New Year’s Day -Sunday, January 1 2023  on the plane to Fort Lauderdale

The first installment of a ‘round the world diary always seems to begin with a bitch and moan about all the terrible stuff that happened in the last week before I left, and this one is no exception.  It’s also the saddest.

There is always a lot going on with me leaving for over four months, and on the first day of the year.  There’s all the client work that I try to get done before I leave, and I usually get through almost all of it.  Luckily, modern communications are now such that I can finish from the middle of the ocean.   It’s just a bit of a slower slog. 

But I did not need my Royal Bank Credit card, which had been faithful for 25 years, to get compromised on December 26.  The bank caught it on the 28th and texted me a sample transaction to see if I recognized it.  When I did not, they texted that they would be phoning me.  About twenty minutes later the call came in, and put me on hold for another twenty minutes, which did nothing to improve my good humour. 

Since Quebec passed Bill 96, which goes after English rights here, big time, I have ceased to speak French on every call, and had pressed “1” for English.  Eventually the call was answered by a guy, with a thick accent, who I thought said his name was “Julio”.  He wanted to know how he could help me.  “You called me, I said, how can I help you?, Julio?”  At this point he got upset with me and told me his name was “Leo” and he wasn’t “some immigrant”.  That’s when I switched to French, figuring I had a real “numero” and nothing was going to get done, if I didn’t get really nice.  So I did, and we went through a pile of transactions, a goodly number of which were fraudulent, so I was getting a new credit card.  This was why I had to be so sweet, I needed it in two days, because I was leaving for four-and-a-half months.  God bless Leo, but that, and all the notifications I am having to effect, were about the last thing I needed. 

The absolute last thing I needed was the phone call I got at 9:00 am the next morning, from my cousin in Cornwall, where I hadn’t been able to spend Christmas thanks to a tree falling on a train on the Montreal-Toronto line.  My favorite cousin, Rosemary O’Connor Sidorchuk, was dying, sometime soon, and certainly before I would be back.  I knew what I had to do.  I rearranged my life some more, sent apologies instead of deliverables, and looked for a car to get me there.  Communauto delivered the minute I asked.  Their fleet of “Flex” cars is pretty big now and there was one sitting at the end of my lane.  The slush in it hadn’t even melted when I picked it up.  The universe is taking care of me.  My very nice friend, Gaetan Villlemure, came along to take care of me, as I don’t feature doing 90 miles of highway in the dark.  I did get to say “Goodbye” to Rosemary, so closure.  Not much fun.  I will miss her. It was cancer.  She was 88.

That same day I got a letter from the IRS to say they had received my 2021 tax form 1040, the second time it was sent in.  My accountant swears you have to file by mail when filing from out of country, so that’s what he did. My return got lost with 129,999 other ones and was re-filed in October.  So this letter said that now they have it and just want me to verify my identity, so they can process my 2021 tax return.  I called from the car and they answered in a timely fashion, but their computers were down, so they wanted me to call back on October 3, which would be boarding day.  How convenient.  Together and separately, my accountant and I tried to fix it so he could do it, but I did end up doing it on January 3.  They have now agreed to process my return.  Nice way for them to have kept my $8,500 for a couple of years.

I did manage to go to a little New Year’s Eve party with Rose and Patrick and a few of their friends and, on New Year’s Day, I was off to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at the Renaissance Hotel in time for a late bar dinner and bed.

Monday, January 2, I found my friends, Linda and Bob Eckert, in the condo next door and they brought over all that which Amazon and Distinctive Voyages had been delivering to their place.  Nice to have friends. I worked in the room all day, making up about 50 welcome packets for delivery the next day.  Then I took Bob and Linda out to a Thai restaurant that they like and we had a delightful meal and a lot of laughs.  We have been cruise buddies since 2015 and have seen each other a few times in between.  Great people.

The next day, Tuesday, January 3, Bob and Linda arrived at 11:00 am to drive me to the ship.  It took all of five minutes.  Talk about a great place to live.  Embarkation hasn’t gotten any easier on Holland America at Port Everglades.  I was in line for an hour and three quarters.  I could have got into the five star line but it was also the handicapped line and took just as long. 

Once aboard, things started to go more smoothly.  I met with Michelle, the Group Event Coordinator, as usual.  And, as usual, our manifests didn’t match.  I had 87 pax on mine.  She had 53. She told me to go ahead with mine and made the inevitable room changes

I wanted a desk of my own but they don’t have enough desks, with so many groups on board.  So nobody gets one.  I met Tom Mullen of Cruise Specialists, with whom I have sailed many, many times, and Louisa from Signature.  I don’t know the others.

It was time for my 4:00 pm breakfast.  I have lost 20 pounds on intermittent fasting.  It works for me but am I ever hungry when it gets close to four.  I went up to the Lido which was closed until 5:00 pm and I almost cried.  Intan, one of the more senior restaurant staff, read my distress and said she’d be able to get me something from behind the screens.  I peeked and saw a baked potato that would do.  It turns out it was just the display item, so it was cold, but it was good enough for me at that point.  I am eternally in her debt.  The dessert station was open by the time I ate the potato, so I had a Brazo de Merdedes to top it off.  It was yummy, meringue, custard and raspberry. I met Beryl and Nona up there, too.  They were my tablemates on the 2012 world and I had just sailed with Nona on Montreal-Fort Lauderdale in October. It’s old home week on here. I got my Welcome packets delivered and made it to dinner with Wells and Dee Wescott, Lynann Barnes and Jean and Ross Copas.  This is my regular table but there will be a lot of eating around for all of us.  Then I went back to my cabin and unpacked.  You have to, if you want to sleep on the bed, which I sure did by then. Dee took this nice one at sail-away from Fort Lauderdale.