Monday, January 31, 2022

December 26, 2001 – Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI – Mostly Sunny – 79F.

Another crazy and restless night. The room was comfortable – sleep was just not there.

The joy of port days - the Cafe opened earlier this morning and the excursion folks did not make the venue any more crowded than usual. I had my usual breakfast "waffles plus" breakfast plus a view of the sail in.

At around 9:30 AM, Ellen and I went back to the Café for her breakfast and my muesli and coffee. This will change the meal schedule for today.

We found great loungers on Deck 5 port side facing the city.  We had views of superyachts, including the superyacht, "Milestone", 

and countless catamarans (seems to be the vessel of choice).  I also got to see several aircraft take off from the nearly International Airport.  We are docked behind the HAL Eurodam and the Allure of the Seas and its 6000 souls are docked at Crown Point Marina behind the hills in the distance.

“Without Fail” is starting to sound familiar again and then it doesn’t.  My final assessment is that I have not read it. 

It's nowhere near iconic, but I actually got into a photo on Deck 5.

We had a very late lunch up in the Oceanview Café.  I was brave enough to try the pizza, which turned out to be OK, along with some tuna on a French roll.  Diet Cokes made it all taste better. 

I also took another panorama shot of Charlotte Amalie but the less inhabited side.

Right in the middle of a page, my Kindle froze.  When I restarted it, my book was not there.  I turned on the Kindle Wi-Fi and tried to reload it and after several attempts it reloaded.  I am hoping that that little anomaly is a one off.

We forgot to order our Kosher Meals yesterday (we were upstairs for dinner and couldn't speak to the Maitre D) so we are eating off the menu tonight in the Discoveries Restaurant.  I had the Cream of Celeriac Soup and the Salmon with a baked potato and some creamed spinach.  Ellen also had the Salmon with veggies.  The "always available" dinners are just fine.  Bonus:  We watched the sail away from our dining room table.

We passed on dessert in the Dining Room since the social distancing is becoming iffy.

We had some coffee and tea in the Mosaic Café until the Cabaret Lounge opened.

The show tonight features pianist and Elton John emulator, Tom Seals.  

The volume was a little loud but, while I could not understand a word he said (a Brit), he is an excellent pianist and does a pretty good Elton John cover.  His “Piano Man” cover was not very Billy Joel like but OK.  He spent a lot of time going over some personal stories including how he and some other passenger on this ship got stuck on the Azamara Pursuit in March 2020 for six weeks looking for a port to disembark. Oh, yes, we ordered White Russians which were good.  We also wore our masks for almost the entire concert – a lot of people in that room drinking so essentially a mask-free room.  Personal NOTE:  The eating and drinking NO MASK loophole is just that.  People drink a bit and then do not put on their masks again.  Also, there are a few “freedom noses” on this ship and there is no official reminder or policing of that.  Not paranoid yet – just cautious.  Speaking of masks, the captain is his pre-push talk, also reemphasized the need for mask usage.  So, it’s not just us.

We went back to the room, which seemed to be at a comfortable temperature.

We have an excursion tomorrow we are hoping to get some sleep tonight.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

December 25, 2021 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Off Coast of Hispaniola – Partly Cloudy -77F

I didn’t have to get room service today.  I slept more or less OK – the engine rumble required the use of earplugs and I don’t sleep as well with earplugs.  The time change didn’t help either.  

I went to the Windows Café when it opened at 7:30 AM and had my usual waffle and fixings along with a scoop of scrambled eggs (they looked really good and I couldn’t resist).  The breakfast was good as usual but the weather outside looked dismal (cloudy and rainy).  I did get a shot of the coast of Hispaniola from the back deck.

Today I have the 10 AM slot in the Cabaret Lounge for “Forensics and History: The Mystery of the Romanovs”.  I was both shocked and pleased at the good turnout – over 100 people (based on a 350 or so capacity).  The talk ran 48 minutes and was followed by the Future Cruise Presentation.

