THE 2011 LABOR
DAY DANCE CRUISE WRITEUP
Written by Rick Archer
owner of a computer store, my friend Gary Richardson has always been interested in the
latest technology. For example, Gary bought one of the very first digital
cameras (2006?). Gary really liked his camera, but it was very expensive. Gary said when the day
came that the price of these cameras came down and the quality
improved, he could foresee taking lots of pictures because there was
no reason not to. In the old days, you still had to pay for
film and to have it developed. No more.
Gary's prediction was right on the money. Pixels are cheap.
All you need is storage space on your hard drive or, better yet,
just burn the pictures to a CD. In
the past four years, we have seen the advent of the less expensive
yet very excellent digital camera. We take these cameras for
granted now. They are everywhere. I bought one myself.
Then Marla bought one in addition to mine. So did a lot
of other people.
Then came the
cell phone cameras. Suddenly everyone was taking
pictures... lots of pictures!!
Things got a little carried away picture-wise on this trip. I
asked everyone to contribute their favorite 20 pictures. 100
people X 20 pictures = 2,000.
Well, we ended up with
people sending me 4,000 pictures. I was so overwhelmed I
barely used any at all. Please forgive.
Ed and Tracy Akin
No ONE TALKS TO ME ANY
Our 2011 voyage aboard
the Conquest was a dream trip. It was pure pleasure all the way
We had a small bump
leaving Galveston. Thanks to the nearby tropical depression, the
Conquest was late getting into port on our day of departure. That
meant our group was delayed in the terminal for about two hours
waiting to get on the ship.
C'est la vie. It was
no big deal. That was the only real problem I can remember. Once
we made it out to sea, it was a smooth trip the rest of the way.
Our group of 97 had a marvelous week of sailing, dining, hot-tubbing
and exploring together.
There was plenty of
romance and lots of friendship. We danced ourselves silly and the
group spirit was incredibly high. What a marvelous time!
As always, there were
hijinks and mischief too. After all, the whole point of a vacation
is to cut loose. However the hijinks were harmless and the hanky
panky stayed pretty much below the radar. I had vague hunches about
situations, but nothing I could put my finger on. Alas, this group
has really learned how to shut me out when it comes to gossip. As
far as they are concerned, no news is good news.
Of course the veil of
secrecy remains intact mainly because I can't stand the hot tub...
which just happens to be the major incubator for the best stories.
However, until we can pierce through the thick veil of the hot tub
steam, I guess those activities will be left to the imagination. I
might add the one time I had a chance to actually break through the
veil of secrecy, I decided I was too worried about what I might
discover to pry any deeper.
As a result, there
isn't much to write about. It's tough to write about perfection.
Normally when no one misbehaves, I just make some stuff up.
Unfortunately, it has been quite a while since I made up a really
good tall tale.
For this trip, I may
just have to stick to posting lots of pictures and add comments.
Veni, Vidi, Vici - I came, I
saw, I Conquested... GOODBYE CONQUEST
This was probably our
final trip aboard the Carnival Conquest. Now that the Carnival
Magic is due to replace the Conquest in Galveston this coming
November, it is unlikely we will be taking another trip aboard the
Conquest anytime soon.
You would think after
five trips aboard Conquest I would have developed some fondness for
the ship, but that is not the case. I feel absolutely no
I suppose I should
feel some sort of loyalty. After all, the Conquest "Clubhouse"
really helped create our sense of "Family" starting in 2007.
Someone discovered a largely deserted dining area one floor above
the morning/afternoon buffet. Our group made a habit of eating
there twice a day. This became a type of clubhouse for us, a place
where we could always find someone to hang out with during the day.
particular liked this clubhouse. It made it so much easier for the
veterans to meet the rookies and absorb them into the group. I
would have to say many lasting friendships owe their start in part
to some casual conversations over breakfast and lunch up in our
clubhouse. Hopefully we will continue this feature on our next
The dance floors
weren't that bad either. The Lobby/Atrium on the Conquest was large
enough for the most part. It featured a very nice wood floor that
was actually superior to the Lobby floors on the Royal Caribbean
ships. I liked this place a lot.
Alfred's Lounge was a very nice facility featuring a lovely circular
dance floor. Unfortunately some idiot made this a smoking lounge
for our first four years, so that was a major problem. However,
this year the Lounge was smoke-free and our group loved being in
In 2007, our first
year on the Conquest, Gary Richardson discovered a tile floor next
to the Casino that was pretty good for dancing. Since they had an
excellent Western singer on that trip, the Casino dance floor became
our most popular venue. That hasn't changed. For example, in 2011,
Marla and I danced Salsa, East Coast and West Coast Swing in this
area on several occasions to excellent live music.
I don't care much for
Vincent's, Degas, or the Blues Lounge, but those venues had
serviceable dance floors as well. Pattie and Rick Barrett said they
had the dance floor in the Blues Piano Bar all to themselves. They
danced to their heart's content. Now that sounded like fun. I
asked why they waited till the end of the trip to tell me. Pattie
looked at me like I was nuts. "And have all you barbarians come in
and steal our floor space? I don't think so!"
Looking back, all in
all, the dancing was actually pretty good aboard the Conquest.
The problem is that we
all knew it could be better. Once you have tasted the best, it is
really tough to settle for the rest.
Back in the first half
of the 2000s, our group fell in love with the Royal Caribbean
Rhapsody. The Rhapsody had the finest dance floor of any ship I
have ever been on. And the room was spectacular! The entire Lounge
had a mural with dance scenes from the Big Band Era of the Twenties
and Thirties. The pictures were reminiscent of the Astaire-Rogers
dance movies. They served both as inspiration and invitation to
dance. Of course the ocean could be seen as well in three
directions. What a lovely room. It was quite romantic. We had so
much fun dancing in the beautiful "Shall We Dance" Lounge that we
loved returning to the Rhapsody every year.
Many good times, many
Alas, Royal Caribbean
mysteriously chose to remove the Rhapsody in 2007 and didn't bother
to replace it. Why RCCL left the Texas market is beyond me. It has
been five years now and I still don't know the reason. I understand
that it was probably an economic decision, but until someone offers
up the details, I remain perplexed. Why leave such a valuable spot
to your main competitor?
After all, if you live
in Denver, Houston-Galveston is your nearest port. The same can be
said for Oklahoma. And what about Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota,
South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and so on?
Now I understand that
people in these states can pay an extra few dollars and journey to
the more glamorous port of New Orleans. I am sure some do. The
biggest problem for Houston is that it is not seen as a "fun city"
to visit. We also have a handicap of sorts because the airport near
Kingwood is over an hour away from Galveston. In New Orleans, you
can actually walk to Bourbon Street from your cruise ship. So New
Orleans has an advantage over Houston/Galveston for people who have
Texas is a different
story. Carnival has Texas all to itself and I would assume Texas is
a very lucrative market. Not only is our state heavily-populated,
we are well off financially.
If you live in Texas,
many people choose to simply drive down to Galveston. It's cheaper
than flying and probably almost as fast when you include transfers
and waiting in terminals. Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are all
within easy driving distance. Furthermore, seeing how Houston is
the fourth largest city in the USA, I am sure the Greater Houston
area is a gold mine for any Galveston-based ship.
Lucrative or not, RCCL
pulled out of Galveston in 2007 and hasn't been back since. I have
a hunch Carnival enjoys its Texas Cruise Monopoly a great deal.
stupid. I suspect they are bringing their shiny new ship Magic into
Galveston for two reasons - to further exploit their monopoly and to
make it difficult for Royal Caribbean to regain a decent toehold in
There is a rumor that
the Magic has a great dance floor. Let's cross our fingers and hope
that it true.
INVASION OF THE NORMANS!!
Donald Taylor met his
beautiful wife Jeannie through SSQQ. Actually Donald met Jeannie at
Wild West, but after one spin around the dance floor, she suggested
he take lessons at the studio... adding that she would be happy to
join him in class.
Donald really enjoyed
his first lesson and stayed with it. I might add having Jeannie
around was a serious incentive.
Donald and Jeannie
signed up together for our 2006 Rhapsody Dance Cruise and were
immediately hooked. Their next trip was special. Donald and Jean
got married just days before our 2007 Conquest Cruise and shared
their Honeymoon with us.
Savannah was born in 2008. This
makes Savannah an official SSQQ Kid!
the wedding, Don's job
transferred him to Norman, Oklahoma. Not
only was our dance group sad to see them
go, Savannah's grandparents Jenell and JR
Williams who live in the Houston area were even more distraught.
Usually when a family leaves town, we don't get to see them again
unless they make a random visit at the studio. However, Donald
and Jean were the exceptions. The two of them really had
"dance cruises" in their blood.
Donald and Jean took a year off from cruising in 2008, but
returned to join our group in 2009.
Savannah was very young, but Jean's parents offered to watch her.
What a relief!! So while Jenell and JR watched Savannah,
Donald and Jean flew all the way down from Oklahoma to join
Donald and Jean were
back in 2010, but this time they brought along Savannah, their 2 year
old daughter, as well as parents and relatives. They
set a record for the largest family to ever take
a trip with us. In addition, Savannah officially
became the youngest person to ever sail with us
(FYI - Savannah now has company thanks to Laith, Gina and Brandon
Nelson's 2 year old who joined us for the 2011 Eastern Caribbean
Donald and Jean
continued to take dance lessons in Norman. They noticed
that while the caliber
of dancing was good, there was nothing to compare to our dance
cruises. So Donald asked Marla if he could advertise
the SSQQ cruises up
in Oklahoma. Maybe some of their
land-locked dance friends might be interested in seeing what the
ocean looks like. Houston isn't exactly down the street from
Oklahoma, but when you stop and think about it, Houston-Galveston is
the closest cruise port to Oklahoma.
