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Published: August 27th 2018
We awoke early again with the realization that this was the day that we’d been anticipating. Today we begin our cruise. Ruth had wished us a most enjoyable journey yesterday when we had the opportunity to visit with her in her home in Rhode Island. Sharon had mentioned to her how we’d met our previous Trivia Team at the Life Boat Drill; but, for this cruise I had made her sign-up for the roll call so that we could join a trivia team with some Canadians. If you can’t have school teachers on your team, then the next best thing are team members from Canada, Great Britain or Australia. Ruth has also played trivia; but, said that she sometimes takes umbrage with some of the questions and answers. One that particularly irked her was spawned by a popular urban myth: “What is the name of a town or community that can be found in ALL of the 50 states in the USA?” The name that her cruise director was looking for was the same as the name of the town in “The Simpsons”: Springfield. Ruth was listing from memory all of the towns in her home state, on which she commented,
“If you come from a state the size of mine, you can do that!”, and Springfield wasn’t among them. As it turns out, there are only 35 states that can claim a Springfield (or close cousin). The true record holder with this regard is “Riverside”. Only Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana and Oklahoma can’t come up with a Riverside in their state. My mother grew up in Riverside, New Jersey.
We went down to breakfast and surprise of surprise, they were working on the elevator (but it is still out of service, so it probably won’t do us any good!). Back in the room we readied our bags, put the HAL tags on our two big suitcases, and Sharon sent me out in quest of a luggage dolly. There was one near our room; but, somebody had left a half empty box of something on it. The men were also working on the elevator on this floor, the door was open, and the elevator appeared to be stuck between the second and third floor. I just missed the working elevator to go down. I had to go all the way down to the first floor to grab a cart a few feet away by the door. When I turned around, a maid had already slipped into the elevator and it was on the way up. We filled up the cart and Sharon took some pleasure in taking a picture of her own personal pack mule maneuvering the many bags. We got the bags down to the lobby and Sharon checked out while I went to fetch the car. We loaded up and headed to the airport.
We hit accidents and slowdowns in all of the usual places; and, again Sharon urged restraint as I eyed the carpool lane. This time, instead of veering to the right to head downtown, we headed to the left towards Logan Airport. As we exited I remembered that I hadn’t filled the tank with gas. Oops. We found the route to the rental return, and then we spotted a sign to food and fuel. The Gulf station was doing a booming business. We got our Alamo car returned on the third floor of the car rental facility. Once we got down to ground level Sharon was talking about calling Uber instead of having to take the car rental shuttle to the airport and then find a cab there; but, then we both spotted two taxis up ahead, and the front one was plenty big to handle all of our bags. We knew it would cost more and when we got in we knew we were being overcharged. The guy wanted $30 for cash or $33 for credit card. I figured, “Hey, I just saved over $50 on gas by filling it up myself!” It was about noon when we got to the ship, and a porter carried our two larger bags away. We steered our carry-ons upstairs and then through the check-in maze. Many people were already there, but we soon got our room keys and didn’t even need to get our pictures retaken since they still had them from last years cruise and I guess we hadn’t changed much. A woman handed us both a blue “Four Star Boarding” ticket. Sharon had heard them call for “Five Star Boarding” when we entered the building, and now they were calling for “Four and Five Star Boarding”. That’s us! I’ve stopped and started to put my room key in the card wallet I use mainly for this purpose; but, Sharon says, “Keep that out, they’re boarding us now.” We head over to get into line. I see that they’ve started to take pictures of travelers in front of a green screen and knowing that Sharon likes such pictures for the front cover of Shutterfly books she makes to document our cruises, I suggest that we get our picture taken. On our last crew we skipped the picture, and in the end, wound up with nary a picture of the two of us. I don’t think she wanted to get out of line; but, in the end we got our pictures taken and we only lost two spots in line. Sharon added, “Better get your room key ready.” I slip my left hand into my pocket where I keep my smaller card wallet, and then recall that I hadn’t put they key there yet. And the key is not in that pocket. I check my shirt pocket; and, while my blue boarding group ticket is there, my room key is not. My right pocket has some pens, a stylus and my phone battery pack; but, no room key. I confess to Sharon, “I seem to have lost my room key.” A semi-thorough search fails to turn it up. The line has started to move, and we step aside. Sharon tells one of HAL’s staff, “He’s lost his key.” The lady must have thought that she meant the blue boarding group pass; because, she replied, “Oh he doesn’t need that.” Sharon clarified, “No, his cabin key!” “Oh, my, he certainly needs that!” We headed back to the counter where people were getting cabin keys. In a final desperate check of my pockets I found my cabin key that had gotten stuck to my phone’s battery pack. Sharon shoots me one of her patented, “I can’t take you anywhere looks,” and we get back in line. More than a dozen or so couples have surged pass us in the meantime. I’m sure that I will be hearing about this for the rest of the cruise. ** Sigh ** She is already referring to this as “The Incident” but she does that with a giggle, so I think I’m safe.
