Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dec. 16 At Sea

My favorite days, sea days, and after five port days in a row I am ready for a day on board of pure relaxation. 
My two coffee cards have been completely used up and I don’t really want to buy a new coffee card since this ship doesn’t have the specialty teas we are wanting so I will just purchase my latte per cup which is $2.50.  I will note that we have a feeling that they are probably going to change the specialty tea brand.  After seeing a huge box (like a case each of 1000 tea bags) of the orange, black, mint Revolution Brand teas in Horizon Court offered for free beside the regular tea makes me wonder.  And since they don’t appear to be ordering any new English Breakfast, I bet they are getting rid of this tea because they are going with a new brand. 

The Bijoux sale is going on in the Michelangelo dining room – it is zoo in there.  I stop in to check it out and everything Baltic is on sale, checked out some flip flops but there are four flip flops there and they are all left ones!  The regular stuff is there and the line up for check out is probably 15 deep so even if I do find something I like I don’t want to wait.  I do see a woman screaming at one of the staff trying to check her out – really no one should be talked to like that.
We head off to find a quiet space to read and head to the horizon court for lunch.  We discuss cruising and which cruise we would like to take in the future.  We also discuss how the passengers are really getting to us and how rude so many are and how we can deal with that.  I know a lot of it has to do with the fact we have done so many trips that we know how the system works, we know where to get things, and we find we have little patience when it comes to those who walk then STOP dead in their tracks, those that complain because of something, until we point out the solution is right in front of them.  The people who are demanding resolution to simple things that really should be shrugged off. I think we are going to have to change first J.
I do walk back towards the cabin via the pool deck to check out what is happening and I smile as I watch a father sharing a slice of pizza with his two year old daughter as she blows kissing to the passengers.  There is a movies under the star but can’t really make out what is showing because of the sun.  Calypso pool is getting ready for the ice carving demonstration.  The Lotus Pool is closed for cleaning so it is quiet there, appears that the Sanctuary is packed.
This afternoon’s matinee is the movie The Help and I really want to see it but first I want to check out the snow in the Atrium.  It is pretty cool but for those of us who know snow the novelty wears off quickly and I walk around and check out the stores and the tables set up outside around the Atrium.  I did hear thru some of the staff that a lot of items get stolen from the tables when it is busy!  In fact three watches were stolen the other night.  Who the heck would stoop so low as to steal a watch, and a staff tells me people even steal perfume samples!   Wow, guess they stink so bad they need to.
The Princess Theatre is very busy and the movie is lovely, in fact when it ends people even clapped.  It is 5 pm and we have dinner reservations at the Crown Grill tonight for 6:30 so I better get back to the cabin.
This our second time eating in the Crown Grill, we ate there last voyage and we are sat in the same section with the same waiter.  Once again we bring a bottle of champagne.  I should note that we have brought wine or champagne to most dining room meals, I would guess about 12 times and we have been charged the corkage of $15 most of the time.  I think 3 times we were not.  We don’t mind paying the fee and still find it a great value.  We do however tip our waiter every meal normally (between $5 and $8) if the service was good and if no fee was charge we usually add $10 to the tip.  This is us, and of course tipping is a personal thing and of course your automatic tipping does include the wait staff. 
Back to the Crown grill, I started with the lobster cake, very good but very rich.  Then of course the black and blue onion soup, which I still say is the best I have ever had.  For my entrée we both had the filet mignon and we order lobster tails on the side and we made a surf and turf entrée.  For dessert we of course had the chocolate molten cake, but when we got them the cake was only about an inch high in the ramekins.  And there was no molten part at all, it was cooked too long.  The waiter noticed and said he would bring two new ones.  The next ones arrived and they were cooked perfectly but again the dessert was only about an inch high in the ramekin, not sure what happened here.    Must be a different pastry chef, heck you would of gotten about the same about of molten cake if you ordered the four sampler dessert.  We did enjoy it though and our tea.  We did notice the service was lacking later on in the meal because the waiter’s section got busier and he didn’t really have much help.  He was moving fast around the tables and kept hitting the back of my chair, that I actually got up and moved to the other side of the table.  After a similar experience in Sabatinis it is apparent that the staff need one or two more bodies to help out.
What to do now?  We saw the comedian Jay Moore last night, the Princess theatre is showing Motown (which we have seen many times) we opt to head over to Club Fusion for the Love and Marriage show, sometimes called The Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Show.  The place is packed and unfortunately Club Fusion is not well laid out to accommodate a lot of people because of site lines blocked because of pillars and lack of seats.  I really miss the Vista Lounge seating that other ships have and hope that the Emerald Class ships will get Club Fusion changed when they do a dry dock sometime.
Back to the Love and Marriage Game show, three couples are picked and boy I have to say this was the worst version I have ever seen.  One couple, the husband had a hard time understanding the questions, one other couple the husband was older and had a hard time too, and when the men were escorted out of the theatre while the women answered the questions the older man had to walk to his scooter and then scoot on out, I swear it took five minutes and kind of killed the show.  Tim was having a hard time he could tell it was dying but what to do?  I have seen the show where they sit the couples back to back and have them write their answers that seems to flow much better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dec. 15, 2011 - St. Thomas

