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Our Last – Day 11

Here we are on that dreaded of all cruise days – The Last Day.  It is only too well-known what happens tomorrow yet begins today.

Today is sale day on the ship.  If you haven’t quite spent enough both on-shore and on-board, you have one last chance to part with any leftover money.  Ship items are certainly reduced in price which, I suppose, brings them to a more palatable price point.  Liquor on the other hand, which is only available in the ‘duty free’ sales corner, doesn’t go on sale.  Apparently it is already as low as it can go.  What has become more apparent over the years though is that ‘duty free’ does NOT mean ‘profit free’.

One part of our cruise that I had not taken advantage of was watching the Corning Museum of Glass exhibition on deck 15.  Today had to be the day to do so.  There are 3 ladies there, all of whom are professional glass blowers, doing demonstrations and explanations of what they do.  They have all the tools complete with 3 ovens – one melting, one re-heating (both at 2100 degrees F) and one annealing (at around 900 degrees F).  Using all 3, a variety of rods (for blowing through and just for handling), leather gloves, pincers (of various shapes and sizes) they work absolute marvels of molten silica, soda ash and limestone (along with many metallic compounds to give the different colorations).  The finished, yet still incredibly hot, product is then placed into the annealing oven for a protracted time to ensure slow, even cooling.  The 3 items they did while I was there (a banana complete with skin peeled back, a pineapple and a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, red onion, and tomatoes all on a sesame seed bun!) were placed in that oven.  This process will, unfortunately, take the better part of 24 hours so we’ll never get to see the final product.  The banana, for instance, when it went into that oven, was a rather bright red.  When it finally comes out, the peel will be yellow with some brown spots and the flesh will be white.  A rather amazing transformation.

Today is also packing day.  And that’s when it really hits home that the vacation is but hours from finalization.  A final tally to make sure all custom-declarable items are accounted for, clothes set aside for wearing on the plane tomorrow, and then closing up the suitcases.  They will be outside our cabin door by 10 P.M. tonight waiting to be set outside the ship in the disembarkation zone tomorrow morning.

Right after we pick them up we’ll have a short wait for our bus to the airport where yet another wait begins.  As great as it will be to get back home, to see no more snow on our lawn, to suffer through the dog’s annoyance at being gone for so long, to meet up with family and friends…all those wonderful things…being waited on hand and foot was still its own treasure. 🙂

Now I have to go back to work to pay for the next one.  Oh Well….

I hope my posts have not been overly verbose and that I have given some enjoyable insight to our travels.  If you’ve never cruised before I urge you to consider it, at least once.  If you have and it’s really not your cup of tea, ok.  More room for me on the ship. 🙂  Seriously, I’m glad you all came along and hopefully you’ll be back here in late September.

Costa Maya – Day 10

To be fair to Costa Maya, we didn’t venture beyond the immediate tourist mall and central plaza.  Our cruise ship was the only one in port today so the area was not overly crowded.  That was fortunate for the lack of people was made up for by the abundance of sunshine (read: heat).

Amongst the normal shops and market venues there is also a swim up bar as part of a central pool.  This resides alongside another pool that one can share with dolphins (and their trainers).

This day was, again, started late, but also ended early (at least for us).  Having had our fill of the same shops and souvenirs, and not having booked any excursions to the lesser known ruins, we made our way back to the ship after just a couple of hours.

This is likely to be our last stop in the Caribbean for another number of years.  There are no regrets in coming to this relaxing corner of the world.  The tug of so many other places has become irresistible once again however.

The pool aboard the ship has few occupants, and the surrounding deck loungers are mostly empty as well.  This seems like an opportune time to take advantage of each.  The ship’s key card continues to bring free drinks so it only seems polite to make use of same.  From what I understand, this won’t work the same once back at home on Saturday.  Apparently it will have ‘run dry’.

Dinner at Sushi on Five (all in the name of preparatory research for our upcoming journey to Japan, you understand).  Junmai Daiginjo Sake (so stratospherically above the product of the other night!) that combined so luxuriously with what I found to be my uppermost limit of sashimi, nigri-zushi and maki-zushi, made for an absolutely delightful feast.

