Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thursday, November 26, 2015 – Partly Cloudy – 60sF

Happy Thanksgiving


The seas last night were clearly not following seas as we had a bumpy ride all night long, which led to some trouble sleeping.

First breakfast of the cruise was, of course, in the Windows Cafe.  I had a Waffle / Cottage Cheese / Jams  plus scrambled eggs.  The breakfast was OK and not crowded.

The ship is sailing with 544 passengers about 130 below capacity.  However, there are non passengers on board.  There are IT contractors here to reconfigure and upgrade the WiFi system as part of the refit of the Journey (going into drydock in January 2016 for a total makeover).  There are also some shoreside personnel on board doing some kind of evaluation.

The Captain is our old friend from Norway, Johannes Tysse (the Cap with the quip).  Love his announcements and his banter with Eric.

Lunch was in the Discoveries Restaurant.  The ship put together a Thanksgiving Brunch.  I had a bagel with lox and cream cheese, some herring (couldn’t resist) and an omelet – all good.

At 2:00 PM, I went to the Cabaret Theater to hear the Destination Speaker, Chuck Richardson, talk about Seville.  He is a good speaker and had a good turnout.

At 3:00 PM, we met up and attended a Waltz Class with Journey Featured danceers, Sasha and Dima. We tried hard but would up stepping on each other toes a lot.  Next time, no Crocs.

It was chilly on the open deck but I snuck out there to get a picture of the coast of Spain from the Starboard deck.  We were pretty close to the mainland.  You can still see some chop in the water.


The Coast of Spain

Tonight, based on the menu in the Dining Room, we opted to eat in the Windows Cafe.  My meal consisted of a Veggie Wrap, freshly prepared Cesar Salad, and freshly grilled Grouper.  Dinner was tasty and not crowded.  Much quieter and peaceful at the buffet and the view is really good.

Spent most of the evening in the Looking Glass Lounge listening to Anton and his guitar and reading – am reading another Reacher Novel  “Bad Luck and Trouble” (number 7 in the series).

Showtime tonight featured Pianist Adam Johnson; we didn’t stay due to my having a headache – still dealing with a significant sleep deficity. 

Hoping for smoother seas…

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – Barcelona, Spain – Sunny–50s

Azamara Journey Specifications

Tonnage: 30,277

Length: 592 Feet

Beam: 93 Feet

Guest Capacity: 694

Embarkation Day

The hotel was pretty quiet so we were able to get some sleep and shake off some of the jet lag.  The breakfast was pretty good – cold cereal, cheeses, breads, pastries, and an espresso machine.  I had some difficulty getting my American Coffee just right – settled on diluting the muddy Eurocoffee with hot water.  Plenty of food and the seating area is pretty comfortable.

The Desk Staff arranged for a cab to take up to the pier – the fare was about 5 Euros.  It seemed like he took a round about way of getting there but the cost was still the same. 

Since the Journey is a small ship, check in was relatively fast.  Soon we were on the ship and at the buffet for lunch.

Views from the ship…

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We were told that our cabins were available – Cabin 4016 is on Deck 4 right down the hall from Guest Services and Shorex.  A very good location.  Catch the elevator near Guest Services and I am up in the Windows Cafe in no time.  Very strategic location.  We have been in this cabin before.

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Cabin 4016

There was a note in the cabin indicating that, after the lifeboat drill, I would be meeting with Entertainment Manager, Jodie Kelly, to go over the program and tape an interview explaining my topics. 

We met in the Cabaret Lounge and the interview went very well. 

Jodie told me that I would be doing eight lectures (instead of seven as originally requested).  The Water Color artists were not on board and she wanted the crossing covered.  I indicated that would be no problem.  I told her I would bring by a list of the lectures tomorrow on a USB Drive.

I also ran into Cruise Director, Eric De Gray, who said “Welcome back”.  I don’t know if he recognized me or saw my name on the list of speakers and recalled that we had worked together before.

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Taping an Interview with Jodie

After a nice dinner in the Windows Cafe, we took a walk along the pool deck.  It was a bit chilly but the deck is protected from the wind.  From there, I got some nice pictues of the deck and the moon.

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Deck 9 – Pool Deck

The Welcome Aboard Show is late tonight – only one show.  Eric introduced the speakers and bridge instructors, and we all gave a little summary of what we would be doing during the cruise.

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Introducing my Series with Eric

Eric is a fabulous singer and he did a few numbers during the show – mostly notably was “You Raise Me Up”.

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“You Raise Me Up”

The Azamara Journey Singers and Dancers took over and performed several music numbers – they are a very fine group.

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The Numbers from “Footloose” were entertaining.

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One singer, Natalie, had a great voice and was a superb dancer (best of the group, my opinion)

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Next up, “I Had the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing.

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“V-A-C-A-TION” – Perfect

The show ended pretty late – we stopped by to see Max DiFaz on our way to our cabin.

Seas are smooth…

Azamara Journey – In the Wake of Columbus Cruise – November 25 – December 11, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015 – Travel Day

Our flight tonight is at 7:00 PM and our taxi is scheduled for 4:15 PM so we have the whole day to do any last minute things for this trip.  As it turned out, we were all prepared and the day was spent reducing the number of shows on my DVR so that we can fill it back up again while we’re gone.

