Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009 – Galveston, Texas – Foggy- Drizzly - 50s

Early wakeup – so we can get up and out and figure out our transportation issues this morning

VOTS Galveston

Voyager of the Seas – Docked

The Windjammer was packed – almost couldn’t get a seat.

Making sure we had everything, we made it to Deck 4 just about five minutes prior to walk off.  Walk off and immigration was very fast.  We spoke to an agent in the terminal area that told us we could purchase transfers to Bush IC Airport for $40 a person.  Soon we were on a bus waiting to go.  This waiting turned into about an hour (the bus needed to be full to go), so I found another agent and persuaded her to put us on a van so we could get moving.

This eventually happened and we arrived at the airport about two hours prior to flight.  There was a very long line for security but it moved and soon we were in the gate area.  Had some lunch; Internet was free for the holiday season so I checked e-mail. 

Out plane was here

Return MD80

There was a long line for takeoff but soon we were in the air.  It took just a few minutes to clear the fog layer and soon there were blue skies and terrain

Climbout Houston

Climb out – Houston

The flight was smooth and the pilot made up time en route.  The approach to Chicago was very interesting especially when the plane skimmed along the very low cloud layer covering the city.  It was like he was floating on the layer of clouds

Skimming Clouds on Approach

Final Approach - Right at the Cloud Layer

Soon we broke through the clouds to see a very chilly and snowy Chicago

Chilly Home Sweet Home

I’m missing the warm Atlantic already.

Pretty much a perfect cruise…

Saturday, December 12, 2009 – At Sea – Gulf of Mexico – Partly Cloudy - 70s

No early wakeup today.

Sea Day Dec 12

At Sea – Gulf of Mexico

At the show last night, the cruise director acknowledged the veterans in the audience – there were about a hundred vets.  I thought it might be nice to include something in my final talk about identifying soldiers lost in battle.  I picked the “Earthquake McGovern” case history.  I made the changes – I was a little apprehensive since this material had never been presented before.

I  went to the La Scala early to get some “quiet time”.  At 9:25 AM, there were already a few people in theater.  I thought it would be modest crowd – those who read their Compass carefully.  I asked the people if they were here for the lecture and they said they were. 

The AV tech showed up at about 9:30 AM and we set up for the lecture.  He also gave me a DVD of the previous seven lectures – very nice. 

As 10:00 AM approached, the people just kept coming in.  It was another full house.  I thanked them for reading their Daily Compass and explained to them that this process of giving your last talk and then returning for another talk was called “Favreing”

The talk went well – nice applause and two people standing.  I knew the crowd was paying attention because several people caught a typo in the “Earthquake” segment. 

Another beautiful day at sea so we spent most of the time out on Deck 4.  We knew were in the Gulf – many oil rigs

Oil Rig

Oil Platform – Gulf of Mexico

We had the final dinner of the cruise in the La Boheme Dining Room, where we had all of our dinners this cruise.  All of the meals were great.

Tonight was the Farewell Show – Besides a pretty funny,the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers made their final appearance

RC Singers Dancers

Celebrity Singers

Back to the room to pack.  We do not have a transfer to the airport so we will have to wing it in the morning.

Smooth seas continue…

Friday, December 11 – At Sea – Near Key West, FL – Cloudy - 70s

Early wakeup…just missed a great sunrise (according to a fellow passenger)

Sea Day Dec 11

At Sea – Near Florida

Today is my last Lecture “Forensic Science: Novel DNA Testing”.  Even though many of the attendees wanted another lecture on the last sea day, the activities calendar was already booked.  The attendance was very good (400+)

Final Lecture

When I finished, the crowd applauded and I got a very unexpected but nice “Standing O”.  Great audience.

