Jan 23 First Day at Sea

Day 2 Blues Cruise (1) The Eurodam is a moderately sized ship, at 86,700 tons and carrying 2,104 passengers.  After being christened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in July of 2008, she entered service as the 80th ship for Holland America. She has 11 passenger decks with a split 12th deck for sunning and watching morning sail-in’s.  Every day on the cruise has a theme, and today it was “Don’t Come as you Are”.  I had no clue what that meant, so donned a pair of shorts and a shirt for the moderately cool day ahead. 

On our first day at sea, we had a lazy morning and went upstairs to the Lido buffet for a delicious breakfast.  I often have oats and yogurt with fresh fruit on cruises, but this time I just relaxed and enjoyed the the made to order omelettes with my fruit.  The skies were no longer overcast but the air was cool and the seas were rough enough to keep the ship rolling around a bit.  Our cabin was in the very rear of the ship, on the 5th deck. It’s a spot I wouldn’t have chosen, but with this cruise you are lucky to even get a cabin at all if you aren’t a previous cruiser.  I had to jump through all sorts of hoops last year to try to get tickets for us.  The cruise is so popular it is usually sold out by the time the ship is back in port. Even though we were low in the ship, the rear location kept us rolling around a bit more than is usual.  Deb and I both wore wrist bands, and took ginger to help with seasickness, and Deb did just fine.  After that night rolling around, I gave in a put on a patch, but they make me feel so creepy I was really wishing I hadn’t.  I took it off after a couple of days and the wrist bands did their magic.  They even keep me from getting car sick in busses and back seats!

Day 2 Blues Cruise (6) free booze. unheard of on a cruise ship The parties started early in the day, with the “Virgin” party on the aft deck at 10 am and the “Veteran” party downstairs in the Queen’s Lounge at the same time.  We were entertained by one of my favorite bands on the cruise, “Big James and the Chicago Playboys”, and said “It’s five o’clock somewhere” when we were served our choice of unlimited glasses of champagne, bloody mary’s, and mimosa’s.  Free drinks on a cruise are not the normal way of doing things, and while I am not a particularly big drinker, I did enjoy the free mimosas. Even though we had breakfast in the morning, by 11 am the Legendary Gospel Brunch was in full swing down by the main stage, with honey dipped fried chicken, catfish, greens, mac and cheese, bbq wings, pecan pie and many more southern delights.  Maybe we could eat lunch a bit early?

not your everyday cruise ship bannersThe music was great, with the Holmes Brothers, Denise LaSalle, and Janiva Magness carrying on as if it were the middle of a Saturday night in Memphis. After all that food it seemed like a good idea to do some walking, so I checked out the 3rd deck, delighted to find that it made a complete circuit around the ship and only required 3 laps to get in a mile. I usually prefer doing my walking on the upper decks, but this ship doesn’t have a really good walking deck on top, so this would have to do.

pool deck in the morning.  Everyone is elsewhere on this cool sea day We explored the ship some more during the afternoon, checking out the Lido pool and the various bars.  I was a bit disappointed with the pool, it was terribly small for a ship this size, especially with the aft deck pool closed down for dancing, and there was no way to get to an upper deck from the pool deck without going back to the elevators and then back outside.  Because the roof slides open during the day and closes at night, we didn’t have the open decks above the pool to enjoy the sun and then run down the stairs for a cooling dip.  As a result, I noticed that the pool area was quite still, with no access to the fresh ocean breezes.  This was fine on a cool sea day, but when things warmed up enough to actually enjoy swimming, it wasn’t very pleasant.

Day 2 Blues Cruise (37) Day 2 Blues Cruise (31) After relaxing in the late afternoon with more music, we decided to try the reservations only “Cannaletto” Italian restaurant for dinner.  The meal was quite nice, as the restaurant is located in a quiet corner of the Lido deck.  There are two other specialty restaurants on the ship, but this is the only one that didn’t charge the extra $25 per person for dinner. With all the free food around, I find it hard to ante up that extra charge. The antipasto platter was especially good, although the surprise cotton candy dessert was a bit strange.  Cute, but strange.  It made us both laugh a lot.  We had some time to kill, so wandered around listening to various musicians in the various venues until my favorite, Joan Osborne, showed up on the Main Stage at 10:45.  My kids know it’s pretty useless to call me any time after 9 pm, so will be amazed at my stamina and ability to party into the wee hours of the morning.

