March 26, 2001
Leaving the Good Life
I’m on the last day of another exotic
adventure; my bags are packed. My
passport’s in hand, and by tomorrow morning I’ll be wending my very long
way home. It will be a journey
I’ll be only too happy to complete because of my baggage!!!
We will arise at 4:30 a.m., eat breakfast, and be ready to abandon
ship at 6 a.m. Then the arduous
trip begins—I’ll fly from Athens to Munich to San Francisco to
Washington DC via Lufthansa, a trip that promises to take about 24 hours.
Already I am missing this latest adventure in going
around the world, albeit only from Hong Kong to Athens via sea and the
remainder by air. I didn’t
even realize I was circling the entire globe when I started this cruise
until someone more observant than I pointed it out to me.
As a matter of fact, I had no idea whether I would
enjoy this Renaissance R2 ship half as much as I had the old Ocean Explorer
bucket of a seagoing vessel. But
once on board the R2, I found we were on a beautiful new ship, one where
everything is spick and span and beautifully taken care of by an absolutely
wonderful staff. The staff comes from 56 countries, we learned, with Great
Britain, the Philippines, and Croatia citizens the top three groups of
staff. We found that every single member of the crew, from lowly
assistant salad server to the cruise director, Clodagh O’Connor from
Ireland, to be totally accommodating, smiling and ready to jump to fulfill a
passenger’s request, no
matter how outlandish! Ice
buckets are filled several times daily, fresh towels magically appear
several times daily in the bathroom, along with fresh sheets turned down
while you are out of your room in the evening.
Outside windows get washed and balcony scrubbed regularly.
It’s a beautifully cared for ship. Some say, the nicest they’ve
And gourmet food is the highest priority, with so many
chances to eat that you can do a twenty-four hour dining routine without any
trouble—but I don’t. I
won’t bother to describe the menus---however, I can say truthfully that
the assortment of delicious meals meets the standards of any ship afloat.
They are prepared with exquisite detail, served elegantly, and you
can have as much or as little as you please.
I won’t say how many times people at my table ordered two main
courses, two desserts, or practically every choice in every category---but
who’s counting. So much for
the food. I haven’t weighed
myself but have managed to get on the treadmill faithfully to counteract
these many good meals. By the
way, I just heard of a couple which has racked up an $8,000 dollar bar bill.
They apparently drink Dom Perignon all day and night.
The ports of call have been fascinating and as much or
more enjoyable than I expected. No
Now to the life at sea.
Most of the 600 or so passengers are retired and have made cruising a
regular part of their agenda. Some are very interesting, (and Vi and I have
made a number of friends). All,
for the most part are very sophisticated, know their way around the cruising
world, and many have been on an average of
three Renaissance cruises. (I’ve
made it my business to guess how many Renaissance cruises people have done
since everyone asks that question, and three is the number that comes up
most often.) So you’d think that by now the Renaissance people would have
enough interesting daytime activities to satisfy their sophisticated
clientele. Not quite so, in my estimation, but I haven’t taken a poll.
However, there are a number of activities to keep you busy.
The spa is beautiful as is the workout room.
Mick, a handsome hulk of a guy, runs the workout room with Prussian
precision, and he has people jogging, exercising for “Fab Abs,”
and “walking a mile with a smile” on the track on deck 10, and
doing aerobics who have never done this before. You can walk treadmills that
look out with full views of the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and beautiful seas
around the world. That’s all well and good, and I loved walking around the
Then there are the interesting assortment of
people to watch---the ones who aren’t sunbathing around the pool
The bridge players (no comment.
I don’t play bridge.)
The Bingo players (no comment.
I don’t play Bingo—but I must admit that five of my most
intelligent friends in the “group” can be found among those
compulsive Bingo players who crowd the Cabaret Lounge at least once a
day for the big Bingo game. And
it seems, they actually came out ahead!}
The Team Trivia players. (No comment. They
are among the loudest and most aggressive bunch on the ship.
Don’t get in their way at the end of a trivial pursuit contest.)
The movie goers. (No
comment. There are three movies
a day available on your stateroom TV. Some
people never come out at all; they just order room service and catch up on
ten years of movies.)
The gamblers—The casino is open constantly.
(No comment. I don’t gamble. But
more than a few do.)
Evening entertainment. (Not
much of a comment.) There is a
marvelous young group of singer/dancers who appear about three times a week
doing fresh routines of song and dance from the fifties and sixties,
musicals, etc. I love them.
Several other entertainers have come and gone.
Mostly gone. The magician was awful.
The Irish tenor wonderful. The
one night of classical music enjoyable.
There should be more.
Ballroom dancing. (Yes, a comment.)
I love it and have enjoyed the swing, rhumba, cha cha cha, and waltz
dancing I’ve had fun doing with my buddy Roy, a member of the “group”
of the OE1. We dance almost
every ballroom dance opportunity available.
I’d do more if it were possible.
The library. It’s
there and very comfortable with a wide assortment of good books---I
haven’t taken advantage of it nearly enough I’ve been so busy doing
The computer room. Thumbs down!
I’ve mastered the art of keeping my time down to five or six
minutes (and exhorbitantly expensive ones they are)---and that’s with no
help of the surly Greek guy who runs the computer room.
I’ve now got him to the point of being somewhat civil to me, but it
wasn’t easy. Needless to say,
we’ve searched far and wide for cybercafes along the way, and I must say
that’s been an interesting experience to find them and use them .
So thumbs down on Alex, the computer nerd who at first sneered at
everyone who walked through the door, and has wasted my time crying on my
shoulder about how much hard work he has to do with people who don’t know
the first thing about computers!
