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          The Second Going           

My email reports from travel legs (post Poesia 2011)

 

THE SECOND GOING              October 18, 2011 - April 2, 2012


North Bay, Ontario, where my son Steve lives and owns Torbay Cottages and where he had prepared a room for me in the big house which he had built some years ago and is now remodelling to be sold as the foundation of a B&B.

In my room there is a large table for which I am grateful because it allows me to spread out; eventually I unpacked everything and already decided on quite a few things I could do without in the ensuing months so as to reduce the amount and weight of luggage to handle.

Even though the weather has been rainy, cold and miserable for quite a few days, to be here, to be with Steve and Brandy, the female canine master of the house, and friends, is a wonderful experience and welcome change. However, as I intimated before, I am still footloose and fancy-free and even though my plans are still in the works for the most part, here is to which point they are already fixed:

On November 12, Steve and I will leave about 4.30 AM and drive to the Pearson airport in Toronto, where I'll take a Westjet flight, leaving at 10AM for Cozumel, Mexico. There I am booked until February 13, 2012 at the Sabor Cozumel Resort and Spa (www.saboresorts.com ). Check it out! Sure would be wonderful to see some of you during my stay there!! Then, on February 13, my loveboat "Poesia" will pick me up in Cozumel, take me to Fort Lauderdale and I'll first make three 7-day trips to the Eastern and Western Caribbean and on March 17 on the 16-day transatlantic to Genoa.

In Berne, they are laughing, because for some years now I've said that "this is the last time". But for me this is another homecoming to a country and place and friends I love and so it draws me mightily (further enhanced by the thought of Migros' Bürli!!-:)

This is it for today. I hope that you all are well, and I send you affectionate greetings and good vibes.

Egon


Oct 18 - Nov 2, 2011

Time passes ever so fast, the older you get, the faster it goes. We've had a few gorgeous days, but also some miserable ones; between trips into town for shopping, visits or a haircut, I have reduced my "overhead" considerably, i.e. packed away in one of my suitcases items I think I can do without for the next episode, starting with the printer. I'll also leave one of my suits here and will just have the big rollaway, the smaller one, 2 suit-garment bags and a carry on. And of course there is the scooter in a 36-lbs bag - all of which will require a porter at the airport and at train stations when the time comes, not to speak of a hefty overweight charge on the flight to Cozumel. Staying here is wonderful, both Steve and Joyce are most gracious in their efforts to look after my comfort and I am very grateful.

I have been working on my itinerary with Linda who is an agent of Avoya Travel who in turn is under contract with MSC. But it's a rough road again and reminds me vividly of the "MSC Odyssey" which saw me battling with the Ft. Lauderdale office for fully 6 months until all was settled for my one year sojourn on "Poesia". I can't help but wonder about the company's working force and organisation in their USA operation. While I now have firm bookings until April 2, price calculations for these were faulty (none of the 20% discounts were right!) and I am waiting for corrections. Then the next batch until July 18 will be tackled.

After having been charmed by checking out the iPad, investigating it as well as several competitors, I decided against any of them. I do too much writing for an on-screen keyboard and adding an eternal one to a tablet doesn't make sense to me. My decision was helped by the fact that Future Shop had a sale on Acer netbooks and took your old one in trade for $50; since mine was already almost 2 years old and needed a new battery, I went for the deal and am happy with it, even though the new machine has only a 4-hour battery against my old 8-hour one. Steve helped me transfer all the stuff from one to the other, but as before with the Window 7 Starter Edition, there are several issues yet to be resolved.

Keep tuned.
 

# 3 to November 12  2011

I had been with Steve at his place www.torbay.net for almost one entire month, lovingly pampered by both him and Joyce, not to speak of tailwagging Brandy. While I taught them bad habits, having brought a bottle each of Crown Royal and Bailey's which meant nightly drinks and laced deserts, I was treated to nightly specialities laden with a great variety of steamed veggies (Steve's speciality), some wonderful trout, salmon, chicken etc. Sundays were McCafé and Egg McMuffin days - Tradition! Two days before I left I treated them to Dinner at the Ram's Head in Callander and it was an excellent choice. Next day had me packing and I barely made it, with both suitcases bursting at the seams and weighing tons. Steve was able to store them, as well as the packed-up Scooter plus some other items in the enormous trunk of my Buick. Steve had offered to drive me to the Toronto airport (a 4-hour trip) which meant that we would have to leave around 4.15am, but the alternative would have been a flight out of North Bay at 6.30am or so, which would also mean getting up at about the same time and would be much more inconvenient for me. The Westjet flight to Cozumel was to leave at 10am.

At 3.30am the telephone rang a few times - Joyce checking from her home in N.B. that we were up. We found the car partly covered with snow and I took a couple of photos before Joyce had finished cleaning the windshield, and also one of the impressively packed trunk. And off we went with only one stop en route, to arrive at the airport around 8am. I had of course requested wheel chair assistance which worked beautifully and bypassed me through crowds of people in line to check in and I was mighty glad for Steve's attendance and strength to handle the luggage. After paying a reasonable $79 for excess baggage, the scooter was deposited somewhere else because it was oversized and we went on to the security area where there was a somewhat weepy leavetaking. I was amazed at the stringent security which had me to give up my toothpaste (afterwards I berated myself for not arguing the fact that quite a bit of the 150ml tube had already been used so that the excess over the allowed 100ml was minimal. Too bad. Afterwards I bought a sample size (20ml) at the airport store for "only" $2.25. You can't win).

The less than 4hr flight was uneventful and I treated myself to a turkey and Brie sandwich. We got to Cozumel almost 1/2 hr early; I had wonderful help from a young woman handling the wheelchair and hefting the luggage off the carousel and onto the Scanner and once through immigration and customs, I found the representative of the transfer company I had booked with on line and after only maybe 15 minutes wait my luggage and I were in a van shared with other passengers and off we went. I guess it took 25 minutes of steady driving until we came to the Sabor Resort, some 13km South of the center of town - I was privileged in that mine was to be the first stop. It says "we like tips". Of course.

And here I was received with almost open arms and after checking in brought to my new home for the next 3 months - it was quite a long way for me to walk in a labyrinth-like but very pleasant environment and I gratefully collapsed on my bed.

So much for today! Now I will have Google translate this into it's fractured German and then edit and correct it -often with a laugh! Still have to decide whether it would be faster to write the whole thing again in German.
 

# 4 November 12 - 17 2011

My room is in one of the many villas - this one a two storey building - and in location which for me seems very good. I have a view towards the pool on the left and the ocean on the right. The room contains two double beds, a table with two chairs, a cabinet with a large flat panel TV (but there are only two English channels, CNN and FOX). So it actually is rather small but rated at 350 sqft because of the washroom, and toilet/Shower; the latter is a large walk-in. There is silent air-conditioning, remote controlled like the TV and it works very well and of course it has a ceiling fan which I don't use because I find it too drafty. There are large drawers below the TV and in the equally large built-in wardrobe an electronic safe. There is a coffee maker, hair dryer and ironing board, a digital clock and telephone on the nightstand.

Of course you are not expected to spend a lot of time in your room in a place like this which has many public areas apart from the 2000 ft beach front. There are several pools but they are more for playing in and having drinks at the poolside bar while standing in the water since they are only 2'7" deep. This I found very disappointing, because for me to get into the ocean is tricky - the entire coast has lots of rocks and while the beach is sand, going into the water means negotiating rocks at the bottom between sandy areas while steadying yourself against waves and keeping your balance; I tried but just can't do it any more, I am too unsteady on my feet. But I found out about another pool which I can use in another area reserved for members of the "Regency" club and half of it's good size is more than 6' deep. Once again I am glad for the scooter, because it would be too far for me to walk there.

But very close to me is La Isla, a large buffet-style restaurant for all meals where I have been going to and where I am already known amongst the waiters as "Senor Egon". Word gets around. One can sit on the terrace facing the ocean and it's just gorgeous. There are palms in front with the trunks garlanded with lights in the evening and there are of course the famous Mexican blackbirds looking for handouts and not taking "no" for an answer. I have found the food very good - there is great and generous variety and I regret at times that I have only a small appetite (just as well!). There are other restaurants to be checked out, two of them where reservations have to be made.

When I was sitting down for Dinner at La Isla the second evening here, two young ladies approached me, introduced themselves and invited me to share their table - how nice! They were from Texas, the older one (maybe 28) originally from South Africa and it turned out a delightful evening. Unfortunately they left Sabor the next day. All employees are very solicitous and helpful, especially the waiters who bring you coffee or drinks and I am just wondering whether or not I did read somewhere that gratuities are part of the all inclusive price.

Nov. 15 I had the visit of Tom and Shirley, owners of the Flamingo Hotel in town where I stayed last December /January for almost a month and they came with Brian and Barbara whom I also got to know at that time. Unfortunately, this being an all inclusive place, one is not able to buy a drink or a meal, but I was able to sneak at least a margarita for Tom. It was a nice visit. And then I discovered in the evening that they had moved the entire La Isla restaurant down to the beach just below my house and it turned out to be a kind of beach party with very impressive fire dancers and then the every decreasing height Limbo, which was won by a young and lithe woman from Argentina. I had i real grandstand view and took quite a fiew pictures.

Nov. 15 Another visit! This time from Cheryl, tablemate on Poesia last December with whom I never lost contact. She was staying at the Hotel Resort Cozumel near the center of town and I felt bad that she had to spend $ 30 in taxi fares to come to see me. But we had a wonderful visit and after I succeeded in not only getting her a drink but also a quesadilla for lunch (entirely illegal!), we both had a siesta in my airconditioned room (with two beds, after all!) and I told her that now she could brag that she slept with a 94-year old guy! Then we lounged at the pool and watched the antics of a waterball game in front of us, with many of the players feeling no pain from the refreshments served at the poolside bar. She left after 5pm, but will be back Feb.8 at her hotel and come here to celebrate my 95th.

While I do have WiFi in my room, it's a sporadic affair, cutting out or not allowing internet access at times and the strength is hardly ever "good". But from what Cheryl tells me, also at her hotel she finds the same situation and I guess this may be a satellite signal and thus is unpredictable. This evening (it's now 6.30 pm) I have been waiting 1-1/2 hrs to get internet access, although I am connected. When I am connected, the reading is "good" but no internet access; the moment I disconnect, it drops down to "fair" but shows again as being "good" when I reconnect and always without internet. Go figure.

I am just back from dinner and nice people at the next table started talking with me - they are Suzette and Jason - he a former Marine - from Idaho. We will have dinner together on Friday at Robertos, the Italian restaurant where you have to make reservations. It's after 8pm and while I am connected, have no internet access.

 

# 5 November 17-24 2011

There is a constant parade of different water craft in front of the beach, from jet boats and small catamarans which you can rent, to passing yachts and other smaller ships; farther out there are 2, sometimes three parasails high up in the air and occasionally a cruiseship passes. A little ways down the beach is a pier from which they start a glassbottom boat or others for half to full day fishing trips. But one of the big attractions is snorkelling - one can rent the gear- because there is ample life below.

I went by scooter to the fancier section of Sabor and on to Aura - all belonging to Wyndham but it seems that the place to be and where the action is, is right here. I think the age average here at this time is about 35, very few older people and certainly no one even approaching my age bracket. The night before they had what they called a "Horror Show" at the theater; there were only maybe 20 people attending at 9pm - it was a valiant effort but nothing to shout about. And last night was Mexican night, this time the La Isla was on the square in front of it, there was a great array of Mexican food but most of the time you had no idea what you put on your plate because there were no name plates and in any event there would not have been enough light to read them. I did however recognize a chicken leg and everything else was very good. Dinner was followed by some Mexican dancers in colourful costumes, well done on a stage which was too small. Today I sat again in the afternoon and watched the waterball game, this time enhanced by four topless women - as usual there's a lot of screaming with the bar at the pool supplying lubrication for dry throats and removal of inhibitions.

I had dinner together with Jason and Suzette, and they told me of their plans of moving to Honduras. A big change in lifestyle and a big undertaking. I hope for them that it'll work out and be everything they are dreaming about. I grew quite fond of these two - unfortunately they'll be leaving this morning.

Sabor is a "Green" Company, from water efficient shower heads to rechargeable batteries in remotes and biodegradable toilet paper. There are waterjugs in the apartments and the big watercontainers just outside to reduce the use of plastic bottles; towels are changed when you leave them on the floor after using them a few times and bed linen changed "according to a program", so they say, but so far mine has been changed daily.

I am very impressed with the buffet in La Isla.. There is always a great variety of everything, salads and fruit (cut up) are always fresh, varied and appetizing. Sure, there is room for improvement, such as printed indicators of the contents of the many covered rechauds at all meals; most of the time they are missing and it isn't easy to discern what you are getting, especially since the illumination is not bright. But all the food is very good and never boring because of the wide choices.

Two other couples befriended me: (their initiatives), but especially Richard and Alberta from Connecticut -- he seems to like me very much. I had mentioned once at breakfast that there always was only strawberry jam, never any orange marmalade which I love. Last night they came back from town and presented me with a jar of orange marmalade and another of blueberry jam as well as a little package of crackers! I still have one pair of MSC slippers which I'll give him tonight. There was a very animated discussion last night between them and the other couple who joined the table I was sitting at about the state of the US deficit crisis. I left about 9 pm.

Nov. 22: There was another Dinner evening on the beach - apparently this is a weekly event and actually requires a great deal of preparation every time. It was again followed by the fire and Limbo dancers. I sat with Richard and Alberta and it was another nice evening finishing shortly after 9pm for which I was kind of glad because all the happening was just below my apartment.

Then on the evening before their departure, we had dinner together at Robertos and it was just excellent. I noticed that Richard is a lavish "tipper" which has endeared him greatly to many of the waiters. And this morning after our breakfast, they left to return to cold Connecticut after a terribly long trip home because of poor flight connections. I've grown very fond of both Richard and Alberta and I daresay the feeling is mutual. I'll miss them.

In the big Hotel reception hall they put up an enclosure with a beautifully feathered female turkey as well as a very plain looking tom, all tethered and with obviously a very limited lifespan; tonight will be a big Thanksgiving Day dinner at La Isla. The place is full of people because there is a huge Ironman Marathon going on for almost a week, with miles of swimming and biking and other disciplines - I don't know how many hundreds of people are involved, but it must be a formidable number from many countries because the whole town is also involved with special happenings.

 


Nov 29

Hi Steve, here is the itinerary as it exists now. I am sending both odt and rtf for you to chose which you might publish on the website. Thanks!

Has been pretty cool and very windy 2 days. I am still battling with the travel agent I have to deal with over recurring errors - but finally all will be straightened out finance wise. What still remains open are several cabin changes required and which I am trying hard to avoid. There are major logistical problems to be solved, such as when I leave Genoa for Bern from the Poesia but return to Genoa to board "Melody". This means that unlike last year, when I could leave my luggage on board because I was returning to the same ship, this time I'll have to find storage for it ashore. I am hoping to get the assistance of the MSC Agent in Genoa with this. A similar situation will be later in Venice where I'll have to spend 2 days in a hotel (arriving on "Musica" and leaving on "Magnifica"). The other ship-to-ship changes I am less worried about because with luck, both will be moored on the same quay and it then would be simple to move over. Sure does take a lot of planning and preparation, also with respect to payments for the various cruises. It's not as easy as it sounds!

Have a good week!

Love - Dad

 

2012  ITINERARY                                                                             DAYS                                      

13.02-18.02         Poesia         PO18       (Part) Cozumel-Pt.Everglades               5
18.02-25.02         Poesia         PO19     Pt. Everglades-Pt. Everglades                 7
28.02-10.03             "              PO20                  "                           "                  12          
10.03-17.03            "               PO21                 "                            "                  7
17.03-02.04            "               PO22                 "  Genoa                                   16
02.04-11.04                 BERN - GENOA                                                          11                         
11.04-22.04         Melody       ME25    Genoa-Genoa                                        11
22,04-01.05               "           ME26     Genoa-Katakolon  (Part of ME26)         9
01.05-06.05         Musica       MU21     Katakolon-Venice (Part of MU21)         5
06.05-13.05                 "         MU22      Venice-Venice                                      7
13.05-20.05              "            MU23             "             "                                      7             
20.05-22.05                STAY TWO NIGHTS ION VENICE                             2
22.05-03.06         Magnifica    MA18               Venice-Kiel                               12
03.06-17.06                   "       MA19               Kiel-Kiel                                    14
17.06-24.06                   "       MA20                Kiel-Kiel                                     7
24.06-28.06                   "       MA21          Kiel-Stavanger (Part  MA21)            4
28.06-02.07         Opera        OP29       Stavanger-S'hampton(PartOP29)          4
02.07-10.07               "           OP30      S'hampton-S'hampton                            8
10.07-18.07`             "            OP31                  "                "                              8
18.07-26.07              "            OP32                "                "                                8
6.07-27.07                   OVERNIGHT IN SOUTHAMPTON                            1                                     
27.07-02.08        Queen Mary 2          Southampton-New York                         6


 #6 November 24 - December 02, 2011

There are 4 parasails in the air - it looks as if there would be a landing of parachutists! Last night, in honor of the US Thanksgiving, there was turkey and also pumpkin pie - apart from available fish, beef or pork, many veggies and salads and patisseries. The place seems to be pretty full because of the Ironman Marathon; there also are many Mexicans, participants and supporters. I have been told that there are 1600 people taking part. It's a big boon for the town, I'm sure.

On Sunday is the big event: Bicycle race 180 KM, Swim 3.8 KM and Marathon 42.2KM - a total of 226KM. There'll sure be a lot of sore bodies at the end of it. On Monday are the Reward and Closing ceremonies in town. I understand that most of the participants and their families or supporters will stay on at least until Wednesday to recuperate.

December 1: Things have calmed down considerably with practically all participants and their supporters having left. But the place is by no means empty! I got to know a nice family from Boston with two daughters and one son (who participated in the Ironman) - his name is Angelo and it seems as if his whole body is covered with ornate tattoos. His family left two days ago, he goes tomorrow.

In the Hotel lobby there is a huge decorated but artificial Christmas tree and already they play Christmas songs but thankfully very subdued. However from what I heard so far, they are all rocked-up versions, including "Silent Night" - not to my liking!

The woman who usually makes up my room is Beatriz, known as "Betty", is married and has several children. She also is quite an artist creating animals with towel-art and has already produced a little Zoo for me (see pics!). Really very clever. Since I found out that she goes home every evening, I asked whether she has a washing machine and whether she would do my laundry once in a while. She would be happy to do this and earn some extra Pesos and this would relieve me of a major logistical problem since I would not have to go into town to a Laundromat. Laundry here at Sabor would be very expensive (e.g. US$ 2.50 for a shirt).
 

#7 December 2 - 8 2011

There is a big Spa attached to Sabor, where you can have all kind of massages etc. It's also the only place which has Jacuzzis, but everything costs - and I mean COSTS! Since they also have a beauty parlour there, I enquired what the charge is for a man's haircut, but at an obscene US$ 35 I can go into town, pay full price for a taxi, ($ 30 return unless I can share one) and get my hair cut. I guess the Spa operation is a franchise. Without me.

December 7 was a day of happenings and reckonings. Firstly, I was required to move yesterday, much to my chagrin. It seems that the area I was in is slated for maintenance and repairs. However, I wound up at the Regency Club which is where I swam every morning and have a much bigger and nicer room directly at the pool. But it was a pretty exhausting day and you may have noted that I said "swam" instead of "swim". This is because once again (it's Christmas time, no?) I had an accident with the scooter, but entirely because of my own stupidity, going down a ramp too fast to negotiate a sharp left turn at the end of it which caused the scooter to tip, my arm, wrist and knee scraping along a cement wall and my right forehead eventually banging against a cement post.

The local paramedic came after others tried to stop the bleed on my elbow, treated the damaged places and checked that I didn't suffer a concussion. I also had the support of Carol and Robert, people from New Jersey I had gotten to know a few days ago and befriended and who just happened to be there at the time, watching a huge iguana. But later in the room I called the paramedic again because I tried to fix my elbow wound and couldn't do it because of it's location. This is when he took a closer look and said that it would require several stitches because it had been torn open. So then I agreed for the Doc under contract with Sabor to come and he left after making 4 sutures, leaving antibiotics for 3 days and a bill for $200. So that's why I did not say "swim" - it'll be sometime until I can again. Doc returns in 7 days to remove the stitches. He's a good guy, speaks English fairly well, went to med school in Texas. Had a lot of problems later with bleeding, soiled short sleeve of my shirt, shorts and several napkins since the paramedic had already gone for the day, a bad night because of pain in the elbow but I think the bleed has stopped and the paramedic will be back this AM to dress the wound. Sure am kicking myself for this stupidity - I rushed because at 2pm I thought the restaurant was going to close. This is only the second scooter accident in over a year though and I've used it a lot in all kinds of difficult terrain. Live and learn!

My plan to go into town for a haircut and lunch with Tom and Sylvia has been abandoned for today. The paramedic came and (mal-)treated me but did his job well and he'll be back tomorrow. He is employed by Sabor; I don't know whether they'll charge me for his services, but anyway gave him 50 Pesos today which made him happy. Meantime, I am laying low and licking my wounds like the old dog I am at heart.


# 8  December 9 - 14 2011

Tom and Shirley came down and we went to a very popular watering hole about 1KM South from here called Carlos'n Charlie's, picking up their friend Jaime, the Mexican manager of Residencias Reef which I think are either timeshares or condos. Next day I decided that I had to get this haircut, waited around to try and share a taxi, when my friends Margaret and Carl appeared (I thought that they had already left) and for 100 Pesos to the driver I was able to go with them.

In town, I found the Barbershop closed (11.30 am) and was told that he probably opens only at 2pm. So I went to the Flamingo Hotel where Shirley gave me directions to Katie, the American woman who runs sort of a Spa/BeautySalon in town and does Tom's hair. This was at the South end of town but in the direction I had to go anyway and just behind the big Store where I later got some Ginger Ale (For Poesia) and found that at the Sabor Store I had to pay 50% more for the toothpaste I bought there. That figures. For the taxi trip back I had of course to pay the full price, but did with 150 Pesos, which is less than the US$ 15 they charge in Dollars.

