Vision of the Seas: The Food

Vision of the Seas, Nov. 2-12, 2012
The Food

If you want a sit-down meal on Vision of the Seas, you go to the dining room. Otherwise, the Windjammer Café on the pool deck serves a buffet three times a day plus afternoon snacks between 3 and 5 pm. You could also get pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches at a grill outside the Solarium. There’s also a specialty coffee bar with cookies and pastries.

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The food was okay but was not as impressive as on the Allure. The choices didn’t seem as upscale as on past cruises and some of the menus were mediocre at best. Even the garnishes seemed lacking. My husband’s dinner would come with one or two broccoli florets instead of a generous portion. You could do better at the Red Lobster. Not so for those lucky folks invited to the Captain’s Table. We sat right next to this special group, and I almost bumped chairs with Captain Lis herself. These guests were served a feast. Their selections were very different from our simple choices.

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I liked the veal shank, the lobster tail and garlic shrimp, the roast duck, and the turkey dinner. The daily alternate choices weren’t as appealing as on other cruises. And we were disappointed there was no Baked Alaska on the last formal night. The waiters did sing that one time, but it wasn’t the same as in the old days when the dining rooms were decorated according to a different theme each night, and the waiters wore matching outfits. Times have changed, and not for the better. Generally we’d rate the food on this ship as average.

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The coffee throughout the ship was Seattle’s Best, and it was better than on most ships. No complaints there. Creamer is offered at the buffet in non-perishable cups. There are no specialty restaurants yet on this ship, which is scheduled for refurbishment. Hopefully a couple of additional restaurants will be added along with a Diamond Club lounge.

We loved the free drinks and appetizers we’d earned with our Diamond status and frequented the Viking Crown Lounge every evening where this event took place. Between this perk, the Welcome Aboard Party, bottles of wine from our travel agent and a friend, plus two repeat cruisers parties, we saved money on the bar bill. And that’s without getting the free champagne at the art auctions! I miss the nightly Diamond Club appetizers the most.

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Also notably lacking were the chocolates on our pillows at evening turn-down service. This omission was a disappointment, no doubt a cost-cutting measure but a come-down all the same. It went along with the more plebian food choices. Even the breakfast buffet had little variety. It would have been nice if they’d offered fried eggs and premade omelets like on Princess. You could get them only if you stood in line for the chef.

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Despite the shortcomings, it was still great to have food available at all hours and in various locations around the ship. We found plenty of tasty choices to enjoy. Fortunately, stair climbing and walking around the decks helped to counteract the extra calories.

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To View the entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: Ports of Call

Vision of the Seas

Vision of the Seas
Nov. 2-12, 2012

The Ship

Vision of the Seas was a refreshing change from our last voyage on the exciting but enormous Allure. A member of Royal Caribbean’s Vision Class fleet, this ship has sleek lines and a classic layout. Ocean views are prevalent from all the lounges, and the more intimate size makes this cruise an easy one to run into the same people and make friends. We had a great itinerary with four days at sea to relax and five ports to visit.

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I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the lounges and the Windjammer Café that showed ocean views. The Windjammer faces forward so you have a view of the ship plowing through the waves. I really missed these windows on the Allure and felt closed in on that huge ship despite the numerous venues. The Vision’s Solarium has a domed glass cover, so you can sit out at the pool during inclement weather. We had no problem getting lounge chairs at either of the two main pools during the day.

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There are enough inside lounges for variety, and the shops have interesting wares. We had plenty of places to walk around, and I for one did not miss the interior Promenade from the larger ships. I’d rather see the water wherever possible, although the Promenade at night does give you a place to stroll. Still, there was plenty to do here. A lively, several stories-high atrium had a dance floor where musicians played in the evening.

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The captain greeted us at the Welcome Aboard Party on the second night which was formal dress. Lo and behold, we had a lady captain! As I’m a fan of Captain Janeway on the Enterprise, I was thrilled. Captain Lis Lauritzen was gracious and kindly posed for photos and gave welcoming talks throughout the cruise as well as her daily briefing from the bridge. (“This is Captain Lis from the Bridge”—Do you ever wonder where else they might be?) I liked her joke about the difference between a boat and a ship. “A ship has a captain. A boat is run by a frustrated husband.” Diplomacy, poise, and wit are definitely part of her job description.

