Tag Archives: travel

When You’re Going on a #Cruise #Travel – I Can’t Hear You, It’s Too No.

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Who is that sleeping man on the PA system?

When the ship’s fun people have something they want you to know, for example, “HEY HEY GOOOOOD MORNING NORRRRRRWEEEEEEGIANNNNNS! It’s Dan Dan your kaaaaruuuuuzediRECtorrrr… Today at 10:00 we have BINGO in the Hardevik Lounge for $50 a card. Jackpot today is 50,000 Hemnes Ikea beans in your choice of dressing… At 10:07 we will begin our CaSSSSSSINOOOOO shuffle time elkhound runabout! IT’s all the rage! Cruiser contestants arm wrestle in frozen spent espresso grounds for Big Prizes like a Carton of Cuban Cigarettes attached to the end of a leash… when you catch the elkhound, you win the tobacco! The lighter is not included…” or “At 11:12 in the Watermelon Seed Pond it’s Kiddie DJ Dance Up Splash Down…”

The message’s preceding “Bing Bong” tone which sounds exactly like the Washington DC MetroRail “Doors Opening” chime, will play in the open areas, outside the closed door from your cabin. So everything sounds like it’s underwater.

It’s challenging enough to have “Ayyy Norrrweeeegiaaaannn tallkeeng tew yew very laoud on a small spicker outsaiide yewrroom,” but to have the door closed adds another layer of difficulty.

What’s worse? I’ll tell you: BINGBONG (inside your room, so you know it’s official and they’re not trying to take your money because those in-room announcements comes from the bridge) “Goodmorning passengers, this is Captain Mikal speaking from the bridge. Today we are headingsouthwestbynortheastinaroundaboutdirectionand. We anticipate40footswellsandgaleforcewindsbringing arcticblastsaccompaniedbyvolcanicash. Aftersurrenderingyourfirtsborn, nnngngnzzzzgngng….As a resultwehavedecidedtosuspendallactivitiesontheropeszzzznnzngngggggg…. and thenaswemakeourwaythroughthesixthringof zzzzgngngggggzzzz  Dante’sInfernowewillbeginservingespanikopita, So whenyouseethespanikopita, Youwillknowthat it is then time…..nnnngngggnzzzzzznggggg….   ”

That. That’s worse.

When we first left NYC, we were escaping by a few hours a late-season (as in “it’s no longer winter”) snowstorm in the Northeast Corridor. The captain was on the PA system and I do recall hearing him talk about travel conditions. Because he eats the microphone and it descends toward his duodenum, it’s hard to understand him, but I do recall having to decide whether he said “fourteen foot swells” or “forty foot swells.” I also remember him saying either “35 knot headwind” or “55 knot headwind.” No matter, because the ship was indeed afloat in some active water and you could feel it.

I’m not sure what happened, because by all accounts and according to the ship’s own “Navigation Channel” we were heading south and around 9pm that same Sunday evening, there was SNOW ON THE DECK. It was colder than cold and windier than windy.

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Mmm. Just real… yeah. I’ll take a blanket.

I’m guessing by that point, we were somewhere outside the Chesapeake Bay because the sea water was clean. My son and I were intrepid though, I said to him, “Show me this ship,” because he’d already been all around it.

You don’t hear from the captain every day. It only happens when you leave somewhere or are on the approach. Seeing as how you would spend at least 24 hours at sea without stopping, hearing from the bridge was a novelty, and I guess a good one because as they say in the biz, “no news is good news.”

A couple days later, my husband and I were remarking about how we hadn’t heard from him and that when we do, we can’t understand him. He is actually JUST LIKE the Swedish Chef.

But then we started waxing apocalyptic about all the things the captain would say and that we’d not understand, “Goodeveningdisisyourcaptainreportingfromthebridge. Wehavebeencommandeeredbypiratesandaresurrenderingyourwives andchildrenfirstzzznnnnzzggnggngg… ” things like that. “Onyourstarboardsideyouwill nnnnnggggzzzzgngngn…. seethatwehavebeenovertaken ggggnnnzgzzzgznnng… byalargeandheretoforeunknownseamonster whichwewillcalltheBreakawayDestructor…”

All this said, driving and piloting a massive ship like the Breakaway is no small feat. When we pulled into Nassau a day early, the ship had to be backed in to its slip.

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This is our slip, on the left in Nassau. We headed into the port, naturally, bow first. This photo is taken, still with the bow forward, as we are beginning to spin the ship to the right, and then  back into the slip, on the dockside closest to the other ships, with the dock on our port side. No, starboard (man, rowing has jacked me up).

And it’s not like when my son drives the SUV, the last thing you feel before your neck snaps isn’t vehicle’s bump into the concrete abutment of the parking space. You don’t even know the ship has stopped moving by the time it’s all said and done.

If I owned NCL, I would add this to the its onboard iConcierge app post-haste: a daily report from the bridge, a little map of where we are and where we’re headed by the end of the night, the evening weather report and stage of the moon for skygazers and constellations. But that’s because I’m weird and I like my brain and I’m into educating my kids. I’m not wondering what the drink of the night is, nor am I totally into winning “the beeeg priiiihze at the guess the dessert-in-the-bag-o-rama…”

BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE / PACKAGES / DRINKS / GRATUITIES – JUST DO IT

When we boarded, I thought I was at Costco. I saw cases of water on top of peoples’ personal luggage. I asked my husband, “Is this a joke? Are people this stupid?” He had no clue. We honestly didn’t understand why people would do this.

First: just bring your own reusable water bottle from home. I didn’t. I wish I had because a liter or Aquafina, which is just water from a Pepsi plant, is $5.50. But I bought only one bottle and washed it out (yes, with a soap-like product) every time I refilled it.  My son did bring his own water bottle. Never used it. Bought a liter. Almost left the water bottle, a $23 glass water bottle which I REALLY love on the ship. But he didn’t. I made him go back for it.

You can also refill the bottle with lemonade or iced tea or a combo or make iced coffee… it’s silly not to bring your own bottle. Just make sure it’s empty before you get anywhere near pre-boarding US Customs.

