A wonderful day spent in one of our bucket list destinations: Key West, Florida

As we were walking back to the ship we noticed this written on the sidewalk. It was written by Key West artist Fran Decker. Lovely!

What can I possibly tell you about our wonderful visit to Key West?  Should I talk about the colors of the waters past the shoreline, the colorful history of this beautiful city, the lush foliage we saw embracing so many beautiful homes, the many notables who graced the city with their presence or the fun one could have stopping in one of the many restaurants and bars along Duval Street?  I will try to share some of my memories and hope they will paint a picture in your mind of what we saw and heard.

As soon as I stepped out onto the balcony this morning I knew it was going to be a wonderful day.  The sun had already risen painting the sky with little puffy clouds highlighted with tinges of yellow from the rays of the sun and the air was nice and warm.

We were in no hurry today because the ship would not be arriving in port until late morning.  We ordered room service so we could enjoy the morning on our balcony.  We enjoyed a light breakfast of cold cereal, fresh fruit, orange juice and coffee.

But the best part of breakfast was watching the deep sapphire blue sea water transform into a bright royal blue and then a cool turquoise green as we came closer and closer to the port.

After we ate breakfast, we made our way up to meet our friends Ron and Connie in the Windjammer Cafe and had a wonderful time catching up and talking about getting together during the cruise.

Our only plans on shore was find a bar we had enjoyed a raucous afternoon in fifteen years ago, stop by the southernmost point in the continental US and take a walk down Duval Street.

With that in mind and map in hand we started our walk into town.  The first sight that caught our eyes was a 25’ bronze sculpture called “Embracing Peace” by Seward Johnson.  We did not need an explanation of what we were looking at.  The sculpture depicts a famous scene in New York’s Time Square captured by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1945 after the Japanese surrender in WW II.  It was hard to get a photo of the sculpture as everyone who entered the area wanted to be photographed under this impressive piece of artwork.

As we walked along we spotted a tiny lime-colored building boasting to be the ‘Original’ Key Lime Bakery.  We made a note to return and sample the pie.

While walking along we realized that there was so much to see and we had a limited time in port so we decided to catch the Conch Tour Train that would drive us around town with while giving a running commentary from one of their expert ‘engineers’.  We walked over to Mallory Square and bought a ticket.

The tour lasted 90 minutes and I was amazed at the knowledge of the engineer as she regaled us with a running history of the “Conch Republic”, the many notables like Ernest Hemingway, Harry Truman, Tennessee Williams, John James Audubon, Robert Frost and others who have lived here contributing to the cities long and sometimes troubled history.

We drove by Harry Truman’s Little White House, the Audubon house, Sloppy Joe’s,  the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society, St. Peter’s Church, City Cemetery, Hemingway’s house, Lighthouse Museum, Flagler Station, Casa Marina Hotel, the Southernmost Point and so much more.  It was a little hard to capture all these wonderful sites as the train had to keep up with traffic but they are emblazoned on our memories.

Our guide made the tour interesting playing snippets of songs and speeches to enhance our ride.   As we passed Harry Truman’s Little White House she played ‘Hail to the Chief’.  As we passed Caroline Street she played a Jimmy Buffet song called, “Woman going crazy on Caroline Street” and more.  It was very entertaining.

Me at the Southernmost Point in 2001

 

The tour was to include several stops on the tour; however, we only stopped once for a short restroom and snack break.  We were a little disappointed as we hoped to stop at the Southernmost Point to take a quick photograph.  But to be honest, there were so many people in line to do just that that we would not have had the time.

The tour ended back at Mallory Square where Randy spotted a small, old and weathered boat called “Mary”.  Well, of course, we had to stop for a photo opportunity.  Very funny!

We then made our way to Duval Street in search of a place to have lunch.   We actually passed by the bar/restaurant we had spent many fun hours in 15 years ago but decided to try a new place.  After hearing the little snippet of Jimmy Buffet’s song we decided to go to Caroline’s Café.  The restaurant is mostly an open-air restaurant with a bar in the front, a courtyard with an umbrella ceiling, small wooden tables and chairs and pigeons freely walking around looking for scraps of food.

