Cunardís Queen Elizabeth II

Departed New York January 3, 2005 Ė Final Stop Malaga, Spain April 13, 2005

 

Most recent postings will appear at the top of page.

 

Our last thoughts on the QE II - received May 4

 

papeete family ship

 

(written by Helen)

Okay, Iím going to say it even though Iím a little embarrassed to say it but this is supposed to be more of a personal journal than anything.Iím proud of myself.There you go.Steve said that it would be a good idea to reflect back on our ship journey and summarize what we got from it.When I think back to our trip from Fort Lauderdale to Curacao and how bumpy it was and how much I hated that ship and our room, I canít believe I made it to the end.The funniest thing about that is by the time we got off in Malaga, I loved the ship and I think our rooms were the best part.They were located right at the bottom of the ship, right in the middle, so it was perfect for me in regards to the motion.I told Steve in Curacao that I was so sorry but there was no way I was going to be able to make it for three and a half months.Those two nights at sea I cried and stayed up all night and I kept thinking, ďhow the hell am I going to make it across the Pacific?Ē or ďhow the hell am I going to make it for another hundred days?ĒIt was awful and to be perfectly honest, if the ride up the Pacific from Panama to L.A. wasnít as smooth as it was I really think I would have flown home from L.A.Thank God I didnít.That has happened to me a lot being with Steve.I think I canít do something or I think I donít really want to and he encourages me to just give it a chance and sure enough after I do it, itís the best thing in the world.

I donít know if itís just us but we always realize how great a vacation or trip is a few weeks after we get home.For the past few weeks, since we got off in Malaga, we have been reminiscing about the QE2 and have been talking about all the countries we saw, the people we met, the food we ate, the sights we saw and now we realize how truly amazing that trip really was.Donít get me wrong, while we were doing it we knew it was great but you donít really get it until itís over and you look back.We have only been off the ship for just over two weeks and I canít believe that!It feels like it was months ago.

Silly things remind us of our journey, like tonight in the van we were listening to the radio and the song ďLand Down UnderĒ came on and it got us talking about Australia.Nikolas started talking about what we saw there and we were saying that it was too bad that none of us had tried a vegemitesandwich.Tonight we wanted something different for dinner so we drove around until we found a Chinese Restaurant.While we were having our delicious dinner we started talking about our trip to Hong Kong and Japan.When the waiter, who spoke little to no English, came by and asked us how we liked our food Nikolas bowed his head a bit when he said it was great and the waiter was thrilled that Nik bowed.Nikolas said that we had to be serious about the traditions of the Chinese and he was keeping an eye on Dani to make sure she was behaving properly.It was so cool to watch him as he was trying to be respectful of a different culture.That is exactly what we hoped would happen to our kids on this trip.Personally we think ignorance breeds racism and by traveling I think you learn to understand and respect different races and their cultures.I am actually in awe of the religions of the world.I told Steve that when I get home I would like to take a course on Religions of the World because that was the single most fascinating and surprising thing I realized on this trip so far.Religion is so huge all over the world.All of them, Catholicism, Buddhism, Muslim, the Jewish faith.No matter how rich or poor the people are they all have a shrine of some sort in their back yards or outside somewhere where they can worship their gods.It is incredible to see.

The other thing I noticed that surprised me beyond belief was that Canada is all but non-existent in this huge part of the world.Without sounding arrogant, I always thought that we lived in the centre of the universe in regards to the rest of the world.I was so wrong!Granted, the U.S. is huge globally, on the news and all, but we have not heard one thing about Canada in the last four months.Well, thatís not completely true.We did hear two things.One was the tragic death of the four Mounties and the other was something to do with the vote on gay marriages.Thatís it, nothing else, I am not kidding you.It is like we do not exist.Itís so funny though, because most people think we are American and as soon as they find out we are Canadian they sort of change and are much friendlier.I apologize to all our American friends when I say that, but itís true.That is something else I wanted to document as well.On the ship, the Americans we met were the nicest, most friendliest people we have ever seen.They were so great with our kids and we met some wonderful people that we will never forget.Itís funny when you say to people that you will keep in touch and usually you lose touch pretty quick but I am really hoping that this does not happen and that we stay in contact with all those we exchanged e-mail info with.

Just a little side note here because there was one couple we just adored on board and for some reason we didnít get a chance to say a proper good-bye to them when we left the ship.They were so great with our kids and I say kids because Danika, the princess, got most of the attention on board.

So, letís see what else can I say about how I am feeling right now.This trip has been like a roller coaster ride.Some days I feel like this is the best idea in the whole world and I am so very grateful for the opportunity.Other days I feel like a crazy woman and I look at my kids and I wonder if I am torturing them.I say this because on occasion they have mentioned the fact that they hate doing this and they just want to get home and eat Kraft Dinner and see their friends.I have to admit I have days like that too.Do you know what I miss?The most simple, ridiculous things from home.I miss Tony Parsonís voice on the evening news.I miss walking through Costco.I miss sitting in front of my T.V. watching a mindless soap opera or reality T.V. show.I miss driving.I miss doing my own laundry in my own machine.I miss having a cell phone.I heard one the other day and I seriously wondered for a split second what the hell that sound was.†††

What donít I miss?Well, Steveís not going to be happy about this but I donít miss working.I donít miss making lunch for Nikolas (for school, I mean).I donít even miss cooking that much but I do miss eating a home cooked meal.†† I love meeting new people and making new friends but I also miss the comfort of my good friends at home.I miss talking to my girlfriends about everything and nothing.It was so great to have my sister and her boys come out to Spain and spend a week with us.It was exactly what I needed and we really did have such a fun and relaxing time with them.It was hard though when they left because it was so quiet and it reminded the kids of what they have left behind and it took Nik awhile to get over it.He seems to be having a harder time with this than Dani but he is such a great kid and I am so proud of him.Can you say that about your child?No really, I think this trip had been great for him and even though he complains now and then (not too often) we have noticed a huge difference in him and he has really matured in the last few months.You never know, we may be kicking ourselves in the future if he decides that he wants to travel for the rest of his life when heís older.

Danika is another story and I havenít quite figured her out.I know she is still quite young but I have no idea if any of this is sinking in.Sometimes she surprises us and makes some profound statement and other times I look at her and picture her becoming a very high maintenance, blond bimbo, shop-a-holic.I know thatís just terrible to say but she sometimes acts like she is twenty.She puts on an outfit and stands in front of the mirror and poses.I donít remember doing that at that age.Then in the next moment she is talking about how sad it is that kittens donít have a home and she just confuses me.Just yesterday Steve said something about being in Portugal to me and she said, ďWeíre in PortugalI just donít think she quite gets it.One of her pre-school teachers left a message that we should try and write more about what Danika thinks about this trip so I am going to try and ask her and then write what she says.

Well, I am sitting here in Portugal and it is just after midnight.Today is the twenty year anniversary of me and Steveís first date.TWENTY YEARS ago today we went skiing together, even though we both didnít really want to go because he thought I was a snob and I just didnít think much about him.But, we went anyway, and we have been together ever since.Who would of thunk!!!I have to say it is fitting to think back to that day twenty years ago; I did something I didnít really want to do and in the end it was the best thing that ever happened to me.When we were dating we use to dream about what our life would be like together and believe me, if you know Steve you will know that he had A LOT of dreams.Well, one of them came true, we are on an incredible journey together and I couldnít think of anyone I would rather be with than him and our kids.If there is one thing I would like people to get from this is that sometimes if you give something a chance it just may turn out to be the best thing on earth.

What awaits us on our travels?†† Who knowís.It is May already and this is starting to go very fast.Everyone says that a year is so long but it really isnít when there is so much to see and so many places to go.Hopefully we will have a lot more stories to tell and I am hoping that most, if not all, will be good ones.†††

 

 

 

Steveís two cents on the QE II

 

I am going to start this little message by saying I have no regrets about doing a world cruise. The folks we met (Crew and Passengers) were so interesting and fun.

The thing I canít get over, is how many wonderful people we met. Sure we saw some wonderful place, but the folks we made friends with on that old ship will wipe away any petty problems we encountered.

 

 

O.K. maybe we paid too much, maybe our room flooded and we left the ship for a week, maybe the Norwalk virus set a new record on the QE II (102 days and over 650 people infected), maybe our cabins were moldy. Maybe we had enough issues that I could tell you about for the next 5 pages.I will leave you with just a few.

 

I made a mistake early on and made comparisons about the Germans, Americans, and British and who was the rudest and who was most polite. I can tell you now that it did not matter where you came from. I did not include Canadians in this little survey because we are always so polite. Wrong! The most disrespectful thing I witnessed came from a Canadian couple from Ontario. The laundry room on the ship was the making of a Seinfeld episode. There were almost 3000 people on this ship (including crew) and all we had were 12 stacking washer and dryers that were supposed to handle it. At first I loved going in there to watch people and the tension that would cause someone to start scrapping. I mean real fights, people were kicked off the ship for assaulting each other on more than one occasion, it was very sad.You just had to put someone in the laundry room and watch them crack, it would only take around Ĺ an hour and someone would blow a fuse.

What are my thoughts on the QE II itself;

She should be a floating restaurant!

The best line I heard on what do with the QE II came from a women who was on her 12th QE II world cruise. She said ďthey should take this clunker out to the middle of the ocean and sink herĒ. I have to agree, the ship is done and I donít think you can clean it up after 35 years, and that virus thing would not have been tolerated on any other ship for that long. The other sad thing about spending so long on one ship is you get to know everyone. A dozen people passed away while on the ship.We thought that was a lot but we were told that it was about average for a cruise like this.

 

Our kids had a bit of a tough time adjusting after we got off the ship and I felt quite bad about it. You see I have always had a passion for traveling and it is not that easy to do with a small family. I came up with this great plan to travel for one year and see the world with our kids only to find that we were not that well prepared. I tried to think of everything that could go wrong, what effect it would have on our kids and where we would stay. The one thing I forgot to think about was Helen and myself, and what effect it would have on us. You canít go to places like India, Egypt and Sri Lanka and not be affected, and we were rocked on more than one occasion. The stress of traveling with small kids can be overwhelming and if you are in an area that is not safe and you are with your kids, you are not the smartest parent. I know using a cruise ship to see parts of the world is cheating, but I just thought it would be the safest way. We had that problem a few times and without question put our kids at risk, and now that I look backI think we were fortunate. We walked through a very crowded bizarre in Sri Lanka, something the Canadian government tells you not to do. In fact, they tell it is not safe to visit Sri Lanka, never mind with your children. We did not know this until we had already been and gone, and then decided to look into it after seeing so many machine gun bunkers throughout the city. Egypt was the other big risk we took. Even with the convoy and the police escort, we were paraded around in Egypt like a bunch of shooting targets. The really scary part was when we heard that terrorists threw a bomb right where one of our tour buses was parked only 3 days before. We know people were injured and at least one American and one French tourist were killed. I had no idea that only a few years earlier the terrorists opened fire with machine guns on two tour buses killing all 56 Western tourists who were stepping off the bus. It obviously happens there a lot, you just never hear about it back in North America. Just today (April 30, 2005) CNN is reporting that a terrorist bombwas detonated at the Cairo Museum, again right where one of our buses visited. After the bomb exploded they opened up on the crowd with machine guns killing 3 and injuring at least 10 more. I feel sick to my stomach every time I think about it. The terroristís goal is to try and stop tourists from visiting Egypt and that will hurt the economy.If I was going to go back there, I would NOT go on a tour bus, your chances are much better on your own.

