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SailorJack

Life Aboard the Crown...and (Near) Death as Well...Seven Days of Excitement

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We booked this cruise at the last minute and in doing so discovered one of the drawbacks to this procedure – trying to find a hotel room. Several hours of calling nearly every hotel in Fort Lauderdale proved futile – until I called the Excelsior Arms. The Excelsior not only had space available, but had a very unique rate structure – it charged by the hour! This actually makes a lot of sense. Why pay for a full day when you are just flying in to catch a ship and will only be using the room for a relatively short period of time. The reservation agent was very nice, if a wee bit forgetful, (he apparently forgot my name and kept calling me “John”) and tried explaining the rate structure:

SailorJack: “What is the rate, please?”

Reservation Agent: “Well, how many hours ya gonna need?”

SJ: “I am on a late flight so probably 10 hours should do it.”

RA: “Wow, John! You da man!”

SJ: “It’s Jack, but thank you – I think.”

Before booking the room I inquired as to whether they offered airport pickup and shuttle service to the port. In reply the agent barked out a very unpleasant remark and hung up. I guess he was having a bad day.

Despairing of ever finding a room I resorted to using an online booking agent and, as a result, was successful in securing a room. But I had to pay for the full 24 hours.

The real problem arose the day before we were due to fly to Ft. Lauderdale. I had forgotten not only the name of the hotel I had booked, but the name of the online agency I had used. Too late, I realized that the confirming e-mail that I was supposed to have received had never arrived. As I have experienced situations like this before, I took a deep breath and seemed to recall the name “Best Western.” Although this was very embarrassing, I pride myself on being a straight forward man of action - so I immediately picked up the phone and called all three Best Westerns in the Fort Lauderdale area and explained that my wife had made a reservation and had forgotten exactly where and did they have a reservation under our name. No luck.

Reluctantly explaining the situation to SailorJill, she suggested I simply call the credit card company and get the name of the online booking agency from the charge that I made. To make a long story short, this proved successful and we were able to obtain the hotel information (it was a Days Inn).

But I digress.

Day 1 – Port Everglades

The embarkation process went very smoothly and we were soon in our balcony stateroom on the Aloha deck. After admiring the view from our balcony over a rum and coke (well, I had the rum and coke – SailorJill unpacked) we headed up to the Horizon Court for lunch. Before explaining my extraordinary luncheon experience, however, I need to mention that over the years I have been constantly reminded that one should never give a woman a gift that has an electrical cord attached to it or requires gasoline (cars, apparently, are exempted from this rule, but not lawnmowers.) This rule was revealed to me by SailorJill’s mother, three of her best friends, and a phalanx of people on Facebook after I gave SailorJill a blender for our fifth wedding anniversary.

But today, after all those years of abuse for that blender (hey, it had 24 speeds!) I met at today’s lunch a fabulous woman (and her husband) who finally laid to rest that fairy tale canard. She was a graduate of SailorJill’s alma mater (SIU) and had majored in forestry. For her last birthday she had REQUESTED as a birthday gift, and received, a CHAINSAW! It was a very large chainsaw, and like Tim Taylor on Tool Time, she obviously appreciated the need for “more power!” As I was enjoying this serendipitous moment I couldn’t help but notice the “don’t you even think about it” look from SailorJill. Not a problem. Now that I knew that women really did like power tools I had four months to convince her that the 300cc Binford SuperMax hedge trimmer and bushwhacker was just what she wanted for her birthday.

Day 2 – At Sea

This morning SailorJill and I went up to Neptune’s Pool to take advantage of the 78 degree weather. As I spread out my towels and lay back on the lounge I couldn’t help but notice a huge white screen that loomed over the pool area like a giant balloon payment on a second mortgage. It was, as I seemed to recall, the screen for Movies Under the Stars “MUTS” - which provides a pleasant diversion on a tropical evening. However, as there were no stars out in the morning, I opened my book, took a sip of my rum and coke and prepared for a quiet, lazy day at sea.

