Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 9-Still Cruising

Although no longer a cruise ship physician, Len Kreisler MD still enjoys cruising as a passenger.  He’s added this last story in just for the blog.  His previous stories on the blog came from his book regarding his cruise ship doctor days.  In this story he tells us how a chance meeting on a cruise ship led to learning something about the history of  some major players in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Palace Station Hotel Las Vegas

Palace Station Casino photo courtesy of

As a cruise ship physician and as a cruise passenger, I definitely prefer the smaller (1000 to 1200 passenger) ships. For one, I do not like waiting in long lines for embarkation or disembarkation; either at the beginning of the cruise, at the end of the voyage, or for shore excursions during the trip. I like to socialize with the passengers and crew and if current security polices allow, I like to visit the bridge, request dinner with the Captain or another officer, and have a relaxed open seating policy; i.e. just show up during the designated meal times and be seated where ever the Maître Dee’s judgment takes you. On a smaller ship the”Hotel” service people get to know you and your preferences; for dinner, room serve, etc. Here is one pleasant memory on a small ship cruise.

We were in a short dinner line waiting for the doors to open. It was the Regent Seven Seas Mariner’s18-day trans Pacific cruise from Hong Kong to California. Behind us was a very tall, good looking Texan with huge, rodeo-type belt buckle, snakeskin cowboy boots and a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like; at least fifteen years younger, embracing his left arm. I can assure you, it wasn’t his daughter or his niece.
I turned to him and asked, in jest of course:
“What part of New York are you from?”
He smiled and drawled back, “Galveston, Texas.” Where you from, Son?”
“Las Vegas since 1973.”
“Do you know the Fertita’s”, he asked?
“Familiar with the name, but don’t know them personally. I know that Frank, the patriarch, took a Motel Six on West Sahara Avenue and expanded it into a very successful gaming hotel, The Palace Station.  It has since added more properties throughout the valley known collectively as Station Casinos. Interestingly no one seems to know anything about where Frank came from. At least anyone  I’ve asked.”

He gave me an ear to ear, pearly, white-capped-toothy smile. He proudly went on to tell me the Fertita-Galveston story, as his young escort showered  him with swooning, affectionate eyes.  I could read her mind: “My sugar daddy is spellbinding ’em with his never-ending knowledge.”
Galveston had been an ipso facto gambling city for many years even though gambling was illegal throughout Texas. In 1956, an Elliot Ness-type, state Attorney General, decided he was going to clean up the state. Frank Fertita was part of the Galveston gaming establishment and was now out of business. Where else would a professional in the gaming business relocate? We had a few dinners together with great conversations during the rest of the trip.
a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

To read and hear more about cruise ship medicine visit my web site: You can contact me directly with questions, comments or just plain cruising-smoozing. I have a chapter on cruise ship medicine in my nonfiction book, ROLL THE DICE, PIC A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.
                                                                     Len Kreisler MD
Excerpts from Dr. Len’s book about his cruise ship days:
The opinions in this blog are those of the guest author and not those of My Cruise Stories.  I’ve sailed on cruises from as small as 12 passengers on a yacht cruise to over 4000 passengers on a large cruise ship and enjoyed them all.  Each ship no matter how big or small has its own unique charm.   A cruise is what you make of it, so make the best of whatever cruise you are on and you’ll have the best possible experience.
Posted in Guest Blogs, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Friday Harbor Marina

Washington State Ferry Passes By Wilderness Adventurer in Friday Harbor

As the Wilderness Adventurer of Un-Cruise Adventures approached Friday Harbor on San Juan Island we saw more activity on the little walkway that goes past the window to our room than we had all cruise long – all crew people. They tied two big bumpers to the railing there so we knew the dock would be on our side of the boat.

Friday Harbor, Washington

sea plane docked at the Friday Harbor Marina

Docking on the outer edge of a marina where they have space for bigger boats really makes a small cruise ship look big in comparison to the rest of the boats. It’s pretty interesting just to walk around the docks and look at some of the other boats tied up there. The dock we tied to even had a sea plane on one end.

at the dock on San Juan Island

old historic boat

One old wooden boat had a sign out in front of it with its history. Built in the 1920’s, it started as a small-ship cruise boat around Alaska, and they listed many famous people who had cruised on it way back when. It spent some time as a private vessel, did military work through world war 2, moved to California as a cruise ship for awhile, and now is back to cruising in Alaska.

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

floating Bed & Breakfast

Another boat there had a sign out saying it is a B&B. The marina is very close to the ferry dock, so people could walk on the ferry and then walk over to the marina to spend the night there. A lot of boats said they were from places like Alaska or California, but some did claim Friday Harbor as their home base.

buildings in Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor

We walked up a tall stairway into town, though had we turned toward the ferry dock we could have walked alongside the water and got into the main part of town without the stairs. Local restaurants and small shops line the main street of the town, along with little art galleries. From the area the stairs lead to, the sidewalk toward town passes by several viewpoints to see the bay, marina, and ferry dock. Also the ferry when one comes in. We saw a small one which is probably for inter-island traffic and a big one that likely goes to Anacortes and possibly Sidney B.C. (Canada).

island hopper ferry

this small private ferry travels to islands not served by the state ferry

Friday Harbor sits on San Juan Island, the largest island in the San Juan island chain. It is one of the few islands where the state ferry stops on a run from Anacortes on the mainland which also includes Lopez, Orcas, and Shaw islands and a one time daily trip to Canada stopping at Sidney BC on Vancouver Island. Technically Anacortes is on Fidalgo Island, but it is separated from the mainland only by a channel easily crossed on a bridge.

