Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cruise: Day 3

The wind blowing off of Grand Cayman is whistling through the window at my side as I sit on the Lido deck looking like a totally work-obsessed geek typing away at my Netbook. I had thought this would be a better compromise between writing and full-bore vacationing than sitting in my cabin recording the events of the day (so far), particularly since there had been a two-man calypso group singing on stage when we first alighted here. They have since been replaced by a live trivia game, the primary challenge of which is trying to understand the questions as read through the obfuscating filter of a deep eastern European accent. The band is just taking a break; they will soon return to imbue a Caribbean flavor to my mid-afternoon sojourn.

Oh, they just started again. Much as with the trivia questions, the lyrics sound familiar but I can’t quite identify precise words after the island accent is applied to them. Oddly, that makes it all the more appealing. I think the current song is something about ‘waiting in vain for your love,’ but it could be about ‘surviving the pain of a dove.’

It doesn’t matter.

Off to my right is a thin strip of Grand Cayman. It’s very flat, the highest elevations being the two- or three-story pastel-hued houses and apartments. Between my Lido perch nine decks up and the coast of the island is a quarter mile or so of deep blue water, punctuated by the white contrails of a constant stream of tenders running from the ship to the pier. We will be sailing away in an hour and a half, so the tenders have reversed their morning loading pattern; they are now leaving the ship nearly empty and returning with every seat filled.

I am not sitting alone - my cruise director is sitting across from me enjoying a post-lunch / pre-dinner slice of Veggie pizza and a plate full of nachos. Once finished with her current prandial endeavors, she will either listen to the music or pick up her novel and do some reading. We’re enjoying a relaxing afternoon after our morning excursion to the island.

I started the day early, having awakened at 0600 and deciding that trying to sleep just a little longer would be futile. I knew we were going to be arriving at Grand Cayman within just a few minutes and I thought I’d rather head up to deck to enjoy the arrival from there.
Grand Cayman Sunrise

The ship that felt so gigantic when we first came aboard now feels, if not small, at least more comfortable. I no longer get lost for more than a few wayward steps before regaining my sense of direction or happening across a familiar landmark. It takes a lot less time to get to places now that I know more direct routes. A case in point is my favorite vantage point. Those that know me will not be surprised to learn that I have found a place on a 3,000+ person boat where I can be alone. I’ve found that few people, at least early in the morning, will climb up to deck 12. Deck 12 is where the iconic Carnival funnel rises above the ship to exhaust the diesel fumes from the two massive engines deep in the bowels of the ship. I used to walk around all over the place trying to find my way up to it; I now know that it is nearly directly above our cabin and I can be up there in no more than just a couple of minutes.
My Personal Bridge

There is a coffee machine right on the way, so I also have a hot, fresh cuppa with me when I arrive.

As I stood there sipping my coffee and watching a glorious sun rise, I couldn’t help but laugh at how many times I do just that from behind a sheet of glass when I have my first morning cup at work. I’ve often stood there pretending that I was on the bridge of a ship looking at the sun rise over the ocean; this morning was even better than that! The wind blowing through my hair, the sound of the water flowing past, and the perfect 75 degree temperatures were everything that I had hoped for. The unexpected solitude was simply icing on the cake.

The ship had slowed to what seemed to be a crawl by the time I got up there, but we must have still been moving along pretty well because the island coast that was merely a row of tiny lights on the horizon when I first climbed to my personal crow’s nest quickly grew to something far more substantial. It kind of snuck up on me because my attention was divided between the approaching island and the other cruise ships making for the same destination. We in the Legend were to be joined by the Carnival Valor and the Celebrity Solstice. The Carnival Destiny also pulled in later this morning.

The Valor in particular caused me the consternation that one feels from a frustrating impotence; the impudent Captain of that ship started out some distance behind us but quickly overtook and passed us. My circadian clock still being set for Eastern Rush Hour Time, I was loath to allow myself to be passed - such a thing would never be tolerated on my morning commute. My shouts towards the bridge to “GET A MOVE ON, YOU IDIOT” apparently went unheard; they were certainly not acted upon. Sigh. There’s no place for Type A drivers on cruise ships, it would seem. Especially as a mere passenger.
Passed by the Valor

Breakfast was prefaced by a couple of strong screwdrivers (orange juice and vodka, for those uninitiated in the ways of vacation imbibing); one for me and one for the cruise director. Funny how the ship kept rocking in most disconcerting way all morning, even while moored in a glass smooth port. Breakfast itself was in the dining room again where we were joined by a nice couple with whom we shared dog stories.

We miss our babies, both biped and quadruped.

Once our appetites had been sated, we gathered our shore-going supplies (mostly in the form of photographic equipment and various internationally recognized forms of personal ID) and applied liberal doses of sun burn preventative lotions. We had to then find the spot on the ship where the tenders belly up and take aboard riders. That turned out to be nine decks below our cabin, nearly straight down. Not surprisingly, right on the waterline.

The ride to the pier was short, probably no more than five minutes. We spent an hour or two (I lost track) wandering along the shore line looking at expensive jewelry and cheap T-shirts in the shops. The big win was a great ventilated hat that I found - I have been looking for just such a thing in preparation for Oshkosh. There were some other fun things we bought, but most of them are surprises for folks at home and are therefore best not mentioned here.

Back on board the ship, we settled in for the relaxing afternoon I’m currently sharing with you. The walk on the island left us hungry but tired, perfect for trying out the legendary room service sandwiches. A grilled Reuben for me, and a BLT for the cruise director, brought to the door by the same waitress who served us a couple of nights ago in the fancy steak restaurant. The staff works very, very long days on the ship; she will probably be working in the steakhouse again tonight.

The Island Sounds band is on break again and what would normally be a relaxing empty void of sound is being filled with a movie trivia contest. The questions are much easier - the girl reading them is a far superior English speaker to the trivia girl. I know a few of the answers; I’m going to set aside the Netbook for now and see how I do.

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