I arrived in London on an overcast day from Dulles international airport. On board my Virgin Atlantic flight were Marjorie and Leo, friends I cruised with in 2010. We met up with Lee and Mike (fellow cruisers), who flew in from Ottawa Canada. I hired a car service (Woodford Chauffeurs) that took us to our respective hotels. It was a long drive in to London, as it was rush hour.
I must mention that Virgin Atlantic has a 13-pound carry on weight limit! My camera equipment alone weighs around 10 pounds, so I left one lens at home and had Tony pack my netbook in his suitcase – he would be flying in the next day with our friends. The flight was great, as was the service. My economy seat was quite comfortable and I didn’t feel cramped at all.
My home for the next four nights was at the George Hotel
http://www.georgehotel.com/english/index.html located near Bloomsbury and just north of the Russell Square tube station. The buildings were originally townhouses but most converted to B&Bs. There is no elevator but two sets of stairs. My room (#11) was located on the ground floor with a window facing a plain interior courtyard. The room consisted of two beds, an armoire in the corner, a small table, tv on the wall and a very tiny bathroom! The room was cramped and there was really no room for my large suitcase. I kept it near the door, the only large floor space area. It’s a very basic place to say but fine for me. I would probably pick another hotel for a larger bathroom.
For the rest of the day, I explored the area, had lunch at Pret a Manger (a chain restaurant that serves fresh-made sandwiches, soups, etc), and spent some time at the British museum. It rained on and off throughout the day and it was cold. It was interesting to see lots of young people walking in the rain without umbrellas. When the sun was out, the sky was bright blue.
I headed to Soho where I had early dinner plans with Lee and Mike. I walked past the theatre district, Chinatown, the gay quarter, and Piccadilly Circus. I watched street performers for a bit. One street I thought was interesting had shops filled with musical instruments.
I found a wine bar (Shampers on 4 Kingly street) and a couple glasses of wine. My first order took quite a while to get. In fact the bartender that took my order disappeared. A second bartender took care of me. When I received the bill, there was only one glass of wine listed. The bartender told me since I waited so long for my first drink she didn’t want to charge me for the wine.
I met Lee and Mike at Masala Zone (9 Marshall Street), an Indian chain restaurant. We had a great evening and enjoyed our meal and company. We all ordered the Thali, which is a medley of foods served in bowls on a large platter. I had the butter chicken, which came with curry vegetables, raita, lentils, chapatis (whole wheat bread), and rice. Everything was scrumptious!
After dinner, the guys walked me back to my hotel, about a 1.7-mile walk. It was a pleasant but cool evening. I slept well that night.
Thursday 27 October 2011, London
Tony and friends (Glenn, Carol, Louisa, Robin, and Carolyn, Mark) arrived at the hotel. They took the same Virgin Atlantic flight but decided to upgrade to economy plus for $50 each. Tony freshened up and we headed out the door with Glenn and Carol. We took the tube from Russell Square station (purchased the Oyster card) to the science museum to meet up with an older gentleman (also named Tony) who took the train in to meet us for the day. The guys met Tony (a retired Royal Air Force officer) back in 2009 on our transatlantic cruise.
While the guys hung out, Carol and I visited the Victoria and Albert museum, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.
While Glenn and Carol headed back to the hotel to check in to their room, the three of us took the tube to Westminster Abbey. I wanted to go inside but changed my mind when I saw the hefty entry price, 18£! That’s about $28USD. I didn’t want to pay that price, especially since I had visited there in 2005. We walked across Westminster Bridge and had some tea and coffee at the café at the London Eye. Glenn and Carol later showed up. We bought tickets for the Eye and it was only a 5-minute wait in line. Of course we weren’t in London at the height of tourist season. We enjoyed the views, although we were disappointed in the overcast day. The city looked gloomy.
We had dinner at the Sherlock Holmes Pub located near Charing Cross (10 Northumberland Street). I had been here for a pint in 2005 and liked the atmosphere. It was packed and the tables were filled, but we only had to wait a few minutes for a group to clear out. Tony had the fish/chips and I had a meat pie.
Tony took the train home and we walked a bit before taking the tube back to the hotel.
Friday 28 October 2011, Day trip to Greenwich
After eating a full English breakfast (eggs, sausage, baked beans, tomato slice, as well as coffee, tea, fruit juice, and toast) in the small dining room Tony, Glenn, Carol, Carolyn, Mark, and I went to Greenwich via the tube and DLR.
