Thursday, March 29, 2012

Godby Alumni Cruise III

Donna and I had the opportunity to participate in Godby High School's first organized alumni cruise in September 2010, aboard the Carnival Ship Fascination to the Bahamas. We planned for it for a year, and it was our second cruise. Thanks to aggressive social networking and Teresa Deffenbaugh Featherstone, Class of 1978, President of Cruises by Sea, Inc, about thirty of us really enjoyed ourselves, and made plans to cruise together again. A portion of each cabin's fare went to the Association of Godby Graduates Scholarship Fund for Godby seniors.

Also on that memorable cruise, I played with the ship's band in Freeport, Bahamas, and Robbie and I instituted diner participation on that ship with the singing and dancing waiters in the "formal" dining room. When the waiters formed a line to begin waving their napkins as they danced in the aisles, Robbie and I joined them with ours and caroused around the room with them, too. It was on that cruise that the ship's captain greeted me personally and inspired me for what would become an extremely successful 2011 Halloween.

Sixteen months later in January 2012, many of us all again sailed into Summer to the Bahamas on the third Godby alumni cruise. Our ports of call were Nassau, and Half Moon Key, Bahama Islands. A second alumni cruise to the Bahamas had been undertaken the previous September.  

It is less than two hundred miles from Tallahassee to Jaxport in Jacksonville, Florida, and about halfway there on our drive eastward the Saturday morning of our sailing date, I received an automated call from Carnival Cruise Lines to tell us that the ship had been delayed in arrival by heavy fog, and embarkation had been moved back by four hours. We had been running late, but arrived early to be in the first throng to board after only about twenty minutes, at least half an hour better than the last boarding. We sailed a couple hours late.

After our first day at sea, we arrived at Nassau, Bahamas before dawn. On our port side between us and the island was moored the Motor Yacht Fountainhead, a 288-foot Feadship XL Series super yacht christened and launched only four months earlier, owned by Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures, and the chair of the HDTV cable network HDNet. He is an Ayn Rand fan. The Fountainhead was a third as long as our 855-foot cruise ship.

On our previous visit to Nassau, we had visited the Atlantis Resort and found it to be as spacious as it is on the commercials, but in September 2010, it had been almost deserted. The casino was small by Las Vegas standards, but it had elaborate artwork and was under construction. There was a huge pond for swimming and boating, and a relatively small aquarium, but it had an interesting underwater walk-through.

This time, we walked about downtown Nassau and purchased souvenirs for the family. Nassau's small busy streets with narrow sidewalks were crowded with tourists from our ship and various local vendors and automobiles. I was surprised to note that although drivers drove on the left side of the street, the majority did so from American-style left-hand drive vehicles, vans and buses not excluded.  

Our next port of call was Half Moon Key, Carnival's island, and from the ship it reminded me of the long shot of Gilligan's Island, but with a small visible beach from that distance. It was a beach party island, with a long stretch of beach and available boating, with a constant barbeque lunch for the day. Our dining room waiters (they were referred to as "waiters") also served lunch on the island, and it was a really nice day. I gave a dollar to the sundry concessionaires on the way out and received a nice handful of Bahamas coins.

I met the ship's Captain, Carmelo Marino, who had only been captain a few months.
If I had not had trouble depositing twenty dollars into my shipboard gambling account and inadvertently added that amount twice, I likely would not have won $39 in the first and only hand of Texas Hold 'Em poker I played on the cruise. It was a video game-driven poker game without a human dealer, and I have discovered I have less of an appetite for gambling than I did many years ago when I often played with Guy, Greg and John. Too much risk for the excitement level, and I don't have the stomach anymore for losing money unnecessarily.

I knew that Robbie and I had previously instituted diners performing with the waiters, because on this cruise, the maître d’hôtel invited us all to do just that, and we did. At dinner our last night on board, our waiters asked me to join them in singing Carnival's rendition of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane," to the tune of "Leaving on a Cruise Ship...."

Our last night on board was a rough one at sea. The ship rocked, as did the 1980's show by "Far From Over," an acrobatic performance troupe using not only pyrotechnics, but also airborne dancers, which was quite impressive in the rolling seas. It took me more than a week to get my land legs back, much longer than from previous cruises, to which I attribute the rough weather on the last night of the cruise.

A couple of weeks later, I presented Manny with a nice check from Cruises by Sea for the AGG Scholarship Fund, and by then our cruise-mates were busy planning the next alumni cruise, in January 2013, from Tampa to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, and to Cozumel, Mexico.
Friday night, March 30, I will be attending the 7th Annual AGG Hall of Fame Banquet at Godby High School's Media Center, and I will be speaking about this and the upcoming alumni cruise. Teresa will be there, and I plan to publicly single her out and thank her for facilitating our cruises and for substantial contributions to the AGG's Scholarship Fund.

I will be introducing my 2012 nominee for induction, Godby's Class of 1982 Valedictorian, Dr. Shantanu Basu, who now hails from London, Ontario, Canada. Also from Class of 1982, Mrs. Debbie Orth Shear will be honored, nominated by and to be introduced by AGG Vice-President Roger Day, Class of 1980. Other honorees include Mrs. Mary Jean Curles Yon, Class of 1974, Ms. Kathy Miller Corder, Class of 1976, Mr. Todd Sperry, Class of 1978, and Coach Darius Jones, Class of 1996. 2008 Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Patti Skates, Vice-Mayor of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Manny usually handles everything else. We strongly encourage Hall of Fame honorees who can, to come back and help with future Hall of Fame banquets, and the parties get better each time.

Godby's longest serving principal, my friend Florida Senator Bill Montford, will be attending and speaking.

I look forward to seeing old friends, classmates and cruise buddies Friday night, and to the next Godby alumni cruise in 2013.

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