"" Writer's Wanderings: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grandma's Creative Souvenir

Antarctica. It was indescribable. The snow that covered the glaciers and coated the peninsula was the purest and whitest I have ever seen—as long as it wasn’t near a penguin rookery. The guano (a nice name for you-know-what) from the penguins once it dried and was picked up by the wind, tinted the nearby snow a slight orangish-pink.

We saw thousands of penguins who were hardly phased by the intrusion of a few hundred visitors in red parkas. They waddled right past us as if we were just a part of the natural process of things.

Knowing we would be seeing lots of penguins, I called our grandchildren before we left and promised to send them a card with a penguin on it from Antarctica. Four year old Tyler sobbed like his heart was broken. His mom got on the phone and explained that he was crying because he thought we were going to take him with us to see the glaciers and icebergs. Now my heart was broken. I felt so awful that I had added to his pain with the phone call.

I resolved to buy him something very special when I went souvenir shopping. Unfortunately, there was not much shopping to be done. The ship we were on had some souvenirs but someone missed their opportunity for a good profit by not stocking up on a lot of items grandparents could purchase for their grandkids. I was disappointed. I ended up with three fleece vests embroidered with the word “Antarctica” and a pair of “free” mittens in the back zippered pocket of the vest. Clothes. The girls might be happy with that but I knew what Tyler’s reaction would be.

All the way home and throughout the first week of our return, I wrestled with ideas of something else I might get him. Then the snow started to fall and the lightbulb in my head popped on. Glaciers were made of packed snow. Icebergs came from glaciers…

The day before we were to make the trip to Columbus to see the grandkids, I took a large plastic container out into the yard and scooped up some snow, packing it solidly into the container. I put it in the freezer and, when we were ready to make the trip to his house, we packed it carefully in a cooler with lots of ice bags around it.

“We brought you an iceberg from Antarctica,” I announced as we settled into the living room of Tyler’s house.

I watched as his eyes grew wide. “Really?”

“Really.” I opened the lid to the container and let him look inside.

“Wow! An iceberg!” He reached in and touched the cold mound of ice and snow then drew back quickly and giggled. “Mommy, Grandma brought an iceberg!”

I was concerned that he would just figure out that I’d scooped snow from outside but there was none around his house that week so the thought didn’t occur to him. His sister ran to get their plastic bath toys—a penguin, a seal, and a polar bear.

We floated the iceberg in the bathtub and dissuaded Tyler from climbing in with it. When he realized it was starting to melt, he began to panic.

“Quick, Grandma put it back in the freezer.”

The iceberg is half its original size and is sitting in the freezer waiting for Tyler to explore his little piece of “Antarctica” again. There’s a good chance it might make the trip to preschool for show and tell. At four, he’s learned that glaciers are made of snow and ice and when the pieces break off into the ocean, they become icebergs. That’s quite a bit of knowledge for a little guy. It was quite a souvenir.
[Tyler's now seven and I truly will need to be more creative with my "souvenirs."]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mom's Great Adventure

Mother's Day is around the corner and maybe that's why my mother's been in my thoughts lately. I think I owe a lot of my travel itch to her. When we were little, Mom used to pop us into the car and we'd "get lost." I'm still not sure if we were literally lost on those day trips or if she just did that to make it adventuresome. With my mom, it was hard to know. She was a great storyteller. (I think I owe that to her as well.)

Today I had to cross over a bridge to get to the Lowe's I was headed for. The bridge always brings back memories of visiting my uncle who lived on the other side about 20 minutes from our house although at my young age then, it seemed like hours. The bridge has been modernized. Gone are the iron rails that I remember, replaced with concrete sides, but the memory of our first trip over that bridge with Mom driving lingers.

Mom may have had a learner's permit--or not. Dad was teaching her how to drive which in itself must have been quite a feat for their marriage to survive. We had a stick-shift Chevy. (Dad was a Chevy man all the way). It was the weekend and Dad had decided to go fishing. I'm guessing that there was a little tension over that because Mom decided she wanted to go visit my uncle and his family and she still didn't have her driver's license.

Mom packed my brother who was about 2 or 3 and myself (I was about 7) into the car and we headed out to Uncle Harry's house. I don't remember Mom having any trouble until she spotted a couple of policemen directing traffic at a crossroad near our destination. She panicked a bit, popped the clutch at the wrong time and stalled the car in the middle of the intersection. She then proceded to flood the engine in her haste to get it restarted.

