Carnival Sunrise 2019

Road trip and NYC

Ok, so I was wrong earlier when I said I’d be writing from Bryant Park this morning. Would you believe it was closed!? Why would a park close? I was a little disappointed to say the least. So now I’m over at Times Square between 42nd and 43rd. And who would think that would ever be a less than great thing? Anyway, almost 24hrs in, the trip is going well so far. Steps were just under 18k yesterday which sounds about right for New York. Anyway, let me tell you about yesterday.

So we didn’t exactly make it out the door by 6am as we used to do, but we were by 7. An hour didn’t end up making too much of a difference since we were still at the hotel by 2. Seven hours including 4 stops isn’t bad at all.

The drive was uneventful and the main stops were Panera at Hagerstown for food and Loves at Hamburg for gas. Really nothing out out of the ordinary at all. Which is a good thing of course.

The hotel this trip is the Residence Inn on 6th and 39th. Same neighborhood as the Embassy last year. Its nice enough, but not great. Steph likes it much better than last year because the room is a good bit bigger. Colton is back on a pull out sofa like the old days because two beds are surprisingly hard to come by in this city.

Oh man, one thing we had our first glimpse of in person yesterday was whats left of our Doubletree Times Square. How many times did we stay there and how many times did I call it my absolute favorite hotel? Now its gone. Hilton sold it, for an unbelievable amount of money I’m sure considering its prime location in the center of the universe. It was sad to see. And I’m sure whatever goes back there won’t be in the Hilton or Marriott chains so I’ll probably never experience it. Was sure nice to have it those years though.

Colton picked lunch and we went to Kobeyaki, a Japanese place, and got burgers made of some fancy beef. Or at least thats what they tell you. The sweet potato fries were killer too.

Our walk after that was around Times Square and the west side. A couple ships were here today and I was hoping to maybe see them sail down the river. We caught the Dawn leaving and saw that the other was the Sun Princess which home ports in Australia. Having just sailed from Iceland, this was simply a port on her latest world journey probably.

Pier 84 is a nice park area and home to the dog park we spent time at a few years ago. From there we walked south along the Hudson to 33rd St. and the instagram sensation of a few months ago, The Vessel. I suppose it is art technically. Part pretty and perhaps a little more part weird. We didn’t walk to the top since as with most hip thing here, the line was long. Anyway I now have the obligatory Instagram pic so yay me.

Adjacent to that was Hudson Yards. Now this was more my speed because you know how this 80’s kid loves a mall! Really nice place. Five floors of unique stores and restaurants in an incredibly beautiful mall. I loved some of the places, including a Japanese place that sold adorable notebooks and pens very reasonably priced. I carries around a notebook to buy until I saw the checkout line and then reevaluated how much I wanted that notebook. Turns out not enough.

From there we considered subwaying home but just walked since the weather was perfect. After that Steph was in for the night but Colton and I went out for a nighttime lap up 6th and through Times Square, and a Guitar Center stop of course.

Note: I took a walk after that last sentence and now I’m on 34th St. On the way I relearned a lesson I had long ago been taught. In New York I need to order “black coffee.” Order a “coffee” here and you get cream and sugar. Yuk. I’ll drink it though because I paid too much for to not drink it.

A New York Sunday

What a day. Steps Sunday topped out over 29k. Many miles added to feet already in bad shape. Any more than 3 nights here and I might hurt myself. Kicking myself now for not taking advantage of the quiet midtown yesterday morning by renting a bike. Way more activity at 5:30am Monday.

The park closed signs greeted me again today. I’m still writing from the corner of 6th and 42nd, just technically outside the park.

So yesterday…up at 5 of course, others up and ready to head out by 9 probably. After taking the subway to Union Square we walked quite a bit around there and the East Village. Essentially new territory for us. West Village I’m familiar with, that whole area though was unknown.

Steph eventually spotted Max Brenner which is a popular place that specializes in chocolate stuff. We picked up half a chocolate pizza with “the works” (every bit as decadent as it sounds) and took it to Union Square park to eat. As much as I wanted to like that park, it had more than its share of angry homeless folks. Unfortunately, getting used to homeless people is part of any New York City visit. They don’t always appear to be on the edge of violence as the ones here though. So we ate and quickly moved on. Around 11, Steph noted another spot she has seen them going on about on her New York based talk shows, Tim Ho Wan. 11 and already a mob of Asian people outside waiting. Apparently its the most reasonably priced Michelin Star restaurant you’ll find. So we got on the list which was already at 45 min or so and continued down the street to explore. Of course we were a few blocks south when the Yelp app notified me we were up next and had 5min to show up! After hustling back we enjoyed lunch at a Michelin rated restaurant. Perhaps a first and last for me, who knows. Food was good, but not out of this world. Enjoyable being part of something buzzworthy I suppose. Steph routinely knows the cool places to hit watching her shows as she does. Colton and I joked at how the restaurant full of Asians likely saw us as a symbol of the end for their favorite restaurant. “Well, its been on TV, here come the white tourists!?&)@,.”

