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Despite the serious problems caused by the Mississippi River tragedy that prevented us from docking in New Orleans, this trip turned out to be a very pleasant voyage.

It was definitely one of my favorite trips.  Although it is interesting to go with the enormous 100 plus groups that we take in the summer, this smaller group of 39 blended together perfectly.

Personally speaking, I cannot recall having more fun with a group than I did with our group from Mardi Gras 2004.


Jigsaw Puzzle Day

Marla and I were joined for the cruise by her brother Larry Weinstein and his wife Roz from California.  I enjoyed their company thoroughly and I have to say they fit right in to the group.

Larry is quite the entertainer.  He had a story to tell about any situation imaginable.  Despite a tendency to make the story perhaps larger than it is really was - a tendency I have been accused of as well - Larry's tall tales kept me smiling and laughing throughout the trip.

His best story was about the time he was mistaken at a party for the brother of Harvey Weinstein, the infamous and powerful president of Miramax Pictures. 

The next thing Larry knew one movie star and wannabe movie star after another came over to rub elbows with him including Cuba Gooding.  Starlets smiled and brushed up against him.  He could start to enjoy this!!

 Larry thoroughly played his VIP status to the hilt the entire evening and did nothing to discourage the benefits by revealing the truth.  Fun story to hear!!

As much as Marla and I share many interests, jigsaw puzzles are not one of them.  Marla could care less. But Larry's lovely wife Roz enjoys puzzles as much as I do.  So one day Larry and Marla went shopping while Roz and I worked a puzzle in the Centrum area aboard the ship. This arrangement worked great for everyone.

To my complete delight, many of the other members of the group would stop by to put in a piece and kibitz.  It's a good thing they helped because this puzzle would have taken us the rest of the trip without their help!

The biggest contributors to the final success were Susan Arevalo, Iqbal Nagji, Gay and MG Anseman, plus puzzle newcomer George Sargent. 

The puzzle turned out to be the perfect rainy day activity for all of us.

The Hot Tub Crowd

Another popular activity for the group turned out to be marathon sits in the hot tub.  Now I personally didn't participate, but I heard quite a few stories. 

Unfortunately I was sworn to complete secrecy under threat of dismemberment.  And I won't disclose what member was threatened to be removed by which member either.  Suffice it to say I felt the person making the threat was serious. 

That said, every picture tells a story.

Judging from a brief scan of the three pictures it is obvious the same people show up all the time.  We will refer to them as the "Usual Suspects".  In other words, if I am maimed or worse, assume the guilty party was someone in these pictures.  This is my only protection.

Does this mean everyone in the pictures deserves a bad reputation?   I won't answer that.   Did any hanky panky occur?  I won't answer that either, but let me add if some of these people had spend one more minute in the tub we would have ended up calling them "stew".  I think "something" had to be going on to keep them in the water that long.  

Any cursory glance at the pictures reveals that the "tubbers" made sure no space was left unused.  They stuffed these hot tubs well past capacity. They had people standing up and others waiting to crawl in!!

And doesn't it look to you like more body parts got intertwined and tangled than at your average Roman orgy?  And aren't an awful lot of hands hidden from sight?  I heard they had a lot of fun.  Too bad I can't say more.  Lots of smiles, I can say that much.



Dancing has been a big part of every SSQQ Cruise and the Mardi Gras trip was certainly no exception.

On the second night of the trip, there was a Captain's Reception held in the beautiful "Shall We Dance" lounge. This marvelous dance venue features a lovely circular dance floor complete with a pole in the middle which makes our dancers feel right at home.

The Captain's Reception was held on Formal Night. This meant we had to dance in dresses and suits.  The ship's orchestra was playing Big Band music, so several of us got to practice our Ballroom Dancing.

Included in the Ballroom group were Jim Landureth and Lynda Zane, Tim Crist and Marcia Thomas, Pat and Jess Carnes, plus Marla and I.  Several others danced as well, but forgot to pay me any Mention Money. Tsk.

