Sunday, June 25, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017 – New York City, NY – Partly Cloudy – 90s

Disembarkation Day

This is one of the few time, Ellen and I get breakfast together.  They had all of the usual items on the menu (all very good) and it wasn’t crowded.  We had a little time and didn’t have to rush.

We are on the 9:30 AM Shuttle to LGA for our flight - AA390 departing LGA at 12:30PM.  We went through immigration in Charleston but we still had to clear Customs in NY.  After our group was called, the process went quickly – it helps to be on a small ship and the only ship at the terminal.  We found our bags easily and boarded the bus quickly.  In the past, we have had to wait for the rest of the passengers to make it to the shuttle - not this time, all the people boarded in just a few minutes.

Crystal Symphony from the Airport Shuttle

The ride to LGA was circuitous – I could never drive in this city – but we got to the airport quicker than I thought.  And even though we were told that the construction at LGA was monstrous, our driver got us to the American Terminal in plenty of time.

We read, I journaled until it was time to board. 

AA390 (the only view I could get)

We are in Seats 19C/19D (aisles across) on this B737-800.  Luckily, we had good seat mates.

The flight was relatively smooth.  We had lox and cream cheese sandwiches for lunch (very good) and we landed at ORD on time. 

Our bags emerged onto the carousel relatively quickly (I had called for a cab earlier and he got still got there long after we got our stuff and went outside).  I tracked the cab on my app.

Soon, we arrived home and rested awhile before going to our daughter’s house for dinner.

The cruise was very different from previous voyages (e.g. only a single excursion) and, while it was different, we met some interesting people on board.  I also liked Paul, the Cruise Director.  We enjoyed it and hope to do it again.

Thursday, May 18, 2017 – Manhattan, New York – Mostly Sunny – 90F

Distance from Charleston to New York City – 614 Nautical Miles

Total Distanced Sales – 5,580 Nautical Miles / 6,416 Land Miles

The ship is docked at Pier 90 at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal.  You can walk right off the ship and explore Manhattan. All you need to do is start off in the right direction.

We have a plan today.

We are going to meet my niece for lunch at Roberta’s Pizza in Midtown.  Our plan was to Uber to the Times Square area but after checking the mileage involved, we determined that we could actually walk there (as long as we found enough shade).

We started out after breakfast (standard including sour cream).  The Manhattan Cruise Terminal is very accessible to the street so once we were out of the terminal, we started East on 49th Street.  I had Google Nav as our source but the app actually was more confusing than helpful.  I eventually abandoned it. 

We ran into an interesting fountain on our journey - the fountain was located in a very nice outdoor mall area.

Ellen and the Fountain

Our route took us to Broadway Street with its solid line of theaters.


We also found Times Square – the highlight being (as least for me) were the huge posters for the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie. 

Times Square

What Do They Do With These Afterwards?

One of the interesting sights at Times Square was Duffy SquareFather Francis P. Duffy was an infantry chaplain in World War I.  He often accompanied litter carriers and helped bring wounded soldiers to safety.  Father Duffy was the most decorated cleric in the history of the US Army.

Father Duffy Statue

I expected Times Square to be a bit more crowded but it wasn't - that kept the random people out of our pictures.

Iconic Broadway Productions

Can't Wait for the Movie to Open

A few of the crazies were out today - including a slimmed down Cookie Monster, who photobombed my picture.

"Cookie, cookie"

On our way to lunch we walked by and spent a little time in Bryant Park.  The park, named after newspaper editor and abolitionist, William Cullen Bryant, is a privately maintained public park.  It is located between 5th and 6th avenue in Midtown Manhattan.  The park has free WiFi and there are plenty of chairs for sitting and reading.

Bryant Park

We got a little turned around on our walking plan so we resorted to asking directions in one of the hotels.  The directions we got were a little confusing but we did find Vanderbilt Avenue – Roberta’s Pizza was on Vanderbilt.  We did find the restaurant – it was located in a indoor food mall (along with a dozen other eateries).  The place was hot, crowded, and noisy.  I texted my niece and suggested we go to the Grand Market – a Panera like place with sandwiches and salads.  We eventually all got together for lunch – tuna sandwich for me and a quinoa breakfast item for Ellen.  The lunch was so so but it did hit the spot. 

Lunch in Manhattan

After lunch, we thought we would head back over to the Times Square/Broadway area to see if we could find the Stephen Colbert Theater.  As we started there, we noticed that many of the streets were cordoned off by Police Cars.  There were also News Trucks and reporters doing reports on something.  When we asked, we were told that there was a car accident (we also heard someone utter “bomb”).  We decided to head the other way toward 50th Street, which would lead us back Pier 90. 

