Saturday, December 20, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, The Islands

Heading north out of Roseau, Dominica
Twenty years ago we visited Aruba and Bonaire, along with Curacao, but until this cruise we had never seen Dominica or Grenada. We knew nothing of Dominica and all we had ever known about Grenada was the time the United States military invaded it back in the 1980s.

For information about the islands that we visited on this cruise just click...Aruba, Bonaire, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Drive home

Drive from Gainesville to Pensacola

The weather on the cruise was very good. There were a couple of cloudy days but no storms. But the weather for the drive home was bad, just as it had been on the drive over to Ft. Lauderdale two weeks ago.

When we got up it was raining hard. On the radio they said there were thundershowers throughout the area and a tornado warning until noon. And it was unusually warm for December 11 -- the low had been 72 during the night.

At the same time to the west of us, there was a cold front passing through south Texas and Louisiana. There was snow on the ground, 3 or 4 inches of it, in New Orleans. This happens there only about every 30 years.

The cold front was heading east and would hit the warm front we were in about halfway through our drive home. So we drove through some serious weather. We got home about 3:30, in plenty of time to pick up the cats from the cat hotel. We were all happy to be home.

Today's drive was 341 miles. The complete drive, round trip was 1,369 miles. The cruise was 3,621 in land miles, for a grand total of 4990 statute miles.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 10

Port Everglades -- Disembarkation, drive north to Gainesville

Yesterday afternoon we got our departure tags for our luggage -- RED 6. This means we get off the ship shortly after 7:45 A.M.

At about 7:00 we rolled our rolling luggage out of D505 and headed for Club Fusion, our VIP departure lounge, to have some coffee and Danish and wait. Club Fusion is Emerald Princess' hottest disco and, according the Princess Patter daily newspaper, it's "the most innovative room on the high seas." Strangely the decor is American Old West.

When our tag color was called we were off the ship in a jiffy and would have been through customs in a flash, except...

One of our bags was missing. And there was a sea of about 8,000 other bags. The closest tag color to look through was orange so I went to where the orange tagged bages were. They hadn't called those folks yet and honestly there was at least an acre of orange tagged luggage, all in neat rows. Lucky for us, (1) our luggage also has distinctive tags of yellow with orange spots and (2) a customs lady saw it in with the orange section.

We, and a helpful porter, got to the street with all our bags, found a cab and got to our car at the Hampton Inn. We were on our way north by 8:40.

We drove exactly half way, 321 miles, and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express in Gainesville. Dinner was at the Cracker Barrel next door.

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Bonaire to Grenada
395 nautical miles = 454 statute miles = 731 kilometers

Grenada to Dominica
199 nautical miles = 229 statute miles = 368 kilometers

Dominica to St. Thomas
274 nautical miles = 315 statute miles = 507 kilometers

St. Thomas to Princess Cays
740 nautical miles = 851 statute miles = 1369 kilometers

Princess Cays to Port Everglades
284 nautical miles = 327 statute miles = 525 kilometers

Total distance sailed
3149 nautical miles = 3621 statute miles = 5826 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 9

Princess Cays, Bahamas

Much cooler weather this morning and mostly cloudy. The sea has been slightly rough since last night but not so choppy this morning. The tenders could take passengers to the beach at Princess Cays. It's a private retreat owned by Princess and used for a variety of beach recreation activities, some are free, some you pay extra for. It's on Eleuthera Island a part of the Bahamas. We have never been over there.

Breakfast was in the Horizon Court and lunch on deck at the pizza place.

We were pleased and surprised to get upgraded to Platinum status in the frequent cruiser program. You get a new member card, a shiny pin and best of all, free Internet on the next cruise. Also, and perhaps even better, when you embark next time there's a special express line to use and when it's time to depart there's a dedicated lounge to wait in with coffee and buns and lots of room.

It is time to pack up and put our luggage in the hall by early evening. A wonderful thing about a cruise is that we have been many places in the last ten days but once we unpacked on November 30 we haven't had to pack or unpack again.

