Friday, February 16, 2007

Abandon Ship! We’ve hit the Doldrums!

Hi There!

So this last five day ship started off on a bit of a rough note. We went out for dinner and then met Andy at the Hot Tub then we sat on the pool deck and made each other laugh until around midnight. We went back to our cabin and fell asleep around 1 am. At 1:30am the ship’s emergency alarm went off, I scrambled out of a deep sleep into pitch blackness to find the light switch. In my dream, I’d been awake already so this was even more discombobulating.

After I found the switch, the alarm repeated.
Larrance looked at me and said, “This is real.”
I said in a sleepy bitchy tone, “I know. I have to find my shoes.”

We got dressed quickly as the alarm went off for a third time. I had to find my wallet. Then we were out the door to head to our mustering stations. Luckily Larrance had the presence of mind to grab our “emergency cards.” The cards tell who we are and what station and life boat we’re supposed to be on or something like that.....

So just as we were getting out of our front door the P.A. comes on. It’s the Captain and he says, “This is the Captain. I’m sorry for the inconvience but that was a false alarm due to human error. Everything is alright, please return to your cabins.” Larrance and I agreed he sounded contritely sleepy and a little pissed. Somebody on the bridge got as ass whupping that night.

We both had trouble falling back asleep but we managed. In the middle of the night or maybe it was only an hour later, I heard a whirring sound and realized there was a lot of light in our cabin. I woke up thinking that the ship was being circled by a heliocopter or another ship. I sat up and looked out the window to see a huge electrical storm going on. Then I tried to figure out what the sound was - it was the hum & whir of the floor buffing machine. They were waxing the hall outside our room and that sound combined with the light of the storm made me think we were being circled by a plane/ship/heliocopter. It could also be that I was a little sleep addled.

I watched the storm for a bit. It was really dramatic. There were huge thunderhead clouds and the lightening was lighting them all up. Then forks of lightening were going down into the oc ean. It took me a while to fall asleep after that but I managed.

I always manage to fall asleep. Well, almost always. Years of touring, help to make one learn how to relax anywhere.

The next night we had a cast meeting and I’m of the opinion (this is a persona view only!) that we’re in the doldrums of our cruising experience. We’re exactly half way and we all seem a little bit “eh”. I know I am. Today we walked around Cozumel and while I took some fun photos, I was like “eh” all day.

We had to cut our day in Cozumel short because the light board in the theater has been crashing for the last week and in one of the big crashes our whole show was lost. Our poor light board operator, Rino, has been up late every night all week trying to get it all back only to have it crash on him over and over again. So we met with Rino - but there wasn’t really anything we could so we left him to his work and went back to the cabin.

In response to the doldrums or maybe in an effort to relieve the doldrums, I decided to make a list (that’s for you, Mom!) of all the things I want to do. So I listed all the ports, the dates we’re going to be there and then below that all the things I want to do in the various sites. If I had specific info - prices, times, good snorkeling, etc. - I listed that too. I felt a little better. I think we’ll all come out of the doldrums.....I guess I should just talk for me. I’ll come out of the doldrums.

We didn’t get off the ship in Belize. Instead we spend the afternoon going down the water slide and swimming in the pool. The waterslide was a ton of fun. We went down backwards and sideways and forwards. My favorite way to slide down was sitting up but leaning down like you’re on a bobsled - I flew down that slide. I also went down backwards head first...that was a little scary but fun. The best part about the slide is that you could watch people go down from the top of the slide.

After that we didn’t so much of anything....I’m still trying to finish War & Peace. I’ve gotten past the halfway point. Now there’s a lot of war so that’s not as much fun to read about, I like Peace better.

Today we’re in Miami and it’s cold here. I mean cold enough to wear jeans and a double layer on top. Cold enough that my ears hurt. I know you all feel for us suffering in cold Miami. I know this is going to sound awful but I’m about done with all the heat. I’ve never been a hot weather person. I’m tired of sweat rolling down my back when I’m standing still and taking a shower and needing to take another one when I get back from where ever. I’m not saying I miss all the snow, ice and cold but some small part of me is really glad it’s cold today.

