Monday, September 22, 2008

Day at sea 5

Well...I must say that we are certainly not looking forward to this cruise ending. This has clearly been one of our most relaxing trips. The cabin was fabulous - even a bit over the top - but, it sure was nice!

Of course, time in Barcelona is good for us. We love the city. Casablanca was heavily littered, dusty and very hectic. But, it was interesting to visit. Lisbon was a nice, smaller city that is working to attract more tourism. That is also the case in the Azores where they have a brand new cruise ship dock.The ocean...well...we sure do love the days at sea.

Last night, we rocked at trivia. 20 out of 20. We were the clear winners. Tied for first in Tribond this morning. And, we won Food Trivia this morning. With somewhere around 8 or 10 wins, we were a pretty good team on this cruise. Oh, and Jill sure did well in the casino.

Today, of course, is time to start packing and getting ready to disembark tomorrow morning. At least we don't have to be ready too early - the estimated disembarkation time for our color luggage tags is 9:40 - not too bad.

So...that's it. One more cruise about to be completed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day at sea 4

Gloomy, chilly, high of just 66, moderate seas at 8 to 10 feet, rain off and on most of the day. This is our 4th day at sea and all these things mean little to us since we rarely go outside on the ship.

Trivia last night and this morning were so-so. But, we won midday trivia. Jill was very happy because the prizes were very nice tote bags.

More importantly, the gambler won another $150 on the slots this morning. She is now up to around $1,250 - which is the most she has won on a cruise.

We both went to bed early last night. After gaining another hour, we both woke up pretty early - well before Nelson delivered breakfast. I guess we've caught up on sleep.

Jill was awake when the helicopter came to medivac the person early this morning. We have never heard what was wrong. Hope he/she is OK.

Tonight is the last formal night. So...fancy menu and baked Alaska.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day at sea 3

Well...the excitement today was that Jill had a big day in the casino. She won a jackpot on slots (about $250) - but it was during a special Captain's Club event where jackpots were paid out double. She figures she is up to around $1,100 so far this cruise.

Also, we won trivia again last night - won travel pillows. This morning we tied for first but lost the tie-breaker.

Otherwise, this was basically another day at sea. Had to start with breakfast in the cabin. Gray, chilly and a bit windy - not good weather for breakfast on the verandah.

Last night between midnight and 2AM, the seas started to rock a bit. Still not too bad - but, enough to feel the rolling and to grab the wall occasionally. I would guess 8 to 10 foot swells. Temp high only about 70.

Today, we had our trivia partners - Michael, Roger and Dehlia - to our cabin for tea. It's kinda nice taking advantage of the extra space and the butler service.

No trivia tonight since they are using the lounge for a Captain's Club event - one more that we are skipping. They certainly are persistent and we have rec'd an invitation for lots of things - dinner at the Captain's table, a couple cocktail parties, a private bridge tour, etc. But, nothing that was of interest to us.

Since we are sailing west, we have been gaining time most days. After gaining another hour tomorrow night, we will be back on Eastern time. This is why we like crossing from Europe back to the US. When we dock in the US, we are back on our home time and we have gained it back gradually - no sudden adjustment to the time.

We understand that they have diverted our path slightly to medivac someone off the ship. Don't know too much. We just hear that someone is in critical condition. It is supposed to happen around 6 AM tomorrow - so, I doubt that we will be awake when it happens. This is the 3rd of the last 4 trips where someone has been taken off our ship by helicopter.

Two more days at sea - Sunday and Monday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Day at sea 2

Well...I almost didn't bother with an update today. But, I decided that would be incredibly lazy - somewhat like our day today.

Breakfast on the verandah - trivia - chat with trivia team - Jill to the casino - Lunch - relax - trivia -- that's what our day has been today so far. Eat, play and lounge around. How good is that?

Temp around 80 today. Seas once again very smooth. We're now about 1,000 miles from docking in NJ.

This afternoon our tablemates, Glenn and Dawn, are coming to our cabin for tea and to play euchre. Then, of course, dinner, 8PM trivia and the usual shows.

