Saturday, April 30, 2022

April 4, 2022 – Willemstad, Curacao, Netherland Antilles – Mostly Cloudy – Windy – 82F

The cocktail of drugs did help and I was able to sleep a little and regain most of my ability to walk without pain.

Google revealed our ship's location in Curacao. I could identify some of the landmarks from my vantage point in the Solarium.  I clearly remember the Renaissance Hotel but I can't recall the Starbucks.  The synagogue we have visited a number of times during our trips here was also on the map (top).

I ate breakfast in the Oceanview Café – the crowd was smaller than expected – I guess people had eaten early to get ready for their day in Willemstad.  I had a blueberry and a plain pancake with cottage cheese and strawberry compote.  A smidge of scrambled eggs completed the breakfast.  It was all good and I also managed to get two cups of hot coffee.  Getting hot coffee is not easy on this ship and I don’t know why.

We spent the entire day in the Solarium, which had open seats galore because most of the passengers were off ship.  We found one lounger and an adjoining circular bed on the side of the ship that faced Curacao.  I spent most of the time reading “The Drifter”.  I find that reading on my Kindle is a better sleep aid than drugs.

The harbor had brought out some dancing girls to greet the ship and entertain the passengers.  The terminal area is shown in the pictures below along with shots of the shoreline of Willemstad and Curacao.

We even ate in the Solarium.  I got a salad and veggie burger from the Café and brought them to the Aqua Spa Café.  Ellen had the Spa Café’s tuna and salmon along with Caprese Salad.  I had a few of their breadsticks.  The only issue with the Spa Café is that they don’t always have iced tea in their dispensers.

While getting my lunch, I was able to take a nice picture of the party band, "Dancing Town", on the pool deck.

We changed our clothes and went to dinner in the San Marco Dining Room – a check of the menu indicated that there would be food options for us.  I should mention that the Hostess has given us a table for four (but for two) near the aft section of the restaurant.  We have no neighbors so it's a bit safer.  Also, it's a great place to get some nice sunset pictures (if only the windows were cleaner).

Service was again slow (reasons unclear).  I had the Eggplant Caviar (aka Baba Ganoush) (good) and the Spinach Turnover in Cheese Sauce (good).  I also had the Tuscan Minestrone (hot and OK).  Our main dishes got confused – I wanted the Tilapia Putanesca with creamed spinach.  Instead I got plain fish with creamed green beans (the kitchen was out of spinach).  Our waiter, Limon, quickly rustled up the putanesca version – I wound up combining the plain grilled fish and the sauce (the fish that came with it wasn’t as good).  What saved the day for me was the surprisingly good Gnocchi con Quattro Fromaggi.  Ellen had the plain fish with mushrooms and polenta fries (the setup for another entrée).  She was suspicious of the mushrooms, which were very dark.

We didn’t stay for dessert and instead headed for the theater for Showtime. Tonight’s headliner was Daniel Cielan, award winning magician.  He did have some nice tricks but we had seen all of these in the past.  He always had a long lead up to his magic trick -  maybe a little too long.  He had a pleasant personality but his show seemed too familiar.

We stopped off at the Rendezvous Lounge to hear a little bit of the "No Name Duo".  After a while, we didn’t really care for their style and decided to go the room.  My back was stating to act up so the timing was right.

All aboard was 7:30 PM – again, we did not hear the bow thrusters during the push.  Based on our location on the ship, we should have heard them (like we have on other ships).

Our tour of the ABC Islands is over and now we are heading back to Tampa.

April 3, 2022 – Oranjestad, Aruba, Netherland Antilles – Mostly Cloudy – 82F

My back is a little stiff this morning but manageable. 

I was up early enough to catch the sunrise from the cabin as we approached Aruba.

Sunrise near Aruba

Last night, we received a letter in our room that we were scheduled for COVID antigen testing at 9:30 AM.  This would conflict with our planned excursion, so we called Guest Relations and got the testing rescheduled for 8:00 AM.  The Oceanview Café opens at 7 AM so instead we ordered Room Service for 7:00 AM – breakfast arrived 10 minutes early and we were done in plenty of time to get to our testing venue – Conference Room Beta on Deck 3 forward. 

