Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Caribbean Cruise 2015: A Gimp Abroad

Posted: February 21, 2015 in Vacation

Day One: Friday, Feb 20, 2015

Today was the travel day to Florida where we spend the night, before heading over to the pier tomorrow afternoon to board the ship. We took a tiny Jet Blue aircraft out of Richmond International Airport.

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There was a little angst when one of the airline employees said the chair might be too big to go through the cargo door. Fortunately Ellen came up with some good ideas earlier this morning to remove the joystick controller and footrests and store them in a duffle bag. That not only helped to protect them but also reduced the wheelchair footprint so it could fit inside the cargo hold.

So they strap me into a straightback which is akin to the dolly they strapped Hannibal Lecter into in Silence Of The Lambs. All I needed was the mask. I’m sitting there like this for at least 15 minutes while other travellers gawked at me.

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Finally they take me on board and lift my fat ass into the ever narrower seats. Now I don’t have the biggest ass in the world so I don’t know how bigger people can even fly on an airline these days.

So I’m sitting with Ellen, hoping to get off the ground soon when Captain Pickle (Captain Pickle, I shit you not) makes an announcement that the flight has been delayed because they couldn’t close one of the cargo doors.

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My first thought was that they closed it on top of my wheelchair and crushed it. After about another 15 minutes we got another announcement from Kapitain Pickle that they got the door closed and we were ready to take off.

It was a pretty smooth take off so once we were in the air, I put Einsturzende Neubauten on the iPod to drown out the fucking children sitting right behind me and ordered a vodka and tonic as I listened to songs about WW1.

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Another vodka and tonic later we were making our landing approach. They bring my wheelchair back to me on the jetway and much to my surprise, it was hardly damaged. They only managed to break a clip that holds a satchel bag on the chair. Not bad but all the credit goes to Ellen for her ingenuity.

Now I’m sitting here blogging in Room 306 of the Sleep Inn in Ft. Lauderdale waiting for Ellen to return with something to eat and more importantly, a bucket of ice for this bottle of vodka.

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More later peeps…

Day Two: Saturday, Feb 21, 2015

Today is the first day of the cruise. Before we left the hotel and took the cab to the pier, I looked out our hotel window and saw this…

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Must have been Palm Saturday or something.

After a relatively short and uneventful cab ride, we ended up at the pier to prepare for boarding the ship. Similar to an airport, there are the laborious security checks and luggage handling but that’s the price we pay for not getting all blown to bits these days.

Later that afternoon, we boarded the fabulous Oasis Of The Seas (my second time on this craft). This time, we are on Deck 9, Cabin 172.

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Here we are, just starting to sail out of Ft. Lauderdale…

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Here are some pictures of where we will be living this week:

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Upper Left: The desk where I thought I would be doing most of my blogging. WordPress became a real prick while at sea and I had trouble accessing my blog. As a fallback plan, I had purchased a pen and small green notebook to carry around and jot down thoughts before the alcohol erased them from short term memory.

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Upper Right: From just inside the balcony, looking in.

Bottom: The ocean-side balcony from the inside of the cabin.  This is where I will spend most of my time while at sea.

For Day 1 of the cruise, I chose to wear the One-Eyed Doll “Be My Friend” t-shirt, accented of course by my Skinny Puppy tour cap. I’m sure I would see many more of these on the ship – NOT!

Today I cracked off a few Bitstrips to celebrate the occasion.

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The book I chose to read on the cruise was Karl Pilkinton’s, “The Moaning Of Life”. I needed something humorous to compliment the travels of this gimp abroad. Karl and I seem to see the world alike, with a deep cynicism. You might think that’s the wrong way to set the mood for a vacation but that’s the cloth I’m cut from people.

