CROSSING THE PACIFIC OCEAN
Written by Rick Archer
IT'S JUST ANOTHER DAY
we spent five consecutive days at sea. To be very honest, it’s all
a blur. I can remember bits and pieces of what transpired, but once
the dark cloud of Day Two had passed, the days at sea were largely
Each day at sea developed a
remarkable "sameness". Due to the odd daylight saving time
situation that gave us an extra hour each day, Marla and I would
wake up and have plenty of time to goof off. Marla would watch
the news while I played computer chess.
Then we head up to the jogging
track for half an hour of exercise. We frequently saw Patty
Harrison and Annie Fletcher up on the track as well.
Then it would be time for a
shower followed by breakfast.
At 10 am we would head upstairs
for a 90 minute dance class.
After dance class came lunch.
After lunch Marla would put on
her swimsuit and visit friends by the pool.
Since I hate the sun, I would
stay in the cabin and read my book. Reading this book was a
true guilty pleasure. My book was Sharpe's Trafalgar.
Richard Sharpe is a fictional
hero in historical action adventures written by Bernard Cornwell.
Cornwell's Sharpe appears in an entire series based on actual
battles fought and won by England during the Napoleonic Era.
It is fun to watch how Sharpe rises through the ranks thanks to his
uncommon valor in each victory. In one book, Sharpe's
Triumph, Sharpe even managed to rescue the famous Arthur
Wellesley, the man who would defeat Napoleon at Waterloo, from
certain death at the Battle of Assaye in India.
This heroic effort was rewarded
with a promotion to the rank of Ensign. Sharpe was now an
Sharpe's Trafalgar dealt
with the famous 1805 naval battle off the coast of southern Spain.
Twenty-seven British ships led by Admiral Nelson defeated
thirty-three French and Spanish ships. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost
twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.
This resounding victory firmly established British supremacy on the
high seas for the next 100 years or so.
So why is reading this book a
'guilty pleasure'? As it turns out, I can only read books at
sea or in the air. I am unable to read a book on land. I was
an avid reader as a boy, but today I am so busy writing articles for
the Newsletter that I have developed a mysterious inability to sit
down and read a book.
Every time I pick up a book, I
think about all the articles I have not written yet or not
completed. I have at least three articles only half-written
and thinking about them drives me crazy! Plus there is that
book about how SSQQ got started that I have one-third written.
I feel so guilty about those unfinished stories that my conscience
only allows me to read when I am on vacation. Oh well.
Dance class was a fun
morning activity for the group. The classes were held
in the Skyway Lounge. This facility was truly
beautiful. It was by far the best dance venue on a
cruise ship since our favorite dance floor on the Rhapsody.
The classes were well attended. We
generally had about 30 people participate.
had five dance classes in all.
The first morning covered
small floor Foxtrot patterns. Then Joe
Lachner asked for Cha Cha, so that was our second
Our third day covered small floor Waltz patterns.
Our fourth day was a review of Waltz and Foxtrot.
Our final day covered Swing patterns.
Here MG, aka Mr. Twinkle Toes, is practicing the
is practicing the lead for the Diva Walk, a Foxtrot pattern
two amusing moments from dance class. The first
story involved MG Anseman. Incidentally, "MG" stands for
Mother Goose, or so he says.
Long ago MG became one of my
favorite instructors back at SSQQ Bissonnet. Starting in the
Nineties, MG taught Western and Whip for us.
MG is a pretty neat guy. As a
former Marine, if you don't know him, at first MG can seem gruff and
foreboding. However, I have always found him to be a warm and quite
My favorite memory of MG took
place during our
Gras 2004 Cruise.
MG, a Louisiana native,
was very familiar with New Orleans. So MG took our
entire band of twenty terrified cruise passengers under his
wing and guided us through the insanity of Mardi Gras all
Thanks to MG's
protection, I felt perfectly safe getting drunk and being a
little out of control. In other words, I enjoyed
myself thoroughly because I didn't feel the need to worry
about my safety. MG was watching out for all of us!
That same year, MG and his
lovely wife Gay were at our wedding ceremony aboard the Rhapsody,
our beloved cruise ship.
Back in the early days of MG's
teaching career, I remember MG was not particularly fond of the
lady's part. So MG relied heavily on the help of Charlene Tees
for Whip and Tracy Schweinle for Western for many years.
Considering how wonderful those ladies are, not a bad idea at all.
One day I
said boys on one side, girls on the other. I noticed that MG was on
the girl’s side and it was no accident either. I
was taken aback; after all, this was the same guy who avoided the
girl's footwork like the plague in earlier years.
So I took special notice.
Was it an accident that MG was over there? Apparently not.
Usually when I spot
men on the
girl's side, these are guys who would linger
over there to flirt, but not MG. He was
practicing the girls’ footwork right along with the rest of the
ladies. I laughed at how hard he was concentrating.
As I later discovered, MG
teaches private lessons over at SSQQ-Jester. Consequently he
has taken a greater interest in learning the "follow" role. He
found it useful to practice the girl's role during my dance class.
However, I wasn't aware of this perfectly sensible goal at the time,
so I was actually rather amused.
Therefore when it came time to demonstrate
and I needed a lady, how could I resist asking MG to be my
partner? Now, mind you, MG is a former Marine. Nor is he even
remotely petite. And let us not forget to point out the mustache.
MG was hardly anyone’s vision of a Waltz diva.
I fully expected MG to flub up and give us all a good laugh… at his
expense of course… but to my surprise MG danced the lady’s part
about as well as any lady could. He
completed a difficult Waltz double turn
and finished under complete control. Now
MG awaited my next lead like a pro. Most
women who are new to dance would not have "waited", but MG had
learned one of the main secrets to 'following'. Good for him!
So I took a
step back and applauded. So did everyone else. MG
beamed at the recognition.
I told the
class that MG had previously stood for ‘Mother Goose’, but today
our beloved Goose had become a lovely
The Diva Walk
class, I was explaining that the Western Waltz moves
around the floor like driving Loop 610 here in Houston
and that Small Floor
Waltz is more akin to Bumper Cars in an amusement park.
On a crowded floor, dance couples collide with alarming frequency!
So the real
game in small floor Waltz is to find ways to avoid all the different couples as
they make random, unexpected moves towards the
same open space that you have your eye on.
explained to the men for their safety to always keep a woman between
himself and the next couple so she can absorb any unexpected contact.
I am not sure if the ladies appreciated my most excellent
I told the men that danger could appear from any direction. As I
did this, I demonstrated by sending Marla out on a Diva
picture). As she
pranced away from the protective custody of my arms, I explained how
easily Marla might end up in the arms of another man if I wasn’t
words turned out to be far too prophetic.
Marla was indeed gobbled up by Mike Davis in the middle of the
move. Mike had noticed I wasn't looking, so he
swooped in from my left side and stole my wife!
Mike didn’t know is that I am blind in my
left eye. Since he came from my left side, I
never saw him coming. All I
knew was that Marla had mysteriously let go of my hand. When I
turned to look, Marla was Waltzing off into the distance with
another man and looking quite pleased with herself.
Mike got me good. I have never
before had a woman stolen from me on the
dance floor, much less my own wife. I am sure the look of
complete shock on my face was a source of
great amusement not just to Marla, but to the entire class.
Mardi Gras 2004
was a kick-ass cruise. We had serious fun!
MG and his wife Gay are down in front on the right.
MG and Gay at our 2004 Wedding Reception aboard the
There's our Swan!
with Carol Batson
dancing the Cha-Cha.
Larry and Megan are joining Carol and MG dancing in front.
Mike and Jan Davis
Take note of
1. For some dumb reason, I have my eyes closed on the Diva Walk
2. Over to the right, Mike Davis spots an opportunity. He dashed
forward to grab my girl in mid-Diva. The nerve of that guy!