We spent the rest of the day on Deck 4 just watching the waves go by and reading and listening to tunes.  We wanted to take advantage of the Solarium’s Spa one more time.  There was a message waiting for me on the phone.  It was Allison indicating that they had scheduled an additional lecture tomorrow at 10:00 PM in the La Scala Theater.  And I had just ridden into the sunset…

I tried unsuccessfully to contact Allison to give her a title for this talk. I was hoping she would get the title from the list she received prior to the cruise.

After dinner, we got hold of a Daily Compass – the talk wasn’t highlighted as usual (title and description) but it was in the daily time listings.  I told several people about the new talk throughout the evening and a few passengers told me that there was a new talk tomorrow.

Entertainment for the evening was a Four Seasons tribute group - “The Unexpected Boys” (I am not sure about that name).  They did a great job – sang well and did the dance moves perfectly (a lot of energy). 

Seas continue to be smooth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 – Nassau, Bahamas – Mostly Sunny - 85F

Land Ho!!!

At about 7:00 AM this morning, the Voyager of the Seas docked at Nassau, Bahamas, successfully completing its Transatlantic Crossing.  The first land in about a week is Paradise Island, home to the Atlantis Hotel (building with the sky bridge) and Casino

Paradiise Island - Atlantis - Casino

Paradise Island (Atlantis Hotel)

The ship is at Prince George  Wharf along with the Carnival Fascination and Carnival Pride

Nassau - VOTS docked

Carnival Fascination-Pride-VOTS

Top: Voyager of the Seas; Bottom: Carnival Fascination; Carnival Pride; VOTS

We are not touring today (mostly water sport options) but have planned a day of walking and shopping.  Another objective is to find the library to use their internet services.  The walk from ship to town is very easy but as soon as you hit the city you are in the Shopping/Touring Area (E Bay Street).  After walking a bit on Bay street, we came upon the historic Pompey Museum

Pompey Museum - Nassau

Pompey Museum Building

The Museum, a slave auction house from the 18th century, which commemorates Columbus’ 1942 visit to the Bahamas, was restored in 1992 by the Bacardi Rum Company.

From E Bay Street, we decided to walk south on Charlotte Street in an effort to get into the center of city.

Nassau Charlotte St

Charlotte Street

This took up a hill to E Hill St (good name) and to a building labeled Provident House

Provident House - E Hill St

From Provident House, you can look back down to the pier and see just the top decks of the Voyager of the Seas

E Hills St facing north

We walked down the hill at East Street to the Library.  The Library, a former jail (ca. 1797), is located in a square that also contains the Bahamian Supreme Court and other various courts in Nassau.

Courthouse Square near Library 

Parliament Square – Nassau

Internet access was not free at the Library ($5.00 / hour) and it was hot.  We had come to far so we waited in line until we could get a computer.  It took us only fifteen minutes to check our e-mail and send messages ($1.25). 

Our quest for pins, hats, and tee shirts continued back on E Bay Street.  It was here that we spotted a most unusual site:

Menorah - E Bay St

Menorah on E Bay Street 

A couple of actual Menorahs along the main street in town.  They were setting up for what is most likely a Christmas Parade and the menorahs were part of the decorations.  This is amazing since I could not find any synagogues in the phone book.

The heat and humidity shortened our walk (we still did over three miles) and we headed back to the ship for a late lunch.

Most of the afternoon was spent in the Solarium just taking it easy.

The sail away from Nassau was after sunset but the city lights still made it memorable

Nassau Sail Away 

Nassau – Sail Away

The Royal Caribbean Singers put on a Jazz Vocal show this evening.  Not a big fan on jazz but I did like some of the selections.

The rest of the evening was spent in the Promenade where I chatted with passengers until it was time to get to the room.

Smooth Seas…

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Transatlantic Crossing – Friday, December 4 – Wednesday, December 9, 2009 – Each day – Sunny – Mid 70s

The weather each day was perfect – the seas each day were calm.  As the captain says: “Following Seas, Following Winds” is what every seaman hopes for.  The best way to go through the Transatlantic Crossing is to show examples of the weather and some comment on entertainment.

