Tags: cage diving, great white sharks, Guadalupe Island, shark dive charters, shark diving charters, sharks
Categories: Cruise Travel, Friends, Here and Gone
Tags: Cruise Staff, Cruising, Sea Dream Yacht Club
Today, anyone who has the desire to take a cruise can find something that suits their tastes and price range. From mammoth “floating cities” with all the bells and whistles, medium-sized vessels in all price ranges and very small ships, usually costing a little more but including more in the cruise fare, there is something for everyone. But for most of cruising history, an ocean voyage was the exclusive domain of the very wealthy. Most evenings were formal. As the cruise industry has evolved, there is an increasingly casual ambiance about the experience. This has carried over to the interaction between passenger and crew members. Particularly on the very small ships, friendships are made between passengers and crew that carry over year to year.
For the past few years, I have taken Sea Dream Yacht Club’s Sea Dream 2 out of St. Thomas in early December. On my first voyage, I noticed a waiter, Werner Roy, who stood out from his peers. He was considerably older, and unlike many of the other waiters, he was Caucasian. Much of Sea Dream’s crew is Asian. He struck me as very formal, and I, incorrectly, took this as a lack of warmth. As time passed, our group sat in his station and we began to talk with Werner. He turned out to be our favorite, and on our last cruise in December, 2012, we had the Maître’d reserve a front table with Werner for the entire cruise. The more I learned about his extensive history at sea, the more I understood his demeanor was a reflection of his years aboard the premier luxury liners of their day. He is doting, yet reserved and unobtrusive. His bearing is formal and respectful. The more I drew him out, the more I wanted to hear his story. He agreed to be interviewed for this piece, and seemed happy to do so.
Werner Roy comes from the Black Forest region of Germany, which is bordered by France to the West and Switzerland to the South. He attended Hotel school in Switzerland, and upon graduation, went on to work at prestigious hotels in England, Switzerland and Paris. But he was feeling the ocean beckoning him, and his first contract at sea was on a freighter. He suggested trying a freighter cruise as a passenger would be a rewarding experience, and I’m looking into doing that.
Deciding that his hotel and hospitality experience would be better served on a passenger ship than a freighter, Werner landed a waiter position with the Royal Viking line. Royal Viking was the premier cruise line of that time, counting among its passengers Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson and Vincent Price among numerous other celebrities. Royal Viking operated from 1972 to 1994 when financial difficulties necessitated its sale to the Cunard line. In 1998, Cunard was taken over by Carnival. The Royal Viking Star holds a fond place in my heart for two reasons. First, they had the gumption to throw the lovely and congenial Leona Helmsley off the ship after she had thoroughly annoyed both crew and fellow passengers. You have to love that. I guess money can’t buy everything. Secondly, I had the chance to sail on the Star after it had been sold to Norwegian Cruise lines. I just wanted to see the ship. We didn’t have much money, and took an inside cabin on the lowest deck, but the ship was gorgeous. That stateroom was the largest I’ve had on any of my cruises.
While with Cunard, Werner served on both the Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II, 220 passenger ultra-luxury ships that were the epitome of upscale small ship cruising. Today, they are the Sea Dream 1 and 2. His Sea Goddess passengers included Princess Caroline of Monaco and Prince Albert. I had to practically pry the names from Werner. Even now, all these years later, he places a high value on the guest’s privacy. He is clearly not comfortable speaking about past passengers. His discretion is most admirable.
While Werner was taking contract after contract at sea, he had a fiancé at home who had expected him to come home and take a land-based job. He kept saying this next contract would be the last, but finally his Lady had had enough. He was sorry about it, but he’d found his calling at sea. He does not regret it. He has loved life at sea.
At 63 years young, Werner plans to retire in a couple years. He has a lady friend waiting for him in Germany, and claims to be looking forward to retiring. He is considering spending half of each year in Asia, and has a keen interest in gardening. When we were getting ready to disembark last December, Werner was preparing to fly home for Christmas to celebrate with friends and family. He was looking forward to all the traditional German foods served at Christmas, including the “weiswurst”, a veal and bacon sausage, and gluhwein, the spicy mulled red wine made with cloves, cinnamon, and sugar and served hot. Adding nutmeg and brandy is optional. After his two month vacation, he was looking forward to coming back aboard Sea Dream 2. He loves working with and teaching the younger waiters and introducing passengers to new foods. You can see from how Werner is treated by his co-workers that he is both respected and loved. He says he will have no trouble retiring, but I have to wonder. He will miss the sea. Retirement can be a major adjustment.
When next December rolls around, Werner and Sea Dream 2 will be in Asia rather than their usual Caribbean itinerary. This will be great for many of the crew, as they will be close to home and family. My Wife Susie and I will be sailing on another ship, and we will dearly miss both Werner and the whole Sea Dream 2 family. It is my fervent hope to have a chance to sail with them again before Werner retires. I will miss his droll humor, the sparkle in his eye and his love of people. He has become my friend.
