Chapter Two
Home Up Chapter Three




Written by Rick Archer
November 2013



All told, we spent five consecutive days at sea.  To be very honest, it’s all a blur.  I can remember bits and pieces of what transpired, but once the dark cloud of Day Two had passed, the days at sea were largely uneventful.

Each day at sea developed a remarkable "sameness".  Due to the odd daylight saving time situation that gave us an extra hour each day, Marla and I would wake up and have plenty of time to goof off.  Marla would watch the news while I played computer chess.

Then we head up to the jogging track for half an hour of exercise.  We frequently saw Patty Harrison and Annie Fletcher up on the track as well.

Then it would be time for a shower followed by breakfast. 

At 10 am we would head upstairs for a 90 minute dance class.

After dance class came lunch.

After lunch Marla would put on her swimsuit and visit friends by the pool. 

Since I hate the sun, I would stay in the cabin and read my book.  Reading this book was a true guilty pleasure.  My book was Sharpe's Trafalgar.

Richard Sharpe is a fictional hero in historical action adventures written by Bernard Cornwell.  Cornwell's Sharpe appears in an entire series based on actual battles fought and won by England during the Napoleonic Era.  It is fun to watch how Sharpe rises through the ranks thanks to his uncommon valor in each victory.  In one book, Sharpe's Triumph, Sharpe even managed to rescue the famous Arthur Wellesley, the man who would defeat Napoleon at Waterloo, from certain death at the Battle of Assaye in India.

This heroic effort was rewarded with a promotion to the rank of Ensign.  Sharpe was now an officer!

Sharpe's Trafalgar dealt with the famous 1805 naval battle off the coast of southern Spain.   Twenty-seven British ships led by Admiral Nelson defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.  This resounding victory firmly established British supremacy on the high seas for the next 100 years or so.

So why is reading this book a 'guilty pleasure'?  As it turns out, I can only read books at sea or in the air. I am unable to read a book on land.  I was an avid reader as a boy, but today I am so busy writing articles for the Newsletter that I have developed a mysterious inability to sit down and read a book.

Every time I pick up a book, I think about all the articles I have not written yet or not completed.  I have at least three articles only half-written and thinking about them drives me crazy!  Plus there is that book about how SSQQ got started that I have one-third written.  I feel so guilty about those unfinished stories that my conscience only allows me to read when I am on vacation.  Oh well.


Dance class was a fun morning activity for the group.  The classes were held in the Skyway Lounge.  This facility was truly beautiful.  It was by far the best dance venue on a cruise ship since our favorite dance floor on the Rhapsody. 

The classes were well attended. We generally had about 30 people participate. 

We had five dance classes in all.  The first morning covered small floor Foxtrot patterns.  Then Joe Lachner asked for Cha Cha, so that was our second lesson. 

Our third day covered small floor Waltz patterns. 

Our fourth day was a review of Waltz and Foxtrot. 

Our final day covered Swing patterns.  

Here MG, aka Mr. Twinkle Toes, is practicing the wrist flip

Now MG is practicing the lead for the Diva Walk, a Foxtrot pattern

Mother Goose

I remember two amusing moments from dance class.  The first story involved MG Anseman.  Incidentally, "MG" stands for Mother Goose, or so he says. 

Long ago MG became one of my favorite instructors back at SSQQ Bissonnet.  Starting in the Nineties, MG taught Western and Whip for us. 

MG is a pretty neat guy. As a former Marine, if you don't know him, at first MG can seem gruff and foreboding. However, I have always found him to be a warm and quite down-to-earth guy. 

My favorite memory of MG took place during our Mardi Gras 2004 Cruise

MG, a Louisiana native, was very familiar with New Orleans.  So MG took our entire band of twenty terrified cruise passengers under his wing and guided us through the insanity of Mardi Gras all day long.

Thanks to MG's protection, I felt perfectly safe getting drunk and being a little out of control.  In other words, I enjoyed myself thoroughly because I didn't feel the need to worry about my safety. MG was watching out for all of us!

That same year, MG and his lovely wife Gay were at our wedding ceremony aboard the Rhapsody, our beloved cruise ship.

Back in the early days of MG's teaching career, I remember MG was not particularly fond of the lady's part.  So MG relied heavily on the help of Charlene Tees for Whip and Tracy Schweinle for Western for many years.  Considering how wonderful those ladies are, not a bad idea at all.   

One day I said boys on one side, girls on the other.  I noticed that MG was on the girl’s side and it was no accident either.  I was taken aback; after all, this was the same guy who avoided the girl's footwork like the plague in earlier years. 

So I took special notice.  Was it an accident that MG was over there?  Apparently not.  Usually when I spot men on the girl's side, these are guys who would linger over there to flirt, but not MG.  He was practicing the girls’ footwork right along with the rest of the ladies.  I laughed at how hard he was concentrating.

As I later discovered, MG teaches private lessons over at SSQQ-Jester.  Consequently he has taken a greater interest in learning the "follow" role.  He found it useful to practice the girl's role during my dance class.  However, I wasn't aware of this perfectly sensible goal at the time, so I was actually rather amused. 

Therefore when it came time to demonstrate and I needed a lady, how could I resist asking MG to be my partner?   Now, mind you, MG is a former Marine.  Nor is he even remotely petite.  And let us not forget to point out the mustache.  MG was hardly anyone’s vision of a Waltz diva.

Of course I fully expected MG to flub up and give us all a good laugh… at his expense of course… but to my surprise MG danced the lady’s part about as well as any lady could.  He completed a difficult Waltz double turn and finished under complete control.  Now MG awaited my next lead like a pro.  Most women who are new to dance would not have "waited", but MG had learned one of the main secrets to 'following'.  Good for him!

I was impressed.   

Make that ‘seriously impressed’.

So I took a step back and applauded.  So did everyone else.  MG beamed at the recognition.

I told the class that MG had previously stood for ‘Mother Goose’, but today our beloved Goose had become a lovely Swan. 

The Diva Walk Kidnap

In another class, I was explaining that the Western Waltz moves around the floor like driving Loop 610 here in Houston and that Small Floor Waltz is more akin to Bumper Cars in an amusement park.  On a crowded floor, dance couples collide with alarming frequency!  

So the real game in small floor Waltz is to find ways to avoid all the different couples as they make random, unexpected moves towards the same open space that you have your eye on.

I explained to the men for their safety to always keep a woman between himself and the next couple so she can absorb any unexpected contactI am not sure if the ladies appreciated my most excellent suggestion. 

Meanwhile I told the men that danger could appear from any direction.  As I did this, I demonstrated by sending Marla out on a Diva Walk (see picture).  As she pranced away from the protective custody of my arms, I explained how easily Marla might end up in the arms of another man if I wasn’t careful. 

Those words turned out to be far too prophetic.

Suddenly, Marla was indeed gobbled up by Mike Davis in the middle of the move.  Mike had noticed I wasn't looking, so he swooped in from my left side and stole my wife!

What Mike didn’t know is that I am blind in my left eye.  Since he came from my left side, I never saw him coming.  All I knew was that Marla had mysteriously let go of my hand.  When I turned to look, Marla was Waltzing off into the distance with another man and looking quite pleased with herself.

Mike got me good.  I have never  before had a woman stolen from me on the dance floor, much less my own wife.  I am sure the look of complete shock on my face was a source of great amusement not just to Marla, but to the entire class. 

Mardi Gras 2004 was a kick-ass cruise.  We had serious fun!
MG and his wife Gay are down in front on the right.

MG and Gay at our 2004 Wedding Reception aboard the Rhapsody

There's our Swan!  MG with Carol Batson dancing the Cha-Cha.

Larry and Megan are joining Carol and MG dancing in front.

Mike and Jan Davis

Take note of two things:
1. For some dumb reason, I have my eyes closed on the Diva Walk
2. Over to the right, Mike Davis spots an opportunity.  He dashed
    forward to grab my girl in mid-Diva. The nerve of that guy!

Dance Class Photo Gallery

While I was busy teaching, Marla went around taking photographs.  Marla did a great job of capturing the fun and the smiles.  Dance class was a highlight of the trip.

Thank you, Marla, for taking so many great dance pictures!


Team Trivia!!

