Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Symphony Jazz Cruise

May 2, 2013

uver, Canada to board the Crystal Symphony. The ship is full and we will head down the Pacific coast ; Victoria, Canada; Seattle; San Francisco; Santa Barbara, and home in LA. To tell the truth I’m not that interested in the ports, but this is a JAZZ cruise featuring some top players. As former jazz drummer, ( obop shabam a flooglemop) this will be a real treat for me. The special star will be Benny Golson.

Almost a year to the date my brother and I sailed Symphony from Los Angeles to New York.  Some changes have been made to this lovely ship since then. It is now all inclusive……food, booze,

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etc. And it’s been redone, not that it needed it, but I will take some photos to show you how lovely she is.

I’m on Alaska Air and landing at estimated 5:43 PM.

A lovely trip flying over numerous lakes. Who knew?

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It’s been awhile since I’ve been through Canadian customs and the taxi takes about 40 minutes and $40 to get to the ship. I have a meeting at 7:00 PM. Good luck eh.

Landed on time; immigration was a breeze. Taxi, a lovely newer car with a driver who knew his way around, well, everything. Lines of traffic? Zip, zoom, side roads, alleys and back on main highway, traffic far behind. I was enchanted by the huge Victorian homes along the way.

I made it into the meeting at exactly 7:00, had a flute of Champagne with Vancouver media and blown away  by Anthony Salazar, a close up magician from the Magic Castle.  Crystal now features the Magic Castle at Sea. Incredible!

Dinner in the Sushi Bar was as much as you want for as long as you want.

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I stayed more than a little while, then to bed. We have a short voyage to Victoria during the night.

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I’m Just Saying

July 24, 2012

Political musings of no importance.

Romney used a teleprompter speaking to the VFW. Is there no one on his staff or close to him to teach him how to do a teleprompter speech? Look right at prompter; talk. Pick up a phrase and deliver it straight ahead to the camera as you go to the left to pick up another sentence. Without the straight ahead eyes to the camera position, we at home never get to feel you are also talking to us. Obama had the same problem.

Speaking of Obama, did you see his press conference after visiting the families and friends of those killed in the Batman slaughter? He spoke of one girl that was hit by a bullet in a neck VEIN. The blood was spurting according to the President. Ahem, I’m not a Dr., but it’s the arteries that spurt.

I’m just saying.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 15

June 8, 2012

Charleston

This is a truly historic city. It was taken by the British in the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, Union forces repeatedly bombarded the city, causing vast damage

In 1865, Union troops moved into the city, and took control of many sites, including the United States Arsenal, which the Confederate Army had seized at the outbreak of the war. The War Department also confiscated the grounds and buildings of the Citadel Military Academy, and used this as a federal garrison for over seventeen years. But that wasn’t enough,

On August 31, 1886, Charleston was again nearly destroyed by an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale. It was felt as far away as Boston to the north, Chicago and Milwaukee to the northwest, as far west as New Orleans, as far south as Cuba, and as far east as Bermuda. It severely damaged 2,000 buildings.

Today all is well. Historic buildings have been restored,

the economy is good, and tourists love the old section of town. One of the best ways to see it is on a wagon with guide.

Actually I think driving, at least for me, would be a problem…I’d be sitting at this cross street for a long time figuring out which green was mine.

Owen and I walked and were amazed as we saw the different burial sites; history below ground as well as above.

We checked out restaurant row as I had an appetite for Southern food. My days at Duke University in North Carolina came sneaking back. Oh, for some liver pudding.

OK, so we passed some upscale restaurants

which brought to mind this question. Why did we eat here?

The outside was not inviting and the inside was not much better, but whee hah, the food was great. I had “She Crab Blue Crab Roe with Sherry” soup followed with a stack of Fried Green Tomatoes.

And dessert:

After lunch, I learned a lesson. Always carry an extra charged battery for your camera. Mine went dead and for me the rest of Charleston will be in my memory, not that that’s fully charged these days.

We sailed for New York.

We’ll both miss Serenity. I’ll miss the lights in our cabin dimming as they are turned off. I’ll miss the crew, the production shows, and of course the best cruise director in the business, Gary Hunter.

Owen will miss, well

Disembarking was beautifully handled. Each guest received colored luggage tags to match airline departure. Mine was Pink 2. (Not there is anything wrong with that.) It was called and off the ship I went. I walked the pier passageway to an elevator where a man said, “Pink 2?” At my nod he said “Follow me.” He took me to the bus, got on and traveled with our Pink 2 group. At the airport he got attendants to help those who had trouble managing their luggage. This was still Crystal!!

