I needed all of today to recuperate, & I still am not anywhere close to being back to normal. I really don't care to ever go into any time zone more than 3 hours ahead of me again. What a pain.
I left the 29th, around 8AM. Traffic getting into LAX sucked. Getting there was fine, but LAX itself was a nightmare. Turns out they had to close terminal 4 for a bomb threat, or something like that. Like LAX isn't bad enough as it is! Sheesh! So I was freaking that I would miss my flight. But I just made it (hey, less time waiting for your plane to board), & since I hardly ever put anything in the overhead compartment, I didn't have that stress.
I had to sit in between two strange men, & I detest sitting in the middle seat. I was so upset I almost cried. I am claustrophobic, so it really sucks. Plus, you have to bug a total stranger every time you need to get up to go to the bathroom. Flying alone sucks. But the flight itself wasn't so bad, & the man next to me was very nice about moving every time I needed to get up (only twice in a 5 hour or so flight). Now I certainly appreciate the blessing that planes are, that it takes 5-6 hours to get somewhere that would take 4 days to drive, but I STILL detest flights over 1-2 hours. It's just boring & physically uncomfortable (it hurts my knees), & near impossible to sleep.
I met my grandmother & sister in Atlanta. I did NOT want to fly to Italy by myself, I would have been miserable. It was bad enough last summer, arriving in San Juan & checking into the ship by myself & trying to find my family. I saw my grandmother sitting at the gate, & I snuck up behind her & surprised her. She had her leg propped up, cause she had gotten a wheelchair to the gate, & would be getting another in Rome. She banged up her leg really badly a year or so ago, & it still gives her some trouble. Not so much that she's handicapped, but walking long distances gives her some trouble. So she faked a limp to the ladies room (she doesn't really limp), & forgot to limp back. :-) Finally my sister got there, & we boarded the plane to Italy. Thank God, the 3 of us would be sitting together. I sat on the aisle, my sister sat in the middle (she tolerates my grandmother better), & my grandmother on the other end. My grandmother immediately complained about not being able to see the movie screen (it was in a bad place).
Ugh.....it was SUCH an awful flight. 8 hours or so, I forget. I probably slept quite a bit, considering. I had a blow-up travel pillow, & since it was a relatively late flight (leaving at 5:30PM), everyone was pretty quiet & sleeping themselves. I also had taken my own blanket (don't trust the germs on the airline ones, although these ended up being clean ones in wrapping), & blindfold. My sister thought I looked like an Eskimo with it all on. I am not sure what kind of Eskimo wears a blindfold. :-)
We arrived in Italy around 11AM, their time. My sister immediately proceeded to get into a tiff with an Italian Royal Caribbean woman (she was not very friendly or helpful, & after a long flight, my sister was especially testy). We got our luggage, & it was loaded on the truck to the ship. My sister had to use the latrine, & while she was there, the Royal Caribbean people left us. So by the time she came back, we had no idea where they went. We looked around the place, but they seemed to have disappeared. I almost got into it with an Italian man who was smoking, because he lit up right next to a sign that said "No smoking" (complete with the international sign for it, a lit cigarette with the red slash through it in a circle....I don't care what language you speak, you understand that sign). I tapped him on the shoulder & pointed to the sign...he waved me off, & went over to another man & pointed me out, saying something....but he DID put the cigarette out. I soon came to realize that everyone & their dog smokes in Europe, & the rules/laws are not enforced....on the trip home, I saw airport employees smoking right next to a no-smoking sign. Sheesh!
I decided to take charge, cause my grandmother was annoying everyone, asking everyone where Royal Caribbean was, & getting frustrated. My sister was in a pissy mood & not listening to reason. I decided to check out the end of the terminal. I knew they probably hadn't left yet, & they had to be somewhere, they couldn't have vanished into thin air. No airport employees seemed to have ever heard of Royal Caribbean (which would be the same in any language), & where clueless as to where to point us. I found this ridiculous, considering that they meet people at that airport EVERY Saturday. We finally found them, walking up on buses with Royal Caribbean signs in the window & employees with Royal Caribbean uniforms on. I was surprised that there were not more fluent English speaking employees working there for Royal Caribbean, considering the majority of their passengers are English speaking. Anyway.....we finally got on the bus to the ship. Our guide was a very handsome, nice Italian man. Once to the ship, things went more smoothly. We were directed to the South Pacific lounge, where we sat & drank water, coffee, or lemonade until they called our check-in number, which was 13 (there were at around 7 or so when we got there, & it went pretty fast). When we got in the check-in line, we almost had no wait at all, & checked smoothly in. They take your pre-filled out info on your credit card, scan your credit card, & take your passport, & then give you your Supercharge card, which now is also your key (very convenient). My grandmother, after having ALREADY been told to talk to the purser about it, pestered the check-in girl about getting extra room keys for each member of the family (8 total). She had a suite with a balcony, tub, refrigerator, VCR, etc, & wanted everyone to be able to use the room. We yanked her away & repeated to her that she needed to contact the purser later, & we went up to our rooms to drop our carry on stuff off, then went up to the Windjammer to get a bite to eat. We then went to our rooms, & I don't know about my grandmother, but my sister & I passed out for a few good hours.
I believe we woke up just in time to eat dinner, & when we woke up, our luggage was waiting outside.