Donald went to work
talking to his friends at the dance studio.
He brought a contingent of 15 people along with him for this trip.
I think some of them were a little apprehensive at first, but I
thought they all had a great time. Donald should be congratulated
for his hard work. These people added great energy to
group. Darren, one of Donald's neighbors, wasn't so sure
it was such a good idea to be visiting "Texas". After all, he
is a died in the wool Sooners fan.
Norman, as most of you know, is home to
the University of Oklahoma... the Sooners! Thanks to
the excellence of Oklahoma football, the Oklahoma - Texas
football rivalry has been pretty intense over the years.
People don't actually riot after the annual grudge match,
but feelings can be heated.
It turned out that Darren had nothing to
worry about. Naturally on
this trip, there was a
little Texas-Oklahoma teasing, but we are all used to that. After
all, we have to tolerate George Handsome wearing his stupid Alabama Football
tee-shirts all the time. If we can live with George and his
obnoxious Bama tee-shirts, we sure as heck can accept some
nice Sooner fans into our midst.
look at the smug look on his face. Oh my gosh, I just
remembered Bama won again in 2012. Ugh. Speaking
of George, I knew I liked the Oklahoma crowd when I saw them
looking with the same revulsion at that hideous Bambi
tee-shirt that I feel. The enemy of the enemy is
surely my friend!
I might add the Longhorns and the
Aggies have played well together for years on our group cruises.
Cowboy fans and Texan fans manage to co-exist as well. If we can
manage to have Aggies fans, Longhorn fans, Cowboy fans and Texan
fans dance together without killing one another
or George, I am sure we can
extend the same privilege to Sooner fans.
Not only do we honor
every race and religion in our travel group, we respect all football
loyalties as well. Coming from Texas where football practically is
a religion, that is the very definition of open-minded!
Jean's Mom and Dad Jenell and JR had
traveled with us before but Darren and Lana
Alexander, Carla Nash, Taylor Deason,
Thomas Purcell, Catherine Bloye, Shelley and
Dylan Dawson, plus Johnny and Nancy Brinkley
were all Oklahoma people who came a long way
to join our group.
The new people from Oklahoma who joined our
group in 2011 seemed a bit apprehensive at
first. One of their biggest concerns
is whether "Oklahoma" dancing and "Texas"
dancing were compatible. They
were very suspicious if the "Texas Twostep"
was the same as their Twostep.
Who can blame them for worrying? They
had invested a lot of money coming on this
trip based solely on the word of The Donald.
As they got to know Donald better, they
began to have their doubts about him.
I think the entire group was very relieved
to find out that under his strange exterior,
Donald was a respectable guy. Well,
kind of respectable.
the biggest skeptics was Johnny Brinkley, pictured
here with his lovely wife Nancy. Johnny had
taken his first-ever dance lesson on a cruise to
Alaska. Johnny really struggled. The
dance teacher on board worked with Johnny for a
while, then gave up on him. The instructor
suggested Johnny stick to another hobby.
Fortunately, Johnny doesn't give up easily. He
and Nancy eventually began taking lessons in
Oklahoma. Even when their beloved teachers
deserted them to move to Pennsylvania, they refused
to give up their new found hobby.
Considering how well Johnny danced in my classes, he
should be proud of himself. Not only did
he acquit himself well, I think Johnny had a lot of
fun in the process. He was excited to find out
their dancing did indeed click with our style.
better, to his surprise, Johnny discovered he knew
several moves we used all the time. His
Stop and Go was the same pattern as our Peekaboo.
The pattern might have a different name, but it
worked just the same. Imagine that.
experience proves yet again that social dance
patterns are fairly universal. I have
been to other parts of America and several parts of
Europe, so I promise you what we teach here in
Houston is effective anywhere you go. If
you can lead it, they can follow it.
a lot more civilized in Texas than people think,
even if we do have to include people like George
into our group.
The Stormin' Normans: Dylan,
Shelley, Jenell, Carla, Taylor, Darren, Lana, Donald, JR,
Jean, and Savannah -
living proof that Texans and Sooners can coexist
SSQQ HEROINE AND CARNIVAL COORDINATOR
One reason our trip
went so well is that a hero emerged. Or should I say 'heroine'?
Gertrude Booysen, a
South African, was our Trip Coordinator. A Coordinator is a person
assigned by the ship to make sure our needs are met. When I first
met Gertrude, I assumed her hidden agenda was to keep an eye on us.
Our group had two
activities the same day we left Galveston. First we had a 'Welcome
Aboard' dance at 7 pm in Vincent's and later we had late night
dancing in Alfred's Lounge starting at Midnight.
Every time I turned
around at Vincent's, I bumped into Gertrude. Not that I minded.
After all, Gertrude was extremely pretty. But it did seem odd that
she was so accessible. I wasn't used to that.
Nor was it my
imagination. Gertrude really was always there. During the first
two nights of our Late Night Dancing at Alfred's, Gertrude actually
sat in the background for an hour each night watching us dance.
That was new. I had
never had a coordinator take time to watch us before. I didn't know
Gertrude's motives. I decided she was just keeping tabs on us. If
we were going to pull any shenanigans, Gertrude wanted to know about
I actually didn't
mind. After all, we had nothing to hide. Gertrude was very
inconspicuous. She sat alone in the recesses of the ultra-dark
Alfred's Lounge. I don't know if Gertrude was told to watch, if she
watched because she was curious, or if she watched to try to learn
something. I found it disconcerting to have her there at 1 am in the
morning watching us dance, but she was always so pleasant and
positive I soon forgot she was even there.
In retrospect, I wish
I had asked her to dance. It never even crossed my mind that
Gertrude might be interested. My first impression was that she
didn't trust us, but I later decided she was curious to learn more
about our dancing.
The first problem came
on Tuesday. We had an unusual "shared cocktail party" in the Disco
with another group at a strange hour - 3 pm. The party was
extremely well-attended. The promise of free drinks lured the
entire hot tub crowd to come inside and dance in the middle of the
day. Plus Marla said ‘come as you are’. They liked that idea.
Very clever ploy, Marla!
Except that we were
not alone. Some other group would be joining us. That had never
Marla sold more than
enough cabins to receive a PRIVATE Cocktail Party, but she didn't
sell them by the final payment deadline. She was one cabin short
(Marla sold several more cabins at the last minute, but it was too
late). This meant we would have to share the room.
I knew all along this
might prove to be a headache. What if the other group didn't like
our music? Then what?
Gertrude was worried
about the same thing. Shortly before the party started, she came to
talk to me as I was setting up the equipment. She warned me that if
the other group was not cooperative, she would be forced to play one
of the ship's CDs as a compromise. Oh great. Barry Manilow's
Greatest Hits, here we come.
Gertrude added that
first she would go talk to the other group, then get back to me.
Okay. What else was I going to say? But inwardly I groaned. I
could visualize all the complaining if this didn't work out.
5 minutes later
Gertrude returned and said everything was cool. I smiled. Thank
you, Gertrude. Then I said I was going to go talk to them.
Gertrude turned white which wasn't easy because she is
dark-skinned. I still don't know why that scared her so much, but I
went ahead and approached them anyway despite her undisclosed
concerns. Gertrude just stared in horror. She seem convinced no
good could come from this.
I went over to the
group and said that I would be happy to play anything they wanted or
something similar if I didn't have it. One man said, "Play some
salsa for my girlfriend." I smiled and said of course.
I noticed Gertrude had
been watching us from afar. She was very relieved when I returned.
I can only assume there had been headaches in similar situations in
As it turned out, our
two groups got along very well. Kristi, Miss Fuzzy Wuzzy herself,
had me play the Wobble Line Dance song and the Cupid Shuffle Line
Dance song... many people from the other group joined right in.
Soon we were all laughing to the music.
Then I got around to
playing some Salsa music as promised. I noticed the man's
girlfriend wasn't dancing, so I walked over to ask him first for
permission to ask her. He didn't seem to mind a bit, so then I
asked her to dance. There was a little hesitation in her eyes, but
eventually she said yes.
It turned out this
attractive young lady, age 21, didn't know a lick of Salsa. I guess
that since she was Hispanic, she liked to listen to Latin music, but
she had obviously never danced to it.
No problem. I taught
her how to Salsa on the spot. By the end of the song, she was
laughing and having fun. As I walked her back, she got a big round
of applause from her group.
A few minutes later,
she came back and asked me for another dance. Sure!
This time as I walked
her back, I asked what was the nature of her group. She said they
were all from Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio. She said
she was shipping out to Afghanistan next week.
I stopped breathing.
That was a big kick in the gut for me. I was beset with guilt.
First, America had just lost all those magnificent Navy Seals a
month ago when a missile had destroyed their helicopter in
Afghanistan. Second, I had recently watched the "Pat Tillman Story"
about the famous football player who had been accidentally killed by
his own men while serving in Afghanistan. That documentary made it
very clear how dangerous it was to do a tour of duty there. And now
this beautiful young lady was going to going to be risking her life
while I lived my life of ease back here in America.
I was instantly
overwhelmed with gratitude towards all the people in the group, many
of whom would be joining this lady on her trip over there. I also
felt ashamed of myself for worrying that they might complain to
Gertrude about my music.
Sometimes life can
serve up a lesson out of nowhere that makes me feel so petty and
small. From that point on, they couldn't get rid of me. Any song
they wanted, I found it for them.
Fortunately the party
went well for everyone and Gertrude was all smiles at the end. A
potential headache had actually turned into a very warm event thanks
in part to my willingness to go over and talk to the strangers in a
spirit of friendship. Of course the Rum Punch helped thaw things
out as well. It was a good party.
From that point on,
Gertrude trusted us. No more watching till the wee hours of the
morning at Alfred's. We were okay in her book.
