Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And Down the Stretch They Come!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We continued on toward New York today, singing “One short day in the Emerald City” whenever the mood struck us. More and more things are happening as we head for Fort Lauderdale.

-----There was a quite photogenic Grand Buffet today. Picture freaks were allowed a half hour to record another mountain of food for posterity; these are the same people who took endless snapshots of the chocolate buffet last week. Are they afraid they’ll forget what food looks like? We decided to eat lunch at the Grand Buffet because the lines were not long – everyone assumed it would be a mad house and went to the Lido which, we heard later, was the real mob scene. We had cold shrimp, shrimp tempura, satay and spring rolls plus too many desserts including out-of-this-world schnecken [sticky buns]. Oink.

-----Cruise Director Thom continued his public madness by swimming the Bermuda Triangle. Just as he swam across the Atlantic when we reached the midpoint in March, he dressed in a tuxedo jacket and shorts to plunge into the pool. Passengers were encouraged to join him and some who crave “dam dollars” did. Of course, the air temperature was only in the mid-60s and the wind was about Force 5, so it took either courage or insanity to do this.

-----On a different note, we have received more goodies in the last few days. We returned from dinner one night to find a necklace with a HAL logo on it and matching cuff links. MA has been wearing the necklace to see how long it takes for her neck to turn green. Yesterday, we received two HAL charger plates to go with the ones from last Fall’s voyage. As noted previously, we have found luggage straps, cruise journals, card wallets, fleece jackets and tote bags. We are supposed to get commemorative pins, too, but they have not been delivered yet.

Other than eating, our main activity today was team trivia where we won again. Today’s goodie was another umbrella apiece. We have enough to open a store when we get home. D continued exchanging messages with Roxanne, played some blackjack with minimal economic impact and did journal-related things on line and off; MA read and then “rested” until supper.

We dined at the Pinnacle Grill tonight, HAL’s extra-cost, ultra-swanky steak house. We were owed a free dinner because of our complaints about last Fall’s cabin and invited Mary to join us as our guest. Dinner was excellent, the service was flawless and the evening was quite leisurely. For the record, MA had lobster bisque, Caesar salad and lobster macaroni; D had the lobster bisques, Dungeness crab cakes and a filet. We both had tri-color crème caramel for dessert. Tie ropes on us and put us in the Macy’s parade. Mary and MA shared most of a bottle of wine which we/they will finish tomorrow night if we are able to eat by then.

Tomorrow – New York City

Monday, April 27, 2009
New York, New York, It’s a hell of a town/ The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down/ The people ride is a hole in the ground

Today was arguably the best day of the voyage, weather-wise – sunny and warm. New York, as usual, was alive with people walking, running, jogging, biking, hustling, working and relaxing. They were dressed in every possible combination of colors and styles, some intent and others as laid back as they could be. It was a typical New York day and crowd.

We were off the ship before 9:15 and cleared immigration, passports freshly stamped, a few minutes later. We had to wait “on line,” as they say here, for a taxi and were still at Rockefeller Center well before 10:00. We wandered through the shops and gawked at passersby, marveling at the wonder seen on the faces of first-time visitors. We had plenty of time and were in no hurry.

We turned north on Fifth Avenue and people-watched as we passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Had we been in any foreign port-of-call, we would have gone in and absorbed its atmosphere and immensity, but we’ve been here before and felt like natives. One should not take one’s own landmarks for granted, but we did, just as we do Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. Proximity breeds blasé.

We stopped at H. Stern, our favorite jewelry store. On previous trips, we’ve bought baubles at Stern stores in St. Thomas, Buenos Aires, Nairobi and New York, but not today. The salesman seemed disinterested to begin with, as if he were doing us a favor, and then turned off completely when we said that we wanted to see amethysts. Maybe business isn’t as bad as we thought it was. We had started around Fifth and Fifty-second and proceeded toward Central Park. We stopped at the ubiquitous Starbuck’s on Fifty-fifth [in the Sony Building] for a drink and the restroom. Starbuck’s! We knew how Mukti felt.

Speaking of Mukti, even though we ate at the Pinnacle Grill last night, we made sure “the boys” had their tip money before getting off in NYC. We also gave our Starbuck’s card to Mukti to use for the day. He didn’t go wild, but he did buy a coffee mug for his girl friend and, judging from the total, several coffee drinks. He gave the card back at dinner tonight but not the sales receipt, so D went on line to track it down; Mukti spent almost $17 dollars, a good investment on our part.