So ends another day.  Tomorrow will be both lazy and regrettable as it is our last.

Cozumel – Day 9

Cozumel was a port we visited on our very first cruise way back in 2005.  It was a back – to – back 2 week cruise that had this as one of its ports of call.  It has grown quite a bit in the last 12 years.  Today there are 3 ships anchored here (Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Carnival) but from what we have heard, they can now accommodate as many as 8 ships at once.  I’m not sure I’d really enjoy being here with potentially 24,000 other tourists.

The last time we were here I went deep sea fishing and my dear wife took off on a junket to see the ruins at Tulum.  Today we are content with just wandering around the more central area of ‘downtown’.  The immediate area, as soon as you’re off the ship, is much the same as most other Caribbean ports – basically shops for clothing, trinkets, liquor and food.  Taking a cab to the ‘downtown’ area is $8 per couple and about an 8 minute ride.  When it’s 30 degrees, both are acceptable.

So…what do you get downtown that’s different from right off the ship?  Not a heck of a lot, really.  However one thing that you can appreciate is that anything you might actually want to purchase is noticeably cheaper here.  For the Exact Same Item.

I know some ladies have an affinity for purses, some for shoes, others for bling.  My dear wife easily fits into at least one of these categories.  However, I am not without my own weakness.  I like hats.  One I saw when we had just got off the ship would have made a very nice addition to my collection.  At an initial price of $35 I smiled and started to walk away.  Lame as it is, that immediately brought the price down, as if by magic, to $25.  Thanks, but no thanks.

The same hat, color, size, manufacturer and all the labels was found downtown for $12.  At that point all I could say was Muchas Gracias Señor.

This day was begun late simply because we had no reason to hurry.  The offset to that is we were walking around in much of the heat of the day.  Stopping at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville seemed more than a little apropos and timely.  Some tilapia ceviche with chips and salsa, coupled with a pair of margarita’s completed our restoration.

The few hours spent window shopping (albeit in open air markets – no windows) wound down with a few purchases (a bottle of Mexican Breakfast – coffee flavored tequila, some Mexican coffee beans to go with, my hat and a magnet for mother) and a slow return to the ship.  Poolside awaits where both the food and the drinks are much cheaper.

 

Sea Day #2 – Day 8

Sea days are lazy and this is no exception.  A late start is followed, slowly, by an even later breakfast.  One could even argue if this were a Sunday it should be more like…Brunch.  But that’s a hard argument to make.  Every day could be Sunday insomuch as any given day onboard a cruise ship is a day to really do whatever you want.

Or nothing at all. 🙂

So after…Brunch…a trip to the hot tub seemed in order.  An extraordinarily relaxing time there is spent but the bubbles, being on a timer, just quit.  Hmmm…I could reach over and simply push the button to restart them….but…don’t I hear my eReader and a Margarita calling my name?  Why…yes I do!  I believe I shall join them on that comfortable lounge chair that waits patiently for my arrival.

Oh oh…time seems to have slipped by somehow.  It’s almost 2 P.M which is when my attendance is required at today’s Wine Tasting in the Tuscan Dining Lounge.  Back to the room to make myself a little more respectable in appearance and off I go.  My dear wife didn’t wish to join me today but was going to go on a ‘cabin-crawl’ with other Cruise Critic members.  This is essentially taking a quick peek into other cabin types throughout the ship.  It would have been an interesting view into other, more upscale suites but as it turns out, it never materialized for some reason.  Truly unfortunate.

The wine tasting, however, proceeded as planned.  I think I’m really becoming too much of a self-proclaimed snob.  We are met at the entrance to the Tuscan by a pleasant waiter presenting us each with a glass of Champagne Perrier Jouet Grand Brut.  This Champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  It’s very pale yellow, semi-dry with a very light taste and a short finish.  The effervescence is a little less than ginger ale.

I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but the Reader’s Digest version is 4 white and 4 red, France, Italy, Usa (1 of each) a German White and a South African Red to round out the rest.  To me the most enjoyable white was the German Riesling.  Most disappointing was the Italian Red.  The surprise of the afternoon (to me, at least) was the South African Red.  Lomond Conebush Vineyard Syrah, vintage 2009 from Cape Agulhas, South Africa.  First, I’m not a big fan of Syrah, second I haven’t truly come to grips with good wine and South Africa being synonymous terms.  Cherry on the nose, spice on the palette, medium red in color and a very nice finish.  I would be willing to say one could take a couple of these, lay them down in the cellar, revisit them in another 5-7 years and be well-rewarded for patience taken.