The only unusual thing today is that I broke a small glass bottle of euchalyptis oil in the bathroom during the night. What an excessively aromatic mess! Luckily, when the bottle hit the marble floor, it broke up into just four pieces rather than shattering. Happily, our cabin steward was able to get rid of most of the smell this morning.

So...that was the only real excitement. And, we have another slow day at sea tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day at sea

What a wonderful, relaxing day at sea. It is about 70 and the sea is very smooth.

We started the day with breakfast on the verandah. What a life! Then, trivia. We only did so-so today. But, we have done well with about six wins. We played a couple other types of games during the day - not winning but having fun.

Found out that one of our trivia/games partners was formerly a casting director on some TV shows and what he referred to as B movies - Chuck Norris type movies. He is pretty good on entertainment trivia.

Our other partners are a couple from England - I think I have mentioned that they are from the Liverpool area. I learned today that Dehlia (sp?) had a chance to see the Beatles just before they became big; but, she went dancing instead. She said she always wished she had gone to see the band instead. Also, she writes down all the trivia questions/answers because they run a pub quiz at home. So...they are pretty decent trivia partners.

Lunch for me was pasta once again. There is a pasta station in the level-10 casual restaurant. They offer 3 to 4 different pastas and 10 to 12 different ingredients. The chef saute's (sp?) the ingredients along with the pasta and, then, adds one of the three sauces. Choices are things like bacon, sausage, ham, onion, peppers, olives, tomatoes, etc.

Jill has been getting a similar concoction at the Asian station or and the sandwich station. This really helps her to be able to better control what she eats for lunch. Of course, for dinner, they bring her the menu for the next night and prepare her selection without salt.

Of course, I took an opportunity for a nap. And, Jill visited the casino - she was even today. Nelson once again treated us with afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, breads, cookies, tarts, etc. Again, what a life!

Tonight, the show is a guitar instrumentalist - I might go to the cinema to see Juno instead.

Tomorrow, another day at sea.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


We docked this morning in the Azores. This group of islands is similar to the Hawaiian and Tahitian Islands. The islands were formed by volcanoes. The Azores are part of Portugal even though they are about 900 miles from Portugal.

Most of the buildings in the port area are white with brown tile roofs. We went ashore and walked around a bit. Some of the streets are extremely narrow - barely room for a small car and a 2-foot wide cobbled walk on each side.

Of course, we were limited on how far we could walk. The stores we visited were just stuff - some tourist items but little interesting shopping. There were typical local businesses - banks, car rental, grocery, etc. The apparel shops were clearly directed more toward locals than tourists. And, of course, there were lots of small cafes - especially around wider areas where they could have sidewalk seating.

Even though Ponta Delgada only has a population of 21,000, is seems quite busy. Lots of cars and trucks. Oddly, few bikes or scooters.

On our walk back to the ship, we came across an ice cream place called Farggi (sp?). This is the same place we tried in Barcelona. Once again, excellent. They have a chocolate-covered almond chip ice cream that is very good.

When back on the ship, we just ate and have been relaxing. The entertainment tonight is a comedian. When we sail tonight, we start successive days at sea until we dock in NJ on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day at sea was a day at sea as we continued on our way to the Azores. It was a mostly lazy day.

Jill won $220 at the slots. Pretty good winnings on nickel slots!

We tied for 1st in trivia - but lost in the tie-breaker. But, it turns out that we have settled into a pretty good, competitive trivia team. The other couple is from around Liverpool, England. And, we have another guy joining us lately - from the US but I'm not sure where.

We got an invite to eat at the "Captain's Table" tonight. But, we declined because we didn't want to leave Glenn and Dawn alone at our normal table. We have been enjoying our dinner company now that it is down to just the two couples. The others - the party gang - haven't been back since the first night. We figure that we must be too boring for them. Oh well.

Weather was 72 today and a bit windy. Pretty good wave action most of the day. Our butler, Nelson, told us that there are some on the ship being bothered. It was a bit cloudy in the morning. But, the sun came out later. The captain said that we might get rain; but, I don't think that has happened.