 

The most important lesson I received in seeing so many parts of the world was just watching my children. Our daughter is too young, but our son has completely changed from the insecure, immature little kid he used to be. Now, I am not saying that is a good thing, but itís just amazing how kids adapt to different environments. Nikolas has no problem talking to people he does not know, something he never would have done before. He has found ways to amuse himself mostly because he has no one to play with that is the same age in over 4 months. That is the toughest part I think, watching Nikolas be homesick and asking when this trip will be ending.

 

There were a few other bizarre things that happened like a few people who recognized us on the other side of the world. One guy walked up to Nikolas and said he recognized him from the Cruise when we were up in Alaska last year, we saw him when we were in Asia. Another incident happened at the business centre on the ship. I was sitting there working on a computer when a gent said, ďI know youĒ. He looked familiar to me but I was not sure. We never actually met, but he recognized me from when we were in Maui in 1999 talking to Nik back when he was four year old, now that is bizarre.

 

The other strange thing we noticed that seems to be consistant all over the world, is that there is something funny happening with the weather. We have been traveling over 4 months and have only seen rain two times. Places we went to that were supposed to be hot said for some reason it was very cold this year. Like in Malaga Spain, they had snow for the first time in 30 years. It appears mother nature is acting a little strange these days and one can only wonder if itís a green house or an ozone issue.

 

Canada may be the second largest country in the world, but no one knows about it. It does not matter where we went or what news source we used, Canada was no where to be found. Traveling around has educated me a little more on world issues, like when I said that real estate prices will come down in Canada. When compared to the housing in the rest of the world I donít think so anymore, it may take 10 years but Canada is a screaming deal in comparison. Vancouver has one of the cheapest real estate prices when you compare it to any other city its size in the world. I think the Olympics will push the prices through the roof, except anytime I think I know what I am talking about, the opposite seems to happen.

 

All in all I am glad we used the QE II, I think it is not the most economical way to go, but probably the easiest if you are traveling with kids under the age of 10. I am sure I will look back in the coming years and remember all the great times we had while on that old ship. Without kids I would not do it, you could see so much more for a quarter of the price if you just bought an around the world air ticket.

 

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AT SEA - April 9 †††(received April 10)

 

(Written by Steve)

Well, here we are, only a few dayís away from getting off this old gal (QE II). We have been traveling on this ship for 3 Ĺ months and have gone around ĺ of the globe. Are we going to miss it? Yes and No.

The passengers are getting so cranky I feel embarrassed to be classified in the same group as some of them, so in that respect we are very ready to go out on our own. Please excuse me for saying this, but some of these folks are down right rude and need a good wake up call.

Speaking of wake up calls, we were told of a terrorist attack in Cairo, Egypt 4 days after we left. A group called ďIslamic Brigades of Pride detonated a bomb in the busy Khan al-Khalili Souque (Market place), which killed some tourists on Monday April 6th. One of the buses from our ship was parked right in the spot that the bomb was detonated. When we heard the news and found out the location, I can only tell you that I felt sick to my stomach. I am glad we saw the Pyramids but I would never risk going back until things change, and our hearts go out to the families of those French and American tourists who were killed last Thursday. O.K. lets talk about something else.

So we are ready to get off the ship, but I think we have lost touch with reality so getting back to cooking our own meals might take a bit of adjusting. We have made many friends on this ship so it will be a very sad day when we are sitting on the dock in Malaga and the QE II sails away.

That incident in Cairo was a real make-up call and our eyes and ears will now be wide open!

Well, nothing too new onboard, just a few more scraps in the laundry room, and the ship ran out of blueberries. You may laugh about the Blueberries, but there will be a few folks onboard who will be calling there lawyers if they donít get some soon.

 

At Sea - April 7 (received April 8)

(Written by Steve)

We are in the Mediterranean and we just passed the city of Sicily and what a sight at night. We were so close we could see the cars driving around and the city, and it just looked alive considering it is going to be the Popeís Funeral tomorrow.

I heard some talk of some folks driving the 3 hours to Rome from Naples to see the Funeral. I donít think that will happen as I just saw on the news that it is not possible, the whole place is shut down. We are quite far from land now and a funny thing just happened, my cell phone started to accept messages. That is really strange because I canít even see land anymore out the porthole, and this phone gets brutal reception in the best of times. Well I am not sure what kind of day it is going to be tomorrow or if anything will even be open, but we will try and go to Pompeii. I will let you know how it goes.

 

At Sea - April the 5th (received April 8)

(Written by Steve)

I will just give you a little info about this little stream we are floating up today.

The Suez Canal is 195 km (121 mi) long. The minimum bottom width of the channel is 60 m (197 ft) and ships of 16 m (53 ft) draft can make the transit. The canal can accommodate ships as large as 150,000 dead weight tons fully loaded. It has no locks, because the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez have roughly the same water level. The canal utilizes three bodies of wateróLake Manzilah, Lake Timsah, and the Bitter Lakes (the latter is actually one continuous body of water)óand is not the shortest distance across the isthmus. Most of the canal is limited to a single lane of traffic, but several passing bays exist, and two-lane bypasses are located in the Bitter Lakes and between Al Qantarah and Ismailia. We did not see any other ships waiting or going the other direction, just the QE2 and another freighter about a half mile behind us. A railroad on the west bank runs parallel to the canal for its entire distance.

 

Suez Canal History Ė sent by Steve

 

In 1854 the French diplomat and engineer Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps succeeded in enlisting the interest of the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha in the project. In 1858 La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) was formed with authority to cut a canal and to operate it for 99 years, after which ownership would return to the Egyptian government. The company was originally a private Egyptian concern, its stock owned chiefly by French and Egyptian interests. In 1875 the British government purchased Egypt's shares.

 

Excavation of the canal was begun on April 25, 1859, and the canal was opened to navigation on November 17, 1869. The cost totaled about $100 million. About three times that sum was spent on later repairs and improvements.

 

 

Six-Day War, armed conflict in June 1967 between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. In six days, Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights, which became collectively known as the Occupied Territories.

 

Israel and its Arab neighbors had been hostile toward each other since 1948, when Israel became a nation in an area that Palestinian Arabs claim as their homeland. After Israel declared its statehood, several Arab states and Palestinian groups immediately attacked Israel, only to be driven back. In 1956 Israel overran Egypt in the Suez-Sinai War. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser vowed to avenge Arab losses and press the cause of Palestinian nationalism. To this end, he organized an alliance of Arab states surrounding Israel and mobilized for war. Israel preempted the invasion with its own attack on June 5, 1967. In the following days, Israel drove Arab armies from the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights, all of which it then occupied. Israel also reunited Jerusalem, the eastern half of which Jordan had controlled since the 1948-1949 war. The Six-Day War was viewed as an enormous victory for Israel, but the territories it gained did not stop future fighting. The peace process throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s has in large part been an attempt to resolve the land disputes created by Israelís military success. We could see many blown up car's, tanks and bridge of both sides of the canal, you can see them in the photo album. In short, just a very relaxing day.

 

 

 

At SEA Mar 30

Somewhere in the Arabian Sea

 

(Written by Steve)

We are still in the Arabian Sea but we will cross over into the Red Sea in about 30 minutes. Our ship received a distress signal at about 6pm and we had to alter our course and stop to try and help. It was very weird to come upon the ship as it was just floating nowhere and then for us to shut down and float along side it. Our ship dropped a tender boat and sent our doctor, 1st mate and security over to pick up the injured seaman. When they arrived the guy had already succumbed to his injuries, and the crew returned back to the QE II without him. The plan was to pick him up and have another helicopter come in and take him to a hospital, but it never happened.

 

 

This ship is stopped a few hundred feet beside us; our doctor and some crew are on it as this picture is being taken.

 

On that note: The gent (a Canadian fellow) that was taken off our ship by helicopter when we were in the Persian Gulf has also passed away. He was only 59 years old.

I am trying to think of some good news to tell you.Ah yes, I received an email from our friend Ray OíShea, and he is out of hospital. In case you donít know, Ray is the Catholic Priest who we used to sit with at dinner, and he had a heart attack and required 5 bypasses back when we were in Hong Kong. He is still a little weak, but in great spirits, and I have promised the kids we will visit him in Wales.

I have not been able to get anything out as of news or pictures because the dang internet is not working right. Our cell phone will not pick up a GPRS signal, so we can not even use that. I guess when we hit Egypt, maybe I can unload everything there. The rumor is we will have armed guards escorting us to the Pyramids, so we should be in very safe hands on that little stop.

The Virus levels on the ship have apparently peaked again and the crew has been having special meetings in hopes of stopping it. This Norwalk thing has been on this ship for over 3 months and it is so hard to believe that people are being quarantined to their rooms still. It appears the crew has given up the cleaning of the walls and all that business, I think they just realize they canít beat this thing.

A funny thing happened on Easter morning after the Easter bunny left the ship. The daily ship paper had reminded everyone that the Easter bunny would be hiding Easter eggs on the quarter deck of the ship. Early that morning a women from California was up just after 5 am and collected every single one of the treats the Bunny had left, over 500 of them.So by the time any of the children got there, they were all gone! Oh well, thatís life aboard the QE II.

 

At SEA April 1,

 

The Captain made an announcement that there was an Iceberg floating off the starboard side of the ship. When everyone ran out to see it, there was nothing out there but the water of the Red Sea. Aprils fools! Ha!

We are currently right in the middle of the Red Sea, between Saudi Arabia and Egypt and traveling at 29 knots. That is quite fast, but we have a very ill gentleman who needs to get to a hospital so we are heading to the waters of Egypt and the pilot will come out to the ship to get him.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Other than that, we are all doing just Jim Dandy, and are ready to get off this old Gal. Itís hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks, we will be in Spain and have completed this part of our journey.

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At Sea - Mar 25

9:30 am

Well folks here we are, at anchor about 5 miles off the coast of Dubai in the Persian Gulf. Thatís right at anchor!

We are stuck in something called a Shamal and have just been advised by the Captain that it appears impossible to make the port today or tomorrow. It must be bad because there is 600 passengers waiting to get on and 600 getting off and heading to the airport. We also have a very ill gentleman aboard and in about 15 minutes a helicopter is going to land on the ship and pick him up. So it appears we will not see Dubai after all. I also heard yesterday that we still might not be going through the Suez Canal and might have to head around South Africa because of security reasons. I donít think that is going to happen, mostly because I started this exact rumor about a month ago and had no basis for saying it.

We can tons of ship here, from oil tankers to military vessels

Anyways here we are, sitting out in the Gulf awaiting a helicopter, so Iíll let you know what happens. We have a great cell phone signal, so I will update you if we start to move.

UPDATE Ė sent @ 10:30 pm March 22 - We just had a daring helicopter rescue performed in some pretty high winds. A police helicopter came out and picked up a very ill passenger, and did it flawlessly. We are stuck our here off the coast of Dubai until this Shamal calms down, or we might head to Muscat.Who knows, never a dull moment aboard the QE II!!!

More pictures

Received March 22 - "That's right, we are back on board safe and sound. WE LOVED MUMBAI (BOMBAY), and hope to one day return.  I just thought we would let you know we made it back alive."

 

The Serbic's

 

Received March 21

(Written by Steve)

We are not really at sea, we are sitting in the harbour awaiting immigration to check passports and question all the passengers. It is 11:30 am now and we are being told it could take up to 12 hours or until around 10 pm before they allow us to dock. We are excited and terrified all at the same time about Mumbai; itís a very different world here. I am looking at the city right now as it is only half a mile to shore, and it looks beautiful. On our way here there were a couple of military helicopters that would buzz a few hundred feet above the ships deck, and sometimes even hover and wave to us.

