Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Eulogy for Uwe Meffert

I had hoped this day would never come.  This past April I lost one of my dearest friends in not only the puzzle world, but in every day life.  Sadly on 30 April I was notified that my dear friend Uwe Meffert passed away.  He was surrounded by his children, Michelle, Andrew, and Ulrich. His loving wife Jing was with him as well. 

My friendship with Uwe began when I was only 13 years old.  At the time, I joined his "puzzle club".  At this time, all correspondence was done via the postal service, and I diligently saved up my birthday, Christmas, and yard chore money and sent off for a few puzzles.    Sadly, they never arrived.  And this was the start of our long lasting friendship.  

I mailed him quite a few times and to my surprise, Uwe responded.  We spent quite a few years sending letters through the post to each other.  Me to get my puzzles from him and him to assure me that one day I would.  He kept his promise to that 13 year old girl.  In time I received every puzzle I purchased, and then some. 

Fast forward to 1994 and I moved to Hong Kong. My ex-husband couldn’t stand that I was just studying and told me I had to get a job.  I applied at Victoria International Kindergarten in South Horizons and got the job.  His son Ulrich brought a few puzzles to the kindergarten as they lived right above us. Around the same time, I found Meffert’s puzzles on the internet and after work one evening I went over to his Aberdeen office.  This as it turned out was to be the start of a very long friendship.  

Over the years, I met with Uwe on more than one occasion, usually at the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair or at his office. But it wasn’t really until Calvin opened his puzzle shop in 2008 that our friendship really took off.  Calvin made a fuss over Uwe as expected, and I remember some of his customers that day dismissing me and telling me this was for a puzzle shop opening.  Nothing I would know anything about.  When we came around the corner, both Uwe and Jing stood up and hugged the bug and me.  Surprise!  We already knew each other.  

After this time, Uwe and I became closer.  Our friendship started because of puzzles, but blossomed into one of parent and child, one of best friends. After this time, we would usually meet on a weekly basis for dinner or lunch to talk about new puzzles that he had coming out. His favorite place was Deli France in Wan Chi.  We met in the corner booth so frequently and ate the same salmon sandwich that we became known.  

Uwe became my confidant over the years and I was his eyes and ears into the puzzle world.  Anything new coming out, I new about it before anyone else.  My secrecy allowed me to get into his storage facility on more than one occasion.  If Meffert’s was making it, I knew.  And I never told anyone.  

One of my favorite memories of Uwe was when we went on a 100K hike across Shenzhen.  We hiked for almost 24 hours to finish. Around 50km, we lay down on a lawn and took a short nap together so we could carry on.  By this time, it was around midnight and we were exhausted.  At 65 km, over rough terrain, I twisted my knee.  This in turn caused hip pain and when we got to the first aid station I had them look at me.  Uwe was right as rain and eager to carry on.  The paramedics had some wonderful spray that froze the muscles and then they sprayed on a hot spray that needed to be rubbed in.  They refused to do it because I was a female.  

In true Uwe fashion, he told them rather firmly "If my daughter wants her ass rubbed, rub her ass!"  10 minutes later, we called Jing and she came and rescued me as they wouldn’t let me finish.  I spent the rest of the day sleeping off a very long walk while awaiting Uwe’s return.  

More years passed as did a lot more meetings and trips across the border for puzzle parties.  He listened to me when I cried.  He told me to go with what is best for me.  I’ve never had better advice.  

Uwe and Jing befriended George as well. They embraced our relationship and even though we were married to other people in the beginning, they did not hold this against us.  I really enjoyed going to the factories with Uwe.  We attended many cubing competitions in China together. 

I can go on and on about how he’s a wonderful man, but I believe that everyone reading this already knows that.  I feel honored to have spent so much time with Uwe. I’m a better person for having had a close friendship with him.  

I have every confidence that Ulrich will maintain the Meffert's puzzle brand for years to come.  He's been groomed well and even though he can't fill Uwe's rather large shoes, I know he will come rather close. After all, with a personality like Uwe's, no one can compare. 