We were scheduled to
be in the icky smoke-filled Vincent's Lounge for late night dancing
on Thursday, but Gertrude smoothed things out with someone to allow
us back into Alfred's on Thursday. I was so grateful. Vincent's
was just too small and I hated the smoke.
We were scheduled to
be in Vincent's Lounge for late night dancing on Friday as well.
Remembering how Gertrude had allowed us to use Alfred's instead of
Vincent's the night before, I decided to skip Vincent's and show up
at Midnight in Alfred's. Hopefully no one would care.
They were finishing up
the karaoke in there. I could tell from the guy who emceed the
activities that he did not like seeing me sitting there one bit. At
the first opportunity, he asked if we were in Alfred's that night.
I replied that I hoped to use the facility, but that I was willing
to go elsewhere if there was a problem. I knew full well I didn’t
have permission to be there. I was just hoping to get lucky.
He said nothing, but
from his expression I assumed there was a problem. The emcee
frowned and quietly consulted a woman at the bar. I noticed she
made a phone call. Soon this 6' 8'' officer dressed in white
showed up to say we couldn't use the room. He said the ship's staff
was going to have a party in there instead. Oh. Gee, didn't they
want to use Vincent's?
So I dutifully
trundled my equipment over to Vincent's. Yuck and Double Yuck.
Someone walked into
Vincent's. I think it was Joseph. He said he had just come from
the Atrium/Lobby area. He said the whole area was empty. Really?
Moving into the Atrium was a very tempting idea.
We had late-night
danced in the Atrium several times during our 2010 Bahamas Trip. We
had Alfred's waiting for us, but we hated the smoke. So when the
band quit at Midnight, Steve Gabino plugged in his equipment and we
kept on dancing in the Lobby to our heart's content. Not once had
we ever asked permission and not once did anyone ever say a word.
Based on that
experience, I decided it was easier to just set up in the Atrium and
ask forgiveness later rather than ask permission first. Since
things had been fine in the past, I hoped no one would care.
However, a little birdie suggested this move would not be popular.
I suspected someone would object this year. It was a sixth sense of
I wondered again if
Gertrude had been ordered to watch us for a reason. I think that
was the source of my concern. It wasn't Gertrude, but someone
didn't trust us.
I had just enough time
to set up and play the first song in the Atrium when Marla came down
from Alfred's. She had a very big frown on her face. I assumed
this first song would probably be our last song as well. I went
over and asked Marla what was going on.
She said that shortly
after I left for Vincent's, Gertrude had shown up to explain why we
couldn't use Alfred's. When someone passed the word on to Marla
that we had bypassed Vincent's for the Atrium, Gertrude overheard
the conversation and suddenly looked very worried. She immediately
got on her walkie-talkie to call the Hotel Manager for permission.
Judging from Gertrude's expression, Marla concluded the Hotel
Manager was very irritated. The major question was how loud would
the music be and would any guests sleeping in nearby cabins be
This argument was
frustrating to me because there were no nearby cabins. The nearest
cabin was one floor below. I idly wondered if sound went upwards or
downwards. It probably dispersed evenly, but I doubt it would
penetrate an entire floor. Besides, how much sound could two
portable amplifiers possibly create? Plus we could always turn it
down if necessary. However, it wasn't my call, now was it?
When I saw Gertrude
walking down the steps to the Atrium, I assumed the worst. However,
to my surprise, Gertrude suddenly flashed a smile and said it was
okay. She had explained to the Manager that our music wasn't that
loud and that we had used this area in the past without any
problems. Once she pointed out that we had been using this area
every year for the past four years, the Hotel Manager decided to
trust Gertrude's judgment and give us permission despite his initial
misgivings. I think she also pointed out that we were a very large
and very loyal group. Once the Manager realized we do repeat
business on a yearly basis, I think that helped persuade him to
change his mind.
You don’t get to be
Hotel Manager without having a practical side. I remember back when
I ran the studio, I used to get very irritated with some of the
requests. However, once I settled down and gave it some thought, I
occasionally changed my mind once I saw all the angles. I think
that’s what happened here after Gertrude gave him some good reasons
to think it over.
A sense of relief
swept over the entire group. Gertrude had gone to bat for us. The
rest of the evening became the most popular night of late-dancing on
our entire trip. Even as late as 2 am, we still had a group of 30
dancing the night away. Gosh, we had fun. And it was all thanks to
our new best friend Gertrude.
When Marla personally
thanked Gertrude for her efforts, Gertrude asked about our group's
plans for departure on Sunday. After Marla gave her some of the
information, Gertrude offered to escort our entire group off the
ship on Sunday. Marla instantly accepted.
It was a little
complicated, but it worked. On Saturday evening, Gertrude came to
our dinner table and gave Marla a huge stack of "5" luggage tags.
She said that anyone who put those tags on their luggage could wait
in Alfred's Lounge the next morning and be one of the first people
off the ship.
So Marla and I went
around handing out luggage tags. I found out that one lady who was
on George Sargent's Party Bus, but was not at dinner. So I went to
her cabin during dinner to see if she was there. Yes. She was in
her pajamas and asked me to wait outside. After she filled out the
new luggage tag, she handed it to me in the hallway and I switched
out a "27" tag for a "5". I sighed with relief. Now everybody could
get on the bus at the same time. No waiting!
Sure enough, the next
morning Gertrude came into Alfred's and led the whole group of "5"
people off the ship. We were light years ahead of everyone else.
It was the most pleasant debarkation I can ever remember. Smooth
I made sure to tell
everyone what Gertrude had done for us. They were just as grateful
as Marla and I were. The next time she appeared, Gertrude was
personally thanked by many people in our group. I was glad to see
them show their appreciation to this woman who had repeatedly gone
out of her way to make our trip better.
And that's the story
of Gertrude Booysen, the best Coordinator we have ever had, Carnival
and Royal Caribbean included. I have met many coordinators who
were good at their job, but I have never met anyone like Gertrude
before. She is far and away the most helpful person I have ever met
on a cruise trip… and I have 21 trips to use as comparison.
Gertrude was quite a
THE TRIP TO
JAMAICA'S YS FALLS
YS Falls is a stunning
7-tiered waterfall hidden in a secluded rural location in southwest
Jamaica. I have seen plenty of waterfalls in Hawaii, but the YS
Falls are special for two reasons. First, these falls have seven
different sections. The different sections are so beautiful and so
symmetrical that I had to keep reminding myself they weren't
man-made. Nature did just fine all on its own. Second, I have
never been this close to a waterfall before - we were all allowed
right in the middle of the falls!! Not only was I impressed by the
power of the cascading falls pouring down from the section above, I
was able to leap cowabunga-style into a water pool ten feet below in
the section in front of me. That was a serious WOW experience,
All credit goes to
Marla. She found this trip and made it happen. This trip wasn't
even offered as an excursion by our ship. Furthermore, Marla was
able to bargain $60 off the list price by guaranteeing a large
number of visitors. This trip was a perfect example of the power of
using the group to get a better deal. It wasn't easy either. Marla
went with one guy who completely folded on her with some outrageous
no-refund demands at the last minute. Forced to disengage, Marla
found an even better company to work with. They delivered
everything as promised. I was really proud of Marla for finding
As thrilling as the
experience was, there were some definite bumps in the road.
Literally. One bus had no air-conditioning. Another bus lost a
window pane. Even worse, due to the twisty, windy roller-coaster
nature of the road, several people became quite nauseous. The
company warned Marla this would happen, but there wasn't much she
could do about it. All she could do was pass on the warning. This
was just a risk we all had to take.
Another problem was
the narrow roads. My bus had two precarious brushes with oncoming
traffic. Only the skill of our driver saved us on both occasions.
From what I gather, these near-collisions are a daily feature of
driving in Jamaica.
Montego Bay where we
docked is only 30 miles from YS Falls... assuming we could all fly.
Unfortunately Jamaica is extremely mountainous which made the drive
a very rugged experience. It didn't bother me a bit, but then I
have a strong stomach. Out of the six people on my bus, two got
sick. Others got queasy. After all the curves and ups and downs,
the trip ended up taking us an hour and a half to get there and
another hour and a half to return. That nasty 3 hour round trip
explains why this trip isn't part of the ship's itinerary. This
trip is not for the faint of heart.
I might add the food
service was the worst we have ever experienced on any trip. In
fact, I can't even think of a comparable experience. We can't blame
the company that got us there and back. Our guides were just as
disgusted as we were. The people feeding us were locals who could
have cared less. I highly recommend anyone trying this trip in the
future pack a doggie bag of fruit, sandwich and dry cereal and
completely SKIP the food.
However, despite the
tough trip and despite the terrible food situation, the Falls made
it all worthwhile. For a moment there, we were all kids again
playing in the most amazing water park of all time.
One neat feature of YS
Falls was the relative absence of other tourists. I attribute this
to the difficulty of actually reaching this remote location. The
length and difficulty of that bus ride will scare most people off.
Tough luck for them.
Trust me, the experience is so special that the trip is worth taking
despite the hardships.
Wouldn't you love to
have your very own waterfall in your back yard? From what I gather,
that's exactly the situation here. The YS Falls are part of
someone's private estate.
In its earlier days, YS Estate was once a
sugar cane farm and later a stud farm as well. The fact that the
falls are privately owned is another reason for the lack of crowds.
You actually have to get permission to come here.
In 1990 the
estate opened to the public as a tourist attraction. Since opening
the falls, visitor numbers have been monitored and limited to
prevent the falls becoming damaged through too much foot traffic.
The estate does everything possible to preserve the beauty of the
The YS Falls are 120
foot tall and cascade over seven levels. Steps have been built up
alongside the falls so visitors can view the falls at every section
up close without getting wet. In addition, lifeguards on the site
helped us safely experience the natural pools at the bottom of each
level of the falls.
