Day 7: The Day of Completion

On the bright side of having to bang out two blog entries in one sitting, I had about an 18 hour day yesterday, so if you think I was up before 11…you’re mostly correct, unless you count the call from Jen at 9 that involved me basically saying “so, I’m going back to bed now”.

By time I actually felt like leaving my stateroom, it was primarily for the technical presentation about how the ship works and whatnot, featuring the captain and chief engineer. I managed to only get there for the Q&A session, but there were a few interesting questions asked – some about the stabilizers, others about the desalinators (they primarily use reverse osmosis, if anyone is wondering), one person asked about the fuel types, apparently the ship has 105,000 horsepower, apparently we have two days at-sea at the beginning of the trip because the port isn’t available until Wednesday, and most notably, there’s a “jail cell” on the ship. I really wanted to get a picture taken in there.

Also worth noting is that the water has been pretty rough since late last night. It’s not stormy out, but it is windy and there are lots of waves, so the ship is definitely rocking back and forth a lot. Even  I was feeling a bit queasy, so I wasn’t taking chances with anything more substantial than soup…which brought its own challenges as it came from the buffet…but, I got it worked out.

Went back to the SL for a bit, but only a short bit of time, because I wanted to see the crew talent show. While the crew didn’t do the “Only Time” bit that is one of the best memories of my Bahamas cruise in 2007, there’s usually some interesting stuff, and it’s always fun to see the crew do something other than their ship duties; it adds dimension. Two people did traditional dances from their respective cultures (China and Indonesia), which got me thinking a bit. Both had very ornate costumes, but the movements weren’t terribly technical, leading me to believe that each dance had more of a cultural context to it, which was obviously lost on me. I was also a bit curious about the Chinese dance specifically, because the audio track was in 4/4 “common time”, which is far more common within western musical conventions or eastern music reflecting western influence. Another crew member did a magic show; while the acts themselves were relatively common parlor tricks, he definitely had the stage presence on lock. A few others did a K-Pop style dance routine, which was very well received by the audience. Finally, a woman (who apparently was Elsa in a stage performance of Frozen at Disney Shanghai) sang a song from “A Star Is Born”, and was fantastic.

Jen found me about 2/3 of the way through, and we decided to stay for the “Splashtown Extravaganza”, a stage performance of the kids programs. It was circus themed, and the kids demonstrated rope spinning, ‘juggling’ (which involved two handkerchiefs, tops), some clowning, devil sticks, and plate spinning. As one would expect such a performance to go, it was a bit of a cat rodeo, and you could tell that the practice levels were minimal-at-best, there were a couple of the kids who showed promise. One of the older plate spinners actually did a fairly good job. The really little kids basically posed with UV reactant face paint, but as one would equally expect, cuteness was the theme at the time – the UV picture was about the only one I was okay taking since the light obscured the kids’ faces pretty well.

This answered at least some of my questions about what they do with the kids, and the staff working with them clearly loved what they do. It strikes me as one of those jobs that’s probably very demanding (after all, ‘those parents’ take cruises, too), but the right personality would probably have the best days at work, more often than not.

Back to the SL, Wendy was talking to Alyse for a bit; we caught her up on the ship gossip and talked about her work as a freelance court stenographer.  The general manager and another guy dropped by the SL and talked to us for a bit; my desire for a selfie in cruise ship jail didn’t seem like something they were willing to accommodate, but officially became a running gag because they were like, “you have to commit a crime”, and then we spent a minute or two trying to figure out a crime that could land me in cruise ship jail, but not actual-jail. We continued talking until the 5PM meeting started. Our final round of trivia revealed that “AT&Team” got second place, which we were okay with. It would’ve been awkward figuring out who got the T-Shirt.

I’ll never quite understand how Norwegian’s restaurant reservation system works. The mobile app says one thing, the touch screen panels say another, calling them on the phone said another thing…and going to the restaurant never seems to require more than a 15 minute wait anyway, so what’s even the point? Anyway, it was the steakhouse tonight, and it was fantastic. Food was great, lots of fun, our wait staff was wonderful…and both the GM and the cruise director came around; we talked to them for a few minutes and my desire for a cruise jail selfie came up again.

Went to the hipster bar to hear Justin perform; Stephanie and Greg weren’t there, but I did get a quick audio recording of his beatbox. One of the things I came to realize about the raunchy humor is that it’s basically funny once.  After the initial shock value, the replay is about 95% less funny. Justin still did a good job on the performance side of things, but I didn’t laugh nearly as much.

Went back to the room and packed, settled up my tab (i.e. got a refund because I ended up with a negative balance!), blogged, and dropped by the farewell party.

Bed.

Day 6: Enya



















ughhh, I’ve got two days of blogging to do now…and Friday was most definitely the longest day of the trip…so much to type!

I was awake and off the ship at 8:06. Yes, everyone, my day started early. “Why did your day start so early, Joey?” I thought you’d never ask! Remember yesterday when I said that the putt-putt car couldn’t get a charge? Well, Jen had the putt-putt until noon, so if we were going to go anywhere, we’d need to ask the rental company to free up an outlet for us, and then wait at least two hours. Logic goes that we’d have two hours of charging and two hours of driving, so we *had* to start early. I ended up being the one in charge of holding the keyfob, so the responsibility fell on me to handle this task…which meant getting up early.

I got to the rental shop, but it was 8:30 before I saw anyone. I asked, and they opened an outlet for us, but I wasn’t quite sure how 90 minutes of charging would go, but that’s what we got. So, I headed back to the ship, and it was like that picture from The Walking Dead; everyone else was leaving the ship, but I was the only rando trying to get back onto the ship.

I did so, and made a few stops. First, I went to the internet cafe and the manager was nice enough to comp me back the hour and a half of time I used up by forgetting to log out the day before. Next, I got coffee and met up with Jen and Wendy in the SL. The three of us then departed the ship to take advantage of our last few hours in port.

Wendy isn’t one to walk long distances, but she did want to drop by the pier for a bit and do some souvenir shopping. The three of us got on one of the trams, and dropped by the mall to shop around a bit. There were the usual T-shirts, hats, keychains, shot glasses, and other normal tsochkes, but they also had some more unique things. They had some of that stupidly-hot hot sauce for Jen, another vendor had some unique jewelry hand crafted out of sea glass and pink sand, one vendor even had our clown car scaled down as a children’s toy.

Wendy went back to the ship shortly thereafter, though she did put the bug in our ear to get ice cream – I just wasn’t going to get Hagen Dazs when there was a local vendor not 500 feet away. I rarely get chocolate ice cream, but this stuff was absolutely fantastic. It had a thicker texture and a more authentic chocolate taste than most I have; while I don’t usually put much stock in vendors within 1,000 feet of where tourists all have to pass, this guy knew what he was doing. It was a fantastic breakfast.

Jen went to take a walk around and see The Frog and The Onion, a relatively famous bar in the area. We passed some tourists who wanted a picture near the police station; I was happy to take the picture for them and they enjoyed my usual schtick of cracking a few jokes to get them to genuinely laugh as a part of the picture.

We also went to a local pharmacy, but it was one that reminded me of the drug store in Montauk – technically, yes, they sell pharmaceuticals, but the first 3/4 of their shelves have all the tourist stuff. I got some gum for my housekeeper, as well as some small things for Jen and Wendy.

With that, we went to pick up the golf cart.

We weren’t planning on going too far; our one objective was to get to the sea glass beach. The locals were perfectly fine giving us directions. On our way, we passed two cemeteries. The first one was the one for the Royal Navy. There were lots of well-kept gravestones; while not perfect, it was clear that there were people making sure the headstones were generally visible. It was peaceful, and there were a few wild chickens who call it home.

We walked around the sea glass beach, and I had to laugh a bit. I went searching for sea glass a while ago with my friend Luna, and I remember her being able to find pieces of sea glass smaller than my fingernail. At this beach, there were thousands of large pieces from the shore line to the back of the beach. It was beautiful, and the unique sound of walking around was oddly relaxing. We didn’t spend too long there, but if there was a second ‘vacation moment’ on the trip, that was it. The pictures of the different sea glass artwork were at the foot of the walkway to this beach.

The second cemetery was on the same road, but was very different – it was a “Convict’s Cemetery”, which I found questionable because I would have assumed that convicts wouldn’t have gotten gravestones. Either way, there were far fewer of them, and not one of the stones there were fully legible. There was, however, a feral cat camping out there. The cat took a liking to Jen pretty quickly; they interacted for a few minutes before the cat went back to catting.