Thank you, Marla,
for taking so many great dance pictures!
daily event was 4 pm Trivia. I had promised Joy Al Jazrawhi on the
previous 2011 Virgin Islands Cruise that I would be her teammate on
the next cruise we took together. Always good for my word, I
dutifully showed up for our first round.
turned out, the scores would be cumulative spread
out over all five days at sea. In other words, our numbers
from each day would be added to the total score.
learned that I was in a room with some serious Trivia pros. The
questions I could answer usually turned out to be questions that
everyone could answer. Boo hoo. This wasn’t any fun; I wanted to
know some answers all by myself!
15 or 16 questions each day, 78 total for the five days combined.
Jazrawi, and I did our best to remember some of them. I
have to say, many of the questions were tough. Would you like to
see how you would have fared? No cheating!!
Jan, Joy, Dorothy,
Ted, Russell, and Rick.
I always wear a tux when I play Trivia.
Out of the 78 questions, Jan, Joy and I were
able to remember about a third of them. (Answers
What do you call a
group of hummingbirds?
Where is the
longest unbroken road in the world located?
What is sake made
What was Sherlock
What 2 cities did
the Orient Express connect?
How many lords a
leaping (in the Twelve Days of Christmas)?
is represented by steel?
What were the
family names of Romeo and Juliet?
Since Pluto was
first discovered till it was “de-planeted” in 2006, how
many times has Pluto been around the Sun?
Bonus question: How about Neptune?
Who solved the
Riddle of the Sphinx?
Who was the first
couple ever seen together in bed on TV?
How many players on
a cricket team?
How long can the
goalie hold the ball in soccer before getting rid of it?
chromosomes do men have?
What two South
American countries do NOT touch Brazil?
What is the
southernmost national capital in the world?
What sport outlaws
the use of the left hand?
What country did
the helicopter first fly in?
What country has
the deepest mining hole?
What capital is one
of the oldest inhabited cities in history?
breathless” is the slogan for what product?
He died in 1998.
The epitaph on his headstone reads: "And the Beat Goes
What is the most
popular first name in the world for a boy today?
person has the most statues in the world?
What do you call a group of
We didn’t get this one, but we were
Where is the longest unbroken road
in the world located?
Australia. The road makes a big circle around the
We didn’t get this one
either, but it irritated us no end. Our best player was
Russell. Russell was from Australia and he didn’t think
answer was accurate. He said there were several breaks.
What is sake made of?
Out of all the
questions we did not get, this one aggravated us the
most. Four of us were convinced it was rice, but Ted
from New York was so absolutely sure of himself that our
answer became “plums”. We stopped listening to Ted
What was Sherlock Holmes' address?
Jan Davis got the “221
Baker Street” and Russell added the “B”
What 2 cities did the Orient
I got Istanbul, then
Joy and Jan suggested Paris.
How many lords a leaping (in the
Twelve Days of Christmas)?
This one was all Joy’s
doing. Nice work, Joy to the World!
Which anniversary is represented by
We struck out on this
one. Ted and Dorothy who had been married for 45 years
didn’t know it, so we guessed 46.
What were the family names of Romeo
The whole world got
Since the time Pluto was first discovered till it was
“de-planeted” in 2006,
how many times has Pluto been around the Sun?
We didn’t get this one.
Joy came close. She guessed “1”.
It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the
In fact, it takes so
long for Pluto to orbit that Sun, the dwarf
planet had not
even completed a third of an orbit from when
it was discovered back in February 18th,
1930, till the day it was
de-planeted in 2006.
Neptune was discovered
in September 23, 1846. Neptune takes 164.79 years to
orbit around the Sun.
On July 11, 2011, Neptune
completed its first full orbit around the Sun.
According to our
Earth is ‘the only important planet in
the solar system’ point of view, Neptune is now
officially 1 year
Who solved the Riddle of the
I got this one.
So did everyone else.
Who was the first couple ever seen
together in bed on TV?
If you said Ricky and
Lucy, join the crowd.
How many players on a cricket team?
Russell got this one
How long can the goalie hold the
ball in soccer before getting rid of it?
Thanks to me, we
guessed 10 seconds. Oh well. Close but no cigar.
USA-Canada Result Hinges
on Strange Call
When I looked up the answer to the soccer question,
I found an interesting story.
I was finally able to
answer a question I had been baffled about
for some time…
There was a
bizarre call in the 2012 USA women’s
Olympic soccer semifinals against Canada that made no
sense to me. Without this call, the
USA probably had no chance to come
from behind to grab
an improbable victory.
Now, thanks to
the trivia question, I finally understood what
the heck was going on behind the scenes.
[By the way, if you could care
less about sports or soccer,
feel free to scroll past my sports story.]
Here’s the story of the
U.S.-Canada Soccer Dispute
The U.S. women's soccer team won
one of the most exciting games team history in the Olympic semifinal,
but two highly
controversial calls allowed the United States to tie the game before
Alex Morgan's winning header at the end of overtime.
Morgan's 123rd minute header clinched a 4-3 win for the U.S., which came
back from three separate deficits to fend off an
exceptional Canadian side.
The U.S. benefitted from an unusually rare delay-of-game call in the
80th minute after Norwegian referee Christiana
Pedersen claimed Canada goalie Erin McLoed held the ball for more than
Megan Rapinoe's ensuing free kick from inside the box hit a Canadian
defender, which Pedersen whistled a handball and awarded
the U.S. a penalty kick. Abby Wambach would shoot home the penalty to
tie the game at 3.
Canadian players were furious after the game, triggering Canada's
Melissa Tancredi to say to referee: Pedersen: "I hope you can
sleep tonight when you put on your American jersey."
Six-Second Goalkeeper Rule Proves Baffling to Many
By JEFF Z. KLEIN
NY Times, August 7, 2012
The critical, controversial call
that helped the United States women’s soccer team score the tying goal
in its overtime victory over Canada may not have been wrong, but that
does not mean it was right, either.
Referee Christiana Pedersen’s
ruling that the Canadian goalkeeper had been wasting time, giving an
indirect free kick to the Americans, was one that many veteran players
and coaches say they have never seen, and many described it as baffling.
Following the game, when questioned
at random, perhaps 1 person in a hundred had any idea of this rule.
None of the people questioned had ever seen this happen before.
Even soccer governing bodies advise
using extreme caution when making such a call.
With Canada leading, 3-2, in the
78th minute Monday, Pedersen ruled that Canada’s goalkeeper, Erin
McLeod, held the ball for more than six seconds after making a save. The
ensuing free kick led to a penalty kick in what turned out to be a 4-3
win for the Americans.
The rule in question falls under
Law 12 of FIFA’s Laws of the Game. FIFA’s official interpretation of
that law includes a notation that states “a goalkeeper is not
permitted to keep control of the ball in his hands for more than six
But U.S. Soccer, the English
Football Association and other governing bodies have emphasized to
referees that the rule is discretionary, and is not meant to be called
except for egregious violations.
On the play, according to The New
York Times, McLeod caught a corner kick, fell to the grass, got up after
about four seconds, then punted the ball away 10 or 11 seconds later.
Other accounts of the match had McLeod releasing the ball after about
Either way, Pedersen had already
blown the whistle — too soon, according to some interpretations.
The six-second count is supposed to
begin not from the moment the goalkeeper first gains possession of the
ball, but after she gathers herself, gets up and begins to look for a
teammate to play it to, as U.S. Soccer notes in its advice to referees:
“Infringement of the six-second
rule is sometimes misinterpreted,” the federation noted in its Ask a
Referee online column. “The count starts when the goalkeeper is
preparing to release the ball, not when he or she actually gains
possession. Why? Because very often the goalkeeper has to disentangle
him/herself from other players or move around fallen players, and it
would be unfair to begin the count in such a case.”
But such minute distinctions are
secondary to the overriding principle emphasized to referees: to not
blow the whistle for offenses deemed trifling.
“Technically the goalkeeper must
release the ball within six seconds of having established full control,
which would not count rising from the ground or stopping their run (if
they had to run) to gain the ball,” U.S. Soccer noted. “However,
goalkeepers throughout the world routinely violate the six-second rule
without punishment if the referee is convinced that the goalkeeper is
making a best effort.”
