On the Bridge

This entry is part 7 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

It is always a relief when the holiday season comes to an end. Every year we vow to take it easy, and every year it gets more crazy… Happy New Year!

“…Bring a photo ID and your key card. Do you understand?”

“Certainly,” I replied.

Christine turned swiftly and marched off on her next mission. I spotted Ryan finally making his way through the security checkpoint.

“Hey –- we have something to do at 3:45.”

“I was gonna take a nap. Do I have time?”

“Forget that. Naps are for old guys. Take a nap when you get home.”

“What about lunch?”

“That we have time for.” It was just past 1:00 p.m., and the day was young.

We made our way to the cabin to clean up and change. Inside, I looked for a message – not from “Mr. M”, whom I now knew was not aboard – but from Mr. Giorgiou, the Hotel Manager. He had spoken very positively about arranging a cabin upgrade for us. All I found was an invitation to a Captain’s Club Cocktail Party, which was scheduled for 6:15 that evening.

We made it to the dining room entrance at 1:30, and were seated at a table for eight. We joined two couples and two men who were traveling together. When one of the men revealed that he was a nurse, the subject of conversation was immediately established.

For the next hour, Ryan and I sat quietly and listened as various ailments were discussed in great detail. My wife Kris was an operating room nurse for more than 20 years, so both of us were accustomed to hearing about medical topics while dining – usually in much more graphic language. I felt a little guilty about being in relatively good health at the moment, and had nothing much to offer in the discourse.

Finally, when we all felt lucky to be alive given all of the possible malfunctions of the human system, the conversation turned to cruising. Both members of one couple were travel agents cruising for the umpteenth time, and everyone else qualified as seasoned veterans. None were familiar with CruiseCritic.com, but I told the story of how Ryan and I had come to be on board.

The talk flowed freely through dessert and coffee. I looked around and realized that we were the only passengers remaining in the dining room. It was nearly 3:30, and the wait staff was busy setting up for dinner. Since we had a rendezvous scheduled in 15 minutes, I spoiled the party by rising to leave. By then, everyone felt like old friends.

We rushed back to the room to get our identification and arrived at the designated spot in the forward stairwell 5 minutes early.

Christine was there as were the three young marketing guys from the advertising agency. I assumed that this special treat was arranged for their benefit and that we were invited to tag along for our good looks.

The guys looked pretty wiped out. One had slumped to the floor, eyes closed. Another kept looking at his watch. “I signed up for a Tae Bo class at 4:00. Is this going to take long?”

Christine didn’t respond to his question directly. “Where are the girls?” she asked instead. There was concern in her voice.

None of the guys knew where their female counterparts were. The Tae Bo guy pointed out that one of the women was signed up for the same class at 4:00.

As I eavesdropped on the guys patter, Christine became frantic. She began making calls on her portable phone, by the sound of it enlisting an army of people to look for the missing women.

“Maybe they’re up by the pool,” offered the slouching one.

Christine took off like a shot, still making calls while scrambling up the stairs to the pool deck.

“Can’t they just leave us alone?” one of the guys said. “I just want to take a nap.”

There seemed to be a general agreement with this sentiment among them. Is there an epidemic of napping in the under 30 crowd? Personally, I was honored and excited at our invitation. Granted, I hadn’t been out until 4:00 a.m. like they had.

In a few minutes, Christine returned. She was frantic. “They MUST be here for this. We have to find them.”

She continued making calls, a new one every 15 seconds or so. Finally she said “We can’t wait any longer. Please follow me.”

We snaked through some passageways and eventually came to a locked door guarded by an armed man. We were asked to show our identification.

“I forgot my photo ID” said one of the young guys. Christine tripped a couple of internal circuit breakers before dealing with that situation. While we waited, I asked if I would be permitted to take photographs. That required a few more calls and permission from some unseen master. I was given the go-ahead.

Eventually everyone’s identity was established, the door was unlocked and we entered a long hallway led by the guard. Doors to a number of rooms lined each side of the hall. Some were open, revealing both offices and warmly decorated officer’s quarters.

At the end of the hall was another locked door. The guard paused and surveyed the group until satisfied that we hadn’t somehow picked up any extras. He unlocked the door and pulled it open.

curve_binocsThe light was blinding. Tall windows curved along the front of the room, which spanned the width of the ship. About 25 feet deep at the center, the room narrowed to maybe half that at the sides where floor-to-ceiling windows defined bayed alcoves.

A handful of men in crisp white uniforms scurried about. Instrumentation packed a collection of blue-colored pods scattered about the room, the largest occupying the space directly in front of and mimicking the sweep of the curving windows.

vigilanceWe were guided to the rear wall. “Please stay back here until we are underway,” said Christine. “The guard will tell you when it is alright to move about.” With that, she left.

