Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jan 6 – At Sea

Today is the first of many sea days.  They will have their own routine – breakfast in the MDR; reading the shipboard edition of the New York Times and doing the crossword puzzle; Team Trivia; lunch; reading and relaxing [which means slot machines]; drinks; dinner and possibly a show.

That being said, today was different because we had the first of a half-dozen Cruise Critic meetings set for 10 am in the Crow’s Nest, pretty much at the top of the ship.  Perhaps this would be a good time to explain a little bit about Cruise Critic [CC].

Cruise Critic is an on-line community of people who like to cruise [duh].  It offers support to people with questions and information not always available in the mass media.  Members write about their cruising experiences both good and bad. One section, however, is devoted to what are called Roll Calls.  The Roll Call is the conversation among people who have booked the same cruise.  Our Roll Call had approximately 125 people sign up before we left port yesterday; several more crawled out of the woodwork this morning.

Despite what some people think, we are cruisers, not critics although we did have one gathering where some outsiders showed up so they could complain.  Our main purpose is to share information and experiences.  Many of us plan private shore excursions and troll for participants on the CC forum.  Our major public activity is the Meet-and-Greet, a chance for members who have met on-line to see each other face-to-face.

For the past several extended cruises, D has served as the host of the M&Gs and this year was no different.  He arranged with Holland America [HAL] for the meeting space and requested that more than the usual cookies and coffee be available to participants.  As a result, we had not only the items normally supplied by HAL but also fresh fruit and crudité.  Much to everyone’s surprise, HAL also provided cheap champagne and mimosas [and the staff to serve them]. 

D maintained the ongoing and ever-growing list of members, scheduled the 6 meetings, printed labels to be used as badges for the late-joiners and purchased commemorative pens for the attendees.  Another member, Kathy, a graphic artist, printed badges for most of the members [until she ran out of materials] and placed them in pin-back holders so the members can wear them throughout the cruise.  The biggest job fell to Ada who created a “photo-book” which included facts about the ship, a list of CC activities, member names and information, and member photographs.  It was a Herculean task which everyone praised.  In theory, we could have memorized everyone’s face and name and dispensed with the badges, but that was only in theory.  The reality was that people spent lots of time squinting at other people’s name tags.

D had informed HAL that he anticipated as many as 180 people to attend and several in the group estimated that we had between 150 and 175 crowded into half the Crow’s Nest.  It was a very sociable crowd as people greeted old friends and made new ones.  We recognized people with whom we had cruised but whose names we never knew and others who recognized us despite our evident confusion.

Once the staff found a good microphone, D started the meeting by recognizing Kathy and Ada’s contributions to the success of the Roll Call and each was applauded enthusiastically by the group. Immediately after that, he turned it over to Amsterdam staff members who had come to greet us.  Thus, we heard briefly from the Hotel Manager, the Cruise Director and one of the Future Cruise Consultants [who used to be a HAL Cruise Director].  Several CC’ers had news to share with the group about a cabin crawl [where participants get to see different types of accommodations] and “slot pull”.  And then it was all about meeting and mingling.

People started drifting out around 11 but we left quite a few talking when we left for Team Trivia in the Ocean Bar [our home-away-from-home-away-from-home].  We thought it began at 11:30 and wanted to be sure to get a table as we anticipated a large crowd.  As it turned out, it started at 11:45, and, surprisingly, the Ocean Bar was not filled to capacity.  We watched people try to form teams – and some tried to join ours – but we had formed the latest incarnation of HAL 9000 months ago; we are being joined by Ken and Lois Schwartz, Arthur Starr and Linda “Ginger” Rickerson, all of whom we have sailed with before.  We have decided that this will be FUN trivia, not cutthroat although we still expect to do well.

Traditionally, the trivia on the longer cruises has been cumulative with results based on how teams have done over a period of time, not just one day.  Points will be awarded and later totaled and prizes distributed accordingly.  When the time comes, there will be more written about that.  Today, though, was a trial run to see if teams were compatible.  We were, of course, but some of the players had never met their teammates before.  We do not plan on trading anyone.

We had fun if not success and finished out of the running today.  In the woulda/shoulda of Team Trivia, we might have had several more correct answers but still would have been out of the proverbial money.  However, we did have bull’s eye candy and other treats and vow to be the best-fed team in the room.

After Trivia, we went to lunch in the MDR with Ken and Lois and passed a pleasant hour or so talking about travel and our families.  After a visit to the cabin during which D finally solved the blogspot sign-in dilemma and posted Monday’s entry, and a schlep by D to the Crow’s Nest to retrieve his forgotten travel bag, we tried out the slots with great or moderate success [MA=great, D=moderate] and then repaired to the cabin where D worked on today’s blog entry and MA “rested.”  At 4:30, D went to the Piano Bar where he was eventually joined by Ken and Lois and 3 other CC members for Pub Trivia.  We tied for first and received Grand Dollars which will be accumulated and later traded for cheap ship stuff.  He stopped at the Casino on the way home and lost his modest winnings from earlier in the day.

We went to the Ocean Bar for our usual drinks [vodka, ice water] before dinner.  It did not take the dining room staff long to assign our old table, so we had neighbors to talk with tonight.  He is one of the guest lecturers and is giving at least 3 talks on the Panama Canal.  They will be on board until we reach Papetee in several weeks but don’t know from day to day what their table assignment will be.  We and they are hopeful that they will be back tomorrow. 

After dinner we spent a few minutes at the slots before going to the show.  The performer tonight was the son of 1950s singer Jackie Wilson, a fact he never let us forget.  His singing was good, but the patter between selections was distracting and annoying.  While he sang classic songs from black artists of the ‘50s and 60’s, he also included some rather condescending impersonations of the singers which were off-putting.  We thought the show would have been much better if he had stuck to the singing.  Still, it was an enjoyable performance and at least one of us sang along throughout the show.

And so to bed.

TOMORROW: Another sea day.

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