December 4, 2009 – At Sea

At Sea - December 4

Lecture 2 - “The CSI Effect” – the show had “legs” – more people than the first lecture (400+).

Lecture - CSI Effect

December 4 – Entertainment - “The Perfect Gentlemen” -  kind of vaudeville type group – funny and entertaining.

December 5, 2009 – At Sea

 Sunrise Dec 5

Tonight is obligatory “O Solo Mio” night in the Dining Rooms.  Time for wait staff to march and for passengers to waive their napkins

Waiters march

Ellen and the marching waiters

Waiters - O Solo Mio

“O Solo Mio”

Tonight’s headliner is a singer/pianist/guitarist/banjoist (whose name I cannot remember) – he was terrific.

Tonight is also the big parade in the Promenade – all of the Cruise Staff are in costume including our Italian rep (whose Italian class I attended) – Simona

Simona - Promenade Parade

December 6, 2009 – At Sea

Sea Day 12-6

Tonight’s Headliner is Sean O’Shea – We saw him on the Pacific Princess Panama Canal Cruise.  He is a crazy impressionist.  His show was great.

December 7, 2009 – At Sea

Happy Birthday, Leo

Sunrise - 12-7

The lectures continue to go well including getting lots of questions following the talk

Questions from the Lecture

The Entertainment Tonight is “Knight Magic” – a great magician.  Here, in sequence, is the “Sawing the Girl in Half” illusion.

 Knight Magic 1 Knight Magic 2

Knight Magic 3

How do they do it?

December 8, 2009 – At Sea

Sunrise 12-8

The ship has a 9 hole mini-golf course on Deck 14.

H and E golfing

Mini Golf

Yes I did get beat.

The Headliner tonight is Brandi Chapman – we also saw her on the Pacific Princess in April.  She puts on a great show and has a tremendous voice – I especially liked her tribute to the Oscars (because she sang both “The Heart Will Go On”and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”).

December 9, 2009 – At Sea

Sea Day 12-9

Today is my sixth lecture in a row

Lecture - Genetic eyewitness 

The attendance continues to be great (500+). 

Tonight was the second Production Show - “Music in Motion”.  Lots of great dancing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 – Tenerife, Canary Islands – Partly Cloudy – Drizzly - 70s

Tenerife, one of the six Canary Islands, is a Spanish island located 180 miles off the coast of Africa (best known for having the worst airline accident in history – two 747s collided on the ground at the North airport in the capital city of Santa Cruz).  It is the largest Canary Island (population 700,000; Santa Cruz: 225,000).

Tenerife is a volcanic island – volcanic peaks can be seen in the distance behind the city of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz from ship 1

We are on tour again today- “Cultural Tenerife”.  The ship is departing early so all tours are in the morning (early wake up call and a very crowded Windjammer Cafe).  Our tour guide is an American woman who has lived in Tenerife for 30 years (she was so glad she was able to use English for the tour). 

After a slow departure from the port, our first stop was to the historic city of La Laguna.  As we took the final turn that took us out of the port, we were able to view “The Auditorium” – this building is similar to the Sydney Opera House and represents a Conquistador’s Helmet.  I could not get a picture from the bus.  I am pretty sure that the architect of this building is the same one that designed the Chicago Spire.

La Laguna was the original capital (and second largest city on the island) and its inland location made it somewhat inaccessible to pirates and any other hostile armies.  The city (circa 17th century) originated the concept of the central square but, since there were no threat to the city, the square was not built around a fortress.  The first stop on the tour of La Laguna was the central square, La Plaza del Adelantado (“those who came first” – usually means the standard bearers but in this case, the priests)

Plaza Adelantado - La Laguna

The fountain – Plaza del Adelantado

One of the most interesting sites at the square was the 200 year old Dragon Tree

P. Adalentado - 200 yr Dragon Tree

Ellen and the Dragon Tree 

You can how old a Dragon Tree is by counting the branch points (each branch occurs every 20 years).

