Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

100 DAYS!!

Today marks our 100th day on the Insignia.  What a joyful occasion.  Sadly, there were no announcements telling others of this milestone.  Had I not been keeping track it would have gone unnoticed.

The highlights of the day?  Sighting of a sailboat at lunch, seeing TWO containerships, changing our titles on the ship, and meeting a new guest.  

More tomorrow, but until then, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Seas (we've been fortunate so far).

Monday, March 28, 2022

Stirrup Cay and Sea days

 24 March

We started the day at yet another Norwegian Cruise lines private island;  Stirrup Cay.  I didn’t think it could be worse than the last one we are at, but it was.  We dropped anchor at 7 am and  within a very short time the island based tenders were there to pick us up.  George and I agreed to get some work done in the morning and go ashore around 10.  At some point in the morning we heard an announcement saying there was no water on the island and to bring our reusable bottles.  A little later there was an announcement that said there was no food on the island and that the Terrace Café would stay open until 3:00 to accommodate people. 

We took off at 10 and had to wait 15 minutes or so for the ferry to return.  I couldn’t work out why they weren’t using the ships tenders but it is not mine to question.  When our turn came to take the ride over we went to the top of the ferry.  To say it was windy would be an understatement.  

I looked out over the island and predicted it would be a carbon copy of Harvest Cay.  I was mostly right.  The only thing missing was the swimming pool and the animal areas.  When the ferry was docking George and I went to the front of the ship to watch the gangplank be lowered.  I took a video and when I get to real internet again I will post it to my YouTube channel. It opened in two phases so for me it was very interesting. As we were looking out, it was obvious that the entrance was purpose built because of the giant claw marks all around the lagoon we landed in.  There were fences surrounding the lagoon which I thought odd.  George commented that we were headed into a large cage, much like the plant life. 

We got off the boat and immediately disliked the area.  Nothing, NOTHING was opened.  George wanted to see the windward side of the island and perhaps take a swim.  We wandered off in search of a place to do this at.  As we walked, we came to an area of sheds that house the souvenir shops.  Only 2 were open and since we didn’t bring any money, we didn’t bother going over there.  I really thing the only things they were selling were t-shirts that said "The Bahamas".  I know we were there, but I don’t think it qualifies.  

After passing the closed shops, we came to the kayak rental area.  We did think of renting them, but soon discovered that the area we could kayak in was a small strip of water right where we were.  Not fun at all.  We walked over to a pier like area that was to the side and looked out at the water.  It wasn’t the vibrant blue that was on the leeward side, it was green and brown and murky.  It looked as though someone had opened a sewer valve and it all washed ashore where we stood.  The swimming was a hard pass.

We decided to go back to the front beach and wandered down to look for a place to strip off and swim.  Impossible. There were more lifeguards along the beach than swimmers.  Along our way back we counted no less than 18 signs that read "restricted" or "do not enter". They also had cameras everywhere.  This was a very sterile unfriendly place. I took a few photos of some birds on some rocks (which we were also told not to climb) and we decided to leave. 

Now here it gets even odder.  We were ushered along to a side entrance that looped back to the same back of the boat we got off of.  I guess the people there are just so used to doing it they didn’t realize there were only a handful of people on the island. Once on the ferry, some of the other passengers told us there was an announcement saying if people wanted to go over, the last opportunity would be at noon. There would be no more ferry running after that.  Of course, they had a 2:30 ferry to bring people back to the ship.  The other thing we heard was that the island shops and bars only open for the big ships.  Ours didn’t have enough people to bother with.  That is just adding insult to injury.

Now I know it is not Oceania can’t control the weather, but why bother with such a stop at all?  This is really not acceptable.  The first private island was bad, this was terrible.  I mean look at how much we spent on this cruise to end up in places like that. I know these were two unintended stops, but in future, I will never go on a cruise that lists a private island.  It’s just about as much fun as going to the dentist.

Back on ship we had lunch with Rod and Merry and he had two theories.  One was that it just costs too much to turn on the lights as it were to open the island for small ships.  The other; and I agree with him on this; is that not everyone got the paperwork for Bermuda in on time.  I know there were a lot of problems on the ship and if Oceania was as good at communicating with the newcomers as they were with me before I got on the ship; I firmly believe there were quite a few who didn’t do it. Reading posts on Facebook and Cruise Critic, I think it was not weather as the ship stated, but rather what I just described.  It’s too convenient that the last 4 or 5 ships going to Bermuda were cancelled because of "weather".  But like the number of licks in a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, the world will never know. 

