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Snookums' Guide to Beijing

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My lovely wife Snookums wrote this up in July, 2000. It may be useful to those who are contemplating a trip to Beijing, but make sure you verify all the information. The full .pdf version of this, with illustrations, is here. The PDF is the "official" version of the document, but I converted it to HTML for the casual reader--any errors in the HTML version are mine. --filbert

Why Beijing?

To escape my job in Tokyo, I visited Beijing June 8-13, 2000 and July 20-23, 2000. I loved it. The history is outstanding and the people/culture are very unique. These are my hints and tips in order for you to have successful trips like I did. I assume that the reader has a Beijing guidebook so these will just be some of the tips that weren’t in the guidebooks I used.

Lileks goes to a reunion

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Why are you even bothering with the Internet if you don't read Lileks?

A taste:

It wasn’t that you knew her well, even though you’d been in school together since tot-hood. Perhaps you had a sneaky crush on her, like the rest of the nerds. She was smart, killer smart; she was pretty, achingly pretty, but she carried herself in a way that deflected your attention. She hunched, as though she was trying to draw in her beauty and keep it from spilling out, making a mess. Everything about her seemed an improvised defense. Her smile could melt coal. She died.

You look at the faces, you ask around, you get the stats: rare blood disease. Parking garage accident in Vegas. Car crash.  How about her? What happened?

You discover that she married a fellow who founded a software  company known in these parts as the A-1 code factory. Microsoft bought the company. Lots of people made lots of money; you have relatives who owe their lake cabin to a judicious stock position.

She went down in a small plane with her husband.

You don’t remember a word you said to her or a word she said to you, but you stand there looking at that photo and you know you will never forget her. You’ll never knew her, either, but that’s a different matter.

The band is too loud.  Of course, the band is always too loud. Everywhere. It’s what bands do: be too loud. This has the effect of driving everyone into the hallway, but by the end of the night the magic effects of Mr. Liquor will drive a few couples onto the dance floor, which allows you the chance to stand by the wall, watch other people dance, and remember the other side of High School.

Then you go outside and have a cigar with a cheerleader, which reminds you how things can change.

You catch up with other people’s profession. Giant retail mall manager. Gravestone coordinator. Gas-pump repairman / musician. Photographer extraordinaire. Corporate-function entertainer. Educator, realtor, high-end small-market auto detailer. Computer chip designer.

As Evil Glenn says, read the whole thing.

Lileks takes a road trip

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Minneapolis Star/Tribune columnist James Lileks takes a road trip back home to Fargo and discovers . . . a Ben Franklin, among other wonders:
Consider first this unbelievable rarity: a 1960s Ben Franklin, looking as though the chain was still a retail powerhouse with clothes and popcorn and a record section and parakeets in the back:
Lileks is a very good writer, and the pictures are just icing on the cake . . .

Hat tip: Hugh Hewett

Update:  Lileks story link fixed.

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise Journal

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The Regent Seven Seas Mariner

Snookums and I recently returned from a cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruise. All seven regular Medary.com readers may recall our less than satisfactory cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager last November. But with the assurances we received from Regent (formerly Radisson), we looked forward to this cruise. Both Snookums and I enjoy days at sea even more than port days, and this cruise had plenty of sea days to entertain us.

We had a royally good time on this cruise! Click on the following links to read Snookums' journal of our cruise to Hawaii and Tahiti:

Days 1-3
Days 4-8
Days 9-12
Days 13-15
Days 16-17
Days 18-27

A postscript: our letter to Regent's president, Mark Conroy, is posted here.

The Mariner departs San Francisco

The Next Cruise Begins . . .

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 18-27

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This is entry #6 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 4-8.
The previous journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

May 5 (Friday, Day 18)

Rainbow over Papeete
We had breakfast for the first time this morning at Compass Rose Restaurant. Compass Rose is where we normally eat dinner and it has cloth tablecloths and napkins and good china and you order off a menu. For our other breakfasts, we’ve been doing room service or going to the buffet and eating outside. Our waiter, whom we didn’t recognize at all, addressed us both by name. Everyone knows our names!

Every guest had to attend a second lifeboat drill since we’ve been on board so long! The crew has a mandatory crew-only drill every week and now with this second drill of ours, they’ve attended four since we’ve been on board. Safety is paramount.

The chef’s degustation menu was an all-Indian one from the Sous Chef’s grandmother. It was the first time I had the entire suggested menu. Curry crab cakes, dal (lentil) soup, a salad that I can’t remember, banana mango sorbet, lamb curry and Indian carrot pudding (gajjar ka halwa) for dessert. I requested the recipe for the Indian carrot pudding since it has to be incredibly healthy and has been my favorite dessert so far (and that’s saying a lot!). I think the recipe will be something like a whole bunch of shredded carrots, a few raisins, some spices, a little bit of sugar, and a small amount of binding agent like egg and/or flour. It was more like a cake than a pudding, but was baked in individual ramekins, and it was incredibly delicious considering it looked like it was just lots of shredded carrots and a few raisins cooked for 15 minutes or so!!!

After dinner we went to the big bands show in one of the lounges where the cruise director, Barry Hopkins, sang songs and passengers danced. This was held in a lounge rather than in the big theatre due to having a dance floor and I’m guessing it had the largest turnout of any of the after dinner shows since everyone loves Barry. It’s only the second show that we’ve attended!

We got back to our cabin around 10:30 PM and the middle page that lists the daily activities was not included in our daily schedule. I called the front desk and requested one but was told everyone goes off duty at 10 PM and so a schedule would be delivered in the morning. I asked for some specific times of events and was given those so I was content. I hung up and told Filbert when the lecture was. H just couldn’t believe that they couldn’t deliver a schedule to us tonight. He called right back, got a different person, and very nicely asked if we needed to make sure to be back to our cabin every night by 10 PM to verify that everything was alright. He of course was told “no” and a schedule was sent right up. I thought it was pretty funny that I didn’t get irritated at all by this, but he did. I’m usually the one who is a stickler for good service.

May 6 (Saturday, Day 19)

We both attended one of the fitness classes (fitness ball) and were the best couple in it. Okay, so we were the only couple in attendance, but we still would have been the best couple in it even if others had attended! Filbert was the only man and we were by far the youngest of the six guests or so in attendance. But, the good thing about exercise balls is that the workout can be as hard as you want to make it.

I stayed for the next class (circuit training), but since I was the only one there and the instructor needs two people, I had to just do it on my own. I did two circuits (10 different exercises for 1 minute each) and called it quits. Motivation is harder when you’re all alone!

Filbert went to the lecture on Nuku Hiva while I was trying to do the circuit training. His goal was to find out what there was to do on this island that we were going to be on for five hours (and we already knew there wasn’t any snorkeling). He learned that Nuku Hiva has a population of 2,000 and was the site of CBS’s 2002 Survivor reality TV series. He didn’t learn much else and was disappointed that 20 minutes of the lecture were spent discussing Robert Lewis Stephenson’s voyages to Tahiti (which we had visited earlier) and Samoa. Oh well!

We attended a show on the pool deck by some Marquesian Warriors. The guys were wearing grass skirts/thongs and the women were wearing grass skirts. They danced and drummed for about 45 minutes. We ate our lunch of bleu cheese burgers while enjoying the show. But, something I had at lunch wasn’t too agreeable with me for the rest of the day but I soldiered on.

We took the tender to the “main town” of Taiohae in Nuku Hiva. Evi, our stewardess had told us that there was nothing to do and 10 minutes would be enough. She was basically right! We got off the tender and walked to the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Marquesas. A priest was going to be ordained there in the afternoon so the entire island’s population seemed to turn out for it. 99% of the men and women were wearing all white and we found out that each family had donated about $15 for the party after the event. The church was built from various rocks from the six islands of the Marquesas and the woodcarvings inside were very pretty. The Marquesans carve tikis out of wood and stone and their carving skills were evident in the church. We walked for about 45 minutes and then got back on the tender for the ship. It was a nice diversion, but 1 hour was sufficient!
Catholic Church, Nuku Hiva
Since I was still feeling iffy and since we were both tired from the heat and humidity of Nuku Hiva, we ate dinner in our cabin and since the Compass Rose restaurant menu that night was “All American” and they had macaroni and cheese, that’s what I had. Believe it or not, it was pretty good considering that when most ships try to emulate “normal” American food, they fall far short. Filbert ordered the marinated beef tenderloin and he said it was very tasty.

May 7 (Sunday, Day 20)

I woke up still not feeling 100% so today was kind of a slow day. I laid out, read my book(s) and watched Fox News (our only “live” channel) and movies on TV. Filbert spent time playing computer games and sat on the deck listening to his short wave radio (he’s only been getting Radio Australia lately). Actually, this could describe a lot of our days at sea.
Snookums (and Bill) in the Sun
While I was lying out, it became very, very windy so I decided to call it quits. I also noticed the pool deck waiters taking the cushions off the chairs and moving the salt and pepper shakers and removing the place mats. We had a 10-minute rain squall, and I was very impressed that the crew could tell it was going to rain right before it did. From now on I’ll just watch them to figure out the weather forecast.

We had a Mariner Club party before dinner and while we were sitting and talking with our friends, Filbert managed to spill his entire glass of red wine on mostly himself. Of course, he had to get some of it on Faith’s cut velvet shawl that was hand painted and beaded from Hong Kong. And, after all of that, she still wanted to have dinner with us! We went back to the cabin and Filbert changed EVERYTHING (underwear included) and I found Evi and gave her the pants, shirt and sportcoat for laundry/dry cleaning and then we went to meet Faith for dinner.

As we mentioned at the start of the story, we met Faith in the San Francisco airport. She’s probably in her mid-70’s, and she’s been everywhere around the world multiple times. Her husband died several years ago and her first trip to Tahiti was in the early 1960s and happened to coincide with the Bay of Pigs. Since there was no news on Tahiti at that time, she didn’t know anything about it until she got back to the US. After her husband died she took over the family business and is now a commercial and industrial real estate person. She owns a bunch of buildings all over the U.S. (including at least one building that houses a WalMart store) and goes to the office (a building her husband built behind their California home) every day. But, she’s not doing anything with the business while on the cruise and has no one else on the payroll. She’s a pretty neat lady and was just fascinated to hear about our Internet dating story.

May 8 (Monday, Day 21)

I was sitting in the library area typing this up and Rodi Alexander, the singer from last night (that we didn’t see), sat in the group of chairs next to me and then Faith walked up and told her how great her show and then the three of us ended up chatting for about 30 minutes. Filbert was sitting next to me and had his head buried in his laptop the whole time but that was okay! Her husband also does cruise shows and right now he’s at home with their 7-year-old and she’s on this cruise (she joined in Papeete and gets off in San Francisco and only has to do two shows) for a break. When she gets home, her husband will go on the road for two weeks and this summer they are both going to be on Oceania cruise line for four weeks and will bring their son with them.

