Tag: vacation.2008

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

We are sitting in the terminal at Fort Lauderdale, awaiting our flight back to Washington, D.C., after our ship returned early this morning.  We had a great time, and got to see a lot of really cool places.  I realize that I am way behind on updates for the trip, but I still have tomorrow and Friday (plus the weekend) for vacation so there’s time for me to get caught up.  We are both looking forward to getting home, seeing the cats, and seeing all of our friends.

Some fairly rough seas yesterday and last night.  Debarkation was remarkably fast and smooth.  Our section was called about about 7:50 AM and I think we were at the airport and through security 30 minutes later.  We got our bags instantly, and there was no line to pass through immigration–we zipped right through and got on the transfer bus to the airport.

We have some errands to run when we get home this afternoon, some unpacking to do, and probably some laundry, too.

A quick update

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I have backposted most of the cruise blog entries up to the present.  You can read them here.  They are all tagged as vacation.2008.  I have not yet backposted the wedding day and rehearsal day posts as I haven’t had time to finish them yet.  But I will get to them as soon as I can.  Please note that I wrote these entries quickly and did not bother doing a regular spelling check, and since Internet access is expensive on the ship, I was certainly not planning on doing it while online.  Maybe I’ll clean it up later.  strausmouse, let it go, please!
We are presently heading towared Panama and are just about halfway through our cruise.  We are having a great time.  We were not seriously impacted by Hurricane Omar; about the only side-effect was that we were not able to make port in Aruba, so we had three days at sea instead of two.
Looking forward to Panama tomorrow.  I’ve been reading a lot about it.  And very much looking forward to Costa Rica the next day.  No pictures posted yet since we want to limit our use of the Interwebs, but we’ve taken more than 200 so far, and you can be sure we’ll post them once we are back.


Cruise day 5: Cartagena, Colombia

 …which is probably why we were up well before 6 AM this morning.  That and the fact that the ship set its clock back one hour last night for reasons that were not fully clear to me.  I tried to sleep a little longer, but couldn’t, so up on deck I went to take pictures of our approach into the harbor surrounding Cartagena.  I found an excellent place to do this and got dozens of great pictures.  When we came around from the north and west, I got some nice pictures of Bogota, far in the distance, as well.

We went up for breakfast to try and beat some of the rush, and then back to the cabin to prepare for our first excursion.  We had a "Best of Cartegena" tour.  We met in the Princess Theater at about 8:40 and were directed to our buses right away, which meant our tour got started early.  My first step on the pier represented the first time I have ever been to South America.  This added a fourth continent to my list.  Only Africa, Australia, and Antarctica remain untouched by me.
Our tour guide was a jovial Colombian man named Javier who spoke good English with a thick Colombian accent.  There were 23 people in our tour group, and yes, Kelly and I were the youngest–by at least a decade.  Unlike in Europe, where I had minimal Italian and virtually no Greek, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Spanish I have retained.  I was able to read the signs we passed with relative ease, and I was able to understand a good deal of the Spanish I heard around me.  We were given ear-pieces with which to betterhear our guide, who spoke into a microphone and which could then be heard directly in our ears.
We headed first to the highest point of Cartegena, the monastary known as La Popa at the top of a 500 foot hill that overlooks the harbor.  From there, we had a 360-degree view of the surrounding city, including our ships, the harbor, the ocean, the airport.  The monastary was pretty impressive, too.  The drive up to the monastary revealed pretty quickly that Colombia was different from Europe.  Tiny, delapitated houses lined the streets, some of them one room, and no door or screens in the windows.  Little children chased chickens in the front yard.  Traffic was a mishmash, and I could never quite tell who had the right-of-way and when.  And then there were the vendors that bombarded you when you got off the busses.  Neither Kelly or I are big suvonier shoppers, but the bombardment was constant.  I quickly learned, however, that once you said "No thanks," twice, the vendors moved on.
We visited a fortress that took nearly 200 years to build, and then was never used.  The tunnels beneath the fortress were impressive though I think Kelly was impressed more by the cool shade the tunnels provided (it was 100 degrees with 95% humidity–typical for the "wet" season in this part of the world).  We visited the "old town", where we walked around the streets and into some emerald stores, for which Colombia is famous.  We did buy a small suvornoir, something that ran for $21,000 Colombian pesos, or $11 American dollars.  We didn’t even think to haggle.  We simply handed over the cash.
We visited more shops, and then a museum, where we literally made a whirlwind tour of some diaramas.  There we were treated to a beverage, and I had to try a can of Aguila, the National Beer of Colombia.  It tasted exactly like Bud Lite.  Finally, we stopped at another shopping center, this one recommended by Princess Cruises.  We spent about 30 minutes there, mostly sitting on a bench and trying to stay cool while others paid for pictures with sloth and bought coffee from "Juan Valdez".  Afterward, it was back to the ship.
The tour was a nice one, but I can’t help but think, with regret, that Colombia is quite possibly the first "third world" country I have ever visited.  Even the new construction–sky scrapers surrounding the harbor–looked to me to be, if not shabby, then clearly not of the quality one would expect in the U.S. or U.K.  It pains me to think that the per capita income in Colombia is very likely the amount, in dollars, that we paid for this cruise.  Still, there is a lot of beauty in Colombia that you can’t see anywhere else.
Back on the ship we made for the Horizon Court for lunch.  We were both hungry but decided to eat light.  I had an excellent turkey and cheese sandwich on Ciabatta bread, some cole slaw, and some chocolate hazelnut cake.  Then Kelly went to nap while I headed for the pool.  I sat out there for 2 hours before the deck crew started up a water volleyball game and was looking for volunteers.  I volunteered, and for 45 minutes, I treaded water in the pool, playing three games of water volleyball with about a dozen other people.  It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that we lost every game.
We left port around 3 PM and at present, are heading in a westerly direction toward Panama, which, rumor has it, we shall arrive at sometime around 5 AM tomorrow morning.