Quite a few of the passengers took an excursion to swim with the pigs.  I was told they really enjoyed holding the babies and feeding the animals.  Having grown up on a farm, I just don’t get it. Swimming with pigs is not what I would call a fun thing.  Too many bad memories would have come rushing back.  I’m glad George was in agreement on this excursion. 

In the afternoon I attended a lecture on Greek civilization. I really enjoyed it.  It brought back many memories of my undergraduate days and the classes I loved then. I fully intend to continue to attend these lectures.  

At 6:00 we went down to Martini’s to have a glass of wine at whatever free drink night this one was.  George had a piña colada.  At around 6:30 or so we went to dinner.  While there, we met a new passenger.  He is another of the guest lecturers. He will be teaching a creative writing course.  How interesting!  I will be attending those as well I’m sure.  Perhaps he can teach me how to get these words on paper in a better, more readable manner.  

25 March

Today is the first of the seven sea days it will take us to get across the Atlantic.  I had fully planned to go to yoga this morning.  That was to be followed by a lecture on the Elgin Marbles and a cooking demonstration.  The afternoon would be a massage at 1:30 followed by the writing workshop at 2:30.  Instead I took two sea sickness tablets and lay in bed until it was time to order room service.  Soup and green apples for me.  Guess who isn’t feeling well.  The massage was cancelled for the day and as I write this, I am working up the courage to go to the front of the ship for that lecture.  

I didn’t make it.  I ate the soup, watched the news which on MSNBC is more commercials for the news channel than it is news, checked the stock market a few times and lamented a slight loss for the day.  And then I napped.  I needed it.  

When I awoke, George suggested that I was feeling poorly because of the injection I had gotten in Miami.  He may be right.  If so, it threw me for a loop this time.  I’m hoping that tomorrow will be better.  I’d really like to attend the lectures and we will be playing cards with friends.  I hope to be able to do that.

By dinner time, I was feeling much better.  We went to the grand dining room and had our meal with two couples we had met before.  I asked one for the notes on the cooking lesson that I missed and am pleased that 2 days later she handed me a photocopy.  There are such nice people on this ship. 

We returned to the room and I slept a good long sleep.

26 March

I woke up in a much better mood than I was in the day before. I did not feel sick at all.  At 10 am I got up and went to the Insignia Lounge to watch the talk on the Byzantine Empire.  I am truly enjoying this speaker.  She has such enthusiasm and it is obvious that she knows her subject.  Teachers like her are why I studied History in the first place. It’s a shame that she is spending her time lecturing on cruise ships to people who already love the topic.  She should be in a school introducing the wonders of the past to the youth of today.  I believe if more students had teachers that are enthusiastic like this, they would enjoy the subject much more.  

I did manage to watch yesterdays lecture on the tv, but it is much better in person that on tv. They are like mini history lessons.  Just enough to get one interested, but not enough to be boring or too much like a class.

We again had lunch at the Terrace Café and after met with friends for a game of cards.  Those poor folks.  I’m not sure why they still play with us. Today was another major loss for them, but this time they did manage to get a basic book on the final hand.  We spent a bit of time talking about other card games and perhaps will try to play hearts next time if I can find the rules.  

After the game, we went back to the room where I added a bit to my blog and did a bit of editing on a book I’m working on.  I also spent a great deal of time looking through old photos of our trips together.  I’m glad I did because I was able to see which excursions we had already been to.  This blog also serves as a reminder for our next ATW.  

I also spent some time looking at the 2023 Collection of Voyages catalog that was left on the bed.  I chose 2 cruises leaving Miami with cities we hadn’t been to before.  In the end, it was the ship size that decided the next trip for us.  

Big surprise, on the horizon we saw another ship. I believe it was a container ship, but some of the other guests thought it was another cruise ship.  Regardless, it was a rare sight.  I’m sure we won’t see many more of those for a few days. 

