Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Westbound Panama Canal Cruise – Celebrity Century – Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego – December 19, 2012 – January 3, 2013

December 18, 2012 – Travel Day

Our cab was right on time at 8:00 AM (in fact, the cab arrived much earlier and parked down the street in the complex).

UA238 (Airbus A320) is due to depart gate C17 at 10:16 AM – we received four phone calls and four voice mails indicating gate changes for this flight – talk about information overkill.  We arrived at the airport about 8:40 AM and zipped right through security.  For a holiday travel week, Terminal 1 was not crowded and we walked right up to security.  Through the tunnel to Concourse C and soon we were at C17 (the first gate from the escalator). Our plane was there.

 A320 ready to go (Small)

UAL238 (A320) ready to go

When I printed out my boarding passes in the morning, I noticed that the passes said “Priority Boarding” and wasn’t sure what that meant since we are not UA Elite.  I asked the agent at the desk and she did say we would indeed board ahead of the other passengers.  We boarded and got to our seats – 10B and 10C – and I realized we were in Economy Plus.  These seats are extra cost and I know I didn’t pay for them.  I then figured it out – a few weeks ago, United changed our itinerary (later departure from ORD and earlier departure from FLL).  The early departure would require a dash to the airport from the ship so I complained to United.  In addition, we were not sitting together on the outbound flight.  I was in an Economy Plus seat and Ellen was elsewhere in a sardine seat.  The agent told me my seat was a mistake and wanted to charge me but I wanted to keep my seat and have Ellen sit next to me.  I requested a manager insisting that this was all United’s fault.  The agent disappeared for a few minutes and said the manager had given the OK for us to sit in Economy Plus – good legroom and early boarding.  Thanks, UAL for your scheduling snafu and seat assignment error.

Over Florida (Small)

Over Florida

On Approach to FLL (Small)

Initial Approach into FLL

Final Approach (Small)

Final Approach over the Atlantic Ocean

Final Gllide into FLL (Small)

Final Approach to FLL

The shuttle to the La Quinta in Hollywood, FL was waiting for us at the pickup point and in a few minutes we were at the hotel and checked in.  The grounds are very nice and the hotel is set against a beautiful lake or lagoon.  The temperature was in the mid to high 80s and sunny.  Couldn’t be better weather.

At the La Quinta (Small)

20121218_Poolside at La Quinta (Small)

Top: Ellen and hotel grounds; Bottom: Poolside

Diane and Larry picked us up for dinner at around 6:45 PM and we had dinner at the same Italian Restaurant we went to three years ago when we did another Panama Canal sailing out of Ft Lauderdale (on the Pacific Princess).  It was a great evening – good food –especially the combination cheese cake and brownie dessert - and wine and good conversation.  Very enjoyable.

We got back to the hotel around 9:45 PM.  We read a little to get on local time and then lights out.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012 – New Orleans, LA – Sunny – 70sF

Back in New Orleans…

Breakfast in the buffet this morning.

Walk off was a breeze – probably the easiest disembark yet.  We walked off with Becca and her group since they are giving us a ride to the airport.  In no time,we are at Louis Armstrong International Airport awaiting our flight.  AA3649 is due to depart at 11:00 AM.

 AA3649 Ready to Go (Small)

AA3649 Ready to Go

The flight was smooth and short and soon we were on final approach to O’Hare.

Climbout NO (Small)

Climbout New Orleans

Final Approach ORd (Small)

Final Approach to ORD

Got our luggage, met our cab and soon we were home.

A Wonderful Family Cruise.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 – At Sea – Gulf of Mexico – Cloudy – 77F

A very nice day at sea…

20121124 At Sea (Small)

Our last day of the cruise was spent finding quiet places and relaxing.

One place that almost fit the bill is the area adjacent to the Blue Lagoon.  Until the place is turned into a specialty restaurant at dinner, it is a game area with a nice view of the ocean.  There are also cookies available and iced tea at the Blue Lagoon. 

Noah and a passenger squared off for a game of chess.

20121124 Noah Playing Chess (Small) 

Leo and I threw our money around playing Monopoly.

IMG_20121124_Monopoly w Leo (Small)

In the mid afternoon, we attended the Kid’s Circus in the theater.  Amelia and Macie were in the show.  It looked like they were really having fun.  Although difficult to see, Macie is in the front row center in the picture below.

 20121124 Kids Circus (Small)

Kid’s Circus in the Stardust Theater

Our last dinner on board was once again at the Aqua Dining Room. 

 20121124 Bubbe and Eliana (Small)

Ellen and Eliana are table mates

The show tonight was “Elements” and, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t understand what was going on.  The costumes were great but the music obscure.  Interesting is how I would describe the show.

20121124 Elements Showtime (Small) 20121124 Elements (Small)

Showtime - “Elements”

After the show, we spent some time with Amelia and Leo in the Atrium listening to the trio.

IMG_20121124_Amelia taking in the Trio (Small)

Amelia checking out the music

IMG_20121124_Bubbe w Amelia (Small)

IMG_20121124_Bubbe w Leo (Small)

Ellen and Amelia and Leo

IMG_20121124_Z w L and A (Small)

Nice picture, No?

