December 4, Embarcation
We left the Ramada Inn - Seaport / Airport at about 12:30 this afternoon for the very short courtesy shuttle ride to the Fort Lauderdale seaport, about 10 minutes. From there we participated in the very slick, well-planned and sanely-organized check in process at the boarding area of the Celebrity Infinity. The whole passport / credit card / ID card process took all of about 20 minutes; then we were directed on board the cruise ship to find our staterooms and meet our cabin attendants. At 3:45 we attended the mandatory emergency drill - no longer do the passengers have to suit up in our life jackets and learn the emergency procedures outside near the lifeboats. The information is pleasantly delivered inside without a lot of falderal; it took about 15 minutes.
For me it’s been a new experience, this large cruise ship, 965 feet long - that’s 3 football fields, about 14 stories high, and 110 feet wide, equipped to handle a passenger load of 2,100 guests, with a crew of about 700. I’ve been on many cruises, but always on relatively small vessels, from 180 to about 400 passengers. It’s absolutely amazing how smoothly all operations are accomplished. As I’ve noticed before, there don’t appear to be any crew members who are US citizens. My friend, Fred, tells me that the cruise lines, all of which are registered outside the United States, don’t employ US citizens because they’d have to comply with US federal labor laws. These, mostly young, crew members come from all over the world; the two waiters at our dinner table tonight were delightful young men from Turkey. Interestingly, one was from near Bodrum, an Aegean seaport city I visited several years ago. The crew members are all highly trained in their specific duties; they really have the passengers’ comfort and happiness securely ingrained in their service ethic.
This afternoon we wandered throughout the ship, beginning to get the lay of the land; there’s certainly no end to the activities and entertainment for us to enjoy during our 16-night cruise to Chile. We’ll be stopping at a few places I’ve visited before, and certainly a few that I’ve not experienced, yet. Of course, for me the experiences I value most are those that enable me to meet new people and learn about cultures and customs other than my own. I’m anxious to get back into some Spanish-speaking countries; Cozumel is so geared toward the tourist trade, I sometimes wonder if they maintain their rich history and culture, or if they’ve just moved into a quasi US / Canadian satellite country. Don’t misunderstand me; I thoroughly enjoyed my recent 10-day visit; I just wish many people hadn’t replied to my Spanish questions with English answers!
Of course, I checked out the Fitness Center; it’s located in the bow of the ship. I’ll head there tomorrow morning and will hit the treadmill while enjoying a lovely view of the Caribbean Sea as I work up a sweat. I’ve been watching what I eat - don’t know how long my resolve will endure - given that there are magnificently gourmet delights at every meal, and in between, too.
I haven’t referred to it in my blog posts, but I’ve read Michael Pollen’s books over the last several months. I’m sold on his explanation of:
The Food Rules:
Rule #1: Eat food. [Don’t consume any food that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize - for example, processed foods]
Rule #2: Not too much.
Rule #3: Mostly plants.
Now, how simple is that? Since I love to cook, the first rule has always been pretty easy for me. I don’t eat processed foods very much at all, except for things like bread, yogurt, etc. Actually, when I was raising my kids I even made all our bread; and, I do make yogurt - but not very often. I don’t use mixes to prepare meals or cakes, etc. I love fresh and cooked vegetables and fruits. I don’t drink alcohol of any kind; however, I used to, but haven’t for 30 years. My big horrendous downfall is sweets. I rarely eat one cookie; it’s none or five, or more. It’s similar with ice cream: I start with a small bowl; then, go back for seconds, and maybe even thirds! I’m better off not taking that first bite. We’ll see how it goes onboard.
I’ll be writing these posts offline; then will publish them as I can, when we’re in ports and I can find cyber cafes. Now, after a lovely gourmet first night dinner with a varied group of passengers from England, Denver, Vancouver, Arizona, and California (that’s me!), I popped back into this snug little stateroom, took a shower and am ready to settle down to a good book.
