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March 9, 2003
a year ago
two year ago
three years ago
four years ago

Orientation, Snorkeling, and Dressing Up

4:43 pm: Since I didn't really get to sleep until 3 last night, this morning started rather later than I thought it would. In fact I originally thought that it started somewhere near 11, but John said that I'd actually gotten up around 9:30. I don't really know what I was seeing on my watch last night.

The damned assistant waiter gave me a caffienated espresso, and I was just wide-eyed until 3 am, which sucked.

I did, however, wake up and decide that I was just awake, so I pumped, showered, and then shaved and shaved and shaved. I nearly never shave. Especially the accepted American places where one shaves under the arms, the legs, and the bikini area. I have such thick hair that the first and the last get uncomfortable very quickly.

I may well have been miffed, enough, by the waiter last night to actually want to Make Sure that I looked like a girl. Or something.

Took me a while to realize that it was much better to just use one of the drinking glasses to hold warm water than to try and use the portable showerhead every time I needed the razor cleared. I also figured out that it was a very good thing that I'd used a new razor on my more tender bits, first, before hitting the legs. By the second leg, it was getting pretty dull. Bah.

One thing that really startled me was finding that my forearms and elbows were speckled with bright, bright red. I'd been burnt!! Eeek! I was really not expecting that, after the Colorado sun, but I guess the sun nearer the equator is still nearer than at home during the winter. Plus I'm often in a thick coat when I go outside, anyway. Still, it startled me significantly, and I wanted to get some aloe vera for my arms.

John was up when I was done. We got dressed, went out to the Windjammer and had breakfast there. It was nice to have a choice between breakfast and the cafeteria lunch, and we went, entirely, for the breakfast. I've always loved breakfast more than lunch. Someday, John and I will have to go to an island and have lunch there instead of on the ship. We love eating local food so much, and there's more to a meal than, "It's paid for!"

But it was a nice breakfast, and we wandered about, found the climbing wall, the kid's pool, and the little seafood quick food place that wasn't the Windjammer. It's right next to the kid's pool and it has French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other kid food. They also, however, have Cuban sandwiches, Ruebens, and other interesting looking sandwiches that they don't have in the Windjammer. So if we do have lunch on-board sometime, we should go there, as I'd far prefer that to the cafeteria food.

We tried to buy some aloe vera in the shops on the ship, but all of them were closed. I guess that since many of the are duty-free, they can only be open while we're out to sea. So I wasn't able to get my aloe on board. That made me mildly grumpy. We found out from the Guest relations that there were local shops just around the corner from our dock. So we just went out the gangplank on level 2, and went out for a walk to find some aloe.

There was a small shopping mall right around the corner, sure enough, and there was a pharmacy that wasn't too much further. It was an easy walk, so we got the aloe from the local drug store that looked a heck of a lot like our drug stores, and went back to the ship and slathered me up. I found, though that without the heat of the shower my skin was nearly normal. It was just irritated by the sun, not badly damaged. Whew.

I was very glad of that.

Since we were in the stateroom, we packed up our backpack for the day trip ad then headed out to the Schooner lounge. There we drank soda water and beer until everyone arrived. I liked just sitting and sipping with John. The boat guy showed up soon after we did, and his face and neck were all a deep, lobster red. This was a guy that should have to worry about skin cancer. Ouch.

We all headed out, walked down the pier, and got to a dock that had a pirate ship at it. The folks on that ship motored out and a cat motored in. We all got on that ship, and had to take off our shoes before we got onboard. Rather than see if anyone had suitable footwear, they just took everyone's off.

All the ships headed off towards Buck Island. Turns out that when there was slavery here, it was the island that they put male slaves (bucks) that would rather die than submit to their masters. They just left 'em out there, with no food or water, and let 'em die. Ugh. There was a little more to the store, and I kind of wonder if it was something like 98 percent of the slaves left on the island either survived or were taken elsewhere by someone else.

I don't know, though, as I didn't hear the whole story. I'll have to ask Ray.

We powered out to the tiny island, as there was a tremendous headwind. Out of the bay there were some good sized swells and I definitely do NOT have my sea legs. I was grabbing onto things and staggering across the deck while the deckhand shadowed me, careful and quiet as a cat with a hand always out to catch me if I fell. I was glad of it, but didn't say a darned thing. We tipped well, at the end, though.