We are planning to walk off tomorrow and we don’t have much to pack.  It should be easy.

Friday, November 23, 2012 – Cozumel, Mexico – Sunny – 77F

A very pretty day in Cozumel, home to one of the biggest Mexican flags in the country…

Ellen and Cozumel (Small) 

Ellen on deck – Cozumel in background

Not much planned today.  Dova and Danny and their crew are taking a tour of the island by cab.  Ellen is checking out the town with Gary, Becca, and the kids and I am am going to take a long walk to the other pier (the one we usually dock at).  My destination is one of my favorite spas on the island.  At the other pier, the Spa is just minutes away but I have no idea how far it is from the city pier.  It is a fine day to walk and get some exercise.

As we were leaving the pier, another NCL ship was pulling along side the Star – it was our old friend, the NCL Pearl. 

NCL Pearl approaching (Small)

NCL Pearl docking alongside the NCL Star

The walk turned out to be further than I thought.  I was also trying to find some free WiFi to check on some business in progress so at every hotel along the way, I would check for a hotspot.  I eventually found one at a small hotel about halfway to the other pier. 

From the hotel, I could see the ships anchored and docked near the other pier.

other ships at cozumel (Small)

Other ships docked at the non-city pier

There was also a major bike race happening in Cozumel that week so bikes were everywhere and the streets were sectioned off for the race (perhaps it had already taken place).

As I walked along, I was able to get a picture of the NCL Dawn, which bad been shadowing our itinerary.

NCL Dawn anchored in Cozumel (Small) 

NCL Dawn anchored

At about the 6000 step mark I was getting a bit concerned since I had to walk back.  I thought about turning around but decided to go a few more blocks.  As the Spa came into view, I was able to read the sign on the window - “Space for Lease”.  It had closed.  I thought for a moment about walking to the other Spa a few blocks down but perhaps it was also out of business.  I turned around a headed home.

As I got close to the city, I thought it would be interesting to take a side street parallel to the main street.  I was disappointed to find out that there was little to see off the main drag.  Eventually, I reached the end of that street and a group of little shops.  One of them was a beauty salon that also offered some spa treatments.  I spoke to the folks in the place and they seemed nice enough so I tried the massage ($40 for an hour).  The place was clean and quiet, the therapist very nice, professional, and strong, and the massage terrific and relaxing.  Perhaps a new favorite Spa for the next time I get back to Cozumel.

Back on the main street, I headed for the Mall hoping to run into someone from the group.  I did find some WiFi near Starbucks and was also treated to the “Floating Girl”.  The magic was not so much in her apparent levitation but the fact that she could sit so long without moving.

Floating Lady Cozumel (Small)

The Floating Girl of Cozumel

I did meet up with everyone back on the ship.  From the open deck, I was able to get a nice picture of the ships in the distance. I couldn’t believe I had walked that far but my aching feet were evidence.

Mexican Patrol Boat and Cozumel Harbor (Small) 

Mexican Patrol Boat and ships in the distance

Showtime tonight featured a full show of “Shark Bait”.  Again, the music was too noisy but the duo had their moments.  One thing I like about them is that they mess us much of their tricks (maybe on purpose).

Check out the pedometer stats below…something, huh?

Pedometer: 12,928 Steps; 6.13 miles; 633 Calories

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012 – Roatan, Honduras – Sunny – 80F

A totally beautiful day in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras…

Roatin Harbor (Small)Amelia and Roatan (Small)

Breakfast this morning is in the Blue Lagoon.  They do very good omelets and the noise level is minimal.

Bubby and Macie Blue Lagoon (Small)

Ellen and Macie at the Blue Lagoon

Ellen, Dova, Danny and the group are planning to hire a taxi to take them around the island.  I am planning to log some mileage and find WiFi in Coxen Hole, the main city of this small island. 

The ship is docked at the port near the shopping center (there are two cruise ship terminals on the island).   

Welcome to Roatan (Small)

Welcome to the Island

I started my walkabout heading down the main street – Coxen Hole does not have many streets. The town was pretty much unchanged – some small shops, some eateries preparing food on the street – armed guards outside of all of the banks in town. 

The place where I was able to steal some WiFi at our last visit was no longer there and other attempts to get WiFi did not pan out.  It looks like this will be an incommunicado day.

I walked until I ran out of town to see – about 40 minutes of walking.  The walk did feel good.

NCL Star from Coxen Hole (Small)

NCL Star docked in Roatan

NCL from Coxen Hole Lagoon (Small)

NCL Star from the Lagoon in Coxen Hole

Town Square Coxen Hole (Small)

City Square off Main Street

I was headed back to the ship when I noticed the troops in a taxi heading out of Coxen Hole.  I hopped in and soon we were all on a tour of Roatan.  The driver and guide seemed friendly enough – the guide had some kind of tourism badge – seemed legit. 