While I was lying outside, I watched “The Sisters”. They are passengers who are both in wheelchairs. Pansy is 95 and hard of hearing and Clarice is younger (90?) and blind. They have been the talk of the ship with their antics. They really should NOT be traveling alone--they start drinking martinis with lunch and don’t seem to stop. I’ve seen them drink two martinis each at lunch, one each before dinner and two each during dinner. Neither of them weighs more than 100 pounds. One night at the beginning of the cruise, two of our friends (Ted and Kathie) had the misfortune of being seated with them. When they told us about their experience, we started to keep our eyes open for The Sisters.
The Sisters (courtesy Bill)
Here’s the dinner story that Ted and Kathie experienced: The older woman kept dropping her purse and then yelling for it so Kathie had to spend most of her time picking it up off the floor. Kathie also kept moving their martini glasses away so they wouldn’t knock them over (at a future dinner, they broke at least two glasses as reported by Bill, the single guy). At some point in the dinner, the older one (Pansy) started retching (Kathie’s word) and so the waiter rushed over to see what the commotion was about. Also, Pansy’s head would frequently fall towards the table (due to her drunkenness, Kathie suspected). When dinner was over, two crewmembers came to put them in their wheelchairs but Pansy was yelling “no” and making quite a scene. They finally were wheeled away and the Dining Room Manager immediately came up and apologized to Ted and Kathie and said, “that will never happen again”. The really funny thing is that Kathie is a very nice woman and she said that towards the end of the meal, she was having trouble reconciling her being taught to be nice to elderly people with her feeling of “Die and let me enjoy my dinner!” We now notice that The Sisters eat at their own table for all meals.

I have my very own Sisters story: I was lying outside during lunch and noticed The Sisters at a table in the shade. They were enjoying their fish and chips (the outdoor theme buffet of the day). I also noticed at least two martini glasses. I would read my book and look their way every now and then since many of the passengers use them for free entertainment. I noticed the older one taking off her t-shirt and then her bra. At that point, one of the waiters got the wheelchair pusher-guy. (I’m sure the waiter was thinking “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this.”) The wheelchair pusher-guy wasn’t too comfortable with the situation either so he got one of waitresses. The waitress tried to put the woman’s jacket around her, but Pansy was being kind of belligerent. The younger one readily got put in her wheel chair. By this time, there were two waiters, the waitress, the wheelchair pusher-guy and two of the officers (in white). They finally got Pansy in her wheelchair and covered her with a beach towel and away they went. I asked the pool bartender if he’s ever seen passengers that incapable and he told me “no” and that he hadn’t ever seen a strip show, either! I’ve heard that their travel agent is going to be yelled at and if I were Regent, I wouldn’t let them on another ship unless they brought a nurse with them. They monopolize multiple crewmembers at a time and that is not fair to the crewmembers or other passengers. I really feel sorry for their wheelchair pusher-guy (i.e. the butler that comes with their suite) since he’s been with them the entire cruise. Bill says he’s going to make a “Sisters Gone Wild” video to sell on this cruise!

After I witnessed the strip show, I had to tell the four different sets of people I knew that had just come out for lunch. I ended up sitting on the ground telling Nancy (the woman that got married in Maui) the story and finally got up from that spot an hour later and went back to the cabin. Much to my chagrin, my back (and not my legs, just my back) was nice and red since I had been sitting on the ground with my back to the sun while talking to Nancy. And here I’ve been working on getting rid of my wetsuit tan lines, but not today!

We went to tea around 4:00 since its theme was “cheese.” While there, the guitarist suddenly said “dolphins to port” and everyone ran over to the port side. The sea was very calm and so we could easily see the dolphins since each of them created a little whitecap. However, the dolphins were pretty far away and we couldn’t really see them jumping out of the water. We would just see the whitecaps that they made when they jumped in and out of the sea.

Later, we returned to our cabin to find that Filbert’s clothing had returned from the cleaners. They managed to get all of the wine off of his white with pastel stripes dress shirt and his sport coat and they got 99% of it off the khaki 100% cotton slacks. I don’t understand why there are still a few spots on the pants, but I’ll work on them when we get home. It’s no big deal, but weird how they got this HUGE stain off but some little spots still remained that were part of the HUGE stain.

Before dinner we attended the British Pub show. This was hastily put together by the crew. Since this cruise is so long, they’ve improvised on a couple of the shows and they are the “fun” ones. They transformed one of the lounges to an English Pub and then they did various songs and dances and stuff. Filbert ordered a pint of bitters so he was happy (and for some reason we never got a bill for it and this is the second time he’s ordered a drink and hasn’t had to pay. Maybe the bitters were free?).

After the show, we went to our dinner in Latitudes, the Indo-Chinese restaurant that requires reservations. I had said it was our anniversary when I made our online reservation before leaving home and sure enough, they had a table for two in the corner with a candle on it. Rommel, the maitre d’, kept coming over and telling us how happy he was to have us share our special day in his restaurant, etc., etc. After we were done, they brought us a delicious looking large chocolate cake. I asked them to send it to our cabin. On the way out, Faith, the woman we ate with last night, asked us which one of us was having a birthday. I had to fess up and tell her (and the couple that she was eating with) that I told them it was our anniversary since I wanted to see if they would do anything and she thought that was pretty smart. (Filbert made sure to tell Faith that he stuck with the white wine tonight.) We got back to our room and I asked Evi if she wanted the cake and she was thrilled to get it, after I explained that it was NOT our anniversary and Filbert made sure that she understood that I was the one that said it was our anniversary. Evi thought it was pretty funny.

May 9 (Tuesday, Day 22)

Today was another leisurely day at sea. We went to breakfast upstairs in the buffet and before I even sat down, the waiter said “Ice water with lemon and a straw and French toast with no butter and no powdered sugar” to me and “Coffee in the Volvo cup” to Filbert. So, they know the items we order every day. I got my bowl of strawberries that I then ladled on the Bircher Muesli (yogurt, oatmeal, raisins, coconut, bananas, other fresh stuff?).

I stayed outside after breakfast and read my book on the pool deck and chatted with lots of friends and got sunburned on my legs and arms. Filbert was in the cabin indexing the pictures and videos he’s taken on the cruise. Then he sat on our deck in his shorts for awhile to get some color while listening to the radio.

We went to the Observation Lounge on the top deck in mid-afternoon since Filbert thought that maybe we would see dolphins again since we’ve seen tons of flying fish today and several albatross. His theory was that there must be lots of food in this part of the ocean so maybe there would be dolphins. There weren’t, but we stayed through tea, too. Today it was breakfast waffles and ice cream, but the only ice cream flavors were blueberry and strawberry swirl and since I wanted some kind of chocolate, I had to settle for the normal treats of scones, cookies, pastries and finger sandwiches.

We ended our day in the Casino and walked out around $35 poorer. We managed to use our four match play coupons (and lost on three of the four) so now we don’t have any reason to go to the casino again. I guess losing less than $45 on a month long cruise while gambling isn’t too bad!

May 10 (Wednesday, Day 23)

Today is another leisurely day at sea. However, it’s 11 AM and only 73 degrees outside. I can definitely tell we’re heading north. On our other days, it would be at least 80 by now. I guess I won’t be lying out in the sun again on this ship. Bummer!

I should have mentioned this before now, but here goes. The TV in our suite has nine channels: Fox News, 3 movie channels and each channel plays the same movie all day long, the navigation channel that shows the ship’s position and basic facts like temperature and wind speed/direction, a channel that shows the menus for the day, a channel with a view from the bridge, and two channels with various documentaries (like “Keiko, the whale”). The navigation channel has been playing disco music for the past week or so and Filbert has “Boogie Fever” on his mind and randomly says “Boogie fever, got to boogie down; Boogie fever, I think it's going around” in a very exaggerated way and it’s just hilarious. So, now we often wonder to each other if the waiter has “Boogie Fever” or if other passengers have “the fever”. (I guess you had to be there…)

We went to the circuit training class and the fitness instructor, Caitlin, had to hold the class since there were two of us there. It was a good workout for us.

There was a country fair around the pool deck this afternoon and the sun and weather cooperated since it was probably 75 or so. This involved each department (provisions, galley, housekeeping, bar, casino, spa, etc.) having a booth with a carnival type game. The safety department had a dummy hanging from a hook and you had to throw a life saving ring around it. The galley had pizza crusts that they ladled soft meringue on and then it was a pie-throwing contest to hit the various galley members. The security department had people use metal detector wands to wand the security officer to find how many beeps you could get. The spa/salon had people throw the Velcro curlers at the hair stylists wearing big wigs to get them to stick in the wigs. And there were a whole lot more. At each booth you got a voucher and at the end there was a raffle and about 20 guests won good prizes ($100 at the casino, a free facial, etc.) It was pretty fun and the crew really got into it since they only do it on the cruises where there are a lot of sea days in a row and they only have one or two of those every year.

We went to teatime today since it was fondue. We pigged out which I think was okay since it was the first time we had done that, at any eating event, during the entire cruise. The dark chocolate fondue was my favorite and Filbert liked the white chocolate fondue. The milk chocolate fondue was okay. We stuck around for team trivia and ended up getting 9 of 15, all thanks to Filbert. The one that I answered ended up wrong, although when I get home and have free Internet access, I’m going to look it up. The question was “Longest running animal TV show” and I answered “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and the official answer was “Lassie” with 17 seasons. However, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” is still on Animal Planet, per Filbert. We went to the library to try to find out if “Lassie” was the right answer, but the reference books that they had didn’t help. Filbert also wanted to find out if his answer for “Lawrence of Arabia fought what country” was really wrong. He said “Ottoman Empire” and the cruise’s answer was “Turkey”. So, two things we’ll have to Google when we get free Internet.

We managed to get three match play coupons at the country fair this afternoon so we visited the casino this afternoon and walked out $25 richer after playing around five hands each! I don’t think we’ll get any more so I guess our total losses will be around $20. Not bad at all (I guess) for a total of 60 minutes per person for our three visits.

We had dinner at Signatures, the Le Cordon Bleu Restaurant. We each had the crab salad appetizer with lobster cream emulsion (but it was very fancy and had layers of sauce, salad, almond crisps, etc.). Filbert had the shellfish cream soup and I had the trilogy squash soup that had cubes of orange squash in it and a yellow squash puree on top. We each had the venison fillet with wild mushrooms, mushroom mousse and foie gras sauce. It was very good. Filbert had the cheese tray for dessert with chartreuse for his after dinner drink. He asked what they had for an after-dinner cordial, and the maitre d’ rattled off a bunch, including one that sounded like “absinthe.” So, that’s what Filbert ordered. Soon, the maitre d’ came back and said that there wasn’t any and asked if Filbert wanted chartreuse so Filbert said “yes”. It is a light green digestive with a very high alcohol content that in old days contained chlorophyll and mint.

