Epilogue – Another Journey Continues

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

A few weeks after returning, I gave birth to the kidney stone that had dogged me during the Mercury trip. I had another last month just for good measure.

I had a brief email exchange with “Ms. M.” from Celebrity. There was no mention of “Mr. M.”. I had written to him before the trip saying, “I assume somebody went out on a limb, inviting me on this voyage”. He wrote back something to the effect of “That is our job”. I hope he didn’t lose his over the Mercury trip.

Although Londonderry did not have a stellar season, Wells ended up as the leader in both scoring and tackles. He will be back next season.

I made the mistake of bringing home a Celebrity brochure about Alaska cruises. Kris spent several nights trying to decode the myriad of excursion options.

“How are you ever supposed to choose? This is so confusing.”

I looked through the brochure briefly, and got dizzy.

“I want to go,” she said.

“Moot point,” was my incorrect answer. She gave me an icy stare – downright glacial. I tried to recover. “I’ll start a little vacation savings account and maybe we’ll go for our 30th”.

By December, thoughts of Alaska dissipated – we had our own glacier on the back deck. Our ‘actual’ 25th anniversary was on December 17th. From the refrigerator, I retrieved the bottle of champagne that we bought on the Galaxy trip in July. We toasted the memories while I made Filet Mignon Celebrity from the recipe obtained at the culinary demonstration. Later we pretended that our bedroom was a Sky Suite. I’ll leave it at that…

Ryan called regularly and gushed about the trip. It clearly had a big effect on him. He eventually got around to reading the story of the first cruise and then of his own trip. After that he would bug me about posting additional chapters. At one point, I went on strike until he developed some of his pictures for me. Most of them are still undeveloped.

The restaurant in Philadelphia where Ryan worked went belly-up in December. I wrote elsewhere about his 4 Marine Reservist friends who were called to duty for the war in Iraq. They are all well, but are being shipped to Okinawa for six months – I hope that doesn’t mean what I think it means… The guys were partners in a thriving landscaping business. The remaining partner called Ryan to ask if he would come up to New Hampshire to help keep the company going. In March, Ryan returned to the roost ‘temporarily’ to help him out.

Shortly after arriving in New Hampshire, Ryan received a frantic call from one of his housemates. The landlord had decided to sell the townhouse, and wanted everyone out by May 1. Panic ensued.

Some may remember the side story about Kris’s parents. Her father, Dave, has Alzheimer’s disease and her mother, Pat, has borne an incredible burden for the last 5 years. It may be coincidence but after reading the Galaxy story last summer, Pat suddenly decided to look into full-time care for Dave.

Earlier this year, Kris’s childhood home was sold. Kris, Wells and I went to Philadelphia over April school vacation to catalog and pack up Dave’s collection of toy trains. It took the three of us five 12-hour days to do it.

Our plan was to rent a truck and bring the trains back to New Hampshire, where I would figure out how to sell the collection. While in the area, I reasoned, we could do Ryan a favor and pick up at least the large items from the townhouse. It looked like he’d be staying with us for a while.

I got the truck and we drove in to the city. One of Ryan’s roommates, Adam, met us at the door.

“We’re here to pick up Ryan’s furniture. Can you point out what belongs to him?”

“Sure. Just about everything is his,” replied Adam.

I assumed he was kidding. Ryan had nothing when he got out of the Marines, and I assumed that he’d have little more a year and a half later.

Adam was not kidding. With the exception of his roommates’ beds, virtually everything belonged to Ryan. Two couches, 2 desks, bureau, at least 10 chairs, a dining table, coffee table, several side tables, lamps, rugs, television, cello, guitar, stereo, mirrors and more. These items were conveniently dispersed throughout the four-story townhouse. The staircases were about two feet wide, steep as ladders and winding.

Much later that day, we were done. I hadn’t packed tightly, and the entire truck was full.

“Thanks for your help,” I said to Adam.

“What about the organ?” he replied.

Yes, that’s right. Ryan had somehow acquired an organ, and it was on the second floor. We went up to scope out the job. While Adam and Wells began to move the thing, I stepped into a large walk-in closet at the top of the stairs to look for more stuff.

