Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday, Nov 20, 2011, Los Angeles

We arrived at about 6:30am.  We had travelled 5,465 statute miles (4,753 nautical miles) from Miami to LA.  It was yet another wonderful cruise.  We met a ton of new folks and hope to be able to see them on a future cruise (our next cruise is on Celebrity in March to the Galapagos Islands and after that in May we will be back on the Symphony going from Southampton to Hamburg, right before the Symphony goes into dry dock.  Our plane leaves at noon for Salt Lake. 

BTW – there has been a recent discussion on cruise critic on ways to eat right on a cruise.  This was our model (in general) – we are writing this down so we remember in the future:

Breakfast – fruit and an omelet
Lunch – salad, easy on the dressing and mostly no dessert, but sometimes rum raisin ice cream
Dinner – eat whatever we liked

Well, time to sign off and get ready for disembarkation.

Saturday, Nov 19, 2011, San Diego

Forgot to mention the weather on sea day.  It was in the mid 60’s and a bit chilly.  Amazing, how leaving the perfect weather of Mexico and going north, it got cold.  San Diego had a high of around 62.

We gained another hour last night, although being in the Mountain Time zone at home, we are trying to ignore it.  We managed to get up before 6 today and went up to the gym and did a very vigorous weight lifting/core exercise program for about 50 minutes.  After that we went to an early breakfast so Julie could get to the Spa for her full facial.  Julie returned refreshed and glowing.  BTW, it turns out that this might have been a really, really expensive “free” facial.  We used our onboard credits to pay for it, so that wasn’t the cost.  It was that Julie enjoyed it so much and the results were so striking that she is thinking that she maybe needs to get a facial on a regular basis.  OH MY!!!!

The ship docked in San Diego at around 9am, about an hour earlier than planned.  

The first order of business is that we all had to go through immigration on the ship.  This was done without much hassle.  Our plan for the day was to just hang out on the ship.  It turns out that today is the day for America’s Cup races and our ship is docked right in the middle of the course (apparently a pier next to us is charging $300 a seat to watch the races).  It is also college football day, so we planned to do a little television viewing as well.

We spent the morning packing and then went to lunch.  Next, up to deck 12 to watch the races.  They race catamarans with sails that almost look like an airplane wing.  They really go fast when the wind is working with them.  We watched for nearly an hour and could not figure out at all if there was even a race going on. There are zillions of race boats, regular boats, boats with flags, helicopters, a blimp, etc.  

I'm not sure whether this guy won or not?

Anyway, it was so confusing that eventually we gave up and went up and watched the afternoon movie.  The movie called: “Temple Grandin” was a true story about an autistic girl (Temple) who learns to overcome her difficulties and makes a huge impact on the cattle business (of all things).  It was absolutely excellent, both in how it was produced and the story.  We strongly recommend it.

While the movie was going on, Bob was checking out the Utah game, which was played against Washington State at WSU (in a massive snow storm).  Eventually Utah won in overtime (go Utes!!).
Being the last day, they had one farewell show at 5:15.  This had the Kent Dancers who did a number, Shawna (spelled a different way) Aiken – who plays the violin, piano, and also sings, and concluded with the humor of Dale Gonyea.  It was absolutely packed and also a really nice show.  The Kents did a quickstep, Shawna performed a couple of numbers and then concluded with River Dance and then Dale did his usual funniness. 

After that, it was off for our last dinner of this cruise.   Then we sat in the lounge and listened to the orchestra play some jazz and then checked out the “Chasing Madoff” movie in the theater (another documentary, this time about the nine year struggle that the Madoff whistle blower (he recognized that Bernie was running a Ponzi scheme within 5 minutes of investigating him, but could not get the SEC to listen).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, Nov 18, 2011, Final day at sea

Boo hoo, our last day at sea.  This wonderful trip is almost over.  Our first event of the day was the final lecture by General Nick Halley.  He spoke about the military perspective of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan and our strategies.  After giving us an update of what is happening over there and where he sees things going, he took questions.  The most interesting question focused on his views of what is happening in Iran and their nuclear program.  He said that the US and allies have three options.  Two won’t work and one is unacceptable.  The first is to do economic sanctions.  These don’t work because China and Russia refuse to go along with it.  The second is to do nothing and let the arms race in the Middle East happen.  The problem with this is that Iran has said that once they get a nuclear weapon they will bomb Israel.  Of course Israel won’t let this happen, so really bad things will happen because Israel will do something pre-emptively (and the US will be complicit).  The last is to go in there and do something militarily to take out the nuclear program.  This won’t work because they have built their facilities in the middle of suburbs, underground with 10’s or 100’s of thousands of civilians living above on the surface.  We have the technology to “bunker bust” their facilities, but the civilian casualties would be enormous.   So, as he put it, he sees this as the most difficult decision that the current or next president is going to have to make.

