Monday, December 18, 2006

Royal Caribbean Cruise 2006: Ports of Call

These are pictures of the places we visited on our first Royal Caribbean cruise. It will be remembered as The Year the Millenium Took a Vacation. Heh.

We left Fort Lauderdale on Sunday....

We were off to a cool, cloudy start, as is obvious from the darkness in the background. Mike and I were happy to see The Millenium, the blue and white ship with the big X, just back from a transatlantic cruise. We waved it goodbye, until next year.

Our first stop (on Monday) was Key West, and it was an excellent day for walking. We'd already toured the Hemingway place, and it was toooooo early to start drinking, so we had a very nice walk, and wound up at that special place along the shore that's proclaimed to be only 90 miles from Cuba. Mike is standing in front of a very ornate Victorian bed and breakfast. There was a very large pet bunny chewing on an unidentified type of vegetation on the front porch, but I failed to get a suitable picture of it.

These two dark photos were taken at Sloppy Joe's, known as Hemingway's bar. I did lighten them up a little on finepix, but they don't look any better! Anyway, it's always fun to go there, if only to gaze up at all the antique nautical paraphenalia and pictures of Hemingway with other famous people. By the way, the best beer they have on tap is Yuengling. I had a "Sloppy Rita," which is a very good and very strong margarita.

After that, we went to one other bar--otherwise, we'd have been to Key West without barhopping, and we can't have that. This was our first trip to Captain Tony's. Wow, what a dive. In the novel Empire Falls, this is where Miles's dad is at the end of the book.

The place is a real fire hazard, so it's a good thing it's so easy to get out of. The stand-out features in this place are the tree growing in the middle of the seating area, the huge collection of grimy, moldy, cobwebby business cards, and the amazing assortment of bras that are draped over the beams near the ceiling, most of them autographed by the donor. Can you see some of the business cards up there, too?

On Tuesday, we arrived in Cozumel. Since it was not a good beach day, we poked around the shops for a bit, and stopped in Senior Frogs, where we witnessed a very thick-shouldered Mayan taking a dive in an arm-wrestling contest with a slight (North) American teenager. I do believe the boy with the curly red hair truly believed he'd won.

On Wednesday, we finally had a gorgeous day, and I FORGOT the camera! We were in Costa Maya, and while there isn't that much to take pictures of there, we were lying on the beach, facing the spectacle of three cruise ships docked together. One of them was the famous British vessel, The Queen Mary 2, a very handsome sight.

A semi-funny story: while we and passengers from two other ships were lounging around, a loud alarm sounded from our ship (the Jewel), and look! There's smoke pouring out, somewhere around the middle of the ship, on the fourth deck. So, we all sat there staring and wondering and speculating about what had happened, when finally, we get the official word: that "smoke" was completely white because it wasn't smoke, it was steam. It was a fire drill for the crew, and they'd picked a day when almost everyone was off the ship. I'm glad it didn't give anyone a heart attack.

Thursday was Grand Cayman day, but we didn't get off the ship. We enjoyed the view, though:

This is a picture of a couple other ships, taken from our ship. We were tendered, not docked, which means that we'd have had to catch a ride on a small boat out to the island, where the traffic is just a punishment at all times. We caught some rays in front of the pool, instead....

And then, Friday was our penultimate day, a day at sea. I really like those days, just cruisin' along. The sea was remarkably calm during this trip. Also, we could see Cuba on the horizon most of the day.

After debarking on Saturday, we rented a car and drove around Fort Lauderdale for a bit. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good day for the beach, but the Weston, the hotel where we stayed that night, was fabulous! The room seemed palatial after spending a week in a cruise cabin, too. We went out to eat at a gourmet Mexican place, and believe the featured region was somewhere along the Gulf of Mexico--we both chose the rare (sushi-grade) tuna dish, and it was delicious. It was a different style of Mexican food that we hadn't had before.

Sunday, though, was a great day, and we did visit the beach--and I think this area is called Harbor Beach, but I'm not sure--

The sand was soft, but very coarse, and there was some natural shade under the evergreens and palms. I was impressed with Fort Lauderdale's beaches--gorgeous, free, and there are areas with grills and playgrounds, where a family can hang out all day.

So, that's part of our vacation story--Mike took the pictures of The Jewel of the Sea, which I'll put up a little later on...

NOTE: if you click on the photos, they get REALLY big. You can almost make out the names on some of those bras....

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Gone Cruising

I have never needed a vacation so badly in my life! Now, I have got to stop messing with the colors on this blog so I can get a start on packing!

September in Vegas

This is a special report about our trip to Vegas.
The first two photos were taken in front of what appeared to be original posters--the one in back of Mike actually appeared to be unfinished. Mike couldn't find anyone who knew their history, however.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
That's Mike in front of the Herrmann poster...

and me in front of a Carter poster (I especially like Carter the Great posters)
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

One night, we left the strip and went to the downtown area of Las Vegas, to Fremont Street. This street is actually canopied, and this makes it feel like a midway, or something--it's a carnival-like atmosphere. We ate at Vic and Anthony's, which is at The Golden Nugget.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
That's me in front of The Golden Nugget. I'm standing outside, but it doesn't really feel like it because the street is covered--can you see it?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

and this is Mike. We were waiting to see the famous light show:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The light show changes pretty often. In honor of 9/11, the theme was patriotic. This picture is a snapshot of what was occurring over our heads--the images swirled and changed to Stars and Stripes Forever. I've never seen anything like this!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
A kind stranger took our picture at the canyon. It was a beautiful day, as you can see.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And the pool area at The Monte Carlo was very nice.

And then we had to go back to work. The End.