Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Saturday, December 23, 2017 – Sea Day – cloudy – cool – 50s

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The cabin is a very quiet one – no neighbor noise and no ship noise.

The first breakfast on board – a moment of discovery.

Although the breakfast buffet opens at 7:30 AM, the waffle and pancake station don’t open until 8:30 AM (don’t quiet understand that – only late sleepers eat pancakes and waffles?).  I met with the waffle maker as he was setting up his station and he said he would make me a waffle. He did but he handled everything with bare hands so I explained the need for gloves. He remade me some glove safe waffles. The buffet has both cottage and sour cream as well as fancy assorted jams and jellies so I might be set for this voyage.

My first talk is today at 11:00 AM – in Illuminations – “Mystery of the Romanovs”.  I think that this is the best time slot – no getting up early – time for lunch – and the whole afternoon free.  The AV guy is very good (including bringing the signature water glass) and the tech worked perfectly (the headset mic is bit tight but it was taped securely).  The attendance exceeded expectations – a total full house with people standing in the back.

After lunch in the Kings Court (so crowded and noisy) – salad and some pizza, we went to hear Gary McKechnie in the Illuminations Theater talk about “USA 101”. The crowd was very small and the talk was a series of historical vignettes (Wright Brothers, Unknown Soldier Tomb, George Washington, etc). He’s a very good speaker and I’m going to go to some of his other presentations.

It’s not very warm on deck and we make our way to the Caribbean so we spent the afternoon in the warm public areas – reading and relaxing.

We once again had dinner in the Dining Room – The food is good and the service pretty fast and we again were seated at a table for two.

We went to see the Headliner, Katerina Rossa – the violinist from Ukraine who interviewed with Paul after me the other day. She was very good but we didn’t stay for the whole concert.

Our room is comfortable and quiet and our Steward, Rhael, is great – he folds my clothes for me every day.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Queen Mary 2 – Festive Caribbean Voyage – December 22, 2017 – January 3, 2018

Friday, December 22, 2017 – Brooklyn, NY - Embarkation Day

The room at the La Quinta Brooklyn Downtown was pretty quiet

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The View From Room 303

and the typical breakfast (including the ubiquitous waffles was very good.  I called for an Uber to take us to the Brooklyn Sea Port.

The check-in went very smoothly – we are in ED39 in the Entertainment Deck on Deck 5 – these rooms are wonderful and quiet.

Information for this cruise:

Captain – Christopher Wells

Entertainment Manager – Paul O’Laughlin (have always sailed with him – terrific to work with

Assistance EM – Chris Thomas (worked with him on the QV – don’t think he recognized me.

Production Manager: David (never got a last name but very nice)

Three formal nights on this cruise

As is usually the case, there are several speakers on this cruise{

Sir Iva Laurence (Celebrity speaker – Defense Solicitor and MP); Christine Roussel (Art Historian); Robert Neal Marshall (Actor, Film maker, writer); Gary McKechnie (National Geographic Author); Derek Fraser (Historian)

The speakers were assembled in the afternoon to meet each other and to go over the technical requirement of their presentations.  David and I did an equipment check. QM2 has upgraded to HDMI so no issue with my PC.

We attended the lifeboat drill – again our assembly station is the gym on Deck 7.

It wasn’t that warm outside but we did get out there for some pictures on Deck 7.

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A Decent Selfie

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I got a note in my stateroom that Paul, the EM, wanted to interview me for a promo video that would run tomorrow morning.  Luckily, my bags were here so I could get into my interviewing outfit.  I am always nervous about these interviews but Paul has a way of taking some of the edge off.  I think the interview went well.  Following my interview, he spoke with a young violinist – I don’t recall her name.

I was already dressed for dinner and ate in the Britannia Dining Room – A very helpful Maître D assigned us a table for two (very unusual for the first night).  We both had Fettuccine with salmon and alfredo sauce – very yummy.  Hopefully, a sign of things to come.