However, it wasn’t long before a cacophony of sound burst forth from the screen and a 10 foot tall Tina Turner stared down at me and cried out that she wanted to be my private dancer. (Apparently, Movies Under the Stars morphs into Music Under the Sun –perhaps to honor the Egyptian sun god Ra). As I was not in need of a private dancer, I looked around for a remote control but could not see one. As to others I cannot attest, but for me it is simply unnatural to watch a big screen TV without a beer in one hand and a clicker in the other. But as I had neither I was forced to endure.

At first I had trouble understanding why they would want to blast music at us as we are trying to enjoy a lazy day around the pool, but future events led me to suspect that it was quite possibly a nefarious medium for subliminal messages! I say this because after listening to Tina for an hour or so, I found myself turning to SailorJill and suggesting that we hurry down to the gift shop and purchase a cute little Princess Doggy Captain’s Costume. To which SailorJill replied, “Jack, we don’t have a dog.”

True, but it would make the perfect souvenir and they were on sale for today only for $19.99. At the time I didn’t even think to wonder how I knew this.

A little later, during an opus by Michael Jackson, SailorJill turns to me and says, “You know we really should give all tens on the satisfaction survey that we will be given at the end of the cruise.” “I agree”, I replied, “and we should make some really nice comments about the Cruise Director. In fact, somehow I think I know just what comments to make.”

Granted, I have no proof that these ideas (and several others) that I had were the result of subliminal messaging, but the next time you are lying around the pool and MUTS starts playing take a minute to focus on the strange things and ideas that run through your mind – and then ask yourself, “would I have thought about this if I wasn’t listening to MUTS?”

Be that as it may, as our Meet and Greet was scheduled to start at 12:00, SailorJill and I adjourned to our stateroom to shower and dress for the upcoming meeting. I put on a pair of khaki shorts, a Princess golf shirt and deck shoes. SailorJill was wearing a black leather bustier, a pair of black leather shorts that laced up the back, black fishnet stockings and five inch stiletto heels. Oops, my mistake – that is actually the current screen saver I’m using. SailorJill is actually wearing shorts, sandals and her “I married an Idiot” t-shirt – a gift from her mother on the occasion of our second wedding anniversary.

The roll call for this cruise was one of the most active I have ever seen and I was looking forward to meeting the people who had been posting over the past several weeks. I have never been on a roll call before where recipes (something called Shoo-fly cake), bath tub renovations, and the best place to buy flip-flops have all been discussed in serious detail. I could hardly wait to match faces with screen names.

As I have reported more than once, I am somewhat loath to discuss politics with people that I have just met, but sometimes such discussions can be real eye-openers. I had such a discussion at our meet and greet today with a gentleman from New York and it proved to be one of the most interesting give and takes I have had in quite a while. As a staunch conservative I tend to resist major changes in the social structure, but he made such a strong and persuasive argument concerning the need to redistribute and share the wealth in America that he made a convert of me. As a result, I have decided to share with Oprah.

Day 3 – Georgetown, Grand Cayman

The Cayman Islands are known worldwide for their excellent diving venues and SailorJill and I are eager to explore the offshore reefs, although it has been some time since our last dive - so we are probably a little rusty. I want to do a dive on the famous Wall, but SailorJill is a little concerned about the difficulty of that dive and wants to try something a little less ambitious, so we have opted for a shallower reef dive.

Arriving at the dive site I don my gear and elect to jump in first in order to be in the water to assist SailorJill in the event that she has any problems with her BCD or weight belt adjustment. It wasn’t until I was sinking below the surface of the water that I discovered that I had failed to turn on my air. As my weight belt slowly pulled me even deeper into the ocean my life flashed before my eyes – well, at least the last few minutes as I wondered how in the world I could have failed to turn on the air valve.

As I felt myself slowly running out of air, and in an effort to prevent a most unfortunate and regrettable ending to this dive, I started to quickly kick my feet to slow my descent and began to frantically claw at the water over my shoulders in an attempt to reach the oxygen valve. In retrospect I suspect that these actions presented quite a spectacle to the local marine life that appeared to be watching me with bemused attachment:

Sea Bass: “What do you make of this one, Charles?”

Sting Ray: “I’m not sure Sam; I guess it could be some new form of underwater Zumba.”

Sam: “Possibly, but I think the idiot actually forgot to turn on his air.”

Charles: “I think you’re right! Where do these weekend divers come from?”

