Wednesday, July 10, 2024

June 24, 2024 – San Diego, CA – Beautiful – Sunny – 80s

Disembarkation Day

Another beautiful day in San Diego.

We are in Group Purple 2.  Our meeting time in the Galaxy Lounge is 8:15 AM for an 8:30 AM departure.

I was, of course, up way early and up in the Marketplace Buffet at 7:00 AM.  I got my usual table and  had my usual breakfast – Ellen came up a bit later.  We were able to get our breakfast in a non-crowded, non-chaotic way.

We went to the Galaxy Lounge at our appointed time, 

hugged it out and said goodbye to Marina Bregles (Shorex), and then proceeded to the busses.  The ride to the airport was short – SAN was only four miles away – and the bus dropped us off at Terminal 2 West for United Airlines.  SAN has a lot of outdoor ticket agents – skycaps sort of.  We got in line for (I had pre-checked our bags online) and inquired about an earlier flight.  He didn’t have that kind of information so we went inside the terminal to a full service agent.

We explained our need to get on an earlier flight and after tapping a few keys and staring at the screen, he said he could get us on the 10:40 AM flight (it was pretty close to 9:00 AM now).  I explained that we have special seats and he said he was able to get Economy Plus seats at no charge (he called it an upgrade but I had already paid for them).  We got exit row seats 20E and 20F (middle and window), which would be just fine. These seats were the last two seats left on the plane - I guess the steep price for these seats deterred people from purchasing them.

The TSA PreChek line was just a few feet away but it was moving very slowly (only two screening lines).  There was also a drug sniffing dog moving along the security line.  We didn’t get through the TSA line until close to 9:45 AM.  Fortunately, Gate 44 was not that far away and we got to the gate just as they were boarding.  We are in Priority Group 2 and we boarded without any issues – my backpack was in the overhead department and I had the window seat (at least for takeoff).  I have a good view of the starboard engine and wing.

United 1840 – a B737-800 – was scheduled for departure at 10:40 AM and pushed right on time. The takeoff is very similar to LAX – the plane takes off over the Pacific and then turns back to start the flight path to ORD. The visibility was good and there was a lot to see.

The pilot said that the first 30 minutes of the flight would be bumpy and asked the flight attendants to stay seated and start their serving process once smooth air was found.  I did not really find the climb out to be overly bumpy.  

We ate the small bagels (lox and a dab of cream cheese) that we got from the Bistro the night before.  I had my usual two cups of coffee and glass of orange juice.  It did the trick. 

I spent the whole flight checking the plane’s route (United provides free Flight Aware information on its app), looking out the window, and generally just relaxing.  The flight took about four hours (including taxiing and ground time).  The flight was generally smooth until we got a little closer to Chicago and then the pilot said we were going to hitting some “Chicago potholes” (aka storm clouds).  The 737 maneuvered around the dramatic storm clouds and kept the plane relatively chop free. 

The flight path took us straight into ORD from the South (no big circle over the Lake) – the pilot didn’t even mention that we were on approach to ORD (I could tell because I was tracking the flight) and the plane landed at about 4 PM.  I actually stayed in my seat the whole time. 

We parked in the C Terminal and had to cross under the tarmac (the New Age lights are still there but the music was off) to get to Baggage Claim.  Our bags came out pretty quickly and the cab that I called showed up in about five minutes.  He took a slightly different route to our building – using the tollway for a lot of the time.  There was no $6 surcharge for this ride. 

Dova and Danny moved our cars to the Linden remote CTA lot, which will help us tomorrow.

Overall, a good cruise – despite the rainy weather. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

June 23, 2024 – At Sea Morning – San Diego, CA – Sunny 87F

Distance from Cabo to San Diego, CA 766 Nautical Miles

Total Distance Sailed: 4552 Nautical Miles; 5235 Statute Miles

Beautiful outside – we are scheduled to arrive in San Diego around 12:30 PM.  Seas are smooth and the weather is "San Diego" perfect.