There was water, fruit punch, and soft drinks on the way out. The fruit punch was actually a nice blend of a bunch of juices. I enjoyed it a great deal. No rum in it, yet, and I was glad.

The island didn't really seem like much. There were buoys out there for all the ships to anchor on, and the other sailing vessels were all at anchor and there was a gradually spreading pool of people in snorkel gear. It was pretty cool to see. We all got fins, snorkel masks, and some instruction. We were then just told to jump out when ready. There were platforms off the back of the boat and after the hot sun, the water seemed *cold*.

But it was in the 80's! With some currents that were very warm indeed. I was pretty impressed with how completely comfortable it was. I also picked up a snorkeling jacket, which is a modified sort of lifejacket that can be inflated by mouth. It's simple enough, and it worked really well at making me *feel* buoyant, as if I didn't have to move at all to stay afloat. I really liked that. I may well have been able to do it without it, but with it I had the confidence to just go and never panic about breathing or swimming or other stuff like that.

I really enjoyed that.

The last times I tried snorkeling, I panicked a lot, this time I could just float in the water and watch things, after the deep water aerobics classes, I have the leg muscles very well developed for kicking with long, slow, strong strokes that are really good for use with fins. I enjoyed the speed I could get just by kicking and keeping my arms to my sides.

We started in a small reef, and then headed out where there were turtles, as this was Turtle Cove and there were plenty of sea grasses for turtles. That was neat. There were two small ones in close to the island, and two huge ones further out. One of the huge ones had a notch out of its shell where a propeller had hit it. It's now called Lucky and has been a resident of the cove for the last ten years. Lucky indeed.

The area where there were turtles was relatively barren. The fish were in amid all kinds of sea plants. So I went back to the coral and had a blast just floating and watching the fish drift by. They were so beautiful! Tropical fish. There were plenty of parrot fish with those beaked mouths in all kinds of colors. Some rainbow, some like a trout, some lavender, many just brown, there was a huge one that was patched with clown colors. I saw a yellowtail snapper, and there were grouper, and all kinds of fish that the captain showed us a card about, but I'd completely forgotten their names.

There was a tiny fish with a deep purple blue top half and a brilliantly yellow belly. There was a palm-sized fish that had a bright yellow tail and a body that was made of blue-black velvet with turquoise shiny spots sprinkled all over. I was astonished by that one, as the pictures just made it out to be a black fish with a yellow tail and the captain had said that it was something special if you actually saw it. Now I know exactly what she meant.

Wow and again wow.

I did, however, swallow enough sea water that I felt mildly queasy. So after about an hour, I told John I was going in, and he said that it was good. So I went in. As I was trying to get enough up a ladder to take off my gear, the woman above me dropped her snorkel. John dove under me to get it when I couldn't get it. He neatly handed it into the basket that the crew hands had let down, and was thanked for the task.

I managed to get my fins, mask, and vest into the decontaminating stuff, and then headed on board for a nice glass of ice water, and some desalination. Whew.

The ride back was much more enjoyable and mellow after all the exercise and uncertainty were over. I really liked that. It was cool to just sit with everyone, drink pop and listen or talk a bit. It was nice to just kick back and feel the waves we'd just ignored during the night, and bounce to some of the music they were playing. When the Blues Brothers came on it was funny to realize that I knew all the songs, mostly it was John's fault.

The funny thing is that after the swim I felt pretty good about my body. I guess using it just felt good. And I didn't do too badly. I also really like my legs. It was an unusual experience, and I took advantage of it and of being not afraid and just decided to walk back to the ship in my swim suit. I didn't want to get salt all over my shirt and shorts, so I just walked on in. That was so very comfortable to do.

Of course, then I get stopped at the security station, and they think I'm not the me that was in the picture that was taken when I first got on board. It was the hat. I had worn the hat that I'd bought in San Diego, so that I wouldn't get toasted by the sun. It's a very nice hat, but with my confidence and my swim suit I looked very different, I guess. When I did doff my hat, though, they let me back on. *grin*

Joan was a little mad about them stopping me, but that's okay.

Once back at our room, we showered, and John's now napping while I type away out on the balcony. We've just pulled out and we're heading out, by the island we were just at, and now even further. Having the sea be this near is wonderful! And the breeze feels so good. Sadly, they had to turn the ship so that we're now towards the sun, but the sun is getting close to setting, and it isn't a bad thing to get to see the setting of the sun.

