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|The Voyager of the Seas: Another Day in Paradise|
|Written by Joe Babiasz|
|Saturday, 24 April 2010 16:33|
The Captain's Party, Mardi Gras at sea, and why I love/hate technology
Monday evening was quite pleasant. I'd spent the afternoon poolside, just relaxing and reading, until it was time to get ready for the Captain's Party. Every cruise features a meet-and-greet event at which the ship's captain meets the passengers and poses for photographs with them. Some folks go for the photos, and some for the complimentary champagne. I went for the latter. By eight, I was ready for dinner. Having toasted the captain, the ship, and newfound companions, it was time for something more substantive than liquid refreshments.
As usual, the meal was excellent. I tried the oxtail soup for my appetizer, never having experienced that delicacy before. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The soup was an almost clear broth with a unique, slightly beefy flavor. Since I'm a carnivore, I opted for a basic steak and baked potato for my main course, finishing off the meal with a dish of vanilla ice cream. Now for the evening's entertainment...
Free nightly entertainment is a must on any cruise. I scanned the Cruise Compass, a daily event calendar placed in passenger cabins every evening. With seven entertainment venues on the Voyager of the Seas, it's impossible to get bored. Last night's show in the 1,350-seat La Scala theater was a multi-talented comedian who goes by the name El Goucho. He succeeded in keeping the audience laughing through much of the show. While many cruisers were just getting started for the evening, I took the obligatory stroll about the deck then called it a night.
I woke up shortly after nine on Tuesday and caught the last 30 seconds of the space shuttle landing on television. As always, an impressive sight. I spent a few minutes thinking how shameful it is that America will be dismantling the program. But enough politics. I kicked off the covers and immediately recalled my promise to exercise while on board.
Off I went to the running track, fully prepared to start my quest for fitness and ignoring the people already staking out their deck chairs. Five laps equal one mile, the sign read. Now I knew I was in trouble, but there was no turning back. I looked around at the beautiful ship I was standing on, the sunshine on my skin and the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico glistening 200 feet below. I had to do at least a few laps. I fired up my tunes and began the daunting task.
Little by little the laps flew by (well not quite flew). First five, then 10, 15, and finally 20. I managed four miles, leaving several dozen runners on the ground, apparently knocked over by the wake of my blindingly fast feet. At least that's how I envisioned it (amazing how the mind works). After a short cool down, I showered and planned to have breakfast. Of course, my devotion to physical improvement meant I lost out on a good bacon-oriented breakfast, so I went directly to lunch. I was also rather bummed to find out I'd missed the vegetable-carving class. I do hope they offer it again.
I hate technology. It has been taking forever to upload the photos from this trip. On the other hand, I love technology, and here's why. I ventured to the pool deck mid-afternoon to do a little reading. Positioning myself at the pool bar, I ordered up an adult beverage from Gregory, opened my book, and realized the large, flat-screen TV above our heads was tuned to ESPN. The Gulf of Mexico on a warm, sunny day, an automotive book, a cool drink before me, and drag racing on the screen. What more could a guy on a cruise ask for?
After a while, I realized the sun was starting to burn a hole in my backside, so I moved to what I call the "secret place" on deck four. This spot is made for guys like me. It's a quiet zone with lounge chairs, no music, and almost no people. There must have been 40 chairs and only two of us reading. I managed to get through a few chapters of my book before putting the chair in a horizontal position and doing what most people would do: nap.
The evening's main show was at 6:30 p.m., and I was excited to go. It featured the Drifters, the do-wop group from the Fifties and Sixties. I hadn't expected to see any of the original band members, so was surprised that two of them, perhaps three, were there. For a bunch of guys with gray hair, they had the place rocking. As they were ending the show, they invited people to come up to the stage (not on it, but up to it). Well, one lady decided to go onstage and started dancing with the performers. A crowd followed her immediately. By the end of the song, 100 or so people were onstage. You could tell by the looks passed between the performers that they didn't quite expect that. It all worked out fine, and the group gave everyone a great show. Afterwards, they signed autographs.
My dinner partners were Makram and Zaki Assad, two brothers originally from Egypt who immigrated to America many years ago in search of the American Dream. Our other dinner companions included Canadians Ray Penfold and Suz Nield and Allen and Ann Campbell from Calgary. With lawyers and teachers at the table, we had some interesting conversations. Discussions ranged from U.S. vs.Canadian health care to illegal immigration. By the end of the evening, we had settled all the world's problems and were the last group to leave the restaurant.
After dinner, I made my way over to Main Street for the "Party Around the World" parade--an incredible event that has you thinking you've been transported to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Hundreds of crewmembers dress in outlandish garb and simply start partying down the street. While the performers dance along, guests lifted their glasses and joined in the festivities. This is a must-see event.
It's now eleven o'clock, and I'm back to my room, having enjoyed another great day at sea. Feel free to drop me a line via the comment section below--I'd enjoy hearing from you. Tomorrow... Nassau!
A retired General Motors engineer, Joe Babiasz has transitioned to a post-GM career as an automotive journalist, writing for Chevy Enthusiast and several Auto Trader publications. An inveterate cruiser, this transatlantic crossing marks the 25th time he's made his home on the sea.