I was pondering on some things at the end of a long workday yesterday (as I am wont to do) and I saw some pictures of some Halloween themed gingerbread men.
It brought my mind back to a story my parents told me about when they were dating. Mom was a teenager when she was dating my father. She was experimenting with cooking (something she still does well into her sixties, I might add) and was making a gingerbread man for my father.
As she was taking it out of the pan, it broke.
Oh no. Disaster right? She’s trying to make something nice for her boyfriend and it broke.
Now my mother is totally a perfectionist. She doesn’t let that get in the way, though. Instead of trying to bake another, more perfect, gingerbread man, she iced the leg, and attached a note to it when she gave it to my father, saying that he broke his leg trying to jump out of the pan and run away.
That was an important lesson to me later on in life. Sure, sure, doing your best is important. But, an important part of being a person is to make good use of mistakes. I doubt I’d have ever heard of any gingerbread man my mother baked for my father as a teenager if it had turned out perfectly. It was the fact that she took a mistake and made it into an interesting story made it memorable fifty years later.
Do you have the creativity to turn a mistake into something awesome? If you do, what did you do?
The last day of the cruise! *POUT* We had breakfast with a couple of people who worked for utilities in Connecticut. They do a lot of cruises and really seemed to enjoy themselves. I had French toast. Peter had Eggs Benedict.
Peter was having a real problem with his sinuses combined with a massive headache, and needed to lay down a bit. So I went to the library to update this journal. Then I went up on deck and read in the sun for the rest of the morning. Yes, I love chilling in the sun and reading, so it was great. After a Dayquil and a nap, Peter was fine, which was a relief.
After that, we went to lunch. Peter had beef tenderloin with potatoes au gratin and asparagus. I actually had a hamburger and fries. Don’t laugh. That was darn near up to Beastburger levels of yum. For dessert, we had a praline trifle.
After lunch, we had a class in how to decorate cupcakes. Chef Marlin, a pastry chef from Manila, taught us. I was utterly and completely blown away with his instructional skill. I am not particularly neat-handed, and am not really all that good at cake decorating, so I was a good example of someone who would be difficult to teach. When you get someone who is not confident, you teach a different way than you do when you have a student who is confident in skills. He even polled the class to get an idea of what level of experience he was dealing with in his students, an important thing when teaching a skill.
Like a great teacher, he walked us through the process step-by-step, chose a project that let us use a few easy techniques to create something really fun, and he was good at engaging the learners. As a teacher, myself, I can say this guy was good!
After the cupcake class we headed back to the solarium to loaf on the pool deck. Being the last day, we did indulge in a daiquiri by the pool. It was lovely. As we were mourning the loss of the fun, we did get an alcohol-fueled wild hare and had to rush to leave the deck for a few moments to go down to customer service.
See, the ship was going to be going to New England for its next cruise and one of the ports at which it was going to call was… BOSTON! We’d parked our car at Logan. In our addle-pated way, we figured if the first port of call was going to be Boston, maybe we could buy an extra night on the ship and just cruise until we got there. Certainly, it would be nicer than an airplane. The T goes from the port to Logan, after all!
As it turned out, Boston was going to be its last port. So, no. We didn’t have the time. But it was worth asking, right?
We went back on deck to enjoy the rest of the day in the sun. After that, we headed back to our cabin to dress for dinner and pack.
The last dinner we had a shrimp dish with rice. Peter had a garlic soup for an appetizer, and I had the minestrone. I know, weird. Our wait staff also sang Happy Anniversary to us and brought us a chocolate espresso torte for dessert.
We had a drink in a lounge, but dancing didn’t get started until we really needed to head to bed. We really didn’t want that cruise to end!
We had breakfast in the dining room before disembarking. It was totally smooth, as was the trip to the airport. However, in my caution about making sure we had time to make flights and such, I booked a five thirty flight. We got to the airport at 10:30, so you can imagine that we were not excited about the wait. Peter suggested seeing if we could get on an earlier flight.
As it happened, we could! Not only could we, it turned out very lucky, indeed. We got to Boston around 3:30, and as it happened, the flight we were scheduled to take was delayed and didn’t get to Boston until 8:30 in the evening. That was long after we’d done some grocery shopping, gotten home and unpacked.
Thoughts on Cruises
I love cruises, obviously. I love being on a ship.
