Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 – San Juan, Puerto Rico – Partly Cloudy – 79F

Happy Valentine’s Day

Distance from Ft. Lauderdale: 920 Nautical Miles

We don’t get to San Juan until 2:00 PM this afternoon.

The seas were a bit bumpy last night so I did not get too much sleep after 3 AM.  I also used my phone as an alarm for the first time.  It is better than a phone call.  The ocean was still a bit rough when I got up as evidenced by the spray shot from our porthole.

At Sea 2-14 (Small)

Conditions improved throughout the day leading to a beautiful day at sea.

At Sea 2-14 1 (Small)

A quick waffle based breakfast in the Ocean View Cafe and I spent a few minutes doing a last minute tune-up on my talk.

Esperanza has scheduled talks from both speakers this morning. I got the luck of the draw since I have the second slot at 10:00 AM.

Because this is a port day, attendance tends to be lower (people getting ready for their tours, etc.).  The topic today is “Cold Cases Solved” and I did get a good crowd – estimated at about 180 people – a few empty seats here and there.  I was pleased with the outcome and the audience seemed to enjoy the presentation.

After the talk, I wandered around the ship and wound up on the lawn deck.

The Lawn Deck (Small)

It seems like they have found ways to keep the grass in good shape.  I would have stay up there longer but the winds were at least tropical storm force.  I did go over to the Corning Glass Show, which was just finishing up.

Corning Glass Show 1 (Small)

We had lunch with Melinda and her friend, Nancy, in the Grand Epernay Restaurant.  The Panini Tuna Melt was pretty good and the conversation very pleasant.  It was very nice.

The Solstice is docked right in the middle of Old Town (kind of a misnomer since so many new stores now line the waterfront).  The HAL Eurodam is also in San Juan today.

Solstice SJ 2 (Small)

Solstice Docked in San Juan

We have T-Mobile phone service in San Juan so were able to catch up with everyone back home.

Our plan was to walk around Old San Juan.  Our walk took us to the Fortaleza – one of the two forts built to project the city from attack from the sea. I got some great shots of the fort and the sea.

View from Fortaleza 1 (Small)

View from Fortaleza (Small)

View from Fortaleza 3 (Small)

Sometimes, it is difficult to see your cell phone screen; that is when a turret on a fort comes in handy

E mailing in turret (Small)

E at Fortaleza (Small)

Chatting with folks back home

If it had been a bit cooler, we would have walked to the other fort.  Instead, we meandered the interesting streets of Old San Juan on a route that would take us back to the ship.

E Old San Juan (Small)H Old San Juan (Small)

The Solstice can be seen in the background of the above photos.

As we headed back to the port, we ran into the Chabad Welcome Center (the actual Chabad location is 20 miles away).  They gave me a cold bottle of water and a kosher chocolate (both hit the spot).

Chabad SJ (Small)  

Chabad Welcome Center

Back at the port, we finally found someone to take our picture.

San Jiuan Port (Small)

Back on ship, there was time for reading and relaxing on the open deck. 

I had stir fry for dinner in the Ocean View Cafe – it was very good and demands repeating.

Showtime tonight featured magician (and wannabe comedian) Jason Bishop.  Jason had no magician air about him (a la David Copperfield) but he did one trick that actually blew me away.  The Chinese Box trick involved placing his very flexible assistant in a rectangular box made up of individual removable square sides. He then took sides away so she was in a one foot square box.  He then took away all of the squares and --- poof and she was gone.  The box was completely open including the bottom and I could not see where she might have gone (we were real close).  He put the squares back together and she reappeared in the box.  He used no curtains, bright explosions, or any other diversion in the trick.  Still trying to figure it our.  If he is here on the next cruise, we will sit even closer.

Jason Bishop Magician (Small) 

Jason Bishop and his elastic Assistant

We spent the rest of the evening listening to “Top Notch” – the dance band.  They are quite good and did a set of Valentine’s day songs.

Top Notch Valentines Day (Small)   

Top Notch in the Grand Foyer

Seas are calm…

Pedometer: 7666 steps; 3.6 miles; 375 calories

Monday, February 13, 2012 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Mostly Cloudy – 60s

The seas were smooth last night but I could have slept a bit better – the room was pitch black (I need a little light).