Moreover, U.S. Soccer advised
referees in a 2010 memorandum, “Before penalizing a goalkeeper for
violating this time limit, the referee should warn the goalkeeper about
such actions and then should penalize the violation only if the
goalkeeper continues to waste time or commits a comparable infringement
again later in the match.”
Was McLeod making a best effort?
Pedersen has not said; requests from newspapers and television in her
native Norway to interview her were turned down because she is
prohibited by FIFA from speaking to reporters without the world body’s
Certainly McLeod did hold the ball
for about 12 seconds after gaining possession on two separate occasions,
in both the 58th minute and the 61st. But even in those cases, she
appeared to be making an honest effort to find a player to whom she
could send a pass.
Nevertheless, the Americans’ Abby
Wambach was in Referree Pedersen’s ear, doing what many players do when
their team is losing: audibly counting down the seconds after the
opposing goalkeeper gets hold of the ball to pressure the keeper to give
up the ball, or the referee to make the six-second call.
“I wasn’t yelling; I was just
counting out loud,” Wambach said Tuesday in an interview with Yahoo
Sports. “Probably did it five to seven times.”
In the 78th minute, Wambach said,
she did it again, and this time Pedersen bit.
“I got right next to the referee
and started counting. When I hit 10 seconds, at 10 seconds the ref blew
the whistle,” she said.
Referees usually give warnings
before issuing cautions for time-wasting, but Pedersen seems not to have
done so on the pivotal call.
Canadian goalkeeper McLeod said she
was informally warned by an assistant referee at halftime.
“She said, ‘Don’t delay the play
too much,’ but it wasn’t like a real warning,” McLeod said. McLeod added
that on the critical call, Pedersen told her that “I held the ball for
10 seconds — she obviously counted the time when I was on the ground.”
The National Post of Canada
asked McLeod whether she had indeed held the ball that long.
“Nowhere near,” McLeod said. “I
think the referee was very one-sided. I was stunned when it happened.”
One reason referees do not whistle the six-second rule is because the
penalty is so harsh: an indirect free kick from the spot of the
violation, inside the penalty area. Several hundred games can go by
without an indirect free kick being awarded inside a penalty area.
(Rick’s Note: I suppose this is more information than you need,
but I thought it was interesting. See all the fascinating things you
can learn in Trivia?
I love this story because I learned Abby Wambach had been selling this
ridiculous call to the referee the entire game. Who could imagine her
lobbying effort would pay off at such a crucial time? Of course, I
imagine the Canadians are still furious about being robbed. I can’t
blame them a bit for feeling cheated out of a victory.)
Now back to Trivia Answers...
chromosomes do men have?
46. In humans, each cell normally
contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46.
Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the
same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex
chromosomes, differ between males and females. Females
have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have
one X and one Y chromosome.
We didn’t get this one. Ted and I decided 52 sounded
good. Later it dawned on me that’s the answer for a
deck of cards. Duh.
It didn't help that the team of
doctors next to us started to high five on this
question. They enjoyed making a public display of
What two South
American countries do NOT touch Brazil?
Chile and Ecuador.
so mad I missed this one!
I said “Columbia”
instead of Ecuador.
Nevertheless this was my favorite question. It was
fair, but difficult.
What is the
southernmost national capital in the world?
Wellington, New Zealand.
This question really made me mad. No one else on our
team had a clue, but I was on it!
I narrowed it down to Canberra, Australia, and
Wellington, New Zealand. Then I asked Russell, an
Australian native, which country was further south. He
just stared at me in total confusion. Running out of
time, I guessed Canberra and got it wrong.
I should have been more forgiving. As it turns out, it
was closer than I realized. Wellington is only 100
miles or so further south than Canberra.
What sport outlaws
the use of the left hand?
This rule eliminates one of the greatest dangers of
being hit by an opponent’s mallet.
What country did
the helicopter first fly in?
This question was the start of the
"Russia joke" which became a real source of irritation
I knew the French were involved because they had
‘gyro’ helicopters back in the early days. But I was
positive the answer was Russia due to the
famous Russian inventor Igor Sikorsky. Igor Sikorsky is
considered to be the "father" of helicopters because he
invented the first successful helicopter upon which further
designs were based.
One of aviation's greatest designers, Russian born Igor
Sikorsky began work on helicopters as early as 1910. By
1940, Igor Sikorsky's successful VS-300 had become the model
for all modern single-rotor helicopters.
However, as I discovered, he did not invent or fly the first
one. French inventor Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a
helicopter one kilometer in 1924. Unbelievable.
What country has
the deepest mining hole?
This question also upset me. I knew it was a toss-up
between Russia and South Africa, but I was
convinced the biggest hole on the planet was in Russia.
I was so certain I was right
that I nearly had a heart attack when I learned I was
So I did some research.
The Udachnaya Pipe is a diamond mine in Russia.
It is the ninth deepest mining hole in the
world. Excavation began in 1955
and is over 600 meters
deep. The owners of the mine plan to cease its
operations in 2010 – in favor of underground mining.
Mirny Diamond Mine
in Siberia, Russia
The Mirny Diamond Mine
is 525m deep and has a diameter of 1200m. It is now
abandoned. It was the first, and one of the largest, diamond
Pipes in the USSR. It is the sixth deepest mining
hole in the world. While it was still operational, it would
take two hours for trucks to drive from the top to the
bottom of the mine.
Mine in South Africa
The Kimberley Diamond
Mine (also known as the Big Hole) holds the (disputed) title
of being the largest hand-dug hole in the world. It is the
second deepest mining hole in the world. From 1866
to 1914 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels,
yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds.
Darvaza Gas Crater
In 1971, geologists
discovered a massive underground deposit of natural gas on
this site. Whilst excavating the hole to tap the gas, the
drilling rig collapsed leaving a massive hole. To prevent
poisonous gasses from escaping, the hole was allowed to
burn. It continues to burn to this day and has done so
without ceasing. It is the deepest mining hole in the
Rick’s Note: The “Turkmenistan” crater is the one I
had read about. When it was discovered in 1971, take a
quick guess where Turkmenistan was… it was in Russia.
The upshot of correctly narrowing it down both times to the
first and second answers on both the helicopter and mining
holes and guessing wrong both times drove me nuts.
Unfortunately, both of
my Trivia pals – Joy and Jan – picked up on my frustration
and proceeded to needle me for the entire trip about my
near-misses. Any time a question would be asked and none of
us had a clue on the answer, they would turn to me in unison
and ask if I wanted to guess “Russia” again.
Then they would both grin at each other as if they were the
funniest two girls in the world. Ha ha ha. No one likes a
What capital is one
of the oldest inhabited cities in history?
Damascus. This was one of my few
triumphs, but even here I can’t feel any satisfaction.
I guessed ‘Amman, Jordan’ first. Then Russell asked if
perhaps the answer was Damascus. I agonized and
agonized and finally agreed with Russell. So Russell
gets the credit. The only credit I get is not guessing
'Russia' again after both girls goaded me into saying it.
breathless” is the slogan for what product?
The Debeers Diamond Company
Personally, I don’t think anyone in the room got this
one. Our guess was Tiffany’s, which was definitely on
the right track.
My research shows this "Leave her breathless" DeBeers
tag line was very short-lived.
The idea was the diamond would be so stunning it would
take one’s breath away. But it became a source of scorn
instead. Rather than be a noble gesture, the slogan
conjured up images of "This ought to shut her up!" or
“Diamonds – that’ll keep her quiet for a while.”
DeBeers picked up on this and soon switched to the
slogan that became synonymous with their product: “A
Diamond is Forever”.
He died in 1998.
The epitaph on his headstone reads: "And the Beat Goes
What is the most
popular first name in the world for a boy today?
We got this one right. This answer was actually rather
thought-provoking for me. It made me realize just how
much we Americans assume the world revolves around us.
