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Our Jewel T/A - Blarney Stones, Sour Whale Blubber; did I Mention Irish Whiskey?

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We have arrived in England after a pleasant flight from Atlanta and are looking forward to a relaxing day before boarding our ship, the Jewel of the Seas, for our fourth transatlantic voyage. After claiming our luggage, we catch the train to Harwich and settle back with a newspaper to catch up on the local news.

I am not sure if it is due to global warming or the fact that their ancestors wore tights and powdered wigs for two hundred years, but the British slide towards complete eccentricity appears to be accelerating - exceeding even the level to which I have become accustomed. Whatever the cause, I always enjoy reading the English newspapers for their sheer entertainment value; and as I open the paper, I am pleased to see that once again I have not been disappointed:

News Item: The English are now claiming that they (and not the Scots) invented the world’s worst food (Haggis) – claiming they have “discovered” the recipe in an ancient English cookbook from the 1600’s. This claim is quite surprising, as anyone who has ever eaten English cooking knows that they have no need to add to their reputation. The paper even published one of the evening meal recipes in the newly found “Cookery Book”:


Step 1. Fyndeth sum kut of olde tuffe meate

Step 2 Boileth til aul flavour hath byn kilt

Step 3. Serveth wyth sum kynde o rawe mashed roote – lyke tournipe, or paersnipe

Clearly, the English have not strayed far from their culinary roots, but, in evolving to a more discerning palate, they have added something called “mushy peas” to the vegetable mix. Made from marrowfat peas, the dish most closely resembles a thick, green, lumpy porridge, and often, during the cooking process, sodium bicarbonate is added to reduce what Wikipedia.org refers to as “later flatulence” – which explains why you rarely see mushy peas served at High Tea. (Note to self: avoid mushy peas at the group dinner tonight.)

News Item: An alert has been issued about several prisoners who have escaped from prison, but (and I swear I am not making this up) prison authorities cannot release their names or pictures, as it would harm their privacy rights. The prison, Hollesley Bay, apparently has an unofficial early release program as 39 unnamed prisoners have walked away over a period of months. The article did not report whether or not prison officials were allowed to give the names of the escaped prisoners to the police. (In retrospect, this may be why the constable at the train station was asking each person boarding the train if they had been to Hollesley Bay recently. Having trouble with his accent, I thought he had said Holliday Bay and said; “ No, but it sounds fun and we might look into it our next trip over.” It was at that point that my privacy rights were violated and I had to show him my passport).

News Item: Radio 4 reported that a man diagnosed as clinically depressed by the National Health Service was scheduled for controversial shock therapy when it was discovered that he was not depressed, but merely Scottish. (He had probably read about the English claims about Haggis!)

At this rate England is going to soon catch up with California. Furthermore, I suspect that on some future trip to England we will find that the entire population has drifted off into the mystical land of Hogsmeade.

But I digress.

Day 1 – Harwich

The English may not have the best culinary skills, but they certainly know how to get people on and off a boat. I guess it comes from their heritage as the greatest maritime nation in the world. The boarding process was smooth and almost as fast as the de-boarding process we experienced when we left the Vision of the Seas in Harwich back in April.

After securing our gear in our stateroom, we had lunch in the Windjammer where we ran into an delightful Canadian couple and spent an interesting hour talking about our upcoming cruise. Then it was off to explore the ship and familiarize ourselves with our home for the next two weeks.

Day 2 (Wednesday) Le Havre, France

Our transatlantic trip is finally underway and after an arduous journey we have finally arrived in France. The whirlwind excitement of boarding, finding our room, meeting people from our roll call, and exploring the ship makes it seem like it was just yesterday that we left Harwich. Wait a minute! It was just yesterday. The first stop on our 4,000-mile transatlantic voyage has occurred after a grueling 20-mile channel crossing. I suspect that the ship left Harwich, waited until we were asleep, and then parked itself in the channel for a few hours before slipping into Le Havre in the wee hours of the morning – simulating a hard night of sailing. I can only hope that we will be in port long enough for the ship to refuel and restock provisions before we leave for an even more arduous day of sailing to Cherbourg - which is a much longer trip of approximately 120 miles.

