Category Archives: cruise

Harmony of the Seas

Location: Labadee, Haiti -> Fort Lauderdale, FL

So remember how we posted that if we don’t write a post and upload every night, that we would fall behind and never post anything on time…. whelp… this post is about a week an a half late. FWIW, we had a relaxing vacation!

On the Thursday of vacation we made port in Labadee, Haiti. We were here about a year and a half ago. Since then it has been built up even more.

We didn’t have any excursions planned here so we slept in more than we did yesterday. In the morning Ryan got in a few rides on the flowrider. He’s improved since the last time.

But he still wipes out.

Midday we took advantage of a relatively empty ship and hung out at the pool. Ryan went on the water slides a few times and Rachel soothed her muscles in the hot tub.

In the afternoon, Rachel played mahjong with Becky and Leigh. Ryan got off the ship and enjoyed the beach for about an hour in Labadee.

In the evening we saw the dive show “The Fine Line”. Everyone really enjoyed it. There were the usual acts of amazing dexterity and a lack of respect for gravity that we’ve come to expect from Oasis class dive shows. And it was set to mashups of music lifted from Ryan’s iPod, so you know he loved it.

Dinner was delicious as always. But we really really liked the asian style pork tacos. Ryan got seconds and others were inspired to get it as an additional appetizer.

After dinner we saw a comedy show which featured Troy Thirdgill. We last saw him on the Millennium over five years ago. He’s updated his act since then and targeted it towards an older audience. We laughed a lot.

Friday was an at-sea day and our last full day on the ship. It was just as relaxing and unproductive as every other day on this trip. In the morning Leigh got up the courage to go on one of the water slides. He had to remove his jewelry before he could go down the slide. He left it with Becky.

Myrna, Mark, and Becky

Leigh and  Ryan had a race to the bottom where Mark, Myrna, Becky, and Rachel were watching.

Ryan coming down the slide.
Leigh coming down the slide.

The rest of the day was spent with various relaxing activities. Ryan went to the solarium to tan and blond. Rachel, Leigh, and Becky went to play mahjong. In the early afternoon the six of us went to see Grease in the main theatre. We enjoyed it.

After the show Rachel went to the casino. Ryan wanted to try the florider again but the weather didn’t cooperate. So instead he took a nap and then went around the ship taking photos of various curiosities. He found these garden gnomes in central park. Clearly the crew like to have a little fun.

Ryan also got a kick out of seeing a blue footed booby on a mast on the ship’s miniature golf course. He pointed out that it should be a red footed booby because those rest on branches, whereas blue footed will only rest on the ground. Ahh the things we learned in the Galapagos.

We disembarked from the ship Saturday morning. We all had global entry and cleared customs much more quickly than our last cruise through FLL. A few hours later we returned to Port St. Lucie. Noah was very happy to see us again!

Some Noah cuteness!

Join us again in December when we go on another Caribbean cruise, but this time to some new islands that we haven’t explored yet. But… look out for a special post in a couple of weeks.

 

Trip Totals:

Total hotels: 1

Total aircraft: 2

Total watercraft: 3

Total miles flown: 1812

Total miles sailed: 2494

Total steps: 80,338

Total airports: 3 (BWI, FLL, PBI)

Total countries: 3 (US, Sint Maarten, Haiti)

Total states and territories: 3 (Maryland, Florida, Puerto Rico)

 

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Puerto Rican Window Cave

Location: San Juan and Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Wednesday was a typical excursion day: wake up before the sunrise to go to some far off locale. On the one hand we got far less sleep than we were accustomed to during the last week. But on the other hand we got to see sunrise over the San Juan fortress.

We made port in San Juan, then got off the ship and took a bus about 75 km west to the Arecibo region. Along the way we saw some of the damage from Hurricane Maria. There were still downed cables in San Juan and blue plastic tarps over roofs both inside and outside the city.

Our tour today was a short walk through the rain forest and a short journey through two limestone caves to eventually see the window cave.

The damage from Hurricane Maria wasn’t as obvious in the forested area. We learned that the winds damaged the fruit bearing trees in this region and they haven’t sprouted new fruit yet. This has taken its toll on the fruit bats that used to live in the nearby caves. The fruit bat population has since dropped from a few thousand to about 20.

We walked though two caves. The first cave had wide entrances on both ends and never got truly dark. Inside we could see ancient petroglyphs.