We got back to the car rental spot with time to spare. Jen had a snorkeling excursion, and I didn’t…because I canceled mine, and did so without the required amount of notice, so someone made a 100% profit off me, but I digress. There really wasn’t much to do around the pier, and I wasn’t going to roll the dice with 2 hours left on the island and very little money left, so I went back to the ship and blogged and uploaded photos while I still had data service on the island. The picture of the circular brick thing is apparently a distinctive feature of the Bermudian port; lots of people were taking photos there.

i checked in with Wendy about doing a late lunch once the ship set sail, but she brought up the logistical quagmire that was ‘going to a restaurant at 3′ that closed at 2. We kinda left it vague, but uploading photos on a slow bandwidth connection takes time, So I knew I needed to get started. While I was there, some kids were playing ping pong, and weren’t very good at it, so ball fishing was a common occurrence.

For all the “I see what you did there” when they played “You’re on Vacation” and “New York, New York” while we were leaving New York Harbor, I was surprised that no one had the similar idea to play Enya’s “Sail Away” as we left the dock from Bermuda. After I got my sailing away pictures, I went to see if Jen was around the restaurant we intended to go to; she was at a nearby bar, in a discussion with a fellow traveler. Once he left, we talked for a bit about her snorkeling experience, and were pleasantly surprised that the bartender had a really good sense of humor.

We went back to the SL and met up with Wendy, and played trivia shortly thereafter as a part of the 5PM meeting. The group headed to the regular dining room, but I was amidst a bit of a quandary. Not only was I *still* full from the Jamaican place the day before, I had two premium restaurant passes and two nights to use them. I decided to join the group for an appetizer or two, and go to the Brazilian BBQ venue toward close, since I didn’t have a reservation.

I dropped by the hipster brewery spot; Stephanie and Greg weren’t there.

Mass Effect.

Headed up to the Glow Party. I’m usually torn about this one because it tends to be EDM heavy (which I like), but similarly tends to be heavy on a style of remix where there is an extended instrumental section after the chorus, which is usually unrelated to the original song, save for key and BPM. I’m not generally a fan of this sort of remix. The DJ did a pretty good job overall. A notable remix he played was between a Rihanna song whose name escapes me (didn’t chart well), and the Bingo Players’ “Get up” – look it up on Youtube, you *know* that song, I promise. Amongst the reason that song stood out to me was because of the context. Apparently, lots of the kids from the teen program came to the glow party as well. Initially I wasn’t big on this (should they really be out after midnight amidst a very-inebriated crowd?), but then I watched as I saw teens, people my age, and people likely sporting AARP cards, all dancing and having a blast with the people around them. It was a moment that seemed to completely transcend age, musical taste, dance style, and basically every other barrier, and it was fantastic to witness.
I promised Jen I wouldn’t go into detail about how the night ended for her, but it’s an entertaining story that will remain with her, Wendy, and I.

Bed.

Day 5: Miss Daisy Magellan

So, I feel like I’m trying to sum up three days here. It’ll easily be the longest blog post I’ve written, so grab a snickers.

…so, last night, Wendy, Jen, and I went to O’Sheehan’s and got dinner. Well, I got dinner. They were midnight snacking. O’Sheehan’s is like Denny’s – nobody goes there because they’ve explicitly chosen to do so, so much as we end up there because it’s 12:30 in the morning. As much as I was glad to eat, the ‘Jerk Chicken wings’, while edible, didn’t taste like anything resembling Jamaican Jerk.

Also, apparently, somewhere between ‘getting back on the ship’ and this point, I cracked the screen on my phone. I’ve been planning to replace it anyway, but it’s super annoying.

While there, the three of us decided that it would make sense to do breakfast before leaving the ship. So, we coordinated it out that we would meet there in the morning to eat.

We did. It was ‘meh’. But it did the job. We tarried a bit, because it was raining. Like, a lot. We weren’t doing excursions, and I wasn’t walking, but rain on islands doesn’t tend to last long, so…we weren’t sure what the deal was going to be, but carpe

I went back to my room, and very painstakingly applied sunscreen again. Even on my eyelids. Because apparently, you can get sunburn on eyelids when your eyes spend the whole time open. Ask me how I know this. I grabbed my passport and my phones. I debated bringing my battery pack because why would that be needed?

At first, Jen and I were considering having one of the private taxis take us around. But, she ended up having a better idea: She ended up renting a Twizy, an electric car that isn’t legally considered a car, so the requirements for using one are “pay the rental fee, be 25, drive on the left side of the road, and don’t get in an accident”. This thing is tiny, and by ‘tiny’, I mean ‘a seat on Southwest is an upgrade’.

I offered to drive, but she was down for doing so, leaving me to be Miss Daisy, but also the one in charge of navigating, so I became Miss Daisy Magellan.

Amongst the reasons we decided to do this was because we both wanted to go to the zoo/aquarium/museum, which was inconveniently located right in between where we were, and St. George where the ferries were going. By time we got a taxi to get us there and back, we’d basically have spent the same money, but we have a car for the day and could go other places.

Driving through Bermuda was an interesting experience, even more so in one of these Twizys. The lady at the rental spot described it as a golf cart with a windshield wiper and a radio, and let me tell you, she wasn’t far off. I’ve heard descriptions of driving a Chevette as being a bad experience, but I’m pretty sure this thing was a step down from that. The speed limit on the island is 35kph (about 22mph). We spent most of the time going 45kph (about 28mph), and I would commonly tell Jen “get rid of your entourage”, a signal to pull over and let the 3-10 cars tailgating her pass. Especially as the battery life was consumed, Jen was ‘petal to the metal’ to get this thing up to 45, and while Bermudians are fantastic and friendly in person, they drive like they took their road test on Manhattan island. 15 degree inclines were so difficult for this Little Tikes car that it made us both wish there was a Fred Flintstone option. Have I effectively painted this picture well enough yet?

There were lots of interesting things to see as we were driving. So many picturesque water scenes, we crossed over several bridges, there were more than a handful of cool buildings…but I could either take pictures or navigate, so I had to make the tough choice to be Magellan, rather than Ansel Adams.

With that being said, Jen and I definitely made a good team. She handled the otherwise difficult situation quite well, and I was able to call out directions to her satisfaction; no arguments were had the whole time. It took us about 45 minutes to drive the 17 miles from the cruise terminal to the zoo, but we got there.

The aquarium section was relatively small, but their mainline exhibit were three seals, all sisters in their sunset years but still water puppies at heart. The staff was feeding them, and another staff member gave a play-by-play, describing that the seals were all in their thirties, two of the three had cataracts, and so on. The interior only had about two dozen tanks, but they were still interesting, notably having several varieties of coral, some eels, lots of colorful fish, an octopus, a sea turtle with a gas problem making it difficult for him to swim properly, and a legitimate baby shark. The staff fed their large tank, including the turtle. He said that turtles don’t tend to eat meals the way other animals do; I was amused at his description of them as being ‘underwater goats’.

Moving on to the zoo section, they had several different habitats, but notably, there were areas where the animals were able to walk freely amongst the visitors. Peahens roamed about one of the main sections. A few ground marsupials were in the first habitat section, which surprised us. Some bright orange monkeys, “pink chickens”, as I called them, a few tree-dwelling birds (notably a rainbow mccaw), and some lizards were all uninhibited from interacting with the people walking through, though none seemed to want to interact with anyone. In other partitioned exhibits, there were snakes, otters, a Galapagos tortoise, a boa constrictor, big iguanas, tiny poisonous frogs, and apparently an alligator (which we didn’t see).

Finally, we ended up in the museum. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, but there was at least one thing that I was a fan of seeing. As many such establishments do, there was a focus on ensuring the preservation of the environment. They gave several examples of how there have been environmental impacts, but what I liked was that they gave plenty of examples of how conservation efforts have worked, how several species have been able to bounce back, and how some of the bans on certain forms of fishing have prevented even bigger problems. More so than most other places, their “heal the earth” message came with a degree of hope and encouragement.

