Going “UP”

This entry is part 12 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers
For our anniversary, the boys sent us to dinner and a movie. We saw King Kong, and I’m still dizzy from the Empire State Building scene. Wow…

On the couch was a shopping bag full of goodies from the APHC people – including CDs, a songbook, a thick book of poetry and some stainless steel mugs. The mugs were decorated with nautical flag symbols:


Twenty-six nautical flags correspond to the letters of the alphabet, although each has a special meaning when flown alone. Taken as individual letters, these flags say APHC. Taking their special meanings and stringing them together, we get something like “Keep Clear, About to Sail, Pilot on Board, Yes!” Of course, I had no idea what the symbols meant at the time, but in retrospect, they were doubly appropriate.

I looked around and found the dining table assignment card. “Good,” I said. “You’ve been assigned to late seating just like I asked for. Now we just have to make sure that we’re all at the same table.”

The room attendant returned in a few minutes with a pair of cabin keys which, as he demonstrated, worked well. Shortly thereafter, we left as a group to find cabin 220. Things were starting to pick up now, and the hallways and elevators were busy. We encountered a group of officers on the elevator. One of them wanted to buy my shirt.

Cabin 220 is all the way aft on the port side of the Verandah deck. Again, it was a pleasant surprise. The closest comparison I can make is against a category 2 cabin on Celebrity’s Mercury, and this room won the contest hands down. It was spacious and well appointed. Four of us could maneuver without colliding, and we could all sit comfortably. In the category 2 cabin, I had to get out of my own way, and two was a crowd.

Since I had selected this cabin based on the premise that the verandah was extra-large, I crossed the room and opened the curtains to see if theory held. Indeed, it did. The verandah was deep and double the width of the room, tapering toward the rear with the curve of the ship’s stern. I was surprised at the depth – again, in comparison, the category 2 verandah was just deep enough to allow the door to open outward. This one was at least two and a half times that depth, so even the regular verandahs must have been quite spacious. On the deck, there were two chairs, a small table and a lounge.

I called into the room. “Hey! Come on out here.” Pat and Laura ventured out, followed by Kris.

“Oooo, this is nice,” said Kris. “You know I like my verandah.”

It was a classic triple-H (Hazy, Hot and Humid) New England summer day. For the first time, we got a look at our surroundings. We were in a channel barely three times the width of Maasdam, across from a small marina and a big power plant. At the mouth of the channel a few hundred feet away, a huge container ship was being loaded. In the murky distance, I could see some of the islands in Boston harbor and some of the dense neighborhoods of South Boston. Boats of all shapes and sizes were moving about everywhere, giving the impression of chaos in the channel and harbor.

“I never realized there was so much boat traffic,” I said, still trying to get my bearings.

“Look at this,” said Kris, pointing skyward. A 747 emerged from the haze, passing no more than 75 feet above the container ship and the cranes before dipping out if sight behind the terminal building.

“I hope the runway is right there,” I said. Boston is a difficult city to figure out, full of odd angles and geographic barriers. Despite my hobby of studying maps, I was surprised that the airport was that close to the dock. As we stood there, planes followed the same path at 30-second intervals, so I felt more comfortable that the 747 pilot knew where he was going.

“Boy, they’re really stacked up,” Pat said.

“Yeah – I read in the paper that they’re doing construction and only have one runway open today,” said Kris. “I wonder if people are having a hard time getting in.”

“Probably are,” I said. “Plus, the NorthWest mechanics are on strike today – that’s the big airline for Minneapolis. I’ll bet at least half the people on this cruise are coming from Minnesota – including the host.”

“Well, they won’t leave without him,” said my mother.

“I don’t know about that,” I said. “Ships are like trains used to be – on time. If we’re supposed to sail at five o’clock, then that’s what we’ll do. If anybody is late, they’ll have to meet us in Bar Harbor.”

We watched the action for a while, but there were things to do. “Let’s check out the dining room, and then find the Front Office to get mom’s card,” I said. As we passed through the cabin, I found our table assignment card. Amazingly, not only were we all at late seating, we were all together at the same table.

“So everything’s OK then,” said Kris. “Should we just go to the office?”