Another daily event was 4 pm Trivia.  I had promised Joy Al Jazrawhi on the previous 2011 Virgin Islands Cruise that I would be her teammate on the next cruise we took together.  Always good for my word, I dutifully showed up for our first round.

As it turned out, the scores would be cumulative spread out over all five days at sea.  In other words, our numbers from each day would be added to the total score.

I soon learned that I was in a room with some serious Trivia pros.  The questions I could answer usually turned out to be questions that everyone could answer.  Boo hoo.  This wasn’t any fun; I wanted to know some answers all by myself!

There were 15 or 16 questions each day, 78 total for the five days combined. 

Jan Davis, Joy Al Jazrawi, and I did our best to remember some of them.  I have to say, many of the questions were tough.  Would you like to see how you would have fared?  No cheating!!

Jan, Joy, Dorothy, Ted, Russell, and Rick. 
I always wear a tux when I play Trivia.

Out of the 78 questions, Jan, Joy and I were able to remember about a third of them.  (Answers further below)
  1. What do you call a group of hummingbirds?
  2. Where is the longest unbroken road in the world located?
  3. What is sake made of?
  4. What was Sherlock Holmes' address?
  5. What 2 cities did the Orient Express connect?
  6. How many lords a leaping (in the Twelve Days of Christmas)?
  7. Which anniversary is represented by steel?
  8. What were the family names of Romeo and Juliet?
  9. Since Pluto was first discovered till it was “de-planeted” in 2006, how many times has Pluto been around the Sun? 
    Bonus question:  How about Neptune?
  10. Who solved the Riddle of the Sphinx?
  11. Who was the first couple ever seen together in bed on TV?
  12. How many players on a cricket team?
  13. How long can the goalie hold the ball in soccer before getting rid of it?
  14. How many chromosomes do men have?
  15. What two South American countries do NOT touch Brazil?
  16. What is the southernmost national capital in the world?
  17. What sport outlaws the use of the left hand?
  18. What country did the helicopter first fly in?
  19. What country has the deepest mining hole?
  20. What capital is one of the oldest inhabited cities in history?
  21. “Leave her breathless” is the slogan for what product?
  22. He died in 1998.  The epitaph on his headstone reads: "And the Beat Goes On”
  23. What is the most popular first name in the world for a boy today?
  24. What historical person has the most statues in the world?

Answer Sheet: 

  1. What do you call a group of hummingbirds?

    A charm of hummingbirds.   We didn’t get this one, but we were greatly amused.
  2. Where is the longest unbroken road in the world located?

    Australia. The road makes a big circle around the continent.   We didn’t get this one either, but it irritated us no end.  Our best player was Russell.  Russell was from Australia and he didn’t think answer was accurate.  He said there were several breaks.
  3. What is sake made of?

    Rice.   Out of all the questions we did not get, this one aggravated us the most.  Four of us were convinced it was rice, but Ted from New York was so absolutely sure of himself that our answer became “plums”.  We stopped listening to Ted after that.
  4. What was Sherlock Holmes' address?

    221B Baker Street.
       Jan Davis got the “221 Baker Street”  and Russell added the “B”
  5. What 2 cities did the Orient Express connect?

    Istanbul and Paris.   I got Istanbul, then Joy and Jan suggested Paris.  
  6. How many lords a leaping (in the Twelve Days of Christmas)?

    10.   This one was all Joy’s doing.  Nice work, Joy to the World!
  7. Which anniversary is represented by steel?

    11th Anniversary.   We struck out on this one.  Ted and Dorothy who had been married for 45 years didn’t know it, so we guessed 46.
  8. What were the family names of Romeo and Juliet?

    Montague and Capulet.   The whole world got this one.
  9. Since the time Pluto was first discovered till it was “de-planeted” in 2006, how many times has Pluto been around the Sun?  Bonus question:  What about Neptune?

    Pluto: zero, Neptune: once. 

    We didn’t get this one.  Joy came close.  She guessed “1”.

    It takes Pluto 248 years to orbit the Sun. 

    In fact, it takes so long for Pluto to orbit that Sun, the dwarf planet had not even completed a third of an orbit from when it was discovered back in February 18th, 1930, till the day it was de-planeted in 2006. 

    Neptune was discovered in September 23, 1846.  Neptune takes 164.79 years to orbit around the Sun. 

    On July 11, 2011, Neptune completed its first full orbit around the Sun. 

    According to our Earth is ‘the only important planet in the solar system’ point of view, Neptune is now officially 1 year old.


  10. Who solved the Riddle of the Sphinx?

    Oedipus.   I got this one.  So did everyone else.
  11. Who was the first couple ever seen together in bed on TV?

    Fred and Wilma Flintstone.   If you said Ricky and Lucy, join the crowd.
  12. How many players on a cricket team?

    11.   Russell got this one for us.
  13. How long can the goalie hold the ball in soccer before getting rid of it?

    6 seconds.   Thanks to me, we guessed 10 seconds.  Oh well.  Close but no cigar.

USA-Canada Result Hinges
on Strange Call

When I looked up the answer to the soccer question, I found an interesting story.  

I was finally able to answer a question I had been baffled about
or some time…

There was a bizarre call in the 2012 USA women’s Olympic soccer semifinals against Canada that made no sense to me.  Without this call, the USA probably had no chance to come from behind to grab an improbable victory.

Now, thanks to the trivia question, I finally understood what the heck was going on behind the scenes

[By the way, if you could care less about sports or soccer,
feel free to scroll past my sports story.]

Here’s the story of the U.S.-Canada Soccer Dispute

The U.S. women's soccer team won one of the most exciting games team history in the Olympic semifinal, but two highly
controversial calls allowed the United States to tie the game before Alex Morgan's winning header at the end of overtime.
Morgan's 123rd minute header clinched a 4-3 win for the U.S., which came back from three separate deficits to fend off an
exceptional Canadian side.

The U.S. benefitted from an unusually rare delay-of-game call in the 80th minute after Norwegian referee Christiana
Pedersen claimed Canada goalie Erin McLoed held the ball for more than six seconds.

Megan Rapinoe's ensuing free kick from inside the box hit a Canadian defender, which Pedersen whistled a handball and awarded
the U.S. a penalty kick. Abby Wambach would shoot home the penalty to tie the game at 3.

Canadian players were furious after the game, triggering Canada's Melissa Tancredi to say to referee: Pedersen: "I hope you can
sleep tonight when you put on your American jersey."

Six-Second Goalkeeper Rule Proves Baffling to Many

NY Times, August 7, 2012

The critical, controversial call that helped the United States women’s soccer team score the tying goal in its overtime victory over Canada may not have been wrong, but that does not mean it was right, either.

Referee Christiana Pedersen’s ruling that the Canadian goalkeeper had been wasting time, giving an indirect free kick to the Americans, was one that many veteran players and coaches say they have never seen, and many described it as baffling.

Following the game, when questioned at random, perhaps 1 person in a hundred had any idea of this rule.  None of the people questioned had ever seen this happen before.

Even soccer governing bodies advise using extreme caution when making such a call. 

With Canada leading, 3-2, in the 78th minute Monday, Pedersen ruled that Canada’s goalkeeper, Erin McLeod, held the ball for more than six seconds after making a save. The ensuing free kick led to a penalty kick in what turned out to be a 4-3 win for the Americans.

The rule in question falls under Law 12 of FIFA’s Laws of the Game. FIFA’s official interpretation of that law includes a notation that states “a goalkeeper is not permitted to keep control of the ball in his hands for more than six seconds.”

But U.S. Soccer, the English Football Association and other governing bodies have emphasized to referees that the rule is discretionary, and is not meant to be called except for egregious violations.

On the play, according to The New York Times, McLeod caught a corner kick, fell to the grass, got up after about four seconds, then punted the ball away 10 or 11 seconds later. Other accounts of the match had McLeod releasing the ball after about eight seconds.

Either way, Pedersen had already blown the whistle — too soon, according to some interpretations.

The six-second count is supposed to begin not from the moment the goalkeeper first gains possession of the ball, but after she gathers herself, gets up and begins to look for a teammate to play it to, as U.S. Soccer notes in its advice to referees:

“Infringement of the six-second rule is sometimes misinterpreted,” the federation noted in its Ask a Referee online column. “The count starts when the goalkeeper is preparing to release the ball, not when he or she actually gains possession. Why? Because very often the goalkeeper has to disentangle him/herself from other players or move around fallen players, and it would be unfair to begin the count in such a case.”