We went up to the Windows Café to make sure we had a patio seat for lunch. I ordered the Tuna Spinach Wrap well done and it was very good except that, as the cruise goes along, the green chili sauce (or something like that) gets spicier and spicier.  Today, the sauce was almost mouth numbing spicy – I was also only able to finish half of my wrap because there was simply too much food.  Because it is Christmas, the officers are doing the serving today.  Tanya is in charge of the gelato stand; she was singing Christmas songs while she was standing there and even did a duet with a passenger ("O Holy Night", of course).  I didn’t see the captain behind the counter but many of the other stripes were there.  Gita from the Concierge Desk was working the salad bar.  Before, we left for Deck 5, I got yet another iconic Ellen railing photo.

I started my other Lee Child book, “Without Fail” and hoped that I hadn’t already read it.  The problem with Jack Reacher books is that they all have similar elements and so things feel familiar.  After a few chapters, it became apparent that I had somehow missed this book as I sent through the series.  It’s from the library so I have several more days to finish it.

We decided to eat the special Christmas Dinner on the back deck of the Oceanview Café rather than hassle with the Dining Room. 

We started off with Frozen Sangrias, a drink I never heard of.  I liked it but Ellen did not. The officers were back to serve this meal as well.  I had the Mushroom Ricotta Cheese Ravioli along with a Beets and Feta cheese appetizer.  They were both good (again, the pasta was molto al dente) but I actually like the beets better.  Along with the meal, I had two hot crossed buns which were very good). Desserts were special tonight with several Yule Log based cakes and something called a Dutch Donut.  I especially liked the dessert breads with dried fruit – kind of a dispersed fruit cake.  Best of all, the dinner was peaceful and calm and the back deck with loaming skies and stars and planets provided a perfect backdrop.  Here's a shot of Venus, joining us again.

We went to the Cabaret Lounge at our usual time and the place was already pretty full.  We were lucky to get two high seats in the back.  Social distancing went out the window as people were packed in.  There were two Christmas Shows scheduled for tonight, but it looked like nearly the whole ship was at the first one.  

Caroling books were handed out and I thought that this was going to be a sing-along.  The “Signature Dancers” did a dance routine to “Jingle Bell Rock” (not nearly what the QM2 dancers do during that Christmas Cruise). The audience and the officers choir along with Tanya and Danny sang a few secular songs and then the actual show began.  Tanya did her “O Holy Night” accompanied by Violinist Jakub, and Justin read a parody of “The Night Before Christmas”.  We felt uncomfortable in the people-dense environment so we stayed for one more song, “All I Want for Christmas” sung by Lisa.  She did an absolutely wonderful job.  We left after that to put some space between us and other passengers.

We paid another visit to Guest Services in an effort to remedy the temperature control in our Cabin – I am not sure the thermostat actually works since moving the temperature does not turn anything on (like in Cabin 4014).  When we got back to the room, the room was cooler (it had been very hot) so maybe the tech came and fixed it. 

The ship is still whipping along at 17 kts so the room is vibrating to the beat of all four engines.  Earplugs again. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

December 24, 2021 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Off Coast of Cuba – Mostly Cloudy – 76F

The earplugs did indeed cancel the engine noise and I did sleep a little better.

I was still up early enough to see the sunrise

as well as another cruiser headed the other way - perhaps back to Florida.

We ordered room service because my first talk today is at 9 AM.  The food arrived on time around 6:45 AM.  We both had waffles.  Ellen had eggs and I had cottage cheese; I had also asked for sour cream but got butter instead.  I also had a bowl of oatmeal.  The food was OK but I should have eaten the waffles earlier because they got cold quickly.

There were only four people at no AV guy when I arrived at the Cabaret Lounge at 8:45 AM for “Crime Scene Investigation: Forensics on Television”.  The AV guy showed up a few minutes later and I got all set up.  I spoke to some of the people in the audience, two of which had seen me on a Celebrity ship (maybe the Equinox on a crossing in 2013).  By the time I got started there were about 25 – 30 people there (considering the early start on sea day #1, I was happy with that).  I got a short introduction from Tanya and I was off and running.  I felt my timing and delivery were good today and the talk finished at about the 48-minute mark.  A few people talked to me while I was breaking things down and we got out of there before the Future Cruise talk started.

Ellen took a ballet class again today.

It was quite a bit warmer on Deck 5 today – what a difference a few degrees of latitude make - so that’s where we were until lunch.  I also will opt for being outside whenever possible during these COVID times.

