Around the World 2016, Days 7 – 8

We docked in Aruba at 1000 on Day 7 of the cruise.  Most folks were taking off for a day of sun and sightseeing, with many of them going to the beaches or snorkel and dive spots. We’d planned on a snorkel trip and island tour.  At 1030 we were picked up by the port agent (one of their agents, they have many). They were very busy as there were five ships in port, the most the port can handle. Ours was a fairly small ship, but the other four were very large.  We were taken quickly to the hospital ER and they stayed until we were checked in. The fee for the ER was $267, an amazingly small amount to an American.  The hospital was old and worn, but was clean and fairly efficient.  They do have a new hospital under construction.  The wait was fairly short and we were seen by a female physician who was excellent in all ways.  She ordered an X-ray and she confirmed what we had been told on the ship.  Surgery might be needed and we couldn’t return to the ship, but Gail was OK to fly home.  She gave us a written report for the insurance company.  We checked out, paying an extra $100 for the four X-rays, which were given to us on a CD.

The port agent returned to pick us up and took us to her office.  She gave us coffee and faxed the medical report off to the trip insurance company.  She then arranged a hotel for us for the night and took us to the hotel.  We got Gail settled at the hotel and the agent took me back to the ship to finish packing up and to do final departure things with the concierge and the purser.  No problems with any of that.  At 500 another agent came to pick me up and also the bags that were being shipped back to us (the same ones that had been shipped to Miami for us as part of the cruise package).  On the way to the hotel she made a stop at the cruise terminal so I could buy a couple of souvenirs of Aruba.  Then, since there was no room service in the hotel she agreed to drive through McDonald’s so that I could get supper for Gail and me.  Another exquisite cruise meal.  :-) I spent the evening making calls to the travel insurance and by 1100 PM had arranged our departure the next day.

On Day 8 we woke up in the hotel in Aruba and were picked up at 800 by another port agent representative for the trip to the airport.  We went in to check in and check two bags. The insurance company had booked us three seats next to each other in coach so Gail could keep her arm free over the middle seat and not have it bumped.  They had also arranged for a wheel chair and someone to push it.  Fortunately the chair got us to the head of each line, security, US Customs, and security again.  If we’d not been able to go to the head of the line we never would have made it to the gate in time.  Ten minutes before our pre-boarding time we were at the gate. Our three seats together were near the back of the plane so it was convenient for Gail to get to the bathroom.  The two and a half hour flight to Miami was fine.

There was a wheel chair waiting in Miami which took us to our next gate.  With a five hour wait we had plenty of time to get some lunch at TGIFridays, our only decent meal of the trip home.  Eventually it was time for the five and a half hour flight to Las Vegas.  We pre-boarded quickly and got comfortable.  Although we’ve taken flights up to 15 hours, this one seemed longer than any of them due to the pain, exhaustion, and emotion involved.  It was really hard.  To top it all off when we arrived in Las Vegas there was no wheel chair waiting as we left the plane.  We finally trudged up the jetway and talked to the gate agent. She was apologetic and said we should have one. Within 15 minutes one arrived and a young man took us to baggage claim and on to the waiting area for the shuttle, which was due to leave in another hour and a quarter.  We finally boarded the shuttle and the driver got us home in the advertised two hours.  A cab was waiting to take us home.  It was 130 AM, so that makes it the story of another day.

Around the World 2016, Days 4 & 5 & 6

On Day 4 we woke up and went to a nice breakfast buffet in the hotel that was provided for us.  We met a few more of our fellow cruisers, and then got our bags from our room and went down to wait for the bus to take us to the cruise terminal a mile away.  We got to the terminal and it was a mess.  We had been led to believe there would be a separate “express line” for us, but there wasn’t.  To add to the fun there was a jazz band playing and singing loudly, much too loudly, which only added to Gail’s stress from standing in an interminable line.  We finally got through the paperwork and boarded the ship.  The cabins weren’t ready yet so we went to the buffet for late lunch and to wait.

When the cabin was ready we headed to our cabin and it was just what we expected.  All was good.  All of our bags arrived by 6 or so and 6 of the 9 were unpacked before our 900 PM dinner reservation in the Polo Grill steak house.  We had watched the sailaway from Miami at 800 from our balcony.  We were full and tired when we returned from dinner and I convinced Gail that there was no need to immediately unpack three large bags as we had two sea days to get settled before arriving in Aruba.  We went to bed exhausted.