I wasn’t super hungry, but Jen didn’t want to eat the lowest-common-denominator food available at the aquarium, and I certainly wasn’t looking to argue. As we continued driving, we almost stopped at a pizza spot based primarily on availability, but ended up missing the turn, which I was perfectly fine with. Something something, did some more navigating, ended up finding this hole-in-the-wall Jamaican spot. The woman there was a bit surprised to see tourists drop by; it is definitely a very out-of-the-way spot. She was, however, very welcoming and happy to have us. She gave us a rundown of everything she made, she let Jen taste a few different things, and overall just fantastic and personable. We had the usual tourist discussion (“where ya from, how’s your vacation”), but purchasing the food was as great as eating it. The jerk chicken I got (because it’s a Jamaican restaurant) didn’t have the traditional jerk chicken flavor I was expecting, but it was so, so good. The pork was also fantastic, and the rice…I forget what she called it, but if I had to eat a metric ton of carbs, the rice was easily the best I’ve had all year. I was so glad I found the spot, it was easily the best thing I ate in Bermuda. As other people came to get lunch there, several had discussions with us as well.
Remember how I said I didn’t pack my battery back because why would I need it? Well, Google Maps takes plenty of battery power, so my battery was already south of 20%, and I still needed to navigate. Our Jamaican hosts charged my phone for me, which was incredibly helpful. I really can’t say enough about how wonderful these people were. It’s why I took a selfie with them.

Jen wanted to see the Unfinished Church…y’know…the spot I was at yesterday. So, that was our next stop, at which point we came to the rather poignant realization that parking is approximately Brooklyn-bad on that part of the island. We parked two blocks away and walked to the structure. On the way back, there was a particularly friendly chicken who hung out with us for a bit. I was not expecting this. Jen pulled into the parking lot of the Tobacco Bay beach I was at yesterday, but didn’t look around.

More driving, and we started to realize that we were due for a charge in our golf cart. Jen wanted to go to Hamilton, and since there was a charging station there, we made a beeline for it.

12 miles later, we were in Hamilton, with the car on a charging station. We went to a nearby pub that was the first good internet I’ve had since I got to the island, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for that, and my phone battery was basically-dead again at that point.

…I can’t keep my eyes open anymore. To be continued, and yes, I have pictures…
















Okay, I’m up and awake; let’s see how far I get before we pull away and I lose my crappy-but-free data…

So, Jen and I are at the Robin Hood bar. It definitely had the more classic vibe; I was definitely a fan of the red phone booth (no blue ones, sadly), and I’m surprised at how popular pizza seems to be here. I guess it’s the actual-Caribbean places who have more distinct cooking. We stayed there for a bit; I got a seltzer and she got an iced tea; neither of us wanted to think all the way through getting a DUI in a different country. Still full from the Jamaican place, we didn’t entertain any of their food offerings, either.

Across the street was a gas station with a convenience store attached; we went there to get some candy. It was interesting, though unsurprising, to see American staples and British goodies side by side.

Our vehicle still needed to charge, so we walked around Hamilton for a bit. Remember how yesterday I was trying to figure out where everyone went? Yeah, I found them. Hamilton is basically Bermudian Manhattan, complete with complicated one-way streets, awkward street parking, the alternating aroma of amazing food and the fact that it’s trash day, and walk/don’t walk signs that are about as useful as a turn signal on a BMW. Apparently, there’s a sailboat racing competition coming up in April, and they’re pretty stoked about it. Front Street follows the coast line, and while it’s more developed than beach front, it makes basically every restaurant ten times more awesome to go to…but we didn’t do that either, though I did find one of those sidewalk chalkboard signs that were worth putting on Instagram.
We just walked and walked until it got to be just about sunset, and we hoped that two hours would be enough charge (and late enough past rush hour) that we’d be able to make it back. We drove back, and while our battery definitely wasn’t in a place to go anywhere else, we weren’t exactly terrified about having to call an Uber and push the clown car…somewhere. Jen did note, however, that she was flooring it for most of the trip, and toward the end, even 40kph was hard to sustain. Between this and the range anxiety we were definitely facing (what would have happened if we were trying to get back to the cruise ship before it left?), it’s not much of a secret as to why these “putt putt cars” haven’t supplanted regular cars on the island, despite the fact that gasoline is nearly $10 per gallon. To be fair, had we rented in advance, they do have a larger model with more space and a bigger battery. Personally, I won’t rent it unless it also comes with clowns.

We attempted to find a charging station, but weren’t successful. One of the individuals at the security booth near the pier tried to point us to one; Jen recognized her from when we left so she definitely had a long shift. The station she pointed us to, however, had the UK-style outlets, while our Southwest-inspired golf cart had a US-style connector cable. We ended up parking it on the street in a marked space.

As Jen and I were heading back to the ship, we ran into Justin, the guy I met the day before at the Mr. Chicken. He was glad to see us, and we spoke for a few minutes more. Apparently, he prefers it when it’s cruise ship season? I’m still calling him biased since he doesn’t deal with the tourists for eight months of the year. Either way, I twas super impressed that he recognized me, in the dark, and wanted to talk to me again.

When Jen and I got back on the ship, we met up with Wendy and went to our second premium restaurant, La Cucina, the Italian one. Now, to be fair, I was still full from lunch. However, this was easily the weakest meal we had so far that didn’t come from Denny’s O’Sheehan’s. Every entree had a dealbreaker of some kind; though I keep trying to avoid ordering the steaks if I’m not at the steakhouse, I was surprised that neither eggplant parm nor chicken parm were on the menu, nor any variant thereof. Many of the entrees featured some form of seafood (the kind I don’t like), leaving me to order fettuccine alfredo with mushrooms. Now, again, I don’t want to sound like I’m all up on my high horse or somehow ungrateful to be eating, but I could only find literally one mushroom? In fairness, I got half a dozen mouthfuls in before I was stuffed beyond all possibility of additional food consumption. Also amusing was that Jen got a round of rum swizzles for the table. That part wasn’t amusing, but the part that did make us laugh was that while Wendy and I were one-and-done, Jen was up for a second. She’d only asked for an extra for herself, but the waitress came back with three glasses. Apparently Jen wasn’t going to try for four, so we ended up giving them to the table next to us, where another couple was sitting. They took them, and expressed appreciation, but they were still untouched when we left. You do the math. She also got us all these mixed shots containing vanilla vodka and Frangelico, which had a taste similar to chocolate cake. Again, the wait staff seemed to be hellbent on us leaving with an inability to walk straight; the goal was shot glasses, but they came back with this mixture in a glass that looked like half a champagne flute, and easily contained closer to three shots’ worth. None of us managed to finish them.

I went up to the deck and began to blog; the Giants/Patriots game was on. Apparently, our ship is primarily comprised of Giants fans. Also, apparently, they were unhappy.

But, I didn’t make it all the way through the blog entry, because I’d walked another five miles yesterday and by 11:30, I was absolutely done.

Bed.

Day 4: The Password Is Bermudaful











































 

…oh, you wanted a blog entry, too?

Okay, fiiiiine.

Yes, I did make it up in time to watch the ship dock. While my iPhone doesn’t seem to want to actually acknowledge that an alarm was set, Wendy was super awesome and brought me a few of the pesto tomatoes, and called me in the morning to let me know she had done so. Wendy wasn’t in the ST lounge when I looked, so I just grabbed a seat in the aft section of the top deck and took some pictures. I went back to my room to change and prep, then headed out.

Did I have a plan or a destination? No. No, I did not. There was a ferry about to leave, and I got on it. Did I know where it was going? I didn’t know that, either…but if I was about to get abducted by the little known group of Bermudian pirates, I have other questions. More directly, the crewman on the boat who was prepping everyone told everyone that in order to get back on the ferry, we had to have our cabin keys, and to say the password “Bermudaful”. The ferry ride was about 20 minutes; I turned on my phone for the first time since NY and let the texts flood in, responding where practical.

The ferry took us to the other side of the island. I got off, picked a direction, and started walking. I did a LOT of walking. The weather was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Enough sun to feel like I’m on vacation, enough cloud cover to make up for the fact that I was a derp and forgot my sunglasses at home. Warm enough to allow me to walk for a good distance, but not so warm as to make the walk unbearable.

The first place I went to was a small public park; it seemed well maintained but I was surprised that there wasn’t a plaque or anything indicating anything about what prompted its creation or who pays for the upkeep.

