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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 6: Last day at Sea with an English Pub Lunch for my Birthday & Day 7 Disembarkation

Day 6:  Last day at Sea with an English Pub Lunch for my Birthday



We began our last day at sea looking out over the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, headed north toward the Port of Houston where we dock tomorrow (Saturday) AM.  I got up much earlier that MA, checked email and quickly logged off of our Wi-Fi because we only had 9 minutes left on our “frequent cruiser” free plan.  I wanted to be sure MA had some time to get on line so she can check her email, Word games with her son, her nephew, and Dorothy from our Bible Study class, and let us not forget, “Candy Crush Saga.”   
We had our usual two egg breakfast, mine with toast and coffee and hers with grits and coffee. Our breakfast companions were a couple we had dinner with last night.  We call John “the mayor” because he could be a twin of Rudy Guiliani! Then we decided to try our knowledge skills with other passengers in the morning trivia pairing up with a dentist and his wife.  I knew we were in trouble from the first question which was: “What was Juliet’s last name in the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet?”  The dentist’s wife knew the answer (Capulet). We got 13 out of 20 right, about par for the course for us. This game was tougher than others with questions like what are the names of the four members of U2?  Bono was one, but as to the other three, I don’t think anyone had a clue.  Ok, here’s another question I should have known the answer to. “What is the only house that the Queen of England is prohibited from entering?” (House of Commons)  We did skip the seminar on “dinner napkin folding” however!
After trivia we went shopping and found a birthday present for our grandson Jason who turns 11 in February.  I’ll not mention what it is because he may read this blog.  On most cruises Princess offers a typical “British Pub lunch”.  We like the fish and chips but today we had the shrimp and chips.  Fried shrimp is one of my very favorite foods and it’s my birthday so I get to have whatever I want, right?  J  We had lunch with a couple from Idaho.  He was a retired mining engineer who had spent a lot of time in Argentina, right up MA’s alley from her Pan Am days. They compared notes about Buenos Aires and how great a place it is to visit.  We four really hit it off and in fact he gave us his card and they invited us to come visiting anytime. 
This afternoon was “pack it up for home” time.  All bags are color coded according to the time one is scheduled to disembark.  We leave them outside the door tonight and we’ll will see them again in the baggage claim area of the port tomorrow morning (one hopes!).  Never had a problem though, at least with Princess. 

Like I said yesterday, may not sound all that exciting but we love it, especially because of all the cool folks we meet from all over the USA and places beyond our borders.  Next cruise is a Transatlantic from Ft. Lauderdale to London in April.  We’re going to Florida a day early too have dinner with friends we met on last year’s Transatlantic, Bill and Sam!  That’s the thing about cruising, you can end up with friends all over the place, friends who share one’s love of travel, dining, and new adventures.  So until then, here’s hoping the Port of Houston is not fogged in tomorrow!  Bon voyage!
Disembarkation and home....reunion with Tanner
I woke up this morning after I noticed that the ship stopped moving. I looked outside outside and saw the Hartman Bridge to Baytown and knew we were home.  We got dressed and packed our walk-off bags and then went to breakfast.  We met a couple from Winnipeg, Canada and they shared their table with us.  I had my usual two eggs on toast breakfast with black coffee.  It was 8:40 and we were scheduled to leave at 9am. We went back to the room on the 9th floor, made sure we got everything and walked off.  We found our bags in the Light Blue section, cleared customs and we were in the car by 9:25.  I took MA home first, unloaded the car and went to Susan's to get Tanner.  I can only tell you he was as happy to see me and I was to see him.  I think he will miss his big brother and sister Irish Wolfhounds but he loves our walks.  We are home and I thank the Lord for a safe and wonderful trip.





Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 5: Cozumel and a photo op with a Shark

MA gets swallowed by a Great White!