“You mind if I close this door for a minute?” asked Adam as the boys approached the staircase. “We can’t get by with the door open.”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

The door closed and I was plunged into darkness. I could hear the guys struggling with the organ.

“%$*#(&%#. It’s stuck!”

Before getting down one step, the organ had become wedged in the narrow staircase. There was not enough room to open the door, so I was stuck in the closet for 10 minutes while the boys dismantled the handrail and coaxed the organ to move.

The next day, in the rain, we took everything out of the truck, packed in the 150+ boxes of toy trains, and repacked the furniture. After that experience, I’ll bet I can pack everything needed for a 10-day cruise into an overnight bag. I have put the 10-hour ride back to New Hampshire right out of my mind.

Two weeks ago we moved Kris’s parents into a fantastic facility in York Harbor, Maine. The main building mimics the grand hotels of yesteryear. Pat lives in a cooperative apartment, and Dave receives full-time care in a medical unit elsewhere in the same building. The interior of the place reminds me of a cruise ship. There is even a grand dining room.

We’re all back home now. The garage is full of Ryan’s furniture. He will work until fall, and enter school locally to pursue his interest in radiology.

In the Sunday paper last week was an article about two short cruises being offered out of Boston. RCI’s Serenade of the Seas will be making its debut here. A travel agent has chartered the whole ship. I suggested to Kris that we book the Royal Family Suite and take our mothers. I came very close to booking before Kris reminded me that we really couldn’t afford it. I knew that, but it was fun to imagine.

I have reminded Ryan several times that he really ought to write up a summary of his impressions. I will keep bugging him until he does, and when he does, he’ll post it here. Maybe some of you can pressure him…


I have posted a few more in recent weeks:

Dolphins (Galaxy trip)- Kris does tricks with the dolphins at Xcaret. A little silly…click here for Windows Media Format.

Unrelated to cruising, these are just for fun. The first one is a classic – ‘extreme’ sports as ballet.

Loitering – A few years back, my son Wells (the one with the helmet in the video) took my camera and recorded himself and his buddies rollerblading and skateboarding at the local strip mall – which is posted against such things. For punishment, I put together this “embarrassing” video. Click here for Windows Media Format.

The Chase – Ryan has moved back in with us, and brought his bird-dog ‘Joe’. The surprise was all Joe’s when we unleashed our dog-bird ‘Q’, a cockatoo. Click here for Windows Media Format.

I’m still working on Swimming with the Rays (Now complete, click here)– This clip documents our day on Grand Cayman. We took an excursion which combined snorkeling and a swim with the stingrays.

These videos and all the rest can be accessed from the video page on my website.

Web site

I have just added a section on a little hobby of mine – the Garden Railroad. An oddity for sure, the railroad occupies about 3000 square feet in my back yard. It is complete with mountains, valleys, waterfalls, rivers, lakes and villages. The neighbors think I’m nuts, but they don’t know the half of it…

Also there is a complete list, with photos, of Dave’s toy train collection – a preview of my upcoming life on Ebay. And I would be honored if you would sign my Guest-Book.

My Confession

My real name is not Chesterh, nor is it Chester. Legally I am Richard H. However, I do go by Chester in every day life. It is a nickname that has been with me since childhood. If I hear Richard or any variation in public, I don’t even turn around.

Otherwise, you have been an unrestricted party to a truly amazing chapter in our lives. The vast majority of the experience has been a blast, and my family thanks yours for the pleasure.


We are back on our regular vacation schedule, so I expect to return here in 5 years to share another cruise adventure. Hopefully many of you will be here and perhaps some of us will meet aboard a cruise ship. I look forward to it.

All the best,

chesterh, et al
Londonderry, NH

The end?

The Journey Ends

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

Well, here we are — the end of the trip. It had to end, which is a problem shared by all good things. I hope you aren’t expecting much in the way of cruise stories in this particular installment, as all we have left to do is get off the ship.

