Busy last day on the Freedom

 

'The Four Elements' by American artist Larry Kirkland

‘The Four Elements’ by American artist Larry Kirkland

We woke up today to a chilly, windy, hazy day morning.  The sky was dark and foreboding and filled with muted hues of red and yellow.

Today was our last day and it was going to be a busy one.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Randy went up to the lounge and brought coffee back while I started the process of packing.  I like to get most of it done in the morning so we can go off and have fun the rest of the day.

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Solarium pool

After a quick breakfast in the lounge, Randy and I went up to the Solarium Pool, settled into our lounge chairs and began to read.  It was overcast and chilly so we did not put our bathing suits on.  However, it seemed like everyone else on the ship did.

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Main pool

I read for a bit but decided I would like to go check out the pool deck.  There were people everywhere.  I suppose the fact that the sun was playing peek-a-boo and there was a crisp wind blowing really did not matter today.  Everyone was going to get every last minute they could before returning home.

Children's water area

Children’s water area

As I passed the children’s area a young boy jumped out of the pool and within minutes he was shivering.  His parents hurried over and swaddled him in a large towel.

After taking a few pictures I returned and picked up Randy so we could go down to the Promenade for the FreedomFun! street fair.  The street fair on the Freedom is always fun.

IMG_2659bThe Promenade was lined with tables for demonstrations for towel folding, napkin folding, vegetable carving, learning bar trick secrets, culinary advice from several chefs, and photo opportunities with DreamWorks characters and much more.IMG_2657

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We walked up one side of the promenade and down the other enjoying ourselves at each stop.  At one table we spotted the largest apple pie we had ever seen.  It was being cut into small squares for tasting.  Amazing! I thought.

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And, of course, there were the ‘last chance’ sales for jewelry, purses, hats, scarves, tee shirts and so much more.

Eventually, we stopped at Sorrento’s to have a small lunch before heading over to the Next Cruise office to inquire about a future cruise.  Diego was very helpful and we finally booked a cruise for next January on the Oasis of the Seas.

Then it was down to the casino for our three free pulls on a one-armed bandit.  I won an extra pull.  We did not win anything today but we have won tee shirts and key chains in the past. Randy and I always find this activity funny.

That done, Randy wanted to return to the cabin for a little rest.  While he was catching up on his email, I decided to take a few pictures of several pieces of art that had caught my attention during the cruise.

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‘You Burn Me…’ by American Artist Rob Wynne

What is it about art that touches us in so many ways.  Some art makes us smile, some makes us cry, some provokes deep thought and, some makes us wonder, what in heaven’s name is that all about?  For me, roaming around all these wonderful ships is like spending endless hours in a favorite museum.  I love it.

The first day we boarded I noticed a piece that made me smile.  There was nothing funny about the piece but I had promised myself that I would not think of politics at all on this trip. But when I saw this I just had to laugh.  I am sure by now that everyone is familiar with the Bernie Sanders campaign slogan “Feel the Bern”.  Well, in the stairway closest to our stateroom was a huge art piece that read “You Burn Me…”

Now, do not ask me why that brought to mind the campaign slogan; it just did.  The mirrored glass artwork was done by American artist Rob Wynne.  The plaque that accompanied the piece read: “Rob Wynne is inspired by cultural elements from literature, movies, art history, theater and opera.  He uses these cultural influences in his artistic creations.  For instance, “You Burn Me” is a sentence taken from Sappho, the Greek poet.

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‘Light Drawing Burnt Orange’ by British artists Rob and Nick Cartere (Carter)

IMG_2681I continued my walk down the staircase and stopped at a vividly colored piece; so much so it is breathtaking.  I needed to know about this beautiful display of color.  I learned that the piece was entitled “Light Drawing Burnt Orange” was done by British photographers Rob and Nick Cartere (Carter).  The piece is called a unique cibachrome.  The description read, “As opposed to canvas and paint, light and light-sensitive paper are used here.  In complete darkness the image is gradually built through added increments of colored light.  This is photography in its purest form: light and light-sensitive paper, no lens, no shutter, no negative, and each piece is unique, Vibrant, high glass colors are a fundamental part of the work, creating images with visual energy”.  I loved it.

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The last stop on my journey to capture photographs of favorite artwork found me standing in front of the four light columns at the ends of the lighted bridge in front of the Guest Services desk.

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The four light columns are the work of American artist Larry Kirkland.  The piece is named “The Four Elements” and is made of aluminum, gold and light.  The accompanying plaque read, “The four light columns are topped by a gilded angel, an exact reproduction of an original bronze sculpture “Vittoria Alata” – Winged Victory – found in Positano, Italy, and dating back to 1930.  Each angel is holding an astrolabe representing one of the four essential elements of our world; air, water, fire and earth.  Above it is a disc of ever-changing light suggesting the evolution of the cosmos and the mystery of the origin of the universe.