The second cave was longer and has some very dark rooms. It was also required a more strenuous descent to get into the cave. It didn’t take long to make our way through cave to see the famous window.

Afterwards we returned to the ship to get lunch and relax. We left around 2:00 and we got more pictures of the fortress as we left the harbor.

Wednesday night was formal night. We got group pictures with Becky and Leigh, had lobster dinner and saw a stage show. Last night’s show was “Columbus” which was a fictional and comedic take on the story of Christopher’s lesser known cousin Marvin. It featured a smorgasbord of hits from Broadway and pop music.  It had its moments, and destructed the fourth wall on many occasions. Overall, it was entertaining.

Our next port of call is Labadee, Haiti.

 

Return to Sint Maarten

Location: Sint Maarten

We’re on the road again, or more accurately, we’re on the seas again. In the past we would make a post everyday we’re on a trip. But this time, we’re not on trip, we are on vacation. So rather than writing a short throw-away post talking about an eventful flight, or “Rachel went to the casino and Ryan took a nap, we’re combining a few days into one post to make it less boring to read.

Also, since we’re on a legitimate vacation, we just didn’t feel like spending time on a blog post.

Friday night we flew from Maryland to Fort Lauderdale. We got into the hotel late and went right to bed. On Saturday morning we checked out of the hotel and made our way to the port where we boarded the Harmony of the Seas.  We met up with Rachel’s parents (Leigh and Becky) and godparents (Mark and Myrna) after boarding the ship.

The Harmony is an Oasis class ship and currently the largest cruise ship in the world. It shares a lot in common with its sister ship. The most noticeable difference is that this ship has three water slides and two very tall dry slides.

Ryan took advantage of the lesser crowds on embarkation day and went on the dry slide The Ultimate Abyss. This attraction features two slides that drop over ten stories down to the boardwalk. The explicitly forbid GoPros and other cameras in the slide for safety reasons. Ryan really enjoyed it and went down the slide twice. Meanwhile Rachel learned that its faster to wait in line and go down that slide, than it is to take the elevator from the 16th deck to the 6th deck.

The entrance to the Ultimate Abyss!
A view looking down to the boardwalk and the Ultimate Abyss.

Sunday was our first “At Sea” day. The ship was predictably crowded. We went to the solarium and tanned for a couple hours. It was surprisingly easy to find deck chairs there. In the afternoon Rachel went to the casino and Ryan took a nap. In the evening we went to the ice show “1887.” It was a very entertaining show.

Monday was a repeat of Sunday. Midday tanning at the solarium. Afternoon nap and gambling. In the late afternoon Ryan tried the water slides. All of the slides had about a 20 ft drop that had a few horizontal loops mixed in. The yellow and blue slides were dark and twisted down. The green slides was open to light and had less turns. But it had a big cylindrical chamber that the slide emptied into at an angle so that the rider can user their own momentum to try to travel around one or more times before taking another slide down to the end of the ride. Ryan preferred the green slide.

Water slides!
Ryan enjoying the slide.

Today we made port in Sint Maarten. The island is still recovering from Irma last year. Cruise ships are finally starting to return, but there is still a lot of damage to repair. There were no excursions to the French side of the island this trip. Today we took the water taxi to main town. We went shopping with Becky and Leigh. They looked at jewelry. Ryan bought rum. Ryan was too sunburned to try to stay at the beach.

We returned to the ship. Rachel went to the casino and Ryan took a nap. We had dinner at Chops, a specialty restaurant on the ship.

Tomorrow we make port in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We go into the rain forest to visit the famous window cave.

Total steps (from Tuesday): 12,190 – this ship is big!

Equinox: Day at Sea IV, Water Spouts

Location: Heading north, rounding the west coast of Cuba.

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Even by our “Sea Day” standards we didn’t do much today. We slept in past 11. Booked next year’s discount December cruise. After lunch we sat out on the sun deck to tan and blond.

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Ryan took part in the fourth and last pool OlympiX of the cruise. It was the hula hoop game. Where teams locked hands and had to transfer a hula hoop from one person to the next down the line and back again, without breaking hands, first. The other team knew what they were doing and it moved down the line quickly. Ryan’s team did not know what to do. Somehow his team’s hoop fell out of the line between the first and second person. But using a loose but literal interpretation of the rules, it went from person-to-person and back very quickly. Ryan’s team won, by sucking at the sport!  The game was over in less than two minutes.