Tomorrow morning there’s going to be a kitchen tour at 10:15; I can’t wait to see how they manage to create these gourmet sensations for 2,000 people three times a day, with snacks in between!
Friday December 5 9pm
First thing this morning I headed to the fitness center for an onboard treadmill workout. There are 14 treadmills facing large picture windows looking out over the bow of the ship, choppy white-capped water passing by, our cruising speed being just around 29 knots (about 34mph). If you haven’t experienced travel on one of these huge ocean vessels, it’s difficult to comprehend how powerful they actually are.
The large fitness room is located right in front of the whole spa area of the ship; they offer just about any kind of spa / beauty treatments one would ever want - for quite a hefty price, I might add. I counted the number of treadmills - 14 that I saw. I climbed on one and got 60 minutes in before 10am. Then, I headed back to the room for a shower and dressing, intending to attend the kitchen tour I mentioned yesterday. Only, as I was showering I suddenly realized I was very hungry so I had to forego the tour in favor of the buffet breakfast still being served. Given my intention to eat healthily, I loaded my plate with all different choices of fresh fruit and a large portion of scrambled eggs. I looked longingly at the breads, rolls, and pastries, but once again, I was able to resist. Orange juice and decaf were my accompaniments, so I was able to stick to my eating plan.
From breakfast I walked outside to join lots of other sun-worshipers by one of the pool - hot tub Jacuzzi areas. A beautiful lounge chair with a super large clean towel draped over it awaited me and my book for a couple of hours in the pleasantly warm, not hot, sunshine.
Getting around on this floating city is somewhat a challenge for me - the lady with absolutely no sense of direction. I get turned around so easily, and inside the ship I don’t even have the sun’s position to guide me. So, just about any activity I want to participate in requires that I allow enough time to be able to find the location in time to enjoy whatever it is! This afternoon I decided to go to one of the enrichment lectures that are offered throughout the trip, this on by a marine biologist, retired from San Francisco State University, who talked about large oceanic animals and birds. It turned out not to be as informative as I would have wanted, so I didn’t stay for the whole lecture, instead heading to the dining room for a nice relaxing lunch - so many choices!
There are all kinds of people who choose cruise vacations, some for their one and only vacation of the year; for instance, the English couple at dinner last night had arrived yesterday afternoon after having flown form northern England to London Heathrow and from Heathrow to Miami and then shuttled to the ship from Miami just moments before we departed at 4:30. They’ll leave the ship in Valparaiso on the 20th, as will I, but they have a return flight to London on the same day. That’s kind of one end of the spectrum; the other being the people who actually live on cruise ships, either staying on one, like this one, or jumping from one to another depending on what ships are available or where they want to go. These folks are kind of a subculture - living life on their terms - and enjoying it too. I’ll admit, I could be talked into trying this way of life out!!!
I feel fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to take several cruises; the big difference for me with this one is that I don’t have to rush to partake in every single offering of activity, dining, or shore excursion. I have sixteen days to spread out the experiences. My friend, Fred, has come down with a cold, and chose to eat dinner in the cabin; so, I decided to do the same. Tonight was designated for “formal” attire in all the dining rooms, so I decided to order from the restaurant’s gourmet menu and ate a delicious four course dinner in my stateroom: liver paté, two different soups - cold pear and warm corn, fresh green salad with feta, bacon, and candied pecans, and rack of lamb with mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed broccoli and carrots. It was yummy and a beautiful presentation right here in the stateroom. Now I’m relaxing in bed and ready to prepare for another eventful day tomorrow.
