Tag: vacation.2007

Snails and Frogs and Creme Brule, Oh My!

Posted at about 9:27 PM local time

When we last saw our Fearless Hero, he was about to kill a few hours after making his last post and before going to dinner. And so he did. I grabbed my book, ordered up an Ultimate Mai-Tai from one of the bars, and then headed out onto Deck 7, starboard side. It was quiet and warm outside and I quickly found a comfortably cushioned seat on which to relax. Drinking my Mai-tai, I tried to read my book, but the view of the islands in the harbor and the light blue water was pretty distracting, to say nothing of the approaching planes (of which I took several pictures). Eventually, I dozed off out there and by the time I woke up, it was nearly dinner time.

Read all about it

Relaxing in Corfu, Greece

Posted on 7/7/2007 at 3 PM local time

I decided that, since I was going to see plenty of Greece, I didn’t need to disembark at every port and Corfu is one of the ports at which I decided to stay on the ship and relax. In fact, I slept in late and didn’t get up until 9:30 AM, when an announcement that the ship’s crew would be doing an emergency drill work me. I grabbed a very quick breakfast (a donut) and then headed up to the pool to claim a spot.

I was up at the pool by 10:30 AM and found a perfect spot, facing east with the sun in line to move directly over me throughout the day. I lay there for the next 3-1/2 hours, relaxing, reading, and listening to my iPod. And soaking up the sun, of course. Around noon, I had a hot dog and a couple of Dos Equis beers but that was the limit of my physical exertion (I had to get up to get the hot dog, but servers came around to take my drink order.)

The ship is docked right under the takeoff/approach bath for Corfu’s major airports. In the morning, planes taking off were passing right over me. In the afternoon, they had changed runway direction and landing planes were passing right over me, much lower. It was fun to watch!

Mom and Dad headed into town this morning and walked around. Jen and Jason also headed into town and found a beach where they planted themselves for several hours. They are heading back to the ship now. I am planning on heading into a shady part of the deck and reading for a few hours before dinner (I’ve gotten more than enough sun for today). I’ve got a sports massage scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning. And I’m planning to head to the fitness center for a lower body (legs) workout after dinner this evening.

In the meantime, I’m about to go online to post these entries and check my email. The weather is beautiful here and I’m having a great time. But of course, I miss all of my friends too, so drop a line if you get a chance.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Posted on 7/7/2007 2:26 PM local time

We gathered for dinner last night, our first gathering for dinner on the ship, and of course, it was an excellent meal. Our server/waiter’s name is Viola. She is Polish and she is both funny and an excellent server. (She works so hard that you never notice the food and drinks appearing on your plate an in your glass. It is almost magical.) On this first night actually dining on the ship, I started with the Pear Ballini soup, which is served cold, but is actually quite good. For the main course, I had a shrimp diavalo, which was outstanding. For dessert, I had the Princess Love Dream Boat, which is a heart shaped serving of chocolate mousse, my absolute favorite. And because I could, I had a second helping of dessert, this time vanilla bean gelato.

After dinner, Jen, Jason and I roamed the ship for a while. We went to the basketball courts at the top of the ship and played a game of Horse. This after a few shots of Tequila, which made the game interesting. Even so, we didn’t go to bed late and after the basketball game, we gradually made our way back to our respective rooms and went to sleep.

I was up at about 7 AM and headed for a quick breakfast with the family before we headed to the tender to the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. We dropped anchor about a mile or so outside the city, in the old port and so we had to take a tender in. The ride was about 20 minutes and we managed to make the first tender. The cruise staff did an excellent job of managing lots and lots of people. We never had to wait in a line. Things moved very smoothly and before we knew it, we set foot on Croatian soil.

Dubrovnik is an impressive city. It is very old, and is completely surrounded by a wall. Parts of the city were shelled during the civil wars in the 1990s and you’ll occasionally see structures that have been shelled and never been rebuilt. But for the most part, the city is absolutely beautiful. In it’s day, it was the only major rival to Venice, which resides a couple hundred miles northwest. We took the tour of the city walls. It cost 7.50 Euro per person. You climb steps up to the wall and can then walk the wall around the entire city. It’s roughly a 1.5 mile walk and it took us 2 hours to do it. I took something like 200 pictures and some of the views of the city and the ocean (with the ships in the background) are truly spectacular. The walls are very old and in some places, the stairs are very steep, but I had an amazing time getting a birds-eye view of this old city.