I really need to step this up don’t I. Subway back to 34th for a quick visit to Macys and her neighbors before crashing at the hotel for a short rest break. Then it was on to Fifth Ave for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. For 10+yrs we’ve cruised in the first half of June and every single time we either sail on parade day or get back to New York on parade day. Finally, this year we were here and got to witness it first hand. And it was really cool. A few photos are on my Instagram if you want to see them. We walked up 5th in a mass of Red White and Blue Puerto Rican flags. It was basically a loud party celebrating the heritage of a significant portion of this City’s population. Later we heard the Mayor skipped it in favor of a democratic fundraiser. Apparently the first Mayor to skip the parade, but not surprising from a politician to chase money instead of support the people he “serves.”

We rested a while at Central Park, put in a mile or two there then turned south and back down Broadway. Late afternoon/early evening by then, Colton was hungry so considering our location, Steph suggested a local favorite of probably more than 20yrs. Majestic Deli. Of course I’m not positive, but I’d be willing to bet we found this place on our first visit to town together in the late 90’s. There is nothing hip or stylish about the place but its certainly been reliable. Nothing at all seems to change there. We got a monsterous Reuben and a huge slice of strawberry cheesecake. Exactly the same as ever, although I’m sure more expensive. But man its nice to see something in this neighborhood where cool things come and go like the wind actually remain stable.

Thankfully my mom reminded me that the Tony awards were Sunday and since the Majestic was a block from Radio City we went there next. The side streets were closed and a couple lanes closed on 6th for all the fanfare. It was cool actually seeing a “Red Carpet” and all the people dressed in tuxes and gowns for the night. Lots of TV cameras and lighting around of course. We happened across Dave Carlin, a CBS News reporter, who was filming a segment with the theatre in the background. I think our eagerness and proximity to him (picture me as Vegas Vacation era Cousin Eddie snapping pictures of him) messed him up once and he restarted. When he was done, he laughed and asked me to take a casual photo of him and the camera guy. I did so and later found the photo on his Twitter which was cool. Very glad mom filled me in on that event. Photos on my Instagram if you want to see.

From there it was another rest break until Colton and I made our night walk and hit another Muji store. We even got a Jamba Juice and sat here in Bryant Park for a while (I’m in the park now by the way, must open at 6.) He loves this area as much as I do.

After a couple more $1 slices of pizza, we turned in. All in all, a very long and exhausting day, but I wouldn’t trade it. We say the years revolve around cruises, but I think mine revolve around time in New York.

Boarding Carnival Sunrise

And I thought Sunday was a lot to tell about. I guess it was, but it was cool stuff. Yesterday was more of a day of trivial nonsense that appears more significant than it really is because it comes on whats been labeled an important day.

No first morning sunrise for me today by the way. The photo is what I found when I surfaced. Looking like a rough day ahead!

To start at the beginning though, the rain held off between 5:30 and 7:30 yesterday morning which allowed my much valued early morning time out and about. The park I guess opens at 6 (last year i had fruit and coffee at the hotel first so I didn’t realize the park had just opened) and the Starbucks at 43rd and Broadway is open 24hrs. Most of the hardcore coffee shops don’t open til 7. Which seems late. Plenty of semi-acceptable coffee options out there otherwise though.

We called for the car around 10 and drove the 15 or so blocks uptown to the piers where I paid the insane price of $400 to leave your car for 10days in Manhattan. A thrifty shopper could probably fly to Florida for that.

Checkin was smooth til we realized the TA hadn’t added a credit card to the onboard account. This was the first time I opted to take her advice and let her handle all the pre-cruise registration. And, proving my previous stubbornness justified, thats what you get. So, that fixed, we took our seats in the Platinum waiting area to wait. Colton still isn’t Platinum, I’m sure since we’ve been favoring Norwegian since he’s been around. After yesterday, I’m not entirely sure he’ll get there, but that remains to be seen. It was after 12:30 before we got on board!! Thats nuts. The last three cruises we were on board by 11:15. Oasis of the Seas in FL was actually shortly before 11, which is also extreme.