After that, we had a little Internet time (working on yesterday’s blog) and got ready for our final team trivia.  Our team was at full strength, playing against four other teams (the team that had been winning every contest except the last one was down a couple of members).  The first question – do mosquitos have teeth – yes or no was pretty strange. Everyone said no, but their answer was yes.  Looking it up later on the Internet and you can find different answers.  So, who knows.  Anyway, we lost to yet another team, so that was good to spread the prizes around.

The six of us went to lunch in the Lido where they had the American buffet.  The food, as always was terrific.  After that, we went to see the movie “Everything Must Go”.  Julie decided that she had to go to Bingo for the last session, so she left a few minutes before the movie ended.  Bingo was next and we didn’t win the jackpot.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Before dinner was yet another cocktail party, this one the Captain’s Farewell party.  We had our usual 3GS drinks and enjoyed the people watching.  Dinner followed in the dining room at 6:30.  We chatted with two very nice couples on either side of us at dinner and had a lovely time.  Julie had the rock lobster and Bob had the chateaubriand.  After dinner was the show “Curtain Call.”  We both felt that this was easily their best show.  It had the great numbers from many musicals and finished with a medley of songs from Mama Mia.  Funny, in the last number, they asked everyone to get up and dance to the music.  Julie and I stood up and one woman who was way over on the side.  That was it.  An entire packed audience and we were the only ones.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, Nov 17, 2011 Cabo San Lucas

Cabo is a tender port, so we anchored in the harbor at about 8am.  The tour that we chose for this day was “Sea Kayaking Eco Adventure” which was to run from 9:30 until 12:00.  We arrived in the Starlight lounge before our 9am boarding of a tender.  At the docs, we were met by the tour reps, who had us sign a waiver and then proceed to a set of vans that would take us the short 2 minute ride to the beach where the kayaks were located.  These were all two person kayaks (Julie was very happy about this because she was worried that she couldn’t do it alone, but she fortunately she brought along the “motor” Bob and all was well).  We donned life jackets and then did some on shore paddling practice. 

We entered the water and paddled down the rock formations along the west side of the bay until we reached Los Arcos – the arch, which is at the very tip of the Baja.  Out there were also a bunch of sea lions lounging on some rocks.  We didn’t take our camera for fear that it would get wet.  It was a great view.

We then backtracked to the beach areas, landed our kayaks and did some snorkeling.  There are a ton of fish out by Pelican rock, where the water goes from about 15 ft deep to 500ft deep.  We had some additional time and wandered down to Lover’s Beach where there is an open beach area from the bay side out to the Pacific.  The waves were really crashing out there.  We returned back to our kayaks, paddled back to the starting beach and returned to the pier for the tender back to the ship.  It was really a terrific excursion. 

One important part of the trip was we decided to not take anything of value with us in the kayaks or to the kayaks.  So, we took some bucks and our cruise ship card and stuffed them into Bob’s swim suit.  Of course, we got everything wet, so had to deal with a number of wet bills.  The solution was obvious as you can see in the following picture:

Back on ship by a bit after noon, we had lunch and relaxed for a bit in the sun and beautiful weather.  Bob went to the afternoon movie and Julie stayed up by the poolside.  Before dinner, the ship had a margarita sail away party.  They really make wonderful margaritas on the ship. They don’t use any mix as they are all natural, just simple syrup, lime and lemon juice, Cointreau and tequila.  We chatted with the two Finish doctors we had met in the Vintage room, then met up with Marion and Philip:  

Julie enjoying the party:

The band played and we partied.  It was really nice.

That night, the Lido was open for casual dining.  We decided to give it a try as we had not had dinner there before and were still suffering a bit from way too much great food and were looking for a simpler meal. Seems that others had done the same – we arrived 5 minutes after the listed opening time of 6:30 pm and the place was packed!  They had dimmed the overhead lights and set up tables with soft lighting.  Their menu was fairly limited, but still had a great selection.  Bob decided to go for a pasta dish, while Julie had salmon.  We both had a banana split for dessert (yum).  We truly enjoyed chatting with the fabulous Lido staff as we dined.

