Cruise with a View
October 20, 2017

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Although I’d sailed in 1966 on an older ship from Canada to England, I’d never been on a cruise. This ocean cruise was a whole different cup of tea. It was a seven-day cruise leaving from Long Beach, CA with two stops in Mexico: Cabos San Lucas (two days) and a stop in Puerto Vallarta for a day with two sea days back to Long Beach port.

We were lucky to have been asked to join a family of a friend, and together we travelled with a composition of  slightly over two thousand guests and close to nine hundred crew members. All from many walks of life, countries, backgrounds and mind sets. The goal of Carnival Cruise Lines was to arrange and create something from this mix, and forge a unified whole from the hearth using the sun and fun. Our purpose was to enjoy ourselves.

To me, more than the surface aspect of cruising, this trip was a snapshot into humanity as it surrounds us. It became a metaphor for learning and my view of that metaphor.

Upon arriving to embark, I was totally impressed with the boarding agents and their efficiency. Adding to this, was the beauty of the ship, how clean everything was and the friendliness of the crew we encountered.

Our cabin was roomy, (photo of Joe included) with an efficient bathroom, super comfortable beds  and this towel art, which changed daily:

 

Every time there was a new towel art figure in our room, it conjured up childhood memories to me. Remembering the warmth I felt when mom would wrap a towel around me when I got out of the bath. Memories of long gone pets. Memories from when my parents took me to the zoo. Feelings of softness, warmth and love during my up bringing. Such a simple gesture with the power to make me appreciate how fortunate I am.

There was a mailbox outside the cabin door for events and notices, and inside on the wall were cards for room service, non disturbance and our service team for the cabin. About this time, there was an announcement that lunch would be served on the Lido Deck until 3:30pm, so we headed in that direction. Our suitcases and bags would arrive later.

We took the stairs up eight fights so we could see some of the ship. Art pieces hung on each landing and there were art glass pieces encased behind protection in the corners.

When we reached the Lido deck, and the multiple eating areas and restaurants, it seemed we had joined all of the other two thousand guests. We had to wait a bit to get a table before we could look around and choose something to eat. I found out by the end of the cruise, that the first and last eating sessions on a ship are completely full and bring out the best and worst in people. This was my introduction to some of the unpleasant traits of human nature: excess and greed.

We secured a table, and as we waited for the rest of our group to join us, I watched as plates piled high with food passed us. Endless food of all descriptions: pot roast, chicken and fish (fried, roasted or grilled), vegetarian, vegetable and starch selections, fresh fruit, regular and gluten-free breads and meals, deli sandwiches, smoked salmon plates, pizzas, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, roast pork, pastas, multiple ethnic including Chinese food, salad bar selections, dessert plates, beverages and more. Too many to list.

After everyone arrived at our table we took turns getting food so as not to lose the table. As I passed other tables I couldn’t help but notice all of the half eaten food plates left behind, as the same people were digging into another plate piled high. Waiters were busy picking up plates with left-overs, that never seemed to end. And, as soon as the waiters had cleared these, replacement plates were piled up faster than they could pick-up. It was organized insanity.

I didn’t know if the factor that drove this phenomena was (a) it was free, (b) guests felt they paid for the food, therefore everything was game on, (c) guests who might not have had an opportunity in the past to try some of these choices had the opportunity now, and they tried some new things, didn’t like what they tried and left the rest, or (d) didn’t care. Judging by the amount of waste I saw, I grouped it under the former heading of excess and greed. I added waste.

(After having been in the food and hospitality business for over forty-five years, I didn’t have any food on the ship that wasn’t good, great or exceptional, in taste, quality and eye appeal. As a matter of fact it left me feeling spoiled and appreciative).

 

After lunch, we went back to the cabin to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn’t, so we took time out to explore the ship.

I didn’t take photos of everything that was available to guests on our ship. There was a full gym (I used the stairs instead….which turned out to be not enough exercise for the weight I gained) on two levels with a full spa, steam and sauna. Water slide, exclusive over 21 areas, multiple pools for children and adults with their own food and drink bars, basketball court, ping-pong, miniature golf, whirlpools, private decks, library, art gallery, games room, many cocktail lounges, extra pay dining rooms, the four-story theatre and arts center, 24/7 fresh sushi bar, coffee bars, the comedy club, piano bar, the disco/nightclub, casino and on and on. Along with the numerous function areas, there were daily activities, directed by an excellent cruise director.

