Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Today started at 5:30 AM for us, and we knew it was going to be a long one. We had everything together by 6:15, and by 6:30 we decided to go down and see if we could get a jumpstart on the immigration procedures. Our original time said 7:20, but with this many people, we thought we should go on down. When we arrived there were probably about 50 people already in line, and as the minutes went on, the line grew. From what we learned later, due to port congestion, we were late arriving, therefore the immigration officers were also late. By the time the doors opened, the line almost extended the entire length of the ship. We were through by 7:20 and up in the QG for our last breakfast on board. We both had our favorite omelets, and then said goodbye to Francis and Gavin. I requested a wheelchair for disembarkation, so we had to meet down in the Chart Room.
I did have to take a picture of the gorgeous gingerbread house display they put up in the grand lobby. It was beautiful.
Everything was running late this morning, but by 9:00 they gave us the go ahead to leave the ship. We arrived where the gangway was located and we've never seen such chaos. It didn't seem like there was any rhyme or reason to what was going on. Part of the problem is the line for immigration was still so long that it intersected with the departing guests. Not to mention, they usually go by color/number of your tags, and no one seemed to be following those directions. I truly thought there might be a mutiny! At long last we walked what seemed to be a mile of ramps and trekked through the terminal to claim our luggage. I found 2 pieces very easily, but Mom's seemed to be MIA. After searching through several times I finally had to ask what to do about a lost piece of luggage. There was an area for "tagless bags" and there I found one bag, Moms. Evidently in the collection of our bags it had been ripped off. We were soon aboard the coach to the airport where we were checked in and went right through security. We had some time to wait, but it was better than being rushed. Our flight form LAX was on time, though 100% full. We did have a first time experience on this flight. This younger woman came on board carrying her dog when the flight attendant stopped her (I think any carry on animals are supposed to be in a carrier). Anyway, the young woman informed her that it's an "emotional support dog". I just even know what to say about that, but I've just about seen it all now. The flight attendant did tell us that on another flight she did have another "emotional support animal", but that was a pig. What are people thinking??? Once in Charlotte we had to go all the way from the end of C concourse to the other end of E. They did have a gorgeous tree made out of poinsettias.
Our flight was showing an early arrival in Wilmington, which made us happy. That was short lived. The crew arrived late, we boarded late, and we then found out that due to a noise ordinance in Charlotte, that at 11:00 PM they shut down to only one runway for all arriving and departing flights. We waited while 15 planes took off in front of us and we didn't arrive in Wilmington until after midnight. Dad was very happy to see us even though he'd been waiting at ILM for a long time. I think they had to call some people in to unload the luggage because that took another 30 minutes. By just after 1:00 AM we arrived home, but then had to stay up talking about the trip. It was a very long day, but at least we're home safe and sound.
This morning we had our breakfast in our suite since it was our last opportunity to do so. The end of a trip is always bittersweet. We've made so many friends on this trip, in such a short time, we really hate to part. We wanted to get a jump start on things, so we hit the closet and started packing. Somehow we managed to be packed, as much as we could, by 10:30 AM. This has to be a first.
I had hoped to have this out of the way so I could spend the day in the sun, but a quick trip out on the balcony made me realize that wasn't going to happen. The weather had turned noticeably cooler and very cloudy. Mom had an appointment at the spa at 11:15, and while she had a manicure, I took care of some paperwork, writing thank you notes, etc. We arrived early (for us) in the dining room for lunch where Mom had a cheeseburger and I had some angel hair pasta. We returned to our room where we both feel asleep for a bit, due in part to the ship rocking quite a bit and the very overcast skies. Later, we went up to the lounge for our last tea on board. I think we both wanted one last scone, since they really are fabulous. By the end of tea it was time to return to our room and get ready for the evening. Tonight we again had drinks with Kaye and Alan from Dallas.
We have enjoyed their company so much this trip. Its a real shame we met them so late on the Dubai trip as I think we could have had a blast together. Dinner this evening was as nice as it's been. We had our usual caviar followed by chicken mushroom soup and then the lamb that is prepared table side. I have really grown fond of lamb (and spinach) during this trip. We finished the meal with a Bailey's soufflé with a chocolate sauce. We are going to have to wean ourselves off of dessert twice a day! We had to make our "rounds" after dinner to speak with the various people we've met during the trip. It was time to head back to our room to get the luggage out, which has now grown to three bags between the two of us - not bad all things considered. When we returned to our suite we found the sweetest note from Leah and Dan who were over last evening.
