Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 10 Wednesday December 31, 2014

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.
These two ships seemed to be docked extremely close together ...

The sun rose at 6:24 as the ship approached Cozumel, Mexico, our destination for New Years Eve. Shortly thereafter I was up on Deck #14 walking briskly around the jogging track. Usually this activity involved weaving among pedestrians and sunbathers who had pushed their lounge chairs out into the track. On this day, however, the track was nearly empty, but for the last three miles a fellow who was walking almost exactly the same pace as mine persisted in staying only a few strides behind me. It is difficult not to slow down a little in the last mile or so, but his presence kept me on pace. I started at about seven and finished five miles at 8:15. That is a fifteen-minute mile pace, which is better than I generally do on the treadmill. I think that a lap of the track must actually have been less than the one-eighth mile that was claimed on a sign on the aft end.

... unitl I saw how close this Royal Caribbean ship was to ours.

After I finished walking, I downed two glasses of fruit punch from the café. I then took a few photos of the port of Cozumel. I was intrigued by the fact that two cruise ships were docked next to one another. At first I thought that the passengers of one of the ships would need to walk through the other ship in order to reach the pier. This is how we had to disembark at one port on the river cruise in Russia once, but I had never heard of such a thing on the big ships. I finally realized that although the ships appeared to be directly adjacent, there must have actually been a pier between them.

A rare shot of totally unpopulated pools.

When I arrived back at the cabin I learned from the television that it was already 2015 in New Zealand. Happy New Year to Kiwis around the world!

Sue was itching to set someone for "a number."

Sue and I had already been to Cozumel a few times, two or three times in the nineties and again in 2012. Nothing there interested us as much this year as attending one of Larry Cohen's lessons, of which we had missed four out of the last five. The one scheduled for New Year's Eve was on the holdup play.[1] I did not think of this as something that I needed to work on, at least as a declarer. Nevertheless, Larry's examples meticulously elucidated the thought process required, and I could see that my grasp of the subject was deficient in a few areas. In fact, I had not really internalized the concept that if you must lose a trick in a suit, it is generally better to lose it early. These lessons were amazingly well crafted and presented.

That empty chair across from Marty in the foreground is mine.

The café was serving that day one of my all-time favorites, chicken noodle soup.[2] I found beef medallions at one of the other stations. It was really quite easy to assemble a very nice lunch at the café, and the selection changed every day.

In the first nine days of the cruise I had not yet taken any photos of any of the afternoon sessions. I therefore brought my camera inside my backpack to the 1:45 game, in which I played with Marty. We had been communicating pretty well, and he is adept at playing the cards. I therefore harbored the strong feeling that we were about ready for a breakout round. Instead we had a very exasperating session and finished only third.

The two hands that were the most frustrating were #15 and #8. On #15 our side (East-West) had twenty-three points, and we successfully discovered our eight-card heart fit. Every book on bidding that I have read would advise anyone sitting in the East chair to avoid notrump with a void in partner's overcalled suit, and I did just that. As a reward, I ended up declaring a hopeless 3 contract. South started with the ace and another spade. North ruffed and then lay the Q on the table. It was awful.

On hand #8 Marty opened 1. His hand was a little light, but it satisfied the Rule of 20, and it featured two quick tricks. I would have opened it. North overcalled in clubs, and I unquestionably had enough to bid 2. Marty made the imminently reasonable decision to rebid 3. In his seat I might have tried 2NT, but he did have 5-5 distribution. I bid 3NT, and once again I was stuck in an unmakeable[3] contract. The most annoying aspect of both of these hands was that some East-West pairs managed to avoid these traps, or perhaps their opponents rescued them.

Pogo and Dave Albig put on their best threads for New Years Eve.

I asked Larry about hand #8. He agreed with Marty's opening bid and with my response. He also said that he would have rebid 3, as Marty did. He then indicated that on the second round he would have taken a preference to 3 with my hand. That was interesting, but we can make exactly the same number of tricks in hearts as in notrump, and the payoff is better in notrump. I then asked him what he thought of 2NT as a rebid for West. He said, "That's a possibility." Our best contract was in diamonds, but, once Marty decided to open, the only way to get there is if I had doubled instead of bidding 2. However, that would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to find a 5-3 spade fit. Furthermore, on the next round I would have had to take a preference to diamonds, contrary both to my inclination and Larry's recommendation.