When we go to the Conference Room, there was no one there.  Next door, there were some people from Eurofins getting ready for the testing.  One of the nurses took us next door and swabbed our noses.  The whole thing, which changed our entire morning routine, took less than a minute.  Things went this fast because I had registered both of us on the Eurofins website.  I thought this would be ship wide testing, but it was only contractors and guest entertainers – maybe a list of 15 people.  So, we will not know if COVID is cruising with us or not.  In less than a half hour, my results came back as NEGATIVE.  Ellen never got her results but I can safely assume she was NEGATIVE also as positive results are dealt with immediately. 

Based on our experience in Nassau, we cancelled our excursion tomorrow in Curacao.  We do, however, have another beach excursion today – “De Palm Island with Lunch”.  As we checked out of the ship, our sea pass cards were flagged and we had to produce our excursion tickets.  That’s because Guest Entertainers cannot go ashore unless on a Celebrity Excursion.  That makes sense – a sick entertainer is of little use to the ship.

We met our tour at 9:45 AM and walked to our bus – we wore our masks on the bus as it was pretty full.  

The ride, about 20 minutes, took us through downtown Oranjestad, then out to the highway.  One of the more interesting sites we saw was the island’s desalination plant, which is the biggest in the Caribbean and the second largest in the world (Israel no. 1, maybe).  

From the bus we hopped on a very basis boat to get to De Palm Island.  The island is a huge water park, with a water slide, beach area, flamingos, snorkeling, food pavilion, and open bar.  There were COVID protocols in place but the only masks were those worn poorly by park employees.  We were on our own to find two loungers in the shade.  Most of the loungers were under thatched umbrellas or trees.  We moved around several times to get the best loungers.  We did get some with a view of the beach area.

Being under the trees turned out to be problematic as some foreign material (bird poop?) fell from the trees and got on our clothes.  The biggest problem for me was getting out of those loungers, which were only six inches or so off the ground.  The combination of being low and in very soft sand made it hard to get enough purchase to safely stand.  This was taking a toll on my already tricky lower back. We made sure to get pictures of the flamingos before their habitat closing time of 2 PM.

There was an open bar but everything was on tap.  I tried the only beer manufactured on the island, Balashi Beer, and was not impressed.  It might have been better in a long neck bottle.  We certainly did not take advantage of the open bar.

At 11:30 AM, we walked over to the food pavilion.  The people density was high – no masks – and the line was long but moving along at a good pace.  The other thing is that we were one of the few folks that spoke English – most everyone else was speaking Spanish and no one was speaking Dutch.  There was a little papiamento here and there.  Despite the rustic appearance of the food pavilion, the food was plentiful and good. We started off at the salad bar. I had a bowl of potato leak group followed by a green salad with a runny but delicious ranch and thousand island dressing, onions, beans, pasta salad, and potato salad.  From the hot line, I tried the pasta provencal and grouper fillets.  I liked all of it including the grouper which was seasoned with island spices I had never tasted before.  We ate at outside table.  Again, everything was great.  Who knew?

Even though we were in the shade – at times dodging bird poop – it was difficult to read on my Kindle because of the oblique sunlight.  The noise level in the barely distanced chairs was a bit much so we moved to one of the tables near the food pavilion.  There was no island muzak playing there and the chair were easier on my back than the beach loungers.  Besides, there were iguanas wandering by.

At 3:30 PM, we went to the meeting place and caught a boat to the mainland and then we found our bus.  In a few minutes, we were at the pier. 

Returning to the Pier


While, cleaning the sand and who knows what else off my crocs, my back went into warp factor 10 spasms.  I could barely make to the bed to lie down (major ouch) and stretch out.  I took a medical grade anti-inflammatory plus a muscle relaxant and lay motionless for nearly an hour.  There wasn’t much improvement but I was hungry so I quasimodoed to the Ocean View Café, where I had pasta a oglio prepared for me (molto bene) – a couple of slices of pizza finished off the dinner.

Along with Constellation, a small cruise ship was docked here as well – “Fairwinds”.  

It is not a cruise ship per se (although it was one for a while).  It was the first cruise ship built in Finland; in the late 60s, the ship was sold to the Church of Scientology and has been used for their training and other activities.  There were people on board as well as crew and I found out that the ship does do small cruises around the Caribbean – around the lower Dutch Antilles.  It was there all day and Constellation was blocking its exit from the pier and we weren’t leaving until 10:30 PM.  An interesting ship.

