Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Love Boat, Day 6

We return you to your irregularly scheduled edition of "The Love Boat" already in progress...

... the perfect days to sleep in are the ones where you know ahead of time that you won't be doing anything spectacular. Or the ones where you know you're completely trapped in your surroundings and can't leave, ergo you just have to cope.

Welcome to Day 6 and the continuing adventures of My Fair Lady and Yours Truly as we navigated the Caribbean...

Following the excitement of Day 5 and the midnight buffet, neither of us could move in our bed until almost 11 a.m. that morning. When we finally staggered out of bed we found our inability to function coherently was probably a sign the vacation was starting to wear on us. Either that or someone must have laced the chocolate-covered strawberries from the buffet with knockout drugs.

So what was left for us to do all day on the ship? We decided to simply walk around and see what sort of trouble we could get in to. Our first stop was the top of the ship back behind Johnny Rockets because we figured another round of miniature golf would be more fun without all the wind that plagued our previous match. So guess what we find the second we get upstairs?

A full-on gale blasting away. Round Two of Extreme Mini-Golf commenced forthwith.

We snatched up our putters, grabbed our balls then started swinging. You actually get more of a work-out while putting in high wind because the balls just fly everywhere. Playing with the wind mostly benefits the stellar tactician since you can bank a shot then watch the force of the gale slow the ball's acceleration right when you need it most.

Which is naturally the moment the wind would stop blowing altogether.

Meanwhile God sits atop His throne and says, "Uh-uh dude, I'll help for the big things in life but when it comes to mini-golf you're on your own."

After devoting far too much time to chasing errant golf balls, we opted to try out the rock climbing wall again. On a previous day, I honestly forget which, I scaled it so quickly that the instructor below stopped telling me which rungs to grab and just kept my safety rope secure. My Fair Lady tried that same day but was unable to ring the bell at the top. She had, in her words, only one reason for returning to the obstacle that thwarted her vacation:


She was determined to ring that bell come hell or high water so again she strapped on the helmet, the safety harness and the shoes and stood in line. When it was her turn, she hurled herself against the rock wall and proceeded to climb. The instructor below gave her suggestions, some good, some not so much, and My Fair Lady's resolve kept her focus honed on the bell. Higher and higher she steadily climbed working with the wall's different facets, not against them as she had during her previous attempt. One hand went over the other while her feet were each firmly planted on ever higher outcroppings until the bell was within her reach. She stretched forth her hand, grasped the small rope line hanging from the bell, and rang it as hard as she could.


Admittedly, it was a cheap bell no one would think belonged at Notre Dame. But My Fair Lady's roar of triumph over the previously insurmountable wall was unmistakable as she leaned off the wall and was lowered down by the instructor. She jumped with excitement as soon as her feet were back on the deck, and I walked over and congratulated her with a big hug.

"I did it!" she exclaimed. "I just kept my focus, put one hand over the other, listened to what the instructor said, and got to ring that bell! Whoo-hoo!"

She did her patented victory dance/hop then it was time to head out to the rest of the ship. We walked back towards the pool deck and arrived there just in time to witness the start of the Belly Flop Competition. The crowds were already gathering so we managed to snake our way through the throngs of admirers and stand close to the pool. Looking down we noticed The Barbequer and Seattle Sue sitting on the edge of the pool equally anxious for the flopping to begin. We exchanged friendly waves then the crowd went silent.

The Cruise Director stepped forth and asked if we were ready to see some flopping. The roar of approval carried to the heavens and without further ado the participants stepped forth. Each of the guys who took to the pool edge were in ever-increasing weight classes until Big Dave took the stage and made everyone else irrelevant. He took a few steps, lined up with the edge of the pool, leapt into the air and came down on the water with a thundering splash. When one achieves a truly epic cannonball or belly flop, there's a split second pause from when the water underneath the body is pushed down to when the water explodes up in the air.

