Day Seven, Thursday: Swimming with the Rays.
At seven forty five the phone rang. I answered and it was the spa giving us our wake up call in time for Diane to keep her appointment. She was having the seaweed wrap and deep tissue massage. I envied her. I was going to be spending the morning without her. She threw on her clothes and headed out the door. I got up a few minutes later and tried to figure out how to spend my morning. She was going to be gone for a couple of hours. I went out on the balcony and watched us sail into Georgetown’s harbor. I was immediately struck by how flat Grand Cayman was. It was quite a contrast from the previous two stops. The air felt good and the water was beautiful so I decided to pull up a chair, put my feet on the railing, and read for awhile.
Around nine, I thought another dose of Eggs Benedict might be nice, along with some company, so I made a solo visit to the dining room. I arrived at the entrance and a waiter immediately escorted me to the only partially seated table. I assume that the standard procedure is to not seat someone at a new table until all seats at the last table are full. My escort looked at that table with four people and two empty chairs, looked at the other tables, looked back the semi empty table again, and with an agonized look on his face said “sir will this do?” I said sure, He looked at me hard and said “are you sure?” I thought what is the problem? I responded that it would be fine. He seated me and as he was leaving he leaned close and said “I am so sorry.” I found that curious.
There was a family of four seated at the table, a rather large man in a tank top with a big Fu Manchu mustache with his arms crossed, both elbows on the table. There was the Mom, teen age daughter, (both rather large people) and the son who looked to be around ten or eleven. I had the impression that the son, who sat with his chin in his hand, was not having a very good time. He looked thin and tired, with dark circles under his eyes. The mother asked me where I was from. I told them Portsmouth VA. They were from Connecticut, which surprised me; I would have thought their home was a little further south than that. The waiter asked for our orders, all wanted juice except the boy, I ordered coffee. The father also ordered Danish. When it arrived at his left elbow, he did not move the plate or uncross his arms, which he kept on the table, he simply cut it with his fork in his right hand and ate it. This was not an easy feat. The juice arrived with the Danish and the daughter took a sip. She made the most awful face. The mother asked her what was wrong. She replied that apple juice tasted terrible with toothpaste. I supposed she was right. She made this face every time she took a sip. The waiter took our orders, the father ordered the same as me, the Mom and daughter a country breakfast and the boy fruit loops. The waiter asked what kind of milk. The boy said no milk, orange juice. The waiter replied, "you can have juice, but what kind of milk?” The mom jumped in and said no milk, he puts orange juice on his fruit loops, and he’s just a little different. The waiter looked stunned, “Different, that is Different.” He shook his head and walked away.
The orders come all begin eating except the boy, his mom pours his orange juice in the loops and the boy just stares at this concoction. We chat about our week, they ask me what I did on shore, and I inform them I have not been off the ship. They are surprised at that (I assume the dad is surprised, he has not said one word yet)
I tell them my wife (she is in the spa) and I would be happy just to stay at sea the whole seven days. The boy gives me this look of utter disgust and says “Not me! I would just Die!”
The father then yells at him. “Finish your damn fruit loops, you haven’t eaten anything this whole week and you need some nutrition!” The boy seems to shrink and he takes a minimal bite. I estimate two to four loops. I look at the poor boy with his sad dark eyes and want to jump up and yell “Don’t make him, he’s smarter than you are.” But I quickly finish my eggs, as the son drowns his loops, daughter sips, smacking her lips and grimacing, Mom still smiling, big Dad frowning, arms crossed the whole time.
As I left I had to ask myself; how did the waiter know what was coming?
I roamed the promenade for a while and then went back to cabin 1234, patted the dog on the head, and picked my book back up. Soon a very relaxed and glowing Diane came through the door. She was feeling very good (for the second time). I told her that I was sure her morning had gone better than mine. I related my fun breakfast starting with the apologizing waiter. After she finished laughing, she said the boy’s dark circles were probably caused by allergies. “What do you think he’s allergic too?” I asked “Fruit loops and orange juice” was her wise reply. That was it, I told her I wanted off the ship.
We jumped into our swim gear, threw some shorts on top, grabbed towels, sun screen, hats, and went downstairs to deck 1 to catch the tender and do some shopping; we had ninety minutes before it was time to meet our tour at the pier and leave for Sting Ray City.
We purchased two bottles of water as we headed off the ship. Our sea pass cards went Ding and we were on our way. We sat on large benches which provided space for rear ends on top and life jackets inside. In Miami, Diane had bought two nifty straps with replacement flip top caps for water bottles. The straps were on a ring that was just a bit too small for our bottles so I gave mine a good hard push, collapsed the bottle and squirted a fountain of ice cold water which quickly found its way under the posteriors of the people in front of us. They jumped up and I apologized as I toweled the water up. They said it felt good. I aim to please. Diane said that she can’t take me anywhere.