There is a destroyer just a few hundred meters off our starboard side and I heard that security is very tight when we are here. I was surprised to find out that they send divers under the ship to see if we picked up any packages, or any other surprises; thatís comforting thought. We are heading into the Persian Gulf in the next few days and that should be interesting, to say the least. I have no worries about going into the U.A.E. and the Middle East, itís the main reason I was attracted to this cruise.

I donít know if there is anything too new on the ship, but hey I have nothing else to do, so Iíll make something up. Here goes.

I donít know the exact numbers, but it appears quite a few of the passengers are coming down with this stomach virus again. One of the kids in the kids club was puking her brains out last night, and you can get it more than once, so we hope Nik or Dani donít get it again. The ship has been cleaning this old gal since we left New York and doing a heck of a job, so I am very surprised itís back again. Since I am talking about the crew I want to throw a plug in for these wonderful people. We have been on quite a few different lines, and the folks that work on this ship are absolutely incredible. You can see some of them, who are close to completing their 6 and 4 month contracts, and they look bagged, but they just keep going. You would think that these folks might not get much money but at least they get to see the world, well thatís what I first thought. The truth is that they only get a few hours in each port in between lunch and dinner, or before lunch. Even when we get to some ports, some of the crew must stay aboard, so they might not be able to get off at all. We were told that the people in the restaurant can get off the ship 4 out of every 22 ports, thatís tough.

 We have been treated very well by them all, well not all, one gent in the purserís office did not do us any favours, we will get to that later. We consider a lot of the crew our friends and hang out with them in port, and it has been fantastic. The crap these folks (the crew) take from passengers is not like it would be on a 7 day cruise, these world cruisers are a very difficult bunch. I have never seen such disrespect from one person to another in my life. When some fat cat is demanding to only have 1 ice cube in his glass and 2 accidentally fall in, well you would think the waiter dumped it on his lap or something. Yelling and complaining as if it was done on purpose, and this and that, and it happens every single day on the QE II. There are days when I see some poor crew person getting unloaded on and I just want to walk up to the passenger and smack them in the back of the head. I came close to actually doing it, but I had the kids with me, and I donít want Nikolas writing home about that.

We are all doing well and are looking forward to Mumbai, we not really but it will be a site to see. We are prepared for the worst and it will be very difficult to travel with kids, but we will give it a try. We have heard about it from so many people and it sounds terrifying to be honest. We will let you know how we did as soon as we are back and have a connection.

Wish us luck


 

(written by Steve - March 17)

There is really nothing new on this old Gal!

Father OíShea had 5 bypasses, and I am not sure what they call that one, but he is resting and doing well. We spoke to him on the phone the day before his operation and he sounded strong, Nikolas just lit up with joy when he got to talk to Ray, and they had a short heart warming conversation.

Our friends Eric and Ursula had to go to the hospital too in Hong Kong, because Eric had what the ships doctor called a gall stone. It was not until they did the surgery that they found a growth on his pancreas, and they had to stay. When they got home to San Francisco they emailed someone on the ship with some really bad news, our hearts go out to both of them.

A comedian the other night had a few funny lines about Bangkok.

He said he was unaware that Bangkok was such a family destination. He was very surprised to see so many western men walking down the street with their Thai daughters.

The virus levels on the ship have spiked once again and many people have been quarantined to their rooms including Nikolas and Danika. Our kids are fine now, but it sure was not a lot of fun when they were both ill, poor kids.

We are now right in the middle of the Indian Ocean a few hundred kilometers away from Sri Lanka. We will keep you updated with all the events and even some news.

 

AT SEA - Mar 9  (written by Steve)

Here we are just off the coast of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. We left Hong Kong about 2 days ago and are now headed to Laem Chabang, Thailand for our scheduled arrival on March 11.  Leaving Hong Kong was a real downer, mostly because we left a few friends we had made on the ship back there.

Our good Friend Ray (Father) OíShea had a heart Attack and was taken off the ship by ambulance. We had been in our cabin for a couple of days because the kids were ill, and then tried to make up for lost time on our last day in port. It was when we returned to the ship just before it pulled away from the dock when we found out about this terrible news. We went to dinner that night and sure enough his seat was empty and I can only tell you that it was a very quiet dinner. Usually we are always yakking about some current event, or Rayís days when he was a boxer or a magician, but that night we did little talking and left early. Have you ever met or known someone who is always positive and can take any conversation and get you to look at the positive or funny side of it, well that was Father OíShea. Nikolas just loved this man, he could not sleep the night of the news, and told me he just canít believe that he may never see Father OíShea again. I wonít tell Nikolas but, if we get up into Wales we will most certainly stop by and see our old friend.

Just so you know, Ray is in Intensive Care in a Hong Kong Hospital awaiting an angiogram to see the extent of the damage. His chest pain was much better a couple of days later and heís in good spirits, and if I know Ray he will be back on his feet in no time.

I canít remember talking about religion with Ray, but we certainly got into the politics and geography and he is very educated on those subjects. I personally will really miss Ray as I consider him to be one of my very good friends. I never thought I would be good friends with a Catholic Priest and I am not even sure why I say that. My ignorance for religion made me think a Priest to be very serious with little time for chit chat, kind of like an orthopedic surgeon. Have you ever met an Orthopedic Surgeon? Those folks are dang stuffy and have no bed side manner, thatís kind of what I thought a priest would be like on his days off, I know Priests never get days off, but you know what I am talking about.

The Gal who told us about what happened to Ray is Mary (From Chicago) and Helen ran into her just before dinner. Poor Mary was going on a tour on the same morning that Ray was taken to hospital. Mary was getting on her tour bus and an English chap in front of her had a massive heart attack and collapsed and hit the ground. Mary cleared the manís airway and did CPR for about 20 minutes until help arrived. Poor Mary was really rattled afterwards, but at least she stopped to help when most would only watch. Unfortunately the man passed away, but bystanders said they saw Mary fly into action and she did a heck of a job.  Sheís a retired Nurse!

I know this is starting to sound like a bit of a soap, but a few other things have happened to people we have told you about, and they all had to get off in Hong Kong.

So it was kind of weird pulling out of Hong Kong and leaving 4 of our friends behind. Our other friend Eric and Ursula were also in the Hospital in Hong Kong. Eric had been having stomach pains for a week and they thought he had a gall stone. Once they operated they realized he had a growth on his Pancreas and are now being sent back home to San Francisco. They were a super nice couple and we never got to say good bye to them either.

One more gal, Maria (Danikaís Big sister) also left us and even though that was tough, at least we got to say good bye.

Does this sound like a soap opera or what?

To change subjects, our kids were quite sick when we were in port and still Danika just canít shake what ever this ship sickness is. Nikolas bounced back from the flu but is having a hard time adjusting to life without Father OíShea around.

Helen is doing excellent and talking about booking her next cruise. NOT! She is more relaxed as the seas have been quite nice since we left Japan.

I am doing just Jim Dandy myself, eating like a mad man and doing quite a bit of nothing. The days at sea really donít turn me on, and I kind of just want to get to the next port as soon as possible. I still like the tea time thing, but have not been able to go in the last week.

I have got lots of emails from friends asking me how my heart thing is going, and I have been feeling dizzy since boarding the ship. I know why everyone is asking because they are thinking, and I wonder too, if it was stress. I have had 2 episodes since we have left, one scary one for me was at dinner on a  night when I broke out in a sweat and felt like I was going to pass out. The other was on the tread mill and I have not done that since. The truth about the whole thing is I am not exactly sure what it is, but I have an idea. I went through so much testing before I left, I got to know my body very well. I wore monitors for a few days, had a stress test (which I failed) had an angiogram that showed me my arteries were clear. The consensus from all the specialists I saw was that I have an Electrical problem with my heart. That may be true and I will only find out when I complete all the testing that I was supposed to do before I left. I have my own theory and am trying to diagnose myself right now as I write. (Is that a guy thing or what?)

Well, anyways, I found out some things about my heart that I did not know. I have a resting heart rate of 38 and my resting Blood pressure is 90/60.  The blood pressure surprised me, as I always remember it being 120/80 and have had it at that level for at least 20 years. Now, for some reason my body has decided it likes a BP of 90/60 and I think thatís where my dizziness comes from. The Cardiologists I saw down in the U.S. told me that my blood pressure is just fine at that level, but I donít buy it. (I know, another guy thing) I have worked very hard to keep myself hydrated and throw the weights around every other day, and feel pretty good. I have dragged my wife and 2 kids on an adventure of a life time, but I am not quite sure whatís in store for myself. I can hear my mother-in-law again ďI told her not go, heís crazy and has no planĒ. The funny thing is, if something goes wrong, my mother-in-law and father will be the first people to step up and say that they told us not to go. This cruising part is easy, but when we head into Europe, we are going to run into some problems, and hopefully deal with them. I am right now making arrangements through our travel agent to get a car set up and looking at a plan of attack. We will be fine I am sure, but itís been hard  getting some things worked out when your only link is an internet service that works once a week.

There is something else on this ship that does not work very well, the Security. There is a real security problem aboard this ship. I always tell Helen not to worry, but now I am getting a little worried. When we were in Perth, 4 people over-powered a crewman on 5 deck while he was pumping out sewage and boarded the ship. These 4 people were so drunk they just lifted and crawled under the chain link fence and walked right up and on to the ship. When we were in the Philippines, I walked right through the security checkpoint because there was no one there to check me. The 2 guys that were supposed to be checking passengers  were busy checking a vehicle, and me and few passengers waited for a couple minutes and then said forget it and walked in. While we were in Hong Kong, I was getting on the ship one night and there were 4 guys from the crew (I think they were crew) behind me carrying this one huge box and 4 smaller ones. I looked on one of the boxes and it said Audio equipment. The big box (5íx5íx6. speakers I think) was barely being carried by these 2 guys behind me. I watched to see what the security guard was going to do because there was no way the big box was going to fit through the little x-ray machine. Much to my surprise the security guy just waved them by and didnít even put the smaller boxes through.

You see Helen is terrified about going into the Persian Gulf on Mar 25, because she thinks someone is going to try and sink us, or hit us with a missile or something.

I have told her many times that the only way you are going to sink this old gal, is if you could get the bomb on board. Well you know what, those guys from the crew (or who ever they were) could have been carrying anything in those boxes, and walked right onto the ship.

Every time you leave and board the ship, you must run your ship Id under a scanner, but itís not that great of a system and can be easily bypassed. Those guys also had Id when they brought those boxes onboard, but you should be as worried about cargo coming onboard as you are the passengers or crew.  Anyways, I am getting off topic and will save all my little concerns for the very end when we disembark.

We are not quite sure how to feel about a couple of our upcoming stops like Thailand and Sri Lanka. These countries are rebuilding from one of the worst disasters in history and we are coming in there on this floating fantasy land as a tourist. One part of me really wants to see these ports, but the other part of me feels guilty for going there. We are going to Bangkok and will be quite far away from the devastation, but who knows maybe we wonít go after all. We have missed 5 ports of call so far, and I am sure there are many more to come. 

Well thatís all for now, I really was just writing to tell you the sad news about Ray OíShea and got carried away with the rest.

 

(Written by Helen) - received February 22 at 04:30 am

Hello everyone, 

Just a little update on where we are and what we are doing.  We are currently on our way to the Phillipines and are probably crossing the equator as I write.  It is 8pm on Feb. 22 and we have just come from dinner in the Maurentania Restaurant.  It is formal night every night that we are at sea so we are getting used to wearing tuxedos and ballgowns every night.  Well, Steve still hates it but he sure looks dapper.  We had a good night at dinner as it was our main waitresses birthday today.  We have become very close to both of our waitresses (I hate to call them that because they feel like our friends).  Angela turned 24 today and she is from South Africa and she is so wonderful.  The kids just love them, the other one is Maria and she is from Italy.  They have a big crew party tonight so we were bugging them about all the single nice looking guys that are going to be there and we were all having a good laugh.  We are also fortunate to be sitting beside Father O'Shea and Father John.  They are wonderful to talk to and we always have very interesting conversations with them.  Father O'Shea is the Catholic Priest on board and today he performed a ceremony for couples that were renewing their wedding vows.  Steve was there (without me, ha!) because he was asked by a couple we met from Florida to videotape the ceremony for them.  John and Suzanne have been married for 35 years and are such a wonderful couple.  We met them in the casino and have really enjoyed their company.  They were gracious enough to join us for lunch after the ceremony and they shared their bottle of champagne with us, it was great. 

