NOTE – We are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in a dead zone for internet service, so we may not have been able to post the journal for a while. Here is what you missed while we were out of contact:
Jan 14 – At Sea
We are now on automatic pilot. With 8 sea days in a row, there will be little to distinguish one day from the next. Three meals, two trivias and the occasional lecture. Postings will be less frequent and shorter because there won’t be much to say.
We read on the back deck after breakfast this morning. Despite crossing the equator, the weather was pleasant and neither the temperature nor the humidity was too high. There was a nice breeze at the stern of the ship, certainly less than on the exposed sides.
Lunch today was again on the Lido Deck rather than the MDR. There was nothing too appealing on the formal lunch, so we got food from the buffet line and French fries from the hamburger bar. D spoke briefly with Mukti to find out if he had spoken with Julianti when we were in Manta. He had and was just beaming from the memory. We still have a long way to go before he has his family reunion and gets to meet their new baby. We are excited to meet his family, too.
We attended Paul’s lecture on Polynesia after lunch. He is a good speaker but in the dark and cold, there was some nodding off around the theater. We decided that he lectures exactly as he talks at dinner without any artificiality. We bought his book the other day but have yet to read it – it’s a long cruise and we will get to it soon.
The afternoon featured more reading and a short period where MA finally organized her clothes. Our big adventure was going to the gym. We didn’t do anything once we got there, but at least we can say we went to the gym. Tomorrow we might even touch one of the machines.
Actually, we found Bob and Kathy there and MA showed Kathy how to use the rowing machine. Bob and Kathy walk upwards of 5 miles each day and work out as well. We admire their attitude and frequently thank them for doing our share as well as their own. We have had drinks with them before dinner several times and may even make a habit of it. They are delightful people we met through Arthur and Linda and Cruise Critic.
We also managed to stop by the Casino several times for short forays into the world of slots without much additional damage.
We skipped the guitarist’s performance tonight but might drop in on his afternoon show tomorrow.
And so to bed, as Mr. Pepys said.
TOMORROW – More of the same
Jan 15 – At Sea, day 2
An early breakfast with Ken and Lois preceded a session of Rappin’ with the Rabbi. We go because we enjoy Arthur’s presentations rather than through any sense of obligation to a friend and neighbor. While his explanations are always interesting, the conversation bounces from topic to topic. Because of all of the asides, he sometimes loses his original topic and veers all over the place. In other words, it really is a conversation, not a lesson or lecture.
Afterwards, we read on the side of the Lower Promenade so we could actually watch the world float by before morning Trivia. After Trivia, we ate with Arthur and Linda in the MDR and rehashed some of the conversation from his morning presentation. We stopped by the casino after lunch for a few fruitless minutes before heading to the Lido to read and work on the crossword puzzle. If we were fighting with the puzzle today, it won. MA joined Linda for a crafts class in which they made earrings while D fought with the puzzle a little more before dropping the bag with the tablets and trivia supplies in the room. A few minutes at the blackjack table – the first time on this cruise – produced a draw [which is better than can be said for the crossword puzzle], and another few minutes on the slots returned the money he had lost earlier in the day. At three o’clock, he went to hear the guitarist who was performing as a solo act this afternoon while MA was still crafting. He returned to the room at 3:30 to find her there. We read in the room for an hour or so before heading out for Pub Trivia.
Tonight was another formal night, the second so far. There will be 9 or 10 before we return to Florida, a far cry from “the old days” when there were normally 2 per week on every cruise, even the week-long ones. This is just another example of HAL [and probably the other “mass market” cruise lines] abandoning the traditions of cruising. In order to attract a younger demographic, the line has to offer what the new customers want, even on a cruise like the GWV which probably has no one who is not an experienced traveler.
The result of “dumbing down” the cruise experience is that there are fewer formal nights and a more relaxed dress code. When we started cruising 30 years ago [thanks to D’s parents], there were three standards of dress for dinner – formal, semi-formal and casual. Casual dress was reserved for port days when passengers often did not have time to change from their touring outfits before early dinner. Sports attire was accepted as long as one did not wear shorts, flip-flops and the like. Semi-formal was renamed informal and changed from coats and ties for men to jackets without ties. Formal dress has not changed.
Today, there are just two dress styles, formal and smart casual. Formal dress is no longer as fancy as it once was; despite HAL’s references to cocktail dresses and similar clothing for women and tuxedoes or dark suits for men, no one enforces the dress code, so some people dress up and others don’t. Everyone we saw was dressed appropriately, but we have seen passengers on Grand Cruises in polo shirts or worse which sort of defeats the whole idea of having a formal night. Many who did not want to dress up went to the Lido buffet so as not to offend the passengers who want to dress formally.