Day 2 Blues Cruise (54) The main stage theater on the Eurodam is a bit subdued after the gorgeous Celebrity Solstice theater, and is even less pretty than those on the Princess ships.  The colors are dark and low key, and supposedly more sleek and modern.  Gimme glitz, I say.  Initially we sat down on the main floor to look up at the performers, but by the time the show started, fans were jamming the area in front of the stage and our front row seats were worthless.  We opted instead to climb up to the balcony where we had a great view.  Joan Osborne is a wonderful singer, but I was truly enthralled by the Holmes Brothers and their musical skills.  What a great bunch of old guys playing blues.  Wow!

Day 2 Blues Cruise (59) We ambled back to our stateroom, admiring all the decorated doors on the way.  It’s a “thing” on this cruise to decorate your door, and it is one of the many contest awards handed out at the end of the cruise.  Once in our cabin, Surprise!  We got towel animals with the turned down beds and little chocolates!!  I was glad for Deborah, since this was her first cruise, and many ships are no longer doing this silly special little touch.  We also received some of our Legendary Blues Cruise goodies, including a hot/cold cup, an insulated beach bag with the cruise logo, and last but not least, Legendary Blues Cruise logo condoms.  Ok.

Our stateroom steward was close to perfect.  He wasn’t visible much unless we needed him, yet every single time we left the cabin he was there cleaning up and refreshing everything.  His skill at towel animals was excellent as well. We had big bottles of water in the cabin, and the documentation said somewhere that they cost 3.39 a bottle, but I never saw a bottle charge on my bill, so I’m not sure if it was really complimentary, or if our steward just didn’t bother charging us. 

Yes, unless you were there, the photos are a bit boring, and won’t be otherwise until a couple more days when we actually get a port day.  In the mean time, you can still check them out here if you are so inclined.

Jan 22 Off on the Legendary Blues Cruise

Day 1 Blues Cruise I have four kids, and with their partners, their children and their partners, and their children’s children, it’s a good sized family. I often hear of moms who take their entire families on reunion trips and cruises, and it sounds like so very much fun. That would take a lot more dollars than I can manage, so my choice is to take each of my children on a one-time special trip of their choice. One-on-one time with Mom, which is also nice, and usually doesn’t happen during the big family get-togethers. My eldest daughter Deborah chose this Legendary Blues Cruise as her dream destination, one that she probably wouldn’t be able to manage on her own any time in the near future.

0111 Blues Cruise 009Of course, Deb and I wanted to fly together to Miami, and the Portland airport is  big enough to serve as a good jumping off point. The weather cooperated fairly well with my choice to drive to Portland on the Friday of our late evening flight. I left at 7 in the morning from Rocky Point and chose to go the I-5 route, even though it’s a bit longer, it seems a lot safer than icy HWY 97 at this time of year. It was a lovely drive and I was in Portland by 2 in the afternoon, just in time for Deb to arrive home from her short work day. Deb is a financial director for a non-profit in Portland and has a long commute. I guess the price of a good job sometimes is that dang commute. When she got home, she was pretty excited. Deb works hard and doesn’t get much time for vacations so this coming week is pretty special to her.

The skies were gray and chilly, but the traffic was light. I love being a passenger when my daughter drives through Portland traffic because she is really good at it, and knows just when to jump off the freeways and wind her way through downtown back streets to get to the airport.

We chose to park in the economy lot to save some extra dollars, but the shuttle was quick and efficient and without any glitches we were in the terminal, checked in, and through the security line. Since we had a long layover in Seattle before our red-eye flight, we skipped some of the great restaurants at PDX in favor of killing time nicely with dinner in Seattle.

The Alaska flight from Portland to Seattle is less than an hour, with just enough time for the crew to deliver complimentary wine and beer from a local brewery and winery. I guess that makes up for the little planes and the fact that you have to do a gate check of your carry-on if it is much bigger than a purse.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (2)Once in Seattle, we were already inside security with a three hour wait so it was nice that there are some very good restaurants available. We settled on a slow delicious supper at the Alaska Grill with yummy seafood and Juneau’s great brew. Our flight was on time and it didn’t seem very long before we were settled in to our seats for the long overnight flight to Miami.

