December 07, 2015

Vision of The Seas Day 4 - 6

Day 4 - I spend part of the second day at sea writing the last post. Then I decide to work on some model train stuff. I am in the process of writing documentation for the Club's sectional layout. It basically exists in scattered bits and pieces, but needs to be cleaned up, consolidated, and printed for member use in the years to come.

Since I find the Concierge Lounge to be a comfortable place, I stay, planning to leave about 3:30 to get ready for evening activities. About 2:45 Jeannie, Tom, and several others come into the lounge. Within 5 minutes the lounge is full, and a waiter comes over and asks what I would like to drink. I politely tell him that I will wait an hour or so until cocktail hour, when Jeannie says it is cocktail hour. I look again at my computer and it isn't even 3:00 yet. Then it dawns on me that the "time" karma has struck again. Since I have not connected to the internet, my computer is still on the last time zone. I pack up my computer, order a drink, and apologize to others for not being properly attired for the Concierge Lounge cocktail hour. I'm forgiven, the lounge host either doesn't see that I am wearing shorts or chooses to ignore the fact, and cocktails begin.

I have dinner plans with Adrienne and friends at Chops tonight. We enjoy a good but not exceptional dinner. The appetizers were excellent and creative, the tenderloin only so so, and the deserts ran the full range of tasteless to excellent. None of us left hungry.

Several of us decide to go to see the magician "Puck" at 8:30 in the main theater. Just the same as the previous night the theater was at capacity. We find one seat for Marilyn, Steve and I stand along the back wall in the balcony. Puck was good, but he was upstaged big time by the two lady volunteers he randomly picked from the audience. All he could say was "I picked them."

Day 5 – We arrive in Bonaire on schedule. The skies are partly cloudy with temperatures in the high 80's with a nice breeze. The majority of passengers get off the ship. The shopping area here is small, but very convenient to the ship. I am taking a tour, "Bonaire Highlights", a little later this afternoon. All aboard is 6:30, the same time as my tour returns. No cocktails before dinner tonight, but I have no concern that the ship will leave without me, one of the benefits of booking tours with the cruise line.

Second thought, maybe cocktails when I board, but no dinner. That might be a better plan. I check out the evenings menu, it is confirmed, cocktails and Park Avenue for a snack – no dining room tonight.

Our tour guide is an American transplant from Iowa that moved to Bonaire 35 years ago to operate a dive shop. Eventually he graduated to technical diving, and today only dives occasionally. Diving is still a major attraction of Bonaire. Most divers dive directly from the rocky shore. Until a few years ago there was a world class pink sand beach on Bonaire, but all the sand was washed away during a rare storm.

Cruise ships began to bring tourists about ten years ago. Now about one ship per week, but occasionally as many as four per week visit the island. The smallest of the ABC islands with 18,000 people, the tourist infrastructure is not very extensive. The island offers few jobs that pay more than the minimum $5.00 per hour wage. Salt production, operated by Cargil is still a major operation, and the only export of the island. Much of the island is national park land with goats and donkeys running where ever they want.

The highlight of our tour occurred at a stop at a small cultural museum. While the 20 tourists, the tour guide, and the bus driver were off the bus, it began to roll down a hill. The driver was in fast pursuit and quickly brought the bus under control before there was any damage. Such things can't be planned, they just seem to happen.

December 5, day 6 – After a very slow cruise, we arrive on schedule in Curacao. I quickly learn the floating bridge has been in operation for two weeks after a major repair project. This actually is a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. Another gorgeous day for the tourists. 85 degrees, mostly sunny with the normal brisk prevailing winds from the East. This time of year should be the rainy season, but fortunately for the tourists and unfortunately for the locals, rain has been very scarce this year.

Many passengers are taking one of the dozens of tours offered here, there are several shopping areas within easy walking distance of the ship. With departure not scheduled until 9:30 tonight, I expect many passengers will dine and/or drink in one of the many local establishments.

Tourism is the biggest contributor to the local economy. This is followed by oil refining of crude from Venezuela and exporting refined products to the US and Europe. There is also a major dry dock operation here, repairing over 400 ships every year. On my last vist, they were working on a very large oil platform, this time an ocean floor cable laying ship.

As with the other Dutch islands, all of the buildings are painted brightly colored pastels. The story goes this was dictated by a government official that just happened to have a major interest in a paint company. Regardless whether or not this is true, the result in a colorful palette of building colors.

As expected the passenger manifest for this cruise is heavily biased towards retired seniors. I have heard there are about 6 little kids, and would guess less than 10 percent of the passengers are under 55. This is just to help me adjust my expectations for my world cruise next month where I expect to be one of the youngest passengers.

I have learned an advantage of the more mature passenger demographics. I am not as likely to be the slowest walker in the tour group. This is the first time in my life I have ever experienced this. I now walk faster than half the other passengers instead of being slower than 99 percent of them. There are advantages to maturing. (We try to never use any word that begins with old....)

The downside of having two hip replacements is that I can't even get near a security checkpoint without setting off the alarms. Every time I board the ship I am pulled aside for special attention. I get used to this pretty quickly. I don't know if it just this ship, or the result of some of the recent world events, but a number of passengers have been asked to remove their shoes. I have escaped that, which is rather surprising considering the size of my left shoe. Probably could hold a quart of gin if hollowed out. Maybe another way to sneak booze on board.

The "my time dining" is experiencing major operational problems. After again being seated with others that are served their main course before the waiter even takes my order, I decide it is time for a conversation with the manager of the dining room, an Assistant Maitre D' that formerly was on the Monarch. I hold little hope that he will be able to fix any of the problems before the end of the cruise, but if he is not told he can't even begin to address them. I learn that I am only one of many that have brought the problems to his attention. From what I hear the main dining room is working better. He promised he would be back with me before dinner the next night. Time will tell.

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