Monday, April 30, 2012

Crown Princess - Day at Sea (3)

I missed my alarm this morning and slept up to the time for my first lecture.  I grabbed a banana from the cabin and raced to the Theater just as the overview of Alecante started.  It looks like this will be a small but interesting port.
I spent most of the day in the theater with the voyagers (today was Magellan), the “sailing guru”, another view of “Midnight in Paris”.  We had a small snack at the pizza bar, then all went in different directions with the promise to meet at 7:30 for dinner in Da Vinci's.
The theme tonight was a Caribbean theme.  I had a shrimp appetizer, a salad, and Cioppini (I'll have to check on the spelling.) I totally forgot to take photos!!!
Closed the evening listening to Daniel Oliver in Crooners (piano and a voice).  Champagne cocktail topped it all off and I'm done for the day, miles closer to land.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crown Princess - Day at Sea (2)

Day 2 was a comfortably busy day. My face is slightly sunburned from my nap on the upper deck yesterday, so I planned to stay inside. The day started with a buffet breakfast and Mom and AuntE were quickly found. We must be on the same routine!
First stop was a Destination Lecture on Gibraltar. Small country, and I am looking forward to seeing both continents from the top of the rock. I'll never look at the insurance logo the same again.
Second stop was an Enrichment Lecture on Vasco Da Gama. I must have been asleep in World History class. May apologies to my BVA history teacher, but this was all new to me. I know that he likely taught it all. I zipped over to the International Cafe for a quiche and a small scoop chicken salad.
Third stop was an Enrichment Lecture by the star lecturer on the trip. John Maxtone-Graham discussed his research on specific survivors of the Titanic, the ship that sat 5 miles away, and the third ship that stopped its travels to come to the rescue. He's a good speaker, speaks without notes and it quite Britishly entertaining.
Off to the Michelangelo dining room for a wine tasting class. I found two very nice reds that I will be sure to get when I return. Off I go to Wines Plus!
Dinner was at Caribe Cafe, at the buffet. It was dress up night so the crowds were light at the buffet. We didn't feel like dressing and went casual. Our entertainment for the night was the “Motown Sound” show in the main Theater. The Princess Dancers and Singers performed a wide range of songs and I won the private “name that tune” contest 12–1!!!
I have built a list of all of the places on the ship so that I can go to all of them instead of getting myself in to a rut. We went to the Wheelhouse to listen to the jazz/easy dancing music quartet. As soon as I got in, I knew Mom would enjoy the music so I gave her a call and she came down. We stayed for about another hour, watched the dancers work the floor with Samba, Rumba and Tango. Two couples provided most of the entertainment. One looked like they had taken dance lessons and danced well together. The other couple looked like they had danced together for a long time, he could barely walk from his chair to the dance floor but once the music started it was obvious that they had spent some time on the dance floor. They did a Rumba, she would move her hips and he would work a little smile on his face. They were adorable.
Great day!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Crown Princess - Day at Sea (1)

Today started with a wonderful “sleep in until 10AM”. I made my way to the Horizon Court for a “traditional breakfast buffet” and after selecting Eggs Florentine, some sausage and fresh fruit, was flagged down by Mom. Enjoyed a leisurely breakfast by the window. Mom said that the strawberries were wonderful, and Aunt E. mentioned that the pineapple was good also. Mom talked her way back in to the buffet from the exit gate so that she could get the fresh fruit.
I went to the Princess Theater for the 11:30 am Enrichment Lecture: Christopher Columbus: the Discoverer of America (or Not?) presented by Kathleen Wulf. She discussed the four voyages of Columbus and the fact that he never made it to the main land of USA. Her presentation was complete with slide shows, maps, and photographs. After the show, I sat outside on the Promenade Desk in a classic “deck chair” and stared at the Atlantic Ocean. I saw a flying fish and two porpoises. About 1:00 I made my way back to the Princess Theater to see the Enrichment Lecture: the Only Way to Cross, part 1 presented by maritime historian John Maxtone-Graham. He discussed the life aboard the early great North Atlantic liners. He is both an author and presenter, British, dressed smartly in a blue blazer and white slacks. He will present all week and I put him in my calendar to be sure to catch all of his lectures. While there, I found Mom and Aunt E. After the presentation, I mentioned the International Cafe and their salads, sandwiches and pasteries. We went down to Level 5 (base of the Atrium) and found a table in the Piazza. I had a vegetarian salad with roasted eggplant and peppers. As we sat, “Hula Hoop Sensation Aleysa” performed all of her wild moves. It was soon time for the 3:30 $1,000 Jackpot Bingo and the sisters went off to conquer. I went to Deck 16, found a lounge chair, and took a nap underneath overcast skies. Lovely sea breezes added to the ambiance. (Note to self: Need to start the day with sunscreen incase I find my self wandering up to the deck again.)
It was soon time to gather for dinner and we decided to go for a sit down meal at Michelangelo's. For appetizers we had Duck Terrine,