painting a ship

crew of the Wilderness Adventurer touching up the paint

San Juan Island is most famous for the Pig War. In the mid 1800’s ownership of the San Juan Islands was in dispute between the USA and England. When an American living on the island shot and killed a pig owned by British soldiers it escalated tensions between the two sides, with both ramping up troops. Eventually the issue was resolved peacefully with the pig remaining the only casualty. It took 12 more years to determine ownership of the San Juans to the USA. San Juan Island still has English Camp and American Camp, both now national parks. There’s even a Pig War beer named after the confrontation, but it is made by an Oregon brewery.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


Posted in Port Cities, Un-Cruise Adventures, Washington, Wilderness Adventurer | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Is a Cruise Ship Cabin Crowded With More Than 2 People?


cruise ship Christmas tree ornaments

Sun. Westerdam, and Splendor in Christmas Tree Ornaments

For the most part, cruise ship cabins are designed to hold two people, and usually they do.  Sometimes though people cruise in larger groups and more than two stay in the same cabin.  Different ships have different ways to accommodate extra people.  Most ships have cabins that will sleep 3 or 4 people and a few even have some cabins that sleep more.  When planning to take more than two people it helps to look at the deck plans to find out where the cabins that hold more people are, how many they hold, and most important how big the cabin is.  Putting 4 people in a room that has some space to move around in works out fine, but 3 or 4 people in a room where you can barely walk around the beds could get rather uncomfortable.

How do cruise ship cabins with just two beds sleep more than two people?  Couches that convert to beds or bunks that drop down from the ceiling or wall add to the amount of occupants a room can hold. Adjoining rooms with a connecting door make traveling together with a larger group easier, but also mean booking more than one cabin.

Normally I just cruise with my husband, or if we travel with other people they have their own room.   A few times though I have traveled with more.  I took a cruise to Alaska with my son and grandson.  The three of us shared an inside cabin on the Norwegian Sun.  Some years later I took another Alaskan cruise on the Holland America Westerdam, this time with a group of 9 relatives, of which I shared a balcony room with my aunt and sister.  Just recently I took a Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Splendor with a group of 6.  My folks had their own room, but my grandson and his mother and my husband and I all shared an oceanview cabin to keep our cost down.

Each of these rooms had a different size and configuration, and with each group we had a different way of coping with the extra people.  Some things help on any ship though.  Use all the storage space available, including inside the nightstands and under the beds as well as the drawers, closets and any cubbyholes or open shelves.  Bring extra hangers because often the ship doesn’t even have enough for two people.  Also bring a power strip because there are never enough outlets – often just one for the entire cabin.

It’s hard to keep a small space organized and the more people in it, the more stuff there is to keep track of.  The walls and doors of cruise ships are magnetic, so bringing some magnets along works wonders for keeping things like shore excursion tickets and key cards handy and easy to find.  You can also post your itinerary if you print that out before you go, as well as the daily newsletter and whatever other papers you want to find at a glance.  Posting loose papers on the wall with magnets also keeps them from cluttering up the countertops.

cruise ship cabin with drop down bunks

this tiny inside cabin holds 4, but would feel crowded

Inside cabins can be very tiny on some ships, and the ones that hold 4 may be no bigger than the ones that hold 2, they just have drop down bunks for extra sleeping space.  We got lucky on the Norwegian Sun in that though we had an inside cabin, it had a fair amount of space.  The room had three beds in a row with the heads against the back wall and nightstands in between each one.  Two were the actual beds that can be either pushed together or separated depending on who stays in the cabin.  The third was a couch, of which they removed the back and left it as a bed for the entire voyage.  Between the feet of the beds and the closets there was plenty of space for a 6-year-old to play with his toys.

Norwegian Sun

Justin on the Sun

We didn’t really have any issues with the bathroom because I would get up before the other two and go to the gym, then come back and be done with my shower before they woke up.  Men and small children don’t seem to take long in the shower so we never came across anyone needing the bathroom while someone else was in there  If we all needed to change clothes at the same time I’d just go in the bathroom and they could change in the room.

inside a cruise ship cabin

a balcony room on the Westerdam

Although we had a balcony on the Westerdam, the room wasn’t quite as big.  It had two beds with the heads against a side wall and a loveseat sized couch that folded out to make the third bed.  The steward had to open the couch bed out each night and fold it back up again in the morning.  The little table had to go out on the balcony at night as there was nowhere in the room for it to go with the bed folded out.

I wasn’t bothered by that as we still had space enough to walk between the beds or to get to the bathroom.  The foot end of the couch bed blocked both access to the balcony and to the refrigerator (which is supposed to be a mini-bar of small expensive items they can add to your bill if you consume them, but you can have the steward clear their stuff out so you can put your own things in there if you want to.)  My sister has food allergies and had brought some of her special products so she did not like it when the refrigerator got blocked.  The room had a curtain that could be pulled across between the couch bed and the other two, which was nice.

spa pool on cruise ship

hydrotherapy mineral pool in Westerdam spa

Three women sharing a room with one bathroom could have been a problem, but we took the spa tour on boarding day and they had a special for two on the thermal suite and gave us an even better deal for three.  Since we were up at the spa every day using the hydrotherapy pool and heated ceramic chairs we would just shower in the changing room at the spa, which left our bathroom available most of the time.  Cruise ship rooms normally have a nice big mirror so that access to the bathroom mirror isn’t necessary for things like doing hair or make-up.  Our cabin steward may have thought we were the dirtiest people on the boat though since he never had to pick up any used bath towels.

cruise ship cabin sleeps 4

oceanview cabin on the Splendor

The oceanview room on the Splendor had quite a lot of space and we never felt crowded with 4 people in it.  The two regular beds were at the end by the window, with the heads against a side wall, a nightstand between the beds, and space to walk around the last bed to look out the window.  A full sized couch ran the length of the sidewall between the bed farthest from the window and the wall of the bathroom.  They took the back off the couch to make it a bed and left it as a bed for the duration of the journey.  A drop-down bunk folded out of the ceiling above the couch bed.

