Thursday, July 5, 2018

Sunday, March 18, 2018 – Miami FL – Sunny – 79F

I had my usual breakfast up in the crowded Oceanview Café. At one point, I went to get a refill on my coffee and a passenger had moved my breakfast and sat down in my seat. I found another seat and got some more good.

We walked off the ship at about 9:00 AM and after waiting in a long immigration line, headed outside to call the airport van company (we had gotten their card when they took us to the cruise port two weeks ago). I didn’t need to call them because they were already there drumming up passengers. We waited only 10 minutes until we were on our way to the airport ($10 pp). He dropped us at American Airlines

Kiosk check in was quick and our pass through TSA security equally as quick.  We made our way to Gate D15 gate for our 1:50 PM flight.

We had lunch – made some sandwiches from what were able to get from the ship.  Some airport chips and obligatory diet coke rounded out our tasty lunch.

We are on AA1090, an A321B in Seats 28C/28D.  It’s a relatively short flight so the cramped seats are only a minor annoyance.

The flight boarded and departed on time.  We landed a little after 4 PM.  Soon, an American Taxi was taking us home.

A very nice island hopping cruise on Celebrity.

Saturday, March 17, 2018 – At Sea – Between Cuba and Haiti – Warm and Nice – 70sF

A beautiful final day at Sea.

Another nice breakfast up in the Oceanview Café – the most consistently good meal of the day. Waffles, pancakes, scrambled cheese omelets – and great coffee.

I tidied up my final talk – “Forensic Detectives: Identifying America’s Fallen Heroes” - up in the Aqua Spa Café – my hip and back are still hurting (setting records for most Advil taken) so it’s a little difficult to find a comfortable position. I changed some things around for clarity.

The talk today is at 1:00 PM overlapping with a St. Patrick’s Day concert by flautist Gary Arbuthnot at 1:30 PM.  Again, the computer folks on the ship put together a cool advert for this talk.

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The Oceanview Café is running a fancy buffet at Noon so we were there right when it opened. Once again, fish and chips were on the menu and this time they were a little more done and very good. We ate quickly and I ran down to the room to get ready.

My audience was pretty good considering the timing and competition – about 90 plus full – some empty seats on the side in the front. The audience is very engaged and there are about 10 veterans present. I also found out that about 90 percent of this audience had attended all five programs. The talk ran about 50 minutes and I got a mid-talk round of applause when I finished the Vietnam Unknown Soldier segment.

All in all, a very successful lecture series – I really like Celebrity Central. Again, my main competition was the wonderful weather all cruise long.  When I would go up to breakfast at 7 AM, Deck 14 was already basically full of people. Deck 12, the pool deck, was filling up and the sun had barely come up. This was a very Sun loving bunch. If I weren’t speaking, I would be outside – not in the sun but in the sweet and clean ocean air.

I finished “The Forgotten Room” while trying to get comfortable in the Solarium. The plot turned out to be pretty confusing in the end and they killed off one of my favorite characters. Not Lincoln Childs’ best effort but I will give him another chance.

Got some pictures of the calm seas from the open deck. 

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Also, I think that there was another cruise ship out there.

IMG_20180317_At Sea Another Ship

No cruise would be complete without the iconic Ellen on Deck picture.

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The Party Band was performing on the pool deck.  Worth a picture.

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Back Before Sunset

We changed for dinner and decided to have dinner up in the Oceanview Café. I had Pasta Oglio prepared by the pasta station and a really good mixed salad. Garbanzo beans have been available this whole cruise as have Chinese noodles. The salads have really been a pleasant surprise.

We sat in the balcony for the final Production Show – “Euphoria” – a Cirque type show involving mostly acrobats and flyers. Only a couple of singers backed up the acrobatic numbers. The volume and type of music eventually got to us (even though the show was unique and well produced) so we went looking for a quieter spot.

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We found some nice seats on Deck 4 atrium, where the party band, “Back Before Sunset” was playing. I again feel bad that I didn’t discover this band early on the cruise. I really like the lead singer and how she moves around when she sings.

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Party Band in the Atrium

We listened to their set and then stayed for the performance by the Passenger Choir. Conducted by singer Caleb and supported by singer Christine,

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the choir did “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Imagine”. Following the choir, a flash mob broke out and they were really terrific – the lead dancer, I guess a passenger, was fantastic and obviously had some kind of dance training – she was burning up the floor.

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Flash Mob Takes Over the Atrium

We went to the room to make sure we had everything ready for tomorrow – this involved a last minute visit to Guest Relations to straighten out some items.

We are doing Walk Off tomorrow – we can leave anytime between 7:30 and 9:30 AM.

