Showing posts with label Chris H. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris H. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Ringing in the New Year with the Past

Five years ago we celebrated my 70th birthday on a ship. Needless to say, seems like yesterday.  I was not even thinking that we could do it again.  But the past became the future. Although, looking at the pictures, I see the change, in us, in our “kids.” 

So, for my 75th birthday we managed to enjoy another Caribbean cruise, this time on the Celebrity Silhouette (now considered a mid-sized ship, but, still, about the largest we’d go on – meticulously maintained though, and the meals were surprisingly good with excellent service). This was a destination onto itself, the ports, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Kitts being ones we visited before and, now, the first two still bearing the devastation of Hurricane Maria.  But the point was to be together, our little family, which very happily now includes our daughter-in-law to be, Tracie.

It was an opportunity to get to know her.  Jonathan is a lucky man to be marrying such a lovely woman, intelligent and loving.  She is a pediatric gastroenterologist, with harrowing stories about kids doing what kids will do, like swallowing nails.  Thankfully, there are caring specialized physicians such as Tracie to cope with those events.  I’ve always regretted not having a daughter in addition to our two sons.  It is a dream soon to be realized.

My actual birthday itself was celebrated a couple of days before we left with friends pictured left to right, Harry, Susan, my wife Ann, Lois, John, and the birthday “boy” himself now working on his last quarter century, grateful for whatever of that time the fates allow.

Unfortunately, when we left for the cruise I had a sinus infection which morphed into a chest cold, loading up on a Z pack while on the ship and all the over the counter medications necessary to control my cough.  Never had a fever though so didn’t consider myself contagious and washed my hands scrupulously to spare fellow passengers.  Not exactly the way I envisioned an active cruise.  So it became a relaxed one, leaving the ship only once in St. Kitts.    But as I said, the point was for our family to be together.  Their work schedules had to be arranged almost a year in advance, so we were lucky to coordinate a birthday celebration redux.

We didn’t “do” shows or games or other activities on the ship but instead hung out at the spa where there are not teeming crowds. They served light lunches there, and it was a place where Ann, Jon, and Tracie could play Scrabble (in addition to playing on our Verandah).  Chris and I read mostly. 

Ann and I retired after dinner to our stateroom to read.  Or to view a late sunset.

My main read turned out to be my own “book” a PDF retrospective of my Dramaworks blog commentary over the years, which I published with a preface in my prior entry

But I also managed to fit in several one act plays by the late Sam Shepard, one of our most important and enigmatic playwrights and engaging actors.  I had bought this collection for my iPad for the trip only months before his recent death.  Many of these plays were written in his early years, some appearing first at Café La Mama where I occasionally went in the 1960s.  It’s possible I could have seen some of them there.  Who remembers?  Theatre of the Absurd was on the rise and the European influence on Shepard is clear.  But he was one of a kind, bringing in his Western sensibilities too.

The first play in the collection, though, is one of his more recent ones, “Ages of the Moon.”  It is about two old “friends” who at long last see each other on the porch of one of their homes in some unnamed countryside, two displaced characters who have the past to chew on and to view the eclipse of the moon.  Dark and funny, it captures the passage of time, the regrets, the hurts, and what time really means: decline.  Best of all is the cadence of Shepard’s dialogue. 

I’m not finished with the collection, about half way through, but that gives you an idea of what one might find in Fifteen One-Act Plays by Sam Shepard (2012)

The first stop on the cruise was the Port of San Juan and approaching the Port, one passes the massive Castillo San Cristóbal and from this prospective one would hardly be aware of Maria’s devastation.  This brief video may not play on all devices.

Chris took a bike tour of part of the island and said that the destruction was much evident, trash and remnants of homes, utility lines still down.  Heartbreaking.

The last stop on the cruise was St. Kitts, the island most spared by Hurricane Maria. While Ann enjoyed a hot stone massage at the ship’s Canyon Range Spa, Chris and I took a walk, past the touristy shops and then into Basseterre, the capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a place I’ve been before, and always an opportunity for some idiosyncratic photos.  Their Independence Square has a beautiful Italian-inspired fountain.

Unfortunately, two cruise ships in port put a damper on things, depriving us of the opportunity to really mingle with the Island’s people.  They were outnumbered. 

Finally, back to Ft. Lauderdale and the sunrise.

So, 2018 begins, after blowing out the candles of 2017.  Tempus Fugit.  A Happy and Healthy New Year to All. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

September Transatlantic Voyage

As with the last entry, this is more of a photographic essay of our recent European trip.  A description of the entire trip can be found here while the photographic summary of our week in London is here.

On September 5th we boarded the Caribbean Princess at Southampton for our return to New York City.  For us, it is a large ship, probably the largest we’ve been on, our preference being smaller cruise ships.  This ship has a gross registered tonnage of 113,561 tons, holding a maximum of 3,573 passengers and 1,227 crew.  Its length overall is 946 feet, merely 100 feet shorter than the Chrysler Building in New York City.  It went into service in 2004 and it is showing its age; I understand it is going in for refurbishing this coming spring.  It needs it.  Being an old salt, my first order of business when we got into our room was to inspect the sliding door to our balcony, knowing that was the only barrier between us and potentially high winds and pitching seas.  Although on the 9th level, I have seen seas that big in our travels.  The door could not be locked.  I examined the door hardware and it was completely corroded.  A sliding, unlocked door in heavy seas is a serious hazard, so I called the desk and to their credit they promptly sent up an engineer who took the door apart and replaced the entire mechanism.  I just wondered how the previous guests failed to note that.