I had contacted a fellow puzzler some time back to get a copy of a puzzle he had made.  It was a burr lock made on a Strassys 3D printer.  It came in while we were on the first part of the trip so when I hit Miami I took it with me.  I ended up giving it to George while waiting on his injection.  This helped distract him.  I thought that would be the end of that.  But this is George we are talking about.  His mind began racing and I knew what would be coming next.  He started to research the machine, and then he used my account to chat with the fellow that made the puzzle about his industrial machine at his office.  This went on for quite some time but I knew it was coming.  One day soon I was expecting him to tell me he wanted to purchase that machine. I did one better, I asked him how much the machine cost and told him to just buy it.  Luycky George to be married to a woman who completely understands him.  

Dinner was in the grand dining room and we again sat with 2 other couples we have sat with before.  We made an agreement to meet one couple at 3pm to play tile rummy again.  I enjoyed it last time and thought why not. We can’t always play cards.  

27 March

Yet another sea day.  I woke after 11 hours of sleep.  I think I was more wiped out by that injection than I want to admit.  At 10:00 I went to the talk on the Ottoman Empire.  Again, it was a repeat of my undergraduate days.  George joined me after about 15 minutes. I guess he is enjoying them as well. Today she defined 6 words.  I took a photo because I think they are important for people to understand.  Some things are not interchangeable even though many reporters and others do so.  When the talk was over, we returned to the room.  I blogged for a while, while George worked on a program.  

Today we sat out on the veranda and watched the ocean go by.  The waves are rolling and vibrant blue.  The ocean is so vast.  It still amazes me how much water is out there.  It just goes on as far as the eye can see.  

At 11:30 I headed down to the destinations desk and paid for our next cruise.  We decided to take the 13 day (it’s really only 12 days-but you know how marketing is) called "Alluring Caribbean" in February 2023.  This one has 6 cities that we have not been to before so it was the best of what was leaving out of Miami.  That is one of the joys of living in South Florida.  Close cruise terminals.  

We then had lunch in the usual spot and returned to the room to watch a bit of news and update a computer program.  

At the appointed time, we went upstairs to play that rummy game with Rod and Merry.  As always, their company is a pleasure.  Rod won 2 games, George won one. Rox and Merry lost all 3, but ultimately Rox was the big looser with the highest points.  Too bad it’s not first to 100, I’d excel at this game.  Sadly we had to quit because George was getting grumpy and needed a nap before dinner.  

I sat down and poured a glass of wine.  He went down for a nap but sadly that didn’t happen.  His brain was spinning.  He was trying to work out how to buy the machine and have it pay for itself.  He hopped back up again and started talking.  There is no stopping him once his brain begins to work.  He’s just like I am.  What a wonderful lover I have found.  One who doesn’t stop until successful.  So, it looks as though we are about to order a new 3D printer when we return home.  Thankfully it’s not a large one so it can be set up in George’s office. I’m sure we’ll have to run another dedicated electrical line for it, but we have good electricians who know what they are doing.  

Dinner tonight is in Toscana again.  I’ll have the bean soup that I love so much as usual, but I plan to step out of my comfort zone and order a carbonara.  I didn’t care for it.  I’ll not order it again.  Ah well, I tried. There was also pasta in the bean soup tonight.  I’ve not had that before.  But having said that, the lentil soup at lunch was brilliant.  I absolutely loved it.

March 28th.  

The fourth sea day.  Only three more left until we make landfall.  

Last nights dinner did not sit well with me so I was out most of the morning.  Who am I kidding.  I wanted to go to yoga at 8:30 and then the lecture at 10:00 but neither happened.   I woke with the captains mid-day announcement. I’ve not slept 12 hours in a very very long time. In fairness though, I did awake around 3 and went back to sleep at 7 so there were a few waking hours in the middle.  

We had lunch as usual, and played cards in the afternoon after words.  I wanted to go see the lecture on Houdini and George did as well. Sadly, his nap took precedence.  I opted out, we will watch it on the tv together later tonight. It’s always better to do things together.

My only observation about today is that it is getting colder.  Who in their right mind travels to Europe in winter unless it is to ski?  My feet are freezing.  I’ve pulled out my wooly socks and turned the thermostat in the room to 30 degrees.  Hopefully it will be warmer when we return from dinner.  In the mean time, I wore the Oceania wind breaker today and now have on a wooly sweater.  I’m wearing it to dinner and I don’t care what anyone says.  The ship is too cold yet.  Even she hasn’t warmed up for these colder climes yet.  

Until next time, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Seas.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Costa Maya, Cozumel and Miami

Sunday March 20th.  Today we docked in Costa Maya Mexico.  The port is a short drive from the village of Majahual.  We chose to go to see the ruins of Kohunlich.  This is a Mayan city dating back to around 300 B.C.