All in all, I was less than overly impressed yet there were none that were distasteful and I did get a nice surprise.  But I’m not a trained sommelier either.

Dinner tonight is in the Silk Harvest dining lounge which is a fusion of Asian culture.  Spicy Rock Shrimp and Shrimp and Lobster Dumplings were joined with Vegetable Tempura.  Together they created a splendid trio.  This dinner was a package deal that basically included anything on the food menu but only one selection from the Sake choices.  We decided to try it which ultimately was not the best choice.  Although it was Junmai Sake in name, we found out later it was also produced and bottled in the USA.  Again, the snob in me considers that to be tantamount to saying that because something is made from grapes and tastes like vinegar, it must be balsamic.  Rice wine it may have been…Sake it was not.

Our chosen mains were Crispy Fried Boneless Barramundi, Pad Thai and Roasted Half Asian duck (don’t know the other nationality 😉 ).  The Pad Thai was…ok, the duck was quite good and the crispy fish was a little dry.  Great ambience, but the food was less than great.  Another Asian restaurant, Sushi on Five, has a much better TRUE Sake collection and Fabulous Japanese cuisine.

A short sit-down in a little satellite lounge before retiring for the night. Tomorrow is Cozumel…and heat.

New Orleans – Day 7

Today is a tour of the Oak Alley Plantation.  The better part of the day will be taken by this tour which starts by just getting there.

The plantation is almost an hour outside of New Orleans proper which provides enough time for our tour guide to provide a little insight to this challenged city.

Amongst other things, the first African American mayor of New Orleans managed to convince the Sheraton hotel to build not only a 1000 room hotel, but a major convention center as well.  In addition, the complexes never cost the city itself anything.  Today, the convention center alone brings in about $1 billion annually.

The Mercedes Benz Superdome is the world’s largest multi-purpose facility.  It can seat 78,000 for football, and hosted the Pope with 103,000 faithful for mass.  The Rolling Stones held a concert (in 1981) that generated $18.50 per seat (CHEAP!!) but there were 98,000 screaming fans so all in all a good night for the group.  Interestingly enough that record for an indoor concert attendance stood for many years until June 2014.  At that time, George Strait showed that country music could have a bigger draw when 104,793 adoring fans showed up at the Dallas AT&T center in Dallas Texas.  That single show grossed over $18 million.

The I 10 highway (that we’re currently travelling on) covers a lot of territory stretching from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California.

Many plantations were started by people given land by European aristocracy because of the riches that could be gleaned from that land.  However, in order to be granted land for a plantation, the new owners had to meet 3 conditions.  First they must be Catholic, second they had to stay for a minimum of 7 years and third they had to clear the lands and produce crops (sugar cane, cotton, whatever).  It takes about 1000 pounds of sugar cane to produce 100 pounds of sugar.  After about 1.5 years, the first of 3 crops of sugar cane can be harvested.  It is then plowed under, soy beans are planted for a year, and the sugar cane process is then repeated.

The German people that came had no problem with this concept but the French, many who were aristocrats themselves, took exception to the amount of work that actually needed to be done.  Most of the land was either marsh or swamp (swamp has trees, marsh primarily grasses and bush – both have a lot of water.  And just to lay concerns to rest, Santa Claus comes through the marsh on a flat boat pulled along by alligators.  No-one is missed.).  Somebody else needed to do the work and slaves seemed like a perfect answer.  Over time, that didn’t work out so well.  .

As our trip to Oak Alley ends and the mansion comes into view, the rain that has deluged the road for the entire trip is now letting up, sort of.  The ship-provided umbrellas have certainly been used and appreciated getting from the bus to the main building.  There we are greeted by period-dressed people one of whom provides us with a just-right sized plastic bag in which to carry our soaked umbrellas.  Smart people…bet they’ve done this before.

