A lot of things have changed in the last nine and a half years. A couple of divorces (that should explain the name changes in my story) kids have moved out, dogs have passed away. Diane and I are getting closer to our fortieth anniversary. If, on that occasion, we were to take another sea cruise, which is doubtful, because we prefer to land cruise, I would hope it would be as good as our last one.
Voyager of the Seas 10-06-2002 to 10-13-2002
Part II Saturday: South Beach, Swatches, Kids, Embarkation
“The most beautiful stones have been tossed by the wind and washed by the waters and polished to brilliance by life’s strongest storms”
The mattress was excellent. Diane’s backside and calf was a bit tight from the flight so I took an elbow to her rump and pressed hard, very hard until the nerve let go. Pressure to relieve pain. I also used my thumbs on her right calf until that knot loosened up. She informed me that it now felt better so we went down to the Seabreeze Café located past the pool on the ocean side of the hotel. The café is a cheerful place with a live steel drum player. He accompanied himself with synthesized music that sounded good. We seated ourselves, and a waiter in a tropical shirt and shorts, was at our elbows in a flash. I ordered my first Corona and a blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich. Diane ordered water and the same. We did not talk much. We sat there and just looked at each other. I sipped my beer and thought of the commercial where the guy skips his pager into the ocean. I like that spot a lot. It was filmed on Paradise Beach in Cozumel by the way. The ocean was beautiful. Between the café and the sand was a hedge of very unusual flowering foliage. Butterflies flew from flower to flower. Diane mentioned that we could get up in the morning and watch the Explorer come into port. I said that would be nice. Our sandwiches arrived in their baskets with lots of fries and mango and black bean salsa. They were large sandwiches and very good. I ate mine and my fries and most of Diane’s fries as well. We are on the Zone diet plan and potatoes are not on the favorable list of things to eat, but I was on vacation so what the heck. I took that attitude a lot during the next week.
We skipped dessert, signed our bill, showed our hotel card and headed back up to the room to change into our swim suits. I put on by red Speedos and Diane put on her black tankini with the blue, green and yellow flowers. She looked great. Before you get the wrong picture in your head my Speedos are baggy shorts. We checked out two towels, hit the beach and found two chaise lounges to fall into. Diane opened her book; I did the same:
Chapter Five of the Lovely Bones
Part of me wished swift vengeance, wanted my father to turn into the man he could have been-a man violent in rage. That’s what you see in movies, that’s what happens in the books people read. An everyman takes a gun or a knife and stalks the murderer of his family, he does a Bronson on them and everyone cheers.
What is was really like:
Everyday he got up. Before sleep wore off, he was the man he used to be. Then, as his consciousness woke, it was if poison seeped in. At first he couldn’t even get up. He lay there under a heavy weight. But then only movement could save him, and he moved and he moved and he moved, no movement being enough to make up for it. The guilt on him, the hand of God pressing down on him, saying, “You were not there when you daughter needed you”.
The book touched me but at times I found it too heavy, I found it to be in some ways too close to home. I fell asleep. Sometime around four thirty the beach attendant told us he needed to collect and stack the chairs for the day. He gave us about another thirty minutes, and we had to get up. I didn’t want to; I was having dreamless sleep, and the best kind of sleep it is. Diane wanted to walk, feel her toes in the sand and the waves. We set off north, walking and collecting shells. We did not say much, mostly listened to the sound of the small waves and people watched. There were not many people, but a lot more than the year before. I could not get over how many people, particularly the girls, felt it necessary to talk on their cell phones. I left mine at home; Diane brought hers, but rarely used it. We walked a bit more then headed up to the pool for a quick dip.
We were sitting around the pool when a very beautiful but not quite real looking young lady walked by. A better term would be she strutted by. She was wearing a very small yellow bikini top and an orange sarong. This muscular guy was hanging all over her. The two of them turned everybody’s heads.
He sure likes her, Diane said. I replied he probably paid for them, and likes his investment.
Around five thirty Diane said she wanted to get ready for dinner. That sounded good to me so back up to the room we went. The brown marbled lower lobby of the hotel was like a refrigerator after being out in the sun, but it felt good. Once in the room, Diane hit the foot deep square shower with the marble bench and it's strange backwards turning knobs and I sat on the floor in my damp swim suit and turned on the ball game. I am a baseball fanatic and missing the playoffs is the only drawback to cruising in the fall. I think it was game three between the Yankees and the Angels. My team, the D’Backs was already gone so I watched the game rather impartially (not really, I wanted the Angels to win). I soon fell asleep on the floor. I love napping during a baseball game. Diane finished her shower and with one cute foot poked me until I woke. I took a quick shower, put on some dress slacks, a print shirt, Brutini loafers and down to dinner we went. We wanted to sit outside again and were surprised to see that it was raining. We stood in a glass walled lounge called the Ocean Room and noticed waiters rolling tables through the door from outside. A rehearsal dinner for a very large wedding was being rained out. In about a minute there was a break in the rain so we made a run for the Seabreeze Café. We reached it only to be told that it was closed for a private party. Well, where do we eat now? The lady bartender told us the Hibiscus restaurant inside also serves light fare so we walked back in. On the way back in we passed the yellow bikini and muscle couple still intertwined, orange sarong and all. Diane commented that he was getting his money’s worth.