While, I haven’t actually taken the time to do it yet, you could probably go back to boarding day on the Horizon last summer and see where I was every bit as grouchy and critical as I was yesterday. In fact I should just cut and paste and be done writing! That cruise turned out fine by the way. So the communication issue is what had Steph in a panic. With her fathers health being a source of continual stress for her, she was determined to keep in touch with home so that it could stress her here as well. Having asked everyone to contact us via iMessage she was a little upset with the fine print on the internet plan info page that said iMessage couldn’t be used. This seemed unrealistic but both staff members I questioned confirmed it. So we spent a little time rapidly setting up Whatsapp just as Josh had advised me to do years ago probably. I have a few friends on there but no one with any connection to her family. In the long run, its not even an issue! All that for nothing. Oh well. The internet is also good enough to stream, which is sweet. If Colton and I can figure out how to change input on the TV, I can run an HDMI from the computer and actually have decent cruise TV! Yes, I travel with an HDMI cable, I’m a nerd, thats no secret.

On top of that, the luggage hadn’t arrived yet. Steph goes off the deep end when luggage isn’t here by the end of the muster drill. Even moreso when the drill is delayed til 4! Then there was the helicopter crash, she was nuts about that too. She lost a few hours to severe anxiety yesterday which is a real shame.

She eventually found where the luggage carts were coming in and found ours. I’m thinking, well its on the ship…it’ll get there right? No, she, with Colton’s typical enthusiasm about doing something devious, dismantled the entire stack to pull ours from the bottom and wheel them home. Insane, this family is. I later noticed a security dude around a group of luggage carts by the way. Could be coincidence, who knows.

Unpacking was the usual chore and a half since we inexplicably bring just about the entire bedroom closet. I would definitely do it differently, but I don’t make the rules in that area. Admittedly I do bring all my electronic entertainment tools which may or may not be equally unnecessary, so to each his own.

A note on the copter crash by the way. Yesterday I told you about our Majestic Deli we appreciate so much. Turns out the crash was a mere block and a half up the street. This caused traffic problems I’m sure which meant people couldn’t get to the ship and there was practically no visibility either. I suppose a combination of those meant that we sailed two and a half hours late. Which was during dinner so no Hudson River trip this time. Like Colton said, I’ve done it a million times, so I’ll live til next cruise. But I do love that trip down the river. Oddly enough we first did that on this ship in 1999 with my parents here and World Trade Center alongside. I literally just realized that, and it makes me kind of sad. Anyway I saw the base of the Statue of Liberty go by. If this was your first time sailing down the Hudson you were short changed, no skyline or Statue considering the visibility. So that’s a shame.

Dinner was ok but not great. The whole ship so far seems ok, but not great. While I’ll never be part of the narrow minded Royal-only crowd. Carnival does make me realize how much I appreciate Royal’s ways.

She’s still the Triumph and with this being my 4th(?) time on her I think I’m qualified to say that. It’s basically a new coat of lipstick, which is nice and all. But the differences are hardly night and day. I pay a lot of attention to detail and there is a lot that hasn’t changed. It’ll do though, I’m at sea where I eat like a king, sleep like a baby and get more reading time than I could possibly use. So that makes it great in my book.

Man it is pouring here now. Forecast is rain today again and then high 80’s and sunny the rest of the way. I can live with that. The first half of this was written out by the main pool, but I’m at the aft pool now safely under cover. Five coffees in at this point, I believe I’ll go find some fruit. Have a great day.

First Sea Day

Having been on what many would call too many cruises is a blessing and curse of sorts. On the plus side, I know exactly what to expect and am rarely caught off guard with significant changes, which may explain why the iMessage caper was troublesome. I know the drill and don’t have much problem getting into cruise mode pretty quickly once boarding day chaos subsides. But a bad thing about cruising so much can also be those expectations. Cruising in 2019, while at the core is still cruising, has changed quite a bit since my first time in 1994. I suppose it simply mirrors american culture though in that the goal is to squeeze every last penny from guests while at the same time cutting corners every step of the way.

By the time we had been here 24hrs. the cruise director’s voice had become an irritant of the same significance as an infomercial host you hear as you pass in the middle of the night or the car salesman you desperately wish would stay in the office and just let you look at cars. Every single thing said in his too loud and too frequent messages is geared toward you swiping your card to get some level of entertainment that would have been free 20 or even 10 years ago. It’s really quite shameful, but until the masses revolt and keep their cards safely tucked away, it’ll likely only get worse.

So yeah, the curse of sorts is that I’m perhaps overly critical of what are often insignificant changes. Could just be that I’m becoming the stereotypical grumpy old man, but I’m not sure I’m old enough to embrace that title yet.