So...tomorrow we arrive at the Azores. We dock at Ponta Delgada. Don't have an excursion planned. We hope to be able to shop a little. We'll see how it goes.

I haven't mentioned before that the desserts at dinner have been sinful. Most nights I have had a chocolate cake, pie or other concoction. On the other hand, the soups have been disappointing. I have had steak/beef quite often and it has been pretty good. Only had fish one night and I was disappointed. I have had mostly pasta for lunch - custom made at the pasta bar. And, of course, the breakfasts in our cabin have been great.

So...that's all for now. Couldn't get to sleep. So, I remembered I hadn't done an update. Time to drag myself back to bed. Take care all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lisbon day 2

This morning we took a tour "Lisbon by Boat". The two hour tour was quite nice. Our guide narrated the entire time - telling us about the various buildings, monuments and areas of the city.

Even though the city was founded hundreds of years BC, most of the building are newer due to a very devastating earthquake in 1755.

The Castle of St George is one of the few structures that survived the earthquake. It stands on the hill believed to be the original Phoenician colony.

At the 25th April Bridge, there is a tall column with a statue of "Christ the King" which was a gift from Brazil.

We decided to not go shopping today. It was already 11AM when our tour finished and the last shuttle from downtown is 2PM. We figured it would be too rushed by the time we figured out how to get downtown and, then, would have to watch our time so we wouldn't miss the last shuttle. So...we skipped it.

This afternoon will just be leisure - eating, games and probably a nap.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lisbon day 1

Today we started the day with a nice sail on our way to Lisbon, Portugal. Didn't do much other than relax and play games - we won trivia again - actually tied for 1st.

Arrived in Lisbon around noon. It is sunny and around 85 degrees. The port appears very nice. Most buildings are in muted browns and yellows with terracota tile roofs.

Since it is Sunday, we haven't bothered to get off the ship - few shops will be open and neither of us is interested in walking just to walk. Tomorrow, we have a harbor your and we will hope to shop a bit.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Today we docked at Cadiz, Spain. We did not book an excursion and we decided to just stay aboard and relax. We did take time to play games.

Basically, we got up in time for breakfast and, then, trivia. We won our second trivia this morning. That was followed by charades, lunch, catch phrase, a short nap and tribond. So...we kept pretty active thoughout the day.

Just finished afternoon tea. A cleaning crew is hosing down our verandah. Things got kinda dusty yesterday at Casablanca. Nelson wanted to get the verandah cleaned off because I told him we might want to have breakfast outside if the weather is nice.

Oh...we left Casablanca late - about 11PM - last night. For the first time, we got some rough water as we left port and sailed into the Atlantic. But, it only lasted long enough to rock us to sleep.

Well...hopefully, the cleaners are done. I'm about to get ready for dinner. Wake more games. What a life!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Casablanca, Morocco

First, I got an email asking about the casino on the ship. Well...of course, Jill has visited the casino - but just once. As you might guess, she came back with her winnings - just over $100.

We docked today in Casablanca, Morocco. We booked a half-day excursion to see the city. Yes, of course, we saw Rick's Cafe - it is really just a tourist restaurant - the one in the movie never really existed.

We also saw quite a bit of traditional Moroccan architecture and the Hassan II Mosque - which is named after the current king's father and is one of the largest mosques in the world. The mosaic tilework, the sculpted plasterwork and the Venetian glass windows and chandeliers are pretty impressive. Our guide was very educational.

Casablanca is a very modern commercial city. Population is around 5 million. Even the port area is more commercial and shipping than tourist. Our excursion bus had to weave between workers, forklifts and big trucks. The traffic is similar to Rome - it looks incredibly hectic and crazy to us. But, we didn't see and accident all day.

Many of our fellow cruisers will not get back until quite late tonight. Tours to Fez and Merakesh are around 12 to 13 hours. Way too much for us. I am very glad we had a chance to visit Morocco, but, the shorter half-day was plenty for us.

