Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quito & the Galapagos

We arrived in this big city in Ecuador on Jan 15, Jackie’s birthday. I would love to be able to say that I made Jackie’s birthday a great day, but in reality, I made it crap. Apparently, even though I had left Bogota, it had not left me, but it proceeded to do so that day in all directions. It was bad enough that they called the doctor for me to administer injections. Sorry Jackie!

Whilst the doctor was there, Jackie had some questions for him about how to get rid of the chronic hives she had been experiencing over the last week. He had an injection for her too. But when she looked it up online and it said “17% chance of respiratory arrest” and “8% chance of death” she opted to decline his kind offer!

The next day we booked a 5 day cruise in the Galapagos at great last minute rates. The guy had had a charter that was cancelled so he cut his prices in half.

So we joined the 5 day cruise, which we shared with 4 other couples (not that we were a couple!).  It ruly was an amazing experience -we saw some great wildlife -penguins, lizards, pelicans, turtles, tortoises, stingrays, fish and my favourite - seals and sea lions! 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bogota - the good and the bad

We arrived in Bogota on January 12th. We had pre-booked a private room at a hostel in an area that had been recommended to me by someone back in Australia. It was in the area called La Candelaria, which was a section of the old city. Having been warned by our American dining friend in Cartagena that we should be careful in Bogota, we went out that afternoon without our usual appendages of cameras and handbags, only the minimum. As we had arrived from the very hot city of Cartagena, we were still wearing our shorts.

Now, Bogota is actually situated at a high elevation and everyone we talked to about Bogota before our arrival would say “mucho frio” (very cold). It was a bit chilly, admittedly, but we were still able to bear the cold with our attire, or lack thereof. Which is why it was rather surprising the amount of looks we drew . It got to the point where we were uncomfortable with the amount of attention we were drawing! It was like these people had never seen bare legs!!

When we returned to our room, my Aussie radar was acting up again, having heard some Accents nearby. I walked out of my room to see 3 Aussie guys checking into their room. I said, “I hear Aussies”, they turned around and we exchanged the usual “Where are you from” conversation. One said he was from Toorak, I said “Hawthorn and Caulfield”. He said “where in Hawthorn?” (I started to suspect where this was heading) I said “off Tooronga Rd”. He said, “I went to school in Tooronga Rd.” I guessed at Bialik and told them I went there for a few years. They were a bit stunned, as was I, to find, a half way around the world, some guys from the “community” and then I discovered later through the wonders of facebook that they were friends with my cousins.

That night, Jackie and I set out to find a place to have dinner nearby. We walked, and walked, and were amazed by the amount of places that had been open during the day but were closed now, especially when you would think they would want the dinner trade. We finally stumbled on a falafel place, with jewish art on its walls. The Israeli owner explained that we had just missed our Australian friends, who had moved on to the Israeli hostel up the street.

Now, I must say, this concept of an Israeli hostel is new to me. I have known of soon-to-be-demolished houses and apartment buildings in Australia that are rented out by room to Israelis until their demolishment, but apparently, there are Israeli hostels all around the world, just for Israeli travellers. But this hostel seemed just a little bit different. It was entirely occupied by Israeli men, with the few female exceptions being Colombian “girlfriends”. Israeli women aren’t even allowed to stay there. And there were certain rooms that I passed that were entirely devoted to the white stuff. That, coupled with the unbearable smokey atmosphere meant we didn’t stick around too long.

But those things weren’t the most disturbing things that we learnt at this hostel. One of the guys that had been in Colombia for a long time was telling us that the area we were in was extremely dangerous and there is practically 100% chance of us being mugged. At night, even the locals won’t venture out here (hence the reason most restaurants are shut) and the only people that are stupid enough to be out are the gringos and their would-be muggers. Women should not walk around here on their own, and only take taxis that have been called ahead of time. So we waited for our taxi and went home!

The next day we went up the mountain in a cable car to an old monastery called Montserrat. Very pretty. Great view of Bogota below. And we went to a museum for that artist that paints everyone as very fat. I forgot his name. So cultured aren’t I?

