Thursday, March 16, 2023

February 28, 2023 – Miami, FL – Sunny – mid 80sF

I was up at 5:00AM and watched the ship sail into port.  

At 6:00 AM, I went to the Windows Café for debark breakfast.  It wasn’t crowded but the pancakes and waffles were moved into the kitchen.  I put my pancake order in along with an order of scrambled eggs.  I had a small bowl of Rice Krispies and Special K while I waited for my entrees.  The eggs (about four of them) came quickly but they tasted like meat (I guess the skillet was not clean – yike).  I didn’t eat the eggs and I had to check to see what happened to the pancakes.  The waiter who always takes the short orders for eggs went back into the kitchen and in a few minutes came out with the pancakes.  I had them with cottage cheese and jellies.  Because it was debark day, the coffee was not flowing like it does on a regular morning.  I finished quickly and put together a lox plate for Ellen.

We are in Group Green 3 - Transfers to Miami International Airport.  I don't think they were calling groups; people were just getting off at their designated time.  You can do that on a small ship, I guess.

At 8:00 AM, we disembarked the ship and did the long walk to the terminal, found our bags, and then through Immigration (which was fast) and then out to bus #3 bound for MIA.  The bus left for the airport around 8:45 AM and the short ride let us off at the United Terminal.  It wasn’t quite the United Terminal which was around 2000 steps away.  We found it and I used the kiosk to print out baggage tags (free on our Marine tickets) and boarding passes.

We quickly went through TSA pre-check and found our gate, H12. We settled in away from people and near chargers or plugs until it got close to our boarding time – 11:45 AM. MIA was pretty crowded, so I was in my airport safety gear.

Our flight, UA1983 –scheduled to depart 12:15 PM - had come in early from Chicago and was at the gate being readied.  

We were in Priority Boarding (maybe because I upgraded our seats with a United Credit Card).  We were in 7A and 7B (Port bulkhead middle and window) – the fellow on the end wore a mask the whole flight as did we.  We boarded on time and took off on time.  

We ate items we had taken from the ship (lox and tuna mini-sandwiches) and I had them with an orange juice and a coffee (very yummy). 

The flight (2 hrs and 45 minutes – although it always takes longer) was relatively smooth although our pilot turned on the seat belt sign several times at the slightest turbulence.  Our plane, an airbus 319, has only two bathrooms (in the rear of the plane).  I also discovered that T-Mobile has some arrangement with United which provides free WiFi to certain customers.  I put in my mobile number and voila free WiFi.  A nice perk.  

Our flight path took us over Midway Airport

and the Fermi Lab Collider.

We touched down in Chicago around 3:20 PM and got our bags pretty quickly.  

Danny was kind enough to pick us up and soon we were home.  

Would I take this cruise again - probably, because of the Panama Canal transits (made more interesting by David Roberts) and the ports (with the exception of Salaverry, Peru).  The cabins were quiet and comfortable, the crew and service were great, and the food was OK most of the time (breakfast was the best meal of the day even though it was practically the same every day for me). 

Thirty-two days is a long time to be away.  Good to be home.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

February 27, 2023 – At Sea – Mostly Sunny – 78F

Seas were smooth and I slept OK.  I again was up early enough to get pre-dawn photos of the ocean.

We are currently off the North coast of Cuba.

My back held off bothering me until a while after getting up.  More meds.  I had a little oatmeal, pancakes, and two fried eggs for breakfast – the conditions on the Veranda were perfect and the breakfast was OK. Ellen ordered oatmeal from Room Service.  The ship is holding the “Onward Brunch” this morning from 9;30 AM to 1:30 PM and we will be coming to that in lieu of lunch.

We stayed on the Veranda until it was time for me to get ready for my 11:00 AM talk on “Open Unsolved Cases: Forensic Genetic Genealogy”.  

This is the first time I am giving this talk so I have no idea how it will go and how it will be received.  The audience was a little less than I had anticipated but I was competing against the watercolor class and the brunch.  

The audience seemed to like the talk as indicated by a nice final round of applause.  A very successful forensic series on the second cruise.

For some reason, Captain Carl made an appearance at the talk.  He didn't stay long.