Tags: 50's music, 60's music, Aaron Neville, Doo-Wop, Keith Richards, new music, oldies
My True Story – Aaron Neville
Blue Note Records, January 2013
My True Story, released in January of 2013, is Aaron Neville’s foray into the doo-wop songs of his youth. Having tackled virtually every other musical venue, it is somewhat surprising that this recording was so long in coming. As Mr. Neville said, these songs “rode with me, in my bones, through all these years.” The recording is co-produced by Grammy-Award winning producer Don Was and Rolling Stone Keith Richards. Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards had crossed paths many times over the years and become good friends. Much of their conversations centered on the classic doo- wop songs of their youth. When Mr. Neville called Mr. Richards and said he was ready to record these songs, Mr. Richards was on the next plane out.
The next phase was putting together a band, and they assembled a veritable who’s who of veteran session musicians. Mr. Richards shares guitar duties with George Leisz, (Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Brian Wilson). Benmont Tench, a founding and current member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers handles the keyboards. Mr. Tench has also done session work with Elvis Costello, the Indigo Girls, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and many others. . Acoustic bass player Tony Scherr has recorded with Norah Jones, Bill Friesell and John Scofield. Drummer George G. Receli’s resume includes James Brown, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. Mr. Neville’s brothers from the Neville Brothers band lend a hand, with Charles on saxophone and Art on the organ. Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards wanted to put their own touch on the songs without losing the integrity and feel of the originals. Just by happenstance, Mr. Richards saw the Jive Five, the band that had recorded the title track in 1961, was appearing somewhere and Mr. Richards was able to reach Eugene Pitt, the co-writer of My True Story. Mr. Pitt was able to round up Bobby Jay from Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and Dickie Harmon of the Dell Vikings and the three of them lend an authenticity of the period to the backup vocals.
The music of your adolescence is more than just songs. This is the period of your first crushes, first rejections, first experiences with sex. The songs of your teenage years are the soundtrack of your coming of age, and hearing them evokes faces, places, smells and tastes that were brand new. It is an exciting, scary and thoroughly unique period in your life. Both Mr. Neville and Mr. Richards had worried that these wonderful songs would be forgotten. Thus, My True Story was born. And you can hear the musicians really had fun. Originally intended to be just a song of ballads, they had so much fun with the up-tempo numbers that there are quite a few included. All involved agreed that this was the fastest, least stressful album recording they had ever worked on. And the band came together from the outset. Mr. Richards had never played with Mr. Leisz before, but from the first session, their guitar interplay is remarkable. Most songs required one take, so what you hear is essentially a “live” album done in a studio.
The album kicks off with Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters 1953 recording of “Money Honey”, followed by the Jive Fives 1953 title track. I’ll post the songs later in this piece, but classics by the Ronettes, the Drifters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Thurston Harris, and the Impressions with Curtis Mayfield are all represented here. And it would seem inevitable that there will be a follow-up album, since My True Story has twelve tracks and they recorded more than twice that. I look forward to the next release.
Mr. Neville’s voice is not universally loved. It is unique to the point of alienating some listeners. His lilting falsetto is startling, particularly if you see a picture of the hulking man it is coming from. For the people who like his voice, like me, this album is a must own. Likewise for anyone who grew up with these songs. And for those who have never really cared for his voice, this kind of music may fit his unique sound better than any other musical style he has performed. This record is worth a listen. You might just find you love it.
Mr. Neville is more than ten years my senior and Mr. Richards is seven years older than I am.
One might wonder how I could be so intimate with all these songs. I owe my early music education to my cousin, Blues Guitarist /singer Doug MacLeod. As an elementary school kid, I spent my afternoons at my Aunt’s home listening to Doug’s band, the Fliptones, practice. Though just a local dance band, the Fliptones had some kids who went on to very successful musical careers. Jimmy Ryan, lead guitarist, had a Billboard Top Ten hit with the Critters recording of John Sebastian’s “Younger Girl” in 1964. My cousin Doug, seven years older than me, is a prominent and respected blues musician whose compositions have been recorded by Albert King., Papa John Creach and Albert Collins. See his discography at:
I owe my introduction to music to Doug. He was the catalyst for my lifelong love of all kinds of music.
When my peers were buying toy soldiers, I was buying 45 rpm singles.
Tags: best family resorts, best family vacations, best of the british Virgin Islands, caribbean yachting vacations, Virgin Gorda resorts
After 25 years of serious travel all over the world, from Santorini to Bora Bora, we found paradise in our relative backyard at the Bitter End Yacht Club. If I tried to detail every positive experience, this article could turn into a novel. So, I’ll try to just describe our highlights, and first and foremost would have to be the absolutely wonderful BEYC staff. Never in all our travels have I hugged so many people goodbye. It was very special. Plaudits should go to the managers, Mary Jo and the COO Sandra Grisham. They have assembled an all-star staff.