But that afternoon, after experiencing yet again the freezing cold of our room, the literal lack of available water in the taps and the fact that we felt like prisoners in our hotel after dark, we decided to move hotels to a much safer area in the north, called Zona Rosa. When we got there, it was so far from what we had experienced in La Candelaria that we felt like we were in an entirely different city. It was bustling with boutiques, shopping centres, restaurants and bars, similar to Surfers Paradise. We were able to exhale here. And we felt safe walking around at night.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sailing away...

On December 25, I flew into San Juan in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t really a destination I had planned on, but rather a stopover on my way from Costa Rica to the British Virgin Islands. In fact, from what I had heard of Puerto Rico, it was a destination that one should skip. But after arriving in San Juan, I was actually surprised to find that I really liked it. I was staying in the old city and I found it to be really quaint and beautiful. The architecture was colonial and in the tradition of many Caribbean islands, very colorful.

I had arranged to meet up with another person who was going to be on the same trip as me in the British Virgin Islands (to be referred to as “BVI” from here on). Hayley had been in San Juan for a few days and we had planned to meet for a “Christmas” dinner. We went to a restaurant called Marmalade and had a really nice time there – great food, highly recommended! Hayley worked for a Boeing in LA and was an aeronautical engineer – you don’t meet too many females in that field!

The next morning we left our hotels early to join a short flight to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Now, I was still trying to get over my cold that I had contracted in Costa Rica, and the two flights I had taken to get to Puerto Rico had had a not-so-nice effect on my ears, which hadn’t yet popped, to the point where my ears felt like they were on the inside of my head.

Much to the chagrin of my mother (after the fact of course) my flight to Tortola was in a tiny little Cesna. I must admit, it didn’t give me a huge amount of confidence either. But it was actually an ok flight, with some very picturesque views of the islands, the only problem was that the flight wasn’t pressurized and I was in mind-numbing pain for most of it because of my ears!

Ok, so now onto the reason for my trip to BVI. I would be in the BVI for 9 days in total, including New Year’s Eve. I was actually originally planning on spending this time in Punta del Este in Uruguay, the St.Tropez of South America, and THE place to be the week over NYE. But organizing accommodation was starting to get difficult and it actually put my South American itinerary out of whack. So I decided to nix Punta and instead I had found this cool looking sailing trip in the BVI with a group called Adventurati.

I found it on facebook. There were 40 other people on the trip – 6 sailboats and a mixture of people for the US and Europe. And after my time on the cruise ship with the oldies, it would be really nice to hang with people my age.

When Hayley and I arrived at the meeting point in Tortola, we were amongst the first to arrive. There were about 15 others who had also arrived, most of them from Europe. What I was to learn was that most of them were Swedish and that Adventurati had partnered with a group called The Yacht Week, which is run by 4 Swedish guys. I had actually seen them before and considered joining their trip; they run a wicked sailing trip in July and August around Croatia, the Greek Islands and Ibiza. But their trips have up to 50 sailboats!!

Anyway, so there was Hayley and I and about 14 other guys all six feet tall or more. We certainly weren’t complaining and it was definitely a far cry from the short guys of NYC!

As more people arrived, I met all the people on my boat. As I didn’t know anyone on the trip, all the people on the boat were new to me. There were 10 of us in total. Two Swedish guys (one of them was the skipper), the girl I was sharing my room with was from NYC, and the remainder were from Washington D.C., a mixture of guys and girls.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Yesterday I descended from amidst the clouds and arrived in a beach resort called Tamarindo. On the way, we stopped at a rest stop that had some macaws and deer hanging around. Having had a relatively active itinerary prior, I was really looking forward to the rest and relaxation of a beach resort. Tamarindo is predominantly made up of a couple of main streets, and reminds me of a Costa Rican version of Noosa Heads, in Australia. It has a high concentration of Western tourists, which has earned it the nickname, “Tamagringo”.

And I must be honest, that was its attraction for me. There are many who like to seek out the authentic and off-the-beaten-track experiences that have not yet been overrun by tourists, but I actually have no problem with visiting an area that totally caters to tourists. It doesn’t make me a bad person does it? ;)

So I arrive at my hotel, which is located right in the center of town, on the beach and actually appears to be the best hotel in town. Thanks very much to my travel agent! I decide to take a walk around and check out the town and get a bite to eat while I’m at it.

