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SailorJack

Our Misadventures on the Galaxy from Pope and Goats to Columbus and the Fat Virgin

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We arrive in Rome (City Motto: If nobody is on strike right now…give us a minute) on an early morning flight from Atlanta - eager to begin our first ever cruise on Celebrity.

Arriving early as we did, SailorJill and I had time for a mini-tour of Roma (Rome) before our train to Civitavecchia, and our tour was absolutely enthralling. We were quite overwhelmed by the historic artifacts that Rome spread before us. There were remnants, remarkably well preserved, of Rome’s engineering marvels - like the ancient aqueducts; the monuments erected, like the Arch of Constantine, to commemorate glorious victories; and the famous civic buildings such as the opulent Baths and the imposing Forum.

Then there was the Coliseum. While ravaged by the passage of time over the intervening centuries, it still stood tall – showing its marvelous old “ bones.” You had only to close your eyes to be taken back in time so see what it must have looked like in the days of Caesar – when it was completely clad in gleaming white marble; its alcoves enclosing heroic statues of gods and demons, its multi-hued frescos adorning hallways trod by the most powerful men in the known world, and the ringing clash of sword against trident as gladiators and slaves fought for glory and freedom.

Not far from the Coliseum stand the remains of the Circus Maximus - built to seat an unbelievable 300,000 and home to the fabled chariot races so dramatically characterized in that famous scene from “Ben-Hur”. The actual oval track is still plainly visible and as one stands on the hill overlooking the Circus, one can almost hear the thundering hoofs of the magnificent 7-horse teams that pulled each chariot, imagine the screeching clash of wheel against wheel as the drivers fought for position, and hear the deafening cheers of the crowd as the champion was showered with olive branches and accolades.

And it was here, and not in the Coliseum, that saw the harsher side of Rome. For it was in the Circus that Rome fed Christians to the Lions – both for the entertainment of the citizens of Rome and as an effort to quash a movement that threatened the basic tenets of the Roman Empire.

The empire is no more, but it has left an imposing legacy in Rome and offers every visitor a unique insight into a civilization that dominated the world for nearly 300 years.

One of the more modern highlights of the tour was a visit to a museum that was displaying one of the many Popemobiles that currently exist. (Note to non-Catholics: The Vatican has asked that the public stop referring to it as the “Popemobile” as that title is lacking in due deference and respect). A contest to select a more somber and respectful name is currently being sponsored by MTV’s hit TV show “Pymp My Ride”. Entries can be e-mailed to imthepope(at)the vatican.va

The Popemobile (for now) was extremely interesting and impressive. Among its many extraordinary features, the docent took great pride in pointing out the discreet armor plating, the bulletproof glass, the puncture proof tires, the integrated missile defense system, and the three really cool spill-proof cup holders.

But, all the while, I’m thinking – If the POPE is this worried about meeting his maker, what chance are SailorJill and I going to have! I leave the museum a more sober (metaphorically speaking) sailor and wonder if maybe there is a religion that provides a more guaranteed way to the land of milk and honey. Perhaps I should check into this whole reincarnation thing. After all, Shirley McLaine doesn’t appear to need an armored car to ride around in.

Later, at the Trevi Fountain, we approached a Gelato stand for some much needed refreshment. Reaching into my pocket with my right hand to get my wallet, I was somewhat disconcerted to find that there was already a hand in there. I was pretty sure it wasn’t my left hand - as it had previously been assigned to holding my camera bag… but I checked it just to make sure. Satisfied that my left hand, was, in fact, so engaged, I looked down and espied what I first perceived to be a leprechaun of Italian descent, but which actually turned out to be a small street urchin dressed completely in green - who was hastily extracting his hand (empty thank God) from my pocket. Without even the good grace to look even the least bit guilty, the little imp threw me a quick grin and took off running - quickly disappearing into the crowd. If the Olympics ever hold an event called the Pickpocket Disappearing Dash and Obstacle Run this kid will be a contender.

As our time in Rome drew to a close far to soon, we realized what every student who sits in the front row knows – that Roma spelled backwards is “Amor” - and fall in love with Rome we did - and only reluctantly bade farewell as we ran to catch the train to Civitavecchia.

Upon arriving in Civitavecchia I picked up a copy of an English language newspaper and was pleasantly surprised to see that Italy still had the same government that was in place when I arrived this morning. As any student of history knows, Italy has had more governments in the past 62 years (63) than Liz Taylor has had husbands (39).

By this time, I would think that the Italians would have run out of people to vote for – which is why I think a highly controversial former porn star (Milly D'Abbraccio) had an actual chance to win a seat in parliament this year. Where else but here in Italy – with its extremely liberal voters - could someone aspire to a major public office when their last job was prancing around in suggestively choreographed moves on a brightly lit stage wearing little more than a pair of tiny sequined shorts and…hold on, hold on…I’m having a WWF flashback moment here - I had totally forgotten about Jessie Ventura. I think I very nearly sold the voters in Minnesota a little short. Either that, or an awful lot of Italians are living in the twin city area!

But I Digress

Day 1 - Boarding

As we approached the Galaxy I received my first exposure to the hospitality for which Celebrity is so famous: a large sign in the Bridge’s window that read, “Per Vendita”, which I am sure is “Welcome” in Italian. A very nice touch!

Boarding the Galaxy was the easiest and quickest we have ever experienced. The only way we could have gotten on board any sooner was if Scottie had beamed us up. Upon entering the ship, Celebrity’s hospitality continued as a sharp dressed man offered us our choice of Champagne or a Mimosa. Knowing how SailorJill frowns on my having a touch of the grape early in the day, I asked the young man for a Mimosa – without the orange juice. With a knowing smile the steward handed me my glass saying, “Here is your MIMOSA, sir”. I predict that man will rise fast in the guest relations department!

Finishing our drinks we quickly found our cabin and discovered two nice surprises – 1) our luggage had actually made it to the room before us, and 2) there is an invitation to attend a cruise critic get-together tomorrow in – and my heart nearly skipped a beat – in the Martini Bar.

Day 2 – At Sea

After a hearty breakfast (one does not want to sample Martini’s on an empty stomach), SailorJill and I make our way back to our cabin to dress for the gathering. I put on my new Topsiders, a clean pair of khakis, and a Celebrity polo shirt.

SailorJill is wearing red stilettos, thigh-high fishnet stockings, a very short mini-skirt, a white cropped, midriff-baring T-shirt, and a blue dolphin navel piercing. Wait - that’s my screen saver, sorry. SailorJill actually has on sandals, white shorts, and her “I married an Idiot” t-shirt – a gift from her mother on the occasion of our first wedding anniversary.

Our habiliment ministrations completed, we headed upstairs to the meeting, and I will leave it to you, dear readers, to imagine my profound disappointment to find that there were no Martinis –free or otherwise - in the Martini Bar!

However, making the best of the situation we grab a Danish and a cup of tea and set about meeting our fellow travelers. And a delightful and eclectic group they were. We met several bird aficionados – including one who apparently also collected English poetry books, as she spoke lovingly of both her parrot and her pair of Keats.

