Friday, May 7, 2004

(Continuation of My Week From Thursday)

I had my whole Monday (St. Thomas) planned out for this week. Mihai and I have started trading pagers every couple of days. This allows him to take some free time to go ashore or spend time with his girlfriend, and to not be on call. He needs the break, believe me. It also means that there are days I can just plan to be gone. My plan: get up early, go to breakfast, get my pay, sign up for a shore excursion (sailing, to be exact), get a money order, mail the money, log in a short amount of time on the net to fix the mistakes, go back to the ship to exchange the laptop for the Tommy towel that I bought, and go sailing. Anyone who thinks that I pulled this off has not been reading the journal for long.

I started out o.k., breakfast and then pay (which conveniently comes right after breakfast). I went up to the shore excursions desk (where better a place to get a shore excursion, might I ask?) and waited in line for a half hour. It wasn't a long line, just four REALLY indecisive people. When I finally got there, Nuria (my Spanish teacher) told me that employees have to get their excursions in the employee purser office (or MSA office, as it is called). I went down there, where I waited in line for another half hour to find out that the specific excursion that I wanted has to be gotten at the excursions desk. It is now 10, which is about when I was supposed to have already mailed the check and been sitting fixing web pages. I patiently went back up the three flights of stairs (yes, I am still sticking to my resolution to always use the stairs, even though the insane number of elevators are constantly calling my name) and back to the excursions desk. It, of course, closes at 10, so you have to go to the normal purser's desk after that. The line there had around 40 people in it. A purser I know happened to be near the excursion desk and was able to arrange the excursion for me, though, so he offered his services. Nuria, even though she was in a desperate hurry and had to be somewhere, ended up doing it for me as she hadn't quite gotten away yet (I think that she was also a bit worried that the guy might mess it up). I finally got the excursion, a champagne cruise on a catamaran for 11:45. They told me to be there 15 minutes early.

I ran back down to change clothes and pack the laptop, only to find a pretty long line to go through security. A long wait, then (because there were so many passengers) another wait to get patted down and my bag checked, and I finally was off the ship. I finally got on the internet, where I found that it was much worse than I had thought (I didn't originally know what the problem was). I just wasn't going to have time to fix it, and was getting farther behind on time. I went over to the post office where, of course, there was a huge line. The week before it had been empty at the same hour. I stood in line, practically gritting my teeth, where each person took a painful amount of time just to send a package or buy stamps. I finally got there, got my business done, and literally sprinted the couple of blocks back to the ship (as it was now 11:40). I changed the computer for the stupid Tommy towel and camera, and headed back out the door. I raced to the pier, and got there right at 11:45, luckily the line at security was really light both ways. I stood with a group of people waiting for the catamaran tour for ten minutes or so. I was glad at that point that I didn't show up 15 minutes early. It turns out that in our group there were three separate catamaran tours, so when the first van came it took only part of the people. The second came another 15 minutes later, and we lost another large part of the group, leaving three of us pretty worried. I went to a woman that was taking another group to ask her if she was affiliated with the group that we were with. She said yes, and called in to inquire, since they were now 40 minutes late picking us up. It turns out that they cancelled the excursion, as there weren't enough people signed up. They assured us that slips had been placed under the door to let us know. I had JUST left my room, and was pretty sure that there hadn't been a slip. They failed to mention, however, that the slip was placed AFTER 11:45, as that was when the decision had been made to cancel it.

I dejectedly headed back through security, deciding to go ahead and eat the free lunch on the ship, and decide where to go from there. Since we are only in St. Thomas 'till 5, there weren't any later excursions. While at lunch I decided the day was a wash anyways, so I went ahead and took the computer back to fix everything. Since I had all afternoon, I got a lot done on the page, and even did some organizing that I had been meaning to do for some time. I got a lot of e-mail done, and still had an hour to kill.

I decided that I didn't have time to go back to the ship, so I just carried the laptop with me (I carry it in a motorcycle tank bag that converts to a backpack, it is always better not to actually use a laptop case when traveling as it is MUCH less likely to be stolen) to go for a walk. There are a lot of really nice sailboats next to the ship, so I walked along the shore to get a better look at them. I didn't bring my camera, so I don't haven any pictures of this walk, but it was more to see where I would want to come back to. I walked around to the first area that I could actually get to the water, and sat on an abandoned bridge/sidewalk that had mostly been undermined and collapsed, just leaving the bridge part that I sat on. It would have been a great picture of the ship if I had brought my camera, as it was the first place that I have been where I had a completely unobstructed view of the whole ship. Maybe next week. I could see that it was going to rain soon, and I needed to get back to the ship anyways. About 200 yards before I go there it broke loose. I could see it, so I stepped inside a covered area. Something else that I really like about the tank bag is that it has a pouch with a waterproof bag that pulls around it, so I made use of that. I could tell that it was only going to rain for ten minutes, but thought that the sprinkling or dripping from things might get the computer wet, so I used it.