The town has many historic buildings – colonial architecture.  The first one on our walking tour was the Palacio de Nava (ca. 1776)

Palacio de Nava 1776

This structure combines Mannerist, Baroque, and Neoclassical elements.  The facade is bluestone.

The next structure is the elegant “House of the Captains General”

Captain General House 17th cent

so called because it was built by the commander of the Spanish Army in Tenerife.  This home had a beautiful courtyard

Cap House courtyard

The courtyard gave the family and their children a place to be outdoors.  The kids couldn’t use the streets because all of the refuse and garbage was just tossed onto the street making it an unsanitary place to play.

As we continued our walk through the old city, several locals in costume appeared to entertain the tourists – most interesting were the two men engaged in a fierce swordfight


Fortunately, they both survived and no blood had to be washed from the street.

The last stop in town was the Central Market

The Central Market

More examples of fish and other sea food that you wish you hadn’t seen before it arrived on your plate in the dining room.

From La Laguna, the tour headed back to Santa Cruz to visit the Museum of Man.  As we made our way on one of the highways, we noted some of the volcanic hills that are scattered around the island

Volcanic Hills

Volcanic Hills in the distance 

These hills – despite the protests of some islanders – are being mined for their volcanic soil, which is used in building materials.

An interesting work of art, “The Guillotine”, was visible from the tour bus on our way

The Guillotine

“The Guillotine”

I didn’t get any shots of the inside of the museum because of the restriction on flash shots (too dark to shoot without flash).  I did, however, get a picture of us with some kind of creature (maybe endemic to the Canary Islands).

Natural History Muserum

The Museum of Man explains the origin of the Canary Islands and describes its flora and fauna.  The Canary Ialands are a little like the Galapagos Islands in that certain unique species have evolved on these islands.  The museum also has a section devoted to the earliest inhabitants of the islands (1st or 2nd century BC), the Guanches – a tall, blond, and blue eye peoples related to Cro-Magnon.  Mummies of these earliest peoples are display in the museum (the Guanches and Egyptians used similar mummification technology). 

After the museum, the tour took us back to the ship, where we got another look at the Auditorium (again, no pictures possible).

Since we were about to begin a 3,000 plus mile, the ship needed to refueled

refueling for crossing

Refueling barge – getting ready for the crossing

The weather improved markedly by the time we sailed away affording great pictures of Santa Cruz and Tenerife. 

Me Sailaway

That’s me – ready to begin our crossing

Sailaway 1

Sail Away Tenerife 

Though I couldn’t get a shot before, I was able to capture “The Auditorium” as we sailed away

Sailaway w auditorium

The Auditorium is the white structure in the center of the photograph.   As the ship sailed around the southern coast of Tenerife, I tried to get a picture of Mt. Teide (12,195 ft – tallest in Spain) – the peak was hidden in the clouds.

Sailaway SW

Mt. Teide – cloud covered

Before dinner, we spent some time in the Promenade, listening to some a duo playing keyboard and violin

ET Promenade

Ellen and good music in the Promenade

Tonight is the ice show,”Odyssey on Ice” – you need to get tickets for this since Studio B is not a super large venue.  The show was great even though the skaters missed a few of their jumps (in the defense, the ice looked a little wet).  One of the headliners did some amazing thing with hoops – at one time, she might have had a dozen hoops twirling at one time (and still managed to stay on the ice).

Odyssey on Ice

Hoops on ice – she was really moving fast

Odyssey on Ice 2

The Odyssey on Ice Skaters

Odyssey on Ice - Jewish Calendar

Look carefully – that’s a Jewish Calendar in the background

As a tie-in, the Godmother of the Voyager of the Seas is Olympic Skating champion, Katerina Witt

Katerina Witt

I overhead one of the passengers saying that she was chosen because this ship had the first ice skating capability on a cruise ship.

Soon Tenerife is behind us and we are on our Transatlantic Crossing.  Smooth seas, please.