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Tales Of Cruise Ship Life, Part 3: Hello My Old Friend

old friend
By Tony Yamashiro

Tuesday 22, November 2016, Cotai Ferry from Macau to Hong Kong Central.

Well, Sweetheart- today I headed to the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong to meet Benny, the shoe maker to discuss footwear for The House of Dancing Water. Benny has a story right out of Kinky Boots, the musical Hong Kong Style.

He is a 2nd Generation shoe maker whose father thought he was crazy for wanting to develop theatrical footwear beyond the traditional styles of men’s dress shoes and ladies fashion heels. Benny is a dreamer. And because of his “out of the box” forward thinking he now creates theatrical footwear for Disney Global, Universal Studios, and for Cirque du Soleil.

Benny travels the world meeting with these industry giants, but still oversees his family’s 3 factories in mainland China and holds on to his family’s tradition of quality footwear.

After finishing up my 2nd Macau beer and I packed up my bag and thought how Hong Kong has become my second home during the past year of living in Macau, China. Looking out the Cotai Ferry window I see the Hong Kong skyline coming into view and take in its unique curves of concrete and windows in geometric shapes.

I will always take a moment to marvel at the Hong Kong harbor view and how the skyline is sure to light up the nighttime sky like a crazy jukebox on steroids. I pulled my shoulder bag over my head letting the shoulder strap rest comfortably on the shoulder and I began making my way down from first class steps to the lower level of the ferry.

As the ferry is preparing for docking at the Hong Kong Terminal the ferry begins rocking back and forth as I’m walking down the steps without the need of using the railings.

16 years on cruise ships and my sea legs have never failed me yet.

On the lower level is a crowd of ferry passengers from all walks of life from China and expats from all over the world. Standard Class Passengers are roped off to allow First Class Passengers to disembark first. Even on a ferry, there is still a breakup of classes, just like a cruise ship.

I quickly observe the Standard Class Passengers who are preparing for the race to the unsmiling immigration inspectors which are the last obstacle before the freedom of Hong Kong. The ramp down…the side door hatch opens…GO!

I made my way up the two levels of the terminal, which has always reminded me of a giant hamster maze and turned the corner that leads to immigration check point. I smile as I see no lines under the sign brightly lit up with the orange words in English and Chinese saying “Visitors/Macao Resident”.

As my passport is tossed into the drop area under the protected glass of the unsmiling passport inspector I quickly picked it up and head for the maze of foot bridges leading to the Star Ferry Terminal.

I arrive at the Star Ferry Terminal and I swipe my octopus card and queue up to board the Star Ferry who has carried passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since 1888.

I grab a seat on the port side and look over the Victoria Harbor to the Kowloon side and my heart stops for a split second. Like spotting an old friend through a crowded street market, I see her. But she doesn’t resemble exactly the old dear friend that I once knew where I began my new life’s journey over 19 years ago.

As my ferry draws closer to Kowloon I realize it’s unmistakably my old friend where I healed the scars of my past, I learned to find love, and where I made choices that has brought me to where I am today.

Her exterior had been painted in different colors and she was branded with a different name, but the shape and class of ship that could not be mistaken. I spent 3 years onboard my old friend that I once knew as the Dream, she is now called the Superstar Gemini which is now painted across her funnel and reclassified as a gambling ship for Chinese customers.

I disembarked the Star Ferry and followed the path along the pier to the cruise ship terminal where the Dream was docked. I found a bench along the path and took a seat and just gazed at the ship. Taking in all the sights of my old friend that I thought I would never see again.

In 2006, Denny the Cruise Director, Captain Rolf and I were the last people to disembark her when she was decommissioned from the fleet and put up for auction.

Like following the lines on a map I remember where the theatre is located (Deck 10, Forward), my crew cabin (Deck 6, Aft) and the where the crew bar was located (Deck 3, Mid Ship). The Dream was launched in 1992 and in her prime of 39,000 tons for a cruise ship she was a fair size as appose to the standards of today floating resorts of 220,000 tons. She carried 1,700 PAX and 700 Crew Member each cruise.

I got up from my bench and I walked to the aft of the ship where the ropes that kept her tied up to the pier. My eye followed the ropes from the pier to the housing on Deck 3 where the boson would control the lines once they were released from their anchors on the pier. I looked up to the Deck 8 Aft Balcony.

The memories came flooding back to the hundredths of hours spent looking out over the ocean with a nice glass of bandy and thinking about the choices of my life.

I walked up as close as I could to study the aft of the ship to see if I could still make out the name of the ship under layers of white enamel paint. In the midday sunlight, I could see her old name “Dream”. I stared up at the outline that was still fighting to be seen under her new look almost saying, “I use to travel the world and made so many changes in so many lives”. I remember the first time I ever laid eyes on this exact spot 19 years ago and I say, “Hello My Old Friend”….

Don’t miss any Tales Of Cruise Ship Life excerpts from The Floating City of Misfit Toys by Tony Yamashiro:

Continue to Tales Of Cruise Ship Life, Part 4: The Eyeballs Are The Best Part

Return to Tales Of Cruise Ship Life, Part 2: The Bat Signal

Return to Tales Of Cruise Ship Life, Part 1: Dream

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