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  1. We both use IPhones. Often I use John’s photos (today 8 of 12 were his) but we have found that our IPhones do as well as our Nikon SLR and are a heck of a lot easier to upload the pix. Thanks for the compliment.
  2. Thursday, May 23, 2019 Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Sometimes it’s a good idea to stay in the town in which the ship is docked, but when there’s a UNESCO World Heritage City only 90 minutes away, that seems the better choice. Antigua was founded in 1552 and was the colonial capital of Guatemala for more than 200 years until it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes in 1773, and even now, some of that damage is still visible. We knew that the only way we’d get to Antigua (for the second time) was to book the ship’s “Antigua on Your Own” tour, so book it we did. We docked this morning at 7:00, and had to skip the gym to be ready for our “tour” at 7:30. The bus ride there was made extremely entertaining by Manny, our Guatemalan guide. He was personable, informative, and really funny and he made the 90-minute ride go by quickly. We drove between the two major volcanoes in the area, one of which erupted last June 3, killing about 2500 people and completely destroying three entire towns. Antigua is a beautiful city, with multi-colored single-story buildings along most of the streets. The streets themselves are really a challenge, because while we’ve walked on cobblestones before, these streets had the biggest, most uneven stones I’ve ever walked on. It was such an adventure. The buildings alongside the streets were fascinating. It looked from the front as though there was just a small room, but upon entering, one would find that the space extended far back, often around a courtyard filled with flowers and a fountain. They were absolutely charming. Our dropoff point was The Jade Museum, which of course was there to sell semi-precious jewels to tourists. It seems that no matter which tour one takes, the setup is similar: a small museum, watching craftsmen cutting and polishing the stones, and then, amazingly, a large room with an “opportunity” to buy the product. We’ve seen this in nearly every HAL tour we’ve taken, and while many people just love the shopping available, we’re a bit more cynical about it. We did look for a birthday gift for our daughter there, but when we realized that the necklaces we liked were up in the hundreds of dollars, we decided to find her gift elsewhere. Along every street, there are vendors selling various handcrafts. The ladies, clearly of Mayan descent, are dressed in colorful local dress and are selling table runners, scarves, and anything that might be woven. The young men, on the other hand, seemed to specialize in flutes and small drum-like instruments. They would always ask us to buy, but a simple “No, gracias” was sufficient and they were very pleasant about it. As I’ve mentioned before, we buy and mail a postcard to our granddaughter from each of our ports. We found one with a couple of pretty photos of Antigua, but the shop didn’t sell stamps, so we headed around the corner to where we thought we’d find the post office. What we found instead, was a young woman who spoke English as well as I do who explained to us that Guatemala no longer has a postal service. What?! That’s right. Apparently the government contracted with a Canadian company for postal service for 25 years. When that time was up, instead of choosing the same company (with 25 years of excellent service), they chose an 83-year-old woman (with family connections) who had no experience with the post office who managed to run it into the ground. As of right now, apparently there are warehouses full of letters and packages that might as well be somewhere in the solar system, since they’ll never get where they should. We were a bit skeptical about this story, but Manny, our guide, backed it up and told us of receiving mail - 18 months late or not at all. It’s very strange. On our way back to our meeting spot at the Jade “museum,” we wandered into the Casa Santo Domingo, a hotel created from the ruins of a convent founded in 1542 by Dominican friars. Like the smaller buildings which opened onto charming courtyards, the hotel opened onto what seemed like an entire city block of restaurants, gardens, patios, ruins, and even a hotel. It was absolutely beautiful! We’d love to spend a few days in Antigua, and now I know where I’d stay. For such a wonderful hotel, the prices are reasonable and they even include breakfast. We would hire one of the young men who drive tuk-tuks around the city and see as much as possible, and then continue around the country to see such sights as Tikal and Lake Atitlan. Another great day and now we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s port, Huatulco, Mexico. We’re getting closer and closer to home.
