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My email reports from travel legs on the  MSC "POESIA"   2010/2011

Part 1 - N. America & Caribbean
 



    The first day, October 9, 2010

    There were hundreds of people; not only new passengers checking in, but mostly passengers of the ship who spent the day visiting Quebec City, and it took almost an hour for everybody to go through the security which was mandatory at this port. So this was rather stressful -  I certainly had hoped to connect with someone who would  take me through ahead of the long lines but wasn't successful.  No problem  at the security and finally got to my cabin and was pleasantly surprised to see all my luggage in front of the door. I had gotten to know some people from Boston -he a retired surgeon- and they were most helpful in getting the stuff inside the cabin and onto the double bed (which should have been twin beds, but this is being done today, after I talked to Noa, my room Steward.  I was pretty exhausted at this point, rested a quarter of an hour and then started unpacking. One thing is definite: I cannot ask anyone to share my cabin, except Steve, who would put up with the extremely crowded conditions and lack of storage space after I finished the unpacking!  No way.  152 sq ft just is too small; on the Panama Canal cruise on Holland America Line, the interior cabins were all 40 sq ft larger, same size as the outside cabins on this ship. Dinner at 8 (they had me one the first sitting at 5.30 despite  the acknowledgement that I would be on the second one and I had to get that changed, like the bed arrangement).  The meal excellent,  at a table for two, but I was  alone.  Because I was quite tired, I went back to the cabin very soon after eating, without doing much exploring or taking in the show; went to bed, had leg cramps and a literal "pain in the neck" caused by stress and it took a long time for me to get to sleep.  Welcome aboard the "Poesia", huge, with 3013 passengers and full to the brim.  Tomorrow is another day.


Poesia Log # 2  October 11/12, 2010 at sea from Sydney, NS to Bar Harbor, Maine

There are more than 300 people on board from France and the ship is fully booked for this particular leg from NY to Quebec and several US and Canadian ports in between.  The average age I see seems to be around 50.  I am somewhat of a celebrity on board as far as the senior employees are concerned and am surprised that so many of them greet me as if they know me.  Stefano, the concierge, took me into his office and we had a long talk about everything from the possibility of changing cabin to his life (in New York's large Italian community) to parts of mine; I talk Italian, or try to,  to all the senior employees who are Italian and talk to me in their mother tongue , which taxes my rusty  ability to speak the language in which I once was fluid, because as a very young man, I lived and worked in Italy for a few years.  All service personnel is Indonesian.

The ship is simply gorgeous and really difficult to describe.  This morning i had breakfast in the cafeteria which is on Deck # 13,  high above he water and has floor to ceiling windows which give a wonderful feeling of almost flying over the vast expanse of water  over which we sail at the moment.  This is a breakfast buffet with a tremendous  choice but I am n ot a  "breakfast  type" and only have juice, coffee and a roll.  Now I am sitting in the card room to write this and hope that tomorrow in  Bar Harbor, ME I'll be able to send it.

I have been to the fabulous theatre twice to see excellent productions, the first a group of dancers, jugglers and acrobats, last night an excellent medley from Broadway shows (like Cats, West Side Story, Phantom of the opera etc), presented by voices and dancers of superb quality. The theatre itself is enormous and just beautiful  and   could be anywhere in a city like New York. It has a very large stage, phantastic light and special effects as well as acoustics,  has two balconies (on two decks) and seats maybe 1000 people. There are two shows every evening, so far  different every day, but I imagine there will be repeats as time goes on.  In  the Rendez Vous area (where also Reception and Accounting counters are) a trio, piano, violin and cello  plays beautiful semi-classical music and this whole area can also be viewed from several decks above - it's open.  How much I wanted to take a video  when I was standing at the railing two decks above looking down on the atrium, the completely open grand piano, the violinist and cellist, all the people around down there, and at the railings one deck below me - so impressive, but alas! my camera is broken - it has a cracked screen and I am desolate about that. On deck 7 is the Pigalle Lounge, where I sat down and played the piano a bit the night before and got to know some nice Americans who liked and knew the songs I played.  But yesterday I got to know Angelica, who plays there,  she is from Naples,  and a conservatory trained high class musician whom I very much enjoyed to listen to and also to meet. But I also learned that my playing there at that time was a on-no, not only because I did it in a 15-minute recess of her stint, but also because this particular piano is reserved only for her.

In the Palladio restaurant, where I eat in the evenings, I have been assigned a table for two, but so far am always alone, which I really don't like.  However, I've gotten to know the Maitre d' and his sidekick Ugo and something will be done, with either finding me "une bella signorina" or putting me at a table with English speaking people.  I have had some interesting and for me new Italian dishes and so far find the food  excellent.  However, I try to resist  most culinary temptations so as to survive without  becoming a blimp!  By the way, since I am a "Black Card" member of the mSC Club, one of the perks is a fresh fruit bowl in my cbain, which is wonderful.

  It is not easy to   connect with any of the 3000 fellow travellers, and even if it does happen, it's of an only transient nature since most are only on a 7 or maybe 14 day cruise.  So, being alone is not very nice.

It'll take time to adjust to this new life. 



#  3   Bar Harbor, Maine  October 13, 2010

Everyone has to go through US Immigration.  It begins at 7.30 in the huge theatre and, while well organized,  takes a long time,  in my case over an hour, but then I had been given a low ticket number, also for the tender - until  all 3000 people of many nationalities were processed, more than 2 hours passed. Actually, all was pretty well organized: on the stage where 10 tables, each staffed by 2 customs officers. Then there was more  waiting time until finally my number for one of the tenders (a motor boat for 124 people) was called and after negotiating steep stairs I finally boarded as one of the last passengers. It was a gorgeous day and the 10 minute trip to shore very nice; looking back at the magnifent Poesia at anchor in the morning sunshine, I cursed my bad luck with the camera but also thanked my lucky stars to be alive and able to  enjoy it.  More stairs and steep ramps and I realise that I must make changes to my locomotion - I really have a tough time.  In the harbour many boats, a large whale watcher and tour boats; at the pier many tour buses wait to take on passengers which booked on board.

The town has a permanent population of about 4000, which swells considerably in Summer.  I  walk Main street uphill and find a little park on top with benches, sit and try for internet access but cannot see anything on my screen because there is too much light.  I ask and am directed to the "Opera Cafe" which has internet; up one more block, turn right, another block - I am exhausted.  They charge US$ 5 per hour in half hour increments and I get to send my emails which I previously had prepared and then get on eBay to look for a replacement for my camera - I want the same.  I think I found one eventually, used but in good shape, but don't have the itinerary handy to know where it should be sent if I buy it, and anyway, my self imposed maximum of one hour is up, so I'll leave it for tomorrow when we are in Boston. Who knows, I may even find one right there.  Back on the tender which is empty since it just dumped a load of humanity, for a lark I try for internet while sitting there waiting and discover free access courtesy of the town of Bar Harbor, which enables me to send a reply to my dear friend and former landlady Sally whose message to me I just received.  And at this point I lost everything I had written - this is the second version. Now I save, SAVE, SAVE!!  I am sitting in one of the comfortable cocktail lounges writing this; you don't HAVE to buy a drink and I'll be damned to not do just that at US$ 6.90+15% per shot - it's OK for those on a holiday. For me, the smuggled booze in "Rum Runner" containers and 3 bottles of Ginger Ale, all gotten aboard without trouble. In my room I get an ice bucket every day; drinking alone like that,  like eating alone, isn't really my thing, so I take my full glass down to the magnificent Atrium and listen to the music.

I see it's five p.m. Time to go. It's Happy Hour - well, it's time for a drink.
 

 #  4  Boston, Mass., October 14, 2011

After disembarking,  I first stayed in the Terminal Building and eventually connected to a WiFi signal which allowed me to send my emails but was sporadic and weak.  So I decided to go into the city and look for a camera to replace my broken one. On board they offered a shuttle bus to the center of the city for $ 15; however, I,  by asking, found a city bus service right there which took me to the center for $ 2.  Then it meant walking quite a lot to find likely stores and was surprised that the large Macy's Store did not carry cameras.  Eventually i found a Radio Shack which had quite a selection from $ 70 up, but all are plastic packaged and not really accessible for inspection so I gave up.  Besides, I really would prefer to again get a Pentax, which they didn't have.  I wound up right in the center in  a park where I sat in the sun on a welcome bench, and at 12 noon listened to the carillon of the church playing several hymns.  I was pretty weary at this time from all the walking and decided to wend my way back to the ship. Right there there was a subway station, which (after a lengthy research down below, where several lines converged) took me back to "South Station" for $2 where I knew  (after again considerable asking around), that I would be able to get the bus back to the Cruise Terminal. Got "home"  after 2 pm and decided to just eat a pear and an orange I had left from the fruit bowl in my cabin (a perk for being a MSC Black Card  Club Member) instead of going for lunch.  Found new instructions covering not only US Immigration check (again?) when disembarking in New York, but the immigration formalities for going back up to Canada ... I am not looking forward to having to go through all that twice more (after that, we stay South of Fort Lauderdale, FL).  I also found an invitation to the Captain's Cocktail party at 7.30 pm, given to "Repeaters, VIP & Tour Leaders".  Big deal.  I am in the first group.  Tonight is my second "Gala night" for Dinner which means you have to dress up (as opposed to "Casual" and "Informal" dinners  on   other days:  from pants and shirts to jackets and ties to tuxedo -
I didn't see one of those at the first gala dinner and felt somewhat out of place in my cocktail suit, especially sitting there alone at the table for two like a peacock trying to attract a female! (you can see me in it on the pic I attach, taken on the "Amsterdam" during the Panama Canal cruise over last Xmas/New Years, with Cathy, my befriended cabin sharer and landlady in Desert Hot Springs, CA with whom, since considerably taller than I, dancing was less "Cheek to Cheek" than "Cheek to Boob"-- an added perk .. but I digress..) However, I'll wear it again tonight, no doubt the captain wll be impressed -:).

(later) Big,  deal! One got two glasses of Champagne, but I saw several of the about 150 people finagle a third. There  were small dishes with chips and Pretzels. I  chose to sit with a couple who turned out to be German and was then joined by another - since I talked their language, we got along famously and I got to sit between Siegrid, a blonde and quite pretty  fourti-ish who drank fast and chattered even faster; she was there with her much older seeming husband (?);  on my other side a nice lady of more advanced age.  Anyway, we had a few good laughs and they took Photos of all of us which they'll send to me and you'll get to see them eventually. And then the big moment of the Captain's entrance; he made a small speech, mostly extolling MSC's achievements in the past years - it's the fastest growing cruise line of all, from 3 to 11 beautiful ships in a few years and next year 2 more even larger ships will be added with accomodation for between 4 and 5 thousand passengers. Not for me, even these 3000 are too much for my taste.

After this epic event, a very good Dinner (Gala night!) and I had Lobster which went well with my Cocktail Suit,
but still was alone on my table. Talked with the Maitre d' about that and he'll put me at a table for 8 on the next
trip (from NY North to Quebec).  Then I went to check out the various venues and it seemed to me as if I walked from one nightclub to another - that's the atmosphere in the evening. Finally I would up sitting in der Bar where Angelica plays and listened to her - she is quite a remarkable musician.  To bed  about 11 - I'm bushed.

Good night, Buona notte, Bonne nuit, Gute Nacht!


# 5  New York, October 15/16, 2010

We had to bypass Newport, RI which had closed the harbour area because of gale force winds and so arrived here at 7p.m. last night.  They had a "Light Tour" of NY for $ 56, which I didn't take.  The entry to the New York harbour was beautiful.  Of course we passed the Statue of Liberty about 45 minutes before we actually were at the pier, and this was still in the evening dusk.  On the dock besides to where we are parked sits the SST Concorde, sleek and lithe, open for visitors, as is the aircraft carrier "Enterprise"  , huge and impressive, with an assortment of planes on top; it is parked on the far the of the dock, on our side sits a submarine.
This morning  hundreds of passengers disembark and a new crop will board in  the afternoon.  It's quite an organisational challenge but seems well organized.  I get a new cruise card  for the next leg of my 47-leg odyssey, leave the ship and walk seemingly endlessly, eventually passing a sea of luggage placed in neat numbered rows   and belonging to the disembarking passengers and then see with trepidation long snaking lines of people wending their way towards US customs. But I gratefully discover there there is a bypass for people with walking challenges.  And then I am out and I walk, walk walk ...
And now, close to noon, I am blessed to find a Starbucks, small and crowded but with free WiFi - en route I had  tried many times unsuccessfully to find a free signal and a deli with internet access wanted $ 2.50 for 10 minutes.
Besides that, what a blessing to sit down and rest my aching dogs! Actually, I am only about 1 block from Times Square on 42St  -  quite a distance from where I started out.  So glad the weather is quite nice, with occasional sunshine, windy but not cold.  Arrived at Times Square, dodging masses of people and traffic everywhere and
 really feeling the pulse of the city;  checked out several stores selling digital cameras but think that I'll buy a used one I found on ebay which is one step up from the same I have.
Now it is just past 6 pm and I have been presented not only with a bowl of fruit but also an ice bucket with a bottle of Italian Sparkling wine ...and two glasses, just to rub it in that I have nobody to enjoy it with (where are you, Sandy!) I am tempted to go down with it to the Pigalle Lounge and play the piano - maybe someone will join me.
It's really a somewhat ridiculous situation and I'll just have to grab the bull by it's horns. I'll tell you later how it went.
  
Well, I took the bottle out of the ice bucket, took the 2 glasses which had come with it and went down to the Pigalle Lounge and played the Grand Piano there for half an hour - there were  maybe only two or three couples there - this was dinner time for the first sitting and most of the newcomers were still too busy settling down in their cabins.  Then I walked away, still with the unopened bottle and glasses in hand and passed a table, couch and easy chairs with two couples, one of which hailed me - anyway, I was happy to share the wine with them (they already had other drinksas well) and we got to know each other quite well during the next half hour.  They are from Texas. Tomorrow at 6 I'll play for them.

Then Dinner:  As promised by the maitre d', I was put at a table with more people who all turned out to be singles, unfortunately three men and a prunish female.  What can you do, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances.
One of the men was German and I had a bit of translation to do.  Conversation in these dining rooms full of people is difficult because of the high nloise level and poor acoustics.
After I listened for a while to Angelica and now it is  11 pm and I'm off to bed.


# 6   New York to Quebec, October 16  to 22/23,2010   

Well, I did play for my new acquaintances for about an hour before the first show at 6.45 and it was pretty nice.
Tonight is again Gala Night, and with the new crop of passengers I see some evening dresses and tuxedos;   the new ones are mostly Americans and except for some French Canadians, the large group of French from France have disappeared.  Wonders never cease! In my cabin I find ANOTHER BOTTLE  of Champagne; this time the real McCoy:  a Moet from France! Two Glasses next to the bottle in the ice bucket. But not only that: there is also a tray with chocolate covered strawberries... I am flabbergasted (sp?) -so now again wonder what they are  thinking of and where the blonde is that would go with these aids in seduction?  But, as I said, wonders never cease: at our table, on the one chair which last night was not occupied she sits: a very pretty Blondine, maybe as "old" as  40, who greets me warmly and her name is Monica. She sits beside the German guy who was there last night and I discover that she is actually also German.  The Gala dinner choices, and there are many! are superb and I have a shrimp cocktail and roast duck (of course with the mandatory orange sauce) but also was tempted with the prime rib offered.  But in this decadent environment I'll get it some other time soon, I'm sure.  I wind up inviting Monica and Rudi (they had met on the plane coming to NY from Germany) for Champagne and strawberries and we sit, sip, talk and listen to Angelica in the Grappolo d'Uva Bar until midnight.  Monica is also a solo traveller (as all at our dining room table are), comes from Frankfurt,  paints and photographs and sells both.
The more the champagne in the Bottle is reduced, the prettier Monica becomes, darn it. She's a really nice person and quite unpretentious. I get to know little about her, but gather that she has two kids and had been married.

Right now I am in Halifax and sit in the "Pier 21"  Building next to the ship. While the sun is out,  the temperature  is  even more reduced by a wicked and cold wind.  Earlier, I had walked to an Internet cafe and was able to send my emails and reply to some I received. I also bought on Ebay the camera (used) which I had previously checked out and have it sent to Newport, where we'll be on Oct. 28. For better or worse! Pier 21 is like an enormous shopping mall, with dozens of stands selling everything from local and Canada souvenirs to daily necessities.

The Dinner table for six in the evening is only half occupied: There is Harvey, a retired school teacher who orates and holds forth at length at the slightest provocation; because of a high pitched voice and the ambient noise level and terrible accoustics, his discourses are a pain in the neck.  Next to me is the lady from New Zealand, thin like a beanstalk with skin like a prune, however very much alive and as talkative as is possible whenever Harvey pauses for breath. Later on I give her one of the fruit bowls I got again in  my cabin (even though the first one was still half full). missing are the two Germans, Monica and Rudi (did they elope?) and Michael, a dapper American who wrote an apparently successful book called "Keep Left". 

Oct 19:
We are about to dock at  Sydney; it's 7.45 am and a gorgeous morning. I just had breakfast in the cafeteria on one side flooded with sunlight through the floor to ceiling glass, and , with an inexplicable feeling of  nostalgia watched the beautiful scenery ever so slowly passing before me as we inched our way towards the port. We are being followed by another big cruise ship and it's probably the one from  Costa which had been also in Halifax next to us.  There is an enormous choice for breakfast and an equal enormous waste by people who load up and eat only part; one can only hope that food wastes are being fed to the fishes when in open seas.
Went for a little walk to a denturist to have a partial adjusted, but spent a lot of time together with at least 30 others with laptops in the big Terminal Building where WiFi,  somewhat anaemic, is free; with two big cruise ships  in port, the place was teeming with people and also a section where you could use computers for $ 12/hr was crammed with people who didn't have their own. A piper was piping once in a while and the sort of restaurant was busy, as if the people off the ships hadn't already stuffed themselves  on bord.  Went back to have a bowl of soup and then to my cabin to rest a bit, then went back into the Port Building because Linda, who runs the computer usage place was looking forward to play the Scrabble game which I had obtained on board - like everything virtual in cyberworld, I took her pants off and we'll have a rematch when we return to Sidney on the 25th.
 