We had to do the "compulsory mustering" at 5:30PM. That is always annoying, though I appreciate the reason for it. When they called our room number, my sister & I both yelled out, "TWO!" (you have to say the number of people in your room, & most everyone else was pretty quiet about it). The guy running the muster laughed & said, "Don't be shy now." I then went to the jacuzzi with my aunt & uncle, where I discovered more ship rules not being enforced. There is not supposed to be anyone under 16 in the jacuzzis, but there were a million kids in them, even some so young they were wearing floaties, & this would be a constant occurance the entire cruise (kids in the jacuzzis). The kids in the one we were in (there were 4 outside, 2 in the Solarium) were Italian, & they are really in your face. There is nothing such as "personal space" with them. They are very aggressive, & in my opinion, rude. There was a "welcome aboard" show at 8PM. We watched the ship's performers do a short show, & I kept watching the male singer, just knowing I knew him from somewhere, but I couldn't place it. The second he leaves the stage, it hit me. It was my friend, Dwayne, who did "Into the Woods" here with me here in LA. Unbelievable! I hadn't seen him in 2 years, & had lost touch with him, because he had cancelled his email account. Well, now I knew where he was & where he had been! I couldn't wait to talk to him. After they performed, the cruise director, Kyle, introduced the cruise staff, & I thought one of them, Franco, was very handsome. After that, a group called Los Pampas Gauchos performed, & surprisingly, they were very entertaining. One of the ship's rules is that children under 18 years of age are not permitted to sit in the first 5 rows of the theatre. This was my first indication that the ship's rules are not enforced. We had dinner, met our waiter & assistant waiter, Aziz & Domanciano. We were the second seating people, so dinner was at 9PM this particular night, 8:45 normally (that's late for dinner for me but my family is adamantly opposed to the early sitting!). We then went to karaoke at 10PM, where my sister & I sang "Summer Nights" from "Grease," & got a standing ovation. My sister, IMHO, cannot sing, but she IS entertaining, & I can sing, so together, that's a good combo. Karaoke was run by Franco, & he seemed very impressed, & afterwards, he continued on to host the singles mingle, which my sister dragged me to. I sat next to Franco & flirted with him. I am sure he thought I was a cute young girl, but not much else. After the lame singles party (around 10 women, 2 dorky men....and you KNOW there were a lot more single people on the ship than that, they just don't want to admit it), I am pretty sure we crashed again. Frankly, I don't remember much about the first day on the ship, Sunday. Let me run get my Compasses to see what went on.
OK, back....day two, we were at sea. My sister, my aunt, my cousin Katie, & myself all took the Power Abs class at 9AM, & I continued on with the Combat in Motion class at 9:30AM. It was a tough class, & seemed to go on forever, but it was challenging & fun, & the instructor (Heidi) was great (we repeated the same ab work though, & my abs were sore for the entire week of the cruise). We had a bite to eat at the Windjammer, & then I attended the Anti-Aging seminar & the Anticellulite seminar. I learned that the Europeans cover anticellulite treatments as a medical condition. They consider cellulite to be toxic, & harmful to your health. Americans just consider it to be a beauty, superficial condition (I agree with the Europeans). I went to Afternoon Bingo at 3:15PM. LOSER! My sister & I then went down to the Excursion desk to see what excursions we could take. Some were already sold out. Dwayne walks up behind the counter, & I yelled out his name. He walked up to the counter, & I was waving, so he started waving back, but it was obvious he was just being polite & didn't recognize me (it HAD been 2 years!). So I keep smiling & waving (he was also used to seeing me with Goldilocks curls & not French braids), & finally he recognizes me & he freaks out! He was so surprised & happy to see me. He asked me what I was doing there, if I was just cruising or what. I introduced my sister, & we talked to him for a while, getting some good advice about excursions, & catching up a bit. I got his new email address. At 8PM, we went to the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail party. This was our first of two formal nights, so I donned the formal dress my friend, Erin, lent me. It was red & very elegant, & gave me nice cleavage. I took my hair out of the French braids, & had the long wavy, Princess Bride-ish hair I desired. I actually put some make-up on (rare for me, other than lipstick). I went up to a waiter to get some punch, & all I said was "Can I have---" & he handed me the non-alcoholic punch. That's what I was getting anyway, but it's funny that he would assume I am too young to drink. On the ship's, they always seem to think I am younger than anywhere else. Kathy said that Franco was there looking mighty handsome in a suit, & that she had already said hi to him & told him she would bring me over. I walked up & when he turned around, his jaw literally almost dropped to the floor. He said his trademark "Hello!" (I can't describe the way he says it in writing, but it's very funny), & was truly quite stunned at how I looked, it was obvious in his face & body language. My grandmother was picking on my about something (she does it so often, I forget what she picks on me about sometimes), & Franco said to her, (jokingly) "Hey, leave her alone, she's gorgeous!" It definitely seemed to me that there was some mutual attraction going on, but when it comes to men, I mistrust my gut feelings. We also talked to Kyle, the cruise director, to politely complain that there was no talent show on this cruise. I had pestered my friends for weeks about what I should sing, bought sheet music, rehearsed....just to find out that there was no talent show, because Kyle said that people in the Mediterranean didn't care for them, & he was "tired of being embarrassed & getting complaints" about them. So basically it came down to his ego. I found him rude, arrogant, unfunny, & an idiot very poor at scheduling (for instance, scheduling karaoke at 10PM when he knows second seating guests are still eating....slightly unfair). All of us complained about him at the end of the ship, not one of us liked him at all. At 8:45, we had dinner at 8:45PM. Dinner always takes so long on ships, mainly because there are 3 courses. My sister & I went then to the Battle of the Sexes game (which was lame & the men totally cheated). Then we had the show at 11PM ( a ridiculous time to start a show), & it was a lady named Judy Kolba, who was very funny. We laughed at a lot of her jokes. After that, we then went to 70's disco night. It was packed, & I didn't like being in there, cause people smoke in there. Gross. I have gotten spoiled in California.
