Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013 – San Diego, CA – Sunny – 70F

Distance from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego: 745 Nautical Miles

Total Voyage: 4496 Nautical Miles

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After 15 days, we have arrived in San Diego, CA.

Some unfinished business.  Ellen got a beautiful rose at the Captain’s Table and I wanted a picture of it – since you can’t take plants off the ship.

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Captain’s Table Rose

It was difficult to take any good pictures of San Diego because all of the decks were closed.

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San Diego, California

We hung around the Cova Cafe since that was the exit point for debarkation.  Sometime around 10 AM, people started moving so we merged into that line – a final hug from Jamie and we were on our way off the ship.  We went through immigration in no time – we may have been the first people through – and soon we were sitting on our airport bus.

The bus did not leave until about 10:30 AM but the ride to the airport was very short.  While I waited for the bags to come off the bus, Ellen was at the United desk trying to figure out our flights and get us some seats for the first leg.  When I got to the deck, another option surfaced – connecting in Houston and then on to Chicago.  The problem was seats – no two together.  My only comment - “Unacceptable”.  I told the agent we were in this situation because UAL changed our itinerary – I told he should comp us some “Economy Plus Seats” (Ellen wanted Business Class).  They were all gone.  After about a thousand key strokes later he asked us if Exit Row Aisle and Middle would be OK.  Sold.

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SAN used to “Lindbergh Field” – Makes Sense

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UA920 – Airbus A320 – ready to go

UA920 left San Diego pretty much on time at 11:31 AM (so no wait at the airport).  The flight was smooth and we had brought food on board so we had lunch.  It landed right on time at around 4:30 PM.  The only issue - the passenger in the window seat wanted her window closed all the time – she was an instant sleeper.  I like to be able to look out once in a while.

UA1172 was scheduled to depart at 6:11 PM.  While the gate was the last one, it was at least in the same terminal.  We got there in plenty of time.

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UA1172 – 737-900 – Ready to go

We are in “sardine seats” on this flight – cannot even cross my legs.  We spent an awful long time taxing and waiting prior to take off.  When the pilot came on, he said the long taxi would have us into Chicago a little late – about half past the hour – 9:30 PM or about 40 minutes late – he said he would try to make up lost time in the air.  Still not in the middle of the night.

The flight was relatively smooth and I might have set a first by not taking one washroom break for the entire flight.  I checked my watch at about 8:00 PM and figured we still had about another 90 minutes or so left.  However, I could feel the plan descending – perhaps a new cruising altitude.  The pilot then came on and said we were in our initial descent into ORD and would be landing in about 20 minutes – what?

The plane landed at 8:30 PM about 20 minutes early.  Must have kicked in the warp engines.  Our bags made it too.

A chilly wait for our cab – this cab featured a lit sign with our name on it – first time I had ever seen that.

Finally home and a a fairly decent time.

An OK finish to a wonderful cruise

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Sunny – Cool – 60sF

Still sunny but getting cooler as we head north to San Diego.

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At Sea – Pacific Ocean

There are still people out on the pool deck but now they are wearing jackets.  Anything to get a little more sun exposure.

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Pool Deck

After breakfast, we spent more of our time in the lounges – a little cool outside.

My final talk - “Identifying the Famous and Infamous” is scheduled for 3:00 PM in the Theater.  We found out that there is no rehearsal this afternoon so I don’t have to rush out right after the talk. 

Although the crowd was probably the same, the audience felt a bit smaller.  Perhaps folks were tired and/or packing.  Probably just a perception rather than a fact.  The talk itself went very well – at the end I had a slide showing a clip from every talk in the series.  I always try to include a picture of the ship (one from the tender ride in Cabo) as part of that collage.  A warm round of applause, a few thank you handshakes, and this series is a wrap.  Probably, the most successful series of talks yet.  Ellen snapped a lot of pictures of this last talk. 