#  7  Charlottetown, PEI, October 20, 2010 

I have been sitting in their large Port building, where of course there are many stands selling things, including  discounted clothing. There is free WiFi, but difficult to get onto and have it stay with you. The main attraction is a stage on which in the morning a young girl played the violin to a guitar accompaniment by a man and she was really quite good. But now, in the afternoon and already for over an hour, there are three little girls, maybe 12 years old, tapdancing to anything from Celtic dances to Jazz and even one German Folksong and these kids are really excellent, obviously from a dance school and their interpretations, moves and technique is quite amazing.
It's a beautiful day, but again with an icy and biting wind and I figure that next year, when we will be back here before I disembark in October, I'll visit the town, reputed for its art venues; today I have too much to do on line which is so awfully slow, to find the best solution for the delivery of the camera which will get to Newport. I am trying to redirect delivery to the visitor Center, or, if that fails, the local UPS Store which will charge $8 to receive it. Nothing comes easily.  At 5 I'll play in the Pigalle Lounge for quite a few people.
At the Dinner table. Monica and Rudi are again missing - I guess they decided to eat in the cafeteria or maybe  one of the specialty restaurants which charge an extra amount (the Sushi Bar Menu starts at $ 25). I look and listen at various lounges, all full of people and wind up again with Angelica who is, next to the classical trio at times playing in the Atrium, by far the better musician than any of the ones in  the other bars whom I consider mediocre. In  my abin I not only find an invitation to another Captain's Cocktail party but  also a letter from the cruise director  asking me whether I would not please take part in the "Mega Talent show tomorrow. Cheap entertainment for MSC! I'll think about it.

At Sea, October 21, 2010
Breakfast in the cafeteria on the 13th deck and it's the most desirable place I can think of because of the huge glass panes all around. Seas are calm, the sun comes through now and then, I have a granola cereal (one of a dozen choices including freshly made Müsli), with a plain yogurt and milk, later, coffee, a brioche with butter and orange marmalade.  The breakfast offerings are enormous, anything you could think of is there and I regret not to be able to eat a big breakfast like most of the people here do from what I see on their heaped plates.
There's "busy" day ahead: at 10am, Scrabble, 2 pm rehearsal for the Talent show (yes, I decided to put in my 10 cents worth), 6.30 Show in the Theater, 7.3o pm my second captain's cocktail party, 8.15 Gala Dinner and 10pm, the talent show. Now it's after 4, I'll shower and put on the duds and have a drink from my secret stash.
We are at the moment still over 150 nautical miles from Quebec and it was also announced that there are 44 nationalities on board.
(later) The rehearsals were somewhat chaotic and the sound level much too high for my (and other's)  liking; of course there were many other passengers present also in the large beautiful lounge, at the very stern of the ship with large picture windows in the back. There are many female singers, one of which is quite good, but also Bob, whom I accompany as he sings "the nearness of you" has a good and strong voice.
 

# 8  Quebec, October 22/23, 2010        

The show at the theatre once again was excellent and I marvel at the orchestration and beautiful costumes as well as phantastic stage effects - apart from the performers, which were a dance group interspaced with very impressive athletic numbers, elegantly and artistically presented.   The Gala Dinner was outstanding, but I don't want to make you too jealous by telling you how delicious the lamb chops where ...

The Talent show last night was  a huge success. They have what they call an "Animation Team" and they
sure do "animate"! The large Pigalle Lounge was filled with hundreds of people.  The "Talents" were of course of various caliber, but one lady stood out with "New York New York" which she belted out with much gusto and quite a good voice.  I came on second, played "I get a kick out of you" and got roaring applause, was presented with a medal around my neck, a certificate and a lapel pin;  then I accompanied Bob who sang "The nearness of you" with a pretty good and strong voice.  I got to close the show and played "After the lovin'" with people whooping and hollering in applause (I guess nobody felt any pain at this time of 11pm), but when I left the Lounge, many came up to me with compliments which of course was a nice feeling. 
Now, for the last time until next October, we are in Quebec and I am triply blessed: Sitting on the 13th deck  which is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows, I overlook la vieux cite under a somewhat cloudy sky but occasional sunbursts,  there's only one other person in the area aft of the ship where I am and for once it is relatively peaceful and quiet - a rarity on this ship with over 3000 people! But thirdly, I discovered WiFi from up here, which allows me to send this to you and get your messages as well!  Whoopee!

Tomorrow, we'll head South to Fort Lauderdale, via Sidney, Newport RI, Boston and New York and after that it's South into the warm climates of the Bahamas which I look forward to, because until now it was of course much too cold to swim in the open pools.
'til next time .... my love to all of you!  Egon



# 9  Quebec- Fort Lauderdale  October 23-November 1, 2010    

Big change of passengers here,  always a somewhat chaotic and very noisy scene. I fled to my preferred spot right at the rear of the ship on deck # 13, the one which is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass. I overlook the old city part of Quebec and have an excellent WiFi signal here -  a rarity to find and much appreciated because it saves me from having to walk down seemingly endless serpentine ramps snaking down to ground from deck # 7.  It's 4 pm and we'll leave at 6. The skies are now overcast, but all in all we've had wonderful weather since I started this 2 weeks ago.
We left the dock at 6 pm and now it's 6.20p.m. and I watched the ship, moored parallel, inch out from the dock sideways until it reached a safe distance to turn around - we are still doing it! What a wonderful sight against a dramatic evening sky, with the Chateau  Fronteac silhouetted against it, and now, that the ship has finished the turn around and we go forward along the south shore of Levy, Que,  there is a full yellow moon hanging in the sky inviting romance which unfortunately is missing.  To make matters "worse", there is soft music befitting the unquieted mood!  I better get back to my cabin, shower and change for dinner.
 
Octobber 24,
Sydney PEI (again). I decided to take my wash to a Laundromat which turned out to be too far away for me to walk - my locomotion per pedes is getting really quite bad, not so much because of the knees but I have a torn tendon in the right foot which tends to turn outwards and is quite painful to walk on.  To fix that, I am told, is a complicated operation requiring several weeks in a cast afterwards etc.  Anyway, I took a taxi, which was $ 7 ; later I found a local transit bus which took me in the vicinity opf the ship for only $1, but by the time I had spent another $ 3.50 at the Laundromat, I could have probably have used the ship's laundry service, expensive as it is,  even with my 30% discount.   Can you imagine that a shirt to wash costs $ 6.50 (ironed, even though most shirts don't need it), but a shirt dry cleaned costs only $5.00!  This is lousy and I ill discuss this whole matter with someone in authority., if I can get to the person. 
In the Port building, tried to phone UPS to change the delivery address, but gave up after waiting 15 minutes for a free phone - Indonesian crew members hug them and yak seemingly for ever, which I already encountered in other ports.  But I played a return game of Scrabble with LInda, who runs the computer service ($ 4 for 20 minutes) and we have a date for a re-match in September and October next year. She's a nice woman with a great sense of humor.
Yesterday I got another bottle of Champagne - no it was Asti Spumante, the famous Italian Sparkling wine. To our table came  Terri,  another single, who knew me and I her from the Cruise Critic Forum - we had the bottle, or at least , most of it,  while listening to Angelica playing in the Lounge.  A good conversation, nothing more. (Story of my life these days!) There were no chocolate covered strawberries  though, but tonight, the front desk called and asked if I would like to have them (they had forgotten to send them) - I told them to skip them this time, since the two items should go together.    It appears that I  get this perk for every leg of the itinerary.   As I said, the blonde does not come with it.  I also get a fresh bowl of various fruit all the time, which always remains only half eaten.   Wish they would give me free internet or laundry instead!

Boston, October 27, 2010
After Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island, Canada) and a day at sea, we are here and have the first day of rain.  I am sitting in the Disco on Deck 14 and have a weak but useable WiFi signal; it's quiet up here and quite a place, all in silver, from upholstered sofas and easy chairs in silver colored leather, to ultra modern tables in gleaming chrome and silvered glass, to some walls with textured aluminium - well, it's really hard to describe,  but tomorrow in Newport, RII hope to finally get hold of my new camera, so that from then on I can attach a few pics to my reports!

There was a meeting of about 30 members of CruiseCritic.com which was quite nice, because many I had known only by their "handle"  and they all knew me ("Musicus") and were anxious to hear about my decision of the year's cruise.  Another such meeting will take place in ort Lauderdale Nov 1, with a new and much larger group.
Yesterday afternoon I played for an hour in the magnificent Atrium to great applause.  Can you imagine that they delivered another bottle of Asti Spumante and a tray with chocolate covered strawberries to me at 9.30 IN THE MORNING!!  This is crazy. I had a long talk with Antonio, the Concierge.  I would like to see the Champagne bit stopped altogether and instead get free internet access r24/7 and also free laundry. Anyway, I had the stuff brought down to the Dining room table in the evening and shared the bottle and strawberries with the others.
Talk soon again!  Love 'n stuff - Egon


#10  Still en route to Fort Lauderdale  (Oct 28-Nov 1, 2010) 

Yesterday I forgot to mention that in Boston the majestic Queen Mary 2 was parked right in front of us!
Also, I had lunch, (that is just a bowl of soup) in the Cafeteria which is always full of people, and found a table with free chairs - there was a young couple sitting there already, which turned out to be from "my town", Berne, Switzerland!  What a coincidence! I am sure they are the only Swiss on  board.
I received an email from another group ex CruiseCritic.com, who will join the ship in New York and Fort Lauderdale - a meeting of all (some 15 persons but may become more) has been arranged in one of the bars.
And now we are at Newport RI and came here through thick fog and are so fog-bound that all shore excursions have been cancelled and it is questionable that there will be any tendering to shore (we are anchored outside).  The fog horn has been blaring and if you are outside on one of the high decks, it
almost knocks you over.  It's now almost 1.30pm and we depart again  at 6 pm - whether I will ever get to receive my camera, now at the Post Office here, is a question on my mind ...  if I don't get to shore, I'll have to phone the PO and see what can be done.

New York, Oct 29, 2010
Just my luck. Tendering was abandoned due to the fog and I was unable to phone the PO with my cell phone. Asked what it would cost to use the ship's facility to call,  but at $ 6/minute, gave up.  So now I am in a blistering and cold New York, walked to the nearest Cafe where they don't have WiFi and still have to find a  pay phone so that I can call and find out what options I have.  Probably they would (for  postage) send it on to Fort Lauderdale, but whether this will arrive in time for Nov.1, when we are here, is doubtful.
Another Captain's cocktail , followed by a Gala Dinner , with lobster and baked Alaska which was brought in with great pomp and a grandiose and well known operatic march in a flaming parade. In the Pigalle Lounge there is (already since Quebec) a very good Big Band.  And speaking of playing, I did again in the Atrium for an hour in the afternoon.
(later) I went out to find Wifi but was unsuccessful. The nearest Starbucks is at Times Square, much too far
to walk for me - I already did a lot this morning along the walkway in front of the pier building; next to the walkway is a bike and Jogging route and you encounter both;  beyond that an never-ending stream of traffic. And it's cold and windy - I stop at a small restaurant for a coffee (again hopeful to have WiFi but no luck). Then I find a payphone, phone the PO in Newport: options are to forward the package to Fort Lauderdale at an additional +/- $ 5, (mailing it over $ 25 for shipping!!) or return it to sender, i.e. UPS, who will return it. I opt for the latter and had been in touch already with the company who sold me the camera; they'll advise me when they have it and reship it, this time by USPS to a PO probably in Key West, where I hope to finally get it November 28. What an unfortunate chain of events! Hope that at least the purchase proves to be OK!!

On mhy return top the ship I see  an ambulance loaded with another poor guy (still moving though!) - this is the second time I witness such an event - no wonder with so many old people on the ship. Hope I do not have to join this  brigade anytime soon.
Unable to get a useable WiFi signal anywhere, even outside, on top of the ship, or anywhere on shore where I went this morning. Too bad.  You all will have to wait until we are in Fort Lauderdale in 2 days.
Meantime, I'll knuckle down and write the report in German. A bit of a chore.

October 30
At Sea. In the late afternoon I play again in the Atrium.  Later, a trio consisting of a mandolin, a guitar and a young lady with cymbals who sways to the music plays Napolitan songs - occasionally a melody which I recognise. They are really very good, especially the mandolin player. At other times, there is a semi-classical trio of excellence: piano, violin and cello and they are really professional and very enjoyable.

Another day at sea, October 31, 2010    SENT
I didn't realize that from New York it would take two days and nights to Fort Lauderdale, but that's what it is.  Last evening, while I was sitting in the Lounge listening to Angelica, a man came and asked if I was Egon- he's a friend of Fran and Ann, whom I haven't met but who tried to find me - they are some of my "acquaintances" on CruiseCritic.com who will be joined by a much larger group in Fort Lauderdale and there actually  will be a get-together in one of the bars on Nov. 2. I expect that Fran will contact me today sometime.

Meantime, let me describe my cabin to you - one of these days I'l' hopefully be able to send some pics when I finally tracked down my "new" camera!  First of all, "cabin" is an apt description, as opposed to "stateroom" on other cruiselines. It's only 152 sq.ft (vs. 192 sq.ft. on Holland America Line), but big enough for 2 persons, at least for short stays. It has twin beds and in my case another bed which can be pulled down from the wall on one side; there are other interior cabins, that actually have another one of these over the other bed - I  certainly could see such a scenario only for parents with two kids. The night tables have lamps and three drawers each  and I have used space underneath one bed to store one of my pieces of luggage.  There is a small desk, no doubt intended also as a vanity; it has two drawers and two outlets each for 110 and 220V.  To the right underneath, there is a square hassock to be used as a seat; next to it I placed my large piece of luggage, with a smaller one inside; it projects outwards somewhat but also serves as a place to put things on. There are lots of mirrors, which make the place less claustrophobic: above the beds over the width of the room, over the desk and a full length one opposite on one of the bathroom walls. To the left of this is the flat screen TV with several channels devoted to MSC's virtues, 2 CNN's (one in Spanish),  several others showing vintage films, sports and entertainment news - really nothing to shout about. There is also an interactive channel which let's you view anything from daily programs to your account. No radio.  In the cupboard underneath is the fridge, stocked with booze and sodas -all for sale at phatasy prices -  and of course they are out of luck in this respect since I'm not buying - but I am blessed by having my own soda in there and  have arranged with my room steward, Noa, to fill the supplied ice bucket in the morning and put it in there - it stays well frozen all day until I use it in the evening and also supplies drinking water, which otherwise I would have to buy - there are 2 bottles of it standing next to the TV.

Opposite the bathroom entry are cupboards - the right one with 6 drawers, above them the compartment with the safe (which is temperamental and needs to be coaxed to open or close when asked). Above that another compartment which I now can use but which originally housed extra pillows. Next are two cupboards for hanging clothes with lots of hangers and space underneath.
The bathroom is the best of the accommodation with excellent LED lighting (as also over the desk), lots of towels (which are replaced even twice a day if used), excellent and abundant soft water all the time and always hot if needed, soap dispensers at the sink and in the shower which also has a shampoo dispenser.
I have been given the use of a white bathrobe and slippers (as a MSC Club member, but at HAL these were given to all).
As I said before,  since I have a year's worth of clothing and "stuff", available storage space is pretty much used up and I therefore can hardly encourage anyone to share my cabin, unless she's willing to snuggle up!

By the way, I met Fran (a character) and her friend Ann - they just passed by my cabin on the way to somewhere.


# 11 Fort Lauderdale - going South! November 1-11, 2010

Last night was Halloween with some people dressing up and there was a  party of sorts going on in the Zebra Lounge which always is a hub of activity and terribly noisy.  However, the Big Band of Les Demerle made an appearance in the Theatre and that was much more enjoyable, even though they don't quite measure up to the famous name bands.  The evening before was the election  of "Miss Poesia",  with mostly older women willing to make fools of themselves   as they had to perform some silly tasks, greatly goaded on by the "animation team" and people reacting dutifully to their shouts of "Applause!".  Not my  idea of fun.
Today once again a day of organized chaos, and at times bedlam, as hundreds of people leave, hundreds embark,  and in between hundreds go ashore and later come back. After trying unsuccessfully to get a WiFi signal on the open upper deck, I go into the terminal building and am rewarded, but have to work the laptop on my lap (hence the name?) which is inefficient and uncomfortable. However, I am able to receive and reply to several emails and send out my reports.
I do a lot of people watching and have come to the conclusion that by and large humanity is nothing to shout about. It appears that the vast majority of people on board are over 60, many considerably older and many grossly overweight. I've seen about 10 men so far with their damn baseball caps on, even in the restaurants, which sure detracts from the elegance of the place and I think to myself that since here is a dress code for restaurant attire, even though not enforced, his should not be tolerated. There is a sprinkling of yuppies with small children (which travel for free), and very few young people. 

On Deck 6 is a sort of shopping mall, selling attire, fancy jewellery, watches and souvenirs, also a duty free shop selling smokes and liquor (which however will only be given to the purchasers when they disembark).  There's a large photo gallery doing a huge business  selling hundreds of photos taken all the time and everywhere,  in restaurants, lounges, at the pools,  embarking, disembarking, with the captain or ship's officers - no opportunity seems to be missed. Prices start at $ 9.95.  Drumming up business is written big on this ship.