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4:00 PM

So at 4:00 came the mandatory emergency assembly drill. This is where they instruct you on what to do if say, the captain is trying to impress a lady-friend and accidentally runs the ship aground or something. I was hoping to see a priest who looked like a young Gene Hackman. He could come in  handy if we needed to evacuate and a giant steam valve leaks and blocks our way to climb up to the bottom of the ship.

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It didn’t take long to nearly get into a crash with the numerous geriatric Mario Andretti’s, driving around in their little scooters. They drive around like fucking amateurs. I, on the other hand, am the Rudolf Nureyev of wheelchair precision driving (usually).

So as I’m tuning out all of the emergency instructions I looked across the place where we assembled and saw this pathetic sea of humanity, The only thought that occurred to me was that I hoped the ship would never run into trouble because if we did, we would all be totally fucked.

I couldn’t find any pescatarian entrees at dinner tonight so I paid for the broiled Maine lobster for an extra $29.95. It was worth it. I still feel lousy that I’m eating an animal but they are practically bugs so that helps sedate my angst.

At Ellen’s mom’s request, we have been seated at one of the tables where Maritess is the waitress. She’s a sweet, kind lady from the Philippines who was also our waitress when we cruised in November 2012. She’s very kind to everyone but I especially like how she takes care of me at dinner; by removing my lobster from it’s shell and cutting it up for me.

The Assistant Waiter is Gabriel from Romania. He too, is very nice. At lunch the next day, we learned from him that his fiancee, Beatrice, also works on the ship. When I see people like him, I sometimes feel there’s hope for humanity. Typically though, I run across some idiot afterward and that sentiment is quickly extinguished.

Day Three: Sunday, Feb 22, 2015

Today we woke up to find we had sailed into Nassau, Bahamas. We decided to stay on board ship though. I’ve been to Nassau 4 times now and quite frankly, it isn’t very wheelchair accessible. Plus everywhere you go, there are throngs of poor people practically begging you to buy some trinket you don’t really need. It’s all kind of depressing but it does reaffirm my belief that the world remains a less than pleasant place that has been made the very hell that it truly is, due to humans. Okay so don’t think I’m having a bad time on vacation though. I love reaffirming my beliefs in the tropics.

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt was my new pink spray paint shirt, hand made by Kimberly Freeman. I did notice it catching the attention of a few people. The elderly spectators seemed a bit apprehensive and the youth crowd appeared to be curious. You can see all of my One-Eyed Doll attire at the bottom of this blog.

We had lunch at the Windjammer Marketplace. I had a vegetable stir fry and rice with some mildly seasoned salmon and two cups of coffee. The tableau of overweight passengers carrying multiple plates of food was a fine documentary of empire’s decline. Bon Appetite!

Back on the balcony I sat and watched people returning to the ship after playing on Nassau. Honestly, they looked like a line of ants returning to their floating colony with their purchased ‘kill’ for the day? In almost single file, they returned to the ship, engorged by their mass consumerist hive colony mentality.

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I wondered if any tropical diseases had hitched a ride with some of them and came on board.

2:25 PM

We pulled out of Nassau about 25 minutes ago and I can no longer see the island we left behind. 30 minutes ago I was tanning and profusely sweating the toxins from my body. Now a pleasant breeze caresses me and evaporates the accumulated sweat. It’s in these moments and almost these moments alone that become one with the sea. To me, the shows, clubs and casinos on board are lowest common denominator pablum. How anyone could choose these venues over the infinite expanse of sea is beyond me. I feel the ocean call to me each day I am on board and I am not truly satisfied until I can be outside in the air with it. To each his/her own I suppose.

Alone And Not Alone, At Sea

Sitting all alone with thousands of others around me

On a giant vessel of hedonism and gluttony

Occasionally I hear above me, the cackles of Earth’s apex parasites

I am not without guilt – I am not without guilt

I paid handsomely for this ‘right’ to pollute

Yet I am always cognizant of the rape of which I am an accomplice

It must be nice to enjoy oneself and never consider the true cost

I look out at the calm ocean, seeing nothing but deep blue sea

But the thought that lingers is me wondering if just beyond the horizon lies the endless sea of floating plastic

The discarded remains of everyone’s past pleasures

What do the passengers above me see?

