Friday, November 25, 2011

Spain - Summary

The main reason we travel so often is because it’s the only time we can focus on our creative writing projects.  At home, our stress level is too high to let the creativity flow -  it’s work, and phone calls, and everything but writing.  Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken me 2 weeks to get back to the blog with my final thoughts.  So hush, phone.

We soak up the endless creativity displayed around the ship.  The room stewards make cute little animals out of towels.  They used to do this every night, now it seems they do it every-other night.  They arrange them on the bed, along with the daily Cruise Compass (detailed list of all the activities for the day and any other pertinent info), when they do their nightly turn-down and room touch-up.  For example:
If you happen to leave your shades lying about, they usually become part of the act.  Bruce likes to clown around, and posed with a few of our towel critters.
The chefs express their creativity in the presentation of food and decorations made from food.  The midnight buffet is their time to really shine.  Didn’t their mothers tell them not to play with their food?

Question:  How much sushi could a sushi-lover eat if the sushi-lover could eat sushi for free?  This is an example of the sushi available at the Windjammer buffet every night.
And ice carving is always a crowd-pleaser.  This chef honored our country’s veterans on Veteran’s Day by carving this lovely Eagle.
So now to sum up our thoughts and observations:

  • Every town in Spain has 3 things:  a Plaza España, one or more very large and very beautiful cathedrals, and some sort of ruins (either an ancient theater or a castle, or both)
  • Spanish people are generally fit, trim, and stunningly beautiful. 
  • Neither hotel we stayed in provided face cloths.  I was soooo glad to see them when we got to the ship.
  • The Mediterranean Sea seemed really green and murky to me, compared to the crystal aquamarine of the Caribbean. 
  • I was ECSTATIC to find Nutella, my newest addiction, in Spain and on the ship.
  • Each day the temp was a bit warmer as we sailed across the Atlantic.  Overall, we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
  • We’re always sad when it’s time to disembark the ship.  This time was no different.
  • As our plane took off over the Atlantic, I looked down and saw Lady Liberty sailing away with her new passengers.
  • And, according to astrology, we ended our trip with a full moon for good luck.  The sunset was the brightest red/orange that I’ve ever seen.
It’s weird to be back on land.  You don’t have to adjust your balance to walk around, dishes don’t magically disappear from the table, and we actually have to cook.  It was nice to connect with our families for Thanksgiving, but we already have itchy feet.  We’re off to Cabo San Lucas for our annual trip.  We’ll be home just in time for Christmas.

We don’t have our next cruises booked yet, but we’re thinking about them.  So stay tuned…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Days 16, 17 & 18 - Clear Sailing

Ahhhhh, we do love our sea days.  What day is this?  It’s so hard to keep track.  It was a slap in the face to find a Day 13 Cruise Compass on our bed last night!  Nooooo!  We don’t wanna go home!  Tomorrow is our last full day on board.  Saturday they will kick us off.  How rude!

We're 447 miles from Grand Turk - the nearest land - cruising along in the North Atlantic at 18.1 knots.  We have 16,000+ feet of water under the keel.  We’ve had great weather - warm, but windy.  Today it’s REALLY windy – 50 MPH gusts up on deck - caused by Hurricane Sean.  He's heading away from us toward Bermuda so we should escape this wind soon.  It’s causing sudden lists of the ship – which makes it hard to walk around.  You never know when you’ll suddenly be knocked off balance.  But it’s great for being gently rocked to a deep sleep.  And the beds on Liberty are so awesome. 

Bruce has had to work a lot the past few days.  The progress on our screenplay outline hasn’t been what I had hoped for.  We keep hacking away at it and I’m really excited to start writing it.  It’s so creative and full of twists.  You’ll NEVER see the ending coming!  It’s the kind of screenplay that we admire when we see movies like this, so I hope we can live up to our high standards.

Bruce has mastered his new skill of pouring beer from the can stuck to his palm.  I finally got a picture of it.  Look how hard he's concentrating, and then the smile of success.