We stayed there briefly, danced a little, & went upstairs to the second level. People were smoking up there, even though the tables had "no smoking" signs on them. Go figure. Franco offered to buy me a drink, so I got a virgin pina colada, but told him we couldn't stay long because the smoke was bothering me. At which time I found out that he smoked, too. Sheesh. The first crush I have had in a while, & he smokes, which I detest. <
Monday comes along, & our port is Katakolon, Greece. My cousin Katie (who's 17 & practically 6 feet tall) wanted to go to the beach with me, while my cousin Neill (who's 13), uncle Bobby, & sister went to the ruins of Olympia (I have no interest in historical places, & neither does Katie nor my other cousin Robert, who's 16). So we wake up, have some breakfast, go to Bingo at 10:15AM, & then we arrive in Katakolon at 11AM. We had to take a tender over to the island. We shared a taxi to the beach, & then they went on to Olympia. The beach was pretty nice, the water felt good, but Katie kept asking me every 10 minutes if we could leave. I guess she was unimpressed & bored. I was surprised cause when you look down off the ship, there were THOUSANDS of HUGE Man-of-War jellyfish! I have never seen jellyfish so huge, or so many. I was scared there'd be some at the beach, but there didn't appear to be. I tried to take a picture of them, but it was hard to do so in a moving tender. So after I laid out for a bit, I indulged my cousin, & we called for a taxi back to the pier. One Greek guy working that that beach resort was nice, the others were standoffish. I don't know if that is typical Greek behavior, or if they are just annoyed with Americans or tourists in general. We waited a while, then the taxi arrived, & we took a tender back to the boat. I then went to lay out by the pool. I didn't stay too long, because (1) I get exceptionally bored laying out, (2) I don't tan, I burn if anything, the sun is not my friend, God meant me to be pale, & (3) there were people smoking, & that was bugging me. We attended the Repeaters' Party, for those returning passengers in the Royal Crown & Anchor Society Club. I wore my fancy, sassy Hollywood shoes, & they were quite the talk of everyone, as they always are. We then went to dinner, & then to the show at 11PM. It was called "Starstruck," & it was actually really good. That was surprising, since the shows were God-awful last year. Dwayne was adorable, of course. Before the show, Franco had come in with Scott, the assistant cruise director, & had grabbed me for the Toga demonstration. Tonight was a Toga party, & they were going to demonstrate how to put the sheets on (they would supply the sheets at the party). Franco decided to use me, in fact, came in looking for me, & yanked me onstage. The big band for the show was down in the pit, & they kept flirting with me, saying, "Hi, Cassie!!" & waving & smiling. Franco demonstrated two different ways to tie the sheet, & had me "walk the catwalk" to show them off. So since I already had my Toga on, I kept it on & we went to the Toga party. Some man wanted to take a picture of my shoes. We played a game (I lost), & learned a silly Toga line dance, & left. Just before I left, I whispered in Franco's ear, "I decided it's a good thing you smoke, cause if you didn't, I would probably jump your bones." And he was like, "Noooooo. You make me feel good." He kissed us all goodnight (me, my sister, & Katie), & off to bed we went. Fart machine fun continued. :-)
Day four, Tuesday, was in Santorini, Greece. This place is gorgeous, & I'd definitely return someday. We had an excursion at 3PM, for the Volcano Hot Springs Tour. Our tickets warned us that we'd have to be able to swim 50-100 yards to the springs, & Dwayne had warned us that it would be cold water until we reached the springs, & he told us to wear tennis shoes, cause hiking would be done (but the ticket didn't warn of that, inexplicably). We'd be arriving at 11AM, so Kathy & I took the Pathway to Yoga class at 9:30AM, & then the Combat in Motion class at 10:30AM. I then went to sit out by the pool for a little while, since we had until 3PM for our excursion. I proceeded to get into a fight with some woman over smoking. The day before, I had told some guys that they were about to light up on the non-smoking side of the pool deck, & since I was so polite about it (I am not rude to people, because I know it's a sensitive subject), they were equally polite, & got up to move....one even said, "Hey, if I wasn't a smoker, I wouldn't want to be around it, either....I don't blame you.") This woman was a rude CUNT, & I reserve that word for only the worst of women. I went up & very politely told her that she was smoking on the non-smoking side. The smoking side was practically empty, since most people were off the ship, & only a mere 50 feet across the pool. She gets attitude immediately & said, "And where are you sitting?" I pointed to where I was sitting, & again politely explained that there were smoking & non-smoking sides, & she was on the wrong one. She said, "Did you tell those people over there to put their cigarettes out?" I said, "I most certainly did, but they don't speak any English." (5 minutes later, these Italian people put their cigarettes out & apologized to me.) She said something snippy, & I said, "Fine, I will go get an employee to tell you the exact same thing." She says, "You don't need to get an attitude." I said, "Lady, I didn't get an attitude until you gave me one, I asked you very nicely in the beginning to put your cigarette out." She says, "And I am telling you I honestly didn't know," but continues to give me attitude. My grandmother, standing nearby, turned around to see if I was making new "friends," & I explained to her that this woman was smoking on the wrong side & needed to move or put it out. The grandmother sighs & the woman says to her, "Are you with HER?" And my grandmother says, "No!" I couldn't believe it! The traitor then says, "She shouldn't have said that to you," to which the woman says, "No, she shouldn't have." My grandmother proceeds to try to explain that I have asthma (I don't anymore, but I am still allergic to smoke, it gives me an awful headache & makes me nauseus). She then stands there & talks to these assholes (this woman had some people with her) for about 20 minutes, essentially telling them my life story, & befriending someone who was so rude & mean to me, & basically making this woman feel powerful, getting someone's own grandmother to side with her over the lady's granddaughter. I