Now as Mom embellished the story, she said, "The cop got in the car and tried to start it again. He sniffed the air--I think to see if I'd been drinking because my face was so red. I told him the baby (my brother) stood up (no child restraints back then). He and his partner then pushed me off to the side of the road and told me to take it easy and try to start the car in a few minutes. Thankfully, they never asked to see my license. The car started again and I made it to Harry's."

Joe and I were threatened with "death" if we told, but eventually the story came out. And I later learned that she tried to get Uncle Harry to drive her back but he wouldn't. He also wouldn't give her an alternate route. Now I'm not sure if she went back the same way. I suspect that might have been the first time we "got lost."

Monday, April 27, 2009

In My Backyard -- Progressive Baseball Stadium

It was a busy weekend for Cleveland sports. The Cavs breezed past the Pistons and won their third and fourth games in Detroit. Meanwhile, the Indians struggled here at home with Minnesota.

Since we couldn't find a movie we liked on Friday for date night and it was such beautiful weather, we got last minute tickets to the Friday night ballgame with the Twins. It's always fun going to the ballpark--no matter what the name is. Although it was a little more fun to say you were going to "the Jake." Now we have to call it "Progressive." There's no way to shorten the name. Next door the Quicken Loans Arena is called the "Q." For obvious reasons, that won't work for Progressive.

Our ballpark was state-of-the-art when it was built in the early 90s. I'm sure there are a lot of new bells and whistles in the new Yankee stadium. Still Progressive offers great viewing of a game, a beautiful field of play (thanks to hard working field crew), and a variety of food options--all overpriced of course. We paid $5.50 for two small cups of coffee.

Hot dogs are now $4.75 unless you go on Dollar Dog Night. I realize Dollar Dog Nights are a promotion like Bobblehead giveaways but wouldn't some math work here to give families a break? They sell tons of Dollar Dogs those nights. Why not lower the price of a hot dog and encourage more people to eat at the ballpark? Doesn't it stand to reason that selling hot dogs at even a $2.50 price would sell more on a regular basis?

There is a new "dining" option being offered this year however. There are several sections where you can purchase a seat for $32 (normally $20) and get all you can eat. Now that might be tempting except that they offer only Pepsi products and we are strictly Coke drinkers. But that's another rant.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Books for the Road -- Joshua's Hope

Joshua's Hope by Carol Ann Erhardt is a great book to take along for a day at the beach or a long airplane ride. It's an engaging page-turner about a woman, Hope Courtland, who struggles to rescue her stepson, four-year-old Joshua, from his father who she divorced. Erhardt takes you to edge-of-your-seat suspense when Hope becomes a suspect in the murder of her ex-husband. Zack Stone, sheriff of Pine Cove where Hope lives, is instrumental in helping her restore her faith in God and trust Him with Joshua's future and her own as he becomes an important part of her life.

Tissue alert: there are some spots where a tissue may need to be handy. This is a very touching story, written to draw you into its characters and their struggles. Erhardt does an excellent job of storytelling. It is no wonder that the ebook version of Joshua's Hope was a nominee for the 2008 Eppie Awards

Thursday, April 23, 2009

5 Ways to Improve Your Travel 'Tude

Travel 'Tude. It's the number one influence in the level of your travel enjoyment. Your attitude, that is. Here are five suggestions for getting the most enjoyment from your travels by adjusting the Travel 'Tude:

  1. Don't expect TSA to make any exceptions for you. Plan ahead and have that 3-1-1 bag properly equipped. Don't leave anything in your carry-on that is questionable. If you're unsure, check against the list at the TSA site.

  2. Expect to meet harried airline personnel when there are delays because of weather or holiday travel. Be sympathetic in your approach if you have a problem to be solved. Momma always said you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar.

  3. Don't expect your hotel room to be ready before the appointed time. Then you can be pleasantly surprised if it is.

  4. Don't expect good service if you are not courteous or you are demanding. This goes back to that honey thing of Momma's. Oh, and there's that Golden Rule thing you learned in kindergarten.

  5. Expect that you will have to be flexible with some parts of your planned trip. It is rare that everything will work out perfectly according to plan. Take an umbrella, for instance. The weather seldom considers your plans.

These are only a few things but I think it's enough to get the idea. It's all about expectations and how we treat the people who are there to provide services for us. On our last trip, we stayed overnight at a hotel on our way home. We arrived a few hours before the advertised time that our room would be available. It was obvious when we entered the lobby that they were swamped with guests leaving and arriving. When we went to the desk, the hotel clerk apologized for the wait even though we were early.