The Cutty Sark was under repairs, so we couldn’t see much of it. We walked around the royal naval college and its chapel; and spent some time at the national maritime museum.
For lunch, we sat outside in the gardens at the King’s Arms Pub (King William Walk). This time I had the fish/chips with mushy peas while Tony had a lamb potpie (lunch with a beer and wine 24.80£). It was chilly outside but there were heat lamps to keep us somewhat warm. Service was extremely slow but the food was good.
The last stop of the day was to see the observatory and the meridian line. Tony and I kissed across the line. The views from above were fine and we could see central London in the distance.
We decided on a boat ride back to London. Tony, Glenn, Carol and I got off at Tower Bridge and walked over to the Borough market, while the other two headed to the London Eye. The market was closing down but we still got to see lots of great foods – we even sampled some cheese and liquors. I’m sure it’s quite bustling during the day.
For dinner the six of us dined at Balfour Italian restaurant (75-77 Marchmont St), located two blocks from our hotel. The restaurant was full and we had no reservations, but the manager said a table would be opening up in 5 minutes. Tony and I bought a bottle of wine. I had the goat cheese crostini and the ricotta-stuffed ravioli and butter sage sauce. Tony had the spaghetti Bolognese. Everything was very good and the portions pretty large (47£).
Back at the hotel we all met in the dining/sitting area and had some drinks. Everyone had purchased bottles of wine or vodka, plus we purchased bottles to bring on the ship (2 bottle maximum).
Saturday 29 October 2011, Day trip from London
I booked a private tour for 14 of us to visit Stonehenge, Bath and a couple of villages. I used International Friends (http://www.internationalfriends.co.uk/) after much research. David was our driver and he was a chatty fellow. Non-stop encyclopedia, history buff. He was knowledgeable in a wide variety of interesting things, including British and American law. What I thought was most interesting were the explanation of how some phrases came about. One is, “Kick the bucket” whereby the person standing on the bucket with a slip noose kicks his/her own bucket. If he/she failed to die, the family would yank down on the body to finish him/her off. I always knew it as someone who died.
It took about 1 hour 45 minutes to get to Stonehenge. It was an overcast morning but I was thrilled to see Stonehenge. Yes, it’s a love it or hate kind of thing. I’ve always been interested in the history and mystery of the stones. We had an hour there with the use of audio guides.
The next stop was to Bath, a beautiful city that sits on several hills. The sun came out so Carol and I got some great shots. I’m so glad we took our photos when we first arrived, as it clouded up and began to rain just after entering the Roman baths. Our visit lasted about an hour. I wanted some time to walk around town and have a light lunch. We ended up doing a take out of some hefty pasty’s from Gourmet Scoffs, which was recommended to me by the tour manager. Mine had braised beef, onions, and potatoes. I couldn’t finish it all.
My favorite stop of the day (because I love photography) was Castle Combe, a charming and beautiful village. We only had 15 minutes there and I wished for more time. The village was quite with just two main streets. Some of the homes had their fireplaces going so I could see the smoke coming out of the chimneys. Some of the bushes and ivy on the walls had turned to their autumn colors. Hanging planters were everywhere including window planters. It was just lovely.
The countryside was beautiful with its rolling, green hills and specks of villages here and there. Lacock was another pretty village that we visited. I saw a lovely bridal couple walk out of the local church so I snapped a few shots. Lacock is a village used by many moviemakers. Movies such as Pride and Prejudice, the Other Boleyn Girl, Harry Potter have been filmed there.
The last stop of the day before our 2-hour drive to London was to Avebury, another famous Stonehenge-type place with large stones in circles. It wasn’t as impressive as Stonehenge, probably because the circles are quite large and one cannot see all of it from one spot.
By the time we got back to the hotel, it was dark. It was a full day of touring and most enjoyable. I would love to return to England for a couple of weeks renting a car and driving to the villages in the countryside. Of course I would have to get up the nerve to drive on the left side of the road.
For our Cruise Critic (CC) pre-cruise get together, my friend Mike contacted a pub (Marquis of Cornwallis, 31 Marchmont St.) near our hotel and had an area reserved for us. About 30 people showed up. It was fun meeting fellow cruises. We had been chatting on line for over a year.