Sam: “Well this one has some sort of shoe on his feet so he is not from Alabama. Say, remember that Canadian last week who nearly beat himself senseless trying to clear his ear passage?”

Charles: “I think you’re right again. He does look Canadian…see, his face is turning as red as the maple leaf on their flag. I think all the cold air up there…oops, shows over, he got his air turned on.”

Gratefully taking in a few deep breaths I was considering how near to death I had come when I heard a splash and SailorJill swam up to me. “Are you OK,” she signals to me. I signal back, “I am now, but it was a close call Jill, it was nearly over for me.” “Jack, don’t be melodramatic - the water depth here is only six feet and the top of your head and your snorkel are sticking out of the water. Next time turn your air on before you get in the water” “You saw?” “Jack, everyone on the boat saw.”

I wonder if I have enough air to reach shore.

Day 4 – Roatan

I am honest enough to admit that I occasionally shop at Wal-Mart. During those visits, I am constantly mystified by the people who back into their parking spot. It takes a lot of extra effort and I assume the only reason someone would do that is that they are anticipating the need to make a speedy getaway.

This morning I came to the realization that our Captain must shop at Wal-Mart when (and I swear I am not making this up) he started to BACK the ship into Roatan! I could only assume that the Captain had been to Roatan before and felt the need to be prepared for an expeditious departure. His explanation for this maneuver (the entrance to Roatan was through an especially narrow channel) was somewhat hard for me to grasp. I have lived in several foreign countries – England, Germany, and New Mexico to name a few – and try as I might, I cannot recall a single instance that when confronted with the need to pass through a very narrow alley that I said to myself, “I think this will be much easier if I try to drive through backwards.”

Be that as it may, about halfway into the docking area, the Captain suddenly threw the ship into first gear and we high tailed it out to the open sea. I guess they heard he was coming.

It was later announced that a slight wind could have adversely affected the approach for our 114,000 ton ship. Thus our day in Roatan was aborted and we were granted another sea day. We were disappointed to have missed Roatan as we had never been there, but with temperatures in the 80’s it provided us with a good excuse to spend another lazy day around the Terrance Pool.

Day 4 (Con’t) – At Sea

Like a doomed moth drawn to flickering candle light, I could not help but attend the “Mr. Sexy Legs” contest held this afternoon at the Neptune Pool. I had not only attended such a contest on a previous sailing, but had actually participated in it – much to my ultimate chagrin.

On that cruise, the cruise director’s staff had been successful in rounding up women who would be judges, but were having trouble finding enough idiots to actually volunteer to show their legs. So a member of the cruise director’s staff started walking around the pool badgering innocent sunbathers and urging them to get up and humiliate themselves in front of the rest of the ship. One such recruiter stopped in front of my lounge and urged me to participate in the sexy legs contest. I very politely demurred, thinking that was the end of it. But he was not going to take no for an answer and asked again if I would participate. I demurred more strongly.

That’s when he lifted up his microphone and yelled “You’re not afraid are you? Come on people, let’s give him a little encouragement!” SailorJill (who to this day I have yet to forgive) said that it would be “fun” and that I could even win a bottle of free champagne (we have been married long enough that she knows just which buttons to push with my Scottish heritage and “free” is one of those buttons). Well, to make a long story short, after I was assured that all I had to do was go up and walk in front of the judges, I agreed to go up and join the other idiots.

However, when we all got up front, we were told that when our turn came we should dance and “show your moves.” That is not what I had signed up for. When my turn came, I walked by the judges - giving them my best smile -- and the cruise director started yelling into his microphone “Shake your booty, SHAKE YOUR BOOTY!” To this day I have no idea what booty is, but apparently it is not your middle finger.

Needless to say, I lost that Sexy Legs Contest, did not receive a bottle of free champagne

and swore off ever doing that again.

While I remain adamant that I will never participate again, I cannot help but watch these contests and feel a bond with those poor souls who are cajoled and sweet-talked into the contest by their loving wives. In today’s contest there were six contestants; one who had a balloon wrapped around his head, a guy who was French, spoke little English and probably thought that this was some variation of the Dating Game, some guy from Hawaii who wanted to do the Hula, a young guy who was later disqualified because he had yet to reach puberty, and two guys who actually appeared relatively normal.

