(This is a long report!)
October 2009. This cruise was booked back in April 2008. Tony (an airline pilot) was able to bid and get November for his vacation dates. However, this spring, there were lots of complications with his company and his annual leave. I won't go into the details, but will say that after careful consideration, Tony requested a leave of absence. We waited anxiously for two weeks to hear from the company. Tony checked his work schedule for November and saw that he did indeed get approval. I was so excited about this but also (like Tony) upset that he would take a hit on his paycheck in November. However, we decided it would be worth the loss of monies because we had not taken a real vacation together since October 2006 (our Celebrity Zenith Bermuda cruise). Also, Tony has never cruised in the Mediterranean, or a transatlantic cruise. Many of our cruise friends were happy to hear that Tony was able to go.
I met many fellow cruisers on our Cruise Critic (CC) roll call board. In addition, about two dozen friends from previous cruises were also going on this cruise with us. It was nice to have a good mixture of friends, old and new, on board with us. I also met fellow cruisers at a few pre-cruise get together luncheons, both at my house and in Atlantic City.
1 November 2009, Sunday:
After 1.5 years, our trip and cruise was finally here! Tony drove me to Dulles International where I met up with my friends Carolyn and Mark, Barb, Carol, Glenn and Sharon, and Glenn and Carol. This group of friends would be our table mates on the cruise. Also at the airport were new friends Doug and Lynn, Susan and Caryn, Mary and Terry. Tony had to work, so he dropped me off early before heading to National airport. Tony would arrive on the 4th. We all met at Gordon Beirch for drinks before the flight.
We flew on United #966 and had a good flight. The food was lousy - Air France (one of my favorite airlines) has better food. Wine cost $6, but I got one complimentary after flashing my employee/spouse airline card.
2 November, Monday:
It was a beautiful morning in Italy, although it didn't last too long. We landed 20 minutes early, got our luggage, and met up with our driver just outside of the customs area. Eight of us were staying at Hotel Giardino (Glenn and Carol at Hotel Golden). Prior to leaving the airport, all of us tried to get euros from the ATM machine, but we had no luck. Fortunately Carolyn and I had euros on hand to pay the driver.
We managed to get our entire luggage into the van (tight squeeze) and 45 minutes later we arrived at our hotel. All of the guys carried our luggage up two flights of stairs to the lobby. My room was ready, as well as Carolyn and Marks, so we let the rest of the group store their luggage in our rooms until theirs was ready.
My room, #26, was very nice. It had twin beds and a small balcony facing the street. Thick glass windows kept the majority of the street noise at bay, especially at night. There was more bathroom space than my room, #32, in 2007. A hair dryer is provided in the bathroom, which I had to hold the button to use.
Giovanni and Davide were on hand each day and helped with my dinner reservations. Katie was on holiday and I was sorry I missed seeing her this time.
We all headed out, got money from an ATM machine, and I went my own way for the afternoon to Trastevere via the Ghetto quarter. The day turned cloudy with a little rain now and then.
It was great to be in Rome again. It's such a vibrant city! This day I wanted to explore the area of Trastevere. I took photos along the way and walked along the smaller streets of the area. I watched an older man playing with his two dogs. He used a bottle cap as a toy that one dog would chase and fetch. Clothes were hanging out windows to dry, so typical a street scene.
I had lunch at Al Fontanone. I told the owner I was a repeat customer and he was happy I returned. I had a delicious pasta dish with white wine. Empty restaurant when I arrive, full by the time I left.
It started to rain when I walked out the door. I headed back to the other side of the Tiber River and walked around the Campo dei Fiori and even found via di Grotta Pinta, where about 50 of us cruisers would meet for drinks on our last night in Rome. This area was the location of the Teatro di Pompeo and most of the buildings (in a curve) sit atop of the theatre. "The inner curve of the theatre is faithfully echoed by the shape of the buildings of Via Grotta di Pinta, one of the most remarkable examples of urban continuity in Rome. Parts of the theatre's walls still exist in the basements of the buildings of the area." (http://www.romanhomes.com/your_roman_vacation/quarters/giulia-argentina-vittorio.htm).
Back at the hotel I met up with Mark, who, despite the heavy rain, wanted to walk around the area. I went with him and we saw a couple of interesting sights: A bank, which parts of a 145 a.d. temple to the emperor Hadrian are incorporated; and the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, which was designed by Borromini. It's an outstanding and unique example of Baroque architecture. It was built in 1633. We also walked by the pantheon. My shoes were completely soaked half way through our walk but I enjoyed having Mark tell me about these sights.
I made dinner reservations at Gioia Mia Pisciapiano for our first evening in Rome with my group. I had dined here on two previous trips to Rome and it's one of my favorites. The restaurant was crowded, as usual, with people being turned away with no reservations. For my dinner, I started with an artichoke salad followed by Spaghetti alla carbonara, and finally flan for dessert. Everything was very good. With a few carafes of wine, the bill came to 21 euros per person.
3 November, Tuesday:
I made plans to visit Ostia Antica with Glenn and Carol. After breakfast at the hotel, I met up with Glenn and Carol at the Barbarini metro, which was located between both our hotels. We took the metro to the Piramide stop. We walked to the the market in Testaccio. I always love visiting and taking photos of markets. After, we headed to Volpetti (Via Marmorata 47), a wonderful gourmet meat, cheese, and wine shop. I had three sandwiches made (with olive bread, proscuitto, and buffalo mozzarella) for our picnic lunch at Ostia.
We took the metro to Ostia, which took just 23 minutes along with a 10-minute walk to the entryway of Ostia. It rained all morning long. We walked along the ruins and when the sun finally came out, we ate our sandwiches. Carol had purchased some slices of pizza that we also enjoyed. Once the sun was out, we truly enjoyed the sights at Ostia. The amphitheatre was quite impressive, as were the mosaic tiles in the Baths of Neptune. The main road in Ostia is about a mile long, but we didn't walk the entire distance.
After our visit, we headed back to Rome and stopped to see the Colosseum. The area was filled with tourists and Italians dressed as gladiators. The sun was just beginning to set, so I snapped a few photos before walking back to the hotel. Glenn and Carol went to their hotel via the metro.
For dinner, all of us dined at Hostaria Romana, via del Boccaccio, 1. Just like dinner the night before, I started with spaghetti carbonara (recommended on a couple of reviews) followed by Veal a la Romana, thinly sliced veal with proscuitto and mozzarella on top. We all shared four liters of white and red wine (total 22 euros per person). This was a restaurant that had a few good reviews, with one comment: Get to know the waiters, as they usually take care of the locals first. I had no problem, as our waiter flirted with me all night. It was a fun place and we all had a great time. The restaurant walls are filled with graffiti and some of us added our names, although space was limited. I even peeked behind one of the framed photos on the wall only to find every inch of space written upon.
