Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Cruise, Icemaker, and Sucking

Last Saturday I left at 6 AM to drive to Galveston where I would be boarding the Carnival Ecstasy for 5 fun filled days in the Gulf of Mexico.  I was a little leery about doing the whole “solo cruise”.  But, as it turns out, I am fairly capable of meeting people and having a grand old time.  The title will make sense shortly.  I think.  Oh yeah, and I’m going to do something a little different.  I’m going to try and remember and share exactly what I was thinking.  I’ll tell you what I saw and what I thought.  At least the rated PG version of what I thought.  It’s rare that anyone gets to visit the mind of Gar.  It’s even more rare that someone understands what’s there.  It’s not called Random for nothing.

Saturday: The Embarkation

When you cruise from Galveston, they open the ship at 12:30 and want everyone onboard by 14:30.  It’s about a little over 5 hours driving from Dallas.  I love vacations, but I hate going.  I have all kinds of disaster scenarios running through my little paranoid head.  What if I have a blowout?  What if there’s a wreck and the highway gets closed down.  What if I have a wreck?  What if my car breaks down?  What if two angry beavers emerge from the trees and start doing the nasty in the middle of the highway and I’m forced to stop and watch?

Anyway, I left at 6.  By 10:30 I realized I was going to be way early so I stopped for gas.  The McDonalds at the gas station hadn’t started serving lunch yet, so I left.  At 11:15 I stopped at a Wendy’s for lunch.  By this time I was already in Houston.  At 11:45 I stopped at a Walmart to pick up things I forgot (like sunscreen and sunglasses).  At 12:45 I was at the harbor.

Carnival doesn’t really consider people taking solo cruises too much.  We are a rare breed.  The instructions on my ticket said, “Drop your party and luggage off at the door, then park your car and ride the bus back to the facility.”  This wasn’t going to work.  A quick search online revealed a place with covered parking across the street from the dock.  It was $5 cheaper than the “Carnival Approved” parking (which is not covered and requires the curb side drop off and bus ride).

The guys at the parking lot were real nice.  They helped me back my car into the garage.  They laughed at me when I told them I forgot my new sunglasses and needed them to re-open the garage so I could get back into my car.  They took me in the little golf cart for easiest access to the boat.  I was already happy and I hadn’t even got onboard yet.  I was thinking I needed to tip the poor guy, but all I had was a $10 and a $20.  I did ask him if he could break a $10.  He told me not to worry about it, so I didn’t.

I got on the boat, put my luggage away and made like a bandit to the nearest de-stressing beverage.  It looked almost exactly like this:

The first day always involves a lot of “pre-shows”.  They kind of gear you up for what to expect.  The only thing I was disappointed in so far was the temperature.  I’m a West Texas boy.  I like it real hot and this was a shade cool for a Caribbean cruise.  Apparently the cold front that dropped down into Texas was spreading it’s love as far south as it could go.  More on that later.  I immediately fell in love with one of the comedians.  She had the awkward sarcastic humor that I am a big fan of so I made a note to catch her show the next day.

Saturday night they have the karaoke show in the “Starlight Lounge”.  I was obviously tired form being up since 5 AM so I was in no mood to participate, but I did watch.  Have you seen those Carnival commercials about how something strange happens when you get on a ship?  I’ll see if I can find one… I can’t.  Anyway, it goes something like, “When people get on the ship, they change.  They leave their troubles behind and set out to have fun.”  There were two ladies at the karaoke show who took this a little too far.  I heard rumor that they were kicked off the ship at the first port.  There was nudity and running up and down the halls.  It wasn’t pretty nudity.  I went to bed before I could see anything that might scar my eyes, but apparently they got sick and spent the night in the infirmary.  I also heard that several passengers (I assume in neighboring cabins) complained about the noise and if they were unlucky, the eye scarring.

Sunday: The First Day at Sea

Anytime you leave out of Galveston, your first day is spent in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico heading towards your first port of call.  This was no different.  I don’t remember much about Sunday.  It was mostly uneventful.  The comedy acts onboard the ship always have to have two shows.  The PG version and the R version (for the 18+ crowd).  They do a family rated show on Saturday to kind of get you prepared.  There were two comedians on the boat.  I decided at the pre-show that I liked Kim Harrison the best.

