Day 60 – Dubai, U.A.E
I suppose that this account of our travels needs to be more than just a collection of photographs and a narrative of fun tours. Not all that happens on a long trip, with 600 hundred people (mostly elderly) is joyous – life’s troubles and tragedies come along on the voyage.
Today, we lost one of our shipboard friends to a heart attack, and it would be wrong to simply post pictures from Dubai, instead of marking his passing.
Carl Schulz was a tablemate and good shipboard friend. I did not know much detail of Carl’s 81 years of life, just the two months we have been together on the ship – and he had a great time those two months. We normally are not regular attendees at the evening meal in the dining room, preferring the flexibility of time and dress of the buffet. I guess we also prefer each other’s company to the often stilted and forced conversation in the dining room. We usually attend the dining room the first night and then decide whether and how often to return. In this case, from the first evening, we had the pleasure of three couples who were all thoroughly enjoyable dinner companions and the little group of eight hit it off immediately. Carl & Shirley Schulz were the last to arrive that first evening – Carl complaining loudly of the fact that his granddaughter had accidently slammed his thumb in the car door as they exited to get on the ship. He displayed his purple thumb for all to see and we got a taste of his salty language. “She shut the g.. d…. door on my g.. d…. thumb!”. Welcome to the dining room!
Klaus Schulz, was born in Germany, immigrated to Canada when he was 19, married Shirley 31 years ago, and celebrated his 81st birthday last week at our dinner table on St. Patrick’s Day.
Carl was one of those people who grows on you. Upon first meeting, he seemed a little distant, somewhat gruff, and slightly profane – he habitually slipped curse words into his speech and wasn’t even aware of it. After a while, it just seemed built into his speech, not a specific editorial comment.
He loved watches and bought one about once a week – his latest acquisitions were two wooden watches, he called his woodpecker watches.
Carl and Shirley live on a farm outside of Fort Pierce, Florida, where they keep horses, ducks, goats, and a pot-bellied pig called Fat Albert. He often commented that he missed the farm and tending to the animals quite a bit.
Among the 8 of us at our table, it was Carl, the least likely one to do so, who signed us up for the boat building competition and the airplane building competition, and enthusiastically pushed the agenda, calling meetings to work on the project. For the boat building, Carl even bought a Captains Hat from the gift shop which Admiral Carl proudly wore to our construction meetings and the competition.
Here is Carl, with me and another of our tablemates, Mia, with our plane built for the shipboard plane contest (no, it didn’t fly).
After dinner each evening, unless they were attending the weekly wine tasting, Carl headed up to the Pacific Lounge for his evening cigar and a scotch, while Shirley headed to the Black Jack table (she wins consistently and is several hundred up).
In Dubai, our tour took us to the top of the Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world. It is surrounded at the base by the largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall – all very impressive. There was a fairly long walk through the mall to the base of the building, and Carl apparently stopped to rest and arrived just before we boarded the elevators which whisked us up 124 floors in 1 minute for some fabulous views.
After descending, we had told the guide to go slowly back to the bus, but even so, Carl had to stop and rest several times. Upon boarding, he barely got seated and almost passed out, but cold water and rest seemed to revive him and he insisted that the tour continue. After a few more stops, where he stayed aboard, we returned to the ship. Sally and I went to get some brochures for the next day’s activities while Carl and Shirley headed to the ship. As we came out of the terminal we saw Carl and Shirley headed up the gangway, to our relief. However, when we got to the base of the gangway, security had stopped the boarding process for a medical emergency! Shortly, they allowed us aboard but hustled us past some screens set up to block casual viewers from the emergency. We went to our cabin and observed activities from the balcony as an ambulance and EMTs arrived. Since Carl & Shirley’s cabin was not answering our knocks, we assumed it was Carl, and Sally went down to see if she could find Shirley. I watched from the balcony, and when the ambulance finally turned off its flashing lights, I went down to the entryway fearing the worst. When I arrived our other tablemates were all there and informed me that Carl had passed away, and Sally was with Shirley in the medical office.
That night and the next day were spent with our little group, acting as Shirley’s shipboard family, providing comfort and support, as she went through the early stages of grief and dealt with all of the maddening but necessary things to be handled – relatives to be contacted, Emerati Police came to interview her, insurance had to be contacted, decisions had to be made. The police and Carl’s body left the ship about 1:00 a.m. For those who travel abroad, I include a recommendation – have insurance that will take care of you in a foreign country, not just financially, but will represent your interests. In this case, take responsibility for carrying out your wishes –burial or cremation & shipping of remains, otherwise you must leave the ship and stay to handle those things. You may want to stay, and fly home later, but you need the option. In this case; Shirley did not feel capable of handling things ashore, so it was a blessing that Princess got the Port Agent and the insurance company involved immediately. The local Port Agent, who is Princesses’ representative in Dubai was vital to the process being aware of Emerati laws and interfacing with the local authorities.
She elected to stay on board the ship, continuing the cruise and possibly will have a daughter join her in Rome.
And so we sail on, minus Carl, our little shipboard family supporting Shirley.
This has been a grim reminder of our mortality which hits us first with fear – it could be me! That is soon replaced by the thought that we all will go eventually, and we need to enjoy the time we are given and work hard to die as slowly as possible.
See you in the final port, Carl.