was SO pissed, I cannot even describe what I felt. My uncle came over to me (I had gone back to my chair), & I said, "She just made me so mad, I want to kill her." He asked me why, but I was so upset, I literally couldn't speak without crying. Then my sister comes over, & the same thing....I couldn't speak. So finally my grandmother starts to walk over, & I jumped up to leave, cause I had no desire to get into a fight by the pool, & frankly, didn't even want to see her at the moment. I snuck around back outside, on the top deck, to sit alone. I eventually went over & got my sister's attention, & beckoned for her to come upstairs with me. She said that lady had been staring at HER, & had had a waiter bring her an ashtray....so this cunt's excuse was that she honestly didn't know, yet now that she DID know, she was STILL going to smoke on the wrong side. That's the exact kind of asshole smoker I can't stand. And it made me mad at the ship, because while I do have the RIGHT to enforce a rule such as this, it's the ship's place to do so. But they obviously didn't give a crap. People were constantly smoking on the wrong side, & waiter after waiter, ship officer after ship officer would pass by, no one would say a word. Heck, the waiter even brought her the ashtray! Everyone is so afraid of pissing off a potention future customer, they won't enforce their own rules! Why bother to have rules at all if you are NOT going to enforce them??? That's just silly. One officer told me (about the kids in the jacuzzis), "We make them get out, turn our backs, & they are right back in. There is nothing we can do." Well, you are right, idiot, there is nothing you can do as long as you continue letting them get away with it. Dwayne later told me there is supposed to be someone walking around in a shirt that says "Pool enforcement," but I never saw such a person, ever, & never once saw any of the rules enforced, which really pissed me off (kids in the jacuzzi, smokers on the non-smoking side, kids in the pool without adult supervision, running around the pool, balls in the pool....all of which were against the rules). My sister told me I should be that upset, cause I know that is my grandmother's way, & since she always does whatever she wants, she doesn't understand the concept of following or enforcing rules, & I should know better than to get that upset over something she does. Also, she pointed out that if I choose to be my own smoking enforcer, I am not going to make too many friends. Whatever....I sure wouldn't want to be friends with such inconsiderate assholes anyway!
So, I go to take a shower & put on a clean bathing suit for our tour. We go to get our cousins, Robert & Neill, who are going with us, & Robert informs us that our Bobby was supposed to give us their tickets for "safekeeping"....but Bobby left the ship earlier & forgot to give us the tickets, & they were in his room somewhere. Great. So we send the boys down to the purser's desk to see what they need to do. We meet up with them in the theatre (where the tour is meeting), & everything is okay. They have their names on the list. I sit down next to Franco & tell him I had a bad day, that my grandmother hurt my feelings. He put his arm around me & said he was sorry she did that, & I could talk about it if I wanted. I really didn't want to mention it to him, since he smokes. So I just said it wasn't worth discussing. So we head off for our tender, & Franco takes us down through the employee quarters, & along the way, points out his room to me. ;-� We get to the end of the hall, & he hands me the #40 sign to hold, & gives me a big hug & nuzzles my neck. Well, my neck is my sensitive zone, so I say, "Hey, don't tease me." And he says, "I'm not teasing." Off we go to the volcano. We took a chartered boat over to the volcano, & then were led 5 miles (felt like it) up a steep mountain of lava rocks. This was after 2 exercise classes. Some people (who had not gotten the warning from Dwayne, who had done the tour) were wearing sandals, some even with heels! They had to be hating life. My sister kept yelling out, "Donkey! Where's my donkey? I have my coupon for the donkey!" We had coupons to ride the donkeys up the big hill in Santorini (it's a shitload of steps, otherwise, or a scary looking cable car). No donkeys at the volcano, though. My sister spotted a Stingray....no, not the fishy kind, but a member of the onboard pool band, Stingray. Gary, the bassist, was there, & my sister found him pretty hot (he was cute & sexy). Anyway, we finally, exhausted, made it up to the top of the volcano (the last time it had blown was in the 50's), & the view was pretty damn amazing. I got a lot of good pics up there. Then the tour guide tells us, "Okay, see you back at the boat," but doesn't tell us how to get back...and there are tons of different trails. So the four of us set off by ourselves, & after taking some wrong trails, finally made it back to the boat. Once everyone was on, we were off to the hot springs. The water you have to jump into first was pretty damn cold. You know it's cold when the people scream as they jump into it. We swim some ways to the springs, which weren't "hot," merely "warm" (Dwayne had said that, too). It was all mud, & everyone smeared some on. My sister did a full face mask, but since I found it a bit too sulfer smelling, I only put on some warstripes. I kept calling different people by funny names, since I couldn't remember or didn't know their names. There was a guy from the excursion desk there, & I said, "Hi, Excursion Man!" A man from Scotland who had had breakfast with us the day before swam by, & I said, "Hi, Scottish Man!" We dubbed some fat kid "Smelly Butt Boy," because every time he stood up on the charter boat, we almost passed out from the smell coming from his butt crack. It was gross, & he was way overweight for his age. I equate letting your young child being fat with child abuse. Technically, unless it's a legitimate medical condition, no one should be overweight until they hit adulthood & their metabolism slows down! Anyway, the tour guide was "Tour Guide Girl," etc. That became a running joke, too. After a while, we swam back to the boat, going back through the cold water (which really wasn't all that bad), & headed to Santorini. No one wanted to take the donkeys but me, but I had strict instructions to get pictures of Robert & Neill on the donkeys, & I thought it would be fun. I sure as Hell wasn't going to walk up all the stairs, & the cable car up looked truly scary, & people were commenting that it was.