Occupied by the Germans, Le Havre was heavily damaged during WWII, so many of its administrative, historical and cultural sites were destroyed. The rebuilding of Le Havre was in the neo-modern post-cubist style, which has resulted in the city now being listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site due to: (and I quote from the UNESO.org website) “the innovative exploitation of the potential of concrete”. What! Based on this, I think the innovative ways in which I have applied concrete patching may qualify my driveway for an historical site listing.

The stop in Le Havre basically offers three options for shore leave – (1) a 2-½ hour train ride to visit Paris, (2) a city tour to see how concrete was exploited, or (3) a tour of Normandy and/or Omaha Beach. As we have been to Paris and are really not into exploring the creative uses of concrete, we elect to visit Omaha Beach.

After picking up our rental car I am reminded how sensitive the French are about their language. If you can’t speak it perfectly they prefer you not speak it at all. But I assure SailorJill that, as most Canadians do, I took French in High School and, with all due modesty, am probably still quite proficient. As I am not quite sure about which road to take out of the city, I ask the man picking up the car next to us which was the best road to take to reach the English Channel. Well, as it turns out, my high school French may not be as perfect as I had thought as he glared at me, muttered something and got in his car. The only word I could make out was “idiot” – which I guess is the same in both languages.

I heard some chuckling behind me and a kind gentleman (from Belgium as it turned out) pointed me in the right direction. “By the way”, he said “what you basically said to him was: ‘Can you take me to the best English salted water.’” I thanked him, got in the car, started the engine and wondered how long SailorJill could stifle her laughter. She held out for nearly 30 seconds.

I would describe our visit to Omaha Beach in more detail, but words cannot accurately convey the emotion of that moment. As an Army veteran myself, I can only imagine what ran through the minds of those 19 and 20 year old kids as they stared at the German fortifications as their landing craft crawled towards the beach. Many of those kids never even made it to shore, and over 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded before that fateful day ended.

The relics, memorials, and cemeteries all highlight the courage and sacrifices of those who fought on both sides on that day and the visit is a sobering one. The drive back to Le Havre is a quiet one as we both reflect on what we saw and learned.

Day 3 (Thursday) Cherbourg, France

Young men often do extraordinarily stupid things when they want to impress a young woman and you may be somewhat surprised to know that I occasionally fell into that category…and Cherbourg, unfortunately, reminds me of one of those times. I was dating SailorJill (well, she wasn’t actually SailorJill at the time) and wanted to impress her with my continental sophistication, so I took her to see a romantic movie that is often called the most beautiful movie ever made - entitled Umbrellas of Cherbourg starring Catherine Deneuve. This, I figured, would score me some BIG points. I should have done my homework. It was a musical with singing dialogue. Not just an occasional song. Every single line of dialogue in that movie was sung. Every single line! In French! I’ve had root canals that were less painful than the two hours I spent waiting for that movie to end. Of course, SailorJill was utterly enthralled by the movie so I had to sit there with a silly grin and pretend that it was a great movie. I don’t know which was more painful – listening to incoherent dialogue sung in French for two hours or nodding and smiling idiotically every time SailorJill glanced my way.

Of course, now that we are here, SailorJill wants to see if we can find the little umbrella boutique from the movie and some of the other filming locales. I think she knows that after all these years the chances of finding any of them will be nearly impossible, but she thinks it would be great fun to try – so we are off to find a guidebook and spend a day exploring Cherbourg.

OK, we’re back. Not much to see in Cherbourg. The best thing was the fairly impressive “City by the Sea” - it is a combination of a museum, an aquarium, and has what is billed as the largest submarine in the world (Le Redoubtable) that allows visitors. It turns out that Cherbourg is where France builds its submarines. Apparently, getting into the submarine building business was a natural for France because, historically, most of its naval ships wound up under water anyhow.

By the way, SailorJill thinks she found the little umbrella boutique – only it was selling adult toys now. Now that would have made an interesting musical!