One of the other tours went to the Chacchoben ruins.  I’ll even post photos of them here as well as George and I were here last October on the Virgin Scarlet Lady.  I’ll also give photos of the newly built port "city" as we spent an hour or so there last trip as well.  I’m sure you will already realize that we did not like this one either.  It is even more Disney than the last port because of the ancient Mayan temple waterslide in the background.  

First up today’s excursion.  The tour guide from the boat says it will be a 2 hour drive followed by a 2 hour tour followed by a 45 minute drive to a 1 hour lunch finishing off with a 1:15 minute drive to the pier.  It also said it was a 3 person (strenuous) excursion. The guide book was wrong.  I’m not complaining, just explaining things.  If you have the opportunity to do this tour, take it.  It was amazing!  We really really enjoyed it.  

First, the guide we had was wonderful.  He explained the history of the area and a bit about the area we were going to, but nothing about the ruins on the bus.  I also heard nothing about the tax system, or the education system, or the price of gasoline, or how houses are built.  It was rather refreshing.  

One tidbit that was 'off topic' was that Majahual is a fishing port and once a month the fishermen donate their catch to the locals restaurants and everyone in the community comes out to eat.  It is a village of around 1500 people so this monthly event must make people come closer together.  He also mentioned that there is very little crime because everyone knows everyone else.  

The area we were going to was around 170 Kilometers from the port. This port was purpose built and opened in 2001.  Like yesterday’s stop, it was made with funding from both the major cruise lines and the local government.  Also like yesterday’s stop it was very Disneyesque.  We didn’t spend any time there this time as our excursion took the entire day, but as I said, we were here in October 2021 so we had seen enough then.  

Once you enter the area, you are overwhelmed with shops.  Everywhere you turn as far as the eye can see that is what you encounter.  Inside there is also a rather large pool area and beach chairs laid out on real sand!  I bet that cost a pretty penny to construct.  As we saw yesterday, there was also a bird sanctuary in Costa Maya.  Here they had some brightly colored parrots that were just hanging out above the pool deck.  There is also an above ground area you can walk through, but again we passed on this.

As we walked through more shops after we returned from the excursion, we saw the fishy pedicures that we had gotten for free yesterday.  I know from last time it was $30 and the tanks didn’t have many fish in them.  We walked past tequila tasting rooms and more bars and eateries than you can shake a stick at.  

Just in front of the exit area was a set of restrooms with a rather cute wall of mirrors.  
Upon exiting we came across the dolphin encounter.  We walked over to watch for a bit, but there were no dolphins to be seen. Only around 50 tourists in blue life preservers all huddling against a wall.  Not my idea of fun.  I much prefer the sea life encounters we have 60’ under.  

But enough of that.  On to the real excursion.  

The guide, as I said, was very knowledgeable.  He told us of the underground rivers and caves in the area that attract tourists and long ago natives as well.  He explained that the area is a shallow mangrove-meaning there is about 1 to 2 inches of soil with limestone below it.  This, he told us was the reason that the Mayans and their descendants are shorter people than others in the area.  His reasoning was that because the water has so much limestone in it the people developed thicker bones which caused them to be short and stocky.  Sounds good to me! 

Today there are over 5 million Mayan descendants throughout Mexico with the majority being in the Yucatán peninsula.  Yucatán by the way is three words in the Mayan dialect that means, "I don’t understand you".  This was repeated in reply to the Spaniards asking where they were.  Back to the Mexican population.  Mexico today has over 3 million speakers for whom it is their first language.  There are 68 different indigenous people in Mexico with over 220 dialects.  That’s a lot of languages being spoken. I wonder if the government here is doing the same as the government in Guatemala. 

Enough about languages (can you tell what my career was?) on to a bit more history of the people before I get to the ruins.  In less than 150 years of traversing the country in war and trade, the Aztecs took over Mexico. However, the Mayans were still a predominant culture because unlike the Aztecs, they had a written language.  Sadly, the written books that the Mayans kept were all but destroyed by the Spaniards in the mid 16th century.  The conquistadores were trying to  civilize the natives and a part of that process was to convert them to Catholicism.  If you’ve ever seen the Mayan glyphs, they look very evil and the church did not like this.  The solution of course was to simply destroy them.  Sadly at that time, there was no thought of preservation, just conquest. 