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The Final Talk

We ran into a little problem with debarkation – we had hoped to walk off with our bags just after arrival so we could make our 10:39 AM non-stop flight.  We found out that all non-nationals must be cleared first before US Citizens can leave the ship.  This would take until about 9:15 AM. and there was no walk off at this port.  Guest services let us use their SAT phone to contact United Airlines (who got us into this mess by changing the departure from 11:45 to 10:39 AM).  We set up a new flight that left around 1 PM and connected in SFO.  We would get home about five hours later than we would have at near 10 PM. 

Dinner was off the Vegetarian Menu.  Not as tasty as the first night but OK.

The show tonight was a combo show featuring Bruce Smirnoff and Antonio Solchi.  It was entertaining. 

A little time in the lounges and then back to the room to get our suitcases ready for the hall.  The good news is that Jamie was able to arrange transport for us to the airport.  The Entertainment Department has been terrific this entire cruise.

Bags in the hall before 11:00 PM.

Tomorrow, we will be in San Diego.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Partly Cloudy - 73F

Distance from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas: 295 Nautical Miles

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Another short day in Cabo San Lucas – In addition, my seventh talk is scheduled just as we push at 3:00 PM.  The ship is anchored so we need to get an early tender and then get back by about 2:00 PM so I can get ready for the talk.

There are great views of Cabo from the deck of the Century.

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A Century Lifeboat running Tender Duty

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On the tender (A Cabo Tender)

The famed rock formation, Los Arcos, was visible from the ship – the closest we have been in our two trips here.

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Moving on the tender

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The tender port was in the center of all of the shops and vendors.  It was a short walk to the larger shops.  The harbor area was loaded with pelicans but I shot this one because he had a white head (the others were brown).

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Just beyond the port area is an interesting statue of a swordfish.  A good landmark to get you back to the tender port.

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As always, we are on the search for WiFi.  We found it this time at a McDonalds about 20 minutes away from the tender port.  Locals told us it might be closed but when we got there, it was open and full of customers.  I had a “Cono” for 90 cents and the WiFi was free and fast. 

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On WiFi

The restaurant was hosting a birthday party while we were there.

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Birthday at Cabo San Lucas McDs

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Senor Ronald McDonald

Walking back to the tender port, we actually bumped into a health spa offering an hour massage for $20 – the lowest world wide price yet encountered.  The place was quiet, clean, and terrific.

We found our way back to the tender port and headed back to the ship around 1:30 PM.  Got some great views of the ship on the tender ride back.

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The picture below was strange because the ship is in focus and the water is not.  It looks like the ship is in a light fog.

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I couldn’t resist taking some more pictures of the Los Arcos rock formation.

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The Carnival Splendor was also anchored in the harbor adding about another 2000 people to the crowds in Cabo.

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Cabo beach and parasailor

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Quiet time in the Rendezvous Lounge

I got to the theater a little early to set up – I had a chance to watch Jamie teaching some passengers the “Thriller” dance (they are going to do a flash mob dance on the last sea day).  They were pretty good.

My talk (“Genetic Eyewitness”)– though scheduled in the afternoon on a busy and short port day – still drew a nice crowd in the theater.  I don’t give this talk very often on ships but it still came off OK and drew some interesting questions afterwards.

At dinner, we asked our waiters about the Vegetarian Menu.  It turns out that this ship has such a menu and some of the items are not on the regular menu as veggie entrees.  We ordered off this menu and the items were very good.

After dinner, we caught Bruce Smirnoff, a very funny comedian.  We had never seen him before – a comedian was very welcome.

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Bruce Smirnoff

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A visit to the various lounges completed the day.

Pedometer: 7152 steps; 3.39 miles; 350 calories

Monday, December 31, 2012 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Partly Cloudy – 81F

Distance from Puerto Quetzal to Puerto Vallarta: 1016 Nautical Miles

We have a short day in Puerto Vallarta so we will walk around the area and search for WiFi and maybe a health spa.  The ship is docked right in the city with both a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club a few blocks from the pier.  There is also the Vallarta Mall, which is just like all of the big malls at home.

We began our walk in a direction away from the mall and toward the hotel zone.  The main street - which runs along the water - the Malecon, is in this direction.

