July 3, 2009  

A smiling Jack Kravitz extended his arm to shake hands with me. “I’ve just booked the “deal” of a lifetime.” He glowed, as he said, “we’re going on another cruise”.

Taking cruises seems to be the “in thing” to do with my friends who have recently retired.  They’ve all worked hard, raised families, and in this season of life, traveling is very appealing; especially if they don’t have to pack, and repack, as they travel. It’s a hotel that floats.

“Where are you going this time”, I asked.

“It’s the ultimate cruise experience; we’ll be gone for 6 weeks.  We fly from Orlando to Kennedy, and from Kennedy to London.  We start our cruise from England, and do all of Western Europe.  When we return to England we hook up with another cruise that does Eastern Mediterranean countries, and then we fly back to Florida, and cruise the Bahamas, and Caribbean.  If we get back in time there’s another cruise that we’re going to be taking to Alaska”.

“Wow, it sounds really very exciting to me”, was my response.  Actually it sounded very tiring to me. If it was me, I would never “deboat” the ship so frequently; I’m tired just thinking about it.

Jack talked about taking a cruise on the new Royal Caribbean, “The Genesis of the Seas”, being built in Finland.  It has cabins for 5400 people, and will be the largest sailing vessel in the cruising fleet.  It’s my understanding that it has 41 elevators, and 2700 cabins. Oy gevalt, I’m tired already, and G-d forbid that I should get lost, Arlene would be sending out search parties for me. I’m glad I did my traveling in my youth; I just don’t have the strength, or zitzfleish, to do it now. I’d probably be sitting on shpilkas till the ship docked in port.  I’m really happy for my friends, and wished them safe travel.  I look forward to hearing about their adventures when they return.

I’ve learned one question never to ask the cruisniks, and that question is, “Did you take any photos that you’d like to share with us?”

I once asked a married couple that very question, and was told yes.  They had traveled to Normandy, Italy, and Norway, and they brought over 3 huge boxes full of photos to show us.  I knew I had erred when my friend’s wife showed the first picture of her husband walking to have tickets checked…and “this is the captain with his hat on, and this is the captain with his hat off.  Here’s the captain talking to another passenger, and this is our cabin, and our steward.”  I knew where this was heading. “This is the ice sculpture, and this is the toilet in our room”. Oy, what a mistake. It had taken 2 weeks to take the cruise, and 3 weeks to show us all the photos!! I’d learned my lesson; I will never ever ask to see photographs again.

Such a cheap vacation

With the price of cruise vacations being much less expensive in this recession, it’s probably one of the best ways to go on holiday, and stay within budget. This reminds me of the story of Chaim Ginsberg, a garment worker, who saved his money to go on a vacation.  He stopped in to see his local travel agent, and said he’d like to go to England.  The agent immediately began to show him cruise vacations starting in the thousands of dollars.  Chaim explained that he only had $300.00.  “Can you leave tomorrow, there’s a special going on?” explained the travel agent.

“Yes” he replied.

“Be here at 7:30 in the morning, and have your bags with you”.

The next morning Chaim appeared with his suit case in hand, and stood in front of the travel agency waiting for it to open.  He felt something hit him on the head before falling to the floor. When he awoke, he was in the hull of a ship, shackled to an oar.  There must have been at least 100 people in the same position.  At the bow of the ship was a man sitting in front of a huge drum, and a man carrying a whip began shouting:

“Row, row, row”.

For days the men kept rowing, stopping only short periods of time for a drink of water, and a small amount of food.  If someone slowed down, the man with the whip would hit them.  Finally they arrived in England, and as they unshackled the rowers Ginsburg turned to the man next to him, and said:

“This is my first cruise, do I tip the man with the whip?”

Our vacation cruise

It was during school spring break, in 1994, that two friends, both teachers, convinced us to go on holiday with them. Jerry smiled as he said we’d fly to Puerto Rico, from Miami, for a three day two night weekend.  We’d then fly back to Miami, and pick up the Sovereign of the Seas for a 5 day cruise.  Arlene, and I, were really excited about going, and looked forward to the day of departure.  Jerry, and Evelyn, live in New York, and we live in Florida.  Jerry, and Evelyn, were really hyped up about us traveling together, just as we were.

“We’ve found the greatest restaurant in Puerto Rico, and can’t wait to share it with you”, gloated Jerry. We’ll be staying at the Condado Plaza, and we’ll be treated like kings.”

When we arrived, I was surprised to see all the tall buildings. It was as if I was back in New York.  I opened the window to feel the warm air on my skin.

“Gotta like this weather” Jerry said.

Hmm, I thought, just like the weather I left behind, without the tall buildings, and pollution; I just smiled.  We were shown to our rooms, and met in the lobby to decide the day.  The first day we just enjoyed the weather, and lounged around the pool. The next day we toured the rain forest, which was awesome, by bus, barely avoiding a head on collision with another tour bus. In the afternoon we headed back to the hotel.

“Wait till tonight, our most favorite restaurant is on the agenda for dinner.”

Arlene ,and I, were looking forward to authentic Puerto Rican food.

That evening we met at our friends’ room, and proceeded to take the elevator to the ground floor.  I noticed that Jerry pressed the button to the mezzanine.

“Are we making a stop somewhere?”, I asked.

“Mel, the restaurant is in the hotel; it’s a Chinese restaurant.”

The man was right; the Chinese food was as good as, or better than, the best Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. It was just that I expected, and I just wanted, rice and beans.

The next day, late morning, the four of us decided to relax at the hotel’s outdoor pool, and hot tub. Our shenanigans continued for an hour enjoying laughter, and good conversation with our friends. I started down the stairs from the raised hot tub when I slipped, and fell, and landed flat on my back. I couldn’t stand up; I had broken my left ankle.

The three musketeers (my wife Arlene, and our dear married friends) watched over me as I laid flat on my back, and I waited for medical attention.  Then I heard a voice asking:

“Are you hungry?”

It was Jerry, and he began taking orders for sandwiches, and drinks from Arlene, and Evelyn.

“Tuna salad, chicken salad, hamburger, and fries, and Mel, how about you, would you like something to eat? We’ll bring it back for you after we’ve eaten.”

“No, I just want to get to our room, and lie down”, I responded.  I felt as if were dying, and my friends were catering a party!   

First aid was finally administered, and I was wheeled into our room. I visited a doctor, and after 2 x-rays, a cast was placed on my ankle, and foot, and I was off, and limping.  The next morning we flew into Miami to board the cruise ship.  I refer to that as “The cruise of a lifetime” or “The people that built this ship built the Titanic”. You’ll have to wait for the next issue of the Megillah to read that story.  

Stay out of the sun, wear long sleeved shirts, and long pants so you don’t get sunburn, and enjoy the summer!

Mel (still the fat guy) 

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