Saturday December 6
Today started with a bang! Actually it was more of a splat. I was in the bathroom getting dressed for my trip to the gym. I’m really not sure what happened, maybe a little movement from the ship; anyway, I suddenly found myself losing my balance and quickly put my left hand out behind me to feel for the wall. There instead of the expected wall was the shower curtain, no help, and I crashed down into the shower landing on my left thumb and wrist. I heard a ‘snap,’ felt a pain on my left elbow and left behind. Scampering up to get a look at the damage, I realized I wasn’t in any great pain and it appeared that the contact with the shower floor seemed to be in the area of my left thumb and not my wrist. Hooray for that. I thought, “Oh, this is nothing, really,” and proceeded to the fitness center for a pleasant hour of recumbent bike riding. I glanced at my left hand from time to time, noticing that my thumb was not exactly positioned as I’d remembered it and it was starting to swell.
Back in my stateroom I decided to shower and ready myself for the Galley Tour I’d planned to take this morning. As I was listening to the interesting talk about how the ship’s dining crew prepares a minimum of 10,000 meals a day, and walking through the incredibly large kitchens, I started to notice that my thumb and hand were beginning to look quite deformed and not just a little discolored. Upon the completion of the tour I marched myself down to the Medical Center and found that it had closed a few minutes earlier and wouldn’t reopen until 4pm. It’s 2:30 now and I’m taking it easy in the stateroom but will head back down there at 4.
Many years ago, while skiing in Park City, Utah, I dislocated my left thumb, a very painful injury that plagued me for weeks and weeks. When it finally stopped hurting from the injury, I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have to deal with osteoarthritis in that joint. Sure enough, it’s from time to time given me some trouble; in the last year or so I’ve given up knitting and crocheting because of arthritis in both hands. We’ll see what my medical colleagues onboard think about this injury. I’m not sure what facility they have if it is, in fact, fractured. I’m kind of thinking there may not be much to be done here. I’m thrilled to say it’s not very painful, especially if I don’t try to do much with my left hand. Here I am typing and it’s not hurting very much. I will go back to the medical center at four to see what they have to say.
Sunday December 7
There’s been a little delay in getting back to my blog; however I’ve been busy. I went to the cruise medical center where they decided I should have my hand x-rayed. Lo and behold, they found at least two fractures in my left thumb; so they put my hand and wrist into a temporary ‘cast- like’ immobilizer but said I should go to a specialist when we docked in Cartagena, Colombia this morning. So, at 8:30 they took me to an outpatient medical clinic and I spent about five hours there. I was seen by an orthopedic surgeon, who concurred that there are two fractures and that the area needs to be immobilized for at least eight days. Then, I need to start doing some physical therapy as soon as I can after that - to prevent contractions and strictures that could interfere with function. I guess we never know how important each part of our bodies are - until we lose the use, right?
So, I’m back onboard with my left thumb and wrist immobilized (I’m cheating right now by using four fingers of my left hand). It’s really not very painful unless I try to move my thumb or bend my wrist; but I’m sure I’ll live!!! There were three other ‘patients’ and their significant others in the group that toddled off to the clinic - all are going to live along with me. One man had to have an endoscopy for a piece of meat that was stuck in his esophagus - his bill was $700. Mine was $850 (yikes) and I don’t really know why; maybe it was the Arthropod going into the clinic on a Sunday. I haven’t had a chance to report the injury to Kaiser, but I’m confidant that they’ll cover all the charges. The driver for the trip to and from the clinic charged each of us patients $35 for the trip. It wasn’t cheap.
I plan to have it looked at again when we get to Valparaiso, Chile (our destination), unless I feel worse before then. One function that makes monkeys, apes, and humans different from other mammals is our ability to use our thumbs and fingers “in opposition.” We don’t think much about it until we can’t function that was - tying shoe laces, holding silverware, etc. I’m feeling a little like an invalid.
Thank goodness I’ve visited Cartagena previously, so I have some memories other than a medical clinic. It’s really a beautiful walled city that was a central location where the conquistadors gathered their plunder from South and Central America for shipment to Spain. The architecture is Spanish Colonial and really lovely. I’ll just have to come back again; we leave this afternoon at 5 so it’s out of the question for this visit - it’s 4:05pm right now. And, I didn’t get a chance to go to a cyber cafe so I’ll continue to write and publish (post) whenever I can.
Monday December 8