Written by Helena Clarkson
Earlier that day we enjoyed a sight-seeing excursion which promised to take us around Madeira some. We looked over some of the scariest and highest cliffs in the world, supposedly only Hawaii has cliffs that are taller. Looking down from these unbelievable dizzying heights was plain scary but also gave your heart quite a rush! Our bus driver was excellent and took the multitude of hairpin curves calmly and with great expertise. Elly and I both decided that he deserved a fat tip for his courageous effort. During our outing we found a nice shady terrace in town and “mah dear” sis and I enjoyed a glass of Madeira! Afterwards we found some extra time for the all-important souvenir- hunting trip; all with all, it made for a very pleasant day.
November 1st was our first sea day for a total of five in a row for, as we now began our big Atlantic crossing. In the a.m. I walked the deck, but even at 10am it was practically unbearable for any decent type exercise as the temperature already had hit the 90’s. I watched the eccentric British couple walk the deck as well, but they did not act like they recognized me or perhaps pretended not to see me who knows? I was quite amused to watch him attempt to walk at a fast pace, for as tall he was, he could not keep up with his much shorter wife!
I finished another Stephanie Plum book and passed it on to our Canadian table mate while several women from other tables, looked enviously at the funny trashy little book. Once again, we set the clock back another hour and I stayed awake until midnight as one’s body just doesn’t adjust quite as easy time-wise, just by moving the hands of the clock. Elly had a big wash day that morning and hung her clothes on her own “designer clothes” line. I was quite impressed with her “Yankee ingenuity” Texas style, for I believe she constructed it from dog leashes? Don’t ask me why the heck, she would have bothered to carry dog leashes in her suitcase, all the way from Texas however!
November the 2nd right after breakfast I decided to refrain from walking the deck. This was the hottest Atlantic crossing I had ever experienced and by now I decided walking the sweltering deck was too much punishment at my age and might even be dangerous to one’s health? Also I could not see myself waiting in line for the treadmills in the gym area, even though it is nicely airconditioned up there. The well-known phrase “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” ran through my mind, but even our exentric British table companions showed enough sense and stayed out of the heat that day.
That evening, at supper time, our long-lost English table companions made a rare appearance for dinner and succeeded nicely into ruining the congenial atmosphere at the dinner table. For some obscure reason I found myself seated between the CPKid and Fraulein. (CPK stands for Cabbage Patch kid aka my sister btw) This seating arrangement was a true disaster, for I finished up in the middle of shouting match. Hey there was no real argument mind you. The shouting was for benefit of Fraulein, who was rather hard of hearing. In the meantime my fragile eardrums were suffering the consequence. To balance out the factor that the Brit did not touch his supper per usual, I ate way too much to make up for that. After their last attempt to try to fit in at our table, they never showed up for dinner again, I think everyone was quite relieved about this. Per usual the Brit morosely looked towards his food without touching a single bite, I bet you 10:1 that they went straight to the upper deck after dinner; so, the poor fellow could have some pizza?
Later on, while checking our e-mail, I received lots of mail from Tom and Deanna. I answered the e-mail and gave Tom a long run around on latitude and longitude and I hoped he would be as confused as I was about our ships location. MSC showed us a blue TV screen with a black dot in the middle now that was an enlightening map if there ever was one! The black dot was our ship I presume and the blue screen must have been a picture of the Atlantic.
November 3rd after our usual breakfast routine, forced myself once again to walk early on the promenade deck. Unfortunately, even early in the am; the temperatures are scorching. It did make for some interesting people watching, however. Like the woman who was dressed to the nines and was smoking a big stinking cigar on deck; like the heat wasn’t sweltering enough by itself and the stench on top of that enough to choke a horse? Still then again, how often does one see a well-dressed woman smoking a stogie?!? Another one who looked like she was on vacation from her job at the red-light district, but apparently thought her “working clothes” could double nicely as casual cruise-wear? Oh yes and let’s not forget little ole me, I looked quite fetching in my gaudy bright flowered shorts and big hiking boots plus my fashionable walking stick with fishies on it. I carried the walking stick and wore the boots as I was still rather nervous about my weak ankle that I had injured in Istanbul a few months earlier and took at least a half a year to heal.
We also checked on the balance of our bills and the amount seemed reasonable. While we were down at the purser’s office we sneakily managed to find out the name of the assistant internet manager under false pretense that we were planning to write him up very well! Needless to say, we did write the b*stard up indeed!
November 4th was our fourth day at sea and we had yet another formal evening to contend with. They showed another B type movie on TV. I ventured out on the promenade deck for another morning walk and met up with the Canadians. The Canadians are less used the heat and I easily leave them in the dust with great glee. Elly and I discus our options for excursions in Puerto Rico and she chooses the rain forest trip.
In the meantime, Elly very carelessly managed to come down with a cold. She does not believe in suffering in silence; so besides the sneezing and coughing there is a lot of pitiful lamenting I have to listen to as well. Since I am a nurse, I am not big into giving out a lot of sympathy in these matters. Actually, I am more concentrating on staying out of her coughing and sneezing reach in fear of catching this miserable cold myself. Tom sends me helpful e-mails like making her sleep on the balcony etc. She herself began a drastic self-medication regimen and snored loudly while sleeping of the treatment. With her runny red nose, stuffed full of white tissues and teary eyes, she sure made a fetching picture of ill health; gosh I should have left her there in that cabbage patch, where we found her over 60years ago! It is too late now however for; she grew on me you know.