Rafael was able to squeeze in my final talk – “Forensics and History: The Search for the Unknown Titanic Child” pre-arrival at 10:30 AM. 

This still gave me enough time to get a nice breakfast up in the Marketplace.  My sour cream arrived per protocol (not by my usual waiter but his assistant).  I saw him heading for my table and told him that I was going to get something different this morning and asked him to save that for me for tomorrow.  No problem.  I noticed that they keep a special stash of sour cream for me in the yoghurt section.  Crystal service at its best.

I had my backup breakfast of pancakes and two fried eggs this morning – also very good.

My talk went OK – not a terrific turnout – pre-arrival time slots are never well attended.  I have stopped estimating the crowd as a large group of passengers are watching on their cabin TVs.  I had an easier time today as the ship’s motion was minimal.  I was still distracted by the computer screen which resulted in my favoring the left side of the audience.  I usually walk around the stage and speak to each segment of the audience.  The talk ran 50 minutes per the computer timer. 

We were going to take the post cruise/airport drop off excursion but it was cancelled due to a low demand.  A few days ago, Ellen was chatting with the librarian who told her to check with the desk because we were on a list for airport transfers.  We indeed were on that list and would be getting the appropriate luggage tags.

The ship docked next to the USS Midway Museum

and right in front of the Downtown Area of San Diego.  

We also could spend the day watching Southwest jets landing at SAN - at least, I could.

But, it was just a beautiful day today – sunny and warm (maybe a bit too warm) and we were going to spend it off the ship. 

After lunch (a final gazpacho, Impossible Burger and run through the Salad Bar), we picked up our passports (taken from us when we embarked) near the Deck 6 gangway and went to the terminal for a face to face meeting with CBP agents.  That went very quickly and we stayed off the ship. This gave me a chance to take an excellent picture of Serenity.

Our original plan was to walk to “Little Italy”, which was a few blocks from the port in the direction of SAN.  When we got to the end of the pier, however, we saw a bunch of pedi-bikes (the kind we see in Cabo).  The driver, Jax, said "Little Italy" was not worth visiting and he would take us to Seaport Village for $20.  It wasn’t far so $20 seemed a bit high; we were, once again, supporting local businesses (not sure San Diego needs any help).

Seaport Village (we may have visited here back in the dark ages) was a collection of shops and restaurants.  

It was very crowded today – it being Sunday – and hot enough for us to seek shade.  We got great views of the Bay, 

the iconic statue, "The Kiss" (which we have seen in Civitavecchia),

 and an interesting fountain and Ellen on the bench in the background.  

If you look carefully at the fountain from the bench, you can make out the Coronado Bridge leading to Coronado Island in the background.

After making the rounds, we started walking back to the ship. The walk back was lined with all sorts of vendors but no shade - so our walk was brisk. 

Along the way, we saw a monument to wartime sailors

and the victims of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The walk wasn’t far and it gave us a great look at the Midway.  It appears that jet ski jockeys like scooting around the battleship but, to me, they shouldn’t be allowed that close to the ship.

Based on the walk back, we probably did overpay the Pedi-bike driver. 

We were back on Serenity around 2 PM and relaxed in the cool AC of Palm Court.  A strawberry daiquiri helped with the cooling off process.

We got cleaned up and headed to the farewell dinner at Waterside– ribeye steaks for both of us.  Did we take advantage of the kosher food on board – absolutely, as it is part of the package.

Our bags had to be outside our room at 9:00 PM, an hour earlier than most ships, so we had to go to the Farewell Show in our travel duds.  Tonight’s show featured Stephani Parker (much better performance as it did not involve a 10 minute vamp or excess riffing), the

Latin Dance Duo (the woman I thought was a female Gent was actually part of this duo), 


Marvin (Crystal Cove Singer), Rick Gerber, the Magician, 

and James Fox. But the best number of night was a duet with Martina and Rafael on the trumpet doing a hauntingly beautiful version of “Hallelujah”. 

