Holland America MS Amsterdam – Embarkation Day Pt. 2 – May 2015 – San Diego

(Continued from Embarkation, Pt. 1) …. Our first goal when boarding was to get rid of the heavy suitcase, so we made our way directly to our rooms to get rid of as much stuff as we could. When we arrived our rooms were ready, so we split into the two rooms.  We checked them out quickly, and snapped a few photos before we could manage to mess them up too much.     Waiting for us in our room was a bottle of Vodka and a bottle of Myer’s Rum that we ordered online to be delivered to our stateroom. This was the best drink bargain of any trip that we have had so far. Each bottle was approximately $30 for a one-liter bottle, which was not a lot more than the “street price” of either of them. We had carried onboard sparkling cranberry juice and diet Pepsi as mixers, as well as Pepsi (not as a mixer) for the teens.       We unpacked our bags and had adult drinks, then familiarized ourselves with what was in the room and went across the hall to gather the teens. Then we headed to lunch. We decided to go to the main dining room for lunch, so we set off in search of the MDR. When we arrived at the main dining room, there were very few people there, and they seated us immediately at a nice table at the window in the aft. This gave us a view of Coronado Island and some of the other sights in the San Diego bay area. We were quite ready for lunch, so we ordered and prepared to enjoy. For starters, we enjoyed the Avocado Citrus Salad, Bay Shrimp Cocktails, and the Barley and Mushroom soup. All were quite good and came out quickly. We made short work of our starters, and they were very shortly followed by the main course. Between the five of us, we ordered two of the All-American Burgers and three of the Chicken and Waffles. The Classic All-American burger was just what one would expect by the name. Quite tasty, but the fries were nothing special… although the presentation of them being in a mini fry-basket was pretty cool. The Chicken and Waffle was a boneless chicken breast, nicely seasoned, breaded, and fried and served with a nice Belgian-type waffle. We had to ask for the syrup, as apparently this dish isn’t something that everyone is familiar with. We quite enjoyed this and had no sooner ordered our dessert when the initial calls to go to the muster station started. The server informed us that we had plenty of time to finish dessert, and we took his word on this since it clearly was not his first rodeo. Even though it made me nervous, it turns out he was right and we had plenty of time, not to mention our muster station was nearly directly below the dining room.  (Continue to Embarkation Day, Pt. 3)

Holland America MS Amsterdam – Embarkation Day Pt. 1- May 2015 – San Diego

  (Continued from Pre-Cruise) ….. On embarkation day, we woke early to watch the ship cruise into port, right past the front of our hotel. It was a good way to get our first glimpse of the ship on which we would be spending the next 3 days en route to Vancouver. The ship sailed quietly past us, and that was our signal that it was time to start getting ourselves ready for the day. We let the teenagers sleep in, as we started to gather our things to take to the ship. Embarkation time was scheduled at 11:30, so our plan was to be there around 10 to hopefully avoid the lines and crowds. After loading up the rental car with luggage and our teenagers, we set off for the cruise terminal, where I dropped the wife, teenagers, and all the baggage at the terminal, while I returned the car to the rental agency which is just over one mile away. Once the car was dropped, I walked to the nearby bus stop and caught the next bus to the terminal. There are two bus routes that stop at the bus stop near the car rental agency in San Diego, and both take you to the cruise terminal.   One of the buses stops on Ash, and the other stops on Harbor, so check the route information once you board, so you know where to stop. Both locations require a very short 3-minute walk to get to the terminal. The cost for the bus was $2.25. The cruise terminal is very near the USS Midway ship and museum, so you can “cruise” over there to spend some time while staying in San Diego. Also, just down the road a short way is Seaport Village, a nice little shopping area set along the waterfront. It’s a nice place to spend the day and grab some lunch or dinner. I have always been a fan of the Pier Café, and their fish n’ chips. After meeting up with the family, I stopped to take a few quick snapshots of the ship docked at the pier, and we proceeded into the terminal building. This is where things started to be different than our previous experiences. The building was nice, but looked very industrial, albeit with a nice coat of paint, especially in the entry area (it improved in the seating area). We hopped in a line to proceed through the security checkpoint and get our bags x-rayed and walk through the metal detectors. This went quite quickly, and the lines were short, as expected. The next step was the health form that needed filled out for the entire family, asking the standard, yet dreaded Ebola and Norovirus questions. After filling this out, we went into another queue to complete check-in. The check-in line moved quickly, and we ended up at the window where we got our photos taken and room keys and a boarding group number. While we were in this line, the queue …