Every day Alfredo, the Paramedic, comes and dresses my elbow wound which is doing well. Still don't know what he'll charge for supplies and his services. I have been taking Cipro 500mg antibiotics twice daily and suffered dry cocktail times, but tonight I will eat at the Asian restaurant Mosaic and am looking forward to a whiskey. To compensate for the fact that I cannot now swim, I have been walking quite a bit, which is not so easy any more and often painful. I also have to be extra careful not to trip - especially after the early darkness and on poorly lit walkways.

I went to eat at the Mosaic Restaurant in the "Exclusive" Section of Sabor and was able to savour a Whiskey before going in, sitting in the adjacent Lounge. Walking there in almost complete darkness, I got a lift from the passing company's golfcart, for which I was grateful. It's a very nice restaurant, specializing in different Asian dishes and the food was excellent. But, at 6.30 pm and for the entire time that I was there, there was only one couple besides myself. There were a lot of very bored waiters! The entire Sabor complex, which consists of the Exclusive, Villas and Regency Sections, is not very well occupied, but I am told that before Christmas, and for the ensuing two to three months, it will be full. When I got out of the restaurant it had been raining, the pathways were very wet and in places the overhead canopies of trees dripping on me. I made it back, but was glad to be able to stop halfway in the hotel lobby and rest for a while.

Today the doc came and removed the sutures. It looks pretty good, but because a lot of skin was lost, it will take another 8-10 days until I can swim again.

I wanted to comment about the beautiful park-like surroundings and gardens, the manicured lawns, some fancy low trees shaped into fancy figures and of course the palms and other trees which form canopies on some of the walkways and adorn the shoreline. They take pride and very good care of the place - there are always people working in maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty. And then there are the flowers, notably bougainvilleas and others, the names of which I don't know.


# 9 December 15 - 24 2011

Essentially, this is a pretty lonely existence and I feel it. At night, I go around 6.30 to the very nice restaurant here, but sit in the lounge adjacent to it and have my drink - so far I have not seen anybody there. Finally I go down to a table. People around me are young couples, newly or still in love, and not to be disturbed; a group of five young women obviously not interested in an old man, and an elderly couple occupied with chewing their cud - certainly not an inspiring ambiance form my point of view. So I finish my drink and have my meal, try to change with the waiter a $20 Bill for 9-ones and one 10 so that I can leave a tip but am not able to until maybe next night, and so I drag myself home to write this before I forget the feeling.

(A few days later) There are many more older couples here now and it seems the place is finally filling up for the holidays. Last night there was "Mexican Night" in front of the La Isla restaurant, but as usual it was very hard to divine what was in the rechauds once you pulled back the cover. Nevertheless, everything is always good eating but unfortunately by the time one gets to sit down, the food is no longer hot. However, I had two drinks and sat down at one of the tables where there was already a couple, he from Poland, she from Lithuania, both living in the US. Later we were joined by another American couple and at least there was some conversation. Then they had again the Mexican Folk Dancers on the small stage which they call a "Mini Theater" and they really are very good. Somebody had told me that there would be Mariachis and that's what I was looking forward to, but it didn't happen. Too bad.

The fact is that, despite being known, greeted and talked to by a lot of employees here, despite occasionally getting to know some people and rarely befriend them only to see them leave again, I feel quite alone, if not lonely. But I guess that's the way it is eventually.

OK, enough of that whining. In the mornings I always walk down to La Isla for breakfast (just juice, some fruit, toast - occasionally an egg and rarely come bacon or sausage, coffee with milk because they don't have coffee cream). The Mexican blackbirds are hovering around hoping for handouts - the occasional courageous one even will take a piece from your outstretched hand. Others wait for the right moment to land on a table where people just left and steal something from one of their plates. Apart from this they emit occasional unmelodic shrieks. Once in a while a lone pelican flies along the shores and pounces violently into the water for the fish he saw, which he then somewhat awkwardly has to expedite down into his throat from the big sack under the beak - he does it by pointing it straight up and shaking it.

But the view from where I usually sit is over the ocean. Further out one of the large catamarans is parked over one of the many reefs and disgorges a horde of divers and snorkelers; there are many boats passing by, some for deep sea fishing, some for hauling parasails, some to take people to other reefs and then there is also the small looking glassbottom boat. Of course there are also yachts just cruising around and jetscooters flitting about. But I have not seen any water skiers.

When I got to my restaurant here at the Regency club, there was a big wedding celebration party in full swing and the people were dancing to the music of a 5-man Mariachi Band - the first live music I've heard at Sabor. I sat, had my drink and enjoyed watching the revelers. When they eventually proceeded to eat in one of the enclosed rooms, I, too went, sat at a table for two. What a romantic setting, on this balcony at the water's edge, with the gentle waves lapping ashore, the balmy air and subdued music (canned) in the background. But alas, the seat opposite me was empty.

As I left, people at another table stopped and greeted me - they are from Canada and knew that I was too because they had seen me on the scooter with the Canadian flag. We will have dinner together tonight at Roberto's.

December 24: Like in Europe, Christmas Eve in Mexico is more important than Christmas Day and is celebrated with special meals, La Posada, Piñatas, singing and dancing. Everyone of the staff I encounter, especially the ones who greet me as Señor Egon, wishes "Feliz Navidad". There will be Turkey tonight at all the restaurants, with all the trimmings, and there are activities planned. Despite all this, the feeling lacks that "Christmas' feeling of course.

There suddenly are a lot of newcomers and this noon, sitting on the balcony of La Isla for Lunch, I observed them - all age groups, all shapes and sizes (a few to love, many to get out of the way of) mostly scantily dressed and occasionally just barely covering focal points; white skin waiting for a sunburn.

A few evenings ago I got to know a nice couple from Canada, here with their 13 year old son and we spent dinners together and befriended each other. All born in Canada, but Jackie of German ancestry and speaks German fluently, Olivier from Martigny, Switzerland. They live way up North in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where he is connected to the oil field enterprises. Very nice people indeed, she very pretty and Jake, the son, a boy to be proud of.

Merry Christmas, dear friends. 

 

#10 December 25 - 31 2011

My -now regretted- outburst of self-pity in my last report provoked a slew of emails with messages of support and encouragement. I can only thank you all for your empathic loyalty - your friendship affirmation means all to me. I'm OK, I assure you. We all have our down days.

Last night was Christmas Eve with a special menu at all restaurants. I sat again with Olivier, Jackie and Jake. After Dinner there was a So-So Santa Claus, not only for the relatively few kids present, but also for photo-ops of the grownups with him. In the end I was coerced to sit with two "elves" in my arms to the amusement of everyone and cameras were very busy. As for me, while I did not want to spoil the fun, I felt that I was being "used". In any event, the resulting picture sure isn't what it looks like. The same is true of the photo with Tammy: she was sitting at the next table once at lunch, started talking with me, I moved over and afterwards she wanted to be photographed with me. People do that. Big deal.

Later we sat in the Lounge with others from Texas, Colorado and Canada, had Tequila as well as some fake champagne and a lot of small talk and laughter. At that time I also was presented with a Christmas Gift from Jackie und Olivier which turned out to be a tray with very good Caramel Chocolates which I passed around for everyone to taste. I was very moved by this nice and generous gesture which I certainly did not expect. I left the party before everyone else shortly after 9pm.

Today, Christmas Day, the place is really humming. I went down and had Nachos and Cerveza at the Snack Bar opposite the La Isla restaurant and there were dozens of people, mostly in bikinis or swimming trunks everywhere, around the bar, the pool, the whole area was teeming. Their own noises were enriched by the blaring loudspeakers at the Mini Theater Stage and again I wondered about the dulled senses the people must have who are lying in the sun right in front of the pounding rap.

In the late afternoon I had the visit of Shirley with her cousin Fred and his fiancé, both from Sao Paulo and I learned for the first time, that Shirley is from Brazil. What a nice person she is.

December 28: Sitting on the terrace at my restaurant tonight, I see the thin waning moon hanging in the black sky, hear soft waves caressing the shore and the balmy air enwraps me like the arms of a lover - I stop dreaming right there. Its so damn romantic and its bittersweet.

December 29: Went for a swim today - first time in over three weeks, but only did 2 laps, not only because a bunch of kids where roiling up the pool, but also because I am out of shape and need to get back by daily increases. Then I met beautifully shaped Adriana in her bikini and told her, with buckling knees, that I wished I were 40 years younger.

Lunch at La Isla, a soup with lentils, diced veggies and small pieces of meat, then salad from the wonderful saladbar which offers bowls of curly and of romano salad, plates with sliced cukes, tomatoes, shredded carrots, slender green and yellow peppers, onion and what looks like seaweed, green and black olives, capers and several sauces from vinaigrette to ranch. For desert: a small flan.

Trudging my way home I was stopped by a woman in what I guessed her sixties who wanted to know whether it was "really true" that I was 94. I said yes, and that in some 6 weeks I'll be 95. She went on in ecstasy about how wonderful etc etc, so I finally said, "you may kiss me". She did, I said that she had made my day and went on. So much water and nothing to drink. Next day I met her again and got to know her husband - nice people from Montreal!

December 31: I have been adopted by Adriana, Adam, Sophia and their twin boys and am asked at every meal to sit with them and their friends - it's usually a big table. They have been coming here for many years. It's nice to be with them, even though the 6-year old twins can be a bit of a problem at times. The other day there were four kids at the table and each one was engrossed with a "toy" - from i-pad to i-phone to gaming and could hardly take time out to eat.

This is New Year's Eve and there will be festivities down at the beach. I went down to La Isla for lunch and was again astounded by the many employees and waiters who greeted "Mr. Egon", shook my hand and wished a happy new year.

And so I also wish it for you all as well, with love and gratitude for your friendship.

Egon


Jan 9

Dear friends, here is my newly revised ititnerary. It sure would be wonderful to see some of you again, sometime, somewhere ....
With love - Egon
Meine lieben Freunde, hier ist mein neuer revidierter Reiseplan für 2012. Es wäre ja wunderbar, einige von Euch wiederzusehen, irgendwann, irgendwo ...
Mit lieben Grüssen - Egon

2012 ITINERARY  (last # each line is # of days)

13.02-18.02 Poesia PO18 (Part) Cozumel-Pt.Everglades 5
18.02-25.02 Poesia PO19 Pt. Everglades-Pt. Everglades 7
28.02-10.03 " PO20 " " 11
10.03-17.03 " PO21 " " 7
17.03-02.04 " PO22 " Genoa 16
02.04-11.04 BERN - Genoa 11
11.04-22.04 Melody ME25 Genoa-Genoa 11
22,04-01.05 " ME26 Genoa-Katakolon (Part of ME26) 9
01.05-06.05 Musica MU21 Katakolon-Venice (Part of MU21) 5
06.05-13.05 " MU22 Venice-Venice 7
13.05-20.05 " MU23 " " 7
20.05-22.05 STAY TWO NIGHTS IN VENICE 2
22.05-03.06 Magnifica MA18 Venice-Kiel 12
03.06-17.06 " MA19 Kiel-Kiel 14
17.06-24.06 " MA20 Kiel-Kiel 7
24.06-28.06 " MA21 Kiel-Stavanger (Part MA21) 4
28.06-02.07 Opera OP29 Stavanger-S'hampton(PartOP29) 4
02.07-10.07 " OP30 S'hampton-S'hampton 8
10.07-18.07` " OP31 " " 8
18.07-26.07 " OP32 " " 8
26.07-01.08 IN SOUTHAMPTON 6
01.08-13.08 Caribbean Princess S
' ampton - S'hampton 12
13.08-25.08 " " " " 12
25.08-08.09 " " " New York 14
08-09 Porter Airlines New York-Sudbury, ON


 

# 11 January 1-15, 2011

Since I last wrote,, nothing really worthwhile mentioning happened. I am sure you are not particularly interested in knowing that it has been cool and very windy so that I had my daily swim only towards noon, slowly increasing my laps again until now I am doing 8 of them. There you have it, like it or not!

Sabor has really filled up and now most people seem to be between 25 and 35. Most `action` is around the pool which is flanked by the La Isla and Roberto`s restaurants as well as a well frequented bar and it's pretty noisy, further `enhanced` by the loudspeakers at the little stage blaring mostly rap. Tattoos are very much in evidence and today I saw a woman in her 40s in a bikini, with large prominent tattoos over each breast, as if the formidable cleavage wasn't enough to draw attention to her already sagging busom. In years to come, there will be a lot of old people with wrinkled tattoos. While I always go down there for lunch, I am happy to come back to the much quieter area of the Regency Club, where now most schoolage kids have left.

I made quite a few friends since I last wrote, but as is always the case, all I now have is their email addresses. But we communicate and we exchange photos.

January 13: In the last few days I spent many frustrating hours on the computer. There is firstly the fact that I am dealing with an unreliable travel agent (highly recommended to me by a former and befriended Poesia tablemate), am being stonewalled on several important issues and left without communication for a week or more. Problem is that I now cannot deal with MSC direct, having begun with a travel agent, and also the contact the latter has with the MSC office in Fort Lauderdale does not react to my emails. Then, making rail reservations for my trip from Genoa to Bern and return, it keeps on saying that my MasterCard number is wrong. Eventually I have to use a debit card. And then I find out that I cannot get an e-ticket, because the Italian Railway does not accept it. So now I have to make arrangements for someone in Bern to pick up the ticket at the station there and mail it to me in Fort Lauderdale, but I still have to find someone to send it to. Finally, I made hotel reservation for my stay in Southampton of July 26-August 1 and had quite some time until I could ascertain that the room I get will be on the ground floor as requested, for which I have to pay over $ 10 more per day because it has an en suite; the ones with a shared bathroom are all upstairs. Uff!

January 14: I am back from Cozumel, where I stayed overnight at the Flamingo Hotel in a beautiful downstairs room with attached bathroom all laid out with small tiles in different subdued metallic colours - a very stunning effect. The room has obviously been newly created because they are making major improvements throughout. My good friends Thomas and Shirley, the owners, had hunted up a keyboard for me and brought it down to Sabor on the 12th. The idea was that they would would come and get me next day in the evening, because they had hired a sax player and we could have a musical evening. With the hotel fully booked, this would be a treat for them as it also would be for me, because I do miss musical activity.

The keyboard, being a Synthesizer Work Station rather than a true performance instrument (like the Yamaha PSTR 2100 which I had), and with several unknowns to me and the foot pedal not working, was a bit of a disappointment, but in the end I could play the piano, albeit without the use of the damper pedal, but it enabled us to come out on top. The great surprise was that after a while we were joined by a hotel guest from Chicago who happened to be an excellent professional trumpet player and then, we three had a wonderful jam session which started at 8pm and ended about 11.3o pm. There were quite a few people and two with me befriended couples from Sabor also came. All in all, the evening was very successful and lots of fun.

I stayed in that beautiful room and had breakfast in the morning, did computer work until the battery ran out and then went with the scooter to my friend Miguel who owns a barber shop in town and got myself clipped - for all of 50 Pesos (About $4.00). Later, Shirley drove me the long way back to the hotel in a deluge of a downpour and I stayed put, slept for half an hour and then did more emails. Since it was still raining in the evening, I had a rum and coke and ordered a hamburger with fries and salad plus a so-so- cheesecake from roomservice and now, barely 9 pm, I'll go the bed and to sleep, perchance to dream .... 

#12 January 15 - 31, 2012:

Well, I finally took the bull by the horns and sent the following email not only to all my contacts, the travel agent, her contact at MSC and, most importantly, to Rick Sasso, the CEO of the company:

"The following is my blog on www.cruisecritic.com .

"Dear friends, I believe that this is worth illuminating:

As part of my 2012 itinerary, I booked 5 cruises on my beloved MSC "Poesia" starting in Cozumel (Mexico) on February 13, 2012 and ending in Genoa (Italy) April 4. The bookings were made on October 11, 2011 and I had emailed this to my travel agent:

Further to my last email with my potential itinerary attached, I would like to mention that a requirement is also that there be no cabin change on any of the back-to-back cruises. This means, for instance, that on Poesia from the 13. of February to April 4 I can have the same stateroom. Please note also that I am asking for handicap cabins.

For the first three cruises I am assigned cabin # 12022, for the next # 12025 and the last one again # 12022. It means that I have to move twice. Both cabins are handicaps and are adjacent to each other. The move to # 12025 is on March 10 (i.e. 5 months from when I booked), for a 7-day cruise. I was put on a "waiting list". Ever since then I've spent many frustrating emails to have this situation corrected, bcause I felt that to the person(s) who were booked into 12022 for that week it would make no difference to have # 12025 instead, which actually, being right accross from the lift, could be more desireable. Finally, a few days ago, I suggested that MSC got in touch with the person(s), explain the situation and ask whether they would accept the cabin number change. This is what my travel agent wrote today, January 16:

As far as cabin 12022, they said they would not do that. In my mind and yours, that seems like the solution, but not to MSC. Our only hope is that he cancels.

I'll be on four other MSC ships during the year and am on several other "waiting lists". Where there's a will, there's a way. So much for being a "VIP Guest" as my MSC badge says.

Egon"

One day later, this came from my travel agent:
Good news! You got your cabin 12022 on the sailing of 3-10-12.

Just like I thought. They would not tell me why or how they got it, but the important thing is you got it. Personally I think that cabin cancelled. Just my thought...and my reply to that:

Whatever! You really doubt that my letter to everyone, including cruise ciritic.com and the MSC CO had anything to do with it?? "
However a similar situation still exists on another ship later in the year.
 

January 24: I got an unlikely present today from an unlikely source: Mastercard! To make the story as short as I can: the last statement, over $ 5000, was due to be automatically paid from my bank account on December 25. I had however neglected to provide sufficient funds and so only some $3000 were paid at that time. This being holiday time, I only looked at the account towards the end of the year and immediately provided additional funds to pay the balance of about $ 2000. When I checked my Mastercard account at the beginning of the year, I had been charged with almost $95 interest. Today I phoned them about it (with Skype) because I found this excessive , and, lo and behold, they reversed the interest charge (saying because I was such a good customer...). Thank you, Bank of Montreal/Mastercard!

January 25: This morning when I went to the pool for my swim, a couple emerged from one of the apartments, introduced themselves and started talking with me. In the course of conversation, he said that the time here seems to fly and I said that it seems to go faster the older we get. Whereupon his wife quipped "yeah, because it's downhill". A cheery thought!

January 26: I wonder: While I usually only initiate a conversation if I see a lady sitting alone close to where I am, more often than not I am spoken to by people, mostly in the restaurants. Sometimes I know that the reason is simply boredom because they have exhausted conversation with whomever they are with. This of course leads nowhere. But nearly all other contacts develop with interesting people and lead to friendships and this is very gratifying. I write this because I just got to know a couple from Winnipeg this morning at breakfast with whom I felt an immediate rapport.

January 30: Well the couple from Winnipeg (he is owner/editor of a newspaper there) have left and today another befriended couple from Minnesota also went - they bought me a jar of Orange Marmalade in town because I complained that all Sabor had for ever was strawberry jam. People are so nice!

Today "Poesia" is in port here in Cozumel and the next time she is here will be when I get aboard again on February 13, two weeks from now. I got an email today from my friend Mandy-Leigh who is the Concierge on the ship and it seems that my "coming home" is eagerly expected. I certainly look forward to it.

 

# 13 February 1- 4 2012

February 1, 2012

I had a wonderful surprise today: a small but heavy carton arrived by mail (with a hefty $ 33.50 postage paid on it); it was from ex-Sabor friends from New York. Inside: Four jars of wonderful special jams - someone else remembered my complaint about the only and eternal strawberry jam available here at Sabors. And there was a birthday card with it, saying "the world is a lovelier place just because you're in it." I was deeply moved by this loving remembrance. It never rains but it pours! I now have jams coming out my ears, for I am already working on the big jar of orange marmalade which my friends from Minnesota brought me only days ago when they left.

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

ONE FOR THE BOOKS!       (Travel Agent in italics)

December 22 2011
All of the above electronic tickets will be issued by 1-28-12. Now, I must send or email you these tickets and you will have to print them OR I can send them to you at that time. I was thinking FED ex?

Can I email them to the hotel and will they print them?

December 23, 2011
As for the boarding tickets available on Jan 28 (according to your email): They should be sent to the MSC Agent here in Cozumel for him to deliver them to me here at the Sabor Resort, Apt. No. 3612. With my status as a «Vip Guest» and Black Card MSC Club Member, this is the way it should be done.

January 16, 2012
Iris and I went over all issues today.

The solution for the Documents is as follows,

The Agent for MSC will deliver the tickets to you. There is one more final payment before you cruise, that is for booking 8000480, it is due 1-27-12. The balance is $3820.74. Iris and I talked and thought it would be better to wait until this final payment is done. That way the agent in Cozumel can deliver all 5 booking's to you.

January 20
Linda, I have another thought and I would like that brought up:

The MSC agent here in Cozumel will get the boarding tickets after the next final payment January 27. He would deliver them to me here at the Sabor Resort. Get them to tell the agent to do the delivery about 11 o'clock on February 13 and then, since he has to go back to town anyway, take me with him and drop me off at the ship. Give the agent my email address and get his name and email address in town for me. I imagine that he will get the ticket directly from the Poesia office when she is in Cozumel January 30. Poesia should have gotten them in Fort Lauderdale from the MSC office before that cruise start. It's not a big deal but requires someone being on the ball, coordination and doing it.

January 23
I spoke with Iris this morning and the answer to your request is denied. The agent for MSC cruises in Cozumel will be very busy that day with the ship in port. They will not give out phone numbers and email addresses for employees.

My reply:
What utter nonsense!

1) Neither the MSC Agent nor I are employees.
2) The agent's name or company, including address and telephone number are published on the daily program of all MSC ships at every port.
3) I want the name of the agent or company in Cozumel.
4) I can then get in touch with him/them and make arrangements.

If the boarding tickets will be given to the Poesia concierge when she is in Fort Lauderdale January 28, the Cozumel Agent will have them when the ship is in port January 30. But someone in the MSC office has to take the responsibility for seeing this done.

Reply:
Egon, They are still going to deliver your tickets, just not 2-13 (the day of sailing). He will be calling you to set up a time to deliver your tickets.January 31, to the Port Agent:

Dear Juan,
MSC tells me that 5 Boarding Tickets have been given you with the request to deliver these to me here at Sabors where I am staying.