I particularly enjoyed meeting my fellow Canadians. I was able to speak with countrymen from BC (my home province), Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and a particularly intriguing individual from Newfoundland. While I am somewhat loathe to discuss politics with new acquaintances, I have to admit I was intrigued by his support for theParti Québécois and its drive to sever Quebec from Canada. I had to ask him why someone from Newfoundland would take such a liberal stance.[/color]

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“If Quebec leaves Canada”, he replied, “it will cut nearly four hours off the drive time to Toronto.” It is a known and proven fact that the profound and constant cold of Northern Canada has that effect on people…and had the Martini bar been open, I might have agreed with him completely.[/color]

After a very enjoyable meeting, we adjourn to the Oasis Cafe for a delicious lunch of stir-fry and Asian delicacies – and encountered yet another example of Celebrity’s hospitality. As SailorJill was carrying her tray to our table, a sharp dressed steward took the tray from her, brought it to the table, and held her chair for her as she sat down.

A few minutes later, as she went back to the buffet to get a pair of chopsticks, one of the ladies at the adjoining table leaned over and laughingly asked what my wife had done to deserve such special treatment?

“She is”, I modestly replied, “The Captain’s daughter”.

Upon SailorJill’s return she was completely bewildered by all the nice things the people at the surrounding tables were saying to her about the Captain. As she glanced at me suspiciously, I suppressed a grin and gave her my best “I haven’t a clue” look. Sometimes a good inside joke, like a fine cognac, is best enjoyed in silence.

Day 3 – Cartagena

We awake to partly cloudy skies in Cartagena and go ashore to see the city - and find it to be one of contrast. Turn to the right and you see modern buildings facing streets paved with beautiful Spanish slate tiles. Turn to the left and you bump into 1700-year-old ruins – like the Roman theatre. As we passed through crowded cappuccino stands and bustling flower markets we came across the Civil War Museum. As we entered the museum we were quickly whisked back to 1939 and war between Francisco Franco’s Nationalist rebels and the Royalist armies.

In a way, the war still wages on. Only last month Judge Baltasar Garzon was talked into dropping a war crimes indictment against Francisco Franco. Prosecutors got the judge to drop the case when they were able to convince him that Mr. Franco was still dead (which has been widely reported on SNL), and could not be served with a subpoena.

Cartagena was the last city to fall to Franco’s forces and, for some here, the war is far from a distant memory. Living, as I do, in the South, I can understand their feeling, as many Southerners have not yet gotten over the War of Northern Aggression.

Day 4 – Gibraltar and Morocco

Our first glimpse of Gibraltar was impressive. Rising dramatically from the Mediterranean Sea, this historic piece of land -coveted and claimed over the years by the Moors, Greeks, Spanish, English, and Prudential Life Insurance - was once thought to be the end of the world. (Apparently the people who proclaimed this were either (a) extremely near-sighted, (b) visited on a very foggy day, or © assumed the Moors were from France - as Africa is plainly visible from the top of the rock). Fortified by various armies over the centuries, Gibraltar is so honeycombed with tunnels and caves (at least 140) – that for all practical purposes it is now the Swiss cheese of rocks.

Gibraltar remains one of the last outposts of the British Empire, and according to legend, Gibraltar will remain British as long as the famous Barbary Macaques remain on the rock. So ingrained is this belief that Winston Churchill reportedly ordered more monkeys to be sent to Gibraltar during WWII in order to maintain the population, and the British army and the government of Gibraltar have taken turns feeding and caring for them ever since. Either the British are a lot more gullible that I ever imagined or the monkeys have a REALLY good agent!

The monkeys, besides providing really neat picture opportunities when they hop up on your shoulder, have become quite adept at stealing your food when you are distracted. – despite the fact that a myriad of signs warn visitors about the penalty for feeding the monkeys. Miscreants who are apprehended feeding the monkeys are offered their choice of either a) eights hours on a road gang under the fierce Mediterranean sun, or b) eating an English meal prepared by English cooks. Most people who have been to England opt for the road gang.

(I should note that, contrary to what we were told in the Celebrity Theatre last night, France is not negotiating to purchase the Rock of Gibraltar with the intention of honoring their former president by renaming it the de Gaulle Stone).

As much as we would have liked to have seen more of Gibraltar, we have made arrangements to take a boat to Morocco. While I have been to Morocco once before, SailorJill has not and had been looking forward to seeing the Tamri Goats – which are a sight to behold!

Contrary to my initial assumption on my previous visit, Goats in Trees was not a prequel to ABC’s Men in Trees, but is a tourist attraction in Morocco. A visit to a stand of Argan trees was highlighted by a herd of Tamri goats that actually climb up into the trees to eat the fruit of the tree. And I’m not talking about leaning up against the tree with the front legs; I’m talking about actually climbing to the top of a 25-foot tree to get at the fruit. Picture a Christmas tree with an Angel (or Ann Heche) on top and you can visualize what a unique sight it is to see a goat standing on top of a tree.

While stunningly picturesque, this process poses two dangers to the avid photographer. Anyone who has ever walked under a statue covered with pigeons can begin to understand the first danger - as one of our unfortunate compatriots soon discovered. Note to future visitors: Do NOT walk under the tree to get a better shot.

The second danger is more insidious. The fruit of the Argan tree has pits that cannot be digested by the goats and are therefore, ah, shall we say…passed on through the digestive process. The Berber herders then collect the pits, which are crushed to make Argan oil, which is widely used as a food product. Mixed with crushed almonds and sugar it is said to make a tasty spread for bread. (Note to self: Avoid all bread spreads while in Morocco). In fact, I am now somewhat leery of all Moroccan foods as there are absolutely no warning labels on any product warning innocent tourists that it contains oil, which, for all practical purposes, originated from the south end of a northbound goat!

Day 6 - Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Before you begin to get all weepy eyed over visions of Tweety bird, let me dispel a popular myth: there are no canaries in the Canary Islands. I’ll report on the Virgin Islands when we get there.

While there are no canaries on Lanzarote, our guide, Sylvester, assures us that there are, indeed, canaries on Tenerife and La Palma – our next ports of call. In the meantime, we tour Lanzarote – poetically described by the tourist board as “Stunningly Lunar or Martian” in nature and which you and I would describe as “stunningly, unbelievably barren”. Back in the 1730’s, volcanic activity created 32 new volcanoes in a single 12-mile stretch alone - which then proceeded to cover 25% of the island with molten lava. One hundred other volcanoes sprouted up in an area called Montañas del Fuego. As we drive across the cratered, amost alien landscape, I have an eerie feeling that at any moment we could bump into Neil Armstrong.

Given the volcanic nature of the island, there is a surprisingly large variety of flora on the island, which, to a great extent, consists of different forms of lichen – which grow well on bare rock. As there were no canaries to watch, Sylvester went to great pains to show us each and every single type of flora on the island. Wikipedia says that there are 500 different kinds of plants and lichens on Lanzarote – which means we must have had to look at two of them twice. If I am ever forced to look at another lichen I’ve asked SailorJill to just shoot me. I guess you could say I wasn’t liken it much (sorry – but you had to know it was coming).

On the way back to the ship we stop by – and I swear I am not making this up – a winery! I mean, the island is mostly lava, gets 5 inches of rain a year and every year the sirocco winds blow so much sand from the Sahara desert onto Lanzarote that visibility, at times, is reduced to less than 100 yards – and they are trying to grow quality grapevines? However, after tasting a white wine from Chateau de Lavarok, SailorJill actually buys a bottle – saying she thinks it might be just the thing to finally remove that stubborn waxy buildup on our new travertine floor.