Bishop Diego de Landa ordered all of the codexes to be destroyed during the Mayan  inquisition on July 12, 1562.  He later repented, as it were, and had 2 Mayans believed to be of the ruling dynasty write down the Mayan glyphs that corresponded to the Spanish language.  Years later it was discovered that the transcription was not of a language but of syllables.  Later, the language was able to be translated.  Therefore, the history that we were told is not just stories, but more based on fact.  I like this kind of tour.  Although, the myths are also wonderful to hear.

When we got to the ruins, I was impressed.  The government has unearthed and cleared away much of the surrounding foliage.   The temples are impressive.  There were two that were quite wonderful.  Both of which were used in rituals.  We were shown the doors that align with the noon day sun on a day in mid-April (I didn’t write it down, but I think it was the 12th or the 15th).   

The major significance of this site is that it was first established in around 300 B.C. The other major significance are the 5 masks that are still in tact at the site. 

The site has a palace for the ruler, and a number of civil buildings.  One of which is an ancient set of 'apartments'.  These had a sleeping bed with a number of cubby holes under it to store personal belongings. 

The city was occupied until around 1000 AD when it was abandoned due to heavy drought in the area.  The city was later repopulated by others who were displaced from their original homes by the same drought.  The city fell into final ruin around 1200 A.D. caused by a schism in the different cultures that were occupying the former city. 

If you get the opportunity to see these ruins, I highly recommend it. It is well worth the trip.

After we left the ruins, we then went to Balcalar Lake to have lunch.  It was a rushed affair.  We had something like 20 minutes instead of the hour planned, but I’m not complaining as we were able to have more time at the ruins.  Lunch was chicken fajitas and yellow rice.  The sauce was fierce.  After I finished eating what little I could of it (too many peppers and food allergies) I decided to step into the water of the lake and test the temperature.  After all, who knows if I’ll ever be back.  

Along the edge of the lake there are these rocks that I noticed people standing on so I went on to them and took a photo. I wasn’t there but for a few minutes and was yelled at to get off.  The man told me the rocks were breathing and I was hurting them.  Odd.  Later the guide told me they are stromatolites.  I had no idea and saw no signs saying don’t step on the rocks.  Watching the others in the area, I assumed it was ok.  I suspect I was just wearing too many clothes.  Having said that, I do feel terrible about hurting the things. We were not told of them in advance so I can’t be entirely to blame for my mistake.  One cannot research everything in advance.  

The other tour offered that day was to the Chacchoben ruins.  As I said, we were just there in October 2021.  I enjoyed that day as well and will only add a few photos here so you can see the difference between the two archeological sites.

On the 21st of March we arrived early in Cozumel Mexico. Today would be our last dive of the trip.  We packed our gear the night before and were up at 7 am in anticipation of the day.  I fully planned to do 2 dives today and savor the experience.  

We rushed downstairs to meet our other divers at 7:30 on the dock.  Around 2 minutes later I got a text saying we were not at the right pier and would need to take a taxi over. The other divers came out over the next 1/2 hour and we all took a long walk over the pier and through a shopping center to the taxi stand.  5 minutes later we are at the dive shop signing our lives away again. 

This time we had a new diver who was doing an introduction to scuba dive.  He was given gear and we all had a good laugh when he put his feet through the arms of the skin.  It was a real hoot watching him try to get it back off his feet.  

Our boat ride to the dive site was over 1/2 hour long.  It was not an unpleasant ride this time.  I’ve never seen such clear blue water.  When we arrived at the spot, we didn’t drop anchor and the dive master explained to us this is a protected site and they aren’t allowed to do that.  He also said no to gloves as people usually wear the to grab the coral.  I assured him mine were to keep me warm only and he told me he was watching me.  I think he believed me though because of the skins we were wearing and my second jacket that I brought along for the second dive.  

We were off!  The water was amazing.  As I said, it was so blue and so clear.  Visibility went for miles.  I can’t even begin to explain the sites we saw.  There were species of fish I’ve not seen before, we watched an eel and fish engage in one of the most beautiful dances I’ve ever seen. There was a massive one clawed crab as well.  Sadly, about 10 minutes before the dive ended my phone had one of those stupid emergency alerts come through and it shut off the camera. 

