Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cruise Phoographs

Click on the Norwegian Sky to view album on Picasa.
Enjoy !

NCL Cruise - August 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Sky is the Limit

That would be the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Sky sailing out of Miami. This was a 3-night cruise from Miami with Saturday docked at NCL’s private beach island, Great Stirrup Cay. We spent that day onboard the ship relaxing, touring the ship some more and (of course) eating. Sunday we were in port at Nassau after a high-speed transit to Nassau. Someone on board had a medical emergency and the ship needed to be picking up speed to arrive earlier in Nassau. We went out on deck to watch the light chop go flying by.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was my first cruise and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, I, who has resisted cruising for years, actually had a really good time. Thanks to Frank for his encouragement and prior experience on cruise ships for navigating us efficiently around the ship.

We arrived at the Miami port about 1PM and after check in, we were escorted to the Longboard Bar for a buffet lunch (hamburgers & fries) – nothing special. Now is probably a good opportunity to discuss some of the dining options. Other than the hamburger from the buffet, the food was universally good, and service was outstanding. Since NCL offers 3 specialty restaurants as part of their “Freestyle Dinning Option”, after lunch we reserved our tables for the next three nights.

         Friday Dinner: Le Bistro. The space was nicely decorated in a somewhat Victorian style and the entire restaurant was in a couple of long rooms reminiscent of a long elegant dining car. The food was very good. Frank had the Duo of Duck (duck breast and duck confit). He enjoyed it although the breast was slightly over cooked. I ordered the Bouillabaisse. The seafood was all cooked perfectly, however the broth was underwhelming, lacking in flavor. Oh what critics foodies we can be.

Before I continue, let me say our dinner “issues” were minor quibbles on preparation and flavor, nothing that would turn us away. Also the appetizers were really good in all three restaurants. I ordered Escargot, served in a typical escargot dish with plenty of garlic and butter.

         Saturday Dinner: Il Adagio. I ordered a fried calamari appetizer, which was excellent.  Very tender, and the right portion size for one. Unlike the trends in the US, the Sky served reasonably sized portions of all the food, which was a pleasant surprise (to us). I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, which I rate with some of the best. Frank enjoyed the Seafood Fettuccine, again the seafood was properly cooked, especially the mussels according to Frank. 

         Sunday Dinner: Tonight we dined at Cagney’s Steak House. OMG, we both rate this as our best dinner of the three. I started with a bowl of Lobster Bisque. The bisque was perfect, with a nice creaminess and a WHOLE LOT of flavor; 5-stars on the bisque. Frank enjoyed a typical steak house Shrimp Cocktail with 5 or 6 large, tender shrimp. It was very good he reported. For our main course we both ordered the 5 oz. medium rare filet mignon served with a side of potatoes gratin. The beef was our pick for #1 item of all our meals. The filet was cooked perfectly medium rare throughout with a nice crust on the outside and was wonderful. I would go back for the Lobster Bisque and the steak. What time do we board?

Other meals: I will just run through our breakfast and lunch options, again by day.

Friday: Lunch: As mentioned earlier, lunch was at the Longboard Bar.
Saturday: Breakfast at The Palace, one of the main dining rooms:
         Frank ordered classic Eggs Benedict and I ordered French Toast

Saturday: Lunch was at one of the buffets.

Sunday Breakfast was at Il Adagio, where they serve made to order omelets and waffles.
Sunday Lunch was split at two places. We had pizza at Il Adagio to start, and concluding with Hot Dogs and a beer at Longboard.

We quickly settled into a routine on board. Mid-afternoon usually included a short nap followed by a drink at one of the lounges. Our favorite quickly became the Plantation Club and our server, Ruel, who we ended up with for every visit. He remembered my name after one visit which I consider amazing and he, (like most of the staff) was always smiling. The other bars, such as the Pool Bar, the Atrium Bar, and Longboard all served good drinks but we preferred the décor and atmosphere of the Plantation Club to the others. The Plantation Club was offering 2-for-1 martinis (Frank’s choice). I opted for an Italian favorite, campari & soda. Drinks were usually followed with dinner, and then either some entertainment, a stroll around the ship or another drink.

The highlight of the entertainment was a piano tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John. The pianist and singer (same person) was very good and we enjoyed the performance. The last night after dinner we went to the main theatre (large and ornate) for a staff variety show. It was interesting but no wow factor.

Saturday we were in port at Great Stirrup Cay, which we did not plan on visiting, so we made it a relaxing day on-board ship. We went to the library to play a crossword puzzle and a Sudoku. The temperature in the library was very cold so we decided go to the deck to read for a while, as we did on Sunday after the visit to Nassau. Frank then managed to win $40 at the slots, while I managed to lose $30. Of course on Sunday, Frank lost his $40 and I again managed to lose my daily betting limit (self-imposed).

After lunch at a buffet and a post-lunch drink at the Pool Bar and a nap we went to the spa for our appointments that we booked earlier in the day. I had a facial – ooh very nice. Frank enjoyed a manicure – he didn’t want to leave.

Sunday was a day in Nassau. We had booked a NCL promoted land tour in a 22-passenger bus. We opted for a riding tour to a couple of historic forts and a local museum, The Junkanoo Museum. What is that you ask? So happy you did. To quote from Bahamas Getaway.

Junkanoo is a Bahamian festival that occurs during the dark hours of morning on the 26th of December and again bringing in its first hours of light on the first day of the New Year.” The museum was in an old Bahamian house operated by a husband and wife who grew up here and are active participants in the Junkanoo festivities. She makes all her own costumes, which remind me of Mardi Gras or the Philadelphia Mummers Parade – very colorful and ornate.