Late tonight we head for Cadiz, Spain - which is where we could go to Seville. We don't have anything booked - so I imagine we'll wing it - or, maybe just relax. We'll see what we feel like in the morning.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Malaga, Spain

We spent today in Malaga, Spain. A bit warmer at 84.

Our excursion was first thing this AM. We headed out at 8:45 on a bus. The tour took us through the port area of the town of 300,000. Pablo Picasso was born here and we saw his home until his family moved when he was very young. The other primary sights are a 16th century cathedral and a Moorish palace complex called Alcazaba. We also got a good look at the bullfighting arena from a high overlook by Alcazaba. We saw ruins of the older Moorish fortress called Gibralfaro.

After our 3 hour tour, we returned to the ship for lunch and played a few games - catch phrase, charades and tri-bond.

Afternoon tea will arrive soon and we will prepare for dinner.

Oh, by the way, only one couple came to the formal dinner last night. We figure that the others didn't want to dress up. Was actually pretty nice since we got to have much better conversation than the previous night. Glenn and Dawn are a very nice couple from the Toronto area and they have traveled a lot - so, of course, we discussed travel, cruising and such.

Jill didn't particularly like the production show last night. A little too much opera-type performance. It was supposed to be a tribute to the music of various counties - and, the "US" music was country songs that even I didn't recognize.
The entertainment tonight is a xylophone player. Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nice lazy day has been a good day to do almost nothing. We started the day with a wonderful breakfast served by Nelson in our cabin. It was a little damp - so, we didn't eat outside.

After a leisurely breakfast, we made our way to the trivia game. We paired up with another couple - from NJ. After scoring, we figured we ended up in the middle. won by four points! Quite honestly, our partners and Jill were pretty good. I was more of a spectator.

After trivia...well...we pretty much haven't done anything. Lounged around until a light lunch and came back to our cabin. Watched a little BBC, Discovery and took a nap.

Getting ready for a formal dinner tonight. But, first, Nelson will be here with tea and, then, snacks/canapes.

Tonight is the first big production entertainment show.

It is currently 74F and the seas are basically flat with waves of just 1 to 3 feet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

All Aboard

Today we boarded the Constellation after a somewhat leisurely AM. We just had breakfast and kinda sat around until we were ready to checkout around noon.

Checkin and boarding was pretty easy. The security line wasn't really very long and Celebrity's checkin was pretty simple. Immediately upon stepping on the ship, Jill had a guy in black tux and tails push up to her, take her bag and he guided us to our suite. He wasn't our butler - but they were clearly watching for our luggage tags or something to know we have a suite. While others were told they could get to their cabins after 1:00, we were taken straight to our suite about 12:15.

Within the first half hour, I counted six different people who came to our cabin to do things or just to introduce themselves and to let us know they were available for whatever we needed.

The suite is really nice. Obviously, we paid for it - but that doesn't change that it is the best cabin we have had. We have a separate bedroom and living room. The living room (about the size of a typical cabin) extends into a dining area with a table and five chairs. The dining area has glass cabinets with decorative cases, figurines, etc. The living room has a sofa, love seat and lounge chair. The bathroom is all marble with a large whirlpool tub. The verandah is larger than I expected - with a jacuzzi, two lounge chairs, and a table with four chairs. The walls are almost all wood panels. And, the list goes on. I must say it is pretty darn nice.

We met our tablemates at dinner tonight. We are at a table of seven. We might finally have a group that might be challeging. One older couple from outside Toronto seems nice - but they were somewhat quiet. The other three seem to be an odd lot so far. The guy of the couple hardly said anything. The other guy was a bit different - he seemed to push to be a bit "goofy". But...we'll see. The woman... well... let's just say I don't quite understand why she would bother with a better cruiseline since all she talked about was wanting to drink and party. Again...we'll see.

After dinner we went to see the A Capella Quartet. We enjoyed their show and will likely try to see them more during the trip.

We are at sea tomorrow. That means a day to relax!

Monday, September 8, 2008


Even though the Hotel Arts is expensive as all get out, they do put out a nice breakfast buffet - and at least it was included with the suite. Neither of us woke up very early today. It was definitely early to bed and late to rise for us.