Since I will be boarding MSC ¨Poesia¨ when she is next in port on February 13, I wonder whether it would be possible for you to deliver the tickets on that day and then take me back, dropping me off at the ship? This would of course be a great help. Looking forward to hearing from you, with thanks and regards,

His reply:
Good afternoon Mr. Egon Landsberg.
Please be informed we do not received any boarding tickets for you, yesterday arrives the Ships MSC POESIA and the agent in Charge is confirming do not receive any kind of boarding tickets, please confirm with the company who has this tickets or when we are receiveing it.Thank you.

To the travel agent:
The MSC Agent in Cozumel did not receive the boarding tickets. Please check and advise.

February 1, 2012:
I'll check it out with Iris.

February 2, 2012
They were sent out via UPS on Monday. Scheduled date for delivery is 2-3-12 by the end of day. It is being sent to your hotel.

February 3, 2012
The tickets arrived at 6 pm.

Waste ! Each Embarkation Ticket in duplicate came with several printed sheets of identical Terms and Conditions. I threw out no less than 20 sheets since I have had these conditions in my computer already over a year. Wouldn't it be logical to only send one set of these with the 7 embarkation tickets? The package was sent by "UPS Worldwide Express Expedited", marked "Extremely urgent" and must have cost at least $ 25.

 

#14 February 4-10 2012

I always wanted to mention the beautiful location of the restaurant here at the Regency Club. It has a terrace overlooking a small grove and the ocean. In the mornings, the Mexican Blackbirds are in the trees; they don't sing but make many different sounds. They know that there is food to be had and are pretty fresh, even to the extent of swooping over a table when nobody is around to pick up a morsel. On the grounds below, several large iguanas have their homes and defend their territory with much head bobbing. In the evenings, the birds are nowhere to be seen or heard. Far across the ocean one can see some lights of the mainland at Playa del Carmen to which Cozumel is connected by a frequent ferry service which takes 20 minutes for the crossing.

I always have breakfast there: there is orange juice, sliced fruit (papaya, melons, pineapple, watermelon; also grapes and bananas), various Yoplait yogurts. There are a few individually boxed and uninteresting cereals as well as a crock pot with hot porridge. There are minuscule croissants, which I used to slice and get toasted because they are never crisp but limp like myself...

But talking with sweet Rosana, the overseer in the mornings, I now get a 6" baguette toasted which is much nicer., especially with the nice orange marmalade I now have. But there are also some cold cuts and cheese slices - none of which very interesting. Apart from this, there are several plates with sweet pastries which I spurn. Of course there is a menu with all sorts of egg-based choices with bacon, sausages, various veggies and refried beans. Usually I only have one egg with a little bacon a week.

At night I also eat there, having a rye and tonic (no ginger ale available) before from the bar, unless I am with acquaintances and we go together to either Roberto's (Italian) or the Mosaic (Asian). I taught the bartender there to make Negroni (1/3 each. Campari, Gin, Sweet Vermouth) - my favourite cocktail. For those restaurants, reservations are required.

reservations@princesscruises.com February 7, 2012
To the Reservation Manager Re: Bookings Nos 5LCK2T & 5LCWCL

Dear Sir:
When I booked the above cruises, I requested a handicap cabin but was told that, because I am not wheelchair-bound, this would not be available to me.

In the light of the following, I would appreciate your reconsideration.
1) While I am not "wheelchair-bound", I have a scooter which I must use for any but very short distances which I force myself to walk as my walking ability is severely restricted .
2) I am 95 years old and, while mentally acute and relatively healthy, I am often unsteady and miss railings in shower stalls.
3) my scooter requires a 24" door opening. I read that your cabins have only 22".

For your information: I have been cruising on MSC "Poesia" for an entire year ending in October 2011 and will be cruising on five MSC ships in handicap cabins as of February 13 prior to and until the above cruises with Princess.

Thank you for your benevolent help in this matter.
Sincerely, Egon T Landsberg

February 7: Tom and Sylvia came at 7.30pm and took me into town where behind the Barracuda Hotel is the "No Name Bar" - it's outside around a small pool.There a nice guy named Brent, who sings and plays the electric guitar, and George who plays a mean clarinet or sax entertaining, backed up by computer generated rhythm and accompaniment. And they are very good in what they are doing! Anyway, Tom and Shirley had apparently sung high praises about me because Brent was very anxious to meet me and also to hear me play. He did have a keyboard of sorts with poor piano sound and no sustain pedal. They made me play and had it hooked up to amp and loudspeakers and while I certainly was not at all happy with my performance, the mostly American audience seemed to like what they heard and several came up to our table during the evening to tell me so.

February 9: I was greeted at the Vista del Mar restaurant this morning by Rosanna and all the waiters as well as many breakfast eaters, singing "Happy birthday to you". The place was festooned with balloons and a place for me to sit had been prepared with extra cushions to sit on because chairs are low and tables high so that I had said that I have to "eat like a dog" with the plate right in front of my mouth. The music out of the loudspeakers played "Happy Birthday' as well as the Mexican birthday song "Estas son las mañanitas". How touching, all this! And then, when I was going to leave, I was told not to, because there would be a surprise and they came with a beautiful little birthday cake, on which were two lit candles in the shape of 95. I regretted so much not having brought my camera, but others took some pictures and promised to send them to me. So far only one of them did. This was certainly the highlight of the day. At lunchtime at the La Isla restaurant there was a repeat chorus of all the waiters who had been counting the days to the 9th.

Of course there were dozens of congratulatory emails and a couple of phone calls which were not very satisfactory because the room phone is extremely poor in sound. And my son Steve sent a lovely homemade cybercard.

Later my good friend Cheryl came to visit and we spent a nice afternoon together -no hanky-panky but a lot of bantering! She is from New Brunswick, Canada and was my table mate on "Poesia" in December 2010. When she was here in Cozumel at a different hotel last year, she came to visit me as well.

Adriana Tobias wanted to videocall me with Skype at 4pm but got stuck in traffic; her kids also want to talk to me. But this didn't happen any more yesterday and was postponed.

AT 95
I don't see so good
I don't pee so good
I don't hear so good
I don't walk so good

My knees are shot
and my back is sore
Now you know what I've got
but wait, there is more!

Sometimes I'm wheezing
or coughing or sneezing;
and I need, just to please me
somebody to squeeze me!

For there's still desire
for love and affection
and you know what I mean:
to recapture what's been.

On the other hand I am blessed with so much
with musical talent, good humour and such,
with wonderful friends and travels and fun
and not to forget my beloved son!

I've also good health and a mind alive -
Now you know how it is at ninety-five!

Egon, February 9, 2012 , Cozumel, Mexico.

# 15 February 10 - 16, 2012

The good byes at Sabor were surprisingly emotional, so many of the employees having known and befriended me. These were three very nice and enjoyable months. Checkout was easy, except that they had a couple of phone call charges on my room number, which I didn't make and that caused a bit of a flap. The taxi took me to town and the Punta Langosta, where the "Poesia" was moored and unloaded me outside the gate leading to the pier.

The only little complication of my being let in was the matter of moving the luggage; I told them to call the ship to send a porter because I was embarking, but the security guy at the gate claimed he couldn't get anybody and ordered one of the tricycles which are available for hire to move people a rather long way from the ship to the exits. I sent him back, left my luggage at the gate and went in, where I was lucky to find right away one of the MSC officers who knew me and he made arrangements. I sat down and waited for the porter and literally dozens of employees from the ship going ashore and passing me hailed and greeted me - waiters, cocktail waitresses, room stewards - all remembered me and I was quite touched about that. Eventually, the porter came, accompanied by the ship's Immigration officer who then took things in hand, walked with me to the ship's gangplank and in, but just outside, there was wonderful Mandy, the Concierge, with a huge welcome embrace - so very nice to see her as well as many many others that greeted me and welcomed me back. It was a real homecoming and pretty wonderful, especially since everything went pretty smoothly with the embarkation.

On the ship it was a continued welcome from a great many officers and employees - I am indeed part of the "family". Mandy immediately saw to it that I would receive the Black Card obligatory champagne and strawberries, but I had to hunt up the maitre d' because they had me in the second sitting for dinner instead of the first as requested; for this trip I have to sit with one other person at a table for three. Nevertheless, the hard to understand Englishman and I enjoyed some champagne and some French Canadians at an adjacent table emptied the bottle;

I took most of the strawberries down to the girls at reception and, as had become Tradition, I brought three of them to Angelica who was overjoyed to see me as I was to see her. She says that she will be quitting when we get to Genoa. She lives in Sorrento. To bed at 9pm. My nice and spacious handicap room is in the front of the ship and the way to the rear where the restaurants are is long - about 1/4 KM so I am using the scooter much more on the ship as before.

At the dining room table in the evening a found an envelope addressed to me with a small artificial rose attached - it was a lovely card from the French Canadian group at the next table , wishing my a happy Valentine's Day and thanking me for having shared the champagne with them the night before - what a nice gesture. Went again to see and listen to Angelica for a while but was glad to go to bed early.

February 15, at Sea: After swimming and breakfast, had a meeting with Mandy who is most helpful in looking into various arrangements I had before, such as free laundry and opting out of the automatic gratuity system among other things. Tonight I'll be dining at the Obelisc restaurant with Marcello, the Guest Relations Manager and two other Black Card holding couples.

February 16: For the first time I played the piano again in the Atrium yesterday - there were few people because lots was going on and many people were still ashore since we left only at 6pm. The Dinner at the Obelisco was Ok except that it was excruciatingly slow with a wait for the main course after the soup actually at least half an hour, with the rare lamb chops ordered of course being totally overdone. Dinner started at 7pm and finished after 10pm - seems they just couldn't handle quite a few diners. One couple who knew me from last year, plus a single Englishman who kind of dominated the conversation as long as Marcello was with us - he had to leave early. And now |I am at an Internet Cafe at Montego Bay. Met more people this morning who came to talk to me because they remembered me from last year. The ship leaves early today. One more sea-day and then Fort Lauderdale.
 

# 16 February 17-24, 2012

I swim again 20 laps in the mornings. So far haven't found any Scrabble partner - all I can do be in a place where there are lots of people and prominently display the big Scrabble box in hopes that someone will be stopped by it - it worked on several occasions last year. Tonight I was hailed by Brian Wilkinson who was my tablemate last year from March 6-23. Nice to see him again. Sat again with Angelica who is adamant in her decision to leave the ship for good in Genoa. I suggested to her that she come with me to Switzerland for the 2 days there, but I doubt very much that this will happen.

The 17th was another sea day and I had quite a large and enthusiastic audience when I played the piano in the afternoon. When we were in Ft. Lauterdale on the 18th , I got them to take me down to the outside in a wheelchair and was mightily glad for it - alone the distance from my cabin to the exit was formidable, but from there do the Terminal Building again as much and then, what a blessing! the long long lines of disembarking people waiting to go through US Immigration & Customs were avoided by a special lane for handicaps and we just sailed through.

For a while I sat on a bench outside because it was not 10 o'clock yet when my good friend Dennis was to pick me up; when the time came, I walked to the parking lot area just at the same time he passed by - right on time! What a nice guy he is, so thoughtful and ever helpful and generous. We first went to the Bank of America where I had to order Euros and Swiss Francs to be picked up on the 25th when I'll be with Elaine, then went to the drug store, liquor store and camera store where it was established that the SD card I had was defective and only worked occasionally. And then we went to the Jewish Deli where I had made a date with my old and good friend Barbara, who already was there.

The place, small and very noisy and crowded, obviously a favourite for many people; I had a chicken soup which disappointed me, and half a smoked pastrami sandwich which was wunderbar! But the amount of food both Barbara and Dennis put away absolutely blew my mind. Of course Dennis picked up the tab, bless him - as I said, he is overly generous. On the way back to the ship we stopped at a dollar store where I got quite a few essentials, including a small jar of Pond's face cream which I thought was under a $1 sign and only later, when checking the bill, found out that I was charged $ 4.25 for it - unfortunately at the very busy checkout counter, what was entered was not visible on a display and I didn't check the bill then because it was simply thrown into the bag with the items bought. I have kept the jar and the bill and maybe Elaine will pass by there and I will try and return it but doubt they'll let me do that. But who would go to a Dollar Store to buy a $ 4.25 face cream?

On the ship I have the impression that most passengers are over 60. And, lo and behold, next to me at the dining room table sits a man who is 97 years old, still mentally alert. Then there are 3 ladies and another man. Of course there was the usual champagne/strawberries ceremony which always paves the way to an animated conversation and pleasant evening. And Angelica also got her usual quota of strawberries.

We had two sea days; I swam in the mornings, had a nice game of Scrabble with Shirley, one of my tablemates, played the piano in the afternoon and was invited for a Martini by Cathy, another tablemate. And now we are in bustling Charlotte Amelie (US Virgin Islands) where for $3 I have a day's worth of very good WiFi and was able to take care of not less than 25 emails. But this is on the terrace open to the very busy main road with noisy trucks and full of Indonesian ship's personnel talking loudly and seemingly for ever to loved ones via Skype.

February 22 in San Juan, Puerto Rico - it's the capital, big and busy and particularly in the vicinity of the port where there are 3 cruiseships lined up, having disgorged hordes of people descending on the town. It's a lovely warm and sunny day, which had me in the pool already at 6.45am and I did my 20 laps without anybody else - a private swimming pool! Ashore I cruised around and looked at many roadside stands offering traditional handicraft and souvenirs and finally wound up at Starbuck's where I sat for several hours with free WiFi. I finally found and downloaded the Owner's Manual for the AT900 Roland Theater Organ (all of 300 pages!) which my friend Dale Bell has and which I am looking forward to play since he invited me to stay in his beautiful mansion from the 25th to 28th when I have to leave the ship because it has been chartered for these days. I know that I'll be able to only scratch the surface of the instrument's capabilities and challenges in such a short while, but it's a real treat for me to have the opportunity to play it. Orientation of all controls and features needs first to be studied and the Manual will be the first stepping stone to getting to know what to press to achieve what. Wish me luck.

February 24  I have been advised that I cannot leave my things in the cabin during the time I have to leave the ship, but they'll be able to store my luggage. Nevertheless, it sure is a bloody nuisance and quite a bit of work packing and unpacking again. Yesterday afternoon I had great positive response to my playing and even from the new cruise director Maddy whom I got to know at the "Captain's cocktail party" after Dinner where I also was able to get a martini instead of the champagne offered. Kind of crazy to have a cocktail after dinner instead of before! And now we are in Nassau, Bahamas, where there is free Internet access right in the Terminal Building. There are huge hordes of people from several cruiseships - not exactly peaceful or to my liking!
 

# 17 February 25-28, 2012

Debarkation in Fort Lauderdale was the usual chaotic affair, since all of the passengers had to leave the ship and go through Homeland Security. I did benefit by being in a wheelchair and while it took quite a long time until I could take the elevator in the Terminal Building down because there were a surprising number of other wheelchairs before me, then the long snakes of people lined up to go through customs were avoided. My dear friend Elaine came shortly after 10 and it was a joyful reunion. Went to the Bank where I picked up the foreign exchange I had ordered the week before, then a drugstore for some more cough medicine and drops - it's pretty bad and doesn't seem to get better.

She drove the pretty scenic route along the coastal highway North and we stopped at a beautiful restaurant for lunch. We had some good conversations and get along very well. Elaine is a very caring and intelligent person, but like always at this stage in my life, encounters like this are highlights which unfortunately cannot be sustained except in cyberspace. We got to Dale's place later in the afternoon and were warmly welcomed with open arms. My room is upstairs but I can manage the stairs slowly.

February 26 - a big party was arranged (I asked, how many and was told "between 25 and 50"; in the end there were about 30. People brought Salads, Veggies and deserts and Dale had ordered enough grilled chicken for maybe 50 people. There was music and of course much visiting. I withdrew early and went to bed, not feeling too chipper with the recurring cough.

Dale is an entirely selfmade man and a genius with too many interests and too much on his plate. His big success story must be his design and manufacturing of YoYos which are sold all over the world and are coveted by amateurs and professionals alike which use them in world competitions. Many are precision made of fancy metals and with roller bearings. Not only does he have two Prius Hybrids (one gold, one silver), but some priceless antique cars in pristine condition: 1940 Buick Roadmaster 4 door Convertible, 1929 Ford Model A roadster pickup firetruck, 1963 Thunderbird Ford Sports Roadster, one 1970 Chevelle Malibu convertible, 1996 Calloway Corvette Convertible, 2008 Calloway Corvette Convertible. One of his great loves is National Rallies and he has partaken of many, winning 2nd place once. Another ambition is music and he is frustrated because he cannot get away from an entirely intellectual approach to it, which crimps his style. (no wonder he refers to me as "my hero" to his friends). Building very pretty waterfalls on the large property and even in an atrium inside the house is another of his obsessions.

His wife Vera is equally talented and her good taste and innovative decoration ideas are everywhere you look. They installed an entire room in the style of a 1960 Diner, complete with juke box and lit up counter but the entire house is a mixture of museum, artifacts and curios; where ever you look you'll see something interesting.


# 18 February 28-March 3, 2012

Not only did they bring me back to Ft. Lauderdale and the ship, they decided to come on the 4-day cruise to the Bahamas which is a compensation for the 3-day Rock Cruise just completed and brings the ship back into the 7-day cruise cycle. On the ship I also met again old friends who had booked this cruise because I was on it: Dick Young who at Christmas Eve 2010 when I had to leave the ship in Cozumel to seek medical attention, came with me ashore, toting my luggage and together we found the first motel I stayed in. A truly very warm and caring guy. The other, Harvey Markwart, now on the ship with his mother Elsie, was my tablemate earlier that year; he is a singer and I accompanied him when he sang at a talent show. Old home week! It took a little doing to get at least Dale, Vera, Harvey, Elsie and myself onto the same dining room table - the first night after embarkment is always a formidable disorganized scramble.

On the ship are Danny and Marie Osmond with an entourage of 564 fans and there are quite a few events scheduled just for them, including in the theater which then only has one show for the public instead the usual two. I made no effort to see them - I knew them when they were kids!

Nassau on February 29 was as usual very crowded, with 6 cruiseships in port. I spent a few hours in the noisy terminal building with free WiFi (and earplugs) but was happy to get back to the peace my cabin provides. I decided to see Dean, the ship's Doctor, at the Medical Center, because I just can't shake the pernicious cough I have and am concerned that it might turn into pneumonia; he checked me out and put me on a 4-day course of antibiotics which I have to take three times daily and also told me not to go swimming for now.

Then there was a unadvertised sea-day where the ship just loafed around since the distance from Nassau to Ccococay Island is only some 60 Miles. I played in the afternoon and had quite a few enthusiastic listeners. This was a Gala night preceded by a cocktail party where I had only one martini (instead of the usual three) in deference to the antibiotics. In the morning I had met Pamela Anderson and her mother at the breakfast table who also came to listen; I had promised to bring my yodeling Bernese Bear, because she and her husband lived three years in Switzerland and she knew Berne well. I did bring the bear but forgot to show it to her and have not seen her since.

This afternoon, March 2, a present of a jar of home made Orange Marmalade together with a birthday card was delivered to my cabin from Barbara and Mark Uchwat, friends I made at Sabor, and with it was a note referring to "Pam" having found me. I have tried to contact her but she is on the island. I also went this morning (by tender) but returned very soon since I could not move with the scooter on the sandy paths. This is a private island actually owned by Royal Caribbean.

March 3: Back in Fort Lauderdale and through customs but waiting as usual to be able to go upstairs in the Terminal Building where I'll have WiFi. And now, after 2pm, I am able to send this off. There will be two Sea Days ahead and you may not hear from me for a while.
 

# 19: March 3-11, 2012

While I did see Pam again and she enjoyed the Yodeling Bear, she was not the one who delivered the present. There are no less than 15 "Pamela"s on board; I sent a message to the only one hailing from Canada but haven't heard from her. Probably Barbara mentioned her somewhere in one of her emails but I forgot to check while I had Wifi.

This cruise is billed as a "Holistic Holiday at Sea" and there are 1400 Vegans on board which means that for the rest of us mortals, all normal routines have been upset, from dining arrangements to the shows in the theater. Harvey, Elsie and I are sitting at a table for four, designated as "reserved" as it is surrounded by Vegan tables. Neither of us was anxious to have the champagne which was brought to my table, so I postponed having the bottle opened to tonight and will simply share it with the neighbouring table. The strawberries however went well and I brought 4 of them to Angelica. Went to bed after 8pm, tired from the antibiotics. but getting better.

March 4: At breakfast, another Black Card member whom I got to know a year ago, spied me and we sat together. She is Gina Bianchi from New York, a very nice lady in her seventies and she has been following my travels through the reports consistently. We'll no doubt see more of each other.

I played both Sea-Days and today, March 6 in Charlotte Amelie (US Virgin Islands) I swam again after the antibiotics alleviated my cough considerably. A large group was doing callisthenics in front of the stage by the pool and I see lots of people doing their thing along the balcony surrounding the pool areas: walking, running, hopping, stretching or just surveying the scene below. I note that on the ship there are many actually obese people -mostly women- and also many with physical handicaps.

March 7, a very windy day at San Juan, Puerto Rico, with some rain in the morning while I swam, but it cleared up later. I wound my way uptown through dozens of stands selling souvenirs and got to Starbuck's only to find it already full of people with laptops. I did find a seat at a small table and then spent two frustrating hours trying to get on line. I learned that Srarbuck's, while providing free WiFi, limits the number of computers that can be on line at the same time and since no one was relinquishing his/her coveted position, I eventually gave up in disgust and just cruised around the very lively town swollen with the passengers of four cruiseships in port. Forget the Internet - we'll be in Nassau in two days when I can catch up on things. Back to the ship for lunch and a long wait there, the Italian waiter complaining that everything is a "Casino" (which in Italian colloquialism means a messy chaos) because of the Vegans which have their own menu and eat in different parts of both restaurants. This "Holistic Holiday at Sea" actually represents a considerable imposition on the rest of the passengers who are in several ways inconvenienced.

March 8, Sea Day: Scrabble in the morning, playing in the afternoon. It's Gala night and after I organised a nice Martini at the cocktail Party for "repeaters", had Dinner at the Obelisco with Marcello and various other people. While the company was nice, I find myself increasingly disinterested in the repeating menus, even in this "special" restaurant and eat very little. Give me some plain old liver and bacon for a change!