Cruise day 4: At sea

We were up early in case we would be able to put into port in Aruba.  But, as we ate breakfast, the captain announced that Omar, which had passed through Aruba yesterday as a tropical storm, had been upgraded to a hurricane.  Although we were in no danger (the hurricane was moving away from us–in the opposite direction, to be sure), the port in Aruba would remain closed for the day as the seas within the harbor were still rough.  The captain had no choice, therefore, but to skip Aruba and make for Cartegena, Colombia, which we should reach tomorrow morning.
We made the most of our third day at sea.  We ended up going back to sleep for a while, and for a wonder, we slept in pretty late, which is incredibly unusual for us.  When we finally emerged from our second slumber, it was close to noon and we decided it was time to eat again.  We had a Mexican lunch up in the Horizon Court.  Afterward, we decided to catch an early-bird showing of the movie The Love Guru, with Adam Sandler, which was shown in the Pricess Theater (not as a good a movie venue as last night).  Kelly swore she’d seen the movie before, but after it started, she realized that she hadn’t seen it.  We both thought it was funny, but since the bulk of the audience seemed to be rather conservative septugenarians, I think it might have been mis-targeted.

After the movie, I sat by the pool for a few hours and got through another 60 pages of The Path Through the Seas.  Then it was back to the cabin to get ready for dinner.  We arranged to have dinner at one of the speciality restaurants, Sabatini’s.  I ate there in Europe.  You are essentially served everything on the menu, and you pick the main course that you want.  The result is a fourteen (14) course meal that was delicious and that, alas, I couldn’t even begin to describe.  The food coma that set in afterward was like none I have ever experienced before.  After 14 courses and 2 desserts (they celebrated our honeymoon there as well, and therefore served us a special cake), we both got back to the room and made for the bed.  Our close, which were bursting at the seams, seemed to pop their buttons at this point.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow… 

Cruise day 3: At sea

 Up before 7 AM and feeling much better, although a little groggy.  The sea seemed calmer this morning there are blue skies and sunshine.  I sat out on the balcony for a little while and then we headed for breakfast.  The Horizon Court was empty at 7 AM, compared to what it was at 9 AM yesterday.  That was nice.  After breakfast we walked around the deck once to get some air.

We were lazy today.  I picked up David McCullough’s book, The Path Between the Seas, and read about 70 pages while sitting by the pool.  Despite that, I did manage to get to the gym and did 40 minutes of cardio.  We had lunch on the Horizon Court.
We had another excellent dinner tonight.  It was a "Carribean" dinner.  I had lamb, which tasted more like a pork roast to me, but which I still enjoyed.  We actually ate quickly tonight.  We didn’t linger.  After dinner, we headed to the Universe Lounge, where we got an excellent couch and sat down to watch a late showing of the movie "Swing Vote".
It was a quiet, relaxing day.

