My watch is correct again (+12 hours)
As I write this, it is 5:20 p.m. here and 5:20 a.m. on the Eastern Seaboard. My watch is correct once again. I am halfway around the world.
Here on the other side of the world, no one seems to think I'm dressed very well. Every second man I pass in the street wants to make me brand new a suit. So great is their alarm over my appearance that they assure me that one can be ready in just a few hours.
Laura visited the spa for the third time. This time, she underwent a treatment called the Ionithermie Cellulite Reduction Program, even though she has only microscopic quantities of cellulite which hardly require anything as drastic as Ionothermie, whatever it may be.
Here's how it went down. Laura identified the parts of her body parts designated for improvement and the therapist took a course brush and massaged these "cellulite areas" to "get the lymphatic system working." She followed this by applying a blue cream to Laura's back and front, then mixed some water into a bowl of powdered clay and added a secret ingredient: red algae. The algae-infused clay was spread over a mat, and a layer of electrodes was laid on top, like M&Ms on a birthday cake. Laura was instructed to recline on the clay-algae-electrode mat, and then another layer of electrodes and algae-clay were applied to her front, so that she was, effectively, mummified in the stuff.
Sun sets on the cruise, literally and metaphorically
This morning we sailed through the gap of ocean between the Philippines and Taiwan. The air outside was suddenly humid and dense and thick with the smell of pollution. To step outside now is to feel heavy and exhausted. It is as though Asia is exhaling on us.
We seem to pass one ship every hour or two. There was a big one this morning, another tanker. It inched by in front of us, stolid and humorless. Tomorrow morning we arrive in Hong Kong. The cruise is almost over. I had a burger for lunch today, the last until I get back to America.
Fabulously retro controls on the bridge
If I had the money, the first thing I would do upon getting to Hong Kong is buy the biggest, fattest, most ridiculously enormous SUV available and drive it up and down the city's streets--idling whenever the mood strikes, cranking the air conditioning with the windows open--just to appreciate the superb fuel economy. When it comes to fossil fuels, this ship has quite a thirst. It doesn't run on gas or diesel fuel. It burns what's known as heavy fuel oil, a petroleum product that, when cold, is hard enough to walk on. (This is the stuff Kim Jong-Il is always running out of. This and Cognac.)
My post earlier today about the mysterious birds--to me, anyway-- hovering around the ship drew a number of comments.
As far as the species of bird, there would be two camps: some say it's a masked boobie, and one person--KMKane, who sounds quite confident--says it's a gannet. So here's an added layer of intrigue: there are two more mystery birds (pictured above). One with a black head, and one that was brown with a funny looking beak. Does anyone know if these birds are rare or special in any way, apart from being spectacular hunters?
Serious action on the ocean today. At breakfast, a German man who boarded in Honolulu and has been selling duty-free diamond jewelry down in the gift shop at, he tells us, quite a discount, pointed over the railing and said, "Look, there is a ship." (The German gem dealer, incidentally, is one of the best-dressed people on board.) No one stirred. No one, that is, except me, because I have been left dumbstruck and agog--flabbergasted, really--by the shocking lack of ships out here on the Pacific.
This one involved a seaweed wrap. I was going for a terroir thing. You know, I'm on the ocean right now, I should be wrapped in seaweed. The seaweed itself was no longer in weed form. It had been dried, powdered and mixed with clay and something minty. With a little water, it turned into a soft paste that the masseuse spread all over my body, then wrapped me in tin foil. Unfortunately, it wasn't Pacific seaweed. It was from France, and thus the massage was not ocean-appropriate.
The captain politely turns down Greta's offer to steer the ship
It was a dark and stormy morning. The boat was heaving worse than ever, and I got up well before sun rise, opened the curtains and was met by an angry sea: frothy white caps, a howling wind picking up seawater and blasting it at the side of the ship, and a driving rain.
I couldn't sleep, so I grabbed my Sony Reader, which I loaded with books before leaving, and went up to the Lido Deck for coffee, convinced I was the only soul stirring on the boat. I arrived to find a collection of elderly gentleman already there, reading and drinking coffee. I settled down with a latte, a smoked salmon sandwich and my book and thought about the considerable pleasures of rising early.
Cruise the Pacific, listen to lectures on gas
turbines. It doesn't get any better
They have an ongoing lecture series here on the cruise. I attend them regularly. Today's was called "Jet Engines: The Roll of Gas Turbines in Global Energy Conversion," a topic my wife wanted no part of, but which I found gripping in the extreme. Did you know, for example, that the first jet engine-powered flight took place in Rockstock, Germany, in 1939? Today's biggest jet engine is made by GE and produces 127,000 pounds of thrust and weighs 20 tons. Among the smallest jet engines is one that measures three inches in diameter and produces 10 pounds of thrust. It is used mainly by radio-controlled-airplane enthusiasts.
The ship started pitching early this morning. We woke up expecting to see a fierce ocean outside our window. Instead, it was a vision of calm. There was a fine chop on the water, the conditions were perfect for waterskiing, and yet, amidst all this calm were big, gentle rollers that threw the nose of the boat up, and yanked it down again.
I am developing an obsession with the crew. Their lives seem substantial imbued with arc compared to the leisurely routines of the guests. Beneath their smiles and courteous nods, there is the aggravation and frustration of working life. There must be.