March 9 in Nassau. I am glad to be at my "post" in the Terminal Building early because there are 6 ships in port including the Norwegian "Epic" with 6000 Passengers; later on the floor around me is full of guys sitting uncomfortably with their laptops in their laps -where else!- and the Internet access has slowed down considerably. Of course I swam early in the morning and also watched the large group of people partake of their callisthenics, while others on the side practice yoga and of course there are many doing their thing chasing each other around the balcony one deck higher which surrounds the entire pool area.

March 10: Back at Ft. Lauderdale. After my swim and breakfast, got them to take me down by wheelchair and through Customs. Dennis met me shortly after 10AM and we spent the morning together; he showed me his lovely condo in Boca Raton which he offers me to stay in almost any time. I could do a few important emails at his place. We ate at a Jewish Deli not far from there (chicken soup, smoked meat and chopped liver on rye!!) and went to a WalMart where I got a new beard trimmer since my old one had outlived it's battery and was sorely temped to buy a new netbook with a 11.7"screen, larger keyboard, 6-cell (8 hr) battery, and Window 7 Premium, 2 GB for $298 but held back. He however found the same model on line with 4 GB and 64 whatever (don't remember!) for only $ 20 more including shipping, and bought it. He now has 4 computers in his hone.

He also showed me his garderobe, which apart from two tuxedos includes dozens of suits and pants and more than 300 shirts - he claims he could wear a different one each day of a year and I would not be surprised. Reminds me of Evita and her shoes! Got back to the ship about 2.30pm. This afternoon I will pick up Pamela's pictures but won't be able to mail them until next Saturday when we are back in Ft.L.


# 20: March 11-20, 2012

On the ship there are almost as many Canadians as there are Americans this time -775 vs.801- and they are mostly from Quebec Province. There are 213 from France and 288 from the UK. I am also told that there are 300 Gays and Transvestites on board - very low key, I am sure; so far I have not made any identifications. At the same dining room table as before, there are two boring German ladies but thanks goodness one very nice one from Belgium called Silvia whom I meet every morning in the pool.

In my cabin I found a note from Susie (Susan Lindsay, a Black Card holder whom I got to know a year ago, now married to Tom Plillips), saying that she had come aboard as a surprise for Gina Bianchi, another MSC Club member with whom she is befriended as I am also, and asking whether I would join them at the Captain's Cocktail party at this Gala night, which I did. Both these ladies are well over 60 (but, how can I put this?) in good shape and we all get along very well. I had three happy martinis. Life is good.

March 13: Silvia and I spent a nice evening together, had a lot of conversations and several drinks in my cabin. We skipped Dinner and eventually went to the cafeteria for a bite to eat, then back to the cabin for more talk, some Kaluha and Harveys. And, as I said, more talk. Then to bed around 10pm - separately. Life could be better.

Mach 16: Two days at Sea, one Scrabble game and two piano playing. And then Dinner at the Obelisco with Silvia, where I was annoyed at the fact that when asked if one wants water, only mineral water is available at a $ 2.95 charge plus 15% Service Charge - regardless of the fact that one has bought wine and drinks only a small amount of water in the first place. Since at that restaurant the menu never changes, |I know it by heart and eat there only rarely.

March 17: Good bye to Susie and Gina; pre-and post-dinner drinks with Silvia who is also leaving tomorrow, but I meet her again for breakfast on the 18th, when we take leave of each other. Once again I wish I had been 30 years younger!

March 18: After waiting over 1/2 hour for wheelchair transportation, I decide to take the Scooter because I am afraid that I'll miss the dates made with Dennis and Lea and Bill. Got through the masses of disembarking passengers by using the lane dedicated for wheelchairs and met Dennis shortly thereafter who brought me a large envelope sent by my stepdaughter Leda with the stuff needed for my Income Tax but I discover that she did not send the Tax Forms with it so that I am not able to file a return unless the Canadian Embassy in Bern has the forms required. Par for the course.

And finally my beloved friends Lea and Bill arrived, having driven up from Miami in their BMW Convertible, but before they came, Dennis phoned them for me to ascertain that they were en route. With two ships at close quarters disgorging thousands of passengers, the whole area was in absolute gridlock and chaos. Anyway, the Scooter had to go into the back seat of the open convertible, after I had removed the back rest, since of course trunk space is practically non existent, and Lea insisted on squeezing herself into the back seat beside and with it. Where did I want to go? Well I had three envelopes to mail, including the one for Pamela with her photos, so we were looking for a Post Office. Lea in the back seat had a GPS in her hand and we spent the next hour for many miles on a wild goose chase for no longer existing postoffices shown on her machine and finally gave up and aimed for their selected Deli restaurant which turned out to be the same, where one week before Dennis and Barbara and I had our lunch. Of course it was again very crowded, but Matzoball Soup and half a pastrami sandwich were wonderful. Before we went into the restaurant, Bill decided to close the top on the car, which required considerable repositioning of the Scooter in the back seat and this time I squeezed in besides it for the trip back to the ship with a stop en route at a Walgreen's for more cough syrup. The automatic closing of the roof coverts the car to a hardtop and is a real marvel at engineering. The time with Lea and Bill was truly precious and once again I was almost embarrassed by their generosity which even included taking the envelopes to be mailed and refusing my paying for the postage. They are truly wonderful people and I have great admiration for both of them, not to mention Bill's abiding patience and calm in the face of heavy traffic and the frustrating search for a post office. I regret so much being unable to reciprocate in any way and was annoyed at myself to have even forgotten to give Bill a pair of MSC slippers I had brought along. We got back to the ship around 2 pm and I went straight to my spot upstairs at the terminal building where I had WiFi, which, while it had a good signal was almost unusable and frustratingly slow. So I was able only to send out three emails in almost 3 hours of annoying difficulties and went back to the ship and my cabin and a drink around 5 o'clock.
            Goodbye US, Hello Europe!

#21 March 21-28, 2012

After two days at Sea and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I spent several hours at Starbucks with good WiFi; today, April 21, we are in Phillipsburg (Antilles) and I did a long and pretty hazardous trip with my scooter from the ship to the center of town, where I landed at MacDonalds (where else?) and for a little while had good WiFi but for the past 2 hours was completely stymied with the inability getting on line, although the signal was termed "excellent". I am now, at nearly 12 noon, ready to give up, having been able to reply to and send only one email. It's very frustrating indeed, but it's the only Internet access that is available for free and, having forgotten to put my wallet into my pocket, I cannot go to one of several Internet cafes which I passed. But with no less than 7 cruiseships in port it isn't really surprising that from the thousands of people ashore several hundreds will be on line somewhere and the available bandwidth just cannot handle the onslaught and so even in one of the hot spots the access to the Internet may be jeopardised.


March 22 in St. John's, Antigua and the last stop before the five day Atlantic crossing. In the morning before we landed I swam my 20 laps again in 78.6F water and afterwards, while I was drying myself, was approached by two people whom I didn't remember but who remembered me from when they were on Poesia a year ago; her name is Susan from England, but married to a Swiss and living in Switzerland for years (and speaking faultless Switzerdütsch!) I hope to see these two again to find out exactly when they were aboard - I may have them immortalised already in my computer. After breakfast I went on land into a vast area of shops and among throngs of people milling about; eventually settled in an outdoor bar advertising free internet, ordered a $3 cup of coffee and struggled long and hard to attain a useable internet connection, which was as sketchy as the one in Phillipsburg the day before because of the many users from several ships in port. However, eventually I was able to do almost everything I wanted, but was asked to vacate my table early by a rather unpleasant manager because they "needed it" - even though there were many places still empty. So I went around the corner from the building, sat in the shade on my scooter and continued for another hour using the bar's signal which became even more sporadic so that at 1pm I gave up. It had become very hot (94.8, almost 35C) and after cruising around for a while, I returned to the ship, happy to escape not only the heat but also the noise and the mass of people. Tomorrow starts the five day Atlantic crossing to Funchal -2614 nautical miles- and for the next 6 nights we lose one hour's sleep as we catch up with the European time zone.

March 23, first of the 5 sea days and I am sitting in the wine bar, with the Scrabble box prominently displayed in hopes that someone will bite. Before, I went to talk to the reception about the fact that they have a 'meeting with bridge players' listed in the program but wouldn't put one in for scrabble players because "the bridge players are a group". It's tough thinking out of the box.

March 24: After I received a "bleeding heart" pep talk from one of the officers with whom I discussed my opting out of the automatic gratuity program at $ 12,00 per day per passenger, I decided to make the following calculation, taking very conservative figures of (low) passenger and (high) employee counts:

2000 passengers @ $12 per day = $ 24,000 divided by 1000 *) employees = $ 24 per day per employee. This works out to $ 168 per week and $ 720 per month per employee. *) I just was informed that the total of all employees is only 936 and as of today there are 2360 Passenger on board.

Apart from this gratuity charge, a "Service Charge" of 15% is added to mineral water, soft drinks, coffee or ice cream bought on board, as on all wines and spirits. I can of course not able to ascertain any amounts here, but these must be very formidable and are presumably also added to the pot to be divided. Now I am curious to know what the salaries are!

This afternoon I had my most successful piano session in a long time; not only were there many people but I had great applause and at least 8 people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they had appreciated my playing. (Wonder what they would say if they knew my age?) But I am once again struck by the fact that not once in all these many months that I have been entertaining for free on Poesia had there been any gesture of appreciation by the management - not even a thank you once. And not only am I providing a valuable contribution to the enjoyment of passengers, many of them also buy drinks while they sit and listen to my playing, especially on these long sea days and so I even add to the ship's revenue.

March 28: We are in Funchal (Madeira) and I am struggling with too many emails and this report. Well, here it is, for better or worse .....



# 22 March 28 - April 2, 2012

"Have Viagra, will travel"

In Canada, there are some 2000 medical doctors from South Africa and my physician in Osoyoos, (BC) where I lived for 34 years was one of them. Since I saw him several times a year, eventually we became befriended. He was of course much younger than I, a very jovial, outgoing and positive thinking man with a great sense of humour to boot. So, when I left BC for the long drive to North Bay, Ontario in September 2010 to board "Poesia" in Quebec on October 9, h e gave me some samples of Viagra. These I have carefully guarded but they are beginning to burn a hole in my pocket. You see, this is one of the vagaries of getting old: the chronological age does not necessarily match your inside, for want of another term. The Swiss, who often show a surprising propensity for humour, coined a prayer, which, translated, reads "Dear Lord, you have taken my ability, please, now also take my desire!"

Looking around, there is so much water and nothing to drink. Never mind laughing. There is, after all another aspect of chronological age, which I, in one of my inspired moments, added to my macabre collection of verses. Here it is:

" I have Viagra and know how to please her,
but who wants to shack up with an old geezer?"

Don't be shocked by this epistle, but join me, the inveterate romantic with a sense of reality but also lot of humour, and laugh it off!
There. That's better.

March 28: Funchal, capital of the beautiful island nation of Madeira, and a most welcome sight after 5 days at sea! Wonder how it would be to live here? Lots of flourishing agriculture and cattle farms - after all, anything not produced here must be brought in by ship or plane. I wind up at an internet cafe, am faced with 26 emails and reports to send out, but after over three hours my battery dies and I return to the ship, the report # 21 in German unsent.

March 29, last day at sea, last day at Scrabble (which I lost for a change) and last piano playing to considerable acclaim. And beautiful Marta from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and a very smart lady who is mastering many physical challenges, presented me with an excellent photograph taken of us at the last cocktail party. She looks like 40 but says she's 68. Darn it, I still could be her father. In the evening I meet her at a cocktail party after dinner (I still don't understand a) why they call it "cocktail" when they only serve champagne and b) hold it AFTER dinner!). Anyway, both of us being black card holders and having "connections" get martinis. We have good conversation and I discover once again the joy of being "on the same wavelength" with a kindred soul and laughing at ourselves. Unfortunately, she is leaving in Barcelona.

March 30, Malaga, I have to take two buses to go into the city. Eventually I am at McDonalds with free WiFi which starts out very good and allows me to attend to many emails and to send out the report in German, but then, with once again many cruiseships in port and too many internet users, becomes agonizingly slow and unreliable. But I receive from Marcello the listings of the new handicap cabin assignments which he has been working on and I am very grateful to see that almost all has been well arranged. In the evening I am once again invited to the Obelisco restaurant for a dinner with the hotel manager whom I hadn't met before. Marta is there also, as is a guy from the States, another officer and a female young MSC reservation employee. Marta and I are offered Martinis (first time that this happened at a dinner with other officers at Obelisco) and there is a slighty different and special menu which is excellent. I guess that the hotel manager has a very high status.

March 31, Alicante, the place where a year ago I fell for a scam and was relieved of two credit cards. This time I found McDonald's and sat there outside for several hours with good WiFi for a change.

April 1: Barcelona. For the first time this year I had breakfast in the cabin. Did not go swimming the last three days - both air and water just were too cold and even the Jacuzzi was only lukewarm. Said good bye to Marta over the phone at 7.15. I had looked for her last evening at the farewell (and 3 martini) cocktail party that was held for everyone but couldn't find her. Went ashore at 8.30 this morning, took the shuttle bus into town, drove down La Rambla until I finally found McD's which wasn't open yet but for a little while I was able to connect to the Internet. Later I spent over one frustrating hour on the second floor where last year I had such a good WiFi experience ... not so this time. McD's Free WiFi disappeared and didn't come back until I finally found a free alternate at a quarter to eleven and so am able to send this out, because it will be some time before you'll hear from me again. Tomorrow in Genoa and I still don't know how/where to store my luggage before taking the train to go to Bern. A lot of complicated logistical problems which begin to wear me out! Until next time! Ciao!
 

#23: April 2-11 2012

It was a rather emotional goodbye from many officers and employees on Poesia, my home for the last 15 months, where I was considered "part of the family" and practically belonged to the inventory.

I had to leave the ship at 10.30, took a taxi to the station, only to discover that this was Genova Principe and not Genova Brignole my tickets called for - I had been wrong in thinking that the latter was the station closest to the port, but it is actually 9 minutes away by train and in the middle of the city. Eventually I decided to take a train to Brignole because the main station was under reconstruction with no restaurant or cafe to while away the next 5 hours wait I faced. I had to do a heck of a lot of walking - very slowly I assure you - towing my pretty heavy case and a bag over my shoulder; up and down many stairs, where I always had to solicit help from people to carry the suitcase, as also in and out of the rain. And now, In Brignole, I have discovered that here too the station is also under reconstruction with no commodities available. So I had no choice but to schlepp myself out of the station and found a hotel, where I sat in a comfortable chair in an anteroom to the hotel lobby.. After about half an hour started walking again, hopeful to spy a McDonald's or other likely restaurant but no luck. Eventually I settled at an outside table in front of a small shop which, apart from icecream also advertised a few other items of which "Krapfen con panna" peaked my interest because "Krapfen" - as I remember the German/Swiss/Austrian Version would be something like a jelly doughnut. So I ordered one and, given a choice, chose it with Nutella instead of Cream. Well, it came, a soft sweet bun cut in half and filled thick with this Nutella and in no time flat I was smothered with it's chocolaty sweetness oozing out from all around the bun. What a mess!I was lucky to prevent it from spreading over my clothing. Afterwards I had to go and get a couple of paper towels to perfunctorily clean myself up, but a bath would have been more effective. As I said, you get too soon old and too late smart.

Now,1-1/2 hrs away from traintime, I sit in a very dilapidated waiting room at the platform, were 95% of the seats are unusable because they are broken. I am fortunate and am sitting, not comfortably, but sitting. And I have decided that this sort of adventure is no longer in the cards for me. Enough already.

Eventually the train came and I managed to hoist my suitcase up the three steps of the car since there was no one around to help. We got to Milan almost 10 minutes too late and it was quite a long walk to the platform of the train to Bern but I made it, slightly exhausted, with 5 minutes to spare. However, the car # 7 assigned to my reservation was the first after the engine and I had to creep along the entire length of the train to get there since the Milan station is a dead end. This will mean that also in Bern I'll have to walk a long way to get to where I can take a taxi, since I do not expect that Emile will be there to meet me; I have after all not received a confirmation from Ursula or him to my email sent some weeks ago asking whether they, or he, could meet me and bring me to the Marthahaus.

Since Ruth wrote that her boarder has left and invited me to stay at her house again, I'll do so from the 5th to the 11th because I expect mail at the Marthahaus from Leda who had forgotten to include the Income Tax Return forms when she mailed the rest of the stuff. I am writing this on the train by the way and we have just left Domodossola, where they now have added a restaurant car - too late, as I already had bought a humdrum ham sandwich and apple juice from the cart which cost the equivalent of almost US$ 10 - a real bargain ;-)! I forgot to tell you that I received all the boarding tickets for the other MSC cruises which they had to fax to the ship after they had botched their delivery at Fort Lauderdale prior to the ship leaving for the transatlantic crossing, which had been promised after I agreed to prepay the entire lot before it was due. So much for efficiency.

April 5: Both Ursi and Emile met me at the station, even though they never had answered my email long ago asking whether they could and this was a great help to me cause at this point I was really bushed. The Marthahaus is a wonderful B&B in an old building with five floors but inside completely modernized. The rooms, while not big, are very comfortable; some are available with a private bathroom, mine has a washbasin but there are two bathrooms with showers on the floor just steps away. Each room has a wall mounted and well functioning TV, ample lighting and storage, a comfortable bed with raiseable headrest, a large table and chair. Best of all: I have free WiFi of good quality right in my room! Breakfast from 7-10am offers everything for a continental one, including three types of the wonderful Swiss bread, cold cuts, cheeses, jams, hard boiled eggs, juice, yogurts and fresh fruit. Best of all is the automatic coffee machine which dispenses excellent espresso, cappuccino, coffee with milk or hot milk.

Down in the basement there is an ultra modern kitchen where guests can keep food in baskets with their room numbers in one of two fridges or freeze compartments, cook their own meals and eat at one of the tables provided. The clientele is quite international and of varying ages and the whole atmosphere is quiet and dignified and because this is a civilized country, even dogs are welcome, always well behaved and can also travel on buses, trams or trains.

It turned out that my friend Ruth is involved with so much work activity that I have decided not to add to it by staying with her and will remain here until the 11th. But Beatrice, whom I'll see for the first time tonight and she and I will go to her for Dinner tomorrow (Good Friday). Meantime, I always have to walk quite a lot to get anywhere from where I am located and it's not too easy because it always starts with almost 60 steps I have to climb because Bern is an "up and down" place. So, after I received the Income Tax Return forms from Leda and was able to download one of the missing dividend forms, email these to the Marthahaus office to have them printed so that I could attach it to my completed Return, I climbed the stairs on my way to the post office and mailed it with a sigh of relief.

I then took a streetcar (taking a chance by not buying a $2 ticket for two stops) to go to the cafeteria of a supermarket, where I had a not very good soup and bread. Prices are very high in Switzerland, particularly in restaurants. I bought some instant soups, sausage, milk and a basket of luscious strawberries to have evenings in the kitchen with bread, butter, cheese and yogurt taken down there from the breakfast table. But tonight, when Beatrice comes, we'll eat at a restaurant, after we've had a drink in my room - I brought Whiskey and Ginger Ale and have some Pretzel sticks. All good. But the jaunts to get anywhere are pretty exhausting a this point - even to get to public transportation means walking quite a lot.

April 6: Dinner at Ruth's was fabulous in wonderful surroundings, complete with a roaring big fireplace. Have a look at a few attached photos. The meal was outstanding; Ruth is not only a fantastic cook but also an equally great hostess. April 7 was a a gathering of pretty much the last of the König Clan" (my wife Heidy's family) who came together in my honor and we had Dinner in a wonderful restaurant - very excellent and such a welcome change for me from the eternal Italian fare!

April 9: This morning's temperature was 32F, 0C and I sure am not dressed right for this temperature and am glad that I at least took my warm jacket along. I invited Beatrice and Ruth for lunch (in Europe actually the main meal of the day) in the restaurant of a very nice assisted living place with an excellent kitchen. Afterwards we drove to where Beatrice lives so that I could see her very nice apartment which is amazingly modern in every respect considering that the 3-storey building has no elevator and she lives on the second floor which I reached eventually, step by step. And then we drove to Eggiwil in the lovely Emmental to visit our old friends Hans and Ruth Kern in their "Berghaus" B&B - and what a wonderful and happy reunion that was. Beatrice had made a huge and delicious Apple pie and we had coffee. Their Golden Retriever Sky has a slipped disk and often is in great pain - they are trying to help the only 5-year-old with giving him warm water therapy; i.e. the dog swims in a basin, which hopefully may help the situation. Now they also have Sky's son Benji, who is only 7 months old and just as sweet an animal as the father. But the situation is very worrisome for my friends because they must consider the possibility of having to euthanize Sky if there is a worsening and the dog is in too much pain. - It was such a great afternoon, even though the weather was not the nicest.

April 10: My old friend Gertrud, same age as I am and a former colleague of my sister Suzanne, had invited me for a meal in a nice restaurant. She is a very remarkable lady; we are in permanent email connection and she is quite a computer geek - she considers her PC the best friend, particularly since she cannot use the telephone because of hearing problems. - Beatrice came after work for a last visit and to say goodbye. We had a drink together and then went down in the guest kitchen. of the Marthahaus where I had a few edibles and we had instant soup and a little sandwich - she had eaten practically no lunch because of work pressure in the hospital where she works as an OR Nurse. I shall miss her a lot. - After she left, I packed and was in bed by 9pm, set the alarm for 6 am but got up shortly after five because I wanted to finish and send out this report before leaving Switzerland. However, by now, 6.15AM on April 11, I still have no Internet access even though I am connected to Marthahaus. So it will have to wait for a few days to be sent.


#24: April 11 - 15, 2012

April 11, 11am. I am sitting in the Milan Station in a sort of restaurant with a coffee and a kind of miserable but overpriced sandwich, since I still have to wait almost an hour for the train to Genoa. At the Bern Station my sweet Beatrice met me, pulled my suitcase and hoisted it up into the rail car - without her help I would have had a tough time. She is truly a treasure and I keep wondering how I deserve her. And I believe that she also thinks that 30 years would have made all the difference in our relationship. - Huge crowds and the train was packed all the way to Milan. And all the way to Milan it has been raining with snow at higher elevations.

