Our first day, Wednesday, January 4, was a sea day, and I had plenty to do.  One of my tasks as a DV Host is to make sure everyone on my manifest got their welcome packet and to see if they have any questions about our offering.  I got most of those calls done between my 4:00 pm breakfast and my 8:00 pm dinner, on embarkation day.  They were routine and pleasant, or I left messages.  Everyone had the packet, which taught me that the sooner you call, after delivering, the less likely they are to have lost it, or maybe World Cruise passengers are just more savvy.

One of my passengers was having a terrible time settling in.  She has both a power chair and a walker and it wasn’t working in her little cabin.  Life was very tough.  She had been DV Host for years and has done 13 cruises with Holland America.  She’s a 5* Mariner and was hoping for better treatment.  I couldn’t do anything for her as she knows the ropes as well as I do and had already contacted the powers that be.

Another passenger told me he couldn’t speak English and hung up on me.  I’ll have to see if I can find an interpreter when I find out what kind of Chinese he speaks.  It’s not Cantonese, for sure. 

A single man  turned out to be my proofreader.  He noticed that the Jan 6 cocktail wasn’t in the Amenities notification.  I was blindsided by the fact that I actually have six(6) cocktail parties to offer my people, and had missed that one on the list.  My first newsletter was destined to come out the very next day.

People told me their nicknames and if they went by their middle names and stuff like that.   All good. I updated the manifest before I went to my 11:00 am Office Hour appointment near the Front Desk. 

There were a couple of people who knew people who should have got a Welcome packet and didn’t.  No surprise.  There usually are. One couple, whom I have had the pleasure of hosting on a world cruise before came to say I was the best DV host they had ever had.  I hope they hold that thought until it’s time for the comment cards. 

Some came to volunteer to do deliveries for me, if I needed help.  Very sweet of them, but so far, so good.  Some came to say they were delighted with the program and wanted to know how to pick a cruise that’s a DV for the future.  I was happy to help.

As soon an I was able to get away, I hastily worked up a newsletter to correct the omission of the January 6 Cocktail party and add whatever else I did know.  I delivered my newsletters during the ship’s Block Parties, which was interesting.  I kept getting offered food and drink but both my hands were occupied holding the newsletters or putting them in the doors.  When they offer a three-handed version of homo sapiens, I’ll be signing up.

Five people came to Happy Hour, and they were all very nice.  Then I had very good lamb chops for dinner at “the table” and we all went to see the Lincoln Center Stage – our classical quintet, playing rock, pop and jazz on the Main Stage.  It was good and I was ready for bed, after that busy day.

I didn’t know it then, but my good friend, Denis Mavrias, (Chef Dr Pizza Guy) died on January 4.  In a strange turn of fate, I was unable to make it to my own family for Christmas, because of terrible weather, and a tree falling on the train tracks, so I spent Christmas Day with Denis’ family.  Most of you will die laughing when I tell you they’re Vegans, but I was glad to have had that time with him.   He was a good, kind man, and we had some great times together over the last couple of years.

We docked in Falmouth, Jamaica, on Thursday, January 5.  I went walkabout with Dee and Lyann, but not before I took care of important business.  I am still sorting out discrepancies between my manifest from Distinctive Voyages and Michelle’s from Holland America. 

Around 11:00 am, Dee, Lynann and I got off to go shopping in Falmouth, Jamaica.  We dubbed ourselves three Lame Old Ladies, and went off to find a taxi.

We rejected the first one that was presented and took the second.  He had a lot better attitude and took very good care of us, his charges.  We were very pleased with Delano Crooks, despite his somewhat suspect name.  He took us to a local shopping center, where we wouldn’t get robbed and that was good for basics.  Soon we were out of time and back in the tourist shopping compound by the ship.  Prices were high there and so was my sales resistance.  I did enjoy my late afternoon breakfast, though.  It was a beef and cheese patty with scotch bonnet sauce, and a beer.  Just right. 

Sail away was delayed and delayed again and I pretty much missed it.  Won’t do that again.  I had dinner at the table and we all went to see the comedian, Steven Scott, who was hilarious.  We met him after, and Dee presented him with an invitation to dine with us.  He had one night free, January 8.  We took it.  His schedule is a lot more crammed than ours. 

Back at sea on  January 6, I printed a birthday card along with my cocktail party speech and two new shore excursion flyers, which I now have. In the Atrium for office hour, I met more nice people.  I had tee’d up a dinner for 16 in the dining room for after tonight’s welcome cocktail, and it’s already booked up.  Nice.  I’ll do it sooner in the future and get more participation.

I took my cocktail party speech to tea around 3:15 and it worked very well as breakfast for me.  The cocktail party came of without a hitch.  63 of 80 people came.   I had recruited Dee Wescott, one of the best photographers I knew to take pictures and she did a great job.  Arthur and Linda Starr came too, so I could introduce them as our bus monitors.  I just can’t be in two buses at once and the Rabbi and his wife are a popular choice. 

The Sydney Opera idea floated well, so I’ll be doing that for sure.  After my speech, I usually invite everyone to say a bit about themselves, but this group was just too big.  We had three tables for dinner in the Dining room and I got to eat a course at each of them.  It’s a great way to get to know the guests and we were done in plenty of time to make the show, which was “Dance Fever”.  It’s nice that we still have singers and dancers on board, albeit a couple less of each. 

I finished the latest Louise Penny novel on my Kindle and, while I was exiting, it presented a critical error and threatened to never work again unless restarted, rebooted, or put in communication with Amazon support. 