After a couple of drinks, we were ready for dinner and I didn’t want another pub meal. Nearby in the Brunswick shopping center is the Hare and Tortoise (11-13 The Brunswick), a Japanese Ramen noodle shop. I cannot find any Ramen noodle shops where I live. Tony and I started with the unagi and avocado maki. Six big portions. I had the Seafood Ramen as my entrée (with grilled salmon, shrimp, scallops, mussels) and Tony had the Miso Ramen (with char-sui pork, boiled egg, bean sprouts, etc). We also shared some sake, which warmed us up along with the soups. The others (Carolyn, Mark, Glenn and Carol) also enjoyed their appetizers and soups. It’s interesting that this Japanese place has a typical British pub name.
More drinks back at the hotel, some packing and then to bed. We’re off to Southampton tomorrow for the start of our cruise.
Sunday 30 October 2011, Off to Southampton via Winchester
After our full English breakfast and packing up our suitcases, our coach service arrived (same company I used to get to the hotel). There were 22 of us heading to Southampton with a two-hour stop in Winchester. It was a cold and rainy day. The group split up. Some headed directly to the Eclipse Pub. How apropos – it’s the same name as our cruise ship. Another find by my friend Mike. Six of us (Carolyn, Mark, Glenn, Carol, Tony and I) walked along the river, took pictures of the swans and ducks in the water, and saw the old Wolvesey castle, which sits in ruins. We stepped inside the Cathedral and kept to the back, as there was a service. I picked up a Christmas ornament at a nearby shop.
Tony found an ATM, as we were just shy a few pounds to pay for our service to the port (23£ per person, including tip). We walked around town, which was quite busy with tourists and then headed up hill to see the round table in the Great Hall. This is a 13th century hall from medieval times. The place is empty with the exception of the large round table on the wall at one end of the building. It bears the names of King Arthur’s knights. There is no historic evidence that the legend of King Arthur and his knights ever existed but it is certainly a romantic tale.
It was a 45-minute drive to the port of Southampton. It continued to rain but everyone was excited to see the beautiful Eclipse. Check in was a nightmare! Those of us that were Captain’s Club elite members went in (supposedly) the faster line. We were in line for an hour while the other line moved faster. It turned out that the staff moved some in the other line into ours, thereby clogging up the x-ray machines. So many people were furious. So much for priority check-in. Once at the counter, things picked up, or so I thought. Tony and I were asked to sit in the lounge area. We sat there for 10 minutes until Rui, the concierge on board, came and personally escorted us to our cabin. This was a surprise to us, although I knew why.
Happy to be on the ship with a glass of champagne, we checked out our balcony (cabin 9207, 1A category), which was larger than the standard balconies. Louisa and Robin’s balcony (next to us) was even larger. We were five cabins in a row (Mike/Maureen, Glenn/Carol, and Shaun/Melonee). I had Janet, our room attendant, open the partitions between our cabins and we enjoyed our long balcony the entire cruise.
The Oceanview Café was buzzing with cruisers digging into their first meal of the cruise. This is always a busy place for breakfast and lunch. After we had our lunch, we headed to our muster station. Ours was in the dining room. Once done, I was first in line to meet the dining room manager. Our group of 10 had been split into three tables, but he quickly corrected the situation.
The CC group members met up for the sail-away get together. We started at the Oceanview bar but it was very cold and windy, so we went to the Sky lounge. It was a lot of fun meeting other CCr’s.
My group of friends and I had the late seating (8:30pm) and we had table 240 with waiter Dwayne and assistant waiter Serkan. The table was located in the center of the dining room and only two tables way from the captain’s table. Dinner the first night was very good. I had the goat cheese tart, mushroom cappuccino soup, and the lamb shank.
Back in the cabin, there was a bottle of champagne and plate of chocolate covered strawberries on the table. What a nice treat to end our first day on the ship.
We had to change our clocks one hour forward. Last night we had to change our clocks back an hour.
Stonehenge, Bath, and Villages:
Monday 31 October 2011, Le Havre France
Tony and I had breakfast delivered to our room since we had an early start to the day. I rented a 9-seater van for eight of us (Norm, Carol, Glenn, Carol, Carolyn, Mark, Tony and me). There is a rental office right at the port, which was very convenient. It took a while to get the van but once we got it we were on our way.
All of the guys read up on the history of Normandy and the D-Day beaches. Each of the guys picked an area to lecture on as we toured around. I drove to Pont du Hoc, located near Omaha beach, the furthest point in our trip. I decide it would be best to work our way back to Le Havre as we went along the beaches. It was a cloudy morning but the sun eventually came out. Temps were in the high 50s.