It does amuse me, though, how much it brings out who people are. There were a lot of people who had been on the Oasis of the Seas, the first of the Oasis class cruise ships in the Royal Caribbean line. The ship is larger than the Liberty, and people were extremely impressed by that, and felt that having been on it was impressive.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a miracle of engineering! Any ship that can comfortably carry 7,000 people and keep them happy and entertained has taken an enormous amount of thought and design. That’s pretty impressive.
But at a certain point (and certainly the Freedom class ships like the Liberty of the Seas have reached it) were you sometimes feel like you’re more on a floating hotel than you’re actually sailing in a ship, if that makes any sense. The nautical experience kind of fades away some, and I find that a little sad. Though if you gave me a cruise on the Oasis, I promise you not only would I not refuse it, but I would likely have an awesome time!
It’s also funny to me that there’s a certain level of snobbery around staterooms. When Peter and I cruise, we usually get an interior stateroom. Why? Well, they’re much, much cheaper. I don’t go on a cruise to hang out in my room. I know of people who say that they’ll only sail if they can get a room with a balcony. Would I enjoy breakfast and leisurely coffee on the balcony while at sea? Of course. I’m sure it’s great. But the markup is damn near the price of another interior stateroom ticket. Don’t be foolish. I’d rather go on two cruises and skip the balcony!
I’ve also encountered a lot of misconceptions about cruising that I’d like to clear up.
The Staterooms are Small
Well, okay, you’ve got me. They’re small. Ours was about 152 square feet.
But before you freak out, how space is designed can help.
There’s a bed area where you can have twin beds or a king-sized bed, with a nightstand for each side of the bed. The nightstand has a drawer and a cabinet area and there are reading lights for each person. The bed area can close off with some pretty good darkening curtains. We found that our empty suitcases could fit stored under the bed quite well.
There is also a sitting area with a small love seat and a desk/vanity with a large wall mirror, several small shelves, and lights beside it; as well as a flat screen television. Believe it or not, we used the television. It’s interactive, so you can check your shipboard account balance, book excursions and sign up for classes right there if you don’t want to go physically to the excursion desk. The desk has about six small drawers.
There is also a closet with a safe for valuables, a place to hang clothes, and some shelving.
The bathroom is really small with a large mirror, a cabinet that closes, and a shower that is saved from feeling claustrophobic by having a curved door and a very adjustable showerhead.
The trick to living in this sort of space comfortably is, well, making sure you keep your cabin shipshape. The storage is designed to close and stay closed through any pitch and yaw you might encounter. If you put everything away in cabinets and keep it tidy, the room will not feel oppressively small. Clutter will change that, and if you’ve come with no more than one suitcase per person, you’ve a place to put everything, I promise!
The only thing you do on a cruise is eat at buffets and get drunk
There are many people who spend their time on cruises that way. I bless them, as the extra bar bills keep the price of my own cruise down.
First of all, the buffets are nice to have available when you’re too busy to dine, but they’re not the best food option on any ship. Don’t get me wrong, the food is usually good in them, but you’re missing out if you don’t go for the dining room experience. The food is better, with better presentation, and if you don’t like something, all you have to do is ask for something else. Or an extra serving of whatever you like, or whatever. They try very hard to make sure you get exactly what you want! You just have to ask.
But even though I do like the food on cruise, no-one eats all day, right?
What else is there to do?
On days at sea:
Hang out by the pool.
Take a jog/walk around the track on deck. (Our ship was four laps to a mile)
Work out in the gym.
Go to the spa and get a massage, nails done, hair done, a facial, or a million other spa type things I don’t know about because it’s not something I’ve spent much time on.
Attend some of the many enrichment activities. I’ve attended lectures on the running of ships, taken tours of the kitchen, gone to destination lectures, taken dance classes, taken cupcake decorating classes, as well as other things.
Dance and party by the pool.
Curl up in a comfy spot on deck or inside by a window and read.
Surf the Internet (Though I didn’t. It’s extra and I am paid to be a geek. I don’t pay other people to be one!)
Surf on a surfboard. (There’s a wave simulator on some ships)
Go rock climbing
Play basketball or volleyball.
Play mini golf
Shop. We were joking that our ship had a bigger shopping promenade than our Powerhouse Mall back home!
Go clubbing (most ships have a lot of different bars and clubs) and you don’t have to pay a fee to get in and they don’t kick you out if you’re not drinking.
You get the idea. There’s a lot to do. My problem tends to be one of making sure I get everything I want to do in rather than trying to find something to do. The ship hands out flyer every day with all kinds of info, including a daily schedule and there never seems to be enough time!