While we were debating “John” and “Michael” as the
likely choices, Ted suggested “Mohammed”. I immediately
agreed. I just wish I had thought of it, but I was too
locked into my Western mindset.
person has the most statues in the world?
This question was an obvious take-off on the Mohammed
question. Sad to say, none of us had learned our
lesson. We named Jesus.
So I suppose you might be curious
how our team fared. We
did okay. We finished Third out of
ten teams. We were in Fourth place when the final
round started, but a strong finish
propelled us forward one spot. So I guess
Considering how tough the competition was, Third
Place was pretty good. The
team that clobbered us had several
doctors in the group. Those
guys had some answers that
left us in awe. They
were so smart we
secretly suspected they had to be using
the Internet with their phones.
could hear them laughing over one question. ‘What is
the strongest bone in the human body?’ Thanks to
me, we guessed “knee cap”. Wrong. The doctors snickered as
the Emcee called out “jawbone”. This answer was apparently
obvious to them. While the rest of my
team groaned at my
ignorance, the super-team
exchanged high fives.
it turns out, the passengers on this cruise were
an older crowd. In fact this
was the oldest group of
people I have seen since the Panama Canal cruise I took last
year. I believe this was due to two factors.
First, at 11 days, the trip was much longer than usual.
Most working people cannot take off this much time nor allow
their kids to skip so much school. So naturally it is
retired or semi-retired people who fill the majority of the
passenger list. They are the only
ones who have the time to take a two-week Panama Canal
cruise or 11 day Hawaii cruise.
Second, when you factor in air fare, this was an expensive
cruise. That factor alone guaranteed a high percentage of
the passenger list would be professionals.
Who else can afford the price? So the group of players may have been
old, but they were also highly educated. I can attest the overall IQ in this room was very
What irritated me was coming oh so close on so many
questions and always guessing wrong. I counted six toss-up
questions where I should have known the answer or with a
little luck could have guessed right.
Each day I left feeling very
didn’t help one bit that Joy like to rub it in how well her
other trivia teams were doing. Joy said that out of her six
Trivia teams, she got the Gold Medal with the other five.
Hmm. I may not be as smart as I used to be, but I am still
intelligent enough to decipher the implication contained in
Joy’s comment. Nothing like a old-fashioned veiled insult.
Despite the fact that I was clearly a
handicap to my team, I thoroughly enjoyed
the Trivia Challenge.
always do well, but we were never bored.
Chris was the young man from New Hampshire who Emceed our event.
I thought he did a pretty good job.
Here we have Joy to the World proudly displaying her
latest Gold Medal. Check out the size of that grin!!
Joy loved rubbing in how 'her other five teams all won!!'
and that the team I was on 'had disappointed her'. Joy
thoroughly enjoys teasing me, but don't worry, I'll get her
Speaking of not being as smart as I used to be, I have one special
goal now on every cruise trip: don’t forget anything, don’t lose
anything, don’t do anything stupid. Nevertheless, as hard as I try
to avoid them, I still make mistakes. Whoever said that there
is nothing left for old people to learn the hard way obviously never
of the things I learned in the
Russia 2012 Passport debacle is there will
be several moments in every trip where a person
will take their eye off the ball whether
they like it or not. There are too many distractions for it
not to happen.
We are all absent-minded to some extent.
On a daily
basis, Marla and I drive ourselves crazy by putting our glasses down in
an odd place or our car keys or our cell phone in
a random spot. The two of us can spend up to
an hour scouring the house until finally the missing object shows
these same sorts of absent-minded moments can have devastating
consequences on a trip. It is so likely to happen I consider it
inevitable. A person will be so preoccupied or distracted that they
will forget something or misplace something valuable and this
momentary lapse will come back to haunt them.
moment. That is all it takes.
example of what I am talking about took place on the Russia Trip of
Marla and I have a rule: Marla keeps both passports together
on her person. She hands me my passport when I need it and I give
it right back to her when I am done. She then places it in her
handbag in a specific safe place.
Russia Trip, Marla was preoccupied at the first TSA check-in point
here in Houston. When I handed her back my passport, she
accepted it reflexively. Her mind was a million miles away
with her own concerns. Without thinking, she absent-mindedly
put it in a side flap in her suitcase instead of the customary spot
in her purse. The passport was perfectly safe in there, but
she consciously never registered putting it there. Now as the
luggage got moved around, the slender passport slid all the way to
the bottom of the pouch. There was no
suspicious bulge to alert one to its presence. Since the
passport was so thin, from the outside it was no longer obvious to
the eye or to touch.
We did not discover that my passport had disappeared
until the moment we were about to board the second plane for Denmark.
Marla reached in her handbag and grew pale.
It wasn't there. She immediately assumed I had accidentally
kept it, but I distinctly remembered handing it to her.
simply wasn’t enough time to search everything; the plane was
leaving. I was forced to stay behind in the Washington DC airport.
not discover her mistake until she reached the hotel in Denmark.
One simple mistake can have enormous consequences.
think that after being warned by the misery I went through,
anyone on that Russia trip would guard their passport with their
lives. Nope. Our friend Velma also lost her passport on the very
same Russia trip.
a textbook loss of concentration. Velma and
five others went into a ticket office in Copenhagen, Denmark, to buy
a "hop on-hop off" bus ticket.
out her purse for money. She placed her passport on the counter to
her left. As the lady gave her the ticket, one of Velma’s friends
called to her. Velma turned her head to the right and did not
notice her passport laying there on the left as she stuck the ticket into
purse. It wasn’t till 7 hours later that she discovered her
mistake. Poor Velma nearly had a heart
Velma's friends were there to encourage her. They
suggested Velma retrace her steps.
When we returned to the ticket place, we
learned the counter person had immediately discovered the
mistake and placed it safely in a drawer.
When Velma did not
return, the woman transferred the passport to the police station.
So now we headed to the police station
and finally tracked it down there.
Velma was so relieved to finally
get her passport back that she had to sit down just to get her
nerves back in order. A couple vodkas later
and she was finally smiling again.
absent-minded moment. That is all it takes.
these stories again for a simple reason… I do it as a warning.
Everyone needs to be reminded how easy it is to mess up on a trip if
you are not careful.
in mind, at the start of every trip I make a solemn vow to avoid
forgetting things. And not once have I ever succeeded. To my
unending dismay, there are always mistakes no matter how hard I try.
Fortunately, nothing catastrophic happened on this trip to be
concerned about. Just little things.
Include Small Bills
wrote earlier about my taxi cab swindler, my first mistake was
not taking a range of different bills to use for tips. If I had
found a $10 bill available in my wallet, I would have just
handed it to the corrupt taxi cab driver and walked away.
Lesson learned - on my next trip, my wallet
will be stuffed with $1 and $5 dollar bills.
02 Lock the Safe
day I found our safe open in the cabin. Nothing was missing.
I asked Marla
why it was open. She said she left it open because she
thought I was going to use it. Except that I
didn't need to get anything out and had no idea it was even open.
I could very easily have left the room and found out the hard
way that it wasn't locked.
we needed a rule: Open the safe, get what
you need and close it immediately. If someone needs to
reopen it, fine, but don’t leave it open even for a moment.
Otherwise you might forget about it and leave the room with it
03 Link your Valuables
to your Room Key if possible
only true mistake happened at 8 am in the morning. Due to the
six time changes, none of us slept worth a darn the first few
days of this trip. Our sleep cycle was completely disrupted.
Marla and I kept waking up and falling asleep at random times.
One night I woke up at 4 am. I was wide awake with no chance of
falling back asleep. Marla was asleep. I hated to disturb
her. Marla had been having fits sleeping, so I decided the
‘humane’ thing to do was to take some things to amuse me and
leave the room.
my Trafalgar book, my Kindle (computer
chess!), and a jigsaw puzzle to another level where I found an
unoccupied desk. With several hours to kill, I started the
jigsaw puzzle. I was 96% finished at 8 in the morning when a
Celebrity officer tapped me on the shoulder. I swear I nearly
jumped through the ceiling. I was concentrating so hard I had
no idea she was there. She scared the wits out of me. She
informed me I was using her desk. I got the message.
took me two minutes to quickly finish the puzzle while she
stomped her feet. Then I tore up the puzzle and put it back in
the box. In my rush to leave, I left the book and the Kindle
behind. When I talk about unexpected
distractions, this is exactly what I mean. That woman made
me nervous and I began to hurry. I was in such a rush to
leave, I completely forgot my book and Kindle.