We sat down in the almost empty restaurant and took a look at the menu. I have traveled a bit and I am usually suspect of most hotel restaurants. I think they tend to be overpriced and not that good. That is one of the reasons we cruise. The food on a cruise ship is a much better value than you can get in most resort hotels. Tonight, however, would be an exception to my rule. Diane ordered the Shrimp Caesar Salad and I ordered the Jerked Spiced Churrasco Steak. It came with green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. When they brought it out it was about nine inches long by three wide and thin like a flank steak or London boil. Now I grill a lot of steaks, and do it well so I tend to be critical. This steak was great. The best one I have ever had on the road, period. The steak was juicy, tender, and spicy with a garlic and parsley pesto sauce on top, delicious! I took about three lovely bites and realized that the steak was folded in half lengthwise. The thing was eighteen inches long. There must have been a pound of steak on my plate. I saw how many shrimp Diane had in her salad and she at the same time said she needed more protein so a large piece of my steak went on her plate. That still left a lot. I asked the waiter if the steak was supposed to be this big, maybe the chef made a mistake? No sir, enjoy it. I did.
About this time our daughter Jeri and her husband Mark came into the restaurant. They drove down from Melbourne to spend the weekend with us.
We were very glad to see them. Jeri looked at my steak. I gave her a bite or two; they were not ordering having eaten on the way down. We chit chatted for awhile mostly about Jeri’s job as a registered nurse and made plans for the next day. I commented on the view from the air, all the large houses built right on a bunch of small winding rivers. She informed me that all bodies of water have their own private alligator in them. That reminded me of a story I saw on the news about a grandfather who got bit in the face saving his grandson from an alligator. I said I knew Diane would do the same for Nickolas (her Cocker Spaniel). I knew she would do the same for me. Jeri partially disagreed; she said Mom would feel sorry for the alligator. I would make lousy alligator bait because I am so boney. She said Diane would ask the alligator if he wanted some butter with that, it might make me easier to swallow.
I signed for dinner. We went to the lower lobby that had some shops and an arcade. We window shopped and then we played a few games of air hockey. We decided to call it an early night so we could hit Lincoln Road in the morning.
Our rooms were both on the twelfth floor so we said good night. Diane and I hit the bed right away. The early morning hours finally caught up with us. Diane curled up with her book instead of with me. I tried to read, but could not concentrate so I turned on the TV and tuned into the end of another playoff game. I watched about five minutes and turned it off and myself as well.
The next morning we were both up bright and early. I pulled back the curtains and sure enough there was the Explorer of the Seas there in the distance. The phone rang. It was some kind of fancy two line cordless that did not work well and we had to answer the call on the speakerphone. Jeri was calling to say Let’s Go! I yelled: we will call you back as soon as we are dressed. She yelled back: Are you naked? I yelled: it is none of your business.
Diane put on white Capri pants with a black tank top and I put on white shorts and a black rayon Liz Claiborne for men tee shirt. For some reason in our old age Diane and I seem to dress in like colors a lot. We don’t plan it that way, not all the time. One of the benefits is, if we become separated while shopping or something, I can remember what she is wearing by looking at me and then find her.
We called Jeri, she and Mark came down the hall to our room. It was wet outside from a sudden rainstorm and Diane decided to wear her misfit tennis shoes instead of her good sandals. Jeri took a look at her shoes and discovered that one shoe was a size 8 ½ women’s and the other one a size 8 ½ man’s. Well, I tried. We were now going to have to find a shoe store.
We took the elevator down to breakfast in the main restaurant. The place was packed due to a wedding and some kind of convention that was taking place that day. We had coupons for a free breakfast, since it was included in our RCC package. We went with the buffet, which looked quite substantial. I needed grazing practice for the coming week. The buffet had lots of pastries, eggs, an omelet station, crepes, fresh made waffles, smoothies, and all kinds of fruit with the exception of prunes! Orange Juice and coffee were also included. We ate well, looked out the window at the rain and hoped that the blue sky off in the distance would come our way. Mark, who is a big eater, loved the breakfast and got his money’s worth, or should I say my moneys worth.
After we finished eating Jeri and Diane wanted to go upstairs for a last minute make up session and grab their purses. I had my camera with me and wanted to take some pictures. I asked Diane to grab an extra roll of film.