As we approached Florida, we could see nothing but thick fog blanketing the landscape. As we circled Miami, I felt the ominous lift of a plane circling back higher, and before long the pilot announced that we couldn’t land and would have to return to Orlando for fuel. It didn’t take very long to fuel up again and fly back to Miami, but once there we continued to circle and circle. I heard later that one of the planes coming in couldn’t land anywhere and was running on fumes. Eventually we landed, a couple of hours late, but it didn’t matter because we were scheduled far enough in advance that it wasn’t a problem.

I love that first smell of Florida when I get off the plane in the early morning, walking up the jetway. It’s thick and robust, wet and organic in a way that you don’t often get out in our dry western landscape. The skies were cloudy and the temperatures were in the low 50’s. Once again, Florida was experiencing a colder than normal week and we were in the middle of it. I hope that someday I can get back to Florida when it is full of gorgeous warm velvet air, but this year I haven’t been very lucky in this regard.

0111 Blues Cruise 018We barely had time to pick up our bags when a Holland America representative met us, “Are you Deborah and Sue?” In just a few moments we were whisked off to the curb, our bags were loaded into the shuttle, and we were on our way to Ft. Lauderdale. Once there, before very long we were through security, checked in and received our cruise cards and were on the ship. I have been on only 6 cruises now, but this was the slickest embarkation I have experienced so far.

We wound our way up the gangways and started exploring the Holland America MS Eurodam a bit, and within just a few minutes it was announced that our staterooms were ready. That was fast! By 11 we were in our room unpacking, checking out the large closets, the nice veranda, and the very comfy beds. The skies were still overcast and breezy and the views of Fort Lauderdale were a bit dingy. We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the ship, trying to find where all the venues were located, and enjoying a great lunch buffet at the Lido, the main area for casual dining on the 9th deck.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (20)The mandatory safety muster was easy, with no requirement to wear our life jackets, but we had to be there on the Promenade Deck 3 below our designated lifeboat to check in. It’s surprising to me how differently this is handled among different cruise lines, with some doing the entire thing in one of the bars. The sail away was a bit confusing because I have this “thing” about wanting to be at the high point on the ship as we leave. However, the Eurodam is designed in a way that makes it hard to find the highest point very easily, with convoluted access to some of the decks, and stairways that stop in the middle of a restaurant and don’t go anywhere. As a result, Deb missed the waving crowd along the Fort Lauderdale beach while I led her around in circles trying to get to the top of something. Silly me.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (29) It was pretty cold and windy out on the aft deck, but the music was good and the atmosphere was energizing while everyone danced and drank and laughed and started up what was to be a seven day party. Deb and I had the cruise drink of the day, something called the “Bluesarita” that was a tasty treat at around 5 bucks, plus tips and taxes of course. The “Sail-Away”party was in full swing by 4:45 with a rear deck southern bbq with ribs and all the fixings, but we didn’t eat because we wanted to enjoy our first full dinner on the ship in the main dining room. Rick Estrin and the Nightcats set the pace with some rousing blues and everyone was having a great time out on deck.  They even closed down the aft deck swimming pool for this cruise and converted it to a dance floor. Deb and I found the stairs to the 10th deck above all the party people for a better view and more room to dance. The banners on the ship above the party deck were certainly not your ordinary cruise logos!

0111 Blues Cruise 025When we purchased our tickets, we scheduled early dining at 5:45 so that it wouldn’t interfere with the music of the night during the cruise. We thought the seating was for a table of six with Deb’s friends, but when we arrived at the dining room, it seemed that it was open seating. This turned out to be the case throughout the cruise, with our choice of table changing each night and our seat mates coming and going at will. We didn’t get to know our servers in the way that you do with assigned seating and I missed that a bit.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (35) Dinner was lovely, and our choice of table by a big rear window was great, with views of the coast fading in the distance as the sun set through the dim gray skies. The excellent dinner was typical of the rest of our dining experience on the Eurodam. I liked the food on this ship. While not of Celebrity quality, it was still very good most of the time, flavorful and well prepared, and served with a bit of flair. Much better than our recent Princess cruise, but again, nothing like what Mo and I experienced last year on the Solstice when we went through the Panama Canal. An example would be the Bananas Foster dessert, on Celebrity it was flamed directly in view of our table, and on the Eurodam  there wasn’t a flame in sight.