Day 4 – Cobh, Republic of Ireland

This may be the only major seaport in the world with only one vowel. As cheap as we Scots are deemed to be, the Irish may have bested us here. While the Irish are clearly in love with consonants, one would think that for a mere $250 they could have bought another vowel and come up with a name that could actually be pronounced without learning the Gaelic language.

That said, Cobh is a small, charming port (the arrival of the Jewel increased the population by 30%) that has a great deal of history behind it. This was the last port the Titanic called upon before striking out across the Atlantic - and it was the port to which the survivors of the Lusitania were brought after it was sunk by a German U-boat.

We would like to spend time in Cobh, but because we can’t pronounce its name we would be unable to tell our friends about it, so we elect instead to take a tour to Ballynabrannagh and Knocknagappagh. On the way, our first stop is at Blarney Castle, home to the famed Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those that kiss the stone are granted the gift of gab and eloquence and I am eager to acquire those skills.

ALERT! Contrary to my earlier perceptions, the stone is not a large rock set in the earth. It is a stone that is part of the castle wall. To kiss the stone one must climb to the very top of the castle’s battlements, lean over backwards while someone either sits on your legs or holds your feet, hang your head 300 feet out over the ground below, reach across to the opposite wall and grasp an iron rail in order to kiss what Tripadvisor.com calls “the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.”

HIGH ALERT! In describing the appearance of the stone, Wikipedia.com reports, “Apart from discoloration and wear caused by human contact, the stone is not readily distinguishable from its neighbors.” In other words, the saliva from 300,000 people a year has so stained and etched this particular rock that along with the Great Wall of China it might well be one of only two manmade artifacts easily discernable from outer space. I suspect that by now it may well glow in the dark as well! Lord only knows what new life form may emerge from the thick layer of primordial ooze that must now cover the stone!

As I would be unable to spray the stone with the sanitizer I brought while spread-eagled backwards over a wall 300 feet in the air, I decide that the gift of gab may not be all it’s cracked up to be and graciously offer my place in line to SailorJill.

Day 5 – Belfast, Northern Ireland

We have arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland - a relatively small country approximately the size of Central Park.If Northern Ireland were a person, its name would be Monk and it would be in intense therapy, with standing appointments every Monday and Friday afternoon. It suffered deep trauma as a result of its breakup with the Republic of Ireland, went into a deep depression over the loss of the Titanic, experienced nearly thirty years of personal Troubles, and has developed a bit of an inferiority complex as a result of its sibling rivalry with the Republic of Ireland. (Example: On the music scene, the Republic of Ireland has the well-known groups U2 and Celtic Woman; Northern Ireland, on the other hand, is stuck with Stiff Little Fingers and Putrefy.) And, adding insult to injury, just when things were starting to look up and it got a new low cost air service to the Belfast airport, it finds out that it may have to pay to use the airplane’s toilet. Talk about developing low self-esteem! Despite all of this, the country is now starting to experience strong growth and can look forward to the day when it can get up off the couch and give that time slot to Portugal.

This is SailorJill’s first visit to Northern Ireland, so we rent a car; buy as much insurance as they would sell us, and head out – remembering to drive on the left hand side of the road after receiving several international gestures of good-will. There is so much to see in this beautiful country, but our time is so short that we are severely limited in our options – so we elect to visit the attractions in northern County Antrim. Our first stop is at Bushmills distillery; makers, over the past several centuries, of exceptionally fine blended and single barrel malt whiskies. Highlight of the tour (of course) is the opportunity to sample some of that fine Irish whiskey.

After the tour we head for the Giant’s Causeway – a stunningly unique geographical formation made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns – and voted by Britons as the fourth greatest ancient natural wonder in the United Kingdom (narrowly edging out Keith Richards). It is only 3 miles from Bushmills, but after 30 minutes of driving SailorJill is apparently becoming somewhat concerned that we will miss the ship’s departure.

“Admit it,” she said, “you’re lost!”

“I can’t be lost, I still have gas in the tank.” (One cannot be lost whilst one still has enough gas to drive to where one is going!)