Kim Harrison

The above video is kind of the rated R version, but with the cussing bleeped out.  I liked her.  She was quite funny.

Monday: In Progreso

Monday I lost my mind.  I decided to take an excursion to see the Chichen Itza ruins.  I know you are thinking that this doesn’t sound too bad.  It’s about a 2 and a half hour bus ride from the ship to the ruins.  If you took the time to click on the link, you’ll know that it’s a large pre-Columbian archeological site.  It would probably take you 2 full days to explore the whole area.  As it was we got to walk around it for 2 hours and sit on a bus for 5 hours.

I had to sit with Rob Thomas on the bus ride over there.  I was by myself, you see, and the bus was full so I got to sit next to a stranger.  His first name was Robert, middle name was Thomas, and he said he goes by Thomas.  Rob Thomas was just easy for me to remember and I make fun of everyone.  He was from San Angelo though and he knew where Kermit was so we are all happy.  He was chaperoning his niece’s cruise. 

What do I remember about Chichen Itza, besides Rob Thomas?  I remember the sinkhole.  At some point I learned to say sinkhole in Spanish and in Mayan.  It was a hole in the ground that was filled with stagnant water.  There is no debate about where the water comes from.  I think the guy said there was 90 feet of water in the well.  Apparently the Mayans believed that the gods created the well so they made sacrifices to the gods via the sinkhole.  Clean people up in the sauna, slit their throats and throw them in the well.  What did I take from all this?  The Mayans blamed their sinkhole on the gods.  In West Texas, we blame our sinkholes on the oil companies. 

Oh, one other thing in case you were wondering.  I also need to warn everyone to not buy souvenirs at the first place you stop.  There are better and cheaper ones later.  The whole Chichen Itza archeological site was one big souvenir shop.

The first time I was in Progreso, I sat out on the beach while the souvenir vendors would hand carry things to your table.  After you drink enough, even the souvenirs started looking better.  I kind of wish I had done that again this time around.  Except I would have missed the acoustics.  Mayan ruins with acoustics and a sinkhole. 

Back on the Ship

I went and talked to the “future cruise lady”.  Her name was Catherine Louise and she oddly kept up with my banter.  I’m not going to go so far as to say I’m a social butterfly, but when I go out, it’s rare that I meet someone who can “keep up”.  Catherine Louise could keep up and fire back.  It’s rare.  I’m not allowed to call her anything except Catherine Louise.  Well, or CLA.  I don’t think I was told what the A stood for.  Odd thing about CLA and all you astrology naysayers is I successfully guessed her as an Aquarius.  Her birthday is January 28th.  She’s from California.  One of the few crew members from USA.

Once back on the ship, I decided to go hit the Karaoke spot in China Town.  I met Natosha.  I try and talk to any women named Natosha.  It’s one of my favorite names.  Natosha was from Macedonia.  I didn’t even know where Macedonia was.  Natosha was hard to understand, but she was friendly.  She convinced me I should sing a song, but I didn’t know which one.

As I was sitting upon my stool contemplating which song to sing a large woman came and gave me a high five and plopped her grandiose butt down on the stool next to mine.  This inspired me to sign up for “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”, by the Georgia Satellites.  Obviously, the context of the lyrics was a little different, but you have to listen to inspiration when it strikes.

When I went to sign up for my song, some guy grabbed me.  I looked up and it was Rob Thomas with his two nieces!  They were excited to hear me sing.  The guy DJ’ing the karaoke was from Brazil and I can not ever remember his name for more than 5 minutes.  Let’s call him Ignacio.  He seemed awkward at times, but he was friendly and good at what he did.  I hung out with him on Tuesday.  When I put my name down for Karaoke I always put GAR.  Normally, people get this correct.  Ignacio said, “I’m not sure who this is.  It says, G. A. R.”  I got up and went on stage and told him it’s Gar.  The crowd went wild.

