Wednesday, January 18, 2023

January 2, 2023 – Ft Lauderdale FL – Partly Cloudy – 85F

It seems the temperature has been 85 degrees the entire cruise.

We are in Group 11 and are expected to be in the theater for disembarkation at 8:15 AM – to make that time, I was up the Oceanview Café when it opened at 6 AM or so.  To my surprise, it wasn’t crowded or chaotic and I even got my seat in the corner.  I had a nice breakfast of yes, pancakes with cottage cheese and jam and some scrambled eggs.  I then brought Ellen her hot off the griddle fried eggs and a waffle.

At 8 AM, we made our way to the Theater but never got there when we heard our number being called.  We also said our goodbyes to Crystal at the gangway and headed to the baggage area – we found our bags right away and we were in the queue for passport control.  No agents today just facial recognition scanners – we were out of there in minutes.  Once outside, we walked the length of the terminal to the busses.  Ellen found our bus and we got seats and waited for about a half hour before the bus left for the airport.  All in all, a very smooth disembarkation.

The airport is less than 10 minutes away and we got off at Terminal 1 – home of both United and Silver Airways.  In fact, Silver has a couple of agents tucked away at the end of United bank of airport agents.  The line did not move for several minutes, and I thought that we shouldn’t be in this line because I have boarding passes.  So, we went to TSA pre-check and security. I was a little concerned at this point since we were carrying our two bags on board and each contained a lot of liquids, many of which had more than 3 ounces of stuff.  I tucked my cell phone and wallet into my backpack and just before I went through the magnetometer, a TSA agent yelled “Whose phone is this?”.  It was mine and I was positive I had zipped up the backpack. In any event, the cases all went through without incident.  

Our flight was supposed to board around 12:00 Noon and depart for JAX at 12:30 PM.

Even though it’s a small plane – Silver Airways Flight 0095 was a twin prop ATR-700-200 – there were boarding groups.  We were in one of the first groups.  There was no jetway – we took an escalator down to tarmac level and then walked to the back of the plane where there was a very narrow stairway into the plane.  Ellen was in front of me trying to haul one third of her body weight up the stairway and I was struggling to find a place for my big feet on the small rungs of the ladder.  Eventually, we both got in (no help from the ground personnel or flight attendants at Silver Airways) – then I had to hoist both 30-pound bags into the overhead bins, which while a pain, I did.

We were in 4D and 4F in a 2X2 configuration.  I was in the window seat not more than 10 feet from the starboard prop.

The plan was to mask up for the flights home.  There were a few other people masked but the flight attendants were not.  I should also say that the flight attendants did not have a sterling attitude.  

The seats were more comfortable and the leg room better than some jets.  We started our taxiing and almost got to the active runway – the plane ahead of us took off – then the pilot came on and said that ATC had issued a ground stop.  The issue was a computer malfunction at Miami Center so no planes in the Florida area were moving at this point.  What was supposed to be 10 min delay became a 40 minute delay.  I could see the line of planes backed up trying to get to the active runways.

We eventually did get clearance and I have to tell you that the db level of that prop (right outside of my window) was earsplitting.  It stayed that way until the pilot changed the pitch of the prop – it quieted down and was not an issue for the rest of the one hour 20 minute flight to JAX.  Our climb out took us over Port Everglades, and I could see Celebrity Edge docked.  

The only thing served was a small bottle of water.

When you take a picture of the prop it looks like it is not spinning.  A scary optical illusion.

We were trying to figure out what we would do in the event we did miss our flight – we did indeed land after the connecting flight was supposed to leave.  We did get come help this time getting our bags down the stairway.  We then hightailed it to the C Concourse which was several minutes away – Ellen who is quicker ran ahead and I guess she was going to hold the flight until I got there.  Not out of breath but definitely tired, I did haul myself, backpack, and roller bag to the gate.  It turned out that the plane – UAL1494 – did not depart at 3:25 PM as scheduled; it had not even started boarding since the previous flight had come in late due to the Florida hold.  We boarded in priority and I, not knowing the proper technique of putting up an overhead bag, struggled mightily getting our bags into the bins.  We were middle and aisle on this flight and despite being ordinary coach seats, they were not uncomfortable.  The guy on the aisle was wearing a mask as we were. 