The area between the couch bed and the drawers along the opposite wall had a significant amount of floorspace.  The door into the room opened into a little hallway with closets on one side and the bathroom on the other.  If somebody needed privacy for changing clothes while the bathroom was occupied and other people were in the room they could open a closet door to block the view of the hallway from the room and have a private little changing area there behind the closet door.  There were times when someone wanted to use the bathroom while another person was showering, but there was a public bathroom easily accessible just up two flights of stairs so that took care of that problem.

Overall I felt quite comfortable sharing the cabin with more than two people and since the per person price normally goes down when you add extra people it’s a great way to cruise on budget as long as you choose your room wisely.

cruise ship water slide

waterslide on the Splendor

It also helps to choose the ship wisely.  While I like all cruise ships, it helps to take into account who else is on the cruise.  My 12-year-old grandson for example spent all the time he could on the Splendor’s waterslide and would not be happy on a ship without one.  Some of my other relatives are uncomfortable on a very large ship and prefer to book a medium size to small one.  They probably wouldn’t go down the slide anyway even if the ship did have one.  All the major cruise ships have pools and hot tubs, and not everyone even uses those.

things to do on a cruise ship

some ships have lots to do

When cruising with other people, look to see which ship has what and pick one that suits the needs of your group.  Some have all sorts of amenities for passengers to entertain themselves and others rely more on entertainment provided by their staff.  Passengers differ too as some could entertain themselves for the whole cruise on a ship with no amenities and others need to have something scheduled to provide entertainment for them every hour of the day.

entertainment by cruise ship staff

passengers playing a game with a very large die

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Carnival, Holland America, Norwegian, Shipboard Life, Splendor, Sun, Westerdam | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Martinique, Where Volcanos and Credit Card Bills Blow Up

cruise ship at the dock

Splendor at the dock in Martinique

Carnival Splendor docked at Fort de France, Martinique on a sunny November day.  A welcome back Carnival banner greeted the ship at the dock, hung for the first arriving ship of the season.  Passengers with booked shore excursions gathered in front of the ship. Those on their own found that walking down the brightly colored dock brings them to a large tent set up with booths where locals sell their wares, much of it handmade jewelry. One booth had things made of seeds, another of mainly glass, seawater, and sand.  The pier provides an excellent view of the city and of the old fort which gives the city of Fort de France its name.  People on their own at Martinique could walk into the town to shop.  Another option is to take an island tour from one of the local drivers waiting there or take a taxi to a specific destination.

old fort in Martinique

Fort de France

We stepped off the ship into bright sunshine and immediately had to hold our sunhats on our heads due to the wind.  Tina and I decided to go back and leave the floppy hats as we did not want to spend the day holding them on.  Leaving the second time we stepped outside into rain, which stopped before we even reached the end of the dock.  We also found in more than one port that the wind was strongest next to the ship.

local crafts

seed jewelry in the shopping booth

Martinique Island Tour

We were happy to find the van tours as we wanted to see St. Pierre, a town destroyed when nearby Mt. Pelee blew up in 1902.  This tour included a stop there.  The tour had a lot of ups and downs – up a mountain, down a mountain, up another mountain and back down. Or at least very steep hills.  Our driver, Mike, said that the airport is the only flat spot on the whole island.  While the lowlands tend toward hot and dry, the higher rainforests stay cooler and wetter.

volcanic island

Mt. Pelee through an arch in the ruins at St. Pierre

The roads were paved and in good condition.  Apparently France takes better care of their Caribbean islands than the USA does judging by the pothole filled roads on St Croix.  Mike said Martinique got a lot more cruise ships in port back when they had the franc and none at all when they first changed to the euro.  Now the ships are starting to come back with a few more each year in spite of the exchange rate.   A lot of ships that once spent winters cruising the coast of Mexico added their ranks to the ones already in the Caribbean and they all need somewhere to go, plus people will book more cruises if they can visit different ports.

very old church

old church in Martinique

High on a hill sat an old church, which became our first major stop when we reached the top.  We took a few photos and then the buses from the ship’s tour showed up so we left trying to stay ahead of them.

bananas growing

Mike shows some baby bananas

Along the way our guide stopped here and there in random places to show us the things that grow there. He said nobody ever starves on Martinique because there is always some sort of fruit ripe.  Some things like bananas and papayas they cook and eat like a vegetable when green and eat as a fruit when ripe.  We also saw coffee and cocoa bean trees as well as breadfruit, grapefruit, and guava.  He said that island residents have free healthcare.

waterfall in Martinique


One stop near the bottom of a hill included a short but steep hike down a hill and over stepping stones across a stream to see a waterfall.  A couple dogs stayed near the falls even after all the people left.  They looked well fed and in good condition, but seemed to be strays.  Perhaps the island provides plenty of food for its dogs as well as its people.  We did not see any puppies during our cruise, but most of the random dogs we saw looked like nursing mothers.

hiking to a waterfall

a stray dog stayed near the picnic shelter beyond the stepping stones across the stream

We did not see the ship tour busses again before St Pierre, where they seemed to have arrived first.  We probably made more stops along the way.  We drove past some ruins and then stopped in town for shopping, snacks, or a bathroom break.  The public toilet would have cost money to use, but buying a little something at a café brought us access to a free restroom inside.