Tim, Marcia, Lynda, and Jim specifically took my "Dancing in the Moonlight" Ballroom class just to prepare for this evening.  They OF COURSE were easily the best dancers on the floor!

During the trip, we had two different dance workshops.  One afternoon we practiced Slow Dance. Unfortunately the seas were very choppy and couples were literally falling all over each other!!

The second workshop featured Sock Hop Cha Cha dancing to the music of the Drifters.  The big laugh of the day was on me.  I taught a famous Cha Cha move known as "The Chase" only to berate several women for dancing it incorrectly.  Then came the moment when I realized I had taught it wrong.  You had to be there to fully understand just how cruelly I was treated by my students.

What do you expect for a free class anyhow?? 

George's Birthday

George Sargent was an extremely popular man on this trip. Not only is George a handsome guy, he is very friendly and easy to like.  Whatever the activity was, George was always in the middle of it. 

George did the group a huge service by taking many of the pictures that I have posted.

It just so happened that George celebrated his birthday during the cruise.  So naturally we threw a party for him.

We had been told getting a birthday cake was pretty easy to do, but learned the hard way you have to tell them a day in advance. No problem, they said, they would find something to fill the bill.

However once we discovered what the birthday cake substitute looked like, we all had a hard time suppressing our laughter.  It was some sort of custard thing with whipped cream on it.  By coincidence it was shaped just like a .... well heck, you decide.  We were all cracking up. George was smiling too.

Next the Rhapsody waiters sang "Happy Birthday" to George by harmonizing their fascinating Eastern European Slavic accents with Filipino accents.  Fortunately we knew what song they were singing or we wouldn't have had a clue. Afterwards we reminded George of the words to the song by singing the ssqq "Happy Birthday cha cha" with a Texas drawl. 

Then we all clapped and chanted rhythmically as George dug lustily into his X-rated pink jiggly Birthday Custard.  At this point George was no able to hold back or resist.  In fact he appeared to get a little excited.  We all gasped as George did a Hannibal Lector imitation. He indelicately bit the cherry and whipped cream off in one gulp.  Nor did he bother to use a spoon.  Mmmm. Yummy!!   In hindsight maybe we shouldn't have given him so much wine.

Several ladies with imaginations appeared to wince a little at George's obvious rapturous delight.

After the entertaining custard consumption, we had the perfect birthday present planned for George. Every lady in our group got in line to give George a big smooch and hug.  Look at the picture and you will see 3 lovely ladies in line ready to smooch George.

Such a lucky guy!!  Actually as you will soon find out, George had way too much fun on this trip.  I suppose good things are supposed to happen to people who are friendly and handsome, but sometimes it was just too much to handle. 
More about that later.

Judy Walsh's Romance With the Famous TV Celebrity!!

There were several romances that made my Cupid detector go buzz buzz buzz, but I must say the individuals were extremely discrete.  I generally don't say anything about a shipside romance unless it makes it back to land, especially when they work that hard to smooch below the radar.   No one has gone public, so the rumors will have to sink down to Davy Jones Locker.

However there was one romance that was impossible to overlook.  Judy Walsh had the biggest crush on the famous TV celebrity Jon "Bowzer" Bauman.  Now I know what you are thinking... "Bowzer Who?"   Well, actually I've heard of him and a couple other Boomers in the group said they had too.  Bowzer is obviously a clever guy because he probably got more mileage out of less talent than perhaps any performer in history since Tiny Tim.  As you can see from the picture, his signature look was a gaping mouth and a flex that had no muscle. 

Bowzer was more or less the leader of the retro group 'Sha Na Na' back in the 70s.  Consisting of 12 Columbia University graduates, this group sang covers of famous 50s songs such as "The Book of Love", "Get a Job" & "At the Hop".  I honestly can't recall one original song they ever wrote themselves.