May god watch over his soul.  He will be missed.  I love you my friend.  Until we meet again…

Sunday, July 10, 2022

End of cruise thoughts

 10 July

Boca Raton, Florida

We arrived at MIA (not Missing In Action) a full hour early.  Luckily, I felt the descent beginning and called our daughter to come pick us up.  She arrived shortly after we collected our bags and brought us home.  

When we arrived at Puzzle Palace, we were thrilled to be here.  We unpacked the car quickly, and I began to make our supper.  For those who are interested, I made grilled chicken on my indoor grill (too lazy to start the one outside) and George’s favorite raw vegetable salad (Broccoli, cauliflower, and peas).  Of course we had a bottle of Emeritus out of the wine cooler to wash it down.  That night we sat in the theater area and watched a movie while chatting with our daughter and eating dinner.  It is good to be home.

And now my thoughts on the cruise. 

We enjoyed it.  We really did.  The staff were (mostly) wonderful, the free flow alcohol nights were plentiful, the majority of the places we ended up in were worth the trip.  Even though we only got to 21 of the 101 stops from the original world tour (the ones including Australia and New Zealand), I was glad we went.  

A fellow traveler sent me a spread sheet detailing the ports and sea days.  I will give you some of his info now.  (Thank you Chuck!) This information is based on the revised itinerary that did not include Australia and New Zealand.  

On the 196 day cruise that we were on, we had 75 sea days-5 more than planned for initially.

We had 121 port days-6 less than planned.

17 of these days were spent in US ports.

104 were in Foreign ports.

We visited only 43 of the 52 planned countries.  

Interesting tor me was the milage traveled.  I asked on the ship for the total nautical miles and was told to look it up in the currents.  Wow!  Thankfully Chuck kept this information too.  (All numbers have been rounded)

Miami to LA was 5298 miles

LA To Papeete was 6642

Papeete to LA was 4407

LA to Barbados was 5430

Barbados to Miami was 3805

Miami to Athens was 8700

Athens to Barcelona was 2958

Barcelona to Copenhagen was 3481

Copenhagen to Stockholm was 1654

Stockholm to Lisbon was 3000

Lisbon to New York was 5751

(New York to Miami was 1090)

(Miami to Boca Raton was 45)

In total, we traveled 51,126 miles on this trip.  That is 2 times the circumference of the earth!  How many people can say they traveled twice around the world in six months without even circumnavigating the globe?  I believe it to be around 25, but since the ship won’t give out exact numbers, we will never know.  (This is only for the people who got on in Miami.)

Door to Door, we traveled 52,306 miles. I’d say that’s one heck of a holiday.  I’m glad I wasn’t driving it.  That would take me 804 hours of driving which amounts to 33 full days!  Now if taken one day at a time, that means I would have had to drive 4 hours a day to cover the same distance in the 196 days.  Gosh, when put that way we were really traveling at a snails pace.  

And of course this was true. I mean, does it really take 18 hours to get from London to Amsterdam?  I know, I know traffic, berthing, blah blah blah.  But really?  

15 of the ports we were to go to were canceled; either in advance and substituted with something else, or because of "weather".  While I’m here, I’ll just say it.  I don’t buy this for a minute.  If the weather was that bad on all of the missed ports, even those with docking facilities and deep water sheltered bays, they should look for a new captain.  Honesty would have been much better than using "weather" for every excuse.  Case in Point: Dublin.  There was another Oceania ship in port that day, the Insignia missed the port due to "weather".  This is where we were all to get our Duty Free stamps taken care of.  Now I’m not sure about others, but I lost over $1000 because of this "weather".  It seems odd though that we have had this port booked from the beginning back in 2020 but were bumped for a sister ship.  (Thankfully we got off in Cobh and got back on again in Belfast.  At least we could spend time with friends.)

There were to be 5 lavish special events with one having an extended overnight.  Sadly, we only got 3 of them and none were overnight extended.  George and I skipped the one in Amsterdam as the information didn’t come out until late and we had already made plans to stay with friends.  

There was a serious lack of communication on this cruise.  Some of the ATW passengers got emails about changes, I got nothing.  We sailed along in blissful ignorance. I got more information by reading Cruise Critic than I did from Oceania.  Even my travel agent got nothing.  The people on the segmented cruises knew more than we did.  