I don't want to jinx it BUT, it has been very smooth sailing since we left Exmouth.  This is my kind of cruising!!!!  You can't even feel a thing.  Unfortunately, or should I say ironically, the other night I woke up in the middle of the night and the whole room was spinning.  I thought for a minute that I had the dreaded Norwalk Virus but found out that it was probably just sea sickness.  Now???      After being on this ship for almost 2 months, I get sea sick now when the ship has never been smoother.  The doctor said I may have a bit of an inner ear infection and my equilibrium is not sure what to do.  Boy, was I sick.  But it only lasted a few hours and then the medication set in and I slept for hours and hours and then I felt better.  Now I feel fine but I have a bit of a cold, oh well. 

The kids are still doing just fine.  To put in perspective we told Nikolas that we may be getting off a few days early in Spain instead of Southampton and he just went crazy.  He begged us to stay on til the end, he even said that we could get off and him and Dani would stay on and we could pick them up in England later.  I'm not sure why he loves this boat so much but they seem to be having a blast.  School work is going pretty good.  It's like pulling teeth to get him started but once he does start it goes surprisingly well.  Today he sat through a question and answer session with the captain of the ship and it lasted over an hour and he actually took notes throughout the whole thing.  It was really interesting.  The captain of this ship is a very witty, intelligent and interesting man.  He is the youngest captain in Cunard's history.  He is very well-spoken and very funny!!!

Life on board had become like home.  Today I spent most of the day in the laundry room doing the wash and that can be quite interesting in itself.  Everyday there is a fight to get an empty washer or dryer and the tempers can really flare in that room I tell you.  I just heard today that two passengers were kicked off the ship for actually fist fighting over a washer.  Can you believe that??? 

Steve's in fine form with his rumours he is spreading around that the ship is going to bypass the Suez Canal for security reasons and instead travel around the Cape Horn in Africa.  Even the Captain was questioned about this today and much to everyone's surprise his answer included a very detailed itinerary that we would follow if this was to happen.  It's not but he said if for some political reason we were unable to transit the Suez Canal we would head from India down to South Africa, over to Rio in South America and up to Florida, New York and then across the Atlantic AGAIN to Southampton.  I told Steve if that happens I am getting off in India!  I refuse to cross the Atlantic in this ship no matter how safe everyone keeps telling me it is.

Right now we are half way between Bali and Manila and it is scorching hot during the day.  Tomorrow we are all signed up to become Shell backs during the Crossing the Equator Ceremony.  We are all going to kiss the fish, get gross old food mushed all over our bodies and get thrown in the pool.  Should be Fun!!!????

There was another earthquake in Indonesia the other day.  A question was raised to the captain about that today and he assured us that the best place to be during a tsunamai is right where we are, right in the middle of a large body of water.  Whew!!  He also confirmed that a few years ago the ship did take on a 96ft. wave in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  So Steve told me to quit my whining when I start to get excited when we hit 10ft. waves. 

Well, that's it for now.  We are both excited and a little nervous as we venture into a part of the world we have never been before.  Asia will be very exciting and we are really looking forward to the amazing sights that await us.  Hopefully we all stay healthy and we will share the stories and pictures when they happen.  Talk to you soon!!

 

 

AT SEA

(written by Steve Feb16) 

One minute I am telling you I donít think I can write anymore at sea stories because there is nothing new to write about and the next minute I am  sending out one of my little stories. I actually had an interesting day at sea today because Helen, Nikolas and I went to one of the many lectures they have on the ship everyday. The gent who we went to see is named Dr. Terry Waite and he is a very successful hostage negotiator that is responsible for the release of several hostages from Iran back in the 80ís. In 1983 he negotiated with Colonel Ghadafi for the release of British Hostages being held in Libya. He talked today about the time he was trying to negotiate the release of American Hostages in Beirut back in 1987, you might remember the name Terry Anderson. Dr. Waite was trying to help negotiate the release of these men when it all went terribly wrong, he himself was taken hostage. He was kept in captivity for over 5 years, more than 4 of those years he spent in total solitary confinement.

 

He started the lecture by telling us what a negotiator does, and how he became involved in such a thing. He started with a couple of funny stories about when he was moved a few times and the captures had some trouble with him. Dr. Waite is 6í 7Ē tall and he said every time he got moved they would wrap him in masking tape from head to toe and put him in the trunk of a car. He said on one occasion they tried to get him in a trunk but he would not fit, even with the captures sitting on the top. He heard one of them say ďput him in the fridgeĒ and Dr. Waite replied ďyou canít do that, Iíll suffocate and dieĒ. The captors replied, ď donít worry you wonít be in there for too long, so he was put in the fridge and transported to where very they had to move him. The funny part of this story was when he told us ďI can assure you all that the light does indeed go out when the door closesĒ. One other story he told was when they taped him all up and threw him in a trunk and when he hit the floor of the trunk he felt another body in there. He ripped away some tape from his mouth and said ďthere is not a lot of room in here is thereĒ and the body replied ďuntil you came in, there was plenty of roomĒ. That was the first time he had any kind of contact with anyone in fours years, and also the first time he had ever met a British hostage named John McCarthy. His stories are told with a very gentle humor, as he casually talks about how 5 years of his life was stolen from him. The one thing that I will ask when I get the chance is how was it that his spirit was not broken in those years of captivity. I wonít go into too much detail because he is going to give 2 more talks and I am sure I have lots more to tell you. When we met with Dr. Waite after his talk he surprised me by saying, ďAh, you folks are from CanadaĒ, after only 2 or 3 words had come out of my mouth, I assumed someone must of told him this tidbit, but he said he could tell by my accent.

I get the impression Dr. Waite is a very smart man, and I look forward to hearing him speak in the next few days. 

Following his release on 19th November 1991 he was elected a fellow commoner at Trinity Hall Cambridge England where he wrote his first book Taken on Trust. This quickly became an international best seller. His latest book published in October 2000 Travels with a Primate is a humorous account of his journeys with Archbishop Runcie.

 

At Sea - February 15

(Written by Steve)

I donít know how many more of these at sea stories we can write about, because itís the same old, same old on the ship. We are now 1 Ĺ months into our cruise and the Norwalk virus levels are still very high, well, we think they are still high. We have people met people who have had it, and the folks next to us just came off quarantine, so it may be just a matter of time for us. I still feel the ships crew has done everything possible to try and control it, but it started way back in New York and is still out of control. The crew still wipe down every part of the ship with Virox every hour and all food utensils every half hour. The poor crew have been doing this for over a month and look exhausted, we really feel bad for them. The cruise itself has been fine, and the Seas have been very nice to us lately, except for maybe last night. Helen is confirmed Sea worthy and does not complain about feeling sea sick anymore. We are not thrilled about being a sea for more than a night a time, and are currently doing 2 nights now on our way to Perth.

The family is doing well and we are all settling in really well after our side trip to Auckland. That little trip helped gel us all back together and get us back on track. Helen and I rarely scrap but we do on occasion not talk to each if we are not getting along real well. We started to do that a bit and the Kids were very difficult to manage before we got off in Auckland. Nikolas is still having some tough moments and the other day I had to freak out on him a bit and really lay down the law again. I felt a little bad afterwards, but he was really pushing our buttons and we were having a really tough time getting him to do his school work. It all turned out fine and we had a really great father to son heart to heart (I am getting a little choked up thinking about it). The kid told us in a fit of anger he wished we never came on the dumb trip and I responded by telling him I was really hurt, but inside I completely understood. He quickly said sorry after he thought he had hurt my feelings and told me he was happy about doing this, only he really missed all his friends, and he only said it because he was mad. He told me that he thought there would be kids here his age that he could play with, and he wished he was back with his hockey team. Now I felt really rotten, and I asked him if he wanted to maybe end it early and go home, he said no its O.K. He does not really feel that way, and would jump for joy if I said lets go home, but he just said what I wanted to hear. He is a really good kid, and if I did not feel that this was a once and lifetime chance, maybe I would consider pulling the plug early. Anyways, it was a real good little chat and I was very surprised how mature he was when he talked to me.

One thing that I am really happy about is that Helen does Nikolasí school work and she does a wonderful job. Nikolas has a short attention span and Helen is quite patient on most days and they somehow seem to get it all done. To be honest, if I was the kid there is no way Iíd do it, so Iím very happy Nikolas and Helen make it happen.

Danika is doing great, she is so spoiled. She beats to a completely different drum than old Nikolas. I love that little girl but she is quite selfish for a little 4 year old, so much sometimes that it really surprises me. The kid is 4 years old and her favorites foods are Jumbo Shrimp and Lobster, and has eaten Escargot and frogs legs. I hope she will change a little, because down the road she is going to make for one expensive wife. I think itís a genetic thing more than a learned thing.

The ship itself is the same as it has always been, I still love the old gal. The food and the service on the QE II are first rate. I am a little sick of eating like this all the time, but the selection of food could not be any better. I am not a big fan of the way some problems with passengers are handled, but it all comes down to the ship being fully booked. They canít move people when their cabins flood or have electrical problems because the ship is so packed, and I think that in itself will be the end of the QE II. The folks on this ship do not tolerate being told ďsorry there is nothing we can do for youĒ; they donít like hearing those words. The crew and staff on this ship are the hardest working and most professional ship employees I have ever seen, and we have been on a Ĺ dozen different lines. I think Cunard is just a banner for Carnival, and they will not only lose all the loyal passengers, but also all their loyal employees. 68% of the passengers that sail on the QE II are return passengers, but many of them are extremely unhappy on this voyage and say they wonít return again. As one nice lady who has been on this ship many times put it, they should take this ship out to sea and sink it. We may never be on another one of Cunards cruises, but I hope that Carnival gets its act together for the crewís sake, because they have such wonderful staff on this ship and they are getting treated very badly. .

So thatís pretty much it for the day at sea story, and we canít get to Perth fast enough.

 

Day at Sea  Received February 2 @ 2:56 AM

(Written by Helen - Feb.2) 

At 11pm as the QE 2 left Auckland, Steve and I and the kids were sitting in a hotel room.  We heard her blow her horn and we all rushed to the Conference Room next to our room that is on the 28th floor to the big window that faced the harbour.  We watched her back out and slowly sail away.  Why arenít we on our ship you ask?  Stayed tune for the ever surprising adventure!!!

Well, itís actually not that exciting.  As weíve mentioned before, the air conditioner in our room starting leaking so they decided to put in a new one.  No big deal normally but when they pulled back the carpet in the room, it must have been leaking for awhile because the carpet and underlay and floor were wet and there was some interesting looking black mold growing on the floor.  The ship gave us another room, on the THIRD floor and told us that this room would be ready in one day and then they decided to do the air conditioner in our other room right after so both rooms were out of commission.  The plan was for the first room to be done and then we could move our stuff into that one while the other room was being done.  The only problem was that they put new carpet on top of wet underlay and when Steve brought one of the pursers into our room to discuss what was done he wasnít impressed.  Steve got the purser to help him move the bed and then Steve pulled back the new carpet and showed the purser the wet underlay, wet floor , lovely black mold and a nice collection of cigarette butts and used Q-tips.  They didnít even clean the area before they put the carpet down and Steve told the guy it was unacceptable.  He didnít seem very impressed with all this, more work I guess, and thatís when Steve lost it.  Fortunately the women in charge of our deck arrived and she agreed that this was not acceptable. The only problem was that the room needed time to dry with fans and our other room was just painted so we couldnít sleep in either of them.  They gave us another room on deck 3 (thatís 4 rooms now) with all of our stuff still in the rooms on deck 5 SOOOO we decided it was time for a roadtrip!!