A dozen members of our group were led out into
the middle and encouraged to take a high dive jump into the water
pool below. Although none of us got hurt, I was secretly very
happy not to be the first one to jump.
Two people excelled at
this event for different reasons. Stacey Cook was fearless. She
walked around those waterfalls without any fear whatsoever.
Slipping and sliding was a problem for all of us and there were some
very sharp rocks hidden underwater, but Stacey didn't seem to worry
about the danger at all. She walked with the same confidence that
the guides did. I think she must have been a gymnast as a kid. She
was so steady on her feet despite the slippery rocks and powerful
current that I swear she must have had some sort of training.
David "Lobster Boy"
Johnson did a belly flop on his second dive that raised more water
than Shaq O'Neal. If it had been a swimming pool, the pool have
been empty afterwards. Dave described his leap as 'daring'. I
think the better description would be 'painful'. Stacey got a great
shot of his second dive; hopefully I can share it later on.
One water pool even
featured a rope swing where you can swing "tarzan-style" into
the water below. I tried it and had a sensational leap into
My only regret
was that there was a tree between Marla and me. Marla
was at the wrong angle to see when to
snap the action shot to prove my
incredible bravery and athletic prowess.
When I climbed back up, Marla frowned and said she didn't
think she got a very good shot.
about Marla is her brutal honesty. When she says it
wasn't much of a picture, well, judge for yourself.
excellence of my Tarzan moment captured on film.
Several people weren't
feeling quite as adventurous. These people enjoyed a relaxing swim
in a heated wading pool at the bottom of the falls.
The pool was fed by
natural springs. I went in there too, but left immediately for an
odd reason. It was so warm and comfortable in that water that I was afraid I
would relax and not want to leave. Hey, no
stopping now. I still had things to do!
Believe it or not, the
Waterfalls were only part of the thrill. The real highlight of the
day came when we tubed the YS River. I have been down the Colorado
River in Colorado, I have been down the Guadalupe near San Marcos
and I have tubed the excellent Lazy River at the Atlantis Resort in
the Bahamas, but I have never tubed a river this aggressive before.
This little river had some real pop to it! This was a Lazy River
Someone handed me a
paddle. I was confused. This paddle didn't help at all. Then I
figured it out. We weren't given those paddles to increase our
speed; those paddles were to be used to avoid crashing into trees
and limbs that threatened us at every turn. I'm not kidding
either. One man, Johnny Brinkley, actually received a bloody gash
over his eye after being stuck by a low-hanging branch. And you
know what? Johnny was proud of it! Johnny was like a little kid
again. If you don't get any bumps and bruises, you aren't trying
What a ride. There
were five little waterfalls along the way on this 25-minute
adventure. A couple of them weren't that little. I dropped a good
two feet before hitting the water again. Thud!
Furthermore, we were
surrounded by the lush jungle towering overhead. We had a canopy
that rivaled any rain forest. The beauty of the river ride was
unbelievable. I mean, this river was a kick and a half of fun!!
And we had it all to ourselves. Woowee!
Speaking of little
kids, Eileen Kondor and I raced each other down the river like ten
year olds. I cheated at every possible opportunity, deliberately
using my paddle to push Eileen into traps at the side of the river.
And you know what? She loved it. Eileen said she didn't care if
she won; she just enjoyed being a little kid again. Besides, she
said, everybody would know she would beat me easily in fair race.
In fact, Eileen even
had the nerve to "coach" me in the proper technique to lift my
backside as I went over the falls. Oh, please, as if Eileen
actually knew what she was talking about! I swore under my breath
if I heard one more word about her stream-lined behind and her
stupid aerodynamic backside-lifting techniques, she was going in the
water. I would have risked losing the race just for the
satisfaction of putting Ms Know-it-all and her stream-lined behind
in the water. Hey, she had a life vest on. No mercy.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch her. But I wanted to. I was
waiting for her at the end of the trip preparing to tumble her over…
but the guide saw me and waved his finger ‘no-no-no’. Darn it!
Later, I proudly told
Marla of how fast I was in the water. As usual, Marla had
absolutely no respect for my sensational first-place finish. I
think her only comment was, "It must be so satisfying to win a race
when no one else is even trying."
The only thing I
didn't get to do was take the canopy zipline tour. I watched in
agony as people took a long zipline ride 40 feet above the
waterfall. Wow! I wanted to be up there so bad! That would have
been awesome! But time prevented me from giving it a try.
One suggestion: If you
ever decide to go into the falls, bring a waterproof camera along.
Some of the members of our group got some great shots! Hopefully
they will share them with the group.
After all the fun we
had, none of us wanted to leave. I decided to make the long trip
back much more enjoyable by telling dirty jokes. Instantly Marla
reminded me that we had a 14 year old boy, Dylan from Oklahoma,
sitting up in the front seat. I needed to hush up. Immediately
came a voice from the front seat, "Oh, go ahead and tell the joke.
I am not nearly as sheltered as I should be!!"
Locksley, our driver,
nearly ran us off the road from laughing so hard.
The Intrepid Beachcombers:
Vanessa, Marla, Mary,
Andy, Nina, Nancy, Johnny, Sherry, Mike, Jeanne, Thomas, Dee, Rick,
THE SEVEN MILE BEACH
WALK IN THE CAYMANS
When we got to the
Cayman Islands, 18 people joined Marla and me for a walk on the
famous Seven Mile Beach.
years ago, a group of us walked the entire stretch of the beach all
the way back to the ship.
Story of 2009 Seven Mile Beach Walk
was really looking forward to doing this again and I invited people
to join Marla and I on this walk.
This stretch of beach is extraordinarily
beautiful. The sand is pure and the ocean is crystal blue. Due to
the beauty of this long stretch, many resorts have chosen to build
here. Wherever we turned there was a Hyatt, a Ritz Carlton, a
Marriott, a Comfort Inn, or some brand-new luxury hotel in
progress. This beach is the finest collection of expensive
beach-side buildings I have seen outside of Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.
One amusing feature of
the day was the three different cab drivers who argued with us that
walking back to the ship could not be done. I am not making this
up. When we were negotiating our group price at the pier, one woman
distinctly said we were out of our minds. We ended up taking two
different cabs. Kennedy, my cab driver, spent our entire drive to
the end of the beach telling me the walk back couldn't be done.
Marla later told me her cab driver had said the same thing. All
three people independent of each other were convinced that this was
an impossible task.
I didn't argue. After
all, Marla and I had done this exact same walk back in 2009. I knew
darn well it could be done. In fact, I was secretly amused at how
hard my driver was working to put fear into my mind.
I assumed this tactic worked with the
first-timers, but I knew better.
The idea is to take a
cab ride from the ship to the end of the beach, then walk back.
Kennedy had a different agenda. He wanted to line up another cab
fare for later in the day, so he tried to scare me. He showed me
using his odometer that the length was nine miles. I watched the
odometer carefully and believe it was accurate.
Using Google Earth,
I had pegged the walk at 7.5 miles. Either way, I wasn’t afraid. I
already knew it was a long walk. But I also knew it could be done.
We were due
back at the ship at 3 pm.
I had divided our
7.5 mile trip
into five sections each about 1 ½ miles
10 am Cemetery
11 am Public Beach
12 am Villas Galleon
01 pm Meridian
02 pm Royal Palms
03 pm back to the ship
I figured if we could get to the starting point at
Cemetery Beach by 10
am, that would average out to one hour for every 1.5 miles. We met in the Lobby at
8:45, but due to a long wait for the next tender (the ship docked
out in the bay and toot us ashore in a tender boat), we were
Our tender dropped off us at 9:40 am and our taxis got us
to Cemetery Beach at 10:20. We didn’t start our beach walk until
30 minutes late. Hmm.
At 11 am, we took our
first ocean break in front of a condominium known as the
“Anchorage”. Several people had fallen on some nearby slippery
rocks, so we decided to go in the water and cool down a little.
The walk had been
tough going because the loose sand allowed our feet to sink after
each step. The lack of traction is a major problem on beach walks.
Frustrated, several people tried walking on some big flat rocks at
the water’s edge. Bad idea. One person after another slipped and
fell thanks to the water and the algae on the rocks. I was one of
them. Marla slipped as well and bruised herself. Mary Cioffi fell
even harder and skinned her knee. Blood came oozing out. Lots of
Mary noticed that
several people had taken advantage of the stop to go in the water
and cool off a bit. Mary said, "I think I will go in and let the
salt water cleanse the wound."
So Mary walked into
the water and began looking around. The first thing Mary said was,
"Are there any sharks out here?"
I laughed and said
yes, but that I wasn’t worried.
Mary frowned. “Why
aren’t you worried?”
“Because you are the
only person who has anything to worry about!”
"Why is that?" Mary
I replied, "Because
with that bloody knee, you are shark bait. They will eat you first
while the rest of us get the H-L out of the water."
course I was just kidding, but I do think
Mary believed me. She shot up from
the water and quickly returned to the
beach, bloody knee and all.
We passed the Public
Beach, my first check point, at 11:15 am. I was pleased. We were
only 15 minutes behind schedule. It
is probably just as well that I didn't know. I was secretly
worried that Kennedy, the know it all taxi driver, was right.
Maybe this walk was too much.
At Public Beach we were met by Rick and Pattie Barrett. They
had been waiting for us and now joined the walk.
At 11:30, we took our
second water break in front of a condominium known as “Harbour
Heights”. These water breaks were delicious fun, but caused an
unanticipated problem. My wet swimsuit
seemed to cling to my legs. The suit began to rub against the inside
of my thighs when I resumed walking. I didn’t give it any thought
at the time, but by the end of the day my inner
thighs were seriously burned by the constant friction. Ouch.
After cooling off in the water, we started making very
good time. We passed the Ritz-Carlton,
formerly known as the Villas Galleon, at
Noon. I smiled. We had reach
the end of our second leg
right on schedule.