Day 7 – Tenerife, Canary Islands

The approach to Tenerife is one of the most dramatic we have ever seen. Row upon row of mountains, separated by narrow valleys, march down to the sea. In the early morning mist, the white-washed houses, built deep into the valleys and up the sides of the mountains brings to mind snow covered glaciers sliding towards the cold Atlantic waters. It is a breathtaking sight. And, as the sun rises, the city of Santa Cruz emerges from the mist and can be seen stretching up a sloping hill.

Space limits my ability to describe the beauty of this island, but three sights you will not want to miss in town:

  • Parque Garcia Sanabria - the cleanest, best-manicured and most beautiful large park we have ever seen in a port city. As much a botanical garden as it is a park, its exotic and tropical plants offer a surprise around every corner. Its emerald bamboo tunnel is a “not to miss” sight and provides a very romantic interlude.[/color]

  • Auditorio de Santa Cruz – if you have never seen the Opera House in Sydney you will not want to miss this marvelously and futuristically designed auditorium – with its sweeping wing rising dramatically into the sky and then swooping down over the auditorium and piazza.

  • Mercado de Africa – a cacophony of color, noise and aromas, the Mercado is a farmers market on steroids. This is where the locals shop and there are booths that sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, bread, fish, cheeses, and unbelievable meats. With scores upon scores of vendors loudly touting their wares and hundreds of buyers shouting out their offers, it is impossible not to get swept up into the excitement of sampling the amazing variety of foodstuffs – especially the variety of meats – steaks, ribs, sausages, loins, chops, and roasts. My only problem with visiting the Mercado was in figuring out how to get a whole pork butt back onto the ship.

Day 8 – La Palma

What can one say about La Palma that has not already been said by Stephen King. We were, however, delighted to see an old friend in port – the Brilliance of the Seas. It is the only ship we have ever sailed on that was not sold after we got off.

Day 11- At Sea

Our third day at sea finds us deep into the Atlantic Ocean and having breakfast with our Morocco tour group. It was a glorious day. The water was cobalt blue and the seas were calm. Scattered puffy white clouds, driven by the warm trade winds, drift slowly towards the horizon. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80’s. We looked at each other and spontaneously started chanting, “Toga, Toga”. Wait a minute – that was later in the afternoon in Bernie’s suite after we polished off the last few bottles of the Spanish wine. At breakfast, we actually said, “Pool time!”

As the ladies retired below to get their bathing suits, the guys went out and arranged and positioned the appropriate number of lounges. It was only after SailorJill returned and gave us “the Look” that we realized that we had inadvertently arranged the lounges around two raven- haired, exotic looking women in white string bikinis. Somewhat chagrined, we rearranged the lounges and settled in for a day of sun and relaxation.

It was then that I noticed the three security officers posted next to the pool bar on Deck 12. I immediately feared the worst – they were about to announce the ship was out of beer! Two more security officers then came out on Deck 11 and stopped somewhere behind my lounge. The last time I saw this many security officers in one place was on our tour of movie star homes in Hollywood. On that occasion there were six buff looking guys garbed head to toe in black (and led by two guys named Ranger and Tank) guarding Elizabeth Taylor’s food pantry.

Then, as the officers on Deck 12 moved closer to the railing I realized that they weren’t guarding the bar – they were now positioned to watch the two girls in the white bikinis. My God! I turned to SailorJill and asked her if she thought the poor girls could be in some kind of danger! Glancing up from her book, SailorJill said, “The only danger they’re in is from getting splashed when you drop your beer”.

Glancing down, I saw that she was right. My schooner of Corona was now dangling precariously between my thumb and forefinger. That could have been not only embarrassing, but a terrible waste.

It was at that time that they announced the ice carving demonstration. As we all crowded around the pool to watch, the Emcee started the countdown and off he went. After several minutes the emcee encouraged the audience to shout out what they thought it was going to be. I thought it looked a little like the Supreme Court hearing Roe vs. Wade, but others yelled out “Dolphin”, “Mermaid”, and “Obama”.

When the ice carver signaled he was finished we all stared at the block of ice with blank faces. Then as one, we all turned to look at the emcee as she cleared her throat. Then 500 pairs of eyes turned again as she left the podium and went over to the ice carver and conferred with him for a minute. As the emcee returned to the podium we all turned to follow her. (This was beginning to resemble a tennis match.) “It is”, she announced, “an Angel Fish”.

We all turned to look at the block of ice again. After a second, the crowd conceded that the emcee must know what it was and then we all agreed that it was, indeed, a very nice Angel Fish and applauded wildly.

Later in the afternoon, a bar was set up next to the pool and the ship’s head bartender announced that they would be conducting a class on “mixology” to show us how to make popular shipboard drinks. The first drink up was …the Bloody Mary? I mean, is there anybody on the planet Earth that does not know how to make the traditional breakfast drink? Anyway, the head bartender then calls for a volunteer to taste the drink and inquires of him, “How is it?”

“Too hot,” he replies – instantly labeling him an amateur. Professionals know, of course, that it is nearly impossible to make a Bloody Mary “too hot”.

The second drink up was the Pina Colada. This apparently involved adding two ounces of rum to 6 ounces of Pina Colada mix, putting it into a blender, and hitting “pulse”. Unbelievable.

I left before they could teach the intricacies of making the 3rd drink - a rum and coke.

Tortola – British Virgin Islands

After five long and languid days at sea, and by some miracle of science of which I am only vaguely aware, we arrive at a speck of land in the middle of the ocean that is actually the exact same one that is on our itinerary.

So what does SailorJill want to do? Get on another boat, of course, and sail to Virgin Gorda. I mean, we have just spent over 120 consecutive hours at sea with only the Captain’s word that we will ever see land again, and now that land is finally in sight, we are to get off a perfectly good boat – one with a pool, a well provisioned buffet, a nice selection of bars, and a private bathroom – to get on a little boat with no amenities other than “free rum punch”.

While it is not in my nature to be stern, I was forced to take a stand. This is our first visit to Tortola and there is a lot to see here – Sage Mountain Park (with the tallest mountain in both the US and British Virgin Islands), Fort Recovery (a marvelous fort constructed in the fifteenth century by the Dutch pirate Joost van Dyke), the Botanical Gardens (with its lush tropical foliage and its famous “Walk of the Palms”), and most compelling – the Callwood Rum Distillery!

I have been avidly awaiting our Tortola stop as, and I quote here from the Wikitravel.org website, “Alcohol is immensely popular in the BVI, both beer and island cocktails, most notably rum.” What better way to spend the day than exploring the island and relaxing with a popular island cocktail (or two)! After discussing the merits of spending the day on the island, after so many days at sea, SailorJill and I reach agreement.

The little sailboat we spent the day on was a vintage wooden sailer called the Mary Ann; and I strongly suspect that the skipper was the role model for the movie “Captain Ron.” I realize, of course, that we are in the islands, but when sailing on a little boat with no land in sight I tend to have a little more confidence in a ship’s captain who actually owns a shirt and displays a few less tattoos than Britney Spears. With my suspicions now on high alert, I am sorely tempted to go below and see if Clark Gable’s initials are carved into the bed, but head for the free rum punch bar instead.

The bar tender, excuse me - the First Mate - did nothing to assuage my concerns. The First Mate (“just call me Matey”) also apparently did not own a shirt (or shoes) and had a two-day growth of patchy stubble on his chin that barely concealed a recent scar. I was sorely tempted to ask him if his last berth was working on a fast speedboat off the coast of Somalia, but wisely gulped down another free rum punch instead. At this point I am thinking that maybe we should have taken the ship’s sailing tour instead of this one we found for $19.95 in the alley at the end of the pier.