The Welcome Aboard Show was great – Four lead singers (have seen at least three of them previously) and 12 dancers (6 boys and 6 girls), who are excellent. The best dancers on the sea. I think.

It’s been a long day so we headed to our room – we will figure out where the other entertainment is on the ship another night.

Thursday, December 21, 2017 – Charleston, SC – Partly Cloudy – 70s

Happy Winter Solstice

For reasons unexplained, our noisy and coughy neighbors took the night off from their racket making and there’s a chance we got a little sleep on our toile bed.

The special on the breakfast buffet today was biscuits with ham and cheese (very Southern) – the clerk managed to get me four plain biscuits so I was set. There were no waffles but there were lots of cereals and sweet rolls and some bagels. Not a great breakfast but we wouldn’t starve. We took some extra bagels and cream cheese for the plane rides.

I called an Uber for our ride to Charleston International Airport (CHS). Uber is a funny thing – I set up a ride and then decided to wait a bit – when I actually set it up, the price had dropped $2. Our ride to the airport cost $18 (plus a tip of $3 for coming on time). The airport is about 30 minutes outside of town. Still a pretty good size airport.

AA5041 is scheduled to depart at 11:08 AM and we had about 30 minutes before boarding. When I got the check-in prompt for our flights I checked out the seat availability and noticed that the exit rows on both of our flights this morning were now free (happens every so often near flight dates). I changed both sets of seats to exit rows so leg room, a non-issue.


AA5401 – Coming In

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Climb Out Charleston

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Nearing Charlotte

Our first flight to Charlotte, NC was short – 38 minutes – and on a very comfortable CRJ-9 regional jet. No drink service – no plugs. The plane looked new. The flight was smooth – basically up and down.



Flight 2 – AA2066 (A321) – departed CLT at 1:06 PM – we did get drinks on this one and also had our lunch courtesy of the Indigo Inn. The flight was smooth and our final approach to LGA was cool – the plane came in on a low bank – I could see land on the port side and sky on the starboard side – at the last minute, the plane leveled off and all I could see was water (seemed like we were just about 50 feet over water. Then land appeared and we touched down. Neat.

There was some confusion about the carousel our bags would be on so, after waiting for a half hour, an airport employee told us the bags would be coming off another carousel. The plan was full and a lot of passengers were trying to get close enough to get their bags (on a short carousel belt). I saw our bags and nearly pulled something trying to get the big bag off the belt (as other bags tried to push it away).

We were told that Uber picked people up at Area 11B (a short shuttle ride from the terminal). I set up an Uber ride but when we got to the pickup spot, the app told me the driver cancelled (I tried to call the driver several times with no answer). I then received a receipt from Uber for $5 for cancelling my ride. I called another Uber and this one showed up. While in the car, I wrote to Uber complaining about the first ride and got a $5 credit on my next ride. We were now in an Uber Pool car heading for our hotel in Brooklyn. The app did not show any other pickup scheduled. About a half hour into the ride, the app said we would pick up Andrea (on our way). About an hour plus into our ride, we got Andrea and as a bonus, her boyfriend. We were in a Prius and it does not fit three adults in the back seat. Ellen couldn’t fasten her seat belt and Andrea’s boyfriend could practice better hygiene. The overall 90 minute ride seems twice as long. I again wrote to Uber for allowing this unsafe situation – another five dollar credit. I will no doubt have to straighten out all of these Uber charges when I get home. We finally got to our hotel in Brooklyn – La Quinta Inn and Suites, Brooklyn Downtown. The Uber bill was $46.18 (no tip this time).

The Hotel was a modern building in a non-so modern neighborhood. The hotel looked new and Euro modern but deferred maintenance said otherwise. However, the bed was huge and comfortable and the shower and bathroom a good size. It also seemed quiet.

We were hungry but decided not to venture out. We wound up, after calling some places, that we would order in from Dominoes. We ordered the special (two medium pizzas plus garlic crunchies – I had a salad.) – it turned out to be much too much food and we only ate half the pizzas (the salad turned out to be really fresh and good). The food was delivered by bike. At least we wouldn’t be hungry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 – Charleston, SC – Partly Cloudy – 70s

Disembarkation Day

We are scheduled for a 9:45 AM disembarkation so we were able to get a leisurely breakfast up in the Lido Café.