We took our third and
final water break soon after at a place called “Turtle Run” at
12:15. As always, the sea was unbelievably delicious. The water
cooled us down and made us all happy. Other than the sand traction
problem, the walk had been excellent up to this point. Plus it
wasn’t hot at all. I hadn’t noticed, but the sun had remained
behind a cloud cover for most of the morning. That’s when Pattie
Barrett made the mistake of pointing this out to me. Bad move.
Five minutes later the sun popped up and stayed out for the
remainder of the day. I hold Pattie personally responsible.
After that, the walk
was miserable due to the heat. The heat was tough on all of us and
sunburns became a problem as well. I would later receive much
teasing for my two-toned white and red forehead created by the cap I
was wearing. Someone suggested a blue patch on my forehead would
make a perfect American flag for 9-11. Such wit.
Fortunately, it was
almost time for lunch. Marla decided it was time to move on and
make the lunch push. Her move caught me off guard.
I had been lagging behind at the rear like a good
Boy Scout while letting Marla lead the pack. When she made her
move, I panicked. We were pretty
far apart, so I couldn’t yell to get her to hold up. Before I knew
it, everyone was heading off to our lunch destination. I was the
last person out of the water. My problem was that I had taken my
shirt off to briefly go in the water. Now I needed to put it back
on or risk sunburn. This cost me valuable time.
I tried running to
catch up, but suddenly doubled over in pain. My
thighs had been rubbed raw by the wet
swimsuit. They were killing
me! I looked down and saw that my skin was a crimson mess. The
sand on my wet swimsuit had rubbed my upper thighs raw. I could
barely move without screaming! No more running for me. I had no
choice but let everyone walk on ahead which is probably just as
well. From that point on, I developed a highly unflattering walking
style to keep my thighs from touching. I am so grateful no one was
around to notice or to photograph.
I had intended to stop
at a place called the Beach Suites for lunch, but discovered it is really tough to
lead from the rear. Since Marla had no idea of my plans, she and
everyone else walked right past the place. Marla stopped for lunch
further down at the Royal Palms beach restaurant at 12:40.
We were an hour and 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
finally caught up, I wasn’t upset. The Beach Suites would have been
much classier and very private, but the crowded Royal Palms would do
fine. I especially liked this place because it had outdoor showers
for to use to get rid of the aggravating sand. What a relief!
The Royal Palms is a
very popular location with the cruise crowd. Unlike us who taxi
past the Royal Palms and walk back, most people take a taxi directly
there, have a good meal, and take a quick dip in the ocean. We saw
many people from our SSQQ group as they stopped by to say hi.
Lunch was great. It
really hit the spot. The only problem came when we saw the bill.
There was some sort of "exchange rate" tacked on. I never heard of
this tactic before.
Holy smokes! A sandwich with French fries and
a beer was $20!! That was the best soaking I've had since my
infamous $70 gelatto incident back in Rome on our
2008 Cruise to Greece and Italy. Can you imagine paying
$70 for three ice cream cones?
Well, as tourist traps go, the Royal
Palms wasn't far behind. Their little trick had inflated our
expected bill by over $20.
Guess who I saw at the
Royal Palms? Yup, my good friend Kennedy the cab driver walked by.
He was looking for people to take back to the ship in his cab. I
called to him and got up.
A highly whimsical smile crossed his face
when he recognized me. He knew I was grinning for a reason. I
enjoy proving people wrong, but usually don't rub their noses in
However, this guy had been so persistent I didn't feel guilty
calling attention to my presence. He had deliberately discouraged
us hoping to get us to agree to use him to take us back to the ship
at the end of the day.
I asked Kennedy to
pose with me for a picture. His response? "Sure, why not?"
He did indeed pose,
but he didn't look very happy about it.
Kennedy didn't know
it, but he got the last laugh. Most of our people bailed at the
Royal Palms and took a taxi back for the final two miles. I am sure
Kennedy took some of them and made his return
trip money after all.
Meanwhile Marla and I nearly died from
the heat on the final leg of the journey.
I underestimated the
final leg of the journey and so did Marla. I was feeling cocky
because I had expected to reach the Royal Palms at
2 pm and we
got there at 12:40 instead. So I relaxed and allowed myself a
couple of beers. Marla’s mistake was allowing herself to sit
directly under the sun during lunch while the rest of us hid under
We began heading back
to the ship an hour later at 1:40 pm. Out of 18 people, there were
only seven of us left - Andy Bach, Mary 'Shark Bait' Cioffi, Dee
Medina, Pattie and Rick Barrett, plus Marla and myself.
What I did not know was that the five legs were not symmetrical.
The last leg was the longest by far. It was 2 1/2 miles which
was probably one mile longer than the previous four legs.
In other words, I had no extra time and the longest leg came at the
time when I was exhausted and in great pain. The final leg was
went wrong. As she had done all day, Marla took off without letting me
know. She claims she informed me, but I didn’t get the email.
Consequently I was in no man’s land. Where was Marla? Was she in
the restroom? Or did she take off already? I stood there for a
good ten minutes waiting in case she was still the restroom. Then I
made my biggest mistake of the day… I tried running again.
I had changed out of
my wet swimsuit into a clean swimsuit at the Royal Palms. At least
I didn’t have sandpaper ripping my flesh to shreds anymore. But the
previous damage was too extensive. I could not allow my thighs to
touch. So I ran with the grace of a waddling hippo as I tried to
catch up to wherever Marla might be. The lousy traction in the sand
only served to increase my dilemma. I burned a tremendous amount of
I actually did manage
to catch Marla. Unbeknownst to me, Marla was on her last legs too
thanks to getting too much sun at lunch. Neither of us had any
strength left and we still had two miles to go. Fortunately time
was not a factor. As long we kept moving, I
assumed we had enough time.
I noticed the ship wasn't getting closer as fast as I wanted it to.
Now I was starting to worry.
The beach part of our
trip finally ended. Now it was time to make our way to West Bay
Road and walk the sidewalk for the last two miles. This was a tough
stretch. With the sun was bearing down and no shade whatsoever,
walking the hot sidewalk into town while dodging traffic was an
endless ordeal. The ship always loomed in the distance to taunt me
at how much further I still had left. But I had "Kennedy" in the
back of my mind... "it can't be done"... so I wasn't about to quit.
We finally got to the
line waiting for the tender at 2:30 pm. To our dismay, the ordeal
was not over. The line was enormous. We had a 30 minute wait with
that brutal hot sun bearing down on us. We were too weak and too
stupid to go sit in the shade somewhere. Our thinking was the
sooner we could get to a shower and air-conditioning, the better.
So we sat there letting the sun cook us nearly to death. Not smart.
So that's it for me.
I have now walked the entire distance twice. I have proven that a
62 year old man can be do it, so I am fairly sure anyone in fairly
good shape can do it too.
Now there is nothing
left to prove. From here on, “Pleasure” will be my first priority.
The Beach Walk is pure fun.
It is the final leg that everyone
So in the future, I think Marla and I will join the others
in a cab ride back to the ship after lunch at the Royal Palms... assuming we
have any money left after eating there.
I have an apology to
make. Before this cruise started, based on four different odd
situations, I was absolutely convinced something unpleasant
regarding "Piggybackers" was coming down.
It turned out the
rumors were mostly wrong.
Piggybacker is my term for someone who signs up for a cruise with
someone other than Marla and then attempts to participate in
activities with our group members without permission. This
back-door trick is so irritating based on previous experiences that
I suppose I am pretty touchy about the subject.
Here is a
fact that I need to make clear - if you try hard enough, you will
probably find a way to get a cabin for a cheaper price than Marla
can sell it to you. Credit card rebates, frequent flyer discounts,
special Internet bargains... they are everywhere.
"Mom" in our small Mom and Pop organization. There is no way she
can compete with the sales price of the big boys. Marla does the
best she can. She sells the cruise to you for a group discount.
There is no mark-up and you get lots of perks in the process. Her
price is the best she can do, but Marla openly admits even her best
price can be beaten.
makes this situation especially irritating is that the Cruise Lines
are a major part of the problem. Long ago, travel agents used to
book airplane seats. Then the airplane industry found a way to
bypass the travel agents. Did that make airfare any cheaper? Draw
your own conclusion.
cruise lines are trying to do the same thing. Once they get you on
board, they throw all sorts of tempting offers at you designed to
get you to bypass the travel agent and book directly through them.
example, I came back to my room on the fourth night. A flyer titled
“Where Next?” offered to book people’s next cruise while they were
still on board the ship. As an incentive, credits ranging from $50
to $200 in on-board credit were offered. If anyone took Carnival up
on that offer, Marla would never see a cent of it. The ship has
just cut out the middle man and given what might have been “Marla’s
commission” to you instead.
“win” for you, a wash for the ship and a loss for Marla. They don’t
make any extra money because they just handed Marla’s theoretical
commission to you, but they do have another guaranteed booking.
That’s all the ship really cares about.
after you finish the trip, Carnival and RCCL try to remain your best
friend. They regularly offer bargains via direct emails to you that
will probably continue to beat Marla's price.
nothing Marla can do about it. They are trying to cut out the
middle man and Marla is the middle man. If the cruise line wants to
undersell her, they can. That's "The American Way".
only one advantage - your loyalty. We rely on your sense of
decency to sacrifice the $30 discount here or the $25 on-board
credit there so you can be part of our group.
majority of our passengers do this reflexively. Just the fact that
I keep bringing this subject up must feel like an insult to many of
our passengers. They wouldn't dream of playing the ship’s game and
not everyone feels that loyalty. Some of those price breaks are
pretty tempting. That’s why we have to put our foot down. If
people think they can sign up outside the group and still
participate actively with people inside the group, then what
incentive do they have to sign up through Marla?
moment, the problem is under control. Practically every cruise at
least one person shows up who sidestepped Marla, but I think we can
live with that. One of the things that set me off was that a
long-time member of our group actually told Marla to her face he/she
was considering signing up through an Internet spot and coming on
the trip anyway. As it turned out, this person did not follow
through on the threat, but that was one of the four situations that
I was monitoring. At the time, I felt the need to remind people
there is a line drawn in the sand.
was one rumor that did not pan out. Two other rumors did not pan
fourth rumor was correct. Two past SSQQ cruise guests did indeed
show up on this cruise without booking through Marla. But they
willingly kept their distance from the group, so I have no quarrel
with either of them. In fact, I respect them for their behavior.
