You may have noticed, we are in the boring bit of the cruise.  I do my best to make things a bit interesting but this is relax and catch up time.  It’s Monday, March 27, 2023, we’re at sea and we have dinner in the Canaletto tonight, which is part of making things interesting.  I touched bases with its manager in the morning and promised her a final list, with seating chart, in the afternoon.  Lots of people are still in quarantine, including two that I talked to before office hour.  It’s bacterial, all right.  The ship is now giving out azithromycin and Imodium to all that complain. 

One passenger came by office hour to find out where the National Museum of African American Culture was, Gambia or Senegal.  That got me into a lot of googling as it wasn’t that obvious.  I eventually pieced together that it was the Museum of Black Civilization in Dakar and it was city center, right across from the large theatre and Renaissance Square.  This lot has 38 million dollars of Chinese money in it and the museum was opened in 2018.  It looked good on Google, but it didn’t answer my queries.  We would need secure transportation as Senegal is notorious for robberies, muggings, etc.  I canceled my expensive tour to the pink lake, in favor of this new museum. Rome2Rio wasn’t helpful.  I gathered they didn’t recommend traveling around in Dakar.  The ship’s $699 private tour for 9 people might be the best way, not cheap for a short ride, but the safest bet.

Twenty-four very merry people dined in the Canaletto and drank eight bottles of my wine.  It would have been better if I weren’t always seeing the same faces, but still very good.  It was a dressy night and Dee and Tracy looked fabulous in their African dresses.  There was an excellent production show after dinner.

It was a very quiet day at sea on Tuesday, March 28.  A nice, concerned passenger came to my office hour, very happy to be out of quarantine.  He also wanted to know how my acupuncture is going.  The jury is still out on that one.  I am feeling some better, some worse.  I have to start taking notes as Dr. Kim seems to be consulting me on what to fix.  It’s slim pickings in the dining room, as a lot of produce had to be thrown out because of the gastro-intestinal problems and the entertainment is getting sparser.  There was a game show at 7:00 pm tonight, while we are eating, and nothing at 9:30 pm, when we are done and ready to be entertained. 

On Wednesday, March 29, we docked in Banjul, Gambia. I had been hearing how lucky I was to be a Canadian for a week or so now, as Gambia was taking some sort of revenge on the USA by pricing its VISA for US citizens at $155.  Most people just decided not to get off, taking their own revenge.  Well, Gambia figured that out from the paltry number of VISA applications they got and just decided to charge the ship the $155 per American on board, whether they got off or not. 

Then they set up a very nice market on the pier, where I found out I had paid at least $20 too much for the wooden mask I had got in Abidjan and bought Robbie a life-sized pal.  

Judging from some of the vehicles that dropped the vendors off, they do pretty well with these pier markets and probably have to be related to a customs official, to secure a piece of dock.  The women were dressed beautifully in their own wares, like this one who made a client out of Dee.  That, by the way, is not difficult.

Damage done, in the hot African sun, we got back on board and I found us a bus for our Kilmainham Jail add-on in Dublin, now just a month away.  I had dinner in the Pinnacle Grill with Pat and Shari Sanders and it was just lovely.  I like them a lot.  I like all my people a lot.  It’s a great group.  The show was magician-mentalist Brendan Peel, from Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  He’s very good, not more than 30 and very easy on the eyes. 

If you thought the last port wasn’t much, the next one, Dakar, Senegal, was actually negative.  At 8:00 am, with the World stage full of people waiting to go on tour, came the announcement that no one was going ashore at all, at all. There had been violent demonstrations in the city the night before and Holland America wasn’t putting any of its precious passengers nor crew ashore.  We would remain in port for the day, as we were expecting a 40 foot container of food stores, and truckloads of fresh produce, to replace that which had been tossed, along with its bacteria.  We also had a few people to board, and a few passengers who needed medical assistance ashore.  So, we waited in the hot African sun, snug in our air-conditioned vessel, and made like it was a sea day.  There are worse places to be.  One of them was doubtless the meeting, also on board, mind you, of our Captain, Hotel Manager, Security and Food and Beverage Managers, with the Senegalese top level Customs officials, attempting to have our stores cleared to board.  Exercises in futility have little pleasure component.  The next day, we learned of the crew of an oil tanker being held for ransom by Senegalese pirates, off shore, another worse place to be.  The Captain’s sad announcement at sail-away, begged our patience as we wouldn’t be eating as well for a few more days, but at least we wouldn’t run out of wine or toilet paper.