Today’s dive took us through some of the most spectacular coral I’ve seen yet.  There were caves and tunnels everywhere.  My words simply won’t do the beauty of the area justice.  We dove today to a maximum depth of 80 feet and I fully plan to do the advanced open water next year so I can do that again. Sadly, around the time my camera stopped working my body temperature dropped.  My teeth began to chatter and I almost lost the regulator.  The beauty around me was so amazing that I didn’t want the dive to end.  Sadly though it did.  We were down for almost an hour and one of the others was on reserve air.  We made our decompression stop and surfaced.  While in Miami I managed to get a few videos added to my youtube channel. 

As we were talking on the boat, one of the other divers told us as far as coral goes, this was better than the dive we missed in Belize.  But she felt that there was much better sea life there than in Cozumel.  George and I decided that we will return to Belize to dive again and that on the same trip Cozumel will also be a stop.  

After we returned to the ship we rinsed our gear and set it all out to dry.  Next up was lunch before we headed out for a scoot.  While we were in the car we saw some amazing graffiti and I wanted to snap a photo of it.  Once this was done, George and I headed around the town to see a bit more of it an how people live here.  Every city is different isn’t it?  We made a stop at a mega store and found a puzzle we didn't have. Or so we thought. (I'll blog about that soon.) We didn’t stay out too long as it was getting later in the day and we wanted to be back to the ship on time.  

When we returned to the ship, I packed all of our puzzle purchases and our scuba gear once it was dry in preparation to have it returned home during our stop in Miami.  We had 4 large suitcases and a very large duffle bag filled with puzzles, warm weather clothing and scuba gear.  I had to call the front desk to get a porter for the morning we arrived in Miami to help me get it all off the ship.  While on the phone, I was told bringing them off was ok. It was bringing them on that wasn’t.  Oh dear! This would be a problem as I only have these suitcases with me.  

I went downstairs to talk to Claudio about this and to get our passports for disembarkation.  I wasn’t the only one in this situation.  I know of at least 4 other couples from the South Florida area doing the same thing as we were.  We were to follow the sun, and I don’t know about you, but to me 75 degrees is cold. I needed warm clothes.  

After a few hours he got back to me and said it was ok to bring on empty suitcases, but if I wanted to bring along extra clothes they would have to be put into a hand carry bag.  Odd, but doable.  Around an hour later I was called again and told no suitcases could be brought on ship.  I had resigned myself to purchasing cheap luggage in Europe.  

I didn’t sleep well for thinking about this and how I could get everything done in the one day I had in Miami.  

March 22nd was a sea day and to be honest, after all that excitement yesterday we needed it. We slept in late.  I guess I awoke around 9.  Too late for yoga or pilates or whichever activity it was that morning.  In the afternoon we played cards and had an early dinner as usual.  It wasn’t a day to remember.  The only thing of note that I did was make a 23 point list of things I needed to do as soon as I returned home.  Again I didn’t sleep well. 

On March 23rd we awoke to the alarm at 7.  By 7:30 the porter arrived and we were taken off the ship with our luggage.  We breezed through immigration with one small hiccup.  I brought out too many bottles of alcohol. The agent told me I was only allowed 1 liter and in all honesty, I was genuinely unaware that there was a limit.  We were allowed to bring it all home though and I am wiser for the experience.  

My daughter arrived around 8:15 and my brothers-in-law around 2 minutes after her.  We put the smaller bags inside the bug and the suitcases in the truck.  Off we headed for home.  An hour later, I was pulling into my front driveway.  George and the boys had already arrived and the suitcases were waiting for us to unpack.  They only got there first because I stopped to get milk and orange juice and top up the kids grocery store card. 

I did a quick inspection of the house after having a cold glass of milk.  All was right with my world.  And then I got to the list.  Within about 15 minutes, I was able to knock off 1/2 of the things I needed to do.  George sent the boys out to get some insect bombs and he vacuumed up the pantry.  We managed to get a cockroach in there and it ate through a plastic container of cake icing.  Yuck!  The caretakers of the place didn’t catch it before we returned home.  For those who don’t know, it’s almost impossible not to get a roach in South Florida.  Sometimes I think they live in the marble floors and just grow out of it when they are not being watched.  

I sorted through the mail getting rid of the flyers and other junk.  I was happy to see that our Oceania pre-cruise book arrived mid-January.  The date stamp tickled me as printed on the envelope was something to the effect of "urgent-time sensitive material". 