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On Day 5 I awoke at 0530 to go to the bathroom.  I got back in bed and Gail got up to do the same.  A minute later I heard a tremendous crash and jumped up to see what had happened. Gail was on her knees and right hand in the tiny bathroom.  She said she was OK and would get herself up and come back to bed.  She did so and I was back asleep in two minutes. I awoke at 0745 and she was sitting on the love seat next to the bed.  I assumed she had awakened early, but she told me that her arm was seriously hurt from the fall, where she had hit it on the steel door frame. She guessed that the shoulder was dislocated.

We headed to the Ship’s Doctor who did an X-ray and exam and told us the bad news: it was a proximal humerus fracture and might require surgery to repair.  A what?  The upper arm bone is the humerus, and it has a ball at the end of it that goes into the shoulder joint. A proximal fracture means it is broken right at the ball and can’t be splinted. They often must be put back together with pins or screws. In addition, whether she needed surgery or not, it would take weeks of therapy after healing.  He told us we would have to leave the ship at the next port to go to the ER there and then to go home for treatment.

We cried.  The doctor reassured us reminding us we weren’t going home in a body bag and didn’t have a life threatening condition. We understood that, but were still totally crushed and heartbroken over the loss of one of our lifetime dreams, something that had taken much of our time the last two years and was supposed to take all of our time for six months. We headed back to the cabin totally dejected and started to pack up the suitcases that had been unpacked the night before.

Days 5 and 6 were taken up with Gail suffering severe pain with no drugs other than acetaminophen and eating bits of room service food.  I had a couple of meals in the buffet but also ate with her in the cabin. Most of my time those days was taken up with internet messages and phone calls to our travel agent and the travel insurance company, and visits with ship staff to make arrangements for our departure.  I won’t bore you with details of those hours of calls, arrangements, and negotiations.  Basically, we had paid for the full trip and there are no refunds no matter what.  We knew that.  We signed the contract.  We also signed the contract for the trip insurance to cover the cost of the trip, medical costs, and so forth.  They would fly us back in a special MedEvac jet if needed, or would even return our remains if we died.  But it all took arranging.  We arranged to leave the ship on Day 7 in Orangestaad, Aruba, and be taken to the ER at the only hospital on the island of some 100,000 residents.

 

 

Around the World 2016, Day 3

It was good that we got a good sleep Friday night.  Last night was an adventure.  We went to bed early enough, and fell asleep.  But soon the phone rang.  It was a wrong number.  Just drifting off again, when we heard some loud banging noises.  Realized it was fireworks!  We did NOT get up and watch.  That lasted about 10/15 minutes.  Did not hear any the night before, but then maybe we were just so tired we slept through them.

Got back to sleep, finally.  Around 2:00 we were awakened by several people in the next room partying, talking very loud and banging things around.  At 2:30, Dan finally called security.  We heard them arguing with the security guy, but after a few minutes, things finally got quiet and stayed that way. Not usual in such a high end place, but was handled very quickly and efficiently by security. This morning on our way to get coffee, I noticed that THEY had the do not disturb sign on.  I threatened to bang on their door. Dan wouldn’t let me.  😀

We slept until about 9:00.  We had requested a late check-out for 2:00, so had plenty of time.  We got dressed and went down to where the coffee is free and bought some stuff to go with it and took advantage of their speedier wi-fi until some folks with several rug rats on plastic scooters sat next to us. The place was getting pretty busy, so time to leave.

Back in the room we decided to hit the pool again, so got on our suits and went down.  There were very few people there, since it was cooler and cloudier than yesterday.  But the water was still great and we enjoyed it for about an hour. Back in the room, we showered and put on our ‘meet and greet’ clothes and got all the stuff organized and rearranged and played on the wifi from the balcony.  DSCN0905 (1)

About 1:00 we called the bellman to pick up and hold our bags and we went down to the lobby bar to wait for the shuttle to pick us up at 2:00 to take us to Miami.  Dan ordered a curried chicken wrap to go while we were waiting and ate half of it, then finished it later.  I was still pretty full from breakfast.