We spent the entire lunch time talking about how much we enjoyed the tour and how impossible it was going to be to remember all the information we had learned.  There was a wonderful variety of dishes to choose from.  There were fish sandwiches, quesadillas, Buffalo style chicken wings, a variety of burgers, Spicy Cajun Jambalaya and, of course, Key Lime Pie.

We ordered Rev. Joe’s Burger listed as the BIGGEST & THE BEST.  The burger was served with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles.  We added strips of very crisp bacon and cheddar cheese and loved every bite!

After lunch we walked back down Duval Street stopping in at Kevin’s Irish Bar to see if brought back any memories and Sloppy Joe’s.  Sloppy Joe’s was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. Either Irish Kevin’s had changed a bit or our memories were faulty either way it was fun to stop and listen for a while as the entertainer and patrons were singing “American Pie”.

It was getting late so we started our walk back to the pier.  We took the same streets so we could find the little lime green building again and stop for a piece of Key Lime Pie.  The bakery was tiny with only two tables and 4 chairs.  We looked into the refrigerated cabinet and saw a variety of pies but we stood fast and chose a slice of the original Key Lime Pie.  It was very tasty!  I asked Randy what he thought and he replied, “It was good, but I prefer the Cozumel Pie at Ernesto’s in Cozumel!!!”

By the time we got back on the ship it was time to prepare for evening cocktails and dinner.  We had another great night at dinner  all of us sharing our experiences in Key West.  We left the dining room and made our way to the cinema to see the movie, “Masterminds”.  I had mixed feelings about this movie.  Randy thought it was funny.

We returned to our cabin just in time to see the sun setting and stood leaning over the railing until the moon was high in the night sky casting a long line of light across the sea.

I asked Randy what he thought of our day in Key West.

“I remember the last time we were here walking down Duval Street to the wharf and watching the jugglers, dancers, vendors and the drink creators.  I remember that there was a rule that all of the cruise ships had to be gone by 1 hour prior to sunset.  When they were gone, then the party really began,” he said wistfully.

He went on to say, “Key West has changed, but also stayed the same.  Sloppy Joe’s is there, the old Irish bar is there although changed a little, the Southernmost Point still attracts people, as does the lighthouse and Hemingway’s home with the famous 6-toed cats.  Now there are modern buildings, and old buildings have been rehabbed into museums, art galleries and restaurants.  The one thing I really noticed is how clean the city is.  Back when we visited years ago, it was not the cleanest place to be”.

He looked out at the water and said with a smile, “It was good to come back and good to see that the city is beautiful, alive and vibrant.  We will definitely come back and spend some time”.  I agree!

Tomorrow we are at sea.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Turnaround day: new cabin, new table mates and more fun

Turn around day tends to be fairly relaxed.  No rushing to get a quick breakfast, get to your assigned waiting area, getting through customs and then the making your way home.  And yet, here we were at 5:30 AM standing on our balcony as the ship slowly made its way to port.

One of my favorite breakfast meals; French toast and very crisp bacon.

We did not linger long on the balcony as there was a chill in the air.  Because we were in no hurry, we made our way down to the dining room and had a lovely breakfast then returned to our cabin until it was time to go to the theater with the other consecutive cruisers.

We did not have to wait long before we were escorted to customs and returned to the ship.  This would be our first time to have a cabin at the back of the ship so we walked up to deck 10 to see if we could get a sneak peek.  The lovely gentleman who would be taking care of our cabin told us the door was open and to go right ahead.

We had a balcony cabin and, oh what a balcony.  This was the largest balcony we have had to date.  There were two lounge chairs, two regular chairs and a table.  So much room, we were in heaven.  Alex told us the cabin would be ready in an hour.  Happy, we left and walked down to the Colony Club to wait.

Ooops! Randy got to the cookies before I could get a photo. Funny!

The hour passed quickly and we returned to our new cabin.  Our luggage was in the cabin as well as a welcome plate of cookies.  Randy and I unpacked and settled in until it was time for the safety drill.

Randy had received an email from a friend alerting us to the fact that a bus filled with members of our community would be boarding the ship.  Excited, I called and connected to friends Ron and Connie and we made plans to meet for breakfast in the Windjammer in the morning.

