Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 – Miami, FL – Mostly Cloudy – 60s

Disembark is relatively easy and we are off the ship by 9:00 AM and on our way to the airport for our long wait for our 3:10 PM Flight to Chicago.

Miami has one of those soft-X Ray Scanners.  Everything has to be out of your pockets – all you can have on is your clothes (no belts).  The scan is quick and Star Trek like and then you need to wait to be cleared (I kept my eyes on my stuff on the conveyor while I waited).  TSA must not have liked something on my scan so I had the complimentary and interesting pat down.  It is quick but all people say it is.

About an hour to flight time our 757 arrives

IMG_6387 (Small)

Just as we are about to board, an announcement is made that the flight will be delayed an hour (ATC hold on traffic into ORD) and we would not board at 3:30 PM for a 4:10 PM Departure.  We do actually board and push about 4:10 PM but only to park in the “penalty box” awaiting our turn to go. 

At about 5:00 PM, we hit the runway and we are off.  The flight is a little bumpy but OK.  As we near Chicago, the pilot indicated that we will be holding for about 30 minutes about 150 miles from the airport.  The revving of the engines about 30 minutes later indicated to me that he was moving to another holding pattern (indeed another 30 minutes) – touchdown was not 7:05 PM as announced.  We finally left that pattern and the pilot indicated a preparation for landing.  However, I did not feel the plane descend or employ flaps and slats.  Sometime later, the flaps did deploy along with the gear and it was soup until the wheels hit the ground.  I think we touched down at 7:35 PM. 

In spite of all of the holding patterns, the most bizarre event was leaving the plane quickly through the port side emergency door, which, all of a sudden was open to the jet way (the door opened before I could get my stuff from the overheads).  This was a first for me (coach folks leaving before first class).

It took quite a while for the luggage to appear but our cabbie waited for us. 

We finally got home after 9:00 PM to find that a power outage had taken down our U-Verse system. A few calls to ATT eventually got the system back up an running. 

What an ending to a unique cruise.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 – At Sea (near Cuba) – Cloudy - 60s

Our final day at sea is cool and cloudy. 

We did not take in the Brunch today but rather ate upstairs in the Aqua Spa Cafe (Salmon on a bun – very good).

Bill is speaking today at 3:15 PM about “The History of Catapults” and I follow him at 4:15 PM in the Cinema with “DNA Testing:  Cold Cases Solved”.  Again,I get some signs made to make sure people know where the talk is because it was not announced at the 12 Noon activities briefing.

I have a good enthusiastic audience (40 plus – the biggest crowd on this series of cruises).  Two couples (one from France) stayed after for about 30 minutes discussing crime and criminals. We had to quit so we could go to dinner.  Overall, the crowds weren’t the biggest but, considering the length and demographics of these cruises, they were successful.

The farewell show tonight are Juggler/Comedians “Will and Wally”.  The kids really liked them.

Suitcases out by 11:00 PM.

Debarkation Day tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2010 – Ocho Rios, Jamaica – Cloudy - 70F

Today we are the only ship in Ocho Rios but at least we are docked.

Ocho Rios (Small) Ocho Rios 2 (Small)

I was thinking of going ashore and looking around the port area (not the actual town which is a few miles away).  However, from the ship, the port area does not look all that inviting so I am planning to spend the time on Deck 12 (Hemisphere Lounge) finishing my book. 

Not sure why, but the ship is really swaying even though it is docked (do they need to pull the mooring lines tighter?).  The ship is moving but it is not a problem for me.  I actually finished the book and plan to read another titles by the same authors (the book involves the adventures of Aloysius Pendergast, FBI Agent (and Sherlock Holmes type) extraordinaire).

Note to self:  Try to avoid itineraries that include Ocho Rios.

Since Ocho Rios is a short Port day, I am giving a talk after departure at 4:30 PM (Cinema) on “DNA Testing: Secrets of the Royal Families”.  Bill, speaking right before me, had a very small crowd, expected from being scheduled late after a port stop.  My expectations were low but when the talk started, there were about 30 – 40 people in attendance.  The audience was into the subject and I got some good questions following the presentation.

At dinner, I am introduced to a new concept - “The Martini Flight” – a assortment of different flavored (and colored) martinis in taster sized portions.

Martini Flight (Small)

The show tonight is “Touch of Broadway” and I still enjoyed the Hairspray, Jersey Boys, and Mama Mia segments.  There were a few numbers I could not associate with any play – except many “Be Italian” from “Nine”?

Tomorrow – another welcome sea day

Sunday, December 26, 2010 – Georgetown, Grand Cayman Islands – Sunny - 75F

Today is a beach day – specifically, Seven Mile Beach, which is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. 

