Searching for the Vikings

Wednesday, September 6 - Day 36: At Sea

Another sunny day. This morning we have an invitation to a Mariner’s Brunch. This is an event for Holland America Mariners, so I didn’t think we qualified because we haven’t yet completed a cruise, but we were invited, by fancy printed invitation. I have been teasing Donnie about the fact that her ID card has no stars and I, for some unknown reason, have one. I told her that this brunch was for the one-star and above Mariners, but she would be allowed to stand in the dining room and eat one saltine cracker, a stale one. She didn’t laugh.

We both thought that since it was called a brunch and was scheduled for eleven in the morning, that it would be the typical Eggs Benedict and a Mimosa. It was actually a very nice three course lunch, with flowing champagne and extra special service. The Captain and the senior staff greeted each of us on the way into the dining room, and the Captain made a, thankfully, very short speech. The “collectable gift” on the table was a Delft-style blue and white ceramic tile coaster with a Holland America design on it, one for each of us. Better even than a swizzle stick.

(… the morning performed its quick-costume-change act and became, in what seemed like an instant, the afternoon. Bravo! …)

A sound. A familiar sound. A reassuring sound. Yes, after a glorious, beautiful, sunny morning on the open ocean … our old friend, fog, and it’s close companion, the good old foghorn returned to greet us.

Now’s a good time to mention another good thing we like on this ship: The bread. The bread and rolls have been consistently excellent. Kudos to the on-board bakers. Even Donnie raved about the bread in a sandwich she had one afternoon, and she rarely eats sandwiches.

We attended another of Dr. Bendel’s astronomy lectures, this one entitled “The Mysterious Universe”. He spoke about the life of stars, how they formed and how they died. He talked about galaxies, black holes, the big bang, dark matter and dark energy. Yet another fascinating talk, at least for science buffs like me. Donnie liked it also, and the audience of Mariners seems to enjoy them also.

How about another important topic, Mahjong. No, not the game. Don’t get me started about the game. My mother was a Mahjong fanatic and I lost a lot of sleep as a young lad while the ladies in the living room were laughing and calling out “two crak” and “three bam” loudly, late at night, on a school night.

No what I want to talk about the the word itself, Mahjong. I have seen it spelled with two g’s, i.e. Mahjongg, but that’s not the topic either. This has to do with the daily printed publication they put in everybody’s stateroom every evening with the catchy title of “When and Where”. This is supposed to give you information for the next day, like the date, and what port you are supposed to be in, and whether the dress in the dining room will be “Smart Casual” or “Dressy Casual”. I have never seen “Stupid Casual”, but I’m willing to wait and see. Most of what is in “When and Where” is the activities for the day.  I won’t give you a list. I already covered the ones we don’t do. I am still not interested in a “Tongue Diagnosis”. However, almost every day at sea they have a get-together of the Mahjong players to, what else, play Mahjong.

What’s the issue then? They can’t spell it. At all. They have tried every possible combination, most of them not approaching the correct one. We have seen…




and all the other, incorrect spellings. A different one almost every day. But, the thing that really annoys me is that once, just once, they got it right, and then the next day spelled it wrong again. Given the fact that the little old ladies on this cruise complain loudly and often about everything, to every crew and staff member they encounter, you would think that the Mahjong ladies would have corrected them, loudly and repeatedly.

Ok, one other tiny, little annoyance about “When and Where”. It’s the most inaccurate thing ever. It misspells lots of things. It omits entire events. It get the times wrong on others. All of the lecturers have had their names misspelled, usually after they were correctly spelled on a previous day. Dr. Hannesson never had his name spelled correctly. John Nixon became Nixson. The wrong lectures were listed. Some of the lecturers have made jokes about it. So have the comedians. There is also an online version that you can access via the shipboard WIFI. It’s equally inaccurate, and here’s the kicker, differently inaccurate than the printed one. Either two different sloppy people create them, or one sloppy person who doesn’t even bother to check that they match. It’s alright. It adds mystery to the cruise.

(… nighttime sneaked up on afternoon and, after coshing it on the head with a wrench, threw it overboard…) (Sorry, maybe I’ve been reading too many Dashiell Hammet stories.)

We retired early. Tired. Too much excitement.