The shops tend to be predominantly composed of souvenir shops, surf shops, ladies boutiques, restaurants and tour operators. I happen to come across a falafel shop, and am not too surprised to find it is run by an Israeli – they really are everywhere! I ask him where is good to go tonight and he gives me some names of bars but also mentions that there is a fiesta on tonight in the next town, and everyone will be going to that. Sounds interesting. I purchase a falafel off him and tell him “l’hitraot”.

I continue to walk around and pause for a few seconds in front of a tour operator. I really have no intention of going on a tour as I am all-toured-out but am curious what kind of things are on offer in this area – it seems to be all the same stuff I have been doing. The guy in the shop takes the opportunity to come and talk to me and try to convince me that he has something I would like. He lures me into the shop, saying he will show me some photos of a nearby beach. I have no problem with the beach I am on, but I oblige him anyway.

There are two other guys in the shop and one says only a couple of words but my finely tuned “Aussie radar” picks up on the fact that he is one of my own. We swap the origins of our upbringing and then he says that he and his friend are looking to rent a car for the day and would I like to join them. “I could do that”, I say. But they weren’t happy with the price this guy was offering and we go in search of a better price. We go to a few places and then decide to give up on this quest and enjoy the remaining hours of sunshine. We go to the beach. My new friends are actually planning to go to the fiesta that night which they were at yesterday, and participated in, showing me the video of them in the bull ring with 100 other people (mostly men), trying to avoiding getting mauled by the bull. Crazy.

So we went that night, and I must say, it was at once compelling and disturbing. The bull ring is surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of people, locals and gringos alike, but inside the bull ring are 100 or so people, many of them gringos looking for a thrill. Myself and my new friends find a position sitting on the ground outside the fence. The Aussie guy goes in to the ring, whilst the other guy stays with me. The bull comes charging out with a rider on its back, who eventually gets thrown off, and then people take turns in trying to antagonize the bull by grabbing its tail and other things of that ilk. There are twelve bulls that come out in all, and at least half of them seem so scared that they run back to the door that they came from, trying to get out of this madness. It all seems very cruel.

This is also my first up close experience with the locals, Ticos, as they are called. There is one extremely drunk middle aged couple who have decided to sit on the inside of the bull ring, a considerably dangerous idea, in our minds. I am amazed that no-one cares enough to try to get them out of there, and I certainly lack the language skills to try. The woman is so drunk she is rolling around on the floor, exposing her underpants, it’s really not a pretty sight. The man, every now and then takes off to join the rest of the men in the ring, often taking his shirt off beforehand, stumbling back when the bull is captured.

At about the fifth bull, (just when I chose not to videotape it), someone is seriously injured. He is tossed around by the bull like a rag doll, and ends up getting dragged off by a bunch of people to the shed where the bull’s victims get treated. People crowd around the structure, hoping to grab a peek of the mutilation through the slats in the wood. He easily could have been injured to the point of serious head and back injury, if not death. I haven’t discovered his fate. But here’s the thing. The guy wasn’t wearing a shirt and when I look over to the drunk couple, only the woman is there for the remainder of the night, oblivious to the fact that her man has probably been seriously injured. It is a really sad state of affairs, and once again, I lack the language skills to talk to any of my Tico neighbours about it, or to ask the drunk woman if she knows where her man is. The horrendous thing is, that after such an injury, the show goes on, with 7 more bulls coming out one at a time.

Afterwards, we head back to town to socialize with our fellow gringos and go to a sports bar and then a night club. I have forgotten what it’s like to go to clubs where smoking is not banned and am somewhat bothered by the amount of smoke. After a few games of pool, I say goodnight and head back to my hotel.

Unfortunately the next day I came down with a cold and was really not well for the remainder of my stay in Tamarindo.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Action Packed Costa Rica