His teacher, master bartender Kyle, hammed it up with him.  The people behind them are shocked!
Good to the last drop!
Electricity has been interesting on this trip.  Europe has a different system than we do.  Before we left home, we bought a converter.  We thought we could plug our power strip into the converter and we’d be able to keep both laptops charged, along with the camera batteries, phones, etc. and also run my little fan (hot flash control).  We have one whole carry-on bag full of our electronic cords and stuff.  TSA loves to look inside.  They’re always amazed that we aren’t mad bombers.  Well, can you guess what happened with the converter?  Um… let’s just say that our plan didn’t work.  And… let’s also say that we have to buy a new power strip when we get home.  We were only able to have one item at a time plugged directly into the converter which about drove us nuts.  Next time we visit Europe, we’ll buy another converter so we can at least keep the computers charged up.  The upside of this is that we can use the converter to plug into the ship’s outlets in the common areas, so when we’re on the ships that don’t have all-over Wi-Fi we won’t be limited by battery time on the laptops.  Why didn’t we think of getting a converter before?

Bruce is reasonably fluent in Spanish.  I know just enough to get myself in trouble.  We’re both used to hearing the Mexican version of Spanish.  In Spain, we noticed that the people speak slower, enunciate clearly, and use better grammar than Mexicans.  It was much easier to understand them.  Their local slang threw us a few times, though.

Other forms of communication were also different.  Every time I saw the “Pedestrian Crossing” street sign, I couldn’t help thinking of Tom Hanks dancing on the piano keys at FAO Schwartz in “Big”. 
Tonight we’ll be re-living another classic movie – at the Broadway version of “Saturday Night Fever” in the main theater.  We’ve heard buzz around the ship that it’s very well done.  I’m excited!

I’m not so excited that this is Day 13 of a 14-Day cruise.  We’re never ready to disembark, no matter how long we’ve been on board.  Stay tuned…

Monday, November 7, 2011

Days 13, 14 & 15 - Ahhhhhh, sea days rock!

We’ve fallen into our sea day routine now and are enjoying these relaxing days.  We’re 871 miles from the Azores (nearest land) with 11,200 feet of water under the keel.  Liberty only needs 29 feet in order to float, as the Captain always says.  Weather-wise, we’ve managed to avoid the storm for the most part.  We’ve had periods of rolling seas and cloudy skies, but we’re enjoying sun and fun more than half the time.  We’re doing about 18 knots so there’s a little wind.  It’s 71 degrees.

When we booked the cruise, we just booked it as “inside room guarantee”.  That means that they assign us whatever room is left over.  It’s the cheapest way to go and that’s how we travel – cheap.  We got cabin 6307 – overlooking the Royal Promenade. 
 Using the deck plans from the website, I had estimated our cabin to be directly above the Cupcake Cupboard.  Well, I was off by 1 cabin.  We’re actually over Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop.  Can you see Bruce in the window?
Can you also see the cows?  Here’s the funny thing about them.  The people in cabin 6305 (next to us) have a beautiful view of the cows’ ass-ets.  In order to compensate for this, they have named the cabin “Ben & Jerry’s Sweet”. No kidding!  Here's the sign on the door.
The room is decorated with cows and sheep – porcelain statues on the shelves, a border wallpaper, pillows on the bed and couch, photos on the walls, etc.  We got a peek inside, it’s crazy!  I personally wouldn’t want to sacrifice all that space taken up by that stuff.  But it’s kind of a status symbol to get that cabin and people actually fight over it!

Our stateroom attendant is Christopher – from Jamaica, mon.  He’s taking very good care of us and we’re having fun kidding with him.  Ya, mon.  We be jammin’, mon.