After the safety drill, we made our way up to the pool deck to watch as the ship made its way through the channel and into open waters.  The ‘Sail Away’ party was in full swing when we arrived.  I couldn’t believe it.  Every lounge chair was full, there were many people already enjoying the cool waters of the pool and the activities staff had happy people line dancing to the ‘Wobble’.

Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the seas

We passed the Rhapsody of the seas and the American Victory Ship and Mariners Museum.  The American Victory is one of only 4 fully-operational WWII Ships in the country.  There was a sailing vessel tied up to the American Victory but I could not read her name.  She was beautiful.

As we continued to cruise through the channel we saw many beautiful homes on one side of the channel and a large commercial area on the other.  Then we saw a lovely sight.  There on a large grassy area was of a large group of children having fun hunting for Easter eggs.

Randy enjoying the view from our balcony as we head into open waters.

Before we knew it, it was time to return to the cabin and prepare for the evening activities.  We arrived at our new table and were very happy.  This trip we were seated at a table for six.  We met our new table mates Monroe, Martha, Mike and Jessica and felt that dinner time would be a great deal of fun for the next five days.

By the time dinner was over I was feeling a bit tired and wanted to return to the cabin.  Randy went on to the theater for the headliner show featuring the comedy of Steve Smith.  We had seen Smith on the first leg of our cruise and wondered if he had a different act.  He did not so Randy returned to the cabin and we settled down for the evening.

View of the sun setting from our balcony.

We both just wanted to spend time on our balcony.  The sun was setting and offered us a very new perspective as the sun was setting to our left.  I could only catch a glimpse of the sun as it slowly dropped down below the horizon leaving hues of red, yellow and orange in its wake.

On our way!

Tomorrow we are at sea as we make our way to our first port-of-call.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Last day on Brilliance filled with sunshine and laughter

In the wee hours of the morning I woke up to the sensation of being gently rocked back and forth.  The sea had become a bit turbulent creating a field of white caps across the water landscape.

7:12 AM

But, for the first time during this cruise the horizon was clear of its misty curtain and the sun could be seen peeking from behind a sky filled with ominous looking clouds.  I stepped onto the balcony to a chill in the air.

With only two items on our agenda, Randy and I decided it would be a lazy day as we slowly make our way back to Tampa.  With that in mind we decided to enjoy a slow, lovely breakfast in the Minstrel dining room.

My favorite two breakfasts in the dining room are the made-to-order omelets and the French toast.  Today I ordered a cheese and tomato omelet with very crisp bacon.  Both were yummy!  After breakfast we went up to the Concierge lounge for a hot cup of café latte and sat and just watched the waves below.

8:37 AM

The rest of the morning was spent in the cabin packing for our move to a new cabin tomorrow.  Today ends the first half of our back-to-back cruise; tomorrow we start a second 5-day cruise that will take us to Key West and Cozumel.

The nice thing about being a consecutive cruiser is that I only have to pack items that are in the drawers or on shelves.  All items hanging in the closet will be moved as is by our cabin attendant.

11:04 AM – View from the back of the ship on the Promenade. Look at the colors! Beautiful!

 

I wanted to take a walk around the ship so as soon as I had finished packing I grabbed my camera, put on my sunglasses and off we went.  The first stop was in the Windjammer Café.  I loved the “Welcome” cake at the beginning of the cruise and wanted to see if they would have a “Thank You” cake for the last day.  They did!

We continued our walk around the pool deck.   Although it was a little rocky the sun was shining bright making it a beautiful day to get those last rays of sunshine before returning home.  There was not a lounge chair to be had.  It was wonderful as we walked around to hear all the laughter from the adults and the squeals of the children as they frolicked in the pool.

As we started to move away from the pool, Randy pointed to something on the wall.  There on the wall was a funny weather forecasting tool developed by Capt. Stig Nilsen.  We cruised with Captain Stig on our trans-Atlantic crossing on the Brilliance in 2015.     A small anchor hung next to a wooden sign that gave the observer the signs to look for when wondering what is happening with the weather on the ship.  I thought it was very funny.

Our next stop was the Solarium pool and noticed that they had covered the pool with netting.  I love beautiful Asian motif of the Solarium Pool.  This pool area is glass covered and is for adults only (16 and above).  The area includes the pool, two whirlpools, a bar and its own café making it a lovely haven if you just want to kick-back for the day.