So I won, & we took the donkeys. Kathy got on first, & they just sent her off without us, her screaming. They took one look at me & put me on what looked like a baby pony, cause he was smaller than the others. I actually felt very badly for the donkeys....what if you had a really heavy person 150 pounds+ on your back & had to go up & down those damn stairs all day long? I know they are called "beasts of burden" for a reason, but I still felt bad about it, & tried to talk to & pet my donkey all the way up, & the others as they'd pass. I caught up to my sister, & Robert & Neill caught up (all passing me, actually), & we were on our own, which was odd. At one point, the donkeys just stopped (don't blame them), & we weren't sure how to get them going again. If one stops, they all stop. So one finally started again, & the others started back again, too. Kathy poses her intellectual query of the day..."Why is it 'donkey' & not 'mahnkey' (for monkey), or 'monkey' & "donekey' (for donkey)?" It's a lot funnier, when you hear it, but it had us in giggles, & THAT also became a running joke, & still makes me laugh even now. Eventually a donkey ride employee came up behind us with his whip, yelling whatever means, "Giddyup" in Greek I guess, & the donkeys took off. Occasionally, they'd have a burst of energy that could be a bit frightening....the hill was very steep. Sometimes, the donkeys would slip, & that was scary, too. They'd also try to pass each other, & that, too, was scary. We made it safely to the top, & almost right away, some good looking Greek man asked us to eat at his restaurant. We were kinda hungry, & they had pizza, & we wanted to rest, so we ate there. They put us at a table on a high balcony, with an amazing view. We had pizza, saganaki (YUM!), & cheese pies.....as a massive cheese lover, & was a happy girl! After we ate, we went down to a cool store that sold lots of jewelry. My sister got a ring & some things for friends. While she & Neill went looking for the Blue Dome (which apparently, has now been painted white, but it's still blue on all the souvenirs), I shopped & got some really gorgeous jewelry. Robert stayed with me & was bored to tears. Thanks to my friend, Amanda, who lent me some money for my trip, I was able to get some truly beautiful stuff. It's tricky to convert the money without a calculator. It was 400 Greek Drachmas to one US dollar (I think).....over a certain amount & it gets confusing. Most places took US money, but you could get some Drachma at the banks or on the ship if you really wanted to (I chose not to). Suddenly, we realized that we were really pushing it making it to the last tender, which was at 8:30PM. It was now about 8PM. My sister tried to blame it on me, but I was only in the shop about 5, 10 minutes MAX, beyond the time they came back from hunting for the Blue Dome. Anyway, we realize we have to haul ass up MORE steep stairs to get to the cable car (the donkeys would have taken too long & were SCARY going down hill), so we take up at a brisk pace....but I kid you not, my sister & I honestly weren't sure we'd make it. Our calf muscles were BURNING with pain & resistance, we had just overdone it for one day. I was literally having to fight with all my will to make it, & Kathy was practically having to physically pick her legs up to make it up the stairs. We finally make it up, & there's a line to get on the cable car, so we are freaking out. We did make it on, & had about 10 minutes to spare once we got down to the tender! We get out of the cable car (it was scary, it's so steep), & my sister hits her head on the way out. She's a clutz. A 6 foot tall man got out before her & didn't hit his head, & she's only 5'3. So we are all laughing our asses off, & run to the tender. We just made it, although there ended up being one last tender after us. I cannot imagine what you'd do & how you'd feel if you missed the last tender (of missed the boat when on land). Franco says it happens ALL the time, & you just have to catch up. How awful would you feel? So we just felt relieved & happy to be on the tender. We made it back just in time for a VERY quick shower, & made it to dinner a little late. Our family was freaking out, thinking we were going to miss the last tender. They sure were glad to see us. We shared our funny, funny experience & memories with the rest of the family at dinner, & had everyone laughing. They told us they only had two funny moments to compare. One was when they were getting on the tender, the employee told my grandmother to "Please hold the railing, m'am." They said she marched right back downstairs (can you march down stairs?) & said, "Whaling trip? I'm not going on any whaling trip!" She mistook "railing" for "whaling" & thought she had gotten on an excursion boat. Also, they said it turns out that my grandmother's balcony is right above where the captain brings up the anchor. He was busy trying to get it up so the boat can leave, & my grandmother is calling out "Captain! Oh, captain! Captain!" & waving like a nut. Santorini was the greatest, I took a lot of great, fun memories from that day, & enjoyed spending it with my two male cousins. We just had so much fun. We chose to skip the Headliner show that evening, which was just some intrumentalist named Naki Ataman. It just didn't interest me. Instead, we went to Country Western Night (again, scheduled during the 2nd seating's showtime, great planning on Kyle's behalf). I refuse to line dance to country tunes, so I just sat & watched my sister & Katie do it. Franco was leading it, & was super sexy in his tight jeans (nice bum!) & cowboy hat & boots. Yum. I am sure we probably went briefly to the disco, but we were pretty damn exhausted, so if we did, we didn't stay long. You can bet we slept soundly.
