I haven’t had time to pull the details of my next assignment.  If you want to check, it’s Celebrity Silhouette, August 6, 14-Night British Isles Cruise.  I gives us an opportunity to see plays in London and friends in Dublin, and we’ll have our Montreal time, on the way in or out.  Who wants to come with us?  Do not post on the blog to sign up.  Email me directly.

With a sea day on February 9, I am happy to report that the software on my computer is almost complete and mostly updated.  The power supply, however, seems to be losing ground.  It looked like the trouble was at its connection to the computer, which is worrisome, as it might be the power supply end, or it might be inside the computer.  A cracked mother board is fatal.  I limped along, fiddling to get the connection and holding it in place with whatever I could find.  I got through desk hours, which were easy, compliments on the Canaletto dinner, sign ups, etc., and I PhotoShopped Michael’s pictures from our wine tour and got them on to my screensaver.

The Build your Own Boat judging was held in the afternoon, and a bunch of us went to cheer Jacob Abecassis, who had made a miniature Amsterdam.  He had put his heart and soul and about two weeks of his time into it.  It was beautiful, but it broke a rule, when he painted its hull to match the ship’s.  They wouldn’t let him put it in the hot tub to prove it could float.  Two sailboats, made by both halves of a Dutch couple, were seaworthy and proved they could carry a cargo of a dozen cans of Coke.  They weren’t nearly as pretty as Jocob’s, but they beat him handily.  So sad.

 The next day, February 10, we docked in Sydney.  Australian customs give you a hard time, but that was OK.  We were there for two days.  Debbie Amos was picking us up around and we were going to do some shopping and meet up with Sue Jamieson, from Hong Kong, who was on holiday there.  It would have been nice had there been WiFi in the terminal while we waited, but no such luck.  The only negative about this cruise is the time wasted on the endless search for WiFi, because of the high cost and low quality on board.

Debbie picked us up around noon, and she had done her research, on where we could get a needlepoint kit, for Linda Linthicum.  Off we went to Mossman and a darling little needlepoint shop that had everything.  Linda had only asked for “colorful, wool, $100-200”.  We gave this directive to the shopkeeper and she came up with a very whimsical, very colorful snail.  Debbie and I loved it and Linda did, too.  If she had not, I knew whom I could give it to.

Then we went to David Jones, the big department store downtown, and paid an obscene amount to park the car, but David delivered.  Elvon now has two new green V-neck sweaters, different shades, different weights.  You have to know him to know what a victory this is.  Then we had a snack and a cup of tea, looked around a bit more, bailed the car out and went to pick up Sue at the Modern Art Museum.

By this time we were ready to go back to the ship for a bar tour and dinner.  Elvon had a nap, while Debbie, Sue and I went to the Crow’s nest for a glass of wine.  When it was time for the Neptunes to start playing in the Ocean Bar, we went down there, for another glass.  Sue loves to dance, particularly tango, and we have dance hosts on board, who can accommodate.  Around a quarter to eight, we picked Elvon up in the room and went to dinner.  Mike and Kathy were on an overland excursion, so there was room at the table.  We could have used the Pinnacle, but the dining room has a better menu and more of the feel of a cruise ship.  It was lovely to have our dear friends join us for dinner and nice to see them exchanging coordinates.  Our friends usually like each other, so it was no great surprise.

The second day in Sydney, we were going to Dim Sum at Zilver.  They call it Yum Cha in Australia, but there’s no difference I can see.  Elvon decided to stay back, as he was tired after our outing yesterday.  I had prepared a sheet, with the address of the restaurant and four ways to get there.  The address read 1477 instead of 477, but, bless their hearts and brains, everyone found the place.  Some of us found it a little later than others.  I was in the terminal three-quarters of an hour early for the shuttle to Paddy’s Market.  Molly and Ivan Wallace were there a half hour early.  I made the bad decision to stay in the terminal for the air-conditioning.  By the time I got to the shuttle there were only three seats left.  Since there were three of us, that should have been OK, but Molly walks with a cane, and an able bodied couple raced past the Wallaces, so I stepped back to stay with them.  Then I made another bad decision, which was to take the shuttle to The Rocks as it was closer.  It was also in the middle of the worst traffic in Sydney.  Our cab cost twice as much and took three times as long.  I absorbed the entire cost of it, of course.  My bad.