The building is in remarkable shape despite its 200 plus years of existence.  This is now due to the Oak Alley Foundation which was begun by its last owner to preserve the history of the plantation.  Started in 1837 and finished in1839 it is a testament to life without comforts we now take for granted.  Most of it is made from clay bricks that, in turn, were made from clay out of the Mississippi river.  Keep in mind, the clay was neither gathered nor made into bricks by the plantation owners.  Many of the finishes inside the home are made from Cyprus wood, yet stained and painted to look strikingly like marble.

The Alley of Oaks is a quarter mile alley of 300 year old Virginia Live Oaks.  They were first planted in the early 1700’s by an unknown settler.  There are 28 oaks, spread 80 feet apart in two equal rows leading to the river.  Massive in stature, the largest has a circumference of 30 feet and a spread of 127 feet.  Some of these branches are now supported by metal posts driven into the ground with a saddle at the top holding the limb.  As surprising as the sheer size of these magnificent trees is the fact they are merely middle-aged.  Live Oaks have a life span of about 600 years.  I should look so good at 300!

There is much to see but the rain prevents a lot of wandering about the yard.  However, if you are so inclined, read up about it online.  It presents a lifestyle both fascinating and horrifying.  The buildings and grounds are beautiful but the human cost is beyond comprehension.

It’s a trip back to the ship now and the bus is strangely quiet.  Certainly some are sleeping (the heat didn’t really let up despite the rain) yet I suspect others are simply letting their thoughts dwell on all they have seen and heard.

Back in our room we dress a little more appropriately (pants vs shorts and fresh shirt/blouse) and off to Blu we go for dinner.

 

 

New Orleans – Day 6

There is a broad mix of people in Louisiana but the names perhaps most referred to are Cajun and Creole.  And even then, the reference is often about the food.

The fundamental difference is Creole will have tomatoes, Cajun won’t.  That is over-simplifying, certainly, but an easy to remember rule of thumb.  Today’s tour is about culinary delights.

Although there are component similarities, Jambalaya is NOT Cajun Paella.  First of all, it’s more Creole than Cajun.  Secondly it does not contain saffron.  Most often it will start with the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Creole and Cajun cooking, which is onion, celery and green bell pepper.  (The Pope is Garlic 🙂 ).  After that may be other vegetables, meats like pork, chicken, crawfish or shrimp and, of course, rice.

Gumbo is different again.  Although many ingredients are the same, filé powder (dried sassafras leaves) is generally added after the meat and vegetables are done.  Okra is also included and its preparation is a little tricky.  Okra tends to get somewhat slimy while it cooks and that is not pleasant.  However, using a whisk twisting your wrist around quickly, the slime will collect and can be removed.  This will likely take two or three times to be fully successful.  (There are many methods of removing the slime, make sure you use one of them.)  As well, gumbo is traditionally served over rice, not cooked with it.

Oysters are also big business in the 1400 restaurants in New Orleans.  To the tune of about $317 million dollars annually.  One of the more notable restaurants in town, Antoine’s, is the originator of Oysters Rockefeller.  Due to the shortage of French snails around town, the owner’s son developed this dish substituting oysters and creating a very rich (as rich as Rockefeller!) sauce to bake them in.  He must have done something right as they have served over 3.5 million orders since 1899.

We’re in New Orleans.  We watch a LOT of cooking shows and have done so for years.  Where do you think we ~might~ go for dinner while we’re here?  Why, Emeril’s of course.  His first restaurant, which is located in what is now the Arts district, was opened some 27 years ago (when it was the warehouse district).  And that is our showstopper for the night.

One lady met us at the door and took us to our table.  A man soon shows up with water, a selection of bread (which he fully describes)  and the wine list, another is right behind with the menu, explaining the choices and specials of the night.  A fourth seems to be around to just take care of any immediate needs.  Yet, with all the people taking care of us, no-one hovers at the table.  They just magically appear at given proper moments.  All our dishes are served to us individually at exactly the same time.  It’s not one waiter with two dishes, it’s two waiters with one dish each.  Excellent service throughout.