We do fall back another hour this evening which will make the waking up time of 5:30 AM a little easier tomorrow. We'll be back Stateside in less than 8 hours now!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Overnight we gained an hour, which is always nice. We were invited to have breakfast with Donald on his balcony. I think we caused a bit of confusion because we put his suite number on our order and they tried to correct us. Marchell showed up at 9 with our breakfast, but in the end, we managed to sort it out. Donald has a suite on the aft of the ship, so it has an extra spacious balcony, perfect for having breakfast. At first the weather seemed much cooler and the wind had really picked up, but when the sun came out is was gorgeous. We sat and talked for several hours while enjoying our breakfast. By 11, Donald had to his the spa and we went on to the cooking demonstration.
They were doing a version of "Chopped" where each chef selected the mystery ingredients for the other. It was fun to watch. By 12:30 we were up on deck 12 wanting to get a little sun, but the winds were more than we could handle. We came back to our suite and found that we had a sunny balcony and only a slight breeze. We sat in the sun for a bit before heading up to lunch. Today we had Tikka Marsala that was scrumptious. Mom had never tried it, but found that she really liked it even though it was spicy. We spent a little more time enjoying the sun before we had to start getting ready for this evening. We invited Leah and Dan over for drinks before dinner. i met them on the zip line trip, or as Mom calls it, the "sling fling". Tonight was formal, so we went ahead and did as much as we could but didn't dress up. Marchell had brought canapés, nuts, and crisps for us to enjoy as well as some champagne. We have also been introduced to a drink called the Bullshot, which is a new one on us, but our new favorite drink. It's just vodka, bullion, and tabasco, served with lime and celery, so basically very similar to a Bloody Mary, but much better in our opinion. We had to pass on this information to Leah and Dan, and it was enjoyed by all.
We didn't realize how the time had gone by, so we had to get ready for dinner. Our dinner was very nice this evening including caviar (of course), rock lobster, and a lemon chiffon dessert to top it all off. This evening was also the Ascot Ball, where everyone wears their hats and fascinators. Mom and I brought ours from London, and they were a big hit. We even had a few people take our pictures because they fascinated by our fascinators! The funny part is that most people thought we were British. It has been a long day and we've managed to stay out late again. Tomorrow is our last day before arriving in LA. We will be very sad to leave so many wonderful people, but it will be nice to get home to family.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Today we arrived at our last port before LA. We decided to sleep in a little since we weren't going on a tour. Breakfast was only served until 9, so we ended up down in Lido for breakfast. Today was extremely hot and humid, with very little breeze. I opted to head ashore around 11:30, but Mom stayed behind since it was quite a ways to walk into town.
The town is quite small, and not much to write home about. They have lots of stalls, similar to a flea market, but nothing that really interested me. There were a few internet cafes, but they didn't have wifi, only computers that you could use. A nice man did tell me that there was free wifi in the square, and after a while I was finally about to get online.
I was able to talk to H and Dad as well as do a little surfing. I did see our neighbor here on the ship as well as our butler pass by while I was working on the iPad. It was close to 3 when I returned to the ship and I was starving. Mom had been reading most of the time that I was gone, so we both headed up to Lido for a quick bite. They have the best made to order pizzas and today's was no exception, calabrese. Since it was Sunday afternoon we both had a little nap before getting ready for dinner.
Tonight was semi-formal and we were meeting Alan and Kay for drinks before dinner. We again had a fabulous time talking with them and sharing stories. We made it to dinner a little earlier this evening and enjoyed our standard caviar for an appetizer. Mom had the tempura prawns and I had the sole for an entree, with spinach on the side of course! Our dessert was this decadent chocolate dish that neither one of us could finish. We were both tired and there weren't any shows tonight, so we headed back for an early evening. We gain an hour overnight, so we'll be 2 hours behind EST. Until tomorrow!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Sea days are great because we can go in to have breakfast a little later than on days in port. We had a nice leisurely breakfast and headed up to the top deck to take in the sun. There was a nice breeze and plenty of sunshine. It was warm, but pleasant, and we managed to stay up there for several hours. We missed lunch in the QG, so we went down to Lido to have a little lunch. We were really lazy for most of the day, but had to start getting ready early since tonight was formal and we had the Cunard World Club reception.
