Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Partly Cloudy – 81F

Distance from St. Thomas: 1079 Nautical Miles

Home at FLL (Small)

Final Disembarkation Day – End of Cruise 3

The usual drill:

Early breakfast in the Ocean View Cafe (crowded beyond description).  The usual delights are not available: Waffles, sour cream and whipped cream. 

Breakfast went quickly and at about 9:15 AM, we walked off and spent the next 40 minutes going through Immigration.  Our plan was to get tot he airport and see if we could get on an earlier flight – I had called American Airlines earlier and they said both earlier flight were stand by possible (no fee).

Adiios Solstice (Small) 

In cab heading for airport

The Cab ride was indeed $15.00 and only took about 10 minutes.  We signed up for standby on AA 2098 departing for Chicago ORD at 12:00 Noon.  The crowd at FLL was indescribable – no seats available – people sitting on the floor. 

Flight AA2098 (Small)

AA2098 – Our Standby Aircraft

Well, we did get on AA2098 (Aisles 22C, 22D) and I am writing this at 1:20 PM CST.

While the ride was a little bumpy, the bagel and lox we got from the ship were great as were the three week old chips we brought on the way to the cruise.

Landed early…found our luggage.

Got a ride.  What a nice wrap up to a nice and productive cruise.

Saturday, March 3, 2012 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – 80s

It is an absolutely gorgeous day at Sea.

 Sea Day 3-3 (Small) Sea Day 3-3 1 (Small)     

People are on the pool deck early – it is last time on this cruise where you can get an unprotected sunburn before going home.

I essentially have the whole day off since my final presentation is not until 3:15 PM.  It is the longest of the five presentations so I spent a little time consolidating slides to make it run a bit faster.

Dance Lessons 1 (Small)

Celebrity Dancers teaching a class

I arrived at Celebrity Central about 2:45 PM and Nancy Walker was still running her Improv session.  People arriving for my session were going into the theater to get seats and another bunch of passengers were waiting outside until Nancy was done.  When she finished the rest of the folks started coming and coming and coming.  By 3:05 PM, all of the seats were taken. 

Final Talk 1 (Small)

The rest of the folks were standing and sitting on the stairs.  Extra chairs were brought in by some kind of Officer (wore stripes). 

Final Talk (Small)

The room was very hot and the officer also tried to turn on the AC (never actually went on).  By 3:15 PM, the session was Super SRO at 215 Plus.  The largest crowd of the entire 21 day cruise.  I got a very nice long and loud round of applause from the passengers.  A good wrap to a successful Beyond the Podium Series.

More time in the Solarium and then to hear Top Notch.

Our last dinner was OK – pasta with pesto.

Sunset and Fellow Traveler (Small)

Last Sunset of the Cruise

We caught some of the Farewell show.  Important note:  I managed to get into all three of the Cruise in Review Videos (as did Melinda and Nancy) – a first for any speaker on all our previous cruises on various lines.  “Beyond the Podium” goes mainstream (at least on the Solstice).

Ellen did her magic with the packing.  We are going to carry our bags off mid morning.

Tried to check in with Esperanza but she was unavailable.  We did hear from Ashley that Esperanza might be transferring to the Celebrity Reflection.  That would be cool.

Big day tomorrow – going home.

Thursday, March 1, 2012 – Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas USVI – Mostly Sunny – 84F

Distance from St. Maarten to Charlotte Amalie: 86 Nautical Miles

Beautiful, if not warm, day in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  We are docked in front of our sister ship, the Celebrity Silhouette.  At Crown Point Harbor, the Ruby Princess is docked and visible from the top decks of the Solstice.

We are heading into town again to take care of some jewelry business.  The big problem again is the lack of shade from the port to the town.  To deal somewhat with this issue, we made a slight detour away from the waterfront looking for shade from the buildings.

This took us to a new area with some new sights including a Veteran’s Memorial Park named from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 FDR Park (Small)

FDR Park

Making our way through some residential streets, we noticed that not all Islanders obey parking regulations.  Check out the car and the parking sign below. (The ghostly image in the center of the picture is a smudge on the lens).

Read the sign (Small)

We also came across a plaque indicating the Oldest Structure in the city – built in 1831.  Charlotte Amalie is very interesting to walk through laced with very narrow alley ways lined with shops and bars.

The Old Bldg 1831 (Small)

The Oldest Building – 1831

On our way back to the ship, I took this picture of the twin ships, the Solstice and Silhouette in Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

Solstice and Silhouette (Small) 

We did make it back to the ship – drenched with sweat and a bit tired.  We had lunch in the Aqua Spa cafe (fresh grilled Salmon on a bun or salad).  I took the picture below from Deck 12 of all the yachts and pleasure boats docked at the nearby marina.

Charlotte Amelie Bay (Small)

Yachts parked at the Marina

We did have phone signal (you had to pick T-Mobile from a choice of three providers) and I was also able to pick up someone’s unsecured WiFi.  E-mail checked, stock market checked, and some lecture material checked.  Thank you “cisco”.  We spent the afternoon on Deck 5 Starboard.