They see the plastic lives they’ve become,

as they primp themselves to get ready for another round of neon dance,

banal shows and insipid conversations

Give me my solitude and the sea

As dirty as we have made it,

it’s far cleaner than the people above me…

and probably most everyone else

I am not without guilt

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Day Four: Monday, Feb 23, 2015

I just got done shooting a 4 minute video of nothing but the ocean and horizon with the iPad. I may decide to do something with this in Final Cut Pro at some point. I’m always looking for good raw material to work with.

Earlier this morning I saw about 20 or so flying fish flying away from the wake of the ship. Why is it that I find animals infinitely more fascinating than people?

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt is the Purple Haze shirt.

So the balcony has tempered glass panes for walls with a railing on top of it. After about a day or so though, the glass gets coated with sea spray so the view through the glass is less than spectacular, The crew will clean the balconies maybe a couple of times while we are on board.

Before lunch, Ellen told Omar, our steward, that I can’t see much over the rail since it’s about 4 ft tall. When we came back from lunch, I noticed the glass balcony wall was nearly spotless and thought maybe this was the time that all the balconies got cleaned. Then I noticed the adjacent balconies were still spotted with water and salt. Omar must have had ours specially cleaned. This was so very kind of him as the view is now once again great!

I’ve noticed the ocean is much more consistently choppier on this cruise than any others we have been on. I don’t know if it’s like this all of the time this time of year since this is the first late Winter cruise we’ve taken. I can really feel the ship bounce quite a bit which is somewhat amazing since this ship is huge and we’re pretty much in the middle, where the motion would be at its least. Fortunately, I do not get seasick.

Day Five: Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015

St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt was PAO!

Here is where we ‘parked’ in St. Thomas:

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We left the ship around Noon to explore St. Thomas. I purchased a real cool ornament as soon as we got on the island: Santa delivering gifts while riding a sleigh that is actually a shark. C’mon! How fucking cool is that?22

Our goal today was to get to Coral World Marine Park to see sea animals. We left the ship with some cash but apparently not enough to go to Coral World and pay the admission fee and cab fare. We tried going to an ATM but all we had were credit cards and we didn’t know what the PINS were. Ellen had to walk back to the ship to borrow some cash from her mom. WE DON’T PLAN VERY WELL!

While Milo and I waited, we spent some time with the local dinosaurs:

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Here’s a pic of me and Milo, waiting for the ride into St. Thomas:

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Like I said, we had planned to go to Coral World Marine Park but once we got there (after a 30 minute cab ride that was akin to driving to Jurassic Park!), we discovered it had closed about 10 minutes before we got there.

However, being driven around this island is an experience to behold. The winding streets are extremely steep in spots and ultra narrow. We got to meet a friendly black cat at Coki Beach after we had discovered Coral World had closed. He/she laid at my feet as I sipped long and hard on a rum filled smoothie.

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We then drove to another beach so the cabbie could pick up another fare. At this beach I got my wheelchair stuck in the sand. Fortunately, three guys dragged me back to firmer ground. The pic below is me on the beach that I got stuck on.

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In all honesty, once you get inland a bit, St. Thomas is pretty beat. The beaches are fabulous but most of the neighborhoods we drove through looked like South Philadelphia in the tropics. It’s nice to know that the decline of western civilization has even invaded ‘paradise’.

Here I am in St. Thomas, in front of our floating city:

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Day Six: Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015

St. Maarten

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt was the white spray paint shirt done by Kimberly Freeman and customized with autograph and angel wings on the back.