pay toilet in Martinique

people have to pay to use this public toilet

Most of the town has been rebuilt since the 1902 erruption, but a few ruins remain.  The volcano was unusually active for about a week before the fatal blast.  The townspeople were accustomed to some volcanic activity and did not take the increase as a warning to evacuate.  The blast that killed a town of 30,000 consisted of superheated steam and volcanic gases. It reached the city in less than a minute from the initial blast, igniting everything flammable, though the people mainly died from heat and gas. One lone prisoner survived in an underground cell.

ruins from 1902 volcanic blast

ruins of the old prison in St Pierre

We stopped near the ruins of the prison, which sit behind a museum.  Just down the road from there a crowd streamed back to the ship’s tour busses.  Figuring there must be something worth seeing for the cruise ship tour to go there I walked down the road a bit to see where they came from.


arches in the ruins at St. Pierre

I walked up an old stone stairway as the last stragglers from the ship’s tour came down.  The stairway led to some much bigger ruins than the prison our driver took us to see.  These ruins had a number of walls with and arches and a view of the volcano so the rest of the people in our van tour really missed out by not seeing anything of them except the pictures in my camera.

old ruins from volcano

ruins at St. Pierre

We stopped at a couple overlooks with views of the water on the way back.  A sudden heavy rain squall showed up right when we got to the only place on our entire route with a great view for photographing the ship.  We took a few pictures through the pouring rain and by the time we returned to the dock the sun shined brightly once again.  So we actually hit rain more in the lowlands than in the rainforest for a change.

Carnival Splendor in Martinique

Splendor in the rain – photo taken out the taxi window

Watch Your Credit Card Account Carefully When Traveling

When we got back to the dock I paid for the tour with my credit card.  At $40 a person this one was considerably more expensive then the usual random tour as most cost around $20-$25.  St. Pierre was quite a distance away from the cruise ship dock so it took more time and gas than the average tour which justifies the higher price.  The driver scanned my card twice saying it didn’t go through the first time.  I specifically mentioned I did not want to be charged twice and he assured me that wouldn’t happen.

tropical island

Fort de France, Martinique

Later after I got home and checked my account I found a double charge for that tour.  Whether this was an honest mistake or a deliberate attempt to scam me I can’t say, but the bank removed the second charge so if it was a scam attempt it was not successful.  It definitely pays to thoroughly check your credit card account if you make any charges while traveling.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Caribbean, Carnival, Ports of Call, Splendor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Cruise Ship Cabins on Carnival Legend

cruise ship in Australia

Carnival Legend in Sydney, Australia

Carnival Legend spends a good part of the year cruising out of Australia, where you can book a cruise at Carnival Australia.  In the northern hemisphere’s summer, when it is winter in the southern hemisphere, the Legend moves to America where it cruises to Alaska through Carnival America.  While transitioning across the Pacific Ocean it cruises to (or from) Hawaii.  At least for now.  Ships do change homeports sometimes.

cruise ship inside stateroom

inside cabin 6-205

Like all cruise ships, the Legend has a variety of rooms to choose from.  Cruise ship accommodations vary from basic inside rooms to fancy suites.  Budget travelers can save money by booking an inside room.  Not all rooms in the same category are of equal size or have the furnishings arranged the same.

cruise ship inside cabin

Inside room 7-278 has a different arrangement.

Inside rooms are the smallest rooms on the ship and of course have no outside view, but they cost significantly less and provide a place to sleep with plenty of storage space for two and most people don’t spend a significant amount of time in their cabin anyway.  Some do have bunks so those on a really tight budget could put 3 or 4 people in an inside room, but they would not have a lot of floor space for small children’s toys or much room to move around when everyone is in the room.  Some people like inside rooms because they can have total darkness for sleeping at any time of the day.

cruise ship accommodations

window room 1-233 with the couch made into a third bed

The rooms with a window have significantly more space than the inside rooms.  These rooms are quite comfortable for 3 or 4 people and cost significantly less than a balcony room.  The windows provide a nice view and a lot of the window rooms are located on deck 1, convenient to the gangway at ports and to the shops, theater, casino, and dining room while onboard.

family cruise ship cabin

balcony cabin 6-143 with drop-down bunk

Balcony rooms give passengers their own little bit of outside space.  It’s nice to have a balcony if you like to sit outside in private, or for easy photo access to outside from the cabin.  Some cabins have bunks that fold into the ceiling if they are not needed and drop down when more people use the room.

connecting cabins on cruise ship

open connecting door between balcony cabins 6-135 and 6-137

Some of the balcony cabins on the Legend have connecting doors between rooms, making them a good choice for a family needing more space than one room provides.  All of the standard size rooms (inside, window, and balcony) have private bathrooms with a shower, sink, and toilet.  The shower has shampoo and body wash dispensers and bars of soap are provided for the sink.

Carnival Legend Suite

Ocean Suite

cruise ship suite

Ocean Suite with bunk down

People who want a little luxury with their cruise can book an Ocean Suite, which has more floorspace than the balcony cabins and the addition of double sinks and a whirlpool bathtub in the head (bathroom on a ship.)

grand suite on the Legend

Grand Suite with bunk

The Grand Suites are great for honeymooners or anyone else who wants to make their cruise really special.

big dressing room

dressing room in the grand suite

The grand suite has more square footage and a separate dressing area.  It also has a bidet, which may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on personal opinion.

fancy cruise ship bathroom

bathroom in the grand suite

Grand Suites have an extra-large balcony.  This one has loungers as well as chairs.

large balcony on a cruise ship

balcony on the grand suite

The Legend also has two more suite categories.   Junior Suites have a standard size balcony and suite amenities like a walk-in closet and whirlpool bath.  The Vista Suites include a wrap-around balcony and a wall of windows.  Ocean, Grand, and Vista Suites come with VIP check-in.

