Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday was a big rush of things.  We had agreed to skip breakfast due to time constraints, which was fine with me since I never/rarely eat it anyway (I know, I know – most important meal of the day)

As planned, Michael arrived at our hotel and we put luggage tags on his backpack, made sure we had everything packed up and got an Uber.  Tom had checked us out and we went out the door and into the Uber with all our luggage.

The ride to the temporary Steinway Hall was pretty fast and we got there about 10:30 or so.  The doors were locked but Michael’s teacher arrived a couple minutes later and we were inside.

Eddie Strauss, Sales Manager, let us use the freight elevator to haul all our luggage to the second floor/mezzanine where we could leave it outside the Henry  E. Steinway Recital Hall.

Although this is a temporary location while their new facilities are being built, it is very beautiful.

…temporary location at 1155 Avenue of the Americas.

This short-term “pop-up store” will allow Steinway to remain open as the new headquarters is being constructed, allowing for continuous service to its customers.

Steinway, well-known for handcrafting the world’s finest pianos, will now have a gallery space that encompasses approximately 18,000 s/for both retail and showroom, and a small concert hall that caters to the world’s most prominent pianists.

via Steinway Hall, Temporary Location. | MaryO’Studio.

Michael played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Italian Concerto.

This video certainly doesn’t do his performance justice!

We played the first two movements of Peter Warlock’s Capriol duet (also, the video isn’t the best quality):

Speaking of video quality, Eddie told us that the new Steinway Hall will have professional recording equipment in the recital hall and that will make things much better for the future.

We left Steinway about 12:15 and took an Uber to the terminal. The driver left us at the terminal by the Gem about 12:35 but it was an easy walk next door to the Breakaway terminal at Pier 88.

We left our checked baggage and went through the terminal process very quickly. We never even had a chance to sit down and we were on board by 1:00. That was the fastest I have ever boarded any ship.

The Garden Cafe was crowded but we found a table without much effort. Before we finished eating, it was announced that the cabins were ready. Our cabin – 9918 – was fantastic! It was a bit tight for the 3 of us but we made it work.

The balcony was the best part. I had chosen an aft balcony on 9, starboard. We had 2 loungers, 3 chairs and 2 tables and plenty of room to move them and ourselves around.

Looking up to the other decks, we could see from the angle that ours was larger than the others above us.

There was a lot of storage but some was tricky to find. The bathroom was a good size, as was the shower. There were more shelves in the bathroom than usual and I liked being able to leave my  stuff in there. I had read that there was no conditioner in the showers so I brought my own.

I also followed advice from Cruise Critic and brought magnet hooks for the walls and those were great for hanging hats, card lanyards and so on.

The end tables on each side of our bed were pretty narrow but we made that work. The lights beside the bed were a little high up, so I’d have to get up to turn mine off. Luckily, I read a Kindle before bed so I never really needed to use the bedside light.

Our luggage arrived before 4:00 pm which was really nice.

I had been concerned about going on a ship this size but there was really no problem. The elevators were crowded the first day but after that, no big deal. I would like to point out that we mostly always took the stairs going down and walked up if it was only 2-3 decks.

We got the unlimited internet package and it was well worth it for us. On other cruises, I would get the max minutes and always be watching the time – and I would still often run out at the end. I am the web master for a couple companies so I need to spend some time online each day. This internet package was a life-saver for me and we were able to share it between the 3 of us.

We also made good use of the iPhone iConcierge app. We used it as a messenger to let others know where we were and we made reservations for 3 restaurants and 2 shore excursions with it. I also checked how our account was doing. That cost us $7.95 per phone and was well worth it.

While we were waiting to “set sail”, there was a beautiful monarch butterfly that flitted from the next balcony over to ours.  Butterflies always remind me of my good friend, Alice.  I have a monarch butterfly as my phone background.  I’d like to think that this butterfly was a reminder from Alice to have a wonderful trip.

