Tag Archives: celebrity cruises

Boarding the Xpedition and Daphne Major

Location: Santa Cruz, Baltra, and Daphne Major, Galapagos

We woke up early this morning. Not because we had too, but because we got to bed early last night, we’re still on east coast time, and a loud rooster was not far from the hotel. We spent some time packing up, and playing on the internet then headed down to have breakfast in the courtyard. It was a yummy and generous sized breakfast for two people. It didn’t take long for the birds to realize that we were eating and soon Tippy Headrin (Ryan) was surrounded by a couple dozen finches and other birds eager to eat any loose crumbs that fell off his plate when he was looking the other way. Like all other animals here, the small birds have no natural fear of humans, and would only fly away if we made any sudden moves in their directions.

After breakfast we left the hotel and made our way from Puerto Ayora to Baltra airport. We did the same journey as yesterday but in reverse. It took about 70 minutes to get to the airport. Along the way, Ryan spotted two Galapagos tortoises, but we were travelling too fast to get any pictures.

We arrived at the airport and met with the Celebrity Cruises representative. We were the first people to arrive for the cruise. He showed us to the Celebrity VIP lounge were was had access to food and drinks. Over the course of the next hour and a half, other passengers would trickle in from incoming flights. We were notified that the ship was ready for us and that we could board the ship. So the 16 early arrivals (most other passengers took the pre-cruise Quito add-on) made our way to a shuttle that took us to the port on the north side of the island.

We boarded the first zodiac (panga) to leave the port and made our way to the Xpedition. The panga ride took about 5 minutes to get to the ship. We were the first ones to board the ship (and thinking of Leigh’s life goal the whole time).

We got a quick cruise briefing and our room keys. And just like any other first day on a ship: we dropped our stuff off in the room, got lunch, and decided to explore the ship.

Exploring the ship took less than 5 minutes. It’s just not that big. It has a lounge, hot tub, a few decks chairs. The lounge is used for nearly all briefings, and its the only place on the ship with wifi (although we still could get a wifi signal nearby).

Most of the rest of the day consisted of getting us educated for the rest of the week. Our first briefing was the mandatory safety briefing and muster drill.  This coincidentally happened at the same time as the fourth quarter of the NYG-Eagles games. We’ve heard this briefing before (in the event of a water landing…) but it had a few twists from the normal cruise safety briefings. Ryan paid close attention… to the gamecast on his phone.  And he in no way was loud, made a scene, or drew attention to himself when the eagles won with a 61 yd field goal. FLY EAGLES FLY!

Next the ship raised anchor and made its way to Daphne Major and nearby volcanic island. This small island juts out of the sea with no obvious way to make landings. So the ship sailed around it. The island is most famous for the recent(ish) work of two researchers who have been returning to this island twice a year to survey the various finch species. Through their research they were able to show adaptation and evolution in action through the natural generation of a new finch species. This scenic cruising lasted less than an hour.  We got some good pictures of the island with its geological layers.

Daphne Major
Geologic layers showing different types of eruptions on Daphne Major

Meanwhile various frigate bids began flying in our wake, providing great photo opportunities.

Frigate bird flying in our wake

Along the way, we passed by some rocks sticking out of the water. It was populated by lots of seabirds and sea lions.

birds and sea lions resting on the rocks.

Later in the evening we had a briefing on how to snorkel and what excursion options were available to us tomorrow.

Tomorrow we will visit Rabida Island. In the morning we will go for a long hike and snorkel near Port Egas. In the afternoon we’ll go for a panga ride in Elizabeth Bay followed by more snorkeling.

Total watercraft: 3

Total steps: 6,175

The internet is faster and more reliable than we were expecting. It looks like we’ll be able to update the blog every night, but we may be a little limited in the amounts of wildlife photos we can upload. 

Also… Rachel was watching the Redskins gamecast while we were writing this… HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!

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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 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

Roman Numerals

Med map

We’ve been back for over a week now and we are pleased to report that we are both back on east coast time and completely unpacked. And just like our last two mega-trips we’ve prepared a list of our favorite things and totals for the trip.

Our Top Five

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe traveled to so many new places on this trip, with no one location standing out as the pinnacle of the trip. So this was not an easy list to write.