What is going on?

We found out later that a crazy person mowed down pedestrians killing one teenage tourist and injuring 24 others.  We were just on that street less than an hour ago. 

We got back to the ship about 12,000 steps later.  We cooled off in our stateroom with a beer and a coke. 

We got ready for dinner – we have a final reservation in Prego for 7:00 PM – and went up to the Palm Court to get a drink before dinner.  We said goodbye to our new ship friends, the Shoresound Duo.

View From Palm Court

Dinner in Prego was nice – a window seat finally.  The best part of the meal was the Cesar Salad and Mushroom Soup.  I also tried the new item on the menu – Pan Fried Red Snapper – along with sides of Fetuccini Alfredo and the pasta of the day – rotelli in creamy tomato sauce with goat cheese (the best item on tonight’s dinner).  I was so thirsty I had four iced teas.

After dinner, we tried the back decks one more time – no flies (their final destination must have been New York). 

View from the Back Deck

We sat out there (it was wonderful with a great view of the Hudson River and New Jersey) until we needed to get back and pack.  Ellen literally squeezed everything into the suitcases and they were out in the hall by 10:00 PM.

Our wake up call was set for 6:30 AM.

Hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Eastern Seaboard – Partly Cloudy – Pleasant

Tough night – back was bothering me all night.

Yet a very nice day at sea.

Beautiful Day on the Ocean

Shook up breakfast this morning – scrambled omelet with onions, peppers, and tomatoes plus a grapefruit, tiny amount of oatmeal, and a toasted bagel.  My second breakfast consisted of a cranberry muffin and iced decaf skinny latte.  You can’t get anything but counter service in the Bistro until 9:00 AM so I am eating the muffin and drinking the coffee while writing this on a comfy sofa in the very back of the Starlite Lounge.

I stuck with my plan and attended Steve’s Lecture on “Broadway and the Movies”.

After that, we had planned to spend most of the day on the open back decks.  There was only one problem – flies.  I don’t know where they came from – our last port was Charleston – but the back decks were full of annoying flies (the big kind).  We tried both deck 8 and 9 – both infested – so we had to abandon the best part of the day (being outside) for the Palm Court. 

Lunch was in the Lido Café and today the theme was Greek.  The only item related to the them was the very good Greek Salad.

In the afternoon, I visited the Concierge to work out our plans for getting around Manhattan tomorrow.  She worked out Uber prices to Midtown and to the 9/11 Memorial.  We had maps and prices so we were all set.

We also were in the Palm Court during Tea Time - Shoresound Duo was up there - very pleasant.

Harry Bullen and Terri-Ann Prendergast - Shoresound Duo 

We had dinner (off the menu) in the Crystal Dining Room.  The soup was the best part of the meal.  The ship continued its soup winning streak.

Tonight’s show – “Speakeasy” – at 8:45 PM is new to us.  The ship really did a number on this show by using facades to turn the Galaxy Lounge into a speakeasy.  They even had guys in zoot suits manning the doors asking for the password.  Once inside, there were flappers hanging around and activity going on on the stage.  The show was very good with some fine dance numbers and some vintage songs. 

Pre-Show - Flappers

Lead Singers

Audience Participation

We went up to the Palm Court to wind down – the guitarist was up there this evening playing some mellow songs I didn’t recognize.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 – Charleston, South Carolina – Sunny, hot – 88F

Distance from Cartagena to Charleston, SC – 1427 Nautical Miles

We are back on land. 

We tried to get breakfast early but after the excursion crowd had departed. 

As has been the case for most of the ports, we are not going to be on an excursion today.  But the cruise terminal is essentially in the downtown area of Charleston so we are going to walk off this morning and check out the stores and sights.  It is a two part process:  the first involves clearing immigration.  Once our group number was called, we went to the Cruise Terminal, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers were waiting – a quick check of our passports and sea pass cards and we were through.  Since no one can go back on the ship until everyone has gotten off and cleared, we simply proceeded to the town.

Charleston Bay

The length of our stay will depend on the heat and the availability of shade.  Charleston, at least the part we were in, is a combination of upscale stores (e.f. Kate Spade, Michael Kors), makeup stores, galleries, and non-chain eateries.  It’s like a less glitzier version of Rodeo Drive.  Everyone is polite and end their conversation with you with “Y’All have a nice day”.  One woman, smoking on the street, moved her cigarette away from us and said “Excuse Me.”.  I want what they’re on. 