It seemed that as soon as I closed my eyes to sleep, the alarm was going off to wake us up. I have no idea how late Ryan was out celebrating Halloween, but he seemed no worse for wear.

A quick look outside revealed that we had indeed come full circle. Miami was going about its early morning business. The day looked rather foreboding, and I hoped we’d fly out before the thunderstorms arrived.

We cleaned up and dressed for the early winter weather that awaited each of us at the other end of the day. November first marks the unofficial beginning of the long New Hampshire winter. In an email, Kris mentioned that it had snowed more than once since I left just a week earlier.

“Are you all packed up?”

“Yup,” replied Ryan.

“Sure you got everything?”


I swept through the cabin checking drawers and closets. I found several things belonging to Ryan.

“Don’t you want these things anymore?”

“Oh, yeah…Thanks.”

I repeated the process, checking every nook and cranny. Under Ryan’s bed, I found a nest of snake-like objects. Like the skunk, these things used odor as a defensive weapon.

“How ‘bout all these socks? Aren’t you going to take them?”

“I guess so,” came the none-too-sure response. It might have been better to abandon them altogether, but I hadn’t tipped enough to cover hazardous material handling.

We were supposed to vacate the room no later than 8:30. By 8:00, everything was packed and ready to go. We made our way topside, picked up some food and coffee and sat out on the rear deck. There were very few people in evidence anywhere. The Majesty of the Seas sat immediately behind us, just where she had been at the beginning of the trip.

Over the top of the Cruise Terminal, I spotted the RCI logo adorning the side of a building just a few blocks away. I presume it marked the location of the corporate headquarters for Celebrity as well. I was still mystified over the failure of “Mr. M” to appear on the cruise or make contact in any way, and seriously considered walking over to introduce myself to both he and “Ms. M”, the Director of Marketing who first contacted me about making the Mercury trip. I’m not sure what stopped me – chicken, I guess.

The PA system came to life, and began announcing ticket colors for disembarkation. Thinking back, I don’t recall hearing the PA at any other time except to announce the muster drill a week earlier. Although a lot of color codes were announced before ours, we became eligible to leave the ship no later than 8:30.

“We’d better go,” said Ryan. He seemed concerned that I hadn’t jumped to attention when our color was called.

“Nope. I’m staying right here for another cup of coffee.”

“O.K., I’ll get some more food then”

“Absolutely. Go for it,” I answered. I knew right then that Ryan had become a cruise veteran. The young learn quickly…

We took our sweet time. It was probably only about ten minutes, but it was deeply relaxing. We made our way to the exit, again seeing very few people. Inside the terminal, we were directed to an airport-style baggage conveyor. Our luggage was probably dizzy from a lot of extra trips around, but we retrieved it quickly and easily.

A guard at the exit made a cursory check of our claim tags, and seconds later we were on the street. Celebrity employees were stationed at strategic intervals to direct us a couple of hundred feet to the waiting busses.

We got caught in some rush-hour traffic on the way to the airport, but still made it hours before our scheduled departures. Ryan and I sat outside the terminal building inhaling diesel fumes – it was too nice a day to sit inside, and we both knew what awaited us at the other end of the trip – normal life in a frozen world devoid of color.

Ryan’s flight left first, sometime around 11:00.

“O.K., dad. I guess this is it.”

“Would you do it again?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. I have some friends who would really love to go on a trip like that. They probably won’t believe me, though. I’m gonna save up.”

My flight didn’t depart for another two and a half hours. I continued to sit outside until it was time for me to leave, standing every so often to let my butt wake up. This would be a long day, and I went over the clockwork schedule in my head:

  • 1:35 – Take off from Miami
  • 4:52 – Arrive Boston
  • 5:05 – Find “Big John” and the Towncar outside the terminal
  • 5:10 – Relax for the rush-hour ride to Londonderry
  • 6:30ish – Have John drop me off at Londonderry High School, find Kris’s car in the parking lot and stow my baggage.
  • 6:45 – Rush up to the press booth at the football field and take my place at a camera for the CATV broadcast.
  • 7:00 – Watch son Wells play football on the 3” LCD screen attached to the camera.
  • 9:30 – Help pack up the video equipment
  • 10:15 – Go home
  • 10:25 – Make a drink
  • 10:30 ‘til whenever – Tell stories and answer questions

I missed the game the previous Friday and felt badly about it. In an email, Kris told me that Wells had scored a touchdown and played well at linebacker.