But such minute distinctions are secondary to the overriding principle emphasized to referees: to not blow the whistle for offenses deemed trifling.

“Technically the goalkeeper must release the ball within six seconds of having established full control, which would not count rising from the ground or stopping their run (if they had to run) to gain the ball,” U.S. Soccer noted. “However, goalkeepers throughout the world routinely violate the six-second rule without punishment if the referee is convinced that the goalkeeper is making a best effort.”

Moreover, U.S. Soccer advised referees in a 2010 memorandum, “Before penalizing a goalkeeper for violating this time limit, the referee should warn the goalkeeper about such actions and then should penalize the violation only if the goalkeeper continues to waste time or commits a comparable infringement again later in the match.”

Was McLeod making a best effort? Pedersen has not said; requests from newspapers and television in her native Norway to interview her were turned down because she is prohibited by FIFA from speaking to reporters without the world body’s permission.

Certainly McLeod did hold the ball for about 12 seconds after gaining possession on two separate occasions, in both the 58th minute and the 61st. But even in those cases, she appeared to be making an honest effort to find a player to whom she could send a pass.

Nevertheless, the Americans’ Abby Wambach was in Referree Pedersen’s ear, doing what many players do when their team is losing: audibly counting down the seconds after the opposing goalkeeper gets hold of the ball to pressure the keeper to give up the ball, or the referee to make the six-second call.

“I wasn’t yelling; I was just counting out loud,” Wambach said Tuesday in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “Probably did it five to seven times.”

In the 78th minute, Wambach said, she did it again, and this time Pedersen bit.

“I got right next to the referee and started counting.  When I hit 10 seconds, at 10 seconds the ref blew the whistle,” she said.

Referees usually give warnings before issuing cautions for time-wasting, but Pedersen seems not to have done so on the pivotal call.

Canadian goalkeeper McLeod said she was informally warned by an assistant referee at halftime.

“She said, ‘Don’t delay the play too much,’ but it wasn’t like a real warning,” McLeod said. McLeod added that on the critical call, Pedersen told her that “I held the ball for 10 seconds — she obviously counted the time when I was on the ground.”

The National Post of Canada asked McLeod whether she had indeed held the ball that long.

“Nowhere near,” McLeod said. “I think the referee was very one-sided. I was stunned when it happened.”

One reason referees do not whistle the six-second rule is because the penalty is so harsh: an indirect free kick from the spot of the violation, inside the penalty area. Several hundred games can go by without an indirect free kick being awarded inside a penalty area.

(Rick’s Note:  I suppose this is more information than you need, but I thought it was interesting.  See all the fascinating things you can learn in Trivia? 

I love this story because I learned Abby Wambach had been selling this ridiculous call to the referee the entire game.  Who could imagine her lobbying effort would pay off at such a crucial time?   Of course, I imagine the Canadians are still furious about being robbed.  I can’t blame them a bit for feeling cheated out of a victory.)


Now back to Trivia Answers...

  1. How many chromosomes do men have?

    46.  In humans, each cell normally contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46. Twenty-two of these pairs, called autosomes, look the same in both males and females. The 23rd pair, the sex chromosomes, differ between males and females. Females have two copies of the X chromosome, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. 

    We didn’t get this one.  Ted and I decided 52 sounded good.  Later it dawned on me that’s the answer for a deck of cards.  Duh.

    It didn't help that the team of doctors next to us started to high five on this question.  They enjoyed making a public display of their brilliance.
  2. What two South American countries do NOT touch Brazil?

    Chile and Ecuador. 

    I am so mad I missed this one!

    I said “Columbia” instead of Ecuador.  

    Nevertheless this was my favorite question.  It was fair, but difficult.

  3. What is the southernmost national capital in the world?

    Wellington, New Zealand. 

    This question really made me mad.  No one else on our team had a clue, but I was on it! 

    I narrowed it down to Canberra, Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand.  Then I asked Russell, an Australian native, which country was further south.  He just stared at me in total confusion.   Running out of time, I guessed Canberra and got it wrong.

    I should have been more forgiving.  As it turns out, it was closer than I realized.  Wellington is only 100 miles or so further south than Canberra.
  4. What sport outlaws the use of the left hand?


    This rule eliminates one of the greatest dangers of being hit by an opponent’s mallet. 
  5. What country did the helicopter first fly in?


This question was the start of the "Russia joke" which became a real source of irritation for me. 

I knew the French were involved because they had ‘gyro’ helicopters back in the early days.   But I was positive the answer was Russia due to the famous Russian inventor Igor Sikorsky.  Igor Sikorsky is considered to be the "father" of helicopters because he invented the first successful helicopter upon which further designs were based. 

One of aviation's greatest designers, Russian born Igor Sikorsky began work on helicopters as early as 1910. By 1940, Igor Sikorsky's successful VS-300 had become the model for all modern single-rotor helicopters.

However, as I discovered, he did not invent or fly the first one.  French inventor Etienne Oehmichen built and flew a helicopter one kilometer in 1924.  Unbelievable.

  1. What country has the deepest mining hole?

    South Africa.

    This question also upset me.  I knew it was a toss-up between Russia and South Africa, but I was convinced the biggest hole on the planet was in Russia. 

    I was so certain I was right that I nearly had a heart attack when I learned I was wrong.

    So I did some research.

       The Udachnaya Pipe is a diamond mine in Russia.  It is the ninth deepest mining hole in the world.  Excavation began in 1955  
    and is over 600 meters deep. The owners of the mine plan to cease its operations in 2010 – in favor of underground mining. 

 Mirny Diamond Mine in Siberia, Russia

The Mirny Diamond Mine is 525m deep and has a diameter of 1200m. It is now abandoned. It was the first, and one of the largest, diamond Pipes in the USSR. It is the sixth deepest mining hole in the world.  While it was still operational, it would take two hours for trucks to drive from the top to the bottom of the mine.

Kimberley Diamond Mine in South Africa

The Kimberley Diamond Mine (also known as the Big Hole) holds the (disputed) title of being the largest hand-dug hole in the world. It is the second deepest mining hole in the world.  From 1866 to 1914 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,722 kg of diamonds.

Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan

In 1971, geologists discovered a massive underground deposit of natural gas on this site. Whilst excavating the hole to tap the gas, the drilling rig collapsed leaving a massive hole. To prevent poisonous gasses from escaping, the hole was allowed to burn. It continues to burn to this day and has done so without ceasing. It is the deepest mining hole in the world.

Rick’s Note:  The “Turkmenistan” crater is the one I had read about.  When it was discovered in 1971, take a quick guess where Turkmenistan was… it was in Russia. 

The upshot of correctly narrowing it down both times to the first and second answers on both the helicopter and mining holes and guessing wrong both times drove me nuts.

Unfortunately, both of my Trivia pals – Joy and Jan – picked up on my frustration and proceeded to needle me for the entire trip about my near-misses.  Any time a question would be asked and none of us had a clue on the answer, they would turn to me in unison and ask if I wanted to guess “Russia” again.  Then they would both grin at each other as if they were the funniest two girls in the world.  Ha ha ha.  No one likes a smart aleck.

  1. What capital is one of the oldest inhabited cities in history?

    Damascus.   This was one of my few triumphs, but even here I can’t feel any satisfaction.  I guessed ‘Amman, Jordan’ first.  Then Russell asked if perhaps the answer was Damascus.  I agonized and agonized and finally agreed with Russell.  So Russell gets the credit.  The only credit I get is not guessing 'Russia' again after both girls goaded me into saying it.
  2. “Leave her breathless” is the slogan for what product?

    The Debeers Diamond Company 

    Personally, I don’t think anyone in the room got this one.  Our guess was Tiffany’s, which was definitely on the right track.
    My research shows this "Leave her breathless" DeBeers tag line was very short-lived.

    The idea was the diamond would be so stunning it would take one’s breath away.  But it became a source of scorn instead.   Rather than be a noble gesture, the slogan conjured up images of "This ought to shut her up!" or “Diamonds – that’ll keep her quiet for a while.”