I have this strategy where I hang out and listen to what other people are singing and try to sing something more partyish.  On this particular night everyone seemed to be trying to show off with various Frank Sinatra type songs so my strategy was to pick up the party people with a little Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll.  I was successful.

Tuesday: In Cozumel

It was so windy in Cozumel that they had to cancel some of the “excursions”, like parasailing.  I had actually considered signing up for the parasailing thing.  I’m glad I didn’t.  It was so windy that they had trouble parking the ship.  I heard later that they had to have tug boats on standby in case they couldn’t get it docked.  Apparently the cold front that had gone through Texas had made it’s way to Cozumel.  All I know was at 7:30 in the morning, the whole ship was vibrating like a, well, like a 70,000 ton vibrator.

I don’t like Cozumel.  It’s a bit too touristy for me.  It’s much more fun to hang out with the locals when they aren’t trying to sell you some goofy sombrero they probably bought from some American company who had it manufactured in China.  However, the last time I went to Cozumel I found a neat little Mexican bar on the beach called Fat Tuesday.  A Sexy Mexican Tequila Police Woman comes over and sells you a shot of tequila which she administers followed by a mini massage and a kiss on the cheek.  It’s well worth whatever it is she charges.  This time I was going to offer money in exchange for a better kiss!

To my great disappointment, I learned this time around that there are two docks.  This time we docked at a pier that was closer to downtown and much further away from Fat Tuesday.  In fact, it was so far away, that I couldn’t get there to see if my Sexy Mexican Tequila Police Woman was still there or not.  I had to settle for Margaritaville.

While sitting (alone) at the Margaritaville bar, this flamboyant gay guy came and said (with a thick accent), “Hey Gar!  How are you doing?  See, I remember your name now.”  It took me a minute because out of his ship uniform he looked completely different, but it was Ignacio from the ship.  And he was sitting with Kim Harrison (the comedian).  When they saw that I was drinking alone (good George Thorogood song by the way), they invited me to come sit at their table where they were enjoying 32 ounce mojitos.

Kim is hilarious in person.  She’s very sarcastic, like me, and we spent lots of time cracking jokes together.  I told her that my happiest moment as a parent was the first time one of my kids was sarcastic.  It was like I had successfully continued the sarcastic trait into the next generation and where would this world be without sarcasm.  Then I asked Kim my riddle, which is, “Can you be sarcastic without lying?”  She quickly said yes so I asked for an example.  She said, “Well, I’ve only got one daughter, but when she misbehaves, I can still sarcastically say, ‘Ahh honey, you are the best daughter ever.’  Sarcasm without lying.”  I think there is still some fudge factor there, but it was funny.

Back on the Ship

Kim asked if I would do karaoke again and if I’d be willing to sing a duet with her.  I agreed, but it didn’t pan out.  I arrived much earlier than she did and by the time she showed up, I had just finished “You Shook Me All Night Long”, which went over very well, but it also does some strange kind of twisted scarring to my vocal chords.  So, when Kim wanted to sing some Evanescence, I had to gracefully decline.  She found two  healthy young studs who tried to mumble the lyrics.

Early that evening I went out by the pool and met Alexandria.  I don’t remember where she was from, but she was funny.  She did the spray on tattoos by the pool.  I asked her if she had anything erotic that I could show off to my colleagues at work.  The best she could do was a Marilyn Monroe where her dress is flying up.  That wasn’t good enough.  Next thing I know Alex is accusing me of wanting a pornographic tattoo.  Alex laughed at everything.  She, was, by far, the happiest person I met on the cruise (and perhaps met in a long time).  I’m amazed that people can be that happy without chemical help.  She denied having any chemical help.  Maybe there was something in the temporary tattoo spray.  Alex did let slip that they were having a “crew only party” at 11 PM.  This, of course, kept me occupied for the rest of the evening.  The trying to get into the “secret party”.

I asked Alex if I could go, she laughed at me and said it was crew only.  So I started asking all the crew members who walked by if I could buy their name tag for $1.50.  No one took me up on it.  I went back to CLA’s “future cruise” desk and asked her if she would invite me.  She also told me it was crew only.  I started asking for uniforms and increasing the dollar amount for name tags. 

