Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Cruising around the world is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach.  We weren’t able to stop at the Falkland Islands because of a major storm there.  Winds were Gale Force 11, with gusts at times up to 12, which is hurricane force, or 70 knots an hour.  Waves were over 30 feet.  While this might have been interesting to see, (but not experience) the captain prudently decided against stopping there.  As always, he said the safety of passengers and crew is his first concern but he also mentioned, as all captains do, the risk to his ship.  So we detoured away from the storm, but there were still high winds and big waves, making for an uncomfortable ride.  Most people, though, seem to take the rougher days all in stride.  I suppose I don’t see the ones who are unhappy, because they stay in their cabins.

The captain speaks to us over the loudspeaker every day at 12:45, to tell us about what sort of weather and sea conditions to expect over the next 24 hours.  He also gives us our course and the current bearing.  While in the Antarctic, the furthest south we went was 66 degrees, which is not quite in the Antarctic circle, but is further south than I’ve been north.  He introduces himself each day, and for the first month it was usually in the same way:  “A very good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  (Pause) This is Olav (another pause)  your Captain (in case we’ve forgotten who he is.)  He has a Dutch accent, like all the HollandAmerica captains I’ve sailed with.  (It’s funny, it’s still called sailing with, even though there are no sails).  People have told me about another captain they’ve sailed with, with a stronger accent, who always introduced himself by saying, “This is Keptin speaking,” in such a strong voice that they had to keep themselves from jumping up and saluting.

   Olav is a very good captain, good at keeping the ship moving in the desired direction and good with the guests.  Tomorrow Melissa and I get to take a tour of the bridge, so I’ll have more info available for you.

When I leave the dining room in the evening after dinner, which begins at 8:00, I pass through an interesting itinerary of music.  First is the Explorer’s Lounge, where a violin and piano play.  They cover just about any and all forms of music, from classical to Broadway to pop, and guests sit and enjoy a post-prandial drink as they relax and enjoy.  The violinist in energetic, and he jumps and dances and sometimes sings, too.  Then, as I move away from that area, I come to the Rembrandt Lounge, where piano man Stryker plays and sings.  Often there is a music game going on there, like Name That Tune or a singalong during which guests get up to the mike and sing either acapella or with Stryker.  Then, as I keep moving, that fades as the music from the Ocean Bar gets louder.  This is where the dance hosts reign, and the band there plays rhumbas and waltzes and other forms of more formal dance music.  I enjoy passing through this medley, it’s like going from port to port, and the bars are spaced just exactly right so the music from one area doesn’t interfere with any of the others.

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