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Our cabin was comfortable and in a great location. If you’re sensitive to light when you sleep, I’d suggest you bring a sleep mask. Light beamed through the peephole from out into the corridor and it shone like a beacon in my eyes at night. If you have a balcony, light from outside might shine in as well. You might also want to bring some shower gel. You can barely move in the shower, so if you drop a bar of soap, good luck retrieving it. Our shower on Vision had a clingy curtain instead of a glass door, and I cringed at the thought of who might have touched it last. As for shaving in the shower, forget it. I had to put my foot on the toilet seat and dip my razor in the sink. I hope the shower curtains are replaced with glass doors during the upcoming refurbishment. It is badly needed as most of the carpets throughout the ship are stained and the paint is peeling off the outdoor chairs.

Make sure your room isn’t over, under, or near a lounge with music at night or near an elevator. On the Vision, a door separates the public areas from the stateroom sections. This door helps to keep noise out of the cabin areas, except perhaps for the people right next to it. They might hear the door bang open and closed all night. A couple we met had their room over the show lounge (not the theater). The band’s noise reverberated throughout their cabin and they were forced to stay awake each night until after midnight. Be careful to look and see where your cabin is located when you book your cruise. Otherwise, our cabin was comfortable and the steward gave excellent service. This is a nice size ship if you’re looking for a more relaxed cruise experience.

As for entertainment, the production shows in the Masquerade Theatre were visually appealing and the singers/dancers competent, but these shows lacked sparkle and so were nothing exceptional. I hate jugglers, so we skipped that performance. We enjoyed the comedians, especially 85 year old Norm Crosby who’s the best we’ve heard in recent times. We also caught a couple of movies: The Lucky One with Zac Efron and People Like Us with Chris Pine. Overall, I’d rate the entertainment and enrichment topics as average. If you’ve been on many cruises, you’ve seen similar. But does it matter? Being on a ship is still a diversion from watching TV at home.

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To View entire Photo Album, Click Here.

Coming Next: The Food (my favorite part!) and then the Ports of Call.

FRW Cruise Conference

Florida Romance Writers is thrilled to announce our

Keynote for the 2013 Fun in the Sun Conference

 

Charlaine Harris

 

Charlaine is the author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels,

the basis for the hit HBO series, True Blood.

 

Our other Guests include

Angela James, Executive Editor of Carina Press

Elaine Spencer, Agent with the Knight Agency

Leslie Wainger, Editor-at-Large for Harlequin

 

We set sail from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida onboard

Royal Caribbean’s beautiful Liberty of the Sea,  

on Thursday, January 24, 2013 and

return to port Monday, January 28, 2013.

 

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of

Cozumel and bask in the Caribbean sunlight.

 

Other highlights include:
* Stellar Agents and Editors
* Sizzling Workshops
* Floridian Idol
* Shipboard Entertainment
* Panoramic Ocean views

 

  This year our conference will include a Pre-sail party

on Wednesday night January 23, 2013.

This will not be included in the conference registration.

Location, cost and time to be announced.

 

For additional information:

Pricing

Keynote

Agent & Editor

Schedule

FRW Chapter website

 

 

We have a few slots left to fill in our workshop schedule.

Send your proposal and a brief bio to our workshop coordinator

Heidi Lynn Anderson at heidilynnanderson@att.net

Feel free to contact Heidi with any questions you may have.

 

 

We look forward to seeing you onboard!

 

Kimberly Gonzalez

FRW Conference Coordinator

Come Cruise with your Muse

 

 

 

Aruba

Day 7, December 14, Tuesday, Emerald  Princess 10 Day cruise to Southern Caribbean

BONAIRE

We had more time on this island than Grenada and I would have liked less. It’s 112 square miles with a population of 14,000. The land appeared relatively flat and sparse with little vegetation. It didn’t look as populated as the other islands, but my cousin took an island tour and was so impressed by the upscale housing and sights that this was her favorite island. She said there’s a very low level of unemployment. Next time we’ll have to do the island tour.

We walked down the pier to the main shopping street, passed a bunch of crafts vendors, and turned left. The shops sold the usual souvenir items plus sea salt produced here. We bought aloe lotions as they grow the medicinal plant on this island. There were no bargains and nothing else new to get. A few bars face the water where you can buy a drink and admire the view. The streets were dusty with the dried mud coating the surface and buildings with second-story balconies reminiscent of the Old West. We arrived at port at 12 o’clock. My husband and I spent less than two hours walking around. I liked this port the least but it’s probably good if you like water sports. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We could see tropical fish swimming around right up to shore.

