Cruzan Rum Factory

Celebrity Constellation
Cruzan Rum Factory on St. Croix
Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our island tour of St. Croix included a stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Another rum factory exists on the island, and some of the tours go there. That’s Captain Morgan’s place, which our guide said is a newer facility. It’s where they make spiced rum. But the Cruzan brand is more historical and is responsible for much of the rum exported from the island.

P1050239  P1050240

We began at the visitor center, where we bought $8 tickets that gave us the tour plus two drinks. For the same price, you can just get the drinks and hang out at the visitor center, which also serves as a gift shop.

Outside, our tour guide told us about the factory’s history and about some of the buildings.

P1050257P1050238P1050266

Then she led us to a series of vats under a covered structure. A brown liquid swirled around before the fermenting stage. It smelled divinely like molasses in this section.

P1050241P1050243P1050242

P1050244P1050245 P1050247

We followed the young woman up and down stairs, through twisting corridors, indoors and back outside while I snapped photos everywhere. The catwalks and twisting paths inspired my imagination as did the fuel tanks where I could envision a James-Bondish scene.

P1050250 P1050254 P1050259

P1050262 P1050264P1050260

Eventually, we ended up back in the visitor center where we imbibed our drinks, a pina colada and a rum punch. Note how happy my cousin Janice looks. Needless to say, we felt pretty good on the ride back to Frederiksted.

P1050269P1050268 P1050267

View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up will each win a signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure (A Bad Hair Day Mystery). Enter Now!
https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
LAST DAY! Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: San Juan

St. Croix

Celebrity Constellation, Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

We docked at Frederiksted, which at a quick glance, had nothing much for tourists except for a few native market stands and uninviting streets.

P1050201 P1050203

Rather than take one of Celebrity’s island tours for $80 or more, we opted to hire a cab on the pier. We found a booth offering $25 island tours, with a $8 extra fee if we wanted to stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Add in a $5 tip, and it would cost us $38 each. That’s a lot cheaper than the cruise line’s price. We wouldn’t stop at the botanical garden like their tours, but we’d still drive through the rainforest.

Twelve passengers fit inside the air-conditioned van that came with seatbelts and commentary by the driver. We bumped along roads that needed fixing up into the hills with trees surrounding us, until we reached a smoother section of asphalt. Long vines hung down from trees through the rainforest. We drove along hilly roads with scenic views.

P1050208P1050211P1050215

Our first stop was the Renaissance Resort, a beautiful beachside hotel with elegant amenities and clean rest rooms. We admired the breathtaking views from here before scampering back inside the van.

P1050223 P1050227P1050228

P1050220P1050224

P1050222P1050225

Our next stop, for a full hour, was in the larger city of Christiansted. Here we scurried around to the souvenir shops, admired the view from the water, and wished we had more time.

P1050236P1050235P1050237

Our final stop was the Cruzan Rum Distillery. I was fascinated by the nooks and crannies in this place, my imagination sending Marla and Dalton here while being chased by a killer. What a perfect complex for an action sequence. I’ll have to set a similar facility in a fictional location for a future book. This place was so interesting that it’ll be my blog post for tomorrow.

During our drive back through the forest-lined roads, I spotted the rear end of a horse sticking out from the trees. Liberated by the rum I’d had to drink, I shouted out: “Look, there’s a horse’s ass.” My fellow passengers were not amused. Wish I could have gotten a picture to prove my point, but we drove by too fast. The scenery was lovely as we headed back toward the ship.

P1050217P1050218

Once again in Frederiksted, we grabbed lunch at Pier 69 on Kings Street. The native markets didn’t hold much of interest, so we waddled our way back onto the ship for a much needed nap.

P1050270P1050271P1050204

I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night, but here are the photos from our repast after the sun descended:

P1050272P1050273 P1050277P1050278P1050280P1050281P1050282

View more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here:
https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: Cruzan Rum Distillery

St. Maarten

St. Maarten
Day 5, Wednesday,
December 2, 2015

I needed to fortify myself with a good breakfast in preparation for shopping, so I ate another omelet with roasted potatoes, bacon, rye bread, and fresh pineapple.

P1050178

St. Maarten is my favorite island to visit. I went out on deck to watch our approach.

