Friday, April 18, 2014

Maestro and Alice Gaxiola Cruising through the Panama Canal - and beyond

NOTE: The observations and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the observations and opinion of my wife Alice who was on this cruise with me and may or may not have seen the same things I saw in the same way I saw them.

Day 1.
We left Albany at 8:15 Sunday night April 27 to catch a red eye flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida where we were to board our cruise ship the MS Amsterdam on Monday the 28th for a 21 day cruise through the Panama Canal. 

We arrived at Fort Lauderdale at around seven o’clock the next morning. There was supposed to be someone from the cruise ship line, Holland America, to meet us at the airport.  Sure enough there was an elderly woman there with a clipboard to greet us.  Because we are “Two Star Mariners” we were scheduled to have a meet and greet lunch on the ship at 11:30 so we asked her if we would be able to board right away, we wanted to freshen up a bit before lunch. She said we would be boarding a bus to take us the two miles from the airport to the ship around ten so there would be plenty of time.  She also said our bags would go on ahead of us and would be waiting in our room when we got there.  Sounded good.

Other cruising people started to arrive so there was a small group of us sort of milling around waiting for our bus.  Ten o’clock came and went and no bus.  The elderly clipboard lady had no answers other than, “The bus is coming.”  Then at about 12:15 the bus finally arrived.   We thought we could still make it to the Mariner lunch…we were starving.  Our bus driver was a jovial soul laughing and joking as he loaded our bags onto the bus for the short drive to the dock.  I think it’s called “tip baiting”.

When we got to the dock there were lines of buses waiting for some men in yellow safety vests to direct them into parking slots that were next to the ship terminal.  We were at the head of the line.  We waited…and waited.. there were open slots but no signal for us to move forward.  Soon other buses that had stacked up behind us passed us on either side and were directed into parking slots.  We waited some more.  Our bus driver was making jokes and having a great old time being jovial.

Finally after about fifteen minutes of waiting I walked up to the driver and said..”Why don’t you go out and ask them what is going on, why do we have to wait while other buses were being parked.”  He laughed and said he didn’t want to make the yellow jackets mad because they might sting him…very funny.  I was losing my patience. We had been without food and sleep for over 24 hours..we wanted to get on that ship!

The yellow jackets finally signaled us into a parking space.   We disembarked and dragged our weary selves and our bags into the terminal where two lines were forming.  The line on the right was for odd room numbers and the one on the left was for even room numbers, we swung to the left.  More waiting as our line had only three people checking passports and boarding passes, the other line had five.  Oh well…

When we finally got through all the formalities we were herded into a large room that was lined with benches where hundreds of other ship passengers were awaiting instructions.  Our boarding number was group 14.  It was about 1:30 in the afternoon….looks like we missed the Mariner Lunch. The sign said boarding at 1:00 but there was no one around from the ship to ask why we were all still sitting there at one thirty cooling our heels. 
Waiting is hard enough when you are tired but waiting around when you have no idea why is not only frustrating it is madding.  I was desperate, I needed someone to tell me what in the hell was going on.

Finally a woman with a bull horn showed up and called out for all priority and suites passengers to begin boarding.  That did not include us of course, so we continued to wait.  She slowly worked her way up the numbers…”Group 1, you may board”, etc.  We were with group number 14 so it was going to take some time.  When she got to group number ten I showed her my #14 card and jokingly said, ”….is this a ten?”  She laughed and said, “Yes,… get on-board” …I think she liked my cowboy hat!

Finally, around three o’clock in the afternoon, tired and hungry, we were sitting in our room.  However, our bags which were supposed to be waiting for us were nowhere in sight.  My God, what else could go wrong? 
We managed to find the buffet to feed ourselves so things were looking up.  We were scheduled to leave port at four…. yea, right.   Since we didn't have our bags we couldn't unpack so we decided to take a walk around the ship to orientate ourselves.  As we walked around the Promenade deck we looked over the railing down at the dock below and low and behold there were seven or eight metal containers stacked high with luggage waiting on the dock to be loaded onto the ship!  A little late I would say.  However, just by chance when I looked at the container that was next in line to be loaded I saw my bag right on top!  Hurray! A bit of good luck for a change…of course no sign of Alice’s bags.

Eventually all our bags arrived, we unpacked, had a nice dinner, took in a “Passenger Greeting” show and by ten o’clock we were sound asleep in our room.  All is well at last.