We went directly to the Brunch in the Discoveries Restaurant.  We got a nice seat by the window.  I had a veggie and cheddar cheese omelet (good) along with cheese and broccoli mini-quiches (also good) and some mini-baguettes.  The brunch was OK and will suffice for lunch.

I changed my clothes and we found two nice loungers out of the wind on Deck 5 and we stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  I started a new book “Fair Warning” by Michael Connelly (a Jack MacEvoy book), which was recommended by a passenger. 

We had dinner on the Patio because it was “A Taste of India” in the buffet and there was nothing for us in the Restaurant.  We had the usual salmon and goodies.  Tonight, must have been special since the Captain's Table (with Captain Carl and one of his staff captains) was being held in the Patio.

We didn’t eat all of our dinner and went to the Living Room to hear the dance set by East Pearl.  They didn’t sound their best, but I think it had something to do with the sound system, which has been spotty during their sets.  We left just before they finished as Ellen was still packing and we needed to settle down for the night.  Ellen did finish the bags and I put them out around 10 PM.  We tried to settle down and were probably only partially successful.  We are in the Green 3 group tomorrow and will be heading to MIA around 8:30 AM.

Seas are smooth.

February 26, 2023 – Cozumel, Mexico – Mostly Sunny – 82F

An absolutely beautiful day on the Mexican island of Cozumel as these pre-dawn photos confirm. 


We usually dock at the International Terminal but today we are at Punta Langosta in the heart of San Miguel, the only city on Cozumel. 

The day is made more complicated by the fact that soon after I got up, I got some nasty back spasms.  Now medicated, I had breakfast up in Windows Café. Today, I am having the pancake combo as there is sour cream available. Everything was good except the scrambled eggs. They have become watery and there is something off on the taste.  They were the food of the gods – not anymore. 

There are two ships here today – TUI Cruises Marella Discovery 2 is keeping us company.  The ship arrived during breakfast.

In spite of the fact that I am smarting a bit, it was just too nice a day to stay on board.  We disembarked and headed down the wind tunnel formed by the two ships (even though Marella was twice our size) and were “directed” by signage to the Punta Langosta terminal shops.  It's not a trivial walk to the Terminal - I did get a nice shot of the two ships docked.

Just before you exit the pier there is a city sign.

There are two levels of shops seemingly selling all the same stuff – leather, tequila, vanilla.  We did look around for another fridge magnet but didn’t come away with anything.  After quite a while and confusing signs, we made it out of that shopping area and down to street level. 

Then a miracle happened – a Starbucks appeared.  We had been looking for a Starbucks since we left Miami 30 days ago and finally found on in Mexico.  Ellen purchased the “Been There” mug for $19 – mission accomplished. 

Near the Starbucks there is another city sign - this time as part of a swing.

We turned right out of the Starbucks, which I think is North and headed toward the heart of San Miguel staying on the Malecon.  The ships are across the street, and I trotted across the street to get a picture.  

While on the Malecon, I also got a picture of a statue of a man - i could not find out who this was on the internet and the plaque was worn clean.

I think the statue was pointing the way to "Senor Froggy's" where we couldn't resist taking a picture.

We are looking for a spa and a reasonable massage.  We didn’t walk very far when a group of therapists from Spa Palancar showed us their price lists.  The one hour no frills massage was $70 or higher than we are paying back home.  As soon as I said that the price because $110 for the two of us (or a $15 discount/pp).  I said OK, too quickly in retrospect, based on historical precedent on Cozumel.  If we had walked a bit further into town and away from the touristic area, the price would have been much lower.  Maybe, the back spasms were clouding my thinking.

The therapists – all decked out in pink uniforms - were very nice and the place was native but ok – we did the “couples massage”.  I don’t know if the session went an hour, and it was not very therapeutic (low pressure and did not make my back pain any better but we still tipped them because we always support local businesses).  Most likely, we won’t come back here next time. 

We walked a couple of more blocks and realized that it would be pretty much the same if we get going so, we turned around and headed back to the Cruise Terminal.  It turns out that there is a bypass that takes you directly to the ship without going through the shopping center.  That is news we can use the next time we dock at this terminal.