Happy Hour with over 2,000 of our fellow Diamond and Diamond Plus friends has continued to be insanity.  The room is packed and usually SRO.  Bruce made friends with Kyle, a bartender from Trinidad and Tobago.  Kyle has a unique way of serving beer.  He gets the can to stick to the palm of his hand and he can turn it upside-down without dropping it.  Bruce has tried for days to figure out how he does it.  Last night he finally got it!!  I’ll try to get a picture tonight – assuming he wasn’t a one-hit wonder, that is.

There are so many activities to choose from - if you want to keep busy.  But many people, like us, opt for our own agenda.  The first day, Bruce had to work for several hours.  I completed some revisions to one of my screenplays and sent it to my agent for review.  Fingers crossed that we get some interest on it.

Yesterday and today we’ve been working on our new screenplay.  We’re making an outline of the plot, defining the characters, and establishing motives for their actions.  We have a very powerful opening scene that’ll just knock your socks off.  We have an ending that we’re aiming for.  Now it’s the hard work of everything that goes in the middle.  The genre is “psychological thriller” and it’s having that affect on me for sure.  I get creeped out just doing the research.  We’ve been kicking this idea around for about 6 months and have debated whether we should even write it.  I kept trying to push the idea aside, but it won’t go away.  So, we’re going to write it and see where it goes.  It’s on a par with “Silence of the Lambs”.  The main character is pure evil. 

Well, speaking of writing, I should shift gears and get back to the screenplay.  Stay tuned…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 12: La Palma, Canary Islands

Today was our last port for this trip – the Canary Island of La Palma.  What a beauty!  The colorful buildings reflect the colorful personality of the island.
The island is quite steep - mountains up to 8,000 feet, with a huge crater in the center.  We took a bus tour up to the rim of the crater.  It’s 8 miles across, and 6,000 feet deep.  We hiked along the rim to an observation point, then back to the bus.  It was a little hazy which made the pictures grainy. 

It was impossible to capture the depth of it in a photo, but I tried.  It was breathtaking.
Our tour guide was hilarious.  The road up to the top of the mountain was barely wide enough for the bus.  It was winding, twisty and a long drop down if the driver made any mistakes.  One lady sitting near the front of the bus was white-knuckled the whole way.  With each hair-pin curve she would yell out, “Oh my!”  After a few times, the guide said, “You have mountains in the US.  Don’t you USE them?”  I tried to get a picture of the road, but it was tough with all the trees.  It’s blurry, but you get the idea.
We toured a center for the disabled where they produce jewelry, embroidered items, woven items from an old loom, cigars, and dried peppers.  They had some beautiful wares.

They drove us around all over the island and we had lots of stops for photos.

We stopped at the oldest cathedral on the island.  The altar is made from 3,600 pounds of silver that was stolen from the Mexican Indians in the early 1500’s.  All the wood is from the local chestnut trees. 

The tour guide explained that all Catholic churches have a bar next door.  The wives drag their husbands to church, but they sit in the back so they can sneak out and go to the bar.  Sure enough, there was a little cantina by the church.  So Bruce had to sample the beer.

The driver dropped us off downtown so we could shop.  The town was about like all the others we’ve seen lately – narrow streets and cute balconies on all the buildings.

We have now set sail for Ft. Lauderdale.  Seven glorious sea days.  However… remember the morning we left Colorado and the song on the alarm was “Rock the Boat”?  I had no idea that it would be so foretelling.  We’re on the edge of a big storm which is on our tail.  Voyager of the Seas had to divert from the Azores and joined us in Tenerife yesterday.  They’re one day ahead of us and reporting back that we’re headed into really rough seas.  We’re already rockin’ and rollin’.  Tomorrow should be interesting. 

Several of you have asked what I’ll be talking about on our sea days.  I’ve been saving up some cool stuff, so stay tuned…

Days 10 & 11 - Sea Day & Tenerife

Somehow I fell behind on the blog.  Sorry if you’ve been looking for an update.  Backing up a few days, we had looked forward to a nice relaxing sea day.  HA!  As we sailed past Morocco, there was one activity after another and the whole day was booked up.  We had to get up early (for us) to attend the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle event.  Then Bruce worked for awhile, and before we knew it Happy Hour was upon us.  We went to a great show – the only person Elton John has approved to impersonate him.  He improvised on the piano and really put on a show.