The Century is not docked (and not anchored either – thrusters and azipods are being used to keep the ship in place.  The Crown Princess and the Disney Wonder are also doing the same thing.  The tender ride is short (5 minutes) and smooth and soon we are in Georgetown.

 Century from Tender (Small)

Celebrity Century from the Tender

Century and Pirate Ship (Small)

The New and Old of seafaring vessels

The best way to go is by cab ($4 per person), which gets you there (4 miles from the port) and allows you to use the sand and facilities of the resort hotel.  You bring your own towel and can rent an umbrella ($10) or beach chair ($10). 

7 mile beach and ships (Small)

Seven Mile Beach and Cruise Ships

The sand is nice and the water is warm.  There are a lot of folks at the beach today but there is still plenty of room to stretch out and relax.  The kids play in the water or build sand castles.

The waves are pretty strong and frequent – a portent of things to come. 

Not wanting to wait in a long line for the last few tenders, we take another van back to the pier.  Delighted that their no line, we hop onto our tender boat.  The wave and wind action were so intense that the tender was slamming into the pier with major force (strong enough to move people in their seats).  The boat was also rocking in all directions.

Soon we were on our way back amidst strong waves and winds.  The splashing was so intense that people sitting in the unprotected areas of the boat got drenched.  We were in the front and closed our windows to keep dry.  The chop was severe – some people were getting queasy.  The worst part was that the boat was unable to maneuver its way to the tender docking area on the Century (too much chop).  It took three passes and a total of about 40 minutes for the tender boat to finally move close enough to the ship for the crew to secure the boat.  It was a treacherous trip from the tender to the ship over the gangway but eventually we all made it.  What an adventure at no extra charge – by the way, the kids thought it was a ton of fun.  The adults – not so much.

The ship itself was pretty smooth (hard to move around 95,000 tons).

Being at the beach was great – it had been quite a while since I had beach time.  It took a major shower to clean out all of the sand but it was worth it.

Steve did his Comedy act again…still funny.  He did change it and added some new and funny elements.

The seas are choppy and the wave slap against the bow is pretty loud.  Thank goodness for earplugs.

Saturday, December 25, 2010 – At Sea – Mostly Sunny – 75F

A nice day…time for some reading, playing games with the kids in the game room.

Today’s talk is a bit earlier in the day – 1:30 PM – in the Cinema.  “The CSI Phenomenon” draws only about 25 people.  Not many fans of the show and the audience is not very enthusiastic.  After the talk, a few people wanted to talk about their favorite programs.  Where were they when I wanted to get the crowd involved?

Just before dinner, we were treated to a terrific sunset.

Sunset 12-25 (Small) 

We attend the Holiday Show in the Celebrity Theater (the same show that was a matinee event during the other cruises).  A lot of Christmas music (but “I had a little Dreidel” snuck into a song by the Tideflats).  Many of the songs were secular and the production cast did a nice job. 

Friday, December 24, 2010 – Miami, FL – Sunny - 70F

The family is aboard for this one.  Their embarkation was apparently smooth.

 Sail Away 12-24 3 (Small) Sail Away 12-24 2 (Small) Sail Away 12-24 1 (Small) Sail away 12-24 (Small)

Another scenic sail away from Miami and a great sunset as a bonus.

Another welcome aboard show and some more time with Justin and Will in the lounges.

Thursday, December 23, 2010 – At Sea – Sunny - 75F

Another warm and sunny day at sea…and the first day we were able to spend time on Deck 6 – the open deck.  Making progress on “Book of the Dead” – I don’t want to drag this heavy book back with me.

At Sea 12-23 (Small)

On the deck 12-23 (Small)

The talks are on the same schedule as the first cruise.  Today’s talk: “DNA Testing: Cold Cases Solved” is in the Cinema 4:30 PM (right after Holiday Show).  To make sure people found the Cinema, I asked one of the folks in one of the cubicles near the venue to print me out some signs, which I taped to the doors of the Cinema.  That probably helped a bit.  Attendance: 35 – 40 pretty enthusiastic people.

While waiting for dinner, we managed to get our picture taken by a random person at the Cova Cafe. 

Cova Cafe 12-23 (Small)

This cruise has a new production number, “Dancing Around the World”, which is supposed to be mostly dancing.  It turned out to be about the same mix of singing and dancing as the other production numbers.  It was entertaining.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 - Cozumel, Mexico – Partly Cloudy - 77F

Nice and warm in Cozumel.  The plan today is find a nice spa and get a massage at a reasonable price.  The Cozumel Massage Studio is just a five minute walk and we had wonderful massages with hot stones (70 minutes / $50).  Clean, bright place with friendly therapists.