We are back in St. Thomas, we are a little late docking but really who counts 10 minutes as late but I am surprised because it seems that every port we have docked early, but today we are a little later than normal.  Bernie heads off to get the latte (my last punch on my coffee card) and his tea.  We are not in any rush as the water taxi doesn’t leave until 10:30. 

Honeymoon Bay as we pass it first thing in the morning while we head toward Crown Bay
We get off around 9:40 and walk towards the marina and take a seat at the outdoor restaurant where we enjoy a mango smoothie.  The restaurant is right at Crown Bay Marina right where you catch the water taxi - note there is also a small grocery store where you can pick up soda or beer for your trip over.  Oh my goodness we are the only people (other than the post delivery person) on the water taxi.  That is a first!  We buy return tickets ($10 each - $5 each for one way) and when we get to Honeymoon bay there are less than six people there. 

ship decorated at the marina for Christmas
the water taxi schedule

such yummy mango smoothies

We are in heaven!  I float while Bernie swims, we tan, we walk, we enjoy a beverage and we are so happy. 

One of the tours from the ship arrives around noon.  The tour from the ship is the Catamaran tour and they spend about 1.5 hours at honeymoon bay beach for swimming and lunch and they paid $119 each!  I think we will stick with our $10 each trip.  After the group leaves we get something to eat from Heidi’s barbecue.  I have a drink and hotdog and Bernie has a soda and chicken Caesar wrap, both were so yummy.  We catch the 3:30 ferry back and head back on board. 

the ship's tour coming in
waiting for the ferry

waiting for the ferry

I am now enjoying a drink on the balcony as we sail away from St. Thomas.  Tonight is the Chef’s Dinner theme menu, we are planning on heading to the dining room for dinner.  Tonight’s entertainment is hypnotist Fernandes, who we have seen numerous times, comedy with Jay Moore and later tonight is the London Pub Night with the Cruise staff with the infamous “If I Was Not Upon the Sea”.  Also the Liar’s club is going on too.  Not sure what we will attend as of yet.
First stop is Vines, I have a white wine fight and Bernie enjoys a glass of wine and we get some sushi.  A few people we know are there and we chat and catch up before heading to the dining room for around 7:45.  

Joyce, Bernie and I

Like I had mentioned tonight is the Chef’s Dinner I start the meal with the goat cheese soufflé, then the French Onion Soup, then I chose the fried chicken off the regular menu tonight, which I have to say was just okay, I have had it much better.  You could tell the meal had been sitting and the chicken was not crispy.  For dessert I opted for the cheese with a cup of mint tea.

We get out of dinner too late to catch the Liar’s club so we wander a bit and chat with passengers and crew and head to Explorer’s Lounge to catch Jay Moore the comedian.  I am sure we have seen him before but he does have some new jokes and he is funny but for us I would rate him so so and wouldn’t probably see his show again. 
It is just after 11 and with no nap for me I am beat! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dec. 14, 2011 - Antigua

We are now docked, it is 9 am and there are two other ships in port.  It is very muggy and today I am the one to make the latte and tea run and we sip the drinks on our balcony until we can no longer handle the oppressive heat.  We try to watch the morning show but I guess someone forgot to turn it on as it is not showing.