Carnival Legend deck plan

deck plan to deck 6 where most of the photos are from

When booking your stateroom it’s a good idea to check the deck plans.  Find the type and location of the cabin you want.  Sometimes certain cabins are smaller or larger than others of the same category.  It’s also a good idea to check the plans for the decks above and below your chosen deck for potentially noisy places if you are a light sleeper.

If you would like to see photos showing the inside of Carnival spa cabins, wheelchair accessible cabins, or an inside room with bunks please view my blog about the accommodations on the Carnival Splendor.

Accommodations on other cruise ships:

Breeze    Divina   Liberty    Pearl   Splendor    Westerdam    Wilderness Adventurer

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
Posted in Alaska, Australia, Carnival, Legend, Shipboard Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Memories of a Cruise Ship Doctor Part 8 – Cruise or Bust

cruise ship photography

Dr. Len on Regent Star

Cruise ship doctors see all kinds of things in the course of their job.  While most people sail healthy, a good number of passengers are old and anything can happen.  Dr. Len Kreisler documented some of his unusual and interesting experiences working as a cruise ship doctor for the Regent Lines in the chapter What Ship, What Cabin and Doctor Who? from his book ROLL THE DICE, PICK A DOC AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.  This is an excerpt from that chapter.

a lifetime of doctor memories in a book

Dr. Len Kreisler’s book

We were 3 hours out of Vancouver heading north along the inward passage on the Regent Star when I got an urgent call for one of the VIP cabins. I got my bag from medical and put in a call to have the nurse meet me at the cabin.  A familiar, unwelcome odor greeted me as a frantic woman, with a Russian accent, opened the cabin door.  The odor couldn’t be anything but melena (stool mixed with relatively stagnant blood).

I remembered my first encounter with that type of mess; as a medical student making rounds on a cancer ward.  Some things never leave you.  I also remember leaving that ward to privately throw up in the men’s room.  This time I wasn’t nauseous, and I wasn’t happy either.

I followed the woman to the cabin’s bathroom.  I pushed open the door and confirmed my nose’s diagnosis.  An extremely pale male sat on a bathroom floor covered with an inch thick layer of black, tarry, extremely smelly gook.  His face was soaked with perspiration as he leaned his head against the vanity.  I gathered all the towels I could reach and laid a path to the patient.  The nurse arrived, in shock.  I told her to get a stretcher, additional muscle power and to notify housekeeping.  I would later ask the Staff Captain for permission to open the cabin’s portholes for ventilation.

The man had come to the United States from St. Petersburg, Russia 8 years previously. He was a scientist, living in the San Francisco Bay area.  He had no personally significant past history.  However, one son had a history of bowel cancer at an early age.  I offered as much encouragement as possible while we extracted and transported the man down to medical.  His blood pressure was low; he was sweaty and he looked like bleached white laundry.  We started two intravenous limes.  His color improved within 45 minutes.  I examined him from top to bottom including a digital/rectal exam.  The wife was still in shock and prayer, as her husband tried to sit up.

“Whoa, we’re not done here,” I said as I eased him back on the examining table.  “I am sure you were bleeding from something in your stomach or intestine.  You will need tests to figure out exactly what caused the bleeding.  I’ve replaced your circulating volume with fluids which has helped bring your blood pressure back up.  I assume you have stopped bleeding for now, since your blood pressure, pulse and color have improved and appear stable.  Our first stop is Juneau, another 24 hours of sailing.  You could start to bleed again and it could be very serious…even fatal.  My first choice is to have the captain return to Vancouver and send you to the hospital.”

The heavy accented Russian frowned.  “What’s your next choice?”

“You could sign a release stating you understand the risks, and choose to go on to Juneau.  I will get laboratory tests in Juneau to assess your blood loss.  If you’ve lost 25% or more of your normal blood volume, I will insist you leave the ship and fly back to San Francisco.  If you have good residual blood readings and your vital signs remain stable, I will not insist on your leaving the ship…but you will have to sign another release.”

A broad smile came over his face.  His wife’s face was not so happy.  They had a heated exchange in Russian.  He won.  He made it clear (to me) that they’d planned this trip for many months; it was fully paid and he was going on come hell or high water.  We drew up the papers, watched him for another hour and let him go back to his cabin in a wheelchair.  I did put him on anti-acids and light sedation at night on the hunch that maybe his bleed was due to stomach ulcers?  I limited his physical activity and ordered a bland diet.  I again marveled at the resiliency of the human body, and this man’s stubborn resolve.  By that afternoon he was sitting on a chaise lounge on the pool deck…at least in the shade.  He smiled and told me not to worry.

His wife shrugged.  “You can’t tell him anything.”

His blood work in Juneau was border-line low.  He signed releases and completed the cruise to Seward.  I gave him copies of his medical record, advised immediate follow-up and requested he send me a note from San Francisco.

“Thank you, doctor, but I still have the two-week land portion of my vacation: Denali Park, a glacier and everything else.  Don’t worry, I’m doing fine.”

I never got a letter from him.  Every time someone says “don’t worry” I think of him.

More stories from Dr. Len:

Getting Hired

Crew Problems

The “Seasick” Passenger

Chasing Supplies

Dead End

Lights Out

Drunk and Disorderly

cruise ship medical center

Check-in desk at the medical center on Carnival Splendor. It’s in a waiting room, which was full of people that I did not take photos of for their privacy.

Medical centers on modern ships are probably a lot nicer than what Dr. Len had on the Regent ships.  This photo is from Carnival Splendor, which had a very nice medical facility.  The waiting area was mostly full of crew.  They live on the ship for months at a time so the ship’s doctors are the only doctors they have while onboard.  Passengers are just on the ship for vacation and avoid visiting the ship’s doctor unless absolutely necessary.