The pool was looking very whimsical today as the crew had decorated it with a variety of towel animals.

Then it was off to the sports deck.  The sports deck was a very busy place with passengers playing a lively game of basketball and the golf course seemed to have a steady stream of players.  Due to high winds the rock wall was closed.

 

 

We love to play a round or two of miniature golf when cruising especially when the wind was up.  It makes for a very interesting game indeed.  We were behind two teenage girls and it was so much fun to hear them laughing and squealing when they would hit their ball in one direction and the wind took it into another.  Fun, fun, fun!

12.09 PM –The waters remained a bit choppy but the sun shone brightly our last day on the Brilliance!

We returned to our cabin for a bit of lunch and hanging out on the balcony before attending a special afternoon comedy show by Steve Smith.  Oh my word, this man was so funny.  Randy and I laughed and laughed.  Steve was wonderful engaging the audience pulling them into his sphere of influence; comedy.

Then it was off to the Consecutive Cruisers meeting.  The meeting is designed to provide information and guidance for the consecutive cruisers to make a smooth transition in to the next leg of their cruise.  There were not many staying on.  Although I looked at the back of the room and saw the three comedians, Mario, Daniel and Steve were in the room.  I took a moment to walk over and express my happiness that they would be returning.

The last night’s dinner is always a fun time with the dining room staff singing and dancing and expressing their thanks that we all chose the Brilliance for their cruise.  Then it was ‘good byes’ and sharing contact information with our table mates.  We have met so many nice people on our cruises and always look forward to seeing them again on another ship.

The last two things we wanted to do before returning to our cabin was purchasing our photos and spending our free pulls at the casino.  We both received a receipt entitling us to fifteen cents.  Now these get turned in usually for a raffle.  The cashier explained that they do not hold raffles anymore and offered us a key chain.  We laughed and told him that we had a draw full of key chains.  I asked if it would be possible for him to give each of us one more coin instead.  He did!  We both dropped the coins down into the bowels of the one-armed bandit never to see it again.  Funny!

Tomorrow we arrive in Tampa to start the second leg of our back-to-back cruise on the Brilliance.

Our towel family!

 

 

Enjoy,

Mary

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A beautiful day to sit by the sea in Cozumel

Our wonderful view of the crystal clear, turquoise and blue waters off the shore of Cozumel at the Sunset Restaurant & Bar.

Today we dock at one of our favorite destinations in the Caribbean, Cozumel, Mexico.  We slept in this morning so I missed the sunrise.  But I have to say that, like yesterday, there was a misty curtain hanging over the horizon so I am not sure we would have seen it today.

Outside patio of the Concierge Lounge

 

We dressed quickly and made our way up to the Concierge lounge for a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, café lattes and, of course,  a chocolate covered donut for Randy.  It seems that he just cannot resist these sweet breakfast treats.

Randy was in heaven each morning enjoying his chocolate donut!

 

We love eating in the lounge.  The atmosphere is quiet and inviting and, affords us an opportunity to eat outside on the patio or inside with a wonderful view of the water.  Today we ate inside.

We returned to our cabin to prepare to go ashore and watched as several other cruise ships made their way to the pier.  While we watched the Crown Princess, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista docked at the International Pier.  We learned that there were two other ships docked at the downtown port.  The town will be very busy today.

During breakfast we talked about how much the  port had changed over the years especially in the last year.  In the past we would walk down the pier and into a two-story shopping area with additional shopping to the left and a Señor Frogs restaurant along the waterfront.  So, we decided to spend some time exploring all the new changes.

The first new addition to the pier was the new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.   We have spent many a happy lunch hours in both restaurants and look forward to many more.

The new growth is to the right of the pier and included a lovely building built in a semi-circle housing many different shops selling a variety of wares.  They have also added two lovely Tiki Huts with benches offering a wonderful respite from the sun as well as several small areas with greenery and benches.

As we walked around I noticed that a small lunch area had been established with umbrella tables and chairs and seemed to be doing a very brisk business.  I think the next time we come we will try the food here.