Next up, the Gates Fort National Park. One of the amusing things I’d noticed was the difference in scale. This national park had less square footage than the smallest restaurant at which I’ve eaten dinner on the ship. The building itself was the sort of building straight out of a video game; I was half expecting to find some ammo or a health pack in there. I didn’t…but given the set of cannons there, the building probably did legitimately hold ammo in the past. One of the slots that presumably held a third cannon was empty, and it was possible to walk along the rocks and look out at the ocean. I heard my mother telling me to be careful…and I was.

There were plenty of geckos around there…like, I really thought one of them was going to save me 15% on my car insurance. As I kept walking, I came across the next place where the British stuck some anti-naval guns, equally in need of a little WD-40.

As I kept walking, there was a bench in need of repair…and I was in need of 5 minutes of a bit of shade. I saw some steps, and going down, there was a tiny beach…like, size-of-my-stateroom tiny. Two other individuals found it and were sunbathing; I hung out there for a few minutes, took the sand photo, and kept up on my journey.

The boat I saw had me confused. There was enough overgrowth to make towing it out in a truck problematic, and it was on blocks, rather than a boat trailer. The other side led to a cliff several dozen feet up, so it’s not being pushed into the water that way. At the same time, it wasn’t rusted or rotted out; someone was maintaining it. Hence, it got the nickname ‘the Gibbs boat’.

I was surprised to see livestock around the island. While I guess it ultimately makes sense for cows to be there, I definitely wasn’t expecting to see them. Similarly, I was surprised to see not only chickens, but wild chickens. I was annoyed I couldn’t get a picture of the one I saw crossing the road. I asked him why he did it. He wasn’t very insightful. Also unpictured because getting wildlife photos with an iPhone is more luck than anything else, was a particular bird with very bright yellow feathers under its wings. Finally, a few of the houses had cats camping out on their front porches. One, a black cat, acknowledged my existence by meowing at me in the low, angry tone that seemed one step away from a hiss and a swat. The other, a white one with brown stripes, refused to even make eye contact with me. Say what you will about how I’m a stranger to these small tigers, puppies almost always seem excited when a human greets them.

More walking, and there was a big building under construction, but strangely, I didn’t see any construction workers. I saw one guy, but I got the “espanish…no inglish’ when I tried talking to him, so I wished him a good day and didn’t belabor the point.

A bit later on, I passed another gentleman and started speaking to him, primarily asking where everyone was. I’d walked nearly two miles away from the pier at this point, and I only saw one guy with a leaf blower at the first park, the Spanish-speaking day laborer, and other tourists. Yes, I’m from New York and used to insane population density, but it really seemed like there were more people on the cruise ship than live in Bermuda, so I asked the guy. He was nice enough, and said something to the effect of “everybody is at work”. Seems logical, but after looking a bit more at the map, I think the corollary was that we were on the half of the island that seems a lot more residential, so the population was simply where the businesses were – the half of the island where the ship docked, rather than where the ferry took us. The gentleman apparently knows someone who lives in Babylon; I told him it’s a nice place (though not “Bermuda nice”), and that I had been there many times. He asked if I knew his friends, to which I had to respond, “Long Island has 5 million people on it”. He was understanding, but I was impressed that he knew of a specific town I work in and pass through regularly. We ended our conversation with him telling me that he was a Jehovah’s Witness. I took his card, we shook hands, and we parted ways.

At this point, I was getting a bit thirsty, and was once again very surprised that I didn’t pass somewhere that sold anything to drink. Back home, I’d have passed four gas stations and twelve 7-11’s by now. I walked a bit further and came up to the beach at Tobacco Bay, where there was a beach, some taxis, and the sort of small food-and-drink shack one would expect to find at a beach. I ordered a seltzer, and since the awesome Trinidadian lady yesterday was adamant that we should all do so, I also got a rum swizzle. The guy who served the drinks told me there was free wi-fi there, so I was like, “finally! I can post all these pictures!” …yeah, I’m beginning to think there’s no such thing as good internet on this island. It’s pretty bad when the internet on the ship is ‘the good internet’.

After battling with the internet connection to try and get the pictures uploaded for about 20 minutes…the rum hit me. Now, one other thing I should note: at home, our streets are nice and wide, complete with a shoulder lane and a sidewalk. Here…two vehicles passing each other is done with approximately one molecule of space in between them. There is no shoulder, sidewalks are sporadic and thin. I wasn’t wasted, but I stuck around the beach a bit more to let the drink wear off because walking down the road was a bad idea.

I walked to the other side of the drink shack, and there was this separate small area of beach that was probably fully submerged during high tide. The water was very shallow, so I took off my shoes and stepped in. I acclimated to the water after a bit, but the water temperature definitely reflected the fact that I was visiting Bermuda in October.

As I stood there, feet buried in the coral sand, the small fish swimming in the four inches of crystal clear water, the small waves gently crashing on the rocks, and the faint sound of the crowd on the main beach, I had ‘the moment’ – the moment for which every vacation exists. The one where every server project, every time entry in Autotask, every political Facebook post, every unread e-mail, the hideously neutral ringtone of my Blackberry, every bill that’s due, every contact I debated deleting…every last bit of it completely faded away, and I was able to be fully present, in the moment, without any care in the world. It was the absolute best half hour I have had all year.

Before I left the beach, I saw a guy talking to an individual with a blue shirt and a name tag about…something, I don’t quite remember what. When the other tourist was done, I asked Carl what he does, and what it’s like to work with tourists for a living. His answer reminded me of the lady on the beach in the Bahamas: the overwhelming majority of tourists are nice, friendly, and easy to work with. There is the occasional jerk, but for the most part, he is happy to work with all the visitors. Clearly an extrovert, his job was to maintain and upkeep the beach – stacking the beach chairs, getting rid of the occasional piece of trash that is left behind (he made a point of saying that the majority of people are very good about keeping the beach clean so his time spent on that task is relatively minimal), and on rare occasion, deal with a safety issue – typically people who had one too many rum swizzles and are more a danger to themselves than other people on the beach. He ended his story by saying that there was one time he had a guy come to the beach several days in a row, while being a member of the KKK. I laughed and asked, “uhm, was he aware of where he was going?” Carl and I had a good laugh, and he said, “apparently not”, but by the end of that guy’s time there, they shook hands and the guy gave Carl a $50 tip. It was a touching story, and I was grateful to have been able to take a few minutes and talk with Carl.

Freshly hydrated, and with my BAL close enough to normal to not be a safety hazard, I started to head back to the pier to pick up a ferry back to the ship. The next place I stopped at was The Unfinished Church. It was at that point I realized that I’d been there before, which then led me to realize that my memories from my senior trip are *very* faded. The Unfinished Church looked familiar, and I remember doing the dance routine to “Shackles” in that park somewhere, but other than those three minutes, I have zero memories of my time on the island when I came here in 2004.

While I was at the church, I ran into two other tourists, who asked me to take a picture for them. I was happy to do so, and they reciprocated.

Oh, and at this point, it started to rain a bit.

I looked for somewhere to eat; I was again surprised that I’d passed neither a restaurant nor a supermarket after several miles of walking. I did end up finding somewhere – about the only place within another mile of walking – a “Mr. Chicken Express”. I decided to go for it; though it was a walk-up and walk-away sort of a place, there was a waiting bench and the people there were fine with me sitting and eating. There was definitely a human touch to the chicken; KFC, this was not. While I was there, another guy by the name of Justin was ordering his food and started talking to me. He works for a warehouse and unloads palettes for a living, so he doesn’t typically interact with tourists and was happy to talk to me for a bit and ask about New York and why I chose to come to Bermuda and so on. We only talked for a few minutes, but it’s moments like that which are common in Bermuda but rare most other places of the world, especially places with tourist-heavy economies.

Adjoined to Mr. Chicken was a small convenience store; though the chicken was good, I was again parched. I got a ginger beer, and was incredibly happy because while some I’ve tried have been incredibly sweet, I’ll never forget the one time I got some at Aldi’s with my sister and it was basically like trying to drink a carbonated ginger root. This stuff was the Goldilocks of ginger beer – juuust right.

I high-tailed it back to the pier, and of course, I’d missed the 3:15 tender boat by about ten minutes. Another one, however, was right behind it. It wasn’t the one from the cruise line, but it was brilliant in that they charged $5 to get to the same place. I learned my lesson, but it was a good thing I did. While it was drizzling a bit toward the end of my walk, it was legit-raining by time I got back on the ship.

I got back to the ship, checked my Apple Health, and it said that I walked about seven miles today. I’m not quite sure I buy that, but a fantastic day it was. I fell asleep for about 40 minutes, and went to the ST.