Then, right after sail-away, the traditional First Nap :)  Our bed was great, very comfortable king sized with 2 pillows each. 

Tom went out to a meeting, something that he would do at 5:30 every day.

We ate our first dinner in the Garden Cafe, followed by Guest Relations to get band aids, antiseptic and distilled water for Michael’s CPAP machine

Then, off to an early bed. Our steward, Bradley, turned the couch into a nice bed for our son.

Slideshow of some of our pictures:

All pictures for Sunday:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskaL6Nk7

All Cruise Pictures:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/cushingshelp/6795k6

The Trip Starts ~ Friday, June 5, 2015

I woke up at 8 and still have to pack.  We’re leaving for the train at 11…

So, naturally, I did some online stuff and at 9:08, I posted “We’re getting on a train at 1:02 (love how precise Amtrak is!) today so I guess I should start packing…”

Tom called for a cab to arrive at 11:15.  The cab arrived about 11 and started honking his horn.  Mimi started barking.  I took the first bag out at 11:15.  Good thing – the driver was getting ready to leave.  I told him that we’d said 11:15 – he’d missed that part

We got the 3 finally packed bags to the cab and settled in, fairly early to get to Union Station.

About 15 minutes out, I asked Tom if he had his passport.  He’d been thinking New York, not the cruise to Bermuda so we went back home and started again.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, if expensive.  The driver was fairly talkative and carried on an interesting conversation with Tom about Sikhs and other religions. Also, immigration to the states as opposed to the UK, education here, life in India…

Finally – Union Station.  Hooray!

Union_Station_Washington_DC

We only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes before our train was called.  Since the train originated in DC, we were able to get seats together.  Hooray!

View of the next train to our left…

And the trip starts...the train next track

The ride to New York was fine.  No derailments, which was really good.  The train that derailed in May was Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188.  We were on Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 186.  I assume that they retired #188.  It seemed ridership was down a little but we were on an earlier train than usual so maybe not.

We arrived at Penn Station, NY on time and started getting in the cab line.  I hate to say it, but the line was long and we fell for a gypsy cab trip.  The driver didn’t take us out of our way – I was following the trip on my Waze.  The driver got us to our hotel – and wanted an exorbitant amount of money (plus tip), cash only.  Tom convinced him to take a lot less (and NO tip!) and we checked into the hotel.

Four Points by Sheraton SoHo is apparently built on a small lot – it’s very compact, but tall.  Our room is on the small side and I think that there are only a few rooms on each floor.

We’re on the second floor and the view is a next door roof.  I’ll try to get a picture of that tomorrow.

Michael arrived – hooray!  After some discussion – nap or food – we decided to go out to eat.  We walked through Father Fagan Park.  Mimi wouldn’t consider this to be a “real park” but then, she’s not a city dog.

father-faganFather Fagan Park is gem of a vest-pocket park on the western edge of Soho. This park commemorates four local heroes who perished in the face of fire.

http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M207

The first restaurant we tried could have taken us without a reservation but we’d have to eat quickly so we could be out when those who had reservations arrived.  We left, allowing plenty of time for those who planned ahead.

Walking along, we read other menus until we arrived at Spice.  Yummy Thai food!  I had Pad Thai with tofu and Tom had the same but with chicken.  Michael had rice with mixed seafood – some of the mix was squid.  EEEWW.

As an afterthought, I asked for Thai tea.  I was surprised, and very happy, when it came as a bubble tea.  As far as I know, there are only 2 places near me with bubble tea so this was a real treat.

bubble-teaAt the bottom are yummy boba tapioca pearls.  Here’s why I don’t make bubble tea at home:

How to Make Boba and Bubble Tea

What You Need

Ingredients

1/4 cup dried boba tapioca pearls per serving (NOT quick-cooking boba)
1-2 tea bags per serving, any kind
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Milk, almond milk, or sweetened condensed milk
Fruit juice or nectar (optional)

Equipment

Saucepan
Bowl for holding the cooked boba
Measuring cups

Instructions

1. Cook the Boba: Measure 2 cups of water for every 1/4 cup of boba being prepared into a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the boba and stir gently until they begin floating to the top of the water.

