At Sea, San Pedro, Los Angeles & Homeward Bound
I woke at 7:15. It’s foggy & raining; but the seas are calm. Hoping to use up most of my remaining internet time, I got on the computer while I waited for the morning show. My last hurrah....I correctly answered the spellbinder puzzler (Kentucky Derby).
Capt. Glenn’s announcement was bittersweet. First though, we’re coasting along at 15 knots on 2 engines. He expects to arrive at the breakwater in San Pedro by 3 am. We should be tied up by 4 am. His final thoughts of this voyage, summed everything up nicely. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Simply smile because it happened.” If only I could follow his advice! He wished us all safe travels until we meet again. (Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d sail with him or hear his sage words of advice. He has since been transferred to a land based job with NYK in Norway. A good thing for him; a bad thing for the rest of us.)
As was the case every morning for the last 94 days, the first people I encounter out & about were the photographers. There was Lianne & Christine; & the flood gates opened. And this continued when I arrived in the Bistro for my final capp. You can call me a wuss if you like; this was going to be a terribly hard day for me.
At 10:30 all the world cruisers were invited to the Galaxy Lounge to preview the world cruise video. Rick & Elise took the stage for the introduction. Elise was already choked up; her eyes red. Before they started the film, Rick put up for auction, the banner that was printed during the Time Travel Event in Shanghai.
The film opened with Capt. Glenn, looking ever so handsome in his ‘black tie’ uniform, welcoming the guests at the special reception on Jan. 17th at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. For approximately 90 mins. we were treated to the highlights of this fantastic voyage. I thought it was amusing when they got to the part about our stop in Noumea. Everyone in the audience laughed out loud. It was so memorable simply because it was a crappy day weatherwise & probably the ‘low point’ of the entire trip. On that we all agree; & can laugh about.
When the film ended, Rick called a large group of crew members up on stage; & the song “We Are Family” was played on the sound system. Some were waving their arms in the air; a few dancing in the aisles. Under normal circumstances, this is my ‘go to’ song that always puts me in a happy mood. Today.....not so much.
I heard others say later; that they too were choked up. There were some of the staff that I’d never really come in contact with (especially since I wasn’t out doing the evening entertainment); but I knew who they were. Since I came to this party late, there was a good portion of the world cruise group that I’d never met or spoken to. Then there was my core group of friends that became my ‘family’. Just like your own family back home, some you speak to occasionally. With others; you share special moments, your personal thoughts & emotions. I created a strong bond with about a dozen people that is as strong as any I’ve experienced in my everyday life. I consider myself truly blessed to have gone through the most important event in my life with these people. My Crystal Family!
It took a while to clear the room. Everyone crowding around Rick, Josef & Elise to express their thanks, give hugs & say goodbye. I went down to the Crystal Cove to check out the decorations for this evening’s festivities. And one more round of goodbyes to everyone at the Reception Desk.
The final lunch in the Lido was the Latin Buffet. I dined on ribs, chorizo, prawns, an enchilada & some cold salads. I took a few cookies for later. There were more tears up in the Lido. I went by the library to pick up the trivia prize; & then to print my boarding passes at the C.U. Still more hugs & tears. When I got on the elevator, I nearly gagged. I reeked of a combination of everybody’s perfume & cologne.
I stopped by the cabin for my laptop; & then went down to the Bistro. It was deserted up there. Maybe everyone was busy packing. Finally Celeste came strolling in about 3:30. She helped me transfer some photos from my memory card to her flash drive. There were more goodbyes; & I was back in my cabin about 5 to do the final bit of packing. I hope the zippers hold on my new luggage, because they are literally bulging at the seams. It is still pea soupy foggy; & the fog horns were audible the rest of the afternoon & through the night.
I went down to the Crystal Cove for the farewell festivities; the music, dancing, countdown & balloon drop. Everyone that mattered was all huddled up on a corner sofa in the Cove Bar. I sat for a while with Kris, Betty, Nelda, Sheldon, Celeste & Bill.
A quick goodbye photo with Kelly & Pat; & then my bridge buddy, Elaine.
Raphael & the orchestra had everyone in a party mood, lots of dancing. Finally Capt. Glenn, Rick, Josef & Elise took to the stage for the countdown. Confetti falling from blowers upstairs; & the balloons cascading down from the netting (just as it had done 95 days ago). And the final straw.....Auld Lang Syne. The tear jerker of all time. I cried every step of the way back to the cabin. By this time tomorrow, this will probably feel like a surreal dream.
