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Seek Timeless Treasures with Bill & Mary Ann - 2019 World Cruise -131 days

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Report # 120   Day at Sea   May 18, 2019   Saturday   Partly cloudy & 67 degrees

 

Certainly it was warmer than 67 degrees today, even with the strong winds blowing across the decks.  Judging by the growing number of people sporting sunburns, we assume it was hotter sitting in the sun the last couple of days.  What many guests seem to forget, is that the further south we travel, the more intense the UV rays can be.  Always pays to be careful.

 

Breakfast in the dining room was even busier than yesterday.  Guess many people got wind that the food and service are both good here.  Of course, it is another sea day where folks have the time to relax over omelets and hot coffee.  And besides, we did have an hour back on the clock last night for some extra winks.  However, Asep told us that there was a long line already at 7am for the dining room breakfast.  Obviously, these folks forgot to set their clocks back last night.  Oops!  Not wanting to wait an hour, Asep re-directed them to the Lido, which opened at 7am.

 

Besides the 9:30am fire drill for the crew, it was a regular day at sea.  EXC guide Ian gave his talk on Cartagena and the upcoming transit of the Panama Canal. Guest speaker Tim Runyun continued with stories of pirates. 

 

Getting in some exercise, we walked the deck to find thousands of flying fish leaping here, there, and everywhere.  If there were birds out this way, they would be really fat.  Also, the swells and winds have increased to where it was difficult to walk a straight line.  Heavy spray was coming off of the waves, and dousing one side of the deck.  This is always a good reason to research prevailing winds, since today, the mist rendered one side of the lanai lounges unusable. 

 

It was another perfect time for us to resume a little more packing, making use of a sea day.  That took us until lunchtime, when we paid a visit to the dining room once again.   Keeping it light, an order of soup, salad, and one entrée of pork piccata was sufficient.  There was only half the amount of people for lunch, giving the wait staff time to prepare the center of the dining room for a wine tasting.  We had been invited to this tasting, but since we do not drink wine, we did not attend.

 

Finally, the movie we have been waiting to see was on TV today….The Green Book.  Barb told us to be sure to watch it, as she really liked it.  We did, and she was right.  It was a good, well-acted movie for a change. 

 

We had to laugh today, since we were recognized by two very nice ladies while going on one of our walks.  Apparently, one lady has been reading the blog, and knew that was one of us by the blouse worn, which has shown up in several photos….probably over the last few years.  Always fun for us to meet new people, who probably know us better than most.

 

Later in the day, we stayed in the aft section of the lower promenade, and relaxed in what little bit of sun we could find.  Sheltered from most of the wind, we can see why people even get burned back here.  Going back inside, we noticed that the Share A Goal signs with personal wishes were being removed.  First a solvent was used, but it did not do the job.  Another worker came out with a power sander to get the job done better.  With a few coats of white paint, no one will ever know the wishing wall was even here.  Also, we’re pretty sure that the 2019 GWV logo that was painted above the bow is also gone.

 

Dinner for us was in the Pinnace Grill.  Tina, the manager has gone home, and a new fellow has taken over.  Other than being seated, we never spoke to him again, as he never engaged a conversation.  Even half of the regular staff were replaced with new waitresses, as well as a new wine attendant.  We have always ordered the Caesar salad, but the new version is nowhere as good as the old one.  Not made tableside anymore, the dressing lacks the strong taste of garlic and parmesan cheese that we have grown to like.  The rest of the meal was fine, but this time, no one came by to ask how we liked it, or did we need anything.  Yes, one of us did need the sour cream, bacon bits, and chives for the baked potato.  Never did get anyone’s attention either.  Oh well, saved a few calories, which allowed for one scoop of mint chocolate ice cream for dessert.  We may want to re-think keeping all of the reservations we made.

 

Tomorrow we will be in Cartagena, Colombia, but only for a short time – 7am to 1pm. 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Just got caught up with your last 2 reports.

 

Yes -- there is a big change between the World cruises and a regular cruise.  People dress differently.  Menus and food and service are different.

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Great pictures of Ft Lauderdale.

 

For years we had a card for the Publix store so that when we shopped there, we would get the lower prices.

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Posted (edited)

Today you are no doubt roasting in Cartagena!  Far cry from the good month of cool (sometimes cold) weather we had, right? 

 

That's a shame about the Pinnacle, you would think that the standard would be the same, but apparently it isn't.  I've heard people complain about the Pinnacle (everywhere, not the A'Dam) and we really must be lucky to have Tina and her staff!

 

You are lucky that you didn't have to deal with the debacle of disembarking in FLL...man, what a pain that was.  I sure hope they do something about that for next year.  I thought that we used to be able to put our (FedEx) luggage out the nite before and not see it until we got home?  That's what we did in '15.

 

I think I overheard you saying to Gan that you would be on the 51 day S. Pacific?  If you are, we will see you there!  (We sat in his and Feri's section in the morning too on the W.C.)

 

Edit to add a question!  What is on the Available Everyday section on the dining room menu for dinner?  I'm wondering what major changes are made when it's not a "Grand" cruise. Thanks!

 

Linda R.

(One of us is blond and the other has a beard, FYI 😁)

Edited by cruzingnut

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Report #121   Cartagena, Colombia   May 19, 2019   Sunday   Cloudy & 87 degrees    Part #1 of 3     80  Pictures

 

The first port of call for this Panama Canal cruise was Cartagena, Colombia.  The city was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistadors, who soon realized the country was rich with emeralds and gold.  However, smart pirates, like Sir Francis Drake, attacked, causing the King to build a 50 foot thick wall around the Old City.  It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. 

 

These days the city of over 616,000 people offers towering skyscrapers, vacation resorts and hotels, and high end shopping.  Emeralds and fine jewelry fill the boutique shops, as well as their famous Juan Valdez Colombian coffee.  And the Bocagrande district, where you can find all of this, is a mere 15 minute taxi ride from the pier. 