The Bitter End Yacht Club is, arguably, the preeminent yachting resort in the Caribbean. I had heard about the Bitter End years before I actually visited. My Father was an avid sailor and raced his Resolute every summer weekend on Long Island Sound. I was usually called upon to crew, along with a couple of his buddies. I was not along for my expertise. My Pop rightly figured I could get into less trouble if I was with him. My Pop and his buddies talked all the time about chartering a boat to sail the British Virgin Islands, and BEYC was always a part of that plan. Alas, they never did the trip.
Like many BEYC guests, I first visited the resort while on a cruise ship. Almost immediately, I realized this was a place I wanted to come back to for a real stay. While we were at the resort, I asked to see all three types of rooms and got a real feeling about what I wanted to do. I fell in love with the Beachfront Cottages, high up on the hill above North Beach. The next year, we were there for a land trip. Our first trip, I over-packed very badly, bringing sports coats and dress slacks. I nearly killed the poor gentleman trying to lug our bags up to our villa on the hilltop. But that never happened again. All you really need are shorts, a polo or two and flip flops, even at Dinner.
Three types of rooms are available to suit different tastes. The Beachfront Villas were much like our over-water bungalows in Tahiti in terms of layout and feel. Tucked into the hillside, you get the feeling of camping out in luxury. There are trade winds blowing night and day, and combined with the ceiling fan over the bed, the villas are always comfortable. I love them. The Premium Beachfront Villas seem to be identical except they have air conditioning. I’ve always gone to BEYC in April or May, and unless you like sleeping in a meat locker-type climate, there was no need for A/C. In August, it may be different, I really don’t know. The third room option is the North Sound suites located at the other end of the resort. They are very nice, with an A-frame look to them, but more like a traditional resort room. They were not for us. The Beachfront Cottages are open all around but screened to discourage bugs. A terrace wraps all around the cottage and has a two-person hammock ideal for late afternoon siestas. The shower is screened in with wooden slats which open floor to ceiling, giving you the feeling of showering outdoors and featuring a gorgeous sea-view panorama.
Unlike most of the ships and resorts I’ve covered in these pages, the Bitter End Yacht Club is definitely a vacation for the whole family. There are two different programs for kids, one for ages 5-12, the other for kids 13-17 years old. But don’t get the wrong idea. BEYC has plans that are aimed at romance, and can make this as sensual and intimate a vacation as you want it to be. Bottom line, there is something here to love for everybody. And although it is a yachting resort, you need not be a sailor to find a million things to do. Whether it be getting certified for scuba, trail hiking, yoga classes, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, learning to sail at the Sailing School, watching movies at the Sand Palace, or just lounging by the gorgeous pool before your massage at the Spa, ranked a World’s Best by Conde Nast, there are unlimited possibilities for every taste. And if you are a sailor, choose from 100 vessels and get out there. I love the Hobie Cats. And to explore the area, you can’t beat a Boston Whaler. Oh, and don’t miss the day-long excursion to Anegada replete with sweet lobsters and fabulous snorkeling.
Our Typical Day at BEYC
Susie and I are up just before sunrise brewing up a pot of coffee from the provisions provided in the Villa. Sunrise is when the big rays come to shore to feed, and although we are high up on the hill, my zoom lens brings me right to the lapping waves. We watch the rays and sip our coffee out on the wrap-around terrace as the sun rises out of the sea. We are the first ones at breakfast or close to it. I like to eat a big breakfast as my lunch will be just freshly-caught fish and salad. We have brought all our suntan creams, books and sundries and set up in chaise lounges. Susie works and is not a water person. Her perfect day is reading, tanning, dozing and occasional dips in the unbelievably perfect water. In short, pure relaxation. I am retired and am a fanatic water person. I cannot sit still. I may put my things on a chaise lounge but it is unlikely I will ever sit in it. I take a morning swim and then a walk. The grounds are beautiful, bursting with flowers of every persuasion. At mid-morning, I grab my mask, fins and snorkel and join Captain Kinto for the morning snorkeling excursion aboard the Ponce de Leon. These excursions visit reefs nearby including two of Sir Richard Branson’s islands, Necker and Mosquito. I’ve come to like Kinto and he makes all the dives fun. He calls me the “Hot Mess.” I like to think affectionately. Or maybe not? After the dives as we skim across the crystal clear water, you can choose from Kinto’s jug of rum punch or water and soft drinks. I’d love a rum punch, but have bid farewell to booze, so water will have to do.
We arrive back at the pier just as lunch is being served. I order whatever is today’s catch of the day and head up to the extensive salad bar. The kitchen makes a creamy pepper dressing which is to kill for. After lunch, I return to the salad bar and hit the fruit section with mango, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon and other treats. I’m so proud of my dietary discipline that I can almost overlook that it was creamy pepper dressing.