Liz brought ‘the last supper’ about 9:30. I knew she’d be too busy in the morning; & this would be our final goodbye. It was hard. And if that weren’t enough, I later found an envelope under a plate on my dinner tray. She wrote the following letter:
I am so glad to have met you on my journey of life. Working for you was such a pleasure & life won’t be the same anymore for I have learned so many good things from you. Getting to talk with you every evening makes me feel appreciated. I wish you a very safe journey. Let success & good fortune come your way. I hope to see you in the near future. I will always cherish every moment. And I’ll miss you.
When I finally stopped crying (for the umpteenth time), I settled down for dinner. I started with a very good cup of tomato bisque with basil & orzo.
I followed this with an appetizer portion of seared sea scallops on butternut squash risotto with brown sage butter & wild mushrooms. It was to die for. In retrospect, I probably should have ordered that as my main course.
My entree was filet mignon, braised red cabbage & cream spinach. These are two of my most favorite side vegetables. The steak wasn’t quite as rare as I like it; but it was tender.
With all the crying I’ve done today, I’ve got a throbbing headache. I really hate to put an end to this day; but I am going to take some Advil PM & get to bed.
I woke up at 4:10 to go the bathroom. I looked out; & we were already tied up to the dock. I tried to go back to sleep; but gave up at 4:45. I turned on the TV & watched reruns of 2 lectures from yesterday. One was Professor Louis Beres entitled “Fighting terrorism, the challenges ahead”. Next was on “Improving your travel photography” by (husband & wife) Dr. Charles & Professor Blanche Iliff.
I went to the dining room for breakfast at 7am. I had cheese blintzes & bacon. I got one last hug from Petar. Then I went up to find Lizzie. I had to thank her for that beautiful letter, which I will cherish forever. More tears.
I gathered my hand luggage; & went to the Hollywood Theater a little early. I found Celeste, Bill, Kris, Betty, Peggy & Elaine all sitting on the front row. Everyone, except me, appeared to be keeping it together. We were all assigned a color code & a number. Mine was called before theirs. Everything became kind of a blurr from that point on.
I remember Josef & several others in white uniforms forming a line & saying goodbye as they scanned our ID cards for the last time & walked down the gangway. In the terminal, a Crystal Rep asked me what color & number I was; & she escorted me to the appropriate room. Our bags must have been placed separate from everyone else’s; because there weren’t that many of them & mine was very easy to spot.
James came over & gave me a hug; & then walked the porter over to the Luggage Concierge truck; & saw that my bags were loaded. I do not even remember who escorted me to the car. I remember there being several neat rows of Lincoln town cars lined up waiting as each group disembarked. As my driver was about to pull away, I rolled the window down to say goodbye to Johann. He came running over for one last hug through the window; & then we were off. It was a whirlwind operation; but thankfully, not the usual chaos of pushing your way through throngs of people trying to search through row after row of luggage.
Check in at LAX was easy without luggage to check. Since I had originally booked my own air & was flying coach class, I would have had to wait it out in the crowded gate area. But I had planned ahead & purchased a one day pass so I could use the United Lounge. Fortunately, that gave me the opportunity to clear my head, relax & wait in comfort. I found a comfy chair, plugged in the computer & got some juice. In a short while (my other bridge partner) Louise & her partner, Vic, arrived. They had a nonstop flight back to Honolulu which didn’t leave until mid afternoon. My flight was at 12:30 with a change of plane in Houston.
The weather was cooperative; & the flights were uneventful. I barely took notes today; & certainly took no photos. The dream had come to an end; & I had no real desire to document this day in any way. I did get a chuckle out of the paperwork the ship gave me for my complimentary airport pick up in Ft. Myers. The driver joked that he had no idea WHO he was picking up. I told him now that I’m back in Florida, I’m back to being just a normal person.
It was nearly 1 am when I arrived home. I was tired, yet too wound up to go to sleep. Even though I was happy to see my bed again, I was not happy to be HERE. Nowhere feels like home right now. I won’t be able to afford to travel for quite a while. But I will have thousands of photos & this blog to help me relieve this grand adventure, every day for the rest of my life! And I thank God for giving me the opportunity to live this dream.
Two days later I saw my personal physician about the 'rash'. She asked a lot of questions about what countries I had visited & what I might have come in contact with. I kept trying to steer her toward the foreign prescription meds or something I ate. She gave me a steroid shot, steroid scrip & steroid cream. Within 3 days the rash was nearly gone; the itching gradually stopped after 5 days. So, to this day, we do not know for sure what it was.