Archive for August, 2009

Day 6: Cruising Home

Posted: August 31, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Today, being a day at sea, has been much more relaxing. Thankfully! I was able to sleep in a bit, but nowhere near as long as Nat, who slept until at least 1100. While she was sleeping, I ate breakfast, shot baskets at the basketball court, climbed the rock wall, went swimming and sat in the sun. I actually sat out a bit too long and will be bringing a sun burn home as a souvenir. 😦 On the rock wall, I found the light blue course to be a bit much for me so I did the yellow course twice.

We ate lunch in the main dining room and it was a nice change from the Windjammer. To start, we each had a salad prepared to our liking from the salad bar. Mine had fresh greens, egg, shrimp, salmon, asparagus, cucumber, tomato and the list goes on… My main dish was a Morroccan-style pita.

After lunch, we strolled around the ship. We watched the Ms. Biceps Competition while sampling a frozen yogurt on the pool deck. We also caught up on some more shopping… er, we being Natalie, but I’m sure you knew that already, huh?

Oh, in the last post I may have been writing about "The Quest" game show that we were about to head to. It ended up being a lot of fun! What The Quest is is a competition where the audience is split up into 10 teams and the teams are given a task/mission to complete in the fastest time and points are awarded with the fastest the most and the slowest the least. Some of the tasks were to have a woman give a man a piggyback ride, to come to the front with 5 ladies bras and to have 2 men imitating their favorite sexual position (together… & it was funnier when you were there). Our team won the competition!

Tonight, we have two shows to go to, dinner and perhaps dancing on the pool deck at 2330. We’re gonna be busy!

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Day 7: It’s Been a Lovely Cruise

Posted: August 31, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Our cruise is quickly coming to an end and the real world has been looming over us today. On the one hand, we can’t wait to see the kids tomorrow, but on the other there sure are a lot of things that will need to be done when we get home. We have filled the day, though, with as much fun as we could and were also able to keep it relaxed.

This morning, we took a dip in the Solarium hot tub and afterward we hit the back sports deck. We started our sports off with mini-golf and again Natalie beat me. The wind on the course was an ever present obstacle that got the better of me on nearly every hole. Next up, I shot some hoops for a few minutes. Lastly, we played ping pong. I couldn’t remember the specifics of the rules, so we mostly just hit the ball back and forth.

We had lunch again in the main dining room. The salad there just might be my favorite meal that I have had. In case I didn’t write about it before, the staff stands behind the salad bar and puts all of the ingredients that you choose into a big metal bowl. You can choose the greens, cheese, meats, etc. and when finished they cut it all up in the bowl using what looks like a pizza cutter. For me, I have found that I have gotten a bit particular about what I eat and it is nice to be able to have it how I REALLY want it. Obviously, I have eaten very well all trip long but I have also felt a bit guilty when I eat how I normally haven’t been lately. (Not real guilty, though, because I am about to go find dessert #2 in the Cafe Promenade.) Our tablemates at lunch were a nice family from Southern California (& they spoke English). We had a nice time chatting with them. Actually, we have met a bunch of really cool people on the cruise like the newlyweds that we have shared our dinner table with and the couple from New Zealand that we shared the cab with in Mazatlan. Today, the cruise director, Dave Chapman, said that we have over 4,500 passengers from 67 countries on the ship right now. It is amazing to me that things go as smoothly as they do… & how they plan or even store that much food I will never know.

For the rest of the afternoon, we each relaxed and read books. I went up to the pool deck and froze… I used a towel as a blanket instead of something to dry off with. While up there I was treated again to the Caribbean band, Mega 4. I love the steal drum, it sounds like vacation to me.

We had the table to ourselves again for dinner… go figure, it is also the day to pay gratuities to the wait staff. HMMMMM. I do have to say, that if you have never been on a cruise, that you need to go (on Royal Caribbean, of course 😉 ) just to experience the pampering offered at mealtime. It is like nothing I have ever experienced. Our head waiter, Rodulfo (Rudy), from the Philippines, and our assistant waiter, Laurentiu, from Romania, were masters at reading what was wanted before you knew you wanted it. Natalie didn’t even have to say anything when she found that she just couldn’t eat the lamb that she had ordered but Rudy noticed and traded out her meal right away. I have no idea what kind of training these guys go through but I do not think any waiter anywhere could be more polished than the Royal Caribbean wait staff.