After lunch, Susie returns to her reverie while I take out a Hobie Cat. Although I had been raised sailing, I hadn’t done it in forty years, and I went out with a friend twice just to get my bearings back. Turns out everything came back to me, and for the rest of the trip, I took a Hobie out every day. I return to the dock in time to catch Kinto’s afternoon snorkeling trip. By the time we get back, I’m pretty beat and it’s time to head over to North Beach and check out the kite boarders. The wind picks up noticeably in the afternoons and watching these guys is a blast. There is a small jetty which runs out a ways into the water and has a thatched roof and chaise lounges. It also happens to be right where the kite boarders do their thing, so you know I have my camera. This is good for about 45 minutes and then the sun and sea begin to catch up with me. With the continuous trade winds blowing, it is easy to lose track of how much sun you’re getting. And with my English-Scottish complexion, I would probably beat Johnny Winter in a tanning contest, but not by much. Be smart, use a high SPF sunscreen and reapply.
As I sit and watch, I am greatly entertained by the never-ending battle between the pelicans and the black-headed gulls. If there is another name for the gulls, I don’t know what it is, so black-headed gulls they will be. Every time a pelican makes his kamikaze dive into the surf after spotting a fish from the air, the gulls are all over him. They sit on his back while he smartly keeps his head underwater until the fish is secured in his bill. Even then when he raises his head out of the water, the gulls are trying to poke their bills into the corner of his mouth. This does not end, and the pelicans seem to accept this with a Job-like resignation, like this is part of the pelican job description. Funnier still is when the pelicans decide to take a break and doze in the sun, there is always a gull or two who go and join him. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Who knows?
I’ve decided that the hammock on our villa deck is sounding really good, so I decide to head back to the room. I pass two young boys who have gotten two land crabs out of the rocks and are trying to race them. There are obstacles to land crab racing; a lot of them. For one, neither crab seems to be particularly eager to go anywhere. Then, when they do move, it is never at the same time nor in the same direction. I encountered a similar quandary when I went to Woodstock in 1969 and tried to walk three bullfrogs on a rhinestone-studded poodle leash. It was an interesting concept but difficult to put into practice. Watching the land crab “race”, I had the feeling that I could nap, shower, shave and dress and be back before the stretch run. I returned to the villa’s hammock, where the trade winds rocked me to sleep. Susie returned and woke me when it was time to shower for dinner.
Dinner for me was very similar to lunch. There are always steaks, chops and other alternatives available, but I live in New York City where I can always have these kinds of things. A piece of broiled fish just hours out of the water is something I can’t get all the time. So we generally adapt our vacation menus to where we happen to be, the local specialties. After Dinner, as we stroll back to our villa, a brief rain shower passes over. This happens virtually every day. And after, a breathtaking rainbow fills the horizon. You never get tired of these kinds of scenes. We reach our villa and it is very early, barely 8:30 PM. But I’m thinking shower, a little reading and bed. You can’t get up at sunrise, be moving all day and then break into party mode. I’ve had exactly the kind of day I had hoped for; there is nothing more to add to it. There may very well be good nightlife at BEYC. I’m just the wrong guy to ask.
In closing, I just want to give a shout out to some of the BEYC staff who made the resort feel like home to us. I know I’ll forget some people, and my apologies. At check-in, Kesheem immediately charmed us, as did Vonda. The entire group at Reception was warm, caring and made us feel like family. When we were checking out, we genuinely felt that they were very sorry to see us leave. In the Restaurant, we fell in love with Restaurant manager Maureen, Ophelia (I kept asking after Hamlet), Beverly, Beulah, Burton and frankly, everyone who served us. I will miss some names here who should be recognized for their excellence, but suffice it to say everyone was a winner. At the Bar, we had many fun, lively discussions with Titus and Willis. They took great care of us. Kinto, Maureen’s son, made the snorkeling excursions cool and memorable. There are thousands of beautiful resorts all over the world, and Sue and I have been fortunate enough to visit a great many of them. But a resort is only as good as the people who make it run. I had the chance to get to know Sandra Grisham, the co-manager and found her warm, easy to talk with and exceptionally competent. She gets it. Bitter End Yacht Club has a wonderful, warm staff. This is a resort we will keep going back to again and again. Virgin Gorda has a number of fine resorts. In the all important “Bang-for-the Buck” category, I place BEYC at the top.
Tags: funny stories, high school antics, humor
There are few times in most people’s lives when everything is pretty much on cruise control, and the older you get, the fewer those moments. One such time is the last month or so of senior year in high school. Everyone pretty much knows where they will be attending college in the fall, and with few exceptions, graduating from high school is pretty much a given. It is a time for cutting class, hitting Jones Beach or Half Moon Beach, and just having fun. It is also a prime time for silliness, cutting up with your best buddies and girlfriends, all the time realizing, on some level, that this is the end of one part of your life and the beginning of another. None of us had chosen the same colleges, and though we’d see each other on vacations and summers, things would never be quite the same. We would all meet new friends in college and most of us would not be returning to Port Washington to live after college. Some would get married; others accept jobs in other parts of the country. So this was our curtain call as a group, and though it was never openly discussed, I think all of us, unconsciously, realized this. Unspoken as well was whether the high school romances would survive the long periods of separation of the college years. A few did. Most did not. So with something like quiet desperation, we all went about trying to make every minute funny and memorable.