We continued our walk and discovered that there was a small Cenote within the walls of the port.  A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting in the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.  There are several of these beautiful openings in the earth across the street at the mall as well as throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

We stopped for a moment to see if there was any wildlife in the water below.  We saw one turtle with its head above the water.

We stopped in several shops making note of a few items I would like to think about and perhaps purchase before we make our way back to the ship.

By now it was nearing the lunch hour and a decision had to be made.  Randy wanted to go back to Ernesto’s and I wanted to find a new place to eat along the waterfront.  I suggested that we take a leisurely walk along the waterfront until we found a restaurant that piqued our interest.  Randy agreed and we were off.

We eventually stopped at a restaurant called Sunset Restaurant & Bar.      The restaurant is a comfortable walk from the port.  There were two levels to the restaurant one on the beach and one on a patio.  We decided to take a seat on the patio and had a wonderful view of the water and the activities that were taking place in the water.  There was a dive class going on that kept our interest as we enjoyed bottles of cold Sol beer and a wonderful lunch.

We ordered the chicken nachos to share.  The plate was large and filled to the ends of the plate with chicken, black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream and came with two salsas that were delicious.  I especially loved the salsa verde.  Yummy!  We had originally thought about stopping at Ernesto’s for a piece of Cozumel pie (a version of Key Lime pie) but we were so full we decided to pass.

After our lunch we returned to the port and stopped at Señor Frogs.  I could not resist a photo opportunity with the frog and stopped in a few more shops before returning to the ship.

By the time we reached our cabin we had just enough time to shower and prepare for evening cocktails and dinner.  We had another wonderful evening with our table mates.  It is always interesting to me that so many people from so many different places can come together for just a few days and have such a wonderful time.  Lovely people!

This evening we decided to attend the headliner show featuring the comedy of brothers Mario and Daniel.  Mario and Daniel were so funny.  These two funny men have been compared to the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis.  “Big shoes to fill,” I thought as I took my seat. There were times the act looked a little chaotic and then they would mirror each other striking a pose or delivering a punch line.  Very funny!

Then it was off to the cinema again.  The cinema is small with only about 40 seats so we needed to get to the theater and secure a seat.  Tonight we saw the movie Sully.   I was saddened to learn how badly he and his co-pilot had been treated after delivering the plane to a safe landing, albeit on the water, and all aboard safely back to their families.

It had been a busy, wonderful and fun-filled day.  We made our way back to our cabin to spend a little time on our balcony before turning in for the night.

Tomorrow we are at sea as we slowly cruise back to Tampa.

Our towel family is growing!

 

 

 

Enjoy,

Mary

 

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A lovely afternoon in beautiful Grand Cayman

I am often asked by some of my friends, “Are you going to the Caribbean again?”  I often wonder why that is a question at all.  From the first time Randy and I cruised to the Caribbean I fell in love with each and every port we stopped in.  I love the crystal clear turquoise waters, the white sand beaches, the sound the wind makes as it travels through the palm trees and the sunsets are amazing.

Today we are stopping at one of my very favorite islands in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman.  Grand Cayman is one of three islands Christopher Columbus called “Las Tortugas” because of the turtles he found lying off shore.

To Hell and back in 2015

Cayman Turtle Centre – 2015

 

Grand Cayman is known for its world-famous scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing and other water sports.    We have been here many times visiting the Cayman Turtle Centre, Seven Mile Beach, gone snorkeling off one of its many beaches and visited a town named Hell that features jagged rock formations that can only be conjured up in your dreams of what hell must look like.

But over breakfast, Randy shared that he would like to just get off around 10 am and just walk around town.  He wanted to stop in at a few liquor shops to price a few items to stock our bar at home and then stop at our favorite spot for a burger and beer.

And so, that is what we did!

The morning started quite nice with a gentle warm breeze and sunny skies that is until you looked out at the horizon.  There in the distance hung a misty curtain that made me feel as though rain was in our future.

After a quick breakfast at the Concierge lounge we made our way down to deck 2 to get onto a tender that would take us to shore.  As we started across the bay we noticed a ship not too far from ours and realized that it was the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the seas that had been sold to a ship line called Pullmantur.  We have spent many happy days on the Monarch and were glad to see her looking so good.