For my time in Costa Rica, I booked a package that included activities such as white water rafting, kayaking, zip lining, and hot springs. White water rafting on the Pacquare River was first on the agenda. As it had been raining recently, instead of the Class II/III rapids that I had signed up for, it was Class III-IV rapids which was going to be a fair bit more challenging. And it was. But we had a great guide and a strong team on my raft, so we managed to make it down the river without falling out of the boat (although it seemed touch and go there a couple times!). We even had a few guests on our raft at one stage after rescuing a few people whose raft had capsized.
The next stop was Arenal, and as it happens a couple that were in my raft had also booked with the same company as I had so they were staying at the same place as me in Arenal, and then later in Monteverde. They were from the northern part of South Carolina and we ended up hanging out quite a bit.
Arenal is the location of the volcano and also the hot springs. My trip to see the volcano was a bust as it was pouring rain and the cloud covered the entire view of the volcano. Ironically I got to see a great view of the volcano a few days later when zip lining in Monteverde. As for the hot springs, I went to this resort that had dozens of different natural pools that were of varying levels of temperature. It was nice, but there really isn’t much more to say about it!
As I am learning on my travels, the trips between places provide as much, if not more of an adventure as the actual destination. Hmmm…sounds like a phrase I heard once or twice ;)
After Arenal we headed to Monteverde. The trip up to Monteverde was one such adventure. But first, a little background on Monteverde may illuminate you on the reasons ‘for the challenging journey. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia:

What is now considered Monteverde was founded by Quakers from the United States whose pacifist values led them to defy the American draft during the Korean War. These Quakers chose Monteverde for its cool climate, which would facilitate dairy farming, and due to Costa Rica's non-violent, army-free constitution. The Quakers stewarded and farmed a large tract of land, which they eventually set aside for conservation. This reserve, which was named the Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde (Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve), has become a major tourist attraction as has the Monteverde Nature Center.
In order to keep the town from becoming too overcrowded, the road to travel there is unsealed and at times steep and challenging. I would like to share with you comments from other bloggers and articles I have seen regarding this road:
“The road to Monteverde will take a couple of years off your life, but it's worth it.”
“Driving on the road to Monteverde isn't like driving in a van over an old mountain road full up wheel-deep potholes, it was like being inside a pop can being dragged behind a van driving up an old mountain road with wheel-deep potholes. I'm pretty sure I'm a few inches shorter from all the bouncing and compression on my spine.”
“At one point the van actually spun out in the gravel because the road was too steep. He turned around and asked three people to exit the van so he could make the hill.”
“The road is kept this way on purpose to deliberately discourage tourists -- at first glance a peculiar approach given that Monteverde's principle source of income is tourism.“
Case and point, at one point on the road, there was roadwork being done on a particularly steep portion, where they were using rocks to (I guess) improve the traction going up the hill. Now, one would think that the best vehicle to undertake this kind of trip would be a 4x4. And in fact, the trip that we were on is called a “jeep-boat-jeep” trip, the boat part because there is a lake crossing involved that we had completed prior to ascending on this road, but the jeep part? Apparently it used to be in jeeps, but now we are in these people-mover vans. Clearly not the most appropriate vehicle to undertake a journey like this.
Anyway, after having waited about 20 minutes for them to complete part of their roadwork to enable us to pass, our driver, having failed to get the van over the rocky and steep part of the road, reversed a fair way and then “gunned” it, enabling us to get over. I must say, I was pretty scared!
But then the van that was behind us wasn’t able to make it up the hill. So our trusty driver decided to tow him up the hill! I was having no part of this and told him to stop the van so I could get out, and subsequently the remainder of the passengers got out too.

And despite the challenging trip, the scenery was quite beautiful, with lush valleys and mountains to look at. Anyway, we finally made the 35 km in about 2 hours to arrive at a very serene and beautiful mountaintop. The view from my hotel room and the subsequent sunset was fantastic. Ironically, even though Monteverde is known as the cloud forest, the first two days were entirely clear, but on my last day there, I had the benefit of seeing clouds above and below, as if I was sitting in the sky.

During my time here, I visited a Butterfly and Frog exhibit. I liked the Butterflies best.
I also did ziplining for the first time, which I must say was pretty scary at first. Some of the lines were 700m high!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Food, Islands and more food