Frub and I were best buddies senior year in high school and did everything together. Don’t ask where the name Frub came from; I have no idea and I’m not sure he does. His real name was Doug. We double-dated, ate and slept over at each other’s homes, and did many other things that should not be recounted on a blog page or anywhere else. Donny and Paul completed our foursome. All of us had girlfriends, but found plenty of time to hang together anyway. I had ordered a new Firebird, but delivery was several weeks away. My Mother often needed her car, but Doug’s Mom, Fran, could walk to work, so Doug often had the use of his family’s white Mustang during the day. It was driving in the Mustang late one weekday afternoon that we encountered Klebby.
Doug was driving me home from his house and we had taken Ivy Way, a lovely quintessential suburban street. There were fancier homes in Sands Point and Harbor Acres, but the area where Ivy Way is located was always my favorite part of Port Washington. That my home was very nearby probably had something to do with that. Near the end of Ivy Way we passed a beautifully maintained white house with a collie sitting in the shade of a tree in the front yard. With perfectly cut green grass, immaculately pruned flower beds in bloom, the home looked like a postcard. And this was not just your run-of-the-mill collie; hands down, the best-looking collie I had ever seen. He made Lassie look like she was suffering from mange.
“ Frub, pull over and check out that collie,” I said.
We pulled to the curb right in front of the pooch and he thumped his tail happily a couple times in greeting. We talked to the dog for a few seconds with the usual “Hi Boy” and “Good Dog.” Then for reasons I cannot explain, we began to converse with the dog in a tongue that sounded like Spanish, but wasn’t. The reason it wasn’t is neither of us could speak a lick of Spanish. Long elaborate passages of complete gibberish, the collie listening intently, his ears perked straight up. You could see him searching our sentences for a heel, stay, come, sit; anything a dog might have heard from his family before, something that might register. Alas, nothing like that was forthcoming. The collie began to move his head from vertical to horizontal positions, side to side, in confusion. Being mature young men, Frub and I found this hilarious. We stayed and spoke to him for about five minutes and then drove off laughing.
“Let’s call him Klebby,” Frub proposed.
“We don’t know if the dog’s a he or a she,” I said.
“Don’t see that it matters,” Frub said. “Have you ever known anyone named Klebby?”
“Not that I recall,” I replied. “Actually, make that a definitive no. I see where you’re going, though. The Klebby handle really isn’t gender specific.”
“Exactly, “Frub said. “Could be a boy or a girl.”
“Works for me. Kind of has a nice ring to it,” I said. “Klebby it is.”
Visiting Klebby for a couple minutes became an almost daily thing. The collie came to recognize the car, and seemed to almost look forward to our visits. I think he may have felt sorry for these two morons who were unable to communicate effectively even on a collies’ limited vocabulary. The routine never varied. Pull up to the curb, get a tail wag and ears straight up to digest the nonsense he knew was coming.
“Seuntulo byalo della foon? Bassolo selumino,” Frub said.
Klebby’s head shifted to the left, questioning the wisdom (sanity?) of what he had just heard.
“Blapmolencantro chalassimo! Veel plapt unimos leel? I inquired.
Klebby looked from Frub to me, full head shift to horizontal right, confusion reigning. And we’d drive off. Seemed like pretty harmless, if foolish amusement. It might have continued for a long time, but things changed in a hurry.
A day or two later, we were sitting down to Dinner at Frub’s house with his folks, Fran and Bob. My seat in the corner of the kitchen afforded me a view of the front door. When the doorbell rang, I looked up to see two cops at the front door, two of Port’s Finest. Fran and Bob got up quickly and went to the door to let them in, looking a little anxious. Frub and I followed.
The two officers came in. One was a big, red-haired Irish guy, 6’3’ and maybe 240 lbs. His partner was a little Italian guy, slightly cross-eyed, who shuffled his feet nervously and had trouble making eye contact. It was not difficult to establish the pecking order in this particular partnership.
“Sorry to interrupt your meal,” the big guy said. “I’m Officer Mahoney and this is my partner, Officer Riccio. We’re responding to a complaint from a family over on Ivy Way that two males have been speaking to their Collie in alien tongues on a number of occasions. They became concerned enough to take the license plates on the vehicle, and we traced it to the white Mustang in your driveway. Can someone here shed some light on this matter?”
Bob’s jaw dropped in astonishment, but he said nothing. Fran however was rarely at a loss for words. She turned to Frub and me, her face contorted in both anger and confusion, and said “You were doing what?
“Yes, Officer, my buddy and I were talking to the Collie,” I said. “It wasn’t really an alien tongue, it was intended to sound like Spanish. I see your first initial is “J”. Is that for Jerry, like Paul Winchell’s puppet?