Yesterday we were at the first of two stops in the Canary Islands – Tenerife.  A gorgeous rainbow greeted us as we came into the port.  It was misting a little, and big clouds hugged the mountain tops.  The Queen Mary 2 was already docked.

 Splendor of the Seas is here in dry dock.  The Voyager of the Seas joined us in port on her way to New Orleans.

We actually took a tour to see some pyramids that were supposed to be comparable to those in Chichén Itzá in Mexico, which we visited earlier this year.  What a disappointment!  They were NOTHING like Chichén Itzá.  I guess they found some similarities in the layout of the complex and in some of the artifacts, but that’s about as far as it goes.
You can see some “pyramids” with views of the city and the bay in the background.  Would you call THAT a pyramid?? 

Next they drove us up to the top of a mountain for what was supposed to be a nice view.  But it was too cloudy to see anything.  I noticed that there were several caves that appeared to be inhabited by local homeless people.  Apparently, some people loved their cave homes so much that they built fronts on them and stayed.  I caught one picture from the moving bus, so it’s not real sharply focused.  But if you look real close you’ll see the front door on the side of the mountain.
I loved their Opera House.  It reminds me of the Sydney Opera House, but with an extra bit of flair.

This island was ok, but not great.  Not really a place I’d want to come back to. Maybe if we had taken the beach tour instead we might have enjoyed it more.

Back on board, we had a lovely dinner at one of the ship’s specialty restaurants – Portofino’s.  OMG – first they brought out a basket of various breads (my weakness) that was so amazing.  Next we had appetizers.  Then for the entrée we had 3” thick filets that melted in our mouths.  Wow they were awesome!  For dessert the waiter brought us a sampler tray, even though we insisted that we were too full.  We tasted several yummy treats but couldn’t eat much of it.  After all that, we crashed!

It was a perfect ending to the day.  Stay tuned…

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Days 8 & 9

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween – and didn’t eat too much candy!!  We had a costume parade on the Royal Promenade and they had a party for the kids on board (all 41 of them).  There were very well-crafted Jack O’Lanterns all around the ship.
Yesterday was our token dog port of the cruise.  I’m sure the tours going to Granada were nice.  But we didn’t want that long bus ride.  So we just walked around in Málaga.  There were a few cool old buildings, but basically the town is industrial and not really a tourist town.  They had the ruins from another theater, and it was even free to view.  The souvenir shops were scarce and they wouldn’t bargain at all.  We walked and walked before we found what we were looking for.  At last – our mission was accomplished and we came back on board early.  We had lunch and then Bruce worked a bit while I started on the outline for the screenplay.

Happy Hour was NUTS last night.  The devils and demons were definitely out in force.  It seemed like everyone was really wired.  For entertainment we had a classical Spanish guitarist playing incredible flamenco style guitar music – my absolute favorite music.  There were 4 of us trying to listen to him while the rest of the hundreds of people were being so loud and rowdy that we could barely hear the music.  Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity to hear him in a quieter venue.  We enjoyed a quiet dinner in the ‘Jammer and then went to the show – a comedian/impersonator.  It was pretty good.  I was too pooped to write the blog last night.

Today we had a chilly day in Cádiz.  It’s one of the oldest towns in Spain.  Some very old and very cool buildings here.  The town is on a peninsula.  The streets are narrow and they run in triangles – it felt like we were walking down creepy dark alleys and it was hard to navigate.  We walked around and saw some of the sites, bought a magnet, and came back on board. 

Our little sister ship, Voyager of the Seas, sailed in right behind us.  Combined with a Holland America ship, we had 3 ships in port today.  Town was crawling with lost tourists.

Tonight we cross a time zone and gain an hour – we could really use an extra hour of sleep.  Tomorrow is a relaxing sea day.  We’re ready to rest up.  Port day after port day becomes exhausting!