“I just don’t understand it. You could find a 300-year-old distillery in the middle of nowhere without missing a turn, but you can’t find the Atlantic Ocean or the northern coast of an island when it was only 3 miles away!”

I have to admit she had a point, but under the circumstances I didn’t think it wise to tell her that I had visited Bushmills on several previous occasions when I was working in Belfast. I was looking for a suitable response to SailorJill’s concerns when, validating my keen sense of direction, we spot the Atlantic Ocean out my side window; and within minutes, we are at the Giant’s Causeway.

While it may have been one of the longest 3-mile drives we have ever taken, the stunning panorama before us made the trip well worthwhile! One can understand why earlier visitors thought these columns were manmade - to wit, by a Giant named Finn MacCool - which is a really great name! If we have a son I want to name him that. (As it is, we have a daughter and named her Alexis because if we hadn’t had her we could be driving one.) But I digress. The columns are hexagonal in shape and some stand as high as 40 feet tall. They are so uniform in shape that they look like they were chiseled by a master stonemason and lined up side by side to form, well, to form a giant causeway. They march from the base of the cliffs out to sea and disappear under the water – forming a road – according to legend - so that Finn could walk to Scotland to fight his brother, Benan Donner (no relation to Blitzen or Dasher).

Actually formed by volcanic eruptions some 60 million years ago, the Causeway is spectacular and well worth the visit. While I would have liked to walk along the scenic trail overlooking the rock formations, our time is running short so we head for our final stop, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.

We find the bridge with no trouble and while it is very nice, it pales in comparison to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is just up the road from where I lived in North Vancouver. The Carrick-a-Rede Bridge is about 60 long and 90 feet high compared to Capilano’s 450-foot span and 230 foot height. Still, it is a pleasant diversion. But time is at a premium, so we elect not to tarry, but to return to Belfast and the Jewel. Unfortunately, SailorJill refuses to stop by Bushmills on the way back. Oh, well.

Day 6 – Somewhere in the North Atlantic

This evening we were invited to a cocktail gathering with the Captain. After going through the reception line, we were each handed a glass of champagne and invited to mingle with the other guests. As we headed towards a group of elegantly dressed passengers I furiously worked on an opening comment that would quickly establish myself as an interesting and dynamic conversationalist. After completing our introductions, an elderly man in an immaculate tuxedo announced to the group, “I was the first openly gay policeman in the United States.” My God, the man was brilliant! Not only had he thought up a comment that was contemporary, but also one that was both edgy and provocative. In one preemptive move he had negated the clever opening line I was going to use - “I organize my sock drawer by color” - and solidly established himself as the Alpha Male of the group.

I don’t know what it is about cruise ship conversations, but either the first or second question is usually, “Where are you from”? As the inevitable question was asked of me, I responded, “British Columbia” and all other conversation stopped as the group eyed me somewhat speculatively. I don’t know what it is about the name “British Columbia”, but in most people it conjures up an image of a few square miles of cleared jungle somewhere in South America with a tattered Union Jack fluttering limply from a dead banana tree.

Several members of the group then complimented me on my grasp of English and my ability to hold a wine glass correctly, but I could tell they were also wondering if I might not have a shrunken head or two stuffed into my back pocket. Somewhat defensively, I added that British Columbia was in Canada “It’s the first province on the left, eh.” That, of course, reduced my status from a somewhat interesting oddity from south of the border to a much less interesting beer guzzling, hockey playing, lumberjack from north of the border.

Leslie, a very elderly blue haired lady from one of those American Midwestern states that begins with a vowel, announced that while she had never been to Canada she seemed to remember stories from her childhood about a very famous Canadian Mountie. “But I can’t remember his name.”

“Sergeant Preston”, I suggested.

“No, no…the other one. Oh dear, and I’m usually so good with names…oh, yes – Dudley Doright! Do you know him”? Not sure who was kidding who here, I left the question unanswered and asked if she had watched the news reports on President Obama’s recent meeting with our Prime Minister.

“I’m afraid I must have missed it. What’s his name”?