Day 2

The ship left port about 5:30 PM Monday heading for Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas called Half Moon Cay where we found ourselves Tuesday morning docked about two thousand yards from shore. 

Alice had made prior arrangements for our excursion trip to the island where she had secured a“clam shell” cabana thing for us.  We wanted to relax on the beach and watch the surf in shady comfort.  We've all seen PR photos in travel magazines where two people are sitting in those clam shell things holding hands and sipping drinks while the cruise ship waits patiently a few hundred yards off shore.  Well, we were going to be those two people.  

Not quite.  First of all it was about 100 degrees in the shade.  We had to walk down to the water from where we disembarked the tender and it was hot, as in hot.  I thought there would be two clam shell things but it was one big one for two.  They were all lined up one right next to the other about fifty yards from the water’s edge.  In front of them blocking the view were five or six rows of lounge chairs.  

Even though the beach went on for miles it seems everything is concentrated in just this one spot.  I suppose it’s because people who take cruises on Holland America are so old and overweight they can’t walk very far.

When we got to the beach we found that all the nearby clam shells were taken so we had to walk down to the end of the line where some young tourist helper was sitting.  I showed her our clam shell reservation and she pointed to the last empty one so we went over and sat down.  As it turns out it isn't two shells but one shell for two people.   Oh well…

We sat down but we couldn't see anything other than the rows and rows of lounge chairs that were in front of us.  The clam things were also jammed together so there was no privacy at all.  It was too hot to sit in there so we abandoned the shell and walked down to the water’s edge where there was a slight breeze and it was a bit cooler. 

The beach was beautiful with its light blue water and whitish brown sand.  We walked along the shoreline with our cruise ship anchored just off shore just like one of those travel magazine covers – I loved it! 

I thought that this setting was prefect for one of my famous faux magazine covers so I had Alice take a photo of me walking along the beach.  It was great to be there walking along the beach in the Bahamas with our cruise ship in the background.  It was a classic photo-op - pretty damn cool thought I.   

After the photo we returned to our clam shell, picked up our stuff and went over the Bar-B-Q area for lunch. It was cooler up there and the lunch was pretty good.  We met another couple when we sat down and we laughed and talked our way through lunch.  That made the day much more pleasant. 

But we had had enough of the heat for one day so we walked back to the tender that was going to take us back to our ship.  We had to wait in the heat before boarding and when I bent down to get my camera and stood up again I got dizzy.  I guess it was heat stroke.  We went back to the ship where I went to bed for the rest of the day.

Day 3

We were at sea for day three so other than doing some shipboard things like eating and walking around the ship several times not much happened.  The biggest thing that we did was I went to the gym and worked out while Alice took a class on nutrition and body toxin removal.  They have a nice gym on the ship with free weights and several good weight lifting machines.   I had a good workout, and even though I told myself I was going to take a vacation from training, I plan to train again in a couple of days. 

After the main show at eight o’clock I found a good jazz trio called the Neptunes playing at the Ocean Bar so I’ll be spending my evenings there.  They play mostly jazz standards for those who want to dance or just listen.

Day 4

We have another day at sea with nothing much to do so it’s, eat, sit, relax, walk and eat again.  The food is good but nothing outstanding.  Although I told myself that I would be “off the reservation” when it came to my diet I find myself eating mostly what I eat at home: oatmeal, fruit, and salads.  I have a bit of soft ice cream and some fancy pastries during afternoon tea, but on the whole (so far) I’m not eating a lot of fattening food - which is in abundance here.

It’s overcast today as we cruise our way toward our next port of call in Columbia.  We will dock tonight and tomorrow we can take an excursion to the city if we choose.  We haven’t decided what to do yet but I am inclined to go ashore so that maybe we can find a Starbucks with free WiFi so that I can post the first installment of this blog.

Day 5

We docked in Cartagena, Columbia for a short stay.  It is a very industrial looking port.  It looks like the port in Oakland, CA with a bunch of container ships loading and unloading.   Not a very inviting port.  Our ship had an array of tours available but we decided not to bother with them.  Instead we spent the morning looking over the railing as dozens of tour buses lined up on the pier to haul the people who were taking these tours to the nearest “buy a bunch of tourist trinkets” places.   We’ll wait until we get to Costa Rica before we take one of those tours.  Costa Rica is where Starbucks buys a lot of their coffee beans so there is bound to be a Starbucks close by the port - and where there’s a Starbucks there’s free WiFi.  We thought we could hook up to check on things back in the cyber-world.

