Just the Facts: Ship: Liberty of the Seas Sailing: December 1, 2019 Captain: Vittorio Marchu Cruise Director: Matt Mitcham - Brand Ambassador: John Heald Ports: Galveston - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico - Galveston Weather: Very nice typical Caribbean weather
This is my 3rd time to cruise on the Carnival Vista, my 71st Carnival cruise, and my 144th cruise overall. I am sailing solo. I booked only a few days before sailing and it was a very good value so I had to do it. This is my first Carnival cruise in over two years and three months, so I’m sure some thing will be different. Day One—Monday—Embarkation
Kindall, Matt & John during safety briefing!
I have enjoyed the departing later and arriving later at the pier scenario on previous Galveston cruises so again did so. I left the ranch about 8:00 am and headed south to Galveston skipping my usual first stop in Hearne and drove through Houston stopping near Friendswood, TX at the local Chick-fil-A. This served three purposes: added some gap time to port arrival, rest stop, and of course some great Jesus Chicken. I do like their sandwiches. I arrived at EZ Cruise parking about 12:30 and I was shuttled over to the Carnival Vista fairly quickly arriving at security about 1:00. No lines using Priority at this time so fairly quick through the boarding process. You use your boarding pass to get through security and your cabin key is at your stateroom door when you arrive. It was barely before the 1:30 cabin opening but my cabin was Priority ready. I had already eaten a nice lunch so need to rush to the Lido buffet and since I rolled-on my duffle I was ready to set up my cabin. First thing out was my fan and soon I was relaxed and unpacking. Very nice interior cabin but limited storage unless your traveling solo as I am. I pre-purchased a Wifi package and sent myself a gift of Bar Credit with some Carnival Gift Cards I had left over from previous cruises. I made it to the Red Frog in time for a beer before muster drill and ran into some Diamond/Alchemy friends who also booked late. My muster station D-3 was the main MDR so it was an easy process. (photo above by Capt. Vittorio) After drill I met a group of friends at the Alchemy Bar and it was only a short wait until they opened. Unfortunately we have the Texas liquor laws that effect many cocktails but we made do. As the moderator for the Carnival Alchemy Bar FB page I become familiar with comments about all the Alchemists and I was able to meet Mr. Aleksandar Petkovski. He was new to me, but really lived-up to the comments and has a great following so must be a good Alchemist...and he is very good. After enjoying two custom cocktails, I retired to cabin to rest and prepare for dinner. I’m doing basically Anytime Dining, but they allow Diamond guests to go strait to the MDR whenever they are ready for dinner. Jana, who I have known for many years is the Matre’D and really got me a great table when I went down about 8:00 pm. I was joined by a long time Diamond friend so it was very nice. The menu is the same as when I last sailed the Vista 2+ years ago. I ordered: Shrimp Cocktails (3), Roasted Tomato Soup, and the Grilled Pork Chop entree. For dessert I ordered the Caramelized Phyllo With Caramel Cream, a Tiramisu, and Buttered Pecan ice creme as a sampler. The Tiramisu was great. After dinner I went to the Ocean Plaza and listend to the Jazz group Powerplay that was joined by brass section Triple Play of the orchestra for a few sets. Very nice music but the highlight was when a young mid-30ish couple got up to disco much to the chagrin of their two pre-teen children. They were great dancers but the crowd soon noticed the faces of the embarrassed children that stole the show. The singers portable mic allowed her to join the kids and sing from their table. It was a ‘had to be there’ moment that I really enjoyed. I returned to the cabin went straight to sleep after a busy travel and first day on the Carnival Vista.
Day Two—Monday—at Sea
Vista Atrium area
Very smooth seas and I slept vert well. About 9:30 am I went up to Lido deck passing through the very busy Marketplace breakfast buffets on the way to pool deck and the Blue Iguana for breakfast. It was not as busy at BI and in fact I got two Huevos Rancheros with fresh fried eggs straight away. IMHO one of the better breakfasts on Carnival ships. I went down to the main lobby atrium area to Guest Services and I must say that this is the most disappointing area of Carnival Vista. The atrium is very plain and has no Wow factor at all. Most cruise lines feature this area of the ship some even having crystal staircases, not the case here. I hope this is resolved by the time that the new Carnival Mardi Gras sails. I spent the rest of the morning updating this review and doing some financial business. The sodas I sent to myself and Chocolate Covered Strawberries were delivered midday so a snack before lunch. At 2:00 pm I went up to deck 11 and the Mongolian Grill lunch in JiJi's. Good and bad about the grill in its own dining area…you can not pick out the exact quantities of each item, more of one than another as you order from checklist. It was very good, but I prefer more vegetables and meat and less noodles. I can try to write that on order next time. I did a walk about on deck just as we were experiencing a brief rain shower that sent guest scurrying about. It did make for a short line at Guy’s so I had a plain sample burger…doesn’t count as official Gut's Burger yet. A bit of a power scare this afternoon when the ship lost power for a short while…announcements where made by Matt and hopefully all is well. I relaxed in the afternoon then prepared to meet friends in the MDR for the Captain’s Gala dinner (formal night), We met at 7:30 and were seated at a nice 6-top table. I ordered the Sicilian Meatball Soup (excellent), a Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter & also very good), and the Slow Cooked Prime Rib as my entree. Just after we finished our starters the ship began to lose power, off and on, fortunately our waiter grabbed our entrees and we enjoyed them in the low light. Soon we had lost all power…oh my. I was just happy we had been served and we were lucky that we moved up our dining time to 7:30 from 8:00 pm. No dessert tonight. Power was out about 40-45 minutes but they were able to restore it so most on late dining were able to eat even though it was later. I decided to get back to the cabin and turn the air down as low as possible just in case we lost power again. I had my Swedish Fish and Coca-cola for dessert tonight. It was an interesting sea day on the Carnival Vista.
This is not my normal travel review, only a short trip and not very exotic location, but I had such a wonderful time that I wanted to document it for myself as the weekend was so full of marvelous memories. The DW and I are traveling to Oklahoma City for my Del City High School Class of '69 50th class reunion. I'm also revisiting the famous Oklahoma Onion-fried hamburgers of my youth.
June 6th 2019 - Thursday - Midwest City
Lizards - Class of '69
A nice day for travel. We left Twisted Oak Ranch about 9:30 am and after a brief stop at Gary Creek Ranch to drop Maisie, our dog, we were heading north towards Oklahoma. As a fan of good hamburgers I am combining my reunion with a tour of Oklahoma's famous onion-fried hamburgers. First stop is in Ardmore Oklahoma at the Hamburger Inn in old downtown Ardmore serving burgers since 1938. This is one of the original onion fried burger diners as the burger is a depression era innovation. I ordered a double onion fried with fries and DW ordered Cheese Tots. Good. Also great pie and breakfast here. We continued north to Midwest City and my DS/BIL's (dear sister/brother inlaw) new house. Of course my DW had just recently decorated the home so she was very familiar. We have the Africa room. Only a short visit as we were soon off for our first function. In High School I was a member of a group of twelve fun friends who decided we would really enjoy our senior year. We had our signature look of v-neck sweaters, our own parking spaces, our own seats (row 1) in the auditorium, and more. We were called the Lizards and we had the Lizard reunion in Edmond Oklahoma at Ted'sCafe Escondido. Very good food and we had our own room. We had nine Lizards with spouses attend and it was a fantastic evening. Each member in turn had to review several subjects including: founding of group, meeting your spouse, outlandish activities we did senior year, and more. The memories were jogged and what a way to begin the reunion weekend. A highlight and great way to start the weekend. June 7th 2019 - Friday - Oklahoma City
Sid's Diner - El Reno, OK
My BIL fixed us a wonderful breakfast with his signature Pecan & Blueberry Waffles...very good. We had a relaxing morning and the DW had a decorating / shopping project today. So I was free to travel with a Lizard brother to El Reno Oklahoma the 'Onion-fried Hamburger Capital of the World'. El Reno has an annul O-F burger festival and three excellent diners/restaurants featuring the onion-fried burger. We chose Sid's a diner and I think the more traditional of the three. I again had a double and onion rings. It was fantastic and well worth the drive. We then drove out to the old Fort Reno cemetery to see the graves of early military soldiers from the Indian Wars. I checked into the host hotel, Hilton's Embassy Suites in the Medical district, about 3:00 and soon the DW was dropped off from her day of shopping. The first official Reunion event was at 5:00 pm at the HeyDay Center in Bricktown, the great entertainment district in OKC. It was a good welcome mixer and it was great seeing classmates. I had some of the families season tickets for the Oklahoma City Dodgers so walked across the street and canal to the Bricktown Ballpark. I was really more interested in seeing the ballpark architecture, statues of famous Oklahoma baseball players, the billboards, the local fans, and happenings on the field and concourse. It was fun, and we got to visit with DCHS class of '69 'MrBaseball' and his DW who attended with us. We bailed in the 7th inning and drove the short mile back to the hotel to rest. It was very enjoyable mixer and fun evening.
