Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 9 Tuesday December 30, 2014

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We were breathless at the prospect of beholding Belize's national animal (in a zoo).

We did not really know what to expect from the excursion that we had purchased for our stop in Belize. Here is how the blurb that we received from the ship described it:

BE61 – A Wildlife Adventure Tour
Tour Duration 6 Hours / Moderate
Take an open-air boat ride (for approx.. 2 hours) up the Old Belize River and look for crocodiles, iguanas, monkeys and take in the beautifully lush tropical foliage on this varied waterway. Make a stop at the Old Belize River Tavern for a Belize-style lunch before the bus ride to the Belize sanctuary where you'll see species endemic to the region, including different types of native wildcats as well as the national animal of Belize, the Tapir. NOTES: Medical restrictions apply, as the boat ride can be bumpy. Apply sun block and insect repellant. The bus ride back to the ship is approx. 1 hour. Lunch is included, though it may not be up to the ship's standard. Tour sequence may vary.

While we sat and fidgeted, the big TV showed people in other parts of the world who seemed to be enjoying their vacations.

In point of fact, our sequence varied quite a bit.

I dutifully put my sticker on my Cartagena tee shirt and waited ...

Celebrity Today, the ship's daily newsletter predicted that the Equinox would not be anchoring until 9:30. Nevertheless, we were scheduled to meet at 9:00 in the Equinox Theater. That gave us plenty of time for breakfast in the café. When we reached Deck #14 we were momentarily startled by the fact that it was drizzling outside, but we now had enough experience with Central America to avert a panic attack.

... for the guy with the microphone to call out "Group 5."

We ate breakfast, got our things together, and arrived at the theater at a little before the allotted time. We were immediately directed up to the stage. There we stood in line for a minute or two. We showed our tickets to a staff person, who gave us small round stickers to affix to our clothing. Ours were sort of purple and had the numeral 5[1] on them. Once we had affixed our stickers, we sat in the auditorium and watched hundreds of other tourists parade up to the stage, receive their stickers and then take a seat. Maybe there is no better way to do this, but it made me feel like a sheep. It certainly would have been a good idea to be late for this event. Those who came thirty minutes after we did missed nothing.

You know that you are bored when you start taking selfies.

When everyone had received a sticker, we sat for a little longer until the first tender was ready for boarding. A member of the ship's staff then called out our sticker numbers one at a time. A short delay ensued after each number was called to give people time to crawl over other people to get to the aisle. Since ours was one of the first numbers called, we spent more time as crawlers than crawlees.

From the tender: the Equinox is behind the RCCL ship, Vision of the Seas.

We then walked down to the gangway and went through security. By this time the drizzle was a distant memory. The weather was cloudy but dry, and the sea was calm for the very lengthy tender ride. The dock was barely visible when we boarded the tender, and our ship and the Vision of the Seas anchored nearby looked small from the dock.

Disembarking from the tender.

On the dock we found the representative for our tour. He never introduced himself; he just sent us all to stand for a while in front of the Diamonds International / Tanzanite International store. Fifteen or twenty minutes later we were told to line up in the hallway between the stores. At the end of this hallway were two doors that separated the tourists who were still waiting from those whose bus had arrived.

This was the time on the big clock on the dock when we arrived. When we departed it showed the same time, but it was nearly accurate.

After another ten minutes or so, some people in our group were allowed to go one at a time through the doors at the end. At a certain point progress stopped, just as we reached the door. After a few minutes we suspected that something was amiss because the people who seemed to be in charge spent a lot of time on their cellphones. We had tantalizing glimpses of the old Blue Bird buses[2] that were busily transporting tourists from other groups. Occasionally we had to make way for other groups to squeeze past us. During this period of waiting a big screen TV above our heads broadcasted promotional materials concerning diamonds and tanzanite. It was on a loop, and we saw the entire thing at least ten times.

Santa evidently wears black gloves when he visits Belize.

Finally, the remaining people in group #5 were herded back to the front of the store. We were told only that we would be going by boat, which would be arriving at eleven o'clock, a half hour after our retreat from the bus area. At least there was a bench there, and Sue and I took advantage of it.

The television over Santa's head played promotions for Diamonds International over and over.

A few minutes later Sue overheard one of the tour staff, a guy with foot-long dreadlocks, tell one of the tourists that we would indeed be going by boat, but the boat was broken. We waited patiently with the rest of the #5's until 11:35. That is when Sue buttonholed a representative of the ship and informed her that we had had our fill of Belize and wanted to return to the ship. She expressed sympathy, took our tickets from us, and averred that she would take care of it.[3]

Every so often the door would open, and we got a glimpse of the tourists boarding their buses.

We then had to stand on the dock and wait for the next tender from the ship to arrive and unload its passengers. By that time the tourists from group #5 had disappeared, but we had lost interest. We rode an almost empty tender back to the ship. We sat across form a guy whom I had seen jogging. I remembered him because his jogging pace was only slightly faster than my walking pace, and I think that he did a lot fewer laps.

In my 2 1/2 hours there this was the best photo that I took of Belize.

The misbegotten trip to the shore was not a complete waste of time. The men's room on the pier featured a paper towel dispenser. I had not seen a paper towel[4] since we had boarded the ship over a week earlier. I stocked up.

The Equinox looked good as our tender approached it.

Sue decided to skip lunch and play in the afternoon bridge game. I did not feel like playing with a pickup partner, and so I went to the café for lunch with only my book for companionship. With all that time on my hands I was willing to wait for them to cook up a plate of spaghetti Bolognese. It was pretty good (certainly "up to the ship's standard"), but I would not wait in line for it again.

After lunch I took a nap and then walked five miles around Deck #14. I did not have much company. It was pretty hot for such a long stroll, but I can take the heat. Afterwards I treated myself to several glasses of iced tea from the Mast Grill. I then sat in the sun and read.

At supper[5] Marty and Diane sat at our table. Donna and Larry Fleer arrived at the last minute; Maryellen was AWOL. I ordered the roast veal. By this point of the cruise I expected the meal to be pretty good, and I was not disappointed.

Sue's bidding in the evening game was very weird. She doubled for takeout with only seven points. She was a passed hand, but nobody should stretch a seven-pointer to a second-round double even in an OBAR BIDS situation, which this was not. She also opened 1NT with only fourteen points, but I consider that to be just a venial sin, and I am sure that she has plenty of indulgences. We got too high on both of those hands, but we still managed a 50 percent game.

Afterwards Sue got us a couple of Scotches, and we went over the hands together. I realized that I, sitting East, should have switched to spades to defeat the opponents' 2 contract on hand #2. I was asleep at the switch.

[1]  The stickers also had a big black X behind the 5. X is the symbol for the Celebrity Cruise Line.

[2]  I rode a Blue Bird bus to school when I was in grade school. The driver was named Bernadine.

[3]  And she did.

[4]  I always try to carry paper towels in my pockets. Women are always impressed when I spring into action to clean up other people's messes. Also, I am subject to apparently random sneezing fits of up to nine powerful sneezes at a time.

[5]  Celebrity Today prescribed "Smart Casual" for the evening attire, but all of my casual attire looked stupid by this point in the trip.