I took a very small sip and it burned my lips and tongue and they were numb for a while! Filbert drank half of it and said his mouth was numb. I ordered all four desserts and not only did the chef get a kick out of it, but so did the elderly couple at the table next to us. The Hotel Director, Giuseppe, did too, since he was sitting across from us and has managed to “harass” us (in a funny way) every day for the last week or so about something. In order of my most favorite to least favorite, here they are: pecan shortbread cookie with a ring of roasted pineapple on it and a scoop of citrus sorbet on the top; chocolate ganache covered chocolate mousse dome with a macaroon on the side (but a BAD macaroon compared to the ones we bought in Paris); a wine glass with dark chocolate pudding/ganache/mousse on one side with white wine jelly (Jell-O) down the other side with vanilla whipped cream in the middle; pear fantasy – a round Nestle Crunch bar for the base covered with a pear mousse (with the pear “grit” in it) covered with a pear puree covered with a round of puff pastry covered with pear jelly and then there were three wine poached pears on the side. The first two desserts (the pineapple one and the chocolate dome) were very good and the last two really weren’t compatible with my taste buds at all.

On the way out we looked at the book on the Maitre D’s stand called “Food Lover’s Companion”. Filbert decided we needed it (that’s were we got the info on green chartreuse), so he promptly ordered it from Amazon.com.

May 11 (Thursday, Day 24)

Today is an overcast day and the temperature is 65. I got up and went to the workout class, but since I was the only one that showed up, it was canceled so I had to work out on my own. When I left the cabin, Filbert was still sleeping since we moved our clocks ahead last night.

For lunch they had a Mongolian BBQ where you fill your bowl with all of the stir-fry ingredients and then they do the stir frying for you and add the sauce flavors that you want. We each had two helpings of it. The second time through, though, they intercepted our bowls before we could put the sauce and flavors in. We’re not sure how you are supposed to get the spices you wanted that way, but oh, well. You won’t find veal, lamb or turkey at the Mongolian BBQ restaurants in Kansas City, that’s for sure!

We went to tea since it was the “chocolate fantasy” and looked at everything, but ate NOTHING (a first)! We were both still stuffed from lunch. We played trivia again and got 11 out of 15. I supplied one correct answer and Filbert answered the rest.

We went to the Observation Lounge to look at the menus for tonight and managed to see a pod of 20 dolphins right next to the ship. This was even better than our first sighting on our second day on board! No pictures, though – Filbert left his camera in the room.

We got initiated into the Turtle Club. We’re sworn to secrecy (well, not really, but it wouldn’t be as much fun if we spilled the beans). We can tell you that there appear to be elements of donkey worship associated with the club. If you are asked if you are a member and don’t respond with the secret saying, you have to buy a round of drinks for any members within ear shot.

OK, the Turtles aren’t all that secret.

The gossip of the day: Jim and Ann Louise were playing blackjack and the only other guy at the table started talking. He and his fiancée came on the cruise. They were supposed to get married in January so this was going to be their honeymoon. They are in their 60s and it’s a second marriage for each. The January wedding didn’t get planned in time so they pushed it back to June. They haven’t spoken to each other since Monday (and it’s now Thursday night) and he is sleeping on the couch and she has the bed and she leaves the cabin before he wakes up so that they don’t see each other, either. Filbert and I decided that we won the Lottery of Love (and we haven’t fought or snipped at each other at all and are still in the same bed)!

Dinner included the orchestra playing in the dining room and the dance floor was open since they cleared out the center section. It was kind of nice to boogie down (Boogie . . . Fever . . . ) to the music while waiting for our next courses. We boogied in our seats, though. Tonight was the first time I ordered from an alternative menu (vegetarian) and the vegetable curry was fantastic. Filbert ordered the veal with Calvados sauce and enjoyed it very much.

Filbert wrote a heartfelt and eloquent note to Evi and we put a very large tip in it and found her and gave it to her. She didn’t open it right away, but when she did she came and rang our doorbell and was crying. I think she was crying from the note as much as from the large tip. She’s a sweetie and leaves us on Saturday in Los Angeles and has been counting down the days for awhile. According to her, she’s at a half a day now. I’m not sure of her counting process, but if she thinks that 9 PM on her second to last night equals a half a day, then okay!

After dinner we went to the Broadway show done by the ship’s production troupe. Bill has become good friends (to put it mildly) with the lead singer so he had been telling us different things about the show and that the lead singer wanted him to clap in certain places so we went and sat with Bill to help him out. It was kind of neat knowing some of the inside scoop on the production. The lead singer gets $1500/week and has a nine-month contract.

After the Broadway show, we went to the Liars’ Club. This is where four of the ship’s staff have to give definitions to odd words (bissextile was one of them) and you pick out the correct definition. It’s funny since the four folks are NOT in their normal persona and are putting on a big act. I think our team picked two of the four correct definitions. We got back to our cabin around 11:30 PM which was definitely our latest yet! But, we had a lot of fun.

Tonight was formal night and Filbert was in his tuxedo for 5 hours! He told me that he had wet underwear (from sweat) when he got undressed and I know that his tux shirt was soaked through. He is just hot blooded and isn’t comfortable wearing a jacket. But, several people commented on how good he looked. We took a formal photo again hoping that it turns out better than the others. I’ve looked pitiful in the other three formal night photo ops so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

May 12 (Friday, Day 25)

We woke up at 9:45 this morning due to getting back to the cabin so late last night. No breakfast for us today! I put in a load of darks and left our dirty whites in the laundry room since I have to wait for a second washing machine to become available. I think I’ve done laundry every three days or so, but it’s no big deal since they usually have two washing machines open when I go. If they don’t, I just leave our dirty laundry under the table so that I can pop into the laundry at any time and load up. No one else leaves dirty laundry there, but that is his or her inefficiency problem!

Lunch today was the Grand Marketplace Buffet in Compass Rose. They did a really nice job setting up a buffet in the lounge outside of the restaurant. The food was stuff we’ve eaten over the past month, but was arranged by nation. And, the galley crew did a great job making it look very international. I especially like their streamer banners (like the ones that criss cross used car lots) that they made by cutting paper in half on the diagonal (to get two triangles) and then taping it to a string and hanging it on the ceiling to make it look festive! And, they had lots of cases of food sitting in corners like olive oil and wrapped salamis next to the Italian station and cans of soy sauce next to the sushi stand and bags of flour and nuts next to the bread cart. The food was fine, nothing special, but the presentation was very nice and made for a nice change of pace.

We’ve slowed down to 12 knots from our normal 20 knots in order to make Los Angeles on time at 8 AM tomorrow. Then we leave for San Francisco at 1 PM. I don’t think we’ll bother to get off the ship in LA.

We went to the circuit fitness class and we were the only two there. But we did two sets of ten different exercises for one minute each and Caitlin kept time for us.

We had dinner with Jim and Ann-Louise and we talked and talked and talked. When we got back to our room after dinner, Evi told us that she had received a “DNR” which means “do not rehire”. She was very upset about it and was crying. She told us that her supervisor told her that she didn’t have the capability to clean a six-star suite. We didn’t quite understand since we knew that our suite had been spotless and we also knew that other guests loved Evi so we asked her if we could talk to Giuseppe (Hotel Director) on her behalf. She said “yes” but to wait until after she disembarked the ship on Saturday at 11 AM. This was the only downer of the whole cruise.

May 13 (Saturday, Day 26)

Filbert woke up at 5:45 to watch us dock and enjoyed an hour or so in the Observation Lounge with his coffee. While he was there one of our neighbors asked him if he had been “Evied” last night. They compared stories and that man and his wife really liked Evi, too, and had also written a nice letter about her!

Everyone had to go through immigration this morning which meant we had to go to the theatre when our deck was announced and get our passport. Since we docked at 7 AM, we knew it was going to be an early morning so we showered, got our passport and then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast indoors since it was so cool in LA.

Evi stopped by the room at 9:30 AM to say goodbye and to get a video with us. She was still upset, but was happy she was going home. Her flight was leaving LAX at midnight, though, so she was going to have a long airport wait.

We didn’t bother getting off at LA and neither did most of the other passengers. It was very much an industrial port in the middle of nowhere. There was a shore excursion to the Queen Mary and an LA city tour but I think only the foreign passengers signed up for either of these!

The Mariner Club hosted a Bloody Mary party this morning as a break from packing. The Sisters were there and one of the passengers had witnessed them drinking martinis at breakfast! They immediately ordered a martini at the Bloody Mary party. I asked the bartender if he was watering them down and he said "yes” and couldn’t believe it when I said that they had already started at breakfast! Jerry, one of the Mariner Club hosts, did his duty and went and chatted with them. He came back to our group and pointed out that they really were pretty sharp and had their plan for disembarking tomorrow. A limo was going to pick them up and due to 9/11 security, passengers have to go to the street to get rides so the Sisters were going to call the driver from their cell phone when they were being wheeled off the ship. We’ll have to wait and see how it really works tomorrow!

Filbert and I also spoke to Lynn and Jerry to get their thoughts about the Evi situation and they agreed that it seemed odd and they thought going to Giuseppe was the right thing to do. They lived 11 suites from us and had a different stewardess but had wanted Evi right away after seeing her infectious personality during the cruise.

Filbert called Giuseppe and told him about Evi telling us about her “DNR” and that we were a little concerned that she told us that she didn’t even see the nice letter we wrote several weeks ago. We didn’t expect an answer right then and Giuseppe said he would look into it and get back to us.

We ate lunch at the Pool Grill (bleu cheese burgers again!!) and while waiting, we played Baggo. This is one of the many planned events that occurred every day. This was kind of a bean bag toss. I ended up coming in 3rd place and got a token. Since I only had one token for the whole cruise, I turned it in for the only gift that was in the single token category: luggage tag. But considering I only played one game and managed to score, I thought that was pretty good. Jim and Ann-Louise played these types of games all the time and ended up with around 70 tokens and turned them in for four cheap calculators and several magnets.

While waiting for my Baggo turn, I noticed Captain Guillou sitting at the pool bar eating a hamburger and hotdog. I asked him what the land was on our starboard side and was told “California”. I thought it was an island. I also thought it was kind of funny that the ship’s captain would be eating burgers and hotdogs at the pool bar, all alone. He was definitely a down-to-earth guy and during the Captain’s Farewell party showed the guests a picture of his new zebra that was born while on this cruise. (He has a house in France and a ranch in South Africa and now has 15 zebras.)

