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.

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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

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Day 2, Sunday—At Sea

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

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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.

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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.

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Dinner: Tender Beef Tornadoes with accompaniments.

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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?)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

St. Kitts

Basseterre, St. Kitts
Nov. 9, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took tour KT67 Fairview Great House and Beach. First we drove in an air-conditioned bus through the historic streets of Basseterre. Lower levels of structures here are built with volcanic rock to guard against fires, which destroyed much of the town in the past.

Dating from the 17th century, these interesting buildings and monuments offer a glimpse into history. This is a substantial town that invites exploration. Next we drove to Fairview Great House, a former hotel that stands on a hill with an expansive view.

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Outside it has a swimming pool and a covered outdoor terrace with a bar, while indoors is the dining room, men’s study, ladies parlor, and more. Upstairs you can see a sample bedroom with a private lavatory—an ancient toilet and a basin with pitcher only. On the grounds is evidence of former stables and a bathing room with a stone bath. A gift shop is down below, next to a separate building that housed the kitchen. This was a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era. The so-called botanical garden was mostly a grassy area with labeled trees.

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From here we visited Frigate Bay Beach after a winding drive through the hills. This site boasted an expensive sit-down restaurant: $16 for a club sandwich or a burger plus 22% tax and gratuity. Chair rentals cost $10 each and we were only there for one hour. A large covered building held a bar and the costly restaurant, plus it had a pleasant sitting area under cooling ceiling fans. It’s a lovely beach if you want to soak up the sun and go for a quick swim, but it would be nice if they had a reasonable snack bar. While the beach is beautiful, it seems like a rip-off with the high prices and lack of other amenities. My caveat: bring your own snacks. You get a free fruit drink with the tour. If you want to sit in the shade, you’ll have to pay more for an umbrella or find a seat inside the structure where you can read a good book or admire the scenery.

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Back in town, we went shopping near the pier. This is a good shopping stop although St. Maarten is still better for jewelry and electronics. You could keep busy browsing the shops along the pier, eating lunch in one of the restaurants, and meandering into the historic parts of Basseterre. If you do go on a tour, a couple of hours here is all you need to pick up souvenirs and gifts.

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This concludes my recitation on Vision of the Seas. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Healthy Voyage into 2013!

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Antigua

St. John’s, Antigua
Nov. 8, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We took the ship’s tour AN48 Antiguan Experience. Antigua is a dry island compared to Dominica, where it actually rained in the rainforest and the shrubbery is lush with tropical foliage. Here cactus grows and the hills are lower although they still offer scenic views.

After driving in an air-conditioned bus through the hilltops, we arrived at a private home open to visitors. Inside were artifacts dating back to the 16th century collected by former owners, relatives of the current occupants. Their family owns cattle raised for meat. We saw sheep without its coat that looked like goats. The way to tell the difference? Look at their tails. I think it was the sheep whose tail is down, the goat whose tail is up? Anyway, the lady owner said that whenever the volcano at Montserrat blows, they get ash blown in. We toured the house, peering at the fascinating museum-quality relics. This lived-in home gave us an idea of how a well-to-do family might live on the island. It was a peaceful, comfortable ambiance.

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From here we drove to a pineapple farm where they grow a small, sweet variety called gold pineapple. It was pretty hot out as a woman explained the growing process.

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A stop at a beach came next. I didn’t care for this portion because there was absolutely no shade. It was a fairly deserted beach, but there were restrooms and we were provided a barbecue lunch. We rented chairs for $3 each but there weren’t any umbrellas. Ants crawled on the ground and perhaps got into my shoes because the next day I got a couple of bites on my foot. I tried to go in the water here, but there was a drop-off not far from shore so that I’d have to climb over the ridge to get back. And the undertow was extremely strong. I splashed myself but then scampered out onto the sand. We broiled in the heat until lunchtime. Seats at tables were arranged under an awning but it was still hot. We ate barbecued chicken with beans and rice. Then a lady entertained us with poems and song while I fumed impatiently to go back to town. This dragged on too long. Finally, we got back into the bus and made it to the pier. There are shops lined up here where we browsed before gratefully reentering the ship.

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The house might have been fascinating, but I was less than thrilled with the beach portion of this excursion. I don’t like it when the tours take you to a deserted beach. Maybe you’ll love it if you’re from up north, but I prefer a more active beach site with restaurants, gift shops, and facilities. Here you’re stuck waiting for the driver and others on the tour, whereas if you’re in a better location, you can amuse yourself at a bar or a shop when you get tired of the sun.

To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.
Coming Next: St. Kitts

Dominica

Roseau, Dominica
Nov. 7, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We did the Royal Caribbean ship’s excursion RO32 called Cooking Caribbean, Rum, and Nature.