Right on time, our private shuttle service showed up; in a black stretch limo!  Pretty nifty.  A free upgrade to start our trip.  The ride took about an hour and we chatted with a very friendly and knowledgeable driver.  We were very pleased all the way around.  We arrived at the Epic Hotel in Miami, where Oceania is paying for our room tonight.  DSCN0914  We arrived at 3:00 and it was a bit of a zoo.  It was confusing to the staff too, as while Gail was talking to the Oceania rep at a desk, I (Dan) went up to the room with a bellman and the luggage.  I opened the door and there was the lady who was checking in at the station next to me.  Needless to say we were both surprised.  No, she hadn’t undressed yet.  Went back down and sorted it out. Check-in time is 4:00, but they let us go ahead and check -in. We have a beautiful ocean-view room.   We saw an Oceania ship in the harbor, but realized it was one of the bigger ships, the Riviera, going out on a Caribbean cruise.  We watched it sail away at 6:00 tonight.  Our ship will have arrived when we get up in the morning. We are set to sail away at 5:00 tomorrow evening.

At 5:00, we went down to the bar to ‘meet and greet’ many of the people we had been chatting with and getting to know on the Internet over the past year.  It was fun to talk to them in person and of course everyone is very excited that our long awaited adventure is about to begin.  We chose not to join any of the dinner plans, but came back to the room and ordered room service.   I just finished an excellent chicken quesadilla.  Will soon eat the smallest key lime tart I have ever seen.  For $4.00 plus taxes and tip, it better be damned good!  DSCN0945(It turned out that it was terrible)  But since it is the last food I will have to pay for for six months, I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Time to unwind with a little TV and try to get some sleep.  Weather is predicted to be rainy tomorrow, but that will not dampen our enthusiasm.  I can hardly wait to get through all the paperwork, get to the cabin with all nine of our bags and start getting settled in for this big adventure.

Around the World 2016, Day 2

January 2, 2016

After sleeping 13 hours, we woke up feeling pretty recovered from yesterday’s adventures.  We realized that there was no coffeemaker in the room.  Dan said that it was a sign we are in a high end hotel!  That and the fact that you have to ring room service to get ice.  We did without ice, but Dan’s first task, after a hot shower, was to go in search of coffee and food.   He discovered that there is a coffee place on the ground floor, and it is free.  But they were happy to sell him a couple of chocolate croissants and give him a carrier to bring four cups back to the room.

So we sat on our balcony and watched the swimmers in the water, and had breakfast and took our pills. This reminds me a lot of all the years of spending time in Maui.  The weather today was perfect, in the low 80s, a few clouds and not a terrible amount of humidity.

Then I spent some time getting things a bit more organized than where we had dumped stuff last night.  Discovered that TSA had opened and inspected our checked bag.  They leave you a nice little note when they do that.  I think it was because of the metal insulated coffee mug that I threw in at the last minute.  I guess it could have looked like something evil on their monitors.   😀

Dan tried to catch up on some email and Facebook, but our connection here is very slow, so it got frustrating.  I said I wasn’t going to spend my day staring at this screen.

I checked out some of the amenities in the room.  There is a tray of snacks and stuff by the TV, and everything is $8.  Normally,  I would pass at that price, but there is a cute glass jar in the form of a teddy bear, about 8″ tall, full of gummy bears. I set it over on my nightstand.  The jar will make a nice souvenir (that’s what I am telling myself).  There was another interesting item there too, an “Intimacy kit” that looked like a tin of mints.  It described the contents, two condoms and a package of lube, and Dan said, “well, I guess some people don’t think ahead and come prepared”. We had to laugh at that.

About 12:30, we ate the leftovers of our sub sandwiches from yesterday that I had stuck in the little fridge.  Then we put our suits on and went down to the pool ten floors down.  We were pleasantly surprised. DSCN0867 (1).jpg   It is a very large outdoor pool, with very nice amenities, a bar, nice towels, pool boys and cabanas and massages available if you wanted.  The weather and water were just perfect.  There weren’t many people in the pool, so we swam and looked out over the ocean.  There was jazzy music playing. So I did some water aerobic moves and it felt great after sitting around all day yesterday.