We looked at our photos from the last formal night and decided to use our free coupon for the one of us at our Polynesian vow renewal ceremony. It’s a head-shot of us kissing and shows us wearing our gardenia tiaras/crowns and wrapped in the tifaifai. I just don’t take good face pictures!

We packed our stuff and the most time consuming packing was of the chocolates that we got on our pillows every night. At the beginning of the cruise, Filbert told Evi that I loved them so she gave us at least 15 per night and towards the end of the cruise, put a partially full box of them on the bed. (The box holds 2.5 pounds of these fancy chocolates made in Salt Lake City.) I estimate that we ended up with 7.5 pounds of these fragile pillow chocolates (like three Andes mints side by side to make a thin, big square). We got an assortment of flavors – raspberry, orange, mint, peanut butter and in both dark and light chocolate. Our houseguests are going to get the royal treatment!

Tonight we had another special order curry dinner and invited Ted and Kathie to join us. We had a great time and we all ate too much but loved every bite.

We got back to our room and realized that the new steward not only didn’t leave washcloths, but we only had one roll of toilet paper. So much for Evi’s DNR… We called and both items were immediately sent up although it was after 10 PM. (Recall that earlier in the cruise, we had been told that people go off duty at 10 PM and we were going to have to wait until the next morning. Tonight, however, there was no discussion and the items were delivered right away.)

May 14 (Sunday, Day 27)

Although we didn’t dock until 11 AM, everyone disembarking at San Francisco had to vacate the cabins by 9 AM. Filbert and I had a leisurely breakfast, did one last Internet check and then headed to the Observation Lounge. At breakfast we said thanks and goodbye to Mark the maitre d’, and he told us that today was his last day and he was going to his home in France (his wife is French) to retire to raise tomatoes in his hothouses! We were amazed that during the entire cruise he never once mentioned that this was his last contract (and last job) ever. I guess he truly was a professional until the very end! We wish him well in his new life.

We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge around 10 AM and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was sunny and warm outside so we spent the rest of our time from the deck enjoying the magnificent views of the city, the bridge and Alcatraz. We also saw a few solo sea lions here and there.

Giuseppe found us and said he had been looking for us to tell us about Evi. He said that her work hadn’t been too good during her first five months of her contract. Since she was our stewardess and since everyone knew that we had a bad prior experience on Regent, our suite was checked by two people every day to make sure it was perfect. He said that she should have seen our letter, but he made a mistake and didn’t realize she was disembarking in Los Angeles so she didn’t see it. (Most of the crew that had contracts expiring was getting off in San Francisco but a few got off in LA like Evi.) He did say that the final evaluation hadn’t been written and sent to Corporate yet and that he asked the head housekeeper to think about it. Since Evi’s work wasn’t up to par and since she was unprofessional in telling us about getting a “DNR” he doubted anything would change. Filbert and I were very happy to get the whole story and we agreed with him, both with her faux pas in discussing the DNR with us and with the overall situation.

We enjoyed one last bleu cheese burger from the pool grill for our lunch (and I finished up with peanut butter cup ice cream with chocolate chips sprinkled on top and then caramel syrup!) and waited until our color tag was called. Although the disembarkation process actually took forever since we had to leave our cabins at 9 AM and didn’t physically get off the ship until 1:30, it seemed to go very fast! We never saw the Sisters so we don’t know how that act finished.

We took a $10 cab to our hotel since we couldn’t get a flight out due to our late disembarkation time. I booked us a 4 star hotel using Priceline and got the Westin St. Francis for $90. The funny thing was that this is the hotel that the cruise line will sell to people for post-cruise stays but Regent charges $200/night per person (or $400/couple). Of course, if you buy it through Regent you get to take the big Greyhound-type bus to the hotel with the other post-cruise guests and you then get to stand in that long line of everyone checking in. Filbert and I got to the hotel at least 45 minutes before the official post-cruise guests.

We relaxed for about 45 minutes in our room with a view of the bay and then walked The Embarcadero to Pier 39 to see the sea lions. (The Regent docked pretty much next door at Pier 35.) Oh yeah, the Priceline room was only supposed to have one double bed in it so when I checked in I said I was a Gold member of Starwood and politely asked for an upgrade to a king size bed. The clerk recited his standard Priceline speech (“You are stuck with the cheapest type of room since that’s what we contract with Priceline”) and then immediately upgraded us for free! Our bed and view were great.

It took us about 1 hour to walk to the pier and then we decided to have dinner at 6 PM at the restaurant overlooking the sea lions and with a great view of where the ship would leave at 6 PM. (We ate at the same restaurant to watch the sea lions when we were in San Francisco last year.) Since we had time to kill, we did a $5 30-minute boat ride of the bay that was well worth the money. We decided to go to dinner early but the Regent Mariner didn’t leave at 6 PM and around 6:45 we were done with our dinner. (We only ordered entrees – no appetizers, no salads, no desserts – since we had been eating many courses for the previous 26 days.) We decided that since the sunset was so good, the ship had made the same decision it made on April 18 when we embarked and that was to leave at 7 PM. Sure enough, it disembarked at 7 PM so that it could go under the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. We watched it until 7:45 or so (when it got to the bridge) and then walked back to the hotel and hit the sack.

May 15 (Monday, Back to the grind)

We left the hotel at 10 AM and we were able to get upgraded to first class on our San Francisco to Dallas flight so that was very nice. We pulled into our driveway at 9:30 PM after a non-hassle travel day. All in all, that was by far the best cruise we have ever been on, and we're hoping to do it again in a couple of years!

So, the cruise highlights in brief:

Day 2 – Having just about every crew member greet us by name
Day 2 – Watching dolphins from our balcony
Day 3 – Returning to San Francisco and then watching a Coast Guard medical evacuation using a helicopter and a rescue swimmer
Day 5 – Seeing Filbert hamming it up on stage with the magician
Day 7 – Getting a bunch of shipboard credit and then being able to apply it to our April, 2007 Panama Canal cruise
Day 11 – Being known as the “kissers” on the ship
Day 13 – Attending the King Neptune celebration and getting our equator crossing certificates
Day 14 – Seeing the Southern Cross
Day 15 – Snorkeling under the bungalows in Bora Bora
Day 15 – Savoring carrot ginger soup
Day 16 – Snorkeling with a 3 to 6 foot octopus in Moorea
Day 16 – Renewing our vows while setting sail from Moorea
Day 18 – Eating Indian carrot pudding
Day 21 – Watching the Sisters
Day 23 – Having Boogie Fever
Day 23 – Trying green chartreuse
Day 26 – Seeing Captain Guillou eating burgers all alone at the pool bar
Many Days – Enjoying days at sea
Many Days – Enjoying beautiful sunsets
Many Days – Meeting neat people

See you on the open ocean!

Sunset at Sea

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 16-17

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This is entry #5 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 16-17.
The previous journal entry is here.
The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

May 3 (Wednesday, Day 16)

We anchored off of Moorea (population 12,000) and the tenders were supposed to start running at 8 AM. However, the tenders were delayed 30 minutes since the ship was waiting out a tsunami warning issued because of the Richter Scale 8 earthquake that hit near Tonga a few hours earlier. Since the waves at Tonga got only 2 feet high, the all clear was given so the ship started its tendering service.

At breakfast this morning the maitre d’ from Signatures (Le Cordon Bleu restaurant) came up to us and invited us back to his restaurant. We figured that since he went out of his way to find us, we would grace him with our presence again so we made reservations for May 10 (and by then there will be a new menu for us to try).

The Belvedere, Moorea
The American Express Mariner Club offered a free tour of Moorea, so we tendered ashore and climbed on a bus. Moorea has no high schools so the kids take the 30-minute ferry to Papeete, Tahiti. The bus took us to the Belvedere, which is in the middle of the island, 720 feet high, and provides a great view of the entire island. Moorea is very mountainous and very beautiful. We stopped at a marae, or ancient temple, but it was just a rock foundation. Then we drove around the entire island, which took about 1 hour. There is basically just one road in Moorea and it’s the one that circles the island. The bus stopped at Moorea Pearl Beach Resort and we had a nice buffet lunch. Everyone else got back on the bus to go to the ship, but we knew that it had great snorkeling so we stayed. This was another resort that has overwater bungalows.

The Moorea snorkeling was awesome! First of all, the water was literally the temperature of bath water (but I still wore my wetsuit!). There was a steep drop off right past the bungalows so we got to see a whole bunch of different fish at different depths. The neatest thing was seeing a huge octopus. Filbert thinks it was 3 feet from head to tentacle tip, but I think it was more like 6 feet. It was very far from us and still looked huge which is why I’m thinking it was 6 feet. We watched it for at least 10 minutes. It would settle on brown rock/coral, fan itself out so that it was encompassing the rock, make itself white and then finally make itself the same color as the brown rock/coral. Then it would scurry over to another rock a few minutes later and repeat the process. We’re not sure why it made itself white (and therefore very visible to everything), but we guess it needed to reset its camouflage mechanism, because when it blended into the coral/rock, it was the perfect color. After awhile I got kind of creeped out and went back to looking at the cute colorful fish! We also noticed that a very long skinny fish (kind of a like a needle fish) and a large bright yellow fish seemed to tag along with the octopus. Seeing the yellow fish was one way we could quickly find the octopus after looking away from it.

Another couple, Barbara and Arnie, had rented a car and joined the tour group at the resort for lunch and offered to take us back since they wanted to stay and swim, too. They had to get gas for the rental car and the rental car agent told Arnie that morning that there was a gas shortage so we gave ourselves plenty of time. Sure enough, there was a line at the gas station, but it only added about 10 minutes to the trip. We passed several gas stations that were closed due to the gas shortage.

We limited our “shopping” to the eight tents by the tender dock and found a great painting of Moorea for our travel wall. It’s just the size we want and the $5 price was right, too. There were lots of paraeos, tikis (wood carvings), leis, jewelry and black pearls for sale, but we didn’t bother looking at any of that stuff.

We heard of another passenger injury today. While getting off the tender, there was a swell and the tender slammed into a lady’s leg and broke it. She is going to have surgery in Papeete tomorrow and then she and her husband will fly home from there. We talked with them several times earlier in the cruise and although she is in her early 70s, she is in dance troupe of older women that performs 70+ times a year around the San Diego area. I’ve read about them in Reader’s Digest and I hope her dancing career isn’t finished.