The tender docked and we walked about a hundred feet to the only shop that I had to visit, the Del Sol shirt shop. We were in there for awhile, because we both like the stuff they sell and so do our kids. Diane bought something for Jeri and Christine, finger nail polish for herself. I bought myself a shirt that had a black and white photo of a beach on the back that turns into a color photo after exposed to the sun. It also had the phrase No Shirt, No Shoes, and No Taxes. I wish. We walked around for awhile, bought postcards, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, and some more shirts. I took a picture of one of the bank buildings. Diane asked why. I replied that maybe our lost Global Crossing money is in there.
At twelve fifteen we headed back to the pier to meet the tour group. We had a very short wait, along with quite a few other people. We walked a few hundred yards along the harbor to the waiting transportation, white school bus like buses. We climbed on board and as I was sitting I lost my camera lens cap. The passengers around us helped me find it. We drove along the main road for a few miles. It seems that Georgetown is a bit better off than say, Nassau or San Juan. Soon we turned right, down a one lane road and then stopped and backed into a gravel parking lot next to a boardwalk like dock. The dock was next to a channel about fifty feet wide. We left the busses and waited on the dock and soon a big green double decked pontoon boat named “Emerald Eyes” motored up, turned around, and tied up. Around thirty or so happy people stepped off and we stepped on. The bottom deck had storage bins full of snorkeling gear; we moved to the top deck and took a seat on the bench along the railing. It was a nice trip out to the sand bar where the rays congregate. The sky was blue, the water, at the head of the channel a brilliant blue. As soon as the Emerald Eyes cleared the channel it was full speed ahead. I sun screened up and went below to pick out our gear, masks and snorkels only, no fins. We go in with bare feet. I choose the only bright pink snorkel for Diane, knowing I would see it if we got separated.
We reached the sandbar and tied up to a couple of buoy anchors. The area was pretty crowded with swimmers with these big shadows moving among them. I counted four boats the same size as ours. The first thing I noticed was the noise. The swimmers were making it. It was loud and somehow familiar. I soon realized what it was. It sounded just like a crowded kid’s playground. They were having fun. You could hear it, raw, contagious fun. I had to get in the water, but first came the mandatory instructions.
“Slide your feet when your walk, avoid stepping on the rays. There are buckets of food floating out there. If your want to feed them, just hold your hand under them, they will find it. Don’t lift the rays out of the water; don’t run from them, you will only back into another one or someone else. Don’t be afraid of them. They will not harm you, they make their living being friendly to people. Listen, what does it sound like out there? They are having fun! “
Diane and I went in. The rays were everywhere. The females were up to five feet wide, the males about a foot and a half at the most. When I held food they came after it, two or three at a time, flapping up my chest and swimming between my feet and legs. The tops of the rays were rough, and I soon discovered they did not like to be rubbed on the top, they would avoid it. Underneath, their skin was as soft as a wet mushroom. They liked being rubbed there. When feeding they would vacuum the squid right out of my hand. Some people found the rays to be scary and fun at the same time, but it was obvious that everyone was having a great time. Diane and I felt like kids again. I took Diane’s hand and we snorkeled our way out to the far edge of all the excitement. I wanted a different underwater view. With our heads in the water, the noise of the crowd dropped to a muffle. We watched the serene, elegant creatures; without a care in the world, gracefully glide their way through a forest of legs.
It was an exhilarating hour in the water that ended all too quickly.
Captain Don gave his short creature feature talk, which was full of interesting facts about rays, such as they sun tan like humans, they give birth to their young, etc. When he was done it was time to leave. No one wanted to go. It was now three pm, Voyager sails at four.
We climbed back aboard the Emerald Eyes and soon we were motoring our way back to the dock. We had stored our shoes, shorts, camera and such in an empty life jacket locker. A young lady in a small swim suit had already claimed the top of it for as a sunbathing platform. I politely asked her if we could retrieve our belongings, she got up. I was bending over to pull all of our stuff out of the locker when she turned her back to me and bent over to retrieve her shoes. She was wearing a thong. She had no freckles on a certain part of her anatomy which is a lot more about her than I wanted to see or know.
We arrived back at the dock, boarded the buses, and after a short drive, followed by a short walk, we boarded the tender for the ship. We went through security, dinged our Sea Passes and headed up the stairs to deck 10.