I took my medication about 2 hours before departure. Next thing I knew, it was 5:00 p.m., and I was struggling with my luggage heading toward the exit of Terminal B at Logan. I can only assume that I got there by plane…

The automatic door hissed at me, perhaps as a warning to stay inside. I should have listened. When I stepped on to the sidewalk outside, the air hurt. It was a good 70 degrees cooler than it had been in Miami.

I looked to my left, where a line of limousines stretched out of sight. Big John said he’d be there when I arrived. It would not be hard to spot him.

I fought the prevailing wind and my imbalanced luggage as I marched down the line looking for John. Drivers sat inside the comfort of their idling cars. Hastily made signs sat atop dashboards, naming intended passengers. Not a single one said “Mr. X”, and none of the drivers filled the front seat so completely as John would have.

I went up and down the line a few times, pausing for a couple of minutes between each pass. After the first two trips, I chanced leaving my luggage unattended. This is not a behavior that is looked up favorably at airports, but the State Trooper standing watch gave me an understanding wave of approval.

I waited longer than I should have to start digging through my bags for the business card that John had given me. I found it much more readily than I found a pay phone. I still refuse to get a cell phone, though it seems increasingly difficult to conduct life without one.

I was patched through to the dispatcher.

“Big John was supposed to be waiting for me, but I can’t find him.”

“What was you name again – Mr. Z?”

“No – Mr. X.” I spelled it for him.

“Well, I see where we picked you up last week…”

“That’s a good sign,” I thought.

“…But I don’t have an order to pick you up today.”

“Well John showed up a day early last week. Did you send a car for me yesterday?”

“I don’t see anything here at all,” replied the dispatcher with finality. I think he sensed the end of this conversation, but I wasn’t ready to give up.

“Do you have a car available?”

“Hmmmm, let’s see. Hold on…”

I listened to some hideous music on the phone for a while. Outside, people walked by briskly with their heads down, some shielding their eyes against the biting wind.

The music stopped, much to my relief.

“I can probably get a car there in about 30 minutes.”

“Fine, I’ll take it.”

“I’ll need your credit card number…”

When I finally hung up, it was after 6:00 and my carefully laid plans were in ruin. In my mind I could see the TV crew scrambling to find a replacement cameraman. Kris might be wondering if I chucked it all and joined the sea faring circus.

Half an hour later I was finally on the last leg of the journey. Traffic was mercifully light, the rush hour having passed while I was waiting for a ride. Given the time and temperature, I directed the driver to the house rather than the high school.

I dumped off the bags and got a warmer coat and a hat before setting off for the football game. The halftime show was just winding down. I apologized to the rest of the CATV crew — they had found a replacement and I was off the hook.

Kris was sitting in the bleachers, probably for my benefit. She is normally a little too worked up at these events to sit, but I never would have found her otherwise.

“Hey. Where were you?” was her greeting.

“Long story.” Kris had a blanket and opened it to let me in. “Gee, we haven’t sat together like this in years,” I continued, thinking back.

As a matter of fact, it was way back in 1996. Londonderry was playing in the state championship game, and we sat in this same spot. The local network station provided live coverage of the game – helicopter camera and everything. The local cable station was prohibited from covering the game, so I played regular spectator. At home, the VCR was recording…

Ryan was in his senior year, playing middle linebacker. The game was a nailbiter, and Kris was just the slightest bit agitated. I pretended not to know her.

In front of us sat the quarterback’s father, chomping on his trademark unlit cigar. The TV station sent a reporter into the stands to interview him near the end of the game. Just then, a particularly bad call by the referee went against the home team. Kris went nuts, and in a moment of uncontrolled emotional outburst let loose a string of expletives. She wasn’t the only one to do so, but I moved a little further away.