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Serenity Docked in Charleston (from Uber Pickup zone)

We lugged our bags down the pier where we would catch our Uber ride. The ride from the pier to the Indigo Inn costs $6.29 (and I added a tip of $1) for the short ride (0.48 miles). We might have been able to walk there but the sidewalks are very uneven and we have one larger suitcase.

Check-in at the Indigo Inn was fast and easy but we were told our room wasn’t ready yet and the clerk would store our bags. Then she told us another room was indeed ready – it was by the elevator so we checked it out. The elevator was actually on another wall of the building so we took the room (Room 200).

The Indigo Inn is configured with rooms surrounding a huge courtyard (very New Orleans).  There are some leafless trees and a fountain – probably looks very nice in the Summer.

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Hotel Courtyard from Second Floor

The room was like a time machine – there was read toile wallpaper on all the walls and matching toile bedding.

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Room 200 – the Toile Room

The bed was a bit uncomfortable (it has a metal trim on the mattress, which you have to vault over to get on the bed.

Our plan for today was to walk through downtown Charleston, revisit some of the places we saw on our last trip here recently. We also had a goal of doing some shopping at the Walgreens at the corner of Calhoun and King Street. We also wanted to find a nice local eatery for lunch (no Subway today).

Our first stop would be the Charleston Market, which was just a few blocks from the hotel.

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The mall is a tunnel like structure stretching for about five blocks. There are vendors of all type selling stuff. You cross streets between the various block sections of the Market. We bought nothing.

Emerging from the mall, we thought about going into the “Museum of the Confederacy”, which was right there. It looked like a very small place and it had a charge so we opted out. We instead headed toward Francis Marion (“Swamp Fox”) Park to see the Holocaust Memorial we zipped by on our ship’s tour (and that we missed completely when we were here earlier).

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Charleston Holocaust Memorial

The Memorial consists of several components – there is a court surrounded by a metal fence – in the center of the court was what I thought was a large blanket (used by homeless folks). On closer examination, the blanket was a tallit made of metal. The tallit was missing one of its fringes signifying the loss of life during the holocaust. Another part of the Memorial was a low wall containing the names of all of the death camps as well as a plaque of Charleston residents who lost people in the Holocausts. It was a very striking Memorial but it needed some ongoing upkeep.

We picked up our stuff at Walgreens and then looked for a place to get some lunch. I Googled restaurants in the area and came up with a pizza place called Monza. We found the restaurant but the prices for pizza was very pricey. We decided to keep looking. While we were at Monza, we took a picture of the American Theater, which was featured in the film, “The Notebook”.

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Theater in the Film – “The Notebook”

As we walked back down King Street, we came upon a restaurant called “Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale”. We ordered a veggie burrito and a veggie quesadilla. While it was a very unusual burrito is was OK and the refills on unsweetened tea were free. The next time we are here, we will find other places. What did make this place unusual was the Chanukah menorah on the counter with all eight candles in place.

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Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale

After lunch, we continued to walk around the Francis Marion Park area.  We, of course. saw the typical Charleston architecture.

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It was still Chanukah and Charleston had banners on their streetlights

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and what looked like a Menorah at one end of Marion Park.  That was a bit unusual and amazing.

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Menorah – Maybe

We continued down King Street checking out the fancy stores and eateries.We made an interesting choice for dinner – I would use my texted Subway Coupon to buy a tuna sub, which we would split. Ellen managed to convince the sub maker to put another scoop of tuna on our subs. We carried them back to our hotel.

The rest of the evening was spent in our Indigo toile bedroom. While we worried about the elevator, the biggest problem was our very noisy and inconsiderate neighbors, who thought they were the only people staying at the hotel. In addition, the woman in the group coughed all evening. We could only hope that they would quiet down later.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 – Charleston, SC – Partly Cloudy – mid 60s

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Approaching Charleston

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Our Gunboat Escort

The ship is overnighting in Charleston, SC.  It’s a beautiful day here along the Atlantic Coast.  As we have seen before, our ship is being escorted to the dock by a USCG Gunboat. 