Prior to leaving, I painstakingly went about getting all of the information together tor the visas needed for the trip.  These were all to be paid for by Oceania so I didn’t get them myself.  In hindsight, I’m glad all I did was have photographs made up and print out the forms to carry along with us.  This saved us a great deal of hassle and money in the end. None of the visas would have been used because of the way the trip went.  

A minor nuisance for us and by that I mean me, was the filling out of entry forms for various countries.  We were told on the ship if we didn’t have them filled out, we wouldn’t be able to get off the ship.  They took longer than they should have taken to submit, not because of my ignorance with the systems, but because of the lack of internet speed.  Whenever possible, I did this when we were on shore and I could use my roaming, or I would wake at 4 am to do this when most people were sleeping.  At this time the internet speed was much better. 

Which of course brings me to another thought.  If you have 2 people in a cabin going around the world, give them 2 internet accounts!  There was a time that someone was handing out an extra account if you complained loud enough.  I never did so when George and I were both wanting to be online we would have to take turns.  It is such a strange sensation to be home sitting next to him and being able to both be online.  

Let me talk about the food.  The first 2 months it was amazing.  I love to cook and I think I’m a fairly good one so I’m a bit critical.  First off, I was able to get a blue steak that was so wonderful, I ordered it again later in the cruise.  The second time around, the meat was tougher and blue was a poor choice. But that is just one instance.  It seems to me that they were trying to make the food so fancy, they forgot about flavor.  Numerous times we got gritty salads that could have ben avoided by simply washing the vegetables. The oysters always had grit and I just gave up on them.  Many of our fellow passengers made note of the decline in the quality of the food.  I’m not sure why this happened, but it did.  But this is actually a good thing.  I didn’t gain much weight!  In fact, I only put on 2 pounds so I’m pleased with the changes. I guess the other reason I was not as impressed as many on Cruise Critic chastised me for is that after 196 days of eating the same food it gets old! There is a 2 week rotation on the menus with the specialty restaurants always having the same food.  For some reason, I did not expect this.  Although, it does make sense.  Why change the menu at all? I mean, our club also only changes it twice a year and I get bored with their food too.  Toscana had a nightly special and that was usually what I chose.  I was also very pleased to say that when I went to Toscana, they would often just cook pasta with a brown butter sauce for me.  

The ship was wonderful about food allergies as well.  Well, mostly.  I put in my menu by noon for the dinner meal.  If there was ever a problem, they called me and we changed the menu.  On quite a few occasions, I would ask for vegetables that weren’t on the menu and they always obliged with the exception of two.  I was never able to get raw carrots or celery.  This is a goto lunch for me at home, and I was missing it.  

I did "steal" a recipe for the caviar on potato appetizer they made. This was delicious!  

Room service was funny for us.  Not once did they get an order right.  We alway got a big laugh out of how it was different from what I ordered.  Often times, they would double the order.  We aren’t big eaters so when we got 4 full meals for 2 people when I ordered 1/2 portions, it was major wastage, but it also made for good laughs.  If we ate all they put in front of us, we would have gained 100 pounds for sure.  

In the dining room I took to showing the waiter a fist and telling him I wanted no more than this amount of food on my plate.  That worked!  

My goto dessert was an ice cream cone-just the cone, no ice cream.  At first this was hard to get across, but after a few weeks, it just showed up!  Great staff!  

The bed was uncomfortable in the beginning of the cruise.  It was too hard for me.  We asked for a topper to make it softer and it showed up.  This was better, but still too hard for me.  I often woke up with sore shoulders.  Which led to another great surprise!

The masseuse on board was wonderful!  So much so that I bought a number of packages and got a weekly massage just because.  

The room we had was a veranda room, not with the butler.  The size was ok for us. The showers we were told were small, but it was not an issue for us.  The layout was good enough for what we needed it for and since we spent most of our time in the room, if I’m not complaining, you know it was good. 