After dinner, we went to the farewell show and were entertained again by the juggler, Steve Carte. His comedy and juggling were just as good the second time around. I might have to see if he has anything up on YouTube.

Well, I am running out of things to say, Natalie is running out of items to pack and as Jimmy Buffett said, "It’s been a lovely cruise!" (Yes, I have been waiting this whole trip to say that!)

Day 5: Puerto Vallarta

Posted: August 28, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Man…

Port days are just crazy. The day starts out rushed, waking up early, and go-go-going all day long until you collapse at the end in a tired, worn out pile. We are both very glad tomorrow is a sea day so we can go at a more relaxed pace and get the rest that hasn’t happened, yet.

Today, I slept in a little bit but not as much as Natalie. While she slept, the ship docked and I went out exploring for an hour. I found a great stretch of beach that was literally a stones throw from the ship… if you can throw a long way. There were various beach resorts and hundreds of palapas to sit under. I walked about a quarter of a mile and stopped at a resort called Krystal (I think) because it had a very nice pool and lounge area. There was a pool bar, a number of bridges and a great view of the ocean. It would have been a great place to spend the day, but I needed to get back to meet Nat at the ship. On my return, I stumbled on a newly hatched sea turtle. The shells of his brothers and sisters all appeared to have been hatched previously and they were gone. I watched him for awhile before continuing back.

When Natalie was ready, we did a little bit of shopping near the dock. As we started the search for a taxi to the Malecon, we stopped or were stopped by a lady offering massages. We turned down the massage deal, but she gave us the insider tip to take the bus downtown instead of a taxi because it would only cost 50 cents apiece. The bus ride was a fun adventure and I only thought we might die twice. Not entirely kidding.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta was fun and there was loads to see and do. Just like the previous two stops, there simply is not enough time to properly visit the port city and we felt rushed to see the basics. Looking back on it, next time it may be better to just focus on one thing, say just go shopping or just do water sports or just go sight seeing and forget about trying to do anything else. Even as I write that, though, I know that isn’t right either. Not enough time in port is probably the only thing I dislike about cruising. Today was hot and humid again, so shopping was a pretty sweaty affair. I had to stop for beer a couple of times and wait in the shade while Natalie visited the shops. While waiting, I met a Canadian ex-pat who had retired down there and we talked for probably 15 minutes. He said what I would say when his friends ask him what he does to stay busy in PV, he said, "Whatever the hell I want to do!" …& that, in a nutshell, is exactly why you go to Mexico. We saw and took pictures of the famous statues lining the Malecon and one of them counts as a Geocache (the only one I was able to do). We also walked up to the cathedral of our lady of Guadalupe. I say "walked up" because the city rises straight back into the surrounding hills/mountains from the beach. The only level spot is the beach. We did not do any swimming in that area because it is now the rainy season and there are about a dozen rivers draining muddy water into the bay, so the water looked more like chocolate milk.

We called it a day a little early and went back to the ship and ate a late lunch at Johnny Rockets, which is a 50’s-style burger joint on deck 12. On a side note, we spotted a Johnny Rockets on the marina in Cabo, too. Anyway, this was our first experience and it was a fun one! We each had a load of fries and onion rings to start, followed by a Double Rocket (2x 1/3 pound patty and Tillamook cheese) and finished with an Oreo sundae. The service, as has always been the case on the cruise, was perfect. When we started getting close to finished with our fries, the waiter took away our "cold" plate of fries and gave us more "hot" fries. The staff even cranked up the tunes and danced along with "Twist".

This evening we have played shuffleboard, watched a magic show, eaten a late dinner at the Windjammer and are about to go to the Quest show. I don’t know what the show is about but we keep being told it is not to be missed for adults. After that is Awesome 80’s night in the Dragon’s Lair dance club.

Good night, All!

