Wednesday - 2006 Carnival Valor Wine Cruise

Wednesday we landed at St. Thomas. This was Golf Day for Bob, and relaxation day for me. I still wasn't feeling quite caught up with sleep!

Bob was off rather early to get breakfast and to hook up with Scott and the other golfers. Once he got his wake-up call, he set one for me at 9:30 so I could get up just ahead of my 9:50 required time to be at "immigration". Because we had gone to a non-US country, the entire ship now had to re-enter immigration at this US port, even if we didn't want to get off the ship. The time for our floor was 9:50 for that, at the disco.

Bob called up just at 9:30 to say that things were taking longer than usual, that he was still on the ship and that I probably wouldn't need to come down right away. Sure enough, they did a broadcast shortly after that saying that the line was already too long and for the people not already in line to wait a while before coming down.

I headed up to breakfast. For some reason, people seemed very rude today. Maybe I just noticed it because usually I'm with Bob who is a big New Yorker, and people don't tend to cut in line with him around. When I was on my own, I was at the tray area picking up my tray, bowl and plate. One young woman came in front of me just as I was doing that and reached over in front of me to grab her tray, then get the other things. She glanced up and gave a half-hearted 'sorry'. As she finished and I began gathering my things, a guy behind me started grabbing across me as well. I wasn't going slowly - it's not that I was taking 10 minutes. Plus they'd just announced that you couldn't even get in line because there were too many people there. Still, you could see St. Thomas on either side of us, very inviting, and I guess these people had get-off-the-boat-now! frenzy.

I went up to breakfast. A lot of people were apparently eager to get off the ship. As I got to the "tray taking place" at the buffet line, one woman jumped in front of me, then reached across me to get her tray and plate. She sort of said "sorry" as she rushed off. So once she was gone I reached for my tray - and another guy barged in and grabbed his plate in front of me, running along. I wasn't being slow either - I barely got my hand moved before the people were grabbing things.

Breakfast was good - the scrambled eggs were a little weak as always, but I know that's tough to make for the masses and have "sit" in a buffet line for long. The fruits were fresh. The cereal was cereal :). I read Moby Dick for a while. Then I decided to go examine the line. When I got to the 5th deck, the line was all the way back into the atrium. I walked forward down near the casino and sat in a chair there, figuring I'd just get into the line when it eventually shrunk to this point. I read for a while. Finally at 10:38 it had shrunk to that point, and I got in. The line moved fairly quickly and first we offered our sail cards to check in - then showed our passports to a person to verify who we were. That was it, we went out through Caboose and were done.

The hordes were very noisy so I asked to go past the disco (they had it blocked off) to hang out in one of the quiet bars. They let me through. The Lindy was being set up for a wedding reception, so I went and read in the Paris Hop for a while. Nobody else was back here. They gave a "final call" at 11:16 and then a few times after that. I headed up to the spa for my 11:45 appointment, getting there about 11:30. While I was there, they began announcing individual peoples' names and room numbers, who had not gone through immigration yet.

I'd gotten 20% off a spa visit because of Bob's golf excursion, and was doing a Swedish massage. First they gave me a locker key and robe. I went into the changing area - a small tiled room - to put the robe on. Just as with the Liberty, they say to come 15 minutes early to "enjoy the environment" - but really this is the same area you're in normally when you use the gym. It's not really "plush" :) The woman came and took me into the little massage room. Musak was playing. She did the intro talk, gave me a full massage, and then did the soft sell of items which I refused. This is right under the kid's area so occasionally you hear thumping and running from above. It was $109 total, plus tip.

I then went into the steam room. The room is nice - a large window at the end overlooked the harbor. The marble benches were VERY hot - even with the towel I couldn't sit on them. I had to get a wooden foot-rest and sit on that. Then each time the steam came on (every minute or so) it came from under that bench and scalded beneath my thighs. So I tried sitting on one footstool and having my feet on the other, sideways on the bench. I only lasted a few minutes like that before it just wasn't comfortable, so I took a shower and headed back to my room.

I went up for a buffet lunch - it was extremely quiet with everyone off the ship. To go with my salad and "French" food, I went to the back bar for a glass of Champagne (well Korbel). To their credit, they poured a glass and it was REALLY flat, so they immediately went and got another fresh bottle without any comment on my part and poured that. After a while, I headed back to the room and relaxed until 5pm, when Bob got back from Golf.