After the standard “show us your moves” parade, the judges had them sing a song and then do their best Tarzan imitation. These activities narrowed the field down to three finalists and the cruise director then asked the audience for help in determining a winner. SailorJill and I had a brief argument about which of the three had the best legs when I suddenly broke out in a cold sweat as I realized that I was expressing an opinion as to the attractiveness of a man’s legs.

I immediately retired to my stateroom, placed a cold compress on my head and called my therapist to schedule a comprehensive session as soon as I returned to Atlanta.

Day 5 – Cozumel

As we were about to go ashore in Cozumel, we were approached by a very well intentioned gentleman wearing a pair of blue Bermuda shorts with a 48 inch waist, a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirt, and brown sandals with white socks. Pointing at SailorJill’s Princess tote bag he suggested that she leave that on the ship. “It instantly identifies you as a tourist and makes you a potential crime victim.” he said, “That’s why I never take mine ashore. The goal when you are in port is to blend in with the locals.”

I thanked him wholeheartedly and complimented him on his knowledge and ability to blend in as a local.

Once ashore the first task for our group of six was to get a taxi. We have been told that Mexicans enjoy bargaining and that we should always negotiate prices; so as we approached the Taxi stand, “Bob” said that he was from New York and had years of experience negotiating with cab drivers. “Let he handle this,” he said, ‘I can get us the best deal.” As there were no objections, Bob went up to the cab driver:

Bob: How much to take us into town.

Cabbie: 400 pesos.

Bob: OK.

SailorJack: “OK! OK! That’s how you negotiate in New York?”

Bob: “It seemed like a fair price.”

SailorJack: “Bob, 400 pesos is like $34. The guy on the ship said we should expect to pay no more than $20.

Bob: OK, I’ll do better next time.

With only one dissent (Bob’s) it was unanimously agreed that Bob’s days of international negotiating were over. However, honoring Bob’s shrewd bargaining agreement, we all piled into the cab and headed for town.

Our first stop before going snorkeling (the purpose of our sojourn ashore) was at a culinary establishment named Carlos and Charlie’s where we ordered a wonderful drink called a Margarita. It was here that we paid homage to the Mayan culture. As we had learned from Wikipedia, the word “Cozumel” is actually Mayan for “Land of Swallows.” So over the next hour or so, and in honor of the ancient Mayans, we had many Tequila Cozumels.

Our second stop was at a purveyor of food and drink known as Wet Wendy’s. The fact that they serve Mile High Margaritas here had nothing to do with our decision to visit this establishment as we actually came here for the wings. Of course it goes without saying that one needed a Mile High Margarita to wash the wings down, but that was purely secondary. Another offering here is something called the Avocado Margarita – clearly a gimmick to wheel in the newbie tourists and not something a seasoned cruiser would be caught dead drinking. I confirmed this by ordering one and consuming it in the name of research. I also confirmed that the Cucumber Margarita was not appropriate for seasoned cruisers. If I confirmed that any other vegetable or fruit margaritas were not appropriate I cannot recall.

It was about this time that we decided that it was probably best not to go snorkeling and in a bold demonstration of camaraderie (as well as being in a state of tequila fueled euphoria) we let Bob go out to get us a taxi back to the ship. As promised, he did much better – negotiating the price this time down to 375 pesos! On the way back to the ship Susan announces that she wishes to visit Ix Chel – the Mayan goddess of fertility. Thankfully, she is outvoted as the last thing I want SailorJill to get next to at this stage of our life is a goddess of fertility! Don’t get me wrong, I love children. Our daughter Alexis (we named her that because if we hadn’t had her we could be driving one) is the apple of my eye, but I don’t need two apples.

Day 6 – At Sea

Eating breakfast this morning on the deck overlooking the Terrace Pool, we were witness to the onset of what can best be described as Chair Wars. Princess actually laid the groundwork for the war when it published on the front page of today’s “Patter” its lounge chair policy -NO reserving of lounges; and towels left on lounges will be removed after 15 minutes.

