Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No time for the following ...

When I was out catching the sun setting through the dock infrastructure, I thought ... enough of this.
... sunset on the dock ...

Enough picture taking.

There are many things on the ship I have wanted to do and missed.

For example, I missed getting in the jacuzzi and the swimming pool.

When it looks like this ... who would have wanted to miss this.
... an early morning peek at the pool ...

The point of a cruise is to have more activities going on, than a person can do -- the only way to make passengers happy.

I didn't get to bingo, nor to any of the trivia games.

No casino for me.

And the line dancing which I wanted to go was always at the same time as the destination lecture, which I felt I couldn't miss.

I didn't get to any of the movies ... until the last night on board.

I know how to change this, I thought.

Eighteen movies and I missed them all.
... a colourful spot for sunbathing and swimming ...

So when the last party on the promennade had died down and it was 11 pm, I slipped off to the screening room.

Me and four others ... for the screening of How to Train a Dragon.

I was the only one left in the theatre when I looked around and the credits were running by.

At 1 am, I walked down the promenade alone, all of the party goers now asleep.

Attendants were at the pizza joint and the snack bar was fully stocked.

I enjoyed looking at the baked goods behind glass.

I knew that in four weeks, I would be wishing, I were back here.

But the last night on board?

When the movie was over?

I couldn't put one thing on a plate ... even for tomorrow.

Perhaps, next cruise.

I am topped up for now ... and happy.



Bird says, "Hello, Wyona."
This is not my preferred way of spending a morning on the balcony.

Taking pictures of birds.

But by the time I got out there, the birds were coming in, trying to get a few crumbs of croissants right out of Wyona's hands.

Hard not to grab the camera for they come by in singles, and then in groups.

To get a balcony or not to get a balcony.

That is the question.

It is a bit more money.

And do you want to spend your money hanging over the side of it so many times -- the morning, the evening.

I have liked the balcony.

We slip out there early in the morning when we dock and hang over the edge, watching the ropes thrown onto shore.

We sit out there for small increments of 10 minutes, 15 minutes, enjoying the fresh breeze and the wonderful warm air.

We bring our snacks back and eat out on the balcony.

I took out some blankets and slept there one afternoon.

Oh, so sweet ... cruising, even with the birds.


The Airstrip at Gibralter

  ... plane lands on the short runway in Gibralter ...
I had attended the destination lecture for Gibraltar where I learned that they have one of the shortest runways in the world.  And one of the smallest pieces of land -- Gibraltar being about one mile by three miles until you run into Spanish territory.  In fact the road the separates the two countries runs right through the airport runway, so all of the cars have to stop and wait while a plane lands.

I was on deck watching a man take a video of the land.  "Whoops," he said, "my camera just ran out of memory."

Too bad for him.    But my camera was fine.

Thus, I was pleased to see this plane come in, and even more pleased to get a shot as it landed successfully.

Short runway!

Formal Night

 ... my cruise clothing coach ...

Wyona’s previous cruises made her more aware of formal night than I, and long before I got on board she was making sure I would be appropriately dressed. She doesn’t pass by a rack of formal wear that has a 75% off sale sign on it.  Before we left on the cruise she had seen that I had dress-up black to wear for the nights when formal dining occurs and even for some nights when we dress up and no one else on the ship does.  The entertainment value of doing dress-ups is high for two little prairie girls who grew up either watering wild crocuses or using her mother’s canning jars to keep car of the frogs she caught in the pond.

Last night, the men were in pleated white shirts, black bow ties, and there were many stylish black suits as well as formal tuxedos on the scene at night.  As well, the ship’s cruise director wore a red sequined suit, something I have only seen on stage before. The women sparkle with rhinestones and glitter.  Even if there were no food involved, it would still be a grand evening, with even the waiters in splendid finery and a piano/string trio playing on the mezzanine of a fine two-story staircase. 

 At 7:45 pm, suddenly the dining room was empty.  “Hey, what are they running off to that we are missing,” I asked. 

“The theatre,” said Wyona.  ”They must be vying for each other for those theatre seats.  Time for us to stop the fine dining and queue up with the rest. ” 

We got our places in row G seats 1, 2 and 3 and settled back for our usual 45 minute nap between a formal supper and the entertainment. 

But there was action 2 rows ahead of us.  The two people on the end of  Row E were leaping up and down, letting people into that row.  Seats were being save – about ten of them, and as couples would come to take them good naturedly, the people on the end would bob up and down.  Now there is a large electronic sign high on both side of the curtain that says in large florescent letters:  out of courtesy to other patrons, the saving of seats is strictly prohibited and not allowed under any circumstances.  The words NOT ALLOWED are in florescent bold as opposed to just florescent.  Still, the seats were being saved in front of us, until someone came marching down the isle with her friend, bobbed past the two on the end, and went to take those seats, since the saving of them is strictly prohibited. 