The climb out was smooth.

The flight was smooth and uneventful into the Chicago.  I got some great pictures on final approach of the low ceiling and city lights.

We weren’t going to mess with any cabs tonight; one of the kids picked us up.

We also had dinner with everyone which was a nice way to come home.

January 1, 2023 – At Sea – Atlantic Ocean – Partly Cloudy – 85F

Another successful journey around the SUN.  HAPPY NEW YEAR

The first breakfast of the new year was wonderful as they all have been on this cruise. The best and most consistent meal of the day.

Another beautiful day at sea or as a cruise ship speaker calls it, "the mortal enemy".

To make up for lost time early in the cruise, today there are five BTP Speakers – I am giving two talks, Bill Fall is giving two talks, and the other speaker, Gary Kramer, is giving one.

My two talks are at 11:15 AM in the Club (“The Search for Jack the Ripper”) and 1:00 PM in the Theater (“The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child”).  Crystal set it up that way so that the Titanic talk could be in the Theater.  

This meant that Ellen and I could go up to Café Baccio and repeat our nice morning of yesterday. 

It didn’t quite turn out that way.  I gave the server my order for an iced decaf mocha latte and what came was a hot decaf mocha latte.  She brought me a to go cup of ice and I guess I was supposed to pour the hot latte into the ice.  I did that but then noticed that there was no chocolate in the drink.  The server checked with the barista, and he admitted leaving out the chocolate.  She left the original drink and brought me a new drink – also in a to go cup.  Celebrity has gone to paper straws instead of plastic and these straws are long so as I was reaching for a napkin I brushed the straw and the drink wound up on the floor.  Cursed, no?  Half of housekeeping came to clean up the mess.  Finally, a decaf mocha latte iced arrived in a glass and while it could have used some more chocolate, I didn’t want to press my luck.  Also, I noticed that the sustainable straw was manufactured from marine waste – TMI.

To my surprise, the Club was nearly full for the Ripper talk and the crowd was very engaged and interactive.

From there, I went to hear Bill’s talk in the theater on critters of the rainforest.  I picked up a banana muffin from Baccio and that was lunch.  He had a small crowd but it was lunchtime.

While I was setting up for my presentation, and Bill was getting his equipment together I asked Bill if he would like to join us for Dinner at the Normandie Restaurant.  We would meet there around 5:15 PM.

I had a somewhat bigger crowd for my talk but much smaller than I am used to.  Perhaps, BTP overkill.


Just another verification that this was not a speaker friendly crowd.  Still, I got some nice feedback from attendees and that was good enough for me.

We got another couple of seats on the Magic Carpet and spent some quality time out there on a beautiful afternoon.  While out there, I used the ship’s WiFi to check in to both of our flights tomorrow – I had electronic boarding passes for Silver Air and United Airlines.

Dinner with Bill turned out to be a nice evening – Bill always has some good stories to tell.  Our food was good and since we weren’t going to the show, we had time for coffee and dessert. 

Our transport to the airport was arranged by Crystal and packing was pretty straightforward.

As I indicated, we aren’t going to the show tonight because Vinnie Grosso is doing his mentalist and neither of us are fans of those kinds of shows.

While we were both feeling OK, we decided to use our COVID tests to make sure we didn't bring home anything.  Both tests were negative.  Being careful does pay off.

The options in Eden Acoustic weren’t there tonight either so we were in the room early.  

The bags were in the hall well before 10 PM - we had a chance to settle down and relax.

Monday, January 16, 2023

December 31, 2022 – At Sea – Caribbean Sea – Partly Cloudy – 85F

After another great breakfast, we went up to Café Baccio and I had my first decaf mocha iced latte along with a scrumptious cinnamon roll.

The best part was our scoring two seats by the window.  So, I could sip my latte while watching the waves go by.  

I had about an hour before I had to go get ready for my next talk. My second talk – “Identifying America’s Fallen Heroes” was at 11:30 AM in the Theater.  As with the first talk almost a week ago, the turnout is small (as it is for all the BTP speakers) – maybe due to the nature of the adverts for the talks.  Who knows and that’s not important.  The people who are there are there to learn something new.  My criterion for a talk is not how many people attend but how many people stay.