After dinner, we walked to the Trevi fountain to find many people out and about. I bought some gelato for a late night snack. Delicious!
4 November, Wednesday:
Tony arrived this morning. I booked a car service for him, which was expensive for one passenger but I felt it would be the best for him. He arrived at breakfast time and got to meet some of our friends before they headed out for the day.
I had computer problems - a huge virus problem - so Tony worked on it for a short while before we headed out. I had tried for two days to get my computer to work. No luck at all. It was so frustrating that I wanted to throw my computer out the window.
Tony and I spent the morning together walking to Piazza Republica to visit the Roman museum and Baths of Diocletain. I was absolutely amazed at the size of the baths. In the museum, we saw interesting artifacts.
Tony was tired so we went to the hotel and I went out to buy panini's next door at a grocery type store. After lunch, I went out and bought 2 bottles of wine and limoncello for us to enjoy in our cabin on the ship. I went to the one wine shop that I knew about and picked up the 1.75 liter bottles of wine.
I had made arrangements to meet up with fellow cruisers for drinks at 6pm, so Tony and I headed to the bar with friend Barb. We had purchased bus tickets but when we boarded, we couldn't get our ticket validated. The bus was packed!
About 35 people met at the Grotta Pinta lounge. My friend GB (editor of www.italiannotebook.com where four articles I've written have been published) had introduced me to his friend Sveva, who owns the lounge. It's set where the pompey theatre was located. Her club was 1 to 2 levels below ground and we many of the theatre's existing walls and arches were exposed. I invited GB to the event and we had a great time talking. He thought it was great that all of the cruises got together for the evening. Sveva served a lovely selection of antipasti. Drinks were 10 euros each. Tony and I enjoyed the food (and had plenty) that I asked Sveve to call the restaurant I booked and cancel our reservations.
Heading out after, it poured like crazy as we walked back to the hotel. Carol had remained at the hotel due to a foot problem. We had her join us in our room for some wine and talk.
5 November, Thursday:
I woke up to a beautiful and sunny morning. I was sorry we had so much rain the other days. I had time make a quick visit the market at the Campo dei Fiori. It was a brisk walk to the campo. I had some good photo ops, especially since it was sunny. I also bought a few souvenirs.
I ordered a bus service to pick up 39 cruise passengers. I provided this service two years ago and it was a great way to get to the port at an inexpensive price. The last time the bus parked down the street. I discovered that that the bus wouldn't be able to park in the same area, as there was ongoing road construction. Giovanni, who worked at the hotel, called the company for me to find out if they could park right outside the hotel. Nope! They would be parking on the upper end of the street next to the Piazza Quiranale.
While Tony and the rest of the group moved the luggage to the bus, I stood waiting at the original pick up point. I was able to divert 4-5 taxis to the new location. One taxi driver refused to take his passengers to the new spot stating it would take a long time to travel around, so they had to walk. Fortunately the couple had little luggage.
We were on the road about 35 minutes later than planned, as three people had not shown up. We waited as long as possible. I found out later that the taxi that arrived to pick up the three women was 45 minutes late. They ended up getting to the port (not sure if it was the same taxi) at a cost of $300.
About an hour later, we arrived to Civitavecchia. Everyone was excited to see the Equinox. After I tipped the driver, we sort of stood around not sure if we should leave the luggage or carry it to the entrance of the building. We decided to carry our own luggage. Once the luggage was dropped off, we headed inside, filled out a couple of forms and stood in line. Check in was easy, except Tony and I were not handed our sea pass cards and I was told we needed to go to the specialty counter. At first I thought, hmmmm, did we get upgraded? No, I was told I owed $30 for the cruise. We had received a discount to our booking (military discount) and the $30 was supposed to be credited back to our account. Apparently Celebrity didn't see this discount and therefore, it looked like we owed them $30. This was later resolved by Claudio Berry at guest relations.
After the usual group photo at embarkation, we stepped inside the Equinox along with a glass of champagne. This is always a nice touch. Tony and I dropped our luggage off in our cabin, met our friend Carolyn to meet the restaurant manager to change our dining tables. We had checked our table cards and discovered our group of 10 was split into three tables. We did link our booking numbers months in advance, but there's usually a glitch for some people with the dining tables and schedules. We got on the wait list for a table for 10.
Lunch at the oceanview cafe was very good. There was a nice selection of foods: Pizza and pastas, hot stations, Indian curry dishes and rice, fish, salads, breads, fruits, lots of dessert choices, etc. As I read online, the cafeteria style-trays were no longer available. I think this was much better, as it helped me to keep the food portion down on plate.
Some of us walked around the ship after lunch checking the various decks, bars, pools, gym, etc. The Equinox is a beautiful ship. We have never sailed on a new ship, so it was a treat to see everything in perfect condition. The Equinox left dry docks in July 2009 with its first official sailing in August (and sea trials in between). By the time we got on board, the Equinox had about 6-7 sailings under her belt. Every space was well laid out and beautifully decorated. At the staircase, on each level, were pieces of artwork. Some I did not like at all - too contemporary for me.
I met up with Alana at guest relations. I had been corresponding with her for a couple of months about setting up a luncheon for a large group of cruise critic members, as well as a couple of other events. Being an inaugural cruise, we wanted a special luncheon. We were in touch throughout the cruise and even became friends. She offered a bridge tour for us (Tony was very happy!) and even said we would be her guest one night for dinner at one of the specialty dining rooms. This was a nice surprise for us. We would meet later in the cruise to finalize the luncheon once she finalized other functions onboard.
Back in our cabin, we met our room attendant, Marcello. He filled us in about our room, boat drill procedures, etc. Marcello was very nice and provided great service. Any time we need anything, he was quick to respond and always with a smile. When we requested a couple of items to be pressed, we were late in giving the items to Marcello. No problem, he said, he would take care of it. And he did. Another time I requested extra appetizers for an afternoon cocktail gathering with my tablemates and Marcello came through again. He chatted with us throughout the cruise and talked we talked about his family, his dog, and his life onboard the Equinox. We tipped extra at the end of our cruise, as he deserved it.
We were booked in room 1259 a C2 concierge class category. I decided to 'splurge' with this C2 category. At the time of booking, there wasn't a big difference in price between a standard balcony cabin and the concierge balcony cabin. Cabin 1259 is on the Sky Deck and is located port side, towards aft and near the elevators. I liked the idea of being close to some of the important parts of the ship: Library on the same deck, the pool area two decks above (Resort); the outdoor bars and Oceanview cafe three decks above (Lido). The gym and sky lounge were located on the forward area of the ship, so we had a longer walk.