This resulted in our being about twenty minutes late and the natives at the first table got restless.  Michael Innis tried to solve it by just having them put whatever came along on the table, so there would be some food. I saw at a glance, that most of it was not what I would have chosen, but it doesn’t matter at Dim Sum, everything is so cheap.  It’s really hard to spend $20 a person.  Our table was just the Westcotts, Wallaces and us, and they all insisted on paying for me, for all I do.  No protest was effective.

Off we went to Paddy’s Market, where we split up to shop.  I scored a nice fleece for $25, and a few other bits and we did get the Paddy’s Market shuttle back to the ship. My email brought a nice offer from John Ball, a HK friend.  The Hong Kong Club was having it’s 170th Anniversary party on March 3, and could I get him a date from the ship?  I left a message on Marcia’s phone to come to my desk first thing in the morning.  Did I have a deal for her!

Arnold Donald, President and CEO of Carnival, Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Group, and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland America line, with his wife, Samantha, and son Jackson, boarded.  Hazel Donald and Linda Kruse have been on board since Fort Lauderdale.  There was a bang up sail-away, with free drinks.  We just topped that off with a plate of pasta and called it a night.

The next morning, Marcia was first to my desk, her interest piqued by my phone message.  She’s delighted to accompany John Ball to the Hong Kong Club’s festivities.  Why not?  It’s bound to be fun on some, if not many, levels.   I billed her as a “tall, blond Southern Belle” and sent John a picture.  I like the idea of Snow and Ball, it has a certain je ne sais quoi.  That was a bright spot but I had a lot to be unhappy about.  I had a newsletter to write and it was getting increasingly difficult to get power to the computer.  I put a pathetic plea into newsletter for a spare computer or power supply that might fit mine.   Once I got the letter out, I went to see Kristin in the Digital Workshop and she showed me how to take an image backup, which I did.  She also found an angle that worked, so I waited there until it charged.  I also took normal data backups and asked Henk if the ship could loan me a computer until HK, when I would replace it.  It could not.

There was a huge Australian Beach Party at the Lido Pool, but I couldn’t face it.  I was practically in mourning for my computer.  Elvon and I ate quietly, almost alone in the Dining Room.

Early in the morning on February 13, another sea day, the Captain was on the blower.  We were supposed to be sailing to Mooloolaba, where Hannah Amos, my AOPi daughter and Debbie’s real one, was going to come spend a day with us.  Alas, it is not to be.  The port authority there has closed the port, due to a storm.  The captain will have to find us another berth, somewhere in Australia.  His job sure is interesting.  I have my own problems, the power supply is increasingly iffy, and I doubt it will work at all very soon.  The laundry came back missing a bra.  I had three identical ones with me, so our cabin steward just took a picture of one, and had it back in a few hours.  Technology is truly everywhere, except right in front of me, where it needs to be.  I have been in communication with SquareTrade, who carry my ASUS’s warranty, exploring options.  The warranty expires in three weeks, so it will be good to have a claim filed.  I have a lot of people in HK who can help me find a new one, but will I then be able to cover it?  My computer leads a hard life, with all the moving around, sea air, sloppy owner, etc.  I often collect on a warranty.

Limping along, I got Bobbie Reilly-Schmidt an appointment for a haircut at the Mandarin, too.  Now we are three.  In answer to my plea, Wells Westcott loaned me a spare computer and I took it up to Kristin, in the Digital Workshop, where we installed Office 2007, from the download Michael took in Picton, which was still on one of my external hard drives.  Isn’t that nice?  The solution to the software problem is now helping with the hardware problem.  We now know we will be docking in Townsville, of which no one has ever heard, but we’re game.

Jack Parker showed up at my desk with two “universal” power supplies with 24 tips each, but none of them fit.  The computer industry needs to get its act together on this one, like it has done with the USB.  He also tested the voltage on my ASUS power supply and couldn’t get a reading.  That may or may not mean the power supply or its tip, is at fault.  At least I am up and running on Wells’ computer and backing up manually three times a day, while I look for a permanent solution.  I did manage a little logging.

It was a fast day for us and a quiet night at our table.  Three tables over they were having a wonderful time.  That one contained four of our people, Dan Samaniego, Alan Laurin and Lynn Blair, and Bobbie Reilly-Schmidt.  The entertainment was Patrick Murray and his Jamaican puppet, Mathilda.  It was hysterical, particularly as Mathilda was a dead ringer for Theresa, my Jamaican friend in Montreal.

