29 Jan 2009

Astronomy, and Dinner from Hell; Cruise Day 3

Good cruises = good lecturers. Today, after working out, I went to an astronomy lecture. Now, I have never been to one in my whole life, but the environment here is great for enrichment. For starters it is OK to walk out whenever you choose, which in this case was not necessary. The lecturer was riveting.
My experience has shown that the speaker is more important than the topic. Historically, Regent Cruises attracts world-class speakers who bring an interesting dimension to any topic.
Mr. David Aguilar has some title a mile long from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics.  He is speaking three times this segment. I can’t wait to hear his next lecture on alien life.
By the way, you know all those metals and minerals we have in our bodies (like iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc)?  We are all products of three supernova explosions: the sun and planets, our galaxy and everything in it. Wow.
Tonight was the Captain’s welcome party, which is always fun once per cruise. Here we get the whole picture if nothing else. I don’t plan on hearing him introduce his staff the other seven segments.
Years ago, we attended all of these events to get free drinks. Now the drinks are free around the hip, and I can thankfully afford them anyway.
So you don’t think I just paint rosy pictures, let me tell you about dinner. We were invited to the General Manager’s table with two couples. One, from Berlin, rejected the entire meal as inedible, and said nothing other than they can’t stand American small talk.
I thought I was down on them until the other lady popped up, saying Bernie Madoff probably wasn’t such a bad guy for all the elderly people he defrauded. She claimed they will be better off starting all over, and they will die shortly anyway. Then she explained that she doesn’t understand why Jews are so cliquish, and isn’t it terrible that not all the men are wearing tuxedos (I had on a gorgeous navy blue suit).
She went on say that all men are reprehensible. She might be right but I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of agreeing. I chuckled and she asked me if I believed in G-d; I said no and she said that explains it all.
Tomorrow is our first port  - St. Barts.

28 Jan 2009

At Sea; Cruise Day 2

Not unlike many other cruises, our second day was a full day at sea. This gives people a chance to get acclimated to the ship and catch up on much needed rest in case of jet lag.
The most frequent questions I get from non-cruisers are: 1) “don’t you get bored”, and 2) “what about the motion”.
First thing this morning was the usual mandated lifeboat drill. Over the last ten years or so, the cruise lines have been changing their evacuation procedures. It used to be that passengers, in case of emergency, would always queue up at their designated lifeboat .
Now it is more typical to have passengers gather in large public area. The theory is that it keeps them out of inclement weather and maintains control. I like the new method and Regent Cruise Lines has changed to it.
Also, the life preservers have been upgraded over time. New models are lighter, use Velcro (which is easier), keep the neck up, and have lights that automatically go on when hit by water.
Even better is technology to build the ships properly and avoid icebergs.
As it relates to boredom, we already had to miss two good events this morning. There was an enrichment lecture on world power and historical struggle in this region. This will be shown again in our cabin, so missing it was OK.
Also there was a special party by the General Manager, but we’ll have plenty of parties.
It was very important for Allyn and me to get off to a good start by eating healthy, and spending significant time in the fitness center. We did just that. There is an entirely new set of equipment here, so that will be nice.
After lunch we tried massages in the spa. Mine was good; hers was not. We recorded the masseuses’ names for future reference.
Before dinner they had a function that I have never seen or heard of before. They had a “Mariner Block Party” where at 6:00 p.m. we went outside our cabins with glass in hand, and met our neighbors while being served cocktails and snacks. What a great idea.
Regarding my phone that I left on the bus yesterday, it is gone. They said it wasn’t there. I’ll get a replacement in a few days. I’ve been without it for 30 hours now and life still seems to still exist – but then again, I am in the middle of the ocean somewhere.

27 Jan 2009

Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Cruise Day 1

Things went exactly as hoped for, which is always a plus when traveling. We skipped breakfast because of the time change. They said that the bags would be picked up at 8:30, and they were picked up precisely at 8:30.
They said they bus would leave at 10:30, and it left exactly on time.
Because we were part of the 80-person group on the entire four-month voyage, we already had our cabin keys (that were given to us when checking in the hotel yesterday). We were able to board the ship upon arrival, then directly to our cabin with no stopping whatsoever (except to snag a welcome cocktail).
Two butlers came to our cabin to unpack us. Now that is a nice treat. Never have my socks looked so tidy in a drawer.

Next up was the sail-away party at the pool deck. Those are always fun. Since I grew up on the water, I like to be around in case the captain needs me for anything.
The photo above shows us leaving Ft. Lauderdale. We’ll see many more beautiful ports in the next several months, but it seemed appropriate to document the sail-away.
I knew things seemed to be going a bit too perfectly when I realized that I left my phone on the bus. I am not sure what the final verdict on that is, but I will let you know when I know.
What do I need a phone for anyway? I am on vacation – right.

25 Jan 2009

The Adventure Begins; Cruise Day 0

Tomorrow, we set sail on a four-month long Ring of Fire Cruise on Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner.
It is really eight different segments that travel from Ft. Lauderdale to Vancouver, via South America, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Alaska.
I will be blogging daily.
There are about 80 of us who are doing all eight segments (referred to as The Ring of Fire Cruise).

Today we were treated to a special “Thank You” by Regent Cruise lines. They put us up at the beautiful, stately Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida.

Mark Conroy, President of Regent Cruise Lines (pictured above), hosted a lovely dinner. It gave the 80 of us an opportunity to create a special bond for this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Well, maybe it is not once-in-a-lifetime, because I learned that most of the passengers at this event had been on previous world cruises. This is definitely a group of experienced high-end travelers.
A limo picked us up at the airport. Upon arrival at the hotel we were greeted by name as we exited the car. They checked us into the hotel room AND the ship at the same time. Then, they took our pictures for the security passes and ran the credit card. The entire process took less than five minutes. What a pleasure. The cruise line even prepaid the limo transfer and all gratuities for the car and the bell staff.
We attended a cocktail party "get-together" followed by dinner. During dinner, we were entertained by a group of singers who gave a Three Tenors type of performance. If this is any indication of what is to follow on ship, I love it.

23 Jan 2009

Switch Restaurant, Encore Hotel, Las Vegas

As all of you regular readers of this blog know, I have eaten at many of the best restaurants in the world. Some have great food, others great service and yet others great ambiance.  Seldom do you find one that is great in every category.
Switch at Wynn’s new Encore Hotel has one unique quality that makes it a “must do” even if it is only once. 

That’s right; the walls move. The ceilings move. The colors change. The look and feel of the restaurant is different two times every hour. It is insane.
Oh, by the way - the food, service and ambiance make it good enough to go to even if the walls did not move.
I just cannot get enough of Encore. It has raised the bar here in Las Vegas.