Main Shopping Street

                 

 

Day 8, December 15, Wednesday

ARUBA

We approached the main town Oranjestad on this prosperous island of 74 square miles. Aruba’s population is around 34, 000. It’s part of the Dutch Commonwealth. Aloe is its main agricultural crop. I spied numerous freighters offshore. A sandbar protects the coast by the pier and a lone tree grows seemingly in the middle of the water. We could see oil storage tanks from the Lago refinery in the distance on one side and the airport on the other. The island appears mostly flat with a hilly area in one direction.

The affluent and well-kept town contains some of the same jewelry stores as St. Thomas. You can get jewelry galore along the main street, L.G. Smith Boulevard, along with tropical wear, souvenirs, and Delft china items from Holland. It didn’t take us long to walk up and down the street and stroll around the Royal Plaza and Renaissance Malls (attached to a hotel).

Diamonds International is a favorite store among cruise passengers, and Kay’s Fine Jewelry had some good prices. (In St. Thomas, check out Imperial Jewelers and Ballerina Jewelers in addition to DI).

We went back to the ship for lunch then explored the souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal. You can get last minute gifts here without going farther. Aruba is a large island, and if you can ignore its news infamy, worthy of exploration.

                                

Tonight on the ship was the Captain’s Circle repeat members cocktail party. It was very crowded. They were generous with the drinks but not with the food. For dinner, I chose the roast rack of lamb. The show was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a shrieking duck that grated our nerves. We left in the middle of his performance.

Days 9 & 10, December 16-17, Thursday and Friday

AT SEA

We enjoyed our days at sea, sitting out by the pool, reading, eating, lounging on our balcony. Eating again. Napping. Checking out the ice cream. Getting a hot dog. Grabbing a cookie. Reading. Eating again. If you want to be busy, there are various activities going on, but this was my 25th cruise and I’d been there, done that. It was a wonderfully relaxing trip. I miss the warm weather, now that we are home again. The only solution is to plan our next voyage on the high seas.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

And if you’re into cruise mysteries, check out Killer Knots, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry tropical sun, this time on a cruise to the Caribbean.

Grenada

Day 6, December 13, Monday, Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise to Southern Caribbean

GRENADA

The day dawned bright and sunny and warm. Clouds hovered over the distant mountain ranges as we approached the famed “spice” island. I spotted a fort up on a hill, a clock tower in town, and a multitude of pastel buildings, many of which clustered up the hillside. Grenada is 133 square miles. Approximately 33,700 people live in the capital city of St. George’s which is where we docked.

                       

We boarded an air-conditioned bus for the ship’s tour titled Grenada Explorer (the sign-up sheet says non a/c vehicles but that may be outdated). Here we drove through the insanely crowded narrow streets of St. George’s barely scraping by other vehicles. We emerged onto a road hugging the rocky coast. Sandy beaches and resorts are to the south side. We headed in the opposite direction. After a lengthy drive past many seaside villages, we turned inland toward the lush jungle interior. Wild fruit trees sprouted everywhere: tall, leafy nutmeg trees with round nuts sagging from the branches. Papayas laden with heavy green fruits. Abundant banana plants in various stages of maturity. Long cocoa pods hanging off trees. Vines aplenty. We passed some planted fields of corn and root vegetables. Most of the nutmeg, cacao, bananas are exported to Europe. It was amazing to see these fruit trees wild all over the island. I was stunned by the bountiful fruits to be found on this tropical paradise, although the standard of living could be higher.

Nutmeg Tree

                           

Cacao Tree

We careened around switchback roads up and down through verdant hillsides, spotting an occasional goat. Overhead power lines strung through villages. We saw many half-built structures as though abandoned mid-construction. Men sat about watching us pass as though they had nothing productive to do. Laundry hung out to dry at many cottages. Dogs roamed the streets, and children played on open porches. Many of the homes were on stilts, without any visible air-conditioning units. Given the living conditions, I was surprised when the guide said they have cable TV with the same channels as we do.