We went back to the ship early to relax and read.

We went to Michael’s Club to hear Will and noticed that Hannah (Bornstein?) and Ryan, two of the Celebrity Singers, were in attendance.  It turned out that they sang along with Will as part of the set.  I was able to get a picture of Hannah (Ryan was in the dark – no photo possible).  They were both great especially Ryan, who sang a half dozen songs (all very well done).

Hannah and Will 2 (Small)

Point of Info:  Will’s folks were on board and Will’s dad attended my talks and was very interactive (knew all of the answers).

Pedometer": 8060 steps /3.82 mi / 391 cal / 1 hr 55 min

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 – Key West, FL – Sunny – 75F

Another beautiful day in Key West – this time around, there is no chilly start – Warm and Bright.  I am up early so I catch the moon set over Key West.

  Moon in Morning KW (Small)

Our plan today is to walk the town of Key West – many shops, bars, and restaurants.  We did see some real houses on the walk so people do live here.  We ended up at the south end of the island where everything is the “Southernmost”.  Chabad has a presence here and has placed a Menorah at the Southernmost spot – the Southernmost menorah in the US.

Southermost Hotel KW (Small) Southermost Menorah Chabad (Small) 

Chabad Chanukah Sign (Small)

As was the case last cruise, my talk is late afternoon after the early departure.  I take in the other talk: “Science Askew” by Bill Gurstelle (engineer – DYI engineering).  He is a writer (seven books on technology) and contributes to MAKE magazine.  His talk is about Rube Goldberg and others (people who see humor in technology). 

My talk: CSI Phenomenon – Cinema – is attended by about 30 people.  They are enthusiastic and the talk goes well.

Pedometer: 9465 / 4.49 mi / 459 cal/ 2 hr 34 min

Monday, December 20, 2010 – Miami, FL – Partly Cloudy - 70s

Re-embarkation was pretty simple and quick.  Our group of six back to backers (including Steve the comedian and the wife of a crew member) went from the Martini Bar to swipe out, then to Immigration to turn in our declaration, then back to the ship (we already had our new Sea Pass cards) to swipe in and get our pictures taken.  Done and Done.

Had a relaxing lunch while everyone else tried to figure out where everything was.  The best part of back to backing.

Another very picturesque sail away from Miami including a great sunset.

Sunset Sailaway Miami (Small) Sailaway 2 Miami (Small) Sailaway 2 2 Miami (Small) Sailaway 3 Miami (Small)

We are staying at our same table at Flexible Dining for this cruise (worked it out with our Hostess) so we can be assured of good service.  We are already aware of the menu:  Spanish Merluza, Chilean Sea Bass, and Halibut for the fish entrees mixed in with pastas without meat. 

No checking in with Alejandro on the talks.  Both will be in the Cinema on the same days as the first cruise. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010 – At Sea – Caribbean Sea – 78F – Partly Cloudy

A warm and relaxing day at sea. 

I am trying to finish “Book of the Dead” and tuning up my second presentation (“Cold Cases Solved”).  Some changes need to go into the talk since the Daily listed it as “The Science of CSI”.  To make everyone happy, I am putting together a hybrid of the two talks.  The trick is to keep the talk from running long.

At Sea 12-19 (Small)

Glorious Sunrise

Cuba Starboard Side (Small)

Cuba off the Starboard side

IMG_6263 (Small)

My second talk is at 4 PM in the Cinema – a great venue that is difficult to find.  The talk is also scheduled opposite the matinee Holiday Show so seating shouldn’t be an issue.  About 30 - 35 people attended the talk which went well if not a bit long.  The mix of the two talks did not work that well and will be a one time only thing.  I did meet an attorney associated with the New York Innocence Project, Larry Golden.

Dinners on the ship have all been good – menus are identical to what we had recently on the Equinox.

After dinner, we take in Justin Wade in the Cova Cafe.  He is a really good guitarist-vocalist from Forth Worth.  We had a chance to chat with him after his set.

Showtime Tonight: “Liverpool Knights” – a loose musical story set in 1960’s Liverpool.  The songs are a big obscure but they are well performed by the cast of singers and dancers.

Showtime Liverpool Knights (Small)

After the show, we go to Michael’s Club to catch a jam session with Justin and Will, that turned out to be very entertaining.

Tomorrow – re-embarkation.

Saturday, December 18, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico – 81F - Sunny

We are at the International Pier today so we are about three miles from town.  So today, we will walk from the ship toward the town and back.  It is a late departure, so we can relax on a nearly empty ship.