  1. Vesuvius and Pompeii
  2. Dubrovnik
  3. Hagar Qim ruins in Malta
  4. Venice
  5. Colosseum at Night

Distances

  • By water: 2867 nmi + ~30 mi for small water craft
  • By air: 9010 mi
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy car: ~700 mi
  • By rail: 345 mi
  • Steps (from fit bit):  257,771 steps (high 17,129; low 5,793; avg 11,717)
  • Walking: 105.8 mi
  • Total distance traveled: ~13,506 mi

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

Travel

  • Total watercraft: 14 (1 cruise ship, 7 vaporettos, 1 gondola, 4 tenders, 1 argosy)
  • Total trains: 2
  • Total aircraft: 2
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATotal hotels: 2

Geography

  • Total countries: 7 (US, Italy, Vatican City, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Malta)
  • Total continents: 3 (North America, Europe, Asia)
  • Total oceans: 1 (North Atlantic)
  • Total hemispheres: 2 (NW, NE)
  • Total time zones: 3 (EDT, CEST, EEST)
  • Highest Elevation: 8,000 ft (near the base of the cable car station at Mt Etna)
  • Lowest Elevation: Sea level
  • Farthest point north:  45°30’14” N (near Marco Polo Venice Airport)
  • Farthest point east:  29°4’25” E (Bosporus River in Istanbul Turkey)
  • Farthest point south:  35°49’12” N (Blue Grotto, Malta)

Photography

  • Total pictures taken by Leigh: 2,278
  • Total pictures taken by Barry: ~3500
  • Total pictures taken by us: 7,587
  • Total souvenir photos bought: 1
  • Total selfies (attempts): 63 (130)

Miscellaneous

  • Colloseum_nightTotal Places of Worship Toured: 15 (9 Churches, 7 Pagan Temples, 6 Synagogues, 3 Mosques). The totals reflect their current designation and the sites may have been devoted to something else in the past.
  • Total Places of Worship Seen: Too numerous to count
  • Total times Rachel got out of a hot tub without injuring herself (attempts): 12 (12)
  • Total cans of diet coke consumed on board the ship: 55
  • Total volcanoes climbed: 2
  • Total crew we recognized from previous cruises: 1
  • Total ugly Americans encountered: 3
  • Total malibu pina coladas consumed on board the ship: 5
  • Total towel animals awaiting Rachel’s parents in their stateroom after dinner: 6
  • Total towel animals awaiting us in our stateroom after dinner: 2 (despite having the same room attendants and tipping better after the first week)
The first of many selfies taken on our trip!
The first of many selfies taken on our trip!

This concludes our blog about our Awesome Mediterranean Odyssey. Join us again in a few months when we go on a short weekend trip to San Diego for our anniversary. For the first time since writing this blog we don’t have another mega trip in the queue. So far we’ve been to all four hemispheres, sailed on four oceans, and visited all but one continent. One wonders where our next adventure may take us.

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Thanksgiving Down Under

Today was our last day on the Millennium. It was bittersweet; on the one hand it’s never easy to disembark a cruise ship on the last day, you always just want more time to escape and relax. On the other hand, we have another 12 days left on our trip, and half a continent to explore, so leaving the ship was a bit easier.

After leaving the ship, we took a cab to our hotel in North Ryde. We settled into the hotel for about an hour, taking advantage of a free, fast and reliable internet connection for the first time in three weeks. Note: it still took over 90 minutes to finally produce, and upload one of these posts on the ship, with 45-60 minutes of time spent just trying to get online! We left the hotel around midday and made our way to Darling Harbour.

Fountain at Darling Harbour

After a quick lunch at the American Embassy (aka, McDonalds) our first stop was the Sydney Aquarium. We spent a couple hours exploring the museum which mostly focused around Australian marine life. It was the first time we had seen many of those species of fishes. The highlights of the aquarium included giant lobsters and crabs, who we nicknamed “butter” and “old bay”, dugong and sharks.

No nervous system, but it can still sting.
We found Nemo!

Dugong are the indian-pacific cousin to the manatee. Neither of us knew of their existence before today. We saw two dugongs today. They were each in a giant tank which included underwater transparent tunnels. This allowed us to see them eating at the bottom of the habitat up close.

Ryan and a dugong greet each other.

A similar tank showed a shark habitat, also with transparent tunnels. We saw some neat sharks, but the lighting wasn’t very good for pictures.

