Alone, at Last (with 4200 other people)

Aboard Independence of the Seas

It’s been a bit odd being just the two of us (along with 4200 other passengers and 1450 other crew) – the routine is beginning to settle. This will be the first time I will have been aboard for an entire 10-week contract, so it’s a bit difficult to find my place in Ole’s routine. He leaves the cabin about 7:00 each morning, except when there are early arrivals, when he’s up as early as 3:00 a.m. He works pretty solidly in his office until we meet for lunch – then he power naps until about 1:30, to go back at it until usually 7:00 p.m. or so.

He has official “duties” a couple of evenings each cruise, that require putting on the penguin suit and mingling among the guests, and some nights it’s quite the panic as he runs upstairs from the engine room, showers and changes at warp speed, and transforms from a coverall-wearing manager of 60 engineers, motormen, electricians, refrigeration specialists, into somebody out of the old “Love Boat” series, complete with cutaway jacket, cummerbund and bow tie. Probably three nights a week, we dine in the dining room or one of the specialty restaurants, and occasionally we’ll catch a show or an entertainer. The nights tend to be early, given his schedule.

My days so far, without friends or family aboard, consist of reading, household accounting via the internet, and the occasional binge on the penny slots in the casino – and on days when there’s a port call, I’ll stroll through town or take an excursion.

I think when I join him next time, I’ll bring some projects – there’s new canvas items to make for Emma Jo (and boy it’s hard to break out the sewing machine and stake out a workspace on a boat) – and I’d like to revisit some of the things I enjoyed as a kid, like drawing, painting and writing.

This time, though, a new project has presented itself quite serendipitously. We heard from our rental management company that our tenants in Bremerton, a young naval officer and his wife, got orders for a quick transfer, so our house became vacant at the end of July. We contacted a realtor to have a look, contracted a home inspector, and decided that since the real estate market in the Northwest is still pretty viable, to put it on the market. So the project has been to rebuild the decks, renovate the yard, re-carpet, and paint the exterior and interior – all by email. We’re shooting for a listing date around the first of September, but trying to project manage from 8,000 miles and 9 time zones away might alter that date a bit. We’re both not quite okay with cutting the tie to our friends and family in the Seattle area – and the prospect of letting go completely of the house is a bit scary – but we’re hoping a quick sale will help us finance the new house in Panama.

Since this is the first season for the Independence, there have been a few “VIP” guests aboard that I’ve had the chance to meet – a few members of the Kuwaiti and Saudi royal families and Jane Seymour (who worked with the producers of one of the onboard shows that’s a takeoff on ‘Dancing with the Stars’). Fun and interesting to meet them. I spent a few hours in delightful conversation about boating and fishing with a Kuwaiti security officer travelling with the royal family. When he found out that Ole and I live aboard a boat, he wanted to know, “How big is it?” I told him 49 feet, and he replied by telling me he had one that was 30 feet, one that was 50 feet, and one that was about 70 feet. Must be nice to change your boat like some people change their socks!

On the excursion front, I was able to go from Cadiz to Jerez de la Frontera, for a two-part tour.

First we visited the Gonzales Byass Sherry house, home of Tio Pepe, one of the highest quality fino sherries in the world. The tour was informative, the buildings quintessentially Spanish, with stucco, red tile, and shaded patios, and the tasting was delicious, featuring a sample of the fino (Tio Pepe) as well as a pale cream (Croft). At the mandatory end-of-tour swing through the gift shop, I found a box of four splits of very old sherries – Methusalem, Apostoles, Noe, and Amontillado (del Duque) to be saved for Christmas on the ship! Now I have at least a limited understanding of sherry – it being a fortified wine from the palomino grape. And like champagne, the wine can’t be called a sherry unless it is from Jerez.

The second part of the tour took us to the Royal Andalucian Equestrian School for an exquisite show. I’ve provided the link above so you can get a feel for it. I’ve admired the Lippizaners my entire life, and did not remember that though they are in Austria, they are a product of the Spanish equestrian school. The Andalucian horses are a breed apart, characterized by their large size and elegant, rounded bodies. Though there were a few white horses, the majority of them were shades of gray or brown.  Their dancing includes leaps like the Lippizaners, and a stepping pattern called the piaffe. When set to flamenco or martial music, the performance is stunning.

Another fun part of this month was running into Norwegian Jade in Villefranche, Barcelona and Vigo – to find that our dock-mate and friend Steve Tepper of Serenity was Staff Captain aboard.  Just goes to show you how small the world is!  Ole gave Steve a tour of Independence in Barcelona – and Steve gave us a tour of Jade in Vigo.

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