Day 4: Mazatlan

Posted: August 27, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Day 4… Are you serious? I have no idea how it could possibly be the end of day 4 already. Today was a fun day… Natalie said it was her favorite so far. I have loved Cabo, but Mazatlan definitely kicks it up a notch. There is definitely something for everyone here!

The day started for me when I woke up at about 0545 to go running. I was up before the crew was done cleaning and they had half the running track closed so I ran down on the treadmill. This just so happened to be a good thing because my trusty Timex watch finally died yesterday in the surf in Cabo so I was able to time myself on the treadmill. I ran 3 miles in 23:22 as I watched the sun come up over the bow of the ship. Land was coming in sight by the end of the run, so I hurried down to the room. We again scrambled to get ready as we chowed down on the fruit plate and coffee from room service. When we were put together, we again headed to the Windjammer to top off on breakfast for the day.

I read on CruiseCritic.com that there was a "Communications Station" in the terminal in Mazatlan, so we were excited to make an inexpensive call to talk to the kids and to get on the internet. The only problem was that they didn’t open for another hour after we got there, but that gave Natalie a chance to do some shopping. About 45 minutes later, the worker arrived and got us set up on the internet. Showing my company badge got me an hour of internet for $2 (US) and I was able to upload the first few days of pictures to Facebook. Have you seen them yet? Check for the link in the first post since I am back to having no internet right now… sorry. Following that Natalie called and talked to Grant. It was great to hear how the kids were and to just hear Grant’s voice. We both miss the kids quite a bit.

Next, we boarded a taxi for the 10 minute ride to the Zona Dorada, or Golden Zone. Natalie shopped and we ate nachos on a beach front restaurant. I let my lunch rest for a bit before proceeding down to the ocean to do some body surfing. I caught a few really good waves that carried me at least 50 yards. I must have looked like I was having fun to others because I soon had a group of about 6 people joining me in body surfing! Royal Caribbean had a deal with the Las Flores resort allowing us to use their property, so we also cooled off in their pool before hailing a pulmonia for a ride back to Old Town. The pulmonia looks like a VW Thing that has a high canopy covering the passengers. I had purchased a ballena of Pacifico which I enjoyed on the trip. Man, I love Mexico!

We shopped in what the driver called the mercado for the next hour or so. It was like a huge farmer’s market in a city block sized warehouse with everything you can think of available to purchase. We walked to an old cathedral before continuing to walk back to the ship. Next time, Natalie says, we get a taxi because the 10-12 minute walk turned into at least a half hour for us, plus it was too hot. Actually, compared to Cabo, it wasn’t too bad because it was at least manageable (with beer) 🙂 !

Dinner tonight was casual or Caribbean style which gave me a reason to wear a Hawaiian shirt. I ended up eating a completely vegetarian meal and unfortunately, not much of it, so it was back to the Windjammer for me. There I ate sushi, miso soup, and various desserts. Prior to that I checked my weight on the Dr’s scale (Nat needed to pick up some dramamine (sp?) because the ship has been doing some rockin’ and rollin’ the past two nights) and my weight was exactly what it was before the trip, so I had a green light to eat as many desserts as I wanted! I am now feeling like a ballena myself (ballena is whale in Spanish).

After dinner, we tried making it to the ice show but it was completely full. It will play again on Friday and now we have some free time to relax and for me to write to you guys. Next up at 2230 (ugh, we are already tired), is the "Love and Marriage" show which I have been told numerous times is a show not to be missed. I think we will have to miss the midnight BBQ tomorrow… when do these people sleep? …or when did I get old?

Day 3: Cabo

Posted: August 25, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Day 3 is at an end and I am wistfully thinking of Cabo. Today completely flew by and I feel like I could spend another week in Cabo.

