Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sunday, February 24, 2013 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Sunny, Warm – 88F

Distance from Charlotte Amalie to Ft. Lauderdale, FL: 984 Nautical Miles

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We are back in Ft. Lauderdale.  I was up early enough to catch a beautiful Florida Sunrise.

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Above (3) – Sunrise; Port Everglades; Someone going home

Our tour group was scheduled to meet at 8:45 AM.  By the time we left the ship, got through immigration, and got onto our bus, it was about 10:00 AM.  The bus took us to the

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which is run by the Hollywood FL Parks and Recreation Department.  The building had free WiFi, cold water, and snacks (various chips).  You could either stay there all day or walk along the main drag in Hollywood FL or the boardwalk and beach.  We also got a day pass for the “hop on hop off” trolley that takes you from one end of the main street to the other and also into the Hollywood Historic District and City Center.

We took the Trolley (actually a bus) to the City Center – a lot of stores were closed but several restaurants were open.  The food was pricey so we continued to look for a nice place for lunch.  We essentially walked the whole town – not that much to see.  I did get a nice shot of a Texas sized ring in Florida.

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A million carat ring

We returned to the trolley drop off and started back to the Cruise Center.  We got off a few blocks before because we spotted several nice restaurants along the Intracoastal Waterway.  Maybe a nice fish lunch or something along those lines plus a view. 

We decided to have lunch at DiGiorgio’s Restaurant and Bakery.  The hostess and staff were friendly and we got a nice table on the back balcony facing the waterway.

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View from DiGiorgio’s

We both ordered Tuna Salad Sandwiches – these were very unusual sandwiches – tuna salad plus feta cheese plus grilled onions and balsamic vinegar.  I like all those things but I’ve never seen them on a sandwich together.  Ellen had all those other items on the side.  The sandwich was great – all those flavors and textures playing a role.  We had half the sandwiches wrapped up for dinner at the airport.

We walked a few blocks (more than we thought) to the Center and then headed briefly for the beach – it was in the high 80s and very sunny.  The boardwalk was wall to wall eateries and bars and the beach was packed. 

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Ellen and Mermaid on Hollywood FL Boardwalk

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Hollywood FL Beach

Beach volleyball was being played by women – not quite Misty May caliber but they looked like pros.

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There were some pros on the beach and they were playing “Foot Volley” – a made up game that is volleyball using your feet.  There was a match going on at a stadium just down from the Cruise Center and it was free.  Before we returned to the Center, we caught some of the action – it was a bit bogus since the guys were using their feet while the girls played standard volleyball.  How do you make a “kill” with your feet?  Anyway, the girls were from Brazil and professionals so I took some pictures.

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Foot Volley Match

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Beach from Cruise Center

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Center munching on chips and drinking ice water.  The Cruise Center is a good idea and we will do it again if we run into this type of schedule in the future.

Our bus was due to depart for FLL at 4:00 PM and that it did.  The ride to the airport was relatively quick.  Checking our bags at the AA Kiosk was easy – there was no line in Security – and soon we were at Gate E2 waiting to go home.  The 90 minutes at the airport was spent reading or surfing – free WiFi (heads up O’Hare).  About 6 PM he had the rest of our sandwiches along with our $2.29 Airport Diet Coke.

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AA1110 Ready to go

We boarded right on time at 6:50 PM and pushed on time at 7:45 PM after a flurry of gate checking of bags (some of these carry on bags wouldn’t fit even if there were room).  The flight was bumpy as we flew across north Florida but pretty smooth and clear the rest of the way.  Pastries from the ship and coffee were perfect snacks for the short flight.  We landed about 10 minutes early even though we had unfavorable winds. 

Both our bags and the cab came quickly and soon we were home.

A short but fun (and warm) Caribbean Cruise…

Saturday, February 23, 2013 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Warm – 80Fs

Another beautiful day at sea…

Today was the fabled Celebrity Brunch – bagels/lox/cream cheese, veggie omelet, and Caesar Salad did it for me.  For some reason, the food always tastes better at the brunch.

My last talk - “Identifying the Famous and Infamous” is scheduled for 1:00 PM – this time, the talk was advertised as usual with only one glitch – who is this Tingert fellow talking on Forensics?

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Early in the cruise I had indicated to the audience that we might have a Q&A on one of the final sea days.  One wasn’t scheduled so I asked Maria if I could ask passengers interested in a Q&A to follow me into the Quasar Disco after my talk today.  She told me that Celebrity Central was free until 2:30 PM so I could use the extra half hour.