Day 6

Today at 6:00 AM we entered the Panama Canal. It will take all day to go through the various locks etc.  We won’t be exiting the canal until 8:00 PM tonight.  Almost all the passengers on this ship are out on the various decks watching and taking tablet photos and videos as we slowly make our way across the Isthmus of Panama.  I started taking pictures of the people taking pictures.

I understand that going through the Panama Canal is a pretty big deal.  I hear its on the bucket list of a lot of people around the world. 

Before we left home Alice checked out a PBS American Experience video on the building of the canal so we were well up on the canal history.  It has a fascinating history.  They are actually now digging another larger canal to handle the larger ships that are sailing these days.

I did a few paintings of the Princess Cruise ship that was coming through the locks right behind us.  This is one busy place with a lot of cruise and container ships coming and going.

Day 7

We are out of the canal and back at sea for the day heading for Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.  We’ll be there by 8:00 AM.  The ship offers several tours but by the time we decided which one we would take they were all booked up…who knew?  But since the ship docks right near the small port town we plan on disembarking on our own for a visit and a cup of coffee.

I should tell you something rather funny.  As I am back in the saddle again, that is, I’m wearing my Maestro cowboy gear again - I have been wearing my hat western shirts silver belt buckle and boots on the ship.  It is just amazing how many people comment on my hat.  I get a lot of, “Where ya from cowboy?”  Most of them are surprised that I’m from California and not Texas.  The Indonesian crew is especially responsive.  One guy calls me Mr. Cowboy every time he sees me.  Another guy shakes my hand every time we pass each other in the hall.  Even the Cruise Director tells me “Great hat” when he sees me.  I get a lot of smiles and nods as I walk through the ship. 

I’m anxious to see what the native Costa Ricans think of me. I heard they love cowboys.

Day 8

We awoke this morning to find ourselves moored to a dock at Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica.  Docked right next to us on the other side of the pier is the cruise ship The Coral Princess, the one that followed us through the canal.  Wow, these ships are huge!  You don’t realize just how big they are until you see them side by side on a small dock with a bunch of people milling about below.  The people look like ants next to these big ships.

The dock is a beehive of activity as both ships prepared to disembark most of their passengers so that they can be loaded onto the various tour buses to be hauled off for a number of all day tours. 

After they had all gone Alice and I walked the length of the pier to a little town with various shops and curio tents.   We were hoping to find a small coffee shop where we could taste some of that great Costa Rican coffee we have heard so much about and maybe get a feeling for the people of Cost Rica. 

Well the cute little town turned out to be just some trinket selling stall tents that lined the beach area.  It was 100 degrees in the shade and our steps got heavier and heavier as we worked our way along the rows and rows of local street hucksters.  We wanted to buy some small souvenirs for our grandchildren and some coffee for our daughter and son-in-law.  Its hard to decide what to get with so much stuff…finally we couldn't take the humidity any longer so we bought a couple of wood puzzle things and a pound of coffee and headed back to the air conditioned ship.  What a day!  

I know our Costa Rican friends Tina and Jose will be disappointed that we didn't get to see the real Costa Rica, and we are sorry about that too, but at least I can tell them we set foot on Cost Rican territory and did a little painting of the shoreline.

At lunch today we met the leader of that jazz trio that I have been listening to at night, The Neptunes -  his name is David.  I told him I liked Chet Baker so he said he would do some Chet Baker stuff for me.  I can’t wait because his voice and phrasing is a lot like Chet’s.

Day 9

We docked today in Corinto, Nicaragua. 

After breakfast we went up to the Crow’s Nest where we could see some narrow streets and a small cluster of buildings just beyond the dock in among the trees.  I suppose that is the outer fringes of Nicaragua.  It was going to be hot and humid again today and there were no tours available so we decided to walk over before the sun got too high to see what Nicaragua had to offer. 

Right away we found out that guys on dilapidated bicycle taxis were the dominate theme here.  Some follow you as you walk insisting you should hop in for a where I’m not sure.  The streets were dirty and narrow and did not look inviting at all.  There was one main street with a lot of people selling “stuff.”  The poverty was obvious.  Little kids sitting in the dirty streets, unlit dudgeon-like shops where impoverished people lurked about.  I was struck by the contrast between the overfed cruise ship tourists and these little street urchins.  Life is unfair.

At each intersection the cross streets looked like they went nowhere.  It was kind of scary to tell you the truth.  I could imagine us getting into one of those bicycle taxis and being taken down one of these side streets and never being heard from again.