Turn the heat to medium and cook the boba for 12-15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, cover, and let the pearls sit for another 12-15 minutes.

2. Prepare Sugar Syrup for the Boba: While the boba are cooking, make a simple sugar syrup to sweeten and preserve them once cooked. Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil over high heat on the stove or in the microwave. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool.

3. Prepare a Strong Cup of Tea: This can be done either while the boba are cooking or ahead of time. Allow enough time for the tea to cool completely before making the boba. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the tea bag. Use one tea bag for regular-strength bubble tea or two for a stronger tea flavor. Remove the tea bag after 15 minutes and chill the tea.

4. Finish the Boba: Once the boba have finished cooking, drain them from the water and transfer them to a small bowl or container. Pour the sugar syrup over top until the boba are submerged. Let sit until the boba are room temperature, at least 15 minutes, or refrigerate until ready to use. Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

5. Make the Bubble Tea: Pour the prepared tea into a tall glass and add the boba. Add milk for a creamy bubble tea, juice for a fruity tea, or leave plain and add a little extra water. Sweeten to taste with the simple syrup from soaking the boba.

Additional Notes:

Very Chilled Bubble Tea: For an extra-chilly bubble tea, combine all the tea, milk, and/or juice, but not the boba in a cocktail shaker. Add a few ice cubes and shake for 20 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and add the boba.

Shortcut Boba: If you want immediate gratification, just cook your boba until they are tender, 5 to 10 minutes, and use them as soon as they’re cool. This kind of boba don’t [sic] keep for very long (turning rock hard in a few hours), but are delicious if eaten right away.

Saving Leftover Boba and Making Boba for Later: Boba are best if used within a few hours of cooking, but will keep refrigerated with simple syrup for several days. The boba will gradually harden and become crunchy as they sit.

During dinner, we discussed where to go next but that was fairly indecisive.  We thought about going to Tribeca park where one of the Sing For Hope pianos is located.  That was going to be about a mile walk and it was about 7:00 so we went back to the hotel to use the free WiFi and find another activity.  We ended up doing nothing except coming up with ideas for tomorrow.

So far:  breakfast, Michael has a training session at 12:30, Barge MusicAvery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York to hear an all-Mozart program, possibly a talk before that.  Somewhere in there we need to practice some…

We’ll see how that all works out!  Meanwhile, It’s 5:30 and I’m going back to sleep!

MaryOColorfulButterfly

Costa Rica, Day Two: August 16, 2014

I woke up about 7:00 with a dream of my mother telling me if I didn’t wake up soon, I’d miss pickup Michael at the airport. Uh, no – he’s arriving at 1:00 PM.

I went out on the terrace to see if the internet connection was any better. No. I rebooted the router and modem. Didn’t help. Rebooted the computer. Also didn’t work. We decided to call for help. The telephone message said “Invalid Account”. Tom wanted to call the front desk using his phone and we decided it would cost way too much since it would be the same as calling from our house, an international call.

Our list of things that don’t work, or we think they should have, grows longer. There are lots of candles, but no matches. We WILL carry on, though.

I took some pictures now that it’s daylight, mostly of the rock that envelops half of our apartment, and possibly is blocking out our internet. Lots of little lizards running around on our front rocks and dirt.

We went to the front desk area and met Brian who heard our long “to-do” list. He claims that the internet is down for some sort of repair all over the area. While we were there, the internet came on for a few moments.

From there, we drove to the airport to pick up Michael. He was the first one out of Customs/Immigration! Headed home and got some lunch at “our” place. After short naps, Tom went back down and the offices were closed so we couldn’t sign up for tours tomorrow. Michael is only here tomorrow and Monday so we need to get some plans going.

