Sunday, December 26, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, The Photos

Emerald Princess in St. Lucia


Two Tails Ranch, Enroute to Fort Lauderdale and the cruise, Saturday, November 27, 2010

Port Everglades, Embarkation Day, Sunday, November 28

St. Kitts, Day 3, Wednesday, December 1

Barbados, Day 4, Thursday, December 2

St. Lucia, Day 5, Friday, December 3

Antigua, Day 6, Saturday, December 4

St. Thomas, USVI, Day 7, Sunday, December 5

A Visit to the Bridge, Day 8, Monday, December 6

Sunset at sea, heading for The Bahamas, Day 8, Monday, December 6

Emerald Princess Atrium, Day 9, Tuesday, December 7

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Distances Sailed

Distances Sailed
Fort Lauderdale to St. Kitts
1122 nautical miles = 1290 statute miles = 2078 kilometers

St. Kitts to Barbados
317 nautical miles = 365 statute miles =587 kilometers

Barbados to St. lucia
132 nautical miles = 152 statute miles = 244 kilometers

St. Lucia to Antigua
214 nautical miles = 246 statute miles = 396 kilometers

Antigua to St. Thomas
196 nautical miles = 225 statute miles = 363 kilometers

St. Thomas to Princess Cays
740 nautical miles = 851 statute miles = 1370 kilometers

Princess Cays to Fort Luaderdale
273 nautical miles = 314 statute miles = 506 kilometers

Total distance
2994 nautical miles = 3443 statute miles = 5545 kilometers

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 10


We arrived at Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades just before dawn and it was cold. In the low 50s, possibly high 40s. We had an early breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room and went to Club Fusion to wait for our disembarkation group to be called. Our luggage tag color was Brown 3 and we were told we'd be off the ship by 8:30. The first two groups were called on time then nothing -- for more than 30 minutes.

We were finally called almost 40 minutes late. From then on there were no problems. We found our bags and a porter. He got us past customs fast. He simply cut into the head of the line of people waiting at passport control. He saved us at least ten or fifteen minutes and I tipped him well. When we got to the sidewalk the van to the parking lot was waiting and we were in our car ten minutes later.

We headed north up Florida's Turnpike until we joined I-75. As soon as we got to Ocala we went cross country and avoided the worst parts of I-75 and I-10. We drove nearly 400 miles to Perry and the Holiday Inn Express there. Wow, it was cold in Perry. The smoke alarm at the hotel kept going off (very loud) and we were unhappy. Lucky for us, and for them, the final false alarm was at 9:30 P.M. and not again after. So we slept well.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, The drive home

Thursday, Perry to Pensacola

After a terrible Holiday Inn Express breakfast, worse than any Hampton Inn breakfast and that's hard to believe, we packed the car and were on our way. It was very cold in Perry, at the hotel they said it was 26 degrees. We froze getting the car packed up.

We were on our way by 10:30 and thanks to the hour we gained going back to Central time we were home by 3:00. It was cold in the house but nothing appeared to be damaged by the low temperatures. Then we picked up the cats. and came back to a warm house.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 9

Tuesday, Princess Cays

Chilly weather and a gray sky as we head north. The air was too cold and the sea too rough for us to want to take the tenders over to Princess Cays. The choppy sea and the cool weather kept a lot of people on board the ship; it was not a beach day.

Atrium, Starboard Staircase

I took some pictures of the atrium today. Princess people have started putting up some holiday decorations. Christmas trees, wreaths and greenery have been appearing gradually all over the ship for the past couple of days.

We had a quiet day. Started packing and had some of the bags ready to go into the hallway before dinner and the rest right after. Spent some time on the computer. We need to use up our minutes. Breakfast in the Horizon Grill, lunch at the Trident by the pool and dinner in Michaelangelo.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 8

Monday, at sea

Today's weather was clear and sunny and the sea was flat. We had breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room and headed off for the bridge. There was a large group seeing the bridge today, more than 20. This was our fifth visit to a Princess ship's bridge and sometime it's just us and another person or two.

We met Captain Giorgio Pomata and his crew. Today's tour guide was Staff Captain Andrea Spinardi, he's the second in command. On the Emerald Princess the navigation is now completely electronic and no paper charts are maintained at all. Last year on the Island Princess we noticed that paper back up charts are still kept -- just in case...

The bridge has a sweeping view of the sea ahead and also of the crew pool.

The crew pool at the very front of the ship.

We had an informal lunch at the International Cafe, great for people watching. As it's formal night tonight, we decided for dinner to make another visit to the Crown Grill Steak House where the food is wonderful and our lack of dress-up clothes wouldn't be noticed.

