Our Second Cruise Adventure - The Century
Since we had so much fun last year on our cruise adventure on the Galaxy, we decided to once again brave the annoying loud retired people and do it yet again. If you want to see the first cruise, we have thoughtfully provided a link you can follow. This time, as last, we called our ever trusty cruise wonder, Jodi from Classic Cruise and Travel and through her heroic efforts, were booked onto Celebrity's Century, sister ship to the Galaxy. This time, instead of the Western Carribean, we would be partaking in the Eastern Carribean, with stops at San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and Nassau. Although I have no love for Nassau, I dearly missed St. Thomas, and St. Maarten sounded wonderful. Poor Jodi only had 3 weeks notice (by now she was probably used to my "I've got to get out of here RIGHT NOW" emails) and we were going to either do Galaxy on April 11, on a cruise to the "Deep Carribean," or Century on March 28. Although the March 28 trip was full, we were put on a waiting list that quickly found room for us. Which room, however, was still a mystery. Instead of a cabin number, we were given a confirmation code, category number, and a pile of documentation. Of course, this was prior to someone deciding to run a red light and giving me a horrible case of whiplash, but upon yet another call to Jodi, she told us that Celebrity would take care of things and assist us as necessary. That sounded good so we went ahead and confirmed our booking.
When our documentation arrived, we were horrified to learn that our flight to Ft. Lauderdale, where we were to meet the ship, was at 7:10 AM from National (we refuse to call it "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport"). Of course this meant that we had to get out of bed at 4:30, for a 5:30 taxi to arrive an hour in advance. We are the original "I don't do mornings" people, so of course this would be a major effort. Reece secured a taxi/limo that arrived 15 minutes early, and we loaded our bags, I kept my cervical collar handy in case my neck hurt, and we were off.
The "limo" was an ancient white monstrosity with no working seatbealt on my side, and a need for "more right rudder" but somehow we navigated the windy road from my house to the GW Parkway. We arrived on time, checked our bags without incident, and boarded the American Airlines 757 that took us to Miami. Once there, we looked for our "Celebrity Agent" who was supposed to meet us at the gate. We couldn't find one. We looked through our documentation. Since Celebrity had booked this ungodly early flight, their cheery flight information promised that someone would be there, or we should call an 800 number they provided. We called. They had a pre recorded message that told us to leave them a number to get back to us. Unfortunately, the mailbox was full for their voice mail and we couldn't perform this seemingly simple procedure. There was still plenty of time before the ship sailed, so we weren't unduly concerned. After a short conversation of "what do we do now?" "I don't know, what do YOU think?" we saw someone carrying a "Celebrity Cruises" clip board. We intercepted the poor individual who seemed to have lost us somehow. She helpfully directed us to the "holding area" where the cattle were placed before slaughter, I mean before boarding busses to the next "holding area." When she wasn't looking, we slithered off for breakfast at an interesting Cuban restaurant where they had many items we didn't understand, but looked like eggs, so we ate them, then returned to the "pen." By this time, I had carried one too many items, my back and neck were bugging me, so on went the collar. Level of service seemed to increase dramatically by that simple act.
Meantime, our Celebrity representative disappeared. We found out later that the entire Miami contingent of Celebrity people were sent on a desparate chase to find a passenger's bag in which she had packed necessary medication. *DUH* They were sailing the next day, were staying a night in Ft. Lauderdale, and didn't know that as soon as your bags arrive at the airport, they are placed in a similar holding pen to where we were, to be loaded on the ship. Finding her bag amongst the thousands of bags in the holding pen took awhile. So I read a book, Reece watched the happenings in the baggage claim area of the Miami airport, and we relaxed for a bit. Awhile later, a taxi took us to the dock in Ft. Lauderdale, where my collar gave us an expedited boarding. During our pre-board paperwork, we found that not only had we been upgraded in cabin, but we had been upgraded all the way to a "Sky Suite." We didn't know what this meant yet but it sure sounded great. We love Jodi. Jodi is the goddess of travel agents. We avoided the photographers (who are everywhere, taking your picture so they can sell it to you so that it can't later be used as blackmail), trudged up the gangplank, were immediately greeted by many smiling faces, and guided to our cabin.
And what a cabin it was. Our previous mini suite had been nice. This was amazing. Did I mention that Jodi was the greatest? We had a private butler (tux and tails). We had a veranda the size of New Jersey (well, almost). We had room around both sides of the bed. We had a tub! Not only was it a tub, but it had a whirlpool. We had a gold card instead of a white and blue one. We had arrived!
