March 10, 2019

Cruise Trip Log

Up by 7am for this travel day and grateful for the (rare) multiple hours before a flight. 2:40 flight so don’t uber till 12:40. Started packing at 8:30; by 8:45 headed out with dogs for a last walk, then off to pet kennel (faulty GPS directions annoying, coupled with navigation difficulties on the new car). Finally got there and Max was all in, loved the idea, while Maris wanted to head back home.

More packing, short elliptical workout and shower and - voila! - by 11:40 all done and ready. All the overhead accomplished (meanwhile Doug and Jean have already been in Fort Lauderdale for hours!). But I wasn’t keen on getting there early - it’s surprisingly difficult to pack, get dogs dropped off, etc.. on a work day before an early getaway day. Or so I like to think. Nice to have shower, food and java in me. Ready to rest!

So Doug and Jean got there early and drank and partied and played badminton all day and too tired to come over to the mermaid show (actual live “mermaids” - females with fins - swimming in a tank at a restaurant at our hotel). If you’re too tired for mermaids, you’re too tired for life. Seems very Vegas-y. And in fact, this hotel has hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Marilyn Monroe, and, during the 1960s, the New York Yankees during their spring trainings. Hostess said bar is identical to how it was orginally. Doug had gotten ripped off by not staying at our nice hotel. Some fly-by-night intermediary website cancelled his reservation.

A woman came around at The Wreck Bar to round up signatures of everyone in the bar in order to appear on TV. We were planning on leaving since we just finished eating but were tempted to stick around for the sheer spectacle of it. Only in Florida! We signed the waiver, and I tried to get Doug and Jean to come but understandably they exhausted from their trip - Phyllis had gotten up at 5am the past two mornings. It was kind of funny to see Jeannie teasing Doug in her texts about his lack of energy despite being four years younger than her. Funny because Doug is usually the one with all the late night energy teasing Jean or me. But 50 aint’ 30, that’s for sure.

The (un)reality TV show is centered around female wrestlers, WWE. They didn’t look like wrestlers, that’s for sure, being dressed up, wearing TV pancake makeup, and looking more svelte and than bulked - more Housewives of L.A. than Hulk Hogan. For awhile I couldn’t understand what professional wrestlers had to do with a mermaid show (were they going to be mermaids for the night?) but it became obvious when around 9:15 we suddenly had the four “characters” (wrestlers) waltz in and take the table in front of us followed by a couple camera men, a lighting man and a boom mike.

Steph thought it anticlimactic and it was but then television always is. I looked at the earnest camera man who had been there since 8pm, an intelligent looking guy, and I kept thinking that he was thinking: “I studied photography for this?!”. Felt bad for him.

He always getting me in the shot which annoyed me because I couldn’t gape at the spectacle and had to pretend disinterest. Around 9:30 the mermaid show began and it was certainly different, although at the same time it was pretty much what you’d expect - sort of synchronized underwater ballet performed by bikini-topped women with legs wrapped in sheaves of fin. Think Ethel Merman meets Daryl Hannah in Splash. They held their breath for quite some time and we were told ( I was skeptical) they could hear everything in the bar and that we should offer encouragement and cheers.

Had two delicious Cigar City Jai Alai IPAs at dinner. It was chaos as it was and I had to seek out the waitress since they weren’t taking orders or dropping off checks due to the filming.

Day 2

Full day on cruise, 10:30am on! Ship is Independence of the Seas, which is our first time sailing although seems very similar as our typical one (Liberty). All these names sound alike (i.e...Freedom, Independence, Liberty...). Uber was smooth and ran into Doug and Phyllis in line for boat! What a coincidence! Doug was bringing extra wine and needed me there so without that fortunate meeting he would’ve lost at least one bottle. He snuck in with us platinum members though he’s only gold status.

Headed up for a 10:30 feast at wind jammer. Earliest by far we’ve ever boarded a ship. Lunch slowed as we waited for Jean and bill to join. Bill humorously went up multiple times to buffets and meticulously looked over every fragment of food. Around 1:15 we hit our cabin followed by sunbathing topside. I ran for 25 mins before beer o’clock with Doug and Phyllis. 3:45 muster, ugh.

