Thursday, May 27, 2004

(Birthday Week)

Well, I only have one entry this week. The week was largely uneventful, although busy. I had the pager on Monday and Tuesday, which means that I have had only one real day off. I technically have off Wednesday and Thursday, but we are at sea all day on Thursday and always work. I will then be on duty Friday and Saturday, but then Sunday I always have to work for embarkation.

I had arranged with Mihai to take the pager on Tuesday morning. I didn't realize that the guy that I was supposed to take the hike with last week (who had gotten sick) was to be here for another week. It was part of the reason that he wasn't too bummed about not making it, as it was rescheduled. So, once again I prepared for a 5-hour hike in Dominica. God was apparently dead-set against my going on this hike.

I ran into a nurse that I know at around 11 pm, as I was headed off to bed. She informed me that a guest had gotten extremely ill, and would die before we made it to a port with a large hospital. So, we were turning around to head back to St. Croix. We lost 7 hours (and an amazing amount of fuel, as we had to run full-steam all the way there and then full-steam to Dominica), which means that we weren't going to get to Dominica until 2:30. We leave there at 6, although they decided to postpone leaving until 8. This still didn't leave us enough time, so I went to break the news to the paymaster. She thought that we'd still get there by 9 am, but I was pretty certain that at full steam we still wouldn't get there before noon. It takes a while to go back and forth, but it also takes some time to transfer someone to another boat, and to bring the ship to a stop and meet up and such. It would have taken way too much time to drive around St. Croix to a pier big enough for the ship, and more time yet to dock, so they sent out a small boat to pick up the guest and a nurse (a different one than I had talked to). We dropped him off at 2 am, and he had surgery at 6. He will be fine, but I don't think that they will release him in time to meet us in St. Thomas (although I am not certain). Because we left 2.5 hours late, we then used up a bunch more fuel going faster to Barbados. The nurse spent the day in St. Croix, and they flew her to meet us in Barbados yesterday. I never bothered giving the pager to Mihai.

Wednesday (my birthday) the plan was to take a shore tour in the morning, go to the beach for a bit, then take a sunset cruise at night. Tuesday afternoon they decided that Wednesday would be a fun time to have a general emergency boat drill and to launch all of the lifeboats (on the side that wasn't against the pier, anyway). So, that pretty much whorked up my plans for the morning, as it wasn't finished 'till just before noon. We were supposed to have done it last week during the drill, but the rain kept us from launching the boats. We also launched one life raft, but since they cost a fortune to re-pack (they are in barrels and explode open, then inflate) we didn't launch the others. I wasn't able to leave the drill in time to shoot them lowering the boats, but here they were lining up to come back up. As each one would get into position, they would start raising it. The mechanism is pretty cool, it keeps the boats level and holds them out away from the ship, but has to all be foolproof enough to ALWAYS work without a failure. Here is the second boat to come up, you can see they were pulling the first one in. In these two pictures, you can see how many boats are still in the water, and that they had the first one most of the way in. At that point they had given up trying to stay in line, so each just motored around while waiting for their slot. The mechanism is really meant to get boats off in a hurry, getting them back on is much harder. Since they all nearly touch when they are attached, they were really too close to all line up at once. After they are hooked up, then they come straight up so it isn't a big deal.

Since it was lunchtime, I decided to take advantage of the free lunch on board before going out. I had about 2 hours to kill, so I walked to the beach at the Boat Yard. The Internet Café manager was there as well as one of the musicians, so I talked to them for a while. I was going to take out a kayak, as they are free there. They have a bunch of orange markers to show where to stay out of the swimmer's way for the jet skis. In St. Thomas, that is also where you have to stay with the kayaks. However, it turned out that you had to stay INSIDE of these here. This means kayaking about 150 yards. It just wasn't worth it. I swam a bit, spent a lot of time in the water, then walked back to shower for the sail.

We were taken to a smaller pier about a mile from the ship, where we all boarded a really nice catamaran. This is also just across from where they pick you up for the sub that I took last week, so I got a good shot of it coming in. Something else that I have been meaning to take a picture of is this. Every port has a ton of these really tiny boats. In the U.S., any commercial fisherman who is going out in the ocean takes a sturdy, expensive boat. These are all commercial fishermen, and they go out in boats that look like they are made of plywood. Each dock like this usually has a couple on land where they are stripping off and replacing the wood. I'm pretty sure that if you dropped a cigarette in one it would be gone in about five minutes.