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Locals (short ones at that) welcome us to Puerto Vallarta

We picked up an unsecured WiFi signal coming from a very nice hotel – the Hacienda – and sat in their lobby and checked e-mails.  While we were there, we got a Skype call from Noah, Ari, and Eliana (they dialed it up themselves).  The connection was so fast that Skype actually worked – it has never worked before on my phone.

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Lobby of the Hacienda Hotel

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Stone heads lining entrance to Hotel

The Malecon was still a couple of miles away so we decided to head back to the Vallarta Mall.  As we got closer, it was as if we were back home – standing before a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club back to back – parking lots full as expected.

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Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart Stores

It was tempting to go into the stores to see just how similar they are to US versions but we headed to the Vallarta Mall.  The mall was very nice with upscale stores – they even had a spa offering massages but the prices were not competitive.

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Vallarta Mall, Puerto Vallarta

From the front steps of the mall, we got a great view of the Celebrity Century.

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As we walked away from the Mall, the neighborhood turned into more of a local residential area.  One interesting site was the bullfighting stadium.  It looked like it was still in use.

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Good luck, El Toro

On our way back to the ship, we passed the local vendors.  Also there and only a short distance from the ship was a spa offering massages for $30.  Can’t pass up such a opportunity.  Great service including hot stones and hot towels.  While hovering between sleep and wakefulness, I remembered not calling in our RSVP for the Captain’s Table.  Once done, I ran to the ship and called in the RSVP (it was due at 11:00 AM and it was now 12:30 PM).  The woman handling the dinner was happy to hear from me and said it was no problem and she would see us tonight.  There was also a voice message from her at 11:08 asking us about the dinner.  Nice to be wanted.

The open deck afforded some great views of Puerto Vallarta (below).

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Puerto Vallarta from the Century

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the deck and watched the scenic sail away (not many sail aways during daylight hours).

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Top 3: Puerto Vallarta Sail Away; bottom: Our view of the Sail Away

At 5:45 PM, we went to the Rendezvous Lounge to meet up with the rest of the Captain’s Table guest.  A section with “Reserved” signs was set up for us.  I was able to procure a nice jacket from Tenisha in the Dining Room so I was all set.  The other guests soon arrived along with a bar waiter – on the house so we ordered a Mojito and a White Russian.  Galyna, our hostess, appeared around 6 PM and led us to the far rear of the Dining Room.  There were a total of 6 couples including the Staff Captain, Georgios Tsilouchas, and his fiancĂ©e, Nicole.

We found out that it is quite the coup to be invited to the Captain’s table – it is done just once a cruise.  I think we got an invite because my presentation series was popular with the passengers (including Nicole who attended most of them).  Many of the passengers recognized me and a lot of the chat around the table had to do with the talks.  The Staff Captain was a terrific host.

The food was great (Ahi Tuna Steak), the wine was great, and Baked Alaska was served for dessert.  It was a terrific evening all around.

It was also captured on “film”.

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At the Captain’s Table

One of the guests was celebrating a birthday.  I took a picture of them with the Captain and will send it to them via e-mail.

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A photographer on the upper level of the Dining Room got a very nice group picture commemorating the occasion (delivered to our room later in the cruise).


Soon, the evening was over – totally great – soup to nuts.

Showtime tonight was “A Touch of Broadway”.  We had seen this show before (even on the Century).  Lots of high energy singing and dancing.

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Above: “You Can’t Stop the Beat”

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At 11:15 PM we went up on the pool deck to join the New Year’s Eve Party.  The band was playing and the crowd was already a bit juiced.  A 2012 Ice Sculpture was placed near the pool.  John Grantham had joined the band and was playing the guitar and singing.

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2012 Ice Sculpture

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John and the Carousel Band

A “Times Square Ball” was lowered from the top of the radar bridge as the countdown began.  We made it all the way to midnight at which time the “2” on 2012 was smashed and a new “3” joined the ice sculpture. 

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Happy 2013   

A great day in Puerto Vallarta.