“The dining room is right below us. Let’s check out the table location so we know where we’re going at dinner time.”

We descended to deck 7 using the aft stairway, and entered the dining room’s upper level. One word – stunning. Another word – intimate. The Rotterdam Dining Room was half the size of those we’d seen on previous ships, but it somehow seemed even more grand. Windows all around made it feel airy and bright, and hundreds of lights surrounded by individual glass shades made the ceiling look like a field of white flowers hanging upside down.

We found our table on the lower level, next to the railing on the central mezzanine. It was a table for four.

“I thought you asked for a big table,” said Kris.

“I did,” I replied. “I’ll go talk to the restaurant manager and see what he can do. Can you find the Front Desk?”

“I’m sure we can. It’s on deck six and we’re on deck six, right? How hard can it be?” Kris led the mothers in the right direction, sort of.

“You can’t get there from here,” I said. “You have to go up one level, go forward, and then go down again.”

“Why?”

“Because the kitchen is in the way,” I answered. “Come with me.” We climbed the curving staircase to the upper level of the dining room. The restaurant manager was seated at a table near the entrance, and a long line of people waited to plead their cases. “Good luck,” I said to Kris. “You should probably come back this way to see if I’m still here – otherwise, we’ll just meet back in the room. Oh, hey – ask them if the bar in the Crow’s Nest will be open for the party at 3:15.”

“OK,” said Kris, and the trio marched off.

The line moved slowly. The woman behind me and the man behind her struck up a conversation. The man looked as though he’d literally just come in from the barn, and he made it clear that he was very glad that there would be no formal nights. I faced forward as I listened to the brief conversation between two people who were clearly on their first cruise.

When there was only one person between me and the restaurant manager, I heard a voice in my ear. “Excuse me,” the woman behind me said. “Where did you get that? Am I supposed to have one?”

I turned and she pointed at my table assignment card. “They leave them in your room. Look on the vanity,” I said.

“You mean I don’t have to stand in line to sign up for a table? Why didn’t anyone tell me that?” She turned and shared the news with the farmer, and they walked down the line sharing the revelation with everyone else. At least half of the people waiting in line departed.

When it was my turn, I approached the table. The manager was seated in an imposing chair, with a huge open book on the table in front of him. He was flanked on either side by sentries in uniform. “How may I help you sir?”

“My wife and I are traveling with our mothers, and I asked that we be seated at a big table – you know – to stimulate conversation…but we seem to be at a table for four…”

He gave me a knowing look. “May I see your card, please?” I handed it over, and the man made some notes in his big book – very slowly and deliberately. I wondered if I was supposed to pass him a bribe, but he seemed to be sympathetic to my cause. He handed the card back and said, “I’ll see what we can do for you.” I took it as a dismissal, and turned away.

Kris and the moms were standing by the elevators. “That was good timing,” said Kris. “Is everything all set?”

“I guess we’ll find out at dinnertime,” I replied.

“We made out fine,” said Kris. “We got lost for a while, but there was no problem getting the card.”

“Very helpful – a delightful woman,” said my mother.

“They said the bar will be open,” said Kris.

“I should think so,” I said, glancing at my watch. There were only 45 minutes left before our roll call gathering. “Do you want to spend some time getting settled in?”

“That’s a good idea,” said Pat.

“I need a rest,” said my mother. “We’ve already walked miles, today.”

“We should make sure you find the room,” said Kris.

I pushed the down button for the elevator. A chime sounded, and the doors to one of the four elevators opened. We moved toward it, but then I spotted the LED readout at eye level next to the doors. It read “UP.”

“Wait, This one’s going up,” I said. We all stopped and watched the doors close. I pushed the button again. Another set of doors opened to reveal a few people inside. They stared at us, and we stared back.

“That one says up, too,” said Kris. She waved to the people in the elevator. “Go ahead…we’re waiting.”

Three more elevators stopped, and the displays said “UP” every time.

“This is ridiculous,” I said. “Just get in the next one no matter what is says.”

Sure enough, the doors opened again next to an “UP” message, but we all piled in this time.

I pressed the button for the Main deck, and waited to see if the elevator would be confused by the mixed signals and travel sideways…

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