June 8th 2019 - Saturday - Oklahoma City
Lunch at 1492 - OKC
I had a very nice hotel breakfast and then visited with classmates this morning. For lunch the DW and I took the events chief organizer and an old 'sweetheart' out to lunch at 1492 a very trendy restaurant with a Latin/Mediterranean/OkieMex menu. It's located in the new revitalize Mid-Town area of OKC and I was impressed with the neighborhood and food. We ordered the specialty appetizers and various entrees. All very good. For dessert we had to have a Tres Leches cake and it was amazing. Afterward we drove through the downtown area before returning to the hotel. Not much time to rest before events began to unfold. The hotel has a complementary happy hour so many classmates began early for apéritifs. Our banquet area opened about 6:30 pm so the party moved there for the evening. It was a nice large room with a nice bar set up and well decorated with DCHS memorabilia. Impressive. Dinner was salad, a steak entree with vegetables, and nice dessert choice of Chocolate or Creme Cheesecake. Our entertainment was Ronnie Kaye a very popular disc jockey from our days in the late 1960's in OKC. He was fantastic and had most of the crowd up and dancing. I've never seen so many old folks dancing the night away. There was plenty of time to visit classmates, see the old yearbooks and photos, and enjoy the evening. Everyone really had a wonderful time. Seems the next event will be in two years and will be a cruise. This will be most classmates 70th birthday year as well. Yes I will be organizing that. We retired about 10:45 p.m., no way I could make it to midnight.,,so the eighty year old Ronnie Kaye outlasted me. It was a great day with great old friends. June 9th 2019 - Sunday - Midwest City
Sunday School 50+ years on
About 7:00 a.m. we were wakened by alarms on the TV and from my telephone. Seems a huge thunderstorm was passing through the Oklahoma City area. DW was going to get to experience some typical Oklahoma weather. This was not a tornado warning so not the full weather experience. Breakfast in the hotel was again good and a lot of classmates there to visit with as well. The weather began to clear and we packed and checked out about 11:00 a.m. We drove to Del City and met up with two of my old friends from Church 50+ years ago. Eight of us had a wonderful lunch at Ted's Cafe Escondido in Del City. Another wonderful meal and visit. At 2:00 pm we went to the wonderful Del City Community Garden to meet other members of our 50 year anniversary Church classmates. The weather was now completely clear and pleasant as we had a wonderful garden tour by my BIL the Gardener and founder. Another good reunion with friends. Afterward we returned to the house in Midwest City and later visited with other family and friends. Another great reunion day. June 10th 2019 - Monday
J&W Burger & Fries
We slept very well and decide to head south by 9:30 am. We drove to Chickasha and ate an early lunch at the J&W Grill. Another of the original Oklahoma Onion-Fried burger diners. These burger have more onions than the previous two and they apply onions twice in the cooking process. I had a double and half order of fries, DW had tots. Very very good burgers. Hard to judge the best of the three, it depends on your 'like' of the onions. Sid's and JW are best for me. If your keen on the onions then JW, if you prefer fewer onions then Hamburger Inn, if you want the middle ground then Sid's is you place. Basically Hamburger Inn cooks the onions on the meat, Sid's mashes the onions into the meat, and J&W mashes the onions into the meat and then adds them on the meat again. Four hour drive home from Chickasha and we traveled basically the old Chisholm trail (Hwy 81) most of the way. Home by 4:00 pm. An easy travel day home.
Just The Facts: Ship: Liberty of the Seas / Class and Type: Freedom Class Cruise Ship Maiden voyage: May 19, 2007 / Tonnage: 155,889 / Length: 1112 feet Captain: Cruise Director: Ports: Galveston, TX - Cozumel, Mexico - Gerogetown, Grand Cayman - Falmouth, Jamaica Weather: Very nice typical Caribbean weather
This is my 5th time to cruise on the Liberty of the Seas, my 29th Royal Caribbean cruise, and my 143rd cruise overall. I am sailing solo. I booked only a few days before sailing and it was a good value, enough that I had to do it.
Day One—Sunday—Embarkation I have enjoyed the leaving later and arriving later at the pier scenario on previous Galveston cruises so did so again. There are so many VIP’s that it now actually creates problems at embarkation…so the later arrival is a much smoother process.
Just The Facts Ship: MS Rotterdam Sailing: April 7, 2019 Captain: Cruise Director: Ports: Tampa, FL - Key West, FL - Santo Tomas de Castilla, Guatemala - Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras - Costa Maya, Mexico - Tampa, FL
This is my 1st time on the MS Rotterdam, my 3rd Holland American Lines cruise, and my 142nd cruise overall. I am sailing as a solo.
Day One—Sunday—April 7 — Embarkation
Leaving the piers at Tampa Bay
I am in Florida visiting the DD (dear daughter) in Spring Hill, FL, so taking the opportunity to sail this cruise while the DW visits the DD and the new GD (grand-daughter) for bonding time. All three dropped me off at 1:00 pm as I wanted to arrive after the rush of guests who try to board early. The timing could not have been better. There was just a short 2-3 minute wait at security then no wait at all at the check in counter. It was like being a VIP on other cruise lines. I proceeded direct to boarding and was in my cabin by 1:18 pm…unbelievable. I was hungry so went up to deck 8 and the Lido buffet...I had the Pork Loin from the carving station with mashed potatoes, some wonderful creamed spinach, and mixed vegetables. It was all very good. HAL is know for their Bread Pudding so that’s what I had for dessert. Servers bring the drinks to your table, a service I really appreciate. Silver is at the table very similar to NCL but a bit more formal. I found the Taco Bar near the pool area and a custom grill, The Dive, as well. You can order customized Hamburgers and Hot Dogs. You order with attendant and he gives you beeper…when he beeps you you go back and pick up you item. I could not eat a burger at this time, but I did order a coney just to test the system. It works very well and my coney was on a poppy seed bun with mustard, sauerkraut, bacon, and a sweet light slaw sauce. Excellent. When I returned to my cabin about 2:30 my bag that I had just checked at the curb was inside the cabin. Wow. My first impressions of the MS Rotterdam are very good. Boat drill was at 3:00 pm and fortunately it’s on my deck. I had my card ‘dinged’ and we had about a 15-20 minute safety instruction. So easy to walk back to cabin as it was at embarkation, just one deck above the gangway. I have an Oceanview cabin on lower promenade with a nice outdoor wooden deck that goes completely around the ship. A nice and roomy cabin especially for a solo. I purchased the premium (streaming) internet package ($139) as I want to watch both NCAA championship games this week. I’m also in middle of binge watching the seven seasons of The Closer so I can get a couple of those in as well. I finished cabin set up
NCL Breakaway Cruise Review B2B February 17 & 24, 2019
Just The Facts Ship: NCL Breakaway Ship Captain: Cruise Director: Ports: New Orleans (3), Isla Cozumel, Mexico (2), Harvest Caye, Belize (2), Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico (2), Belize City, Belize.
This is my first cruise on the NCL Breakaway, 6th time sailing Norwegian Cruise Line, 4th cruise sailing from NOLA, and 140th & 141st cruises overall. The ‘dear wife’ (DW) and I are sailing with the Snoozemates on their 10th annual February group cruise.
Saturday / Travel / February 16th / Day 0 A good cruise friend stayed at the Ranch Friday night and the three of us were off about 9:15 am headed south using some pretty Texas blue highways. We had a very nice lunch at the Ranch Hand Cafe near Cleveland, Texas…my second time at the unique country cafe. CFS is specialty, but I had the Hawaiian Chicken. The sandwiches looked really good. We continued and joined the Interstate highway system in Beaumont and had an uneventful trip although I didn’t enjoy the interstate as much as the rural Texas blue highways. Soon we crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge and arrived in Gonzales, Louisiana about 6:10 pm. to stay overnight at the LaQuinta. They have opened a new burger place next door named Mooyah with a good selection of hand crafted hamburgers. The fries are great and identical to Guy’s...all was good including the shake. A good travel day.
Just the Facts: Ship: MSC Divina Captain: Cruise Director: Ports: Miami, USA - St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda - Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis - Road Town, British Virgin Islands - Pointe−a−Pitre, Guadeloupe - Philipsburg, St. Maarten - Miami, USA.
I’m cruising as a solo. This is my 4th cruise cruise on the MSC Divina, my 9th MSC cruise and my 139th cruise overall. I do have some good cruise friends sailing as well.