I’ll try not to share the growing list of complaints, because I doubt you’re tagging along to hear me whine about being on vacation. But just one more small observation from yesterday. You know what the ships library consists of on this ship? A single shelf of awful paperbacks in the coffee shop (the pay coffee shop.) Yep, thats the image at top. Steph and I were married in the small but beautiful library on the Carnival Fantasy in 1996. I’m willing to bet today it too has become a source of income, like a fancy coffee shop, bakery or candy store. Sad.

Despite the tone of this story so far, the day yesterday was great. It was after 8 when the others got up so I had a good three hours out and about solo to drink coffee (complimentary brand of course) read and write. While it turned into a beautiful day, in the morning it wasn’t exactly pool weather, so we had Sea Day Brunch at the dining room. The menu had changed since last year apparently and it was really good. A couple hours later Colton and I had Guy’s burgers which are always perfect. All in all it was an awesome day of food and goofing around.

I rarely take naps in real life, but cruise naps are wonderful. The best part being getting up at 3 or 4 for coffee and cookies.

It was formal night, or elegant night as Carnival has dubbed it. This means we skipped dinner and of course Colton and I did our best to represent the extreme informal segment of the passengers. He in a Four Year Strong and A Day to Remember ensemble and me in my most evil looking black metal band shirt. It was delightful as always.

A highlight of the day was closing it out with Bohemian Rhapsody out by the main pool on the big screen. Colton and I both adore Queen and the movie was every bit as emotional as it was the first time through. I regret that I wasn’t around for Queen’s beginnings, but am very thankful I was on board by the end. Freddie Mercury was already a legend by the time I began paying attention to music. I was all in though by the time the last album came out during my college years. And the scope of Freddie’s farewell, The Show Must Go On, still gets to me today. In fact thats my only issue with the movie, that you’re half way through the credits before that song plays. I suppose they wanted it to be the last thing you hear. Which I believe was probably how the song was intended anyway.

Well, sorry guys, after the last several actually interesting days, I’m sure this chapter was a rather dull. I do appreciate you hanging around though. If there is anything you want to know more about, hit me up anytime. ?

More sea time

Its still fascinating to me seeing the night and morning cultures mix on a ship. I get my coffee at 5 or shortly after this morning and as I’m walking around I see three different card games going on which undoubtedly began last night. Interesting to me since these crowds rarely cross paths in real life.

Not much to tell you guys about today. Yesterday was deck time from 5 to almost 3. I scored some of the way too few deck chairs in the shade by the pool and parked myself there. Steph and was there for most of it but Colton didn’t hang around much since it was crazy crowded. A super busy pool isn’t the most appealing sight so we never did actually end up in the water. Started to a couple times, but eventually it starts looking like a big bowl of human soup to me and my deck chair calls me back. This morning I’ll get my pool time around 8 or so when its still reasonably peaceful.

Got in a very small window of casino time, which is all I’d recommend usually. I am currently in the black, but after 3 or 4 of those small windows I’m certain that will change.

We’re all disappointed this ship doesn’t have a low promenade deck that goes clear around the ship. I don’t realize how much walking we do there typically until its not available. Its striking to me how much nicer the Grandeur of the Seas is and she’s three years older than this one.

Well, look at that, I’m actually going to see a sunrise for a change this trip. Be right back… I’ll throw that photo up top today.

Food was good throughout the day. I’m loving Blue Iguana, which is Mexican stuff out by the pool. Colton is so far keeping his promise to have at least one Guy’s burger a day while we’re here. Steph of course is more wise, picking and choosing, as opposed to our all-in mentalities.

All day Colton and I planned on the Blues/Bruins Game 7 Cup Final being our evening’s entertainment. So with nice seats in the fancy sports bar, we waited for someone to change the channel at 8. And we just kept waiting. Several folks got up and left when it became clear it wasn’t happening. Much like the no Hulu, only Netflix policy, I imagine they are in bed with ESPN who, being jealous of the NHL, will not acknowledge its existence. Later on, I came across an equally disillusioned Bruins fan. And for the first time in my life I felt sympathy for a Boston sports fan.

But thats really about it. A true sea day in every way. Deck/book time and good food. Thats about it. I will mention we haven’t been to a show at all yet. Other than a comedian the other night. Yesterday’s entry had enough negativity though, so I’ll save my rant on Carnival’s comedy shows for another time.

Today is San Juan. I’d like to see the San Cristobal fort this time. Nuts over El Morro since my first visit many many years ago, thats the only one I ever want to visit. We were just there a year ago though, so today we’ll check out the one across town. Steph brought kitty treats from home if you can imagine. Why you ask? If you check out last years entry on San Juan, you’ll see where we happened across a cat shelter, walked across town for food and back just to feed the kitties, who were already smart enough to live at or in the vicinity of the shelter! Oh well, its among the few things Steph actually enjoys so have at it I guess.

