WE DIDN'T JUST SET A NEW RECORD, WE OBLITERATED THE OLD ONE.
The 2003 SSQQ Summer Cruise was a success in one important way before anyone even got on board the ship. Our final number was phenomenal - 144 passengers!
Our previous best of 101 was impressive, so imagine how I felt about 144!
Actually the number could easily have climbed above 160. Two and a half weeks before our departure date, the internal cruise alarm clock began to ring for a vast number of people. At this point I had Lorraine Cull, her son and a friend, Amanda Keeler, Pat Davenport, Wayne
Oliphant, Kevin Lee, Michelle Spiris, Carol Lane, Marva Funderburk, Mary
Cioffi, and David Bobo ready to rumble and other tentative inquiries as well. Unfortunately at that exact moment the last room was sold.
I was crushed to leave so many people at the dock, but there wasn't much I could do about it. C'est la vie. I hope all of them will join us next year and perhaps make up their minds just a tad sooner.
PRE-CRUISE MEETING ON SUNDAY, JUNE 29
We had a pre-cruise meeting on Sunday at the studio. I have never given a talk before in front of a group this large!! You simply cannot visualize speaking to this many people until you see them in front of you. Then the enormity sinks in.
When we originally planned the trip, Marla Gorzynski and I decided she would handle the business details before the trip and I would handle the entertainment once on board. So at the meeting Marla spoke first. She talked about bringing birth certificates, passports, etc and how the parking lot/luggage system worked. Then Marla mentioned Aisha Currie and James Bowling had secured a bus which actually cost less than parking down in Galveston.
This led to my favorite moment of the meeting. Aisha Currie was asked to discuss how many openings were left on the shuttle and how people could participate. Aisha said a couple words, then reminded everyone that James Bowling had done much of the work. She asked him to stand up and make an announcement, but before he even had a chance to respond she added, "Oh, James, you already are standing up!"
James is 5' 8" and not particularly short in my book, but Aisha obviously loves to make him miserable. Why he keeps her around is a mystery since women flock to James like bees to honey. In fact, there are a lot of mysteries about James. More about that later.
Now it was my turn to talk. We discussed the dancing on the trip and a snorkel adventure in Chankanaab National Park. The question and answer session went without a hitch until one woman asked me how to spell
"Chankanaab". Thanks a lot, lady. I was forced to admit I didn't have a clue.
In four short days the trip would start.
THURSDAY, JULY 3 - DAY ONE
My friends Gary and Betty Richardson came by the house to carpool with Marla, Sam and me on the drive down to the ship. Although it wasn't that big a deal we did this because two men working the luggage makes everything go more smoothly. One of the beauties of the cruise is the ease of getting to the ship. In 1998 the studio took a cruise out of New Orleans. Eliminating the extra time, hassle and expense (two way air fare, two cab fares, and lots of extra lugging the luggage around) has made the Galveston trip far more attractive. Now you simply drive the car down, drop your luggage off, park two blocks away in an ultra-safe lot (secure fence and guards everywhere), take the shuttle and boom, job done.
At the Pre-Cruise Party, there had been an odd development when Ronnie Freshour's ticket was nowhere to be found. Marilyn Grogan, our travel agent, had carefully checked everyone's ticket and swore that ticket was originally in there with all the rest. Marla and I were at a loss to explain its disappearance. Fortunately Ronnie was able to simply pick his new ticket up at the Sign-In Desk so he wasn't inconvenienced in any way.
As I stood in line, I thought some more about that Ronnie and his missing ticket. There was no way that ticket could be of any use to the wrong person. In these days of post 9/11, security is very tight. They demand a passport or a birth certificate and a photo ID such as a driver's license. Even if someone stole a ticket and somehow managed to get access to forged documents good enough to get them past the Sign-In Desk, there would still be some huge obstacles.
For example, what would Ronnie's roommate say if a stranger walked in the cabin with a key? Do you think she would notice?? And what would happen when Ronnie showed up in his cabin only to find Goldilocks sleeping in the wrong bed? Wouldn't he wonder who was sharing the cabin with his friend Mary? Ménage a trois s'il vous plait?
I never did quite figure out the mystery of the missing document, but I did figure out that my paranoia about losing that ticket had been a waste of energy. That ticket would do the wrong person no good at all.
There were other concerns at the Sign-In Desk. Last year two people - Aisha Currie and Bill Wibker - were unable to join us for the trip. Aisha's mother had gotten sick and Bill had some emergency heart surgery the day before leaving!! In the previous two ssqq summer cruises, we had never had an absence. So at the time, I thought this missing person stuff was an aberration not to be repeated.
Unfortunately it was even worse this year - three people who signed up were unable to make the trip!
Hu, Melissa Gauthier and Randy Winfrey all missed joining us.
Beryl, one of my favorite West Coast Swing students, was not allowed on board. A citizen of China, she has to get her visa or student paper's or something updated on a yearly basis. As her friend Ed Cieszkiewicz explained to me, Beryl's papers were in order, but they were also "in the mail". When she signed up for the cruise three weeks ahead of the sail date, she was gambling that the papers would arrive in time, but alas they didn't and she lost the bet. Ed was terribly disappointed. I didn't understand the situation well enough to offer anything but my sympathy. He was pretty low at that point; I know that much from the look on his face.
Randy Winfrey and Melissa Gauthier were unable to join us as well. This was a shame because they are two of my favorite people!! When I got back I emailed Melissa to ask what happened:
I became very sick with some kind of stomach flu/virus that landed me in the ER at 7:15 AM the day we were to set sail. Despite the medications and fluids given by IV I still was in no shape to go anywhere. Randy was a Godsend for me. He took such wonderful care of me--he said he didn't feel right leaving me when I was so sick. Sure hope everyone had a good time. I was thinking about you all.
I am back on the road to recovery and will resume work and dancing soon!
Thanks for the thought!
Melissa (and Randy)"
Five days after the trip and Melissa still hadn't recovered completely!!
Gracious. What a shame. She and Randy had been popular members of the 2002 Rhapsody. Randy had organized a terrific snorkel trip in Caymen last year and this year I was counting on him to help me organize the Chankanaab event. I hated not having them with us!
I suppose statistically-speaking when you have this many people sign up, something unexpected is bound to happen to a few people. That's life. In the future we may encourage more people to take out the optional "trip insurance" with this problem in mind.
One new development at the Sign-In desk was a SARS document we had to sign saying we hadn't gone near Hong Kong, Toronto, Singapore or China in the last twelve days. As if anyone determined to get on the boat would be stupid enough to admit it… "Oh, yeah, (cough cough cough), I just got back!!"
My daughter Sam said they just wanted to be sure they had a good law suit in case everyone got sick.
The kid is almost certain to become a lawyer with instincts like that. She
scares me sometimes...
ON BOARD AT THE LIDO DECK CAFÉ
The sign-in line moved very quickly in my opinion. Maybe there is something to getting there early (12:30 pm). We got on board and found our cabins. Then the five of us - Gary Betty Sam Marla Me - went for lunch at the Lido Deck Café. This is when I got my first inkling that all was not right with this ship.
Normally I am not a fussy eater, but I found the food way below par. If I hadn't been so hungry I would have passed. This bothered me because up til now the commonly-accepted notion was that Carnival's food was better than its Galveston competition Royal Caribbean. However this particular venue did nothing to support that notion.
In addition, not only was the food mediocre, but this had to be the ugliest cruise ship dining room I have ever seen. My brow furrowed as I processed this first piece of negative information. Last year's equivalent of the Lido Deck Café was the Windjammer aboard the Rhapsody. The Windjammer dining room was at the front of the ship with gorgeous spotless windows windows windows everywhere perfect to view the ocean! And there were trees, flowers, beautiful furniture, spaciousness, air-conditioning and great food, plus a smiling courteous upbeat staff drawn from every country on earth anxious to engage each person in conversation whenever the passenger so wished!
Last year Gary Richardson loved the Windjammer so much he spent four hours a day in the place taking pictures and talking to any ssqq cruiser who passed through. Gary loved to chat and the Windjammer was a marvelous social area on the ship.
In contrast, this year's Lido Deck Café was dark and crowded with bad food, dirty windows, courteous but unanimated staff. There was barely enough room to slide chairs without hitting the person behind you. I doubt Gary ever went back. Last year Gary got many compliments on the pictures he took, but the Lido Café was such a depressing facility, Gary had a real handicap to overcome. I felt sorry for him.
After lunch came the mandatory life boat drill. Ho hum. Too much excitement. Back to the cabin for rest.
THE FIRST NIGHT COCKTAIL PARTY
Due to the immense size of our group, we qualified for "Group Amenities". Carnival was nice enough to provide an open bar cocktail party in the disco complete with hors
As you would expect, the party was very well attended. The food was much appreciated and the drinks flowed liberally. I alternated western and swing on the boom box. After about 15 minutes, the dancing started to click. By the time the party was over, many people had been partner dancing for a solid 45 minutes.
I met about 20 people in a row for the first time ever. Generally I take great pride in my ability to learn people's names, but I simply could not seem to hang on to all these new names at once. Two new names, sure, five new names, maybe, but twenty new names? No way.
This would come back to haunt me because now I was embarrassed to have to ask these people their names again as I would encounter them. So I talked to them as if we had known each other all their lives for the next few days. But then came time to identify each person in our group picture. What a pathetic mess that was!! I will probably be publishing corrections to people's names for the next month.
Other than my personal mistake, the group as a whole had a blast. People commented to Marla all night long at how much fun the party had been. This party helped get the trip off to a terrific start.