We didn’t meet yet to make our list of what to do on our remaining cruises. I think we’ll get to that on one of the two sea days we have at the beginning of this trip.

Larrance and I are working on writing some sketches and songs for a project in Maine and Larrance is almost finished composing his second string quartet. So far I have the first draft of a scene with a song and another song.

This week I’m also going to be working on correspondence. I’m planning on mailing a bunch of stuff from Barbados so everyone can have some nifty foreign postage mail.

I also started a photo blog of the shop. I’ll be posting that next Miami day. Or I hope to....

Hope you’re all well and staying warm. Please don’t get frostbite or hurt yourself shoveling snow....and if you’re tired of the cold, come get on the NCL Pearl!


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Everybody in the Water!

We just returned from another nine day cruise - on this trip we tried to get into the water as much as possible. We snorkeled in Dominica, went swimming in Barbados and went snorkeling at Virgin Gorda near Tortola.

Dominica was as lovely as usual . We had a very leisurely walk to the pier we like to swim off of and then it was time to get in the water. I climbed down a ladder into the water and then realized a boat was coming in to dock so I climbed out. The boat guy proceeded to tie up his boat covering the whole ladder.... this is his prerogative but it meant I couldn't climb into the water...I was going to have to jump in. Now I don't like jumping into the water from any height, this is something I'm working on but I have yet to overcome this particular fear. So I stood on the pier with Larrance as he tried to bolster my courage to jump in. Being so scared here was particularly dumb considering that I'd been in this area before so I know how deep the water is but I couldn't help it. I mean I swam with sharks but jumping off this little pier was just too much for me to handle. I was just about to jump in when the boat guy came back and took off!!! So I climbed in and snorkeled around a bit - at one point I thought I'd spotted a squid and I got everybody all excited only to realize that it was only a Trumpet fish - ho hum. No, not really. It was quite lovely and it was feeding so that was fun to watch. After the swim, I was about to get out when an English lady came down the ladder and announced to me that she was scared of jumping into the water so she had to climb. I felt a kindred spirit had approached me. Then she announced that she was scared of getting down the ladder and would I mind staying there to help her. So I did. I talked her into the water and off the ladder. She was quite grateful and I told her I felt her pain then I asked her to moved away from the ladder so I could get out of the water. She had a lovely time in the water while I went and had a Ginger Shandy. Next time I'll jump, I swear....

In Barbados, we went to The Boatyard. This is a beach with amenities which are not to be confused with anemones. Anemones sting but the amenities are a restaurant, an inflatable climbable iceberg, a water trampoline and a high tide only rope swing. I couldn't pull myself up the iceberg -there were no footholds - so I climbed up onto the trampoline. This was quite fun and after I climbed up I proceeded to perch on the side and jump off. The water in Barbados is unbelievably clear. It's sky blue and you can see all the way down to the white sand bottom. There weren't many fish there but the water was lovely. I wanted to go on the rope swing to conquer my fear of jumping into the water but it wasn't open because it was low tide. Boo, Ocean! So I comforted myself with a PiƱa Colada and some french fries. They didn't heal the wound but they helped. Then it started to rain so we left...farewell Boatyard!
Memo to the Ocean - Be at high tide next time!!!!

We took it easy in St. Lucia. I got my hair cut in the salon and then Larrance and I went to the spa. We relaxed in the Hydrotherapy pool, laid on the hot stone beds, drank cranberry juice and then went our separate ways into the men's and women's areas. In the women's area I did a sauna, and a half plunge pool and then the person whirlpool. During this time a naked woman approached me, loosely clad in a towel she informed me that she really liked the show. I feel this was the most sincere of the compliments I've received since she felt so ardently about it to give it even while almost naked. The spa much have done the trick - we were so relaxed for the rest of the day that we did almost nothing.