We had a bit of maritime drama this afternoon. The sea got quite rough around noon and the tenders bringing people back from Princess Cays were really rocking and bobbing. By 3:00 when we were preparing to set to sail for Ft. Lauderdale, one of the winches that brings in the tender boats was damaged. Probably by the rough seas. There were many announcements and updates by Commodore Romano.

When the crew finally got a winch working it raised boat #21 very slowly and not as smoothly as usual. But it worked, at last the boat was secured and we were on our way. We were supposed to leave at 4:00 and it was after 5:00 when we did.

After dinner in the Michalangelo we braved the tossing deck and went to the Princess Theater to see John Bressler's show, music with comedy. The sea was really rough and we were happy to get back to our room.

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Bonaire to Grenada
395 nautical miles = 454 statute miles = 731 kilometers

Grenada to Dominica
199 nautical miles = 229 statute miles = 368 kilometers

Dominica to St. Thomas
274 nautical miles = 315 statute miles = 507 kilometers

St. Thomas to Princess Cays
740 nautical miles = 851 statute miles = 1369 kilometers

Total distance so far
2865 nautical miles = 3295 statute miles = 5300 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Monday, December 08, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 8

At sea, heading to Princess Cays, on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas

It's a sea day and a relaxed time to read and look at the sea go by. We had a room service breakfast. The sea was calm but the sky was mostly cloudy. The temperature is getting cooler as we head north.

At lunch we tried something new on the Emerald Princess -- a Pub Lunch. It was in the Wheelhouse Bar and had all the pub favorites: shepherds pie, bangers and mash, ploughman's lunch, fish and chips, mushy peas and of course Guinness Stout. Princess' pub lunch began on the new Ruby Princess last month and was so popular they are adding it, on sea days, to some of the other ships in the fleet. It was a big hit here today. The only jarring note was the very loud, electrified, combo playing the whole time. Maybe a piano player with some British music hall songs instead?

Tonight was formal night again and lots of well-dressed people having their pictures taken by official Princess photographers in every picturesque nook of the ship. We had a fancy dinner in Michalangelo's with Beef Wellington and lobster tails.

Cabin D505, hallwayWhen you first get on board the Emerald Princess you see lots of endless hallways. But you soon figure them out. This is the view looking toward the back of the ship from the door to our room, Cabin D505, on Dolphin Deck 9.

It's a mini-suite with balcony and we really loved the balcony.

Cabin D505, balcony

Here are some photos of the room right after Rod, the room steward made it up (and before we had a chance to mess it up). Rod is from the Philippines and was quiet, friendly and efficient -- an excellent steward.
Cabin D505, living room area

Cabin D505, sleeping area

Cabin D505, bathroom

Cabin D505, bathroom

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 7

St. Thomas

The harbor at Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas has two separate docks for cruise ships. The original one, West Indian Company Dock, is next to the duty-free shopper's paradise -- Havensight Mall. The newer Crown Bay Cruise Ship Dock is on the other side out town to the west.

West_Indian_Company Dock, St. Thomas USVIWe didn't know which one we would land on. It turned out the Emerald Princess went to the West Indian Dock. The photo on the left shows the dock, the nose of the Emerald Princess and Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas. We have docked there on our other two visits to St. Thomas. It is very convenient to the shopping centers and there are trams to help get you back to the ship on a hot afternoon. Our driver was Mel Brooks.

Your driver is Mel Brooks.
We hoped to see Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 but she either didn't get to St. Thomas that day or she was at the Crown Bay Cruise Ship Dock.

We took most of our Christmas cards with us and mailed them from St. Thomas -- it's a U.S. territory. Also cell phones work there without international charges, so I called my parents in Maine.

After our room service breakfast we had to go, along with all the other passengers, to show our identification and passports to U.S. Immigration officers on board before we could leave the ship.

Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas USVI

Lunch was pizza and burgers on deck and dinner was crab legs in the Michalangelo.

