Tuesday, August 10, 2004

(Jamaica Again)

Well, it has been five days since my last entry, but honestly it isn't a very exciting five days. Work is still really hectic, lots of things breaking, two were sea days, one was debarkation/embarkation, and the other I/S guy got off in Grand Cayman. He hasn't been off the ship the whole time that he has been here, so I encouraged him to get off. I even called the excursion manager and got him a snorkeling tour to stingray city. It is an amazing place that pretty much everyone in the world knows about by now. They always had a good population of them, and since people have been coming to feed them for years, there are tons more. They are all really tame, and I have always thought that they are some of the most graceful creatures in the world.

In the last Miami I DID get off the ship and went to the store. I got a couple of things like t-shirts and a couple of DVD's. I had my cracked ring fixed (I realize that it cost about half what the ring did, but it is more sentimental than anything). It has been hard to adjust to, I am SO used to feeling for the crack to put it on the inside. and playing with it. I got a CD scratch remover, a cheap office chair and an external hard drive to back up my laptop. We don't have very long, really. They let us off the ship at 9:30 am, and we have to be on by 3:30 pm. I take a shuttle into downtown, walk a quarter mile, take a train to the Dadeville Mall, and then walked around there a lot.

This Miami I just uploaded web pages, and got back on the ship. We have had a lot of server problems, and a lot of embarkation kiosk problems. They are really hesitant to send us anything, as it is all being replaced in dry dock next month. It is a pain, though, as some things are really NOT working.

Both because he got off in Grand Cayman, and because he didn't think that he would be able to resist drinking beer in Jamaica (he's on a diet), I got off here again. Once again I went to the excursion manager at the last second, and once again she had a couple of openings for a tour that took you tubing down a stream.

Now this part of Jamaica reminds me a LOT of middle TN where I grew up. The stream was gorgeous, the mountains were softly rolling (but high), the vegetation was lush. The only difference is that there is a bit more rain (thus a bit more lush vegetation), and LOTS of the vegetation was made up of bamboo rather than pines. This tour was a LOT more relaxing. There was also picture-taking, but in a MUCH less intrusive way. From time to time we would round a bend or go down a fast area, and there would be guys on the side with cameras. Then they'd run up the woods to somewhere else.

We started the tubing at a bend just past a bridge, we went under the bridge and gathered in a calm area for instructions. The guide had said that the water was really cold, that it was 65. Now I realize that it is all relative, but let me assure you that the water was most certainly NOT 65. I don't think that he was pulling our legs, he seemed serious both when he dropped us off and when he picked us up. I would say that it was more like 75 - 80. While this sounds warm, it is still 20 - 25 colder than body temperature. I'm sure that to him it feels really cold. It felt great to me, it was MUCH warmer than water I am used to in the mountains of NC and TN, and it is REALLY hot in Jamaica. It feels hotter than any port that I have been to so far. So it felt good.

I (obviously) couldn't take my camera. :( I DID take a waterproof camera, but I am going to wait a bit to have it developed. The winding stream was beautiful. Everywhere there were fallen bamboo stalks that criss-crossed the stream in a kind of see-through artificial ceiling over the stream. Most were close enough to touch with a paddle, but all were so long (around 90 feet) that they were lying across the other side and were up and out of the way. We each had a freehand-cut paddle, mostly to push off from things rather than to actually propel or steer. At one point there was a rope for everyone to stop (and have a photo taken), and a guy with a cooler tube passed out beer and soft drinks. I had originally ordered a water, but really wasn't thirsty so I passed.

There were a few faster places, a couple of times that I had to navigate around a rock or stump, but for the most part it was very relaxing. There were two places where it narrowed to just a few feet and had cut down the rock into a kind of chute, and it went VERY fast here. It ended in an area that was wide and deep, and thus barely moving. There was a beautiful park with benches and hammocks, and a small hut with a computer so that you could look at the digital pictures and buy any that you wanted.

There was also shopping, but only about three booths, and it wasn't obtrusive at all. There was a woman passing out small samples of jerked chicken with a fantastic dipping sauce, you could buy more if you were so inclined. I really should have, since I had missed breakfast and lunch, but figured that I could make it to dinner. There was also a rope swing, which many people were using to swing into the deep part. Most would just hang on to the rope and drop at the bottom of the trajectory, which really isn't any different from just falling in. However, a small child would get a running start and really swing out (many times), and there was a young girl who was much braver than her friends (or the adults).