Cruise day 2: At sea

Up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  We headed up to the Horizon Court for breakfast and found a nice table at the very front of the ship, so we could watch us plow through choppy seas and overcast skies.  So far the seas on this cruise have been far more choppier than the cruise in Europe, but that might be the difference between the Meditteranian Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.  Breaskfast was good, regardless.  I had scrambled eggs, bacon, a croissont, a donut, some fruit, and some pastries.  Afterward, we walked around the deck of the ship.  2.8 times around the desk is equal to 1 mile, but we only walked once.  We are trying to see if we can get our table changed for dinner so that we are not breaking up the part of Phillipino people.  We’ll do that after the massage this morning.
We had our massage scheduled for 10:30 AM, but didn’t actually get started until around 10:45.  It was a couple’s massage so we were brought into the couples suite.  It was very relaxing.  I nearly fell asleep a few times during that massage.  Kelly is thinking about getting her hair cut and I am thinking about getting another massage later on during the cruise.
We had lunch in the Horizon Court again.  They had Monte Cristo sandwiches, which I really enjoy.  Then we headed up to the adult pool area to sit for a while.  Kelly has fair skin and burns easily, but the nice thing about the adult section on this ship is you can sit out in the sun as long as you like, without sunscreen.  You see, thewhole area is enclosed by glass, and as I pointed out to Kelly, ultraviolet radiation does not pass through glass (this is why you don’t get sunburned when driving with your car windows up).  We sat by the pool reading, and relaxing.  Kelly slept for a while.  I ordered a beer, and then a Mai Tai, and later a Princess Punch, or something like that, which was to Planter’s Punch what water is to ambrosia.  Nevertheless it was relaxing and the only problem was that I didn’t really bring any good books with me.  Later in the day, therefore, I went to the library on the ship and after purusing the options, I picked up Pete Hamill’s Forever, which I’ve read before (and given 5 stars), but which I may read again.  I did see David McCullough’s book on the Panama Canal in the shop and I may pick that up instead.
We did get our table changed for dinner.  We now have a window seat for two.  We rested before dinner.  Tonight was a formal night, which meant suits and ties and dresses.  The ship was really rocking and for the second time in my life, I began to feel the effects of motion sickness.  I took two Dramamine, and eventually, I settled down, although they made me drowsey.  Our table at dinner was much better.  We were seated by a window, just the two of us.  Our waiters were much better tonight.  I started my meal off with smoked, barbequed duck, and followed that up with a caesar salad.  Next, I had the filet mignon, which was very good.  After we had finished our meal, the waiters came by with a little cake and sang up "Happy Honeymoon".  We devoured the cake lustily.  Finally, I ordered a Love Boat Dream dessert.  No alcohol tonight as it wouldn’t mix well with the dramamine.
We found out that we were passing by a tropical depression through the night and that things would be better as the day progressed tomorrow.
Once back in the cabin, I passed out.



Our last guests left our suite sometime around 12:30 AM and we managed to get in at least 6 good hours of sleep. We were up around 7 AM and got our things together pretty quickly. Kelly’s parents came by at around 7:30 to get the room key (they were collecting stuff from our room to take back home later). We headed downstairs and Mom and Dad were waiting to see us off.

The car to the airport was already there and so we hopped in with our 3 bags of luggage and off we went. Despite my usual minor anxiety that everything will go smoothly on a vacation travel day, things went about as smooth as we could have hoped. We got to the airport in no time. Our plane boarded and departed on time. It was a relatively smooth fliht down to Fort Lauderdale, and there was no problem claiming or luggage, or with our transfer to the ship. About the only hiccup (if it could be characterized as such) was that the pull handle on my suitcase broke and the thing was stuck in the "up" position, and by the time the luggage was delivered to our cabin, the handle had broken off.

Our cabin, by the way, is perfect. We have a balcony room with a large balcony toward the mid-forward, starboard side of the ship on the Caribe deck (10th floor). When we arrived on board, we headed up to the Horizon Court (on the 14th deck) for lunch. That’s the 24-hour buffet place, and we had a mishmash of stuff. There was some excellent vegaterian curry. Rice, mashed potatoes and gravy. There were yummy chicken wings and also some meatballs. We got our "unlimited soft-drink" sticker and sat at the bar in the court eating. (It was crowded because everyone seemed to go there after getting on board.) Then we wandered around the ship for a little while, came back to the cabin and napped until the emergency drill at about 4:15 PM. Our luggage was delivered at about the same time. When we got back from the drill, we unpacked, and then headed out to the balcony to watch our departure from Fort Lauderdale.

Dinner was interesting. We figured we’d be seated at a table of other honeymooners. As it turns out, we were seated at a table of 6 Philipino people, whose party had been split up because there were nine of them total. So we sort of felt like intruders. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our first dinner on the ship. We started with an appetizer of vegetarian egg rolls with this excellent peanut sauce. That was followed by a shrimp cocktail. For the main course, Kelly had a vegtarian ragout with triangle pita bread, while I had the "5-star" prime rib of beef in au jus, with green beans, corn on the cob and a baked potato. Dessert will be familiar to those of you who read about my trip to Europe last summer: The Princess Love Boat Dream, which is a heart-shaped chocolate mousse with a raspberry sauce. I capped it off with a small glass of Sambuca.