“Boris Badenov”, I replied – which elicited a sharp jab in the ribs from SailorJill.

Day 7 – Reykjavik, Iceland

We have reached Iceland! As we enter the outer harbor of Reykjavik, I recall for SailorJill some of the early history of this island. Local lore has it that the island was named “Iceland” to scare off ancient immigrants. The idea being that when Sven and Gjertrud, who resided well above the Arctic Circle, decided to retire to a warmer clime, they would look at the map and decide that “Greenland” sounded so much more preferable than “Iceland”. Even the Capitol’s name was cleverly constructed to fend off the pesky empire- building British - who not only so distained ice that they would not put it in their drinks, but who took great pride in their fleet of expensive sailing vessels. By using most of the high point tiles from Scrabble, they came up with the name “Reykjavik”, which, when pronounced with a British accent, comes across as wreck-yer-ship.

One can easily imagine the response to the Bosun’s inquiry:

Bosun: “ Cap’n, be ye set’n sail for Iceland and Wreck-yer-ship or Nova Scotia and Halifax?”

Cap’n: “Hummm. Well, Laddie, I paid a goodly sum for this boat so tis to Halifax we’ll be sailin’ - where a right bonnie meal of hot Haggis and Clapshot and a flagon of warm single barrel scotch be callin our names!”

Thus it came to be that Canada became a British possession and not Iceland. As I noted to Sailorjill, its historical insights like this that make international travel such a rewarding and educational experience.

Once ashore we signed up for a tour and enjoyed the amazing scenery of the island. As we drove along the south coast I knew we had left the city when I saw, off in the distance, a great number of clothes lines with what appeared to be newly washed items fluttering in the wind. “Actually”, said our guide, Fridrik, those are Flakes, which are used to dry and cure fish; and those are hardfiskur you see hanging from the Flakes. You don’t have those in America, do you”?

“Actually, I replied,” we have quite a number of flakes in America and even a few on the Jewel.” Somewhat amazed, Fridrik said, “you are drying fish on the ship!” Belatedly realizing that my attempt at humor wasn’t translating, I tried explaining that the flakes on the ship was a term for people that were a little crazy. Now completely befuddled, Fridrik blurted out, “You have crazy people drying fish?” I gave up trying to explain this one, but couldn’t help wondering how Fridrik was going to explain this to his family over dinner.

Speaking of dinner, sun dried fish is not the only delicacy on the island. Warming to the subject, Fridrik tells us about Thorramatur – traditional Icelandic food. (Before continuing, I need to apologize to my Scottish ancestors for the many years in which I have maligned them (falsely as it turns out) for originating the world’s worst food - Haggis.)

A typical Thorramatur feast would feature (and I swear I am not making this up) singed blackened sheep heads, pickled sheep testicles, sour whale blubber and putrefied shark – all washed down with something called Black Death. This food is so gross that dining protocol, apparently, requires that one diner point a powerful, loaded rifle at another diner and ordering him to eat some rotten shark. After eating the shark, he would then take the gun, point it at the previous gun holder and order him to eat some sour whale blubber. After dinner they would put the gun away until it was needed for breakfast. You don’t see a lot of fat people in Iceland.

Politely declining an invitation to try some of these delicacies, it dawns on me that the original inhabitants of this island did not have to name it Iceland to keep others out. They could have simply printed out the menu on a large sign, posted it at the entrance to the harbor, and watched approaching ships do hasty U-turns!

Our last stop, before returning to the ship, was at something called the Blue Lagoon. Now, before you get too dreamy-eyed, this is not a palm shaded tropical beach with a young Brooke Shields running around in a strategically shredded bikini – it is basically a manmade cooling pond cut into a field of ancient lava. One pays about $40 to enter the park, put white silica mud on one’s face, and bathe in water that feels, at first blush, to be only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun. As we first entered the park our first impression was that someone had left a number of volleyballs bobbing up and down on the blue water. Closer inspection, however, revealed that these were actually the white silica-covered faces of bathers sitting in the lagoon.

