Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 1, Island Princess Cruise
November 2009

Embarkation, Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

The hotel was comfortable and we slept well. And woke up early. We wanted to get to the parking lot around 1:00 and get in line for boarding around 2:00. We had read on that lots of people always got to the ship early and there was less waiting in line if you arrived mid-afternoon.

Oh, well. We killed as much time as we could and arrived at Park 'n' Cruise at 11:30. There was no waiting for a van and we were beside the ship at the registration desk at 11:40. At 11:50 we were in our cabin and at 12:55 our luggage arrived. The fastest boarding ever.

Our cabin steward is from the Philippines, as many of the staff of cruise ships always are. He is quiet, serious, friendly but not warm and clearly we will not get to know him at all. Not a problem.

At dinner we meet our waiters. Our senior waiter is from the Philippines, the junior waiter from Thailand, both are quiet and very serious. Not naturally warm personalities, but they are good waiters. The head waiter for our section of the dining room is Nelson from Portugal. Nelson knows how to do it. He gives a little bit of extra service to every table and he is always 'on.' It is amazing to watch him in action.

Throughout the cruise the food is good to excellent most of the time. Coming up at the end of the cruise there will be a post on our dining experiences on the Island Princess.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, click to enlargeRoyal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the biggest passenger ship ever built.

In addition to the Island Princess, there were four other big cruise ships in port: Oasis of the Seas, Seven Seas Navigator, MSC Poesia and Bahamas Celebration.

The Oasis of the Seas is the biggest of them all. It is brand new and will have its first voyage with paying customers in a few days. So far in Port Everglades she has been taking travel writers, the press and various travel industry VIPs on two-day excursions. We got to see it as it departed this afternoon and it is really big.

While the Island Princess, was waiting to sail the Christmas decorations were going up. Here's a photo of the atrium's holiday decor.
Island Princess atrium, click to enlarge

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Driving to the Island Princess, second day

From Ocala, Florida to Plantation, Florida -- today's drive was much easier than yesterday's. It was only 275 miles (443 km.). The city of Plantation is located just west of Fort Lauderdale. We were at the hotel before 4:00 PM. There was plenty of time to re-pack our luggage for the cruise and just relax from two days of driving.

Business card: La Casita RojaFor dinner we had planned to eat at one of the Cuban restau- rants near the hotel but we ended up at La Casita Roja, a Peruvian restaurant. It sounded like something worth trying and it was. The food was tasty but not spicy at all. Hot sauces were available. I'm not sure if the food in Peru is really that bland or perhaps the owner/chef is worried that the Florida locals want it that way.

We had a nice meal of fresh ingredients freshly cooked. The owner was very friendly and explained everything we had questions about.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Driving to the Island Princess, first day

Our original plan was to drive to Jacksonville and then see a little of St. Augustine and the northeast Florida coast. Then we would head south to spend the second night in Vero Beach completing the drive (about three hours) to Port Everglades on Monday morining.

However, just before we left Pensacola we decided to cut a few miles and see St. Augustine some other time. So we headed south to Ocala and spent Saturday night there.

The mileage was 383 (616 km.) including a few extra miles to take the cats to the cat hotel our vet runs.

At 10:15 AM we set out on Interstate 10. We tried to have lunch at Gary's in Chipley. Not only are they closed the day after Thanksgiving (we learned that last year) they were closed this time for carpet cleaning. So we went on again to Marianna and ate at PoFolks Restaurant. Excellent fried chicken. And sweet potato casserole.

After several breaks for me to walk around we got to the hotel in Ocala at 6:00 PM. We had dinner in our room: deli sandwiches from the nearby Publix Supermarket.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Itinerary for the Upcoming Cruise

Island Princess, December 2009

  • Saturday, November 28, drive to Ocala

  • Sunday, November 29, drive to Fort Lauderdale

  • Monday, November 30, 5:00 PM depart Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale

  • Tuesday, December 1, at sea

  • Wednesday, December 2, at sea

  • Thursday, December 3, 7:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., Aruba

  • Friday, December 4, 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., Cartagena, Colombia

  • Saturday, December 5, 5:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M., Panama Canal; 4:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M., Cristobal, Panama

  • Sunday, December 6, 7:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., Limon, Costa Rica

  • Monday, December 7, at sea

  • Tuesday, December 8, 7:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., Montego Bay, Jamaica

  • Wednesday, December 9, at sea

  • Thursday, December 10, 7:00 A.M. arrive Port Everglades; drive north; find a hotel around Perry, Florida

  • Friday, December 11, arrive home late afternoon

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Backyard: The Pool At Sunset

Taken in Pensacola, Florida on November 13, 2009 at 6:10 PM CST.

Pool reflections at sunset

Pool reflections at sunset

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reading List for the Island Princess Cruise

A cruise is a great time to just sit and read -- or listen to an audio book. You have to find something to do between meals and naps. Here is a list of the books we're taking on the next cruise. And there's more for us to read in the ship's library.

Images of books listed below
Very Good, Jeeves!, eleven short stories by P.G. Wodehouse
A Midsummer Night's Dream, By Wm. Shakespeare
Rat Pack Confidential, by Shawn Levy

Images of books listed below
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Ripley Under Ground
Ripley's Game
all by Patricia Highsmith

Images of books listed below
The Boy Who Followed Ripley
Ripley Under Water
The Complete Ripley Radio Mysteries, audio CDs from BBC Radio 4
all by Patricia Highsmith

Images of books listed below
Spinoff 2008, annual publication by NASA
The Hit Charade, by Tyler Gray