Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kotor and Ravenna

The next port of call on our APHC cruise was Kotor, Montenegro. Here is a picture Loretta took from the deck of the ship:

Kotor, Montenegro

It's a lovely scene, isn't it? That's all I ever saw of Kotor. It's what I could see from the window of our cabin, which is where I spent the entire time we were in port.

In my last post, I wrote that when we left Naples, I felt like I was coming down with a cold. The first symptoms weren't so bad: just a cough and sniffles. However, approximately twenty-four hours after we witnessed the eruption of Mount Stromboli, I was awakened in the middle of the night by rumblings in my bowels signaling an impending eruption of my own.

I will spare you the grisly details. Suffice it to say, I had a rough night. When morning came I felt much better, but I had taken the last of the Imodium. The ship's sundry shop would be closed until after we left port, so I made my way down to the ship's medical center to see if they could provide me with some, just in case.

The doctor on duty said she had "good news" and "bad news." The good news was that she had Imodium, which she gave me (or rather, sold me)—along with Tylenol and Dramamine (neither of which I needed) and several disposable thermometers (although I did not have a fever). The bad news was that I would have to be isolated for twenty-four hours from the time of my last "eruption." I was not allowed to leave our cabin, and no one was allowed to visit (not that anyone would want to)—except for Loretta, who was free to come and go unless she got sick. Not even our steward was allowed to enter the cabin. Instead, a "sanitation team" would do the cleaning.

As I returned to the cabin, I thought of Mark Twain and his friends who, in The Innocents Abroad, sneaked ashore when their ship was quarantined at Athens. These days, with magnetic ID cards that track everyone who boards or leaves the ship, such a thing would be impossible.

At least we didn't have an excursion planned. Susan and Kevin took a tender ashore to do some exploring. I told Loretta she should go with them, but she insisted on staying on board with me. We began filling out the six-page survey the doctor had given me, listing everything I had put in my mouth for the past three days. (You should try it sometime. It's a real test of your memory to recall everything you have had to eat and drink in the past 72 hours.)

When the sanitation team arrived, Loretta had to leave. There wasn't enough room. I felt like Groucho Marx in the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera, as men in masks and plastic gloves piled in, stripped the bed, bagged all towels and linens, and sprayed and wiped down all surfaces with disinfectant. Oddly enough, they did not remove the towel origami pig our steward had made us the night before. They left it on Loretta's bedside table. They did, however, spray it with disinfectant.

I discovered that being sick on a ship isn't all that bad. The ship's crew pampered me almost as much as my mother did when I was sick as a kid. Room service brought me a tray with broth, crackers, and ginger ale. The front desk called and offered to send down books and DVDs. I told them "no thanks." I had Mark Twain on my Kindle, along with several dozen other books, but I spent most of my time watching the ship's satellite TV—mostly made-for-TV movies I would never have watched at home. I slept a lot, too—often dozing off during one movie and waking up during the next. I was confused when King Arthur and Sir Lancelot in The Mists of Avalon suddenly turned into Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in Pirates of Silicon Valley, and when Bill Pullman as The Virginian metamorphosed into Mandy Patinkin as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Loretta came and went. She saw some of the shipboard entertainment and went on deck to take pictures so I could see more of Montenegro than could be seen from our window. The sanitation crew came and went, stripping the bed again (though I had not slept in it), wiping everything down again, and giving the pig another spritz of disinfectant.

I slept well that night and awoke feeling fine. It was our last day on board the MS Ryndam, and I intended to make the most of it. I paced the cabin, waiting for permission from the medical center to leave "the brig." Finally, the call came at 7:45: I was free!

Over breakfast (just oatmeal and bananas for me), Susan and Kevin told us about Kotor, and Susan showed us her pictures. It's a quaint, pretty city, known for its large population of cats. We were sorry to have missed the cats. We talked about how much we all missed our own: Molly and Murphy, Dickens and Zorra.

Kotor Cats Dining on Sardines (photo by Susan Logue Koster)

After breakfast, there was a meet and greet on the Lido Deck with Garrison Keillor. Susan and I stood in line: Susan with a copy of his latest book, I with the souvenir t-shirt Loretta had already gotten most of the other entertainers to sign. When my turn came, I told him what a wonderful time we were having (not mentioning the twenty-four hours I spent in quarantine), and how much we enjoyed the Alaska cruise seven years ago. I asked him how he thought this cruise compared with Alaska. "This one's good," he replied. "Anywhere you can be on a boat with people singing." I handed him my t-shirt and told him my name; he signed it and handed it back. I looked at what he had written:

Hi Don! It's you.
Garrison Keillor

While we were having lunch, the ship arrived in Ravenna. We took a bus into the center of the city and explored it on foot, without guide or guidebook, map or GPS. I don't know if it was because I felt so much better after being sick for twenty-four hours, or because it felt so good to be outside after being cooped up in the cabin, but I loved Ravenna. The city was charming, the weather was perfect, the crowds—well, that was the best part. There were no crowds. We strolled through peaceful, quiet streets, alleys, and piazzas—past Dante's Tomb, Teatro Alighieri, the house where Byron once lived, and another leaning tower (apparently there are leaning towers all over Italy). When we were tired of walking, we found a quiet cafe in the sun-drenched Piazza del Popolo, where we sat in the shade and drank prosecco.

Piazza del Popolo, Ravenna, Italy

Before we left town, we went into a grocery near the bus stop and bought several boxes of cookies to bring back to co-workers. We thought they were Italian cookies, but it turned out they were imported from Germany.

Someday, we hope to visit Germany and buy some Italian cookies there.

Courtyard in Ravenna

Adieu! Adieu! yon silver lamp, the moon,
Which turns our midnight into perfect noon,
Doth surely light thy towers, guarding well
Where Dante sleeps,
where Byron loved to dwell.

—Oscar Wilde, Ravenna

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