DINNER TIME DAY ONE
Right after the party was over, it was time for dinner. Thanks to all the hors
d'oeurves, many of us were no longer hungry. Oh well.
I was shocked to discover our group took up over half of the dining room. We had been told our group made up over 10% of the passengers. Maybe so, but here at dinner time the ssqq cruise battalion literally took up the entire center of the room. Like America stretching from sea to shining sea, it seemed like we went all the way from port to starboard. I was in awe of the size of our group. I believe it took 17 tables to seat us all.
The maitre d' was very warm and very cooperative. He agreed to permit open seating with a smile. Last year on the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody, the maitre d' was extremely inflexible on this issue, claiming it would hurt the tips for his waiters. Well, his attitude definitely his tip, that I can vouch for. We had none of that this year - after the first night, anyone could sit with anyone they wished to as long as they stayed within the group's assigned tables. This point went to Carnival.
As the days progressed, our group would come to dominate the entire ship. We were The Dance Group. More about this later, but there was a curious incident related to the dining room. On the third night, the maitre d' approached me about a problem - two women were asking him permission to sit with our group along with their 4 other girlfriends because they heard there was open seating and they wanted to sit with us.
I was asked by the maitre d' to talk to the women. He actually gave me permission to allow them to sit with us if I wished. But this was a no-brainer. I explained to a rather pushy woman that if these women joined us, then 6 members of our group would be forced to sit elsewhere in the room. And I didn't explain this to her, but I was fairly certain the female members of our group would not have been pleased with this development either. In other words, not a good idea.
As odd as the request was, it served to underscore the immense charisma our group carried throughout the voyage. Passengers lined up to watch our dancing whenever they could. If the ship had had any sort of facility to accommodate us, I imagine we could have had the whole ship dancing with our group.
THE TERRACE LOUNGE
Later that night around 11 pm, the group was ready to dance again.
Originally the Social Director had assigned us an outside pool area at the back of the ship known as the Lido Deck for our late-night dancing. I took a quick look at this possibility. As I climbed the stairs, I was amazed at how badly the railing shook. I have never been on a boat with more constant vibration than the Jubilee, but now the shaking was so strong I could barely hold the rail.
Once I open the door, the wind was so strong it almost knocked me down. A sign on the door warned, "Do not open during High Winds". How was I supposed to know there were high winds unless I opened the door in the first place??
Then I took a look at the gaps between the wood planks to allow drainage. Any woman in heels would be unable to dance. The alternative wasn't any better - ever tried to double turn in tennis shoes? Nor would our boom box have been strong enough to put out music that could overcome that wind. The Lido Deck was not a very good idea.
So then we turned to the Terrace Lounge. It had a sticky dance floor about half the size of our studio's Room 2. Nevertheless it was our best bet. Unfortunately we quickly discovered a huge problem - the air-conditioner in this room was broken.
Quickly our shirts became soaked with sweat. Oh so attractive. This was my second inkling that all was not right with this ship.
Then came my third inkling - I have never been on a boat that swayed more in my life. Right in the middle of a dance move I would suddenly completely lose my balance and stumble frantically to avoid falling. Normally I go months between accidents where I step on feet or vice versa. I had more accidents this first night than I have all year. The rocking of the ship caused many dancers' feet to be where they weren't supposed to be. Oops. Sorry about that.
What kind of ship was this anyway??
Nevertheless the dancers were a happy bunch. Marla and I tired out after about an hour. Gary had found a way to play music off his laptop computer into my boom box so he was familiar with the system. He volunteered to stay while I went to bed. Later I found they were up till 1:30 am. The next morning Gary said he had never been so hot in his entire life. The heat was ridiculous, but the dancers stuck with it… and I guess to each other as well.
THE STRAY CAT STRUT!!
Another problem was The Stray Cat. Our women were well aware of the serious imbalance in the boy-girl ratio of our group. It was about 3 women to every 2 men. On the surface that ratio doesn't seem all that bad. The men said they didn't mind a bit. Turn the tables and watch them change their tune! When you do the math this added up to something like 90 women to 60 men. Pathetic. Many people complained to Marla and I about the imbalance before the start of the trip, but they failed to understand that balancing a cruise isn't the same as balancing a dance class - I am sure if Carnival cooperated, we could have gotten plenty of "Cruise Volunteers" willing to sail for free.
Let's face it - women have always shown more interest in cruise vacations than men. Despite the understandable requests for Marla and I to balance the ratio, no one managed to explain how this miracle could actually be accomplished.
Lucy and Dolores Howard decided to do something about the ratio problem. They met a nice young man during Sign-In and invited him to our cocktail party. Unfortunately he was drunk when he showed up. The free booze at the party just made his condition worse.
Since there were more women than men, at any given time there were a dozen
women sitting as they watch the dancing. Apparently our young man
decided to help them with their loneliness - as Lucy explained where Mr.
Stray Cat had come from, I personally watched as he systematically worked
his way down the row hitting on every woman unsuspecting enough to pay attention to him.
Dolores and Lucy watched in horror as the obnoxious guest made a pest of himself. Finally their friend Nancy
Schweinle decided she had had enough. Nancy went over to him and told him to get lost, sober up, and definitely take a bath before he showed up again.
The women were so proud of Nancy!! They were all high-fiving her. Good riddance.
Unfortunately later that night around 11:30 pm Mr. Stray Cat showed up at the Terrace
looking for more action. Just as he walked in, Gary Richardson played a slow song. Marla and I watched in
morbid fascination as our inebriated Romeo sauntered over to a lady who was new to the group
and therefore sitting alone on the edge of the group. Sure enough he asked her to dance. Assuming this man was part of our group, the woman unsuspectingly accepted.
The moment they got on the floor Marla showed me a psychic ability I had
not seen in her before. Like a Greek oracle, Marla predicted a Strut
hand would reach her butt about halfway through the song. Halfway through the song, Marla was proven correct.
How Marla could anticipate something like was amazing to me!!
I thought about saying something, but decided it was not my place to play daddy to a 40 year old woman.
I figured my intervention would embarrass her more than help. Instead I decided I had had enough
so I called it a night on that note.
Beware the dangers of picking up stray cats.
DAY TWO AT SEA - THE FOURTH OF JULY
Salsa Rueda is an interesting dance which is combination of Salsa and Square Dancing. Rueda is the Spanish word for "Circle". All the couples form a Circle around the floor.
Salsa Rueda is originated in Miami. The patterns are strictly Salsa, but it includes two features reminiscent of Square Dancing. As in Square Dancing there is a "Caller" who indicates which Salsa pattern the group will dance next and there is frequent partner switching reminiscent of Square Dancing as well.
There was a brief clip of Rueda in the Salsa movie "Dance With
Me" a couple years back. I also discovered some information about Rueda that I posted on the ssqq web site to help guide me. But most of what I learned came from a video I ordered back in 1999. I discovered the lady who made the video would soon be in Houston to visit her relatives. While she was in Houston I invited her to teach a Saturday morning workshop to the ssqq staff which helped quite a bit. (to read a more extensive write-up about Salsa Rueda, click here:
Unfortunately interest in Rueda never really caught on in Houston. One problem I soon discovered was that Miami-style Rueda was too complicated for casual dancers. One problem was the "Weakest Link" - if you had too many people who were weak dancers, the flow of the Rueda constantly broke down due to their mistakes. Furthermore the frequent partner switches and sudden pattern changes resulted in too much confusion. One night in my workshop, something went badly wrong. After one particular partner change, somehow half the men turned the wrong way and accidentally ended dancing with the other men while the girls fumed at the confusion. In retrospect it was pretty funny to recall the look on everyone's face, but at the time the group frustration was intense to put it mildly.
That was the last straw so I decided to simplify things by developing "Gringo Rueda". Now we simply memorized a set pattern and then performed it. This eliminated the stress of having to ad lib throughout the song. My system worked much better for beginners, but I can understand how the less-structured Caller-dependent form of the dance would be far more fluid. Nevertheless my move saved the day.
On the ssqq summer cruise two years ago, I decided to try teaching Rueda to our group using the Gringo method. They loved it!! Not only was the dancing fun, it was the perfect mixer because all the men automatically got to dance with all the women wearing shorts or bathing suits with Hawaiian-style wraparounds. Suddenly this dance got VERY popular.
Last year we tried using Swing again, but it wasn't nearly as much fun as the Salsa had been so this year I switched back. On board the ship, we met at the Terrace Lounge that morning.
My first problem was fielding complaints from newcomers who realized for the first time that there was little or no air conditioning in this room.
My second problem is there were 12 more women than men in a dance that absolutely requires an even number for the partner switching to work. Oh boy!! Or should I say "Oh Girl"?
The third problem was the floor was pitifully inadequate to hold our group which numbered close to a hundred people. The day before I had asked the Carnival Social Director on board to give us the stage where the shows are conducted at night, but she politely informed me some other dance group had already reserved it so tough luck. I never did find out who the other dance group was. Anybody know??
So now we were stuck in this inadequate, un-air-conditioned room with a hundred people and a boy-girl ratio from hell. Panic??
No. I had already figured it out. First I asked the experienced lady dancers in the group to switch over and dance the boy's part or the "Lead" part as it is technically called. That solved the ratio problem nicely and also opened things up for a lot of my stupid jokes.
Next I noticed this large room actually had a design that would work. It was set up with seating and a stage with the dance floor in the middle. I simply had the group spread out and fill the aisles. Our far-flung group literally took up every corner of the room. Although it meant dancing on carpet and braving stairs in one corner near the stage, at least the dancers had room to move. And it was certainly no Circle, it was closer to a Square or an Oblong.