After walking the wall, we wandered around the streets for a while. I saw all that I wanted to see, so Dad and I grabbed a tender back to the ship while Mom, Jen and Jason stayed in town. I was back on the ship by 11 AM and headed for the fitness center, where I squeezed in a cardio workout as well as a decent abs workout. There was only one other person in the fitness center with me the entire time that I was there.

At noon, I headed out to one of the pools on the ship. I picked my spot, and planted myself there for four hours, soaking in the sun, drinking Sprite and an occasional Mai-Tai, and munching on hot dogs and fries. They play music at the pool and I occasionally listened to my iPod or read my book. It was a very relaxing four hours, and this pool got steadily more crowded as more and more people returned from their journey’s to Dubrovnik.

I had a massage scheduled at 4:15 PM, a regular “Swedish” massage, the first of 4 that I have scheduled. I was at the spa at 4 PM and at 4:!5, I was ushered into the treatment room for my massage. My arms and my ab muscles were pretty sore from an intense arms and shoulder workout the other day, but I was too embarrassed about this to tell the masseuse. The massage was great. It was a full body massage and though at times it was painful, I felt pretty relaxed when it was all over. I have to say that 50 minutes goes very, very fast when you are laying there. My next massage is first thing Sunday morning and that massage is a sports massage. Hopefully, my muscles won’t be as sore then.

Tonight is the first of two formal nights on the ship, so after my massage, I headed back to my cabin, showered and then dressed in my black suit with a black tie and shined shoes. The family met in my parent’s suite for a drink before heading down to the dining room for dinner. Of course, everyone was dressed for dinner, and many of the gentlemen were wearing tuxedos (my Dad was wearing one!). The waiters were dressed formally as well, and in a way, it was like dining at the Rainbow Room. The ship left the port of Dubrovnik at about the time dinner started.

We had a very nice champagne with dinner and I started my meal with a blue crab quiche. Jason and I also shared a smoked duck appetizer with jam and it was excellent. It was the first time I’ve ever had duck and I very much enjoyed it. For the main course, I had two filet mignons, both of which were excellent. I cleaned my plate. For dessert, I had the chocolate mousse again, of course, as well as a chocolate soufflé that our server recommended.

After dinner, we all met up in the Adiago bar for drinks. I had a shot of Patron as well as a shot of Jaeger. Jen, Jason and I bar hopped to another bar, Crooners, for one more drink, and then we wandered the upper decks of the ship, looking for a dark place to see the stars. We found one just outside the fitness center toward the very front of the ship. There, the stars were everywhere. The Milky Way was clearly visible, spilling its dusty light across the sky. We saw 2 shooting stars and a couple of satellites. It was very warm and comfortable out, even for 11 PM.

After that, we headed back to our cabins to call it a night. We are heading to Corfu, Greece tomorrow, and Greece is in the Cairo time zone so we had to turn our clocks ahead before going to bed. That means we are now 7 hours ahead of Eastern time, and 10 hours ahead of Pacific time. So for friends reading this in Santa Monica, Pam, CJ, and all you others, when it is 8 AM there, it’s 6 PM here.

Tomorrow, we are in Corfu, Greece and I am planning on staying on the ship in this port and taking the day to relax and soak up some sun.

Leaving Venice

Posted at 3:40 PM local time

With the exception of a few scattered dreams, I slept very well last night and when I finally woke up this morning, it was just about 7 AM. The skies around Venice were clear and blue and it was a bright, sunny morning.

I headed for a quick breakfast. I had scrambled eggs, bacon and some fruit, in preparation for a strength training workout. I also had orange juice and milk. The OJ was very sweet–almost too sweet, but I was thirsty. I didn’t like the milk. Maybe I’m used to American milk but this stuff, which looked as though it were in German packaging, tasted strange to me.

Shortly after breakfast, I headed up the the fitness center for my workout. I did a full arms and shoulders workout this morning, the whole thing taking me nearly an hour and a half. It was the best workout I’ve done in several weeks and I was very happy with how well I did and how I felt at the end. (Granted, I’ll probably be pretty sore tomorrow, but it just so happens that the first of my 4 massages are scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM.) The fitness center is impressive. It is on the 16th deck of the ship, way up toward the front and is circular in shape. All around the outer edges, facing the floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views are the cardio machines, bikes, ellipticals and treadmills. They are all high-end machines with TVs on them, but who wants to watch TV with the view you’ve got right in front of you!