They are welcome back with us any time they want to rejoin the
the rest of you, I apologize for over-reacting. Sometimes I worry
WORRIED AT SEA
about ‘worry’, my fears about Piggybacking didn’t amount to a can of
beans compared to “Real Worry”.
imagine being in dance class aboard the ship and have one of the
ship's personnel find you to explain there is an emergency phone
what happened to Lynn Brunson. Her son called the ship to tell her
about the raging out-of-control forest fire in Magnolia. Many
nearby homes had already been destroyed. The authorities had just
ordered her son to evacuate. Even worse, he was told to leave all
the horses and animals behind. The animals were completely
Apparently Lynn's friend Linda received similar news as well. I
don't know how either woman held up under this kind of unbearable
stress. I am sure they were worried sick and cursed their utter
news is that the homes of both women were spared. But I am sure the
anxiety they experienced will stay with them for a long time. That
sort of haunting fear doesn’t go away very quickly.
LOVE AND HAPPINESS
Congratulations to John Hunter and Gloria Cabrera. John proposed to
Gloria at sea. They announced their engagement to the group on
Gloria were a late addition to our group. They didn't sign up until
August 9th. You don't suppose John had an idea ahead of
time, do you?
two other engaged couples already on board - Tracy Schweinle and Ed
Akin as well as Karl Rorabacher and Deborah Taylor.
Deborah heard the good news about John and Gloria, she just
sniffed. "Hey, Karl and I were there first. We set the mood!"
huh? I remember back in the old days when Deborah was a sweet,
quiet, gentle soul. Look at her now that she can dance and has a
hunk for a honey.
hate it when those Bridezillas start getting so snippy.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS!
super-proud of my guys on this trip. I noticed many of our men
made a concerted effort to dance with as many ladies as they
the only one who noticed. Marla commented on it. Velma commented
on it and several other women did as well. There was something
special going on here.
problem was that for whatever reason we had a lot more women on
board than men. In situations like this in the past, a lot of women
did a lot sitting. They got plenty of practice twiddling their
thumbs. And yet several ladies commented they danced more on this
trip with fewer men than they did on previous trips with more men.
They kept shaking their heads in amazement. How could that be?
the answer. Without saying a word to each other, all the men took
note of the situation and made a concerted effort to make sure their
"sisters" had a great time.
lady in our group can dance like a pro. On this trip, they danced
anyway because the men stretched to include everyone. I noticed
several men who could just as easily danced exclusively with the
pretty girls go way out of their way to ask the quiet ones to dance
think they did it for the slightest selfish reason. They did it out
of the goodness of their hearts. If I wasn't worried about
embarrassing some people needlessly, I could tell some stories about
a couple guys that impressed me no end.
begin to tell you how much these contributions meant to me. I was
tickled pink to realize that we have a great bunch of guys in our
family. I should know - I watched it happen. I saw one guy after
another reach out to make sure EVERYONE felt included.
Guys. Keep up the good work!
GARELD AND VIRGINIA
of great guys, my buddy Gareld continued to amaze me on this trip.
Despite neck problems that had to hurt, Gareld danced every song
every night with every woman.
Gareld is 83 now. He still dances more than I do! As I lay on the
couch in exhaustion after a couple dances, I would look up and
there's Gareld doing his Energizer Bunny impression. I would sit
and stare in utter amazement at the man's boundless energy. How
does he do it? Whatever Fountain of Youth he’s drinking from, I
wish he would share some of it.
my hero. When I get to be his age, I want to be just as smart and
just as active as Gareld is now. I have had these thoughts now for
a long time. What surprised me is that during the trip on different
occasions men would come and sit down next to me as I watched Gareld
in action. Some of them didn't even know who he was. You know what
"When I am that old, I hope I can do as good as that guy!"
words, they were all thinking the same thing I was - what a blessing
it would be to have our wits, our energy, and our friends with us at
that age. Gareld is a role model for all of us men.
thing I admire Gareld for is his loyalty to his lovely wife
Virginia. Gerald is always at her side with love and with
patience. I cannot begin to explain how profoundly impressed I am
by Gareld's neverending decency.
be tempted to say I admire Gareld more than any guy I know except
for one thing. The guy wears dresses! He doesn’t just wear
dresses; he wears them in public!
Gareld be a man's man if he wears dresses in public? I realize
that this is just my own insecurity speaking. If anything, I should
be more accepting of Gareld's embrace of his fine Scottish
heritage. It bothers me that I can't be a bigger person on this
issue. But, seriously, how can a guy who wears dresses in public be
a "Real Man"?
did not do my hang-ups about what it means to be a man any favors.
When I went to pick up our Group Photograph, I noticed that our
women had posed for a separate group photograph of their own. I
picked up the picture. There were 60 women in stunning formal gowns
all smiling up at the photographer. Naturally I looked first for
Marla to see where she was. To my dismay, lo and behold, there was
Gareld in the very middle of the picture, his Scottish kilt dress in
prominent display with his knobby white knees showing. OMG!
When I saw the picture, at first all my masculinity issues came
rushing to the surface.
And then out of
nowhere I had a sudden thought that made me smile.
This guy was a serious Babe Magnet!! Gareld
had a virtual harem out there. The man had more women than an
There had to be secret. What could it be? Aha. It
had to be the dress. What else could it be?
Perhaps this was the
discovery I had been looking for. I had always wondered where
Gareld got his uncanny popularity with women. Now I had a clue.
That must be it. The secret of Gareld's popularity with women
had to be the dress.
next trip, I think I will wear a dress to Formal Night. Gareld is
my role model. If wearing a dress will make me as popular with
women as he is, then point me
to the nearest "Big Girl" store.
What do you think my best color is?
Red is out. I am too shy. How
about black? That might be right for me. Maybe the dark
colors will disguise the girth a bit.
a dress works for Gareld, surely it will work for me too. I want
women to look at me with the same admiration they show when they
look at Gareld.
grateful to Gareld for showing me the way to become A Better Man.
thing - I better not see any of you other guys trying this.
Gareld and Me. This is my ploy. I thought of it first. No copycats.
THE PUSSYCAT DOLLS
Lathrum got my vote for the man who made an effort to dance with the
most ladies he possibly could. At our late-night dancing, Sam was
the first guy on the floor and the last guy on the floor practically
every night. Nor did he sit down very much. I cannot tell you how
pleased I was to have his help making our Late Night Dancing a
success. So to Sam I give the Gary Richardson award for dancing
with more women after Midnight than I ever thought humanly possible.
who did a great job included Karl, Michael, Joel, Jack, Joseph,
Iqbal, Edward, and of course Gareld. And I must say, even Mr.
Handsome got out there and did a bunch of dancing with several
different ladies. There appears to be more to George than just a
pretty face. George even managed to find romance on this trip!
Wonders never cease. I was happy for him.
about the boys.
Recognition should be extended to the three girls who really kept
this trip smoking.
Fuzzball, Marsharita, and Swag Queen Andy were up to something every
time I turned around. These three women were amazing. Where did
they get their energy?
seems to be a born organizer. At every port, Kristi had a
suggestion where people should go to have a good time. Then she
turned around and led them over there. I am convinced she was the
Pied Piper in a previous lifetime because people followed her
Marsharita was more responsible for the insanity than any other
person imaginable. Once upon a time, we had a legendary
troublemaker named Phyllis Phrog. Phyllis was the best person I
have ever seen for stirring up trouble. I honestly think Marsharita
has caught up to Phyllis. Whether it was the Party Bus, her dinner
table, the dance floor, or the Hot Tub, Marsharita created
delightful mischief wherever she went. I might add Marsha had a
huge smile on her face the entire time. Marsha was a real joy to be
Swag Queen Andy, she was the busiest person of all. Since I am a
"boy", I will confess I don't really "get" the fascination with all
the junk, uh, make that 'treasures' that Andy distributed on a daily
basis, but I did see a lot of people having neverending fun
throughout the week with Andy's cargo of precious trinkets. Her
"Swag" as she called it gave a different twist to the phrase 'Booty
Call'. Aye, surrender the booty, Matey!
hear it for the Three Pussycat Dolls. These three ladies kept
things hoppin' and boppin' all trip long. As for me, I just grabbed
a corner of the Magic Carpet and enjoyed the ride.
Velma and Lisa, also
known as Thelma and Louise, were back as Queen and Princess of the
notorious "What the H-L Gang" on this cruise. The 2011 trip was the
third annual trek for this dynamic duo.
Marla and Thelma and
Louise see eye to eye on everything. Consequently, Marla wanted to
sit at the same table with the WTH Gang. That meant I was sitting
there too. It was quite an experience.
Velma is the Queen
Bee. And yet at the same time, Marla is the Empress. Does that
make me the Emperor? No. Marla informed me I was merely the First
Mate and DJ. Gee, thanks, such an honor.
I was very curious how
these two powerful women would share the power. Actually I didn't
see them clash once. Marla happily deferred to Velma's authority.
Typical me, I tried to speak up, but I didn't get very far. One
night I said that if we were a gang, we should get some gang tats.