During the afternoon everybody on the starboard side got a free, live reggae concert from the pool area of a dockside bar and grill, Paradise Gate. Very good. After dinner we went to a show, "I Got the Music," but we weren't in the mood and left mid-way through.

It never got really sunny all day, but that was OK because it kept the heat down a bit.

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Bonaire to Grenada
395 nautical miles = 454 statute miles = 731 kilometers

Grenada to Dominica
199 nautical miles = 229 statute miles = 368 kilometers

Dominica to St. Thomas
274 nautical miles = 315 statute miles = 507 kilometers

Total distance so far
2125 nautical miles = 2444 statute miles = 3931 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 6


Looking south from Roseau, Dominica
The sail from Grenada to Dominica was smooth and only 200 nautical miles. We docked at the port in Roseau and could see Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas at the southern end of the town.
The port in Roseau
The island is very lush and undeveloped with deep green jungle foliage on the mountainsides. We docked in a rather unflattering spot with a welcome center and customs booth. Next to it was a large, somewhat weathered market building with the locals selling handicrafts and a surprising variety of Bob Marley t-shirts.

We had breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room with waiter service and freshly prepared food. Then we went to the top of the ship to read and doze and look at the green hills of Roseau. Followed by a light lunch in the International Cafe.

Ocean Village Two, Dominica
The other ship in port was Ocean Village Two. From its launch in 1990 until 2002 she was the Crown Princess. In late-2009 she heads for Australia and becomes P&O's Pacific Jewel.

Departure was just before sunset and we had stunning views of this tiny island.

Jungle cliffs
Dinner was in Sabatini's Italian Restaurant. There is a small extra charge but well worth it. The waiter hands you a menu and tells you the only thing you can order is the main course. They will serve you everything else that's on the menu. Soon the waiters start bringing small samples of appetizers, antipasto, soup, salad and a variety of pastas. This takes a long time. The challenge is to still have room for the entree when it finally arrives. Oh, and the desserts are fabulous, too.

For our main course we both ordered the rosemary chicken with black truffles. Fantastic. In the past I had tasted truffle flavor in dishes but this was the first time with lots of the real thing. Now I am even more spoiled.

Click here to go to John Heald's blog and read what happens when you dine at Sabatini's on the Emerald Princess.

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Bonaire to Grenada
395 nautical miles = 454 statute miles = 731 kilometers

Grenada to Dominica
199 nautical miles = 229 statute miles = 368 kilometers

Total distance so far
1851 nautical miles = 2129 statute miles = 3424 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Friday, December 05, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 5


Welcome Center, Port of GrenadaThe weather in St. George's was dull and gray, and hot. This was the southern extreme of this cruise, just 12 degrees above the equator. Even Kralendijk in Bonaire was more northerly. We were in the mood for a very quiet day after all the excitement of last night's Chef's Table.

Downtown St. George's, GrenadaGrenada is one of the "Spice Islands" and tourists can buy whole nutmegs and vanilla beans. Sadly I didn't need any and so we sat up in the cool, quiet Skywalker's Lounge and did some reading. And watched Grenada from 16 stories up.

Windstar Cruises Wind SurfThe only other cruise ship in port with us in Grenada was Windstar Cruises' Wind Surf. We were sorry we didn't get to see it with all seven sails filled with wind. It was parked right next to us so we could see it up close. And it looked very nice, indeed.

We had a long sail from Bonaire so we got into port later than usual -- around noon and we left at 7:00 P.M. -- so we were still in port at sunset. And that's when I got this shot of the southern tip of the island.
Grenada Sunset

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Bonaire to Grenada
395 nautical miles = 454 statute miles = 731 kilometers

Total distance so far
1652 nautical miles = 1900 statute miles = 3056 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Evening 4

Chef's Table Dinner (on our way to Grenada)

Two or three evenings during a cruise on the Emerald Princess, Executive Chef Joel Directo prepares a special menu for twelve passengers. There's an extra charge for this, $75 per person, which includes the seven course meal (or ten depending on how you count the appetizers), three different wines with dinner and a Champagne toast in the kitchen with the Chef and the appetizers. The meal lasts about three hours.

