January 12 was the first of eight days at sea, during which I planned to get my act together and catch up. I started by photoshopping the cocktail party pictures. People are coming by with sign ups and observations, and I am tee’ing up dinners, talks and so on.


I feared I might have picked up a virus at the shopping mall in Panama, as Norton was acting up. Christel directed me to Nikola, the Communications Officer. He proved to be a good sounding board and assured me that it was likely just a bad download, and it would fix itself, once I got to decent Internet. The computer is running fine, so he is likely right.


I had plenty of material for a new letter, with more dates and times, so I got busy on that. I’ll finish and distribute it tomorrow. Kermit Apio, a 48-year old comedian, was the entertainment. He was only moderately funny. Maybe it’s generational.


The next day, I had a 10”00am meeting, before I went to my desk. I did some wheeling and dealing with the beverage people, to be able to treat my passengers once in a while, without it breaking me. Luckily, few people came to the desk, I got the letters written and delivered and got us dressed up for the Black and Silver Ball. By the time Elvon and I got there, there wasn’t a seat in the house, so we retired to the piano bar, which was nice.


The next day, January 14, the phone rang, bright and early. It was a sign up for the Murder Mystery. Glad to oblige.   Tom Grindlay gave me two dates for Dining Room lunches for people to get to know each other, and one of them was January 16, so I’ll need to get a new letter out today. That’s fine because there was a slight error in yesterday’s one, anyway. So I gave Tom our logo and amended the letter.


I gave out some advice on Nuku Hiva and signed up a bunch of people for various things. I had published three choices for a night out in Hong Kong, horse races at the Jockey Club, dinner at the Yacht Club, and an elegant Chinese meal. All of them include friends who live in Hong Kong and are wonderful to meet. The early polling favored the Yacht Club, my own last choice, but I know they are right. This is something they need me to do. They can have their own good Chinese meal the other night.


There was a jazz jam in the Ocean Bar after dinner, and it was very good.


Well, when I brought up AOL the next morning, the ship’s sign on was inside the AOL Desktop software and the read, write, mail, etc. toolbar was absent. In over 500 days of sailing on Holland America, I had never seen such a thing. I had had a discussion with Nicola, the Communications Officer, a couple of days ago and had given him my tips for signing on to AOL, as he reported others in difficulty. This was the first time I had booted the computer, since then, and now I was afraid the good deed had not gone unpunished. I wrote it up and went to see him. He pleaded not guilty, and we set about troubleshooting together. It’s working again and I promised him dinner at our table in the Dining Room. He liked that.


The desk was busy again, thanks to the newsletters and interest sheets. I picked up the knowledge that one passenger had four tickets to the Barber of Seville at the Sydney Opera House on February 10 and another one had Blanc de Blancs, a cirque du soleil type show.


I got a little deck time with Elvon and dressed for dinner. The show was the Jack Pack, a male quartet. They were good and very easy on this old girl’s eyes.


The next day, before I left the cabin, and its handy phone, I made a couple of phone calls. Then I met with Tina and got all squared away with our various dates and participants. There was a passenger at the desk, when I got there, wanting advice as to which places to take ship’s tours and which not to. Today’s subject was New Zealand and we came up with two very good tours. The one in Picton looked particularly appealing; with its Maori war dance, all tongue-protruding, no doubt.


It wasn’t long before it was time for our lunch in the Dining Room. I fetched Elvon from the cabin and we went up. A lot of the people were already there, we were seated at the third table of six, and, sadly for them, two more people came and ended up alone at their table. But twenty was a good turn-out and the folks had fun meeting each other,


After lunch, Elvon and I sat on the deck and I caught up with some paperwork. The entertainment was “Dance Trance”. Lots of pretty costume changes.


The next morning, I met with the Pinnacle and Shore Excursions, ironing out a few details. I still don’t know what to tell our mobility challenged guests about the tours.


There was a big kerfuffle going on around Gene’s office. The minister, a Southern Baptist, has been consistently running over and cutting into the Bridge time. Today, it was about twenty minutes. When the Bridge people complain, the minister says they are interfering with God’s work. I saw a lot of Bridge people coming down to complain. They clearly had the weight of numbers on their side. I guess the work of the devil will go on, on the Amsterdam. Bridge and devotions now meet in different venues.