Well, I’m going to hang this up. I’ll fill you in on our time in San Juan tomorrow. Have a great day.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

More of the same yesterday, until noon anyway. Arriving late to a port usually means normal sea day mornings and chaos in the afternoons. As soon as Guys and Blue Iguana opened the lines were forever long and overlapped each other. Steph walked around at one point and said those lines, the deli and the buffet lines essentially formed a single wall of people looping Deck 9 midship. To me that indicates “please stay seated.” I’m not big on lines on vacation. Perhaps thats why I don’t do Disney.

So we waited and ate burgers closer to 3 after the bulk of the folks had formed the line on the stairs to the gangway they had been advised not to form. Announcements rarely change people’s intentions here.

We were docked by 3:30 or so but waited until 4:30 to attempt to get off. The line was insane so we opted for pizza and tried again at 5:30 when we walked right off. May as well eat right? We’re obviously not making the dining room with a late port arrival.

San Juan was the same as it always is. Hot. San Cristobal was awesome and I cant believe I skipped it all these years. Fort wise, at least to these untrained eyes, it looks a lot like El Morro. But view wise it’s actually better. From there you can see every direction from Old San Juan and the ships to today’s enormous city and even up the coast to El Morro. It was beautiful!

From there we walked along ancient brick streets to the square for a Marshall’s visit (yes, the same Marshall’s) and the store for my Diet Pepsi fix. Surprisingly, my sense of direction actually led us to the shelter.

Visiting a shelter is always full of mixed emotions. On one hand you find all these kitties eager to befriend you and take your snacks. On the other you see all these kitties with no permanent home. There were a couple of people working there so we actually went inside. They do routinely ship them to the US, who of course has plenty cats of their own to deal with. Some looked hungrier than others and some were friendlier than others. And believe it or not, there was another family there from our ship who also brought treats as well as food for the various animals at Grand Turk! If you’ll remember, that is where Steph fed a bottle of water to a wild donkey.

As expected, the ship went all out for the NBA Finals game last night. Showing it on the big screen as well as on every single TV in the sports bar. Who could have guessed it. Gee thanks Carnival for dictating my entertainment. No Hulu, no hockey, gotcha.

Man, now that its daylight, the mountains are appearing. Sailing to Tortola today. I remember my first visit on the Legend in 2003. Sailing past these mountains leaving Tortola really left an impression on me and then I got sick. A real bad case of pneumonia set in and I was in bed for two full sea days heading back to New York. Straight to the doctor on our arrival back to Clarksburg, the Doc strongly considered putting me in the hospital but then let us go home first since we had been away so long. I got better from that point, but it was scary. And I lost two Sea Days!

Anyway, I’ll grab some photos, but I’m sure they won’t do it justice. Talk to you tomorrow!

Tortola, BVI

Making our way to St. Maarten this morning which has always been my personal favorite in the Caribbean.

Yesterday was the British Virgin Island of Tortola. It left its mark in 2003 as being the most beautiful sailing to and from and didn’t at all disappoint yesterday. My photos never have captured the string of islands you sail past coming and going. Fortunately I was up top writing yesterday approaching Tortola and we were all watching from the mini promenade on 3 as we departed in the evening.

Considering the pre-cruise chaos at home, extremely little planning was done in preparation for any of the ports and Tortola suffered most for that. We got off and walked around the immediate area not much more than an hour and treated ourselves to a nice quiet pool deck that we had essentially to ourselves for quite a while. Even the slides weren’t being used so we all (even Steph) took full advantage which was nice to see.

I forgot to mention the best part of our time ashore. I’ve got a photo of a pregnant Steph and myself from 2003 taken from a vacant field next to the port area. So yesterday we attempted to somewhat recreate it. The field wasn’t as vacant but it was still obvious the general area we had been back then. If I were on the computer writing this I’d add them both, but the phone only likes adding one. I’ll probably have to post them later. It was pretty cool I thought with a pregnant Steph and then 16yrs later the same photo taken by the baby.

We did the Port Day breakfast menu at the dining room which was super pleasant compared to the craziness at the buffet. On a port day there’s no reason not to do the dining room before you go out. They definitely keep things moving at a reasonable if not quick pace. Later today I’m sure we’ll do the same.

I still say the food has been average overall, but everything yesterday was really good. Having Guys and Iguana to ourselves for lunch of course helped that rating.