On days in port:
It depends on the port. Often there are lots of water activities to choose from. You can do anything from hang out on a beach to going SCUBA diving. You can take boat sightseeing cruises, tour the destination port, learn about the people there, go shopping, you name it. If you get bored in port, there’s no help for you!
You don’t get any privacy
It is true that ships really do have a lot of people on them. That’s for real, no kidding. You do have to deal with your fellow man. If you’re introverted like me, that can seem daunting.
The trick here is to find quiet spaces. Cruise ships have lots of them, if you know where to look. Lower decks tend to have fewer people on them, so you can get outside to stare over the ocean and look for sea life near the lifeboats and you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Ships usually have libraries, and people respect that libraries are supposed to be quiet. Each ship and each cruise is different, but if you spend your first few hours on a ship simply trying to get lost and exploring the ship, you can usually find five or six spaces where you can go for quiet and solitude.
If your idea of a vacation is to go where there are few to no humans, then no, a cruise is not for you. But you can get peace and quiet easily enough if you know where to look.
Darn it, thinking about all of this makes me want to go on another one!
We got up and had breakfast in the Windjammer again — time constraints, you know. Then we got on a bus to tour the whole island for a five-hour tour.
Our guide was a K-9 police officer named Andrew Rollins. He was a mellow, affable man who knew the island very well. His wife was a fourth grade schoolteacher, and in fact had started on her first day of school this year. We started the tour at the dockyard, and he mentioned that the prison was right there, holding about 100 inmates.
Both of our guides seemed a bit annoyed with the leniency of the Bermuda prison system. While I expected that in a policeman, it was a bit surprising in our other guide.
Then we got out on the island and started moving towards Hamilton. As we did so, Andrew talked about life in Bermuda. He explained about the government, the jobs people really wanted to get (government jobs like teaching and such were considered among the best because of good benefits). He talked about how the roofs have to be white limestone, and that this is how they catch rainwater for all the island’s water needs. Each house has a water tank of their own. If they run dry, it’s about $90 per $1000 gallons to fill it up. So if a Bermudan apologizes to a tourist about the bad weather if it’s raining, they’re lying. Inside they’re celebrating their water tanks filling up.
We had a stop in Hamilton, but it was really short. We really didn’t get to look around. It’s quite a small city – probably smaller than Lebanon , NH. But there were lots of shops and things. Prices are high in Bermuda — especially the food. Everything has to be shipped in from elsewhere.
He talked about the schools and the school system. Understandably, since his wife is a teacher, he is quite proud of their public school system. He has two college age daughters and they’re going to college in England. (I used to have a friend in college at ODU — T.C., who was from Bermuda. It was interesting to see where he came from and how life was in his home. I have to wonder what he’s up to now)
After we left Hamilton, we made our way to St. George and saw a replica of the Deliverance, one of the ships George Somers’ crew made after the wreck of the Sea Venture. To give you an idea of how insane/desperate/brave these people were, the Deliverance was only about 57 feet long, and sailed from Bermuda to Jamestown.
That was really cool. We also wandered around St. George for a bit. I was trying to find some sort of Sea Venture memorabilia, but it wasn’t happening.
After St. George, we went to St. Catherine’s beach to see where the crew of the Sea Venture came ashore. That was also something that really moved me.
After that, we went to the Gibbs Lighthouse. The view was amazing.
All in all, we were very glad to have taken that tour, but I was quite sorry to leave. Peter and I both have fallen in love with Bermuda and want to go back — just for a trip.
We boarded the ship and hung out topside as it sailed away from the dock. I felt sad to be leaving Bermuda.
Dinner was back in the dining room (thank goodness) and we enjoyed our new tablemates. It was a mother and daughter group – Mom being a crisis communicator and daughter a designer who creates device-independent, HTML supported email from Orbitz. (Device-independent design is harder than you think! I learned that on a project last year!) Peter had the lamb, and I had the sole, but it wasn’t really all that spectacular. I think at least in part it is because my stomach was flaring up, so food wasn’t much of a pleasure.
After dinner, we hung out at the piano bar for a bit, had a Dark and Stormy, and then went to an adults only comedy show by Michele Balan, whose bit revolved around being menopausal and the annoyances of aging. I thought it was really funny. I also thought that a lot of the parents on the cruise were idiots for letting their kids go to it. Some seemed a little offended, but give me a break. If a cruise puts Adults Only on something, maybe it’s a clue you shouldn’t have your ten year old attend, just sayin’.
After that, we went to bed griping because the next day was going to be our last day. We didn’t want to think about the end of the cruise!