Antigua was as always great. We stopped at a jewelers called The Goldsmitty. The owner/goldsmith was there and we chatted him up about all of his jewelry. He let me hold a $38,000 24kt Imperial Topaz with Pearl strand necklace. He also insisted that we take a look at his Alexandrite in the natural light - Michael walked to the front door to watch it change from red to green. The stone changes color in the light and it's very rare. We also talked about a bunch of his other jewelry and he let me hold a $6,000 Black Pearl, Diamond and gold ring - that was my favorite piece in his store. The guy was a great and his jewelry was stunning. Larrance impressed him with his knowledge of stones....we attended a precious stone lecture about 3 weeks ago and it stuck in his brain. Then we said good-bye and he said we should come back to visit. I think we might. Then we had pizza and Ting soda at Top Banana. Then wandered around a bit and then back to the ship but not before having another woman demand - demand- that I braid my hair. When will they stop? Answer: Never.

Larrance, Edward & Ben on the way over to Virgin Gorda

In Tortola we took a small boat to the island of Virgin Gorda. Virgin Gorda is a small island with a National Park. The National Park is an area where several boulders landed after a volcano exploded. There are several beaches with deep water and dramatic underwater landscapes. My favorite part were the caves. The caves are formed of the giant boulders stacked up on each other. Under the boulders there are shallow pools of water and more white sand. You climb around in the caves to access different beaches. At the end they reward you with rum punch.

A view of Devil's Bay

In the Virgin Gorda Caves

The intrepid snorkel/hiker/cave climbers!

Cool rock formation at Virgin Gorda

The lovely garden around the gift shop and restaurant above the Baths

Rum Punch Reward!

Michael & Me in the Caves!

This trip ended on a bit of a sad note as we had to say good-bye to our friend Edward. Edward is goig home for a short vacation before he joins the Jewel in Europe in June We only met Edward a couple of months ago but we quickly became very fond of him. We'll miss you Edward but we'll look for your Aussie Thunder on the horizon.


Edward with Yours Truly!


Friday, February 2, 2007

Adventure on the High Seas

Hello Everyone!

So on this last five day cruise, we were joined by the members of the Chicago Comedy Co. (CCC). Steve, owner of CCC, took everybody on a cruise...he chose this ship because his ex-business partner, Andy, is on this ship. I also used to be a member of CCC so this was a great chance to see all the people I used to work with. We had dinner together the first night at the Summer Palace - it was, as usual, great.

In Cozumel, they went on an excursion to the Senotes (spelling unsure). It was too far away for us to go on a show day so we wandered around Cozumel a bit and then went to the fabulous Pancho's Backyard. Pancho's was recommended by Sue Salvi & Paul Grondy. Sue and Paul were two of the first performers on the cruise ships as well as inaugural cast members of ImprovAcadia. The food was incredible and the atmosphere was fun. They also had a great gift store.

The next day Steve had booked an excursion for CCC and we joined in. We started the morning by getting on the first tenderboat (tenderboat: a small boat used to disembark people when you can't dock) and then taking a cab to the Municipal Belize Airport. The airport consisted of a tiny building where they gave us our boarding passes which were laminated pieces of paper that said, "Boarding Pass." Then when it was time to get on the flight, they came and got us and took us out to the plane. Security amounted to a rope that kept us from walking in front of the plane. As we were boarding, the desk lady asked that three of the ladies sit in the back of the plan. So three of us had to sit on this small seat that was at the head of the tail section. The plane took off from a tiny runway that was right by the ocean.

We flew to the lovely town of San Pedro where we were greeted by our guide, Gilbert, who took us by boat to the Ecologic Divers dock. There we got to get any equipment we needed for snorkeling and (for those who needed it) scuba gear. Then we took off to the tip of the second largest coral reef in the world.

