Winging Home in Style

Hey, you guys! Originally, this entry was going to be a wrap-up of the vacation that’s just ending, and I’ll get to that shortly.

However, we had a little surprise on the way home today, and I just have to share it with you, if you don’t mind. So we’re flying back on jetBlue and, somehow, our boarding passes got all screwed up and our seat assignments changed before we arrived at the airport. And you know how we are – we like to sit together and all that.

It turns out that there was a last minute equipment change and the replacement equipment is the A321 that normally flies transcontinental and also has what is called “Mint” service, which is their version of business class. It includes flat-bed seats and all that stuff. So, just for fun, I approached the check-in desk at the gate to see if it was possible to exchange our seats for something “up-front”, as they say. Without blinking an eye, the gate agent assigned us 2 seats in the 1st row of Mint. (We later learned that their Mosaic passengers were upgraded automatically.) AAC says we got the switch because I was “properly attired”, something that he hitherto had always admonished me for. HAH!

And here’s our very own AAC CPA getting settled in for the flight home:

AAC Mint

jetBlue Flight 1902; AAC CPA in seat 1A

TRAVEL TIP: jetBlue Mint

So, a few random thoughts about our lovely 10-day vacation:

Fort Lauderdale is not a place that I’d often want to visit, but the Ritz Carlton took amazing care of us. We told them, when we checked out to embark Celebrity Silhouette, that we’d be back early the following Sunday morning. Sure enough, our suite was waiting for us when we arrived back at the hotel at 8:45 AM. It had a large balcony and a lovely ocean view, which I’ve already shared with you.

We had two excellent dinners on our return visit:

Mario’s Catalina Restaurant: Mario, originally from Honduras, is apparently a legend in Fort Lauderdale. His Cuban-Spanish restaurant has been a staple of local dining for eons. They make amazing Mojitos and Sangria, both of which are potent. The portions are HUGE, so we shared the Pork Tamale as an appetizer and the Catalina Combination (Roast Pork, Chicken Chunk, & Mario’s Beef) as the main. Each bite was a sensation; all of the meats are marinated for a very long time and so, so tender and tasty. And the bartender kept coming over and refreshing our Sangria. Mario himself appeared to make sure we were having a good time. 

DINING TIP: Mario’s Catalina Restaurant

On Monday night, we tried another place, Coco Asian Bistro & Bar, another fun place. It features amusing cocktails, small and large plates. We tried their Margaritas (yes, Margaritas at an Asian restaurant!) and shared several appetizers: Thai Beef Salad, Tuna Tataki (seared tuna with a spicy Ponzu sauce), and Chicken Lettuce Wrap and, for the main, la specialtie de maison: Whole red snapper (cubed filet, deep fried tossed with sweet-chilli sauce, reassembled in fish bone and head). It sounds disgusting (AAC CPA almost fainted when it was presented), but it was really delicious. Here are a couple of pix for your delectation:

Coco Apps

Appys at Coco

Coco Snapper

Too scary?

DINING TIP: Coco Asian Bistro & Bar

Because it was raining on Monday, we also had time to see the new film, Spotlight, which recounts the true story of the child abuse coverup by the Catholic Church in Boston and how the story was eventually uncovered by the Boston Globe. An excellent cast, headed by Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schrieber, Bryan d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton and the great Len Cariou as Cardinal Law. A very engrossing and thoughtful, if upsetting, film. It is expected to be a favorite for Oscar consideration.

CULTURE TIPSpotlight

Oh, and have I shared with that we are now totally onboard with Uber? They saved our bacon more than once while we in Fort Lauderdale. No kidding. It turns out that Uber is less than half the price than local cabs and easier to find. We have friends who have been swearing by the service for a long time, and we’ve finally come to the party. Try it out!!