Day five (Wednesday) was in "Who's-Your-Daddy", Turkey. It's actually Kusadasi, but Franco started calling it "Who's Your Daddy" & it stuck with us. We arrived here at 8AM, & my uncle wanted us to take a family trip (trip with the "Fam," as we call us) to Ephesus together, & he wanted us to get any early start, so we could do some shopping in the marketplace (known for great deals). My aunt & uncle wanted to get some carpets. So we had a little breakfast, & left the ship early. Franco was at the end of our disembarkment ramp, so he walked with us to the end of the pier. I asked him if he wanted to eat dinner with us at our table Thursday night, as I had asked Dwayne, too (they are friends), & also asked him if he wanted to hang out with The Fam during the day (I knew crew had some time off Thursday). He said he wasn't sure of his schedule, but that he'd love to if he could, both to hang out during the day AND to have dinner with us. My aunt asked him where she could get a good carpet, & he said, "Any place that sells carpets. You probably don't want to go into someone's house & take theirs." Typical smartass Franco answer. I caressed his leg briefly, & he commented that now he had to wear his fanny pack in front. ;-�
The Fam went on the Ephesus. We had a very cool taxi driver who told us to call him "Maamaa," cause his name was hard to pronounce. He was pointing out various things along the way, including the cool looking, Apaland, their water park. So we went to Ephesus, & the Captain was there. We paid to get in, & paid to have a guide.
It was pretty neat, but again, I am not too into ruins & history. It was pretty cool seeing their old latrines (I took a picture) & the old 25,000 seat outdoor theatre, where Sting had recently played. My sister got pissed, because after paying to get in, they charged for the toilets at the end (only $0.50, but still). I bought a book of Ephesus postcards for $1.00, & bought some cool hat-like things for $3 each. You are supposed to bargain with them, but I don't care to do that if I think the price is reasonable anyway. So then we go on the the marketplace & split up. My aunt, uncle, & grandmother went to look for carpets. Robert & Neill went back to the ship to eat (growing boys, you know), & Katie, Kathy, & myself went shopping in the main marketplace. The Turkish men are VERY aggressive, & don't like to take "no" for an answer. I think I got at LEAST 5 marriage proposals (I don't think they see many blue eyed blondes). One man grabbed me & asked me if I was married. When I said no, he says, "Let me introduce you to my son, he's very handsome." The other men outright asked me to marry them, themselves. One said American men were "blind" to not have snatched me up already. I bought a really cool good-luck charm in the shape of a star, some lemon hand sanitizer & body spray, a laser pointer (strange purchase in a foreign country, but I need a new one----cat toy----and it was cheaper than in the states), some film, some Turkish slippers (not very comfortable, complete with pointy toes & a little ball on the end), 2 Turkish hats, & got gypped on some perfume. I say "gypped" because while I THOUGHT I was getting amazing deals, I actually got screwed. Today, I opened the boxes/bottles, & discovered that while the boxes look legit & the bottles are designed the same, it's basically water with a little bit of scent. I don't smell any alcohol in these perfumes (alcohol is a major ingredient in perfume), & it runs down your skin like water would. One of them, Calvin Klein Extreme (which I had never heard of, which isn't unusual, cause Europe sells TONS of perfumes that I NEVER see in America, damnit!), doesn't even really have a scent at all! You spray it on, & it's like a water spritzer! Sneaky little Turkish people! The Calvin Klein Kiss I got smells really good actually, but fades very quickly (a result of no alcohol, I think). I got a Laura Biagiotti (think that's spelled wrong), Sotto Voce, that smells decent, but again seems to fade quickly. And I got Hugo Boss' new Boss for Women....same thing...very faint scent & it fades fast. Although I probably spent very little on all 4, I still am extremely irritated over getting screwed. They act all hauty when you try to bargain with them, when they know full well they are screwing you. Hmph. That's just not right, but I naive to think it doesn't happen (although I got shitloads of perfume last year in the Caribbean, & it was all legit...but then it wasn't from a marketplace, either.) They are pretty good scam artists, cause like I said, the boxes were legit looking, even had the plastic wrap around them, & even the bottles had the same basic design (but with MUCH cheaper materials). My main disappointment stems from the fact that I thought I had 3-4 great new perfumes (I didn't know what they would smell like, actually, but was excited to discover new scents, & so cheap), & got zero instead.....or maybe one, if you count the decent Kiss & Sotto Voce. But the Extreme & Boss, I might as well throw away. I need to check to see if these Calvin Klein fragrances even really exist, since I had never heard of them (again, that wouldn't be that surprising, since I found tons of perfumes I had never heard of in the States). My sister lent me money to get this stuff, so I still have to pay her back for stuff that was worthless. Sheesh. Live & learn, huh? I also got 2 absolutely gorgeous silk scarves. One is a beautiful turqoise, pink, & purple, & the other is a gorgeous tie tye look. They are big enough to wear as sarongs. That was probably my best buy. I saw some cool jewelry, but just didn't have the money, & had gotten all that gorgeous jewelry in Santorini, anyway. We headed back to the boat, & Maamaa got my attention & said "goodbye." I think I made a good impression on him, cause I don't know how many Americans are actually as friendly as I am. I think I give America a good name....compared to some of the people I saw & the way they behaved (not rude, just not friendly, either). I actually really enjoyed Kusadasi. It was my second fave, city/country-wise, next to Santorini.
