Cruising the Keys

With MacMania 5 having set sail from Tampa, I thought I’d touch on a couple leftover items from Departure Day before diving into our first full day aboard the Veendam

One of the things we did before we left port was to run a ship-wide emergency evacuation drill—clearly the least fun of our ship-board events but certainly very important. At 4:15 p.m., when we heard the ship’s bell ring seven times, we donned our life jackets and then proceeded down to the sixth level of the ship (which has an exterior walkaround deck) to find our lifeguard station. As can be seen in Dan Frakes’ photo, it was crowded out on the walkway, but everyone remained orderly. After reaching your assigned station, you had to respond to a roll call of cabin numbers. When everyone was confirmed present from all cabins, the drill was over and we returned the life jackets to their storage spot in the cabin—hopefully never again to be seen this week!

As an aside, lifeboat technology has come quite a long way since the days of wooden rowboats in the 1920s. Today’s lifeboats are fully sealed, contain powerful engines, food and water for 150 people per lifeboat, and emergency GPS-based position transmitters. The design of the lifeboats certainly gave me a positive feeling that if we did have to use them for some reason, we would have a good chance of being located by anyone searching. But enough of the emergency drill review… on to the fun stuff!

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Sailing into Belize

Yesterday was an at sea day on MacMania V, and that means classes! Both Dan Frakes and I had busy days, with sessions during the morning and evening, followed by the first formal dinner of the journey. I presented a session on my favorite Mac OS X Hints in the morning, and then Dan and I worked through about 45 interesting and useful applications and utilities during our afternoon session. That was followed up by another session of the Ingenious Bar, and then a fun talk where four of us (Janet Hill of Apple, Leo Laporte, Dan and myself) presented some of our own favorite applications. Throughout the whole day, I was impressed with the attendees’ interest in the topics being discussed. Good questions were asked, and we had some good conversations on a number of Mac-related topics.

After the full day of sessions, it was time for the first formal dinner of the cruise. Working out of a home office, putting on a suit and tie isn’t something I’ve done very much of lately, so it was kind of fun for a change of pace. I’m pretty sure it won’t carry over to my home work habits, however!

After 30 hours of sailing, we arrived early this morning in Belize City, Belize, for our second day of shore excursions. Well, not quite “in.” As you can see from the photo below, we didn’t actually get all that close to Belize City proper—I’d guess that we’re anchored a couple miles offshore (that’s Belize City visible in the distance):

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Leaving Tampa

Greetings from onboard the MS Veendam , somewhere off the Florida coast. As I type this, it’s just after 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 29, and I’m sitting in a comfortable leather recliner, staring out at the sea going by. We’re headed for Key West, with arrival set for about five hours from now. I’m also, somewhat amazingly, using a satellite internet connection to download my mail and upload this blog and photos. Speeds are… well… not really in the cable modem category, but they’re certainly acceptable for some basic e-mail, Web, and (small) file transfer needs. (Note that the network connection is not included in the cost of the cruise, and you’ll pay somewhere between 40 cents and 75 cents per minute for your connection. As with everything on the ship, though, it’s all billed through your room.)

As a complete newcomer to both cruises in general and Geek Cruises in particular, I thought it might be interesting to share a few embarkation day observations. My wife and I arrived in Tampa on Thursday night, and then took a vacation day on Friday to go ride the roller coasters at Busch Gardens (highly recommended for coaster fans: SheiKra, as seen below).

On Friday night, we attended the Geek Cruises pre-departure kick-off party at the Hilton. It was a great way to meet some of the attendees, as well as saying hello to some of the other speakers on the cruise. The next morning, departure for the cruise started around 11:00 a.m., as we waited for the shuttle ride to the boat.

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Cruising for some hints

Thanks to Macworld , I’ve been involved in several events over the last year or so that have been new experiences for me. I participated in two MacBraniac Challenges at Macworld Expo, for instance, and just recently attended my first-ever Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. This fall, another new experience will be added to the list when I participate in my first-ever Geek Cruise, as a speaker on MacMania 5. Not only is it my first-ever Geek Cruise, but it’ll be my first time on a cruise ship (not counting a few longish ferry rides in my youth).

I’m quite excited about the upcoming cruise. And no, not just because it’s going to some really cool destinations, such as Belize and Cozumel. But also because I get the chance to talk with and present to a number of fellow Mac- and OS X-heads, all of whom share my interest in the platform. And though I get to do this annually in my Best of Mac OS X Hints sessions at Macworld Expo, the cruise should offer a much greater chance for interaction with everyone—at Macworld, I’m usually standing on a podium, speaking to a room of several hundred. On the ship, I’ll be talking to smaller groups in a classroom setup. I’m really looking forward to being able to see and speak to everyone in my sessions.

Sessions. Ah yes, exactly what will I be talking about? I’m slated to give four talks during the trip:

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Podcast: On board MacMania 4.5

Since the first MacMania cruise set sail in May 2002, we’ve been telling you it’s a great way to see the world while also learning from Mac experts on how to get more out of your Mac. To give you a sample of what happens when Mac lovers hit the high seas, Janet Hill, an education development executive with Apple and a presenter on the most recent MacMania cruise in the Western Mediterranean, put together a podcast featuring comments from passengers on board the ms Noordam .

In addition to the passengers, you’ll hear from cruise organizer Neil Bauman, captain and CEO of Geek Cruises as well as presenters Bill Durrence and Jack Davis, who both talk about photography. The AAC version of the podcast contains the photos both Bill and Jack refer to in their remarks.

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