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DaCruzNut

A SEA OF MEMORIES - Part 10

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PART 10 – OLYMPUS, TO CARIBE I, TO REGAL EMPRESS

Copyright © 2004-Jeffrey R. Stern

All Rights Reserved.

My next adventure, following the Britanis, was on another "oldie but goodie," Commodore Cruise Lines' Caribe I.

Originally the Olympus, doing the New York to Europe run, she was a small, very comfortable ship, and, like the Britanis, very nautical. Due to her small size, and long, narrow, hull, she was nicknamed, “The Rollympia.â€Â

She was a diminutive ship, operating in the “budget†category. There were a number of ships operating in this category, operated by several lines, such as Chandris Fantasy, Commodore, Dolphin, and others. They all delivered a very decent product, and each had it’s own area of expertise.

On the Caribe, it was the entertainment that was surprisingly good. It was also more than just a little bit on the offbeat side.

One of the entertainers, Steve Hart, was a member of the “crew,†and was part of the Cruise Director’s staff. Steve left a wife, and son, in California, to pursue a career as a puppeteer aboard a cruise ship. He worked with life-size dummies, which were reproductions of old-time stars, such as Jimmy Durante and Carol Channing. He also did various comedy routines without the puppets, and a number of audience participation entertaining.

During the day, Steve mingled with the passengers, ran the trivia games and other activities.

I didn’t take notice, at the time, that Steve always wore long-sleeved shirts and slacks. He never wore a t-shirt and shorts. It wasn’t until several years later that I learned the reason…. I was talking to someone else who knew Steve, a local videographer who had filmed Steve’s video, and he told me that Steve had tattoos from the base of his neck, to ankles, and down to both wrists. Had this been twenty years earlier, he could have gotten a job at the Coney Island Freak Shows; “Come see the tattooed man!†I don’t mean to offend Steve, in any way, though. He is a fantastic person, with a great personality, and I will never forget him. He made the cruise a lot of fun!

Also aboard was a group called “The Four Guys.†They were, basically, a ‘country’ group, based in Nashville, and entertained at Grand Ole’ Opry. They had a six-month contract on the Caribe. Their talents were, hardly, limited to country music. The also did fantastic 50’s doo-wop.

One night, they performed several numbers that were made famous by the Temptations. This was a regular part of their act. Ironically, the “original†Temptations came aboard, at one of the ports, to perform a one-night show. Unfortunately, the group was past their prime. While the show was nostalgic, they had, clearly, passed their peak. Many of the passengers joked that, “The Four Guys did a better Temptations than the Temptations…â€Â

As I previously mentioned, this is the ship upon which I learned to shoot craps! The casino was small, and got crowded, but, the dealers, and fellow passengers, were always cheerful and considerate. It was one of the nicest shipboard casinos I’ve been in.

As was the case of so many ships, back then, the catering was done by Apollo, and, therefore, was excellent. Our maitre d', Dean, was one of the best I have ever had, as was the entire staff.

Our itinerary took us to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Once in port, I hired a local young man, Miguel, to show me around. Prior to touring with Miguel, he and I had set a price of five-dollars per hour. Little tip: In ANY port, make sure you set the price of a tour, taxi ride, etc; BEFORE you begin. It will avoid the tribulations that, unfortunately, many cruise passengers have had in the past.

Upon beginning the expedition, I was appalled to see the poverty in this small town. The sewage ran through open trenches, on either side of the street, and you crossed them on small, wooden, boards. The houses were, mostly, open shacks with shutters, but no windows, and "bead curtain" doors. Several generations shared the small huts.

Miguel showed me around the town, took me to the fort, and conducted a pleasant tour. After two hours, we returned to the ship. I handed Miguel the ten-dollars we had agreed upon, plus an extra five… I thought he was going to drop to his knees, and kiss my feet! "Oh, senor," he said, "it takes my papa a whole week to earn fifteen-dollars….."

Miguel asked me how I had liked his town, and I told him that, in all honesty, the town made me gloomy. I had never seen such poverty, and felt badly that the people had to live under such conditions. "It's not so bad, here, senor; you should see how bad it is on the other side of the island (Haiti)." Like so many Caribbean people, he accepted his circumstances, and pointed out that it could be worse. We could learn quite a lesson from him.