“These seats are saved,” said the one woman.

“You aren’t allowed to save seats,” said the new comer, pointing high to the sign.

“I am saving them.”

“I am taking them.”  The argument went back and forth, with the woman who had come in to take the seats, finally acquiescing and saying, “I will give you the benefit of the doubt.”  But on the way out, another person in the save-sies group blasted at her, “Well, I am nearly 100 years old.”

“Well, I am too,” said the woman who had been leaving, but now turned back to take that seat again and reiterating, “You can’t save seats.  I am taking these.”

The theatre is broken up into quadrants, waiters going up and down the aisles and delivering pre-theatre drinks and cocktails, which fit nicely into the arms of a person’s chair.  One of the waiters must have alerted one of the Assistant Cruise Directors that there was trouble down in front, for a handsome blonde lad in a tux was down trying to sort out this mess, and shadowing him was the second in command of all of the directors.  “I apologize.  I know we are crowded.  I am so sorry this has happened.  But you can’t save the seat,” said the first assistant director, siding with the women who was taking the seats. 

By now the people on our isle and the isle behind us were taking bets on how the fight ahead of us was going to end, Wyona, turning backward to report to the row behind us, and keeping the people there apprised of all of the initial action that they had been missing. 

The end couple were still bobbing up and down, letting people in and out, for the woman with the courage to take the seat that ought not to have been saved, wasn’t followed by her friend, who slipped quietly back out of the row and away to some other place in the theatre.  But someone else looking for a single slipped was in there, and before we knew it, the woman who had been there for 45 minutes, saving seats for all of her friends hopped out of her seat and huffed off, scattering more scurrilous words along her way as she left.  And all of this going on, dressed as we were in our best formal attire.

I thought the whole event was over and laid my head on the backrest, hoping I could get enough sleep in the next ten minutes to stay awake for the show.   But the man behind us sounded, “Round Two”, at which point we looked down to see that the end couple had bobbed up again, to let an angry husband into the row, who was shouting and looked as though he was ready to knee-cap the woman who had chased his wife out of the auditorium.  Apparently he had arrived back from his stateroom to finish the battled off.  

“I am not afraid of you,” shouted the tiny woman at the large man looming over her, the end couple no longer bobbing  up and down again, but just perched on the end of the seats, knowing that someone else had to come out of the row, though they didn’t know who it would be.

Greg was the happiest of all to see the house lights go down.  “Greg is wanting to give up his seat to anyone, just to have the quarrel over,” Wyona whispered to me. 

And the show? 

Was it good? 

Yes, every bit as good as the pre-show entertainment of the passengers dressed in their formal attire fighting with each other for the best seats in the house.  

The idea of British Comedy -- brought to a new high for me.

Quoting Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson said, “The grand objective of travelling is to see the shore of the Mediterranean”.   
Mediterranean Sunset

I agree with him.  

The water is blue.  

The sand is clean.  

The sunsets are spectacular.  

The sunrises are amazing with their pinks and reds, sometimes with beams of light piercing the clouds and travelling down long paths through the air and onto the water.  

... from the jogging deck ...
People have come to this sea for millenniums – either as merchants or as invaders.  

I have come for different reasons.

Unlike Samuel Johnson, I have been thinking that the grand objective of travelling is to taste every new food on the menu.  

I try to let nothing escape me:  duck a l’orange was on one menu.  

The next day there was duck liver in a butter tart crust.  I told Wyona that what I have to do is taste what I want and leave the rest.  I was through after ¼ of the duck liver tart, but had to keep myself going until I had finished ¾ of it – just in case that taste never came my way again.   That was a little too much duck liver.

Mushy peas is the bottom of the list of foods that interest me, but Wyona took some of them on her plate a couple of days ago – just to see if they are as horrid as I say. 

“Taste them from my plate.  They are really good.”  But when she went back to them later in the meal she said, “”I can’t believe I put those in my mouth.”  The reason that mushy peas comes to mind is that there is a burger bar (turkey burgers, beef burgers, chicken burgers), as well as all the condiments a person would put on a burger.  There is also a huge plate of English fries to add as a side-dish, ... and mushy peas.  Sometimes I stand there before I plate up my own food, just watching to see if people really do take mushy peas.  The answer is yes – people take as much as eight ounces of them, and they drop them right on top of their fries. 

We were talking about this later. There is no way to account for the tastes of home in all of us.  Greg said that he remembers lasagne at his house – there was always that as a comfort food.  Wyona can remember the taste of warm pie.

On this point, while we were walking in Gibraltar, I overhead this conversation:

Woman 1:  I have not been able to buy any ox liver lately.

Woman 2: And I haven’t been able to find any ox tongue or gizzard.

Woman 1: It makes you wonder what they are doing with all of the ox liver, tongue and gizzard.  Why is it in such short supply.