They left for upstairs and I said I would meet them in the main lobby. I went up there to take pictures of a very beautiful room. It was huge with columns all around and a beautiful mural painted on the ceiling. It was being decorated for a wedding reception. While I was taking pictures an attractive young lady in a wedding gown escorted by an older man in a nice tuxedo came through the lobby and went to a waiting white Rolls Royce limousine. Nice. I said a quick prayer to myself asking God to bless her and make it work. Diane called to me, we went outside and the Valet retrieved Jeri’s black Accord LX Coupe. The driver commented how nice the car was. Hey, I don’t co-sign for no junk!
We headed down Collins to the Lincoln Road Mall.
Now I am sure that many of you are reading this and thinking to yourself; “when is this guy going to write about the cruise?!”
My response is that a cruise is a lot more than just the time you spend on the ship. It’s about the thinking about it and the planning, the getting there, the leaving, and remembering it. The joy for me is in the details. Details are the spices that make a cruise taste better. Just hang in there; we do make it on to the ship.
We parked the Honda in a garage at the Corner of Lincoln something not far from Washington. The rain stopped and the hot Florida sun came out. We had walked about a block when Diane spotted a Foot Locker store and the hunt for new shoes was on. There was a buy one pair and get the second half off sale taking place so Jeri and Diane decided to team up. They both found shoes and I then discovered that I had forgotten my credit card. Oops. Jeri had to buy her Mom shoes for a change. I found some strange running shoes with split toes. I could not imagine Joel, my son the champion cross country runner, wearing those things. I took a picture of Jeri and Mark holding them.
For the rest of the afternoon we walked, talked, and shopped. We went up one side of the mall and down the other. I finally broke down and bought something. I collect watches, wrist and pocket. I guess in some way I must think that if I own a lot of timepieces that I have more time. No, I just like watches like some people like rings or shoes or whatever. I bought (with Jeri’s credit card) a very nice chronograph in the Swatch Store. It is a special edition 007 Goldfinger watch, made to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Bond movies. It is very cool.
We had lunch at the Nexxt Restaurant and Bistro. My son says that gourmet food is small portions artfully arranged. Not at this place. They put a lot more food on the plate than a normal human can eat at one time. I had an Indochine Salad that was out of this world. Pulled chicken with fresh spinach and romaine with mandarin oranges, all sandwiched between tasty tortilla shells. This Salad is best eaten with a Corona in a big frosty mug.
We filled up and then headed back to the Wyndham for an afternoon lounge around the pool. When we walked into the lobby, loud and exotic music was coming out of the columned banquet room, the wedding reception was in full swing. It looked beautiful.
We swam, we talked, and Mark and Jeri demonstrated some of their swing dancing moves in the pool. They are pretty good. Diane and I have now made that one of our two goals for our next cruise. To swing dance and look like we know what we are doing would be nice. The other goal is to learn how to scuba dive.
It started to cool off so we went for a long walk down the boardwalk past the world famous Fontainebleau Hotel and a bunch of other places, turned around and walked back up the beach. We then hit the showers and agreed to meet in the Seabreeze Café for dinner.
We had Cuban Sandwiches and other things that I don’t remember. The main topic of conversation was getting to the ship in the morning. Around ten pm we called it a night and left the café.
We woke early. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud in the sky. I took a gander through the window. In front of the Miami skyline, I could see our ship the Voyager of the Seas. I found myself starting to get anxious to be aboard. This would be cruise number five and I still felt the same excitement. Diane dressed in the bathroom while I threw on a fresh pair off white linen shorts and a sea blue rayon tee shirt (I bought four of them at eight dollars apiece, they retailed for thirty five dollars each). Diane came out of the bathroom wearing a short white jean skirt and a crinkly sky blue top. We stared at each other for a second; Diane shook her head, picked up the phone and called Jeri’s room. A few seconds later, Jeri and Mark knocked on the door. Jeri said don’t you two look cute. Diane said it was just a coincidence not a plan, let’s eat. It was now around eight forty five. We headed for breakfast, with the coupons for payment, which I forgot the morning before. Breakfast was the same except for fresh apple strudel instead of crepes. On the way to the restaurant I stopped by the front desk to ask what time our bus would be arriving. We were told that it would be one or one thirty. I was hoping to get to the terminal earlier, but it was no big deal, not yet anyway.
We finished breakfast, and confirmed our plans to drive to Melbourne the day the ship returned. We planed to see Mark and Jeri’s new house and maybe drive to Downtown Disney or something to that effect.
We headed back upstairs to pack up and chill in the room until noon which was checkout time. Our kids said their goodbyes, made hugs all around, said have a great time and then left. It was now around ten and housekeeping started knocking on the door. We told them we would be leaving at checkout time. We tried to sit and read, for about an hour, while the sea breeze wafted through the big window. I kept looking at the ship. Come to me she seemed to be saying, Come to me. I could not stand it any longer. Make your last pit stop, I cried. It is time to go! Diane had just enough time to flush and apply lipstick while I hitched all the baggage together. We pulled the train out into the hall. I punched the down button.