And as for beverages while on the ship: just buy the beverage package. I’m not sure how much it was per person, but I am sure you can work an angle; make the adjustment on the ship if you need to because any soft drink handed to you by another human being who works on the ship will cost you. I’m not a boozer, but my liver probably freaked out and wondered if we were back at a wedding when in college by Friday.

One day I had a margarita at 1:00pm and I thought I was going to fall asleep. I don’t know how people do it, drink in the middle of the day. I had one while reading on my chaise lounge (which I liberated from a fraudulent practice of predawn hangover squatting by a gang of EuroTrash stowaways, more on that later) and would’ve easily taken a nap if it weren’t for the amazing DJ who was playing all manner of House Music from 2008, “Wobble” by V.I.C. and “Jump” by House of Pain (one of my favorites, actually) almost nonstop. Another favorite was “Firework” by Katy >Ack!< Perry.

At one point I was so OVER the house music and the sixth mixed round of Wobble that when the DJ played “Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones, I almost stood up and clapped. The sound quality coming from real instruments after listening to the hissing Katy Perry restored my sanity. Sadly, that song was… you guessed it: interrupted by yet another raffle announcement on the Burgdagord Funtimes deck and it DID NOT resume playing. The Black Eyes Peas did. You know, that band from 2010…? Them.

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I must thank V.I.C. because I didn’t know I was a “shorty” until after that cruise. Apparently all the shorties in the club, he wants to see your chest. And if you wobble it, he will gobble it. And he wants to make you back it up. Whatever the hell that means… To see five-year-olds donning leopard-print bikinis dance poolside to this music… was unsettling.

On certain mornings, say at 8am, you’re just not in the mood to hear “All the shorties in the club let me see your chest…” as you wander to the Garden Cafe on the exterior deck of the ship and I wondered, what happened to Frank Sinatra, or The Beatles, or John Williams movie scores, or show tunes soundtracks… or I don’t know: nothing? Outside the rooms, they play anesthetizing dentist’s office music.

Why can’t they tone that shit down in the morning?

I know the tired woman I saw with the messy hair wearing the tiger-print halter top and white leather pants, who not wearing her high-heeled strappy sandals, who was nursing a sweaty Heineken, and who dragging on a long-ashed smoke in the designated smoker’s pen at 8:30 in the morning would’ve appreciated a little less volume.

We’ve all been there.

I was also thinking about what a waiter said one night, that most of the time, the cruises have older people on them and that it was fun for the crew to have college kids and young families on board because most of the staff is in its 30s-60s so they miss their own families.

I saw one Golden Anniversary-ish couple onboard which I had the pleasure twice of witnessing them not speak to each other at all over the course of an entire dinner one evening until the woman broke the silence when she reached into her purse and handed her husband a pill that he had “to take with this drink, not that one.” My guess is that someone booked the wrong week for that couple.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME: DON’T BOTHER GETTING YOUR HAIR DONE

Don’t. Just don’t. I did. I lost half a day. The point of this is that you’re on a floating hotel and that everyone looks like they just woke up, want to go to bed, can’t find their bed, woke up in the wrong bed, or fell out of bed. People are ready for the pool. People are coming out of the pool. People are simply not looking their best. They’re not looking like death warmed over, but if you’re a chick, your hair is going to get blown all over the place because the Atlantic is a windy place and the ship is really moving. I saw more baseball caps than in a dugout.

PACK A SMALL PHARMACY

Pack a small pharmacy because you never know when your husband will stub his toe and need a bandaid. Nor do you know when your son will feel sick and need a Pepogest. Nor do you know when you won’t be able to stop sneezing and a benedryl is the only thing that will help you sleep. Because you left the Xanax you requested, for the first time ever from your GP, at home. Because you’re bloody brilliant.

What to put in this pharmacy?

  • benedryl
  • advil
  • tylenol
  • bandaids
  • neosporin
  • aspirin (it helps reduce my nasal sniffles)
  • pepto bismol
  • pepogest (enteric-coated peppermint oil for the stomach, it’s awesome)
  • eucalyptus oil for the feet (congestion)
  • oregano oil for immunity support (3 drops in an ounce of OJ once a day)
  • ear plugs
  • gas-x (let’s not kid ourselves, you’re going to overeat)
  • anything else you think you might need, but in sample size.

TAKE THE ELEVATOR IF YOU WANT TO WAIT ALL DAY

If you like waiting, by all means take the elevator. Our room was on 9. The cafeteria is on 15. It was a walk every day, of course, to get to the food. There was something glorious though about feeling your heart pounding and your breath deeper and heavier right before you dive into a platter of bacon and french toast.

As the days wore on, it seemed more people opted for the stairs. The elevators are fast, so that isn’t the trouble; it’s the volume of people using them. Often I saw people board on one floor and then after I reached the floor first, they got off the elevator on the same deck.

I’m that fast.

I didn’t have to lift a finger for ANYTHING on that cruise. I didn’t make my bed, Imade (“Ih-mah-day”) did. I wanted to secretly call him “Look at what” and then “Imade” but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. It reminded me of how I treated new neighbors I didn’t like who moved in immediately after my favorite neighbors, the O’Keefes, moved out. I called them “UTBOKs” for “Used to be O’Keefes.” I missed the O’Keefes so much I didn’t bother getting to know them. They were pleasant, but they were in over their heads. They lived there less than 2 years; they had to foreclose on the house. 

But Imade did it all. He is a lovely man and I’ll write about him and the other crew members we met and spoke with later.