No one cared. So what? We had an absolute blast. And since there was no hurry, it didn't matter if someone could salsa dance or not. We simply taught the moves from the ground up.
Actually the whole process was pretty chaotic. As I mentioned, in the beginning at least six or seven women switched over to the boy's part. Although the joys of wrapping one's arms around the bare waist of a woman in a bathing suit were lost on our new men, I was grateful for their cooperation.
Despite their help, chaos ruled. Just for starters, due to the constant lurching of the ship, balance was a real problem. Women came crashing into men after turns all the time. Toes were stepped on. And due to the heat, sweat just poured off our bodies.
And the size of the group fluctuated more often than the Dow-Jones average. All morning long more people showed up. And more people…. And more people. Then people left. Then people came. The numbers never stayed the same. The oblong grew, the oblong contracted. The oblong became a rhomboid, then a quadrilateral, and then a isosceles triangle. The geometry was a mess. And we would constantly have to review or start over to catch people up.
But you know what? No one really minded. It was a marvelous social event. Everyone was getting to know each other and you never knew who might fall into your arms next. The men didn't mind the constant rocking of the ship at all. And sometimes the woman would be so sweaty she would just cling to him for several seconds. Sisters, lovers, water brothers. The men were so Understanding!!
Sometimes we would have an even number. Sometimes we would have an odd number. Sometimes enough men would show up that the Girls Who Were Boys became Girls Who Were Girls again. Then another pair of women would show up and a girl who was a boy then a girl would become a girl who was a boy again. Sexual confusion was rampant. Half the time half the women didn't know if they were a man or woman. The worse part came when they had to decide which bathroom to use… my little joke. Ha ha.
Then came an interesting moment where a woman switched from being a man to being a woman, but left behind two Girls Who Were Girls dancing next to each other with no man in sight. For some reason, this glaring vacancy was widely publicized. The entire group agonized over the pitiful sight of two Girls Who Were Girls With No Man Between Them. This problem actually occurred frequently all morning long, so why this moment became such a big deal was lost on me. Finally someone suggested I join the Circle… or the Oblong. Or the Trapezoid. Whatever.
With a grin on my face, I walked over and filled the gap between the two ladies. Suddenly the Devil made me say something to the effect that whenever there are too many women, I just love plugging the holes. Rest assured this little crack brought the expected hisses from the women. Even a few men chalked up some brownie points by showing their disapproval. Traitors. And one woman even turned to Marla - my fiancée - and whispered, "Oh just imagine, Marla. I bet you hear Rick's jokes like that all the time!! Are you ready to live with that for the rest of your life?"
Isn't it sad to live in a world where asinine sexist humor is so thoroughly unappreciated??
Fortunately despite all my stupid jokes, beginners who barely knew what they were doing, rampant identity problems, and people coming and going and other obstacles as well, the morning went beautifully.
At the end we danced to music and our group of 100 performed very well.
Just before we called it a morning, I pointed out that before the trip I had promised the men that they would hear plenty of heavy breathing and have an endless supply of sweaty, hot glistening semi-clad women falling into their arms. I said that no one could deny I had completely delivered on my sales pitch.
And naturally Marla got that same look again from the same woman. Some people take all the fun out of my sense of humor.
THE HUGE SLIDE AT THE POOL
On our summer cruise two years ago, our ship had the misfortune of heading straight into an unexpected hurricane. As a result, the ship was diverted to a different course and we ended up going to a place called Vera Cruise. That's another story in itself. This action also cost us a trip to Cancun, so now we had an extra day at sea. As a way to pass the time, activities at the Pool became the main attraction for two afternoon's in row. People danced to the Caribbean music played by the band, drank margaritas, sunbathed, hung out together and took countless pictures.
But the main fun was jetting down the huge water slide into the pool. There were no children since our trip was scheduled in late August. This meant the slide was always open. So the men were able to put aside any concerns about the un-manliness of using what is usually concerned a kid's toy. And then eventually the women got in the act as well. I might add the endless supply of margaritas helped. The game was on.
One grown adult after another reverted back to childhood and soon the group formed an endless Conga-line procession to the water slide complete with hands on hips and salsa side step footwork. You had to be there to fully appreciate the mind-boggling silliness of it all. Of course there was plenty bottom-pinching and tickling while people waited their turn on the stairs, plenty of 'ogling' the flesh, plenty of teasing, and scads of adult humor shared among our 'children', all byproducts of too much alcohol and sun-fried brains.
The most fun was reserved for having one's picture taken while exiting the slide before hitting the water.
Yes, the idea was to have an amazing pose or expression of some sort while the poolside photographers worked overtime to become Sports Illustrated-style experts at catching just the exact moment to click the camera. The Sliders thought their poses and foolish expressions were amazing and the Photographers though their picture-taking ability to be awesome. That is, of course, until they sobered up and realized how crazy they had been once they saw the pictures.
Who cared? It was fun to be kids again for two days.
Unfortunately on this year's cruise, the poolside rapport never came close to developing at all. Of course there were some small groups that formed to drink a little and chat, but there were too many obstacles to overcome before the energy of two years earlier could be reached.
For one thing on the second day of our trip most people barely knew each other. People in our group would sit practically next to each other and never say a word because they had no idea they were both in the same group. And the constant presence of actual children using the water slide put a serious squelch on what had been the favorite activity of 2001. I got up there eight times and used the slide with my daughter Sam. Then one time when I was alone, a couple kids asked me using kid terminology what the hell I was doing on Their Waterslide. Some people take all the fun out of my immaturity.
That ended my waterslide career. It's tough being teased by midgets half your size.
So no waterslide, no band, no one knew each other, and no drinking to excess to drown out the painful memory of visiting Vera Cruise… that meant 'critical mass' never came close to occurring. There would be no 'group consciousness' formed at this year's poolside. They never knew what they were missing.
BIG BAND NIGHT
In my opinion, the Carnival Jubilee lost in almost every category when compared to the ship we sailed on last year, Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody. That doesn't mean our trip was a failure. Actually in many ways, it was the finest trip we have ever had. Our group had such powerful positive energy that we often created our own fun. For example, several nights at 2 am, Gary Richardson had to literally turn off the boom box simply to get people to quit dancing! He said there were still 11 couples at this insane hour going strong. This is a perfect example of the power of our group - a small, sticky dance floor, no air-conditioning, and a sound system of below average quality (a boom box) playing the music, yet 22 people don't want to quit because they are having too much fun at 2 am in the morning!! We created our own energy with little help from the Jubilee.
However I take my hat off to Jubilee in one regard - they provided a wonderful Big Band Dance Night for our group. The second night on board was dress up Formal Night. One of the major activities of Formal Night was the Captain's Reception. A feature of the Reception is free cocktails. Although there wasn't much alcohol in the drinks, by using our imagination or drinking 20 of them 2 at a time, many of us managed to get a buzz and loosened up. Next they turned the Show Stage into a dance floor. It was the first time all trip that we had room to dance and we loved it! Finally to our great pleasure, the ship's orchestra played famous Big Band songs by Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. One thing everyone in our group did well was Swing Dance. And the orchestra music was sublime.
The finishing touch for perfection was that we had an audience. Many people on board came to the Reception and sat watching in awe as our group put on a wonderful show. Two years ago, the audience did not know who we were and assumed we were all paid to perform for them. This year was no different - the audience treated us like we were The Show. And to our credit we put on a great Show. There were always at least 20 couples high up on the stage dancing like Fred and Ginger.
As I teased the group, many of people loved our dancing, but what they really came for was to see if anyone would fall off the stage. It was a long way down!!
We loved their attention and we loved their applause. We loved the warm smiles on their faces whenever we went down to drink one of our twenty cocktails. And we loved the recognition we got at breakfast and lunch from people who had seen us up there dancing that night.
Various individuals of our group became celebrities on the trip. And The Dance Group as we were called was very famous. The moment any of us were identified as belonging to the Dance Group resulted in an immediate hit of respect.
What wonderful fun we had! We thoroughly enjoyed being Stars.
Although RCCL's Rhapsody has far superior facilities to this Jubilee Ship, they waste the talents of their orchestra and their wonderful dance areas by offering nothing comparable to the Jubilee's Big Band Night. So in this one area that is so important to our group, Jubilee scored major points. Big Band Night was definitely my personal highlight on the trip. Thank you, Jubilee.
DINNERTIME, NIGHT TWO
Marla and I made it our duty to roam from table to table during dinnertime to pass the word on the activities of each night after supper and what the plan was for the next day. This trick had worked pretty well the year before, but this year with 17 tables I had a tremendous amount of trouble making it to each table. Plus I found it very difficult keeping the patter "fresh" when I had to repeat it 17 times, especially when I knew most people had already heard it when I had talked to the table next to them.
My predicament served to create some low-level humor for any casual observers. Many times I got up to talk and found I had missed my waiter so my food would be delayed. I would be eating an appetizer while others would already have their salads and so on. Other times I would get up to run to some more tables when suddenly the overhead lights would start blinking - the signal that all the waiters were preparing to sing to us - and I would have to run back to my table. Other major obstacles to the success of my mission were the waiters themselves frantically trying to get around me to serve their food in cramped quarters. On more than one occasion I was actually pushed out the way by a frustrated waiter, but I held my temper because I understood the problem.
Once I was busily talking to a table when one lady spoke up and said I had already visited them. Oh. That was pretty embarrassing.
