May 6, 2003
After tossing and turning for an hour, we decide we should give up and wander around the ship.
(Apparently, our jet lag is jet-lagged and took a day to catch up with us.)
There's not many people out and about at this time of the morning, so we have the ship pretty much
to ourselves. We discover that there's a real theater (Robert takes the stage and does excerpts from
Hamlet, so that he can add this to his resume).
At the back end of the boat (technically, the "blunt end") there's a space module with
windows all around, filled with a disco. The music is on full blast (classic 70's disco stuff), but
nobody is there. Robert rides the wheelchair lift for a while ("this ride needs work")
before we continue to explore.
We find a 24-hour buffet type place on one of the upper decks. It's cool, you just wander in, pick
out what you want to eat, grab it, and wander off. They do not, however, have any hot chocolate, so
Laura gets some mushroom soup ("it's got milk in it, so maybe it'll have the same effect")
and Robert gets Jell-O ("it's Jell-O!").
Finally, about 3:00 am, we stagger back to the room and wish Robert a happy birthday.
We get up for the second time today and stagger up to breakfast (possibly our second breakfast of
the day, depending on the exact name for what Jell-O at 3:00 am is). It's pretty much American food,
except for two things: no donuts (there's a market opportunity here, Krispy Kreme), and deep fried
boiled eggs. The deep fried boiled eggs are actually pretty good, although we don't like to think
about what it's doing to our cholesterol levels.
The sea looks choppy and the weather is overcast with intermittent rain. Feels just like home, only
Laura sitting in our stateroom
A fort (with guns!) above Barcelona harbor
More Laura gazing
We have our required-by-law "Surprise Evacuation Drill," which is not exactly a complete
surprise (the captain has announced it five times). At the requisite time, the alarm goes off, and
we try to act surprised and panic. We head for our "muster" area, which turns out to be in
one of the many bars. This makes it easy to remember, because if the ship is sinking, we'd head for
the bar, anyway, where instead of singing "Nearer My God to Thee," we'd sing "99
Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
We cast off. In the olden days (like, oh, ten years ago), casting off was a big deal. People who
weren't even on the boat would show up and cheer and holler and throw confetti. Passengers would be
given great rolls of ribbon and confetti to throw and everybody would cheer—grateful that the boat
wasn't sinking (yet).
Our cast off was more like a bus leaving. A couple of dock workers cast off the lines, and the
Captain said "Hello. We're casting off. We'll turn around over there and head out." A guy
on a container ship waved at us, but that was about it.
We miss the old days.
Laura scans the horizon for pirates
Our cast-off crowd. They didn't even sing or dance...
We're eating lunch with a British couple and a Canadian couple (from Vancouver—not Toronto). The seas have
been pretty rough for the last hour, and although the TV says it's "wavelets," we're
estimating four to six-foot swells. It's a good thing this is a huge vessel, or we'd be doing the
opposite of eating lunch.
Sure enough, El Capitan comes on the loudspeaker and announces that we have a little 40-knot breeze
going. As a result, Monte Carlo is out (at this point, our luncheon companions begin to look at us
in a threatening manner; we had told them about our cruise jinx and they're beginning to get the
idea that perhaps a sacrifice to Neptune would be in order).
However, we can park the boat in Villefranche, which is right nearby and we can have pretty much
the Monte Carlo experience anyway. The mob backs off.
One thing the Captain kinda forgot to point out is that 40-knot (50 mph) winds are not exactly a
breeze. In fact, they are gale force winds, and this is a steady 40-knot wind (sometimes 45 knots).
Added to the 16-knot forward motion of the ship, this is one serious wind, and later on, they warn
us about walking around on the outside decks.
Turns out that the Internet Cafe here is only about Internet access. Each workstation boots from a
server and runs a dedicated application that includes exactly one (1) browser. This is because
there's only one shipboard network, and it includes the Navigation system, and they're a little
worried that some kid playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein could steer the ship in circles.
Robert manages to talk the Head Geek into booting one of the workstations to Windows 2000 so that we
can cut-and-paste our trip report and send it. We suspect, however, that we may be retyping them in
Tonight is formal dining night (tuxedos recommended). Since we can't do anything the boring old way,
we have acquired a complete formal Scottish outfit for Robert (with his proper tartan). Robert likes
it for two reasons: it's heavily armed (several knives scattered about), and it comes complete with
Laura spends an inordinate amount of time instructing Robert in the proper way to sit down, and
looks very nervous.
It takes about an hour to get Robert into his birthday suit, but finally we are ready to go!
Robert in Kilt
Robert after many drinks in his kilt outfit
Laura duded up (we know who wears the kilt in this family!)
We have dinner at Sabatinis which is an Italian restaurant on board. We thought we'd just get an
entree ("Pizza!" says Robert), but John, our Italian waiter says, "I take care of
Apparently, the Italian way of taking care of you involves continually bringing you food until
you've eaten enough for an army. We had roast peppers, fried mushrooms, baked eggplant, caviar,
rigoletti, potato dumplings, cioppino, seafood platter, spaghetti, pizza (yay!), and then he brings
the main course (yikes!).
We finally admit defeat, realizing that we are in serious danger of exploding. John tries to entice
us with the dessert platter ("Eeets just one leetle mint!"), but even Robert can't bring himself to eat one more thing (even if it
"Okay!," says John, "I'll just bring some little cookies!"
And people say Americans overeat....
We've wandered the boat some more trying to walk off dinner (promenading on the promenade deck). We
ran into an elderly Scotsman in his kilt, so we had to stop and comment that at least two of us
looked like proper gentlemen.
There're not many people around, not even in the casino (where you can get lessons on how to play
the slot machines). Most of the dealers are standing around looking bored. We figure either the
gamblers are jet-lagged, or they succumbed to the constant pitching and rolling of the boat.
We hit the hay.
Enroute to someplace really close to Monte Carlo
Robert & Laura