Our taxi was a bit early but with heavy traffic near the airport, we arrived at around 5:00 PM.   Check-in and security went very quickly (even though no TSA Pre-check on this flight) and we were off to Gate K16 to wait for AA86 to depart at 7:00 PM.  When we got to the gate, our 777 was there and being loaded.  There was also a 787 Dreamliner parked at a nearby gate – what a slick aircraft.


B787 Dreamliner


AA86 Being Loaded and Readied 

When our boarding time came and left, the gate announced the first delay – 7:45 PM departure (due to “security reasons”).  A second delay to 8:45 PM came later with an announcement that a new plane would be needed and it would be leaving from Gate K12.  We know knew we would miss our connection at LHR so Ellen checked with the desk and the agent said she would put us on BA480 leaving at 1:40 PM (should be enough time). 

The third and final announcement indicated that the new plane (just arrived) would have to be “Detoxified” before it could fly to Europe and the decision on the departure time would be 9:30 PM.  I can’t help but wonder where this plane came from (are B777s just lying around or was it flown in?).

This announcement game with a voucher for dinner ($20) but we had only 30 minutes to find a restaurant and return to the gate.  After scouting the food court, I wound up with a pizza, salad, coke, a bottled water from Reggios and Ellen had a salad and burrito salad, chips, quacamole, and salsa.  We scarfed our food quickly (Ellen took much of her food with her). 

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AA86 Take 2 – Arriving at the Gate

When we got back to the gate, people were boarding.  We had pretty good seats (Exit Rows 31H/31J) near a washroom.  We are on another 777-200, which must have spent a good deal of time in Japan (the plane was bilingual).   It must have been an older plane because the power plugs (only in Cabin-Extra seats) were DC-car type plugs (we did not bring these along). 

I calculated that our connection time would be about two hours in London.  Our plane finally pushed at around 10 PM and took its time getting to the active runway (even though we were first in line).  The plane finally took off at around 10:30 PM and was due to arrive in London at approximately 11:18 AM.  Hopefully, this would still give us enough time to catch our connecting flight to Barcelona.

The flight over was pretty smooth with the only bumps happening in the first half of the Atlantic crossing – the pilot climbed to 38,000 feet to find some smooth air. 


Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean


Over Ireland

The plane had a monstrous tail wind because the ground speed noted on the graphic indicated 698 mph (the speed of sound is 761 mph).  That tailwind took about a half hour off the flying time. 


Final Approach LHR

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 – London, England – Mostly Cloudy - 42F

The rain in London had stopped by the time we got there and the approach and landing were smooth enough. 

When we got off the plane, we were met by a group of British Air agents who queued us up (they had a list of destinations including Barcelona on a sign).  When we showed them our old boarding pass, she gave us a new document that had us on the new flight but she told us we would need to go to BA and get a new boarding pass.  After a mile walk, we reached security, which was a surprisingly quick process (I had to dump my bottle water from ORD), and then proceeded to a special BA desk, where we got our new boarding passes.  This meant that our bags also were sent to the new plane.

We arrived at the nearby waiting lounge at noon, where we would have to wait until our gate is announced at 12:50 PM.  There were chargers there so no problem.  I finished my party mix and tried some of the food Ellen brought from the restaurant in Chicago (not so good). 

We got our gate and boarded BA480.  Since we were assigned seats by BA we would us in 7B and 7E – middle seats across from each other on this A320.  I will say, without any reservations, that these were the tightest seats I have ever been in – anyone over 5’6”" cannot comfortable sit in these seats.  The seat pockets in the row ahead of us were take out to move the seats even closer together.  Fortunately, it was a short flight (1 hour 40 minutes) and I only had to climb over the aisle passenger once).  When the plane landed, I couldn’t even get into the aisle due to the passenger density.  I am waiting for BA to send me a survey on this flight.  I plan to recommend this plane be for Hobbits only.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 – Barcelona, Spain – Clear – 59F

Barcelona airport is smaller than LHR so the walk to passport control was short.  There was no one in line at passport control and the agent was checking something out on his mobile so were literally rubber stamped into Spain (scary considering the world situation) – not a word just stamp, stamp, stamp, stamp.  An early Chanukah miracle – both our bags were on the carousel early.

We went down one level to catch the Aerobus – 5.90 Euros per person got us to the Plaza Catalunya.


View of Barcelona from the Aerobus

It was pretty chilly and the four or five blocks down La Rambla to Hospital Street and the Hotel Moderno was harder than it should have been.  It looked like our room had been recently renovated.  I recall the last time we stayed here, the sconces over the bed wre literally over the bed and you had to avoid them when you got out of bed. Now, they were off to the side.  We spent a little time in our room (cozy Room 105) and then headed out for dinner.


We originally thought of trying Maccabi Kosher Restaurant but eventually settled on Bon Tapas on La Rambla.  We ordered a Pizza Marguerita, Potato Omelet tapas, Gazpacho (different but yummy), and Sangria.  Too much food but delicious; also, the waitress was friendly and the service good.  The perfect meal for our only night in Barcelona.

We walked a few blocks down La Rambla,


La Rambla – Nippy but People Are Out

running into a familar sight, a Dunkin Donuts.


Dunkin Donuts in Barcelona

We got out of the chilly air and spent the rest of the evening reading and checking out our emails in our surprisingly comfortable room.  The cold temps kept the number of people on the street down to a manageable quiet number.  We held out as long as we could against the jet lag and actually lasted past 10 PM.

Looking forward to tomorrow.