Friday, March 16, 2018 – At Sea – Caribbean Sea – Mostly Sunny – 80s

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A beautiful day at sea.

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I used to have a great table in the Oceanview Café for breakfast but over the last week or so, another group of folks have commandeered my table. No matter how early I get there, they are already seated and chatting.

Today, I ventured over to the other side of the ship and found a similar seat on the Starboard side – it’s quieter over there and it was just me, the waves, and the rising sun. Perfect. I had two pancakes and a scrambled cheese omelet – wonderful – along with the absolutely perfect LavAzza Coffee.

I went up to the Aqua Spa Café to fix up my fourth talk – a perfect place to work – ocean view, new age music, and endless coffee.

It’s been four days since my last presentation but today I am scheduled for 11:30 AM in Celebrity Central for “Forensic Detectives: The Search for Jack the Ripper”.  At 11:10 AM, there was already a lot of people in the theater. The attendance was SRO, with some people sitting on the floor. The problem was that people would come in, see that there were no seats, and leave. A shame. The talk took about 50 minutes due to some comments and interactions with the audience. The best talk and reaction of the cruise so far. (NOTE: While working on the talk earlier, I inadvertently deleted an important slide [the names of the five victims] – I made do but it was probably confusing for the audience).  NOTE:  Celebrity Central seating capacity is 208 so SRO audiences probably consist of about 220 folks.

By the way, the ship does great graphics in their adverts for lectures – a good example is the one for today’s talk.  Neat, huh.

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When we went to the Oceanview Café for lunch, we found it slammed – there simply aren’t enough seats for everyone at lunch (perhaps, the attendees from my talk all came up here to eat). We eventually found two seats. The café offered an interesting soup today – “Hot and Spicy Vegetable Soup”. It was as advertised but it was so good, I had two bowls. Today was also “Falafel Day” and four different types of falafel were offered – however, there was no pita bread and tahini. I tried the different types of chickpea balls along with a green salad.  I will look for this soup on our next voyage on the Eclipse.

It was a windless day on Deck 5 so we found two deck chairs and spent the afternoon out there reading (and dozing off).  In the water, I noticed this orange slick of organic material – don’t know what it is but we’ve seen it before – this was the largest slick to date.  I checked into this and found that the Coast Guard said a similar material in the Mississippi River was algae.

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Algae Slick

We ate an early dinner in the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room. I had the potato plantain soup off the veggie menu plus herb crusted haddock and spaghetti marinara (off the veggie menu). The pasta and soup were good but the fish was swapped for salmon.

Showtime tonight is the “Intimate Broadway Cabaret Concert”. We have seen this kind of show before on other ships – each singer or group of singers performs a show tune. Tonight’s show was a clear winner – I knew it would be when Charlotte (from the UK) and “I Want to Be Your Star” from Smash. I found the singer’s names – Charlotte (UK), Christine (Malta), and Ta-Ty (from Chicago); Caleb (Florida), Dan (Blackpool UK), and Elijah Avraham (really) (New Jersey). The numbers included “Bring Him Home” (sung by the guys) and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him/Maybe This Time/ On My Own” medley (sung by the girls), “This is the Moment” (done wonderfully by Caleb), and “Stand By Me” (Finale with everyone). Thoroughly enjoyable show.

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Let Me Be Your Star

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On My Own/I Don’t Know How to Love Him/Maybe This Time Medley

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Finale – Stand By Me

After the show, we caught a little bit of the “Back Before Sunset” Party Band.  The lead singer is terrific and the music is not that loud.  We should have discovered them earlier in the cruise.  Curious what their name means.

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Back Before Sunset Band

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – Day 2 - Oranjestad, Aruba – Mostly Sunny – 80F

The Ides of March in Aruba

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Oranjestad Panorama

Hip and all, I was able to get some sleep.

After the usual breakfast, we are planning to go back into town and find the two spas we saw yesterday. Ellen is going to go to Maggy’s and I am headed back to Risbella’s Salon. I texted Maggy and told her we were coming and she was ready for Ellen.  Global Texting and Internet – a nice perk from my carrier.

It turns out the hip does not bother me when I walk – only when I sit and get up. So it was no problem walking into town.  In the terminal, I got into a picture with what I assumed to be some kind of mascot.


We also found a different kind of Aruba sign.  This one looked moveable.

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We stopped first at Risbella – the door was locked even though the OPEN sign was out. They soon answered the knock and tech recognized me (I think) and we still had to communicate via sign language and pointing.  it was a good massage and I put both spas into my contacts for future reference (who knows when we will be back in this neck of the woods again).