We actually got a picture of the both of us - courtesy of Bill.

No one left until the talk was over.

After lunch, we were walking by the Magic Carpet with our soft serve ice creams and noticed that there were some empty seats.  We took them and hung out there for much of the afternoon.  

Usually, the Magic Carpet is very windy but not today.  It was great.

Tonight, the ship is unveiling a new show – originally premiered two cruises ago – the first new show in years.  “Feel the Funk” has a new set (I had to work around it during my talk).  We knew up front that this was going to be in the plus 70db level, but we gave it a shot anyway.  

We made it through one song – the dancers were very animated but on our first voyage on Edge there was a similar show.  In any event we split for the back deck on level 14.  Caribbean breeze and clear sky. 

We went across the pool deck to see what New Year’s decorations were set up – we didn’t see any.

We did make it Midnight (in Bermuda, maybe) before calling it a day. 

Sunday, January 15, 2023

December 30. 2022 – Willemstad, Curacao, Netherland Antilles – Party Cloudy – 85F

We decided once again to walk off the ship and check out the area around the cruise port.

I got another nice shot of Celebrity Edge, completing my ABC island port pictures of the ship docked.

Our route today took us through the gardens of the beautiful Renaissance Hotel.  They have some amazing tropical plants – so strange they don’t look real. Then over to the Riff Fort to check out the shops and the spa (still too pricey).  The next stop was the Queen Emma Floating Bridge.  

We didn’t cross the bridge but we did see the leftover Christmas decorations that might have been part of a parade.  

We then went through the neighborhood where the real people of the city live – a street filled with clothing stores and restaurants.  The last time we were here, we got a little confused as to the location of the pier.  Not today, I knew exactly where I was going and after a bit, we boarded the ship and spent the rest of the time in very comfy Solarium loungers beneath a partially open window providing fresh Caribbean air.

Visible from the Solarium was the very spiffy looking, all-inclusive, Corendon Hotel, complete with its own beach and swimming area. 

We were in Eden when the ship pushed so we watched the sail away from there.

We also caught a beautiful sunset, probably from the back deck in the Oceanview Cafe.

Showtime tonight featured vocalist/impressionist Tricia Kelly.  

She was not too loud and entertaining but her impressions were very short and nowhere near as interesting as her real voice. 

The best song of the night came during her Idina Menzel impression, where she did the full version of "Let It Go” (complete with snowflake visuals and falling snow).

 That would have sounded really good if she had used her real voice.

After the show, we went to Eden to listen to Lucy and Dalton do their set before heading to the cabin. 


December 29, 2022 – Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherland Antilles – Cloudy – Showers – 70s

A bit of a gloomy day in the capitol of Bonaire.

We got off the ship to check out the downtown area, which was very close to the ship. There was a spa in a building right next to the pier.  The last time we were here, it appeared closed.  It was open today and she wanted $75 dollars for a hour session, which is higher than US prices.  Inflation has come to the ABC Islands.

I may not have gotten pampered, but I did get a winner of shot of Edge docked (now gracing my computer screen).  

While on our walk through the town, we ran into a tropical shower.  We got a little wet but it cooled off the area.  There’s isn’t much to see in Kralendijk so we went back to the ship.  On the way, we stopped at Karel’s Bar along the water.  They had no Local beer so I settled for a $6 mini beer 

and a view of Edge at the pier.  

It was pleasant hanging out at the bar – again, no one is eager to shoo customers away. 

As we made our way back to the ship, we saw Dutch like buildings 

as well as some kind of fortification complete with canons and a lighthouse. 

After lunch, the Solarium proved to be a perfect spot to hang out.  And also a good spot to take in most of Bonaire.

The day may have been a bit gray and wet but the weather improved and the sail away was under clear skies.

Tonight’s headliner is Vinnie Grosso, magician comedian.  

Magicians and jugglers are not our favorite acts but we did stay for the show.  He did have some interesting twists on some old tricks (including the rope trick).  At least he didn’t have the booming music and lights other magicians used to build up their act.