  3. Wednesday, May 22, 2019 Corinto, Nicaragua So many times we cruise into huge ports with mega cities and high rise buildings, but today we docked in Corinto, a small town with very traditional and colorful one-story buildings. The main means of transport here is the bicycle rickshaw, and it’s not only for the tourists but seems to be how local people get around, since cars are fairly scarce. As we disembarked the ship, we were offered transport to the beach, tours of the town, and any other destination we thought desirable. We like to walk, however, and so we set off down the main street, a very familiar location from our last visit here. It seems that small stores are mixed in with homes and people were meeting on the street and at the entrances to buildings, just exchanging news and probably talking about all these tourists. There’s a large park in the middle of town with comfortable benches under trees which offered shade from the 87 degree heat and about 95% humidity. As we walked and walked, I began to drip and drip, and my hair, which would like to be frizzy, was achieving its goal. Our destination was the beach and the casual, thatched-roof bar/restaurant which had been our lunch spot last time. On the way, we passed two women making tortillas, kneading the dough, patting it into circles, and cooking the tortillas in a hot pan. We took a wrong turn, however, and ended up at Costa Azul, a pretty little ocean-front restaurant. They had some very tempting ice-cold beer, but since it wasn’t even 10:00 in the morning, we decided that it was a bit too early. After chatting with the waitress and taking a photo of her with John in front of the beer refrigerator, we continued our walk until we did indeed find El Buzo, our prior stop. By now it was about 11:00, and faced with several shipboard passengers fighting the heat with cold beer, we joined them. We sat at a beach-front table, drank our beer, and fended off at least a dozen vendors of different merchandise. However when the hand-painted bowl came by, I could hear it calling my name, so now all I have to do is figure out where to pack it. From El Buzo, we walked back to Costa Azul, since it was then about 11:30 and we could justify lunch. We shared a plate of fajitas, which were to be served with fried potatoes, but we begged for tortillas instead. I think they were fresh out of the pan and everything was delicious. The fajitas were a combination of beef and chicken cooked with onions and peppers, and the light sauce with them was delicious. To wash them down, John had another beer and I relied on a Coke Zero. The only vendor there was selling cashews in different sized bags, so we decided on the $3.00 size which would no doubt go for $10.00 at home. Then it was time to head for our “home away from home,” and while I looked longingly at those bicycle rickshaws, we managed to walk all the way back, with a stop in the city park, watching families interact (that young boy got such a smack when he disagreed with his mother), old men playing cards, and a small band playing music. By the time we boarded, I had reached the end of my rope, and upon arrival in the cabin, all I could do was stretch out on the bed and sleep for an hour. It was a great day with a look at a very traditional Central American town. It’s not there for the tourists, but the friendly people are happy to welcome us and let us know how proud they are of their small corner of the world.
  4. Tuesday, May 21, 2019 At Sea en route to Corinto, Nicaragua We’ve entered the Pacific, and it’s living up to the name that Balboa gave it, meaning “peaceful.” The temperature is 78 degrees, the seas are calm, and we’re enjoying a great deal of sea life, incuding dolphins, flying fish, and a variety of sea birds. What a difference between our eight wild days on the Atlantic! We had some rain last night and early this morning, but now it’s partly cloudy, as the weather people say, and good weather for tanning. Since we were given a free dinner in The Pinnacle for booking back-to-back cruises, we decided to use it last evening, and we enjoyed a great meal. We were welcomed by Peter, a chaming Hungarian who’s temporarily taking over Pinnacle management from Tina. We talked about Budapest and our favorite things there, and he gave us some suggestions for dinner. The last time we ate there with all our tablemates, we all decided that the starters were so good that it would be a smart idea to make a meal of them, so that’s what we did last evening. We began with an amuse bouche of lobster flan (with nice chunks of lobster) in a demitasse cup. Then John had a wedge salad which was served with crumbled bacon, blue cheese, chopped tomato, red onion, and toasted walnuts. I don’t usually like iceberg lettuce, but that looked delicious. My first starter was lobster bisque which was thick and rich and delicious. Then we shared the (now famous on board) clothesline candied bacon. It comes with three hanging pieces of thick bacon, of which I had one and John volunteered to eat the other two. What a sacrifice! It comes with half a semi-sour pickle, and I realized that if I ate a bit of the pickle with a bite of the bacon, the maple syrup sweetness was cut. For “main” courses, John had crab cakes and I had Caesar salad, both from the starter menu. We also added two side dishes: beets with blue cheese and French fries in a cone, hot out of the