KEY CARD / DETACHABLE LANYARD / EXTRA CARD / HOLE PUNCHER

Just yes. Either make or buy a lanyard here on terra firma now or pay $6 for each one on the ship. The most practical lanyard would be the kind which unclips the necessary parts from the rosary other half around your neck. Of course, I didn’t understand the utility of the detachable lanyard until four days into the cruise when I’d been taking off my lanyard to present it to a server for a drink, or a purchase at a coffee shop, or buy a pack of playing cards at the mediocre gift shop (MGS), or a meal at a restaurant, or to get into my room, or to turn on the lights in my room, or to use the vending machine, or to disembark, or to embark……… I’m embarrassed it took me that long to realize I could simply unclip the lower part and give that to the requesting party…

Bring your own single-hole puncher or send your husband to wait in line for 20 minutes on day 1 to get the family’s punched. Then use the key-ring part of the lanyard to attach your cards, not the flimsy clear-plastic sleeve that comes with the $6 lanyard purchased at the MGS. Why? Because that sleeve will rip by day three and your 12-year-old son will lose his cards.

Also, if you book multiple cabins, get an extra / guest card for each cabin because you will your children will forget theirs.

I’ll be back with more insights, highlights and ideas soon. I have to go now though because there’s a soaking wet elkhound dragging a carton of cigarettes from a leash roaming outside my house and he’s being followed by that woman in the tiger print halter and white leather pants.

Thank you.

ps — I still feel sea wobbly but not nearly as robust as I did when I first wrote about the cruise on Tuesday. I have faith my balance will be restored.

When You’re Going on a #Cruise #Travel 

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My family and I went on a cruise last week from NYC to Cape Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas. We were supposed to also spend a day on a private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, but the 8′ swells prohibited use of the tender boats (read: small ferries) because risk of maiming or dismembering people as they anything’d anywhere near the anything off the anypart of the ship. Think of it this way: trying to get onboard a bar of soap bobbing about in a community pool from the third-floor balcony of a parking garage. So we didn’t sink our toes in the pristine white sands of Great Stirrup Cay or spend time with sea rays or anything at all that day. We stayed on the ship.

The sun was out and the island was very inviting. From our balcony doorway. But I’m getting off course already.

Get used to it.

I just wrote the subheads for this post. Knowing me and my tendency to be verbose, they could each be their own post. I will see how things go and if it’s too massive, I’ll break them out into smaller posts and you all can read as you choose. Or simply ignore me.

FIRST DAY CHAOS / PEOPLE SHOCK / EAT IN YOUR ROOM / HAND SANITIZER

We woke very early and departed our home to drive to NYC in hopes that we would have plenty of time to park and settle in. There was a half-marathon that day in the city, so let’s just say we were really lucky we left when we did. We spent an hour in traffic from exit 9A to get off the GW Bridge to the parking ramp on W. 79th Street.

If you can tolerate Alec Baldwin and his tendency to rudely interrupt his interviewees with his own droll stories, I highly recommend subscribing to “Here’s The Thing” podcasts as Baldwin has some really interesting guests. We listened to almost two podcasts while sitting in traffic.

Once you get out of your car, unload your luggage and descend the depths of the cruise ship / customs area, prepare to stand in line among the people corral ropes. That will take another hour. Then you will have your photo taken which will NOT show on your keycard but will display upon a screen everywhere you use it on the ship or at ports. (Hint: if you have a lanyard, bring it. More later.)

Then you will go through customs.

Then you will be funneled to an area where you stand in front of a sheet for your family photo. I did not even bother to look at it — I’d JUST been in line for sixteen years, standing with people who all lied on their “have you sneezed since the Reagan administration?” forms. I simply wanted to get on the ship.

Walk down another hallway, take a right, up the gangway and FINALLY! On the ship.

I have to say this was delightful. Everyone reminded me of Bruno Mars or Jennifer Lopez and they were smiling and happy and dancing to loudish nightclub music as they welcomed you aboard. That was a welcome relief. It really was a party atmosphere. But not a dark and seamy scary Studio 54 party; a safe fun and exciting party. They are also totally ready with the hand sanitizer. It was everywhere.

We entered an area with a GLEAMing and sparkly black floor and then found our way to our rooms. The lines for the elevators reached back to the GW Bridge, so we opted for the steps. Because we booked late, my kids were on the interior port aft of the ship and my husband and I were on the forward starboard balcony side two decks down from them. I had decided before we left home, that this whole thing was going to be an adventrure. So finding their room was a little like discovering Narnia after stepping into the wardrobe.

Our rooms were ample. The shower was strong, the hot water was hot, the tap water was totally potable. The beds were slightly higher than you’re accustomed to so you can stow your luggage beneath them. How big do you need your room to be? You’re going to be out and about on the ship, taking advantage of its shopping mall cum Times Square ambience. People are everywhere all the time at all hours walking around with a beer, a drink, or a sandwich. There is no “living room” rule like when you were a kid: you can eat anywhere you want.

The hangers in the closet: they sway. So make sure you close the door to the closet every night or you will hear the swaying and knocking while you sleep. Or, if it still bugs you, take a towel and wrap the hangers together with it so you don’t have to listen to them swing independently. Or drink so much you pass out and you hear nothing.

Speaking of sleeping, the beds were very comfortable. I give them a B+. The towels were soft, the soaps were not drying. The blow dryer was like standing in the mouth of Hades.

So when you board and settle into your rooms, you realize you’re hungry, because it’s after 3:30 or so. And the last thing you ate was a BelVita bar in the car with a cup of Keurig coffee. Six hours ago.

So it’s time to eat… DON’T DO THIS: Do NOT go up to the 15th deck and expect things to be calm and orderly and to have a table available.

Do NOT plan on sitting INSIDE. Do NOT expect to find eating utensils if you manage to claim a table somewhat near the door, in hopes that the heat from the interior area of the cafe will occasionally blast your way as you shiver and watch your herbal tea frost over.

Here is my position: it’s day 1. It’s a shitstorm. A clusterfuck of humanity on the 15th deck. Everyone is hungry. There are no tables. The silverware is hard to locate. The food is fresh… it will be there… It’s going to be OK. But we are talking about all walks of life from all sorts of places with all kinds of manners or lack thereof. You’re going to be offended. You just are. It’s not like Pensylvania Dutch “family style” dining however (if you want to see my head come off, put me at a table with a bunch of perfect strangers who ask me to pass the taters and the catsup while I’m at it, “will ya Hun?”). You will eventually have your own table. On the ship, you won’t have to scoop food off a common serving plate and pass it to someone named Elvira who’s sitting to your whatever. (I realize that buffets are just like standing next to Elvira…)

My advice: either wait it out for an hour in your cabin, or simply bring food back to your cabin after you grab a few rolls of silverware in wrapped in napkins. Eat in your room as the sea flows by. Nothing is worth that chaos. But do get the bread and some lots of butter, because come on, you’re on a cruise. Indulge.