I have been known to sit on deck six looking down at the promenade just to enjoy the every-changing lights of the columns and bridge.  They are just beautiful!

It was time to return to the cabin and dress for the evening.  We spent our cocktail time in the Diamond Lounge with Sal and Anna.  As we readied to go to dinner, we stopped for a few moments and said our goodbyes to Larry and Phyllis and exchanged contact information knowing that we would meet again on another ship.

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IMG_2706I decided I wanted to eat lite this evening and started with a small bowl of French onion soup and for my main course ordered, once again, the sliders.  I rarely order the same meal twice on a cruise but the sliders were just the perfect meal for tonight.  We learned that Sal and Anna had had a quiet day walking around the ship and enjoying the street fair.  We talked about our plans for leaving the ship and returning home and agreed to meet in front of the pub the next morning.

Randy and I returned to our cabin to finish packing and settled in for a quiet evening.

This wonderful cruise was over but I was already thinking about our next adventure.  Our next cruise will take us to the shores of Norway, the Arctic Circle and a cruise around the Baltic.  Stay tuned!

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in art, cruising, Food, French onion soup, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A beautiful day for a walk around Cozumel

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Call it anticipation or call it excitement but whatever you call it I was already out of bed and standing on the balcony by 4:48 in the morning.  The sky was dark save a beautiful, bright white full moon.  By the time we made our way to the lounge for breakfast the sun a beautiful bright, white orb in the sky.

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And why am I so excited?  Today we arrive in one of our very favorite ports, Cozumel, Mexico.  We have been here many times and always have a great time whether we are participating in an excursion, hanging out at the port or finding a new restaurant to try.

Mayan ruins in San Gervasio. We were here in 2008

Mayan ruins in San Gervasio. We were here in 2008

Beautiful peacocks at Chankanaab Park 2008

Beautiful peacocks at Chankanaab Park 2008

Over time we have visited the Mayan ruins at San Gervasio, visited Chankanaab Park, and enjoyed delicious meals at some of the many restaurants along the waterfront.  We have also had a wonderful time participating in culinary experiences.  We learned how to make a variety of salsas on a tour called Salsa and Salsa, learned all about tequila on a tour called Tequila Experience and learned how to make Mexican chocolate on a tour called Tastes of Mexico.  All these experiences were wonderful.

Learning to make Mexican chocolate 2015

Learning to make Mexican chocolate at Discover Mexico 2015

Today, we decided that we would just get off the ship and walk around; and, what a beautiful day to take a stroll.  The air was clear, the sky a beautiful light blue and a lovely gentle breeze was blowing through the palm trees.  As soon as we got off the ship I remembered that we were at the International Pier which is a bit of a distance from the town.

Learning all about tequila at Discover Mexico 2015

Learning all about tequila at Discover Mexico 2015

Over the years, the port has grown adding more and more venues and outside the port a new shopping center had been built as well as a Hard Rock Café and other restaurants.  We walked outside the port and walked around this new shopping area but it was very early and the area was slow to come to life.

Two things that I found interesting while we were walking around the shopping area was an interesting display of large stones standing in a pool with ancient markings and a beautiful pool of clear water.

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IMG_1930Curious, I walked over to see what the significance of the stones was.  I discovered that these sand-colored stones were inscribed with the symbols and names of the months in the Mayan calendar.  The last stone explained the display.  It read: “The Maya Calendar Haab.  The calendar Haab is based on the yearly path of the earth around the sun in 365 days.  The Maya divided the year in 18 “months” of 20 days each, the “Winal” plus 5 more days called “Wayeb”.  The names of the months were Pop, Uo, Zip, Zotz, Tzec, Xul, Yaxkin, Mol, Chen, Yax, Zac, Ceh, Mac, Kankin, Muan, Pax, Kayab and Cumku.

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I found it interesting that there would be a natural pool in the middle of a shopping center so I decided to take a closer look. The pool of clear water is called a cenote.  A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.  These cenotes are especially associated with the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  These cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.  I thought it was quite lovely.IMG_2614

 

There was also one very whimsical sight at the shopping area with, what I thought was, a very funny sign.  We stood in front of a very large blue whale statue with a sign that read “Free Photo”.  What was really funny was you could walk behind the whale and go inside so it appeared that you were being eaten by the whale.  Well, of course, we had to take our ‘free photos’.  Very funny!

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IMG_2619We made our way back out to the street and stood for a few moments trying to decide what to do next.  Randy was feeling a little better today so I asked him if he would mind walking to town.  The International Pier is about 3 ½ miles or a ten minute taxi ride from the downtown.

I was anxious to stretch my legs a bit so we started to walk.  We stayed on the side of the street that offered a little shade.  It was already in the mid-eighties with the promise of getting warmer as the day wore on.