We head up to the Horizon Court for breakfast, which is not my favorite place to have breakfast.  I can’t handle the crowds, and the eggs Benedict I had today was cool and the muffin was barely toasted.  There are a lot of older people on board and dodging walkers/scooters etc is getting to us.  We walk on the Lido towards Horizon Court where really only two people can walk side by side because of the tables/chairs and the walkers stopped dead in their track to talk to others, not only once but twice!  It was like a traffic jam on Lido.  I have a lot of patience but this is getting to be too much, you have to strategically choose your path when moving about the ship and often we take the long way around. 

I am relaxing in the cabin right now, the door is open and the calypso band is playing on the pier and is drawing us out.  We discuss what our game plan is for the day, because again we said we would wake up and figure out what we wanted to do daily.  We agree we would like to head out to Nelson Dockyard and then the beach.

We head ashore around 10 am and as soon as we get out of the port area we are faced with tons of taxi drivers offering us tours. We don’t want a tour we just want the dockyard and for just the two of us it is $35 one way. We decide to walk around a bit then head somewhere. It is so hot though and the traffic is crazy, we walk to the market and get some bananas and a black pineapple (cut up in a bag), I have to get out of the market area I am getting bitten by something there. We get some water then walk around the town until we are ready for our picnic of fruit. We sit in the cemetery next to an older lady who we share our fruit with.

The heat is oppressive we walk around and check out some stores.  We find a lovely local store that sells arts/crafts (Zion) and we purchase a few items.  We also want to check out Exotic Antigua which is right on the water near the pier. 

Last year we were there and we bought a few Tommy Bahamas Shirts for Bernie and I got a cute beaded ring.   So we want to go there again but this time they don’t have their Tommy Bahamas shirts, or at least they don’t have many of them, but Bernie does find one to buy and I get two more rings.  They give us a coupon for two Caribe beers in the restaurant upstairs (which is owned by the same people).  We sit looking out at the water I get a sour kiss martini and we pick up a few appetizers and watch the pirate ship tour load up with ship passengers and listen to Madonna blaring from the speakers – Spanish Lullaby, then the song ends and it plays again, then again, then again  -- yup four times!  We are all laughing at the store and cheer when they change the song to Madonna’s Like a Virgin and we all cheer because of the new song, but the song cuts off about three quarters or the way thru and Spanish Lullaby starts up again.  Ha ha ha we feel like we are part of the movie Ground Hog Day. 

As soon as we leave the restaurant the skies open up for a strong shower.  We end up back on the ship.  We did get a price quote for Dickerson Beach $12 each way by taxi but we think the cabin is calling and relaxing on our balcony.  And that is exactly what we do, and find we are really enjoying our cabin this cruise. 

We are enjoying drinks on the balcony for sailaway, vodka and ginger ale.  Tonight’s drink in Skywalkers is Sandleman’s port so we are up there for that.  Dinner in Michelangelo with two other couples.  I have to say order the mushroom tartlet it was yummy, for my entrée I had the past which was a pesto type pasta and very good. 
The shows tonight are Beatlemaniacs second show (different from the first one but we saw it last voyage), Country Western Night in Club Fusion, and the Yes No Game in Explorers again.  We wander about checking it all out and head back to the cabin around 11 pm.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dec. 13, 2011 - Barbados

I wake up to the ship pulling into the pier, we are docking early and well I am awake, but as I lay there after we pull in I find I am out like a light again.  Bernie is up though and is playing chess on the computer until I wake around 8:30.  We dress and head down to Da Vinci for breakfast.  We have a lovely breakfast at a table for two with a view of the water (Francesco takes care of us) – today was eggs Benedict (although I have been able to order it even if it isn’t on the menu) but when it comes the hollandaise is hard from sitting under the heat lamps but the eggs are good.
We fix up the situation with our future cruise credits to make sure we both have three in total.  Then we meet up with Al who is getting off today and chat with him for about an hour in the coffee bar.  It was very nice sailing with him again and getting to know him better.  He isn’t just a friend anymore, he is family and we are looking forward to when he comes to Vancouver next Spring so we can show him around, and you never know we may show up in Orlando, but highly unlikely he will be there as he is always away.  We giggle with him that we will be crying ourselves to sleep when he gets off for days.  Safe travels Al till we meet again.
We are not huge fans of Barbados unless we are doing Silvermoon Catamaran which is the best and especially when we do it with friends, but since it is just the two of us decide to lay low.  We do head off but just check out the shops at the pier and we relaxed and enjoyed a rum punch in the sun.  They have a Caraloha here too and this time I get two t-shirts and Bernie gets two more too. 
Back on board around 1:30, we sail at 4 and we order room service and we are relaxing in the cabin.
We watch a movie “Marshall” and then I watched “Amelia” on my computer, rough afternoon, then a nap.  But we are rested for the evening now.