Because the passengers start the meal in the galley, sanitation is an issue. Each guest is sent instructions the day before on how they should dress and each person has to sign a statement that she or he is in good health and has no signs of Norovirus symptoms. Before entering the galley you must put on a long, white lab coat. And you have to wash your hands as soon as you enter the food prep area.

After the appetizers in the busy galley the party is escorted to a reserved table in the middle of the Michalanglo Dining Room. There is quite a demand for the Chef's Table and very limited seating so a lot of people are turned away each cruise.

The food, wines and service were fabulous. My favorite course was the first one -- the Shrimp Margarita with Avocados and Mangos. The other nine courses were all tied for second place, they were so good.

A handwritten menu is presented:
Menu: Chef's Table Dinner, Emerald Princess 12/4/2008
[Click on the menu to enlarge it.]

Here are the twelve lucky passengers on the evening we enjoyed the Chef's Table. Also in the photo are Executive Chef Joel Directo and the ship's Maitre d'Hotel, Nicola Furlan.
The twelve lucky diners
[Click on the photo to enlarge it.]

At the end of the meal each couple gets a copy of the latest Princess cookbook, "Courses, A Culinary Journey" personally inscribed and signed by the Executive Chef and the Maitre d'. You can see a copy in the lower right corner of the photo above.

The rules:
The Chef's Table Rules
[Click on the text above to enlarge it.]

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 4


Welcome to Bonaire boothWe had smooth sailing during our brief cruise to Bonaire overnight. It's just 120 nautical miles from Aruba. The weather has improved. The skies are clear and blue with little fluffy clouds. From our cabin we can see mountains and little villages.

We had a room service breakfast on the balcony and this morning there was no rain to chase us inside. We left the ship mid-morning and wandered around the port area and downtown Kralendijk.

Emerald Princess at the dock in BonaireWe stopped for a coke at a cafe, Bamboo, where I took this photo. It's directly across from where the Emerald Princess was parked. As we walked to the downtown area it was getting very hot so we headed for a park we saw down the street. It turned out to be an excellent crafts market with wonderful, local live music. With shady places to sit.

Caribbean Princess arriving in BonaireWe read earlier that the Caribbean Princess was expected to be in port today but there was no sign of her. But while we sat in the park and looked out toward the sea we saw a dot on the horizon and slowly we could make out a ship and it was the Caribbean Princess. It was fun being on the shore and watching a big ship come in. Usually we are on the ship watching the shore getting closer.

Downtown Kralendijk

Downtown Kralendijk

Bonaire's Craft Market

Emerald Princess from the marketplace

Back on the ship we had a light lunch in the International Cafe -- sandwiches and salads -- in the main lobby, "The Piazza." We needed to have a light lunch because tonight we are going to the Chef's Table and it will be a huge meal.

It was time to do a clothes wash. We brought lots of quarters with us. I found the very well equipped laundry near the rear elevators. The location made it very easy to go up to the top of the ship to sit and read or just watch the port while the clothes were in the washer and dryer.

Just before 7:00 P.M. we went down to the Michalangelo and found our group and the Maitre d' assembled. The Chef's Table experience was wonderful and I made it a separate post for you to read. We got back to the room around 10:00 P.M. after nearly three hours of delicious food and drink. Exhausted and too full to move. Lucky for us and ten other guests the sea was calm as we continued on to Grenada -- 395 nautical miles away.

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

Aruba to Bonaire
120 nautical miles = 138 statute miles = 222 kilometers

Total distance so far
1257 nautical miles = 1446 statute miles = 2325 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 3


View of Aruba from our cabin
It was rainy all night but the sea was fairly smooth. Above is the view we had of Aruba from our cabin. There was a channel for tourist excursion boats and a clump of bushes.