"No problem," I said. "Looks like you've had a busy morning."

"We were full last night," she said madly clicking keys to pull up our reservation. "Did you want a room with a view? It's $100 extra."

Now we had reserved our room on reward points and were not looking to pay extra.

"No," we said. "Just whatever's available, whenever it's ready. We'll just go and enjoy the fresh air by the pool for a while."

She stopped her clicking and stared at us. "Wow. I wish everyone could have that attitude. It would sure make my job more pleasant. I'll call you when your room is ready."

An hour later, Bob cell rang. We checked in. A nice view. No charge. It's all about Travel 'Tude.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Safari Anyone?

The weekend's visit to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo got me to thinking more about that safari on my "bucket list." So I spent (make that wasted) a couple hours surfing sites and learning about options for taking a safari.

I found two very interesting places on the web. The first is called the Paperbark Bush Retreat. It came highly recommended on Tripadvisor from the people who wrote reviews there. It is in South Africa between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park. Relatively new, it is owned by Lambert and Shelly Van der Nest who developed it in 2006/7. Carol and Will Fox, the hosts, were highly complimented on their hospitality by reviewers. The retreat is also a part of the Leutla Conservancy which is involved with the study of leopards. Bush walks, night drives, and activities associated with the leopard studies are all a part of the package. Back on Track Safari leads the treks into the parks.

The other place I found was the Shamwari Game Reserve. There were several choices of places to stay there. All looked very inviting and offered treks into the African parks to see the big five: elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lion and leopard). Again, this place was highly recommended on Tripadvisor as well.

If you take a look at the places I've mentioned, you'll see that I'm not looking to camp out. I gave that up way back in my Girl Scout days. I prefer indoor plumbing and relatively sturdy walls. One of the other choices we've considered is a cruise that ends/begins somewhere there is an opportunity to do a pre/post cruise safari. Unfortunately, due to piracy and unrest I'm guessing, many of the destinations for cruise ships have been abandoned for the time being. If we sign up for the 80 day leg of the Queen Mary 2 world cruise though, we could stop in Cape Town.

Ah well, perhaps I will settle for Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, get a nice balcony view of the the animal compound and use my imagination.

Monday, April 20, 2009

In My Backyard -- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

We have a relatively long stretch of time (for us) between trips and already are feeling a little itchy so this weekend, we traveled the 20 minutes to our nearby zoo and spent the morning walking around.

There's lots going on at our zoo. The pacyderm building is being torn down and the whole area redone. Our elephants are visiting friends at the Columbus zoo from what I hear. Won't they be surprised when they get back!
A stop in at the koala exhibit and subsequently the Australian outback area set our hearts pitter-pattering with thoughts of the trip we're planning to Australia in 2010. I remembered our first foray into the "wilds" of Australia with our son who was an exchange student at James Cook in Townsville. We were walking a trail when suddenly Rob stopped and said, "Look up." There nestled in the crook of a tree was a koala, sound asleep (they're usually nocturnal). Rob, expert tracker that he is, saw droppings on the ground and then spotted the gray furry ball in the tree. The koala in the wild wasn't nearly as groomed as the zoo's inhabitants are.

We have quite a herd of giraffes now. Seeing them in the African Savanna area of the zoo made me want to check and be sure that a safari was still on my "bucket list." Yup. Still thinking about it. But if we find that it's a little out of our price and or comfort zone, maybe we could take advantage of the camping program the zoo offers. I just want to know if I'll be downwind or upwind from the smells.

We didn't make it to the primate building. It's on the top of a huge hill you can walk or ride up by tram. Those exhibits are mostly indoors and we were too excited to be out in warm sunny weather.

Still, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo holds a warm spot in my heart. It's been around a long time and I've been going there since I was three years old. Yes, that was a long time ago. But as much as I love a good visit to the zoo, there is someone else who is even crazier--Marla Taviano. She has a website set up called 52 Zoos in 52 Weeks. Check it out. Maybe you'll find a zoo near you that's literally in your backyard.

Other Cleveland area posts:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Books for the Road--Manhunt

Manhunt, The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln's Killer, by James L. Swanson, is one of the better historical account books I have read. I am not a great history buff. I slogged through my history courses in high school and college and really didn't take much interest until I was a bit more mature. But Lincoln has always been one of my favorite historical figures and the Civil War an interesting era to look at.

Swanson gives a detailed account of the assassination, the attempt on other leaders of the time, and of course the 12-day chase for the killer and co-conspirators. He does it with a storytelling technique that makes it read so much better than a history book could. I can forgive him the liberty of second guessing what Booth and the others might have been feeling at the time. It does make the story more interesting.