Fortunately the woman took pity on me and called out. Otherwise
I would have walked away. That poor Kindle… I left my first
Kindle on the plane at the end of my Dominica 2012 trip. Cost
me $300 to replace it.
much luckier this time, but I could just as easily have lost my
second Kindle as well. Now you know why I get so irritated when
my brain goes to sleep!
04 If the area is
complicated, buy a map! Or bring one with you.
Honolulu has the craziest, most mixed up streets I have ever
encountered. My mistake in Honolulu was not getting a
legitimate street map at my first opportunity.
almost the moment we got in our rental car, both Marla and I had
trouble using the inferior map the rental agency had provided
for us. There was not one single ‘Big Picture’ map of
Honolulu. Nor was there one ‘Big Picture’ map of Oahu. The map
was spread out over eight pages. What they really wanted to do
was force the driver to look at different pages so the
advertising would have more clout. Meanwhile, the maps were so
small that only major streets were listed.
results were ludicrous. We couldn’t find Diamondhead. How can
anyone not find Diamondhead? It’s a giant volcano that can be
seen from practically anywhere in Honolulu, but we still got
made one horrible mistake in the town of Kaneohe that took us 30
miles in the wrong direction. Mind you, this was the SECOND
major mistake we made on the same trip.
so lost that night that I stopped at a gas station to buy a
map. My friend Tom Easley completely agreed. Unfortunately I
couldn’t find a map in English. Then a funny thing happened. I
looked up and saw that Tom was trying to buy a map that was
written in Japanese! Too funny. I probably should not have
stopped him; even a map in Japanese had to be better than the
map we had.
night I was driving a major street in Honolulu and my lane
dead-ended without any warning. There was a huge tree standing
right in the middle of the street. It took me five minutes to
let all the traffic pass by just so I could switch lanes.
worst mistake came when I was trying to figure out how to get on
the highway one evening. I turned left into a large
intersection and hit the brakes. It was
some sort of weird three-way intersection. There were headlights facing
me from two different directions. How
can that be?
Plus there were no lane
markers. I couldn't see where to go.
The bright lights of all these cars made vision
difficult and worst of all, the lane I was headed to had a car
completely panicked. I just hit the brakes before I made a
bigger mistake. Fortunately Marla could see the opening where I
needed to go and told me what to do just before the lights
decided in the future if I am going to be driving in a major
city, I need a good street map.
05 Pay Attention!
one very silly mistake. I have a real fear of being
pick-pocketed or having my wallet fall out of my pocket.
laugh – this happens. I had Gary Richardson’s camera fall out
of my pocket when I was riding in a "Hop On Hop Off" bus in
Barcelona back in 2009. Gee whiz, it just slipped out and no
one saw it happen! Not only did I have to repay Gary, I had to
pay an exorbitant price on the ship to buy another camera to use
for the rest of the trip.
on this trip, my hotel key slipped out of my pocket while I sat
in the hot tub. I am very paranoid about things falling out of
typically carry my money, my credit card, my sea pass, and my
driver’s license in a small plastic water-proof case that I
around my neck.
turned out, I was in the midst of packing for the flight home in
the hotel one morning when Marla said she wanted to go for a
walk on the beach. She handed me the room key which I then
added to the plastic case.
decided I should go to the restroom before the walk began. When
I returned, Marla asked if I was ready. Sure, just let me get
my plastic case. And off we went.
a wonderful lunch on the beach. I had a fruit salad served in a
hollowed-out pineapple. Delicious!
Three pigeons kept us
went to hand the credit card to the waiter, I opened up the
plastic case and gasped.
The money was gone!
I nearly had a heart attack.
credit card, the driver’s license and the room key.
The case was
could have happened? How could anyone remove the money from a
case hanging around my neck? Maybe the case accidentally fell
open and the money had fallen to the ground. But the latch had
been secure. Impossible.
Rick, Think! Then it dawned on
me. Marla had one of these plastic
cases too. She had not used it the entire trip, but I had put
it on table during my re-packing efforts. Obviously I had
picked up the wrong one in the room. Or at least I hoped that
was the explanation.
Marla behind as ‘collateral’ for my bill and raced back to my
hotel room. I ran the entire way, which was not easy because it
was hot on that beach. Then I had to beg someone at the desk
to give me a new room key.
Finally I got in my room. Sure enough, there was the correct
plastic case laying right next to
where I had picked up the wrong case. Good grief.
Marla. Not only did she feel too guilty to order a drink while
she waited for 30 minutes, she didn’t even ask to go to restroom
for fear they would get the wrong idea.
Marla was miserable.
an innocent mistake, but it was also a stupid mistake. When
traveling, it is just so easy to lose one’s concentration.
I have just been
running non-stop for 30 minutes. I am sweaty, my sunglasses are
crooked, and I am beat... but I am also happy. I found my money!
2010 Oslo Cruise, Marla came down with
a terrible case of Norovirus. She was so sick it ruined her day in
Paris and she completely missed the following day at Normandy.
I gather, the virus is transferred by touching an infected surface,
then touching one’s face inadvertently. For example, the virus
might be on a plate or silverware. It could be transmitted via a
handshake. It’s that simple.
developed a habit of NEVER touching my face with my hands. Here we
are three years later and I am still hesitant to allow my hand to
touch my face for any reason unless I have just washed my hands. I
also wash my hands constantly during and after any on-board event
such as a dance class. This habit appears to work. So far I have
taken 11 cruises since without incident.
Considering I know of six people in our group that had stomach
ailments on this trip, a 10% illness rate is unusually high. And
that’s just the people I know about. There could have been more who
didn’t tell me. Did these people have norovirus?
know. But I am suspicious. There was a heavy presence of ship
personnel offering hits from hand sanitizers wherever we went,
perhaps the highest total of personnel I have ever seen. There was
a noticeable army of personnel wiping down random surfaces with
disinfectant all day long. These are the signs of a potential
the strongest indication came when someone lost their supper one
night in the dining room. I was shocked to see a man in a Hazmat
suit come in to clean up the problem. This guy had the white suit
on, a helmet over his face and heavy gloves. He was using some sort
of high tech vacuum cleaner to sanitize the area. I counted five
other people supervising the work.
tables were completely shut down and people moved to other tables.
All table clothes were removed whether they were dirty or not.
To me, it was the extreme degree of caution they went
to that makes me suspicious. Mind you, it
wasn't that big of a mess. In the old days, a simple rag
would have been sufficient to solve the problem.
Not this group - they took this event far too
So I asked
someone on the Celebrity staff if there was a Noro problem. The
woman seemed shocked by my question. She looked like she had seen a
ghost. Then she composed herself and said absolutely not. Where
did I hear that?
Once I saw
how sensitive the woman was on the subject, I decided it was better
to drop the subject. So I did.
not have even mentioned the Noro possibility except that two very
unusual incidents took place that led me to conclude the Celebrity
staff is told not to tell the truth.
rather not name the people involved, so I will simply give them fake
names. The first couple was Adam and Eve. Eve was having fits
trying to get some sleep. So she asked Adam to go wander around the
ship while she tried to sleep. Adam placed the “Do Not Disturb”
sign on the door.
passed. Adam came back once, saw the sign was still there, and left
to find something else to occupy his time. Adam came back a second
time, saw the sign was missing and the door was ajar. Alarmed, Adam
went in the room.