Maria introduced me for my final talk, which had the largest attendance of the cruise – the place was full (Maria estimated 200 people).  I also told everyone that if anyone was interested, they could stay after the talk and I would present a little information on the Unknown Titanic Child and I could answer some questions.

The last talk went very well – followed by a round of applause - and I told people that I would need to reset the slides and people could stay if they wanted.  The crowd shuffled a bit and when I got started only about 40 or 50 people left – the crowd was about the same as it was for Talk Number 1.  When I finally finished at 2:30 PM, I got a nice round of applause and lot of positive feedback.  A successful run for a Caribbean cruise with good weather on deck.

We had dinner in the Dining Room – finishing off a week of pretty good food. 

We were pretty much packed so we spent a few minutes listening to the Runaways.

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The open decks were warm and calm so we spent some time out there reading before Showtime.

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Ellen on Deck 5

We attended the farewell show – I didn’t see it but Ellen told me the BTP speakers made the Cruise in Review Video.  The show featured the High Cs, the comedian from “Sin City” late show (never caught the show), and an encore performance from Travis Turpin.

We are on the “Extended Hollywood Tour” tomorrow – Hollywood, FL on our own and then a drop off at the airport. 

Suitcases were put out and we are set to go tomorrow.

Friday, February 22, 2013 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Warm – 80sF

A beautiful day at sea…

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So beautiful, in fact, that I did not take any photos all day long.

My third talk - “Mystery of the Romanovs” is scheduled for this afternoon.  This talk did not get on the front page of the TODAY and was not mentioned in either the briefing at the show the night before or during the 10:00 AM Briefing of the day’s events.  I am a bit apprehensive that very few people will see the one “non-bolded” line for the talk on page 3 of the program (I had trouble finding it last night). 

It turns out that passengers – especially the ones who come to lectures – do read each line looking for the BTP speakers.  It was essentially a full house.  The talk went well – I chatted afterwards with some Russian passengers, who confirmed that my Russian phrase and Russian cross were correct and who enlightened me with respect to the Russian Orthodox Church and the Romanovs.  Everything worked out real well. 

We passed on the Dining Room tonight – Second Formal Night – due to a paucity of items on the menu.  Had a very good dinner in the Oceanview Cafe instead.  Also passed on the Show - “Silhouette the Show” having seen it several times.  Looked for quiet and reading time.  I finished “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and will finish the trilogy next cruise.  I started reading another Harry Bosch Novel - “The Last Coyote”.  Sidebar: I don’t know what Harry Bosch looks like but when I read about him all I can see is Mike Franks – Gibb’s late mentor on NCIS.

Another sea day to look forward to tomorrow – the weather is supposed to continue to be nice.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 – Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI – Mostly Sunny – 80F

Distance from Philipsburg to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, USVI: 110 Nautical Miles

A beautiful day in the USVI…

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Charlotte Amalie from the Silhouette

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The Pier and entrance to bay from Silhouette

Originally, I thought I would be speaking late this afternoon prior to push.  No talk was scheduled in the Celebrity Today so we have the whole day to relax.

It’s a long walk into Charlotte Amalie from the pier so we signed up for an excursion to St. John instead - “St. John Island Tour”.  The tour consists of 90 minutes of ferry boat travel plus about two and a half hours of touring the island by open safari bus.  We did this tour years ago as part of a family cruise.

The ferry (really a ship) - “The Island Lady” – picked us up on the pier near the back of the Silhouette.  I sat at the back on the top deck of the ferry so I could get pictures – the ride was really rocky but I was OK.  I will be on the inside on the way back.

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Just leaving the port and Silhouette

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The ferry from my vantage point

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Leaving Charlotte Amalie behind

The ferry hugged the coastline of St. Thomas so we got some nice views of some of the luxury hotels along the shore (below).

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Soon, we left the vicinity of St. Thomas and headed to St. John.  St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix, and the recently anointed Water Island (1997) make up the US Virgin Islands.  The USVI were purchased from the Brits back in 1917 for $26 million – now that won’t even buy you a small private island in the Caribbean.

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Our Ferry is really moving

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Alligator Rock (does it look like a gator to you?)