My third talk - “DNA Testing: The Mystery of the Romanovs” - is scheduled for 4:30 PM today – coinciding with the all aboard time.  I am assuming that people will be tired and many of them may not be attending this late port day talk.  I arrived at Celebrity Central at 4:00 PM and was met by some passengers who said there was a movie going on in the theater.  I checked with AV and they said the movie was two hours long and would end at 4:28 PM – pretty tight.  Some of my attendees went in to get seats but the vast majority formed a line – 3 deep or so – that stretched from the theater through the Entertainment Court to the shop area.  I wish I had my camera. 

The AV tech cut the film at the credits and I set up in five minutes.  It was a full crowd, a nice attendance for a tiring port day.  I estimate that about 180 – 190 people attended.  The talk went well.

We spent the evening listening to Bonita and Top Notch in the Grand Foyer.  She did “Don’t Cry for me, Argentina” again and again it was terrific. 

Pedometer: 10,776 steps; 5.1 miles; 527 calories

Friday, March 2, 2012 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Party Cloudy – 80s

A super beautiful day at sea – warm – no wind…

 Day at Sea 3-2 (Small)  

We should be able to get some well deserved deck time today.

The breakfasts continue to be consistent and good (waffles,etc) in the Ocean View Cafe.

I have an 11:30 AM Chat scheduled in Passport Bar.  I would have missed this entirely had Ellen not ready the Daily carefully.  I wasn’t sure they would be a chat session on this particular cruise.  About twenty very interested passengers showed up and we held the session in the round.  Some very good comments and questions and the feedback on the presentations was very positive.

I asked the passengers if they knew there was a brunch today in the Grand Epernay Dining Room and most did not.  I told them they shouldn’t miss it so the session ended just after Noon.

We went to the brunch and I had a very nice Greek Omelet among other things.  Did not eat as much as last time.

After brunch, sat out on the open deck until I needed to get ready for my next presentation.

Relaxing on deck (Small)

Relaxing on Deck 5

My fourth presentation was scheduled at 3:00 PM (“Life and Death of King Tutankhamen”).  The crowd starting piling in during the previous presentation and by the time I began, the crowd was “Super SRO.  Extra seats were brought in – people on the stairs and on cabinets in the room.  I would estimate that there were over 210 people present – largest crowd in so far on our triple cruise.

Afterwards, we were back on Deck 5 because it was simply beautiful out there – warm, still air, and just the waves making any noise. 

Sunset 3-2 (Small)


On the deck after sunset (Small) 

In the gloaming

We stayed past our usual time and got to dinner a little late.  NOTE:  We have worked out a deal with one of the manager types in the Cafe to bring us a different vegetarian soup each night.  Tonight is was Split Pea (all of the soups have been good).

We went to the late show of “Pulse” at 9:00 PM after doing some reading.  I am now reading “Mystery” by Jonathan Kellerman. I think Alex Delaware’s character is surpassed by the wit and humor of his buddy, Lt. Otis Sturgis.

We decided not to take either an excursion during debark day or the ship’s transfers ($18.50 pp). Instead, we will talk off sometime before 10 AM and grab a cab ($15.00) to the airport.

Both of us are tired from not doing much all day…

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 – Philipsburg, St. Maarten – Mostly Sunny – 82F

Distance from San Juan, Puerto Rico to St. Maarten: 110 Nautical Miles

A beautiful day in St. Maarten.  Late last evening, at the last minute (after the Daily had been published), the ship got word that it would be docked at Philipsburg and not anchored. 

After breakfast, I watched the sail in and docking from the open deck.

 Approaching St Maarten (Small)

Approaching St. Maarten

We may be last ship to come in this morning because it looks like several cruisers are already there.

Sailing friends already there (Small) Guiding us in (Small)

Some locals provide an escort

The big picture 5 ships (Small)

Approaching the port at Philipsburg

It is pretty easy to pick out the monster ship in the port, the Oasis of the Seas.  Along with the Oasis OTS, docked are the Ruby Princess, Carnival Dream, Mein Schiff 2, and the Thompson Freedom. 

5 ships (Small) 

Final Approach (Small)

Lining up the final approach

Philipsburg (Small)

Philipsburg in the distance

Ready to dock (Small) Across from the Ruby Princess (Small)

Docking alongside the Ruby Princess

We disembark and make our way through a virtual canyon of ship, which provide some important shade from a hot son.

Canyon of Ships (Small)

Since we docked, we have two options for getting to the city.  We first check out the water taxi and the lines to get tickets are enormous. We could take a taxi but the walk is supposed to be only 10 –15 minutes so we head out for the city.  It is not a long walk but shade is scarce and it is already getting warm.

The walk turned out to be about 10 minutes and we ended up where the stores and beach start.  We walked most of the town collecting goodies from several of the jewelry stores including a free beer and diet coke. 

The walk back did not seem as far and soon we, and a few thousand close cruiser friends were back in the canyon.  This time, there was no shade so we made a dash for the ship.