 

We took the water taxi from the pier into Philipsburg, the Dutch side of this island. It costs $7 cash for a round trip. As you see, many other ships were in dock that day. We went into town early so as to beat the crowds.

P1050179P1050184

P1050183P1050181

The water is a vibrant jewel green. At the other end, you can shop, dine out, or lounge on the beach, all within walking distance.

P1050185P1050190

The shops beckoned to us, so we picked up our freebies with coupons from the ship and couldn’t resist many of the other wares. We stopped in the Guavaberry liquor place but didn’t buy anything as we still had a supply from previous cruises.

P1050182P1050189

We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace where I’d been before. I had coconut shrimp, which was six huge butterflied shrimp fried in batter, along with a choice of two sides. Mine were fried plantains and rice with black beans. Janice had coconut curry chicken. Now I have a craving to cook that dish at home.

P1050186P1050187P1050188

By the time we finished shopping, we were tired and ready to return to our cabins. Having visited the island before, we’ve already taken the excursions to the French side and seen the sights. There’s a nude beach somewhere if you’re interested and it still exists. But why pay for a taxi to a beach when there’s one right there where you land in Philipsburg? My conclusion: I still love St. Maarten, and it remains a favorite port.

Dinner in the dining room that night was spinach and cheese turnover, roasted turkey with accompaniments, and a moist chocolate sacher torte. Are you hungry yet?

P1050199P1050200

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: St. Croix

St. Barthelemy

Gustavia, St. Barth (Saint Barthelemy)
Day 4, Tuesday, December 1, 2015

St. Barthelemy is a tiny French island in the Caribbean. All prices are in Euros and the language is French. Here we are on the tender ride from the Celebrity Constellation:

P1050151P1050152P1050153

P1050171

We strode along the main street lined with shops, which are mostly expensive boutiques. However, you can pick up souvenirs for a decent price. Check out the supermarket. Here’s where you can buy coffee, cookies, candy, and more for gifts. This is along the main street off the tender pier and toward the right. There is a drugstore to the left side of the dock, but their items are pricey. Fancy toiletries are available if you’re willing to pay the price.

P1050154P1050155P1050156

Red sloped roofs abound on attractive housing scattered up the hillsides. Streets are narrow and very steep.

P1050157P1050159 P1050158

Strolling toward the right, we passed a harbor with boats and an open-air restaurant. We’d hoped to walk to Shell Beach, but it was too far and too hilly. Along the way, we passed some old churches. The scenery is charming with lovely views of the water.

P1050162P1050161 P1050160

For lunch, we chose a restaurant called Le Repaire across the street from the pier and toward the right. My husband and I shared a plate of grilled mahi mahi with rice and vegetables for $24 Euros. I had a Planter’s Punch that packed a punch for 10 Euros. The total cost came to 41 Euros, which included one liter of bottled water for 7 Euros. This comes out to more in U.S. dollars. Despite the cost, my cousin Janice and I sure enjoyed our drinks!

P1050163P1050166P1050167

My conclusion? Attractive, upscale island but too limited for sightseeing tours and shopping opportunities. It would not be on my must-revisit list.

P1050170 P1050168

Back on the ship, we relaxed for the rest of the day. For dinner in the ship’s dining room that night, I selected shrimp cocktail, Caprese salad, and Braised Lamb.

P1050173        P1050174

Contest Alert!
Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: St. Maarten

 

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 2

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 2

Eating while someone else cooks and does the dishes is the best part of a cruise. We are continuing with Day 3, when we dined at the Ocean Liners specialty restaurant, courtesy of our travel agent (Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web). The three of us (I traveled with my husband and cousin Janice) soaked in the elegant surroundings while various waiters attended us. Paintings decorated wood-paneled walls, and the lighting was dim enough so everyone looked good. See that pyramid? It’s butter.

P1050131P1050132

As a starter came scallops in sauce:

P1050133

Next I chose a phyllo baked Anjou pear with Roquefort cheese. Janice had lobster bisque as her appetizer. She went on to order the lobster tail for dinner, which the waiter prepared at a side table. Look how excited she is to dive in:

P1050139 P1050144

My husband and I ordered Chateaubriand for two that came with vegetables. This was prepared tableside as well and served with Bearnaise and Cabernet sauces:

P1050138 P1050141 P1050145

We were all presented our dinners with the silver covers as above, and then three different waiters lifted these tops from our plates in unison. The service was impeccable, better than any we’ve experienced on land in recent times.