 

Shore excursions had 13 tours, starting from 2½ to 4 hours for the price of $40 to $100.  Most were sightseeing either by bus or boat, and only one left the city to see birds in an aviary on the island of Baru.  Most all of the tours made a stop at Las Bovedas, “The Dungeons”, a former prison turned into row after row of handicraft stalls.  If you cannot find souvenirs here, you will find them nowhere.  Anyway,  that is really an incredible amount of tours, since we will only be here from 7am to 1pm. 

 

Arriving to the harbor on time at 7am, it was cloudy, for sure.  But so heavily overcast that it made breakfast more like going to dinner.  It got darker every minute we sat there.  Slam warned us that he had a scratchy throat and felt a cold coming on.  Too late, because we already have it.  It has spread like wildfire the last few weeks, and finally caught up with us.  It does not matter how many times you wash your hands, we believe the virus is in the air and circulating through the forced air on the ship.  Hopefully it will be short-lived. 

 

Shortly after getting our breakfast, the rain began to come down in torrents. So loud that we could hear it pounding the dining room windows.  Thunder and lightning followed.  At least the ship was getting a good bath.  Speaking of ships, we are the only cruise ship in port today, but there was an American naval vessel docked across from us.  From the promenade deck, we watched as there was a lot of activity happening with their crew.  Good thing we took a few photos, because they pulled out after 10am.

 

The many buses were being loaded, as well as the local hop-on hop-off double decker covered bus.  The bad news was that an ambulance was waiting for someone to transport to the hospital.  Eventually a man was wheeled down on a stretcher along with two other guests traveling with him, we assume.  Always sad to see. 

 

By the time the rain let up, we left the ship by 9:30am for a stroll to the terminal shop and garden.  We were most surprised to find that there were no umbrellas for the guests to borrow.  That is something to remember if anyone does a shorter cruise, as we assumed these plastic umbrellas were available all of the time.  There were two shuttle buses taking folks to the terminal as well.

 

It is always fun to see the collection of birds at this terminal.  It is like a small jungle in a forest.  Before we saw them, we could hear the familiar call of the resident peacocks, who seem to have multiplied quite a bit since our last visit.  They were perched in the tall trees and climbing across the roof of the shops and restaurant. The first enclosure we saw was the pond and fountain where beautiful flamingos live.  For friends, they have some black swans, native geese, and some ducks. 

 

Passing through the store, we went out back to find we were being greeted with “hola” from all different sides.  Guess what?  It was coming from many colorful macaws, showing off their speaking skills.  Walking through the different enclosures, we were able to walk in an aviary with toucans, pheasants, geese, and indigenous birds that were most tame.  We searched for the one toucan who used to like to untie shoelaces, but he must have been relocated.  There was only one anteater left, and he had an agouti, or a large guinea pig, as a buddy.  Both of them were most unusual-looking animals. 

 

We searched for the monkeys we know are always here, but they must have been hiding from the rain, which began to fall again.  So we went inside the store to buy the hard coffee candies we love…even better than See’s.  And of course, one of us happened to see a unique necklace and earring set made from gourds to add to the collection.  And much more affordable than buying emeralds. 

 

The dining room was opened for lunch, and a bowl of chicken noodle soup sure sounded perfect.  Adding an appetizer, salad, and one meatball and spaghetti entrée was good.  Captain Eversen came on the PA with his PM talk, but it was difficult to hear him due to people talking loudly around us.  Most of his info was for tomorrow’s transit of the Panama Canal, which will be in the When & Where paper, also tomorrow.  Wonder what the weather will be like?  Anything is possible.

 

Actually, the rain had cleared, and we saw some sun coming out.  The sail out of the harbor was warm and humid, but with a nice breeze. Finally, this sailing was again held at the Seaview Pool, where many guests were indulging with the drink of the day – a pina colada in a tall glass for $6.95.

 

As the Amsterdam left the harbor, some pelicans, gulls, terns, and frigates flew past us.  Glad the rain had stopped, or else we would not have seen them.  Staying outside until we were clear of the harbor and the outlying islands, we left when the ship entered the open ocean.  It was smooth sailing for the remainder of the day.

 

Perfect time to work on photos and cool down in or room, the afternoon sped on by.  Around 7pm, we went to the Ocean Bar to listen to the new band, but they were playing a different type of cabaret music with songs we did not know at all.  And to top it off, the curtain had been hung for photo-taking, even though tonight was really a casual evening.  We have never been bothered with the pictures, but the cute photographer we used to call Pretty in Pink, has gone home.  She was replaced with an aggressive fellow who happens to be loud, you know, like trying to recruit people to take photos whether they want to or not.  This never happened with the original group.  There is still one nice fellow still here, but when he left for dinner, and was replaced by the other guy, we left too.  Time to get ready for dinner anyway.

 

Back in the dining room, we had a nice quiet meal with soup and salads with a shared appetizer of lasagna.  A little dessert, and we called it a day.  The entertainer this evening was a repeat performance of Shirley Dominguez, a harpist that we enjoyed in the beginning of the grand voyage.  Better for us to get some much needed sleep to wipe out the colds.

 

We did take the time to get some fresh air outside, like we usually do.  On the horizon, we could see numerous lightning strikes behind the clouds.  But also, there was the treat of seeing the almost full moon shining on the water.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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We have enjoyed watching the zoo grow in Cartagena's terminal.

 

Sorry to hear that you both have colds.  Hope you get over them quickly.

 

Hate those aggressive photographers.

 

Love when we can see the Moon shining on the water.

 

 

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I really hope your colds don't turn into the dreaded "cruz crud"!  Get better soon.

 

Smooth Sailing!  🙂🙂🙂

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Report # 122   Transit the Panama Canal   May 20, 2019   Monday    Part # 1 of 4     80 Pictures

 

It’s funny, but there was no weather prediction for today in the When & Where paper.  Perhaps it was an oversight, or a deliberate mistake?  As it turned out, it was a mixed bag throughout the entire day.  One thing that was missing was the intense sun we normally experience in this part of the world.  Thank goodness for small favors. 

 

By the time we woke up, the Amsterdam was entering the Panama Canal sometime around 6:30am.  And our most favorite pastry, the Panama Rolls, were being served in the Crow’s Nest, Atrium deck 3, and outside on the bow.  And no, we would not be going there to get some.  Taking a quick stroll around the promenade deck, we could see the new bridge that spans the canal at the Colon side.  It is another cable stay design, but it is not finished yet.