The ship arrived in Auckland this morning and we decided last night that we were going to take a little break from the ship and get off in Auckland and spend a few nights here and then fly to Australia and hop back on the ship in a little over a week.  We are hoping by then that our rooms will be done and hopefully the Norwalk virus will settle down again as well.

So far, we are really happy with our decision.  Our hotel is beautiful and spacious!  Tomorrow we will head out and see this beautiful city that reminds us very much of home.

Hopefully this doesnít sound too negative.  As we watched the ship sail away we were quite sad as we have become quite attached to our ďhomeĒ especially some of the passengers and crew we have befriended onboard.

As we sit here in our hotel we look outside and canít quite believe we have made it ďdown underĒ.  We are so far from home and we have come such a long way itís almost hard for us to even comprehend.  Itís the first time I can honestly say that I could live here.  Mind you, it could be because it reminds me so much of home.  We called home today and it was so great to hear everyoneís voice.  Only 11 more months to go!!!

  

 

Father O'Shea & Our Family

Day at Sea   Received February 2 @ 2:56 AM

(Written by Steve - Jan 31)

Itís is amazing what a day can do, we are completely different than we were yesterday. Helen is lying in bed because she is feeling sick to her stomach, I hope it is not the Norwalk thing. I only say that because she looks off, like she is fighting something, I hope not for all our sake. We cross the international dateline tonight, go to sleep on Sunday night and wake up Tuesday morning, very cool.

We made some new friends in Moorea when we stayed at the Sheraton, in fact we met on the truck to the beach. We had lunch with them today and it was a blast, the kids just love these folks. Mel is always laughing and chasing Nikolas around and Ann knows exactly how to push all of Daniís buttons. It was quite fun, but Helen was off, but she trooped through it. We headed back to the room and thatís when Helen took her gravol and went to sleep. The kids are at the kids club and I am writing this from tea time (I know but I canít miss my tea).

 

 

AT SEA    -    Received February 2 @ 2:56 AM

(Written by Steve - Jan 31)

It is 12:30 am and I am writing this from one of the new super rooms on deck 3. Well, new temporary room. I awoke yesterday morning about 4 am to find my bed completely soaking wet, my first fear was that I had had a bad dream. My second fear was the boat was sinking and I was too late to get out us all out. Thankfully it was only the air conditioning unit.  It had sprung a leak and I was soaking wet from ????????? I am sure all the Freon evaporated, well I am not sure, but itís too late now to worry about it. The ship had to move 2 of us up 2 decks to this wonderful room, only I canít sleep in it, hence this story.

The latest news aboard the QE II is, we are in another full outbreak of the wonderful Norwalk virus. The crew is back to cleaning every inch of the ship with that cool Virox stuff every half hour. The ship wonít tell the passengers anything, but we have a very good source who gives us all the straight goods. We almost had it nipped aside from a few new passengers who caught it and were confined to their rooms for the 7 day contagious period. Everything would have been great because it had been kept down to a very few number of these new passengers and appeared to be under control. Apparently a couple of these new passengers felt the ship had no right to tell them to stay in their rooms and walked out on a number of occasions without telling anyone and now we have a full outbreak again. I have to admit that after watching the way the QE II staff has handled this situation, I must say I am very impressed. O.K. they are not telling the passengers anything, but anytime they have people making you clean your hands before entering the dining areas and you are not allowed to touch anything. Even the first time traveler would know something was going on. Nikolas got sick the other day and was vomiting all morning, but he had been drinking the shower water the night before in Tahiti. By lunch time he was feeling better and started to eat again by dinner, we knew he did not have it. Phewwwwwwww!

 Apart from that, we are somewhere off Samoa in the south pacific making great time against the huge waves that are pounding us right now. I just spoke to Helen 2 decks below, and she is not too happy right now and wide awake.

 That day in Moorea was very magical and maybe I canít sleep because I canít stop thinking about it. We will one day return to that same Hotel on the same Island and take that place for all its worth, at least 2 weeks.

 

January 30 - (received 5:20 pm)

Hey folks,

 

We are somewhere between Samoa and New Zealand and hitting some rough seas again. Helen is sicker than a dog again, poor gal, but the kids are fine. The Norwalk virus is back in a big way and the ship is going all out in trying to stop it from spreading. I am quite impressed (from a germaphobic perspective) with the way they are handling it, washing every part of the ship every half hour with Virox. They stand in front of you before you enter the gallery and make everyone wash their hands before you eat. We really miss Moorea Tahiti, it was a magical place and we can only dream about going back. We are crossing the international dateline tonight so we loose a day. Go to bed Sunday night and wake up Tuesday morning, very cool I guess. We had a small problem in our room 2 nights ago and we have been moved out for 2 days while they rip out a wall. I was sleeping only to wake (well, I woke up and then went back to sleep) at around 4am covered in some kind of liquid. The air conditioner blew up above my bed and showered me with what I think was mostly water, I slept in it till 7am before noticing it was not just some bad dream. I will get out the full story to you in 2 days, Helen is not in a writing mood so we'll wait till she feels better before we send out any more messages. You know the sea are not that rough, just really noisy and bumpy, and I think she is just off. Oh, I hope its not that Norwalk thing. I'll let you know if any of us gets sick.

See ya for now,. we miss you all

We will be in Auckland on Wednesday morning, wish us luck,

 

Steve, Helen, Nikolas and Danika

 

AT SEA  (Written by Steve, January 23 ) - received January 27 @ 4:11 pm

It was on this day in the middle of the South Pacific that I realized I am on one of the greatest adventures of my life. Well maybe I just realized how wonderful it was to sit on the deck and look at the mild seas and drink a Mai Tai. I know back in B.C. the Surrey firefighters are busting their butts putting out fire and saving lives. O.K. maybe not the boys down at Hall 12, but the guys out of Hall 2, Hall 1 and Hall 10 are certainly some of the hardest working Firefighters around. It was on this day that I sit in a deck chair looking at some of the smoothest seas I have ever seen anywhere having a drink thinking about Firefighting. I truly love that job, but more than that, I really like the guys I work with. I played lacrosse twice a week, hockey 2-3 (sometimes 4) times a week with these guys and had a great time. The best part for me was not actually playing, it was sitting around the dressing room afterwards shooting the poop and a having a beer. I donít even like beer, but I really enjoyed that part of my life. So why the heck am I telling you this?  Well, itís because for the first time I am sitting here realizing how fortunate I am to be doing this trip.  Not only did I manage to get a year off work, my family (Mainly Helen) bought into the program and made it possible to be able to give this a shot.  One of the reasons I am telling you how great of a day this is, because for the very first time in 3 weeks, Helen has relaxed. Ya sheís wearing a ear patch, but the dang seas have finally given us a break so we can enjoy at least one day at sea. Those last few days were not fun for anyone, my self included. So anyways I am sitting here thinking about my buds back home. I donít think I have ever felt like this before in my life, hey maybe Iíll even gain some weight.

 Listen to what my day has been like, compared to what it was.

Today the most stressful thing I did was try and figure out what to order for breakfast, then I took the kids to their little club upstairs while I worked out in the gym. Then Helen and I took dance lessons, thatís right you heard me, I was doing the box step, and chasse with a group of 65 year olds and enjoying every minute of it. I know I am starting to scare myself, but thatís  what I did today! I can hear Jack (the fire Captain from Connecticut)  telling me ďDonít let the boys in your house find out about thisĒ. This day is a bit unusual because it is Sunday and Nikolas did not have to do his school work, which can eat up most of the morning. Oh did I mention that I am writing you this letter from the Queens Room, where a couple hundred of these folks sit down and have a cup of tea.

People on this ship all claim to love the days at sea, well they are not for us, I like this old ship, but not that much. I keep telling Helen to just think of this ship as our means to get to all these great ports. I donít know who I am trying to convince more, her or myself. We were both super disappointed that Kona had been cancelled. You should have seen the look on Helenís face, it was a cross between get me the he!! off this ship and I think I am going to cry.  That means we will have been at sea 4 days, one day in port, then 5 days two days at port, and then another 4 days at sea. No question, that the next two weeks will be the most trying part of the trip.

So whatís new on this ship you ask? Well nothing too much, that dancing news was a major tidbit in my little world. I keep meeting new interesting people everyday and that has made this trip the most enjoyable, next to seeing Helen finally having a good day. We have met Mary (from Chicago) and Ursula (from San Fran) a couple of real super interesting ladies, with many stories to tell. I have spent many hours listening to each and hope to spend many more hours with both of them. We have two new ministers sitting beside us along with Father OíShea, so the conversation has taken on a whole new life now. Father O' Shea likes to talk about his favorite show (CSI) and John a Lutheran Minister from Time Square, New York likes to talk about the men from FDNY. I met a new gent named Bob and he has a really different outlook on life, mostly about travel with his family. He tells me about his 13 grand children and how he had traveled around the world with his children and it has molded them into the people they are today. Bob told me that he believes traveling makes death easier, and I thought that sounded weird too. Only when he explained that he has traveled so much that death would be just like taking another trip. O.K. I am still getting used to talking to Father OíShea like one of my hockey buddies, but I am not quite ready to be entering the dark or light side quite yet. Everyone on this ship has some kind of advice for you and you donít even have to ask, they will just come out and tell you. Bobís advise, or as I call it ďThe tip of dayĒ is never have a bad day. Just stay away from the negative people and lie to yourself every morning and tell yourself how great you are feeling. He says if you do this everyday, sooner or later you will start to believe yourself.

Like I said, everyday we meet at least one new person, and everyday that brings a new tip, a new story and a new outlook on life. The most interesting people to talk to (even though they canít talk to you very much) are the people who work on this ship. You see this ship is like no other, because it goes to every part of the world at least once a year. So everyone who works here wants to see the world and they take a job on this ship hoping to see all these wonderful ports. The only problem is, they never get a full day off. I am not kidding some of these folks that work here will only get a full day off if the ship is in dry dock or the once a year World Cruise starts in Southampton, England. They take a job as a server or cleaner and donít get to leave when we get to port, because the passengers donít always leave. Did you know that some passengers never leave the ship to go into port, never! They love this ship so much, they just stay on it and they could care less where it goes, they just want to eat, drink and ride around. Bizarre eh? Anyways I feel sorry for some of the folks working here because they obviously had no idea how much work they would be doing, and how hard it would be. And if you have ever been on any cruise, you know those folks work super hard for very little pay. I donít have many complaints about this old ship, but like any cruise ship, I donít see why they would not give these folks a day off here and there. It must cost the cruise lines way more to train all new staff after 4 months than it would to try and make the good employees happy and give them a day off. We really like chatting with the staff and crew, and even though some are very careful of what they say, we still manage to have great conversations.

 

 

Jan 24, 2005

 

Today we crossed the Equator and the ship has this big celebration to welcome the first timers who have never been across before. It is a lot of fun and they line everyone up and make you kiss a fish and then dump spaghetti or ketchup all over you and push you in the pool. The pool could be served as a soup by the time they are finished, and they will have to drain and clean it.  They call you a Ďpollywogí before this initiation and a shellback when you have completed it.  We were supposed to sign up but we forgot so we spent the day just watching.  It looked like a lot of fun and we will do it right when we cross again on our way up in a month.