We were climbing the starboard side stairs and had reached deck 6 when we noticed water dripping down the stairs. By the time we had gotten to the landing on deck 8 it was pouring down the carpet with it sagging away from the bottom of the stairs, because it was full of water. Deck 10, close to our passageway was flooded. The water was coming from deck 11 and the spa. I ran up the stairs to see what was going on. There was a crew of people with mops, squeegees, and lots of towels cleaning up the water. I thought the spa must have sprung a leak. A member of the crew told me that a sprinkler pipe had burst somewhere in the overhead inside the spa. It was obvious that they were working to clean it up in a hurry.
I went sloshing back down the stairs to inform Diane what was going on, we entered our cabin for showers, and clean up for dinner. I looked out the balcony door and saw that the ship was moving out to sea. We must have been in the last group of people to come back on board.
Tonight was the second formal night. I put on my tux, clean formal shirt and a royal blue satin vest that I wore at my daughter’s wedding and a gold Seiko watch that I bought during the cruise the year before. I accidentally put my tie on upside down and the darn thing kept falling over all evening. My vest matched Diane’s dress; a long clingy velvet thing with a short quarter sleeved jacket accented with sequined lapels.
We headed off to deck 5 through the Promenade and into the dining room.
Our friends from Knoxville were back at the table, the husband recovered from his illness. Wanich was his pleasant self, said good evening, seated us and made his recommendations for the night. Joseph laid out the bread, took our wine order, another bottle of Martini and Rossi Asti. Diane and I both ordered the crab cake appetizer and rack of lamb as the main course. The main topic of conversation for today was excursions. I don’t remember what every one else did. I remember telling them that swimming with the rays was as much fun as it looked on the Royal Caribbean TV spot. I described it to them in detail and finished by saying that those rays got to do things that I never did on my first date. It was a fun evening capped by apple pie for the repeat cruisers and Baked Alaska (which was prepared well, but I believe to be overrated as a dessert) for all the new cruisers.
We left to promenade on the Promenade (I like that phrase) in our formal get up and have a couple more pictures taken. Along the way we bumped into the Krooze Comics doing a cops and robbers chase routine in and out of doors at each end of the bridge over the promenade. The cop came down the stairs and Diane yelled at him “They went thataway” he said thanks, the robbers came down after the cop was out of sight and I told them that Diane ratted them out. They said “ dat’s okay she’s be-uti-ful” and started blowing obscene kisses at her and telling her they would call her later. She got a kick out of that.
We went into the jewelry store. I had the urge to buy another Fossil watch that I had been looking at for some time. The salesman asked if he could help me and we started talking about watches and my collection of them. I told him about some of my more unusual pocket watches and he said he would like to see them. I said sure, I’ll go get them. I left Diane for a couple of minutes and headed up to the cabin. Collin and another attendant were at the end of the passageway in front of the crew only door. Collin yelled “Mr. Parker, I thought I just saw you go into your cabin.” No. “Then it must have been your brother.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I opened the door and just about jumped out of my shoes. Sitting on the bed was a full sized man in my robe with Diane’s red sandals on his invisible feet. He was wearing my sunglasses and holding the remote in his invisible hand. It was the funniest “towel animal” I had ever seen. Collin had stuffed my robe with bed pillows, made a head out of a couch pillow and tied a napkin around the head to give him a sort of “ninja in bathrobe with remote” motif. I told Collin it was the best cabin surprise of any cruise yet. I also told him that I would let Diane discover it her own. He was all smiles. I did take pictures.
I went back to Diane and showed off my special gold watch with the glass back and face. The salesman was impressed, even more so when I told him it cost twenty nine dollars at Wal-Mart.
Soon it was time for the Broadway review in La Scala. It was okay, but I prefer original Broadway numbers to ones that have been souped up so to speak. It occurred to me that a real Broadway production on a cruise ship, say Guys and Gals, would be really interesting, but that would take too much time and not appeal to a wide variety of people. At this point in the cruise, however anything pleased me.
After the show we went back to the promenade and discovered some our Irish friends sitting outside the Pig and Whistle. I said hello and they introduced me to those sitting with them. We pulled up a chair and the subject of accents, both Scottish and Irish came up. We talked about America, family and politics for awhile; actually it was a long while. It was tomorrow when we said good night.
At twelve we went dancing in Cleo’s Needle and at twelve thirty we went back to the theatre to see the adult session of Dan Wilson. He was blue but for the most part funny.
After the show we called it another great day. On the way to the cabin I told Diane that she was the best looking girl on the ship. She said “No, I am not, but I am the best looking grandmother.” That is for sure. I opened the door to the cabin and said you first. She walked in and screamed.
Collin you are good.