In our travels we have had some interesting adventures, but I am struck by the uniqueness of this one. Here we are, thousands of miles from home, on a glacier-covered island somewhere near the Arctic Circle, in late September, nearly naked, and standing in what really amounts to a big puddle of water created by the effluent from a geothermal industrial power plant. Oh yes, and don’t forget that our faces are now covered with white mud! And we paid $40 for the privilege! Despite the apparent absurdity of it, it may not be as bad as it sounds. While my wet upper torso is now exposed to an outside temperature of about 40 degrees, my legs are submerged in water that is 104 degrees - so I should be averaging out at a very comfortable 71 degrees - but the tips of my fingers are turning as blue as the water and I am having trouble explaining this logic to SailorJill because my teeth won’t stop chattering.

“For Pete’s sake, Jack, sit down.” Good advice from SailorJill, but I am steeling myself to make a run for the café to get a beer and I fear that if I sit down I won’t want to get back up. That’s when I spot the sign prohibiting food and beverages in the lagoon. Oh, well, I sat down and joined the other volleyballs.

Day 9 – Deep into the Atlantic

This morning I wandered into the gallery to look for a souvenir T-shirt and stumbled into the middle of an intense discussion between two female members of the ship’s crew who were sitting on the floor affixing price tags to new merchandise: “…and he walked right by me like he didn’t even know me. How can he come to my cabin and then act like that”?

Well, I have to admit, I was aghast. Like all of you, I had no idea this kind of thing happened on a respectable cruise ship. Now, far be it from me to eavesdrop, but suddenly remembering that we might need suntan lotion, I stopped and picked up a tube and studiously examined the label (to ensure that it was the right SPF) when the other girl asked, “How long was he in your cabin”? This was a very good question.

However, the distraught girl, perhaps sensing that they were speaking a little to freely, lowered her voice to respond. Suddenly recalling that SailorJill had brought several tubes of lotion, I replaced the tube on the shelf and noticed a display of razor blades that happened to be a few feet closer to the two ladies. Well, I thought, I can always use more razor blades, so I moved down to the display and picked up a package of blades (to ensure that they were the kind that would fit my razor): “…and then he left around 3:00.” Drat, I had obviously missed the arrival time.

“Well, what happened when he was in your cabin”? They were speaking very low now, and, recalling that I used an electric razor, I replaced the blades and picked up a box from a display that that was even closer to the two girls. “ He was very sweet. Before he removed…may I help you, sir?”

Concerned that they might think I was listening in on their conversation, I held the box aloft and replied, “No thanks, I just found what I was looking for. I ran out of mine last night and this should do me fine.”

Both girls (and several passengers) gave me such a strange look that I glanced up and was mortified to see that I was holding a box of Kotex Pearl super absorbent tampons. Gathering what shreds of dignity I had left, I marched over to the cashier, explained (loudly) that it was actually for my niece, paid for my purchase and promptly dropped it in the first trash receptacle I came to. I guess I wasn’t going to be getting a souvenir T-shirt, as wild horses could never drag me back in there again!

Day 10 – Still Deep into the Atlantic Ocean

It is day 10 and we have not had a port of call in several days so SailorJill insisted that we use the exercise room to stay in shape. At first I thought she was joking, but became understandably concerned when a quick glance at the ship’s map revealed that such a room actually existed. I mean, this was a vacation cruise ship…what designer is his right mind wasted precious space putting in an exercise room when the area could be much better utilized by building something much more practical, such as, oh, I don’t know…maybe an authentic Munich beer hall?

But SailorJill was adamant, so after breakfast, beer in hand, I reluctantly followed SailorJill up the stairs. As we went through the door the first thing I saw were three very attractive uniformed girls with wide, bright welcoming smiles.

I perked up immediately! This was not going to be so bad after all. As I pulled in my stomach and tried to come up with a brilliant witticism, SailorJill noted that we had mistakenly entered the Spa, apologized, and pulled me up another flight of stairs - and there they were! We were face to face with row upon row of deadly looking contraptions that had apparently survived the Spanish Inquisition.