We went down about 7:30 and found our friend Donald and had a nice time chatting. We also met several other guests including a couple who has done over 70 cruises! We were a little late getting up to dinner, but they didn't seem to mind. We had a really nice meal, Mom had king crab and I had the filet. After dinner we went to the show called Victoriana. I don't think either one of us really followed the show, but the Brits on board seemed to know more about it. Tomorrow we arrive in Manzanillo, our final port before we reach LA on Wednesday.
Friday, December 16, 2011
When we woke up today we were still moving along at a good clip as we were not yet to our port. There were sightings of sea turtles and schools of dolphins beside our ship. I managed to capture pictures of a few. We ended up going to the QG for our breakfast and so we could watch the ship get in it's berth. We had a few items around here that we needed to take care of and then it was off to the spa for a bit. The weather was very warm, 95, but there was a nice breeze and a little haze, so it was made bearable. After a short while lying out we wandered into town where there was a nice crescent shaped beach, though really crowded.
There were shops, the typical type that one would expect in Mexico. Mom and I had to order a beer to once again gain access to wifi - or maybe it's just an excuse! The internet was in fact pretty poor there as well. I really wanted to get my zip line video up on YouTube, but that will have to wait. We noticed a great deal of military presence, so I had to get a photo. After several hours in town we returned to our room, but were quickly interrupted by our neighbor. We have met briefly across the divide, but tonight we were invited to join them in the suite for a drink. Dan and Bill are from Florida and are some of the most entertaining people we've been around. We talked for hours, but we finally had to excuse ourselves so we could get ready for dinner, but I'm sure we'll do this again soon!
Dinner was wonderful. Somehow we ended up with both caviar and escargot for our appetizer course. We chose the rack of lamb for our entree and the apple and rhubarb crumble for our dessert. We first had this dessert in 2010 on the QM2 and loved it and still remember it to this day, so we were very excited to have it again. After dinner we wert down for a show that consisted of singers who were also tap dancers. We are now both tired and ready for a good night's rest. Tomorrow is a sea day!!!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
When we looked out this morning it was reminiscent of the South Pacific with the palm trees and thatched rooftops, but we were in fact docked in Port Quetzal, Guatemala. We had breakfast out on our balcony since I was heading out early for my zip lining adventure. I left Mom to her own devices today since I thought that this excursion might be the end of her. Surprisingly they had 2 large buses of people for this excursion, and some of them weren't youngsters. I did meet a couple from Charlotte, NC as well as another from Washington, DC. We started by heading into the town of Antigua. Guatemala is known as the "Land of Eternal Spring" due to their lack of seasons. We saw lots of farm land as we drove in including coffee and sugarcane. There were also several volcanos in the distance.
I believe they have about 25 active volcanos. The country is divided into 22 districts has has 23 different dialects. While this too is a developing country, it is much cleaner than either of the two places we've been. Once we reached Antigua, we got off of the bus and began our walking tour. The streets are all cobblestone, and a bit difficult to walk on. We saw stacks and stacks of wood outside of the homes and our guide told us that they still use wood to cook with as electric and/or gas stoves are not commonplace. They also wash all of their laundry by hand. The streets were narrow and full of shops, and in many cases the shop owners would live behind their store. Jade is a biggie here, but in various unusual colors including lavenders and blues. These were discovered back in 1999 after hurricane Mitch came through. We went through the Jade museum and then the option of shopping - of course a few items were purchased! We then walked around the town square and went to a few of the churches in the area. There is one that has the facade that is very detailed and referred to as the wedding cake church.
By 11:30 we were on our way to the Filadelfia plantation where we would have lunch and go zip lining. We ended up doing the zip lining first, which was probably a good thing. We left our busses to get on a jeep like truck and began the ride up the mountain.