Our bed was located next to bathroom. People on cruise critic talked about wanting their bed close to the balcony door, as they like to sleep with the door open to hear the ocean waves. I prefer the sitting area next to the balcony, which helps, in a way, to extend the living area onto the balcony.
There wasn't a lot of counter top space for all of our things. I ended up putting my extra things in my suitcase for storage under our bed. The room could use more shelving and counter top space and also more hooks to hang things. We had a sofa that turns into a sleeper. Against the wall was a nice flat screen tv where we could view our photos that were taken while on board the ship. It also swivels so that one can watch tv while in bed. Options were: News, movies, CD's show, the web cam located at the front of the ship, and even a list of our onboard expenses.
The bathroom was compact, but laid out nicely. There were lots of place to store things. The shower stall had curved glass doors to make the space larger, along with a great shower head.
In our room were fresh flowers and a bottle of champagne. The concierge class perks were nice to have, especially the comfortable bedding and pillows. I slept well each night. We also enjoyed the foot rests on the balcony. Balcony: Small but we enjoyed our time sitting with drink in hand enjoying the sea view.
After the life boat drill (5:15pm and no need to bring our life jackets - that was a first for us), we joined many of the cruise critic members for our sail away get together. I would say about 150 people showed up. It was great fun to finally meet people in person after chatting online for 1.5 years!
Tony and I met up with friends David and Larry, and their friends Glenn and at the martini bar. It was great to see them again (third time cruising with them) and they FINALLY got to meet Tony. The martini bar was a fun place to stop by for a drink. On the counter is a 'sheet' of ice, so the glasses remain cold. In the other section of the bar was a counter top with bar stools. On the counter were bottles that were shoved in shaved ice to keep chilled.
Our dinner was scheduled for 8:30pm. It was a little late for us, mostly because we never got out of the dining room until at least 10:30pm. The menu had a very good selection of foods to choose from. On the left side of the menu were the "Always Available" items. These were dishes that were always popular and I found it a nice touch on Celebrity's part to have them on the menu every night: Escargot, shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, caprese salad, Caesar salad, salmon, NY strip, and a nice selection of side dishes. Crème brulee was also available every night! On the right side of the menu was the menu for the evening. For my first dinner on board, I enjoyed the crab and avocado appetizer, creamy lobster bisque, and an excellent lamb shank. The shank was very large and I couldn't eat it all. The lobster bisque was not good at all and the ONLY item I ate on board that I didn't like (although the lobster bisque in the Murano restaurant was excellent). The quality of the food on this cruise was wonderful.
Off to bed right after dinner, as it was a long day. Tony and I came back to our cabins to find two bottles in our room plus a plate of delicious chocolate covered strawberries! They were from Alana and Ken (guest relations manager). Very nice!!
More about on the food on board:
Buffet food: Very good. Good variety of food. No table trays, but it all worked out. Foods consisted of:
Breakfast: Everything you could imagine! Smoked salmon, pickled herring, eggs any way you want, all kinds of cereals, fruits, cheese, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pastries, waffles, etc.
Lunch: Indian curry dishes, various rice and couscous, chicken, beef, taco area, pizza and pasta station...
Sushi: Just okay. There was a better variety on the Zenith when Tony and I went to Bermuda. However if anyone goes to the Silk Harvest restaurant, definitely order the sushi. It was great.
Ice cream bar: Good selection every day, including sorbets and low fat ice cream. The mango sorbet was my favorite. My friend Carol loved the coconut sorbet.
Grill: Burgers (tasty but I've had better burgers), hot dogs, chili, fries, onion rings, along with a variety of sides and pasta salads.
Pizza and Pasta station: I didn't have any of the pasta, but did try pizza one time. There was always a variety to choose from and very good.
6 November, Friday - Marseille
Our first port day was in Marseille. During my research, I found many people saying, "Get out of town and head to Provence." I was in Provence only a few months ago and wanted to see the sights of Marseille. We headed to town with friends Glenn and Carol via the cruise shuttle bus ($15pp). The shuttle bus drops people off next to the old port where many yachts and sail boats are docked.
After stopping at the tourist office (I left map and notes in the cabin) we took the local bus (#60) to the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, located at one of the highest point in Marseille. The interior was beautiful, especially the ceilings with the gold mosaics. Along the walls were various paintings of ships and planes, as well as model ships hanging from the ceiling.
Outside the views are fabulous! You can see the Chateau d'If off the coast, and all of Marseille.
Back down again (save your bus ticket, as it's good for 1.5 hours - you'll have enough time to take the bus to the Basilica, visit, and return to the port), the guys went to the maritime museum, while Carol and I window shopped. I wanted to buy some soaps and pick up some jarred patEs. The museum was apparently small, as we met up with Glenn and Tony within 20 minutes.
The area east of the tourist office is a lively French-African quarter. Many shops carried various cooking spices, tagine baking dishes, colorful materials for dresses, etc. The many small restaurants that we passed by smelled wonderful! I saw many gypsies walking the streets in their colorful outfits. We wandered through a market area, which was filled with exotic fruits and vegetables.
We continued to the old quarter of Marseille just wandering the various streets. One corner had a sign, which was a memorial for the Jews that had been deported during WWII. We even saw a building, one of the few that survived the bombings in 1943, which was "a curious mix of gothic and renaissance styles built in 1535 for a sheet merchant...during the reconstruction work after the war, it was moved as a single piece on jacks and rotated by 90 degrees, to perfectly match with the new street layout."
Back at the port area, Tony and I caught the shuttle bus back, while Glenn and Carol did more shopping. On board, we had a light snack of sushi at the oceanview cafe and then some wine in the cabin.
Dinner: Antipasti sampler from the Tuscan Grill restaurant, sea bass with asparagus in a light cream sauce, and some decadent chocolate dessert.
7 November, Saturday - Barcelona
Tony and I did a day trip via rental car with friends Bruce and Gail. I had met them two years earlier on my Galaxy Mediterranean/Black Sea cruise. Bruce and I had organized two tours to Yalta and Odessa. The four of us were the first off the ship. We grabbed a taxi (got ripped off, as the driver told us there was a 20 euro minimum. We asked a guard back at the port about this minimum and we were told there was no minimum) and went to the downtown Avis rental agency.
Our first stop of the day was to Poblet, an hour away from Barcelona. It's located among vineyards and the fall colors were hitting their peak. The grapes had already been picked. Poblet is a monastery and is one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in the world. It dates from the 12th century. In order to visit the monastery, you need to book the guided tour. Of course it was in Spanish, so we were given English brochures. We visited various parts of the monastery, including the beautiful courtyard.