Thursday January 10 / Travel-Miami / Embarkation / Day 1
MSC Divina Atrium
I am flying into port on the day of embarkation so travel begins very early. I left the ranch at 3:45 am for the drive to Waco, TX and the 4:50 am boarding time for the flight to DFW. I arrived about 4:40 am and was through the TSA screening and at gate one at exactly 4:50 am. Soon we were off to DFW airport where I arrived in time for my 7:10 am flight to Fort Lauderdale. The flight was uneventful arriving about 11:00 am local time. I arranged transport through SAS transport to the Port of Miami arriving about noon. I went through security and had a short line to see an agent and receive my MSC Black Loyalty Club member sail card. Unfortunately they had not begun boarding as there was a delay in debarkation of previous cruise due to fewer Border Agents because of the government shutdown. We did begin boarding about 1:00 pm. They did allow the Black Card guests to board just after the Yacht Club. I met two long time cruise friends and we went to the buffet on deck 14 for a nice lunch after boarding. I had Tacos from the Mexican station and the Guacamole was wonderful. After lunch, about 2:30, I went down to my cabin on deck 5 for a much needed nap. Having an interior cabin this cruise has an advantage as it is very dark and great for day time napping, I did not wake until they began announcements for the safety muster. Safety drill was uneventful, they scan your card at the muster station and demonstrate the life jackets. When I returned to the cabin my luggage was there…always good to see as I had everything in one bag this trip. I met my friends at the Divina Bar about 6:30 pm for cocktails then we went to dinner in the Black Crab Dining room (MDR) on deck six. Our other friends and clients sailing were there so it was very nice to see everyone. We have a very nice eight-top table with a nice padded tablecloth (pun on Carnival) and proper silver service and good waiters. For dinner I ordered the Tomato Soup, Classic Niçoise Salad and the beef Short Rib entree. For dessert a Snickers Cake (yes it tasted like the candy bar) and Catalan Cream. All but the soup was very good as was the service. After dinner I retired to the cabin for needed rest after a very long and busy day. It's nice to be aboard the MSC Divina.
Friday January 11 / Day at Sea / Day 2
MSC Divina Atrium
Smooth seas overnight with just enough movement for a very enjoyable nights sleep. The bed is ideal and very comfortable. I have four nice pillows, so very adequate. I awoke about 7:40 am and knowing friends were meeting at 8:00 and the fact my cabin is on same deck as the MDR I was able to meet them for a proper breakfast. I ordered Eggs Benedict with a side of bacon & fresh grilled potatoes. I was served Hot Milk that is not alway easy to get on other cruise lines but very common on the Divina. After breakfast I unpacked and finished cabin set-up converting 220 plugs to 110 and a charging station for my laptop and iPhone, put up magnets, and stored luggage for the duration of the cruise. I upgraded my internet account and began this review as well as some internet work. I’m disappointed that there are so few TV stations available and no regular American networks, but that’s really to be expected on an international ship. I went out to atrium and ran into friends so my computer work turned into a Bloody Mary gathering time. I did get an excursion changed to all would be on same time frame. We met a great bar server that really took care of us and it was fun on our lobby day. This is the Captain’s Night so we were back in the Dina Bar for our complementary cocktails before the feature show. The 7:00 pm show in the Pantheon Theater was The Show Must Go On a tribute to the rock group Queen and featuring the Dancers, Feature singers, the Opera singers, and Aerialist. A new show to me and very worthwhile. The Captain and senior staff were introduced before the show…a new thing is that they now allow drinks in the theater…a no no previously. After the show a quick stop at the cabin (convenient location to theater) then to the MDR for dinner. It was a very nice Captains dinner, I ordered a Shrimp Cocktail, Eggplant Parmesan, Lobster Ravioli (as starter), the Beef Tournedos entree, and Key Lime Pie & Rice Pudding for dessert. The entree was excellent. After dinner I enjoyed listening to Classical Interludes in the Atrium that was actually a wonderful (I think French) Torch Singer who did some of my favorite tunes. I retired afterward and turned our clocks forward one hour. It was a great day on the MSC Divina.
Saturday January 12 / at Sea / Day 3
The Amazing Mask
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept very well. I awoke at 9:15 am so overslept the MDR meet time for breakfast. About 10:15 I went up to deck 14 and the buffet. They have a wide variety of choices for breakfast. I had various types of eggs and bacon with a hot waffle. I then had some cabin time to review options for today and future excursions. I again ran into my friends in the atrium so we were able to coordinate that we were on the same excursions since MSC had made some time changes on many including the ones we were taking. A few Bloody Marys & a Prosecco from Jay our new favorite Divina cocktail server…then time for some Pizza and beer on deck 14. MSC is well know for the quality of their pizzas. Our waiter from the recent MSC Seaside cruise was working and we visited, he prefers the Divina over Seaside and has been on her six years. A nice plate of chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of Prosecco was delivered to the cabin this afternoon as a part of the Black Card benefits. I went to Un Pacio all’Opera Classical Concert at 3:15 in the Pantheon Theater, it was a very nice show and something only found on MSC cruises. It was then time to prepare for the evening beginning with the Black Card member reception at 5:15 in the Black & White lounge. The reception was nice, they served cocktails and more. They even delivered a round of Hugo’s to our table. The Captain and staff did a toast and one of the feature entertainers performed. Soon it was then time for the 7:00 pm show in the Pantheon Theater, tonight it is The Amazing Mask. I had seen this show twice previously and it was a most impressive production with singing, dancing, acrobatics, and more. I had a great view from row two center for this spectacular show. I love my cabin location as I can pop in after the theater shows before heading to the MDR for dinner. Dinner was again good, I ordered: Juniper & Gin cured Gravlax, Kolokithokrftedes (Zucchini fritters), Penne Past with Vodka, and for my entree the Cocoa-dusted Pork Tenderloin with bliss potato & grilled asperagus. For dessert Galaktoboureko (Greek custard pie). All good and Tenderloin very good. Service was better tonight, it was quite busy previous night so slower. I retired after dinner to cabin. It was another busy and fun day at sea on the MSC Divina.
Sunday January 13 / St. Johns, Antigua / Day 4
Mystic Catamarans in port
Very smooth seas again overnight and I was up very early by 5:00 am so caught up on blog and internet time. The MDR opened at 7:00 am on this port day and I went shortly afterward and was seated at a share table straightaway. I ordered three eggs with ham, bacon, & hash browns and a fruit plate. It was very good as well as my hot milk. We docked about 9:00 am and at 9:45 met my excursion Catamaran Cruise & Lobster Lunch, the same tour I did when here previously on the MSC Seaside. We walked off the ship at exactly the meet time and walked the short distance to the Mystic Cats. Not overly crowded and it was a nice sail around to the west side of the island. The water is beautiful and the scenery is spectacular. We could see the mysterious island of Montserrat and even Nevis in the distance. We stopped at Turner’s Beach for an hour+ then re boarded the Cat for our Lobster Lunch. It was fine and the bar was free flowing for the rest of the cruise. We then sailed to a secluded beach for another hour of beach time before sailing back to St. John’s and the ship. Easy to get to my cabin on deck five from gangway on deck four…I like it. I took an immediate nap and slept until 7:15 pm missing tonights Frank Sinatra tribute show in the theater. It was a good rest though. I made it to dinner @ 8:30 in the MDR, I don’t always do dinner on excursion days but the nap helped. It was Caribbean night and the menu was weakest of the cruise. I ordered Shrimp Tails Guadeloupe-style, Virgin Island Salad, Creamy Creole Pasta (as starter), and the Jamaican Style Beef entree. For dessert the Red Velvet Cake. Dinner was just OK actually, but our service continues to be slow, I had hoped it would improve with fewer guests dining, but no it didn’t. I had cabin time and updated blog after dinner but retired soon as I have another excursion tomorrow. It was a nice first port day.
Just The Facts Ship: Liberty of the Seas / Class and Type: Freedom Class Cruise Ship Maiden voyage: May 19, 2007 / Tonnage: 155,889 / Length: 1112 feet Cruise Director: Marc Ports: Galveston - Isla Roatan, Honduras - Belize City, Belize - Ilsa Cozumel, Mexico - Galveston Weather: Very nice typical fall Caribbean weather
This is my 4th time on the Liberty of the Seas, 27th Royal Caribbean cruise, and my 138th cruise overall. I am sailing solo. I only booked a few days before sailing and it was a good value, enough that I had to do it.
Liberty of the Seas - Staircase
I have enjoyed the leaving later and arriving later at the pier scenario on previous Galveston cruises so did so again. There are so many VIP’s that it now actually creates problems at embarkation…so the later arrival is a much smoother process. I left the ranch about 7:45 am and headed south to Galveston arriving at EZ Cruise parking about 12:30 and I was shuttled over to the Liberty of the Seas fairly quickly. I was after the initial boarding rush and zipped through security and check in and was on board about 1:15 pm. Arriving after 1:00 pm allows you to go directly to the cabin. After dropping my bag I went up to the Windjammer and this too is an ideal time as most tables are full of guests until the cabins open so there were a lot of available tables at 1:30 pm. I had Roast Beef from the carving station and a plate of Cuban Chicken, Green Beans, and Mashed Potatoes. Then a selection of desserts as I visited with with a Matre’d about the specialty dining packages. I actually decided to do the Ultimate Dining Package that includes all three premium dining rooms for both dinner and lunch. This will be different but as a solo a good time to try the new concept. I will let you know how this goes during the week in this review. Since I rolled on my bag at embarkation I went back to the cabin to get set up for the week. I have a interior mid-ship on deck 2, not my favorite location but it was only cabin available with my late booking. There is a lot of room and storage especially for just one guest. I purchase the surf Zoom internet package ($55 with discount) but not working well so far. Safety drill began about 3:30 pm. My muster station is C12 located outside on deck 4 but I checked-in then sat in the lounge. After dismissal it was easy to walk down the stairs to deck 2, easy as all the elevators were packed as usual after drill. I finished cabin set up and about 5:00 I went up to the Diamond Lounge on deck 14 that also took up all of the Olive & Twist Lounge. Beautiful views as we were sailing away from Galveston along with the Carnival Vista. The Cosmopolitans made by Michael and Hugh from Jamaica were very interesting. The Captain even came by and greeted all the Diamond guests. I met some regulars and another travel agent with the same offer I have on this cruise. About 8:00 pm I went down to Chops Grill on deck 11 for dinner. They have a great menu and good variety of appetizers and desserts that I will have the opportunity to try this week. I ordered the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail and the large NY Strip Steak. Excellent. I passed on dessert as the steak was so filling. I returned to the cabin went straight to sleep after a busy and satisfying day.