We got under way after some maneuvering around. They tie two catamarans to the pier, then they tie two catamarans to the other two catamarans. It is a tight fit to get in and out. As you can see from the lifeboat pictures, it was a gorgeous day. The water was really calm, even out in the ocean. The sun was out, the temperature was nice, and (as is always the case on the islands) there was plenty of wind. I would say that this was a 60-foot cat, and it was really fast. I have several pictures of the sails, but of course I was on the boat so they are odd angles. The moon was out already, and the sun was still high. Here is the main sail also.

I got a really good shot of the Jolly Roger (or Jolly Roger II, they are identical), which is a pirate ship. Basically, everyone gets really drunk and walk the plank or swing off the boat on ropes. Then they get more drunk on the way back. We also passed by the plant that makes the local rum. There were other sailboats out, here is a nice trimaran. My favorite part, however, was seeing all of the flying fish. I would say I probably saw over a thousand of them. I took about 50 pictures, but unfortunately they are very fast and (as you can see) I wasn't very successful at capturing them. They kept flying out of the water to get away from the boat, sometimes hundreds at a time.

This was a sunset cruise, but (of course) the sunset was largely blocked by clouds. It was a really romantic time, just me and my camera (and 20 other couples . . . ). :) We headed back. For anyone who remembers, I took some comparison pictures of a cruise ship that was parked next to us on one of my first days on the boat (April 16). The same boat was parked next to us this cruise, and I was able to get a much better perspective shot. I have a couple of shots of the Destiny also, this one just after sunset. Normally I wouldn't be able to take such unobstructed pictures, but the small cruise ship and a container ship were blocking the space we normally occupy. This spot is quite a long ways around the pier, so all day there is a constant rotation of about 5 buses that drive to the end and turn around, pick up guests at the boat, and drop them off at the terminal. The first time I left I walked, but took the bus the other times.

When we got back, I got a cab back to the Boat Yard, and sat and watched people the rest of the night. One of the pursers, Andres, was there with his brother (his family is cruising this week), so I sat with them and watched people drink themselves into oblivion. Two of the girls that were in the van on the way there (if you wait for several people and take a van, it is half price) decided to get up on stage for the contest that was just starting. I can't remember if I have described it before, but they give five women big frozen drinks. The three who drinks them the quickest go to the second round. I can't even imagine the brain freeze. The second round consists of drinking a bottle of the local beer without using their hands. One of the two girls won both of these, and won a shaker and two more drinks. I can't imagine what she must have felt like yesterday morning. It is a good thing that it was a sea day.

When I got back to the boat I had agreed to meet Andres and his brother in the crew bar. Several of the pursers were there, and we all ended up going back to Peter's room to watch "Ice Age." I finally got back to my room at 4 am. I decided to turn off the alarm and skip breakfast, as I wasn't on duty anyway. I, of course, woke at 7, but fell back asleep around 8:30. At 9:45, Mihai called me and asked why I wasn't at the hotel director's meeting. It turns out that the hotel director had sent an e-mail the night before saying that I needed to come to the meeting to have my stripes presented to me, but of course I hadn't checked the e-mail. I hurriedly threw on my uniform and went upstairs . . . to sit through a 1.5-hour meeting. He gave me the stripes at the very end. I was definitely too awake to go back to bed at this point, and it was lunchtime anyway.

After lunch I decided to go get a massage. My neck has been hurting me really badly for the past week, and I have had a headache for 4 days (5 now, as I am finishing this on Friday morning). Normally we can't make reservations on sea days (as that is when all of the guests are on board). However, during the meeting they were talking about revenue, and everyone was saying that the high quantity of Puerto Ricans on board was lowering the profit a lot. They aren't cheap at all, and in fact take the most expensive shore tours. However, they just don't spend money on the same things that the Americans do. The disco has been full every night, as they love to party, but they barely drink at all. Basically each person gets one frozen drink (often non-alcoholic), and sips it all night between dances. The spa manager mentioned that there weren't any reservations for any of the spa services (with the exception of people getting their hair done for formal night). So, I had a massage, which turned out to be free. She told me that the spa manager had written it off, since I end up helping her a lot on the computer (she just transferred to this ship two weeks ago and needed a lot of things). So, that was a pleasant surprise. It was a gorgeous day out yesterday, which was nice for the guests. The past three sea days have been overcast, and the last one was completely washed out by rain.

Well, that brings us to the present, and I am about to go post this (and hopefully the movies from last week). I will be moving the web page to the hosting service I have wanted to use all along in the next few days. You shouldn't notice anything at all (and if you are reading this there obviously isn't a problem), but if have a problem with the pictures or anything just give it a few hours and come back. I now have my stripes and finally have my formal uniform (I just got the pressed pants and shirt back from the laundry yesterday), so this week I will have pictures made. :)