Cruising to fifty, part seven: Films, fags and farting chairs

This is the seventh part of a series of blogs about the cruise the Wife and I went on last October. You can read the others here:
part one | part two | part three | part four | part five | part six

A quick set up:

I turned 50 on October 6, 2012. My wife surprised me about three weeks before, during a particular low spot in my life with a piece of paper. “Happy birthday,” she said. I opened the paper and quickly scanned it.

“We’re going on a cruise?” I said, and my mind kind of shut down with happiness after that. In fact, it wasn’t until several minutes later, as I was refolding the paper, that I saw the word “Greece” and just about shit. This is the story of what happened on that trip, taken almost exclusively from the diary I kept along the way.

There was a farmer who had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o.

B-I-N-G-O – Traditional

October 11: At sea

Our one and only full day at sea, we found ourselves with no agenda. A day of sleeping in, and resting and reflecting on the amazing week we’ve had so far.

We woke late and, after taking our time, went down to breakfast, then bummed around the ship, checking out some areas we either hadn’t seen up to now or wanted to see more of.

Karen thought she might be interested in giving the morning session of bingo a shot. If it was any good, she might even hit the afternoon session. Turns out a ton of people wanted to play bingo, so, with limited seating left of the deck, we could only find seating in the smoking section.fag

You’d think that wouldn’t be a big deal out in the open air of the top deck, but you’d be wrong. Remember, we’re Canadians, (where, as a friend says, you can marry a fag, but you can’t smoke one–and before you get all uppity about “fag,” a gay friend has officially and formally allowed me to use the term as I see fit. So there. Nyah.) used to people huddling out in the middle of nowhere, smoking their butts as outcasts of society, not provided areas to smoke. No_Smoking_page.pngSo, yeah, it was nasty. And while it was nice to be out in the open on the Mediterranean, Karen also found the sea breeze cold.

And finally, the bingo caller, one of the ship’s entertainers, was a complete and utter dick. He might have thought he was amusing, because he seemed to be insanely entertained by the noise coming out of his mouth, but no, he was just a dick. Enough of a dick that it turned her off from coming back to the afternoon session.

By then, it was lunch, so we sat with a couple from Australia and a Swiss couple. The Aussies seemed nice, but the wife really seemed to have a burning need to name every single city and country they’d visited. Now, granted, it was an impressive list, but after a while I was simply hoping she’d give it a rest and move to another topic that we could all participate in.

The Swiss couple, however, we quite enjoyed. He had lived for a time in both Montreal and Vancouver and they were both very interesting to chat with.

Afterward, we headed down to try our hand at another challenge (seeing as how we kicked such serious ass at the Classic Rock one). This time it was movie theme songs. Now, this one, I basically took a back seat to, as Karen was the movie master. We had the same host as the Classic Rock challenge. I’d found him friendly, but only mildly amusing last time around, but this time, he was hysterical.

The trick this time was for him to play a snippet from a movie theme, and we had to name the film.

RaidersteaserThe first one was ridiculously easy, the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. The second one immediately proved Karen’s superiority at this game. I heard the snippet, was sure it was the song The Heat Is On and went to put down Beverly Hills Cop.


Karen flashed her don’t even consider questioning me look, told me…okay, sorry, demanded I write down Top Gun and not interfere with her genius. Which, to be fair, really was the right move. I’d hear something, have no clue whatsoever, and she’d be there with the title.The song, of course, was not The Heat Is On, it was Danger Zone.topgun

In the end, we only missed two. Beetlejuice and Jurassic Park and got beaten out by a group of six from Ottawa who got a perfect 16/16. Ah well, no umbrellas this time. The prize was luggage tags, so no biggie. Still, Karen kicked ass.beetlejuice

Now, I mentioned that the host was hysterical. What made it funny was that this entire challenge was based on us listening to the snippets, but the game was continuously interrupted by a ship announcement, which isn’t funny in its own right, but by the third announcement cut in– “To BINGO or NOT to BINGO? THAT is the QUESTION!” –the host’s reactions were screamingly funny. And then, just as the announcement finished, the host would open his mouth to say something, then the message would again. In Italian. The again. In German. Then again. In Spanish. I can’t do it justice, but it was hilarious.

After a lazy afternoon, we had a quiet dinner by ourselves. Now, as it happened, we sat nearby another table of four who were talking books. Killed me, but no, today was about the two of us. And dinner was about the two of us right now.