While in these eating areas — even the basic restaurants, the automatic hand sanitizer stations are every 10 feet. Should you prefer the non-cyborg treatment, a crisply dressed, professional human stands at every entrance with a spray bottle loaded with rubbing alcohol or vodka who will look you Right In The Eye and will say, in a strange sing-songy way, “Washy washy…?” And then you, like the good little Oompa Loompa you are, will open your palms for the spray. And then you will rub your hands together and proceed to the buffet station. The hand sanitizers are also in the elevators lobbies; if you use basic hygienic common sense, you won’t get sick on an NCL cruise.

Desserts are everywhere all the time. There is a 24/7 soft serve (and swirl) ice cream dispenser on every corner of the cafeteria. The food, excepting the burgers, is outstanding even in the cafe lines. The burgers are disgusting. Everything I ate though is very tasty and the sites are very clean. I had a seafood salad with dill dressing on shrimp and steamed calamari that was heavenly. Steak or chicken (or hell, both! Mix it UP!) fajitas as far as the eye could see. A tub of guacamole. Embarrassing amounts of food.

I realize I’m saying all this while people are starving in Syria, bring driven out of their homes and enduring other nameless atrocities. I realize I sound like a jerk. But this is the context I’m writing about, and will likely continue to write about for the next several posts, so … deal.

After you eat, you will either be people’d out (like I was) or curious and you will mill around the ship, realizing you won’t ever get “lost” but you could get disoriented. No worries: On this ship, there is about one staffer for every three passengers. You will find your way to your room if you need assistance. My husband and kids milled around the ship. I sat on our balcony and read a book, A Little Life: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara — big, dense and intense.

All this said, if I owned NCL I would do this: meet guests in a lobby with small cucumber sandwiches, petit quiches, California rolls, spring rolls, a cheese plate and fruit kebab or small spare ribs…. Adults would be offered champagne and that would quell the nerves. Kids would be offered little snacks of the above or their interest such as chicken tenders, small hot dogs, fruit and cheese, and their drink could be fruit punch laced with negligible amounts of Valium. All kidding aside, I do feel NCL blew it with the lack of welcome food / take-the-edge-off moment upon boarding.

It’s really hard to describe the magnitude of The Norwegian Breakaway in words. Here are some stats: It’s three times the size of the Titanic; it berths 3,969 people, and the crew of 1,651 lives onboard as well. It has 16 decks; so yeah: it’s like at least 200′ tall. It has a soccer / basketball court on it. It has two pools and two massive water slides. It has two huge movie-theater-sized screens (one inside and the other outside). It has a 300-seat theater / stage. It has at least a dozen “specialty” restaurants. A casino. A video arcade with ath air hockey tables. Three fitness studios. A cardio room. A spa and sauna. They offer acupuncture! BOTOX even! A barber shop! A salon (of course!). A large jewelry store, a mediocre gift shop, a liquor store, a clinic, a library about the size of most 1970s living rooms.  It was built in 2013 and it was valued at $870 million then. You’ll never see your kids (if they’re over 12).

Here are some photos to attempt to give perspective.

 

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This is from the snorkeling boat while in Nassau. Shown is the starboard side (my side) of the ship. The hull is painted by Peter Max; well, let me rephrase that — Peter Max designed the painting / image  on the bow… he didn’t actually DO it… his minions did.

 

 

 

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Here we are, me and my sons, begging for this photo to be over so we can get the heck out of the cold and onto the gangway which was a mere 65-minutes-to-go away. Don’t we look intrepid? So… Interestingly, this is the ship’s 7th deck immediately behind us at our eye level. That area with the wooden columns and giant windows is what’s called, the “waterfront” — it’s a quarter-mile long… This is the port side of the Breakaway, but two floors / decks above the 7th is our deck, the 9th, and so this photo gives you an idea of how our room was situated.

 

 

 

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This is the soccer / basketball court. My kids spent a lot of time up there. In the background, that yellow and red beam-like structure, is the “ropes course” — more on that later.

 

 

 

 

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This is our balcony. It was really nice to have one. In the background, are the lifeboats. They learned a thing or two after Titanic and made them covered. (And of Fiberglas…)

 

 

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This is standard harbor security as we left NYC. That USCG boat was armed, hence that giant gun on the tripod on the bow. The helicopter circled us the entire time until we crossed beneath the Verranzano Narrows Bridge. We had another USCG patrol boat on the other side of the ship. Each port had different protocols, but New York’s seemed the most aggressive and standardized.

 

 

 

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This is when we had to not go to the NCL island, Great Stirrup Cay, because the swells were too high. The island (or part of it), is on the left. Doesn’t it look nice…? It was quite large…  That boat in the foreground is one of the four NCL tender boats that would’ve ferried people back and forth. That cruise ship in the background is a Royal Carribean liner. Note to self… Royal Carribean went to its island…

 

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This is a better perspective of the water that day. As you can see, those tender boats are out of there… Their skippers can’t wait to get the hell back in the bay.

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This is the day we didn’t go to the island. As you can see, the decks were crowded. This photo was taken at 2pm. Yikes is right. This is the port side of the ship. (The bow is behind me.) On the starboard side is a similar deck, a pool and a mini-golf course. That giant pink and yellow swirling structure in the background is one of two water slides. Farther behind that is the same ropes course from the soccer court photo above. Directly behind me is the “Spice H20” area for adults only. That’s where one of the giant screens is. They showed “E.T.” There the final night — kids were allowed.