 

By the time we went to the dining room for breakfast, we were through the Gatun Locks, which raised the ship 88 feet to Gatun Lake.  The new set of expanded locks, Agua Clara Locks, could not be seen from our vantage point.  It was most enjoyable watching the lake transit while ending our light meal with Panama Rolls that our waiter, Bangun, had found for us.  We do expect these delights to be the last we will see until next year. 

 

We have to admit that today’s temperatures had to be the most pleasant ever.  Taking some photos during our AM walk, we hoped for a sighting of the American crocodiles or even monkeys.  We saw neither.  By the way, there are no alligators in this part of the world.

 

The expert Panamanian lecturer that joined us today had to be one of the best we have heard.  He was easy to understand, and came across the speakers loud and clear.  The best part was that he kept the dialogue interesting, as well as answering many of the guest’s questions along the way.  For the entire sailing through the massive lake, it was partly cloudy with a nice breeze.  This never happens, but unfortunately, it would not last.

 

Today’s continuing talk included the usual facts about the canal, but also was full of little unknown facts such as the types of vessels that do this transit the most.  Number one are the LNG ships (liquefied natural gas), then ships that transport grains, mainly corn, wheat and soybeans.  The third most numerous ships are the carriers of fuel, such as jet fuels, oil, and liquefied petroleum gas or LPG.

 

Rainfall is the key element for the canal to operate.  It is the ultimate use of working with nature.  The flow of the fresh water would end up in both of the oceans, so people are just using it before it is dispersed.  So when the rain began to fall at 10am, everyone had to take cover.  At that time, we had been visiting with friends, Ellen and Aart, by the Seaview Pool, but had to leave to save the cameras.  These showers, which turned torrential at times, are unpredictable in this “El Nino” year, according to the speaker.  The canal zone has either gotten too much rain at times, or too little.

 

More hidden facts concerned the special engines called mules, used to center ships in the locks.  Each one cost 2 million dollars, many years ago.  And it takes six mules to do the job at each set of locks.  The new locks do not use mules, but have six tug boats at 11 million dollars each to center the ships in the much wider locks.   The other most unusual story we heard today was about the growing of a special coffee in this region.  Thinking we heard the name of the coffee is geisha, it commands a price of $800 a pound.  And one cup costs $65, with no refills.  It is sold in places like NYC and the United Arab Emirates, where the hefty price is not questioned. 

 

Panamax ships were the largest ones allowed in the old locks as they measured 965 feet long, 106 feet wide, and were under 90,000 gross tons.  Up until the new locks were used, any vessel larger than the Panamax group could not transit the canal. 

 

As the day advanced, the ship finally reached the Chagres River and Calebra Cut.  By the time we arrived to the Centennial Bridge, it was hard to see, since it was raining so hard.  Gold Hill had waterfalls pouring out from the sides.  Although the estimated time of arriving to the last set of locks was 12:30pm, we think it was later than that.  More like 1:30pm.  It took longer than the normal time to enter the San Pedro Locks, and the Miraflores Locks.  There was a small crowd at the building where everyone lines up to watch ships being lowered back down to sea level. 

 

The final frosting on the cake was sailing under the longest highway in the world – the Pan-American Highway, via the Bridge of the Americas.  Now we were entering the mighty Pacific Ocean.  But the best surprise was coming when we spotted a small herd of deer grazing on the right banks of the canal.  Never even knew they lived here.  On the opposite side, we searched for the super-large capybaras, the largest rodents in the world.  And we saw them this time…..at least 5 or 6 of them.  The cooler wet weather must have roused them to come out of hiding. 

 

Also we saw so many birds we could not believe it.  The largest numbers had to be the pelicans, followed by frigates, egrets, herons, cormorants, and boobys.  What a display we saw of the diving birds as we entered the Pacific Ocean, an indication of abundant sea life.  It was 5pm by the time we headed back to our room.

 

Of course, there were hundreds of photos to download, so that kept us busy until dinnertime.  Not too terribly hungry, we both had soup, salad, a shared tortellini dish, and one stuffed bellpepper.  Marco brought us four little chocolate biscotti cookies for dessert along with some ginger.  It was ample, but we were once again too early for the show tonight.  The singers and dancers performed On Tour, a concert style music extravaganza, a show we have seen a few times already.  It had been a very long day for most cruisers, so we think from looking at the lower dining room, many guests dined early, and retired early as well.

 

And the clocks went back one more hour tonight.  That is always a plus.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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Really enjoying this blog.  Bringing back memories of our 2018 WV on the Amsterdam.

 

BTW, was Dolly on-board?

 

And, who was the regular piano entertainer on your WV?  Was it Jamm?

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Love those Panama Buns -- that is our breakfast on the day we go through the canal.

 

We have a couple of transits where it poured rain all day.

 

 

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Report # 123   Day at Sea   May 21, 2019   Tuesday   Weather?   Not listed

 

Whether or not the weather was listed, it would be whatever was coming.  And that was a warm, partly cloudy morning with a nice breeze.  Blue skies were showing, finally giving the water a pale blue color that almost matched the sky.  Now, it sure would have been nice if it had lasted.  Good thing we had taken a long walk after breakfast this morning, because later in the day, we began to see scattered showers on the horizon.  Eventually these showers became heavy, dousing the decks pretty good.  And that included the freshly-painted varnish on the promenade railings.

 

EXC guide Ian gave his talk on the upcoming ports of Corinto, Puerto Quetzal, and Huatulco.  As we have stopped in each of these ports many times, we could probably give the talk about them.  As there are numerous tours in each port, this is a good time to sell them to the crowd.  With the exception of Huatulco, there is little to see and do in Corinto and Puerto Quetzal, although we do tend to amuse ourselves despite that.