So we’ve been trying to decide whether to shop around for next summer again. We had Cuba booked on this ship for 6/20 until the country’s inexplicable journey back to the dark ages took the next illogical step backward to once again disallow that. On the bright side, its now a 9 day Bermuda/Caribbean itinerary which is good. On the other hand its on the Carnival Triumph 3.0 (aka Sunrise.) The tipping point, should we opt to stay will be the cabin. Somehow we lucked out and scored one of the new cabins on Deck 9, a Grand Scenic Ocean View which has floor to ceiling windows that look forward, one deck above the Bridge. So essentially our room would offer the same view as that of the Captain. That’ll be hard to pass up. That being said, this ship still kinda sucks for a something sailing her “inaugural season” as it says on the gift shop t-shirts.

Well, I’m off to grab coffee number five and some fruit if I can find it. Ships cater to the partiers, not to the forgotten early morning folks. So it may just be more coffee.

Have a great day and I’ll fill you in on St. Maarten tomorrow.

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

For people so adamantly “not beach people,” we sure did have a good time on the beach yesterday. It was mid to late morning by the time we roused Colton from bed and grabbed the water taxi to the beach in Philipsburg. We had no plans for a location other than to turn right off the pier. In years past we’ve always gone left and the last two visits we ended up at the exact same dump quite by accident. So basically we dodged all of those at the pier eager to sell you a spot and drinks and walked peacefully up the beach. The deal is you spend $20-25 for 2 chairs, wifi and a few drinks. This gets you bathrooms too of course. The dump were at in December had a bathroom bad enough to make me uncomfortable. A guy can literally go anywhere and it still made me squirm, if that tells you anything. So this time, at the Holland House, Steph checked out the hotel’s facilities while Colton and I questioned the internet strength and drink selection. All tests passed with flying colors and the theory proved correct that its better to go somewhere that offers quality and most importantly doesn’t utilize hawkers to lure you at the pier.

Anyway, we got settled and didn’t leave until well after 2. Most of that was spent in the water absolutely exhausting myself. But you know, even though it was such a great time, that was enough. I certainly wouldn’t want to do the same today. Everyone seems to love a week at the beach but I think I’m good til Great Stirrup Cay in November.

Of course we all ate quite a bit on returning to the ship. And unfortunately that didn’t stop me from going to dinner as well which was enough to push me over the edge I think. Three cruises have passed now since I lost all that weight. Since then I haven’t felt the need to coach myself toward “getting back on the stick” when I get home. I think that’s finally changed. When we left home I was only 5 or 6lbs up from last summer but still I’m feeling the need to be a little harder on myself again when we return.

Entertainment wise, I think we’ve experienced the best with Royal Caribbean on that Christmas/New Year cruise last year. This one has to be pretty close the opposite end of the spectrum. I know, I’m not really qualified to say that since I’ve only gone to one actual big theatre show. But there are reasons I’ve not gone to the others. You know what has been great though? The smaller shows throughout the ship. We’ve spent time at the Piano Bar, the Red Frog Pub and the atrium watching the excellent musicians perform and its been wonderful. I guess my overall entertainment impression for the cruise should include them, because they have certainly been worth watching. Thinking back to last summer with Emma Jude and Jeffery Munks, I guess perhaps these young folks are Carnival’s specialty. I actually have all of Munks stuff in my collection now and listen regularly! Black Diamonds may end up that way as well if I can find original material among their work.

The photo up top today is the Marriott resort at Frenchman’s Bay, St. Thomas. If you look up earthcam, which I do quite a bit, you’ll find the webcam at this resort. I put it on the TV a lot in the early mornings just to watch the ships sail in. Today, I got to be on the other end, which made me quite happy. And yes, of course I waved at the camera as we sailed by!

Have a great day!

St. Thomas

Well past the half way point by now. Last port is later today, and by the time I’m in bed we’ll be northbound again. Not a good thing for me, but I imagine the cats may be relieved. Maybe not though. Maybe they’ve been loving their own private castle and enjoy dancing on countertops and bathing in toilets. Hard to tell.

Yesterday was very nice. Colton tells me our last visit to St. Thomas was 2014. We didn’t do anything big this time, but opted for a typical self paced walk. We did go up to Paradise Point which was fantastic. I think Steph and I went on our first visit in 94. She may have been to St. Thomas on previous cruises as a teen, but teenage girls have priorities other than sightseeing. The views from there are unbelievable. I’ll probably stick a photo up top today.

From there we saw a Kmart. I’m not sure why normal stuff fascinates me on cruises. Not that Kmart is normal any longer at home. I was able to get some Diet Pepsi there, which is always a port priority. Tons of crew were there as well including our assistant waiter. I also talked to an american contractor who was there rebuilding from last years hurricane damage. Says its very good work, but you miss all the little things you take for granted. Which is why he has to make frequent trips to Kmart.

From there we looked through the shops at Havensight Mall which is the port where everyone but the elitists dock. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships dock on the other side of town. ?