Itís funny how I was thinking of my pals back at SFD because after lunch I check the web page and emails everyday to see whatís up. And there was an email telling me that 3 New York firefighters had just been killed in 2 separate incidents (one in the Bronx and one Brooklyn) and 4 more were taken to hospital in critical condition. Its one thing to read a story like this in the newspaper, but it hits home a little more when you just left that city and you are looking at the names of 3 dead Firefighters on your email. And not only that, I had not thought much about my job since I left home and then I start thinking about it yesterday. We had a conversation about the boys from FDNY at dinner last night and then this. Itís so sad and I feel a bit goofy writing my little journey when stuff like this happens.

Well to finish, we crossed the Equator toady and that was very cool. We hope to get into Tahiti early so we can get over to Bora Bora and see 3 islands while we are there.  Because we missed the port in Kona we are going to spend the night in Pappeete.  Apparently there is a ferry that takes you to Bora Bora so we will see when we get off tomorrow if thatís going to work.

 

A TYPICAL DAY AT SEA

(Written by Helen, January 20) 

As we boarded the ship in Los Angeles after our sight-seeing trip, we walked under the big banner that says, ďWelcome HomeĒ.  When I first saw that sign at the start of our cruise I thought, ďYa, right!Ē  But for the first time we actually felt relieved to be back on board and it did feel like home.  We even say now when we are out and about at ports that Ďwhen we get homeí we will do this or that.  Home meaning on board, back in our rooms.  Itís hard to explain the feeling onboard this ship and we are slowly starting to understand why people come back time and again.  It has a very warm and inviting feel to it and as you walk around you realize how historic a vessel it is.  There are pictures everywhere of celebrities, royalty, and heads of state that have traveled on this ship and there are also pictures of all the ships that have paved the way.  The Caronia, The Maurentania, The original Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, all these trans-Atlantic liners that have traveled the world for a century.   

I know I joked about where our cabins were located on the ship and how I explained that we kept going down more and more stairs until the stairway was so narrow you could only fit one person at a time.  Well, it has become a common joke within the ship as well.  When we talk to people and we find out where they are, we have come to understand that we are called the Ďsteerageí and that in the olden days, the people who stayed at the level we are staying  (Deck 5) were the fourth class citizens, the immigrants and they were segregated to the bottom floors of the ship.  It really does remind me of the movie The Titanic and I have to say I had a few sleepless nights wondering if we would be able to make it to safety if there was an emergency on the ship.  Movies like The Titanic are not good for my imagination.  On decks 5,6,7 and 8 there are water tight doors that are to be closed if there ever was a problem with the ship.  I made Steve show me that we most definitely would be able to Ďescapeí from our floor if they were to close.  He promised me that we wouldnít be locked in and that yes, there are enough life rafts for everyone, even us poor souls in the bottom of the boat.

Even though we live in the 21st century now, you still feel a definite social division amongst the passengers.  Deck 3,4, and 5 passengers eat at a different restaurant than Deck 2 and 1 passengers.  If you have a room near the top of the boat you dine in The Queenís Grill and it is very fancy and you are served with white gloved service.  We met someone who dines there, yes itís amazing she actually talked to us, and she said she hated it because it was filled with a bunch of stuffed shirts (her quote) and nobody talks to anyone and it is very serious and very boring.  In our restaurant, the service is still fantastic (not white gloved) and everyone talks to each other at different tables and itís a lot of fun.  That lady we talk to actually asked to be down-graded. 

We have quite a little routine going on board when we are at sea, and we are at sea A LOT.  If I have one complaint itís that we should have more stops but Steve says that being at port costs them more money and people donít spend money on the ship when we are at port.  Oh well.   

We wake up usually between 7:30-8am and while we get dressed we decide if we are going to have breakfast in The Lido, which is the buffet, or The Maurentania, which is a sit down breakfast with full service.  Like weíve said before the food has been amazing regardless of where we eat.  After breakfast we head back to the rooms and Nikolas does his school work.  Good thing we brought work books for him because he hasnít been able to get on line for his internet work.  He tries to get out of it everyday with various excuses but ultimately he does his work and we are very proud of him.  While Nikolas does his work Danika does her LeapFrog or we have found a great way for her to learn her letters.  There is a section on the ship where they have board games and we take the Scrabble game and make lots of three letter words and she has to read them or create them.  She likes it because itís a Ďgameí.  Often when Nikolas is doing his work we take Danika to the Kidís Club.  The Kidís Club is a room on one of the top floors and itís called the Nursery.  There are 3-4 Nursery Nurses working up there and they have tons of crafts and toys and games and movies and the kidís love it up there.  The club is open from 9am-noon, 2pm-5pm and 7pm-10pm everyday.  It is very convenient and the kidís just love going even when there are no kidís up there except them.  The jaunt from New York to L.A. had more kids on it but they all got off in L.A. except for one 8 year old girl.  So most of the time Nik and Dani are the only ones there but they get all the attention and can you believe it, they have Play Station as well.  Hallelujah!! 

While I sit with Nikolas as he does his work Steve usually runs down to Deck 7 and goes to the gym.  When he comes back, I usually go too.  The gym is even farther down the ship then our rooms and it must sit over some engine room because when you lie on the floor it is very warm.  There is also a pool down there and the kids are allowed in that pool but I find it very dark and dingy down there.  There are no windows and there are lots of noises from the ship.  You can actually hear the roar of the ocean as it hits the ship and that sound is a little unnerving. They have a weight room, bikes, treadmills, and elliptical trainers.  They also have classes every morning but Iíve only made it to one so far.  We really try hard to go to the gym pretty much everyday because we are eating WAY TOO MUCH!!!!! 

Before we know it, lunch is here and again we decide which restaurant to go to.  The Maurentania is a little fancier so if we donít feel like getting dressed up we head to The Lido.  Both kids go to the Kidís Club at 2pm and that gives them a break from us and vice versa.  We usually look at the daily programme onboard and I have gone to a few classes.  There are all sorts of things to do so we walk around and find our spot at The Chartroom, which is a bar.  We usually find a table by a big window and order the drink special of the day.  Everyday they have a tropical drink special and we sit there and eat nuts and drink and talk about what weíve done and what the plan is for the next day.  It is usually very relaxing, except for the trip from L.A. to Hawaii.  It was very rough and it was hard to have fun when the ship is rocking so bad you can hardly walk.  It really feels like a rollercoaster.  Your stomach gets that same feeling when the ship goes way up and then comes crashing down.  A lot of people were sea sick, even some of the crew members.  A lady Steve talked to said that she has done this cruise 7 times and she has never experienced a rough ride like that.  Oh, great!!  I did pretty good.  Steve and I both had to take some Gravol and there was only one night I didnít sleep a wink.  I just layed there and listened to the creaks and I was sleeping in the outside cabin and I could hear the waves crashing outside our porthole.  When it gets that rough our porthole gets covered in water.  When it gets really rough they also start closing some of the water-tight doors and when these doors close this alarm goes off that sounds like a fire alarm.  At these times I try and think of all the people who have told me that this is the safest ship in the world and that it was designed to take on the North Atlantic and I think of the people who tell me that these waves are nothing compared to what they see on the Atlantic and that some people actually love a bumpy ride.  It never helps.  I just sit there and wait for it to get better.  This time it lasted for almost 3 days.  Imagine that.  Even the cruise director said that we will all be glad to walk on some land tomorrow. 

Anyways, Iíve gone off course so back to the typical day at sea.  There is a large library on board that is stocked with all sorts of books, both fiction and non-fiction.  They have a childrenís section and they have lots of magazines and a selection of newspapers from the U.S. and the U.K.  No Canadian paper though.  We have had a hard time finding anything to do with the hockey lockout as the American papers concentrate on football and basketball and every other sport except for hockey.  We have been quite removed from the news and only hear tidbits when one of the T.V.ís are on CNN. 

There is a big table in one corner of the ship that holds the thousands of pieces of a puzzle.  As people walk by they put a few pieces in place and once we were in L.A. the puzzle was complete.  There is also a games deck outside that has a basketball hoop, a tennis court (small), a putting green and a driving range net.  We have actually used it a lot when the weather was great from Panama to L.A.  There is also a pool and two hot tubs outside and lots of lounger chairs. 

There are lots of activities to do on board that we havenít done yet.  They have bingo everyday, trivia contests, dance lessons, religious ceremonies, tours, painting classes, art auctions (no, Steve wonít let me near them).  They have a large theatre and everyday they show a different movie.  A few nights ago we all went and watched Shrek 2.  The best activity of them all though, is Tea Time.  Oh so British.  At 4pm everyday in the Queenís Room they serve this delicious tea (real English tea) with little triangular sandwiches with the crusts cut off and an amazing selection of desserts, the scones are the best!  Steve and I go everyday from 4-5pm before we pick up the kids from the Club.  They usually have a pianist or a harpist playing and it is very relaxing and apparently quite the tradition.  

When we pick up the kids we head back to the rooms and we all shower and get ready for dinner.  We always go to the Maurentania for dinner and it doesnít matter if the dress code is formal or informal the men have to wear a tie and jacket.  Steve was busted tonight because he wasnít wearing his jacket.  They quietly intercepted him on the way to our table and recommended that he go back and get his jacket on. 

Our waiters are both women.  One is from Italy, her name is Maria and she is the assistant and the main one is from South Africa and her name is Angela.  I think we lucked out big time with our seats at dinner.  Both women are extremely nice and we already have a very comfortable and enjoyable repore with them.  It helps that they both really like our kids and the kids like them a lot too.  When we get to our table, the drinks that our kids like are already waiting for them.  After talking to Angela it makes me wonder whether we are contributing to a bit of slave labour when we go on these cruises.  These people work so hard and their hours are atrocious.  They work for 3 months straight with very little, if any time off and the restaurant staff work all day long.  They start first thing in the morning to get ready for breakfast, they work at lunch.  Some of them work the Afternoon Tea and then they work the dinner with the first seating at 6:15 and the late seating at 8:30pm.  After that they have to clean up and then they do it all over again the next day, for seven days a week.  I am never going to complain, thatís for sure.  A lot of them do it to see the world but even when we are at port the restaurants are open so unless they pay someone to do their shift they canít even leave the ship.  What fun is that?  Our ship has an incredible collection of international people working on it.  From every corner of the world.  Itís really interesting to meet them and we try and engage them in conversation and we love to hear about the countries they come from, how long they have been working on cruise ships and whether they enjoy theyíre job or not.  Most donít but they wonít come out and say it.  All of them do say that they have a great group of people that they work with on this ship and the camaraderie is good.   

Dinner usually consists of an appetizer, a soup, a salad and an entre.  Weíve had lobster, prime rib, Chinese food, pasta and itís all been fantastic.  Never mind the desserts!  On top of the desserts they bring around a huge tray filled with chocolates and cookies and chocolate covered strawberries and even though I always say Iím not going to have some I always cheat and take a cookie or something.  I am going to be 200lbs when this cruise is done.  Steve and I usually have a glass of wine with dinner and our sommelier opens a bottle and we can have it every night until itís done.  That works out really well because then we donít have to drink the whole bottle and one bottle can last us up to 4 nights. 

After dinner we most often take the kidís back to the Kidís Club (because they beg us to go) and Steve and I will take in the nightly show or go to the casino.  The casino has been a bit of a problem for us as we really enjoy going and seem to meet up with the same fun people every night but we donít win anything.  No matter what we play by the end of the night we always lose the few dollars we start with and we watch other people walking away with hundreds of dollars in winnings.  The only thing that takes my mind off the rocking of the boat is the casino so unfortunately for Steve the trip from L.A. to Hawaii has found me spending most of the nights in the casino.  I usually play a little bit and then I just watch.  Itís very expensive therapy for sea sickness but it works for me.