Post-muster = Heaven! Peace beyond all understanding is gently moving out of port, the wind low, the water a lullaby, the sun a caress. Very contemplative. Funny to go on a cruise with 4500 people and feel a blissful rest akin to being on a deserted island - that is, the island of a private balcony.

It feels almost mystical - the shellacked waves beating a path directly towards our cabin, (we facing the western side of the ship presently). A bountiful reap of sun, seemingly magnified by the waters. I have a great hunger to read and a great hunger to just soak in the scenery.

It’s the best cruising gets, the calm period just outside of port, before the fierce ocean winds make the balcony loud with howling wind.

Today Doug and Jean, who prefer late dinners, are eating after the 7:15 comedian show. We’re doing solo dinner at 5:45. Don’t want indigestion before bed like yesterday. But tomorrow, formal night, we’ll go with their timing so we can all be together.

Dinner wasn’t exactly my thing. Our “private dining” experience consisted of a table separated from the next one by three inches. It’s basically one long table separated into segments by a tiny amount of space which allows the fiction of “privacy” without any of what privacy is actually for. Very jesuitical. The folks next to you can more easily hear you talking than your spouse who is sitting across the table (rather than three inches away from you on your side).

So we had a woman sitting next to us was solo since her husband didn’t want to get dressed up to go to the dining even though there was no requirement to dress up at all (I wore shorts and flip-flops). She was a talker and talk she did, telling us her life story, which at least is an improvement on small talk. Had a joint on Bob Marley grave tour and could barely make it up the hill. The odd thing is she and her husband are retired and yet they made little income during their lifetime such that she receives only $660 a month in social security and he $1800 a month. This translates to about $30k a year. And yet they cruise frequently, just the two of them, and only book the very expensive junior suite because the bathroom is bigger. They are doing a back-to-back cruise this time, staying on the boat for another 5-day cruise after this 4-day cruise is done. They also go to the restaurants you have to pay for (instead of pre-paid). So guessing they probably came into some money via inheritance.

Afterward we went to the comedy/variety show, just a 45 minute introduction that was mostly fluff except for the short 15 minute comedian part. He was pretty funny and I would like to have gone to his full show but it was at 11:15, way too late.

Day 3

Surprised to learn Royal is now charging $10 for breakfast room service, boo. That did seem too good to be true. Their business model seems to be to keep the rate as low as possible and then nickel and dime you. I guess no such thing as a free breakfast, even on a prepaid plan! We went ahead and did it anyway since one of our huge delights is eating breakfast on our balcony while overlooking the ocean (from 6 stories up).

It was delicious, and it’s such a cool thing for me since I’m always bringing food home when at home, so it’s great to have someone deliver to me. Since you can order any amount of food for the same price, I had a ham and cheese omelette, cereal, a donut, bacon milk, coffee, orange juice! A kingly breakfast.

In fact, a cruise is arguably the closest thing a commoner can experience to mimic living as a king: unlimited food, servants cooking and cleaning for you, commanding view of the sea, and “jesters” entertaining you. Basically frictionless living.

Surprised how easygoing the wind is this trip. Usually it’s a wind tunnel. Not sure if because boat only going to one place (Cozumel) and so is going slow, or if the weather is just cooperating. Regardless it’s been a joy to be on balcony so far. Wondrous hours on balcony until duty called in the form of exercise at gym. Saw Jean in there hard at work! Made plans to meet at Windjammer post-workout, so we had a second big meal at 12:30! Then up to 12th floor for some sun time. The rest joined me a half-hour later and Doug wanted to do something active (of course) so I went with him and Bill to a “flowrider” where you boogie board against a strong current in a pool. We started waiting in line but then went on a tube ride instead. You go down this water tube and that was a good adrenalin flush. Doug of course thought it was nothing, a baby run.