The ship wasn’t too crowded but worse than other port days since sailaway was at 3. Our usual deck 9 shady seats were long gone so we had to drag seats around on deck 10 to make our own, soon to be highly coveted, shady space. Carnival’s extremely tight use of deck chairs frustrates me. Like now for example, nothing is out on 10. Thats where I would typically sit and write. But not here. Because those seats won’t be taken from their tied up stacks until there are literally people standing around waiting for them. This morning is essentially a sea day, you would think they might see that too.

A little casino time after quite a bit of pool/reading time on deck was nice since it was air conditioned.

Dinner was outstanding. Colton got some sort of boar. He is very good about ordering odd stuff. Earlier in the week were rabbit and ox tongue which he decided last trip he really likes. I’m not “side of beef guy” (you have to dig deep in my trip story archives to find that guy) by any means, but I don’t branch out as far as Colton either.

Two comedy shows last night. Both were fantastic. Roman Murray and Jason Andors. Steph of course encouraged me to go to the late shows since I enjoyed them so much. But, just as I passed on the second Slayer show a couple months ago, I’m not going to leave Colton behind when it’s something he wants to do as much as I do.

We finished out the evening watching the Black Diamonds violin trio do their thing which we’ve come to enjoy. It seems they only, or at least mostly, do pop songs. Only original material will get me to buy a CD, but we’ll see. There are still 3 days left.

Dennis and I should cross paths (not literally) at some point today. He left Florida yesterday with my friend Shon, Entertainment Director for Royal, taking good care of him on the Allure of the Seas. They are bound for St. Maarten. I’ll check the map here shortly and see if I should be up there waving yet.

Have a great day. I believe it’s Monday right? Sorry. Try to have a great day is perhaps what I should say.

Grand Turk

I’ve always been intrigued by western Caribbean itineraries since I’ve only gone that direction twice in 40ish cruises. And I’m not even sure my first cruise counts as a true western since its only ports were Key West and Cozumel. But after all this time I think I’m beginning to see why the eastern side is preferred. I know, I can be a slow learner.

We’ve had great days at every stop the last few cruises. Sure Tortola wasn’t that great this time around but thats just a result of no preparation on our part. There is plenty to get into there.

Our visit to Grand Turk yesterday, while much like our visit last summer, was still a truly wonderful time. We rented a golf cart again. Don’t be mislead by its name though, Speedy was definitely of the same worn out, bald tire breed as Turtle from last summer. I tried to get Colton to drive some but he wasn’t interested. The lack of interest in driving by young people today puzzles me. I would have been all over that at his age. His preference was to explore abandoned buildings, cemeteries and houses along the route to the lighthouse. Admittedly, that can be interesting too, but the fact that before the hurricanes those places may have been important cogs in the wheel of life here can be really sad.

The lighthouse rest stop was nice. Steph brought cereal and a few bottles of water for the wild donkeys. Those things are everywhere on that island and pretty tame really. We drove through “town” and saw the library, grocery store, government buildings and such. One government building housed the Integrity Commission. I couldn’t help but think of how our government o’thieves could benefit from such a thing.

We stopped at a sparsely populated beach along the way back to port. The photo today is from there. And also visited the cruise ship famous Jacks Shack which was a very hopping bar on the beach. They even had T-shirt’s for sale featuring Calypso and Topher, the two dogs who live there and hangout on the beach with cruisers daily.

Back at the port we dropped off speedy and walked around the shops at the port. Of course no visit there would be complete without a stroll through Margaritaville. Its an enormous complex with bars, a restaurant and pool. Back in the day that or Jacks Shack may have been my choice of a place to hang out all day, but these days, while fascinating and worth the visit, not really my speed.

Back on the ship with just enough time to clean up for dinner. Steph and Colton went to the show afterward but I was in striking distance of finishing the book I was reading so I opted for a comfy chair on the Deck 3 promenade with my feet up on the rail instead. It was wonderful despite the fact that there you are lightly sprayed by the Atlantic continuously.

Next up was a short visit to the sports bar where the best part is the big screen in the corner where this group of young men seem to have been playing Madden all week long. When you watch people who really know what they are doing, it is essentially like watching an NFL game. They’ve been very entertaining. More roaming around from bar to bar to hear different musicians and then it was bedtime. Another incredible day in the books.

Which brings us to the next part…the semi-sad northbound sea days back to New York. Have a great day.

Last Sea Days

Well, here we go. Outside looks like the photo, inside the approaching return to reality is making things dark. Perhaps the time I had pneumonia and spent the last sea days in bed, I wanted to go home. Maybe. But thats probably it. I don’t typically want the life that is waiting back there.