Shark

After the aquarium, we went over to the Australian National Maritime Musuem. Unfortunatly, they were about to close so we didn’t get to go into the museum  Ryan bought some Captain Cook memorabilia in the gift shop. Ryan is an admirer of Captain Cook and his three voyages of discovery. In the back of the museum is a seaworthy scale replica of the HM Bark Endeavour, the ship Cook commanded on his first voyage. We weren’t able to get aboard the ship for a tour, but we were able to get close to it on the dock. Ryan was very excited. We know what we’re doing first the next time we come back to Sydney!

Ryan beside a replica of the Captain Cook’s Endeavour

The harbour also featured the world largest movie screen, with IMAX and 3D capabilities. Tonight they were showing the new Bond movie, but we decided that Au$31 was way too expensive and passed. However they were already selling tickets for the new Hobbit movie which is released in a few weeks. Had we been here when the Hobbit was out, we would have paid the Au$31.

If only we were here a few weeks later. We could see the Hobbit, in 3D and IMAX, on the world largest screen!

We decided to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Sydney. For the third year in a row, we have eschewed a traditional family Thanksgiving dinner for exotic locales. Last year Ryan was working the launch of Mars Science Laboratory at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the year before was a birthday cruise for Rachel’s mother. We hope to host thanksgiving dinner at our place next year.

On the train ride back to the hotel, we saw the Millennium leaving port.  It was a fitting end to the day.

Tomorrow we explore the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney and visit a wildlife park and see some exotic Austronesian animals. It’s another o’dark thrity departure time, but its worth it!

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Tasman Sea Day 2

Location: 34° 2′ S, 160° 7′ E (at 1000 local time), The Tasman Sea

Today was our last day at sea. Last night we set our clocks back an hour and we are now on Australia time. Tomorrow we dock in Sydney Harbor at 12 noon.

The weather was just as bad as yesterday, so we essentially repeated yesterday. In the morning we each got nice relaxing massages. We also picked up our formal night cruise photos (aka annual family portraits). In the afternoon Rachel went to the casino and Ryan went to the gym and took a nap.

The show tonight was a young singer named Will Martin.

We talked about packing up tonight but decided to let that be a problem for “future Rachel and Ryan” and elected to pack tomorrow night instead.

Tomorrow: Sydney Harbor and the kick off to the Down Under Portion of our super awesome mega trip.

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Tasman Sea Day One

Location: 34° 14′ S, 169° 47′ E (as of 1000 local time) The Tasman Sea

Last night the ship set its clocks back an hour, giving us an extra hour of needed sleep after three busy days in New Zealand. We awoke this morning to a cloudy, misty, cool day. In the morning we explored the Persian Gardens on the ship. This is basically the spa’s thermal baths. After lunch we went through Australian immigration and got our passports stamped. Australia sent a few officers on board to process everyone so that we didn’t have to lose time in port on Wednesday and Thursday. Aside from that, it was another rainy day at sea; Rachel spent some time in the casino, Ryan went to the gym and took a nap.

Tonight however was formal night #3 and lobster night in the restaurants. We classed the ship up yet again wearing our fine digs and ate as much lobster as possible. The show tonight was a ship production “iBroadway” featuring highlights from a variety of famous Broadway music.

Tomorrow is our last day at sea, as we explore a hopefully sunnier part of the Tasman sea.

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At least the sun was out yesterday…

The weather on this trip has by and large been excellent. We had a few passing showers but nothing too bad. In fact the weather was perfect for yesterday’s eclipse but our luck ran out today. Today was another day at sea, a cool, cloudy and rainy day at sea. The sea was the roughest at it had been the entire trip. However this isn’t all that bad, as we’ve seen much worse in the Caribbean.

The ship didn’t move much today, a steady 8 knots, enough to inch toward our next port of call Tauranga. We didn’t move much ourselves either. We spent some time in the hot tub then Rachel went to the casino and Ryan went to the gym.

In the evening we saw a variety show featuring the singer and ventriloquist from the past few nights.

Tomorrow we visit New Zealand for the first time, and Ryan will have visited all three corners of the Polynesian Triangle (Easter Island, Hawai’i, and New Zealand). Our tour in Tauranga is geology (Rachel insert: waa-hoo!) and Polynesian culture.

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