For dessert, I ordered a dark chocolate soufflé with vanilla sauce. We also received this bon bon dish with more sweets. None of us could eat another bite.

P1050147 P1050146 P1050148

This meal was a highlight of the cruise. Definitely book a meal here if you are on this ship. The Tuscan Grille is another specialty option, but we eat enough Italian food at home that this choice with the extra cost didn’t appeal to us.

By my estimation, I gained two pounds on this cruise. I climbed the stairs and walked around the ship for exercise, plus we did quite a bit of trekking uphill while in the ports. And coming next are the ports of call, including what we ate on those days.

You can see more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!
Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
W
in a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: Ports of Call

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 1

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 1

The coffee on this cruise was the best I’ve ever had on a ship. It was hot and strong with flavor and body. Since I’m a Starbucks fan, this is how I like it. The initial creamer cups they put out were skimpy little things that were hard to open, but about halfway through the trip, they put out decent cups of half-and-half, for which I was grateful. You could get milk in pitchers but not creamer. The fruit juices were too sweet for my taste, including apple juice; orange juice; and fruit punch. Iced tea in the dispenser was unsweetened. Lemonade was another choice.

Free ice cream and frozen yogurt was available at the buffet along with various toppings, otherwise you had to pay at the gelato bar on deck five. There was often a line at the free ice cream station, which was near the exit to the pool. You could get the dessert in a cone or a dish. Flavors varied daily.

Cookies were available here, too. These cookies were crunchy and not chewy. When they are hard, they don’t seem as fresh, and I prefer chewy cookies that melt in your mouth. You could get the same cookies at the buffet, or for free at the coffee and gelato bars on deck five. The specialty coffee lounge also had an array of fresh desserts like a different kind of éclair each day, various cakes, and other treats. There was no additional cost for these food items.

IMG_1835 P1050106

P1050128 P1050129

P1050127

Portion sizes at dinner were miniscule. For example, a side dish for one entrée was Brussel sprouts. You got one and a half sprouts. Rack of Lamb came with three pieces. Ditto for the shrimp scampi with linguine. You got four shrimps in a spicy sauce. However, when you added in the appetizer course, soups and salads, plus dessert, the meal turned out to be adequate. The presentation was attractive, but the portions always made us grin in disbelief. The food was very tasty with appealing choices each evening. And you could always get the Caesar salad (crisp but no anchovy flavor); French onion soup; shrimp cocktail; or steak.

My only objection was the bread. You got a basket on the table with plain bread sticks or slices of French bread every evening. Butter, cream cheese, and hummus came as accompaniments. We would have liked more variety, like different breads each night. These choices were offered at breakfast but not at dinner. We got tired of the French bread after the second meal.

The dining room service was wonderful. Despite our having no fixed seating, we didn’t have to wait in line to get into the restaurant, and we got the same table each night. So here is what we ate from what I remember:

Day 1, Saturday–Departure

Lunch: Buffet; Rum Cake with Pina Colada Ice Cream
Dinner: Shrimp Cocktail with Guacamole, Salad, Prime Ribs, Apple Pie a la Mode

P1050097

Day 2, Sunday—At Sea

Breakfast: Omelet made to order; turkey sausage; croissant, fresh fruit

P1050098

Mid-morning, we attended the Cruise Critic roll-call party where they served pastries and coffee.
Lunch in the Dining Room: Teriyaki Duck Breast with rice and sautéed bok choy. The warm peach cobbler was to die for but gave me my dessert calories for the day.
After lunch was the Captain’s Club member party with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and desserts.

IMG_0192  IMG_0193

At 4pm, you could get little sandwiches and desserts at the buffet like for afternoon tea. If you’re still hungry, the pizza or pasta stations in the aft sections of the buffet always seemed to be open, and the outdoor grill by the pool serves hamburgers and hot dogs.

P1050107

Dinner: Tender Beef Tornadoes with accompaniments.