We next stopped at Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase (all 65 steps). It as an impressive accomplishment considering is was chiseled out of solid limestone by slaves in 1793

I did not climb the stairs (nor descend them). Due to my fatigue problems I did not attempt the stairs; even the tour guide and Frank recommended I not do it.

The driver took us through some very low-income residential neighborhoods on the way to the next stop, which is always eye opening and sad to see.

Our final stop was Fort Charlotte, the largest of the three forts in Nassau. Here I DID get off the bus and go down a flight of stairs to the dungeon then back up to where the mini-bus was parked. That caused me some fatigue and weakness problems. Instead of lunch in Nassau we opted (Frank insisted) that we head back to the ship so I could rest a bit. It was the right thing to do.

On Monday morning, before disembarking, we had breakfast at Il Adagio. Pancakes and Omelets. It was a nice way to begin the day and the long drive back to St. Petersburg.

Being my first cruise I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this 3-day trip was a great way for me to decide if cruising is for me. I would answer with a definite YES. I enjoyed the ship, the staff was great, and I really liked the Freestyle dining options and the food. The ocean view room was very clean and nice, and bigger than those Frank had been on with Carnival. We even had a small sofa in the room. Thanks again to Frank for encouraging me to give cruising a try. I like it and hope to have the opportunity to go on another one – maybe the Mediterranean or the Baltic areas – let’s book it now!

Photographs to follow, probably next week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Photographs from the NCL Sky - Cruise to the Bahamas

Here is a picture of our two cabin companions. On the left, the elephant, is Alphonse, representing all the drinks we had on the ship. No sure where the name came from, except when Frank asked me to name it, Alphonse was the first that came to mind.On the right is Mario, (we think it is a pig) which represents all the food we ate.

I have more photographs which I will post along with a summary of the cruise. As I mentioned before this was my first ever cruise, and I had a great time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A New Journey

It was 1962 when I moved to Florida from Ohio, following my parent to the snow-free, sunny Florida. Since that time, I can't tell you how many people have told me how much they enjoy cruises. In the past few years the interest in cruising has increased significantly (I have no factual data to support that, just more of my friends have taken cruises; Frank has been on two and has encouraged me to try it too).  My friends Paul and Libby have made cruising as a means of reaching their travel trifecta; 7 continents, 100 countries, and 50 states. Check out the status of their quest on their blog - Paul and Libby's World of Travel.

But let's get back to today, or more importantly tomorrow. Frank and I are sailing on the NCL Sky out of Miami for my FIRST ever cruise. It is only a three night cruise to Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private beach island. This is a trial run for me; if I like cruising, I will consider others.

Fortunately the tropics look fairly clear for this weekend, always a risk when you sail during hurricane season. 

I will report back to you when I get home next week. This is going to be a no-electronics tour... no laptop, no cell phones, no ebook readers - you get the idea.

My good friend, Deirdre sent me the following suggestions:

Try to remember the basics:
No Blackberries allowed (strawberries and blueberries are permissible)
Stay on the inside of the railing.
Don't spit into the wind.
And above all .....If the lifeboats are being let down - the hell with women and children.
Some good suggestions which I will try to follow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Apartment

I know you have seen this shot before, but if you click on it, you will be taken to the Picasa album with all (11) pictures from the new apartment - all in one spot.
Skyline Fifth

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One More Photograph

This may be the last photograph of the apartment interior. This one is of the study/red room/guest room with Paul Tuten's painting which he did just for this room (at the condo)

"Untitled" by Paul Tuten
A few thoughts on the move.
1. While I was not looking forward to the move as I had become very comfortable at the rental condo, I feel very comfortable here after just a week. One thing that helped was being able to get all my stuff in  this new space.
2. I think the space is actually cozier.
3. Paolo and Lucia adjusted relatively quickly to the change.
4. The move went well and relatively easy. The movers were good, but a little slower than expected. I'll take good and careful over speed.
5 I have a nice 5th floor view of West St. Petersburg, not quite to the beach.
6. I still have BrightHouse  Cable and Internet service, which is good, considering the option
7. There are trash chutes at either end of the hall on each floor.
8. The complex has a nice pool area, workout room, and social room with a full kitchen.
9. The dish washer is next to the sink, instead of across the kitchen like the old place. Notice it only too a week to be the "old" place.
10. Have I mentioned I like the new space.
11. We have dry cleaning and laundry pick up and delivery service

A few negative;
1. There is no covered parking. I do miss the garage, especially when it rains and the heat index is 103F like today
2. The washer and drier are apartment-sized. Smaller that normal capacity.
3. Carpet, no hardwood floors but I can live with that.

That's All I'm Saying (for now)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Photographs from New Apartment

Here are 4 more photographs from the new abode.

The Buffet

Tuscan Sun Descending by Peter Stilton
Peter's Poem to Accompany the Painting

The Study (aka Guest Room or Red Room)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No More Boxes

Yes, it is true, all the boxes are unpacked and furniture is in place. The next major project is to arrange the kitchen drawers and cabinets. All items are placed "somewhere" in the kitchen, but I have to make sure I am comfortable where everything is placed. 

Here are a couple of photographs ( not great shots, but there will be more), of the living room. I think my furniture in this smaller space is working out very well and I am very comfortable living here. 
New Colors and the bookcases have been separated. 

Paolo on the couch, and Peter Stilton's "Tuscan Sun Descending"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The move on Friday was successful and the place is looking good thanks to Frank's organizational and decorating talents and his very hard work. I only have a couple more boxes to unpack; working on it a little at a time as I still get very fatigued quickly. I need to also thank Biff and Butch for their packing and unpacking help. All three were responsible for making this a successful move. 

I am already comfortable in the new digs, and I think Paolo and Lucia are slowly adjusting. In a few more days everything should be put away and ready for some photographs. So stay tuned.