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Old January 15th, 2008, 10:57 PM
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Z – Day 4- Jan. 25 – Tortolla
Even the most seasoned cruisers amongst us can, at times, still find ways to stumble through the experience. We can become overconfident with our preparation and traveling skills which we’ve so finely tuned over the years.

Mrs. Kuki is the most skilled practitioner of the art of packing that I have ever encountered. This, of course, is the primary reason we’re still married. When clothing is removed from a suitcase she’s packed, they come out already on hangers, looking like they’ve just come from the dry cleaners, with every crease exactly in place, and none where they shouldn’t be.

In the beginning, we’d pack a week or more prior to our departure date, but as our experience has grown, that task is left until the night before. My area of responsibility in this process is to choose my clothing, and lay it out for her to pack, and load the car on day of departure.

For this trip, a two week back to back jaunt, changing ships mid-stream, I made the decision to change with the times, and leave my tuxedo, dress vests, etc. at home, and to go with one suit, with various shirts and ties to match.

After our first formal night of this cruise, having spent the evening in a suit that halfway through the evening I realized was a bit overly snug, it dawned on me I had laid out the wrong suit. Many of us have a closet containing an assortment of sizes that we’ve lived through various stages of our life. And indeed this time the suit I chose for her to pack was from a more svelte stage in the life of my body beautiful.

Upon making this realization I of course blamed Mrs. Kuki for placing an old suit in a prominent position in my closet, knowing full well (because of the inherent psychic ability that women are born with) that this suit would now be a snug fit on the 2008 edition of my body magnificent.

Because of this faux pas, for the next 3 formal nights, I’ll suffer the gross indignity of hiding the somewhat unsightly enlarged girth of my midsection hanging over my belt top, while I store my vanity in the inside suit pocket.

This will be the last time, until next time, that I take my responsibilities of choosing my own clothing so lightly. Using this life experience to learn from, some day in the future, in some unknown city, I may even stop and ask for directions; Either that, or I’ll just go back to taking along my tuxedo.

Chef Rajeev was back in the Show Kitchen, in the Queen’s Lounge, at 9:30 this morning, demonstrating the preparation of Caribbean dishes. However I couldn’t smell or sample any of the items being prepared from my location in bed in my cabin.

At 11 A.M. this morning the ship began sailing through the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The Captain opened up a normally closed area on the bow on Deck 4 for passengers to enjoy his passage, and the public address system was used to supply a verbal narration of the history of the Virgin Islands, and the passage. In some areas the view was similar to parts of the day cruising the inside passage in Alaska.

Upon arriving just off the coast of Tortola, with Road Town in sight, the Captain announced that a problem had developed in the engine room that prevented us from pulling along-side the pier. A quick decision had been made to drop anchor and begin tendering passengers as soon as possible, while looking for and repairing the problem.

About an hour later, after the tendering process had begun, it was announced that the problem was found, and was being dealt with, and we hoped to be headed to the pier sometime in the next hour. The officers and crew seemed to be handling the matter professionally, and keeping the guests well informed.

The guests began acting as though they had been told they’d be spending the remaining days left in their lives drifting aimlessly at sea, and that the ship had run out of shrimp. The mood in the buffet lines turned nasty, as passengers amassed at buffet stations apparently in a quest to hoard anything edible in view, in case the engine problems lasted longer than forever. I thought, if this situation goes on too much longer there are going to be people on this ship attempting to survive on Splenda, and once decorative carvings made from lard.

I waited, relaxing on my balcony, a bit apprehensive as to whether the telephone would ring, with the call, asking for my assistance. I sat, with my tool kit in hand (my knife and fork), ready to serve (or eat) should that call come.

Shortly after 4 P.M. whatever issues had occurred were rectified and the Z was tied up at the pier in Tortolla. Mrs. Kuki and I had waited, and we disembarked the vessel to have a stroll around the area. As we did so, it became very obvious who had suffered the most from the ship’s few lost hours in port.

I felt just terrible for the lines of safari style taxi drivers waiting at the pier, by now almost begging passengers to go somewhere with them, if even only for an hour. Via the tendering process the ship was able to get guests on the ship’s tours off earlier, so those tour operators were not affected. The ship is scheduled to remain in port until 10 P.M., but few passengers are likely to be wandering the town after dark.

As we left the security area we passed a fellow yelling to people that he had jeeps and scooters available to rent. He was telling everyone walking towards the center of town... Don't go there, there's nothing there! He's right.. sort of.

We’ve visited Tortolla before, while on other cruises, and there are several magnificently beautiful beaches to visit; the most popular, with excellent facilities is Cane Garden Bay Beach. For those who are more interested in avoiding the crowds, look to Josiah’s Bay.

Prior to the cruise we had pre-booked dinner tonight in the Pinnacle Restaurant ($30 pp surcharge). We chose tonight’s date based solely on the fact it was mid cruise. The ship stayed in port late this evening, though I’m not entirely sure why, as it didn’t appear to me to hold much attraction to passengers for late evening activities. The ship planned a barbeque deck party for this evening, beginning at 5 P.M and continuing through until past 8 P.M., but our reservation at the Pinnacle was for 7 P.M, so we didn’t attend.

The Pinnacle is a beautifully decorated restaurant, using the finest flatware, and tableware. We found the menu format slightly confusing, but the selections seemed broad. Three of us chose the U.S.A. Sterling Beef, Filet Mignon for an entrée, while the other ordered the Boarded Monk Fish with Crabs Legs. The quality of the beef was outstanding, but our friend didn’t care for the fish, and reported the Crabs Legs were tasteless.

No one of the group of 4 of us was particularly impressed with the taste of any of our appetizer, soup, or salad choices. And though the presentation of the desserts made them appear to be delicious, the expectations were not met when we tasted them.

The same could be said of the service; on the surface it appeared good, but the expectations weren’t met. Though the staff went through the motions, the attentiveness seemed feigned. After finishing our entrees, and ordering desserts and coffees, it took some time to get coffee, and then a considerable amount of lag time before the desserts were served. Coffee refills were never offered, and when I did get someone’s attention to request a refill it took quite some time, and another effort on my part to get their attention once more before getting a second cup.

Frankly, and sadly, the Pinnacle experience did not offer full value for the additional cost. Our service team in the dining room has to this point outperformed the service we received tonight in the Pinnacle.

This evening’s entertainment schedule was the Newly Wed/Not So Newly Wed passenger participation game, Karaoke, Oscar music trivia in the Piano Bar, and the Indonesian Crew Show. We spent some time in the Piano Bar, which was full tonight, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. However, we did miss the crew show that I normally do like to see.

Tomorrow morning the ship arrives in St. Thomas, and everyone must clear U.S. Immigration before the ship is cleared. My male friend and I have booked the ship’s golf excursion to Mahogany Run Golf Club, while our wives our planning on spending time together looking around (read shopping). Because our tour leaves early, we have to report to immigration early, and have decided to turn in early. (though it’s almost midnight as I type).
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