I had a newsletter planned for March 30 but moved it up to today, since I had the time.  I had thought I was seeing some results from the acupuncture, but, by what happened as I was delivering my newsletters, it seems to be that my knee’s and my ankle’s defenses had been broken down and I was exposed to a lot of pain.  I barely crawled back to my room by the end.  But rest and elevation works every time, and I made it to sailaway, dinner and the movie – Top Gun Maverick – another kids’ movie, this one American-style.

Friday, March 31, 2023 was another sea/work day and a busy one.  Dinner was fine and Spencer Robson was on stage.  He’s billed as a vocalist and impersonator of famous singers.  In fact, he’s an excellent singer with a massive range and not much good at impersonation at all.  He needs to just go it as himself.

On Saturday, April Fool’s Day, at sea, the clocks went forward.  There’s still no Internet to speak of, so I log and prepare blogs, and go see people face-to-face at office hour.  I tried to walk the deck but it was blowing a gale out there, so I walked the corridors.  There was a vomity smell on the other side of our corridor, near the midship elevators.  They had the shampoo machines and vacuums out in force, because the block party is at four.  I went to Ben Sack’s drawing class at one, not because I wanted to learn how to draw, but because I wanted to show my face to Ben Sack.  He and Elvon and I had spent many the happy sailaway on the Amsterdam, usually followed by nice dinners on the back deck.  I like him a lot, as a friend, and his class was a lot of fun, too.  I may even go again.  I tried to put in Lynann’s Allianz claim for the second time, but the Internet failed in the middle of it.  I was smarter this time, though, and saved the paragraphs I write in a Word file. 

The block party was fun, as usual.  What wasn’t so much fun was the acupuncture that followed it.  I had been keeping notes for Doctor Kim and my notes said that I had woken up with my ankle, knee and hip pain better, but still there.  I had put my sketchers on, which are softer than my Mephisto sandals, and done a couple of laps around the corridors, which had elevated the pain level in the left foot and right knee.  After I sat for an hour, both of those still hurt and so did my right lower back.  He went to work and by the time he was done, I could barely walk to the elevator.  I limped up to Happy Hour and farther to dinner, where we had a super guest, the magician-mentalist, Brendan Peel.  I don’t think he’s even thirty.  It changes the conversation when you have someone at the table with his whole life ahead of him.  

There was a costume party that night and Nona was trying to win best home-made costume as Miss Holland America 150.  That’s Holland America Line’s age this year, not Nona’s.  I had promised to go up and cheer loudly for her.  To my great delight, Brendan joined me.  Nona didn’t win, but I might have if I had had the presence of mind to wear a “COUGAR” sign and parade down the runway with him.  Next time, I’ll be prepared.

The next day was Palm Sunday in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands.  Nona and I got off around eleven to walk into town.  It was farther than we had hoped but a doable project.  The approach was pretty, and even interesting, with lots to read about the famous travelers who had visited before us, like Charles Darwin, et al.  Nona wanted to peek into the church.  She found out mass was starting in 15 minutes and I was happy to join her in attending.  I don’t usually go to church, except for weddings and funerals, but 11 years of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary had taught me all I need to know to behave myself appropriately. 

There had been a float parading around the neighborhood after the 11 o’clock mass and it appeared at the back of the church just before noon.  It was a pretty float .  I liked the expression on the donkey’s face.  He’s wondering what to do about all these people.  He got to keep wondering through the whole mass, because the float didn’t fit the width of the aisle, so the men carrying it just came out from under it and left it there. 

After mass, we waited around a little to see if the float would get paraded around the streets any more, but that was over.  We picked up our palm fronds and went off in search of tapas, since we were technically in Spain.

We found the tapas and some of my people, too.  They let us join their table, as there wasn’t a vacant one.  So, Nona had a Sangria, I had a beer, and we shared, croquetas, and iberica y queso. The walk back to the ship just about did me in.  I was limping badly by the time I got there, every step agony in knee or ankle.  Time for rest and elevation and maybe the end of acupuncture.  It was obvious that it had broken down the defenses my body had erected to help me cope with my old injury and worsening arthritis.  Only it hadn’t given me anything to replace them.  After a couple of hours with my feet up, I was enough better to get to dinner and the comedian, Paul Adams, whom I had seen before and like.