December 25, 2021. 80°F/27°C. Cruising the Caribbean.
Of course Ted and I miss our family at Christmas but, honestly, Thanksgiving is my favourite family holiday, and I definitely do NOT miss getting up early to see what Santa brought. A leisurely day in a warm climate might just be the best Christmas present that either of us could get.
However …. this is our first full day at sea, which normally would include a mandatory emergency evacuation drill. On our river cruises, it was simply a life-vest drill, since we were never far from shore, but on the ocean things are necessarily quite different. Getting 750 passengers and 480 crew (yes, that’s really the ratio) safely into tenders (lifeboats) takes a bit more organization. What surprised me on our last cruise was just how big the tenders were, and how well enclosed – I guess in my mind I had visions of open rowboats like in the movie Titanic. During the course of our last cruise, we became very comfortable with the lifeboat boarding routine, since we were occasionally tendered to shore when the port was not large enough for our ship. That doesn’t happen often, since the Star is small in cruise-ship terms, but we do visit smaller ports which are not typical cruise-ship destinations.
It turns out that Covid protocols even affect the safety drill. Instead of gathering in our “muster location” in large groups, we were given individual life-vest instruction immediately after boarding, and a safety video to watch and “sign off” on in our rooms.
Sadly, for 5 would-be cruisers the journey ended even before it began when they were denied boarding yesterday due to a positive Covid test – in one case, a positive following 2 earlier negatives. That sobering announcement from our captain this morning dampened his otherwise cheerful Christmas greeting, and also explained our 5 hour delay leaving Port Everglades.
It’s a reminder not to get complacent with all the onboard safety protocols, and to be extra thankful that our family and close friends have so far been untouched by this virus.
We started our day with a PCR saliva test (before toothbrushing or coffee!), our daily digital health survey, and a quick read through the Viking Daily, the ship’s newsletter with its list of shipboard activities; bar, restaurant and spa hours; location notes, and a selection of interesting trivia facts. Today’s notes: water conservation measures on board, information about the Star’s sulfur-reducing technology that creates “white smoke”, and the origins of “as the crow flies”. FYI, apparently “When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight toward the nearest land, thus giving the ship some kind of navigational fix. This is also why the tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be known as the crow’s nest.” Hmm.
After a late breakfast (a Norwegian waffle and fruit for Ted, pickled herring and rye bread for me), we took advantage of this morning’s history lecture on Pre-Columbian Civilizations: The Americas Before Columbus, by one of Viking’s resident historians, Dr. Tom Duryea, in preparation for our excursion in Cozumel tomorrow.
After lunch in the Pool Grill, I joined poet and playwright Chrissie Robinson in the Torshavn Bar for one in her series of writing workshops (turning free-flow ideas into a theme).
My next activity was to be listening to Captain Richard Hayman in the Star Theatre talk about the rise and fall of the Maya (apparently it is correctly referred to without the final “n”) civilization, and the lives of today’s surviving indigenous Maya, but Ted enticed me to the Wintergarden for tea and scones instead. It was a happy change of plan, since we had the chance to meet a wonderful couple from Eugene, Oregon, and while away an hour talking.
Pre-dinner entertainment in the Atrium was – naturally – Christmas carols, accompanied by eggnog and mulled wine, but we bypassed that in favour of checking out the Christmas chocolate dessert display before it was ravaged.
At the maître d’s station at the restaurant, we encountered our Oregonians again, and were delighted to join them for champagne and dinner. We had so much fun sharing stories and laughing (thank you Ingeborg and Larry!) that I actually forgot to take a picture of my smoked sturgeon and caviar appetizer.
Dinner done, and farewells said, Ted and I headed for the Star Theatre for the traditional crew Christmas variety show, the highlight of which was several of the ship’s officers taking part in a frenetic slapstick version of The Twelve Days of Christmas that resulted in the Chief Financial Officer unintentionally spraying his uniform with milk from the actual kitchen milk dispenser bladder that was standing in for “8 maids a-milking”.
Day 2 done and thoroughly enjoyed.