Wake up call at 6:45AM.  Ellen went to exercise class and I went to the Ocean View Cafe.  I found my ideal breakfast – waffles with cottage cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, and blueberry topping.  I also like the coffee in the new paper cups.  Peaceful breakfast.

Spent the morning in the Solarium until the noise became too much so we headed for the Sky Lounge, which was quiet and perfect for reading.

At Sea 2-13 3 (Small)

Kindling in the Sky Lounge

At Sea 2-13 1 (Small)

View from Sky Lounge

  At Sea 2-13 2 (Small)

View from Sky Lounge plus feet

Had a nice lunch in the Ocean View Cafe – salads (tuna, three bean, and macaroni salad).

My first talk - “The CSI Phenomenon” was scheduled for 1:15 PM in Celebrity Central.  Celebrity Central has 187 seats.  There were some early attendees but the place was SRO by the start of the talk – extra chairs were brought in.  We estimated the crowd at about 200 – Full and more.  Enthusiastic and energetic audience. More than 90 percent of the attendees were regular fans of the CSI type shows.  All ages were represented in the audience.

We stayed for Melinda Bates – former White House Activities Director (Clinton Administration).  She’s a very good speaker and has some interesting vintage photos.

The afternoon consisted of walking the decks and some reading.

Dinner was up in the Ocean View Cafe – another pasta and salad evening.  The pasta was very good tonight as were the three bean salad and macaroni salad (same items from lunch).

We are not going to attend “Solstice the Show” since we have seen it many times before.  Instead we listed to the Ray Brown Jr. Jazz Group in the Ensemble Lounge – pretty relaxing music for the most part.  I have started the “Solomon Key” novel on my Kindle App. 

The rest of the evening was spent looking for a quiet place to site and read.

Tomorrow – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Pedometer: 8664 steps; 4.1 miles; 424 calories

Friday, February 10, 2012

Triple Caribbean Cruise – Celebrity Solstice – February 12 – March 4, 2012

February 10, 2012 – Travel Day

Our cab picked us up right on time and we arrived at O’Hare about an hour before flight time. 

We are at Gate K18 awaiting boarding for AA569 (Boeing 737-800) to Fort Lauderdale.  The area is expecting snow later this afternoon but we should be getting out before all that happens.  Right now it is cloudy and relatively mild (mid 30s),  Our flight is on time and the aircraft is parked at the gate.

Flight 569 ORD to FLL (Small) 

This triple cruise consists of two Eastern Caribbean Cruises sandwiched around a Western Caribbean Cruise.  There are plenty of sea days for relaxation and I will probably only have to do three presentations at the most (based on sea days).  Should be a cruise for taking it easy and warm weather.

Our flight departed a few minutes early – I was unable to get any pictures of the climb out because a) I am sitting on the aisle of a three seat configuration and b) some people feel a camera is a transmitting electronic device (I wish).

The flight has been bumpy so far as the aircraft is at 33,000 feet and right at the cloud tops;  it seems to be smoothing out as the cloud later is beneath us now.  The seat belt sign just went off.

Packed our lunch today (tuna pitas for me and PB and J pitas for Ellen.

This aircraft has WiFi on board and I can get 30 minutes for free so I think I will post this entry now and continue later on.

The flight landed a little early but we had a gate.  A mere 40 minutes later, the shuttle from the Days Inn Airport North arrived to take us to the hotel (about 8 miles away).

There are a lot of cruise folks here. There is a Princess Ship here that is leaving today and the Carnival Liberty leaving tomorrow.

We are in Room 407…

Room 407 Days Inn FLL North (Small)

Not a bad room but it does have an external door and a non-functional safe (fixed later).  The bed is large but I feel the room will be noisy (a train runs by every so often).  The room looks out over the pool area and the jungle beyond.

View from Room 407 (Small)

We walked about a half mile to Denny’s for dinner.  The dinner received mixed reviews but we did get a discount so that helped balance the quality and quantity of the food (at least mine).

There is a lot of water in the area – e.g. the canal below.

 Canal near Hotel (Small) 

We are back in the room now just relaxing – good to get my shoes off.

We hope to walk around the area tomorrow but, at first glance, there many not be that much to see.