I recommended a cobra be our gang symbol. Queen Thelma glared at me
and said I must have them confused with some other sort of a gang.
These were nice people sitting at this table. That shut me up.
The next night I tried again. I asked permission to tell a dirty
joke. It was a good one too, one of my best. Velma replied, "Not at
this table. This table is for respectable people." I didn't ask
again. That was the end of my conversation for the rest of the
trip. Telling dirty jokes at the dinner table is 90% of my
personality. I didn't have a second act to fall back on. Marla
said it was the most pleasant development in ages. She couldn't
thank Queen Thelma enough. I immediately became suspicious. Was
there some kind of pre-trip collusion in operation here?
To my surprise, it
wasn't just me who kept quiet. Most of the members of the WTH Gang
didn't say a word. I have never seen a quieter bunch of people.
Edward didn't say much. Roberta didn't say much. Sam by his own
admission is a quiet sort. Princess Louise didn't say much. Carol
and Jim didn't say much. Susan didn't say much. Marla has never
been much of a dinnertime yapper either. And yet there was always
conversation. How could that be?
Most of the conversation revolved around Queen Thelma and Lobster
Boy Dave's playful banter.
Dave turns beet red
the moment the sun sees him. On our last trip, Dave got so
sunburned that I couldn't even bear to look at him. But obviously
Dave has a higher pain threshold than I do. He got sunburned again
on this trip and called it a "suntan". He said he didn't even
notice the pain. After seeing his impressive belly flop in the YS
Falls, I came to the conclusion that Dave probably doesn't even have
nerve endings. There can be no other explanation.
Dave Johnson is an
extrovert. Velma Thelma is an extrovert. They like to mess with
each other. Dave constantly teeters on the edge of being thrown out
of the Gang for discipline issues. Then the next night Velma
forgives him and Dave is magically re-accepted back into the Gang.
I estimate the two of them entertained the rest of us 80% of the
time. The rest of the time we spent saying "WTH!"
I looked forward to
our cheers. That was practically the only time I was allowed to
and Lobster Boy would get excited about something and Thelma would
deliver a rousing call to action. We would immediately lean forward
and clink glasses while exclaiming "WTH!" Now I would spell out
exactly what WTH means, but then the spam censors would kick in and
half of you wouldn't get this Newsletter at work. So you will just
have to use your imagination.
We became a very tight
knit group. One night they played "That's Amore!" in the dining
room. Princess Louise immediately became happy. This was the song
she had been waiting for. So we all locked arms and swayed to the
music. That was fun. We even appeared to be on beat (however, we
weren't quite as good at doing the Wave; that aspect of our gang
rituals needs work).
And of course we
concluded this classic song with a rousing cheer of "WTH!"
happiness filled the room.
One night on the
elevator, Dylan, the 14 year old unsheltered one, told Marla that
the next time we all shouted "WTH!", he wanted to get in on the
So on the last night,
I went over to his table and pointed Dylan in the direction of our
table. I was going to lead him over there, but Dylan expressed his
independence. He said he could find the table by himself and
refused to let me hold his arm. Well, sure enough, he was right.
Dylan found the table without my help. Once he arrived, I poured
him half a glass of wine. Then I explained to the group that Dylan
had asked to participate in our next toast. So we all grinned and
proceed to let Dylan join us in a rousing exclamation of WTH!
Afterwards, I walked
beside the grinning young man as we went back to his table. I
caught the eye of his bewildered mother. I think I would rather not
know what was going through her mind. Maybe I shouldn't have
written about Dylan. I am sure I will never see his mother (or
Dylan for that matter) on another trip now that she knows I spent
the entire trip trying to corrupt the poor kid. Not only did I get
him drunk and encourage him to use profanity, I really hope he
doesn't remember those jokes.
Actually, I think
Dylan got it right. Our table's fun was infectious. Even though I
couldn't get a word in edgewise, I didn't care. I certainly enjoyed
my time spent in camaraderie with this neat group of people. My
only suggestion would be in the future to alternate "WTH" with
"That's Amore!" on the next trip. As gangs go, these people are
more lovers than fighters.
THAT TERRIBLE LET-DOWN
Once I discovered that
the infamous WTH Gang wasn't nearly as rowdy as I had originally
suspected, I had to rule them out for the coveted "Worst Behaved
Table" award. They are way too well-behaved for me.
Now the pre-cruise
favorite for this award was the Coffee Table... 'Coffee Tea or Me'
was the perfect lead-in for this exceptional collection of proven
misbehavers. This table nearly won the award the year before. If
Mary Cioffi hadn't choked on her cigar, I think they would have won.
So when Jeannie Tobin,
a notorious misbehaver, told me that all that table were missing was
her and that she was signing up for the trip specifically to lead
her table to Misbehavior Glory, I assumed the Coffee Table was a
shoo-in. Boy, was I wrong.
This was the gang that
couldn't shoot straight.
First of all, Mary
Cioffi immediately set me straight that I was forbidden to ever call
her "Coffee" again and that her name was pronounced "Chee-Off-ee".
She added that she had sworn off cigars. I knew right then and
there this table was in trouble. Everyone knows you don't irritate
the judge on the very first night of the trip! That's no way to
win! So that was Coffee down the drain.
Now I thought this
table might still have a chance because Tracy Schweinle was at the
table. Tracy was going to be "Tea"... T for Tracy, get it?
If you catch Tracy in
the right mood, Tracy can be quite the H-Raiser. Nope, not this
trip. Tracy was much too happy being with her honey and fiancé Ed
Akin to cause trouble.
Except for the night
that she rendered poor "Toothless Annie" speechless with her
teasing, Tracy didn't step out of line one single time the whole
trip. Darn it. Tracy and Ed were lost in Amore!
Annie". This trip was her chance to step up. She was supposed to
be "Me" in the Coffee Table slogan. TA was supposed to go up to
some hunk and say, "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" How hard is that to say?
A couple of those lines said the right way and the "Worst Behaved"
Honors would have been a no-brainer. But TA refused to cooperate.
And what about
Jeannie? Jeannie was supposed to be hotter than that a nuclear
reaction, but she was more fizzle than sizzle, more confusion than
fusion. I didn't see Jeannie do anything bad the whole stupid
trip!! If she stepped out of line, she waited till I wasn't
looking. What a let-down.
Don't ask me why, but
I liked this table. I love underdogs and underachievers. I wanted
to give this table every chance to win after their near-loss to the
obnoxious "Fun Table" last year.
Each night I stopped
by to ask for evidence of misbehavior. Every night people would
point at someone and say this or that happened, but not one person
ever confessed this rumor might be true. And then if someone
begrudgingly admitted something "might be true", I asked if there
was any photographic evidence. Everyone would go blank. Oh, gee,
we forgot to take a picture.
Oh, sure, you expect
me to buy that? I knew better. Just like last year, this table was
conflicted about winning. They just couldn't figure out how to pull
the oars in the same direction and Shark Bait refused to set a bad
Oh well, there's
always next year.
SO WHICH TABLE DID
Beats me. Two tables
might deserve the honor, but if they sandbag me I will skip them
I have to see the
pictures. In this day and age of Instant Replay, a decision of this
magnitude cannot be made without a second look. I will get out my
magnifying glass and scrutinize for evil. You never know. There
might have been some misbehavior I missed.
As I write, at this
very instant various individuals are making crucial decisions about
which pictures they will share with the Group at large and which
pictures they prefer to hide from the world.
If they dish, their
team will win. But if they decide to protect their dainty
reputations, then they will let down their teammates. It is all
about team, table and sacrifice.
This is what it boils
down to. You can't win a Misbehavior Contest without evidence of
misbehavior. Do these people want the glory or are they just a
bunch of wimpy Reputation-protecting cowards?
MAD MAD MAD!!!!
Continuing this "cover
your youknowwhat" theme, there are a lot of blackmail threats being
passed around as I write.
When I speak of MAD,
you probably guessed wrong. Actually, no one was mad at anyone on
this trip, at least not that I was aware of. This trip was the
biggest love-in since San Francisco in the hippie era. They were
"Mad" in a much different way than you might expect.
The final day of our
dance cruise is historically a "drinking day". It is the final
chance to cut loose and make a complete fool of one's self. Most of
that drinking generally takes place in the hot tub, that churning
burning cesspool of decadence.
Generally, I stay as
far away from the Hot Tub as humanly possible. I worry that my
presence might have a 'sobering effect' on people in every sense of
You see, I am
everyone's worst nightmare. I hold a major key to their
"reputations". No one can really cut loose if they are worried
some whiff of their naughtiness might hit the Cruise Writeup.
For example, one lady
has been living a life of fear for two years now because a so-called
"friend" of hers told me this particular lady lost her bikini top in
the long, twisty Carnival Water Slide. You have no idea the look of
panic that crossed this woman's face when I first threatened to
publish this story. She immediately BEGGED me not to print the
Oh for heaven's sake,
who cares if someone lost their top on a water slide! It's funny
and it is a little embarrassing, but it doesn't make anyone a bad
person. And it ain't like I've got a photograph. Nevertheless, the
lady was so worried that I decided to omit the story. It's no big
deal, but if she was that worried about it, I would accede to her
wishes. To be honest, I think the lady was more worried about my
'embellishments' than she was about the actual truth.
That little incident
gives us all an insight into the fear that some cruise members have
about being exposed. Some people have jobs and children and
boyfriends/girlfriends back at home. They really would prefer to
fly under the radar.
That doesn't hold for
everybody, by the way. Oddly enough, George Sargent seems
fearless. I have said so many bad things about him dating all the
way back to 2002 that George has developed some sort of immunity to
my threats. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. He says
everyone knows not to believe a word I say and that he doesn't care
anymore. Write anything I want and he will simply deny it. Or
maybe he won't deny it. In fact, George attributes much of his
charm with women to the awful things I say about him. Those women
come up to him to ask what the real story is and pretty soon he has
them feeling sorry for him. That's judo for you... George can take
the worst publicity and use it to his advantage.