Mahoney fixed me with the kind of look one would reserve for a particularly repugnant water bug. “No, my given name is John, my friends call me Jack, and you will address me as Officer Mahoney.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“Why were you talking to a strange dog in fake Spanish?” Officer Mahoney asked.
“Faux,” I suggested.
“What the hell is faux?” Mahoney asked, his neck turning a little pink.
“It means imitation, artificial,” I volunteered.
“So fake, that’s what I said,” Mahoney said.
“Fake has such a negative connotation to it,” Frub said.
“I think fake works just fine here, and my question stands” said Mahoney.
“Fine, we’ll go with fake,” Frub said. “It’s your syntax.”
“My what,” Mahoney asked.
“Never mind,” Frub said.
“So again, why talk to a strange Collie in fake Spanish?” Mahoney asked.
“Well, neither of us can talk real Spanish,” Frub said.
“And German sounds so harsh and guttural,” I added.
“No,” Mahoney said, his voice rising. “No, you guys are not getting it. Why talk to a strange dog at all? In any language.”
“Well, had we had any idea the dog was strange, we probably wouldn’t have talked to him at all,” I said.
“We’d probably have talked to another dog,” Frub said. “One that wasn’t strange.”
“The dog is fine,” Mahoney said. “What is strange here has nothing to do with the Collie. When I say strange, I mean a dog you didn’t know, had never been introduced to.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been formally introduced to any dog,” I said.
“Me neither,” said Frub.
“But you didn’t know the dog, right?” Mahoney asked, his patience ebbing at a rapid clip.
“Just in passing,” I said.
“Passing in a car,” Mahoney said.
“Right,” Frub and I answered in unison.
“Were either of you under the influence of anything on these occasions?” Mahoney asked.
“I’d had an egg salad on rye and a vanilla Coke at Greenfield’s,” I said.
“I had tuna,” Frub said. He always had tuna.
“I meant drugs or alcohol.”
“No Sir,” Frub and I answered.
“Well, that’s good,” said Officer Riccio, his first words of the encounter.
“You think that’s good, huh Joe? Talking in tongues to a Collie while completely in control of your faculties?” Mahoney said, turning to his partner. His expression said that he felt he had drawn the absolute dregs of the partner pool.
“Well, I just mean its good they weren’t driving under the influence, is all I’m saying,” Riccio said, looking at the floor again.
Mahoney returned his attention to us. “I’m asking you guys to give me your word that you will not revisit this dog or any other. This has been a remarkable waste of time, and if I have to come back again, you guys will not like it.”
“We agree to that Officer, “I said. “We won’t bother Klebby anymore.”
“Klebby? The dog’s name is not Klebby,” Mahoney said.
“He never corrected us,” I said.
“And he is a she,” Mahoney said.
“Never corrected us there, either,” Frub added.
“Maybe if I’d seen her go #1, I’d have figured that out,” I said.
“Maybe,” Mahoney said unconvincingly.
“Officer, can I ask a quick question? I said. “Do you do hard time for talking to collies?
My mind strayed for a moment and I had a vision of doing the ankle-shackled two-step into a maximum security prison, stripping, getting hosed down and issued my sheets and orange jumpsuit. I was then led to my cell. My “roomie”was a shaved-headed, heavily –tattooed, three hundred pound Aryan Brotherhood dude. After the cell doors had clanged shut, I asked him what he was in for?
“I gutted my Mother-in-Law. She griped too much,” the behemoth explained. “How bout you?”
“I was pinched for talking fake Spanish to a Collie I didn’t know,” I explained.
Newfound respect registered in the con’s eyes. “Whoa,” he exclaimed. “Jesus, you are one scary dude.”
I shook off the daydream and returned to real time with a chuckle.
“Something funny?” Mahoney asked.
“No Sir. Sorry.”
“I have no idea what the charges would be against you, should the family on Ivy Way choose to press them, “ Mahoney said. “We can get creative if provoked. But you guys have promised to desist and I don’t see us having to come back.”
Fran had remained quiet for the whole encounter, hands on her hips, looking back and forth between Frub and me with a mixture of disgust and amazement. She spoke up now.
“Thank you for your patience, Officers, and we’ll see to it that they occupy their time with something a little more constructive going forward.”
‘That would include just about anything,” Bob muttered. The Officers left and we returned to the table to finish Dinner.
As we resumed eating, Bob said “I have to say that you two have made it possible to take part in what is probably the stupidest, most inane scene I’ve ever experienced.”
“Yeah, and you know the best part?” I happily asked.
“No, Jud, I did not see a ‘best part’,” Bob replied.
“We’re still young,” I exclaimed.