Our first stop was Manta Ray & Shark Alley. This area was named by the fishermen who used to drop the scraps from the day's catch overboard which attracted sharks and Manta Rays. They no longer fish in this area but the name stuck. When we got to the site, there were Nurse Sharks and Southern Rays as well as hundreds of other fish....Jacks, Black Grouper, Striped Grouper, Tang, Parrot, Squirrel, Damsels and lots of others....The sharks didn't stay and were gone by the time I got in the water.

Look closely and you can see a Nurse Shark!

Nurse sharks tend to be unaggressive unless provoked. So we did not provoke them and in fact we kept our distance. The Southern Rays are also unaggressive but again we kept our distance. The sharks and the rays were curious as were the other fish but for the most part we just looked at each other. At one point, one of the rays did swim underneath me and then stopped and looked at me for awhile while I looked back. When I first got in the water, I had a bit of an anxiety attack. It was all so much, I was in the ocean surrounded by fish some of which were sharks and I started to hyperventilate. Larrance stayed close and the guides kept asking me if I was okay, I would say I was okay and then go back to freaking out....quietly. Finally I got my overloaded brain to calm down and my body followed. Then I got my snorkel on!! I explored a large area. One thing I did avoid was the guides who kept grabbing the rays and trying to make everyone touch them. I found I was more comfortable away from the group but I wasn't alone because Larrance was always right by me.

I did scare the hell out of one of my fellow snorkelers at one point. There were a group of Jack fish swimming with us the whole time. For the most part they kept their distance but at one point one of the boats dropped a fish to attract them... and they all took off all around me...they came very close. So I screamed inside my snorkel, partly out of fear and partly out of excitement. The scream travelled through my snorkel so Sean thought I was dying. He whirled around to look at me only to see me giving him the okay sign. We surfaced and I apologized and he just looked at me and shook his head. Frankly I was alternately thrilled and a little scared the whole time. After a bit, we got back on the boat and left that spot to go to a spot closer to the reef...

Along the way we stopped to look at a Loggerhead turtle who by his size was about 120 years old....he was surrounded by about 30 Southern Rays. The turtle was there visiting a fisherman that I guess he visits everyday because the fisherman dumps his scraps overboard right there. Loggerhead turtles are testy and vicious types so we weren't allowed in the water.

This part of the reef we had a guide because we were in a national park. So we snorkeled in a group. When we got there, the sharks were back and I decided that I wanted to be in the water with them. By the time I got off, they were gone again. So I paddled around waiting for the rest of the group to get geared up and back into the water. I was floating looking at a Black Grouper when suddenly right underneath me a Nurse Shark swam was scarily beautiful and then I realized there were two others nearby. They were hanging out....just hanging out being sharky.

So we swam around the rest of the reef and saw so many things. The reef itself was incredibly alive - there were blue, green and purple coral. We saw enormous brain, fan, fire and elk horn coral. One of the most amazing things we saw was a spotted eagle ray. An eagle ray has the body of a ray but the head of a dolphin....well kind of.... He hung out about sixty feet below us. Luckily our guide was an amazing free diver so he kept going down to take photos. Here's one he got...

He also found three Moray Eels. To get them out he would dive down to their holes and then clap his hands about three feet above the hole. This caused the eel to poke its head out to see what was going looked like the eel was coming out to say, "Who's there? Did you bring me something to eat?" The guide invited us to free dive down to see a 4 ft long Moray but I decided I was fine on the surface far away from the eel. I mean I like seeing these creatures but I have no desire to interact with them. I'm pretty sure their idea of interaction might be, "Oh hi, soft thing, let me bite you!!!" So I took a pass.

After that, we got back in the boat and went back to the main land. Here's a few photos of San Pedro and one random image....

A fisherman was feeding these Pelicans.

This is the night spot in San Pedro, Belize.

Finally, a photo of two of the dancers and me...they are so TALL!!!