March 15th
Sailing the South China Sea en route to Xiamen, China

I overslept & missed the morning show today.  Checked the navigation channel to see what the weather was.  It’s cloudy, drizzling rain & 61*.  According Capt. Glenn’s report we are entering the Taiwan Strait with a 10 knot NE headwind.  Ever the optimist, he’s expecting to see sun tomorrow; & says the long range forecast looks even better.  We shall see.  His thought for the day….. (if you ever need to borrow money) ”Borrow money from a pessimist, cause they won’t expect it back.”

Got to the Bistro at 9:15.  Celeste & Elaine soon joined me.  They mentioned the Cruise Critic party was this morning; & I wondered why I didn't know about it.  Then it dawned on me that I had failed to sign up for them after extending this voyage.  I decided to skip out on bridge class; & go up to Palm Court for the party.  Several new faces & screen names that I wasn’t familiar with.  Pat was sporting her new camera; & we were showing Rick some of its features.

                                                                            Rick, Pat & Jim Brochu

I had a chance to talk with Capt. Glenn about how much I appreciated the Concierges & the bell staff for making my cruise extension & cabin change so painless.  And after hearing so much about him on Cruise Critic, I was tickled to finally meet Jim Brochu in person.  What a nice man; & I greatly look forward to his lectures & performance of “Zero Hour”. 

                                                                   Capt. Glenn, Celeste & Rick

Afterward I went down to Shore Ex to ask Debbie (or anybody) if they knew anything about these substitute ports of Busan/Pusan & Jeju Island.  Seems they are frantically doing research themselves; & have no firsthand experience from which to advise us.  While I was in line, Betty came up to me & handed me a shopping bag.  She & Kris gave me a delicious box of chocolates as a thank you for helping them figure out their/our new camera.  So not necessary; but they represent a classic example of true Southern charm & hospitality.  They are truly beautiful people inside & out.

I was pleased when Celeste asked if I would like to join them for lunch in the dining room with Betty & Kris.  We shared a great meal & a lot of laughs.  For an appetizer I had the assorted Hong Kong dim sum with 2 different dipping sauces.  Excellent!

My main course was the pasta special; fusilli with tomato sauce, garlic, chili flakes, parsley & parmesan (in other words, Arrabiata).
It was a mad dash up to the Stardust to get a good seat for Jim Brochu’s talk on James Cagney.  He’s an amazing story teller; & does some fabulous vocal impressions.  I truly enjoyed the afternoon.

At 3pm all the world cruisers gathered in the Galaxy Lounge where James went over the agenda for the 3 day overland excursion into Beijing.  We have been given color & number coded luggage tags for our carry on bag; & assigned a bus number on which we will travel all 3 days.  Starting with a 2½-3 hr. transfer into the city, all 3 days are jammed packed with activities.  They have the schedule firmly set with almost military precision.  It looks exhausting.
Celeste, Bill & I lingered a while in the Bistro; & then we went down to the pickup copies of our passports along with the Chinese landing card, which we must have with us at all times.  I went ‘home’ to put my feet up a while; & realized that I didn’t have my camera.  I called reception to ask if anyone had found one….no.  After retracing my steps in my mind, I realized the last time I had used it was in the Galaxy Lounge during the Beijing briefing.  I was praying that the phone would ring so I wouldn’t have to make the long trek from all the way aft to all the way forward & up to see if it was still there.  I know she’s not a huge ship; but my feet & legs have turned into nearly non-functioning parts of my anatomy.  The more I walk, the more swollen they get.  Long story short, I did go up; & the camera was right there on the front row where I left it.

I went back, put the feet up & took a short nap.  Liz brought dinner at 8:20.  I started with a delicious Boston lettuce salad with cherry tomatoes & onion with ranch dressing.

My entrée was broiled filet of fresh Australian barramundo (don’t ask, not sure….all I know it was fish & it was very good).  It rested on a bed of thick, sweet corn chowder along with some sautéed Asian mushrooms.  I also asked for some lobster ‘meat’.

For dessert, I tried the sugar free frozen key lime pie.  Surprisingly good.
I got back to work on the photos until at 11:30.  Early morning tour tomorrow; hope to get to sleep quickly.

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