On the original itinerary, I painstakingly went through all of the excursions and picked out one in every port.  There were overland trips that we decided not to go on-mostly because we’ve either done them before, or it is much easier to do on our own than it would have been to do with with the cruise.  Because of the u-turn, all of that work was gone.  At the beginning of each segment we were given a list of excursions and I did try to use as many as I could, but at the end of the cruise, we got back a massive refund because we simply didn’t want many excursions.  

We are well traveled, and a lot of the excursions on offer we had already been to.  When in the Caribbean, we opted to do private dives in every port we were allowed.  When we hit Europe, we spent the time visiting friends we haven’t seen during the time of Covid rather than taking excursions.  I don’t feel bad about Oceania losing money on us in this way because we did stay on for the duration.  

And now to money.  Yes, it is an expensive cruise.  Do I feel cheated by missing out on the original itinerary?  No, disappointed yes, but not cheated.  Oceania graciously gave us 15% back on our purchase price if we stayed on the ship.  I was fine with that. In fact, it was rather unexpected, and more than covered our additional expenses on the cruise.  I added 26 countries to my list of visited places, the majority of which were in French Polynesia and the Caribbean and George added about 5 to his list. We are now part of the Century club because of this trip; not that I’m going to pay money to any organization simply for bragging rights.  

When asked what the best part of the trip was, I have two answers: the people we met and buying a castle.  We have truly made some wonderful friends along the journey and hope to meet with them again in the future.  We will keep in contact with many of our fellow journeyers and hope to make good on our mutual plans to visit.  

Buying the castle is the start of a new adventure for us.  We currently live in a beautiful home on the fourth green of an amazing golf course in a very nice country club.  I had no desire to ever leave here, but when opportunity knocks one must open the door.  I’ve aways dreamt of living in Italy and because of an excursion on this trip, that dream is now going to come true.  

I could complain about everything that went wrong on this trip, but I won’t.  I’ve given the good the bad and the ugly all along in my blog and that is enough.  A few nights ago I was asked if I would do it again, and to be honest, we had signed up for the 2024 ATW. But after buying the castle, we cancelled it because we will just be too busy.  It’s a long time to be away.  If you have the time, I’d say go for it.  But if you are like me and find it hard to settle down and relax, this is not a trip for you.  I’m always on the go and being locked down on a ship as it were, I don’t really want to do it again.  But it is a good way to see places we’d have probably not otherwise gone to and to see places we want to visit again.

And now for the good news. We like 9 other people on the ATW (as near we can figure taking hints from missing passengers for days on end and slips from staff-but don’t quote me on that number because for sure I’ll be wrong) made it all the way without getting COVID!  

Alas, with all good news, there is bad.  When we got home, I was having a scratchy throat and a bit of a headache.  I just chalked it up to allergies.  The next day I was worse.  I thought maybe I had a flu.  Then on the 7th, my daughter brought me a COVID test.  Sure enough, I was positive.  Talk about irony.  We made it ALL THE WAY AROUND THE WORLD, only to get COVID when we returned home.  Technically I suppose I caught the virus on the cruise if you consider the incubation period, but we will never know as they stopped testing us. I can only hope I did not infect anyone else by not knowing I had it.  

A couple more days in bed for me and I’ll be right as rain.  Sadly, because I love George so much, I shared it with him.  He’s 5 days behind me with his run of it so he will be out of commission for a bit longer.  Our golf game will have to wait.  

I will be going back to my normal puzzle blogging now, but if you wish to follow our adventures in moving to Italy, please bookmark this page.  It too will be blogged about. I want to thank everyone for following along these past 6 months.  It has been a real pleasure to read all the comments on the various forums.  Until next time, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Seas to one and all. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

St. John's Newfoundland and New York City

July 1

St. John’s Newfoundland

Today we docked at St. John’s Newfoundland.  We pulled open the curtains at 8 am and saw we are much closer than we had anticipated.  This will make for an easy day of wandering around the town.  We’ve nothing exciting we want to do other than the usual puzzle hunting.  I think I should like to have a bit of Lobster for lunch so we will see what is possible.

About 1/2 hour after we woke, they came across and opened the doors for the balcony cleaning.  I had forgotten about this.  George shut the curtains again while I began to edit the first book on our cruise.  