TRAVEL TIP: Uber

Now for a few final thoughts on our cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the ship is gorgeous, our accommodation was lovely, the food some of the best at sea. But, in the final analysis, we thought it was just not for us. The cruise was a bit frenetic, the ship quite crowded, particularly around the pool areas, the wait for elevators was always too long. I think we prefer a smaller or mid-sized ship experience. It’s interesting, though, because we had a lovely crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 in September and that ship is easily as large as Silhouette, tho’ with a couple hundred fewer passengers. Even though Silhouette is perhaps a better designed ship than QM2, we preferred the latter. Go figure.

I’m actually considering a post that will compare the 3 lines upon which we sailed this year: Celebrity, Crystal, and Cunard. I already have a working title for it: “Sailing the 3 ‘C’s”- get it?

Anyway, our winged chariot will be landing soon at JFK in, so I’ll end here. I’m slightly aghast at having to step on a scale tomorrow morning and assessing the damage that I’ve done to myself. And, wouldn’t you know, I’m scheduled to have my annual physical this coming Friday morning, just as I’ve put on about 30 pounds (well maybe not THAT MUCH.)

I’ll leave you with just a few more images from our trip and I’ll be back in touch with you all real soon.

FTL ChipmunkAAC CPA’s Monday breakfast: doesn’t it look like Alvin the Chipmunk?

AAC Beach View
One last view of the beach this morning

AAC Sad

AAC CPA looking wistful and sad as the end of the vacation approaches

Next stop: London in 19 days!!

Sunday: Back in Fort Lauderdale . . . . .

Greetings, gentle readers.

AAC CPA and I are back on terra firma and again ensconced  at the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale where we began this adventure 8 days ago. We disembarked Celebrity Silhouette early this morning (around 8:00 AM) and were in checked-in at the hotel and unpacked by 9:15. How’s that for good travel karma?

(We heard from a fellow passenger – who wasn’t able to disembark as early as we – that disembarkation had a bit of an immigration kerfuffle and everything stopped mid-morning, and he and his party were delayed from getting off the ship for quite some time. No fun, that.)

Since I haven’t posted for a couple of days, I should tell you that the remainder of our cruise was quite lovely. Today’s post will be, mostly, about all the food we consumed. For Friday lunch, we ate at Murano, arguably the best table on the high seas and certainly the best restaurant on the ship. I wasn’t hungry (of course), so I had 2 appetizers: a crab salad, followed by a risotto, both of which were deeeelicious.

Murano Lunch 2
Crab Salad with Avocado

Murano lunch 3
Porcini and Morel Risotto peaking through a truffle foam

Then we may have made a tactical error: we were invited to (and attended) a special Champagne Tea on Friday afternoon. Did we really need all those tea sandwiches, scones and pastries? Not really, but we cut back to save ourselves and our waistlines – we cut the tea.

On Friday night, we began our evening with cocktails back at the Molecular Bar, followed by dinner at Tuscan Grille, both of which were delightful although, for some unexplained reason, we had lost our appetites (which didn’t stop us from over-ordering, as usual). We had an amazing window table at the very back of the ship. 

Molecular Bar
Wacky and wonderful cocktails at Molecular Bar

Tuscan Grill
Our window table at Tuscan Grille (in the rear)

Tuscan Grille specializes in pastas and steaks and it didn’t disappoint. After sharing a Caprese and a “Chop Chop Italian Salad”, we split 2 pastas as a middle course: a fabulous Spaghetti alla Bolognese and Pappardella Alfredo con Aragosta (that’s lobster), which was dreamy. For the main, we split a grilled filet mignon and seafood skewers with Tuscan fries and Mediterranean vegetables as sides. No need for desserts.

Oh, and the holidays were getting closer and closer as every day something new appeared somewhere on the ship:

Celebrity Noel

Saturday was the last day at sea and the last day of the cruise. The passengers seemed to move into high gear so as not to miss out on anything. It was very high voltage.

The “highlight” of the last day – if one can call it that – was the “Egg Drop Competition”, in which various teams built protective devices into which 2 raw eggs were placed. Said device was then dropped from the 7th floor of the ship’s atrium down to the 3rd floor. Their devices had to land within the target range (“x” marks the spot), at which point a designated team member had to extract the eggs which were, hopefully, intact (ie., no “egg casualties”). Then the assembled onlookers would rate each team on a scale of 1 – 5. Some of the voting was brutal and mean (schadenfreude, anyone?). Some of the devices were very clever, as were some of the team names: “Eggstacy”, “Great Eggspectations” “Eggsasperation” and so on. I have no pictures to post, as they would not do justice to the event.