Our first stop, an hour’s drive away, was the centuries old Dougaldston Spice Estate. The wooden buildings were faded and rundown. While I visited the outbuilding restroom, the host described the different spices grown on the island. I joined the group as he passed each spice around for us to smell: nutmeg, bay leaves, cloves, mace, ginger, tumeric, and cocoa. Small packets were available for purchase for a dollar or two each with no labels other than what spice they contained. I was disappointed; the tour description said we’d have the opportunity to buy spices here and I’d expected something more sophisticated. This hardly seemed worth the long ride, except that I enjoyed the drive through the verdant mountains to view the scenery.

Spice Estate; Beans Drying in Sun

                 

Spice Estate Demo

Our bus resumed its route, making one roadside stop. The driver paid a guy to give us each a banana to eat. The tour list said we were supposed to stop at Gouyave Nutmeg Station but I don’t recall this being part of the tour.

We proceeded next to Grand Etang National Park 1900 feet above sea level for a view of the crater lake. I would have liked more time here as they had the best vendors for shopping but we only had 15 minutes. I gulped down the free rum punch which was mostly fruit juice, snapped a quick picture, and ran from one craft stall to the next. I bought spice necklaces made up of the different spices grown on the island. They smelled wonderful and I hoped they would keep until we got home and I hung one in my kitchen. I also bought nutmeg syrup and nutmeg jam plus some gift packs and individual packets of the different spices.

Crater Lake

          

Annandale Falls

From here we visited Annandale Falls where we had a short hike downhill for the view. It was a minor waterfalls compared to the twin falls in Dominica. The vendors here were annoying, pushing their wares at us. We were now anxious to get back to town to do some shopping but our bus driver took us to Fort Frederick. We admired the ships in harbor in St. George below. There was another vendor up here plus restrooms.

Our bus stalled as we turned to make a sharp curve. All the passengers had to get out and several men helped push the bus backward. Then the driver aimed downhill, and we climbed back on. We gritted our teeth as we coasted down the steep decline but the engine restarted. Whew. The driver deserved our praise after the harrowing ride.

Fort Frederick

We’d begun our tour around 7:30 and got back to town around 12:30. Five hours was too long to be sitting on a bus. I would have liked a lot more time in town, especially because the ship left at 2:00 pm. This was our shortest port stop and one of the most interesting. Nonetheless, we appreciated the tour of Grenada’s natural wonders. My only suggestion to Princess would be to stay in port longer.

Frantic to buy more spices, I shopped in the Esplanade Mall next to the pier. Everything you’d want is right there: duty free liquor and perfume, souvenirs and spices, jams and jellies, hot sauces. This was a great shopping mall with crafts vendors outside. We didn’t have time to walk around the town at all. Maybe it was just as well. I’d already spent too much money and bought all kinds of spices that I didn’t know how to use.

Once aboard, we rested in our cabin then strolled around the ship. Most of the pool chairs were already taken so we enjoyed our balcony. For dinner that night, I had shrimp cocktail, a mushroom tart, roasted sliced duck, and a Grand Marnier soufflé.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Dominica

Day 5, December 12, Sunday

Emerald Princess 10 Day Cruise

DOMINICA

We approached Dominica, a mountainous, long island of 298 square miles with a population of around 73,000. Clouds hovered over the green-coated land. White buildings clustered along the coastline like blobs of bird poop (not the nicest image, but this popped into my mind). A five-masted sailing vessel glided past. Closer in toward the town of Roseau, I spotted another cruise ship at a farther pier. Signs flashed in front of me: KFC, General Post Office, High Court of Justice. Decent paved roads curved by pastel buildings, many in need of repair. Buses and vans lined up ready to receive visitors. A row of tents indicated a straw market. Across the water, I spied a squat building housing a hardware center near a series of colored umbrellas sheltering more crafts stalls. I could see the Luxury Emporium, a recommended shop by the cruise line. The Royal Bank of Scotland was near the Garraway Hotel.

                        

Our ship tour met at the end of the pier. We took the Traflagar Falls & Roseau Highlights excursion. We boarded an air-conditioned van seating 10 people and left early as the bus was full. We drove out of town without much trouble and stopped a short distance away at the Botanical Gardens, where the guide pointed out the foliage as we walked across the grass. She showed us thick caterpillars that would turn into moths. We were fascinated by the tree felled by a hurricane in 1979 that crushed an empty school bus. Banyan trees, coconut palms, papaya trees, banana plants, pink impatiens, colorful bougainvillea, sausage trees, vibrant hibiscus, red Poinciana trees, red ixora, and crotons were some of the plants shown to us. We saw the “poor man’s” orchid tree, breadfruit trees, and trumpet flowers. Hummingbirds flittered among the branches. A hollowed out circle of bamboo provided a “bamboo house” where special events took place. It was shady inside with a dirt floor. Birds chittered overhead as the guide pointed to some parrots. She mentioned there were 365 rivers on the island, hydroelectric plants, and water treatment facilities. I was impressed by their self-sufficiency in terms of water and energy needs. The island used to hold a big lime plantation but no more.