The view of the azure water was just wonderful.  I loved watching the many small sailing vessels that were slowly making their way this way and that way as we walked along the road.

Randy does enjoy his dollar beers!

Enjoying a rest at Starbucks while Randy enjoys his dollar beer.

Every so often I would ask Randy if he was okay and reminded him that at any given time we could catch a taxi.  But, we were not in any hurry so we walked slowly.  The first place I wanted to stop was the Starbucks at the pier closer to town.  We always stop here to get something to drink and use the free Wi-Fi that is available to all patrons.

Back home we have to drive defensively, here you have to walk defensively.  The sidewalk is uneven, broken, periodically there is a tree or some other obstruction in your path and for quite a distance there is a barbed-wire fence along the sidewalk.  We could have walked on the other side of the street along the water but there was no shade.

When we finally arrived at Starbucks all I wanted was a large, cold bottle of water.  Of course, Randy went off to find a dollar beer.  He is just too funny.

The downtown is only a few minutes from the Starbucks.  After we rested for a little bit and felt refreshed we started our walk along the waterfront.

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IMG_2629cWe have taken this walk many times stopping here and there at some of the jewelry and souvenir shops and searching out a restaurant that looks inviting to stop in and enjoy a local dish.  Today we stopped at a restaurant called the Viva Mexico Snackbar.

The Viva Mexico Snackbar is an open-air restaurant one flight of stairs above the street.  We took a table and had a great view of the waterfront.  Even though it had become warmer as the day wore on there was also a nice breeze keeping us cool as we enjoyed our lunch.

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We asked the waiter to make a recommendation and ordered salsa and guacamole and chips to start, an order of chicken nachos for our main dish and cold beer to wash it all down.  Everything was delicious.  Viva Mexico Snackbar; nice atmosphere, wonderful service, delicious food and great view.  Yet another great place to stop the next time we come to town.

View from Viva Mexico Snackbar

View from Viva Mexico Snackbar

We loved our walk into town but did not want to walk back so we caught a taxi for the trip back to the port.  We went to our cabin for a little rest before preparing for the evening.

We had a very nice time at the dinner table sharing our day’s experiences with Sal and Anna.  They had opted to stay on the ship and take it easy.

After our long walk and delicious lunch on shore I was not very hungry.  I decided I was hungry for comfort food.  One of my favorite comfort foods is pasta so I chose the Linguini with Pomodoro Sauce.  It was light and just perfect.  I skipped dessert deciding instead to enjoy an after dinner drink at the Pub with Sal and Anna.

There was a comedy show this evening but Randy wanted to return to the cabin and take it easy and so, we did.  Randy spent a little time catching up to his email while I caught up on the news.

The sun sets on yet another wonderful day!

The sun sets on yet another wonderful day!

Tomorrow we will be at sea as we start our journey home.

IMG_2643bEnjoy,

Mary

Posted in cruising, Food, Mexican food, restaurants, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Fun day walking around Georgetown, Grand Cayman

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View of the ship as we returned from visiting Grand Cayman

I was so excited when I stepped onto the balcony this morning.  The skies were a beautiful light blue with just a few puffy and wispy clouds moving across the heavens promising a wonderful day on shore.

Grand Cayman is 76 square miles long and is the largest of the three Cayman Islands and boasts having one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.  George Town is the capital of the Cayman Islands because it offered “relatively deep water close to shore and the lee shore location typically p provides a safe anchorage and calm seas for vessels”.

We love Grand Cayman and have visited here several times.  We have taken tours to the turtle farm, 7-mile beach, gone snorkeling, and had a fun day going to “Hell & Back”.  So today we decided to just walk around town and see what we could see.

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As we were walking down Harbour Drive my eye caught the sight of wooden structure high up in a tree.  I stopped to see why it was there.  We stepped into a small area which is the site of  the18th century fort ruins that was once of the oldest structure in Cayman.  This little area is the Fort George Historic Site.

"Spanish Attack" mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

“Spanish Attack” mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

The wooden structure we were looking at was one of many lookout posts that had been set up at strategic points all around the island during World War II.  According to what we read, “The lookout post had been constructed in the branches of a large silk cotton tree at the left roadside corner of the fort.  The lookouts were manned twenty-four hours a day, with four men serving each location in varying capacities. A small hut equipped with a bunk, binoculars and a battery-powered crank-type field telephone was provided at each site”.  It was hard to imagine four people in these small structures.

"World War II" mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

“World War II” mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

Along the remaining wall were three murals each depicting a memorial time in the island’s history by Caymanian artist John Broad.   The first is titled the Spanish Attack the second mural was titled World War II and the last mural was titled the Easter Regatta.  All were very colorful.  We enjoyed reading the history of these beautiful pieces of art.