Fresh garden salad,

 chips/salsa, and

Grilled Calamari.

For soup we had a nice cool melon soup.

 The main courses were Fetticine,

Coq au Vin,

Veal, and

Tiger Shrimp (accompanied by a lovely bottle of Chateauneuf de Pape).

For dessert we had creme brule and warm apple strudel with vanilla cream sauce.

The evening entertainment was in the Explorers Lounge on Deck 7 starring Comedian Tom Briscoe. He was very funny, told jokes mostly about being a husband, and was a hit.  Then we stopped by another venue and listened to music.

A quick stroll on the Lido Deck to check out the "Movies under the Stars" and sunset.

Done for the night…set the clocks ahead one hour as we slip in to a new timezone.

Crown Princess - Travel is the hardest part

The hardest part of the journey is getting to the departure point. Thankfully, on the flight day, the plane departed Phoenix at 3 in the afternoon. I normally book the first flight out of town, which would have been a very early 8AM (6AM at the airport) flight. I started to complain (if any one was listening) about the fact that we arrive in Ft. Lauderdale after 10 at night, but quickly retracted that thought because it saved me from a very early morning flight. Once at the airport, the baggage was checked in with US Airways. The cost for one checked bag was $25 and although the attempt was made to talk the clerk out of the fee, she quickly and slyly said that the check in machine would handle what ever was appropriate. Hmmm, that means an additional $25 fee. One bag, not bad for a four week trip. Plus my backpack with laptop and camera gear.
The plane was in the LAST jetway of the furthest hall. The seats were near the back of the plane. Rob served drinks and food in our section and he was very entertaining as he told me about how he had lost 40 pounds in the past two months. He gave me all of his tips. Bose headset on, I zoned out for the remaining part of the flight.
Baggage arrived quickly, call was made to the Hilton for van pickup, and we were on our way. The Hilton was close to the airport and the pier. I had renewed my Hilton account but there was nothing special for someone who used to have a lot of points but no longer did. We quickly discovered that the bar in the Hilton in Fort Lauderdale closes at midnight on a Friday night and our options for food was a delivery restaurant. The menu had subs, salads and pizzas. Subs were ordered, with a quick order of wings at the last second, and off to the vending machine to get something to drink. We should have just had water because the $5 bill in the machine, $2 drink out of the machine, and 25 cent change was NOT a good deal. Subs were good.
Killed one of those big Florida bugs running around the bathtub (the bug was doing the running). Mentioned this to the front desk and they assured us that they would get a bug man to spray. Mentioned the vending machine shortage and all fingers pointed at the name and number of the vending company as the way to be reimbursed for the lost money.
Good night's rest…up early… and off to breakfast. Best deal, of no surprise, was the buffet for $20 inclusive with the coffee and juice We then hopped on the shuttle to the airport ($9 per person) and made our way to the dock. The luggage deposit was quick (after we pulled the bags aside to put on our locks) and we were off to wait for the arrival of Mom and AuntE. Mom called to give me the latest update on the flight arrival and estimated pickup time at the airport. Armed with the new ETA, we found a place to stand where we could see all arrivals.

