Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Party and Panama
Me: “Joe, I’m getting ready to write the annual Christmas letter. Is next year the year you’re going to retire?
Joe: “You bet it is. I can’t wait to retire."
Joe: “If I keep working one more year, I’ll have enough days to sell back to get a new truck.”
Me: “So you’re not going to retire in 2005. Does that mean you’ll retire for sure in 2006?”
Joe: “You bet! I can’t wait to retire.”
Joe started looking online at the industry travel website that Michelle told him about. One afternoon he said, “How would you like to cruise through the Panama Canal?” I was flabbergasted. The Panama Canal was a dream-come-true. The Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas embarked from San Diego and sailed through the Panama Canal with stops in Mexico and Central America before docking in Fort Lauderdale. As soon as we booked our cabin, I started planning what to pack.
“At sea days” are like summer camp for grownups. The cruise line brochures tell you about all the ports of call and try to encourage you to take their shore excursions, but there is also a life onboard that you discover every night when you return to your room. Your room steward places a four-page daily program for the following day in your cabin while you’re at dinner. The myriad of choices include: cooking demonstrations, bingo games, Wii games, “Name That Tune” at the piano bar; slot tournaments; Veterans Meetings; yoga; water aerobics; and Team Trivia to name a few. Team Trivia deserves a paragraph of its own.
Team Trivia players give a whole new meaning to the word “competition”. On the first “at sea” day, players form groups of six and they choose a name and compete at trivia every “at sea” day with the same people for the remainder of the cruise. To the diehard trivia player, the team trivia time determines what else they will do for the rest of the day. I love trivia so I got to the lounge early and sat next to one other woman and we waited to see who would come along. Soon a couple joined us and then a man who was looking for a group. A young woman came by and we asked her if she’d like to join us. Her reply: “Are you smart? I had a group last time that wasn’t smart.” Since I was shocked by her lack of tact, I didn’t think before I spoke and said, “No. You probably want a smarter group.” She left. Twenty questions are asked and answered and on each day one group gets a pen, or a keychain, or maybe a coffee mug! (With the way people argue about answers being right or wrong, you’d think there was money involved.) At the end of the cruise, the group with the highest running total gets a bag advertising the cruise line that they’ll probably stick on a closet shelf (yes, I did). The "Are you smart?" girl glared.
The Wii competition brought out the little kids in us. We particularly enjoyed the boxing. On one afternoon, the staff member decided it would be a “battle of the sexes” and he had husbands and wives pair off. (I “decked” Joe a couple of times…he was a good sport about it even when I did my imitation of “Rocky” complete with theme song.) One other couple wasn’t quite so congenial. As the husband raised his Wii remote and gave an uppercut to his wife’s character on screen knocking her out cold, he shouted, “There! That one’s for your mother!!” There is no suitable word to describe the kind of silence that followed. The last we saw them, she was twenty paces ahead of him and he was trying to catch up. It probably cost him a trip to the ship’s jewelry store.
I don’t intend this to be a travelogue of all the places we visited over the next year, but as Joe kept getting emails about offers that were “too good to pass up”, we sailed again in January of 2009 from Santiago, Chile to Los Angeles (I became a shellback….I will talk about that in the future); in April we sailed from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic across the Atlantic to England (and visited my family); and then in October we sailed from Rome through the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, eventually flying back from Greece. I'm having cruise withdrawal...we haven't boarded a ship since November. We hope to combine a Canada/New England cruise with our trip East for Joe's 50th high school reunion in September.