Diary of a Caribbean Cruise, January 2011
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Our journey home was pretty much without incident.
There was a funny moment, however, in the Toronto Pearson airport. Our daughter Ariel had come to meet us, bringing the winter hats, coats, scarves and gloves that we had left at her home. We put these on inside the airport, so that by the time we stepped into the open-air parkade – to be hit by an icy blast of air – we were properly protected against the cold. Just then, two young adults raced out of the door behind us, and roared past at top top speed toward their car. They were wearing shorts, t-shirts and sandals, nothing more, and laughing as they ran. Evidently, this is how they chose to re-enter Canada after their trip to the tropics. I prefer our method.
We stayed at Ariel and Shai’s for a couple of nights, 19 then caught a flight back to Winnipeg. As we were leaving their house to go to the airport, I decided that I would be helpful and bring in their mail (Ariel and Shai being both at work). There was a Canada Post notice among the envelopes, saying that a parcel from Ft. Lauderdale was waiting to be picked up. Hmmmmm.
What happened to those keys?
You may recall that – right at the beginning of this trip – we had brought keys to Toronto, to give to Rachael. Forgetting to hand them to her in person, we arranged to have them delivered by courier from our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale. A hotel concierge brought us a FedEx envelope, I filled out the addresses, tore off the customer copy, put the keys inside and gave the package back to him. There! Done! Or so I thought.
Four days later I sent a FaceBook message to Ariel and Rachael in Toronto: “Did the keys get there?” “No,” replied Ariel, “What was the tracking number?” My heart sank.
I found, and carefully read, the statement given to me by the hotel when I had checked out: it had on it the expected charge for room service meals, but no indication of charges for sending a FedEx package! So, high-tech secure keys to our apartment really were running around loose somewhere in the United States with our address emblazoned on the envelope!
Before long I was down at the ship’s Purser’s Office, arranging to send a FAX by satellite to the hotel, giving full details of the incident and describing the package carefully; saying, in effect: “you’d better find it a.s.a.p.!”
Surprisingly quickly, I got a response: an apologetic email from someone named Cesar Vargas at the hotel, saying that he would personally look into the matter.
Days passed. Rachael went to Winnipeg. She didn’t suffer unduly by being unable to stay at our place, because her brother lives nearby. She stayed with him and had a wonderful time. But, where were our keys?
I emailed Mr. Vargas, and he replied, assuring me that the package had been shipped, and giving me a tracking number. I immediately shot that off to Ariel, who replied the next day: “FedEx says it is an invalid number.”
Mr. Vargas got another email from me, somewhat hotter than the last. His reply? “Oh, we didn’t send the package via FedEx. We sent it via USPS.”
(Given that I had completed a FedEx envelope, this suggests that he found the package un-sent in his office, re-addressed it, and sent it by a different carrier. He’s never admitted this, but it has to be the case.)
At this point I might be forgiven for not seeing clearly. I thought he said “UPS” when in fact he wrote “USPS.”. So more days went by while I told Ariel to check the tracking number with UPS, to learn that this, too, was invalid; whereupon Mr. Vargas pointed out that he had used U.S. Postal Service, not United Parcel Service. In other words, he had sent the thing via standard lettermail, while I had assumed he merely used a competitive courier.
When I got to Toronto, I myself went online and inserted Mr. Vargas’ tracking number into the USPS website. When the number was once more rejected, I was at my wits end. With one more hot email zinging off to Mr. Vargas, I packed up to return to Winnipeg having no idea where my apartment keys had gone.
Then, as I left Ariel’s house, I saw a delivery notice in her mail.
Later, when Ariel went to the Post Office to collect the package, she reported in triumph that it was indeed our keys. But at the time of writing those keys remain in Toronto. They will come to Winnipeg with Rachael at the end of February. 20
Speaking of Rachael, she sent her tiny dog, Annabelle, to Winnipeg with us for babysitting (see my blog entry for July 21, 2010). It seems that Rachael will be away from home a lot in the next few weeks, so our dog-care services are required. Annabelle traveled in a bag under the airplane seat. We enjoy having her around.
All of this diary, and all of my photos of our cruise... were in that computer!!!
I had a huge scare upon returning home.
While we were in Toronto, before leaving for Ft. Lauderdale, my faithful computer seized up without warning and without explanation. I got it going again, but throughout the trip it would act strangely, and I had to nurse it along. I knew that upon my return home I would have to take it in for servicing. Just to be on the safe side, I kept backing up my photos and my daily diary notes on a couple of USB memory sticks that I had with me.
At home I have an external hard drive on which everything in my computer is constantly backed up. Almost as soon as I got back to our apartment, I attached my ailing electronic pal to it, and – to my consternation – nothing worked. My old friend had made it to the end of the trip and expired then and there. Sort of like an elephant wandering home to die.