I had been to Normandy before with my mother but it was a first for most in the group. I felt Pont du Hoc was the most interesting to me because of the many craters, fortifications, and the difficulty the Army Ranger assault group had while climbing the cliffs under enemy fire from above. There is a memorial dedicated to the battle. To really get a feel of the place, go to Google maps and search Pont du Hoc. Click on the satellite where you get a better view of the pockmarked land.
We went to the American cemetery. There is a visitor center and small museum, well worth spending time there. Walking among the over nine thousand graves, the cemetery can be a quite moving and emotional place to visit. The white gravestones are in perfect alignment and the grounds are immaculate. I saw several gravestones for unknown soldiers: 'Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God'.
At Omaha beach nearby, we walked along the beach. There is an interesting sculpture by Anilor Banon right on the beach called Les Braves. It looks like huge silver metal swords jutting out from the sand. The sculpture is for the Americans who liberated France. The beach is peaceful today with small children playing in the sand, too young to know the past history of the beaches.
In the small town of Arromanches-les-Bains, the location of the mulberry harbours and the main area of the D-Day landings, we had lunch. Some of us enjoyed fresh steamed mussels, so fresh there were tiny, tiny crabs among the mussels.
We could see some of the remaining mulberries and even a few people swimming in the cold water. There is a museum but the line was long and we didn’t have the time to go in.
On the way back to Le Havre, I pulled over next to a small restaurant. In the parking lot was a tank, so we took some pictures. We were back at the port by 6:30pm after filling the car with gas. It was a really great day of sightseeing.
Tony and I went to the sky lounge for the elite member’s happy hour (5-7pm nightly, except when there is a Captain’s club event). I recognized a British couple I met the previous year but couldn’t remember their names. When I walked up to them the woman said, “Hello Monica.” I was surprised that Audrey (and Jeff) remembered my name. We talked for a bit before they headed to dinner.
Dinner: Caprese salad, leek soup, pork medallions (very tender), and kiwi sorbet for dessert.
Southside, a party band, one of the best groups I’ve seen on any cruise, performed during the Masque Theme party. They perform most nights at 8pm in the atrium. Celebrity dancers and passengers danced the night away in the grand foyer including Tony and me. The dancers wore costumes and masks, as it was Halloween. It was tons of fun! The party continued in the Quasar bar but we didn’t go. We had an early wake up call for the next day.
Tuesday 1 November 2011, Cherbourg France
I hired a company to take the same group of eight to Bayeux and more of the D-Day beaches. The price for the day was 320€, which I thought was a very good price. Rene was our driver and guide. His father, Claude Huard, was a “Maquis”, an underground resistant fighter and was liberated from Dachau by the 45th Infantry Division of the 7th US Army. He was the MC for the Memorial Day service held at Omaha beach for 30 years. Rene took over after his father passed away in 2001. Rene is passionate about the history of D-Day and WWII overall.
Rene drove us to Bayeux where we beat the tour buses. It was a beautiful sunny day and in the low 60’s. We spent about 40 minutes at the tapestry museum listening to the audio guide while viewing the famous tapestry. It’s actually an embroidery and is over 200 feet long. It tells the story of the Norman conquest of England (1064-1066).
November 1st is All Saints Day so the streets were quiet as we walked around town. Some of us stepped inside the Cathedral for a few minutes.
Sainte-Marie-du-Mont is a small town close to Utah beach. This was the first town to be liberated during the D-Day invasion. Being close to Utah beach where the Germans had gun batteries, it was a prime drop location for the airborne divisions.
Utah beach has one of the best war museums in Normandy. There are all sorts of artifacts, vehicles, weapons, pictures, and videos in the museum. The guys received a reduced entry fee because of their military status (retired).
Across from the museum was Restaurant le Roosevelt. Attached to the building is an old bunker with old communication equipment inside. For lunch, I had the croque monsieur (a grilled ham/cheese sandwich), which was good but I’ve had better (in Lourmarin). Tony had the plat du jour. (http://www.le-roosevelt.com/restaurant_anglais.htm). The owner gave me a postcard, which was a photograph of the bunker back in 1944.
Our last stop was at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where there were heavy casualties for the paratroopers. One paratrooper got snagged on the town’s church steeple. He hung there for about two hours playing dead until the Germans cut him down and took him as prisoner. He later escaped and made his way back to his division. Red Buttons plays this character in The Longest Day, a movie Tony and I watched before the trip.
We were back in Cherbourg around 4:30pm. The ship sailed at 6pm. It was a really great tour with Rene.