Natosha was my bartender at the karaoke lounge and I asked her as well, but was again denied.  You have to give me an E for effort though. 

Wednesday: The Last Day

The last day of the cruise is always kind of blah.  It’s depressing because you are just starting to get to know some of the crew.  You know you have to pack your bags.  And, you know you can’t drink as much because you must be able to drive for 6 hours the next day after you get off the ship.

At first I was thinking I was going to go take pictures of all the crew members I hung out with.  But, for some reason, I changed my mind.  I wasn’t in a picture taking mood.

At 9:30 I did a “Behind the Fun” tour where I got to go down to the galley, the engine room, the laundry room, the crew area, and finally the bridge.  That was very enjoyable.  I’ve got a picture with the Captain.  I look really dorky though so I’m not going to scan it.  I feel sorry for the other people in the group.  I really messed up the group photo.  I look like I’m slightly insane.  The tour lasted for almost 3 hours.  I was supposed to go see CLA to the “future cruise” show at 12, but I missed it.

I went to the dining room for lunch.  When I’m waiting to be seated the hostess always asks me if I’m alone.  They should come up with a better way to phrase that.  On Wednesday, they seated me with another couple who were from Euless.  Then, a couple came and sat with us who were from Fort Worth.  And, finally an older lady came who was from the Houston area. 

All of us had about the same experience with cruising (about 3).  Except for the older lady.  She had been on so many cruises she had lost count.  She was a “platinum” card holder on Carnival (which means 10+ Carnival cruises).  I’m going to go off on a tangent.

I’ve been divorced twice.  When I was younger if anyone had ever asked me how many times I intended to be married, I would have said once and only once.  I’m overly nice.  I’m not at all mean.  I can’t imagine, any reason, why I wouldn’t want to spend my entire life with one woman.  Both of the women I married, left me for no other reason than, the grass appears greener.

The lady that was the platinum card holder said she was cruising by herself.  She said she and her husband had been on so many cruises together that she was addicted to the experience.  Then, her eyes started watering and she started staring at the ceiling trying not to cry because her husband had died 2 years ago and she had a hard time finding anyone to cruise with.  They had been married forever and had gone on 100’s of cruises together and now she’s cruising alone.  This was my first cruise alone and at times I was feeling sorry for myself.  When she was telling her story, my eyes started watering too and I had to occupy myself with other thoughts.  My youngest daughter is fond of telling me, “It could always suck more”.  When I listened to this older lady trying not to tear up as she recounted all the cruises her and her late husband had taken, I thought of that quote.  It kept me from turning into an blubbering idiot.

After lunch I went out by the pool and asked Alex if she had been able to locate any more tattoos.  She informed me that she had been too busy at the crew party to do any research.  Then, I went to the pool bar and talked to Natosha for about an hour.  She explained where Macedonia is and why it’s not part of the European Union.

Later that afternoon I went back and bought my next cruise from CLA.  I’m taking my children to Cozumel on July 28th.  It’s the most expensive cruise I’ve ever purchased.  Apparently summer months are high traffic months, but I promised my eldest I’d take them on a cruise before she graduated so this summer is hopefully my last chance.


I had assigned seating for dinner at 8:15 PM.  That’s a little late for dinner, but the formal dinners are probably about my favorite part of the cruise.  The food is always good.  The waiters are always nice.  They always put on a pretty good show.  Normally, you become “acquainted” with the other people at your table so it’s  a good chance to meet some people.

I sat alone at a 4-top.  The waiter said that 2 other people had been assigned to the table I was at, but apparently they didn’t like the dinners as much as I did because I never saw them.

However, in my area, there were large round tables with entertaining folks.  On the table to my left was a family reunion of some kind.  The grandmother would always look my way and smile when the grandkids or children were acting up.  She was funny.  On Wednesday, the youngest kid (he was probably 7) was eating butter packets while his dad video taped.