 

We have never heard of the gemstone called zultanite until last night, when we had a flyer advertising the sale of them today.  In fact, everyone had a ticket for a special drawing at 1pm in the Ocean Bar.  Zultanite was discovered in southwestern Turkey mountains, and the only mine in the world is located 4000 feet above sea level.  The stones are extremely rare, and are only available on 12 cruise ships worldwide.  Interesting. It’s surprising that this collection did not show up on the grand voyage.

 

We had a second invitation to wines of the world tasting ($25pp) at 2pm in the lower dining room.  In fact, we have attended several of these tastings over the years, but so far, we still have not developed a taste for it. 

 

Aquaman was the action/adventure movie shown in the Wajang today.  So far, every movie has been a repeat of what was shown on the world cruise.  We have missed seeing half of them, so some will be new to us.

 

Lunch for us was in the dining room, and really light with Grandma’s chicken noodle soup and half a sandwich.  Since we are still fighting the cold bug, we did not do much today, except walk and get as much fresh air as we could.  Watching an afternoon movie while working on the computer was a good choice, since the rain was falling down in buckets outside off and on until dark.

 

The Happy Hour at 4pm has worked a miracle in the Ocean Bar.  By 4:30pm, every seat inside and outside the bar were taken.  That included our favorite armchairs.  The only thumbs down would have been the camera/curtain set-up for photos again.  Once we saw that, we would have not stayed anyway.  For some reason unknown to us, one of the new photographers sets one or two of the lights to auto-flash, causing the folks to temporarily go “blind” while sitting around the atrium. 

 

Dinner for us was in the Pinnacle Grill again, with hopes of a normal meal.  This time was much better, more like when the regular staff was here.  Ordering the Caesar salad with the dining room dressing did the trick, as we did not care for the new dressing.  The bread basket was different tonight.  We did not have the thin cracker lavage, small rolls, or the one piece of pumpernickel bread.  Instead, there were two sourdough rolls with a garlic-flavored grilled cheese in the center.  Really good.  One of us ordered the tomato/cheese appetizer, and it was different from the slices normally served.  One shared order of the clothesline bacon with pickle slices and lemon was sinfully tasty. 

 

The grilled lamb chops were as good as ever, and the 7 ounce steak was cooked perfectly.  Thought we did not have room for dessert, but we each had a sliver of Key lime pie.  Good thing we kept lunch light, and that was at noontime.

 

The evening show was a combo of John Wing, a comedian, and Shirley Dominguez at the harp.  There were many more passengers at this second show compared to the late show time on the grand cruise.  These folks want to squeeze in everything they can before the cruises ends.

 

Tomorrow we will be stopping at Corinto, Nicaragua.  Captain Eversen mentioned showers and thunder and lightning. Should be interesting…..

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

 

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Hope you don't have showers in Corinto.

 

We have been to all those ports many times as well.

 

Love dinner in the PG -- and their lamb chops are always good.

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We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been reading our story, and for all of the replies.  We do try to keep up with questions, but sometimes it is difficult to include all of them.  

Linda, the alternate selections on the dinner menu in the dining room have all come back, one by one.  So far, we have learned to ask for anything that was always there, and the waiters will find it. 

The sunflowers of our window garden began to go to seed, so they had to be removed.  We are trying to do the clean-up a little at a time, so we don't have a big mess for our room stewards at the end. 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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In reference to the ultra expensive coffee,  Elida Natural Geisha 803. Coincidentally, there is an article about it in today’s paper. Only 100 pounds of the beans were available at auction and most went to Japan, China and Taiwan. Klatch Coffee in San Francisco/ Southern California was able to secure 10 pounds and is selling it for $75.00 a cup!

 

If you’re feeling a bit “splurgy” during your San Francisco stop, let us know how it was.

 

I have enjoyed your daily reports and  appreciate your time compiling them. Need to find a new morning routine after your voyage ends. 

 

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Report #124   Corinto, Nicaragua   May 22, 2019   Wednesday   Rain & 87 degrees    Part 1 of 3   80  Pictures

 

Located in the province of Chinandega, Corinto is a sleepy village, a bedroom community for the largest port of Nicaragua.  It is the least “touristy” town we have visited, with the exception of some souvenir stands set up in the center of town.  These vendors set up tables street-side with the flow of cruise ships when they dock here. 

 

There were 13 shore excursions here, with most taking guests to outlying areas, mostly to see colonial Leon, an ancient city in Nicaragua, and also the old capital.  It takes over 80 minutes to drive there, and as much or more to drive back to Corinto.  According to the description in the tour book, it is not recommended for folks with mobility problems, a the narrow streets are full of cobblestones and uneven surfaces.  However, if you wish to visit museums, a cathedral, a botanic garden, or see a folkloric show, you will find it all here.  There’s even a shore excursion where you can see bubbling mud pots.

 

Closer to Corinto, is El Viejo and Chinandega, small towns with more modern shopping.  Or you can visit a rum distillery, or go to  banana plantation, or see a horse show.  We have done these tours on past visits, mostly due to the fact they were only 4 hours long. 

 

The Amsterdam arrived to the port right on time at 8am.  It was going to be a very hot and humid day, since the temperature at 8am was already 80 degrees and rising.  Before we went to breakfast, we went to check out the dock, and glad we did.  There was a welcome group the likes we never saw on the entire world cruise.  Many locals turned out to put on a show with colorfully-costumed dancing young ladies and boys, drummers, older dancing teens, a marimba band, and some trumpeters.  This entire group played from 8am to 9:30am nonstop.  No need to pay for a folkloric performance on a tour, since the best was here. 

 

The last time we stopped here was in 2017, and we did notice some changes.  There used to be a conveyer system for loading ships with grain, we suspect.  It has since been removed.  Also there were double the storage buildings across from the ship.  These were removed, making more room for containers.  There was a large tent set up with many tables of souvenirs, convenient for the people that would have problems walking out of the gate to town.

 

We made sure that all of the buses were gone, and most of the band groups were taking a break before we left the ship.  The main reason for that was we did not want to get caught up with some guests being pulled into the groups that were dancing.  The gangway was currently set up on A deck, but during the course of the day, the tides caused the gangway to change two more times. 