Questions I would never ask about food!

In the overall scheme of travelling this cruise, I have enjoyed the 11 am bridge lessons as much as anything.  Probably those and the morning walks around the deck would be in my top two choices to repeat again. 

I have to add that the destination lectures have come in at a close third.  When we were learning about the Greeks being conquered again and again over the centuries, this gem dropped.  The written word was not plentiful, and stories and myths that were memorized and passed down were highly valuable.  In fact, conquers gave those who had huge chunks of stories memorized, more food than those who didn’t have their memory work done.

Given that formula, I would be among the dying now, since I don’t have too much memorized anymore.  I rely on the internet.  I had no idea that I go to do an internet search so many times in the day until I got on this boat, and the access to the internet is limited since it costs about a dollar a minute.  I try not to go to google on board, since I am likely to get trapped into many more minutes than I wish to pay for, when I need to answer a question ... and then another ... and then another.
I am leaving the evening entertainment right out of the formula of things I have loved on the boat, because it is lovely to go to a show every night, and then to go to it again, when the second performance is given.  The evening entertainment is pleasurable – a nice meal, and then a short walk to the theatre for 18 days.  Yup.  I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that.

Three thousand, six hundred people can get on this boat – and when it is full, 4,200.  But the evening venue for the shows only holds 1,800 people.  So when the shows are done twice, there still isn’t much room in the theatre if everyone tries to go to the first showing, which in this passage everyone seems to want to do.  This is the last of the Mediterranean crossings and we are a group that is 80% British, and among those, many who are trying to squeeze in the last 18 days of a lost summer. 

But given how old most of that group are ... they like the early dining and the early show and while they can’t run for most of the day, they can make a dash to get those theatre seats before their mates do.

The Beatles Celebration

... somewhere ... over the rainbow ... way up high ...
The day had been lovely.  

A rainbow on the seas after we missed the precipitation that the dark clouds were holding.

Wyona and Greg wanted to hear the Big Band playing in the Pyramid Lounge last night.  I was torn as to whether I wanted to hear the Beatles Celebration, or just go back to my room, having missed big parts of that Beatles era, I thought. 
“Why don’t you just go to the end of the first concert?  You can catch the last 20 minutes of it, and see if you want to go back to the second concert,” said Wyona.  

 Now that was a brilliant idea, I thought, so I sashayed past people who were already living up for the second concert and found a seat in the first showing, seeing enough to think I might take in the whole event again.   

These Beatles impersonators reminded me that those four original lads are the ones who changed the face of Rock and Roll forever.  I thought I didn’t know any of the songs from the era.  But I heard “Come On”, “I Wanna Hold your Hand”, “She Loves You”, “A Hard Days Night”, “Yesterday”, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club”, and “Something in the Way She Moves”. 

Women danced in the isles to the left side of me.  The man next to me seemed to sleep through the whole concert, which gave him the energy to stand up and twist with the rest of the audience at the closing of the show.   

Yes.  I went back for the second showing of the evening.

A rainbow in every day and multi-coloured music in every evening.



Greg has a favourite joke from the cruise, as do I.  Wyona says that the one I love is an old one, so it doesn’t hold charm for her like it does for me.  My joke is the one where the comedian says, I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.  When they wake up in the morning, they know that is the best they are going to feel all day.  I like the joke because when I wake up in the morning, I do know that I will feel a little better than this, as soon as I warm up to the day and get my muscles more flexible.  But still, ... in general broad terms ... nope, I am not going to feel much better all day than when I wake up, and I am lucky for right now when I wake up, I feel brilliant.

Greg’s joke is also about good health.  The question goes, how are you today.  The answer is, I am not feeling all that well.  I went to my friend’s  funeral yesterday, and I caught the wreath.

Now a word about having Mary on board with us on the last cruise.  We had a lovely foursome at dinner for 12 days and were so busy doing other things on the ship that we didn’t have time to make many friends.  Mary and I, Greg and Wyona did have mirroring balconies – so if there was something to be seen on the other side of the boat, we could run from one side to the other, using the phone line to alert each other to land seen on one side of the boat or mountains or islands.  Now no one calls us on the phone – only a wrong number or two.  For us, to have someone knock at our door is a big deal on this trip, even though it is only the steward returning Greg’s laundry to the room.  We invite him right in and have a visit. 

We have made a few friends, but remember, our 3 supper mates left us to join others they knew on the cruise, old friends.  

Thus, our new friendship group is small.  We are so lazy, it didn't even get into the double digits this cruise.

Wyona occasionally runs into old dance partners, like Peter, who likes to give her a kiss on each cheek when he sees her.  I don’t know how she does it.  Greg is right at her side and still other men are tumbling over her. Is it her subtle make-up,? The rows of ruffles she adds to her clothing? Her gold wrist jewellery?  Her refined dance steps?