Categories: Tasteless Humor
It was the summer of 1970, and the movie Love Story, from the novel by Erich Segal, was all the rage. Cameron was an avid reader and had read the book. Not bad for that genre, and an easy read, but Cameron was not one for romance novels. His idea of a feel-good movie was something like Taxi Driver. He, more or less, had anticipated every step of the plot of Love Story from start to finish. Cameron had no desire to see the flick, but he was going to be hard-pressed to get out of it. His steady girlfriend, Courtney, wanted to see it in the worst way. Thus, it was inevitable that Cameron found himself waiting in line on a beautiful Friday night for the 9:00 show. Courtney had spoken to friends, and came prepared with plenty of tissues. “Everyone said it was so moving” she gushed.
Not long afterward, Cameron had his tub of butter popcorn and they had settled into their seats. The place was a full-house, not an empty seat in sight. As the lights dimmed, Cameron felt the first surge of an immense gas bubble in his tummy. No big deal, he thought. This will pass.
He was wrong. As the movie dragged on, Cameron sensed he may have hooked the Moby Dick of flatulence. The gentlemanly thing to do would have been to excuse himself, hit the mens room, and let her fly. Ah, but what a waste. How often in one’s life do we have the chance to perform something so totally inappropriate and offensive to a standing-room only crowd? Not very often. Cameron had to decide whether he was going to slink off to the bathroom or go for the gusto. Was he a man or a mouse? He pictured himself letting it go and his torso flying around the theater like a balloon that had been fully inflated but not tied.
Then the movie edged towards its climax with the poignant hospital scene where Jenny (Ali McGraw) is preparing to expire with Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) weeping at her bedside. There was not a sound in the theater apart from sniffling and the blowing of noses from time to time. The time for action had arrived. With Courtney hugging him, her head on his shoulder, tears dripping down her cheeks, Cameron craned in his chair and casting aside the inevitable repercussions, swung for the fences.
The sound that resulted was unlike anything Cameron had heard before or since. Imagine starting up a lawnmower and having it blat like a baritone sax, at astounding volume. This continued for three to four seconds before it began to climb the musical scale, culminating with a trilling flute-like finale. It had taken perhaps five seconds in all, but a most remarkable five seconds. Cameron felt that this was more than a simple bodily function he had produced. It was almost art. He wondered if Picasso had felt this way early on when the genius in his work was yet to be recognized. Thinking of what could have been created with a hard wood surface rather than a padded theater chair was mind-boggling.
For several moments afterward, there was no reaction. People, perhaps, had to take a moment to be sure they had actually heard what they heard. Then the place erupted. There were shouts of anger at ruining the closing scene of the flick, screams, curses, laughter from the smattering of other potential artists in the crowd and virtually every other response. Courtney, who had been cuddled in close, lunged away aghast.
“What is the matter with you?” she asked, quite loudly.
“Oh right, trying to blame that on me! Shame on you” I responded, just as loudly.
“I most certainly did not do that” she screamed, her face contorted in anger.
Categories: Cruise Travel
Tags: all-inclusive luxury cruising, Best Cuisine at Sea, luxurious Caribbean cruises, luxury cruise ships, luxury cruises, Luxury Cruising, luxury travel, most luxurious cruise line, Seabourn Cruises, Seabourn Sojourn, small-ship cruising, the best of cruising
Seabourn has earned the title of our most-beloved cruise line since we first sailed to Alaska, circa 1999. The food, intimacy, service and the attention to small but important details placed Seabourn as our top luxury cruise line. The original Seabourn vessels, the Pride, Legend and Spirit have just 104 suites. That is about 210 people served by a crew of about 170. Not a bad passenger to crew ratio in terms of service. The ships were originally built in the late 1980’s and were refurbished between 2009 and 2011. We have sailed the three original ships many times and love them, but there are sacrifices. Because the ships are older, there are no verandas. The top suite category has a “Balcony” suite which allows you to open sliding doors to fresh sea air, but they are really French windows not verandas you can actually sit out on. The pool is very small and often in the shade, as if added as an afterthought. In the last few years, Seabourn added three new larger ships to their fleet, the Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. These ships were twice the size of the older ships and carried twice the passengers. Most of the suites had verandas and the central swimming pool was large and beautiful. My Wife and I were very skeptical whether Seabourn could offer the same exquisite cruise experience on a much larger scale. Well, we needn’t have worried. We sailed the Sojourn for 10 days from November 27-December 8, 2011, and the ship was fabulous. The Sojourn was, if not the most beautiful ship I’ve sailed, certainly among the top three. For those curious cruise lovers out there, the other two contenders were the Regent Seven Seas Voyager and the Crystal Serenity. It should be noted that both of those ships are much larger, with 800-1000 passengers. I should emphasize we took the Sojourn cruise just to experience the ship, as the itinerary was pretty mundane. The Sojourn is nothing short of spectacular.
