Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cruising to South America, first port of call: Willemstad, Curacao

First port of call, Willemstad, Curacao.  Since this was our first port there was a lot of fan fare as we docked.  The crew prepared champagne and snacks on the fantail while we watched the docking process.

The chef on the fantail prepared wonderful fruit drinks and mixes, along with fruit salads and chunks of fresh fruit in your drink.

One of the carved watermelons

 There was a large tug taking lines to a big mooring point.
 The dock that we moored to for the day/evening.  Since we were only there for the afternoon/evening, tours were short and everyone stayed close.  Linda went into the community and I took off to the beach.

 Passengers leaving the ship for the day.  One of the passengers had the neatest little scooter.  Almost a tricycle that broke down to fit into a suitcase.  30 lbs to carry on.  I don't think it could handle a lot of weight but it went up and down ramps easily.

 The buses to the beach.  The beaches were a disappointment overall.  Not because the beaches were dirty or anything but because it was an hour both directions which only gave you an hour on the beach.

Because it took so long to get to the first beach as we boarded the buses there was a pretty vocal mutiny before leaving for the second beach.  Half of the passengers wanted to go back to the ship and bag the beach, half didn't.

After several minutes and votes, one bus went to the ship, one went to the beach.  It was kinda funny in the long run.  The smaller bus went to the beach, yet it was the one with the most people on it.

The beaches at Curacao

The high tide line at the beach.  Lots of broken coral and shells.  Not something you wanted to walk on.

The hills above the beaches are full of tall cactus. Really neat cactus which just show how dry the environment really is.
Some of the housing along the roads.  Bright colors and adobe walls.
 That night on the ship a local group came on board and performed native dances with beautiful costuming.  All of the dances tell a story about love or the fall harvest.

It's really hard to catch a good photo when everyone is moving so fast.

Moonlight over the harbor as we pulled out of the port.

Cruising to South America, Part 3. On the ocean

Our first morning on the Atlantic Ocean.  As we plowed thru nearly flat seas toward our destination the ship settles into a routine.  It took me days to find a routine that worked for me.  I wanted to sleep late but it was too warm.  Getting up early seemed ridiculous when you're confined to a ship but after a couple days that's exactly how it was.  Up around 7 and spend the day being really busy with shipboard things.

Passing Cuba.  We stayed well offshore but you can't help but wonder how differently things would be if this island country was open for American tourists.  I understand that there are miles and miles of untouched white sand beaches.

 Morning on Deck 11.  There's a nice little grill open on the pool deck which serves coffee, fruit smoothies and bakery treats.  After coffee I walked the track on Deck 12 for exercise until my left knee started aching.

 The pool deck is a great place to spend the day if you can sit still that long.  Between the pool and hot-tubs, a full bar and grill you don't need to move from that deck for hours.  Lunch is varied, from hamburgers and hot-dogs to shrimp curry and salads with ice cream for dessert.  I wish I could say that I spent hours here but I didn't.  There was too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it.
 Every day a band provided live entertainment at the pool during lunch.

Linda having lunch by the pool.

 The ship provides all sort of education seminars and events while on the water.  In many ways it is a floating classroom.  Between the people you meet from all over the world, the diverse international crew and the seminars offered a person can spend the entire trip learning.

One of the first things on this trip was a wine tasting event, where you got to sample 4 different wines and learn how to sample and analyze each one.  You need a notebook to keep track of the hints.  It was great fun.
Linda at the wine sampling event.

One of the great things about owning a camera is all the diverse things you can do with it.  Like spending time organizing a table top for a photo. The crew of the ship really got used to seeing me with a camera all over the ship, posing things, moving things, arguing with myself over the light, etc.  This photo is from the wine sampling event.
One of the centerpieces at the wine sampling event.

 The ship had lots of ways to get around, deck to deck.  From stairways to elevators, going up and down could also reveal some beautiful and interesting photo moments.  One of the coolest thing on the ship were the staircases.  Teak and chrome; all reflecting lights in spotless glass.  I kept stopping and pointing a camera at them, puzzling the people I was with.

     There was an art auction on board.  While I wasn't impressed with the art, the display and location for it was pretty awesome.  I wandered through it all and didn't see anything I couldn't live without.

One of the many bands in the Horizon Lounge.  Here you could dance until midnight every night.

Joe, one of the dance instructors on the ship.  He was a constant dance partner as I was alone.  He was a really cool guy.  Teaching dancing on a cruise ship is his second career after retiring.

Several shows happened on the ship, from dancing to Broadway, comedy to puppets.  At each port a local act would come on board and perform while we were in port. 

There was a meet and greet with the crew and the Captain's executive staff.  This happened right after the cruise ship in Italy hit the rocks and partially sank.  Our Captain (Captain Stan) promised he wouldn't hit any rocks while we were on this cruise.

He was French and I loved his accent.  With the crew being international and English being the 2nd or 3rd language for many I felt so inadequate.  Americans have no clue how poorly our lack of mufti-language skills is received.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cruising to South America, Part 2, leaving Ft. Lauderdale

On the morning January 6th we left the luxury hotel for our new home, the Seven Seas Mariner.  With lots of buses and well coordinated movements about 700 passengers moved on-board after clearing security.  Each passenger gets photoed and issued an id card containing your cabin information and personal identification.  Your passport is collected and held for the duration of the cruise.  At first I didn't understand the logic of taking passports but it became clear the first time you went ashore for any length of time.  When the ship pulls into a port in a foreign company, your passport is stamped for that country and your passport is given to you for the duration you are on shore.  This method keeps you from having to clear customs every time you enter a country.


As part of the boarding process we passed through a 'receiving line' of the crew.

 We're given a glass of champagne as we enter the ship, met our purser and then escorted to lunch at the Compass Rose Restaurant.  Lunch was a beautiful array of small dishes to choose from along with more champagne or wine.
Compass Rose Restaurant

Linda at lunch

Anna at lunch

Our cabin
 After lunch we're escorted to our cabin where we found our luggage, a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice and 2 glasses.
Our cabin

Anna with champagne

Enjoying the cabin

Linda with champagne
View from the balcony
Full moon on the harbor as a sister ship pulls out of the harbor.

As we pulled out of the harbor we were given a rousing horn blast by other ships.  It was a beautiful full moon night and our balcony gave us a wonderful view of the ships as we departed.  We would be on the ocean for the next couple days and would have a chance to explore the ship.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cruising to South America - First leg Ft. Lauderdale.

 January 5, 2012.  Linda Kumin and I in Ft. Lauderdale in preparation of going on a cruise to South America.

While I was getting off the cruise ship in 14 days, Linda is continuing on around the South American continent.
Anna on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.

 The Regent Cruise lines provided lodging for everyone on the ship at the Ritz-Carlton right on the beach.
The swimming pool on the 4th floor.

The main lobby of the Ritz Carlton.


   View from our room at the Ritz-Carlton

The suite Linda and I shared the first night.

There's a reason the Ritz-Carlton is a great place to stay.

Linda on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.

 Views of the beach in Ft. Lauderdale.