Sundown, at sea, heading to Princess Cays in the Bahamas

Weather report from home...
We have been monitoring the Pensacola weather for the past few days. It is very cold there and all over the southeast. The evening temperatures have been going below freezing and the daytime highs are only in the 50s. It was so warm when we left we considered leaving the air conditioning on. We ended up shutting the heat and cooling off. So it's going to be a chilly house when we get back. We can only hope the outdoor plumbing won't freeze and crack.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 7

Sunday, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Crown Bay Cruise Ship Port, St. Thomas (click image to enlarge)

For the first time in many cruise visits to St. Thomas our ship tied up at the new Crown Bay Dock. In the past we were always at Havensight, the West Indian Company Dock on the other side of Charlotte Amalie, capital city of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is the most popular cruise port in the Caribbean. Often there are lots of cruise ships docked in St. Thomas at the same time.

With the new super-sized ships, like Royal Caribbean' Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, this can mean close to 20,000 sightseers on shore at the same time. So an additional port was built. It opened in 2006.

SeaDream I (click image to enlarge)

When we docked there was a small cruise ship across from us, the SeaDream I, soon joined by the identical SeaDream II. They are the entire fleet of a luxury cruise line -- SeaDrean Yacht Club.

Breakfast was in the Horizon Grill buffet, lunch was burgers by the pool and dinner was in yhe Michaelangelo Dining Room. We had a wonderful assistant waiter, Maryia from Ukraine. She is charming and very professional.

Today's mail had an invitation from Captain Giorgio Pomata to visit the bridge tomorrow morning for a tour.

Before we left Pensacola we finished writing and addressing (and stamping) our Christmas cards. We brought them with us and mailed them in St. Thomas. Officially the U.S. Virgin Islands is "an organized, unincorporated United States territory." So our U.S. postage stamps work there as do our cell phones.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 6

Saturday, Antigua

Welcome to Antigua

Mild weather, a gently rolling sea, clear skies, lots of stars last night and we saw a shooting star. We have now traveled 1800 nautical miles.

Fishing boat harbor
Along the shore

P & O's Oceana
Emerald Princess is tied up beside P & O's Oceana

Breakfast was at the buffet in the Horizon Grill. And then we were off on the Antigua Scenic Drive Tour. It was the shortest one we could find. We don't like long tours in cramped vans. Despite the title, the tour wasn't really scenic. Mostly it showed us the coastal residential and commercial areas and that was very interesting. The island seems quite prosperous and there's a noticeable middle class. It was nice to see that almost none of the homes had locked gates or windows with security bars.

At the end of the tour it seemed the driver was dropping us off at the far side of the shopping village. But after we got off the van we looked up and saw the two ships parked nearby.

Marketplace on Saturday with Emerald Princess and Oceana

Tropical Gardens on our tour of Antigua

Leaving Antigua after sundown (click image to enlarge)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 5

Friday, St. Lucia

Welcome to St. LuciaThe brief trip from Barbados to St. Lucia was smooth and only 133 nautical miles. The weather was sunny and hot with great visibility. The views from our ship were wonderful, especially from the upper decks. Other ships in port today were Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines' Braemar and Holland America's Prinsendam.

Castries Harbour, St. Lucia
Castries Harbour, St. Lucia (click on image to enlarge)

St. Lucia scenery
There are postcard views wherever you look on St. Lucia

Shopping village, St. Lucia
The Emerald Princess looming above the shopping village on St. Lucia

Baron Foods Mango ChutneyWe walked into the village of shops at the end of the dock and, instead of diamonds, we bought some mango chutney and hot sauces made on St. Lucia by Baron Foods Limited. It was unusual to see such a good assortment of locally-made foods available in a tourist market.

We had breakfast in the International Cafe in the atrium. Lunch was from room service.

Sabatini's logo In the evening we had a lavish Italian dinner at Sabatini's. The latter offers a tasting menu of at least a dozen appetizers and hors d'oeuvres (small servings) followed three different pasta dishes, then an entrée and a dessert sampler. It takes a while to complete the meal and then you waddle back to your cabin to sleep it off.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 4

Thursday, Barbados

Bridgetown Harbour, starboard side viewVery pleasant weather today with a nice breeze. Best to stay out of too much direct sun however, Barbados is the most southerly island on this cruise -- 13 degrees north of the equator.

The port in Bridgetown where we are parked is mostly industrial with container shipping facilities and sugar processing plants.