I only get questions from passengers and crew like “Madam, are you lost?”  That is what one of the stewards asks when I get to the end of the ship to the sun-room suites, which suites  go no where and have no elevator running up and down the floors beside them.

This morning even the water fountain on Deck 12 was not cooperating for me.  We were going 15 knots an hour, and the wind was 68 kilometers an hour when I was walking the jogging track this morning.  I was having to hold myself from going forward too fast when the wind was at my back, and having to dig into the wind to make forward movement when I was going the other way.  When I stopped to get water at the fountain, instead of it making a nice arc, it blew straight up and then over to my wrist and down the sleeve of my jacket.  Only one other serious runner was on deck.  

 ... an evening sunset ... to me ... breathtaking ...
I found it easy to stay there and not duck inside, imagining that when I get home it will be 20 below whichever way the wind is blowing, and knowing there will be ice under my feet.
Thus, I thought I was still having a good time.  

Today the sea is 2,000 metres deep beneath us, and this voyage has taken us 4,000 miles from Southampton to Rome and back.   

All at sea level.

What an adventure.

The Captain's Lunch

Nov 26, 2011

“How did they get in without an invitation?”

That was Greg’s question tonight. 

The three of us received an invitation to the captain’s lunch – meant for pinnacle, diamond plus, diamond and platinum members.  A payoff for returning patrons.  Lucky for me, I have reached one of those categories because I tag along with Wyona and Greg and get to have my name put on invitations with theirs.

Before this first event for me, they would go off to hear the Captain talk – everyone in the room with a glass of champagne in their hands, or off to the Captain’s brunch or hors oeuvres with the Captain. Now this invitation had my name on it as well, and said in a kind way, in order to be admitted, the card had to be shown at the door. 

And yes, we were checked at the door.  When I went in, about five steps ahead of Greg and Wyona, instead of offering me that sanitizing cloth that everyone has to rub on their hands before they go in to the dining room, the one the woman was holding one in her hand, instead of putting it in mine, she held it behind her back and she asked me, “How could I help you today?” 

Now I had dressed up for the occasion (was smart casual) and my name was on that invitation. I had on my new cameo, the one I have been practising wearing, the one I wanted one ever since I was a child.  Older women would wear ones in the late 1940’s, ones that I would admire and in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, even 50’s, I would go by Birks and looking longing at samples in the windows, wondering when my time (enough $$$) would come to get one. 

When I was with Mary in Pompeii, I bought one and have taken to the practise of wearing it, since I have so many decades that I missed wearing one in and must make up for it to get the cost per wearing down.  Even that piece of jewellery was ready and on for the Captain’s specialty lunch.

“I am here for the Captain’s lunch,” I explained.  “My invitation is with them,” I answered pointing to Wyona and Greg.  The sanitizing cloth came immediately to my hand, along with a lovely welcome, though the invitation was securitized as they passed it to the gatekeeper on their side of the isle.
We were seated and soon another couple joined us in the MacBeth dining room.   

“How many cruises have you been on,” said Wyona and when they answered this was their first one, the rest of us handled the news with aplomb, not missing a beat but as Greg said, how did they get in --and asking them how they were enjoying it, would they take another and where were they from, what shows they had enjoyed onboard ... to which the answer was they were from Lutton and after the shows, the bars are so full they can’t find a place to get a drink. That is about it for how much conversation they offered. Greg worked hard for the rest of the meal, keeping the dialogue going, but he couldn’t get any information from them ... about the man’s work, their family, what else they liked to do. 

We had seen someone turned away from the dining room the night before, miffed and loudly arguing with the person who had denied them entrance, but every Cruise Compass reminds people of appropriate attire: bare feet, shorts, tank tops and t-shirts are not permitted in the dining room.  This couple, however, made it passed the gatekeepers and the couple were wearing shorts and t-shirts and without a captain’s invitation, unlike me, dressed to the nines and still stopped. 

Events like these take a lot of time for the three of us try to figure out how that just happened.  Did they make it through because they were so old no one stopped them? Perhaps they are so deaf they didn’t hear someone telling them to stop which is Greg’s guess.  A good guess given they only nodded and smiled at him all dinner when he tried to get conversation going?   

Or did they accidently take their place in this dining room, since it is their usual assigned one for evening sitting and they just missed knowing which meal they were going to and came to lunch instead of supper?   

Who knows, but the whole incident makes the three of us burst out laughing when we talk about it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cadiz, Spain

Cadiz church lit in the background
... from the top of the ship ...
Why couldn't we find it from the ground?
November 25, 2011

I saw the Cathedral from the top of the ship this morning as I was taking my walk.  I couldn’t see any clear path that lead to it – only a maize of streets.  How hard can it be to find something that high, I thought as I was walking the deck.  But as soon as Wyona, Greg and I got on the cobbled streets, the Cathedral disappeared from our view.  We walked through narrow streets, enjoying the wrought iron balconies, the tiled walls of the the plazas and the marble under our feet and searching for a way through the streets to the church.