So far, on Day 2 back at home, I still feel as though I’m on the ship — a little imbalanced. Teaching yoga last night and then taking it earlier today was interesting. I’m at about 80% operating  capacity.

The following headlines are proposed post titles.

WHO IS THAT SLEEPING MAN ON THE PA SYSTEM?

BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE

BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME: DON’T BOTHER GETTING YOUR HAIR DONE

PACK A SMALL PHARMACY

TAKE THE ELEVATOR IF YOU WANT TO WAIT ALL DAY

KEY CARD / DETACHABLE LANYARD / HOLE PUNCHER

ROCKING SHIP — THE HIGHER AND OUTER YOU GO, THE GREATER THE SWAY, BALCONY ROOMS

PACKAGES / DRINKS / GRATUITIES – JUST DO IT

SELL SELL SELL! FLOATING SHOPPING MALL

reserving deck chairs and the assholes who do that

LAUNDRY SERVICE – WAIT UNTIL WEDNESDAY

PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE / RATIO / THEIR STORIES

TOWEL SURPRISES

STEPS vs ELEVATORS / WHERE IS YOUR ROOM?

NASA / ROCKET LAUNCH

RUNNING ON A TREADMILL ON A SHIP / WORKOUT ROOMS / FEE FOR STUDIO CLASSES?!

24/7 ICE CREAM

A CREPERY?!

ENTERTAINMENT / Looney Tunes?!

NASSAU itself

Conch shells and the lying liars who sell them / DON’T BRING SAND

WHERE ARE MY KIDS?    / NCL TEXTING APP / CURFEW / ZONES / WALKIE TALKIES
OTHER KIDS ON THE SHIP – WTF?

LIBRARY / CARD ROOM : HELLO…  OFF THE HALL FROM THE NOISIEST INTERIOR PART OF THE SHIP?!

ENTERTAINMENT PART 2 — THE DESPERATION OF THE LAST 2 DAYS — TOGA PARTY

LET’S NOT KID OURSELVES: THE ATLANTIC IS COLD, FRIENDS

PENULTIMATE PLANNING FAMILY MEETING — DO HAVE ONE

DISEMBARKATION – CLUSTER, BUT ORGANIZED / DO YOUR OWN THING vs TAGS?

TRAINING CRUISE

BACK TO REALITY / SEA LEGS / LAND LEGS / MY KEY CARD WON’T WORK IN MY HOUSE

Thank you.

Ps — Next post is right here! https://mollyfield.me/2016/04/01/when-youre-going-on-a-cruise-travel-i-cant-hear-you-its-too-no/

A #Mocha Thing Happened on the Way In to The #Ritz

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Over the 4th of July weekend, my family and I jaunted up to Philadelphia to see my nephew race in the “Independence Day Regatta” on the Schuykill River. My dad was there too, it was a family thing, reminding me of my many weekends spent at boathouses as a child watching the rowers glide by.

We left home around 5:45 and, got to the river around 8:30am to watch his qualifying heats, then we all went to the Ritz-Carlton to check in.

Before you start thinking I’m dripping with cash, let me edify you: we are not. We aren’t doing much traveling this summer and decided to splurge on ourselves for a weekend.

It was a splurge. Trust me.

What happened to me, however, was so “Mom’s holiday from home” -esque (read: no such thing as a mother’s holiday from home, even at the Ritz).

After we pulled up to the valet parking (in our 11-year-old super trusty MomCar / SUV) we started to unload our hansom. My kids are not seasoned travelers. For our 2.5 hour jaunt up to Philly, they packed as though we were planning to leave Earth and never return. Pop-tarts, blankets, pillows, water, extra things…

It was just 180 minutes in the car.

Along an interstate highway.

Traveling between three major metropolitan areas.

We unload.

Because my children learned all their best practices from me, I have my shit to get out of the car: my drinking vessels, my Kindle, my car / lap pillow upon which my hands rest whilst I read my Kindle, my reading glasses, my new prescription sunglasses, my new prescription seeing glasses, my mini-fridge, and my apocalypse gear.

Just for an overnight, mind you.

It reminded me of the countless times my family and I would cross the border into Canada as a child, listening to the questions from the Canadian Customs officer, among them, “and how long will you be staying in Fort Erie?”

“Just an overnight…” and the officer would surveil through the glass windows of our loaded Volvo wagon, rest back on his heels, take in a breath and say, “Ok…” and wave us through. 

As I was putting my rations in a duck cloth bag, my catastrophe-grade travel coffee mug (which my beloved gave me last Christmas) managed to leak the recently begotten mocha latte I bought from an amped-up sales dude at the Peet’s Coffee nestled inside the Maryland House rest stop. Unbeknownst to me, mocha latte was forming burnt-sienna coronas all over the Ritz’s marble floor as well.  I was a 21st Century Gretel, instead of breadcrumbs, it’s a latte. I’m a little ashamed… my decanter has been a super reliable device. So I blame the Ritz. All that pressure to be poised. Anyone would leak.

However, it wasn’t until we had walked in through the breathtaking three-story, marble lobby with its dozen or so 30-feet, 4′ columns and gleaming crystal chandeliers that I managed to smell the experience before seeing it. “Mocha?” my nose said… I looked down and witnessed the dark chocolate watery fluid flow through the seams in the bag… A further glance down revealed it had dotted my son’s seersucker pillowcase.

“MOM!” He sort of hissed at me, with as much class as possible, in the lobby. “My pilllllllowwwwwwww….” The bellman noticed what was going on and I asked him where the nearest restroom was. He directed me. I unhooked the soppy bag from the luggage trolley weighed down with our steam trunks and rucksacks, and I was gone.

A trail of mocha latte giving me away.

My husband, who was smiling and nodding, dealing with the front desk and being handed his flute of complimentary champagne upon check-in, was oblivious to my “situation.” My other children were getting their bottled water and chocolates from a statuesque hand servant bearing a tray with all manner of vittles for the travel weary 1%.

Like scullery maid, I got nothing.

To the left, down the hall on the left… restroom.

It was not a room of rest.

Not for me.