I got back to the ship and decided to go back out on deck, wait for the sunset, and read some more. As we pulled out there were somewhat big waves. There is a Coast Guard boat that goes ahead of us on the way out and kind of warns off small boats that are trying to come in so we don't mow them down. They have a small boat with two gigantic engines, and they were out jumping the waves and doing spins like a jet ski. They looked like they were having a lot of fun. As we got a bit farther out, a bunch of dolphins suddenly started churning the water and jumping around just off of the bow. There are two outside decks that are for employees only, and they are the front two. If you want to go to the very front of the ship, you have to be an employee, so the view is really good. I took some pictures as we pulled out of several different buildings that look like they have been there a while. One is built right into the cliff, I love stuff like that. The Marriott where my sister (Heather) got married last year is right here on a tip of the island. If you look closely at the bottom-right corner you can see a waterfall that is right on the hotel property. On one hand it is a gorgeous hotel. On the other, I really hate to see such an incredible piece of property taken up by such a gigantic commercial building. I really wish that I could have been there. :(

The rest of the week has gone by in somewhat of a blur. I carried the pager on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I didn't get to go ashore in Dominica or Barbados. I worked 'till after 2 on Monday night, updating and rebooting every computer here with a security patch. Then Tuesday night it was the chief purser's birthday, so we all surprised her at her office by singing happy birthday. We had champagne with white-and-black chocolate-covered strawberries, patterned like little tuxedoes. A number of us sat around at the crew bar, at midnight I left as they started a trivia game. I went up to an employee-only sale on watches. I want to get a kind of cheap watch to wear while I send mine in (the digital part works but the analog part doesn't). It was supposed to be a fantastic sale, but I wasn't very impressed. The prices weren't really bad, but they weren't great either. They had Gucci watches for half off, but it was still WAY more than I could afford or wanted to spend.

Wednesday morning I decided to skip breakfast to sleep a bit longer. I don't know why, since I never ended up falling back asleep after 6 anyway, but it seemed worth a try. When I did get up, I happened to notice that they had just launched a lifeboat. I wish that I hadn't missed the launch of it, I had been wanting to see the whole process. They do it somewhat often, both to test the lifeboats and to keep people trained. I happened to notice on my first day aboard the ship the interesting steering design, but hadn't gotten a picture 'till now. Instead of a rudder and/or steer-able prop, they have a shroud around the prop. When you turn the wheel, just the shroud turns. I'm not completely sure why it is designed this way, although I have a couple of theories. It was definitely interesting to watch them bring the boat back up. The rig is very well designed to get boats down and off, but NOT designed to hook boats up and bring them back. The steering design makes tight or precise steering nearly impossible. The boats aren't exactly streamlined, and the blocks and cables to hook to the boat are hanging from 6 stories up. They are not only swinging back and forth slightly, but each time that they try to hook up the wake from the thrusters (which seem to be on slightly all of the time) keep pushing the bow of the life boat away, and they have to let go and come around again. This, of course, makes the blocks swing even worse. The guy driving isn't great (or maybe isn't that bright) at it, and keeps coming in at the exact same angle each time, and gets pushed away the exact same way each time. I watched him come around 5 times before I got paged and had to go. I did come back and watch them come up a few minutes later, though, so they must not have gone around much more. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I could do better, just that the design is made to get boats off, not get them on. I was amazed that the fabric covers (that I thought covered the windows) were the actual doors to the lifeboats. They are unsinkable (the float even if full of water), but in a storm they would be REALLY wet to be inside. I still don't know what kind of engines that they have, they didn't sound like diesel, but I can't imagine that they are gas.

I worked 'till nearly 10 pm, and then had Spanish class. The pager went off like crazy all day. I had some things that I needed to get done, but every time I started them it would go off again. Spanish class ran late, so I just barely made it in time for the crew movie of the week at 11:30. There were only two other people there, and they were just setting up. Once again, a waste of time to be on time. The movie was "Big Fish." It was one I had thought of seeing in the theater before leaving, and I am glad now that I didn't. It wasn't a bad movie, but I would have been disappointed to pay full theater price for it. It was worth every penny when it was free, though. It was a cute story, but not much else. I think that it is worth watching, but not worth going out of your way to see. The old man's voice inflection and even a couple of stories reminded me vaguely of my own great grandfather on my mom's side, who is still alive and well.

Today (it is still tonight to me, even though it is after 1am and is on Friday's journal page) I had to re-image all of the computers in the training center, and set up another one from scratch. I have been trying to get to it for over two weeks now, but schedules and emergencies kept getting in the way. I didn't mention it before, but last Thursday (when I was supposed to do it) the A/C went out in the computer room, so I had to baby-sit that most of the morning while they worked on it. The temperature ended up getting up to 85, if it had gotten any hotter I would have needed to shut down the servers. We had one hard drive failure, but I am not sure it was heat-related. Right after that the fan went out on the computer of a woman who was taking emergency leave the next day, and HER computer overheated. At any rate, I finally got to it today. I spend a couple hours working on the Macs in the children's area, trying to get some game controllers set up properly and switching out a printer.

I watched the final episode of "Friends" last night. It is crazy, I have spent more time with that show in the past decade than I have with almost anything else. It is amazing how spending a half hour a week with even a fictional character makes you feel close. Fittingly enough, the ship decided as of today to change the satellites, and are dropping NBC. I won't get to see the final episode of "Frasier," but at least I got to finish "Friends." I haven't seen "Frasier" in a long time, but I would have liked to have seen the last one.

Well, tomorrow (this morning) I am going to make another attempt at going on a shore excursion. I haven't taken one (other than self-guided ones) since I have been on the ship yet, so I figure that it is time. I also have yet to go anywhere at all in St. Thomas or Dominica, so I may try to at least walk around them some next week. So, I need to get up early to get these pages up on the web and book an excursion and it is after 2. Time for bed . . .