Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 11 Thursday January 1, 2015
At Sea

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On the last full day of the cruise I got out of bed at 7:15. This was the latest that I had slept since the cruise began, but only because the ship's clocks were adjusted back back to Eastern Standard Time. We had been to Cozumel, the westernmost point of this cruise, several times on previous cruises, but none of those ships changed the ship's time to match the local time. I am not sure why they did it on this cruise, but it did not seem to cause any problems.

I had enough energy to walk thirty-two laps of the jogging track, but it was something of an ordeal. All of the lounge chairs on the deck had been put away overnight. About a dozen staff members were busily unstacking them and placing them along both sides of the track. Those of us who were using the track had to dodge the usual number of slow-moving passengers but also the industrious staff bearing lounge chairs.

Now imagine the track with dozens of people walking to the cafe and hundreds of others sunbathing.

On most of the days that began with a walk in the morning I had skipped breakfast, but on the first morning of 2015 I felt hungry. Sue and I went up to the café to get breakfast. I was hoping for some pancakes, but when I went to the counter I found the tray for pancakes empty. I had no trouble filling my plate with other tasty morsels.

A few times during the cruise I had become confused after taking the aft elevators to the Deck #10. On one occasion I had made two or three wrong turns and ended up back where I had started. It had taken me eleven days, but the reason for my confusion finally dawned on me. Whereas, the one bank of elevators on the forward end of the ship was aligned parallel to the ship, the aft end had two banks of elevators, and they were perpendicular to the ship. I was not previously aware of this, and my orientation was always off by ninety degrees every time I left an elevator in the rear section of the ship.

My shorts were beginning to become a little gamey, and so I opted for long pants on the first day of 2015. On the whole I had done a pretty good job in packing. I had forgotten shaving cream,[1] and I should have thrown in a few more pairs of white socks. Aside from that I had everything that I needed for all thirteen days.

The final bridge lesson presented various principles involved in declaring notrump contracts. I consider declarer play to be the weakest aspect of my game. Nevertheless, when we each were assigned to play a hand at the end of the lesson, at our table I was the only person who brought home the designated contract.

You could get pretty nearly anything that you wanted at the Oceanview Café

Sue had brought her computer to the lesson. After it was over she showed her videos of the Emberá excursion to Marty and Diane. They both seemed to be quite impressed with them.

I found a station at the café that allowed passengers to assemble fajitas. For lunch I made both a chicken fajita and a beef fajita for myself, and they were both pretty good. I took away almost nothing but good memories from the café.

At the 1:45 game Marty and I faced our last chance for glory. I was definitely psyched. I had cranked up the intensity, and we both played pretty well.

We definitely got off to a good start. The most spectacular hand of the entire cruise was #8, which was the second hand that we played. Marty was, as usual, sitting in the West chair. He passed, and North opened 4, which was alerted by South. He explained that his partner probably had eight hearts, but she had another bid that she could have made with a strong hand. I overcalled 4NT, the two-suited overcall, and Marty bid 5. Two passes ensued, and then South, who had passed previously, ventured 6. I had no trouble deciding to double. Who would not double a slam contract with the trump ace, an ace in my suit, a king-queen in one side suit, and a protected king in the other?

As the cards lay, however, 5 was definitely doomed, and 6 is makeable even if I do not lead my A, which I did. Fortunately for us, North failed to set up the spades. Even at that we only took two tricks.

Throughout the round Marty checked the scores that had been recorded by North on the Bridgemates. After we had played a few tables he mentioned to me that we were getting quite a few 100's.[2] That did not surprise me. We had made a few clever plays that, for once, worked. In addition, some of our opponents seemed to be in a generous mood, or maybe they were a little hung over from the previous evening.

Going into the last hand I was pretty sure that we were going to win. My mind was still quite alert, and I was absolutely intent on not blowing it. Our bidding was sound, and we ended up in a very reasonable 3NT contract with me, sitting in the East chair, as declarer. South led the J, and I saw that we held the dreaded 7-7-6-6 distribution. The first thing that one did in a notrump contract was to count top tricks. I could see exactly four of them, and I needed to develop five more!

I had two five-card suits, but the spade suit appeared to be hopeless. I went after diamonds, which was a catastrophic failure. Since the hand record says that we can make four spades, I probably just should have kept leading black cards. I went down two ignominious tricks, and we received a very bad score.

Winners at last!

Nevertheless, we still managed to come in first place out of thirty-six pairs with a 72+ percent game. If I had been able to figure out the last hand, we might have had the best score of the entire cruise. I was pretty disappointed with myself. I examined the layout of the last hand for quite a long time without coming to any firm conclusion about what the best line of play would have been.

Linda Green served as both director and photographer.

At five o'clock all of the bridge players assembled in a lounge named Quasar for a cocktail party. Its space-aged décor was definitely designed for a crowd that was much younger than bridge players on a cruise over the holidays. I am always a fish out of water at occasions such as these. In this case it seemed to be a little difficult even to procure something to drink. I ended up downing a glass or two of red wine.

Here is Sue snapping a photo of the Fleers using Linda's camera.

Larry asked me to take photos of the official presentations using Linda Green's camera. I had my own camera with me, and so I deputized Sue to take the official photos. I snapped quite a few shots of my own. Marty won the award as the top B player. His other partner, Jean-Marc, was the overall winner. The Fleers were the #1 C team.

At the final supper we ate with the Fleers and the Singers. I am not sure what became of the Levins.

Larry acknowledged the fine job done by the ladies of the Partnership Desk, Sandi Murray and Laurie Levin.

After supper Sue and I packed, and I watched the second half of the Rose Bowl in which Oregon made mincemeat of previously undefeated Florida State. I then watched the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl game between Alabama and Ohio State on ESPN. Needless to say, I could not root for the Buckeyes under any circumstances, but I had to respect their accomplishments during the second half of the season. My impression from what I watched was that OSU was by no means overmatched. I assumed that Alabama would prevail, but it would probably be a good game.

Jean-Marc Rieffel earned the most masterpoints.

The most bizarre aspect of the telecasts was the fact that there were no spots for any products or services. The commercial breaks were completely dominated by promotional clips for ESPN's future presentations. The emphasis was on soccer.

Sue and I missed the deadline for placing our suitcases out in the hallway tagged and ready to be taken down to the dock in the morning. Sue wanted to schlep them ourselves anyway. I was of two minds about this strategy. The ship's corridors were pretty narrow, and on the last day of the cruise they would undoubtedly be quite crowded with passengers eager to make a getaway. On the other hand, trying to find one's luggage among the bags of several thousand other passengers was unlikely to be a pleasant situation.

Sue was still packing when I turned off the game and went to sleep.

[1]  When I unpacked I discovered a partially used trial-sized can of shaving cream in my shaving kit. I doubted that it would have been enough for the entire vacation.

[2]  In masterpoints scoring (almost always used in pairs events), your score is based on the number of players that played the hand in your direction. You got one masterpoint for each that you did better than and one-half for each that you tied. If four other pairs played a hand, and you scored better than two, tied one, and had a lower score than one, your percentage on that hand would be 2.5/4 x 100 or 62.5 percent.