After all that excitement, it was time to start packing. Yes, all good things must end. We had made arrangements to have a farewell gala dinner with our group at Murano. Because there were 8 of us, we were given the private “wine cellar” for our last supper. It was definitely the finest meal of the cruise and there was quite a bit of hilarity around the table as well. Some of what we had:

Murano Scallop
How about Diver Scallop Wellington Style to start the meal?

Murano Rack
Followed by a sensational herb crusted lamb rack

Oh, and followed by a cheese course, just ’cause (no pix, unfortunately, but we all know what it looks like).

Murano Dessert
Six shots for dessert for 2

After all that, it was time for “au revoirs” and “toodle-loos”. We’ll meet again, don’t know when, don’t know where, but it was just one of those things.

Oh, and btw, remember that I was telling you about the over the moon pastries that were offered with breakfast every morning? Take a look:

Celebrity Pastry

Here’s your Rorschach question for today: What do you see when you look into the pastry?

Next time, I’ll regale you with tales of our final 2 days in Fort Lauderdale before winging it back to lil’ ol’ New York City.

 

Friday: Thanksgiving Recap and Another Day at Sea

So, how was your Thanksgiving? Like us, did you eat too much and live to regret it? Have seconds on everything and cap it off with a turkey sandwich at midnight? We weren’t quite that bad, but pretty bad nevertheless.

Before our Thanksgiving feast for 8 was served up in our beautiful cabin aboard Celebrity Silhouette, we spent the day on St. Maarten. That is, to say, AAC CPA and I spent about 15 minutes on the island. (We’re such bad tourists, you know.)

We decided we’d be terrible people if we didn’t at least make an effort. So we traipsed off the ship, ducked into a Belgian chocolate store, picked up some candy for our favorite on-board concierge, Jola, and came right back on board. The ship is so delightful when everyone else goes ashore. And that was that.

However, here’s AAC CPA communing with an Island celebrity:

St Maarten AAC
AAC CPA has a little Island chat with Pieter Stuyvesant

By late afternoon, it was time to set sail and move on.

St Maarten Departure
Departure from St. Maarten

A bit later on, we had a lovely sunset

Celebrity Sunset
Is that a beautiful sunset or what?

And then it was time to get ready for our little Thanksgiving fête. Our superb butler, Alex, had already set up the cabin for the turkey feast:

Celebrity Big Table
The big table

Celebrity Little Table
The kid’s table for AAC and me

Celebrity Alex
Our butler, Alex, pops the cork 

And I set up the bar:

Celebrity Bar Setup
My domain: Negronis, anyone?

The guests arrived right on time and the Negronis were flowing along with the assortment of hors d’eauvres that Alex had provided. A little later, at the perfect moment, the food arrived and we sat down to the main meal. The food was delicious and we were all grateful for the meal and for each other’s company. After we’d polished off the turkey and trimmings, dessert was served: pumpkin pie AND a lovely chocolate pecan pie. Good thing we were all wearing elasticized pants, if you receive my meaning.

We all went our separate ways around 10:00 PM.

Around midnight, there was some shipboard drama: we made an unscheduled stop on the island of St. Thomas. A couple of passengers were escorted off the ship; not sure why. Of course, everyone is gossiping about it this morning.

Today we learned that the captain has taken the ship slightly off its designated course due to some rough waters. As I sit on the veranda typing this post, I can feel the motion of the ocean, but nothing too serious. In fact, we like it – it reminds us that we’re on the ocean, after all.

And now we’re coming into the home stretch of the cruise: sea days today and tomorrow and then they throw us off the ship on Sunday morning. As you know, we love sea days – we just lollygag around and take advantage of what the ship has to offer: food, food and more food. Maybe a trip to the casino or a wine tasting this afternoon. And there’s that champagne tea to which we’ve been invited. So many choices, so little time. 