Here in Milan, the train let the passengers off far from the inside of the station - had to walk some distance in the rain until the roof began. I was glad that a young man acting as a porter with a hand cart took my luggage - it was a very long way to walk. Now he will come back here to the restaurant in time to take me to the track for Genoa, naturally at the other end of the station. But by now at least I am rested.

He did come back and walked with me to the other platform and train. I offered him 10 Euros but he insisted on another 10 (10 for each trip) which certainly was excessive (A total of $27!) but I was not in the mood to argue. And so to Genoa, where I encountered some Italians also heading for Melody and they helped me down and again up flights of stairs and through long corridors to the outside, where I took a taxi. I then requested a wheel chair for the embarkment after all the formalities, finally reached my cabin, a large outside one with a porthole and intended for a handicapped person. I am very pleased with it.

My luggage is nowhere in sight and even for the suitcase which I had for the Swiss trip I had to wait half an hour to be brought. Eventually, I go to the reception where I meet Claudia, the concierge, and this was very nice because we knew each other from Poesia. I tell her what was supposed to happen with the three pieces of luggage I left on Poesia and she and the Guest Relations Manager George, whom I also get to know at this time will look into it right away but it takes several hours, during which Mandy and Marcello on Poesia had been contacted to find out what did not happen. Here is a sequence of events, including a previous notable occurrence:

EFFICIENCY - NOT ONE OF MSC'S ATTRIBUTES!

1) Before Poesia's cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Genoa I was asked whether I would like to completely pay for all the MSC cruises I had booked for this year apart from Poesia: Melody, Musica, Magnifica and Opera, so that the tickets for these could be delivered to me on Poesia before she left for Europe. So I did.

2) While the tickets were ready in the Ft. Lauderdale office, they forgot to deliver them and eventually had to fax them to the ship where they were delivered to me in Genoa.

3) On the cruise NY-Genoa I spoke with Marcello, the manager for guest relations, as well as Mandy, the concierge, about my need to store 3 pieces of luggage in Genoa from April 2 (when Poesia arrives there) until April 11 when I will board "Melody", because in the interim I am going to Switzerland.

4) I am informed, that Marcello will store the luggage on Poesia.

5) This information worries me, because, unlike last year when there was a similar scenario, I am not returning to Poesia.

5) I finally am able to speak to very busy Marcello and he tells me that Poesia will be in Genoa April 10, when the luggage will be given to the MSC Agent there and delivered to Melody the next day. The MSC Agent is present and knows about it, and so does Mandy. Famous last words: "Don't worry!".

6) Before leaving Poesia in Genoa for my trip to Switzerland I make a point reminding Mandy to make sure that the luggage is unloaded on April 10 and given to the MSC Agent in Genoa.

7) The unloading of the luggage, which includes my scooter, did not take place and all remains on Poesia until she returns to Genoa April 18. Provided they remember then to unload the stuff, where will it be kept until April 22 when Melody and I get there? And how safe will it be?


So now I have to make do with the few things I had taken to Switzerland and cross my fingers. At least Claudia has arranged for me to have free laundry which I certainly need to make use of right away. While I miss the scooter much for going ashore, Melody being a much smaller ship and my cabin location being midships, I can navigate it on foot.

April 12, Civitavecchia: A shuttle bus brings us into town and there is a McDonald's a few steps away. While I have WiFi for maybe half an hour, it collapses so that after a futile hour I decide to return to the ship and try again in the afternoon, when I am able to send out reports and reply to emails. Needless to say, I did not see much of the city except for the harbour area, but without my scooter I can't go far. In the evening I explore the ship and attend the theater offering taking place in one of the lounges and consists of some dancers, a soprano needing additional training, a juggler and a violinist accompanying a tenor - both the latter are excellent and are from Hungary as I found out later when I met them; actually the violinist Thomas and his pianist, Peter, are a Duo playing evenings in one of the lounges.

April 13, first day at sea and I have the opportunity to really get to know the ship. It is about half Poesia's size and thus has a much more intimate atmosphere. There is only one restaurant which I like better than the ones on Poesia; it has a large rectangular area in the middle with a raised and illuminated ceiling which, together with garden-type easy chairs give the place an airy and open feeling and also results in a lesser noise level. There are quite a few lounges in which various activities take place of course all of these are much smaller, as is the casino and the shopping area. While there is no grandiose theater like on Posesia (one of the lounges has a stage), there is a cinema in which they project films in four languages daily. The library consists of a large bookcase. There seem to be more areas where people can smoke. There are two smaller pools, one of them under a roof. The ship, although showing its age here and there, is well kept and my cabin is comfortable, but lacks a safe or minibar. While I received the champagne and strawberries last evening at the dinner table and shared with a couple from Scotland, two men and a lady from England, I have not gotten a bathrobe and slippers which I am entitled to and have been told these are not available on this ship.

This afternoon I went into an enclosed bar where I had spotted the only grand piano which of course was looked. But I met Thomas, Peter and other performers there who had a rehearsal which I attended; later, I was able to use the piano and played for half an hour for myself ; the otherwise empty room with closed but not locked doors.

Tonight I was invited to dine with the Captain but declined; this is Gala night and I am not dressed for it, but mainly it would only be at 9.30 pm. And tonight the clocks will be advanced one hour as well. I will however go to the general welcome cocktail party at 8.30, even though this is after, not before, my dinner. Like a miracle, when I returned from Dinner tonight, lo and behold, there was the bathrobe and slippers. Wonders will never cease. But I don't have my bathing trunks of course because I didn't take them to Berne.

I had 3 Martinis at the cocktail party and sat with Michael and Peter - both have great sense of humour. The party was followed by the captain's welcome and presentation of officers and then the nightly show. I truly admire not only the costumes and choreography of the dances, but how well, on this small stage, they are performed. There was a singer and a so-so magician as attractions. This all taking place in a lounge with randomly placed settees and armchairs, the atmosphere is more that of a night club than a theater - kind of nice and intimate.


# 25: April 15-23, 2012

A 15-minute bus ride at Marmaris (Turkey) into town, where we were unloaded at the entrance to a vast labyrinth of alleys lined with shops selling a vast variety of goods, especially silverware and jewellery. I have to walk a great deal and see a lot, finally finding a Internet Hot Spot where I settle down for the next three hours and do my thing. This after I found out that there is a Burger King but, amazingly no McDonald's. Eventually the long way back to the Shuttle and the trip back to the Port offers a good impression of the town which has a few wide and Palm-lined Avenues and is surrounded by hills overlooking the yacht basin - it's a popular resort. The shuttle starts and stops actually farther away from the ship than I can manage without much effort and so I am glad that there is a golfcart available to bridge the gap.

Happily I found another baby grand in one of the lounges and this one was not locked. I played for quite a while there on the second sea day in the afternoon - there were no people at first, then some passed through and a few stayed.
 
While I have no breakdown of nationalities on board, there seem to be a goodly number of English speaking passengers from the UK and Australia, and of course many Italians and some 80 children, including a few babes in arms less than 6 months old. Many kids are allowed by their parents to roam around freely even as late at 10pm and occasionally pose a bit of a nuisance, like last evening at the theater, which by the way presented an outstanding quick change artist and magician, more to be admired because of the proximity of the stage to the public.
 
More and more waiters, stewards and other employees on the ship have greeted me because they knew me from Poesia and also a couple of passengers did. That's being notorious!
 
April 16, Limassol (Cyprus) - nice, but very windy. I took the shuttle bus for a 15-minute ride into town, walked around there, passing mostly open air restaurants and shops but very little photo-worthy sites. But one event was outstanding: I was accosted by a man in one of the alleys who had met me before on Poesia and was so enamoured of my piano playing there, he just had to tell me again, also in the name of several other people that had been in his company at the time. Felt kind of nice. But then I returned to the ship with others, equally somewhat disappointed of the city center, especially maybe because they had to fork out 8 Euros for the shuttle (I went free).
 
April 17. Haifa (Israel). Because of stringent Israeli Immigration Controls, it was a very early (6am) Morning and it took a long time until we could go ashore, which I did at about 10am. A walk along the ship and further brought me to the terminus building, an escalator upstairs and then out onto a nondescript plaza with taxis. I was immediately almost besieged by drivers who wanted to show me around or give me "a good time"; twice guys sidled up to me and talked to me con-game fashion, trying to sell me an hour's tour for $ 60, later $50. I resisted staunchly and just kept on walking and it was far until I came to the main thoroughfare. I had already decided that next time here, when I'll have my scooter, I will explore the city, but today I'll just have a look around.
 
Of course the really long walk was very tiring and I sat down several times to rest. When I passed the entrance of a small office building housing lawyers and saw a small counter, I stopped and tried for WiFi, actually found a free one from A.Wasserman, but while it said that I had Internet access with it, it just didn't work. So on I went after trying for half an hour and wound up having to sit down on the only availability which was sort of a mile post. Here I tried again for WiFi and actually found another one which was free but only off and on available. It was enough however, for me to check out 20 emails and send quite a few replies. But balancing myself on the stone and the laptop on my knees in midst a very busy thoroughfare and lots of people was certainly not ideal. At one point the group of Italians whom I had met in Genoa coming off the Milano train and who had been so helpful stopped by and told me that further on there would be a cafe. By that time however I "had had it" and slowly limped my way back to the ship, with several rest stops on the way, happy to be back "home" and that it was possible for me to achieve what I did.

April 18. Still in Haifa, but leaving at 12.30 pm. This is the day when Poesia is in Genoa. I wrote this to George, the very nice Manager of Guest Relations on Melody, but gave it to him when I happened to meet him. He told me that he had been in touch by phone with Marcello, his counterpart on Poesia and has been assured that everything will be taken care of.

"Dear George, Would you kindly contact Marcello on Poesia today to remind him to make sure that my three pieces of luggage are unloaded. Please ask him to:

1) Confirm that this has been done, and

2) Confirm with whom it will be safely stored, and that it will be delivered to Melody on the 22. April.

Many thanks for your help .

Egon"

I'm crossing my fingers.

I am invited to the Captain's Dinner tonight - it actually was with the Staff Captain who is a much younger and more colourful man than the Captain is, who later on poses with passengers for photographs. At the dinner table are two other officers and two older Italian couples -not a very exciting affair. However, just before, I encounter George who tells me that my luggage is in Genoa. I'm still crossing my fingers.

The majority of passengers are older couples -60 years or more, with Italians and Germans predominant. Amongst them I see an inordinate number of grossly overweight and obese people. But, as mentioned before, there are also quite a few young families, some with several children and even babies. In looking around for attractive faces and figures, there is little reward.

April 20: Out of Haifa we encountered very rough seas and the ship was tossing and swaying greatly producing some unfortunate people with sea sickness. Today we have been advised that, because of the situation which had some 5-meter waves, the speed of the vessel had to be reduced for safety and we would therefore arrive in Katakolon only at around 11.30, but leave again as previously planned, at 3pm.

As it turned out, it was only 12.30pm when we could go ashore. I did, but it would have been a very long walk from the pier to get to the fringe of town, so after trying in vain to get an Internet connection outside, I went into the duty free shop, bought some olive oil to bring as presents to Sylvia and Olivia and went back to the ship. Maybe when I come here again on May 1 to move to Musica, I may take the opportunity to look at the town.

Last day before Genoa. Played the piano this afternoon for a small but enthusiastic audience and this one is in better shape than the one in the atrium of Poesia but there is no proper piano bench so that I sit too low. However, I managed and think that I played well. Nicolaus, the Cruise Director, whom I already knew from Poesia, complimented me when he saw me waiting for the escalator to arrive.
I won't have Internet access until we get to Civitavecchia on the 23April.

April 22. Genoa: EUREKA! When I returned from lunch at about 1.30pm, there was my luggage, all placed on the second bed in position to be opened, as I had asked my nice room steward Veer (from Indonesia). I spent the afternoon going through the two big suitcases, taking out only what I think I may need until May 1, when I have to have everything transported to Musica. When we are at sea day after tomorrow, I'll tackle the setup of the Scooter. Needless to say, I heaved a sigh of relief and all is in order.
 

# 26: April 23 - 29, 2012

The first port after Genoa is Civitavecchia, which, because of it's proximity to Rome and it's important airport is a major place for passengers to disembark and new ones to come. And so it was; now we have quite a few younger couples and a lot of children, including toddlers, which their doting, usually Italian, mothers let run around freely even at the theater at 9.30pm, watching with admiration as the kid steals the show from the Emcee on the stage. The day in Civitavecchia ("Old City", which was almost completely destroyed during WWII) was profitable for me, for I had good and free WiFi to deal with 30 emails and send out my reports. Marmarisare in port somewhere.

April 24/25 - I was moved to a different dining room table for 8 yesterday and finally could share the champagne (and my story) with my new tablemates: two older couples and two coloured ladies, all from England. They are a very animated lot and break out in lots of laughter; unfortunately, because of the ambient noise, and me sitting at the end of the table, I can't hear what is being said. They had to forgo the strawberries, which, while I preserved the champagne the night before, I gave to my only tablemates at the time, a US army captain on the way to Ottawa, with his German girl friend.

I enjoy observing the people at breakfast in the restaurant, trying to divine their nationality and cultural background by their appearance, mannerism and body language - fascinating!

We have two Sea Days before getting to Marmaris. My playing was not possible yesterday afternoon because a guy was having an "Arts & Crafts" Class in that Bar, even though the program said it should have been at the adjacent Club. I talked with him and then with Nicholas, the Cruise Director, because it is he who has to cause the changeover for this afternoon. We'll see if this happens. Yesterday was a Gala evening and one rather hefty lady at our table oozed out of all openings of her evening dress. Later on there was the obligatory cocktail party for all, for me the usual 3-martini affair with nothing exciting to report.

Well, I played this afternoon, but only to a very small audience since nobody knew about it and few people come here unless there is something advertised going on.

Last time in Marmaris there was a shuttle bus to take you to the city center, but this time there was none, only taxis. I sat outside the Terminal Building, trying for WiFi and a Turkish young man next to me set me up, since he knew the access code for one of the available servers. This proved to be extremely slow, but I managed nevertheless over a few hours with the laptop on my knees to do what was required. I was particularly anxious to ascertain that funds had been transferred in time for a $14+K Mastercard payment due on the 25th to be covered, thus avoiding the hefty interest charges MC levies. There's a lot besides reports and emails that has to be planned, executed and monitored on line when leading the life as I do at present.

April 27, Limassol (Cyprus): the shuttle bus drive into town can be somewhat disconcerting, for here traffic moves on the left side of the road like in England, and while the bus starts out along wide and palm lined Avenidas, it then gets into the old part of town with very narrow streets, heavy traffic and some amazing manoeuvres of the bus driver to avoid hitting any cars parked on either side. We finally stop at a little square and pile out of the bus to join throngs of other tourists already there. After walking around a bit, I decide to light at an outdoor restaurant which has free WiFi, sit down, order a coffee and work for a couple of hours, with good WiFi. When it comes to pay, it's 3.50 Euros which, at CAD 4.75 is pretty steep, even though the filter coffee produced two small cups and was very good. Win a few, lose a few.

April 28/29: Haifa and again a very long procedure because of Israel's Immigration controls and the usual organised chaos surrounding it. But, while they got us going already at 7 am, I made it out only at 10 and used my scooter for the first time again since leaving Poesia. It was a bit of a struggle, because of a steep ramp which ended in three steps, but with the help of a couple of bellboys it was OK. I then drove to the distant Terminal Building, where I was happy to find free WiFi, did my stint and then set out for the city, where, being Saturday, everything was closed. Unfortunately I didn't have a city plan and so my wandering was just that, interesting but not outstanding. I know of course that there are important sites to be visited once you are in this land of biblical significance, but I, at this stage in my life, have to make compromises due to physical limitations and therefore these blogs are dairies rather than travelogues. Unless I come back as a dog in my next life, I may be given another chance!


Among other items on today's lunch menu were "Manhattan Clam Chowder" and "Tirolean Speck and Bean Salad", both of which I had before some time ago and ordered again, even though the clam chowder was as far removed from Manhattan as our ship and the "Speck" an equal distance from the Tyrol in Austria. Both were certainly edible but certainly did not fit their descriptions.

You will not hear from me for some time. I am entering new territory and don't know where I'll find WiFi next.

 

# 27: April 29 - May 04, 2012

This morning in Haifa I first sat for a while in the Terminal Building and sent out Report # 26. Then I made the long trip through part of the busy City to the Baha'i Gardens, which unfortunately were closed today because it is a Bahai Holy Day. But as you can see from the attached pictures, it is of a magnificent, stunningly beautiful design. It is the Baha'i World Center, the spiritual heart of the Baha'i Faith with it's more than 5 Million adherents the world over and is also the seat of it's governing body. In the evening I had been invited to dine with some of the officers hosted by Marco, the very affable and nice Staff Captain whom I made an "honorary Canadian" by pinning a small Canadian Flag on his shirt. It was another Gala Night.

April 30 was the last day on Melody for me, a Sea Day and I played to a fair number of people in the afternoon. Said good bye to my tablemates whom I don't expect to see anymore tomorrow, even though I'll leave the ship only after lunch, since "Musica" gets into Kalakolon only at 12.30pm. I've been promised a smooth transition to the other ship. We'll see. I am using the Scooter, but four pieces of luggage will have to be moved.

May 2. Well, it went surprisingly smoothly, mainly due to the Concierge Claudia's efforts. The luggage was brought down to the dock, where a taxi was waiting to take it and myself to Musica which was parked quite a long ways away at another pier. After I saw that the driver had difficulty putting the Scooter in his car as well, I opted to scooter the distance behind the taxi. When we got to the ship, I paid him but had to wait about 20 minutes before I could enter the ship; it had been at anchor for quite a while, bringing some passengers per tender to shore and had just then come to the pier which had been prepared for it. The setup of ramps always takes time and once it was complete, there was the crowd previously brought ashore by tender, eager to come back for lunch. Then it was my turn, up a pretty steep ramp with the Scooter, with a guy pushing and not stopping pushing once on top to that I ran slightly into a man standing in line for the security check. He sure gave be a dirty look and may not even have understood my humble apology. But this could have been a bad situation if his leg into which I bumped had been hurt.

Once inside, the first to greet me by name was Ivan, the Maitre d' for many months on Poesia and when I went to the cafeteria after checking into my cabin, there were three waiters welcoming me, also ex Poesia. Notorious or famous? The cabin is an inside handicap one, but the positions of the two beds was wrong and I had it changed the next morning. On the one in which I don't sleep I leave my open luggage only half emptied since I'll be here only 3 weeks and am trying to simplify matters somewhat. Musica is an older sister of Poesia and, while decor and names are of course all different (and not quite as elegant), it is familiar. This morning, May 2, we are in Santorini and at breakfast there were again several waiters greeting me. We are at anchor and tendered ashore; however I decided to stay in and attend to things since I'll be back twice more. And the ship leaves already at 2 pm for Mykonos, where it will be from 7.pm until past midnight. I'm not sure about my wanting to take a 20 minute bus ride into town.

In Mykonos I went down in the evening with the Scooter to reconnoitre and found no sidewalks at this port location. I travelled along the road for a while, but it was getting dark and since it became difficult to see holes or bumps and I also had to get off the road several times because of traffic, I gave up. Next time here I hope to get a free ride into town. Back on the ship I noticed the Scooter making funny noises and when I propped up the rear wheel and let it run, I discovered that the drive belt was almost severed, actually just hanging by a thread. So I spent almost an hour changing it and was glad to have had a spare. Now it's reborn. While the belt lasted over a year of extensive usage, I'll order another one tomorrow to be sent to Southampton where I'll be in July, just to be safe. I consider myself very lucky that this failure occurred when and where it did and not somewhere away from the ship.

May 3 in Piraeus (Athens). I swam only 5 laps in a very cold pool this morning. After breakfast went out and in the Terminal Building found free WiFi - and - well, you know the routine by now. Later I got a bottle of Scotch at the Duty free Shop and actually got it through the MSC Security. But before returning, I drove around the busy port area with many cruiseships and freighters moored wherever you look. There was no longer time to actually go into the city because we have to be back on board by 3.30pm. But I'll be back twice.

There are an amazing number of personnel from Brazil on Musica - the first time I've encountered this and also that many of them, in restaurants and housekeeping, are females. And there are over 200 Swiss on Board as well, and many Russians. And lots of noisy and clattering Italians, not to speak of screeching kids. Conversation in the restaurant is a catch 22 situation: people have to talk ever louder to make themselves be understood. I'm having a hard time with that.

 

# 28: May 5-10, 2012

Dubrovnik: Last time I was here was in 1971 with our Ultra Van Motorhome on the way to Athens where we spent the Winter in the suburb of Glifada (and had the Corvair engine of the Motorhome rebuilt). We traveled together for 2 years, with a befriended couple in a Westphalia Camper towing a small trailer behind; he was a retired US Air Force Colonel and through him we not only had access to the PX at the US Base there, but I also got to play on various US Bases in Europe and Morocco, using the organ I carried in the Ultra Van. In Glifada we rented a modern apartment which however was infested with huge cockroaches. But I digress... (if you are interested to have a look at the legendary Ultra Van, go to my web site http://home.cablerocket.com/~egon/index.htm and go to "Travel")

Back to Dubrovnik: It was a long bus ride from the ship to the center of the city, where there was not only bumper to bumper traffic on narrow streets which lots of tour buses avoiding sideswiping parked cars or each other and, suffice it to say, hordes of people from no less than 6 huge cruiseships and tour buses from other European countries. Not very enjoyable, despite the interesting sights. I eventually found a less frequented area with nice views. Of course I checked for WiFi here and there as well, but in vain and so I returned to the ship after two hours or so.

May 6: Venice, and I unfortunately didn't realize that it was raining and so the boat trip to near the Piazza San Marco turned out to be somewhat of a literal washout, aggravated by the fact that I had the Scooter and could not navigate several bridges with lots of steps both sides which had to be crossed in order to get there. So I got cold and somewhat damp, even though I kept on sheltering under awnings, but eventually wound up in a bar and warmed myself with a cappuccino, biding my time until the return trip to the ship at 12.45pm. I'm using the time to write this and then translate it to German. Unfortunately I did not find WiFi access. Maybe I'll muster the courage to attempt this trip again on my next, hopefully sunny Venice visit, without my Scooter, even though it's quite an ordeal to go through, beginning already with the milling crowds on board Musica and then on the motorboat. Thousands of passengers from 6 Cruiseships, and all of them aim for Piazza San Marco!! Our ship had in the meantime been moved to another position at the Venice Cruise Terminal so that we also were transported by bus. Later in the afternoon the weather had changed and the sun had come out so I decided to check the Terminal Building and especially the kept luggage facility because I don't want to take it all to the hotel for the two nights 20-22 May, but since luggage storage for 3 pieces would cost me 24 Euros ($32), I'll check whether I can leave it at the hotel and take everything by taxi. Venice, as I knew in advance, is very expensive. And I see now that I'll have to fold and pack the scooter - there are too many stairs over bridges for it to be useful.

