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The only thing I can remember about Wednesday was that we had a Country-Western dance night. It was pretty lame.

First there were a couple of C&W line dances, then were two events. One was a dance sort of like the Cotton-Eyed Joe where two women danced on either side of a single guy. Every time the music stopped, the man got to kiss both women, then move forward to another pair of women for more kissing later on. The women did not like this event very much as some of the men were drunk and some kissed them directly on the mouth.

Then there was a hat-stealing contest for the men. As a take-off from musical chairs, it was your job to have a hat on your head when the music stopped or you were out. 

I believe Ray Lofti, our yoga leader, won this contest. Ray was determined to win, but he didn't always play fair. He kept one hand on top of his hat while he tried to steal his opponent's hat with his other hand. Once he had two hats, then he graciously took his hand off his head so someone else could grab it. It was a very effective strategy, particularly since no one else had the sense to keep their hand on their hat.

Then we got to dance at 130 beats per minute to amazing music of Odysea. Some creep elbowed me hard from my blind side as I danced the Polka with Pat Salinas. He was slow-dancing with his partner on the edge of the floor right in the fast dance lane. I never saw him, but I sure wanted to punch his lights out for the cheap and unnecessary shove. 

Then Marla and I got to watch a 220 lb body builder throw his dance partner around like a rag doll as he attempted some form of Aggie Jitterbug. He was pretty rough on her, but she managed to smile so I guess she was having fun. 

I left frustrated. The party had not been nearly as much fun as it could have been or should have been. 


A big group led by Randy Winfrey and Melissa Gauthier went snorkeling and visited Sting Ray city. Apparently the group had a blast. Pictured at right is Jim Landureth in snorkel gear with his sting ray friend. Notice how clear the water is.

I apologize for not knowing more about the events of the day. Unfortunately Marla woke up with a splitting headache so we stayed on board. The highlight of our afternoon was watching the "The Count of Monte Cristo" on board. What a boring couple we were. 

I got a good laugh when Marla and I ran into Gary and Betty Richardson at the Windjammer Café for lunch. I told Betty how in sync we were because it seemed like every time I ate at the Windjammer, by coincidence she and Gary were also there. Betty smiled and said it was no coincidence. 

She said Gary stays in the Windjammer four hours a day so he can take pictures and share stories with everyone. This made it practically impossible to miss him. At first I just thought the guy was hungry. But once Betty let the cat out of the bag I knew the secret. Mr. Longhorn aka Mr. Windjammer was simply holding court.

After dinner that evening Marla and I Slow Danced and Romanced to the Robert J String Band in the Centrum, a massive atrium area in the center of the ship. The Robert J Band consisted of three men playing Ballroom dance music with a piano, a big bass guitar, and a violin. What pleasure! We danced Cha Cha, Swing, Foxtrot, and Waltz to familiar melodies like 'Moon River' and 'Twilight Time'. The ambience of the beautiful atrium with its tropical plants and the spectacular view of the ocean contributed to this wonderful fun. 

I deeply miss the opportunity to experience this type of romantic dancing on a regular basis here in Houston.

For example, does anyone know of an upscale lounge in a Houston hotel that has this seductive luxury to offer? I savored this opportunity on board the Rhapsody even more because I couldn't find the same thing at home.

Our nights of dancing slowly in each other's arms were definitely a wonderful part of this year's trip. It was like New Year's Eve every time we visited the atrium and the Robert J Band. Marla and I were not the only ones who discovered the charms of this area. Jess and Pat Carnes, Max Huff and Joan Tomlinson, Chuck Morton and Brenda Uffmann (pictured), plus many others from our group were frequent visitors. 


Marla and I had a lot of fun snorkeling at Cozumel. Snorkeling is one of the world's simplest sports to learn. They made a big deal out of it, but basically snorkeling is fins, face mask, life vest, and breathing tube combined with the ability to swim slowly. No toughie here. If you can swim you can snorkel.

In fact in future trips I will recommend people bring their own snorkel gear. In this picture taken from the ship you can see the Cozumel snorkeling waters began a mere 400 yards from our dock. With our own gear we could have just walked down the beach, dove right in, and saved $50 or so.

As a group we can save some serious money by packing a lunch, make our own way to the best spots and snorkel as long as we want for free. 