Valentine’s Day, February 14,  I left a note at the desk that I would be there after Orlando Ashford’s special presentation and Q&A in the Queen’s Lounge.  The whole ship goes to this, as it is the place to make our concerns felt and to learn about the future of Holland America.  Orlando has been on the job for 14 months now, and he has a good grasp of the situation.  He’s an excellent presenter and we felt good about just about everything, except the Internet.

We were especially excited about the newest ship in the line, the Koningsdam.  It looks just wonderful.  Orlando said we would all get a chance to board when we dock together in Civitavecchia on April 15.  I can hardly wait.  Steve and Tricia Harrold, whose Napa cat sit gig last summer turned into care-giving for both of us, will be boarding that day.  We have clearance for them to board the Amsterdam, early that morning, to join us for one of our pig-out breakfasts, before they board.  That will be a really fun day.

Steve and Tricia are going to have fun on the Koningsdam, too.  They’ll get to blend and bottle their own wine.  I just have to figure out how I am going to buy them that add-on.  The on board restaurants and entertainment look awesome, too.  I must get myself a gig on her next year.  Speaking of next year, the Amsterdam’s Grand World team will remain essentially unchanged, with Captain Jonathan, Hotel Manager, Henk, GR Manager, Christel, and Cruise Director, Gene.  This is good.  We like all these people.

Gerald Berkhoff, Mariner Club Manager, gave a nice presentation, too.  The first grand world was on the Statendam in 1958, but HAL hosted a ‘round the world university at sea, as early as 1926.  It was on the Rijndam, with 500 students, many of their parents and all the necessary professors.  Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?

Orlando promised to fix the Internet.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Other lines have tackled the problem with some success.  HAL’s has been minimal.  He answered 18 questions in all, about things like smoking, future itineraries, the possibility of six-star memberships, because if the huge gap between five-star and President’s club.  We can expect better in-room TVs on the Amsterdam, and the Prinsendam to stay around for another 5-10 years, but they won’t be building anything that small again.  The economics are not there.  Big ships, like the Koningsdam, won’t be doing Grand Voyages, though.  The Amsterdam is much more capable in blue water and she’s good for another 15 years.

Connie Fischer and Jim Detwiler were sitting just behind us.  They had been DV people last year but their travel agent had switched allegiance, so they are not in the group this year.  I told them about my computer woes, and she thought her power supply might fit my computer.  Lo and behold, it does.  We are now sharing a power supply and I am back in business on my own computer.

There was a five-star Mariners’ lunch that day, and we were seated with Bunny and Horace, and Gert and Sigrid.  They were all very nice people and we had business travel in common.  It seems to be a common thread.  Most of the people you meet, on these long voyages, traveled or moved a lot, for business.  Many of them have been in the services, fighting the wars, others have worked or taught abroad, but travel seems to be a taste you acquire by doing.

I started researching ASUS Zenbooks and found some amazing ones for the price I paid for this one.  They are in the very same 13” case, but how about 20GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD?

It was Valentine’s Gala night and I decided it was time for my pink wig.  The professional photographers took a great picture of us with the execs, but I won’t have that for you until the end of the cruise.  The people at the next table wanted pictures, too, so here’s one of theirs:160214-005 DiningRoom

Finally, on February 15, we docked in Townsville.  I did the usual shore day stuff, plus my email, put the power supply back in my desk drawer for Connie to pick up, and left the ship around 2:30 pm.  It was a shame, as Townsville turned out to be a wonderful town.  They get about two ships a year and our arrival was a surprise to them, too, but they really rolled out the red carpet.  With a mostly volunteer work force, they manned a shuttle into town and a free Hop On Hop Off Bus.  I took it but didn’t have time to do any hopping off. It made a nice loop along the strand, showing off their beaches and hotels, and rolled back to where we started.  Everyone was very friendly and happy to see us.  It was delightfully un-touristy.  That probably won’t last, as Holland America, for one, will now doubtless start calling regularly.

The entertainment was Patrick McMahon, who sings the songs of Kenny Rodgers, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, et al, not quite as well, but adequate for our purposes.  We like our live entertainment before bed time.