    DeBeers picked up on this and soon switched to the slogan that became synonymous with their product:  “A Diamond is Forever”.
  3.  He died in 1998.  The epitaph on his headstone reads: "And the Beat Goes On".

    Sonny Bono. 
  4. What is the most popular first name in the world for a boy today?


    We got this one right.  This answer was actually rather thought-provoking for me.  It made me realize just how much we Americans assume the world revolves around us. 

    While we were debating “John” and “Michael” as the likely choices, Ted suggested “Mohammed”.  I immediately agreed.  I just wish I had thought of it, but I was too locked into my Western mindset.
  5. What historical person has the most statues in the world?


    This question was an obvious take-off on the Mohammed question.   Sad to say, none of us had learned our lesson.  We named Jesus.

So I suppose you might be curious how our team fared.  We did okay. We finished Third out of ten teams.  We were in Fourth place when the final round started, but a strong finish propelled us forward one spot. So I guess we 'medaled'.  

Considering how tough the competition was, Third Place was pretty good. The team that clobbered us had several doctors in the groupThose guys had some answers that left us in awe.  They were so smart we secretly suspected they had to be using the Internet with their phones. 

I could hear them laughing over one question.  ‘What is the strongest bone in the human body?’   Thanks to me, we guessed “knee cap”.  Wrong.  The doctors snickered as the Emcee called out “jawbone”.  This answer was apparently obvious to them.  While the rest of my team groaned at my ignorance, the super-team exchanged high fives.

As it turns out, the passengers on this cruise were an older crowd. In fact this was the oldest group of people I have seen since the Panama Canal cruise I took last year.  I believe this was due to two factors.  

First, at 11 days, the trip was much longer than usual.  Most working people cannot take off this much time nor allow their kids to skip so much school.  So naturally it is retired or semi-retired people who fill the majority of the passenger list.  They are the only ones who have the time to take a two-week Panama Canal cruise or 11 day Hawaii cruise.

Second, when you factor in air fare, this was an expensive cruise.  That factor alone guaranteed a high percentage of the passenger list would be professionals.  Who else can afford the price?  So the group of players may have been old, but they were also highly educated.  I can attest the overall IQ in this room was very impressive. 

What irritated me was coming oh so close on so many questions and always guessing wrong.  I counted six toss-up questions where I should have known the answer or with a little luck could have guessed right.  Each day I left feeling very frustrated.

It didn’t help one bit that Joy like to rub it in how well her other trivia teams were doing.  Joy said that out of her six Trivia teams, she got the Gold Medal with the other five. 

Hmm.  I may not be as smart as I used to be, but I am still intelligent enough to decipher the implication contained in Joy’s comment.  Nothing like a old-fashioned veiled insult.

Despite the fact that I was clearly a handicap to my team, I thoroughly enjoyed
the Trivia Challenge. 

We didn't always do well, but we were never bored. 

   Chris was the young man from New Hampshire who Emceed our event.  I thought he did a pretty good job.

Here we have Joy to the World proudly displaying her latest Gold Medal.  Check out the size of that grin!! 
Joy loved rubbing in how 'her other five teams all won!!' and that the team I was on 'had disappointed her'.  Joy thoroughly enjoys teasing me, but don't worry, I'll get her back someday.



Speaking of not being as smart as I used to be, I have one special goal now on every cruise trip:  don’t forget anything, don’t lose anything, don’t do anything stupid.  Nevertheless, as hard as I try to avoid them, I still make mistakes.   Whoever said that there is nothing left for old people to learn the hard way obviously never met me.

One of the things I learned in the Russia 2012 Passport debacle is there will be several moments in every trip where a person will take their eye off the ball whether they like it or not.  There are too many distractions for it not to happen.  

We are all absent-minded to some extent.  On a daily basis, Marla and I drive ourselves crazy by putting our glasses down in an odd place or our car keys or our cell phone in a random spotThe two of us can spend up to an hour scouring the house until finally the missing object shows up.

However these same sorts of absent-minded moments can have devastating consequences on a trip.  It is so likely to happen I consider it inevitable.  A person will be so preoccupied or distracted that they will forget something or misplace something valuable and this momentary lapse will come back to haunt them.

One moment.  That is all it takes. 

The best example of what I am talking about took place on the Russia Trip of 2012. 

Marla and I have a rule: Marla keeps both passports together on her person.  She hands me my passport when I need it and I give it right back to her when I am done.  She then places it in her handbag in a specific safe place.

On the Russia Trip, Marla was preoccupied at the first TSA check-in point here in Houston.  When I handed her back my passport, she accepted it reflexively.  Her mind was a million miles away with her own concerns.  Without thinking, she absent-mindedly put it in a side flap in her suitcase instead of the customary spot in her purse.  The passport was perfectly safe in there, but she consciously never registered putting it there.  Now as the luggage got moved around, the slender passport slid all the way to the bottom of the pouch.   There was no suspicious bulge to alert one to its presence.  Since the passport was so thin, from the outside it was no longer obvious to the eye or to touch.

We did not discover that my passport had disappeared until the moment we were about to board the second plane for Denmark.  Marla reached in her handbag and grew pale.  It wasn't there.  She immediately assumed I had accidentally kept it, but I distinctly remembered handing it to her.

Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t enough time to search everything; the plane was leaving.  I was forced to stay behind in the Washington DC airport.

Marla did not discover her mistake until she reached the hotel in Denmark.   One simple mistake can have enormous consequences.

One would think that after being warned by the misery I went through, anyone on that Russia trip would guard their passport with their lives.  Nope. Our friend Velma also lost her passport on the very same Russia trip. 

It was a textbook loss of concentration.  Velma and five others went into a ticket office in Copenhagen, Denmark, to buy a "hop on-hop off" bus ticket. 

Velma got out her purse for money.  She placed her passport on the counter to her left.  As the lady gave her the ticket, one of Velma’s friends called to her.  Velma turned her head to the right and did not notice her passport laying there on the left as she stuck the ticket into purse.  It wasn’t till 7 hours later that she discovered her mistake.  Poor Velma nearly had a heart attack.

Fortunately Velma's friends were there to encourage her.  They suggested Velma retrace her steps.

When we returned to the ticket place, we learned the counter person had immediately discovered the mistake and placed it safely in a drawer. 

When Velma did not return, the woman transferred the passport to the police station.  So now we headed to the police station and finally tracked it down there. 

Velma was so relieved to finally get her passport back that she had to sit down just to get her nerves back in order.  A couple vodkas later and she was finally smiling again.

One absent-minded moment.  That is all it takes. 

I tell these stories again for a simple reason… I do it as a warning.  Everyone needs to be reminded how easy it is to mess up on a trip if you are not careful. 

With that in mind, at the start of every trip I make a solemn vow to avoid forgetting things.  And not once have I ever succeeded.  To my unending dismay, there are always mistakes no matter how hard I try.    

Fortunately, nothing catastrophic happened on this trip to be concerned about.  Just little things.  

01 Include Small Bills

As I wrote earlier about my taxi cab swindler, my first mistake was not taking a range of different bills to use for tips.  If I had found a $10 bill available in my wallet, I would have just handed it to the corrupt taxi cab driver and walked away.  Lesson learned - on my next trip, my wallet will be stuffed with $1 and $5 dollar bills.

02 Lock the Safe Immediately

One day I found our safe open in the cabin.  Nothing was missing.  I asked Marla why it was open.  She said she left it open because she thought I was going to use it.  Except that I didn't need to get anything out and had no idea it was even open.  I could very easily have left the room and found out the hard way that it wasn't locked.

I said we needed a rule: Open the safe, get what you need and close it immediately.  If someone needs to reopen it, fine, but don’t leave it open even for a moment.  Otherwise you might forget about it and leave the room with it open.

03 Link your Valuables to your Room Key if possible

My only true mistake happened at 8 am in the morning.  Due to the six time changes, none of us slept worth a darn the first few days of this trip.  Our sleep cycle was completely disrupted.  Marla and I kept waking up and falling asleep at random times.   One night I woke up at 4 am.  I was wide awake with no chance of falling back asleep.  Marla was asleep.  I hated to disturb her.  Marla had been having fits sleeping, so I decided the ‘humane’ thing to do was to take some things to amuse me and leave the room.