Back on the ship, Kathy & I ordered room service, since the Windjammer was closed, & took a nap. I got up & went to 5:30PM Bingo. We attended dinner, & then went to the show, "The Beat Goes On." I felt badly for Dwayne, cause he had said how they gave him tenor parts to sing, & he's a baritone. That's hard on a singer, to give them parts out of their range. It makes them look like they aren't that great when they actually may be. I could tell he was really straining. It turns out he was straining even more than usual, because on Tuesday, he acquired a cold & was losing his voice. The show was good, but not quite as good as "Starstruck." After the show, we went to Grandeur Mania, which was the same as Monarch Mania that we played on last summer's cruise. It is such a fun game. Last year, it was me, my sister, my aunt, & we teamed up with 2 guys to play with us (you need males & females). This year, it was me, my sister, my uncle (who I see as a bit conservative & stiff), Katie, & Robert. They bill it as "adult humor." I had to show my tattoo (fake one, of course), my appendectomy scar, Bobby went up to do the moonwalk, Bobby & Robert had to run up holding hands & skipping. Bobby had to run up carrying 2 bras not being worn. I had to run up carrying two pairs of mens pants not being worn. It was all those kinds of things, & I thought we were going to win, we did so well (everyone was cheering for our team, cause we were having so much fun), but we didn't. We did win lovely (crap) Royal Caribbean key chains on the appendectomy one. I was almost the only one with one, & I was the first one up (they asked for it last year, so I was ready). I have never laughed so hard at seeing my uncle run, excitedly, up to moonwalk & skip around holding hands with my cousin! It was hysterical, & a side to him I have never seen. After that, we stayed for the 50's & 60's Sock Hop. My sister & I competed against others during the hula hoop contest, & slammed the competition. I guess we were both born with talented hips. ;-� Finally, when it became obvious that both of us could go for days (it came down to just us two), they made it harder by giving us two hula hoops each, & being extremely short waisted, I really can't rotate more than one at once, so I lost to my sister. They then held a contest for just men (that was just women), & she had to compete against the winner of that. She won. She then had to hula hoop like 18-22 of them at once, & I never could have done that. She did it, though, so she won a 50's & 60's t-shirt, a royal crown, a medal, & a menagerie of Royal Caribbean crap. Afterwards, we sat around & talked to the Stingrays for a while. Gary turned out to be not so intelligent (looks aren't everything), & Rob smoked....but Bruce, the guitar player was very cute & sexy & smart. He asked me if our cousin ever got a word in edgewise with us around, & I said that she was shy (she is) & was taking notes, anyway. He asked what she was taking notes on, & I said, "flirting." He said, "Well, she certainly has good teachers." My sister was quickly developing a huge crush on Bruce. I went up to the disco to see if Franco was still going to hang out with us. He said he was. Later, when I was back at the South Pacific with Stingray & my sister (Katie had gone to bed), Franco came in & told me that the staff had a drill at 10AM, so he couldn't leave until around 10:30 or 11. My family was leaving at 10AM for the Acropolis. I told him that we could go off by ourselves then, since he was looking forward to it, & I went off by myself with Anis (last year's cruise fling, our assistant waiter) last summer. He said he'd call me when the drill was over. I told him not to forget, cause if he dogged me, I would be left alone to see Athens, & I wouldn't be happy about that.
Day six (Thursday) was in Piraeus/Athens. My grandmother was not thrilled that I wasn't going with them. She gave me $20 & said I "HAD" to see the Acropolis, & this was money for the taxi to it, but that if I didn't go to the Acropolis, I had to give the money back. <
Staff members kept telling me I looked like a Princess, cause I had part of my hair in a bun, part of it down in spiral curls, surrounding a tiara. Dwayne had left a note saying he was terribly sorry, but he couldn't make it to dinner. He had gotten a cold, had lost his voice, & the ship's doctor told him he couldn't speak for 24 hours. :-( Franco shows up for dinner, looking extremely handsome in his suit. He said, "You weren't kidding, you really do look pretty as a princess." :-) He proceeded to charm the pants off my grandmother. Robert counted how many times Franco said, "Hello" at dinner, & I think it ended up being something like 53. It IS what he's known for. Franco was by far the most popular cruise staff member. Everyone loved him, ESPECIALLY the ladies. Every time I entered the disco, it was Franco surrounded by numerous pretty women. (He also, for the record, drinks way too much.....you may ask why I would hook up with a guy who drinks & smokes when I wouldn't normally.....my attraction to him was strong enough to overlook it for a week....if it was anything more serious, I wouldn't tolerate it). Dinner was fun with Franco there, & the photographer got a nice picture of us together (along with family photos, too). At midnight, we went to watch the "Ship-n-Dale Dancers" in the disco, which ended up being Franco, Rob & Gary from Stingray, & Scott (assistant cruise director). The stripped down to their Royal Caribbean boxers. When they invited the women to join them on the dance floor, of course, all the women flocked to Franco. It was hard for me to watch, cuase I am kinda the jealous type. I just kept trying to remind myself that he spent his only free day with me, not with any of them. It's his job to be charming. I hung out with him for a while, & he dragged me to the piano to sing with him (he also plays piano very well, in addition to speaking 3 languages fluently, English, Italian, & French). But he had had too much to drink (to my disappointment.....I don't know how he can party that much every night & get up early every morning to work, it'd kill me), & couldn't remember much. He was mad at himself, cause he wanted us to sing together. Oh well....no one poured those drinks down his throat, did they? I never sympathize when someone drinks too much. Anyway, a little bummed, I went back to the room & went to sleep.