Unfortunately for us, our bags hadn't. Because we hadn't yet received a cabin number, we had put our confirmation number on our luggage tags, and not our cabin number. Desmond, our poor bewildered butler, went running off, tails flapping behind, in order to find our luggage. It finally arrived, just before dinner. Reece was wondering what could go wrong. Never do that, Reece.
We went to the shore excursion desk early, and booked a few things that looked interesting. We went up to the AquaSpa, and booked some massages. We booked sessions with a personal trainer. Everything was wonderful. Soon, the rest of the passengers arrived, Desmond brought us some little sandwiches that looked ever so cute on the little silver tray with doilly, and we got ready for dinner.
As is usual on a cruise ship, dinner is an interesting occasion. One must dress for it. No jeans or any of the things we usually wear. We dressed in slacks and nice shirts, and found our way to the restaurant. We walked into the "Grand Restaurant" and were greeted with smiling waiters, busboys, and a charming Maitre D. We were escorted to our table. We did a classic double take. After a beautiful table on the Galaxy, where we were separated from the world, in the midst of peace and quiet, this table was in the middle of an aisle. Literally. We were like a blockage in a river. Everything had to go around us. The other guests, the waiters, the bus boys. Everything. They ran into each other trying to get around us. We'd look up as trays went sailing above our heads. We literally couldn't hear ourselves speak it was so noisy. Not to mention the fear of wearing someone's Seafood St. Jacques. We found out how to change our table and decided that this would definitely be the thing to do. We slithered off to our cabin and went to sleep, being completely unable to stay awake for other ships festivities.
Sunday - The Great Sleep
We had booked personal training sessions the next morning. It was going to be a sea day, on our way to San Juan, so we figured this would be a perfect time to get things going. One thing we hadn't reckoned, however, was just how much of a sea day this would truly be. Apparently, the run from Ft. Lauderdale to San Juan isn't generally the smoothest or calmest of runs. Our exercise instructor, Louise, was not doing too well. She had only been on board the ship for two weeks, and she was taking to it a bit more slowly than some of the others. Louise is an Australian from Melbourne, and looks like the typical 10% body fat exercise instructor that you feel you will die before your body looks the same. She was a bit green. I was a bit worse. We started with body composition, and as the session went on, my color turned a bit more towards the shade of darker Kermit. Louise took pity on me (she would not do that again later in the cruise, mind you) and gave me some dramamine type substance. Unfortunately, it didn't quite help. I was quite nauseated. I couldn't finish the session, but found out some interesting things about my body fat (too much) muscle weight (too little) eating habits (too much) and exercise habits (too little). Ok, so I'm out of shape. I then left her with Reece and crawled into bed. Reece finished the work out, but was a bit green around the gills himself, and also crawled into bed. When we woke up from our long winter's nap, we decided to try to do something about this table situation, and sought out the Maitre D. He moved us to a much better location, only this table would have 6 seats, so we would likely have 4 more guests that evening to meet and make friends with. This sounded like fun, so we took our new table assignment card, our still green digestive tracts, and went back to bed yet again. We woke up about an hour before our "late seating" dinner.
Since this was "formal night," we needed at least the hour that we had in order to get ready for dinner. I had carefully packed a black beaded gown in tissue paper, and it had survived well. Reece's rented tux had arrived, and off we went, wondering who we would have at our table that evening. By evening, I was feeling much better. Reece, unfortunately was still not doing the greatest. We met 2 other dinner companions, Robert and Kevin from Chicago (who are not sho wn in the formal wear here. Haven't gotten the other photos developed yet), and settled in to an interesting conversation about cruises, life, and everything else. Unfortunately, just before the main course, and after having ordered wine, the swaying of the boat got the better of Reece, and he had to retire. I, of course, being a trooper, decided that the wine couldn't go to waste, and drank as much of it as I could. I left about 1/3 of a bottle (hiccup). Now, not being too good with wine, and not being too good with heels, and formal clothing, this was rather an interesting predicament. Meantime, the waiter was very concerned for Reece's well being, and asked me if I wanted to take the rest of the wine, and his dinner to him. I agreed and they packed his meal. I bid goodnight to Kevin and Robert, balanced the plate and the rest of the wine bottle, and teetered on my heels, looking for the cabin. This isn't easy in such a large ship as the Century. It was difficult enough to find an elevator that went to the 12th deck. Somehow, intertial guidance prevailed, and I found the room, gave Reece his dinner (which he wasn't then interested in until morning) and was asleep almost immediately thereafter.