Nothing exciting to speak of yesterday. Lots of early deck/pool time before Carnival took over with its nonsensical games. We vacated shortly after that chaos began.

I’m not sure the occasion, but yesterday was throwback day. Back to 1987 in fact, which was interesting for me since that was a pretty good period of my life. Music was from those days which was the height of the hair band era so that was cool. The Carnival Capers was printed in the same format as back then. They did a midnight buffet and galley tour. It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was pretty cool from my perspective. 1987 was the year of my very first visit to New York City. The 1957 Corvette my Dad had rebuilt a part at a time for years was finally finished. And better yet, I was able to drive it in WI’s and RW’s Homecoming Parades. We were still in those years where WVU football made the world go round. Mom and I made weekend runs to Virginia and Charleston. Those days were a good time. Sorry, digressed a bit didn’t I.

Oh get this, we go to tea time for a change. No dinner due to formal night. So it was a late lunch of burgers and then tea time. All nice and classy in the aft dining room like the old days. The guy brings a fancy box of lipton tea bags. I’ve got nothing against Lipton tea, buy I still asked for Earl Grey. He pulled the fancier box of tea out and advised us that tea would be $1.95 a bag. I think Steph and I simultaneously tossed them back in the box and said, “keep it.” That bit of funny aside, its a symbol of the state of cruising today and a good reason why I’m so critical of everything.

We did two comedy shows that were so so at best then stuck our heads in the main show only to see, it looked pretty good. I’ll choose stand up comedy 99% of the time, but we may have made a poor choice last night.

As has become the routine, the day was closed out with the Black Diamonds violin duo. Note that despite the three violinists, they are a duo. Don’t ask me. This time Colton and I were able to talk with Tamara from Ukraine who is the center stage beauty of the group. I suppose that makes her the default spokesperson. We were there to buy a CD so she was of course nice enough to spend time talking to us. Hopefully I can fit their music into my rotation. I still listen regularly to the pianist Jeffery Munks who we met on Horizon last year.

Anyway, thats it. Sorry to close with a dud, but the spirit has left the building. I shouldn’t say close because I’ll write something short tomorrow even if its from the car. Five am on the day you go home isn’t near the peaceful place it is otherwise. Though I might get up earlier just to sail up the Hudson since we missed it whenever that was we left. Last year, I was up at 5 and we were already halfway to the piers! Hopefully tomorrow is that smooth and we’re on the road early. If anything interesting comes up today, I’ll be sure to tell you about it. Have a good day.

A Foggier New York

Wow, this is weird. I got up at 4:30 this morning in anticipation of a 2008 like ride under the bridge and back up the river. But no, I get a lot of fog with a blaring fog horn. Speaking of that, I now recall a downside to the Deck 9 forward cabin location planned for next summer. We were in that general locale many years back on this ship and the fog horn does tend to startle you from time to time. Anyway, the other thing I see is that a good deal of the likely city dwelling 20 somethings opted to stay up all night. Maybe they can can across town and crash in their own bed in a few hours. It would be nice to not be staring at a 7hr car ride.

A little more light now. I’m going to go see what I can see….

I found that all I can see is more fog. The ship has to be crawling and I bet we’re going to be really late. 5:15 and nowhere near the bridge even.

Looking like my gamble isn’t going to pay off. The big bowls of fruit are out down there, but still all covered. I’m three coffees in at 5:15 and think it may be time to go grab the kindle. It may be lunch before we’re in the car.

I’ll check in later.


Ok, so I didn’t check back later did I?  Its a month later as I’m writing and assembling the dailies into this one.  Debarkation day is always like that.  Peaceful at 5 and chaos by 6.  Perhaps chaos isn’t the right word.  Its just very busy with a few thousand people trying to eat and pack the last of their stuff to go home.  Steph’s uncle’s practice was always breakfast in the dining room this day rather than at the buffet.  And while we didn’t start out that way, we now do the same.  The buffet on debarkation day is to be avoided at all costs.

I forget now what time we were in the car, but it was probably 8:30 or so.  Not bad for New York. On the way home we began considering options for upcoming sailings.  None of us were thrilled with Sunrise.  A lot of hype for an old ship with a fresh coat of paint.  But, we all agree that the cabin we have next summer overrides the less than great ship.   So its safe to say, barring anything out of the ordinary, next June we’ll find ourselves right back there.  We did make one significant change on the way home though and booked the Anthem of the Seas for this November.  Right now we have it and the Norwegian Bliss booked and decision time is likely this upcoming week.  The lean is toward Anthem, which is a sign our allegiance to Norwegian has diminished greatly.  Its sad really.  And I know its just a situation where we’ve been away too long and really just need to go back again to see why we love it.  That return was to have been November, but we’ll see.