Category Archives: cruise

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.


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

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  • By water: 1,770 nmi
  • By air: 8,279 mi
  • By rental car: 850 mi
  • By tour bus: ~300mi
  • Total steps (via fitbit): 130,276
  • 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.

Seward’s Ice Box

Location: Seward, Alaska

It wasn’t acutely cold in Seward today. We just couldn’t think up an appropriately witty title for today’s post.

Today was the last of our early morning wake ups for the trip. Ryan got up very early to return the rental car and take the hotel shuttle back, while Rachel stayed back to finish up packing. By 8:40 we were on a shuttle on our way to Seward to board a cruise ship.

We had a couple stops along the way. Our first stop was Beluga Point. We had a few minutes here to stretch our legs and look for the white beluga whales. We didn’t see any here.

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Beluga Point

But we did see a pair a half hour later down the road. We were going to fast and weren’t in a position to pull over so we couldn’t get any pictures.

The next stop was the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This facility takes in injured and orphaned wild animals and attempts to heal them back to health. Those that can be reintroduced to the wild, are sent out. Those that can’t be released, find a comfortable and spacious enclosure view-able to tourists. We saw grizzly bears, elk, bison, moose, fox, lynx, and many more.

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Grizzly Bear
Lynx
Lynx
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

We arrived in Seward for the second time in two days. We had several hours before we had to board the Radiance of the Seas, so we dropped off our bags with the porters and took the Seward Shuttle to the Alaska Sealife Center.

The Sealife Center is essentially an aquarium featuring local aquatic species. It’s a large modern building that stands out from the rest of the town. Among the highlights are a large aviary with numerous puffins, gulls, ducks, and mulls that can fly around with visitors.

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It also had habitats for seals and sea lions.

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A playful seal

After our visit to the Sealife Center we took the shuttle back to the cruise terminal. This was probably the easiest time we ever had boarding a cruise ship. It didn’t even feel like we were starting a new phase of the trip, so much as going on the next tour. We think this had to do with the Radiance being a smaller cruise ship and the abnormally long time the reduced number of passengers had to go through the boarding process.

We spent the rest of the day going through our first day cruise routine. We unpacked, explored the ship, hit the hot tub, did the muster drill, and had a frosty fruity beverage as we watched the world sail away.

After diner, because it was still light out, we got a few more pictures of the nearby fjords as we sailed southeast.

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Tomorrow is an “at sea” day were we have a scenic cruise of the Hubbard Glacier.

Today’s weather: High 63, Low 52, Sunny

Sunrise: 4:52am, Sunset 10:58pm

Total complimentary purrell squirts: 0, they give us disinfectant wipes

Total complimentary disinfectant wipes: 3

Total steps: 11,508

 

The Orca Super Pod at Kenai Fjord

Location: Seward, Alaska

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Today we drove from Anchorage down to Seward. It was a relatively quick and scenic drive compared with our drives of the previous two days, aided by the sunny skies. We saw a lot of bald eagles during our drive, but we didn’t stop to get any picture because we had a tight schedule to keep to go on a cruise tour of the Kenai Fjords.

We should mention that the weather was perfect today. Upper sixties, mostly sunny, very calm seas, and little wind. What a contrast from yesterday!

We boarded the Callisto Voyager around 11 and made our way out of the Resurrection Bay. As we waited for the ship to leave, we got to watch a sea otter playing around by the docks. He even escorted the ship through part of the harbor.

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Our first stop on the cruise was to look at a puffins on Hive and Rugged Islands. This was our first time seeing puffins in the wild. We were in Iceland during the wrong season to see them last year.

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Next we ventured out into the Gulf of Alaska to attempt some whale watching. It’s usually hit or miss with whale watching in this part of Alaska during this time of year. But apparently we timed it perfectly. Not only did we spot a pod of orcas coming in, we spotted several pods of orcas arriving from a far. This was the first day of orca mating season, and both local and transient pods were joining together in the Kenai Fjords to engage in reproductive activities. Some of which we actually witnessed. By the end of the day, the dozens upon dozens of orcas began swimming together as a super pod. This kind of congregation is seen only 2-3 days a year!