As we discovered when we later watched the tape of the game, the camera angle during the interview had Kris’s face in full view over the father’s shoulder. Suddenly the crowd roars, and although she can’t be heard Kris’s lips can be read quite clearly. It was amazing how many friends, acquaintances and clergymen saw and commented on this episode, all with a chuckle. Motherhood…

Londonderry won that game, 21-18.

Ryan is number 56 on defense, 15 seconds left, in the endzone. Big play…

Tonight’s game was tied at 14 apiece, and neither team was getting anywhere as it wound down. “Wells scored in the first half. You missed it,” said Kris. It figured.

Another play began, and appeared to be over quickly. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a lone figure emerging from the pile.

Kris jumped up, pulling the blanket off – something I’ve become very accustomed to in other venues. “Run, run, run.”

Although I’ve always doubted the effectiveness of instructions shouted by individual spectators during a play, the runner followed Kris’s instructions. Before everyone else jumped up and blocked my perfect view, I knew it was Wells – scoring one for the old man. Fatherhood. Home again. (Click here for video clip of touchdown)

Halloween in Key West

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series Father and Son Cruise

Tonight Kris and I went to the Holiday party sponsored by her school. It had been postponed due to snow. We all decided to honor Valentines Day since we are closer to it than New Years. President’s day was in the running, but lost out in the end.

At 3:00, I started to worry. Did he fall overboard?

As soon as I opened my eyes, I was filled with dread. This was it – the last day of the trip.

I could see the hulk of Ryan under the covers on his bed. He hadn’t fallen overboard. Relief.

I tiptoed around for a while. The ship was still, and a peek through the curtains revealed that we were next to a land mass. The view was unlike the one I’d memorized on the Galaxy stop in Key West. The ship was docked further from town.

Ryan soon emerged from his brief slumber, and we made our way upstairs for coffee and breakfast. Out on the stern, a crew was carefully painting the handrails.

“So, what’s the plan today?” asked Ryan.

“I need to get something nice for Mom. Other than that, just hang out. Key West is a pretty wild place anyways, but I’d guess that since today is Halloween it’ll be entertaining to just walk around.”

“Do we need costumes for tonight?”

“Yeah, we should get something. I’m sure there’s plenty of places in town for that sort of thing.”

We had been regaled with tales of Key West’s Fantasy Fest — a Halloween event — at the dinner table the night before. Neal and Traci knew all about it, whether through legend or first-hand experience I’m not sure.

“They ought to have plenty of costumes left. It sounds like everybody runs around naked,” I continued.

“Oh boy,” said Ryan. It was a wary expression, not a lascivious one.

Seated at a table, I was facing out to sea. Something caught my eye. Across the windows in the covered pool area, a dark shadow crept. The men painting the railing stopped working and stood straight up.

“Look!” I said, pointing toward the encroaching darkness.

Suddenly the view was filled with another ship. The Majesty of the Seas slithered by silently just a few dozen feet off the Mercury’s starboard side. Everyone stopped what they were doing and gaped. It seemed to take minutes for the whole thing to pass us by on its way to the downtown dock.

For the remainder of breakfast we enjoyed the show as the Majesty docked. I had watched the process from onboard the Galaxy months earlier, but this was a completely different perspective. It is an amazingly complex ritual.

We took our sweet time. It was so pleasant to just sit and watch the world go by.

Ryan chuckled to himself, and he wore a big smile.

“What?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing. It’s just – This is so awesome. I can’t believe we’re doing this!”

Once the rush to get off the ship had passed, we made our way out on to the dock. Celebrity provided complimentary transportation into town using “Conch Trains” and similar conveyances. We boarded one.

Along the way, the driver stopped to drop off a couple of people who wanted to go to the beach. From what I’ve read, Key West doesn’t really have any nice beaches, as ironic as it may seem. Most are man made.

The driver narrated the ride into town. As we traveled down a street lined with shaded town homes, he rattled off the names of famous people who lived there. It was an impressive list.