Around 10:00 we decided to get up and go into the town for a walk around.  We got there in time to see the parade. It was short and sweet.  I think there was a band, the Canadian Mounties, a local police group, and some nurses.  When the parade went past, we decided to go take a look at the cathedral.  As always, I took some photos of the beautiful windows.  The church had a wooden ceiling, and a rather eager priest told us there were 14 feet between the ceiling and the stone roof.  

Of course it had some amazing windows.

Our next stop was to the Bagel Café for a bite to eat. We were told this place had good lobster, but there was none on the menu.  Instead, it was an all day breakfast place.  George had a chicken BLT and I had a touton.  I’d never heard of these before so why not.  It was a piece of fried bread covered in baked beans with a sunny side up egg and bacon on top.  They even gave some molasses to dump over all of it.  Now, I passed on the molasses, ate the egg, had some of the beans and cut off some chunks of the fried bread and dunked it in maple syrup. I was told to eat all of it in one bite, but I ended up separating my food. Ok. I’ll not pass as a Canadian I guess.  

From here we walked down main street to take a look around.  I had read that there were a number of local shops that sold puzzles and so we were on our usual hunt.  We found a few puzzles, some jigsaw animals that I liked, but they didn’t have a moose so we passed on those.  We found a cube that George thought might be a snake, but we weren’t sure. The shopkeeper told us it was like a  Rubik’s cube which we knew it couldn’t be but perhaps it was a checkerboarded soma cube.  For $12 we bought it. Turned out to be a snake as expected, but even worse, made in Thailand. So much for local.  

We wandered a bit and saw some interesting buildings. 

After a bit I saw a Tim Hortons and wanted a doughnut but because it was Canada day, they were closed.  So back to the ship we went.  

I spent the next hour packing and shifting and repacking.  All these puzzles really add up in weight.  We have 6 suitcases and each one of them is between 50 and 55 pounds.  There are also 4 carry-ons that we are taking.  I feel much better after doing this.  Now I know we can get home. Provided the flights aren’t cancelled that is. 

After the packing was done, we played a few games before heading down to dinner.  We brought a bottle of port to share with the table after dinner and made plans to meet again on Sunday.  

2 July

Sea Day

My excitement is building.  We have 2 more big sleeps and we will be home again in our own bed.  Today we got up early to play cards.  At 9 we had a game with some people we had just taught "Hand, Knee, and Foot".   The game was very quick, and when we finished, we returned upstairs to take a short nap before lunch.   

In the afternoon we watched a few movies and I finished packing. I should say, packing and unpacking.  This 50 pound weight thing is a real bother when you’ve been on a 6 month cruise.  I also bought 2 more suitcases to be sent via luggage forward.  I’ve been listening to the news and all of the flight cancellations that are expected so we decided it would be safer to send everything on ahead rather than take a chance on something happening at the airport.

We had dinner one last time in Toscana and the meal itself was lovely.  We had a table for 8 and I must say, I do not enjoy that as much.  You can’t talk to everyone at the same time, and the volume increases substantially as people try to talk over one another. As we did last night, we took our port upstairs and shared it around with everyone.  It’s a nice way to end a cruise and an even better way to not waste the delicious drink.

3 July

Sea Day

Today we woke up at a more normal hour, had a nice lie in and did some internet stuff. I ordered probably a dozen more puzzles and George worked on his current designing of one.

We had lunch in the Terrace Café again, and after went to play one last hand of cards with our friends. We will miss these folks and are very glad we made their acquaintance.  

It was a truly lazy day after that.  We know we will hit the ground running when we return home so we’ve been taking advantage of doing nothing while we can.  

Dinner this evening was a grand affair with 4 other couples to say our final goodbyes.  We really  have enjoyed the company of these folks and plan to stay in touch in the future.  Champaign, wine, and chocolate liqueur was shared by all.  It was a pleasant way to end the evening.