I took my Trafalgar book, my Kindle (computer chess!), and a jigsaw puzzle to another level where I found an unoccupied desk.  With several hours to kill, I started the jigsaw puzzle.  I was 96% finished at 8 in the morning when a Celebrity officer tapped me on the shoulder.  I swear I nearly jumped through the ceiling.  I was concentrating so hard I had no idea she was there. She scared the wits out of me.  She informed me I was using her desk.  I got the message.

It took me two minutes to quickly finish the puzzle while she stomped her feet.  Then I tore up the puzzle and put it back in the box.  In my rush to leave, I left the book and the Kindle behind.  When I talk about unexpected distractions, this is exactly what I mean.  That woman made me nervous and I began to hurry.  I was in such a rush to leave, I completely forgot my book and Kindle.

Fortunately the woman took pity on me and called out.  Otherwise I would have walked away.  That poor Kindle… I left my first Kindle on the plane at the end of my Dominica 2012 trip.  Cost me $300 to replace it. 

I was much luckier this time, but I could just as easily have lost my second Kindle as well.  Now you know why I get so irritated when my brain goes to sleep!

04 If the area is complicated, buy a map!  Or bring one with you.

Honolulu has the craziest, most mixed up streets I have ever encountered.  My mistake in Honolulu was not getting a legitimate street map at my first opportunity. 

From almost the moment we got in our rental car, both Marla and I had trouble using the inferior map the rental agency had provided for us.  There was not one single ‘Big Picture’ map of Honolulu.  Nor was there one ‘Big Picture’ map of Oahu.  The map was spread out over eight pages.  What they really wanted to do was force the driver to look at different pages so the advertising would have more clout.  Meanwhile, the maps were so small that only major streets were listed. 

The results were ludicrous.  We couldn’t find Diamondhead.  How can anyone not find Diamondhead?  It’s a giant volcano that can be seen from practically anywhere in Honolulu, but we still got lost.

We made one horrible mistake in the town of Kaneohe that took us 30 miles in the wrong direction.   Mind you, this was the SECOND major mistake we made on the same trip. 

I was so lost that night that I stopped at a gas station to buy a map.  My friend Tom Easley completely agreed.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a map in English.  Then a funny thing happened.  I looked up and saw that Tom was trying to buy a map that was written in Japanese!   Too funny.  I probably should not have stopped him; even a map in Japanese had to be better than the map we had.

One night I was driving a major street in Honolulu and my lane dead-ended without any warning.  There was a huge tree standing right in the middle of the street.  It took me five minutes to let all the traffic pass by just so I could switch lanes.

The worst mistake came when I was trying to figure out how to get on the highway one evening.  I turned left into a large intersection and hit the brakes.  It was some sort of weird three-way intersection.  There were headlights facing me from two different directions.  How can that be? 

Plus there were no lane markers.  I couldn't see where to go.  The bright lights of all these cars made vision difficult and worst of all, the lane I was headed to had a car in it! 

I completely panicked.  I just hit the brakes before I made a bigger mistake.  Fortunately Marla could see the opening where I needed to go and told me what to do just before the lights changed. 

I decided in the future if I am going to be driving in a major city, I need a good street map.

05 Pay Attention!

I made one very silly mistake.  I have a real fear of being pick-pocketed or having my wallet fall out of my pocket.   

Don’t laugh – this happens.  I had Gary Richardson’s camera fall out of my pocket when I was riding in a "Hop On Hop Off" bus in Barcelona back in 2009.  Gee whiz, it just slipped out and no one saw it happen!   Not only did I have to repay Gary, I had to pay an exorbitant price on the ship to buy another camera to use for the rest of the trip.

Even on this trip, my hotel key slipped out of my pocket while I sat in the hot tub.  I am very paranoid about things falling out of pockets. 

So I typically carry my money, my credit card, my sea pass, and my driver’s license in a small plastic water-proof case that I wear around my neck. 

As it turned out, I was in the midst of packing for the flight home in the hotel one morning when Marla said she wanted to go for a walk on the beach.  She handed me the room key which I then added to the plastic case. 

Then I decided I should go to the restroom before the walk began.  When I returned, Marla asked if I was ready.  Sure, just let me get my plastic case.  And off we went.

We had a wonderful lunch on the beach.  I had a fruit salad served in a hollowed-out pineapple.  Delicious! 

Three pigeons kept us company.

When I went to hand the credit card to the waiter, I opened up the plastic case and gasped. 

The money was gone!  I nearly had a heart attack.

Also missing were the credit card, the driver’s license and the room key.  The case was completely empty. 

What could have happened?  How could anyone remove the money from a case hanging around my neck?  Maybe the case accidentally fell open and the money had fallen to the ground.  But the latch had been secure.  Impossible.

Think, Rick, Think!  Then it dawned on me.  Marla had one of these plastic cases too.  She had not used it the entire trip, but I had put it on table during my re-packing efforts.  Obviously I had picked up the wrong one in the room.   Or at least I hoped that was the explanation.

I left Marla behind as ‘collateral’ for my bill and raced back to my hotel room.  I ran the entire way, which was not easy because it was hot on that beach.   Then I had to beg someone at the desk to give me a new room key. 

Finally I got in my room.  Sure enough, there was the correct plastic case laying right next to where I had picked up the wrong case.   Good grief.

Poor Marla.  Not only did she feel too guilty to order a drink while she waited for 30 minutes, she didn’t even ask to go to restroom for fear they would get the wrong idea.  Marla was miserable. 

It was an innocent mistake, but it was also a stupid mistake.  When traveling, it is just so easy to lose one’s concentration. 

I have just been running non-stop for 30 minutes.  I am sweaty, my sunglasses are crooked, and I am beat... but I am also happy.  I found my money!



Back on the 2010 Oslo Cruise, Marla came down with a terrible case of Norovirus.  She was so sick it ruined her day in Paris and she completely missed the following day at Normandy.

From what I gather, the virus is transferred by touching an infected surface, then touching one’s face inadvertently.  For example, the virus might be on a plate or silverware.  It could be transmitted via a handshake.  It’s that simple. 

I developed a habit of NEVER touching my face with my hands.  Here we are three years later and I am still hesitant to allow my hand to touch my face for any reason unless I have just washed my hands.  I also wash my hands constantly during and after any on-board event such as a dance class.  This habit appears to work.  So far I have taken 11 cruises since without incident.

Considering I know of six people in our group that had stomach ailments on this trip, a 10% illness rate is unusually high.  And that’s just the people I know about.  There could have been more who didn’t tell me.  Did these people have norovirus? 

I don’t know.  But I am suspicious.  There was a heavy presence of ship personnel offering hits from hand sanitizers wherever we went, perhaps the highest total of personnel I have ever seen.  There was a noticeable army of personnel wiping down random surfaces with disinfectant all day long.  These are the signs of a potential Norovirus problem.

However, the strongest indication came when someone lost their supper one night in the dining room.  I was shocked to see a man in a Hazmat suit come in to clean up the problem.  This guy had the white suit on, a helmet over his face and heavy gloves.  He was using some sort of high tech vacuum cleaner to sanitize the area.  I counted five other people supervising the work. 

Both tables were completely shut down and people moved to other tables.  All table clothes were removed whether they were dirty or not. 

To me, it was the extreme degree of caution they went to that makes me suspicious.  Mind you, it wasn't that big of a mess. In the old days, a simple rag would have been sufficient to solve the problem.  Not this group - they took this event far too seriously.

So I asked someone on the Celebrity staff if there was a Noro problem.  The woman seemed shocked by my question.  She looked like she had seen a ghost.  Then she composed herself and said absolutely not.  Where did I hear that? 

Once I saw how sensitive the woman was on the subject, I decided it was better to drop the subject.  So I did.

I would not have even mentioned the Noro possibility except that two very unusual incidents took place that led me to conclude the Celebrity staff is told not to tell the truth. 

I would rather not name the people involved, so I will simply give them fake names.  The first couple was Adam and Eve.  Eve was having fits trying to get some sleep.  So she asked Adam to go wander around the ship while she tried to sleep.  Adam placed the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

Time passed.  Adam came back once, saw the sign was still there, and left to find something else to occupy his time.  Adam came back a second time, saw the sign was missing and the door was ajar.  Alarmed, Adam went in the room.