Another bottle of Moet Champagne and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries are in my room at 4pm.  I have it brought down to my table in the restaurant at 8, where of course, all my previous tablemates have left and only one new man, Tony, a State Trooper on a 14 day holiday and a nice guy is there.
We drink most of the Champagne together, the strawberries I distribute to happy people at two tables next to us.  Tomorrow I'll once more talk to Stefano about this crazy situation, but since he is only liaison and obviously has no executive powers, I will have to try to get to someone higher up in this organisation.
Looking out the big window of the lounge where I am sitting, the sea looks very wild, but he ship, of course equipped with stabilizers, is remarkably steady as it travels at around 19 knots, now along the island of Cuba, which however we cannot see until later.
Had my first swim in one of the pools at 6pm - all alone, whereas in the afternoon the place was teeming with people. However, it actually started to rain and so I only did 3 laps and am now back in my cubby-hole and listen to the CNN election coverage. I also had a shower and will now dress up again for the Gala Dinner, but for whom?

Dear friends, I find no record that # 12 was actually sent, so I do it and if you already had it, just delete!

 # 12 Still going South!  (Nov. 3) 

I want you to know that it's a labour of love,  this writing and sending of reports, especially the latter, because internet access is not always easy to come by - case in point this morning (I'm still in Cozumel, Mexico), where I had to walk in searing heat about 1 KM.  At this little cafe I gratefully had a cool Corona beer, but it took me all of 20 minutes to send off the report to Group # 1, because  some little flaw in one or more of the email addresses prevented the sending. I finally found the culprits:  a dot (.) was missing in one, and the > in another had a space between it and the last letter of the address - talking of being fussy!  But it's most frustrating and hard to find these little buggers, especially since I only have one useable eye.

Eventually I literally dragged myself back to the ship and as I walked along the narrow pier with the "Poesia" on one side of it and a Royal Caribbean behemoth on the other, it felt like walking in New York between the sky scrapers.  Oh how I regretted not having my camera!
At Lunch in the cafeteria on deck 13 I see lots of yachts and small boats flitting around in the astonishingly blue water and in the distance along the shore another pier with two more cruise ships - this makes now 6 in all and if you consider that each one carries 3000 or so passengers, you can imagine what a boon this must be for the town and the many shops catering to the tourists.  Many people go on tours -dozens of different ones are offered, others just take taxis into the center of town, some kilometres away from the piers.  It's too strenuous for me.

Last night at 10 was a huge "Carnival-Party" in the Zebra Lounge, the hub of activity on this ship, and it was a real circus, with at least 500 people in the large room; all couches and seats taken and hundreds of humanity milling around, most of them clapping and moving to the beat which was accompanying the at times discernable music.  By no means just young people, as a matter of fact, most over 50; in the crowd I even saw one in an electric scooter, but also a young woman with a maybe 6month old in her arms,  and I also saw several young kids. As is the energy in the place was not already high enough it was spiked when about 40 women appeared, made up with paint, fancy hats and crepe costumes (all previously prepared by the ever active anomation team); they formed a conga line, to which dozens of people added themselves, and they snaked through the crowds whooping and hollering, accompanied by the din of beats and clapping of hundreds of hands- it's hard to describe and for me, as for others, not tolerable for any length of time.  But an Experience! Anyway, I fled to the calming atmosphere of the Grappolo-Lounge and Angelica's music.

# 13 Puerto  Limon, Porto Rico, November 5, 2010 

It had rained here and it was overcast,  an oppressive 90% humidity gave the temperature a real tropical feel.  Again the walk from the midship exit along the pier to the Reception Building was a long one; inside the building dozens of Stands selling anything from partly very pretty souvenirs to Columbian coffee;
no internet there for me, so on into what looks a pretty dilapidated place - on the daily flier which we receive in the cabin they say that it is because of many earthquakes suffered and little money available for reconstruction and repair.
Anyway it's an impoverished impression I get. Past more shops, with their owners outside trying to lure me inside. There's no internet cafe, but an internet station on the second floor of a building which I have to climb up to because there is no elevator. Bu for $4/hr I am able to send my previously prepared reports, read 7 and answer 4 emails;  climb down the steep stairs one by one, only to discover on the street that I had forgotten my jacket upstairs - so once again with feeling and some expletives, up and down once more I go.
Back in the cabin at last, was I ever glad to be able to lie on my bed!

After lunch (I had pea soup and a small cheese patty& milk), I had a date with a guy to play a return game of  Scrabble the first of which he had lost and it was
only too obvious what that had done to his ego.  However, he lost again quite substantially, because, though 30 younger, he is a "lazy thinker", but actually not uneducated.   He left, with his tail between his legs (coming to think of it: where else?) and wants another try soon.  I told him that on my Panama Canal cruise last Dec/Jan, I became known as the "Scrabble Shark"  and I hope this made him feel better.
Then I saw that the pool was empty, changed, went up and did 5 laps (a 30' pool with beautiful seawater; at the end of the pool a waterfall empties into it - very
pretty indeed and I am looking  forward to sending pictures  once I get this elusive camera !)  There are a number of large and small Jacuzzis (Hot Tubs) which are very popular and people sit in them for hours, drink in hand and visiting. It's not for me and looking at some of these guys, swimming exercise would be more beneficial to them.   However.

 

#  14  Cristobal, Panama (Atlantic Panama Canal entry), Nov. 6, 2010 NOT SENT

I am sitting in the Disco on Deck # 14 and have connected to WiFi! And I see an amazing thing:  outside, a big cage passes slowly by the floor to ceiling glass. There are two men on it and the windows are being washed automatically from this rig, which travels on a rail all around the several decks that are surrounded with these glass windows, which seem to be held in place from the inside with special suction cups - quite amazing - will send pictures WHEN I have the camera! The windows are being sprayed with a water solution which leaves no trace and seems to dry right away - I am amazed !
That night a new "Miss Poesia" was elected - another circus! But before this was dancing which was fun to watch because these were all dances similar to the Macarena, - the stage was filled with people going through  the gyrations and movements to the music and rhythms (apart from those who did it in the aisles).
But just too much noise and too many people for any length of time.  In the next lounge plays an excellent jazz duo - just piano and drums - the pianist is as amazing as the drummer; the two are perfectly synchronized and probably have been together for a long time. But eventually I wind up around Angelica's piano again, an island of peace, and to me Angelica's playing feels as if she pours her heart out - I always get the impression that she is deeply troubled.
As a musician, she is nothing short of fabulous.

Cartagena, Columbia, November 7, 2010
I have been here before when the "Amsterdam" stopped here last January, coming out of the Panama Canal.  I made a few pictures then and am attaching them. The ship on # 3056 is the "Amsterdam"; the "Poesia" is bigger still. It's a very big city, from afar has a skyline not unlike New York's.  On  the shore there are literally hundreds of containers piled up, all marked "Hamburg-Süd. Luckily there is a free shuttle bus from the ship to the Terminus building - a distance I would have great trouble to walk back and forth.  Previously, I had tried to connect to a free WiFi, but without success and ashore I discovered that I had to buy tickets to assess a connection, which I did and then sat in a sort of  garden and was able to "do my thing" at a table and in cool comfort since the area was covered by a big tarpaulin, which also shielded me from a rain squall which suddenly occurred. Needless to say, I did not take a taxi to go into the city.
Instead, I returned to the ship, went to the pool deck and swam 10 laps in the wonderful pool, only occasionally shared with one or two others. And then, when I just wanted to leave, I was asked if I was Egon by a lady ready to come into the pool, and it was Cori,  whom I only knew from the Forum on the CruiseCritic website; she had been looking for me; she and her husband Al a very nice younger couple from NY - they have a group of friends with them and I'm sure I'll get to know all of them.

Then lunch (mussle soup, a roll with a little roast beef, a glass of milk and a small pastry which I shouldn't have had but couldn't resist) - then a short siesta and now I sit on deck 6 at the open atrium, looking down at the unplayed piano one deck  below - it's shortly before 4pm and everything is relatively quiet with few people milling around for a change.

Nov.8  is a day at sea
 - quite windy and the boat is rocking, the swimming pools are wildly agitated and a few people are bobbing up and down in them.
I had breakfast in the cafeteria and it's really not an enjoyable experience with masses of people in long lines, a terrific noise level which makes conversation all but impossible.  Since I don't go for the hot items offered and most in demand (eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns etc.), I avoid the lineup, get a Müsli and a couple of slices of the nice dark bread they have strangely only in the mornings, butter, jams, coffee and cranberry juice, actually find a seat and wind up observing the cross-section of people around me.  There is a noticeable segment of blacks; there are many human ruins with canes, walkers, some with electric chairs; I have seen three people either spastic or having to walk in a doubled-up stance. And there is the usual crop of guys with baseball hats and they always seem of a type. Most of the expressions on the faces of the people coming to eat is one of anxiety, as if they were in peril of not getting any food. And it is hard to find what could be considered good looks, male or female.  But, sitting in a glass house, I shouldn't throw stones.
I played again from3.45 to 4.30 pm in the magnificent Atrium on the white Kawai Grand with the  Lucite transparent top, but at that time , except for some 10 people who had made a point to come and listen, there were few others.

Montega Bay, Jamaica, November 9, 2010
It looks green and inviting, it's 85F and somewhat oppressive. Went down and around but there's no internet access anywhere. Turns out that I would have to go to town, some distance away, at $ 5 each way, where internet is available at a charge.  I opt out of this opportunity, come back to the ship and swim 12 laps in a pool devoid of others -wonderful and I feel very virtuous. And you, my friends, just will have to wait until we are back in  Fort Lauderdale on the 11th.            
November 10, 2010, and it's another day at sea, a day when I played Scrabble with Michelle, friend of Cori and her group from the CruiseCritic.com, and "took her pants off"; wanted   to swim, but there were too many kids in the water and when I went to swim at 6.30 pm, they were just closing the pools down and I only could do one lap. Before that, from 3.45 for an hour, I played in the Atrium and had many listeners and much applause; Michelle came up and kissed me (twice), which was photographed by Al, Cori's husband (I think), and I'll get the pics sometime by email.  Too bad  they all are leaving tomorrow in Fort Lauderdale, as do my dining room tablemates and a lot of other new-found "sudden friends".  A new "crop" will get on board tomorrow and the cycle stats all over.  The fact that I get to tell my story again and again is not really to my liking but somewhat inevitable once I am asked where I'll get off the ship or when I got on, and once it's  known that I am on it for a year, there are many questions to be answered (and most people are quite envious!).      
What an ordeal in Fort Lauderdale - but about that later, must get this off while I can.      
  

#15  3-day Rock 'Roll Cruise to Nassau, Bahamas Nov. 11-14 2010

Still haven't been able to send off # 14 - no internet availability in Nassau, except for $ 6.95 - you'll have to wait some more.  The "ordeal" in Fort Lauderdale I spoke of before had to do with the fact that all passengers who went on the next cruise had to go through US Immigration and also get a new cruise card. To make a long story short, it took all morning and involved long waiting times in a lounge and long standing times in lines - altogether over 4 hours. And tomorrow (Nov. 14), and every time after that when the ship comes back from the Caribbean, will be a repeat, but I plan to somehow get out of this.
This 3-day Rock'nRoll Cruise was a surprise to me, since it was not advertised in the daily bulletins I gat in the cabin. Suffice it ti say that in Fort Lauderdale,  a
large group of young "rockers" boarded the ship , along with others who had booked a 10-day cruise which included this 3-day one.  The "events" were pretty much limited to the pool deck and the Pigalle Lounge   - in both venues huge amplifiers and loudspeakers had arrived earlier. When I wanted to take a swim around 6pm on the pool deck, the noise, consisting mainly of an eardrum shattering deep beat together with other unidentifiable -what does one call it, cacophony-  was an absolute insult to one's senses and I just had to quit after 2 laps. But I am happy to say that the segregation of the Rock events and the rest of the worked pretty well.

Another bottle of Asti Spumante awaited me in my cabin and I had it brought down to the dinner table to share with whoever new would be there, since my previous shipmates had gone. And just as if my comment had been taken to heart ("unless you supply the Blonde with it, skip the champagne"), there was
Kelly,  blond and from Calgary, divorced but living with an Alfred and mother of 5 kids but looking damn good to me,  on my other sie a big guy and a character, talking a bunch of buklshit and religion but very entertaining at that, and opposite John, who took it all in.  Anyway we had the champagne and I expect to get another bottle soon for the next leg - apparently this will not be changed, as my liaison friend Stefano told me tonight (Nov.13) when we had a talk about all sorts of things.
Before Nassau, we were supposed to land at Coco Cay, which is  a privately owned island with beautiful beached and surround by the blue and crystal clear waters which are a paradise for snorklers and scuba divers to view  beautiful tropical fishes and reefs.  However, the seas were too rough for tendering and so we left the area earlier than scheduled.

Nassau is quite a place and because I hat to find a Laundromat, I got a real good feel of the city and the people. After inquiry,  I found the bus to take and got off after a 10-minute ride and walked a short distance to a kind of shopping center and the laundrymat and was able to "do my thing". While waiting, tried to connect unsuccessfully to the internet  via WiFi. Then, I again took the same bus
to go back to the vicinity of the ship and for the $ 1 it cost, it took me for a 3/4 hr. ride all through the city, through some pretty crummy but also some very elegant residential areas, all very reminiscent of Guadalajara in Mexico.  The bus - an elongated van- seems to stop on demand and people pay as they get off, not when they get on; there's a brand of Jamaican Rock playing and in the bus, as also in the laundry, I get to see and hear a good cross-section of Jamaican men and woman - the whole experience very fascinating.  But I sure was bushed
when I finally got back to the pier where there was a shuttle bus to take people to and from no less than four huge cruise ships lined up besides each other (MSC, NCL,Princess, Royal Caribbean), but since he did not at this time go down to the entrance for the Poesia, I went with him alongside all the other ships, before finally getting off at the ramp of my "home". 

While I was writing all this, there was a knock at the door and it was the delivery of another ice bucket with champagne (this time a real Moet!) and a plate with about 10 chocolate covered strawberries ...  I told the guy to deliver it to my table at 8pm when it is my dinner time - it's another Gala night, so whoopee!
How I wish to be able to be able to recapture the romance of being in love and being loved, that would go so well with the champagne ...
   

 

# 16  Fort Lauderdale-Charlotte Amalie etc. Nov.14-21, 2010 

Of course in F.L. the same organized chaos with the US Immigration requirements and it took most of the morning until I was through and started to do the computer thing; but it was only towards 5 pm that I was finally able to send out reports and replies to emails - it was a very frustrating time because of my limited computer knowledge to fix what prevented the operation.  But lo and behold, there came another bottle of champagne (this time "only" an Asti Spumante sparkling wine, and again a plate with 10 chocolate covered huge strawberries; I realized that the one I had gotten yesterday should have been sent to me at the beginning, not the end of the 3-day trip, and this one was correctly delivered at the beginning of this 7-day cruise. Of course I sent it down again to the table, where a newcomer, Rick, had joined us and we had quite a lot of fun with much humorful BS going around. And Kelly, who melted away at the sight of the strawberries (and, like before, took several "home" with her, together with the rest of the mascarpone desert in which she dipped them) - and here I thought diamonds were a girl's best friends! 

Now we'll be at sea for 2 full days and Kelly and I will have a Scrabble rematch; while I won the first game, she's is a worthy opponent.
Meantime, by just circulating with the Scrabble box prominently exposed and occasionlly asking likely looking prospects, I did find two women sitting at a table with whom I played; one of them a typical "Southern Belle" (with a lisp to boot!) who played very well but amazingly did not know words like "Elan" or "Consommé".  In the late afternoon I paled the piano again in the Atrium, when Stefano (the Concierge) came up to me and informed me that my laundry would be free! That's big progress and he is still working on some deal with internet access. I had given him a MSC brochure in which there were the  prices for all the cruises up to March 2011, on which I had written what I am paying for them
which turns out to be almost double. I don't know what he'll do with this information, but who knows, maybe, if it gets to the right people of authority through him, some changes may be made.  By the way, as an MSC Club member I always get a bowl of fresh fruit (apple, pear, plum, kiwi, Orange, sometimes also grapes and a banana), with a plate, serviette and knife and fork; the bowl is replaced every day. I sure am getting spoiled!
November 17, 2010  Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)

A  beautiful Island of which  Charlotte Amalie is the capital. From where we are docked,  apart from many commercial buildings with shops, we are facing an emerald hill with villas among the lush vegetation; beyond are beautiful beaches and hotels with the inviting crystal -clear blue Caribbean waters.  Four ships moored around the island, thousands of people milling around town reminiscing of Gibraltar, it's hot and humid and my internet time has expired....


# 17 St. Thomas-Philipsburg-Nassau-Fort Lauderdale Nov.18-21, 2010

At St. Thomas I went into town with one of the many "taxis", which are anything from open but roofed pickups to small trucks, all with 3-5 upholstered benches, vying furiously for fares and the competition is fierce, because there seem to be too many of these; they charge $ 4 one way to go into the actual town, about one and a half mile away, but I found out that they'll also take three... Anyway, I went, as usual in search of an internet cafe or other connection and in a way was very glad that I did, because it gave me a real feel of the very charming place with many romantic alleys and buildings. Of course it's all tourist-oriented, understandably so: it's a major cruise destination and there were actually five, not four of these huge ships parked in various coves around the island, adding crowds to the bumper to bumper traffic.  At a little park I found a bench to rest and sat beside a man who turned out to be from North Bay, Ontario, and knew of my son Steve, who for many years was the local weatherman on radio and/or TV and also knew Torbay, where Steve lives. Small world and, as so often, I get the feeling that these apparently chance occurrences are not really random. I had to do a lot of walking until I finally found the internet cafe where for $ 5 I was able to do my thing, but in the afternoon, when I went off the ship again after a little lunch and rest, I actually found a place to walk to where I got WiFi for $ 3. I'll be back here several times in the next few months - now I know! By the way: a Funicular (Tram) goes up the mountain in front of the ship and I am certain it was built by the Swiss von Rolle outfit.  And: I came across a big sign "Little Switzerland" and gleefully expected to find a Swiss Restaurant - but only watches and jewellery (which also are  being offered in profusion on board ship).

