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Tuesday
Sep222009

VoiceLympics Cruise- Part 1

Monday:

The day started out very smoothly.  Justin Olexy drove me to the Portland airport without incident, and I arrived a half hour before boarding.  Normally I'd say that was cutting it close, but the airport is  nothing like LAX in terms of lines, and the plane we were boarding held 60 people.

First order of business upon arrival to PDX was to find a USB sync/charger cable for my very dead Blackberry.  How I managed to leave without one considering the shear amount of audio, video, power, and data cables I packed for the event is beyond me.  All I know is this cable is far too unique when a stop at Best Buy in Portland turned up with nothing.  Brookstone was pleased to avail me of $20 for a $2 cable, and off I went to the gate. 

PDX surprised me with complimentary WIFI service, all too rare these days.  I didn't realize how important it would be until I plugged in my Blackberry Curve 8900 only to see the charge indicator light, and nothing else.   No startup screen, no signs of life.  I immediately started up Skype, plugged in headphones, and called my Wife to let her know all is well.  Thank you SKYPE!  30 minutes later we boarded, still no functional Blackberry. 

After a smooth flight, part of the time I spent visualizing and mentally rehearsing what I should say to Customs about my two massive cases of stuff, I retrieved my apparently oversized roll-aboard bag full of Apple Powerbooks from the luggage cart on the tarmac, and walked 2 miles to baggage claim.  Maybe not 2 miles, but it was a solid 10 minutes of brisk walking, which I am sure I needed anyhow. 

How relieved I was to see ZERO line at Customs in Vancouver!  The pleasant but expressionless Customs official grilled me for a minute, realized I wasn't a threat to Canadian security, and I passed on to baggage claim.  The goal was to setup shop with my laptop and phone charging arrangement and wait for bags while calling my wife Amy again.  Bags came almost immediately, and I sat a while longer checking in, and charging the phone.
Still no signs of life.  Once I made contact with my cabin-mate for the cruise, the incomparable John Taylor, I hopped a shuttle to his nearby hotel. 

When I arrived John had a cab already on call for us.  We looked on incredulously when a PRIUS pulled up to haul us and my massive baggage to port.  John repeated a few times, I said "Anything but a Prius".  But with a folded split rear seat and some luck, the cabby shoe horned us and stuff into the diminutive vehicle and we were on our way.  $40 cab ride later, and tour of downtown Vancouver, we made it to port.  A 10 minute wait in line to unload was a sampler of what was to come.

The dock hands took our bags, and off we went to wait in our next line.  45 minutes passed before we reached security, which in comparison to the TSA, was pretty effortless, not even requiring me to remove my stock of five computers.  The next line phase was rather disorganized and chaotic, and was a test for everyone's patience.  We started to have the impression that this was the first time they ever boarded passengers on a cruise-liner. 
To lighten the mood we joked with others in line, and acted a fool for the agent that processed our tickets for boarding.

Two goofy photo ops with the staff photographers and one comp. glass of bubbly later, we finally boarded the Norwegian Pearl.  Upon arrival to our cabin, number 11089, we were happy to see our bags in place by the door.  Not as pleasant was the sight of the single Queen bed in the cramped quarters of our windowless, but nicely appointed stateroom.  After a few jokes about how we might handle the situation, a quick call to housekeeping took care of the situation rapidly, and the beds was converted into two singles.  Crisis averted! 

We decided it was time we check in with the VoiceLympics team, and headed to the forward end of the ship to the Vienna room.  I was greeted with a warm hug from Deb Munro, our event's producer, as well as Leah Civelo, and Deb's lovely daughters who came along to assist.  Gift bag: Check.  Name Tag: Check.  Sign the poster:  Check.  

My next goal was to locate Mr. Lee Plaud, clearly a saint for taking on the duty of transporting my 3rd checked bag to save me a huge amount in surcharges.  This man stepped up, literally at the 11th hour (11:58 to be exact), and volunteered to transport a 50 pound suitcase of equipment to Vancouver for me.  It's likely he'll never make that mistake again. 

John and I grabbed a bite to eat in the Garden Cafe, and returned to our room with a message waiting light on the phone.  My gut told me it was Lee with word of his arrival and my bag awaiting me.  I was right about the first part, but what he said next had me concerned and perplexed.  He had a message from housekeeping to pickup my bag, as well as his Wife's suitcase, from security because they found a knife inside.  At this point we didn't know who's bag had the knife, but we assumed it was mine. 

I met Lee in a line of grumpy passengers waiting to retrieve their baggage.  Most were detained for smuggling contraband alcohol on-board and were charged a blackmail fee of $15 per bottle "corkage" fee for the privilege to bring it aboard.  After 15 minutes of uncertainty, we reached the desk inside and gave him Lee's room number.  There was no record of our bags and nothing to be found.  Lee mentioned the knife concept, and we were redirected to the reception desk as the appropriate place to retrieve a bag of such a high threat level. 

10 minutes more passed, and we became increasingly anxious since in 15 minutes we were to report to the Spinnaker lounge for cocktail reception with photo.  Lee's wife needed her bag which contained her outfit for the party, among other important items.  At long last we were ushered into a room behind reception with a small assortment of bags, mine included, but not Lee's.  On my bag a handwritten sticker read "Cannot Identify Anything".  I guess that translated into "knife inside".  I opened the bag, revealed its contents of cables, audio interfaces, mixers, and microphones, and went on my way, leaving poor Lee to continue the waiting game.

The rest of the day was far more enjoyable, I am happy to say.  The cocktail reception made me feel like a celebrity as various people, mostly lovely ladies, approached me for my autograph.  I was included in a scavenger hunt game in the VoiceLympics program book, another motivating factor for participants to make contact.  I was asked by a woman who identified herself as "Fluff", if I could pick her up.  She saw my stature and decided I was one of the few who could handle the task, being of full figure.  Eager to play along, I did just that and cameras flashing, she was immortalized, legs way in the air.  I never checked, but I hope it was part of the scavenger hunt! 

We did cruisy type stuff for the remains of the evening:  A group photo on the grand steps of the main atrium, an impressively well prepared meal in one of the main dining rooms, games in the Spinnaker lounge, and disco dancing with a live funk/soul/classic rock/younameit band, which I actually DID participate in, purely for the entertainment of those in attendance.
OK, I enjoyed it, too...

Bummers?  Internet access is 55 cents/minute, too much latency to even test the speed at speedtest.net, and they block Skype.  

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Reader Comments (1)

Just so you know, George. I never viewed it as a mistake and would be happy to do it again any time I could.. All the "stuff" that ensued is just stuff. Hell, there is always "stuff". I know for sure that "Fluff" was the lightest load you had to heft on this cruise. Thank you for bearing this load for all of us with such skill and grace.
.....................................................................................................................................lee

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLee Plaud

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