On Saturday, January 7, we were docked in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. The first thing I did was deal with the kindle.  I wanted to be in port if I really did have to access Amazon support.  Like everybody else’s, it isn’t much these days and I dreaded the thought.  Luckily the simple restart fixed the problem, and I will travel the world with all of my Kindle content, which is substantial. 

A good few emails flew around, as the manifests got sorted out, until they now match and in spite of that, I did get a couple of hours in Puerto Limon with Nona Hamilton and Beryl Mitton, my 2012 tablemates.  We just had a walk in the park, a beer, and shopped the dockside market.  I got a white embroidered blouse, a pair of colorful pants, and a sloth.  The sloth is a stuffed toy, so I don’t have to sleep alone.  He’ll go to Ginger’s Toy Tea next December, having been around the world.  I’m not hard on my sloths.

Sail Away was nice.  I spent it with three of my people.  We had one of the lecturers, Mike West, and his wife for dinner at the table.  Then we went to see Steven Scott again, doing old Catskills schtick.  We won’t get him for dinner tomorrow, as the ship has fingered him to do a funny interview in the Ocean Bar, with Cruise Director, Ian at 9 pm, and performers don’t eat before they perform. 

Cruising the Panama Canal on Sunday, January 8, I found Bobi in her power chair in trouble again.  She had just settled into her re-designed room, when she was hit by another plague.  Now her power chair wouldn’t charge and her Oxygen machine went that a notch farther, when its charger actually drained its battery.  While she was telling me all this, Henk, the Hotel Manager, innocently stopped to say “Hi” to both of us.  I’ll bet he was sorry when, like Shiv before him, he ended up spending most of the day in Bobi’s room, calling on assorted experts as needed. 

Through all of this, Bobi has maintained a very decent amount of good humour.  She went from being a DV host to the wheelchair in a surgical accident, meaning back surgery gone south.  I am going to just keep exercising my little heart out and do my damnedest to stay off the operating table.  So far, so good.  And the folks kept coming by for the usual conversations.

We are going through the Panama Canal today and it’s pouring rain for a lot of the time.  It’s still interesting but I don’t have a lot of time to pay attention, yet.  I had a cruise to help book with the Future Cruise Consultant,  and some advice to give on insurance.  One of my people fell in his cabin on day one and it aggravated an old back injury he got in the service.  Dr. Kim’s acupuncture is helping but it’s pretty expensive.  He was wondering if his insurance, Holland America’s platinum, would cover it.  I am pretty good with insurance claims so I told him to go back and get a doctor’s letter to submit with the claim, and that if Holland America wouldn’t help him with the claim, I would. 

We all decided to go for an earlier dinner so as to be able to catch Steven Scott’s interview with Ian, as Steven had agreed to meet us for drinks privately after.  The ship was having a “Burgers and Beer” thing on the Lido, by the pool, that looked like it would work.  I went with Nona and Lynann.  The burgers were sliders, one beef and cheese with bacon, one chicken and avocado and one vegetarian.  Nona and I had them bring us two beef and cheese, no vegetarian.  And we ordered three Laguanitas or whatever the name is, supposed to be good.

Well, when it came, everything was cold, there was no bacon or avocado to be seen anywhere, both burger and bun were dry and they brought the wrong kind of beer.  You had to be there.  The ship sends supervisors around to every table to ask if you are liking the food and service.  When our guy came over and asked “How’s everything here?” all three of us pounced in him at once “Terrible” was our verdict, in one voice.  You shouldn’t ask when you don’t want the answer.

Steven the comedian’s interview with Ian was fun but we never got our private time.  Holland America were picking him up at 5:30 am to catch his plane in Panama and he had to go pack.

On Monday, January 9, we were in Fuerte Amador, Panama, having stayed overnight. If you didn’t take a shore excursion, there was nothing but two shuttles.  You couldn’t walk in the port.  There was a lot of construction going on.  Our first shuttle went to Isla Perico, where everything was closed, but Vicki and Peggy saw a HOHO from there, found a way to take it , and that was good.  Nona and I didn’t see that so we decided not to get off the bus at all.  We rode back to the ship, switched buses and went to the mall. 

I forgot the name of the mall, but it was a plenty glitzy one, with Chanel and Gucci and Louis Vuitton and all, just like home.  I live within five minutes’ walk of all this stuff.  Luckily, it also had ordinary stores, too, like H & M and the shop where I bought a couple of plain dresses for wearing like blouses.  This is how I supplement my wardrobe, without having multiple suitcases.  At the end I’ll just toss whatever I no longer want, whether I brought it with me and it wore out, or I bought it and don’t like it all that much, after all.  I had brought a dying bra with me, and it had had the nerve to get to extremis on day 2 of the cruise.  I repaired it but it will go again, soon.  I replaced it at this very American mall, for the very American price of $52.99.  Some things aren’t optional.

I got back to the ship and spent an hour or so working on pictures.  The weather had worsened considerably and there was heavy rain and thunder.  Some of it loud enough to be scary, but I just worked on.  At one point, we had an announcement that the ship had been struck by lightning but that it was nothing to worry about.  When it was time to go looking for something to eat, I decided on French Fries from Dive-In, poolside.  It turned out that was where the lightning had hit.  Tim told me he was in the hot tub at the time and that was an experience and a half.  He was probably 10 feet away from the point of contact.  The plexiglass roof took the blow.  I got this picture:

I did go to sail-away after that, where the hors d’oeuvres completed my breakfast, and spent some time with Peggy.  We didn’t sail away when we were supposed to.  The Volendam did, though, and it was fun waving at her.  The weather got nasty again, and I headed back to the room to work until dinner time. 

The entertainment was a movie on the big screen of the Main Stage, “Panama”, 1989.  It wasn’t very good.  I kept falling asleep.