As we walked up the main street I told Alice to keep walking and not to talk to the guys that would walk along with us trying to get a tip for being our “walking guide.” 

I started to get a little paranoid.  These young guys, who looked like L.A. gang members, were eyeing my cowboy hat.  I began to think that maybe one of them would ride up behind me on his bicycle, grab my hat and disappear down one of those side streets to nowhere.  My hat is a 10 X Resistol and it cost me five hundred bucks.  The thought of losing it did not make me very happy. 

Alice decided to look for a souvenir for our daughter so while she did that I went over and stood with my back to a building while she shopped along a row of souvenir tents.  Across from me was an open area where three or four Nicaraguan dancers were doing some traditional Latin dance routines for tips.  They were quiet good.

While I was standing there with the building protecting my back I noticed a small bird feather there on the curb.  I reached down and picked it up and put it in my bag.  When we returned to the ship I cut the end of it off at an angle and used it like a pen to do a small drawing of those dancers.  The artist in me managed to create something out of nothing so the day was not a total loss after all.  Out of the mud grows the Lotus…  Praise Picasso!

Day 10

This morning we are docked at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.  Nothing very inviting here.  As it is extremely humid we are staying on the ship all day. 

I had plenty of time to have a good workout.  The gym here on the ship in never crowded.  Except for one or two women and maybe a couple of younger crew members doing the treadmill thing. the gym is empty.  There are probably a dozen of those cardio contraptions around. 

Once in a while some old geezer will come in with a towel around his neck, stand around for a half hour then grab a couple of 3 pound dumbbells and sort of swing them over his head a couple of times then leave the gym to go strutting around the ship (with the towel still around his neck) pretending that he had done some heavy workout.  You see a lot of foolish things when you have a boat load of old people…I would say the average age here is 70.

Day 11

Today we are docked at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico.  Here at the dock there is a special Mexican inspired cabana area with Mexican dancers, a swimming pool, some hammocks, and a large green grass area with lots of palm trees.  It’s not the real Mexico - it’s a tourist stage-set Mexico.  The nearest town where you could find some real Mexicans was probably a couple of hours ride from here.  The buses that take passengers there to do some trinket shopping are hidden behind the trees. 

While the dancers danced the marimba players pretended to play this large three person marimba… it was actually pre-recorded music blasting out of two five foot speakers.  That’s OK, even Madonna does the pretend thing.

The humidity was bad again today so we didn't bother getting off the ship.  Spending four hours on a bus to buy some trinkets is not my idea of a good time. 

We spent most of the day in the library reading.  They have a pretty good library here on the ship.  Alice has found several good books to read and I found a book titled, "The New Rules of Lifting for Life."  It is a new style weight training book for people in their fifties.  There was a section on old age and what physically happens to old people.  It wasn't anything new for me but it was good to refresh my memory on some of the things I've learned over the past five years.

One of the things mentioned in the book was that Jack Lalanne, the physical fitness guru, had a brother that out lived him by a year.  Jack died in 2010 at ninety-six and his older brother who never trained a day in his life died at ninety-seven.  The implication is that weight training doesn't necessarily help one live longer.  I think that is the wrong conclusion to draw from this small bit of information.

Jack at ninety-six was far from being a feeble old man.  There are several Youtube videos of Jack in his nineties where he looked and acted like a man in his fifties.  Whereas his brother may very well have been in a rest home for ten years before he died.  One can be dead at eighty and not physically die until ninety.  It all depends on what one calls “living.”  For me I want to live like Jack did until I die, so I will continue to weight train because I believe it works.

Day 12

Alice is not feeling too well today and I’m beginning to get a bit lethargic – maybe its boredom but I literally don’t know what to do with myself.  I weight trained this morning for an hour which helped but then there was nothing to do but eat, sit and read, or sleep… I’m getting tired of that.  There’s not much of anything to do.  I’m not interested in gambling, drinking at the various bars, buying jewelry or art…art?  Well not real art, “commodity art,” you know, the kind people buy and sell like hogs or futures - as an investment.  They have these auctions every couple of days.  Yes, and people actually pay big money for these things here on this floating auction house.  Peter Max is big on the Cruise ship circuit…so is that Thomas Kinkade guy who paints those little fairy-tale houses with the “warmly lit windows.” (his words not mine)… it’s kind of a ship of fools thing…makes me a bit sea sick…but I digress…

We have a comedian to see tonight at eight in the Queen’s Lounge.   The PR blurb said something about him having had lunch at a restaurant in New York where David Letterman once ate, or something like that.  Pretty impressive credentials wouldn't you say.  Whoever this guy is he is in the death throes of his show biz career.  For anyone in show biz a cruise ship gig is the last stop on the road to oblivion.   It’s the last stop after no longer being able to work the Indian Casino circuit. 

