From Vancouver: May fifth?
Ship time has somehow dissolved away. Oh sigh! We get one more night on board because we are disembarking in Seattle, but those leisurely, idylic days at sea are over. They are leisurely for us. The staff and crew are working their butts off!! I, meanwhile, have been drifting along in a zen state, being in the present, and refusing to think about the Monday when we have to wake at 5, and return to reality. No one will be picking up my clothes, cleaning my bathroom, bringing me tea and toast in bed, preparing gourmet lunches and dinners. I will have to make my own bed, wash my own dishes, and start in on that post-vacation Mount Washmore.
But not yet. Today I have free and fast internet at Starbucks and I will drink any number of $4 cups of tea while catching up on blogs and facebook and and all those interesting e-mails that have accumulated.
One of the specialty restaurants on board has a chef from LeCirque in NewYork, and we decided to try the specialties. The restaurant is on deck two, so there is less movement than higher decks, but it was a particularly rough night and we were shaken around quite a bit. The thing that surprised me the most was the occasional huge boom when the ship and the waves came together. The window sometimes was splashed with wind-blown spray, and we were a good three stories above water level. The food? I was so taken with the weather, and feeling sorry for the crew who have to sleep down where the waves were pounding that I didn’t give things my full attention. Lessee. We started with an amuse’ bouche (spelling?) of foi gras mousse on cranberry chutney. Just a mouthful of yummyness to start the evening. And then? All these excellent, exotic meals are starting to blend together in the memory. Was this when I had the tiny scallops ceviche for an appetizer? Or was the pear and blue-cheese salad? As an intrigue, did I have the chilled yogurt and honydew soup, or was it the grilled vegetable tower? Main course? I had a fillet mignon that was perfectly blue-rare (seared on the outside, still cool inside -just the way I like it!!)but which night was that? No, I had the grilled lamb chops! And I asked to take the bones back to the room with me because i didn’t want to gnaw them like a brute in front of everyone. The waiter thought I was joking, and Kyle had to emphasize that I really did want to take the bones back to the room and gnaw the crispy bits off. They packed the bones up in a nice piece of foil, and I had lamb-bones with my tea and toast the next morning. Oh God it was good! It was crisp and salty and savory bliss, with delicious meaty chunks where a lady couldn’t possibly get to them with a knife and fork. And it was true lamb, not just young mutton. Nom, nom nom! I was greasy and grinning before we even got to breakfast.
We have met the nicest people on this cruise. But, as someone had pointed out, very few people can get three weeks off from work, so just about every passenger is unemployed (retired) And there are over 300 wheelchairs, walkers and electric carts on board. The gym has mostly crew and entertainers, with a few determinedly fit seniors. Sometimes, the place is completely empty. On Carnival, you have to wait in line even when the wind is blowing a hurricane and the waves bounce you right off the treadmill. (Heh, like I ever used the gym equipment. I just peek in there on my way to the steam room.)
Out by the swimming pool, the retractable ceiling has been sealed for the past four days. Some people have pretty much taken up residence there, grabbing the same lounge chair every day. One gal settles down in her swimsuit, then completely covers up with multiple towels, even over her face, and sleeps all day. There are times when I want to poke her, just to see if she’s still alive. Other folks settle in with Kindle or Nook in hand, the steward keeps them supplied with refills of the drink of the day, and they could ask for nothing more.
I happened to be passing the pool area one day when the crew was doing a safety demonstration. They showed us the proper way to put on our life jackets (can’t do that too many times. Passengers are stupid!) and then how to jump into the water wearing it. (Cross your legs and hold your nose with both hands.) They introduced the medics. One crew member dressed up in fire-fighting gear and demonstrated a fire extinguisher. As a grand finale, they put a small, practice life raft in the pool (It was packed in something like a white fifty gallon drum) and pulled the cord. It popped open, and hissing, it grew. Huge and implacable it expanded and blossomed. It filled the entire swimming pool and the crew had to twitch it up so it could swell over the edges. Then a structure began to rise from the bowl of the raft. The raft was black, the shelter was orange, and this miniature practice raft had room for eleven people to relax in relative comfort. They showed us the beacon light and the mayday transponder and how everything works automatically so even if you get a raft without a trained crew member in it, you are still safer than you would be on the freeways of LA. The full-sized rafts hold 150 people and are there just in case something completely unforseen happens to the lifeboats. They are very belt-and-suspenders about passenger safety on Holland America!
Another token of this is the hand sanitizer dispensers beside every door into a place where you might eat something. The rubbing of hands is the typical salute to our onboard dining. Everyone enters doing ritualistic washing motions.
One thing that constantly amazes me is the perpetual good humor of the stewards and staff on board. Every one I have seen has greeted me with a genuine smile and cheery hello. How do they do it? There is not one sourpuss on board. Except for the passengers. You know, some people just will not be pleased. Jesus doing backflips wouldn’t get a smile out of them. The ice is too cold, the water is too wet and why can’t anyone make toast the way they like it? Bitch, bitch, bitch, and still the staff greets every one of us with a sunny smile. I want to give them hugs and cookies!
The last few days of the cruise have been smooth and sunny. We even got a look at that moon last night. Wow! No city lights to distract, and the scattered clouds just glowed. It was way cool.
So, tomorrow we disembark and head for home. Sigh. It's been good. It's been damn good. I am glad to have lived long enough to have enjoyed it!