Day 1 Blues Cruise (45) In the blur of activity, I have no idea what we did that first night after dinner. I am sure that music was involved, and I am sure Deb was dancing at one point or another. I have lots of blurry photos of people dancing and Deborah laughing and hugging her friends from Portland that had been on this cruise in the past and were really excited to be doing it again.

I spent the obligatory hundred dollar bill to ensure internet access throughout the cruise, making good use of my great little wifi booster that I bought back in Desert Hot Springs. I had an excellent connection in my stateroom and never had to go wandering off to a ship café to get good internet. However, “good” is relative with the ship’s satellite connection and it was never as fast as I needed to really peruse for any length of time.

It had certainly been a long time since I left Klamath, and a long day since we landed in Miami, so I was definitely ready for my comfy bed with the down comforters and the high end pure white cotton hotel style sheets that awaited me.

If you care to see the rest of the photos, with pictures from around the ship, and including those blurry dance photos, the link is here.

New Followers and the rig

2005 California Cruise 130It has been a busy week here in Rocky Point.  Even though I work part time as a retiree, there are sometimes glitches in the paper work, so now instead of a “National Older Worker” I have become a contractor for a private temp agency.  Same diff, really, same pay, same assignments, the only pain in the patoottie is having to redo everything, get my government computer authorization redone, dealing with a cancelled government email account, and deleted access to NASIS (National Soil Information System).  Good part about all this is that I didn’t need to work this week before the cruise, and won’t actually start up again until February when I return.  Ahhh, real retirement for a couple of weeks! 
2005 California Cruise 128I have some new followers and want to send out a big “thank you”.  Teri has a new blog that shares her broken heart and a great attitude and willingness to move forward. I really enjoy reading her thoughts lately.  Teri asked about what kind of rig we had. Ruth and Ken from Five-Just Rolling Down the Road are finally beginning to warm up after all that cold weather down south. Meowmomma and her hubby at the Cathouse Adventures have been dealing with rude drivers, but the cats don’t seem to mind. Mike and Pat  of Mike and Pat’s Travels are following along as well. Mike was one of a few bloggers in Arizona who spoke up about the recent tragedy in Tucson.  Knowing how most of us carefully dance around our political and spiritual selves, I appreciated his post a lot. Gin and Syl just got some new shoes for Wanda, oh, I think of tires as shoes too! My friends Chris and Karen decided to follow along as well, although I don’t have blog sites for them.  Chris actually has a food blog that is totally entertaining, but he writes about once every six months or so.  I like the reference to “blog supporters” rather than blog followers that seems to be going around.  May have to dip into the design mode and change that one as well. 

The baby MoHo was only 21 feet long and pretty tight inside
2005 California Cruise 129
Back to Teri’s question about our rig.  Mo bought the first motorhome back in 2005.  It was a gently used Dynamax, 21 feet long and really a sweet little rig.  This was before blog days and it’s one of those stories that I hope to get up there eventually, but in the mean time, here are some photos.  We loved the small rig for getting in and out of forest service campgrounds, and it was really cozy and snug.  The bedroom window did leak in a heavy rain, showers were taken sitting on the toilet, and I had to get on my knees to get into the refrigerator.  Hence on our cross country trip in 2007 Mo found the current MoHo in New Braunfels, Texas and we traded in the baby MoHo and traveled the rest of the way home in roomy luxury.  Our current rig is a 2006 Dynamax Isata 254SL Touring Sedan on a Ford E450 V-10 chassis.
Moving Day 12-27-2007 1-22-47 PMWe discovered with the baby MoHo that we really like the well built quality of the  Dynamax rigs, although there don’t seem to be a lot of them out west.  They can be expensive, but Mo shopped around and found this one as a year old model that hadn’t been driven, but of course had a well reduced price.  We get about 9 mpg when we are towing the Tracker, and I think maybe 10.5 was the best we ever got with it.  Our holding and water tanks aren’t as big as a class A would be, but we can boondock for a week or so if we are careful.  We truly love this rig, especially the 26 foot length which gives us a lot of flexibility.  It is roomy enough that we can travel for weeks, but would probably have a hard time if we were full-timing.  It tows the car with ease, and keeps up with hills and traffic as well as any and better than some. The photo on the right was taken while we were driving down the road with the slide in.  I can’t believe as much as we have traveled in this rig that I have taken so few photos of the interior.  Next trip that will be on my list of to-do’s.

