Trip Start Oct 26, 2009
Trip End Nov 15, 2009

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Flag of Mexico  , Baja California,
Saturday, October 31, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Oct 31 2009, Day 1 – AT SEA

I realize these may be a bit mundane, but I promise to improve as the trip goes along.... We awoke early, or so we thought.  I looked at the clock and determined it was 6:30, but when we checked out the ships clock on the TV it was 7:30.  They had already moved the clock back the hour the rest of you will do on Saturday night.  It makes sense, that way we are already on the new time for an extra day before we arrive in Puerto Vallarta!

Michael promptly dressed and went to work out He is determined to bring his weight in below 190# by the end of the cruise!  I went to do my morning walk on the lower promenade deck, four laps equals a mile, or so the plaque says.  So I walked my 2 miles and then headed up to the Lido restaurant for a light breakfast.  It is invigorating to be at sea, and is becoming second nature to me I guess.  The morning was lovely, a brisk 69 degrees and a light breeze from the southwest

What a lovely ship she is.  I am thoroughly enjoying walking around and discovering her treasures.  There is an i-pod tour of the ships artwork Michael and I both want to take, but perhaps tomorrow.  We love the towering bronze sculpture/fountain in the atrium, and as with all HAL ships, there is a great variety of art to view and enjoy. 

At 10:30 we had the meet and greet with the Cruise Critic gang, some of which we had already met, and some of which had already been aboard for the preceding 14 days.  What a great group of people!  Cindy and Bud arranged the get together and HAL provided coffee, oj and cookies.  It was fun to meet everyone and we left with new friends and a date for the entire group of 14 to have dinner in the Pinnacle Grille on the 7th.

Today is to be filled with writing, napping and the books I brought along.  I started reading "Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough on our flight from Cleveland to Phoenix.  It is a history of the Panama Canal, and it is my goal to have it completed by the time we enter the canal on November 8th.  600 pages and I have read just over 225 at the moment.  So after the meet and greet, we arranged internet services, Michael finished downloading the students papers, we had a light lunch and headed down to the lower promenade deck to snag a couple of deck chairs. 

I read three pages and promptly fell asleep.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to nap with a warm breeze and the salt air at sea.  If you've not gone on a cruise before, you need to seriously think about it and get in touch with me to arrange your inclusion in the group cruise I am trying to plan for next year.  I slept for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, and then read some more while Michael napped.  There were many options of things to do today, but we both did not want to have the constraints of watching the clock.  With the sun inching closer up the deck to our chairs, we closed our books around 4:30 and went to put on our walking shoes, and an afternoon walk around the deck, for an hour!  We must have walked four or five miles…. It was invigorating, and after sitting in the deck chair napping, my digestive system needed the exercise.

Before you knew it, it was time to dress for dinner.  Formal night tonight, so the tuxes were hung up earlier to air out some, and I had ironed the shirts the day before.  We dressed, I struggled with my bow tie (I refuse to use a pre-tied one, but why does it seem so difficult?  I have to remember to practice tying one a few times before I actually need it so I can  have a handle on it!) It took me a good twenty minutes, with Michael staring on with that "look", to finally get it tied.  Since it was Halloween, we had brought along carnival masks to wear instead of costumes, and were the hit where ever we went.  The evening was a whirlwind, drinks in the Ocean Bar, dinner in the dining room where we were joined by Brian and Lead Medical Officer Joanne, (who are from Friday Harbour in Washington State), Paul and Francis, and a great couple from Jersey (of the New variety). 

Boy, can that Francis talk!  The evening was filled with much conversation, and I was sitting next to Francis once again who seemed to talk almost non stop.  But it wasn't annoying, she tells a great story and has a lot to talk about.  Her daughter the artist, her history as a stewardess (which is how she met her husband Paul) their 250 year old home, her career as a baker and so on.  I have a feeling I am going to know her quite well by the end of the trip.  Janet, the lead Medical officer aboard ship, joined us with her husband Brian only for the evening, but we look forward to seeing them again in the future.  Conversations covered over the table ranged from bee keeping to politics (once again) and tails of the other HAL ships we had been on or served on.  Dinner ran late, but it did not seem to be dragging since everyone seemed to be having a good time.  We were the last to leave the dining room, but not before  the staff presented me with a Birthday “cake” and sang the traditional Indonesian Birthday song, to much applause form the table and smiles all around.

The casino is small, but enjoyable.  Michael and I made our first deposit to the ship and enjoyed the ensuing 30 minutes or so before we wandered up to the Halloween party in the Crows Nest Lounge.  I was tired, we are still several hours ahead in Ohio and I’d yet to adapt to the ships time, add in all the fun, sun, food, wine and gin and tonics before dinner I was wiped.  We stayed only a few minutes to say hi to a few people and then headed back to the cabin. 

Once again, I was out almost immediately after crawling between those wonderful sheets, much to Michael’s chagrin I think.  But there is ample time for us to enjoy Tim’s birthday present, when I am more in tune with the ships time.

Tomorrow is yet another day of relaxation at sea . . . . .  I cannot wait to lay in the sun and start to get some colour!
MICHAEL’S CORNER:  Routine is the housekeeper of inspiration, and in just two days I am already establishing a routine on board the ship, but do not think I am filling my days with activities, bingo, trivia, etc. ad nauseum.  I have decided to immerse and marinate myself in solemnity.  So let me specifically describe some of our friends on board the ship that we rendezvoused with at the Cruise Critic soiree.  Allen & Barbara who are from Toronto, Canada we met in the evening at the Ocean Bar, and with a passing flair as the were headed to dinner or a show, we chatted amicably and received warm wishes of our presence on board the ship.  Pulsar Papa- otherwise known as Dale—regaled me with fascinating stories of his engineering and fabrication of planes, which I was fascinated by his ardent desire for what seemed to me to be a dangerous hobby.  As many of you know, I have an unequivocal fear of flying.  Sharon- the Story Lady—loves Jane Austen, so we have lots in common, although we have not discussed the merits of Northanger Abbey or whether Elizabeth Bennett is all prejudice and no pride.  I also hope to gain her insight into children’s literature—so as to have a bibliology of the best in fiction for my nieces and nephews.  Bud and Cindy were twins sporting “Starboard/ Port” and “Aft/ Stern” vetements, and quite a loquacious couple.  Cindy is the one who coordinated everything, and admire her for her attention to detail.  Everybody is so much fun.  Dinner is also a fount of garrulous behavior- our table never runs dry with conversation and stories to sate our palates.  I had the quail, which was succulent with an apricot stuffing and an indeterminate white whine that was poured into my glass by our gracious table guest Janet- the ship’s onboard Medical officer.  Brian her husband was dressed as if he had just stepped out of a haberdashery, with the whimsy of a Jamaican colored chapeau with dregs flowing from its cap.  He was a great conversational partner, and I was fascinated by his stories of beekeeping and the apiary he has created that produces abundance of honey.  We lost miserably at the casino, but was filled with inspiration and optimism from the days events—and the book that I am reading—The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zarfon.  Here is the crux of its beautiful, yet ominous plot: A writer is provided with 100,000 francs from an enigmatic publisher to write a book—and when the book is finished, the benefactor admits the writer will not feel the need to be paid.  But the question lingering in the author’s mind is that will the 100,000 francs be worth the words on the page, if the words themselves will kill him?  A must read for bibliophiles who love to read books about books and reading.  A la prochaine.
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