"Easter Regatta" mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

“Easter Regatta” mural by Caymanian artist John Broad

We crossed the street and spent a few moments walking through one of the many shopping areas looking at various merchandise.  We continued our walk looking for the roosters that roam the streets of Georgetown.

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It did not take long to find several of these coloful creatures walking around the grounds of the Elmslie Memorial United Church.  There was one large rooster crowing on a wall just a few steps to the left of the church.  I was amazed that I could get so close.

IMG_2538IMG_2539bIMG_2550bUnder a tree next to church was another rooster looking very much like it was protecting its turf.  I walked a little closer as he kept an eagle eye on my movements.  What we realized is that there was a hen hidden behind the tree and a little chick scurrying to find cover.

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Next, we stopped to take a look inside this small, simple, beautiful church.  I loved the rich wooden beams, the wooden pews and the beautiful stained glass windows above the altar.  As I was walking around I noticed a small potted twig on the stairs to the right of the altar.

I walked over and realized this tiny twig of a tree was being used as a prayer tree.  Next to the pot was a small basket with little pieces of paper with ribbons.  There were also pencils to write your prayer.  I picked up one of the pieces of paper and wrote a personal prayer and hung it on the tree. I loved the idea that I could leave this little prayer as we left the church.

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We continued walking until we reached one of our favorite waterfront restaurants, the Cayman Cabana Oceanside Restobar.  We love the open atmosphere, the friendly service, the music and the burgers.  We split a Gourmet Cayman Burger with jerk aioli, crispy bacon, melty cheese, an onion ring and mushrooms. Yummy!

After walking so much we were both very hungry and gobbled up our burger while enjoying bottles of cold Caybrew beer.

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This little guy was scurrying around the restaurant as we enjoyed our meal.

 

We were here last year and looked for our names on the wooden beams around the bar.  They were gone so Randy asked for a marker and wrote our names again.  We’ll be here again; hopefully our names will still be here.

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It was time to head back to the ship but before we headed in the direction of the port I wanted to capture a picture of a beautiful mural painted by artist Jason Kennedy on the side of the restaurant’s building.  According to the Cayman Compass, “The mural shows a cartoon blue iguana – styled on Cabana owner Luigi Moxam – wearing a felt hat and heart-shaped sunglasses as he beats out a rhythm on a pair of drums”.

“It is Luigi’s vision to wrap the building in art work. We worked together on the concept for around a month. We wanted it to be Caymanian, but we wanted it to be original – not just blue skies and palm trees,” said Mr. Kennedy.  I loved it!

It was our second formal night and I wanted a little extra time to get ready for cocktail time and dinner.

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We had a great time at dinner sharing stories with Sal and Anna.  As dinner was winding down, Sal wanted to know if we would be going to the headliner show.  We said, “Absolutely”.   This was a new show for us and  we were eager to see what it was all about.  We agreed to go to the show together.IMG_2596

From the moment Alfred and Seymour, “The BlackStreetBoyz” came onto the stage I started to laugh and continued to do so throughout the show.  They danced, joked, attempted to juggle and engaged the audience at every turn.  Their antics kept the entire audience in their seats and laughing out loud.

Like so many comedic acts, they pulled someone from the audience and to this gentleman’s credit he was great.  He did everything they asked him to do playing along with the men as they engaged him in several comedy routines.  These two men were just beyond funny.  Actually, I laughed so hard I snorted a few times much to my embarrassment.

As we were leaving the theater I could hear people exclaiming how much they enjoyed the show.  So much so, one young man said out loud, “I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my face.  These guys were just too funny”.

It had been a really good day but now it was time to turn in.  We returned to the cabin for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we dock at another one of our favorite ports, Cozumel, Mexico.

IMG_2539bEnjoy,

Mary

Posted in burgers, Caybrew beer, cruising, entertainment, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fun day at Margaritaville in Falmouth, Jamaica

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We woke up to a beautiful morning with a few scattered clouds dotting a bright blue sky.  Our port-of-call today is Falmouth, Jamaica.  Falmouth was founded in 1769 and is considered one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Its waterfront district is a National Heritage Site with Georgian-era buildings dating from the 1760’s to 1840.

Randy and I have visited Jamaica several times over the years enjoying fun activities and the local cuisine. We climbed Dunn’s River Falls twice, took a catamaran ride around the island walked to a local restaurant in Falmouth, Club Nazz & Restaurant, enjoying a wonderful and delicious lunch and just walked around the port enjoying a fun afternoon at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

Still in our kick-back mode, we decided to stay spend the day at the port.  I did a little research on the port and learned that, “The Historic Falmouth Cruise Port (HFCP) project was planned as an extension of the local community, providing customs and security operations for the ships, together with a comprehensive list of services and activities for tourists and locals. Historic Falmouth Cruise Port (map) includes Jamaican restaurants and cafes, boutique shops and craft markets, offices and residences, and authentic historic attractions and points of interest within walking distance”.