After my workout, I put on my swim suit and headed for one of the pools, Neptune’s Reef. I got there around 9:30 AM and found a perfect spot to sit. I brought along The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I put on sunscreen and proceeded to relax, basking in the sun until noon. Deck waiters came by to take drink orders and during that time I had two “Ultimate” Mai-Tais. It was awesome. They were playing good music and it was totally relaxing.

The ship left Venice at 1 PM and we had to gather for muster at 12:30. We did that and then people were encouraged to gather on the port (left) side of the ship to watch as the shipped headed down the big canal, past Venice and out to sea. My plan was to sit by the pool some more while people watched. I got the best of both worlds. Jason found us deck chairs way a the top of the ship with a perfect view of Venice so we could lay there, catching rays which the ship departed. It really was spectacular. The ship is so tall that we towered over Venice as we left and we could see everything. Jason took pictures and I will post some of his when I have a chance, because it really is awesome to see.

I sat up there on the deck until 3 PM (drinking one more Mai Tai), at which point I decided I needed to head back to my cabin, shower, post these blog entries, and rest before our 6:15 PM dinner. Jason and I grabbed a quick hot dog and I headed back to my cabin, where I am right now. The view from my window is amazing, the sea rolling by, blue as can be, with no land in sight (I’m on the starboard–right–side of the ship). We dock in Dubrovnik, Croatia tomorrow and we are planning on getting off the ship and walking the city walls there.

I’ve got tons of pictures to post, but probably won’t get a chance until I am in Rome, a week and half from now, because the satellite internet connection on the ship is too slow and the cost/minute to too high. So you’ll have to wait a while for pictures but these blog entries will continue. I’ll post more later tonight and also try and reply to some of the comments that I’ve gotten.

Venice Evening #2

Posted at 3:36 PM local time

After having our luggage delivered and unpacking (we’ll be on the ship for 12 days, after all) Jen, Jason and I wandered the ship. We decided to start at the top and work our way down. We didn’t get very far. We got a tour of the spa and Jen and Jason signed up for a couples massage. We also got a look at the fitness center, which is a pretty good one. We made our way to the “Sancturay” which is an exclusive pool/spa area for adults only, and which costs $10 for a half-day admission. It was pouring out, with thunder and lightening to boot. Jen and Jason and Mom and Dad had tickets for a gondola ride in Venice, but because of the rain, people were canceling and they did too. It was a shame because the rain didn’t last long and the skies cleared up. We made it down to the 15th deck and then stopped at Adiago bar (right next to Sabatini’s restaurant–a special restaurant on the ship that charges a $20 cover charge per person to get in). We ordered drinks. I had my first bellini and it was pretty good. Mom and Dad joined us for a little while. We decided to go into Venice for dinner–all except Dad who wanted to stay on the ship.

We met at 7 PM and headed down to deck 4 to debark from the ship. We all had water taxi passes and we caught a 7:30 water taxi to St. Marks Square. We then wandered Venice for more than an hour. Jen and Jason hadn’t been there yet and I led them along, twisting and turning down streets at random, but making my way toward the Rialto Bridge. We then headed back toward St. Marks square and found a little restaurant in which to eat, just west of the square called Restaurante Noemi. I had spaghetti and meat sauce once again (I can’t resist it) and this time it was even better than the place at which we ate last night. We shared a bottle of Valpollocello, which was okay, I suppose, but I’m not a wine aficionado so I’m really no judge. Directly across from the restaurant was a gelato shop and you can be sure that’s what we had for dessert. In particular, I had chocolate gelato in a cone and it was excellent.

After that, we walked back through St. Marks square one last time, listing to live classical music being played under the nighttime sky. Then we boarded our taxi and headed for the ship.

I headed straight for bed.

Venice Day 2 and the Emerald Princess

3:30 PM local time

I’ve been posting the local time in bold because my browser is still set to eastern time and the times on the posts may be misleading. If you want to know what time of day it is when I post, look at the bold text above*.

I was up at 6 AM this morning after a pretty good night’s sleep. I threw on my gym clothes and headed down to the fitness center. It wasn’t the greatest fitness center in the world, and I didn’t like the ellipical machines they had, so I ran on the treadmill and got in a decent workout. Then it was back to the room to shower and by the time that was done it was 7 AM. I wasn’t meeting Mom and Dad for breakfast until 8 AM and I was going to spend that time in my room reading, but then I thought: heck, I should go out and explore the city. So that’s just what I did.

(Link to flickr pictures of Venice and the ship coming later.)