Botanical Gardens

                          

School Bus Crushed by Tree
Caterpillar

 

Craft Vendor

As we continued up into the mountains, I noticed electric wiring strung overhead. A big pipe followed the road to carry water. Dwellings, made mostly of concrete, had painted galvanized metal roofs. We saw trees with green beans that were Dominican grown coffee. The road was mostly paved but coated with dried mud and rocky with many switchback curves. We climbed up and up to the rainforest at Morne Trois Pitons National Park where we got out of the van and trekked through the vegetation to the famous Traflagar Falls. It’s a treacherous path with uneven, rocky steps that would be terribly slippery if wet. You need to be in decent shape to make this hike. Sweat beaded my brow and my shirt stuck to my back in the humidity. My heartbeat raced as we climbed further, but the view was worth the effort. As we approached the twin falls, the sound of rushing water grew louder. The lower falls gushed on the right, the higher falls on the left. It was truly a lush setting among tropical vegetation. I loved the rainforest and seeing the green plants and ferns and tall trees. We’d brought our rain ponchos but fortunately the weather stayed sunny and warm.

Taller Falls on left

                 

Shorter Falls on right

Our next stop was Papilotte Wilderness Retreat where we had an inspiring view of the Roseau Valley and a free rum punch. This was a relaxing stop where we could admire the sights.

Moi at the overlook

Back in town, we shopped in the crafts market and few souvenir stores. The Luxury Emporium had leather goods, liquor, and coffee. The outdoor stalls held the usual T-shirts, magnets, carved wood boxes, flowered dresses, and beads. This island is better for scenery them for shopping but the views are spectacular.

For more photos, go to http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Cruising the Caribbean

EMERALD PRINCESS 10 Day Cruise Southern Caribbean

Day 1, December 8, Wednesday

ALL ABOARD

We boarded the Emerald Princess at Port Everglades. The terminal doors opened at noon. It was our first time as Platinum members of the Captain’s Circle (repeat cruisers), and I was grateful for the Preferred Check-In line that allowed us a speedy process. Our room was ready, and after we dumped our carry-on luggage inside and shed our coats from the forty degree weather outside, we proceeded to the Horizon Court for a buffet lunch. I ate a half of a grilled cheese sandwich with chips, a salad, and a fudge cookie. Then we explored the ship, similar in design to the Caribbean Princess we’d sailed on in September. For dinner, I chose prime ribs. The welcome aboard show that evening had singers and dancers and a comedian who was pretty good.

Day 2, December 9, Thursday

PRINCESS CAYS

At this island in the Bahamas which is Princess’s barbecue and beach stop, the weather was cool but warmer than yesterday and hot in the sun. Short sleeves sufficed as we rode the tender to the island. We strolled along the winding concrete path past native crafts stalls toward one of two grills and found a spot on the beach near a bar. I ordered a fruity frozen drink concoction and sipped it as we waited for the lunch buffet to open. We couldn’t wait to stuff ourselves with chicken, ribs, burgers, cole slaw, potato salad, beans, corn, and fresh fruit. The beautiful water spread before us in colors ranging from teal to aqua. Guests enjoyed sunning, snorkeling, and riding banana boats. We left as it got cloudy. Dinner choice was mushroom soup, Caesar salad, Rock Cornish hen. The show was a Cole Porter tribute with lively music and dancing.

                                  

                          

                               

                                                 

Day 3, December 10, Friday

AT SEA

It rained this morning so we stayed inside, relaxing and strolling around the shops and lounges. At 11am, I headed up to the Skywalker Lounge on a top deck with a panoramic view of the ocean—a great place to read out of the wind—to meet the group from Cruise Critic. If you want to join this fun and knowledgeable group, you’ll make new friends on each ship and gather advice on tours, ports, and more. After the meet and greet, I headed to the port shopping talk to grab the brochures before lunch on deck. Reading, lounging, napping took up the afternoon. There are plenty of activities if you want to keep busy but I like relaxing on a cruise. Dinner was shrimp cocktail, eggplant and chicken empanada, lamb shank, Key lime pie, and banana fudge ice cream.