I learned today that there are 187 Germans on board, but I hear a few languages which I don't recognize (apart from  Chinese). There are also quite a number of parents with kids (which travel free up to age 11) - from babes in arms, in strollers, to toddlers and older ones.
In the evening there was first a Meringue dance lesson on the pool deck, where, in front of a stage, people were dancing (or  learning to) to live music enhanced by canned background - lots of fun to watch, but of course very loud. And after that, at 10.15pm they had a show similar to the one in the theatre, with the dancers, a juggler and the knife-throwing act - all very good.  Hundreds of people, not only on this deck, but also the one above, were people packed the railings to look down on the proceedings.  NOISY!! And very good visual effects with strobe lights in varying colours. All under a sky full of stars and a breeze because of course we were moving and the sea was relatively calm.

I did not go ashore at Philipsburg when I saw the long way I would have to walk from the ship to the terminal and other buildings, instead tried unsuccessfully to find a  useable WiFi connection. But I swam some 15 laps instead. Anyway, the time at this place was only  between 4 or 5 hours. Here, too, several other cruise ships were parked. The town is the main one on the island of Saint Marteen which is one of five comprising the Netherlands Antilles. 
Nassau (again), November 19, 2010,  after two days at sea (over 900 Miles)
Same situation as in Phillipsburg - too far to walk ashore  and again no WiFi to find. Also, only about  a 4 hours stay. So it was swimming again, in a pool devoid of other people and in calm waters, different from in the morning, when we were still on high and rough seas, which made also the pool  erupt in mighty waves, overflowing at its ends. 2 laps was all I managed, and got swamped several times in the process.
Yesterday afternoon, I played again in the Atrium and when I had finished, a few people came up to voice their appreciation, among them a lady who said to me that I had been the highlight of the cruise for her 93 year old mother, sitting at the balcony one deck higher and overlooking the piano underneath and I went up and greeted her. A very nice lady, younger looking and with all her faculties. She is originally from Sicily (long time ago), lives with this daughter in New York. The daughter, fiftyisch, divorced since 26 years, seems to me to have Semitic features.

Anyway, I told them that I would share my next champagne with them, since they will stay on, unlike most of my other new acquaintances who will disembark tomorrow, including Kelly, with whom I had played many Scrabble games.
There were 5 huge cruise ships parked in a row side by side in Nassau.  Can you imagine the number of people they disgorged to go into town or on excursions around the area ? (Each ship carries up to 3000 passengers).
 

Since I cannot find a record that this was sent, here it is (again)!

# 18 Fort Lauderdale - Key West-Ocho Rios-Georgetown-Cozumel-FL

November 21-28
I spent practically all day with the computer on my lap in the Terminal Building after enduring another bout of having to go through US Immigration after all disembarking passengers had done so. But it seemed to go just a little bit smoother this time, taking only about two and a half hours.  But I did have a frustrating time trying to find what the computer said was not right with my addresses; I copied them onto te notepad and blew them up, found a couple of dots in places where they didn't belong, but still was unable to send. Eventually I sent the entire list to Steve and he did find an extra comma which I had missed und, what a relief after HOURS!!, I was able to dispatch the stuff.
The list grows by leaps and bounds and so does the chance of malicious gremlins playing tricks on me.  I was able to contact Barbara Glowth by Skype, after exchanging email messages with her and am looking forward to seeing her in FL in the near future - she has offered to show me the town and environments, which is really very nice.
But  I have now started the routine of swimming 15 laps first thing before breakfast and am astounded that between 7.30 and 8 AM, of 3000 people
not one is in the pools only a few in the hot tubs.

And off we go again in the evening. There has been an enormous amount of activity on board with the newcomers looking for their cabins,  finding their
way or reconnoitring the ship and I note that there are many more kids than before. 
As anticipated, champagne and strawberries sat on the desk in my cabin. As I had said to the 93-year old lady and her daughter that I would share he next bottle with them, I went around 5 pm, with my drink in hand, looking for them in places where they might be listening to music, since I could not find them in their cabin.  Suddenly, a lady accosted me by name and sure cut my search for the others short ... Stefanie, it turns out, had seen my story published with a picture in the Osoyoos Time and apparently making the rounds on Cruise Critic.com, together with my reports which some other member has chosen to post on this website - so she recognized me.  Well, we sat down right there where the encounter happened in the Zebra Lounge (still relatively quiet at that time) and got to know some things about each other, which made me decide to just bring a couple of glasses of Champagne and two strawberries to Camille and her mother and have the rest at our table, to which I was able, through Ugo, the Maitre d', to have Stefanie transferred from the one she has been assigned to. Previously, I checked out the newcomers at my table, which this time consisted of 3 women and one man and, (just my luck!), when I brought Stefanie to the table, lo and behold, she and the man (Wayne) already knew each other and he sure made a play for her. All at the table (it's for single travelers) are divorcees, by the way; one of them, from Argentina, can only speak a few words in English. Stefanie is by far the winner. Like it always seems to be the case, this table is one of the very last to vacate after Dinner, because of very animated discussions happen and so it was close to 10pm, Stefanie, who had been up since 5am, flying to FL, went to bed and I also - my own.

Today (Nov.22) in Key West,
a shuttle bus took me to the centre  of the Old Town, of which I got to see a lot, because I was anxious to get to the Post Office where, hopefully, I would be able to connect with my new camera at last; once again I wished I already had the scooter, more or less limping along
fair distances from where the shuttle stopped to the Post Office and back again. But, Eureka! my effort was rewarded and I sure heaved a sigh of relief - the camera was there, and it works and looks fine. This endeth another trial.
Back in my cabin, an invitation to dine with the captain at 8.30 tonight - I have arrived! It's also a Gala night again and there's a Gala Cocktail Party for everyone in two shifts, 5.45 and 7.30 and, since I've had been to two of these before, I am looking forward to having a martini, which is also offered, rather than the "usual" champagne (if I sound blasé, forgive me!).

DINNER WITH THE CAPTAIN: There were two couples besides myself invited, who were seated left and right from the captain at a large table in an alcove located in the back of the Palladio restaurant. Before we went there, more  champagne in the Bar dei Poeti, but after having had two martinis just before, I only sipped at it.  At the other end of the table sat Guiseppe, the Chief engineer, I to his left and to my left Antonino, the Hotel Manager - both of these men way over 50 and had almost as many stripes as the captain. To the right of Guiseppe, opposite me, were two more engineers of lesser importance than the Chief.  I got along fabulously with all of them,  especially Antonino, to whom I had been introduced on a previous occasion.  The menu was essentially the same as the gala night menu in the restaurant., but I noticed special care and enhancement made to the various dishes (I had their wonderful shrimp cocktail, followed by duck à l'orange, which I couldn't finish and a fancy cake/desert. There was red and white wine offered and a special liqueur at the end of the meal.  The maitre d' Ugo was in charge of several waiters hovering nearby at the ready at any moment to spring into action, and the Sommelier Luigi was personally taking care of the wine and gave an explanatory talk about the origin of the special liqueur the name of which I don't remember.  I toasted the Captain and the "Magnifica Poesia", but learned that my calling him "Signor Capitano" was somewhat "degrading" since he should be addressed as Commodore. Oh well.  He took it in stride and after dinner came up to me, shook my hand and uttered complimentary words in English, which he speaks quite well.  I commented about the very active social life he must live, since I have observed how often he is involved in Public Relation events. He has of course a large staff of officers who probably do most, if not all, of the work pertaining to handling the ship. Back in my cabin later that evening, I found a little package with a note from the hotel manager Anonino, thanking me for being the dinner guest at the captain's table.  The quite unexpected gift is a very fancy looking compass which I have yet to investigate.

I met Anne, the alternate cruise director from Germany who was supposed to go on a 6-week leave on the 15th which now was postponed to the 28th; we had a long talk and finally decided to call each other by first name and with the familiar "Du" in German. She told me that there are more than 300 Germans on board now and the reason there are so many kids is that this week is the American Thanksgiving.
This is what I submitted together with the Comment Form we were requested to fill out:

TO  WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
Constructive criticism by Egon Landsberg

1)  CAPTAIN'S COCKTAIL PARTIES
This is not only my personal complaint, but also one nearly all present agreed with:  not only is the music much too loud, but the type totally unsuited.
SOLUTION: have soft background music befitting cocktail time, which will enable people to talk to each other without having to shout, which not only adds to the  noise but also lessens the enjoyment of the event.
2)  CAFETERIA
The breakfast buffet features two types of excellent dark sliced bread.  These are not available at lunchtime. Instead, a white "French bread  is offered, which is not suitable, as the dark bread would be for a sandwich, for which cold cuts and cheese are displayed.
SOLUTION: Reverse! The French bread is anyway much more suitable for breakfast.
3)  POOL DECK
Towels are only available at the rear of the deck, which means a long walk for people that don't  come up there.
SOLUTION:  Have another distribution point midships.
4)  ATTIRE IN RESTAURANTS
Men wearing baseball Caps in restaurants not only display bad manners but make other people uncomfortable and degrade the elegance of the ship.
SOLUTION: Add the following sentence to the information given on the last page of the flier about restaurants and gala nights:
"In the interest of general decor, it would be appreciated that no baseball caps or hats be worn in the restaurants."
 

#19  Georgetown (Cayman Islands), Cozumel, (Mexico),F ort Lauderdale (Nov.25-28, 2010).

This island is famous for it's "snorkel beaches", but the town itself, is, predictably, very tourist-oriented - lots of stores selling jewellery, T-shirts, souvenirs like conch shells and of course duty free booze; however, you cannot take it with you, they'll deliver it right to your cabin on the ship and it may well be that in this case, it will be taken away and stored until the buyer disembarks.  There are strict customs regulations, because there is high duty on liquor and they want to be sure that none of the duty free stuff gets into the hands of locals.  Very different from either Jamaica or Mexico. Anyway, I was happy to be directed to the Cafe del sol, which turned out to be a Tim Horton's franchise with free WiFi - hurray! Our ship, as well as one from Carnival, was anchored and we were ferried to land by tender which is quite a smooth operation.  But we'll leave pretty early today (4 pm) and will be in Cozumel again tomorrow at 11.30.
Had an email today from Pat, whom I haven't met and who has been posting my reports on cruisecritic.com and she'll come aboard on F.L. on January 9 for the next cruise; after corresponding for some time, we are both anxious to check each other out. She has an advantage, because she saw the newspaper article with my picture,  whereas I only got a non-descriptive one from her, peeking out of a full bathtub.

There are, by the way, an awful lot of kids on board, mostly loud, spoiled and obnoxious. It's because this is Thanksgiving week, with school holiday and kids travel free. Most grown ups are less than enthusiastic about the situation.
Cozumel (Mexico) - pretty long walk from the pier to shore, but not far away is a Tim Horton's, where I have a Capuccino for $4 and sit for almost three hours with free WiFi in a small und noisy Cafe. All I did was reply to emails, send some photos to a few people and struggle to find a better method to resize the pictures I have taken; now I think that have reduced the file size in the camera and that will be much better for mailing.
Another gala night and another captain's cocktail for "repeaters, honeymooners, VIP and Tour Leaders". Ho-Hum.

Very often I am being stopped by complete strangers who somehow know about my year's stay on the ship and want to ask questions or comment, mostly admiringly and with some envy and statements like "that's what I want to do".

On the way back to Fort Lauderdale, we have a cloudy sky and cool temperature. I swim alone and do 20 laps, later play Scrabble with Stefanie and Diane and lose. Our Dining room table will no doubt be renewed with newcomers in F.L., only Stefanie remains for another cruise. I guess I'll be able to greet everybody with champagne again.
 

#20  November 28-December 5, 2010 

Going South again. It's a cool, partly sunny morning, the sea and the pool are animated and I have to struggle a bit to do 20 laps against the back and forth and at time sideways movement of the water in the pool, which, by the way is 5'7-6'3 (1.70m-1.90m) deep.  But the sun is coming up and is right in front of the ship and I wear dark sunglasses.  Then breakfast: Cranberry juice, a toasted English Muffin (so glad they have these) and a small piece of rye bread, butter (salted or unsalted), orange marmalade and grape jelly, so-so since the commercial type in the small  boxes, coffee.  Most people have big breakfasts and everything is offered -from different cereals, including hot ones, different fruits, both whole and open (i.e. grapefruit, orange, pineapple, mixed melons).
Different style eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, hash brown potatoes; several kinds of Danish pastries, bagels, rolls, English muffins, two kinds of bread, toast - a veritable cornucopia and the waste is really a terrible sight. I am told, however, that this is ground up and released into the ocean as fish food. so at least not all is lost.  I eat breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria (although one can also go for either to a restaurant or have a continental breakfast in the cabin) and sit at the floor-to-ceiling window and marvel at the vast expanse of the ocean and the deep  blue of the Caribbean water, which is quite choppy today.

Our dining room table is complete with 4 newcomers; next to me is Regina, a somewhat pretty lady from New York who however has some health issues and a headache and leaves the table again without eating; next to her is Malcolm, an interesting man,  architect and also a painter of murals; next to him voluminous Jeff who also is a special type, but because of the din I only get little smatterings of the conversation between him and Stefanie who sits to my right; between her and Jeff sits Sharon, a lady who seems very nice but, like me, is not involved much in conversation which requires a loud voice and straining to hear what is said - the noise level is formidable.  As expected, I am again  blessed with Asti Spumante and strawberries which I had sent to the table and everyone happily partakes -except Regina who can't tolerate wines (but likes martinis).

I bring a couple of strawberries to Rosanne,  a very pretty and vivacious 20-year old from Peru, sitting at a nearby table; I got to know her when sitting next to her listening to the jazz duo in the Bar dei Poeti and would have had her transferred to our table if there had been room, since she is single. She stops by our table after dinner and gives me a kiss with a thank you.  I stopped by the reception and ask them to try and arrange that this champagne perk not be delivered at 5 o'clock of a new cruise day to my cabin, but rather at 8 o'clock to our dining room table - I hope this can be done, because it is quite awkward to get the stuff from the cabin down to the restaurant and in the 3 hours standing in my room, all the ice is melted.  (Don't you wish you had my problems?!)
Gala night again, with preceding cocktails (the only time when they offer martinis and an other actual cocktail besides champagne and a virgin Bloody Mary). Since I am exposed to these social high society events so often, I seem to degenerate fast and may never be the same again.  With this, and all these tempting but temporary women around me, is this the way to becoming the proverbial ancient playboy à la Hugh Hefner?

Dec 1 again in Charlotte Amelie (St. Thomas), sitting on a drafty terrace with $ 3 WiFi which now has only "limited internet access" because there are about 40
people on line right here; however, since I came early, I was able to attend to my email at least. in front of the terrace a never ending stream of traffic -amazing; I wonder where they all go to. Of course there are several cruiseships in port and masses of people everywhere. Many from our ship go on tours and to various beaches around the island. I did my 20 laps in the pool at 7.15 this morning and while swimming watched the people on the deck above (a walkway surrounding the pool deck below) - they are jogging, power walking or just taking pictures; there are many different shapes and sizes (LOTS of sizes!!). Against the floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides of the pool there are tables and chairs and people bring their breakfasts out from the cafeteria on the same deck - this is a smoking area, and many do.  After Dinner last night we from our table (except Malcom) moved to one of the lounges and continued an animated discussion on religion that was started earlier, finally breaking up at 11 PM. 
 

# 21  December 2-5, 2010 Back to Fort Lauderdale 

In Philipsburg,  Capital of St. Marteen (Dutch); the Northern part of the island is French St. Martin.  On one side, we have the German beautiful looking ship "Aida", on the other a Celebrity.  While I do the long trek to the shore and look around the many shops there, duty free and the whole appearance of the place most attractive, I opt not to go into town, which is at least a mile away.  Tried for WiFi, but the only available is at a Telecom shop at $ 10/hr. So now I am back in my cabin and since we are leaving already at 2.30 pm, will not go out again.
Last night more discussions about religion at our table;  later I go onto the pool deck for a Tropical Party and run into Michael, now with the new title of "American Activities Director" and we have a long talk (mostly by him) about  difficulties he has with Katharina, the Cruise Director with whom he works together. He and I get along beautifully and we like one another. Too bad that his posiition is not one benefitting me in getting to achieve changes which I would like to be made.  Then I watch the fun dancing - this time actually enjoyable, because unlike the first time I came up to watch this event a few weeks ago,  there are many fewer people - I am told that there are only a little over 1000 people aboard and for the next cruise there will be 2000+.

Every morning I now swim all of 20 laps; it takes me 3/4 hr, but since this means that I get up early after getting to bed relatively late, I miss on some zzz's and have a litte siesta in the afternoon.  Still playing Scrabble with Stefanie and play the piano in the Atrium (it's actually the Hotel Lobby) on sea days, but am sorry that Stefanie will be leaving when we get to Fort Lauderdale in two days, as will all my present table mates, all of which were very interesting people.  So now there will be a new crop and I wonder whether it will work that the expected champagne etc.  will be delivered to the table at 8pm as I requested, rather than to my cabin. Tonight (Dec.3) another Gala evening preceded by cocktails in one of the lounges.

Dec 4.
Nassau (Bahamas), sitting on steps in the Port Terminus with free WiFi but chaotic conditions - there are no less than 7 huge cruise ships in port and hundreds of people are returning to their ships through a check point, show their cruise card and an ID, just a few feet away from where I am sitting and it's a seemingly never ending stream of humanity.  AND THE NOISE!!
Here a few photos including one  taken last night of my tablemates and myself - the two women will leave tomorrow, but the big guy stays on and we'll get a new crop of people. It's a table for 6, reserved for single travellers and while we had a full complement at the beginning of the last cruise, 3 had switched to other tables with friends.  So tomorrow it's Fort Lauderdale again and I'll spend it with Barbara Glowth, a member of Cruise Critic and former passenger, who lives there and has offered to show me the city.
 

#22 December 5 - 12, 2010  Going South

The day in Fort Lauderdale was great and Barbara drove me through all the environments - which sure are impressive.  And that they call F.L. the Second Venice is certainly justified with the many canals with beautiful homes  and gorgeous yachts fronting them.  We had lunch at a large Jewish deli restaurant - a
welcome change in diet! Matzoball Chicken Soup and half a smoked beef (only they call it "corned beef" )sandwich with cold slaw and an entire pickle - WOW!  Later we went to their house where I was able to reply to some emails.  A nice day!