Having lived near the Washington, D.C., area for a few years, I found it fascinating to trace the trail of Booth and his companion, David Herold, through Maryland and into Virginia. This would be a great book to read either before or just after a visit to that area. A must if you stop in at the restored Ford Theater.

For those of you who are history buffs, Swanson gives a detailed and extensive bibliography at the end should you be looking to research the subject and the era further.

One note: I bought this through the Sony E-book store and the images were not downloaded. If you want images, you need to buy the actual book or grab one at the library. I'm not sure if Kindle offers this or if the images download with it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Crown Princess -- Chef's Table

Seated around the special table in the Michaelangelo dining room, our Chef's Table dinner started in earnest. We were served a tasty goat cheese souffle (?) that wasn't listed on our menu. On our bread plates were two varieties of fresh breads--one dark, one white. I sampled the dark one and it was moist and tasted a little sweet, maybe even nutty. I resisted finishing the whole piece and filling up before the main courses arrived.
Chef Pollara bragged a bit about the lobster risotto we were about to receive. Coming from Italy, he claimed it as a specialty. His claim was rightly made. It was wonderful. The dish could have been a meal in itself. It was a risotto that had just the right consistency and chunks of lobster as well as two claws to tantalize the taste buds.
A small scoop of raspberry lemon sorbet was next. It's called "palate cleansing."

Palates cleansed, we were ready to receive our main dish. With flourish, Chef Pollara appeared again with an assistant (and a fire extinguisher for laughs). Two waiters carried in a tray with three huge veal shanks on it. After the picture taking, the tray was set on the table where the chef was preparing veal tenderloin as well--flambe. When all the final touches were made to the veal and the veggies, our plates were set before us and we gave a unified groan. There was enough food on each plate to feed three people. I've never seen so much meat on a plate before.

And the best/worst part was that it was absolutely delightful--tender, tasty, moist, melt-in-the-mouth veal. I never wanted a doggie-bag so badly in my life. And I don't have a dog!

The meal continued as we guiltily left behind what we could not eat and exchanged it for a serving of baked Camembert and pieces of walnut bread followed by little confections and cookies all leading up to the grand finale.

Chef Pollara introduced the head pastry/confection chef whose name I'm afraid I did not catch. As he was introduced, we were presented with amazing creations for dessert. On a molded sugar base tinted blue was a bit of pastry with a scoop of creamy confection from which extended two antenna-looking pieces of hardened sugar with a sugary spring holding them together. If I heard right, he said it took several hours to put it all together.

Along the way, Commodore Romano stopped by briefly to say hello. We must have met a good deal of the ship's officers by the end of the evening.

With our elaborate desserts before us, we were also presented a copy of Courses, A Culinary Journey, signed by Chef Pollara. The ladies all received a red rose as well and the ship's photographer stopped by to take pictures of each couple as well as the group. Each photo posed with Chef Pollara and Maitre d' Ciorfito. The pictures were delivered moments later to our table.

Lest I forget, all of the dinner was accompanied by wine pairings--white, red, a sweet dessert wine, and lemoncello (or soft drinks if you preferred). And ended with coffee.

The whole evening lasted from 7 until 10:30 p.m. at which time we helped each other out of our chairs and vowed we would not need to eat again for at least three days. Except for the obscene amount of food served to us, the dinner was wonderful. Smaller portions would have been nice since there were so many courses. But I have absolutely no complaints about the taste of the food. Each dish was amazing and the attention given us made us truly feel VIP.

Other specialty restaurants aboard cruise ships:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Crown Princess -- Chef's Table

The highlight of our cruise on the Crown Princess was probably the Chef's Table experience. We had heard about this offering through the Cruise Critic message boards. It is an evening where your party is treated to a tour of the galley during dinner time (other galley tours do not take place while servers are busy) and then you are led to a special seating where the Executive Chef treats you to some special dishes not offered in any other dining room. It is strictly labeled VIP treatment. There is a limited amount of space available. For our cruise, the Chef's Table was offered three nights and each night there were only ten spaces. We made our reservations as soon as we could connect with the dinner reservation staff by phone on board ship. Cost for the VIP treatment? $75/person.

During the first sea day, we were asked to meet with a staff member who went over the rules for attending the special dinner. We were asked to wear freshly laundered clothes, closed toed shoes, no shorts, and observe some other common sense rules while in the galley. The most important request was that should we feel ill during the cruise, we needed to cancel our participation (with full refund).