A pleasant surprise was how many crew members and guests we knew from previous sailings on the smaller ships. Let me use this space to praise the people who made our voyage extra special. While tipping is neither required nor expected, when people go above and beyond, I have always felt they should be rewarded and try to do so. I always manage to miss a few of them, but I’ll be seeing them again. Darius, my bartender buddy from the Legend, who I was thrilled to find on the Sojourn. He is both a marvelous bartender and one of the nicest and funniest guys I’ve met at sea. Our Cabin stewardess Anne was terrific and very sweet. We like to have both breakfast and lunch in the Dining Room every day, and Annie, Nigel, Kimberly and Drew were a delight. Jo and Claudia made the Coffee Bar a must-visit every day. Jo’s interpretation of Iced Coffee made us skip dessert at lunch in order to have one. With ice cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and cinnamon, it was better than dessert. So good it ought to be illegal. Neither Sue nor I drink booze, and we had a ball with Sommelier Daniela Balser, who tried and tried to find something to entice us. She was very funny and we were sorry she was leaving to go on vacation halfway through the cruise. Arek, the Assistant Maître D’ made sure we were pampered at every meal as only Seabourn can. Although there are four dining venues in the evening, we wound up in The Restaurant every night. This was strictly a personal choice. When the day’s activity sheet arrives each morning, the menus for that evening are provided for all four venues. It just happened that the Restaurant offerings suited us the best. The food was excellent, although I maintain that their smaller ship, the Legend, has the best cuisine afloat. Conde’ Nast agrees. In addition to The Restaurant, there are several other dining options every evening. Restaurant 2 offers small-dish tasting menus with the offerings changing nightly. The Colonnade is a more casual alternative to the Restaurant, offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The Patio Grill, overlooking the main pool, offers al fresco dining nightly.
Our suite was elegant in typically-understated Seabourn style. The veranda was a haven for morning coffee, an afternoon snooze or pre-bedtime star-gazing with the sounds of the ocean and the salt breezes easing your transition to sleep. A tip about the verandas; the less expensive veranda categories, V1 and V2 have railings that are part metal and part glass. Categories V3-V6 offer all glass from floor to the teak rail. If you are going to pay for a veranda, go for the V3-V6 categories. A few extra dollars offers an unobstructed view of the sea from anyplace in the suite. It is a small detail, but the kind that matters to me. The bathroom was a fabulous two-person, two-sink marble affair with both a glassed-in shower and a large bathtub. I wish my bathroom at home was half as nice. As with all Seabourn ships, suites feature walk-in closets, refrigerator, mini-bar, and interactive flat-screen TV. The refrigerator is stocked with the beers, soft drinks, water and juices you selected on your pre-cruise order sheet. The first evening, two liters of the premium liquor of your choice are delivered to your suite. The table in the sitting area converts to a Dining table, and all Dinner can be served to you course by course in your suite should you feel like a private evening in.
The brochures featured great pictures of the Watersports Marina which opens out at the stern and offers swimming, kayaking and sailing right from the back of the ship. I had enjoyed this many times during cruises on the three smaller ships, but strangely, to my knowledge, the Marina was not opened once in our 10-day cruise. Obviously, this was not going to happen during our four days travelling at sea in the open ocean, and the ship actually pulled in and docked in San Juan and Antigua, so those days were out. But in St. John and St. Barts, we were at anchor while in port and tendered in. Those are traditionally the times the Watersports Marina is lowered. Perhaps the winds and current were too strong; I really have no idea. But I don’t believe the Watersports Marina was opened during our cruise, and I would have liked to have at least heard an announcement explaining why.
The Spa on the Sojourn was visually the most remarkable I have seen in all my cruises. Occupying two decks, it features such luxuries as wooden heated loungers to relax pre-massage, Kneipp walk pool, saunas, steam, outdoor whirlpools and a cabana area. I have posted several pictures, but they don’t really capture just how mind-boggling this spa is. That said, I had booked four massages and wound up cancelling the last two. While the massage was adequate, it was not what I had expected, and at over $140.00 for 50 minutes, hardly a bargain. I have massages regularly at home and perhaps I’ve been spoiled. There is, of course, a fully-equipped fitness center for all you gym people. As I do on all my vacations, I made it a point to walk past the Fitness center at least twice daily.
The Sojourn and her Sister ships feature a Casino with far more options than the smaller ships. Blackjack, Poker, Roulette and Slot Machines offer an array of ways to lose your money. I was particularly happy to have the chance to play Roulette, as it requires virtually no innate intelligence to actually win. If there is in fact a cogent strategy to Roulette, I’m unaware of it. I finished the trip up an astounding $5.00, and viewed this as a major triumph.
For all the diehard Seabourn veterans loyal to the older, smaller ships, I see no reason to change that. I have already booked for next year on the Legend, our fifth time aboard. That being said, I would strongly encourage you to give the Sojourn, Quest and Odyssey a chance. The cruise experience is a little different, yes there are more people, but it is a first-rate cruise experience. And the ship is so much bigger, I found more places to be completely alone than on the smaller ships. Seabourn has done a great job. I think you’ll be glad to have tried the new ships. I will be sailing them again.