Day Two—Monday—at Sea
Ship is Decorated for Halloween
Rolling seas although my location has the least movement on the ship. It was a very restful night.The weather is beautiful today with blue skies and scattered clouds. I slept very well until 9:00 am in my nice dark interior cabin then went up to the Windjammer for a light breakfast about 10:00 am I two small fried Eggs on toast and fruit. I met my cabin steward Ruel from the Philippines and explained my ice needs and he soon brought a robe and some D+ goodies. I worked on this review and caught up on some scores and NCAA rankings on the internet. At 1:00 pm I went to Sabors fine Mexican food on deck 4 aft. I ordered the Guacamole and bacon-wrapped stuffed Jalapeños as starters and the Barbacoa Tacos. They served Caja De Dulces for dessert, my favorites were the flan, chocolate banana chimichangas, and crème brûlée. DW would have loved the chocolate crepes. It was siesta time following that lunch, but I walked the Lido deck on the way back and the pool areas were very busy and active. Great weather and everyone happy. Cabin time and watching news until time for cocktails about 6:00 pm in the Diamond lounge. Not near as many people in the Lounge this evening as is the norm on the second night. Tonight is the Captains night dinner but I had reservations for Giovanni's Table at 7:30 pm. I had dinner with another travel agent and they really treated us well at Giovanni’s. Basically it didn’t matter what we ordered at appetizers or pasta dishes because they brought almost everything on the menu. I was glad we had choices as some were better than what I actually ordered. My entree was Filetto di Manzo Rustico, the grilled beef tenderloin, but my favorite was the Pancetta di Maiale (porkbelly) appetizer. With the various pasta dishes and even an extra entree, Gameroni al Forno e Funghi (Jumbo Shrimp), to split there was more than enough to enjoy. The finale was a selection of desserts, my favorite the Pannacotta. Some of the ship activities today included: two Ice Skating Spectaculars, the 3D Movie Jurassic World, Bingo, the headliner show featuring “Two Funny Guys”, Karaoke, Games Shows and more. I enjoyed watching the Welcome Show on cabin TV from my big bed with four new pillows. It was a great relaxing sea day on the Liberty of the Seas.
Day Three—Tuesday—at Sea
New Friend in cabin
Smooth seas overnight and it looks like another perfect beautiful day. We are sailing through the Straits of Cozumel this morning and Cancun is very visible on our starboard side as we sail south into the western Caribbean. I slept very well and went by the MDR about 8:30 and was greeted by a super long line so I just went up to the Windjammer for breakfast. I had three freshly fried eggs on toast, bacon, corned beef hash, and mixed fruit. A nice walkabout around the ship and guests are really enjoying the pools and outer decks again today. I haven’t spotted the ships dogs as yet so I need to look around more as they are in past locations. I went to Chops for lunch today, and ordered: the Colossal Shrimp Cocktail, Wild Mushroom Soup, NY Steak Salad, and the Key Lime Meringue pie. I also just made a blanket reservation of 8:00 pm each night for the rest of the cruise. More options for variety of dinners at Chops Grill. They delivered some h'ordorves to the cabin (only so-so) and at 4:30 (Diamond card time) I went up to the Bar and got some Diet Cokes for the cabin. About 6:00 pm I did go to the Diamond lounge for some cocktails with bartenders Michael & Hugh. It was quiet, but I still prefer the Olive & Twist lounge with the view and actual bar to the actual small Diamond lounge. At 8:00 I went to Chops and had a nice meal: Crispy Goat Cheese Salad, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, and the Prime bone-in Rib Eye Steak. The meal was very good and filling so I skipped dessert. There were a lot of activities on the ship today including: Public Ice-skating sessions, the 3-D movie The Incredibles 2, Late night Comedy, and the feature show Saturday Night Fever, a great show I have seen several times. I retired soon after dinner, It was a nice easy sea day on the Liberty of the Seas. Day Four—Wednesday—Isla Roatan, Honduras Calm seas overnight and I slept very well. I was up very early and did some European bookings onMSC and other business while the internet is less busy. I went up to the Rembrandt Dining room (MDR) for breakfast since they open early on port days. The Waffle Station was good and I ordered Eggs Benedict. Lots of productive work and breakfast all by 8:00 am. Time for a nap already? Guests were leaving the ship for their excursions on the island by 8:30 am so soon afterward I went up to the Solarium swimming pool and pretty much had the pool to myself for an hour. I had a nice lounger and spent the morning enjoying the views and sounds of Roatan. The MSC Armonia is tendering guests today, so two ships in port. About noon I went to the Windjammer and noticed several crew members at the Jade location…hmmm…could it be? Yes a Mongolian Grill set up. I had a nice large plate of beef/chicken with lots of vegetables for lunch. It was very good. About 1:00 pm I left the ship and walked through the improved port area of Coxen Hole and towards old town of Coxen Hole. I stopped at the same Bar (and restaurant) I last visited to enjoy a few nice local Port Royal beers. I returned to the ship about 3:00 pm and relaxed and soon we were sailing away from Coxen Hole. I went up to the Diamond Lounge about 7:00 pm for a couple of apéritifs before dinner again at Chops Grill. Tonight I ordered the Wedge Salad, the new Grilled Black Pepper Bacon (excellent), and the Prime Bone-in Rib Eye Steak with Baked Potato and Asparagus. No dessert. Lots of activity for a port day including: two more Ice Show Spectaculars, Jazz Cabaret, Love & Marriage show, 3-D movie (repeat), Trivia, music, and more. It was a wonderful day today in Roatan and on the Liberty of the Seas.
Day Five—Thursday—Belize City, Belize
Liberty of the Seas anchored off Belize
Fair seas overnight and I slept well and longer. We were anchored off Belize by the time I got up and around and went to the MDR for breakfast. It was chocolate breakfast morning, but I went with a country breakfast: Two small waffles from waffle station, three eggs fried over easy, bacon, ham, hash browns, whole milk, and toast. It was great. I did some work in the cabin until Ruel came by to clean the cabin, so I went on deck for a while and I noticed that the tenders had no lines. When I returned I decided to at least tender over to Belize City for a while and did so. The Carnival Breeze is also here so it was really crowed at the port area. I didn’t stay too long and soon returned on another tender…the sea breeze and weather was nice, but many thought it hot and humid. When I returned about 1:30pm I went to direct to the Windjammer for lunch. I had Roast Beef from the carving station, Mashed potatoes, Mixed vegetables, Asian Chicken, and Bread Pudding for dessert. Then rest time in the cabin. The afternoon weather was great especially if you were in the pool. Guests are happy. I enjoyed a couple of aperitifs in the Diamond Club before dinner. A friend joined me for dinner in Chops Grill tonight...I again ordered the Wedge Salad and the new Grilled Black Pepper Bacon served together. I had the NY Strip Steak as an entree with creme spinach and french fries. First time for dessert and I had the Ice Creme Sundae and split a Key Lime Pie with meringue. All very good. Some activities on the ship for this port day included: Trivia, headliner Tom McTique, 3D Movies, and more. It was a great day on the Liberty of the Seas and Belize today.