Our special evening was on Friday of the cruise. We tried not to eat too much during the day knowing it would probably be a big meal. We had no idea how big.

We arrived at the International Cafe in the Grande Piazza at the appointed time of 7 p.m. and were greeted by the Maitre d', Francesco Ciorfito, who led us down to the Michaelangelo dining room where we were asked to don lab coats for our galley tour. Heads turned as we marched single file through the dining room and back into the galley. I can only imagine what people were wondering about us.

Just inside the galley we were asked to wash our hands thoroughly even though we were not to touch anything during the tour. As you may already know, the galley is all shiny stainless steel and immaculate. It's very impressive even with the hustle and bustle of preparation for meals. We were at the end of the early dining hour so most of the main meals had already been served.

Executive Chef Giuseppe Pollara led us through the galley pointing out several things of interest and answering any questions we had. He was quite entertaining and a wonderful host. One of our more interesting stops was a wall full of pictures of what each item on the menu for that night should look like before it goes out the door to the table. "It must be 95% correct!" said Chef Pollara.

He told us we were in one of nine kitchens on board the ship. With over 3200 passengers to feed and 1100 crew, the dining staff works almost continually. Each night after dinner is finished, the kitchens are disinfected and preparation for breakfast begins. We were impressed with how jovial the staff seemed to be as we wandered through. Even the dish washers were a happy lot.

At one end of the galley, we stopped and were served appetizers and champagne (soft drinks were available for those who wanted them). Several other officers joined us for a short time among them the Food and Beverage Manager, Francesco Grasso, who Chef Pollara teased about paying for all the groceries. Our appetizers included a scrumptious seafood salad with crab and shrimp, followed by a cheese quiche, escargot on little biscuits, and a wonderful caviar with sour cream served on a little crust of bread. Each tray was decorated with freshly carved arrangements from vegetables and ginger root.

We left our lab coats with a staff member and were led to our table in the Michaelangelo. The table was decorated with fresh flowers and candles accented with cleverly arranged breadsticks in glasses. The dinnerware was different than the usual fare in the dining room.

As our wait staff began to pour water, one leaned over to me and winked. "My friend is your waiter in the Botticelli," he said. "He ask me to take good care of you." And he did. The service was exceptional.

Next: The main meal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crown Princess -- Sabatini Specialty Restaurant

The night of my mother-in-law's 88th birthday, we celebrated with dinner at Sabatini's. The restaurant is labeled Italian but is not heavily peppered with pasta dishes. There was quite a variety of meats and fish to choose from for your entree.

The main menu offers appetizers, pasta, soup or salad, and entrees. You only need to choose a soup or salad and an entree. The appetizers are all delivered to you to sample as you wish.

The antipasto was very good as were the mini crab cakes. There are two pasta dishes that you may sample as well. They were absolutely delicious. I wish I would have asked to have one of them as my main course as the grilled lobster I ordered was not as good as I'd hoped.

Dessert menus were pleasant and we ordered a variety of things but the one that could win a prize in our opinion was the white chocolate mousse that was a work of art.

The staff in the restaurant were courteous and friendly and certainly attended to our every need. They were also very patient when, as the sun was about disappear in a glorious Caribbean sunset, half of the restaurant patrons grabbed cameras and exited the rear door to get a photo. They just smiled and refilled water glasses.

Next post: The Chef's Table

Other specialty restaurants aboard cruise ships:
Crown Princess Chef' s Table
Solstice Tuscan Grill
Solstice Silk Harvest
Queen Mary 2 Todd English

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Crown Princess -- Caribbean Ports

Our itinerary for the week of our cruise aboard the Crown Princess called for putting in to Princess Cays the first day, a day at sea, and then St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk followed by another day at sea before returning to Ft. Lauderdale.

This was our first time at Princess Cays even though we have sailed with Princess seven times before. The island is beautiful and well appointed with shopping opportunities, lots of lounge chairs, a lovely beach, and of course the ever-popular BBQ. Somehow a hamburger tastes so much better when you can smell it cooking on an open grill.

Our group rented a bungalow for the day. This was our first experience with anything like that and it was very nice. The bungalow actually had A/C which we really didn't need. The morning was cool and the afternoon temperature never got unbearable. Wait staff brought us food from the buffet around noon and supplied us with ice water in pitchers. We could have opted for drinks and grilled lobster but that was another $48/person.