Monday - San Juan
The next morning we still had quite a lot of tossing and turning due to the open water. We weren't scheduled to arrive in San Juan until almost dark, so we had a wonderful massage by Michael in the AquaSpa. It certainly helped my aching neck. I also completed my first workout session with Louise, who was also feeling better from yesterday. After a leisurely day lounging around and enjoyin our spacious veranda punctuated solely by lunch and naps, we went to dinner with our friends Robert and Kevin, and finally discovered how to pronounce our waiter's name. He was from Poland and his name was Piotr. Our busboy was Francisco, and our wine steward was some french guy whose name I don't remember. Of course, I got to tell him that there was a fish in his library and his hovercraft was full of eels, in a New Hampshire-esq French accent. He was amused. Three refugees had joined us who had missed the early seating. We never saw them again, so we didn't remember their names. Kevin and Robert ran off before dessert to go to a Rumba and Flamingo show. We retired early, since we were going scuba diving the next morning in St. Thomas, and had no interest in maracas or silly pink birds with long legs. If we had had time to do a tour of Old San Juan, that might have been interesting, but missing the ship and being stranded in San Juan was not our idea of fun. Neither was roaming around alone at night in a city with a comparable crime rate to our own Washington DC. We decided to do the honorable thing and sleep. Besides, we had to carry heavy tanks and weight belts and stuff in the morning.
Tuesday - St. Thomas
I had been looking forward to trying scuba diving for quite some time. I was also quite nervous about it. Reece is already PADI certified, and had asked me a few times if I wanted to learn how. I had always been a bit tentative. Now, however, was an easy chance to take a resort class and find out if I could even handle it. I can't swim particularly well, and don't actually like water too much. Still, I thought that seeing the cool fish and sea life could be fun. We arrived in St. Thomas early Tuesday Morning, disemarked and were picked up in busses by the dive shop there. We filled out a PADI form certifying that we weren't about to die, took a quick quiz on the basics, and went out to Coki beach. The whole deal was quite strange, with heavy weights, and heavy tanks, and this regulator thing and this pressure gauge thing and these fin things and all this scary stuff I had no idea what to do with. We had to learn about purge valves and clearing masks and breathing off the instructor's regulator, and all the stuff that I really wasn't looking forward to. I had a really rough time with water, and especially putting my face in the water, so this part was not about to be any fun. Unfortunately, although I completed the necessary skills to go on the dive, I was still too freaked to actually go out with the group. Seems my brain couldn't understand that breathing underwater was actually possible. The "dork patrol" came out and got me, and we traded the tank and vest and all for a snorkel, and I went paddling out to look at the fishies and the scuba guys 15 feet below me. I snuck up on Reece as they were leaving the water, and we spent a bit more time snorkeling. I was kinda bummed, but I may try again when I have more time to get used to all of it and convince my brain that everything is right with the world.
After the scuba fiasco, we went back to the ship, changed, and ventured out shopping. I bought entirely too much, as St. Thomas is duty free heaven. We got back to the ship early (as is much better than late), and relaxed on the veranda until dinnertime. There certainly is something about sitting on a beautiful veranda in a deck chair, watching the Virgin Islands pass by. We found our friends, Robert and Kevin, and found two new friends who would be making a permanent home at our table. They were two ladies from London who were on a "back to back" where they were at sea for two weeks, on week in the Western Carribean, and one week on the Eastern. One was named Margaret and the other was named Jann. We had a wonderful time, especially since it wasn't "formal" and I didn't have shoes to trip over. Reece also makes an excellent guide back to our cabin. I can only navigate when in the air. On the ground, forget it. Just ask Boston's Logan Airport.
Wednesday - St. Maarten
Early in the morning, we dropped anchor in Phillipsburg harbor on the Dutch side of St. Maarten/St. Martin. It was an interesting island, and we were hearded like cattle into several lines, stuffed onto tiny boats called "tenders" (maybe because your stomach becomes rather tender riding in them) and shuttled to shore. Of course, when we got to shore we got herded like cattle once again into several lines, paraded down the street, and herded onto busses for our "island tour." Once in the bus, things were wonderful. We had air conditioning, and only a few pesky mosquitoes. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and showed us sites from both the Dutch side and the French side of this picturesque island. It seems that there is more poverty on the Dutch side, but the people are very friendly on both sides of the island.