It rained briefly as we left and headed to Tarragona, a beautiful seafront town. The town has many Roman ruins, including an amphitheatre and aqueduct. The four of us enjoyed lunch while sitting at Plaza Fuente. The buildings in the plaza were colorful. There were lots of cafes so we just picked one that had lots of diners. I had a delicious salad with breaded/baked goat cheese, walnuts, apples, etc. Tony had a cured meat sampler.
We had a little time to walk around before getting back in the car, so we split up. Tony and I found the remains of an outdoor market. People were packing up for the day and I could see many empty vegetable/fruit bins. You know me: I love my markets, so I was sad that I missed this one.
Back in Barcelona, we dropped off the car. We were charged extra for the gas, as we couldn't find a gas station anywhere. A quick metro ride to Las Ramblas, we didn't have time to enjoy the area. We walked to the location of the shuttle bus but we were not allowed on board. The last complimentary bus left and the personnel on board didn't have tickets to sell to us. I suggested to them we get on board and when we got to the ship we would be willing to have our room cards charged for the bus ride. No, they were not agreeable.
We hailed a cab and were whisked back to the ship within minutes. And we were about the last onboard the ship.
Dinner: Oysters Rockefeller, a wonderful mousse patE, osso bucco.
November 8, 2009 Sunday - Palma de Mallorca
For Palma de Mallorca, I hired a guide to take 19 of us on a tour of Palma and Valdemossa.
Our guide (I have forgotten her name), was a charming woman. She started the tour with a city highlights. We drove around town and headed to the 14th century Bellver Castle located on hill overlooking Palma. Unfortunately, it was closed. In fact, most of the sights in Palma are closed on Sundays.
The La Seu Cathedral, also 14th century and founded by Jaime II, is located near the historical quarter and port area. A French Gothic style building, it has the largest rose stained-glass window in the world, larger than the one in Notre Dame in Paris. When we arrived, the sun was hitting the rose window, which reflected the colors into the building and against the walls and columns. It was beautiful and very colorful. Our guide said she had never seen these colors before and was also amazed to see them in such a heavenly place. We arrived at the perfect time.
Above the main alter is a wrought iron canopy, designed by Gaudi. The choir stalls are made of walnut and was an impressive sight to see.
We had time to walk around the historical quarter. The streets were small, yet charming. We walked to Plaza Mayor and saw a few Gaudi-type buildings. Near the Cathedral is a lovely garden area with fountains. It reminded me of the fountains and gardens in Granada Spain.
Back in the van after a quick bathroom break at a cafe, we drove to touristy Valldemossa just 30 minutes away. Located in the hills, Valldemossa is a lovely small town. Unfortunately, with all of the souvenir shops, some of its charm is gone. Everyone split up for an hour and Tony and I headed away from the stores so I could take some photos of the buildings. Temperature dropped quite a bit and it rained off and on.
After a quick look in the stores and a couple of purchases, we were back in the van and on our way back to the ship. Our guide entertained us with a Spanish song. She was a good guide and we enjoyed our tour.
This evening was our first formal night. Everyone dressed up and the men looked especially handsome in their suits and tuxedos. Women wore either cocktail dresses or dress pants with elegant tops. Tony and I went to the martini bar to meet up with friends for a drink before dinner.
Dinner was very good. I had the beef carpacio to start (sliced ever so thin) and the rack of lamb for my main entree. Excellent! Assorted cheese platter for my dessert.
This evening was also the Captain's Welcome, which took place in the theatre. Champagne was served for the usual toast. His senior officers were on stage and introduced. After, we saw the variety show, which was very good.
November 9, 2009 Monday - Cartagena
This was our forth port day and I know people were starting to get tired of being on the go every day. Fortunately, Cartagena was an easy port to visit. Located further south on the coast of Spain, the ship docked right in front of town among the many sail boats in the harbor. It was a sunny, but breezy day. We had a full day, so there was no need to rush off the ship. Tony and I met up with Glenn and Carol around 10:30am after breakfast.
We began our tour at the top of the hill, which is the location of an old fortress. There's an elevator that you can take to get to the top, or you can take the stairs. On the way up, we could see an old bullring that was being refurbished. Up top the wind was blowing, but the views were great. There was not much to see inside the fort but we did get to read about the history of the fort.
From the viewing platform, we could see the ancient Roman amphitheatre. There was a separate fee to get inside, so we didn't bother. The views from above were adequate.
We located the bathroom half way down from the fort. Horrible!! No electricity, no lights, and the toilets were clogged up. It was almost worse than the bathrooms I encountered in the Ukraine and China!
We window shopped on the main pedestrian street and walked passed the city hall building. Cartagena is a beautiful city and very clean (Tony thought Marseille was very dirty). Many of the buildings had beautiful wrought iron balconies. The four of us met up with our dinner mates, who were snacking on various Spanish tapas. In fact, they ordered too much, so the four of us had a light snack along with some delicious sangria.
At a nearby grocery store, Tony and I picked up some bottled water for the cabin and headed back to the ship. It was just an easy relaxing day for us.
We went over to Jane and Ray's cabin for drinks before dinner. We continued at the Martini bar with Glenn and Carol, who enjoyed the martini flight. This was the first Celebrity cruise that I didn't order the martini flight, although it looked delicious.
Dinner: Curry chicken salad in a pineapple 'plate', French onion soup; and beef short ribs on top of mashed potatoes and served with carrots and green beans.
November 10, 2009 Tuesday - Our first sea day
I talked to Alana the night before to discuss the luncheon for the cruise critic members. She told me she wanted me to meet the executive chef, Steve van der Merwe, to go over the special menu. I was very surprised and told her it told her it wasn't necessary, that whatever was on the menu would be fine. She insisted! With Alana, I met Steve, Ludwig Lozano (food and beverage manager), and Lorenzo Davidoiu (restaurant manager). Everyone was very nice and it was a pleasure to meet all of them. Lorenzo told me that they all wanted to make sure the luncheon group was taken care of and happy with the results. We were, but more on that later.
I met Tony and we enjoyed a wonderful brunch at sea. Apparently Celebrity has stopped having the traditional midnight buffet. There were two brunches on this cruise, which I found to be a nicer event than the midnight buffet. Who wants to eat at midnight after finishing dinner at 10:30-11:00pm? Everything was delicious and the food was beautifully displayed.
Later, Tony and I window shopped - or I should say Carol and I did, while Tony and Glenn talked and talked and talked. We also took some dance lessons in the grand foyer. There were probably two dozen dancers.
At 2:00pm, a large group of us participated in the cabin crawl. There were probably a couple dozen hosts that allowed guests to check out the cabins. This was the first time I did this and had fun. I got to see some of the aft cabins, which had larger balconies. I also got to see one of the suites, which had a jacuzzi on the balcony. Very nice! I could see myself out there in the jacuzzi with a drink in hand.