oil. Yummm. The quantitiy of food was just about perfect, because the starter portions aren’t too big and we never got to the steaks and seafood main courses. We did give in to dessert, though. I had watermelon sorbet and John had key lime pie. Then, as though we hadn’t had enough food, our server brought us a tray of white and dark chocolates. Such decadence. I think we might just go back. Since it was about 45 minutes until the evening show, we spent that time with a wonderful walk around the deck under an almost full moon. One change that’s been made after the WC is happy hour, defined as charging only $2.00 for the second drink (as long as it’s the same as the first). It used to be from 4:30 to 5:30 and then from 6:30 to 7:30, fitting itself into the time before both dinners. Now there’s just one happy hour from 4:00 until 5:00 in both the Crow’s Nest and the Ocean Bar, but boy is it popular. We’ve attended twice and, although we miss our friends, we do know all the staff there, so we have a good time. We won’t be attending every day, but it’s nice to know we can do so. After our leisurely sea day today, we head into three straight ports: Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Huatulco, Mexico. Latin American ports are always fun with good food and great local markets. We’re not sure yet what we’ll do in Corinto, but I think in Puerto Quetzal we’ll head to the colonial city of Antigua. This two week adventure is going quickly, so we’re going to take advantage of the time we have before San Francisco.
  5. Monday, May 20, 2019 Transit of the Panama Canal As this is our eighth transit of the Panama Canal, you’d think it was a ho-hum situation, but it certainly isn’t. The engineering marvel that this canal represents is truly amazing and we never cease to find it fascinating. Also, the fact that we’re on Deck 1 now gives us an entirely new view of the whole process. I was reading today’s New York Times Digest when suddenly the room became dark. I thought John had closed the blackout curtains, but it turned out that we had entered a lock and were entirely enclosed by its stone walls. After the lights went on in our cabin, I could clearly see the work that had been done over a hundred years ago in building the walls of each lock. I think I’d been through the canal a few times before I realized why the locks were necessary. Although all oceans are at the same level, Gatun Lake is 27 meters higher than sea level, so if it were not for locks, the lake would empty into both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. So . . . in our direction, north to south rather than east to west as most people believe, we go through the Gatun Locks and into Gatun Lake. There are two lanes, one in each direction, and sometimes it’s fun to be opposite a cruise ship and watch people come out on their balconies in bathrobes to wave to us. The tropical beauty of the lake is outstanding, with green islands everywhere and, hopefully, a quick view of a monkey or even a cayman (an alligator relative). Cruising the lake is the longest part of the transit, but it’s the locks which take the most time. A complete transit of the canal takes about ten hours. Right now we’re in Gatun Lake, and later today we’ll go through the Culebra Cut, the narrowest part of the canal. From there we enter the Pedro Miguel Locks and then the Miraflores Locks, leading us into the Pacific Ocean. When Bruce, the Cruise Director, asked last evening before the show how many people were transiting the canal for the first time, more than half the hands went up. We’ve listened to people talking about the canal being way near the top of their bucket list, and how many have planned this cruise for years. We can certainly understand this being a goal; it really is a wonder of this modern world. Although you’re no doubt familiar with the history of the canal, a few highlights in case you’re not. Although the French tried to build a canal in 1880, there were too many financial problems and tropical diseases, so the effort came to nothing. After Panamanian independence in 1903, a second successful effort was made by the United States, culminating in the opening of the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914. The agreement was that the United States would administer the canal until December 31, 1999, and it was then that Panama took over operations. Operations continued smoothly through that transition and have worked beautifully ever since. In 2016, the expanded second (almost parallel) canal opened, which has doubled the capacity of the canal and allows ships that were previously too large to fit. Its locks are named Cocoli and Agua Clara, two sets instead of three. During a previous transit, we were told that our ship was charged about $250,000 to pass through the canal. At first I thought that was outrageous, but when that information was followed with the approximate cost of sailing around South America (in the millions), it made much more sense. Next year’s WC does just that, sailing down the east coast of South America, visiting Antarctica, and then up the west coast. Just the cost of fuel alone is higher than the cost of transiting the canal, not to mention all the other costs of a cruise. I guess this will be our last Panama Canal for quite some time, since next year we won’t transit at all. All the more reason, then, to just relax and enjoy this one.