It was a slow kind of afternoon and we decided to go back to the pizza place for dinner since they had been so helpful the night before. On the way, we got stuck in our elevator AGAIN. Tom tried calling the number in the elevator but no one answered. Finally it moved. We vowed to never take the elevator again, at least unless someone was on the outside to push the button from there.

The power went out but only momentarily. We need to get matches for those candles!

Since there was no internet, I decided to download some fun apps to play and re-download one which shows the stars.

Michael and I were playing games which meant I missed the notices that said I’d used 40% of my Global Data, 25%…5%… Poof!

 

Costa Rica, Day One: August 15, 2014

We got up at 3:30 am for our trip and to walk Mimi. She didn’t seem to mind at all that it was still dark out. My stomach felt queasy so I didn’t have anything to eat – or any coffee. Oh no! Without coffee, there may be a headache later today.

Our taxi arrived on schedule at 4:30 – things are going well…so far.

Our flight was only 37 minutes which was a good thing because our second flight was 3 terminals away, another security check and only 2 hours. The plane was very small so we had to give them our “carryon” luggage to pick up later on the tarmac.

For such a short flight, it was pretty smooth. We landed at JFK, picked up our luggage, literally on the tarmac and weaved our way through makeshift canvas walkways to try to find the Delta terminal. Very crowded. Finally left security there, went outside to try to find the AirTrain. Lots of stairs so the rollabout suitcases had to be carried. The signage wasn’t that great, either so we had to ask for help – several times. We finally made it to the JetBlue terminal with a bit of time to spare.

The next flight was smooth, too. HOORAY! I’m not good with turbulence to say the least. If someone is screaming, it’s always me. The row of young women in front of us and behind us thought that the flight was an airborne bar. They had been drinking before the flight and continued during the flight. The steward even ran them a tab, something I’ve never heard of on a plane before. The ones ahead of us were watching a show calledPaternity Court on TV and it was quite hilarious, apparently.

At some point, as we were landing, they were looking at the map and thought that we were 4147 miles above sea level, rather than feet. Apparently we were coming in from outer space.

On the jetway, heading to the terminal, one revealed that she had been smoking vapor cigarettes in the bathroom.

I hope they have a wonderful 10 days here – if they remember any of it!

The airport went smoothly, very similar to Barbados with Customs and Immigration. Lots of people offering to help (for tips, of course) but we knew where we were going and were able to weave our way thgouth the crowd.

We found the van for Avis. As soon as I got in, the headache struck, big-time. A combo of no coffee all day and the air freshener in the van. It was so strong, even I could smell it.

Our trip to Avis went well. I got several Extra-Strength Tylenol in me. Our car is a black Nissan sedan. We’d requested manual but they didn’t have any. That turned out to be a good thing later.

The rental agent, Douglas, set up our GPS unit to take us to our condo and we were off. We found Coco Bay Estates and got through the security gate which consisted of a guard, an orange cone and a stop sign (arrete in Spanish)

2014-08-14 09.00.26

Check-in went well, the people friendly and helpful. We followed their van up to our place for the next 2 weeks. I say “up” because our place is carved out of the side of a small mountain. The road has several hairpin turns. The final one to our place involves a hill and at the top, you can’t see the road or anything coming below. AARRGGHH

Here’s a PDF of our site_map.  Our parking spot is on the 4th level of “Segovia”. We had to take an elevator down to our place on one – 102. There was a sign in the elevator that said if the power goes out, it will reset itself. Uh-oh.

The van driver showed us into our place and around, although some of the stuff turned out later to be untrue. One the surface, it’s very nice here with 2 big bedrooms, each with it’s owh bathroom. There were only 3 hangers for the 2 bedrooms so we could have 4 people here, sharing the 3. There are no drawers for storing clothes so I stacked up my clothes on open shelves in a walk-in closet.