But there was pleasure too. One night I visited a table that was definitely several sheets to the wind. I couldn't help but notice a couple of completely drained wine bottles. Diama Cortez was having the most fun. I asked what on earth was going on. Diama tried to explain some story to me about sucking the head off of a crawdad fish. Say again?? She said she got the head off, but didn't get to the tail. Huh? I actually was more than slightly confused, but decided to have a little fun. I asked her if this was an actual Crawdad or a pet name for an object of desire. Her face turned so red I could have rented Diama as a giant Christmas ornament. Her friend Janna Davis took excessive joy in Diama's discomfort and thanked me on embarrassing Diama so thoroughly.
Jeff Plaster somehow figured in this story, but to be honest I still don't have a clue what was going on. I do remember about five minutes after I sat down, there was an atomic explosion of laughter that came from the same table. Naturally I got up to investigate. It seems that Jeff had inadvertently let it slip that he had actually enjoyed dancing with me in dance class because he learned something every time we danced together.
Bad move. Every woman in the group gave Jeff a hard time about his admission. To make things worse, Jeff's son Mike, age 23, was sitting right next to him with his face buried in his hands at the knowledge that Dad enjoyed dancing with a male dance instructor. It was information that he could have lived happily without. And Mike's lovely fiancée Krystal Brown sat in quiet silence wondering what she was getting herself into while the ladies roared with laughter at poor Jeff's discomfort. I didn't help things any by saying the feeling was mutual and that I enjoyed dancing with Jeff too. For several moments all conversation in the room ceased as the roar of laughter at poor Jeff's expense reached World Cup Soccer proportions.
At this point a lovely waitress from Latvia came over and asked if I could come to her table next because they were all too serious and she wanted me to liven things up. I suggested a complimentary bottle of wine for starters…
I asked Martin Thomas who sat at the same table how he had managed to escape the teasing from the ladies who were in a frenzy. Martin said they had been needling him too, but Jeff's little slip had made him an easy target for their affections. I laughed, patted Jeff on the back, gave him a little hug which didn't help things any, and then quickly left him behind to fend for himself. I am positive Jeff will think twice before ever dancing with me again.
DAY THREE, JULY 5TH - SNORKELING AT CHACKAWACKA WHATEVER (CHANKANAAB)
We arrived in Cozumel very early that morning. After a big breakfast, practically everyone on board save those who had been desperately waiting for roommates to disappear headed for shore. At breakfast, Marla and I discovered that Bill and Barbara Moore were practically neighbors
back in Houston. We also learned that they intended to head over to Chankanaab National Park for a day of snorkeling. So we decided to meet in 30 minutes and go together.
My first task of the morning was figuring out how to attach a fanny pack onto daughter Sam's snorkel vest without ruining the vest. I have been given many special gifts in my life, but mechanical things are not one of them. Figuring out how things work or how to fix them when they are broken escapes me.
It took knot-challenged me nearly twenty minutes to get the knot back in place. I solved my problem by comparing the knot on Sam's vest to the one on Marla's snorkel vest. Was I grumpy now? Yes.
Did we ever even end up using Sam's fanny pack that day? No, of course not.
Something told me this might be a long day.
Next we had to find a taxi. This was pretty easy. My next chore was harder - how to spell
'Chankanaab'. I had been wondering how to spell the place ever since some woman embarrassed me at the Pre-Cruise Meeting
by asking me how to spell it. Spell it?
I can't even pronounce it.
Studying the signs as we rode in the taxi, I settled on "thank an arab" as my technique. This worked perfectly.
As long as I lived I would never again have trouble remembering the name or how to spell it. I would simply "Thank An Arab" and take it from there. As I said, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. Too bad they don't include anything practical. When we finally discover the Asteroid with a bulls eye heading for Earth and it comes time to select the million or so most useful human beings to ship to the moon, I am positive I am going to be left behind. Or maybe not - I could offer to teach the "Moon Walk". Think that would get me a ticket? Nah, probably not. Now you know why I have a serious case of Engineer-envy.
But can an engineer spell "Chankanaab"?
I soon discovered "Thank An Arab" National Park is a Cozumel treasure. What a pleasant surprise!
It had been Marla's suggestion to direct the group to snorkel at
Chankanaab. She was right on with her idea. Just a short 4 mile trip down the road from our dock, Chankanaab turned out to be the nicest beach I have ever been to.
My first discovery of Chankanaab was just how protected it was!
As the taxi turned into the park, I noticed the perimeter of Chankanaab was surrounded by a chain-link fence and knee-deep marsh water thick with tropical foliage. In other words, a moat and a jungle. Probably had alligators in it too. And snakes!
No gate-crashing at
Earlier as we left the ship I had noticed several machine-gun armed militia men guarding the mall. And to my great discomfort I had also been warned about pirates dwelling on the remote parts of the island. Why do people tell me these things?
Don't they know I will actually worry about it??
The presence of the heavily-arm military men deepened on my secret fear that maybe I was leading my group into great peril. So Fort Chankanaab came as a pleasant surprise. Any pirates would need to scale fences, wade through swamps, cut through dense jungle, worry about snakes and be prepared to fight off deadly alligators in order to get to us on the beach. Or perhaps they would be forced to mount a difficult assault by making an exhausting underwater swim from several miles away. Or perhaps they could drive straight up the same well-paved
undefended entrance the taxi was using… my paranoia returned.
When it comes to bears, there is an old joke that you don't have to out-run a bear to escape his claws and jaws, you simply have to run faster than someone else in your group. Marla G has never quite figured out why I never
bother to use mosquito-repellent when she is around.
Maybe Marla is too busy slapping every part of her body to give it real thought.
Marla is the most incredible mosquito magnet I have ever met.
Sure enough the moment Marla left the taxi a million mosquitoes attacked her with a vengeance. Her misery was obvious as she disappeared from sight under the dark cloud of a zillion blood-sucking insects.
My daughter Sam was curious why no mosquitoes were biting
me while Marla was busy slapping herself silly.
I pointed out to Sam I sometimes pocketed extra cash by making secret deals to rent Marla out as mosquito bait at back yard parties. While I enjoy the party, Marla makes all the other guests happy with her unusual talent. Sam caught on to the concept quickly.
What made Marla's misery even funnier is that after we literally coated every inch of her body with mosquito spray - we take the spray everywhere - all the mosquitoes disappeared a minute later when we reached the beach. Not only were there no mosquitoes, there was no one willing to sit within ten feet of Marla either. We had a corner of the beach all to ourselves
while she scratched herself silly trying to escape from the misery of
Not all the jokes of the day were on Marla. Soon I would experience a crushing humiliation.
About a month before the trip, Sam and I noticed these wonderful snorkel outfits at Sam's Club (not named after my daughter although she does spend money there like she owns the place).
The outfits retailed for about $50 which included mask, snorkel, fins, and a neat carrying bag. The only thing missing was a snorkel vest which you inflate to protect you in case you swim too far from shore and have a problem. As a father, my daughter's safety is important and the threat of a water accident is a particularly frightening prospect.
As the trip approached, every day I gave some thought to the fact that Sam did not have a snorkel vest. Marla said she had some snorkel equipment from an earlier trip that had cost about $50. She added that if I decided to buy a snorkel vest for Sam and myself, she would like to have one too. I said I would give it more thought.
At the Pre-Cruise Meeting, several people asked how I planned to make the snorkel trip happen. I explained that snorkeling was the simplest sport in the world with the proper equipment and the ability to swim. I said the simple thing to do was to go to Sam's Club, pay 50 bucks to get some equipment, spend 10 bucks to take a taxi to Thank An Arab, pay 10 more bucks to get in the park, then jump in the water. What could be easier? A snorkeling tour would end up costing $60.
One trip would pay for the equipment.
As it turned out, it was easier to rent the equipment right at Chankanaab
Beach and save the trouble of bring it with you,
but as I said, the art of being practical is not one of my gifts.
To my surprise I discovered some people actually took me up on my suggestion
to get some snorkel equipment at Sams. By
coincidence, our Taxi-Mates Bill and Barbara Moore said they had taken my advice and gone to Sam's Club to get their snorkel gear.
Barbara thanked me profusely. She loved her gear and the useful snorkel pack that came with it.
And it was so inexpensive!!
Those words would soon come to haunt me...
I smiled blandly and said nothing. I was nursing a dark secret.
The day before the trip, my mental toughness had collapsed.
And I had done something stupid...
Visions of my
daughter drowning without the snorkel vest haunted me on an hourly basis
as the trip grew near. What if we accidentally swam too far out to sea?
What if one of us got a cramp?
What if the tide pulled us out?
what if what if…? I was obsessed with Danger!
Marla reminded me of a scuba gear place next to Academy on I-10
that we passed
all the time. Why not simply get the vests there and get rid of the
nagging worry? I decided the smart thing to
do was to get some First-Rate equipment
at the Scuba/Snorkel place! Marla said 'Nonsense'. She
said that snorkeling was so easy the Sam's kits would do fine. But I
was determined to get the safest equipment imaginable.
I had originally bought one extra snorkel kit at
Sams before I learned Marla had her own equipment. First I trundled back to Sam's Club with the three boxes of snorkel gear I
had already purchased for $150. Despite no receipt, as
always Sam's Club graciously accepted my returned merchandise and probably
turned around and sold it to Barbara Moore.
The lady chuckled as she accepted
the gear. I asked what was funny. She commented that I would probably pay
3 times as much
for the same stuff elsewhere. Little did I know
how much intensely I would soon
come to regret her words....
