Sunday, February 5, 2017

Friday, January 13, 2017 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Sunny – 75F

An absolutely wonderful day at sea

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For the first time on this cruise, I had breakfast outside on aft deck 15 – there is no music out there and the servers still come around with coffee.  Today, I had a nice surprise; they had stewed bananas on the buffet, which ended up on my waffle.  It was great and the coffee was hot. 

“Talk No. 3 – “Mystery of the Romanovs” was scheduled at 11:00 AM in the Vista Lounge. People came a little earlier and with about 15 minutes to go the place was nearly full.  One passenger arriving pretty late asked me if this was the talk on the Romanovs.  I said it was and she told me she didn’t think too many people would show up (she did not get a good seat).  When I started, the Vista Lounge was full – close to SRO. For some reason the talk went long – 55 minutes but no one seemed to mind. 

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“Mystery of thee Romanovs” – SRO

Today’s Lunch Combo – Orzo pasta and tuna sandwich from International Café plus Greek Salad from Horizon Court plus pizza from Piero’s Pizza.  Eaten in Horizon Court.  All really good.

We got those great seats on Deck 15 again so the afternoon was spent reading and relaxing.  Finished “Fatal” – a self published book on Amazon.  Had promise but it seemed thin.

For dinner tonight, we scored a table for two in the Da Vinci Dining Room.  I had a Cesar Salad, Roasted Garlic Soup, Sole Colbert, and Spaghetti Carbonara (minus the ham), and for dessert, New York Cheesecake.  

We saw Miguel Washington at 8:00 PM in the Theater and Sean O’Shea in the Vista Lounge at 9:00 PM.  Sean’s first show was better.

Clocks go back another hour tonight.

Thursday, January 12, 2017 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Sunny – 72s

A smooth night at sea – only a slight creak in the room.

A perfect day at sea…a little warmer.

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Breakfast, as always, was in the Horizon Court – I love eating up there but I generally don’t stay and nurse my decaf coffee (the background music is too frenetic for mornings).

The couches up on Deck 15 are very popular so we headed up and found a couple of seats right after breakfast.  These would be our spots for today for reading and chilling.

I was able to replicate the “iconic” photo from a previous Grand Princess cruise – this time without the orange pylon. 

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We left our coveted couches to have lunch in the Horizon Court.  Lunch – salad from Horizon Court and pizza from Piero’s Pizza on Deck 14.  Ellen likes the pizza up there as long as it’s right out of the oven (really good).

I finished “Devil in the White City” – a good book but I was hoping for a more dramatic capture of the bad guy.  Started a new book – didn’t like it and am now trial reading “Fatal” by Arno Joubert - an “Alexa” Novel.  Supposed to be a female Jack Reacher (doesn’t seem possible).

After spending the whole afternoon on Deck 15, it seemed like a good idea to get in some exercise – we did some laps around Deck 7.  It was a little chilly and windy but still nice to see the ocean and sunny skies.

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Walking the Deck

We had dinner tonight in the Michelangelo Dining Room.  We were a little skeptical about the fish on the menu – Pako-Coated Baramundi – but it turned out to be delicious.  I also included a Cesar Salad and we shared an order of Ricotta Ravioli in cream sauce.  The dinner was very tasty.

After dinner, we attended the Production Show – “Stardust”.  We have seen this show, which features classic tunes from the fifties - several times and like it every time.  This show never seems to get old.   There are six vocalists in this show but we found out later that only four are singing and the others are lip-synching the track.  They do it so well that we don’t care.

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A very relaxing day at sea. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean – Mostly Cloudy 65F

It’s a pretty nice day at sea but only marginally warmer – this is a little surprising since the ship is at about the level of Baja Mexico.

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At Sea (Port – Aft and Forward Views)

Had breakfast in the Buffet – still a lot of people up there a 7 AM so I sat at the back of the ship (couldn’t even get a window seat).  This time, I tried the waffle, which was big and crisp.  Breakfast will not be a problem on this cruise.

My second talk is scheduled for 11:30 AM so I am in the International Café to review the slides.  I don’t give this talk too often so many of the slides are not as familiar to me.  I also ordered my usual coffee.  This time, the barista actually came out and helped with the nomenclature of coffees.  What happened is that even though I ordered a decaf mocha with non-fat milk, it did not come with chocolate.  Apparently, mocha does not mean chocolate on this ship – he told me it was a a mocha coffee with chocolate.  Got it.  The drink didn’t taste quite right and I found out later that it wasn’t a latte but simply coffee ($2.00 vs. $3.75).  There’s always something to learn.

At 11:00 AM, I went to the Vista Lounge to set up for my talk –

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 “Landmark Cases”.  I have been following trivia so there is a turnover of people.  But when the movement all stopped, the lounge was full.  The set up was quick which left me some time to chat with the passengers.  Also, today, I am wearing both a clip on mic (for TV) and headset mic for the audience.

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Pre-Talk Chat

Another interesting thing – there were waiters roaming the lounge serving drinks.