Day Six — Friday — Cozumel, Mexico
Smooth seas over night and I slept very well…too late for the MDR in fact. I’m not in a rush today as my barbers shop doesn’t open until 10:00 am. I had a banana from my fruit bowl and left the ship about 9:00 am.. The Oasis of the Seas is docked next to us at the International Pier and it's a beautiful day in Cozumel. No dogs at security so they were checking back packs manually…don’t bring fruit into Mexico. After cueing in the taxi line I was in San Miguel about 9:40 so I stopped for a nice breakfast at Palmeras, I had the Americano plate as it had more variety than the Mexican plates: Two eggs, Pancakes, French toast, milk, sausage, and bacon. It came with assorted Pan Dulce and Salsas so it was Mexican enough. ($190 Pesos or $10USD) I went to the Antonio’s Barber Shop where my friend Martin has been cutting my hair for over 9 years now…when I return in February it will be ten years. After my new style I went to my Cozumel HQ at Woody’s Bar & Grill. Table 7 was available so I’m a happy camper...especially once I got a nice Mexican coca-cola and Guacamole & Chips. Woody's has the fastest internet in town, good food, and my favorite Mexican beer: Bohemia. I wanted and needed a Pedicure and found a spa online just a few blocks away from Woody’s and recalled a spa I tried near there several years that I was not impressed with, but the photos seemed different so I gave them a try. Zensi Spa was wonderful. Nice and clean, nice staff, and the price was right @ $20USD. I will make a visit here a regular thing along with my haircut. I took a taxi ($8) back to the pier about 3:45 and the lines at security were super long because of the large number of Oasis guests. I appreciated the fact I brought my personal cabin fan when I got back to the cabin to cool off from the humidity. After a few hours of rest and relaxation I went up to the Diamond lounge for my apéritifs about 6:50 pm. Then to Chops a little early for my dinner. I ordered the Goat Cheese Salad, the Grilled Black Pepper Bacon, and the Shrimp appetizers. My entree was the Bone-in Rib Eye Steak with Fries and Creamed Spinach. All very good and I again skipped dessert. Some activities on the ship today included: Arts & Crafts, a Sudoko Challenge, Music Trivia, and Liars Club. I retired after dinner for TV in the cabin. A great day in Cozumel and on the Liberty of the Seas.
Day Seven--Saturday--at Sea
Some rolling seas overnight but negligible movement in my cabin location and I slept well. It is overcast today as we sail north in the Gulf of Mexico. I went to the MDR for a nice breakfast, a repeat of previous one although I waited for fresh hot waffles at the waffle station. The eggs, ham, bacon, toast, potatoes were all good. The highlight was seeing my Facebook friend Joy Santos who was our server. She was my server a few years ago for dinner, but I had not seen her this cruise since I'm not eating dinner in the MDR...so a nice surprise. After breakfast I had a walk around and enjoyed the sea breeze. Cooler today so not busy in the pools. I changed into Oklahoma Sooners football Hawaiian shirt and went to Lido to listen to a band perform. It’s getting cooler and very windy out on decks so the Promenade was packed with shoppers and guests. About 1:00 pm I went to Giovanni's Table for lunch, that completes my three restaurant lunch rotation. I ordered the Insulata di Rucola (arugula salad) and Pancetta di Maiale (porkbelly) appetizers to be served together and excellent. Then the Bucatini Alla Bolognese pasta with the Polpettone (large stuffed meatball) in Pomodoro Sauce…another great combination. Just a small Pannacotta for dessert. After lunch it was cabin time for NCAA football. I only purchased the Zoom-surf internet package, but it worked better than the Zoom-stream I had on previous Liberty cruise. I was able to follow my Oklahoma game through GameCast pretty well. I can watch the OU replay tomorrow. About 7:00 pm it was off to say farewell to friends made in the Diamond lounge and final Cosmopolitans for the cruise. Final dinner tonight in Chops was good, I ordered: the Goat Cheese Salad, the Grilled Black Pepper Bacon, and the Shrimp appetizers. My entree was the NY Strip Steak with Fries and Creamed Spinach. All very good and I again skipped dessert. I retired after dinner to do some packing and watch some of World Series game 4 and catch some football scores. Activities on the ship today included: the production show-In The Air, Battle of the Sexes, Dreamwork’s Parade, 3D Movie, and more. It was a busy and great final day on the Liberty of the Seas.
Cabin I have cabin 2609 an interior cabin mid-forward on deck two on port side. The room is a standard+ size interior with: key pad safe, hair dryer, refrigerator (empty), large chair, full chair at vanity/desk, nice sliding shower door, and good lighting. Another great feature was the flat screen TV that could be adjusted to view from anywhere in the room. Very well designed. The air conditioning & water pressure worked well, but I’m glad I brought my personal cabin fan for circulation. Longer wait for elevators as you are the end of the line, but great location on port days when you enter on deck one from the piers.
Crew Overall very good. My cabin steward Ruel was very adequate I always had ice and clean cabin. I didn’t have an MDR wait team, as had a different waiter (usually) each night. The bartenders Hugh and Michael in the Olive and Twist Lounge were fantastic. Food I purchase the Ultimate Dining Package upon boarding that covers dinner and lunch at all the premium restaurants on board: Chops Steakhouse, Giovannis Table (Italian restaurant), and the new Sabor Mexican restaurant. Very different experience. The Windjammer is the buffet area and the quality of food was good. Room service now charges a fee for cabin delivery other than continental breakfast. Johnny Rockets Soda Shop is a good alternative for lunch or afternoon snack…not near as good as Carnival’s free Guy’s Burgers. Lunch in the Main Dining Room has the same menu each day with one special item that does change daily. I believe breakfasts were the best meals in Windjammer but especially in the MDR. There are several ice crème and yogurt machines on Lido deck. Highlights of the Cruise The Unlimited Dining Package: Chops Grill especially Diamond Lounge and Bartenders & Friends in Olive and Twist Lounge Cozumel was productive Roatan was a bit different this year
Brilliance of the Seas - Transatlantic Cruise September 2018
Just the Facts: Embarkation: Amsterdam, Netherlands - September 1, 2018 Ports: Waterford (Dunmore) Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, Belfast, Northeren Ireland, Cork (Cobh), Ireland, Ponta Delgata, Azores, and Tampa, Florida. Ship Launched: December 1, 2001 - Capacity: 2500 guests - Tonnage: 90,090 GT
We are in Amsterdam at the end of our European Adventure so no travel needed. I’m cruising with my Dear Wife (DW) and good cruise friends. This is my first time on the Brilliance of the Seas, my 26th Royal Caribbean cruise, 7th Transatlantic, and 137th cruise overall.
Day One - Amsterdam - Embarkation / Saturday - September 1st
Hotel in Amsterdam
I slept well at our hotel in Amsterdam and enjoyed a nice Dutch breakfast, breads, cereals, cold meats & cheese, boiled eggs, jams & jellies, etc. about 9:30 this morning. Our group checked out at 11:00 am and we used an Uber (limo van as it turned out) ride to the cruise terminal (€14) arriving by 11:30. I need to begin using Uber when available. At the Cruise facility we proceeded through the check-in area, security, then customs control as we progressed to boarding the ship. We were offered a glass of champagne as we came aboard…very nice. We sat & visited in a Centrum lounge until they opened cabins at 1:00 pm. We then dropped carry-ons and up to the Windjammer for lunch. The Roast Beef on the carving station as usual on embarkation day was very good. Boat/ Safety Drill was held about 4:30 pm and following that our bags began to arrive at the cabin. We unpacked and it will be very nice to have the same cabin and bed for 16 days following our extensive European travels. DW and the GF’s went to the Diamond Lounge that took up all of the Colony Club lounge on deck six aft. It was really packed with guests. I stayed in the cabin and watched the opening game of my Oklahoma Sooners. They looked great for early season. I was beginning to feel a little weak and I think I got one of those common 24hr. bugs…so I skipped dinner and went to bed by 9:30 following the game. We did set our clocks back one hour for the first time of this voyage. It was an easy embarkation day on the Brilliance of the Seas. Day Two - at Sea - Monday - September 2nd I slept fair and it was nice to sleep until 8:00 am. We will enjoy having no real schedule for the next 16 days. DW ordered Room Service which is her usual cruising morning ritual. I had her order some fruit for me and that was good as I didn’t feel like going to breakfast this morning. I rested until 1:00 pm then went to the Windjammer for some food...I tried to eat light. We then had to take our passports to Irish Customs to get a stamp to simplify tomorrows arrival. I enjoyed our balcony cabin and updated this review and checked other football scores. I took another long nap the rest of the afternoon/evening then about 8:00 pm I went up to the Windjammer for sirloin steak that is usually served on Royal Caribbeans first formal night…it was very good and I felt like Popeye eating his spinach…first steak this Texas boy has had in 18 days and I honestly began to immediately feel better. Really...so I had another, then one more small one. Still taking it easy so back to the cabin as we have an early excursion tomorrow but felt fine by bed time. Bug eliminated with rest. It was a very much needed restful day for me on the Brilliance of the Seas.