Then at 4 o’clock we had a free-throw shooting contest. Eighteen contestants (Doug bowed out saying he couldn’t shoot) so Bill and I toed the line. The top 6 or 7 would advance. I made 3 of 8 and Bill made 2 of 8 and you needed to make 4 to make the finals so we were out, boo. It was nice to shoot some hoops though and it was worth it for that and to burn a couple calories. Feel like I’m 20 again when dribbling the basketball.

Later Steph caught me trying to smoke cigar on the balcony so I was banished to the Siberia of the pool smoking area where a movie was playing at 150 decibels. From one of my books, written by a cardinal of the Church: “Noise has no moderation, like a ship without a captain on a raging sea, whereas silence is a paradise, like a limitless ocean.”

Nice formal dinner. Bill wore a tie and Doug a suit and tie but I went casual as was my plan. The food was better tonight, an amazingly good steak.

Day 4

Today was the big day, the Cozumel day. We docked around 7am and got a late breakfast served after packing and readying for Mexico. Jean and Bill were surprisingly early for them, arriving at 9:40am versus the 9:30 agreed upon time but more daunting was that Jean, who had booked this excursion didn’t have a starting time. So we were flying blind even though we did have a destination: Marti’s Sporting Goods. It wasn’t easy getting there as three of our party of six got separated from the other three when a Mexican policeman blocked our access to the sidewalk. I yelled “Bill!” but he heard too late and we headed through a maze of stores before rejoining the others. Well, except for Doug who had gone looking for us, so we waited for him for awhile. Apparently the policeman wanted to make sure that we walked by the stores instead of just going the direct route to get to the main street.

Finally we arrive at Marti’s but there’s no sign that this is where we should be until a Mexican dude named Jared shows up. It seems as though our timing couldn’t be better as he showed up just when we did. He said we should’ve gotten a confirmation email with the time but Jean couldn’t find it; later he said that she had made the reservation for Feb. 2nd instead of March 2nd and that he had showed up more or less as a lark in case someone showed up. He found the $90 deposit and Bill and I paid our part and voila, we were on the tour. Jean and given us her ID/Password last night to check her email (since she didn’t buy the Wifi package on board) for time of event, but website said “invalid password”. Then today she couldn’t log onto her PayPal due again to failed password.

Our first stop was a local tequila joint (Tequilera Reyes) handled adeptly by a practiced salesperson who gave us a short history of tequila and later gave us many, many tastes. I’d say I had at least ten half-shots. It worked its magic and all of us were amazed how smooth and un-tequila-like these drinks were. So much so that Billy paid $239 for the top of the line 18-year aged bottle. Wow. I bought a $99 minimum sipping quality, a seven-year aged, and Doug and Phyllis bought a couple amaretto bottles.

Next stop was an authentic Mexican bar (Los Mangales), that, by virtue of it being 11:30am, was almost empty. We came in and, cue the music, someone put on some loud Mexicano music - and we had very, very spicy chicken wings and Dos Equis beers. The wings, chips and six beers and the total came to...drumroll... $10. Wow. That’s the price of one drink on board ship.

We traveled to the unpopulated eastern side of the island by van while drinking copious amounts of a cooler full of beer, cans of Kloster Light, which tasted the same as Bud Light. Open container is allowed in Mexico, in a car or on foot. As Jean said, why are why not living in Mexico where the weather is good and you have the freedom to drink outside in public! America, land of the semi-free.

Next up was Coconuts, a colorful thatched bar that offered stunning views of the Caribbean on a picture-perfect (literally picture perfet) sunny day. The bar was festooned with t-shirts from colleges and schools all over the U.S. including, surprisingly, one from Aaron’s Lasalle high school. OSU was naturally represented but no Miami. There were also a lot of women’s underwear and the staff brought out albums of gals who had visited and showed their boobs for a free margarita.

Coconuts offered very strong margaritas. Just ask Steph! I had a brew instead.

Our next bar was a little mom & pop shack along the ocean. Doug and Phyllis got in a tiny hammock for pictures. We got free shots there as well. Steph gave me hers of course.

