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March 8, 2012
Day 20: Crossing the Equator

With Katrina (“Kat”), one of our friends on crew

Although we have not been writing much about them, we have greatly enjoyed our days at sea. With the weather turning warmer, we are able to be out on deck more. Everyone else is out on deck as well, which means that interior locations are much less crowded.

Unfortunately, Russell has had to change much of his daily regime. Due to all of his exercising and stair walking (and coughing), he has aggravated a hernia. So he has started taking the elevator and stopped using the Fitness Center. As a result, he has also had to stop eating so much. He will probably need surgery after we get back.

Meanwhile, now fully over her cold, Gail has been circulating around much more. So far she has seen dolphins, whales and even tiny sharks off the sides of the ship. Somehow Russell has missed all of this.

With the beginning of the cruise’s second leg after Valparaiso/Santiago, almost half of the population is new. Russell bumped into an old friend he worked with at Hewlett-Packard 25 years ago.

We have gotten to know many, many people. Russell has become so familiar for wearing his various ninja-related tee shirts that people now call him “Ninja.” (They call Gail “Mrs. Ninja.”) We have “adopted” two of the young photographers, Carlito (from the Philippines) and Liz (from Australia), who now call us “mom” and “dad.”

“Writer by day… Ninja by Night”

We have also befriended several of the entertainers. Nick Jones is a 31-year-old acrobat from Orlando, Florida, who is on ship as a “street performer.” He does a variety of “cirque” acts in the central piazza. He makes a good living doing what he loves, and Gail wants to put him in touch with our magician son, Joss.

One of Nick Jones’ many “cirque” acts. He performs leaps and flips while wearing spring stilts.

Al Brown is a 64-year-old comedian from Liverpool, celebrating his 44th year as a comedian. He has a relaxed method of comedic storytelling that only comes from years in the business.

Al Brown is soft-spoken and a complete gentleman

Gareth Oliver is a 31-year-old ventriloquist from Yorkshire who was on “Britain’s Got Talent” the same year as Susan Boyle. (He finished 11th). In contrast to Al, Gareth can only be described as a complete maniac. He talks very fast with a thick Yorkshire accent and seems to be making his act up as he goes along. He is also a terrific ventriloquist and absolutely hysterical. His act had Gail so much in stitches that she sought him out to have drinks with him.

Gareth Oliver is a total maniac

The entertainment gang regaled us with amazing stories of what goes on behind the scenes and out of site of the guests. We could also see that the life of an entertainer, while good work, can also get very lonely.

Gail with Al, Gareth and Nick (still in his stage makeup)

On Thursday, March 8, the captain came over the loudspeaker at about noon to announce that today was probably the very best day to watch aquatic animal life off the sides of the ship. Unfortunately, at that same time, Russell was getting Gail back to the Medical Center in a wheelchair. She had woken up this morning with another migraine, more severe than the last.

Gail received another injection of Sumatriptan – this one accompanied by a second shot for nausea – but this time there was no miraculous turnaround. She ended up losing most of her day in bed, even after taking additional Sumatriptan tablets.

This was especially discouraging because today was one of our most eventful days at sea. Russell ran around with a video camera trying to record things for Gail.

At 1:30 pm, the population assembled at the ship’s stern to celebrate our crossing the Equator. There is an associated ceremony that has been a nautical tradition ever since the days of the explorers. Gail had signed up as a “pollywog” and didn’t get picked, but our friend Vickie did. We won’t reveal the details of the ceremony for those who may someday experience it. Suffice to say that it involves hoisting the “Jolly Roger” and subjecting the pollywogs to a hazing that renders whatever they are wearing unusable for the future.

The “Symbolic Crossing the Equator Ceremony”

At 3:00 pm, our friends Connie and Derrick renewed their wedding vows in a chapel ceremony conducted by the captain. We all brought joke wedding presents from the “Princess registry.” Our gift was salt and pepper packets.

(Our gift was supposed to be salt and pepper shakers, but the ship is currently on “Red Level” as a precautionary measure against norovirus. We had noticed the change for days – crew are now handing out silverware, napkins and bread rolls instead of self-serve; surfaces are constantly disinfected; etc. – and the captain finally announced it at the beginning of our second leg. Salt and pepper shakers have disappeared, replaced by packets.)

Gail was finally able to get up at 6:00 pm, mainly to keep an important date. Gareth enjoyed our company so much that he wanted to incorporate us into his act. For his 10:15 show, he would pick Russell out of the audience and start conversing with him in Chinese. (Gareth doesn’t speak Chinese. Come of think of it, neither does Russell.) He would then pick Gail out of the audience and start conversing with her in Dog. (“Woof woof.” “Woof woof woof.”)

We secured seats in the front row of the Vista Lounge and got to enjoy another hysterical evening, including our participation in the act. Considering the complete loss of the day, the evening ended on a very happy note.

All three of our entertainer friends will be debarking ship tomorrow when we arrive in Manta, Ecuador. Sadly, we are already reaching the part of our long vacation where we need to start saying “goodbye” to people.

Happy the Hedgehog is also making new friends!


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