4 July

New York City

This marks the end of our 196 day journey.  We made it to the end and I have to say, I’m ready to head back home.  When asked how I feel about the trip, a Japanese saying comes to mind: You’d be a fool not to climb Mt. Fuji once in your life; You’d be a fool to climb Mt. Fuji twice.  (But more on that when I have a chance to digest everything when we get home). 

We woke up around 5:30 this morning filled with excitement.  We are back in the USA!  Last night we were told that we would see the statue of Liberty at around 6:30 so I wanted to go up and see it.  We dressed and headed up to the 10th floor. After a bit I decided to go to 11 and we watched until I spotted Lady Liberty off to our left.  I went running to the side so I could get a good photo of it.  

This was an overwhelming moment for me.  I have never seen it before, and it is breathtaking.  This is what sail-ins should be. I wish all of them were this exciting for me.  I was also overwhelmed because I thought of my family who went to Ellis Island upon their arrival in America.  I can only imagine what my family thought as they came over and saw this impressive statue.  The tears welled inside me when I think of what is happening with the immigrants in the United States now.  It is such a shame that people have forgotten that America was a great melting pot built upon the backs of immigrants. 

There were mimosas, champaign, and bloody mary’s being sold on deck, and salmon bagels, and donuts being passed out. We had a few donuts, watched the Manhattan skyline for a while then returned to our cabin to watch from the comfort of our veranda.  

As we pulled up there was a comedy of errors with the dock hands.  A wooden platform had gotten loose and no one seemed to know how to control it.  We half expected it to be crushed buy the ship, but at the last minute a gent came up with an antiquated hook he found in some back room I’m sure and solved the problem.

At 8:30 or so an announcement was made telling us we no longer had to check our luggage through customs and we would be going through passport control in a few minutes.  We got dressed and off we went. It was a rather fast procedure.  Much much better than when flying back home.  I’m thinking we sail back to the US from now on.  

When all was said and done, we decided to go into the city for a walk around.  I wanted to see Rockefeller center and FAO Schwarz.  We found both, but since the toy store was closed we took a walk down fifth avenue.  We saw the coolest Lego store, but it too was closed.  We then walked on to Central Park.  Here we sat for a while enjoying the tranquility in the middle of the city.  After a while George started to get a bit grumpy and I realized that even though our bodies have caught up with the time change, our tummies have not. 

I loved the Apple Store.  Of course, I looked like a yokel when i took a few photos.

We took a walk and opted for a New York Deli. Sadly, the Hello Deli outside the Colbert Show was closed so we found a different one.  I had to laugh, we had a Modelo beer and a Philly Cheese Steak.  

By this time the toy stores were open.  We first went to the Lego store but there was a crowd control line around the corner so we passed.  FAO Schwarz was a disappointment to me.  I guess I had a different idea in my head.  It was nice enough as far as toy stores go, but I found no puzzles to speak of.  We did get a Rubik’s cube magic set to add to the Rubik’s collection of items we have at home.  

On the way back to the ship we picked up another duffle bag to hold the rest of our stuff.  I wanted to have a hot dog on the street as I’d heard about them and was told they are good.  NO, THEY ARE NOT!  I had this halal hotdog that I’m pretty sure contained no meat.  I ended up tossing it in the bin after one bite.  $5 spent on garbage.  

We walked back to the ship where we watched "The Out of Towers" with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn, then took a nap and then finished packing. 

Around 6 Leslie came on and announced there would be a 4th of July dinner in Waves and the Terrace Café so we opted to go there instead of the main dining room.  Grilled lobster sounds good to me tonight.  But to be honest, I’m looking forward to going home and cooking.  While there, we did see some of the fireworks that were being shot off.  All in all, it was a good way to return to the USA.

5 July

New York to Miami

OMG!  What a cockup! We were supposed to get on the bus at 6 am. Now, first, the paper about disembarkation didn't come until late last night, and then it was only after I called the front desk to find out when we were to get off the ship. They told me 7 am was the time they would start calling us.  I also read the paper and it said in large print disembarkation will begin at 7 am wait for your number to be called.  We waited.  Nothing was called.  Around 6:35 we got a call telling us to comedown or we would miss the bus.  Why did they wait until the bus was leaving to call us.  Well, we missed it.  Now what?  They said they would call a car for us.  