To Adam's surprise, Eve was
still in bed asleep although she awoke as he entered
Eve had no
explanation for the open door. She said she thought she had heard
the door open earlier, but heard no further sound. So she never
bothered to remove the pillow she had over her head for extra
reported the matter to Security. Security got back to Adam and said
they had reviewed security cameras and it had been a room attendant
that had entered, then subsequently backed out of the room after
discovering his mistake. In the process, the attendant had slipped
the ‘do not disturb’ sign under the door to the adjoining room.
ready to drop the issue. He wasn’t at all happy knowing a man had
entered the room while his wife was vulnerable and alone. But since
the explanation seemed harmless enough, he let it be.
that night or maybe the next day, there was a knock on the door.
The room attendant was very upset. He could not understand why Adam
had accused him of entering the room. The attendant said under no
circumstances had he entered the room at any time, much less with a
‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.
apologized for the misunderstanding and tried to calm the man down.
After the attendant left, Adam had the feeling the man had been
telling the truth.
an experiment. He tried slipping his ‘do not disturb’ sign
under his neighbor’s door. No luck. The fit was so tight he
couldn’t do it. This was very suspicious. The idea that the
attendant would even bother to slip this sign under someone else’s
door had seemed absurd to begin with. Now Adam had proof it wasn’t
the distinct feeling someone in Security was telling lies.
or so passed. One night when the ship was docked in Lahaina on the
island of Maui, one of the tender boats got caught in a buoy and was
stuck. Some modern cruise ships are so large that they cannot dock
right up against the pier. The water simply isn’t deep enough, so
the ship puts down anchor about a half mile off shore. For those who
don’t know what a tender is, it is usually one of the ship’s large life
boats that is called into service to ferry passengers back and forth
between the ship and the dock.
turned out, this accident really wasn’t the fault of the driver.
Some yacht had earlier placed the buoy there as a marker for its own
convenience. It was placed in an area officially reserved for
cruise ships and tenders to operate, but that didn’t seem to matter
to the yacht owner.
After the yacht left, the buoy remained behind.
Everyone on the broken
tender suffered greatly. Since the
seas were far too rough to transfer the people to another tender,
these poor people were stuck for over two hours.
It was a warm night without a
breeze. In the hot enclosed downstairs portion of the tender, the
heat became nearly unbearable. Worse, the rocking caused by the
heavy seas upset many people. Widespread nausea was a serious
two hours for a diver to come from the ship to solve the problem.
Clothed in diving gear and a scuba tank, the man swam underwater to
investigate. It wasn’t easy, but eventually he was able to loosen
the knot enough to free the boat’s propellers.
I had been on another tender shortly before this problem developed.
I remember I was so tired and so sick in my stomach from the heavy
waves rocking the ship that I begged for this trip to end soon.
Thankfully the trip concluded before my nausea got worse. So I can
imagine just how much those poor people suffered. Two hours must
have been an eternity.
As I said,
what happened was not the tender’s fault, but tell that to the
people who were stuck in that boat. It was the kind of ordeal
where people don’t laugh about after it is over.
They really took a hit.
However, for one couple, George
and Martha, this unpleasant incident would carry a mysterious silver
George and Martha were one of the couples who had been stuck in the tender.
The next day, something even worse happened... the man’s wallet went
During the day, George was
feeling pretty woozy. He needed to take some medication, so he went
upstairs to get something to drink to help take his pill.
When he got back to the room, George noticed he couldn’t find his
wallet. He couldn’t figure out where it had gotten to.
searched the cabin. Nothing.
became very worried. He remembered how shaky he had been feeling
and how bad he felt until he got the medication in his system
upstairs in the dining area. Surely he didn’t leave his wallet up
there. Or did he? George had been feeling so bad, he couldn’t
remember anything. His mind had been
totally distracted by his weak spell.
He could not remember what he had done with his
raced upstairs to the dining room and searched frantically without
success. His wallet was gone, long gone. It was nowhere to be
It is one
thing to lose something if there is an explanation involved that
makes sense. For example, when I opened my plastic case at the
beach diner and found it empty, I quickly thought of a logical
possible explanation. But in George’s case, he could not imagine
how he had misplaced his wallet. It just didn’t make sense at all.
Yes, he had been out of it, but not THAT OUT OF
IT. This didn't make sense.
after scouring the room again and again and again, George had no
choice but to assume he had absent-mindedly hand carried it to the
dining room, set it down while he got his juice, then left it
behind. But that explanation was not very satisfying. Even if he
was operating on “automatic”, how could he make such a colossal
series of blunders and not notice a thing?
Martha had reappeared in the cabin and she didn’t have any more luck
finding the wallet than George did. Good grief. What was going on
no choice but to call Security. Security turned the room upside
down, but found nothing. Too bad, so sad. If the wallet turned up,
they would let him know.
George at dinner that night. He looked like a zombie.
Maybe worse. George had a
distant, preoccupied look that showed he was still racking his
brains for some sort of a clue. No luck. Poor George was
completely lost and very disheartened. This was a huge blow. I
felt so sorry for him, but I felt helpless. I
could not imagine any avenue to take that
point, George and Martha excused themselves to attend a special
cocktail reception hosted by the ship’s captain. I asked why I
wasn’t invited. Martha explained that the reception was only for
the people stuck in the tender the previous night. It was a sort of
‘please forgive us’ sort of event. I nodded. Too bad they seemed
way too miserable to really enjoy themselves.
When Marla and I awoke the next
morning, Marla had an odd look on her face. I asked her what she was
thinking. Marla said it had just occurred to her that George and
Martha’s cabin was only two doors down from Adam and Eve’s cabin.
Marla was still thinking about that mysterious break-in
while Eve was sleeping.
someone had broken into George’s cabin while he was upstairs taking
immediately texted Martha’s phone with the suggestion to have
Security review any security tapes of the hallway in front of their
hour later, Martha called back. George had his wallet. Nothing was
missing. The ordeal was over.
Here is what happened:
during the Captain’s "Tender Mishap" Reception, Martha was introduced to the man who
had disentangled the tender on the previous night… in other words,
she met "The Hero" of the event.
At the moment,
nowhere to be seen; he was busy drowning his sorrows in three
bourbon and cokes courtesy of the Captain.
With George preoccupied, Martha struck
up a conversation with The
Hero. That is
learned that this same man was head of the Security.
began to tell the
man the story of
George’s missing wallet. While Martha spoke, a very concerned look
crossed the man’s face. As she continued her story, he had already
gotten his phone out of his pocket and contacted two men who
worked for him. The
Hero got all the details from Martha he could, then
excused himself to go meet with these two men.
when Martha and George returned to their cabin, there was a towel on
their bed. When Martha removed the towel, George’s wallet was lying
under it. There was no explanation. Just the wallet.
to ask Martha and George if either of them had
suspected theft like Marla did.
first spoke to them in the dining room on the night of the incident
just before they left for the Reception,
neither one of them brought up the possibility of theft.
Although I imagine they considered the
possibility, neither of them thought that was the likely
explanation. Instead they kept talking about the dining area
On the previous day, perhaps George was so
disoriented that his problems seemed like a better explanation at
the time than the shocking thought of blatant theft.
I probably would have made the same mistake. In 28 previous cruises,
not once have I ever heard of a theft incident.
Not Marla. She nailed it.
born Nancy Drew if there ever was one, was highly suspicious.
I give her a lot of credit for linking the Adam and Eve incident
with the George and Martha incident.
and Martha continued to talk, Marla grew even
more certain that
someone who worked for the ship had entered George’s room while he was upstairs,
found the wallet lying around and taken it.
Marla knew about security cameras based on Adam and Eve’s odd event,
Marla speculated the Hero had ordered his men to review the Security
tapes for the hallway. More than likely, they identified someone
entering the cabin and figured out who it was. They likely
confronted the person and regained George’s wallet. Mind you, this
is just speculation on my part, but it makes sense.
quite a story, isn’t it? But there are still a lot of unanswered
questions. For example, why didn’t they review the tapes earlier in
the day? Did it never dawn on anyone
in Security this might not be a lost
wallet, but rather a stolen wallet?