Day 4, December 11, Saturday

ST. THOMAS

I only took one picture here and wrote no descriptions because this was my umpteenth time visiting this beautiful island. It’s my favorite among all the jewels in the Caribbean. And jewels it has galore in the many shops downtown. I spent more than I’d planned but got exactly what I was looking for so came away satisfied. We lunched at the Green House restaurant on the waterfront then indulged in pizza and tiramisu back on the ship for an afternoon snack. Dinner was tigertail shrimp. The show was a comedian whose target audience seemed to be the over seventy crowd. A hypnotist was playing in the Explorer’s Lounge but we’d just seen one on the Caribbean Princess and the Movies Under the Stars had a Jennifer Aniston film but there were no seats left by the time we went up to look. You need to get a seat at any of the venues at least a half hour early.  Coming Next: Dominica

       For more photos, go to  http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Emerald Princess

EMERALD PRINCESS SHIP REVIEW

THE CABINS

First off, note there’s no deck 13. The decks go from 12 to 14. We stayed on Baja deck 11 and it was a great location. Our balcony cabin expanded the view and prevented us from feeling closed in. The balconies are very comfortable with a soft rubbery covering on the floor, two chairs, a small round table, and a glass partition for protection and as a wind guard under the rail. Be aware your neighbors can hear you clearly when you’re outside. Indoors, the soundproofing seemed very good unless we had unusually quiet guests on either side. We had a separate closet with hangars and shelving so there’s plenty of room to unpack. The bedding is comfortable like in premium hotels. Alas, the bathrooms can always use improvement. We had enough shelf space but you could sit on the toilet and brush your hair in the mirror at the same time. If you’re really tall, you could probably brush your teeth too. As for the shower, forget shaving your legs in there. It has a curtain that doesn’t try to grab you, but the space is small especially if you drop the soap. The controls are better than most and easy to use and the force just right. Our thermostat worked fine in the room, too, although the LCD light glared at me every night in the dark. Guests get shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and round soaps. They all smell good but the conditioner and lotion are too thick to pour. The tissues are too rough and the toilet paper is single ply and too thin. They could upgrade their quality here although this is probably one of their cost cutting arenas. Rating on the cabins: Very Good.

 

                                   

                                        

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOD

To the detriment of my weight, I love the food on Princess cruises. The menus are consistently good, with appealing alternate choices, and we feel no need to pay extra to go to the specialty restaurants. If you’re an early bird like us, you can get coffee and Danish and cereal in Café Caribe until the Horizon Court buffet opens at 6am. Here you have a huge array of fresh fruit, cereal and yogurt, eggs scrambled and fried and omelets and hard boiled, bacon and ham, pancakes and waffles, breads and pastries, etc. It’s making my mouth water to think about it. I liked the individual fried eggs under the heat lamp where you don’t have to wait around for a chef, and a different prepared omelet choice each day. The croissants are good, but the really secret place where I got an almond croissant was down on deck five at the International Café. Here you can pay for specialty coffees and teas but the food is free: yogurt parfaits, pastries, and quiches for breakfast, salads and sandwiches for lunch, desserts nearly all day. And there’s always the choice of the main dining room for sit-down service. Lunch usually found us at the Horizon Court because I loved their make your own salad with just about every ingredient, plus a choice of hot foods, sandwiches and soups, interesting side dishes, and the usual fruits, breads, cheeses, and sweets. I miss the different type of seeds and nuts they put out each day to sprinkle on my salad. A few items stand out in my memory: a goat cheese and artichoke souffle, the cooked eggplant medley with onion and tomato, a delicious vegetarian lasagna, the brown rice with oranges and dates. Sometimes we ate pizza at the outdoor grill. At another grill, you could get hot dogs, burgers, and chicken with French fries. Soft ice cream with or without sprinkles is available next to the the pizza bar. All this is included in the cruise price. You can eat your way to Nirvana. Dinner in the dining room consisted of several courses: appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert. You can have as many or as little as you choose. My selections ranged from prime ribs to lobster tail to jumbo shrimp to duck and Rock Cornish hen. If you’re not a meat eater, you have plenty of appealing choices as well. And the desserts, well, need I say more? Oh, and if you’re sitting by the pool in the afternoon, don’t miss the bow-tied guys in uniform wheeling around a cart and serving fresh baked cookies and milk to guests. Rating on the food: Excellent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SHOWS