Bridgetown Harbour, port side viewWe never left the ship today. From what we can see it seems to be a dull little island although it is very popular with the Brits. Lots of direct flights from all the London airports.

I have read about great beaches for snorkeling and lots of tourist attractions but we loved having the ship to ourselves all day. Room service breakfast. Lunch at the Trident Grill for burgers and pizza by the pool. Dinner in the Michaelangelo Dining Room.

So far we have sailed 1,454 nautical miles. Later on I will post all the distances we've sailed from point to point.

Emerald Princess was the only cruise ship in port today.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 3

Wednesday, St. Kitts and Nevis

The weather is clear, hot and windy. The sea is calm.

Welcome to St. Kitts

In St. Kitts we docked at Port Zante in the city of Basseterre. The sun is very strong here, Basseterre is just 17 degrees north of the Equator. If you are sitting in the shade the temperature is warm and tropical; in the sun it is very hot.

Soon after we arrived we saw another ship pulling in to the other side of our dock. It was the Grand Princess and looked almost identical to the Emerald Princess. The major difference is that our ship has an extra deck of cabins, the Riviera Deck 14. It was fun to watch a big ship coming in to port and even better it was backing in -- very slowly. So the ships docked nose to tail.

We walked into the village of shops at the end of the dock where there were dozens of small stores all selling the same upscale, tourist items, mostly diamonds. We didn't buy any diamonds.

Port Zante, St. Kitts (Click on image to enlarge.)
The ship is docked in a beautiful location and a good one for me to practice shooting some of my panoramic photos. Above is one I took from Deck 18. Our ship is on the extreme right. The ship in the foreground and also a little right of center is the Grand Princess.

Tonight our dinner was the Chef's Table. As always the food and wines were fabulous. And the backstage tour of the kitchen was a wonder. Usually the Chef's Table is directed by the ship's executive chef but tonight Princess Cruises' Master Chef Alfredo Marci was visiting the Emerald Princess and was in charge of our feast -- every detail.

Chef's Table menu
Chef's Table Menu (click the image once, then with the cursor over the text, click again -- this should make the text readable)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 2

Tuesday, at sea

The sea was slightly bumpy all night but today is calm and partly cloudy/partly sunny. Breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room -- waiter service, crisp table linens, eggs cooked to order, fresh breakfast pastries -- a very nice dining experience. Lunch in the Horizon Court buffet and dinner in Michaelangelo.

These two back-to-back sea days are great for unwinding and doing next to nothing. We set up our computer accounts, browsed for books in the ship's library and got tickets for a brief tour of Antigua on Saturday afternoon. Because the cruise is just before Christmas all the holiday chores have to be finished before leaving for the cruise. It's nice to have it all done so early.

The computer connection on board is still very slow with frequent drop offs. Fifteen minutes of connect time often means 10 minutes of waiting to connect and five minutes of transmitting time. The computer cafe has a lot of computers so usually there's no problem getting one to use. But we bring a laptop and get online in our cabin. Using the ship's network isn't cheap. The best buy is 250 minutes for $100. If you have cruised with Princess more than six times you get 250 minutes free, so that's a plus.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Day 1

Monday, at sea

We are now in the Atlantic Time Zone, one hour ahead of Eastern Time.

During the night the sea was slightly choppy with a touch of swell. This was not unpleasant or unexpected; we are on a ship. The rolling made it easy to get to sleep. Most of the day was cloudy and not hot at all even when the sun came out.

At 4:00 P.M. we had sailed 432 nautical miles from Port Everglades with 704 more to go until we reach Basseterre in St. Kitts, on Wednesday morning.

Crown Grill logoFor breakfast we had room service. We had lunch at the burger place by the pool. For dinner we went to the Crown Grill Steak House. It's one of the ship's extra charge restaurants and well worth the $25 each they charge. Great food and great service in a setting that looks like an old New York steak house.

Tonight was formal night. We don't do formal night. But, except for the main dining rooms there's no problem what you wear. On formal nights we find the the two restaurants with the extra charges, Crown Grill and Sabatinis, are 50/50 formal and "smart casual."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Embarkation


Port Everglades with seven cruise ships ready to sail.
A busy day at Port Everglades.

After a longer than usual wait for a van at the Park 'n' Cruise lot, waiting first in hot sun then in a light rain, we got to the ship at 12:20 and were in our cabin by 1:00 P.M. The bags took a while to arrive but we got them at 3:30, just before the muster drill. We sailed out of Port Everglades at 5:10. Dark, stormy-looking sky and a bouncy sea, but no rain.