Fun for Free. Now that's a fresh concept. Didn't hear that word much on this trip. Of course we tried to have fun for free in Key West and that didn't work. Maybe fun has to be paid for. 

And maybe there is a danger to snorkeling I didn't figure out. The guides took the responsibility of bringing us back alive very seriously. They had 2 people in the water to keep an eye on us and a boat trailing the pack. We were maybe 50 yards max offshore, but they herded us around with military precision like there were sharks lurking everywhere. 

Snorkeling is marvelous fun in clear water like this. There were fish everywhere that were fascinating to watch. What we didn't know is our guide was busy dumping fish food ahead of us so as to attract more fish to watch. Works for me. 

I had the unusual experience of having a cross branded on my back during this adventure. I was carefully putting sun block on my chest and stomach when one of the guides ordered me to stop. He explained that sun block contains chemicals which are toxic to the plants and fish of the area. 

You can poke anywhere and strike Eco-guilt within me, so I dutifully stopped what I was doing. Then I put on my life vest and began snorkeling. When we got out of the water, Marla told me I looked like a Crusader. Huh?

It seems my life vest had two straps. One strap went in a circle around my chest and back. The other strap went from my groin to my shoulders. Without sun screen, my back had gotten a nice sunburn while I swam on my tummy facing downward except where the straps had been. The straps had diagrammed a perfect cross. I was now a poster boy for the ancient order of Rosicrucian. Where was my sword when I needed it?  Don't touch me. Ouch. 

Just out of curiosity was my guide's admonition against sun block good science or fuzzy superstition??  Let me know.

The show in the Broadway Melodies Theater this evening was a tribute to the Big Bands. The talented young dancers put on a marvelous show with their Swing dancing on stage. And the music of the live band was so intoxicating that members of our group were transported to go dance in the aisles!!  I remember Bruce Hanka and Bethany Daniels dancing up a storm. 

I immediately wished that this marvelous band could play for a "Fred and Ginger" night in the "Shall We Dance" Lounge perhaps as part of the second Formal Night. What a marvelous treat it would be to pretend it was the 30s again and we could dance to the 'Glen Miller Band'. Sigh.

Later that night we had the Rock 'n Roll Sock Hop. I was looking forward to this dance. I thought our group would have a blast. On a previous cruise, the Sock Hop had been up on the top deck. Featuring a great band, it was the highlight of my trip. Maybe some flags should have gone up in my brain when I read "featuring adult humor". Hmm.

The event before the Sock Hop was a Scavenger Hunt. Why this was part of the Sock Hop Night I am not sure, but it was advertised as a game with tremendous prizes and spirited competition. Sounded good so I tried to get into it. The idea was to divide into teams and find clever items within your group. 

Our team consisted of Pat Cotter, Becky Krenek, Leroy Ginzel, Hazel Rud, Ni Teoh, Marla, and myself. Sadly we got off to a very poor start as the game wasn't explained very well. We paid attention and tried to figure out how it worked.  

"find teeth". I'm thinking false teeth. Not there quite yet. So up to the front go guys with combs. Huh?  Ah, now I get it.  Teeth on a comb. Clever. We quickly discovered you didn't have to be first to win points. Points were assigned in order of arrival on the floor. This encouraged people to keep trying for third and fourth place points. 

"a picture of the White House". Obviously some people who were veterans from previous trips had played this before since they had their dollar bills out of their pocket before the emcee finished the sentence. Our team got off to a very slow start. But we were starting to catch on. 

"first man with lipstick". I was game. Or maybe Pat Cotter did the honors. Whatever, whomever, our team got first place on this one. 

"first man in heels". Hazel Rud loaned me her shoes. We placed high again.

"first woman in men's shoes". I told Ni Teoh to run out there wearing her swing shoes. We won that round too. Now that we had the hang of it we were up there on every round and quickly too. I sensed we were near the leaders. I wish I wasn't so competitive. It would prove to be my downfall.

You didn't have a lot of time to think. People were racing out there to claim first or second place. They said something and you did stimulus/response or you didn't place. 

The call was made for a man wearing a woman's bra. Becky Krenek from our team carefully worked this item off of her body and onto mine. We finished in second. We were hot!! 