He had mixed feelings on the round - the greens apparently aren't in great shape - they have sand around the edges of the greens and the grass was often ferny. He did enjoy the chickens that hung out and ate potato chips :) However, he hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, so we went and got him food. Then we went out to the market by the dock. The music was VERY very loud in several places, but I got a tshirt and we got back onto the ship. We missed the 5-7pm showing of "Sideways", but we'd seen that many times before.

We headed around the ship. We spotted the fourth couple from our table in the casino - which oddly was open even though we were in port. They said they weren't coming to dinner - they were just going to gamble then go to sleep. I did try the "quarter pushing" game again. This time I had about $4 in quarters. The machine is simply awful. Half the time when you launch the quarter it lands "on a pile" so it doesn't affect the sliding of coins at all. Usually I can play this game for hours on very little money - but this one pretty much ate all my coins, one after another, with no results at all. Very disappointing. We stopped by the restaurant to look at the menu - it seemed a good night for the Macari wine ($80) from Long Island. Interestingly, tonight was the first night that we weren't being given free food and alcohol before dinner!

We went back to our room, but Bob's key didn't work. We went down to the steward desk to get a new one. We waited on the side where people always wait, out of the main walking aisle. We were there maybe 5 minutes when a guy came up and stood in the center of the aisle waiting for the next person. I tried to make eye contact with him to indicate there already was a line out of the way of pedestrians (who now had to move around him) but he studiously ignored us. Then a Chinese woman got in "line" behind him, further blocking the aisle! So then the lady behind the counter said "next" and took him. Bob walked over to explain we were there first, relatively politely, but she finished up with him and then the Chinese lady lept forward to ask her question too. Given the breakfast tray line barging earlier, I'm starting to wonder if people are just not understanding basic etiquette today for some reason. What's ironic is that a woman got behind me while this was going on, and I made a comment to her that some people were having trouble with lines today. She responded that that was true, but that he (i.e. Bob) shouldn't have said anything about it. It bothered me because I always try to be polite - so does it mean I should be stomped on all day long, because others are not so? Isn't there a point at which it's OK to at least point out that you were there waiting?

We got showered and dressed. By 7:45 they were announcing names of people who were apparently missing ... and then a short while later the ship left the island. We headed down to dinner with the wine bottle. The other two couples were there, and we had the McGuigan Merlot first. Tonight was filet mignon along with turkey and veal parm. I had the cream of broccoli - nice but a bit thin, then the asparagus / potato soup, which only had one tiny piece of asparagus in it. Bob Dickinson's table was empty, and perhaps not coincidentially the service for us was super quick. The filet was very tender and delicious and went well with the Macari. For the fourth night in a row we had the melting cake, it was much better than before, maybe because it was so early in the night still. THe person who had the pumpkin pie said it was like "rubbery custard" with an OK crust.

Service tonight was very quick - in fact we finished dessert before they began their evening song. Because of that we all were asked to stand up and dance, and were given masks and hats and everything.

We were done by 9:30 - quite early for us - and headed back to the room. We met a woman along the way who ran catering companies in Chicago. She said she'd just eaten at Scarlett's, that it was $30 a person and that it was exceptional. She was very impressed by the presentation, the service, and the food. She felt it was well worth it.

One episode of House later, and Bob was sound asleep! On a sad note, as I spent the next few hours trying to get my mail uploaded (paying another $100 in internet fees already) I heard a woman's wild sobbing, very loud. It sounded like she was saying "Don't Hit Me" so I got concerned and grabbed some sweats to go see if I could help. However, when I got my door open, I heard a man talking evenly on the phone, saying that they would be there for the funeral and they'd charter a plane tomorrow. Not everybody has a wonderful time on a cruise, it really saddened me.

Since it's about halfway through the trip I wanted to make a general comment about the make-up of the people on board. Compared with the Liberty last year, I'm really happy to see this has a wide "ethnic mix". We've been able to talk with Canadians, African-Americans, people from China, Japan, India, and much more. There are a wide variety of people on the ship, which I enjoy. I'm not talking about the crew, but the passengers :) On the crew side, we have heard from many people and agree ourselves that the crew is just not as helpful or conversant as the Liberty crew was last year. This crew seems to make a lot of mistakes, not understand English very well, and not necessarily "try" in some cases. I am all for patience and do try to be patient whenever I can, but if they hire someone to do a task, that person should be able to do that task. I don't have photos loaded for Wednesday yet.

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