So thatís about it for our days at sea.  The days seem to fly by and I canít believe itís getting close to the end of January already.  On the other hand it feels like weíve been gone forever and today Danika just burst into tears and said she missed her friends and her Nana.  It broke my heart but I told her that we will see them all soon and I had to stop myself from telling her that I missed everybody too.   

Everybody is asleep again except me so I will sign off as we spend our last night at sea before we dock in Honolulu tomorrow morning.  Iím really looking forward to it and we will tell you all about it. 

Good night!

 

AT SEA

(Written by Steve, January 20)  

  Well it appears we have been given our clean bill of health again on the ship. Yesterday the restaurant allowed you to pick your own food, and touch the plates again. The story we heard was that 5% of the crew and around over 40 passengers had the Norwalk virus. Quite a few of them disembarked in L.A., so I hope that will be the last of that nonsense. The precautions the ship took were unreal and even though I am glad it appears to be over, I was very impressed the way Cunard handled it. All we saw for 5 days was people cleaning, spraying and washing and they did it morning till night. Every eating area had to be cleaned  every Ĺ hour, and every public area must be cleaned every hour. That means everything from walls, railings, counters, dishes and everything else you can think of has to be wiped down with Virox. On an eating note, Father OíShea is sitting with us again and that is quite nice, as we always have very unique conversations. Our conversation last night was about when the Lord welcomed those 343 New York firefighters who gave their lives in the twin towers to heaven. Again, I am not a very religious person, but the way he talks about things and the different take on the problems of the world, itís quite refreshing. We really miss the ladies from Alaska/ and Mary from San Fran who were sitting next to us. They got off in L.A. and it was always nice to talk with them at dinner. Have you ever met someone and just hit it off, as if you have known this person all your life? Well thatís what it was like with these ladies, our kids really liked them. I met a retired Firefighter (Captain) from Connecticut named Jack; he also departed in L.A. before I could get to know him that well. He was a firefighter for 35 years and told me that he has been on the QE II a total of 18 times. He told me that 68 percent of the passengers that come aboard this ship are return customers. In fact we saw him down on deck 5, picking out his room for an upcoming cruise in the summer, I thought that was pretty cool. Unlike most retired guys from the job, this gent had it all figured out, he was enjoying life and spending the days he had worked all his life for, seeing the world. I really enjoyed the few conversations we had together and hope maybe we will cross paths again, who knows maybe on the QE II. Actually that will be tough because this old ship will sail her last voyage in 2006, and they will be bringing in a new ship to replace her.

Well its 10:30 and we are about 1900 miles off the California coast on our way to Hawaii. The swells tonight are the worst we have been in (around 35-40 feet) and itís very hard to walk anywhere on the ship. Howís Helen doing with it you ask? Pretty good considering we are all sea sick and Nikolas had to leave dinner the other night. Some of the older folks are falling down stairs and most people are just staying in their rooms. This ship is traveling at 30 knots and just cuts through the huge swells with not much shaking or rattling but the movement is unreal, even some of the crew are sick. I met a lady in the pool and she has done the L.A. to Sydney trip 7 times and has never seen seas like these. I often think of my Uncle Charlie, Aunt Liv and Cousin Curtis, who spent 2 years in a 49 foot sailboat back in the late 60ís traveling around the world before GPS. How do small boats make this kind of journey? Or better yet, why do they make this kind of trip, I would be terrified to be out in the open seas in a storm on a 49 foot boat. I feel a little goofy telling you that we are not feeling well because the seas are a little rough, or our port hole is completely under water, when we are living in a floating hotel. I love this ship, and the more I walk around, the more attached I get. I am not saying I wonít want to get off in April because Iím sure Iíll be done with ships for a while, but for now I really like this ship and we keep finding new interesting things. Heck, we have been on this ship 2 weeks and last night we just discovered a whole new deck and bar on the upper deck. I also hear people complaining everyday about their room, dress code, someones kids (Ha HA) or just this or that. You could easily walk around this ship and find many things wrong with this old gal. There are many leaks down every hallway which leaves a big wet spot on the floor. There are many different smells that hit you as you walk down around this ship, many have made Nikolas gag and run for the door. This ship is scratched, dented and has many, many other things that I am sure people can find as faults. I on the other hand find all of these quite minor for a 40 year old ship, it is very well taken care of, and have been told itís the fastest and safest passenger ship in the world. If you look how many people have stayed in each of these rooms, or how many dinners have been eaten in the restaurants, the history of the floating story book is mind boggling. I just found out that Nelson Mandela has been on this ship Can you imagine being on the QE II at the same time? Aside from Jimmy Carter I can think of anyone else I would rather meet more. I have to agree with Helen on one thing, the smells are sometimes overpowering though.

There is not a whole lot to tell you about this week, except for the storm we are currently in, Norwalk Virus and that we have been eating our face off. We planned this trip a long time ago and I tried to think of all the many problems we might come across so we could better prepare ourselves for when they happened. I thought I had covered almost everything, but now that we have been away for almost 3 week some things are coming to a head. It appears that Nikolas and Danika are getting quite used to having people serve them and eating these fancy meals seem to be all of a normal day. One of the funny things that happens when we have to put our best duds on, Nikolas thinks he is so cool. Now if you do not know Nikolas, imagine a 9 year old that weighs 105 lbs and is 5 feet 1 inches tall, with size 9 (Mens) shoes. Thatís right, the kids got flippers that are almost the same size as mine, and Helen canít wear his shoes because they are too big. Anyways when he puts his Tuxedo on he thinks he is the man, so cool. The only problem is he is not very coordinated, when he walks imagine a cross between Shaq OíNeal and Liberace, he just canít handle that body. He lumbers down the hall with all this confidence that he is all grown up because he is wearing a Tux and itís very funny. The other part about the kids is, they are getting a little harder to handle and get tired out during the day very easily. They have both been sick so we are hoping that was part of the problem and it will get easier not harder. On the homework front, it is becoming quite difficult, and if Helen was not so patient, I canít see it happening. Math and writing stories are easy for Nikolas, but Spelling and grammar are very trying. He is doing it though and I so glad, because there is no way I would be able to do it  if I was his age, no way. You want to know what the best educational thing we brought was? A Leap Frog book for Danika.  

Well we pull into Hawaii tomorrow and Helen will be glad to get back on land for a day. Nikolas will be doing his homework on Pearl Harbour and we will be hopefully heading to Waikiki even though itís supposed to rain.

 Talk to you later,

 

*************************************************************************************

Night at Sea  

January 12, 2005 

(Written by Steve - received January 15)

We had a very fun day today and a very interesting night. This trip so far has been about meeting people and it seems that everyday we meet someone who touches us, or makes us feel happy about living. Some of the come backs you hear from the older folks are very funny and itís a pleasure to sit down and listen to the real chatty ones. It always make me miss my dad back home, because he loves to talk and I have been thinking about him a lot lately.  I always say to everyone I pass ďHowís it goingĒ or ďhow ya doingĒ and I get replies like the one from a 70-75 year old gent ď as best as I canĒ. Or I was getting in the elevator and this man about 90 was slowly making his way out, and I mean really slowly. When he got across that 3 feet of elevator carpet and in the hall, he paused as if he was totally exhausted and then he turned and looked right at me, as if he wanted me to say something, so I did! I  said ďWell how are you doing todayĒ and as the door closed and the elevator left without me, he put his hand on my shoulder and said in the most serious voice I have ever heard, ďSon, everyday I wake up is a good dayĒ. I will never forget that come back, and the way he said it. It made me think that this guy must think about dieing every night before he goes to bed, geez thatís so sad. O.K. even though I am not the religious type, I now really miss talking with father OíShea right now. The party of 8 women who took his spot are from Alaska and California. Iíll give you a comparison of who is the nicest nationality on the ship. The ship right now is loaded with about 700 Americans, 650 British, 150 Aussies, 70 Canadians, 50 Chinese and 40 French. It will be this way until most of the Americans leave when we get to L.A. on Jan 17. Have you ever heard how cranky and rude Americans travelers are, I sure have. People always have to compare everyone to the rude Americans. Well let me tell you that on this ship they are the nicest when you compare them head to head with other countries, and no one even comes close. Thatís right, not even the polite Canadians.  Sure we are nice, but the yanks are unreal. I wonít say who is the worst but basically itís everyone that eats at the Queens grill; thatís the people who paid 250k for super suites on the upper deck. These people have all the money they will ever need and they are traveling around the world for the umpteenth time and they still manage to be absolutely miserable. We get a lot of negative comments from these folks about our kids. I donít toot my horn very much when it comes to my kids, but get ready for a blast. My Kids are very polite and considerate to other passengers, so we just ignore them and think itís too bad they just canít enjoy themselves. O.K back to these ladies from Alaska, actually one is from San Fran and why am I telling you all this you ask? Well itís because they were our cheerleaders tonight at the casino. We went to dinner and they asked if we were going to enter the blackjack tourney. What blackjack tourney I said, hoping we were not too late. Tonight at 10 pm they said, you can still qualify after dinner. The kids were going to their club, so for the first time we skipped desert and dropped the kids off early and headed to the casino. Now if you know my past, you will know that me and gambling are a very bad combination, but I thought it could be fun. Thatís what any bad gambler would say.

 

THE BIG BLACKJACK TOURNEY 

I looked at the qualifying totals and someone was already at 5600 dollars and the last person had 4000 dollars. So I would need to win over 4000 just to get into the best of 7 final. I told Helen that we have to try, and we should both pay the entry fee and see if we can get in. Helen said no way, but if I wanted to enter I could. So letís get right to the good part and not bore you with all the gory details. I now have a total of 1000 dollars and only 3 hands left, so I would have to bet it all on the next 2 hands and then some on the last to get in. I bet all 1000 on the next hand and got a jack and a ten to 20, the dealer got 18. Now I had 2000 and I bet it all on the next hand. I had a queen and a 6 for 16, and I did not hit it and the dealer busted, so I now have 4000 dollars in chips. O.K. hereís the deal, who would have thought I would have a chance to be the leader in the finals if I could only win one more hand. I had no choice but to bet it all and try for $8000. There was going to be people coming in after us to qualify and I was sure the 5600 top total was going to go up, and the 4000 bottom total was also going to go up so I bet it all on the next hand, thatís right 4000 dollars in chips on one hand. My theory was I had just hit 3 in a row, so why not 4. I would have the top score and get the first deal in the finals, and if I lost, well then I would be like the hundred or so other folks that tried today and lost. So here is how it went down with 4000 dollars in chips on one hand. My first card was a 9 and my second was a 7 for 16, dealer was showing a 10. So with 8000 or nothing on the line, I said hit me and the dealer gave me a Jack. Busted!!!

Oh well, no lesson learned for me, I just now had to try and get Helen to try.

After some prodding and nagging, she gave in an entered. I will go straight to the good part, so you can skip the boring stuff again. She has a stack of about 900 and only three hands to go. Of course I told her to bet it all and she did. And yes she won with two face cards, and now had what looked to be just over 2000 in chips. I told her she would have to bet it all if she wanted to go for the final jackpot, and she wanted to, but was terrified. Because I am such an expert at losing money I calmed her down and the next thing you know she has it all on the table for the final handÖ..