We’ll send him off with a few scattered rounds of courtesy applause tonight then we’ll see him tomorrow having his last meal at the buffet before he disembarks at the next port and disappears into “gone forever land.”    Bye bye…

We’ll be at sea again tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to that very much.

Day 13

Here we are sitting on the Promenade deck.  Alice is reading and I’m working on this blog.  I don’t think I’ll post it until I get back home; it’s too much trouble to find a place to get on-line.  You can pay something like 100 dollars an hour for internet access but I heard it was very slow.  I talked to some old guy in the computer room who was there all the time working on some charts and he told me that he spent over ten thousand bucks on access so far.  He said he is doing some sort of stock market thing and said he had made over one million bucks already.  But he said because it was so slow he lost a lot of chances to make even more money.  He also complained about his room….I finally said I had to go meet someone and took off…

I noticed on the TV monitor that shows where the ship is that we were passing Acapulco.  You can see large hotels off in the distance.  We are on our way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  I understand we can get off the ship and be right in the heart of the city…I’ll believe that when I see it.

We saw the movie "Dallas Buyers Club" today and since I am wearing a black cowboy hat like Matthew McConaughey did in the movie I am getting some extra stares.  I hope they don’t equate black hats with hustlers like the guy he played in the movie…

There is a Windows Tech-guy on-board who gives classes everyday on Windows 8.  He is really good and his classes are always filled.  We went to several.

Day 14

OK, here we are in famous Cabo San Lucas.  We are anchored just offshore and we have an excellent view of the beach area.  It is now 10:24 am, temperature: 73, Humidity: 51% and climbing fast.  They have been hauling passengers to shore in a tender 80 at a time since 8 am.  They just called for passengers with ticket numbers 33 and 34 to prepare for loading.   We decided not to bother because it’s gonna be another one of those hot days.  And what’s the point?  The best views are from the ship. 

The ship will be leaving Cabo at 3:30 this afternoon so there isn't much time for the locals to do their trinket selling.  I’m betting they will be extra aggressive.

Day 15

Another day at sea….boooor - ing..
I had a good workout in the morning and then it was lunch and some on-board entertainment. The Indonesian staff put on quite a show.   We also went to a towel animal making class and later saw a Dancing with the Stars program. 

Every night the steward would come to our room and turn down the bed, leave us tomorrow's schedule and leave us one of these towel animals.  After a time I started to add some faces and things to them and leave it for him to see the next day.  He would leave the ones I decorated in the room and by the end of our trip our room was filled with these towel animals.

Day 16

As we pulled into San Diego this morning I looked out the window of our room and I couldn't help but think of how lucky I am to be an American.  The contrast from the ports we have just been to and this port in San Diego is phenomenal.  Jet airplanes taking off one right after another, houses, hotels, yachts, military boats, traffic moving in all directions on large freeways…what a vibrant, prosperous nation we have.  It makes one proud to be an American in spite of all its faults.

Say what you will about America but this is where it’s at.

Our dear friends Nore and Nancy came down from their home in Encinitas to meet us at the dock.  We had a nice lunch with them then they drove us back to their house so we could see their new house paint job.  After a nice visit they drove us back to the ship.  We boarded and now we are off to Astoria, Oregon. 

600 people disembarked at San Diego and were replaced by a load of new passengers.  We noticed at dinner tonight that some of the “regulars” are still with us.  We also picked up some new entertainers so we’re hoping we have some good shows coming up – but we’re not counting on it.

The new passengers were a younger bunch and the ship's vibes changed noticeably.  

Day 17

Not much doing today because we are at sea again.  As we cruised up the coast I looked for the San Luis Obispo coast line and Morro Rock but we were too far out to sea to see anything.  I did see a whale and I think a seal.

I trained again today but other than that nothing much to report. 

The movie was horrible so I walked out after about 15 minutes. ("Her" with Joaquin Phoenix)
There was an illusionist performing at the theater tonight and he was pretty good.

Day 18

At sea again today…it’s getting a bit colder as we head up the Pacific Coast.

