Monday, January 26, 2009

Cruise Pics

Here are Katie and I out to dinner the night after the Bahamas. This picture was taken by the
girlfriend of a 'friend of ours'

Ahhh yes. Smoking a Cuban out on the balcony. Believe it or not, I'm listening to a book on my headphones.

Here are Katie and I in the Bahamas after our shouting match and subsequent making up. :)

Living The Dream on Eleuthera Island.

Here we are in the room the first night on the ship. Notice my CIA shirt. You have to be in the agency to buy these (or anything else with the official CIA logo on it)

Here are Katie and I out on the balcony. I spent a lot of time out there this trip because I brought Jenny (my guitar).

Here's me smoking a stogey in my favorite room on the ship: The Speakeasy cigar lounge.

Here is a picture Katie took. She was laying out and realized she had a pretty good view. She grabbed the camera and took a couple of pictures from the beach chair.

Here are Katie and I in St John, USVI. We're overlooking scenic Trunk Bay. Although we didn't get to spend long enough on this island, we absolutely loved it.

Jenny and I: this one is sort of sad. After 6 years of faithful service, she was cracked in transit on the way back home. I don't have the heart to throw her away or get a new one.

I'm not an art critic or anything, but I just love this picture Katie took of a beach chair on the beach at Orient Bay - St Maarten. It looks like it's just waiting for me.

Here were are dressed to the nines on the first formal night. We didn't get any other pictures of this, and it's too bad: we looked great!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Cruise - Part 2

"Troy, wake up. Troy. TROY!"

As I blearily opened my eyes, I noticed Katie was walking back to the bed from the door to the balcony. Even half asleep I could tell she was bordering on panic, but being as how this is a condition that she frequents often I wasn't too concerned. What was she afraid of? The fog outside. She was afraid that she couldn't see the water. I muttered something about her going to bed and when she wakes up it will be gone and then fell back asleep. That's my Katie: afraid of the fog (I love you babe :P)

The first day was the Bahamas. We had to tender in, which means that the ship wasn't at a dock. We had to ride a smaller boat to shore. We went over at about 10:30 in the morning, set down our things and went over to the small booth set up for kayak rentals. We got in the kayak and I quickly learned something: neither of us had any experience in a kayak. As we bobbed around in the water, I got more and more frustrated. Pretty soon I was yelling at Katie that she was doing it wrong and she was yelling at me to shut up. Ahhh. Vacation.... (I want to interject here that we were asked several times during the course of the vacation if we were on our honeymoon. People said we seemed so happy together and in love. I guess when we're not yelling at each other, we get along pretty well...) We eventually got a system down and had a good time. As we were headed back to turn the kayak back in, we were in about 4 feet of water as we passed over a stingray. I'd forgotten that they like shallow water. Despite Steve Irwin's assertions, stingrays are mostly harmless. We floated by, got back to land and turned the kayak back in. A few minutes later Katie's back started to tighten up. We only ended up spending another hour or so on land. We got something to eat, I went over to buy some cigars and souvenirs, and we laid out in the sun for a few minutes. By then Katie's back was hurting her bad enough that she wanted to get some medicine. I didn't mind. We could lay out just as easily on the ship. As the day progressed, Katie was hurting bad enough that we started worrying about the rest of the trip. We called the service department there on the ship, but they had no ice packs or heating pads. Turning into Macgyver, I remembered I had a few Ziplock bags I kept deodorant and toothpaste and such in to travel. We called for some ice, and once it showed up Katie had a ghetto-fabulous icepack. She had pain for a day or two more, but we stayed on top of it and disaster was averted.

That night, we went to a 'Friends of Bill W and Dr Bob' meeting on the boat. How ironic is it that on a boat that holds 3200 passengers and 1000 crew that the only room they make available to have an AA meeting is the one room in the ship with a camera in it streaming on the internet? Maybe they don't realize the second A stands for Anonymous? More likely they don't know who the friends of Bill and Dr Bob are. Anyways, there was a better turnout than I've seen on a boat. There were about 11 of us drunks (strangely, The Flapper wasn't there...) , a couple of compulsive overeaters and an Al-Anon (Katie). I'm normally a stickler for who should go to AA meetings, but when you're on a floating bar and buffet the rules are relaxed a bit. By the end of the trip, nobody had relapsed so the meetings were a success.

