Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014 – San Juan, Puerto Rico – Sunny, Warm - 87F

The Sea Dream II has challenged the Atlantic Ocean and triumphed – we have duplicated the voyage of Cristobal Colon (he made it, too).

Breakfast is earlier today – 7:00 AM – but it is still the same breakfast menu so I had my final wonderful combination of blueberry pancakes, cottage cheese, preserves, and two fried eggs.  Yummy right up to the end.

We need to disembark the yacht by 10:00 AM and it took the local authorities that amount of time to clear the Sea Dream II.  The ship offered transfers to the airport but we opted for a local cab.  Leaving the ship was quick – only 49 passengers (they are all getting off because the SDII is being chartered for the next voyage) and finding a taxi was also easy (only ship at this terminal). 

The ride to Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in nearby Carolina took about 20 minutes and the fare ran $40 – we tried to pay by credit card but he wanted cash so we gave him $30 US plus 10 Euros (I hope he know what to do with them).  That left us with $0 but we figured we didn’t need any money for the trip home.

We arrived at the airport at about 10:30 AM for our 4:10 PM flight to Chicago so we had the whole day to spend at the airport.  We found a quiet place to sit (although it was a bit dark and cool) near our gate.  Lunch consisted of cheese sandwiches, plantain chips, and extremely expensive diet coke and water. 

Our plane arrived from its previous destination on time


AA395 Waiting to go to Chicago

so we boarded on time.  The plane pushed on schedule and wasted no time hitting the active runway…



San Juan, PR Climb Out

The flight was relatively smooth and about 4 hours later we were on final approach to a dark and cold Chicago.

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Final Approach ORD

Our luggage, which was, we were told, checked way too early, still managed to get on the right plane.

Our cab arrived in a reasonable time (he did drive like a maniac) and soon our trip was over.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable stay in Lisbon and voyage on the Sea Dream II.  I am forever spoiled by the fantastic breakfasts on board the Yacht.

Friday, October 31 – Sunday, November 9, 2014 – Westbound Transatlantic Crossing

Friday, October 31, 2014

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Ship’s Position

Warm and sunny but till bumpy – hoping for a change in the wind…

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View from the Aft Deck

Ellen ordered room service, below…

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While I had the delicious Granola French Toast at the Topsider Restaurant.  Very yummy…

Talk 2 - “Landmark Cases” scheduled for 3 PM in the Grand Salon drew 17 attendees.  Good feedback afterwards.  Only ran about 45 minutes (speaking too fast, maybe).  One British passenger was in attendance – I told him that this lecture was just for him.

The ship is decked out in Halloween stuff and some folks in the Dining Salon are in masks and costumes.  Otherwise, everyone else is ‘Ween Free.

We had dinner with Gary and Florence from Newport Beach, CA.  Gary is a highly informed passenger (and the two of them are terrific trivia partners).  Tonight’s choices:  Minestrone Soup (terrific); tried the Parpadella Pasta with chunky tomato sauce (exchanged it for the Pasta Pesto).  It was a very pleasant dinner.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Still bumpy especially at night…

I had some blueberry pancakes for breakfast along with scrambled eggs.  The food – all cooked to order - continues to be very good.

The view from our portholes is that of an angry ocean.

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Someone pissed off Poseidon

Later on in the day, things smoothed out a bit and the sea looked calmer.

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We had a nice lunch overlooking the back deck.  I think I had a veggie burger, which turned out to be mostly a potato patty.  I also had the fish and chips, which was OK but not very British.

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Lunch Seating

Tonight at dinner, we ate by ourselves at a table for two.  The gazpacho was so good, I had two bowls.  I also had what could be described as Eggplant Parmesan, which was very freshly prepared – the eggplant was breaded and fried and was perfectly crisp - and very good.  Although we didn’t rush, we were through with dinner by 8:45 PM.  This gave us a chance for quiet time in the Grand Salon.

I finished “Guilt by Association”, a Rachel Knight novel by Marcia Clark.  I have to admit that she writes better than she prosecutes.  I started a new book - “A Dark and Twisted Tide” by Sharon Bolton.  It is the seventh novel in the “Lacey Flint” detective series (British).  It’s different and so far I am staying with it – I am going to have to go back and catch up on the earlier novels if I get hooked.

At 10 PM, the Grand Salon hosted the “Liar’s Club” show.  That turned out to be more fun that we thought it would.  We did get three or four answers right but lost to a perfect score.