Before we departed I took the photo, above, showing (at least parts of) seven cruise ships ready to set sail. As we expected, we saw Nieuw Amsterdam, Ruby Princess, MSC Poesia, Carnival Freedom and Celebrity Solstice in port today. And there's a tiny piece of the balcony of Emerald Princess at the extreme right of the photo. That makes six. The seventh ship is probably one of the day trippers that runs from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and back for gambling and duty-free shopping.

17th Street Causeway Drawbridge, Fort Lauderdale
17th Street Causeway Drawbridge, seen from our balcony cabin, starboard side of Dolphin Deck 9.

This is our second cruise on the Emerald Princess, the other was in December 2008. The ship still looks new and has been well cared for. It was christened on May 13, 2007 by -- in keeping with Princess Cruises' status as a TV icon -- Florence Henderson and Susan Olsen of "The Brady Bunch" along with Erin Moran and Marion Ross of "Happy Days." Our cabin this trip is on the starboard side exactly opposite the one we had on the Emerald last time on the port side.

Taking care of our cabin, and us, is our steward (or in this case more properly, stewardess), Sherill. She's from the Philippines and appears very together, friendly and efficient. And she speaks perfect English which makes so many things eaasier.

We had dinner in the Michaelangelo Dining Room. The first impression of the dining room staff is that they are friendly and well-trained.

The cabin is comfortable and after unpacking we turned in early. A bit tired from our 700-mile drive from Pensacola to Fort Lauderdale.

Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam heading out of Port Everglades
Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam heading out of Port Everglades

Nieuw Amsterdam on her way
The Nieuw Amsterdam on her way south.

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, News & Weather Enroute

News and weather links for upcoming ports of call:

Antigua Observer
The Nation, Barbados
Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel
The Observer, St. Kitts-Nevis
St. Lucia Star
Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas

Antigua and Barbuda
Fort Lauderdale
St. Kitts
St. Lucia
St. Thomas

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Cruise Itinerary

Route: Eastern Caribbean Voyager

Itinerary and Ports of Call

Click on the map to enlarge it.

Embarkation, Sunday, November 28, 5:00 PM, leave Ft. Lauderdale

Day 1, Monday, November 29, at sea

Day 2, Tuesday, November 30, at sea

Day 3, Wednesday, December 1, 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM, St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts tourist infoNevis tourist infoPort Zante

Day 4, Thursday, December 2, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Barbados
Tourist infoBridgetown Cruise Terminal

Day 5, Friday, December 3, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, St. Lucia
Tourist infoCruise Ship Port

Day 6, Saturday, December 4, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Antigua and Barbuda
Tourist infoAntigua Cruise Port

Day 7, Sunday, December 5, 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, St. Thomas
Tourist infoHavensite Cruise Ship DockCrown Bay DockCrown Bay Shopping

Day 8, Monday, December 6, at sea

Day 9, Tuesday, December 7, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Princess Cays

Day 10, Wednesday, December 8, Disembarkaction, 7:00 AM, arrive Ft. Lauderdale
Drive home

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Emerald Princess Cruise, December 2010, Drive to the Ship

Luke the ElephantLuke at the Two Tails Ranch, Williston, Florida, celebrating his 26th birthday.

First day, Friday, November 26, drive from Pensacola to Gainesville
We set off heading east on Interstate 10 about 10:30 A.M. after taking the cats to the pet hotel. It was a gray, chilly day with spots of rain, often heavy. Stopped in Chipley for lunch at Skins and Bubba's BBQ. Nice place for BBQ. Then on to Gainesville arriving there just after dark, 340 miles. As always, dinner was at the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store next door. And early to bed. Today's was a long drive for us.

Second day, Saturday,November 27, drive from Gainesville to Ft. Lauderdale
On our way south on Interstate 75 we took a brief detour to Williston to visit the Two Tails Ranch. It is a training, medical, breeding and retirement facility for elephants and exotic felines. It has been there for over 20 years -- owned and operated by Patricia Zerbini, a ninth generation circus performer. The Ranch is a wonderful place; the animals have lots of open space, warm barns in the winter and frequent visitors to watch. Another web site All About Elephants has more information about the Ranch's educational outreach programs.

Luke the Elephant
Luke watching us.

We continued on to Plantation, Florida, just north of Fort Lauderdale. Dinner was at the Plantation location of a small south Florida restaurant chain -- Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine.

