Friday, March 12, 2010

Adventures at Sea

Remember those gas turbine engines that delayed our start out of Los Angeles?

Last night was a rather late one - dinner at Sabatini's always takes some time and is fun to do with rookies. We had told them to go easy on the buffets that day and hopefully they had some "smooshy" pants that would accommodate the many courses they would be served. Amy and I agonized over the menu...I'm not usually a big fan of lobster tail (the one time I don't seem to gravitate towards the most expensive thing on the menu) but we were both tempted by the accompanying side - pumpkin risotto. So Gerry was quite shocked to hear me actually opt for anything other than shrimp when I ordered the lobster, as did Amy.

I really wish I had a photo of what must have been the look on our faces when our "secondi piatti" was set before us - there must have been an entire tablespoon of risotto! Fortunately we had tried (many) things before this course and actually a tablespoon was just about all we could have finished...but still...I'd have rather had a crawfish and more risotto.

Afterward we went to Club Fusion to watch the "Marriage Game" - loosely based on the "Newlywed Game" and "Deputy Dave" cruise director who was from England had to be instructed on the correct use of "whoopie" in a question (no, Dave, it isn't where was the strangest place you did a whoopie?") and this was followed by the final heat of Princess Pop Idol (which will no doubt lead to an interesting final since Matt succeeded in getting "Mustache Eric" - who is truly horrible - advanced).

By midnite, it was finally time to call it a night and we collapsed in bed immediately upon returning to our cabin. Sometime later, the phone rang. Now let me explain - the phone on the Sapphire Princess has quite the unusual ring and it was difficult to place from a dead sleep. Then there's the matter that the phone is on Gerry's side of the bed - requiring him to turn on a light, find the phone and answer it. This is never an east task. I only heard his side of the conversation: "No. Not really. Okay. Good-bye." so after I asked "who was it?" I had to have him relay te entire conversation: Your niece. Do you smell the gasoline? Everyone's congregating in the hallway - do you want to join us? Bye-bye."

By this time I'm up and yes, indeedy, it smells that we're pouring gas on the floor. I open our deck slider and can't smell anything out there so I quickly dress (while Gerry falls fast asleep again) and I head outside to meet the neighbors. The people across the hall have their little one up - they don't knowif it's time to flee the room yet. I ask if anyone's called about it and then head back to the phone to call Passenger Services: Yes, ma'am, we're aware of it. We've called the bridge and they say it's just the exhaust that has comeback down the stack and into the ventilation. No problem."

NO PROBLEM? Breathing exhaust? While I'm envisioning headlines something along the lines of Masada (Entire ship suffocates at sea. Total group effort.") and I'm not particularly happy with Passenger Services (this guy's ancestor probably told the passengers on the Titantic it was nothing to worry about - just a little ice), I'm going to be prepared - dressed and armed with my gray "Elite" cruise card which I'm thinking should get me priority seating on the lifeboat. I stand with the doorway and our deck slider opening creating quite a draft which the neighbors across the hallway are especially appreciative since theirs is an indoor cabin (note to self: always, ALWAYS get a balcony cabin as that's the only one with a window that opens!).

I hang out with Beth & Matt next door on their balcony for a bit - they are snuggling down for the night or the next few hours anyway on their deck chairs. I finally give into the idea that there would have been an annoucement of some sort if it was truly hazardous so I head back to our cabin and bed...but leave our deck wide open...just in case. (If you remember previous posts - we've toured the bridge, seen that it's all done by joystick and feel fairly confident at video games so if worst comes to see where this is going, don't you?)

It couldn't have been completely horrible - Gerry didn't get up until 7 am!!! and just headed to the gym. I'm going to go get ready as we are having "champagne" brunch this morning with the entire gang - celebrating with our prize of a bottle of "Chateau Last Thursday" which we earned at the movie music trivia night.

~later, tw

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mazatlan - Part II

While on board, we got to see what Beth & Matt had purchased in Mazatlan. They really liked this artist that had a little booth just outside the terminal "shopping mall" at the port. There was a man and a woman who both painted pictures using spray paint as their medium. It was quite fascinating to watch and Gerry & I were both mesmerized as well. We selected a small picture which was only $10. But while we were standing around as Beth & Matt continued to shop it occurred to us that we could have a larger picture for $20 and get our small one for naturally we picked out another larger picture for just $10 more.