Before we returned to the ship, I picked up an Aruba baseball cap at a good price.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon in the Solarium – I am making progress on “The Forgotten Room”, which is turning out to be a ghost story (not my favorite but I an waiting for a twist).

Before dinner, we watched the sail away.  There were some very interesting sandbars jutting out from the mainland.  Since we had internet from the shore, I tracked our sail away on Google Maps. 

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The ship also sailed by the Reina Beatrix International Airport.

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Aruba Sail Away

After checking out the menu items in the Dining Room, we had dinner up in the buffet – this time I had the pasta pesto sans veggies – it was much better that way.  The pasta station is one of the best features of the Oceanview Café.

Eddy had called earlier and asked me to participate in the game show “The Chase is On” (based on a British TV Show) at 8:00 PM – I reluctantly agreed not even knowing how this trivia game works. There was actually a good turnout. The point of the game is: Audience members compete with “Chasers” to see who can get more correct trivia answers in one minute. I was one of the chasers along with Eddy and someone from Shorex. I wound up going first – my opponent got nine. I also got nine including some answers that just came to me. I missed a few easy ones but that 9 was the most correct answers of the evening. It was harder that it looked – I’m never good on a timer but it was fun.  Oh yes, a tie goes to the passenger, who got some Eclipse goody – so everyone wins.

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The Chase is On

At 9:00 PM, we went to see the show. The Headliner tonight was Dan Wilson, comedian. He was an all out hoot – I thought everything he said was funny. It’s too bad he can’t have a second show. The audience loved him.

Heading home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 – Oranjestad, Aruba – Mostly Sunny – 80F

Distance from Curacao to Oranjestad, Aruba: 77 Nautical Miles

Just a hop, skip, and a jump to Aruba…


Port Information.  The island of Aruba was first inhabited by the ubiquitous Arawak Indians (called Caiquetios). They arrived about two millennia ago from Venezuela. The island was Spanish until 1636, when the Dutch arrived. Aruba is one of the islands making up the Netherland Antilles.  Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba (since 1797) and the Netherland Antilles, has a population of about 35,000 people. It has at least two casinos and a number of streets dotted with both the standard touristic stores but also with high end stores.

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Oranjestad From Eclipse

We have been in Aruba twice but the last time was eight years ago. The ship will be overnighting in Aruba on this itinerary, a first for us on a Celebrity ship.

We had originally purchased an excursion but cancelled it (we have seen the sights before) and decided instead to walk around the town.  The main shopping street (aside from the street abutting the pier) is Caya Betico Croes.

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Main Street Panorama

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Royal Plaza Shopping Center

This street is about three streets in from the pier and must have a hundred different stores and restaurants. There is a trolley that runs along that street and some of the other streets in the town. We will know this for next time.

The city was having some kind of Art Festival and the streets were populated by the occasional ceramic blue horse and cow.  Ellen got to meet both of them.

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 IMG_20180314_the blue horses of Oranjestad

The shopping area was also home to the Renaissance Mall.  A good place to get out of the heat and find facilities.

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Renaissance Mall

A little internet search identified a potential spa – Maggy’s Main Street – on that street. We found it and also had a coupon for a 10 percent discount (handed out on the street by Maggy’s husband). Maggy’s is located in a fancy perfume shop and looked real nice but they only had one therapist (Maggy) and the massages only lasted for 50 minutes and cost $60 dollars. So we decided to keep looking.

About two blocks away we came across Risbella’s Unisex Salon. They also had massages – at first they were 55 minutes for $60 but after some discussion (which was interesting since no one spoke any English) we agreed on one hour for $60. I went first and the massage therapist was very good but she spoke zero English – I am not sure what she spoke – might have been Spanish and Papiamento or something in between. We communicated through sign language and my minimal Spanish. She was nice and personable. The issue with the place was that it was hot and when I was finished, I was going to recommended that Ellen pass. She already decided that so we headed back to the ship for lunch.

We decided to go to the Oceanview Café for dinner. I had the pasta guy make me Spaghetti al Pesto (with assorted veggies). I found out that the veggies actually clashed with the pesto flavor. Still it was a pretty good dish.

We passed on the show tonight – flautist Gary Arbuthnot (he is talented and pleasant but we have seen him previously and just wanted a break from the theater).

Also, I had come up with a sore right hip (can’t blame an injury for this one) and the theater seats might make the ache worse. So I am going to battle this one with Advil and Aleve and nip it in the bud.

Instead, we spent the evening on the couches at the Oceanview Bar – Deck 14 Aft. A very comfortable spot and relatively quiet.