We get to our cabin and we both seem to agree that our last-minute upgrade from the interior cabin was worth it. For Sharon, she likes the large couch and the table and it is nice to have a window. And the cabin is laid out nicely and there is an extra closet. We got our carry-ons unpacked and then headed up to the Lido. Sharon got some roast beef and what she thought were mashed potatoes. I guess she’s saving the Dive-In for another day. I however headed to the NY Pizza. Unlike the Koningsdam, the NY Pizza here serves only pizza and salads (no submarine sandwiches). I ordered the Wall Street, the pizza I recall preferring in the past. I did notice that it no longer came with Kalamata Olives, so I asked for them to be added. I later noticed that it also no longer has mushrooms and now comes with prosciutto and Gorgonzola. I was surprised that I liked this pizza as much as I did, the Gorgonzola really was a nice touch. I’ll order it again; but, with mushrooms also. Sharon was certain that the potatoes had cheese in them… I tasted them, thought they were quite good, and I think she was right, it did certainly have ham or bacon.
It took our bags a while to arrive; but, they did come before the lifeboat drill at 4:00 PM. Sharon was wondering what was going to be done about the late-borders who could be boarding as late as 8:30 PM. The drill went smoothly; but, there seemed to be three cabins missing on our boat. The drill runs much smoother when they just scan cabin keys and don’t call out cabin numbers and try to record people calling out “Here!”
There’s another couple that we’d met on a previous cruise that we planned to dine with this evening. But neither of us were able to make a reservation for 6:30PM and so we planned to reschedule. They took a 5:15PM reservation but, Sharon goes to mass at 5:00PM.
I went with Sharon to mass mostly because I knew the priest was going to work balloon animals into his homily. Sharon had corresponded with him through Cruise Critic and arranged for her first husband Jim to be remembered in the mass, on this the 12th
anniversary of his death. He had inquired how many children will be on this cruise, and many assured him: “Not many!” He was wondering how many balloons to bring (for the children). Somebody mentioned he’d have the opportunity to meet many children in Greenland (so I’m thinking he will be bringing many balloons). The priest introduced himself to the congregation noting that he came from a group of monks in the Ukraine, noting, “But I got kicked out.” He let that settle in, before continuing, “Not for anything bad.” The area he lived in was near Chernobyl, and in the 10 years he was there the drinking water was contaminated water and it adversely affected his kidneys. For health reasons, he relocated to Canada. He evidently read someone’s mind, continuing “No, no, this didn’t make me lose my hair or turn my beard white. I’ve been this way since I was twenty-three.” Before the service started a woman came up to him and he asked, “Has your shoulder been hurting long?” She flexed her shoulder some, grimacing some at his personal inquiry, and responded, “No, it’s more in my neck. How did you know…” He continued, “Can you hold your arm like this?” And he held his arm up, horizontal from the shoulder then bending the elbow upward with all five fingers spread. And she certainly was able to do that. He then exclaimed, “Thank-you for volunteering to do the first reading!” He also made a comment to those sitting in the back how when he first started at his parish everyone sat in the back, so he used a cart on wheels and moved the “altar” down the aisle toward them. He says they all sit up front now. During his homily he implored us to keep our minds open to not only see the things that we came to see on planned tours; but, also to keep our eyes open for the other things around us that are there for us to see if we only look. And as for the balloons, he talked about how he enjoys talking to children. He had the opportunity to address some preschoolers recently and he held up a long skinny limp balloon. He asked the kids, “Do you know what this is?” One boy enthusiastically in the back waved, “Ooh, I do, I do.” When called on he proudly announced, “A balloon!” That’s right. He then blew it up, except for a small amount at the end and had now a two-foot-long hotdog-like balloon. “Now,” he challenged the kids, “Do you know what this will become?” The same boy admitted, “I don’t know, Father.” “That’s right,” the monk exclaimed, “You can’t know. But watch.” And with many twists and turns he’d produced a balloon creature, that all of the children recognized as a Teddy Bear. He of course made a Teddy Bear from a balloon as he told the story with the tying of the knot being the Holy Spirit and other spiritual references.
It took some time to get seated in open seating without reservations. The other line seemed to be seated promptly. We were seated at a round table for eight with one other couple Joanne and Steve, and two single travelers, one of them a German lady who had been on the previous leg from the Netherlands and the gentleman by himself was Hal (as he said, “Like the Cruise Line”). She evidently didn’t have a great time and complained of the weather saying the captain couldn’t even find one of the ports in Greenland. The couple was aspiring to become 4-star mariners and are eyeing the free laundry that 4-star’s get with some envy. This is their longest cruise yet, and Steve confirmed when I asked, that they are working up to a world cruise.