We actually did stop at a few shops but Randy was disappointed about the prices feeling that the prices in Cozumel or the ship might be better.  We turned around and started to walk in the other direction down Harbour Drive towards a little white church that I fell in love with many years ago.

The Elmslie Memorial United Church was established in 1846 by Rev. James Elmslie.  According to the literature I picked up in the church the present building was constructed in the 1920’s by Capt. Rayal Bodden.  The church has an arched roof, made of mahogany salvaged from shipwrecks and is constructed like the reversed hull of a ship for strength and beauty.  There are several beautiful stained-glass windows, a belfry, pulpit, font, and plaques commemorating those lost at sea, teacher, lawyers, island’s first dentist, ministers and other active members of Elmslie.

My favorite thing in the church is a small prayer tree located in the front of the church.  Next to this little potted sprig is a basket with tiny pieces of paper and pencils so parishioners and visitors can leave a little note to have prayers said for loved ones.  I filled out one of these little pieces of precious papers when I was here last.

Of course, I always like to look for the roosters that run free in the church parking lot.  I remember the first time I was here I quietly crept around a number of cars in hopes of catching a glimpse of these beautiful, brightly colored roosters and perhaps a hen and chick.  I was always rewarded for my patience.  Today too!

We continued our walk stopping at the site of the ruins of Fort George.  All that remains are a couple of cannons, the WW II lookout house and several murals commemorating significant times in the island’s history painted by artist John Broad.   In front of each mural is a plaque explaining the significance of the mural.  I have read them many times but I find myself reading them again and again.

Next stop on our walk through town was the Cayman Cabana Oceanside Restobar.  We discovered this fun and friendly spot several years ago and find that we keep coming back. The Cabana is an open-air restaurant/bar that has a great view of the bay.  The staff is friendly, the beer is always cold and the burgers are juicy and delicious.

As soon as we sat down in our favorite bar stools, we looked up to see if our names were still visible on the beams.  We could not find them so Randy asked for a marker, stood on the stool and wrote our initials on one of the high beams.  We looked at each other and wondered if they would be there the next time we come to the island.

No matter, it was time to eat.  We ordered the Gourmet Cayman Burger with jerk aioli, crispy bacon, melty cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.  (This burger also comes with an onion ring and sautéed mushrooms but we passed on those.)  The burger is so moist and tasty.  The fries are good too!  We washed our burgers and fries down with a local brew called Caybrew.

We returned to the ship relaxing in the cabin until it was time to prepare our evening activities.  Cocktails and dinner were great as always sharing stories of our adventures on the island.  Then we were off to attend the Crown & Anchor Society Top Tier Event in the Colony Club.

Captain Grønhaug welcomed everyone aboard and thanked us for our loyalty to the cruise line.  He then turned the microphone over to other members of the staff after which our Loyalty Ambassador, Juliia introduced the top three cruisers on this voyage.  It blew my mind when she announced that the top cruisers were a couple that had spent 2,422 nights on Royal Caribbean ships.  Randy and I looked at each other and laughed and said, “We have a long way to go”.  Too funny!

Our last stop for the evening was the cinema.  Rogue One: A Stars Wars movie was showing and we thought this would be a great way to end our wonderful day.  It was.

Tomorrow we dock in Cozumel, Mexico.

Enjoy,

Mary

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A relaxing, delicious day at sea on the Brilliance of the seas

I love sea days.  I especially love sea days when you wake to bright blue skies, puffy white clouds, gentle breezes and calm seas.  Our second day on the ship was one such day.

We woke early and made our way up to the Concierge lounge for a light continental breakfast and café lattes.  I love sitting along the windows overlooking the water.  I find myself gazing at the rhythmic movement of the waves and am always filled with a wonderful sense of calm.  This way I have of totally immersing myself in the water has always fascinated Randy.

He looked over at me and said, “You’re lost in the sea again.  I am starting to understand how you feel.  I find myself being mesmerized by the water too”.

I smiled and said, “Calming, isn’t it.”

We spent our time talking about our plans for the day.  We agreed that we only had three things on our agenda; spending time at the Solarium pool, attending a Next Cruise destination talk and enjoying a wonderful dinner at Chops Grille.

A new addition to the pool area; a lifeguard.