The tables to my right were odd.  The two groups were obviously together, but I guess there were so many of them that they had to have two different tables.  There were 12 women and 1 man.  The 12 women ranged in age probably from 22 to 65.  They weren’t family.  Too many ethnicities for that.  But, they always appeared together and they always ate.  4 at one table, 8 at the other.

The big table was apparently the immature table.  There were tears of merriment more often than not.  Mainly because of a heavyset dark haired girl who decided to fake an English accent for the duration of the cruise.  On Wednesday, she came and asked me, in her cheesy fake accent, if I was alone.  Then, she asked where I was from.  Then she asked my name.  I wasn’t nearly as inquiring, but I did find out they were from Corsicana and Fort Worth.  I forgot to ask what their story was.  I figure they were all from some sales force (like Amway) or something, but who knows.  It could have been some new religion.  It is Texas.

Thursday: Back Home

I hate US Customs.  I don’t understand the purpose and the efficiency is slightly better than eating chicken broth with a fork.  I compare the USA to a reverse roach motel.  They’ll let you leave, but it’s hard to get back in.  It’s at least an hour of standing in line so this guy can look at you, look at your passport, ask if you bought anything and then wave you through.  It’s a ludicrous and inefficient filtration process.  I can’t describe it any better than eating chicken broth with a fork.  I outdid myself.

When I got back home I started watching my DVD of Glee.  Don’t hate me because I like watching Glee.  That show cracks me up and the music is good too.  Anyway, while watching, I kept hearing someone knock at my door.  I’d get up and go check and no one would be there.  It’s took me a while to figure out that my icemaker was misbehaving.  If anyone knows how to fix an icemaker so that it doesn’t sound like someone's knocking at your door please share.  As it is, I just turned it off.  It won’t be too long before I’m going to need some ice.  Now that I know it’s not working, I’m craving it.

Sorry, my thoughts were a little scattered.


  1. This may have been the 3rd or 4th saddest thing I've ever read.

    You might want to take another look at your 4th sentence....

    "The title will make since shortly."

  2. Dammit! I hate the English language! :)

  3. I thought it might be clever verbiage with some deeper meaning not accessible to my limited comprehension. And then I read that you did not know where Macedonia was and that sort of ruled out thinking I was reading the ramblings of some highly evolved, deeply cultured thinker who's thought's were beyond my ability to fathom.

  4. Yeah, I know that you had to look it up. You had no idea where Macedonia was.
    Did you notice that I linked to your now infamous sinkhole blog?
    It's odd being at a Mayan ruin site and I'm thinking of your stupid blog posting from my Birthday.

  5. Did they not teach you history in Wink? Never heard of Alexander the Great? Who came from Macedonia. And eventually took over all of Greece and a whole lot of other places you've likely not heard of. Like Turkey and Egypt.

    I did not notice that you'd linked to the notorious Wink sinkhole blogging.

    It pleases me that that episode left such a lasting impression on you that a sinkhole in Mexico brought it all back to you.

    You didn't start arguing with the locals about their sinkhole, did you?

  6. No history in Wink. The football coaches are too busy planning new pass plays. Or maybe defense. I don't remember.

    I do know they don't normally speak English in Macedonia so I'm kind of surprised they'd call anyone Alexander The Great. That seems rather English.

    I did argue with the locals. I explained to them in no uncertain terms that the experts in Texas agree that all sinkhole water comes from the fracking oil and gas industry! They were shocked to learn that the Mayans were the pioneers of drilling for oil!

  7. I know you are just trying to be aggravating, which really is something you excel at, but, Macedonians speak Greek. Alexander is very much a Greek name. Alexander the Great is called that in Greek. And then that is translated in to other languages, such as English. I have no idea what the Greek word for Great is. I do know the Greek word for Bonehead is Gar. And the best Greek bonehead in history is known as Gar the Great.

  8. Poor Durango having to put up with severe aggravation today.

    Macedonians actually speak Macedonian. It's the official language. It's more like Bulgarian.

    In Alexander's day they spoke Greek though so I'll give you an A for effort. You may have spent too much time in Texas.

    I never knew that Gar was a Greek word. That's really cool.

  9. Pardon my typo.

    Not Gar the Greek.

    I meant Gar the Geek.