So obviously there are
differing opinions about my Cruise Writeup. Some people fear it;
other people couldn't care less. And some people even relish it...
as long as they come out unscathed, of course.
I can tell when people
are being cautious about me. At one time, Anne Wells was the most
cheerful woman on earth whenever she saw me. I was not only her
dance teacher, I was her friend! I don't know what I said about her
or what she heard about me, but one night I teased Anne that I was
going to write a cruise story about her in the Newsletter. A look
of sheer terror crossed her face. She had no idea I was just
yapping. But I hit a nerve. Anne took me seriously. She has never
been the same around me since. Now she gets a haunted look whenever
I come around and moves away the moment she thinks I am not
looking. I am convinced Anne has stories to tell.
Anne is not alone. I
see lots of guarded looks. I just shrug my shoulders. They have a
right to be careful. If it is juicy enough, I will print it. We
once had an incident where two members of our group got smashed out
of their minds. They were so drunk that they actually began to have
highly explicit uh can't print it but youknowwhattheydid on the
elevator at 2 am. Due to the darkness in the Lobby, they couldn't
see out, but the people sitting in the Lobby could see in. From
what I was told, they were Very Entertaining if you like that kind
of stuff. So if I can print that story, I guess people have a right
to be guarded around me.
After all, we all get
carried away sometimes. Don't we?
This was our 21st
Cruise together. This was our 12th Dance Cruise. I
think there exists something known as “Rick’s Rules”. I think at
this point on Day One of the Hot Tub, someone... maybe George, maybe
someone else... pulls all the newcomers aside and gives them a stern
lecture to shut their trap whenever I am around. Whatever they say,
it works. Someone has put fear into these people. I don't get
anything out of anyone anymore.
But we all know what
can overcome that kind of caution. Booze.
Booze works almost as
well as the Bible when it comes to walking into the Valley of
Terror. Maybe even better. I have never seen anything loosen
tongues like booze. They say loose lips sink ships. Well, loose
lips might sink hot tubs too.
Something happened in
the hot tub on the last day of the ship. There was a lot of
drinking. At some point, four gay guys got invited into the hot
tub. I highly suspect Someone from our group invited them in, but I
don't know who. Apparently these four men were hot. In chemical
terms, that made things in the hot tub highly volatile. Things
happened. There were chemical reactions.
Relax, hot tubbers, I
don't have the goods on you. You can breathe now. I have just
printed all I know.
But I will say this -
you owe me. I had the wildest story of my career and I had a source
on the ropes. Like a cop who catches a drunk speeding at night, I
had everyone’s Reputation in my grasp… YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!
It seems on the final
night of the trip, I was scrambling around trying to get the #5
Luggage Tags to as many people as humanly possible. By accident, I
ran across a person who was in a highly intoxicated state of being.
This person had a serious case of Loose Lips.
The first thing out of
their mouth was, "Has anyone said anything about me yet?"
I shook my head.
Nope. Not yet. But I could tell the Veils of Hot Tub Secrecy could
be effortlessly parted. All I had to do was ask an innocent
question or two. This person was in a state of Oblivion. Their
defenses were down. All secrets were there for the taking. One
good prod in the right direction and I could learn anything and
But I blinked. That's
right. I blinked. I was given an opportunity to look down into the
abyss and I chose not to go there. I realized this person was
helpless and that any secrets revealed would be on their conscience
forever. I didn't want to be a part of destroying everyone’s fun,
so I walked away from it. Best story of my career…. Coulda been a
chapter in my book…. But I passed on it. What was I thinking?
My intuition told me
some really weird stuff that happened in that tub! Some people took
a dangerous walk on the wild side. But that is where I stopped. I
had a situation to exploit, but I passed on the chance. Why? I
decided it was none of my business. I guess I am getting old and
I only asked one
question. Were there any photographs taken?
The person pondered
this question. "No, but I don't care if there were."
"Because I have my own
photos. If someone says something or shows a picture of me, heck, I
will bury them with my own pictures! They wouldn't dream of it! It
would be nuclear holocaust. It would mean utter annihilation. No
one dares mess with me!!!"
I smiled. Those were
the exact same words Nikita Khrushchev, Chairman of the Evil Empire,
had used during the Cold War. "We will bury you!" Those were the
days when America and Russia stockpiled enough nuclear weapons to
destroy the entire planet many times over.
The reasoning behind
this belligerent approach was labeled MAD: the doctrine of Mutually
Assured Destruction. Mutual Assured Destruction is the military
strategy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass
destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the
complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of both the attacker
and the defender.
Today, thanks to the
presence of underwater cameras everywhere, the same thing can be
said about incriminating photographs. No, we don't carry guns in
holsters anymore. But we do carry cameras.
Marla exclaimed to me
one night, "You know what? I think I am having fun on this trip!"
Well, what do you know
about that? I was as surprised as she was. Things were going so
well that Marla could actually stop worrying for a change and enjoy
I asked her what was
different. "I don't know. I guess I am dancing more on this trip
than ever before. And everybody is being so nice to me! I can't
begin to tell you how many new friends I made. "
That's Marla for you.
The Marla I know is warm-hearted and conscientious to a fault. But
the world more often sees a frenzied worry-wart who agonizes over
every box of chocolate that wasn't delivered to a cabin like it was
supposed to be. Plus any mention of bad weather drives her into a
panic attack. To this day, Marla still has not recovered from the
damage Hurricane Rita did to her psyche. Considering her peace of
mind is directly related to the weather and to the ability of
Carnival to get every detail perfect, you can understand why Marla
is generally a tormented soul. Such is the life of a woman who
tries to be a perfectionist.
And complaints. Oh,
every complaint is a dagger to her heart. You have no idea how many
people seek Marla out to complain about their roommate or their
cabin. Some people even complain to her about the food. Others
complain about the temperature of the hot tub.
Marla says she has
considered wearing a backpack that says: "I am currently off duty.
Please put your complaint in the backpack."
I told Marla I would
buy her a tee-shirt in Cozumel. When I looked up, Marla had found
one. It said, "Sometimes I wish I was a Missing Person".
I just grinned. When
the complaining reaches a certain point, Marla wishes she had an
invisibility cloak to shroud herself in.
Marla is special
because she cares about what she does. Marla realizes that
organizing these cruises is her way of contributing to something
very important, so she takes her role seriously.
She sees people
getting engaged, she sees people having fun, she sees people growing
closer, and she sees a Group Identity being forged. She sees her
guests put cruise pictures on Facebook and understands that these
trips are special moments in people's lives. Many of these people
deliberately save up all year just so they can spend their vacation
with "The Group". Marla considers that an honor and responds
The downside of caring
too much is that Marla feels responsible for everything.
knows that people get the cabin they pay for, but then her guilt
kicks in and she feels like she has let the person down.
knows that people who sign up at the last minute have to take
whatever roommate is available. Some of these pairings have no
chance of success. But Marla manages to feel guilty anyway.
knows that some dinner tables will not click. After all, there has
to be one "Newcomer" table on each trip. Marla agonizes when she
sees the Newcomers frowning. And so on.
gets worn out. There's just one of her and there are so many things
that can go wrong. I feel bad because one night I contributed to
her misery. One gentleman did not get his bottle of champagne. He
called up our room to inquire. Marla was in the shower. I should
have said she was out and taken a message, but instead I asked her
in the shower what to do. Her response was a resounding round of
To my chagrin, I am
pretty sure the man on the phone overheard her response. It was my
fault for letting him see Marla in an unguarded moment. She
couldn’t believe the complaining had the ability to follow her all
the way into the shower. Was there any sanctuary left?
But you know what? As
soon as she had an opportunity to get her clothes on, Marla made
sure that bottle of champagne got delivered.
That's why I am so
proud of my wife. Marla may take everything too seriously, but her
incredible sense of responsibility is what defines her. Our trips
work like clockwork thanks to Marla. I cannot begin to tell you how
much I admire her. As you can see, I am in awe of her talent and
Let me add that many
of you found a way to express your appreciation to her on this
trip. It was such a relief to actually see Marla smiling on a
cruise for a change.
Thank you, Marla, for another amazing trip. You have brought an
incredible experience to so many people. I think I speak for many
people when I say we are all grateful to you for your hard work and
your big heart.
A TRIP TO REMEMBER
I cannot conclude this
story without pointing out that a lot of people went out of their
way to help make this trip so wonderful. Our trips are no longer a
‘Rick and Marla Presentation’. The days of the two-man show are
over. We may get the headline billing, but our supporting cast is
The leadership came
from all directions. There were Hot Tub leaders, Dinner Table
leaders, Dance Floor leaders, Bar Hopping leaders, and Party Bus
leaders. There were several really important people who I have not
even named. For example, Peggy McElroy did an excellent Party Bus
of her own. Chris Shields didn't even make the trip this year, but
still managed to contribute a safe place for us to park our cars at
Capital One. Richard Greason unselfishly took picture after
picture. Steven Beauchamp fascinated us with his magic tricks and
endless supply of stories. Charley Denton always seemed to be in
the middle of everything, but refused to call attention to himself.
Iqbal Nagji was the same way.
Throughout the trip, I
was struck by the number of people who looked for ways to contribute
and participate without even being asked. Thanks to all these
people, all the newcomers were quickly made to feel welcome. If
anyone felt lonely on this trip, it was their own fault. All they
had to do was show up and one of the many leaders would immediately
try to get them involved.
have never seen a more energetic bee hive in my entire life. You
all made so much honey we may end up I bet Winnie the Pooh is ready
to sign up. Thank you all for making this such a great trip! WTH!