An air-conditioned van drove us through a poor section of town with ramshackle buildings to a mountain road. We drove up a steep, winding incline. It was a bumpy ride where we jostled against each other, swaying left and right around hairpin curves. It appeared to be one lane but served as a two-way road.

We climbed up and up into the rainforest, spotting banana plants, papaya trees, clumps of bamboo, colorful crotons, broad-leafed plants and reaching vines. Wealthier, substantial houses dotted the hillside. We arrived at a lovely home and were guided out back to an outdoor kitchen under a covered patio. The view of the cloud-shrouded mountains from this location was spectacular.  Be aware that it actually rains in this rainforest! Showers swept in but quickly passed. While sipping a fruit punch, we admired the flowers, shrubbery, and distant vistas.

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Then we were summoned to take our places in the outdoor kitchen. We stood in a semicircle around a broad counter. There were 15 people in the class. Three lady cooks introduced themselves and gave us each a yellow apron to wear.

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First on the menu was marinated, sautéed tuna. This came out a bit chewy and not to my taste. Next we cooked red beans and rice that was very good. The cooks used fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs like lemongrass, many of which were obtained from the grounds. We made a salad with homemade dressing and then did fried coconut-dipped plantains. I mixed the batter which consisted of one can of coconut milk, two eggs, and 1 cup flour. Everybody participated. We had grapefruit with rum sauce for dessert, and a rum punch made with West Indies pumpkin.

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We were promised recipes via e-mail but so far they haven’t arrived. There was a tip bottle put out at the end. A long table was set for the tour participants and we ate buffet style. It was a lot of fun, and I’d suggest this as one of the best, most unusual excursions if you’re into cooking. What would I change? I’d suggest they put stools around the counter so we wouldn’t have to stand for so long. Also, they should hand out copies of the recipes. I doubt we’ll ever get them, so you might want to take notes if you do this tour.  Our stomachs satisfied, we went back to the wharf in Roseau to browse the native market.

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Coming Next: Antigua

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St. Maarten

Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Nov. 6, 2012, Vision of the Seas

On previous tours of this island, we visited the French side of Marigot. It’s a tedious drive across the island on the only road which means it’s usually congested. We didn’t find the expensive restaurants and European cafes to excite us when the ambiance in Philipsburg is charming enough and a lot closer. That prior ship’s excursion also took us to a not-so-nice beach near a nudist site. Not our cup of tea.

So this time, we went shopping in Philipsburg, capitol of the Dutch side, after taking the water taxi for seven dollars (round-trip fare) from the pier. There are shops near the ships that are adequate representations of the ones downtown, but it’s much more fun to go into the town center and stroll through the quaint streets.

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A beautiful beach faces the water in Philipsburg that is fronted by restaurants and shops. We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace. This restaurant is to the right after you dock downtown from the water taxi. I had coconut shrimp with French fries, coleslaw, and sautéed plantains for $14.95. The St. Maarten Rhumba drink cost $6.95 and packed a wallop. After I went back to the ship, I had to take a nap. Holland House is another restaurant we’ve enjoyed with a water view.

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I can recommend my favorite stores here if you’re in the market for baubles. Otherwise, souvenir stores are plentiful. I like the Guavaberry place for a taste of the island’s specialty liquor. If you tire of shopping and aren’t on a tour, you can rent a beach chair for $5 and enjoy the water. Bring cash for the water taxi, food, and incidentals. Philipsburg is my favorite port! Shopping, restaurants, and a free beach–what more could you want?

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Coming Next: Dominica

Tortola

Cane Garden Bay, Tortola
Nov. 5, 2012, Vision of the Seas

We shared a taxi ride with two couples that we hooked up with via Cruise Critic. To get to Cane Garden Bay, it cost $8.00 per person one way with six people in the cab. It was a bumpy twenty to thirty minute ride across the island on curvy hilltop roads with scenic views. As the taxi careened around hairpin curves, we held onto our seats. This was as good an island tour as any other.

Cane Garden Bay Beach is a lovely site that I’d noted on a previous visit to Tortola. Restaurants are plentiful and restrooms are adequate. The drink prices vary from bar to bar. Our three dollar rum punch had no punch. A lounge chair costs five dollars, plus an extra five dollars for an umbrella.

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The beach is beautiful with many facilities and well worth a return visit. It wasn’t as crowded as Magen’s Bay on St. Thomas, plus there is no entry fee. Ask your taxi driver to drop you off at the main entrance near the two-story building. You can easily catch a cab back from here to the ship. Bring cash for taxi fare, food, and chair rentals.

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P1010966 (800x600)    I Love those Rum Punches but this one didn’t have much punch. This is a lovely beach with a wide range of facilities where you can easily spend a few hours.

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Coming Next: St. Maarten