Barbequed shrimp for myself and Gumbo for my dear wife.  The shrimp were done to perfection nesting in the most wonderful gravy-type sauce that had a delightful sneaker-heat.  Not even the tails were leftover and only a proper sense of decorum spared everyone from watching me lick the plate.

The Gumbo was rich and filling with a beautifully fat oyster nestled right in the middle.  Green onion pork sausage pieces lay hiding, waiting for discovery and then immediately devoured.  Again, formal courtesy prevented any sort of negative social commentary.

My main was Andouille Crusted Gulf Drum (a very flakey white fish) over the most consummately prepared shoestring potatoes with a Creole meuniere sauce.  Some people have been underwhelemed by this, however mine was fabulous.  My dear wife had swordfish on fresh pappardelle noodles.  Both were portioned such that there was just enough to leave room for some dessert yet more than enough to insure you were well satisfied.

To complement our meal a Russian River Chardonnay releases its soft buttery goodness that caresses the palette and seduces you to further indulgence.  Fabulous!

And now dessert…which can only be one thing.  Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie.  The dinner journey has led unerringly to this point.  The cream pie is…very firm…almost solid yet totally malleable.  The graham cracker base bordering on crunchy yet perfectly capable of carrying the layers of precision above.  And the bananas!  Layered with an exactitude that allowed for a brick-like appearance when cut.  The whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

Now I must let the snob in me appear, reluctantly.   The entire experience in this establishment was marvelous and a second visit is guaranteed should we ever come back to New Orleans (ok…maybe it will be Delmonico’s but Emeril’s nonetheless).  There was only one faux pas.  On their wine list, they had a very good selection including some ports, vintage and otherwise.  The stunner was the 1987 Quinta do Noval Nacional.  It wasn’t the price, ($70 per 2 oz. pour) which I would have (almost) happily paid, that was my disappointment.  I talked with the sommelier who could not tell me when it was opened.  It was assuredly not today or yesterday, but rather “has been open for a few days already”.  I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money for something that really had past its prime and I told him as much.  For some reason, he seemed rather surprised at my observation.  I, too, was surprised…for different reasons.

All in all, another admirable day, another 13,000+ steps counted.  The hot tub awaits to soothe the muscles and relax the mind.

 

New Orleans – Day 5

We have arrived.  It’s now 9 A.M. and we are in the process of docking at the Julia Street Cruise Terminal.  Interesting location as it is part of a massive Outlet mall.  A rather different approach to getting tourists to spend money.

A rather lazy morning today (which won’t be the same either tomorrow or Sunday) so breakfast was late.  Almost 10 A.M. which is not unreasonable at all.  In fact, one might contend there were substantial benefits directly relating to reversing the effects of martini night.  But that’s a different conversation.

A walking tour is the afternoon’s venture.  Similar to one we did in London a couple of years ago where we all meet the tour guide at a preselected spot, and go from there.  At the end it’s a pay-what-you-feel-it-was-worth deal.  For the two hours we walked through the Garden District of New Orleans, it was certainly a worthwhile excursion.

Starting at the Lafayette Cemetery number 1 we wandered through a fascinating area of burial architecture.  Mark Twain called it the City of the Dead and, when viewed from above, the similarity to a city is quite apparent.  All the tombs (and there are about 1,000 in this square city block area) have peaked roofs.  Some have a lamb laying or sleeping on the top, unfortunately indicating a child is buried there.

In the Garden District there are about 4,000 families with an average home price of about $1.7 million.  A small house here is around 4,000 square feet, a more normal size is about 10-12,000 square feet.  The largest home in the area is 22,000 square feet.  The whole area is only about 5 x 10 city blocks and was declared an historic district in 1974.

Trees in the area are protected, but sidewalks are not.  The joke in New Orleans is that the most dangerous thing about New Orleans is the sidewalks.  The trees are old, large and given to massive root systems.  That plays serious havoc with sidewalks whether they be concrete, asphalt or (very common) brick.  Often landowners will repair brick sidewalks immediately around their property if that is what is there.

Stately mansions are commonplace although some of their owners are generally not referred to in the same fashion.  We stopped in front of John Goodman’s home as well as Sandra Bullock’s.

Time well spent and the weather acceptable.  Cloudy yet still 29 degrees and humid, but a sunburn was avoided.