The dinner show was a comedy pianist, Dale Gonyea.  He was really great, as he played the piano (ala Victor Borge), told jokes all about the ship, and controlled a picture slide show of images he had taken on the ship.  It was quite hilarious.  He even made up songs about the various ports we had visited.  Really quite clever.

BTW – we forgot to upload the pictures from the previous day.  Here is a nice one of the Disney Wonder in Puerto Vallarta (it was also with us in Cabo).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011, Puerto Vallarta

For some reason neither of us slept last very well last night, so we got up really tired.  We think that we are maybe just overloaded on too much really, really good food.  And tonight we have reservations for the Vintage Room.  Oh my, when it rains it pours.  Anyway, we arrived in PV at about 8am.  Being so beat, we didn’t exercise (sigh).

Our tour was “Swim with the Dolphins”, leaving at 9am.  We made our way to the Starlight lounge and waited for our turn.  That time arrived and we were herded down to some waiting busses.  It turns out that this tour is run by a company called Vallarta Adventures (and as you will see, they were EXCELLENT).  There were 18 of us plus our Crystal guide. 

We boarded the bus and drove about 20 minutes north to the compound where they had the dolphin adventure.  Upon arrival, we were met by our hostess, Iris.  She told us what to expect and we went inside, going to a waiting area where we were to be briefed on our experience.  It turns out that it was an excellent talk about dolphins, their evolution and other aspects.  After that, we went to their large pool that contained the six dolphins (varying in age from 8 months to 35 years old).  We were divided in half and then given a chance to have a sea lion kiss you for a picture.  That sea lion was HUGE!!  After that, we donned life jackets and were warned that we you are not allowed to take pictures from the pool area (you can take them from the observation area, but since both of us were participating there was no way to get any pictures).  The have a camera person with you all of the time taking lots and lots of pictures (of course with plans to sell them to you). 

We jumped into the water and spread out.  Our two dolphins were instructed to swim around us and we were to pet them.  Their skin is kind of rubbery, but smooth.  You could just tell that they are powerful, powerful creatures.  After five minutes of just interacting with them, they did their first routine.  We all went against the wall and one person at a time went out about ten feet from the edge of the pool and the dolphin came out, gave a kiss, received a kiss, and then you grabbed their pectoral fins and the dolphin danced and made dolphin sounds. It was really, really cool.  The dolphin then went back for a fish treat and you then held out your arms under water and they swam into them, so you could give them a hug.  They then rolled over exposing their stomachs.  We both took our turns at this fun exercise.

Next up was a ride on both dolphins.  What happened is the two dolphins swam out and you grabbed a dorsal fin of each dolphin in each hand.  They then swam you around in a big circle.  They are really fast and it was quite exciting.  Along with us was a family that had one kid who was probably three years old and he even did it.  It was all pretty amazing.

The last step was to be hauled over to the ladder so you could get out of the pool.  You did this in pairs. The dolphins rolled over on their backs, you grabbed their pectoral fins and they swam  “belly to belly” over to the end of the pool where you got out.  After everyone was out of the pool (well, you were sitting on the edge with your feet hanging in), the dolphins did a show right in front of you.  Including, out of the water jumps, going 40 miles per hour under the water, front flips, etc.  It was simply amazing (the finale was all 6 of them jumping out of the water at the same time). 

After the show, we did a quick rinse off of the salt water and went to the snack bar where a buffet lunch was waiting (we didn’t remember reading that a lunch was included in this excursion, but it was).  We relaxed and then boarded our bus for the short ride back to the ship.

That afternoon, we decided to hang out at the pool on deck 11.  The weather was simply amazing, 75 degrees and absolutely perfect.  We spent about 2.5 hours there, snoozing (catching up on our sleep), and relaxing.  We then went down to get ready for dinner (the Vintage room has Informal attire, so we got dressed up).  We also went down and watched sail away (the Disney Wonder was in port with us and we got to look closely at their beautiful, classic oceanliner-style ship). 

The Vintage room dinner started at 7pm and we had 12 people there.  There were seven courses and a wine paired with each.  This was our second Vintage room and we thoroughly enjoyed the food, wine, and company.