We got back to the ship in time to shower and get ready for our Polynesian wedding vow renewal ceremony. Only five couples signed up for this (probably since you had to sign up by 8 AM today and there was only a small announcement about it in last night’s daily newspaper). Among the couples who did sign up was Larry and Nancy, the couple that got married on Maui seven days ago! On our heads we each wore a tiara made out of gardenias and then we were wrapped in a Polynesian quilt (a tifaifai) while the vows were read to us. The significance is that the quilt is given to the newlyweds by the mother of the bride and it’s put on their bed and they make love while wrapped in it to signify that they’ll never come apart. We got our picture taken by the ship’s photographer.

Smooching in the tifaifai

Here are the traditional Polynesian wedding vows that were read while we were wrapped in the tifaifai:

My love, my love, my island, the spark that wakes me every morning, because my first thought is for you. It brings heat to my heart and a smile to my lips…I know you are there.

My love, my universe, the tender presence that accompanies my days. Even when you are far away from my eyes my mind remains full of you…I know you are there.

My Love, My Eden, this sweet light that invades my nights, watches silently over my sleep and chases the shades of my sorrows…I know that you are there and I love you more than ever.

To you, my love.

We sailed to Papeete, Tahiti during sunset and docked two hours later. We went upstairs and were very impressed by all the city lights and the amount of neon. It’s a big city!
Cloud over Moorea
May 4 (Thursday, Day 17)

Since there doesn’t seem to be any snorkeling in Papeete, Tahiti (per the Internet), we did a 4-wheel drive tour of the interior of Tahiti. Our guide drove us out of Papeete (population 130,000), which took about one hour and then spent two hours driving through the interior. The tour was called “Off the Beaten Path” and it sure was (or was it ON the beaten path). We saw cascading waterfalls, luxuriant tropical vegetation and exotic flowers and had fun in the back of the Land Rover while sitting next to Ted and Kathie. It wasn’t anything special, but other than going to some small museums, it doesn’t seem like there is much to do in Papeete so it was a good four-hour investment of time.
Snookums and Kathie, on Tahiti
4-wheelin’ on Tahiti
When we got back to the ship, we decided to eat lunch out by the pool which meant eating from the grill (burgers and hot dogs and sandwiches). Before we got to the grill, I looked at the menu posted on the wall for the buffet and commented that the chicken curry sounded good but that I would go to the grill with Filbert. Mark the maitre d’, overheard and brought me a serving of the chicken curry! We ate with Bill on the pool deck. He hated Papeete since it was a city. We told him we were going to the open air (i.e. hot and muggy) Papeete market and he asked us to buy him a shot glass. Now we had a mission!

We went to the market and it was where the locals shop – fresh fish, vegetables, flowers, etc. Of course, there was some tourist stuff to buy, too. Filbert bought a six pack of the local Tahitian beer (Hinano) and we got Bill his shot glass. Filbert was soaking wet with sweat when we got back to the ship about an hour after we left it. I wasn’t sweating at all.

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 13-15

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This is entry #4 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 13-15.
The previous journal entry is here.
The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

April 30 (Sunday, Day 13)

We crossed the equator around 8 AM today. Filbert filled up the sink and we watched the water go straight down.

Cruise Ship Investigations
We wore our CSI shirts that Filbert’s sister made for us. The black t-shirts say “Cruise Ship Investigations” on the back and “CSI” on the front. Based on our December experience, she felt that we needed them for this cruise. Lots of guests and crew got a good laugh and we got some good pictures “inspecting” various facilities on board.

At 1:00 there was a King Neptune celebration to turn crewmembers that hadn’t previously crossed the equator from pollywogs to shellbacks. There were six or seven crew people that ended up getting smeared with all sorts of food and then each of them had to kiss a huge dead fish (KISS THE FISH!) and then jump into the pool. Amazingly enough, Giuseppe, the Hotel Director, had never crossed the equator before. He’s been sailing for 12 years but has only gotten as far south as Panama. So, it was kind of neat seeing a very distinguished-looking gray haired guy get the same treatment as the younger folks. This cruise only takes place every two years so I can see why it’s a big deal to cross the equator. When the celebration was over, the pool had a slime of spaghetti and meat sauce, bratwursts, eggs, dessert mousses and other food items in it and it was disgusting! But, the whole thing was cleaned and ready for swimming less than two hours later. The crew sure does a good job of keeping the ship neat and orderly.

May 1 (Monday, Day 14)

Filbert attended an astronomy lecture and a Captain Bligh lecture regarding the Mutiny on the Bounty. He said that both of them were good.

We ate outside for lunch, during which we passed under a tropical rain shower. Everyone (including me) ducked under cover, but Filbert just sat in his chair with his arms folded across his chest as if he was just daring it to continue raining. Everyone was laughing at him and he egged them on, of course. After about 5 minutes it stopped and everyone returned to sunny seats. Filbert is definitely getting a reputation for being the goofy guy on board the ship!

According to the ship’s newspaper, there was to be an ice cream social. I was looking for the ice cream and finally asked the Mark, the maitre d’ where it was. He said there wasn’t one and I said there was and we looked in the ship’s newspaper and his face turned ashen and he apologized profusely and got me my ice cream right away. Then I’m sure he got on the phone to figure out how the screw up happened! It was a completely different reaction than what we got in December on Voyager so there was no problem at all.

We went to the casino for the third time and once again, no one was playing at the blackjack tables. I refuse to play blackjack with just us (we lose our money too fast that way) so instead we played $.25 video blackjack for about 30 minutes. We ended up losing $3 so we didn’t feel too bad.
Veal medallions with Roquefort gratin
For dinner we went to Signatures which is the “sanctioned” Le Cordon Bleu restaurant (there are only two like that and the other one is, coincidentally, on the Voyager). We had a fussy (in a good way) French meal and the veal medallions with Roquefort gratin were outstanding (as was everything else). We ate with Ted and Kathie--the people we talked to on the first day of the cruise while standing outside of the boutique for about 15 minutes. Ted left Poland as a WWII refugee at the age of three. After another three years in Romania, he immigrated with his family to Canada since the US had used up its Polish quota. They are happily retired in California. Ted has two hobbies: he’s a painter (and it sounds like he is a pretty good painter) but his other hobby is more unique. He is building a scale model of a Polish 7TP tank that was used in WWII. He is into metal fabrication and used an old file cabinet for some of the metal parts and is friends with someone that had some metal he could use for the armor parts, etc., etc. When it’s all said and done, it will be about 2 feet long and weigh about 25 pounds and will have taken three years to make and will be “museum quality”. He doesn’t have any patterns or anything but is just doing it based on research.

After dinner we changed into sensible clothes (shorts and tennis shoes) and attended the star gazing party on the top deck. The astronomer was there and we saw the Southern Cross, the Milky Way and Jupiter. The night was cloudless so all of the stars were easy to see.

May 2 (Tuesday, Day 15)

We woke up early hoping to see dolphins as we cruised into Bora Bora (population 9,000). We had a continental breakfast in the Observation Lounge of Raisin Bran (Filbert) and Sugar Smacks (Snookums). After waiting for about three hours, it was apparent that the dolphins weren’t coming to play with the ship’s bow waves. Oh well. We dropped anchor around 10 AM and immediately got on the tender for our shore excursion.

Our coral preservation and snorkeling shore excursion was with a Ph.D. coral preservationist. He is transplanting stressed coral to the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort and making it grow. He approached the resort management around 8 years ago and pointed out that the overwater bungalows ($600/night) were simply looking down at sand. They said “yes” to him starting a coral “nursery” there and now each bungalow has a little coral reef under it and the guests can see lots of colorful fish. We were in waist deep water the whole time so no fins were needed. We got to see a lot of great fish and all sorts of different kind of coral. While we were in the water, he lectured a lot, but Filbert and I swam away and looked on our own. It was great snorkeling in very warm water. We finished with a drink around the resort’s infinity swimming pool and took the little boat ride back to the tender.

Filbert and I figured we were already hot and sweaty so we walked about 1 mile and ran across two grocery stores. Bora Bora only has these two! We didn’t buy anything (and didn’t see anything too weird) but we wonder why it seems like all the other countries in the world do NOT refrigerate their eggs yet the U.S. does?
Filbert & Snookums and the Paul Gauguin
We walked back to the tender dock and when we got onboard, there was a couple we didn’t recognize. It ended up that Mike and Terry were from the MS Paul Gauguin (a 200 passenger Regent ship that basically island hops around French Polynesian islands) and were coming to our ship to check it out. It’s a rare occurrence for two Regent ships to be at the same port so we got to visit their ship and vice versa. We played tour guide for them and took them to our cabin and the rest of the ship. Then they took us to the Paul Gauguin. Their ship was much smaller and since it basically just does 7-day cruises in and out of Papeete, Tahiti, Filbert and I don’t think we’ll ever cruise on it.
Bora Bora
While getting on the tender to come back to our ship, there were two younger guys waiting. (I later found out that the younger one is one year younger than me.) I assumed they were crewmembers since I thought I was the youngest on board and since I hadn’t seen them before. It turns out that not only are they passengers that have been on since San Francisco, but that one of them is our travel agent for this cruise! He couldn’t tell me he was coming on this cruise so when we met them on the tender he gave us his middle name. Then, later that night we were talking our friend and mentioned these two young guys that we had just met. Bill then told us that it was our travel agent. To make a long story short, Bill convinced Dave, the travel agent that it would be okay for us to know that he was on board and now we know everyone by the right names! Dave didn’t want us to know he was on board for two reasons. One was that he knew we had a bad travel experience on our last Regent cruise and didn’t want to have to deal with us if this was a bad one, too, since this was his vacation. Second, travel agents aren’t allowed to solicit business while on ships so he’s keeping his profession a secret from everyone. (Don’t worry, Regent, Dave didn’t talk business to us once, although we gave him a bit of good-natured abuse about his attempt to hide his identity.)

Tonight we had the dancers from the Paul Gauguin join our ship until our Nuku Hiva stop so we watched the Polynesian dancers on the pool deck do various Polynesian dances. The women are very beautiful and really can move their hips and butts like no one else! They remind me of belly dancers or hula dancers, yet the Polynesian dancers have 6-pack abs whereas those other kinds of dancers always seem to be kind of thick around the middle.

Then they showed the movie “South Pacific” under the stars. It was kind of neat since this ship is not set up to do any kind of outside movie viewing. But, the cruise director had figured out a way to project the movie onto the canvas that was hiding some work area on the pool deck and they set up the chaise lounges and popped popcorn. We didn’t watch it since it started at 10:30, but it was a neat set up.

Filbert commented at dinner that this was his best cruise day ever. The snorkeling was top notch and the carrot ginger soup at dinner was excellent (we even requested the recipe) and the whole travel agent “incognito” thing was just too funny. Anyway, he proclaimed it his best ever cruise day and I think it will be hard to top.