In the late afternoon, Tony and I met up with Mark and Carol at the sky lounge for drinks. This became our usual hang out with other Elite Celebrity members.
Speaking of Elite status: I need to add here about some of the perks we received on board, thanks to a few staff members: On our second evening on board, I found in our cabin two 'elite' cards ("Exclusive Lounge Access"), and 'elite' coupons on our bed. Celebrity has three levels for Captain's Club members based on the number of cruises taken: Classic, Select, and Elite. This cruise would give me the 3 credits I need to become an elite member. Elite status gives extra perks, to include complimentary laundry, internet access, various cocktail parties and other private events. Tony and I were, to use his phrase, prematurely elevated. From 8am to 10am elite members can enjoy continental breakfast with champagne, mimosa, or cappuccino; or from 4pm to 6pm, cocktails and hor dourves. Since the number of elite members was quite large on this cruise, the meeting place changed from Michal's Club to the sky lounge on deck 14. Drinks included champagne, wine, martinis, etc, along with tasty canapEs / appetizers. In addition, on the same evening we received the cards/coupons, there were two bottles of wine - one from Alana and the other from the hotel manager - on the dresser. There was also a plate of chocolate covered strawberries! The next night, a bottle of wine was delivered to our room from Simon Weir, who is the hotel manager, thanking me for my help with planning a few on board events. This was such a treat for Tony and me.
Dinner: Crispy spring roll; some sort of puff pastry (I have a photo of it but don't remember what was inside!), and filet mignon. My filet wasn't cooked properly and after three returns, I gave up and ate the last one delivered to me. Fortunately filets are tender, so it still tasted fine.
November 11, 2009 Wednesday - Lanzarote, Canary Islands
For our day in Lanzaorte, Tony and I rented a car with Bruce and Gail. The rental agency was located on the peer near the ship, which was very convenient. The port area is pretty far from the town of Arrecife, so anyone wanting to get around needs to rent a car or hire a taxi service.
Heading out, our first stop was the small town of Yaiza. I had asked the young woman at the rental agency how long the drive would take to get to Yaiza just to get an idea of the size of the island: it's always hard to judge by looking at a map. She told me about 40 minutes. We were there in 25 minutes. The island suddenly shrunk and I realized we would be able to see more than planned. In fact, we got around quite easily. Yaiza is a pretty white-washed town in the middle of nowhere. All the towns seemed like in the middle of nowhere. The island is volcanic in origin and many of the areas looked like the moon or some other planet in a far away galaxy. I had read online that part of movie Planet of the Apes had been filmed here. Plant life is scarce and only once in a while I saw a palm tree out in a field of lava rocks all alone. The lava is of various colors, from a dark charcoal to a rust color.
The four of us visited the small church in the center of town (at Plaza de los Remedios) and walked along the main streets. Colorful bougainvilleas hung over white walls or in gardens, along with large cactus plants. It was interesting to see the contrast of the white-washed building, the dark color of the lava, and the colorful bougainvillea. Some of the buildings even had green shutters and balconies.
Moving on, we next drove west and stopped along the coast just south of El Golfo at Los Hervideros. There was no beach area but only cliffs, caves, and even a lava bridge. At another stop, we walked a short distance to see the green lagoon. We could see it in the distance and decided we didn't want to walk the entire distance. I had seen pictures of the green lagoon and was surprised at how small it was.
Continuing on, we stopped by the "camel stop" where tourists were taking short rides on camels around Timanfaya National Park. There must have been 50 camels! Some were at rest in a long row, while the others took their passengers for a short ride. Each camel held two people, one on each side of their hump. What a sight!
Our next stop was at a winery. It was a small one, Bodega Rubicon, located across the street from another winery with its parking lot filled with three tourist buses (at Bodega La Geria). Gail and I had a chance to taste a couple of the white wines. They were light in body and not too dry. The winery has a self-guided tour of their facility. There were a few rooms to walk through, including one that had thick glass flooring where you can look below to see original foundation.
Hungry, so the four of us had a light snack at the restaurant attached to the winery. We shared a delicious grilled octopus and white wine. We sat outside under the large trees and enjoyed our food.
We had time to stop at Tias, another lovely white-washed town with a tall church tower. I picked up a small ceramic plate, typical of the island.
We were back on the ship around 5:15pm. Bruce and Gail had the early dining, so we needed to get back in time for them to get ready. They enjoy dancing before dinner.
Before dinner, Tony and I met up with Glenn and Carol for drinks at the Martini bar. It's a great area to be because lots of people come to this particular bar for drinks. We had a chance to talk to David and Larry too.
Tony and I were invited to dine at the specialty restaurant, the Silk Harvest, with eight other friends. Silk Harvest is an Asian restaurant that serves Chinese, Thai, Japanese, etc. Everyone was divided into groups for easy ordering. The waiter had us select from the appetizer, entrEe, and dessert section. When he brought out our appetizer, he brought extras for us to try. He did this for the entrEes and dessert! Our meal lasted 3 hours! Everyone enjoyed the food, but we ate way too much! Some of the food we ate were: Chicken spring rolls with a sweet Thai chili sauce, shrimp and scallop shumai, cream cheese wontons, BBQ pork ribs, salt n' pepper ike & ebi (squid and rock shrimp), lotus chicken lettuce wraps, a wonderful assortment of sushi, red curry duck, pad thai, salmon and scallop stir-fry, silk fried rice; then dessert: caramelized bananas, assorted ice cream, etc. I think we ordered most of the foods on the menu! Note to self: Order ½ the amount the next time! Bonnie and Rich had champagne for everyone, which was a lovely touch to our evening. I think most people waddled back to their cabins and crashed.
November 12, 2009 Thursday - Tenerife, Canary Islands
Tenerife was our last port day before sailing across the Atlantic for six days. What a huge contrast between Lanzarote and Tenerife. Lanzarote has hardly any plant life, as it's mostly lava. It must be a newer island compared to Tenerife, which is very mountainous and very tropical. We woke up to blue skies and views (from our balcony) of the mountains and town of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Tony and I spent the day again with Bruce and Gail. We walked to the car rental place and discovered we could have taken the Celebrity shuttle bus to the end of the pier. We didn't realize how long it would take to walk. The rental office was hidden in the port area, which we had to ask a police officer for directions. Bruce did all the paper work, while the three of us waited. We were not given the exact location of the car, so the four of us split up to find it. I'm heading back to Tenerife next November 2010, so I won't have any problems getting my car.