To Adam's surprise, Eve was still in bed asleep although she awoke as he entered the room. 

Eve had no explanation for the open door.  She said she thought she had heard the door open earlier, but heard no further sound.  So she never bothered to remove the pillow she had over her head for extra darkness.

Adam reported the matter to Security.  Security got back to Adam and said they had reviewed security cameras and it had been a room attendant that had entered, then subsequently backed out of the room after discovering his mistake.  In the process, the attendant had slipped the ‘do not disturb’ sign under the door to the adjoining room.

Adam was ready to drop the issue.  He wasn’t at all happy knowing a man had entered the room while his wife was vulnerable and alone.  But since the explanation seemed harmless enough, he let it be.

Either that night or maybe the next day, there was a knock on the door.  The room attendant was very upset.  He could not understand why Adam had accused him of entering the room.  The attendant said under no circumstances had he entered the room at any time, much less with a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.

Adam apologized for the misunderstanding and tried to calm the man down.  After the attendant left, Adam had the feeling the man had been telling the truth. 

Adam tried an experiment.  He tried slipping his ‘do not disturb’ sign under his neighbor’s door.  No luck.  The fit was so tight he couldn’t do it.  This was very suspicious.  The idea that the attendant would even bother to slip this sign under someone else’s door had seemed absurd to begin with.  Now Adam had proof it wasn’t even possible. 

Adam had the distinct feeling someone in Security was telling lies.

Two days or so passed.  One night when the ship was docked in Lahaina on the island of Maui, one of the tender boats got caught in a buoy and was stuck.  Some modern cruise ships are so large that they cannot dock right up against the pier.  The water simply isn’t deep enough, so the ship puts down anchor about a half mile off shore. For those who don’t know what a tender is, it is usually one of the ship’s large life boats that is called into service to ferry passengers back and forth between the ship and the dock.

As it turned out, this accident really wasn’t the fault of the driver.  Some yacht had earlier placed the buoy there as a marker for its own convenience.  It was placed in an area officially reserved for cruise ships and tenders to operate, but that didn’t seem to matter to the yacht owner.  After the yacht left, the buoy remained behind. 

Everyone on the broken tender suffered greatly.  Since the seas were far too rough to transfer the people to another tender, these poor people were stuck for over two hours.

It was a warm night without a breeze.  In the hot enclosed downstairs portion of the tender, the heat became nearly unbearable.  Worse, the rocking caused by the heavy seas upset many people.  Widespread nausea was a serious consequence.

It took two hours for a diver to come from the ship to solve the problem.  Clothed in diving gear and a scuba tank, the man swam underwater to investigate.  It wasn’t easy, but eventually he was able to loosen the knot enough to free the boat’s propellers. 

By chance, I had been on another tender shortly before this problem developed.  I remember I was so tired and so sick in my stomach from the heavy waves rocking the ship that I begged for this trip to end soon.  Thankfully the trip concluded before my nausea got worse.  So I can imagine just how much those poor people suffered.  Two hours must have been an eternity.

As I said, what happened was not the tender’s fault, but tell that to the people who were stuck in that boat.  It was the kind of ordeal where people don’t laugh about after it is over.  They really took a hit.

However, for one couple, George and Martha, this unpleasant incident would carry a mysterious silver lining. 

George and Martha were one of the couples who had been stuck in the tender.  The next day, something even worse happened... the man’s wallet went missing!

During the day, George was feeling pretty woozy.  He needed to take some medication, so he went upstairs to get something to drink to help take his pill.  When he got back to the room, George noticed he couldn’t find his wallet.  He couldn’t figure out where it had gotten to. 

George searched the cabin.  Nothing.

George became very worried.  He remembered how shaky he had been feeling and how bad he felt until he got the medication in his system upstairs in the dining area.  Surely he didn’t leave his wallet up there.  Or did he?   George had been feeling so bad, he couldn’t remember anything.  His mind had been totally distracted by his weak spell.  He could not remember what he had done with his wallet.

George raced upstairs to the dining room and searched frantically without success.  His wallet was gone, long gone.  It was nowhere to be found.

It is one thing to lose something if there is an explanation involved that makes sense.  For example, when I opened my plastic case at the beach diner and found it empty, I quickly thought of a logical possible explanation.  But in George’s case, he could not imagine how he had misplaced his wallet.  It just didn’t make sense at all.  Yes, he had been out of it, but not THAT OUT OF IT.  This didn't make sense.

However, after scouring the room again and again and again, George had no choice but to assume he had absent-mindedly hand carried it to the dining room, set it down while he got his juice, then left it behind.  But that explanation was not very satisfying.  Even if he was operating on “automatic”, how could he make such a colossal series of blunders and not notice a thing?

Meanwhile Martha had reappeared in the cabin and she didn’t have any more luck finding the wallet than George did.  Good grief.  What was going on here?

They had no choice but to call Security.  Security turned the room upside down, but found nothing.  Too bad, so sad.  If the wallet turned up, they would let him know.

I saw George at dinner that night.  He looked like a zombie.  Maybe worse.  George had a distant, preoccupied look that showed he was still racking his brains for some sort of a clue.  No luck.  Poor George was completely lost and very disheartened.  This was a huge blow.   I felt so sorry for him, but I felt helpless. I could not imagine any avenue to take that might help.

At this point, George and Martha excused themselves to attend a special cocktail reception hosted by the ship’s captain.  I asked why I wasn’t invited.  Martha explained that the reception was only for the people stuck in the tender the previous night.  It was a sort of ‘please forgive us’ sort of event.  I nodded.  Too bad they seemed way too miserable to really enjoy themselves.

When Marla and I awoke the next morning, Marla had an odd look on her face.  I asked her what she was thinking.  Marla said it had just occurred to her that George and Martha’s cabin was only two doors down from Adam and Eve’s cabin.   Marla was still thinking about that mysterious break-in while Eve was sleeping

What if someone had broken into George’s cabin while he was upstairs taking his medication?

Marla immediately texted Martha’s phone with the suggestion to have Security review any security tapes of the hallway in front of their room.

About an hour later, Martha called back.  George had his wallet.  Nothing was missing.  The ordeal was over. 

Here is what happened:

Apparently during the Captain’s "Tender Mishap" Reception, Martha was introduced to the man who had disentangled the tender on the previous night… in other words, she met "The Hero" of the event.

At the moment, George was nowhere to be seen; he was busy drowning his sorrows in three bourbon and cokes courtesy of the Captain.

With George preoccupied, Martha struck up a conversation with The Hero.  That is when Martha learned that this same man was head of the Security. 

Surprised, Martha began to tell the man the story of George’s missing wallet.  While Martha spoke, a very concerned look crossed the man’s face.  As she continued her story, he had already gotten his phone out of his pocket and contacted two men who worked for him.  The Hero got all the details from Martha he could, then excused himself to go meet with these two men. 

That night when Martha and George returned to their cabin, there was a towel on their bed.  When Martha removed the towel, George’s wallet was lying under it.  There was no explanation.  Just the wallet.

I forgot to ask Martha and George if either of them had suspected theft like Marla did

When I first spoke to them in the dining room on the night of the incident just before they left for the Reception, neither one of them brought up the possibility of theft.  Although I imagine they considered the possibility, neither of them thought that was the likely explanation.  Instead they kept talking about the dining area upstairs.

On the previous day, perhaps George was so disoriented that his problems seemed like a better explanation at the time than the shocking thought of blatant theft. I probably would have made the same mistake. In 28 previous cruises, not once have I ever heard of a theft incident.

Not Marla.  She nailed it. Marla, a born Nancy Drew if there ever was one, was highly suspicious.  I give her a lot of credit for linking the Adam and Eve incident with the George and Martha incident.   As Marla and Martha continued to talk, Marla grew even more certain that someone who worked for the ship had entered George’s room while he was upstairs, found the wallet lying around and taken it.  

Now that Marla knew about security cameras based on Adam and Eve’s odd event, Marla speculated the Hero had ordered his men to review the Security tapes for the hallway.  More than likely, they identified someone entering the cabin and figured out who it was.   They likely confronted the person and regained George’s wallet.  Mind you, this is just speculation on my part, but it makes sense. 