Day Three - Waterford, Ireland - Monday - September 3rd
Alive and well at Kilkenny Castle Ireland
Slept well and great weather clear and only in the high 60’s today. Our first port of call is Waterford, but we actually tender into Dunmore just east of Waterford. We have the Castles & Crystal tour booked so we went to the theater at 8:45 to meet group and we were soon off on Bus #9. The tour guide was Liam and he was a cracker. Full of knowledge and very entertaining. We drove 45+ minutes through beautiful country side to Kilkenny and our first stop Kilkenny Castle. The castle dates from 1195 and had been improved, sat in ruins twice, and improved again over the years. It is now owned by the local authority and has been wonderfully restored as a historical site and more for the town of Kilkenny. We then walked through the old town of Kilkenny on our way to our pub lunch at Langton’s Bar. Langton’s was an interesting place with both large modern dining facilities and an old fashioned small pub. Lunch was good, the choice was chicken or bacon, I took the bacon knowing it would be ham served with mashed potatoes and chopped broccoli. Dessert was choice of cheesecake or ice creme and I again made the better selection (luck this time) of ice creme as it was a huge slice of ice creme pie with several flavors and caramel and chocolate sauce on the side. I also had two halfs of the local beer Smithwick's Draught an Irish red ale. Very good beer and very nice pub lunch. We then drove to old Waterford town for our tour of the Waterford Crystal facility. DW actually remembered the stations and tour we took 30+ years ago, I had no recall at all. It was an interesting tour…as we went through the engraving department of the unique trophies I told the they could go ahead and print the University of Oklahoma on the 2018 NCAA football championship trophy. The last piece of Waterford I purchased was a replica of the last one won by OU. We were returned to the ship about 4:40 pm towards the end of the tender run so no lines or waiting to return. A great excursion. The GF’s and neighbors on this cruise were sunning on their balcony on this beautiful day when we returned to the cabin. We all refreshened and went down to the Diamond lounge for some very nice cocktails. It was Cosmopolitan night for the group and I enjoyed several. Snacks were very good too. About 8:00 pm we went up to the Windjammer for dinner, the wonderful thing about it was that we ate outside in the wonderful weather and enjoyed a late sail away from the Irish coast. I love that opinion on the Radiance class ships. I retire as soon as I returned to the cabin. It was a great day in Ireland and on the Brilliance of the Seas.
Day Four - Dublin, Ireland - Tuesday - September 4th
Temple Bar - Dublin
I slept well overnight and went to the MDR for breakfast for the first time this cruise. I ordered fresh fruit, Eggs Benedict,bacon, & potatoes…all very good. Another cool weather and beautiful day in Ireland as we are docked in Dublin. About 10:00ish GF’s, DW & I shared a taxi from the port into Dublin City Center. We were dropped at the Spire and crossed over to the GPO (General Post Office) the site of the 1916 Easter uprising that eventually led to Irish Independence. A beautiful building still used as a Post Office and now with a museum. We walked down O'Connell street and across the O’Connell bridge to the old quay pedestrian area looking at quaint shoppes along the way until we reached theTemple Bar, Ireland's most legendary Pub/Bar. We enjoyed a round or two, enjoyed the live music, then ordered lunch. They offer a large assortment of sandwiches that were very nice. A very enjoyable couple of hours in a very unique public house bar. We then walked towards the high street passing the Molly Malone statue and visiting with a live Molly herself. We made it to Grafton Street the pedestrian shopping street and the ladies shopped a bit and guys listened to music as there were musicians every 100 feet or so. The musicians were a surprise to me. We walked all the way to St. Stevens Green and the Fusiliers Arch. We have covered a good deal of Dublin and decided we had best go easy as we have big excursion tomorrow...so we did an early return to the ship. Taxi back to port and in the cabin by 4:00. Easy day in port. R&R until we went to the Diamond Lounge about 6:30 pm for cocktails. Then up to the Windjammer about 8:15 pm for dinner. It was Italian night, but I had the minute steaks again. We again dined outside as we began our sail away from Dublin. I was a very nice day in Dublin and the Brilliance of the Seas.
Day Five - Belfast, Northern Ireland - Wednesday - September 5th
I slept very well and we used room service as a wake up call as we have an early excursion this morning. I had fruit plate and pastries from room service as we sailed into Belfast. Belfast will mean a change in currency today although there has been no mention of passport control entering into the UK from Ireland. We went down to the pier soon after we were cleared and found our small group tour straightaway. We know there will be only 8, but once a half hour from arriving elapsed we were off with just 6 in a very nice van to stay ahead of the bus groups as planned and advertised. Our driver was Patrick and he was very good. We did the 40 minute drive straight to the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage site and were among the first to arrive. After purchasing tickets we went straight to the site walking downhill and enjoying the views along the way. It is very interesting geological formation and as a geography major I did enjoy it very much. The basalt forms unique forms as it goes from the land formations into the sea. We rode the shuttle bus back up hill to the visitors center and enjoyed a snack in the cafe until the others arrived back. The center is run by The National Trust so it is a nice facility. We next went back through the town of Bushmill to the Bushmill Irish Whisky Distillery. We skipped the distilling tour and went straight to the tasting bar for a sampling of three Bushmill whiskies. (€8). Everyone felt pretty good once we left there. We called in our lunch order to a local pub in Ballintoy, the Fullerton Arms. It was a great place and I had the Guinness & Steak pie, DW a very nice salad, and I had a local beer. The place had memorabilia from the Game of Thrones including door no. 6 of a series of famous carved doors in Northern Ireland. From there we went to the National Trust’s Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, an amazing location although we observed from the overlook. If we were staying in the area I would want to cross the unique rope bridge here. We then began the drive back to Belfast and Patrick took us to the Falls Road area the location of the ‘Troubles’ and current location of patriotic or memorial murals. They still close the gates each evening on the roads crossing from British side to the Irish side. (not a Catholic/Protestant problem as most think, but British/Irish. It was amazing to see this area first hand as I remember the troubles in 1969-72. We were returned to the ship about 3:00 pm for our 4:00 sail away. A great excursion and day. We skipped cocktails this evening and went to the buffet a bit earlier, not busy at all during the 7:00 pm hour. It was Spanish food night, but I stuck with my usual…the Pork Chops were nice tonight. We watched some BBC or ITV favorites on TV: Doc Martin and Poldark before retiring. It was a great day in Northern Ireland today.
Day Six - Cobh, Ireland - Thursday - September 6th
Just as it was for the ship Titanic, this will be our final port in Ireland before we begin thetransatlantic portion of our sailing. I slept well and smooth seas overnight. I went down to the MDR for breakfast: Eggs Benedict with extras again. Very nice service in the MDR and nice visiting with other guests. We decided to stay in the nice historic seaside town of Cobh and not take the train to the city of Cork as original plan. The weather was cloudy but in 60’s so pleasant enough as we went into town about 10:30 am. We visited shoppes and waterfront on our way to the cathedral midway up the hill above the waterfront of Cobh. The Cathedral Church of St Colman, usually known asCobh Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic church overlooking Cork harbour from a very prominent position. One of largest churches in Ireland in such a small town. Very impressive church from inside and out, loved the mosaic floor with the Celtic knots. The group wanted to continue up the hill, but I took refuge in the Mansworth’s Bar, one of the oldest in Cobh, and enjoyed a Coca-cola with Colleen. Soon I was joined by the others as there was really nothing more up the hill. After a wee rest we did the other half of the waterfront shoppes, an interesting combination of businesses for locals and tourists. We stopped at the old White Star Line offices that has been converted into a Titanic Museum, Bar, & Restaurant. Lunch was actually very good. I had a premium White Star hamburger and a White Star lager beer keeping with the theme. We took photos of the various monuments and visited with very friendly locals. I was first to return to the ship about 3:15 but I had a nice five hour visit of Cobh.After R&R in the cabin we went to the Diamond lounge for cocktails…there was a Titanic theme tonight, it has been Irish past several nights, but the GF’s did order Irish whisky, I stuck with Cosmos. We went to the MDR for dinner tonight, first time for DW and I, this cruise. I ordered the Maryland Crab Cake, Spinach Ravioli as starter, French Onion soup, the Pork Tenderloin entree, and the Grand Marnier Souffle for dessert. Dinner was nice. We retired to the cabin after dinner. It was a nice day in Cobh and our farewell to Europe today.
Day Seven - at Sea - Friday - September 7th
Solarium - Brilliance of the Seas
Now we are getting rolling seas overnight as we sail away from the coast, but I slept very well, I enjoy some rocking overnight. I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered a ranch breakfast: 3 eggs over easy with ham, bacon, potatoes, and toast. Very good. This is our first real sea day and we had not explored the ship so we did so…started on deck 13 Viking Crown Lounge and worked our way down walking all the public decks forward to aft. Nice ship, larger than last years TA ship Rhapsody, but smaller than the Voyager Class. Good size…we have never felt overcrowded although the Solarium was very busy with it too cool for main pool. By the time we reached deck 4 the Minstrel Dining Room just opened so we stopped in for a salad for lunch. They have the standard RCCL pick your own items/ingredients salad station set up on sea days in the MDR. DW left early to go to the Cinema we discovered on deck six for a 1:00pm movie. I stayed and had a nice Carrot Cake for dessert. I watched the highlights from the series Godless on Netflex and DW went to a second movie this afternoon. We purchased an excursion for Ponta Delgada, it’s getting difficult as we have been there many times. Cocktails in the Colony Club serving as the Diamond Lounge. Clavin from India has become our default server there. GF’s went to the MDR as they had Lamb tonight, we went to the Windjammer for dinner. It was Philippine night with adobo, popular with crew, but DW had a salad as usual and I again had the minute steaks. Something for everyone. Some BBC on TV before retiring. It was a busy day on the Brilliance of the Seas.