Once downtown, I decided to attend to business first.

“I’m going to look for Mom’s present first,” I told Ryan. “You don’t need to hang around with me if there’s something you’d rather do.”

“Naw – I’d rather hang out with you.”

Diamonds InternationalWe marched together in and out of one jewelry store after another. Kris had been eyeing tanzanite on the Galaxy trip, but it wasn’t in the budget then. For that matter it wasn’t in the budget now, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After trying several stores, I began to get worried that I wasn’t going to be inspired by anything.

We entered a small shop. “Tanzanite?” I asked.

“Hummm. We only carry a few things,” said the clerk. He led the way to a showcase and pointed. “There, in the middle.”

There they were – a pair of earrings sparkled back at me as if to say, “I dare you”.

“May I see that pair – no, one to your right – no, the other right.”

The clerk honed in on the correct pair. He snuck a look at the price tag before carefully folding it away from my view. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he considered the commission. Bad sign.

“A very nice selection.”

I thought so. The lighting in the store was designed so that it could make a lump of charcoal sparkle. I played the savvy buyer role. It had been 23 years since I’d last purchased a pair of earrings, near as I could figure.

“I’d like to see them in natural light,” I said.

“Of course, sir. Go right ahead.”

I was a little surprised not to be accompanied by an armed guard as I stepped out onto the sidewalk. The earrings sparkled out there, too.

“Those are really nice. Are you going to buy them?” asked Ryan.

“I don’t know. Let’s see how the deal goes.”

Back inside, the clerk was busy making calculations. I produced a coupon from the ship’s flyer that entitled me to a small discount, which he factored in to the equation. He gave me the net figure.

When my head stopped spinning, I took a breath and made a series of faces to highlight my indecision. I let silence work for me.

“I can take another $50 off, just for you.”

Getting warmer.

Ryan looked at me, unsure. Quietly he said, “Dad, that sounds like a good deal. You better get them.”

I let the standoff continue. The clerk made some more calculations. At length he said, “Let me go talk to the owner and see what he’ll do.”

When he was gone, Ryan gave me a funny look. “What are you doing??”

The clerk was gone for several minutes. When he emerged from the back room, he had a figure written on a piece of paper. I looked at it. Much better.

As the sales slip was written up, I looked at watches. Remembering that my cheap Timex had fooled Harry, the watch collector, I came to my senses.

Out on the street, Ryan asked, “What was that all about?”

“Normal business. Just keep it in mind next time you buy a car.”

Click for larger image We continued up Duval Street. I kept my eye out for craziness. On the sidewalk, a curious sight was being totally ignored by passersby. A man, so drunk that he could not get up, sat uncomfortably on top of a bicycle which was lying on the ground. At first I thought he might have crashed, but by his position this appeared not to be the case. He sat, eyes closed and arms held swaying in front for balance. It looked like he was in a trance – probably was. It was still well before noon.

The ship’s television show about Key West had recommended a trip to the top of the highest building in town – a seven-story hotel. We found it and went up for some pictures. The view to the dock area showed the Mercury and the Majesty with their backs symbolically turned to each other. Key West has a lot of natural beauty, but what was striking was how every vista was marred by an ugly tower or hanging wire.

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Further up Duval, we came to good old Margaritaville. An old man, slightly less inebriated than the bicycle guy, stood outside in the shade of the canopy.

“Hey! Are you father and son?”

“Yes, we are.”

“I knew it. How y’all like Key West? You gonna go in this place and have y’selves some lunch and something to drink?”

He didn’t wait for an answer. Perhaps caught by the rotation of the earth, he spun off in another direction. His power of suggestion was strong, however, so we went in.

Just inside the door, at a table overlooking the sidewalk through the wide-open front of the bar, we found some familiar faces. Paula (flseagal), her friend Barbara, Cindy (Travel57) and a few others were having lunch. We took an empty table next to them, and had a nice chat. We each had the Cheeseburger in Paradise – all in all, an apt description. The margaritas were perfect, time after time.