We woke at around 0700… actually, I was sleeping soundly and Natalie had wisely set a wake-up-call. I did not workout, even though I had planned on jogging, because 1) I didn’t feel like it & 2) I knew I would get plenty of exercise in port. We each had a fruit plate and coffee brought to our room by room service. I could get used to that for sure! The ship got to port earlier than anticipated and I was able to watch the final 15 minutes from the front deck. Did I mention last time that that is my favorite part of the ship. Natalie tells me that I am easy to please. If I could have a Lazy Boy and a fridge stocked with beer up there, I would not leave. 🙂

In Cabo, we had to tender in to the port, which means that the ship is "anchored" out in the bay and we take little covered boats to the pier. The process went incredibly smoothly and the only thing that came close to slowing us down was to flash our SeaPass to the lady scanning them to get a head count. It was incredibly hot and humid and when I stepped outside, my sunglasses fogged up. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since we are official Shopping Club VIP’s, we spent the first part of the day shopping. Natalie got bunches of freebies for being a club member and found many good deals on trinkets. She is definitely a bargainer! On our travels, we stopped by the Cabo Inn which is where we spent our honeymoon… many moons ago. It is under new ownership, but the new owner was fantastic. He assisted us with our phone card (actually said to forget about it and buy a "LadaTel" one that will work with the phones, which did work, but we still missed talking to the kids because they were not home.) The owner also invited us to tour around and to check out what they’d done to the top floor. They had made two open air suites, one with a hot tub, and added a library sitting area. Sorry, Monte, our cigar smoking patio is now a suite… progress, eh? Speaking of progress, I was amazed (OK & a little saddened) by how much Cabo has changed since our last visit. The Planet Hollywood is gone and replaced by a shopping mall (nice A/C and had some good deals with no haggling required), the streets were all paved, numerous new shops/restaurants/venues surrounding the marina and the Gigglin’ Marlin looked to be closed (but there was loads of construction around the area). We had lunch at the Shrimp Factory where we split a kilo of shrimp and had a few margaritas. After lunch, we cruised the length of the marina and went to Medano Beach where we found a table in the sand at the Mango Deck. DJ Raul had the crowd engaged as he played various games with the crowd like Name That Tune and a drinking game (crowd vs. crew). The crew won but thanks to an enterprising young lady we were all given a shot of tequila-ish stuff. We ate some guacamole that was prepared to our liking at our table and had a few more margaritas. Yes, Barb, Natalie had yours and hers and possibly mine… While we enjoyed the antics at the Mango Deck, I cooled off in the ocean a few times, although the water was nowhere near cool. Closer to bathwater, but it was awesome, nonetheless, and was my favorite part of the day. We finished up the day at the beach and caught a water taxi to the pier to reboard the ship.

Once onboard, we had just enough time to freshen up and go straight to dinner. We were the only ones at our table tonight… I guess not showering last night did the trick to get rid of the other couple, or maybe it was the snail eating. Tonight, I ate antipasti, lamb chop and had tiramisu for dessert.

Well, we’re off for the comedy show now… talk at you tomorrow from Mazatlan!

Day 2: Our First Full Day

Posted: August 24, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Today was our first full day onboard and it has been eventful!

I woke up at 0700, which is much better than 0400. If anyone actually put bets down… yes, I could not help myself and had to workout today. I ran two miles (5x around the track made for a mile) and my time was 15:10, for an average of 7:35 min/mi, which is faster than I normally go. I guess I’m a show off. After running I did a quick workout in the gym of 20 pullups (wide grip, no kip), 50 consecutive pushups and 6 dips. We pre-ordered breakfast room service the previous night to arrive between 0800-0830. We won’t do that again because the eggs and sausage were gross but the fruit and coffee were good though.

Once we had eaten and made ourselves presentable, I climbed the rock wall! I was a little nervous as I waited in line because everyone was having some difficulty, but I totally flew up the "easy" course! On the 2nd try, the worker girl advanced me to a tougher course. It probably was not good form but I let go w/ my feet at one point and pulled up with my upper body to get a foot hold on an over hang… it felt pretty cool! I made it up the more difficult course, ringing the bell in under a minute.

After climbing the rock wall, we headed in to an hour long presentation of the Shore & Shopping team. We bought a coupon book for a variety of free stuff in port and also got a sticker for our SeaPass (AKA ship ID) that allows us 2-for-1 Drink of the Day’s. I guess we’ll be drinking at least one of those apiece per day and collecting the souvenir glasses! 🙂

Next up, was the Royal Caribbean Belly Flop Contest! A bunch of big guys and a couple of not real big guys did their best to make the biggest splash with their belly flop. The crowd judged the flop by holding up the number of fingers they wanted to assign and Dave, the ship’s Activity Director, did a quick (really quick, auctioneer-style) tally. A big guy from Cleveland won the competition. Natalie and I enjoyed our Drink of the Day, a Salud, as the sun beat down on us.