Very bouncy back in our rooms – the wave slap is still present but is not a big issue compared to the roll.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

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Still about 1800 nautical miles from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Perhaps, the seas are becoming more calm…I hope so because I did not get much sleep last night

Ellen ordered her usual room service fare and went to Yoga at 8:30 AM.  I went up to the Topsider Restaurant and had the waffle I ordered yesterday along with cottage cheese and one egg over easy.  The combination was very good so I pre-ordered another waffle for tomorrow.

At 10:00 AM, we went to the Grand Salon to try our hand at “Broadway Name that Tune” hosted by Steve.  There were 20 multiple choice questions and we got 36.5 points (the half point was for knowing that John Waters was involved with “Hairspray”).  Our closest competitor only got 28 points with the third team coming in a a very distant 2 points.  Even Steve was impressed with how well we did including knowing that Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence were in “West Side Story”.  It was a lot of fun and will be repeated a couple of more times this cruise.

We had lunch at the Topsider restaurant.  I asked the chef to make me a tuna salad sandwich – the sandwich along with the fresh fries was very good.  I have also become addicted to the Focaccio bread with sun dried tomato spread – a constant appetizer for lunch.

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Waiting for Lunch

My third talk - “Cold Cases Solved” only pulled 12 attendees.  It ran a little long due to the Jack the Ripper section, which will be pulled for any upcoming ships.

After the talk, Rosemary, Gary, and I teamed up (team name:  “Commodores”) to win the trivia contest (19 of 20).  Disputed answer: the name of the road dividers (that reflect) – answer was “cat eyes” – we had road dividers.  The other team gave it to us and that was the difference.

After the talk, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the pool deck because that was the shady spot on the ship.  I had a mojito, which was very sweet, limey, and good.  I am very behind on my drinks.

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You will notice that I am out of uniform (my lecture outfit) in the picture below. One of the passengers said I should wear more red and the customer is always right.

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Relaxing on the Pool Deck

We did not go to dinner in the Dining Salon tonight but rather had room service (including getting some Sea Bass from the real dinner menu).  I had the Cesar Salad and Tomato/Mozzarella sandwich, which were both OK. 

We are going to spend the rest of the evening in our rooms – not a bad idea since we are both a bit tired.

So far, the seas are cooperating.

Clocks move back an hour tonight (DST Ends in the US).


Monday, November 3, 2014

Very smooth night, finally…slept a full 8 hours.

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We have a mechanical clock in our room and the ship is able to change that clock remotely.

Breakfast today was on the back deck overlooking the pool deck – the seas were smooth and the sun bright and warm.  I had pre-ordered a waffle but that was unnecessary since Belgian Waffles were the breakfast special today.  So breakfast consisted of a waffle, cottage cheese, preserves, and two over medium eggs.  I also put some fresh blueberries on the waffle (everyone needs antioxidants).  Along with some very good decaf coffee, the breakfast was perfect. 

Ellen tried the Belgian Waffle with bananas for mid morning brunch and then, looking for shade, we had to settle for the Grand Salon (where I am now drinking a perfect Bloody Mary and listening to Lindsay Hamilton).  Perfect, except for not being outside.

I had a tuna melt for lunch today – pretty good with chopped onions in the tuna salad – along with fries.  I took Steve’s suggestion and asked for a pot of iced tea so I can keep filling up my glass.

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In the afternoon, it was “Broadway from the 50s – the Classical Era” – lots of Sondheim and Jerry Loesser – it included “Sound of Music” and ended with “West Side Story”.  Entertaining but this talk ran over an hour – lots to cover.

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Relaxing on Deck before Dinner

Something was amiss with the AC in both the Grand Salon and Dining Salon (it was very warm in the Grand Salon for Steve’s talk) so it was announced that dinner would be served on the outside decks.  We got a nice table on Deck 4 Aft (overlooking the pool area).  I had Aubergine and Asparagus Soup, Cesar Salad and Pasta Pesto with Salmon – they were both very good and I could not finish the main dish.  Ellen had the Filet of Sole, which was presented in a very usual way (with the fish bones on tope of the filet).

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Filet of Sole

We finished dinner before 9 PM giving us some reading time.

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Sunset Sky from the Pool Deck


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Following Seas so a smooth ride…

A very nice day at sea – the temperature continues to rise as we pass the midway point of the Atlantic Ocean…

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There was the occasional storm (below)

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I had breakfast with Gary and Florence – I had the Swedish Pancakes, scrambled eggs, and a bagel – everything was perfect – Breakfast continues to be the best meal of the day.  Ellen joined us later.