In our cabin was a letter from the captain (Dimitrios Manetas) explaining some changes to the itinerary. The crew was closely watching the progress of a weather system in the Atlantic that was producing high winds and heavy seas. In order to play it safe, he canceled our last two ports, Vigo and the Azores, and added Gijon and La Coruña Spain, thereby staying somewhat inland from the Atlantic. Our sea day in the middle of the two original ports was moved to the day after La Coruña. Now we would have seven days at sea before docking in Miami. Many people were disappointed in the itinerary change but better to be safe and comfortable than sorry. Many people scrambled to book tours for the new ports. I emailed my tour guide in the Azores to cancel the tour I booked.
Because of the upcoming bad weather, the first formal night was changed to this evening. After some time in the cabin and getting ready for the evening, we headed to the sky lounge for the 7:45pm Celebrity Officer’s cocktail party. The waiters had an assortment of drinks, as well as hors d'oeuvres. Steve and Jeannette were at the party as well and I invited them to join us for dinner since Mike and Maureen were dining with Shaun and Melonee.
Dinner: Beef carpaccio, fish bisque, rack lamb (always a favorite), a bottle red wine, and chocolate raspberry mousse for dessert.
The ship left Cherbourg late due to having to take a person off the ship. Apparently he or she was deathly ill. I never heard what happened.
In the Sky lounge, Southside performed for the “Total Eclipse” formal dance party, which we enjoyed and danced a few times. Later Glenn, Carol, Steve, Jeanette, Tony and I hit the martini bar till about 1am.
Wednesday 2 November 2011, Day at Sea
This was our first day at sea and I woke up to a rocking ship, more so than on my past cruises. I felt fine for the first 30 minutes but then I started to feel seasick. I took a Dramamine hoping it would kick in quickly. The waves were about 15-18 feet high, which doesn’t seem like much but enough to get people seasick.
I had breakfast in the Tuscan Grill, the location for the elite members. Bagel, cream cheese, and lox – just delish! I sat with Terry and Evan and when he heard I wasn’t feeling great from the motion of the ship he told me he would give me a pair of sea bands. He had extras.
The Captain made his usual morning announcement and gave an updated weather report stating he was expecting gale force 9 winds (47-54 mph with wave heights up to 32 ft) for the next 48 hours. I had heard later that lots of people were seasick and there were even a few broken bones. I saw an older man loose his balance and fall hard on his back and head. I felt so bad for him.
Tony and I attended the morning lecture with Professor Alan Dowty. One of Celebrity’s best features is the “Beyond the Podium Series”. Dowty’s lectures dealt with maritime. This one was entitled, “Trans-Atlantic Contact before Columbus” in which he discussed who might have found the new world before Columbus. This included the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Irish, etc. All of his lectures were wonderful and informative. I thought he was a very good speaker, although his puns were really bad.
Lunch service was very slow in the dining room. Tony left for the 1pm lecture before he got his meal, so I had it delivered to the cabin. I had the duck salad with lentils, which was very good. I ate quickly and went to the theatre to catch the rest of the lecture. Lunch in the dining room is nice but you have to remember it’s full service.
The lecture was called, “Secrets of Ship Navigation’ that the 1st officer gave. At one point he showed us on the screen the current weather where we were heading. It was a huge mass of a storm in the Atlantic that the Captain was avoiding. In seeing this I knew he made a wise decision.
This afternoon was the CC slot pull. Fifty-three of us each paid $15 and had 5 pulls on a machine that Mike asked me to select. Mike collected all of the money and Glenn and Carol assisted him. In the end we walked away with $13 but with a card for a complimentary drink at the casino bar, a gift from the casino hostess.
Tony and I went to Michael’s for the elite happy hour. We had received in our cabin at the start of the cruise a special invitation. Due to so many elites on board, the captain’s club hostess invited a select number of elites to go to Michael’s for happy hour to reduce the number of people in the sky lounge. It was a treat! No smell of smoke like the sky lounge, a lot more intimate, and it was easier to get a glass of wine or martini.
Dinner: Escargot, pumpkin soup (not so good), filet mignon (excellent).
Thursday 3 November 2011, Gijon Spain
Tony spent the day on the ship while I went out with a group of friends (Glenn, Carol, Carolyn, Mark, Louisa, Robin, Terry, Evan, Penny and Herb). His knees were bothering him after all the walking we’ve done so far on this trip. There was complimentary shuttle service to the city center, about a 10-minute shuttle ride. We were dropped off next to the marina with its many sailboats. It was very picturesque; and a large red Gijon sign welcomed us.
