On a Sunday afternoon in Shanghai, I began a search for dental floss.
It turns out that my roll of floss ran out in a country that doesn’t seem to use it.
My exploration reached a climax at Shanghai's largest pharmacy, or so the sign reported in front of a building of several stories on famed Nanjing Danglu, a shopping street of renoun that leads to the Bund, the city's commercial and financial center.
You can buy and replace almost anything you want on Nanjing Danglu, but not a roll of dental floss.
Shanghai, China's bustling world center of finance, is an easy city for walking downtown, shopping and sightseeing and gazing at throngs of passersby.
Pay attention to the army of men in khaki uniforms, with hats that read in English: "Traffic Assistant" -- perhaps from a stash of baseball caps, made of course in China, that never found their way to heads in the United States.
The aforementioned traffic is on foot, and the stern hat wearers bark their instructions at intersections they guard with zeal, waiting for a change in traffic light so they can amplify such simple English words as "Walk" and "Don't Walk."
Based on their tone, I interpreted the Chinese orders from these hat men to mean: "GET BACK, YOU STUPID PEDESTRIAN."
And: "DO NOT STEP ONTO THE STREET, YOU BRAZEN CRIMINAL."
These instructions, directed at anyone who moved even an inch or two from the curb, did not seem to rattle any of the Chinese pedestrians.
To heck with the pirates, cruisers are not walking the plank, reports Cruiseweek, a newsletter for the cruise industry.
Editor Mike Driscoll writes that when the Crystal Symphony leaves Dubai this week en route to Athens, the first port of call is Salalah, Oman, followed by a May 22-24 cruising across the Gulf of Aden, site of frequent pirate attacks on vessels.
Are clients worried?
One luxury travel agent told Cruiseweek that while the pirate attacks certainly haven't helped business for cruises going through the region, the "surprising truth" is it doesn't seem to bother those experienced travelers who booked the sailings in
the first place.
A verification of this view can be found in the response to Crystal's offer of a complimentary three-day overland as an option for passengers when the ship goes through the Gulf (getting off in Oman and reboarding in Egypt). Some 90% opted to stay onboard.
Speedy ships are safer
"Most of our guests have been realistic," says Crystal President Gregg Michel. "They know that Crystal Cruises' greatest concern is for their safety."
Michel, who is also chairman of CLIA, contends, "Despite all of the media attention, the risk to cruise ships in this area is considered to be minimal. To the best of our knowledge, no successful attacks have occurred on ships traveling at 15 knots or more."
Crystal Symphony will be traveling at a speed well in excess of 15 knots, and it is very maneuverable. "Of course, we have taken a number of additional precautionary measures," adds Michel. "We've continued to communicate with guests about our practices before the cruise and will be during the cruise."
The Hall of Presidents, my favorite attraction at Disney's Magic Kingdom, reopens July 4, with Disney's Audio-Animatronic version of President Barack Obama. His likeness -- and words -- will join 43 previous presidents of the United States as part of a celebration of American history.
The Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort will re-open this summer -- 60 new self-standing lodgings that replace the worn octagonal treehouses built in 1975. The villas, part of the Disney Vacation Club, will also be available to other resort guests.
Because Disney plopped the new buildings from a crane into old clearings, the treehouses look as if they have been there for years, surrounded by mature trees. Inside, though, the units, which sleep up to nine people, offer such modern luxuries as granite countertops in the kitchens and flat-screen TVs.
Best treehouse? I like Number 7026 for its views of the river passing by, with boats that can be rented at Downtown Disney. A nice way to paddle home. Disney web site.
For the latest on cruises, destinations and insights for travelers, go to THE TRAVEL MAVENS.COM