The sisters arrived via bus, waving through the window as we saw each other.
The line was long but moved quickly. We went through a scan and then off to check-in. Near skirmish in line as we attempted to all stay together (which was only a clue to the line skirmishes that would happen in the future.) We boarded the ship, found our rooms, listened to the room staff brief us on how things work, rearranged room assignments, moved luggage and unpacked for the month. Phew! The hard part is done!

This is the "Obstructed view" for Mom and AuntE's room.

The view of Florida as we left land, to sail for the next eight days.

I took a quick tour of the upper Lido deck.  Very nice pool and jacuzzi areas.

Went to the buffet for dinner and saw a show, called it a night around midnight.

One last view of the ocean as the sun starts to set.

I'm in an interior room and I love it. It's dark, it's at the end of the hall, and it is high enough to have a gentle rock. Lights out…and didn't wake until 10AM the next morning. Ahhhh, holiday!
Set the clocks ahead one hour as we sail in to a different time zone.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pittsburgh - Nationality Rooms - Irish

Ireland's Golden Age, extending form the 6th to the 12th century, was a period of intense religious fervor for Christianity. During that time, many small oratories were built on the west cost of Ireland for Christian worshippers. This stone room represents an oratory of the 12th century.

Phoenix - Cibo Urban Pizzeria Cafe

It has been about five years since I stopped in this quaint cafe in the Roosevelt district of Phoenix.  It has maintained its aura...and perhaps improved.  Outdoor seating is abundant, as well as interior seating.  Breakfast menu for the weekend Saturday/Sunday hours. Opens at 10am on weekends, but check the website to make sure that hours remain the same through the Summer.

Berlin - Architecture in 2011

These photographs were taken from a bus window during a tour in the spring of 2011. The buildings generally looked very modern and construction was ongoing throughout the city for not only buildings but infrastructure. Some buildings, such as the Reichstag, were refurbished in the late 1990s after World War II and a long time of disrepair. These buildings were restored to their early glory and architectural style, with some modern additions.

The photo of the Berlin Cathedral shows the Berliner Schloss (Berlin Castle).  It in in a reconstruction phase. The Stadtschloss (German: Berliner Stadtschloss, in English the Berlin City Palace), was a royal palace in the centre of Berlin, capital of Germany.  It is a very interesting process to watch as the country strives to reunite.  See the reconstruction section in this wikipedia wrting.

Descriptive references are from Wikipedia.

The Altes Museum (German for Old Museum)
is one of several internationally renowned museums on Museum Island in Berlin, Germany.

Berlin Cathedral (German: Berliner Dom)
 is the colloquial name for the Evangelical (i.e. Protestant) Oberpfarr- und Domkirche (English analogously: Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church, literally Supreme Parish and Cathedral Church) in Berlin, Germany.
The Stadtschloss (German: Berliner Stadtschloss, in English the Berlin City Palace),
was a royal palace in the centre of Berlin, capital of Germany.
 (NOTE: I looked up this view on Google Maps and the old building on the left, the Berliner Schloss, is in the process of a teardown.  Sad but it was probably too costly to refurbish. View is from Rathoausstrasse. 

the specific German word for Parliamentary buildings, often simply shortened to Reichstag.

New Berlin Central Station - working and under construction.

Paul-Löbe-Haus, Berlin

Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus connected by bridge. 

USA Embassy is very close to the Brandenburg Gate.
The (new) embassy building on Pariser Platz opened on July 4, 2008.

In the Embassy section.  The street barriers pop-up from the pavement as needed.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pittsburgh - Nationality Rooms - Polish

The University of Pittsburgh has one of the most remarkable buildings, and one that was "love at first sight" for me.  The Cathedral of Learning is incredible inside, and the most remarkable rooms are the "Nationality Rooms".  These are cared for by locals representing the country...Christmas is truly a festival.

Wawel Castle in Cracow provided the inspiration for many elements of this 16th century Polish Renaissance Room. This represents Poland's Golden Age which developed when King Sigismund the First married an Italian Princess. Italian craftsmen were brought to Wawel Castle and, together with Polish masters, created the distinctive designs of the Polish Renaissance.

Source: Click here for more info.

The colorful ceiling