters. It was nice to see Captain Jonathan Mercer again, and his wife , Karen. Henk and Christel Mensink are still here and welcomed us warmly, as did Gene Young, Shiv Charan, Willy Tubog, Jacques Louw. Tom Grindlay, Presti and Pande are still in the dining room, but Nikki George is no longer Events Manager.   That will be Mark Beasley and he was off buying stuff. Luckily I didn’t need him to write my first letter. I did meet with Nyron Peters, who now heads up Shore Excursions, and did the list check with Eduardo at the Front Desk.

Then I installed my printer at my desk in the Atrium on Deck 3, and went into production. While I was putting the letters together, Michael Innes and Gail Hanson, the new Bridge Instructors, stopped by to introduce themselves and to ask for the bus monitor job. I have no idea how word gets around, but they looked like perfect candidates, so they have the job.

I got all the letters delivered in time to go to dinner, which was great. Our table mates are all five-star Mariners, Kathy & Mike from Seattle, Marge, who is a Southern Belle, and (hooray) Marilyn Goldblatt and Stan Haidl, from Florida (originally New York). Marilyn and Stan were our tablemates on the 2012 Grand World, and have been our 10:00pm show lounge partners ever since. There was no show the first night, though, and it was just as well. I had some unpacking to do.

January 6, we were at sea, and I went to my desk in the atrium on Deck 3, surrounded by officers’ offices, and sometimes a bunch of tables for people to play games on. I cleared out the Rummykub, and made the desk my own. I saw a few of my people and connected them with others, based on interests, like scuba-diving. Others came to talk about and sign up for our tours. Al Vence and Linda Linthicum stopped by to say “Hello” and tell me which tours they were taking. I sprout wings and a halo every time I see these two. They met in my group on the 2014 Grand World, and got married last year. They look so happy.

I met with Rebecca Antuna, who is in charge of groups for Shorex. She was on last year’s world and we get along swimmingly. She will deliver all the tickets for me to control, which is much easier.

I got the cocktail invitation text and list to Willy and went back to the cabin to call everyone I had not seen yet. I had to leave a few messages, but I did either see or speak to most of them. Joanne Ward came to my cabin to return my call, and I have a haircut partner for Hong Kong. She’s perfect. She has great thick curly hair.


The entertainment was an all-singing, all-dancing production show called “Talk of the Town” and it was very good and nice to be back on the bench with Marilyn and Stan.

Still at sea, on January 7, I met with Mark and gave him some dates for a talk on HK. He looks like he will be easy to work with. I also met with Christel and found what to do to get my Koningsdam clients, Steve & Tricia Harrold, on to the Amsterdam for brunch the day they board in Civitavecchia. She also gave me the scoop on whom to deal with on IT matters. She is very fed up with the onboard Internet, herself

Then I went to my desk, where I adopted a couple of ladies who were traveling with their men, but not all the way around, and dispensed various bits of advice, business as usual.

The ship had a cocktail party at 7:00pm, so we went to that before dinner. The ship’s doctor was introduced as having graduated from McGill.  That was interesting in itself, as I don’t remember them naming the school other years.  I always knew our Med school was famous, of course.  Take a bow, Linda Snell.

The entertainment was “An Evening with the Finkels” at 10:00pm. Elliot Finkel is a wonderful concert pianist. We liked him so much last year we invited him to dinner. This year he brought his brother Ian, an excellent xylophone player, who in my opinion took up too much of the performance. I wanted to listen to Elliot. He also brought his 93-year old father, Fyvush, who has an Emmy, and can still belt out a great version of “If I were a rich man” from Fiddler. He played the role on Broadway for years.

Before I ever left my cabin, on January 8, I worked on my Cocktail Party Presentation. Since this is my fourth world cruise, I just had to tweak the old one and add the very good idea to ask everyone to state an interest, when they stood up.

I saw Tina in the Pinnacle to lay my hands on some seats for the Old Time Radio Show and Murder Mystery, which are another fun way to get some people together. I also booked the big table in the back for 14 on January 18.

Cocktail hour is upon us early when it is 4:30 in the afternoon. 56 out of 65 people attended and I later heard that at least 4 more would have come, had they been more organized. It’s easy to get caught up in other things on this ship. There is an awful lot to do. Henk and Gene came and gave little speeches, as did Joanne of Future Cruises.

Jan Yetke took great pictures for me. I will know everyone’s names very soon with all these. Everyone seemed to love introducing themselves and telling where they are from and what they are interested in doing this cruise.

The evening’s entertainment was Bobie Eakes, an excellent singer. We’d be happy to see her again.