A nice living-room area with comfy sofa, washer-dryer, nice patio with glass doors in every room. The A/C works well. Hooray!

I fell asleep for a nap almost immediately.

We decided it was time to go get something to eat. Turns out, the restaurant here closed at 3pm. <sigh> We would have had to drive there, anyway. The roads look unsafe to walk on, even without the hill. So, we decided to go into town to a grocery store. It was about 5pm local time (7 at home) and dusk. We retraced our steps from earlier and saw a grocery store. This was a very local store, everything written in Spanish, which was to be expected, but we had trouble finding things – we never found peanut butter. We did get hangers, though so we now have 13.

When we got out, it was completely dark. People walking in the narrow streets, and riding bikes…and we got lost. We must have missed a street or 2 and our GPS wasn’t recoginzing any of the items I tried typing into it, in English OR Spanish. Our place wasn’t listed under lodgings. At one point, had we continued on the street we were on, we would have driven into the Pacific Ocean.

We were both getting very testy. I had a little headache still, was hungry from not eating all day (that earlier stomach queasyness) and exhausted. It was 10 pm (midnight our time) when we stopped at a small pizza place. Our waitress spoke Italian so she couldn’t help us with directions at all but pointing at the menu got us a pizza. From my long-ago Italian college class, I was able to dredge up enough to get Tom an orange juice. I just went with agua. She was able to find another patron who knew enough English to give us directions.

We changed our order and got the pizza to go. Back to our place, gathered up some of the groceries – the ice cream was melted of course. Into the elevator (no AC) and it wouldn’t move. It took a few minutes but we finally got that going. Into our place and Tom went back for the rest…and called me from the elevator. It was stuck so I went out in my barefeet to push the elevator button from the outside to make it move.

When he went back for the rest, he walked up and down the 4 flights of stairs to avoid the elevator.

Finally, about 11:00 (1 am, our time), after putting the groceries away, we had cold pizza for dinner.

I entered the info for WiFi do finish up my “church work”. The computer showed a strong WiFi signal. Excellent. Except it didn’t actually connect to the Internet.

Luckily, I have a data plan on my iPad and I’d added some Global Minutes. I used that as a hotspot to connect my computer to the internet and finish that work.

Off to bed and dreams of my mother scolding me for sleeping too late.

Aruba, March 7 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

The description:

Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

aruba

Semi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.


Our day:

Aruba, 8:00am–6:00pm

Weather Forecast:  Mostly Sunny High 82 / Low 79

Sunrise 6:52 am / Sunset 6:50 pm

From the Navigator:  Overnight Coral Princess maintained a southeasterly course and this morning we will make our final approach to Aruba.  A local pilot will assist in navigating the vessel to our berth in the capital city of Oranjestad.  This afternoon, with all the passengers onboard, we will let go our lines and maneuver out of the harbor, before altering course to starboard and setting westerly courses toward our next port of call, Cartagena.

When we woke up, we could see that we were approaching port.  I watched the process from the balcony, then we went down to deck 7 (Fiesta) to wait in line for disembarkation.

2014-03-07 07.59.05
Arriving at Aruba
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Of course, I checked in at Foursquare :)
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Container ships on the dock. In the distance, near the crane, is the Hooiberg volcano.
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The Freewinds often hosts local functions in the ports it frequents, such as jazz concerts and movie performances in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These events are usually free but often support island charities through entrance fees or suggested donations.[21] Local artists are often showcased. It also caters to different international conferences and events. The ship’s leisure facilities include a restaurant, lounge, cabaret, swimming pool, movie theater and beauty salon.
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More containers
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Arriving at Aruba

Off the ship, we went through the terminal and met our bus.  Turned out, Rosie and Jim were on the same tour.