Why did it
take our Hero to get these people to do their jobs right? And why
wasn’t any explanation offered after the return of the wallet?
the conclusion that Celebrity just didn't want to
talk about it. They quite possibly had a Noro problem and
probably had a thief on its staff as well. But they refused to
treat either situation with candor.
Therefore we will never know the whole
story of George’s missing wallet. However, based on Adam and Eve’s
experience, I am fairly certain Adam and Eve were not told the
truth and I
think it is safe to assume that George and Martha were not told the
I think certain cruise lines
are so paranoid about the slightest bit of bad news creeping out
onto the Internet that they lie almost reflexively. For
example, they definitely don't want any reports of Norovirus on
And maybe they aren't too
thrilled to admit they have a thief on the their staff either.
But on the other hand, no one
likes being treated like a fool.
How do you suppose our friends
felt about these incidents?
They were angry. No one
appreciates being deceived. Is it really so bad to simply tell
them the truth?
In my opinion, Celebrity got
poor marks for customer relations.
I thought they handled the
Check-In process poorly back in San Diego when they denied people
their promised "priority status". Marla and I weren't the only
people shunted aside. There at least a dozen people in the
line nearby who were treated the same way.
I think Celebrity handled the
situation where people were forced to wait on the buses in Ensenada
poorly. Would it have been so difficult to have a
representative enter each bus and explain the problem?
Instead they made those people just sit there confused and uncertain
what was going on.
The Celebrity Security
personnel were very rude to me as I boarded the ship.
The Celebrity Dining Room
manager was worthless and no one will ever know the identity of the
idiot who screwed up Marla's pre-arranged seating assignments.
There is enough evidence to
speculate there was a Noro problem on the ship, but the
passengers were never warned to take extra precautions.
And now we know they lied to
some of our friends about the theft incidents... not once, but on
Not a very impressive
And guess what? I'm not
done yet. Celebrity also conducted the worst dance contest in
THE BIZARRE DANCE CONTEST
There it was in the ship’s list of activities for the
night: Celebrity Dancing with Officers!
was a dance contest modeled on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
except that the officers and the passengers would dance
was bored. And, as they say, idle hands are the devil’s
workshop. If anyone had a legitimate shot to win this dance
contest, I would be right up there. As Marla and I dressed
for dinner, we discussed the contest.
said I had nothing to better to do that
evening, so I had decided to
enter. Marla shrugged her shoulders. If I was going to
enter, she would too.
discussed our mutual chances of winning. We both
agreed I had a far better chance of success because I lead
so well. After all, I have spent the past 35 years
showing men how to use ‘Frame’ and arm-stretch leads to help
women who are total beginners get the feel of patterns they
have never seen before.
am a big guy with big shoulders. Assuming
the lady is willing to be controlled, once I put my arms around
I can physically move her anywhere I want without
hurting her. All she needs to do is relax and trust. To
use an automobile analogy, a beginning-level
lady need only strap on the seat belt and off we go.
Marla, on the other hand, is largely dependent on the skill
level of whichever man she gets stuck with. Marla is not
large enough or strong enough to “back-lead”. In fact, she
is constantly in fear of getting hurt by men who are too
rough. Marla has had more than her fair share of bloodied
feet and rotator cuff pulls from getting
her arm yanked.
the entire night I wondered just
how serious this contest would be. Would it be handled with
class or would it be silly?
I had no way of knowing. I
ran into Chris, the young man who moderated our daily trivia
contest and pumped him with questions. Once I saw how
evasive Chris was, I began to have my suspicions. Something
didn’t seem right.
think six women from our group entered the competition in
addition to Marla. Since I happen to like these women, I
will spare them and not name them.
Only one woman from our group was chosen. Thankfully
Marla was not the woman chosen.
I was very relieved. I really did not want to be competing
against my wife.
From what I gather, the selection process was very fishy.
Marla watched carefully as one of the male officers fished
through the hat of women’s names. This man deliberately
discarded five different names until he apparently found the
name of the woman he was looking for. He immediately
called out her name to take the floor.
This was Marla’s first clue that the contest was in some way
on the other hand had no trouble getting selected. Nor
did Steve Berryman, another member of our group. The
reason why was soon apparent – they needed four men and only
three names were in the hat. Those
were pretty good odds.
knew Steve could dance. He is a tall, slender, good-looking
man roughly the same age as me. I had seen Steve dancing
on the second night of the
Marla and I had gone up in the Skyway Lounge late at night
to await the other dancers from our group for “Late Night
Dancing”. Unfortunately the time changes had devastated
everyone and the whole group had crashed
long ago. The only reason
Marla and I were able to stay up that late was due to a long
nap we both took immediately after supper.
There was band playing music in the Skyway Lounge when we
arrived. They were almost at the end of their performance,
so we immediately got out on the floor and danced some East
Coast Swing. Then we sat down to listen to the music.
this point, a tall man and a tall woman arrived together in
the Lounge. They immediately got out on the floor and
danced very well to the next song. I took notice of the
lady’s tight-fitting long dress and bare shoulders. This
lady had quite a figure. Thanks in part to the tight fit
and the teal coloring of the dress, in the soft light this
lady resembled a mermaid out on the floor.
enjoyed watching the pair dance. I can’t honestly tell you
what dance they were doing, but it was half-merengue, half-bachata
with lots of dips and lunges thrown in for good measure.
they danced together alone on the floor in the lovely
lounge, Marla and I chatted about their unusual style of
dance and how well they danced together.
When the band left, to my surprise, this couple came over to
sit with us. That’s when I recognized them for the first
time as Judith Hutton and Steve
Berryman from our group. I
felt a little embarrassed that I had not recognized them.
But I didn't feel too guilty. After
all, I had met them
only one time previously. I
remembered Judith well. How could I
forget? On the night of our
Pre-Cruise party, Judith had brought a dessert that I craved badly. I was trying with
all my will power not to eat any dessert,
but Judith wasn’t helping
any by telling me how delicious it was.
As they sat and chatted with us, Judith told me she
has been dancing her whole life. She said was a belly
dancer at one point and has taken years of Ballroom dance
lessons. It shows. Judith moves very well out there.
Steve has danced all his life too, but prefers to use his
own style. I think he is a street dancer who invented his
own moves and has honed
them over the years.
Judith said she is
currently trying to get Steve to dance with more discipline
and less ad lib. I think their
dance partnership is a work in
progress. Sometimes I recognize what they are doing,
sometimes I don’t. What I do admire is that Judith handles
practically anything Steve throws at her. Their unusual
style is definitely eye-catching.
Based on what I had seen that night up in
Skyway Lounge, I knew Steve had a
pretty good shot at winning this event as well. I fully
expected to meet him in the Finals.
the selection process for the dance contest continued, there
was a frantic search for one more man.
The rumor first
told to me was that a female officer spotted an
Asian man from Taiwan walking across and grabbed him. She
informed him he was in the contest whether he liked it or
But when I asked Marla if that was true, she said they
were begging a man, any man, to participate.
Out of crowd stepped some guy who
simply said, okay, he would help them out.
course I didn’t know any of this. I was told to wait in a
spot behind the staircase where we couldn’t see or hear
anything that was going on. Although I was unaware of the
farce involved in the selection process, I was getting very
I had an idea how
things should have worked.
The Carnival Magic had
run some sort of contest during our Magic 2012 cruise.
Their operation had a real air of professionalism to it.
First they conducted a ballroom dance lesson. During the
lesson, anyone who showed promise was selected by a member
of the staff to train with them and prepare for an upcoming
event on the last night of the trip.
my opinion, that was the correct way to run the event. This
Celebrity version was disorganized and sloppy.
once the Asian man volunteered, we were ready to go. There were 8
couples consisting of 4 male officers dancing with 4 female
passengers and vice versa.
was paired with Megan from Canada.
Megan said she worked at the front
desk. Megan was shaking like a leaf,
make that a Maple Leaf. Megan confided that
she had never partner danced in her life and that she had
been bullied into doing this. Judging by the glassy look in
her eyes, she was either partially drunk or acting like a
frightened deer in the headlights… or both. She could
barely stand up as we were being introduced.
told Megan to calm down. I told her I was good at leading.