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Later in the day, we saw a couple waterspouts off the port side of the ship. Waterspouts are tornadoes the form over water. These weren’t enough to cause damage, and we were far enough away that it didn’t affect us. We did manage to snap a few photographs. Apparently these are common in Florida. For web searchers, we were somewhere between Havana and Key West, and around 3:30.

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In the evening, we saw the third and last production show of the cruise. The show was called Topper, and featured singing, dancing, and cirque acrobatics set to recent pop songs. The entertainers wore unique costumes ranging from something Aztec like, to flowers, to skateboard goth-punk. It was another entertaining show.

Today is the last full day of the cruise. Tomorrow we disembark. We plan to write one more post summarizing the trip and showing off better photographs from the trip.

Free purell squirts: 4

Total steps: 7,989

Equinox: Day at Sea III

Location: About 90 miles off the coast of Nicaragua heading north

Today was our third sea day of the cruise. Per our plan, we accomplished nothing. In the morning we went out on the sun deck to tan and blond. We had lunch at the Asian-fusion specialty restaurant, Silk Harvest, with Leigh and Becky. The food was great! In the afternoon, Rachel went to the casino and Ryan went back up to the sun deck.

Incidentally the ship was sailing at 30 kts today. We must be in some sort of current to sail so fast. As a result the ship has been rocking more than it has the last few days.

The view from our balcony.
The view from our balcony.

Speaking of rocking, the evening entertainment was the Tenors of Rock, a 5-man group (although only 4 were here tonight) who sing rock songs ranging from the 60’s to 80’s including works by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bon Jovi, Kiss, and more. For an audience that didn’t recognize Livin’ on a Prayer the other night, they sure loved this set (which opened with Livin’ on a Prayer). We really enjoyed the show. They are very talented singers who had a unique take on rock music. You don’t often hear harmony during Sweet Child O’ Mine.

Midday tomorrow we make port in Cozumel, Mexico. We will be going on a tour of San Gervasio Mayan ruins and then we will relax on the beach.

Free purell squirts: 7

Total steps: 7,026

The Atlantic Locks of the Panama Canal

Location: Colon, Panama

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Last night we posted the blog and tried to go to bed early for our early morning excursion to transit the Panama Canal. But things didn’t quite go as expected. Soon after uploading last night’s post we got notification that the ferry that is used for the excursion to transit the canal was down for repairs, and that our excursion was cancelled. Because it was so last minute, we were only given three options as a replacement:

  1. Going to a shopping mall in Panama City
  2. Visiting Portobelo, Panama which according to the tour description “is severely affected by poverty, the facilities are substandard”
  3. Visiting the Gatun and Agua Clara Locks of the Panama Canal

Regardless of disappointment we booked the locks tour late last night. Our tour would limit us to one ocean, one continent, and no water transportation.

This morning Ryan was in a mood. But we still got breakfast and boarded a tour bus that first drove to Gatun locks area. Along the way we learned that there are no traffic laws in the Colon Province (this is actually true), and that most of the countries economy comes from the Colon province, but all of that money gets reinvested into the Pacific coast side of the country. And it really showed while driving through Colon.

We started our tour of the locks at the new (one year old) Agua Clara locks visitor center. These are the newest locks of the canal and are about 60% bigger, but use 60% less fresh water than the previous locks.

Agua Clara Locks
Agua Clara Locks

But because they are so much bigger they are also slower. We were at the visitor center for about 1.5 hours and only managed to see one larger super-carrier make it though 1 of the 3 locks.

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After that we went to the older Gatun locks.  We were there for about 45 minutes and saw a couple ships pass through the locks.

Driving over the Agua Clara Locks. That is the same container ship from the previous pictures.
Driving over the Agua Clara Locks. That is the same container ship from the previous pictures.

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Ryan, Rachel, Becky, and Leigh
Ryan, Rachel, Becky, and Leigh

We also got to see the use of the mule trains which help move the ships through the locks.

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And play engineer on a model mule near the entrance.

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Overall it was a pretty neat tour. It’s still upsetting that we couldn’t transit the canal on this trip as planned. But we suppose it prevents us from doing it twice if/when we come back again to do a proper cruise ship canal transit.

We made it back to the ship in time for lunch. One “advantage” to having out tour cancelled and rebooking a different one was that we could take advantage of the “in-port” prices for a massage. A relaxing massage ensued later that afternoon.