Gijon is a charming Spanish city with wrought iron balconies and lamps, whitewashed and colorful buildings, and small plazas such as the Plaza de La Corrada. We saw two interesting sculptures, one made from corten steel and the other concrete:
"Northeast" by sculptor Joaquin vaquero Turcios, 1994.
"Eulogy of the Horizon" by Basque artist Eduardo Chillida, 1990.
At the peninsula, there is a park with old exercise equipment and an off-leash area for dogs. This is where the concrete sculpture is located.
We walked all around town, went inside the San Pedro Church, and visited the Roman baths (very small compared to those in Bath) next to Campo Valdes.
For lunch we found a nice local restaurant called El Paseo Restaurante located on Paseo de Begoña 8. http://www.engijon.com/restauranteelpaseo/index.htm. The young woman didn’t speak English so when I made my attempt to speak Spanish, she was so happy and would only talk to me! We were looking for a menu del dia – a typical Spanish menu that includes a starter, entrée, dessert and wine, which is always a good deal. From what she motioned and said, the kitchen was not quite ready to serve people. As we were about to leave when she motioned us to sit and proceeded to write down a menu for us. Now that’s service! The starter was a rich fish soup; the entrée was a choice of baked fish or breaded chicken breast stuffed with cheese and deep-fried, each with potatoes, flan or another type of dessert, wine and water. All for 11.50€ each. We even asked for another bottle of wine, which we were willing to pay but she did not charge. She really took good care of us and we all appreciated her efforts despite the language barrier.
More walking after lunch along with some window-shopping and gift shopping. Gijon is a very clean city and I liked walking along the pedestrian streets.
Back on the ship by 3pm, Tony and I sat on the balcony with some of the gang. Later we went to happy hour and then to the 7pm show – an excellent and quite funny ventriloquist (Gareth Oliver, semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent), although he was crude on occasion. He sang as well. It’s difficult enough to “talk” via the puppet but I was amazed at his singing.
Dinner: Pheasant terrine with cherries, Caesar salad, veal medallions with wide ribbon pasta.
Friday 4 November 2011, La Coruña Spain
It was a cold morning but warmed up the high 50s. The port was next to the main town area, so no need for any shuttle service. The same group as yesterday (except Carolyn and Mark who had a ships tour to Santiago Compostela) headed out together to tour the city. We walked along the water and beach and up to the tower of Hercules, a lighthouse built by the Romans around the 2nd century. Inside there is an archaeological excavation. Everyone except Tony climbed the stairs to the top for great city and coastline views. Down below is a compass rose along the oceans edge.
We headed towards the city center passing parks and churches. I loved seeing the jamon shops with the many cured Serrano hams hanging from the ceilings. Tony and I bought a chorizo y queso sandwich to eat while walking.
Iglesia de San Jorge is a beautiful baroque-style Church with two towers. Just around the corner is the large Plaza de Maria Pita with the city hall. There are a lot of pedestrian streets with shops and restaurants, including those that advertise pulpo, octopus! Tony, Glenn, Carol and I stopped for a mouth-watering snack of grilled pulpo with paprika, fried calamari, Spanish cheese, and beer and wine at Taberna do Pulpo (calle Franja 11.). It wasn’t cheap (11€ per person) but was excellent and I love pulpo!
Some of the stores were closed (siesta) but we were able to shop in others. One shop was about to close when the gang walked in. It was a costume jewelry shop and everyone bought a little something.
We slowly headed back to the ship. It was our last touch of land before our seven days at sea as we set sail for Miami. We left the port at 2pm. As we sailed from the port, passing the tower of Hercules, dark clouds moved in and it rained in the distance.
After a short nap Tony and I headed to Michael’s club for happy hour. We met Kimberly and Bill. I finally ran into Lee and Mike, the first time since I saw them in London! Yes, it’s a big ship but I still expected to run in to friends sooner than later.
Before dinner, we went to the martini bar. I saw my friend Nastja, the onboard coordinator, who I met last year when I coordinated some events for fellow CCr’s. We chatted for about 15 minutes.
Dinner: Oysters Rockefeller, liver paté, rib eye steak; bottle of Malbec wine.
The evening performer was Amanda Russell, a vocalist. She was fine but not great. Back in our cabin, Louisa, Robin, Glenn, and Carol joined us for drinks.
Saturday 5 November 2011, the First of Seven Sea Days
The café was crowded at breakfast time. I wore the sea bands that Evan had given me a few days earlier and took a Dramamine 1-2 times a day. After this day I didn’t need to wear the sea bands. Thank goodness because they were really tight on my wrist.