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Full House

The talk ran about 45 minutes and when it was over (nice round of applause) a number of people rushed up to chat about the talk and assorted other items.  I took the discussion to the back of the lounge so the dance lesson could continue.  Some very nice feedback from the passengers.

I met Ellen in the Botticelli Dining Room for lunch.  The driving force behind this was the gazpacho soup. lox and cream cheese, and sole on the menu.  The soup was so good I had two bowls.  I tried the veggie burger but it was still basically potatoes formed into a patty and grilled.  Mushy and odd. 

We looked for a warm place to settle in and that place turned out to be the Solarium Pool on Deck 14.  We read, I caught a small nap, and people watched.  The ship was heaving so the water in the pool was going crazy.  We stayed there until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Tonight is Formal Night 1.  All I brought was a dress shirt and ties so that will have to do.  There was nothing for us in the Dining Room so we ate dinner in Alfredo’s Pizzeria.  In fact, we were the only people in the place.  I complemented my Vegeteriana Pizza with Orzo pasta with feta cheese and beet salad (they were both pretty good) from the International Café.  And the bonus – a waitress who can take a good picture.

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Formal Night Dinner in Alfredo’s Pizzeria

We went to the 8:00 PM Show in the Theater.  On this ship, we have learned, you best get to the theater early because the place fills up completely by 7:30 or so.  There were people standing in the aisles when the show began.  There was a lot of saving of seats as there was no announcement saying “no saving of seats”.

The headliner tonight was a vocalist from Las Vegas named Cheaza (pronounced “Chay-ah-zah”) and the show was “A Tribute to Whitney Houston”.  She is a very good singer and knows how to move around the stage and she made it clear at the top of the program that this was not an impression but a tribute.  The problem was that Cheaza looked an awful lot like Whitney Houston.  Her version of the songs were different than the original arrangements.   

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Cheaza in the Audience

She finished her set without singing the song everyone was waiting for and some people actually left the theater.  Dan then came out and gave us a history of “I Will Always Love You”.  The soundtrack for “The Bodyguard” needed one more song and the producers came to Kevin Costner for suggestions.  He liked Dolly Parton’s original and told them to have Whitney sing it.  Well, the Soundtrack sold 45 million copies so I guess Kevin C knew what he was doing. 

Cheaza returned to the stage to belt out her showstopper.

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IMG_20170111_Cheaza I will always love you

“I Will Always Love You”

It was the first time we had seen this performer and she did a great job.

Walking back to the Piazza, I spotted a group in the Explorer’s Lounge – I think they are called “The Drop”.  We might check them out later but from the quiet zone outside the venue (too loud up close).

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We spent the rest of the evening listening to Kimo and Lokelina (the Hawaiian Ambassadors – very official) in the Piazza.  this would be the third time we have been on the ship with them.  They did two of our requests, “Hallelujah” and “Over the Rainbow”.  Very pleasant relaxing late night music.

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The ship is still rolling a bit but not bad.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 – At Sea – Pacific Ocean–Mostly Cloudy, Windy, 63F

The room was quiet (the sea was rocky) and I slept until 5:30 AM – probably went back to sleep for a while and finally got up at 7:30 AM.

I had breakfast in the Horizon Court Buffet.  There were quite a few people in the café when I got there so I wound up sitting in the back section by the Aft Deck.  I still got a window seat so I could see the choppy sea.

The buffet had just about everything I needed for breakfast – oatmeal (tried it but didn’t like it); pancakes, cottage cheese, sour cream, preserves, and, a bonus, biscuits.  The servers kept bringing coffee so I was pretty well set for breakfast.  I found the waffles on my way out but I will try them in the future.

I had a little time to look over my first lecture while trying a decaf mocha latte iced in the International Café

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The Cruise is now officially underway

It came as a frozen drink, which I sent back for one with ice cubes.  The version was very good if not a bit too chocolaty.  The International Café also had US power outlets, a bonus.  I made some last minute corrections to the slides.

I am giving all nine lectures on this voyage.  My first talk is scheduled for 11:30 AM in the Vista Lounge (Deck 7 Aft) – “Cold Cases Solved”.  Dan, the Cruise Director, came by and gave me a brief introduction.

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Pre-Talk Chat with Dan

It was a pretty good initial turnout – about 90 % full or about 400 plus attendees (Seating Capacity: Vista Lounge – 460; Princess Theater- 750 seats) – the talk took under 50 minutes.  Several people came up to talk to me afterwards and shared some positive feedback.  This is the first time I am using my new Lenovo PC/Tablet computer.  It was connected via HDMI and the remote worked.  The ship also has very good and comfortable headset mics.

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Cold Cases Solved

We passed on the pub lunch but wound up having the same fish (no chips) in the Horizon Court Café

We spent the afternoon in the back of the Wheelhouse Lounge (quiet time) and stayed through Happy Hour (two for one drinks are now buy one get the second for $1).  We both had “Dirty Bananas”, which were similar to the same drink we had on this ship on previous voyages. 