So off to "Dive Tech" I went with Sam. They were thrilled to serve me. I got three snorkel vests, two of the finest pairs of fins money could buy including special booties for sensitive feet, high tech snorkel masks that would also be perfect for scuba diving, special plastic boxes to protect the masks, a special hair band for Samantha's long hair, two different water-resistant carrying cases for money, snorkel tubes that were color-coordinated with our respective fins and masks, plus three tee-shirts for good measure. I was so proud of myself for getting the safest equipment money could buy that would last a lifetime… or until Samantha grew out of it next year. I wondered how much it would cost.
Probably double Sam's Club was my guess.
I gasped. SIX HUNDRED EIGHTY EIGHT DOLLARS. What would Marla say?
Ohmigoodness. Did I have the guts to say 'no thanks' and sneak back to Sam's Club before they sold my stuff to Barbara?
No, I am not made with those kind of guts. I was trapped.
I trembled as I brought out the plastic. There goes Samantha's education at a good school. Nah, that wasn't what I was worried about. It was Marla busting my chops for spending !&%#688stupiddollars&*# on something she had paid less than $50 for.
How did I ever get myself into this mess? A million rationalizations later and I walked out the door feeling pretty stupid for spending that kind of money.
The cost of this equipment created a darkness that lingered in the back of mind
just as intense as my earlier fear of a water
accident. I must have been born to worry, but I knew
Marla would never let me forget this colossal act of stupidity. So
I did the only thing that made any sense... I didn't tell her.
Now we fast-forward to the beautiful mosquito-free beaches at Thank An Arab.
Watch me as I slowly
retrieve the finest snorkel equipment an Arab
Emir can buy out of our special Speedo Snorkel Bag. I triumphantly don my gear
with the same pride as any gladiator
who is preparing for battle
would put on his armor. I probably looked as scary too.
Marla bursts my Gladiator fantasy when she asks why it
is taking me so long to put the stuff on. I prefer not to tell her I can't figure out how to attach the snorkel tube. So I decide to cheat. I sneak a look and see how Sam did it. I wrestle with a contradiction that has haunted me all my life - How the hell did I ever make 1350 on my SATs,
but not be able to figure out how to attach a stupid tube!?!
My chances of making the Moon Team seem ever more remote.
I am getting depressed.
Finally I manage to attach the tube without using the roll of duct tape I carry everywhere. Marla says she is going to wait and recover from nearly being eaten alive moments earlier. That leaves Sam and I to trudge out to the beautiful crystal-clear water.
I stop and gawk in astonishment at what I see. Before me in the water there are dozens of small children with cheap fins and cheap snorkel masks swimming merrily in an area no more than 10 feet from the man-made water entrance.
There is not one snorkel vest anywhere in sight. Don't
the parents realize what incredible DANGER their kids are in? The
thought crosses my mind that maybe snorkeling isn't dangerous, but I
dismiss it quickly.
What a sight I must have made. Standing there paralyzed by the sight of all that happiness and all that cheap gear, the water is so shallow I look like Godzilla standing 6 feet tall with the most expensive equipment a minor fortune can buy arrayed across my body. Or would it be the Creature from the Dark Lagoon??
I am sick in my stomach at how much money my ignorance has cost me.
My next experience was Meeting the Friendly
Fish. Have you ever heard about the loveable bears at
Yellowstone Park who greet you at the
front gate, shake your hand, put their arm around you during a photo shoot and
practically take food
out of your hand?
It turns out things are no different at the Thank an Arab National Park. There are hundreds of fish teeming right off the shore. I swear the fish have been trained to come to shore to be photographed and fed.
One fat fish practically stared me in the eye waiting to be fed.
Meanwhile countless little boys and girls happily stick their faces in the water as they sit on the surface of the mighty ocean.
Gee whiz, the big pool at Water World is more dangerous than this place.
I am almost knocked over by little kids chasing enormous fish swimming through my legs.
And all I can think about is that I paid MORE MONEY
FOR SNORKEL GEAR THAN THE TRIP COST for this stupid equipment!!
I tremble as enormous waves of self-hatred ripple and shudder through my body. I
vow there is no way I will EVER tell Marla.
Finally I get a grip and ask Sam if she is ready. She was ready ten minutes ago. So we swim out to a
giant float station about 100 yards off shore. I feel a little better because this long swim would be risky without the snorkel vest which keeps us afloat. Then I feel a little worse when Sam complains her adult-size fins are too hard to use. Cheaper fins obviously would have worked much better…
I do love to snorkel. The beauty of the fish is amazing. Yellow ones, Purple ones, Striped ones all swimming inside the reefs just a few yards offshore. These reefs make snorkeling at Chankanaab incredibly safe and simple. And I will say my equipment worked perfectly. No complaints. I was able to paddle around staring at all the fish to my heart's content.
Then I saw an enormous rock move. Curious, I watched more closely. Down below nestled between the rocks of a reef was a huge Grouper fish about four feet long. Its markings camouflaged the fish perfectly. When the fish stayed still it looked exactly like
the giant rock next to
it. I was fascinated. For five minutes
I watched how the fish operated in its natural habitat.
Let me add when I saw "Grouper Fish" on the menu that night I had to pass. I believe that was my vegetarian meal.
By the way, another snorkler said he saw a female barracuda in the same area. However I didn't catch whether the barracuda was a fish or just another one of the dangerous women in our group… little joke. Ha ha.
Eventually Sam and I tired so we swam back to the beach.
Marla was out at sea
with Jim Colby and Marlane Kayfes.
Bill Moore said they had just gone out so Sam and I went back out to find them. We tracked them down on the
giant float. Marlane was feeling much better because she had gotten the hang of snorkeling after a shaky start. Now she was very proud of herself.
We didn't stay long. Sam and I swam back in. I wanted to swim pretty far and Marla didn't feel like joining us for the adventure. She thought sitting there on the float was excellent snorkeling exercise.
Once we got back to the beach Sam and I went about the important task of getting comfy. There are many marvelous features about
Chankanaab. For example, very close to the water they have planted many lovely palm trees for shade. And there are many thatched roof cabana shelters to supplement the palm trees. Further vegetation included lovely bushes as well. And the most wonderful feature of all was these ubiquitous S-shaped fiberglass lounge chairs. Wherever you went, there was a lounge chair just waiting to serve you. Or if there wasn't a free one nearby, there was always a chair just a few yards away that was easy to steal from someone snorkeling out in the water. All I had to do was think about how inexpensive their equipment probably was and then I had no trouble taking their S-chair.
I carefully put down my equipment and lovingly stretched my specially-provided Carnival beach towel across my S-shaped lounge chair. Then I sat down and proceeded to flip over onto the sand. It took longer than I expected to master the art of successful lounge chair sitting.
Marla had warned me I needed to work on my "beach skills". She said I spent too much time
reading books and studying when I grew up. Obviously she was right - I couldn't even sit in a lounge chair on my first try.
Furthermore I had demons to contend with.
As I lay there with my eyes closed, the number 688 kept rolling across the window of my mind like a Wall Street tickertape. There would be no escape from this torment. 688 688 688…
Jim, Marla and Marlane returned and immediately ordered a bucket of Sol Beer. I couldn't believe it - they have waiters on this beach!!!
This place was assuming Paradise-like proportions in my consciousness!
There was a breeze. The water was blue.
The sand was clean. The sun was beautiful and better yet could not touch me. There was no trash to be seen anywhere. The ants were specially trained to leave me alone.
No mosquitoes. No beggars. No needles. No bandits. Semi-naked women everywhere (don't tell Marla). And semi-naked men too (she
better not look!)
And there was Music!! Yes, there was MTV dance music playing from a nearby beach-side restaurant. I fantasized myself as a young man dancing all night to the Disco beat until the numbers 688 returned to rudely interrupt my rapture.
I drank my beer. It was cool. I had to go to the restroom. It was only twenty yards away and CLEAN. I couldn't believe this place. I could not imagine one thing my perfect beach would have that was missing at
Oh, naked women maybe, but this was close enough. Then
I heard the nude beach was further down. I resisted the temptation to
verify the rumor, but it wasn't easy.
As I walked back from the restroom I realized I didn't even have to go out in the sun. As a card-carrying member of the Albino Vampire Moonbeam Tan team, any chance to avoid the sun on the beach is yet further rescue from the memory of searing sun burns during my youth. Now that I have somehow managed to reproduce despite no obvious practical skills - a miracle I marvel at - the need for a sexy sunburn no longer seems quite as important. I carefully played hide and seek peekaboo with the sun as I meander back to the S-chair.
This place was awesome! I was so comfortable that after two hours I had yet to start whining "Is it time to go yet?"
I suppose this was the longest period I have ever spent on a beach without uttering this well-rehearsed phrase.
Only my anger over spending so much money prevented this day from achieving immortal 'Ground Hog Day'
Status (see the movie of the same name
to understand) as one of the best days of my life.
In fact, I was feeling so good that maybe it was time to go out and snorkel again in my expensive equipment. The thought that I was putting my gear to good use helped quiet the constant acid nagging of my conscience. The beer and the good times were helping to put the monsters to rest… Heck, it's only money!!
One more terrific swim might be enough to quiet my demons permanently….
Sam and I reached the water. On went the snorkel vest. On went the mask. Next came the fins. Like skiing, I was developing a real rhythm here - first cum
dis, den cum dat - to putting on the equipment. If only Marla could see me gearing up like a pro…
On went the left fin. Let's get ready to rumble!! Next came the right fin. Uh oh.
Problem with the right fin. There was nothing to put the
buckle into to secure the rubber strap
that holds the fin to your foot. It
was a Venus-Mars problem. The male attachment was there, but the female
part that was supposed to be connected to the fin was missing when I
needed it. Story of my life.
I looked at my other fin to check the problem.