So today we pulled into St. Maarten, my favorite island on the cruise. We got up fairly early so we could explore the island as much as possible. I remember as we were riding an elevator to get to the gangway, some guy with his family looked at my shirt and asked if it was the band, “One-Eyed Peas”. We corrected him (politely) and his daughter told him he was thinking of the Black Eyed Peas. They got off on a deck before us and before the elevator doors closed, we could hear the daughter and mom laughing and saying, “One-Eyed Peas…hah hah hah….”

It was late morning and already is was pretty hot and very sunny out. The water taxis are still not accessible so we had to wait around in the shopping village area not far from the pier until one of the few accessible land taxis showed up. After about an hour or so, the taxi arrived and took us to Philipsburg, which is on the southern end of the Dutch side of the island. It’s a quaint little town with all kinds of interesting shops, restaurants and bars; not to mention the fabulous beaches with pristine waters.

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Ellen was in search of some tanzanite jewelry, which was being heavily promoted on the ship and on the island. On the ship you could get a certificate for some free earrings on the island, no doubt to get you into a jewelry store to be upsold to pricier merchandise.

For some reason, tanzanite had never hit my radar so I didn’t really know what it was until I studied it a bit. It’s a beautiful purple (yes my favorite color) gem that supposedly can only be obtained from Tanzania.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanzanite

We went to the Diamond International store in Philipsburg and were immediately greeted by one of the sales staff. Ellen explained that she didn’t have the certificate with her but asked if she would get the free earrings anyway and also look at some of the merchandise. The salesperson agreed and began to show us some larger earrings that I believe were $199 a pair but would also include a ‘free’ necklace to match. Ellen was hesitant to commit to purchasing anything but I was encouraging her to do so, primarily for two reasons: 1.) she seldom buys nice jewelry and 2.) I would rather spend money here than go to the art auction on board ship the next day, where we would probably be constantly pressured to buy something. I really wanted to avoid that scene at all costs. I love art, I really do, but I still can’t get my head fully around the notion of spending $500 to $1,000 or more, for a lithograph.

Ellen was being shrewd and told the salesperson she really liked the earrings and necklace but wasn’t sure she should spend that kind of money. She told the salesperson we would leave, go somewhere to have a drink, and talk it over with one another. The salesperson said, “Oh you can have a drink here” and motioned toward a small bar setup toward the rear of the shop. I thought, “Oooh this is a great sales and marketing strategy. Don’t let them leave the store, get them buzzed on some good booze and then move in for the sales kill.” We were treated to a rather generous glass of Dewars on the rocks while we sat and looked at the jewelry and had the salesperson bring back other items to compare. Around this time I told Ellen that the salesperson spent quite a bit of time with us, gave us generous drinks and was clearly trying to get us to buy but without being ‘too’ pushy. I said we would look like schmucks if we walked out of there with nothing. I told her to go for it but also ask for another ‘free’ pair for me. Ellen agreed, the salesperson agreed and we made the purchase. The salesperson threw in some other trinkets too. All in all, I think everyone came away satisfied.

We left and continued to walk around Philipsburg, stopping in the occasional shops to look at merchandise. We stopped in one shop where I purchased a St. Maarten coffee mug for my collection. I think this was also the place where we spied some Cuban cigars in the back. I told Ellen we needed to get some for her cousin Sue and her husband, Bob. Now I wouldn’t know a good Cuban cigar even if I got one from Fidel himself so we went with the recommendations of the person in the shop and picked out an assortment. Hell, I wasn’t even sure if we could even get them back into the country but I was counting on the normalizing relations the US appears to be headed toward with Cuba (Note: we packed them in our luggage and no one asked or looked so they are here with us Sue and Bob!).