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 9-12

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This is entry #3 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 9-12.
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The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

April 26 (Wednesday, Day 9)

Due to our Mariner Club membership, we were given a free shore excursion while in Honolulu. So, we boarded the tour bus and went to the USS Missouri. On September 2, 1945 the USS Missouri was chosen to be the stage for the signing of Japan’s Formal Instrument of Surrender bringing an end to World War II. The USS Missouri was also used during Desert Storm. We climbed all over it and I was amazed at how big a battleship is. I sure know that I like our current style of cruising much better than what life would have been like on “The Mighty Mo”!

On the Mighty Mo
After we toured the USS Missouri, the bus took us to Waikiki Beach for lunch at Hula Grill. This restaurant is above Duke’s and from our outside 2nd floor tables, we had a great view of the beach and Diamond Head Volcano. After lunch (and 20 minutes for shopping), we all got back on the bus to go back to the ship.

Filbert and I then wandered around the port tourist traps and went up to the free 10th floor observatory of Aloha Tower. From there we had great views (and all to ourselves since NO ONE else was there!) in all four directions.

The Mariner from the Aloha Tower
Neither of us would have paid for this 6 hour shore excursion, but since Honolulu doesn’t really offer snorkeling convenient to where we docked, we did the free trip and had a good time.

We gave our stewardess a very nice tip tonight and she was overjoyed. The ship has a no tipping policy, but tips are always appreciated. She kissed both of us and I’m sure we’ll be getting more flowers and chocolates on our pillows and anything else she can think of!

Our choice for dinner was the BBQ under the stars that the ship was hosting. They transformed the pool deck to a BBQ buffet. It started raining around 8 PM, but for just a few minutes so no one really gave up. At 8:30 PM, the entertainment started. It was the Halau Hula Olana Show which is a hula school for children. The kids were probably 8 – 14 and it was really amazing to see the whole group so in synch. They are world famous and have performed for Prince Charles and Princess Diana. (We were sitting on the deck above the pool deck for the best view and the sound system wasn’t that good so we didn’t hear the full introduction.) Blue Hawaiian drinks in real coconut shells were being passed around and everyone had a good time.

Filbert wanted to see us leave port at midnight for Maui so he sat on the balcony for about 2.5 hours and watched the harbor activities and the planes take off from Honolulu Airport. The Honolulu Harbor is where all the container ships load and unload for all of the islands. They can unload and load a container ship within 36 hours and get it out to sea. He had his short-wave radio, his camera, his pocket telescope and his beverage and he was in hog heaven! I, of course, was reading in bed and fell asleep shortly thereafter since cargo ships and airplanes bore me.

April 27 (Thursday, Day 10)

We dropped anchor in Maui this morning around 7 and we got up and had breakfast and got off the ship by 9. Our goal was to find a snorkeling tour on our own, but when we walked the Lahaina harbor front, we found that all of the snorkeling excursions left around 7. So, we took the $1 shuttle to Black Rock Beach by the Sheraton Maui in Ka’anapali and had a great time snorkeling and frolicking in the ocean. Filbert is still trying to figure out his mask and how to get it not to leak and I think he’s finally got it figured out! We’ll try again in Bora Bora (I think that’s our next stop where we can snorkel). We spent around 3.5 hours on the beach and neither of us got too sunburned.

We bought our obligatory painting for our travel wall at home. We found a good one of the world famous Banyan tree in Maui and since we sat under it three different times, it will be a good remembrance.

We returned to the ship around 3:30 and ran up to the pool grill to order our lunch of hamburgers before it closed at 4. We got back to the cabin, showered and decided to stay in for the night. Filbert got two DVDs. One was for me to watch (“Mean Creek” – a teen drama) while Filbert watched us sail away and the other one (“Adaptation” with Nicolas Cage) was for both of us to watch during dinner (when it’s dark outside and Filbert can’t see anything on the ocean).

April 28 (Friday, Day 11)

Today was basically a day off from having days off! We woke up around 7 AM and read the paper and I read my book, but we managed to get to breakfast right before it shut down at 10 AM. At breakfast, Mark, the maitre d’ of La Veranda (the informal restaurant on the pool deck) “helped” me by taking my can of Diet 7-Up that I brought with me and was getting ready to pour it in a glass of ice with a lime and a straw. He asked me first and I told him that this morning I was going to mix it with orange juice. They really do try to “predict” what people want and I told him that 99% of the time I want my Diet 7-Up with a lime and a straw, but that this morning I was going to mix it with orange juice. Even when they try to help, I manage to screw it up!

After breakfast we officially booked our next cruise (and Mom and Dad’s). The good thing is that not only will our remaining shipboard credit be applied to it, I can still shop around for different travel agents after I get home in order to get the best deals and perks. So, there is really no down side of booking it on the ship and you get an extra 5% off along with the other early booking bonuses.

We got back to the cabin around 12:30 and Filbert decided it was time for his nap! I watched the movie “White” (a comedy/drama with Robin Williams and a bunch of other stars – it was okay, but I’m not sure it ever made it to theatres since I hadn’t heard of it) and he took a two hour nap. We ordered room service for a late lunch at 3 (grilled salmon for Filbert and a chef’s salad for me) and then I worked out around 4 which was too soon after eating, but I survived.

Tonight was the Seven Seas Society reception for all returning guests so we went to that. Of the 550 guests on board, 360 are past cruisers with Regent. And, the average number of nights for the returning passengers is 60!!! Filbert and I will each have 34 after this cruise so we definitely brought the number down. They had 15 people on board with more than 350 nights and the most was a guy with around 430 nights on board the four Regent ships.

At the party we sat next to Bob and Pat, a couple that we had seen a lot before and they would always come up to us and say “It’s the Kissers”. Well, we finally got their names. The kissing thing is a running joke since they saw us kiss one time during a sunset and then they told us that they always kiss before they drink anything. So, now every time we see them (or they see us), both couples kiss. They live in Commerce City, Colorado and she went to Southwest High School in Kansas City—it’s a small world! She is 63 and was a TWA flight attendant for almost 20 years (starting in 1964 when I was born). Her husband is 75 and after he got out of the navy in 1955 or so, with nothing in his wallet, he bought some hogs from his then-father-in-law and managed to become what appears to be a millionaire by growing/owning farm-related businesses. It’s their second marriage for each and they’ve been married seven years.

It was a formal night and Filbert was able to order his escargots for an appetizer. We both ordered the Dover sole for dinner since our maitre d’ had told us that many people put in a special order for that (like we did for our Indian curry dinner). I can’t say I was too impressed since it was just an incredibly mild whitefish. Oh well. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t have too much flavor. But, since it was a whole Dover sole it was neat watching the waiter “fillet” it after it had been served to us.

The evening entertainment was supposed to be the ship’s singers/dancers, but due to the rocking and rolling of the ship, it was changed to the comedian. We thought we were going to attend the comedy show, but after dinner we were pooped from our strenuous (!) day and went to bed before 10 PM!!! The singers and dancers are going to be postponed to tomorrow night.

April 29 (Saturday, Day 12)

Today was another day at sea, with the difference being it rained off and on. But, it was still hot and muggy. It cleared around 3 PM so we went to the pool grill for a late lunch and found out that they changed the menu. No more plain hamburgers and hotdogs – now you can get bleu cheese burgers (the cheese is IN the hamburger) and spicy buffalo chicken wings. We tried both new items. The hamburger was great but the chicken wings were just fried chicken wings – no spice or sauce at all! We told the grill guy and he said that it was the chef’s first day making them so he didn’t marinate them very long (or at all!). Anyway, no problem.

Bill, a single guy that we see a lot on board, told us that at 2:30 AM his smoke detector went off due to the humidity in his cabin from sleeping with his balcony door open. He said he already wrote a letter of apology to his next door neighbors. I said that we didn’t hear it (he’s down the hall from us) and he said that meant that he didn’t need to write an apology to us! I thought it was pretty interesting that humidity would set off the smoke detector but he said that the front desk immediately knew what the problem was since it happens a lot.

Bill and the Paul Gauguin
Also about 3 PM, the ship’s motion smoothed out. I kind of like the rocking and it makes doing push-ups and sit-ups kind of fun/weird/different. Some of them are really, really easy and some of them are very hard – it just depends on which way the swell goes!

Filbert was a tad under the weather today so we ended up watching Nicolas Cage’s “The Weatherman” on the ship’s movie channel.

Dinner was the Mariner Club Gala Champagne Reception and Dinner and we sat Jim and Ann-Louise, a couple from Nevada that we’ve gotten to know, and with Dick and Jean from California. Dick and Jean’s grandson wants to go to University of North Dakota since it has the best aeronautical engineering program in the country so Dick pumped Filbert (who hails from South Dakota—close enough!) for all sorts of information. I think Filbert scared them with his winter stories of how Grand Forks gets down to –30 and that’s when the weather is considered “frigid” – I know it scared me! We closed the restaurant down since our table was the last to leave of the 90 or so guests that attended.

Earlier in the day, we gave our December letter regarding the Voyager cruise to Jerry and Lynn, the Mariner Club hosts on board. When they saw us at dinner, they couldn’t believe we had encountered all of those problems and Lynn said that we should have asked to speak to the captain. She said we would have been put right through to him, and he would have made sure that everything was taken care of. And here I thought that talking to the Guest Relations Manager at the front desk was good enough! So, in the future if we experience problems, we’ll go straight to the top based on advice from the expert.

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 4-8

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This is entry #2 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 4-8.
The previous journal entry is here.
The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

April 21 (Friday, Day 4)

I woke up this morning when Filbert’s sleep apnea machine crashed to the floor around 5 AM due to the waves! Then, the captain came on at 6:11 AM and announced “Code blue staff to hospital”. This was repeated at 6:25 PM so I figured I would just get up. Filbert was already out of the cabin since he wanted to see us dock at 7 AM in San Francisco. I was hearing a noise that I thought was the crew hosing down the decks, but instead it was a Coast Guard helicopter!! It was lowering a man to the deck of the ship. I threw on clothes so I could get a better view than what I was seeing from our balcony. I went upstairs one deck to the top and found a lot of people there. The sick woman was bundled up and was being put on a helicopter basket and then they raised her up to the hovering helicopter. The ship was traveling around 7 knots at this time and its fastest is 21 knots which is what we had been going since the time we turned back to San Francisco. The ship’s crew members on Fire Detail were all decked out in firemen gear, including smoke inhalation mask things, and they were standing outside on the deck ready to act in case of a helicopter crash. The hospital staff was outside, too, with the woman. They got the woman up and then the guy that had come down and after about 40 minutes total, the helicopter took off from its long-time hovering.