Somehow Dave's pre-splash lasted five seconds. All of us had time to shout, "Oh holy crap!" before the pool exploded in the air in a mushroom cloud of salt water. When we could see again the majority gave him top marks. Those who didn't were angry about being blinded by all the water so gave him a score of one.

I'll let you guess as to which finger they used.

Even though Dave was the foregone conclusion as winner another contestant stepped up. I honestly thought it was a joke at first because the man, aka The Scotland Twig, was an older gentleman made of nothing more than skin and bones. Here's a basic analogy for you - Day:Night::Big Dave:The Scotland Twig. The Scotland Twig gets ready to go, rubs some cold water over his bones then opens his shorts and drops cold water down them. This was to ensure those of us who hadn't already been blinded by him with his shirt off voluntarily gouged their eyes out before he jumped.

He leaped and splatted down with a small splash. Complimentary applause went around the pool. The final scores were announced and Big Dave was declared Victor Supreme.

Next on the "To Do" agenda for the day was to hit the "Bingo" match down in the theater. In case I haven't come off as an old person before now, I voluntarily went to play bingo with My Fair Lady. Whoo-hoo.

The theater filled up pretty quickly and after we'd been situated for a while we saw Seattle Sue enter. We waved her over and she hunkered down next to My Fair Lady and the two of them began chatting up a storm. Chita Rivera quickly took to the stage and rattled off how paying attention would pay the big monies in BINGO. Somehow those words were always capitalized whenever she spoke so shall they remain in this blog.

If nothing else, I aim to provide an accurate translation of foreign languages.

There was a big scoreboard up on the stage and Chita Rivera pointed to it noting how it formed several different patterns. We had to match up the cards we purchased prior to the event with the corresponding patterns on the board. Once accomplished, we shout BINGO. To give her and the audience a heads-up we needed to actually stand up when we were one or two squares away from the requisite BINGO. So began the elusive quest for the right sequence of numbers.

Chita Rivera's energy was all over the stage as she rattled off numbers in her exquisitely elegant accent. We burned through our cards one after the other never coming close enough to hit BINGO. Seattle Sue and My Fair Lady continued to laugh and giggle and chitchat their way through the contest. Meanwhile, I was grateful to years of web surfing because I soon realized I could quickly scan each card if I was looking for something specific. I like to take my time reading a novel but when it comes to finding specific information in a sea of letters and numbers my brain automatically does a CTRL-F and goes on the hunt.

Basically I played BINGO while the two of them chatted and occasionally played BINGO.

When it came down to the final cards, Chita Rivera told us that we needed to fill in the entire card. It would have been in our best interest had she not focused on two specific lines for most of the contest, but we had fun nonetheless. We came down to needing two squares before someone shouted "BINGO!" so our spirits were crushed. To soothe our wounded souls, we walked over to the pastry shop on Deck 5 and had some snacks.

When in doubt, pizza + pastries = good times.

After grabbing a snack it was time for the ice show My Fair Lady bought tickets to the first day of the cruise. We get down to the theater and are all set to go in when the following conversation begins:
MFL: This is going to be so much fun! Did you grab the tickets?

Yours Truly: Uh, I thought you had them.

MFL: No I was sure you grabbed them off the...

*audible gasp*

Yours Truly: They're sitting on the counter, aren't they?

MFL: Can you run and get them?

Yours Truly: Five flights of stairs, down to the other end of the ship and back again inside of five minutes? Not sure, but damn that sounds like a challenge.
And away I ran like a flash up one flight of stairs after another. By around deck six I started seeing spots and by the time I hit deck eight I was gasping for air. Undeterred I bolted down the hallway essentially betting my soul there weren't any cleaning crews in the way. I stopped at our room, threw open the door, snatched the tickets off the counter, took a deep breath, then raced back down the hall and flew down the many stairs to land by My Fair Lady's side as she returned from the restroom. Final time? Exactly 4:45.

Lance Armstrong can kiss my foot.

We quickly found our seats and I immediately started cooling down. I chose to sit on the aisle so my body odor would only befoul a woman accustomed to it, and not some unforgiving stranger. We ordered Cokes from the bar and after pounding two of them I regained enough of my vision to see the show. Then the lights dimmed even further and I realized I wasn't going blind. It was the show producer screwing with me.