Unsurprisingly, our 5PM meet-up was sparsely attended, to the point where Kareem decided to kick the can on our salsa dancing lesson and opted for trivia instead. Yes, Wendy and I did pretty bad, but in our defense, a LOT of the questions are geography based.

I went back to my room, only to find a message on my stateroom phone that my excursion to the Bermuda Triangle had been canceled due to the weather. I think I’m making it a rule to just stop trying to schedule excursions because I inevitably pick the ones that get canceled – Between this trip and the one to the Bahamas, I’m 3.5 for 4; if my snorkel excursion on Friday (rescheduled from today) gets completely canceled again, I’ll officially take it as a sign to give up.

So, I went back to sleep for a little while longer, woken up by Sweetie, my housekeeper. I took it as a hint to get back up and finally try and get my pictures uploaded. I hope you were all entertained, because between resizing the pictures, getting them uploaded, battling WordPress to deal with the low-bandwidth connection to the point where I had to manually enter the HTML code and upload via FTP, and write this 2,500 word blog entry…I’ve been at this for the past three hours. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?

While I was on the pool deck doing this work, the kids program came up and did this whole spiel where the kids marched in line and their director person led them to battle a pirate for their treasure…or something like that. I didn’t exactly have a great view of it, but I heard it. That’s been something I’ve been curious about; I see entries for the ‘Guppies’ program, but for bleedingly obvious reasons I’m not one to exactly take a tour of how they handle the kids. I would imagine they allow the kids to stay in their own area for long stints at a time; the longer mom and/or dad are in the casino, the more money the cruise line makes. Additionally, I’m sure that even the most loving parent still looks forward to having their child in good hands while they can unwind…but that leads me to think a bit more about the logistics of the kids programs – How do they deal with the child whose parents lost track of time? How do they keep kids entertained for ten hours a day, or deal with kids being a bit too rough with each other, or the fact that children still learning to communicate may have challenges understanding some of the heavier-accented cruise staff? If the kids programs run while parents are on the island, how do they communicate if the child needs their parent? Can I even ask these questions and not end up on a list somewhere?

Aaaand, just to double down on making sure I end up on a list, after the kids fought the pirate (and, I’m assuming, got treasure?), the pool deck cleared out for the teens pool party…which seemed to have its challenges. I feel like the guy who was overseeing it got handed the task in a raffle or something. He was DJing, but did a pretty bad job – jumping genres wildly, no beatmixing, cutting songs off pointlessly…definitely not one of the regular DJs on board as all have been pretty good; this guy could have improved things dramatically using iTunes automix. They did a few minute-to-win-it games and just kinda hung out in the pools and hot tubs, but this guy clearly lacked the sort of enthusiasm and stage presence required to keep teens engaged.

I should probably find some dinner.

Day 3: The Lazy Day

Now, in my defense, overnight we’d passed that logitudinal barrier such that we’re officially an hour ahead of you. Also, the majority of the vacation part of this cruise is being able to do whatever I want, so waking up at almost-11AM is something for which nobody gets to judge me.

At the same time, Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song” was basically my anthem this morning. I didn’t go to breakfast, I didn’t meet up with Wendy, Jen, or the Randys. I did basically-nothing for the first hour, but for the second hour, I did something I’ve been planning to do for weeks…

I wrote a blog entry earlier this year about how strangely protective I am of the contacts in my phone. I left feeling a bit internally conflicted about being so protective of a contact list that was so out of date. I knew that during this trip, I wanted to spend some time overhauling it. “Marvin”, a number that got added to my phone back from my Staples days, but never called, needed to go. Mosaic, a Greek restaurant owned by a friend but which I’ve never visited, need not be a contact. Amanda, Stephanie, and Valerie, two women I met on eHarmony nearly a decade ago but with whom I haven’t interacted in several years, no longer needed to be on my list. Alexandra, Jeff, Darrell, and a few others who have died over the past decade: their memory need be honored in how I interact with those who are living, rather than as a number that will never be dialed.

Nearly half of my contacts were people I hadn’t talked to in over five years. Some (like Valerie) are Facebook friends, others have decided to part ways with me. Lots of changed names; some people got married, others have been in my phone since “first name” was all that was needed, still others had legally change their names. I needed to make those changes.

It’s not all sad though; my friend Annie has been my friend for nearly four years; I never made her a contact. A few others share her story. Some people have gotten new numbers that I was happy to add. Back in 2009, my Windows Mobile phone used to automatically add Facebook posts to the contact information of linked friends. Some people still had information from that time in there; it was amusing to wax nostalgically at that time. I cleared most of them out, but some people I kept with the intent to share it with them when I get back home.

Once I finished with that, I straightened up my room; I am grateful for my housekeeping staff but there’s a difference between ‘having your bed made for you’ and ‘putting them in an awkward situation regarding your dirty laundry’. I then went to the main buffet dining area for some lunch; yes I’m on vacation but I’ve been consuming way too many calories to not get a salad or two. While here, I was shocked and excited to see my friend Stephanie and her boyfriend; it’s a very big ship and the law of large numbers says that running into at least one person I knew was probable, but I haven’t seen either of them in a while and it was a very pleasant surprise to do so.

 

 

 


Wow…okay…so, what started as a lazy day definitely took a turn.

Stephanie and Greg left the buffet area earlier than I did, as I was finishing up my morning blog entry. They went to a trivia game, along with two other friends they were cruising with. I joined them a few minutes after. As it turned out, the host was Kareem, the same guy who coordinates the Solo Travelers program. Stephanie and I agreed that Kareem was doing his best, but that he lacks the skill of our friend Michelle, who has the sort of personality, wit, and stage presence that makes a trivia host truly entertaining. We ended up getting 14/24, which put us in second place.

After that, I had about an hour or so to kill, so I napped for a bit, and was out in time for the 5:00 meet-up. Wendy and Jen were there; both expressed that they were a bit concerned since neither of them had seen or heard from me all day. I briefly filled them in, and the meet-up began. “Tennessee” lady brought her entourage, who may not have been wearing “Rosé all day” shirts, but were most likely doing so. I felt a bit bad for Kareem as he tried to hold the attention of the room, but they certainly weren’t making it easy for him. Kareem did another round of trivia questions in the Solo Lounge with us…and about half of the questions were reused from the time before. AT&Team ended up with 12/17, in no small part because I remembered most of the answers from a few hours prior. Once he awarded us the win, I yelled out, “are you going to reuse questions tomorrow, too?”. He blushed, awarded me with a Norwegian Cruise Lines water bottle, and then told me that he promised not to recycle his question sheet tomorrow. We had a good laugh about it.

Wendy, Jen, and I had discussed going to one of the premium restaurants tonight. I’d tried to make reservations, but it was tough to find somewhere that had one available, on short notice, that wasn’t one of the two steakhouses (Jen is a pescetarian). We discussed it, and as it turned out, the French place seemed to have an opening at 6:30 that showed up on the screens, but not on the app. However, the screens are supposed to let me make a reservation, but didn’t. Strange. I ended up just calling the reservation line; I was amused that it took nearly four people to ask me to hold before I got someone to talk to. Even more amusing, that person said, “Just go to the restaurant and see if they have an opening”. Seems to defeat the purpose of a reservation, but whatever works.

The three of us went there and asked, and apparently they had an opening, but for an hour and a half later. We said ‘okay’, and then went to kill some time. Jen and Wendy got drinks at the bar. It was at that moment that I remembered there was a rum tasting on one of the other decks. Wendy was cool to people watch; Jen and I did some rum tasting.

The tasting was done by a Trinidadian woman who had just the most fantastic accent while also being very easy to understand. The tasting was basically sponsored by a single company; seven of their nine rum variants and mixed rums were available for tasting. One of those two was a 12-year aged rum they wouldn’t let us taste because the bottles are relatively rare, the other is 151-proof and isn’t allowed on the ship because it’s a fire hazard. The did let us taste all the others, and I was particularly a fan of their coconut one and their ‘gold’ variety, which tasted similar to amaretto. I wasn’t up for trying their 140-proof variety; 80 is basically my limit and I know it.

Jen and I enjoyed the demonstration and met up with Wendy when we were done. We sat and people-watched for a bit, then headed back to the restaurant, who did end up seating us.