Read more about Venice and boarding the ship

An evening in Venice

View from my hotel room
Originally uploaded by jamietr.

9:18 PM local time.

We did some roaming around Venice this evening. I met Mom and Dad at 5:30 and we headed out into the streets of Venice. It’s really so cool. I’ve never been in a city quite like this. Lots of people everywhere and a labyrinth of wide and narrow passageways. I had this image in my mind of running through the city on a night when the entire city was deserted.

And speaking of images, I have posted a set of pictures from Munich and Venice for those interested in checking them out. (The pictures are on my Flickr account, so feel free to post comments to the pics.)

I was eager to see Piazza San Marcos since vickyandnorm had built it up so much in my mind. I was not disappointed. It was exactly as they described it, full of people and pigeons and music from the sidewalk cafes. I wanted to go up in the Campanile, which is the tall tower in the piazza which gives a birds-eye view of the city, but I decided to wait until tomorrow to do that. Instead, we wandered about the maze of canals and passageways, taking photos, window-shopping (Mom, anyway), and delighted in the fact that I was in a city as old and famous as Venice. (Shakespeare wrote about Venice; he never wrote about New York*.)

After wandering around the city for a while, we came back to the hotel and then decided to go find a place to have dinner. We wandered a short distance from the hotel and finally settled on a quiet, canal-side restaurant called Restaurante da Raffaele. We sat outside and had a great meal. Spaghetti and meat sauce, bread sticks, and an Italian beer called Sans Souci. I had ice cream for dessert and I managed to clean my plates.

We came back to the hotel and I was pretty wiped out at this point. I came up to the room, posted pictures and now, I’m about to read myself to sleep. I’m beat and I need a good night’s sleep so that I can be ready for a full day tomorrow. We board the cruise ship at 1 PM-ish but the ship stays docked in Venice for 24 hours after that so we still have time to explore the city. And he11o_sunshine and jkashlock arrive tomorrow as well.

* Steve Martin might say Shakespeare wrote about Los Angeles, but I’m not sure I believe it.

2 hour nap

5:30 PM local time

I got in my 2 hour nap, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but my time is so messed up right now that I kept waking up having no idea what time it was. I kept feeling as though I was going to be late for something. And I also didn’t hear when housekeeping buzzed and at one point, I woke up and there was a woman in the room. When she saw me laying in bed, she half-shrieked, apologized, and headed off.

After 2 hours, I felt completely disoriented, but it was nothing that a good old Starwood shower couldn’t cure. The bathroom is really very nice in this room, although I have no idea how the bidet works. For that matter, there is a complicated array of towels above the bidet and I’m not sure if they have anything to do with it either.

I feel much better now. I’ve showered, changed my clothes and I’m heading out to roam around Venice for a while.

No time to respond to comments at the moment. More later.

In Venice!

Yes, I am in Venice, and finally in the hotel room. I have a ton of pictures that I took, which I will eventually get posted (this evening) but for now, I really just need to nap for a while.

Our flight left Munich on time–in a twin turboprop aircraft that reminded me of the Saab’s that I used to fly up to Santa Cruz. Up over the Alps we went and down into Venice. When we exited the plane, I was dumped into the baggage claim area which confused me because there was no customs. I picked up my luggage and never had to declare anything and this I found unnerving–until it was explained to me that because I came into Italy via the EU (Germany) and had my passport stamped there, another stamp wasn’t needed upon entering Italy. Okay.

Mom and Dad were already there. We had a van meet us and take us to a privately chartered water taxi. What a cool ride into Venice from the airport, especially once you get onto the Grand Canal. After a 35-40 minute ride, we finally arrived at the hotel. We checked in but our rooms weren’t going to be ready until 2:30 so we headed to a canal-side bar/restaurant in the hotel and had something to eat. Caesar salads and drinks. We killed some time there and I just got into my room, which has a very cool view of old Venice.

I promise to post a ton of pictures tonight but I need to get some rest. We are planning on meeting in 3 hours to walk over to San Marcos square and do a little exploring.


I am in Munich, waiting to board my connecting flight to Venice. I’m a little tired but I’ve also got a bit of an adrenaline rush.

I’m in Europe!

My flight from Washington/Dulles left on schedule. International Business Class on a 777 is nothing short of excellent. My seat reclined all the way back and the foot rest came up so that I could actually lay back and get some sleep. I tried to sleep as much as I could but I think I only grabbed bits and pieces of sleep here and there. The flight was scheduled for 8 hours 9 minutes, but it ended up taking just under 7 hours! So I got into Munich almost an hour early.