That’s quite a story, isn’t it?   But there are still a lot of unanswered questions.  For example, why didn’t they review the tapes earlier in the day?   Did it never dawn on anyone in Security this might not be a lost wallet, but rather a stolen wallet? 

Why did it take our Hero to get these people to do their jobs right?  And why wasn’t any explanation offered after the return of the wallet?

I reached the conclusion that Celebrity just didn't want to talk about it.  They quite possibly had a Noro problem and probably had a thief on its staff as well.  But they refused to treat either situation with candor.  Therefore we will never know the whole story of George’s missing wallet.   However, based on Adam and Eve’s experience, I am fairly certain Adam and Eve were not told the truth and I think it is safe to assume that George and Martha were not told the truth either.

I think certain cruise lines are so paranoid about the slightest bit of bad news creeping out onto the Internet that they lie almost reflexively.  For example, they definitely don't want any reports of Norovirus on Cruise Critic

And maybe they aren't too thrilled to admit they have a thief on the their staff either. 

But on the other hand, no one likes being treated like a fool. 

How do you suppose our friends felt about these incidents? 

They were angry.  No one appreciates being deceived.  Is it really so bad to simply tell them the truth?

In my opinion, Celebrity got poor marks for customer relations. 

  1. I thought they handled the Check-In process poorly back in San Diego when they denied people their promised "priority status".  Marla and I weren't the only people shunted aside.  There at least a dozen people in the line nearby who were treated the same way.

  2. I think Celebrity handled the situation where people were forced to wait on the buses in Ensenada poorly.  Would it have been so difficult to have a representative enter each bus and explain the problem?   Instead they made those people just sit there confused and uncertain what was going on.

  3. The Celebrity Security personnel were very rude to me as I boarded the ship. 

  4. The Celebrity Dining Room manager was worthless and no one will ever know the identity of the idiot who screwed up Marla's pre-arranged seating assignments.

  5. There is enough evidence to speculate there was a Noro problem on the ship, but the passengers were never warned to take extra precautions.

  6. And now we know they lied to some of our friends about the theft incidents... not once, but on BOTH OCCASIONS.

Not a very impressive performance.

And guess what?  I'm not done yet.  Celebrity also conducted the worst dance contest in history!



There it was in the ship’s list of activities for the night:  Celebrity Dancing with Officers! 

It was a dance contest modeled on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ except that the officers and the passengers would dance together.

I was bored.  And, as they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  If anyone had a legitimate shot to win this dance contest, I would be right up there.  As Marla and I dressed for dinner, we discussed the contest.

I said I had nothing to better to do that evening, so I had decided to enter.  Marla shrugged her shoulders.  If I was going to enter, she would too. 

We discussed our mutual chances of winning.  We both agreed I had a far better chance of success because I lead so well.  After all, I have spent the past 35 years showing men how to use ‘Frame’ and arm-stretch leads to help women who are total beginners get the feel of patterns they have never seen before.

I am a big guy with big shoulders. Assuming the lady is willing to be controlled, once I put my arms around a woman, I can physically move her anywhere I want without hurting her.  All she needs to do is relax and trust.  To use an automobile analogy, a beginning-level lady need only strap on the seat belt and off we go.

Marla, on the other hand, is largely dependent on the skill level of whichever man she gets stuck with.  Marla is not large enough or strong enough to “back-lead”.  In fact, she is constantly in fear of getting hurt by men who are too rough.  Marla has had more than her fair share of bloodied feet and rotator cuff pulls from getting her arm yanked.

For the entire night I wondered just how serious this contest would be.  Would it be handled with class or would it be silly?

I had no way of knowing.  I ran into Chris, the young man who moderated our daily trivia contest and pumped him with questions.  Once I saw how evasive Chris was, I began to have my suspicions.  Something didn’t seem right. 

I think six women from our group entered the competition in addition to Marla.  Since I happen to like these women, I will spare them and not name them.  Only one woman from our group was chosen.  Thankfully Marla was not the woman chosen. I was very relieved. I really did not want to be competing against my wife.

From what I gather, the selection process was very fishy.  Marla watched carefully as one of the male officers fished through the hat of women’s names.  This man deliberately discarded five different names until he apparently found the name of the woman he was looking for.  He immediately called out her name to take the floor.

This was Marla’s first clue that the contest was in some way rigged. 

I on the other hand had no trouble getting selected.  Nor did Steve Berryman, another member of our group.  The reason why was soon apparent – they needed four men and only three names were in the hat.  Those were pretty good odds.

I knew Steve could dance.  He is a tall, slender, good-looking man roughly the same age as me.  I had seen Steve dancing on the second night of the cruise.

Marla and I had gone up in the Skyway Lounge late at night to await the other dancers from our group for “Late Night Dancing”.  Unfortunately the time changes had devastated everyone and the whole group had crashed long ago.  The only reason Marla and I were able to stay up that late was due to a long nap we both took immediately after supper.

There was band playing music in the Skyway Lounge when we arrived.  They were almost at the end of their performance, so we immediately got out on the floor and danced some East Coast Swing.  Then we sat down to listen to the music.

At this point, a tall man and a tall woman arrived together in the Lounge.  They immediately got out on the floor and danced very well to the next song.  I took notice of the lady’s tight-fitting long dress and bare shoulders.  This lady had quite a figure.  Thanks in part to the tight fit and the teal coloring of the dress, in the soft light this lady resembled a mermaid out on the floor.

I enjoyed watching the pair dance.  I can’t honestly tell you what dance they were doing, but it was half-merengue, half-bachata with lots of dips and lunges thrown in for good measure.

As they danced together alone on the floor in the lovely lounge, Marla and I chatted about their unusual style of dance and how well they danced together.

When the band left, to my surprise, this couple came over to sit with us.  That’s when I recognized them for the first time as Judith Hutton and Steve Berryman from our group.  I felt a little embarrassed that I had not recognized them.

But I didn't feel too guilty.  After all, I had met them only one time previously. I remembered Judith well.  How could I forget?  On the night of our Pre-Cruise party, Judith had brought a dessert that I craved badly.  I was trying with all my will power not to eat any dessert, but Judith wasn’t helping any by telling me how delicious it was. 

As they sat and chatted with us, Judith told me she has been dancing her whole life.  She said was a belly dancer at one point and has taken years of Ballroom dance lessons.  It shows.  Judith moves very well out there.

Steve has danced all his life too, but prefers to use his own style.  I think he is a street dancer who invented his own moves and has honed them over the years. 

Judith said she is currently trying to get Steve to dance with more discipline and less ad lib.  I think their dance partnership is a work in progress.  Sometimes I recognize what they are doing, sometimes I don’t.  What I do admire is that Judith handles practically anything Steve throws at her.  Their unusual style is definitely eye-catching.

Based on what I had seen that night up in Skyway Lounge, I knew Steve had a pretty good shot at winning this event as well.  I fully expected to meet him in the Finals. 

As the selection process for the dance contest continued, there was a frantic search for one more man.  The rumor first told to me was that a female officer spotted an Asian man from Taiwan walking across and grabbed him.  She informed him he was in the contest whether he liked it or not. 

But when I asked Marla if that was true, she said they were begging a man, any man, to participate.  Out of crowd stepped some guy who simply said, okay, he would help them out.    

Of course I didn’t know any of this.  I was told to wait in a spot behind the staircase where we couldn’t see or hear anything that was going on.  Although I was unaware of the farce involved in the selection process, I was getting very suspicious. 

I had an idea how things should have worked. The Carnival Magic had run some sort of contest during our Magic 2012 cruise.  Their operation had a real air of professionalism to it. 

First they conducted a ballroom dance lesson.  During the lesson, anyone who showed promise was selected by a member of the staff to train with them and prepare for an upcoming event on the last night of the trip. 

In my opinion, that was the correct way to run the event.  This Celebrity version was disorganized and sloppy.

So once the Asian man volunteered, we were ready to go.  There were 8 couples consisting of 4 male officers dancing with 4 female passengers and vice versa. 

I was paired with Megan from Canada.  Megan said she worked at the front desk.  Megan was shaking like a leaf, make that a Maple Leaf.  Megan confided that she had never partner danced in her life and that she had been bullied into doing this.  Judging by the glassy look in her eyes, she was either partially drunk or acting like a frightened deer in the headlights… or both.  She could barely stand up as we were being introduced.