The entrance fee was three euros for Spanish pensioners, and five euros for all others except those in groups for whom the price dropped to three Euros again.  “Do you want to form a group and get in a little cheaper?” asked Wyona to people behind us who were also looking at the entrance fee. 

And that is how we made our way into the cathedral for 3 euros where we spent a quiet Friday afternoon trying to see what it is about the neo-classical style of the 19th century that is definitely Spanish. The old stone out of which the church is built is porous and  disintegrating.  The ceiling is falling into the nave of the church.  A fine net is strung from one end of the church to the other to keep that ceiling from falling on the worshipers and the travellors as well. I was trying to figure out what about the design of the church was definitely Spanish – a square border, the corners of which all had squares in them, but which were definitely offset and not symmetrical, for example. 

The church also houses the tomb of Manuel de Falla, which is why there was a portrait of a musician, obvious because of the notation manuscripts around him in the painting.  “Falla?” said Greg.  “Does anyone know this musician?”

“Fie-ya,” I could hear the announcer on CBC saying.  But then I couldn’t remember if I should pair him up with the Firebird Suite or with something else.  Where, oh, where is the internet when I need it.  The same thing happened at lunch today.  We had brandied lattice cups that held lemon perrot.  I could identify the waffle-latticed cups but not the lemon perrot it held – this sharp delicious lemon flavoured confection, but what about it means perrot?  I will probably even have forgotten the question by the time I get back to my blessed internet.  I had no idea how many times a day I go to it to find out the answer to some question, which no longer burns in me when I have discovered the answer.

Greg left us to explore Cadiz on his own.  Ever since Italy he has been looking for a lemon pastry that escaped him there.  Wyona and I like to travel down the narrow old streets.  I had gone to the destination lecture about Cadiz and looked at the Port Explorer, published by the ship.  I had gone to sleep in the lecture, but I didn’t know if I was out for just a few seconds or for much longer.  I did remember enough that I could identify the 17th century stone walls, a spotted the Coastal Walking Path, located on the Atlantic side of Cadiz, and when we passed the Spanish Plaza, I could hear the words of the lecturer – “Every Spanish town has a main plaza.”  Wyona and I stood for a long time looking at the monuments, celebrating liberal assembly.  Burned into my brain was the man on the square who stood holding a long banner onto which these words were written:  all I want is what others have – a democracy to live in.  Living in one,  how often do I forget that others don’t have that.

Passenger watching.  That is what we do a lot of.  When I was first boarding I saw an old couple, dressed absolutely fit to kill.  Beautifully tailored cothes and I one point when I looked at the clothes carefully, it seemed he garments were hanging on skeletons.  Wyona saw the same couple often – they must be Celebrity Pinnacle Passengers, for they are always early to the theatre and get the reserved seats for people who have travelled with the line often, and always impeccably dressd – she with a lovely hat and matching coat; he with a tailored evening coat and a beautiful scarf at his neck.  Tehy are so old that the two hardly have any meat left on their bones.  I have no idea how they got their luggage on board for they look too fragile to even carry themselves along.”  Wyona pointed the woman out to me one night in a show.  There is a box of seats especially reserved for Platinum members (people who have cruised for over 80 days are diamond plus members and the platinums are above that).  This time the woman was wearing a sequined sparkling cap to die for, one like women wore in the days of the flappers.  The third time we saw them was at an elevator around lunchtime.  The woman had a hat on again, a beautiful rhinestone piece on its headband is what I was admiring.  The elevator came.  I saw someone gently take her shoulders, turn them 180 degrees and say softly in her ear, “The elevator is this way, dear.”  And then push her gently forward.  Then her husband, again in a lovely suit with a silk scarf at his neck, slowly tugged on her hand and she took tiny steps, barely staying upright, into the elevator. 

That is how long I want to cruise.  All the way until I don’t know which way to the elevator, though I still want to be able to put on a beautiful silk dress and hat to look good for that journey to the elevator.

A Sea Day

People laugh when I say that sea days are so busy that I don’t have time to eat.  Wyona and Greg don’t have time for it, either.  There is a destination lecture, a bridge lecture, a dance class, a lecture on historical events around the port we will be entering.  Then if I take a mile walk around the deck before all of this happens, and try to get to the evening entertaining – well, those days are exhausting. 

The Bridge Lectures are attended by the same group of people – the others meet again in the afternoon to practise their skills with duplicate bridge on each other. But Wyona and Greg go off to dance lessons instead. If Wyona does go to play, and Greg goes to dance alone, she ends up getting the high board points, but she claims the stress of having to do so well wears her out for the rest of the day. She comes back to the room, throws herself on the bed, and gives me strict instructions.  Vehemently she says, “Don’t ever let me go up there and play bridge again”.  Not believing I have that power, I have no idea what tools I am going to use to stop her.