That evening, I had trouble eating dinner. I kept thinking about Puerto Plata, and the people who had so little. I began to feel a little guilty about all the abundant food on the menu. Our bus boy asked what was wrong, and I told him. “Senor,†he said, â€Âdo not feel so bad. I’m from Puerto Plata, and I have found a way out of the poverty. Many others could, too, if they really wanted to. Enjoy your dinner.â€Â

I took his advice, and enjoyed my dinner, and the rest of my cruise.

The maitre d’ was one of our most memorable. His name was Dean, and he worked for Apollo. He was always walking through the dining room, making sure everything was perfect. And, for the most part, it usually was.

For reasons that we’ll skip, right now, I always travel with a little stuffed raccoon, named, Broward. He usually stays in the cabin, and, seldom, ventures out. Since we had an odd number of people at the dining room table, as a joke, one day, I brought Broward to the dining room, and sat him in the empty seat. Without missing a beat, Dean, who had spotted little Browie at the table, walked over and placed a Children’s Menu in front of the little guy. Now, there’s one maitre d’ that knows how to earn his tip!

Unlike the poor Britanis, the Caribe I is enjoying a new life.

After serving so well for Commodore, she was taken over by Regal Cruise Lines, and sailed as the Regal Empress. Following the failure of Regal Cruise Lines, she was bought by Imperial Majesty Cruise Lines, and is sailing three day cruises from Miami to Nassau.

I was recently fortunate to cruise her, once again, thirteen years after my initial voyage. Not too much has changed, with a few exceptions.

The food is no longer catered by Apollo, and it shows. While the food is still good, it tends to be uneven, and the variety and abundance of the fare has sharply decreased. Some dishes are really superior, while others are merely OK. I had no trouble finding more than enough very good chow to keep me happy on a short cruise.

The entertainment is nowhere near what it was when Commodore ran the show (pun intended). The entertainers are all from eastern Europe, and while they are excellent performers, their accents can be disconcerting. I found it to be an assault on my ears to hear, “I vant to be dere, New Yoruk, New Yoruk.†Oh well, the dancers were pretty good.

The casino staff is still top draw! While the casino is being managed by a new firm, they are every good as the one aboard the Caribe.

The general service, including the cabin pttendants, dining room staff, buffet staff, information desk personnel, and so forth down the line, are excellent.

But, the ship is still THE ship! The library has been turned into a conference room, and kept locked, but little else has changed. She has been refurbished and is excellently maintained. The wood that surrounds you, all over the ship, remains as it was in all its lacquered beauty, and the brass is kept polished round-the-clock.

The enclosed promenade, with it deeply cushioned loveseats, provides a mood of relaxation and contentment that can only be found on the older ships. Unfortunately she is only one of a very few still in operation. The lido pool deck, at the rear of the ship, is still the center of activity. Completely open to the sea on three sides, it is the heart of the ship.

I don’t know how many years this lady of the sea has left, after fifty-plus years of service, but she certainly is not showing her age. My advice: Hurry, before it’s too late. The Regal Empress is the last converted ocean liner/cruise liner operating from a U.S. port!

……………………………ââ

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……………………………ââ‚

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(If you missed any of the preceding chapters, and wish to “catch up,†you can click on the links below….)

Part 1 – Introduction;

http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4349

Part 2 – Onto The Ship; Out To Sea

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4443]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4443

Part 3 – First, there’s The Food

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4395]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4395

Part 4 – Shooting The Dice

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4443]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4443

Part 5 – Places To Visit; People To See

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4459]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4459

Part 6 – Catching Cruise Fever

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4534]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4534

Part 7 – A Love Affair at Sea

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4578]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4578

Part 8 – Apollo Wasn’t Just A Greek God

[url=http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4604]http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4604

Part 9 – Bon Voyage To A Real Lady

http://www.cruisecrazies.com/forums/index....t=ST&f=2&t=4636

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Hi DaCruzNut,

There is so much on the Regal Empress this month. First, I decide to book a cruise on her, then there's an article in Cruise Travel Magazine, then I receive a travel voucher that includes the Regal Empress, and now your message about the Regal Empress.

I am looking forward to sailing her. Thanks for putting a bug in my ear.

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