While we were walking (at least Ellen was), I took a picture of her with one of the statues scattered about the ship.

I hobbled my way to the theater so see “Divas 3”, who put on a fantastic show for us on the Edge a few months ago.  Two of the singers were the same (Ruby from Kentucky and the leader of the group from Nebraska) and a new singer from New Jersey joined them.  They did exactly the same song list but this time around, solos were now either duets or trios.  Also, in my opinion, the sound level was too high.  Combined with the fact that the girls scream out their songs, some of the sound was distorted and they didn’t sound as sharp as in their last show.  Still cute and entertaining.  The 7 PM show set a record for attendance as maybe 70 to 100 people showed up.  Some pictures from the show.

After the show, I went right to the room and stretched out on the bed and tried to mitigate the spasms.  The pain only got slightly better.

I took an Advil right before bed hoping that that would help things in the morning.

April 2, 2022 – Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherland Antilles – Sunny, Breezy – 82F

We are not on tour today – all of the ship's tours were short and we have toured Bonaire twice earlier.  Besides, my second lecture, "The Unknown Titanic Child", is scheduled for 10 AM - just before we dock at Kralendijk.  

Breakfast was up in the Oceanview Café (pancakes and eggs) and I brought Ellen her breakfast.  As is usually the case, I got some nice views as Constellation neared Bonaire, including a brief period of Caribbean showers.

I was expecting a meager turnout today because passengers were getting ready to head off on their excursions.  Surprisingly, a good crowd showed up - certainly near 100 people.  The talk went well, the AV was glitch-free, and the session ended right on time so people could scurry off.

Following the presentation, we headed to the comfort of the Solarium.  With a lot of people off ship, it was easy to get a lounge chair near the window.  Cracking the windows (which the crew does not like since it messes with the A/C) gives you a wonderful Caribbean breeze. 

Here's where the ship was docked (thanks to Google Maps). The little island to the west of Kralendijk is Klein Bonaire ("little Bonaire in Dutch"), an undeveloped bit of land with reefs perfect for snokeling.

I had a pita filled with tuna and egg salad for lunch.  I also started liking the “beet humus”, a purple combination of yes, beets and humus.  It’s quite good and had a different texture than standard humus.

The afternoon was also spent in the Solarium -reading and trancing.  The ship is docked at the South Pier, the pier at which we have docked on two previous visits here.  

I looked at the pictures taken from four years ago and basically nothing has changed.  The salon at the pier still has the same adverts on its windows.  It could be closed and that would explain it but then maybe not.

We had dinner on the Oceanview Café back deck.  I had pasta from the pasta station.  I had spaghetti with broccoli and alfredo sauce.  I noticed that the sauce was very thin and the cook said he would fix that by saturating the sauce with parmesan cheese.  That, unfortunately, changed the taste of the dish and it no longer tasted like an alfredo.  I supplemented that with fresh out of the oven pizza.  A beautiful Caribbean Sunset completed the dinner.

Since all aboard was 9:00 PM (a little later than scheduled since it took a while to get the ship cleared), the theater was essentially empty for the 7:00 PM show.  Tonight’s headliner is pianist Roy Tan, the tallest Asian Pianist in the world (maybe).  The show was called “Sound of Cinema” and featured music from the music as well as a tribute to the late, great, James Horner (Avatar, Titanic and many more).  Roy played songs from “Casa Blanca”, “Forrest Gump”, and “An American Tail” (“Somewhere Out There” one of my all-time James Horner faves).  Roy is a terrific pianist but his transition chat need some work.

My back was slightly injured trying to squeeze out of my seat (the table was in the way) so I limped back to our cabin and we had to call it a night.

Friday, April 29, 2022

April 1, 2022 – At Sea – Caribbean Sea – Hazy Sunshine – 82F

Slept so so – got up at 6:30 AM and went to the Oceanview Café for breakfast.  Cottage cheese is now available – maybe the ship did pick some up in Nassau.  Even though sour cream is available for baked potatoes, it is an unknown in the Cafe at breakfast.  I had my waffle plus Cottage Cheese and strawberry compote, scrambled eggs, and parts of some biscuits.  The coffee was hotter today but not hot enough.  Overall, the breakfast was good and it was quieter than usual.  I also actually finished an article in the Smithsonian magazine (about the whooping cough vaccine).