After a quick breakfast we dressed for our day in the sun.  As we passed through the immigration building we looked to see if we spotted Sal and Anna; we did not.  Perhaps later in the day, we thought.

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IMG_2441There were two ships in port today so there were many people roaming around the port area.  We strolled leisurely through the port area stopping in several local shops, the Craft Market, sitting on inviting benches along our path and talking with other visitors.  There was a local band playing island music in the center of the port.  I thought that was very nice indeed.

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As noon grew closer, we decided to spend the afternoon at Margaritaville.  The complex is complete with a retail store filled with tee shirts and collectibles, a Pirate Bar to purchase bottles of rum, a courtyard patio, a margarita-shaped hot tub and a pool with a swim-up bar.  What more could you ask for?

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IMG_1906We had originally thought it would be fun to spend some time poolside but we were not sure if there was a charge to use the pool and hot tub.  I spotted a staff member and asked and was told that there was no charge.  We walked over to the pool and looked down at the water. Randy looked at me and said, “The water looks a little murky to me.  I think I’ll pass”.

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So, we found a nice umbrella table and immediately ordered what else, margaritas.  I always enjoy being at Margaritaville.  The service is quick, the food is delicious and the music is lively.  I especially like the guest participation games that are always fun to watch.

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We enjoyed a delicious dish of nachos with chicken with several margaritas. Well, actually, after the first margarita Randy moved on to Land Shark beer.

As we were enjoying our lunch a gentleman approached our table asking if we would like to have a souvenir picture taken.  He said for $20 he would take our picture and include a CD of Jamaican music.

He took one shot than suggested that we kiss each other.  He took the second shot than disappeared.  He reappeared with a lovely picture of the two of us and the CD.  I thought perhaps that since he took two pictures I would get both.  The picture he gave us was the first picture he took.  I was happy that now I would have a picture to put in our anniversary frame.DSC_0004b

As he started to walk away I asked how much it would cost for the second picture.  It would be an additional $12.  I thought for a moment and thanked him but said no.  Before he got too far he turned and suggested that if I gave him my memory card he would put the second picture on it for a tip.  I thought that was very nice gesture and agreed.  I wanted the, as the photographer put it, “the kissy, kissy” picture.

It was mid-afternoon and we decided to return to the ship for a dip in the pool before preparing for the evening’s activities.  We stopped on our way through the immigration building once again but did not see Sal and Anna.

We stopped in the Diamond Lounge for cocktails and enjoyed a lively conversation with Larry and Phyllis when in walks Sal and Anna.  I was so excited that I jumped up and gave them a big hug.

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IMG_2467bIt was so good to be sitting across from them at the dinner table.  I was not very hungry this evening so I decided to eat light.  I ordered the Seared Beef Carpaccio with shaved asparagus, aged Manchego cheese, buttermilk and Dijon-mustard drizzle to start and the Pan-seared Fillet of Sole with Parmesan potato and artichoke gratin, cherry tomatoes and lemon beurre blanc.  Both dishes were delicious.

As we ate dinner, Sal explained all the machinations he had to go through to meet the ship in get Jamaica.  It sounded very exhausting.   IMG_2475

IMG_2476Sal wanted to know if what we were going to the ice show.  We told Sal that we had decided to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the big screen poolside.  After such a trying day I think Sal and Anna were happy to have a quiet activity to look forward to.  We met poolside and settled in for a great evening under the stars.

While I loved the film I must admit I was surprised and at the demise of Hans Solo.  Oh well, I will be anxiously be awaiting the next installment.

It had been a long day so we retired to our cabin for a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we stopped at one of our favorite destinations, Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

IMG_2478cEnjoy,

Mary

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Rainy start to our day in Labadee

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Labadee is on the north coast of Haiti surrounded by mountains covered in lush foliage and is Royal Caribbean’s private retreat exclusively for their guests.  This lovely paradise is the sight of areas for just a relaxing day or areas for high energy activities.

There is the Dragon’s Breath Flight Line that zips participants from a mountaintop over the sea at 40-50 mph to the beach below.  There is a roller coaster, splash slide, kayaks for rent, wave jet tours, parasailing adventures, sightseeing aboard a RIB boat and beautiful beaches speckled across the landscape.

View of the ship from the vantage point of my wonderful lounge chair

View of the ship from the vantage point of my wonderful lounge chair at Columbus Cover-September 2015

Randy and I have been here many times and just love it.  Our favorite activity is to find two lounge chairs under a palm tree at Columbus Cove.  Columbus Cove is a perfect spot for a day of relaxing in the sun, taking a dip in the warm turquoise water, listening to the strains of island music and enjoying a wonderful barbeque lunch only steps from our chairs.