We decided to order room service for dinner as Elly felt too bad to face our table mates in her weakened condition. We also watched a movie in the cabin. I wrote out some postcards to mail out on a later date. It is difficult for me to imagine that I will actually be home in Alachua in five days.
On November the 6th we once again set foot ashore. We arrive in St Thomas part of the US Virgin Islands it seems an appropriate place for any cruise-virgin, even one of somewhat advanced age to visit here. Once again, we had purchased a local excursion. MSC should really have taken more responsibility for allowing this particular tour. As it turned out our tour was a dangerous low budget-tour around the island. For example, instead of a bus we drove on the back of a converted old truck with long uncomfortable benches without air-conditioning and with quite iffy squeaky and grinding brakes. It proved a challenge to climb into this vehicle or get out of it as well, especially for the many decrepit seniors that had chosen this excursion. As we have several torrential down pours, our low-budget buggy makes it very difficult to remain dry. Still we continue to fight the steep stairs of the ghetto-bus and enjoy some quite spectacular views of the island praying all the way the brakes will at least make it till we get down from the top of these fairly steep hills. On second thought it would have been cheaper and safer if we had hired a taxi I think. Still it was a rather memorable outing……….
In the meantime, Elly’s cold has now greatly improved and now I am starting the get the signs and symptoms of her misery. I was hardly looking forward to that prospect. I am still not sure whether Elly or Fraulein was responsible for spreading the illness. Ah well once in a while we all have to suffer through the common cold I reckon; unfortunately, now it happened to be my turn! Achoo!
November 7th, we arrived early in San Juan, Puerto Rico and we milked this visit for all it was worth. In the am we took our excursion to the rain forest and the CPKid found a fuzzy frog to take home with her to Texas; yes, this frog had “very fine hair” indeed! The tropical rain-forest lived up to its expectations; it didn’t just simply rain, it poured down wild cats and doggies even. Also we remained on the lookout for the much feared “chupacabras”. A frightful Puerto Rican monster which can fly and has big nasty teeth! Lucky for us they were a no show!
Later on in the afternoon we ventured off ashore again this time we would do some sightseeing in old San Juan. I love that town, it is a bit of a tourist trap I guess, but I enjoy its old world Spanish flavor. Once again we were battling a heat wave and after we got lost walking in the town, we lost track of the trolley car as well. Not that that would have done us much good; it was standing-room all the way, it was so full. So we walked through the town in the direction of the harbour. I think Elly was less thrilled with the possibly somewhat seedy neighbourhood we were walking through at one time. And yes, some of the local señsores did look rather sinister even and I don’t think it was our imagination, but they certainly were staring at our purses hanging over our shoulders for some obscure reason…
My dear sister was worried about her walking ability to the ship; so when she said she was tired and looked a bit frazzled, it seemed a good time for a tea break to replenish our energy resources. So we barged into one of the many hotels that were advertising their restaurant in this busy little street. It was a nice comfortable break in our walk. Even though Elly had endured serious knee surgeries; I think she did rather well this trip. Let’s face it for anyone who had to walk that God forsaken Rialto bridge back and forth with two suitcases in tow; a walk through old San Juan should be a piece of cake! We had not bothered to take our passports with us, as we figured we were in the good ole USA in Puerto Rico. The ship had told all the passengers to take their passports however, so for a second we did have a worry whether they would let us on and off the island. We need not worried there was no problem, they took our driver’s license without any argument. I did manage to lose my favorite sun hat though and I know damn well that one of the female custom agents misappropriated it. The darling girl spoke good English when I passed through security and then when I came back to retrieve my property 3minutes later, she pretended not to understand English at all. When I repeated my question in Spanish, she still denied having seen the hat. All I can say is the girl was a first-rate liar and thief!
November the 8th, we leave Puerto Rico around 0200 in the am and are getting geared up for almost two days of open seas. At this time we are alerted about a hurricane that is going towards us.
November 9th, is our last day at sea and the captain is trying to dodge the hurricane that was ravaging Mexico. We are getting a little rocking and rolling motion. I remember Elly saying:” anything to worry about yet sis?” Nah not really it was slightly choppy, but the Captain was doing a good job staying away from the path of the hurricane. I recall sailing around Cape Horn before in 2005 and our Atlantic voyage, even with a hurricane somewhere in the Caribbean, was smooth in comparison.
It was time to pack our suitcases however and with some effort by literally sitting on the things, we managed to close them without any problem. At dinner time we said an almost tearful goodbye to our jolly table companions; we exchanged e-mail addresses and probably never will write them again. Still at that particular moment we were very sincere about staying in touch. The English couple did not show up however; I suppose he preferred “pizza” above our charming company?
November the 10th, we walk off the ship and leave for Fort Lauderdale airport via taxi. Elly flies home to Bob in Texas. The Canadians share our cab fare and are taken to the car rental place and that is my destination as well. I had a rented a nice speedy little number, I presume it was a Toyota and then I set the car on cruise control on a decent speed towards Alachua. At this time, I worry mostly about staying ahead of the path of the hurricane and its torrential rains and possible tornadoes. No need to worry the roads remains dry and the rain didn’t start, until after I got home safely. I am happy to report that this hurricane fizzled out quickly. Hubby appears to be extremely happy to see me and the feeling is mutual. Once again Dorothy; “there is no place like home!”
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