Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 4 Thursday December 25, 2014
At Sea

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Santa did not even leave any coal in our stockings.

St. Nick has his own methods for bringing cheer and presents to the people on cruise ships.

All night long the ship had sailed almost due south towards Colombia. By the morning the journey was already beginning to get a little bumpy.

My first action on Christmas morning was to sign on to the Internet and check my e-mail. I sent a message to Karen Harrison to inform her that I had said hello to Maria Cohen for her and that I had reminded Maria about the coconut cake. I swear that I spent no more than five minutes online before going to

Sue and I took the elevator up to the Oceanview Café for breakfast. I placed on my plate some scrambled eggs, potatoes, and sausages obtained at the "English Breakfast" station. If I was going to eat breakfast at all, I would prefer the arrangement offered at the café. Practically any kind of food suitable for breakfast was available. You could take a little of everything that you thought that you might want, and then you could eat your fill of the subset of that group that you actually found that you liked. Also there was limitless coffee, tea, juice, and water a few feet away. You could also buy various drinks, including liquor and Coca Cola products, but the prices were outrageous. A 12-ounce can of Coke would set you back $3. No cash, of course; everything on the ship was charged to your Seapass card.

Bathroom critique: There was plenty of room for our tubes and bottles, and the see-through shower in the cabin was excellent. My only complaint was that it was often difficult to get cold water. Brushing one's teeth in warm water could be a little disconcerting.

The Singers informed Sue that they had made arrangements for the four of us to dine with the Lucases at the Asian restaurant, Silk Harvest, on the evening of December 30. I wasn't too enthusiastic about this, but I realized that it might be an opportunity to get to know better some interesting people. At our ordinary suppers the Singers had been sitting with the Lucases at a square four-person table that was very close to the round eight-person table to which we had been assigned.

Students (and teachers) on cruise ships do not even get Christmas off.

The lesson on Christmas morning was on dealing with preempts, one of the most difficult assignments in all of bridge. I was familiar with most of the basic concepts, but Larry provided eighteen very useful examples. This one surprised me:
A K Q J 9 2     6 3 2     A Q 3     2
In the direct seat after a 2 preempt, Larry recommended bidding 3. In general, you play your partner for seven nondescript points. A little more than that is required to make game with this hand, and so you make an invitational bid. It is easy to imagine weak hands with enough for game, but you cannot order your partner to have the K or A

Marty and Laurie Levin sat with us for the play of the hands. I screwed up the play on the hand that I declared, and I also messed up once on defense. I would need to be more alert in the afternoon game.

I decided to skip lunch and go walking on Deck #14 instead. It was pretty warm, but that did not bother me. However, it was too windy to wear my hat; I had to attach it to my belt. I nevertheless enjoyed myself, and I finished with plenty of time to clean up before the afternoon bridge session at 1:45.

I told Marty just before the game that I would be playing with Sue in the evenings. He seemed OK with this arrangement. At the time I just hoped that he would not be stuck playing with someone with very limited experience.[1]

I wonder if North would have gone to 6 if the scoring would have included 150 honors.

Marty and I had a good game. We limited our mistakes, and a few of our opponents understood the real meaning of Christmas. Our score of 62+ percent was good enough to scratch, but it was not good enough to win. There were two memorable hands. As usual, we were sitting East-West.

On hand #1 we somehow found our 4-4 heart fit and sacrificed in 5 when the opponents bid a club game. The opponents doubled, and the play of the hand was depressing. We went down four for -800. However, North-South had a trivially easy slam in clubs, and several pairs found it. So, we ended up with a pretty good result.

I played hand #16 in 3NT. South led the J. Nothing was to be gained by ducking, so I put up dummy's queen. We obviously should have been in spades. Declarers could ruff one club and dispose of the other one on a heart for twelve tricks. The ruff was not available to me in notrumps, and so I decided to try an unorthodox approach. South was marked with the king and ten of diamonds. If North held both the heart and club honors, she might be persuaded to part with her clubs. I led out all of my spades and watched the discards. North discarded three clubs, and South discarded two. This allowed me to lead out my clubs, all of which were now good. Because most pairs failed to find the slam in spades, taking thirteen tricks in notrump produced a very good result.

If you take a cruise, don't expect the seas to be this calm.

Unexpected drama arrived at suppertime. The Lucases were evidently upset at something that Marty had done or said concerning where the Singers were planning to sit at for supper. They asked Marty and Diane not to eat at their table any more. The only reason that I know all of this was that the slightly vituperative interchange occurred within ten feet of my seat at supper. Evidently in response to this Diane changed our supper reservations on December 30 to be for only four. See no evil; hear no evil; speak no evil.

Wise cruisers asked Santa to bring them one of these patches.

I enjoyed the steak Diane (no relation) at supper. The proportions that they serve on the ship are not gigantic, and this is actually a good thing. If you are still hungry, or you did not like what you were served, the waiters, Francisco and Brian, were always happy – in fact almost insistent – to bring additional food.

After supper Sue said that she was not feeling too well, but we played in the evening game anyway. She thought that it might have been something that she ate, but a more likely culprit in my opinion was the rough seas. By evening the wind was blowing fiercely.

My philosophy in the subsequent evening games was to treat them as learning experiences rather than competitive exercises.[2] At any rate we did not have a good score that night, and I did not play a single hand. Sue did not feel up to going over the hands together, which was probably just as well.

A corpse would have found it difficult to sleep during the night. As massive as this ship was, it was still a rocky ride. The door to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom opened and slammed shut over and over.[3] We could hear lots of noises from outside of the cabin as well. Creaking sounds came from every direction. Anything that was not nailed down was rolling with the waves and slamming into other objects.

[1]  I need not have worried. Marty was paired up with a fellow named Jean-Marc from Venezuela who ended up amassing more points than anyone else on the cruise.

[2]  In order to remind myself of that attitude, I took to wearing my FCB cap during the evening game. My friend Tom Corcoran had purchased it in Barcelona for me.

[3]  At least that is my guess as to what the noise was.