Part of our Big Apple ritual is a visit to FAO Schwarz, once New York’s premier toy store but now a mere shadow of its former self. Bankruptcy can do that to the high and mighty. We wandered around a bit and then looked for Ben Ten items for Carter who was enamored with this Cartoon Network hero when we last saw him. Ben Ten is too plebian for FAO Schwarz, though, as the staff directed us Toys ‘R Us in Times Square. We sat in the courtyard in front of the store and the General Motors building enjoying the sunshine. At 11:45, we started out for our lunch date with Elle Becker, MA’s former student who now lives in New York.

All we had, other than the name of the restaurant [Jean Georges Nugatine], was an address – 1 Central Park West between 60th and 61st Streets. Our rest stop at the GM building put us on the southeast corner of Central Park and the restaurant was at the southwest corner, so we walked along Fifty-ninth adjacent to the park. It was no short walk, but we watched people in the park and horse-drawn carriages. We arrived at 12:10, a few minutes early, to find Elle waiting outside for us. Her husband appeared moments later and we went into the restaurant which is in the Trump International tower at Columbus Circle.

We had a very pleasant lunch; both the conversation [men: travel; women: people] and food were good [MA: goat cheese salad, gourmet cheeseburger; D: calamari, roasted chicken] and, at $24.07 per person including dessert, a bargain to boot. We would definitely return if we knew in advance since reservations are a must.

We cabbed back to the ship in plenty of time for trivia. While we waited, D called Roxanne from the Lower Promenade and caught up with her and Ed. They discussed next year’s trip and decided to talk again after she hears from her travel agent. She and Ed are excited about the itinerary which includes western Norway, Iceland and the North Cape and the Baltic capitals. We all know how quickly fifteen months can pass by.

Three-peat! Three-peat! We won at trivia today without Scott and Karen, which would probably upset them if they knew, and had a choice of key chains or bag tags. We chose key chains and gave them to Toro and Mukti after supper; they seemed pleased and Toro said that he would use his for his motorcycle keys. You can take the boy out of Indonesia but you can’t take Indo out of the boy. After dinner, MA hung around the Ocean Bar watching the Cruise Staff and the old people dance and D went to the casino where he eventually lost less than the cost of a nail appointment. Perspective is nice when it works in your favor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We cruised down the East Coast today in waters so calm that we seemed to be becalmed; if we depended on sails, we would be dead still in the water. Tomorrow is our last day aboard, so, after trivia, MA did a small load of laundry while D caught up on the journal. We lost badly at trivia today, dashing our hopes for a dynastic finish. Key chains again; who cares anymore?

Tonight was also another Formal night and the dining room was decked out in black and gold, a tribute to the majesty of crepe paper decorations. Once again, MA read after dinner [escargots, lobster tails] while D tried again to earn enough in the casino to pay for our next trip. It looks sadly as if our next one will be to Playmobil Land.

Tomorrow we must pack. Our cruise is all but done and this will be the final post on the blog. When we get home, D will add pictures and, eventually, convert the finished product to a PDF file so we [and anyone else who asks] can read it at leisure.

-----The enjoyment of a shore excursion is directly proportional to enjoyment of the guide. The more we liked a guide, the better the experience.
-----Corollary: The better the lunch, the better our memory of the whole day. Our day in Sevastopol was ruined because of a lunch debacle which colored everything. Likewise, lunch in Rome paled in comparison to lunch the previous day in Florence and we did not have as good a time in Rome. On the other hand, we loved our lunches in Florence, Sorrento, Athens, Varna, Istanbul, Valletta, Kusadasi, Santorini and Sintra.
-----Mr. Otah lives in Rome and is known as Mayta.
-----Always ask the price of the fish.
-----Carry extra batteries. Lots of them.
-----The camera will always fail at a critical moment.
-----The Cruise Staff we worked with were unfailingly pleasant and tolerant. They have to be to deal with a ship full of old people. And us.
-----Guest speakers are a sure cure for insomnia.
-----Grand Voyages aren’t as Grand as they were six months ago.
----“It’s me again” and “Here’s Thom.”

1 comment:

  1. So where is the next cruise? The good news is that your TA has switched agencies. His old one oweshim so much commissions that it would pay for his next two cruises. I think bankruptcy calls. I've joined World Travel Service - a Virtuoso Agency- a good thing... It's seems like a good fit!