Monday, October 31, 2016

Monday, October 31 – Hallowe’en at Sea

It was a typical sea day wherein we continued to perfect our skills at eating, Trivializing and napping.  We got closer to the leaders in Trivia today by answering 15 of 20 questions correctly.  The winners [for the third straight day] scored 17 or 18; we weren’t listening by then.  We continue to improve but, mostly, we are having fun.

The ship-wide Mariner reception was this morning at 11.  Although it is not a formal affair and required no RSVP, we received a call yesterday asking if we were coming.  We asked Roger and Barbara if they had gotten a call and they had not, so we presumed that we were finally getting our Olympic medals for sailing 500-plus days on HAL.  We passed that expensive milestone in 2015 and expected receive them on this year’s Alaska cruise, so, a year-and-a-half later, we finally got them.  The 100-day and 300-day medallions went to The Boys one year at Camp Grandma for Excellence in Diving into the Pool.  Or something.

Tonight’s entertainment was a singing group – a family, actually – who perform an ABBA tribute.  We have seen them before and enjoyed the show just as much this time as last.

TOMORROW – Still Adrift in the Atlantic

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday, October 30 – Day 2 at Sea

One of the peculiarities of frequent cruising is that you recognize people you have sailed with even if you do not know their names.  We have seen several folks who fall into this category but are not anxious to talk to them.  On the other hand, we were pleasantly surprised to see Roger and Barbara whom we met on the World [the GWV] in 2015.  We ate with them several times and enjoyed their company.  They are traveling with another woman but said they would love to join us for dinner once we leave Rome and their companion returns to the States.  Another familiar face belongs to the Port Lecturer, Barbara, also from the GWV.  We were not impressed by her then and don’t expect to have any contact with her on this trip.  Finally, we were recognized by one of the dining room staff; when we walked into the MDR for breakfast, he asked MA if had been able to get her goat cheese and basil frittata.  We were amazed since the incident referred to happened 18 months ago and he had not been our waiter. 

We have made several forays into the casino, one of the few places left for the smokers to light up.  If the haze and stench are any indicator, then the casino is doing a great business.  MA found a machine she likes but the smoker sitting at the adjacent machine made it impossible to sit there.  She was able to lose her money elsewhere.  D is still ahead on the penny slots, but that will change soon enough.

After breakfast, we worked on the NYT puzzle before “resting” for Trivia.  We set our clocks and watches ahead an hour today, so 1 pm became 2 pm.  The lost hour cost us lunch because we wanted to get to Trivia early.  We did better today [13/18], but the winners had 17 correct, so we were far back again.  In the woulda/shoulda category, we had 2 more answers but still would have lost.  Apparently the only prizes which will be awarded are HAL pins, so it is not much of a loss.

After Trivia, we got salads in the Lido, pretty much our only option since service stops at 2:30 and we didn’t leave the Crow’s Nest [the Trivia venue] until 2:35.  We returned to the comfort of the cabin for reading, writing and SCAN.

Our pre-dinner cocktail was rudely interrupted by  the migration of Pub Trivia to the Ocean Bar.  It was noisy and crowded.  We had no trouble finding a table by the bar, but the barflies were even louder than the trivia people.  We tried to answer the questions for our own amusement but could not hear half of them.  Since this seems to be the new venue, we will have to go elsewhere, probably the Crow’s Nest if it is not too crowded.

Dinner continues to be a pleasant affair.  We and the waiters have struck a mutual affection and respect; service is good and whatever bumps there were Friday have been ironed out. [MA – cabbage roll; D – roast beef, rare; both – cappuccinos].  We listened to the classical piano-violin duo in the Explorer’s Lounge before wandering to the theater to hear pianist Juan Pablo.  D thinks his last name is Subriyano because we heard him on the Prinsendam in 2011.  We were so impressed with his talent then that we bought his only CD.  He probably has more for sale in the Shops Onboard by now.

Once back in the cabin, we read and wrote, as usual, although we were up later than normal because of today’s SCAN.

TOMORROW – Sea Day #3.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday, October 29 –At Sea

There was a little rock-n-roll last night, just enough to lull us back to sleep when we got up in the middle of the night.  Seas had been much rougher as we left port but had calmed by dinner last night.  The overnight seas were just more of the same.  Skies are grey and cloudy, and there is a chance of rain.  It is not good weather for walking the deck. 

We ate breakfast in the MDR rather than the Lido buffet.  It is a much more refined atmosphere if not truly elegant.  The waitstaff is still getting its collective act together, so there were some lulls as we waited to order and then receive our food.  We were pleased that, strictly by chance, our breakfast server was Roy, our regular dinner steward.   MA was able to order her much-sought-after egg white omelet with goat cheese and basil.  She fought with the kitchen for what seemed like weeks on the World cruise to get this even though it was on the menu; often, it would appear with spinach instead of basil [well, it’s green, isn’t it?].  After breakfast, we returned to the room to read the New York Times before heading to the “showroom” to hear the guest lecturer.

We attended this morning’s lecture for two reasons.  First, we were curious about the topic and second, we wanted to “size up” the lecturer.  We’ll start with the speaker and our interest in him first.