The sky was gray most of the day and the weather was hot, muggy and rainy off and on. We decided on room service continental breakfast -- juice, pastries, yogurt, Frosted Flakes -- in the room. We brought our own coffee maker and New Orleans-blend coffee with chicory. We tried eating on the balcony but every time we went out it started raining again.

Spent an enjoyable and a quiet morning reading in the room and checking email in the Internet Cafe. There was such a long walk from the ship to the interesting sights and shops of downtown Oranjestad we decided to stay on the ship and chill. If the weather had been better I sure we would have explored a little but with the rain and high humidity we stayed put.

The other side of the Emerald Princess had views of the port and downtown Oranjestad. The Royal Plaza Mall is all pink, blue and white with old Dutch decoration, it houses many shops, restaurants and cafes.
Downtown Oranjestad, Aruba
Royal Plaza Mall, Aruba
Downtown volcano, Aruba
It appears from the photo above there's a small volcano in downtown Oranjestad.

By the way, the Emerald Princess was the only ship in port here today.

We got invited to the Commodore's cocktail party/reception but it's tomorrow night and we are signed up for the Chef's Table dinner. We now have a reservation also for Sabatini's Italian Restaurant for Saturday evening.

Dinner was in Michalangelo's, red snapper for Ken; steak for Jack.

Distance Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to Aruba
1137 nautical miles = 1308 statute miles = 2103 kilometers

NOTE: 1 nautical mile = 1.15 land miles = 1.85 kilometers

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 2

At sea, heading for Aruba

Emerald Princess BridgeWe had calm seas overnight and we slept well. In fact we slept through the more formal Da Vinci dining room's breakfast with waiter service and we went to the buffet breakfast in Cafe Caribe. It was less crowded than yesterday's breakfast because we were there later in the morning.

Commodore RomanoAt 11:00 A.M. we had a tour of the bridge and met Commodore Romano who conducted our tour. He became a Captain in 1990 and in January 2008 he was made Commodore of the entire Princess fleet -- 17 ships.

It was no surprise to learn that in 2008 the normal operation of the ship depends on computers and radar, but the highly trained staff is ready to take over and run the ship themselves in case of emergency. All of the ship's systems -- heating, air conditioning, drinking water, sanitation, electricity, communications, etc. -- can be monitored and run from the bridge.

Emerald Princess Bridge

After the tour we had lunch in the Da Vinci Dining Room. It has waiter service and is a little more formal than the Horizon Court. There are more items cooked to order. The burgers in the Da Vinci are very good and don't appear to have been kept hot on a steam table. Then it was nap time.

We each signed up for Internet access in the Internet Cafe on Deck 5. You get 100 minutes for $55.00 plus an activation fee of $3.95. The computer system on the Emerald Princess is faster than others we have known on ships and the sign-in is very quick.

This was "formal night" and there were ladies in gowns and men in suits and tuxedos. We don't do formal on vacation so we got away with dark trousers and dark, long sleeved silk shirts buttoned all the way up. Nobody seemed to notice our lack of jackets and ties. And really, who cares?

We had dinner early in the Michalangelo so we could go to the 7:15 show in the Princess Theatre. It was a show we had seen, and enjoyed, on the Coral Princess in April 2007 -- "What a Swell Party."

It's a collection of show tunes, many by Cole Porter. This production on the Emerald Princess had the best singers of any show I've heard on a ship. All the lead singers did a fine job (not always the case with shipboard show singers) but hearing Regina Levert was a real treat. What a voice. What a pro.

As usual the dancing, music and lighting were excellent. The sets were good too and the sound was loud but well balanced and not so loud that it distorted the band and singers.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Day 1

At sea, heading for Aruba

The sea was quite bumpy overnight and when we got up the sky was dark and gray. By mid-morning the sea was calm and by noon it was sunny and getting warmer on deck.

Breakfast in the Horizon Court Buffet was packed but the excellent smoked salmon with all the fixings made up for the crowds. We were still tired from the long drive and the excitement of embarkation so we read books, slowly explored the ship and had room service lunch in our cabin.