It’s back to the ship for a change of clothes and then off to the Steamboat Natchez for dinner and jazz.

The Mississippi is a massive drain for North America.  Ranging 2,340 miles, draining 31 states and two Canadian Provinces it carries about 400 million tons of silt annually.  Its size is third only to the Nile and the Amazon.  New Orleans is 130 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.

The steam engines on the Natchez are actually older than the boat itself.  They were built in 1925 and the engines in 1975.  The paddle wheel (the only means of pushing this boat through the water) weighs approximately 26 tons and there are 3 17 foot rudders that are used to steer her.

Dinner is … good but not outstanding.  Red beans and rice, prime rib roast (not Alberta Beef!), blackened cod, potatoes and catfish bisque (which, in all fairness was Really quite good, just a little salty).  After dinner it was upstairs for the live band (Dukes of Dixieland) which was Excellent.  This has given me my first taste of what attracted me most about this cruise.  The music and I know there will be more.

It’s now after 9 P.M. and having left the Natchez we meander down the street in the general direction of Bourbon Street.  Although we never make it quite that far, we do find Cafe du Mond, home of the Beignets they have managed to make world famous.  Do NOT attempt to go here at breakfast time.  There are lineups that will drain your staying power.  Right now seems to be a great time.  Even though it seems abnormally busy for (essentially) a coffee house, finding a table it not challenging.  Walk in, sit down.

BTW…their Beignets are $2.73 (plus tax) for an order of 3.  They are fancy doughnuts yet don’t really taste or look like a traditional doughnut.  AND they are COVERED in icing sugar.  The second largest sugar refining plant in the world is just down the river a little ways from here.  They refine 6.25 million pounds of sugar daily.  I wonder which company came first…

A day well spent and somewhere north of 13,000 steps put on the shoes.  Time for bed!

 

Sea Day #1 – Day 4

A sea day is just a day to get caught up on a variety of things.  Sleep, for instance.  That’s a good thing to get caught up on.  Being on one’s feet for much longer than normal and adding miles to the treads on the soles of the shoes reinforces how tiring that can be.  Maybe if a person were more active during daily life?  Nahhh….there’s got to be a better way.

So…that order of business out of the way, time for a small(er) bite to eat.  This is going to be a much lazier day so we have to at least attempt moderation.

Spend some time on the blog, adding pictures etc.  Make a few tweaks aesthetically and leave it alone for a bit.  Check email and deal with same accordingly.  Done.

Now…find an area by the pool (in the shade to keep the lobster hue at bay), lay back and read a book.  Finish it, start another.  Maybe even do a slow blink.  REALLLLLYYYY slow blink…might take a half hour or more…..I’ll get back to you.

Ok…supper over and done.  Now it’s time to find my friend ‘The Wheel of Questionable Fortune’ (roulette is its more recognizable name).  I try (with pretty good success surprisingly) to set a $50 – $100 budget.  Win, lose or draw, I don’t take any more than that.  Today was the one where the ship gains back some of its losses from cruises past.  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Oh well.

Maybe a quick stop at the Martini Bar…again, just for reference purposes.  Once seated I give the menu a second over (I gave it the once over the other night, remember?).  Next thing I know, I’ve actually found Dorie!!  A young lady beside me was drinking something that didn’t look like it was ‘directly’ from the menu.  A conversation was struck up and we chatted for a while.  Dorie’s on her (hoping I get this right) third cruise in the last 6 or 8 weeks.  She lives in Florida and is bombarded by deals from cruise companies that are difficult to turn down.  If we lived near a cruise terminal, we’d be doing the exact same thing.

Time slides by as do the martini’s and it’s time for bed.  Tomorrow is a full day.

Key West Florida – Day 3

So…here we are in Florida (again) but this time at the absolute end of the USA.  Key West is at the far end of a LOT of highway and even more bridges between it and the mainland.  There are 40+ bridges that are crossed in order to arrive at Key West.  The most notable of these is 7 Mile bridge.   And yes it really is 7 miles long.  It is also the iconic bridge that was (at least, visually 😉 ) blown up in the movie True Lies (with Arnie and Jamie Lee Curtis).