Back on board, even though we were grimy, greasy, and sweaty, we went to the Windows for lunch. I had tuna salad on a baguette and a small Cesar Salad.  I also had an Italian beer, whose name I can’t remember – I asked our waiter to surprise me, and he brought me this beer (they were out of Stella). 

We spent the afternoon on Deck 5.  When we got out there, a lot of the loungers were stacked against the wall and out of commission.  We couldn’t find any open loungers, so Ellen went to Guest Relations and five minutes later, two crew members were setting up the loungers on the deck.  Ellen’s Superpower.  We got two seats but about 15 other guests also got prime seats facing the city. 

We stayed out there – again, it was just too nice not to – until 6:45 PM and then took showers and found nice seats on the Sunset Veranda for dinner.  It was "Taste of Italy" night, and I had a nice freshly made Marinara Spaghetti with veggies.  I also had a salad with Ranch Dressing and balsamic vinegar.  Along with focaccia, this was a very good Italian meal. 

We stayed on the veranda and enjoyed the views of the city, the other ship, and Jupiter and Venus (visible just about every night of the cruise).  We watched the sail away from there and got some nice nighttime pictures including the one below of Jupiter and Venus,

the Marellla cruise ship,

and Cozumel.

We passed on Guitarist Nestor Santurio and went from Veranda to stateroom.

February 25, 2023 – Costa Maya, Mexico – Mostly Sunny – 81F

Up before dawn.

It’s a beautiful day along Mexico’s Costa Maya and, we are the only ship docked at Costa Maya. Usually, there are four ships – and big ones- taking up the available berths here.

Our cabin is actually below the level of the pier making for an eerie view through the porthole.

I waited a little longer to go up to Windows for breakfast, hoping that the passengers going on excursions would have finished and freed up tables.  While on the elevator, Andrew Merry, the Scottish singer, got on at Deck 4 with two huge suitcases, and then got off at Deck 5 (the gangway was on Deck 4).  He was in a big hurry – I’m guessing he was pressed for time for his flight out of Mexico.  He dresses like he is a member of a Boy Band, so he is unrecognizable.

It was crowded but I still got a table closer to 8 AM.  I had a waffle combo – the eggs today had sundried tomatoes and ricotta cheese in them, and I did not like that flavor combo.  I concentrated on the waffle and cottage cheese – because of the items on the buffet, sour cream was available as a bonus.

Ellen joined me later (our new pattern) on the Veranda – just too nice not to.

It was a day to read and relax. I finished “Lullaby Town”, which morphed several times but turned out to be a good book at the end.  Elvis Cole, who started off super snarky in Book One of the series (shades of Spenser) has dropped a lot of that in the next book.  I hope he returns. 

My knee, which spontaneously started to hurt the other day, is feeling better. 

Tuna Salad and a small salad was lunch today in Windows.  Tonight, is White Nights and you can never tell what might show up on the buffet, so a small lunch is in order.

Time in the afternoon was split between the Living Room and the Discoveries Bar.

We got into our white outfits and checked out the Buffet set up on Deck 9.  We first looked for seats and there were none – we’ll figure that one out later.  I lucked out as there was a pasta station and I had spaghetti with vegetables in a combo red and white sauce.  I actually like the Marinara Sauce alone, but I thought I would give this a try.  The salad area in the buffet was a zoo so I just grabbed some loose marinated veggie items and that, along with a roll, was dinner.  We took our food into the Café, so we did get seats for dinner.  The food was good.  Music during dinner was provided by DJ Astrid.

White Nights worked out better on this leg than on the first – the weather was perfect (we usually have wind on White Nights) so it could be held outside.  That meant more people dancing.  

We watched the whole thing from Deck 10 Forward – we found one chair (for me) and Ellen stood.  After the March of the Crew (along with a glimpse of our patron planets, Jupiter and Venus)

and comments by Captain Carl, the entertainment got underway.  The song list was the same – per tradition – and the crew belted them out as best they could.  

The volume was not as loud as in the past and the mics did not pick up the singers as well; the band was louder than the singers.  The output was still loud enough to shorten our stay and send us to our room.