coast_day5 (1)This week I took advantage of a week with no work by going to town, two towns actually, a trip to Klamath (60 mile round trip) and a trip to Medford (about 100 miles round trip).  The Klamath trip entailed hair time and a great lunch at Applebee’s with my daughter, the purchase of a new external drive (how in the heck can I fill up 300 GIG so fast?), shopping, gas and all those other things that we don’t have out at Rocky Point.  The trip to Medford included a skin check (yeah, I have freckles and this was my first one in 65 years), some shopping at Chico’s (yeah, I am an addict for Chico’s) finalized with a truly great dinner at Red Lobster.  Mo got her Harbor Freight fix as well.  Gotta love that place.  She is always looking for practical reasonable things that we need. I, on the other hand, get all excited about those cute little tools that do a bunch of things at once and come in a kit.  Mo just rolls her eyes at me.  I got out of there yesterday with no cutesy tools and just a really cool pair of leather palm gloves for less than five bucks!  Ah, if only the Chico’s habit was that cheap.

Getting ready

OK.  It’s a cruise.  More than a cruise, it’s a Blues Festival on a ship.  It’s a birthday present for my daughter and I am going to be there with her.  Relaxing? Maybe not.  Unlike my daughter who is an avid blues fan, and has volunteered often at the big July 4th Portland Blues Festival, and traveled to Memphis for other big festivals, I simply enjoy blues now and then.  I also like to dance, now and then.  I love to cruise, enjoying the turquoise blues of the Caribbean and the gorgeous white sands.  I love sea days.  Last cruise Mo and I went on together, we thought there really wasn’t enough music around.  I would imagine that won’t be a problem on this cruise.  I am taking ear plugs as well.  Someone suggested noise cancelling headphones.  I might have to give that a try!  Just check out the music schedule!  O good lord, should be a ton of fun.  Mo isn’t going.  Ha.  Chicken!!!

Company in the cabin

Chris is the chef bar none One of the delights of my last few years as a soil survey project leader was the chance to make some really great friends.  After six years in the Air Force, and lots of other experiences, Chris arrived in Sonora in early 2009, an energetic, incredibly brilliant, funny, sweet young man, ready and willing to learn to be a good soil mapper.  It was fun teaching him all the inside stuff about field soil survey that I knew, and by the time I retired last year, I had not only a great employee, but a true  friend.

Another delight I enjoy by sharing a home with Mo, is the pleasure of the guest cabin just next door to the big house.  The cabin was the first thing on the property when Mo acquired it many years ago and is still a great little cozy spot to hang out.  Complete with running water in the summer, a composting toilet, and a great wood stove, it’s a lot more fun for guests than hanging out on the living room sofa or in the guest room with the bath across the hall.  Chris loves the snow and loves to come and visit so we welcomed him with his friend Karen for the weekend.

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They arrived on Friday night armed with salmon that Chris smoked, along with all the ingredients for a great Smoked Salmon Chowder.  Gotta love friends that come with dinner and Chris is a great cook.  Many of the co-worker bar-b-que’s at my house in Jamestown were enhanced by some of Chris’s amazing grill roasted rosemary potatoes.

You know how cold it has been here, with all the deep snow, so Chris and Karen came prepared with snowshoes ready to tackle the deep high snows at Crater Lake.  Ever heard of a January thaw?  We got it big time this weekend with long warm hard rains on the deep snows, making a great big mess of everything.  Even at 8,000 plus feet at Crater Lake the snow was mushy and almost impossible to slog through.  Instead our friends spent more time in the big house with us, watching football, while Karen and I knitted, and playing killer Racehorse dominos. 

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On Sunday afternoon, Chris and Karen went ice skating at our local ice arena at the Running Y Resort. It was a first for Chris and the movies were truly funny.  Mo made her famous waffles on Saturday, I cooked some sour cream apple pies and a Guiness Irish stew, and Chris and Karen made fat, juicy breakfast burritos for us on Sunday morning.

dinner guests are always fun especially when they do the cooking! DSCN6331

I noticed that a lot of the RV bloggers down in Desert Hot Springs are having great times catching up with fellow RV’rs and it sounds like a ton of fun.  Having company now and then is a lovely reprieve from the cold, dreary days of winter, especially when the company is as wonderful as my friend Chris.