I had asked my daughter to put out the clothes and other items I wanted in advance so I spent a bit of time bagging everything and put the bags in the suitcases hoping that we would be unhindered returning to the ship.  George went in search of some puzzles to mail off, and later I gathered together a bunch for the crew.  I believe I brought along around 30 different puzzles to give them over the coming months.  Most designed or prototyped by George or helped to market by myself.  

I set about opening some of the packages that came in because I was looking for a couple of necklaces for my daughter. This photo only shows a portion of the packages I've had delivered since we've been on the trip.  I know there will be many more before I'm back home.  We'll have to have an unboxing party.

We found them eventually and she was thrilled. There is a micro David on the left and a Micheline X on the right. She has taken a liking to this artist as well.  I understand why. I'm wondering if she will eventually have her own collection of them when she is older. 

The orchids by the pool were in bloom. They were such a wonderful site when I looked out of the back windows.

I crossed off all but the last two items on my list; visit an ATM, and fill the vehicles with gas.  At 12:20 we all headed to the clubhouse to have lunch.  As soon as we dropped the car at the valet, I was greeted by friends that we haven’t seen in 3 months.  It was nice to be back home even if only for a few hours.  There was a lot of quick catch-ups and I promised to return to the golf course in the fall and call for cards in July.  

The lunch was lovely as always.  And as per our usual, we ate outside on the back veranda.  The view of the golf course there is lovely, and there is always a cool breeze going through.  The boys had wraps and beer, and the kid and I had iced tea and soup.  There’s no place like home is there.  Below is the view of the golf course from the veranda. 

After lunch we headed over to the museum to show the guys what we had done with the place.  They hadn’t seen it since we put the puzzles in place. While there our caretaker told me they will be quitting in April. I thought pregnancy, but it turned out to be just homesickness.  So much for all of our planning.  The good news though is that our daughter will be finishing her semester on 20 April so she will be moving in on that day.  Problem solved.  

Our next stop was to Costco to get a COVID booster.  Israel says your booster can’t be more than 6 months old for entry to the country, and ours would be 3 days too old.  I was told the ship would take care of it if I was correct with this understanding of the news I’d been reading, but with George being afraid of needles, I thought it best that we do it on dry land.  Better safe than sorry.  We waited 45 minutes after our appointment, before I politely asked if we could get our injections soon.  They didn’t realize we were waiting.  The last nurse left and didn’t tell anyone!  We were immediately taken care of and I was even able to sneak in a jab for our daughter.  All is right again.  

George returned to port with his brothers, and I drove with the kid.  Any extra time with her is precious.  It is becoming less frequent as she gets older.  On the drive back to Miami we ran into three accidents and my stress levels were going through the roof every time the ETA on her Waze app ticked up minutes.  I called George and told him to just bring the luggage through and I’d meet him on board.  Worst case, one flight to Bermuda would be cheaper than two.  

My brother-in-law told me to bypass the mess and take the express lanes.  Brilliant idea.  I made up the 20 minutes we lost and after a quick hug goodby and handing over money for the gas I didn’t have time to put in the car, by 5:15 I was in Martinis ordering a glass of wine.  Turns out it was happy hour and so I grabbed two before heading to the room.  I unpacked our warmer clothes and the other things I brought along.  George had already put the suitcases away and the room is now livable!  One last call to my father before leaving port and we headed down to dinner.  

And guess what.  There is yet another itinerary change.  Bermuda is out.  I guess the excuse was bad weather, but I am not believing that.  I think it is more along the lines of not everyone got all the paperwork done.  I spent a long long time trying to load the covid results and even had to go to the front desk for help.  I’m pretty computer savvy and was very frustrated by the process. I can’t imagine how people without the computer knowledge felt.  When I was at the desk, there were 3 people in front of me, and another 4 or 5 came up behind me.  But sure, weather. 4 days in advance.  Weather. Instead, we now will have 1/2 a day at Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Another purpose built private island for Norwegian Cruise lines.  I’m not passing judgement early, but I’m guessing this one will be a carbon copy of the last and I won’t enjoy it.  

We had dinner with a new passenger and said hello to another gentleman eating alone.  Both seemed nice enough.  With 70 or so new passengers embarking today, there will be a lot of new faces walking around.  On to the next part of the trip.  Europe, here we come. Until next week; Happy Puzzling and Smooth Seas.