This confirmed there was an "attachment" missing from my right fin.
I better find it!! I looked around in the water. Nothing. I retraced my walk back to the S-chair. Nothing. I searched around the area looking under objects. Nothing. Fifteen minutes of searching for something that no one else wanted but that I needed desperately. Nothing.
My fins had worked perfectly in my previous two trips out. I had done nothing awkward in taking them off that might have accounted for my problem.
These were expensive, brand new fins! Now where the heck was the attachment!?!
Fifteen minutes was enough. It was probably lost in
the water somewhere. I threw in the towel and gave up. Gloom descended. I settled into my S-chair and grabbed a beer out of the bucket. One of my infamous "People Are Strange" moods seized my brain…
"People are Strange when you're a Stranger,
Faces look Ugly when you're Alone,
Women seem Wicked when you're Unwanted,
Beaches are Uneven when you're Down.
When you're Strange….When you're Strange."
Yes, the words to the immortal Doors song came flooding back to my consciousness. Jim
Morrison's lyrics taunted me as I cursed softly to myself. I was
All that money and the damn fin broke for no obvious reason!!!
Marla knew I was in a bad mood. She offered to let me borrow her fins.
Jim Colby offered to let me use his fins. Then Bill Moore offered to let me use his fins, you know, the ones he bought at Sam's Club that worked perfectly even though they didn't cost very much. The ones I could have had. The ones I did have until I returned them.
In fact those were probably the exact fins I had once
purchased! But no, I had to have the best fins money could buy...
Thanks but no thanks. I was FIN-ISHED. I was through snorkeling for the day and possibly for life. I unconsciously drew 688 in the sand with my finger. Humbug.
Marla said, "Aren't those your brand new fins? Didn't you say you bought
some good stuff?"
"Yes, Marla, it was supposed to be good equipment."
Then Daughter Sam said, "It was pretty expensive, Marla.
Dad said it cost a minor fortune."
I froze. Sam's words sent a chill down my spine. It
isn't easy to freeze at Thank an Arab Beach, but FREEZE I did.
Marla sat up and raised an eyebrow. "How much did
I replied, "I don't remember."
There was a warning tone in my voice. It did no good.
Sam said, "I think the man said it was $688, wasn't
Marla's mouth dropped open with astonishment. "You paid $688 for
There was further conversation,
but this is a good place to let some things stay private. I
will only say this was the moment when I discovered it is true that
parents sometime consider murdering their young or selling them into
I spent the remainder of the day immobile in my S-chair drinking
my sorrows away with Sol Beer. I couldn't help notice how out of shape everyone on the beach looked
as they walked by. I felt pretty gloomy.
"Faces look Ugly when you're Alone".
Marla commented on how critical I was of everyone. I was in a bad bad mood. Marla's comment
made me realize how my anger was projecting outward. I decided to keep my mouth shut until the darkness passed.
Eventually I got over it. The day was too nice,
I was surrounded by friends and the beach was too beautiful to stay
I look forward to going back again to Chananaab again.
My own personal demons were not enough to keep me from appreciating that Chankanaab was the best beach I have ever visited.
Besides, I need to get some more use out of that expensive
There is actually one more chapter to this story.
About a week after we returned I took my broken fin back to
Dive Tech on I-10. They said it was "very difficult" for that
attachment to fall off. In fact, the man said he had
never heard of anyone losing an attachment before. He showed me how
difficult it was to get it off and get in back on. I nodded in
amazement that such a thing could happen.
He sold me a replacement - $22. Actually
he sold me TWO attachments since they come in pairs. One for each
fin, get it? I now have an extra rubber attachment sitting in
the Speedo Snorkel bag with nothing to do but remind me of my
stupidity for a long long time.
I had expected Dive Tech to replace it for free
since it was "brand new" when it broke, but
this amenity was not
offered and I was
not in the mood to ask or argue. Nor was sympathy
offered. I accepted the final indignity in silence.
This made the new number $710.
To help put this in perspective, the trip itself had
only cost $600.
710 dollars for maybe 20 minutes of
Cost at Sams? $100 after returning the extra
Cost of rental at Chankanaab?? $10
Price of damage to my self-esteem?
Incalculable, but immense.
Radioactive half-life of memory, i.e. how long it
will take to forget this ordeal? A lifetime.
Chance my daughter will receive the necessary funds to go to a really
good college? Severely diminished.
On a more cheerful note there were many ssqq cruisers having a ball on Chankanaab Beach that day. Before my gloom set in, I walked around the beach looking for people. I saw Jerry Grimm and Ann Keyes. I saw Cindy Ramirez
and Ed Cieszkiewicz. I saw Sandy Upchurch
and Joan Recht. I saw Pat Salinas.
I saw Manny Angulo and Michelle Firecracker. I saw Sorrell Warren. I saw Diama Cortez and Janna Davis. I saw Jeff Plaster except this time it was me who was plastered. I think I saw James Bowling and his smart-mouthed pal Aisha Currie… but I could be wrong. I
saw Ralph Casazza. I saw Susan Arevalo with a book. I definitely saw Judy Walsh. She was trying to collect cruisers and outtalked me for the company of Cindy R.
The more people around you, the more popular you were. Hmph.
Later that night at dinner an entire legion of people reported that they had missed seeing me that day because they arrived after doing something else earlier in the day. Chankanaab was definitely a much-appreciated destination.
Gina Garza had the thrill of a lifetime when she visited a dolphin that lives at
Chankanaab. The dolphin has been raised since birth in captivity at the park and is a major attraction. Apparently Gina got to stroke the dolphin, kiss it, climb on it, and even go for a ride. She told me she was deeply touched by her encounter. Somehow her joy at being able to communicate with this beautiful animal made my own sorrows seem pretty shallow. Her joy helped me snap out of it. Thank you, Gina.
And thank you, Marla, for your terrific suggestion that we go to this lovely park called
Chankanaab. What a marvelous place it turned out to be. I'll be Back!!
DAY FOUR, JULY 6TH - WE HEAD BACK
There were a lot of people in our group who appeared to have a great time.
For example Anne Marchetti rounded up a group of 11 from Chapelwood Methodist Church. And these weren't just 11 more names. Anne's group was full of classy, attractive, intelligent people like Ian Palmer, Dennis
Pechel, Debbie Kloote, Greg Biasetti, Gayle Pearson, Bill Wibker and Sherry Andrus and more - all people I wished I had had the chance to get to know better. My hat goes off to Anne for her tireless work at promoting this vacation. Anne should go into politics. I have never seen a more talented, patient person than Anne. I envy Anne for her wonderful social skills. I am sure she has worked hard at developing them, but to see her in action so gracefully working with people makes you think she was born to organize. Anne was rewarded with the constant presence of handsome men at her side. I never saw Anne for a moment when she wasn't surrounded by one or more of her many friends. And you know what?
She deserved it.
As noted above, the Chapelwood included Bill Wibker. Bill was the gentleman who had to miss last year's trip due to emergency heart surgery. You should see this guy - he runs every morning before breakfast. There isn't an ounce of fat on the guy. He makes me sick. To my observation, Bill is in terrific shape. I discovered that Bill loves to organize one group adventure after another like kayaking and mountain climbing. I find it stunning that a man who takes this good care of himself would have any medical problem at all. Whatever happened to Bill last year appears to be far behind him because he gets my vote for the most active guy on the ship. And let me add it was very rewarding to me to see Bill back again after his disappointment.
The cruise population was about half singles, half couples. As you can imagine, there were a lot of happy couples on this trip.
I took enormous pleasure in seeing the calm confident relationship of our newlyweds Mike Harrah and Ann McGowan Harrah. They had been married only a couple of weeks before our departure, but to Marla and I they seemed to have been together for a lifetime. Indeed they led parallel lives at the same church for years without knowing each until one day their paths crossed and they finally connected. It was a good story. I loved their anecdotes! I cannot imagine a better matched couple.
Another favorite couple was Manny Angulo and Michelle Firecracker Crossley. I call Michelle "The Firecracker" because she always wears the loudest colors under the sun. She is a beauty and looks good in bright colors. Fortunately she doesn't seem to mind my nickname for her. If I may be so bold, I thought Manny and Firecracker looked very good together. They made me laugh and they made me smile. It was always a pleasure being near them.
As I said earlier, Marla and I had a delightful time with Bill and Barbara Moore. Bill and Barbara met at SSQQ and were married a couple years ago. Bill does not like to wear formal clothes, so I smiled broadly when I saw him wearing a coat out on the Big Band stage Swing dancing with his beautiful wife Barbara. Bill is tall and handsome, Barbara is tall and beautiful. And I enjoyed learning both are just as nice as they are attractive.
Then there was Jim Colby and Marlane Kayfes. These two characters actually connected the night they were stranded at SSQQ during the Allison storm two years ago. In fact they are only two months ahead of Marla and I, so we have enjoyed watching each other grow closer with time. Marla and Marlane have been buddies right from the start and thoroughly enjoy teasing their men.
Another delightful couple was Gene Keady and Mara Rivas. One year ago Marla and I met Mara for the first time on the Rhapsody cruise. Mara and Marla found out they had a lot in common besides their similar first names. As a result, both women have become close friends. Immediately after the trip, Mara broke up with her long-time boyfriend and committed herself to learn to dance well. At one point she said she was taking classes six nights a week. That meant she was at the studio more days a week than I was! Dancing doesn't come easily to Mara, but pound for pound she is one of the most determined women I have ever met. She will try try try again as I have teasingly noted in my stories about her Logic Puzzle follies in each month's Newsletter.