Tonight is Italian night in the Dining Room so we head up to the Horizon Court for a meal.  We find we eat less when we go up there.  After dinner we head to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Multi Media Trivia and well, we sucked, yup that is putting it nicely.  We then catch up with some friends before heading up on deck for the Island Deck Party.  Jasper tags along and he gets right into the fun.  Normally this is one of our favorite nights on board but it is different without all our friends that we normally sail with.  Tim and his crew put on a good show (but please remove the hookie lau dance – it kills the spirit) and we dance and dance and crawl into bed around midnight.  We sleep like babies after all that dancing and a few beverages.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dec. 12, 2011 - St. Lucia

We are pulling in, and oh wow we are facing the pier, this is the first time we dock with the Starboard side on the pier side.  It is HOT, MUGGY, this is the Caribbean after all.  We are not in any rush to get off, the ship is doing their emergency drill and so there is announcements and alarms.  Funny how so many passengers are confused about this drill even though the Captain comes on and tells everyone this is for crew only.

We decide to head to the beach, to the one that Bernie found last February.  It is called Malabar beach and it is within walking distance and close to the airport.  We pack up our gear, slather on the sunscreen then head out. 
when you come to the runway turn right

at the end of the runway - cool to watch the planes land and take off from here

walk thru the cemetary

To get to this beach you walk out of the pier area to the main road.  There is a Texaco gas station turn left here.  Continue walking till you come to the airport runway and turn right and basically walk around the runway.  We continued walking past the Rendezvous resort to the left and went to the cemetery and walked thru it to the beach.  We found a very secluded spot and laid our towels down and then went into the water.  No one was around us at all!  There are no places to rent chairs or umbrellas, no one selling stuff, no restaurants, nothing!  I am sure if you wanted we could of gone to the resort and eaten and drank there but we didn’t.  We brought some beer from the corner store and enjoyed that then carried our garbage away.  In total the walk took about a half hour but be prepared it is very hot, I am sure a taxi wouldn’t be too much money either.

On our walk back we went a different way thru a residential area, smelled something darn good, so we looked up and it was a small bakery.  We got some coconut muffins and a juice and sat on the steps and enjoyed.  Many locals walked by and we said hi and chatted with a few.
When we got back to the pier we walked around the stores at the pier and sat under a tree and enjoyed Piton beer (2 beers for $3).  The tree was full of hummingbirds and was quite entertaining to watch.  We went and checked out the new store Carialoha which is a store that sells all bamboo products, it is one of the ship’s recommended stores.  Bernie bought a lovely polo shirt and t-shirt.  They are so soft and comfortable.  I bought a lovely casual dress from a different store.
Wow a Diamonds International -been looking for one in every port
get our Piton beer
Bernie gave the people working at the store Canadian pencils - here one is modeling it

We are back on board the ship around 2 pm, my throat is killing me – even hard to swallow.  After a small meal in Horizon Court I get some salt packets and head back to the room and gargle with salt water and take a nap.   I wake just before 5 pm, we are suppose to be all on board by 5:30 and I can hear quite a few people partying in the bar at the pier, as they stagger back on board right on time.  But they are not lifting the gangway, and around 5:50 a tour arrives with around 75 people.
the drunks heading back to the ship, they were so loud the whole Starboard side was out to welcome them back

Around 7:30 we head down to Vines for a glass of wine (well ended up two) with some sushi while we listened to the Dixie Land Jazz band in the Atrium.  Al meets up with us and we head to Michelangeo for dinner around 8 pm.  The whole entrance looks like a parking lot for scooters, with many parked near the Christmas tree, looks like all I want for Christmas is a scooter/walker. 