Our first stop was to the town of La Laguna. We missed the exit off the highway and had to make a few u-turns. Some of the signs are easy to spot, others aren't. After driving in town for about 10 minutes, we found the entrance to an underground parking lot. La Laguna is a colorful town with a lovely old church in the center of the historical area: The Church of Our Lady of the Conception, which dates back to 1511 and was the first church built on the island. The tower is from the 17th century.
After about an hour in town, we drove to Puerto de la Cruz, located on the north side of the island. This is a busy resort city. We found a little place for a simple lunch outside under the umbrellas. Gail, Bruce and I enjoyed the sangria while Tony had a beer. I had a dish of fried calamari, fries, and a salad. Tony had a sandwich. I purchased a couple of items before our next stop, La Orotava.
La Orotava is located up in the mountains south of Puerto de la Cruz. It was getting late, so our visit was very quick. La Orotava has beautiful wooden and wrought iron balconies, and the buildings are painted in various colors. The streets are narrow and quite hilly.
We made a mad dash to get back to the port. This was the one day we didn't want to miss the ship! This was our last port before sailing across the Atlantic. We didn't have any problems at all getting back. In fact, it took only 25-30 minutes to get to the port. Bruce returned the car keys and the rest of us went back to the ship.
Our evening was the same as most evenings; Drinks up at the sky lounge, dinner in the main dining room (delicious food always), and then off to the evening show. We saw the comedian Jeff Stevenson, who was alright but not that funny.
November 13, 2009 Friday, Day at Sea
Friday the 13th, inaugural crossing, and my first time crossing the Atlantic. Hmmm, sounds like the making of a movie. What to do at sea? Many things. I started my day participating in the battle of the sexes game. It was lots of fun, but I didn't stay the entire time. Tony and I were offered a bridge tour by Alana. She was a gem. I was allowed to invite my table mates to the bridge. For the tour, we met at one location and were escorted in. There were probably 15 people total and the tour lasted about 15-20 minutes. We were allowed to see one section of the bridge, as the rest of the area was off limits.
After lunch, I took some dance lessons in the early afternoon in grand foyer with a bunch of other people. Mark and Carolyn joined in. Tony danced for a few minutes but his new 'bionic' knees didn't allow him to be flexible, so Carolyn and I took turns dancing with Mark. And in the late afternoon, I took some Latin dances. The lessons were short but fun.
In the evening, Tony and I had some photos taken. It was the second of our formal nights. There were several places to have pictures taken but we just went to two.
We met up with friends at the martini bar for drinks before dinner. For dinner, I had the beef carpaccio, served with a Dijon aioli, arugula salad and parmesan shavings and the duck for my entrEe. Both were excellent.
I have to say that one of the nicest things about being on a transatlantic cruise and heading west was the fact that we gained an hour almost each night. There was no jetlag to speak of like flying home from Europe. It also helped us with our late dining where we could sleep in a little longer the next day or stay up later in the evening.
November 14, 2009 Saturday, Second Sea Day
I have been so happy cruising across the Atlantic. I was worried we would have rough seas, but so far, it's just been a slightly rocking motion. I started my day working out in the gym for a short while and then walked around the deck a couple of miles.
At 11:00am, there was a wine tasting seminar in the dining room on deck 3. This was for Captain's Club select members. The tables were set with four glasses per guest, two whites and two reds. Unfortunately, there was no written material as to the names of the wine. We did find out later that these wines could be purchased in the dining room and were very reasonable in price compared to the regular wine list. Had we known about this from the beginning of the cruise, I'm sure Celebrity would have sold many more bottles.
In the afternoon, Tony and I went to listen to David Perry talk about The Golden Age of Liners. We actually attended three lectures during the cruise. David was passionate about maritime history (http://www.linerlore.com/) and it clearly showed during his talks. He was very informative and quite passionate about his love of ships. We missed the first one, which was about the Titanic. One such ship he loves is the SS United States, which is in jeopardy of being destroyed. He pleaded with the passengers to sign a petition to save and restore the SS United States. So, I'm passing the information on. Please go to http://www.ss-united-states.com/ and http://ssunitedstatesconservancy.org/SSUS/blog/ and help save the USS United States.
In the early evening, Tony and I met up with Bruce and Gail and their friends in the sky lounge. There were close to a dozen other airline pilots and some flight attendants. The interesting thing was that there was no overlap of airline companies. We met up with this group several times.
For dinner, I had a delicious starter of stuffed ravioli (Tony had the patE) and then I believe a skirt steak with a chimichurri sauce and fries.
Some of the evenings we went to the theatre to see the shows, some nights we just went to one of the lounges to listen to music.
15 November 2009 Sunday, Third Sea Day
The Celebrity Today reminded passengers to set our clocks back an hour last night, so I planned to enjoy another hour in bed. However, I decided to get up at my usual time and exercise outdoors. I walked about 2 miles on the track. Eight laps is equal to a mile. It was an overcast and humid day. There were lots others out exercising, while the gym was filled almost to capacity.
Today was the special cruise critic luncheon. I had plans to meet up with Jane and Alana at 11:30am to set up the dining room tables and raffle ticket table. Alana informed me that the entire 3rd floor in the center would be for our use only. I was very surprised but then again, I wasn't. The Celebrity staff went out of their way to accommodate us. About 150 people attended the luncheon, which everyone enjoyed. The staff did a great job. The food at the luncheon was excellent, as I knew it would be since I had gone over the menu with the chefs:
Appetizer: Wild mushroom vol-au-vent - Dark truffle cream and demi-glace sautEed mushrooms served in a delicate puff pastry
Soup & Salad: Creamed sweet corn bisque - with cilantro oil and crab flakes; or
Baby mixed green salad - with tomato slivers and balsamic vinaigrette
EntrEe: Roasted Atlantic salmon -di puy lentils, curried vegetables and frisee; or
Classic French Pot-au-feu - slowly braised beef shoulder and succulent root vegetables; served in its own braising broth with fresh horseradish sauce, Dijon mustard, cornichons and pickled pearl onions.
Dessert: Warm chocolate - hazelnut pudding.
The chefs did a great job and even came out to greet the guests, including Lorenzo the restaurant manager. I think that made everyone happy that the chefs took time out of their very busy day to chat with the guests. Most people, if not all, participated in the raffle. Tony's ticket was pulled and he received a water color print of the Vatican.
The luncheon ended at 1:30pm, just in time for Captains Club members to attend a special celebration in the sky lounge. Having the cruise critic luncheon on this day was the only error in the planning. At the special celebration, there were several food stations: sushi, a fruit carving station, fresh made crepes, etc. Tony and I, and others from the luncheon, were full from lunch to enjoy the food, so we had a drink or two, which were passed out to the guests. The captain and some of his staff were on hand to enjoy the event.