P1050110P1050111P1050112P1050113P1050114

Day 3, Monday—At Sea
Breakfast: Green onion and mushroom omelet made to order, nova salmon, roasted potatoes with bell peppers, sautéed mushrooms, fresh pineapple. Later, I snitched an almond croissant from the coffee bar. (And you wonder why I gained weight?)

P1050122
Lunch: Roast carved turkey with gravy and cranberry sauce, French Fries (thin and crispy without being salty; mashed or baked potatoes were also available). Spinach cheese dish was very good. Look at the whole chickens below at the buffet. Later I tried the Dulce de Leche éclair at the coffee bar.
Afternoon Snack: Vegetable pizza

P1050376P1050377

At 5pm, we gathered in the Reflections Lounge for the Elite Captain’s Club free drinks and skimpy appetizers (waiters brought them around and gave you one or two bite-sized hors d’oeuvres on a napkin)
Dinner this night was at the amazing Ocean Liners specialty restaurant, courtesy of our travel agent (Adam Wolf at
The Cruise Web). And now I’m hungry, so we will have to continue this in the next blog.

You can see more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!

Holiday Bonanza, Dec. 7 – 21
Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here:
https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench
http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next: The Food, Part 2

Celebrity Constellation: Ship Review

Celebrity Constellation 9 Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise

Although the Celebrity Constellation is a smaller ship than most of our recent cruises, we enjoyed our experience very much. Everything was super clean and well maintained.

P1050204  Constellation

Our ocean view cabin seemed smaller than most, with a bed, nightstand, desk, and loveseat taking up the space. However, the cabin has enough cubby holes to unpack your suitcase. We didn’t miss a balcony as the ship has plenty of places to go outside and enjoy the view. In our room, we found an umbrella for shore excursions and a tote bag for shopping. The closets had enough hangers and two bathrobes for our use, plus a set of floor to ceiling drawers.

Regarding the bathroom, I loved the shower. It was rectangular rather than the round manhole-cover size on RCCL or the tiny square you get elsewhere. There was room enough to move around in it and the spray was strong. It had a curtain instead of a glass door but this didn’t stick to your body like elsewhere. And there was just enough counter space by the sink to lay out a few items. Shelving provided more storage. The amenities were plentiful: individual bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion; extra toilet paper and tissues; 2 substantial bar soaps; and a shower cap. I hate cruise lines where they give you a dispenser in the shower of a mysterious liquid that serves as shampoo and body soap. It cheapens the experience. Not so here. You feel pampered and supplies are generous.

P1050123    P1050125 P1050124

Moving on to the lounges and restaurants: These were adequate, but there was a private lounge called Michael’s Club where we went for our lifeboat drill (no life jackets required at the drill). This was a lovely wood-paneled lounge that was only open to an exclusive class of guests. I would rather these distinctions be made some other way so that all guests could enjoy this amenity. Ditto to some of the restaurants, like Luminae and Blu that were only open to certain people. We’d have more dining choices if these were available to all. There’s also a café on deck five that requires a cover charge of $10. It would be nice if this would be an additional dining choice without an extra fee.

All of the Captain’s Club activities were held in the Reflections lounge on deck eleven. This is the top lounge with a full forward view through floor to ceiling windows of the front of the ship. As elite members, we went here every night at 5pm for complimentary drinks. The benefits of being a repeat cruiser are quite good, and as Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity (I think), your points carry over. This lounge is also a good place to read in the air-conditioning during the day where it’s quiet and you have a great view.

P1050367P1050172

The Celebrity Theater held the main evening entertainment. The production shows were superb. I liked that each one had a theme so it wasn’t a random series of acts. These shows were spectacular, with amazing talent, costumes and sets. During the cruise, we also were entertained by two different comedians and an illusionist. Plus the first and last nights had decent shows as well.

P1050116 P1050371

We never made the later night events but it looked like lots was going on. The Rendezvous Lounge, aft on deck four, is another venue with a live band. A guitarist would also play at the coffee bar or in the wine lounge on deck five, but I thought the latter really would benefit from a piano player. That was lacking on this cruise, and I missed it. I also missed movies being shown in a theater. You could access them in your cabin on the TV, but who wants to lie there and watch television like you do at home? I missed the movie-going experience. They have a big screen at the Celebrity Theater and could easily have shown films there. What else did I miss? While you could get ice cream at the buffet for free, you had to pay for gelato on deck five. I missed the free soft frozen yogurt available on the pool decks of other ships. Also, the cookies available in various locations were crisp and not chewy.