We got up to have breakfast in the Windjammer buffet before we watched the ship dock. The food is good at the buffets, but I am partial to the dining experience. We just wouldn’t have had the time to have breakfast in the dining room if we were worried about seeing the docking. And we were, so we did. While it was really windy, it was still a nice day.
We left the ship at about ten thirty and wandered around close to the ship before our Segway tour. I tell you this; the dockyard in Bermuda is really refreshing compared to the incredibly aggressive salesmanship you see in Nassau. The people are more laid back, which is nice.
We had a blast on the Segways! It takes about ten minutes to start feeling really comfortable with them. After that, using one is just plain intuitive. You almost think you’re steering with your thoughts. We got a look at the outside of the Naval Museum, as it was closed. Ah well! They celebrate Labor Day in Bermuda just like in the States. Then we went by a moon gate and had our pictures taken. (Couples kissing under the Moon Gate is supposed to be good luck, so of course Peter and I did). Then we went out toward the old prison, and heard the history of that before our guide Deesa took the regulators off the Seqways so we could open up to full speed. At first, I was scared going on the narrow Bermuda roads, but there wasn’t much traffic. We rode by a couple parks (beaches) some cottages, retirement homes and several people who knew our guide greeted her, including her Aunty. I enjoyed how friendly, mellow and laid back people seemed to be. It is different from some descriptions I’ve heard of the place, but maybe the fact it is a holiday has something to do with it.
We stopped by Glass Beach and Peter picked up a piece of sea glass for me that looks like a dragon’s scale. Deesa seemed to be into plants and stuff, and was pointing out not only the plants but also some of their medicinal (or not!) uses. There’s a plant called “Match me if you can” that seems to be a cure for everything from arthritis to asthma on the Islands. Our tour guide the next day talked about his mother treating his asthma with it as well.
One of our party was really afraid when he first got on the Segway, and we heard him muttering the Litany Against Fear. I bit my lip but internally was thinking, “BUSTED!”
After we got back from the tour, we hung out on the ship for a bit and had a very late lunch.
Then we hung out at the pool for a bit and I got some reading in. While we would have liked to go to a beach, it would have taken more time than we had to get our stuff, walk to the beach, get back, shower, have dinner and then get to our glass bottomed boat. We’ll hit the beaches the next time we go. Yes, there will be a next time!
We had dinner at the Windjammer and I certainly ate too much and was utterly miserable afterwards. But the glass-bottomed boat tour was fun. I am glad we did it at night. We saw the wreck of the HMS Vixen — an ironside ship from the late 1800s that was sunk to try to block a deep channel. However, the bow kept sticking up out of the water, so it wasn’t as good of a trap as they’d hoped for.
We learned that while coral reefs are dying off, we’re learning that sinking iron and steel structures are very good for rebuilding them again. As iron rusts (Oxidizes) it gives off oxygen that really encourages reef growth. This technique is being used around the world to try to rebuild dying reefs.
I got up very early to see the sunrise. Thing is, it was quite overcast, so what I really saw was that amazing backlit effect you get when clouds glow at the edges in gold and red. I often wonder why the expression for things not being so bad is “Cloud with a silver lining.” When you look at the sky, the lining on the clouds is gold.
It was pretty windy as they were calling for thunderstorms that morning, but the seas were pretty calm and the rocking of the ship was gentle enough to remind you that you were on a ship without making you have to grab things to walk along.
We had breakfast in the dining room with some other people — a couple from the Midwest and a couple from Florida. They struck me as kind of typical examples of their type. Over-privileged, picky and demanding. It was kind of weird, but it seemed like complaints were a common theme as a conversation starter the entire cruise. Ah well, it gave Peter and I something to snicker at.
But the food at breakfast was good. I had a mushroom and cheese omelet and Peter and Peter had Huevos Rancheros.
After breakfast, we mosied around the ship for a bit, and then went to a lecture about the different shore excursions available on the cruise. Peter wanted to change around what I’d reserved online before the cruise, and it was totally easy to do so, and in retrospect, it was the right call. Ultimately, we settled on a Segway tour of the Naval Dockyard, a nighttime glass-bottom boat tour and a minibus tour of the whole island. The excursions desk was staffed by some really patient and friendly people. I was impressed.
We also checked the gift shop. We’ve made a custom of buying a Christmas ornament of every cruise ship we’ve been on. They’re typically little gold-plated models of the ship. We’ve joked at in twenty years or so, our whole tree is just going to be ship ornaments. However, the gift shop was out! We decided this wasn’t a bad thing, though. It would give us the customary complaint conversation starter and we could act all indignant and horrified about it.