And our final stop was where we could eat a free lunch (well, included in the price) and afterward snorkel. Doug, Bill, Jean and I went in and fed the fish some tortillas. There were a good number of fish but mostly all big-bodied silver fish, only one pretty blue “Nemo”.

The van headed back at the dock where I found a unique coffee beaded rosary (using actual coffee beans) for Mom. Back to the ship around 4:30 our wallets much lighter but much fun was had. Even Steph, despite (because of?) the over indulgence.

Smoked a cigar briefly with Doug and Phyllis at teeming swimming pool with painfully loud music on. Since Steph strictly enforces no cigar smoking on balcony, I’m left with smoking only in auditory hell (up on 11 with the vulgar 150-decibel music). Jean and Bill did their own thing for dinner so just Doug, Phyllis and us in the dining hall.

Day 5

Breakfast and coffee was scheduled to be delivered at 7:30 but 8 o’clock went by and then 8:30 and then 9 and so I went down to pick up coffee to wait some more. So much for my kingship! Short-lived indeed. So goes the kingship of all earhtly kings. We eventually gave up and ate at windjammer.

Thought of water on the sea and how it’s odd that no matter where you are sitting on the boat the sun forms a line directly to you. The optics of this is (sort of) explained on Wikipedia: “This is due to the fact that when sunlight falls on the ocean's surface, it's reflected in all directions, but you see the illuminated line due to the light rays that are specifically entering your eyes.”

Feels sort like of a metaphor for God since although he’s shining on everybody at the same time, it feels like, when you’re praying he’s shining directly on you? Like how he’s simultaneously communicating with everyone but it feels individualized.

Surprised how much warmer the temps on this cruise are compared to January or early February trips. Could be due to weather luck or maybe a month difference really matters in Caribbean. The ocean view reminds me of a large farmer’s field of corn: sun undulating on the royal blue of the waters or the dark green of silken stalks. Both endless, flat vista. Uncluttered and clean-swept. Moving canvas of blue.

The odd thing is that land is the exception rather than the rule on this earth and yet it feels the reverse given how we all se land about 99% of the time. Similarly, even if there’s life somewhere else in the universe, life is the huge exception rather than the rule. Just ask the folks on Mars or Pluto.

Jonah Goldberg the other day mentioned how the oceans are mostly barren deserts but if you throw a concrete brick it will “create” life, an ecosystem, because amoebas and algae can form on the brick because it gives them something to hold on to. From there little fish nibble at the new food source, then larger fish and so on till you have a burgeoning reef. This is why environmentalists approve of used oil rigs being simply knocked down and allowed to drift to the ocean floor. Sometimes it takes a derrick to raise a village.

For some reason the old Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” came to mind and so I played it on my iPhone. The irony is that the dreamy escape from busy L.A. to then backwater San Jose is dated now that San Jose is the center of Silicon Valley. “Fame and fortune is a magnet / It can pull you far away from home.” Wise words spiritually as well.

Spent nice time on deck, perfect temp with slight breeze, but at 3pm comes deafening music time. Gives me an earache and I’m pretty far from the source of the music. Later, wonderous balcony, beautifully quiet and quietly beautiful.

I see cruising as a semi-nature vacation - like camping but with a steadier supply of food. Ha.

At dinner, Jean wanted to rally and beat fatigue by drinking a combo of hard liquor and Red Bull. She had two of them, despite having never drank a Red Bull before! Bold!

Doug ended up $250 at the casino which made me think, dang I should’ve gone with him. I didn’t think anyone actually won money there. And he did it mostly by playing that most easygoing of card games, blackjack.

Day 6

Silky smooth roll from boat - breakfast at 7:45, left by 8:25 and at hotel less than an hour later. My latest reads: “Alienated America” by Tim Carney and a Florida novel called “Trap Line” by Carl Hiaasen. Cool to read about fishing boats while in Florida on (and now off) a ship.

Poor Doug and Jean trapped in airport Hell.