The ship’s troupe of singers and dancers are competent and energetic, but except for the last show, I wasn’t blown away by the performances. They lacked a “Wow” factor. I liked the final show featuring rock music and hip hop dancing but the older crowd liked the Motown music and Cole Porter acts. I don’t like jugglers or ventriloquists so passed on those guys. The vocal impressionist was excellent. He imitated many famous voices, ranging from country to opera, and was multi-talented in his own right. One comedian was great; another didn’t appeal to me. But this is subjective. I’ve probably become jaded from going on so many cruises but not many of these acts stand out in my mind. The hypnotist we saw on the Caribbean Princess was memorable. The other annoying thing was that you have to reserve your seat for a half hour to forty five minutes ahead of time. There’s no band playing so nothing to do except twiddle your thumbs while you wait. This comes after sitting an hour and a half at dinner, then you sit for another half hour to claim your seat, then you sit through an hour show. My legs got restless. I picked up the daily Sudoku puzzle in the library and worked on that while I waited. Or bring a book. You’ll need it unless you have someone to talk to in the interim. It’s nice when other cruise ships have live music on stage you can listen to before a show. So my rating for the entertainment would get an Average.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION

I enjoyed this ship and would sail on her again. The three story atrium is always lively, with entertainment every evening. Different lounges have live music for dancing, so you have several places to go after the show. Often there are two shows each night to choose from in different locations, so if you’ve seen the production show, you can catch the comedian or an outdoor Movie Under The Stars. Other cruise lines take up lounges with karaoke and art auctions and bingo, but these aren’t pushed in your face here. There are the usual trivia contests and game shows but if you’re not a fan, you can listen to a country band, practice your ballroom dancing, or rock the night away. The food is enough of a reason to return. Plus the ship is well maintained. We saw crew brushing anti-rust goo on the joints out on deck, applying fresh varnish, and sanding down wood trim. Everything appears clean and polished. So I remain a fan of Princess and will doubtless return to one of their ships in the future.

See more cruise photos here:  http://bit.ly/i1wERn

Nancy’s Ramblings

I thought I’d pause in my conference reports to see if a) anyone cares for me to continue, and b) bring you up to date on what’s going on.

Basically, I’ve been working nose to grindstone, if that’s the proper expression, polishing my WIP. This is book two in my proposed paranormal trilogy.  When this revision is done, I’ll work on the plot for the next story.

Meanwhile, I’m excited that my favorite sleuth, Marla Shore, will be revisiting your homes once against when Five Star releases her next story in January 2012.  It’s a long wait but during this time will be line edits, copy edits, art department meetings, etc. so the publishing process takes a while. It’ll be worth the wait to finally join Marla and Dalton at an exciting upcoming event in their lives.  I am most grateful to my readers whose comments and encouragement inspired me to complete this story. 

The holidays rapidly approach, and I’ve put out our meager Halloween decorations: a few pumpkin thingies, candles, and some gold tinsel. I love the fall colors, the reds and oranges and yellows.  And Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and not because it’s also my birthday. 

It would help if our weather would cool down a bit.  The humidity has dropped but it’s 86 degrees out today.  All our landscaping looks great. Our gardeners took some bromeliads that were overgrowing our pool and planted them around a tree in front. With new mulch, everything looks much better.

We have another cruise coming up before the end of the year.  This will be a ten day voyage to the Southern Caribbean.  I’m especially looking forward to visiting the spice farms on Grenada.  Before then, we’ll be doing the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and visiting Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the Harry Potter attractions.  So that’s what is going on here.

Now, do you want me to continue with reports from the Ninc conference or stick to my own ramblings hereafter?

 

Caribbean Princess

Caribbean Princess Cruise to New England/Canada       

 DAY 7: At Sea and Ship Review

We joined the culinary demonstration and tour of the galley in the morning and did a wine tasting in the afternoon. The cooking demo was fun. I always enjoy walking through the galley, one of many aboard ship, and seeing the spotless stainless steel countertops and cabinets.  The wine tasting was lovely, with a great selection of appetizers on a platter: lobster, steak tartare, smoked salmon, cheeses, caviar, and more. It was worth the $15 cost but I always wish the waiter would pour me more!  The last day on the cruise was windy and rainy so no one went outside. Too bad, we couldn’t really enjoy the deck on this cruise. For better weather, July might be a better month.  Dinner: Roast turkey with all the trimmings and traditional Baked Alaska.                                                                        

Galley Tour
Galley Tour
Culinary Demo
Culinary Demo

 

Review of the Caribbean Princess

 We liked the ship very much.  It’s a sister ship to several others, including the Emerald Princess we are going on next to the Southern Caribbean.