Sharon said that they’d revamped their menu; but, I still bet her that they would have a banana crisp on the menu. She took the bet. I was worried, they wouldn’t get rid of crisps altogether would they? On the first night there always seems to be a “bay shrimp” appetizer; but, I’d never seen a bay shrimp tater tot offering. It was nicely done, novel and delicious. I ordered spinach and mushroom caps and the description included roasted tomato which I wasn’t thrilled about. I didn’t realize I was ordering a spinach salad, why don’t they just say, “Spinach Salad”. When the water asked if balsamic dressing was okay, I suppose I should have known. When it was served Joanne complained, “Where are the mushroom caps? There are supposed to be mushroom caps!” The server brought her some sliced mushroom caps, apologizing. Mine was very good; but, it could have used some mushrooms. Mine was gone by the time the server had come back with the mushrooms. He did ask if I wanted any; but, what would be the point. There was no entry that caught my culinary eye as “I gotta get me some of that.” I was considering the “Pesto Penne Pasta w/ Italian Sausage”; but, it was identified as a vegetarian dish. I went with the Beef Short Rib Stroganoff with carrots and turnip served over egg noodles. You must understand, the “carrots” were two small carrot slices on either side of the plate and the “turnip” was a similar sliver arranged on an adjacent edge. So, if turnips don’t float your boat, you needn’t worry because you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there. I had the banana crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. When I first started ordering these, I would need to order the ice cream on the side. Now they just add it automatically in the description (and they save the whole bother of a separate ice cream dish with dessert wafer). Sharon tried the pear-cucumber gazpacho; but, it didn’t quite live up to her expectations of the pear soup that she remembered though it wasn’t bad she said. She had the pork chop and baked potato. Unfortunately, the pork chop also didn’t live up to her expectations, having had this dish before when she had loved the chop. This one was grizzled with fat, which doesn’t work for her at all. She did however enjoy her chocolate caramel torte.
During dinner we commented how our journey started out over one week ago when our flight was cancelled. I observed, “I’m glad that didn’t happen to us flying to a cruise at the last minute.” Joanne then grinned, I guess we had started an “I can top that” challenge. “Well me missed a flight after getting on the flight.” Her husband Steve looked chagrined, “Oh you’re not going to tell ‘that’ story (again).” I’m thinking, this must be good. “We were settling into our seats and ‘he’ can’t find his wallet.” Have you noticed that there’s a way that wives say ‘He’ when they’re about to thoroughly humiliate ‘Him’? Long story short: he’d left his wallet back at airport security. They informed the crew, who had to contact the tower and get FAA approval to go back to the gate. This is not a short process, and poor Steve is enduring all of the eye-daggers from every other passenger on the plane. They get off, they get their luggage off, the plane leaves and they get the wallet which security just set aside. Any more flights today would cost $1,000 per ticket on another airline. The airline they were on did let them fly on their next flight; but, 24 hours later. Then, and I knew this was coming, Sharon says, “Well, ‘he’ lost his cabin key before we got on the ship. I guess she wasn’t paying attention that we were playing “Can you top this”. I told Sharon, “It doesn’t seem so bad now does it?”
It was well past 7:00PM so we weren’t able to make it for Evening Trivia. I went back to the cabin for a bit. Sharon headed off. I used the ship’s messaging system to ask Sharon where she was; and, to my surprise, she responded. I met her in the Showroom in the balcony on the right side. The speaker was finishing up her briefing on New England. We headed over to the piano bar but were a half hour early.
Barry From Boston came by to do his pre-show check, and Sharon advised him to lessen the red in the lights because the setting he was using made him look like a sunburned lobster. He started the show with “Those were the days” and was getting many people to sing along. He said he’d started with this song on all of his previous Voyage of the Vikings. This is his 6th
and last since they will be using a different ship next year that has the Dueling Pianos instead of the single Piano Bar. He did a Neil Diamond song, “Caroline” but encouraged the audience to respond every time he sang “Caroline” to follow that with “Bah-Hah-Bah” in honor of tomorrow’s port of call. He noted the demographics on this cruise was some 1,000 Americans and 130 Canadians and that all the others are just single or double digits. There were 7 people from Germany (and we had dinner with one of them) and only 3 from the Netherlands. In honor of the Americans, he performed Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Barry From Boston has a play book of over 3,000 songs (he says he no longer claims that the number of songs is the same as the year, e.g. 2,018, as that is too cheezie). Barry From Boston also had some advice, and it seemed to apply to our upcoming visit to Bar Harbor; although, he wouldn’t expose any names. His rule of thumb is, that when you come into a port, you never go to eat at the first restaurant that you stumble onto when you get off the ship; or, as will be the case in Bar Harbor: the tender. That is unless you want to pay the most for mediocre food. Better values always occur elsewhere in town, you just need to look for them. He’s a very impressive performer, and clearly enjoys what he’s doing, which is why he makes the music so fun for everyone else. Similar to the performer we had a few years ago on the Nieuw Amsterdam who would shout out “New People” whenever anybody came into the piano bar to sit down, Barry from Boston seeks to humiliate people if they get up to leave. Sharon wanted to sneak out during one of his songs; but, I waited until the end. We got up, and Barry from Boston gave us “Exit Applause”. He’d have done this anyway if we’d left early, and it might have interrupted his rhythm.
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