One of the stops we made on the tour was at a roadside area with a "love rock" that you were supposed to touch for "eternal love and caring," (and yes, it actually does say that on the sign: "The Love Rock. Touch it For Eternal Love and Caring." What IS that book that the silly woman is putting up to the rock? Read on and you will find out) a complimentary rum or fruit punch, and many stands full of people trying to sell you things. There were also wonderful views of Phillipsburg, and we took many wonderful pictures.
After our fun with the "Love Rock," it was off to Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin. Here we had an entire 1/2 hour to explore, which really isn't enough to do it justice. We had time to buy some film, Reece found a watch he liked, and then we had to rush back to the bus. We needn't have rushed terribly fast, since we had to sit and wait for a pair of lost and silly people. They finally caught up with the bus after we had already pulled out of the parking spot. They flagged us down at an intersection. They were not the only people to be late getting back to their tours or the ship from St. Maartin.
Once we got back to Phillipsburg, we had a chance to do some more shopping. Again, I bought entirely too much. Well what the hell, this was a cruise for my birthday and I deserved to have fun. We had a "local" lunch with some conch fritters and roti (a kind of curried meal with potatoes in a tortilla type thing) at a place called "Barefoot Cafe." I usually hate curry, but this was quite good. We indeed had a fun day. Our stomachs then became tender yet again, and we were back to the ship in time to watch some officers who had missed the last tender pulling up in another smaller boat just before the ship sailed. That could have been most embarassing for them.
After the ship sailed for Nassau, we each had yet another wonderful massage from Michael, and I actually (gasp) worked out! Please don't tell anyone until you ask them to sit down first.
Dinner was lots of fun with our new friends. Earlier, the Maitre D was wondering why I was always carrying a silly blue book around with me. Ok, so I'll tell you. You see, there's this helicopter instructor named Susanna Corriolis (ok, that's not her real name, but it's close enough to really annoy her) insisted that I bring the R22 manual with me on this trip. Note that she did NOT say that I had to open it or read it. So, I brought it. I also documented everywhere we went by using the manual. It followed us everywhere we went. It was quiet, didn't whine, and didn't once as "are we there yet?" There is even an R22 POH home page. Aren't we great? :-) Don't answer that! There. Now you know.
Of course, the Maitre D probably didn't want to hear the whole story. Suffice it to say, we told him we were pilots. Seems he was most interested in learning to fly, so we spent some time explaining things to him like costs avnd effort and all that sort of thing. We didn't think we would hear about it again from him, and that he was just being polite. Later, we seem to have been proven wrong.
Of course, I also asked Michael the massage guy with the wonderful technique (who did a great job on my residual whiplash from an accident 3 weeks prior) to hold the almighty book. He was wise enough to comply.
After dinner, it was again off to the room for a bit of relaxation, and another early night. Early to bed and early to rise....really stinks.
Thursday - Sea
After a leisurely breakfast, I went back and (gasp) had another personal training session with Louise. Tomorrow will probably be quite painful. She certainly is difficult, despite my attempts to change the subject from reps. Oh well. Besides that, we did very little. I finished a book, Reece worked out in the afternoon. We had lunch. We went to the ship's shops. We went to the ship's casino (where I won 91 dollars on the slot machines) and generally wandered around looking at fun parts of the ship.
Dinner was yet another "formal night" and it took us quite some time to find clothing and make up (Reece looks lovely in pink eye shadow) and shoes and hose and all that wonderful stuff. We found Kevin and Robert and Margaret and Jann and chatted about all kinds of interesting things. For example, none of us knew that Robert was a member of the French Foreign Leigion. Somehow, I don't think that the French Foreign Leigion knew either. He told us of his tattoo of a camel at the oasis. Of course, he refused to show us. We were most distressed.
Despite the refusal of Robert Pierre Paris to show us his camel or his Oasis, we had a wonderful time at dinner, where I found that Jann had lived in Chichester, which is about 20 minutes from where I used to live in England. It really is a small world. During this lovely dinner, we also found ourselves awarding our annual "Dork of the Cruise" award. This year was a toss up between the people next door who played their "soft rock" music loudly on the veranda (so loudly that it was impossible to speak to someone on OUR veranda) or this man. Since security effectively stiffled the ghetto blaster next door, we awarded the Dork of the Cruise to the man whose picture is highlighted. Just click on his new title, and voila, you will see your very Dork.