Our friend from previous cruises, Kate Ross, was supposed to lecture on the first half of the cruise but, for complicated reasons, was not able to.  We have attended her presentations on other ships and enjoyed them very much.  Kate was supposed to join us for lunch in Florence later in the voyage.  Still, we promised Kate that we would check out the competition. 

Kate told us that HAL wanted speakers to address “destination-oriented” topics, so we couldn’t understand why today’s talk was on the extinction of the dinosaurs.  It was interesting but seemed geared to a more knowledgeable audience, with lots of scientific jargon around.  We soon discovered that this was not the first lecture in the series, and the speaker kept referring to information he had presented earlier.  There were lots of slides shown as he wandered around the stage and the pace of presentation was reminiscent of Connections programs with lots of cause and effect scenarios.  It will be interesting to see if any of his lectures are germane to this itinerary.

Background on the cruise: We are taking a 42-day cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Lauderdale by way of Athens.  However, there are passengers who boarded the Rotterdam in Boston for a 48-day voyage and New York for a 45-day trip.  There are even a few who embarked for a Montreal-Boston segment and stayed aboard for the Not-So-Grand Med.

We were not hungry for lunch after having a late breakfast, so we relaxed in the room and worked on the NYT puzzle until it was time for Team Trivia.  We had decided that we would play as a team of 2 rather than joining complete strangers to make a team of 6.  There were others who were doing the same thing, so there was no problem.  TT was chaotic, though, because the Cruise Critic group [which we are ignoring] had created teams from members who signed up.  One woman, the self-appointed Mistress of Ceremonies for this and other activities, was going around trying to figure out who belonged with whom.  She added to her own confusion by assigning non-CC people to teams only to have to kick them off because they were not members.  We sat and watched the mayhem and shook our heads.  As for the game itself, we had fun if not acumen.

While our health is fine, we went for SCANs this.  For neophytes, a SCAN is a OTSenior Citizen Afternoon Nap.  Once we dragged ourselves back to life, we dressed for tonight’s Gala Night.  Gala Night has replaced Formal Night probably because people weren’t dressing anyway.  Still, D looked like a Swiss banker in his tuxedo and MA was all sparkly in black.  The highlight at dinner was the delivery of the tempura veggies.  Our waiter Roy promised that tomorrow he will bring the teriyaki sauce which was missing tonight.  Life is good.

And so, back to the cabin where MA caught up on Facebook and D caught up the journal.

TOMORROW – Another Sea Day

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday, October 28 – Sailing Away

It was an unremarkable departure today.  On previous cruises, we have had a driver who forgot to put one of our suitcases in the limo; a driver who thought we were going to the airport; and one who drove as if he were in the In the Indy 500, going almost 80 mph while texting.  We avoided these problems by driving ourselves and leaving the car at a long-term lot near the port.  D had arranged for a discounted rate because of the length of our voyage, so it cost us less than limo and we were on our own schedule.

We left home at 10:30, were at the lot at 11:30 and on board by noon.  Lines were almost nonexistent and le to check-in was the quickest and easiest we have ever had.  The system has gotten so sophisticated that our pictures were already in the computer; they weren’t pretty but the process was faster than ever.  We were able to go straight to our cabin where we unpacked the rolling duffle we call the jet ski before going to lunch.

The ship felt deserted because we were among the early arrivals and because there were only 250 passengers aboard when the Rotterdam sailed from New York to Ft. Lauderdale.  According to a dining room manager, there will be about 1200 – 1250 people on the cruise, most of them staying for the entire trip back to Florida.  The ship holds about 1400 passengers, he said, so it is not at capacity but still pretty full.

We rested after lunch [burgers, Jon] and unpacked the rest of the luggage after the safety drill.  HAL takes the drills very seriously which was not always the case.  We have seen photographers snapping away during the drill hoping to make a sale.  Passengers no longer wear life vests to these drills because people used to trip on the dangling straps.  Everyone was quiet and attentive even though many could have given the speeches and demonstrations themselves.  One recent change is that passengers check in electronically by having there keycards scanned; this speeds the process because staff members no longer have to deal with typed lists to find and check off names.

After stowing all of our clothing and ‘stuff,’ we went to the Ocean Bar, our home away from home, for a pre-dinner drink.  Long-time readers of these blogs know that means vodka for MA and ice water for D.  From there we went directly to dinner in the Main Dining Room [hereinafter simply the MDR].  We have a table large enough to accommodate 4 people, but it is being set for just the two of us; if we make new friends, we can invite them to join us.  Our waiters, Roy from Java and Sidu from Bali, did a good job, especially for the first night of a cruise.  The assistant dining room manager stopped by and we asked if she could arrange for tempura vegetables each night [until we tire of them, at least].  Our waiters on the World Cruise did this for us and it made our companions a bit jealous.  She said she would try to work it out.  We will find out tomorrow if she was successful.

After a walk through the casino, we went “home” where MA read and worked on a crossword puzzle while D wrote today’s blog entry.

TOMORROW – The first of many sea days