 

For the guests, this vessel seemed on the outside, to be a self-contained floating city of fun and excitement. An escape from reality that could possibly solve some of their problems in life, even be it for a week. I found the Carnival crew went out of their way to try to fulfil the needs of every guest and make them feel like each and everyone of them was the most important person on earth. That in itself was an insurmountable task. People end up bringing their individual worlds with them. Worlds of inner pain that keep surfacing outwardly through action, deed or expression of self. Overhearing conversations as we participated in activities on board made this apparent. I’ve always felt, that inner pain, is just a lack of love on some level. This vessel and it’s amenities were the temporary compensation being used to fill this ache that never seems to disappear.

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Our first stop was Cabos San Lucas. Carnival brought in ‘tenders’ to take us to shore. We didn’t sign up for the excursions that were available on board. We wanted to take our chances on shore to see what we could experience.

We were surrounded with options when we reached the shore for scuba diving, glass bottom boats, deep-sea fishing and private boat tours to El Arco and End Rock. The on board Carnival tour was $35/person, but we ended up accepting a private tour for $11/person.

 

There is a photo here of ‘Last Rock’ with a sea-lion perched on top of the rock. At first we thought it was a statue, but as we got closer and we circled the area, the sea lion would change its pose. We were all laughing because the sea loin did it for all the boats that approached.. Major ham and great entertainment. He should be paid for all the photos that were taken of him.

Afterwards we walked the main boardwalk and stopped in at a couple of places, one being Senor Frogs. Lot’s of fun and the hot chips and salsa made the beers go down easier.

We had to be back on the ship by 4:00pm because it would cruise the coast during the night and come back in the morning for the second day where we’d have from 7:00am till 3:00pm on shore again if we wanted. We went back to the ship, got cleaned up and waited in a lounge for everyone to arrive before we went into the dining room for our dinner.

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I found the dinner meals exceptional. As Trump would say, ‘tremendous’ selection, and it was different every night. Always six or seven appetizers to choose from, a ‘unique item’ like veal tongue, or frog legs or rabbit, etc., plus a selection from the grill with assorted sauces, or two vegetarian meals and a selection of six or seven desserts. Hence, the added pounds when I stepped on the scales at home.

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Road Trip…….day three
October 3, 2017

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Coffee was all we needed on our third day start. We left the hotel and hopped on the 101 North. We wanted to make it to the Bixby Creek Bridge, Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel. From there we’d head east to Merced and stay the night there, so we’d be able to have an early start to Yosemite on the following morning.

 

 

The Central Valley is just amazing. Our route took us through Atascadero, Paso Robles, King City, Greenfield and to Salinas. There were endless fields of every vegetable, nut-tree, fruit tree and vineyard. Just knowing that it supplies over half of all the nuts, vegetables and fruits for the United States is reason enough to be in awe. And we just take it for granted. It gave me great respect and appreciation for such a fragile commodity, just driving through this area. The fields and orchards are an endless sea of beauty. And although, there are plenty of opportunities to take in wine tastings at the many numerous vineyards, we’re saving that for another trip when that will be the main focus.

At Salinas, we headed west towards the ocean. By passing Carmel and Monterey for now, until we returned. We headed to our furthest North destination, the Bixby Creek bridge and Big Sur. Big Sur is as far as we could go on the coastal road because of the landside that removed the road further up, earlier this year.

 

With a short stop in Big Sur we headed back to Carmel, the Seventeen Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest.

 

Pebble Beach and its famous homes and golf courses are everything you can imagine wealth can bring. Partial views of private mansions hugging the ocean, equestrians on horseback, golfers on the pristine links and beautiful hotels and people make this area all that is written about it real, but distant, at the same time. Got money? We stopped at the Point Pinos Lighthouse for thirty minutes, and listened to volunteers tell us its very interesting history and current use.

 

Ending up close to Monterey, we travelled into the beach area for a bite to eat. We found Lalla Grill, a contemporary waterfront restaurant in Cannery Row. There were breathtaking views of the ocean and surroundings, including a cruise ship moored just off the coast, from the front windows where we were seated.  We treated ourselves to lobster and shrimp rolls. Sounds better than it tasted. The Mornay sauce on the seafood masked the delicate taste and overpowered the lobster and shrimp. A simple lemon butter sauce would have been better. But it was a much-needed break from the long drive so far. By 3:30pm, we were on our way west towards Merced.