Lot of passengers and ships (Small)

Ellen and friends back at the port

After tuna sandwiches in the cafe, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the open deck (very mild).

All of the ships at St. Maarten were scheduled to depart at about the same time.  I caught the Ruby Princess departing from the open deck.

Philipsburg at night (Small)

Philipsburg at night

Ruby Princess departing St Maarten (Small)

Ruby Princess departing

We had a nice dinner (pasta and veggie soup) in the Cafe and then saw “Ghostlight – the Spirit of Broadway” for the third time.  The songs from Wicked never get old.

We listened to Ray Brown Jr. in the Grand Foyer and then called it a day.

Seas are expected to be smooth.

Pedometer: 10,805 steps; 5.12 miles; 529 calories

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – San Juan, Puerto Rico – Partly Cloudy – 79F

Distance from Ft. Lauderdale to San Juan, Puerto Rico: 920 Nautical Miles

Before we get to San Juan, I am scheduled for my second presentation - “Cold Cases Solved” (10 AM).  I arrived about a half hour early and there were about 20 waiting for me.  The AV Tech didn’t get there for another 15 minutes so I chatted with some of the early birds.  The talk was very well attended – SRO plus many people sitting on the stairs.  This may have been the largest crowd yet – 200 plus.  Maybe one person left early and the applause at the end was loud and long.  Lots of positive feedback from both the audience and entertainment staff. 

We went to the Grand Epernay Dining Room for lunch (Tuna melt Panini) which took a little time but was pretty good.

]We were at lunch for the last sail in to San Juan but this time we were on the open deck to get a great view of the approach to San Juan.

Nearing Puerto Rico (Small)

Nearing San Juan (Starboard Side)

Nearing Puerto Rico 1 (Small)

Nearing San Juan (Port Side)

Nearing Puerto Rico 2 (Small) 

Fort San Felipe del Morro in the distance

Fort San Felipe Del Morro 1 (Small) 

Fort San Felipe Del Morro

Fort San Felipe Del Morro 4 (Small)

Fort San Felipe Del Morro (side view)

Sea fortification (Small) Sea fortification 2 (Small)

Additional Fortifications along the sea (pictures above)

Port in Sight Eurodam (Small) Port in Sight Eurodam 1 (Small)

Approaching the port of San Juan (two above)

Captain Gerry waving (Small)

Captain Gerry waves to us from the Crows Nest

Our plan today is simple – find a bank and get some cash and then gets some steps in walking the streets of Old San Juan.  Our first stop – as usual – is the statue of Cristobal Colon.  I was able to get a much better shot this time and even posed with the First Admiral (a great new addition to my talk on Columbus.

Cristobal Colon (Small) Cristobal Colon 1 (Small) Cristobal Colon and me (Small) 

Cristobal Colon Statue Relief (Small) 

Relief on Statue of Cristobal Colon

We continued our walk though Old San Juan, checking out the stores and various examples of colonial architecture.  We headed in a different direction that our last visit.  This took us to new places (at least for this trip) like the Plaza de Armas, complete with fountain and interesting sculptures.

Plaza de Armas (Small)

Fountain at the Plaza de Armas

Local Plaza de Armas (Small) Local Plaza de Armas 1 (Small)

Ellen posed with a local (statue) complete with a pigeon (also a statue) in the Plaza.  There were lots of actual pigeons as well.

Esperanza apparently runs a cafe on the side (joke…).

Cafe Esperanza (Small)

A little bit of a climb took us to an area we had visited before.  One of the other times we were here, we chatted with an artist, who was renovating his studio.  Today, we went for the view (below).

View from Fortification (Small)

A little park in the same area contained statues of strange animals – don’t know what they are but there are interesting (below).

Statue of X (Small) Statue of Y (Small)

The street just down from the animal statues looked like a rainforest complete with plush trees.

Residential Street Old San Juan (Small)

We eventually ran into another interesting statue commemorating the establishment of San Juan in 1524.  I am not sure about the symbolism (the Catholic Church is represented) but the work is fascinating (below).

Staue San Juan Dedication (Small)

After dinner in the Cafe (the sir was really good but a tad spicy), we caught Adam Trent’s show.  From the description in the Program, we thought it might be different but it was the show we last week.  I did get a better angle on his “angular man” trick (the legs appear fake and he may have hidden his legs behind the apparatus). 

Incredible twisting man pt 2 (Small)

In any event, he did his Metamorphosis Illusion again and his card tricks are great.  We may have figured out one of his tricks – he has an envelope with pictures and sheets with writing on it and he asked the audience to shout out a favorite breakfast cereal.  In both shows, the cereal was “Lucky Charms”.  Do I smell a plant in the audience?

We sat out of the deck after the show and watched the sail away (10 PM).

San Juan Sail Away Ft. San Feliipe (Small) 

Sail Away – San Juan

Seas are smooth – hope to get some sleep.

Pedometer: 9029 steps; 4.28 miles; 442 calories