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Princess of the Kayak

expedition cruise

Wilderness Adventurer from the kayak

On an Un-Cruise voyage the main activities offered at any stop often include kayaking.  Once the Wilderness Adventurer anchors up, crew members lower the kayak launcher down to water level and line kayaks up in the slots.  Not just any kayaks, these are all top of the line Necky kayaks.  Passengers can climb into the kayak on a totally dry platform and once inside the crew pushes the small craft out into the water.  When finished passengers paddle back to the platform where the crew pulls their boat onto the kayak dock and they can get out with solid ground on either side.  Very easy to get in and out and no possibility of capsizing the kayak while doing so.  They also have stand-up paddle boards available for any guests who wish to use them.

necky kayaks

Necky kayaks ready and waiting

Just 6 weeks before our cruise while running with my dog she noticed the neighbor dog outside of his fence and suddenly lunged in front of me, launching me into the air where I went flying over her back before landing on the paved road.  The dog was not only uninjured by this event, but completely oblivious to the fact that while in the air I put out my hand to break the fall and ended up with my arm broken inside the elbow joint.  A rare sort of break my orthopedist said he had seen only 3 of in a 30 year career – and he was a bone specialist.  Because the break was in the joint rather than a solid unmoving part of the bone he never put a cast on it.  In the beginning it had a tightly wrapped splint, which allowed no movement at all.  About 4 weeks after the break I started physical therapy.  The first session mainly consisted of the therapist showing me ways to cope without much use of that arm since at that time unwrapping the splint caused me major dizzyness on the verge of passing out and neither she nor the doctor had very high hopes for me.  She wrapped it more loosely than the doctor though, and the slight bit of movement that allowed made it possible to remove the splint and still stay vertical the next week.  Just before the cruise the splint came off for good, but both the doctor and therapist forbade any kayak paddling when I mentioned the upcoming trip.

how to use a kayak launcher

passengers getting into kayaks

Without the splint screaming out I’m injured to anyone who saw me, my arm looked perfectly normal to the unknowing onlooker.  It doesn’t bend or straighten completely or have full range of motion, but other people can’t see any of that.  While getting on and off skiffs I kept the arm tucked in front of me and didn’t allow the well-meaning crew to take hold of my left arm or hand to assist in transferring from one boat to another as it was still in a very fragile state at that time.

how to foolproof a kayak

crew pushes the kayak out into the water

Because of my arm for the most part we opted for hikes in the places we visited, but we wanted to get out in a kayak at least once.  We would have gone on a guided paddle tour, but were told we would never keep up with the group with just one person paddling and the other one dead weight in the boat.  Just sitting there looking lazy is not my style, but I had no choice.  A bag of rocks would have been as useful as me – maybe more so since it might make a good anchor.  Paddling around on your own near the ship is an option for kayakers so we did that.  Unknowing other passengers had a tendency to hang over the ship’s railing yelling “you forgot your paddle” as we went by, probably thinking they were being funny.

kayaks on the paddle

kayaks filled with people who can actually paddle them

Maybe that is a small taste of what it feels like to be a princess.  Just sit there and try to look regal (something I would fail miserably at I’m afraid) while someone else does all the work.  Except people would be too busy trying to get a glimpse or a photo of a princess to say anything about her not paddling – and probably wouldn’t expect her to anyway.   I guess I should have tried to perfect the parade wave so when anyone said something about my lack of a paddle I could just smile and wave with my good arm like I was passing by in a float rather than floating past.  At least the one arm would have gotten some exercise that way.

returning to the kayak launcher

crew pulling the kayak back on board

We (or should I say he) paddled off to the shore of a nearby island.  Often times when we’ve kayaked before I’d paddle while he took videos.  I’ve rarely been the non-paddler before even for short periods and never for the whole ride so it felt a bit awkward just sitting there doing nothing other than taking a few pictures while he did all the work.

paddleboards in the San Juan Islands

John goes paddleboarding

I rather liked the quiet near the island and would have liked to stay awhile, but he spied someone on a paddle board near the ship and off we went.  When you haven’t got a paddle you have no say in where you go….wait a minute a real princess could tell her lackey to paddle her wherever she wanted.  “No you can’t go on a paddle board, just paddle me around out here” might work for a princess, but for me it would not have gone over too well.

kayaking in the San Juan Islands

kayaks on a guided paddle tour

Later in the trip the ship spent a stormy night sheltering near a state park at Stuart Island.  The morning brought sunshine and to take advantage of our unscheduled location the crew offered several water activities – kayaks, skiff tours or paddle boards.  John took the opportunity to go out on a group paddle tour with a guide and other passengers from the ship while I stayed on the boat and had a wonderfully luxurious massage from the onboard masseuse and some hot tub time.   Now that sounds like a princessy thing to do!  Cheapskate that I am I’ve never spent money on a massage before, but now that I’ve tried it I highly recommend pampering yourself with a nice massage on your next cruise.  It’s a real bargain on the Wilderness Adventurer compared to massage prices on the big ships.  You get a whole hour with the massage tailored to your needs or desires.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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How To Fold a Towel Squirrel

How To Make A Towel Squirrel

how to fold towel animals

Towel Squirrel

Supplies Needed to Fold a Towel Squirrel

Two Washcloths

One Handtowel

One Pipecleaner


How to Fold a Washcloth Squirrel Head

For a video on how to fold the squirrel head, view the washcloth mouse because the mouse is used as the squirrel’s head.

using a washcloth mouse for a towel squirrel head

washcloth folded on the diagonal with the first corner folded to the center

Lay washcloth flat.  Fold in half diagonally.  Fold one corner to center of folded edge, followed by opposite corner.

washcloth art

fold straight edge over once

Fold over long edge.

how to fold a washcloth mouse

pull tips of the corners out from under the folded edge

Fold washcloth in half. Bring tips of each of the corners out from under the folded edge for ears.

washcloth origami

the squirrel works well with a thick washcloth

Fold top part down flush with sides.

how to fold a washcloth into a mouse

use your fingers to shape the head and eye sockets

Secure with rubber band.  Shape ears, face, and eye spaces as desired.  Add eyes.  If you don’t have googly eyes you can make eyes from felt or paper.