Visible from the ship are the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown, and the Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge.

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Another day of room service as we are both on early tours this morning. I guess I am not tiring of the delicious pancakes and eggs.

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I am on “Kingdom of the Sea” and Ellen is on “The Best of Charleston”.

I only had 20 passengers in a 40 plus capacity brand new bus. Our guide is Fran, born and bred in Charleston. I couldn’t tell how old she was but she told some tales of long ago Charleston (“when I was a kid”). The bus took us on a tour of the city of Charleston and stopped at the following sites:

The Citadel – a military college I was familiar with. The actual stop was at one of the churches (Charleston is known as the “Holy City” because of the large number of churches it has). While the passengers were in the church and looking for washrooms, I walked a block back to the Citadel entrance where a huge class ring stands (the ring is about four feet tall and is a replica of the college’s ring) and took pictures – very impressive.

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The Citadel

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Huge Citadel Class Ring

There was also a vintage jet on the grounds of the Citadel.

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Charleston Museum – This museum, located in the city of Charleston, has a replica of the Civil War Submarine, HL Hunley. on display in front of the building.  This was both a rest stop and an opportunity to take a look at the HL Hunley, that made history by sinking the USS Housatonic back during the “War Between the States” (Fran’s term for the Civil War). 

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The HL Hunley

Ellen’s tour took her to the Hunley Museum, where she was able to see the real Hunley, recovered and stored in water to delay disintegration. 

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Hunley Museum

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The Real HL Hunley (stored in water)

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Scientists are working to identify the crew of the Hunley through DNA.

2nd Presbyterian Church – from the museum, we walked a couple of blocks (difficult for some – I stayed and walked with one passenger, who had mobility issues) to the 2nd Presbyterian Church.  The church is adjacent to an old cemetery.

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Joseph Manigault House – this house, once owned by a wealthy Rice Baron, was saved from destruction and is now a museum.

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Manigault House

The house was very warm and musty inside so I just took pictures from the lobby. We were also treated to iced tea and “Benne Seed Cakes” –

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Benne Seed Cakes

thin wafers coated with benne seeds – tasted like peanut brittle without the peanuts – I really didn’t like them all that much. Benne seeds are a Southern treat and used in baking.  Some passengers bought bags of seeds at the shopping stop at the end of the tour.

No tour would be complete without a look at Ft. Sumter.  The tour took us to the Battery area,

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a defensive seawall during the conflict but today the sight of impressive antebellum homes. 

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We stopped at White Point Park (sometimes called Battery Park) to get photos of the homes and the Fort in the distance.

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Fort Sumter

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White Point Park

The rest of the tour consisted of another run through the city of Charleston – we drove by Francis Marion Park. the church where a mass shooting occurred a few years ago, down King Street (major shopping) and then back to the ship.

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Returning to the Serenity

We got back after the Lido Closed so we had lunch at the Grille. I managed to have gazpacho the entire cruise. A tuna melt with tomatoes and grilled onions was lunch today.  Again, the food was great.

I did a laundry load so we had clean clothes for our next trip and to make it easy to pack. Ellen did a great job of getting all packed for our disembarkation tomorrow.

I finally finished “The Silent Corner” – I expected a bigger finish from Dean Koontz. I had most of the book figured out early on but I wanted a Jack Reacher finish. I did like the main character, FBI Agent Jane Hawk – there are more Jane Hawk books to come.

We couldn’t finish off the cruise without one final Kosher dinner – Ellen had lamb chops and I had my favorite hot dogs. We also had them make us a challah and some chopped liver. All good tonight. A good finishing act for our culinary trip.

Tonight’s headliner was the pickpocket artist, Bob Arnot – so We we passed on the show.

There was no farewell show tonight so we just relaxed the evening away.