I can't believe that I've been eating so many meals outside - dinner last night, breakfast and lunch today. It helps that it is really nice here. Very comfortable, plenty of shade umbrellas, nice sea breeze and no bugs.

It turns out that the Bus Turistic has a pickup spot right across the street from our hotel. So we got an all-day pass for 30 euros each and headed out. We got off at Placa de Catalunya - which is a very large plaza/square that happens to be the northern beginning of La Rambla - a long, interesting shopping street that we have visited each time here. The area was loaded with street performers. Quite crowded since there are several cruise ships in port.

As I remembered, there is a bus pickup point at the southern end of La Rambla - next to the Columbus statue. So...we reboarded the bus, plugged in our headsets and rode the entire circuit. The tour is similar to some of the bus-type tours in many US cities - except most of the US doesn't have sections that date back to medieval times, back to the time of Columbus, or that have the fabulous architecture of Barcelona.

We saw some of the somewhat bizzare buildings designed by Gaudie, the medieval Gothic Cathedral, and many of the buildings that were built for the Barcelona Olympic Games. The total bus tour was about 2 hours - and that's just the blue line. They have another - the red line - that visits sites north of the city. Even on a good day, trying to do both tours is a bit much for us. We re-did the blue line - Jill was a little funky the last time here - so it was mostly new to her. We'll do the red line next time.

Oh, and we also learned that the residential area surrounding our hotel was leveled and built as housing for the athletes for the Olympics. Afterward, the units were sold as apartments. So...the Olympians had a very nice housing village right on the Mediterranean.

On our way to the bus stop by our hotel, we spotted some restaurants and explored when we were done with the bus. Went to an Italian place called Gino's. Jill got a chicken parmisan that she said was quite good. I had the special of the day which included a tomato/mozzarella salad, a handmade pizza (bacon, tomatoes, green onions, gouda, ham) and chocolate drizzled cream puffs.

We've been paying a fortune for bottled water. After lunch, Jill found a little convenience/tourist shop with 1.5 liter bottles for just 1.35 euros - got two.

So...after a good day sightseeing, a good lunch and plenty of water to rehydrate - guess what? Nap time.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First travel day day one has started fun - not. After getting to our Delta gate, they announced a 4-hour delay. After talking to our travel agent, we decided to hang loose. Then, after they had rebooked lots of the people on the flight, they announced that boarding would begin immediately. We actually left less than an hour late. Many of the people who had rebooked hadn't even left yet. So...we got to JFK in NY wbd made it to the Admirals Lounge about 4PM for our long wait. Looking out the windows, it is a monsoon out there - actually, Hurricane Hanna. Our 7PM flight will probably be at least an hour late leaving. So...

Well...we finally boarded at about 8:40ish. But...we sat for quite a while waiting for other connecting flights. Lots people continued to board for almost an hour. Finally pushed back for departure at about 9:40ish.

As usual, I hate overnight flights. I just can't sleep very well. Luckily, we knew and planned for that with extra days in Barcelona.

Now, for something interesting..., we have never had to wait in line to get out of an airport terminal. We expect the chance that luggage will come slowly - it did; but, a big line to get out of the terminal was new for us. Happily, the seemingly very long cab line actually moved very quickly. The cab driver was pretty creative figuring how to get our bags in his little cab - but he did it.

Our suite at the Hotel Arts Barcelona is more like a small apartment. I'm sure glad we didn't have to pay real money for the suite. Would have been out of our league. But, it is a Ritz Carlton hotel - so you could expect it to be expensive.

The upside is that we have a corner suite and we look out on a gorgeous panoramic view of Barcelona. I'm sitting here looking out only a mile or so from the church designed by Gaudie. The medieval part of Barcelona is a couple miles away. We are only a couple blocks from the Mediterranean beach. I can see the dock about a mile or two away - I imagine we'll see our ship come in on Tuesday.

We plan to get to sleep early tonight so we can go out to see some sights tomorrow - haven't planned our day yet. But, there is lots to see.