The fact that the opponents could make 3 was small consolation. No sane South would bid spades after I had made a free bid in that suit.

Our supper table.

After the game I took the elevator down to the cabin and almost immediately realized that I had (again!) left my camera up in the conference room. I hastily scaled the three flights of stairs[4] and padded into the room. I had no difficulty locating the backpack; it was right where I had left it. I had arrived just in time to hand Larry Cohen my American Express card to pay for the $72 worth of bridge books that Sue had just purchased from him. I don't begrudge her the opportunity to purchase books on bridge; I myself have bought dozens. I just wish that she would read them before they disappeared into one of her black holes.

Francisco, our waiter ...

... and Brian, his assistant.

After the game Sue worked on editing the videos that she had shot in Panamá. She had told the Singers that they could view her movies, and she wanted to get them presentable in time for supper.

Unfortunately, this evening was also the cruise's second "Formal" occasion. This meant that it would take Sue a little longer to prepare for supper than usual and that everyone would be somewhat less likely to be willing to spend time watching the movies on her computer. Nevertheless, she brought her computer inside the bag[5] that she had pilfered from me. I brought my camera.

I think that Francisco took this photo.

I took quite a few photos at supper. Some people were really dolled up. I made certain to snap shots of both of our waiters, Francisco and Brian.

The cruise director began the festivities.

I had the duck a l'orange, which was quite good. I don't know how they managed to make it so tasty without seeming greasy.

After supper the dining room staff put on a parade. On our first few cruises back in the nineties this seemed like a big deal. On this occasion, although the cruise director was certainly enthusiastic in his praise for the entire kitchen and restaurant staff, it frankly seemed as if most of the staff were going through the motions. I do not know if the approach of the cruise lines has changed, or perhaps I am just more jaded. Also, I would not complain if they lost the girls twirling ribbons and smiling.

The waiters marched around waving napkins while the lighting changed continually.

The evening game would be the last chance for Sue and me to make some noise. She did play better, and, in fact, we came in second, which I considered a pretty good showing.

Larry insisted that he and Maria pose in front of the poster.

We were still dressed up, and we decided to wander around the entertainment area of the ship to see if we could find a place that we could tolerate in which to celebrate the coming of the new year. Celebrity Today had not mentioned that there would be a contest to determine the wearer of the shortest and tightest skirt, but there seemed to be a large number of entrants.

We did not have much luck. We ran into the Levins at the martini bar. Sue tried to tempt them into looking at her movies, but they did not seem to evince much interest. We eventually came back to the room and celebrated with the new roommate that Mel, our cabin steward, had left for us.

The ship was still on Central time, but most of us old fogeys had decided to ring in the new year at eleven o'clock, which is both when our friends would be celebrating back in New England and when whatever electronic contraption that now takes the place of the big ball at Times Square drops. The only television station that we could find that was covering Times Square was Fox News.[6] As soon as the ball dropped, I gave Sue a kiss, turned off the set, donned my earplugs and sleeping mask, and went to sleep.

Sue, who is a night owl, continued to work on her movies. Her new plan was to ambush prospective viewers at the first lesson of 2015.

[1]  Deliberately failing to play a card that can win a trick is called a holdup play. Sometimes this gambit allows a player to make a better play later when the timing is better or prevents the opponents from taking advantage of the timing.

[2]  For long periods of my life I ate an entire package of Lipton's Chicken Noodle Soup every day at lunch. I reluctantly stopped when I discovered that it consisted almost entirely of chicken fat, salt, and preservatives. My maternal grandfather used to say that "the chicken walked through it."

[3]  I wonder why Microsoft thought that "unmakeable" was not a word.

[4]  There was no Deck #13. Triskaidekaphobia (or maybe the phobia of triskaidekaphobia) was alive and well on Celebrity Cruises.

[5]  My Walmart back-to-school special came complete with a flash drive and a rather nice carrying case. It might have had a cheap printer, too.

[6]  As God is my witness, I cycled through the stations several times trying to find an alternative.