Still, I am enjoying learning about the rule of 20, the rule of 15, the rule of 11 and the instructions on the four rules of what to lead should you get to play the first card.  “The gods of bridge will punish you if you don’t memorize these four leads,” the instructor said, looking up to the heavens. “And I mean it.  You will be punished.”

This threat scares me more than it scares Wyona.”

Bubble and Squeak

The menus are fascinating in the dining room.  We met one set of travelers, a man, his wife, her sister and a friend – something like our configuration, who told us they never go to the dining room.  Too rich for them, they said.  We tried to figure out if that meant there was too much fat in the foot – but that couldn’t be, given what we have seen in the ship’s buffet outlet, where they prefer to eat.   The day we spoke to them, we told them at on the menu was featuring British food.  Here is what the explanation on the menu said:  sausage, bacon, chicken, lamb, and bubble and squeak, all on the same plate.  Wyona ordered the dish.  I go with John Gilchrist's analysis of British Cuisine:  when you find a good restaurant for British cuisine, give him the name of it, and he will put it on the list of places he takes people when he does his courses on the cuisines of the world.  At any rate – what does too rich mean when we had read the day before, a dish that offered bacon, sausage and lamb, all on one side of a plate, vegetables on the other. We asked the waiter what bubble and squeak meant and he listed the vegetables that were being served that day, which explanation didn’t clarify what bubble and squeak really means.  But the traveling four (whom we met on a second floor shopping centre of Naples), told us exactly what bubble and squeak is.  You have thanksgiving dinner.  The next day you take all of the left-overs, put them in a pan on the top of the stove.  Stir it until it bubbles and squeaks and then eat it.
... another lovely evening on the Mediterranean ...
Most of the other days, the menu specializes in some food that one might find on shore.  

The dining room is decorated with rich dark mahogany wood trimming the walls, a scarlet colour on the walls, sconces giving ambient lighting between the windows that stretch out with a sea view, and sometimes at supper the boat is leaving, so we watch the sail out as we order from the menu.  

 I am not going to forget this when I get home, for this part of the trip is still amazing to me – night after night, food that I haven’t had to buy, prepare, serve or clean-up after.   

Every evening seems like a miracle.



 ... Storm in Gibraltar ...
I had never seen so many ships floating to the side of a port.
I took an early morning walk on the deck, long before the sun rose.  Since I am coming back on this boat in January, I decided to test out the hot tub – find out where the towels are, where the shower is, and which tubs are the hot tubs as opposed to the Jacuzzis.  Before I left that deck I went to the window to see what was making the teen-agers press their noses to the panes.  What I saw is what they were seeing – dolphins jumping near the boat.  Then the captain came on the boat loud speaker to tell us that what we were seeing starboard side was Africa and portside the large rock was the Rock of Gibraltar.  Those were two firsts for me – Africa 22 miles away and the steep face of the Rock of Gibraltar right before me.  I had dressed warmly to go up on deck, but not warmly enough.  The gales from the Atlantic were pushing through into the Mediterranean and I was leaning into the wind to get to the front of the ship.

The captain makes essentially the same announcement each day – he tells us where we are, what the weather will be like, how they made it through the storm by finding an opening in the wind channels (as opposed to other ships around us who missed that secret passage), and then he reminds people to wash their hands at every opportunity.  “I know you do it at home, but on board, I want you to do it four times as much,” he said.  And today – eat onboard, rather than on shore so that you know your food has been prepared properly.

I don’t know how many people took his warning, but the idea of going to the windjammer, finding a spot overlooking the Rock of Gibralter and enjoying a leisurely lunch before going off the ship seems like a good idea to us.  However, we only made it to the elevator when were hear the 9 piece big band sound of the Brilliance of the Seas Orchestra playing on deck.  Though it was noon and time for our first meal of the day, we changed course and went to the ships mall and promenade where they were practising.  The singers were overhead, singing from a sixth floor bridge; the orchestra was on the 5th floor walkway.  Greg and Wyona danced to the music.  I stood with other people who had also stopped for the show, some of them dance teachers, swaying to the music and luxuriating in the sound of big band in the middle of the day.

“Just like Oxford Street!  But with a big rock behind.”

I had to agree with Wyona.  Gibraltar. The money is pounds sterling.  The accents are British.  The shops are British:  Marks and Spensers, and Mother Care.  And the bakeries?  Where else could a person find this morning pancakes soaked in syrup and waiting for someone to buy them.  When we weren’t off the ship and into the town square – there it was – this little colony that belongs to Britain advertizing its wares:  Roy's English Fish and Chip.  What seems Spanish is the oranges hanging from the trees – well only on the tops of the trees.  No oranges left where anyone could reach them.  Ever since we have been on board, I bring oranges back to the cabin from the restaurant.  I developed my taste for an infinite variety of oranges when I was in Spain with Bonnie and David.  Our trip up the high street was regular for the three of us: Greg stopping in to see the interior of the churches along the way, Wyona and me flitting from window to window, scarf counter, to scarf counter, and checking out with each other exactly where we have seen that scarf before, and at what price.  If we are seeing it at three times the price at which we  bought it in Naples, then we are happy.