After Mara broke up with her long-time boyfriend in September 2002, she was convinced she was settling into a long life of living alone. She decided to widen her circle of friends. Since Mara has the same natural leadership skill's as Chapelwood's Anne
Marchetti, soon after the breakup she found herself initiating one social event after another here at the studio. Mara was quite the social butterfly, eluding the crushes of her admirers without any desire to settle down. Then last April 2003 when she least expected it Mara met Gene and they hit it off immediately. Since then they have become practically inseparable. They seemed to have a wonderful time together on the trip.
Someone else who appeared to be having the time of his life was Bus Em Buss Em Wine Em and Dine Em James Bowling. Insider reports placed James in a hot tub at some point during the trip by himself with 11 women. That's right - no other men in sight. This is the second cruise in a row where James has had practically a harem to himself. So how does he do it?
One of his secrets is no secret - I have carefully noted that James orders at least one bottle of wine at every dinner and shares it with everyone, even the guys who hang around hoping to steal a heifer or two. Now that's confidence!!
I have heard from more than one person that James is an expert gambler who enjoys sharing his winnings with all of his women. I have heard many rumors about James, but I imagine if I print even a few of the stories I have heard about James, either he would kill me or more likely he would hire one of his countless fans to knock me off for the sport of it. Just for example, I could reveal whose cabin I saw him entering using this clever technique…
"Knock Knock. Room Service. I'm here to Change your Sheets"
… but I won't. Unfortunately with 12 suspects it would be hard for even Columbo to come up with the killer. Yes, I think James is an Agatha Christie Murder Mystery just waiting to happen, so I find it prudent to mind my own business. And I can't help respect any man who can keep 11 women happy at once. James is the Juggler and I plan to keep my Jugular by keeping my mouth shut where he is concerned.
Yes, I have many stories to tell. For example, there was the couple that spent time up on the nude sun deck. The gentleman decided he didn't need sun screen. Soon after he got so sunburned his girlfriend said he glowed like a toxic waste site in the dark that night. Who was it? Mr. Moonbeam will never tell.
Another funny story involved Nancy Edelman. Nancy is a close friend of Mara's. They were scheduled to be roommates until Mara's sudden romance with Gene suggested a realignment of roommates. Nancy asked if she and Susan Waring could be roommates. Simply because I like to cause trouble, I told Nancy that she was making a huge mistake because Susan snored so loudly. Without even batting an eyelash, Nancy immediately counterattacked with, "Well, Rick, how the heck would you know??" Pinned back on my heels, I quickly admitted I had made the whole thing up. I can't remember the last time I backpedaled that fast. Nancy is a just little too mentally nimble for old me. If I discovered she had practical skills too I would have to hate her.
Besides my 688 fiasco - the number which will live in infamy for the rest of my life - I know I wasn't the only person who had disappointments.
Leroy Ginzel had contacted a friend at Cozumel who offered to drive him and 5 friends around the island in a limousine for a very low price. Gary Richardson, like me another card-carrying member of the Albino Vampire Moonbeam Tan Squad, was really excited about the chance to see the beautiful island in the luxury of a spacious AIR-CONDITIONED luxury vehicle. Who knows? Maybe champagne would be served and there would be videos to watch as well. And imagine all the great pictures he could take of the lush foliage and beautiful lagoons!!!
Alas, this marvelous trip never happened. The lady offered some lame excuse about getting her days mixed up. Although I had no idea what the real story was, I could tell Leroy was very disappointed. I got the feeling he felt 'set up'.
And my daughter Sam didn't have much fun either. It is true she enjoyed the snorkeling, but other than that she didn't have many activities to occupy her time. She felt too young to dance, there was no one remotely her age within our group and she never connected with any other kids on board. Plus as another member of the Albino Swim team, each trip to the pool meant long careful immersions into SPF 50 sun block. Even the slightest mistake resulted in a painful burn under the summer Caribbean sun. And yes, she missed one spot on Chankanaab day that made sleeping that night tough.
With too much free time on her hands, Sam watched a recent movie on TV called "Just Married". When it ended, it came on again. Since I was usually in the room playing computer chess, Sam and I must have watched that movie six times!! I am so sick of that movie I could scream.
But the guy who I think had the toughest time was Gary Richardson. His Venus must be badly aligned with Saturn or something because he had one damn thing after another happen to him.
More than any person I know, Gary is seriously affected by heat. I literally put an extra air conditioner in Room 1 at SSQQ simply because I couldn't get the place cool enough to satisfy Gary. His internal AC unit simply doesn't exist.
And dancing is his favorite hobby. Non-stop dancing. Non-stop dancing with every woman in the building. So you can imagine that when Gary gets hot, he gets very miserable. Well, our main dance floor in the Terrace Lounge had no air conditioning. Gary was unable to enjoy his dancing much because he was always miserable.
Gary's favorite activity last year was chatting with all his friends in the Windjammer Lounge. This year's ship had nothing remotely comparable. Gary lost one of his favorite activities - chatting with his friends!! So he concentrated on taking pictures instead, no easy feat because the Windjammer Lounge had been his favorite place to take pictures. Gary was having to work twice as hard to get his pictures as a result.
So imagine Gary's frustration when suddenly he lost over 70 pictures. Something in his digital camera went wrong after taking a picture. Whatever the problem was, it erased all the pictures from memory in an instant. Gary was crushed. That was not only several hours of work down the right, but the opportunities to recreate the lost pictures would not occur again. I honestly think Gary was kicking himself harder than I beat myself up over the 688.
The loss of the pictures may have been devastating, but they did
contribute to one of Gary's few shining moments. Aisha Currie had been
kind enough to supply anyone who asked with little 4th of July fans. One
of the pictures Gary lost had a half-dozen women fanning and flirting with
him at the same time. Gary really missed losing THAT picture so during
Salsa Rueda on the fourth day, I appealed to all our women to bring their
fans down and treat him like the fattest cat in Harem. There were so
many women hanging on Gary during that photo op that for a minute I
mistook him for James Bowling!!
And things were not universally terrible - that same night we enjoyed
singing 'Happy Birthday' at dinner to Gary's lovely wife Betty, a truly
beautiful woman in every sense of the word. I thoroughly enjoyed taking
advantage of the moment to sneak a smooch in on Betty when I suggested as
many men as possible come over and kiss her at the same time!
Despite these cute moments, the worst was yet to come on Gary's Difficult
Vacation!! Read this letter from Monday, July 6th:
"Seems like this was the weekend for me to lose stuff. First I lost all those pictures. That was bad enough. Then I got in the car to drive home from Galveston, called the computer store to see how things were going only to find out that the store had been broken into over the weekend (I had closed the store Friday and Saturday since I would be on the cruise and figured my employees would like some time off, too, for a long holiday....
Well, someone (probably a teenager) broke open the air conditioning vents on the roof, came down into the store through the ducts and broke through the ceiling doing a lot of ceiling damage. Loss of merchandise was minimal (that I have discovered so far)...a few hundred dollars and a lot of damage to the ceiling and A/C. Insurance (less deductible, of course) will take care of it...but what an aggravation!!!
Apparently who ever broke in got scared when they heard the alarm go off grabbed what they could and escaped as fast as they could. First time in the twenty plus years I have been in business that I have had a break-in."
Gary definitely had a tough trip. As he said in a later email, he feels like he needs another vacation to recover from his vacation. Bless his heart. He contributed so much to the dancing and he spent so much time taking pictures. As Marla said, Gary must be stuck sitting under a dark cloud.
It seemed like in his case no good deed went unpunished…
THE GREAT GROUP PICTURE FIASCO
Let's face it, Chankanaab was a terrific high for many people, but by the fourth day people were starting to tire out. It takes a lot energy to have fun! All that dancing, swimming, snorkeling, shopping, and sight-seeing was starting to take its toll. Add to that the difficulty of living in close quarters and having to be polite all the time. That took a lot of patience right there! And the lack of air conditioning was especially tiring.
By the fourth day, both Marla and I ran into some seriously grouchy people. I suppose it didn't help that we were grouchy ourselves. Thank An Arab definitely took a lot out of me while Marla was hitting the point of exhaustion after a long month of whirlwind activities. We were both pooped.
There had been many requests for a group picture. After dinner on Night 3, I went over to the photography area to ask about scheduling the picture. The best time for us would have been right before dinner like we had done last year on the Rhapsody.
That wouldn't work. Unlike the Rhapsody which had an awesome interior venue with its beautiful descending staircase in the Atrium, the Jubilee had nothing to offer. The picture had to be taken outdoors and it had to be taken before the sun set. I told the man we had dancing from 3:45-4:45 in the Atlantis Lounge and more dancing scheduled from 5:30 - 6:30. The photographer suggested 5 pm. Okay.
The next problem was I had no way of directly contacting everyone. The right way to have done it was to schedule this event far in advance or at least two days ago like I had intended. But my 688 adventure had erased my brain cells and I forgot all about it. So we would have to use word of mouth. Every time I ran into someone from the group, I told them about the group picture.
Many people were very unhappy. One lady wanted it earlier in the day. Another lady wanted it at 8 pm and was quite forceful in her request. One man wanted the photo shoot moved to 5:15 pm so he could watch our ssqq dancers in the Talent Show. When did the Talent Show start, I asked? 5 pm.
In other words, everyone would be forced to choose between watching the Talent Show and getting their picture taken. Oh great.
It turned out that Guy Hoover was going to recite Poetry in the Talent Show. He was first up. Then Maureen Brunetti and Steve Gabino were going to Swing dance. They were going second.