Forty-five minutes later we arrived at St. John (pop. 5500).  The ship pulled into Cruz Bay – the main town on the Island.  There is not much to Cruz Bay and we were glad we decided not to do “St. Thomas on your Own”.

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Approaching St. John

As we approached St. John, we were escorted by the ship’s bird mascot, Chuck, who buzzed the ferry several time.  He was tough to photograph but I captured him in the shot below.

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Looking back at St. Thomas

I tried to get into the ferry but the doors were locked.  I had to settle for the picture of Ellen below.

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We crammed into an open air Safari truck (really tight) driven by our guide, Chris, who was quite the “Island Boy” he claimed to be. Our first stop was a view point overlooking Cruz Bay.

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Cruz Bay Scenic Overlook

The bus continued its climb in the hills above the various beaches.

The next stop was at the Caneel Bay Rockefeller Resort.  This is a very pricey resort, with nice beaches and meeting facilities.  The only thing missing is a golf course – there are no golf courses on St. John.

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An even nicer beach, Trunk Bay, was next on the tour.

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Trunk Bay

Cinnamon Bay was the next scenic stop but the passengers wouldn’t get out of the bus so I couldn’t get any pictures.  The tour took us down to Cinnamon Bay for a rest stop and some snacks so I guess that made up for it.  We had brought some food from the ship and this was a good place to eat.  We also were able to go down to the beach itself for some nice photos.

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Cinnamon Bay Beach

We finally found someone who would take our picture.

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Cinnamon Bay had a nice snack shop and facilities and it also had chickens just wandering around – Ellen chased them down for a picture.

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ET – Chicken Hunter

From Cinnamon Bay, we headed back to town.  Right near Cinnamon Bay, there were ruins of an old Sugar Cane Plantation.

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Sugar Cane Plantation Ruins

On the trip back, I sat on the inside of the boat (hence the blue hues of the picture).  The picture below is of the home of the owners of White Castle Restaurant – in a show of conspicuous tackiness, their home looks like a giant White Caste Restaurant. 

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Chez White Castle

It was an early push so we watched the sail away from Deck 5.

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Sail Away St. Thomas

We had dinner in the Grand Cuvee Dining Room (lots of pasta to choose from) and then some time in the Grand Foyer listening to our Brit Party Band.

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Showtime tonight featured Vocalist, Guitarist Travis Turpin from the proud state of Nebraska (non one else on the ship from Nebraska).  We have seen Travis before and his show was very good.  He does some dead on impressions (Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra).  When he got into Rock and Roll we moved up to the balcony to reduce the noise impact.  He had some very neat visual effects, the best being a song he did with his singing family (four sisters and mom and dad) synchronized visually and vocally via computers.  He finished off with a tribute to his family replete with family pictures.  He puts on a great show.

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Travis Turpin (from the balcony)

On our way back tomorrow – first of two sea days. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 – Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherland Antilles – Mostly Cloudy – 82F

Distance from San Juan to Philipsburg, St. Maarten, NA:  186 Nautical Miles

A nice day in St. Maarten – kind of cool today so walking through the town is more pleasant.  There aren’t as many ships here today as usual so the tiny town won’t be wall to wall people.  Instead of walking into the city from the pier (not a very interesting walk) we paid $7 each for an all day water taxi ticket (comes with a yellow wrist pass). The taxi ride is pretty quick (maybe 5-10 minutes) and the drop point is dead center of the town and right on the beach.

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The Cruise Port from Philipsburg Beach

We headed down Front Street (pretty much the only street) and I took another picture of the famed (at least for us) directional sign.  I only do it because it has Evanston IL on one of the markers.

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You don’t need GPS on St. Maarten

Ran into a pretty famous person on the island – Captain Jack Sparrow just standing there ready for a picture with me.  This, of course, is not the real Johnny Depp (he is most likely either on St. John or St. Barts. 

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Captain Jack and Me

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The Philipsburg Beach

We had our usual scavenger hunt on St. Maarten – hitting all of the jewelry stores for pendants, earrings, and other trinkets.  The best deal of all was the free Heineken Beer offered at one of the stores.

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Cheers or whatever it is in Dutch

We took the water taxi back, got ourselves cleaned up, and had a nice dinner in the Grand Cuvee Dining Room.  We didn’t take in the show tonight (“Velocity”) but instead sat out on the warm open deck for fresh air and the quiet roar of the ocean.  Can’t beat it.

Tomorrow we are in St. Thomas…