And now I am in Key West, that is, I was, since we are already under way as I write this. An eventful and fruitful day, because I finally got the Travelscoot.com (look at it!) and had help with it by Tim, a newcomer  to our table which, apart from Jeff, who is doing another leg, has Tia, a black lady, but two chairs are empty.
Of course there was the "usual" champagne (i.e. sparkling wine) which we shared. But back to the scooter. While it cost me almost $ 50 in taxi fare and storage charges at the UPS Store, I sure was glad that finally this has been gotten and Tim was very helpful in setting it up. I used it right away,  in the afternoon drove quite a distance into town where I found a Starbucks with WiFi.  The Scooter is all I had hoped for and I am very happy to have it.  The nice thing is that I don't even have to undo and fold it up in the cabin - I have a perfect spot for it and it's out of the way. I'll take a picture later and send it. Before, when I got back to the cabin, there was a little package for me. It contained a small box with the "Black Card" from the MSC club and a badge like the ones worn by all MSC employees including officers, with my name on it and underneath "VIP Guest".  There was a note with it, reading "Caro Egon, Your MSC Black Card has finally arrived. We also think it would be nice to give you a MSC Badge since you are part of our family. It is a great pleasure having you on board. With our best regards, Stefano Aloia, Hotel Secretary".  So I have arrived!

Another newcomer at our table,  lives since 35 years in Canada but is Iranian, calls himself "John" which I am certain is't his real name. Seems like a nice guy. Because of his religion, he eats kosher, but the ship has no kosher menu, which I find surprising since there are a lot of Jewish people on these cruises.   So he concentrates on seafood which is always available and very good.  Now we are 4 men and 1 woman; Tia is only 29 but looks older, maybe because she is overweight, quite busty and sports a prominent cleavage.  I don't mind sitting next  her.

Before we got to Ocho Rios, there was another Gala evening with preceding cocktail party for everyone where,  as I mentioned before, they also serve martinis of which I had two.  Was sitting next to a nice couple from Cape Canaveral in Winter and Hayesville, NC in Summer; he a retired flight captain, and she reminds me of Sandy.  But what I feel must have been a mistake, since I already received my "ration" for this cruise when leaving Fort Lauderdale: there was another bottle of champagne (the real stuff, MOET) and a plate with chocolate covered strawberries - it all went down to the table, but since two men don't drink, Jeff, Tia and I had half the bottle and will finish it tonight.  Such waste of potential romance. And on top of it, I am not even fond of champagne.
The sea was rough this morning when I went for my swim shortly after 7am - we only got into Ocho Rios at 9 - so the pool was pretty rough too for the first half hour or so, but then calmed down as we entered the approach to the island. From the ship to shore in Ocho Rios was a pretty long way and I was zooming along like Speedy Gonzales on my Travelscoot which behaved beautifully also on several ramps which I had to climb to find a new location for free WiFi, after being directed to it by a helpful policeman. 

December 9
in Georgetown (Cayman Islands) we had to tender in. They took me and the scooter down to the gangplank in a little elevator and loading the scooter into the tender (a motorboat holding some 125 people) was no problem. Ashore I discovered that I had forgotten my wallet; I went to the Starbuck's Cafe just the same,  thinking that I may well meet someone from the ship who would lend me a few dollars . I actually did after I decided to try for WiFi  in front of the place and had their WiFi even without having to buy a coffee.  It was a beautiful day with temperature around 75 and the town is bustling with activity - I see many banks and names of international companies, so it must be an important commercial center on this island with its beautiful beaches and lush vegetation. Wonder how it would to live here?
Tonight a large envelope was delivered to me in the cabin. It contained a large photograph of Cori and Michelle who were on the ship in November and played Scrabble with me; Cori had sought me out because she "knew" me from CruiseCritic.  They also had listened to me playing in the Atrium and Cori made two photos of Michelle and I at he piano, one posing,  another kissing!  I don't know how she did this and figure that she must have left the envelope and enclosed note with the board Photoshop with instruction to make these copies. Really very touching.

At Cozumel Dec. 10,
outside Starbuck's at a shaky table and lots of trouble getting on line, probably there were so many others and the bandwidth was too narrow. But eventually I was able to send out some emails.  Lots and lots of people from at least two cruise ships I see. Some women sport fancy head ornaments of  balloon-sausages twisted into artistic (?) configurations. I made a photo of two of them, however the camera was on "video". Par for the course.
While swimming in the morning, I have occasion to watch people, most with coffee cups or breakfast plates in hand, walking around looking for free seats at the tables on both sides, while one deck higher, on the balcony surrounding the ship, many jog or walk. Again there are many children on board, some babies, in arms or strollers. There also are many old and frail people around; one man, obviously a stroke victim, can hardly walk, another has only one leg but I saw him on the dance floor hopping around on it (is that exhibitionism?), and there are several people in wheelchairs, both push-type and electric ones.  Many Germans as well as Russians this time - a very interesting mix.
While the cabin and restaurant stewards are either Indonesian (Selamat Pakee=Good morning) or from Madagascar (Salama), the girls (for drinks) running around with small trays, sometimes with 2 glasses of decorated Sangrias on them which they hope someone will buy, come from Bulgaria, Roumania and the Ukraine.  All staff above these ranks seem to be Italian.
 

# 23  December 12-19-2010 Eastern Caribbean  

It's 20 minutes to seven as I write this in a somewhat crowded situation in my cabin, to the right a Rye and  ginger ale and a little bowl with the oriental cracker mixture which always comes along when you either order a drink at the bar or at the cocktail parties (when I help myself for the lonely moments). Like clockwork, five minutes ago room service delivered a bottle of Moet and the plate with strawberries and I persuaded him to take it  down to my table in the restaurant. It's always a nice reception for whatever newcomers will be at the table, but rather boring for me because it always leads to my explaining over and over again the why's and wherefore's. Maybe I should print it all out on a sheet to pass around?

After the usual immigration ordeal which is attached to every return to Fort Lauderdale, I went into town on my scooter and must have covered 4-5 Miles.  Found  a Mega Liquor Store with great prices and bought a half gallon of Seagram's VO Canadian Whisky, found a Supermarket where I looked for Aromat, a Swiss condiment which I love but had to settle for Accent to add flavour to some dishes which lack it somewhat. And two litre bottles of Schweppes Ginger Ale on Sale and then headed "home" again but had to ask directions as I had lost my way in the shuffle. By the way, I was not concerned about the booze, because I discovered that at Ft.L, there is only one scan and that is operated, I think, by the US Security which doesn't care about what you take aboard as long as it passes the security criteria. The scooter behaved admirably and I was glad that I could on several occasions lift first the front, then the rear easily up or down and curb where there was no handicap access. Went for a small lunch in the cafeteria, rested 1/2 hr and had a phone call from Stefano who said that he had a lady there who wants to meet me,  and when I asked him for her same, he said "EmiIy". I went down to meet her and it was Erin, from the MSC Fort Lauderdale office, with whom I had dealt extensively over several month, but never met. I had once written her that I figured her to be about 24 but she turns out to be 32,  a cute and busty little Irish lass, alas. Anyway, we chewed the fat for about 20 minutes,  when she had to leave again.  I then walked down again to the top floor of the Terminal Building to attend to my computer work and had trouble sending out anything for quite a while since it wouldn't "synchronize offline changes" - still something I don't understand. But after trying this and that and rebooting, it finally was nice to me.

The newcomers at the dinner table are three women and one man. To the right of me is a lady from San Francisco but Iranian, which is an odd coincidence, because in the same chair sat John, the Iranian, before. Next to me is a real chatterbox who dominates the table and is the ype who may ask you a question about yourself only to use the answer as a steppingstone for a long dissertation of her own experiences (or her daughter's, or about her grandchild...)Next to her a lady from New Brunswick and beside her a man from British Columbia who is the quiet type - I asked him whether he is always so quiet or was he waiting to get a word in edgewise and this hint to my neighbour was greeted with much amusement by the lady from NB and swallowed but regurgitated by the chatterbox. Anyway, they all were happy about the champagne. I noticed that the Iranian drank two glasses very fast and commented on it to her - her reply was "I like to drink" and asked me whether I like red or white wine better. That's about all the conversation I had with her.  I am not very excited about this round table. The 10 strawberries went like a wildfire.
Gala night, and cocktail party (Martini!).  We suffer.

The cafeteria is along both sides of the ship. This morning, when I went for breakfast, there was such a line-up at both sides that I only grabbed a box of raisin bran, a plain yogurt and milk.  At lunchtime the scene was repeated on both sides, throngs of people lined up.  I saw between the two sides a "Pasta station" with only a few people and got some curlicues with pesto and some ice tea and that did it for me. Since there is the choice of having either meal in the restaurant, I'll do that tomorrow, even though my little demands don't really justify it. It seems that the ship is pretty much full.
I again played in the Atrium and then sat with an all dressed-up couple, she is in a wheelchair, has an illness the name of which I have forgotten, is much overweight and in constant pain, but has a nice personality with a positive outlook. I gave her one of my CD's, since she had asked me to play several songs for her.  There are lots of people, most dressed up nicely, waiting to go to the first Dinner Sitting at 5.30. I also see a young couple, not dressed up, he in shorts, with two small kids whom they allow to climb all over the furniture. The "ME!" generation.

The cocktail party, the too loud music and two martinis successfully behind me, I found another newcomer at the restaurant  table next to me, a nice man who looks like 85, but turns out to be 96! All there mentally and by the way he walked when we left, in apparent better shape than I am, also a little taller.  Because of the ambient noise we only had little conversation, I believe he was something like a corporation lawyer. The chatterbox next to me did her thing and the lady from New Brunswick seems like a silent observer; we talk with her and find out that she is a missionary with World Vision.  Made a Scrabble date with  "Silent Austin" and when we played today, he beat me, though I helped him to it on several occasions. Today I also had another session with my friend Stefano and discussed things from laundry (confirmed free), internet access (unavailable - it seems to be a franchise over which MSC  has no control),  the possibility of leaving my things in the cabin if it is not rented for the Jam Cruise Jan 4-9 (not possible- once chartered, everything is out of MSC's control .But he confirmed that they will find a place to store my things and they would also help with finding  affordable accommodation for me using their influence as a cruise company).  Also  discussed emergency measures in case of sickness or death; burial at sea is forbidden by law. I'll draw up necessary instructions and information,  post it in the cabin and in two sealed envelopes for the office and medical center.

I drove 1 Mile  into town at Philipsburg in search of WiFi which at the port was only available at a Telecom store at $10/hr and finally found a Starbuck's which turned out to be an actual internet store with access at $7/hr. So I'll wait until we are in Charlotte Amelie tomorrow, but I enjoyed the town, quaint, but totally tourist oriented - no wonder: there are 6 huge ships in port, including the Queen Mary II,  which disgorged thousands of people.

PS: The pics are from Philipsburg.
 

#24 December 17-19-2010

Also in Charlotte Amelie were 6 Ships and we were parked at least 2 Miles from where I had found WiFi. On the way I was stopped by some people asking for info about the Scooter and I gave them one of the business cards the company had sent along. 4 days ago, sitting on the scooter with my right foot in front of the foot rest, when by mistake I turned the throttle and the thing jumped forward, with the foot rest slamming in my inner leg just above the ankle. Since then I have much trouble, unbearable pain when first trying to stand and walk after getting out of bed; after walking a while, the pain reduces somewhat but is always there, whereas when lying down it disappears. Naturally the region in swollen and even touch sensitive and since it hasn't improved, I went today to the Medical Center, where the somewhat terse doc only said that this takes a long time, continue putting the salve I had still from Switzerland and especially for such injuries, and putting the leg up. They don't have Xrays but he didn't think anything was broken. At least he didn't charge for the advice.

Another Gala Evening, with preceding cocktails, on the menu is lobster or filet mignon, or veal, and of course the obligatory baked Alaska complete with parade and much hoopla, which I recorded on the little digital voice recorder I bought some time ago after my old tape-type recorder collapsed. At 5pm took my usual drink down to the Atrium to listen to the trio playing, when I was accosted by a blonde who had heard about me (she actually said that I was a "legend" on the ship) and also wanted me to meet her friend with whom she traveled - have a look at the result attached. Two Southern Belles, one from Georgia, the other from Texas. But I didn't see either of them again in the evening, because Dinner at 8 took until after 10pm and then I first went with Cheryl (my tablemate from New Brunswick) to the Pigalle Lounge where a small combo with an off-key singer was making noise, wound up at Angelica's until 10.45 and then went to bed, separately, Cialis still intact. I actually had propositioned her, i.e. suggested that when we leave Ft. L. an d I get another champagne, I would have it delivered to her cabin and we sit on her balcony (which she has) and have it, rather than having it taken to the table. But no, not alone with me. On the other hand, hugs and kisses in public. Shucks. But to come back to the two blondes: pictures can be deceiving.

Many people like to be photographed with the captain (occasions for that are available, by the way). Well, I'm next in line, and that's about all there's to it. And so, by virtue of photo opportunities, I establish my reputation as the "Playboy of Poesia". Ha ha. You can be awfully lonely when you are popular and everyone knows you as "Signor Egon".

Nassau has been and it was raining there. I sat a few hours on my scooter and did the emails and have begun, with the help of Barbara, to find acomodation in Fort Lauderdale for Jan.4-9. My leg still bothers me a lot and I can only hope that this will improve soon. Back on the ship, like always before the end of a cruise (i.e. every week from now on until March 2011), the accounting office is a hive of activity with people settling their accounts before tomorrow's disembarkment.
But let me tell you a little about the magnificent Atrium. It is actually the equivalent of the hotel lobby and has on one side the reception with 6 or 8 positions, on the other side the accounting with the same number. In the middle, raised up by four steps, the beautiful Kawai Grand piano, which is encased in lucite or plexiglass, looks beautiful but is somewhat hard and to my mind, has a too "metallic' sound. It sits on a huge glass covered basin filled with ocean water, which, when the ship moves, moves also. On this platform and around the piano perform alternately the Trio Napoletano, with a true virtuoso on Mandolin, a guitar player and a young lady in front with cymbals in hand, swaying to the music and sometimes singing to it with a little girl's voice. The other trio could be in any Kurhaus in a Spa in Europe; they play that kind of pseudo-classical pieces but are excellent and proficient musicians consisting of piano, violin and cello. Above this tribune rises the Atrium three stories und is surrounded by balconies and transversed by sweeping stairways - it's just gorgeous in concept, architecture and materials used. By the way: by now I am pretty familiar with the repertoires of the Trios `and the Jazz Duo, know the menus and the 6 or 7 different theater productions offered. It's OK.

 

#25 Fort Lauderdale South December 19-26-2010

What a circus again - it took all of 2 hours this morning before we were through the US Immigration (which only takes a perfunctionery look at the passport since you are slated to return to the ship without being in the US otherwise. I understand however that every single person has to be accounted for before the ship is allowed to readmit transit passengers and so maybe 500 of us were sitting and waiting , after having been sitting or standing and waiting long times before. To think that I will have to go through this ordeal every week from now on until we depart for Europe in March makes me shudder.

On my way this morning to the Lounge where we are checked off the master list of passengers staying for another cruise -all this for US Immigration- I had an accident when I was alone in the elevator and wanted to turn around so that I would face the doors when they opened. Well, I opened the throttle too much, and because the motor produces a high torque, the scooter jumped forward against the side of the elevator and flipped over backwards with me on it. While I was not otherwise hurt, my right foot above the ankle got the full impact and actually started to bleed from a large blue area, which i thankfully was able to stop after a while. When the doors opened, I was helped up by the people outside. Since then I have had much pain, but still managed my emails and sending the reports. I also talked to Barbara who so very kindly found suitable accommodation for my forced sojourn in January and will even come and get me. It sure is nice to have such good friends. - Because of my misery I have decided not to go to dinner tonight and if they should call with champagne I'll ask for it to be delivered tomorrow.-

I went to bed at 4 with much moaning and groaning - took two acetaminophen (repeated at midnight and 4 AM), put some of the special salve for "Sport-Injuries" which I still had from Switzerland, later during the night used a "Stop Pain" spray I had and which helped for a little while. But all in all I spent a very miserable night. Had small breakfast in the cabin -just a yoghourt, one piece of toast and juice and now, after 1pm, have gotten up so that the bed could be remade (had lots of stains on the sheet from the salve), and the bathroom cleaned up. We are in Key West and I have now decided to get an Xray somewhere as I suspect something will show up that needs fixing. There is no point going back to our ship's doc and I will consult with Stefano whenever he comes back from his day's outing. I now surely will automatically shut the scooter off in tight places and move it with my feet, which can be done easily. Prospects for a Merry Christmas are pretty dim.

Room service with Champagne will deliver it to the table but I don't know whether I can make it there. I phoned Cheryl about it and asked her to explain to whatever newcomers are at there (forgot to ask her if there are any).  I phoned reception to get something to eat in the room - there is a very limited menu for room service (actually at a charge, except for the continental breakfast), so I got a soup and an egg sandwich with some potato chips and a little coleslaw thrown in. Breakfast this morning after a better night just yogurt, toast and Tee, skipped lunch, but now, at 5pm have gotten up, schlepped myself to the bathroom, had a shower and will limp down for Dinner, but skip the big cocktail party which is before. My leg above the ankle is black and blue, painful but not quite as much and I guess I'll live. But all this brings home the fact that one is alone, even though Cheryl called this afternoon to find out how things are --"everybody misses you". And communication with the cabin Stewarts sure is difficult - I asked the guy from Madagascar who cleans the bathroom to bring me a wet washcloth I had laying beside the basin since I was in bed - he brought practically everything else out first until finally catching on and I showed him that I put it on my leg. Next I asked him to see whether he can find a small basin, put some water in it and put it beside my bed to that I can refreshen the cloth ...he got "his boss", who is Indonesian with a somewhat better vocabulary who does the room, and he eventually turned up with a huge red bucket, marked "Wash" with some water in it and I got him to throw in ice cubes from my Ice bucket and used these cold compresses during the day. Last evening, the Stewart had to change the entire bed including the mattress cover, because my leg seemed to have oozed blood lightly where it had before but now I have taken a couple of napkins to put the foot on, and there has not been any recurrence.