We walked down East Bay Street with a destination in mind, the Beth Elohim Synagogue.  There were a lot of people walking the streets and taking in the sights; there were also some folks who found a more unusual way of seeing the town - horse driven carriage.

Charleston Transport

We passed the Circle Church, with its interesting architecture and cemetery.  The Church also puts on concerts - "From Gospel to Gershwin" (I'm OK with the Gershwin part but the gospel, not so much).

Circle Church

Ellen at Circle Church

We also passed a small museum and took the opportunity to get out of the sun for a few minutes.

Museum Guy

Down the street from the Museum was a small park with a statue - I thought it might of a person related to the history of Charleston.  It turned out to good old George Washington (probably did have a part in the history of area).

George Washington

While walking, I noticed the Indigo Inn, which happens to be the place we’ll be staying at when we return to Charleston in December.  We walked in to see what it was like.  The man behind the counter was so friendly – he checked our reservation and then offered us something to eat off their buffet.  So we had a chance to see what their food was like in advance.  I tried a bagel and sweet roll with coffee – very good.  

I took some pictures of the stores along the street - from the names it seemed like this could have been a Jewish area at some time.

Jewish Stores (at one time)

Another photo stop was at a Charleston Fire Station.  What caught my eye was the ceramic Dalmatian in front of the building.

Charleston FD

It turns out we walked past the shul so we headed back.  We stopped at Francis Marion Park (the “Swamp Fox”) for some pictures - instead of a statue of Marion, there was a monument to John C. Calhoun - and then to the Walgreen’s across the street to pick up a Charleston baseball cap. 

Frances Marion Park - John C. Calhoun Statue

John C. Calhoun Monument

To get back, we walked on the next street up (King Street).

King Street

We did find the synagogue on the way back and were thinking of seeing the interior but you can only do that if you are part of the official tour.  The tour had already started so we decided to take some exterior pictures and keep walking around Charleston. 

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim garden

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim plaques

Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Entrance

We continued our walk down King Street and St. Michael's Churchyard.

St. Michael's Cemetery

I couldn't resist taking the picture below for obvious reasons.

Pulitzer to Real Estate

After about two hours and 9000 steps, it was time to get back on the ship.  To get to the ship, we passed through a waterfront park with a wonderful fountain - lots of kids were running through the water to cool off.  Ellen also get a free sample of local ice cream along with the usual "have a nice day".  We also got a terrific view of Symphony docked.

Waterfront Park

Symphony Docked

Lunch was up in the Lido Café but they had run out of lettuce so the salad was a little wonky.  They managed to deal with the situation very well.

My last presentation, “The Lost Dauphin of France”, was scheduled at 4:00 PM.  With the all aboard time being 4:30 PM, many, if not all, passengers who were in Charleston on excursions or on their own, will getting back in the middle of my talk.  If I were getting back, all sweaty and tired, the last place I would go would be the Starlite Lounge to hear a lecture.

I was the only person in the room until 3:50 PM, when Steve showed up.  An awkward introduction by Paul to the 15 or so people who did show up was followed by one of my better versions of this talk.  I finished in just over 40 minutes, which actually left some time for questions.  I did get some good suggestions, one being to clear up who the players were since many of them have very similar names (e.g. Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresia and Princess Marie Therese, plus all of the sisters of Marie Antoinette).  I will work on that for the next revision.  Obi Wan, my only hope is that someone watches this on TV later on in the evening.

We passed on the Jim Brochu talk on Ethel Merman – not a big fan of Ethel Merman and I feel I have met all of the unit requirements for graduation in Film and Theater study.

We had kosher meals again in the Crystal Dining Room – we had ordered Matzo Ball Soup but there was a glitch and it never arrived.  Ellen had Lamb chops and I had my polish sausages.  So unhealthy and so yummy.

Our sail away from Charleston included a gunboat escort.

Gunboat Escort from Charleston

Sailing Away in the Gloaming

At 7:45 PM, we went to see Broadway Star, Josh Young, in the Galaxy Lounge.  He is the Tony nominated start of "Jesus Christ Superstar".  He had a good enough voice but he sang one song, “Shiksa Goddess” that made us cringe (and was borderline anti-semitic).  He is apparently marrying his shikse goddess soon and that’s OK but the song didn't seem appropriate in a mixed audience, where some people won’t understand it and other folks will be offended.

From the show, we went to Deck 9 aft (girls smoking on Deck 8) and chilled out on the loungers.  Best part of the evening for sure.

A very mixed day but, at least, it’s over.

Tomorrow, our last sea day.  My plan is to bypass all of the Film and Theater presentations save for Steve at 10:00 AM (he’s obviously a better negotiator that I am for time slots).