It was starting to get even hotter and Ellen was getting tired so we decided to find a restaurant to have lunch and drinks. We found our way to the stretch of restaurants facing the beach and were approached by this local who we learned was the maître d’ at the restaurant we were in front of called ‘Burger Madness’. He was telling us how good his burgers were and that he could get some guys to lift me and my chair up the steps and into the restaurant. We told him that was impossible (We’ve tried this before at a One-Eyed Doll concert in Pittsburgh and 5 guys practically had a hernia attempting to pick me and the chair up). We also said we didn’t eat meat (except for seafood) and he immediately came back with the fact they also offered veggie burgers. I thought, ‘damn this guy is good’. He then said he was still going to take care of us. This might have been the time he first called Ellen, ‘Baby Doll’. He said that about 4 or 5 times throughout our stay but it somehow didn’t come across as offensive. He motioned to some guy working the beach and told him to fetch one of the beach umbrellas, and bring his tool to poke a hole in the ground. He motioned this fella to the place he wanted the umbrella, had him set it up and then moved a couple tables and a chair under it for us. Okay we couldn’t refuse this hospitality so we agreed and had some menus brought over.

Now I’m real finicky about my veggie burgers so I wasn’t sure I wanted one but then I saw a section on the menu where they had about 4-5 seafood burgers. That really caught my attention and we decided to split an order of the mahi mahi burger, home made fries and a couple of drinks (We had ordered guava berry drinks with rum but we think they messed up the order and brought us something different. They still had rum in them so that was okay). I got to tell you, that was a best fucking burger I ever had in my life. To me  it rivaled any of the food on the ship and quite frankly, it was my favorite meal on this vacation. If we get back to St. Maarten again, I know where I’m going for lunch!

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Not long before we left the restaurant, we spotted this contraption cruising by. I suppose it’s one way of burning off alcohol calories.

After lunch, we walked around some more and stopped at the church in town that has the statue of St. Maarten, the patron saint of Doc Maartens. Being an aging punk meself, I had Ellen snap a pic of the two of us.

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After that, we walked back to the rendezvous location for the cab. I noticed a lot of people looking at my One-Eyed Doll shirt (Kimberly and Jason – if you notice an uptick in your Caribbean audience, you’re welcome!). The cab met us on time and took us back to the area by the pier. Not satisfied with our lunchtime drinks, we ordered two ‘good’ guava berry drinks with ample rum and sipped away until, regrettably, it was time to head back to the ship.

We get back on board around 4:00 PM but I was not hungry at all so I declined dinner, instead ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and sat on the balcony, reflecting on the great day we had. I watched the ship pull away from the harbor and then sail off to sea. This would be our last island stop but, as expected, it was our best island stop. I have to say, if it wasn’t for the fact that no band I like would probably make a tour stop there, I’d move to St. Maarten in a heartbeat. So long until next time, my sweet island gem.

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Day Seven: Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt was the ‘Plumes Of Death’ t-shirt signed by Kimberly. Every day I notice people looking at the ‘shirt of the day’. Not many say anything but I know the imagery captures their attention.

I had trouble sleeping last night. I went to bed around 10:00 PM with the plan to get up early today. However, I woke up in the middle of the night with my pulse racing. I took an anti-anxiety pill to chill my ass out and it helped a bit but I still couldn’t fall back to sleep. My heart rate was still flying. It was then I remembered that I may not have taken my high blood pressure medication the day before. I immediately took my dose and in about 30 minutes I felt fine and was able to fall back to sleep. I woke up around 9:30 and felt fine. Note to self: Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you can forget your medications!

Today is a ‘Day At Sea’ day as the ship turned around yesterday evening and it now heading back to Ft. Lauderdale with no stops in between. Tonight is the second formal night at dinner so I have to get dressed up a bit.

I was sitting out on the balcony for about two hours or so but the sun is so bright and hot that I needed to come in twice to towel off the sweat. I decided to stay in the rest of the day until either some clouds showed up or the sun went down. I got to tell you though, it felt damn good sweating out all of those toxins that the body builds up.

At dinner, I had two lobsters and almost went for a third. I kept telling myself…they are practically bugs so eat and enjoy. It sucks having a conscience.