We came back to the room, I showered and we got dressed and about 3:30 we headed out to explore the beachfront and find an early supper.  We walked about 3 blocks and went into a place called the Casablanca Cafe, and got a table outside with a spectacular view of the water.  DSCN0890 (1).jpgWhen we got back to the room, we read the reviews online that agreed with our very positive assessment of this place.  I had fish tacos and Dan had a Moroccan meat skewer dish.  Prices were reasonable, since we got lunch prices, and the food was fantastic.  We just took our time, took some pictures, and people watched.  In the hour or so we were sitting there, we also watched four big cruise ship sail out of Ft. Lauderdale.  We couldn’t see which cruise lines they were, but they were all big ships and we commented on how crazy it would be with four ships going out all at once. Hope we don’t have that on Monday in Miami.

After we ate, we walked along some more and had some Hagan Dasz ice cream for dessert.  Dan picked up a few large bottles of water at a CVS store. We just don’t want to pay $7 a bottle at the hotel, and Dan won’t drink tap water if he doesn’t have to.  We both drank  three big glasses with dinner.  The waiter probably thought we were crazy.   For me, it was partly due to eating a piece of jalapeño in one of my tacos.  I missed it when I took the others off.

As we walked back to the hotel, it was beginning to get dark and there was a fire truck and paramedic truck on the street by the beach.  We hope it wasn’t anything serious for the person they took away. DSCN0900 (1).jpg

We are back in the room, watching a Robert Redford, Brad Pitt spy movie.  Dan is doing something with my camera.  I think he is loading and editing all the shots I took today.  Hope I got some good ones.  A while ago we talked to our house sitter, and all it well at home.  She took the dogs for a long walk this afternoon.   I know they loved that.

Well, tomorrow we move from here to the hotel in Miami, paid for by Oceania, where we will meet up with some of the folks we have gotten to know on the Cruise Critic discussion board.  The adventure is getting very close.  I can hardly wait to get on that ship.  We will be at sea in under 48 hours.

Around the World 2016, Day 1

This is day one of our travels.  Here is Gail’s report for January 1.

Well, we survived a very long and stressful day. And the great adventure has begun!

We had an early dinner on New Years Eve at Cracker Barrel and did some last minute packing and preparation.  We watched the New Years Eve stuff on TV, including the incredible hotel fire in Dubai, followed by the spectacular fireworks at the Burj Kalifa.  We were there in 2012, so it was especially interesting to us.

Dan laid down to sleep for a couple of hours, and I just dozed in my chair and set the alarm for 2:45.  The dogs were totally confused.  We were outside in the 28 degree cold when the taxi showed up, right on time at 3:20 am.  Our neighbor, Ruth, actually made good on her promise and came out to wish us bon voyage.

There were 6 others on the shuttle with us, and we took off right at 4:00 am.  We made a quick stop at Beaver Dam, Arizona, to pick up two more ladies and then we were off, arriving at the Vegas Airport right a 5:00 am Vegas time.  We had chatted all the way there with two ladies from Canada who were excited to be going to Hawaii for the first time, and with a St. George business man and his wife who were headed for a month in Thailand and Singapore.  It was a very convivial group for so early in the morning.

We had to wait 45 minutes before we could check our one bag (bags fly free with Southwest), four hours before our flight.  Then for an incredibly easy trip through security.  We were directed to the line for pre approved, or whatever you call it, where you don’t have to take off your shoes, or take out your quart bag of liquids or anything.  We were done In about one minute.  No waiting!  And they didn’t even notice our bag of six months worth of drugs, which we were ready to explain to them.  It was a total non event.  Except, since Dan was wearing his back brace, just as a precaution, they did check it our pretty carefully.

He said when they were done, the guy just pointed to me, already done, and told him to ‘follow that lady’ and he said he told him, ‘I always do’.  I had to laugh at that.

It was quite a long walk to our gate, but we finally made it and settled in to wait.  Dan went and got coffee and muffins, and then later got us each a sub sandwich to take on the plane.  We always enjoy people watching at airports, so didn’t really mind the wait.