I was served an excellent 4-course meal: Crab salad with mango; fresh seasonal green salad with creamy Italian dressing. For the main course, I had the pan-seared filet mignon with balsamic rosemary sauce, served with wily mushroom stuffing and roasted root vegetables. For dessert, I had ice cream. After dessert, I tried to get some sleep, but it was a bumpy ride over parts of the Atlantic, even for a seasoned traveler like myself. Eventually, I gave up sleeping and listened to air traffic control the rest of the way in. It’s very much like U.S. ATC, with only very subtle differences.

Once in Munich, I had to go to the Lufthansa service desk to get my boarding pass for the next flight. There was a nervous moment when they said that they had a booking but not an e-ticket. However, that was quickly cleared up and I was on my way to the next gate. I had to go through security again, which means I got my first stamp on my passport in Germany on page 8 of my passport. I found out that I could use Lufthansa’s Senator’s Lounge with my Red Carpet membership, but I opted instead to come straight to the gate. Here I am with about 45 minutes before we board.

There was a great view of the alps coming in. I got a window seat on the next flight so maybe I’ll get some good pictures going over the alps. It’s really incredible to think that I just traveled 4,200 miles, a journey that would have taken Ben Franklin several months at great peril. And here I did it in seven hours and in considerable luxury.

More later in Venice…

Done for the day

strausmouse likes my efforts at “real-time” blogging and he thinks I should keep it up, but I would like to have a vacation, too. To that end, I’m going to be boarding the plane in a little while. It’s an 8 hour flight to Munich, so you have at least an 8-hour reprieve from my obsessive blogging. Whether or not I will blog about the flight when I get to Munich depends on (a) how much time I have and (b) what kind of Internet connection I have.

I did get a text message from United saying that might flight will arrive in Munich at 7:18 AM tomorrow morning. That would be great because it’s almost an hour early and would give me time to get my connecting tickets and finding my gate in an airport where the native language is German. I know about 4 German words: Bayer, for instance; or Volkswagen.

Never fear, however. I will tell you all about the flight when I get to the other side of the pond. Until then, bon voyage!

Roll out the Red Carpet

The car was at my house at 1:20 PM and shortly thereafter, we were on our way to the airport. The car was brand new and one of the nicer town cars that I have been in. There was no traffic and it was a quick drive to the airport. Halfway through the drive, I realized that I thought I’d read that there was no denim allowed in the Red Carpet Club and I was wearing jeans. I called jkashlock and asked him to check the website for me. The website left it ambiguous, but I decided to take my chances.

When I got to the airport, I walked into the United Business “line”. I said “line” because there was no one in it. I walked up to agent, handed him my passport and told him where I was going. I checked my two bags and 2 minutes later, I had my ticket. My bags are checked all the way through to Venice. I have to stop at a kiosk in Munich to get my connecting ticket.

Next was the security lines. I wandered over to the security checkpoint, and got into the Premium “line”. Once again, there was no one in it (the regular security line wasn’t terribly long either but it was definitely longer than the Premium line). I was through security in 2 minutes and then caught the shuttle to the C terminal. Once in the C terminal, I checked to see where my gate was relative to the Red Carpet Club; and then I nervously headed into the club, wondering if they would toss me out on my ear for wearing jeans.

They said nothing about it. They check me in and told me to head down stairs.

It’s a large club (it seems to me). Lots of mahogany. I found a comfortable seat with a little table that has jacks for my laptop (which is convenient, even though I don’t need it. I have a power adapter that allows me to plug my laptop and iPod into the power jack on my airplane seat so I don’t have to worry about wasting battery life). There is a kitchen area that has soft drinks and snacks, all of which are “free”. I say “free” because I really paid for them when I paid my annual club dues. There is also a full bar (for which you have to pay). I’ll probably get a drink before I get on the airplane. In the meantime, I am sitting here sipping a Sierra Mist and eating some cookies. Here’s what my view looks like:

I recently added T-Mobile’s “hot spot” to my phone plan and since most of these clubs have T-Mobile hot spots, I’m able to access wireless, high-speed Internet without a problem.

It’s just now a few minutes past three. My flight boards at 5 PM so I have a few hours to kill. I’ve got the laptop, of course. I brought a few movies with me. I also have the new issues of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN and Call of the Wild and White Fang; plenty with which to kill two hours.

And my flight is on-time–so far…