Day 10 - the Love Boat (en route to Hong Kong)

Trip Start Feb 04, 2012
Trip End Mar 01, 2012

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Diamond Princess Cruise Ship

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2012
Our vessel, Diamond Princess, kept on its northerly course through the Moro Gulf and Basilan Strait to transit the Sulu Sea.  We traveled by the island of Mindoro, and then mainland Philippines.  There are 3000 islands that make up the Philippines, so we could see land mass throughout the day.  Many Philipino work this cruise ship, and it was rather touching that at one point in the day there were about 30 Philipinos up on the top deck on their cell phones, talking to family members on the mainland, because the ship was close enough for it to be a free phone call for them. 
Valentine’s Day was highly celebrated at sea, with hearts and balloons and streamers all throughout the ship.  Countless Valentine Day cakes and floral arrangements carved from fruits and vegetables were displayed in the midship Atrium all day.  There is a floral shop on board and my dear husband had a single yellow rose delivered to our room, a long standing tradition throughout our nearly 44 years of marriage.  Sweet.  The day culminated in the Atrium (three story open area midship) with Renewal of Wedding Vows, led by Captain Bob Oliver.  I thought it might be a little cheesy, but actually it was an emotional moment for us to repeat our vows of commitment to each other, alongside a grand chorus of other married/partnered folks. We came back to our stateroom after that and shared in a lovely bottle of wine from the Hunter Valley of Australia – a gift from Murray’s sister Kylie’s family.  It was a formal evening on board (there are four of them during the cruise), so most everyone was dressed to the nines.    
Other events during the day included a sea ritual to celebrate the “crossing over” of the equator.  King Neptune and his Queen Double D (named because she had large balloons for a bust) were featured at the top deck swimming area to initiate “pollywogs” (people who had never crossed the equator before) to give them status as “shellbacks” (people who have crossed over previous to this cruise).  Those being initiated had all kinds of food layered upon them – spaghetti noodles for their hair, cracked eggs over their heads, jello and other food items slathered over their bodies, and buckets of chocolate poured over them.  Pollywogs also had to kiss a fish, a huge, slimy fish.  Once they were declared a shellback, they jumped (or were thrown) into the pool.  After three or four sets of pollywog initiation ceremonies, the pool looked like a number of folks had fouled the water.  Ugly.  All in good fun.
We attended another port lecture, this time on Hong Kong, and it made us eager to get there.  I also attended another in a series of lectures on the Princes’ of Wales – a history of the 20th century’s princes-in-waiting.  The lecturer, John Maxtone-Graham, has had a fascinating life and is a great lecturer.  He has authored numerous books.  I believe I stated in an earlier post that he has to be into his 80s. 
I also went to an afternoon movie in the theater, “An American in China”.  Movie wasn’t the greatest but it had fabulous videography of the Great Wall of China, which we are eager to see once we get to Beijing.  And after that we met up with our new friends Carole and Earl, who are teaching us Canasta, a game neither Peter nor I have ever played.  It’s more about building a relationship with them than playing cards, but I’m finding it fun to have time to just sit and play a game!
Before the Renewal of Vows, we went to a show by Canadian vocalist, Michael Montgomery, and then to a Ventriloquist, Mark Crocker.  We did slip out early from that show to be at the Renewal on time, and as I tried to leave indiscreetly, I bumped my drinking glass, which shattered.  Of course I was in the front row, so the ventriloquist immediately called attention to it, telling me I had to pay for the glass, summoning the servers to catch me before I got out of there, and really embarrassing me as I left the venue.  I was glad to get out of there.  I had not intended to become part of the act!

One story I should tell, as it was quite amazing.  I was looking from our balcony at 6:45am and the sun had just come up when I saw four speedboats coming toward the ship from the west.  They came closer and closer and then flanged out.  I could see the person in the closest boat and he was waving a white sign.  I couldn't make out any words on it but I could hear the men in the boats yelling.  I couldn't figure out what they were trying to do but they were pursuing the ship.  We are a bit below the ship's bridge and I could see the crew with their binoculars, studying the four boats.  Eventually they couldn't keep up, but it was quite a mystery.  I must admit that I wondered if they were pirates?  And later someone mentioned that there have been situations like that in the world where the boats were filled with explosives and blew up a ship!  Anyway, we came away from it safely - maybe the people were in distress, but there was no land mass in site and it seemed like they came out of nowhere in their little boats powered by small outboard motors!  One mystery that won't be solved.  Makes a good story, don't you think?
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