IMG_0191 P1050102

We did attend a wine tasting and an afternoon tea complimentary with our Captain’s Club elite membership. I didn’t get to see the cooking show or whatever it was, but I like the demos where they give out recipes. Didn’t have that here.

Regarding the crowd, we saw few young children or teens. Most appeared to be adults ranging to thirtyish to sixtyish but not an overt elderly crowd like you might get on other ships. I’d say the average was upper middle class, but that’s just my guess. I didn’t miss the bungee jumping, water slides, zip lines, and other crazy sports activities on the cruise lines that attract a younger crowd. There’s a basketball court, gym, and spa on this ship for those so inclined.

As on other ships, there’s a library and an Internet café. They give group computer lessons for a fee. Internet service is frustratingly slow, but this seems to be the norm at sea. You could access wireless service from your cabin.

All in all, we had an enjoyable experience and I would recommend this ship. Her captain, young and handsome, adds to the romantic ambiance. And I might add that the elevators are the best of any hotel. Four glass elevators with an ocean view whisk passengers fast and efficiently without hardly a wait at any time of day.

The service throughout was great. The pool area was clean, and I liked that they had a covered solarium with a second pool.

IMG_0130  P1050092

You can also go aft on deck ten and sit outside to watch the ship’s wake. That’s always a peaceful experience.

 

You can see more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

Contest Alert!
Holiday Bonanza,
Dec. 7 – 21 Win a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and an evening purse for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench http://bookloversbench.com/contest/ Check out our other features, including a weekly Let’s Talk discussion with our authors.

Coming Next
: The Food, and then the Ports of Call.

Celebrity Cruise

Day 1, Saturday, on the Celebrity Constellation

There’s nothing like the exhilaration you feel when sailing away from land and knowing you are escaping reality for a week or more. We set sail from Fort Lauderdale for a ten day cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. Here is my shaky video of the sail-away:

 

Naturally the first place on the ship we headed was the buffet. I don’t remember what I grabbed for lunch, but I finished it with rum cake and pina colada ice cream. Dinner was shrimp cocktail served with guacamole in this martini glass:

P1050097

I had a salad and prime ribs to start off my gastronomic adventure. Apple pie a la mode polished off the meal. From here we went to the welcome show, which entertained us with a comedian, singers and dancers, and two spectacular aerialists. We’d see more of these performers throughout the trip. Below is my cousin Janice who accompanied us on this cruise. You may find a character named after her in Peril by Ponytail.

P1050090 P1050091

IMG_1837   P1050094

P1050096  P1050095

Coming Next: Ship Review, then the Ports of Call.

Royal Princess Ship Review

Royal Princess Ship Review
Dec. 8 – 15, 2013
Itinerary: Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten

The Pros

We thought the entertainment and music on this ship were excellent. You could go from one show to another each evening, and the lounges held different music groups nightly. I would like more concert level performers. This cruise had Ray Coussins, a pianist for Frank Sinatra. He had his own show, and he played in the lounges. Down in the central atrium is a dance floor that always has a band playing there. Unlike other ships which are Deadsville at night, this one has plenty to do. You could always go to Movies Under The Stars, a wide-screen movie screen showing popular films each night by the pool.

P1030195    P1030207

Speaking of movies, I loved the widescreen TV mounted on our wall in the stateroom. I got to watch two movies I’d been wanting to see: Austenland (a romantic comedy about a modern woman who gets immersed in a Jane Austen experience at a themed attraction) and Disney’s Brave. The only disadvantages are the lack of menu controls and no close captioned option for the hearing-impaired.

We enjoyed the breakfast selections at the buffet. There is an omelet station if you can find it, but otherwise fried eggs, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and other egg concoctions are available at the Horizon Court. So are fruits, smoked fish, pastries, waffles and pancakes, and more. I loved having the fried eggs available without asking and wish other cruise lines would adopt this practice.