Carnival Breeze – Key West – Day 2 – June 2013

continued from Carnival Breeze Embarkation Day – June 2013 — Key West, Florida…such a beautiful town!  None of us had ever been to the “Conch Republic” before, nor had we been to any of the other ports on this cruise.  The day we arrived was a hazy and sometimes rainy day, so our explorations were kept to a minimum.  We took one to the trolley tours around the town, which worked out well, as the plastic windows were convenient to keep the POURING rain off of us.  It was at times entertaining to see how much rain we were getting, as a storm system had come up from Cuba.   During the tour we learned about the history of the Conch Republic, and how the area “seceded” from the United States in April 1982 because of a roadblock that the US Border Patrol had setup on Highway US 1 to check cars coming from the keys for immigrants and narcotics.  This roadblock caused an unwanted impact to residents of the area, as well as the important tourism business.  The Key West city council tried to get an injunction against the roadblock and failed.  Since they were being treated as a foreign nation, the Conch Republic was “formed”.  The Mayor of Key West was proclaimed Prime Minister.  He symbolically declared war against the US by breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of a man wearing a naval uniform.  After one minute, he “surrendered” to the man in uniform and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid. Of course, no trip to Key West would be complete without a stop at the “Southernmost Point” of the continental US.  Technically, there are several points in the Continental US that are further south than this marker, but they are privately owned and not open to the public.  There was previously a sign at this location, but since it was stolen many times, it was replaced by this gigantic marker.  This marker is actually a painted concrete sewer junction that was too heavy to be easily moved, so it was painted to look like a buoy.  Because the rain was so heavy this day, we cut our trip short and went back to the ship to relax and dry off.

Carnival Breeze – Embarkation Day – June 2013

We had found a very reasonable deal for a 6 day cruise from Miami, with stops in Key West, Grand Turk, and Nassau, so we   invited my mom and step dad to go along (their first cruise), and made all necessary arrangements.  Upon arrival to the Port of Miami, the enormous Breeze was welcoming us for our adventure. We entered the terminal building and proceeded to check in and receive our boarding group number.  After sitting in the nice terminal area with the brightly colored ceiling, we were called to board and took the obligatory cheesy boarding photo. One of the first things you notice when boarding the Breeze is that the Atrium is not quite as flashy as you have come to expect from the typical Carnival Ship.  Joe Farcus, the man behind the “flashy” theme-based designs, took a back seat on the design of the Carnival Breeze.  This has rendered it a little more subdued, and has also left the Breeze with out the typical “theme” feeling that has been a mainstay of Carnival ships since 1977.  There is a serious lack of gigantic Medusa heads on this ship. After taking a quick self-paced tour of the ship, it was time to find a snack and a drink.  We headed up to the pool area, and gathered up a Guy Fieri burger and fries, along with a rum drink from the Red Frog rum bar. After our snack, we headed to our cabins to get settled in and drop off our carryon stuff, so we could continue our tour of the ship.  We wandered around for a little while at which time we went to the sailaway party for a short time, followed by finding a place to quietly watch Miami fade off into the sunset. After watching this, we tidied up and went to the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse.  Because we made reservations on the first evening, we were given a bottle of wine for each of our reservations.  I am not certain if they still do this, but if they do, it’s a nice little touch to make dinner even better 🙂 For a $35 per person surcharge, you are provided a wonderful meal.  I have had steaks in some very nice steakhouses in my life, and the steak I had that evening is tied for first place of all the steaks I have ever eaten.  After enjoying our meal and wine, it was time to start winding down our first day on the Breeze.  Day two will take us to Key West, Florida. (to be continued)