 

There is a mode of transportation that we have only seen in this town…they are bikes that can seat up to four passengers under a covered roof.  Even before we got to the gate, we were propositioned over and over to take a one hour ride for $5 each.  That’s probably enough time to ride down every street twice, because it is that compact.  When a ship comes to town, the locals close some of the streets for car traffic, making it easier to drive many bikes up and down the main roads.  It was not uncommon to see local ladies with little kids using these bikes to be driven from place to place, then back home.  Kind of like Ubers. 

 

As for us, we walked slowly, checking out the craft tables along the way.  Across from the main square, produce vendors were selling their fruit and veggies.  Our waiter, Slam, had mentioned this morning that one of his friends had gotten really sick eating fresh fruit here last December.  So he did not recommend eating anything here.  We would keep this in mind today.  Should we, or shouldn’t we?  Well, we’ll see…..

 

Actually, it was surprising to see so many vendors set up in town, since we are at the end of the season for ships to stop here.  Rainy season is soon to start, and believe us, today would have been a good one to rain.  It may have cooled things off, as it was what we call oppressive heat.  You could not walk a block without being soaked through and through. 

 

Making it from one end of town to the other, we headed towards the only restaurant that was recommended on the port guide map.  It was called Costa Azul, and was located near the water down an alleyway.  The only problem was we had left the ship too early, and it was not even noontime yet.  Even too early for beer, so we just took some photos, and continued back to town to do some shopping. 

 

On past trips, we have purchased a few nice wooden products such as trivets, salad bowls, and even a tiered earring holder.  So today, we purchased a wooden sunflower to match a small one we have at home.  Also bought a small patchwork leather purse, suitable to use for dinner on the ship. We were back to the ship by noontime.  And liking the air conditioning too.

 

This would be the perfect day to finally enjoy a burger and a hotdog from the Dive In grill.  Actually the first ones of the whole cruise.  And besides, the dining room was closed for lunch today.  Getting to the grill before some of tours got back was the best idea.  Placing the order, the food was wrapped to go within 10 minutes.  Then we dined in our room, where it was nice and cool. 

 

All aboard was 4:30pm, and even though it was not advertised as a sail away, we went to the Seaview Pool to watch the lines dropped after 5pm.  We were headed out of the harbor, and on our way towards Guatemala.  Watching the skyline, we were treated to a lightning storm for an hour, then we had a sunset, which turned the upper and opposite clouds a crimson color, even though the actual sunset was blocked by solid clouds.  Ended up staying out back for two hours, while the majority of people headed inside to eat dinner.

 

Speaking of dinner, we had reservations once again in the Pinnacle Grill.  With some specialty dinners coming up, we wanted to go there while it was a regular menu.  So it had to be back-to-back.  This gave us a chance to try a few new items like the wedge salad (no gorgonzola).  Really liked it.  The new rolls are so good, it is difficult to limit one per person.  They told us the cheese in the center is seasoned mozzarella, which is melted into the rolls in the oven.  One of us tried the new short rib entrée, which was good, but still cannot compare to the filet or the lamb chops.  Dessert was one scoop of strawberry ice cream and one crème brulee.  We had not finished the chocolate candies, so our waiter kindly wrapped them up for us to take home.  Just in case we get hungry later. 

 

Finished by 9:30pm, we were too early to see the show The Runaround Kids, who have been on the ship for a month now.  Bet we already saw this act on the world cruise.

 

We will be in Puerto Quetzal tomorrow around 7am.

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

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21 hours ago, WCB said:

We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who has been reading our story, and for all of the replies.  We do try to keep up with questions, but sometimes it is difficult to include all of them.  

Linda, the alternate selections on the dinner menu in the dining room have all come back, one by one.  So far, we have learned to ask for anything that was always there, and the waiters will find it. 

The sunflowers of our window garden began to go to seed, so they had to be removed.  We are trying to do the clean-up a little at a time, so we don't have a big mess for our room stewards at the end. 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

 

 

Thank you.

 

Too bad you can't take the seeds home and plant them there.

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The first time we were in Corinto was in 2009.  It wasn't a scheduled stop for the Westerdam.  But the Swine Flu was happening and all our stops in Mexico were being cancelled.  Our captain was upset that everyone would be missing 5 ports.  So it was calls back and forth to Seattle.  It was arranged that we would back track from Puerto Quetsel to Corinto.  The Westerdam was actually to first stop in Corinto in the fall of 2009.  We were having dinner with the captain when he returned to the table and announced that we would be making a stop in Corinto to make up for missing the 5 Mexican ports.  Only a handful of tours were offered since they had to put everything together so quickly.  

 

At the end of the day, people in taxis, cars, ambulances, fire trucks, etc.  all came to wave goodbye to us.  There was also a group playing music and dancing.

 

Since then, no greetings or goodbyes from anyone there.

 

Glad you had another good dinner at the PG.

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Report # 125   Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala   May 23, 2019   Thursday   Rain & 90 degrees     Part # 1 of  3     80  Pictures

 

Ever heard of the “Land of the Eternal Spring”?  Well, that is Guatemala, with temperatures averaging in the mid 70’s, it seldom gets cooler than that.  Although the rainy season is now…May through October, the dry season is November through April.  The capital of the country is Guatemala City and the population is over 15 million primarily Spanish-speaking people.  The country consists of two mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, forests, and tropical jungles.  It is the heart of the Mayan world, and has 33 volcanoes, 3 of which are still active.  Two things we found interesting are that the beaches on the Caribbean side of Guatemala have white sand, while those on the Pacific side are black, due to millions of years of volcanic activity.  And second, the most prolific breeding grounds for sailfish are in these waters, considered the best in the world. 

 

There are two main ports for the country….one is on the Caribbean side, and the other is here, in Puerto Quetzal.  Strictly a jumping off point for excursions to Antigua, Puerto Quetzal is a commercial port with a small marina, a few acres of enclosed shopping, and a couple of bars and one restaurant.  There is also a working conveyer system to offload ships carrying large amounts of carbon, which is coal. There are mountains of the stuff near the marina.