We rode in the bus for a while as our tour guide mentioned some Aruba facts and showed us some points of interest.  One of the most interesting and pertinent facts for me was that all restrooms on Aruba cost $.50 to use except the Natural Bridge, which was $1.00.  Yuck!

One of the first things we saw was a roundabout with a McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food.  I also saw a store called Rat Land which I hope means something in Dutch than in English.

rat-land

Their license plates say “One Happy Island” but people are more happy when it rains.  They get very little rain there.  The island is very desert-like with lots of cacti, like we saw in Phoenix, AZ.

Our first stop was the California Light House.  There were some mini-Stonehenge rocks there.  We couldn’t go in.  This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. It was formerly open to the public until a suicide occurred, which prompted authorities to restrict public access to the lighthouse.

2014-03-07 09.20.42
California Lighthouse
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At the California Lighthouse, looking at the sea

In Aruba, they make piles of rocks, similar to those we saw in Iceland.  In Aruba, tourists stack them up and make a wish on each rock they add to the pile.

rockpiles

Back on the bus, we went to DePalma beach.  That was down a path next to the Riu hotel.  All beaches here, like Barbados, are public.  The Riu had a “garden” of big rocks, surrounded by hedges and flowers, complete with a gardner tending these rocks.

Lots of activity there like wind surfing, parasailing, etc.  We walked past the little shops (they had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins!) and got on a flat-topped ferry boat for our semi-submersible.

The semi-submersible didn’t submerge at all.  The only “submersing” it did was when we walked down the stairs to take our seats by the portholes.  In some of the photos below, you can see the bottom of our craft on the top of the water.

Even their own website says that they do not submerge at all:

The Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine is a state-of-the-art semi-submarine developed in Australia for use on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique vessel does not submerge. You step down into the hull of this cruising underwater observatory and sit in air-conditioned comfort just 5 feet below the water’s surface, viewing amazing Aruba sea life through large clear glass windows.

They should call in non-submersible instead.  There must not have been a reef or anything because all we did was circle the shipwreck, the Antilla.

I was a bit upset by all the divers’ bubbles coming from underneath us.  That couldn’t have been safe for them to be diving under a boat, whether it submerged or not.

Whatever.

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Ferry “Stingray”
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Shipwreck of the Antilla. You can see a diver’s fin in the top of this picture.
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Shipwreck of the Antilla. The jellyfish-looking thing in the upper right is air bubbles from a diver.
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Shipwreck of the Antilla.
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Shipwreck of the Antilla.
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Sergeant major fish
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More divers’ air bubbles
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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.
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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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From there, we drove to the Natural Bridge past Arashi Beach.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. The landmark collapsed on September 2, 2005.  We saw the newer Natural “Baby” Arch at the northeast shore of Aruba at the same site.

I thought I had a video of this arch but it might be on my other camera.  If/when I find it, I’ll put it here.  :)

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Natural Bridge area
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New or baby Natural Bridge

Everything where we were seemed so dry, so there was a lot of cactus.  We also saw some brown doves (close relative of the North American Mourning Dove) and egrets (a type of heron).

egret

The guide said that many of the beaches were made of coral.  They have a volcano on Aruba called Hooiberg, a Dutch word meaning Haystack.  It is actually a dormant volcano located close to the center of the island. The island of Aruba was formed as a result of volcanic activity.

Off to the Casibari rock formations.  Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throughout the ages.

Aruba is made of lava quartz diorite and limestone.  There is also granite but it’s protected.

 

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Tom under one of the Casibari rock formations
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Casibari Rock Formations
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Casibari Rock Formations
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Casibari Rock Formations
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Arashi Beach
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A little lizard on the rocks.

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We didn’t get to see the gold mill or downtown Oranjestad but we were happy to head back to the ship.  I was surprised and pleased when the crew gave us cold water and cold towels.

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Oranjestad from our ship balcony.

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Back on board, we took a little nap, went to the library saw the singers and dancers do a show called Motor City, another excellent show.