The Evac
Then a private tug boat type of boat came on the other side of the ship to pick up the woman’s friend and their luggage. That was kind of exciting, too, since the seas were rough and watching the woman get helped down the tender steps onto a makeshift platform and then onto this private boat was kind of scary. At one point, the little boat banged into the makeshift platform and three crewmembers almost ended up in the water – really. It was all over at 7:07 AM and we went and found breakfast. We never docked in San Francisco (and there were some people thinking we would need to in order to get fuel) and now we’re on our way back to Honolulu. We first left San Francisco at 7 PM on Tuesday and were supposed to dock in Honolulu on Sunday at noon. Now we left San Francisco again around 7 AM and who knows when or where we’ll next stop!!! It will be interesting to see if any of this makes Fox or CNN!

It’s sunny but only 54 outside and the seas are kind of rough (the exercise class using exercise balls was changed to an abdominal class since you can’t use a ball when the ship is rocking back and forth).

We had a great galley tour since there were just seven of us plus the executive chef, Cornel. The executive chef is in charge of all five restaurants so he doesn’t actually do any “hands on” cooking. The tour was at 4 PM so we saw the calm before the storm of the evening’s service. Chefs were chopping green peppers and plating the leek terrine (one of the appetizers for the night). Another chef was making 2,000 hors d’oeuvres and he basically does that every day, all day long, since they pass around trays of them in the bars before dinner every night.

When we returned to our room after dinner, we had the revised itinerary. Kauai, Hilo and Fanning Island are being cut out of our trip. We will get to our first port, Honolulu, on April 26 (rather than April 23 as planned). Filbert and I really wanted to see Fanning Island (Republic of Kiribati) since stopping there would have had us crossing the International Date Line and would have allowed us to see an inhabited island without electricity. Oh well. Rumor has it that the captain, Jean-Marie Guillou, has been trying to get to Fanning Island for three years but something always comes up and he has to cancel. He has friends there. We figure he must be cursed because he’s not going to make it there this year, either.

Regent is giving each passenger $150 shipboard credit which means we now have $1950 to spend on the ship! They are also giving each passenger $500 off a future cruise. The unbelievable thing is that there has been NO grumbling on the ship about missing some of the ports. I guess it’s because just about everyone on this ship has been to all the ports multiple times (except us, of course).

April 22 (Saturday, Day 5)

This morning we had a tour of the bridge with eight other people. We learned that every kind of injury – even a broken arm – has to get reported to the local governing body (like the Coast Guard when sailing near the U.S.). So, when the woman had her heart episode, the Coast Guard was notified and since her condition was so unstable, they said that we had to turn around and dock at San Francisco. Her condition finally stabilized which allowed the Coast Guard to fly out and meet us and take her off the ship. This saved us at least five hours since we didn’t have to continue all the way to San Francisco and go through the docking process.

The Blue Pacific
Filbert has been watching the laysan albatrosses from our balcony. He got a book from the library on seabirds and narrowed the variety of albatross to the Laysan family! They are found between the U.S. and Hawaii and follow cruise ships for the galley waste. There seem to be three of them. They just fly alongside the ship and then make swooping turns to the water, but they haven’t gone in the water yet (on the port side anyway).

Filbert bought an island print silk shirt to use up more of our shipboard credit. It looks very nice on him. I think we have now bought everything we can possibly buy and even the art doesn’t interest us. We’ll have to figure out another use for our shipboard credit. Oh, the problems we have…

At dinner tonight, one of the headwaiters (Horatiu) came over and asked us if we had sailed before. It turns out he remembered us from the December Voyager cruise. He also happened to deliver room service coffee to us about three days ago and remembered our cabin number from that delivery. I can only think that as VIPs, our pictures and cabin number are posted everywhere since everyone seems to know us. I remember him from the Voyager (and he remembered Mom and Dad, too), but I can’t remember if I ever got mad at HIM. I don’t think I did, but I might have told him about an unpleasant dining experience we had during the December cruise. Oh well. I don’t think I did anything to him to get him mad at us, that’s for sure. While we were talking to him we mentioned the fabulous Indian dinner that they made special for us on Voyager and he said that do that here, too. So, we ordered it for Sunday’s dinner.

After dinner we went to the magic show and Filbert was invited on stage to help! He participated in two acts. The first was where Filbert held a cane in front on him and the magician, Mark Haslam, tied a scarf around it and then tied it again and this time it was totally off the scarf. The amazing thing was that Filbert saw that the scarf was totally off the cane about 30 seconds before the magician let the audience see the “magic”, but Filbert still has no idea how the guy did it! Then, the magician had Filbert strap him into a straitjacket (ala Houdini) and got out of it. The magician picked a man from the audience since the straitjacket has a crotch strap and he knew that guys would be sympathetic to the cause and wouldn’t hurt him! Filbert was a natural on stage and had people in the audience (and the magician) laughing. People see him two days after and are still pointing him out as the magician’s helper.

April 23 (Sunday, Day 6)

We ordered room service for breakfast and got up at 6 AM to see the sunrise but it was cloudy out. Oh well, we still enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Then we went and had a hard workout.

Today was the first day where it’s been warm enough to go outside. We ate outside for lunch and it got hot! Finally, it’s in the 70s. At 2 PM the captain came on the loudspeaker and announced that we had made it to the point of no return so Hawaii, here we come!!!

The Internet satellite was down today (per Filbert). I guess I’ll try to send out another issue of this journal on Monday. I was going to play Bingo today, but one of the guests said that it was very boring – the caller just calls the number – so I decided not to.

The official Coast Guard statement came out today regarding the medivac operation:

“In a dramatic helicopter rescue, a U.S. Coast Guard crew in the San Francisco Bay evacuated a 68-year old woman having a medical emergency on a Hawaii-bound cruise shop Friday morning. The medical evacuation occurred about 10 miles outside the Golden Gate Bridge, Coast Guard officials said. The rescue began with a call of assistance Thursday from a medical team aboard the Seven Seas Mariner after a cruise passenger experienced a serious, undisclosed medical condition. The ship was about 600 miles southwest of San Francisco at the time. It had left its San Francisco port on Tuesday and was en route to Hawaii, Coast Guard officials said. Coast Guard personnel remained in contact with the medical team throughout Thursday and overnight. At about 6:30 Friday morning, a crew aboard a HH65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station San Francisco met the ship about 10 miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. A rescue swimmer was lowered on to the cruise ship to prepare the woman to be hoisted into the helicopter. She was then transferred to Stanford Medical Center and we are happy to report that her latest condition is stable.”

We later heard that she told the ship’s doctor that she wanted to stay on board and continue with the cruise!

Our Indian curry dinner tonight was outstanding. It was just the main course so we ordered our appetizers and salads from the normal menu but made sure to order light since we knew we would be getting a lot. And, boy oh boy, did we ever. We had rice, naan (Indian bread), lentil curry, chicken curry, shrimp curry and mushroom/green pea curry. They were all delicious and our mouths and lips were on fire for quite awhile. When Marinela, the sommelier, found out that we were having the special Indian dinner, she insisted that Filbert have her favorite wine http://www.dopff-irion.com/site.htm (Dopf and Irion’s Gewürztraminer) that goes with curry (and she even gave it to him complimentary). He agreed that it was a great pairing and asked her for the name, and she said she would send it in a note to our cabin.

It was amazing how each curry “gravy” tasted different. My personal favorite was the mushroom/pea curry with the chicken curry coming in a close second. Filbert’s least favorite was the lentil curry (and I agree with him on that). He thought the mushroom/pea curry was the spiciest and we both commented that the white meat chicken chunks were the biggest chunks of white meat chicken was had ever seen. Needless to say we both cleaned BOTH our plates (one plate was not big enough to hold what the waiter served so he got us each another plate for the shrimp curry). It was magnificent and we are definitely going to do that special order again and let them surprise us with the Indian dishes they want to make for us (except for no lamb and no eggplant).

April 24 (Monday, Day 7)

They gave us comment cards to fill out the other day and I let them know that the corned beef hash in the breakfast buffet was always cold but that all other aspects of the cruise were exceptional (because they were). Kylie, the Guest Relations Manager, wrote us a letter back thanking us for our comments about the corned beef hash. The letter was totally unexpected, but very nice. Then, this morning the headwaiter at the buffet asked if the corned beef hash was hot! So, I guess the comment cards really do get read (and if you write your name on them, expect to be asked about the “issue”)!

Filbert at La Veranda
I found out this morning that we can use our shipboard credit towards the purchase of a future cruise (and we don’t even have to buy it through Regent which is good since cruise lines are always more expensive than travel agents). So, that problem is solved. We’re going to go on the Panama Canal cruise in 2007 and Mom and Dad are coming with us. I plan on booking it while in Hawaii (cell phones can be used so I’ll be able to call around then for best prices), or at least before we disembark in San Francisco. The Mariner leaves from Ft. Lauderdale and disembarks at San Francisco.

The captain just announced that we’re going to get to Honolulu on April 25 at 7 PM rather than April 26 at 9 AM. Everyone is happy to hear that since everyone, crew included, is going a little stir crazy from all of the days at sea. The casino and boutique staffs are especially happy since they have had lots more work hours due to the extra days at sea.

April 25 (Tuesday, Day 8)

We wrote two letters today for the outstanding service we have received. One was addressed to Giuseppe, the Hotel Director, and explained how good Evi is as a room stewardess. The other was addressed to Cornel, the Executive Chef, thanking him for the wonderful curry dinner. We hope that the appropriate people get kudos for their service.

We had a room service breakfast this morning and ended up not leaving the room until around 11 AM when we went to work out. We had the gym to ourselves so that was kind of neat. I guess most people either work out very early or in the afternoon.

I watched two movies on TV – “50 First Dates” and “Fight Plan”. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for them, but they broke up the monotony of our 7th day at sea! (But, I’m not getting bored at all and neither is Filbert. We’re having fun!!!)

Diamond Head
We docked at Honolulu at 7 PM and Filbert enjoyed watching the harbor activities and the Honolulu airport from our balcony. The other side of the ship had to see the port building the whole time so we were lucky that our side (port) was the one facing the harbor and the HNL runway.

Tonight we were invited to eat dinner with the Mariner Club hosts. Since we used an American Express card to pay for the cruise, we were automatically enrolled in the Mariner Club which is some kind of “frequent cruising” program. The other six people at the table all knew each other from many previous cruises and it was fun listening to them talk about what happened to so and so from other cruises. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it seemed like they had each been on at least 30 cruises.

Seven Seas Mariner Hawaii-Tahiti Cruise, Days 1-3

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This is entry #1 of Snookums' journal of our Hawaii-Tahiti cruise, covering days 1-3.
The next journal entry is here.
The home page of the cruise journal web site is here.