Not very good photos, but wanted to remember the unbelievable prices of fruits and vegetables from stands along the roads. We saw large Haas avocados, 6/$1.00, a whole flat of giant strawberries for $10.00 , corn, 6/$1.00, and on and on.

With traffic and only a two lane highway, we ended up at our destination of Merced, four hours later at 7:45pm. This began our one night stay at the Motel (6) From Hell.

Bordered by a one way street in front (next to the freeway) and the loading docks of Costco in the rear of the building, we finally found the entrance to the motel, hidden behind a Carl’s Jr. parking lot. Not yet dismayed, we checked in and asked for a room as far away from the freeway as possible. The manager accommodated us by putting us in the inner courtyard, next to the pool. We weren’t hungry so we settled in and watched a little local TV before bedding down.

It wasn’t long before we were woken by the sounds of someone in the room above us making loud sex, accompanied by the freeway traffic noise. This went on for a while, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, until there was a sudden stop in the noise. And then, a huge THUD on the ceiling above us. One or both had fallen out of bed. It was a Friday night and people have to have fun. Things seemed to quiet down upstairs after this and we heard them discussing getting some ice.  Their door opened and closed loudly, and one person left to get ice.

Now there was a new noise….a train going 90 miles an hour with its whistle blowing. Who knew there were train tracks next to the freeway. It sounded like it was coming right through our room. The trains continued into the night about one every half hour, mixed with the arrival of eighteen wheelers at the loading dock of Costco. Every hour there were the soft sounds of the beep, beep, beep, beep as they backed their trucks into position.

The gentleman returned to the room above us (let’s call him Sam) with ice, but the door was locked. He knocked, but there was no answer. He knocked again, and still no answer. Then we heard “Ruth open the door”. Still no answer. Continued knocking with phrases like, “Ruth please open the door”, and “Ruth, open the door”. Then Sam began to bang on the door, “Come on Ruth, open the f**king door”, and shortly afterwards saying, “Ruth, sweetie, please open the door”. “Ruth, don’t be an a**hole”. “Open this f**king door”. Their next door neighbor upstairs, then came out, a lady with the sweetest voice and she tried to get Ruth to open the door. No luck. Then Sam threatens to get the manager to open the door. Still no luck. Along with the above phrases and some worse ones, accompanied with pounding and kicking on the door, an hour and a half passed. Finally, Sam got the manager (3:30am) to open the door and there was no Ruth.

We managed to get a couple hours of sleep. The trains and eighteen wheelers had subsided and the freeway now sounded life a soft muffle. The saving grace? We found a GREAT Denny’s (who knew?) a block away where we had a breakfast special, great service and coffee and was just a block from the freeway entrance to Yosemite.

Boat Ride of Freedom
July 14, 2010

I don’t know why I was chosen. Maybe I was the only one around at the time. Our neighbor Russell, down the street, had an aluminum boat and it was mid afternoon, when he popped over to the house to ask my Dad if he’d like to join him to go boating. They decided to take me along too.

It seemed like an endless ride to the lake, and the weather was cloudy and somewhat cold. The Jeep was uncomfortable and windy inside. We finally arrived at the lake and Russell and Dad put the boat in the water and we put on life jackets. They could have put four of me in my jacket. They had to use some rope to tie it on me. I was only seven or eight at the time.

It took a few pulls, but eventually the motor started up and we headed out into the lake. We kept close to the shore line for the first part and then Russell headed out towards the open water. There were a few other boats on the lake and when they passed, Russell would head directly into their wakes. Water splashed everywhere and it was a cold exhilaration to me. Fun, but not nice. And the rocking of the boat with water crashing against the sides was scary. Dad took a turn at steering the boat and then to my surprise he slowed to a stop and then climbed onto the bow of the boat. He asked Russell to drive and he sat there with his feet extended over the front of the bow with his arms and hands placed behind him, supporting his weight. He asked Russell to go full speed and the bow lifted far out of the water. It surprised me because at the time I’d never seen my Dad relinquish his reserve, conservativeness or responsibility in this way. He looked so free. It was like he was re-experiencing his youth and lost freedom. His hair was blowing in the wind, he closed his eyes and he looked ecstatically happy. It might have reminded him of his earlier days in the airforce and the comradeship he had with his squadron. I don’t know. But, the whole experience had a man’s man feeling to it.

As long as I remember, I never saw Dad in that state of mind again.

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