And here is where it all went south and I lost not only my cool, but my dinner from the night before.  I don't do stressful situations well at all. 50 minutes of no one knowing who was to get us the car later, I called an Uber.  $90 to get to the airport.  There was traffic as expected, but the driver managed to get us there within 45 minutes and there was curbside checkin.  Thank goodness! We would be able to make the flight after all. 

When we went through security, we had to stand in the line.  I gave the cruise our TSA and global entry numbers but they didn't make it onto the tickets. There was a lady in front of us who brought a piggy bank full of coins onto the flight and it needed to be opened and all the coins dumped out.  The only problem was, it was a very thick plastic bank and the scissors weren't strong enough to cut through it.  The next young lad wanted to keep his water bottle so he had to go through security again so he could dump his water and keep the bottle.   This of course took up a lot of time.  Why were we being checked?  Because my Tumi backpack has the flight approved computer safe" pouch that had a computer in it. Apparently it's not a thing in the USA.  I honestly didn't know. I've used that bag all throughout Asia and never had a problem with it.  Eventually we got through and headed to the lounge.

Well, the day just keeps getting better doesn't it.  We have first class tickets and no lounge access.  I don't understand US airlines.  I've never not had lounge access with even business class tickets.  We could get in if we have a platinum American Express card, or pay to enter.  George teased about when we get rich, we can pay for it.  I told him I'll never be rich enough to pay for a credit card, or a lounge.  One could argue that perhaps that is why we can afford to take long cruises.  You know, with the price of the cruise, the least they could have done was to get lounge privileges.  Oh well.  We went to a bar to get a beer and a glass of wine for less than the cost of one person to enter the lounge. Now before you judge me for day drinking, read the above again and tell me you wouldn't do the same. 

While in the bar the waitress yelled at me for being in a closed area that had no indication that it was closed.  Fine.  I'm leaving before I explode again. We went to the waiting area and George went over and got us a drink from the same grumpy waitress.  I relaxed.  All we needed was to get on the plane. The waitress told him he was breaking all of the rules when he took the glasses away from the bar. When he later returned them, he gave her a tip of 50%.  Her smile suddenly came back.  She too was having a bad start to the day. 

Great news!  I'm writing this while sitting on the runway.  Even better news, we are in the air.  The stewardess came by with a big smile and a laugh and thought George was a lush when he ordered drinks for both of us.  

We are now at 20,000 feet with a drink in hand and watching Clifford the Big Red Dog as homework for the weekend that is up and coming.  The documentary being done on us is being produced by Jennifer Schweitzer who is an amazing documentarian (can I call her that?) and her husband is along for the ride.  I heard he produced this film so we thought we should watch it.  I resisted at first because I've read god knows how many Clifford books to my bug when she was a child but I am glad we watched it.  It's a funny movie.  Well worth the time.

I'm human.  I've many faults as do all people, but my biggest one is a lack of calmness when problems arise.  I lost my cool today.  More than once.  I'm embarrassed to admit I posted on facebook that I hated the cruise line earlier today.  At that time, I did. I jumped the gun.  But more on that in a future post.  The complete lack of communication was too much for me.  I've calmed down now that we are in the air.  I shall wait to give my opinion on the entire cruise, staff, management, etc. until we get home.  True to my nature, when I post my thoughts, I won't pull punches.  But do give me a few days to get home before I write my final report.  Today was just a bit too stressful for me.  

And I promise, I won't complain about the child behind me who is kicking the seat.  

We landed in Miami about an hour ahead of schedule. When I felt the descent begin, I texted the kid and told her we would be early.  As expected, she got there just after we got our bags.  It's good to be home.  I've missed our beautiful house and was thrilled to make dinner in my own kitchen. It was great to watch a movie on a screen that is large enough for me to see the words on it, and I am so glad to be back in our own bed again. 

I hope you enjoyed traveling along with us as much as I enjoyed the trip.   I’ll now return to my puzzle blogging, but will return to travel posting when it is time for us to move to Italy, and on our next cruise in December.  Until then, Happy Puzzling and Smooth Sailing.