Oh, and it’s the last formal night this evening. On this ship, however, anything goes and I DO mean anything.

All in all, it’s been a lovely time.

Thursday: St. Maarten, Thanksgiving and Why I’m Thankful

Greetings from sunny St. Maarten. And happy Thanksgiving to those of you who observe/celebrate it. AAC CPA and I went into town for all of 15 minutes to purchase some Belgian chocolates as a gift for our wonderful concierge, Jola. She has taken such good care of us. Then we got back on board as quickly as possible. The ship is fun today because most of the passengers are off exploring and we have the run of the place. Woo-hoo!

St Maarten
A gorgeous St. Maarten beach

Our butler, Alex, has already been here to start setting up for our Thanksgiving feast, as we’re hosting our group chez nous. We’ll be 8 for dinner. Alex did a preliminary setup, and he’ll be back later to put the finishing touches together. We’ll start with cocktails and hors d’eauvres at 7:00, followed by the all the Thanksgivings fixings at 7:30, served buffet style, as I want everyone to have as much or as little of everything that they desire. Pumpkin pies for dessert, natch. I, of course, have already started my prep work and the turkey just went into the oven. (Truth or dare?)

Celebrity Child
True or false: Is this me prepping the turkey?

So is Thanksgiving a day of reflection for you? Do you take stock and count your blessings? Or is it just another day where we all eat too much and pay for it on Friday?

For me, I tend to be overly-analytical about everything in life so today’s just another day to do more of the same.

However, in these dark and dangerous times, I think it’s a good idea to consider who and where I am at this point in my life. Am I measuring up? Do I have what it takes? Am I headed on the right path?

Here’s where it stands for me:

I have AAC CPA and we both have our health. That’s first and foremost. Added to that, we’re extremely fortunate to have the resources that allow us to live this lovely life (which, in turn, provides fodder for this blog) which we never ever take for granted. We have the added blessing of getting along famously with both of our families (I think that may be a rare thing), and a circle of friends, who keep us amused and on our toes. And, I think, there’s real affection there, too.

We have very good and dear friends in London – they know who they are – who just had a bit of a close shave in the London tube. Thankfully, they’re all right and nothing really terrible happened. But they wrote to tell us about it and to ask if we were having 2nd thoughts about our upcoming trip to London. (Yes, gentle readers, we’re somehow returning to London – our 3rd time this year!! More on that very soon.) I replied with no hesitation whatsoever that we wouldn’t dream of cancelling our trip. We love London and the thought of spending Christmas there is simply irresistible.

And herein is the real thing for which I’m most grateful today: AAC and I live in NYC and were there on that terrible day in September 2001. Then and there, we made a vow to each other that we would never put off anything that we wanted to do, whether it was to read that book, see that play, try that new restaurant, or get on a plane or ship and hit the road. In these uncertain times, we try not to live in fear but, rather, to live our lives fully and enjoy them to the best of our abilities.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into any kind of sermon, so mea culpa if it came off that way. It’s just my way of saying how truly lucky and blessed we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Tomorrow: We’re back at sea!!

 

 

Tuesday/Wednesday: San Juan and St. Kitts

Thought I’d forgotten about you, huh? Of course not. But yesterday – San Juan – was somehow a very busy day and I ran out of time. And perhaps the various cocktails I sampled during the day tuckered me out just a tetch.

So, in brief, I thought I’d share our day in pictures with you. Not much narrative, just what it looked like. Is that OK with you?

Before that, however, here are a couple of pix from our own AAC CPA at Qsine, the specialty restaurant where we dined on Monday night. I told you about it in a past entry. The thing I forgot to mention is that your menu is actually an iPad, and you scroll through and add to “my favorites” all the dishes (tapas-style) that you want to sample. It can quickly mount up and get out of control. But then Yelena comes up and tells you what to do. Relinquishing control makes it so much easier. So:

Qsine AAC
AAC CPA self lubricates at Qsine.

qsine Sushi
Sushi lollipops with dipping saucesI

Qsine Spring Rolls
Vegetarian and Short Ribs Spring Rolls

Qsine Crab Cake
Amazing crab cake, which somehow has spaghetti, too

Next day around 2:30 in the afternoon, we arrived at San Juan.

