Friday, January 31, 2020

May 4, 2019 - At Sea (Caribbean) - Partly Cloudy - 70s

Another beautiful day at sea.

Second talk today - "Forensics and History: The Mystery of the Romanovs" - pulled another full house in the Lounge.  Everything went well and the crowd seemed to appreciate it.

The rest of the day was a typical sea day.

We had lunch in the Terraces Café but I got my meal from the Waves Grill, which is adjacent to the Café.  I tried the grilled Ahi Tuna with Mango Relish.  Very good but you have to ask for it to be well done.

We had dinner in the Terraces Café - some pizza this time round along with the freshly made Cesar Salad.

May 3, 2019 - At Sea - Caribbean Sea - Partly Cloudy - 70s

A quiet night and a very calm sea made for a restful night.

It is a totally beautiful day at sea.

I had breakfast up in the Terrace Cafe - the good thing is that it is not very crowded at opening time.  Got myself a nice quiet table with a view of the water.  The good was good - I am hoping that this will be pattern for the entire cruse.

Specialty coffees and regular soft drinks are included on Oceania.  Baristas is the Coffee Bar on Deck 5 just outside the Grand Dining Room.  It's a very popular place in the morning (as you might expect).  I grabbed the table in the corner so I can see the water and I bring along my laptop so I can tidy up the talk of the day.  I have found a terrific barista in Barbara, who works the morning shift generally.  She is from Napoli and makes a perfect decaf mocha latte skinny - she also brings it to the table.  There are several baristas rotating through but she always has a cheerful good morning to go along with the great coffee.

Another nice thing about Baristas is that Corey, the Cruise Director, comes by at the same time I do and always says Hi.  You don't see that always in a CD and I always the appreciate the contact.  Even though the place is small, it is quiet and I can get my work done.  Today, I am putting any final touches on "Cold Cases Solved" for later in the afternoon.

The Regatta does have a nice salad bar for lunch as well as made-fresh Cesar Salad, both of which are very good.  Terraces can get a little crowded at lunch.  They also have a special for lunch, which is displayed and requires a request to get it.  Today, I am sticking with the salad with some tuna salad.

Just outside the Terrace Cafe adjacent to the pool is the Wave's Grill - they have a couple of items I'm planning to try later on in the cruise.

After lunch, I got ready for my talk - I am wearing a shirt and tie for this cruise but no jacket - it is, after all, a warm weather cruise.

All of the lectures will be in the Lounge (really the only venue for large presentations).  I set up my laptop quickly with the help of the AV techs.  Unlike the sometimes odd things that happen on the Azamara ships, the Regatta uses all three screens so everyone can see.  The picture quality is very good and headset mic worked perfectly.

My first talk - "DNA Testing:  Cold Cases Solved" pulled a full house of passengers.  A pleasant surprise for me.  The talk went well and finished on time.  The crowd seemed to like it based on the feedback post talk.

We spent the afternoon out on the open deck - warm and not too windy.

Dinner was up in Terraces - salad bar and pasta made to order - I indicated that I need a totally vegetarian pasta and they were able to do that.

After dinner, we went to the Lounge for Showtime to hear vocalist, Sonia Selbie.

We have seen her before and enjoyed her boisterous singing style and humor.  She is very entertaining.  As usual, we sat in the back next to the spot techs.  I am thrilled to be able to get as many club sodas as I want on this cruise and bottled water as well.

A very nice first day at sea.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

May 2, 2019 - Havana, Cuba - Sunny - 80s

The room was quiet and the seas gentle - only a short hop to Havana from Miami.

It's a beautiful day in Havana - not a cloud in the sky and not too warm.

A nice breakfast up in the Terrace Café - they have all the usual fare - waffles and cottage cheese but, if you want pancakes, they make them for you on request. Overall, the breakfast was good although they open pretty late for me.

We are both on "A Walking Tour of Old Havana" today (nice to get an excursion at the first port).

The approach to Havana was similar in some ways to that in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  There is a fort near the entrance to the harbor and then a large bay and finally a terminal building.  The approach (including us) is shown in the sequence below.

We will be docked at the Sierra Maestra Cruise Terminal.  The terminal building was still somewhat in disrepair - understandable since ships have not really been coming here on a regular basis.  We disembarked and met our group and guide, Lisa, in the terminal and then walked across the street to start our tour.  The map below shows where we walked.

Our first stop was the Plaza de San Francisco, which was constructed in the 17th century to accommodate the ships docking at the harbor.  In 1730, Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asis (Church and Convent of St Francis of Asisi) started construction and is still the main building in the square.

In the southeast corner of the plaza, the Fuente de Los Leones was sculpted in Carrera marble by an Italian artist in 1836.  

The tour's next stop, as we walked by and through narrow streets,

was the Plaza Vieja.

The plaza had some interesting features - the first was a metal installation of a tree and the second was a woman riding on a rooster while holding a fork.  The tree is self explanatory but the other statue is allegorical - it depicts a prostitute (the woman), the rooster (an American man she is pursuing), and the fork (the woman earning money to put food on the table).  Pretty big stretch but that's art.  BTW, Lisa, our guide, shown with the statue, did not give us that explanation of the sculpture.