We had dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room.  Since we wanted a table for two, we got a pager and waited about 30 minutes for our table (seated at 6:10 PM).  There wasn’t much on the menu so I had the Cesar Salad, Salmon with a baked potato.

We went to the Princess Theater a 8:00 PM  to see Sean O’Shea – Vocal Impressions and all around crazy person.  He’s a wild performer who is all over the place.  At the end of the show, he jumped up into our box seats to kiss Ellen’s hand.  He’s entertaining despite being so frenetic.

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Sean O’Shea

The sprint was then on to get to the 9:00 PM show at the Vista Lounge.  We sat way in the back to watch Alex Ramon – a young magician that reminded me of Jerry Seinfeld.  He has a pleasant laid back style with a little humor.  His magic wasn’t new but he was entertaining as well.

Back to the room about 10:00 PM – the ship is still moving a lot and the room is creaking big time.

Hoping to get some sleep.

Monday, January 9, 2017 – Coalinga, CA – Cloudy - 59F

Slept in a fever dream but the room was quiet (no earplugs).  Jet lag got me up pretty early but up for good at around 7:30 AM.  Breakfast was served between 6 and 9 AM so I was hoping that most of the guests would have finished and gone by this time. 

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Room 119

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Hotel Grounds

The Breakfast Room is located right next to our little group of rooms.  We walked over and found it empty.  It was a small room with maybe 10 tables but it had everything I needed for breakfast – Raisin Bran plus strawberry compote and a waffle maker.  It also had hot foods but the eggs had bacon included.  We mentioned to the nice woman handling breakfast about the bacon and she produced four cheese omelets (had to be ready make – they were too uniform).  The entire breakfast, including some really good coffee – was very tasty.  Perhaps one of the better Best Western Breakfasts we have encountered.

No time for a shower today although it would have been interesting since we were in an accessible room.  I envisioned another flooded bathroom.  I got a sense of California’s water shortage issue when I checked out the water pressure in the sink.

We got on the road about 9:00 AM and calculated about two and half hours of driving to get to San Francisco. 

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Starting Out…

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Interstate 5 North

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Wind Turbines – Pacheco Pass

We programmed the add-on GPS (didn’t get charged for it by Dollar) with the address of the Rental Car Return Place near the Embarcadero and got back on I5.  No stops today and we continued on I580, which took us along the East Bay.  We passed through Oakland and then over the new Bay Bridge into San Francisco ($6 Toll this direction). 

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Almost There

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Crossing the Bay Bridge and Wharf District

Finding the Dollar facility was a snap and we encountered hardly any traffic during this morning’s drive.  We returned the car without any issues and were about to call an Uber to take us to Pier 27.  Instead, based on advice from someone at the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf (where the rental place was), we took a cab.  He said the ride was only $7 and he would have been ride except that, according to the cab driver, you can’t let anyone off except at the official drop ($300 fine he said).  We waited in a line of cars until the meter ticked off an additional $6 or so, so with tip the ride was $16.  Next time, we will get dropped off across the street from the Cruise Port and save $10.  It was a lesson learned.

After a very chaotic and crazy wait in a long line, we eventually dropped off our bags, passed through security, and through some miracle (and fast movements) got into the short line for check in.  We didn’t wait long to get on the ship.  We went to our cabin – P223 – which was available and dropped off some of our stuff.  Instead of going to the buffet for lunch we ate at Alfredo’s Pizzeria.  Veggie pizza, plus vegetarian garbanzo bean soup, and Greek Salad made for a tasty lunch.

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View From the Ship

The afternoon was spent setting up our dining (Anytime), signing up for excursions, and attending the safety drill. 

I got a note from the Entertainment Department (looks like my contact with be Lisa Richard, Entertainment Manager).  She has the same name as the Cruise Director I worked with on the Celebrity Equinox.  The letter said I would be doing all nine talks including one before we get to Ensenada.  I have only one Theater date – the rest of the talks are in the Vista and Explorer’s Lounges.  I called the Production Manager and asked him about the AV – I will need to use the HDMI to VGA adapter and we are going to try things out tomorrow at 11 AM before my first talk.

We had dinner in the Horizon Court Buffet – just too tired to deal with the Dining Room.  There wasn’t much for us to eat and it was very crowded.  Also, the hand sanitizers were gone and no one was handing us dishes.  The ship added new hand washing stations but I only saw one couple using them.  Sounds like Norovirus Roulette to me.

I am now typing this in the Wheelhouse Bar while listening to smooth jazz.

We attended the “Welcome Aboard Show” at 9:30 PM in the Princess Theater.  Dan Falconer, the Cruise Director, introduced some of this staff (Lisa Richard was not there) and the Orchestra played some music.  The headliner was Miguel Washington, a comedian, we had seen before.  He had some new material and was pretty funny.

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Dan Falconer – Cruise Director

After the show, we went back the room – totally pooped from our adventure.

Seas are a little rocky and the ship and room are creaking.  Earplugs are required tonight.