Four English ladies graced the dinner table at the restaurant; I had some difficulty getting the champagne/strawberry routine going - it had not been organized. But all was well in the end. Not so my attempt to get free laundry, something which apparently has to be Ok'd by the Hotel Manager whom I haven't met and who did not allow it when asked by the Manager for Guest Relations. I also have no longer gotten any "water package" (coupons for Mineral Water, the only water at the restaurants available here in Europe). Considering the fact that I have spent over $ 90,000 on MSC cruises, this is pretty shabby.

May 7, Bari: I scootered a long way into the old town with its labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys and closed courts and was hoping to find both a barber because I need a haircut, and WiFi. Alas, being Monday, barbershops are closed and the search for WiFi was fruitless as well. On top of it it was quite a drive, mostly with or against traffic on the street, because the sidewalks did not provide any handicap accesses at the many curbs one had to negotiate. Back at the Port Terminal Building, there was supposed to be WiFi at a cafe, which turned out to also be closed and so I came up empty.

May 8: Katakolon: Busy Main Street lined with tourist shops. Found an Internet Cafe and spent a few hours, but as we only got ashore towards 1pm and have to be back by 5, I did not do much sightseeing. Maybe next time.

Since some time I go swimming in the afternoon, because in the mornings the water is just too cold. This has its disadvantages because there are others in the pool which at times makes lap swimming almost impossible. And to top it off, there are sometimes kids who with loud screams and complete disregard almost jump onto one's head ... in short, rarely can do as many as 10 laps.

May 9: Santorini, one of the many Greek islands with towns perched high on top. This one is a particularly popular cruiseship destination and the quite formidable looking town of Thira can, from where our tender dropped us, only be reached by a cable car or by donkey, although from the ship I even saw a couple of autos so I imagine there must be another landing access and road going up. Anyway, I went with the scooter along the narrow landstrip between mountain and sea after getting off the motorboat; there were, as usual, hordes of people, not only from Musica but also the New Amsterdam, both moored outside and there was a huge line-up waiting to get onto the cable car.

Of course down there were only shops and a couple of restaurants. I then saw that there was an elevator for handicapped people to take you up to the cable car station and using it also saved me from standing in line some 40 minutes. I left the scooter there and once on top was glad that I did because I could not have used it on cobblestone up and down streets as well as many stairs. However, to go into the actual town was too far for me to walk and so I just went around the area close by, of course again lined with lots of shops and restaurants but had a few pretty views as well. Considering that the cable car consists of 6 cabins in a row, each with 6 people and that there must have been over 1000 passengers at 4 Euros each way for the 3 or 4 minute ride, this must be a lucrative business, at least during those 6 or more months when cruise ships visit.

This afternoon at 4 I was going to play the piano as we are at sea until 7pm. However, a big sign in front of the piano stating that the instrument was exclusively reserved for MSC musicians, stopped me, since already the last time when I played between Bari and Venice I had been approached with the same message by a woman but played on anyway for three quarter of an hour to the obvious and usual enjoyment of whoever happened to be there to listen. It seems to me that the powers that be on this ship are not as 'user friendly" as they were on both Poesia and Melody. The little and inexpensive perks of water packages and free laundry (how much can one person need to have washed in a week?) have been discontinued and not wanting me to play - even though I am definitely a better musician than some of Musica's piano/keyboard players and my playing would benefit MSC also by the fact that some listeners buy drinks and I am contributing to the enjoyment of passengers for free. But so be it. And now a little victory after I had a heart to heart talk this afternoon with the Concierge: it resulted in my receiving two week's supply of coupons for the mineral water.


# 29: May 10-17, 2012

Piraeus is a big and very important city with a huge port populated by many ships from all over the world. It's proximity to Athens makes it of course also a major tourist destination. I would however have needed to book an excursion to see the city, surroundings and even Athens, because only going with the scooter would only be driving through a busy and modern city, So I opted to stay in the Terminal Building with free WiFi. After I had written the German translation of Report # 28 and transferred it onto email, I somehow lost it and spent a long time to no avail trying to recover it . So then, with several mild oaths, I set out to do the translation again, a long and pretty frustrating task, particularly since my position with the laptop on top of the scooter seat was not the most comfortable.

May 10 in Corfu I tried for a long time to connect with Princess by Skype, because I must give them my credit card information and cannot find a secure page on their website. Not only was the sound level very low and with the ambient noise in the Terminal Building high, but they also had me on hold for such a long time that I gave up in frustration. I have until the 18th May to make final payment on my bookings with them. To get to them by phone is complicated by the fact that their office is in the Pacific Time zone and open for me only in the late afternoon. And I did not go into Dubrovnik again on May 11 but instead did 12 laps in the pool, despite splashing and screeching kids with their doting mothers and the occasional testosterone laden young studs jumping in and churning up the water.

May 13: The port of Venice is closed this morning because of sustained winds of 76 km/hr gusting to 97 km/hr. Musica is in a holding pattern outside the port, waiting for the weather to abate. I feel sorry for many passengers who have flights for home booked and may well miss them. While the sea around us is pretty wild, as you can imagine, Musica is facing into the wind and does not rock too much. Every once in a while warnings are given throughout the ship to be sure to hold on securely if venturing onto an outside deck. However, all these announcements are hardly intelligible in any language through the loudspeakers because of the poor diction by the woman announcer , and especially in German, which she reads phonetically, it is absolutely atrocious. They sure could do better, because in a real emergency, this would be a catastrophe. Now, at 2.50 pm, we have just moored at Venice harbour. Winds are still +/- 40 Km.hr. I'll have to wait until I can get ashore, that is at least into the Terminal Building to see if perchance I could find WiFi. And I just see on the list I have of all MSC ship movements during the year , that "Magnifica" is also in port today and I wonder why I decided to take it only on May 22 after staying two days in Venice, which I now know will be quite a hustle and expensive. Probably I thought it nice to see the city. Oh well ... we win a few ... we lose some too.

I am not often lost for words, but to describe the chaos today because of the weather delay I just don't find the words for (the Italians would call it a "Casino"). I did manage to go out and went all around to the various port buildings in a futile search for WiFi, but at least I got a lot of fresh air! And I also found out that a Water taxi to near the hotel would be four times as expensive as a regular one to the piazza Roma, from where, according to the hotel, it is only a 2 minutes walk. But getting back onto the ship was a major undertaking and only with the aid of a MSC employee was I able to circumvent the hordes of people in line for the agonizingly slow process of embarking, once I had wormed myself into position to be near an escape route. Of course I do have a certain amount of experience in this. But going up the serpentine ramps to the ship's entrance, I was flooded with more people who were still disembarking. What a relief, though, to get to the peaceful atmosphere of my cabin!

Now it's 5pm, I'm having a scotch and soda (no ice) and some potato chips and will now call to get the champagne which is due today to be delivered to the dinner table. Wish you were here. What a surprise! All at my table in the restaurant are Canadians: two ladies from Montreal, one from Toronto and a couple from Niagara Falls. Old home week! And the champagne came and everyone swooned over the strawberries.

Very cold and rainy in Bari on May 14 and after driving around to the Terminal Building, taking the elevator to the second floor (and getting dinged by the rapidly closing doors in the process - now another big blue spot on my elbow), only to discover the the cafe with WiFi is actually out of business. Back to the ship, cold, miserable, disgusted.

Katakolon on May 15 was again nice and warm and I went to the Internet cafe and was finally able to find the secure site on Princess.com to make final payments on my bookings. Later I drove around in search of a barber or hairdresser and finally stopped at a shop in a side street to ask; what a surprise to be greeted by a lady who turned out to be from Seattle, is married to a Greek and has been living in this small tourist town for some 14 years, running one of the dozens of souvenir stores. We had a nice long chat - she was obviously happy to talk with someone in English since there is only one other American, also a woman and owner of another shop, to talk to. But she loves to live there - I imagine she goes back to the States once in a while to 'recuperate'. Anyway, there was only one barber, but he was in an accident and out of commission. So no haircut and I'm pretty shaggy at this point.

This was the first Gala evening with the usual general cocktail (3-martini) party preceding dinner. A couple from France came up to me and asked whether I was not the one who had played the piano so beautifully on "Poesia" when they were cruising with her last year, and wanted to know when I would be playing again. Of course I had to tell them that I wouldn't. At Santorini/Mikonos next day I did not go ashore (by tender) at all but used the day to catch up on my report and preparations for Venice, repacking, relabelling luggage and planning how to get from the Piazza Roma to the hotel on foot - the only way to get there. To the Piazza by taxi after getting my luggage to the depository (hope to find a porter).

In Mykonos later that evening, I decided to take the bus into town (we got there at 7.30 pm and would leave only in the morning after midnight). It's quite a place, obviously also entirely tourist-oriented, but with character, very narrow one-way streets where a passing car would you leave enough space on the side for a couple of pedestrians; lots of shops and small restaurants. And, of course, PEOPLE! While the "lively nightlife" of Mykonos had been advertised, while I was there until about 9pm, I did not encounter one single music happening, unless you would count a man playing a mouthorgan sitting on the street. I had visualized traditional Greek music and dancing somewhere, but maybe it happened only later. Just the same, it was an experience but I had to return because it was dark and I on the scooter was no longer able to discern the "pavement" well enough to avoid trouble.

And now, in Piraeus on May 17, I am sitting in the Terminal Building with the laptop on the Scooter seat. But I'll go out in search of a barber to have that haircut I've needed for some time and wished I could read and speak Greek! (It's all Greek to me!! :-)  
 

#30: May 17-22, 2012

To drive into this big city with the Scooter was not one of my best ideas and after a while I had to give it up, frustrated and unclipped and returned to the Terminal Building in hopes to get Internet again which before had ceased to function, probably because there were too many users for the broadband available, and I hadn't sent out # 29 in German. I hope it will work tomorrow in Corfu. Back on board I found out that today prices in the Musica Beauty Parlour where slashed 50% and after assuring myself that they knew to do men's haircuts, I had myself clipped by a girl from Honduras and now feel considerably lighter.

The day before I had occasion to go to the Medical Center and got to know the Doctor there, a nice guy from the Ukraine named Ivan (what else!), speaking fractured English with a thick Russian accent. I wound up inviting him for a drink of Scotch in my cabin and he came tonight, had three drinks, kissed me on both cheeks and forehead in an emotional farewell at 9pm. He seems to really have taken to me and we'll keep in touch by email. He'll be on Musica for 6 months but has an offer to settle with his wife and three sons (oldest is over 30, youngest is 5) in Angola to practice his orthopaedic speciality.

May 18, last time in Corfu and my favourite and best place for free WiFi anywhere: in the Terminal there is a designated area hotspot with two tables and chairs accommodating at least 14 people with laptops and there are 2 electrical outlets as well, but there are also 4 "towers" with built-in computers which can be used. Of course the place is crowded with people, nearly all of them employees from several cruiseships, not only at the tables, but all around sitting on the floor as well with their laptops, many of them with earphones and attached microphone, talking a great length on Skype in all sorts of languages. So, after we moored at 1pm I spent almost 3 hours there and while the signal was strong. the operations were very slow because of the many users on line. But I managed eventually everything I had to do which, apart from sending the German report and dealing with emails, also included figuring out how to be able to cover my Credit Card debt with the formidable amount of Princess cruises come due time in June.

In Dubrovnik this 19. May, MSC Magnifica was parked right in front of Musica and I thought how much easier it would have been to make the transfer here. But the reason why I chose not to was that I hoped to see some of Venice in the two days there. But on reconsidering, by spending less than it costs me the way I am doing it, I could have paid for an excursion when Magnifica gets to Venice May 22 and see something. Oh well. No use crying over spilled milk. Among the Indonesian waiters who milled around outside the Magnifica, I was already recognized by several who had been on Poesia when I was. I spent part of the day driving through the suburbs (we were far away from the center), mostly on the road and with the traffic, faithfully trusting that the Canadian flag at the back of the Scooter will save me from being rear-ended! I had dinner with the new Guest Relations Manager who is from Tunisia, 31 years old, is a nice guy with a doctorate in language and named Oussama. He'll look after my debarkation tomorrow, which is nice and helpful because of all the stuff that has to be moved to the storage facility on land. Good to have connections!

20. May, Venice: The disembarking went surprisingly smoothly, after it had been delayed to nearly 10AM. My luggage was brought down and to the luggage deposit in the Terminal, where the three pieces (2 suitcases and the Scooter) will be kept and delivered to the ship on the 22nd - all for 24 Euros. I then took a taxi to the Piazza Roma which is sort of a hub unto which roads converge and radiate, all people traffic from the nearby cruise port, waterbus and railway station, as well as taxis and lots of buses from the airport and mainland. With directions from some shopkeepers found my way to the B&B in a side street and away from the hustle and bustle along one of the canals. Of course I had to negotiate two bridges over canals and was luckily offered by a young man to carry my suitcase up and down. At the very plain looking old building I was let in by the young owner Nicola who turned out to be a really nice guy and was given the choice of a downstairs room which of course was not ready yet at this time. So I sat in their breakfast room with WiFi while I waited but also was briefed by Nicola about what I can do tomorrow. When the room was ready, I was very pleasantly surprised by it's appearance, modern bathroom with shower, telephone, air conditioning and flat screen TV, even a fridge and a safe, both cleverly concealed as part of the wardrobe - very nice indeed. After I rested up a little I went out for a walk in the neighbourhood but unfortunately have a hard time walking these days. Since I had brought a yogurt from breakfast this morning, I just bought a sandwich at a shop I passed and will tonight go and eat at the Trattoria Veneziana which is not far from the B&B, are befriended with the owners here and have been "primed" by them already! But it's not warm here and I have already asked for an extra blanket.

May 21. At the Trattoria I wound up only having a vegetable soup and half of the beer I ordered which turned up to be what looked to me like a liter! Got the blanket and slept well, alone in the "letto matrimonale". After the continental breakfast in the morning, stuck my nose outside only to find it was cold and rainy. Luckily I could borrow an umbrella and set out for the Waterbus Station Piazza Roma, not very far to walk but enough for me. For 18 Euros got a 12-hr tourist ticket and found my way to the stop for the number 1 line which goes all the way to the Lido, some 20-odd stops away.

These waterbuses, and their operation, are really quite amazing, excellently organized, fast and efficient - and very crowded, understandably: not only is Venice one of the, if not THE prime tourist destination, but these waterbuses also serve the local population in their daily lives. They ply the Canale Grande, a waterway as busy as any major city artery. Apart from the waterbuses there are lots of taxis (large motorboats, some quite fancy), tour boats, boats carrying merchandise and still others hard to classify and while collisions do occur, they are relatively seldom. I first went to Academia Station where I was told was a branch of the BNL Bank which is a correspondent of Bank of America, and where, using their ATM, I am not charged an extra fee for withdrawing money. I wandered around a bit and took the next bus to Piazza San Marco and by that time it was raining quite heavily.

My photographic exploits were, because of the rain, quite limited and especially so from the waterbus as we passed landmarks, because of the crowds which didn't allow access to a viewing spot. Thousands of people, most of them with open umbrellas which often caused unintended involvements - all walking under the arcades on the sides of the Piazza. There I passed an outside cafe attached to a hotel, where a trio was playing the song "Smile" which I know and well like. I was going to sit down (the need for which I felt at this point) but then saw on their Menu that a cappucino would cost 9 Euros (about $ 12) - forget it. This, by the way, is what I paid in the Trattoria for the vegetable soup last night - prices here seem literally out of this world. On the other hand, not far from the B&B where I am staying, I found Panaderia Majer which not only has wonderful bread and cakes but also sandwiches and that's what I had for lunch: a roll with Salami and a cappucino, all for 3 Euro or so.

As I write this in my bedroom, it's 6.20pm and I had my scotch and soda and potato chips which I had brought along and feel much better to face the elements and look for a likely place to eat. However, I just poured myself another drink and am thinking how nice it would have been to be able to share this whole experience. Sometimes, being alone gets to me, despite the many friends and acquaintances I have. OK, enough self pity.

Now I ate at a Cafe very close to my B&B and had liver as in Venice (small pieces of calf liver with braised onions and polenta). This was excellent, but the Crème Caramel was a disaster - nothing but a bland pudding. I had a glass of a very good "strawberry wine". But the bill! There's a charge of 2 Euros to start with for the tableset, and at the end a 12% Service Charge. The bill came to 28 Euros (CAD 37.50) - much too expensive for a daily meal! They sure take it from the Living!~

May 22: Skies are still cloudy, but it's not raining. Had a call last evening from an Italian family living here and fans of mine, whom I befriended on Poesia end of February last year and have been in touch with ever since; he, Luca will try to come to the port this noon to greet me. He is with the Venetian police, I believe.
 

# 31: May 22-27, 2012

May 22: Yes, when I was about to give up waiting and return to the ship, there was Luca who had been very busy this day and had made 13 arrests -he said "Mafia". What a nice man he is! Of course I was sorry not to see his Monica and little Alice but sure appreciated the effort he made to come. I got preferential treatment when checking in on beautiful "Magnifica" and moved into an interior cabin for handicaps which is nice and roomy. However, I am at this moment still slated to move to a different cabin after this first 12 day cruise and then back to here for the additional 2 cruises. I am still hopeful to be able to avoid moving twice but will have to see in a day or two after I have made contact with the right people.

The restaurant scene was straight out of Dante's inferno. I had no restaurant and table assignment on my cruise card, so tried to get to the maitre d' who was besieged by people. I finally got a table, only to find out that this was already fully occupied. To make the story short, while the first episode took 20 minutes, I still had to wait another 20 until I finally got a table for eight, occupied by three couples from Belgium. I never got to the actual Maitre d' but only to his assistant and sure gave him an earful. Judging from the very many people looking to be seated, this aspect of accommodating a new passenger list must have been very badly handled. I was thinking again, that had I transferred in Dubrovnik two days earlier, all this would not have happened (and I also would have had this sunny day in Venice rather than the misery yesterday). Sometimes you just can't win.

Reconnoitring the ship in the evening before going to my cabin to do some unpacking, when I passed through one of the lounges, I was greeted, embraced and kissed by the "Cantanapoli" Duo whom I had befriended on Poesia where they played Neapolitan songs in the Atrium; here they play for dancing. So nice to see these lovely people (he plays guitar together with midi music, she sings); I don't know whether they will actually also do the Neapolitan songs in the Atrium as they did on Poesia. And of course I met Pacek again, the waiter at my table on Poesia for nearly a year. Nice!

May 23: This morning at breakfast, more waiters, knowing me from Poesia, greeted me, and then, to my great surprise, two ladies from Brazil at an adjacent table, also greeted me, remembered me from Poesia and were looking forward to my playing the piano again. Amazing!

In Bari I did go out and a bit around the port area, but then returned to take a picture from an upper deck. Imagine the huge surprise when I entered the elevator; there was only one other person in it and it was the Captain of the Magnifica who also had been the Captain of the Poesia for several months! And it was he who immediately recognized and greeted me like a long lost friend; I had gotten to know him quite well at several dinners at his table. What a great coincidence! I expect to be invited to his table soon again. I am attaching two pics taken in May and June 2011.*) By the way: what are the chances on a ship with over 2500 passengers and 14 elevators, that I find myself in one of them alone with the captain?! After this I decided to go for a swim and did 10 laps together with an assortment of mostly very meaty older females. As a matter of fact, there are now mostly older couples on board and hardly any children.

I was assigned a different table because I just couldn't stand being constantly bumped by passing waiters or people - it was in such a tight area. Now the Assistant Maitre d', who does not impress me much, has put me at a table for four, but I wound up eating alone, because the two people which should have been there, didn't turn up, the champagne in the ice bucket next to me, the plate with 10 chocolate covered strawberries on the table. Crazy! I'll now hunt down Luigi and see if a better solution cannot be found. I've never had such trouble before.

May 24: Had a session with the very nice Customer Relations Manager, a young woman named Christania and presented her with my list: Having to move cabin after this trip and then back again, Water Package, Free Laundry, Opting out of the Gratuity Program and playing the piano on Sea Days. Well, we'll see what happens. I did play the piano at 4, because this was a Sea day, found the nice Yamaha Grand all opened up as if waiting for my performance and it went very well and, as usual, I was commended, not only then but later on at the Captains Cocktail Party where I also was greeted by an Australian couple who recognized me from when they had been on Poesia. And in the evening I was brought to another table in a perfect location where I was met by three couples from England. Finally I am settled and content and of course they were very happy seeing me, because it meant champagne and strawberries.

May 25: 5 Laps in cold water at 7 am. Then, after breakfast, off the ship at La Goulette, Tunesia, but stayed in the harbour area which was like a Souk (Market) in several low buildings and took a few photographs. The town would be too far away for me because we have to be back at the ship by 12.30pm.

May 26, at Sea. Magnifica has two swimming pools, like Musica and Poesia, but one of them is under a sliding roof, which makes the ambiance in the mornings shortly after 7am much more amenable. So today I tried it but the water was just as cold as the open air one so I did just 6 laps. At lunch time they had what they called a "Beer Fest" with Bavarian Music, Wurst, Sauerkraut, potato salad and Pretzel. There was a huge crowd on the open deck No, 13 where it happened. There were two sausages, a "Weisswurst" which was very good and a "Wiener sausage" which was not; the Sauerkraut was also very good, the Potato Salad lousy. And of course lots of beer which however you had to buy but I used a coupon given to me once from a passenger for mine. The (canned) music blaring from all the loudspeakers was authentic, covering many German folks and drinking songs. The ever active "animation team" with funny hats got women to dance -er- hop around to the umpah but many others did too. I believe that half of the passengers are Germans. A real noisy but happy happening.