As I stood there, gaping at those deadly machines a sense of foreboding crept over me. It was obvious these machines had been designed to inflict maximum pain to the human body - in several different positions – standing up, sitting down, and (God, help me) squatting.

“Come on”, SailorJill said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”! I had an eerie feeling that at the end of the day I wasn’t going to be in the “makes you stronger” category. SailorJill had me get on one of the “standing up” machines, which was called a “treadmill”. I had seen these advertised on television and they didn’t look any better up close and personal. At least it had a nice soft rubber mat to stand on.

As I stood there, she started pushing buttons and the rubber mat I was standing on started to move! I actually had to start walking to keep from falling off. Then, with increasing concern, I watched as a digital indicator labeled “Speed” started climbing from .5 to 2, then 3, and finally to 5. I started having trouble holding on to my beer at “3” and by “4” my legs were moving so fast I had to chug the rest so I could use both hands to grab onto the handrail. But SailorJill wasn’t finished. Apparently she was still upset over my Boris Badenov joke because she pushed another button labeled “Incline” and (I swear I am not making this up) the machine started going uphill! It stopped at something called “Level 3”, which was, I estimated, approximately the slope of Pike’s Peak.

Then, even though my vision was beginning to blur, I saw SailorJill set the “Timer” to “30 minutes”. That’s when columns of red lights on the little screen started blinking and flashing. I think they were desperately signaling “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger” - but I already knew that. As I frantically looked for the “Off” button, I noticed a small box labeled “EMT” with the number ”5” in it. I had no idea what that was, but suspected that EMT probably stood for the number of Emergency Medical Technicians it was going to take to carry me down to the ship’s hospital.

After what seemed like an eternity, and through the roaring in my ears, I faintly heard SailorJill call, “Can I get you anything, Jack?” A stick of C4 immediately came to mind, but, no, that would be too quick. A hacksaw was what I needed. I would slowly saw this thing into little, tiny pieces and, with a bucket of ice cold Corona by my side, I would sit in my lounge chair and, one by one, toss each piece off the back end of the boat – saving countless other unsuspecting husbands from vacation interuptus! I would be a Hero – venerated by generations of future unsuspecting vacationers.

I knew I was becoming delusional, but by now my body was so numb that I knew the end was near. Then, miraculously, the machine started to slow down and then came to a stop. With quivering legs, I stepped off onto solid ground and looked over at SailorJill – giving her a weak grin because, like Gloria Gaynor, I had survived. As feeling slowly began to seep back into my toes, SailorJill said, “Now for the Stairclimber”. OK, make that two hacksaws.

Day 12 - Boston

Our cruise has, regretfully, come to a close. It is the last day of the cruise and we are entering Boston Harbor. It is a beautiful harbor and Boston is one of America’s most historic cities – having given us both Boston Crème Pie and Boston Baked Beans (apparently without sodium bicarbonate). And who can forget the midnight ride of Paul Revere, as he warned the citizens “the British are coming, the British are coming” – which is now the official motto of the South Florida Tourist Association. (Actually, there are many British passengers on the Jewel, so maybe Paul’s warning still applies to the Boston area as well.)

Although Boston is a fun city to visit, we have an early plane so we have no time to linger and after de-boarding we head for the airport. One advantage of westbound transatlantic cruises is the relatively short flight home. And after 12 days at sea I am anxious get home to Atlanta and unpack. And it is not, as SailorJill opined, because of the two bottles of Bushmills I have secreted in my luggage.

Life is good!

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Another great review Sailor Jack, I can only imagine how "interesting " it must be to be married to someone with your own special sense of humour.

I especially loved your Canadian references and I can totally relate to them all.

This review wants me want to consider a TA, unfortunately my DH would never be able to withstand all the at sea days.

My roots are in Ireland & until i read your description of the Blarney stone I thought at some point I'd have to make my way there to check it out, now I think i'll take a pass.

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OMG - your reveiw was beyond hilarious and informative at the same time.

Have you thought about writing a book? Your humor reminds me of the late, great Lewis Grizzard.