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We took a break from watching the orcas, and made way towards Chat Island where a colony of sea lions spend the day sunning themselves.

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The ship then proceeded to the Holgate Glacier. We spent over 20 minutes here observing the glacier. The crew even took a few small icebergs out the arm (water) so that we could feel the glacial ice and pose with pictures of it.

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Holding glacial ice

We didn’t actually get that close to the glacier, so our sense of scale was off. We would see the glacier calve, then hear the loud crack 2.5 seconds later. It wasn’t until we left the glacier and saw another similar sized ship approach later that we could get a great sense for how huge it truly is!

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Notice the ship near the base of the glacier.

Along with the glacier, there were numerous other scenic vistas and wild animals.

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Mountain goats
Mountain goats

Including our first good bald eagle picture

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On our way back to Seward we encountered a lone humpback whale tail slapping the water in the distance. We’re not sure if he was trying to attract the attention of other whales, or the tour boats. It certainly got our attention!

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When we got close, he stopped slapping his tail, and started doing pectoral slaps.

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By this point another two tour boats arrived. He kept up with the pectoral slaps for a while and then switched over to breeching! Amazing!

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After leaving the humpback whale, we encountered another large pod of orcas. This time, there was also a group of sea lions nearby. They were not happy to see the orcas (since orcas sometimes eat them), and were very vocal about it.

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Angry sea lions 'barking' at the orcas.

Angry sea lions ‘barking’ at the orcas.

We were told that on most days, the tour would be lucky to see any whales. Today we had the problem of seeing so many, so close, on opposite sides of the ship, that we had trouble keeping up with the photo taking opportunities.

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It was a fantastic tour!

On the drive back to Anchorage, we stopped to see the portage glacier.

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Tomorrow we visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on our way back down to Seward. We’ll also visit the Alaska Sealife Center in town. Lastly, we kickoff the second half of our Alaska trip by boarding the Radiance of the Seas for a one week cruise.

Today’s Weather: High 69, Low 47, Mostly Sunny

Sunrise: 4:46am, Sunset: 11:09pm

Total sea mammals observed: Humpback whale, orca, sea otter, sea lion

Total puffins species observed: 2, horned and tufted

Total watercraft: 1

Total bald eagles observed: dozens

Total orcas: too numerous to count

Total steps: 5,117

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Last Day of Freedom [of the Seas]

Location: somewhere between Florida and Cuba

Today was our last full day of the cruise, and we made it a long one. We awoke before 7:00 and headed up to the sports deck. Ryan went for one last attempt on the Flowrider with another lesson. He showed some improvement and finally worked out the issue that had been dogging him on the last several cruises (back arm kept coming forward). He had several alternating 180s during his attempts.

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And plenty of wipeouts out too.

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Following the lesson we spent most of the rest of the day relaxing by the pool, working on our sunburns.

In the afternoon Rachel went to the casino while Ryan went to the gym. And after several attempts, we finally managed to get resolution on the Grand Cayman excursion issue.

In the evening we saw the farewell show, which featured a comic and performances by two aerial dancers. Tonight was lobster night too. Rachel, Becky and Leigh each had two, Ryan had three.

Tomorrow we disembark from the ship and fly home.

Total steps today: 11,453

Total complementary purell squirts: 7

Totals for the cruise:

Countries: 5 (US, Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico)

Total purell squirts: 56

Total launches: 1 (Atlas V 401)

Total wipeouts: a lot

Total Steps: 59,484

Total distance sailed: about 1600 nmi

Total watercraft: 6

Total penguins: 0

Total unsuccessful attempts at getting out of a hot tub: 0

Total malibu pina coladas: 2

Total pictures: 1,078

 

This marks the end of our discount December getaway cruise: Join us again in May for our next adventure.

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