The next prize was for a man in underwear. The competitive fever swept over me and I started to take off my pants. I felt a tug on my shirt as Marla reminded me I did not have the right kind of underwear on for parading around in public. I wanted to win so badly, but thank goodness for cooler heads.

Fortunately Leroy Ginzel had some boxer shorts. We finished high in this round too. I knew we were right on the edge of victory. The Fever was running high in our group!!

Then came the call for a man in woman's shoes, woman's lipstick, woman's bra, and woman's purse. Our team had won or nearly won each of these categories, so quickly each woman in our group donated the proper item and out I went on the floor, a sight to behold. I suddenly had become a drag queen before I even realized what I was doing. 

The next thing we know the dance music comes on and we are supposed to parade around the floor and dance sexy. That's when I realized the whole thing was a gag, a big practical joke. And guess who fell for it??  Very funny. I was deeply embarrassed, but it was too late now. I did my dance and learned my lesson. I guess it's true that old fools make the biggest fools.  

At this point the Sock Hop started. They played some good dance songs to begin the festivities like 'Rock Around the Clock' and other standards from the 50s. Then they played "The Twist". This turned out to be a dance contest. Several couples were chosen for the finals, but no one from our group got involved. Ho hum. 

Then we danced a few more songs. We thought there might be a real dance contest, but it never came to pass. Instead they cleared the floor for the hula hoop contest. Maureen Brunetti was excellent, but was beaten by an Olympic-caliber hula hooper. They even had a man's hula hoop competition which was a big mistake. Men cannot hula hoop. This ordeal took nearly 30 minutes as they drew it on and on. 

Instead of a dance party featuring dancing, somehow they managed to turn the Sock Hop into an event where a few people make fools of themselves while the majority just sit and watch. 

It was becoming increasingly apparent that no one on this ship had a clue how to throw a dance party except for the Caribbean Night. What an incredible waste of resources. I couldn't take it any more so I left in disgust.


Saturday was just a blur. The crew was looking forward to their day off on Sunday. Our group was packing and preparing for a return to the Real World. The only people still hustling were the waiters who planning to get their tips that night. 

It turns there was another man who was still hustling that day as well. He ended up giving Marla the scare of her life. 

That evening after dinner, Marla and I headed to the evening show when she realized she was wearing the wrong shoes for dancing afterward. So she decided to dash back to the cabin to get them before the show started. The room was completely dark except for the TV which was on. This bothered Marla because she didn't remember the TV being on when she left. As usual she had no idea where the light was so she started to walk over to turn off the TV.

Before she could take another step, she gasped and her heart raced as she saw a man lying in her bed. He was fully clothed and appeared to be watching TV. Marla screamed so loud you could have heard her down the hall, the same kind of scream a woman gives when she sees a huge roach running at her. 

Then Marla realized there was something peculiar about this guy. The fact that the man did not move or say anything after her scream was her first clue. She turned the lights on and realized that Carly, our room attendant, had played an excellent practical joke on her. I imagine as he cleaned another room further down the hall and heard the scream of terror, a little smile crossed his face.  Gotcha.


One major regret is that Royal Caribbean didn't handle disembarkation any better than their bitter rival Carnival. 

They got us up at 7 am for no reason other than hopefully to get us out of our cabins as soon as possible. 

Instead we sat around endlessly for nearly three hours waiting for our turn to leave. To make matters worse smoking was permitted. So our wait was combined with torture to top it off. 

Many people with smoking habits have no conscience when it comes to lighting up in public. It only takes one person to leave an entire room gagging. This morning was not fun.

On another sad note, while we were waiting, Mr. Windjammer suggested we take a group picture. To his surprise, everyone suddenly had to go the restroom or check on something. Coincidentally Marla and Betty decided to go buy tee-shirts at that exact moment and did a mad scramble out of there. 

That left me. To avoid the shame of being seen standing next to those hideous black socks, I quickly offered to take the picture. I didn't have the heart to tell him why no one could bear to be seen in a picture with Gary. Why are people so cruel to the fashion-impaired?? 

I think I will buy Gary some white socks to put under his tree. After nightmares about those socks, I'm dreaming of a White Christmas present.       
The Last Word

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