Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blues Cruisin'--Delbert McClinton's Sandy Beaches Cruise 15

I had not been on a cruise in many years and was dying to get shipboard again. So when I had
the chance to go on Delbert McClinton's Sandy Beaches Cruise 15, I made my reservation faster than you can say "Book my flight!"

Actually, I did pause for a moment to think whether it was a wise decision. The cruise was leaving out of San Diego January 17 and sailing down to Ixtapa, Zihuatanego, and Manzanillo, Mexico, returning to San Diego January 24. I had a unique situation: I was taking the bar exam exactly a month later on February 24-25. Should I take the risk of going on vacation that close to the exam date?

Never having turned down the possibility of a vacation before, I wasn't going to start now. Armed with my Law Decks flashcard set, one BarBri question book, and my paper outlines, I did set out for adventure. I worked out a schedule as to how many flashcards I would study every day. My motto is why study at home when you can study in a really fun place? (Find out if I passed or not at the end of this post.)

The long flight enabled me to do a full-day test on the plane. Didn't do too badly, which reinforced the idea that I had made the right decision to go. I stayed that night with my friend Alice in Coronado. Coronado, of course, is lovely, but I wouldn't have much time to see it this time. That's OK, because I have been there before and am sure I will come back.

(Molly, Delbert's merchandise queen,
holds up the shirt I bought.)

Alice drove me to the shipyard the next morning, and I waved goodbye as I got in line to enter the ship. The MS Oosterdam was lovely. I was getting more excited by the minute.

My cabin was fantastic--a verdanah with my own private balcony. I took full advantage of the luxury and ordered fresh fruit and coffee every morning, and put on my bathing suit and sat on my balcony and did MBE questions. Could life be any better?

Being on the Sandy Beaches Cruise is like being on a floating Beale Street. So much talent and you can just wander around the ship and hear different performers. There were 20+ acts performing during the week, and they all performed at least twice. I made a point of hearing everyone.

The first act I heard was Marcia Ball. She is self-described as groove-laden New Orleans R&B and driving Gulf Coast blues. She performed a lot from her latest CD: Peace, Love & BBQ.

I was a newbie in the blues cruisin' world, but
it didn't take me long to find out the names of the legends. Four such guys are pictured right. Being
from Nashville, I of course knew Gary Nicholson,
second from left, and Delbert McClinton, second from right, and our host. At left is Raul Malo, and "Big Al" Anderson, at right. Nicholson, whose style is blues and country, pop and rock, has won 26 ASCAP awards, plus a string of other achievements. Anderson, whose vocals range from country to rock, was 2000 BMI Writer of the Year and has amassed many other awards.

Malo, performing right, performs multiple genres, including country, pop, and opera. He performed his song "Moonlight," which caused anyone not already on their feet to jump up and start dancing. He has a lively fan club to say the least.

"Hey Baby." Who doesn't like that song? No one apparently, as it received BMI's Two Million Radio Plays Award. Bruce Channel, below left, shown singing on the lido deck stage with Delbert(in red shirt) wrote and recorded that song in 1962. He sang it numerous times during the cruise to the delight of all the passengers. Delbert calls his own style "feel-good music, Texas roadhouse, rocking country blues." Delbert's achievements include the 2005 Contemporary Blues Album of the Year Grammy for Cost of Living; the 2001 Contemporary Blues Album of the Year Grammy for Nothing Personal; and the 1992 Grammy for duet with Bonnie Raitt, "Good Man, Good Woman."

Plus he puts on this really cool cruise. He claims the Sandy Beaches Cruise 16 in 2010 will be the last. We need to convince him otherwise.

Many of the acts were performed on the Lido Deck stage. Night or day, it was the perfect place to relax and have a drink and listen to your favorite music or kick up your dancing heels. We even saw whales one day.

I had the world's prettiest margarita to celebrate a hard day of swimming with the dolphins in Ixtapa. Not only did we get to swim with them, but we got to ride on their stomachs as they swam on their backs, and also got to do a manuever, where they pushed us upright from a floating position by our feet, simulating water skiing. Hard to picture, I know.
At the right is a city sculpture in Manzanillo. I had wanted to sign up for the shore excursion to the Santiago Bay Resort, where the movie 10 was filmed, but it was cancelled. Good excuse to stay in town and have some more margaritas.

The music would start everyday about noon and go non-stop until about 11 p.m. or so, and sometimes continue in informal jamming sessions until 6 a.m. But on the cruise you could also find other activities--you could exercise, watch almost first run movies in your cabin, gamble, get a makeover, swim, and of course, eat! I wish I had learned about the free back and neck massage offered every afternoon before my last day on the cruise! Being a theme cruise, it was more informal than regular cruises, and you didn't have to dress up for dinner or eat at assigned times.

A late night session in the Crow's Nest.

Molly and Patti enjoying late-night music in the Crow's Nest.

Cyril Neville & Tribe 13 pumped us up late night on the Lido Deck stage. The youngest of the Neville brothers, he describes his music as a Funk and Jam Band, "The gumbo spillin' into the chili."

Roger Blevins, Jr., right, with Mingo Fishtrap
The schedule also contained star-studded performances by Geoff Achison, Tab Benoit, Big Joe & Bill, Nick Connolly, Bob DiPiero, the Doyle & Debbie Show, the hilarious Fred Eaglesmith, Mike Farris, Jimmy Hall, Paul Thorn, Tom Hambridge and the Rattlesnakes, Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps, Clay McClinton, Whitey Johnson, and Seth Walker.

The weather was perfect; the seas calm. All in all, delightful. I met a lot of new people, had a blast, and gained an even greater appreciation for blues music.

Back in San Diego, I sat on the patio of the coffeeshop across the street from the dock and felt sad as I looked at the beautiful Oosterdam. I wish I just had a few more days. My friend Alice was picking me back up, and we were going for a manicure. I was heading back to Nashville the next day.

And yes, I passed the bar exam. Remember to always say "yes" to vacation!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thumbs Down On Nashville Airport's WiFi Charges

BOINGO! That is the sound of me thumping the Nashville airport officials on their heads. Nashville's airport seems to be about the only one around that charges for using Wifi. If you want to work on your computer, you have to pay about $6 through Boingo, an annoying service whose icon I still can't get off my computer. You can't even use your AT&T wireless in the Starbucks there. It is unfortunate as you only have to fly to the next airport on your itinerary to be able to use its wifi for free, and to realize how poor BNA's policy is.