We had a private table for lunch. Peter had lamb tandoori and I had salmon in an orange sauce. Dessert was rum cake and it was all very good.
After lunch, we took a lesson in salsa dancing. It was fun and Peter acquitted himself very well, even if he felt insecure about dancing. While we didn’t really wind up using the lessons, I think we could do fine if we find ourselves in a situation where we needed it. I’m trying to figure out if there are some ballroom dancing lessons available locally. *grin*
Then we went up to the solarium to hang out in the pool, cool off and nap on deck chairs. This is a perfect way to spend an afternoon on a ship and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Like many cruise ships, it did have a soft serve ice cream machine and yes, we had a cone most days! The solarium was the grown-ups only pool and lounge area. It was quieter there, without the music blaring so loud. It was more that than any desire to get away from kids that we hung out there. Being in early September, most of the children on the cruise were under school age. And to be honest, either well-watched by their parents or extraordinarily well-behaved. I only recall one meltdown, and that was leaving the ship. I would have done the same if I were three!
I do reflect on something about cruises, though. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to party with some pretty heroic drinkers, and I live near Boston, a somewhat sauced-up city. It’s just that… Dude, you’re paying between 8-12 bucks for a drink. There were people who really did just about the entire cruise drunk, and even our dinner companions once talked about a four figure liquor bill on a cruise. I’m no teetotaler, mind. I likes me a drink. But daayyyyum.
I’m not criticizing. Not at all. I’m thrilled that people do this on a cruise. Why? Totally selfish, but it keeps the price of my cruise down. So for everyone who was maxing out their credit cards at the bar, thank you for the cruise discount. It was lovely.
For dinner, our companions were the same, and they were kindly and jovial enough. I had the duck, and Peter had the same. He had a banana and melon soup with rum that he really liked, and I had scallops for an appetizer and we had cherries jubilee for dessert.
After that, we went to a show with Bobby Arvon, the guy who wrote and sang the theme for Happy Days. It was different from the usual hits reviews we see in cruise ships. After all the hard work of relaxing and eating delicious food all day, we were utterly worn out, so we went to bed.
I didn’t sleep too well the night before we left, as I was too excited about getting on the ship. We’d packed the night before and drove down to Boston so that we could fly to Newark, and then get to the ship. It was really smooth — from the flight to the ground transportation.
We forgot that we’re “gold club” member of the cruise line we went on, so we didn’t get in the expedited boarding line. While it probably would have gotten us on the ship an hour earlier, we got on late enough that we didn’t have to wait around before we got to our cabin.
We’re cheap. We got an inside stateroom. Are they small?
Yeah, and so? How much time do you spend in your room on the cruise? More than that, why would you want to? As we were hanging out on the cruise, it did seem there was something of a King Julien attitude towards whether or not you’d had a balcony, but whatever.
Before we went to lunch, however, what with it being a cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary and all, I did get Peter a little present – the Ring of Barahir. Silver anniversary; silver ring? Peter had mentioned he’d love that ring one evening as we were watching Lord of the Rings, so hey, why not?
After that, we started wandering around trying to get lost and exploring the ship.
This habit dates back from my very first cruise when I was fifteen. Daddy told me that it was really important to roam all over the ship to get to know it well. So, I’ve always made it a first day ritual on any ship on which I cruise. It’s part of the fun.
Then about an hour before we set sail, we had the standard muster drill. I paid attention even though the thing never changes. I guess I was a Girl Scout for too long to ignore the safety lecture.
Peter wanted to watch Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty go by as we set sail, so we hustled up to the top deck and snagged some chairs on the port side to settle back and watch the city glide by as we left port.
It was wonderful.
After that, we soaked in the hot tub for a bit for a pre-dinner soak then got ready for dinner.
The dining room was nice, though I thought our waiters, Jesus and Robert, were a bit new. I had a fish appetizer that was truly out of this world, followed by a prime rib. Peter had the seafood spaghetti.
Our tablemates were a couple from Connecticut who did a lot of cruising. So, we asked them about Bermuda, and that wound up letting us enjoy our dinner without having to reach much for a subject of conversation.* We had a good time talking with them.
After dinner, we wandered the ship a little but went to bed fairly early as we were done in.
* Note for the socially awkward: if you can find a subject on which the person you meet has the slightest expertise, get ’em talking about it. You can enjoy your dinner in peace without casting around for conversational subjects.