  6. Sunday, May 19, 2019 Cartagena, Colombia It was a short but sweet visit to the northern tip of South America, docking at 7:00 AM and setting sail at 1:00 PM. Sitting on the coast, Cartagena was a target for nearly every pirate and swashbuckler in the 16th Century, so the inhabitants built a wall entirely around their town. It now is the longest city wall in South America. Parts of it were damaged over the years and had to be rebuilt, but nothing is newer than about 1750. In most ports, there’s a building with some small shops and possibly a cafe with the every popular internet, but in Cartagena it’s entirely different. After about a quarter mile walk, one arrives at a tropical paradise, with flamingoes, black swans, small deer, and brightly colored birds of several breeds. The cameras were going crazy and you’ll (hopefully) see some photos of the beauties of the place. We spent a bit of time there, but our real goal was the Old City inside the wall, and for that we needed either a lot more time for walking or a taxi. Since there would be no more time, the taxi it was. Our driver was Leo, and he had a wonderful personality, joking with us and telling us about his planned birthday celebration the next day. When he dropped us off just outside the wall, we made an agreement to be picked up two hours later, and then we began our exploration. The Old City contains a warren of small streets, barely big enough for a small car to drive one way, with beautiful colonial houses painted in bright colors and, of course, many, many shops. The main attraction for a lot of the ship’s shoppers was Colombia’s reputation for emeralds, and it seemed that there was a jewelry store or two on every block. There were also numerous coffee shops, as Colombian coffee is known all over the world. There were even a few reminders of Colombia’s violent past, when it was known for drug gangs. There were small stands selling everything from hats to fruit along the streets as well as ladies dressed in national costume with fruit in their hats. I know this is going to date me, but it made me think of Carmen Miranda. If we’d had more time, we would have enjoyed a Colombian lunch and a cold Colombian beer, but that was not to be, so after our wander and browsing were done, we rejoined Leo and headed back to the port. Instead of heading directly to the ship, however, we spent some time in the charming port area, buying, writing and sending Jessica’s postcard and then enjoying a long phone call with our daughter. Finally it was time to head back to the ship for lunch and, promptly at 1:00, we threw off the ropes and headed out to sea. The reason for the early sailaway is tomorrow’s destination, the Panama Canal. We learned from Captain Jonathan on the last canal transit that it’s important for a ship to be in line from an early hour to be ready to enter the canal. Although the visit wasn’t nearly long enough, we really enjoyed spending time in Cartagena and especially wandering through the Old City. We can highly recommend this port.
