Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Ceboom

Cebu City, Philippines (15 Feb), Sea day (16 Feb).

Here’s about yesterday in Cebu City and some additional observations of shipboard life:

Spend the day yesterday in Cebu, the first of two stops in the Philippines. The pilot boat came with a large number of officials along with friends and families of the officials as well as house pets, furniture, and I believe passers-by. As about half the ship’s crew are from the Philippines, families and boy or girl friends were waiting outside the security area. Some crew are on 10 month contracts and haven’t seen their families or friends for ½ a year or more. (It is very rare for ship to call in the Philippines since many crew members on some ships break their contracts when they get home, not Silversea’s super staff fortunately.) The captain gave most Filipino crew members shore leave. They came back with smiles on their faces. No doubt from good home cooking.

Cebu City on Cebu Island in the south (but not the most southern island which is Mindanao which was enshrouded in fog when we passed it) is the 2nd most populated city and seaport in the Philippines. I took a tour of a number of museums—all about various colonialists, missionaries, or economic influences—visited the big Spanish style cathedral where you can buy a prayer from a uniformed “candle lady” (10 cents for a small candle, 20 cents for a big candle. No promises made if the big candle’s prayers are answered sooner, better, or more effectively), saw very cute little kids, and a huge high rise housing development for the growing call center business. A matter of fact, all the young high school graduates coming into town for call center jobs has created an economic surge here in Cebu known as the CEBOOM. What joy! “My name is Sue. What is your account number, height, and eye color? Good morning. May I help you?”

The cruise is winding down. Manila tomorrow, then a day at sea until Hong Kong. It’s cold there. Oh well. While they have improved everything tremendously (from a pretty high level, I have to say) since some spotty training issues onboard in the last couple of years on this line, Silversea has apparently decided to really push the booze on everyone, I assume as a marketing thing. I thought the mindless every five minute, “Drink sir?”, by the pool was just poor training, but I’ve noticed that it’s everywhere. Also, they come around at noon and 3 pm with vodka punches by the pool and even remind people at the shows and other events to “get a drink”. As a result there are guests who are drinking beers for breakfast, double rum with ice at noon, G & Ts with lunch, and by show time they are incoherent. I’m really alarmed by the way the other guests are acting even by dinner time and decided to skip most shows (not a hardship although the flown in talent is ok but not, let’s say, Ed Sullivan quality, if you know what I mean. But I do miss the banana man from Sullivan. But I digress) and go to sleep early. I am very convinced that the luxury cruise lines are “chasing each other’s tails”. But for all it’s worth I can’t stop doing these cruises. Better than other vices, I guess, but it’s getting harder to get invited (or want to join) “strangers” for dinner. They are drunks by then. I probably will book two new cruises onboard (and get an additional 5% discount for so doing): one to replace an existing booking and another for next year which includes going 1600 miles up (and down) the Amazon. The new one for later this year is LA to Chile or maybe Costa Rica to Papeete. The later segment, if I do it, will stop in Robinson Crusoe Island, Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, and Moorea and Bora Bora (where I think Mahi Mahi comes from). Come to think of it, the ship will stop in these places even if I don’t do the cruise and maybe I’m wrong about the fish. At any rate (and it’s a high rate indeed), I will evaluate all sorts of things when I return and commit to what sounds right and proper. Now that I think about it, forgot that—I’ll probably go on more cruises.

Will muddle on until Hong Kong and spend a couple of nights before flying home on the 21st. I plan to visit “the 2nd biggest reclining Buddha” on Landau Island. Will report on Manila and Hong Kong probably immediately after I’m back.

Missing everyone back home. Go figure.

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