In the afternoon, I went to guest relations to get an updated invoice and ask a couple of questions. I overheard one of the employees, Bianca, stating she needed to find bubble wrap and tissue paper. I told her I had both. She was surprised when I offered to give her what I had. I used the tissue to roll some of my clothes in my suitcase to prevent from wrinkling, and since I didn't buy any ceramics on this trip I didn't need all of the bubble wrap. I dropped off the wrap/tissue a short while later. Soon after on in the room, there was a knock on the door and there was Marcelo with a bottle of red wine. I asked who was it from but he wasn't sure so he started to dial cell phone. I noticed in my "inbox" an envelope. It was a thank you note from Bianca! What an unexpected treat!
For dinner, Tony and I, along with our dining mates (Carolyn, Mark, Carol, Glenn, Sharon, Barb, and Carol - Glenn flew home from Cartagena to go back to work) ate in the Murano restaurant. We had 6:30pm reservations, as we knew the dinner would last at least two hours or longer. Tony and I were the first to arrive and we were shown to the private dining room, which seats 10 people. All around the room were racks filled with bottles of wine among the crystal and fine china. It was a beautiful setting and quite elegant. Service was impeccable but not stuffy. Sharon treated Tony and me to a bottle of wine as a thank-you for helping her with the trip. This is what Tony and I ate for dinner (menu item descriptions were taken from Celebrity's web site):
Pan Seared Foie Gras Heirloom Tomato Confiture, Duck Rillettes in Feuille de Brick, Roast Ginger Sauce & Toasted Hazelnuts
I love foie gras and I really enjoyed this excellent dish. I did ask about the caviar on the menu, as it stated, "Market Price". The waiter told me $120 per person! Maybe next time. Maybe not!
Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque Leek and Shallot Flan, Cognac Cream & Crispy Sweet Yellow Corn Beignets
I had the lobster bisque in the main dining room, which I didn't like at all. This soup in the Murano was ten times better. Even though it was cream-based, it wasn't overly rich.
Pan Seared Filet Mignon Larratte Pommes PurEe, Honshimeji Mushrooms, Haricots Verts, Green Peppercorns and Cognac Cream Sauce Prepared Table Side
Excellent filet! One of the waiters prepared my filet table side, which was entertaining.
Tony had... Diver Scallop Wellington Style Black Truffle Emulsion & Spinach Fondue
Wild Mushroom Cappuccino Porcini Gelato
Mushroom Crusted Rack of Colorado Lamb Sweet Peas & Roasted Lamb Jus
Tony enjoyed everything he ate, especially the lamb. Everyone else also enjoyed their meal and our evening together. Oh, we did start our meal with an amuse bouche. After dinner, we had a wonderful selection of cheese. My friend Bonnie had told me to ask for the cheese course, but I had forgotten. Our waiter brought out the cheese on a cart, which I was happy to see, and everyone had a nice sampling. For my dessert, I had the orange soufflE, although I didn't eat it all. Light, fluffy, and filling.
This was a fabulous dining experience and everyone enjoyed their meal. I will definitely make reservations at the Murano for my next cruise. For the $30 per person supplement, it was worth every penny. I'll definitely get the foie gras again but will have the lamb for my entrEe.
After dinner, we went to the sky lounge and watched the Celebrity dancers perform. They were very good.
16 November 2009
I woke up to another beautiful day. It was warm and as we crossed the Atlantic, the humidity level rose. The weather was warm and many people wore shorts on deck. There were many out at the pool every day enjoying the warm weather. I was not looking forward to returning to winter weather. The ocean was very flat this day. After exercising, I headed to the glass show, which was done by the Corning museum of glass. I stayed long enough to watch the men make two items - a large bowl and an odd-shaped vase.
I met up with Carolyn and we walked around the ship taking pictures of the various rooms, bars, and restaurants. The Equinox is such a beautiful ship. All of the public areas were beautifully decorated, although I didn't like some of the modern art.
We had another evening of drinks with the aviator friends in the sky lounge before dinner. They were a nice group of people.
For dinner, Tony and I enjoyed dining at the Tuscan Grill (TG) with Alana. The day we got on the ship and met Alana, she told us she would take us to dinner as her guests. We met her at guest relations at 6:20pm and headed to the restaurant. The TG is located aft of the ship with wonderful window views (entire back side) of the ocean. GT is not as refined as the Murano, but is an "upscale steak house with an Italian influence." Service was very good. Some of the foods we enjoyed were the Calamari Fritto Misto served with a marinara sauce and lemon garlic aioli; Pomodoro e Mozzarella di Bufala; salad with a nice round of breaded goat cheese. Tony had the Cioppino (a seafood stew) and mixed grill for his entrEe. Since I had the filet mignon the night before, I decided to have fish: Branzino Toscano Grigliato (Grilled Sea Bass) Grilled vegetables, garlic mashed potato and basil pesto. We enjoyed the gelato for dessert.
Along with dinner, I had the bottle of Toscana that we received from Bianca delivered to the restaurant for us to enjoy. We had a very nice time with Alana and talked about many things, including her busy job onboard the ship. As a thank you to Alana for her hard work in helping me coordinate the onboard events, I gave her a gift of one of my photographs, which I framed. She was thrilled! Once dinner was over, Alana went back to work. Her day never ends.
Tony and I went to the main dining room to sit with our friends while they were finishing their dinner. Carolyn and I had talked about getting the group together in one room to have drinks. We all brought wine on board to enjoy in our cabin and still had a lot left. For Tony and me, we had a lot because we kept getting bottles as gifts and we were enjoying the evening drinks at the sky lounge with the other elite members. Six of our friends had cabins next to each other, so they opened up the partitions between the cabins and turned the balconies into one long one. They had their cocktail hour while Tony and I had dinner with Alana, but since they had wine left, we planned to have a cocktail hour in our cabin another day.
17 November 2009
I decided my last two days at sea would be very relaxing, instead of trying to attend the trivia games, dance lessons, lectures, etc. Tony and I started our day having brunch with Glenn and Carol. This was the second special brunch that Celebrity served during our cruise. What a spread of food! Name it, they had it: Carved beef, smoked salmon, gravlax, peel/eat shrimp, crab claws, eggs benedict, all sorts of fruits, salads, lunch entrees, assorted breads, etc. There were chocolate fountains with different fruits to use for dipping, along with many other desserts. I did really well and stuck with the various fish and seafood.