I'm not sure quite how to explain that ride, but it scared the life out of me. We were going up suck inclines, switchbacks, etc, and no guard rails. The "road" was also made of cobblestones which added to the "fun". By the time we reached the top platform we were 6500 feet above sea level and it was noticeably cooler. We had to get strapped into all of our gear, had a brief safety instruction and it was time to fly. I wasn't really nervous until I was next up on the platform. When the clamp you onto the line and tell you to jump, it's a little scary. However, after the first run, I felt the rush and couldn't wait to go down the next line. By the 4th platform, I felt secure enough to go one handed and have my iPhone video the ride. It was amazing! After we descended through 8 platforms we had to again board the jeeps to head back down. I think that was the toughest part of the trip. It was almost 2 and time for us to have our lunch. We enjoyed sitting around talking about how amazing this day has been and we were soon on our way back. We finally returned to the ship about 4:00, and of course Mom was on the balcony watching and waiting for me to return. She had a very nice day on board, but was happy to see that I survived the experience. I'm thinking I will be a little sore tomorrow.
Tonight we were meeting our Dallas friend's Alan and Kay for a drink before dinner, so we had to start getting ready. We joined them in the Grill Lounge and had the most wonderful time talking, it was as if we were old friends. Then again, we do go all the way back to our trip to Dubai :) We had such a nice time that we didn't make it to the dining room until 8:45. I think our waiters had about given up on us. Dinner was very good as always. Mom had the duck and I had the ravioli and we both had the wonderful Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. We did make it to the show, but struggle to get through it because we were both so tired from our early mornings. Tomorrow we arrive in Huatulco, Mexico.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
When we awoke this morning we were still on our way into Port Corintho. I looked out and saw the local pilot coming aboard to bring us in. Mom and I were heading in on an excursion, so we went up to the dining room to have an early breakfast. Our meeting time was 9:15, just about the time we were finally docked. Our trip today took us into the colonial town of Leon. It has numerous reasons for being important, but one of which is that the revolution began here in the 70s. We had a wonderful tour guide again today, Guillermo. He gave us a great deal of background on the country including the times when it was ruled by Sandino, who was assassinated and was followed by three different Samosas. Nicaragua has a very violent history, which they are trying to overcome to this day. The living conditions here are quite poor, and it is certainly considered a developing country. It's probably where Costa Rica was about a decade ago. Due to the nutrient rich volcanic soil, farming is the main industry. They produce many different products including sugar cane, cotton, fruits, and in the mountains, coffee. One item that is grown here is the Jicaro.
They use the seeds and grind them up as a nutritious beverage and the entire fruit can be dried and turned into maracas. Nicaragua is called the "Land of Lakes and Volcanos". There are 25 official volcanos, but we were told that there are probably closer to 200 within the country.
The largest, San Cristobal was visible from the time we left the ship, all the way to Leon and quite an impressive site. After about an hours drive we arrived in the town square where we found lots of local artisans selling their goods and even a guy carving personalized maracas. I have been in dire need of some decent internet, so we went into a cafe on the square and ordered two Victorias, a Nicaraguan beer. The things we will do to get internet!
I was able to upload photos from yesterday and Mom was finally able to talk to Dad. We then went into the Basilica Asuncion, a church that has been there for centuries, though this is the fifth building constructed in 1610. After walking around some more it was time to head back. We arrived back on the ship around 1:45 and we went up to grab some lunch before the dining room closed. Since the weather was so perfect, we decided to dine in the courtyard between the Grills. We had a most enjoyable lunch followed by some time lying out in the sun working on our tans. Later we ended up on the balcony watching the other groups come in from their tours and watching our departure from the port.