Yes, I believe he was targeting me specifically. Now leave me to my paranoia and read on.

If you've ever been to an Ice Capades then cut three quarters of the ice rink off and plant what's left in the bow of a ship. Then surround it with colored strobe lights and deafening techno music and that's a rough approximation of how hot "Ice Dancin'" appeared to me. The dancers hit the ice and My Fair Lady's excitement went through the roof. The lights swirled around the audience and across the ice, the colors danced over everyone and everything, and people started leaping across the frozen floor.

Meanwhile, my mental DVD player threw on Once Upon a Time in the West.

I was through the opening at the train station when I mentally hit pause. The star of "Ice Dancin'" stepped out and if I do say so she was so hot I'm surprised the floor wasn't melting. She and others continued their dancin' while I leaned over to My Fair Lady and complained there wasn't enough hockey to keep me interested.

Oh, that I would be careful of what I wished for.

Immediately after the words left my mouth, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" queued up and the cast changed into a hockey wardrobe with the scorching hot lead as the puck. They went through their dance number for a while and I was marginally entertained. As they started winding down I unpaused the movie in my head and zoned back out. This last all of three seconds as the next song on the floor kicked in. It was the famed cover of "Roxanne" from the tremendous Moulin Rouge and my attention immediately went back to the floor.

The scorching hot lead and her male partner began a routine that eventually culminated in her spinning like an out-of-control top while hanging off his chest. It's difficult to accurately describe it but somehow she was spinning like the Tazmanian Devil and about two inches from this guy's face. The afternoon would have ended very differently had a rogue wave struck the ship at that exact moment.

Several other performances hit the ice over the course of the next hour but that one routine was the one that stuck with me. Overall, it was a moderately entertaining show and My Fair Lady was sufficiently pleased. Had there been more hockey and/or some fighting thrown in I think I might have found more to recommend.

With this show completed it was time to hit the cabin and prep for dinner. We were going to miss our compatriots that night because we chose to make a 7 p.m. dinner reservation with the Italian restaurant Portofino's instead. Reportedly this place had primo steak, Italian, and seafood so we scheduled our reservation earlier that week for this evening. After plenty of showering and prepping in the room, we headed upstairs and found our way to the steak place.

Once inside we were, frankly, stunned as to how good the service was. My Fair Lady is heavily against the practice of "stacking," i.e. immediately bringing out the next dish after a patron finishes their first, and not only was the practice nowhere to be found, but if one person was finished yet the other wasn't then the server waited to clean the table until both parties were ready.

It's indicative of how poor the service industry is in our society when these simple things make us marvel.

As for the meal itself, it was nine slices of Heaven. The appetizer was amazing, and soup was fantastic, and the entree was some of the best fish I've ever tasted. My Fair Lady's meal was equally wondrous. We also got to know the couple sitting next to us. They were a couple from Boston celebrating an anniversary, if memory serves me well, and there were about as nice as you could find. It was a fantastic dining experience all around.

Following the dinner neither of us were able to walk so much as waddle so we opted to go sit in the hot tub up on deck. It amazed me how packed the pools and saunas were during the day, yet at night no one was in sight. As it turns out, sitting in a hot tub immediately after a massive meal aids in digestion. I guess it makes sense when you say it out loud, but after 15 minutes in the hot tub I could actually move without fear of passing out. We hung out on deck for an hour or so alternating between the hot tub and the pool where I taught My Fair Lady a few basic swimming lessons. Apparently they don't have much in the way of water out in Lubbock so she never took to water the same way I did. It was a fun and slightly romantic way to spend the evening.

Following our swims we swung by the nightclub lounge to catch the final part of a "Men Vs. Women Trivia Challenge" then retired for the evening. The next day we'd pull into Nassau and the day after we'd finally be back in Miami. By this point, I don't think I was the only one ready to be done with the ship.

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