The morning lecture was, “Columbus Goes West” and about his first voyage in 1492. Again, a very interesting lecture. The next lecture was with Nigel West, who talked about espionage. He didn’t hold my interest so I left and never went back to his other lectures.
Gareth Oliver performed at 3pm. He was supposed to perform on the ship until we docked in either Vigo or the Azores and move on to perform on another ship. He was ‘stuck’ on board all the way to Miami.
I met Lee and Mike for tea at Café Baccio. Glenn joined us too. Carol was probably at the casino and Tony was reading his book someplace on the ship.
Tony and I met a nice couple in Michaels who were from Chicago.
Dinner: I had the seafood linguini, the only entree on the cruise I didn’t like.
Clocks turned back one hour.
La Coruña: http://www.pileggiphotography.com/Travel/Spain/La-Coruna-Spain-2011/20536786_TTbbrm#1626744121_kSRFJFV
Sunday 6 November 2011
My day consisted of exercising on deck for about 45 minutes, followed by breakfast at the Tuscan Grill with friends; the morning lecture on “Magellan: First Time Around;” and doing some journaling on my computer. I also tried to access the internet but the ship’s satellite kept going off line. In fact, I lost lots of minutes and asked the woman in the computer room to credit my account but she never did. At least the minutes were complimentary (elite perk).
The waves weren’t as bad as yesterday but I still took my Dramamine every day.
Carol, Glenn, Marjorie and I participated in the daily 4:30pm trivia game, which was held on deck 3 at the Passport bar. There were so many people, that a lot of us sat on the grand foyer stairs. It was a lot of fun and we did very well.
The entertainer for the evening was Jack Walker, who is from Scotland, and sung beautifully.
Dinner (escargot, caprese salad, shrimp scampi; crème brulee) followed by lots of dancing in the sky lounge and then Quasar till 1am.
Clocks turned back one hour.
Monday 7 November 2011
The rest of the cruise I did a lot of the same things (exercised, breakfast, trivia with Carol, Glenn, and Marjorie; happy hour; daily lectures; reading my book, etc.).
Podium lectures for the rest of the cruise were:
The Legendary Captain Cook
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Mystery of John Franklin’s Lost Expedition
Shackleton: Against all Odds
The seas were rough so the afternoon captain’s club celebration and kitchen galley tour were canceled.
Tony and Glenn enjoyed the whiskey tasting in Michaels. They sampled five or six types of whiskey.
Dinner: Carol and I split an order of sweetbreads. I had the lobster bisque and then the duck l’orange.
Clocks back one hour.
Tuesday 8 November 2011
Carol and I sat poolside in the shade reading our books and shared a plate of food for lunch that Glenn got for us from the Aqua spa café. It was a nice healthy lunch of salmon, sushi, and vegetables.
Approximately 60 CCr’s participated in the afternoon cabin crawl where you get to see select cabins. I like checking out the suites and larger balconies. The couple in the penthouse offered their cabin for viewing. Wow!! What an incredible cabin! It was huge. There were flat screen tvs in almost every room, including the bathroom. A baby grand piano sat in the living room. The balcony was also big and included a jacuzzi. Sweet!
Immediately after the crawl, I hosted a wine tasting party with the assistance of Nastja. Lots of fun! Those that participated brought a bottle of wine from their hometown or bought a bottle in one of the ports. It was held in the sky lounge and Nastja made sure there were plenty of glasses and bottle openers for us. She also had a bartender to assist.
The ship has a few specialty restaurants. My new favorite is Qsine, a funky and fun place for dinner. You order your food on an ipad. We were a party of eight: Carol, Glenn, Carolyn, Mark, Steve, Jeanette, Tony and I. Our waitress told us to pick what we wanted as Steve selected them on the ipad. The waitress looked over the list and said we ordered too much but would help us choose so we had an interesting variety. Some of the things we ate were: Mediterranean lamb chops (excellent!), seviche (a favorite), spring rolls served in ... yes… large metal springs; lava crab; disco shrimp (served in a glass bowl that lit up like a disco light); kobe burgers, sushi lollipops; cupcakes that you decorate with sprinkles and frosting. It’s best to go to Qsine with a minimum of six people but no more than eight. Go hungry and go early. Dinner lasted about 2.5 hours. It was so much fun, and the food was so delicious that we booked it for our next cruise.
My Qsine food photos: http://www.pileggiphotography.com/Cruises/Eclipse-2011-Cruise-Food/20065557_C7NbV8#1582277684_XQWdHXp
Clocks turned back one hour.