Going down to Dinner was tough but manageable. But to get out of bed and stand up is initially real torture - it's not only the leg, but also my back which is very sore from my fall backwards; after I stand and then walk around for a while I can tolerate the pain but feel pretty miserable sitting here in Ocho Rios on the scooter writing this. At the table three new faces. two women from Canada (one of them German) and a man; two women, including the chatterbox, had changed tables to be with friends, so that there were only 4 persons and they enjoyed the champagne and strawberries.

The ship is fully booked with 3300 Passengers and no less than 775 children as I have been told officially. This must cost the company a lot, because kids travel free and prices for this cruise are low: a stateroom with balcony is under $ 900 per person for the 8-day, 7-night cruise over Christmas, Interior under $ 600.        I was slated to play German Christmas songs for the Germans on board but this would have been in the Atrium which these days swarms with people and kids- an impossible venue and I have declined, but may at a later date play for them older German songs from Operettas, from Vienna and "Schlager" (hits) they'll all know since nearly all these people are of vintage age.
 


# 26 Cozumel (Mexico), December 24,December 24, 2010

Situations change. While my leg improved slowly, it now was my back which was acting up to the extent that getting out of bed in the morning was traumatic, with me screaming in pain and breaking out in cold sweat - every single back muscle became a viselike cramp which only reduced when I was eventually able to stand up straight and limp around with my still painful leg.

After three days like this, no longer being able to go down to eat, I made the decision to leave the ship from today, December 24, return to it when it comes back January 21,2011 and stay in Cozumel where I can get Xray and whatever treatment should be required. It was a real tour the force, because at took a long time until I got the ship's OK which also included arrangements with Mexican Immigration/customs, I only had few hours to pack, which meant EVERYTHING, because, as the ship is chartered Jan 4-9 I would have to get out of the cabin and off the ship anyway. So they are storing my things until my return. But I also had to make decisions as to what to take for the month here - all this in crowded quarters (including scooter) and in pain. I had previously taken all sorts of pain killers, but 3 Aleve taken at once had helped somewhat.

Anyway, I worked until midnight, got up at 6 and continued, because I had to be down for the Mexican authorities which had come aboard for 8.30am (no breakfast). Very fortunately, my table neighbor had offered his help and came along, because I had a pull-along suitcase and a bag to carry apart of what I had on my scooter and once we left the ship, we had to walk and ask quite a lot until we finally found a simple motel somewhat off the beaten tourist path (6 ships in port!) it's quite a comedown from the Poesia; while it has TV and AC, there is only one bathtowel, no other towel or facecloth, no glasses but plastics. On the other hand, the price of about $35 per night is OK,considering that I would have to stay in Fort Lauderdale for 5 nights at almost $ 400. Surprisingly, they have soap in the bathroom and coffee in the morning. Well, we'll see how it works out. There is no WiFi, but very close by there is a restaurant which has and where I am now, had a couple of burritos y frijoles and a glass of lemonade.

They, and probably everything else, will be closed tomorrow. I will go back shortly, it's 5.30 p.m. (one hour earlier here though) and go to bed and dream of a White Christmas. I still have a lot of emails unanswered but I've had it, so to speak. Meantime, I wish all my dear friends, cyberpals, cruisecritc envyers and admirers a Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad and Frohe Weihnachten! I would also like you all to forgo sending to me anything but personal messages - it's getting out of hand and I just can't cope with it all. I know you'll understand.

# 27 Cozumel , December 27, 2010

I am sitting in the General Hospital, waiting to see one of the doctors, after I traveled here on the scooter through lots of traffic but feeling relatively safe because most of the time I was driving against it; found the bank affiliated with Bank of America, where I relieved the ATM of $ 5000 (Pesos, that is) .Eventually saw a very nice lady doctor and she prescribed two medications after deciding that my back problem was lumbago and the leg needed a medication for circulation. We'll see.

But first let me go back to yesterday. I had a pretty bad and uncomfortable night because of the back and because it got very cold so that I wound up triple folding the thin bedspread to keep from shivering. I discovered too late that the door to the bathroom was ajar, where the window was open. Then I spent much time at the restaurant opposite the hotel and decided on a "sopa del dia" which they named "Mondongo", meaning nothing to me but I figured "what can be wrong with a soup" and it looked interesting enough when it came. The liquid had a very good taste, but floating in it were lots of pieces of what I first thought was fat - anyway I sure didn't like it and found out later that these were piece of Pig skin. Forget it, the liquid had to do. Still learning. Went home in the late afternoon, fixed myself a drink, looked at the CBS news and then 60 minutes which I was happy to find on the TV and put the lights out.

To come back to today: after the hospital, I drove right down to the waterfront, where I saw two cruise ships at the pier and I continued and found a Wal-Mart like huge store which was on the first floor, accessible by a ramp/escalator, which I successfully navigated. I explored, found some ginger ale and a coffee bar, as well as a bathroom. At the coffebar got to know Sarah and her husband, who live here and have a sort of guest house. I told them of my intention to move`to the Flamingo come Jan.1 and it turned out that she was befriended with Tom, the hotel's owner. At this Mega Center (which is what it was called) I got the prescriptions filled (about $55) and took the first doses right there with the coffee. Then I made the decision to drive to the Flamingo and have a look, despite a pretty long drive through very congested tourist traps along the ocean shore. There I was greeted by Xantal (Chantel) at the front desk who immediately recognized me because Tom who already had heard of my intention through other venues I had sent enquiries to about the Flamingo. Anyway, it's of course a much nicer place and at $ 52 including continental breakfast a pretty good deal for this time of the year. And if I pay with cash rather than credit card, they don't charge the taxes which will save me about $ 150 and that's what I'll do.

I left and on the nearby big plaza sat down in one of the big restaurants and had a tortilla soup which was very good but also different from what I knew - it had pieces of soft Mexican cheese and avocado in it apart from strips of crispy tortilla. And then, on the way back, I spotted a very simple barbershop which I badly needed. Lots of kids inside, but many only visiting; a tourist was having his hair cut, while his wife and her child waited; I got to talking to her and was told that the haircut costs $ 5 which sure is cheap. I had help from passers-by on quite a few occasions during the day when I had to lift the scooter on or off curbs or into a place. There are many nice people everywhere. But the nicest I was yet to meet. I had my haircut, including a beard trim and talked with the middle aged man who clipped me. But when it came to pay, he refused payment and said in Mexican "this is my present to you" and I nearly broke out in tears. No way would he accept money and I am now thinking of how I can repay his generous kindness to a complete stranger (and I am I positive he's not gay!).

As I write this, I am laying in bed at 7pm and have decided to forgo any more food except the drink I just had and the bits and pieces of the oriental cracker mixture I took along in a plastic bag from the ship. And I hope for a better and healing night. It's been a pretty good day and I am grateful that I was able to manage it without any mishap.
I get many encouraging email messages which I just cannot answer individually. But to all you dear friends, I cannot tell you how much your support and comfort means to me and I wish I could embrace you all in heartfelt thanks.


Dec.28 I rejoiced too soon. This is the email I got today from the Flamingo:

"Dear Egon,
I am sorry to hear of your accident and hope you are not in too much discomfort. The $52.00 rate was our summer special. We no longer offer that rate now during Winter season.
The other thing too is, our rooms all start one level up from the ground floor. You would have a stairway to climb so I don't really think we are an appropriate hotel for your situation.
Again, I am sorry for your situation and wish you a speedy recovery.
Regards
Gwynith

Í replied:

"Dear Tom, I just read your message -even though signed by Gwynith, I assume it is from you. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement and I feel sorry for Xantal whom I imagine you hauled over the coals for having misquoted. Of course you now sound very discouraging as far as my booking in your hotel is concerned, but I am not entirely a cripple and can (and did) negotiate the stairs to view a room.
Any alternative? Any suggestions? I'm not the typical tourist. I'm spending my son's inheritance and live on MSC "Poesia" as a "VIP Guest" (but in the cheapest inside cabin) for a year since October 9 - at nearly 94 , my last hurrah.
Please get back to me.

Regards, Egon"

Will keep you posted. Nothing comes easy.

--------------------------------------------------

Egon

I am very sorry for all of the confusion. Your email came in over the holiday weekend when my reservation center was closed. I get a copy as well on all inquires and I went ahead and answered myself because I knew you were on the island and needed a place very soon and did not want you to wait. Also, I have the authority to give out special rates on extended stays and I wanted to give that to you. Normally I send a copy to Gywneth at my reservation center when I do this, but I forgot. Gywneth does not have the authority to give out discounted rates on extended stays and I guess she was concerned about the second floor issue.I did read her email and I guess she was just doing her job., but it may have sounded a little brusque and I do apologize for that.

I emailed Xantal and told her to go ahead and give you the best rate since you were looking at an extended stay and we had the space. Giving you that rate was not any issue and I encouraged Xantal to give you a room that was best for you. You explained your circumstances and we are quite happy to help out. I am very much looking forward to meeting you when I arrive on the 30th.

Please accept my apologies. We are all looking forward to welcoming you at the Flamingo.
Also, congratulations on spending your son's inheritance!

Best Regards
Tom Fryer


Thank you very much, Tom. I like you.

¡Hasta pronto!

Egon

-------------------------------
I will be moving January 1. Have a look at the website: ... http://www.hotelflamingo.com/about/index.html


# 28  Conzumel - December 30-2010 to January 2, 2011

Nothing much to report. Back pain no longer of the "screaming type" but always present, and so is pain in the lower leg. Have decided to go back to the hospital tomorrow (31.) and see about xrays.

Yesterday I went by the Barbershop and gave the guy a windup, battery-less LED flashlight as a return present, the only thing I could think of that would be of any enjoyment for him. He was HAPPY! We embraced - amigos. And I felt happy that I had taken this with me, " just in case" I would need it. Steve had given it to me last October in North Bay and now it has fulfilled its destiny.

January 1/2/2011
I felt that I was improving and so didn't go back to the hospital. I realize that especially at my age, things take a long time to heal so I'll be patient. - New year's eve I went to bed early, read, looked TV, did crosswords and put the lights out long before the ball dropped in Times Square. Next morning the big mover to the Flamingo. The taxi ordered was a Van type equipped with a lift in the rear for wheelchairs which was great for the scooter. At the Flamingo, I was too early for the room to be ready and sat in the open Lobby and did my computer work. When I finally got to the room, it looked real nice, large, with two queen size beds laden with colored cushions apart from 4 pillows on each, a nice bathroom with a large walk-in shower and non-slip tiles, bath mat, towels and, what blessing! facecloths. There's a small table with two chairs, a complimentary bottle of water (with the advice that the next one will have to be bought) and in the corner, way down, a room safe. But when I wanted to unpack, I discovered that, while tere was space for hanging clothes, there was absolutely nothing in the room to put things - no dresser, no drawers anywhere, because even the modernistic night tables had only a glass shelf. Amazing! I summoned Xantel (Chantel) who explained that they were going to put shelving up and will do so, but even this will b e absolutely insufficient storage for the 3 people they would allow to occupy the room.

Anyway, as I write this,
Tom, the owner, turned up and is just the nice guy I imagined him to be. He told me that they'll move me to another room. I was particularly intrigued with meeting him, since I found on the glass shelf of the nighttable not the customary Gideon Bible but a book on Buddha's teachings. I have yet to talk to Tom about this. And now, short as this report is, I'll send it off, together with my love and best wishes to all of you for the new year!

 

# 29  Cozumel, January 5, 2011  

Continued improvement in small increments, but I think I'll see a chiropractor for my back which still bothers me quite a bit. Today I scooter-traveled a very long stretch all through town to a place called "Cozumel Health", but their website, www.conzumelmassage.com really says it all - it being right in the center of things, it's a bit of a tourist trap with high prices only given in US$.  There is a chiropractor off the beaten path, but it has today not been possible to reach him by phone. Meantime, on the urgent advice by Cori (the one on the left in  the photo),   I've bought some Arnica gel and by weirdly gyrating was able to apply it to my lower back.  But I really think that the pain there is of different origin since it no  longer seems muscular and always present.   But enough of  this!

The big news is that my son Steve will be joining me for a week, arriving this Saturday.  It has been  very difficult for him to arrange for this trip and I am happy that he could do it and look forward no end to seeing him.  Have a look at his website:  www.torbay.net !

This hotel is really very nice and highly recommendable. From what I see, it is mainly frequented by people around half my age who come here to dive and snorkel and has been owned by Tom Fryer for the past 14 years, in which he has made all sorts of improvements.  He lives with his girl friend Sylvia, who is Brazilian but has lived in the States for some 20 years.  Tom reminds me quite a bit of my Steve in his urge to always create something new, but I also think that his widespread interests and activities have in effect become somewhat of a burden.  I would  like  to   ask him "what are you running away from?"

So here it is, short but sweet and I hope it's not too boring and that I will soon report some more exciting stuff.

My universal love to all!
 

# 30   Cozumel, January 11,2011

Steve arrived last Saturday - great that we could see each other and we have already been on several exploits together, including a trip to the MEGA Store, where we got 4 L of drinking water as well as 4 L of Schweppes Ginger Ale and were looking in vain for a plastic basin to fit over the battery for carrying things in, but got a small carton instead, which for now does the trick.

I continue improving in small increments, but did go to the chiropractor yesterday (an American who lives here) who treated me, partially in a holistic fashion; today, my back pain has not lessened, but I guess I have to wait a couple of days for the effects of the treatment to kick in.

 


Meantime, over quite some time, I have been busy with a new (maybe crazy) idea; it involved much internet research, but to tell you about it, the best way is to copy for you the email I sent to Stefano, the "Hotel Secretary" on "Poesia". So here it is:


My dear Stefano,
first of all, I want to wish you a very healthy new year and may it be as happy as you can make it! In the meantime you have no doubt seen my last reports and know what is going on. However, what is going on behind the scenes is what I want to talk to you about and in your role as a stepping stone to the powers that be, I need you to help me hatch the egg I have been carefully nourishing for some time.

People often ask me what the secret of my longlevity is and I believe that perhaps besides good genes it's the fact that music is a vital part of my life. You already know that I am a pretty good pianist. However, my instrument of choice, and one which I am very good at, is the organ. for I have been playing many different organs, including the mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ for over 40 years. Which brings me to a proposal that may sound eccentric (and maybe is), but which will be of great benefit to MSC and to "Poesia" in particular and would make not only me, but many people happy. Have I peaked your curiosity yet?

I propose to buy, at my own expense, the organ you see on the enclosed photographs. It is a magnificent Lowrey "Celebration" model, which had an original cost (some 10 years ago) of $ 25,000 or more. I propose to put this instrument on the balcony on Deck 6 facing he atrium (see photograph) and initially play on sea days at designated times for say an hour, at other times to be discussed. All of this will cost MSC nothing but I can guarantee that it will enhance the ship's entertainment roster no end and cause a minor sensation in the industry. To this end, you must know that I have a vast repertoire not only of American Standards and songs from many musicals, but am well versed in songs indigenous to Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy and others, covering everything from folk music to operettas and semi-classical themes. This would also open the possibility of gearing a program to the majority nationality represented on the ship at any time (of which I would have to be informed). As mentioned before, MSC is not entering any risk or cost and I shall absolve the company of any responsibility should the instrument be damaged or lost. Naturally, if at a later date and before my departure from the ship MSC should decide that to own this instrument would be a valuable asset, , it can be bought from me at a very low price; also, if my free services as an entertainer become sufficiently valuable to "Poesia" , I would be quite happy with a substantial cabin upgrade in return. It will be a win-win situation all around.

The instrument would be delivered shipside on a Sunday when "Poesia" is in port. It would only require a strong dolly (it weighs about # 340 lbs) and will fit easily in an elevator. On the balcony site, a 120V electric outlet would be required.

Because a) the organ may be sold before I can buy it and b) it could only be delivered on Sundays in the next few weeks, time is of the essence in getting MSC to consider and accept this proposition. Therefore, if you, Stefano, could maybe convene a meeting of the ship's officers of authority and submit this entire document, maybe by making multiple copies of it, a decision could be reached promptly.

As always, I am indebted to you for your valuable assistance and friendship.

Sincerely,

Egon Landsberg

Wish me luck!!


# 31   Cozumel, January 16, 2011

It's 11 days since my last report - the older you get the faster time seems to fly! Meantime, I've had a treatment by a chiropractor, which in the most part was of a holistic nature; since two days later I didn't feel any relief, I decided to try acupuncture and was fortunate in finding a lady who goes by the name of Judy but is Mexican and is an artist with a gallery and a thoroughly nice person. Today I am happy to report that I feel much better. However, I will have a second treatment tomorrow, then she'll take me to see her work and we'll have lunch; I told Tom about her and he may well join us. An exhibition of her pictures at the hotel may be a possibility.

After a week with me, Steve left again last night and is back in very cold country after a long night, which had him waiting some 5 hours in the Toronto airport in the middle of the night for the first flight to North Bay early in the morning. His visit was wonderful, much needed by both of us for different reasons.

No news from Stefano re my letter. I sent an email to Erin Donnelly of the MSC Fort Lauderdale office to contact him about it this Sunday when "Poesia" is in port and also tell him that I lost my cruise card ... Meantime, the first organ I had lined up has been sold and I have another one on tap - but for this all to come together will be a small miracle. If however you should hear me scream, you'll know it worked.

I am attaching some pictures. Tom is the owner of the Hotel Flamingo; not only is he an awfully nice guy, but his hotel is one of the nicest in town and most affordable. Pass the word.