  7. Saturday, May 18, 2019 At Sea en route to Cartagena, Colombia Boy, what a difference in weather. We battled rain, thunderstorms, wind gusts up to 80 mph and high temperatures in the low 50’s as we crossed the Atlantic, but now it’s “Pool Party On” weather. Today’s high is 83 degrees, and yesterday’s was about the same, except that we had some cooler, rainy weather in the afternoon. I guess this just shows that we’re in the Caribbean. Last night was our first Gala Evening, and we were curious as to how it would compare to those on the WC. We realize that on shorter cruises, most people don’t bring an entire formal wardrobe, but we did expect people to be somewhat dressy. For the most part, that was true, with most ladies in nice outfits, but we saw no more than a dozen men in tuxedos and probably barely more than half in coat and tie. At 7:45, after first seating and just before second, there was a “Captain’s Toast,” for which everyone was handed a glass of sparkling wine and “met” the captain, who spoke of his wishes for the cruise and then we lifted our glasses to a wonderful voyage. At this event, we saw people dressed in everything from beaded formalwear to shorts and tee shirts. In his Facebook post, John mentioned this, and made a tongue-in-cheek comment that for some people, a clean and pressed white tee shirt consititutes formal wear. A good friend from home replied that he didn’t see any problem with that, especially if said tee shirt was paired with clean, camouflage cargo shorts. We did get a laugh out of that. The show last night was the first appearance of The Runaround Kids on this voyage, and while we saw the same show on the WC, it was still great fun and great music. They mix wonderful 50’s and 60’s music with humor and just general silliness. When I spoke with a couple of them at lunch yesterday, they said that they’d have two shows on this cruise and then disembark in Guatemala. We’re looking forward to the second one. On today’s schedule, to John’s pleasure, there is a pickleball meeting on the Sports Deck at 10:30 this morning. We had a walk up there after breakfast at about 8:30 and found that the wind was up, but there’s hope that it will leave off long enough for those interested to get in a game. It’s too bad that most of the best players disembarked in Florida, but perhaps there are even better ones on board now. John has enjoyed the exercise and hopes to get some in before San Francisco. Tomorrow is Cartagena, a city we’ve been to and enjoyed a couple of times. We’re looking forward to wandering through the old colonial city, perhaps having an early lunch (we sail at 1:00), and maybe even sampling a cold Colombian beer. P. S. Jane and Bill - we miss you so much. Last evening we walked into the "Captain's Welcome Toast" and looked around, hoping you had saved us seats. Glad to hear that the barbecued chicken was as good as always.
  8. I wouldn’t worry too much about Deck 2. John is an incredibly light sleeper, but you’re right about most of the noise being daytime. I’ve heard people complain about engine or anchor noise on 1, but we’ve not experienced that. Just enjoy your cruise!
  9. Friday, May 17, 2019 At Sea en route to Cartagena, Colombia Yesterday was such a hectic, rushing day - for us as well as for the passengers disembarking as well as the new ones embarking on their new adventure. Today, however, is fairly settled, and it’s easier to see the differences between the WC and the current one. For one thing, I’ve been told that there is not one empty cabin. Whereas there were almost 1200 passengers on the last leg of the WC, today there are 1350. The average age has decreased by about 30 years, there’s an actual baby on board (but, thankfully, no dogs), and there are two young men who are Club HAL age. Our friend Geoffrey is the Club HAL man (until Guatemala) and he does a wonderful job with kids of any age. This morning at the Lido I noticed several changes. The European section at the end of the Lido, which contained such treats as herring, pate, and olives, is gone, replaced by a really nice array of fruit plates. As a serious non-fan of herring, that’s not too big a sacrifice to me. Of course I do miss the fresh-squeezed orange juice, and thank heaven Mary, the omelette lady, is still here. In fact John enjoyed one of her creations this morning. Similarly, the lunch Lido has undergone some changes. I used to make good use of the sandwich bar, where I could have someone make me just the right kind of egg salad sandwich accompanied by pickles and occasionally some chips. Now, that station serves pasta, and if we want a sandwich it comes in a bag. The other change is the transformation of the sushi/sashimi/Asian soup bar into another salad bar. That’s a change that doesn’t affect me, but John used to enjoy having them put “exactly five” tiny pieces of red pepper (the kind that burns your lips off) into his Asian soup. Fortunately the dessert station and the ice cream bar are still in excellent shape. Today we went “window shopping” around the entire Lido, finally deciding that it was a Dive-In day, time to split an absolutely wonderful bacon cheeseburger and an order of crunchy, crispy fries. We don’t dare do that too often. We spent some time at the pool late this morning and I actually dunked myself in the water. The