We got going a little later than usual today, heading for breakfast around 9:30: (no lines)!  We then collected our stuff and walked off the ship about an hour later. We weren’t the only game in town; Carnival Triumph was anchored nearby as was NCL.  We walked into the pier shopping area and through the gauntlet of tour salesmen, taxi drivers, scooter rentals, and souvenir hawkers.  I just smile and say “no thank you.”  We were going to walk to a part of Cozumel we went to last year but realized we had taken a taxi there and since neither one of us were anxious to walk a couple of miles to basically window shop, we turned around and decided to check out a new mall area across from the pier.  We quickly found a coffee shop with Wi-Fi where we spent about an hour with MA on her IPhone playing WORD and Candy Crush and sending texts.  Go figure! 
I wandered around and found a great photo op which was a great white shark.  See photo.  We turned and made our way back to the pier and stopped and had some chips, salsa and soft drinks at Senior Frogs at the end of the pier.  We boarded the Caribbean Princess and went down to the 5th floor and had a light lunch.  After relaxing for a while we went to our first afternoon tea. It was special.  Tea, scones, tea sandwiches, sweets, just like Buckingham Palace I’m guessing.  Well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch!  We met a lady there from San Diego who was on her 85th cruise!  She didn’t care about going to shore, just as long as she was on the ship. From there it was Trivial Pursuit (13 out of 20 right). It all doesn’t sound so thrilling reading this back, but it was a beautiful day in Cozumel with the famous aqua blue water all around.  What’s not to love!
We both get swallowed by a Great White!

Tonight is another formal night so we are getting ready to meet the Captain, have some hors d’oeuvres and then its lobster night. Funny how the food gets better and better as the cruise progresses.  Guess that’s so our last memories are of “great dinners”!!  Later:  Had some great dinner companions, a former college basketball coach and his wife whose son played for Vanderbilt about 6 years before MA’s Jimmy made the team; then there was a gentlemen who had to be Rudy Guiliani’s twin and his wife of 51 years (They are California Republicans!) and a couple who we recognized as they did us – from last year’s Caribbean cruise.  Dinner was fun. Tomorrow’s a “sea day” again, hoping that on Saturday AM we do not run into fog delays going in to the pier. See ya later.  



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Belize: Wednesday, Day 4 of Our Cruise

Belize: Wednesday, Day 4 of Our Cruise



Today began with NO Coffee being delivered to our room.  This was not Princess’ fault! I had forgotten to check coffee on the room service request. So I just put on some “go-get-coffee” clothes, made my way to the 15th floor, got two cups and some fruit and did our own “room service”.  This would hold us until we got to breakfast. We decided to go into Belize on the tender boats.  Belize does not have a dock for cruise ships and requires passengers to use the “approved” contracted local catamarans which hold at least 60-75 folks.  We took our time before leaving, went to breakfast and then took the elevator to the 5th floor for our “tender tickets”. We did not have to wait long for the next boat and we were off.
The weather this morning was cloudy and mild.  It started to rain a little later in the day.  We arrived to the port amid the loud music of cafes, a vendor offer free rum punch samples (at 10am???) and tour operators’ shouting about their (very expensive) local tours.  We walked around a while and found a store that sells “bamboo” sheets.  That’s right, bamboo.  Bamboo produces some of the softest material I’ve ever seen. With that contribution to the local economy, we made our way back to the tender and found two seats that would keep us dry on the way back to the ship.  I met a couple of birders from Houston on the return ride. They were relatively new to Houston and asked about where to go birding. I gave them some of my favorite places including Kleb Woods and the Katy Prairie. I invited them to come with me on one of Kleb Woods famous Wednesday “bird walks.”

We're talking birds.
Back aboard the Caribbean Princess we went down to the 5th floor Coffee Shop and had our usual cappuccinos after lunch.  Later at the cabin, I found time to read myself to sleep for a nice nap, one of my favorite afternoon events.  We went to trivial pursuit at 4:30pm teaming up with four other folks we hadn’t met before.  Of the 21 questions at least we got more of them right than wrong, specifically 12.  The one I missed and shouldn’t have, being an outdoorsman and all, was “What is the name of the habitat of beavers?”  Answer: Lodge! I said “pod”. Seemed logical! MA got “mal de mer” right (seasickness).  She’d better after all those French lessons! Dinner tonight is at 7:00pm and then we’re going to check out the comedy show. See ya via cyberspace tomorrow. WW
I passed on the Wet Lizard!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Two Days at Sea and One in Roatan, Honduras

Two Days at Sea and One in Roatan, Honduras



Sunday and Monday were “sea days” on the Caribbean Princess.  This means you can eat a lot, play a lot, loaf a lot, read a lot, and in other words do whatever you want!  MA found a Bible study on Sunday afternoon, about 30 folks were there.  There was no study leader, folks just shared their favorite verses and what they meant to them, some short testimonies, and a closing prayer.