The only problem I had was going through security at JFK. Since luggage is taken from the rooms in the evening, one must lay out the next day’s wardrobe. On travel day, I realized that the top button on my pants was missing. Not to worry, my belt would be tight enough to hold the pants up. At security, the TSA woman told me to take off my belt. I explained it is a frequent flyer belt with no metal.

“This system needs all belts off!” she said, pointing to one of those full body scanners.

Off came the belt. I got in the cubicle and she told me to raise my hands high in the air. No belt…no button… If I had been an underwear bomber, it would have been quite obvious. Not Crystal anymore.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 13

June 6, 2012

Fort Lauderdale is our first US port’ and we all must go through immigration. That means off the ship, through one of the three immigration stations and then back on the ship. There were three lines delineated by the ubiquitous poles and tape. From right to left the first two lines had about 20 people each; the third had one couple waiting. I took that. In two minutes I was done. What is it about humans that they figure the short line isn’t the right one for them?

Wait a minute, not back on the ship until all guests have been processed. What’s that about?

We were directed toward two rooms filled with passengers sitting and waiting to get back on board. No one was being let back until all had gone through immigration. For me this was 40 minutes, for some it had been close to two hours, but no irritation, at least discernible, was seen.

Owen, discounting my hint that there was not much to do in Ft. Lauderdale now that spring breakers were discouraged from visiting, took a cab ($15) to the beach. He did not take his swim suit. He had a cappuccino. Then a taxi back to the ship ($15).

Our side of the ship was on the Inland Waterway, and yachts were passing one after the other. All big, one named Aspen Alternative, but the biggest was being towed by a Lilliputian tugboat. We watched as it went towards Miami.

Why was this beautiful boat being towed all that way? Suddenly I had the scenario. A woman married to a very rich man towards the north had finally had enough. She left their palatial mansion and ran to the boat. There, she hired the tugboat telling them that she had no idea how to steer a yacht.

In case hubby reads this, the yacht is named Mystique.

Some huge freighters came by; interesting to see them so close without much room between us and them.

And then the Bubble Boy’s boat.

The theme of this cruise is Hollywood to New York, with the emphasis on Hollywood. As part of the mix, Tippi Hedren is on board talking about her experience acting in the Hitchcock thriller “The Birds”. She also has a few interesting things to say about her relationship with the famed director. Before dinner, there was a Tippi gathering where guests could have their picture taken with her.

The band played and guests danced with the Dance Hosts.

Owen and I watched and both agreed that one of the Hosts did not dance at all well, or perhaps he was doing the Serenity Shuffle.

While at dinner, I watched as a small boat came by with a couple of guys putting away their fishing poles. Suddenly, a patrol boat came along side and clamped on to them. They were boarded. I have no idea why, and the only photo I could get was through a slightly grimy window.

Owen went to see The Artist in the theater. He really liked it. Perhaps, plus speaking Italian, he can read lips.

My wife and I watched it on DVD but tired of it not too long after it started. However, trusting that my brother knows film, we’ll try it again.

At 9 PM we headed out to sea for Charleston, South Carolina.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 12

June 5, 2012

We are at sea heading to Fort Lauderdale. Not much to report. It’s a quiet day, but not for the chefs. Today the buffet was a major presentation in the Crystal Court. Like a lot of food!

I actually ate by the Neptune Pool and had a Funky Monkey. This is an alcoholic drink with 5 different bumps of booze (several I didn’t recognize). It’s served frozen and was good but probably dangerous to have two.

We ate at our assigned table for dinner. We had nice conversation back and forth; no politics. One couple is leaving in Ft. Lauderdale. He is retired from Nabisco. I asked him if that meant he tossed his cookies?

I had a Martini with dinner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when Serenity leaves NY it will be all inclusive. In other words booze will be included with no extra charge. Good thing. The Martini cost $10 plus 15% tip.

Under the heading “it’s a small world” or “some kind of separation degrees”, our Cruise Director, Gary Hunter, was eating at a table for two across from us. I went over to say hello. About five minutes later the other guy at his table came over and said I think you did an Infomercial with my mother in Florida. I did, about twenty years ago. The cool thing is he recognized me. After 20 years, I hardly recognize me.

The movie was Money Ball. Owen saw it and thought as I did, that it was a tour de force for, not only Brad Pitt, but each actor in every scene. We arrive in Lauderdale early morning tomorrow.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 11

June 4, 2012

Grand Cayman

I guess the trouble with progress is, well, progress. The port area is bigger, more stores, more tours being sold, and huge cranes building more, more.

In the stores, the sales people don’t press you to buy; some don’t even look at you.

As you know by now, I went into town to see if I could get a Philip Stein watch at a lower price then was quoted at Cabo. These watches are “scientifically proven to shield the body from electronic pollution”.