In the evening we saw the production show Elysium. It was entertaining as always.

Today also marked the southern most part of the trip at (9.3 N).

Tomorrow we make port in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, where we’ll go on a tour of the rain forest.

Total Oceans: 1 (North Atlantic)

Total Continents: 2 (South America – on foot, and North America by sight)

Free purell squirts: 6

Total steps: 8,779

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Equinox: Day at Sea II

Location: In the Caribbean, between Grand Cayman and Cartagena, Columbia

Today was the second “at sea” day of the cruise. Like so many other sea days before, we accomplished very little beyond relaxing and working on our tans.

In the afternoon Rachel and Leigh went to the casino. Ryan even joined them in a few rounds of Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em (a table game version of Texas Hold ‘Em).

In the evening we saw another show from Jayne Curry. She puts on a fantastic show! The crowd really got into her show, and she danced in the seats with everyone during “Dancing Queen”. It was an older crowd though, so Abba worked well. But her second to last song of the night was Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”.  Jayne asked the crowd to join her. But, very few people were singing along. It seemed like only three people in the room knew the lyrics, Jayne, and the two of us. We felt very young!

After dinner we saw a late night show of the Liar’s Club game show, featuring Jayne Curry, Gareth Oliver the ventriloquist from last night and Alice Oliver his wife and sidekick from the act, and Alejandro (aka Ratatouille) the cruise director. It was hilarious!

Tomorrow we make port in Cartagena, Columbia where we’ll go on a tour of the old city.

Free purell squirts yesterday: 5

Free purell squirt today: 6

Equinox: Day At Sea I

Location: heading south rounding the west coast of Cuba

It almost seems like a waste to post today. Today was our first full day at sea of the cruise. We weren’t very original. We spent the prime hours of the day tanning and blonding. In the afternoon Rachel went to the casino and Ryan went to a seminar about Galapagos cruises.

Enjoying the sun.
Enjoying the sun.

Coincidentally we have the same cruise director from our Antarctic cruise as we have on this trip. And much like that cruise, they offered a Pool OlympiX game as entertainment. Ryan figured he try again to go for the Celebrity gold. There was only one game and the it was pretty short. In this game, teams had to relay a wet towel across a pool and squeeze it out into a bucket. The team that filled the bucket first wins.

There were two teams: Team Awesome, and Team Not-So-Awesome (Ryan’s team). But unlike the last competition a few years ago, with a biased judge, Ryan’s team won this time. The prize was a t-shirt and not a fake medal.

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Team Not-So-Awesome is on the right.
The relay race.
The relay race.

Tonight was also the first of two “formal” nights for the cruise. Officially Celebrity dropped formal nights in favor of Celebrity Chic. So we all got sorta dressed up, had our photos taken and attended the first of three full productions shows of the cruise.

Tonight’s show was the stage production Life. We knew we were in for something different when a voice come on before the show encouraging us to take (non-flash) photos and videos from the show. It even went so far as to tell us to share on social media. In the past we got the exact opposite message, so we didn’t have a camera with us. The show featured talented singing and dancing with music from various pop artists of the last two years. Much more current than we are used to on the ships.

Tomorrow we anchor at Grand Cayman. We are sort of repeating last year’s trip by going to Stingray City and attempting to swim with dolphins.

Free purell squirts yesterday: 5

Free purell squirts today: 9

Total steps from our room (far aft end of ship) to nearest elevator: ~150

Total steps today: 7,995

And a shout out to Judy… If we didn’t have a room in the back of the ship, we would never get our steps in! 😉

Starting Our Central American Cruise Vacation

Location: Port St. Lucie, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale, FL

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We may have unofficially started our vacation a few days ago with Thanksgiving but today marks the start of the central focus of the trip: a 10 day Caribbean cruise to Columbia and Central America. Before we talk about that we’re going to rehash yesterday.

It may seem a cliche but we woke up pretty early yesterday for a full day of activities. We and Leigh drove north to Orlando to spend the day at Universal Studios. We visited Islands of Adventure exactly five years ago, which was coincidentally also the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The park was nearly empty on that day, and we didn’t have to wait in any lines. We learned that that was considered normal for that day. Since we were going to be down in Florida for a cruise this weekend, we decided to try our luck again and visit the park.