While this was taking place, Beth & Matt decided to purchase a large oil painting that they had on display. The guy said no problem, he would take it off the frame and roll it up for the kids to bring back home. He told Gerry he does this all the time...hopefully not with the same results. I watched as he popped out the staples and then he moved from the shop to the area in front of his shop to actually pull the canvase from the frame. I had wander off a bit but the sound coming from behind me was rather distinctive...and even if I could identify that sound, surely the gasps and then silence would have given it away. I turned around and saw first the guy with two pieces of canvas in his hands and then the look on the lady's face of hmmm...terror, disgust, loss of a sale?

She immediatley said no problem, I will paint you another one - what time does your ship sale? We headed over to drink our free beer while she frantically got to work recreating the painting. Gerry & I then decided to head back to the ship - didn't want all of us to be the last aboard.

At 4:00 pm it was time to head off to trivia and I went down to get a table, fulling expecting to hear the announcement "Will Mr. & Mrs. Knorr of Caribe 512 please contact the Passenger Services immediately" indicating that we were preparing to sail and they were not yet on board but was surprised instead to find them already there! We don't know if the paint will be dry by Saturday morning but the painting was completed in record time!

~later, tw


Another hot day - apparently only on the port side of the ship (where the Weilers are). Seriously, it must be 20 degrees cooler on the starboard side which is where we are joining our group for a tour of the Pacifico brewery. First a short tram ride from the ship to the terminal ("free and compulsory" as the sign says - and no doubt the more-than-adequately armed soldiers would be happy to translate for you if you have any questions regarding this). They are getting clever these port cities - the terminal is really code for "shopping mall" and so we make our way past the stores just opening up for touristas and onto a small bus (there are only about ten of us on this tour) and head off the two blocks or so to the brewery.

We wait outside for our clearance to enter and to be joined by two brewery tour guides, really just two young women who do not speak a lot of English (and come to think of it weren't wearing the long sleeves, long pants or closed toed shoes that we were told were also "compulsory"). It was a bit like the old cold-war days of having "political officers" accompanying you when in communist countries. Their sole purpose (as near as I could tell) were to bring along the bag of "safety eyewere" (aka plastic glasses) for when we were actually in the bottling area - and boy did we get a close up view there!

After the tour it was time to sample the ware. The guys were interested to learn that Pacifico is one of 12 versions of beer made in Mexico by the Negro Modelo company (Gerry really prefers that beer but I must admit - Mexico really knows how to serve a great beer - icy cold! Just the way I like it!!!). We enjoyed several bottles of beer...each...before our tour concluded. Just as we were leaving the "company store" - a little place just down the street from the brewery entrance, our guide hit us with the final note...Pacifico, owned by Negro Modelo, was sold a year or two ago to....wait for it....Anheuser-Busch. James looked absolutely crestfallen!

Then it was time for a quick "Mexican taxi" ride around Mazatlan (a pickup truck with two benches and a cover (fortunately - it was hot!) and then our excursion was over. Our guide gave us each two tickets for free beer as we left the "taxi" and Gerry & I headed back to the ship for a little lunch and to see if we could "treat" Beth & Matt to a cold one ashore before we left...

But that leads to another adventure...and subsequent post.

~later, tw

Puerto Vallarta

Well the "grubby hand"-made tortilllas lived up to their hype though no doubt the experience was "enhanced" by an early breakfast, a long bus ride, a very hot day and six shots of tequilla (which also lived up to its hype!) Actually Gerry & I were thinking that this tequila (the first three as you might recall were "for sharing with everyone", "for sharing with really good friends and family", and "for drinking all by your lonesome), was not quite as enjoyable as the ones we had experienced last year. But we were amused to learn that the actual tasting of the tequilla still resembled something akin to lamaze - proper breathing technique is essential.