When I came to play the piano in the afternoon, it was locked and it took a while for the right person with the right key to be found. But then the performance was a big success with many listeners and compliments. There are two more sea-days until Kiel and I must think of other German songs because there were a lot of Germans present for whom I played 3 selections and 2 for Australians whom I had met.
 

# 32: May 28 - Jun 03, 2012

In Lisbon we docked at a different spot than when I was here on Poesia last (on our way back to NY in September 2011, when my passport, camera and 2 checkbooks were stolen) so I had to find a WiFi spot other than McDonalds which I now avoid here and eventually found a very small shop which sold Internet access but had to work with the computer on my knees until there was a spot free where they had their own computers and I spent almost 3 hours "doing my thing" and dealing with over 30 emails. People have forgotten that I asked them not to send me "stuff" because of my limited access possibilities and of course I can't resist looking at them and even forwarding some. - When I got back to the ship towards 1pm, I went and swam 15 laps in a pleasant pool with only a few others plowing the water. Lunch: a yogurt, a banana, some grapes and a piece of chocolate. See my halo?

May 29: At 7am I cringed at the cold water in the pool as well as low temperature and opted for the Jacuzzi, but at lunchtime, back from an Internet session in a cafe on the third floor of the big shopping center building in front of the Cruise Terminal in Vigo, I did 20 laps and felt very virtuous. Because I cannot access my account with TD Waterhouse, I have to reset my password. Problem is always the time difference - Ontario is always 6, sometimes 7 hours behind, which means that 8am there, when they open, is 2 or 3pm for me, when I rarely can be on line. I also have to reset my password with the Bank of Montreal, because for some reason neither my MasterCard nor my checkcard work any more as I found out when I wanted to pay for my hotel stay in Venice. In Kiel I'll get to an ATM and withdraw some money and thus create a new password - at least that's what I have been told when I called them. Never a dull moment!

May 30: At sea and a very successful piano performance. My request for a water package (coupons for bottles of mineral water which, being the only water available at meals, one has to buy) and free laundry, have been refused. Asking the Guest Relations Manager who makes the decision, I am told "the hotel manager". I make an appointment with him but wind up with the Chief Purser. I say to him, "In the last one and a half years, I have been on no less than 60 MSC cruises, for which I paid more than $90,000. I've never asked for, or have been offered an upgrade. I feel that I should not be put into a position where I have to beg for these insignificant perks on every ship". I really should have added, "What exactly does my MSC badge with 'VIP Guest' mean?". Anyway, he says that it is not up to him, but to the head office in Naples to whom he had sent a email about my request and they denied it. Now he will actually call them and explain my situation. Keep tuned.

May 31: Zeebrugge/Blankenberge (Belgium). I had forgotten that I had been here with Poesia last September, but that wasn't all I had forgotten: my wallet! However, I met someone on the bus trip to Blankenberge who recognized me and said how much he had enjoyed my piano playing so I promptly borrowed some money from him because I wanted to go and find a cyber- cafe. As I now remembered, driving along the very busy shopping street, there was only one place which last time had been closed. This time it was open and I opted for 1 hour WiFi @ 3.50 Euros but try as the attendant and I did, it just would not give me the opportunity to enter the password and eventually I had to give up. Zeebrugge is a huge industrial port with enormous mountains of containers, and Blankenberg is maybe 10 KM from where we had moored and is a well known holiday resort. But 10KM further on is Bruges, a famous 18th century city with many historical edifices. I was tempted to take the tram (more of a city transit) to go there, but didn't have enough money. So back to the ship, where before leaving I had a swim at lunchtime.

I never mentioned that I was finally put at a table I can live with, and the champagne found three happy couples from England who where my tablemates until today. They were part of a group of 40 on a European tour and from here, Zeebrugge, go by bus through parts of France, Luxembourg, Switzerland to Italy. So tonight I first sat alone at the table for eight, but then 2 Belgian couples were added, but only for this night, for which I am quite glad, because they are very loud and only talk Flemish. While quite a lot of people disembarked here, I think that there were also many new passengers.

June 1 at sea and another very successful piano playing, buoyed by a large group of Australians who have been my staunch supporters from the first time that I played on this cruise. They'll all stay for the next 14-day cruise to Norway. The ship, on the way to Copenhagen, often lurches violently in gale force winds to over 90 Km/hr and the temperature outside is less than 10C.

June 2, a cold and rainy Copenhagen and on my way in search of WiFi I got nicely drenched before I could put on the plastic raincover I had brought along. It was a relief to finally find McDonalds at a location I never had been at before and I sat there, dried out, had WiFi and even was able, despite the very noisy surroundings, to call TD Waterhouse with Skype to set up a new password. Once again I marvel at my Travelscoot which took me over what seemed to me many kilometres today. Without it I never could live as I do or do what I do (how's that for language?) It has never let me down despite many adverse conditions, and after two occasions where it taught me to be aware of it's peculiarities, we have become staunch friends.

June 3: Last evening my room steward told me that I am expected to move today to #9001, which is also a handicap cabin but an outside one. And here I thought that this had been straightened out since I received a new cruise card showing my final debarkation date of June 28 and my cabin number as 9030. When I got this, I even got confirmation from the Reception that this was shown like this in the system. So last evening I went down to Reception which was a hum of activity with people disembarking today, waited around a long time to talk to Christiana about this, eventually was told that she would check and call me back which did not happen. Then there was a notice under my door to contact Reception which I did next morning and finally talked to Christiana who is either overworked or not very capable, for she had not dealt with the main point of our meeting almost a week ago, namely the prospect of my having to move for the next cruise and then back again. She thought I was talking of the water/laundry question and reiterated the decision on these items made a few days ago and already dealt with by me with the purser. So now I had again to talk to her about it; I had to wait around another 20 minutes until she came back to tell me that only if the people slated for #9030 will accept # 9001 instead, can I stay. Since #9001 is an outside cabin at the very front of the ship and constitutes an upgrade from category 2 to 6, chances are the new passengers will be happy with it, but I have to wait in limbo until they get on board and can be asked. Contacting them months ago about this would nave been the thing to do and would have saved me literally hours of frustration and bother.
1pm: Christiana just phoned me. The new passengers have accepted # 9001 and I can stay. UFF!

In the morning I went ashore in Kiel, took the shuttle to the Railroad Station, but the big Shopping Center where I used to be many times last year in the cafe attached to the bookstore is closed on Sundays. So I scootered down to where I knew McD and Starbucks were, through a huge streetlong fleamarket. But It was a cold and blistering morning and I was glad to settle down at Starbucks, where I was joined later on by my friend Jerry whom I had last seen a year ago at the cafe. He later walked with me back to the ship and we'll see each other again in 2 weeks - another Sunday.

#33: June 3 - 9, 2012 

At the Restaurant table I am greeted by two Swiss and one Belgian couples and of course we had the champagne and strawberries. The ship seems teeming with Germans but I'll try to get a list of nationalities on board, also so that when I play the piano, I can cater to some of their tastes.

June 4, Gala night, martini night! The general cocktail hour from 5.30 to 6.30 takes place in all the lounges and after a most successful piano play, a shower and change, I am scooting around, a martini in hand and finally settle somewhere. The places are crowded - after all there are more than 2.500 people on board!, but where I find a seat, there is a couple from Italy who get up to dance and I much admire their ballroom dance style and tell them so when they come back to where we sit - most people haven't got a clue how to dance. Martinis keep flowing, but eventually time is up and I find myself alone with my fourth martini, everyone has gone to eat or to sleep it off. But wait - close to me sits a gorgeous young woman alone - practically the only person left at this point und what the hell, with the fourth martini I muster up the courage to saunter over and talk to her, since I guess that she is a lonely as I am. She probably is, for she welcomes me and we have a very pleasant half hour together. She is Ira, Russian, but lives in Italy with her physician boyfriend who is not feeling well tonight and stayed in his cabin. Wish I could seduce her. No chance. She gets more desirable as time goes on. Oh what the hell, I'm pipe dreaming. We kiss as we part.

June 5, Bergen: cold and it rains. And, speaking of cold, I seem to have developed one as I have been coughing all night and am all congested. Nevertheless, I dress as warm as possible and with the somewhat unwieldy plastic raincape covering me as well as much of the scooter, set out on a pretty long but well remembered drive which ends 10 Minutes before opening in front of McDonald's door. Bless McD! If it weren't for the awful and loud music blaring all the time it would be perfect. But beggars can't be choosers and since I use their facilities and WiFi and seldom even buy anything, I am grateful. Among emails received is one from Erik Larsen from the Newspaper who made the big splash about me last year; since we had kept in touch, he knew that I was in town and would like to see me (as I him). I send him an email and tell him where I am and he appears 10 Minutes later, lugging around his huge and fancy cameras. So it's another interview and photo session and eventually I hope to be able to attach some of his work to a report. Meantime, here is a photo of him.

At the Dining Room table there now are 3 Swiss couples and I. And coming back from Dinner, I met another Swiss couple in the elevator. Tomorrow I'll find out how many of them are on board.

June 6: There are 172 Swiss on board. Predictably Germans with 960 are dominant and swelled by 139 Austrians; next 339 Danes, 227 Italians, Australia 117 and French 116 - a Total of 2321 passengers of 31 nationalities. It was a seaday, I played again and now always find the grand piano not only open but with its big leaf up as well - I think it is the lady who plays it often that does this for me, as she seems to admire my playing as much as I do hers which is actually with a solid conservatory training and thus technically superior to mine. Maybe it's the fact that I play everything by ear that she envies, while she is tied to the printed Musik .

June 7: Tromso: Against my better judgement because of the cold that I have, I venture out and take the shuttle bus into town. But It's a cold day and it rains and I get wet before I manage to don the unwieldy raincover. On the hills surrounding the city is snow. We'll be still going much further North into the Arctic. Anyway, I am happy to find the library, which is a prominent large and modern building in the middle of town and there I roost, dry out in comfort and warmth and WiFi. It is sort of a community center as well; there are lots of local people reading newspapers from all over Europe; large groups of children come and have something going on at the floor below. A very impressive place. Got back to the ship at 2pm. - I still have not heard from the purser about the laundry, despite the fact that I twice sent a request for him to call me - I really find this scandalous. Tomorrow I'll definitely insist on seeing him.

June 9: At breakfast, a young lady came to me whom, after we talked for a moment, I recognized as being Melanie, the wife of the hotel manager Angelo whom I had gotten to know at a captain's dinner on Poesia. She is here alone, because Angelo is on Opera, onto which ship she and I will move on the 28th at Stavanger. Anyway, she heard me play again yesterday and asked me whether I could provide some music today at 10 o'clock, when a Danish couple will be married by the ship's chaplain in the atrium. Of course I agreed and then made a little list of suitable love songs, changed into gala and went down where the atrium, the hotel's foyer, was festooned with balloons and the carpets strewn with rose petals. I was introduced to the not so young groom and went up to the piano - to find it locked. They came with some keys which didn't seem to work. Then they got the key Iryna uses to open it and couldn't. She finally came herself and opened it with the same key, but exerting much force to turn the lock which no one dared to do lest the key would break! Of course I took some pictures, but unfortunately had forgotten to turn the camera's "macro" setting off which I had used for a closeup of Melanie this morning and so the photographs are not clear. Anyway, I played bits of "Here comes the bride" and the Wedding March at the appropriate times, songs like "Love Story", "Love me tender" etc. after the ceremony while they and the families where having champagne and wedding cake, both of which was also presented to me. Melanie wrote a charming note of thanks.

On the way to Alesund, as far North as you can go (only 1000 Miles South of the North Pole), we pass Spitzbergen and Magdalenefjord - a stunning arctic landscape with rugged snow covered mountains and glaciers. We are blessed with bright sunshine which warms us out of the wind despite a temperature close to freezing. In Alesund we are tendered ashore to the small settlement which has the northernmost postoffice in the world and is mostly a large research station with some 30 houses. Because of my cold, I opt out of going ashore and take a few pictures and a panorama video from the open deck 7.

In the afternoon I went to the Medical Center and came back with cough syrup, antibiotica and a bill for 54 Euro. Let's hope for the Best.

#34: June 9-13, 2012 

I have sent the following handwritten note to the Manager of Guest Relations two days ago. Nothing happened since then.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN

I have been on MSC ships for the past one and a half years and 60 cruises at a cost of over US$ 90,000 for an interior cabin, without having ever asked for or been offered an upgrade.

I am still forced to beg and fight for such petty perks as a water package in Europe and free laundry, the latter having been refused on some ships altogether.

This is a situation of major concern to me. I've been given a MSC badge with my name and "VIP Guest" on it which I have been wearing but which is really quite meaningless and only serves MSC's interests.

Being a professional musician, I have contributed freely of my talent and played the piano in the atrium on sea-days with great success, as can be corroborated by feedback to MSC employees. Since some of the listeners also purchase drinks, MSC benefits not only by my free entertainment.

Please see that this gets to the right persons." (sgd)

We were in Longyearbyen, the capital of and largest settlement on Spitsbergen , the world's most northerly town and just 600 Miles from the Northpole. A shuttle bus took me into the center from the dock where I scootered around some and wondered how it would be to live here. It was cold but not freezing and of course there was snow on all the hills around. Although polar bears and auks are a common sight here, none were to be seen, no doubt scared away by the hundreds of people descending on what normally must be a very quiet place. In a small shopping mall I found free Wifi and could send my reports out as well as contact TD Waterhouse by Skype and do my business with them, amazingly so, since this was on a Sunday at 6am in Toronto where they are located!

After seemingly having been stonewalled for some time, since the Purser never returned my calls and nothing happened after the above letter, I again asked this morning to see the Purser but wound up with Christiana, the Manager for Guest relations. She started by saying that she doesn't understand the letter. "we tried to accommodate you with the cabin and the water package.." when I interrupted her by pointing out that the fact that I didn't have to change cabin had nothing to do with this. I asked her whether she passed the letter on and she said she gave it to the Purser and Hotel Manager and repeated the old mantra, that the latter had emailed the requests to HO in Naples who agreed to the water package but not the laundry and that's that - it's out of their hands, because the extra expense has to be Ok'd by them. Unbelievable! What extra expense? I am thoroughly pissed off, pardon my French. I am convinced that the supposedly required HO approval is only a ruse and that there just is no goodwill available. By the way, to have a shirt washed (returned on a wire hanger), costs 5.18 Euro, which is US$ 6.50!

June 11/12 Honningsvag/North Cape. I've been here twice before with Poesia and both times it was cloudy and the famous midnight sun was obliterated. This time it was actually raining, but I ventured out, myself and scooter more or less covered with the plastic rain "coat" I have and went up to the library where before I had sat with EiFi and gotten to know the librarian, but as was to be expected, at nearly 8pm, it was closed. In cruising around, I passed a spot where I saw a couple of guys with laptops under a roof overhang and yes, there was WiFi. So I joined them, had my netbook on a closed garbage can and dealt with a few emails of which I get too many - people still are sending me "stuff" when they shouldn't. Of course it still was daylight but cold and damp and I didn't linger long, especially since I am still not over my cold.

The ship arrived at 7pm but left only at 2am to give the many people who went by bus to the North Cape in the vain search for the midnight sun time to get back. Well, at least they were able to make pictures of themselves, the Pavilion, the Globe and the large sculpture there and buy souvenirs and postcards.

June 12: Nothing earthshaking to report on this sea-day, unless you count the requests for an encore from listeners to my usual piano playing. Of course I was pleased.
 

# 35 June 13-17 2012

Unfortunately it was a lousy day in the gorgeous Geiranger Fjord and it rained sporadically. I went out nevertheless and drove around, finally settling down in for coffee and WiFi in a small restaurant. It was just one year ago that I was here last, in wonderfully sunny weather - a real highlight of my journeys.

June 14: A Sea-Day with Piano and a Martini offered by some listeners. Before, I had talked two of the couples at my table into eating with me at the special L'Oasi restaurant, where they could enjoy the phantastic panorama view as we glide out of the long and beautiful fjord.

June 15: I wrote the following letter to the Hotel Manager of Magnifica:

 
Hotel Manager, MSC Magnifica June 16, 2012

Caro Sr. Volpicelli,

during my now 18 months with MSC, I got to know and befriend several Hotel Managers of various ships (Kristine Uppala, Gianfranco Sampiero, Angelo) but haven't had the pleasure of being introduced to you, although I have no doubt you know about me.

My vain pleas for free laundry aside, I am writing to you today about the L'Oasi restaurant and what I offer is constructive criticism entirely directed towards the enhancement of MSC's image.

Last evening I ate there with two other couples and the food was excellent. However, the advertised "romantic ambiance" was non-existent mainly due to the fact that there was a constant coming and going of passengers to and from the open deck in front of the restaurant, with cold drafts descending on us every time the sliding doors were opened. The panoramic view which is part of the extra charge in the restaurant was constantly obscured or disturbed by people standing at the rail outside or walking about. Furthermore, there were several instances where people came with their plates of food from the cafeteria and settled down to eat in the L'Oasi (of course they the were asked to leave).

The obvious answer is to cordon the restaurant area off and also make the outside deck unavailable to passengers not eating there. (There are after all other decks open to the back).

The price of 24 Euro would mean maybe 30 Euro income to MSC, since the guest does not eat in his usual restaurant. For the guest, the cost of eating at L'Oasi is not negligible and the shock to be presented with an extra charge for the pasta he ordered because it represented a fourth dish whereas the price is for only 3 courses is only topped by the fact that he also has to pay for mineral water - even if he only wants one glass. These things, considering the price, are petty and smack of milking the cow, if you pardon the expression. In any restaurant of the calibre L'Oasi strives to be, not only 4 courses would be covered, and not only water but complimentary coffee or tea would be included. Make the price 25 Euro, all included, to really achieve the status you are aiming for.

There's one more thing: One person at our table ordered cheese for dessert. He received the same kind of 3 different cheese slices as he would get in the downstairs restaurant, only twice as much. Nothing special, no soft cheeses and what is especially missing, crackers, which were not available. They should come with any order of cheese - it's traditional. In other words, the cheese plate should be reviewed and revamped to comply with standards (in any first class restaurant an assortment of cheeses is kept on a platter under a glass lid and is served at room temperature, not ice cold out of the fridge).

Please accept the above in the spirit it is given.

Sincerely,

Egon Landsberg


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June 16, Copenhagen: My friends Lisbet and Mogens Westh could unfortunately not come to the ship today as they had intended to and there will only be one other time that I am here on June 23 and I hope to see them then.

I was extremely fortunate in running into one of the Copenhagen's Good-Will-Men (My description) who took me in front of the Port office, gave me a chair and a cup of coffee and free WiFi in an open building between "Magnifica" on one side and a "Costa" ship on the other. There were several of these kind souls, so solicitous, generous and helpful. I sat there and even was able to plug into electricity. So I spent a few hours in the morning and the same after lunch. I had an email from my friend Jerry whom I was to meet tomorrow at Starbucks in Kiel: his mother in Canada had suddenly died and he is leaving tomorrow. And so it goes.

My antibiotics-course is finished and I feel better. There are lots of people on board with colds and it's easy to catch it from them.
 

#36: June 17-20, 2012

Lots of frustration in Kiel today. I drove to where I knew Starbucks was and it was very crowded for today was a big Volksfest in town and there also were several cruiseships. Anyway, I found a place and after and hour and a half was even able to navigate to one where I could reach an electrical outlet. I had to wait until noon to call TD Watehouse to get them to transfer whatever cash was available to my bank account, since for this they were only available at 6am EST. But this turned out to be a lost cause because Skype was impossible to use, breaking up, cutting out and making conversation unintelligible. I tried it many times during the next hour but had to give up. So then I drove back to the Terminal Building but discovered that no payphones at all existed there, nor could I get a lead on another location until I learned of a privately owned payphone not far away. This turned out to be an open three-sided "booth" in front of a bar and sex shop in Kiel's red light district and located directly on the side of the main thoroughfare and thus in a very noisy environment. It required credit card or cash and I began by putting 2 Euros in because I had a toll free number to UTA with whom I had a virtual phone card which still had a $6 credit but I hadn't used for a couple of years. Turned out that my PIN for this had expired and so I could not use the card until I re-established it anew on line.

Because I was intent to get this money into my bank account before the Mastercard debit on the 25th, I decided to bite the bullet and phone TDW direct. Of course their 800 number did not work free of charge but was treated as a regular call, but then it turned out that my credit card did not work either, because the "system was temporary not able to process it". So I got 10 Euros in cash from the bar, put 6 into the machine, got through to TD and eventually to the right department and then was put on hold, all the time watching the remains of what I had put in decrease by 10c every few seconds. While I was on hold, there were excuses and advertisements and I had to feed the kitty some more and when there was about 2.50 left, with me still on hold, the telephone suddenly just cut off the call and refunded me 2 Euro. So near and yet so far! Since I don't know when I'll be again in a position to make that important call again (and a bit panicked at this point), I then decided to make another attempt, went and got another 10 Euros and started over, making sure that I always had sufficient cash in the machine. I got to where I had to be, but the transmission was extremely poor in volume and with the ambient noise almost unusable. However, I THINK that I achieved what I had set out to do and finished the call with over 2 Euros left, which the bastard did not return, although it said that it would. There's no recourse of course. So, all told, calling TD cost me 14 Euros ($18.50). Let's hope it was worth it.

June 19, Stockholm: After a sea day, I am now at McD's, the location of which I remembered from last time - almost 3KM from where we are parked. But, even though there is strong WiFi, I am unable to get onto the Internet Explorer or Google for some reason. So I'll wait and try later. Meantime, sweet Cheryl who knew me already on Poesia and now works in the Reception of Magnifica, offered to wash my shirts, as she has access to a machine to do her own and today she returned them all neatly folded ... so very nice!

At my dining room table my only company is Bart from Australia with his girl, 4 and boy 6 years of age. I had already postponed opening the customary champagne the first night, thinking that the table for eight would still be filled, but it wasn't to be. and Bart doesn't drink! So we used the strawberries (gave some to the next table), but I took the champagne with me into my cabin. After dinner I was cruising around to see what was going on and ran into a group of 9 Belgians and had immediate rapport with Ingrid, wife of Frans. So I invited them all to share the champagne with me after I went back to the cabin and got it and it was a nice hour we spent together.

After I decided to call it a date at McD's since I just couldn't get on line, I slowly drove back and as I passed a building with "Cruise Center" written on it which had an open air restaurant I stopped to check and found free WiFi which worked fine, dealt with the 26 emails (quite a few immediately deletable) and checked first TD to find that the cash available had gone and then the bank, where it had been deposited, and heaved a sigh of relief. It justifies the expensive telephone call.
 