Just to give you an idea of how far back Sha Na Na went, this band played at Freshman Orientation in 1968 during my first year at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University.  One year later they appeared at Woodstock.  Jimi Hendrix and Bowzer.  Now that's a pair!!  Somehow in the late 70s Sha Na Na even scored their own music revue TV show by riding the 50s nostalgia created by Fonzie and "Happy Days". 

On board the Rhapsody Bowzer had a new act with 3 young men singing doo wop accompaniment.  Bowzer has prolonged his career by entertaining on cruises.  He pointed out it wasn't a bad early retirement job.  Plus what about the fringe benefits?

Let's face it, entertainers with looks like Bowzer have always been huge chick magnets.  Our very own Judy Walsh flipped over Bowzer.  She practically had to be sedated after his performance.  And from the moment she saw Bowzer get on board our bus to New Orleans Mardi Gras the next day, Judy lost control. She went nuts and flung herself shamelessly at him!!

Judy put beads around his neck, smoothed his hair, felt his muscles, hugged him, flirted with him, and begged Bowzer to be in a picture with her.  The rest of us were so embarrassed! 

Even though Bowzer is obviously a handsome, charismatic celebrity, he is quite a bit older than Judy.  Nevertheless as you can see in the picture, there was undeniable warmth in Bowzer's smile.  There was clearly a lot of chemistry here!   However, I am sworn to complete secrecy as to just how far this torrid passion went. You will just have to ask Judy.  

Our Day at Cozumel's Chankanaab Beach

On the 5th day of our trip, 25 people from the group trooped over to Cozumel's Chankanaab Beach.  Considering our group total was 39, we had a pretty good turnout of nearly 67%.  Chankanaab is located just 10 minutes from the ship and there is no wait for a cab.  A quick $5 ride put us instantly into the spectacular beauty of this nature park.  We were greeted by some of the most perfect weather imaginable.  Ah, Shangri La!!

Did I mention the temperature was a balmy 78 with beautiful blue sky and a pleasant breeze?  We were in paradise!

Chankanaab Beach is so cool!!  The water is crystal clear, the sand is clean and not too hot to walk on, and there are plenty of trees plus marvelous thatched umbrellas to provide a wonderful shade.

Several people rented snorkel equipment at the beach. They were pleasantly surprised to find the water was quite warm considering it was the end of February.

Here is a picture of Belma, Martin, Judy, Eva, Iqbal and James as they take the cab trip over to the beach.  George is taking the picture.  As you can see, Judy is still smitten from her puppy crush on major TV Star Bowzer.  Her smile tells us she is practically hypnotic with joy at her memories of him.

Once we got to the Beach we found plenty of sand chairs laying around for anyone to use.  Our group set up camp and promptly collapsed into the chairs moaning with joy at how marvelous the day was.

We all joked about our friends back in Houston who were slaving away at their desks while we laid on our backs soaking in the sun, surf, and breeze.  Several people even began work on a serious tan. 

Soon these very nice men walked by our camp to sell us ice-cold bottled beer.  And when we got hungry, there was an outdoor restaurant just a hundred yards away that served very good food.  Too much fun!

After lunch, I discovered an excellent beach volleyball court complete with net and volleyball. Always the organizer, it wasn't easy but somehow I managed to get enough people out of their lounge chairs to have a pretty good game. 

All three games were close.  Sad to say, the team with George, Martin, Jerry, and Linda beat the team with me, Marla, James, and Iqbal each time.  I was devastated with pain.
 At the time I said to myself no mention of these losses would ever go in the trip writeup. 

I quickly changed my mind when Martin Thomas handed me $10 in Mention Money and asked me to say something nice about him in the story.  Let me quickly add that Martin was the most unbelievable athlete I have ever seen.

In addition to his good looks and having the best set of boobs of any man I know (see Story Two and check the pictures),  Martin was clearly the glue that held this otherwise completely rotten team together.  

Actually now that I think about it, everyone on Martin's team played well, but not everyone paid well.  Guess which Handsome Guy didn't fork over one lousy dime.  He may have played well, but who can remember??