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Randy spent a restless night so I did too.  I finally rose and walked out onto the balcony to wait for the sun to rise.  The sky was shrouded in grey clouds hinting that showers were not too far away.

Randy eventually joined me and we sat watching the sun peeking from below the horizon then disappearing into the heavy cloud cover.  By the time we arrived at Labadee we could see rain in the distance all around the ship.

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We both love Labadee but for some reason we could not make up our minds whether to go ashore or not.  We would walk out onto the balcony look up at the dark sky, scan the horizon and walk back inside and say almost in unison, “Well, what do you think?”

We did this little dance for two hours and finally Randy said, “Let’s put our bathing suits on and head up to the Solarium pool.  With so many passengers on the island, we should have no trouble finding lounge chairs and making ourselves comfortable”.

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As we sat poolside the sun would tease for a New York minute as the clouds crossed the sky only to disappear again.  We noticed as we sat there that passengers were returning to the ship early.  The skies cleared around noon and we had a great sunny afternoon the rest of the time at the pool.

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After a lovely afternoon of reading and relaxing poolside, we returned to the cabin to a sweet surprise.  On our coffee table was a plate of sweet treats.  We gobbled them down quickly.  Yummy!

We received an invitation from the Crown and Anchor Society to an exclusive event as a thank you for being a valued past guest.   When we entered the Star lounge we spotted the couple we have been spending time with in the Diamond Lounge.  We stopped to exchange pleasantries with Larry and Phyllis before taking our seats.

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We were entertained with a few musical numbers from members of the production cast and then Captain Toni addressed the gathering welcoming everyone and thanking us for our loyalty to the Royal Caribbean.

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After a few remarks, Captain Toni introduced the newest member of the growing list of Pinnacle Club members.  To reach Pinnacle status guests need to complete 700 nights on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  To our pleasant surprise he introduced our friends Larry and Phyllis.  How wonderful, I thought as I watched them take their place next to the captain and several other senior staff.  They were presented with a beautiful crystal Pinnacle block and bottle of Champagne.  As soon as the ceremony was over, Randy and I walked over to congratulate them.

The event over, we made our way to the dining room.  I chose for my starter this evening a Caprese Salad.  I just love the combination of fresh mozzarella cheese, sun-ripened tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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For my main course I, once again, decided not to order a favorite but chose instead the Premium Angus Beef Sliders.  These little gems are grilled to order and served on a tomato brioche with steak fries and tarragon aioli.  I loved the tomato brioche.

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Randy decided to try the Chicken Cordon Bleu–a ham and cheese filled breaded chicken breast with a rice and pea pilaf, seasoned vegetables and lingonberry relish.  He loved it.

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I stayed with a favorite for dessert.  On the menu this evening was Cherries Jubilee with warm, Kirschwasser cherries, vanilla ice cream and roasted almonds.  Tonight’s dinner was absolutely perfect.

The headliner show would feature the magic of Drew Thomas.  While entertaining we had seen Drew perform several times before so we scanned the Cruise Compass for an alternative.

One thing about a cruise ship is that at any given time day or night there is something to keep you busy.  This evening there was the headliner show, 70’s music trivia, wine tasting, a Tag Heuer watch event, an evening game show, a 70’s disco inferno dance party on the Promenade and a big screen movie poolside.

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The movie was one that was on our list at home so we decided to watch “Concussion” under the stars.  We changed clothes, grabbed our bathrobes, made our way up to the main pool and secured two chairs and settled down.  The night sky was clear with just a slight breeze blowing across the pool deck.  Randy looked over at me and said, “This is like being at a drive-in theater”.

“Yes,” I said, “but we are not in the backseat of a car”.  That brought a chuckle from Randy just as the movie started.

Although we enjoyed the movie and Will Smith, we both found it to be slow.  I was especially distressed as I watched several NFL players who were once strapping athletes reduced to suffering from memory loss, and becoming frightened and confused about what was happening to them.  As I watched the unfolding story my emotional response was to sadness, then anger and then sadness again as I tried to understand why it took the NFL so long to respond to the problem.

We returned to the cabin for a good night’s sleep as the ship slowly cruised to our next port-of-call.  Just before we turned the lights out, Randy checked his email and found a message from Sal.  Sal wrote that he and Anna would be joining the cruise in Jamaica and would see us at dinner.  What a nice surprise, I thought as we turned off the lights.

Tomorrow we dock at Falmouth, Jamaica.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Spending a lazy day at sea

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We woke up this morning to a beautiful, warm day and calm seas.  By the time I stepped out onto the balcony the sun was already high in the morning sky.

Randy offered to go up to the Diamond lounge to bring back steaming hot cups of café lattes.  When he returned, we sat out on the balcony and sipped our lattes just enjoying the day unfolding before us.