Day seven, Friday, we were at sea. I wanted to go to the last Combat in Motion class, but didn't get up early enough (even though we gained an hour). Heidi told me I could come & get my Shipshape dollars, & that I had earned enough to get a Shipshape t-shirt. Woo-hoo! :-) I went to breakfast with my sister. Then I went to morning Bingo, at 11AM. Lost, as usual. I was like, one number away almost every game! Sheesh! I went to buy some cruise pictures (I have 5 rolls to develop, but I bought some cruise ones). Then I went to lay out by the pool. I tried to find a place where I didn't see smokers! :-) Kathy came up & laid out with me for a while. I got a little bit of a tan, but again, I am just meant to be White/pale. Sometimes I will be out a short time & certain parts of me will fry, & other times I will lay out with only 4 SPF on & STILL not get a tan! Go figure! But I am probably better off that way! Less wrinkles for me (the night before, we went to the disco again, & while they didn't give a second glance to my 17 year old cousin, they asked me if I was under 18, & when I said I wasn't, they asked me to state how old I was....sheesh). Then I went to the final Bingo session at 4PM, where they were going to be giving away the jackpot that had never been won, over $5000. Boy, how I could have used that money. I even dreamed that I won it....but alas, of course, I didn't. That would have made my life too easy. <
I don't know what I expected of a cruise fling, but it seemed a bit disappointing. I had hoped for a slightly more tender & sad goodbye, like he was bummed to see me go, but I didn't get that at all. So that left me quite confused. I had so many emotions swirling in my head. Excitement (to go home), sadness (to leave), confusion (over Franco), anxiety (over the looooong day of flying), stress, etc....
I ended up talking with Bruce & my sister for a while, & then when she kept hinting for me to leave & leave her alone with him, I went to bed a mess of conflicting emotions. Kathy came in around 4AM & had a great night talking to Bruce, & was just enamored with him. Apparently, they share a lot of the same views, & he is smart, & funny.
6AM came too quickly, & we woke up to get ready to leave. I took a quick shower, then had to run down to get a guest satisfaction survey, since they forgot to leave us one in our room (I had given Aziz, Domanciano, & Apolo $5 each in the envelopes they left us for them, with notes saying I wish it could be more.....even though my grandmother paid them more than enough for all of us). I dashed to eat some breakfast, & ripped the ship apart between bites. I said that Franco was great, Scott was good, I liked Chantal, Raymond, & Robert (other cruise staff), Heidi (fitness instructor), but that Kyle was AWFUL. Said that Dwayne & a few others in the show were great. The food was pretty lame, the ship should be ashamed at not enforcing it's own rules, Carlos was great, the Captain was great, Katakolon could have been left off the iteniary, etc. I plan to write them a much longer letter, soon.
We were leaving the ship at 7AM, & I made it to my room at 7:10, & with the exception of my sister, my family had left me. Bobby said, "She can catch up." If I had had to ride the bus to Rome by myself, I would have been seriously irritated. My sister waited for me, & since the rest of them thought we had to go to the South Pacific lounge, when really we had to go to the first floor, Kathy & I actually had our luggage & were on the bus before the rest of the family made it out! We met up at the airport, & I said, "Thanks for waiting for me," to which my uncle replied, "Thanks for making us worry." Making them worry? They would not have worried if they would have waited 10 freaking minutes. I got 3 yummy perfumes in the Duty Free shop in Rome....this time they were legit! Belle Nuit by Nina Ricci, RochasMen by Rochas, & Les Belles or something like that, by Azzaro. They smell really good. There was at least 2 others I would have liked to get. I still don't understand why they have all these perfumes in Europe that they don't have in the states! That irks me! Anyway, we board the plane, & Kathy & I managed to sit together. Originally, our seats were separate. Our family had 6 seats together, & then I was somewhere by myself, & Kathy was somewhere by herself. That would have SUCKED so bad. I had some jackass Italian man behind me who took off his shoe & stuck his sweaty socked foot on my armrest, against my arm, almost the entire 9 hours. That is soooo disgusting, I just can't even imagine doing it to someone. How rude! And then when I went to lean my seat back, he shoved against it so hard, it snapped back into upright position, as if he was saying I couldn't lean my seat back (like they go that far back, anyway!). I went to lean it back again, & he tried to shove it back up again, until I stood up & gave him "The Look." He started yelling in Italian, but I didn't give a crap. I had truly had enough of Italians, & rude Europeans in general. The Italians at the airport....none of them smiled, none were friendly, I just couldn't figure out what their problem was, but I have no desire to return any time soon. The plane ride was soooooo long, it just seemed to go forever. I think we saw 3 movies, & then some. I might have slept a little bit. Finally, we arrived in Detroit, & everyone had about a 2 hour layover, except for my sister, who had about 4 hours. Once we got through customs & re-checked our baggage, I really didn't have that long. My grandmother & Bobby, Sara, & the kids went off one way, without saying goodbye (I think they thought we'd meet up somewhere), & we never saw them again, except for my grandmother, who got some guy on a cart to drive her to my gate to say goodbye.
I boarded my plane to LA, & this flight, while shorter at 4 hours, was even worse. I was in my personal HELL, in a row with 6 screaming kids. Well, to be fair, only 4 of them screamed. <