Thursday and Friday we’ll be in the Canary Islands.  We actually booked tours from the ship for both days.  One is a tour of some pyramids similar to Chichén Itza in Mexico.  The other is a tour of the huge crater.  After that – it’s 7 sea days to Ft. Lauderdale.  Stay tuned…

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Days 6 & 7: Boarding the ship and Cartagena, Spain

It’s so great to be aboard the Liberty of the Seas.  Lady Liberty is one of the 2nd largest classes of ships in the fleet (Oasis and Allure are the biggest, then sister ships Freedom, Independence, and Liberty).  We were on here last March with my daughter Amy and her husband Chris, so we are familiar with the layout and amenities.  She’s over 1,000 ft long and 14 decks tall – enormous!
As soon as we booked the cruise 2 months ago, I went onto the website  They have a thread for every cruise line, ship, and sailing.  You sign up and you can cyber-meet your fellow cruisers, plan activities, share information, and register for events onboard.  The first activity was the sail-away party.  We were to meet at the Sky Bar by the pool wearing a pink shirt and pink boa.  So here we are:
We wanted to have something unique as a conversation starter – so I made our “boas”.  They’re stuffed with socks so we wouldn’t waste suitcase space.  They were a huge hit.  We made lots of friends. 

The first night at Happy Hour was fun.  There are over 2,000 Diamond and Diamond Plus status cruisers (levels of the loyalty program)!!!  Instead of the Concierge Lounge, they moved us to the Sphinx Lounge and it was still packed.  Insane was more like it!  But we saw several people we had met last year on the Australia cruise, and a few other people we already knew so it was a happy reunion.  We also met some other people from London and the south of France, as well as all over the US.  We enjoy talking with other avid cruisers.

Our dinner mates are Steve and Joyce, from the Dallas area.  There were 4 other seats at the table, so perhaps others will show up at some point.  We had our typical first night menu which is always so yummy.

Today we arrived in Cartagena, Spain.  We bought a pass for the 5 top sites in the city for 10 Euros each.  It was a pretty good deal.  Everything was easily within walking distance from the ship.  We had a great weather day – some clouds, hot, and humid.  But no rain!
I am so amazed at the antiquity of this country.  Only 3 blocks from the pier are the remains of a coliseum built in about 13 BC.  Imagine that!  It’s amazing that buildings can last for so long without being completely destroyed.  We went thru the museum first, which was the entrance into the coliseum.
We also toured an old castle, not nearly as cool as the one in Mallorca.  I didn’t even take many pictures of it.
To exit the castle there were 2 choices:  walk down a million stairs, or ride “the lift”, which was one of our 5 sites on our pass.  I have a terrible time with heights, so I wasn’t thrilled about walking across that walkway.  Fortunately it had a solid floor.  If it had been see-thru I never would have made it.
The fifth “site” was a bus tour around the city.  We saw so many gorgeous old buildings. Unfortunately, the internet is extremely slow and terribly expensive, so I'm not gonna be able to include all the pictures I had wanted to in the blog.  I'll have to upload everything when I get home.

We walked down the main street.  It’s Sunday, so most of the shops were closed.  I did find one place to get a magnet for my collection.  There were so many interesting buildings along the way.

Tonight was our first of 3 formal nights.  We got all dressed up, but ended up not having dinner in the main dining room.  The Windjammer (buffet) had everything we wanted.  We met the Captain and had our picture taken with him.  Captain Patrick, who normally has this ship, is on vacation.  So we were meeting Captain Kjetil for the first time.  (No that’s not a typo – he’s from Norway).

Tomorrow we’ll be in Pablo Picasso’s hometown of Málaga, Spain.  The excursions include a 9-hr trip to Granada (2 hrs in a bus, each way).  I’d be tempted, but that’s a long bus ride and Alhambra Palace (the main attraction) is closed on Mondays.  So we’re planning to just walk around in Málaga on our own. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting blog…