Lunch in the Windows Café was pretty standard – salad bar, tuna on a roll with onion rings, and a Stella (which I can never finish).  Ellen had some pasta and some teriyaki salmon.  I tried the Cod Fish Fritters, but I stuck with the tuna salad.  We had nice seats on the back patio. 

Trying to finish “Wanted Man” so we were out on Deck 5 pretty much all afternoon.

Dinner was in the Discoveries Restaurant, where we have been successful in distancing ourselves from other guests. I had the potato and goat cheese appetizer and the fettucine pesto minus the Italian Sausage.  The pasta was quite good and the chef continues to work with us to remove the meat items from what would be perfectly OK for veggie folks.  Ellen had the halibut just grilled and I think she liked it.  We passed on dessert.  Instead, we had dessert (frozen yogurt or soft serve and toppings) up in the Patio Café.  It was the first time we could serve ourselves since we boarded these cruises. 

I caught the sunset tonight.

We passed on the Show tonight (Jakub, the violinist) and instead went to the Living Room to read.  Deck 9 was all lit up and begged for a picture.

Our safe place in the Living Room is a couch by the window on the starboard side. I did finish “Wanted Man” – I found it to be an overly wordy book and I was not that happy with the ending (I never like it when likable characters get killed off).  I have one more Reacher book I got from the library – I’ll start that tomorrow.

We are still having trouble with temperature control in our cabin.

Clocks move forward one hour tonight to put us on Atlantic Time for our next port, Castries, St. Lucia.

December 23, 2021 – Miami, FL – Partly Cloudy – 76 F

After some back and forth with the port folks about arrival times, the ship picked up the pilot at 5 AM (I know because I was up and saw the pilot boat) and we were alongside Terminal E at 7 AM. Normally, Quest docks at Terminal J but because of itinerary changes (maybe due to COVID factors, we are at this terminal today).  It won't affect us that much since we are just turning around here for the next cruise. (I took this picture of Terminal E once we got back on board.  Check out the strange architecture.)

We had to be out of our rooms at 8 AM so we ordered room service (available to continuing guests).  The food, pancakes and eggs, oatmeal, and French Toast arrived on time at 6:30 AM and we were ready to get out at 8 AM.  At around 8:15 AM, Danny, our room steward knocked on our door and said we had to go to our new room.  He put all of our stuff on the cart and we followed him to Cabin 4066, which is on the port side but more Midships.  The room is conveniently located near the aft elevators which go right up to the Windows CafeThe room is actually brand new (we also found out that no one had been in this room on the last cruise) and part of a refurb at the last dry dock.  It was located in a very narrow hallway near the Guest Services Desk in an area that used to be the Cruise Director/Entertainment Department Suite.  The room had the beds in the right place and the same large window but everything else in the room was a little smaller (just a few percent).  All of the bathroom fittings were new and the toilet was even new.  The water pressure, however, was pretty sad in this room compared to 4014 and the shower was just that much smaller to be tight - I would estimate that the width of the shower floor was just a little over a foot.  The room had its quirks, yet it was bright and new - and cold. 


Continuing passengers were asked to meet at 9:00 AM in the Discoveries Lounge.  We received our new key cards and some additional instructions in an envelope. From there, after a short wait, we were escorted by Gita, the Concierge Manager, off the ship.  Our key cards were scanned and we went as a group to Immigration.  I thought this would a quick process as there were CBP agents manning their posts.  We wound up waiting more than a half hour (we were told that CBP wasn’t ready for us) before we went through the passport check (which literally took 10 seconds).  We then marched back to the ship, had our pictures taken and our new cards activated.

Passengers were not due back on the ship until around 3 PM (everyone needed to be COVID tested in the terminal).  Continuing passengers were being treated to a special lunch at Aqualina (the fancy suite only restaurant).  The menu was a special one but there was plenty for us to eat – I had a couple of appetizers, a Cesar Salad, Yukon Potato Soup, and blackened Grouper.  I had carrot cake for dessert along with an Italian white wine.  It was a good lunch. 

After lunch, we went back to the room to put away our stuff and found that the room was an icebox.  A HVAC tech came to the room, did some adjusting, called someone on his phone, and said it was fixed.  It did warm up slowly over the afternoon.  The safe didn’t work either and two folks came to fix that.  Perhaps, no one had occupied this room in quite a while.  Everything was eventually squared away, or so we thought.