We were surprised to find two lounge chairs still available when we arrived at the Solarium Pool.  As we sat there enjoying books and magazines, we watched as one person after another gingerly put their toes into the pool and quickly retreated back to their chairs or the hot tubs.

As time wore on and the sun rose higher in the sky, a few brave folks finally entered the pool.  One thing that caught my attention was seeing a lifeguard on duty.  On every ship and at every pool there is a disclaimer posted to be cautious because there is no lifeguard on duty.  Curious we asked and learned that lifeguards had been placed on the ship only three weeks prior.  Considering that there were over 400 children on board the Brilliance, we thought this was a very good idea.

We remained at the pool through lunch and then prepared to go down to the Centrum for the destination talk.  We returned to our cabin and were pleased to find, not one, but two dishes of sweet treats waiting for us courtesy of the culinary staff.  We agreed to eat one plate and save one for another day.  They were, as always, yummy!

 

The Centrum is a very beautiful and busy venue on the ship.  So many events happen here.  There is live music each evening, line dance classes, exercises classes, towel animal demonstrations, and in recent years they have added aerial shows.  I have always been fascinated with the constantly changing lights in the Centrum as well as the delicate grass sculptures planted in pots around the area.

 

We arrived a little early so were able to secure two front-row seats.  The talk was presented by Cruise Sales Manager Gabriela Murara Da Rocha.  After a little trouble with the sound, Gabriela talked about many of the 250 port of call available as well as the newest ships joining the fleet and several new itineraries.

One topic of interest for Randy was hearing about the new class of ships that will be added to the Royal Caribbean fleet.  The new class will be called “Icon” with two ships coming on in 2022 and 2024.  According to a news release by CruiseCritic on October 2016, “The next class of cruise ship will be powered by liquefied natural gas and introduce the use of fuel cell technology to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The move marks a new era in shipbuilding”.

One aspect of the new class of ships that caught Randy’s interest is learning that they will be smaller.  These ships will have a passenger capacity of less than 3,000.  We also learned that the line is in the process of developing a cruise port in Greenland and they are building a new multi-million dollar terminal in Miami to accommodate the Oasis class ships.

We listened and made note of several itineraries we would like to participate in and agreed we would go up to the Next Cruise desk and inquire about those as well as several cruises our friends Doug and Sue would be taking in 2018.

Just before we left Gabriela held a raffle and Randy won a lovely photograph of the Brilliance signed by the captain and a $50.00 coupon to use towards a sitting fee in the black and white photo studio.  Nice!

We did stop at Next Cruise and when all was said and done, we signed up to join our friends on cruises in the Mediterranean and return from Europe on the new ship, the Symphony.  As we walked back to our cabin I was a happy camper.

Sublime Truffle Collection by Le Belge

We opened the door and smiled again as we noticed a small oval box with a tiny green cloth ribbon sitting on the bed.  Inside this lovely little package was a collection of delicious Fruit Ganache Truffles courtesy of the Crown and Anchor Society.  I love these tiny morsels of deliciousness.  The Chai tea ganache covered in milk chocolate is my very favorite!

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the balcony or in the cabin until it was time to prepare for the evening.  Tonight was formal night and, thanks to a wonderful on-board credit from our super travel agent Andrew Skolnick from CruiseOne we are also going to enjoy an evening at Chops Grille.

Randy ordered the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail

Liquid center chocolate cake with coconut ice cream and carmelized bananas

I started my dinner with a hot cup of wonderful Roasted three-cheese onion soup. For my entrée I chose the Petite 6oz. filet mignon, asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.  (I was so excited and hungry when it arrived I forgot to take a photo.  Ooops!)  Trust me when I tell you that the filet was a beautiful medium pink and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  For dessert I devoured the a chocolate cake that melted in your mouth with coconut ice cream and caramelized bananas.  My palate was singing a sweet song when I was done with this delicious meal.

We finished our dinner just in time to attend the Captain’s Toast and photo opportunity with the master of the ship Captain Ole-Johan Grønhaug.