Later on, our friend the Maitre D came by and told us that he was truly going to begin flying lessons. He sounded very excited about the whole thing. This could well be interesting to keep up with him and see if he actually does it. Who knows, we may have the "Flying Maitre D" sitcom soon on a television near you.
Friday - Nassau
I wasn't looking terribly forward to Nassau. The Bahamas are not my favorite place to be. Although beautiful, the prices are generally extreme, and many people attempt to sell you many things you don't really want. Instead of exploring Nassau and Paradise Island, we had signed up for a dolphin "encounter" at the Blue Lagoon Dolphin Adventure Park. This could be serious fun.
Since we weren't arriving in Nassau until afternoon, we had plenty to do in the morning. Packing took up quite a bit, then before I knew it, it was time once again to see the evil Louise and her exercise equipment. Three work outs in less than a week! Egads! Please don't tell my doctor or he'll have a heart attack himself. I am truly not looking forward to how my muscles will feel tomorrow when we have to drag our things all over the place.
After leaving Louise and getting her address to send her dolphin pictures, we went off to lunch, then to the dolphin encounter. They packed us onto a tender, and zipped us off for a 40 minute boat ride to the Blue Lagoon. On board, we found our friends Margaret and Jann and we found to our distress, that their bag was stolen last night in the Hemisphere Lounge. Of all places, we thought that a cruise ship would be relatively safe and crime free. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be the case, and crime does indeed occur. The distressing part was that the staff of the Century seemed to be unprepared for this eventuality, and even charged them for a fax that had to be sent to London to cancel a credit card that was stolen. Also lost were a camera, glasses, and various cash and personal effects.
While we were talking about the problem, we got closer and closer to the Blue Lagoon compound. Of course, the price of admission and the dolphin encounter itself would not be the last amount of money they would get from us. Of course, they had videos and photos and all this stuff to buy. Ok, so we bought a video and a photo of our encounter. We had so much fun, we had to. If only that silly trainer would have stopped having the dolphin splash us all with sea water, it would have been perfect. As it was, it was lots of fun hugging the dolphin, touching his fins, rubbing his tummy, and getting a big wet dolphin kiss (yuck). Makes me really want to go swim with the dolphins at Grassy Key. Maybe sometime soon.
We made our way back to the ship just about in time for leaving for Ft. Lauderdale. When we got back, we found another new friend, Chris the photographer, also known as "Fraggle." We found that he used to live in a little town near Tunbridge Wells, which is between Brighton and Eastbourne in England. I used to live in Eastbourne, so this was great fun. Fraggle had taken a group photo of us at "formal night" with the trusty R22 manual. That photo will be up soon, once I actually scan it. I'm cheating with the other photos that are up, since they were from a digital camera. Another Kodak Moment.
Of course, it would be fun if the cruise lasted longer, but oh well. The last night of the cruise is the time when we get to say goodbye to new friends, collect addresses, and try to keep in touch. It has certainly been an interesting week. And of course, when we do it again, we will call Jodi, our goddess of cruises.
Dinner this evening was a chorus of goodbyes from Jann and Margaret and Robert and Kevin. Of course, during dinner we were reminded of Robert's French Foreign Legion name of Robert Pierre Paris, and all the rest of it. We bid good bye to our friends the waiter Piotr, the busboy Francisco, and our Maitre D, Joe the fledgling pilot. We had previously filled the customary "tip envelopes" (there is actually a very complex system of tipping a "customary amount" for service employees prior to disembarkation, and given that we were told that butlers make 50.00 per week, it seems necessary) and handed them out to the appropriate people with our fond farewells. The last night of a cruise is always the most difficult, since you tend to make strange friends and bond with people. We will remember all of our friends fondly, and even if they didn't like us enough to give us their contact information, we will make them guilty by putting their names on this web page. You all know who we're talking about, so you'd better feel really bad.
The other really rotten part about the last night of a cruise is having to check out of your cabin at 8am. Well, we'll see about that. They'll have to kick us out. We'll show THEM!
Last Day - They Showed US!
Well, we kinda had to get up early anyway to get ready to get off the ship to get to our flight in Miami. If you remember nothing about cruises, remember this. NEVER fly out of or into Miami. And that's all you need to know about that. We said our final goodbyes to our friends Margarita the Cabin Stewardess, and Desmond our Butler. We will miss them. We were truly pampered.
We survived. We are home. More pictures are available in this Photo Gallery. Lots of fun for everyone.
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