#37: June 20-24, 2012

In Tallinn, Estonia's capital, we had sunny but windy weather. I have been here before and here is my very best place for WiFi, which I probably already described last time: a gleaming stainless steel building with beautiful nude female statues fronting the entrance to a Spa/Hotel. (that's why I had to enter in the first place to check it out!) In the huge lobby with a small restaurant there are comfortable seats and tables and free WiFi - a feast for the computer which I enjoyed for several hours! I had visited the beautiful old town last year and wrote about it. It's a thriving and alive city.

June 21, St. Petersburg: One still needs a visa in order to go ashore alone as opposed to an excursion with the ship's own general visa. Since I already was here before and then had a trip through this beautiful city, I stayed aboard and had a nice swim of 20 laps in the enclosed pool which was slightly heated and sheltered from the much cooler ambiance of the other pool in the open. This was the first time I swam again in over a week because of my cold which has largely been overcome, except for occasional cough spasms.

Some Cruise Critic readers have commented on my recent letter to the hotel manager of Magnifica. I would like to explain that this was an observation dealing with passengers paying for the privilege of eating at L'Oasi. I of course can eat there for free once on every cruise, but seldom do because it's not often that I find company for this and don't like to eat alone. But this is the ridiculous way it looks with the mineral water for which I am billed: Water: 2.70 (in the restaurant downstairs it's 2.30); less 25% because of my Black Card = 0.68 =2.02 + 15% Service Charge = 0.30 for a grand total of 2.32 Euros.

After Copenhagen where I unfortunately did not see my friends Lisbet and Mogens Westh, I am today, June 24, in rainy Kiel and will begin my last four days on Magnifica. I have been swimming every morning again, made possible because of the enclosed pool where you are sheltered from the morning cold and the water is slightly warmed which also helps to do 20 laps.

Since I am on Magnifica, I have been reading books by Nora Roberts, whose writing skills I greatly admire. Apart from her writing skills, I admire her psychological insights. She must be a remarkable person. It also occurs to me to wonder whether the many vividly and minutely detailed descriptions of love making scenes are based on experience or whether they are wishful figments of imagination? She certainly could be writing a book entitled 'How to make love to a woman'!

By the way:

PROBLEM: It happens that when women allow me to kiss them, or they kiss me, or snuggle up, it's the father figure they see, not the potential lover (Viagra notwithstanding).

SOLUTION: Shed thirty years.

RESULT: Mission impossible.


# 38: June 24-28 2012

When I came down to Dinner as we left Kiel, I found 3 couples and one daughter at my table - all from France and speaking no English to speak of (how's that for a statement?!). I did my best to converse with them with my somewhat sketchy knowledge of the language, but of course the usual champagne and the strawberries eased the situation considerably.

June 24: While I did my 20 laps yesterday, today the water was icy and I opted to soak in the Jacuzzi. Also a Seaday and my last piano playing with applause. Iryna, the Russian lady who is an excellent musician and plays every day on the ship but admires my playing which, since it is freer by ear and not tied to reading notes, came for a photo session. Before this I got photographed with Cheryl, the sweet girl from South Africa, who will again wash my shirts.

June 25: Flaam - like Olden, another of those paradisaical places, but unfortunately it's rainy and low clouds cover the high mountains and the many waterfalls on either side. This place, at the very end of the Sognefjord, which is Norway's longest (200 KM!), has only some 500 inhabitants but is well equipped for the tourist business (I guess in Winter they just hibernate!). Right in front of where we are parked is a modern building and one door is marked "Free WiFi" and leads to a large room with counters both sides and electrical outlets and there are some chairs. Needless to say, the room was beset by at least two dozen people (mostly, if not all, crew members of the ship), all wielding laptops or Iphones and thus the Internet was excrucingly slow since the bandwith available just couldn't handle the onslaught. Nevertheless, I managed to reply to a few important emails.

I then went back to the ship and had lunch (mushroom soup and a little venison stew with some rice; this at the cafeteria, where the choices are much bigger than on the restaurant menu and it was the first and surprising time that I saw "venison" , which however could as well have been labeled "beef stew" since it did not taste gamey at all. Then in the afternoon, since the rain had again stopped, I went out again and "cased the joint" as they say. There is a 20km railroad which must just be fabulous; it's the world's steepest railroad which runs from sea level to Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen line and is famous not only for the magical scenery but also its engineering. It makes several stops enroute, such as in front of spectacular waterfalls. I waited at a railroad crossing for 20 minutes to make a video of the train as it passed, only to botch it because I didn't have the right camera setting. And so it goes. You lose. One thing is sure, traveling Norway by car or, better still, Camper, would be just phantastic and I sure licked my chops when I saw the Flaam Campground with a few dozen trailers and motorhomes in it. After all, Heidy and I "fulltimed" for 13 years in USA, Mexico and Europe in different trailers and motorhomes and just loved it. ("Fulltiming" means giving up a residence and living in a Recreational Vehicle like a trailer (Caravan to Brits) or Motorhome (often falsely referred to as a "mobile home"). On my website you can find pictures of the various vehicles we lived and traveled in. http://home.cablerocket.com/~egon/index.htm .

June 26/27: A sea day with swimming, playing in the afternoon and packing. Then, in Bergen, it was a gorgeous day. We were moored at a location new to me and there was a shuttle bus which took us to the center of the city, from where I had to navigate to the McDonald's I went to last time, because I had told Ivar, a Norwegean who with friends was on a neighbouring table on Posia in March 2011, that I would be there, because he wanted to see me. He did come, we had a nice chat and he then accompanied me back to the shuttle bus some distance away, about 2pm. He is a taxi driver in Bergen, has a wife (whom I met on Poesia) and three kids and is a nice guy. Bergen in bright and warm sunshine, vibrant with hundreds of people strolling along nice wide shopping streets and plazas and with musicians here and there, if not hoping to become famous, at least to make some money.

Back at my cabin, the three shirts Cheryl washed (and even ironed!) for me were delivered on hangers and I folded them as artfully as i could and essentially did all the packing except for the two suits which I'll put in tomorrow morning so that they don't get creased more than a suitcase busting at its seams would already inflict.
June 28, Scavanger! Last night I said my good byes, some of which were quite emotional, especially with Elide and Vincento from the Trio Napoli with whom I had been befriended since Poesia. They gave me one of their CD's which however I cannot play at this time since my netbook is not equipped for it. And then of course there was Cheryl, who is a close friend of Mandy, concierge on Opera and also my good friend. Both of them are from South Africa. Although Opera was parked in front of Magnifica when I made the move together with my room steward who had all the luggage on a buggy, to get to Opera required a big detour because of a lot of construction at the pier and the poor guy had to push the thing all the way (of course I rewarded him). And then, a big welcome by Mandy and a few employees who knew me and after the embarkment formalities I went to my cabin # 8142 which is a nice one for handicaps and I am very happy with it. Imagine, Mandy had already arranged that I'll have free laundry which was decreed by the Hotel Manager Angelo with whom I was befriended on Poesia; I saw his wife (I guess), Melanie several times on Magnifica - she also moved to Opera today. It certainly shows that it is important to know the right people! When I went for lunch to the restaurant, I had three surprises: you can have simply ice water (free), the cheese I had in place of dessert came with crackers and you could have coffee or tea afterwards also for free - none of these perks were on either Poesia in Europe, Melody, Musica or Magnifica. I want to find out why this is so.
 

# 39: June 28-July 2, 2012

I spent a bit of time reconnoitring and like what I have seen so far. Since the ship is smaller than Magnifica, everything is more compact and the colour schemes seem to me to be brighter which makes for a cheerful environment. At the Dining table I have three English couples whose names I don't know as yet. The champagne came too late to have had at my first evening at that table and so we'll have it tonight; we did however share the strawberries.

June 29, Flaam: Of course I had been here only a week ago, found myself again at the free WiFi room where after a while, when all the people from two cruiseships had descended, it was no longer workable and I gave up. Went back to the ship for a small lunch and after a while in my cabin went out again to try and catch that train as it passed which I had missed before and did. More driving around, experimenting with the camera on video setting mounted pretty loosely at the steering column and recording what I saw as I drove along - the results were mixed, because the camera didn't hold it's position and I wound up holding it myself as I drove. Picked a few Marguerite en route and presented them to one of the girls at the Reception desk.

June 30, Bergen and it was raining. I drove, well covered with that plastic rain cape, to "my" McD's but there was quite a bit of trouble with the Internet Server and whatever I did required a lot of time and patience. Because of a health issue which requires being checked, my deceased cousin's wife Sylvia in Southampton made an appointment for me at the local hospital to see a specialist there. This was already several days ago and required my getting a referral by the ship's doctor and this to be faxed to the hospital. My dear friend Mandy, the Concierge on Opera, was instrumental in organizing this, but there has been a lot of back and forth because the Fax number did not work and another number didn't respond and several people have been involved in getting the requirements of the appointment to be met. Of course this is over Saturday/Sunday with probably only a skeleton staff at the hospital office.

At this time I am still not sure of anything, but will turn up on July 2 at Sylvia's house, with a copy of referral, and she'll drive me to the hospital. As I said before, there is never a dull moment. This was a Gala evening and there was the usual cocktail party "for repeaters and honeymooners" which I attended and where I met more staff and officers who knew me, including Giacomo Romano, the Captain whom I knew on Poesia and who came to greet me. Afterwards, like the night before, I went to the piano bar, where Lumi, a pretty girl from Rumania, sings Karaoke style and where I played the piano in between for a while. July 1, at sea. Was invited for lunch with the captain, first officer and the hotel manager, also another English couple and a lady from South Africa - very nice and amicable. In the afternoon I played in the Plazza Spagna where there were only a few but enthusiastic listeners.

July 2, Southampton. Dear friends, firstly, thank you all for your abiding friendship and for suffering my musings! Very important though is the renewal of my plea to those who keep on sending me "stuff" - forwards whatever merit they may have - I just cannot handle them any more. So please: Cease and desist! Personal messages are of course always appreciated and welcome.

Sylvia had made a temporary appointment with Mr. Cumming *) at the Spire Southampton hospital for 10.30am on June 2. *) In England, there is a "Dr" title for a GP, a "Professor" for a teaching physician and a "Mr" for a specialist, which is indeed very confusing, but I have encountered this before on a British sitcom and only today got these facts.

It was very complicated arranging for a consultation with the urologist Mr. Cumming, which required a referral from the ship's doctor to be sent by Fax - anyway, it involved many people here on board, several failed tries because it was over a weekend with the hospital's offices partially closed - anyway, it eventually worked out OK. After a taxi ride (including scooter, because it was miles from the ship down and to the taxi stand), Sylvia took me to the hospital, where I had to go through a lengthy registration and arrangement per creditcard because they don't actually have any dealings with IMG, my insurance company, to whom I'll have to send a claim. Because they already had been informed of the limited time available to me they really bent over backwards to fit me in for a) consultation with Mr. Cumming, MB, ChM, FRCSEd, Consultant Urologist, b) blood test and c) CT Scan of bladder and kidneys. All of these were done by almost one pm and Mr. Cumming then gave me the initial, but incomplete results (the urinalysis from the specimen I had brought along as well as the blood analysis take a few days) and this is it:

On my bladder there is a mass at the entrance of the right kidney which may be cancerous and must be removed to prevent more serious complications.

To make it short: I am leaving the ship when it gets back to S'h on July 10 for one cruise and stay with Sylvia who so graciously offered to put me up until the 18th, when I (hopefully) will return to the ship until I disembark again in S'hampton on the 26th, when I am booked until August 1 at the Banister House B&B, after that I'll embark the Carribean Princess until I get to NY Sep 8 and fly to Subury. All of this is connected to a BIG IF: On Friday the 13th (are you superstitious?) I'll be operated on to remove and analyze the bladder obstruction. I'll stay overnight (or longer if necessary) at the hospital for observation and then should rest for at least a week or longer which of course I can do on the ship. Pending on the results and further consultation, there is a chance that I'll have to break off any further cruising (losing all payments to Princess) and return to Canada IF I decide to have a malignancy treated (either chemo or radiation) or, in view of my age, just ride it out to the end. Time will tell.

From July 10 to at least the 19th of July you will not hear from me but as soon as I can, I'll tell you of the outcome and further developments.

On the positive side is the fact (I think through the intervention of the captain/friend Giacomo Romano) but implemented by my even greater friend, the hotel manager Angelo, that I have been granted three hours per day free WiFi on the ship. This is of course via satellite, often slow and sporadic and at times unavailable because of the ship's route, but it sure is great and the first perk (other than those of the MSC Club) I've received (never had any shipboard credit, for instance).

From: Bart Kakoschke
Date: Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 3:13 PM
Subject: Video clip
To: egon landsberg <44egon44@gmail.com>

Dear Egon,
I hope you are keeping well. I was sorry to hear of your health issues and hope the surgery proves to be uneventful.
I wanted to let you know I've uploaded a short video clip of a remarkable musician to Youtube. I hope you enjoy watching it - we all certainly do!
http://youtu.be/q9zHAlNP3dk
Kind regards,
Bart

---------------------------------------
OPRERATION CANCELLATION

Dear Janet,

due to the very complex situation I find myself in at this time, I have decided to return to Canada for surgical and subsequent procedures and would therefore ask you to please cancel the scheduled operation for July 13.

I must explain to you that I have been living on various cruise ships of the Italian MSC line since the beginning of October 2010 and am writing this at the moment on MSC "Opera" en route, on which I am still booked until July 26 when I was going to stay at a B&B in S'h prior to embark on more cruises until Sep. 8 in New York, from where I would fly to my son in Canada since I sold everything there before embarking on this odyssey.

The rationale is this: if I had gone through the operation here, my Cousin-in-law Sylvia Landsberg, had graciously offered to put me up in her home for a maybe lengthy recovery period. However, this lady is in her eighties and I feel that this would be an imposition I cannot accept, particularly with the possibility, however remote, of complications. Furthermore, given my age of 95, I don't know what shape I'll be in at the time (assuming survival -:) to continue my planned itinerary. So I am sure that Mr Cumming and you will agree that this decision to cut my losses and return to Canda while I am physically able is the right one.

I would be most grateful if Mr. Cumming would let me know (through you by email) whether the lab tests shed more light on the situation, any prognosis and if possible give me a written diagnosis for me to take to the physician in Canada.

Please accept my thanks for Mr. Cummings and you for your help and understanding.

Sincerely,

Egon Landsberg

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

# 40: July 2-9 2012

My new tablemates are three rather non-inspirational older English couples. Of course they enjoyed the champagne, once it came, because it had not been sent it to the table and I had to involve several people to finally get it, but not the strawberries, which I found only next day in my cabin and took down to the table; afterwards I brought three of them to Mandy, Mira (Manager of Guest Relations) and Raquel who showed me how to get on and off the ship's WiFi. First I had to buy Internet time (8 hrs for 50 Euro) and this will then be voided from my account. By the end of the next day, July 3, I had used already 6 hrs of the first purchase. The Internet connection worked quite well, but we were mostly stationary in Ijmuiden, Holland, only 15 miles or so from Amsterdam.

July 4: at St. Peter Port (Gurnsey). I spent many hours on line today and made difficult decisions. I will abort my Odyssey at this point, cancel the operation in Southampton and return to Canada within the next two weeks. It was just too problematic in many ways to have undertaken it as originally planned and so, with a tear in my eye, I cut my losses, abandon the dream and deal with reality. Stay with me for further developments.

July5/6: At a day at sea I worked more hours on the computer, made a flight reservation for July 16, which next day, after consideration, I changed to July 13 (London-Toronto-North Bay, ON), corresponded with the B&B in Southampton to see whether they could accommodate me from the 10th to the 13th and cancel the original reservation, further correspondence with Princess re the cancellation of the cruises booked with them, etc etc - lot's of stuff to attend to.

But I played in the afternoon in one of the lounges for an hour and in the evening for a little while at the piano bar in a much nicer setting and with great response from the listeners and it also helped me to diffuse the tension and sadness. Before Dinner on the 5th I had my three martinis at the Captain's Cocktail Party, and got to know a delightful family of five from Atlanta, Georgia who all happened to be musically active and came to listen to me with great appreciation in the piano bar.

July 7, Bilbao - I drove around a bit after several hours of frustrating computer work because of unresponsive or sloppy correspondents, but did not go into the center of the city, some 15 KM from where we docked and reachable only by shuttle bus @ $12. When I was confirmed in the Lutheran faith at age 15, I was given this from Psalm 32: 8: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way in which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye". After a friend of mine 27 years ago had it written out in beautiful calligraphy in both English and German and had it encased in plastic, I carried it in my wallet. Since that time I have come to believe that all that happens in my life occurs for a reason. Maybe this is true, but when I think of the millions who perished in the holocaust I realize that it sure could not be generalized. But to give you the most recent example concerning me: Along with all others, also the booking for the MSC Opera on which I am at present, was made some 8 months ago. I could not know then that when I came here, I would encounter two important friends from MSC Poesia at much earlier times: Many, the Concierge and Angelo, the Hotel Manager. They presented me not only with a water package, but also with free laundry and 3 hours free WiFi per day - unheard of on previous cruises.

At that time I did not know that I would have a serious illness which would eventually require me to return to Canada. I could not possibly have achieved all the email correspondence back and forth with my cousin-in-law in Southampton, Insurance, hospital, airlines, Princess and hotel reservations, plus much personal matter without this free WiFi time and Mandy's help in getting a printed referral from the ship's doctor to the specialist in Southampton. Since I started with this only a few days ago, I used almost 24 hr of Internet time and while I again feel that my decision to abort the rest of my itinerary, cancel the operation in Southampton and return to Canada for medical procedures was "guidance", it entailed more back and forth and is still not complete, because my email cancelling the operation has not been acknowledged after 3 days, requiring me to write again, Princess requiring me to call them with the cancellation after I had done it by email, my medical travel insurance provider also requiring me to call re precertification for hospital/operation , even though I had sent them another email with the information that I had cancelled and was returning to Canada, where it would cost them little if anything because of my inclusive Provincial Medial Insurance and would they under the circumstances foot the bill for my return to Canada?

And then I got the e-ticket from Expedia for the flights for July 13, but it's not mentioned that I had requested wheel chair assistance, and furthermore the certificate of travel insurance has not been changed from July 16 (which I had originally booked and then changed to the 13th), requiring more calls to first Expedia and then to the Insurance they deal with to have the certificate date changed - but they cannot find me in the system ... boy oh boy. I need a drink, it's almost 5 o'clock. Thanks for listening and commiserating!

July 8 , La Rochelle, France. Even on a Sunday by using Skype to call Air Canada, I was able to ascertain at least the fact that my request for wheel chair assistance is in their system- it was not mentioned on their e-ticket. But even to make a call like this isn't easy: I have to be at a hotspot on the ship for WiFi, there is much ambient noise and there happen to be unexpected periodic announcements in five languages blaring through the loudspeakers, forcing me to start all over again. And I also had to phone Expedia again (who answered from Egypt!) because of the travel cancellation insurance not having been changed from the 16th to the 13th July, but tomorrow, Monday, I'll have to call them back after 9AM EST when the Insurance Company is open, for them to call them. We'll be at sea on the way to Southampton and there will be a time difference of 6 hours to be considered. Who knows how well Skype will work because we are on the move and it also will be in a much louder surrounding because of there are also screaming kids to liven things up. Fun and games. By the way, I received a reply from my Insurance, telling me that my policy does not cover the return flight to Canada.

-- Last evening I played over an hour in the piano bar, actually replacing the scheduled duo and part of Lumi's stint who were only too happy (and, I daresay, fascinated), to listen along with many people in the bar. There again it occurs to me to think that there must be a reason that I have been given this gift which allows me to have no arthritis in my fingers, play well and with endurance at age 95 and on top of it have some 1500 songs in my mental repertoire!

July 9 en route to Southampton. Last cocktail party and the Bar Manager who knows me still from Poesia treated me to a martini. Afterwards I played for 20 Minutes in the Piano Bar as I will for a last time tonight. - Arranging for the disembarkment tomorrow after all luggage is ready, the scooter folded and packaged in its special bag (weighing some 40 lbs) and all of this, and I in a wheelchair, leaving the ship about 10 am. Dear Sylvia has arranged for a taxi to meet me at the pier and take me to Bannister House to unload the luggage there and then I guess to her home. Lots of logistics to look after and still many email exchanges. Next time you'll hear from me it will be from North Bay, Ontario.

http://torbay.net . I'm off and running!

This was the Itinerary from the last scheduled cruising, now 'cut short' as of Friday the 13th of July.

2012 ITINERARY  (last # each line is # of days)

13.02-18.02 Poesia PO18 (Part) Cozumel-Pt.Everglades 5
18.02-25.02 Poesia PO19 Pt. Everglades-Pt. Everglades 7
28.02-10.03 " PO20 " " 11
10.03-17.03 " PO21 " " 7
17.03-02.04 " PO22 " Genoa 16
02.04-11.04 BERN - Genoa 11
11.04-22.04 Melody ME25 Genoa-Genoa 11
22,04-01.05 " ME26 Genoa-Katakolon (Part of ME26) 9
01.05-06.05 Musica MU21 Katakolon-Venice (Part of MU21) 5
06.05-13.05 " MU22 Venice-Venice 7
13.05-20.05 " MU23 " " 7
20.05-22.05 STAY TWO NIGHTS IN VENICE 2
22.05-03.06 Magnifica MA18 Venice-Kiel 12
03.06-17.06 " MA19 Kiel-Kiel 14
17.06-24.06 " MA20 Kiel-Kiel 7
24.06-28.06 " MA21 Kiel-Stavanger (Part MA21) 4
28.06-02.07 Opera OP29 Stavanger-S'hampton(PartOP29) 4
02.07-10.07 " OP30 S'hampton-S'hampton 8
10.07-18.07` " OP31 " " 8
18.07-26.07 " OP32 " " 8
26.07-01.08 IN SOUTHAMPTON 6
01.08-13.08 Caribbean Princess S
' ampton - S'hampton 12
13.08-25.08 " " " " 12
25.08-08.09 " " " New York 14
08-09 Porter Airlines New York-Sudbury, ON

         _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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