We passed by the Casa Gobierno in the Plaza de Armas.  We couldn't see much but I did spot a statue of Cristobal Colon in the courtyard.

We saw the famous Catedral San Cristobal (Havana Cathedral), the resting place for Cristobal Colon's bones from 1796 to 1898 (they were moved from Santo Domingo, Hispanola). They were then transported to the Catedral de Sevilla, where they are today.  Part of the mystery of Columbus' final resting place. 

We continued to the Hotel Ambos Mundos and walked around the lobby.  The hotel is famous for the resident in Room 511, where Ernest Hemingway lived for seven years in the 1930s.  Today, the room is a mini-museum within the hotel.

No trip to Havana would be complete without checking out the vintage American cars endemic to this city.  We found a whole row of them across the street from the Old City.

The tour turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment.  Instead of telling us about the sights of Old Havana, Lisa focused on the politics of Cuba, the plight of the people, the revolution, and related items.  They are important but we are tourists hoping to learn something from the perspective of a local.  Another time, if there is one, maybe.

We headed back to the Terminal Building and then to the ship.

We watched the sail away from Deck 5.  At least we can say that we visited Cuba and Old Havana.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

May 1, 2019 - Miami, Fl - Nice 80sF

Embarkation Day

The hotel was quiet and we slept pretty good.

We had the usual and good La Quinta breakfast - highlighted by the you-make-em waffles.

La Quinta does not have a shuttle to the cruise port, so I called an Uber (the trip cost me nothing because I had credit with Uber).  We found the ship and boarded very quickly.  We are in a regular outside cabin with a pretty good view.  Hopefully, it will be quiet.

The Regatta is essentially identical to the Pacific Princess and any of the Azamara Ships so we did not need to explore the ship - instead we just found a quiet spot in the top deck forward. The names of the various venues on the ship are different from those used by the other lines.  For example, here is Deck 5 where we spend a lot of time.

I was able to get some terrific pictures of the Miami skyline from the ship (you can tell that it's a beautiful day).

We are in Cabin 6041, which in a midships Ocean View cabin with half of a lifeboat outside our window.  Still, the window lets in the light and that's all I need.  If we have a quiet neighbor, then we'll be fine in this room.

We attended the lifeboat drill and then I went and met with Corey Powell, the cruise director, about the talks I would be giving and was told that all the talks would be scheduled and would take place in the Lounge.

We then went out on Deck 5 to watch the sail away.

We changed for dinner - tonight we are going to try the Grand Dining Room.  The Maître D did find us a table for two in the center section of the room.  After checking out the menu, the only thing for us tonight was the grilled salmon in choron sauce (special spicy tomato sauce) and rice pilaf - we actually had baked potatoes since the rice had beef broth.  Ellen had her fish just grilled and I tried the salmon as is (I liked it but I am not sure the Dining Room will work for us on this cruise).  The service was good.

We checked out the Welcome Aboard Show and then hung out at the Upper Hall area.  It's quiet and comfortable.

The itinerary for this cruise is

There are lots of ports but the key port on this cruise is the first stop - Havana, Cuba.  Cruise ships have only recently been allowed to visit this port.

We headed back to our room to rest up.  The rooms seems quiet.

Seas are smooth.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Grand Panama Canal - Oceania Regatta - Miami FL to San Francisco CA - May 1-19, 2019

Grand Panama Canal - Oceania Regatta - Miami FL to San Francisco CA 

This will be our first time on an Oceania Cruiser.  This will also be an unusual trip log as my real time log has been inadvertently deleted.  I am going to use the photos taken during the voyage to reconstruct some of the trip but the post will be primarily photos.

April 30, 2019 - Travel Day

We have, as we have had on many occasions, at early flight to Miami.  AA1438 departs ORD at 8:40 AM so our taxi picked us up at around 6:30 AM (we like to be early).  We got to the airport in plenty of time, checked our bags at the AA Kiosk (great time and queue time saver), zipped through security, and had plenty of time to chill out at our gate.  Our plane - a 737-800 was waiting at the gate.

We boarded on time and the flight to MIA was uneventful - we are in very comfy Cabin Extra seats and the included Bailey's on ice was good (if not a little early).

The flight landed on time and our bags appeared on the carousel.  I called our hotel, La Quinta Inn & Suites Miami Airport West in Doral and after a short wait, their shuttle picked us up and took us to the hotel. The hotel is located in the same general area where we usually stay, The hotel is nice and the room is pretty nice as well. We hung out by the pool since we basically have the whole day in Miami. The last time we were here, we found a nice spa, Asiami Spa, so we decided to make appointments for the late afternoon. I called an Uber to get us there - we were not within walking distance. The people at the spa are very nice and the place is very clean and we both had nice massages for $60 an hour each. After dinner, we walked a few steps to Chullos Peruvian Restaurant. It was a beautiful evening so we ate Al Fresco.  I liked my sauteed Salmon (unusual but delicious spices) and veggies.  ET didn't like her lemony quinoa salad and sent it back because it was too spicy. The second attempt was also not acceptable (the restaurant did not charge for her meal - nice).  The Peruvian beer was good. A short Uber ride later and we were back in our hotel. We rested up for our embarkation tomorrow.