The salad had good presentation, but could have been dressed a bit better. Jen had a mushroom soup she thoroughly enjoyed, while Wendy had a bowl of mussels she seemed to like as well. I ended up going vegetarian this go-round; I forget the exact thing it was but it involved a portabella mushroom, goat cheese, a bell pepper, and…maybe some eggplant? I forget, but it was absolutely delicious and just the correct portion.

The highlight of the meal, though, was the fondue dessert. I don’t know what it is about dipping fruit into chocolate that makes it about twenty times more enjoyable than if the fruit came pre-dipped, but we definitely had the most fun with it. As is common with fondue, the fruit-to-chocolate ratio wasn’t right, so there was leftover chocolate to be had. The fruit was served in a cut pineapple, which meant we had more pineapple to use for dipping. Now, the wait staff, skilled as they are, took away all of the cutlery that was on our table, except for the fondue forks. So, the ladies were laughing in amazement as I hacked away at this pineapple with a fondue fork, slowly but surely cutting off one edge section at a time. “We can ask for a knife”, Wendy offered…but I’m sure that exactly none of you reading this believe that I took the practical or expeditious route on this. I did end up getting the pineapple cut, and enjoyed it the most.

I left pretty much right after that, because Stephanie invited me to join her group in one of the bars where a particular entertainer was playing, known for his style and humor. He played a number of ‘bar classics’; “American Pie”, “Sweet Caroline”, “We Are The Champions”, “Wonderwall”, and of course “Piano Man” had the whole bar singing along with him. However, I was impressed with how he did everything else. At the behest of one woman who requested Taylor Swift (but it was ‘for her husband’, who was apparently a Marine for 22 years), he played Shake It Off, and did pretty good. F.U.N.’s “We Are Young” was also played, as were a few other pop tracks. However, the draw were his satires and original songs. “Old MacDonald’s Deformed Farm” was a stand-out; this farm had a “stuttering cow” with a mm-m-mmmm-mmoooo mmmmm-oo here…”, a dyslexic sheep (with an aaab aaab here…), a drug-dealing duck (with a crack-crack here…), and several other not-PG-rated animals, he had the bar in stitches. I was super torn about him playing “My Neck, My Back” because it’s literally the dirtiest song I have ever heard played at a party, but his rendition was incredibly skilled, and while *he* sang the radio edit, the crowd had no problem filling in the blanks for him. He played Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”, which floored me because he actually knew the lyrics to the Shaggy part that’s very difficult to understand. However, the absolute standout of awesome to me was his beatbox. He did a beatbox of about five different songs, in a dubstep format, complete with the vocal distortions, basslines, tempo changes, and even vinyl record scratching sound effects. Did I mention this was all a beatbox? Being a good bar pianist takes practice, being able to an incredibly difficult vocal performance that effectively? That’s legendary.

We dock in Bermuda tomorrow morning. Do you think I’ll manage to be awake at 7:45AM to watch it and take pictures for you? You’ll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon (or something) to find out….

Day 2: Sea, as far as the eye can see

Me: “I am on vacation and have literally no reason to be up for anything! I am going to bed at 1:30AM, and look forward to sleeping until 10AM or later. Because. I. Can.”

My Brain: “so…8:10, then?”

Me: “I literally just can’t even with you.”

Now, the problem is that while I was technically up at 8:10AM, it took me about 90 minutes to figure out where my get-up-and-go had gotten-up-and-went. I spent a good amount of time in that quantum state of being awake but also not wanting to do anything…but that’s kinda a part of the vacation.

When I did finally get up and go, I got a cup of coffee in the solo lounge. Wendy and Jen were there; we spent some time talking at length about basically-everything, from NY vs. NJ vs. CA life, to the consensus that it’s far more awesome to be an aunt/uncle than a parent.

Wendy’s day involved going to a quite area (ironically, the nightclub on the top deck is a ‘quiet area’ until 6), so Jen and I paired off and wandered around a bit. We passed by some of the artwork; there were a number of interesting pieces, including one with a three-dimensional build that had a fascinating optical illusion. Others were interesting acrylic pieces, some had that metallic look and strong contrast. Some pieces had a more traditional look, while others were abstract. There were plenty of strong colors and sharp contrast; I’m not an art person, but I did appreciate the selection of pieces on display. I wonder if one day I’ll see something akin to my all time favorite work of art, “Mourning a Geth”, on display somewhere other than my living room wall.

We walked a bit further, and the Q&A session with a number of the managers (hotel, bar, kitchen, etc.) were answering questions; we stayed for a bit and listened to some of the answers. Not a whole lot of new ground (how do you deal with time off, etc.), but still great to see everyone be in good spirits. I sometimes wonder if these people really feel this way, or if they’re just used to being ‘guest facing’ for an hour and acting accordingly.

With that, we hit up one of the main dining rooms.

Bacon-wrapped meat loaf…how have I never thought of this before? It was fantastic, as was the presentation. Jen and I continued talking about life and work and even politics for a bit; while we have areas of disagreement we did find plenty of common ground and both agreed that the ability to have a productive discussion with both parties walking away smiling was all too rare and we were both glad we were able to do so. Key lime parfait was great, though served on a plate, which we both found a bit abnormal.

I went up to the pool deck to start writing, and did a bit of people watching. It’s interesting how many people are traversing the deck, rather than sticking around on it. The DJ was doing a bit better job this go-round; I’d forgotten about the classic club track “Dive in the Pool”, but it’s bleeding obvious in retrospect. The sun came up a bit, but it’s still rather overcast. I also realized that I’d left my N7 hoodie at the restaurant; it was a bit chilly this morning, but it warmed up and I’d forgotten about it.

That brought me to my first encounter with the guest services desk, who did in fact have my hoodie. I was glad to get it back. I spend a few minutes checking in at work…so far, everything is going smoothly, which makes me happy.


Blog. Nap. Mass Effect.

Now you’re caught up on everything between my last entry and 5PM. The solo travelers get together at 5 daily, so I went to the meeting. A few new faces who weren’t there yesterday showed up and introduced themselves. We played a game of trivia, but got only half the answers right. Jen, Wendy, and I comprise a trivia team; we’ve named ourselves “AT&Team”, since Jen works for a subsidiary of Ma Bell. The trivia games accumulate throughout the week; we’ll see what happens.

It’s formal night, so I was glad I brought my suit. It’s a bit amusing to me that tonight is formal night, primarily because of how relatively few people actually wore formal wear. Some people really got into it, and I agree that it’s ultimately a good thing that formal wear is optional, but I still wanted to look pretty.

So, I went back to my stateroom to change, and it was a comedy of errors. First, I used the restroom, but the toilet paper dispenser fell off the wall. The screw holding it in place was loose, so I went through my spare set of screwdrivers in an attempt to reconnect it. As it turned out, it used  a Torx bit, and though I had half a dozen precision screwdrivers on me (doesn’t everyone?), I couldn’t do more than a little bit of tightening on it, but I managed to deal with the important parts of that exercise. Then, I went to gel my hair. It’s been so long since I’ve done that, my hair gel container had gotten far more solid than I needed it to be – it had a consistency closer to wax than hair gel. So, I tried adding water, and while it’ll probably be fine tomorrow, it isn’t right now…so I mixed it and used enough of the watery stuff to get my hair to look about-right. My hair was, at that point, actually-wet, requiring a hair dryer to get my hair to actually do the spike/fohawk look I tend to do. Well, the hair dryer had one of the EU standard plugs, and while I do have EU outlets, none of them are near any of my mirrors. So, I ended up having to use my turned-off TV to blow dry my hair…but ultimately, I did get it.

Though the Solo Travelers were having dinner ‘together’, one of the two tables were filled. This left Wendy all by herself, as she was waiting for Jen, Randy Sr. and Randy Jr., and myself. I walked in, she and I chatted for a bit, and the two Randys came in about ten minutes after me…at which point, we’d put in orders. The ravioli appetizer was great, and the roast beef entrée was also very good (albeit a tad too salty), but the real MVP were the pesto tomatoes. I was super happy to have those; I’d been waiting for them all trip…and they delivered.

It’s impressive how many tech people are on this cruise; Randy Jr. *also* works for a software company, so we all had a good chat about that. Randy Sr. is retired; in his heyday he did commercial printing back when doing embossed business cards was a manual process, and he was proud of his work in the field. It dovetailed us into a good old fashioned “kids these days” discussion, complete with the go-to examples of rotary phones, vinyl records and 8-tracks, and cursive writing.