There is all kind of artwork all over the ship and much of it is very interesting and sometimes eclectic. Here is the painting that captivated me the most:

15It’s called “Habitat Diorama With Painkillers” ~ 1963 by Laurie Hogan. Among the psychedelic colored animals are all kinds of drug references.

Day Eight: Friday, Feb 27, 2015

Today is the last full day of the cruise. Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt of the day is the ram’s skull t-shirt. This proved to be a really good one to capture people’s eyes.

This has been a fun cruise but it does feel right to end it about now. There are no more islands to explore, we visited all of the on board shops we cared to see and I never take in any of the on board shows – EVER. To me, they are all watered down (no pun intended) events marketed to the masses on board. Water shows, ice shows, lame family oriented films and a production of ‘Cats’, which you couldn’t even pay me to see it with the original Broadway cast. When I’m not on an island, I prefer to be alone on the balcony, looking at the endless expanse of sea while listening to good music or reading a good book.

The book for this cruise, ”The Moaning Of Life”, by Karl Pilkington was a great choice for me since he is as cynical as I am as he observes ‘society’ (though I didn’t finish the book before the end of the cruise). If you want to see the best and worst of people, please go on a cruise. You can witness the selfishness and gluttony of many of the passengers (It makes one think of the space ship in Wall-E) as well as the hard work and dedication to service of the crew. These people are great at what they do, day in and day out, all the while making us feel like we are royalty; while in the back of your mind you KNOW that many of them think many of us are scum. They are the best prostitutes on the planet!

It’s a bit after 3:30 PM. About 2 more hours until dinner, where we will have one more fine meal, make our goodbyes to our wait staff and tell them we will be back again (whether that is a true statement or not).

Tomorrow morning, we will all be herded off of the ship as quickly as possible, just in time for the crew to do a bit of housekeeping until the next wave of humanity arrives. They will make them feel equally as welcome as they made us feel.

As I said above, the whole thing reminds me of classy prostitution. You pay your fee up front for the time you plan to be there. They fawn all over you and may even be a little nicer to you if you throw a few more bones their way. But as soon as that time is up, it’s ‘Hurry up! Get dressed, pack up all your toys and get the fuck out of here! I’ve got another John coming today.’

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing this, I really do. It’s just that my tastes, opinions and outlook on life are so eclectic and cynical that there isn’t a cruise director on the seven seas who could keep me thoroughly entertained.

This is why I gravitate towards the island stops, the local cultures, the alien flora and fauna, and of course, the endless ocean. Seeing the big orange sun dip into the sea and later seeing the bright moon dancing through the clouds at night, reflecting on the water below, captivates me like nothing else can. It would take a pretty fucking talented cruise director to beat nature’s shit and I ain’t holding my breath on that one!

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Day Nine: Saturday, Feb 28, 2015

Today’s One-Eyed Doll t-shirt is ‘Dirty’.

8:30 AM. Time to get kicked off of the ship. Once again, I had trouble sleeping last night. I went to bed around 10:00 PM and woke up a few hours later and never really slept much after that (Note To Self: Stop going to bed at fucking 10:00 PM!).

We had a quick breakfast at the Windjammer Marketplace and now we are back in the cabin to get cleaned up, do final packing, and then get off of the ship. After that, it’s wait for the cab to haul our sorry asses to the airport.

It’s cloudy and rainy here in Ft. Lauderdale right now. I had previously made the comment at breakfast that this storm was the ‘collective cloud hanging over all of the passengers heads since it’s now time to get back to reality’.

Today’s high in Richmond, Virginia is 33 degrees F. Freezing rain is in the forecast (Cue Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” about now!).

I went through the paperwork earlier back on the ship. It looks like our alcohol bill was under $500. That’s not bad though it doesn’t include all the drinks we had on the islands, as well as the 4 bottles of champagne we brought on board with us. My liver is like, “What the fuck kind of vacation was this?”

Fin

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