How to Make a Towel Squirrel Body

The squirrel takes the standard towel animal body, only made with a hand towel instead of the usual bath towel.

towel origami

roll both ends of short side to middle

Lay the hand towel out flat.  Roll both ends from the short side to the center.

towel art

rolled towel folded in half with tips pulled out at end of each roll

Fold rolled towel in half with rolls on the outside.  Pull the tip out of the center of each roll.

small towel folding

pull with both hands (I don’t actually pull with the foot, it just held things in place for the photo while the other hand is on the camera)

Hold tips from both ends of one roll in one hand and both ends of the other roll in the other hand and pull all of them at once until rolls pull out into the four legs of an animal body.

How to Fold a Washcloth Squirrel Tail

washcloth animal folding

lay pipe cleaner diagonally across center of washcloth from one corner

Fold squirrel tail from a washcloth.  Put a pipe cleaner on washcloth diagonally over one corner.

washcloth art

fold one side of washcloth over pipe cleaner triangularly from the corner where the pipe cleaner is

Fold one side of the washcloth triangularly over the pipe cleaner.

making a washcloth squirrel tail

fold the other side of the washcloth across the first fold

Fold other side and then fold again.

towel art

fold tail over a third time

Assembling the Towel Squirrel

how to put a towel animal together

tuck washcloth head between leg rolls on body towel

Put the head between the rolls of the body.

making towel animals

sit the squirrel up and position legs so they hold up the head, then tuck wide end of tail into lower fold at back of body

Bring squirrel into sitting position.  Tuck wide end of tail into lower fold at back of body.  Use the pipe cleaner to hold the tail up and make an arch to shape it into squirrel tail.  If you really want to get creative you could add things like whiskers or claws.

towel animal folding directions

finished towel squirrel

For more towel animal folding instructions visit My Cruise Stories Towel Animal Page.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015


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Bottom Dwellers

cruise ship at the dock

Carnival Splendor in Dominica

In all my cruises on the big ships before the Splendor I had never had a cabin below deck 6. Sometimes we had balconies, sometimes inside rooms, but never an outside room with a window (or porthole).  Like most cruise ship passengers we looked down on the rooms on the lower floors as something less desirable.  In the interest of saving money, this time we tried something different on Carnival Splendor, an oceanview room on deck 1 with 4 people.

This cabin had quite a bit of space and even with 4 we never felt crowded. It had a bed near the window, but with space between the bed and window to walk over to the window and look out.  It had another bed a nightstand away, both beds parallel with the short end of the room.  A small table sat next to the second bed.  On the other side of the table parallel to the long side of the wall it had a bed which would be a couch if there were less people in the room, and above that a bunk that drops down from the ceiling.

cruise ship cabin sleeps 4

Room 1234

The opposite wall to those beds had a desk/dresser with mirrors above it, an undercounter stool in the middle, drawers, the mini-bar (which we had cleaned out to use as a fridge) and a cupboard and a couple shelves. There was also a chair next to the bed.  The entrance into the cabin consisted of a little hallway with 3 closets, one with 4 shelves and 2 with hangers sitting opposite the bathroom door.

inside cruise ship cabin

room 1234

We had a good amount of space between the bunks and the desk so everyone could get around the cabin without running into anyone else. We always bring extra hangers as there are never enough with just 2 of us so we knew for sure we would need more with 4. Everyone had somewhere to put their clothes with all the different places the room had to put things. The nightstands also had little cupboards in them and we found space enough under the beds for all the suitcases even though one of them had the couch back under it since we were using that as a bed. The couch bed also had drawers underneath of it for more storage space.

power bar

bring your own outlets

Besides extra hangers we always bring a power strip. Cruise ship cabins often have just one outlet which is definitely not enough for two people, let alone four.  You don’t need a place to plug in the hairdryer though.  The ship provides a hairdryer that resides in a drawer where it has a permanent cord.

organizing a cruise ship cabin

papers magneted to the wall around the door to a connecting cabin

Four people in a room does mean a lot of stuff, but we helped keep the room neater by using magnets to keep anything paper we wanted to hang onto on the wall. (Walls and doors in cruise ship cabins are magnetic.) This kept things like excursion tickets and the daily Fun Times handy and easy to find as well as preventing them from cluttering up the counters. Magnets also come in handy to keep the key cards on the wall next to the door where they can easily be grabbed on the way out.

cruise ship closet

closet 1 of 3 (the other two had bars to hang things)

Sometimes everyone needed to get ready at once. Rather than each person waiting for the bathroom to change clothes, which can take awhile with 4 people, one person could make their own little dressing room area by opening a closet door and changing on the other side of it in the little hallway space between the closet and bathroom by the door into the room.  Occasionally someone needed the bathroom while somebody else was in the shower, but a handy public bathroom two decks up solved that problem.

furniture in a cruise ship cabin

the nightstands had some storage space

I wasn’t sure how I would like being below all the other decks where passengers go, underneath the public areas even, but found out that I liked the bottom of the ship quite well. Well OK not the actual bottom, but the bottom for passengers. It’s nice to look out the window and have the water fairly close rather than decks and decks away. We could watch people come and go in port as our room was near the gangway and usually on the dock side. When we wanted to get on or off the ship in port the exit was just one deck away, making it easy to avoid the crowd at the elevator.