At 11:00AM, we went to hear Gary Koverman lecture about blood spatter.  His lectures are video heavy.  I learned a couple of new things about blood spatter identification but a lot of the material was familiar due to reading and watching the CSI shows on TV.  He did pull a large crowd and he used my computer for this presentation as his laptop and the laptops on the ship don’t work with his presentation (don’t know why).

Had lunch in the San Marco Dining Room – Ellen had an egg panini and I had the Niçoise Salad (didn't like it so much).  

The open decks were closed due to high winds – we heard they were at 40 kts.  We found seats in the lounges near windows.  I am reading a new book by Nick Petrie called “The Drifter”.  It’s about Peter Ash, ex-Marine, who has a Reacher like existence – no real home and no real job.  He’s all about helping people, in this case the widow of one of Peter’s squad members.  Was his friend’s death a suicide – Peter is not so sure.  Peter may not be 6’5 and 250 pounds but he does have skills.  The book is written well.

Dinner was in the San Marco Dining Room – I had the Greek Salad (put oil and vinegar on it as it came with Ranch Dressing.  Also had the Meyer Lemon (yes) Tabouleh, which was very good.  I ordered the Basil Risotto off the vegetarian menu and I did not care for it because it was heavily seasoned with mint.

We went to the Cafe for some dessert and coffee and tea.  We also watch a very scenic sunset.

Showtime tonight was the production show, “Rock City”.  We did not attend because it was pretty loud and we've seen parts of it before.  We did stop by the Rendezvous Lounge and caught a few minutes of another band, "Long Play".  They are more of a rock band and not as easy listening as the other band, "Dancing Town".

After that, it was back to our room to settle down.  The ship is moving a bit but the room in quiet.

March 31, 2022 – At Sea – Near Cuba – Mostly Sunny – 82F

Today, Ellen and I went to the San Marco Restaurant for breakfast.  Ellen had the French Toast and I had pancakes and eggs plus oatmeal.  The meals were OK but again it took time to get them and the coffee was not exactly flowing.  I need multiples cups of hot coffee in the morning.

At 11:00 AM, we went to the Reflections Lounge to hear Gary Koverman, the other DNA speaker on board.  He’s an actual Forensic Scientist that has worked on real cases.  He drew pretty much the same number of folks that I did (I guess this is the lecture centric crowd).  However, he could not get his computer to work with the AV system despite the fact that a whole bunch of AV guys, activity staff, and the Cruise Director all tried to get things to work. In the end, he just gave us some information on his background.

I introduced myself to Gary and the Cruise Director and Gary, Ellen, and I chatted out in the hall outside the Lounge.

Ellen and I went to lunch in the Oceanview Café – I had a veggie burger from the Mast Grill along with some salad goodies.  While we were eating, Gary spotted us and we had lunch together – chatting about everything.  He's a very interesting and personable guy.

After lunch, Gary I went to my cabin to see if I had anything that might help – Gary has a VGA port and the ship uses HDMI – I had an adapter but it was the wrong type – Gary borrowed it anyway to see if it would be useful.

The outside decks were closed today due to high winds so we hung out in the Rendezvous Lounge at a window seat until around 2:00 PM

The View From the Rendezvous Lounge

when we went to see Bailamos perform a matinee show.  

We found out that the boys were Canadian but their Spanish is good that there much be more to their ethnic background.  Another great show.

We had dinner in the San Marco Dining Room.  Ellen has the mesclun greens and the pappardelle con Funghi; I had a veggie compata (off the veggie menu), a green salad and the Penne with spinach, sundried tomatoes, in creamy gorgonzola sauce.  Both pastas were excellent. We both had apple pie (no ice cream) and I tried the coffee custard.  The meal took a while but the food was very good.

We passed on Jakub, the violinist’s show, and instead went to listen to Dancing Town, the smooth listening Dance Band in the Rendezvous Lounge.  

They are good and not too noisy.  We watched their whole set.

From there we went to the Reflections Lounge to watch the Challenge Game Show.  It was fun and I knew most of the answers.

Then back to the Rendezvous lounge for another set from Dancing Town.

Seas are a little rocky but manageable.  Room is quiet.