 

Ten shore excursions left from here, most headed for the colonial capital of Antigua, located 4500 feet above sea level.  It is a 90 minute bus ride each way.  There can be a big difference in climate as it is much cooler and it might rain more there.  We have gone on a tour that included Antigua, but our coach arrived late, and most of the city was shut down for the day.  We did enjoy a tour of a coffee plantation and the traditional lunch served there.

 

Once again, these tours came with a caution, advising those with wheelchairs that the streets are cobbled with no ramps.  And no large buses are allowed in the city, so a transfer to smaller coaches is necessary. 

 

One 9 hour tour was a flight to Tikal with Mayan ruins, also a UNESCO Word Heritage Site.  The cost was $650, and we do know a couple that took this tour a few years ago.  They were delayed over an hour, but the Captain waited for their return, because it was an HAL excursion.

 

The Amsterdam arrived by 7am to a very, very hot and humid day.  Rain was in the forecast, but we never saw any.  One thing that was missing in the When & Where paper was the information of a shuttle, since we were docked in the commercial port area.  This has been the case for the last two times we have stopped here.  The reason we understand, is due to some damage caused to the floating pier near the marina.  As it would be impossible to walk anywhere in this busy dock area, without a shuttle, we would be stuck.  

 

So after breakfast, we went outside to see what was happening, and discovered there were at least four free buses to take guests to the passenger dock with the palapa and fenced shopping area.  We waited until 11am, so we would not be too early for lunch this time.  We were surprised how many folks did not choose to go to Antigua today, because the buses filled one after the other. 

 

As the crow flies, we were located about ½ mile from the old pier.  However, the bus had to go all the way around the to get to the other side. Big rigs were lined up to access this loading area, so it took longer for us to go through the security gate.

 

The huge palapa was still there, filled with a double marimba band, and duel counters…one for tourist info, and the other for booking day trips to Antigua. The souvenir stands were still set up, with the exception of a few.  Only one beer place was closed, but the restaurant, Pez Vela, was opened for business.  Strolling past the vendors is always a challenge, as they don’t take “no thanks, we are just looking” for a good answer.  We did purchase a few items like a water bottle holder that is the most practical.  Beaded jewelry, and a trio of giraffes found a home with us.  We asked one of the local ladies if any  more cruise ships would be stopping here, and she said they would come until July. We have always been told that we were at the end of the season, and their prices would never be cheaper. 

 

There were a few free gifts handed to us by the locals.  A woven bracelet, and two tiny pouches of worry dolls were ours to keep.  According to Guatemalan legend, whenever you have a problem, take a worry doll, tell her your worries, and put it underneath the pillow.  By the next morning, your worries will be gone.  Life smiles at you again.  Nice thought.

 

Time for lunch at Pez Vela.  It’s right next to the shopping area, and the food and beer are the best.  Not a fancy place, they serve an excellent platter of cheese nachos with grilled steak and chicken.  The local brew is Gallo, and when it is ice cold, it sure tastes good.  After lunch, we walked around the boat harbor watching the iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks.  These were the smaller ones today, but we have seen the larger variety.  In fact, the waiters at the restaurant sometimes feed them bread for the tourists to watch. 

 

It was so hot, we decided to make our way back to the ship, getting there around 2pm.  All onboard was 4:30pm, and we went to the Seaview Pool to watch the ship leave the harbor after 5pm.  By now, the skies were completely cloudy and the breeze had picked up.  Sure looked and felt like rain, but that never happened.  Once we were clear of the harbor, we hit some deep swells, which continued through the night.  That is when something unexpected occurred – a bee sting, happening so fast, it was like hit and run.  The stinger remained in Bill’s hand, causing instant pain, and eventually swelling.  Despite taking an antihistamine, and treating the sting with ice, the swelling increased slightly.  For some unknown reason, his sensitivity to these stings seem to have increased over the recent years, although given time, the side effects disappear.  We hoped for the same this time.

 

After dinner, we walked outside to see quite a lightning display in every direction we looked.  This kept up all night.  By the way, the clocks went forward one hour, since Mexico is not on the same time zone as Central America. 

 

Our next port is Huatulco, but we don’t arrive until 2pm. 

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

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Report #126   Huatulco, Mexico   May 24, 2019   Friday   Cloudy & 88 degrees    Sail-In    Part # 1 of  3     80  Pictures

 

Over-sleeping a bit later than usual, we got to breakfast well after 8am.  Just by coincidence, Ellen and Aart arrived at the same time, so we dined together.  It was sure nice to be able to visit with them for more than a few minutes at a time.  We’ve been careful not to share our colds with anyone, and hope we are well past the contagious stage. 

 

Well before we arrived to the port of Huatulco, Mexico, we made an attempt to access deck six forward to watch for wildlife.  That was somewhere in the neighborhood of 11:30am.  This coastline has an enormous number of large fish such as blue marlin, swordfish, yellow fin tuna, dorado, and mahi-mahi.  And of course, there are numerous dolphins if you are in the right place, at the right time.  Flying fish are a given here too.

 

When we went to go outside the double doors, there was a very small sign posted saying deck painting.  Never having seen this before, we opened the door to see narrow strips of masking tape covering the “fake” tar lines between the “fake” teak decking.  Guess they were ready to repair the flooring, but why today?  This is a popular spot for scenic sailing, which today was one of them.  So we headed down to the lower promenade deck, just in time to see pods of dolphins playing in the ship’s waves.  On top of that, we spotted many sea turtles, probably green turtles, as they floated past the ship.  They were about the size of a large 18 inch pizza. (Pizza must be on our minds.)  We figured that if we had been up front, we may have missed them. That’s when we had a really big surprise…..we spotted the blow of a whale, actually seeing it skim the surface as they do when feeding.  It blew at least four more times, before it dove, never to be seen again.  Good thing the camera caught it, or else we might have thought we were dreaming. 

 

The closer we got to shore (about an hour away), we began seeing many small fishing boats.  Even from a distance, we could tell that one of them had a big game fish on a line, as we could see the splash as it jumped and fought.  Some boats were chasing dolphins, knowing that other game fish could be close by.  In time, we saw the pilot boat arrive, and also a larger Mexican coast guard boat, which appeared to be escorting us to the port.