I visited Guest Services to give them a credit card, activate my internet package, and get my Premium Drink Package sticker for my sea pass card - Daniela, the agent, was very efficient.

I took some pictures of the port area and Miami - it was warm in the Sun.  I watched the Carnival Sunrise depart.  The views from Terminals E and J are quite different, J being a lot closer to Miami.

It was too cold to sit outside on the open deck (shaded) and the other deck was being used to embark new passengers so we spent the afternoon up in the Living Room.

We had dinner in the Discoveries Restaurant. Armando is no longer our waiter and our new guy, from Croatia, Tin, is very helpful and accommodating.  He is hard to understand with his mask on so he pulls it down (I wish he wouldn’t) so we will need to wear our masks around him.  

Dinner tonight for me consisted of Vol au Vont, Caprese Salad and Baby Spinach and a specially made main dish, Vegetarian Singapore Noodles (no seafood).  The noodles were quite good.  Ellen had pan fried Sole with no seafood and it was very good as well.  We had our desserts (actually the little treats dropped off in our room) in the Mosaic Café.  I don’t know what the barista did but the coffee was especially good tonight.  A very nice dining experience on the first night of Cruise 2.

From our table, we watched the sail away. We passed the huge, Symphony of the Seas, on our way out to sea.

We decided not to attend “Come Sail Away” this time round and spent the evening reading in the mostly deserted Mosaic Café.

We heard that this sailing had 535 guests on board (still a bit short of capacity of around 700).

We went back to the room for the rest of the evening.  Because this room is closer to the engines, we do get a low rumble when all the engines are all running (Cabin 4014 was essentially noise-free).  The noise was handled by earplugs.

December 22, 2021 – At Sea – Heading to Florida – Partly Cloudy 79F

Didn’t sleep well because of the time change – just the way my circadian rhythms work.

The seas are a little choppy. 

I got up early enough to catch the sunrise from our cabin window.

Ellen and I both went up for breakfast in the Windows Café at 7:30 AM because we were going to go directly to the Living Room for COVID testing for continuing passengers and UK Nationals.  For the first time on this cruise, I tried a veggie omelet and ordered a waffle for backup.  The waffle was the better choice as the omelet was a bit light on the veggies (I probably should have been more specific).

There was no crowd in the Living Room as there are only 35 continuing passengers and 44 Brits.  We got there at 8 AM and the testing was scheduled until 10 AM so there won’t be any delays.  Less than 30 minutes later we both got emails that we were NEGATIVE, which was good news.  The captain has no updates on the departure testing so I can assume that there were no positives in our small group so that's a good start for Cruise 2.

There was a little confusion on the start time for my sixth and final talk.  The Insider had me at 10 AM in the big activity list and 9:00 AM in the spotlight summary.  Tanya made a announcement at 9:00 AM that cleared up any confusion.

My 10:00 AM talk (the last one on this cruise) – “Forensic Detectives: The Search for Jack the Ripper” – had the biggest turnout so far – about 80 attendees (maybe more). 

For lunch I had a Beyond Burger, onion rings, and salad from The Patio.  The burger was good but it did taste like it was baked (perhaps because it started off frozen). I had a Stella with my meal (don’t want that Premium Drink Package to go to waste).  Ellen, who is more adventurous, found some Zucchini Parmesan (thought it was eggplant) but reverted back to the tuna and egg salad scoops.  I really haven't had much gelato on this cruise but today I tried the Cherry Amarino gelato (I like cherries) but didn’t really like it. 

At least three engines are running as we scoot back to Florida.


Since we were heading North toward Florida, it was too cold and windy on the open decks.  I tried to spend some time in Mosaic Café, while Ellen went to Ballet Class today as the only student and also went to the Jewelry Making Class.  I stopped into the jewelry class - held in the Discoveries Lounge - and helped pick out beaded letters.  A good turnout for this class - only ladies, however.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in our room looking at the gray skies and rain outside.  I made good progress on “Wanted Man” – a very interesting book – a bit different than the other 25 Reacher books I’ve read.