P1030142   P1030143

P1030144   P1030140

Dinner menu choices were generally good. The alternate selections included shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, plus beef medallions, grilled salmon, chicken, and more. Vegetarian entrees were offered each night at dinner and seemed appealing. There were always appetizers, soups, pasta, entrees, and dessert.

P1030132   P1030241

P1030242   P1030133

Dessert selections surpass other ships we’ve been on. At the Horizon Court, there’s a separate Pastry station with all kinds of pastries, cookies, puddings, and other creations. However, our dinner table mate complained that they only have one sugar-free selection per day. Being diabetic, she would have liked more choices.

P1030205  P1030206

P1030167   P1030204

And since I’m a foodie, I enjoyed the cooking class and free galley tour. I was also thrilled that this cruise line still offers Baked Alaska on the last night.

P1030226   P1030230

P1030244    P1030248

Storage space in the cabins was adequate even though the staterooms themselves are small. We had plenty of room to stash our luggage upright in the closet area instead of having to shove the pieces under our beds.

The shower space is an improvement, with a ledge for putting products or for aiding a lady in shaving her legs. On other ships, you have to stick your foot in the sink to do the job. This larger space was much appreciated.

Blackout drapes are very good. No lights shine in your eyes at night like on one of our other cruises, where we faced the door peephole and light streamed in like a beacon. This cabin was sufficiently dark and the temperature comfortable. Nor did I hear our neighbors except when they went out on the balcony.

P1030218

We didn’t have many children on this cruise that saw an average age group well into the sixties, but there is an adults-only Retreat area that’s quite pleasant. For a daily fee, you can rent a covered cabana or pay for the more exclusive Sanctuary enclave.

P1030149

The Cons

The bedding (i.e. pillows and comforters) didn’t seem as comfortable as on other ships. The pillows seemed too large, so you could get a crick in your neck with two, but one alone was too flat.

Elevator break-downs are common, and the elevator capacity is much smaller than on other ships.

The lack of a central stairway is highly annoying. One exists, but it’s for crew only. You have to take the elevators mid-ship or else walk aft or forward to reach the stairways.

Our room safe failed during our stay, and we had to call maintenance to change the four AA batteries that power the thing. It was an inconvenience, but service was prompt.

You’ll miss the outdoor promenade deck that goes all the way around a ship under cover on deck 4 or 5. This ship has a few seating areas on this level but they end. If you want to walk all the way around, you have to go at the pool deck or higher and be in the sun.

I would prefer a glass shower door to an unsanitary curtain.

The four rows of rear seats in the Princess Theatre need to be tiered. Seats are crammed into the theatre with central aisles only and no drink holders.

Our dining room service was very slow, but that may be the fault of our assistant waiter who did nothing except carry the meal orders from the dining room. Our waiter refilled the water glasses at our request, and he never once asked if we wanted more rolls or went out of his way to do anything special.

Cabins are very small with no sofas like in the balcony staterooms on RCCL. The standard balconies are even smaller. They barely fit two chairs and a cheap table.

<><><>

Ports of Call included a barbecue beach lunch at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I’ve written about these before in previous posts and didn’t do anything new this time except walk around, shop, and lunch in town. Look under Cruising in my blog Archives if you want to catch up on prior voyages. We had lunch in the Greenhouse restaurant at both locations. The one at St. Maarten had free WiFi if you sat inside, which still has an open air view of the water.

P1030159   P1030162

On our last day at sea, we went out on deck in the morning after a rainstorm to see a brilliant rainbow stretching all the way across the sky. How fantastic is this, folks?

Rainbow    rainbow

<><><>

View my Photo Album of the Royal Princess here: http://bit.ly/1j9jJct

View my Videos here: http://bit.ly/1djD5nY 

FRW Cruise Conference

FRW Cruise Conference
Liberty of the Seas
Feb. 24-28, 2013

Click Here to See Photo Album

Day 1, Thursday

Ninety registered guests attended the Florida Romance Writers Cruise with your Muse conference aboard the RCCL ship Liberty of the Seas. We boarded easily, getting right onto the ship after parking and checking our luggage at Port Everglades. Upstairs at the Windjammer Buffet, we ate lunch and waved to fellow FRWers who’d already arrived. We checked into our cabin and then set out to explore the ship. This is a beautifully appointed ship of the fleet with its traditional interior Promenade, ice skating rink, and usual bars and lounges. Downstairs at the conference center, we picked up our registration materials. Then we hustled to the lifeboat drill before departure time. At 5:00pm, we met our conference shipmates at a Welcome Aboard party in the Sphinx lounge on deck five. The editors and agents shared industry news and writing tips.