Ellen spent a little time helping me edit and rearrange some sections of my fourth presentation on the Romanovs.

Today’s lunch was a Barbecue buffet so we have limited food options.  It came down to a Cesar Salad, some Spanish Rice, and Corn on the Cob.  Limited but good.

It was hot in the Grand Salon for “The Mystery of the Romanovs”, which drew only 15 attendees.  There is little opportunity to grow an audience because there is no audience to grow.  The talk, though less energetic that my usual outing, did end up on time and there was some post-talk discussion (mostly with Gary).  The edits proved to work very well and they will now become part of the presentation.

At 4:30 PM, we stayed for Broadway Trivia with Steve.  This time, we came in a distant second (56 to 40) but we are still not sure how the winning team got so many points. 

Dinner once again was outside and we ate with Gary and Florence.  I had pre-ordered a pizza (based on the delicious Pizza pass around the other day).  I had that along with Pea Soup and Marinated Tomatoes and Feta Salad.  The whole meal including the pizza was very good.

We were planning to attend the Pub Trivia Event in the Grand Salon but the AC was still not working so the event will be rescheduled later in the cruise.

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Beautiful Atlantic Sunset

A little more rock and roll tonight…


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The ship is rolling a bit more this morning and that usually means a headache…

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After losing the headache, I had my pre-ordered waffle (with cottage cheese, fresh strawberries, black currant preserves, orange marmalade, and pure maple syrup) along with a perfectly prepared fried egg.  Again, just wonderful.

Ellen joined me after Yoga.

I tried to hit a few balls in the Golf Simulator but, as you can see, trying to hit a golf ball on a rocking ship is potentially dangerous (I did whiff one and wound up against the wall) and universally frustrating (check out my best drive).

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We are now (in real time) on Deck 6 Starboard enjoying the limited shade on the open decks.

Lunch consisted of a tuna sandwich and fries and then back on the deck for the first day nap of the cruise – boy, that really felt good.

Went to Steve’s talk on “The Golden Age of Broadway – Part II” – this segment included “Camelot” and “Fiddler on the Roof”.  The Grand Salon was still warm.

Joined up with Gary and Florence for trivia – need to step up our game since we came in third – I did get “inspector Morse” correct (based on his sports car) but several of the questions were Anglo-Centric so we didn’t know them.

Tonight’s dinner (back on the back decks) is the special “Chef’s Degustation” Dinner – several small courses to check out coupled with some main dishes. We tried what we could but the bottom line was that this dinner just proves we are not “foodies”.  We ate with Steve, Gary, Tony, Florence, and our two Aussie friends.  Dinner was over for us at around 10:00 PM.

Finished Sharon Bolton’s “A Dark and Twisted Tide”.  I liked it although the author played several tricks with character’s names that forced me to go back and reread certain sections.  Now, her methods look brilliant – as they say, “The answer was here all the time…”

Started a new book - “The Kraken Project” by Douglas Preston.  It’s the fourth novel in his Wyman Ford series and has to do with a malicious computer program (I thought they all were).  It has a good hook and some crisp dialogue. 

Another clock change – forward.

Seas are kicking up – not a good sign.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

A roly-poly night and a little warm as well…need to find a nap on deck today…

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The seas are still a’movin…

Another great breakfast – blueberry pancakes, fried eggs, cottage cheese, and preserves.  Must have been hungry because there was only trace left on the plate.

Ellen came up later and she had the cinnamon French toast, a banana pancake, and scramble eggs.  Very good, as well.

Broadway Trivia was at 11:00 AM this morning.  There were just two teams today and we won 43 to 35.  A good win.

Lunch was on Deck 4 Aft – Focaccio with sundried tomatoes; Salmon Scaloppini, and cheese and onion spaetzle.  All good.  The pass around was mini-hot dogs and hamburgers.  Ouch…

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During his morning announcements, the Captain (our second captain – the original captain had to get off at Funchal due to a leg injury) said that we were making such good time that we would make a stop at St. Maarten (1 PM to 10 PM) and then still have plenty of time to get to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I am ready to get off the yacht for a day and I love St. Maarten.

After lunch, we found some shade on Deck 6 but after a bit, it started to sprinkle, then rain – really rain.

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Tropical Rain

Before Dinner (Caribbean Night tonight), we spent some time on the Port side Bali Beds – very comfy.  Tony, our mate from California, popped over and volunteered to take our pictures.