Jen still hadn’t arrived, so while we were joking earlier that she was weaving her dress, Wendy and I were getting a bit nervous about whether she was okay. So, we decided to go to guest services to ask them to call her room as soon as I finished writing my comment card. As I did so, Wendy said, “we won’t have to go to Guest Services”. Jen had arrived in a ‘disco ball’ dress, as she put it. Though Wendy and I were literally about to leave, we opted to have dessert instead while Jen had her dinner. Our waiter was accommodating and at no point did we feel any pressure of any kind, but it was clear that having two people having dessert while one person was placing their drink order wasn’t his usual flow. He took the curve ball like a boss, but it was clearly a curve ball for him.

Dessert was an apple strudel; it had a few too many raisins for me to describe it with a superlative adjective, but it was still a treat.

The three of us went to the mojito bar, which is just what it sounds like – a bar which specialized in making different kinds of mojitos. Wendy bid us farewell shortly thereafter; as described, she’s one of those weird morning people who’s done with the day at 9:30. I had a raspberry mojito, Jen got a cucumber jalapeño one. We each let the other try our respective drinks. This was a bad move. I was not expecting a spicy drink, and I certainly wasn’t expecting one *that* spicy. The bartender was entertained, which was a good thing – he had a very deadpan sense of humor that was difficult to determine whether he was just giving a stoic delivery, or if he had ‘just had it’.


Is tonight the night Joey finally managed to avoid being a grown-up, and stay out late to enjoy some of the night life instead of retiring to his stateroom and go to bed before midnight for no discernible reason?

Yes. Yes it is.

It started to rain just as I arrived. It wasn’t a torrential downpour, but it was enough that there was a mass exodus as soon as I was walking in. It stopped shortly after, but the crowed seemed to ebb and flow as the drizzles started and stopped throughout the night.

The DJ was doing a ‘dancing through the decades’ bit, where he was playing 15-minute sets of 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s before going into more traditional club fare. The 80s set was good, and though the 90s was also solid, I was a bit surprised that he stuck to more of the 90s hip-hop stuff, which the crowd seems to go for, but the absence of 90s pop anthems “Ice, Ice Baby”, “Wannabe”, or “Everybody” was…not how I would have done it. I was also surprised that they didn’t do a 2000s category. While his club set seemed to span basically everything from 2000-2019, I find it a bit notable in general that it’s not as much of a ‘defined music decade’ as the rest of the 20th century.

Terry showed up for a bit as well. He strikes me as a dude who is very out of his element, and though we didn’t talk for more than a minute or two, I was glad he came. Shocking as this may be, I stuck to the edges and did the white guy shuffle for a bit, largely doing some people watching. There was a small group of women who gave off that “elementary school teacher” vibe, blowing off steam and clearly glad to get away from the drama that is ‘the parents’ and ‘the administration’ (though, I have no confirmation of this). I’ve noticed that there are a number of Korean groups traveling; though they tend to stick to themselves, one of the groups was on the dance floor for a good portion of the night, and they knew every lyric to every song. There was the ‘clearly wasted white girl’, who needed her ‘mom friend’, and a number of other younger couples enjoying the club atmosphere.

The event wrapped up around 12:30, just as well as it started actually-raining on my way back to my room.

Change clothes. Mass Effect. Bed.

Day 1: The Kickoff

It’s weird that I can navigate an airport terminal like a boss, but put me in a cruise terminal and I’m lost like a derp.

A better place to start would be the ride here. My boss was awesome enough to spring for a limo, which was super appreciated. However, the fact that it wasn’t a round trip limo meant I couldn’t bring anyone with me, leaving me to enjoy a party bus by myself. I spent a little of the time working out the fact that I was, in fact, deep, and didn’t print out my boarding pass. I did find, however, that their mobile app does present them, which is a life saver. Beyond that, however, I will tell you that an empty party bus most definitely feels different than a party bus with, well, a party.

So, I’m here in the cruise terminal, blogging to kill some time as I wait to be checked in and allowed to board…

I’m onboard and unpacked. It’s amazing how well they utilize 99 square feet. It’s small, but it does the job…except for my laptop, which is a problem I look forward to solving…somehow. The room has those nifty RGB LEDs, though apparently I can’t give my room a green hue? Oh well.

Also notably, everything is interior this go-round. No sunsets or sunrises from my room or from the solo traveler lounge, but there is plenty of communal deck space.

I already made an acquaintance, which is a good sign.

 

So, we’re off, which means I’ve got like five minutes before I have to start using my onboard internet time. On the  pool deck, they’re doing a ‘kickoff’ party. I feel a bit bad for the crew; it’s chilly and a bit overcast, so it definitely doesn’t feel like a party just yet. I will, however, judge the guy on the upper deck, taking a video of everyone doing the Cupid Shuffle. Bro, literally nobody is ever watching that video. I’m also judging the DJ; going from Cupid Shuffle to Cha Cha Slide is amateur hour…and while I can understand the MC wanting to be interactive, shouting out the directions to the Cha Cha Slide is redundant; the song is 19 years old; there are exactly zero people on this cruise who have never heard it before.

On my to-do list is to talk to some of the crew who are doing the whole motivational dance thing. I know I will forever feel awkward on a dance floor, but there is most definitely a certain personality required to be ‘into it’, with intent and a smile when there are like three people dancing with you. I sometimes wonder if I’d be willing to trade my IT acumen for that level of skill at dancing and crowd motivation.

Alright, so…first night largely in the bag at this point.

After I left the deck party, I headed to the Studio Lounge, where I met up with Wendy, a woman who works for a teleconferencing company which has a solid niche in the medical field. She’s pretty technical, and we talked for quite a bit about things of that nature. It was nice to make a fast friend.

After talking to Wendy and getting a cup of coffee from the espresso machine, I went back to my room and unpacked. The room definitely has this strange Tardis Effect, in that it simultaneously feels very small, but uses space so efficiently that I don’t feel cramped. We’ll see how that changes the first time I use the shower in the morning, but for now, it’s fine.

I ended up going back to the Studio Lounge, only to find that there was a gathering of many of the solo travelers…and I was late for it. Not too late, apparently – Kareem, our solo traveler specialist, talked a bit about things before he shifted gears and went around the room with everyone introducing themselves. Tom is a “cruise ambassador”; apparently he’s been on 20 cruises this year? It’s on my to-do list to talk to him about that, because it seems like the sort of thing that would ultimately get boring after a while, so I’m interested in his take. Also, there was ‘the blonde lady whose name escapes me’…and she was a bit too helpful. Expressing a willingness to provide assistance and insight is one thing, and having lived in Bermuda for several years, I am sure she has both. She established her self as being ‘that guy’ when we couldn’t even get through sharing our names and home towns without her interjecting a paragraph or four.

After Kareem was done, we went through the itinerary of stuff-to-do, which tonight is a bit light. I ended up speaking with Terry, a dude for whom it is his first time cruising, his first time to New York, and his first time traveling internationally. Apparently he’s relatively technical as well – his desktop well outspecs my laptop, so we got talking for a bit. After we decided to end our discussion, I started talking to Wendy a bit more at length. I ended up making a bit of a correlation: In general, the sort of people who file away all their e-mails into an intricate set of subfolders tend to be morning people. People like me, who have 20,000 things in their inbox and just use ‘search’, tend to be night people.

Not too long after, Jen joined us. Jen works for AT&T, apparently has an IT background as well (and played a few MMOs before the term was a thing), and has two kids. We spoke for quite a while about things, both technical and nontechnical. Jen comes from California, so she’s well versed in things wine-related. The Studio Lounge has a wine dispenser, which I found amusing because one of our clients at work has the same exact models.

We took our discussion to the bar, where Wendy and I had food, and Jen and I had some drinks. Overall, solidly enjoyable discussion. I had a Chicago Style hot dog, which was very good. I was kinda-sorta hungry thereafter, and apparently they were serving prime rib at one of the main dining areas. I got some, and was unimpressed. Now yes, I have been spoiled rotten by living so close to The Spare Rib, but I mean, this stuff was ‘meh’ at best.

I could barely make it up the 18 flights of stairs between deck 7 and deck 16. I’m hoping my legs are in a bit better shape by the end of this trip.

Also, there are two access points in the studio lounge. Why? They’re Cisco APs, that room fits maybe 40 people. That sort of question is the sort of thing everyone is curious about, right? …right?