Every time we bring Greta out, the Filipino crewmembers crowd around, say hello and smile at our daughter. We strike up conversation. Invariably, each Filipino crewmember has three or four children they haven't seen in six months and will not see for another two. They will only tell you this if you ask, and they do their best not to seem sad. When Laura was getting back onboard in Hawaii, she saw the Filipino crew crowded around pay phones, calling cards in hand, waiting to talked to loved ones.
I received an email from my father today that concluded with the line, "You are a terrible gambler." My father knows me well.
As promised, I took yesterday's bingo winnings to the casino last night with the hopes of increasing my net worth even more. In a span of thirteen minutes, the afternoon's bingo jackpot of $140 had been reduced to $100 and I was so pained by my reversal in fortune that I refrained from another, no doubt equally calamitous, buy-in.
Between bingo games, I've found myself with a little time to respond to several questions and comments posted on the blog. Thanks all! I'm dedicating the next bingo win to you.
TimmaY: I have lost a day -- Monday, to be precise. But my guess is that I'm going to slowly gain it back as I make my way across Asia. I'm keeping the exact details for the trip a secret. Don't worry, I will reveal the reasons for this secrecy when all is finished. But I will tell you this much: getting across Asia is going to require spending a lot of time inside a train. Thanks so much for your message.
Walden15: You make a good point, but on this ship at least half the rooms have private balconies. And if I stick my head over the railing and take a gander down the length of the ship in the morning, I see no one else enjoying breakfast. You're right to be careful before casting judgment, but I think in this case I have stumbled upon a genuine sociological mystery.
Microbano: The cruise wasn't comped. It was paid for in full, which is Conde Nast Travler's policy. And Laura did, in fact, try to stab me in the eye with the blotter, but I blocked the shot, which is also Conde Nast Traveler's policy.
Breakfast at sea
Cruise ship life has a way of getting inside you. We begin every morning with breakfast on the balcony, which is one of the most pleasant breakfast experiences there is. Why all the other guests congregate in the buffet area when they could be sitting at their very own, private ocean-view table watching the sun rising on the horizon is a mystery to me.
If it's 7:33 p.m. on a Monday in New York, it must be 12:33 p.m. on a Tuesday
in the Pacific. Or is it the other way around?
A strange thing happened last night. Somewhere around midnight, we left Sunday and entered Tuesday. This implausible turn of events is due to the fact that we crossed the International Date Line, and no matter how hard I try to understand the physics involved, I am left perplexed. Monday, to paraphrase Lynrd Skynrd, is gone with the wind--and that's the problem.
Oahu. It has always struck me that Hawaii's most populated island was named after the particular yelp of excitement shouted by first time visitors. Perhaps this is why I envisioned several hours of euphoric tropical enjoyment during the cruise's all-too-short stopover on the island. Accordingly, I set myself the following itinerary: Dock at 10:30 a.m., take the shuttle to the Hyatt Hotel at Waikiki Beach (another outstanding name--Waikiki, not Hyatt) and rent a car. Drive to Hanauma Bay, go snorkeling, see tropical fish, return to Waikiki, sample two local delicacies: poke (pronounced "pokey") and shave ice, then hit the beach, where I would learn how to surf. Or try to learn how to surf. Or try to try to learn how to surf.
Schang, a big mahalo to you for sharing a little local information on Oahu.
I want to let you know that our Hawaii itinerary has been modified, for reasons that have something to do with the Coast Guard, apparently. Anyway, we get in at 10 a.m. on Saturday, then depart midnight that day. Not a lot of time. I'm planning on renting a car and taking the family to Hanauma Bay for some snorkelling, then to Waikiki Beach so I can try my hand at surfing. Does that sound doable to you?
I'd love to know where to grab a bite for dinner. Ideally, I'd really like to sample something Hawaiian, if that makes any sense. I imagine the fish and produce are excellent here and would love to find a chef who knows what he's doing. (I can get steak and burgers anywhere, after all.) And yet, I don't want to spend too much money. Any suggestions?
Neptune mixes it up
Tracker1312, thanks to your instructions on how to read my GPS, I can now tell you that I am at: N28 48.505 by W133 36.604, or so my Garmin tells me. Whether this constitutes genuine knowledge on my part is a matter of debate. Fortunately, all I have to do is press the "page" button and a map appears, showing me as a little pink triangle somewhere between LA and Hawaii, pointed west. There is nothing like a nice colorful drawing to appeal to the simpleminded.
Try this the next time you're in a car. Drive into a school zone and be sure to follow the speed limit. When the needle settles around the 21 miles per hour mark, take a good look at how fast you're going. (Not very.) Now imagine driving at that speed all the way to China (assuming I-80 went that far).
That's the approach this cruise ship is taking to trans-continental travel. And the amazing thing is that it works. The trip doesn't take 2 months, as you'd imagine. It takes about 17 days. The secret is never stopping, not for meals, not for sleep, not for bathroom breaks. The boat keeps on plodding along and covers an impressive 500 miles a day.
Here's a tip for you: If you should find yourself in Los Angeles and you have to get on a ship bound for Asia, try and be extra sure to go to the right pier. For instance, if your ship is departing from the San Pedro Pier, don't go to the Long Beach Pier. Then, when one of the friendly baggage attendants at the Long Beach pier tells you that the San Pedro pier is about a mile away, do not listen to him. Like every journey in Los Angeles, it requires a 20-minute stint on the freeway. And the LA freeways have a tendency to clog with traffic, even at 3:30 in the afternoon, which, when you're trying to get to the San Pedro Pier to make a ship that's due to disembark in less than two hours, can induce a state of animated panic.
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