We had dinner in the Discoveries Restaurant.  I had Risotto with fried mushrooms, which was very al dente but still very tasty.  I also had a good salad with avocado.  Ellen was the clear winner tonight because the menu featured trout which she got with no shrimp.

I did happen to get a nice shot of the sunset - haven't had the chance to take many of those but this was a very colorful one.

Showtime tonight was the Production Show, “Just Dance”. There were some good songs and dancing but after a while the band and the singers became too loud. We didn’t bring our earplugs, so we headed to the room.

We found out that we will be changing rooms tomorrow, so we put all of our non-hanger clothes into our suitcases along with our meds and vitamins as well as toiletries.  The other stuff including shoes will be taken to our new digs on a cart.  It didn’t take too long to get that done so we are ready for the morning.

Seas are a little choppy the closer we get to Miami.

Friday, January 28, 2022

December 21, 2021 – At Sea – Off Coast of Hispaniola – Party Cloudy – 81F

December 21, 2021 (12/21/21 all ones and twos) - shortest day of the year - Winter Solstice, and the first day of Winter.  No matter, we are in the constant warmth of the Caribbean.  Today, we are sailing just off the coast of Hispaniola (bottom photo in the haze).

Because of the late start time of my talk today, I can actually have a leisurely breakfast in the Ocean View Café.  Below, my cottage cheese and jams await the arrival of my waffle and sour cream.

Later in the morning, I even had time to grab an Iced Decaf Mocha in the Mosaic Café and review some of the slides. 

My fifth presentation today was at 11:00 AM – “Forensics and History: Search for the Unknown Titanic Child”.  At 10 AM, there was a presentation about how the ship works put on by the officers and engineers.  When I got to the theater at 10:45 AM, there were pieces ship equipment all over the theater.  There was a zodiac on the stage and gears and pistons on the floor.  The chairs were all moved to make room for the goodies.  

The crew tried to clear away the items (the last to go was the zodiac) as fast as they could and I finally got to set up at near the start time. Attendance this morning was about 40 attendees.  

To put this attendance in perspective - that was 10 percent of the guests.  If we were on a 3000 guest ship, the attendance might be around 300 and I would be totally pleased with that turnout. It's a numbers game.  Finished at 47 minutes despite the late and harried start.

We had a quick lunch upstairs and then went to the 1:00 PM Matinee show in the Cabaret Lounge, “On Broadway”, featuring the lead singers Calvin and Lisa Louise along with Danny and Tanya. Justin, the Activity Manager (and DJ) also joined the cast for this concert.  

The concert was excellent – I’m going to say one of the best if not the best Cabaret Concert we have ever seen on ships (and that includes those on Crystal).  

Some highlights:  Danny sang “The Stars” from Les Miserables (a wonderful version).  

Lisa sang “Meadowlark” from "The Baker's Wife" and did a better job than Sarah Brightman does on her CD.  

Justin sang “Too Many Tomorrows” from “Sweet Charity” in a surprising opera voice.  

Lisa and Duncan sang “As Long as You’re Mine” from Wicked, one of my favorite numbers from the play.  

Danny encored with “Love Never Dies” from the Phantom sequel – wonderful but underappreciated song.  

Tanya did an earlier duet with Lisa from "Wicked"; then she came back with a song called “Ice Cream” from “She Loves Me”.  

The finale was a group rendition of “Seasons of Love” done absolutely perfectly.  

I felt the audience underappreciated the performance (based on the hushed applause and rapid exit of some of the guests).  Maybe the audience just wasn’t into Broadway ballads.

We had a little time out on the open deck during which time I took this "masked iconic" photo.

Dinner was once again the Discoveries Restaurant.  Wrapped Zucchini with basil lemon ricotta appetizer (odd but OK), Greek Salad (always tasty). I had the standard Salmon and baked potato along with very good creamed spinach.  Ellen had pan seared Sole (hold the mussels) which she really liked.  The dinner was very good and the service was quick and efficient.

After dinner we saw Sasha and Dima’s Second Show, “Dancing Through the Life”.  They again did a very nice job finishing up with a video featuring some of their students (kids and teens) back in Ukraine (along with some nice scenic shots of Kyiv). Sasha gave a little talk about her background.

Went back to the room to stretch out those discs and relax.

Clocks move back one hour to put us on EST – Miami Time.

Seas are smooth.