¡ Hasta luego ! Egon

 

# 32   From Cozumel onto "Poesia" January 21, 2011 to March 6, 2011

Oops! In my last report I said that it had been 11 days since the previous one - it was only 5. But it had been the "11th" of January. Oh well.
Tom left two days before I did to go skiing in Colorado, and to see his Shirley again whom he obviously had missed.
Because I didn't hear anything from Stefano, I phoned Erin Donnelly who had passed on my letter to get to Stefano, who answered as follows:

Ciao Egon
I received your email... finally!!!
No worries for your cruise card, in any case you are getting a new one once you come on board!
For the piano, I need to talk to the hotel manager and see what the rules are...
I will see you on Friday!
Stefano

Dear Stefano, what you call a "piano" is a magnificent organ which originally cost
up to $50,000 when new; an instrument of enormous versatility which would fill the Atrium (or the theatre, for that matter) with rich sounds and orchestration. It is an instrument which will enhance Poesia enormously -trust me! Show the photos I sent with the email! This is not "an old man's fancy", but a genuine offer which costs MSC nothing and will create a stir in the industry for sure.

Things don't look very promising, do they.

The day before I left, I gave 100 Peso ($8) to Elisabeth who had been looking after my room and she rewarded me with this beautiful and clever Towel Art (Photo), after she already had previously fashioned a dove out of two facecloths in the bathroom. I also looked after Ivan, the helpful and friendly one behind the bar from whom I got my daily ice ration for my not-bought-there drink, and after Julio, the breakfast provider, and sweet Chantal at the front desk whose departure Feb 1 will be a grave loss for Tom.

And then the big day came. Chantal ordered the taxi with a chair lift and he dumped me in frobnt of the security gate leading to the pier where my ship was awaiting me. It took some time for me to sit there on my scooter and wait not only for clearance (they got in touch with the ship) but also for one of those guys with tricycles that ferry passengers to and from the ship because it's a long walk to the shore and I used one to bring my two pieces of luggage. This eventually happened and at the ship I was greeted by the lady officer of the ship's immigration department, who took me upstairs, where I was checked in as if I was a new passenger, since I had been officially disembarked when I left Dec 24 (and charged whatever I owed up to that point in gratuity fees). It actually was a happy reunion with the girls at the reception desk and kind of a warm 'home coming". Of course I also got a new cruisecard, which shows that I embarked Jan 21 2011 and will leave the ship Nov 30, 2011 - this date is wrong and I'll have to check it out. Secretly I had hoped that they a) added 4 weeks to my day of disembarkment to compensate for my stay in Cozumel, and 2) might have upgraded me during my absence, but no such luck. I was back in my old cabin # 11141 and all my stored stuff was already there and I slowly began unpacking some of it, always having to lie down for a bit in between because of my aching back. No word from Stefano, who was ashore that day.

This was a Gala Night, Dinner only at 8.30 pm, preceded by cocktails which I skipped and had my own in the cabin. By evening, I had only managed to unpack and store part of the things, showered, changed and went down to eat where I found my table devoid of anybody - I was told that the group which was there before left in Jamaica. So I ate alone and very little at that -still have no appetite, but waited a small eternity until at last the baked Alaska arrived with Gloria Chorus and much hoopla. Back to the cabin and gratefully collapsed into bed at 10.15pm.


Today, Jan. 22, I had my first swim shortly after 7am, and it felt g o o d but I only did 11 laps. I am sure that this will help my back a lot over time. I had ordered breakfast for 8.30 in the cabin, but instead of an English muffin, they sent regular sweet muffins which I don't like, and the orange juice was watered down. Coffee, however, was excellent. Can't win them all. Finished unpacking, put up my collection of pictures of my beloved Bern, had a little snooze and after 2pm went to the cafeteria for minestrone, a small piece of pizza and some papaya, washed down with ice tea (without the ice). Several waiters came up to me saying, where have you been, we haven't seen you for so long .... kinda nice.

At 4.pm I went to see Stefano, who, together with the girls in the office, greeted and welcomed me warmly. The result of our talk was twofold and negative: 1) The disembarking date on the new cruise card is wrong - it's still October 15 in Quebec and 2) the organ is out. He gave all sorts of explanations, but that's it. For a huge company (over 200 merchant ships in Europe, apart from 12 Cruiseships and more coming) to think out of the box is too complex it seems. And there goes another unfulfilled dream and a win-win proposal turned into the opposite.

After Dinner I went to see Angelica, who expected me and we embraced, maybe somewhat longer than normal. But I only stayed for one song and left at 9pm to go back to the Cabin; on the way more of Poesia Staff (officers and also cocktail waitresses) stopped me, welcomed me back and told me that they had missed me. As I said before: kinda nice.
 

# 33   January 23, 2010 to March 6, 2010

In the morning just after 7am it was cold in Fort Lauderdale and I shivered in the pool for only five laps. Had again breakfast in the cabin, but, even though it's just a very simple continental breakfast (no cereal, no eggs) they just seem unable to follow the instructions on the order sheet. Idiots.
Immigration proceedings took all of two hours - what a drag to have to go through this every week until we leave for overseas in March. I'll see whether I can't beat the system somehow. Eventually I met Barbara outside and we went to have lunch at a Jewish Deli but were disappointed that, while they had very good matzoball soup, no chopped liver was available. We had been joined by a friend of Barbara. And then I was surprised with a huge piece of cake complete with candle and a waitress-chorus of "Happy Birthday" which Barbara had arranged, together with her invitation for lunch, because on Feb.9 I would not be there. Very sweet. After some shopping, I stayed at her house until almost 5pm where I could do my computer work. Got back onto the ship, complete with a bottle of Canadian Mist (I then remembered that at F.L. the only scanning is done by US security but not by MSC so there's no difficulty bringing booze aboard).

At 6.30 they came with Moet and strawberries which I had sent down to the dining room table, where at 8.pm I found three ladies from England, Pat, Claire and Marylin as newcomers. Pat, in her late 60s, told me that she had met a "laidy" on the Queen Mary who had lived on that ship already for several years. Anyway, the drink and strawberries were welcome; I took some berries to Angelica but she would only start playing that evening at 10 because there was football and I left them with Rudy, the bar man, to give to her, because I went to bed.
This morning, the sea was rough and so was the pool. For the first time I decided to sit in the Jacuzzi and realized that I should have done that long before, because the jet massage on my back felt very good! However, no swim.

Later that morning went to accounting to get a printout of the charges to my account from Oct 9 to Dec 24 and discovered a gross overcharge; with very limited English of the person I dealt with, finally got the message that since this account had been closed, the only way to rectify mistakes would be to cancel some of future charges, which I did and will have to watch.

Still stewing about the organ. The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that my proposal didn't get far from Stefano's desk. All at his level are so occupied and at times overloaded, with the operational routines and dealing with cranky customers, especially so because in these months of 7-day cruises, big changes take place every week, that to really deal with this matter loomed too complicated since it would have required major sessions and discussions at higher levels but always involving Stefano. Now, for a while, I was considering writing directly to Rick Sasso, President of MSC Cruises (USA) in Fort Lauderdale, but in view of the fact that so much time has been lost which would quite likely see me without an organ to bring in should MSC acquiesce, I think I'll drop the matter with a tear in my eye.

Yesterday I was going to play again at the Atrium but found a big sign at the piano that it is reserved exclusively for the use of the on board musicians. Considering the fact that my playing in the past had always been extremely well received by the public and as it certainly has professional quality, this notice was a surprise and I will check to find out what, or who, is behind it.

I have been told that on board there are some 900 French Canadians who are on some sort of pilgrimage, have a priest with them who celebrates Mass every day. One certainly hears a lot of Quebecois these days. The seas have been very rough since we left Fort Lauderdale; the ship was often lurching significantly and my cabin was especially noisy during the night with loud clanking and other mechanical sounds which seemed to be "right there", so that I had to use earplugs. I have several times tried to record what is going on so that I can demonstrate it, but have not been successful.

I went to see Anna, the cruise director, a very tall German lady who speaks 5 languages absolutely fluently and has been with MSC for the past 10 years. We are on "intimate" terms (say "Du" to each other). Anyway, I showed her all about my organ proposal and while there is indeed very little hope that this could be decided except by the head office in Geneva, she'll look into possibilities. She also told me that the notice I found at the Atrium piano "certainly" does not apply to me.

This morning I did 20 laps again for the first time and afterwards got my Jacuzzi massage.
I am sending this from Charlotte Amelie (St. Thomas), US Virgin Islands.

 

# 34   Jan 28 - Feb 6, 2011

In Philipsburg (St. Marten), there were six huge ships moored side by side and head to toe, including the largest Cruiseship, the Solstice, which has over 6000 passengers. Next to us were two P&O ships (English), behind us the German "AIDA" to whose free WiFi signal I was able to latch onto which made me very happy because in this place there were only very expensive possibilities otherwise which I could find on previous visits.

At 2.30pm I watched the departure from deck 14; repeated announcements just before called for two probably
French Canadians that obviously hadn't returned to the ship. So departure was actually delayed some 15 minutes
but then started to back away from the pier. Just as it was about 1 meter out, a golf cart with two people raced up
and then then ship actually reversed itself, got back close enough to the pier for the gangplank to reach and the two got on. A few minutes later and they would have been out of such luck.

Jan. 29, a sea day. Did my 20 laps and Jacuzzi massage this morning and feel pretty smug about it.

Jan. 30, ditto. Now in Fort Lauderdale going through the immigration mill once again. Huge change of passengers.
They sure try to streamline things, but it's complicated with so many people disembarking, staying for another cruise but having to leave the ship for the immigration procedure, and then being ready for the new crop to board.

The "new crop" at the dining room table turns out to be 4 men: Cyril from England, Elliot from Toronto, Bob and Jeff from the States. They all enjoyed the champagne and strawberries, like expected. I brought three of the berries to Angelica, together with the music to "Phantom of the Opera", which Dennis had bought for her, and a little stuffed dog, which I did, having been with Dennis since noon when he came to get me at Terminal 4 in F.L. We did a loot of cruising around and finally found the Toojay Deli where he invited me for matzoball soup and a chopped liver sandwich. But I was pretty tired when we got back close to 6pm.

Jan 30, at Key West, I took a taxi to the hospital emergency in hopes that there I could get the spot on my nose excised but after the usual hospital waiting and roiutine I was referred to Dr. Berman in town whom I had already fingered on the internet as being one of two dermatologists and because he was listed as being associated with the hospital, I went there first. Another taxi to his office in a private house in town, much ado about insurance and payment, finally saw him and he agreed that it was very likely a skin cancer and should come out - anyway, an appointment for this procedure has now been made for Feb 14 at 11.30 am. I wonder how big the hole in my nose will be and how I could avoid that my nose becomes the focus of my personality!! After that I will only be in Key West once more on Feb.28. Taxi fares alone came to almost $60 and I also paid for the visit to Dr. Berman $ 98. Whether I'll be able to recover this or the hospital charges (which they'll send per mail to Canada) is doubtful. Poor Steve and his inheritance.

Feb 3. Georgetown (Cayman Islands ), sitting in front of Starbucks and have an erratic Wifi. We had to tender in this port. Next to us is Holland America's New Amsterdam, which is only some 6 months old. As a souvenir to my hospital visit a few days ago, I caught some sort of bug - anyway, coughing my fool head off - what a bloddy nuisance. Found a way to make the "spot" on my nose almost invisible: take only tape from a Band-Aid - it's the same colour as the skin. Just now I got hailed by a couple: Dr. Wessel who was an optometrist in Osoyoos had recognized me! The world sure is small!

Well, I got a message from Pat chafing at the bit because too much time has elapsed since I sent the last report. So here it is, with love and greetings to all! Tomorrow I'll be in Cozumel again.

 

# 35   Feb 6 - Feb 13, 2011 

Back in Fort Lauderdale and through the chaos of immigration which again took over 2 hours until we could get back on the ship - in my case the first floor of the Terminal Building where I have WiFi. A very large number of people were disembarking this time and every time there is such an exchange of people it also seems the makeup as to their composition changes markedly: whereas the previous bunch was mostly elderly, the last one much younger.

On the way to here from Cozumel, the ship stopped in the middle of the ocean to pick up two Cubans on a raft; later on they were taken off by the US Coast Guard.  In Cozumel, I first checked out another Walmart-type Superstore and again bought two 1L bottles of Schweppes Ginger Ale at 8 Peso (about75 cents) each - what a bargain! I am stocking up!  Then I drove the pretty long way to the Flamingo Hotel, where I was greeted with hugs by several employees - Thomas will only be back there today, Feb.6.  Then I was able to do my email thanks to their WiFi, then drove by the "Sabores" restaurant for a soup and returned to the ship mid afternoon.  In the evening, a lady from England named Paula had been added to our table which enriched the situation considerably. But I left the table early to have my dessert with newly found friends Cathy and Rob Walsh from Michigan and did so also at the Gala night and last night. I am really sorry to "lose"them - we got along like a house on fire and Cathy was a worthy Scrabble partner. Except for Burla, who stays for another cruise leg, all the others have left and it's always a surprise who turns up at 8 o'clock.  With luck, they'll have champagne and strawberries ...

I did my 20 laps every morning these last few days, but do have to discipline myself to do it - the water is not very warm and neither is the air at 7.15 am.  Then the jacuzzi -one of the two best installations I find: it has so many powerful jets, that, if you are alone, you can stretch out and get an almost complete body massage.  The other is the bathroom in my cabin; it's well designed, roomy  and well lit; the shower is excellent and all the fixtures of top quality.  Apart from that,  towels get replaced sometimes twice a day, the white bathrobe (weighs a ton!) they replace (unnecessarily) every week - I am really spoiled.  Of course the bed is turned up in the evening and my PJ's artistically laid out - since I have rewarded my room- and bathroom-stewards, they really bend over backwards for me.

At the Dining Room table a turn-around: now, I am surrounded by three ladies:  Paula, Carol and Sally. The champagne was flowing again and the chocolate-clad strawberries could have been effective seduction... Huge influx of new faces, little beauty, lot of overweight and much physical handicap.  Also quite a lot of kids. French Canadians are in evidence (they usually talk and laugh too loud) and there are also a few black people. Seas were rough and Temperatures cool this morning; did only 10 laps.

Feb. 8 - second day at sea,  rough seas again so short swim but nice Jacuzzi massage.  Have an appointment with Patricia this afternoon - she is the ship's representative at the Fort Lauderdale MSC office on whose desk  I think my organ proposition landed and died.  Later I'll play in the Atrium, as I did yesterday also. Patricia says that she forwarded the proposal to higher authority. I later also sent her a photo of the organ which she also sent. But I am pretty certain that this is a lost cause.

Feb 9, my birthday. I got what is obviously a form letter sent to anyone having a birthday by the Obelisc restaurant essentially soliciting business  (have your birthday party with us!), listing the menu prices ($ 25 and $ 33). The letter was callously addressed "Dear Landberg, Egon" (including my misspelled name). I would never go there.

On the other hand, a very nice card came, inviting me to a "special Dinner to celebrate your birthday".  While the dinner was the regular menu in the restaurant where I always eat, it was "special" in that it included Stefano, the Hotel Secretary, Alessandro, customer relations, Larissa, manager of the Spa and Patricia, Poesia's representative at the Fort Lauderdale office, who came very late, obviously quite stressed with the work she was involved in and also left early.  Before the Dinner, I sat in the office with Stefano. Loretta (Ship's immigration office) , Alessandro and the dear Antonio, Hotel Manager. This  was really very nice and we all had a few  good laughs. Unfortunately, come March 23 in Genoa, all of them will leave (as also the Trio Cantanapoli and others) and new staff and entertainers will take over. 
 
Obviously,  an entirely new beginning and probably experience awaits.   While I look forward to the European voyages,  this continuous loss of new found friends I am not happy about.
At the end of our dinner, a large number of the Indonesian waiters, with all sorts of utensils to make rhythms started out,  singing their own version of 'Happy  Birthday', marching away from our vicinity only to turn around and come back to our table, where they stood, sang and presented me with a beautifully decorated cake with 2 candles. I am attaching a few pictures of  nice event. By the way, I was told that there are some 650 Canadians on board, vs. only about 1400 Americans; considering that Canada's population is only about 10% of America's, this is quite remarkable. The Canadians are mostly French speaking Quebecois.

February 10, Philipsburg.  with six cruiseships in port including the 6000 passenger "Solstice", next to us is a Royal Caribbean ship; from some of the balconies (there are 8 decks of them the whole  length of the ship) hang flags of the occupants and I see Swiss (!), Canadian, German, US and two others.  On the other side of us is again the German "Aida", but it's WiFi, which at the last visit was free and accessible is no longer so and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find something other than the $10hr charge at the Telecom store or $7 at the place in town.  Eventually I gave up since in two days we'll be in Nassau,  where I am "home free" and can send this out.

February 11 is another day at sea and I have a date for a Scrabble game with Mandy, my Favourite at the Reception Desk.  However, it is now 20 minutes after the agreed on time of 10AM and she is not here. I guess she overslept. But later in the afternoon I find out the real reason:  she was given something for her ongoing allergies to which she had such a violent reaction that she actually passed out and was in a coma-like sleep for several hours. Poor girl, she was so embarrassed but I felt for her. Obviously, this was a pretty serious situation which could have easily been very dangerous.

 
#36    Feb 13-Feb 17, 2011 

This time in Fort Lauderdale I managed to escape the long waits everywhere by using several devious methods - suffice it to say that I was out of the Terminal Building in less than an hour.  I waited there for Barbara who very kindly was going to pass by to deliver an envelope with several important items Leda had mailed for me; Barbara had an appointment at 10.30 and was going to pass by between 10 and 10.15 but I sat on my scooter right where she would enter the extremely busy parking lot until she came after 10.30, handed me the letter and was off. So now I have the Motor Vehicle Division Form for a medical assessment of my ability to drive a car and I have to see where this examination can be done while I am still on this side of the Atlantic.

At the table tonight are four ladies: Sandra and Marlene from Australia and Diane and Muriel from Quebec, all between 55 and 70 (my guess).  Of course the champagne and the strawberries were a welcome surprise but I really get tired of having to explain why I get this, which invariably leads to the entire story with the ever recurring questions.  I am vaguely thinking of writing this out and pass it around!