Before long, it was time to head up for another meal. We had a wonderful stuffed veal chop, however, it was way too much food tonight. After dinner we went down and listened to the quartet play a set before coming up for bed. Another long day and we're looking forward to getting some rest.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
This morning we arrived in Costa Rica which literally translates to rich coast. Today's tour, the mangrove eco tour, was to meet at 6:15 am which meant that we had to get up at 5:30. Wow, was that early for us. Good news is that we gained an hour overnight, so it was only 6:30 to us. We went by the Lido deck to grab a quick bite and then off on our tour. Somehow we managed to get on a small bus with only 20 or so people. The weather this morning was cloudy, humid, and in the upper 70s. We wore layers since we're going into the rainforest, and you never know what you might get. Our tour guide Alfonzo provided us a lot of background on our way up the mountain. Costa Rica gained it's independence from Spain in 1821 and since then has prospered due to it's thriving fruit, melon, coffee, and cashew industries. However, their largest industry is microchips, thanks to Intel. We traveled quite some distance, including 15 km on gravel roads. We saw some unusual trees including the mimosa, which has fruit before it flowers, and the peeling tree, which has green photosynthesizing bark. Just before arriving at the river, we pulled over as we spotted several scarlet macaws. I know we've seen them in the zoo, but seeing them out in their natural habitat is something entirely different. They are stunning. We soon arrived and boarded a type of pontoon boat that was designed for 50+ passengers, so we had lots of room to jump up for photo ops. The overall scenery was gorgeous. It wasn't long until Mom spotted a crocodile in the water who was having breakfast. I happened to catch a sot of him as he enjoyed a catfish!
Further down we saw blue herons, kingfishers, ospreys, snowy egrets and the list goes on. We also saw even more crocodiles, some of which didn't even look real, well that is until they moved into the water. We also saw an iguana and what they call the Jesus Christ lizard, since he can walk on water. After an hour or more we returned and enjoyed some music and fresh fruit. The fruit here is amazing and we even took back a couple of bananas for the bus trip home. The trip back was about and hour and a half with lots of rain. Fortunately the rain cleared as we returned to the ship. We were both ready for some lunch today especially since we'd gotten up so early. We went to the QG for lunch and had a wonderful panini. Mom went back to the room to rest while I went back into town to find some internet and so a little shopping. They have interesting pieces of wood art and so many other types of souvenirs. It was getting late and all aboard was at 4:30. I knew Mom would be getting a little nervous, but I did get back about 4:15. We discussed the day as we sat on our balcony for the sail away.
Dinner was casual, but we still needed to wash the day off and get ready. We made it down about 8:00 and both enjoy different fish dishes for our dinner, and of course we had spinach with it! We tried to decide what to do after dinner and decided it was best to head back and call it a night since we arrive in Nicaragua tomorrow morning and have another full day of exploring ahead of us. See you soon!
Monday, December 12, 2011
We have enjoyed going up to the QG for breakfast, so we decided on that again today. We both had berries and cream for part of our breakfast and it was really good. Afterward we went into the lounge for me to work on uploading pictures, but due to he weather, I had very little success with the satellite internet. At 11:00 we went down and watched a pastry demonstration. Due to the inclement weather, there was quite a large crowd. They make everything look so easy from making the swan from pate de choux and teacups made from chocolate. I think I have a few ideas for the next dinner party.
They also made the "tuxedo strawberries" that were offered to us at the conclusion. I swear it looked as though people were afraid they weren't going to get another meal! It was a feeding frenzy. At times I get a bit disgusted with the way people act in certain settings, they seem to lose all sense of good manners. After the demonstration, I again tried to get online, but had to give up. This has been very frustrating. Lunch was very nice today even though we were going through heavy periods of rain, almost white out conditions. The afternoon was rather quiet and we even snuck back to the cabin for a bit of a nap. What else can with do with such rainy weather? By 5:00 it was time for our version of happy hour before getting ready for this evening.
Tonight was semi-formal, so we dressed up a little for dinner. We have really gotten on a kick of caviar as an appetizer before dinner. Though I think they may be running a bit low because we each were served a smaller portion than usual, though probably a good thing. We had a shrimp bisque followed by orange roughy, which was some of the best fish I've ever eaten. A few night ago I requested sautéed spinach to go with our entree and now it seems to have become standard issue for us. I have to laugh about this because my grandmother used to be the same way, if she found out that you liked something, you would have it every day. I could tell them to not prepare it, but I have to admit it's my favorite vegetable and at least I'm getting my iron intake everyday! We went down to deck 3 to listen to the string quartet, but have called it an early night since we have to meet at 6:15 for our mangrove tour tomorrow in Costa Rica tomorrow. The good news is that we fall back another hour so it will really only seem like 7:15, or so we hope.