22 July 2001, cont.  Leaving Venice

We dressed down a bit and had lunch on board as we floated out of Venice, as grand an exit as we had had an entrance, with expansive vistas. The ship passed Lido, a popular vacation spot for Venetians as it sports the only sand beach near the city, making the island the real "Venice Beach." (I suspect they've heard that one.) Of course, all Venetians own boats, and many were out in the Delle Navi for the afternoon, buzzing the Golden Princess. Free of the canals, we disembarked our pilot, a specialist on board to navigate the narrow channels of Venice, and headed southeast into the Adriatic.

The Princess Theater. Tap dancing is way more fun when the stage rolls with the waves.

The Princess staff is very smart. They recognize the lingering effects of the inevitable shopping bug contracted in a city as infectious as the Queen of the Seas, compounded by potentially restless passengers facing a day-and-a-half at sea. They held a gem sale. Jen got an early Anniversary present of some topaz earrings and we picked up a few of our portraits. (Nice work!) After our two days of bridge vaulting, we were in great shape for some real high-impact athletics: Reading By the Pool. Lots of kids were swimming; that retractable roof was open. I also took a stab at a little Poolside Imbibing, and did rather well.

That evening, the Photo Gallery was shooting black and white portraits. I had no current resume shot, and so slipped into the tux for some headshots. (Nice work again!) We changed again, and ambled to dinner in the Donatello, which we shared with an impressively boring couple from Tucson whose conversation rarely wandered far from their kids. The show that night in the Vista Lounge continued the, er, dinner mood. It began with a kitschy string duo ("The sensational sights and sounds of String Fever!) and gave way to a British comic, David Reid, whose act was in keeping with the antiquity of the day's surroundings. We ran forward to the Princess Theater. The new cabaret, alas, had been postponed due to a star's illness (understudies, apparently, cannot find passage even on a ship of this size), and was replaced on rather short notice by two acts, a cabaret singer and Uber Rossi, the comic from the first night's show.

Our next day would be at sea, so not an early morning. We got a jump start on our fellow passengers with a dash for the laundry room, which would surely be constantly busy the next day. I also couldn't resist staying up to finish those last few chapters of my Neil Gaiman novel, American Gods

23 July 2001 Anniversary at Sea.

Grand Promenade, central to the ship.

Well we slept in, of course. Actually, we just made the 11:30 cutoff for the breakfast buffet and made straight for the aft sun deck again. An afternoon alternating between napping and bikini-ogling, rising only for a light lunch snack. We scooted the deck chairs back, inch by inch as the sun climbed toward us, curling our toes gingerly out of burning range. Jen did lotion my feet as I dozed, however. This is an odd way to awaken.

Jen had a late afternoon appointment at the Lotus Health and Beauty Spa with one of the International Hair Stylists, then changed for our last formal night aboard. (Portraits, of course, and we looked good.) This was special: we had an reservation for Sabbatini's, the ships rather exclusive and formal Italian restaurant. They gave us their very best table for two by the window to soak in the ocean view. It was fully a six-course dinner. If you have not experienced this: start with antipasti (a prosciutto cake), then have pizza. Full? Sorry, you have not begun dinner. Now bring on the soup and salad and follow with pasta. You're ready to eat, friend: a secundo platto, and finish an entire bottle of Asti Spumanti. (Lowbrow, perhaps, but Jen and my long-standing Special Treat, instigated by a few extraordinary dinners in New York City's legendary Asti's.) Oh, yeah, did I mention? It's time for dessert: a luscious anniversary cake. Follow this with another round of dessert: cookies and cappuccino. They did let us take the cookies with. The dinner took hours, thank God.

Jen is actually standing at the far end of this hallway.
See her waiving?

They serenaded us with Italian melodies and sensational service. We laughed like idiots; what a feast.

The shows that evening made up for the sins of the last, and we took in both of 'em. Billy Vader, a damn funny comedian, knows cruises. He riffed on everything from the odd currencies ("so it's two million trillion liras to the dollar") to the tourist spots ("so we line up to walk over more rocks"). He also did some admirable abusing of Alistar, the cruise director, who took it in stride. Another song-and-dance extravaganza opened in the Vista, a slick fifties music gig called "Shake, Rattle and Roll." Harmony-singing, high kicks, the whole bit.

The ideal, and rather obvious topper to these was a leisurely walk outside the promenade deck. We bumped into everyone from Stuart and Cheryl (with whom we made a dinner date) to Billy Vader. Vader's from the old-school Vegas circuit, and worked with the Rat Pack. We danced out on deck to Maurizio (one name only, plays piano) and listened to every musical act on board at some point attempting to play the pop hit "She Bangs."

Cookies. Bed.

The Smart Couple. Do not ask which anneversary this was.

Next: Hot times in the old town.

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