After the first three shots (when our tastebuds were no doubt completely numb), we then tried the "flavors" of tequilla. No berries this time - the first was peach and it was (as you might expect) nearly thick enough for pancakes...forget the mimosas, go right for the tequilla! But then our guide (Victor - pronouced Veek-tor if you are Latino or VICK-TER if from the US) said that he really likes this one for marinating chicken to BBQ and so naturally that's the bottle that is returning home with us!

Beth and Matt had been salivating for an entire year about the espresso tequilla (me - not so much) and the amaretto tequilla. To each their own! There was apparently a bit of confusion at the "check out" line as Matt wound up paying for the people behind him as well (dang...why does Gerry have to be so fast?) but they got it all figured out while we were munching our "grubby-hand-made" tacos.

~later, tw

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Going Ashore

Today we are going ashore in Puerto Vallarta - tequila tasting and (hopefully) to enjoy some little "grubby handmade tortillas" (Beth's idea...something they enjoyed on their cruise here last year...though they may have been getting sick at the time which may have affected tastebuds and overall enjoyment. We'll see!)

Beth and Matt are proving to be worth their weight in...trinkets. Our team has added a lovely Sapphire Princess pen to our collection (though why the pen is actually ruby in color has us all stumped). To date only one question has been sports related so it is sometimes difficult to keep the guys' attention (particularly Gerry's but he always brings a book).

Although we celebrated Beth's birthday last night with steak dinners, the high point of the day at sea occurred during our morning constitutional around the deck. It was a sunny day (our first real view of the sun and warmth of the Mexican Riviera) and Gerry was whining that he should have brought his binoculars with him on our walk when all os a sudden he saw a whale off our port side. We watched for several minutes to see the spout of water, like a puff of smoke, and then the whale's tale appear a couple of times and then make its final dive. Naturally I couldn't get pictures fast enough. Maybe we'll have better opportunity in Cabo.

~later, tw

Sunday, March 7, 2010

At Sea...

and hoping for nicer/warmer/more Mexican Riviera-like weather :)

We are here aboard the Sapphire Princess (or as I like to call it...HOME) for our one week cruise to the Mexican Riviera. After a somewhat less than glorious beginning (okay we got on board way faster/earlier than ever before but not without Gerry having some frustrating moments with staff. Fortunately supervisors were not called...nor escorts to take us away). Once on board we checked out the rooms and headed for lunch. Then the clouds/rain came in and it was starting to look a lot like home.

The engineer was having difficulties getting the gasoline powered engine to start up (should have been relying on those damned dilithium crystals instead) and our launch was delayed until well after 6 pm.

After a wonderful sail-away dinner (where we are all trying to enlighten our friend Derek about the ins and outs of cruise ship dining protocol...if you can't decide between two entrees then obviously you should order both), we headed off for trivia where we established ourselves as a unified force to be reckoned with! And we have the Princess lanyards to show for it!

Only down side for me (Gerry's list is somewhat longer but he doesn't have a blog) is that they have blocked my access to skype. No conversing with the grandsons this trip. Bummer! This time I could have shown Mattias what's going on outside our window. Will have to make up for it with a longer chat next Sunday.

~later, tw

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Vacation TIME!

Boy howdy - is it vacation time!!!

We are headed off to (hopefully) sunny LA tomorrow and then we will be cruising to Mexico on Saturday morning. It's is gray and overcast here (and a bit chilly too) but it is blizzarding in Anchorage this morning so my niece and her hubby are probably even more in the mood for this vacation than we are. Barring any difficulties with our flights (like 5-year-old air traffic controllers or overbooked Alaska flights - we opted for Southwest because we won't have to pay any luggage fees though I did cave for the extra $10 "automatic" check-in fee...thought that might be worth the money when everyone on board is trying to get checked-in and boarding passes printed that last day on the ship!), we will meet up with Beth & Matt tomorrow afternoon/evening. Our friends (Carol & company) have elected to fly down on Saturday morning...the brave souls! Those of you who have heard of our last cruise to the Mexican Riviera might recall that Mark's luggage didn't make the flight with us (though it certainly should have earned "miles" which en route to Puerto Vallarta to catch up with us!) I'm thinking that he might consider the "layered look" - not even trusting his belongings to the overhead compartment. :)

~later (and warmer!), tw