San Juan Docking
Buenos tardes, San Juan!

San Juan Arrival - 01
AAC CPA disembarks

San Juan Arrival -02   And more disembarkation

And now we set out on a quest to find an excellent Piña Colada, a most important mission. We’d been told, by one whose credentials on such matter are beyond reproach, to seek out a place called Barrachina, and so we did. And, within a matter of minutes:

San Juan Barrachina
   And there it is: Barrachina

And, should you visit their website, it clearly states that Barrachina is “birthplace of the famous Piña Colada”, so there it is in black and white.

San Juan Drinks
  And there they are, in living color – note the umbrellas, by the way

After our cocktail, we took a little stroll through Old San Juan. Here’s one of the indigenous places we found:

San Juan Flip Flops
You never know when you might need a pair

More interestingly, AAC CPA and stayed many, many years ago in a charming former convent appropriately called El Convento. According to google maps, it was literally a stone’s throw away.

San Juan El Convento
Brings back very sweet memories of a long-ago time

Then it was time to head back to the ship. Just before boarding we saw a lovely almost full moon rising over the city.

San Juan Moon
Moon over San Juan

A little later we saw this amazing sunset:

San Juan Sunset
Nice, huh?

And then it was time to meet our group at the Sunset Bar for – what else – cocktails.

San Juan Group
Here we are: The Might Eight: Steve, Ian, Jamie, Kurt, Linda, Dave, AAC CPA and – behind the camera – your faithful servant.

After a shower and change of clothes, AAC CPA and I made our way up to deck 15 for a lovely dinner at the Lawn Club Grill:

San Juan - AAC on deck.JPG
AAC CPA on the way to the Lawn Club Grill for a sunset dinner

And here he is at the Grill:

AAC Lawn Club Grill
Feeding time, so AAC CPA is very happy

By the way, the Lawn Club Grill has a great concept: al fresco dining, 4 course meal, beginning with a flatbread that you can make yourself (including twirling the crust), generous salad bar, following by the grill course – steaks, lamb, fish, seafood, vegetables grilled to perfection, with yummy sides and then, finally, dessert – the cobbler and chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream are the ones to take. 

And while we were enjoying our meal, we began our departure from San Juan. The ship’s movement provided a gentle breeze as we headed out to sea.

All in all, a lovely way to end the day.

This morning, we landed in St. Kitts. Here are a couple of shots:

St Kitts.JPG       What we saw from our veranda this morning

And look what’s next door to us:

St. Kitts Ships
Yes, it’s a Celebrity sister ship

And now it’s time for lunch, so that’s all today, kids. Enjoy your pre-holiday and we’ll see you next time!

Monday – At Sea but Not AT Sea

So you probably know that AAC CPA and I love traveling by ship and what we especially like are sea days. Our friend, Kurt, invited us to join him on Celebrity Silhouette for this 7-day cruise round-trip from and to Ft. Lauderdale and visiting 3 ports in the Caribbean. The best part for us is those sea days: 3 of them, in fact. Today is the first of them, and it’s been delightful. Nothing to do and all day to do it!

Here’s what I saw from our veranda first thing this morning:
Celebrity AM Shot
  Aren’t sea days the best?

We started with a lovely breakfast at our designated restaurant, Luminae. Everyone there is so friendly and eager to please. Of course, there is way too much food. I thought I’d just have a couple of eggs (over medium) but how did it happen that out from the kitchen came home fries, hash browns, a broiled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, corned beef hash and rye toast? I haven’t even mentioned the pastry cart, from which this nuclear Danish leapt onto my plate.

From there, we went to visit our concierge, Jola (from Belgium), who’s been amazing. AAC CPA and I have decided that we want to host our group (there are 8 of us altogether) for a Thanksgiving dinner in our cabin. It looks like that’s going to happen, so now we’re determining the logistics. Stay tuned, as I think it’s going to be a fun experience.