The flight itself was amazingly easy too.  We took off right on time, hit a little turbulence over the Texas and Gulf areas, and arrived a few minutes early, just about 5:00 Florida time.  The plane was totally full, every seat taken, but we were in the A group, so we got aisle seats across which is our preferred seating.  I like to sit way in the back, so that was fine.  The flight attendants were great, urging us to take 2 or 3 snacks each, and joking with people.  It is really amazing to me that you can get a plane load of 143 people and all their luggage from Las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale, in about 4 hours.

We got our checked bag, found a taxi and headed for our hotel, just as the sun was setting. The cab driver opened the windows so we could feel the breeze.  It was great.  The drive along the beach front to our hotel was totally crazy.  Cab driver was really stressing.  There were people everywhere.  People were still celebrating New Years Eve, I think.  We thought it was interesting, since we didn’t have to drive.  It reminding us of other touristy places like Hawaii, or California beach towns.

Anyway, we were glad to finally arrive at the W Hotel.  They were very nice and efficient, but obviously also very busy for this holiday weekend.  We got to our room, on the 15th floor, with an ocean view, where we finally collapsed.

We called room service for a very expensive, but very good, dinner.  I had a flatbread and Dan had an omelet.  We watched football and dug out drugs and other necessities from our bags.  And I think we will soon crash and get organized tomorrow.  All in all, a good start with no hiccups, to our grand adventure!

Around the World 2016, Day (-1)

This is it.  Bags are packed.  Kim was over for three hours doing final review of things to do as well as just to visit.  Boarding passes for tomorrow’s flight have printed and our transport from home to shuttle to Vegas has been reconfirmed.  We’ve watched some football and are watching more as I type this evening.

We were shocked to see the fire in Dubai at the property that we walked through on our way to the Burj Khalifa for the trip up the world’s tallest building back in 2012 on a previous cruise.  We did stay to see their fireworks, which were more impressive than any others I’ve seen.

Now that it is after 8 PM we’ll watch some more TV and doze in our chairs until the taxi comes at 320.  More tomorrow if I’m awake enough when arrive in Florida, otherwise the following day.

Around the World 2016, Day (-2)

Today is the first day of vacation.  Real vacation.  Everything is done for the big trip so today is mostly watching movies and football and other TV shows.  There were a couple of brief trips the whole 2 miles to Walmart for little things as well as a couple calls to credit card companies to make sure that they won’t panic if there is a charge from Maputo or Male or Manila.

Tomorrow will be more of the same.  Kim will come over to go over final things for her living here for six months.  And the great mouse hunt continues.  We’ve set traps for three nights and so far no luck.  Either the critters are very smart, or finding something to eat elsewhere.

Some of the folks going are already worrying about impacts of El Nino and some changes of times for arrival and departure from various ports.  They seem to forget that out of 92 ports we’ll miss a couple of them for weather or other reasons and there will be nothing we can do about it.  It goes with the territory, just like flying in winter means you may have delays.  Stuff happens and we just go with the flow.

In 48 hour we’ll be in 80 degree Florida instead of 39 degree Utah.  I can hardly wait.

Around the World 2016, Day (-4)

All is becoming ever more real as the countdown continues.  This is Monday and we leave home at 320AM on Friday.  Still have one doctor followup, dogs getting groomed, a free recall maintenance on the car, house cleaner, final briefing with Kim, our house sitter, last minute laundry, and throwing last things in carry on bags.  The four bags we shipped already should be in Florida today.  At least that’s all that is on the list as of now.  I’m sure some other last minute things will come up.

We plan to doze in our chair/recliner while we watch the New Years Eve playoff games and whatever comes on next, most likely the interminable discussion of the game that will follow in a few days for the national championship.  The dogs will be very confused by all of this, but will be happy when Kim shows up to move in later in the day.  They really love that she sits on the floor to play with them, as well as taking longer walks with them than we do. If the ship sinks or terrorists get us (and we have NO worries about either one, though some neighbors and friends do) the church and the kids get everything.  Well, they don’t get the dogs, Kim gets them.

Today is, for me, taken up with final sorting, charging, and packing of electronic equipment.  The final things on that project will be done about 200 AM on Friday. That isn’t because of procrastination but because of staying online most of New Years Eve.

Soon we’ll be where it is warmer, and may within a couple weeks be complaining about the heat in Brazil.  I can hardly wait.