We ate at the Black Pearl on deck 3, so dinner was just 2 decks up, as well as the main theater. Of course the Lido, which means buffet, pools, and waterslide were many decks up, but the other public passenger areas on decks 3, 4, and 5 were quite close. Deck 1 just had an ironing room, but deck 2 had a full launderette, though it did take quarters rather than the sail and sign card used to operate the washers and dryers on most ships. They have plans in the works for updating the washing machines and dryers on the Splendor to the ones that take cards though.  Until they do if you have quarters you have a advantage because you can get a washing machine while other passengers are off looking for quarters.

Another advantage for bottom dwellers besides the fact that lower in the ship means cheaper rooms is that the lower they are the less you feel the motion of the ship which comes in handy for walking around on days when the sea is rougher as well as for people with motion sickness issues.

cruise ship cabin window

even the window could be used as extra storage space

Windows mainly are found in rooms too low for balconies, and are a great compromise between comfort and price. Oceanview cabins are often larger than inside rooms and also have natural light and a view, yet cost significantly less than balcony rooms. I would certainly stay in a lower level room again on a future cruise. I definitely prefer a window room over an inside cabin, and though a balcony is nice the window comes at a better price.  I have booked several cruises after returning from this one, all in lower level rooms.

Perhaps thinking of low level rooms as second class or less desirable stems from the poor people staying in steerage down below while rich passengers had suites above in old time ships, but that mindset rather makes those rooms one of the best kept secrets in cruising since it’s actually really nice down below. Even with inside rooms the same size room on a higher deck has a higher category listing and therefore higher price. If booking an inside cabin to save money you’ll save more the lower in the ship you go and odds are the room itself is the same whatever deck it’s on.

cruise ship deck plan

Splendor Riviera Deck 1

Check the deck plans before booking any cruise ship cabin. I always look for what is above and below my cabin, trying to avoid rooming above or below public areas or anything that may be noisy during the night.   Booking deck 1 you take your chances on what’s below, but whatever was under us never made any noise so we got lucky.  Deck plans also show the few odd rooms that are bigger or smaller than others in their category, or if booking a balcony room the ones that have extra balcony space.

Sometimes you can save money by booking a category guarantee.  With the category guarantee you take what room you get, but it didn’t cost as much and upgrades are more likely as you are guaranteed a room of at least the category booked, but it can go higher.

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Gluten Free Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce – Dairy Free Too

Since I’ve started cruising frequently I’ve rather developed a fondness for bread pudding.  It’s the sort of old-fashioned homestyle dessert I’d never really given a thought to until I started noticing it regularly on the ships.  While fancy versions like Bitter & Blanc sometimes make an appearance in single serve bowls in the dining room, buffets often have more homey versions in serve yourself vats with warm pots of sauce on the side.

With two gluten (and dairy) free sisters and a gluten free sister-in-law as well, I end up doing quite a bit of gluten free cooking, often experimenting with turning regular recipes into a gluten free variety.  Some experiments definitely work better than others.  Ingredient proportions often need adjustments from regular recipes to get sauces to thicken or batters to set.

This recipe tastes just like regular bread pudding.  Except that most recipes for bread pudding with vanilla sauce call for raisins.  I don’t like cooked raisins so I tried other options instead.  Chocolate chips work great if you can find some safe for the diets of whoever you are cooking for.  Craisins are another option and of course there’s the traditional raisins.  Use what you like that works with your diet.  Or don’t add anything, that works too.  Bread pudding tastes just fine on its own with no add-ins.

If either gluten or dairy is not a problem for you feel free to use regular bread or milk and butter or try this recipe.  You can use any bread you like to make bread pudding.  I’ve even used cupcakes from a failed gluten free pumpkin cupcake experiment for the bread – and they made way better bread pudding than they did cupcakes.  (If using something sweet for the bread use a lot less sugar in the pudding.)

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

Gluten Free Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Pudding Ingredients

5 eggs

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional regardless of add-in or lack thereof,  recommended to omit if using chocolate chips)

2 cups almond or other non-dairy milk (regular milk is fine if dairy is not an issue)

3 tablespoons non-dairy butter substitute, melted (butter is fine if dairy is not an issue)

10 slices gluten-free bread, cut into cubes (If using regular bread use 8 or 9 depending on the size because regular bread loaves are almost always bigger than gluten free.)  White or sourdough bread lets the pudding flavor come through more than the bread flavor.

1 cup chocolate chips or craisins or raisins or blueberries or whatever you like if you want an add-in

Gluten Free Dairy Free Bread Pudding Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees C).  Grease a large casserole dish or 2-quart baking pan.

Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl with whisk.  Stir in sugars, cinnamon and almond milk.  Slowly pour in melted butter substitute while briskly whisking.  Stir in bread cubes until coated and then stir in add-in of choice until distributed throughout bread cubes.

Pour bread mixture into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour at 375 degrees.  Check at half an hour and if the bread looks like it is getting too brown (or for moister pudding) cover for remainder of baking time.  Serve warm with warm Vanilla Sauce.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Vanilla Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (more or less is fine depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce.)

1 egg  (If making a smaller portion of the pudding you can cut the sauce recipe down to half and still add the egg, any less just leave the egg out and the sauce still comes out fine.)

1 1/4 cups almond milk (regular milk if dairy is not an issue)

2 tablespoons non-dairy butter substitute (or butter)

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Gluten Free Dairy Free Vanilla Sauce Directions

Whisk brown sugar, egg, almond milk, and cornstarch together in heavy saucepan.  Add butter substitute.  Cook over medium heat whisking constantly until butter substitute melts and blends with other ingredients and sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla until well blended.  Serve warm over warm bread pudding.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2015
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