Algeciras – that is the name of the Spanish city nearest to Gibraltar.  The landing strip begins on the English side and is short, going from the British Colony to Spanish holdings.  A road that divides the two countries crosses right across the runway, so barricades come down when a plane is coming in. If you are going from Gibraltar to Algeciras, build in a safety factor of 20 minutes in case you get caught on the wrong side of the barrier and have to wait for a plane or two to land.

Perhaps we are the only people who love Napoli. Edin, our evening dining room server, said that one of his colleagues bought a beautiful new computer, checked it out in the shop to see that it was working perfectly, watched it put back in its package and when she got back on board, all she had inside of the cardboard packaging was a rock of the similar size and shape, though she had left her good money behind in the shop. 

Edin said that a Ferrari came close to taking his life, when he had barely stepped off of the ship.  Pedestrians have no rights – and some of them no life after they have tried to cross a street.  Indeed, even the comics take swipes at the Nepalese.  What is the best way to get across to the other side of the street in Naples? 


Be born there.

Dance Lessons

Wyona just happens to have rumba music on her computer.  So she and Greg are out on the balcony practicing their steps from the rumba lesson today – it is not just about getting the foot to come down on the second, rather than the first beat, but also keeping the shoulders straight, the hands in the right position and the knees bending and straightening at the appropriate times.  Greg is laughing for he is demonstrating the hand position the instructor told them men they must take, a position Greg has mocked in the past.  Finally they are laughing so hard they have to come inside and rest.  Sailing the seas should not be this much fun.  I am glad she can still walk.  We were hurrying to the ice show today, she came around a corner in the casino and her foot caught the bottom of a stool that was not pushed back into the slot machine it belonged to.  She took a dive, flat out, to the casino floor, inflicting rug burns as she dove to the ground.  I was afraid she was hurt.  But no, two hours later is is out dancing on our balcony.

A few days ago, before we left the ship to explore Gagliara, we went to have lunch in the Windjammer.  Greg likes to have a good view.  To facilitate him, Wyona circled the whole restaurant, trying out four possible tables.  When we finally came to a stop we had a view of the bay, a river running through it, and a bridge spanning the bay that was full of trucks taking goods to be loaded on ships.  In the bay was a circle of black objects.  At first glance, I thought I was seeing crows sitting on the water.  Greg guessed what we were seeing was sea lions.  Wyona thought they might be buoys, but they were unevenly spaced and had too much movement.  I was interested in knowing what we were seeing and asked one of the men who was clearing tables, but he had never stopped long enough to look at the water.  Greg approached one of the two officers who was also having lunch in that restaurant.  A mussel and oyster farm, he said.  Nets are hooked to the bottom of the buoys, thus they were stationary, yet still showing that gentle motion.  I went back to tell the server, but he looked at me with such amazement, I knew he thought I was putting him on.  So I dragged him over to Greg.  I knew the server was not going to believe a woman on this one, which really made me laugh, ... for I would have believed him.

Naples, a Second View

Nov 21, 2011

The tune to which we sing, the ants go marching one by one, is the tune of the rally song that we heard from the unemployed, marching by us in a public protest.  We were trying to get back to the ship before it left, and while we didn’t want to retrace the path that had led us to the wholesalers street for the sale of scarves, that ended being the best way, when Wyona stopped a passerby to enquire, first, do you speak English, and then, which is the best way back to the port.

We parted with Greg earlier.  He went left to explore the older buildings of Napoli.  We went right to explore local markets.  Greg has a good sense of mapping each town we enter, and he set us off on a main street.  I am slower these days for two reasons.  When the city is new, there is so much more for me to be aware of: the right way to cross a street, the weave of the pavement, in the case of Naples, the disintegrating buildings, the laundry hung from balconies, the dry dusty smell of construction as wheel barrows are loaded with sand in the middle of the sidewalk, and pushed into the foyer of buildings that have been gutted and are being refurbished from the ground up.  The local pastries were layers of phyllo, loaded with fruit or creams or even meat fillings.  The median price point of the confections hovered at about one euro, the price at which I want to try buy five and take just one bite of each.

Wyona had passed by a street market where she bought a beautiful watch when we were in Naples with Mary.  Now we were back, and looking again for that market, but stopping along the way to inspect the goods that were out on the streets and to get a sense of what prices people were paying.  Ten euro someone asked for a scarf that we had bought elsewhere for five euro – and with that we passed on, but couldn’t find the street market.  Finally we saw people closing up their stalls and followed them, which was the right thing to do, for they led us to the wholesaler.