Oh, it was glorious: byzantine marble everywhere, byzantine byzantine everywhere. Gold handles, paper hand towels so thick you’d think they were deerskin. My destination was a bank of sinks. Two to be exact, the farthest from the doorway possible.

With a murky mocha trail behind me, I dropped my leaky bag into the sink basin, and exhaled.

Out came all my items. First, the travel mug, that little shit. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know HOW it happened, but my mug betrayed me. 

 

judas. et tu, Stanley?

 
Then the eyeglass cases, all three of them. Two are hard and one is soft. The soft one looked like a biscotti, dipped in the mocha. Then the Kindle, its polka-dotted case besmirched by Peet’s coffee. Then the pillow and my headphones (forgot about those), and then my water bottle: containing Tazo passion tea and a now-clump of chia seeds.

I have my wits about me: I know this is not a real issue, a true tragedy. I know it’s not bankruptcy or cancer. I get it: I was in the bathroom of a Ritz-Carlton. But just… it sucked. I didn’t know about the free champagne until my kids asked me later, “Mom! Did you get your champagne? They were giving it away to adults in the lobby when they checked in …” 

So I started to stake my turf in the bathroom. I turned with my back to the corner, eyeing all I could claim, reasonably, as I imagined a meth addict would as she scoped out where would be the best place to … do whatever it is meth addicts do in public restrooms.

In the sink on the left went all the most inoffensive things that were covered in sticky, opaque, and overpriced coffee.

In the sink on the right went the bag.

To the left of the left sink was the stacked chamois-like disposable hand towels.

I took two.

Then four.

Recalling crisis data from my early motherhood days, I determined to go after the biggest, the source spill first. Dabbing furiously at the interior of my duck cloth bag, I realized my endeavor was feckless. The bag had a liner, which was all cotton, but which was also coated in sizing which makes it semi-impervious, causing the mocha to bead and collect, like quicksilver.

I had to turn the bag inside out. I was wearing white. I started out wearing white. I felt like Peter Graves in a 1960s Mission Impossible episode trying to defuse a bomb. Carefully turning the bag inside out and daring to not to let the now almost-funky smelling mocha spray all over my white shorts and dress shirt, I held it like dirty diaper dusted with uranium.

Get more napkins.

Dab dab dab…

Now, we can begin to rinse.

The faucet. Not the right kind of faucet. It was an infrared faucet. I had to get my hands directly beneath the faucet, just so, and hold them there in order to manifest a flow of water. 

I was begging the water to flow. 

But I had to turn the bag to get the other areas cleaned too.

But the faucet would turn off.

And then on.

And then off.

And then not back on.

And then stay on.

But I needed it off. I wasn’t positioned correctly.

It would turn on when I didn’t need it to and turn off when I needed it on.

And then off.

And then on.

And off.

And still off.

Off some more.

On?

No. Off.

Was I a meth addict?

Yet?

Same with the soap dispenser. It was automatic.

“Fuck it.” I said to myself.

Harkening back, for some really strange reason, I heard the last few lines of the Serenity Prayer’s  “… and the wisdom to know the difference…”

I decided to work on the things I could.

More paper towels… and I started to clean off the eyeglass cases and the Kindle and the pillow.

I’m full on now… GSD: getting shit done. In the zone.

Never mind I’m a mom in the bathroom of a 5-star luxury hotel… cleaning out my travel bag in the marble sinks … constantly checking my clothes to make sure they’re not getting filthy, cleaning the cabinets beneath the sinks and wiping down the counter… suffering under the whims of the infrared faucets and LiquiSoap dispensers… there are no holidays for mothers… 

Scrub a dub, making progress … In walks four of the most beautiful women, all related, I’ve ever seen in one place.

My hair… it’s in a “bun” but Medusa style; my arms are covered in soap and my gear is taking up one sink while my canvas bag is inside out, dripping brown goo into the sink to my right. I swear I look like a meth addict. A new one. One who’s not totally savvy to carrying shit around in canvas bags.

Two empty sinks and my vast unease separate me from the other women.

“Mmmm… it smells good in here. Like a Starbucks…” says one of the younger girls.

“Peet’s. From Maryland House.” I say. With no irony whatsoever.

The mother of the group, she turns and smiles.

“What?”

“Peet’s coffee. It’s a mocha latte. I got it in Maryland. It’s all over my bag here. I’m cleaning myself up. I’ve been here for about 10 or 15 minutes…. Feels like an hour. It’s hard. These faucets… they don’t stay on…”

“Oh, yeah. They’re the infrared ones…” said one of the daughters.

“Yes. They are. They’re moody little minxes too…” I said. Trying to laugh. Trying not to cry. “My family is upstairs in our rooms. We just got here. My mocha leaked all over the lobby and I had to come in here to clean up…All over my son’s pillow case too, here.” I hold it up to show it to them. (WONDERING: WHY DID I DO THAT?) Watery mocha drips onto the floor again. I grab another towel and wipe down the floor again. “I think I got it all…”

“This is one of the times I’m really wishing I had a daughter right now, because she could’ve come in here with me and likely one of us would’ve gotten someone to help us…”

The mother squats down with me, looks at me and says, “How can I help you? I know you don’t know us, but we could stay here with your things while you get assistance… This is no way to start a holiday weekend…”

I wanted to cry. She saw that. She was about my age, maybe a little older. Her daughters were about 19, 20. Her sister was there too.

“No. I’ll stay. Thanks. Could you ask someone from Housekeeping to bring a plastic laundry bag to me? So I can clean this up in the privacy of my suite? So I can work with a faucet that stays on and soap that doesn’t stop flowing?” I asked, relieved that someone saw me and heard me. Feeling like a human again. I figured a plastic laundry bag in the Ritz isn’t such an insane concept.

She knew what I was talking about. “I’ll do just that. A plastic laundry bag… I’m on my way…” And she did. Her daughters smiled at me, wisely kept their distance. Who knows what else could manage to spill from my bag… and they all left the room.

I felt as if I sent up a flare. RESCUERS!