Day Eight - at Sea - Saturday - September 8th Still cloudy skies and rolling seas but calming a little. We turned our time back an hour but I still slept until 6:00 am and then checked email. I went to the MDR for breakfast and ordered an Eggs Benedict + extras, all very good. DW went to exercise and I had a lazy morning then went up to the Lido deck to enjoy the sea breezes before I settle in for NCAA football this afternoon and evening. I had lunch in the Windjammer a nice pub lunch style Steak & Vegetable concoction that I put on mashed potatoes. I watched ESPN’s College Game Day then the Oklahoma vs. UCLA football game. The cabin was stocked with coca-cola and game snacks to make an afternoon of it…always fun when your team wins. DW saw several movies today and usual cocktails with the GF’s. I was content with NCAA football. After the game I had time to go to the Windjammer before it closed. It was Chinese night and I did have some in addition to my minute steaks. The late football games won’t be on until midnight local time so I will pass since we have an early excursion in Ponta Delgata. It was a fun day on the Brilliance of the Seas.
Day Nine - Ponta Delgata, Azore Islands - Sunday - September 9th
Village view from the parque - Furnas Valley
I slept well and the room service call was our wake up for this morning. After breakfast we met for our Furnas Valley tour at 8:30 am. We have been to Ponta Delgata many times and this was a NEW tour just added, it wasn’t online nor on our excursion booklet in the cabin, so we booked it at a fair price ($40pp). It may be a trial but new tour locations are needed here and we are taking advantage of it. We were off in our bus before 9:00 and drove to Ribeira Grande an old town located on the north coastline of São Miguel island. We saw the Church of Nossa Senhora da Estrela, then had our first (and only) Pastel de nata of the day (they were great). Next stop was a viewpoint over the Lagoa do Fogo and the Furnas Valley. You could see smoke from many thermal springs and the beautiful lake below in the old caldron of a former volcano. Next we had a tour of Parque Terra Nostra. This is a lovely park with extensive gardens and thermal springs with pool, but although the temperature is only in the low 80’s the humidity is about 90% so most of the old timers on the tour were moving slowly by the time we left here. Our next stop was in an area of Furnas where they had numerous bubbling (boiling) hot springs. Amazing, you would think you were in Yellowstone, but your actually in a an old city. They are found throughout the Furnas..
We (Ray and the Dear Wife) have a nice European holiday and adventure followed by a transatlantic cruise for August-September 2018.
Travel Day 1+ / August 14 Berchtesgaden, Germany / Wednesday August 15
We had a mid-day flight from Waco to DFW where we took the 9+ hour American Airlines flight 50 to London’s Heathrow airport arriving at 7:00 am local time. Then a British Airlines flight to the Munich airport arriving in Germany about noon local time (central Europe summer time). We found the DB train kiosk in the terminal and booked our train tickets to Berchtesgaden. It took three trains, but we arrived in Berchtesgaden at 5:00. We could see our hotel from the station but being exhausted from hauling bags up and down at each rail stop along the way to change tracks we took a taxi uphill to the hotel. The views from Berchtesgaden of the German Alps is spectacular, perhaps the most scenic mountain village view I have ever experienced. Our room doesn’t have the view, those rooms are booking 2 years in advance, we feel fortunate to get a room here during this season. After refreshing we walked steep uphill to the old town of Berchtesgaden were we had dinner at the Golden Bear a famous local eatery. Here we did get an excellent table outdoors with a great view of the Mountains. DW ordered a local white wine and I had the featured local Wieninger beer. She ordered a Apple & Cheese Spaetzel and I ordered the Schnitzel with German potatoes. The food was as good as the view: excellent, so our first meal in Europe was a success. After the great meal we walked down to the hotel and were asleep by 9:00 pm.
Day 2 - Berchtesgaden, Germany / Thursday August 16
I had a very restful nights sleep. I woke about 7:00 am and logged into the hotel wifi to update news from home, check schedule, and charge iPhone. The hotel serves a wonderful breakfast consisting of various varieties of breads, cheeses, cold meats, juices, teas, cereals, fruits, and scrambled eggs, sausage balls & links, sweet oatmeal, and more. We enjoyed the wonderful view from the dining room as we ate our breakfast. We actually took the rest of the morning off to rest and I began this review. Just before noon we walked down to the Visitors Center for a 1:00 tour and arrived very early so enjoyed a coke with ice and a beer in the beer garden across the way. Our tour was of Obersalzburg and the Eagles Nest. We had a nice guide and a group of 30 most of whom were actually from Texas. It was interesting seeing the former Nazi community and residence locations of Nazi hierarchy including Hitler's Berghof. The views from the mountains are spectacular…you could even see the old Fortress in Salzburg Austria many miles away. The major site is Kehlsteinhaus or the Eagles Nest built for Hitler in the late 1930’s. You enter through a long marble lined tunnel, then take a brass elevator to the top of the mountain. The views from here were even better and the history very interesting. We were returned to Berchtesgaden about 5:45 and back at hotel by 6:00 pm. About 7:30 we walked up to the old town and saw the old Marktbrunnen, the Marktplatz including two lederhosen shoppes, and stopped at the Gasthaus Watzmann for dinner on the patio. I had a Bavarian plate with three traditional meats over sauerkraut and a bread dumpling with a Baverian flag on top. DW had an appetizer of fried cheese with cranberries and salad. It was dark as we finished dinner, but we still walked through the old Berchtesgaden cemetery. It was beautiful and about 25% of the graves had candles burning. It somewhat lit the path for us and I had never seen anything like that before today. It was a great, but tiring day in Berchtesgaden and we were in bed just after 10:00 pm.
Day 3 - Berchtesgaden Königssee - Salzburg, Austria / Friday August17
Lake Königssee - Bavaria
I slept fine and we were up early in order to beat the crowds at Königssee today. I enjoyed another good Hotel Bavaria breakfast this morning and we checked out and left our luggage so we would not have to rush back from our excursion. We walked down to the Berchtesgaden Hbf and took a bus the short distance to Königssee. We arrived just about 9:30 and there was no wait to purchase tickets on an awaiting boat. Great timing. Königssee is the largest and cleanest lake in the German Alps thus only the use of electric boats. We took the boat/ferry ride of the entire scenic lake. It was very different and enjoyable. We stopped as is the tradition and the driver played a duet with the echos from the steep mountain walls on a flugelhorn. We were back at the main dock about 11:00 am and found the bus back to Berchtesgaden with ease. We walked back to the hotel and got our bags and lounged for 50 minutes before walking back to the Hbf to catch the 1:20 Bus to Salzburg. Only 45 minutes to the Salzburg Hbf by bus and our hotel was only 250 feet away from the drop off. We’ve spent a bit of time in Salzburg and have seen ALL the sights so this is basically a transit stop this trip thus the selected location, it’s only 200 feet to the Vienna train tomorrow. We decided not to go into the old town and to stay close so we took advantage of the nice hotel room to rest & relax. We did venture into the immediate area for snacks, groceries, and ice creme. We never eat at McDonalds, BUT we do take advantage of their Coca-cola fountain drinks complete with ice. McDonald’s has strict rules about the consistency of their Coke product (and some secrets) and they did not fail…they tasted great. We both took advantage of the WiFi speed and we even did some European TV before bed time.
Day 3 - Salzburg - Vienna, Austria / Saturday / August 18
Maria-Theresien-Platz - Vienna
Our hotel is the H+ Hotel a European chain and as mentioned perfect location for transit next to train station. Good air-conditioning, clean, excellent layout for luggage, large bathroom, fast WiFi, and comfortable beds. I slept very well. I went down to get our rail tickets early and I have to take back what I wrote about McDonalds, in lieu of eating breakfast at the hotel for €20 pp we had the Viennese Breakfast for €3.90 pp and of course a Coca-Cola. It only took 20+ minutes to purchase the tickets, use the kiosk at McD’s and back to the hotel room. That allowed us some time before our 10:08 departure on Austrian Rail. The train was nice I typed this while on it and enjoying the Austrian countryside. We arrived in Wein (Vienna) at 12:35 pm. and arrived at our hotel by taxi after a detour from wrong hotel. The Marriott Courtyard gave us an upgrade so we are pleased and the location is only a block from Schönbrunn Palace. We oriented ourselves and set our plan for Vienna adjusting somewhat for the heat…almost Texas like heat at 90º by end of day. I wanted a proper Schnitzel and being a Saturday decided to eat during the slow part of the day so we began by taking a taxi to Schnitzelwirt 52 probably the most famous Schnitzel establishment in Vienna. We were able to get a table without problem at this time and I ordered my first REAL WienerSchnitzel. Schnitzelwirt 52 is to schnitzel, in the home of schnitzel, as Mary’s Cafe is to CFS in Texas. The portion size is huge (even I could not eat all of it) and it was excellent...well worth the effort to get it. After dinner we walked the 15 minutes (downhill) to the Museum District of Vienna. The enormity of the former ornate palaces and buildings in small park settings in the middle of the old town is amazing…huge now governmental spaces that now house mostly museums. We walked much of the area pacing ourselves and walked by or saw: Maria-Theresien-Platz with the huge Maria Theresa monument, Prinz Eugen - equestrian statue, Erzherzog Karl - Equestrian Statue, Die Hofburg, the Hofburg Wien, the Library with Kaisers Statue von Joseph II, and spent an hour on the Michaelerplatz on a perfect bench in the shade during the heat of the day watching carriages and people pass by us. We strolled past the old and huge Opera House and the Graban Blvd. shopping district as we made our way to the Wiener Konzerthaus. We arrived about 7:30 pm for a traditional Viennese Concert. We had front row upper box seats and enjoyed the production with full orchestra, dancers, and soloists. It was an excellent show. Afterward we made our way to the U (underground rail) and made our way to the Schönbrunn stop and then our hotel just a block away arriving about 10:30pm. It was a long and busy day.