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Diamond Lounge

Eventually we made our way up to the lounge for a light continental breakfast and our second latte.  We sipped the last of our coffee and we talked about what we would like to do for the day.  Unfortunately, Randy was still dealing with some nerve pain residue from his bout with Shingles in December and had recently been dealing with a pain in his left leg.    So, in the end, we decided to take it easy on this trip.

We returned to the cabin settling into our lounge chairs on the balcony and chatted while watching the cobalt blues waves roll by below and the many different clouds drifted by above.

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There was such a variety of clouds in the sky this morning.  At one point a wispy cirrus cloud gently passed by a cumulus cloud and as it moved it created a veil-like image in the sky.  Beautiful, I thought.

Time passed slowly and I found myself transfixed on watching the clouds as they formed and reformed in the sky.  Do you remember when you were young looking up at the clouds to see how many animals you could find?  I looked up at one point and saw a cloud formation that looked very much like a pig. A few moments later the ears changed and the snout grew longer and now the cloud looked like an elephant.  Still a few more moments later the ears shortened, the face rounded and the long nose shorten and before my eyes was the image of a bear.  Eventually the cloud lost all semblance of shape and moved across the sky.  How amazing, I thought.

We were so comfortable we decided to linger a while longer on the balcony before venturing out.  We finally made our way to the pool deck and were not surprised that every chair had been taken.  Randy was still hungry so we went to the Windjammer to find one of Randy’s favorite treats a bran muffin.  That done, we went back out to the pool deck.  As we walked along Randy stopped for a soft serve cone.  A very funny diet indeed!

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Unsuccessful in our quest for chairs, we returned to our cabin and the comfort of our balcony.  And there we sat each enjoying our favorite reading material.

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The basket was filled with two of each fruit. There were green and red apples, bananas, pears, kiwi, oranges and grapes.

There was a knock on the door.  Randy opened the door to see a crew member standing with a basket full of delicious fruit and Camembert cheese compliments of the Crown & Anchor Society.  I immediately picked out a pear for myself and went back to my book.

It had become quite windy and chilly driving me inside where I continued my reading.  It was not too long before it was time to prepare for cocktails and dinner.  We had a delightful time during cocktails chatting with fellow cruisers, Keith and Maureen from Vero Beach.

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IMG_2346For dinner I decided to have surf and turf ordering shrimp cocktails for starters and one of my very favorites, Carved filet of beef tenderloin with Morel‐crimini mushroom sauce and creamy whipped potatoes.

Tonight was the first formal night so we wanted to eat quickly so we could participate in the fun activities on the promenade.  As soon as we got to the Promenade we lined up to have a photo opportunity with Captain Toni Calne.

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Earlier I read the biographical information about the captain and was quite impressed.  Captain Toni, was born in Finland into a family that has a long seafaring tradition.  According to his bio, “At the young age of 18 Captain Toni joined the Navy and from there he went on working on a variety of ships including ferries, cargo ships and oil tankers to name a few”.

Captain Toni joined Royal Caribbean in 2003 on Voyager of the Seas.  Evidently, he loves the warm weather of the Caribbean and rates the opportunity to, “Work and interact with a multi-national and multi-cultural environment as the #1 perk of his job”.

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During Captain Toni’s welcome aboard address he introduced the senior members of his staff and then shared that there were 67 countries represented by the passengers and 52 countries represented by the crew.  I found that just amazing.

We spent a little time walking around the promenade stopping to listen for a bit enjoy the sounds of the Temperature Band.  They were very good.

We decided not to attend the evening’s entertainment as we had seen the “Marquee” show several times.  We elected instead to return to the cabin and continue our laid back day.

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We entered the cabin and were happy to see our first towel animal sitting on the bed.  There was also a small black box.  Inside the box was a beautiful crystal block with the name and image of the Freedom of the Seas.

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We earned one of these crystal blocks on the Brilliance of the Seas after completing 140 nights on Royal Caribbean ships.  During this cruise we will have completed 210 nights which is the next level to receive this commemorative gift.  The gift is from the Crown and Anchor Society in recognition for our loyalty to the cruise line.

We spent the rest of the evening sitting on the balcony looking up at the night sky and enjoying the quiet that was only punctuated by the sounds of the waves hitting the side of the ship as we slowly cruised towards our first port-of-call.

Tomorrow we dock at Labadee, Haiti.

Enjoy,

Mary

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Celebrating our anniversary on the Freedom of the Seas

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~Marcel Proust

My sweet love, Randy, has made my soul blossom for over twenty-two years; first as friends, then lovers, then as my dear, sweet husband who I know with every beat of my heart will continue to nurture my soul for many years to come.

That is why today I am so excited because today we are embarking on a 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary.