I got more info on docking in Sydney and Hong Kong. Sydney will be the remote White Bay, and Hong Kong, the handy Ocean Terminal. You win some…Tom Mullen of Cruise Specialists, stopped by, as he often does. We are friendly competitors, and he likes my chocolates, which are especially good this year, with the addition of a number of bags of Ghirardelli Squares, better quality chocolate from the Bay area, cheap at Ross in early January.


I took a break around one o’clock, to go to the gym with Elvon, and returned to the desk. I phoned the few people who had not been to the cocktail party, or had not told me about their tour attendance. This got one of them to come down for a new packet. I had spoken to her husband on day 2 and he had located the packet, but he must have hid it on her, because she says she never saw it. I made her a new one and she told me her story, which was so sweet. She grew up in a tiny town in Minnesota. One of her college summer jobs was waiting tables at a café there. One summer she had had a whirlwind romance with a patron, who was going to a different university, and whose summer job amounted to recruitment for his college. At the end of the summer, they went their separate ways back to school and lost track of each other. She married someone else, had a high powered career in NYC and ended up widowed about ten years ago. Two or three years ago, she started thinking about her old love and googled him. Google gave her his phone number, in Daytona Beach, FL. She called it and asked a couple of questions, when he answered the one about the little town with “Is this Joyce?” She knew she had her guy. It turns out he was widowed now, too, and living very well in a condo on the 21st floor overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He invited her down to see him, and they will be married two years in April. She’s eighty years old and happy as a clam. She signed up with me for a number of things.


When I was done at the desk, there wasn’t time to do much more than walk the deck, so I did that, showered and went to dinner. Sarah Chandler was playing the sax for us at 10:00pm. Her sparlkly dress went well with her sax, but she was otherwise unexceptional.


January 18, 2016 was the seventh day at sea. One passenger dropped by the desk with her credit card for two tickets to the Barber of Seville, at the Sydney Opera House. Another came to see me, prompted by yesterday’s phone message. At 34, he’s my second youngest passenger, after the 10-year old, who is traveling with her mother and grand mother.


This guy is traveling alone, and I couldn’t resist asking where he had made his money to be able to do so. It’s software, he wrote an application, grew the business and sold it. The company that bought it still pays him for support, but it’s too easy. He decided to take a break, see the world and see if another idea comes. Here’s another guy with a great story. We got on famously, as I began my career writing software, too, only then it was payrolls and accounting applications on an IBM 1401, with 16KB of memory. But, we could talk, and it was fun. He says he’s an old soul and will enjoy doing things with the group. So, I signed him up for a bunch of things. His interests are wine, food and computer technology. I have a lot of friends like that. I am like that.


A few more people stopped by, including the Executive Chef, Peter. I booked some officers for dinner at our table, and found out when I could offer my people a Bridge Tour. A Welsh choir fan among my passengers wanted to be sure to see the Hong Kong Welsh Men’s Choir, so I wrote my friend, Simon, in HK, who negotiates for them. Gene says the ship will probably have them but it’s a bit of a bun fight between him and head office, as there’s a big bar bill and each wants the other to cover it.


My day was shortened by the necessity to plan for and attend, out first DV dinner in the Pinnacle. We have the big table for 14 in the back room. I love it there. Just like home, if you live in a mansion.160118-005 PinnacleDinner I went to the Pinnacle at 5:00pm and laid out place cards, like they do at the Captains’ Dinners, like we always did for business and pleasure dinners in Montreal, Hong Kong and Napa.


When I got there for dinner, fifteen minutes early, I learned that the one couple had been there for twenty minutes and insisted on sitting together. I switched two women. When the table was almost full, another couple arrived, who wanted to sit together as her English is poor and she needs him as a translator. That’s reasonable; I switched her too. That put two couples together, who eat at the same table every night. At least they like each other a lot, so it was OK. Not what I had intended, but OK. I poured wine from my Admiral’s package, six bottles of it, so I am out of pocket but everyone went away happy.


We got out in time for the 10:00 pm entertainment, which was our cast in “Encore”, light opera and musical theatre in concert. It was excellent.