Come on down to Panama City Beach. We have a German beer hall at our new Pier Park.



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Thankyou very much for your review, you've brightened up a very boring day at the office ... reading cruise critic when I'm supposed to be working isn't the easiest thing to do at the best of times but trying to keep a straight face at the same time is practically impossible!


And can I just say, mushy peas .... I love them. Infact I had them for tea last night :D For anyone interested they are on the menu on Independence ... in the 'Wind' jammer :p

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It is verrrry interesting what the lack of use of the spacebar on the computer keyboard turned into.


"Who resided" became "whoresided". Which side of her was that anyway?;)

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Another great review Sailor Jack, I can only imagine how "interesting " it must be to be married to someone with your own special sense of humour.

I especially loved your Canadian references and I can totally relate to them all.

This review wants me want to consider a TA, unfortunately my DH would never be able to withstand all the at sea days.

My roots are in Ireland & until i read your description of the Blarney stone I thought at some point I'd have to make my way there to check it out, now I think i'll take a pass.


Glad you enjoyed the report! Actually, the sea days can be as relaxing or as active as you want - there is so much do to the ship - lectures, dance lessons, sports, socialising, wine tastings, etc. Or you can just lay around the pool and read a good book.


Lots of people kiss the Blarney stone and most live to tell about it. Don't let me scare you off.:D


livylotte: loved the "wind" jammer reference. Can I use that sometime?;)


batoryfirst: Thanks for your comments - no book. We have put off driving down to Panama City Beach, but that was before I knew about the beer hall!


hypo: I saw that after it was to late to edit.:eek: This is similar to another review I wrote and in describing the public rooms I left out the "L". If any of the hosts read this I sure would appreciate it if you could give me a space!:D

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The review was so good I thought I was actually on this cruise with you.:) Oh wait, I was.:D Great to sail with you and Sailor Jill, Jack.

Edited by negc

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Another fabulous review, that had me hysterterical!


THanks for the laughs...


Of note, I was on a land tour of Ireland, We visited some relatives. They said a true Irishman or woman, has no need to kiss the blarney stone! They should already have the gift of gab... I however did take pictures!


However if i ever go to Iceland, I will bring crackers and peanutbutter!

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Another SailorJack review is just what I needed this morning! Was laughing out loud, so I'm sure everyone was wondering why......:D


Keep them coming!



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OMG, I can be literate from time to time but I wish I had SailorJ's way with words.


An excellent review, beautifully personalised.


Thank you

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That was wonderful!


A great preview of our TA next year, although slightly different ports -- N. Ireland is gone and we gain a second stop in Iceland plus St. John NF.


If we have 1/2 as much fun as you did, it will be a great success!



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Wonderful wonderful review

I am crying with laughter :D

How long do we have to wait until your next cruise?

Edited by little britain

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OMG!! Another fabulous trip report!! You are hilarious, SailorJack, would love to meet you sometime. About Ireland and the Blarney Stone--we have been to Ireland 7 times in the last 12 years, and never kissed the bloody(?) thing! I talk so much now, it would be pretty scary.


Please keep sailing and writing reports-stories (it certainly isn't a review, LOL) so that every once in a while we can all have a wonderful laugh, and look forward to the next. By the way, loved the Norwegian Dream report!!



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Thank you so much for your report, SailorJack. Very, very entertaining.


Aaah, and the Jewel is a wonderful ship, we did the British Isles/Norwegian Fiords sailing her in June, 2005.


You should really be hired by the cruiselines to sell the Transatlantic sailings! Now after your report, I want to do the same TA on the Jewel next year. If only I could get my kids to grow up fast and be done with school and get my husband to retire early , then we would have the time to do a TA in the middle of the school year.


Thanks again,


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Fantastic review. Did you advise the Brits that we are taking good care of the colonies on their behalf? laugh laugh laugh------

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Thank you for sharing your wonderful review- you have a great writing style and I love your wit.


Happy sailings to you and SailorJill

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Thank you for the wonderfully review!! It brought back many good memories from or TA on Jewel last year.

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