temperature today is in the low 80’s, and it’s absolutely perfect weather for me. Of course with a high passenger count and a much lower average age, the pool deck was packed. The number of bikinis increased ten-fold, and the noise level increased along with it (in a good way). I think we’ll try that back deck again tomorrow. Dinner last night was a wonderful surprise. We’ve moved to an upstairs table on the railing and found, as expected, Manny, our favorite former beverage server and now outstanding wine steward. Next we had a visit from Joel (pronounced Jo - El), the newest cellar master. He was our wine steward downstairs and has been promoted. He looks absolutely amazing in his new tuxedo and bow tie. The biggest surprise, however, was that our new waiter is actually our old waiter. We didn’t know that Indy was moving upstairs and we were surprised and incredibly pleased to find him at our table. He introduced us to Derry, his new assistant, and told us that Oka, our downstairs assistant waiter was still downstairs but with someone else. John ordered the swordfish, since he orders fish 90% of the time, and said it was as good as any he’d had on the WC. I had a bite and I have to agree with him. My risotto was great too. One difference is the “anytime” menu, which has shrunk from six items to three. We no longer have the strip steak, the jumbo shrimp cocktail, or the grilled chicken breast on it, but we do have Caesar salad, French onion soup, and salmon. All in all, we don’t see much difference in the dining room between the WC and this one. They say that life is change, and I guess that applies to cruises, too. I think we’re just happy to be enjoying the Amsterdam life for a little longer.
  10. Thursday, May 16, 2019 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Day 113 and Day 1 Taking a world cruise is a lovely, leisurely affair. We can go ashore or stay on board. Going ashore only takes the effort of descending the gangway and then just making sure we return before the assigned “all aboard” time. Four months of that schedule really spoils a girl. Today, however, was almost a rude awakening. For one thing, we had to change cabins. HAL does make it as painless as possible to do that, but it’s still somewhat traumatic, especially since we moved from our verandah cabin to an outside cabin on Deck 1, Dolphin Deck. We made so many changes in our itinerary before sailing that a verandah cabin wasn’t possible (unless we wanted to pay an additional $5000), so here we are looking out our window at the beautiful blue ocean that seems really, really close. We’ve told Shannon, our wonderful cruise agent, not to accept any upgrades to Decks 2 or 3. On Deck 2, we had the Promenade Deck above us with walking noise, the cabins on Deck 3 are just too small, so here we are where we like to be (if we can’t have a verandah). All you have to do when moving is leaving your hanging clothes in the closet and put your remaining things in suitcases. Then, after you leave the room, room stewards, like little fairies, come and transfer everything to your new cabin, even putting the hangup clothes in the same place you left them. Talk about spoiled! There were 19 of us who were continuing on the trans-canal cruise, and we were asked to meet in the Ocean Bar between 9:45 and 10:00 to be escorted through immigration, then wait for a “zero count” to be able to re-board the ship. Apparently there were serious delays in the disembarkation process, primarily due to the 12,000 pieces of luggage (according to Ian, the EXC Guide) that had to be transported from the ship to the terminal building - in the pouring rain. It was about 11:00 before we decided to just exit the ship, showing our “In Transit” cards, and grab a cab. We had a couple of things on our list for today. For John, it was to have a haircut and buy two bottles of wine. For me, it was to have a pedicure and find a place for lunch. We were successful on all counts. John’s hair looks great, I had an excellent pedicure, and one of the bottles of wine is now chilling. Lunch at Panera was just like being at home, but since we’re in the United States again, I guess that makes sense. We love eating local food in other countries, but here things are different. We called an Uber for our return to the ship and arrived a full 45 minutes before all-aboard at 3:00 (really early!) We had almost everything put away by the time the essential safety drill began at 3:15 and then joined the rest of the passengers on Deck 8 aft for sailaway. We had been scheduled to actually push off at 4:00, but because of the new luggage, we actually sailed at about 6:00. This evening we’ll have to find some new friends in the Crow’s Nest, and then we’ll head to the dining room to our new table, #84, a four-top for the two of us on the upstairs railing. We’ll have our favorite former beverage service Manny as our wine steward, but we’re not sure who our waiters will be. Usually our after-dinner time would find us in the Queen’s Lounge for the show, but since tonight they’re just showing AquaMan, I think we’ll take a pass. We have two sea days (yea!) before Cartegena, and since the sun is now shining and the temperature was above 80 today, I think it’s time to work on ruining my skin. P. S. Photos tomorrow - I'm having trouble getting them to upload.