There a four ships here today – the Radiance of the Seas and two Carnival cruisers.

Cozumel 1 (Small)

Cozumel 3 (Small)

 On Deck Cozumel 2 (Small) On Deck Cozumel (Small)   

Century Docked Cozumel (Small)

E on Walk back to Ship Cozumel (Small)  Sunset Cozumel 1 (Small)

We are at our new table for Flexible Dining and we are pleased with our new set up.

The headliner tonight is comedian Steve Caouette from Maine.  He was so funny (especially in his interactions with audience) that we caught both his shows (even though they were very much the same).

In between shows, we listened to Will in Michael’s Club.

Tomorrow: A welcome Sea Day

Pedometer: 10,122 Steps / 4.80 miles / 491 calories / 2 hr 13 min

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010 – Key West, FL – Sunny – 74F

Beautiful Day in Key West, FL after a chilly start.  The ship is docked right near the town.  We are on a tour today, “Discover Key West”, which involves touring the city in a trolley.  The guide was very funny and informative.  Transportation in Key West is unique – besides cars, there are Trolleys, Mini-Trains, and bicycle cabs.  Other folks rent bicycles to see the town.

   Mommie in Key West (Small)

Ellen on the dock in Key West

Touring Key West (Small) Touring Key West 1 (Small)

On our trolley for “Discover Key West”

The Trolley Tour takes us to the four corners of this tiny island and eventually drops off passengers at the Aquarium and Shipwreck Museum.  Not much escorting to be done on this tour.

Only in Key West Bar (Small)


Hemiingway House (Small)

Hemingway House (moved to Key West in 1931)

Cuba Straight Ahead 98 mi (Small)

Southern tip of the Key – Cuba 98 miles ahead

Southernmost Hotel in KW (Small)

Southernmost Hotel in US

Southernmost Pt in US (Small)

Southernmost point in US

Southernmost Menorah in US (Small)

Southernmost Menorah in US

Beginning of US 1 (Small)

This is the end of US 1 (Mile 0), which goes from Key West up the East Coast of the US.

Marilyn at the Crime Scene (Small)

Marilyn in her iconic pose outside a local theater.

Third Oldest Tree in US (Small)

According to our guide, this Banyan Tree is the third oldest tree in the United States.

Audubon House (Small)

James Audubon House

Hard Rock Cafe - Original KW historical house (Small)

The Key West Hard Rock Hotel was at one time owned by one of KW pioneers.

Once the tour was over, I spent a few minutes in the Aquarium.  I was amazed by the bioluminescent jellyfish.

KW Aquarium Fluorscent Jellyfish (Small) 

Key West is a town made up of stores, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.  These are located on the main drag, Duval St. Also found on the streets near the Port at the Key West Museum of Art and History (at the Custom House) are a population of statues.  These statues are arranged in the most amusing poses and scenes.

One particularly amazing installation is “Time for Fun”, two statues approximately 20 ft tall in front of the Museum.

Statues in front of Theater (Small)

We posed with some of the other statues in the museum area.

Sitting with a local (Small) 

Jogging with a local 1 (Small)

Another unusual exhibit is a statue painting a series of statues.  On the porch of the museum is another statue taking a photo of our artist and his models.  Very clever.

Statue painting statues (Small)

It was an early departure from Key West (1:30 PM) and my first talk - “The CSI Phenomenon” is scheduled for 3:30 PM.  It was supposed to be in the Cinema but the venue was commandeered by a large group of self help folks.  I was now in the Hemisphere Lounge on the top deck.  All windows, a makeshift screen, uncomfortable seats.  The slides were impossible to see and the projector went out in the middle of my slides but the 20 people who showed up bravely put up with the suboptimal conditions. 

We are staying with “Flexible Dining” but will switch our seats tomorrow night.

Sunset 12-17 (Small) 

Beautiful Sunset – Gulf of Mexico

Muzemarine Strings (Small)

Before the first show of the cruise we took in the Muzemarine String Quartet (from the Ukraine) in the Cova Cafe.

Tonight’s Show: Touch of Broadway.  A production show featuring the Celebrity Singers and Dancers.  The entertainers are very good but the songs included were not the best (from Cabaret, the Producers).  Numbers from “Hairspray” and a tribute to Queen were more enjoyable.

The engineers are unable to figure out the noise in our room (“steam pipes” they say) but we determined it was air rushing under the door.  Two pillows placed at the base of the door eliminated the noise.

Should be able to get a better nights sleep.

Pedometer:  10,451 steps /4.953 mi/506.8 Cal / 2 hr 38 min.