P1020178    P1020217    P1020202

Editor/Agent Tips
Get rid of the prologue
Hit the ground running
Avoid clichéd writing
Shorter works, less than 100,000 words, are more desirable these days.
Don’t overuse dialogue tags.

Next, my husband and I dashed to the Diamond Club lounge where, as repeat cruisers at a certain level in the Crown & Anchor Society, we enjoy benefits like free drinks and appetizers. Of course, this was my favorite activity and we made it up here on deck 14 every evening. Our dinner seating was late at 8:30 so we had plenty of time to meet fellow cruise enthusiasts.

Day 2, Friday

This morning, workshops were held with authors Traci Hall, Kathleen Pickering, and Karen Kendall. I found some time for walking the decks with my husband. We sat the pool and watched the action or lounged on our balcony to stare at the ocean.

P1020239  KimKris   P1020208

Along the way, I got a glimpse of an interesting lady who would intrigue me for the entire trip. On previous cruises, I always spotted a character who would be great in my books. Thus the elegant white-haired woman from a prior voyage became the Countess in Killer Knots, my cruise ship mystery. I haven’t placed the witch lady from our previous cruise yet, but she’ll make her way into one of my stories. On this trip, I saw someone who definitely had an air for dramatics.

This woman had blond hair that she wore teased and curled atop her head like a poodle. I swear, she even had poodle bangs. But this wasn’t all. No matter the time of day or place, she wore a chiffon dress with spaghetti straps and sparkles and high heels. One day her shoes were black velvet with rhinestones. Her dresses glittered and the hemline swayed as she moved. I saw her in ivory, burgundy, and gold variations of the same dress, often with sequins. She wore a heavy application of makeup as well. I assumed she must be European. She just had that air about her. We always saw her clinging to the arm of a dapper gentleman who looked fairly ordinary in comparison. Neither one of them were youngsters. She’ll end up in one of my stories for sure.

Later that afternoon, I sat in on a workshop with bestselling authors Heather Graham and Charlaine Harris. Here’s what they said about writing humor:

P1020200

Charlene: “When you’re writing sex, there is no dignity, and it can be funny.”
Heather: “It’s fun to have supporting characters where things don’t always go well. You can make jokes with these people.”

Floridian Idol followed, where the editors and agents tore apart submissions from attendees. You could learn a lot by listening to their comments, and this session was well attended.

Day 3

Saturday, we arrived at Cozumel. My husband and I took a taxi into town for $8.00 each way. Even though I had vowed not to buy anything, I ended up with a pair of earrings, rum cakes, and Mexican vanilla. That evening, we went to the show on the ship. The entertainer was a magician who kept the audience laughing.

P1020220    P1020223   P1020222

P1020225   P1020226   P1020227

Day 4

Sunday morning was my workshop on Mystery Writing 101. I had a great group and the time went fast. We hustled out to attend Charlaine’s keynote speech where she talked about her long career history and provided inspiration for the rest of us.

keynote    NanCharlaine

That afternoon, ten of us authors held a booksigning in the dining room. Since the notice had gone into the ship’s daily newsletter, readers flowed into the room to buy our books. I couldn’t believe it when I’d sold my last copy! It was one of the best conference booksignings I’ve done.

NanRoz  P1020251  SandyMary

We hurried off to see Saturday Night Fever in the main theater while others went to the ice show.

At the end of the day, we had a farewell party led by our FRW president Rose Lawson and the hard-working conference planners before our final dinner together.

The four days went by too fast. We hung out; we talked; we learned and we shared. We got to know each other and the editors and agents who had nowhere else to go. We watched a dazzling parade of famous animated characters on the Promenade, sampled as much food as our stomachs would allow, and explored the hidden nooks of the sleek vessel. We each came away with something different—an invitation to submit pages to an editor/agent, a sense of peace, a few extra pounds.

I hope you can join us next time.

Nancy  TracHeath Kristin  SharKar