I feel good. I'm very glad that we did the adventure we did and that we did it together. I enjoyed it a great deal. I know next to nothing more about St. Thomas other than it relies solely on tourist trade, that it's the economic center for these small islands, and that the tourist population is 55,000 and the off season population is around 40,000. And that now no one here hires anyone unless that person already lives right on the island. They had so many people back out while trying to move out there, that they simply don't offer jobs to people that are visiting in order to find a job. Oops.

While I love the ocean, I don't think I like this place enough to move here. It's just too hot and humid. And I hate people, so what would I do on a tourists' island?

Tonight was the first of the two formal nights. For all people's good intentions, instead of doing anything after we got back, we all napped. John and I just slept solid until 7:15. We got up, showered, got dressed up, and I even put on makeup! Eek. We then went to the Captain's reception and got to meet the captain and get a picture taken with him. Yay! We then went into the champagne reception, got canapes, and hung out happily. It was fun.

From there we headed for the diningroom, stood for a while, talking to random people, while we waited for it to open. There were no suits as cool as John's. There was, however, one guy from the Canadian armed forces in a great tartan kilt. It was just gorgeous with his army jacket. I actually enjoyed wearing my velvet blue evening gown with all the cubic zirconium jewelry that was subtle enough that it made people guess a to whether or not it was real. The rhinestone front of the dress is pretty fun, too. I enjoy it a lot, and should probably thank J. Peterman for letting me feel like I'd outdressed a good deal of the women in the room.

We got in when they opened things up, and found that we were the first couple there. Kelly and Kevin got there next, and then Joan, Ray, Janet, and Rob arrived, they'd given up on getting their formal picture taken before dinner. They'd been far too many people.

Dinner was pretty good. The Lobster Bisque was FAR too salty, and John's shrimp cocktail had been allowed to warm up and get limp instead of crisp. I enjoyed my mushrooms, cream, and puff pastry. It was crisp and good.

My duck l'orange was tasty, but they hadn't rendered the fat very well, and the skin was soggy instead of crisp. It had been allowed to sit under a cover for far too long. The sauce was wonderful, as was the potatoes they served with it. It was a good meal.

Dessert was a wonderful chocolate souffle with a rich, amaretto based sauce. That was really excellent, and the texture of the souffle itself was light and perfect. Mmmm.... I was very glad of that.

Sadly, my initial impression is bearing out. While the food sounds very good, it rarely lives up to what one would find in a great restaurant that serves the same thing. The mass service makes it sure that the quality will suffer. Things sit for too long. Also the simple nature of mass producing this much of all these things makes it inevitable that the quality suffers on an individual basis. I had kind of expected that, but not enough, I guess.

It's good food. It's not great. I have to remember that when I eat, and not eat too much of anything that I really don't like. There is no need.

After dinner, John and I split up from the rest of the group and headed over to the Cinema, which is opposite the theater, before the Casino, and watched most of The Bourne Identity. It was okay. After Hong Kong action movies, the action sequences were pretty good, but being, by the nature of the plot, one on one scenarios, it could be only so intense. The plot was thin, the reasoning even thinner. I especially hated the 'revealed' plot maker. Bah.

Ah well.

I guess, after The Usual Suspects, all revelation mysteries may pale. But it was very interesting seeing an American movie moving in those directions. Both John and I had heard a bunch of people praising this movie to the sky, so it'll be cool if this kind of things starts getting more popular in the States. It might make Johnny Mo's Hero succeed a bit better here.

I actually knitted on my sock during the movie. That as fun.

We then went up to the Seaview Cafe to find me some chamomile tea, but there were also sandwiches and other good food, so John got some fish and chips and I got a Cuban sandwich, which is a pile of meat, mustard, a bit of mayo and a pickle all grilled together and squashed into a softish Cuban roll. Yummy. Fatty, but wonderful. John's fish and chips were good, too, as was the onion rings. They made it fresh, right there, so it wasn't fraught with the errors of the rest of the kitchen, so I was very, very happy with that. That probably means that we really should eat in the central dining room, someday, for breakfast and/or lunch and have the kitchen fixing stuff fresh for us. Maybe. It could be an entirely different experience.

The Cafe was busy, filled with late night drunks and partiers looking for a snack. It was fun to see everyone in their formalwear, enjoying being out. I loved seeing people talking over drinks and food.

We headed back to the cabin and went to sleep. Our exploration thing isn't until late tomorrow. So it will be good to sleep in late.

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