So today, starting around 6:30 A.M. (well before the sun came up) the defense forces sent out their first Chair Guards. Among the various skirmishes that took place this day, two stand out. On the right flank, one Chair Guard reserved an entire bank of five chairs by placing towels on them. He then took up his guard position at one end of the row of chairs. Sometime later, the aggressor forces took to the field and seized two of the chairs:

Guard: (Coming over to the chairs in question) “I’m sorry, those chairs are reserved.”

Aggressor: “No they’re not.”

Guard: “But those are my towels on them.”

Aggressor: “We don’t want your towels, you can keep them.”

Guard: “But my wife said I had to reserve these five chairs.”

Aggressor: (rolling out the heavy artillery – the Patter) “Look, which part of ‘no reserving of deck lounges’ are you having trouble with?”

Completely outmaneuvered, the Guard retreated in confusion to his previous station and after a few minutes gathered up his towels, and like Napoleon at Waterloo, retreated from the field of battle.

By now we had finished breakfast but were reluctant to leave as this was proving to be some of the best entertainment we have had on the cruise. Taking a second cup of coffee, we turned our attention to the action on the left flank. Here, a woman Guard reserved six chairs – three in one row and three in a second row. Much better armed than the Guard on the right flank, she placed not only towels on the chairs, but books, tote bags, and other personal items. She then took up guard duty by sitting in the middle chair in the first row – where she watched helplessly while the chairs in the other row were picked off one by one.

By nine o’clock all the lounges were occupied and reserves were sitting in the bleachers waiting for a lounge to open up. As soon as someone would leave, two dozen wrists went up as people set their watches for the 15 minute time limit. Woe befell anyone who was gone for more than 15 minutes as their lounge was gone when/if they returned.

There was one lounge, however, that was immune to the 15 minute rule. That was the lounge that was occupied by the girl in the orange thong bikini. She could have left to go to graduate school and the five guys sitting next to her would have guarded her lounge till the cows came home.

Day 6 – At Sea (continued)

In a seminar this afternoon we learned that money, apparently, is not the root of all evil, but that it is something called “toxins.” We now know this thanks to a special bulletin inserted into today’s “Patter” that alerted us to a seminar “not to me MISSED” entitled “DETOX for health.” The notice alerted us to the fact that it was extremely important to attend if you suffered from “Arthritis, Stress, Swollen Joints, Skin Problems, Low Energy, or...Blood Pressure.”

As SailorJill and I are both currently blessed with blood pressure (and least I hope to God we are!) we thought it extremely important to attend the seminar and learn how to keep our blood pressure.

The meeting, as one might surmise, was the cause of a major epiphany. Not only did I learn that my Twinkies contained more toxins than the Love Canal, but that my diet Coke was causing my blood to acidify which, in turn, increased the deadly toxins that were now swimming through my blood like 20 generations of guppies in a two gallon aquarium. By all accounts I was apparently extremely fortunate that my lymphatic system had not already shut down.

Somewhat alarmed by what I was hearing I beseeched of the instructor if there was any way that I could cleanse my body and save myself from the past sins of a careless and gluttonous life. You can imagine, then, my considerable relief when I was informed that if I reported to the Spa the very next day I could commence a personal program of detoxification. My only hope was that it would be a little more successful than the program used by Charlie Sheen!

Day 7 – Princess Cay

Reporting to the Spa as previously scheduled, a team of highly trained and licensed professionals examined my body and concluded that it might be possible to help me. They prescribed a personal detox program that would not only deacidify my blood, but would purify my liver, unclog my lymphatic system, and abate any possible osteoporosis that may be eating away my backbone.

The name of the procedure was Ionithermie, from the Latin “ioni” meaning “sensitive body parts” and “thermie” meaning “burning pain.” In asking for an explanation of the process I was informed that it involved (and I swear I am not making this up) placing electrodes on various body parts and running a “low voltage” current through my body for approximately one hour. In quizzing Nurse Ratched as to what exactly “low voltage” meant I was left with the impression that it could be anything under 50,000 volts.

All I had to do, I was informed, was to enter the sound proof room and lay down on the bed with the plastic sheets (the arm and leg restraining straps were for my protection and comfort) while the electrodes were secured to my body (never you mind where) and relax while the rheostat is jacked up to “Maximum.”

As best as I was able to discern, the theory behind Ionithermie, apparently, is that once the rheostat is set at “Roast” and the electricity hits the body, the resulting convulsions and high pitched screams would scare the bloody bejesus out of the toxins – causing them to vacate the body in search of more amenable hosts.