It seemed resaonable that we take a HOHO bus (Hop On Hop Off) just to make sure we see as much of the city as we can in a short period of time.  The bus has 13 stops over a 90 minute time frame and they run approximately every half hour…give or take.

Pepe’s cafe is the oldest in Key West and was favorite haunt of Harry Truman.

There was a massive fire in 1886 and unfortunately their only fire truck (at the time) was in New York for repairs.  Needless to say that was problematic.

Duval Street (which is impressive to say the least) is the ‘longest street in the world’ as it stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.  A whopping 14 blocks. 🙂

The favorite wine in Key West is…  “it’s Sooooo Hottttttt”

Gas is only about $2.63 a gallon and the average tempurature is about 77 degrees.  With that in mind, it is the ONLY frost free city in the continental US.  There are about 800 islands in the Florida keys.

We finally got off the bus and walked around a bit.  Enjoyed a potty break and found our way back to a HOHO stop that we could join up with again.

The trip took us back to a stop for a bite to eat…apparently at one of the better seafood restaurants in town.  I have to admit, their deep fried conch and almost-cooked tuna were both very tasty. 🙂  I say ‘almost-cooked’ in a very complimentary manner.  Rare tuna and I are VERY close friends. 🙂

Then we stopped at Kermits.  A little hole in the wall eatery that has the distinction of being the inventor of dipped Key Lime Pie.  If you go to Key West, it’s pretty much impossible to NOT have Key Lime Pie.  However, here they have frozen a piece, pushed a stick into it (like a popsicle) then dippped it in chocolate.  Fabulous idea!!!

We walked back to the shiip (cuz we really Should try to get rid of SOME of the calories!) and proceeded to take the rest of the day off.

After all…it IS a vacation, right??

Freeport cont’d (still day 2)

As mentioned before, this is a new cruise line for us which also means a new ship layout as well.  Some differences have been revealed before but others have yet to be fully appreciated.  For instance…the Martini Bar.

There are quite a few seats in the immediate area, the big comfy kind you find often in a traditional lounge.  But, let’s face it, the real treasure spots are right around the bar proper.  After all that’s where the magic happens.  The bartenders are well versed in dexterity and mixology with flashes of showmanship that burst out into the open from time to time.

The drinks themselves are noteworthy and, purely in the best interests of our dear readers, we thought it best to research in-depth.  Two of the more ‘formal’ martini’s were up first – the Fresca Martini (Grey Goose vodka, watermelon juice, mint, lime juice and simple syrup – note lack of Fresca proper) and the Tropitini (Grey Goose vodka, Bacardi Limon flavored rum, blue curaçao, pineapple juice).  We actually managed to make them last for more than just a few minutes.  Not because we didn’t like them, but rather we thought prudence might be warranted.

The second two were of the ‘dessert’ variety.  Please help me give a Warm Welcome to – the Banana Split Martini (Bacardi 8 rum, muddled strawberries, banana schnapps, whipped cream) and the Black Forest Martini (Grey Goose Cherry Noir flavored vodka, Godiva Chocolate liqueur, maraschino cherry juice, chocolate syrup, whipped cream).

In the interests of safety, courtesy and decorum, these should not be served.  It is because of drinks like these that this bar becomes Party Central regardless of age, gender or I.Q.  The area opens promptly at 4:00 P.M. and before that every seat around the bar is taken.  Most of the time there are also others standing with drink in hand, hoping for a seat before the floor becomes the de facto choice.  You may THINK you don’t really like martini’s – I’d be willing to bet that You would be willing to change your opinion. 🙂  Just be wary.

Dinner tonight at Blu, the restaurant solely for Aqua Class guests.  The premise is a little more heart-healthy but the offsetting argument is always how heart healthy is anything when it is offered in an as-much-as-you-can-eat fashion?  Certainly individual portions are somewhat smaller.  However, with starters, salads, soups, mains and dessert, each having 5-8 different selections, eating becomes a challenge.  Couple that with the fact you can have as many of each as you wish…well, you begin to see the problem.

Doing the suggested 10,000 steps per day while on a cruise is really no longer just a suggestion.

Unless you are adamant about getting a totally new wardrobe after you get home. 😉