Today had been a wonderful day of relaxation, discovery, delicious cuisine and celebration but now it was time to return to our cabin to spend some time gazing at the stars and getting a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we dock at Grand Cayman, The Bahamas.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Back on the Brilliance of the seas cruising to the Caribbean

View of Tampa skyline from our balcony

Well, here we are again on I75 on our way to the cruise port in Tampa, Florida to board Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the seas for a 5- night back- to- back cruise in the Caribbean.

Welcoming message on display in the Windjammer Cafe.

The first 5-day cruise will take us to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico.  The second 5-day cruise will take us to Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico.  We chose this cruise specifically because it was going to Key West.  The last time we were here was in 2001 while on a trip to choose a place to call home in retirement.

We looked a little different in 2001; Randy had a mustache!!

We had a great time walking up and down Duval Street stopping in a fun bar called Irish Kevin’s spending the afternoon drinking beer, enjoying a delicious hamburger,  singing and just having a fun, fun time.  We had such a good time we vowed to return one day.  Well, the day has arrived.

Me, putting dollar bills in the entertainer’s leg garter? Good thing I had my sunglasses on. Too funny!!

We had such a good time we vowed to return one day.  Well, the day has arrived.

This span of windows is where we sat each sea day during our trans-Atlantic and Baltic cruise in 2015.

The first day of any cruise is a mish-mosh of checking in, boarding, trying to catch an elevator to get up to the Windjammer for lunch and then waiting for the cabins to be available.  We ate a quick lunch and then decided to wait for the cabin to be available in one our favorite places on the Brilliance, The Colony Club.

The Colony Club is located on the back of deck 6 and through the Schooner Lounge.  During our transatlantic in 2015 on the Brilliance, this was our favorite place to relax on sea days and after a hectic day on shore.  On the 2015 trip we stopped in several ports in Europe then continued on to the Baltic.  It was a wonderful, wonderful trip.

Birds on a rope

Seagulls following the ship out of the channel

 

The Colonly Club is a large area with two bars, lots of seating, game tables, and a stage and dance floor.  Many activities take place in this space over the course of a cruise.  We found two chairs and just enjoyed watching the seagulls flying around the ship and standing sentinel on the ropes.

 

At 1:00 pm the cabins were open and we made our way down to see if our luggage had arrived and settle in before the safety drill.  The cabin was spacious and we loved that the bed had been placed near the sliding glass doors placing us closer to the sounds of the sea as the ship makes its way through the blue waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean.

Wyoming

We walked through the beautiful Schooner Lounge as we walked towards the elevators.  I love the nautical touches to the lounge.  One of my favorites is a model of the Wyoming built by Percy and Small in Bath, Maine in 1909. Accompanying plaque read:

“She was the last six-master and the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built.  The entire crew was 13 men.  Her dimension was 329.5’ on deck.  Beam 50.1’. Draft 30.4’.  She was lost on the Nantucket Shoals with all hands 11-12 March 1924.  These ships were employed in the coal trade on the east coast of the USA.  All the handling and hoisting of the sails was made by steam engine.

Model by Per Storm Iversen, Norway.

Sails by Lyngør Seilmakerverksted, Norway”.  I think she is beautiful!

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way up to the Concierge Lounge and cocktail time then down to the Minstrel dining room.  We were seated at a table to 10 and anxious waited to see who are tablemates would be.  The first day on the ship is always so busy I look forward to a dish on the menu that I consider comfort food.  I choose the Linguini with Pomodoro Sauce for my entrée and the Blueberry–Peach Crumble for dessert.  Both dishes were filling and delicious.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

During dinner I realized that we would be going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and wanted to see if I could capture a picture of this beautiful bridge.  I excused myself and ran up to deck 5.  By the time I made it to the railing on the Promenade deck we were already too close for me to get a picture of the entire bridge.  There was an intermittent drizzle staining my lens, but no matter.

After dinner we took a walk down to the pub to see if they were going to air the NCAA championship game.  I wanted to make sure I watch Gonzaga and North Carolina game.  At this point I was 4 in a pool of 62 with Gonzaga as the overall winner.  I was so excited! Gonzaga did not win but what a game!  In the end I dropped down to 6 in the pool but I was still excited because it was the first time I had made it into the top ten in the pool.  Well, there is always next year.

Hues of yellow and red stretched across the horizon at sunset.

Tomorrow is a day at sea.

Enjoy,

Mary

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