Galley Tour
Galley Tour

             

Galley Tour
Galley Tour

 

Our balcony cabin had a lovely view out the wide doors. The balcony floor is covered with some sort of spongy porous material that works well. We had a refrigerator in the room stocked with soft drinks. Princess gives very comfortable storage space with a large separate closet, plenty of hangars, and a cabinet of floor to ceiling shelves.  Other furnishings included a single armchair, small round table, desk chair, tv, desk console, and two nightstands each with drawers.  No coffeemaker and no sofa in the cabin.  We peeked at our kids inside cabin which had the same generous storage space. You don’t get a closed in feeling because the back wall holds a wide mirror.  Their desk space was larger than in our cabin. 

Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting

The bathroom has a small shower area and a shower curtain instead of a door (RCCL has a glass door in a tiny round space), ultra-thin single ply toilet paper, and rough tissues (better ones in public restrooms).  I got a cold on this cruise and my nose came away looking very chafed.

Bathroom amenities: bar soap, signature lotion, shampoo, and conditioner with a pleasant fragrance.  The lotion comes out a bit thick.

The steward was very efficient.  He cleaned our room when we were absent and left chocolates on our pillow each night.  He did not fold the towels into shapes like on previous cruises.

I think the temperature in a balcony room fluctuates more due to the glass: the room can be colder in cool weather, hotter in sunny warm climates.  We froze until we told the steward to get the thermostat in our room fixed.  The view from our balcony when seated was clear, not obstructed by the railing.  There’s a large glass partition up to the rail outside. 

The first night’s show included the ship’s singers and dancers, pyrotechnics, and a comedian.  The cruise director on this ship was excellent. He’s talented in his own right and was often funnier than the guest star.  The second night was a dance production with mist, strobe lights, and flashy costumes.  We missed the comedian’s solo performance because he got sick with a migraine. Memorable shows were the Scottish pipe band in Nova Scotia and the crew’s talent show.

Buffet Breakfast: Different type of pancakes every day, individual fried eggs, ready-made omelets, breads and pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, sautéed mushrooms, breakfast meats, smoked salmon, potatoes, and more.  The coffee tasted good and the caffeine worked for me.  Pitchers of cream are available near the coffee urns.  A nice selection of teas is offered.

Afternoon tea is served in the dining room: you get brewed tea with no choice of flavors; mini-sandwiches, scones with whipped cream and jam, cookies and cakes.  It’s served at 3:30 by white-gloved waiters.                         

Desserts
Desserts

Although Princess mentioned in their newsletter that they were adding a third seating at 5:30, it turned out there were only two seatings on this cruise. We had early seating and it was scheduled for 5:30.  I would have preferred 6:00 but we sauntered in near that time anyway with no problem.  You have the choice of fixed seating or free style dining.  We did not take advantage of the restaurants for which there is an extra cover charge.

There are two outdoor grills by the pool.  One serves pizza and the other station serves hot dogs, burgers, and French fries. Their pizza is thin crust and very good, better than RCCL. (We like the Seattle’s Best coffee on RCCL better).

An ice cream bar on deck serves free soft serve ice cream.  We were so full from all the meals, we never got any.  Plus the chilly, rainy weather was not conducive to ice cream. Fresh cookies were available around the pool area in afternoon or at the buffet. You can also get snacks and desserts at the International Café inside at the bottom of the atrium. Specialty coffee is offered her for a fee. Across the way is the Vines wine bar with free canapés and sushi but you have to pay for cheeses.

Princess menu selections are consistently appealing, and there are good choices on the alternative menu too.  Breads and desserts are all good.  (NCL does custard type desserts well but not pastries; RCCL desserts are okay but their menu selection loses appeal over the course of a week). Princess pastries are very good, much to the detriment of my diet.  So now it’s time to lose weight and get ready for the next voyage.

Lobster Tail
Lobster Tail

                                              

                                    

Baked Alaska
Baked Alaska

            

ship
ship

 

ship
ship

 

For more photos, go to my New England photo album