The room service menu is limited but it has everything you need (and there is no extra charge). It has sandwiches (hot and cold), salads, desserts, coffee, tea, milk and the famed Princess Cruises' fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. Then we napped.

Dinner again was in the Michalangelo Dining Room. During dinner Jack spoke with the Maître d' and made a reservation for the Chef's Table Dinner on Thursday. This is a new feature and sounds like a major production. Details later.

Early to bed -- all this sea air is very relaxing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Emerald Princess, December 2008, Embarkation

Sail away!

Lifebuoy: Emerald Princess, Hamilton

Slept well and got up at 7:30 to have breakfast and do some re-packing. There was a light rain and it was very hot. The shuttle left the hotel right on time, at 11:45 A.M., and we got to the port about 20 minutes later. There were long lines for the Emerald Princess but they moved very fast and by 1:00 we were in our cabin. It was a very comfortable mini-suite with a balcony on the usual starboard side, Dolphin deck 9. There was a bottle of Champagne waiting for us along with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and minutes later a bowl of tropical flowers arrived. All of this requires a little preplanning but it's well worth the effort.

The PiazzaBy 2:00 P.M. three of our four pieces of luggage were delivered. The last bag arrived at the door at 3:45.

Also in Port Everglades on this Sunday were Carnival Freedom, Celebrity Solstice, Crown Princess, Imperial Majesty's Regal Empress and Holland America's Westerdam. When you add the Emerald Princess, the total passengers debarking and embarking on this Sunday is potentially 30,208 if all the ships are at capacity.

Before muster drill at 4:15 we had a light lunch in the Horizon Court Buffet. The weather was getting stormy and a front was passing by so the Commodore delayed our (5:00 P.M.) departure nearly an hour. The sea was slightly rough and the Emerald Princess was rolling a bit. Later the sea got quite rough.

Christmas Tree on Emerald PrincessThe ship is beautiful and still feels new. Its inaugural cruise was in April 2007. It is a Grand Class ship and carries 3100 passengers and 1200 crew. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas -- tastefully and not overdone.

We had dinner in the Michelangelo dining room. Luis from Portugal was our waiter and his assistant was Olena from Slovenia. Both were very friendly and professional. Dinner, with veggie spring rolls, spinach soup, mushroom soup and roast beef plus dessert, was very good.

We both were tired and sore from the long two-day drive and we went to bed early -- enjoying the rocking of the ship in the stormy weather.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Driving to the Emerald Princess, second day

Driving from Clermont to Ft. Lauderdale

We ate our free breakfast at the hotel and headed south. The weather was better. Stopped for lunch, as always, in Jupiter and continued on to the the Hampton Inn in Hollywood, near the cruise dock and the airport. We got there around 3:00 P.M. -- 253 miles. The total driving distance from home was 707 miles.

The hotel is busy but nice and in pretty good condition for an airport hotel. We arranged for our transfer to the ship in the morning and parking in the hotel lot while we are on the cruise. It was very warm and humid in Ft. Lauderdale with rain off and on.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Driving to the Emerald Princess, first day

Driving from Pensacola to Clermont

Shortly before 9:00 A.M. we took the cats to the new pet hotel our vet just opened. We signed them in and headed east on Interstate 10 on our way to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and the Emerald Princess. The weather was cool and the sky was gray. At lunchtime we stopped in Chipley for lunch at Gary's Flamin' Grill (we discovered it a while ago and liked it a lot) but it was closed (for the day after Thanksgiving Day).

Onward, cross-country to Marianna to eat at Madison's Warehouse but they too were closed (for the day after Thanksgiving Day). We ended back at I-10 and ate at Po' Folks Country Restaurant. Good fried chicken on their buffet.