There on the first street was the Philip Stein Boutique.

Can’t do better than that. I stood for a bit while a salesman fussed around with watch straps. Finally I asked him if could see the least expensive watch.

“Do you want dual time?” he asked.

“The least expensive,” I repeated.

“Rubber or metal band?” he asked, sorting through the display case.

“The least expensive.” I reiterated.

Up came a watch. He took a few seconds to check the price tag. $495

I continue to suffer from electronic pollution.

My reason for going ashore was the watch. Owen walked through the shopping area heading inland. He saw some nice small homes and lots of chickens running around. But I wasn’t alone, I made a new friend.

Owen and I felt we should go to our assigned table in the main dining room. We were feeling a bit guilty about not being there for three nights. The others at the table did not come to dinner. The lady next to our table told us that they had invited others to take our places the last two nights. Hmmmmm. We will get to the table tomorrow night early and claim our seats.

As I’ve said this is a wonderful ship. The one thing I’ll take home is an appetite for papaya. Each day perfectly ripened papaya is there for both breakfast and lunch.

I’m not sure where to find ripened papaya at home, but I’ll seek them out.

A day at sea tomorrow as we head towards Fort Lauderdale.

 

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 8

May 29, 2012

Owen and I rolled out of bed at 6 AM to see us enter the first lock. Serenity has a perfect place to see it all on the upper deck forward.

As we watched the water raise our ship in the Miraflores locks, it was impossible to conceive that it will take 52,000,000 gallons of water to transit us to the Caribbean. That water comes from the Gatun Lake, and there have been some dry seasons when transit had to be limited.

It will cost us about $200,000 in cash (no credit cards) as our toll. A man swam the canal, it cost him 36 cents…..in cash. To me the strangest cargo to transit was the London Bridge.

The bridge was bought to be put in place as the showcase piece of Lake Havasu development on the river connecting California and Arizona. I walked across it on the opening of the development, the pathway strewn with roses. The rumor is Robert M. McCulloch thought he had bought the Tower Bridge. Buyer beware. No return without a receipt.

No matter the cost, and the widening, and the updating and technology, it’s two guys in a rowboat who tie the ships line to the “mules”.

The widening of the canal will be finished in about two years. At the moment there are huge piles of dirt everywhere,

but nothing disturbs the crocodiles.

Nor does anything disturb our wish to retire to this island and watch the world sail by.

For a look at the widening and the canal in operation, Google “panama canal cams live”.

It being casual night, Owen and I ate at Tastes next to the Neptune pool. Great service, “casual” food, and lovely atmosphere.

Our table mates had asked us to let them know when we were not going to eat at table 92, but as we usually didn’t plan ahead, we had no idea how to do that. As the sun set, the guilt faded.

We are now headed for Cartagena, Colombia and will arrive in the morning.

Sibling Serenity Canal Day 7

May 25, 2012

We’re at sea today. It’s a lovely morning although I didn’t see much of it.  I didn’t ask Owen, I’m sure Prego means garlic in Itlaian. Most of my morning was spent sleeping. This is such a boring allergy.

Lunch again at Lido. Numerous staff takes good care of all. Coffee is brought to the table as is anything else one might want. Refills, clearing, all done with a smile. I get a particular kick there as many of the guys call me by name. Not Mr. Edwards, but Geoff. Our favorite is Roxanna. She seems to be everywhere we are, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Owen and a waiter from Serbia talk about motorcycles and those who race them. Alessandro has Ducati everything; shirts, leathers, etc. but no Ducati. His wife won’t let him ride a motorcycle. Maybe this is why:

The internet on Serenity is fast. On many ships, it is a tedious task getting connected and then transmitting. I know I’m getting repetitious, but this is Crystal. Even the deck lights react to light and dark and turn on automatically. Last evening the lights went on as the clouds closed in. Yo, wait a minute. The sun popped through a hole in the overcast as it set. Lights off.

Do you remember the woman whose napkin flew overboard? I saw her in the food line today and walked up to her. I handed her a duplicate napkin and told her the folks on Deck 2 asked me to return it to her. She stared at me longer than I liked, and then burst into laughter.

There is music everywhere on Serenity. Piano players,

the small Serenity group with singer,

and sometimes the show band and they do sound good. The string quartette, four ladies from Russia, plays every night and Owen loves classical music.

 

 

 

 

Is it really the music?

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow, the Panama Canal

 

Sibling Serenity Canal Day Six

May 24, 2012

by Geoff Edwards

We are anchored in the bay at Caldera, Costa Rica. It’s the costa for sure, but not rica in any sense. This apparently is a cargo pier, but they only have room for one ship at a time. Most passengers are taking the tour to San Jose, the Costa Rica capitol on the mountain top. It’s quite a haul from here. At one time there was an ancient train that made the climb. It no longer exists. I’m sure it simply rattled itself to scrap.