So, as soon as possible, it was rushed to computer hospital, where the diagnosis came back that the internal hard drive had to be replaced. Having served so faithfully since 2006, often as much as eight hours a day, it was found to have more than 150 blown-out sectors. The e-doctor didn’t know how it had managed to work at all while I was on the cruise! So, I authorized the necessary surgery, and was promised that I’d have my old pal back, as good as new, in a couple of days.
I scarcely knew what to do with myself while I waited. All those adventures, all those reflections! Were they properly backed up? Could I retrieve them? And if they were successfully backed up, I needed to get to work right away, editing and putting this online diary all together!
Yesterday, Thomas the MacBook came home from hospital with a brand-new and brilliant internal hard drive. But it had total amnesia. I’ve spent the hours since then doing data restoration. But, given that you are reading (and actually nearing the end of) this Caribbean Cruise saga, you can see that the restoration has gone tolerably well!
There remain but two observations about cruising, and I’m done.
What a lot of old people there were on that vessel! I sat at breakfast one morning and looked around, realizing that grey heads, wrinkle upon wrinkle, age spots, canes, and the occasional wheelchair were everywhere, whichever way I turned.
Heather and I fit right in, of course. In fact, I myself may be a little older than the majority of people on board, because quite a number of those antiques may actually be “Baby Boomers.”
There probably isn’t anyone reading this blog who doesn’t know full well who the boomers are. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 has dominated European and North American culture for five decades. They have lived in comfort and privilege all their lives. 21 They have never had bombs dropped on their homes; they have never lived through a famine or through a Great Depression (the 2008 recession is a wet squib in comparison to the ten year economic implosion that began in 1929), and as a group, simply by strength of numbers, they are accustomed to getting their own way.
Because an ocean cruise is all about comfort, privilege, and self-indulgence – in a sense, about getting your own way – baby boomers are in their natural element.
Even those of us who are older than the boomers have lived with some expectation that our retirement years should have a degree of self-indulgence. We worked, we contributed to pensions, and it is easy for us to believe that we are now entitled to a period of pleasure, relaxation, and genteel adventure.
I suspect that ours is the first generation – ever – where so many people assume that they are entitled to comfort and fun in their final years, and, for most, will actually get it!
But then, sitting at that breakfast table, I considered the very much younger staff who were busily pouring juice and coffee, wiping tables and cleaning up after this hoard of old fossils. These young people are from more than forty countries, where poverty and suffering are far more common than privilege and self-indulgence. Will they, too, one day be aged and comfortable and served by others on cruises? I suspect not.
It will be a long time before the degree of affluence to be found on that ship will be as widespread as it has been for the Baby Boom, and for us older retirees.
Cruising just floats over the surface
I’ve had the unique privilege of actually living in one of the countries that we visited on this cruise.
And I know for certain that cruising can never even come close to that experience. We cruisers just stopped by. We interacted with people who dealt with us as best they could for part of their work day, and then they went home to lives that we, the cruisers, couldn’t possibly access. A lady showing you an amber necklace in a cabinet is not going to talk about her kid’s marks in school, the friend who lied to her, the grandmother who just died, the boyfriend she might marry. You and she will talk about the necklace, maybe even arrange a purchase, but then you’ll walk away and know no more about her than about the man in the moon.
Cruising gives you the appearance of a place: the way nature has arranged itself in that part of the world, and the way structures have been put up by humans for a multitude of purposes. Natural features and human constructions can often be unique, awesome and unforgettable, and as such they are very much worth a visit. But being involved in the life of a place is on a different plane altogether.
When I went back to St. Kitts, I dealt with a taxi driver who took care of us in a most professional and utterly helpful manner. But other than him, we saw mountains and beaches and a fort – physical objects – and strangers going about their business with very little connection to us (other than the fact that our presence keeps their economy rolling). The dozens and dozens of people with whom I related years ago remain a much-cherished memory, and their faces can be found in my dog-eared photo album, but they weren’t, and can’t ever be, part of the act of cruising.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved this cruise – the beaches, the water, the Synagogue, the cave, the catamaran, the fortresses and above all that glorious floating hotel. Heather and I, God willing, will go on several more cruises before our days on earth are done. But what made this one so special, and something that ordinary cruising can never possibly touch, was people: my long-ago friends in St. Kitts; today’s parishioners in St. George’s Grenada; Yvonne St. John and her husband, living across the road from “Observatory;” and my departed forebears.
“...and God brought them to the harbour they were bound for.” Psalm 107.30 (BAS)
19 There was a family dinner with Ariel, Shai and Rachael, but our unique grandchild, Markus, could not be with us, so we met Markus for breakfast the next morning and had a great visit. Click here for a little more background on Markus.
20 They returned to Winnipeg on February 25, 2011, a mere 39 days after we put them in a package in Ft. Lauderdale.
21 An article in Wikipedia has this trenchant couple of lines: “In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence. As a group, they were the healthiest, and wealthiest generation to that time, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time.”
Click here for a photo album of the cruise. Click here for next Oxbow.