On Tuesday (the day after the Bahamas), we had a sea day on our way to St Maarten. We slept in late and laid low most of the day. Katie's back was still a little sore from the kayak, so it worked out perfectly. At dinner we ended up seated by a friend of ours (random thought: I always liked how in the cosa nostra/mafia movies all the made guys refer to other made guys that way. For example 'Joe, I want to introduce you to a friend of ours' would mean the guy being introduced was a made guy. 'Joe, I want you to meet a friend of mine' would be a non made guy. I think I'm going to steal the term and refer to my alcoholic cohorts as 'a friend of ours' starting now) and his girlfriend. I'm constantly amazed by how quickly people in recovery can be good friends and so comfortable with each other. I don't even think people in the same church are able to come together so easily as 2 sober drunks. This guy was from Chicago. I'd never met in my life until the day before, but I felt like I could have been having dinner with my sponsor and his wife. I love recovery.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cruise - Part 1

We got on the ship at about 1:15. Despite the 30 minute line to get in, there weren't many people on the boat overall. Our room was at the top of the ship and it was pretty nice. We've been really spoiled in having balcony rooms on each of the cruises we've been on, so we went out on the balcony and hung out for a minute before deciding to go look around. At this point our luggage wasn't in the room yet, but we weren't concerned. Our room was on the same floor as the buffet and most of the pools. We walked over to one of the pools and ordered a couple of burgers and fries. While we were waiting, someone came by selling drink cards. If you've never been on a cruise before, these are a really good deal (relatively). While the cost of the cruise includes room and board and all the food you can eat, drinks are not included. And at 2.15 for a 12 ounce coke, it can add up. For 30 bucks each we got all the soda we could handle. Compare that to over $7 per alcoholic drink. With our new mugs full of all-we-could-drink soda and burgers in had, we sat down and enjoyed a meal in the sun next to the pool.

As soon as we were done, we headed to the next pool over where there was a 50 foot movie screen showing the Eagles vs Giants NFL playoff game. My eyes lit up, but Katie didn't want to watch football. After touring some of the rest of the ship, she gave in and we went back to the football game. There were a lot of people from New York and Philadelphia on the ship, so it was a rowdy group. I watched about half the game before heading back to the room. From there I watched some of the game while we waited for the muster drill. A muster drill is where you learn what to do in case of an emergency. Basically you get your life vest and go hang out in a place until you receive further direction.

By this point, we were starting to get worried because we hadn't seen our bags yet. By 5:00 we were minutes away from the ship leaving port and we hadn't seen our bags. I was especially irritated after dropping 20 bones on a guy that I thought would take good care of my things. About 5:30, the ship blared it's horn 3 times and we were off. Still having no bags, I was pretty nervous. Over the next hour, we started seeing piece by piece of luggage show up outside our door and eventually we had it all. No thanks to my now $20 dollars richer friend back at the port.

The first night we found the dining room and were seated. At our table were 3 middle aged couples, 1 elderly couple, and us. Being an old soul, I don't necessarily mind spending time with older couples. In fact the only person I really had a problem with was in the couple that was next youngest besides us. It all started waiting in line to get in. I'm standing in line with Katie when I hear this awful ripping, flapping noise that can only mean one thing. I instantly ask Katie if she heard the noise. She hadn't, but within about 10 seconds the guy in front of us starts cringing. When the smell hit us Katie and I started blinking and breathing shallowly through our mouths like we were being hit with mustard gas. The jerk who let fly in close quarters never turned around the whole time in line. Not that I blame him after what he put us through.

