So, where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to head off for Monday (second night) dinner and the faux Cirque du Soleil performance.
First, dinner. My tablemates from Table No. 1 evaporated. The accountant and the couple from Alberta defected to the early seating, and Dizzy from Atlanta indicated she was going to dine in the specialty restaurants the rest of the trip, and the No-Shows still didn’t show up—which left me as the sole diner at a table for seven. So I went to the maitre d’ and had him switch me to another table where there was an empty eighth chair. My new dinnermates were Kent (an ex-IRS agent) and Lana, taking their 27th cruise, and their friends Tom (also a federal government employee, he with the EPA) and Jody (celebrating her birthday), this being their 53rd(!) cruise in 22 years of marriage, plus Lana’s 91-year-old father Les who recently appeared on an NBC reality show, along with Richard (a flamboyant antique car dealer from Dallas) and Suzanne, a flashy couple in their late 30s. When I got to the table, Richard and Suzanne hadn’t yet arrived. I was warmly welcomed, but not too subtly warned that the rest of the table were dreading the appearance of the talkative, bragadocious Texas couple. It was Formal Night and Richard arrived wearing an open-shirted tux with a scarf draped around his shoulders in lieu of a tie, whereas Suzanne’s dress featured an open front even more dramatic than Richard’s get-up. While Kent and Tom and Les and I stared at Suzanne, Lana and Jody kept their eyes glued to their plates the entire meal. Suzanne related that she had once been married to Richard’s best friend, but that eight days after her divorce she took up with Richard and flew to Las Vegas, where they were married, Suzanne calling home to her parents in Crystal Lake, IL to give them the news, the kicker being that they had never once heard of this guy who was now their son-in-law.
On the subject of multiple cruises, you quickly realize that a whole lot of your fellow travelers are cruise repeaters. It’s no at all uncommon to hear people tell of their membership in the Captain’s Club or their “Diamond” status (25 cruises or more on the same cruise line). Another frequent occurrence is travelers excitedly greeting bartenders and waiters they have met on previous cruises. The friendliness is reciprocated: I’ve only been on this tub three days and already I’m “Mr. Joe” to all my waiters and my stateroom attendant (and several bartenders, since I’m the only person on this ship who adds a buck in the “Additional Gratuity” space on the checks one is constantly signing).
The show, which didn’t begin until 11:15 (on a night when we had to move our clocks ahead an hour to accommodate a time-zone change), was, to put it kindly, an embarrassment. It’s as though they spent so much money on the theatre and the special effects stuff that they didn’t have any money left for skilled performers, the result being that the attempts at thematic sophistication and mystery atmosphere were laughable. E.g., the first guy to make a dramatic swing around the theatre ceiling lost his weird headgear.
The next morning, Tuesday, I got on the daily treadmill…no, not the one in the spa, but the activity treadmill as listed in Celebrity Today, the ship’s daily newspaper. The sequence of activities included the Broadway musical trivia competition, followed by time observing the Texas Hold ‘em tournament, then the glass blowing demonstration up on the Lawn, then lunch by the pool, then up to the Sky Observatory Lounge to watch our arrival in San Juan, then disembarkment for a few hours in Old San Juan (ugh!), then back to the Solstice for a nap, followed by a call from Guest Relations saying they now had a room for me to switch to (worth the trouble? After 3 days? packing and unpacking…account getting mixed up, etc….is it worth it? I don’t think so at this point). Ten it was off to dinner, but first a stop at the Passport Bar. Now, if you want to hang out with the real oldsters, the Passport is the place to be. After the guy with the steel drum finishes, the piano player swings into action and the dance floor is open! About twenty or thirty super seniors proceeded to showcase all of the steps learned in that morning’s Ballroom Dancing lessons, the most prominent number being a ten-minute version of “The Lady is a Tramp.”
Dinner again with the new gang, except Richard and Suzanne didn’t show up. Nice pleasant evening listening to cruise lore, followed by a couple of hours at the tables…where I got scorched for $140. (I recalled a guy at the Martini Bar before dinner who, when I commented that I’d had a good night the first night out, said “Oh, everybody wins the first two nights,” leaving unspoken the corollary that after the fish have been hooked, news sets of dice and decks of cards come out on the subsequent nights to reel in the catch. The end result of these activities each day from early morning to late at night is that I’m exhausted.
Wednesday marked our arrival in St. Kitts. St. Kitts and Nevis together comprise the newest and smallest country in North America, St. Kitts being the “industrial/commercial/developed” member, Nevis being the supposed island paradise. Upon arrival I took the 45-minute ferry (Alison, you wouldn’t have fared well on this little trip) to Nevis and hired a taxi to take me around the island, with special emphasis placed on the Four Seasons Nevis, which has been closed for months following a hurricane (the real reason: insurance dispute), where I talked my way in the gate and looked around, then the Montpelier Plantation Inn, a way-up-high-on-a-big-hill old sugar plantation recently featured in Conde Naste Traveler. The Four Seasons was impressive, but nice in a conventional “this-hotel-could-be-anywhere”…Hawaii, Florida, Southern California…sort of way. The Montpelier Plantation was much more West Indies authentic, if not as deluxe. Back to the ship for some pool time, and once again, a true highlight of this cruise has been the excellence of the poolside entertainment…a 70’s/80s group the first day, a rock band the second, a folk/rock guitarist/singer the third. All very, very good. Tonight we have a “pre-dinner” show called Pulse, and (once again) I’m being assigned to a new table for the night since Kent et al. are going to the Tuscan Steakhouse. A chance to make still more friends!
To be continued.