February 14: Key West, and my appointment with Dr.Berman.  I get off the ship fairly early and walk (pretty far) to the Post office to mail a short letter to Dorchen, the good soul who sent me a congratulary beautifully decorated letter which had been enclosed with Leda's envelope. Then took a taxi to the doctor's office in a private house and had to wait about an hour.  We had a good conversation before he started the operation; except for the initial injections there was no pain and I wound up with 5 or 6 stitches and a bill for $720.  I don't know how much of
this I'll get back from the IMG Insurance company, but I already have printed out the claim forms they emailed me and soon will submit them.

In the evening I was invited to a special little cocktail party for VIP guests; there was a lady from New York State named Susan with her boyfriend and an Italian lady Gina, also living in New York. Susan  obviously has been cruising for a long time on many lines and kind of dominated the affair, hosted by Stefano, Alessandro and another officer whose name I forgot.
Why they insist on calling this a "cocktail" party escapes me, for the eternal champagne which they offer is no cocktail.
 
However, tonight, Feb 15, the first Gala night, is the General Cocktail Party, the only occasion where they offer Martinis  and another cocktail besides champagne.  Last night was pretty bad because of my now painful nose and it is still so.  I didn't go to swim today - was just too tired.   This afternoon played Scrabble with very nice Beate from Germany who speaks good English and lives an interesting life. She lived for a year in India, working I understand in business promotion but has been in many other countries as well. Unmarried (but with a friend in Germany), she has a 6 month old girl and her mother with her and will stay for two legs. 
 
At 4 I played in the Atrium and while there were quite a few appreciative listeners, the ladies from my table, as well as Beate,  didn't show even though they had said that they wanted to come and listen. (But later, at the Dinner table, I found out that they did come and were on the balcony where I didn't see them) and also Beate was on another balcony she told me when we met in Ocho Rios this afternoon (Feb.16) where I was at "my" WiFi Station.

February 17: This morning I went to the ship's Medical Center because where my leg was damaged in the scooter accident at Christmas time, I had developed a bleeding ulcer as it turned out.  Now  am on antibiotics (3 times a day) and have to have the wound dressed every day at the Center. The doc warned me of the seriousness of this situation. Obviously I've had a low grade infection for some time which would explain my lack of appetite and tiredness. Never a dull moment.


 

 # 37  February 17 to Feb 24, 2011 

You might say "it never rains but it pours"  - I seem to be on a momentary down curve.  Since a screw came off on my prescription glasses, I lost the lens somewhere and didn't notice because it's my right eye with macular degeneration which is anyway practically useless.  Luckily I have another pair, while it'll do, it doesn't have photochrome which is very helpful.  So tomorrow in Cozumel, I'll try and order a new pair from  Zenni Optical in California, since I have the optician's prescription with me and I'll still be able to get it at Barbara's.  
 
My leg is now fairly painful and I notice that it is quite swollen below the bandage which the nurse applied (with several powders and a cream). The doctor is from Montenegro and so is his nurse. I also have found out that there is another doctor/nurse team, also from the same region and they work in shifts.  Swimming is out until this is resolved - Doc says it takes a long time and warned me that this is a very serious matter and to keep the leg up, not always easy. I only hope that what at the moment is only a little hole does not erupt.  I have no previous experience with an ulcer.  I am not a happy camper. So I cry on your shoulders! These doctor/nurse teams are not in the employ of MSC but work on their own (and mine!) account.

To my "caseworker" at the MSC F.L. office:

February 20, 2011
Dear Erin,    

While I think you are cute and very likeable, this is not quite enough to satisfy my needs, because I am still waiting for a resolution with respect to my having to move to another interior cabin in May. I forget how many months this has been under discussion and it seems ludicrous that it could not have been achieved for me to stay put, since the required move was at least 8 months ahead.  I now offer this alternative:  move me into an upgrade (considering the fact that I have paid considerably more for the year's cruising than what it would have cost had I been able to book individual cruises at the discounted fares advertised, an upgrade should be very easy!).

The other question I need to discuss is this: when I had to leave the ship for 4 weeks last  Christmas for medical reasons, I was officially "disembarked" and "embarked" again at the end of my stay in Cozumel and given a new cruise card which reads "21-01-11  to 30-11-11". While I can hardly believe in my luck and MSC's generosity to have added weeks to my scheduled end of cruise year to compensate for times absent in Cozumel and the Jam Cruise, I need some official statement of clarification, if you please.

If you come aboard once more before we go overseas, please say hello.

Sincerely,
EGON
Egon Landsberg


Feb.21, at sea.   The Fort Lauderdale exchange of passengers and US Customs was a real ordeal this time and took nearly 3 hours.  At the table there are new faces of course, next to me Mary (New York) the Frank (Florida and his birthday), then Elaine, and on my right Harvey (Saskatchewan and a Singer).  Of course the champagne was very welcome and required the usual explanation on my part, as did my bandaged nose. Oh well.

The situation with my leg is so serious that I am forced to ponder drastic measures which could even include the necessity of abandoning my dream altogether.  The next step will be an assessment by a specialist at the hospital in St.Thomas, where we'll be Feb.24.  They will determine by tests which specific antibiotic should be used and will also be able to tell me whether staying and being treated on board will be alright.

Feb 23 at Philipsburg - I tried in vain to find an affordable WiFi in the Port area, but don't feel up to all the way into town.  Tomorrow in St. Thomas I should be able to check my emails and send this out. There are again lots of French Canadians and children on board. On both sea days I played the piano in the atrium and yesterday,  Harvey from our table sang two songs to my accompaniment (we practiced in the morning): "Let me call you Sweetheart" and "When I fall in love".  He does this semi-professionally in retirement homes and the likes, walking around and singing directly to individual ladies and also hands out red roses at times. He has a CD, which he gave to me, and his "stage name" is "Skye Sterling".  While he has quite a good voice, I think it's more his good looks and personality which makes him "the darling of all 75-year olds".  There were a lot of pictures taken and I am sure that eventually I'll get copies to forward.

Feb 24.  I have signed three copies of a document stating that I understand that medical examinations, transfer/ship/hospital; etc. are on my expense.  From the Medical Center i am brought to the gangplank, where I a met by Leroy, MSC's  representative in St. Thomas who then brings me to a Surgeon's office  in a sort of medical Center, next to the hospital.  This was obviously so arranged by the ship's doctor, but local time is already 12 noon, I am still sitting in the waiting room and am wondering what he'll be able to do in this short period except make recommendations (and charge a hefty fee). 

Turned out the surgeon (a black man) was very nice and we got along famously. There is no infection and he feels that a cut for drainage is not in the cards.  As a precaution, he put me on more antibiotics which have turned out to be the same as the one I got on the ship; I bought them at the local pharmacy and just now found out that these cost more than what I had to pay on the ship (0.40 more each X 40! Darn it! Can't win). On the other hand, he suggested I buy a bunch of tube socks and just use those instead of bandage and just wash them, because the little discharge is almost like water and will stop eventually. In this way I would save the $15 charge for bandaging.  Best of all, the surgeon's charge was only $30!

OK, this is all for today.  Hoping for the best.

 
# 38:  Feb. 24 - Mar 1, 2011 

This proves that old age does not preclude the possibility that one can be naive: When I got to my cabin yesterday and looked closely at the invoice from the surgeon's office, I saw that the actual cost of the consultation was $180. I suppose that the $ 30 they charged me is just to assure their costs have been covered, should they not be able to collect the balance from either the insurance or myself.   And more:  I have been presented with a new cruise card, showing that I will disembark October 15, 2011.  I just sent the one where I thought they had added the time I had to spend away from the ship so that the disembark date read November 30, 2011, to Steve as a souvenir. Just another impossible dream!

We are at sea, on the way to Nassau in the Bahamas and I played again in the Atrium and had quite a large audience.  Started to take the antibiotics again (Cipro) and don't feel very chipper because my back hurts and the ongoing cough spasms get me down. Sorry for complaining (again).  In Nassau I spent three hours on the computer reading and replying to emails. And this is of course no therapy for my aching back!  


Feb. 27 in Fort Lauderdale I manage to get out by several devious ways early and am met by Dennis, my staunch supporter who had been in touch with Barbara and we all met at a little German restaurant, where I had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut - a welcome dietary change! Barbara had brought the mail Leda had forwarded and I should now be able to prepare my income tax return and have it mailed when we get back to FL for the last time.
Newcomers at the table: two ladies and  two men from England and a young man from Australia.  The champagne was flowing and every one was happy about that and the strawberries, of which I brought 3 to Angelica, who has a cold and coughs quite a bit.
Feb 28 in Key West, a place I like very much.  Lots of chickens and roosters running around everywhere - they belong to the scenery like the cows in India. I first scooted to the Post Office to mail things, then to the paradisic gardens of the oldest house in town, and sat in this peaceful oasis for several hours doing my thing, not too comfortable with the computer on my lap and the bad leg propped up on the scooter seat.  Once again I realize that without the scooter and without my printer I would have been pretty badly off at sea.


March 1 -at sea. I try in vain to prepare my Income Tax return but am stymied by the fact that I don't have all T4 etc slips and the Tax Form I received I cannot use because  I have a capital gain from the sale of investments to finance this cruise.  I have no idea at the moment how to handle this situation since we'll  be leaving for overseas on Sunday.
The big cocktail party tonight and I have 3 olives with dry martinis attached, antibiotics be damned. I dance with Olive, who sits opposite me after the first, and after the third suggest to Carol, who has joined us, that we make love, but she declines and doesn't even have a headache. Darn it, the Cialis are burning a hole in my pant pockets. Dinner is only at 9pm.

March 2, Ocho Rios. I have decided to just wait with the Tax Return until I am back in Canada in October - it's just not feasible any other way.        Whatever.
 

 

# 39 March 2-6, 2011 My last report from this side of the ocean.

Ocho Rios was a sweltering 105F and while I was sitting on a balcony in the shade, on a sort of a barstoool with the computer on a small and rickety table - all belonging to the ice cream parlor inside - and my legs propped up on the Scooter seat on the other side of it, after a few hours I gave up, having sent out # 38 nm , to both groups and done some emailing. Oh my aching back! I'm sure it's worse after each WiFi session. But that's what I want to do.

Of course I never received a reply to my letter to Erin. Neither did I ever get a ruling about the organ - the thing just died in it's tracks as I figured it would. I sure am not impressed with MSC's handling of their "VIP Guest" from the start (yes, Jim Henwood!). With the exception of free laundry, which is the gift of Antonio, the hotel Manager, they have not shown any appreciation of the fact that I am their unwitting advertisement and ambassador, from Cruise Critic to playing the piano to giving my story to the many many people who ask. They have not reacted to either my original complaint that my cabin is either next or over what sounds like a machine room (even though I am on deck 11) with repetitive loud mechanical noises, mostly before leaving or getting into a port, but also at other times. I usually get woken up by this at 6am and have taken to wear ear plugs. OK, I should have been more forceful about this - as now about an upgrade - but I guess I am relying too much on the company's integrity, Apart from this, I am frankly too tired because of my leg and back and effects of the antibiotics, to feel like fighting the system.

The ship hosts some 900 Vegans who have completely upset many functions, as for instance our second dinner sitting, instead of 8pm, is now 9 or 9.30 pm; the library is closed and the theater times had to be adjusted to fit.
I've lost my "VIP Guest" Badge last Gala night (maybe because of the 3 martinis I had?) but will get a new one. And, just to be sure, I checked whether my cabin had been occupied during my Dec/Jan 4-week absence - it was not, so any extension of my year can not be legally claimed (but generously given -haaha). Also found out that as a Black Card holder, I am entitled to eat at the Kaito Sushi restaurant with the person sharing my cabin; being solo I am not allowed to take anyone else instead. But maybe I'll check this one out with Stefano - sure don't want to do this alone.

Mar 4. I am in Cozumel, sitting in the hospital, waiting to see a doctor. I decided to show this situation and get a second opinion because I do not see any betterment and the skin has produced a few blisters. Since the time here is one hour behind ship's time, it is only about 9.20 in the morning and I can't find out when the doctor comes. So I'll wait.
But surprisingly, I only waited about 10 minutes and would p seeing the same lady doctors as I did in December. She only confirmed the antibiotic and prescribed Pentoxifilina, the same as before which increases blood circulation in the legs.

Before the hospital, I had gone to the big store and bought 3 more liter bottles of Schweppes Ginger Ale at 8 pesos each and now have a stash of 8 of these in my cupboard. Now that I have this new prescription and information that the two Walmart-like stores have cheaper pharmacies, back I go to where I got the Ginger Ale and pay an astounding $Peso 350+ for 2 boxes of 30 (and I need 4) but they have no more. So I go to the other one, where I pay only $Peso 98 for 2 boxes - different brand and they, too have no more. So back to the first where I fight for, and get, a refund - I figure I try other Pharmacies in town on my way to the Flamingo hotel, but none of them seem to have them for less than around $Peso 125.

I drive the long way to the Flamingo Hotel where I find out that Thomas and Shirley have gone to Playa Carmen on the mainland and won't be back until late afternoon; also, that the Internet connection is out. So I drive to Sabores, even though it's much too early for lunch, but I sit here and reply to numerous emails because they have WiFi. I am also in touch with Thomas who says they'll back around 3pm, but this is local time and i am on ship's time one hour later - too late to see him. Eventually I have soup and Chile rellenos (stuffed pepper) and am off, first in search of other pharmacies with negative results and then of a bank where I change all the Pesos I have back into US$. And back to the ship around 3.30pm. I figure I must have done 4 or more KM this day - certainly the longest distance I've used the battery power so far and I am impressed for it still shows a good charge.

March 5: As I now appear on the daily flier as "your special guest Egon plays for you" on sea days, I had a good and grateful audience this afternoon (always from 4-4.45pm). i was afterwards invited for a drink by Steve and Pam Smith who permanently live in Puerto Rico, are awfully nice people and were my Scrabble partners in the forenoon. Next to me sat a man by the name of Dale Bell, who lives in Palm Beach, FL and said that I was "his hero". He also spoke of having two pianos and a $ 60,000 Roland Theater Organ, which immediately turned me on. To make a long story short, if Dennis, whom I meet tomorrow at 10.30, is willing, we drive to Dale's house to try out the Theater Organ. Dale is pretty excited at this prospect, as I am.

 

# 40    March 6-9, 2011
 
Got through US Immigration and met Barbara at 10.40 who had my new glasses and a drive-by and good-bye kiss, then met Dennis who was only too happy to drive the 50 Miles to Palm Beach Gardens to see/play the organ Dale was talking about yesterday.  What an experience this turned out to be! Dale, with his wife Vera live on a beautiful estate in a large house. And he has two pianos and this magnificent Roland organ which I did play - sort of, because it would take a lot of time to get to know the instrument.  Then there was their good friend Robert who is a professional musician and also sings and has a vibrant personality. Finally a beautiful Golden Retriever with whom I immediately fell in love.  And: Dale has not only a gorgeous 1963 Thunderbird in pristine original condition, but also several other antique cars - all of this in a beautiful semi-tropical setting. Dale later took us to lunch and Dennis and I arrived back at the ship only at 4.30pm which however still allowed me to look after reports and email.  I was pretty bushed at this point and my leg was quite painful.

One newcomer at the table is Penny, also from England, who drank three glasses of the champagne pretty fast and I again took some of the  strawberries to Galya at the wine bar and Angelica, who is still coughing.

Mar 7:  In the morning went into the Wine Bar to write reports;  at the other end, a group of maybe 40 people and a woman preparing to talk to them with a microphone; the moment she opened her mouth, I knew she was Swiss. Turned out to be a group of Swiss, who were on the cruise to Genoa organised by a Travel Agency. Surprise! In the afternoon, a successful piano session and it sure was gratifying that later on some people who had listened to me on one of the balconies, stopped me to say how much they enjoyed it.  What irony: on March 19, 2010, in my negotiations  with MSC, I sent a letter to MSC offering my services as a musician, which however was rejected  -  now they get it for free!  Here it is:

 "I intend to cruise for an entire year starting Oct 9 2010 and ending with the Oct.8.2011 sailing, on the "Poesia",  but am at the moment actively investigating several other ship's itineraries. I am a Senior, Canadian citizen and a musician (piano, organ, keyboard) and have performed extensively in the US and Mexico and European countries, including US military bases in Morocco, Spain and Greece. My repertoire of over 1200 songs from the 30s  onwards caters mainly to the 50+ crowd with its emphasis on music by such as Berlin, Gershwin, Porter, Kern, Carmichael , but there are also many songs available indigenous to countries like England, Germany,  France, Italy, Mexico. For this reason I have been billed as "Egon's piano stylings of international favourites". While I do not sing, I easily connect with listeners, am outgoing and personable. Fluent in English and German (I am of Swiss/German descent) and get by easily in Italian, Spanish and French. On my last HAL Panama Canal cruise (Dec.23/09) i often used to play the piano in the Explorer's Lounge after the last show finished around 11pm and always had multiple enthusiastic listeners (initially just passers-by, since my playing was not advertised) who often returned with additional folks on other evenings. I usually played about one hour and was able to play most of the requests. 

    Since there is a large segment of older guests on your cruises, I feel that I would be able to contribute to their enjoyment, be it at cocktail hour or  in the evening.
    
    If MSC is interested, I have the following proposal: that I would play for say 2 hours 6 days a week in either bar or lounge at a time to be set during the entire booked cruise year. In return, the quoted price would be reduced to  $ 50K and I would be granted free 24/7 Internet access. If, within the first two weeks my service should not be found satisfactory, the price would revert to the original one and the contract annulled. If I should fail to meet my obligation (i.e. not be able to play) for an extended period, the $ 50K price would be increased by $ 200 per week remaining in the contract which I would be willing to sign with the above conditions."

    
Oh well, whooppee for free laundry...

 

 

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      Egon Landsberg

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