Reflections, the daily Crystal news sheet puts it this way:

“There are no facilities of interest within walking distance of the pier area.” Owen took a tender into port. A sign indicated what was there.

Although he saw a beautiful Flamingo and its hungry friend, he was back shortly.

Reflections confirmed.

The ships weather forecaster had us looking forward to a partly cloudy day. I told Owen it was going to rain. It did. Geoff confirmed.

After the rain shower, I took on the Promenade deck. One must walk counter clockwise.

Three times around is a mile. I’m sure that is wrong.

My visual calculation puts halfway as a mile. Geoff not being confirmed, sat down.

After a bit, I got back on my feet and went to deck 10 to hit a few golf balls into a net.

Next some long putts. I’m going to challenge Owen. If I lose to him, I’ll be the putz and you won’t read about it here.

We decided late in the day to see if there was room at Prego, the ship’s Italian restaurant.

There was. Owen greeted Bruno, the man who is in charge of Prego in Italian. Owen is fluent in Italian; he even reads books in Italian. Bruno then was a find. Someone he could chat with without me knowing what they were talking about. Owen spent some time talking about this and that as we waited for a table. A bit later Bruno pulled Owen aside and explained, sotto voce, that while he understood Italian he couldn’t speak it. Owen was disappointed, but two sips later and he put it all behind him

Dinner in Prego was excellent.

They serve a mushroom soup in a bread bowl that beats all soups anywhere. The gelato is freshly made by the chefs in the kitchen. Yum.

The production show dancers have lunch on the outside Lido deck. Sitting at a table were John Ellis (lead singer) and Shane Morley, dance captain. I finished lunch and although John had left, Shane was just finishing his. As I walked by, I told him I had seen what he ate, and that I’d be watching his feet next show to see if they were slowing down. He laughed. I then told him how great he was as both a dancer and a singer. And then my friends:

“Oh I’m not a dancer, I’m the sound man.”

“I just want to add,” I quickly said, “the sound is excellent, some of the best I’ve heard.”

Oh dear.

Tomorrow at sea heading for the Panama Canal.

Serenity Sibling Canal DAY FOUR

May 22, 2012

This is our second sea day heading for Caldera. Owen and I have our routine pretty well in hand. We both go to bed at about the same time. He gets up at 6:30 and goes to the gym. I struggle awake at 8:30 and gulp down the coffee he brings. We then go to the Lido for breakfast. We sit outside on the stern deck.

If there is a breeze it is more breezy there than by the pool. We are keeping a tally of what has been blown away from our table to either a lower deck or all the way to sea. So far:

2 napkins

part of a salad

two bacon strips

A woman seating at the table next to us had her napkin sail away. I told her she was supposed to yell “napkin overboard” and point. My wife will hate to read this, but I am carrying a napkin everywhere I go hoping to give it to her and say it was recovered and the Captain sends his thanks. Stay tuned.

I was sleepy during the day. I’m sure it was the Asian food. Owen tells me that garlic lowers the blood pressure. Thus I may have, not an allergy, but a super sensitivity. Or maybe some vampiresh DNA.

As I have mentioned the food on Serenity is good, good, good. The Bistro serves snacks, all styles of coffee, no charge. Each night our butler brings a special appetizer. Tonight it’s a large dollop of caviar with all the accouterments plus wonderful pâté.

This makes both Owen and I weight conscious. I got on the electronic scale in the gym. Depending on the wave motion I weigh between 172 and 182. I guess I’ll won’t check again until we’re  firmly at a pier.

We were surprised at dinner when our table group said they were having mussels for a starter. They had asked the maître d’ for them at noon the day before. Indeed, a hot cauldron of just cooked mussels with enough for all arrived. They were exceptionally good. Apparently, just about anything you want you can get. After all, this is Crystal.

My main course was Dover Sole. The most perfectly prepared I have had in any restaurant ever.

Tonight’s show showcases seldom heard Broadway songs. It’s Standing Room Only. Hard to believe I am actually looking forward to seeing a cruise ship show. I do wish one of these shows could be videoed for YouTube.

Again, the best I’ve seen on or off Broadway. John Ellis is peerless.

The choreography is intricate at times, but makes total sense.

This was the after dinner show, and those of us whose full tummies could squeeze out of their seats stood and bravo’s rang out.

No more going to the gym to weigh myself. Owen found a scale tucked away in our bathroom. He works out every morning, walks a mile every day, and has gained a few pounds. Just a few. I’ve lost a pound. Owen attributes my weight loss to aging. Whatever.

Tomorrow, third day at sea.