Actually the Handsome Guy may have even been the star of the team, but I can't remember for sure.  I do know that after losing the third straight game to Handsome Guy, Martin, Jerry, and Linda, our team decided it was time to throw in the towel. We conceded the other guys were marginally better than we were. 

My next plan was to say something nice about Martin, but omit saying which team won.  However immediately after the final game, Mr. Handsome walked directly over to me, looked me in the eye and made a point to ask if this story would be included in the trip writeup.  I cannot imagine how he ever guessed I had no intention of saying one word!!  Is he a mind reader or something?

My first tendency was to say "No way, Jose".  Forget about  it.   Especially when I realized there were NO PICTURES taken of the volleyball game in question.  Thank goodness!! 

Then on the way back to the ship Marla reminded me how petty it was to let my wounded pride prevent  me from doing my job.  Hmmmph.   Those nasty words kept ringing in my ears, "This story is going in the trip writeup, yes??"   Those words burned like acid!!

As I reflected on our close volleyball defeats, it was at this point that I realized Mr. Handsome had been having way too much fun.  The more I thought about it, Mr. Handsome had been the center of attention in every activity on the entire trip!!   He was starting to get under my skin. 

Then I put the next picture in for the story.  There were 20 of us in this group picture, but the single most obvious person was none other than Mr. Handsome with his arm around two gorgeous women!!

Just look at him smiling as he grabs more camera than any other person in the entire picture!!

Did I mention you can barely see me?  I'm harder to find than Waldo thanks to Mr. Handsome hogging up the whole picture.

Mr. Handsome was kind enough to let a few other people appear in his Beach Picture above including Belma, Mr. name omitted, Veronique, Gloria barely visible behind her, Becky, Marla, Karen, Millie, Susan, Diama, and Eva Love is Blue. 

Somewhere in the distant background are Jerry, John, Eric (see him peeking thru?), a couple pixels of me, Judy still thinking about Bowzer, Mr. All-World Volleyball Martin, Bill, Linda (can you see her?), James, and some weird guy who wouldn't leave us alone.

Let me tell you something. Mr. Handsome was everywhere!  Once I was onto him, I kept close tabs.  And every time I looked he had his hands around one babe after another. 

Mr. Handsome was also Mr. Dancer.  Whip, Western, Swing, Ballroom, you name it, he was on the floor strutting his stuff. 

Here someone is seen teaching Belma how to dance.  Now he even thinks he's a dance teacher. The nerve.

Mr. Handsome was not only in middle of every thing we did, he made certain that each Activity was properly pictured and reported.

Did you know Mr. Handsome even managed to get interviewed by a New Orleans TV Station on the trip!?!  Now get this, no one cares that a reporter talked to him.  Furthermore I never saw one thin dime of mention money.  Ain't no one gonna hear about this.  

But I underestimated the man.  One day Mr. Handsome "innocently" spoke to Marla asking her nicely to remind me to say about the TV interview.  This guy will do anything to get some extra pub!!

It seems a crew from a New Orleans TV station cornered Mr. Handsome and Becky Hauri at the Riverwalk terminal in New Orleans fishing for a story on dissatisfied cruisers due to the river mishap.  Unfortunately Mr. Handsome and Becky didn't cooperate very much.  They answered that Royal Caribbean had done the best it could under the circumstances and that they were very pleased with their trip.  Now that's a headline for you. 

Big deal.  We could have lived without that story, Right? 

But Mr. Handsome wanted to be SURE to say something so there you have it, the exciting story of the TV interview.  I bet the interview didn't even make it on the air.  Hmmph.  Who cares anyway?

You're So Vain, you probably think this trip is about you, don't you, don't you, you're Soo-ooo Vain! 

Pssst - by the way, despite all the blarney I wrote, deep down inside I actually kind of like the guy.

Maybe I envy his popularity a little, but don't tell anyone, okay?  And if I had beaten him at volleyball I would probably like him even more.

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