 

Huatulco was once a thriving port for the Spanish, however, today, it is a thriving resort and tourist destination.  It has a much different feel about it than Acapulco, Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta in that it has remained more of an authentic Mexican town without the frills.  There are nine bays for fun in the sun, as well as one perfect beach, which is a short walk away from the ship.  Cancun…it is not, but it appeals to folks that prefer scenic areas for sailing and swimming over the hardy-party group.

 

Shore excursions were many here – 15 of them in fact.  The longest ones were 5 hours of sight-seeing, history, and culture.  Five excursions offered adventure and water activities such as snorkeling from a beach or boat, a river float trip, or sailing on a catamaran or sailboat.  How about a chance to go deep sea fishing for the big ones?  It was a catch and release trip priced at $190, with the option of tagging along for only $75.  We could not believe the number of small boats that were offering this service in the boat harbor.  As for the boat rides, we have done several types, and all of them were fun.  Short and sweet.

 

There was one lunch tour which included chocolate, mole, cheese, and even grasshoppers.  We’ll pass on that one.  But freshly made tortillas, tomales, or a cactus salad would do just fine.  We took a tour years ago, and actually liked the cactus salad. Bird watching could be fun if you happen to be here during the right time of year.  This is another excursion we took, but saw few of the promised sightings of 227 species.  We did have a very long and hot walk in some of the driest of terrain we had ever seen. 

 

As we got closer to shore, we began to see some birds like the high-flying frigates.  There were a few ominous vultures flying with them.  These were joined by some gulls, terns, boobys, and some pelicans resting on the rocks.

 

Pulling into the pier, we were docked across from a smaller vessel, which turned out to be a US Coast Guard boat.  By 2pm, the ship was cleared by the officials,  and the “sticky” tour folks filed off for the 15 different tours.   One thing for sure, it was already a most hot and humid day, just like we remembered it to be.  Going off to shore, we planned on finding a good place for beers and some Mexican food, which we love. 

 

The hidden marina is not massive here, but there were more fishing boats than water.  And it was another day of a fishing tournament, just like last time we were here.  The main square in the center of town was full of locals coming in with their catch.  Some of the fish were still in the water (quite dead), while some were down on the ground being measured.  One large marlin was hanging from a scale marked with 131 kilos, although it looked heavier than that.  A band stand nearby had a video being shown with some of the loudest music we have heard.  It raised the dust right off of the road.  This would continue into the evening, making this Friday night a very festive one.

 

We strolled in and out of the souvenir market, but found nothing we needed.  It was so warm out, there were few people buying anything yet.  Maybe when the tours got back, they would have many customers.  We were more amused with the black grackles that were fighting over some fresh water used to wet the lawn. 

 

Making our way towards the beach, we passed by many restaurants offering tables with drink specials.  Each outdoor restaurant had fellows enticing folks to their place with the best seafood in town.  Actually, we always go for the chicken and beef dishes.  So we ended up where we always go… a waterside restaurant called Ve El Mar.  It really has the best location, with breezes from the beach.  Good food too.  Of course, we ordered two local beers, Victoria, and then added a combo quesadilla plate with grilled chicken and beef.  Expecting an appetizer-size portion, we were shocked when it came with a huge serving for two.  We had seen one of the chefs grilling meat, onions, and chicken, but had no idea it was for us.  Sure was good with plenty of refried beans, guacamole, and extra cheese.  It also came with a side of salsa and over-sized tortilla chips and crackers.  Filled to the brim, we headed back to the ship without being tempted to purchase any of the things being hawked tableside by drifting vendors. 

 

It was still blistering hot by the time we got back at 5pm.  Cooling off in our room while working on photos was perfect.  We sort of forgot we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill tonight.   Good thing it was at 8pm, and not earlier.  Not really famished, we both ordered the wedge salad, without gorgonzola, and would have been happy with just that.  And the hot cheesy rolls too.  But we kept the meal simple by having just lamb chops and a chicken entrée without sides.  OK, one side, a shared order of French fries.  Dessert was one scoop of vanilla and mango sorbet. 

 

Walking the deck outside, we found it was still as hot as ever, and the music in town was going full blast.  Looking out over the ocean, we could see lightning once again.  Must be a normal occurrence in this part of the world.  By the time we remembered there was a folkloric dance, a local show, it was about over, as it began at 9:30pm.  We did see a performance last year, and we assume this was the same act.  Always fun.

 

The ship left before 11pm.  But the better news was that we gained back the hour we lost last night.  Now we will have one more hour to go back to be on Pacific Daylight Savings time.  Since we only have a few days left, we will add one saying a night from the goodnight card.  “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”  -St. Agustine-

 

Bill & Mary Ann

 

PS  Mike and Nancy – good to hear from you…look forward to seeing you both next year.

       Mrs. Marples -    No, we do not know which ships will use the new locks at Panama.

 

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Report # 127   Day at Sea   May 25, 2019   Saturday   No weather report

 

Today turned out to be a good one for two different types of activities.  One was turtle-watching and the other was for packing.  Turtle-watching was by far, much more fun.  You had to be patient to see them, but one by one, they floated by the sides of the ship.  Guess we counted around 30 of them within 15 minutes.  Eventually we quit at 35.  The only other sighting was one lone brown booby as it flew around the front of the ship.  Hoping to see dolphins, we never did, since we seem to be too far off of the coastline.

 

The weather was still warm and humid, although a bit less than yesterday.  Sometime around mid-day, we passed the area of Acapulco, which used to be a stop on every Mexican Riviera cruise.  Not so anymore.  Even on this trip, we will not make a stop at Puerto Vallarta, another fun place, but dangerous these days.  Too bad.

 

Life onboard has continued much the same as on the grand voyage.  Group games continue throughout the day, including team trivia.  The only difference is that it has been held in the Crow’s Nest at 1pm.  Bet that ruins the quiet for the dedicated readers up there.  The same game happens again at 7pm, also interrupting what used to be Happy Hour for some on the grand world cruise.  For those who need to know, Happy Hour is only at 4pm in the Ocean Bar and Crow’s Nest, although there is no music in the Crow’s Nest until 10pm. Only then, the drinks are buy one get one for $2 at that late hour.