Day 4 - Vienna, Austria - Sunday - August 19
Main Gallery - Schönbrunn Palace
I slept very well and kind of late, until 8:15 am. Our only plans for the day is thePalace so no rush. Soon we left for the Schönbrunn Palace and it is only one long block from the hotel. We queued in line for a bit and received an entry time of 1:14 p.m. We went to the very nice Viennese Café-Residenz in Schönbrunn for proper Coca-Cola with ice and glass and I had to have some of their famous Apple Strudel. The Palace actually offers Strudel demonstrations and shows hourly from 11:00 but I didn’t wait. It was delicious and the cokes tasted great. We walked around the famous gardens, but decided against too much walking especially because it was getting hot. We went to the Patio of the Residenz to relax until tour time and I had a carafe of Residenz homemade lime&ginger lemonade and DW had a chocolate sundae. We did the Palace Grand Tour (€17.50 pp) that included 40+ rooms of the palace. I really expected more elegance due to the success of the Hapsbergs and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire but it was a fairly standard palace by European standards (IMHO) although the main Gallery was beautiful. Still a very nice palace. I think my expectations were too high as a fan of Maria Theresa and that period. The longer tour takes about an hour. We purchased tickets for the Palace Theater show then returned to the hotel to rest and relax. So glad it is so close. We went to dinner at Restaurant Schönbrunner Stöckl located just on the Schönbrunn Palace grounds very close our hotel. DW ordered Zucchini in Tomato sauce with Quinoa, and Feta & Gorgonzola cheese, it was excellent and must be as she rarely complements food. I ordered a simple Beetroot Carpaccio entree with Arugula, Goat Cheese, Balsamic Vinegar, and fresh shaved Horseradish…it was excellent as well. We attended the Sunday evening Schoenbrunn Palace Concert in the Palace Orangery where Mozart himself performed in 1786. It was similar to last night with an Orchestra, two soloists, and two dancers. A lot of Mozart and Strauss and it was an enjoyable evening. The orchestra last night was larger (almost twice), but the soloists and dancers were better this evening. Very entertaining and just a short walk for us tonight. It was a nice Sunday taking advantage of a lot of what Schönbrunn Palace has to offer the public.
Day 5 - Vienna, Austria - Bratislava, Slovakia / Monday August 20
Old Town Bratislava Square
I slept very well. We have a private tour service today and we went down to check out at 9:30am and our meet our driver for our 10:00 departure. He was there before we could get checked out so we were soon on our way to Bratislava. He drove a nice Škoda and it was less than an hour to our scheduled stop at Schloss Hof an 18th century Habsburg complex including a farm with restored state rooms & ornamental grounds. They had very unique historical displays and the Maria Theresa suites she lived in during her later years. After an hour and half visit we continued the short drive into Bratislava. Our driver Laslo (a local) got us as close as possible to our hotel that is located in the pedestrian only area of Old Town Bratislava. We were very glad we used the door to door service. As soon as we checked in and relaxed a bit we made our way to Bratislava's Flagship Restaurant where we enjoyed a feast of Slovakian food. I had the local Kláštorný Ležiak 11° lager beer and DW a Coca-cola. We shared a board of three Slovakian specialties: Bryndzové Halušky (potato dumplings with Bryndza sheep cheese), Pryndzové Pirohy (pirogi with Bryndza sheep cheese), and Kapustové Strapačky so Slaninkou (dumplings with cabbage & ham). In addition I had a nice Roasted homemade sausage with mustard & horseradish and DW a Homemade Potato Pancake with Bryndza. It was a wonderful meal and fairly priced, good to get away from tourist area. We walked through Bratislava's very quaint and nice medieval central square as we returned to the hotel for a nap after the big mid-day meal. We went for a walk once the temperature cooled this evening. We found Hviezdoslav Square between the old town and the river that was very nice. This area would have been just outside the old walls so newer buildings and nice park fountains, and monuments. It was good to see families out. There was a lot of activity in the old town sidewalk cafes and bars…especially for a Monday night. Bratislava is a hopping place. After only an ice creme we retired for the evening to our nice boutique hotel. Day 6 - Bratislava, Slovakia - Budapest Hungary / Tuesday August 21
Chain Bridge - Budapest Hungary
We had a nice Slovakian breakfast at the hotel then went for an early walk while cool to St. Stephens Church and the Old City Hall. We finally found one of the most famous sights in the Old Town: the statue of Man at work - Čumil. We had found the other statues the previous night. We had a car service again today and met Paul at 9:30 am for our trip to Budapest. We had two stops arranged on the way, the first at the city of Győr to see their newly restored town square…truthfully not impressed, the Town Hall was more impressive. The second stop was at the Pannonhalma Archabbey founded as the first Hungarian Benedictine monastery in 996 by Prince Géza. The impressive thing was the Library second only to Rome for 1000 years. It was very interesting and still a working monastery. We arrived in Budapest at the hotel at 3:00pm. Paul our driver was fantastic in getting us from door to door and the very difficult locations of both hotels. We settled into our room and as it was hot didn’t venture far the first night. I found and enjoyed some great Czech beer in a Jazz club on the Danube, but soon found it’s fairly common here. The views of Budapest are quite a thing to see especially and we are located very near the famous Chain Bridge on the Buda side. We wanted to eat Hungarian on our first night in Hungary and we found a small place near our hotel called Ildikó Konyhája (Ildikó's Kitchen). I ordered Gulyásleves kenyérrel (Hungarian Goulash Soup with bread), Natúr szűz napi raguval, burgonyával (Fillet of Pork Tenderloin with daily ragout and potatoes), and DW ordered Rántott sajt, rizs, tartár (Cheese fried in breadcrumbs with rice and tartar sauce). It was all very good. We had a beer, water, and two cokes to go and the bill was f6100 or about $24. After dinner we retired to finalize plans for Budapest.
Day 7 - Budapest Hungary / Wednesday August 22 We enjoyed the hotel breakfast this morning, interesting to see the amount of fresh fruit, but not
Hungarian Parliament Building - Budapest
tropical, such as pears, peaches, cherries, etc. They did have scrambled eggs and a lot of breads, cheeses, cold meat, and more. We booked through the hotel a 10:00 am tour to the major sites and a taxi picked us up at 9:30 to join a small group of 14. We began on the Buda side with a visit to the Citadella on Gellért hill to see the Liberty Statue and get a great view of Budapest and Danube River. Then to Buda Castle where we saw various governmental buildings and museums located on old castle grounds. They were changing the guard at the Presidents palace. We then walked through the Castle District to the beautiful 14th-century church named for King Matthias and adjacent to it the Fishermans Bastion with more wonderful views of the city and Parliament Building. We then boarded our van for the Pest side and went to Városliget City Park the location of the 1896 Exposition and World Fair and Vajdahunyad Castle built for the event but from period Hungarian architecture through Hungarian history. Very Impressive and beautiful setting in park with lake. Just a long block from there we saw Széchenyi Thermal Bath one of the most famous of Budapest’s many thermal baths. Next we walked the two+ blocks to Heroes Square with the monuments to Hungarian heroes and Kings. The heat of the day was now upon us an fortunately that was the last of the walking (for the tour anyway) so we now drive by the other sites such as The Jewish Quarter and Shopping district. The tour dropped us off near the Parliament Building so we decided to walk there. Once we arrive we discovered all tours were sold out. Having just been a Communist country the Hungarian citizens really wish to visit their new Parliament Building as well as the many tourists. I will visit on another trip. We did the long walk back to the Chain Bridge stopping at Raqpart a modern bar located beneath the bridge on Pest side. They had a very good Hungarian beer on draft called Soproni so we rested and enjoyed a few beers and colas before the war across the bridge to the hotel. According to the iPhone this was a 5 mile walking day in the heat on cobblestones and this old man felt it. We rested the decided to keep it simple and went back to Ildikó Konyhája (Ildikó's Kitchen) as it’s just down from the hotel. I again ordered the Gulyásleves kenyérrel (Hungarian Goulash Soup), Marharostélyos hasábburgonyával (Roast beef with fried potatoes), and Cékla saláta (Beetroot Salad). DW ordered the Görög saláta (Greek Salad) and Chocolate Pancake (crepe). I had a large beer and DW a large Hungarian white wine. Again about HUF6200 or $22.00 a deal. It was a long and busy day in Budapest and we retired for much needed rest.