At 4:45 pm I went to ask the photographer if he would mind pushing back the shoot 15 minutes. Not a problem. Then I raced to the Lido Deck where the picture was scheduled to be taken. When people began to show up at 5 pm for the Group Picture, I asked them to stay put and reassure anyone else that we would be taking the picture in 15 minutes. Then I raced to the Atlantis Lounge to watch our three participants. I knew a very unpleasant scene was about to unfold, but felt helpless to prevent it.
After Steve and Maureen danced - very well I might add - suddenly nearly 100 people stood up and walked out of the room. What had been a very good audience now become a very small audience. It was an enormously rude gesture on all our parts. I ached to go down and explain to the emcee what was going on, but decided it would only make matters worse. This was my second lowest moment of the trip.
Fortunately the Group Picture went very well. The swimming pool had three levels of steps. We spread out across the steps and stared up into the evening sun. Many people had to squint or cover their eyes. Despite all our handicaps, the picture came out much better than I had any right to expect.
We had 108 people participate which meant 75% of the group participated. Last year we had 84% participation. Considering how much of this was done on the seat of my pants, I have to say I was stunned that things turned out as well as they did.
SLOW DANCE AND ROMANCE ON THE JUBILEE
To be honest, if there were any new romances created during the trip, they have completely escaped my radar so far. If there were any secret love affairs, they can rest assured they have no fear of being busted by me in this story.
At the same time, I witnessed sparks flying all over the place during the dance lessons and at the dinners. I saw a lot of smoke. All that flirting must have led to some fire, but it definitely happened outside my gaze. I do know Marla was discretely asked for certain email addresses by three different men immediately after we returned. This sounded like some obvious ember smoldering to me!!
As many of our readers know, my relationship with Marla began on the ssqq cruise two summers ago, so I speak from experience that Cruises are definitely effective at setting the table for romances to begin. And I watched Chuck Morton and Brenda Uffmann connect on last year's trip. Like Marla and I, Chuck and Brenda are engaged now.
We will just have to wait and see if this year's cruise produces any new relationships. I will keep you posted!
CARNIVAL VERSUS ROYAL CARIBBEAN - THE BATTLE FOR THE TEXAS CRUISE
SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL
As I have said throughout our story, I was terribly disappointed in the Jubilee.
In only one way - the Big Band Night - did the Jubilee trump the Rhapsody.
For the past year Marla and I have wrestled with an odd contradiction. The 2002 RCCL Rhapsody ship had superior
facilities in every way. In fact the overall beauty of the Rhapsody makes
any comparison completely ludicrous. However due to an insensitive staff and a pathetic dance band, Marla and I agreed our trip on the 2001 Carnival Celebration the year before had been more
fun that the 2002 RCCL Rhapsody trip.
In other words, the spirit of the group was better in 2001 despite the obvious superior facilities of the Rhapsody. Our problem could be compared to whether to date the girl with the good looks or the one with the good personality. This contradiction nagged at us when it was time to make a choice for the 2003 trip.
We could not figure out how the Celebration trip had ever managed to be superior to the Rhapsody trip, but we both agreed it was. So we decided to see if Carnival really did have some magic or whether it was our imagination.
Well, this trip dispelled any illusions we held about Carnival. There was absolutely no magic on the Jubilee other than the magic our own group created.
The Jubilee had been marketed to us as being the sister ship to the
Celebration so we assumed they were interchangeable, but there is no comparison between the two ships. The Celebration has a much higher morale among its staff than the Jubilee. And it was a
much cleaner ship too. But head to head with Rhapsody, the Celebration is no winner either.
With three years of experience behind us, Marla and I both agree the only thing Carnival did right in both years was basically get out of our way to let the ssqq group do its own thing while the Rhapsody actually interfered with our activities.
If the Rhapsody could ever overcome its arrogance, they would devastate
Carnival in the Houston and the Texas market.
Do any of you remember those odd reports out of Galveston a year ago where some of the skyscrapers mysteriously shook for 20 minutes in the middle of the day?
Believe it or not, that bizarre problem was eventually traced to the Celebration cruise ship as it left its dock in Galveston. And
if you remember, the vibration on the Jubilee was so bad I could barely
hold the rails on my way to the Lido Deck pool. To think the
vibration on the Celebration is worse than that of the Jubilee is
incomprehensible to me.
In my opinion the Jubilee should be sent straight to the bottom of the ocean as quickly as possible. Maybe they should send the Celebration with it.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE
There was one unfortunate incident which none of us will ever forget. It occurred during our fourth and final dinner of the trip. As the group sat eating our meal, the ship started to roll to the port side. We were used to this. The ship often rolled back and forth during dance lessons. The men didn't mind since beautiful were constantly stumbling into their arms.
But this time the ship rolled far more than usual, then to our shock stuck in this position! We were all literally leaning in our chairs to stay upright. The dining room looked like one of those crazy fun houses where everything is crooked.
We all started to worry when the ship did not automatically correct its roll. I immediately stared at
Marlon, our waiter. He was gripping the side of the railing with fingers white from the pressure. I could tell he was worried too. Would the ship correct itself or would the problem get worse? Was it time to grab Marla and Sam and run to the surface of the ship? I was seriously considering doing just that as I waited for the ship to make its next move!!
Finally after a minute the ship slowly climbed back to an upright position. But before we could relax just seconds later the ship rolled back and stopped again in the same bizarre position!!
Now we were definitely worried. No one moved. No one talked. We just sat there wondering.
Allusions to the Poseidon Adventure where the ship does a 180 and flips over seemed like a real possibility. Kimberly Thomen got out her camera - she took a picture of the water on our table 15 degrees out of balance. She broke the silence when she said she would use the picture in her law suit. We smiled.
Finally the ship righted itself again and there was no further incident. No one made any jokes. The concern had been real. There was no explanation from the Captain. Who knows what happened??
The Jubilee is an old, dirty, dark, dingy ship. All the carpets are badly stained. The windows are filthy in need of a good cleaning. As I said earlier, the staff is courteous, but lack anything approaching the more cheerful morale of the Celebration staff. They are quiet and efficient, but for the most part lack the energy to motivate the passengers to participate in activities.
The cruise director, some guy named Matt, has to be the phoniest emcee in the history of a position that attracts the worst hams imaginable. So for Matt to be listed among the worst is quite an accomplishment albeit in the wrong direction. In my dreams I still hear that guy begging the audience to clap harder for acknowledge what a great time they are all having. Why don't you clap harder, Matt?
On the other hand, I suppose Carnival should be thrilled to sell this
particular sailing. I do recall wondering why there were still cabins
available just two weeks before sailing and now I think I have my answer.
Carnival is just lucky there wasn't enough competition to handle the
demand for space. As the word spreads about this floating tub, I would
imagine that other than peak season, pretty soon the Jubilee will have a
hard time coming anywhere near selling its space on any consistent basis.
Hopefully Carnival will realize in its head to head battle with Royal
Caribbean they can't hope to compete for the Texas market with such an
My guess is that Carnival already is well aware they have a problem.
There is a new ship rumored to be coming to Houston in the spring. However
this gossip was highly unsubstantiated.
Meanwhile, there were three rumors floating around about the Jubilee. The first I heard was that Carnival was reassigning it to South America. This might be a good move - They are used to living in the heat down there; maybe they won't notice this old dump lacks air-conditioning. The second rumor was that the Jubilee was being reassigned to Australia. If you have any friends Down Under, warn them immediately!
The final rumor was that the ship had been sold to another cruise line which was why nothing that was broken was getting fixed and nothing that was dirty - the windows for example - were being cleaned. The destination was supposed to be Puerto Rico.
I have a fourth suggestion - try the bottom of the ocean and collect the insurance.
Another poignant failure could not be blamed on the ship, but rather its Fun Staff, you know, people like Matt.
When the staff dropped the ball on the 4th of July, they made a big liar out of me. I had promised our group that Carnival with its "Fun Reputation" would provide us a big party on the 4th.
Other than a pathetic rendition of "God Bless America" by the wait staff, there was no further acknowledgement of what is considered to be one of our
countries four most important holidays. No fireworks, no dancing on deck by the pool to an outdoor band, not even a sparkler. No
Celebration at all. Just another night on the Fun Ship
That sums up the Jubilee nicely - no spark left. Sink it now or sell it to James Cameron and Sandra Bullock so they can destroy it in a "Titanic Meets Poseidon Adventure Speed III" sequel.
They won't even need to hire an animal trainer. Just tell the ship to roll over and play dead.
THE FINAL WORD
In spite of the Jubilee's shortcomings, our 2003 Summer Cruise Group had an awesome trip. Compliments on the quality of the experience have steadily come in. Requests have been made for another trip. Word of mouth reports have been favorable. The overall consensus seems to parallel my report - lousy ship, but great trip anyway.
Here is a letter from Mara that sums up the general attitude the best:
Wednesday, July 8, 2003
"Dear Marla and Rick,
Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all your work putting together the cruise, Gene and I had a wonderful time. Also while at Wild West last night, many
of the cruisers were talking about how much fun they had.
Thank you so much!
Sincerely, Mara Rivas"
One more thing - there were many stories from the trip that were not
included in my story. That doesn't mean I can't go back and add them at a
later date. There is no statute of limitations on gossip as far as I am
So if you want to share the dirt on someone, bring it on!!
Nothing is too terrible for me to print.
Or if you are still worried that your story might find its way in here,
you should be. The power of gossip is mightier than the
But that's it for now. Thank you for reading the story of the trip.
In case you are curious, it was 22 letter-size pages long. And I am not
(PS - Please send any comments or scintillating gossip to firstname.lastname@example.org
No dirt is too dirty to print!!)