We have a lovely meal and we share a bottle of champagne while we eat surf and turf and finished off with a mango crème brule.  We head up to the stores to say hi to our friends up there and now Antoine from South Africa is showing us this watch he is thinking about buying, go ahead we say, you should reward yourself.  We should get a job in the shops! 
Beatlemaniacs are playing again but it is a different impersonators so we thought lets go and check them out.  We sit near the back, big mistake, as last sailing we sat right in the middle and everyone around us was in to it.  This time I swear no one around us was clapping, singing or dancing in their seats.  I wanted to shake them to see if they were awake.  How can you sleep thru this?  The group was great, audience, not so much.

We hit the hay around midnight and sleep like babies as we make our way to Barbados.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dec. 11, 2011 - St. Kitts

We dock at 8 am and people are rushing off, normal for a first port.  We are not in any rush to get off we have our coffee on our balcony and a muffin and we can see some showers in the distance and since we are going to the beach, there is no sense heading out now. 

We head ashore around 10:30 and catch a taxi to South Friar’s Beach – taxi is $16 for the two.  We are dropped off at Ship Wreck restaurant/bar and the showers start again.  We hold off getting beach chairs until the showers stop.  About 20 minutes later we grab two lounge chairs under a palaypa for $10 total.  This is the life, a little swimming, a little snorkeling (which was just okay) and some suntanning.  We arranged for our taxi driver to come back around 2:30 and there was 8 of us, now for some reason the price to go back is $4 each, when we came here we were by ourselves and it was $16 or $8 each we tipped $2 extra then but since he charge for the 8 of us $32 total we didn’t tip more.  We walked around the stores a little but every store in every port is the same and we really don’t need another t shirt.
beach at South Friars - sand is black because of the volcano

beautiful spot, very quiet

We are back on board around 3:45 and I head up to the Horizon court for some salad then back to the room for sailaway.  One thing I should mention that is odd is we have always faced away from the pier when we have docked.  We have a starboard cabin and we have always faced the ocean for every port so far.  Also tonight the Captain did sound the horn before we left, I figured someone wasn’t on board.  We left a little late and sounded the horn again, but realized that this new Captain just likes to sound the horn, kind of like all the taxi drivers in all the ports we have visited.  It was a beautiful sailaway and the sunset is stunning.  I do see a storm ahead so I am anticipating showers. 

Tonight no big plans, it is Princess Dinner theme in the dining room.  Not sure what we are doing if we are eating there or the Horizon Court but we are both being really lazy right now and it is 6 pm.  Tonight’s show in the Princess Theatre is Boogie Shoes and Tim is doing the yes/no game again.
Tomorrow is St. Lucia and again we don’t have any plans, we will see how we feel when we get up.

Dec 9 & 10, 2011 - At Sea

I wake up around 7:30 and as we relax for a bit Bernie heads out for the latte and tea.  There is zumba class today at 9:15 but it is back up at the Calypso pool, not my favorite place and since the weather is overcast and it had rained very early this morning it is very windy and doing the class up there in the sun and with the wind interfering with the sound is something I don’t enjoy so I think I am going to pass today.
For those interested events today are:  ping pong challenge, service club get together, scholarship@sea bridge lecture, morning trivia, bingo, pub lunch, movie Secretariat, paddle tennis, shopping show, slot tournament, free digital photography seminar, book club (book is One Day), wet, wild and wacky pool games, dance class, bar wars, art auction, water volleyball, line dance class, matinee movie: Bridesmaids, golf chipping, movie:  Arthur, afternoon trivia.
Tonight is a formal night and the show tonight is “What a Swell Party, Justin Flom (again the Patter is showing his name spelled wrong) and Jocelyn – comedy and magician perform two shows in the Explorer’s Lounge.  The casino is no smoking tonight, MUTS is showing X-Men, Jeopardized Trivia, Ballroom dancing and so much more.
For the first two days of the cruise there are some great specials in the stores, % off lots of items if you spend a certain $ amount so make sure you check it out.  The stores are all very busy right now, the open decks are very very windy so it is bringing a lot of people indoors.
The strangest occurrence today is seeing people slather on the sunscreen with Dean Martin singing in the background “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”.