The theory was correct. The park was lightly attended yesterday, and with few exceptions we didn’t have to wait long in any line. We visited everything we wanted to over the course of the day, but our main focus was the various Harry Potter rides and activities.

The Hogwarts Express
The Hogwarts Express
Diagon Alley - the fire-breathing dragon escaping Gringotts.
Diagon Alley – the fire-breathing dragon escaping Gringotts.

After we had a full day at the park, we drove over to Cape Canaveral for dinner at A N.Y. Pizza Place. Ryan feels that they have the best french fries in the world.  After dinner, we went back to Port St. Lucie.

This morning we got up early once again, but this time to drive down to Fort Lauderdale to board the cruise ship. We are cruising on the Celebrity Equinox again. It’s been a little over 2 years since we last sailed on her. Except for the absence of the giant globe on deck 7, not much has changed.

We were one of the first people on the ship. So we had a lot of free time on board to relax prior to the muster drill and leaving port. It was well needed R&R.

Enjoying a frosty, fruity beverage.
Enjoying a frosty, fruity beverage.
Becky and Leigh enjoying the view as the ship left port.
Becky and Leigh enjoying the view as the ship left port.

In the evening we saw a musical performance from the talented and humorous Jayne Curry. We look forward to seeing her perform again in a few days.

Tomorrow is the first of four days at sea on this cruise. It probably goes without saying that we’ll spend it relaxing in the sun.

Total steps yesterday: 21,386

Total times on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journery: 5

Total times on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: 4

Total steps today: 9,810

Klondike Countdown

As always, we prepared a summary post for our mega trip, and we meant to post it several months ago in June, but we forgot.

So in anticipation of our next trip (a few days from now), here are some of the highlights from our 17 day-5 night Alaska/Northwest Trip.


W5260129_editedTop Five

  1. Kenai Fjords Cruise
  2. Seattle
  3. Calving of the Hubbard Glacier
  4. Barrow, Alaska
  5. BEARS! and BEARS!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADistances

  • By water: 1,770 nmi
  • By air: 8,279 mi
  • By rental car: 850 mi
  • By tour bus: ~300mi
  • Total steps (via fitbit): 153,433
  • By walking: 53.5 mi
  • Total distance traveled: approx 20,420 miles

For reference the circumference of the Earth is 24,901 mi

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Calving of the Hubbard Glacier

Travel

  • Total watercraft: 4
  • Total aircraft: 6 (on 7 flights)
  • Total hotels: 4
  • Total buses/vans: 15
  • Total lightrail: 2
  • Total Monorail: 1

Geography

  • Total Countries: 2 (US, Canada)
  • Total States and Equivalent 6 (Maryland, Washington, Alaska, Yukon Territory, British Columbia, Texas)
  • Total Continents: 1 (North America)
  • Total Oceans: 2 (North Pacific, Arctic)
  • Total Hemispheres: 1 (NW)
  • Total Timezones: 5 (EDT, PDT, AKDT, CDT)
  • Highest Elevation: ~3700 ft (in Denali National Park)
  • Lowest Elevation: Sea level
  • Farthest point west: near Barrow, AK (156°49′ W)
  • Farthest point north: below Point Barrow (71°21′26″ N)
Whale bone arch
Whale bone arch in Barrow, AK

Wildlife

  • Bears: 2 (Grizzly, Black)
  • Pinnepeds: 3 (stellar sea lion, river otter, sea otter, harbor seal)
  • Puffins: 2 (horned, tufted)
  • Whales: 3 (humpback, beluga,
  • Dolphins (Dall’s porpoise, orca, harbor porpoise)
  • Eagles, 2 (bald, golden)
  • Miscellaneous: goats, reindeer, moose, cormorant, murre, snow owl

 

W5300331_editedPhotography

  • Total pictures taken: 3,658
  • Total selfies: 41
  • Total video taken: 44
  • Total souvenir photos received: 2

Miscellaneous

  • Total national park passport cancellations stamps: 13
  • Total Starbucks white chocolate mocha frappuccinos: 4
  • Total frosty fruity beverages purchased: 0
  • Maximum kp: 1.33
  • Maximum kp during the “nighttime” : 0.67
  • Total days: 17
  • Total nights: 5
  • Total Aquaria: 3

Join us again next week when we go on another Caribbean cruise, this time taking us to South and Central America, exploring rainforests and ruins, and a transit through the Panama Canal.