Around the world 2016, Day (-14)

This is one of those days with many relationships to others. It is a week before Christmas, two weeks before New Years, seven weeks before my 73rd birthday (5 February 2016).  Yes, I’m a calendar and numbers geek, but most of my friends knew that already.  I spent 14 years living at an address that irritated me.  It was 3577.  It should have been 3579, but wasn’t, for no good reason other than some guy in some city office said so.  I wasn’t irritated enough to try to change it, but it was always there.

It is an emotional time of the year for so many reasons. Family is far away for both of us. Gail’s only relatives are in the bay area. Our kids are in Idaho, Illinois, and New Mexico.  We’re not going anywhere this holiday other than the three church services we’re serving at, plus stores and restaurants.  We’re not complaining, and have made our choices. Two weeks from the time I’m typing this we should be getting settled in our room at the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale for two nights.  We’ll be tired after a night and day of traveling, but we’ll be on our way on our biggest adventure yet.

Both of us miss our parents and siblings who’ve gone on ahead of us.  Gail’s sister passed away at Thanksgiving two years ago, so that’s another thing that made that a tough holiday. We both remember some 70 years of “good old days” in our memories.  Growing up, going away, getting married, having kids, getting married, and so on, they all splash around in my brain.  All of those memories are good for us, even those with sad parts and special memories of those we miss so much.

I’m a guy who is particularly emotional with lots of music, and frequently has tears down his face during certain songs. Tears always appear during Taps, Eternal Father Strong to Save (The Navy Hymn), Let the Day Begin, Kyrie, Amazing Grace, The Road Goes On Forever, It’s My Life, Livin’ On a Prayer, and Highwayman.  The list is obviously eclectic and far from complete.

So what inspired this digression?  As I started this entry, a Jon Bon Jovi compilation of performances started playing on Palladia and I got blindsided by two of his songs, which again brought tears to my cheeks.

She says, “We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got.

It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.

We’ve got each other and that’s a lot.

For love we’ll give it a shot.”

[Chorus:]

Whoa, we’re half way there

Whoa, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand and we’ll make it – I swear

Whoa, livin’ on a prayer

 and 

[Chorus:]

It’s my life

It’s now or never

I ain’t gonna live forever

I just want to live while I’m alive

(It’s my life)

My heart is like an open highway

Like Frankie said

I did it my way

I just wanna live while I’m alive

It’s my life

And those Bon Jovi songs got me off track.  But I’m never “on track” unless I’m following what is on my calendar on the phone, ipads, and computer (all Apple, all synced at all times).  Even then it takes Gail to make sure I check the calendar and do what I should.

So we live our life, do “crazy things” like taking round the world cruises, and so forth.  After all, it is now or never, we know we won’t be around this earth forever, so we’re doing it our way.  Maybe not your way, but our way.  And we’ll be loving every minute of it.

Around the world 2016, Day (-17)

This is the first post in a week, and it has been relaxing but productive.  All of the “big stuff” has been done for a couple weeks and I’m completing my bronchitis antibiotics today, so we’re “over the hump”.  Four large bags (50 lbs each) are being picked up a week from today, and three are already packed and weighed and waiting in the garage.  Besides those four bags we’ll check one more large bag and take our carry on bags.  Kim has spent more time with us this week bringing us papers and gifts from the cruise line and her office, as well as catching up more on the house and fish. At the moment I’m waiting for a plumber to come fix the hot water in the bathtub.  We never use the tub, but Kim does, so it needs to have hot water.

Still to come: packing the last bags, ordering a six month supply of prescription meds, one doctor follow up appointment, having the dogs groomed, haircuts for humans, and odd things around the house. The cleaning lady will come a couple days before we leave, so all will be beautiful for Kim.  We’re also eating up all the food in the fridge and freezer. Kim is a vegetarian, so we’re being sure to eat up all of the fish and meat.

The freezer is full of frozen fish food for six months and one pantry contains many boxes of nori for the fish, and three 1.75 liter jugs of vodka for the fish (they get a tablespoon a day to help balance 180 gallons of water chemistry).  Another pantry contains more than enough kibble for the dogs, which Kim supplements with chicken and pumpkin and veggies.

The last few days we’ll probably eat out or bring home takeout.