The remainder of the cruise was characterized by a lot of food and visits to the 5 islands. Oh, and we mustn’t forget that I was staying in the penthouse suite – I know no one on the cruise let me forget! I think I had become something of a minor celebrity due to my windfall. So here’s my run down of the islands I visited.
St. Maarten is apparently the smallest territory shared by two countries – it is half French, half Dutch. It has lots of shops and some nice beaches. St. Lucia – I decided to take a shore excursion and went on a kayaking trip. I met a bunch of nice people on this excursion, who decided to become my ambassadors by publicizing my new ship address to others on the cruise. Afterwards, I headed into town. I probably should have passed that up, as it was rather seedy.
Barbados had my favourite beach of all, the sand and the water were divine. The beach I went to was called Malibu beach, because it housed the Malibu Rum factory. The next island was St. Kitts which is a port that is new to cruise visitors. It didn’t have much to offer and after a short trip off the boat, I decided to enjoy my stay on the ship that day. Last, and actually my favorite port was St. Thomas. I guess being part of the US. Virgin Islands, it is much more developed and had a lot of really nice shops and cafes. In St. Thomas I spent most of the day on the other side of the island at a beach that is called one of the 10 best beaches in the world. Pretty nice, but a little too high praise, if you ask me.
One of the things about the Caribbean Islands I never realized was that there was such a jewellery market in them, most specifically diamonds. They even had a jewellery specialist on board, advising passengers on the 5 “C”s – Carat, Clarity, Colour, Cut and a new one – Confidence. Now, the only reason I know this is that I woke up in the middle of the night one night and turned on the TV to hear this woman’s lecture. And I am sure you have all had that experience where you switch on the TV to find an infomercial in the wee hours of the morning and get sucked in (or almost anyway). Well, when I awoke in the morning in St. Lucia, I decided to check out what the all the fuss was about. And what do you know – I made a purchase. Just a small Star of David necklace – I’m actually really happy with it.
But I must comment on the racket they have going with the diamonds. There is a company, Diamonds International, that must spend a lot on advertising, because what I learned in this “infomercial”, is that when you buy a diamond with them, and, let’s say you come back on a cruise next year, you can upgrade the diamond you have to a larger size, just paying the difference in price. Pretty clever, huh? And it’s clever for the cruise lines, because they are conditioning people to come back on a cruise to upgrade their diamonds.
Someone commented to me that the ship was ironically filled predominantly with Germans and Jews, an observation I concurred with. And at the ship’s chanukkah services, part of this suspicion was confirmed. But the combination of Germans and Jews is a rather odd pairing, to say the least.
Now let me talk about the food. Cruises are apparently all about the food and I must say there is strong evidence to that effect. But when you add on the fact that I was in the penthouse suite, it takes things to an all new level. They delivered extra food to my suite on a regular basis, as a matter of course. There was the fruit plate, the cheese plate, the afternoon snack and the pre-dinner canapés. No wonder I packed on the pounds. In fact, no less than 5 pounds to be exact. I have some serious working out to do now.
On my second last night of the cruise, the formal night, I arranged for pre-dinner drinks to be held in my suite, see the attached photo.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On the High Seas

