Sunday, December 4, 2011

Back from the Cruise

Shalom, chaverim! Elul and I are just back from a cruise in the Caribbean, hence my online silence lately. We got back this morning, and are still facing quite a few loads of laundry to do and quite a few hundred emails to answer--or delete, more likely. Not to mention a practically empty refrigerator, too, but fortunately we had some of my homemade Egyptian Spicy Red Lentil Soup in the freezer. With luck it will thaw before dinnertime.

I discovered the joy of cruises relatively late in life. Several years ago, Elul's father's 80th birthday came around. To celebrate, he took his adult children and their families on a Holland America cruise. I was one of the lucky in-laws, and when I found out what cruises were really like--as opposed to my mental picture constructed from my days as an avid fan of "The Love Boat"--I cursed myself for never having tried them before. I just have two words of advice about cruises. They are:
  1. Go on one as soon as you can; and,
  2. Get a room with a balcony that has an unobstructed view: you want to spend your time sipping champagne while gazing romantically at the moon, not a lifeboat.
That's it! We went to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Grand Turk; and St. Maarten. San Juan is a beautiful city that has done a terrific job at architectural preservation of its buildings in the Old City, but was showing the effects of the grinding economic slowdown by the large number of empty storefronts and "for sale" signs.

There wasn't much going on in Grand Turk, really, although we did manage to see the space capsule that John Glenn splashed down in, in 1962. It was slightly surreal. Instead of lounging on the beach, we decided to do our daily fitness walk by simply walking down the road that led out of the port into the town, then turn around at the thirty-minute point and walk back. The port is near the tiny airport of Grand Turk, so we spent most of the walk trudging by not-very-charming sheds and outbuildings. But seemingly out of nowhere, we spied the original space capsule, surrounded by a white picket fence! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at the time, but here's a link to a picture of this strange piece of history:

St. Maarten is a great island for a thrifty, coupon-clipping gal like me, in that it's a kind of cultural two-fer: there's a Dutch side called St. Maarten, and a French side called St. Martin. We spent $25 each ($20 a head plus a $5 tip) for a 2.5 hour bus tour of both sides of the island, which was fun and very interesting. There was not much ado about crossing the "border" between the Dutch and French areas, other than being asked to salute the sign indicating the border as we drove by. For some reason, our guide wanted us to make a stop at a "clothing optional" beach, so we did, for about twenty minutes. While there wasn't enough time for our group to go into the water, we could certainly tell that some of the other patrons were going to be investing in ample amounts of after-sun lidocaine lotion that night, from "tip to toe," if you catch my drift. Ouch!

And of course, no cruise would be complete without the charming and artfully created "towel animals" left on our beds each night by the cabin stewards, complete with gold-foil-wrapped chocolates and a little card wishing us a wonderful night's sleep. Here are a few:

I'm not sure what this octopus with a strange head? It's cool, though.

Towel Gorilla!

Wrinkly dog, tragically blinded by a gust of wind.
On our days at sea, I used the time to reflect on changes I need to make in my life, in addition to the seismic shift that is coming twenty-three days from now! There's nothing like waltzing around in a bathing suit to make you consider making a little extra effort in the areas of diet and exercise. Therefore, I had a blast "devouring" Tim Ferriss' fascinating book "The Four Hour Body." Ferriss is the author of the bestseller "The Four Hour Workweek," which, I'm embarrassed to say, I have not yet read. But since the ship's library had this other book, that's the one I read. Trying out his dietary advice was not hard on a fabulous cruise ship, since every type and amount of food on Earth was available as long as you can shuffle up to the Lido deck. "You would like fried eggs, lentils, sauerkraut, stir fried vegetables, peanut butter and ice water for breakfast? No problem, madame!" Applying this eating plan to our daily lives, however, on our rather more frugal budget, will be a greater challenge. Thank G-d for Aldi and Wal-Mart!

Modesty trumps vanity. A slightly more flattering picture of me was available, but since it showed a reflection of Elul taking the picture in his underpants, I chose this one.

I'm glad I found this book. Now I know I really have to stick to the diet, because once we started checking our emails when we got back today, we discovered we've been selected to be subjects in an Israeli documentary about people making Aliyah! Watch out, Kardashian sisters!

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