And, best of all, this was available for only $399! After carefully conducting a quick cost/benefit analysis I came to the conclusion that I could achieve much the same result, for significantly less money, by simply going home, cutting down on my Twinkies and sticking my finger in a light socket.

So in the end I passed on the Ionithermie, but my visit proved not to be in vain as I became aware of, and was more than a little intrigued by, another Spa offering – the Rasul Love Chamber. Apparently named after Casanova’s younger brother, this service is not for the timid and the activities involved in this are actually against the law in 39 states and the District of Columbia – but I’ll save that for another day.

Later in the day, after an early lunch, we took a tender to the beach and spent several hours relaxing on Princess Cay. SailorJill suggested that we rent a Clamshell, but I had tried one on Half Moon Cay and found it to be a little uncomfortable. If you are not familiar with Clamshells they look like baby buggies on steroids, and the drawback to using one of these lounges is that on a hot day they are capable of baking both people and unleavened bread.

Instead we decided to just spend some time snorkeling and enjoying the water. As we entered the water, SailorJill, always helpful, suggested that now might be a good time for me to turn on my air. I try to make a deal with her – if she forgets about my little incident in Grand Cayman I will forget about the 300cc Binford Turbomax hedge trimmer and bushwhacker birthday present. From her smile I knew that it this just wasn’t gonna happen.

Fort Lauderdale

We elected walk off the ship with our own luggage and, as a result, we made it to the airport by 7:50 A.M. As our flight did not leave until 11:00 we settled into our chairs and reflected on what a great week we had just experienced – even if we had not had a chance to visit the Rasul Love Chamber.

Our plane departed on time and we were comfortably settled back in our seats for the hour and a half ride back to Atlanta when the air from the little plastic jets over our seats came on blowing a cool breeze over us:

“Jack, did you just turn the air on?”

“No, it just came on automatically.”

“Jack, that just may be the answer! Do you think that maybe we could apply that ‘automatic on’ air technology to your dive tanks.”

It was going to be a long winter!

Edited by SailorJack

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I have some pictures to go with my "review", but as SailorJill is in some them she is in the process of editing them, but I will post them shortly.

 

Jack

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Great review!!!! Best laugh I have had this morning. Sadly, everything you posted is true but very comical in the way you presented it!!

Edited by cruiseron36

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Thanks, SailorJack, for yet another wonderful review! Why the cruise industry doesn't publish your collected works and sell them in the gift shops is beyond me!:D

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And just the other day I was asking someone if they'd seen any SailorJack reviews lately and here you are!!!:D

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absolutley brilliant!!

"SailorJill was wearing a black leather bustier" that cracked me up.

Great Review

looking forward to the photo's

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I absolutely could not stop laughing and actually spewed my coffee once. A bit of a problem since I'm at work.

 

Excellent job!!! Thanks!

 

Kathy

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And just the other day I was asking someone if they'd seen any SailorJack reviews lately and here you are!!!:D

 

Good to hear from you again. Glad you enjoyed it! our next cruise is in May so look for another one the last half of that month...assuming enough happens to give me some material to work with.

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There you go again, Jack. You KNOW I enjoyed it! :D

 

Thanks! I see you have an upcoming cruise from Santiago to Rio. We did that itinerary several years ago on NCL'S Dream and really enjoyed it. I know you will have a good time. We also did the Rio to Ft. Lauderdale on the Star. Wish I could be with you on this trip..it was fantastic.

 

Jack

Edited by SailorJack

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Good to hear from you again. Glad you enjoyed it! our next cruise is in May so look for another one the last half of that month...assuming enough happens to give me some material to work with.

 

Jack when does something NOT happen with you?:p:D

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Thanks, SailorJack, for yet another wonderful review! Why the cruise industry doesn't publish your collected works and sell them in the gift shops is beyond me!:D

 

Thanks! Actually, someone on another board compiled all of my reviews and made them available for people with e-readers.

 

Jack when does something NOT happen with you?:p:D

 

You do have a point.:D:D

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Great review....I have to stop reading yours at work though. People give me funny looks when I LOL and then won't share the joke.

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