Our first stop – and one we have seen on many tours – is the scenic lookout showcasing the ship and harbor.  In this case, the photo op was very good with nice views of much of the island.

NCL Star from Viewpoint (Small)

NCL Star from Lookout

Our next stop was a nature facility in the interior of the island.  The roads were not that good but better than some places we have been.  Soon we were at the preserve.  This place had butterflies and various animals to see and touch.  A different guide – from the preserve – took us through the facility.  We were the only visitors there at the time.

Our guide and crew at Animal Park Roatan (Small) 

Our tour guide and the troops at the Preserve

The first place we visited was the butterfly facility.  The screened in area has several butterflies but it was missing the magnificent Blue Morpho – the guide said they did not have any.  There were Tiger and Zebra butterflies and several colorful hummingbirds.  It was still worth seeing.

Hummingbird (Small) 

Hummingbird feeding (Small)

Hummingbirds at the Feeders

Can you spot the butterfly (Small)

Can  you spot the butterfly?

Butterfly (Small)

There he is…

Like the hummingbirds, butterflies were also feeding on the sugar water (below).

Butterfly feeding (Small)

I also got a picture of Leo in the jungle – like a young Tarzan.

Leo in the plants (Small) Mayan water god (Small)

The Mayan God of Water (fish in mouth)

Butterfly venue (Small)

Water feature amid the jungle plants

 Water feature (Small)

View from bottom of Waterfall

Butterfly 1 (Small) 

Another butterfly – not a Monarch but similar

Our next stop in the park was the animal facility.  On the way, we spotted a howler monkey hanging out in the trees (I understand that these monkeys and some of the other animals in the preserve do not really live on Roatan).

Howler Monkey (Small)

Howler Monkey

The Animal Guide showed Amelia and Macie a rather large snake.  Neither of them was afraid of the snake. 

What big snake (Small) Amelia and slimy friend (Small)

Amelia, Macie and the Snake

 Amelia and Parrot (Small) Leo and Parrot (Small)

Amelia and Leo also got a photo op with a parrot

The cat below was described as a baby leopard – I am not so sure based on the eyes and ears of this cat.

Baby Leopard Not (Small)

Baby Leopard - Alleged

White faced monkey (Small)

White Faced Monkey – not a local resident

One of the animals not in the petting category was the Coati – they tend to be aggressive so they are in cages.  We saw a herd of these animals when we were in Panama for our Panama Canal Cruise.  They are members of the raccoon family.

Coatimundi racoon family (Small)

Coati – Close enough for me

The animal below is a Capybara, I believe.  A large member of the Rodent Family.

Capabera (Small)


Kids and Stella (Small) 

Our next stop was the Zip Line station.  Danny was eager to try the zip line through the rainforest canopy so he signed up and we all waited in the courtyard of what appeared to be a home.  There was shade and the grounds were very lush and interesting.

 Signing up for zip line (Small)

Danny signing up for the Zip Line

The zippers are spaced out and sent in groups so the wait for us turned out to be about an hour.  There were semi-comfortable benches and we had our phones for games while we waited.  Macie had her umbrella for the sun and she also wanted to check out my pedometer.  She wore it while running around the grounds so she helped out with my steps for the day.

20121122 Macie and her Umbrella (Small)

Macie protected from the sun

End of the Zip Line (Small)

The grounds and Zip Line Terminus

We got the word from our guide that Danny would be coming through in the next group so we lined up near the chain link fence to try and capture his ride.  It wasn’t perfect but we did document Danny’s Zip through the Belize rain forest.  Showing off, Danny came in upside down. 

Danny zipping by (Small)

Danny Zipping By

We got back to the ship and got ready for dinner in the Aqua Dining Room.  Showtime tonight is a Cirque and Magic Combo Show featuring the magician on earlier and Maria and Dmitri, the dance and acrobatic duo.  Maria is a professional ballerina and Dmitri is just plain strong.  After the show, the kids went out to get a picture with Dmitri and Maria – Maria was busy signing DVDs so Dmitri agreed to get in the picture.  Best part – a sword was involved.

20121122 Kids with Dmitri (Small)

The kids with Dmitri (Leo in Zombie Makeup)

Tonight’s other entertainment was a late night Cabaret Show with the NCL Star Singers in the Spinnaker Lounge.  The show wasn’t mentioned by the Cruise Director during the main show or after the previous show (“The Not So Newlywed Game”) in the Lounge.  This was good because it was sparsely attended and we could get really good seats (alternatively, this type of show may not have appealed to many of the passengers on this cruise).  This show turned out to be the show of the entire cruise.  The singers were fabulous even though the songs were from semi-obscure Broadway and off Broadway shows (I did not recognize any of them but they were all good – e.g. “I Only Have Six Friends”).  I could have listened for another hour. 

20121122 Cabaret 1 (Small) 

20121122 Cabaret 2 (Small)

20121122 Cabaret 5 I only have 6 friends (Small)

Bottom: “I Only Have Six Friends”

Too tired to do anything else.

Pedometer: 6845 steps; 3.24 miles; 335 calories (with a little help from Macie)