The first leg of my trip is a cruise in the Caribbean. Why a cruise you ask? And why on earth would I consider doing it alone? (I am sure you are thinking). I admit, I would have preferred to have a companion on this leg of the trip (especially as the single supplement is almost as much as the cost for a second person). But I was quite keen to explore a significant part of the Caribbean, given that pretty soon I will be living a considerable distance from it. And as there are so many islands, and flights between them are not cheap, I thought this would be a great way to see a bunch of islands; this cruise stops in 5 of them. And, I have always been quite intrigued with the concept of cruising, so I booked it.
So, a little background on my ship. It’s one of the Celebrity line of cruise ships, and is the newest in its fleet, named Equinox. The ship is not even a year old, and it shows. The fit out on this ship is really superb - modern and luxurious. It houses 2500 guests and the cruise is fully booked. It’s a 10 day cruise, and I’m stopping in 5 ports on 5 separate days: St.Maarten, St.Kitts, Barbados, St.Lucia and St.Thomas.
Ok, let’s address one of the concerns that I had and everyone has about cruises. That it is full of the geriatric set. Going in to this I knew there would be a large contingent of them, so I did my research and looked for a Cruise line that is more supposedly more geared to a younger crowd. And when I booked, I was told that I would have set seating at dinner, at a table of 10 people aged 25-45. I thought I had it covered. It would give me a way to meet others around my age, and then I would have some people to hang with for 10 days.
But when I boarded the ship, I found it rather difficult to identify even a handful of people under the age of 45, quite a switch from my time in NY, where it is difficult to come across someone over the age of 55. I was holding out until dinner when I was to meet fellow passengers closer to my age.
The importance of having the right tablemates was emphasised to me as I entered the ship and was talking to some experienced cruisers and getting their advice. They said that how much they enjoyed prior cruises had little to do with the ship and everything to do with your dining partners. So, I was truly banking on having a good set of tablemates.
So here’s what happened. When I arrived at the dining room, I was shown to a table of 4, where 2 people were already sitting. 2 - not 10! And let’s just say that their age was at least double that of my own, and their weight individually was at least 3 times that of mine. Not ideal. I quickly told the Maitre D’ that it would not do and I was promised a table of 10 people 25-45 people! He said he didn’t have people in that age group! OMG!! I was freaking out – was I destined to have an awful cruise? I explained that I was travelling alone and that my table assignment would make or break my cruise! So, he temporarily assigned me to a table of 6 where there were a couple people born within 2 decades of me. That’s as close as I could get. He promised to reassign me tomorrow.
So I was shown to my temporary table, it was a table of 6, and I was the last to be seated. Let me just segue here and tell you that the dining room was absolutely gorgeous! OK, back to my tablemates. There were two guys dressed in suits, whom I was to learn were from Washington D.C. The remaining 3 people were a couple in their 60s and their 30 something son, all from Stuttgart in Germany.
I had an instant connection with the suited guy on my right, who was from D.C. A political reporter in his late 30s who has previously lived in NY, we had much to talk about. He and his friend were on the cruise together, his friend a few years older, was in public relations. Now, having lived in Chelsea for the last 2 and a half years I was used to seeing a different type of gay man, which was why I was surprised when the conversation revealed that they were a couple (not just a couple of guys).
My other tablemates, English not being their first language, had difficulties in keeping up with our conversation, so whilst we had a few interactions, their side of the table was considerable much quieter than ours.
After dinner, the guy on my right, Doug, and I went to see the show of the evening. We didn’t last long there. The entertainment was distinctly geared towards the silver set, with show tunes like “Singing in the Rain” and a singing quartet.
Doug and I then went in search of the Maitre D’ to see if the three of us could be moved to a different table. He was rather gruff with us but accepted our request nonetheless.
The next morning (after breakfast) I went to find a lounge chair by the pool. I found one next to two Israeli brothers around my age, who were on the cruise with their parents. We became friends and I suddenly had a couple more people who were very keen to move off their assigned dinner seating. Off to the Maitre D’ once again. By now he knew me very well. “I have 3 requests from you now, one by yourself, one with two other guests and now one with 4 other guests, which one do you want?” Well I would have thought that it would be obvious – the most recent one of course, but knowing that my fate was still somewhat in his hands, I politely told him “the latest one”.
So that night, we had a very nice dinner, the 5 of us, plus a couple from the UK. Mission accomplished.
The next day, another full day at sea, was rather a lazy day, with one noticeable event. OK, a little more than noticeable – HUGE! I don’t quite know why I bothered to enter the competition for the penthouse suite on the ship, after all I was actually very happy with the amenities of my inside cabin. It wasn’t much smaller than my Manhattan apartment, so I was quite used to living in quarters that were not altogether spacious. And as the ship is brand new, everything was modern and very comfortable.
Nevertheless, I felt compelled to join the bingo, having an eerie feeling that I was destined to do so and dare I say it, destined to win. This was, however, coupled with the nonchalance of my practical side, telling me that I shouldn’t get any hopes up, as there were literally hundreds of people who were also going to be playing bingo. There were four rounds of competition; the first 3 rounds were for cash prizes of $400, $500 and $600 respectively. Nothing to balk at. The final round was for the penthouse suite on the ship, the real prize that had drawn the hundreds of people to this bingo game. I struck out on the first three games, but in the final game, I was getting very close to completing my bingo card, my heart started to beat very fast. And just as I said “Bingo!” so did someone else! As only one person could win this prize, we went to a playoff. I was given four bingo cards to choose from. I chose one of them, and then we proceeded. And…what do you know – I won!
I felt that rush of adrenalin and endorphins in my brain as you might imagine occurs when you win a huge prize and you feel like you are in a surreal dream. Being one of the only solo travelers on this cruise, there were many people that expressed congratulations, but it was also coupled with shock that I was travelling alone and I dare say a bit of bitterness that someone like me, and that I was only one person, would be enjoying the suite that they all coveted so badly.
I arrived to my suite where champagne and fruit and a number of canapés was awaiting me, as well as my butler! Ahh… the good life!