Moments later, Captain Peppas entered the room. He strolled over and asked the group “Welcome. Would you care for a drink?” Behind him appeared a waiter, tray in hand. Some of the group ordered water or soft drinks. I declined. Ryan opted for a Coke.

The atmosphere was hushed as Captain Peppas made his way to the seat at the center of the main control panel. I was barely aware of the sound of the ship’s horn blowing somewhere in the space above us. It did little to disturb the quiet calm.

captain

Captain Peppas (f)

From where we stood, it seemed like very little was happening during the next few minutes. The beverages arrived. The Captain received a bottle of water. He spoke with a couple of different crewmembers, who then pushed a few buttons. At length, the Safety Officer approached the group, and began to describe our surroundings.

As we approached the side of the room and could see something besides the sky through the windows, I was very surprised to realize that we were underway. Grand Cayman was receding into the distance, and open water lay ahead. Along the sidewall, a small window in the floor gave a dizzying view straight down.floor_window

At some point, the missing women entered the room with Christine. They had all been asleep in their cabins.

Our tour lasted almost an hour, and then we were permitted to wander around and observe. The operation and equipment are truly impressive, though for once I will not go into detail. I’m in a bit of a quandary over this…

When I returned from the trip, I wrote to Celebrity asking if posting pictures of this special treat would pose a security problem. The response I got was “Yes, thanks for asking.” As a result, I won’t reveal anything that is not readily available in Celebrity’s own publications and videos. I know that we were extremely lucky to have gotten this opportunity in the post-911 world. The advertising people were all wide-awake and fully involved by the time we were escorted back to the civilian world of the Mercury.

Ryan and I made our way to the pool bar. The bartender, Marco from Chile, recognized us as father and son. As we downed a couple of drinks, Marco told us about his recent reunion with his estranged father. He had returned to his old hometown for the first time in almost 10 years.

As we headed back to the room, Ryan said, “I can’t imagine why anyone would not even talk to their own father for so long.”

“I guess there are fathers who are worse than yours.” I found it hard to imagine too.

I decided to hit the T-pool. Ryan surrendered to the nap epidemic. The t-pool was very crowded, and people seemed to stay in one place – the idea is supposed to be to move from station to station. I ended up stuck at a water jet aimed at mid-thigh and contorted to make it massage my lower back, feet, hands and calves. That wore thin after a while, so I went out on deck and found an open spot in a hot tub. There were two couples there already but they were speaking Spanish, which is beyond my comprehension. I watched the sun set.

At dinner, I was a little surprised that the remainder of the previous night’s wine was not on the table waiting for our arrival. Next thing I knew, our sommelier — Pablo from Columbia, in fact the Chief Sommelier — was asking “Red or white?” Complimentary wine on a couple of evenings was one of the Adult Only cruise perks. I’d forgotten, but both Ryan and I took full advantage of the offer. Pablo was at least as generous with the ship’s wine as he was with our own.

Ryan and Neal discussed some of the more advanced casino offerings. Ryan was anxious to try his hand at roulette and craps, and Neal offered to get together and demonstrate some of the finer points. I resolved to stick with the mindless machines.

After dinner we made our way to the casino. Ryan went to get us drinks. When he didn’t return in a few minutes, I went searching. I found him at the bar talking to Cindy (travel57) and Paula (flseafal). This was developing into a regular routine, as we all seemed to be on the same after-dinner schedule.

We kept our eyes peeled for Neal, but never spotted him. The wine took its toll on Ryan, and he turned in early – before 11:00. I guess I’m a wild man compared to him. Without the benefit of a nap, I went up to the Navigator for a nightcap.

The advertising crew was tearing up the dance floor to the sounds of Hip-Hop played at deafening volume. I spotted Cindy, Paula and Barbara seeking refuge with some others at the back of the room. At the next table sat Captain Peppas, Mr. Giorgiou and some other senior officers, apparently on their night off. We all tried to converse, but quickly tired of shouting in a vain attempt to be heard.

Minutes later, I entered the cabin. Ryan was asleep. On the bed was an envelope, and inside it a typewritten letter.

“Dear Mr. & Mrs. X,” it began.

I glanced at the hulk of Ryan. Definitely not Mrs. X. Different snore altogether.

“I am contacting you on behalf of the Hotel Manager, Mr. Georgiou…Unfortunately, we are not able to offer you an upgrade…We both would like to apologize for that…Sincerely, Heike Berdos, Guest Relations Manager”

Oh well.

I got ready for bed, but didn’t feel sleepy. I squeezed out onto the verandah, maneuvered into a chair and just sat for a while. The night was perfect, and the seas were like glass. I kept seeing streaks of light low in the sky — too erratic to be meteors. Very strange. I forced myself to go to bed before I figured out what I was seeing.

Tomorrow we would dock at Cozumel and make our way to Passion Island. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I wondered if I really wanted to go to such a place with my son — or more to the point, if he would want me hanging around putting a damper on his “passion”. Time would tell…

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