Back in the room at 10:00 PM – early day tomorrow.

Monday, July 8, 2024

June 22, 2024 – At Sea – Cloudy – Cool – 70s

The seas are rocky and the gloom persists.

The ship is also smoking doing 21 kts to get to San Diego on time.

Another nice breakfast – the usual.  I suppose that I could have this breakfast along with the alternate - two eggs OM with pancakes - each day on the World Cruise.  In theory, at least.

After breakfast, I did a load of laundry (the free guest launderette) is just a few doors down from our stateroom.  The washers and dryers are easy to use and the cycle takes about 90 minutes total.  I had time before my talk this morning.  I did find a washer and a couple of dryers free when I got there.  I am very good about being there when the cycle is complete - passengers will take your laundry out of the washer and put it into a laundry basket until you claim it.  Not me.  The same goes for the dryers - I'm there when the cycle is done.

My second talk “Forensics and History: The Mystery of the Romanovs” is on the schedule today at 10:30 AM in the Galaxy Lounge.  It’s a Crystal tradition that attendees always show us as the event is started, whether for a lecture or a production show.  This was the case today as the real attendance didn’t happen until I got started.  Because of the rock and roll of the ship, I didn’t get a chance to really chat with the audience members because it was a struggle to climb the three stairs (very narrow with no rail) to the stage (sounds easy but on a moving ship every step is an adventure).  I also had to hang on to the podium and that led to a problem that I’d never encountered – my computer screen was distracting and it also looked like I was reading my material.  Other speakers are used to that configuration but I like to wander about the stage – today, I couldn’t and it was reflected in my performance.  The talk took about 50 minutes and I got some nice comments from some of the attendees.

Had a nice lunch up in Tastes and the Marketplace Buffet – Gazpacho (of course), an Impossible Burger, and a nice salad (great Ranch and Balsamic Dressing).  Ellen has had a hard time finding items.  She’s tried several iterations of tuna but none of them did the trick. 

At 2 PM, we went to the Theater to hear Roger’s “Songs of the Sea”.  This was a new talk and very different – Roger had his guitar but didn’t sing anything – the show consisted of video clips from various movies backed up by Sea Shanties (songs about sailing and sailors).  The videos were well done but the show didn’t take advantage of Roger’s singing and story telling.

Still not an open deck day.  Palm Court is still our best bet on days like this.  The only distraction during the afternoon is Tea Time and that’s not really a distraction.  To me Tea Time seemed under attended.  They bring out about five or more goodies at a time in a special stacked tray.  The best item I have had is the lemon meringue tart – no surprise there.

Our kosher meals tonight were lamb chops and hot dogs – the polar opposites on the class scale.  They were both good – the kitchen had trimmed a lot of the fat from the chops – so more meat.  The hot dogs have been a little different each time (different sources, maybe).

James Fox is back with “James Fox Unplugged” – 

no band just songs and a piano and guitar.  Honestly, I liked his first show better – the dancers did add some pizzazz to the show.  He is a good singer and he shared a few of his own songs (they were OK). 

The ocean is becoming kinder.

June 21, 2024 – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Overcast, drizzly, and cool – 76F

Distance from Acapulco to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 685 Nautical Miles

Happy Summer Solstice and Happy First Day of Summer

A very unusual day in Cabo San Lucas.  It is usually hot and muggy here but today, it is cool (windbreaker cool) and drizzly.  Even though it is a bit dreary out there, I still got some nice pictures of Los Arcos from the ship.

Because of seating restrictions, I found a perfect breakfast table against the wall, with a soothing piece of art, which allowed me to use the wall to prop up my aching left leg.  I sat at this table from Day 3 on.  The servers got to know me and it worked out perfectly.