Then I heard the words, “Pet Sematary” and seconds later, “Stephen King.” Without breaking stride from the meat she was cutting, literally without looking up, she said, “Tobin. No.”PetSematary

Meanwhile, I’d already reacted, glancing over at their table. Likely with a longing look. But no, I needed to fight this. Listen to the wife. Eyes front, soldier.

A few minutes later, I moved to get up for dessert and my belt rubbed against the back of the vinyl seat, making a farting noise. Karen glanced up sharply, gave me the stink eye and said, “That wasn’t you, was it?” Death awaited a positive response.

“It’s not me!” I said desperately. I pointed at the offending furniture. “It’s the chair!”

This got the Pet Sematary woman laughing beside me and she apologized, still chuckling.

Well, hell, that was the only opening I needed. Pet Sematary woman had spoken to me. So of course I had to throw in some comment referencing their Stephen King conversation from minutes earlier.

At which point Karen flashed the stink eye again. “Couldn’t not say it, could you?”

Guilty as charged. It did, however, lead to a short but pleasant chat with the four of them. And one of the couples (not the Pet Sematary woman and her husband, but the other couple) seemed very nice. About our age, very friendly.

Then, we crashed early, because we were up early the next morning for our last stop on the cruise, Dubrovnik, in Croatia.


Cruising to fifty, part two: Frodo and the immovable bus

This is the second part of a series of blogs about the cruise the Wife and I went on last October.You can read part one here.

A quick set up:

I turned 50 on October 6, 2012. My wife surprised me about three weeks before, during a particular low spot in my life with a piece of paper. “Happy birthday,” she said. I opened the paper and quickly scanned it.

“We’re going on a cruise?” I said, and my mind kind of shut down with happiness after that. In fact, it wasn’t until several minutes later, as I was refolding the paper, that I saw the word “Greece” and just about shit. This is the story of what happened on that trip, taken almost exclusively from the diary I kept along the way.

Have mercy
Been waitin’ on the bus all day

ZZ Top

October 6 – My birthday!

I turned fifty over the Atlantic, but didn’t notice it until a couple of hours later. Could be I was tired. Could be I was old. Either way, I’d crossed that threshold.

The flight landed twenty minutes early and for the first time, I stepped on European land. Not that I had time to think about it. I think we’re spoiled in Canada and the U.S. when we walk off the plane and straight into the terminal. In Venice, we walked down a flight of stairs, stood on the tarmac and a crazed transport driver came by and did his best to make us puke, or at least drop us all to our knees on the ten minute drive from plane to terminal. Sharp turns with no warning, rapid acceleration and rapid stops were the order of the day.

We managed to hold down our nasty airline food and, once in the airport, desperately look for a washroom. I was quite happy I was male at this time, as I was able to simply walk in, find a free urinal, and do what I needed to do, which was to pee in my first European urinal. You’re a peein’ indeed! My wife, on the other hand, lined up for a solid twenty minutes. We both survived, then got our baggage, then we assembled to wait for our transport to the ship. If I’d known exactly how exasperating it was going to be, I would have hired a taxi. Ah well, hindsight’s 20/20, right?

So the first endurance test was to wait within the terminal. We had to wait until all the Transat travelers arrived. No biggie. The plan was to hop on the bus and get delivered to our various floating holiday accomodations, the Divina, the Jade, and ours, the Splendour of the Seas.

It wasn’t a horrible wait. We’d landed by noon local time, got our luggage by 12:30, and by 1:00, a short, balding, slightly anxious, hobbit-like driver walked us from the terminal to the bus with his hand raised to shoulder height–this from a guy barely scraping 5’3″–as though that hand could be followed through all of Middle Earth to the depths of Mordor.

Ten-ish minutes later, we were at the bus and we separated our luggage out depending on which ship we were headed to. A second group showed up, all headed for the Divina. We were all told to wait outside the bus. It was about ridiculously hot outside, but one of the other passengers described the bus as being “about 900 degrees” so we figured outside was better. Twenty minutes later, our hobbit driver started up the bus and the air conditioning and loaded us on. We were left with the impression we would leave shortly and, after eight hours in a cramped seat on the plane, here we were again, stuffed into a seat with no legroom. Meanwhile, Frodo was out chatting up another bus driver and sweating profusely.