After dinner in the buffet, we went to the Princess Theater to see Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

http://youtu.be/OiTiKOy59o4

Tuesday, March 4 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

ft-lauderdale

 

What a day!  I spent most of the first part being nervous that we would miss the ship.  There were phone calls from employees that weren’t sure what to do while we were gone, emails…

At 11:00 we were supposed to check out and housekeeping came by to check on us and I told her  “soon”.

My sandal broke, the part next to the heel separated from the sole.  <sigh>

Finally, we checked out at noon and set off to find the place to return the rental car that we never really used.  A wrong turn or 2 and we finally got there about 1:00.  Tom called for a taxi.  We waited and waited.  Tom called again.  Finally, the driver got there and we reloaded our luggage.

Fortunately, the port was only about a mile a way but there was a lot of traffic to the port and all cars had to stop and everyone had to show IDs.  That slowed everything up.

Dropped off our luggage and finally got in the terminal building.  It was nearly 2:00.  Tom had been thinking we had until 4:00 to get onboard – I reminded him that this ship sailed at 4:00.  We had to be on by 3:00.

Fort Port Lauderdale Embarkation 

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 77 / Low 69

Sunrise 6:41 am / Sunset 6:23 pm

From the Navigator: As soon as all the passengers and crew are onboard and all pre-departure checks have been completed, the Captain will give the order to let go our mooring lines.  Once clear from the berth, Coral Princess will make her way out of the harbor before disembarking our pilot and altering our course to starboard.  We will then set southwesterly courses through the Straits of Florida toward the Old Bahama Channel, as we make our way towards Aruba.

A hustling, bustling port – not just cruise ships.  As far as I could tell, we were the only cruise ship there.

A lot of people got there about when we did but the lines moved fairly quickly…until it was time to actually board the ship.  That’s when you swipe your new card and they add your picture to the record for to be sure you’re who you say you are when you come back from port.

We got on the actual ship and were directed to the left.  We followed lots of other folks and ended up at an elevator.  Up to our cabin and our first 2 pieces of luggage were already there.  The third was only a few minutes later.  Very speedy!

I like this ship – Coral Princess!

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The cabin is (or seems) bigger than the one on Norwegian (NCL).  There is a desk instead of a couch (NCL).  The couch wasn’t very practical – the desk really is.

We have a walk-in closet which is really nice.  We haven’t even filled it halfway up (yet).  It’s at a right angle to the sleeping area which makes it seem like a separate room.

The bathroom is small.  I think the shower is smaller than NCL’s but I don’t spend that much time in there.

The end tables by the bed have actual drawers instead of open shelves.

The chairs on the balcony recline.  They’re fixed on NCL.

No coffeemaker, though.  NCL had one in the cabin.

We have a TV guide telling us what is on for the whole trip.  The new Hobbit movie will be on later.  Glad we didn’t see it in the movies.

Pool/Beach towels are in the closet.  We return them to the cabin and the steward brings us new ones.  We didn’t have to check them out and return them to the pool each day.  Hooray!

This ship has a self-service laundry on each deck.  I’ve never seen that on another ship.

We went off for muster  Here, we had to take our lifejackets and put them on at one point.  NCL, we didn’t take them.  They showed us how to jump off the side, if necessary.  Um, no.

I noted for future reference that many women on here wear white long pants.  Not likely!

Tom went off to a meeting, I did some church work – uploading Sunday’s sermons.

I took a little video of the sail away and some regular pictures.

http://youtu.be/snOVmXcPO-0

 

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The sheriff’s boat, acting as pilot

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Tom came back and wrote some emails.  I think I napped.  I didn’t feel like getting dressed for dinner so we went to the buffet.  It seemed smaller than NCL but then I realized that they didn’t have the pizza and burgers mixed in.  The buffet was all real food.  Among other things, I had prime rib.  Yummy!!!   We got to sit right ”up front” in the center of the stern.  Very impressive!