Then, to the delight of all aboard, the Captain announces that he is shutting down the diesel and that we will be sailing with the wind. I have to admit, my spirits began to lift… the feeling was surprisingly euphoric. It really takes one back to the Age of Sail – the rush of the open sea, the crisp snap of the sails as we tack first to port and then to starboard, the rhythmic splashing of the bow wave as we slice through the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the faint rumble of the motor from below deck, the slow rolling of the…. wait a minute here! I was sure I had heard the Captain say that he had shut down the motor so I turn to Matey and ask why the motor is still running,

“Its not the engine”, he said, “it’s the backup bilge pump you hear”.

“What’s a bilge pump?”

“It pumps out the water that leaks through the hull.”

“Why do I only hear the backup bilge pump?”

“The primary one broke down last June.”

“May I have a rather large free rum punch, please?”

I also look around for an empty rum bottle and a piece of paper, as I would like to leave a note to our beloved children letting them know where their trust fund documents can be found.

Despite the fact that we are apparently taking on water, we have arrived at our island destination. I think history has been less than forthcoming as to why Christopher Columbus named this island Fat Virgin (Virgin Gorda), but I suspect it was more than tobacco leaves that lured ol’ Chris to repeatedly return to the Caribbean.

Once ashore, we have the option of either attending the Festival of Guadalupe Hildago or visiting the famous “Baths of Virgin Gorda”. We elect to visit the Baths when we learn that the highlight of the Festival – the Parade of the Virgins - has been cancelled as one was ill and the other refused to parade alone.

After a short sail, we arrived at the Baths and everyone quickly got off, bathing suits in hand, to enjoy the spectacular beach and the beckoning rocky grottos. As I was about to get off, Matey pulled me aside and asked if I wanted a snorkel. Now I admit I had no idea what snorkel was, but it didn’t sound legal – especially so when he said he would get me a mask to wear if I wanted to try it. If you had to wear a mask to have a snorkel on a relatively remote reef-enclosed island beach then…hold on…a light bulb just went off. While I couldn’t recall the details, I distinctly remember the dire warnings from the movie “Reefer Madness” that we saw in high school. Reef – reefer - what had I gotten SailorJill and myself into!

False alarm. It turns out that a snorkel is actually – and I swear I am not making this up – is actually a tube that you breathe through while lying face down with your head under water. I asked Matey why anyone not from Alabama would want to submerge their head in saltwater and entrust their life to a short plastic tube that was probably made in China. He replied that it was a great way to see fish in their natural habitat. Well, I may not be the sharpest shell on the beach, but I do know that the natural habitat for fish is on a bed of wild rice with a bit of melted butter and a slice of lemon!

As we were discussing all this, an elderly man, who had apparently already succumbed to Matey’s pitch, stood up out of the water and began coughing violently.

“What happened”, I asked.

“He probably sucked in some water” Matey replied.

“But he had on his snorkel!”

“Sometimes water goes down the snorkel and you breathe it in.”

As he was explaining this, the old man had staggered to the water’s edge and collapsed on the wet sand. Several people ran to the old man’s side and began what for all the world looked like CPR and cardiovascular resuscitation - and I am sure that I just imagined the man wearing a black robe with a white collar bending over him and reading from the Bible. Apparently snorkeling is a group activity that is somewhat akin to voluntary water boarding.

Sensing my apprehension about snorkeling, Matey then suggested that perhaps I would feel more comfortable trying Snuba. I told him I would feel more comfortable lying on my beach towel with a really large free rum punch.

San Juan

Sitting at the gate at the San Juan airport, the long days and short nights of our transatlantic crossing slowly crept up on me. Totally relaxed, and basking in the early morning rays of the warm Caribbean sun - which were sneaking in through the large plate glass windows, I began to slowly drift off into that drowsy state halfway between sleep and consciousness - you know the one – where you get a glow inside and start to dream of creamy chocolate, soft feather pillows, and gentle, gentle rain. At this exact moment in time all was right with the world.

Just as my eyes began to close for good, I felt, or sensed, a gentle brush against my leg. As I looked down, I must have given a slight start as SailorJill gave me a quizzical glance.

“It’s nothing”, I said. “I tawt I taw a putty tat”. “I did, I did.”

Edited by SailorJack

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Oh...!

 

::gasping::

 

Am still holding my sides, which I'm CERTAIN was the response you were going for!

 

BRAVO!!!!!!

 

Hysterical!!!!!!!!!!

 

Thanks so much!!!!!!!!

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Sounds like a wonderful trip... I'm so sad that we had to cancel this one :(

 

Hilarious review!

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It's a good thing I stopped eating and drinking BEFORE I opened up your review.

 

Having read prior reviews, I thought I knew what I was in for.:p

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Jack, oh my goodness....:eek: I swear, you are a writer:D

 

Not sure if you are finished or not? How was the ship?

Service? Wait staff/Bar staff?

 

I sail her next month:)

 

Thanks for the review. I remember reading another

one of yours....quite entertaining!:)

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I read your review to Mrs. Duck and I must say we were both ROFLOAO!

 

Best review we have ever read on CC!

 

How soon do you cruise again so we can look forward to some more laughs?

 

Thanks

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I read your review to Mrs. Duck and I must say we were both ROFLOAO!

 

Best review we have ever read on CC!

 

How soon do you cruise again so we can look forward to some more laughs?

 

Thanks

 

While you are waiting for his next cruise, may I recommend his past reviews.

 

My personal favorite is this one http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=679082

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Can you come with us May 15, 2009? If not, perhaps there's a brother or other relative that could fill in for you.

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As soon as I read the first paragraph I had to check that SailorJack was the author of the infamous south america epic.... it sure was.

 

Many thanks for another great piece.

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YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN!! Just as funny as your NCL episode. Thanks for the many laughs and glad you enjoyed the island that we call our second home (at least until we get our house here sold. Want to buy a house on Tenerife??);) Why didn't you call -- we would have come down to Santa Cruz to personally enjoy your storytelling?

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P.S. So glad I read all the postings about this review. Otherwise I would never have known that there had been at least one other review besides the fantastic NCL episode. wrp96 said "review(s)", which made me go search in your profile for the one on the Jewel -- also a great read. THANK YOU!

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I had to snicker quietly as my husband is snoring behind me. Wonderful review!!! let us know if you ever right a book!!! To two too tutu funny:D

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Jack, oh my goodness....:eek: I swear, you are a writer:D

 

Not sure if you are finished or not? How was the ship?

Service? Wait staff/Bar staff?

 

I sail her next month:)

 

Thanks for the review. I remember reading another

one of yours....quite entertaining!:)

 

Thanks for your kind words!

 

The Galaxy is an excellent ship... you will enjoy it very much.

 

Every cruise line has its pros and cons, and what those are really depends on the individual doing the evaluating. But from our point of view, the Service (including the wait and bar staff) was the best we had ever seen.

 

When we sat down to evaluate the ship we agreed that the two outstanding features were the service and the food. The only real issue we had (and it is a small one) was that the Oasis Cafe did not serve a full buffet during dinner. The pasta station was open - as was the stir-fry station, but that was basically it. So if you just want a casual dinner some nights, your options are a little limited. That said, the Orion Restaurant is so good that you really don't mind.

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Absolutely delightful. We will be on Galaxy next month, and like you, we seem to sail on ships that are sold shortly after. Last year we were on the Empress right before she left the Royal Caribbean fleet. Looking forward to Galaxy.....can you tell me if they have real shower doors, or the dreaded clingy curtain? I think I had an affair with my shower curtain on the Empress.;)

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Thanks for your kind words!

 

The Galaxy is an excellent ship... you will enjoy it very much.

 

Every cruise line has its pros and cons, and what those are really depends on the individual doing the evaluating. But from our point of view, the Service (including the wait and bar staff) was the best we had ever seen.

 

When we sat down to evaluate the ship we agreed that the two outstanding features were the service and the food. The only real issue we had (and it is a small one) was that the Oasis Cafe did not serve a full buffet during dinner. The pasta station was open - as was the stir-fry station, but that was basically it. So if you just want a casual dinner some nights, your options are a little limited. That said, the Orion Restaurant is so good that you really don't mind.

 

Jack, I have sailed GALAXY before (back in March of this year)

and it was fabulous:)...glad to read you and Jill enjoyed

yourselves.

I have never minded the lack of a dinner buffet on the Celebrity

ships. I love eating in the main dining room:D

 

Did you happen to have drinks in the Forward Martini

Bar, located inside the Stratosphere Lounge? Just curious

if Victoria was still bartending there?

Edited by Lois R

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Thanks Spearmint, I was wondering what that was also??

 

Sailor Jack, I am not worthy, I am not worthy. I try but cannot even come close to the humor and wit in your reviews. So so funny!!!

 

We spent time in Rome last May before our Azamara Quest Best of Italy cruise. I love your discussions of the Popemobile and politics of Rome and I too nearly choked re: the parade on Virgin Gorda.

 

Keep up the good work!!

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What a riot!:D This is not the first of your reviews that I have read, so I expected chuckles, as per the Italian digression. But I did not expect to be taken by surprise and spew out my coffee at the account of missing the parade on Virgin Gorda. And then, of course, there's the reasoning behind the shortening of the travel time from Newfoundland to Toronto...

 

(to other posters: what is ROFLOAO?)

 

Maybe the 2nd O should have been an M??

Rolling on the floor laughing My a** Off:D

The 2nd O would normally be an M.

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Absolutely delightful. We will be on Galaxy next month, and like you, we seem to sail on ships that are sold shortly after. Last year we were on the Empress right before she left the Royal Caribbean fleet. Looking forward to Galaxy.....can you tell me if they have real shower doors, or the dreaded clingy curtain? I think I had an affair with my shower curtain on the Empress.;)

 

Unfortunately, the Galaxy uses the clingy curtains. But, I loved your line "had an affair with my shower curtain". Can I use that line sometime?:D

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We arrive in Rome (City Motto: If nobody is on strike right now…give us a minute) on an early morning flight from Atlanta - eager to begin our first ever cruise on Celebrity.

Arriving early as we did, SailorJill and I had time for a mini-tour of Roma (Rome) before our train to Civitavecchia, and our tour was absolutely enthralling. We were quite overwhelmed by the historic artifacts that Rome spread before us. There were remnants, remarkably well preserved, of Rome’s engineering marvels - like the ancient aqueducts; the monuments erected, like the Arch of Constantine, to commemorate glorious victories; and the famous civic buildings such as the opulent Baths and the imposing Forum.

Then there was the Coliseum. While ravaged by the passage of time over the intervening centuries, it still stood tall – showing its marvelous old “ bones.” You had only to close your eyes to be taken back in time so see what it must have looked like in the days of Caesar – when it was completely clad in gleaming white marble; its alcoves enclosing heroic statues of gods and demons, its multi-hued frescos adorning hallways trod by the most powerful men in the known world, and the ringing clash of sword against trident as gladiators and slaves fought for glory and freedom.

Not far from the Coliseum stand the remains of the Circus Maximus - built to seat an unbelievable 300,000 and home to the fabled chariot races so dramatically characterized in that famous scene from “Ben-Hur”. The actual oval track is still plainly visible and as one stands on the hill overlooking the Circus, one can almost hear the thundering hoofs of the magnificent 7-horse teams that pulled each chariot, imagine the screeching clash of wheel against wheel as the drivers fought for position, and hear the deafening cheers of the crowd as the champion was showered with olive branches and accolades.

And it was here, and not in the Coliseum, that saw the harsher side of Rome. For it was in the Circus that Rome fed Christians to the Lions – both for the entertainment of the citizens of Rome and as an effort to quash a movement that threatened the basic tenets of the Roman Empire.

The empire is no more, but it has left an imposing legacy in Rome and offers every visitor a unique insight into a civilization that dominated the world for nearly 300 years.

One of the more modern highlights of the tour was a visit to a museum that was displaying one of the many Popemobiles that currently exist. (Note to non-Catholics: The Vatican has asked that the public stop referring to it as the “Popemobile” as that title is lacking in due deference and respect). A contest to select a more somber and respectful name is currently being sponsored by MTV’s hit TV show “Pymp My Ride”. Entries can be e-mailed to imthepope(at)the vatican.va

The Popemobile (for now) was extremely interesting and impressive. Among its many extraordinary features, the docent took great pride in pointing out the discreet armor plating, the bulletproof glass, the puncture proof tires, the integrated missile defense system, and the three really cool spill-proof cup holders.

But, all the while, I’m thinking – If the POPE is this worried about meeting his maker, what chance are SailorJill and I going to have! I leave the museum a more sober (metaphorically speaking) sailor and wonder if maybe there is a religion that provides a more guaranteed way to the land of milk and honey. Perhaps I should check into this whole reincarnation thing. After all, Shirley McLaine doesn’t appear to need an armored car to ride around in.

Later, at the Trevi Fountain, we approached a Gelato stand for some much needed refreshment. Reaching into my pocket with my right hand to get my wallet, I was somewhat disconcerted to find that there was already a hand in there. I was pretty sure it wasn’t my left hand - as it had previously been assigned to holding my camera bag… but I checked it just to make sure. Satisfied that my left hand, was, in fact, so engaged, I looked down and espied what I first perceived to be a leprechaun of Italian descent, but which actually turned out to be a small street urchin dressed completely in green - who was hastily extracting his hand (empty thank God) from my pocket. Without even the good grace to look even the least bit guilty, the little imp threw me a quick grin and took off running - quickly disappearing into the crowd. If the Olympics ever hold an event called the Pickpocket Disappearing Dash and Obstacle Run this kid will be a contender.

As our time in Rome drew to a close far to soon, we realized what every student who sits in the front row knows – that Roma spelled backwards is “Amor” - and fall in love with Rome we did - and only reluctantly bade farewell as we ran to catch the train to Civitavecchia.

Upon arriving in Civitavecchia I picked up a copy of an English language newspaper and was pleasantly surprised to see that Italy still had the same government that was in place when I arrived this morning. As any student of history knows, Italy has had more governments in the past 62 years (63) than Liz Taylor has had husbands (39).

By this time, I would think that the Italians would have run out of people to vote for – which is why I think a highly controversial former porn star (Milly D'Abbraccio) had an actual chance to win a seat in parliament this year. Where else but here in Italy – with its extremely liberal voters - could someone aspire to a major public office when their last job was prancing around in suggestively choreographed moves on a brightly lit stage wearing little more than a pair of tiny sequined shorts and…hold on, hold on…I’m having a WWF flashback moment here - I had totally forgotten about Jessie Ventura. I think I very nearly sold the voters in Minnesota a little short. Either that, or an awful lot of Italians are living in the twin city area!

But I Digress

Day 1 - Boarding

As we approached the Galaxy I received my first exposure to the hospitality for which Celebrity is so famous: a large sign in the Bridge’s window that read, “Per Vendita”, which I am sure is “Welcome” in Italian. A very nice touch!

Boarding the Galaxy was the easiest and quickest we have ever experienced. The only way we could have gotten on board any sooner was if Scottie had beamed us up. Upon entering the ship, Celebrity’s hospitality continued as a sharp dressed man offered us our choice of Champagne or a Mimosa. Knowing how SailorJill frowns on my having a touch of the grape early in the day, I asked the young man for a Mimosa – without the orange juice. With a knowing smile the steward handed me my glass saying, “Here is your MIMOSA, sir”. I predict that man will rise fast in the guest relations department!

Finishing our drinks we quickly found our cabin and discovered two nice surprises – 1) our luggage had actually made it to the room before us, and 2) there is an invitation to attend a cruise critic get-together tomorrow in – and my heart nearly skipped a beat – in the Martini Bar.

Day 2 – At Sea

After a hearty breakfast (one does not want to sample Martini’s on an empty stomach), SailorJill and I make our way back to our cabin to dress for the gathering. I put on my new Topsiders, a clean pair of khakis, and a Celebrity polo shirt.

SailorJill is wearing red stilettos, thigh-high fishnet stockings, a very short mini-skirt, a white cropped, midriff-baring T-shirt, and a blue dolphin navel piercing. Wait - that’s my screen saver, sorry. SailorJill actually has on sandals, white shorts, and her “I married an Idiot” t-shirt – a gift from her mother on the occasion of our first wedding anniversary.

Our habiliment ministrations completed, we headed upstairs to the meeting, and I will leave it to you, dear readers, to imagine my profound disappointment to find that there were no Martinis –free or otherwise - in the Martini Bar!

However, making the best of the situation we grab a Danish and a cup of tea and set about meeting our fellow travelers. And a delightful and eclectic group they were. We met several bird aficionados – including one who apparently also collected English poetry books, as she spoke lovingly of both her parrot and her pair of Keats.

I particularly enjoyed meeting my fellow Canadians. I was able to speak with countrymen from BC (my home province), Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and a particularly intriguing individual from Newfoundland. While I am somewhat loathe to discuss politics with new acquaintances, I have to admit I was intrigued by his support for theParti Québécois and its drive to sever Quebec from Canada. I had to ask him why someone from Newfoundland would take such a liberal stance.[/color]

[/color]

“If Quebec leaves Canada”, he replied, “it will cut nearly four hours off the drive time to Toronto.” It is a known and proven fact that the profound and constant cold of Northern Canada has that effect on people…and had the Martini bar been open, I might have agreed with him completely.[/color]

After a very enjoyable meeting, we adjourn to the Oasis Cafe for a delicious lunch of stir-fry and Asian delicacies – and encountered yet another example of Celebrity’s hospitality. As SailorJill was carrying her tray to our table, a sharp dressed steward took the tray from her, brought it to the table, and held her chair for her as she sat down.

A few minutes later, as she went back to the buffet to get a pair of chopsticks, one of the ladies at the adjoining table leaned over and laughingly asked what my wife had done to deserve such special treatment?

“She is”, I modestly replied, “The Captain’s daughter”.

Upon SailorJill’s return she was completely bewildered by all the nice things the people at the surrounding tables were saying to her about the Captain. As she glanced at me suspiciously, I suppressed a grin and gave her my best “I haven’t a clue” look. Sometimes a good inside joke, like a fine cognac, is best enjoyed in silence.

Day 3 – Cartagena

We awake to partly cloudy skies in Cartagena and go ashore to see the city - and find it to be one of contrast. Turn to the right and you see modern buildings facing streets paved with beautiful Spanish slate tiles. Turn to the left and you bump into 1700-year-old ruins – like the Roman theatre. As we passed through crowded cappuccino stands and bustling flower markets we came across the Civil War Museum. As we entered the museum we were quickly whisked back to 1939 and war between Francisco Franco’s Nationalist rebels and the Royalist armies.

In a way, the war still wages on. Only last month Judge Baltasar Garzon was talked into dropping a war crimes indictment against Francisco Franco. Prosecutors got the judge to drop the case when they were able to convince him that Mr. Franco was still dead (which has been widely reported on SNL), and could not be served with a subpoena.

Cartagena was the last city to fall to Franco’s forces and, for some here, the war is far from a distant memory. Living, as I do, in the South, I can understand their feeling, as many Southerners have not yet gotten over the War of Northern Aggression.

Day 4 – Gibraltar and Morocco

Our first glimpse of Gibraltar was impressive. Rising dramatically from the Mediterranean Sea, this historic piece of land -coveted and claimed over the years by the Moors, Greeks, Spanish, English, and Prudential Life Insurance - was once thought to be the end of the world. (Apparently the people who proclaimed this were either (a) extremely near-sighted, (b) visited on a very foggy day, or © assumed the Moors were from France - as Africa is plainly visible from the top of the rock). Fortified by various armies over the centuries, Gibraltar is so honeycombed with tunnels and caves (at least 140) – that for all practical purposes it is now the Swiss cheese of rocks.

Gibraltar remains one of the last outposts of the British Empire, and according to legend, Gibraltar will remain British as long as the famous Barbary Macaques remain on the rock. So ingrained is this belief that Winston Churchill reportedly ordered more monkeys to be sent to Gibraltar during WWII in order to maintain the population, and the British army and the government of Gibraltar have taken turns feeding and caring for them ever since. Either the British are a lot more gullible that I ever imagined or the monkeys have a REALLY good agent!

The monkeys, besides providing really neat picture opportunities when they hop up on your shoulder, have become quite adept at stealing your food when you are distracted. – despite the fact that a myriad of signs warn visitors about the penalty for feeding the monkeys. Miscreants who are apprehended feeding the monkeys are offered their choice of either a) eights hours on a road gang under the fierce Mediterranean sun, or b) eating an English meal prepared by English cooks. Most people who have been to England opt for the road gang.

(I should note that, contrary to what we were told in the Celebrity Theatre last night, France is not negotiating to purchase the Rock of Gibraltar with the intention of honoring their former president by renaming it the de Gaulle Stone).

As much as we would have liked to have seen more of Gibraltar, we have made arrangements to take a boat to Morocco. While I have been to Morocco once before, SailorJill has not and had been looking forward to seeing the Tamri Goats – which are a sight to behold!

Contrary to my initial assumption on my previous visit, Goats in Trees was not a prequel to ABC’s Men in Trees, but is a tourist attraction in Morocco. A visit to a stand of Argan trees was highlighted by a herd of Tamri goats that actually climb up into the trees to eat the fruit of the tree. And I’m not talking about leaning up against the tree with the front legs; I’m talking about actually climbing to the top of a 25-foot tree to get at the fruit. Picture a Christmas tree with an Angel (or Ann Heche) on top and you can visualize what a unique sight it is to see a goat standing on top of a tree.

While stunningly picturesque, this process poses two dangers to the avid photographer. Anyone who has ever walked under a statue covered with pigeons can begin to understand the first danger - as one of our unfortunate compatriots soon discovered. Note to future visitors: Do NOT walk under the tree to get a better shot.

The second danger is more insidious. The fruit of the Argan tree has pits that cannot be digested by the goats and are therefore, ah, shall we say…passed on through the digestive process. The Berber herders then collect the pits, which are crushed to make Argan oil, which is widely used as a food product. Mixed with crushed almonds and sugar it is said to make a tasty spread for bread. (Note to self: Avoid all bread spreads while in Morocco). In fact, I am now somewhat leery of all Moroccan foods as there are absolutely no warning labels on any product warning innocent tourists that it contains oil, which, for all practical purposes, originated from the south end of a northbound goat!

Day 6 - Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Before you begin to get all weepy eyed over visions of Tweety bird, let me dispel a popular myth: there are no canaries in the Canary Islands. I’ll report on the Virgin Islands when we get there.

While there are no canaries on Lanzarote, our guide, Sylvester, assures us that there are, indeed, canaries on Tenerife and La Palma – our next ports of call. In the meantime, we tour Lanzarote – poetically described by the tourist board as “Stunningly Lunar or Martian” in nature and which you and I would describe as “stunningly, unbelievably barren”. Back in the 1730’s, volcanic activity created 32 new volcanoes in a single 12-mile stretch alone - which then proceeded to cover 25% of the island with molten lava. One hundred other volcanoes sprouted up in an area called Montañas del Fuego. As we drive across the cratered, amost alien landscape, I have an eerie feeling that at any moment we could bump into Neil Armstrong.

Given the volcanic nature of the island, there is a surprisingly large variety of flora on the island, which, to a great extent, consists of different forms of lichen – which grow well on bare rock. As there were no canaries to watch, Sylvester went to great pains to show us each and every single type of flora on the island. Wikipedia says that there are 500 different kinds of plants and lichens on Lanzarote – which means we must have had to look at two of them twice. If I am ever forced to look at another lichen I’ve asked SailorJill to just shoot me. I guess you could say I wasn’t liken it much (sorry – but you had to know it was coming).

On the way back to the ship we stop by – and I swear I am not making this up – a winery! I mean, the island is mostly lava, gets 5 inches of rain a year and every year the sirocco winds blow so much sand from the Sahara desert onto Lanzarote that visibility, at times, is reduced to less than 100 yards – and they are trying to grow quality grapevines? However, after tasting a white wine from Chateau de Lavarok, SailorJill actually buys a bottle – saying she thinks it might be just the thing to finally remove that stubborn waxy buildup on our new travertine floor.

Day 7 – Tenerife, Canary Islands

The approach to Tenerife is one of the most dramatic we have ever seen. Row upon row of mountains, separated by narrow valleys, march down to the sea. In the early morning mist, the white-washed houses, built deep into the valleys and up the sides of the mountains brings to mind snow covered glaciers sliding towards the cold Atlantic waters. It is a breathtaking sight. And, as the sun rises, the city of Santa Cruz emerges from the mist and can be seen stretching up a sloping hill.

Space limits my ability to describe the beauty of this island, but three sights you will not want to miss in town:

  • Parque Garcia Sanabria - the cleanest, best-manicured and most beautiful large park we have ever seen in a port city. As much a botanical garden as it is a park, its exotic and tropical plants offer a surprise around every corner. Its emerald bamboo tunnel is a “not to miss” sight and provides a very romantic interlude.[/color]

  • Auditorio de Santa Cruz – if you have never seen the Opera House in Sydney you will not want to miss this marvelously and futuristically designed auditorium – with its sweeping wing rising dramatically into the sky and then swooping down over the auditorium and piazza.

  • Mercado de Africa – a cacophony of color, noise and aromas, the Mercado is a farmers market on steroids. This is where the locals shop and there are booths that sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, bread, fish, cheeses, and unbelievable meats. With scores upon scores of vendors loudly touting their wares and hundreds of buyers shouting out their offers, it is impossible not to get swept up into the excitement of sampling the amazing variety of foodstuffs – especially the variety of meats – steaks, ribs, sausages, loins, chops, and roasts. My only problem with visiting the Mercado was in figuring out how to get a whole pork butt back onto the ship.

Day 8 – La Palma

What can one say about La Palma that has not already been said by Stephen King. We were, however, delighted to see an old friend in port – the Brilliance of the Seas. It is the only ship we have ever sailed on that was not sold after we got off.

Day 11- At Sea

Our third day at sea finds us deep into the Atlantic Ocean and having breakfast with our Morocco tour group. It was a glorious day. The water was cobalt blue and the seas were calm. Scattered puffy white clouds, driven by the warm trade winds, drift slowly towards the horizon. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80’s. We looked at each other and spontaneously started chanting, “Toga, Toga”. Wait a minute – that was later in the afternoon in Bernie’s suite after we polished off the last few bottles of the Spanish wine. At breakfast, we actually said, “Pool time!”

As the ladies retired below to get their bathing suits, the guys went out and arranged and positioned the appropriate number of lounges. It was only after SailorJill returned and gave us “the Look” that we realized that we had inadvertently arranged the lounges around two raven- haired, exotic looking women in white string bikinis. Somewhat chagrined, we rearranged the lounges and settled in for a day of sun and relaxation.

It was then that I noticed the three security officers posted next to the pool bar on Deck 12. I immediately feared the worst – they were about to announce the ship was out of beer! Two more security officers then came out on Deck 11 and stopped somewhere behind my lounge. The last time I saw this many security officers in one place was on our tour of movie star homes in Hollywood. On that occasion there were six buff looking guys garbed head to toe in black (and led by two guys named Ranger and Tank) guarding Elizabeth Taylor’s food pantry.

Then, as the officers on Deck 12 moved closer to the railing I realized that they weren’t guarding the bar – they were now positioned to watch the two girls in the white bikinis. My God! I turned to SailorJill and asked her if she thought the poor girls could be in some kind of danger! Glancing up from her book, SailorJill said, “The only danger they’re in is from getting splashed when you drop your beer”.

Glancing down, I saw that she was right. My schooner of Corona was now dangling precariously between my thumb and forefinger. That could have been not only embarrassing, but a terrible waste.

It was at that time that they announced the ice carving demonstration. As we all crowded around the pool to watch, the Emcee started the countdown and off he went. After several minutes the emcee encouraged the audience to shout out what they thought it was going to be. I thought it looked a little like the Supreme Court hearing Roe vs. Wade, but others yelled out “Dolphin”, “Mermaid”, and “Obama”.

When the ice carver signaled he was finished we all stared at the block of ice with blank faces. Then as one, we all turned to look at the emcee as she cleared her throat. Then 500 pairs of eyes turned again as she left the podium and went over to the ice carver and conferred with him for a minute. As the emcee returned to the podium we all turned to follow her. (This was beginning to resemble a tennis match.) “It is”, she announced, “an Angel Fish”.

We all turned to look at the block of ice again. After a second, the crowd conceded that the emcee must know what it was and then we all agreed that it was, indeed, a very nice Angel Fish and applauded wildly.

Later in the afternoon, a bar was set up next to the pool and the ship’s head bartender announced that they would be conducting a class on “mixology” to show us how to make popular shipboard drinks. The first drink up was …the Bloody Mary? I mean, is there anybody on the planet Earth that does not know how to make the traditional breakfast drink? Anyway, the head bartender then calls for a volunteer to taste the drink and inquires of him, “How is it?”

“Too hot,” he replies – instantly labeling him an amateur. Professionals know, of course, that it is nearly impossible to make a Bloody Mary “too hot”.

The second drink up was the Pina Colada. This apparently involved adding two ounces of rum to 6 ounces of Pina Colada mix, putting it into a blender, and hitting “pulse”. Unbelievable.

I left before they could teach the intricacies of making the 3rd drink - a rum and coke.

Tortola – British Virgin Islands

After five long and languid days at sea, and by some miracle of science of which I am only vaguely aware, we arrive at a speck of land in the middle of the ocean that is actually the exact same one that is on our itinerary.

So what does SailorJill want to do? Get on another boat, of course, and sail to Virgin Gorda. I mean, we have just spent over 120 consecutive hours at sea with only the Captain’s word that we will ever see land again, and now that land is finally in sight, we are to get off a perfectly good boat – one with a pool, a well provisioned buffet, a nice selection of bars, and a private bathroom – to get on a little boat with no amenities other than “free rum punch”.

While it is not in my nature to be stern, I was forced to take a stand. This is our first visit to Tortola and there is a lot to see here – Sage Mountain Park (with the tallest mountain in both the US and British Virgin Islands), Fort Recovery (a marvelous fort constructed in the fifteenth century by the Dutch pirate Joost van Dyke), the Botanical Gardens (with its lush tropical foliage and its famous “Walk of the Palms”), and most compelling – the Callwood Rum Distillery!

I have been avidly awaiting our Tortola stop as, and I quote here from the Wikitravel.org website, “Alcohol is immensely popular in the BVI, both beer and island cocktails, most notably rum.” What better way to spend the day than exploring the island and relaxing with a popular island cocktail (or two)! After discussing the merits of spending the day on the island, after so many days at sea, SailorJill and I reach agreement.

The little sailboat we spent the day on was a vintage wooden sailer called the Mary Ann; and I strongly suspect that the skipper was the role model for the movie “Captain Ron.” I realize, of course, that we are in the islands, but when sailing on a little boat with no land in sight I tend to have a little more confidence in a ship’s captain who actually owns a shirt and displays a few less tattoos than Britney Spears. With my suspicions now on high alert, I am sorely tempted to go below and see if Clark Gable’s initials are carved into the bed, but head for the free rum punch bar instead.

The bar tender, excuse me - the First Mate - did nothing to assuage my concerns. The First Mate (“just call me Matey”) also apparently did not own a shirt (or shoes) and had a two-day growth of patchy stubble on his chin that barely concealed a recent scar. I was sorely tempted to ask him if his last berth was working on a fast speedboat off the coast of Somalia, but wisely gulped down another free rum punch instead. At this point I am thinking that maybe we should have taken the ship’s sailing tour instead of this one we found for $19.95 in the alley at the end of the pier.

Then, to the delight of all aboard, the Captain announces that he is shutting down the diesel and that we will be sailing with the wind. I have to admit, my spirits began to lift… the feeling was surprisingly euphoric. It really takes one back to the Age of Sail – the rush of the open sea, the crisp snap of the sails as we tack first to port and then to starboard, the rhythmic splashing of the bow wave as we slice through the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the faint rumble of the motor from below deck, the slow rolling of the…. wait a minute here! I was sure I had heard the Captain say that he had shut down the motor so I turn to Matey and ask why the motor is still running,

“Its not the engine”, he said, “it’s the backup bilge pump you hear”.

“What’s a bilge pump?”

“It pumps out the water that leaks through the hull.”

“Why do I only hear the backup bilge pump?”

“The primary one broke down last June.”

“May I have a rather large free rum punch, please?”

I also look around for an empty rum bottle and a piece of paper, as I would like to leave a note to our beloved children letting them know where their trust fund documents can be found.

Despite the fact that we are apparently taking on water, we have arrived at our island destination. I think history has been less than forthcoming as to why Christopher Columbus named this island Fat Virgin (Virgin Gorda), but I suspect it was more than tobacco leaves that lured ol’ Chris to repeatedly return to the Caribbean.

Once ashore, we have the option of either attending the Festival of Guadalupe Hildago or visiting the famous “Baths of Virgin Gorda”. We elect to visit the Baths when we learn that the highlight of the Festival – the Parade of the Virgins - has been cancelled as one was ill and the other refused to parade alone.

After a short sail, we arrived at the Baths and everyone quickly got off, bathing suits in hand, to enjoy the spectacular beach and the beckoning rocky grottos. As I was about to get off, Matey pulled me aside and asked if I wanted a snorkel. Now I admit I had no idea what snorkel was, but it didn’t sound legal – especially so when he said he would get me a mask to wear if I wanted to try it. If you had to wear a mask to have a snorkel on a relatively remote reef-enclosed island beach then…hold on…a light bulb just went off. While I couldn’t recall the details, I distinctly remember the dire warnings from the movie “Reefer Madness” that we saw in high school. Reef – reefer - what had I gotten SailorJill and myself into!

False alarm. It turns out that a snorkel is actually – and I swear I am not making this up – is actually a tube that you breathe through while lying face down with your head under water. I asked Matey why anyone not from Alabama would want to submerge their head in saltwater and entrust their life to a short plastic tube that was probably made in China. He replied that it was a great way to see fish in their natural habitat. Well, I may not be the sharpest shell on the beach, but I do know that the natural habitat for fish is on a bed of wild rice with a bit of melted butter and a slice of lemon!

As we were discussing all this, an elderly man, who had apparently already succumbed to Matey’s pitch, stood up out of the water and began coughing violently.

“What happened”, I asked.

“He probably sucked in some water” Matey replied.

“But he had on his snorkel!”

“Sometimes water goes down the snorkel and you breathe it in.”

As he was explaining this, the old man had staggered to the water’s edge and collapsed on the wet sand. Several people ran to the old man’s side and began what for all the world looked like CPR and cardiovascular resuscitation - and I am sure that I just imagined the man wearing a black robe with a white collar bending over him and reading from the Bible. Apparently snorkeling is a group activity that is somewhat akin to voluntary water boarding.

Sensing my apprehension about snorkeling, Matey then suggested that perhaps I would feel more comfortable trying Snuba. I told him I would feel more comfortable lying on my beach towel with a really large free rum punch.

San Juan

Sitting at the gate at the San Juan airport, the long days and short nights of our transatlantic crossing slowly crept up on me. Totally relaxed, and basking in the early morning rays of the warm Caribbean sun - which were sneaking in through the large plate glass windows, I began to slowly drift off into that drowsy state halfway between sleep and consciousness - you know the one – where you get a glow inside and start to dream of creamy chocolate, soft feather pillows, and gentle, gentle rain. At this exact moment in time all was right with the world.

Just as my eyes began to close for good, I felt, or sensed, a gentle brush against my leg. As I looked down, I must have given a slight start as SailorJill gave me a quizzical glance.

“It’s nothing”, I said. “I tawt I taw a putty tat”. “I did, I did.”

 

BRAVO- LAUGHTER GREAT WRITER

Carole

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What a treat! I've read both your Dream and Jewel reviews (steered to them with the quote "funniest reviews on the boards") and was so thrilled to see one on the Celebrity boards. Even a Ranger and Tank reference - it couldn't have been any funnier if Lula herself had served you your large free rum punches.

 

Thanks so much for making my afternoon!

 

Cathy

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I loved reading your previous review of your South American cruise, and I see that your wonderful style is still intact....I really think you need to write some kind of cruising manual and include all of your adventures:D

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