The area in general is shaded nicely away from the immediate beach so there are plenty of places to stay out of the sun if you choose. Just be sure to get there early for the best choice. There is also a very nice play area for the kids.

In St. Maarten's we got off early and strolled the boardwalk until the heat set in and then we opted for the shadier main street where all the storefronts and casinos are. Tough to find a jewelry store--NOT. That's about all there is lining Main Street.

At St. Thomas, we were docked across the harbor from the usual pier at a place called Austin "Babe" Monsanto Marine Terminal at Crown Bay. Shuttles into town were $4/person each way. Be aware that when that open air "bus" pulls up to a stop in town, you will be inundated by all sorts of barkers who are literally in your face offering deals for jewelry and tours. It was worse that St. Lucia. But once we were away from the melee, we found some pleasant side streets and "malls" to wander through. We stopped to admire and try to catch a photo of a beautiful dark green/black hummingbird with a teal crown. Out of the dozen picture we got this one.

It appears that Crown Bay is gearing up for more regular cruise ship traffic. There were several shops and some empty new buildings as well as a windmill that were in the process of being finished for obvious occupancy. It is not as large a shopping area though as the other pier where most ships dock.

We arrived at Grand Turk at 1 p.m. and stayed until 6. The Grand Turk cruise port is one that has been built by the cruise lines and features quite a few nice shops as well as Margaritaville where you can spend the afternoon by the large pool that has a swim-up bar. There is also a very nice beach area with all sorts of lounge chairs. If you venture into town, be sure to take a tour that gets you out to the lighthouse where there's a nice little path by the sea and "Kodak" opportunities and then into town for a tour of the prison and the museum. The museum houses some great artifacts from some ships of the Christopher Columbus era.

Our days at sea were relaxing. Bob took advantage of several tours including one backstage and watched the comedy of Executive Chef, Giuseppe Pollara and Maitre d', Francesco Ciorfito, as they had a Culinary Demonstration (or a "cook-off" as it was advertised). The last show offered on Saturday night, "Motown," was probably our favorite but then, that's our kind of music.

Next Post: Dinner at Sabatini's

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Crown Princess--Caribbean Sail

Last week we spent seven nights aboard the Crown Princess in the Caribbean sailing to Princess Cays, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk. This is the largest Princess ship we have been on and it is called the crown jewel of the Princess fleet. It is no wonder. The ship is beautiful.

The interior design of the public rooms is rich in wood tones and elegant furniture. Many of the lounges offer comfortable seating where you can enjoy the many and varied musicians and vocal groups on board ship. One of our favorite areas was the Adagio right next to the Sabatini specialty restaurant. We enjoyed the pre-dinner music of Rita Mustaine most nights there. On the evenings when the wind and sun were not at the back of the ship, we slipped out the Adagio back door and sat on the balcony there on comfy chairs with lovely fountains behind us and enjoyed the weather and the sea view.

This was the first Princess ship for us where the large screen outdoors by the midship pool played movies and concerts all day and much of the evening. Nice warm blankets are offered in the evening showings along with popcorn.

The dining rooms were all themed: Botticelli, Da Vinci, and Michaelangelo. Because we were a party of 8 and celebrating a birthday (any excuse to take a cruise), we opted for early dining in the Botticelli. But we ate often in the Da Vinci for breakfast (we were disappointed with the offerings in the Horizon Court). Service was wonderful no matter which restaurant you were in.

There were several pools scattered about the ship and each had it's own gathering of regulars especially on sea days. If you wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle and the kids who were on spring break, you could opt for the Sanctuary, "The Pocket of Tranquility." Of course for this pleasure you had to pluck out $10 for a half day or $20 for a full day. It did look tranquil but so was our balcony and it came with the room.

The Princess theaters are notoriously small but in order to let everyone have the opportunity to see the production shows, they are repeated twice a night and two nights in a row. The Explorers lounge acts as another venue for entertainment and featured two different comedians and a magician. We especially enjoyed Rodney Johnson's humor. It was inventive, clever, and clean.

Bob took advantage of the thermal suite offerings and signed up for a "couples" package with his brother. The week cost them $70 each. Normally an individual package is $89.

During our cruise, we ate at Sabatini's and the Chef's Table which was absolutely amazing. I'll be posting on each of those later.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time aboard the Crown Princess. It is always a joy to find a crew that seems happy to be there and enjoying their work. It shows in their attitude and their productivity. I credit those in charge from the Commodore (Giuseppe Romano is Commodore not Captain) on down. They are the ones who need to set the atmosphere for a good work place. Congrats!

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