We walked around a bit, trying to get our bearings.  This ship has a lot of wood on it, more “real” than the mostly metal ones I usually see.  Teak tables, wooden doors.

I understand that this ship line used to be P&O from England before they became Princess.  There are British hints all over, from the afternoon Tea Time, to the huge selection of teas at dinner.  There are also pictures from the P&O line on the walls and 2 grenadiers guarding the casino.  Tom thinks that P&O might have stood for Pacific and Orient – I’ll look that up when we get home.  (Note – it is Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company)

I had wanted to go to the 7:45 Welcome Aboard show but there was some email to be sent.  I think I rested my eyes.

Then, we went out and walked around some more – by Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) which seems to mostly be showing a variety of things.  There are 2 movies later this week that I’d like to see.  They put cushions on the deck chairs and give out blankets, popcorn,  cookies and milk.  It’s also right by the ice cream, pizza and grill so not too much chance of hunger.

We walked all around a couple of decks.  It seems like we’re nearly alone on this cruise.  Except for embarking, we’ve seen very few other people.

At 9:30, we did see  the show.  I thought that they would do snippets from upcoming shows but the singers/dancers did a “welcome to Princess” type song and dance and the comedian told some jokes.  The cruise director, Susan Rawlings,  told us a bit about what was coming up.

Walking around some more.  We decided to get some pizza but they were just closing up.  Back to the buffet – Horizon Court – and I had some fruit (and another egg roll)

There was a note on our bed after dinner that they would be happy to deliver whatever fruit we wanted to our cabin.  Nice touch.  Also, a Princess tote bag.

We had chocolates on our pillow!

Just a bit of church work, should have taken about 2 minutes, tops, but it took 11, thanks to this s-l-o-w internet connection.

I think I fell asleep almost immediately.  If anything, I read one paragraph in my book.

Day Three, At Sea – November 19

image

With the new time, my watch is correct again.  Now I have to remember not to keep subtracting an hour.

Up about 8:30 and started drinking coffee on the balcony and writing in this blog.

At 10:30 we went for breakfast at the Garden Cafe.  They were almost closed. Yesterday they closed for breakfast at 11.  Today, 10:30.  By the time the cruise is over, maybe there will be no breakfast.

Walked around, read, nap, lazy day…

My wrist broke out in a rash so I won’t be wearing the watch anymore anyway. Aloe vera seemed to help.

More pictures from Deck 13:

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Off to the Mongolian HotPot.

Several staff asked if we were familiar with this process and we were able to say that we were since we’d eaten at this very place on a previous cruse.

We were talking to the chef while he cooked and he said that this ship was the only one with a Hot Pot restaurant.  Most of the others had the Chinese and Teppanyaki like we do but with Sushi as the third choice.  Glad we’re on the HotPot cruise :)

Our appetizers were steamed vegetable dumplings, seaweed salad and edaname,

The main course was Shabu-Shabu with Udon noodles, chicken, ginger, bok choy, nappa cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, broccoli

My dessert was green tea cake with green tea ice cream.  Tom had a variety of fruits with coconut sauce and a mango sauce.

We stopped by the store again but didn’t buy anything then did our evening walk around the decks

The show tonight is the comedian David Naster from the first night.  Didn’t go.

Our towel tonight was a swan (or a turkey?)

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This is very similar to our cabin:

Did You Know?

Norwegian Cruise Line sails to five continents and more than 120 ports of call.  With more than 65 itineraries calling on 52 countries, there’s aways a cruise that’s perfect for you and your family

Norwegian Cruise Line offers more onboard dining choices than any other cruise line.

The other ones aren’t worth my time typing out since they’re talking about the Art Gallery, Colombian Emeralds and other “selling things”.

Today’s Stats:

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Today’s Forecast:  Chance of Rain 77F/25C

Sunrise: 7:10 am

Sunset: 5:44 pm