Here at B Ocean Resort, generous sun, absurdly blue sky, and the Florida chic of pastel blue buildings and orange pool umbrellas. German-speaking couple in front of us. Burnt from sun yesterday, so satisfied with some shade in the slight breeze. The infinity pool idea is something of a mirage since you face the pool not the ocean. Pool bodies here adhere strictly to age: the older, the fatter, perhaps proving that slimness is less a personal virtue than a byproduct of youth.

Lady at pool reading book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober”. Which is the much anticipated sequel to: “The Expected Joy of Being Drunk”.

Water here is clear and the two-tone hues fetching. Sand is like quicksand so running was a heck of an effort. Spring break so lots of college kids. Not ideal week to be here! Guy at counter said every hotel in Lauderdale booked up.

Hotel playing loud music (of course) but at least it’s 80s tunes. Some I haven’t heard since the 80s. Feels downright time-warpish. Young girls with bodies shy of the perfections to come, like green-ish bananas.

We briefly visited the second pool till 5:30 and then headed on bikes (available as part of resort fee here) towards a Winn-Dixie 2 miles away. We got a little over a half mile up the road before turning around. Too much traffic on roads and too much foot traffic on sidewalk. Plus there was a big uphill stretch Steph wasn’t keen to do. So we headed back and found a small market on the other side of us and I picked up snacks and beer.

Ordered room service at 7 and by 7:30 had delicious blackened fish sandwiches with frees and salad. From 8-10pm we watched a Office marathon. Surprising how well the shows held up. Seems like a couple of those episodes we may’ve even missed. It was Season 3, episodes 22-25, before it jumped the shark.

Day 7

I think this is the most southerly beach we’ve stayed in Florida ever (don’t think we actually stayed in Key West). New Smyrna Beach is a whopping 230 miles north and the waters and sand are correspondingly very different, Fort Myers on the other side of Florida is about 50 miles north. The temperature difference is surprising. For Sanibel in January and February the average temps are mid 50s to mid 70s... here the averages are low 60s to high 70s. Whopper-sized temperature difference between here and Columbus: 77 versus 13. I suspect that’s the biggest differential ever seen while on a vacation.

Teen next to me says, “Holy shit.” Young people here unwittingly offer homage to the tradition they’ve inherited in a thousand ways but perhaps most obviously by language. All words and phrases short of neologisms are handed down from their elders.

More crowded already at 9:30 as yesterday at 10:30 and worse they’re playing music that sound like dying quail. And so in go my AirPods.

Great “turn-about” line in Cardinal Sarah’s book about silence: “Love is always humble, silent, ...on is knees before its beloved... Jesus was on his knees, washing his apostles feet.” Wow, another sign of my missing Christ’s love for me, of a mutual devotion. (Actually, his is much more intense.) I reflexively think it’s a one way street given the mismatch in lovableness.

Saw a ship seemingly going up on the beach. It encouraged me to walk to where it had “beached”; turns out there’s a sharp right turn on the beach separated by giant boulders. The ship was labeled Maersk, a huge Danish international container shipping company and the largest by fleet size.

Steph not happy with this place given the ugly brown sand that doesn’t pack down, the loud spring breakers, the expense, the location (on busy road with cop cars sirens constantly blaring to catch bad college kids), and the fact that an attendant tried to deny us a beach chair at 4:40 because he was packing up before 5pm “chair closing”.

But we had our 20 minutes on the beach. Then we stayed for awhile on beach towels as I smoked a cigar. Back to the pool as it had chilled at windy beach, and we let the sun go down while on uber-comfy loungers there...



-rb said...

" . . . " [triplog ends]; Does this mean there is a Day 8 and a Day 9, etc.? -rb

-rb said...

nice group pic; u guys haven't aged a day! also, must comment on artistic "Big Toe Sunburst" pic...sláinte! -rb

TS said...

Ha, yby, day 8 = airport and day 9 = waked the dogs. Slight comedown. Thanks for the comps on the pics!