The Bangladesh retailer spoke only his own language and Italian.  My English and Wyona’s French were no good to him, but a friend of the retailer with limited English was hanging out in the shop and he translated for us – all scarves were 5 Euro, the right price.  We began to pick out new patterns we wanted to buy.  We asked the friend, “How old are you?”

“Thirty-four,” he answered.

“How old is the shopkeeper?”, we continued.

“Twenty-three,” he said.

“A mere baby,” we said.  We had watched him when some Italian customers came in.  “All Bangladesh are good.  All British and Canadian are good.  All Italians steal,” they told us in broken English

Wyona laughed.  “No, there are good people and bad people everywhere.”

“No,” said the young shopkeeper.  “I have to keep my eyes on the Italians when they come in for they will shoplift from me.  I had to keep my eye on both of the customers for they come in together, for one tries to distract me and the other puts stuff in their shirt pocket,” and he pantomimes how that is done for us. 

“You mean like this,” Wyona says, and she tucks some jewellery in her pocket, holding her pocket way out so he is sure to see, and making him laugh.  I ask myself the question, how does she keep doing this and never ending up in jail.

“And how old are you?” the guy with some English asked.

“Sixty-seven and she is the old one at seventy-one,” said Wyona, pointing at me.

“Jesus Christ!”  

I don't think the shop keeper was really swearing.  But the English swear words from his mouth rang between the shop walls expressing utter amazement at what he was seeing -- the two of us shopping as though we were 20 year olds.  Maybe it is a sign that Wyona and I should work at fitting the usual stereotypes, which we aren't read to do yet.

I expressed some anxiety about food this morning.  For two mornings in a row, I have been ready to eat breakfast, just at the 45 minute space during which the four large dining rooms are closed because they are getting ready to serve their lunch menu. The three boats have been different – but none of the other two every close the dinning

Bravo, bravo, brave, said three times.  That is what the captain says to begin and end the noon hour drills that occur for the staff.   I have seen cooks in their white hats, and plumbers in their blue jump suits going to their assigned stations when I have been on the ship at noon and this happens.

The passengers have their first and only drill immediately after coming on board and before the ship debarks.  We all go to our assigned stations without our life jackets, to get a feel for what we would do in an actual emergency. 

As well, I have watched them take lower the lifeboats and do obligatory drills with them.  Further, we used some of them to taxi us in from the boat to the port entrance when we were in Croatia.  But today ... things were different.  

... dummy on floor, successfully raised out of water with a big hook ...
“What is that out in the water, Greg?”, I asked.  “A boat?  It looks like a body, which isn’t making me feel all that good?”  We watched for a little longer, and the object floated closer to us – a dummy, floating in the water.  Then we heard the staff emergency drill begin with Bravo, bravo, brave and watched a lifeboat lowering into the water.  “This is what a balcony is for,” I thought, “to get to watch procedural drills that I never imagined I would see.”  

The dummy kept floating to the east.  The life boat began to speed to the west.  

Passengers from all of the balconies began to wave, yell, whistle and shout, “No, not that way.  Over here!  The dummy is over here.  You are going the wrong way,” all of us imagining now that we were that dummy floating in the water and that the lifeboat was headed away instead of toward us. 

The orange boat circled back around and someone with a long stick that ended  with a sharp hook reached out to bring in the dummy – it looked to me like if I didn’t die from drowning, I might die from infection  from that stick scraping against my body in the rescue.  The exercise ended when the captain cried out again, “Bravo, bravo, bravo.”  

I am not all that sure that the crew should have been congratulated in that way today, given that it took all of us in the balconies to help them find the dummy in the water.  And it never did get CPR -- which I am sure it needed!


The Unoffical Guide to Cruises

The Unoffical Guide to Cruises, by Kay and Bob Showker – that is the book Greg gave Wyona for Christmas.  Who better to receive its 11 Edition than someone who already has her cruises booked through 2013?  Greg carried the book with him on our trip and I know on which shelf it resides in the cabin.  The book is his source of facts and figures whenever another cruise boat passes by us:   when it was built, at what cost and what class of people use any line.  The question came up at lunch – wasn’t there a ship being built on which people could buy cabins, just like one might buy a condo, and the idea is to cruise your life away.  The Unofficial Guide confirmed, yes it had been built, yes, it is cruising the ocean from port to port.  What an idea!  Sell all you have that won’t fit into a cabin, and enjoy the rest of your days on the high seas.  We went through a storm last night.  Greg was up at 3 am, watching the lightening.  He said it was the first time he had ever been in his room and had the room pass through a storm, as opposed to the idea of the storm doing the passing by and his room remaining stationary.