 

The pitch for sales is going big and strong in every shop onboard.  The biggest pitch is for rare colored gemstones, watches, and all jewelry.  Ever popular is the movie in the Wajang, but mostly for the bags of popcorn.  Today’s movie was “A Dog’s Way Home”, which we will watch tomorrow.

 

Lunch followed our continued job of packing.  It still amazes us how much we brought that has been stashed away here there and everywhere.  We think we are more than halfway done…perhaps.  We missed going to the dining room for lunch, but made a trip to the Dive In Grill for food to go.  Our burger and hot dog were completely wrapped, while the whole tray was covered with a napkin.  It never fails, because riding down in the elevator, someone always tries to figure out what smells so good.  Watching a Keanu Reeves movie while eating lunch was relaxing, especially now that the custom sandwich maker is no longer an option in the Lido.

 

We had to laugh when we noticed a box on the table across from the front desk.  It is a comment box for the hotel director, Norbert.  What a great idea.  He even has slips of paper to leave messages for him.  We may put a few suggestions in that box before the trip is over.  Speaking of the front desk, we had to make a visit there today due to some questionable charges on our shipboard account.  It appeared that our complimentary dinners in the Pinnacle Grill have come through with ½ off charges.  And using a gift card for buying sodas, it was double billed to our account.  Always a good idea to check the account online, because if we had not caught this, we would have been out over $75.  Anyway, they promised to fix it all, and apply the credit by tomorrow. 

 

This evening was “gala”, or was it?  Judging by the most casually-dressed people we noticed sitting on deck four, it could have been a regular night.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, since most anything goes these days.  At the very least, the fellows had on collared shirts, which is all that is asked of the gala dress code.  Jackets and ties are optional.  Tuxes and sparkling gowns are the exception.  Times are a changing, as the saying goes.

 

We had been asked if we would like a guest host to join us for dinner tonight.  It would have been the hotel director, however, we still are nursing the ever-nagging colds, and felt to best to decline.  As it was, we ordered only a few courses, and were done shortly after 9pm.  Shared desserts of a soufflé, chocolate cheesecake, and special delivery chocolate biscotti cookies were the best. 

 

The entertainer this evening was a pianist and composer, Jason Lyle Black, with a show of music blended with comedy.  However, waiting until 10pm was not in the cards tonight.

 

Another goodnight quote:  “I haven’t been everywhere, but it is on my list”.    – Susan Sontag –

 

Bill & Mary Ann

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Report # 128  Day at Sea   May 26, 2019   Sunday   Partly cloudy & 80 degrees

 

Another day at sea, and one more closer to Cabo San Lucas.  Sometime later in the day, we began to start across the Sea of Cortez, leaving the mainland of Mexico, and heading towards the tip of Baja California.  There was a definite change with the temperature and humidity as soon as we walked outside after breakfast.  Although still warm, it was much more comfortable.  We estimate we will have at least one more day of possible pool weather, but after leaving Cabo, all bets are off.

 

We had a couple of jobs today.  One was filling out the airline info for Seattle, and making sure we have plenty of time to gather our luggage to be shipped to the right area in the terminal.  We intend to use the ship’s transfer to the airport, which will be charged to our shipboard account.  Then we had to get serious with using the remainder of shipboard credit before most everything was sold out.  Disappointed that we did not buy two of the HAL collapsible stainless steel straws in a plastic keyring case, we lucked out when upon asking, there were two left.  And they were under the counter in the shop.  We’re still working on the rest of the credit.  And our gifted beverage cards will only work in a few areas, such as the Explorers Café, any bar or lounge, and the dining room.

 

After lunch, we continued packing while watching another movie about a dog who finds her way home after two years.  More for kids, we think, it was it nice change from the shoot ‘em up flicks. 

 

We did spend a little time at the aft pool, but it almost got chilly by 4pm.  So we headed inside to listen to the Ocean Trio until 6pm.  There are a few couples who have obviously gone to dance studios at home, and love showing off their moves.  Not much different from those on the grand voyage.

 

At 5pm, there was a sip and savor session, but it was held in the Explorers Lounge, where they can attract a much larger crowd.  With roasted pumpkin panna cotta, crispy onions, and green yogurt, along with one glass of wine for $5, we are sure they drew in a lot of people.

 

The Pinnacle Grill hosted the one and only cellar master dinner for this Panama cruise for $95 a person.  It consisted of five delectable courses, paired with wines selected by the cellar master, who is not Jacques, since he was sent home on a medical leave before the grand voyage ended.  

 

Dinner was good tonight, although both dining rooms seemed to be half full.  Slam figured that was due to tomorrow’s port time of 7am that had something to do with it.  People ate early, and probably turned in earlier.  And with a very high amount of tours offered in Cabo, most will be leaving early to take the first tenders to shore.  Speaking of tenders, we received a note saying we will get priority tender service.  We assume this also extends to those with 4 and 5 star status, and possibly the guests from deck seven. 

 

We ordered one starter, then had cordon bleu and meatballs and spaghetti for our entrees.  One scoop of vanilla and strawberry yogurt finished the meal, along with 4 biscotti cookies and a taste of ginger.  Too early for the show, we did not see Tony Pace, the Vegas Headliner….a singer we presume.

 

Rolling with some strong swells, we will sleep good tonight.

 

Bill & Mary Ann  

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Bill and Mary Ann, do you have the luggage forwarding service?  If you do, will you have to pick it up in Seattle, bring it through customs and then drop it at the the FedEx truck?  We had to do that in Ft. Lauderdale and it was a mess of the biggest proportions (clean way of saying another term :classic_unsure:).  We didn't have to do that on the '15 world.  We put it out the night before and saw it when it was delivered after we got home.

 

Also, are they selling the zip up WC logo hooded sweatshirts in the shops?  Those suckers were around $180 and halfway through the cruise I asked the shop guy how many had sold and he told me 1.  ONE!  I always buy those on all the grands but not this time. 

 

Enjoying your reports, keep 'em coming and we'll see you on the 51 day later this year.

 

Linda R.

Edited by cruzingnut

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