Following the oh-so-fancy dinner which featured escargot and surf-and-turf [not necessarily what we ordered], passengers were invited to the Black-and-Silver Ball in the showroom. We went and sat with Ken and Lois and Ginger and Dave.
The custom was to give pillow gifts on formal nights, but the only thing we found in our cabin tonight was a fancier-than-usual candy. On the other hand, we have already received the travel bag and cruise diary, so we can’t complain.
TOMORROW – Day 3 at sea
Jan 16 – Day 3 At Sea
We have now turned the clocks back twice, so we are 2 hours behind the East Coast. By the time we get home, we will be back on schedule but will have lost an entire day. What day? Let’s just say we will watch the Super Bowl on Monday if we get up early enough.
This morning’s “new” activity was a presentation by the Port Lecturer on our next stop, Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands. Nuku Hiva is approximately 50 square miles of lush tropical beauty. In fact, Survivor was filmed here several years ago. There are fewer than 10000 inhabitants, so when 1000 passengers descend on it, it will seem almost crowded. Unless one takes a HAL tour, there is not much to do or see here. Taxis are almost nonexistent and the roads are mostly single lane and unpaved. The HAL tour groups may find themselves riding in trucks before the day is done. We expect to tender in and then walk around the waterfront to see the people, shops and stone statues for which Nuku Hiva and the Marquesas are famous.
The most exciting part of the port lecture occurred early when Barbara lost her computer connection. Instead of continuing her presentation, she stood around and joked about the support staff who were trying to reboot her computer. It is bad enough that she reads her PowerPoint slides to the group, but it is disappointing [appalling?] that she could not continue without them. She may be a friendly and outgoing person when compared to her predecessor, but at least he knew his stuff.
Although most food references are being omitted in deference to Jon, it must be mentioned that today’s lunch in the MDR featured soft-shell crabs. Of course, D had to have them and was not sorry. If they are offered, he will get them again.
Paul’s lecture this afternoon focused on the mechanics behind volcanism and the Ring of Fire which extends around the Pacific Rim. Although he, too, used PowerPoint for his graphics, he did not read to the audience; actually, there was very little text on the slides, just photos, charts and diagrams to illustrate his comments.
Yesterday, we received an invitation to a VIP reception with the captain and senior staff. We don’t know why we were included but found out that Ken, Lois, Ginger and Dave were invited, too. It gives us a chance to act important and get free drinks. D used the opportunity to give the Captain a Cruise Critic pen in the hope that he would attend one of our meetings. The demands of command obviously take precedence, but it would be great if he could arrange it.
We had to leave the VIP reception early because we had a prior date with Paul and Ann to eat in the Canelleto, the on-board Italian restaurant. We had never tried the Caneletto on the Prinsendam or the Westerdam but had heard good things, so we were looking forward to the experience. We were not disappointed. The Caneletto charges a fixed price [$10, but we get half off as frequent cruisers] and offers a variety of small plates, pasta and large plates. The note on the menu suggests ordering 2 small plates plus a pasta dish and a big plate for 2 people, so we did. We shared a salad and then steamed clams and sausage. This was followed by pasta with shrimp in a cream sauce and then a fish entrée. Dessert is included, but we could not eat another bite despite the temptations. When we go again – and we will – we will be more judicious in our selections.
We met Paul and Ann at 7:30 and talked non-stop until the staff urged us out at 10. Normally, we start at 8 in the MDR and are out by 9:30. The evening’s enjoyment was enhanced by the presence of Mukti who is a server in the Caneletto. We spent quite some time talking to him, especially about his impending fatherhood [Yulianti is now 36 weeks pregnant, so it won’t be long]. We are anxious to meet her and the baby when we get to Indonesia.
We were stuffed like ticks when we waddled back to the cabin where we discovered another pillow gift. Tonight it was a pair of wireless Bluetooth speakers that we will try to figure out when we get home.
TOMORROW – Day 4 at Sea
Jan 17 – Sailing, Sailing
Still at sea with all that implies, we attended the Tahiti port lecture this morning and Paul’s lecture right afterwards but left early to get to Trivia on time. D has developed a cold [poor baby] so we took a lovely, long nap after lunch instead of going to the gym. It’s “comfort food day” because lunch was meatloaf sandwiches and tonight’s dinner was the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings. We continue to eat our way around the world.
TOMORROW – More of the same