At 1400, we ate lunch in the Windjammer. I am finding that I particularly like the Jade Café which is Oriental/Indian cuisine. Today I had curried chick peas… yum! I also had salmon, perch, chicken and salad… plus a few desserts! My favorite dessert, so far, is the Royal Chocolate pie. It is very rich and decadent! As we were eating (we were sitting right next to the big windows), I saw several somethings shimmering in the water toward the front of the ship. It almost looked like the sun reflecting off of someone’s watch, but about 50 yards away the reflections made a splash in the water. I think that it was flying fish playing in our wake! I saw multiple schools doing this. Might have to google this when there is reliable internet. After lunch, I went to the pool to sunbathe and swim. There was a pretty good reggae/Caribbean band playing live music for me to groove to while I hung out. I stayed down at the pool until it was time to freshen up for dinner.

It was Formal Night at dinner, so we got all spiffed up and headed up to the dining room. For my appetizer, I tried escargot for the first time! It was actually really good! Yes, Grant, your father ate a bunch of snails and he liked them! Ewwwww! My main course was broiled duck and for dessert I had Grand Marnier Soufle.

After dinner, we celebrated with Captain Per and had a few glasses of champagne in the Royal Promenade. Later, we took a walk out to the front of the ship where the warm night air greeted us. This was probably my favorite moment of the trip so far as the stars and moon were out and it was dark out front, allowing us to enjoy the sight better. We even think we saw dolphins playing and splashing in the water right below us. Incredible! We can’t wait to come back in the daylight!

Day 1

Posted: August 24, 2009 by jgrantmarshall in Uncategorized

Our adventure began by arriving at the World Cruise Terminal in San Pedro, CA, shortly before 1100. As we walked up, there was a huge line off to the right of the main doors. This line was luggage check-in, but we did not have to wait in line because a friend at work had pre-made our tags for us. Natalie was able to walk right up to the porter and add her bag to the pile. After that, we walked in the main doors and almost literally straight on to the ship after the security screening checkpoint. We couldn’t believe how fast the check-in process went!

We were so fast, in fact, that our stateroom (AKA cabin) wasn’t quite ready for us. To spend the time, we dragged our carry-ons up to the Windjammer Cafe, which is an informal buffet at the back of the ship. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea and finding an open table was a nightmare! We did eventually find a table and had a pretty good lunch. The selection of food was pretty impressive with everything from hamburgers to curry cauliflower (sounds gross but was the best thing I’ve eaten, so far). After lunch we headed to our room and unpacked before exploring the ship. Our room is comfortable and we have a nice big porthole above our bed. We are on deck two, so we have a great view of the ocean waves. Our room attendant is named Ernie and seems to be very attentive. Of course, when I first got in our room, I tried getting on the company internet but was unable to get on with my setup, which I was afraid of. There is wireless available, but it will cost money.

At 1615, we had a mandatory Assembly Drill to go over emergency procedures. Afterward, we had just enough time to change into our dinner clothes and get up to the Pool Deck (11) for departure from the port. We found our way up to the front of the ship to the viewing deck where we watched the captain pilot the ship out of the harbor. We stayed up front and watched LA float away.

We were assigned to Main Dining, which began at 1800 in the Topcoat and Tails dining on the fourth floor. Our waiter was Rudy (Rodulfo, from the Philipines) and I didn’t catch the assistant’s name. Dinner came in three courses and took all of the two hours that they said it would. It wasn’t exactly speedy. We both had prime rib and it was quite tasty. There weren’t enough veggies for me, so I had to request an extra salad. I was extra glad that I did, because I would have been hungry still. Now I know for tomorrow.

After dinner, we took a dip in the hot tub before watching the "Island a Go-go" parade in the Promenade. We have just ordered room service for a bedtime snack… Oh, my, it is 0015 and I’ve been up for over 20 hours for the 2nd day in a row. I just may crash tomorrow.