 

Did you think I went back to my room and played Mass Effect? Seriously? You did? I’m ashamed that you would think I was that predictable.

I went back to my room and played Titanfall 2.

I debated going to the party, because I was getting tired and I’m not 22 anymore, but I did attempt to do so. I wandered around the ship looking for where I thought it was, and when I got there, there were like three blokes on the side drinking a beer. I was a bit surprised, because it was about 12:30 when I did this, and I couldn’t see a first-night party being completely over with everyone gone and the floors swept just two hours later. When I got back to my room, I realized I was in the wrong place, and decided that it was late enough that I wouldn’t have much fun when I went anyway, so it was bedtime for Joey.

Overall, a solid first day.

A Catch-Up, Before Boarding

Good morning everyone!

Wow, I looked at the date of my last post, and it was five months ago?! I know I’m generally pretty terrible at writing on any sort of a schedule, but five months is pretty excessive for me, so…I’m sorry about that. 

A lot has happened in the last five months, but strangely, not a whole lot I deemed worth writing about. I guess I need to readjust my standard of quality to reflect a standard of quantity. I started a few posts here and there; I’ve got a draft about Joshua Harris’s announcement that “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” was something he no longer agreed with, but that left the news cycle quicker than I could write about it. A few technical things here and there, but to be honest, I’ve been writing those technical articles in my company’s knowledgebase, rather than on my blog.

Work has been very busy; I’ve gotten a number of relatively large projects done for some of our bigger clients; though the schedule is demanding it is at least partially self-inflicted. I’ve gotten to visit some friends I haven’t seen in a while, I’ve been working on being a bit more conscious about what I eat (and I’ve lost nearly six pounds in the past two months as a result), my friend Jon helped me get some Docker containers running at home which have helped streamline my home LAN, and on the DJ side, I invested in a new DJ mixer that came with a copy of Pioneer’s Rekordbox; I still have some ties to Serato but I am definitely in the process of being able to switch-hit.

But, if you’re reading this, the real reason you’re here is probably because of my trip to Bermuda. I’m looking forward to visiting the island again and writing about it daily while I’m gone…largely so my mom won’t worry. Feel free to leave comments while I’m gone; I’ll try to address them as best as I can.

See you tomorrow!

Unpopular opinion: EA needs to keep Anthem, not cancel it

For the unitiated, Anthem is Bioware’s most recent video game release, a “live service” model that’s a new franchise and…went over like a Hawaiian pig roast at a bar mitzvah. They indicated that there was a “10 year roadmap”, and this week it came to light that many of the game’s senior managers had been reshuffled or reassigned.

But, I submit that EA needs to stick to the roadmap.

They probably won’t – the only number lower than the earnings from the game is the metacritic score. At the rate things are going, it is unlikely to ever break even. It doesn’t make business sense to continue developing content for Anthem from the looks of things. Just to get it out of the way, I’m not saying this as someone who bought Anthem and is now upset at the lack of content. Anthem is an anathema to the sort of video games I like – single player with solid mechanics and a progression method which encourages discovery and exploration. Crysis, Sol Survivor, Star Trek Elite Force, Osmos, Kirby’s Adventure, Bioshock, Trine, and of course Mass Effect are all amongst my list of favorites.

The reason I say this is not for my benefit, but for EA’s.

EA wants the “Live Service” model to succeed. Loathe it as I do, I am able to at least understand the business need to have something beyond one-off $60 game sales as a business model. However, as has been exhaustively covered by dozens of Youtube commentators, Anthem embodies most of the worst aspects of the live service model.

Notable in this list is the “roadmap” concept itself – the promise of new content over the life cycle of the game. In the days of yore, content had to be on a cartridge or CD, otherwise it didn’t get shipped. Then, we got expansion packs and downloadable content (DLC) which provided additional content to a complete game. DLC kept creeping in; Mass Effect 3 had approximately $55 of DLC released over the course of its lifetime, it’s hardly the worst offender. The Roadmap concept is essentially a game publisher requesting that players invest in a game for which content will be released over time. This might be acceptable for games intended for some sort of episodic format, but Telltale and Valve both had issues trying to do video games in an episodic format, and I don’t think Anthem or its premise lends itself to it any better.

There are a few reasons I think having a roadmap for Anthem is worth the losses EA will incur. First, Bioware’s issues with the Frostbite engine are well documented. It is clear that getting RPG elements into a game using Frostbite is incredibly challenging for the team there. Using Anthem as a development and de facto UAT platform for those elements may help streamline things for other RPG games required to use the engine. Second, several other live service games with bumpy starts ended up maturing over time and earning themselves a stable fan base. Certainly, it is unlikely that Anthem will unseat Fortnite in the next year or two, but it’s possible that the game will find its footing over time. The capability of a game to adapt to what players are looking for is one of the selling points of live service games. Shifting the focus a bit to single player for the moment might not be what EA and Bioware want long term, but the low number of players aren’t endearing anyone to missions requiring other people to play.

The biggest reason, however, that I think Anthem should stay true to the roadmap is because it is a canary in the coal mine for live service games. If EA abandons the roadmap, EA makes the statement that roadmaps are ‘suggestions’ or ‘nice-to-haves’, rather than commitments. If players stop trusting roadmaps, they’ll hold off their purchases until the first or second phase of the roadmap is in place…which, depending on the roadmap, can be months or years after initial release. This is dangerous because it dilutes the ability for companies to make financial reports based on first-week sales. There may well be pent up demand for an already-released game, but whose prospective players are keeping a wait-and-see approach for the first steps of the roadmap. This makes it a gamble for the publishers as to whether it’s worth spending the money to develop the additional content. Moreover, making those decisions can easily become even more difficult when dealing with competing studios. If Blizzard withheld content for Destiny 2 due to the Anthem roadmap, it would look like an almost laughable decision in retrospect. Conversely, if a game’s roadmap listed a particular release date, and right around that time another super popular game caused a measurable dip in player engagement, it might make sense to delay it until the fervor dies down, but it would then cast doubt on the validity of the roadmap.

Finally, Anthem’s roadmap promised ten years of content. Given how little it’s actually being played, and how little revenue it’s making (relatively), there’s a whole lot of speculation that the game won’t make it until the end of the year. If a roadmap is something that’s actually promised, EA may have to either refund players (i.e. lose every dime they spent developing the game), or roll the dice that none of the players have the time or disdain for EA to file a lawsuit for false advertising. If such a lawsuit happens, it may cause roadmaps to be legally binding. If that happens, it puts EA in a terrible position for future live service games, since those roadmaps will have to go through their legal department to ensure they are only making promises the company can fulfill.

If EA keeps to their Anthem roadmap, it will be a signal to everyone that EA’s roadmaps can be trusted. That trust is critical for any live service game they plan to release. Providing content for Anthem is expensive. Not providing content for Anthem is even more expensive.

What you have to hide

I bought a new phone this weekend: an LG Stylo 4. I need to return it because I can’t root it. I thought about just finally calling it quits with my insistence on being able to root and just using the phone as it ships. After all, millions of people have various amounts of data uploaded to the Googlesphere every day, and no massive problem has happened. Besides, the reason they collect that data is just to deliver more targeted ads, so maybe I really just need to turn a new leaf and deem that beneficial?

Except, I do have something to hide. And so do you.

See, there is actually a career called “advertising psychology”. That entire field consists of people whose job it is to create ads which exploit things in your psyche to make an ad more effective to you. I’m not kidding. Your Facebook and Instagram likes (and other emotive reacts), how long you stay on a page, what things you comment on, what apps are on your phone, what pages outside of Facebook and Google you visit, and plenty of other information all feeds into this profile about which emotions appeal best to get you to act in a particular way. Then, advertisers use that profile.

The profile being built is basically a means by which to determine how to best manipulate you to purchase a particular product. Once that profile is built, how will you combat it? Shadow profiles will continue to be built even if you cancel your Google and Facebook accounts. You’re ultimately powerless, and studies have shown that facts are unlikely to change your mind.

Look, I’m not opposed to advertising in the abstract. There is a need to be able to find out what things are available so I can make an informed choice. However, these profiles are basically the most reliable means by which to manipulate you into making a decision – be it a purchase or a vote – that you wouldn’t have done otherwise, and without recourse or conclusive evidence that it was ever done.

The list of particular strings you are most responsive to is something that *everyone* should want to hide.