  11. Hi Cherie, Thanks for your idea. Actually, we've talked about that very idea several times, and everyone on the WC that we've suggested it to have agreed. While it doesn't stop at the private island, next year's WC begins with stops in Dominica and St. Lucia and ends at Barbados (we love The Boatyard there), Guadeloupe, and San Juan. Regarding direction, I think world cruises that go eastbound should be illegal. Instead of gaining an hour every 4-5 days, you lose one, and while the passengers can easily make them up by napping, it's very hard on the crew.
  12. Tuesday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 15 Days 7 and 8 en route to Ft. Lauderdale I guess it was a good thing I was a teacher instead of a weather forecaster, because my prediction for our eight-day transatlantic crossing turned out to be completely wrong. I thought it would be four stormy days and four fair days, but so far (except for one day), it’s been nothing but clouds, high winds, rain and the occasional thunderstorm. John and Rich have been quite frustrated in their wishes to play pickleball, but there’s been a lot going on to keep us busy. One of the highlights of the end of every world cruise is the crew shows presented by the Indonesian and Filipino crew members. These are the best attended shows of the entire world cruise, and even though they both begin at 3:00, you’d better be there near 2:00 for a good seat or by 2:30 for any seat at all. This year, the Indonesian show came first and was a beautiful collection of acts illustrating the rich culture of that country, home of more than a thousand islands. The traditional costumes worn by the crew members illustrated the differences between the various cultures in the country, and the popular “Monkey Dance” was a highlight. The dancing and singing showed us a different side to those crew members who serve our dinner, clean our rooms, and do many jobs around the ship. Yesterday was the Filipino crew show and it was amazing. The introduction emphasized the slogan, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines,” and the various acts showed us just how much fun. The opening number reminded me of a Las Vegas show with its colorful costumes, dancing, singing, and enthusiasm. Passengers were thrilled to listen to Mary, our favorite omelette lady, sing a beautiful song in both Tagalog and English. Josephine, the dining room hostess, sang a duet with Nestor and earned a standing ovation. Nestor followed that up with his always-popular song in which he sings both the male and female parts, dressed accordingly. There was bamboo dancing and other acts, but the highlight was the final presentation, in which black-clad cast members were in the dark with white gloves. Using a musical background, they created messages ("We Love You" being one) and designs like flying birds with those gloves. I’ve read about this act, but this was the first time I’d seen it and the audience loved it. After dinner was a “Top of the World” party, which represented a special evening near the end of the WC. The Ocean Bar band played and their singer kept us dancing for an hour. During that time she never stopped singing, just going from one song right into another. We had a good time dancing until the party ended at 10:30, after which we headed up to the Crow’s Nest to join Bill and Jane and other friends to continue dancing. The Station Band, which plays really good dance music in the Crow’s Nest, only has one more night on board before they head home, and the only music up there will be recorded. So sad! This afternoon is The Grand Farewell by the Amsterdam crew, which always requires Kleenex. My favorite part is the video which features every group of crew members, from the front office staff, to the laundry workers, and so on. We are really looking forward to it and, again, it’s another show where you’d better arrive early. P. S. A few minutes ago, we had 80 mph gusts, forcing the ship into a sharp list to port. In our cabin, the result was a sliding and then broken Champagne glass. About 20 minutes earlier, John and Rich were rained off the pickleball court, and by the time he returned to our cabin, the rain was sheeting down and our balcony looked like a lake. Nothing like the good old Atlantic for unpredictable weather.