April 18 (Tuesday, Day 1)

We arrived at the San Francisco airport, and while waiting for our luggage we saw a guy holding a Regent Sevens Seas sign. We asked him how much it would cost to take the “official” bus to the ship and after he radioed a couple of different people, he ended up saying that we could go for free. Transfers usually cost at least $30/person on cruises so we felt great that we were going to get to the ship at no cost, especially since the other six passengers had to give him their vouchers which meant they paid. The trip was starting out on the right foot! While waiting for the Regent bus, we got to know another passenger that was also waiting, Faith. She’s traveled everywhere multiple times and seems like a really neat older woman.

San Francisco Skyline from the Dock

We got to the ship at 1 PM and since the suites weren’t going to be ready until 2 PM, we enjoyed a nice lunch on the pool deck in the San Francisco sun. It had rained for 50+ straight days but didn’t rain on Monday or Tuesday so we got to enjoy the great sunshine and the spectacular views.

Our "Suite"
We walked into our suite (#1050 on the port side) and noticed the expensive bottle of champagne, the box of Godiva truffles and the coupon for a free photograph along with several notes/letters from various big wigs. We figured that they were going to work hard to win back our business after our bad December cruise. So far, every crew person has been extremely happy and helpful and there is a completely different atmosphere on board this ship.

At 5 PM they had a special exclusive unveiling ceremony since the Mariner was the first ship in the fleet to have the old “Radisson” repainted with “Regent”. The CEO of the company was there along with 200+ visitors (mostly press and travel agents, from what I could tell). The drinks and hors d’oeuvres were flowing and San Francisco port officials presented Regent with a couple of plaques and there were lots of short speeches. It was kind of neat seeing all the people with visitor badges since I know that it’s almost impossible to get visitors on a ship since 9/11. We sat with a younger couple, Dee and Kim from California, so we already met two friends!

We were supposed to leave San Francisco at 6 PM but an announcement was made saying that it was pushed back to 7 PM since the ship wanted to take advantage of the beautiful sunset while going under the Golden Gate Bridge. We sailed away to the accompaniment of the San Francisco fire department boat with its three water cannons spewing forth water and we also had a helicopter flying all around filming the departure of the ship with its new logo. The bottom of the swimming pool was repainted, too, while the ship was docked in San Francisco with the new “R” logo.

Fire boat and Rainbow
We went to the main dining room for dinner and sat next to a table with an elderly couple at it. Several times throughout the meal we would chat with each other, yet still had our “privacy” at our tables for two. We’ve noticed on this ship that all the passengers (and crew, too) are extremely friendly and willing to just stop and chat for 10 – 15 minutes at a time. I guess it’s the leisurely pace of being onboard with the same group of 550 passengers for 27 days that brings out the best in people. We also seem to be the youngest on board and it seems that everyone has been to the South Pacific multiple times (except us!).

Dinner was excellent and the sweet potato soup with cumin spiced bananas was outstanding. Mom needs to make it since I’m thinking it’s just pureed sweet potatoes, some chicken broth, probably a little cream and then a few spices (or maybe just cumin – the banana/plantain [hard to tell which it was] was just for decoration on the top). The couple at the next table each ordered it too, and raved about it. We ordered dessert but after 15+ minutes left without getting it. The couple next to us left before we did, without getting their dessert either, and Filbert was rather upset about it and let the head waitress know. We went back to the cabin and went to bed since we had been up since 2:15 AM Pacific time and it was now around 10 PM!

Our room stewardess is Evi and is 26 years old and is from Indonesia. Her husband is an auto mechanic and her job on this ship allows her to “support” him since buying car parts is so expensive. (They must bill for auto repairs differently in Indonesia since I know it’s common in the US for the customer to pay for the parts that are required!) She is going home at the end of this cruise and will be off for 3 months and will return to this ship if her husband is okay with that. She’s been here for seven months already and gets no days off and her hours are 6 AM – 2 PM and then 7 PM until she goes to bed around midnight or so. But, she is an incredibly cheery (and articulate) young woman.

April 19 (Wednesday, Day 2)

For breakfast we went to the buffet breakfast and the maitre ‘d (Mark) went to Filbert and addressed him by name. Well, it was Snookums’ last name, but still, it was remarkable. Filbert corrected the pronunciation as well as his last name, but we really have no idea how the guy knew us. We don’t know if it’s because we are coded as “VIPs” (and what does that really mean, anyway?) or if the dessert episode from last night is causing them to try to rectify the situation. We like being kow-towed to!! (Before leaving home, I called the cruise line to find out if we were being upgraded due to our bad December experience. The Customer Relations Manager told me that the ship was ready for us since we were VIPs.)

After we worked out we were sitting in the cabin reading and then all of a sudden Filbert noticed two pods of dolphins coming perpendicular to the ship. It was pretty neat to see two groups of 10+ dolphins frolicking in the water beneath us. They were there for about 3 or 4 minutes. Filbert ran into the room to get his camera and took a video of one of them.

April 18 (Tuesday, Day 1)

We arrived at the San Francisco airport, and while waiting for our luggage we saw a guy holding a Regent Sevens Seas sign. We asked him how much it would cost to take the “official” bus to the ship and after he radioed a couple of different people, he ended up saying that we could go for free. Transfers usually cost at least $30/person on cruises so we felt great that we were going to get to the ship at no cost, especially since the other six passengers had to give him their vouchers which meant they paid. The trip was starting out on the right foot! While waiting for the Regent bus, we got to know another passenger that was also waiting, Faith. She’s traveled everywhere multiple times and seems like a really neat older woman.

We got to the ship at 1 PM and since the suites weren’t going to be ready until 2 PM, we enjoyed a nice lunch on the pool deck in the San Francisco sun. It had rained for 50+ straight days but didn’t rain on Monday or Tuesday so we got to enjoy the great sunshine and the spectacular views.

We walked into our suite (#1050 on the port side) and noticed the expensive bottle of champagne, the box of Godiva truffles and the coupon for a free photograph along with several notes/letters from various big wigs. We figured that they were going to work hard to win back our business after our bad December cruise. So far, every crew person has been extremely happy and helpful and there is a completely different atmosphere on board this ship.

At 5 PM they had a special exclusive unveiling ceremony since the Mariner was the first ship in the fleet to have the old “Radisson” repainted with “Regent”. The CEO of the company was there along with 200+ visitors (mostly press and travel agents, from what I could tell). The drinks and hors d’oeuvres were flowing and San Francisco port officials presented Regent with a couple of plaques and there were lots of short speeches. It was kind of neat seeing all the people with visitor badges since I know that it’s almost impossible to get visitors on a ship since 9/11. We sat with a younger couple, Dee and Kim from California, so we already met two friends!

We were supposed to leave San Francisco at 6 PM but an announcement was made saying that it was pushed back to 7 PM since the ship wanted to take advantage of the beautiful sunset while going under the Golden Gate Bridge. We sailed away to the accompaniment of the San Francisco fire department boat with its three water cannons spewing forth water and we also had a helicopter flying all around filming the departure of the ship with its new logo. The bottom of the swimming pool was repainted, too, while the ship was docked in San Francisco with the new “R” logo.

Hors d’oeuvres were delivered to our room around 4:30. That is what guests in the suites with butler service get every day. We don’t have butler service, but we think this is another VIP perk. One way or another, it’s another nice bonus (and we are receiving them every day).

Tonight was formal night and we went to the Captain’s Gala party before dinner. We also got our picture taken since the ship is giving us a free 8 x 10 photo of our choice. We’ll have 3 more formal nights so we figure that we should be able to get one good picture of the two of us.

This morning we were invited to eat dinner with the Food and Beverage Manager, Ivar, at his table in Latitudes, the Indo-Chinese restaurant. A mother and daughter were with us, too. We don’t know if we were invited due to our “VIP” status from our prior bad cruise experience or if they were trying to make up for the late dessert from Tuesday night. But, it was kind of fun asking him all sorts of food and beverage questions. And, since he was from Norway, he bonded with Filbert immediately (and the daughter’s husband is Norwegian, too, although he didn’t come on the cruise, so she had stories, too).

April 20 (Thursday, Day 3)

We woke up at 8 AM and turned on the TV to the navigation channel and noticed right away that we were heading northeast. Right when Filbert was going to call the front desk to ask why, the captain came on the speaker and said that the Coast Guard ordered us back to San Francisco due to a medical emergency and we would dock there at 7 AM on Friday. We don’t know what will happen after that or how the cruise will be impacted, but what the heck, we’re having a ball! (Although I feel sorry for the sick woman and her friend since they are basically now waiting 24 hours for an ambulance.)

Dolphins Ahoy!
We’ve Turned Back!
After eating our breakfast, we ended up chatting for 2 hours with the couple at the next table (John and Morgan) and shared cruise stories and travel/hotel horror stories. She and I are alike in that we demand that the hotels fulfill their obligations and she has frequently been upgraded after filing legitimate complaints. She doesn’t let the hotel industry get away with anything (just like me!)

We went shopping in order to spend some of the $1,650 in shipboard credit that the cruise line and travel agent gave us. (It’s hard to spend when alcohol is free, no tipping is allowed and we’re not doing any of the ship’s shore excursions.) We got Filbert a mesh backed “travel vest” with lots of pockets, a sweatshirt and a zip-up jacket. Now he can be warm enough to sit on the balcony and watch the sea go by (which is what he is doing as I write this while on the sofa in front of the TV). It’s 59 outside which is too chilly for me. The boutique had nothing that fit me since all of the ladies’ fleece jackets/sweaters were too short and I didn’t even bother looking at the fleece pants since I KNOW they would have been too short. We also each signed up for Internet access ($50 for 250 minutes).

We visited the Art Director’s desk and he is going to pull some art out that he thinks we might like. He told him about our money that we had to spend and he said “Aha, that explains why our Hotel Director was suddenly transferred to the Voyager”. So, I guess the Mariner DOES have a better atmosphere and attitude and Regent is hoping to get that same feeling on Voyager and they probably figure it starts at the top (which is usually does).

We were invited to a pre-dinner party so we went (although they had just announced that all bars would be “open” tonight since the emergency turnaround was inconveniencing all of us). At the party, we talked to Lynn, Regent’s “Future Cruise Consultant” since she was the youngest person in the room. She is from Iowa and worked in Omaha for awhile before taking this job. She said it was nice to see young faces on board (I think the average age is 65). Sometime when she is on duty, I’ll ask her about next year’s 12-day Alaska cruise and 16-day Panama Canal cruise.

Filbert and I ate in LaVeranda and enjoyed a Mediterranean menu with lots of good antipasti. Then we enjoyed a free drink in the 12th floor observation bar before retiring for the evening.