Two minutes later, which seemed like an eternity, a tiny 30-ish year-old woman from Housekeeping came in, empty handed (AGGGHGH! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!) and with a face full of confusion and … contempt? Did I recognize contempt in her squinted eyes, sneer and open mouth? As though I was interrupting her from something super NOT housekeeping-y? Did I look that bad?!

“What is it that you need? I didn’t understand. A plastic bag?” She asked.

“Yes. As you can see here, I’m a little compromised. I need a bag. A plastic laundry bag? Like the kind people use after they swim? Or even a garbage bag. Like that one beside you. I don’t care. Something to put all this in so it doesn’t drip …” Now I was looking at her with contempt: YOU STUPID LITTLE GIRL.

My inner Walter Mitty wanted to add “…Or I could just let it drip all over your lobby and elevator and hallways.”

Just then, my husband texted me. “Where are you?”

“Rest room.”

“Are you OK?”

“I need a plastic bag. It’s a mess.”

“Oh.”

“Housekeeping is getting one. What’s our room number?”

“We are in 802 and 803.”

Who knows what he thought was going on… He later told me he feared I’d soiled my armor. I had to laugh. 

In less than a minute, she returned. With the bag. And she watched me pack up my mocha shit and then walked away. Leaving me in the restroom to wipe down her counter.

I needed champagne. I wasn’t about to ask for it, because I didn’t know they were giving it away in the first place.

I ascended to 803. It was a lovely room. With a huge bathroom with a bar of soap and a tub. The water stayed on when you turned it on. I went to work. Again.

“Mom? Did you get your champagne?” Thing 2, who is now 14 and two inches taller than I am, asked enthusiastically. “They were giving it away in the lobby…”

I sighed. Looking up from the tub, I turned to him and said, “No. I’ve been in the bathroom… it’s a long story.”

“Here?” He asked, incredulously.

“Ha. No. In the lobby… ”

“All this time? With the coffee? Alone?”

“Yes. Alone. Until a lovely mother with sympathetic eyes came to my rescue and did me a favor.”

I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to clean up and get out. It was only noon. We had a nice weekend in front of us.

The bed was lovely and the room was noisy. The windows aren’t insulated against the sound of traffic in a city as large and as active as Philadelphia. The chocolate on the pillows was tasty. When we left, on the Fourth, the door staff couldn’t tell us how to get out of town (because the roads were all closed off due to Independence Day parades). That was a little surprising. Two people had to tell us how to get out of town and they sort of couldn’t agree. Other door staff were practically high-fiving each other over photos on their smart phones. And thinking back, the bellman who first noticed the mocha spill should’ve taken care of the whole thing right there. I would’ve GLADLY paid $50 in cleaning fees to avoid the feckless attempts in the lobby bathroom.

There were a few more lapses in professionalism and hospitality that I couldn’t really believe I was witnessing in an operation as lauded and as supposedly fine-tuned as the Ritz-Carlton. For instance, when we sat in the lobby after tooling around the city and visiting Reading Terminal Market, one of the staffers placed a menu on the table we were seated around and said nothing. Ever. We all looked at each other and blew him off. We were already guests in the hotel. So if you’re going to propose an item on the menu, invite us to enjoy our stay and let you know if we’d like to order something… It all felt very entitled: as though WE were imposing.

On the way home from the weekend, my husband and I decided to call the local property leadership to discuss it with management. If I were in that business, I’d want to know.

I’d need to know.

I called, and the woman who answered the phone ran through her courteous opening script and then I said, “Yes, I’d like to speak with a manager please.”

She flatly asked. “Which one?”

Suddenly I thought I was dealing with the housekeeping woman. Her crisp on the phone right there was enough to push me into third gear.

“I suppose the general manager, thanks.”

Her response, “Mmmm, oh-kaaaay….”

My jaw hit the floor.

So I left the general manager a message. But later, I thought, “What if this attitude is endemic at this location? What if the manager is part of the problem?” I really hated the way the receptionist treated me.

I went up a notch. To corporate. Y’see, the thing is: when you make a reservation through the toll-free number for staying at ANY Ritz-Carlton, you will deal with calm, modulated, highly polished and exquisite hospitality engineers. “My pleasure,” and “Of course Mrs. Field,” and “Absolutely, not a problem,” and “Please hold for a moment while I connect your call” and “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and “We look forward to seeing you on July 3 ….” are all part of the code and the culture one would EXPECT from a R-C experience.

Not here. Not Philadelphia. Things got downgraded to a Best Western, or worse, Red Roof Inn attitude.

It really was surprising. At first, I thought, “Oh… we all make mistakes…” and then I started to remember how demoralized I felt in that restroom waging war against those faucets and then the attitude on that housekeeper. Then I began to think about our hotel bill, and how much we were looking forward to our stay and how exciting it would be for my kids 11, 14, and 17 to stay in a Ritz-Carlton (my first time was last week!)! And that I wanted to try a robe… maybe buy one…

There is a romance behind that brand. A promise and an expectation that you will be treated with care and pampered. None of that happened.

When I called corporate I did get the kid-glove treatment. The manager on the phone was perfection. He never interrupted me, he waited for me to pause and then asked me if I had anything else to add, and he couldn’t apologize enough. I told him we didn’t get to wear a bathrobe, that there weren’t any in our room, our our kids’ room, and I could hear him gasp. Then I told him about the lobby experience with the silent waiter. Then I hit him with a right hook: “I didn’t get any complimentary champagne. Ever.” And it was as though he were strangling a teddy bear on the other end of the line.

The next day, the executive assistant of the Philadelphia general manager called on his behalf. I suspect she also heard from the manager at corporate and did a little background investigation on her own. We had a wonderful conversation. I had just come back from a glorious row on the Occoquan and the weather was perfection.

In retrospect I feel like I did the right thing. We need to stand up for ourselves. We easily dropped a grand that weekend.

Two days later, my husband received a note from the EA, she wrote of her conversation with me, calling me “quite lovely” (gushing) and thanked us for our valuable feedback. She also added 50,000 points to our Marriott Rewards account, which is effectively a total reimbursement for the rooms we stayed in at the Philadelphia location. So good on them.