Wednesday 9 November 2011
Today was brunch at sea. The entire service in the dining room was chaotic and unorganized. Food items that should have been close together were not and you had to zigzag all over the place. People cut in line – so rude. It was almost not worth doing, although the food was good.
I went to the afternoon Captains club celebration with my friends while Tony relaxed on the balcony with his book.
Happy hour in Michael’s with Carolyn and Mark. Alana (I met her back in 2009) and Anastasia joined us.
Tony and I dined with my friends Deb and Robert and others to celebrate their anniversary in the Tuscan Grill. The food was exceptional, especially the filet mignon. The seafood salad was also very good. The only disappointment was the fried calamari appetizer. Tony and I shared it. It was a small portion, but with the rest of the meal, I was quite full. Deb and Robert were served a chocolate cake.
Thursday 10 November 2011
Tony and I had a very nice surprise – an invitation to dine with Bernhard Stacher who was the hotel director, so we would be dining at the Director’s table, rather than the Captain’s table. Tonight was the last formal night, so we looked forward to a delightful evening.
I liked the afternoon international crew show (one woman had an incredible singing voice, one person break-danced, and another couldn’t sing at all but was so enthusiastic we all loved him). I watched some of the glass blowing show, and later watched the pool volleyball tournament. It was a beautiful day and about 75 degrees.
The second CC party was held in the sky lounge. Mike hosted a gift exchange, which Mike hosted where those that participated brought a $10 gift from their hometown. I brought a book about Maryland ghost stories. Last year it was a Maryland seafood cookbook.
Those that received invitations to dine with Bernhard met at the Cellar Masters at 8:10am. Jonette (captain’s club hostess) offered us a drink before dinner. Bernhard arrived and introduced himself to everyone. At 8:30pm we went to the dining room. There were eight guests plus Bernhard and another officer. We talked to the two couples closest to us throughout the evening. Sitting at a long table makes it difficult to talk to everyone. The photographer took a group photo, which we received two copies at the end of the evening.
Dinner was delicious. I had the steak tartar, filet mignon with a truffle sauce, and an Austria apple strudel type dessert, which was excellent. Red and white wine was served throughout the dinner. The waiters were very professional in their service. At the end of the evening, all of the women received a beautiful red rose, which was a nice touch to the ending of an excellent evening.
After dinner, we went to the theatre to watch the European-style Cirque du Soleil show. I started to doze off. It must have been the wine from dinner.
Clocks turned back one hour.
Friday 11 November 2011
Veterans/Remembrance Day. I was in the theatre just before the lecture started. I could barely hear Dru’s (cruise director) announcement about Veterans day. Standing near me was a staff member so I asked her why announcements were never made in the theatre. She wasn’t sure and walked away. A few minutes later a staff member walked on stage and repeated Dru’s announcement to the audience.
Last day on the ship, so I started my packing.
Several of us attended the Riedel wine workshop, which was held in the afternoon. This was workshop to learn how the shape of a glass affects the taste and experience of wine. We had four types of wine that were served in the Austrian crystal Riedel glasses. There was also a “dummy” glass. As we moved from one to the next, we would sip the wine in the proper glass, then pour it into the ‘dummy’ glass and would taste again. We would even move a red wine to a glass that should be used for a white. It was fascinating and I was clearly convinced that having the right shaped glasses makes for a more enjoyable wine. The workshop was about $15 per person but you could do the more expensive option, which included a set of wine glasses.
Dinner: Escargot, a nice salad with avocado, prime rib, crème brulee.
Glenn, Carol, and I danced in the Quasar club till midnight.
Saturday 12 November 2011
It was time to leave the ship and fly home. I woke up at 4:30pm and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got up at 6am and after getting dressed I stood out on the balcony and talked to a few balcony ‘mates’. Two more ships docked so I knew the airport would be very busy.
We went to the main dining room to wait for our grouping to be called, although we should have gone to the elite lounge. Alana came by to say goodbye to us and I wish I had said goodbye to Nastja. We were called about 7:40am and were off the ship 10 minutes later. We found our luggage quickly and went outside.
My friend Judy, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, picked us up and we spent the morning with her in South Beach having an early lunch. She later took us for a drive before dropping us at the airport.
We had a good flight home and picked up Lucy the next day – she’s always happy to see us.
It was a great cruise with good company, delicious foods, and wonderful ports. I’m looking forward to my next two cruises!
Onboard the ship