Miles so far 680; miles since Gainesville, 340.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Patio Flowers in Florida -- November 2010

November Patio Flowers
Click on the image to enlarge it, then click again to make it even bigger.
Now that the weather is milder the flowers and foliage are looking good in the backyard.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kitchen Organization

Measuring Cups
For years I had to rummage around in overcrowded kitchen drawers to find measuring cups and spoons. At last I hung them all on the wall by the cooking prep area.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joey at 7 months old

Joey up close
Joey up close.

Joey in the bushes looking for geckos to eat
Joey in the bushes looking for geckos to eat.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Birmingham Trip, Day 4

Water tower, Flomaton, Alabama
When we see this we are almost home.

An easy drive south from Birmingham, we arrived home mid-afternoon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Birmingham Trip, Day 3

This morning we drove into Birmingham's downtown to see the sites. It's a very nice looking city with lots of hills.

Virginia Samford Theatre, Birmingham, AlabamaWhen we drove near the Virginia Samford Theatre, currently home to "The Drowsy Chaperone," we decided to see where it was so we wouldn't get lost getting there tonight. It's a good thing we did.

The directions say it's on 26th Street just off Highland Avenue. Well, Highland Avenue is a difficult U-shaped street about 2 miles long with at least 10 right-angle turns. And narrow winding parts through lovely neighborhoods and past at least four beautiful city parks. Pretty to look at -- and easy to get lost in, even in the daytime. And we did, but also happened upon a restaurant we had read good things about, Rojo, and decided to eat there before showtime.

Rojo's logoRojo has two menus: Latin American food and American food. It's a busy and happy neighborhood restaurant, part Mexican cantina, part burger place.

The show, part of the Red Mountain Theatre Company's season. was wonderful, a fabulous production in a beautiful theatre.

Man in Chair
Saxon Murrell as Man in Chair in "The Drowsy Chaperone" (From the Birmingham News, photo by Brandon Robertson)

Theatre Historic Plaque
History of the Virginia Samson Theatre,
click the image to enlarge.

For some information about "The Drowsy Chaperone" and its history click here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birmingham Trip, Day 2

Lunker Lake, Pelham, Alabama
Lunker Lake, Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham, Alabama
(click on the image to enlarge it.)

The Marina at Oak Mountain ParkIn the morning we drove to Oak Mountain State Park. It's just a few miles south of Birmingham's city center. A winding road goes right through the middle of the park and on an off-season Wednesday morning we had the whole place to ourselves. The trees were beginning to show some signs of fall foliage and I expect that in early November there's lots of color.

Sign: Niki's WestFor lunch we followed the advice of a local blogger known as Ginger. Her blog, Deep Fried Kudzu is (mostly) about southern food. She helped guide us to where to eat in Birmingham.

And so we went to Niki's West Steak And Seafood Restaurant. The food was wonderful, meat-and-three, but when we saw the size of the side dishes we had to go for meat-and-two. We loved the food and we loved the sign in the window.

Window sign: Niki's West, Birmingham, Alabama
Sign in Niki's Window

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Birmingham Trip, Day 1

Logo: The Drowsy ChaperoneA month ago we bought tickets to see "The Drowsy Chaperone" in Birmingham, Alabama. It's risky planning anything (especially anything non-refundable) during hurricane season. But we took the chance.

Neither of us had ever been to Birmingham and we had heard a lot about the great restaurants.

So at 11:00 a.m. we headed north on Interstate-65. As we left the house the rain began and by the time we got to the highway, about a mile away, it was a serious down pour. The kind that can't last long. And it didn't. After 15 minutes it went away.

From Pensacola to Birmingham is a 250 mile trip and it took us about 4 hours, not counting breaks and lunch. We stopped to have lunch in Greenville, just south of Montgomery. The last time we were up this way we looked in Georgiana for the Georgiana Family Restaurant where we had eaten before -- great southern country food. But it was now a used car lot. Onward to Greenville where (last time) we discovered The Chef's Table with really good meat-and-three choices.

Courthouse Square, Greenville, Alabama
Courthouse Square, Greenville, Alabama

That was then. Now The Chef's Table is Polka Dots Cafe. It's a coffee house with a limited menu -- it was fine for hungry travelers like us.

A few miles south of Birmingham and about ten miles from our hotel we got caught in a terrible rain storm with thunder and lightning striking next to us. There was heavy traffic and no visibility. We came upon a serious three-car accident that had just happened. The first police car was arriving as we passed by. I was sorry for the people in the accident, but had to be happy we didn't get stopped in the traffic backup that was sure to happen.

Our hotel was on the north side of Birmingham and after driving through two heavy storms getting here we were happy to eat at the Outback Steak House next door. Not a local establishment but certainly a local favorite. It was packed with happy, hungry folks.