Bad rain storms before and after Tallahassee. Got to the Hampton Inn in Clermont, just north of Orlando, before 8:00 P.M., We drove 454 miles.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking a Blogcation

With all the stresses and timetables of the holidays -- shopping, gatherings, upcoming travel, writing Christmas cards, wrapping things, long lines at the P.O. -- it is time to take a brief break from the blog.

Taking a blog break -- be back soon

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't scream, but...

...there are only 38 days until Christmas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Pool In Winter

Polaris 380, brochure photoOf course you can't swim in a backyard pool when the water temperature is 52°F (11°C). But it is necessary to keep it clean and keep the chemicals in balance. If the chemicals aren't correct it's bad for the pool liner and there's also quite an investment in water -- 26,700 gallons of it -- or just about 101,041 liters -- to keep clean and sparkling.

The other day Polaris 380, our elderly pool cleaning robot, broke down again. This time it would cost a lot to fix it and we decided to get a new one.

It's very pretty in the brochure photo above. But if you look inside to fix something here's what you'll see. (Click on the diagram to enlarge it.)
Polaris 380, exploded parts diagram
It is a complicated maze of tiny parts.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Books for the Cruise

Cruise book covers IAs the time for our next cruise draws closer (this time it's on the Emerald Princess to the Southern Caribbean) it's also time to pick some books to read on the ship. This itinerary has several days "at sea" with no ports to visit. That gives us lots of time to sit and read and relax between all those meals.

I am sure that the Emerald has a good library on board -- the Princess ships usually do -- but we will take these along with us:

Absolute Friends, John le Carré
The Complete Idiot's guide to the World of Harry Potter, Tere Stouffer
Dixie, Curtis Wilkie
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Newt Scamander
Noel & Cole: The Sophisticates, Stephen Citron
The Private Lives of Noël and Gerty, Sheridan Morley
Quidditch Through the Ages, Kennilworthy Whisp
Walt Disney World Without Kids, Birnbaum Guides

Cruise book covers II


Front page, Chicago Tribune, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Results -- Check back often

Map from
HuffPost has a collection of election charts, widgets and live video feeds, it's their Guide to Watching Election Night Results. With constant updates all night long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Candy Corn Time

October 30 is National Candy Corn Day

Candy Corn Image from
Candy corn image from

Here are two timely links from the National Confectioners Association:
History of Candy Corn
Candy Dish Blog.

And here are links to two posts from this very blog about candy corn from October, 2006:
The Natural History of Candy Corn
Six Degrees of Candy Corn.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Political Polls

Election 2008 presidential candidate buttons
With the U.S. Presidential election less than three weeks away, I thought it was a good idea to learn more about pollsters and their organizations.

Here is a list that includes the top opinion polls. These are the ones most often mentioned in news stories and are frequently co-sponsored by the major national newspapers and television networks.

Gallup Organization
Harris Interactive, Inc.
Peter D. Hart Research Associates
Mason-Dixon Polls
Marist College Institute for Public Opinion
National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago
Pew Research Center
Quinnipiac University Polling Institute
Roper Poll, University of Connecticut.
Zogby International

To see how the various polls compare check out FiveThirtyEight -- Electoral Projections Done Right -- and

The National Council on Public Polls has interesting statistics on how the major polls did in predicting previous presidential elections. And Wiki has an excellent overview of Opinion Polls: the history of them and how they work -- or are supposed to work.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Flu Shots for the 2008-2009 Season

Hypodermic needle"Ouch!"

Yesterday we got our flu shots. It's a fall ritual like Halloween and raking leaves. We went to Pensacola's Professional Health Examiners -- a one-stop service where you can get flu shots and paternity tests right in the neighborhood. Our real reason to go there is that we can get our shots and be on our way in about five minutes. Try that at Walgreens or the doctor's office.

There's lots of flu information at the Centers for Disease Control website and specific information from them about the coming 2008-2009 flu season. We will find out during the peak of flu season, in January and February, if "they" picked the right formula to fend off this winter's flu bugs.

Still have flu questions? Click and read Seattle's excellent Flu FAQs.