Ron Jones puts these Veterans Get-togethers on many of the cruises we've been on.
 I was busy with a Veterans Get-Together which we find on most of our cruises.  We played Trivial Pursuit, just the two of us, not with other teams, we got 13 of 15 correct!  We docked early in Roatan Tuesday morning and I got my binoculars and went ashore, didn’t see too many birds though.  We’ve been here twice before so we opted out of the ship shore excursions.  We didn’t opt out of the hot tub this afternoon.  I even got MA some ice cream so she could enjoy that in the hot tub.  Tonight we’re going to a magic show on the Princess Theater stage, after of course we “dine”.  We chose “anytime dining” which means we eat when we want to and have different table companions at all meals.  We’ve met some pretty cool folks that way. The only downside has been the ship is still plagued with the Norovirus.  They sanitized it professionally before we left, but the virus lingers. We’ve escaped so far, washing our hands a whole lot and not touching anything like elevator buttons (use our knuckles), stair rails, etc.  MA’s not even drinking ship water or eating anything that hasn’t been cooked.  Got some pictures here to share! Enjoy!
Great Frigate bird

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cruising for a Birthday.....mine!

Cruising for a Birthday…..mine!


Mary Alice and I usually try and get away in January which goes back to her working as a CPA. She wanted a vacation before tax season. (She also wanted a vacation after tax season.) So we decided on a Princess cruise in the Caribbean from the Port of Houston.  This is our 17th cruise and 15th on Princess. With so many cruises the perks begin even before the ship leaves the dock. We were upgraded to a mini suite which we really like. It has a separate sitting area with its own TV and I can go there when I get up early and watch Fox News. Yes, Princess has Fox New, channel 40.  It also has ESPN with all the football and baseball games, satellite reception permitting.
This is a seven day cruise so packing was no problem.  
Our dog Tanner senses when we are getting ready to leave. Susan, Tanner’s rescue Mom, has taken him in on our travels. He seems to love going to her house because he has so many playmates, five Irish wolf-hounds, a poodle and a West Highland terrier. I got his crate and food in the car and said let’s go. He jumped right in and we were off for his vacation. My last sight of him was getting acquainted with his Irish wolf-hound buddy.
I got back home and put the suitcases in the car, got dressed, and ready to head to the ship around 11am.  That’s when Mary Alice got an email from Princess delaying our boarding until 2PM due to the Noro Virus on the previous cruise and very late docking of the ship due to dense fog. Then the crew has to scrub down the entire ship after all the incoming passengers departed. Soon we got another email saying there was a further 4 hour delay. That put us back to 5:30.  Finally we left home at 4:15 and got to the port around 5:30PM and met with a huge traffic snarl with about a thousand cars trying to get into the parking lot. It took over an hour to get the car parked, go inside, pass security and get our boarding pass.

Us boarding the Caribbean Princess

Our dinner companions for last evening were four elderly ladies from Texas. When the first course was served, the lady to my left (Judith, an amazing 85 year old) asked if she could say the “blessing”.  Right away we knew we were at the right table. Back to the cabin after to unpack and settle in. This morning, never one to miss a meal (even on a diet), we joined some new folks for breakfast.  Mary Alice had a fascinating conversation with a young man who by profession was a hang gliding instructor.  He told her if she had ever had a dream where she is flying through the air (without an airplane and she has), then she was a great candidate for hang gliding lessons.  Fortunately he and his wife live in Seattle and I’m guessing we’re not going there anytime soon.  I think Mary Alice wants to leave these kind of self-flight events to George Bush Senior!
We are at sea for two days.  MA’s going to join the book club and they are doing “The First Call from Heaven”.  I’m watching football all afternoon, either pool side or here in our cabin looking out over the deep blue seas!
One more thing.  This Noro Virus thing is highly contagious and therefore Princess has taken extreme measures to be sure no one gets it or passes it on.  For example, there is no butter or bread basket on the tables, no salt and pepper shakers, no sugar and cream, no flowers.  At the buffet you cannot serve yourself, even for something as simple as an apple. Everything there is handed to you.  If you’re in a dining room, the waiters bring salt and pepper in paper packets, hand you the sugar packets, pour your cream, and serve the bread and butter with tongs.  But then, Mary Alice bought something in the boutique and they handed her the community pen to sign the receipt. Go figure. That’s what hand sanitizers are for.
Stay tuned!  Wayne