I didn't swing, as by this time the repercussions of having to support my neck for a couple of hours started to set in. By this time I had a screaming neck ache, which (of course) turned into a screaming headache. Such is the payment for fun these days . . .

We had parked at the shipping port again (a much bigger ship was taking the good spot), which was just as well as I didn't have the energy to fight the local sellers. I DID have to stand in line for quite a while to get back on, and since the pier was sandwiched between the ship and a hill, there was no wind. The sun was right overhead, which made it awfully hot. Oddly enough, standing in the heat doesn't bother me that much if it is outside, and I didn't even sweat. Everyone around me was sweating like crazy, though, and they were complaining profusely, desperate to get into the doorway of the ship. The heat is much more oppressive here for some reason. The actual temperature gets that high in Dominica, but it rains so much that it doesn't feel that hot, and they always have a slight breeze.

Well, a couple of things to add that are are really after this day but worth mentioning. One server is having MANY problems, and all of the Clarify (our helpdesk) cases just keep being closed without resolving the problems. They will focus on one tiny symptom that isn't the real problem, and they fix it and ignore the rest of the listed problems (and the root cause). I am not only not allowed to fix it, but I don't even have the root permissions. It is like having your hands tied and watching a car wreck in slow motion. Today I opened the fourth Clarify case, the third one that is on a high importance (this has gone on for over a week now, and backups and restores don't work). I noticed just a bit ago that they reduced the importance down to medium. I had the first case at medium, and they ignored it completely for five days. Once again, it is frustrating, but also nice to not have any responsibility.

The other interesting thing is the weather. As I'm sure that you guys probably know (likely WAY before I did, as I don't watch the news), there is a sizeable hurricane brewing right here. I was really looking forward to our trip to Cozumel this week. We only go every other week, I only get to get off in any specific port every other time, and we go to dry dock in less than a month. So, we are only going to be in Cozumel two more times (the last time we were WAY too busy for me to go), one of which I will likely not be able to take advantage of.

I haven't ever been, and it looks like it will stay that way. The hurricane is going to be along our path, so we diverted to the Bahamas. I imagine that we will have a pretty rainy and wet day in port tomorrow (although the past two times we have been in Miami it has been pouring), then we will have a short trip to the Bahamas. Instead of just one day at port we will have two, and one of them will still be 'till 10 pm. I'm not sure why both aren't going to be. We have a complete day at sea on the way back, and it is only 50 miles or so. It will only take us 12 hours of going really slow to get there, then another ten hours of going really slow to go to the next port (we are going to Freeport and Nassau, of course). I can't see how it could possibly take more than 24 hours to get back, but we are still leaving early in the afternoon.

The poor excursion manager and assistant are going CRAZY right now. We didn't find out 'till nearly 7pm, and there are so many legal forms to fill out, not to mention changing all of the tours, looking up and typing new descriptions, contacting all of the tour locations and guides, and adding a whole second day of tours. I would NOT want to be in their shoes right now. They have to change all of the Capers (the daily events guide and paper), which were already being printed for tomorrow.

I am kind of hoping that we will at least hit part of it on the way out (the map looks like we might). I think that it would be really cool to see from the ship, there really hasn't been a single hour of bad weather in the entire time that I have been on the ship. I'd feel bad for the guests, though, as SO many people would be seasick. I took a short cruise to the Bahamas early this year, and with waves crashing over the bow of the ship I was nearly the only person on the boat that wasn't sick, passengers and crew combined. I'm sure that we'll have some rough seas, as the seas to the Bahamas are usually rougher this time of year from what I understand.

Well, it is 2, and I am getting up at 6:30, so I had better get going. I'll be posting this tomorrow . . .

O.K., for those who are reading this for the first time, I am appending this with the underwater pictures that have just been developed. If you are coming back, here are the rest of the pictures:

Of course, the pictures from the disposable cameras are always a bit lower quality, and the underwater ones don't take great pictures above water. However, this is a somewhat fuzzy picture of me going under all of the bamboo that had fallen across the stream. This is a shot of a bunch of the people in tubes, and this is the end where we stopped to get out. To get back to the eighteenth, just click here.