I’d like to go back. I’ve had tea and brunch at a few of the Ritz-Carltons here. They’ve all been really lovely experiences. I want to say that this one was the exception to the rule.

The next day, Thing 2 and I decided to grab a milkshake from the McDonald’s drive-thru after running a litany of errands. The young man on the other end of the order intercom was STELLAR. He said, “My pleasure” after every opportunity and then, “Your total is 50,000 Marriott points…” [just kidding.] Please drive forward.” When we got to him, he was super professional, sincere and grateful for the work. My son noted, “He has better manners than those dudes at the Ritz….”

True that.

So let this be a reminder: 1) there is no such thing as a holiday for mothers and 2) tell people what’s on your mind.

Thank you.

Hilton Head – Departure — Neil Simon May As Well Have Written This

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We arrived after almost 11 hours in the car.

The event started out hilariously after my middle son and I had an epic battle, hopefully our final for the year, about the inexplicable disappearance and sudden miraculous reappearance of a $5 bill I’d left on a bookshelf.

It’s not so much the funds. It’s the entire thing. A pattern of behavior and performance we are working hard and with reasonable success, to remedy. But that was over and we’d resolved it, or I had and so after storming out to the car, I sat in my seat and waited to get going.

My youngest son decided he had to use the bathroom. We gave the grave reminder to “pee your last!” and he decided he’d best go.

As he walked back to the car, my husband said, “Close the door!” and with that, the keys. Not in the car. Not with my husband. Not where they needed to be.

A text came in from a cousin, wishing us a memorable trip and love. I started to laugh at it all, in some amazing way, as my mother would have at the sheer irony of all this “SHIT” we’d apparently done to make this event happen.

There were hems and haws and moans and groans and whatarewegonnado and thisisastupididea and goingtothebeachinthewintersucks and financial wrangling and then a sense of purpose, of repose and gifts from nowhere which aligned to create a sense of “hellyeahwearegoingtothebeachinthewinterandyouregoingtoloveit” that was grounded, rooted and firmly planted in our auric hearts.

We were locked out of the house and we had all this shit in the car ready to go. We had no keys. We were packed to the gills with nothing but venom and blame and hissing to spew but …

We didn’t.

We rallied. In some crazy almost “fuckyouuniversewehavehadahardweek!” conscious shift, we were resolved. We would forge ahead. My husband considered breaking in.

Middle son decided to help. God only knows what that meant, but he couldn’t bear to see his father suffer, like Randy’s Dad in “A Christmas Story” my husband was on the verge of an apoplectic yet feckless cursing spree. (The man is a saint and we are all crazy people; I am sure in some quiet moments in his ephemeral solitude, he looks up, with red-rimmed eyes, to the heavens beyond the ceiling in our bedroom and asks, “WHAT DO DID I DID DO HOW WHO WHY?”)

Middle son charged around back. Maybe Glinda the Good Witch of the North (East?) was there in her magic transport sphere with help.

Nothing.

Husband is at the window trying to break into our house.

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This is never good.

I start howling again. My mother, someone (egad could it just be me? it’s entirely possible), was helping me laugh my ass off at this entire experience. Like some crazy Neil Simon play, that has all the elements: strife, sarcasm, loathing, drama, wit, redemption and loss. I remember witnessing my mother at moments like these laughing at it all, and wondering, “what the hell is the matter with you?” during what to my father seemed like a death-crisis.

Men… marriage and family are not for the weak.

The middle son darts around again. Like a human squirrel in swishy pants. Youngest son is silently weeping yet marveling at my ability to laugh at this moment. Oldest son is churlish; headphones in and staring intently at his iDevice.

The next I know, the front door is open. No shattered glass. No torn out windows.

The keys were in the lock.

I scream with laughter. “THIS IS RICH! THIS IS SO RICH!” Giving my cousin, via text, a play-by-play of the entire thing. “THE KEYS WERE IN THE DOOR!” She’s probably horrified by my insouciance.

We motor on. It took a long time.

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I’d like to thank CitiBank rewards / thank you points for the Bose headphones I wore. They helped me not lose my mind during several of the moments we traveled at a neck-breaking 1.2 miles per hour on the flat, boring I-95 corridor. I’d like to thank Google Maps for really trying to keep us updated. Apple Maps is worthless. Google’s ETA times went from 85 minutes to fourteen days and then back to a horrific 146 minutes, which was what it ended up being in the thick of it. I’d like to thank Thom Yorke for his mesmerizing “Atoms for Peace — Four Tet Remix” (I’m very late to the party, it’s from 2008) and the sun for rising this morning.

My sons broke out into their own rendition of “No Sleep ‘Til [Brooklyn] Hilton” when the traffic got hairy. We saw a freshly dead coyote on the shoulder and miles of break lights.

When we finally made it to Coosawatchie the release was kind. I’d like to say it was as though a pin pierced a taut balloon, without explosion, but as I look back on it, it was more gentle than that. It was as if the knot had been untied and the air pfft’d out on its own. No massive boom or transformation into kindness for we were already kind people; we’d just been in the car for a long time.

It took another half hour, to make it to our parking space. The meantime was glorious though. I had left Neil Simon and arrived at Pat Conroy. I stuck my head out my window as we traversed a bridge in the dark. My stomach felt all roller coaster-y. Our Southern escort along the Spanish Moss-dangled willows flanking route 462 was a half moon. She was hanging amidst a sea of lacy clouds, eventually thickening to greet us this morning with 64 degrees and a demure sun.

We unpacked our gear and watched Harry Potter fight a dragon. My youngest clambered into our bedroom shortly after midnight to tell his his brother snored and he wanted to sleep on our floor. A crow greeted me (or more likely my huevos rancheros) this morning on our patio. The sea is 200 yards away. I can hear her and see her.

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If we don’t meet in the meantime, I hope you have a glorious final two days of 2014.

I’ll be back.

Thank you.