Some other negatives was a library which was devoid of books– and with a full ship and people everywhere –I did my reading in our cabin without the constant interruptions from the activities director – “the casino is open!” or “try your luck at bingo!”  But, admittedly, the Princess Cruise line, like many of them, is trying to appeal to more of a mass market, endeavoring to squeeze every last buck out of each passenger.  The entertainment in the theatre was pedestrian, although they did have a couple of production shows which, for a ship, were decent, including one dedicated to classic Broadway shows.  These were high energy and enjoyable.  

But, please, spare us the comedians, the hypnotists, and the jugglers, etc.  We never went to those.  Actually, the best entertainment was a cocktail timed performance of a violinist and a guitarist who played classical and Great American songbook pieces in the atrium.  But try to find a seat with so many people!

Nonetheless, our choice of making this voyage was predicated on the itinerary and the timing, not the ship itself, especially with multiple ports in Norway and Iceland, two of our favorite places visited in prior trips.  So what follows is primarily a photographic record of our 17 day crossing.

First stop after 229 NM (nautical miles; 1 NM = 1.15 Statute Miles) journey overnight was Rotterdam.  Very little of the old city is left because the Nazis bombed it into submission in four days in 1940, the Netherlands surrendering after witnessing the carnage.   So the city was rebuilt, most in a stark modernist and utilitarian style, a city now of contrasts.

Then onto Bergen, Norway, 572 NM.  We had booked a side tour by boat of the fjords but after seeing Alaskan fjords on two different trips, this was a bit of a disappointment, but still beautiful.  The best part was the city itself and its architecture. 

Still, some of the most beautiful photos were ones on the way to the fjords.

After, lunch at seaside, from the sea,
to the table.....

Children on their way to school ...

A short 182 NM trip took us to Flam, the highlight of which was a trip on the Flam railroad and a brief stop at the Flam Kjosfossen Waterfall.

Along the route an amusing sign.

Flam is a picture post card town.

Then 100 NM onto Lerwick, in the remote Shetland Islands of Scotland.  The was to be a tender port and although the ship dropped anchor, due to Gale force winds and heavy swells, the Captain announced he could not commence tender operations, a great disappointment, particularly to the Scottish couple we sat with during lunch – their second such cruise to this destination and neither time could they disembark because of weather.  Thankfully, my telephoto lens brought some of the countryside into view.

A 686 NM journey over the next few nights brought us to Akureyri, Iceland.  It was FREEZING there. The highlights were the Godafoss Waterfall and their small but interesting botanical gardens (yes, a botanical garden in Iceland)!

Akureyri to Isafjordur was a 171 NM journey from hell -- a head sea of up to 27 feet, with a 40 MPH head wind.  But well worth those moments of fear, as the small town of Isafjordur (a year round population of less than the ship’s passengers!) had some of the most picturesque scenes, captured here:

Another 196 NM to Reykjavik.  We were last there in 2012 and enjoyed the 12 hour “golden circle” tour and saw that wonderful part of the country.  This time around we wanted to spend some time in the city itself but again there were near gale winds and it was a raw, drizzly day, not ideal for walking around.  We did disembark but after ten minutes outside we disappointingly headed back to the ship.  Also, that evening we were told that the ship could not leave port because it was pinned to the dock by wind.  The following day, we needed the assistance of two tug boats to pull the ship off the dock and turn it around.

And so began a five day 2,300 NM direct passage to Boston.  It was a relatively benign journey across the North Atlantic.  I noted that at times the ocean temperature was 41 degrees and at one point we passed within a couple hundred miles of where the Titanic went down.  Not much chance of surviving in such waters, hypothermia would be only minutes in those waters.  Those ocean days were great for reading, attending some lectures, going to a specialty restaurant aboard, courtesy of our travel agent, and just staring out at the ocean.

In Boston we spent a wonderful day with our son, Chris, who took off from work, to walk the Boston seaport with us, have lunch by the water and just enjoy being together.

Then, the long 360 NM cruise from Boston to NY, actually Brooklyn where we had been only a couple of months before on a nostalgic tour of my college days.

At night we passed Nantucket and Block Island where we used to take our own boat in my salad days and then finally south of Long Island, into New York Harbor, under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, to our dock in Brooklyn, the dawn greeting us, the Brooklyn skyline in the foreground.  There our son, Jonathan, met us with our car and we began our drive back to Florida. 

I’d recommend a Transatlantic crossing for the experience, but this one, our fifth, will be our last. Our first was on the original QE2 in 1977.  The ship was built for speed, for a crossing, no stops, and a throwback to a transportation era now long gone.  In many ways, that was the most exhilarating crossing, subconsciously experiencing it as a multitude of prior generations did -- days at sea only, and then arriving at a distant shore.