After breakfast, we hopped on a tender (no tender tickets on Serenity) and headed to the town and our traditional trek to the Beauty Salon and Spa (located at the far end of the rectangular port area.  We didn’t have our usual therapist (AKA Jenny and Erika) but the two women we did see were very good – the clock in the room wasn’t working but I am sure that the session only went 50 minutes.  It’s hard to complain when the session was good and only costs $40 (we tipped them each $10).

I took a picture of the courtyard of the tequila store next door sporting a small Cabo Sign

and then the real Cabo Sign.

Because it was atypically cool outside, we walked through the streets adjacent to Cabo Harbor.  We were the only ship here today so not a lot of pedestrians out and about.  We passed by a shop that sold sculptures made from various shop items like nuts and bolts.

Another interesting site was what looked like a pirate ship perched on the second story of a building.

Other sites along the way included the Cabo Sailfish (Marlin maybe),

a venue called The Place at Cabo which had a beautifully decorated canopy,

and a park in the middle of the city that we had never seen before.

Out of curiosity, we checked out the prices at four other spas and everyone was charging $40 an hour (in the past, Beauty Spa was about $10 less than the other shops in the area so now they have caught up and prices are sort of set).  Next time, we might try a different spa.

We walked back to the ship – a decent walk - I was able to get a nice picture of Serenity anchored in the bay.

 We took the tender back (not much of a wait - the rain was keeping the guests on board)

and met up at the Tastes Kitchen for lunch.  After my obligatory gazpacho (so good today), Ellen and I split a pizza (my half had extra sauce and was literally blanketed with onions).  The pizza was good along with a Corona Beer, the only Mexican beer on board. 

After lunch, we were out on the pool deck taking in the moderate temps and nice breeze.  As it got warmer on the deck, we went to the Crystal Cove for Tea Time but there was no tea served today.  I had been looking at the statue of the Golden Cellist the whole cruise and finally took a picture of her.

Again, although dreary, I did get a nice panoramic shot of Cabo Bay.

After a comprehensive cleanup (the Beauty Spa does not use water soaked towels to remove the massage oil), we went to the Hollywood Theater for our second Shabbat Service.  The attendance had dropped off a bit but the service was still interesting. Rabbi Morton delivered a sermon about daily blessings and showed a film clip of 1992 Olympian Derick Redmon who was favored to win the 400m but tore a hamstring with 150m to go.  He limped to the finish line with the help of his father.  The theme was perseverance. 

After Kiddush and Challah, we joined about 10 other “sea shul” members for Dinner in Waterside.  It was a pleasant dinner – I had the Fusilli in Sundried Tomato Sauce along with the Celeriac Soup and Red and Green Cesar Salad – the meal was good (Ellen had the Grouper and didn’t like it that much) and the conversations interesting.  One of the folks was from Laguna Beach but had connections with the Fairfax Area so we had commonality to draw upon.  The dinner went fast and we excused ourselves to get to the show.

While we were at dinner, the Captain came on the PA system (always causes a little spike in BP) and said that a crew member had a medical emergency and we would have to turn around and head back to Cabo, where medical personnel would meet the ship.  We hadn't really sailed that far so there was no real issue regarding getting to San Diego on time.  

Tonight’s Headliner is local Singer/Dancer Lauren Heavner doing her one-woman show “The Hits and One Miss”.  Seven years ago, Lauren was a singer dancer in the troupe and backup to the main Singer.  She also did Pop Rock a mania seven years ago.  Today, she’s the star.  Lauren is from Missouri and has a mild adorable accent.  She is clearly a Country Singer. 

Her show was great – small on talk and big on songs.  She did some Dolly Parton and George Jones ("He Stopped Loving You Today" - her favorite country song). 

She also showed some video clips of her first time on stage and one of her singing with a group when she was 19.  She did the “Auctioneer Song” on the clip and then she did in as her next number – a cute song.  

She finished off her show with “The Impossible Dream”, 

not a country song for sure, but she had her own take on it and did a great job. The audience seemed to like the show and we sure did.