Finally, on January 9, we docked in Puerto Limon (San Jose), Costa Rica . While Elvon was dressing I called Christel to work out a cabin problem. By the time I relayed our solution to the client, she could not get her husband to move, so, it’s moot, but she’s impressed with us.

Then Elvon and I went out for a nice little piggy breakfast in the Lido,where I happened to run into the doc and mentioned I had gone to McGill, too, and the usual ‘who do you know?” conversation ensued.  It turns out she interned under Linda, one of thousands, I suppose. She said Linda was brilliant.  I knew that.  She knew Wendy Sissons, too, not well, but said she referred many patients.  That’s no news either, but nice to hear.

After gym with Elvon, I went ashore with a weird little shopping list. I needed to replace my nice wooden candy dish, bought here in 2014, and left on the ship. It was still there in 2015, but someone had liberated it this year.   I wanted to replace my lost Swiss army pocket knife, Elvon had broken his razor, and I had already used up my Crazy Glue, fixing cheap blingy sandals. I also wanted to price and likely buy, Voltaren, the analgesic cream I now use on my sore neck. My US co-pay is $85/100 grams.

It’s a typical grubby third-world town, with no such thing as a department store, so that list had me walking all over town, following directions from one shop to the next. I got it all, though, a couple of rare wood bird mobiles for Lori Wear’s brand new twins, and a good, cheap pedicure.

I had a little deck time with Elvon, who had been there while I was out, dinner and more of the Finkels. Good stuff, that. We love, love, love having live entertainment every night.

Elvon’s days always include a few hours of deck time, as well as an hour in the gym, which we now do together, as well as dinner and a show. On January 10, the deck time was more stimulating, as it included the Panama Canal, with commentary. I had desk time, of course, and was still meeting people and signing them up for excursions.

We anchored off Fuerte Amador, which is on a peninsula near Panama City, early, around 6:00pm. There’s a hop-on, hop off bus from there that tours this large, modern looking city of skyscrapers. I am told it’s not so pretty up close and personal, and plan to hop on said conveyance tomorrow and find out. For now, I hopped a tender to reconnoiter

.160111-003 Panama City

It was another shopping center, with a couple of restaurants, so that was a short trip. It needed to be, anyway, as I still had to dress both of us for dinner at eight. At the gate to the tender dock, there was a lady, who looked homeless, trying to talk her way on to the ship. She had tattoos down both arms, and a face that looked like she had had a hard life. We see the results of too much plastic surgery a lot on the ship, but this was different. I boarded the tender, as the crewmember at the gate called the ship. Next thing I knew, I was sitting across from the lady. She said she had not been allowed to board in Fort Lauderdale, because she had fluid on her lung and they wanted her briefly hospitalized and treated, in case it was contagious. Her husband had boarded anyway, as he is somewhat handicapped and does not do well at all on planes. She was very nice, and maybe belonged with us, after all. She had an excellent French pedicure on her toes. Henk and Christel were at the tender platform welcoming her home. That clinched it.

We had dinner and listened to Shirley Dominguez, an excellent harpist, with the most beautiful little harp you ever saw. It’s shiny, bright red, inset with Swarovsky crystals, and electronic, so it sounds like a big one. She’s fun to watch and listen to.

Fuerte Amador, Panama, January 11: I have a lot of trouble getting off the ship early now. Since Elvon rarely gets off, we have a big treat breakfast in the Lido, followed by an hour in the gym, before I can leave. The problem today was that the last tender would be at 3:30pm, and the hop-on, hop-off bus was a two hour circuit. Christel was on the tender with me around noon, with the same hope, but we both knew it wasn’t all that likely. I asked her about the lady who boarded last night and there’s quite a story there. It’s heartwarming, too. The tattoos cover serious burns she got when her house burned down, many years ago. She has had a lot of plastic surgery on her face and all over her body, and yes, periodic fluid on her lungs is just one ongoing problem. But, she’s determined to make lemonade out of what life hands her and her motto has to be “Carpe Diem”, like mine, because she and her husband are in the most expensive accommodation on the ship, a multi-million dollar penthouse, for four months. Good on her. I am an instant fan. I’ll be looking for her to befriend.

Barbara Haenni, the Location Guide, was boarding the tender as we disembarked, and told us we were out of luck as far as the hop-on, hop-off bus went, as the last one that would work had just left. Next time through here, I will make it a point to get off earlier.

We took the free shuttle to the mall, where the clothing was polyester and the WiFi, abysmal. When I got back to the ship, I was told the WiFi at the pier had been great. This really is a note for the next time.

The show was Phillip Huber and his Marionettes and he was fabulous. Google him, you can buy the doggie, strings and all.