  13. Monday, May 13, 2019 At Sea . . . Day #6 What a wonderful start to the day, opening the curtains to blue skies and calm seas. I think it has been since Oslo (of all places) that we had blue skies, and calm seas are just a foggy memory, especially after the last few days. At 9:00 this morning it was 70 degrees, and this after we’d become used to waking up to 45 or 48. It makes us realize that we’re coming close to Florida, hopefully with sunshine and swimming pool temperatures. Last evening was a good one (as though all of them on a cruise aren’t good), a combination of good entertainment and good food. The 7:15 Spotlight show featured Claire Ivory, one of the Amsterdam singers and dancers. Boy,does that girl have pipes! Her songs varied from Broadway to pop and beyond, and the audience really enjoyed it. Tomorrow evening Rich and Ginni are hosting a cocktail party and Ian, one of our officer friends, is bringing Claire and her best friend (and Amsterdam dancer) Stephanie. Maybe we can talk Claire into a song. After the show, all eight of us headed to the Pinnacle to try out their new menu. While it’s still considered a steak and seafood restaurant, they’ve introduced some new and exciting menu items. The favorite last night was “bacon on a clothesline,” which was ordered by half of us (and sampled by the rest of us). The presentation gets an 11 (out of 10), with a stone on the bottom, topped by a metal structure with a wire “clothesline” strung between the two sides. Three pieces of thick, maple-syrup marinated bacon are strung from the line, with a small branch of rosemary on either side. I hope the photo does it justice. It was pretty darned tasty and I’ll bet you’re salivating right now. The biggest shock of the meal, however, was Jane’s 23-ounce ribeye steak. It came out looking like a caveman’s club, with a huge bone extending about six inches out of the steak. Again, the photo tells the story, and even Tina, the Pinnacle manager, was fairly surprised at the size of it. It fed Bill and Jane and even gave them a doggie bag for lunch today. We had intended to go to the comedian’s show at 10:00, but we didn’t finish dinner until about 10:30, and I think the staff was happy to see us leave, since we were the last diners in the restaurant. This morning in the gym, there wasn’t just exercising going on. A group of people, including the wife of one of the ship’s top officers, had an angry discussion going on about the dogs on board. I think I may have mentioned them before. A couple boarded the ship somewhere in Europe and, with HAL’s permission, brought aboard two “comfort dogs.” Apparently the husband had had heart surgery recently and felt he needed the comfort of his two dogs. Unfortunately, these are NOT service dogs, which I realized when one “escaped” their cabin one morning and ran helter-skelter down the hallway. Apparently the situation has become worse rather than better. During one show in the Queen’s Lounge, one of the dogs began to bark and then to howl, continuing until removed from the room. Also, one pooped in the elevator and another peed on the carpet somewhere on the ship. In addition, the couple brought their dogs to The Pinnacle for dinner and a conflict broke out with other diners which required that security be called. We don't know the outcome of that situation. Of course the person who approved this doesn’t have to deal with the consequences, but both passengers and especially crew do, and officers and crew at the very highest levels are really fed up with the whole thing. I realize that some people really do need their (well-trained) service dogs wherever they go, but noisy, badly-trained ankle biter dogs are certainly not a good idea. I know that it’s possible to find “service dog” certificates online, but I think the situation should require a letter from a vet certifying that the dog is actually a trained service dog as well as a letter from a physician explaining why the person needs such a dog. That would not violate the ADA, but it would keep situations like this from arising. Enough said. The pickle ball players are hoping to get back up on Deck 9 to play, and it looks like today will be the day. I’m just hoping that tomorrow will be a back deck swimsuit day so I can start working on my Panama Canal tan.
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