We hang out in the coffee bar and a few coffee drinks and reading and chatting with passengers and crew passes the time until lunch where we opt for the Pub Lunch (our first time on this voyage) both of us get the fish and chips,  very good and not greasy.  There are lots of different beers to get to accompany the pub lunch so make sure you try it out, and the meal is complimentary.
The options for the afternoon abound but I am so tired from getting little sleep again last night and the cold is slowing me down, just a bit though.  We head back to the cabin where we nap, well Bernie naps, I am sleeping off and on, sneezing in between and coughing.  So glad we did stock up on some cold medicine in Fort Lauderdale.
The cruise critic meet and greet is scheduled for 3:30 today and even though the bed is more inviting right now I feel the need to head up to say hi.  It is a much smaller group than last voyage but it is easier to get to mix and mingle with everyone and nice to put names to faces.  We hang out for about an hour before heading to our balcony to read.  It is still windy but warm.  The seas have been a little rougher, with water at moderate levels.  This is quite normal for the first and last days to and from Florida, doesn’t bother me but I could see some people being concerned about it if they are not use to being on the water. 
our cabin is the third forward cabin on the deck just above the open area at the bow

Although we don’t normally get a forward cabin (I think this is our third time up front) it really isn’t any different – motion wise – than the ones we have had aft or even mid ship.  The one nice thing I like about the location is we don’t get the smells from the galley aft – and room service galley.  However being all the way forward we are a long ways from the Horizon Court and Skywalkers, Bernie jokes we are sobered up after coming back from Skywalkers.  Our cabin is the third one from the front on Dolphin deck and even though it has been windy on days that it is windy, and it is windy everywhere, when the seas are calm and there is less windy we get the same on our balcony.  Another thing about cabin location is we know we wouldn’t like a cabin on Lido Deck aft as so many people have to pass by your room to get to the pool deck and the wind is always howling.
We have reservations tonight at Sabatinis, this is our second time there this voyage, we are going with Al Katz tonight and have a reservation at 6:30.  We are sat at a lovely table with a view and Gustavo was our waiter, he was very good and attentive, but we did notice the service slowed when he got busier and improved when he got assistance from junior waiter.  Tonight I had the calamari (very good, served with a garlic lemon dip), then the arthichoke dip again, I opted out of the pasta so I could have a second appetizer, then tonight I had the chicken which I have to say I wouldn’t order again, it was very salty, and didn’t finish.  I should have had the lobster trio again, which Al had and loved.  I had a drink there after dinner called the Sicilian Kiss, oh my it was good!
crab dish that Al ordered

chicken dish that I had, not so good

Justin Flom is performing tonight, two shows with a repeat tomorrow night.  We head over to Explorer’s lounge to see him and Jocelyn and take in their show.  The place is packed but we sit/stand to the side.  The show is great again and he gets lots of laughs and applauses.  Jasper is with us and insists on getting his picture with the two of them. 

It is early 10 pm but I am so tired, we head back to the cabin and watch a movie before crashing.
At Sea again.
The seas are once again moderate but the sun is shining and the wind is howling.  Now these weather conditions are what we have experience at other times of the year too.  Normally we sail the Caribbean in Jan/Feb and it is common to get very windy days at sea then too.  But you still need sun screen as that sun is strong.
Bernie delivers me my latte (I am lucky) I am lounging in bed, looking forward to a movie (The Accidental Husband) that is suppose to start at 8:15 am on one of the Princess  Romance Channel but it never materializes.  This is a common occurrence, many of the shows don’t start at the time they are suppose to, but we just go with the flow.  One thing I wish they would do is state in the Patter what the movie is that is going to be playing on channel 21 every night as it is usually a more current movie, I know other ships have done this.
Activities today are endless.  Zumba (again up at Calypso so with the wind and sun I am opting out), trivia, bingo, pub lunch again, ballroom dance classes, sexy legs contest, martini demonstration, advanced digital photography class, holiday snow and music in the atrium, rum tasting, Sommelier’s Wine Club, afternoon tea, red hat society get together.   Movies playing today are Green Latern, Just Go With It, Thor, and The Debt.  Tonight in the Princess Theater is Al Katz with two shows, and Justin Flom (again Patter has his name spelled wrong) for two shows.  It is also 50’s night in Club Fusion.