The entertainers eat with the rest of us at the buffet and today we saw the illusionist munching on a salad.  They also do an inter-ship TV thing called Good Morning Amsterdam where they talk about their careers, etc.  I guess I should have watched it to see what was in his portfolio. 

Day 19

Today we are docked in Astoria, Oregon.   We took the river walk to town.  It is a nice little town and it was an enjoyable walk.  We remembered that we had stayed here one time maybe fifty years ago.

We didn't do much else today because it is pretty cold.  The Filipino crew members put on an ethnic show this afternoon that was pretty good.  We also saw a John Denver look-a-like singer tonight at the Queen’s Lounge.  He wasn't too bad.   We have two more days then we fly home.  It’s about time …I’m getting tired of this cruise.

Day 20

We are docked in Vancouver, BC for most of the day.  The law is that everyone on-board has to get off the ship go through customs then re-board.  So we had a choice to either make a quick round trip through customs or disembark and walk around town, which is right here at the edge of the port.  We decided to do a town walk around.  We have always liked Vancouver.  The last time we were here was in 1995 for the showing of the Les Blank film, The Maestro. We came up with Les and our friends Tyler and Kathy Hoare.  It was a great trip they put us up in the Fairmont Hotel and treated us like royalty. 

We spent about three hours walking around town then we went back to re-board our ship.  We ended up waiting in a room with hundreds of other passengers waiting to get on one of the three cruise ship that were docked at the port.  It didn't matter that we had been on our ship for the past twenty days we still had to wait with the other tourists that were boarding for the first time.

We took our number and waited.  The guy and his wife that were sitting next to us were fuming.  They were on the Princess ship and they didn't know why they had to wait with people who were getting on the MS Amsterdam.  I told him I felt the same way.

But what can you do.  There is no one to complain to.  The little old ladies that are handing out group numbers and pointing you this way or that don’t know anything other than when to call which number and point to which ramp.

We eventually got back on our ship and pulled out heading for Seattle, Washington, where we will disembark and catch a shuttle to the airport for our flight home.

As we were on deck watching the boat pull away from shore some guy came up to me and told me how much he liked cowboys.  He said his grandfather and father were cowboys and that he was named Shane after a cowboy movie of the same name. He had just come aboard with a wedding party that was on a one day cruise from Victoria to Seattle; his party would be disembarking in Seattle. 

Anyway he was asking about me and what I did and when I told him I was an artist he tells me that he also loves art.  Well naturally I have to go into more detail about myself and I tell him to watch the Les Blank film and all…. He seemed genuinely interested and said he would get on his computer as soon as he got home so he could go to my website. 

Thanks Shane, that was a nice ending to my trip.

Day 21
The boat docked at about 7:00 in the morning, we got off around 10, took a shuttle to the Seattle airport where we waited until 3:30 for our flight to Oakland. We landed at the Oakland airport at 5:30.  We took a shuttle home to Albany and arrived home at 6:30 in the evening.  That ended our 21 day cruise. 

Tomorrow it’s off to Trader Joe's and Costco to replenish our food supply.  

                                            The Bahama photo for a travel magazine cover

                                                             The Panama Canal
                                                     People photographing the canal
                                                            Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
                                                                  San Diego, CA
                                                             Vancouver, B. C. Canada
                                              Some of the towel animals in our room
                               All the "clam shell" things were behind the lounge chairs
                                                       Corinto, Nicaragua
                                                     Dancing for tips
Doing a little painting using a bird feather I found on the ground by the dancers


As there were a lot of frail old people on-board there were ambulances waiting at several ports to remove some sick or dying passenger from the ship. 
I learned how to do a panoramic photo collage on the ship at a Windows 8 workshop. This is the bridge at Astoria, OR taken from the river walk. I wish I'd have learned sooner.
There were several of these 2000 piece puzzles working all the time

The library had a lot of comfortable chairs if you wanted to sit and read.
The port at Cartagena, Colombia
The Indonesian crew members put on a show in the thearer
Art auction area
The ship photographers we always busy taking photos of passengers doing this or that.  This is where they displayed and sold them.
Jewelry was for sale 24-7
A lot of people were playing Sudoku
Each night they would put one of these towel animals on our bed.  They gave a workshop showing how they were done.
Our room had a window and a very comfortable bed
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Women's bathroom
Woman's bathroom
Lots and lots of food
There were two buffets one one each side of the ship. It was all you can eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.