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After Ellen, my Favorite Picture

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Fun on the Bali Beds

The AC is still funky so dinner is once again served on the back decks.  It’s Caribbean Night so I ordered the Blackened Mahi along with a baked potato. The fish was very good.

Seas are semi-calm.


Friday, November 7, 2014 – St. Maarten, Netherland Antilles – 82F and Rain

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Approaching St. Maarten

Still no land but the presence of seabirds is a positive sign.  Land should be pretty close.

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Following the Birds (or they are following us)

We soon spotted the first land since we departed Funchal, Madeira.

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Land Ho…

Another top flight breakfast – pre-ordered Waffles with Cottage Cheese and the usual works along with two fried eggs – my poor cholesterol.

Good News – we are in St. Maarten – Bad News – the weather is miserable and most port facilities are closed (we are the only ship here and we are an unscheduled visitor).  The Captain came clean and told us that the real reason we are stopping here is for a medical emergency – a passenger needed to be evacuated for health reasons. 

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Pulling into the Pier

The ship arrived a little late (around 2 PM) and the passenger and his wife were met by transportation to take them for appropriate treatment (we got word later that he was doing better).

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The Sea Dream II - Docked

The water taxi was closed so we took a cab to Philipsburg ($3/person).  In the end, it worked out better than the water taxi ($7/pp all day).  Even though we were the only ship in port today, the town still had plenty of tourists – probably staying at the various hotels and resorts around town.  The problem was the torrential tropical downpours that trapped us under various overhangs.  We didn’t get much walking in and I had to flag down a cab for the ride back to the port.  The other good news is that our text and data plan extended to the Netherland Antilles so we could catch up on e-mails (not much there) and news.

The weather continued to get worse and we heard some thunder at we were returning to the ship.  This was the only time we have visited St. Maarten where the weather was bad all day – sometimes, a tropical shower would interrupt a sunny day.  Today, clouds and super rain all day.

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A Not So Sunny Day in Philipsburg

Because of the rain, dinner was back in the Dining Room, which was cooled down somehow.  I had a very good combination of Cesar Salad and Cheese filled Ravioli.  We dined again with Gary and Florence and manage to finish dinner before 9:30 PM.  The ship departed at 10:00 PM. 


Saturday, November 8, 2014 

Survived another year…

We are not at sea – in fact, we are not moving – the SDII is anchored off of Tortola, BVI. 

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Hoisting the Bahamian Flag

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Tortola Airport

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At Anchor – Near Tortola, BVI

We are eventually told that this is due to the high winds (30 plus kts) and the ship will stay here all day until the winds die down.  The bridge also announced that they will open the aft marina today so people could swim in the Caribbean (water temp 28C/82F).

Ellen and I had breakfast together today – Blueberry pancakes, fried eggs and the usual combo of preserves.  For some reason, I just don’t have a good appetite today. 

Attended Steve’s trivia session today and did miserably.

My final talk of the cruise - “Search for the Unknown Titanic Child” (including the new segment on Lorraine Allison) is scheduled for 3 PM in the Grand Salon.  This talk is competing with the weather and the fact that the marina deck is open and my usual audience is in the water. 

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Sea Dream II Swimmers

As expected, only six people show up for the talk.  I thought the talk went well but again it was very warm in the salon and I sweated through my shirt during the 45 minute session. 

We hung out on the deck – where you could find some shade – until it was time for the cocktail hour and dinner.  Dinner tonight was out on the open decks (good weather plus a hot Dining Salon).  During the cocktail hour, the Captain gave a little greeting and farewell.  He clarified some of the events that had resulted in the final itinerary.

From a personal perspective, I liked the change in the itinerary because we did get a stop before San Juan (even though the weather was wonky) and the day anchored at Tortola was very relaxing (even though it cut down on Lecture attendance).

Gary and Florence asked us to join them for dinner.  When we finished, the crew brought out a birthday cake (Ellen said she had nothing to do with it).  That was a nice touch.

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20141108_Happy Birthday to me (Small)

Fortunately, the cake only had three candles – already a violation of open flames on board.

We finished dinner before 10 PM and the ship had not yet departed – I don’t think it left until after midnight.

Another surprise awaited me in the cabin, which was all ballooned up.  The crew must have put in some time attaching all those balloons to the ceiling.

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Ellen did her usual magic packing and I had the bags outside by 10:00 PM.

We turn back the clocks tonight so, theoretically, everyone gets another hour of sleep.