On the way back to the cabin from Michael’s Club, we passed by the Molecular Bar and vowed to have a cocktail there this evening.

Celebrity Molecular
  Wouldn’t you want to drink at this watering hole?

Then back to the cabin, as we like lolling around the suite. We have a wonderful butler, Alex, who’s taking excellent care of us. The cabin was all made up and we could just set up with some nice morning music (Duke Ellington) and some light reading on the veranda.

Celebrity AAC on Veranda
   AAC CPA peruses the Sunday NY Times on Monday.

Before we knew it, it was time to eat again. We exercised some restraint, because we have great dinner plans tonight – the 1st of our specialty restaurants: Qsine, which has a really cool dining concept. Here’s how they describe the food: “Flavours originate from around the world to fuse in delighting ways at Qsine. Sushi lollipops, lobster escargot and popcorn fish and chips all feature on a menu designed to evoke your senses.” Who wouldn’t want to try that?

Celebrity Qsine1
And here’s the entrance to Qsine

Celebrity Qsine2
And here’s some of the wacky innovative Qsine cuisine

After lunch, it was time for a stroll up on decks 14 and 15, where the pools and other fun things are. Did you know that there’s a real grass lawn up on deck 15? And that’s where the Lawn Club Grill is located and where we’ll be having dinner on Tuesday evening. They also have some funny furniture up there:

Celebrity AAC Chair
AAC CPA channels Edith Ann, “and that’s the truth!”

Later, it was time for AAC CPA to try out the veranda Jacuzzi, for real this time. You may recall that Kurt photoshopped AAC CPA into the Jacuzzi, which appeared in a recent blog entry. Here’s the real deal:

Celebrity Jacuzzi.jpg
Isn’t he a cutie?

And here’s a late day view from the veranda, much like this morning’s but yet different:

Celebrity PM Shot
   Watching the world go by

Now it’s time for a little nappy and then it’s a dress-up night. We’re going to try and have that cocktail at the Molecular Bar and then off to Qsine.

Oh, and yes, tomorrow mid-afternoon we make our first post, San Juan.

San Juan
Lovely San Juan

Watch this space for more schmoozin’ and cruisin’. Buh-bye for now.

 

 

 

 

Sunday: Heading Out to Sea

Greetings from somewhere in the Atlantic between Ft. Lauderdale and San Juan, P.R. This will be a quick entry, but I wanted you all to know that we arrived safely and are now ensconced in our lovely Royal Suite aboard Celebrity Silhouette.

Our day began in Ft. Lauderdale under threatening skies:

Celebrity Ft Lauderdale   Overcast Ft. Lauderdale – where’s the sun??

We boarded the ship around 12:00 noon – an easy and fairly quick process. And here’s our intrepid AAC CPA checking out the atrium just around the corner from our cabin:

Celebrity AAC Atrium     AAC CPA gets acclimated to his new surroundings

We’re traveling with some friends and we all convened in the Sky Observation Lounge forward on deck 14 for our departure – it’s been raining on and off all day, so we didn’t want to get wet.

Celebrity Sky Observation
   Sky Observation Lounge up on Deck 14

In brief, the ship is gorgeous – and very large for us who are used to traveling on mid-sized ships (our QM2 crossing in September notwithstanding). We have a designated restaurant called Luminae, but there are also 4 specialty restaurants that look very yummy, and we already have reservations at each of them over the next few nights.

There are also a lot of bars all over the ship that we must check out: the Molecular Bar, the Martini Bar, amongst others. We also have a dedicated lounge – Michael’s Club – just for us. How lucky are we??

Here are a few pix of the ship:

Celebrity Molecular Bar
   The Molecular Bar for wacky cocktails

Celebrity Cocktail
   Martini, anyone?

Celebrity Luminae.jpeg
   Our dedicated restaurant, Luminae

That’s all for today – have to head up to Michael’s Club for the 1st Negroni of the cruise. See y’all later!!