Soon, a couple more groups showed up, stowed their luggage and got on the bus. It’s probably important to note at this point that this bus could likely seat about 70 people. I mention this because that first group I mentioned? The ones going to the Divina? There were eight of them, four couples. They obviously felt a deep, abiding love for each other and very much looked forward to spending a week with each other at sea, because when they got on the bus, they each claimed a section of two seats for themselves. Yes…sixteen seats for eight people. Four couples. Or, should I say, eight ignorant assholes. The other groups that got on the bus kind of gave them all the stink eye, then moved toward the back of the bus.

Anyway, it’s now about 1:45, almost two hours since we’ve landed, when Frodo finally climbs aboard and puts it into gear. Yay! I think, prematurely. We drive out of the parking lot, down a short laneway and get out to what looks like a main thoroughfare–a total distance of maybe a quarter-mile. Frodo then says, “Sorry!” and some other stuff in Italian that we couldn’t catch, then pulled a U-turn and we headed right back to the dreaded parking lot. He parked us in the exact same spot and leapt from the bus and ran back to the terminal.

Several minutes later, sweating worse now, he showed back up with more people and luggage.  He’d stow their luggage, direct them on the bus, grab a little fanny pack from the driver’s cockpit, say something about dropping off tickets, then scoot back to the terminal. Ten minutes later, he’d show up again.

With more travelers and luggage. Which would start the whole cycle all over again. Stow, direct, fanny pack, tickets, scoot, ten minutes.

Every time he came back, there was a feeling of anticipation, of woo-hoo, we’re on our way! Each time we saw more travelers, that feeling would deflate again. This went on for five full trips to and from the terminal for Frodo. By now, it was just getting old.

A solid hour after he’d left the parking lot, then returned, somewhere around 3:00, we’ve now been in Venice a total of three hours and seen nothing but an airport, a parking lot, a bus and a tantalizing glimpse of what lay beyond. We finally left the parking lot again, the bus packed to the gills and the ignorant assholes finally having to give up their individual sections and sit with each other.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 064

Our first real glimpse of Venice from the bus.

On the way into Venice

On the way into Venice

Our first glimpse of our ship

Our first glimpse of our ship

Fifteen minutes later, we were at our boat. We’d waited almost two and a half hours for a fifteen minute trip. Goddamn.

Anyway, the Royal Caribbean staff were all young, attractive and friendly and we were welcomed with big smiles. From their welcome, we then walked down a long, covered gangway and then…then we were on our ship. And it was beautiful.

The ship from the gangway

We found our way to our room and it actually had a birthday greeting right on the door. Karen let me open the door and I found the room decorated with birthday s

tuff. Holy crap! In all the fuss with Frodo, I’d forgotten it was still actually my birthday.

By now, it was about 3:30 local time, or about 9:30 am by what my internal clock was telling me. We’d been up for about 28 straight hours. We were tired and hungry.

We headed down to the solarium–a beautiful area, by the way–and had an excellent carved roast beef sandwich and it was nice to just sit in a comfortable chair with legroom  and look out at Venice sprawled in front of us.


At 4:30 (29 hours and counting), everyone had to attend muster–gathering beneath our designated lifeboat (ours was #10) and were taught, in English, Italian, German and Spanish, how to put on a lifejacket. It was interestingly refreshing to not get the instructions in French, as we would have in Canada.

We took a couple of pictures then went back to the cabin for a nap. Okay, I went back for a nap.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 083

I’d just laid down when Karen dragged me back out–twice–to look at interesting things. The launch of the ship out of port and Venice sliding by.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 085

I should say, it’s always been a dream of mine to go to Venice. And here it was. I wanted to enjoy it. I truly did. But 30 hours awake and 4500 miles of travel by plane, bus and ship had done their work. I fell on the bed and died.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 086

I woke up at 6:30. Karen had been too excited to sleep, so she’d taken pictures and unpacked. I’d slept through it all.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 090

It was time for dinner, so I clambered into the teeny, tiny shower and scrubbed off the exhaustion of the past day and a half, got dressed and we headed down for dinner. I had an excellent dinner of pork medallions, mashed potatoes and mushrooms in a ragout sauce with a Caesar salad. Dessert was Strawberry Povlova…which was crazy good.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 099

We took a brief walk around the ship, then came back to the cabin and we both fell down in exhaustion.

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 114

And that’s how I turned fifty years old. A little rough in spots, but overall, it turned out fantastic. Story of my life!

Mediterrean Cruise - October 2012 124-2Tomorrow was going to be a better day.

See part three here.