Now saving the best for last---would you believe THE LAUNDRY.
The laundry, located on deck 7, my deck, but thankfully not
near my stateroom, is an extraordinary experience, any way you look at it.
After discovering that it is on my way to breakfast, lunch, and
dinner in the dining rooms, I make it my business to peek in and spy as I
walk by. You never know
what’s going to happen next in the laundry room.
On the second day there was a riot in the laundry room, and the
security guards had to be called to quiet down the crowd.
It seems somebody tore the signup sheet off the wall and a mad
rebellion ensued with people charging in to use the room ----out of their
turn!!! As soon as the riot
police brought order to the civilian population inhabiting this den of
humidity, someone else stole the signup sheet, and the crowd went mad again.
Things calmed down slightly after awhile, but peace has been hard to
come by. It’s been the most
popular gathering place on the ship, and all kinds of stories come out of
the laundry. Some people were
talking about having a cocktail party in the laundry room but couldn’t
decide on an “A” list to invite because people’s personalities change
incredibly when they enter this no-man’s land of dirty clothes.
At dinner one night with a German orthopedic surgeon
with a heavy accent told us how his wife (sitting there embarrassed)
had bought three $3 tokens to use in the laundry.
But before she could get a machine, she and her husband went out
walking around Muscat, Oman. She
went into a “toilet” and found that she had to tip the attendant.
Reaching into her purse for small change, she tipped the woman
appropriately with small US coins---she thought.
Only later in the laundry, she found that she had tipped the
attendant the three laundry coins she had bought that morning---$9 dollars
in laundry coins. Her husband
Then there was the pathetic man we met outside the elevators
one night. He turned to me and
said, “My wife went to the
laundry. I probably will never
see her again.”
And there’s the same little lady we see ironing in the
laundry every time we walk by, morning noon and night. We don’t think
she’s left the laundry since we boarded ship.
And one day we stopped and chatted with three men seated
opposite the dryers. They were all looking straight ahead intently watching
their clothes tumble in the dryer. Someone
asked them, “What are you doing?” One replied, “Watching TV.” And
the second replied, “It’s a man thing.”
Then there was the lady who put her laundry in but just
couldn’t manage how to figure out which buttons to push to start the
washing process. She pushed all
the buttons and then sat for an
hour, guarding her clothes. When
she checked half an hour later, she found nothing had happened. So again she pushed all the buttons and sat for awhile. Then
a lady came in to pick up her washed and
clean clothes in machine number two. They
were full of soap! The first
lady had pushed the wrong buttons and had poured soap into machine number 2.
I could go on indefinitely describing all the social
gatherings of people who have become best friends in the laundry, others
planning their day around when they do the laundry, men ironing everything
from undershorts to dress shirts—and their wife’s garments.
But I won’t; suffice it to say, everyone on board talks incessantly
about THE LAUNDRY and what has happened there today.
I don’t use it. Vi has
a Chinese Laundry going in our bathroom---and I use the ship laundry
service. It’s worth every
So, back to the life on board. Vi and I boarded and found to our delight that there are a
total of eight people from the Ocean Explorer 1 on board with us—and they
are our favorite friends. Seven
of us have informally gotten together almost constantly to share taxis, to
have lunch and dinner in one of the three restaurants, to have a drink and
more than a few laughs before dinner, to watch some of the entertainment,
and generally to have a fabulous time together.
It’s been a rare experience of friendship and we hate to see it
end. We just may have to go on
another discount cruise of this sort together
Vi and I are sharing a stateroom. She’s from San Jose and lived in my home
town, Sacramento. We
met on the Ocean Explorer and became good friends, and Vi suggested we take
this trip together. It’s
worked out beautifully. She’s
a red head, tall and stately and very well organized, and we have a great
time together. In the group,
David calls Vi the stable one! That’s
true; I count on her to know what’s happening and when!
Nancy from San Francisco—she’s a whirlwind of
energy and activity. She is a
born comedian and never stops with the ad libs.
Unfortunately, when she and I get together, there is no stopping the
Roy from Palm Springs—From the Isle of Man, Toronto,
and Hawaii, Roy is the funniest guy alive with many stories to tell,
and a great dancer. He
and I have formed the “dance unit” of the group and dance away at the
slightest orchestral provocation for ballroom dancing.
Jackie from Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Jackie was my roommate at Iguazu Falls and we’ve been laughing
together and snorkeling ever since. She
is a constant risk taker, and you can always count on an interesting time
when she’s around—including our snorkeling at Phuket together when she
almost went to sea in her mask and fins.
David and Donna—a married couple from Colorado.
This is an amazing and fascinating couple---and they have the
owner’s suite on the ship—which means we have parties in this humongous
suite with a fabulous living room, two baths, jacuzzi, and double deck
balcony across the entire back of the ship---not the “pointy” end as
Jackie describes the front. Front?
I don’t know the term yet. As
soon as this trip is over, David and Donna are heading for Timbuktoo. Why? Here’s how they explain it.
They travel so much, all their friends say to them, “Where are you
going next? To Timbuktoo? So
they are going there so the next time they are asked that question, their
answer will be ,” Yes.”
Their goal is to go to every country in the world.
So far they’ve made it to something like 71 out of about 175 on
their list, with some other selected points of interest also on the agenda.
The other night they showed us their video of their five-day dog
sledding trip in northern Canada. You
can tell they are fun---and crazy---people.
So, there’s lots to tell about this ship and the
people on it. I’ve just hit
the tip of the iceberg—please not literally.
It is a cruise that’s been fun and stimulating with stops in many
exotic ports. But I haven’t
hit every country of the world yet. I’ll
keep working on it.