Sailing to Paradise, April 13 – 18, 2009

The ship pitches as I type. The first three days it rolled. A strong sea breeze made walking into it feel like an uphill struggle, while walking with it challenged me to keep my feet under me instead of rolling ahead.

To my surprise, I haven’t felt the slightest seasick. Still, I may follow the advice of an experienced sailor Robin met during one of his table tennis matches. He said tea and coffee add to stomach distress.

Our inside – meaning no outside light – stateroom on Deck Three aft
Our inside – meaning no outside light – stateroom on Deck Three aft

I think alcohol was on that list too, advice I may ignore. We found a lovely surprise when we returned to our room last night – a bottle of champagne chilling in ice, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They were compliments of the Chief Engineer, Kai Farstadt, whose wife is the daughter of our dear friend, Holly Hruschak.

Holly is the angel who has not only looked after our condo while we’ve been away but who has also scanned and e-mailed any mail we needed to attend to. We had hoped to be able to say hello to Kai on the voyage but certainly didn’t expect any special treatment so were doubly grateful for his gift. And, of course, we’re grateful he’s making sure the machinery on this huge vessel is always in working order. [NB – the gift continued a second night, with another bottle of champagne and a bottle of white wine. Later in the voyage some petits fours appeared, and another night we found more chocolate-coated strawberries. We felt thoroughly spoiled.]

Rhapsody of the Seas has assigned seating in the Edelweiss dining hall. The first night we dined alone. That’s no way to meet people so we asked for a table with others. We were placed at an oval table with eight chairs, four of them occupied by American women traveling together. Only one was close enough for conversation, and Robin couldn’t hear her soft voice.

The Edelweiss dining room
The Edelweiss dining room

The next night the waiter removed two of the chairs so the last two nights have been better, but it’s still a difficult and noisy setting for conversation so we may opt to go to the Windjammer café some nights. It’s a bit quieter and will give us a chance to meet new people. Still, we prefer the dining room to the café. We seldom eat out when we are home so revel in the attentive service when we’re on a ship.

Salad bar in the Windjammer Café
Salad bar in the Windjammer Café

Meeting people is the real bonus of a cruise. Since this is really two, back-to-back cruises, we’re meeting more working people than we did on the Volendam, where most of the passengers were retirees. Twenty-one nations are represented among the vacationers, over fifty among the staff. Most of the people we’ve met have been Australians, with a sprinkling of Canadians and Americans. Many – perhaps most – of the Australians will disembark in Honolulu. We’ll be sorry to miss the chance to get to know them as well as we did new friends on the 30-day cruise last September.

Janie and Brenda, two of our American table mates in the dining room
Janie and Brenda, two of our American table mates in the dining room

Hearing people’s stories is one of the best parts of traveling. We are all new audiences for each other. When we can get beyond the initial “where are you from” questions, we hear the more interesting tales, like nipple piercing. So, OK, that’s an unusual topic for dinner conversation, but one of our tablemates celebrated her 50th birthday by having her right nipple pierced. No anesthesia and months of painful recovery. The person who performed the procedure must have trained in a torture camp. Clamp on the nipple, tug hard, bore a hole. Just writing the words makes me wince.

Rhapsody of the Seas is attractive, the rooms comfortable, the service friendly and efficient, the food delicious, and the options plentiful. We can be busy every waking hour or lean back, read a book (or, in my case, write), and watch the sea go by. It’s a relaxing way to travel, but four days into it (five if you count boarding and sailing out of Sydney) I’m ready for a land day, which we’ll have in Roratanga on Saturday, April 18th (or 19th for our Australian friends). The 3000-piece puzzle of Sydney Harbour took a lot of hands and eyes to complete on the 16-day voyage. In the end, one piece was missing. Worse yet, on the voyage from Hawaii to Vancouver, a piece was missing from the second puzzle – and I found it in my bag on the last day. Oops.

We’ve been away for over seven months and are three weeks from Vancouver. Today we’re repeating Thursday the 16th because of the complicated calculations that led to the International Dateline. I’m looking forward to our stop in the Cook Islands on Saturday, then three more Pacific Islands, and then Hawaii. Leaving Australia was hard so perhaps this long voyage back to the home we love and the friends we’ve missed will be a better transition than a flight.


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