I told Megan to calm down.  I told her I was good at leading.  If she would relax and let me guide her, we would do just fine.  Megan didn’t appear to be listening very carefully.  I think she just wanted to get this over with.  Hmm.  What did Megan know that I didn’t know?   My guard went way up at this point.

So the music began.  We were told to dance Swing.  Megan didn’t have a clue, but that wasn’t a problem.  There is an ancient dance known here in Houston as “Aggie Jitterbug”.  It is a form of street swing where footwork and timing are not required, but enthusiasm and cooperation will help considerably.

To my dismay, Megan proved to be a thrasher.  When a woman doesn’t know what to do, some women just surrender and let me move them anywhere I wish.  That was my best hope. 

Other women such as Megan just go in any random direction they wish and pay no attention to a lead.  I was forced to spend half my energy just to keep her from flying completely out of control.  It wasn't dancing; it was wrestling.  I am sure it wasn’t pretty.  But I smiled anyway.

Our next dance was Merengue, a walking dance used to Latin music.  I was frustrated to notice Megan suddenly had forgotten how to walk.  Instead she simply started to wiggle in place.  Someone had said ‘latin’, so she figured all she had to do was shake shake shake.  Good grief.

However, I am a big guy.  I somehow got Megan moving by whispering two magic words:  Just walk.  By holding her in my arms and walking sideways, Megan had no choice but to follow.  We ended up doing a creditable job, or at least I thought so.  

It wasn’t artistic, but it should have gotten us to the next round.  Maybe Megan would settle down and we could accomplish more.

No such luck.  There were three judges sitting at a table up on the stairs overlooking the dance floor.  They began to make dance suggestions ala Bruno, Len, and Carrie Ann.  When I heard their nonsensical comments, I realized for the first time that this entire event was meant to be a satire on the real ‘Dancing with the Stars’.  The judges couldn’t care less whether anyone could dance or not.  They were simply trying to make fun of the show.

I turned red.  I had been tricked.  Memories of The Quest came flooding back in.  The Quest was an event of highly questionable taste seen on every Royal Caribbean cruise.  Back when I participated in 2002, none of us had the slightest idea the entire event was a sham.  It was billed as a Scavenger Hunt and we frantically tried to beat the other teams out there with things like combs (something that has teeth in it), dollar bills (something with a picture of a President) and beat up socks (something that has a hole in it). 

Once they got people into a frantic stimulus-response mode, the cherished items started to become more sinister.   A woman’s handbag.  Then they wanted a woman’s lipstick.  Then they wanted high heels.  Then they wanted a woman’s bra.  Sure enough, we had a woman in our group take off her bra right before my incredulous eyes.

Then came the big announcement.  The winner would be the first man carrying a handbag, wearing lipstick, walking in high heels with a woman’s bra strapped around his back.

In other words, they wanted a man in drag out on the floor.  This entire event had been a set-up for this punch line.  How ridiculous and repulsive.  I was disgusted at myself for falling for this trick thanks to my competitive streak.  I was so stupid I actually thought our team was winning the event. 

Meanwhile Marla had been warning me the entire time that something wasn’t right here.  It didn’t help to know my spouse had better instincts than I did.

Tonight as I listened to the judges debate the merits of the different dancers, I noticed that not one comment was directed towards me.  I assumed this meant the worst.  If they didn’t have anything to say, it meant they were interested.

I was correct.  We were asked to leave.  Ordinarily I would have felt humiliated, but my memories of “The Quest” suggested that maybe actually they had done me a big favor by cutting me loose now.  So instead I just got mad.  Fooled again.

Someone handed me a Celebrity tee-shirt for my participation.  Whoopee!  I was afraid someone would see how irritated I felt and take my picture before I could cool off.  So I took the tee-shirt to my cabin and switched to more comfortable clothes.

When I returned, they were on their third round.  Steve and the Asian man were in the Finals.  One lady from our group saw me and filled me in.  She said the round that I had missed was pretty weird.  First they had been told to do a Waltz.  Pretty strange stuff out there passed as a Waltz.

But the wildest part was the Interpretive Dance stage.  People were supposed to imitate certain movements such as a hen laying an egg.  Apparently the way some people moved, this particular movement resembled something pretty gross.

My eyes grew wide.  What a farce.  They were just trying to embarrass people for laughs.  I didn't realize it at the time, but they had done me a favor.  Thank goodness I had been thrown out early in the process while I still had my dignity intact.

Now they were down to two couples… Steve and a young, pretty Latin girl who also worked at the Front Desk plus Frank and a thirty-something female officer from Germany.  The odds were clearly in Steve’s favor.  The lady beside me (not Marla) continued to fill in the blanks.  She said that Steve was a natural showboat who knew how to play to the crowd.  Steve did not mind a bit doing whatever unusual thing was expected of him and consequently had the whole place on his side. 

So the music began.  It was Celine Dion’s “My Heart Must Go On” from Titanic.  The judges announced they wanted interpretive dancing from the Titanic.

I laughed out loud when Steve pulled the Latin girl up to his waist and had her straddle him.  He was cleverly playing on the scene where Kate Winslett hangs out from the ship’s rail.  Steve twirled around and around.  As far as I was concerned, the contest was over.

Then my eyes drifted to the Asian man and the German girl.  What in the world were they doing??

The Asian man got a piece of the velvet rope being used to section off the dance floor and somehow wrapped the German girl up in it.  I can’t be sure, but I think he was trying to simulate pulling his partner out of the waters around the ship wreck.  Somehow this rope got wrapped around this woman’s neck.  At this point, the German girl lost her balance and flopped down on the floor.  Frank dragged her around.  It began to resemble some macabre bondage enactment.

I saw a point where Steve looked up and noticed that a grown woman in a dress and heels no less was being dragged on her back across the floor with a rope around her neck.  Steve looked so incredulous that he actually seem to stop dancing for a moment and began to watch instead.   Who could blame him?  It was a sight to behold. Then Steve suddenly remembered he was supposed to be a contestant, so he started dancing again. 

Somehow the German girl lost the rope.  Now she began to improvise.  The German girl began to claw at her partner’s leg like a drowned rat looking for anything to cling to.  Once she grabbed his leg, she began to writhe and flop around on the floor like a beached whale.  It wasn’t pretty.  The woman resembled a forlorn love-struck woman begging her lover not to leave her. 

I was aghast.  This was a ship’s officer.  A ship’s OFFICER.  What was she thinking?  I actually wondered if there could be repercussions.  Yes, it doesn’t hurt to be crazy now and then, but not in public.  What kind of career advancement could possibly follow this undignified display? 

This woman was allowing herself to be dragged on the floor with a rope around her neck.  She was alternately flopping around like a fish out of water and then she was groveling and begging to be saved.  The idea of course was that she wanted to be pulled from the icy waters of the Atlantic, but in the bright lights I doubt anyone was in touch with that imagery.  To my eyes, this woman was desperately grabbing at some strange man’s leg like he was her last romantic hope in the entire world.  

People were definitely laughing their heads off, but I didn’t think it was funny.  I saw it differently.  This could have been me out there.  I would never stoop this low.  At some point, a person has to draw a line.  Did this woman not realize how utterly humiliating this was?   Did she forget that cameras were flashing with evidence that could follow her around for the rest of her life?  Her only hope is that no one will ever attach her name to one of the many photos or her Google signature will be ruined for eternity.

In the end, the crowd was asked to decide who won.  They overwhelmingly voted for Frank and Brunnhilde.  If the contest was judged on the merits of dance as it should have been, then Steve was the hands down winner.

But if the criteria was skewed to include who put on the most bizarre show imaginable, then I suppose the correct couple won.  As they say, it was a “Night to Remember”.

Who can ever forget The Quest?  This is a highly questionable activity
on Royal Caribbean that unfortunately continues to this day because
 it  is very popular.

You can't tell by this picture, but the Asian man had wrapped a piece
of rope around the woman's neck to demonstrate how
he was saving her during the Titanic sinking

This was a fairly ridiculous ending to a strange event.

Can you imagine a grown woman in a short dress writhing and groping on the floor?  Of course not, but this picture tells the story.

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