As we were seated at his table, we realized we were being seated next to 'The Flapper' as we called him due to the noise I first heard before the wall of stink hit us. And it turns out that besides having no qualms about nearly sh*tting his pants in public, he also doesn't mind getting belligerently drunk in front of strangers. Katie and I put on our game faces and set about trying to enjoy the meal. At one point the flapper starts telling us that he and his wife are newlyweds. We all congratulate them and ask how they met. It turns out they met at work. It further turns out that they worked at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. God has a sense of humor. He really does. If there is anybody that deserves to be sentenced to hanging out with trashy drunks, it's me. Trust me, I've been that guy more times than I can count. It took every remaining iota of self control I had not to innocently ask naive sounding questions about treatment centers. The best part of all of this is that because it was the first night of the cruise, it took over 2 hours to complete the meal so we got extra time with my brother in alcoholism. From there on out, we waited for tables for 2 to become available every meal except 1 (I'll get to that later).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Thing I Learned On My Trip

On Saturday the 10th, we got up at about 7:00 took showers and got ready then left for the airport with Katie's mom. We flew into Atlanta and from there to Fort Lauderdale. We took a cab to the Marriott hotel across the street from the port. We had some misgivings when we told the cabbie we wanted to go to the Marriott by Port Everglades and he asked 'Where's that?'. I was thinking that the Marriott corporation is doing pretty well if those directions didn't narrow down the search... So anyways, we checked into the hotel and went across the parking lot to eat at this cool little Italian joint. After that we went back to the hotel and went to bed. Sunday we woke up and got ready then went over to the port in a cab. We got out of the cab and gave most of our luggage to the guys there that take your bags and get them on the ship. It was here that we ran into a recurrent theme: how much to tip.

I'm not a cheap guy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have little respect for money in general. What I'm not a big fan of is having to tip everybody you see. Not that I have to, but I feel like I have to. With someone like a cabbie it's easy because it's just 'keep the change' when you hand him a 20 on a 15 dollar tab to get from the airport to the hotel. You get your bags out of the cab, though, and all of a sudden there is a bellhop there to take your bags. They don't ask, either, it's just 'here, let me get that for you'. And how much do you tip? This guy literally lifts 5 bags a foot off the ground to the waiting cart, pushes the cart around for a while and takes the bags off of the cart. It takes him maybe 10 minutes with the time it takes you to check in. Meanwhile, he's trying to make conversation. He's asking you about you and telling you about him. Sometimes I just want to say 'Cut the B.S. man. You're getting a tip. If you keep talking, you're getting a smaller tip. We don't know each other. Let's stop pretending we're good pals.' That's something about me, though. I'm not very good at social situations. I just don't see the need to do that. But I digress... So I come to the conclusion that 5 bucks is an okay tip for a guy in that situation, but then I wuss out and give him 10. At the port the next day I get hit with 2 situations in a row. The cabbie talks our ear off the whole block or so to our ship and when we get there he's falling all over himself to drag the luggage out of the cab (Something I've learned in life: people you don't know that talk your ear off in public usually want a tip). So I pay 20 on a 12 dollar tab. 8 bucks. 75%. Which I think is excessive, but what am I going to do: ask him for $5 bucks back? It turns out I should have, because now I've got another guy that wants to take my bags from the cab to the ship. Having been on a cruise before, I know that this guy is going to take my luggage to some place that I don't see while I pray that all of my stuff remains intact and finds it's way to my room on the ship. This guy literally has all my belongings. He's not a guy you want to start getting cheap on. As I open my wallet, though, I panic when I realize all I've got is 20's. With a sick feeling, I bust out a 20 and lay it on this guy to ensure my bags don't get lost. And now I feel guilty that I 'only' gave the cabbie 8 bucks. I hate it. I've been in town all of 15 hours and I'm already out $43 bucks to pay people I don't want to for things I can do myself. And to top that off, Katie sees this and gets pissed at me for wasting money. It turns out she had smaller bills. So the lesson here is this: when you're on vacation in situation where you are going to have to tip, be prepared with lots of 1 and 5 dollar bills unless you want to start throwing out 20's like a drunken sailor.


Does it ever seem like you're the only guy in pictures without his eyes open? Man, I swear.... The answer used to be to take 2 pictures in fairly rapid succession. My powers of blinking at exactly the wrong time allow me to blink in rapid fire succession, though, thus thwarting what could have been a pretty good picture... Blink.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

T Minus 40 hours and counting....

Saturday morning Katie and I jump on a plane to head down to sunny Fort Lauderdale. We'll spend Saturday night at this gem of hospitality:

We'll wake up Sunday morning and get on this cutesy little boat:

And then we'll spend a week in heaven. It's going to be awesome.... :)