If she would relax and let me guide her, we would do just
fine. Megan didn’t appear to be listening very carefully.
I think she just wanted to get this over with. Hmm. What
did Megan know that I didn’t know? My guard went way up at
the music began. We were told to dance Swing. Megan didn’t
have a clue, but that wasn’t a problem. There is an ancient
dance known here in Houston as “Aggie Jitterbug”. It is a
form of street swing where footwork and timing are not
required, but enthusiasm and cooperation will help
my dismay, Megan proved to be a thrasher. When a woman
doesn’t know what to do, some women just surrender and let
me move them anywhere I wish. That was my best hope.
Other women such as Megan just go in any random direction
they wish and pay no attention to a lead. I was forced to
spend half my energy just to keep
her from flying completely out
of control. It wasn't dancing; it
was wrestling. I am sure it wasn’t pretty. But I smiled
Our next dance was Merengue, a walking dance used to Latin
music. I was frustrated to notice Megan suddenly had
forgotten how to walk. Instead she simply started to wiggle
in place. Someone had said ‘latin’, so she figured all she
had to do was shake shake shake. Good grief.
However, I am a big guy. I somehow got Megan moving by
whispering two magic words: Just walk. By holding her in
my arms and walking sideways, Megan had no choice but
to follow. We ended up doing a creditable job, or at least
I thought so.
wasn’t artistic, but it should have gotten us to the next
round. Maybe Megan would settle down and we could
such luck. There were three judges sitting at a table up on
the stairs overlooking the dance floor. They began to make
dance suggestions ala Bruno, Len, and Carrie Ann. When I
heard their nonsensical comments, I realized for the first
time that this entire event was meant to
be a satire on the real
‘Dancing with the Stars’. The judges couldn’t
care less whether anyone could dance or not.
They were simply trying to make fun of the show.
turned red. I had been tricked. Memories of The Quest
came flooding back in. The Quest was an event of
highly questionable taste seen on every Royal
Caribbean cruise. Back when I participated in 2002, none of
us had the slightest idea the entire event was a sham. It
was billed as a Scavenger Hunt and we frantically tried to
beat the other teams out there with things like combs
(something that has teeth in it), dollar bills (something
with a picture of a President) and beat up socks (something
that has a hole in it).
Once they got people into a frantic stimulus-response mode,
the cherished items started to become more sinister. A
woman’s handbag. Then they wanted a woman’s lipstick. Then
they wanted high heels. Then they wanted a woman’s bra.
Sure enough, we had a woman in our group take off her bra
right before my incredulous eyes.
Then came the big announcement. The winner would be the
first man carrying a handbag, wearing lipstick, walking in
high heels with a woman’s bra strapped around his back.
other words, they wanted a man in drag out on the floor.
This entire event had been a set-up for this punch line.
How ridiculous and repulsive. I was disgusted at myself for
falling for this trick thanks to my competitive streak. I
was so stupid I actually thought our team was winning the
Meanwhile Marla had been warning me the entire time that
something wasn’t right here. It didn’t help to know my
spouse had better instincts than I did.
Tonight as I listened to the judges debate the merits of the
different dancers, I noticed that not one comment was
directed towards me. I assumed this meant the worst. If
they didn’t have anything to say, it meant they were
was correct. We were asked to leave. Ordinarily I would
have felt humiliated, but my memories of “The Quest”
suggested that maybe actually they had done me a big favor
by cutting me loose now. So instead I just got mad. Fooled
Someone handed me a Celebrity tee-shirt for my
participation. Whoopee! I was afraid someone would
see how irritated I felt and take my picture before I could
cool off. So I took the tee-shirt to my cabin and switched
to more comfortable clothes.
When I returned, they were on their third round. Steve and
the Asian man were in the Finals. One lady from our group saw me
and filled me in. She said the round that I had missed was
pretty weird. First they had been told to do a Waltz.
Pretty strange stuff out there passed as a Waltz.
But the wildest part was the Interpretive Dance stage.
People were supposed to imitate certain movements such as a
hen laying an egg. Apparently the way some people moved,
this particular movement resembled something pretty gross.
eyes grew wide. What a farce. They were just trying to
embarrass people for laughs. I didn't
realize it at the time, but they had done me a favor.
Thank goodness I had been thrown out early in the
process while I still had my
Now they were down to two couples… Steve and a young, pretty
Latin girl who also worked at the Front Desk plus Frank and
a thirty-something female officer from Germany. The odds
were clearly in Steve’s favor. The lady beside me (not
Marla) continued to fill in the blanks. She said that Steve
was a natural showboat who knew how to play to the crowd.
Steve did not mind a bit doing whatever unusual thing was
expected of him and consequently had the whole place on his
the music began. It was Celine Dion’s “My Heart Must Go On”
from Titanic. The judges announced they wanted interpretive
dancing from the Titanic.
laughed out loud when Steve pulled the Latin girl up to his
waist and had her straddle him. He was cleverly playing on
the scene where Kate Winslett hangs out from the ship’s
rail. Steve twirled around and around. As far as I was
concerned, the contest was over.
Then my eyes drifted to the Asian man and the German girl. What in
the world were they doing??
The Asian man
got a piece of the velvet rope being used to section
off the dance floor and somehow wrapped the German girl up
in it. I can’t be sure, but I think he was trying to
simulate pulling his partner out of the waters around the
ship wreck. Somehow this rope got wrapped around this
woman’s neck. At this point, the German girl lost her
balance and flopped down on the floor. Frank dragged her
around. It began to resemble some macabre bondage
saw a point where Steve looked up and noticed that a grown
woman in a dress and heels no less was being dragged on her
back across the floor with a rope around her neck. Steve
looked so incredulous that he actually seem to stop dancing
for a moment and began to watch instead. Who could blame
him? It was a sight to behold. Then Steve suddenly
remembered he was supposed to be a contestant, so he started
Somehow the German girl lost the rope. Now she began to
improvise. The German girl began to claw at
her partner’s leg
like a drowned rat looking for anything to cling to. Once
she grabbed his leg, she began to writhe and flop around on
the floor like a beached whale. It wasn’t pretty. The
woman resembled a forlorn love-struck woman begging
her lover not to leave her.
was aghast. This was a ship’s officer. A ship’s OFFICER.
What was she thinking? I actually wondered if there could
be repercussions. Yes, it doesn’t hurt to be crazy now and
then, but not in public. What kind of career advancement
could possibly follow this undignified display?
This woman was allowing herself to be dragged on the floor
with a rope around her neck. She was alternately flopping
around like a fish out of water and then she was groveling
and begging to be saved. The idea of course was that she wanted to be
pulled from the icy waters of the Atlantic, but in the bright
lights I doubt anyone was in touch with that imagery. To my
eyes, this woman was desperately grabbing at some strange
man’s leg like he was her last romantic hope in the entire world.
People were definitely laughing their heads off, but I
didn’t think it was funny. I saw it differently. This
could have been me out there. I would never stoop this
low. At some point, a person has to draw a line. Did this
woman not realize how utterly humiliating this was? Did
she forget that cameras were flashing with evidence that
could follow her around for the rest of her life? Her only
hope is that no one will ever attach her name to one of the
many photos or her Google signature will be ruined for
the end, the crowd was asked to decide who won. They
overwhelmingly voted for Frank and Brunnhilde. If the
contest was judged on the merits of dance as it should have
been, then Steve was the hands down winner.
But if the criteria was skewed to include who put on the
most bizarre show imaginable, then I suppose the correct
couple won. As they say, it was a “Night to Remember”.
ever forget The Quest? This is a highly questionable activity
Caribbean that unfortunately continues to this day because
it is very popular.
tell by this picture, but the Asian man had wrapped a piece
of rope around the woman's neck to demonstrate how
he was saving her during the Titanic sinking
This was a
fairly ridiculous ending to a strange event.
imagine a grown woman in a short dress writhing and groping on
the floor? Of course not, but this picture tells the