Click for larger image Click for larger image
Photo courtesy of Flseagal

As we slowly made our way back down Duval Street, I kept my eye out for the fine food store where I’d had the encounter with the “stunning” clerk on the Galaxy trip. I thought it might be nice to re-visit. I couldn’t find it.

We had seen few signs of the wild side. A 60’s Lincoln Continental convertible passed by with a ghoulishly decorated casket perched on the trunk. A few businesses were decorated. There was a rumor that the Mercury might stay late tonight as a special Halloween treat, though the official word had us departing at 5:00.

“I guess the crazy stuff happens after dark,” I said to Ryan with some disappointment in my voice.

A few minutes later, we ran into WallyB (another CC’er) on the street. I asked him to autograph my cruise journal. As Ryan was taking our picture, he spotted something across the street.

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“Look. There’s something wild.”

A woman in costume was buying an ice-cream cone. Her male companion, also costumed, sat nearby waiting patiently. He was wearing a leash, which the woman held.

Ryan jogged across the street and asked permission to take some pictures. The woman consented. This was without doubt the most wild thing we saw in Key West on Halloween.

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We decided to go back to the ship. On the way, Ryan wanted to detour to a cigar shop. Inside, he developed a craving for a particular cigar, and agonized over whether to buy a whole box. He got an early birthday present.

On the ride back, Ryan shared a realization.

“We forgot to get costumes,” he said.

“Well, why don’t we just wear our tuxes? Maybe we can borrow some white gloves and go as butlers.”

“Yeah, I guess we could do that.”

We were back on board by mid-afternoon. I suggested that we do some packing, just to get it over with. A knock came at the door. I opened it to find Aldrin, the cabin attendant.

“I’ve come for the tuxedos please, sir.”

Our back-up costume plan went out the door a minute later.

At 5:00, the Mercury departed and the party started. It was time for another Adult Cruise special, the sail-away open bar.

We went topside disguised as ChesterH and RyanH. Ryan went on ahead to hook up with some friends while I snuck into the Navigator to see if it was decorated. On the way I saw a witch and assorted other creatures hanging around in the hallways. The nightclub was quite a sight.

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Back outside, I peered over the railing and down to the pool deck. The party was in full swing. Some poor clown sat alone at a table just below me. He was slumped in his chair and seemed to be left out of the fun.

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Some people had gotten so carried away with their costumes that they could barely manage to sip their free drinks. A whole gaggle of Draculas lurked in the shadows, and it became impossible to tell which witch was which. For as many costumes as I saw, there didn’t seem to be anyone wearing one just like mine.

The 90-minute sail-away party seemed to be over in a flash. Its end signaled dinnertime. Entering the dining room on the upper level, I was greeted by a whole new cast of characters. One well-dressed group appeared to be holding a séance at their table.

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I met up with Ryan at our table, and immediately excused my self to roam around with the camera. Below is a rather large montage of some of the evening’s sights.

We finished dinner and said our goodbyes to Tracey, Neal, Brenda, Paul, Maro, Ozgar and Pablo. Ryan and I parted ways for the evening. I needed to take it easy, and said I’d take care of getting the luggage out for pickup on time.

I spent some time getting rid of my remaining quarters in the casino. The wait staff happened by with platters of oriental treats every two minutes, or so it seemed. For a while my machine was hot, and I was way ahead. Once it began, the inevitable slide quickly drained away all winnings, leaving me even-steven for the trip.

For kicks, I wandered around checking out all of the various parties in progress. The Navigator Club was hopping, and an eerie light on the dance floor full of costumed characters made it all seem unreal.

I made good on the suitcase commitment, and had them in the hands of the attendant by 11:30. After that, I went out on the balcony – just the sea and me. Once again, the strange little lights darted around low on the horizon. One came close enough for me to see that it was a bird. They must travel with the ship, as these were surely the same ones I’d been seeing for several nights.

Halloween was always the biggest holiday of the year in our house. I hoped Ryan was out there having a blast. As I dozed off, I thought of little Ryan during those years when the Great Pumpkin was king and candy was better than a pot of gold. Simple times…

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