For the rest of the day, I sat outside on deck 12 near the pool area and in the shade enjoying the ocean view, reading my book or magazines, and going over my photos. Tony headed off to meet his fellow veterans at the passport lounge. The only thing I did want to do was to see the talent show, but it was so relaxing to sit in my lounge chair that I didn't bother to go. I sat next to Sandy and her husband, fellow cruise critic members, and we chatted for a while. I didn't want to leave the pool area, but we were on a mission: To finish the wine we had left! Tony and I ordered some canapEs and a cheese platter for our late afternoon cocktail hour with our table mates. Nine of us squeezed in sitting where we could and enjoyed the wine and snacks. We pretty much finished off the last of the wine that we had. We enjoyed the sunset as we had our drinks.
This was our last formal night. For dinner, lobster was on the menu! The tails were small so some of us ordered a second one. Typically, I've had overcooked lobster on cruises, but not this time. It was tender and delicious. It was served with a scallop and shrimp risotto and a side of asparagus. Dinner ended with the dining staff doing their usual baked Alaska show and serve; however, they didn't carry any. I suppose having them flambEed was too dangerous to carry through the dining room.
The evening show was outstanding - a Cirque du Soliel-type show with a contortionist (it was almost too much to watch as she pretty much turned herself inside out, bending backwards completely where she could place her feet at her head and even beyond), acrobatic performers flying around in the air above the stage and audience using various ropes and wires. One couple performed together with the man holding the woman with a single hand her entire weight. However, even more spectacular was when she held the man entirely on her hipbones while doing a backwards handstand. Truly amazing.
November 18, 2009, Last Sea Day
It was our last day at sea and on the beautiful Equinox. Another beautiful day. I sat in the same area as the day before reading my book or magazine. At pool side, there was a sea trials competition for those that entered the ship building contest earlier in the cruise. I believe they had about a week to build their ship and get it ready. There were four entries. One looked like a cruise ship! All sorts of material were used: Wine corks, paper cocktail umbrellas, empty jam containers, cotton balls, tin foil, empty butter packets, and empty plastic water bottles. During the sea trials, each ship had to be able to remain afloat, sail as is, and sail with extra weight (full soda cans). One builder was very clever and had a section of the ship that came off and had 'storage' space inside for the cans. One ship I saw I knew would immediately turn over. It was actually fun watching these adult men with their toys. The cruise ship won.
I grabbed lunch and brought it back to my chair. I just didn't want to leave the pool area.
In the afternoon, we were invited to Bruce and Gail's room for a glass of champagne or wine, followed by drinks in the sky lounge before dinner. Despite sounding like all we did was drink on the ship, we enjoyed what we had, never gained weight, and never got drunk.
I called Alana to say goodbye and she asked that I come see her at guest relations. Alana gave Tony and me a beautiful glass etched paperweight. This will always be a special memento of our cruise.
For dinner, most of us had the prime rib. Oh, so good! And to end the evening, crème brulee.
I finally got to dance. After having martinis in the sky lounge and not much going on, we headed back to the room. On the way, we stopped by one dance club/bar, which was always empty. We were with a new friend, Steve, who we met in Cartagena along with his wife. She was asleep in bed. Tony sat while Steve and I danced to a couple of disco songs.
Other things we did during our sea days:
One day we had a tour of the engine room - or at least one area of it. Glenn and Carol joined us. It was fascinating to see all the equipment that kept the ship running smoothly.
I went to a digital photography talk with Carol. I should have walked out. I was hoping the young woman would talk about something that I didn't know about with digital photography, but her lecture was too basic for me. Part of the problem was that the young woman lacked the experience of talking in front of an audience. And having English as a second language was clearly difficult for her to convey what she wanted to say. I sat there correcting her in my mind. I felt bad for her - she just did a poor job. Even a few friends that were there told me that I could have given a much better lecture. Dan, how do I get a job with Celebrity?
We didn't go to all of the evening shows, but the ones we did, we enjoyed. The comedian was 'okay'. Good broadway shows. The show on the 17th was fabulous.
November 19, Arrival in Florida and Disembarkation
My group and I were hoping to get off the ship by 8:30am, but we were delayed. This was the first time the Equinox was docking in the USA, but even worse, the ship had to dock at a different terminal. The new and humongous Oasis ship was docked at the larger terminal - the one we should have gotten. Getting off the ship was the worst we've encountered in all of our cruises. I can imagine many port terminals becoming obsolete due to the larger ships being built. Port authorities need to get on the ball and revamp the ports.
Once off the ship, it was very crowded in the terminal. Glenn and I got separated from the others, so we went ahead and grabbed our luggage. Sharon was back on the ship, as she left a jacket in the room, but got outside in time. She was frantic. Later in the van to the airport she told us she had called Glenn, who didn't sound right. Not wanting to tell her until she got home, he finally told her he had a massive heart attack while playing golf in my own city! He's doing fine now, but poor Sharon! She was a mess that morning.
At the airport, Tony went through the regular line with me, instead of going through the airline employee line. Because of his new knees, he had to go through a longer security process. And he didn't even think about what he packed - our delicious mojo rojo and mojo verde sauces we got in the Canary Islands - in his carry on bag. I thought he packed them in his checked bag. So, some Miami airport employee probably took them home to enjoy.
The flight home on Jetblue was very nice. I was impressed with the employees on board and the variety of snacks. Smooth flight and we were home back at Dulles in about 2.5 hours.
Hugs and kisses goodbye, everyone went their separate ways. A friend of ours picked us up at the airport. It was pouring outside and it was cold. A quick drop off of our luggage and we headed to Angie's house to pick up Lucy. As always, she was so excited and happy to see us. She had a blast at Angie's house with two adults, twins, two dogs, and a cat. Angie said Lucy would go to her bed long before the rest in the evening, as the two dogs and kids kept her active all day long.
Home now. This was an incredible cruise! From the beautiful ship, fabulous customer service from Alana and the other staff, the delicious and well-prepared foods, the friendships that blossomed, old and new, to the smooth crossing on the Atlantic, and wonderful ports, we were so pleased.
Five days after getting home, I booked a very similar cruise (I should have booked onboard but just didn't get the time to talk to the sales person). Like being on an amusement park ride, I got off and was ready to jump back on again. So, I booked the 15-night cruise on the Equinox for next October 2010. This time, my friend Louisa will be coming with me. This will be her first cruise, so she's in for a treat! We will visit three ports that were on this cruise (Barcelona, Cartagena, Tarragona) and three new ones (Florence, Nice, Cadiz - with Cadiz being the only new port for me), plus we'll have seven days at sea crossing the Atlantic, rather than six. My fingers are crossed for another smooth sailing. I loved, loved, loved being at sea and not having to get up every morning to tour the ports. It was a floating resort with so many choices. Next time, I will do more of nothing.
I am already meeting new cruise friends on Cruise Critic and we have lots of fun things and tours to look forward to.
PS: I just booked the 30 October 2011 transatlantic cruise. Read Less