Her first card was an 8, and a 10 for the final card, the dealer shows an ace with no blackjack. The dealer has 5 or 15 and then takes a 10 to bust. Helen wins and gets into the final 7. The only problem was that I am not very good at math, and what I thought was 900 dollars in chips three hands ago, was actually 1500 dollars. So by betting it all three times in a row, gave her a grand total of $6000 dollars in casino money. Thatís not real money you know, didnít I mention that this was not real money? Oh sorry, you see you paid $20 dollars to get in and got 1000 dollars in chips to play with. You thought this was real money, what do ya think we are crazy or something? The jackpot for the finalist was $500 dollars, so thatís why we were betting our little fake money like some crazy gambler, so we could try and win the $500 jackpot.

Anyways our lady friends came to cheer Helen on, but she lost early in the first three hands. She did not get one winning hand and itís pretty tough when the dealer gets 21 in the first three hands of a seven hand final. Even though it was not real money it was still a weird feeling to put 3 or 4 thousand dollars worth of chips on one hand. Well back to the room with our hopes of being the blackjack champs and 500 bucks richer down the drain.

 Oh well, good night.

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Day 5 at Sea, written by Steve - received January 11, 2005

  We slept in today because I am in charge of getting everyone up and I couldnít get up myself. I did not get to sleep till about 2 and we lost an hour because we crossed a time line, so getting up at 8am was not happening. The horn has been blasting and the alarms have been going on and off all morning because of the rough seas we are in. We traveled 423 nautical miles from Ft. Lauderdale so far and the depth under the keel is 3450 meters, the wind outside is 40 knots and the waters are rough. The time right now is 12 noon, and we are 150 nautical miles south of Haiti and 350 nautical miles north of Curacao. The waters are very rough and people are not feeling well throughout the ship, my family is feeling a little green right now, including myself. We went upstairs this morning to eat and it was very difficult to walk with your tray of food. There was a lot of silence, and people had that ďGet me the Hell off of this shipĒ face. Helen on the other hand is doing quite well, she is feeling sick, but I have seen her in worse shape. When the ship is like this, there is no place to hide; we just have to ride it out. Check out the porthole picture, which was taken on day 7 in the Caribbean Sea. Our porthole is completely submerged under the water and we are on deck 5, there are two more decks below us. I keep telling Helen to think that this is just our vessel or our means of travel to get to all those great ports. She just gives me the look, and you donít want to be within touching distance when she is giving you that look.

 

Our Port Hole Covered in Water - Day 7

 

I just read Helens story and laughed at the part about coming down to our room for the first time. She is telling the truth about the staircase, it was barely wide enough to get your shoulder through. I myself was thinking we were headed for the engine room. The travel agent, who we used to book this cruise for us, did very little right. She did however book us on deck 5 without our O.K. She told us she wanted to make sure we got confirmed on this ship and we could cancel if we needed too, but at least we were booked. I wanted to take the rooms on deck 3, because they were priced lower and closer to the all the action. By the time our travel agent got back to us, all the cabins on that level were gone and she could only put us on the waiting list for deck 3. That was a blessing, because I was up on deck 3 this morning and the movement seemed twice as bad. So here we all are lying on our beds in our cabin waiting for the ship to stop rocking and rolling. We canít wait to set foot on land tomorrow.

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Day 4 at Sea, written by Steve - received January 11, 2005

So far, so good for me. I have had a wonderful conversation with someone everyday about their travels around the world. Many people on this ship have been on this trip as many as 10 times. We spoke to some people today that are getting off the ship and going to the Hyatt in Puket Thailand. They said they called the hotel and were told that the grounds and damaged lower rooms would have the repairs completed in 10 more days. We are still scheduled to go to Sri Lanka and Thailand in 5 weeks, even with everything that has happened. I hope we donít because I donít know if I could handle it, to be honest. We went to dinner tonight and my friend Father OíShea was not sitting there, and I was really disappointed. I had so many more questions, and it was only just beginning, so I was excited to learn more over the next 100 days. In a way I kind of felt liked I was being blessed through osmosis, or listening to a Catholic priest talk so freely about things was really refreshing. I say that because I am very ignorant when it comes to religion. This ship has many other wonderful things waiting for us, I can hardly wait to get up and explore. This ship is old, she is stinky, creaks and groans, has many dents and scratches, but it is very hard to explain. Like tonight, the waters were really rough and this puppy just kept cutting through them without the rattle you get from a cruise ship. I have had no problems sleeping and I think the kids have no problem either. Helen on the other hand has not slept in 4 days, poor gal is very worried. I feel bad for her because the brave face is gone, and she has no problem telling people she is worried about us all going down. One of the cruise directors was telling her to relax, because on one of the Atlantic crossings the waves were 100 feet high. O.K. I know I have had the reputation for stretching the truth once and a while, but this is what the chap said, 100 feet. He said that the waves were crashing right over the top deck and they passed a cruise ship that had to slow to 5 knots and was getting hammered because it could not handle the sea. As this guy was talking I could only think of the movie ďThe perfect StormĒ and I can only imagine someone like Helen and myself being on that voyage. Yikes I can feel the finger nails cutting into my skin right now. O.K. this ship does have some issues. It has about 60-70 water tight doors that run the length of the halls on deck 5 (where we are) and deck 6. Whenever we get closed to shallow or rough waters the doors close with all these alarms, just like they did this morning before we got up.  Now back to Helen. The poor girl has not found her sea legs, in fact I think a part of her wants to call it quits right now, but we havenít talked about it. The kids are doing really well; it is amazing what a couple of days will do. Nikolas has been doing his school work right after breakfast and his stories before dinner, with just the usual prodding. The weather out on the decks is very hot and shorts are a must, only 2 days to Curacao. So we will talk at you then.

 

Hope everyone is doing well,

Steve

 

 

 Written by Helen: 

Yes, I have emerged from my deep depths of depression and fear.  Wow, I just read what Steve wrote and I had to come on and explain that I am not that bad!!!  Yes, it took me a few days to get over the shock of this ďwonderfulĒ ship.  I have to be careful because Steve says I am way too critical, BUT, this ship is very old, it creaks and moans, it stinks like the sewer system and the average age of the passengers on board is about 95 (I am exaggerating only slightly). 

When we first got on the ship and we were being escorted to our rooms my heart started beating faster and faster as we made our way down the dark dingy staircases into the bowels of the boat.  Iím telling you, we just kept going down and down and down and the staircase was getting narrower and darker until we finally reached the lowest level you can stay on and the smell was not pleasant.  Our rooms are tiny but the way they are situated makes it very convenient.  That was positive, right?  The doors to our rooms face each other and are about 3 feet apart.  The cool thing is that there is a door we can close in this hallway that closes our two rooms off from the rest of the rooms in that hallway.  That way we leave both doors open and are able to walk from room to room without worrying about anyone seeing us in our underwear/pajamas.   Having two bathrooms has been great too. 

I am being unfair to this amazing vessel.  It is so full of character and history that itís hard not to like it.  What it lacks in glitz and glitter is made up ten fold in class and ambience.  As you walk through the ship the memorabilia and the pictures of past passengers are fascinating.  Obviously this ship is special because the majority of the people on it are all repeat customers.

The food is also amazing.  The dinners are the finest fine dining weíve ever had.  The crew is also very attentive and they are truly from all over the world.  Our crew at dinner is from South Africa, Italy and Poland.  There is a lady from Serbia also working in our dining room and she came up to us this evening and wished us a ďSretan Banja Vece.Ē  Thatís Serbian for Happy Christmas Eve.  Tomorrow is the Orthodox Christmas. 

I am really slowly starting to relax a little but for some reason I canít fall asleep at night.  Iím usually up (all by myself) until 2 or 3am.  The cruise itself has been very smooth except for tonight but even tonight this ocean liner really does seem to cut through the swells better then the other big beautiful comfortable cruise ships.  I find myself listening to all the creaks and groans and I was a little nervous because someone told us that during the cruise from Southampton to New York, just before we got on, the ship lost all power at 2am in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Ah yah, I would have had a complete heart attack, Iím sure.  Anyway the power has gone off a few times but we were in port so it wasnít that bad. 

Most importantly, the kids have settled in very nicely and they are having a really good time at the Kidís Club.  Itís on everyday at 9-12, 2-5pm and 7-10pm so they have some breaks from us and vice versa. 

We went to the beach in Fort Lauderdale and that got all our spirits up because it finally felt like we were on vacation!  The sand was white and the water was crystal blue, it was very warm and it was beautiful.

Well, thatís it for now.  Hopefully when I write again I will have settled in completely and no, Iím not ready to come home like Steve says, I think Iím just a little spoiled.

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Day 2 at Sea, written by Steve - received January 11, 2005

          We got a late start today, because of the lack of sleep. We headed out for last call for breakfast, and it was very good and I overloaded myself because the kids took more than they could eat, and I felt guilty wasting it. After that we got Nikolas doing his homework (math, spelling and his journal) and thanks to Helen, it went really well. Danika of course wanted to do homework just like her big brother, so we put her to work doing a spelling workbook for kindergarten kids. I have walked the ship and got lost many times, but every nook and corner has something new to look at. Itís really a wonderful old cruiser, and it cuts through the big swells like butter, Helen might not agree with that.. I thought I would go for a work out after lunch to try and stay in shape but a couple of minutes nearly killed me. I seemed to have the same problem every time I bring my heart rate up, some kind of indigestion and a lightheaded spell. So letís just say, I wonít be doing any more aerobic workouts on this trip. I have just been feeling pretty good over the last few days and thought it was all behind me, but I guess not. On an eating note, we have had two dinners now, and just like any cruise, you get spoiled rotten. I should have no problem putting on a few pounds on this leg of the journey. I sit right next to Father Ray OíShea, a Catholic Priest who has a parish in Wales, U.K. He is a very interesting person. I know what you are saying ďof course he is, he is a priest for heavens sakeĒ. Well I donít have strong religious beliefs, so talking to a priest every night at dinner is a very enlightening experience for me. I look forward to speaking to him. Both kids had a great day, and Nikolas and Danika appear to have already started to adapt to their cabin and routine. Phew, itís amazing how things can change in only one day. Anyways, we are pulling into Ft. Lauderdale and are planning to go to the beach and just take it easy.

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Day 1 at Sea, written by Steve - received January 5

    Well we boarded the Queen E II in New York at pier 92, and she is a beauty if you love 40 year old ships. The ship itself is very clean but much like most Fairmont hotels, very old and musty. The staircases are very narrow and the floor is very bumpy and uneven. The crew is very nice and we will be very well taken care of and our first meal was fantastic. Our first night on board was a restless one, as the kids and Helen had a tough time adjusting. We are somewhere out in the Atlantic, and it is very rough. I feel real sorry for Helen because she is trying to put on a brave face, but she is very anxious, not sleeping and just plain afraid. Everyone keeps telling us what a wonderful adventure this will be for the kids, but when I see them like this I have to wonder for the first time on this journey if maybe Nikolas was right. I may have not put much thought into what effect it would have on everyone, and I just plowed ahead with the plans because itís what I thought would be best.  I feel confident that the kids will just adapt, but I just hope Helen can. We donít expect things to be perfect on this trip, and we will be tested quite often along the way, but today caught me off guard a little bit. I, on the other hand, am content with everything so far, and hope that we all start a routine that will make this whole thing enjoyable. We will arrive in Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow and we will have to spend some time shopping, because now that we have unloaded all our clothes, it appears we are in need of a few more items.  I roughed Helen up about over packing, and how she should cut back where ever possible, so itís no surprise that I donít have enough clothes.

I have not been able to send anything through the email on the ship yet, so I will continue to send it out through my cell phone as a text message. The ship is set up so you can only view the web and connect to Yahoo and Hotmail. The ships computers have had their disk drives, USB ports and floppy drives disconnected. They donít want anyone bringing any viruses into their systems, so I will have to send out our update with our Palm device. So if you are emailing us, please be patient, we will get back to you ASAP.