We are traveling with friends so we were up early to have a quick breakfast and do last minute checks around the house before they pick us up.

We were at the port by noon and anxious to board the ship when we experienced something every traveler dreads.  We entered the cruise terminal and readied to show our Set-Sail document and passports before going through security.  Randy and I went through fine but realized that our friends were not behind us.

After going through security we looked for our friends but they were not there.  I turned and looked and saw that they were talking with someone somewhat frantically.  Concerned, we stood and watched for a few minutes.  One of the security guards approached and asked if we had a problem, “No, I replied, but it looks like our friends are having a problem”.

“Would you like to go back and check on your friends,” she asked.

“Oh that would be so nice,” I said.

We listened for a few moments and realized that Sal and Anna could not go through security because they had left one of their passports at home.  To his credit the gentleman tried to help them find a solution to their problem but to no avail.

Eventually Sal and Anna were allowed to go up to the documents desk in the check-in area to see if they could resolve the problem.  While we were checking in, I watched just a few desks away as Sal and Anna tried in vain to solve their problem.  In the end it was determined that they would have to miss the cruise.

While Sal went off to see if he could retrieve his car from the Park & Ride, Randy and I stayed with Anna while the crew retrieved their luggage.  We felt so helpless that there was little we could do for our friends.

One last suggestion was for Sal and Anna to make arrangements to see if they could make arrangements to fly to Jamaica and board the ship.  They would miss two days on board but would be able to enjoy the rest of the cruise. We said our goodbyes and watched as they walked slowly towards the terminal exit and hoped they would be able to join us for the rest of the cruise.

By the time we finally got on the ship, we went directly to the Windjammer for a quick bite then down to the cabin.  I was excited as we walked down the passageway.  I had planned a surprise for our anniversary and was anxious to see Randy’s face as we approached our cabin.

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The first thing Randy saw was a large heart on our cabin door that read, “Happy Anniversary”.  He smiled and asked, “Did the ship do this?”  “No, I did,” I said beaming.

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Then he opened the door and saw decorations hanging from the ceiling with words like, “I do” and “Forever”.  We turned and saw our pillows covered with bright yellow pillowcases, one reading “Love” the other reading, “You” and a beach towel at the foot of the be that read, “Forever”.  On the desk was a small frame with the words, “Happily Ever After”, just begging to have fun photos from our trip to grace its borders.  By the window was a silver cable hanging from the ceiling with little clips to hang photo memories from our cruise.

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On the coffee table was a bottle of Moet on ice, two Champagne glasses and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.  We dropped everything thing in our hands and moved the Champagne and strawberries to the balcony and proceeded to start our anniversary celebration.

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IMG_2311cWhat a great way to start a celebratory cruise.  There we sat reminiscing about our wonderful years together while enjoying glasses of bubbly and delicious, sweet strawberries covered in yummy milk chocolate as we watched small boats make their way in and out of the channel and sea birds winging their way around the ship.  How wonderful, I thought.

Before we knew it, it was time for the safety drill then off to the Diamond lounge for cocktails.

After drinking the Champagne, I chose not to mix drinks and opted instead to sip on a Virgin Bloody Mary.  Boy was that good.  I love hot spicy food and this drink definitely fell into that category.  Lovely, I thought.

When we entered the lounge we spotted a couple we had seen on previous cruises.  We walked over and asked if they would like to have company.  They said yes and we enjoyed a lovely conversation with Larry and Phyllis before departing to make our way down to the dining room.

We were very happy when we were escorted to a lovely table for four by a window.  Dinner was wonderful although it was a little sad as we looked at the two empty chairs that were meant for our friends. .

After so many cruises on Royal ships, Randy and I have become very familiar with the menu and have our favorites.  But I decided to try new dishes on this trip.

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I started with the Strawberry, Kiwi and Pineapple Medley, a bowl of delicious, juicy fresh fruit drizzled with sweet-tart lime syrup.

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I have mentioned several times that I am not partial to fish but tonight I decided to try the Horseradish-Crusted Fillet of Atlantic Salmon with celeriac-potato mash, snow peas and a lemon beurre blanc and sweet mustard drizzle.  The salmon was prepared perfectly and the drizzle was light and delicate.  The entire meal was delicious.

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Randy decided to stay with one of his favorites, the Mojo-Marinated Grill Pork Chop with roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli with cumin-orange-lime reduction.

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We both decided to choose the Blueberry-Peach Crumble served with warm vanilla ice cream as this is one of our favorites.

Sated we left the dining room for a leisurely walk along the promenade before returning to the cabin. We returned to the balcony and just and talked in whispers about all the memories we have shared over the years and talked about memories still to be made.

Tomorrow we will at sea.

Enjoy,

Mary

Posted in anniversary, blueberries, Celebrations, cobbler, cruising, Food, fruit, peaches, salmon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments