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Published: November 18th 2014
Our Ship In TenerifeHe said that in this world men want to be serious but do not know how to be so. Between their acts and their ceremonies lies the world and in this world the storms blow and the trees twist in the wind and all the animals that God has made go to and fro yet this world men do not see. They see the acts of their own hands or they see that which they name and they call out to one another but the world between is invisible to them. Cormac McCarthy 'The Crossing'
You had to walk a mile from the pier to get into town. Royal Caribbean was short on shuttle buses this day.
We are on a ship named 'Liberty of the Seas'. It is a very large ship. It has a displacement of 150,000 tons. To put that in perspective; The US Navy aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy displaces 83,000 tons when it is fully loaded with men, machines and fuel. The ship we are on carries a contingent of 5,000 people including staff. There are swimming pools, wave pools, miniature golf, a cupcake store, fourteen elevators, a rock climbing wall, a casino, a medical clinic, a gymnasium, saunas (steam and dry), a spa, ice skating rink, water park, a basketball court, hot tubs, ice cream
Great bed and enough space to be had that even after 13 days aboard you didn't end up hating it.
parlor, a jogging track, theaters, a library, a pizzeria, a boxing ring, bars, a shopping mall, food and more food. Cabins are equipped with large windows, comfortable beds, satellite television, movies on demand, WIFI, refrigerators, hot water showers, fresh fluffy bath towels that are changed out twice a day, large closets and room service which will deliver more food to your door at any hour of the day or night. Original art is hung from the walls at every stairway landing. There are twenty-eight landings in all, counting both fore and aft. The elevators are much used.
We departed from Barcelona, Spain using the same port that the Spanish Armadas employed to set sail for the new world. I woke myself at three in the morning as we passed through the straits of Gibraltar. The pillars of Hercules. Stars rained fire down the night sky. I stood alone on the forward deck. Europe on my right, Africa on my left. The lights of Tangiers fell behind us shrinking into a singular compact glow and with that we were in open water. Heading north for a short stop in tiny Cadiz and then southwest for the Canary Islands. The ship
Las Palmas Lane
maintains a large sea chart in the marble floored shopping area. Each day's progress is carefully delineated. In the afternoons the Captain announces our coordinates, our speed and the weather report. We are tracing the ancient courses set by the Jesuits and the Conquistadors who rode these north-easterly's to harvest Aztec souls and Incan gold. There is a television channel dedicated 24/7 to a camera mounted on the ship's bow so everyone can see the ocean without mussing their hair. The elevator floors have imbedded panels in them to inform the confused as to what day of the week it is. In the end; I took note of them more than once.
The passengers are mainly pensioners. Americans for the most part. Large and hungry. Besides the three formal dining rooms there are long buffets on the eleventh deck that open at seven in the morning and close at nine at night. Self-serve ice cream machines saddle the pool area. Waiters circle sunbathers with trays of wine, beer and umbrella'd cocktails. The few children aboard look like lonely Guppies as they dog-paddle around the swimming pools. The Halloween Night trick-or-treat parade along the 150-yard long shopping promenade consisted of
From left to right.
Betty, Mike Kemal, Marcus, Karen.
Bottom Row: Eric, Jim, Jane, Kara and Alan.
no more than thirty kids dressed in ship-provided costumes. They were a refreshing sight.
We approached Tenerife in early morning. The gymnasium is spread atop the Captain's bridge. Panoramic windows provide us with views of the Atlantic and ports of call. The Canaries are mountainous. Actively volcanic. Pine forests cover the upper elevations in pales of blue. The night skies are among the clearest in the world so two major observatories are located here. The port of Santa Cruz is a mellow spot. Long pedestrian avenues climb the island's slopes and are lined with shops, banks and cafes. Palm trees shade the tables. Very much like Palma de Mallorca. The people are friendly and very outgoing. Street artists and touts work the byways. Shop offerings are anemic but inexpensive. We ate lunch at a small neighborhood cafe called 'La Pena' where the chef was so happy to have us he insisted that we eat seconds and refused to charge us for drinks. We enjoyed our time in Tenerife as short as it was.
A day later we were in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. A smaller, steeper town than Santa Cruz. Two main shopping streets crowded with cafes
They even have a Ben and Jerry's.
and souvenir shops parallel the coast. Karen and I purchased a black ceramic pot of aboriginal form made by a local artist. Our last consumer gasp of this long trip. The buildings are squared with wooden balconies. Flowers and succulents drip down the stuccoed walls like over-applied paint. The sky is a brilliant sapphire-blue and the sunlight has a peculiar soft quality to it. Colors look deeper and richer. We had but six hours here. On our way back to the ship we came across a group of old local men yammering away at each other in a small shady park. One of them is wearing a Washington Redskins cap. HTTR
It is late afternoon when the ship sets out to sea. The mountains stand deeply shadowed in their folds. We run west along the coast towards land's end. Just above the wave tips; small island birds flit and flare to keep pace with us. We reach a rocky point fingered with three stone columns and the chittering birds peel back to shore, banking hard. Their breasts show like little white flags. The water ahead is a glittering yellow-brick road. 3,600 miles to go. Our cruising speed is 23
Tenerife. 'La Pena' Restaurant Owner
Tenerife natives are all pretty chilled out.
miles per hour. Smart birds.
Pedestrian tasting evening meals are taken in an expansive, formal, wood-railed dining room. Ours is the middle of three stacked like doughnuts around a circular atrium and crowned with a large, cut-glass chandelier that looks like it was lifted from Versailles. Tables of eight are segregated by nationality. I do not know why. Our table mates are a retired military couple, a big Chicago cop with a diminutive spouse and a Brooklynite who sounds like Mos Def and probably went by the name 'Frenchy' back in the hood. His well-spoken North Carolinian wife is a registered nurse of such conservative manner that I cannot help but wonder what their story is but she is inscrutable.
In the morning the ocean is jigsaw-platted in cobalt blues and charcoal grays under scudding clouds. Strong winds are coming out of the northeast but the ship's stabilizers negate the hump-backed swells and below deck the late sleepers, in their dark, insulated cabins, lay unawares of the waves as we move across the Atlantic. Our wake uncoils into a long, milky-blue serpent and I spy a solitary dolphin loping along on our churn.
The days are filled
The ship felt like a floating nursing home.
with activities. Cash Bingo games, trivia contests, art auctions, dance lessons, seminars on flatter stomachs, younger looking skin, teeth whitening, Chinese herbal medicine, yoga, pilates and liquid facelifts. There are volleyball matches, poolside movies, wine tastings, karaoke, gambling lessons. Martini specials at the Olive or Twist lounge and big wristwatch sales in the Promenade shopping area. The Promenade has a 40-foot high vaulted ceiling of banners and polished brass. Teams of staff in rubber gloves scrub the ship incessantly with spray bottles of disinfectant and microfiber cloths. Everything gleams. The surfaces seem thinner for the friction. The young workers are from places like Peru, Macedonia, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey and Brasil. They work ten hour days seven days a week for $1,000 a month. They reside behind red stenciled sea doors that read 'Crew Only'. In the evenings I hear them gathered around mess tables below us where they spend their free time talking and laughing and wondering what the future holds in store and I yearn to join them for I have reached an imponderable age.
There is a moon and a hard wind is tearing the low scudding clouds into shreds of tissue.
The wispy edges are irradiated with faint strokes of red and blue and green. The night is gauzy with stars and the chord of the Milky Way divides the electric sky into tipped halves. It feels like the ship is moving downhill towards home.
We got into a routine. Gym at 6 AM, breakfast at 8, shower, do a trivia game where we were astounded at the ardor some contestants brought to the table. The Casino is open 17 hours a day at sea. It is a very large casino for a cruise ship. We walk through it after dinner and watch people donate money to Royal Caribbean cruise lines at a remarkable rate of speed. There are two restaurants set apart from the normal fare. Chop's Steakhouse and Portofini. An extra $30 will allow you to dine on steak at Chop's or Italian at Portofino. Portofino was very good, Chop's; not so much.
One night we carved through a miles long raft of large jellyfish. Their tentacles pulsed with raisins of blue-green light. As we approach the Bahamas we see more and more ships on the horizon. Brightly-lit cruise ships all headed the same way. By this
He thought that Jack Kent Cook was still the owner.
time we had had a number of guests injure themselves. Falls mostly. While Karen and I chewed on Ossobuccos in Portofino we watched a Coast Guard helicopter evacuate a passenger. They made six passes before they were successful in landing the aircraft on the ship's small helipad. The crossing took eight days.
While we slept, the ship silently pulled into port at Ft. Lauderdale. We woke up and looked through our window to see palm-treed home. It seemed as if the entire trip had been a dream.
We're back. Going through 10 months of mail is a treat to be sure. The cat still seems to regard us kindly. Everything looks the same. The news cycle is the same. The talking heads all have the same beef. It's time to go on another trip.
Shouts to Tolga from Cannakale whom we were supposed to meet in Cadiz. I say supposed because we managed somehow to miss each other in the plaza of the Cadiz cathedral. We were SO ready to talk with someone from Turkey again so we could complain about European food. We will try again Tolga.
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