The elevator was slow and when it finally opened it was full of people. I told Diane to take her bags down; I would wait for the next one. It was a few minutes later before another door opened and it was going up. A hotel staff member was on board with a bowl of lemon slices. He said get on, ride it up and then go down. I complied. I finally reached the lobby, gave a mighty shove to my three bags, picked up Diane and headed to the front desk. The lobby had quite a few bags in it, some with Grand Princess Tags, and some with the green VY tags on them. The Princess tags surprised me because I thought that ship left from Fort Lauderdale. There were some bags on a cart with blue tags, with the Voyager of the Seas handwritten on them.
We checked out and then found a couch to sit on because there was still about ninety minutes to wait. We sat for awhile. We moved to a seat closer to the door. We saw a group of people speaking Italian head outside with the cart of bags and the handwritten tags. A couple with a cart of bags with the green VY tags, followed. I decided that outside looked good to me too.
I hauled the bags down the stairs; a couple of valets saw me and took over. Diane and I started our bus vigil on the stairs. Diane moved to a bench in the sun. Where is the bus? Where is the bus? It was now past one fifteen. One of the Italian men examined the VY tag on one of my wife’s bags and reported something to his group and a discussion ensued. I do not know what it was about. I did notice that one the female members of the group was wearing velour slacks with multicolored horizontal stripes and the weirdest pair of white clogs I had ever seen, they looked like small flotation devices.
The man with the VY tags came over to me and informed me that his wife had called the shuttle service and found out the bus was running behind because downtown Miami had fourteen streets closed due to a Monte Carlo style car race. There were 200,000 spectators watching it. He thought it would take us hours to get to the terminal. This was not news that I wanted to hear.
At two fifteen the bus arrived. The driver was someone I recognized. She drove us from the terminal to the Eden Roc Hotel after our cruise the year before. I knew we were in good hands. The first thing she wanted to know was where were we at eleven that morning? Eleven! All who spoke English exclaimed that we did not know. Too bad, she said. I took a deep breath told myself to forget about it, or maybe it was Diane who told me to take a deep breath and forget about it. Okay, we are on our way now.
Twenty minutes later we were heading down the ramp to the terminal, the ship filling up our vision. We had passed a few fenced in streets and I thought I could hear racing engines but nothing delayed us. I had forgotten just how big the Eagle class ships are. The NCL and Carnival ships looked small next to the Voyager. We waited for the driver to unload, found ourselves a porter, one of which was arguing with the Italians because they tried to tip him in Liras. This ain’t Rome! He told them. We gave the driver and a porter some good ole American dollars, grabbed our carryons and headed into the terminal.
We flashed our ID’s when necessary, headed up the escalator and found a large group of people sitting in front of three x-ray machines. We formed a line and waited for enough people to leave the chairs and then we took their place. I was watching my watch. Diane was being cool. I think it was about a half hour before we took our place in line at the machines. I remember that there were a lot of apologies for delays etc, etc. We had filled our documents out online so at least we did not have to worry about the pink forms.
It took about five minutes to go through security, without a hitch, (I was not wearing Rockports). We walked into the check in room to find a very long and winding line. Everybody automatically queued up in it. I estimated that the line contained 400 people. Not good. I stood there for awhile and then walked over to a security officer and informed her that we had already filled out our documents. I showed her the printed confirmation. She pointed to her right and said go to the end to the Terminal Coordinator’s desk, it is a much shorter line. We rolled down to the correct desk and Glory; there were five people in line. Five minutes later we handed our paperwork and our credit card to the Agent, she took about one minute, said Welcome back, enjoy your cruise, handed us our Sea Pass cards, cabin number 1234. We flashed our cards to a security officer at the foot of the escalator located just in front of the Terminal Coordinator’s desk and up we went. At the top another dual line for Sea Pass security, the up your nose with a fat neck picture (the officer politely removed Diane’s hat because her hands were full) and then the, stand on that line, Hug her and smile picture.
We rolled into the ship, saw twenty people queue up for the first set of elevators; we went around them to the ones on the other side, two people there, an up elevator opened, in we went and punched the button for Deck 10. The glass elevator went up and so did my spirits. The ship looked great. We crossed the ship to the starboard side into the cabin passageway and rolled our way forward to cabin 1234. Card in the lock, open the door.
We made it. We gave each other a big hug and stepped out on the balcony. We were looking at the container terminals and as far as I was concerned the view was fantastic. We heard an announcement that we could not make out, so I stepped back in and turned up the cabin speaker. We had thirty minutes to grab lunch before the life boat drill. The cruise had now officially begun. Time to hit the Windjammer cafe.